Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Review: Cursed in the Act by Raymond Buckland

London in 1881, Bram Stoker, business manager, of the Lyceum Theater is busy getting ready for the opening night of Hamlet when his star, Henry Irving, who also happens to own the theater is poisoned. While Mr. Irving is able to pull through, is understudy is less lucky. He is found murdered the next day and Bram Stoker thinks that this may not be the end of the misadventures for the Lyceum. 

Raymond Buckland manages to paint a vivid picture of late 19th century London and its lively theater scene. Bram Stoker as the main character adds an interesting twist to the story because the author of Dracula firmly believes that dark forces are at play when more actors crew members fall victim to accidents, all seemingly intent to delay the opening of Hamlet. 

Could the solution be as simple as envy by the competition, the Sadler's Wells Theatre? But then who at the other theater is devilish enough to even threaten children for the sake of acting fame? Bram Stoker, as he gets deeper involved in the search for the culprit, clearly enjoys the discovery of darker elements connected to the mystery. Be is secret hiding places or strange rituals, what frightens and causes discomfort for others, makes Bram Stoker feel right at home. 

This book is a really nice historical mystery, fast paced, by an author that manages to recreate the scenery of late 19th century on paper. A good read for lovers of historical novels!

Crowdtap sampling: Sweet'n Low sugar-substitite - make summer drinks without the guilt!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my favorite mixed drink bitter lemonade with a spritzer raspberry syrup!
 Through I received a sample package of Sweet'N Low. In the summer, I often mix drinks, not necessarily containing alcohol, but often lemon juice, seltzer and some syrup or fresh fruit. One of my favorite mix drinks is a sour raspberry lemonade that contains raspberry syrup (and some fresh raspberries if they are on sale), seltzer and fresh lemon juice (or a good lemon powdered mix). This drink can be quite sour and I usually add some sugar or now some Sweet'N Low to it to tame the acidity a little bit. I love raspberries and they have a high fiber content, so they are really good for you and even with raspberry syrup, a little goes a long way to introduce some berry flavor into the final product.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - yep, that is truly refreshing on a hot summer day.
 I could drink that beverage all day long on a hot summer day. I it refreshing and flavorful and with plenty of ice, does a good job of cooling you down. So it is not surprising that I have my box of Sweet'N Low handy in the pantry, right when I open the door and next to all the drink mixes and powders.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - never finding my pantry without Sweet'N Low
I may have to expand my drink selection though because  Crowdtap included in their sample kit a bunch of summer beverage mixes, both alcoholic and without alcohol. Included are some Sangria and also Margarita mixes as well as lemonade and soda mixes. Plenty of Sweet'N Low in my pantry will make sure that I can enjoy mixed drinks all summer long without the guilt, but full of flavor.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - my Crowdtap Sweet'N Low sampling kit with a bunch of yummy drink recipes!

Disclaimer: I received samples and a 50count box of Sweet'N Low in exchange for sharing samples and an honest review. The opinion expressed in the blog post is solely my own and has not been influenced by Crowdtap or any third party.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

#BouqLove - Bouqs, where you can order flowers directly from the grower, and be assured freshes flowers in brilliant colors!

While I have plenty of flowers in my garden, I also have relatives living quite a distance away and so throughout the year, I need to send flowers to friends. Also, ever so often I treat myself to a fresh bouquet. 
One thing I noticed is that the quality of flowers, in particular how fresh they are can differ significantly between different online florist retailers. So when I heard of The Bouqs I got excited because this company will ship flowers directly from the grower and by cutting out the middleman, they offer better freshness in their flowers and can also reduce the prices. 

Now wonder that people in the industry have taken notice of The Bouqs and not just since they appeared on shows such as Shark Tank or were featured in national magazines such as Forbes or O! Oprah Magazine.  Their business model is both unique and very customer friendly. Convince yourself, by visiting their website here.
With The Bouqs, you can have your flowers personally delivered from their flower farm. The Bouqs farm is located near an active volcano and so the soil , which their flowers grow, is especially rich, allowing the flowers to end up looking healthy with vibrant colors. The Bouqs will only cut flowers after they are ordered, no cutting and storing. So you are truly getting farm-fresh flowers. If you spend money on farm-raised chickens and eggs, organic vegetables, it only makes sense to hold your flower bouquets to the same standard. 
But The Bouqs is unique in other aspects as well. Their customer friendly approach extends to their pricing. There is no shipping; that’s right free shipping on all orders. In addition, flat pricing for their Original size bouquet – this bouquet is always $40 delivered to your door! That means no hidden fees, charges or other unwelcome surprised. 
And for the Fourth of July, The Bouqs are bringing back their Red, White and Bouq (which is red, white, and blue roses)! This patriotic bouquet, pictured here, is perfect as a hostess gift for your Fourth of July parties or to spruce up your dinner table if you play the hostess with the prettiest and freshest bouquet in town! 
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post for which I received reimbursement. Nevertheless, the opinions expressed in this blog post re solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party. 

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Kroger - A Taste of Mexico - now includes churros in different varieties

One of the hopefully now regularly available items at Kroger are churros. As part of their Taste of Mexico promotion, Kroger has added several varieties of churros to their Donut self.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a chocolate filled churro makes the delicious addition to weekend reading time

copyright Durhamonthecheap- Kroger is currently offering four kinds of churros as part of Taste of Mexico!
So if you want a change in your dessert routine, make use of the Taste of Mexico promotion at Kroger and get some churros for dessert. I have to admit the chocolate filled variety is my personal favorite, but I am willing to share! ;)

Cherish the little things in life - Saturday moring bliss for less than $5.

Being busy with work, household, graduate school rental management and blogging does not leave a lot of time to sit around and just enjoy the house or a nice dinner. So weekends are extra special.
So when the weekend allows it, I like to stop by Dunkin Donuts for my coffee fix. Cream and sugar and toasted almond syrup are a must and now with temperatures in the 90s, iced coffee is on the menu! I usually use coupons and today was no different. Getting my free donut when buying my coffee, two wraps for $2 and my breakfast was complete. More than breakfast, my Saturday morning was completed because that iced coffee lasts until Noon and the Saturday edition of the Wall Street Journal (which I have gotten free for 26 weeks as well) gave me enough reading material. So for the grand price of less than $5 I was able to enjoy a quiet weekend morning and rest up for what next week will bring!

What are some of you favorite ways to relax?

Almost there - my journey to fill my garden with daylilies!

When we bought our present house in 2009, the front yard was a mess. Totally overgrown with thorny shrubs and not a single flower outside of one small area, I was missing the colorful gardens that I had always maintained in previous houses. So I started buying daylilies as a fix for the bland greeness of the yard. Now, 5 years later, I am making progress and an end to my purchasing bulbs is in sight. I got the inspiration for a garden full of daylilies from my stay in Iowa City many years ago. An elderly couple had their backyard filled with daylilies, more than 100 varieties. Each flower was marked with a nametag and during the height of the blooming season, the yard was open for tours. I do not have nametags on my plants and I do not give tours. But I do keep my shrubs trimmed, so that people taking a walk in the neighborhood can see the daylilies easily from the street.

Here are a few of my currently blooming flowers. Enjoy!

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House Party - Chinet Square plates for serving your guests square meals in an modern setting

Thanks for House Party, I was able to surprise the colleagues at work for National Donut Day with a nicely set table using supplies by Chinet and House Party.

The party pack contained as gifts, coupons and shopping bags and for a nice table settings large and small Chinet plates in the new square form, cutlery and glasses as well as napkins and a nice paper table cloth. After setting the table, our usual bare, but functional kitchen at work looked a little bit more festive and provided a nice backdrop for National Donut Day, which we in the South of course love to celebrate. Where else do you have Donuts runs as part of an annual fitness event?

copyright Durhamonthecheap - part favors on table - thanks Chinet and House Party!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Chinet table looks a lot more festive than the usual bare bones table!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - must not forget coupons! Buy some Chinet for your next party.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - happy about the gifts!

copyright Durhamonthecheap 0 enjoying some nice shopping bags, coupons and notepads!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Donuts are here for National Donut Day & my favorite  - Apple Fritter!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Donuts for everyone and serving on Chinet plates!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - everyone is digging in!

Disclaimer: I received a party pack from Chinet and House Party in exchange for hosting a party and a review of the material. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

bzzagent: Kroger sampling event - A Taste of Mexico

copyright Durhamonthecheap - colorful display at the South Roxboro Durham NC Kroger store

copyright Durhamonthecheap - marinated chicken breast perfect for grilling or pan frying!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - starting to pan fry the chicken, the kitchen smells fantastic, a mix of lime and spices

copyright Durhamonthecheap - almost done, chicken is cooked through and looks fantastic. Kitchen smells like a cantina!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - chicken is ready and used to top a healthy salad with some dressing and cheese
Kroger has some great Mexican food specials in stores right now. Besides fantastic churros, Kroger also has specific Mexican dishes, such as ready to eat meat dishes and marinated chicken or beef for grilling! The chicken I picked up has a wonderful flavor. It is a mixture of limy fruit flavor with some hot, hot spices. Perfect to use the chicken as a salad topping or in a sandwich wrap. A little of this chicken will go a long way because the flavor is strong, unique and goes well with a variety of side dishes or as an add-on to a healthy summer dish like salad or cold sandwich!

Disclaimer: I was provide a coupon for a free product courtesy of in exchange for an honesty review. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Book Review: The stories we tell by Patti Callahan Henry

 I was excited to get an advanced copy of the latest novel by Patti Callahan Henry; the author of ten previous novels. Living in the South, I always look forward to reading books that describe life in the modern South and Patti certainly fits that bill of an author that brings modern Southern fiction to life. Patti grew up in Philadelphia, but moved to the South when she was 12 years old and now lives with her family in Alabama. When reading this book, I almost sensed the sweet tea in a glass and people sitting on a front porch in the evening. In other words, this book oozes Southern lifestyle with all its highlights and low points.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the book is available on from here.
 Settling down with this book was a wonderful way to get away from the daily routine, taking some time off from household chores and work responsibilities. But do not expect this book to be a glorified story of how happy life is for everyone in the modern South because despite writing a novel that reads very peaceful and calming, Patti Callahan Henry describes the story of a woman, who like many married women suffers disappointment, worries and betrayal.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - not quite the sweet tea and mint julep, but coffee and a donut + a good book = weekend bliss
Eve and Cooper Morrison live in Savannah, Georgia and by all appearances, this couple has it made. Cooper comes from one of the best families of the town, while Eve certainly married up and is provided with a family home that oozes tradition, wealth and culture. A daughter Gwen makes the family perfect, so perfect in fact that the family was featured in a magazine spread to showcase their achievement and societal status. Regardless of the fact that Eve's mother in law was commenting on women in her family being pictured wearing jeans, the spread was to focus on Cooper and his business, a digital magazine featuring all things that are needed to make the perfect Southern gentleman. But here is the first sign of trouble. Rather than focus on Cooper and his magazine, Eve's business is getting the headline. Eve has started a letterpress business that produces custom print products; often she and her staff hunt down specific and rare type-letters. This business has taken off and she has hired additional staff. So Copper is not particularly thrilled when the magazine layout mentions more times the inkpress business than his digital magazine. Another facet of their troubled marriage that is well hidden in the glossy magazine images is the rebellious phase that their Gwen is going through right now.

Clearly, Eve has her hands full. A jealous husband, rebellious daughter and a growing business should keep her busy enough, but then her sister Willa also seeks temporary shelter in the house until she gets back on her feet. Willa is trouble and not just because she has no clear direction in life at present, Willa also used to drink. Now recovering, Eve cannot possibly deny her sister assistance and so lets her stay as long as needed in the guesthouse.

Things only get worse when Eve finds out that Cooper and Willa were in a serious car accident. Willa has serious head injuries, while Cooper is awake, but has disfiguring injuries to his face that will require reconstructive surgery. Gwen was also not home, but at least can be found quickly at her boyfriend's home, whom her father disapproves of, and dutifully shows up in the hospital. Eve is not only worried about her loved ones, but also wonders what Cooper was doing in town, when he supposedly was out of town on a business trip. Is something going on between Cooper and Willa or Cooper and another woman?

Cooper tells a story that Eve finds hard to believe, but with Willa not being able to communicate, Eve must trust Cooper that he saw Willa drunk in a bar and wanted to get her home safely. Willa became unruly on the drive home, grabbed the steering wheel and that is how the car ended crashing. Eve initially feels extremely guilty about her sister being the cause of the accident, Cooper's injuries and all the trouble that her sister's presence has caused so far. But as Eve digs deeper of why Cooper was even in town, she realizes that her family life, her marriage and her business are involved in one big lie.

While overall very life affirming, the book does cover some dark topics. Marriage and family are not all sunshine and Eve is definitely a strong woman that knows what is right and what is worth fighting for. The author, Patti Callahan Henry, has managed to write a book about modern women and the struggle to overcome traditional gender roles that still persist, if not within society, certainly in some marriages. Despite the dark episodes that Eve is experiencing, Eve is portrayed as a very strong woman that in the end is able to overcome a lot of obstacles and live her life with her true calling in mind.

This is in my opinion one of the best novels written about the modern South. It manages to combine the traditional aspects that still persist in many Southern families with modern times and its influences; some of which spell trouble and need adjusting to.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free advanced copy of the book 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.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

PichMe - free samples every month shipped directly to your home!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - my full PinchMe box from June, 5 samples total (including full size polish!)
I hve previously written about PinchMe, which is a monthly sample service that lets you select a number of samples on a Tuesday, then ships the total box to your house for free and awards points for providing feedback on the samples.

Because the samples only get offered once in a while, the site had been know to either be slow or crash totally and often people have a hard time getting any samples. Last go around, I was very fortunate to get the maximum 5 samples, including one full size nail polish.

I fell in love with the Sinful Nail Polish in an almost perfect sunflow yellow. The color is so much like summer that I have been wearing the color on my toe nails ever since receiving the sample in my PinchMe box.

I also got Dove Oxygen Moisture Shampoo and Condition, which is great for thin hair to privde extra volume and prevent the hair from looking limp.In addition, I ended up with Summer's Eve Cleansing Cloths in three different scent. I have a hard time deciding which scent I like best and the cloths are perfect for sensitive skin and make you feel refreshed when it is hot and humid outside. I also ended up with a nice size sample of Boiron Arnicare Gel, which is great to relieve muscle pain and works externally, which I prefer to pills and tablets.

Lastly, I ended up with a coupon and a sample of South Beach Diet Chocolate Caramel Nut Snack Bar. Even though it says diet, the flavor is definitely all dessert and very nice. I did not feel as if I was eating a diet bar. The combination of ut and chocolate is filling and satisfactory.

Disclaimer: I received the products for free through PinchMe in exchange for an honest review. All opinions expressed herein are my own and have not been influenced by any third party. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Crowdtap sampling: Capri Sun beachparty!

Through Crowdtap I was able to sample the new Capri Sun and have a good time with friends and colleagues as well. I was provided with a fantastic party kit from Crowdtap, which included a rolling coolor, 4 huge beach towels and a coupon for Capri Sun. I had a party with kids and friends and of course of plenty of Capri Sun.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - beach towels by Capri Sun, advertising the difference that is Capri Sun!
 Than followed up with a sampling event at work. I provided some Cherry-flavored roaring water and decided to raffle off two of the beach towles to my colleagues. Cpari Sun of course was a big hit, but the towels were much admired as well.
copyright Durhamonthecheap -sampling event at work, Capri Sun with towels, Cherry Roaring Waters  and a cool cooler!
 The two lucky winners are pictured below. But everyone at work, most of them parents, appreciated Capri Sun because it is healthier than soda, but kids will never know about, because ti tastes great.  No artificial colors or preservatives, real fruit ingredients make Capri Sun an ideal summer beverage when going to the beach.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - winner number 1 of the beach towel - summer can come now!
 And Capri Sun comes in a great variety of colors. I love Roaring Waters because they have very few calories and still have great cherry flavor. Another favorite of mine are the Capri Sun fruit juice mixes that come with strawberry flavors or tropical pineapple flavors.
copyright Durhamonthecheap -winner number 2 had her heart set out on a towel the moment I brought them in!

Disclaimer: I received the Capri Sun Party Kit in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in the post are solely my own and have not been influenced by Capri Sun, Crowdtap or any third party.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Crowdtap sampling: Poise Pantyliner

 Through I received a couple of samples and coupons for Poise because they have a nice expanded selection products for all kinds of "women's issues" and what better way to see how well a product works than to try out some samples.
copyright Durhaonthecheap - a nice paper pouch from Poise with some samples through Crowdtap
I found a little package in the mail on day from Crowdtap that contained four samples of Poise as well as $2 off coupon.
copyright Durhaonthecheap -samples are always good and high value coupons are even better!
Poise comes now in 2 great sizes, one very small and think panty liner and thegn a larger pad cor all day protection. Even the all-day protection pad is still very thin and can easily be worn in the summer when shorts are all the rage. So if you think Poise stands from clumsy and thick protection that is noticeable, stop by your local grocery story and convince yourself that Poise has created some great protection that despite being very effective is barely noticeable.
copyright Durhaonthecheap -really small and thin, but still very absorbent!

copyright Durhaonthecheap -all day protection through Poise!

Disclaimer: I received the samples through in exchange for an honest review. As always, the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and have not been influenced by Crowdtap or any other third party.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Book review: No Place to Hide: A Brain Surgeon's Long Journey Home from the Iraq War by W. Lee Warren

This is a gripping story about the experiences of a neurosurgeon on duty in Iraq. Combat surgeon
Dr. W. Lee Warren changes dramatically when he is shipped off to serve the Air Force in Iraq in 2004. From San Antonio, Texas he is put on a  C-130 and sent from a hospital with air conditioning and modern technology to tent stations that serve as ERs.

While some events describe the everyday horror of battlefield surgery, amputations, dead children and using the last blood reserves to save a person that just killed many innocent people, the book is also focused on the person struggle and growth of the author. This books describes the struggle of Dr. Warren to find himself, persevere and come out of Iraq a better and stronger person than he went in. The author understands to bring the reality of tent hospitals in the middle of a war to the reader. Constantly under threat from attacks, having surgeries interrupted by mortar and still managing to save lives on a daily basis, underscore just what challenges modern day "medics" have to overcome and how far battlefield surgery has come along.

A close encounter with real life battle brings the author to a breaking point, from which he emerges stronger and prepared to take on a future that even before his mission in Iraq seemed bleak. This book shows that in the midst of horror, when despair is the greatest, some people manage to find themselves and realize their strength. This book is a great example of never loosing faith in your person, character and survival skills - it is mostly up to you what you make of your life and whether you make it at all.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy of the book by  in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely my own and have not been influenced by booksneeze or any other third party.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Food review: Fayetteville, North Carolina

While on business, eating out is a must because I cannot start packing lunches for several days. So one of the things I try to do while on the road is sampling local cooking. I stay away from chain restaurants and sample unique places that I hope have good food. My recent visit to Fayetteville, NC, introduced me to two such restaurants.

copyright Durhamonthecheap -Cajun Clam Chowder as part of the lunch special for less than $10
The first place is located downtown and called Huske Hardware House. They have a lunch special for less than $10 that includes half a sandwich with fries and either soup or salad. On my first day I went with the lunch special and was pleasantly surprised with a tasty and spicy Cajun Clam Chowder. This chowder was great; it was creamy and filling, but had just enough heat to give your taste buds a pleasant kick.
copyright Durhamonthecheap -half sandwich (the fries have miraculously disappeared already), also part of the lunch special
 The chowder was paired with half a sandwich and in my case I went with the Plank Walker and regular fries. The Plank Walker is described as ham, turkey, bacon and Cheddar cheese grilled and pressed on sourdough bread. While the description sounds like everyday, the sourdough bread is the secret ingredient to this sandwich; it is a great soft bread that has enough texture to provide a perfect basis for a pressed sandwich.
copyright Durhamonthecheap -sweet potato fries and Teriyaki wings for about $12 as lunch!
On the second day, I decided to go with the sweet potato fries that had been recommended to me and paired those with 8 Teriyaki chicken wings and ranch dressing. The potato fries were definitely the star of this lunch. They were actually sweet, not just sweet potato pieces fried and salted (in other words treated like regular fries). The fries were left unsalted to enjoy the natural sweetness of the starting material and then appropriately paired with a sweetened peach cream cheese. I can highly recommend these sweet potato fries to anyone that happens to be around Noon in downtown Fayetteville. The Teriyaki wings were not bad either. They had a nice kick to them, were left with plenty of meat and the cool ranch was a nice combination. But the fries were definitely the star of this and not just because they were prepped in a fairly unique way.

For breakfast one day, I stopped by the Biscuit Kitchen. The place is not much to look at; a fast-food type restaurant complete with drive through and the requirement to pay cash. The last point I do not mind because my parents used the same approach in their business. I was curious to see how good the cinnamon rolls really were because online reviews indicated that they were out of this world. I was not disappointed, the  crust was soft and buttery and the roll was covered in a perfect combination of cinnamon and sugar. Combined with a sausage biscuit that was flaky and buttery. this breakfast for less than $5 was a real bargain and a treat. BTW the sweet tea was just about the best sweet tea I sampled during my time in Fayetteville. I never realized it was so difficult to make a good sweet, a tea that is sweet, but still tastes like tea. For some time now, I have had a hard time finding good sweet tea in eateries; in many cases the tea is sweet, but has little to no tea flavor. The Biscuit Kitchen knows to how to properly prep this Southern staple.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Biscuit Kitchen breakfast for less than $5