Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, by Laura Hillenbrand

UnbrokenUnbroken is the story of Louis Zamperini, a name I’d never heard before I read his obituary. (Neither had Oscar, and he knows everything there is to know about sports.)

The demographics.

Louis Zamperini died recently, at the age of 97. He was a juvenile delinquent, an unlikely Olympian who appeared at the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he met Hitler, a bombardier on a B-24 fighting against the Japanese after Pearl Harbor. His plane was shot down. He and the pilot survived 47 days in a life raft without provisions. He spent years in a Japanese POW camp where he endured starvation and torture. After the war he had a hard time of it - finally turned his life around with the help of the Reverend Billy Graham.

The book.

A life such as this should not be a bore. Far from it. The book, unfortunately, is so boring I struggled to slog my way through the first third before giving up.

The problem.

The author’s voice. The author, also the author of Seabiscuit (a book my husband loved), drones on about the facts of Mr. Zamperini’s life in such a monotone that I felt like I was stuck in the most boring college lecture in the history of the world given by the most boring lecturer in the history of the world. It’s all tell tell tell. This happened and then that happened and then this happened and then that happened… 

I’m a lover of nonfiction. I’m passionate about it. I can get excited reading a book about rocks. No kidding. The best nonfiction writers bring their true tales to life– paint people and nature and events with vivid colors. In this particular case, the author has managed to turn one of the most gripping stories/biographies of the Twentieth Century into a flaming bore.

You know me. I rarely ever say a bad word about a book. In fact my general rule of thumb is this – If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. Well, I’m making an exception. Don’t waste your money. Maybe Angelina Jolie can do a better job with the film.

In the meantime, I’m giving this book a try – The Devil at My Heels, by David Rensin and Louis Zamperini. Louis Zamperini’s story in his own words.

ZamperiniAn addendum:  I am so glad I switched! Devil At My Heels is gripping! Can’t put it down. I read for four hours straight the other night– looked up and it was 2 a.m. Skip Unbroken. Get this.

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Jake’s got a girlfriend!

Jake is smitten with a Rottie! A very cute and sexy Rottie! Her name is Carly and she is the only dog Jake will roll over for. As in roll over on his back and let her have her way with him. He first met her when they were puppies and he’s never forgotten her. We recently hooked up again- by accident. Both of us ended up at the same park, a large park that stretches along the river. Has a minimum of foxtails. I’d been avoiding the park, as had Carly’s owner, because the ticks were so awful last year. This year there are no ticks.

This is what they look like except Julia forgot to get a photo so this is not Carly and Jake.

This is what they look like except Julia forgot to get a photo so this is not Carly and Jake.

Jake recognized her when we were a quarter of a mile away. He was beside himself with excitement! Nearly killed me dragging me down the trail. He never forgets a friend. Makes them for life.

You should see the two of them, Carly and Jake, walking together. Big bruisers. Everyone gives them the eye – you know, a Rottie and a GSD. Scary! But Carly is a sweetheart. She loves strangers. Fortunately Jake is perfectly willing to live and let live. I can’t say he’s always a sweetheart with non-family members, but he does love kids and teenagers.

(The issue with German shepherds is this – they like to be the approachers as opposed to the approachees. They have personal space issues. A German shepherd requires more personal space than, say, a golden retriever. In my experience, goldens require very little personal space. Our golden, Rosie, required zero personal space.)

Hey lover boy... C'mere lover boy!

Hey lover boy… C’mere lover boy!

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Three! Free! Three Free Books In One!

SoulSeries_v2 (1)

Ghosts? Guardians? Archangels? Transmigration of Souls?

 Incorporeal: As much as she wishes otherwise, Sara Wise sees ghosts. When a five hundred year old incorporeal being appears in her shower she orders him to leave, but he refuses. Sara knows he’s not her usual spectral visitor. Is Nathan de Manua a ghost? Her guardian angel? As her feelings for this incorporeal being grow, so do his powers. Will Nathan save Sara, or will her love redeem his tortured soul? 

In the Flesh: In the middle of a blizzard a naked man falls from the sky right in front of Dr. Sydney Blake’s pickup. Although the man claims to be human, Syd has serious doubts. Wolf may not remember his origins, but he’s clear about one thing, he’s traded immortality for one night in Syd’s arms. 

Stay: Just when Syd believes she’s lost Wolf forever to her great joy he reappears, but he can’t remember a thing about their brief time together. How on earth can she reawaken those memories, remind him of the love they shared, and convince him he’s the father of her unborn baby, especially when regaining his memory is the last thing he wants to do? 

The Soul Series is a collection of three books, Incorporeal, In the Flesh, and Stay, complete with previously unpublished bonus material.

Beginning Tuesday the 15th, get your free copy right here!





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Nutrition misinformation – Supplements.

The following statement will probably piss you off:

Vitamins and most nutritional supplements provide no proven long-term health benefit. In fact, some vitamins taken in isolation can cause disease. Vitamin E is a good example. Vitamin E, once the darling of the supplement set, has been shown to increase the risk of developing cancer and heart disease.



Whoa. Feels good to get that off my chest!

Some food-based products may be helpful, such as krill oil and fish oil – which provide Omega 3 fatty acids. Research has shown that these products may improve both cardio-vascular health and cognitive function. However, Omega 3 supplements also decrease the blood’s ability to clot so be wary if you are on an anticoagulant. Speak to your doctor before taking an Omega 3 supplement.

A few commonly used and abused supplements:



Ginkgo Biloba – Often recommended for use with dementia patients. Not particularly effective and can cause bleeding.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C

Vitamin C – Vitamin C may actually have some efficacy in preventing colds or decreasing the duration of colds, but long-term use has been associated with an increased risk of cancer. Whenever I’ve had a significant exposure to a cold or the flu, or at the first sign of a sore throat, I take 2000 mg. of Vitamin C and I continue to take 2000-6000 mg. of Vitamin C for three days. It seems to help me, but this is anecdotal, of course. Be aware– high doses of Vitamin C also impair blood clotting.



Tumeric – Tumeric is the new cure-all. I don’t dispute the spice’s healthful properties. It is prescribed for certain conditions by practitioners of Ayurvedic medicine. However, I know a number of true believers who take multiple capsules containing Tumeric every single day, several times a day. It also happens that these particular people are always sick. I believe that anything taken in isolation and at high doses is bad. Tumeric, used regularly in cooking– curries, stews, marinades– is our friend.

A few healthful herbs and spices and seeds and lilies (bulbs):  Cumin. Chili powder. Cayenne. Garlic. Onions. (Do not give your dog onions. Onions are toxic for dogs. Large dogs can handle small amounts, small dogs should probably avoid onions.) Thyme – Thyme is a very healthful spice. A dry rub containing thyme helps prevent grilled meat from forming carcinogens. Yes, grilling meats does cause carcinogens to develop on the surface of the meat. Those grill marks we love? Tasty but not so healthy. I use thyme in all my dry rubs. Basil. Oregano, but be aware oregano can cause indigestion which is why I don’t use a premixed Italian Seasoning. The best way to add oregano to sauces and stews is to add it at the end of the cooking process. Sage. Rosemary. Paprika (a type of chili pepper). Black pepper– although it’s a little known fact that black peppercorns are quite toxic in large doses. As in you can die from ingesting large amounts of black pepper. Cinnamon is a terrific spice. Adding cinnamon to your breakfast cereal can help your body regulate blood sugar levels. Nutmeg is a nice addition to meat dishes– it’s not only good for pumpkin pie. But nutmeg is toxic in larger doses. Cloves elevate your mood. Mustard seed can help with lung ailments.

Although some people are salt sensitive, salt is an essential nutrient. Without sodium, we die. Our body uses sodium to regulate fluid ebb and flow (the sea inside). Fortunately it’s found in many foods so if you are salt sensitive you don’t need to add extra salt to your food. I’m sort of a stickler for salt– Add the minimum and I use Kosher salt or another sea salt.

Don’t misunderstand. I’m a huge fan of herbs and spices. For centuries herbs and spices (i.e. various parts of plants) were our medications. Plants contains chemical compounds that can heal wounds, relieve symptoms and even cure some illnesses. Most drugs in western medicine are plant based, or were originally plant based.

Unfortunately most of us don’t have a good understanding of the proper usage of herbs and spices as medicine, so we read the latest headlines and jump on the supplement of the month bandwagon.

Cocoa powder

Cocoa powder

My idea of daily supplements? Real food. Plus– Coffee. Tea. Chocolate. I even add coffee and cocoa powder to my marinades and dry rubs. I have both a coffee grinder and a spice grinder to serve my needs.

Any questions? Feel free to ask. If I don’t know I’ll do a little research.

Here’s to healthy eating! Julia

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Larcenous Peach Pie. The Pleasure of Stolen Plums.

Peach Pie.

Peach Pie.

Whatever is wrong with people? Why would you plant a peach tree and then let the peaches rot? Seriously. Peaches are summer gold to me so if you plant a peach tree and you don’t plan to pick the peaches, I will. And in addition to flat out eating the peaches, I will make peach pie, peach cobbler and peach jam. See here:

Peach Jam.

Peach Jam.

On my walks with Jake we’ve come across unharvested and rotting peaches and plums. I don’t get it. This is food. People pay big money for this kind of food. At least post a sign that says, “Please pick”or “Please give to the homeless.”

I’ve made a peach pie, peach jam, and plum jam which is the best, the very best. I made 4 quarts. And I’ve barely begun– there are so many peaches and plums waiting for me.

Plum Jam.

Plum Jam.

A general jam recipe:

The typical jam recipe calls for equal amounts of fruit and sugar. This does work best when it comes to consistency. However I like my jams tart and I’m not all that fond of excessive sugar, so I tend to start out with, say, half as much sugar as fruit and then taste. I also add 1/4 tsp. of salt to the fruit/sugar mixture. (Plums tend to be super tart so I usually add more sugar– if I have 6 cups of plums I add 4 cups of sugar.)

(FYI I do not add spices. I prefer the simple fruity goodness.)

Let the fruit, sugar and salt sit in a stainless steel saucepan for 1-2 hours. Put on the stove, cover, and bring to a slow simmer. Reduce heat and just barely simmer- with the cover sort of half-on half-off – until you reach jam consistency which can be anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours. The jam should be thicker but not thick. If it’s thick while you’re cooking it, it will turn into candy in the jar. When the jam juice is clear and shiny and thicker, it’s done. Stir frequently so the jam doesn’t scorch. Ladle jam into clean jars. Stick in fridge. Enjoy!




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