Friday, August 30, 2013

Product Review: Bango - everyone now can have salon quality trims at home!

If you are like me and try to save money, one of the first items off the list was visits to the hair dresser. It is amazing how much money you can save by learning to cut your own hair. And I just received a great tool for cutting my bangs at home and make them look like I went to a professional hair dresser. The secret is Bango - ideal for cutting bangs or short hairstyles at home and make them look like you spent a fortune paying someone else to cut your hair.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the BANGO kit comes with everything you need!
 The BANGO kit was great because it includes everything you need to cut all kinds of bangs, shorten layers in a layered look and also trim the ends to minimize split ends. The kit included:
  • Bango hair cutting tool
  • a couple of hair clips
  • a comb
  • a pair of scissors
  • and a DVD with about 6 minutes of instructions on how to use BANGO 
You can cut all kinds of bangs, I usually have mine a little bit longer on the sides than in the middle. I was years ago shown a trick by a hairdresser to quickly create some fake layers, but to me even that trick (twisting your bangs and then cutting the ends) did not produce the same results as a professional hair cut. So I was happy to be able to test the BANGO. 
copyright Durhamonthecheap - worried about not having the right scissors? No problem, BANGO provides them!

Best of all, the tools included alone are worth buying the kit. I have never had a real pair of scissors to cut hair with and the ones included in the BANGO kit are awesome. I love the clips because I have long hair and use the clips to hold the hair back so I can focus on my bangs.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - in addition to the CD, there are plenty of images to guide you along!
 And the BANGO is the best thing. It has the perfect grooves to guide you while you go snip, snip, snip on your bangs and produce shorter, but still good looking bangs that fit your face. The BANGO with its grooves holds on to your hair and then you can easily cut the bangs to the right length with the sharp scissors. I tried it and in a couple of minutes I had my bangs cut without ever leaving my house.

BANGO will be available at CVS, so keep an eye out when you visit your local CVS store to get this great new tool and continue saving money on your haircuts!

Disclaimer: I was provided a free product for review on my blog. As always, the opinion expressed in the blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Product Review and Giveaway: Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers - great for a healthy lunch box!

Thanks to Del Monte, I received a wonderful gift pack of items to try out and review on my blog. Included in my gift pack were.
·         Two boxes of Fruit Burst Squeezers in apple cinnamon and blueberry flavor
·         One Del Monte lunchbox - we need constantly new ones since we all brown bag our lunch!
·         One orange-shaped eco-friendly shopping tote
·         One strawberry-shaped eco-friendly shopping tote - how cute is that in your purse!
·         One Del Monte magnetic frame
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my gift pack from Del Monte!
In addition to this new product,  Fruit Burst Squeezers, which are perfect for packing into school lunches, Del Monte also has a fantastic contest fitting the season of First day of classes. But more about this and the great giveaway later. 

The Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers are a great new product that come in a Simply Fruit variety and a Fruit + Veggie variety. The simply fruit variety comes in three flavors, Apple Cinnamon, which I received, Mixed Berry and Strawberry. The Fruit + Veggie varieties available are Peach / Mango and Blueberry, which was contained in my gift pack. For those moms concerned about nutrition, each package of Fruit Burst Squeezer contains 1 ½ servings of fruit or fruit and veggies and are an excellent source of vitamins A and C. Also important for moms concerned about artificial ingredients and sweeteners, the Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers contain no artificial flavors or high fructose corn syrup. 

We sampled the Blueberry variety because we wanted to find out how well the veggie flavor was covered. Del Monte did a great job of hiding the healthy vegetables. The content really taste like blueberry and I am glad to be able to include blueberry in our lunches without having to spend a fortune buying fresh blueberries. 

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Blueberry Fruit Burst Squeezer
As you can see from the image, the content of the blueberry Fruit Burst Squeezer do not have the fake blueish color of many other blueberry-flavored products. The color is more reddish and the tube is really easy to open, even for little hands. Best of all, if there is left over, which can happen with finicky eaters, you can close the tube again and store it in the fridge for another time. I have stored the Fruit Burst Squeezers in the fridge and I would recommend that you do the same because the colder temperature makes them so much more refreshing.

Because the vegetable flavor was not detectable, we also checked out the ingredient list. The blueberry Fruit and Veggie Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers contains pear puree concentrate, water, pumpkin juice concentrate, pear juice concentrate, natural flavors, carrot puree, blueberry puree concentrate, fruit and vegetable extracts for color, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), citric acid.

So I can highly recommend the Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers as an add-on to the lunch box. While you may want to alternate between regular fruit and the Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers, if your kids likes blueberries or strawberries, which will become impossible to pay for come fall, these Del Monte Fruit Burst Squeezers are a great way to include their favorite fruit in the lunch box throughout the year.

Now to the second part of this post, the Del Monte Facebook contest First Day of School Photo Contest. You can enter by simply uploading a picture of your kid's first day of school or maybe you can find your first day of classes photo and enter that. The top 20 Finalist photos will be posted to the Del Monte Fruit Squeezers website, and fans will have the chance to vote for their favorite photo. The winning entry will receive a $10,000 donation to a school of their choice.

Here is how to get started:
-          Submissions will be accepted now through through September 7 at 11:59 CDT.
-          From September 8, 2013 at 12:00:00 CDT to September 15, 2013 at 11:59:59 CDT, the public will be able to vote for their favorite Entry.
-          From September 16, 2013 at 12:00:00 CDT to September 22, 2013 at 11:59:59 CDT, the public will be able to vote for their favorite Finalist.
-          To submit your photo entry, you can visit
To keep up to date on Del Monte happenings, you can follow Del Monte on their Facebook page here and below is a video that recaps the Photo Contest for the First Day of School sponsored by Del Monte. The complete rules are shown here.

So to sum up, my wonderful gift pack from Del Monte contained:

·         Two boxes of Fruit Burst Squeezers (one Fruit + Veggies 4-pack and one Simply Fruit 4-pack)
·         One Del Monte lunchbox
·         One orange-shaped eco-friendly shopping tote
·         One strawberry-shaped eco-friendly shopping tote
·         One Del Monte magnetic frame

The best thing, Del Monte has agreed to make a second gift pack available to one luck reader on my blog

Which brings me to the third part of this blog entry, the Giveaway!

You can simply enter by following the instruction on this  Rafflecopter giveaway. 
Rafflecopter ensures that winning entries are selected fairly and I only require that you follow my blog, but you can gain additional entries by liking my new pages on Twitter and Facebook. 
Entries are due by 9-21-13 and I will need the full name and mailing address of the winner, since Del Monte will ship the prize directly to the winning reader of my blog. Good Luck everyone!
Sorry, must be a resident of the USA to participate!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the good people at Del Monte will provide a second gift pack to the winner!
Disclaimer: The Del Monte products, information and two gift packs have been provided by Del Monte, but as always all opinions expressed on this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Del Monte or any third party. 

Book review: City of Hope by Kate Kerrigan

Life’s darkest hour can sometimes lead to more happiness than ever expected. This is the second book in a series and a follow up to "Ellis Island". Ellie Hogan is in Ireland, leading a content life with her husband John. While John likes the quiet pace of farming in rural Ireland, Ellie, in part to compensate for the lack of children, is a business woman constantly on the search for yet another opportunity. In her town, she keeps buying up businesses, leading to a rare, but volatile argument with her husband. The sudden death of John leaves a bigger void than expected for Ellie, who leave Ireland for the USA. Here she seeks refuge in the challenging business environment of New York. But rather than continue her life as a business woman, Ellie fills her emptiness by providing comfort to the poor. 

available on

Will this new purpose finally allow Ellie to feel fulfilled? Not quite and the reader can follow the struggle of Ellie for a purpose in her life and the end is quite surprising. Not certain what I expected for sure, but now that I have had some time to think about the plot, the ending does make sense and is in line with the character of Ellie. She is an independent woman, ahead of her time. She does not compromise, but in the end knows exactly where she belongs and what her mind and body need. It just takes her a little bit longer to figure this out because even in her missteps, she can still build success. 

I found this to be a very engaging book. The author understands to let New York City of the Great Depression come to life. She vividly paints a picture of the hopelessness that Roosevelt’s election can only partially assuage and in which individuals like Ellie are counted upon to act as angels for the starving and weak. 

At the same time that she makes her living in New York and finds purpose and happiness (somewhat) in her life, Ellie is still Irish at heart and I find traces of Maureen O’Hara’s characters in the feisty and independent Ellie. I have not read the prior book Ellis Island, but now I wish I had read it because it would certainly provide more clues to Ellie’s character and explain her behavior initially. It is not required to have read the prior book to find City of Hope a very good read. But if you get to like Ellie as much as I do, then you really want to know where she comes from and what her prior life has been. By the same token, a future installment in this series is now eagerly awaited by me because I want to know what the future holds for Ellie.

bzzcampaign: Kroger Mega Sale - stock up with food and school supplies

Through bzzagent I was enrolled in the back to school sale by Kroger. School has already started here, but I never need an excuse to stop by Kroger. So off I went this morning to cash in on the digital downloads from the last 3 Fridays, get some customer reward freebies (Crystal Light sticks, Granola bars) and see what else is available on clearance.
I came out with bags full of stuff for lunch, dessert and plenty of goodies to pack for lunch bags. Here is an image of the total haul, which came to only $25.55 - what a bargain!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Kroger haul today for $25.55!
So I started off with the digital downloads from the last three weeks, which was a 2L bottle of soda, some Gatorade shake with extra protein and an energy drink. The Gatorade will come in handy to pack for lunch. I then selected a treat, 6 candied apples with sugar coating and rolled in nuts - yum! I also selected a rare treat, three Asian pears, which were on sale for only 99 cents/pound. Then I bought for lunch this weekend some pork chops, portobello mushrooms and snow peas for steaming.

I also found EmergenC reduced. This EmergenC was for joint health and came in tangerine flavor. If you have followed my blog, you know that I love EmergenC because it is good for you and tasty! Kroger has been really good in making coupons available and so I used free product coupons for Granola bars and Crystal Light on the go sticks - both products I love and regularly use in lunch boxes. Lastly I could not resist and bought some more coffee, the Private Selection Mocha Latte just sounded too good and was on sale + I had a coupon, which made this another great Kroger bargain.

Last but not least, Goldfish crackers were reduced and I found the BBQ flavored variety, which I could not resist because they are great as a snack during breaks and will make it into the lunch bag for several days in a row.

Overall, a great trip to Kroger and I love the savings, but also the ability to feed my family some healthy items in the next few days that are fresh and tasty!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - healthy and tasty lunch thanks for McCormick and Kroger!
I prepared a quick lunch using the pork chops, mushrooms and snow peas. For added flavor I used McCormick Grill Mates in Molasses Bacon flavor. I simply sprinkled some of the flavoring over the meat and mushrooms while sauteing them in the pan and the flavor turned out fantastic. Not only did the meat receive a nice color that just looked yummy, but the portobello mushrooms really picked up the bacon flavoring well. The meal was rich and flavorful and it only took a few minutes to prep.

Disclaimer: I received a discount through bzzagent for shopping at Kroger and providing an honest review about my shopping experience. The opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Product Review: Lean Cuisine Honestly Good line of frozen meals - Lemongrass salmon

I rarely eat microwave food, preferring instead to cook my own meals so that I know what it is in the food. But I had a splitting headache today that really made me feel groggy all day and so I was glad to be home and able to take a nap after work. Cooking was out of the question. For these occasions I have frozen dinners at home, so that there is still food on the table.
During the latest week of Super Doubles at Harris Teeter I picked up a few Honestly Good meals from Lean Cuisine. This is a new product line by Lean Cuisine intended to be healthy with whole grains and generous meat portions that are both filling, but also enjoyable and healthy. I opted for the lemongrass salmon because this is not a dinner I usually fix. I rarely have lemongrass at home, but love the flavor of lemongrass.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a generous portion, healthy and most important - very tasty!
The preparation is very easy. You take the separate sauce package and thaw it either under warm water or in your hand. Meanwhile you heat the meal for 3 minutes in the microwave. Then you add as much of the sauce as you wish and heat the meal for another 2 minutes - then you are ready to serve!

The lemongrass salmon is described as a whole coconut-crusted wild caught salmon filet, complemented by brown rice with wheatberries, snap peas, orange & yellow carrots, edamame, and ginger lemongrass sauce in a separate pouch. Overall, there is truth in advertising. The meal was meeting my expectations based on the description and the meal tasted very nice. It is filling, but does not wear you down.

For 320 calories, you get 5g of fiber and 18g of protein, with only 9g of fat. So the meal is really a meal and the flavor is fresh and actually tastes like homemade. I like the packaging because I can vary how much sauce to add and the plastic to me is taste neutral. I could not taste the fact that the meal was heated in a plastic container.

Overall, I give this new line of dishes by Lean Cuisine high marks and this lemongrass salmon is something I would definitely consider stocking up at home for when a murderous headache hits again and prevents me from preparing a home cooked meal. 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Book Review: Happy Money - The science of smarter spending by E. Dunn and M. Norton

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through in exchange for an honest review and WOM marketing about the book and the philosophy it describes.

As everyone can imaging with a blog dedicated to frugal spending, I believe to only spend money when it is necessary and not waste money on gadgets that rarely get used or participate in fashion fads. I was definitely interested in the topic of the book "Happy Money" and when it mentioned smarter spending, I wanted to find out whether I would agree that there was a smarter spending.

Reading this book, I recognized that there is smarter spending. It means to make money that is spent count for something more than just a material gain. The authors show a set of principles that they argue can mean smarter spending. These principles are:

1) Buy Experiences not Things
2) Make it a Treat
3) Buy Time
4) Pay Now, Consume Later
5) Invest in Others

I find myself doing a lot of spending that is #2, making it a treat. I will occasionally spend money on a special gourmet item that we can cherish. For example my monthly Goodies box has had a few items that we really enjoyed. So for our summer evenings snacking in the sunroom, I purchased a couple of chipotle sauces that we use on the weekend as snacks. These sauces were more expensive than my usual grocery items and definitely not on clearance (even though I waited until they were on sale with free shipping). But now we have them as a special treat with chips or carrot sticks.

Similarly, the part about buying experiences and not things is something I can see making sense for us. We sometimes drive for a weekend trip to a nearby destination, even it is just the Farmer's Market in Raleigh. We will stroll around the market, maybe buying a homemade pie or some unusual heirloom tomatoes. Again, what we buy will be a treat, but the whole trip to the market is an experience because we only make that trip a few times a year. And one thing we always do at the market is either have ice cream or have lunch. Eating at the market is like having a picnic and makes the trip so much more fun and a little bit of an adventure each time.

available on

Some of you may think that these "trips" to the Farmer's Market are nothing special and you are right, they are just a shopping trip to the market to buy produce and have lunch or dessert. But we try to instill in our family the believe that it does not matter how much money you spend, but what you make out of it. And the fact that we enjoy dessert or lunch in an unusual place and outside in the sun, makes this trip an experience.

So for parents this book may provide good guidance on how to have experiences with their kids that do not break the bank. If you just tell your kids, we need to shop for tomatoes at the market, you are not selling the trip as an experience. We approach these trips as an adventure and make sure we have plenty of time to stroll around the market. No cell phones, no calendars, no clocks ticking. It is a little bit of old-fashioned family time on the weekend.

The same is true for our garden. We have a small garden each year and even though it is not big, it provides us a Summer full of fun for the family.We plan starter plants or use seeds in the spring, watch the plants grow and then harvest our own vegetables for months. It is not something I ever calculate profit on because we made time regularly to work in our garden and we enjoy it.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - planting a garden can provide a summer full of fun family time at a bargain budget!

I found myself actually agreeing with the authors on more points than I expected and I find this book reassuring for parents that want to spend money in a frugal, meaningful way!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book review: interesting take on a memoir - stylized, good to read, but also "interesting"

So this book sets out to be a memoir - kind of. Which sounds strange and it does end up being certainly a unique book in terms of its approach to the concept of memoir. The story is that of the author starting with childhood, through adolescence and adulthood to present day. Along the way learn of his struggles with a father that is far from ideal. His teenage period is marked by issues with drugs and he finally comes to see the light and starts to practice religion. I usually do not use terms such as "see the light", but the author somewhat overenthusiastic describes in such glowing terms his finding Christian belief that I will actually use this term for once.

available on

The book is not a memoir in the true sense because at times the author seems to embellish the story for dramatic effect. While for the most part the book reads like a true memoir and the author certainly has enough episodes to fill a book and an interesting life, the gray line between truth and fiction took some getting used to.

Overall, the book is vividly written. I really enjoyed reading it and so if you are simply looking for an entertaining book, this one is definitely for you. I enjoyed the story, the events described were interesting and the author certainly has a way with word. With the exception of in my opinion going somewhat overboard when it comes to the religious tones, this is definitely a well written book.

Disclaimer: I received a free book through for review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

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Saturday, August 17, 2013

Subscription box review: Goodies Box for August 2013

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Goodies box August 2013
 Yesterday I received my Goodies Co. box for August and this month I am really missing the beverage. It is summer outside and warm and I was looking forward to a quirky, new, innovative beverage. But instead I got a full-size cookie mix, which is fine and I will use it. I also got a lot of small samples that really are too small to share. The nice thing about the beverage samples in the other boxes was the fact that they were large enough to share and usually a couple of other samples were substantial enough to allow for two adults to share a small snack.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a lot of small samples included in this box
The samples were a good variety, covering the range from popcorn to brownies to fruit gummies. A couple of samples were somewhat disappointing. The Tangy Zangy fruit gums were advertised on the bag as sour wild berry, but to me they were neither sour nor really tasted like wild berry. So that was clearly a let down and I definitely am relieved that no larger sample was included for them.
Another disappointing sample were the Poplets. Not really sure what they were supposed to have as texture, but to me they tasted like the unpopped kernels left in the bag of microwave popcorn. Definitely will not be buying these ever again, no matter how much my dentist would like me since he needs money to put his three sons through college - j/k, he is happier to see people with good teeth that just need two check ups a year and are done than people that need fillings or other treatments.
The Motts I have had before and they are okay. I am not so much into the overall fairly bland flavor they have. The Fiber One and Nature Valley samples were quite good, especially the Nature Valley sample was yummy. One recommendation for Goodies, it is summer in most of the country and shipping chocolate covered anything is not the best idea, unless someone is home to pick up items from the post office. The Nature Valley Thin was covered in chocolate that had melted and was stuck to the wrapper. This happened despite me being home to get the mail. But the mailman is driving around in a car that is warm and can melt chocolate.
This weekend I will bake the Hershey cookies because I need some items for dessert and will also sample the coffee drink - supposedly just added to hot or cold water to get coffee. This sample I am looking forward to since I do not like instant coffee as powder because it tends to be too sweet and does not always dissolve properly. So a liquid "concentrate" to make a cup of coffee sounds like a good solution to my instant coffee hatred.
Please keep in mind that Goodies Co is affiliated with Walmart and so if you have strong feelings about Walmart either way that may affect your judgment of Goodies. I still like Goodies because they do include new items on my meal plan with their monthly box and for $7 the price is not that high. I see my Goodies subscription box  as my monthly treat instead of a mani or pedi, but with benefits for everyone in my household since we can always share something - such as the cookies this month. And when you consider that the cookie mix sells for about $5 a box on, then $2 for the remaining samples and shipping is not bad. I just wish they had included another beverage since I really like to sample new sodas or juices without the risk of having to buy a 6-pack at the store.

Disclaimer: I received this box for a nominal fee of $7 in exchange for providing online reviews of the products included. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Goodies Co or any third party.

Book Review: The Wild Princess by Mary Hart Perry

Some day my prince will come is the dream of every young girl. But only the daughter of a queen can really hope to marry a prince. So it is all the more disheartening when the book about the wild princess, Louise, starts off with a major disappointment for this young woman, who had such high hopes of marriage and tried her best to make her new husband as good a wife as possible. 

What starts off as a definite disappointment may actually turn out to be a win for Louise. Because with the marriage not living up to expectations, Louise is seeking fulfillment in other places. She preserves her independent streak by not conforming to the stereotype of the demure wife and thinking for herself, which makes her definitely wild and impossibly to control by the standards of the Victorian Age. Along the way she meets Stephen, a secret agent from the USA that was ordered to England to protect the Queen’s family against murder plots originating by individuals seeking independence for Ireland. 

This encounter gives rise to the two major plotlines of the book. One plot is the romance between Louise and Stephen that, as one can imagine, can never be in the open and takes them to places throughout Europe. The second story is the threat to the Queen and her family by Irish separatists. The balance between these plots prevents "The Wild Princess" from becoming a simple love story between a royal and a commoner and also generates enough romantic interest to prevent the book from becoming a simple historical novel about the Irish Separatist movement. I really enjoyed the balance between the plots because it causes the tempo to just sufficiently alternate between romantic slow pace and historical adventure speed to keep the readers on their toes. 

The ending is quite predictable, but along the lines there are enough surprises and thrills to keep the reader engaged and entertained. I did not want to give the book five stars because I could guess some of the twists and turns, but other than that minor issue, the book is an excellent read. Ms. Perry understands to draw complex characters and generate complex plot lines that remain clear and concisely organized, never turning confusing or leaving the reader wondering. I like the vivid description of the Victorian Age and its expectations of the perfect woman and wife. While Louise may have been considered wild by many, her independence streak is still in line with Victorian mores and this main character is drawn in a way that is still behaved enough to make her behavior plausible for a strong-willed woman of that time.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Book Review: The Way Home by Katherine Spencer

This book is about new beginnings and redemption, but also about the good in people, even if you do not expect it from them. Angel Island is a sleepy tourist destination that serves as the setting of this novel. This book has two interwoven stories that present to the reader the basic message that people are good and sometimes you just have to trust that everything will turn out right in the end. 

One story describes how Avery Bishop, fresh off a big relationship and professional disappointment, seeks a new start on the island. She hopes to finally run the restaurant of her dreams and succeed at it, without having to compromise and see her dreams turn into disaster yet again. She stays at the house of Claire North, who runs an inn that she rents out during the tourist season. And while Claire’s life seems to have a quiet and regular flow, a visitor to the island creates turmoil that Claire could do without. But the visitor also holds the promise of closure that Claire has missed for a long time. 

So as Avery goes through the opening day jitters, prepping her staff, dealing with last minute preparations to get the restaurant ready for guests, she also has a visitor. But not from the past; her visitor is from the present and possibly showing her a future. It is Mike Rossi, who also owns a restaurant/diner on Angel Island. He inherited the diner from his father and now has run the restaurant for longer than even he expected. Less classy than the dining establishment Avery plans to open, the owner Mike Rossi nevertheless makes an impression on Avery at their first meeting. Mike also teaches her an important lesson in life on Angel Island; there is neighborly help first and anything such as competition between dining establishments a far away second, if it ever should come to that. 

As the reader follows these two stories and the ups and downs of the protagonists, the style of Katherine Spencer is transforming the book into a scene reminiscent of the light that came through Kinkade’s painting. While there is shadow, the light is always there and with it the overwhelming good in people and in life overall. I enjoyed this book. It is not fast paced and the ending is not the most surprising, but the story does show a very life affirming tone. I would personally recommend this book as a vacation read, when a light reading is required that can be put down and picked up whenever there is a rainy day and outdoors activities are not an option.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Book Review: Heirs and Graces by Rhys Bowen

We all have heard about the Prince of Wales and his affair with the divorcee Wallis Simpson that eventually cost him the throne, but how many of us can say that they were privy to the queen’s personal thoughts and concerns regarding her son? Well, it is only fiction, but this book brings you a heroine that gets to hobnob with the royal class. The protagonist is Lady Georgiana Rannoch, a young lady that is closely enough related to the Queen to actually be considered in line for the throne. No wonder then that she actually knows how the Queen worried about Wallis Simpson and her possible effect on the succession. But Wallis Simpson for now is a problem far in the future, while in the case on hand Lady Georgiana seems to solve the murder of a Duke, who was found, quite unbecoming to his future presence on earth, with a knife in his back and therefore quite dead. 

The number one suspect is the Duke's newly found heir Jack Altringham, a recent import from Australian Outback and owner of the knife that made its way into the back of the Duke. This turn of events for Jack does not meet the expectations of Lady Georgiana, who was entrusted with the grooming of Jack and now looks to have failed in her duty, despite being personally asked by the Queen to educate Jack in the finer points of life. 

While Jack was still considered half wild, being more familiar with hunting and life in the Outback than proper table manners, Lady Georgiana cannot believe him to be a murderer. Even when the Duke announced that he planned on designating his own heir and thereby providing Jack with a motive for wanting him dad, Georgiana cannot believe that Jack could be guilty. So Lady Georgiana is again off to the races, snooping amongst her peers to determine who else would have benefited from the untimely death of the Duke. 

This book was advertised as perfect for Downton Abbey fans and a possibly remedy to bridge the in between Downton Abbey time. For once, I have to agree with the marketing slogan. The period is fitting the TV series and the characters are well drawn and anyone that is a fan of the TV series will be able to thoroughly enjoy the antics of Lady Georgiana. Sure to drive her relative nuts, but just the unconventional character that reminds us of some female members at Downton Abbey. I have rated this book very highly, not because I like Downton Abbey and therefore like the book, but because this book is entertaining, witty, suspenseful and intelligently written. I am planning on reading the prior editions from the Royal Spyness Mystery series because I really enjoyed this book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Product Review (bzzagent) Chilean Wines - Frontera Moscato

Through I was provided with several mail in rebates for $5 off to Frontera wines from Chile. I had never heard of Frontera wines before, but certainly was willing to sample a wine that was supposed to taste like $20 a bottle, but would only set us back $5. Especially when a friend of mine told me that she loves the Moscato and was eagerly  begging me for a MIR form. I decided to give the Moscato a try and currently Harris Teeter is running a special, selling the Moscato in the 750ml bottles at 2 for $10. So with the $5 off rebate form, I ended up getting two bottles of Moscato for $5, really a true bargain for wine.

Then came the important question, how does it taste? Even the best bargain is a loss, if the wine is bad. But the Frontera Moscato was a pleasant surprise. I had a three way sampling event, pairing the Moscato with two more expensive wines, both of which were rose wines. While each wine had a distinctive flavor, the Moscato did not seem the cheapest wine. As a matter of fact, all three wines were judged equally good by us.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - ready for the sampling, Frontera versus the rest!
After the official testing, we got down to the enjoyable, non-work (tasting) part of the evening. We paired Frontera Moscato with an antipasto plate consisting of cheese, peppers and cold cuts. The Moscato worked out well and the dinner tasted phenomenal because the Frontera wine was not overpowering the meal, but nicely complementing it.  The light and fruity flavor of the Moscato makes it an ideal meal companion that can go with savory meals like the antipasto, but could also be used as a dessert wine with a cheese plate or an apple tart.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Moscato to go with an antipasto platter - perfect light dinner!
Overall, I was definitely impressed with the Moscato from Frontera. The price, especially at the current sale at Harris Teeter, was definitely a bargain and the wine is great. It is perfect for summer, light so you can drink a glass more than usual and the flavor is light as well, making it perfect as a regular wine to go with dinner. I usually cool it down a little bit and then drink it with dinner and sip on another glass after dinner. If you are looking for quality wines that do not break the bank, give Frontera a try!

Disclaimer: Through I received several mail in rebates for $5 off two bottles of Frontera wine in exchange for promoting the wine on social networks, in person and on blogs. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by or any other third party.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Book Review: The Body in the Piazza by Katherine Hall Page

If you ever wanted to take a culinary tour of Italy, but somehow never gotten around to making enough money to afford it, reading this book will provide you with a nice basis to imagine how your tour could end up – without the murder of course. Faith Fairchild and her husband, the Reverend Tom Fairchild have given themselves a tour of Rome and Tuscany as an anniversary gift. Since Faith is working as caterer and solves only the occasional murder, the description of the Italian food devoured by the couple are extraordinarily detailed and will make your mouth water. In addition, Katherine Hall Page manages to provide descriptions of the places and people with so much detail that the reader can really imagine being in Italy right beside Faith and Tom. 

Faith and Tom arrive at the hotel in Rome and there they meet Freddy Ives, an Englishman, who knows Rome well and introduces them to the specialties that a local restaurant serves. After a night of good food and wine, the vacation is off to a good start for Faith and her husband. But the relaxation is only short-lived because the couple stumbles across Freddy dying. His last words do not make sense and without Faith or Tom having made any relevant observations to who may want to kill Freddie, the police are on their own in solving the murder. Or are they? Because as Faith and Tom travel to Tuscany to spend some time at the cooking school Cucina della Rossi, owned by Francesca Rossi. Francesca used to work for Faith, but has now found her true calling in cooking and Faith cannot wait to dive into the local cuisine. But strange things happen and the bad ghosts from Rome seem to have followed the couple. 

Can Faith solve the origin of the bad luck that follows them from Rome and unravel the cause of Freddie’s death? In between sampling Italian food, described in such detail by the author that you can easily picture the food on the place, Faith starts sleuthing. Katherine Hall Page has written an extraordinary book. While it is a mystery story at its core, the description of the locations, such as the many markets or wonderful food offerings in Rome, are so detailed that the book could almost be a travelogue. I really enjoyed learning some more about Italian cuisine. Because as a caterer, Faith will not settle for everyday Italian fare and so this book, besides being a wonderful and entertaining mystery story, has the benefit to introducing the reader to several interesting local dishes.