Unbroken- Laura Hillenbrand

I had mentioned to my mom a few weeks ago that I needed a good, REAL book. After having not read all semester I was read for some good stuff. For Christmas, one of the books I got was Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand.

We are avid war movie seers and book readers. Everything from Band of Brothers, to Steal My Soldiers Hearts to The Battle of Midway and Fury. The appreciation and honor for the men and women who have, and do serve, runs deep in our household. I come from a long line of military men. My father is a US Army veteran, my grandfather was in the Navy and it continues even further back. I am thankful that the men in my family never endured what happened in this book. I won’t be seeing the movie based on New York Times best seller Unbroken. I’ve been seeing the commercials for weeks, commenting on how good it looked. But I will not be seeing the movie. There’s no way the movie could do the book justice, and if it did, I wouldn’t be able to make it through anyway.

I could not put the book down. After reading just a bit here and there on Christmas, I spent most of the day after Christmas devouring this book. The book follows the life and remarkable story of Louie Zamperini. Second of four children to two Italian immigrants, he was born January 26, 1917 in New York. After a bought with pneumonia, the family moves to California when he is a child, this is where his story really begins. At the beginning of the book, I found myself cheering for Louie, encouraging him and laughing at his antics. By midway through the book, with each page turn, I did not think the world of Louie Zamperini and his fellow POWs could get any worse, and each time I was wrong. After floating around the ocean for well over a month, Zamperini and his crewmate Phil were captured by the Japanese. Each and every camp they were sent to, I prepared myself for the end. I kept trying to imagine what would I have done, how would I have reacted in the same situations- and my mind came up empty every time.

The power of the human spirit may be the strongest power on Earth. By the grace of God and sheer will did Louie and his mates make it. The statistics about the men in POW camps scattered throughout the book are soul shattering. The stories that came out of this time and era are haunting in a way I’ve never experienced in a book before. In a world of desensitization from violence strewn across our TV screens, video games or movies- I don’t know that a single human could not be deeply affected by the reading of this book. I have always prided myself on my knowledge of history and the Pacific theater of WWII is an area I have not ever really studied. After reading this book, I am not sure that I want to delve much deeper.

Louie Zamperini and some of his mates make it through the atrocities of the war and make it home. Some thrive, while some just barely survive, wandering through life stuck in the terror of their captivity. As I read of Zamperini’s salvation, his renewal and healing in the Billy Graham tent, tears streaked my cheeks and goosebumps covered my arms. The power of the Lord, His mercy, His never failing love and healing meet no bounds.

Laura Hillenbrand did a phenomenal job with her research. Every moment of her seven years, yes, SEVEN YEARS of interviews, reading and research showed in each sentence. It was obvious as I read that there was admiration, passion and respect put into the writing of the book. In many historical books such as this, there is a section about midway through of pictures that are printed on a slightly different kind of paper. I absolutely LOVED that when Hillenbrand went through and described something, like the cartoon Zamperini carried with him, that she put a picture of it right there in the midst of the book. When introducing or talking about a person, if she had a picture-it went in. It made what I was reading so much more real. There was a face with a name. There was an understanding and comprehension that I don’t usually have because that kind of feature is missing, and I thoroughly appreciated it.

Something else that Hillenbrand did that I really liked was follow some of the other men. If  Louie was especially close with someone, she kept them in the book. She tells the reader what happens to Phil, and Harris and a number of his other fellow soldiers and some of their experiences throughout the book. Though Zamperini was the focus, it was not ALL about him.

In the midst of reading, somewhere about half way through, I remember thinking “This should be read in high schools.” It is gory. It is hard. There were parts that were tough to swallow and get through. But so many teachers, students, and even adults today, do not talk about, recognize, think about or acknowledge what was done and given before their time to give us the freedom and liberty that we have today.

Earlier this year, at 97 years old, Louie Zamperini passed away on July 2, 2014 in Los Angeles, California.

If you are looking for a good read that has meaning, that has depth, that is real and honest- read Unbroken.

Zamperini inspecting a hole in his plane “Super Man” after a mission


5 Homemade Christmas Soap Recipes

My ma and I are all about those homemade Christmas gifts. Not only are they relatively inexpensive, but they tend to be pretty useful and they give us time to be crafty. 🙂 Along with some Homemade Dog Treats, and chocolate covered pretzels, we did homemade soaps!

all soaps

Left to right- Chocolate Peppermint, Lemon Drop, Coffee, Peppermint, and in the center- oatmeal.

For all soaps we used combinations of Artminds™ soap making, olive oil glycerin soap, Artminds™ soap making, clear glycerin soap, and Artminds™ soap making, goats milk glycerin soap– all purchased at Michaels.

Other potential ingredients:


Cocoa Powder

Peppermint Oil

Citrus Soap Fragrance

Vanilla Soap Fragrance

Oat Meal

Coffee/ Coffee Grounds

Soap Coloring


For the oat meal:

50/50 olive oil and goats milk soap- about 8 blocks of each

1/2 cup plain oat meal

1. In a microwave safe dish, melt the soap about 30 seconds at a time.

2. Add the oatmeal to the melt soap, stir MOVE QUICKLY

3. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

4. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.


Chocolate Peppermint

2:1 ratio clear glycerin to goats milk- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil, 2 or 3 drops of vanilla fragrance

3. Sift in about 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

4. Whisk the powder into the soap/peppermint oil. It will be kinda whipped/frothy.

5. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

6. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.



2:1 ratio goats milk to olive oil- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/2 teaspoon peppermint oil and 2 drops of vanilla fragrance

3. Add 2-4 drops of red soap coloring directly into the soap molds

4. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

5. Use a tooth pick to drag through the soap to help mix up a bit

6. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.


Lemon Drop

This smells SOOOOO good and is probably one of my favorites that we did!

Just goats milk soap- I used about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Zest and juice 1 lemon

3. Add half of the zest, all of the lemon juice, and 2 drops of citrus soap fragrance and 3 drops of yellow coloring

4. Sprinkle the rest of the zest in the soap molds, using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds

5. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.



Make a small pot of good STRONG coffee, save the grounds

2:1 ratio clear glycerin to goats milk- total of about 16 squares

1. Gently melt your soap 30 seconds at a time

2. Add about 1/4 cup hot coffee and stir

3. Mix in about 2 tablespoons of coffee grounds

4. Using a measuring cup or ladle, gently pour the soap into your molds.

5. Let set until solid- about an hour unless you throw it in the fridge….or outside to chill.

PHEW! That was a relatively long post. We wrapped each bar in suran wrap with a cute little Christmas sticker. These gifts are easy, fun, and smell good enough to EAT! This craft can be relatively time consuming only because we had to wait for bars to cool and set between batches since we were only using a few “normal shaped” molds. With the variation of smells and flavors it’s easy to put together samplers like
chocolate peppermint, peppermint and coffee or lemon drop, oat meal and coffee.


And here is my favorite Elf assembling her goodie bags!

Simple Garlic Parm Potatoes

Potatoes are one of the most versatile foods out there. Seriously. Think about it. Oh, and they’re just generally awesome. I make these more tame potatoes to go with my Mmm Mmm Meatloaf, since the meatloaf already has loads of flavor. They’re quick, easy and sure to please.


6-8 red potatoes really as many as you need

2 garlic cloves

1/2 cup chopped onion

Parmesan Cheese



Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350

1. Dirty peel and rinse potatoes

2. Chop potatoes into cubes, put in a pot of COLD water and begin to bring them up to a boil

3. Rough chop about 1/4 of an onion, you should get about 1/2 of a cup

4. Mince 2 cloves of garlic


5. Add the garlic and onion to the pot

6. Boil the potatoes until you can cut them with the spoon and strain.

7. Drizzle olive oil into a baking dish and dump in potatoes

8. Crack fresh black pepper and salt on top. Grate or sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top-as much as you’d like. Give it a little drizzle of olive oil on top.


9. Put dish in the oven uncovered. The potatoes should be pretty well cooked through, so putting them in the oven just finishes that process, melts the cheese and helps the flavors meld. I left mine in for about 20 minutes. 🙂

Serve nice and hot! Sour cream on the side is an option…but then it’s always an option in my life! 🙂

2 Ingredient 5 Minute Fudge

One day I will read a book again and post another book review…I’m still working on that since finishing the semester. So for now, it is recipes and planner things. This happens to fall under the latter of the two.

My mom makes awesome fudge. Melt in your mouth best stuff ever. But I was watching The Pioneer Woman on Food Network the other day and she made this two ingredient stuff. I don’t know how Ree Drummond came up with this recipe, and I don’t care. It is AWESOME! You can find the original recipe HERE.


1 bag of chocolate chips- I used dark chocolate, the recipe says semi-sweet, I’m sure you could use peanut butter or combinations of them

1 14 oz can sweetened condense milk

Pre-line a container with foil, suran wrap or wax paper so that the fudge pops out once it has cooled. I would not use a dish any smaller than 9×9.

1. Set a pot on the stove with a metal bowl or use a double boiler and get it going

2. Dump in the bag of chips and can of sweetened condense milk- whisk or stir until all of the chips have melted and the chocolate and milk are combined


3. Once the mixture is fully melted, mixed and smooth, dump the goodness into the lined dish.


4. Pop in the fridge for at least 2 hours

5. Pull the lining with the fudge out of the dish and put on a cutting board. Cut the fudge using a serrated knife. You can replace the fudge back in the dish in the lining to reduce clean up.

Oh yeah. EAT IT! 🙂


Possible additions- peanuts, walnuts, peppermints, orange zest, or anything else you like with chocolate!!!

Mmm Mmm Meatloaf

I love when my mommy wants me to make meatloaf. I like meatloaf. A lot. But I don’t like when “weird” things are done to it. I’ve made it a number of ways over the years, but this is my favorite!


1lb ground beef

1/2lb ground pork

1 egg

1/4 cup seasoned bread crumbs

1/4 cup seasoned panko

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 packet Lipton French Onion Soup


1/4 cup cheddar cheese

1//4 cup parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons bread crumbs (panko or regular)

We use pork and ground beef to make it a bit bigger because we love meatloaf, and because it’s kind of a bit healthier. We use lean ground beef as well. The nice part about using the seasoned bread crumbs as well as the french onion soup, is that there is no need for extra seasoning! It’s already done for you!

1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Use your hands and just enough to combine all of the ingredients as evenly as possible.

2. I put the bowl in the fridge to marinate for the afternoon. You can skip this step and go right to baking. Pre-heat your oven to 350.

3. Spray a baking dish with non-stick or some olive oil. Place the meat in the dish and press out until it is about an inch and a half thick.

4. Sprinkle the cheeses and bread crumbs on top of the loaf. Cover with foil.


5. Bake for about 30 minutes and remove the foil. Bake uncovered to melt and crisp up the cheese for another 10-15.

6. Remove, slice and ENJOY!

Pair with my Favorite Mashed Potatoes or Garlic Parm Baked Potatoes and fresh veggies! OH and don’t forget the Homemade Apple Sauce!


Apple Peanut Butter Dog Treats

Our house has lots of critters. 3 of them to be exact. They drive me crazy. Most of the time I question our sanity and why we even thought having 3 of them would be a good idea. Until they all cuddle up on the couch together to take an afternoon nap and they are adorable. Then I remember why we got them and decide to spoil them with homemade doggy treats. 🙂 This recipe is a bit different than the last dog treat recipe I posted; there is no egg, more apple sauce and much fluffier. Yes, that is Mo sleeping on the arm of the chair with her head on the side table…cuz ya know…manners right?



1 cup of flour

1/4 cup oats

1/2 tablepoon of baking powder

1/2 cup creamy peanut butter

1/2 cup apple sauce (I used my Homemade)

1 tablespoon of olive oil.

Preheat oven to 350


1. Mix all ingredients in a bowl. If it seems too dry add a tablespoons of water until it is a cookie-dough like consistency. I started using a spoon and switched to mixing with my hand to really make sure everything was incorporated.

2. Sprinkle flour on a surface and roll out to about 1/2 of an inch thick. You can use a cookie cutter, knife or what ever you want to make the desired shape/size of your treats. I used a mini bell cookie cutter.


3. Place baking paper or a baking mat on a cookie sheet. Place the treats on the sheet leaving a bit of room between them. They won’t expand too much.


4. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool before tossing them to the dogs!


They are completely edible and safe for human consumption….they look pretty close to a recipe for a healthy snack you might see on pinterest actually…. I doubled the recipe knowing that we will be giving them out for Christmas to some of our fury friend lovers. The doubled recipe made about 40. This is dependent on what cookie cutter you use and how thick you roll out the dough. 🙂


They waited so nicely as I mixed the dough, placed them on the cookie sheets, baked them, and let them cool, of course they each got one…or three for waiting!


We put some in pretzel baggies to give away for Christmas! They are the perfect size with the perfect amount! 🙂

EC Life Planner Surprise!

A friend of mine at school mentioned that she liked my planner. I have a teacher planner and she is not going to be a teacher, so it would have been a bit much. I love converting people into Erin Condren fans….so I got her a life planner for her birthday next month! With the coupon that came along with the planner….I GOT MYSELF A LIFE PLANNER TOO! YAY!

IMG_4552 IMG_4554

I absolutely LOVE Erin Condren boxes. They look as happy as the fun stuff on the inside! Because this is a gift, I covered up the name! This particular planner is “Scales” and I LOVE it!


Each month there is a full view with a quote, holidays already marked and a notes section down the side.


Every week has a full two-page spread! Every day has a “Morning” “Day” and “Night” section. This is going to be PERFECT for her to keep track of classes, practices and homework assignments! There is a section for Goals/Notes on the left hand side, and lines on the bottom to mark workouts, food, to-dos, etc.

FullSizeRender-1  FullSizeRender-5

After the calendars and weeks are done there are lined pages and blank pages for notes, lists, to-dos-what ever you want to use them for!

FullSizeRender  FullSizeRender-2 

As with all EC planners, there are stickers in the back! There is one whole page of birthday stickers. Being that we are still in school PLUS family, we do have a lot of birthdays to keep track of! The second page stickers say “game!” “day off!” “hair appt @____” “dentist appt@____” “sale!” “doc appt @____” “concert!” “mani/pedi” “party!” and “vacation!” There are also two whole sheets of blank stickers to personalize as needed.


The two-sided Keep It Together pockets also came with a “forget me not” calendar and contacts booklet! SWEET!


The back clear zip pouch, as with all EC planners, came with personalized stickers. The bottom 3 are general and the top 3 match the planner and have her name printed on the bottom. Since this is a gift I hid her name. I LOVE these stickers and have a whole pile of my own. They really are great for gift giving and they are just so fun.

I can’t wait to give this functional, cute little gift! If you have a friend that would like some help organizing their life, this is the perfect gift. It’s not too bad as a gift to yourself either…ya know…Christmas gift to yourself, help you keep track of those New Year’s resolutions you keep saying you want to do….

Here is a referral link for $10 off of a purchase of a planner for yourself! After you create an account you will receive an email with the code. HAPPY PLANNING!

Pumpkin Spice Cookie Bars

I’ve never had pumpkin. I have yet to have a pumpkin spiced latte, I don’t eat pumpkin pie. Something about it wigs me out. But my ma made a pumpkin roll and didn’t use the whole can of pumpkin puree. Obviously we had to do SOMETHING with the left overs. Thanks to handy dandy Pinterest, I came across this lovely recipe on A Kitchen Addiction! She titled them Pumpkin Snickerdoodle Cookie Bars. I adjusted the recipe just a TINY bit and didn’t do the frosting. Here is how I did it…


  • 1/4 cup butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup butter flavored shortening
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2½ C all-purpose flour
  • 1½ tsp cream of tartar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp ginger
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

1. Mix all ingredients except the flour together until well blended.

2. Slowly add flour and mix until well incorporated

3. The dough is thick. Do not fear! Press the dough into a baking dish. I used an 8×10. The original recipe suggested a 9×9 or 8×8.


4. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Mine turned out just fine at 15! Poke the center with a knife to check it.

5. Let cool and eat slightly warm.


For the frosting recipe, check out the original blog post at A Kitchen Addiction!

Happy snacking! 🙂

Brown Sugar Cinnamon Muffins

I thoroughly enjoy cinnamon. I’ve been on a fall spice kick for quite some time now. Nothing beats cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves all mixed up into something. They are warm and spicey and homey and wonderful. This recipe doesn’t have all of those but it’s still pretty tastey! My house likes muffins. They are quick, easy and filling to eat and just as quick and easy to whip up. I was inspired to make these yummy guys for a quick gran and go breakfast!


1 3/4 cup all purpose flour

2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 egg

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/2 cup milk

1/3 cup of brown sugar


3 tablespoons brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Pre-heat your oven to 400 degrees.

1. Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, egg, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon, oil and milk all together in a bowl. I used a hand whisk to mix it all together until it was smooth.

IMG_4506   IMG_4507

2. In a seprate bowl mix the 3 tablespoons of brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon. This will be sprinkled on top.


2. Line muffin tray with liners. Use a 1/4 to fill each liner.

3. Sprinkle each muffin with the brown sugar/cinnamon


4. Bake for 15 minutes or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean. I love how they puffed up!


They are definitely best if eaten warm! Store in an air tight container (if they happen to last that long)!

Makes 1 dozen. This is a very easily double-able recipe and is highly suggested!

EC Teacher Planner Update

I LOVE MY ERIN CONDREN TEACHER PLANNER! Yes, I am obsessed. I love Erin Condren SO much I have now bought my best friend a Wedding Planner, there is a Life Planner in the mail on its way for another friend for Christmas and I bought my co-op teacher the Owl Lesson Planner Notepads!

Though I have the teacher planner, I am currently not in a classroom to need to use the lesson planning section on my students so I have been using it myself. Here are some pictures that show how I’ve turned my teacher planner into a student planner for the time being.

FullSizeRender-7   FullSizeRender-5

I write in the lesson plan section left to right morning to evening. I use the last two columns to write out assignments that I need to do that day/evening. Work and classes fill up most of the other boxes.

I use the month view to keep track of my work schedule and write out when assignments are due. I also have breaks and visits listed.

FullSizeRender-6  FullSizeRender-8

I LOVE the stickers that come with the planner and use them constantly. I have been cutting them in half to make them go farther and so they do not take up quite so much room in my little boxes and it has been working nicely. I have my classes, jobs and activities color coordinated as best as possible. It is not as pretty as some other planners I have seen, but I am working on it! My washi collection is slowly but surly growing!


Ethan LOVES superheros so I was super excited when I found the onomatopoeia comic book tape I HAD to have it! Any visits to or from him are now denoted with the onomatopoeia tape! I can’t wait to grow my washi and sticker collection over the coming months to try and brighten and spruce up my planner!

To get a coupon for $10 off your own Erin Condren goodies, use this referral link! https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/annaswenda0116 

Check out my full planner review here, and my on-the-go notebook and calendar review here! Stay tuned for my Wedding and Life Planner reviews in the coming weeks!

Happy Planning!