Sunday, June 26, 2016

Book review: Young and Beardless: The Search for God, Purpose, and a Meaningful Life by John Luke Robertson

From watching or reading about Duck Dynasty, you have  gotten to know John Luke Robertson, the oldest son of Willie and Korie Robertson, both stars on the TV show. This book focused on John Luke, while the show had him appearing in a few episodes and mostly as a small side note.
It is definitely worth reading this book and ideally, this book would make a great graduation gift to a kid heading off to college or even a teenager that can many a times lead parents to question their parenting skills.

available on

If you ever wished that maybe another teenager would talk to your child because you seem to not be able to get through to them, this book may be just the recipe called for. John Luke talks about growing up, finding a purpose in life and seeking advice from others. The latter being often difficult for young people to understand. Seeking a mentor does not make you any less of an adult, it shows maturity to know your limitations and finding a good mentor takes both guts as well as wisdom - therefore something to admired in every person. I am glad I read this book because John Luke was more a side character on the show and this book was one good way to get to know him as a person.

While  being married at a young age may scare some parents and not everyone will have their business at the time they enter college (John Luke did both of these things already) - the book makes it clear that adulthood and maturity can be shown in a number of ways and the important aspect of being a responsible adult are not specific milestones, but how you approach everyday life.

I found this book to be an entertaining read, containing advice for people of all ages, but a really important book for kids growing up that may need guidance from someone their own age.

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

Friday, June 24, 2016

Harris Teeter eVic alert - Free Ocean Spray Juice 60oz - Saturday only

If you have not signed up for eVic yet with Harris Teeter - do so NOW!
Not only do they have once a week or more often Flashsales that are awesome savings, but they have taste and tell freebies through Facebook and now free groceries usually on Saturdays. While this may not happen every week, I have gotten in recent weeks three items for free at Harris Teeter and the special is delivered in their weekly eVic email to me.
What could be easier than that to get your hands on free groceries?

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Book Review: The Pug List: A Ridiculous Little Dog, a Family Who Lost Everything, and How They All Found Their Way Home by Alison Hodgson

If you love dogs, and most people I know love them, then this book is definitely a must read for you. It details the story of a family that had their home destroyed by an arsonist in the middle of the night and who find that the most healing influence in their lives comes from a pug, who is not well behaved, nor obedient, nor particularly appealing, but does wonders to restore the lives of the family members to something akin to normalcy.
Even though the title and the cover image suggest a book focused on a dog, this is not the case. While the dog is central to the changes that the family sees occurring in their lives, the story itself is focused on the family making changes for the better because of a dig, but not focused on the dog. Similar to a person that explains positive changes in their lives to religion will not write a book focused on religion, but on the positive changes in their lives, this book is describing how the family healed after the devastating loss of their house, but without having the dog be the center of the book.
I found this book interesting and entertaining. At times the references to religion and Christianity can become more of a distraction than an added facet that really contributes to the story, but overall the book was well written and the story a good reminder that in the darkest hour can sometimes come from the unlikeliest of places.
available on AMAZON

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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Election 2016: Always the bridesmaid, never the ...

We are in the last months of an Obama presidency and while I hate to see him go in light of the options that are now available, I am even more concerned about how the media are covering the campaign of Hillary Clinton.

Just this week, headlines were made not based on the content of her platform but because she wore an expensive jacket during a speech on inequality. Do we know what type of suits any of the male candidates are wearing? Are these suits from Men's Warehouse or custom product tailored to the candidate's unique physique? Of course not, the clothing and general look of the male candidates does not provide the interesting headlines - maybe with the occasional exception of Donald Trump's hair.
The reason I started this post with a reference to the Obama presidency is simple. We are now saying goodbye (and for some people Good Riddance) to the first non-Caucasian POTUS. At the same time, we are now facing the possible presidency of the first woman. That is right! Up until now, more than 50% of the US population (based on Kaiser Family Foundation, 2014) have not been represented at the highest level of politics. By comparison, African-Americans make up 12% of the population and non-Caucasian make up less than 50% of the population.

There was even a relative shortage of close seconds, but at least there were two candidates for vice-president that were female - ergo the bridesmaid reference. One could argue that are lot more female nominees were around, but how often had the Green Party really a shot at the presidency, no matter what the candidates gender.

So now we may actually end up with a female president! Reason to celebrate? Maybe! Because it was so much easier for a woman to be a vice-presidential candidate and why a female presidential candidate is newsworthy, does this not underscore that women should take a step behind men as their assigned role? Women are seemingly still being measured by how expensive a jacket is rather than the content of their political agenda. Is it because women are not capable of having a sound political agenda and can therefore be dismissed right away? Is it inappropriate for a woman to know politics and outlast male candidates in a primary and then a general election? Does that mean she had forgotten her place?

We are still struggling in this country with getting equal pay for women because ... Well actually why are we still struggling? Because women will have kids? I thought it took two to tango and Mark Zuckerberg has shown us that men can take leave as well (and many do because they may actually work in a position where their leave is understood, while the mother will take a hit in their career). At the same time, not having kids makes many women seem suspect of not meeting their obligations. It is a seemingly never ending cycle of no-win for women in this country.

I do not consider myself a feminist. I only consider women to be citizens of the US like any other gender and as such entitled to unalienable rights and last time I checked it did include a pursuit of Happiness - even if that included having a career that just happened to be as President of the United States.

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Saturday, June 4, 2016

Crowdtap Sampling: Truvia Nectar - the perfect combo of sweetener and honey!

One of the best comforts for a sore throat during the cold season is hot tea with some honey. But I also like to enjoy tea with honey in the summer because it helps soothe my throat when I am tuck with a dry cough from my seasonal allergies. So I was excited to get to sample Truvia Nectar, which is a new product by the natural sweetener company Truvia.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia Nectar is perfect for sweetening my iced tea!

Not only does it have less calories than regular sugar, but now you can get the taste of honey with your iced tea and you do not even have to worry about how to properly dissolve the sweetener in your cold beverage. So no wonder that my Truvia Nectar is right next to my Keurig 2.0 brewer, now having tea at any temperature with honey and sweetener is no problem

Truvia Nectar contains a blend of stevia leaf extract and honey. Best of all you can enjoy the flavor of honey, it has 50% fewer calories per serving than sugar and adds a touch of sweetness. And amazingly, Truvia Nectar is twice as sweet as honey, so a little goes a long way and I use only about half the amount I would use of real honey. I have not been able to taste a difference when using Truvia Nectar as opposed to real honey. So what are you waiting for? Give Truvia Nectar a try!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia Nectar is now a fixture next to my Keurig where hot and cold teas are brewed
Disclaimer: I received a free product in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this post is my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Monday, May 9, 2016

An open letter to Donald Trump and other presidential candidates

Let me start off by saying that I know I have little to no shot in hell of getting a response to this post, but it sums up some questions I have to the program associated with the presumptive Republican nominee - or whatever is the name du jour to describe the current status of the candidacy of Donald Trump.
(considering we are reading about meetings with Romney and Kristol about a third (party) candidate and the various degrees to which Republicans seek to alter / avoid / defend against a Republican candidate called D. Trump).
I have been following the political news with some interest since this latest primary season by Republicans is unique in many ways and while I have had some answers provided by some candidates, the primary season really has not gotten into enough detail for me to fully understand how some topics that are important to me will be tackled by not just Trump, but also other candidates that were associated with this primary.

1) Obamacare
Hearing a lot about doing away with Obamacare. I agree that the fees are high to get coverage that is somewhat decent. But what will come in its place? You can do away with it, but it will require something more than simply doing away with it since people do need some healthcare coverage or not? Let me give you the example of my mother, who immigrated to the USA last year as someone well past her retirement age and now has a Green Card. she had pre-existing conditions, can not work full-time anymore. Before Obamacare, her options were gap coverage that included insurance plans that provided minimum coverage at very high rates and often was only good for organizing transport back to the country from which people emigrated to the USA. So besides stating that someone will do away with Obamacare, can someone, anyone on the Republican side please explain how they propose to cover a legal immigrant, past their working age, that had pre-existing conditions and does need regular healthcare and prescription drugs? Going back to the pre-Obamacare solution is not better for these legal immigrants. And in case someone wonders why I asked her to come to the USA and stay with me; staying in Germany on her own would have meant retirement home for her and giving up significant independence because while she is relatively healthy now, she has some days during which she needs more assistance.

2) Public Health and Medical Coverage in general
It is well known that the US spends more on healthcare than countries such as Germany or the United Kingdom. Yet the USA ends up with a worse outcome when looking at general life expectancy, infant mortality or similar public health statistics. Even for someone like me, with employer-sponsored health coverage, it is disheartening to realize that I end up paying significant money out of pocket despite having insurance and limiting physician visits to the appointments required. Since Obamacare in the view of most, if not all, Republicans is not the way to go to bring down healthcare costs and ensure that health insurance is affordable for most, what is the alternative? Again, simply stating to repeal Obamacare is not really giving me an idea on how the US government will ensure that working people can get access to affordable health insurance.
Like other Europeans, it was surprising for me to find out that switching jobs could mean, without proper planning, facing lack of insurance unless you are willing to pay for COBRA, which is not meeting my definition of affordable. Employer-sponsored health insurance is great, but it also takes some of the flexibility away for a mobile society since you need to ensure continuous employment to maintain health coverage. Something as innocent as using the opportunity to take a new job at the other coast and using the move to make a roadtrip with the family and getting to know the US is now a risky undertaking because, if between jobs, it means no health insurance while you drive on Route 66. Obamacare at least makes a once month coverage possible with some planning and provides options, but what in the absence of Obamacare and a gap in employer-sponsored insurance?

3) Border to Mexico
So Donald Trump proposes to build a wall and hold off immigration from Mexico. Being from Germany and growing up in the 70s and 80s, we did have a wall. It was even more than a wall, it was a wall equipped with extensive fencing, guards and guard dogs and the requirement to shoot at anyone seeking to cross the border illegally. In addition, despite all these extra components besides a wall, people did manage to escape and get to what was then West Germany. If people are desperate enough, they will find ways to get across the border and as long as employers are agreeing to provide these people with a better life than in their home country, the desire will be strong enough to come to the USA. What will make the wall with Mexico so much efficient at blocking illegal immigration than the actual wall and extensive border set up by the former East Germany? I am not sure, but I somehow have my doubts that any wall will make a big difference for long as long as there is  enough coastline and the economic disparity between the USA and many countries south of the border.

P.S. Having gone through the lengthy process of transitioning from a student visa to a employment visa to a Green Card to citizenship, I am all for enforcing immigration laws. And in an ideal world, everyone would nicely play by the rules. But this world is imperfect and illegal immigration is a problem and has been for decades. I simply cannot believe that building a wall is an effective solution when much more elaborate (and deadly) border constructions, such as the border that separate East and West Germany, proved ineffective.