Thursday, February 19, 2015

A Season of Reading - Shantaram

The Amazon Synopsis reads as follows: " 'It took me a long time and most of the world to learn what I know about love and fate and the choices we make, but the heart of it came to me in an instant, while I was chained to a wall and being tortured.'

So begins this epic, mesmerizing first novel set in the underworld of contemporary Bombay.  Shantaram is narrated by Lin, an escaped convict with a false passport who flees maximum security prison in Australia for the teeming streets of a city where he can disappear.

Accompanied by his guide and faithful friend, Prabaker, the two enter Bombay's hidden society of beggars and gangsters, prostitutes and holy men, soldiers and actors, and Indians and exiles from other countries, who seek in this remarkable place what they cannot find elsewhere.

As a hunted man without a home, family, or identity, Lin searches for love and meaning while running a clinic in one of the city's poorest slums, and serving his apprenticeship in the dark arts of the Bombay mafia. The search leads him to war, prison torture, murder, and a series of enigmatic and bloody betrayals. The keys to unlock the mysteries and intrigues that bind Lin are held by two people. The first is Khader Khan: mafia godfather, criminal-philosopher-saint, and mentor to Lin in the underworld of the Golden City. The second is Karla: elusive, dangerous, and beautiful, whose passions are driven by secrets that torment her and yet give her a terrible power.

Burning slums and five-star hotels, romantic love and prison agonies, criminal wars and Bollywood films, spiritual gurus and mujaheddin guerrillas---this huge novel has the world of human experience in its reach, and a passionate love for India at its heart. Based on the life of the author, it is by any measure the debut of an extraordinary voice in literature.

This book is everything a novel should be: adventerous, passionate, exciting, romantic, gruesome, gritty and consuming.  All this being said, I have been reading this book little by little over a couple of years and had to re-start it twice.  For the life of me, I cannot explain why.  It is one of the best books I have ever read, and I was hooked from the first few pages, but I think the size of it felt daunting and I wanted to savor it in a way.  It is an epic tale and I was happy to find out that it was the first written book in a series of books. 

I would highly recommend this read.  It brings you into a fascinating world and holds you there in a brilliant weaving of words.  The author introduces you to unforgettable characters and experiences and you come out of the story feeling attached to people and places you have never met or visited.  I literally cried a couple of times, and while I am an emotional person, it is also the gift of the writer to bring you that deeply into their story.

A friend of mine in Uganda said he was so enthralled by this book he was reading it on the back of a motorcycle that someone else was driving with the book between them, and I can understand that after finishing this read.  It is entrancing and addictive.  I hope someone who reads these words takes a chance on a monster of a book that is well worth the time.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

Beautiful Words - Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

My littlest sister sent me the following words and I let them wash over me every day since.  They are not just true, but they are settling.  A gentle but necessary reminder to take a step back and look at life in a slow and meaningful way.  Progress is gradual and time is rewarding and healing.  I hope these words bring you peace in the midst of frustration and chaos as they have brought me...

Above all, trust in the slow work of God.
We are quite naturally impatient in everything
to reach the end without delay.
We should like to skip the intermediate stages.
We are impatient of being on the way to something
unknown, something new.
And yet it is the law of all progress
that it is made by passing through
some stages of instability—
and that it may take a very long time.
And so I think it is with you;
your ideas mature gradually—let them grow,
let them shape themselves, without undue haste.
Don’t try to force them on,
as though you could be today what time
(that is to say, grace and circumstances
acting on your own good will)
will make of you tomorrow.
Only God could say what this new spirit
gradually forming within you will be.
Give Our Lord the benefit of believing
that his hand is leading you,
and accept the anxiety of feeling yourself
in suspense and incomplete.

—Pierre Teilhard de Chardin

Friday, February 6, 2015

Food I Ate Friday - Bread and Wine Cassoulet

Simple Cassoulet with Garlic Breadcrumb Topping |

This recipe hugs you.  Cassoulet is essentially the French version of an American casserole, and it delivers big time on flavor and richness.  It is my definition of a cozy winter meal.  The combination of flavors is surprising and wonderful and just offers you a retreat for a little while.  It is the kind of dish I want to make as an annual tradition so I can look forward to it all year long, and not have so often that I stop appreciating it's goodness.

I hope that you love this as much as I did and that it warms your hearts and homes.  Please let me know if you try any of the recipes I post and any comments you have!  I'd love feedback :)


1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, thinly sliced
1½ cups chicken broth
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 parsnips, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
2 15 ounce cans cannellini beans, drained
1 heaping teaspoon dried thyme
½ heaping teaspoon Kosher salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
1 clove garlic, minced

For the breadcrumbs:
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups bread crumbs 
½ cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
4 Tablespoons butter, melted


1. In a large dutch oven or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until the sausage is browned. Once the sausage is cooked, tilt the pan to one side and use a paper towel to sop up and discard any excess oil.

2. Add the chicken broth and remaining ingredients (excluding the bread crumbs) to the pot. Bring to a boil.

3. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer the mixture, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until the vegetables are tender.

4. Meanwhile, make the breadcrumb topping. In a mixing bowl, combine garlic, bread crumbs, parsley, cheese, and butter. Set aside.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the crumb mixture over the cassoulet in the dutch oven or transfer it to an oven safe casserole dish. 

5. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until crumbs are golden brown and crisped.

*If you'd like to make this dish ahead of time, prepare it without the crumb topping. Cover tightly and refrigerate for 2 days or freeze up to 4 months. When ready to cook, uncover the cassoulet, sprinkle it with the breadcrumbs, and bake 45 minutes to 1 hour at 400 degrees.

**I stole the above image from here and the recipe was taken from the Book Bread and Wine which the author claims to have taken from Real Simple Magazine.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Beautiful Words - Be Still, My Soul

I am starting a new Series called Beautiful Words because I run across a lot of poetry, music and quotes that really speak to me and I would love to share those with you all.  My attempt in this will not be to draw attention to inspirational movie quotes that could be expressed in a Pinterest meem, but rather to use eloquently written words to facilitate thought and delve us into someone else's expression of the greater issues of this life we are in and how to live it best.  Geez, I hope I can pull that off! 

My first selection below is a hymn from church two weeks back that made me think how often I try to avoid thinking of death unless it is currently affecting me.  This hymn was not timed because someone in our church had passed away, but the focus is to remind us that our ultimate goal is being with the Lord when we leave this earth.  I need to be constantly reminded that my life is not my own and that what we do and believe and prioritize on this earth determines our future dwelling.  God offers me peace if I trust in his order and provision.  I will be striving to have a still soul and a peaceful spirit and to focus on the Lord's promises to me through His Word.  He never promises a long life, but should we choose to walk with Him, He certainly offers a full one.

Be still, my soul; the Lord is on thy side
Bear patiently the cross of grief or pain
Lease to thy God to order and provide;
In every change, He faithful will remain.
Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heav'nly Friend
Through thorny ways leads to a joyful end.

Be still, my soul: when dearest friends depart,
And all is darkened in the vale of tears,
Then shalt thou better know His love, His heart,
Who comes to soothe thy sorrow and thy fears.
Be still, my soul: thy Jesus can repay
From His own fullness all He takes away.

Be still, my soul: the hour is hast'ning on
When we shall be forever with the Lord.
When disappointment, grief, and fear are gone,
Sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored.
Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past
All safe and blessed we shall meet at last.

Please meditate on whatever type of language speaks to you and see the beauty of our Lord and our world through intentional and beautiful words by many different types of authors and artists.