Sunday, March 1, 2015

Book Review: "Bella's Gift: How One Little Girl Transformed Our Family and Inspired a Nation" by Rick and Karen Santorum

 Quite a few books deal with the decision to carry a child to term that has a genetic defect, such as trisomy 21 (Down Syndrome) or in which parents are told that their child has a genetic disease that will severely impact its ability to live what is considered a "full and productive life." The decision is a deeply personal one and should be made by each parent given the specific circumstances of their situation. So I will not go into what I think should be done or what society may think should be done and where society or individual parents err in their ways.

What sets this book apart for me is the fact that Rick and Karen Santorum carry their little girl to term, only to find out that the newborn suffers from Trisomy 18. Trisomy 18 is much less common than Down Syndrome, but much more severe since most of the affected children die before birth.
Similar to Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome is also increased as the mother's age increases and the syndrome causes most of the affected babies to die soon after birth due to wide range of severe associated effects, which include heart abnormalities, kidney malformations, and other internal organ disorders.

While Rick and Karen are not your average parent, even for these parents the news was devastating. They were certainly in a position to provide the best care for their daughter, but the daily life with Bella has many challenges for them as well. A lot of readers may only point to the fact that the Santorums due to their good financial situation are not your average parents and that is certainly the case. But what these readers may forget is that having a child with Trisomy 18 poses many other challenges to parents; there may be some initial guilt, question of why and then how to handle the daily routine that may pay attention to all children.

I found this book to well written and useful as a guide to parents that may face similar situations as the Santorums did. The book does not attempt to sugarcoat what life with Bella is like, but you can tell from the writing that these parent do not regret having Bella as part of their lives.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this blog is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third parties.

Book Review: Remember the lillies by Liz Tolsma

 The two main characters of the this story are Rand Sterling and Irene Reynolds, who both find themselves in a Japanese internment camp on the Philippines during WWII. The two protagonists come from very different backgrounds. Rand ran a successful nightclub in Manila before the war, living a life of wealth and carefree entertainment. Irene, on the other hand, abandoned by a her parents, grew up a missionary with her aunt in the jungle, far away from then big city life and entertainment and culture of Manila. The two could not be any different in their lives prior to the war and now fate has brought them together.

While the eventual romantic development between the two characters is somewhat expected, the story line itself has enough interesting twists to keep the book interesting. Rand suffers a failed escape attempt from the camp, in part due to Irene, and then after being held and tortured by the Japanese, finds himself back in the camp. Irene's aunt is falling ill and sent to the hospital, where Irene, who tends to her aunt, now sees a chance to ask forgiveness from Rand. 

 What develops is a story in which we see how the two characters deal with the ability to forgive (and to some degree forget about the past) and their ability to move forward. There are some interesting twists in the story at this stage and the author uses this part to show how our approach to others can impact our own life and happiness.

Overall, this is a good book about a rather dark period in history. But the author does a good job of keeping the story going and educating the reader about this part of history, while still providing an entertaining book.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this blog is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third parties.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Product Review: Seeds of Change - Tikka Masala Indian Simmer Sauce

Through I received a coupon for Seeds of Change products and as a lover of Indian food and all things curry, I selected the mild tomato-and-onion Tikka Masala. Below you can see how easy and especially quickly I was able to fix a healthy, but tasty lunch. The simmering sauce gives the dish an authentic Indian flavor and I do not have to worry about getting the spices right. I was able to provide for a healthy lunch in less than 15 minutes prep-time and then letting the crockpot do the rest. The meal turned out tasty and all I had to do was fix some regular rice to go with the curry chicken stew.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - taking Chicken breast cubed and browning it in a crock pot with the simmer sauce

copyright Durhamonthecheap - starts smelling good, Tikka Masala gives the chicken instant flavor

copyright Durhamonthecheap -adding some frozen veggies to keep it healthy for a quick lunch

copyright Durhamonthecheap -some white rice and the crockpot stew for an authentic curry dish!
 Disclaimer: I received a free product coupon for a Seeds of Change product courtesy of in exchange for a sampling and an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Book Review: Motivate Your Child: A Christian Parent's Guide to Raising Kids Who Do What They Need to Do Without Being Told by Scott Turansky Scott and Joanne Miller

This is an interesting book. While it is titled as a Christian book on parenting, the references to religion and the bible are more cursory than I expected. The messages told in the book and the examples given can be applied to any parent trying to rear a child to become an independent person that sticks to the right path. The right path is one that I would describe as not seeking trouble, staying out of prison and using common sense. Yes, this book will also want the child to believe in God and learn lessons from the bible, but again, this part of the message should not distract from the fact that lessons taught in this book are solid and generally applicable.

I read with great interest the chapter on conscience. Conscience is not really a religious component, but should be part of any adult's behavior that is part of a larger society, in which not his or her own self-interest rules the day. The lessons taught in this book on conscience made sense because every parent knows that they cannot supervise their child 24x7 and as kids grow older, parents need to let go. Yet, every parent still wants to ensure that their child will behave and that they as parents not received the dreaded phone call about their child having gotten into trouble. Teaching your child instinctive boundaries, commons sense and being able to tell good from bad are all part of this letting go and trusting your child to have a conscience that will lead them on the right path.
Yes, there are references to the God and the bible, but overall the advice provided in this book is helpful to every parent.I would recommend this book to my friends, even if they do not go to church every Sunday because I feel that at its core, the messages taught in this book are sound.

Disclaimer: I got a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not bee influenced by a third party.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Crowdtap party: Splenda party - cooking and baking lighter in the kitchen with Splenda

Thanks to Crowdtap and Splenda, I was able to host a party at which I served Splenda-incorporating cookies and also showcase the different products that Splenda is now making available for baking and cooking with less calories. Splenda is now selling brown sugar blend, baking blend and sugar substitute. I love the fact that a brown sugar substitute is now available through Splenda because I love to bake with brown sugar and I cannot really tell the difference in flavor between Splenda and regular brown sugar.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - thumbs up from me for the great Splenda sugar substitutes!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - cookies with Splenda Baking Blend!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - thanks Crowdtap and Splenda!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - coupons and cookies (made with Splenda of course!)

copyright Durhamonthecheap - so much stuff and so little time to try it all out, Thanks Splenda!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - aprons, jumping ropes and so much more from Splenda!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - late to the party and still happy about the Splenda goodies!
Thanks again to Splenda for providing me with these supplies for a fantastic party. The goodies were great, everyone in my group loves to bake and so the measuring spoons, aprons and spatulas were very, very welcome. Thanks again Crowdtap and Splenda!

Disclaimer: I received a free party pack courtesy of Crowdtap and Splenda in exchange for hosting a party and reviewing items provided in the party pack. The opinion expressed in the post is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Crowdtap party: Football Sunday with Weight Watchers

Through I received a party pack to host a superbowl party courtesy of Weightwatchers. The party pack was awesome. It included recipe booklets, party decorations such as napkins, garlands, table football game and then cute plastic helmets and foam fingers. My favorite parts were the football-shaped chip and dip dish and the referee napkins and football plates and cups - really cute and they made it easy to throw a football themed party.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - ready to start the Turkey chili - healthy and tasty with lots of spicy ingredients

copyright Durhamonthecheap -starting the prep by browning the turkey and onions

copyright Durhamonthecheap - - full pt of chili, just some frozen veggies from the garden for some more spice

copyright Durhamonthecheap -voila! low fat sour cream and baked crackers for a tasty and healthy dish!

copyright Durhamonthecheap -ready for the guests at home!

copyright Durhamonthecheap -table is set - who says good food cannot be healthy!

copyright Durhamonthecheap -after party at work - these things were bog hits, everyone grabbed them for the grandkids

copyright Durhamonthecheap -the recipe books were great, healthy and tasty recipes - what is not to like!
So because the party pack was so awesome and contained so many good items to share, I decided to throw two parties. I had one at home and then another at work. Both parties were fun to have and the one at work involved just some healthy snacks, but the recipe booklets from WeightWatchers were are definite hit and as you can see, the football gadgets included were welcome. it does help that we work in an area in which two of the three major college sports teams have blue in their colors, so the foam fingers will definitely be used at home games - more viewing time for WeightWatchers. The football helmets, while maybe a little bit small for some of the adults, will be brought home for the grandkids - boys and girls alike. As you can see from the picture, everyone had a great time!

Disclaimer: I received a free party pack courtesy of Crowdtap and WeighWatchers in exchange for hosting a party and reviewing items provided in the party pack. The opinion expressed in the post is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Product review: - serving small landlords with background checks for prospective tenants

If you are in my position, you will regularly have to perform background checks on potential tenants. Usually, the fee is being charged to the tenant, but the price charged can vary significantly and you do not want to miss out on potentially good candidates by charging a significantly higher rate for background checks than competitors.

Recently, I came across a service called Tenantify, which is hosted at This is a reasonably priced service that performs financial and job history background checks for $10 each or a combination of both for $15. They do not collect SSNs from applicants, which is often a roadblock to people concerned with identity theft. The company does not store sensitive information on their systems either.

The prices charged are lower than other services I have used and that will give some landlords a competitive advantage since potential applicants will look at the background check fee as money that is nonrefundable and must be added to the price charged for the initial payment. Since this also includes the deposit, cash-strapped tenant applicants will look at background check fees as an item that they can save money on and here $20 can make a potential difference. I have seen some services charge in excess of $40 for background checks and often these services require disclosure of the SSN, which is associated with the risk of data breaches since you do not know how securely this information is being handled.

Using a secure API from a partner company, Tenantify can verify banking information without storing any sensitive information. And employment history is verified using official sources and in addition to a phone call with the listed employer. This process will reduce for you as the landlord the risk of the applicant walking away instead of making an offer since the combined price of $15 for employment and income verification is very reasonable. In addition, the Privacy Policy by Tenantify clearly states that the only information collected is limited to the information needed to perform the selected type of background check.

So the next time, you need a background check on a potential tenant, why not give Tenantify a try?

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. I received financial compensation in return for a review of the service. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.