Food Talk Friday: Chicken Divan

I got this recipe from my friend Nancy at least twenty-five years ago.

Every family has a version of it in their recipe files, I’m sure. The ingredients aren’t fancy: chicken, broccoli, creamy soup mixtures, cheese. Add some curry and some personal tweaking and this one has been a favorite in my family for a long time.


When someone is sick, or a crisis hits, it’s our go-to comfort food.

My version of Chicken Divan:

3-4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

1 lb. broccoli, steamed

1 can Cream of Mushroom soup

1 can Cream of Chicken soup

1/2 can milk

1 cup mayonnaise (just bite the bullet and use the real, full fat stuff. We’ve tried every iteration of mayonnaise in this, and nothing beats the real thing).

A good hunk of cheddar cheese, grated. Reserve some.

2 t curry

2 T lemon juice

Place broccoli on the bottom of a 9×13 casserole dish. Spread chicken over the broccoli. Mix next ingredients, pour over the chicken. Top with reserved grated cheddar. Crush some crackers and sprinkle on top of it all. Bake about 30-40 minutes. Serve over rice. Add a green salad and bread or rolls, if you’re not on a low-carb regimen, and you’ve got dinner.

The. Best. Dinner.

You’re welcome.

Book Talk Tuesday: Southern Comforts

SOUTHERN COMFORTS is a romance by my friend and Golden Heart® sister, Nan Dixon. We’ve been a busy bunch of GH finalists and many of the Dreamweavers have new books out. I’m thrilled for them all and happy to be able to read and review such excellent books.

Southern Comforts by Nan Dixon
Southern Comforts by Nan Dixon

I’m so glad I loved SOUTHERN COMFORTS!

Abby Fitzgerald is consumed with her family’s Savannah bed and breakfast.

Grayson Smythe is in town from Boston. He’s working in Savannah for several months and needs a good, long-term living arrangement.

Neither one is looking for a relationship or complication. Neither one expects to fall in love.

I loved Abby’s commitment to her family and her business. The recipes and food Abby prepares is enough to induce drooling. I get into ruts so easily and it amazed me how versatile and fresh Abby kept her menus.

Grayson Smythe is wealthy and is used to people wanting to be his friend for what he (and/or his money) can do for them. Everyone except Abby. She’s determined to make Fitzgerald House a success without any help from anyone.

But–this is a romance, after all–the day comes when Abby must accept help or let her dream evaporate.

SOUTHERN COMFORTS is a fun read with some great recipes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

Book Talk Tuesday: The Girls of Mischief Bay

I’ve been reading Susan Mallery for a couple of years now and I really enjoy her. Both her lighter Fools Gold romances, and her longer women’s fiction.

The Girls of Mischief Bay

THE GIRLS OF MISCHIEF BAY is a women’s fiction title, set in the fictional town of Mischief Bay, in Southern California, not far from LA.

It’s the story of three women, Pam, Shannon, and Nicole. All are at different places in their lives but they share a love for Mischief Bay and each other.

Pam is fifty, married to John for thirty years. She’s feeling a bit … not stale, she decided, but maybe dusty. Shannon is almost forty, single, successful in her career, but still looking for love. Nicole owns a Pilates studio, has a son, and is married to a man who came home to announce that he quit his job to write a screenplay. Oh, and surf. Which leaves Nicole as the sole support of the family.

I enjoyed this one a lot.

The book is well-written, with wit and humor woven throughout. There’s some heartbreak and some mending. Mallery is beginning a new series set in Mischief Bay and I look forward to the next installment.

Media Monday: Django Unchained

We’re not huge Quentin Taratino fans. We haven’t seen either volume of KILL BILL. I saw PULP FICTION and GET SHORTY years after their releases. But last week, DJANGO UNCHAINED was on and we had nothing better to do, so we watched it.

djangoIt is violent.

It is compelling.

It was much better than I expected.

The violence is quick and often and over the top, with heads exploding and blood geysering, and … well, let’s just say there’s a grisly sequence with dogs and a runaway slave.

Yet there is a code for the violence. The final half hour of the movie is a blood bath, but the good guys prevail. Unlike real life, in the movies, we can fashion the ending we want.

Django is a captured slave at the beginning of the movie. Dr. King Schulz “buys” Django to help him identify some outlaws. Before you can say “Slaves on horses,” the pair are a team of bounty hunters, making money and killing bad guys across the west and south.

Until they meet up with Calvin Candie, an evil plantation owner in Mississippi. The ending is a foregone conclusion, but no less fun for the ride. Just feel free to cover your eyes when the hounds bay.

Food Talk Friday: Signature Dishes

I blogged here about my cousin Lori’s Lemon Artichoke Pasta recipe. I don’t know if it was really her “signature dish” but in my mind, it is.

My daughters both make exceptional deviled eggs and I think of those as their signature dishes. Mine is probably Chicken Divan. (I’ll try to post that recipe next week.)

Stuffed rolled flank steak, Caprese salad, roasted vegetable

Stud Muffin’s is his Stuffed Rolled Flank Steak. It is not for the faint of heart. He has lots of steps and he won’t compromise on any of them.

Enjoy, if you dare.


  • 1 Flank steak (about 2 lbs.)
  • 1 10 oz. package Frozen spinach
  • 3  large shallots
  • 8 oz. sliced mushrooms
  • ½ cup bread crumbs
  • ½ cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 package Schillings’ marinade

1 package Lawry’s marinade (If you can’t find both brands, it is acceptable to substitute what you can find or have. But SHHHHH, don’t tell Dave I said that!)

 The day before, place flank steak on a hard surface and pound both sides until the steak grows about twice its size. Place Lawry’s Marinade (following package instructions) inside a large plastic bag with the steak and place in the refrigerator.

 The next day: Thaw spinach and squeeze out extra water and set aside. Chop shallots and sauté in a skillet with mushrooms and olive oil. Drain and set aside.

In a large bowl combine spinach, shallots, mushrooms, breadcrumbs, and Parmesan cheese. Using both hands, work it through well. Place mixture on a greased (sprayed) cookie sheet and bake in oven at 350 degrees for 15 minutes.

 Take out flank steak and place on plastic wrap over cutting board; it will be messy. Place spinach mixture onto the flank steak and roll up. Fasten meat together with bamboo skewers. Fold ends up and hold in place with skewers.

Prepare the Schilling’s marinade and baste the flank steak and place it on a hot grill. Continue to baste during the 35 to 40 minute cooking time. Take off and let stand for 5 minutes. Slice it into ½ inch thick portions and serve.

Book Talk Tuesday: Interrupted

A dear friend says this book changed her life so I picked it up and put it on the top of Mt. TBR. I finished it last week.

Interrupted by Jen Hatmaker

It’s powerful.

The description from the author, Jen Hatmaker’s web site:

Interrupted follows Jen’s messy journey through life and church and into living on mission. Snatching Jen from the grip of her consumer life, God began asking her questions like, “What is really the point of My Church? What have I really asked of you?” She was far too busy doing church than being church, even as a pastor’s wife, an author of five Christian books, and a committed believer. She discovered she had missed the point.

Christ brought Jen and her family to a place of living on mission by asking them tough questions, leading them through Scripture, and walking together with them on the path. Interrupted invites readers to take a similar journey.

This is the first book by Jen that I’ve read, although I did watch a few episodes of the HGTV series following their family’s home remodel.

I’ve had many of the same feelings Jen describes about doing church instead of being church. It’s a concept foreign to many of us in the middle classes, in suburbia, in complacency. Jen writes with honesty and the book also includes a few chapters written by her husband to give his perspective of their journey from a large contemporary church to a new church start-up in a more humble part of Austin, Texas.

I hope I’m as open as Jen to the possibility of change and being called to something uncomfortable. Frankly, I’ve been part of a new church start-up and it was exhausting and demanding and I never found it even the tiniest bit greatly rewarding. I know that experience has made me wary of making any changes in my Christian life.

But I hope if God calls, I would be obedient. Because otherwise, what’s the point of calling myself a Christian? It would just be a label, not a lifestyle.

May it never be.

Media Monday: The Hunger Games

This series seems to divide people. They either love it or hate it. I’m in Camp Love It. I reviewed the first couple of Hunger Games books here.

Last week I finally made it to the theater to see the first part of Mockingjay. I’m glad I procrastinated a bit so that the wait for hunger_thumb.jpgPart 2 won’t be quite as long.

What I like about the movies and the books:

  • They unflinchingly show what is possible in America’s future.
  • The stories are just plain good.
  • They adhere pretty closely to the books.

What I like about Mockingjay, the movie, in particular:

  • Katniss is a real character. She’s not perfect. She’s conflicted. Jennifer Lawrence is great in the role.
  • The setting is exactly as described in the books and how I imagined it.
  • It ended at exactly the right place to build anticipation for the next movie.

Have you seen any of the movies? Read any books? What do you think about them?

Release Day: Not Bound by Time

I’m so excited to welcome another friend to Live Vi-Carrie-ous today!

Victoria Pitts-Caine has been featured here before. Her books ALVARADO GOLD, CAIRO, and THE TEMPERING ANGEL have all been reviewed and enjoyed here.

Her latest is NOT BOUND BY TIME and I’m excited to ask Victoria a few questions about the story. She’s also provided us with a short excerpt down below.

Me 2014 #2_copyHi Victoria! Welcome. What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

There’s something magical when love finds a way. The reader will discover there is hope and a little fairy-tale enchantment when the characters, even though they are in an unusual situation, manage to travel through time to their true loves.



Who is one of your favorite characters in the book and why?

Camille Windham is my favorite. She’s the first traveler and I took a little bit of my own ancestral background to create her.

Why did you decide to do a time travel?

I read Love of My Heart by Bess McBride and was haunted by the story and the concept. The couple discovers they were in love before in another time. I decided it was a genre I wanted to try. The Time Traveler’s Wife was another favorite.

What else about your book might grab the reader’s interest?

There are three separate but connected stories in Not Bound By Time and there’s a little bit for everyone from Western to World War II to protecting the Scottish regalia in the 1500’s.

How much of the book is realistic?

The portrayal of the characters in their day to day lives and what would have transpired in the time period they’re in is realistic, the traveling through time…well maybe not.

How did you come up with your title?

My desire with the storyline is to explain that time can’t hold someone who has found their soulmate and the characters find a way to be with that person even if they’re in another place and time.

Are the experiences in the book based on someone you know or your real life?

I do not know anyone in the book, but I’m interested in Victorian England and Camille travels from that time. She lives in a castle and is a nanny for her distant cousin’s children.

Who or what inspired you to write your book?

I don’t know if it was an inspiration or a challenge. I’m basically an inspirational romance writer and I wanted to write in a slightly different genre.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your books?

Time cannot imprison love nor hold it in place.

What other jobs have you held or do you hold besides writing?

Most of my jobs were in the clerical field, but I was an account executive for a recording studio for about five years. I retired as a staff technician after spending seventeen years in the environmental sector.

When did you know you wanted to write?

I wrote some twenty plus years ago, but put it aside to raise my children. When I started doing genealogy, I felt I had a story to tell about my family and wrote a novel, Rachel, based on family history. I may rewrite the book at some point now that I’m more comfortable with my craft.

What books influenced you most in your life?

I was read to as a small child and was captivated by Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys when I able to read on my own. I didn’t go back and read the classics until I was an adult or reading them to my own children. I loved Laura Ingalls Wilder’s books and J.R.R. Tolkein.

How do you make time for your writing?

I actually found more time to write when I worked nine hours a day. I wrote at night and on the weekends. It’s about priorities with me. I’m good working with a plan in mind. If I schedule a writing time, I’m able to stick to it.

What writer would you like to be your mentor?

I had a wonderful mentor during my “growing up years” as a writer. Her name is Elnora King and she wrote under the pseudonym of Dianne King. She taught me so much – not just about writing but about life.

What are you reading now?

I read between three and five books a week and most of those go up for review on Amazon or on my blog. So right at this moment, I’m reading a romance. Tomorrow it might be a mystery/suspense. When I’m reading just for the fun of it, I like Catherine Ryan Hyde. I took a couple of classes from her and enjoy her books. I’m also into the whole Dan Brown thing and anxiously waiting for Brad Meltzer’s next release.

How do you “feed” your writing self?

Anything that brings writers together is a benefit. I think we all feed off of each other (in a good way). I facilitate a class once a week for writers where we read our work and do a short lesson. We share our triumphs and sorrows in life as well as in publishing. The triumphs usually with cake!

Congratulations on your new release! Enjoy the cake (I hope it’s chocolate)!

Victoria’s links:








Victoria Pitts Caine is a native Californian. Her varied interests include genealogy and exotic gemstone collecting both of which she’s incorporated into her novels. While her genre is inspirational, she has branched out into other areas such as her current release, Not Bound By Time and a YA mystery/suspense.

The author has received recognition from: Enduring Romance Top 10 Picks for 2008, William Saroyan Writing Conference, Byline Magazine, Writer’s Journal Magazine, HI Families Magazine and The Southern California Genealogical Society. Her first novel, Alvarado Gold, was published in 2007. To complete the trilogy which began with Alvarado Gold, Cairo was published in 2013 and The Tempering Agent in 2014.

She is the mother of two daughters. Victoria and her husband enjoy travel, church service and emergency radio communications.

Excerpt from Not Bound By Time:

The year was 1942, and Randolph Mitchell, along with several of his fellow soldiers, marched down a road pockmarked by shelling in London. He shuddered as a light mist fell around him. Late summer had gone.

A captain at twenty-two, Randolph’s first glimpses of war lay around him. Bile rose in his throat at the devastation. Is this what years of military boarding school has brought me to? He bent to retrieve a bit of paper. Printed roses danced on the edge, and with nowhere to discard it, he pocketed the small scrap of the life people there once lived.

When the men arrived in town earlier, Randolph spotted the young woman gazing into a merchant’s window. She carried herself with an air of importance. Ribbons and lace accented her oddly-layered clothes of multicolored fabrics. Such elaborate attire was ill-suited because people were starving and only making do. Randolph dismissed her unusual manner of dress. Who could she be? So out of place, yet so beautiful.

His troop moved up the street, and as he surveyed the area, he forced himself to forget the woman, but when he approached the shop, she turned, and their eyes met. Randolph Mitchell lost his heart in that split second, but it would take his head a while to figure it out. His eyes pursued her as she picked her way through the rubble of the bombed-out buildings.

“Hello,” he ventured.

As a delicate pink color rose from her neck, she turned her eyes toward the window. Randolph sauntered to stand beside her and glanced at their reflection. He stood a good foot taller than she. His wrinkled uniform caused a pang of self-consciousness, but his desire to speak to her quelled his embarrassment. “I’m Randolph Mitchell, US Army.” He smiled, studying her porcelain complexion and bright hazel eyes, hoping for a welcome response.

“I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be talking to you,” the woman said.

“It’s safe. We’ve been sent here to protect you. Or err… your country.” Randolph took his cap off and grinned at her. “I, ah, we might make sure you get home. Do you live close by?”

The young woman’s face blanched as she shook her head. “I used to live here.” She sighed. Then she backed away, turned around, and started running.

Randolph clenched his fists. He had to find out.

“Wait! I didn’t mean any harm!” He called after her. “Your name? At least tell me your name!”

“Camille Windham,” came from her lips, and her name planted itself in Randolph’s heart.

She scampered down the walkway away from Randolph, leaving only her name.

Media Monday: HIDDEN DEEP Cover Reveal!

I’m thrilled to host my friend and fellow 2014 Golden Heart finalist Amy Patrick on Media Monday. She’s going to tell us about her newest book and we get a peek at the cover!FINAL HIDDEN 1

So, take it away, Amy:

Thanks, Carrie! Here is the scoop on


Hidden Deep (Book 1 of the Hidden Trilogy)

by Amy Patrick

Release Date: 03/23/15

Summary from Goodreads:

Give in to the Glamour…

Sixteen-year-old Ryann Carroll has just run into the guy who saved her life ten years ago. You might think she’d be happy to see him again. Not exactly. She’s a bit underdressed (as in skinny-dipping) and he’s not supposed to exist.
After her father’s affair, all Ryann wants is to escape the family implosion fallout and find a little peace. She also wouldn’t mind a first date that didn’t suck, but she’s determined not to end up like her mom: vulnerable, betrayed, destroyed. Ryann’s recently moved back to her childhood home in rural Mississippi, the same place where ten years earlier she became lost in the woods overnight and nearly died.
She’s still irresistibly drawn to those woods. There she encounters the boy who kept her from freezing to death that long ago winter night and was nowhere to be seen when rescuers arrived. He’s still mysterious, but now all grown-up and gorgeous, too. And the more she’s with him, the greater the threat he poses to Ryann’s strict policy– never want someone more than he wants you.
Seventeen-year-old Lad knows the law of his people all too well: Don’t get careless and Don’t get caught. It’s allowed his race to live undetected in this world for thousands of years, mentioned only in flawed and fading folklore…
Lad’s never been able to forget about Ryann since that night ten years ago. When he sees her again, his fascination re-ignites and becomes a growing desire that tempts him to break all the rules. He’s not even supposed to talk to a human, much less fall in love with one.
And the timing is atrocious. The Assemblage is coming, the rift between the Light and Dark is widening, and mysterious celebrity fan pods are becoming more and more widespread and influential. Lad may have to trade his own chance at happiness to keep the humans, especially Ryann, blissfully unaware and safe.

You can add it to your bookshelf on Goodreads here:

Add to Goodreads:–book-1-of-the-hidden-trilogy

About the Author

Amy Patrick is a two-time Golden Heart finalist (2013 and 2014) who writes Amy DeLuca AuthorContemporary Romance and Young Adult fantasy/paranormal. Her books have won and finaled in many RWA chapter contests, and she is the author of the 20 SOMETHING series. She lives in Rhode Island with her husband and two sons and actually craves the heat and humidity of Mississippi, where she grew up. She’s been a professional singer and news anchor and currently narrates audio books as well as working as a station host for a Boston TV station.

Author Links:


Thanks again for hosting me today, Carrie!

My pleasure, Amy. I’m looking forward to reading HIDDEN DEEP!

Book Talk Tuesday: Rachel Aaron’s 2,000 to 10,000

I came across Rachel Aaron’s book, 2,000 TO 10,000: HOW TO WRITE FASTER, WRITE BETTER, AND WRITE MORE OF WHAT YOU LOVE via her blog post about how she did just that: increased her daily writing output five fold.

It’s a fascinating explanation of how she did it and how she maintains it.

2,000 TO 10,000
2,000 TO 10,000

Then a few other people linked to the blog post or mentioned it in books.

Aaron’s taken the original post and expanded it greatly. I scooped up the ebook for 99 cents and just finished it. It’s a quick read but packed full of great information.

I can write pretty fast myself. When I’m throwing down a rough and dirty first draft, 4,000 word days are not all that hard. But if I could double that and do 8,000? I’m there.

My slower process is the editing and rewriting and polishing, but Aaron included tips on how to make those go quicker too.

It’s a slim volume but packed with a punch. Any writer who frets about their output should do themselves a favor and grab this one. You won’t be sorry.