Saturday, May 31, 2014

Music Review and GIVEAWAY!! David Gray and his new studio album ‘Mutineers’ (drops June 17th)

David Gray, the GRAMMY nominated singer-songwriter from the U.K, will release his new studio album called Mutineers on June 17, 2014. In advance of the release, David has released a new video for the first track from his album. The video for Gulls can be streamed ahead of the release through this website.

In his first release under the Kobalt Label Series, David had challenged himself and adopted a different tone in his tunes.Compared to prior works, David sounds excited about expanding into new territories, free from restraint and positive about what the future will bring. This becomes clear in the song "Back in the world", in which the joy that David brings to his work is evident.

If you were lucky enough to get a ticket to one of his concerts, you were able to enjoy David on his eight city studio tour that started April 24 in Los Angeles, and ended May 4th in Toronto. Of course, the tour was sold out because David, after all, is one of U.K.'s leading artists. To learn about the earlier works by David, you can go to his website here. On his website is also the official video for "Back in the world". 

I was able to listen to an advanced copy of the whole album and I think my favorite is indeed Back in the world; the upbeat rhythm and the lyrics express at time pure joy and certainly an affirmation of life, starting with the wonderful "Every day when I open my eyes now it feels like a Saturday ...". Other songs that speak to me on the album are "Snow in Vegas" and "The Incredible". The album certainly underscores the versatility of David as an artist.

I believe that is the reason why for years he has won so much critical praise, such as for his 2009 release of Draw the Line, which led to two sold out tours of the US. His next album, a studio album called Foundling, also garnered critical praise; Entertainment Weekly said it contained "warm arrangements and real emotion". These recent works now lead up to his new studio album "Mutineers". If you are not familiar with his style, I encourage you to use the links to his videos, so you can get to know him. And even if you are a fan of David, but have not listened to his new songs, enjoy Back in the World and Gulls and enjoy the new sound of David.

UPDATE: Due to the overwhelming response and his sold out earlier tour, David Gray has added a bunch of additional tour dates for the USA and Canada. The complete list is posted below, so plenty of opportunity to see and enjoy David live! Ticket information is available here.

Aug 01 - Boston
Aug 04 - NYC
Aug 05 - Philadelphia
Aug 07 - Columbia, MD
Aug 08 - Charlotte, NC
Aug 09 - Nashville
Aug 11 - Raleigh, NC
Aug 12 - Atlanta
Aug 13 - Indianapolis
Aug 15 - Cleveland
Aug 16 - Cincinnati
Aug 17 - Detroit
Aug 18 - Chicago
Aug 20 - Denver
Aug 21 - Salt Lake City
Aug 22 - Boise
Aug 23 - Troutdale (Portland), OR
Aug 25 - Redmond, WA
Aug 26 - Vancouver, BC
Aug 28 - Oakland, CA
Aug 29 - Reno, NV
Aug 30 - Las Vegas
Aug 31 - San Diego
Sep 03 - Los Angeles

If you do not want to wait until the tour, you can pre-order the album from Amazon or iTunes; the links are indicated below:

And now for the Giveaway:
I will be giving away one Mutineers CD (ARV $14.99) and all you have to do is complete the Rafflecopter entry below. The Giveaway will end on June 10th at Noon and is open to residents of the USA and Canada!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: I received a free download of the album to review from One2One Network. All opinions in this blog post are my and have not been influenced by One2One Network or any third party. 

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Dunkin Donuts - Free Donuts on National Donut Day, mark your calendars for June 6

copyright Durhamonthecheap - does a free Donut of your choice with a paid beverage sound good to you?

Head on over to Dunkin Donuts on June 6th for your free Donut - that's right, you will get a free donut of your choice when you buy any size and kind of beverage at Dunkin Donuts because that's how Dunkin Donuts will celebrate National Donut Day!

While you are there, you can also try the newest addition to the Dunkin Donuts line of donuts -
Blueberry Cobbler Donut, which a wonderful combination of a yeast shell donut with delicious blueberry filling, white dipping icing and coffee cake streusel topping

Disclaimer: I received no financial incentive for this post whatsoever, I just love Dunkin Donuts coffee and of course their donuts!

Monday, May 26, 2014

Book Review: What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America by Cal Thomas and Sean Hannity

Not surprisingly, a lot of the solutions that Cal Thomas proposes as working in this book are traditional conservative ideas, such as less government, tough on crime. Nevertheless, it is nice to see that the author does not exclude conservative politicians from criticism. The book is logically organized into four parts, using the past to learn from, focusing on people and not party lines, a belief in our ability to overcome the current gridlock and the last chapter exposing the solutions and the mistakes that currently still exist and stop any advancement in solving our issues.

Cal Thomas has a lot of experience dealing with DC, congress and the beast that we call politics. I am not surprised that even he has a reached now a level where he feels that things need to change because we are just running around in circles trying to find a solution to our problems. And problems we have, violence killing too many young men in inner cities, welfare costs spiraling out of control, budget deficits on the rise. So what are we doing to solve these issues and is any of it working? According to Mr. Thomas, nothing is currently working, yet politicians keep trying the same failing recipes all over again, in the hopeless hope that the solution will eventually work, if just tried often enough.

What he now proposes are select solutions that have worked over the past centuries and recommends that politicians of both parties rethink their ways and get the guts to leave gridlock and the new establishment behind, to look for really new approaches, which according to Thomas may include looking back fairly far behind in history.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this review are solely my own and have not been influenced by Thomas Nelson Publishing or any third party.  

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Subscription box review: Julep Maven box - three nailpolishes ($40 value) for less than $15.00 (actually free this month!)

copyright Durhamonthecheap - contents of the May 2014 Maven Julep box
I have heard quite a bit about Maven boxes because a lot of my friends like make up, but I was always hesitant to subscribe to yet another monthly box because too many of them seem to come and go. I selected three wonderful shades of nailpolish in my box and thanks to a special promotion, I received this box for free to sample the delivery and contents.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - not bad for a free subscription box, love the colors of the nailpolish

copyright Durhamonthecheap - can you guess which polish I had to try out first?

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the polishes are really high quality!

copyright Durhamonthecheap -of course I had to sample the green polish first, love the color and needed just one coat!
Disclaimer: I obtained a free Maven box for May 2014 that contained three polishes. The opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and have not been influenced by or any other third party.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Crowdtap sampling event - Listerine mouthwash

Through I received two large bottles of Listerine mouthwash and took part in the 21 day challenge. The challenge event is about using Listerine every day to form health habits. During the challenge period, Listerine will send you reminders to encourage you to keep going and Listerine also promises that after completing the event, your mouth will feel fresher and you will notice a difference. Lastly, and maybe most importantly, Listerine will make a contribution to Oral Health America’s Smiles Across America program toward their goal of providing oral health services for children in need in 2014.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Crowdtap Listerine sampling package!
So I got my two huge bottles of Listerine in Cool Mint flavor. Love the flavor since it makes your mouth feel extra fresh after only one use and the mint flavor is similar to real mint and not obviously artificial. Combined with daily brushing and thorough flossing, my teeth feel clean and my mouth feels fresh. So far my dentist never had any complaints to begin with and now I will be curious whether he notices that I now use Listerine every day. I am due for a check up later this summer and so we will find out. Listerine and daily use of mouthwash does not add a lot of time to your routine. It only takes a couple of minutes and your mouth will feel a difference. At least in my case, my teeth felt cleaner and my whole mouth felt refreshed.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a healthy combination - electric toothbrush and Listerine mouthwash
Disclaimer: I received a sample package containing Listerine from Crowdtap in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Book Review: Zero-Degree Murder by M. L. Rowland

Just on Thanksgiving of all times, Gracie Kinkaid, a volunteer with the Timber Creek Search and Rescue, is called in for what seems like a standard rescue situation. Four hikers are missing and the weather is getting bad, a blizzard is coming and Gracie and her partner Steve try to find the missing before the weather gets really bad and lives may be in real danger. It turns out that the weather is not the primary reason lives may be in danger, a ruthless killer is on the loose and Gracie is fighting the unknown, while at the same time trying to keep the one hiker alive that may be the only witness to a murder. 

Gracie is full of spunk, which you probably need when you work mountain rescue. But this experience is definitely challenging, even for Gracie. While her partner is off seeking help, Gracie is left alone on the mountain with Rob; a hiker that seems to remember witnessing a murder, but does not remember much else. Is the killer still out there and trying to kill Rob as the sole witness?
I liked the premise of the book because just the setting alone is scary. Alone on a mountain, in a blizzard and not knowing whether a killer is out there that is trying to kill the person you are tasked with protecting. What could better generate a scenario of constant tension? And this is exactly what is happening with this book. From the moment we become aware of a possible killer out there, the tension never subsides. I caught myself trying to read one more page, hoping for the tension to be eased by someone else coming to Gracie’s aid, but not so. The tension just kept lingering and I really wanted to put the book down, but could not. Gracie being a woman really does not figure as much into the story as the reader may think because it becomes clear early on that Gracie is experienced, knowledgeable and tough. Where Gracie being a woman figures into the book are the hints of romance, but since this is not a romance book, the storyline really does not hinge on this aspect very much. 

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of the book for review. The opinion expressed in this review are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party. 

Food Review: New Spring Dishes from Noodles & Co - Asparagus di Parma

This spring, Noodles and Compay has come up with several new dishes. To promote the new creations, all fans were provided with coupons for a free dish to sample. I selected the Asparagus di Parma because I love asparagus and the combination of roasted chicken, fresh vegetables and noodles sounded really good.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Noodles and Company spring dish - regular portion

I must admit, I was not that happy with the dish. I usually eat the Asian-inspired dishes at Noodles and Company and I am always very happy with the dishes. But this dish was disappointing. It seemed incredibly greasy and I was not a fan of the Parmesan-encrusted chicken they added on top. I had high hopes for a dish that seemed to combine all ingredients that I love. I love pasta, chicken and can certainly never have enough fresh vegetables. So the fact that this dish ended up disappointing is surprising, but also makes me question who designs the dishes at Noodles and Company. The dish was easy to fix and yet it ended up being really greasy.
While the vegetables were okay, the noodles seemed swimming in grease and the chicken was probably the worst part of the meal. It was quite dry and the Parmesan addition did nothing to improve the overall flavor. I would have loved to see the vegetables stay crispy, the noddles have less oil and the chicken be a little bit softer and certainly not as salty as it ended up. So I think the overall idea was excellent, but the dish lacked in execution.
 Will I still go back to Noodles? Certainly, just the following week I ended up back there for my Bangkok curry and Rice Crispies Treat as dessert and everything turned out perfect. Maybe I am just not a fan to non-Asian, non-Curry dishes when it comes to Noddles and Company?

Our summer getaway - sunroom for a permanent vacation at home

So a couple of years ago we spent a lot of money - at least in view of our usual very frugal spending habits - on a sunroom. We turned out old painted wooden deck into a bright, light-filled sunroom that we use now as a dining room and just to hang out. The deck was painted a nasty, dark red that just looked permanently dirty. In addition, the backyard, because all we had was the old deck, never got used and so the front of the house was the focal point with the backyard getting kind of neglected and forgotten.

Things have certainly changed since then. The sunroom took several week to finish. We hired a contractor to design the plans and made the sunroom look just like we like it and we are very happy with the result.

The sunroom is still not fully furnished. We are currently looking for another sofa and a chair as well as a small side table, but with the dining table and chairs, we have a place to sit and eat and when the windows are open, the room is just like sitting outside. We have a small bar area for our coffee and espresso - essentials in our house- and a bunch of flavor syrups to go with Italian soda and coffee. Once the sofa is there for afternoon naps, I may just stay in the room all weekend long.

So if you are looking for a vacation on a budget, consider investing in a sunroom and use the room all year long (we have an electric fireplace that heats the room up even on the coldest days in North Carolina). Vacations are now stress free because they start every evening when we are home and eat dinner in the sunroom.

Kroger budget meal plans: Roasted chicken quarters with potatoes and cranberry salad

Having stopped by Kroger yesterday, I found several things on clearance that I combined for a quick, but tasty meal today. I picked up some chicken quarters on sale, then found from McCormicks a Hawaiian -inspired marinade for 60 cents a package.

This Hawaiian Luau Marinade, I figured, would go well with chicken and add some fruity flavor. Since I also found the Cranberry Celebration salad on clearance, the fruit-flavored chicken only needed a spoonful of the cranberry salad and a simple potato side dish for a festive Sunday lunch.

copyright durhamonthecheap - Sunday dinner with pineapple marinated chicken, Cranberry salad and potatoes.
The Hawaiian Luau Marinade from McCormicks contains: Brown Sugar, Salt, Tomato Powder, Spices (Including Red Pepper), Garlic, Onion, Soy Sauce (Wheat, Soybeans, Salt), Maltodextrin, Citric Acid, Pineapple Juice Solids, Wine, Sugar, Natural Flavor, Vinegar, And Extractives Of Paprika. It is flavorful, but not too salty and adds a nice medium spiciness to the chicken that went well with the fruit-inspired salad and the potatoes that had just a sprinkling of salt and some butter. The chicken quarters were marinated overnight in the fridge, then roasted in the oven at 425F for about 30 minutes and the meat turned out incredibly juicy and flavorful.

Next time you are in the mood for a Sunday dinner that reminds you of summer, try a more fruit-inspired meal with the Hawaian Luau marinade and a fruit-inspired salad, such as the Cranberry Celebration salad. You could also make some red cabbage with apples or a carrot raisin salad. Then some potatoes or a simple rice dish - voila you have a tasty Sunday dinner that did not take a long time to prepare.

Crowdtap sampling: Herbal Essences Body Wash in Hello Hydration

Through Crowdtap I got to sample the new line of body washes that Herbal Essences came up with. I got the scent Hello Hydration and I love this scent. It has a fruity, but sweet scent that is derived from the coconut ingredients.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - perfect lather from the Hello Hydration body wash

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Hello Hydrationsample from Crowdtap

Disclaimer: I received a free sample of Hello Hydration Herbal Essences Body Wash through Crowdtap in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any third party.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Product review: - great little box with free samples directly to your house!

Today I had a nice surprise waiting for me in my mailbox - a little box filled with several samples, including a free toothbrush!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - shampoo, toothbrush, nasal strips and tums - free samples galore!
You get a personalized box of samples shipped to you and this allows you to try out products before they hit the shelves in the store or before you ever pay for them. After a while, you will get a survey to complete for feedback to the manufacturers. I love the idea that you only get samples you actually need or use  - so no waste and a whole box is a nice selection of samples. For one survey, they can ship me such a box every month. Thanks for this lovely surprise in my mailbox.

Product Review: Kroger Private Selection Mason Jar Desserts - bzzagent

As part pf the bzzagentm campaign, I received a coupon for a free trial of Kroger personalized mason jar desserts. I selected the Peach Cobbler and it was so good. It tasted homemade and was absolutely refreshing and soothing at the same time. What a treat after a long day at the office.
The whole product line of mason jar Private Selection goodness!
Of course the Mason Jar desserts come in many difference flavors. There is a Tiramisu flavor, Chocolate Ganache, Cherry cobbler, Apple pie flavor and many more. Something is there fore every taste and Kroger has them frequently on sale, making the treats a bargain!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - just about to start on my peach delight dessert!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - whole peaches covered by a homemade-tasting cake layer, summer in a jar!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - still getting plenty of use out of the jar - Southern tradition use them at glasses for drinks!
So if you need a little pick me up or just want to surprise a friend with a special dessert that does not break the bank - consider buying a couple or more of the √ from Kroger. You are sure t enjoy yourself!

Update 5-15-14: I have now also sampled the Chocolate Ganache cake and even though I am not a big chocolate fan, this cake is absolutely scrumptious. It has just the right mix of chocolate flavor and bitterness to make it not overly sweet and still full of chocolate flavor. I can easily recommend this chocolate cake for people that like a true chocolate cake that is not overly sweet. The Chocolate Ganache mason jar cake is a mix of chocolate cake, ganache, mouse and crumbles all in one handy mason jar!

Disclaimer: I was offered a free coupon for Kroger Private Selection Mason Jar Desserts through bzzagent in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed in this blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by Kroger or any third party.