Posts Categorized: Book Talk

Weekend Cooking: Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

August 28, 2016 Book Talk, Life Well Lived 8

slimmer the new mediterranean way to lose weightIt’s been a while since I’ve participated in Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, and I’ve been meaning to share this recipe from a favorite cookbook, Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight {reviewed here}.

This is a wonderful recipe using fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden. Plus, it’s a one-pot wonder, my favorite kind-of dish to cook! Also, gluten-free and dairy-free.

Herb Roasted Chicken and Vegetables


  • 2 medium skinless split chicken breasts
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 4 sprigs of marjoram or oregano {either herb adds great flavor}
  • 2 plum tomatoes, sliced
  • 2 small red or yellow potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large zucchini, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 small carrots, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 pearl onions
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 425°
  2. Place the herb sprigs in a single layer in middle of medium-size casserole or large cast-iron pot. Cover the herbs with the sliced tomatoes and place the chicken breasts, already seasoned with salt and pepper, flesh side down on tomato and herb bed.
  3. In a large bowl, mix together chopped carrots, zucchini, potatoes and pearl onions with olive oil stirring well to coat.
  4. Spread vegetables in the dish surrounding the chicken and season with salt and pepper.
  5. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the chicken breast reaches 165° F, about 30 minutes.
  6. To serve, transfer chicken to a dish, spoon the tomatoes and other vegetables over, and sprinkle with parsley.

[Tweet “Easy + Delicious One Pot Wonder: Chicken and Summer Vegetables 30 – Minute Meal”]

Side note ~ When I made this dish Friday night, I took lots of photos with the intent of sharing each step of the process here on the blog. And darn-it! wouldn’t you know, my computer is not reading the SD card!  Aargh! the frustrations of blogging and photography! Thank you for listening and allowing me a moment to “be real!”

Happy Weekend Friends!




The Book Made Me Do It and Other Acts as a Result of Reading

August 9, 2016 Book Talk 5

the book made me do it


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted at The Broke & the Bookish.

Reading. Such an integral part of my life. Being an escape from reality to learning new innovative ideas reading has taken me places I never could have imagined. I love the recent article about those who read live longer. If that’s the case then I should live to be about 172 by this point! Instilling a love of reading is one of the best things my parents ever taught me.

In thinking about the prompt from The Broke and Bookish “Top Ten Things Books Have Made Me Want To Do or Learn About After Reading Them” several things quickly came to mind. Yes, these are the books that made me do it.

spark the revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain1. Exercise

I admit I’ve never been a fan of exercise. Then I read Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John J. Ratey. My biggest takeaway from reading that book is exercise helps your brain; is a great preventative to Alzheimer’s and dementia; and can even help with broken synapses. The major problem with multiple sclerosis has to do with synapses that don’t fire well due to scarring. If exercise will help heal my brain then I’m all down for that!

Reading The No More Excuses Diet helped me analyze and overcome the resistance I had to exercising.

As if those two books were not enough to get me moving Conquer Your Pain in 9 Steps stripped away my last bit of resistance. Now, my body informs me when I slack off the regimen I’ve created. Monday, Wednesday and Friday are walk days and Tuesday and Thursday are yoga days. Saturday and Sunday are rest days.

2. Do the Superwoman pose every morning

Presence by Amy Cuddy + her Ted Talk. Have you seen Amy Cuddy’s Ted Talk? or read Presence: Bringing Your Boldest Self to Your Biggest Challenges? Wow! It’s all about how our body language shapes who we are. I knew body language was a strong indicator to others, but did not realize how much it influences our own thoughts and feelings.

Ladies, when you are getting ready in the morning, do the powerful superwoman pose: hands on hips, legs a little more than hip distance apart, tall carriage and strong gaze. Hold that pose for 30 seconds and you’ll feel more powerful and portray a confident, strong woman. I swear this works. It’s crazy but invaluable!

Carrying over Amy Cuddy’s research on body language to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear and Brene Brown’s Rising Strong is absolutely a perfect fit. Big Magic is about allowing our creativity to thrive, flourish and Rising Strong is Brene Brown’s follow up to Daring Greatly and The Gifts of Imperfection. It’s about being in the arena, falling down and rising back through the hurt and anger and terrible feelings. Rising stronger because of the hurt, because you’ve made it through to the other side.

100 days of real food3. Eat Healthy

After reading 100 Days of Real Food, following the blog and reading Slimmer: The New Mediterranean Way to Lose Weight,  I began to change my eating habits, incorporating more vegetables and fruit while eating less meat and cutting out most sugar. I’m not at 100% all healthy real foods, but I’m a whole heck of a lot closer than I was a year ago! Up until the past couple of years I wouldn’t eat a salad. “It’s green,” I would say and turn my nose up at the leaves 😉 Now, as much as possible, I try to buy local, whole foods and yes, even the makings of a salad!

4. Research the Hindenburg crash and the disappearance of a judge with mob connections

It’s not all non-fiction books that have had me doing more after reading. For example, when I read Ariel Lawhon’s The Wife, the Maid and the Mistress based on the disappearance of Justice Joseph Crater in 1930, I was researching like crazy trying to find out more. Same thing with Flight of Dreams. I looked up everything possible on the Hindenburg even while reading Flight of Dreams!

5. Visit an Elephant Sanctuary

Another fiction novel, Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult, had me researching elephant sanctuaries all over the south. I’ve picked the one I want to visit and hope to make it there soon….I’ve also donated to the nonprofit. Even thinking about the elephants in the book over two years later and I’m still ‘awww, I want to learn more. Do more.’

6. Learn the art of mosaics

This book slayed me. It’s been 4 years since I read it, and I still feel all the feels. In Broken for You by Stephanie Kallos, the main character, Wanda, almost accidentally, begins to make mosaics as she puts her life back together. I could very much relate to Wanda and have found making art through the broken pieces creates something even more beautiful.

it's never too late to begin again7. Write/journal

Ok, this one is a given. Writing has always been a dream of mine. Writing this blog for the past 7 years has been a godsend. Learning more about the art of writing through books like It’s Never too Late to Begin Again, The Artist’s Way, DIY MFA, and Writing the Memoir: From Truth to Art has been a natural progression thanks to the blog. Writing is therapeutic and a way {for me} to get at the heart of the matter. I can express my feelings in writing oh so much better than I can face-to-face.  I’m beyond thankful for this blog and especially for you, dearest reader. You’re visits here, comments and encouragements through the various social media sites brings me joy beyond belief. Thank you.

Now that’s a wrap. There’s probably many more books that have made me commit some act or another. I’ll save those for another day!

I would love to know if there’s a book that has made you do something or want to do something or even followed up with more research on a subject? This is such a fascinating topic to me. Please Do Share!





July in Review

August 2, 2016 Book Talk 4

july in review

July was another slow reading month and a very busy family month! My sweetheart ended up traveling almost the entire month, so I spent all that time with my kids and grandsons. When I’m chasing two little ones around not much reading gets accomplished, at all! But every second is worth it! Plus, my college daughter came and stayed with me which is always great. She catches me up on all the Netflix shows and we talk about international affairs {her major}, and books, lots of book talk!

What I Read

My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante {translated by Ann Goldstein}

Truly, Madly, Guilty by Lianne Moriarty

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright

Ink and Bone by Lisa Unger

On the Blog

Looking Forward to Reading in August

There is a Harvard Ed MOOC coming up about understanding modern China through its’ literature. Both my girls studied Chinese in high school, and my sweetheart’s new job takes him to China as well. With all that, my girls and I have decided to do a read-along of the 5 books to be discussed in the MOOC. The lineup of instructors is a who’s who of Chinese award-winning authors, including Nobel Prize winner, Mo Yan. Although we are not joining the MOOC, we are reading the books. We’d love for you to join us! The first selection is China in Ten Words by Yu Hua. We will be discussing it on September 12th! Let me know if you’re interested!

I’ve also got the new Jodi Picoult novel queued up to read next: Small Great Things. The synopsis of this book is most relevant to the racial tensions of today. Her last novel, Leaving Time, is my favorite of all her books. I haven’t ventured into her YA books written with her daughter yet ~ have you?

Last, but not least, The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. Oprah’s Book Club pick for August and a novel most relevant as well.

How was your July? What are you looking forward to in August?


Spotlight Tour: The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt

July 19, 2016 Book Talk 0

My first time to the enchanted land of Disney was with my parents and baby brother. I was probably 5 years old and mesmerized by the magical wonder. To see the castle, ride Pirates of the Caribbean and It’s a Small World {I still know all the lyrics!}. Over 40 years later the memories of my visits to Disney still fill me with nostalgic pleasure.

Which is why I’m so happy to have Catherine Olen, author of The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt, guest post here at  The Novel Life! Please join me in welcoming Catherine as she shares her motivations and desire for this book!

the great disneyland scavenger huntSee Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure through new eyes when you discover fantasy, thrills, and dreams around every turn. Whether you’re perusing the shops, waiting in line, or riding attractions, there’s plenty to uncover for even the most knowledgeable Disney fan.

If this is your first visit or your five hundredth, you will discover something new with “The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt.”

The history of Disneyland has been well documented over the years in literally thousands of books. Disney is a topic that fascinates people all over the world, but did you know Disneyland itself was created by history? My goal for writing The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt is to show those who love Disney some of the amazing details included by founder Walt Disney.

As someone who has been fascinated by history, I have wondered at the details included to honor the founders of the United States and the history surrounding the creation of our amazing country. Factual and fictional history combine to honor those who have come before us.

  • Enter the hall of the Main Street Opera house and listen to Abraham Lincoln as he gives the Gettysburg Address once more.
  • Ride on the Mark Twain Riverboat on the Rivers of America and hear your narrator talk about the history of the great rivers.
  • Enter New Orleans Square and find yourself face to face with bands of marauding pirates as they recreate the days when plundering was the rage.

Not just factual history, but fictional history shaped the Disneyland we know today. Check out the chapter on Fantasyland to see:

  • Walk through the gates of Sleeping Beauty Castle, designed after famed Neuschwanstein castle in Germany.
  • Ride with Peter Pan over the rooftops of London on your way to Neverland as you become center stage in one of Walt Disney’s films.
  • Ride on King Arthur’s Carousel and be transported back to the age of kings and queens.

The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt takes you on a tour of Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom in a whole new way when you take time to see the wonders of Snow White Grotto, The Hollywood Tower of Terror and Soarin’ over the World.

From first time visitors to families with small children to the most seasoned annual pass holder, there is something new to discover within the pages of The Great Disneyland Scavenger Hunt.

Buy the Book: Amazon ~ Books-a-Million ~ Barnes & Noble ~ Powell’s Books ~

Catherine F. OlenAbout the Author

Catherine Olen has enjoyed a love affair with the magic of the Disney theme parks for as long as she can remember, counting herself among Disneyland passholders for the last twenty-five years. Previously, Olen owned and operated Hollywood Grave Hunter and is the proud author of The Final Curtain: Celebrity Deaths and The Upside of Undertaking, chronicling her previous career experiences. She has been a correspondent to Entertainment Tonight (US and France), The Biography Channel, Reelz Network, and the Mark & Brian radio show.

Connect with the author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Pinterest ~ Instagram

1-iRead Button small

To follow along the book tour please visit iRead Tours here


June in Review

July 4, 2016 Book Talk 7


juneinreview (1)

Looking back on May and June I realized I have not read a single book I said I was looking forward to! The best laid plans and such, right?

What I DID Read

I only got three books read, although granted, The Crow Girl was originally published as three separate novels, meaning I really read 6 books, yes?!? The Tumbling Turner Sisters was delightful, engaging and spot-on accurate while State of Wonder had me wondering why I’ve never read Ann Patchett before! I’m still formulating my thoughts on The Crow Girl. It was disturbing to say the least. Before the Fall was an experience. I still have nightmares, not about the ocean, but of Bill Cunningham! Anyone else have that experience as well?


On the Blog

In Real Life

June was another difficult month. My faithful companion and want-to-be therapy dog passed away. We had just celebrated Obie’s 10th birthday {in human years} and then discovered a grapefruit-sized malignant tumor on his spleen. If you are a pet lover then you know how difficult it is to say goodbye to your best friend. Though we got Obie when my kids were ages 10 – 14, Obie and I bonded immediately and completely. He loved the kids, but Obie was always my dog. My protector, confidante, blanket on cold nights, best friend and irreplaceable heart.

The one blessing I come away with is knowing all the people Obie’s gentle, loving spirit touched.

Obie ~ May, 2006 - June, 2016

Obie ~ May, 2006 – June, 2016


Here’s to looking forward to a peaceful July filled with love, family and lots of smiles.