Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book Review: A Broth of Betrayal by Connie Archer

Lucky Jamieson is the owner of By the Spoonful, a restaurant in Snowflake, Vermont, that acts as diner, but also a meeting place for gossip in the small town with a history back to the Revolutionary War. And the Revolutionary War is maybe more alive than most people can imagine, when a skeleton dating back to that time is found. While an old skeleton poses an interesting historic puzzle, it gives little reason for present day concern about safety. Yet a fresh corpse, indicating a recent murder took place in the local auto-shop, is a totally different story. 

But what Lucky really gets involved in these affairs is the disappearance of her friend Elizabeth, the mayor of Snowflake, who may be the key to unraveling all these mysteries. So while Lucky is solving where her friend disappeared to, the old skeleton is not the only skeleton coming out of hiding and causing more than a little uproar in the usually quiet Snowflake. The New England community turns out to be the center of a series of murders that may not date all the way to the Revolutionary War, but certainly long enough into the past for some people to pretend to have forgotten all about the beginning. 

Connie Archer has written a lively mystery story with an interesting set of characters that manages to uncover much darker secrets in the small New England community of Snowflake than initially anticipated by the reader. Bonus: For hobby cooks, the author included a few recipes taken right out of the cookbook of Lucky Jamieson.

Book Review: Murder in Chelsea by Victoria Thompson

Soak in the historical atmosphere of New York City 100 years ago and enjoy a good mystery at the same time. This is exactly what Victoria Thompson provides with her Gaslight Mystery series. I should add as a disclaimer that I love Anne Perry mysteries and so after reading a couple of pages, I was hooked. I would not call either author a copycat of the other, the storylines are too different and the settings are unique to each author. But both authors share the ability to show strong women as heroes in solving mysteries at a time when women were supposed to dutifully wait for their husbands at home and worry about what to serve for dinner.

Victoria Thompson has Sarah Brandt and her friend Det. Sergeant Frank Malloy that pair up to solve crimes and mysteries. In this book, Sara Brandt feels her family happiness threatened when a mysterious woman appears and lays claim to her "adopted" daughter Catherine. Knowing that as a single woman, she will never be able to legally adopt Catherine, Sarah is determined to find out who this mystery woman is and hopefully in the process solve the mystery of who abandoned Catherine in the first place. 

Sarah and Frank embark on a journey that takes them to through turn of the century New York City, visiting houses of the very rich and also seeing the stark poverty of the tenement houses. Victoria Thompson is able to draw the scenery of New York City and its inhabitants in great detail, breathing life into the society and its norms and showing convincingly how Sarah and Frank must function within the restraints of that society, while fighting against it at the same time. If you like historical mysteries, this author to me was a real discovery and I am happy to see that the Gaslight Mystery series has several issues already, all of which I intend to catch up on now.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Goodies Box - May 2013

Disclaimer: I received this box in exchange for a nominal fee, the opinions expressed in the review are solely my own and have not been influenced by Goodies or some other third party.

In my May box from Goodies, I really received a lot of nice surprises. Starting with a full 1l of Coconut water by Zico and extending to the Raspberry Chipotle Sauce for dipping, the box had really something for everyone. I was particularly impressed with the large number of samples. We got 9 total items.

If these samples sound good to you, consider signing up at and enjoy similar subscription boxes for just $7.00/month. The company is associated with Walmart, in case someone had strong feelings about that parent company. You can order fill-size products from the website, but often find the items also on and so comparison for best pricing is something I recommend. 

I have the items listed below and as applicable included my initial impressions. I am not done eating my way through the box, but some items had to be sampled right away. 
Included were:
  1. Zico - Chocolate Coconut Water
  2. Beanitos - Nacho Cheese, White Bean Chips - I loved these chips. The flavor was just right to indicate the Nacho Cheese presence, while the chips were not greasy at all and had a nice soft crunch to them. What I am trying to say with soft crunch is that the chips were crunchy, but brittle enough at the same time that if you bit into them, the broke apart, but did not leave sharp edges that could hurt you. A really nice texture to these chips. I would compare the texture to that of Sun Chips, but the flavor was much better and more intense. 
  3. Numi - Organic Moroccan Mint Tea 
  4. Bronco Bob's - Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce
  5. Sour Power Straws - Strawberry 
  6. Sour Power Straws - Sortz - I sampled this package because of the different flavors included. The straws were sour, but not overly sour. Once the sugary coating was removed, the flavor was more fruity than sour. I would have loved for the sour flavor to last longer. Overall, the flavors were true to the name and had some unusual flavors not normally included in gummy products, such as raspberry/grape.  
  7. California Olive Ranch - Olive Oil (2 sample packages)
  8. SuperSeedz - Sea Salt - loved this product because of the crunch as well as the flavor, which was a mild salty flavor. I do not usually eat pumpkin seeds, but these were good and I could see myself eaten them on a regular basis. I have some leftover and will try to add them as extra crunch to a simple salad.  

Friday, May 17, 2013

Smiley360 mission: BIC Permanent markers and home craft projects

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the smiley360 kit for the BIC Permanent Markers
Through I received a nice assortment of colored markers, which are permanent. Instead of Sharpies, the BIC colored markers can be used to paint all kinds of surfaces and come in a huge variety of colors. They are currently available on here for around $18.00. In addition to the markers, the kit also included some windchimes in butterfly forms, so I can try out the permanent markers right away.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - look at all those neat colors!
 I could not wait to color a couple of the butterfly windchimes because the variety of colors included in the kit was fantastic. I work in an office in which permanent markers usually come in black and black. So having a coloring kit with pinks and lavenders to choose from was fantastic.

copyright Durhamonthecheap -still got two butterflies left to work on!

Disclaimer: I received a promotional package from in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Smiley360 or any third party.

Dinner with Kroger clearance items and freebies

Shopping at Kroger this afternoon to make use of the chips and soda giveaway, I also found additional items on clearance that made a light and healthy dinner.
copyright Durhamotnhecheap - salad etc - courtesy of Kroger

copyright Durhamonthecheap - whole wheat artisan rolls (Pillsbury) courtesy of Kroger and 89cents of my money
As I stated earlier, I grabbed soda and chips through 4 to 8PM giveaway from Kroger. Then I added some salad mix reduced for quick sale and white mushrooms, also on clearance. And added a hardboiled egg and some ham from my fridge, before heating up from Pillsbury artisan rolls in whole wheat that my local Kroger has also on clearance for 89cents (regular price around $3.00). I expect that my total dinner cost me less than $1 and contains quite a lot of food, with the chips and soda lasting as snack throughout the evening.

If you have not discovered the stickers stating "Manager's special" at Kroger, you are missing out on some awesome deals. The rolls, mushrooms and salad were reduced at least 50% off the regular price, allowing me to indulge in some fresh salad that can rival any restaurant deal, which would have set me back at least $5.

Kroger Freebies: Chips and Soda

Today, Kroger has two Freebies: a can of Pepsi Next as well as Chips, Doritos and Cheetos in new flavors. My neighborhood Kroger allowed me to grab two of each. Go this website here and check to see where the nearest participating Kroger is located. Several in the Durham area were participating, including the one on S. Roxboro. The promotion is live from 4 to 8PM today only!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Duncan Hines Frosting Creations - my win arrived with 12 different flavor packages

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my win from Ducan Hines Frosting Creations
 Some time ago, Duncan Hines had a Facebook giveaway for Frosting Creations. I had previously received a Frosting Creation kit ina subscription box, but have not used it since I was not sure that the included flavor package was something I wanted to try on my standard cakes. So when I heard about this giveaway, I tried to win a 12 flavor package to make sure that one of the fruit-based flavors was included. I was lucky, on the last day of the contest I won and now today my winning flavor assortment arrived.

Duncan Hines has additional flavors, not included in the kit above. Missing flavors include Key Lime Pie and Peaches and Crème, but I can certainly see myself using the Orange Creme included in my kit or the While Chocolate Raspberry. I am not that big a fan of really sweet chocolate and so chocolate frosting does not have the same appeal to me as it does for most people. Don't get me wrong, I like sweet stuff and so I actually prefer Cotton Candy to milk chocolate. Bubble Gum and Cotton Candy are two flavors that I see going well with a simple yellow cake mix to generate a Birthday cake for kids, while Chocolate Almond and Mocha are in my opinion more adult flavors.

In any case, I now have no excuse not to try my frosting kit from Duncan Hines and since I usually have some cake mixes at home for emergencies, I will soon present a review of Duncan Hines Frosting Creations.

In the meantime, check out the assorted flavors by going here and look at the suggested recipes involving the various flavors included. Happy baking!

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Product Review: Rod Stewart's newest project "Time" - great listening to Rod going back to his songwriting days!

I was very excited to be included in a new review project by One2OneNetwork, the latest CD by Rod Stewart arrived in my mailbox a couple of days ago. I have loved Rod Stewart's music for years and was looking forward to a new album by him. When I heard that "Time" included songs written by Rod Stewart himself I was expecting something spectacular and was not disappointed. Some of the songs are really reminiscent of the songs from the 70s and 80s like Maggie Mae and You're in my Heart. 

I like the mix of slower songs alternating with fast-paced songs. I especially liked the songs "Finest Woman" and "Brighton Beach". Finest Woman is typical Rod Stewart, fast-paced and energetic. While the text seems a tad generic, the beat makes up for these lyrical shortcomings. Brighton Beach by contrast is a slower song, but that allows you to focus on the lyrics, which detail Rod remembering a love story back some years ago. Rod being older, maybe not wiser, you believe these lyrics and these two songs exemplify the range of songs included on "Time". 

Overall, I really like the selection and hope that Rod Stewart continues to write songs again. For a first effort after almost 20 years of not doing any songwriting, it is so nice to recognize the Rod Stewart from the early years again in this album and so I am hoping he continues on this streak and we get to listen to some more of his life stories in songs.

It is hard to believe that this album is his first album with totally new material in almost 20 years. Where has time gone? Certainly Rod has not changed a bit (his hair style is still the rather 'unique' not quite standing up straight hair he has been sporting for ages) and his voice is still the familiar hoarse vocals that made him famous. No one would mistake him for a famous tenor, but his voice and the lyrics make him unique and in my opinion more believable because he does tell his story in his songs and we can relate to it. And Rod got quite a story to tell after 40 years in showbiz, several marriages and a bunch a kids, all the while touring and singing to his fans. 

This album is currently only available on pre-order and will be officially released on May 7, 2013. The 12 songs included on the album have 11 songs that Rod wrote and produced.  If you are like me, you too are wondering why now and why wait so long to create new songs? Rod explains that his inspiration for writing songs again after all these years came when Rod was reviewing his life for his recent memoir and realized that he still has stories to tell in song, not just in the book. He started to wrote these songs in his honest style that we can relate to as listeners and fans. 

To quote Rod: "Suddenly ideas for lyrics were piling up in my head. Next thing I knew, I had a song called 'It's Over' about divorce and separation. And now I was getting up in the middle of the night and scrambling for a pen to write things down, which has never happened to me. I finished seven or eight songs very quickly and I still wasn't done, and it became apparent that I would eventually have a whole album of material to record." 

To shorten the wait for the album, below is the video for the song "She makes me happy"

If you are luck enough to live in Europe, Rod is starting his European leg of his Live the Life tour on 6-1-13, while we can enjoy him in the USA starting 10-17-13 (with Steve Winwood).

The list of songs included on the CD are:

1. She Makes Me Happy

2. Can’t Stop Me Now

3. It’s Over

4. Brighton Beach

5. Beautiful Morning

6. Live The Life

7. Finest Woman

8. Time

9. Picture In A Frame

10. Sexual Religion

11. Make Love To Me Tonight

12. Pure Love

So if you like Rod Stewart, especially the songwriter, you can go to Amazon here and pre-order Rod's newest creation. I promise you, you will not regret it. 

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

Friday, May 3, 2013

Book Review: The Fast Metabolism Diet by Haylie Pomroy

I got the book "The Fast Metabolism Diet " through and actually decided to stick to the diet. In part the diet was easy because I can actually eat everything I normally eat and included in the book is a recipe index that will have you covered for the first month of the diet. Having the recipes on hand makes it easy to stick to a diet because you can make your shopping list based on the book recipes and do not have to wonder what to fix for dinner. The recipes are nutritious and TASTY, yes - the food actually tastes good. Something like pork roast with sweet potatoes is not a typical diet dish for me, but actually similar to what I routinely cook. They also have included really nice seafood dishes and I felt as if I was working my way through a new cookbook rather than a diet book.

available on here

Before I continue to rave about the recipes and how easy this diet fit into my lifestyle, let me tell you something about the basic theory behind the Fast Metabolism Diet. The principle is to reduce weight not by eating less or skipping certain foods, but by increasing your metabolism. The metabolism is increased by adjusting what you eat when, alternating between carbohydrates and proteins throughout the week to provide the body with enough changes that the metabolism needs to adjust to the differing foods and is thereby becoming more efficient.

I am actually cooking some of the recipes later on because they really are very similar to what I regularly cook and eat. I do not eat a lot of rich food and have days on which I eat lots of carbs, like a main dish with pasta and some veggies, and on other days, I cannot imagine dinner without a nice roast out of the oven. The nice thing about the meal planning is that weekends are a free for all, you can have carbs, proteins, veggies and healthy oils. This means that from a culinary perspective, you can truly enjoy the weekends. I will continue to post some updates on recipes from the book in the coming weeks and share my impressions as I work through this book! So look forward to some updates.

One of the recipes I tried out was a simple turkey sandwich with red onions and some tomatoes for extra flavor. This simple lunch got me started on adding red onions as a regular sandwich topping and I love the flavor they add. As you can tell, these recipes are similar to real homecooking or regular snack foods that you would eat anyway. This diet is not about excluding food groups or depriving you of food that you love, it is about changing when you eat what. Keeping your body guessing and speeding up your metabolism. After 2 weeks on the new meals, I have lost 10 pounds without feeling that I am dieting or limiting what I can store in my fridge. I am very happy with the diet experience so far and will continue to incorporate the principles into my meal plan. I am planning to adjust my traditional recipes to keep the alternating meals for each day. This way I can use my pantry items and enjoy a healthy lifestyle that makes weight loss part of a routine rather than the goal of mealplanning.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my version of the onion / ham on a pumpernickel bagel - love the flavor combo

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for SheSpeaks/FastMetabolismDiet. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own as always!