Monday, April 29, 2013

L'Oreal and Redbook houseparty (at work) - fun stuff to sample and raffle off!

Today was my L'Oreal and Redbook houseparty. The kit that I had received was fantastic; it contained so many good things and plenty of samples to share. I decided to have the party at work because that way we can easily get together without driving too long of a distance.

I had brought some organic juices, made homemade lemon chess pie and raffled off some of the full-size products included like the nail polish, eyeshadow and lip gloss. The sole male colleague brave enough to attend (hooray!) got to take some goodies home for his wife and daughter. He also enjoyed the pie and drinks!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the kit displayed at work during lunch break - time to party!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - checking out the nail polish colors
We had a lot of fun looking at the new nail polish colors and raffling off the full size samples of make up and the book included in the kit. The raffle was not so serious and allowed for people to keep exchanging gifts to make sure that everyone was happy with what they ended up getting. Everyone did love the samples included, especially the L'Oreal Revitalift Miracle Blur Cream. People were also excited about getting a subscription to Redbook because several ladies indicated that their subscription had lapsed and this was an ideal time to renew it and keep up on fashion and  beauty tips in general!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - winning goodies for the wife and daughter!
We even had one male colleague visit and grab some items for his wife and daughter. He got the book as a raffle win and then we entrusted him with selecting some make up for his wife. I hope she likes it.

We had a lot of fun and it was a great way to introduce my colleagues to new products by L'Oreal and the modern Redbook and the topics it covers.Everyone signed up for their subscription and is now awaiting the first issue of Redbook magazine.

Some of the highlights besides the L'Oreal Revitalift Miracle Blur Cream (available on here) were the new colors for the L'Oreal Colour Riche Nail Polish. The ladies admired the many shades of red available as well as the nice neutrals. Going back to my initial post here, you can see the variations on shades that were included. I was particularly happy to see that besides the reds and pinks, L'Oreal is now offering blues and grays as well. They make a nice, different shade of neutral that goes well with denim. 

The lip glosses also received plenty of attention because they are nice and thick and look like they will last several hours, eliminating the tedious reapplying of lipgloss. I will wait to hear some feedback on the lipgloss from the participants that ended up winning those. Both ladies that ended up winning the eyeshadow were very happy; they really liked the color combination and thought that L'Oreal did a fantastic job combining colors that go well together.

Disclaimer: This party was sponsored in part by Redbook and L'Oreal and both provided samples and products to sample at the party. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sambazon smoothies and fruite juices sampling party - Moms Meet

Today, I had my Sambazon sampling party at work thanks for Moms Meet. They provided me with plenty of coupons to try out a variety of these organic, super healthy beverages that contain Acai Berries. I had bought smoothies in vanilla, chocolate and chocolate/almond/coconut flavor as well as fruit juices containing Pomegranate/Blueberry and Yerba Mate/Guaraná. Some of these bottles contain 90 Acai Berries, sure to wake you up and give you energy to burn.

What surprised most of the moms (and one dad present) was how great these things taste. I think everyone approached the Sambazon beverages with caution, expecting the smoothies to taste too healthy. But the comments were along the lines "they really taste like chocolate milk" or "this is just like regular juice". My personal favorite is the smoothie with chocolate, coconut and almond milk and a couple sampled this one at the party and loved it as well.

Sambazon is locally available at Harris Teeter (has about 6 varieties), Walmart (has one kind and charges 7% sales tax rather than the standard 2%) and Food Lion (which is the only location that has the coffee-flavored variety available).

If you go back to this post  here from earlier this month, you can see the contents in the fantastic kit as well as more information about what makes Sambazon so special (hint: sustainability is more than just a trendy word to this company!).

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the assorted goodies, including a bowlful of Sambazon drinks!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Sambazon juices and smoothies were a big hit with the moms!
Disclaimer: I received coupons and a sampling kit to host a Sambazon sampling party through MomsMeet. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Moms Meet or Sambazon.

Now on HULU: All My Children & One Life to Live are back and better than ever!

Rarely being home during the day due to work, I was never able to get into a soap operas that have been 
playing on TV. Some soaps, like All my children, has been on for decades. But now, thanks to the Online Network (link), you can enjoy All my children and One life to live on HULU. 

cast of All my Children!

The direct link for All my children is here and One life to live is here. Both of these shows will be available starting Midnight on Monday April 29, 2013 and for someone like me, who has little prior insight into these soaps, being able to watch them on HULU is great. If you work out at the gym and carry your smartphone with you to listen to music, you can even watch both of these shows on mobile devices through Hulu+ and iTunes. So no more depending on the weather channel or EPSN that may be set at the gym!

One word of caution (depending on how you are inclined). These shows are now off the regular network channels and so the writers have taken some more liberties in terms of language. The shows, as evidenced by the preview spoiler here for All my children, are definitely more adult themed compared to regular daytime TV and will include more profanity. So you may want to watch out of the kids are home! BTW, if you click on the link for All my children, you can also see the cast do the Harlem Shake!


the younger cast member of All my children!
The cast of all my children includes some new and definitely also some familiar faces, including Debbie Morgan as Dr Angie Hubbard, Julie Barr as Brooke English,Sal Stowers as Cassandra Foster, Eric Nelson as AJ Chandler, Denyse Tontz as Miranda Montgomery, Jordan Lane Price as Celia Fitzgerald, Ryan Bittle as JR Chandler, Eden Riegel as Bianca Montgomery, Cady McClain as Dixie Cooney, Ray MacDonnell as Dr. Joe Martin, David Canary as Adam Chandler, Heather Roop as Jane McIntyre, and Francesca James as Evelyn Johnson

 For One life of live, there is also a brief spoiler here.

And here is an image of the whole cast as well as the younger cast members separate for One Life of Live!

For One Life to Live, the actors forming the mainstay are Corbin Bleu as Jeffery King as well as returning actors Erika Slezak as Victoria Lord Buchanan, Robin Strasser as Dorian Lord, Tuc Watkins as David Vickers, Robert S. Woods as Bo Buchanan, Kassie DePaiva as Blair Cramer, Jerry verDorn as Clint Buchanan, Florencia Lozano as Tea Delgado, Melissa Archer as Natalie Buchanan Banks, Hillary B. Smith as Nora Buchanan, Kelley Missal as Danielle Manning, Josh Kelly as Cutter Wentworth, and Andrew Trischitta as Jack Manning.

One Life to Live still follows the complicated lives of three main families in Llanview, PA. And you can expect the same drama that made soaps such hits on TV. The town may be small, but the characters and their drama are big and enough people in the cast to cause problems with each new episode.
The nice thing is that you can still get your daily does of the soaps that are fresh and better than ever. Making use of the freedom of being off network. Daily shows will be 30 minutes now and each Friday there is recap in case you missed some of the episodes. To underscore that this is not your mother's soap anymore, the guest stars are definitely geared towards a younger audience. The list of starts making guest appearances includes Snoop Lion, Riff Raff, and Nervo.

     Disclaimer: I am participating in a campaign from One2One Network and The Online Network. I have not received payment for this post. My participation makes me eligible for a prize drawing. All opinions stated are my own.

    Saturday, April 27, 2013

    Product review: Goodies Box April 2013 - including a $50 Wine GC and all for $7 total purchasing price!

    Today my Goodies box came for April 2013. I was very excited about this one because it does include a $50 GC for, a website that I had not heard of before for ordering wines from small businesses. North Carolina has seen an increased in the number of vinyards over the last few years and so I am excited to see how the local wines stack up against the small vinyards from other parts of the USA.

    Also included in the box were two bars, one with coconut cashew from True Bar. I love coconut and I love cashew, so this bar should be something I can really sink my teeth in. Another bar was from Zone Perfect, the Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bar. Sound delicious, but I will have to see whether the cookie dough pressed in a bar is really tasting like cookie dough - I will post an update soon.

    This little snack I am particularly excited about sampling, from Olomomo Nuts a sample bag of Righteous Cinnamon Cayenne Almonds. I have been eating from Blue Diamond that Wasabi Soy Almonds because they are wonderfully spicy and the Cinnamon Cayenne Almonds sound spicy and sweet. So this should be an interesting flavor to try and I may have to purchase some more (they could replace Wasabi Soy Almonds as my go to snack!).  The next snack was definitely a surprise.

    Who know that Green Giant product veggie snack and not just canned or frozen vegetables. Included in this box was a sample bag of Green Giant Sweet Potato Multigrain Chips. The flavor sounds interesting and I hope that these chips do not taste too healthy. While I appreciate that some companies want to take the guilt out of chips, chips are only intended as snack and if you want to eat chips, you should be able to indulge and get that nice guilty pleasure feeling of skipping on a diet and eating something that will not necessarily make the recommended snack list for every nutritionist. So if the flavor is there, I will be happy. But if they taste too healthy, I will definitely reach for my regular potato chips and just eat fewer!

    They also included another beverage. This is one of my favorite parts of the Goodies box, you get a new soda or in this case an energy drink to sample. In the April box, it is from Celsius an energy drink with Raspberry, Acai Berries and Green Tea. Very excited about this drink because I am just starting to discover the benefits of Acai Berries and so this will fit right into my current health kick!

    The last snack was the first to be gone. Angie's Popcorn Sweet & Salty Kettlecorn combines two of my favorites, a sweet and salty snack and kettlecorn. I love kettlecorn and so that bag made it out of the box in exactly 5 minutes. Because while compiling this list, I kept looking at the wonderful yellow bag and finally decided that life is too short to put work in front of pleasure. So the bag was started while I was finishing up this review!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - the contents of the April Goodies box!
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - did not stick around for long ;(

    Product review: New Album "To Be Loved" by Michael Buble

    Through One2Onenetwork, I was able to received a free digital download of Michael Buble's new album "To be loved" and I am quite impressed with this latest output by the Canadian singer. What I did not expect, but I am really happy about, is the fact that Michael includes 4 original songs on this album. While the majority of the songs included are classical standards, such as To love somebody, Michael had significant input in songs such as It's a beautiful day or Got it easy. 

    A couple of the songs are reflections of his relationship with his family, especially his wife, and an assessment of where he feels his life is right now. Quoting Michael: "I wrote Close Your Eyes about my wife and about the power of all the women in my life—my sisters, my mom, my grandma and all women in general. Let’s face it, where would we be without them? I Got It Easy, another original, is basically a song where I count my blessings and is a reminder to me and everyone to appreciate all the good parts of life. I’m a very lucky guy and I never want to forget it."

    These songs constitute a nice mix of slow as well as jazzy songs that detail parts of Michael's life. In his own words, Buble says this album "swings big time: it rocks, it’s soulful, it’s happy, sometimes a little sad. It’s romantic, it’s yummy, and it’s heartfelt." I have added this video, which shows Michael doing a song live in the NYC subway. Clearly, this guy can sing and so sit back and enjoy!

    If you want to buy the album and get to listen to more of his beautiful voice, it is on sale at here for around $13.

    If you want to enjoy Michael live or on TV, he will be appearing on Dancing with the Stars on 4-30-13 and on the Ellen DeGeneres show on 5-3-13. So mark your calendars and be the first one to hear the songs from Michael Buble's new album.

    Here are the all the songs included on the album and you can tell, it is a great mix of old favorites and his new venture into songwriting. Buble covers songs by the Frank Sinatra, the Bee Gees, Jackson 5, Elvis Presley, Van Morrison, and more. Not only that, but Michael has managed to snag some really interesting helpers for this album. Reese Witherspoon and Brian Adams, just to name two, also make appearances on this album.

    1. "You Make Me Feel So Young"
    2. "It's a Beautiful Day"
    3. "To Love Somebody"
    4. "Who's Lovin You"
    5. "Something Stupid" (featuring Reese Witherspoon)
    6. "Come Dance with Me"
    7. "Close Your Eyes"
    8. "After All" (featuring Bryan Adams)
    9. "Have I Told You Lately That I Love You" (with Naturally 7)
    10. "To Be Loved"
    11. "You've Got a Friend in Me"  
    12. "Nevertheless (I'm in Love with You)" (featuring The Puppini Sisters)
    13. "I Got It Easy"    
    14. "Young at Heart"

    Several of the songs you may recognize from covers by other artists, including Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?. Michael's version is more upbeat than Rod Stewart's and depending on which mood you are in, you will like his version much better. My favorite song on the album is To Love Somebody. I love the arrangement and I think the beat is just perfect for Michael's voice. It is mellow and jazzy at the same time. My next favorite is probably Come Dance with Me. Overall, the songs are upbeat, jazzy and the voice of Michael Buble is really part of the arrangement.

    And here is a clip of Michael doing the Bee Gees favorite "To love somebody" so you can enjoy him without having to wait for the album to download.

    Disclaimer: I participated in this campaign for One2One Network. I received a free copy of the album to facilitate my review. By posting, I am eligible for incentives. All opinions stated are my own.

    Review: Taco Bell Happier Hour - everyday 2 to 5PM

    Taco Bell, the place for all kinds of reasonably priced Mexican Food, has a new plan to draw customers during the relatively slow early PM hours - Happier Hours. Modeled after a similar campaign by Sonic, Taco Bell is selling all medium drinks for $1 during the 2 to 5PM hours Mo through Fr and weekends included. While McDonalds has the standard $1 drinks for soda and iced tea any size/any soda, Taco Bell does include its limeades and slushies.

    I went today and grabbed a Cherry Limeade as a treat after doing a bunch of work in the yard. For $1, this is nice little treat at a very affordable price and to be honest - who could no thank you to a Cherry Limeade on a warm Spring day in North Carolina? Certainly not me!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - a refreshing Cherry Limeade for $1 through TB's Happier Hour!

    Wednesday, April 24, 2013

    P&G sampler program - a nice surprise in the mail from She Speaks

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - a nice sampler package with P&G products from She Speaks!
    I got a nice surprise from She Speaks today, a sampler package with P&G products, all full size and all products that I can and will use. I am particularly excited about the Covergirl Outlast Double Lipshine in Sheerly Nude and the Tide To Go stick. Both are items that I will regularly use, the Tide To Go stick can be a life saver in the spring and summer when you wear lighter clothes and have a little spill that needs correcting before a forms a permanent stain.

    The Olay and Gilette Fusion products I will also use, but I have not tried either one of them and so trying them out will be interesting. So watch this blog for more updates.

    Disclaimer: I received a sampler kit from She Speaks in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed on this blog are my own and have not been influenced by She Speaks or any third party.

    Product Review: Frosted Flakes® Choco Zucaritas -

    Through, I was mailed two boxes of Frosted Flakes® Choco Zucaritas, which are frosted flakes with chocolate flavor. That sounds like a perfect dessert and not like a breakfast and so on the first day, I decided to serve them as an after dinner snack right out of the box. They were a big hit because they are sweet and with chocolate flavor. It is like dunking regular frosted flakes into chocolate milk.
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - don't those chocolate flakes look good?
    Of course you can also eat these Frosted Flakes® Choco Zucaritas like regular Cornflakes and cover them in milk for a light breakfast. Which we did the next morning and I am not sure how long that first box will last. It is definitely a nice change because the Frosted Flakes® Choco Zucaritas are really a good chocolate cereal that does not taste artificial.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap

     The Choco Zucaritas taste great. They taste chocolatey, but not overly sweet. They are actually not as sweet as the regular frosted flakes and I love how the milk takes on a mild chocolate flavor if you leave the cereal long enough in the bowl. Overall, I am glad that Kellogs is introducing this cereal to the USA. It can be hard to make simple things good and this chocolate cereal is very good. and a great additional to the Kellogs line.

    Disclaimer: I received two boxes of Choco Zucaritas for sampling through The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent or any third party.

    Tuesday, April 23, 2013

    Freebie: L’Oreal Revitalift Miracle Blur Sample

    Get a sample of the new L'Oreal skin treatment - go here and either sign in with Facebook or create an account with L'Oreal to request your sample.

    Monday, April 22, 2013

    Book review: American Phoenix: John Quincy and Louisa Adams, the War of 1812, and the Exile that Saved American Independence by Jane Hampton Cook

    The book by Jane Hampton Cook details a very specific episode in the life, work and marriage of John Quincy and Louisa Adams. The book starts with the riveting account of how Louisa embarks on her journey from Russia in the deep winter to meet up with her husband in France. On her travel westward, she is looking forward to being reunited with her husband, while at the same time having trepidations about her safety and the safety of her son Charles. Not uncalled for are these fears because a murder just happened on the road they are traveling and a thief seems to be mixed in with the party as well.

    What starts off sounding like a travel adventure with the wife of an American president as a protagonist, turns out to be a story about how Louisa Adams is more than just a damsel in distress. Having to deal with the travel arrangements and decision making on her own, we learn that Louisa can be a self-assured woman. While missing her husband and worrying about her children, Jane Cook also lets us see the side of Louisa that is strong, independent and breaking the mold of what women were supposed to be in that year of 1812. She has fears, to be sure, about whether she makes the correct decisions and whether she can be equal to her husband in haggling with people along the way, but  becomes clear even on these first early pages of the book is the deep love that binds Louise and John Quincy Adams.
    available at here
    It is this love that helps both overcome disappointments and troubles. Whether it is the imposed exile of John Quincy to Russia, from which he has to crawl his way back to political meaningfulness or it is the aforementioned travel of Louisa out of Russia, Jane Cook can brings these two historical figures to life. She is drawing Louisa and John Quincy as equals in the a relationship in which clearly the couple is stronger than the sum of its individual parts.

    This book is highly recommend for anyone interested in this particular era of American history as well as readers that are focused on the life of John Quincy Adams. I can highly recommend this book. It is excellently researched and the author really manages to make the whole period come to life!

    Disclaimer: I received this book through in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by booksneeze or any other third party.

    Sunday, April 21, 2013

    House Party: L'Oreal / Redbook Party Kit

    Yesterday I received the party kit for the L'Oreal / Redbook House Party that will take place about a week from now. The contents are amazing! They even included a couple of books, on of which I raffle off during the party. And then free subscriptions to Redbook for everyone, what great gift for the people coming.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - House Party Kit for L'Oreal Redbook!
    The picture above shows all the contents. I got samples for skin treatment, shampoo, plenty of nail polish and even some eyeshadow. A lot of samples to give to my guests to take home.

    This promises to be a wonderful party and I am so looking forward to hosting it! Thanks House Parry!

    Disclaimer: I received the House Party kit to host a sampling party and in exchange for honest feedback. The opinions expressed in this blog are my own and have not been influenced by House Party or any third party.

    Moms Meet: Sambazon fruit juice and smoothie testing

    Last week the Moms meet kit arrive to do a sampling party for Sambazon juices and smoothies. The products are available at local grocery stores, including Kroger and Walmart. At Harris Teeter the bottle is about $3, which is quite expensive.
    Below is an image of the kit contents. A very nice surprise included was the Acai Berry seed bracelet. I love the purple accent berry seed. The tote will certainly come in handy and there are plenty of free product coupons included for sharing and handing out to the sampling group.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - Sambazon sampling kit from Moms Meet.
     The Sambazon website here describes the juices as the natural way to drink energy because the products contain acai berries, which is all the rage right now as a superfruit. But not only will the company promise that their products taste great and provide excellent nutritional value, the Sambazon products are also exemplifying the sustainability approach of some companies. Sambazon products help people in the Amazon area and currently support the livelihood of 10,000 family farmers and 2 Million acres of Amazon rainforest.

    Needless to say, I am very excited about sampling their products and before I provided the samples to my group, I purchased at the local store a protein shake that contained chocolate, coconut and almond. The bottle contains 1.3 servings with each serving having 200 calories, of which 70 calories are from fat. Each bottle is packed with 8g of protein and the description on the website promises that the organic whole food protein helps to build lean muscle and the healthy omegas contained in the smoothie help keep you full longer. Each smoothie also contains a delicious blend of açaí berries (over 90 in there!) blended with chocolate, coconut milk and a hint of almond. I sampled a little bit as a mid-morning snack and was quite impressed with the flavor. I am usually hesitant to try out energy drinks or protein shakes because I am not sure how they will taste or how my body can handle them. For example, I cannot handle monster drinks, way too much caffeine in a form that my body cannot handle despite my ability to drink coffee from morning to evening. But this protein smoothie tasted excellent and really filled me up until it was lunch time. I am curious to see how my sampling group will like these acai based drinks. I will include a mix of smoothies and fruit juices to show the variety of products available through Sambazon.

    Disclaimer: I received the contents of the sampling kit through Moms Meet in exchange for hosting a sampling party and providing honest feedback about the Sambazon products.

    Cheap eats: Aldi weekly specials in a meal

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - Aldi specials for a quick lunch or light dinner
    Aldi had German week a couple of weeks ago and I picked up the Brats that were on sale. They are very mild, but have some nice herb and seasoning thrown in for a wonderful flavor that is reminiscent of Nuernberger sausages. Then this week, Aldi had baking potatoes and corn on the cob on sale, which I bought as well. The bag of baking potatoes was less than $1.50 for a 5pd bag!
    The meal is easy enough to prep in the microwave, especially if you microwave the potatoes ahead of time and the simply heat the corn and sausage and reheat the potatoes. Dinner or lunch is ready in less than 5 minutes. To the potato, add some butter and fresh herbs from the garden - we either use chives or parley. You end up with a balanced meal that is filling, but cheap. In part thanks to the ability to get cheap vegetables from Aldi on a regular basis.

    If you do not like the flavor of the German sausages, you can easily substitute another sausage. The simple variation pictured below used a different sausage and parsley for the potato. The sausage included here was a Polish-type sausage that was on sale at a local grocery store.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - someone definitely likes fresh parsley on their dish!

    Book rreview: The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

    This book was a true jewel of a mystery in my opinion. The storyline is complex and challenges the reader to separate three different eras in English history that all connect to tell and solve a mystery central to the family of Laurel, whose life we follow from the 1960’s to present day England. Laurel observed a murder committed by her mother, but in order to solve the mystery of what led to that act, Laurel must trace back her mother’s story to England before WWII. 

    As readers, we are along for the ride. No matter how desperately we want to solve the mystery, just like Laurel we need to be patient and collect pieces of information from the past to understand it. The author has a wonderful way of bringing the characters to life. Whether the women live in the present and we can observe them or have lived the main life in times long ago, Kate Morton paints each character as a three dimensional, complex person that provide surprising twists of their own with each new page. 

    Just like her characters, the storyline itself is full of twists and interesting revelations. The ending truly surprised me. But what sets Kate Morton’s book apart from most other books to me was her ability to tell a good story. No matter how complex the storyline may be, the way Kate Morton describes the scenery and her characters, it just forms a perfect flow from beginning to end. This is one book that I will definitely re-read, just to experience the story again.

    Tuesday, April 16, 2013

    Book Review: And Then I Found You by Patti Callahan Henry

    Can you undo decisions from your past and have another go at life? This for me was the central theme of the book. Kate Vaughn owns a thriving business, has strong family support and a wonderful boyfriend. So why is she not satisfied? Something is nagging at her and it has to do with a love lost long ago, but having been her first love, Jack was never quite replaced by the wonderful boyfriend Rowan. Especially since the bond with Jack went beyond that of just a boyfriend. 

    available on

    So rather than settling into a comfortable routine with Rowan, Kate wonders what happened to the figures of her past. She decides to find out and to reconnect with those figures of her past. The author shows great sensitivity towards Kate and her attempt to reconnecting with the past. This is in part due to the fact that the storyline was inspired by a true story that the author herself experienced. Without disclosing too much of the story, the author manages to capture the fear, trepidations and doubts that haunt Kate as she travels back to Jack and her past love and life. 

    This to me was an interesting book because it focuses on an issue that is unique to the author’s life, but the story itself is written in a way that we all can relate to Kate’s journey. We all have made decisions in the past that we want to revisit and see how things could turn out differently if we had another chance. Kate undertakes that journey and while it is not easy, the author points out the reward of that undertaking.

    Book Review: Oodles of Poodles by Linda O. Johnston

    This was my first introduction to Linda Johnston and her books. I love animals and while poodles, that play are central role in this book, are not my favorite dogs, I usually enjoy all books that have dogs of any kind as a central character. This book was not one of my favorites. While the story line is interesting and the writing is well done, the author seems to focus for my taste too much on the aspect of humanely treating animals on film sets. To me, humanely treating animals anywhere is important, but here the constant harping back to observing animals on set is interrupting the storyline. 

    The author spends quite a bit of time in the beginning to explain the work of the American Humane Association. And while it is laudable to include this real life organization and its important work in this book, the story has a hard time getting started and as a reader I felt at times exasperated wondering when we could get to the actual story. 

    available on

    The story, as indicated, plays on a film set for the movie "Sheba’s Story", in which white miniature poodles play an important role and to ensure their safe treatment and handling, protagonist Lauren Vancouver is present at all times. In real life, the owner of rescue kennel. Lauren Vancouver is assisting with the handling of the dogs and ensuring the safety. Also on the set are her close friend, Carlie Stellan, a veterinarian, and a representative of the American Humane Association, Grant. Of course, interests of animal lovers and a tight production schedule do not always go hand in hand and so Carlie has one day a loud argument with the film’s director regarding a scene that Carlie feels put the dogs at risk. When the director is shortly thereafter killed in a hit and run, the argument that Carlie had with him gains a new meaning and Laura finds herself in the position of having to track down the drive responsible for the hit and run as a means to ensure that Carlie’s name is cleared. 

    Once the story gets going, the mystery has some nice touches and dog lovers will find plenty of scenes enjoyable to read. They certainly can empathize with Laura, who is a fervent animal lover, and seems at times stumped by the mystery, but through persistence and luck ensures that all comes to a good end.

    Monday, April 15, 2013

    Facebook wins: Purex Sweepstakes

    One of the better sites on Facebook for wins is associated with Purex. Their Facebook page here has frequent sweepstakes that range from magazine subscriptions to winning trips or useful household items. I got the notification today that I won a subscription to Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

    This is one of the more frequent sweepstakes on Purex. They had an earlier sweeps for Parents magazine. I love Better Homes and Gardens and this win was certainly a nice surprise.

    Even if you do not visit Facebook regularly, as long as you check it out from time to time, why not stop by the Purex page and see whether they have another sweepstakes going on. Maybe you can win a magazine subscription or even better!

    Food Review: Noodles & Company: Indonesian Peanut Sauté

    Today I will described a meal from one of my favorite local restaurants. Noodles & Company opened in Chapel Hill about 2 or 3 years ago and I immediately loved the place. Not only do make they make a really good curry, but their dishes combine fresh ingredients with your choice of meat (or you can leave it a vegetarian meal) and lots of vegetables - everything prepared to order! 

    Today I will introduce Noodles & Company's Indonesian Peanut Sauté, which  is described as "Spicy peanut sauce and rice noodle stir-fry, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, Asian sprouts, cilantro, crushed peanuts and lime" and they recommend chicken breast as the optional meat to include. I ordered the dinner size portion and did add chicken breast. Below is a photoessay-type entry about the dish, so those readers who have never been Noodles & Company can see why I love this place. 

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - a bag of goodness, smelling delicious through the packaging!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - the dinner from Noodles & Company, nicely packaged To Go!
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - Indonesian Peanut Sauté,  a nice mix of cooked and raw ingredients!

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - lovely is the sprouts are mixed in with the cookies noodles.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - nice big pieces of peanut encrusted chicken were added to custom

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - wonderful spicy and tasty dinner
    The portion has around 840 calories, but only 170 from fat. In addition, it has 18 grams of protein. The portion for lunch is big enough for two people or one really filling dinner. I like the spicy peanut sauce that is combined with the cool fresh sprouts and the crunchy peanuts added in. The meal is extremely filling and I rarely finish the whole bowl. But it tastes good, if not even better, when reheated for a snack the next day.   

    I can highly recommend Noodles & Company for their lunch and dinner dishes. I like the variety they offer and when you consider that you get a choice of meat to add to each dish, the variety increases even more. Toss in that they have awesome rice crispy treats and a good selection of beverages, other than just simply soda, the place is nice addition to the restaurant scene in Chapel Hill and definitely not just a student hangout.

    Sunday, April 14, 2013

    Time too long to wait for Downton Abbey? Check out North and South (the British version)

    Buying a "smart" TV was one of the best decisions I made. A couple of years ago I managed to snag a Black Friday online special through Best Buy and got a smart TV that allows direct streaming with Netflix and Amazon. Money conscious as I am, I have so far only used the free Amazon Prime Instant  Videos and since I have only basic cable (waiting for Aereo) most of the shows on Amazon are new to me.

    Searching through the BBC America offerings, I came across a short four-part series called North and South. Unlike the North and South produced in the USA and dealing with the Civil War, this series is much tamer. But it has plenty of drama nonetheless. It describes the adventures of a young woman and her move, with her parents, from Southern to Northern England. If you have ever visited England, you will know that the Southern part is dramatically different from Northern England. This series makes this very clear. Not only is the landscape very different, back in the beginning of the Industrial Revolution when unions were only starting in the northern mills, the culture of people was very different too. Manners required and expected in London were ignored in the northern cities, that in turn were considered wild by people in London.

    available on here
    So this young woman, Margaret Hale, finds herself in a totally different environment during one of the crucial periods on British history. Of course there is some romance, actually quite a bit of impeded romance (it is a four part series after all) centering on Margaret and the owner of the local mill, John Thornton. Add in the developing union movement, involving Nicholas Higgins (played by Brendan Coyle, aka Mister John Bates from Downtown Abbey) and a set of other interesting period characters and this series does a good job of keeping you entertained and bridging the gap until Downton Abbey returns.

    I had never even heard of this show before and doing some research it seems that BBC itself did not have much faith in the show, rolling it out with very little promotion. But it seems that just like myself, the audience seemed a lot more receptive, actually crashing the messaging board for the show when it first aired back in 2004. Not sure whether this interest is due to Richard Armitage's portrayal of John Thorton, who audiences may have related to Colin Firth's portrayal of Darcy in Pride and Prejudice or just the quite realistic depiction of the effect that the Industrial Revolution had on northern mills. Either way, I can highly recommend the series. I would consider it a hidden gem that has gone unnoticed by myself for too many years. The Wikipedia reference here for some background information and a very brief plot summary.

    Book Review: Eric Metaxas - 7 Men and the secets to their greatness

    I was first drawn to this book because among the men listed on the summary were two people that I admire greatly, Eric Liddell and Dietrich Bonhoeffer. So it includes also George Washington and the late Pope John Paul II, but their greatness I believe is well known or not often associated with religion, but another area. Liddell and Bonhoeffer are two figures often forgotton, but both cover in exemplify with their lives important principles. Liddell surprised many by how he set values for his own life and Bonhoeffer focused on how to approach death.

    In total, Eric Metaxas covers these seven individuals in this book:
    George Washington
    William Wilberforce
    Eric Liddell
    Dietrich Bonhoeffer
    Jackie Robinson
    Pope John Paul II
    Charles W. Colson

    Based on the inclusion of Liddell and Bonhoeffer I was already interested and reading the book did not disappoint. The author manages to summarize in seven short chapters how each individual lived their life according to their believes, making choices that may have been hard to understand for others, but expressed clearly how each individual viewed their life in the context of their religion. I find it telling that the author included members of various religious affiliations, Protestant and Catholic. Because rather than teach one way, presumably the right way, the author manages to express that religion is very personal and that each person must make their own choices during life.

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

    Crowdtap Sample Share: Woolite Everyday Detergent

    As I stated yesterday, one benefit of membership in Crowdtap besides the great GCs to and other retailers are the sample share opportunities. I am now sampling Woolite. I had previously sampled Woolite Dark and now I got 10 single load packages for Woolite Everyday.
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - content of Woolite sample package (detergent sample, $1off coupon, project letter)
    The package arrived late last week and contained 10 packages of Woolite Everyday. Each package containing enough detergent for one large load, $1off coupon and an insert with information about Woolite as well as an ongoing contest with a chance to win prizes. I also got a Woolite Sampling letter from Crowdtap with an explanation of the project.
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - the laundry detergent and new look for Woolite Everyday

    I really like that they include a $1off coupon in each package because detergent these days is so expensive and getting some extra savings is great. Especially since several grocery stores, such as Harris Teeter, will double coupons that are $1off. 

    I have just done my first load of laundry with the new Woolite Everyday and will post pictures as an update to the post. But the detergent is clear, which I like, even though it was unusual at first because I am so used to blue detergents. The scent of the new detergent is nice, not too strong and certainly not artificial.

    I have been using more and more Woolite lately, starting with when I first received Woolite Complete, which stressed the fact that Woolite was great for all kinds of clothing, not just delicates. I then was also included in the sampling of Woolite dark that I now use regularly my for jeans and I am so happy with it for darker clothes that I use regularly and need to last a long time. Woolite Dark is gentle on the clothes, yet leaves them clean and smelling fresh. And now the sampling of Woolite Everyday. Based on my recent Woolite experiences, I have high hopes for this Woolite and I am convinced that my friends, who get a sample bag of Woolite, will be equally happy with the quality of Woolite as a detergent.

    copyright Durhamonthecheap - the range of Woolite detergents that are now available in stores.
    Disclaimer: I received free Woolite Everyday samples to use and share from Crowdtap in exchange for an honest review and providing honest feedback about the detergent.The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any third party. If you would like to sign up for membership in Crowdtap, simply go to and fill in the required information for a new account.

    Saturday, April 13, 2013

    Crowdtap Sampling Event: Cottonelle Toilet Paper and Flushable Wipes

    I use Crowdtap as an easy and quick way to accumulate a very nice share of Amazon GCs. In addition to gift cards you occasionally get invited to participate in sample and share events, such as the current Cottonelle event. I received a huge box this past week that contained:
    • One 18pk Cottonelle Clean Care Toilet Paper - to keep
    • Two 4pks of Cottonelle Clean Care Toilet Paper - to share
    • Three tubs of Cottonelle Fresh Care Flushable Wipes - one to keep, two to share
    Now this may not be the most exciting free product I have received, but it is something every household needs on the regular basis and so add that to the list of items to scratch off the grocery list for a while!
    copyright Durhamonthecheap - my Crowdtap sampling and sharing kit!
     Unfortunately due to shipping costs I cannot host a national giveaway for the sample items and so I will share them with people locally and solicit their feedback.

    So why the name clean care and what makes it special? Per description here, the Cottonelle Clean Care Toilet Paper is strong and effective with extra-absorbent ripples.We will see. Being a little bit more pricey than the store brands, if you need less, then the price may even itself out or you may actually save money compared to store brands.

    For those readers who are like me concerned about the environment the flushable wipes come with a bagged refill available at local stores, so you can reuse the initial container and only toss a plastic bag. Still not ideal to produce plastic waste, but making the container reusable is good and the refill bag contained 84 sheets, which is enough to fill the container up twice. So each refill bag should last a family quite some time and keep plastic waste down.

    Overall, I am excited to see how much better the Cottonelle variety is and will share the extras next week! More feedback to come.

    Disclaimer: I received free products from Cottonelle in exchange for an honest opinion and sharing products with others. The opinion expressed in this blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any other third party.