Thursday, August 30, 2012

Book Review: Folly Beach - 8th in the Lowcountry Tales series by D. B. Frank

This book was provided to me for free through in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog entry are solely my own and have not been influenced by Once Upon a Romance or any other third party.

This was an interesting book for me. At times it made me mad because of what the protagonist found out about her husband, it times it made me think about my grandmothers and the life they lived and the times they grew up in. No matter how much the role of women may have changed in society, in relationships the problems of my grandmothers still seem valid today.So while you can mandate equal treatment in society and at work, no law can prescribe how a man and a woman live their marriage. Overall, I found this book to be very enjoyable, a perfect beach / vacation read and it taught me an important lesson about Porty and Bess!

the book is available through!

Cate Cooper did not have an easy life. Becoming an orphan at an early age, even the love of Aunt Daisy could never fully make up for the loss of her parents. But her life really unravels at the funeral of her husband, who committed suicide by jumping off the piano. The piano is important to Cate because it is the one piece of furniture that serves as a memento to her mother and happier childhood times. Her married life turns out to have been a sham; a cheating husband who left her penniless and without a roof over her head.
But sometimes tough beginnings force you to re-evaluate your life and Cate Cooper does just that. By chance, her beloved piano remains in her possession and Aunt Daisy still lives on Folly Beach, where Cate and her sister grew up. So why not move back to South Carolina? But things even there seem to go all wrong; a fender bender in the supermarket parking lot before she even gets to her Aunt’s house. Cate does not seem to be able to catch a break or does she? The other driver acknowledges that it was his fault and the fact that he is very good looking does not hurt.
All accidents are better discussed over a meal and so out of the accident a friendship forms that seems to turn Cate’s life around. She moves into a house that used to be occupied by Dorothy and DuBose Heyward, the latter being the author of the book "Porgy" that served as the inspiration for the opera "Porgy and Bess" by Gershwin. The author now elegantly weaves the life story of Dorothy Heyward into the story of Cate Cooper’s life, showing the similarities between the experiences of both women.
I had heard of Porgy and Bess before reading the book, but was not at all familiar with the role of DuBose Heyward. The historic angle introduced by the author through the voice and reflections of Dorothy Heyward provide the reader with interesting insights into the creative process behind the famous Gershwin opera. The similarities between the lives of Dorothy and Cate also show that while women have come a long way since the 1930s, women in relationships still struggle with the same problems such as accepting traditional gender roles and how strong of a voice a wife should have in a relationship.

Product review: imPress Press on Nails by Broadway

As part of the blogging campaign for Influenster during which I was introduced to imPress Press on Nails by Broadway, I received two more sets of Press on Nails.
One set was a pattern, something which I am very excited to try out. The second set is a solid, a nice vibrant pink.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my two complimentary sets from Impress, love the pattern!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the pattern is called Space Cadet. Love to have a pattern to try out!
As you can see, Impress provides you with plenty of different sized press on nails, so any size hand can be fitted with the press on nails. If you are thinking about buying the nails or ordering them through the internet, I highly recommend you go to their website here and your their online app to see how the nails will look on your hand. I really enjoyed trying out the different patterns, but I am glad that for my first pattern I got a nice black/silver combo that is not too wild. Because I plan to use the nails this weekend and see whether they last for a week similar to the original colored nails that I received through my Influenster VoxBox.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the online app to try on various patterns by Broadway!
 As you can see from the above screenshot, you just select your pattern or color of choice, then click on it and the nails in the image are shown wearing those nails. In addition, a small inset shows the name the particular pattern or color and allows you to share your selection or like it, so you can easily remember for next time.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Review: Summer Beauty Cravebox

Today was a very good day! I received my Summer Beauty Box from I was really looking forward to this box because my earlier box had been filled with wonderful items for grilling and I am using many of the included items from the BBQ box on a regular basis, like the BIC lighter for my scented candles in the house.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Summer Beauty Cravebox
Full size items at bargain prizes. What is not to love about that equation?
Here are the suggested retail prices for the items included:
Oatmeal Peppermint Soap from Garden Botanika = $7 (see here for order)
think Thin Protein Bar = $1.50 (see here for Amazon order)
Bic Soleil Bella disposable razors = $7 to $10 (here is one of the sites that lists them)
Totally Ageless Intensive Eye Treatment from Puristics = $18 (here is the listing from
Shea Sugar Body Scrub with Mango from Tree Hut = $7 (here is the listing)
Keep in mind, I got this selection for around $15 - a nice bargain and a wonderful selection of products to try out and blog about!

The above video walks you through my first impressions as I unpack the items. I am very, very happy with the selection, especially the mango body scrub, which is full-size, is a wonderful item to be included. I love everything mango and to get a full-size mango body scrub is fantastic.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - all items included, including the sweepstakes information for a Spa Party!
I also look forward to trying the oatmeal, peppermint soap from Garden Botanika, which looks very luxurious. And we can always use more razors such as ones included from BIC Soleil Bella. And chocolate, can never have to much chocolate, especially from a company think Thin - possibly indulge in chocolate without remorse for a diet faux pas. We will see! Last item is one thing I am extremely curious to try out, the Totally Ageless Intensive Eye Treatment from Puristics. I do not have a lot or really noticeable crows feet, but I have been applying eye treatment regularly and Puristics does not sell any products involving animal testing - a big plus in my book - and so I am looking forward to trying their product and blogging about its effect on my eyes.

So a big Thank you from Cravebox for selecting me for the Summer Beauty Box - great selection of products and I cannot wait to try them out and blog about them!

disclaimer: For a nominal fee, I received a selection of products through in exchange for using the products and providing honest reviews and feedback. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own nad have not been influenced by or any other third party.

Friday, August 24, 2012

5hour Energy - it does work without the caffeine buzz

Through I was able to sample 5hour Energy drinks. I got a sample of Pomegranate as well as Berry. I am not sure which flavor I like better, they both truly taste like indicated on the bottle. Not artificial, but like actual fruit juice has been added.
I had heard of 5hr Energy before this sample and several of my colleagues use it regularly. I like coffee and so I never felt the need to try out Energy drinks. Quite frankly, after I had tried Monster several years ago and could not get over the very artificial taste, I had been hesitant to buy energy drinks. So this sample through simley360 was a welcome opportunity to try one of the more recent additions to the energy drink market.
I liked when I read that 5hour Energy does not contain any sugar and really appreciated when they explained to you that you can use half a bottle to get an energy boost.
I tried the Pomegranate first and only half a bottle. It worked great and I felt refreshed and there was no sugar crash afterwards. The energy kept me going from my afternoon slump at 2PM, when I had the sip, until past dinner at 6PM. It was a buzz that had nothing of the caffeine jitters associated with it.
After I finished the Pomegranate flavor, I then tried the Berry flavor. Again, I settled for only half a bottle. This amount of 5hour Energy is working well for me. But you be the judge. Try half a bottle and if you need more of a boost, try a whole bottle the next time.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the smiley360 sample package for 5hr Energy
For more information on 5hour Energy, such as the flavors currently available as well as the detailed ingredient information, you can visit the 5hour Energy homepage here.

Recipe from the garden: Home-made Gumbo

Someone dropped off some fresh Okra at work today and so I took a few to make some homemade Gumbo. I first tasted Gumbo during a visit to New Orleans almost 20 years ago and fell in love with thick, spicy vegetable soup. Rather than add seafood, I decided to add chicken and use up some of the vegetables from my garden.
I started off by chopping okra, tomatoes, bell peppers and banana peppers. I added the vegetables to a slow cooker, topped them off with some chicken broth and added a can of Benita Mexican Fiesta Diced Tomatoes (on sale at Aldi this week) to ensure that the mix was really spicy enough. I had bought some chicken thighs at Aldi as well. I cut those up into bite size pieces, removed the bone and quickly seared them in a non-stick pan to make sure they were not raw inside anymore before adding them to broth.
I let this mixture simmer for about 2 hours, then added shortly before serving a can of peas. To thicken the soup some more, I had made a light brown roux out of butter and flour that I added to the soup to achieve a nice, thick consistency. I brought the soup back up to a quick boil and then served it with some crackers and toasted bread.
The soup was absolutely delicious. Even though it is still summer, we had a gray and rainy day. So I decided it was the right time for soup and okra makes me always think of gumbo.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the thick goodness of homemade gumbo

copyright Durhamonthecheal - lots of fresh veggies, some chicken and spices!
To learn more about gumbo and what makes gumbo gumbo, you can check out wikipedia here. And to see how Emeril makes a gumbo with shrimp and sausage, you can check out his Country File Gumbo here. Most importantly, you can always make up your recipe to create a thick and spicy vegetable soup with some meat. As long as it tastes, you may call it gumbo and no one will ever know the difference!

Book review: Rudy - Rudy Ruettiger, Mark Dagostino

Like most people, I was introduced to Daniel "Rudy" Ruettiger through the movie "Rudy" with Sean Astin. So when I first encountered this book, I thought what can it tell me that the movie did not. I then remembered reading about Rudy and his financial troubles and this book does still have a story to tell that was left off from the movie, which is very much feel good and inspiring for young people. Where the movie is good for kids to teach them never to give up and has a nice happy end, the book is more the adult version of Rudy.
Of course the book goes into his childhood and his dream of making to into Notre Dame, not just as a student, but also a football player. But then the book goes on to talk about his troubles following the climactic game with Rudy being carried off the field as a hero. Because those perfect moments are just that "moments - they do not last and reality is not glamorous and you will not walk on water.
This book in four parts describes each loss and follow up success in the life of Rudy, so the reader gets involved not in the life of Rudy the football player with a nice ending, but in the life Rudy the Average Joe that has success, but also gets dealt some fairly significant blows. The important lesson for the reader is to get up and keep on trying. Will Rudy's life from now on be successful, in its own way - certainly, even though there still will be the blows just like for everyone and this book teaches up to just keep going and trying harder. And maybe also to accept success to come in different forms, smaller forms and to find satisfaction in the little wins that happen along the way.

book is available at here

I received a free copy of the book through in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this review are my own and have not been influenced by either booksneeze or the author.

Monday, August 20, 2012

TV Preview: Totally Biased by Kamau Bell

So through I was made aware of an unusual comedian named Kamau Bell who has a new show on FX called "Totally Biased". The show and Kamau's humor were presented as being similar to the Chris Rock Show and not shying away from any topic. Chris Rock, by the way, is the executive producer of Totally Biased.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - can this face tell a mean joke - You Bet!
So on 8/9, some friends and I watched the premier episode. The show comes on at 11PM, so late enough that the kids can be in bed, but early enough for us adults to still be able to enjoy a comedy show that requires your attention. Because attention Kamau requires. Fast-speaking and covering a multitude of topics, Kamau does not give the viewer a lot of rest.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the name says it all - totally biased and leaving no doubt about it!
Let me be clear. The comedian and the show do not strive to be politically correct. You know where Kamau stands on every topic he covers. You do not agree with him, too bad, he will just move on! He interchanges taped pieces on topics that interest him with live studio pieces, not giving the viewer much rest.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - if you missed an episode or want a preview, has the goods!
He does not pull any punches and not all people will agree with him and most viewers will certainly find something to disagree with him and even be mad at him for some of his opinions. But that's okay because Kamau got plenty of things to be mad about himself and so you can join the club of people being mad about something.
There are plenty of videos with scenes from Totally Biased on youtube. I picked this one because is it fairly safe in terms of language and covered topic.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Harris-Teeter eVic specials: Now Sundays as well

I just got my listing of Harris-Teeter eVic specials and in addition to the Saturday specials, there is also a Sunday special listed and a got one - very cheap HT cheese. I think HT may be seeing reduced customer numbers in the area, not surprising with the Aldi now open in Durham. I have talked to several people at Harris Teeter visits recently that all indicated to first stop by Aldi and then go to Harris Teeter for just specific sale items.
I have to admit, I am doing the same. Bulk shopping at Aldi, pantry items, basics like bread and milk, and then go to Harris Teeter or Kroger for weekly specials.

So here now the first eVic special with a Sunday listing - please keep in mind that your personalized eVic specials may be different. Let me know if your also contain a listing for a Sunday item.

The special offers listed below have been selected specifically for your
VIC household as a valued e-VIC member and are non-transferable.
Saturday Only Special! Minute Maid Juice Boxes - 10 pk :
 eVIC Member Price August 18th ONLY - $1.77 ea - Limit 2
Saturday Only Special! Nabisco Tray Packs - 9-25.2 oz :
eVIC Member Price August 18th ONLY - $2.97 ea - Limit 2
Sunday Only Special! Harris Teeter Cheese (Shreds or Chunks) - 6-8 oz :
 eVIC Member Price August 19th ONLY - $0.97 ea - Limit 4
Organic Grape Tomatoes - 1 pint : eVIC Member Price - $1.97 ea - Limit 2
Annie's Organic Snack Mix - 9 oz : eVIC Member Price - $2.97 ea - Limit 2
Simply Orange Juice - 59 oz : eVIC Member Price - $2.97 ea - Limit 2
Seventh Generation Bath Tissue - 12 roll : eVIC Member Price - $4.97 ea - Limit 2
Eggo Waffles Family Pack - 23.2-29.6 oz : eVIC Member Price - $3.97 ea - Limit 2
Harris Teeter yourhome Bleach - 96 oz : eVIC Member Price - $0.97 ea - Limit 2

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Recipe for the summer: Lime curd

Last week, Harris-Teeter had reduced bags of limes and was selling more than 10 limes for $1. I grabbed a bag because one of my favorite things to do with limes, besides adding them beverages as a nice refrshing twist, is home-made lime curd. Many of you will have heard of lemon curd. It is a mix of lemon juice, butter, sugar and egg yolks. This is clearly not low-fat, but the combination of eggs and citrus makes for a wonderful refreshing cream to spread on bread.
I had previously used Martha Stewart's recipe for lemon curd here, but decided to do a fresh google search for lime curd and found a very nice recipe here. The recipe is very easy, the only caution required when preparing any curd is to ensure that the temperature of the mix is not too high. If the temperature of the egg yolks combined with the remaining ingredients is too high, the egg yolks will scramble and the curd is really no longer a curd.
I doubled the recipe and used the following ingredients:
  • 1 cup of lime juice, freshly squeezed (this ended up being about 12 small limes)
    • you do not want to use the store-bought lime juice, it does not taste right!
  • two sticks of butter - unsalted
    • if you have only salted butter at home, you can use that as well, but the flavor will definitely be more salty than when you start of with unsalted butter and then add a pinch of salt separately. Also make sure your butter is very fresh. Butter that has been sitting around will give an odd flavor to the curd
  • 1 1/2 cups of sugar
  •  2 Tbsp of fresh lime zest
  • 10 egg yolks
    • again having fresh eggs is advisable, the resulting curd tastes better because the fruit flavor is more pronounced
  • pinch of salt 
    • only add a pinch of salt if you used unsalted butter, never add salt if you had to use regular, salted butter (and you can never use margarine - it will not, never, nada work for this recipe)
Why pay a lot of money on here when you can make lime curd at home? If you do not feel like making lime curd at home, this is a really good commercial lime curd that I can recommend!

And that's it - very few ingredients and quite easy to make.
I advise to first take the zest, then get the juice. Have the remaining ingredients pre-measured and ready to add in quick succession to a sturdy saucepan. You want the saucepan to be sturdy because the heat from the stovetop is spread out equally and allows you to set the temperature lower.
Start off by melting the butter on low heat, then adding in quick succession the sugar, zest, salt and juice. Whisking everything in low heat until the sugar is melted and the mixture has a nice, even consistency. Remove from the heat and add the eggyolks. Move the mix back on the heat, still set at low, and continue whisking until the mixture starts to thicken. Once the mixture is thickened (most cooks say the mixture should stick to the back of a wooden spoon), take the saucepan off the heat and let cool down for about 10 minutes to let the mixture thicken further.
Carefully pour mixture into a container and store in the fridge overnight. The following day the lime curd is ready to use and can be stored in the fridge for about a week.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my container of lime curd - lots of it to go around and enjoy!

My favorite uses of lemon or lime curd are:
  • topping fresh fruit, such as strawberries
  • spreading in white, sweet bread like Italian sweet bread or Challa
  • topping for vanilla ice cream
  • eat a spoonful as a quick pick me up in the afternoon (similar to a spoonful of peanut butter)
Note: what to do with the remaining egg whites? Turn them into a low fat, healthy breakfast omelette!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the final consistency of the curd, it iseasy to spread, yet not too liquid!

From the makers of Splenda- Nectresse, an all natural no calorie sweetener

Through I was given an opportunity to try out a new no calorie sweetener from the same manufacturer that brought you Splenda. But this new sweetener, Nectresse, is even better; it is all natural.
Nectresse is made from Monk Fruit, a fruit endogenous to China, where it is used in traditional medicine, but also as a sweetener because of the natural sweetness of the flesh.
an image of Monk Fruit from here
I was very happy to see that the new product was made by McNeil Nutritionals because I love the flavor of Splenda. It does not have a chemical aftertaste and really, in my opinion, most closely resembles sugar among the available artificial sweeteners. With Nectresse being all natural, I was very much looking forward to trying it out.
Smiley360 was very generous, sending me lots of samples (each with two packets and $1 off coupon) as well as a large container to keep for myself.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - contents of my sampling package - so much to share with others
copyright Durhamonthecheap - best part, each sample comes with $1 off coupon!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - what better use for any sweetener than a nice cup of tea!

Adding just one packet of Nectresse to a large mug of black tea really sweetens the tea well. The consistency of Nectresse is identical to sugar and it certainly sweetens well.

If you want to find out more about Nectresse, you can find a lot of information here!

For example that one packet of Nectresse provides all the sweetness of two teaspoons of sugar without all of the calories. I can vouch for that - it truly is an effective, natural, no calorie sweetener.

Book Review: Tough Guys and Drama Queens: How Not to Get Blindsided by Your Child's Teen Years by Mark Gregston

Mark Gregston in "Tough Guys and Drama Queens" has written a no-nonsense advice book for parents of teenagers. At first I was just curious to read a parenting book by a dad. Mostly I have encountered parenting books from moms or academics, but Mark's viewpoint is refreshing and his style is clearly straightforward. How often can you find tales of duck hunting in a parenting book? I loved it.
The book is split up into three parts that again are subdivided into numerous smaller sections. Mark starts off by explaining what he feels is different about today's culture, the quick access to information through the internet and the scrolling texts at the bottom of the TV screen, the focus on turning little kids into sexual objects through clothing, "kid" TV and popular music.
He then goes on to list (a very brief) number of parenting styles to avoid. Parents will make mistake, the important thing is to learn from them. Convincing is hard to achieve, but so much longer lasting than simply citing parental authority over the kids to get them something without the teenagers knowing why.
The last chapter provides the reader with tips on how to be a good parent - such as trying to understand your teenager and see in their approach to an issue, the solution for how to convince them to avoid mistakes or misguided decisions. Do not go overboard and be overprotective, but let your child gradually become independent.
In two appendices the author provides very practical guidance on how to start conversations with your child and how to discuss conflict. Parents can read through this practical guides and adopt them as written or seek guidance on developing their own style.
Overall, I found this book to be an excellent mix between theory and practical experiences and guidance. Mark is a wonderful writer that makes this book, despite is being a nonfiction, parenting book, a fun read. I would definitely recommend this book to parents of teenagers, I think that dads especially will find a book written by another dad to be a very suitable guide to how to handle the teenager in the family.

available on amazon com here

I received a free copy of the book through in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this review are my own and have not been influenced by either booksneeze or the author.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Woolite Extra Dark Care - finally your favorite jeans can get the star treatment they deserve

As a member of Crowdtap I recently received a number of samples to try out Woolite Extra Dark Care and share the fabulous detergent with my friends. I work in a place where jeans are okay,every day, not just casual Friday. So I wear a lot of jeans. I stay away from anything to crazy and want my jeans to last as long as possible. So when I heard about Woolite Extra Dark Care, I was very excited because it promised to maintain color well and be especially suited for dark colors.
Now you know that I am a big fan of Woolite and I always have a bottle of Woolite Complete at home.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Woolite Complete, what more do you? Or maybe something for dark colors?
But when I get samples, I need to try them out and I need to say that using two samples of Woolite Extra Dark Care on my jeans and dark t-shirts has so far worked very well. The colors have not faded. Now, I have only used two samples, so that is by far not a long time to allow fading, but still. With a name like Woolite, I usually give the product some extra credit because Woolite stands for quality and especially gently cleaning of clothes. So while Woolite Extra Dark Care may handle jeans and cotton fabric, it can still be gentle on the colors because that is really what I am looking for. I hate if black shirts end up looking gray after several washes because if I want to wear gray, I buy that color clothing. I certainly do not want to wait until my black fabrics fade into gray.
So anyway, if you get a chance - stop by my desk at work to get a couple of samples left over or simply go to the Woolite Facebook page and click on Woolite Sample. After watching a short video, you need to fill in your personal information for a free sample of Woolite Extra Dark Care.
Then wait until the sample arrives and happy laundry and even happier dark colors!
Woolite Extra Dark Care - be on the lookout for it in a store near you!

the complete Woolite family of laundry detergents - something for absolutely every piece of clothing!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Book review: Running for my Life by Lopez Lomong

The book "Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games" by Lopez Lomong describes the author's journey from the civil war in Sudan through refugee camps in Africa to an adoption by a family in the USA and finally becoming a bona fide medal contender at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Lopez, whose birthday is listed as January 1, as with many adopted children from the Sudan who arrived in the USA without papers, was born in Sudan to a loving family, but then abducted and forced to fight in the bloody and gruesome civil war that is still ongoing in that country. Able to escape a life as a child soldier, he made it into a refugee camp, where he started to run as a means of making it onto the soccer team. Seeing soccer as the real sport and running simply as a means to an end, Lopez needed to be bribed by his high school coach to join the track team, but then emerged as a very talented runner, ending up with an athletic scholarship to attend college.
In the process of becoming a nationally ranked runner and seeing running as a sport, Lopez had to learn other things about life in the USA as well as life in a country not ravaged by civil war. Despite the horrific years in the Sudan, Lopez emerged through it all as a well adjusted young man that manages to keep an optimistic outlook on life.
The book is full of humor and a strong belief in the good of humanity and through it all shows the reader how resilient the human spirit can be. Even if Lopez was not a nationally ranked runner, this book would be worth reading just to expose outsiders to the civil war in Sudan through the eyes of a young boy and contrast these years to the life most of us take for granted in the USA.

Running for My Life: One Lost Boy's Journey from the Killing Fields of Sudan to the Olympic Games
book is available on here

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book through in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this review are my own and have not been influenced by either booksneeze or the author.