Friday, February 23, 2018

Book Review: Finish First: Winning Changes Everything by Scott Hamilton & Allison Fallon

With the Winter Olympics going on, this book was an interesting read on several levels. Mr Hamilton ended up winning a gold medal at the Olympics many years ago (not really that long ago, but in a sport that is dominated by a new crop of teenagers every four years, it does seem a couple of generations ago). He is using this book to excite people about demanding the best - of others, of themselves and of society. Figure skating was not a very successful sport this year for the US and some critics have said that the US skaters are not fighting enough and are not determined enough. Just today I was reading in papers that the skaters were missing their families and wanting to go home. While this is understandable, other nations have athletes too that are separated from their families and yet, these athletes seemed somehow more determined and more willing to compete for whatever it takes to win a medal.
Mr Hamilton in this book is addressing the fear that outcompeting and seeming too competitive is somehow a bad thing in this society, whereas other countries embrace. And not just in sports, but also in research and business. Competition is good according to Mr Hamilton and we should be excited to see where it takes us and when we hit the infamous wall. Seemingly appeasing people and trying to get along with people is not what brings out the best in us, competition will.
Will you succeed every time - No! But giving your best and trying your hardest to better than others is the only way that you will succeed in the end.
I think as a woman in a career dominated by males being too competitive is something that will seem negative to some supervisors. it is not expected behavior of women in the US and does not fit the female stereotype. You can either then settle for a middle of the road career that will never provide you with the chance to show your full potential. Or you can, and this is what I have done, do your best and push yourself, no matter what, showing excellence in as many things as you can. Eventually the environment will be right for you to shine and then you are ready, because you have striven for excellence all the time. I found this book to be very optimistic and inspiring. it does not paint the world as perfect, but it also makes sure that the only way you will find success is by trying your best every single time. 
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Disclaimer: I received a free copy pf the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: Hello Mornings: How to Build a Grace-Filled, Life-Giving Morning Routine by Kat Lee

I am a morning person, but I have plenty of friends who could stay in bed until noon and still feel like they need some more rest. So I picked up this book to see whether this author really presented some useful tips on how to be a morning person and maybe I could learn something too in the process.

The author claims that three minutes is enough to get the morning off to a good start. Unfortunately, this includes bible study. I would have preferred if the author had focused on calling this process something more generic, such as reflection or meditation.  I find that some of the best books for life advice often curtail their target audience by limiting themselves in totally unnecessary ways. This too is one such book. Many people want to ensure that their day gets off to a good start and this book has some good advice. I think the author would have captured a wider audience keeping the book open to people of various religious backgrounds.

Overall, I liked the book and felt it was well written and contained easy to follow steps that made for a more effective start in the morning by providing something that many people are missing - structure. Even though it only takes a few minutes, having a plan and some structure I know helps me to get my morning started. Once I am in my routine, things flow and come naturally. I get stuff done without thinking about them in particular and actually plan my day and think about issues at work most effectively while engaging in that morning routine.

I recommend this book especially for busy moms that need to juggle job and family and take care of both in the morning. A well written book that can help people and  makes a morning routine something to look forward to and not a drag.

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

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Restaurant Review = Texas Roadhouse Durham, NC

Living in Southern Durham, we have a lot of restaurant and eateries available in the area and rarely venture out to North Durham. One place we regular visit in the Northern Durham location is the Texas Roadhouse. There is only one location in Durham and judging by the people waiting for dinner every evening, they could fill two locations up easily in Durham. The reason, I believe, they are so busy is not just the quality of the food, which is good for a chain steakhouse, but also the price they charge for the food. The value based on portion size, taste and quality is excellent. Two people can have dinner for $40 and that includes either two sides with your entree or a salad and a side.
For one of our visits, we elected to have an appetizer. They do have a bloomin oinion, which is good, for us though a little bit greasy and since we usually have some left over, we opted for the fried pickles. The pickles were crispy on the outside and the inside was juicy. They held up well when reheated the next day. We also opted for the horseradish sauce rather than the more high calorie Ranch dressing. Overall, I definitely recommend the pickles rather than the fried onion, especially if you are only two people for dinner.
The appetizer = Fried Pickles with a Cajun horseradish sauce - good portion (this was left for the leftovers box)
House Salad - nice variety of item with your choice of dressing (in this case oil and vinegar)
 Their house salad (or Caesar salad alternative) are considered a side. I usually opt for the house salad rather than a side because the salad has a nice variety of items added. It has tomatoes, cheese, egg, croutons, and some greens. My dressing of choice is oil and vinegar and they give you plenty. It is a good portion and I have never had a bad salad in the place. I cannot speak to their Ceasar salad, but based on the calorie count indicated on the card, I do expect a lot of dressing to come with that as well. You have been warned!
It is a steakhouse and so my dinner entree is usually a steak. I used to order fries with the steak, but prefer now the baked potatoes, either as Russet or sweet potato, and usually just ask for butter and sour cream. They do offer a loaded baked potato option, which costs extra, but it also is pretty much lunch at other restaurants. Again, in case you have not realized it by now, bring a good appetite and the portion size is huge. For steak, I usually have the NY Strip in 8oz, although they offer larger portions of it and on Friday through Sunday they also have prime rib. Steak is prepared to order and so far, I have not been disappointed. This is especially true considering the prices charged.
It is a steakhouse after all - so here is the main dish with their version of fries. I prefer their baked potatoes (regular or sweet)

Salmon - very juicy and a good portion for the price. The two sides were mashed potatoes and green beans.
 They also have fish and chicken dinners and my guest usually prefers a fish selection. The salmon is very good. Again, good portion size and nice and juicy. As sides, you can select from rice or potato dishes and a variety of vegetables. You can see again the portion size of the sides, the salmon dinner is filling and goes for about $12. Quite affordable for a dinner that fills you up.

sweet tea in the t-go cup (just ask for one) and the famous peanuts in buckets

Now something about the actual atmosphere of the place. It is noisy; this is not the place for a business dinner or even romantic date night where you want to have quality conversation. They have music playing, the place is crowded and the staff ever so often will put in a line dance routine to up the volume of the place some more.  It is good for family night out and when you want to relax and have fun. They provide free peanuts to the guests (also in the waiting area to help you kill the time when the wait is up to one hour for a table). So have some peanuts in between your courses and when you want to stay a little bit longer and finish up your beverage.
  • do call ahead seating. It will cut down on your wait time on busy days, which is seemingly every day for dinner around 7PM.
  • Ask for a to go cup for your tea or soda, they usually bring you a fresh drink.
  • save the rolls and excellent cinnamon butter for the next day, you can probably also get another order of rolls to go. I personally just save the initial basket they give you because the prices are so good, I hate to exploit their positive customer service to get more free stuff.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are my own and I have not received any compensation for this post.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 by John C. Maxwell

As someone that studied leadership in college, I am fascinated by the books that go into leadership theory and how to become an effective leader. This book is a revised edition of a book originally published more than two decades ago. John Maxwell has updated his vision of leadership and then goes on to explain how to become an effective leader. He covers topics such as when is someone a manager versus a leader - this to me has always been the core to being a leader, moving away from merely managing people, projects or tasks to effectively leading a group of people and transforming not just yourself into a leader, but transforming the employees into a team. Hint: It takes more than repeating that there is no i in team.
He also covers topics such as how to effectively motivate people and get them to do their best because they want and not because you make them.
I also like that he still recognizes that a leader is an individual, not all lessons will be applicable to every reader and leaders in different situations may require different lessons. But overall, this book will be useful for anyone that is tasked with leading an effort be it in a company, in school, in T-ball or in a family.

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

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book review: Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen

The full title of the book is "Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They're Missing Something" by the author Brant Hansen. 

This is an interesting book and is intended for reader, who sometimes or maybe often feel at odds with the regular church and the traditional messages.  
The description makes it clear, if the church in its current form makes sense to you and you feel at hime here, do not read the book or you may feel lost, be uneasy and maybe even get a little bit mad.

This book is intended for people that may not appreciated the louder aspects of the religious culture seen in many churches, the TV evangelists and the people that are in your face religious. Religion to me and in our family was a very personal affair, that was independent of politics and the rest of society. While we, if asked, indicated our religious affiliation, we were not overt about which church we belonged and had no issues opposing certain lessons in the church or disagreeing with the leaders locally and nationally.

The author of this book is radio host Brant Hansen and he tries to assure people that not agreeing or fitting into the mold of the modern Christian is perfectly fine and acceptable and there is nothing wrong with you!

If you often feel that your subdued art of being religious does not fit in with the outspoken members your church - no problem. If you feel that making religious a very personal affair and are not willing to stand up in front of people or carry around signs showing your religious affiliation - no problem. This in your face, let me be hard attitude about religion is not always comfortable to people and the author shows that there may be more of these misfits than originally thought.

This book may not fit in with church teaching about mission work and being loud and proud about Christianity at every corner of your life, but for us quieter souls it is a welcome tonic that shows that quiet adherence to the Bible can be just as good before God than the endless desire to be open to the public about your beliefs.

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Thursday, December 7, 2017

Book Review: Imperfect Justice (Hidden Justice) by Cara C. Putman

It looks like a clear cut case, a mother killed her daughter and with gun in hand was shot by the policy in a justified act of self-defense. But lawyer Emily Wesley knows the mother and knows also, despite all the facts pointing to her guilt in her daughter's death, that Kaylene would have never been able to harm any of her children. One daughter of Kaylene's is still alive and her uncle, Reid, is trying to visit, but prevented from talking to Kinley. Just like Emily has her doubts, Reid also believes that everything is not quire the way it seems. Why would Kinley's father prevent him from talking to Kinley? Does Kaylene's husband have something to hide?

Reid, who works as a financial investor and as sacrificed a personal life for his career, and Emily, who comes from a wealthy family and has dedicated her life helping women get out of abusive situations, band together to dig into this mystery that surrounded by the death of Kaylene and her daughter.

Together Emily and Reid unravel the mystery about the deaths of Kaylene and her daughter, find the real cupplprit and in the process save the life of Kinley, Kaylene's remaining daughter. They also realize that sometimes life and living is more important than hunting after success at work and the true value of a person is not necessarily their earning potential. 

Overall, a well-written mystery thriller that realistically describes how women can suffer in abusive relationships and the effects such lives have on children.

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

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Book Review: Worry Less, Live More: God’s Prescription for a Better Life by Robert Morgan

In times of economic uncertainty, worrying tends to take over our lives. In addition to the personal issues we always deal with, now comes the worry about jobs, money, and often a good portion of political concerns are thrown in as well.In this book, the author, who is a pastor, tries to help readers to not have their lives be consumed by worry. While this book is focused on the Bible, I was hoping that some of the lessons given could also apply to people as a general guide. Unfortunately, this book is very tightly aligned with the Bible. It does not contain the generally applicable lessons and guidance I have seen in many similar books.
The author uses a good approach, by asking readers to look on bright spots in life and see the positive. But the author always goes back to specific Bible passages. Worry is not just reserved to Christians. In addition, as a pastor, the author should address all people in his community and the book just does not do that. To me, the book was a lot about interpreting the Bible and short on actual guidance on how to approach life and improve it.
It is disappointing that rather than show how lessons from the Bible contain actionable steps that everyone can use, the author focused on the Bible as a guidebook for everyone. Well not everyone is a Christian and this book does not help in bridging the gap between the religions.

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