Sunday, June 30, 2013

Product Review: Mountain Dew Voltage with Raspberry and Ginger

Last month I used a coupon for a free product to purchase Mountain Dew Voltage because the contents were supposed to taste like Raspberry, Citrus, and Ginger. Since I like new sodas, I was intrigued and now I am glad that I selected this new flavor of Mountain Dew.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - nice blue color from Mountain Dew Voltage
First of all, for a soda fanatic like me, the blue color is awesome and I love it. I have been switching to a clear container, just so I can see the blue color of my latest soda craze. In addition, the soda tastes along the line of a Mountain Dew variety, really sweet. I add lots of ice to bring down the sweet flavor and also reduce the caffeine content. I have had no issues with nerves or jitters. The soda is best poured over nice and enjoyed nice and cold! And the flavor is the best part. It does taste like raspberry, which is my favorite soda flavor and it is so hard to find raspberry-flavored soda these days. I have actually started using Torani Sugar Free Raspberry Syrup and mix it with Seltzer to generate homemade raspberry soda. So I am almost done with the bottle and I will likely buy another one to get me through the summer. This soda, when cooled over ice, is great to refresh on a hot summer day.

Disclaimer: I received no awared for this review. The opinions expressed in the blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third parties.

Food Review: Bojangles Cajun Wrap with Honey Mustard Sauce

As indicated last week on my blog, Bojangles had a free Chicken Wrap giveaway from 6-24 through 6-30. Since I was out most of the week, I had signed up to grab my free wrap on the last day of the promotion.

So how was the wrap? I combined it with a small fries and then had some Mountain Dew Voltage at home. Together, this made a very filling lunch and since I did not have breakfast this morning, it was just enough. You get a choice of Grilled or Cajun Wrap and I selected the Cajun Filet Wheat Wrap with Honey Mustard Sauce (instead of Ranch Sauce). Overall, the flavor was good and there were plenty of fresh tomato chunks and lettuce pieces present. The flavor was still spicy due to the Cajun spices added from the chicken.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Cajun Wrap, small fries with Mayo (I had to work hard this week) for $1.60!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Cajun Wrap unwrapped - you can see the whole wheat tortilla

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Cajun Wrap on the inside, lots of tomatoes and lettuce as well as chicken + sauce

copyright Durhamonthecheap - a very filling lunch for less than $2 thanks to Bojangles' free wrap!
So the overall verdict is good - the Cajun Wrap with Honey Mustard Sauce is a very filling lunch item that provides you with a good balance of protein from the chicken and combined with fresh ingredients such as tomatoes and lettuce in the regular whole wheat wrap, which is also fairly healthy and makes the wrap more filling. If you are really hungry, you should have some fries with the wrap, but on an average day, I certainly would have enough with the wrap. I also ordered the fries because I felt bad just ordering a free sandwich, so I usually get one regular priced item to go with my free item and today, without having had breakfast, the fries made for a complete lunch.

I could not find any nutritional information yet about the wrap, but I will keep looking. The regular Cajun Sandwich is about 640 calories, I would assume that the wrap would be slightly less, but in the same ballpark as the Bojangles Cajun Sandwich. 

Disclaimer: I did not receive any incentive for this blogspot, simply participated in a free sandwich giveaway. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Personal Blog Entry: My trip to Roanoke, VA for the US Cyber Challenge

So I just spent a week in Roanoke, VA to work as a teaching assistant for the US Cyber Challenge. For those not familiar with the US Cyber Challenge program, the program is intended to identify people with advanced hacking skills, in particular with the ability to attack rather than defend. In my work, I am mostly using defensive skills, but I am getting slowly into the habit of also training myself to attack. Of course not actual targets, but using virtual targets in a controlled environment to hone my still very limited attack hacking skills. I am certainly not on par with the people that attended the camp, but getting better every month.
For some more detailed information about the preliminary contests and the annual camps, here is the official website for the US Cyber Challenge.

We stayed at Hotel Roanoke, which was a treat. The hotel was absolutely gorgeous, both the interior and exterior. The building itself is more than 100 years old, but everything inside is totally renovated and very, very comfortable. The camp was allowing me my first visit to Roanoke, which is a nice little town and being the summer, no students from the local college were present. The town provided a nice downtown area with plenty of restaurants and was close enough to the hotel, connected to the downtown area by a covered pedestrian bridge, that going to a restaurant in the evening for dinner only took a few minutes.
Here a few pictures from hotel, inside and outside.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Hotel Roanoke - inside view

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Hotel Roanoke - inside view

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Hotel Roanoke - outisde view

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Hotel Roanoke - inside view
The food was excellent during our stay. The breakfast included one hot item, either croissants filled with ham and cheese or sausage biscuits or a savory quiche. In addition, we had plenty of fresh cut fruit, sweet breads, bagels and a selection of fruit whole fruit, plus a variety of beverages, including fresh orange juice. Lunch was served at the hotel as well and included a selection of salads, meat dishes, a vegetable side and either rice or potatoes or pasta for starch. This was followed by a variety of desserts, including some form of mousse (the raspberry/mango mousse was phenomenal), a pie or some fruit-based tart. All was very good. For the afternoon, we again got a hot snack, usually a quiche, and then smores, candy and dried fruit and one other dish. One two occasions they served candied bacon, which was hotly contested by everyone in attendance because it was so good.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the candied bacon bits - a treat for all bacon lovers!
The camp was not all fun though, although the work part for me was the highlight and actually fun as well (and certainly more important than how the hotel and food and rooms were). For four days we got to attend excellent lectures on cybersecurity ranging from pen testing android devices to how to use back track to develop a tactical attack strategy for offensive hacking. We also covered packet shaping and memory forensics. All lecturers were outstanding; a couple of them were official SANS instructors. I do not want to go intro more detail since the topics are really technical. But suffice to say that the highlight for me of these camps are the lectures since the TAs do get to keep the material for the lectures as well and I spent some time last night looking over the back track toolkit, which I have been wanting to play with for quite some time. Since the CD from the course includes a vulnerable target, the attacks from back track can now be launched in  a quasi lab environment and no ISP will be wondering what the weird traffic is doing on their network. If you are interested in cybersecurity, I can only recommend to look at the US Cyber Challenge website for any of the upcoming contests and participate in them, so you can have a chance to attend one of these camps. The lessons you will learn are condensed and intensive, but so worthwhile. I want to thank the organizers again for granting me the opportunity to attend this camp as a TA since it constitutes the best training I have received and wil lreceived this year! My employer is still putting training on hold and has for the last few years.

The camp's final day is a capture the flag challenge that lasts several hours and involves teams of campers, who compete for scholarships. We even had press coverage this year and the attention paid to cybersecurity is really good since offensive hacking skills are still in demand and press coverage will provide more attention to the camps and this ongoing effort to solicit interest in offensive hacking. Now back in Durham, NC. I am resting because the camp was intensive, even for TAs! - But so worthwhile!!!!

Party planned: Moms Meet Zevia Sampling kit arrived - try a new sugar free, naturally sweetened soda!

Today I got a nice surprised in the mail, the Zevia sampling kit from Moms Meet arrived and it provides enough coupons to sample the naturally sweetened 0-calorie soda. Now off the grocery store to pick up some soda for the party that is scheduled on Monday.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the Zevia sampling kit from Moms Meet

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the cooler unwrapped. It is perfect as an everyday lunchbag!
The kit certainly contains enough coupons for the sampling. I got 4 coupons for a free 6-pack and then a lot, and I mean a lot, of coupons for $2 off a 6-pack. Since the 6-pack runs around $4 on sale, the coupons mean 50% off Zevia on sale at local grocery stores - not bad. I also get as the hostess gift a nice little cooler that is perfect as lunchbag. It can be put in the freezer to cool down and then will keep food cold for several hours when used. It is just the right size to pack a can of Zevia and a sandwich as well as a small snack or yogurt. The best thing is that you do not need to put the cooler in the fridge at work since the built-in icepacks keep the food cold enough, even without a fridge.

So everything is ready for the party next week, once I pick up the Zevia from the store. Now the decision has to be made, what flavors to pick up from the store. Zevia comes in a bunch of flavors. The complete product line can be seen here.

Disclaimer:  I received the Zevia sampling kit from Moms Meet for free in exchange for a reviewing the product with a group. The opinions expressed in this blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Subscription Box Review: Goodies Box June 2013

copyright Durhamonthecheap - contents of the June 2013 Goodies Box
Above the contents of the June 2013 Goodies Box. While not necessarily the most healthy ingredients, all products are new to me and as such the Goodies Box serves me well for the introduction of new products.
Included in this box are
  • Pringles Stix Cheese 
  • STAX Que Rico - Adobadas Chips 
  • Duchy Originals - Highland Shortbread
  • Dream Water Nighttime Nectar
  • Pastitas - Tomato Basil Pasta Chips 
  • Gimme Health - Honey Dijon Seaweed Crumbles
So which products am I particularly excited about? For starters definitely the Seaweed Crumbles are unique and something I have never heard of before.  I am familiar with seaweed flakes that are served over rice and I love those to add extra flavor to my plain white rice. I was introduced to the seaweed flavor by my first roommate in college, who was half Japanese, and would routinely add seaweed flakes to rice for added flavor. They did take some time to get used to, but after a while I actually missed not having the salty seaweed on my plain white rice from the rice cooker. This seaweed is different since it is actually flavored to taste like Honey Dijon. So it should even for someone like me who is used to seaweed flakes be an interesting experience. I will like try some plain and some mixed in with other food, most likely a rice.

The next item I am curious about is the Dream Water that is supposed to relax you and help you sleep. Not having any insomnia issues myself, I may actually try this instead of the Advil or Tylenol when I have migraine. I usually treat my migraine, which are not too bad, with some pills that allow me to fall asleep, but instead of some pain killer PM version, I may just take the sleep water and see if the relaxation will do the trick on my headaches.

Other than that - who does not like shortbread cookies, chips and cheese sticks? The rest of the Goodies Box sound delicious without even trying the products. The Pasta Chips are certainly new, but I love pasta with tomato sauce, so having that flavor in a dry chips mix should be good and the Pringles and Stax products sound really tasty.

Disclaimer: I was provided the contents of this box for a nominal fee to sample and review online at The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Kiss® everEZlashes - great for quick application, but a big impact!

Through the Something Blue Voxbox from Influenster, I received two sets of Kiss® everEZlashes. I love Kiss products, both the lashes and the nails, which I had use previously. Kiss products are very easy to apply and last surprisingly long, yet are still affordable. The easy application is important for something like me because I can never spent much time working on my make up in the morning and so if it is not quick to apply, I will likely not consistently wear it.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Kiss® everEZlashes with helpful, simple instructions

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Kiss® everEZlasheseasy applicator in pink!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Kiss® everEZlashes contents including applicator and extra glue!
 So I tried these lashes on and I am glad I started with the lighter version because I was surprised how naturally these ended up looking. I was always worried that false eyelashes would look totally fake and be very obvious, but the ones by Kiss really adjust to what an eye would look like with fuller lashes. I am glad that Influenster included them in the Something Blue Voxbox because otherwise I would have never dared to buy false eyelashes. Now I will definitely keep them around and use them when I feel that my eyes could deserve a little bit more attention.

I did have some issues with my contacts after a couple of hours, so they are definitely good for a dinner date, but I would not wear them work, for fear of having to take them off halfway through the day. Now that may be because i am not used to flase eyelashes and I also have very sensitive eyes and have to be very careful with my contacts. So if you can routinely use mascara and also wear contacts, you may be okay and probably are not bothered at all by Kiss® everEZlashes. I would definitely recommend trying them out while you are at home, just to see how well you can tolerate them. And if they feel fine, you ahead and use them all day long. I was pleasantly surprised by how much fuller my lashes looked, yet still appeared natural and the eyes definitely popped thanks to Kiss® everEZlashes.

For a full line of products from Kiss, especially their EZlashes, please go here. And if you do not believe that the EZlashes are truly EZ, you can look at some of the reviews here, which give the product high marks from
users. You can also find more detailed product information here, such as the fact that the EZlashes usually cost less than $4 and you only need to let them set for 30 seconds to get the proper and solid fit.


Disclaimer: I received these items complimentary from Influenster for testing and review purposes. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer is here - officially!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - cut watermelon in a bowl to cool off during the summer in NC!
Summer is officially here - and while my garden is overflowing with vegetables, including peppers and tomatoes, this watermelon is still from the store. To be specific, it was bought at Aldi for $3.99 a couple of weeks ago and now is just really ripe and juicy - ready to bite into.

So eat some watermelon, bathe or bake in the sun (with plenty of SPF of course) and enjoy the North Carolina summer!

Product Review: Luster NOW! Instant Whitening Toothpaste from the Influenster Something Blue Voxbox

Through Influenster and their Something Blue Voxbox I was introduced to a new whitening toothpaste by Luster Premium White. The company makes a number of whitening products and you can see their whole product list on their website here. You can purchase toothpastes or whole whitening kits from the company, but for beginners, the toothpaste may be a good introduction. The image below shows some of the product line offered by Luster NOW!.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - product line of Luster NOW!
I had used whitening products in the past and often had a significant reaction to the product. Usually my gums started to hurt and so I was quite careful when it came to testing the Luster NOW! Instant Whitening Toothpaste. I started using it once a day, in combination with my usual toothpaste, and did apply it to my electric toothbrush to make sure I was limited to 2 minutes of brushing. I found it interesting that Luster NOW! on their package only allows this toothpaste to be used to children 12 and up as well as adults. They actually state to keep the toothpaste out of reach of children less than 12 years old. I am not sure if other whitening products had similar advisories, maybe I am just being more careful now since I did have some bad experiences with whitening products.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the back of the Luster NOW! contains age-specific instructions for use
I was pleasantly surprised that my gums and teeth could easily tolerate the Luster NOW! Instant Whitening Toothpaste and did not show the usual adverse reactions, similar to soreness, that I got from other whitening products.As you can see from the image below, the toothpaste is a bright blue and gel-like. It does taste minty and felt like a regular mint toothpaste.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - blueish tint of the toothpaste prior to use, has a nice mint taste!

Looking at some more information about Luster NOW! products and the toothpaste in particular. I found some interesting information here. The whitening effect happens after just one application and will last for hours. How impressive is that? More importantly, due to my concerns with whitening products, Luster NOW! is designed by dentists and gentle and safe for teeth, even those that have a history of developing sensitivity issues. I can certainly attest to that! The whitening occurs by removing surface stain and one item I had mentioned in my earlier video on the box contents in total, but have not mentioned yet here, Luster NOW! won an aware by Allure Magazine, the Allure Magazine’s Beauty Breakthrough Award, and I actually have faith in these awards by Allure because over the years I have found several fantastic products by simply watching out for which products won the Allure awards in a specific category. Not surprising to me, after reading all this information, that Luster NOW! is a really different whitening product and for the first time, my teeth and gums do not have an issue with a whitening product that actually whitens as well!
Disclaimer: I received this product complimentary for testing and review purposes from Influenster. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Product Review: Dr. Scholl's® For Her Ball of Foot - great for the summer and bring new life to old shoes

In the summer, my shoes are sometimes uncomfortable because I have several pairs of older, but well worn shoes that I love. The soles are getting thin and so I tend to feel more the uneveness of the sidewalk. With Dr. Scholl's® For Her Ball of Foot the problem is solved. I put the extra cushioning into my shoes, be it heels or flats or even sneakers, and the sidewalk is now a soft carpeted walking area that supports my feet even after a long day at work.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the Dr. Scholl's for Her Ball of Foot - 2 insoles per package - one size fits all!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - each insole comes with an adhesive film that allows reuse of the insole and safe storage

copyright Durhamonthecheap - amazing what a big difference such a thin insole can make - walk on clouds!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - after use, attach film and store for the next shoe transformation!
So the above images show pretty much how Dr. Scholl's® For Her Ball of Foot work. Unlike other insoles by Dr. Scholl's, these insoles are tiny, just big enough to cover the balls of your feet and alleviate the pains and aches that come with having your body weight centered on a small part of the foot. Especially if you wear high heels, your weight is centered on a small part of the foot, the ball of your foot, and can cause significant discomfort. In my case, that is usually worse during the summer time.

The insoles come in handy because you can reuse them. They have a nice adhesive film that can be used for repeated storage and I like that because I have several pairs of shoes in which I use them, but I do not really need a bunch of insoles because I do not wear any of these shoes often enough that it is worthwhile to invest in insoles for each pair.

How to try them on for fit? I spent initially some time trying to figure out where exactly to place the insoles for maximum comfort, then I came up with a trick. I wetted the balls of my feet just a little bit, then slipped on the shoes and use the area that now was wet to mark where the insoles should be placed. This took the guessing game out of the placement of these insoles. I have the left the marks in my shoes, so I have them for future reference and now can quickly place the insoles in the right spot. 

Other than putting them in shoes, slipping on the shoes and having that AAAHHH moment when you realize how much more comfortable those shoes now are, there is really nothing to the use of these insoles that is difficult or even time consuming. They are so easy and quick to use and make such a big difference. I have the full size insoles from Dr. Scholl's as well, but I almost like these better because they focus on the trouble area for me, where it really aches the most when I am walking.

So give it a try and get yourself some of the Dr. Scholl's insoles. Whether you settle for the Ball of Foot insoles or go for the full size one, these insoles can literally give new life to a pair of worn shoes.

Disclaimer: I received this product complimentary from Influenster. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Free SCHICK Hydro Silk or Hydro 5 Disposable Razor Free - Walmart

Go to the link here and complete the required information - they ask for year of birth and a brief survey of less than 5 questions. Choice of SCHICK Hydro Silk or Hydro 5 Disposable Razor.

Good Luck!

NC only -including Triangle area - Free Bojangles wrap 6-24 through 6-30

Go here and sign up for a free lunch courtesy of Bojangles. Similar to the recent Subway giveaways for breakfast sandwiches, you must reserve date and time at a specific Bojangles restaurant and select your desired sandwich. At the specific time, bring your printed out reservation paper and you will be handed a free wrap courtesy of Bojangles.

Your choices are Cajun Fillet or Grilled Chicken in Wheat Wrap. When I checked this AM there were plenty of reservations left.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Influenster Something Blue Voxbox Product Review: Q-tips® Precision Tips™ - perfect for finishing make up, especially nail polish

In the Influenster Something Blue Voxbox I received two packages of Qtips Precision Tips, which I like. I actually love them now because Influenster pointed out a totally new use of Qtips out to me, use Qtips to finish applying nail polish. I usually find myself scraping any excess nailpolish off with my fingers and then having to clean up my fingers to get rid off the nail polish. Using Qtips, especially the Precision Tips with their nice pointy tip, is so much easier and works much better. Best of all, no fingers or nails to clean up afterwards. You just toss the used Qtips and voila - perfect nails and no mess!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - two requirements for perfect nails, polish (Duh!) and Qtips Precision Tips (love them!)
In this blogpost I have used Q-tips Precision Tips to clean off any excess nail polish because it was time to apply some new nail polish (any excuse will do to change the color of nails when you just bought some new colors), but these little miracle workers from Q-tips can also be used to clean off extra lipstick - all without smudges and definitely much better than the Kleenex I have been using so far.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - afterwards - perfect, no smudges nails thanks to Qtips Precision Tips!
For more information about Q-tips products, including their Precision Tips, my now must use ingredient when getting ready to apply make up or nail polish go to the Q-tips homepage here.

Disclaimer: I received two boxes of Q-tips Precision Tipsomplimentary for testing and review purposes from Influenster. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Product Review: MiO Fit Artic Grape

Through a Facebook Giveaway I was able to obtain a full size sample of the new MiO Fit flavors. I selected Arctic Grape and the sample arrived today. MiO Fit also comes in Berry Blast, but I have been looking for a good Grape-flavored water enhancer. Now MiO Fit comes with electrolytes, but I am really more interested in the flavor addition to water since the whole electrolyte-enhanced water ads to me are really funny because what is water if not a mixture of electrolytes already. If I really need to rehydrate, meaning I am actually at a point of suffering from dehydration effects, I doubt that any of these water additives will make a big difference. I do not recall hearing that EMS staff is now carrying MiO around for cases of dehydration in the summer.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - MiO Fit is available at amazon for around $17 / 6 bottles.
 So I added three squirts from the MiO Fit to a glass of water, added some ice and gave it a try. The grape flavor is not bad, but you do need 3 squirts to taste the grape and then it is really sweet. I would describe the flavor as grape and sweet, not grape and fruity. So if you are looking for a grape juice flavor with a little bit of tartness thrown in, MiO Fit is not it. If you are instead looking for a Welch's Grape Soda type flavor, MiO Fit is quite close to that.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - grape flavored water after the addition of MiO Fit Arctic Grape
The nutritional info, yes I do feel kind of funny including nutritional info for a water enhancer, but they provide the information, so here goes for Arctic Grape:
Arctic Grape 18ct Nutrition
from the MiO Fit website here
Anyhow, you get, based on the above information, some Niacin, B6, B12 and some Potassium. Nothing overly bad and nothing that will make you go bananas due to caffeine overload. Overall, no sugar or caffeine, but some vitamins are present and the grape flavor is good. Based on the fact that it has no calories, the MiO Fit is actually a decent water additive and it comes in handy little containers that you can easily put in your purse. I actually have the lemonade one at work and compared to that, I definitely prefer the grape flavor because the regular lemonade flavor is really artificial to me and I have found better low or no calorie additives on the market. For grape, MiO Fit actually does a good job.

Disclaimer: I received a free product through a Facebook giveaway. The opinions expressed in the blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by MiO or any third party.

Freebie: Free Pureology Shampoo and Conditioner Samples

Go to the All You freebie page here and then click on the link to be redirected to the entry form. Enter your information and click enter. I got an error page, but at least was able to enter my information and hit submit. Anyway, use at your own risk (of not getting a sample). All You has not found a way to avoid the error as posts on their Facebook page indicate.

If you have prior to today requested the sample, you will not be able to request it again! One time use only for this offer. If you get an initial error for clicking on the link, try deleting your cookies and then the entry form should load.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Father's Day Freebie - Kroger free Redbox DVD rnetal

enter code KROGERDVD and get one free movie per account at Redbox. Keep in mind that this code does not work for online rentals or reservations. So you will have to go to a Kroger and select a movie there, then enter the code for a free movie.

My selection was The Hobbit since I have new seen the trailer for the new movie by Peter Jackson and figured it was time to remind how the first installment in the series ended.

Product Review: Private Selection by Kroger - Breakfast items such as Bitter Sweet Orange Marmalade

Thanks to I was able to get some free Kroger products from their Private Selection line of budget-friendly gourmet quality items. I picked up a large bottle of Amber colored maple syrup as well as a jar of Bitter Sweet Orange Marmalade.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my Private Selection items by Kroger, Marmalade and Maple Syrup
 This afternoon, I decided on a very typical English snack. I grabbed a couple of slices of bread, toasted them and added some butter and then the Orange Marmalade from Private Selection. Together with a nice cup of Cafe au Lait this was a perfect afternoon snack.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - English-style afternoon snack, Toast with Jam and then a cup of coffee!
The Orange Marmalade is awesome. It has just the right balance of bitter and sweet, mixed in with a distinctive orange flavor. I will savor this marmalade for afternoon snacks at home because I want to sit down and enjoy it and not be rushed as I would be at work.

The jar of marmalade was around $3 at the local Kroger and the bottle of Maple Syrup retailed for around $8 at the S. Roxboro Kroger in Durham. Both are okay prices and the marmalade is definitely worth the price because the flavor is outstanding and similar to the really expensive imported English marmalade with bitter orange flavor. So the Private Selection line by Kroger for the fans of British Orange Marmalade like myself is definitely a bargain.

Disclaimer: Through I received free coupons for Private Selection items sold at Kroger, including the marmalade and the maple syrup. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

NC and money affairs - two interesting articles from the News and Observer

Money is still tight and unemployment for North Carolina and the USA overall is also way too high for any politician to become complacent about the economy. Yesterday, the News and Observer out of Raleigh published two interesting articles that are related to the economic situation we face these days.

The first article deals with a venture that was intended as aiding rural areas in economic development and, hopefully in the long run, reduce unemployment. Rural North Carolina can be pretty poor and overall economically marginalized and lack in employment opportunities for young people. With the clothing mills and tobacco manufacturers closing down and having closed down, a lot of economic opportunity has left rural areas. So one organization, a private nonprofit called the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center calls its mission to help North Carolina’s struggling rural counties. But as the New and Observer indicates, so far millions in taxpayer money has gone into projects that either did little to spur economic growth in the rural areas or went to support projects that really did not need any financial assistance.You can read the whole article and more examples of questionable spending of taxpayer money here.

Two projects that come to mind are the opening of a new Bojangles that was supported with $350,000 in funds, but opened up a short time after the money was allocated. This indicates that the funding for the restaurant was already in place and raises the question why was the money still allocated? Another project are several Walmart stores that were funded to the tune of $6 Million and obviously are owned by Walmart, an organization that does not experience financial troubles to the extent that it needs $6 Million of taxpayer money. In particular the latter project may get many people upset since Walmart has been accused of destroying local economies by destroying competition. Small local stores cannot compete with the superstrong buying power of the national chain and will go under, minimizing the variety of stores available in rural areas and in the end possibly allowing Walmart to dictate prices. So why were so many sums allocated to two projects when money is tight and the benefit for rural areas from these and other projects funded by the N.C. Rural Economic Development Center is questionable at best and could be called misguided.

But the organization itself is not really short on cash either thanks to yours and me truly paying our taxes on time. Currently, the cash balance is $69 million because some projects have not started or others fell through for various reasons (hopefully in some cases the planned recipients were maybe honest and said they did not need money - but who am I fooling). Anyway, I would hope with all the cuts being forecast in education, yet again, that the legislature in Raleigh may just take a tiny peak at this enterprise and decide whether taxpayer money is really well spent when sent the way of N.C. Rural Economic Development Center. I  for one doubt that the money is well allocated with that agency and would hope that some of the money is spend simply feeding children in rural North Carolina over the summer when school lunches are not available or paying for an extra nurse to visit rural residents too ill to travel regularly to hospitals. It is not that hard to come up with ways in which other than salary or product purchases, most of the money would go directly to benefit the rural citizens. And question is, if you have problems putting money on the table, do you really feel that a fast food restaurant will solve your problem or the fact that Walmart saved some money when opening its store in your town will let you sleep easier at night?

The second article in the News and Observer (here) deals with a new kind of rent to own business that is starting to become more popular now - rent your tires rather than buy them outright. I am someone who drives an old Ford, manufactured in 1997, and who actually left one repair shop because of the outright nasty comments that were made when I showed up with my car to have an oil change done (hello Sears, not that popular anymore with consumers in general and maybe now you would just change the oil and not tell me to get rid of my car, which I still drive 4 years after I visited your "customer support store" for the last time. ). So I am not interested in spending a lot of money on my car and simply expect the thing to get me from point A to point B, admittedly with some comfort. I actually had to have my AC fixed, but I did drive two years in the sometimes very hot and humid NC without AC - and was miserable. But my car is not anything fancy and I did not have too many repairs on it - my current car mechanic actually states that it is worthwhile doing regular maintenance because it is still a good car (SEARS- how is that for customer service?).

Anyway, it turns out that many people do not have money to buy tires when needed and so now resort to renting them, similar to the rent to own furniture places. The rent to own businesses function one way, they offer low rental payment because in the end you end up paying 3 or 4-time what the furniture or now tires would cost. I know that people are desperate, but unless you have a punctured tire that cannot be fixed anymore, most people can tell when the tire is wearing out. Start saving and buy a couple of tires at a time. Heck, I still save and will not eat meat for weeks if I have a significant expense coming up. Coupons will be clipped more frequently and simple pasta dishes with some butter and maybe an egg will mean dinner. There are things you can do to save, especially when the alternative is to pay for something three times because you do not have the cash.

While with tires I can see that you need them because most people have to drive to work. The rent to own furniture places were always a puzzle to me. Why do you need to rent to own a large screen TV. I only recently joined the HDTV club, years after others did because I am cheap and will not spend money easily. Same for furniture. Really, I have slept for several years on a mattress and guests were shown the sofa, that was a futon (now recently sold on Craigslist for a nice sum) - really money management is not that difficult. Unless you have really a bunch of unforseen expenses and need a table because you have no other table in the house, no one should need rent to own furniture place to suck money out of their pockets.

I am doing economically well, but in large part because I hate spending money and live in constant fear of being poor again. So vacations, movie rentals etc are not part of the routine. Redbox is only used when there is a free rental; no matter how much I would like to see Lincoln. I will just have to wait and, if necessary, the local library will do for rentals and books. Let me state it again, no one should have to use rent to own furniture places and likely, with some decent money management, no rent to own place, be it furniture or tires, should be able to make a comfortable business with smart consumers around.

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Quick acting pain relief for on the go? UrgentRX Fast Powders for a variety of ailments

Through the Something Blue Voxbox by Influenster I received a sample of UrgentRX Fast Powders. My sample was in lemon lime flavor and for headaches. As we have gone through a significant temperature change after the storm on Thursday, I woke up this AM with a really bad headache. So I figured - why not and opened the UrgentRX powder, swallowed it and it really did help with the headache.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my sample and the whole product line of UrgentRX Fast Powders

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the benefits of UrgentRX Fast Powders in one handy list.
The whole product line is shown above, including one sample for Critical Care that is pretty much aspirin and is based on the beneficial effect that aspirin has in preventing heart attacks. I have only used the powder for headaches, but it helped and even has a little bit caffeine added, besides the aspirin and the flavor, so it makes you more alert. This is something I can use because when I have a headache I get really moody and since I do not feel well, I really do not want to do anything. Having that little caffeine perk makes me more awake and gets me going. It was certainly a nice surprise to not have to suffer through the usual headache slump! For more information on the product, go here.

Disclaimer: I received a sample of UrgentRX through the Something Blue Voxbox from Influenster. The opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Wonderful Diamond Rings at bargain prices and with no risk purchase? Yes, at My Trio Rings

Through my Something Blue Voxbox I received an advertisement brochure to My Trio Rings and decided to have a look at their ring collection. I am not into big and flashy rings with huge princess cut diamonds and so my selection is maybe a little bit too much lacking in drama. But I had to work many years with latex gloves on my hands for 8 hours a day and so any ring with a big stone was more a hindrance, therefore my preference for simple rings that have small stones set flat into a ring.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the My Trio Rings brochure and their great selection
 From the above example you can see the prices are significantly lower than the usual retail prices. My Trio Rings states that their prices are about 65% lower than other retail prices. In addition, you get the following benefits: FREE SHIPPING | NO-FEE LAYAWAY | 30 DAY RETURNS - Imagine trying out a ring for 1 month and then sending it back with no questions asked. Also My Trio Rings only uses real diamonds and gold, so no concern about getting stuck with a cheap imitation.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - another example of the selection by My Trio Rings
So this is my favorite choice for a wedding band set - total price is only $699.99 (down from $1799.00)
This set, available here, is described by My Trio Rings as containing 1/10 Carat T.W. diamonds made in 14K white gold and with 6 round cut natural, conflict free diamonds. I like the understated quality of the rings and the stones are set into the rings, therefore leaving a clean and smooth surface. 

Disclaimer: I received no free product through Influenster or My Trio Rings, but I am eligible for prizes in exchange for posting the review. The opinions expressed in the blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Want free stuff and love making videos? Try to generate video-based product reviews

I have been a member of EXPOTV for about one year now and love it. EXPOTV is a company that solicits video-based product reviews done by individuals, not commercial advertising agencies. There are a couple of ways to become involved in these product reviews.

The first way is to be selected for a product test, in which EXPOTV mails you the product and then you make a video that you post to their site. The second way to become involved is to simply respond with a video to the review requests on the EXPOTV site. Sometimes, such as this week, the requested product review for laundry detergents can provide a nice return - more on that later. So I made a couple of videos, answered the short survey about the products and then uploaded the videos to the EXPOTV site. The questions about the product usually request a rating of the product, an extremely brief summary and then, if you want to, they leave space for pros and cons that you can complete.

The result of these videos are points awarded to your account and then redeeming these points for products or gift cards. The videos that are really needed by companies, such as the detergent ones this week, can provide enough points that you can get about $5 for each video in giftcards. Not a huge payout, but if you are like me and you like to play with video editing software, this is a fun way to sharpen your editing skills and get a payout at the same time.

Don't worry if you do not have a lot of experience in video editing, the videos are supposed to be simple and not masterfully done like commercial ads. The company EXPOTV wants to make sure that real people talk about products and provide honest opinions. I love playing around with video editing software and have done editing for a long time, so for me taking the video and finalizing it before uploading to EXPOTV does not take a lot of time.

Give EXPOTV a try and see how you like it. I was just selected today for a product test of a L'Oreal product after doing a lotion product test a couple of weeks ago. If this string of product tests from various companies continues, I may have to add another room just for storage - but I am happy and free products are always good!

bzzcampaign update: Private Selection Great American Summer

Today I received a little envelope from bzzagent and I knew right away that the contents were for the latest Kroger-sponsored bzzcampaign related to summer grilling. I received a bunch of free product coupon and that is always welcome at my house. I also received a nice $3 off coupon for Angus beef that will come in handy for making from scratch homemade burgers. I had previously sampled the Angus beef from Kroger in another bzzcampaign (I love these food-related WOM campaigns) and was really impressed by the quality.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a whole bunch of free (and very welcome in the house!)
The coupons cover the following items from the Kroger Private Selection line of budget-friendly items:
  • Private Selection Angus Beef
  • Private Selection Artisan Breads
  • Private Selection Preserves - available in flavors such as  Red Tart Michigan Cherry, Oregon Red Raspberry, Bitter-Sweet Orange Marmalade and Apple Butter
  • Private Selection Rubs
  • Private Selection Dark Amber Maple Syrup
  • Private Selection Panko Bread Crumbs
I am particularly excited to sample the preserves, especially the orange marmalade. I love orange marmalade and so any new version MUST be sampled (sometimes even no matter what the price - gasp!!!). I also can use some real maple syrup since I am usually settling for discount syrup from Aldi and you can taste the difference both in price and taste. The artisan breads I love and usually buy them as manager's specials because otherwise they can quite pricey. The remaining items, in particular the crumbs, I can use and so we will see how the quality is and whether it is worth buying fresh crumbs or simply making your own from stale breads- which allows you to use up old bread and get cheap crumbs in return, a win-win situation.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - plenty of 20% off coupons to share and the yummy things you can buy!
I also got several 20% off coupons for Private Selection items from the group listed above and so these will be shared. I usually sample the items first and then hand out coupons so I can actually tell how much we liked a product (or keep silent depending on how the initial impression turned out). I may even keep a couple of the coupons for myself since the preserves sound awfully good and I love to eat marmalade on bread instead of cake for dessert because it is less fat and sugar than most store-bought pies or cakes.

copyrightDurhamonthecheap - my total bzzkit, plenty of coupons and nice bzzguide with useful information
Disclaimer: I received a  bzzkit with free product coupons in exchange for a WOM campaign through bzzagent and on behalf of Kroger. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by bzzagent, Kroger or any third party.