Friday, April 20, 2018

Book Review: You Can Stay Home with Your Kids!: 100 Tips, Tricks, and Ways to Make It Work on a Budget by Erin Odom

I think most mothers envision staying home with the kids at least for some time. And then reality kicks in and the need for a second paycheck, the adult conversations and just being able to leave the house. This book attempts to address some of these concerns and wants to enable more mothers to stay at home with kids.

Coming from Germany, with 2 years of job security while allowing mothers to stay home, it always struck me as strange that kids in the US are dropped off at daycare within months of their birth. So I was interested in how this book attempted to tackle the habit of starting daycare before the kids are even one year old. Unfortunately this book only addresses one aspect of the stay at home dilemma, the budget question. The author presents a mix of making some money, not spending money and saving money on expenses while still enjoying life and spending time with kids. From assisting new moms with a budget that does not feel cutting short the needs of the family to finding honest and reliable work from home opportunities, the author does a good job of guiding moms throughout the book in a way that is to the point and easy to understand. Most importantly, the author provides enough hints, tricks and tips that every reader has options as to what to adopt without changing their life too much. There are some ideas about getting adult time in a well, just catalogued under the heading of not overspending.

Overall, I liked this book a lot. Not only is it good for new moms, but it can be used after the kids are grown and you simply want to save money. The tips are easy to follow, fit into most schedules - no matter how busy you are-, and you will end up saving money. Reducing the financial stress alone will often improve your outlook on life.



available on amazon.com


Disclaimer: I received a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Book Review: Putting It Together Again When It's All Fallen Apart: 7 Principles for Rebuilding Your Life by Tom Holladay

 We all experience at some what seem like an existential crisis from which we need to recover. How to do that and find another purpose in life and being able to put one foot in front of the other may seem impossible, but somehow people manage. This book is intended to help find that new beginning after everything seems lost. The author suffered significant loss when the church and the houses of his family and those of his church members were destroyed. Based on the experience and how he and his community went about finding a new purpose and a new beginning, the author provides the reader with guidance on how to manage a significant crisis or loss.

The 7 principles are:
  • Find the strength to start
  • Take the first step
  • Appreciate others
  • Expect and reject opposition
  • Build on your successes
  • Celebrate to sustain your joy
  • Dedicate it to God
With the exception of the last step, the first 6 can be generally applied to people of all denominations and the book is written in clear and easy to follow steps. Using plain language, the author does intend to make the book useful for everyone and I believe he succeeds at that. I found the book almost like a guide to recovery from a personal crisis and I realized just by reading the book that no matter what obstacles you face, chances are someone else has been in a similar situation and recovered from it. 
I recommend this book to just about anyone, if you have not experienced a total breakdown, chances are you or someone else in your community will and can benefit from this book.

available on amazon.com


Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Book Review: Supernatural Power for Everyday People: Experiencing God’s Extraordinary Spirit in Your Ordinary Life by Jared C. Wilson

This book was rather disappointing to me because it was very focused on religion and Christianity. I cannot stress enough how focused this book is on religion. This is somewhat sad and actually disappointing because this book like other books provides generally good advice for people of all walks of life. Shortchanging the author by focusing the audience unnecessarily in my opinion on a specific group, such as Christians, will deprive others of getting the lessons in these books.

The author is a pastor, so that certainly explains the focus on Christians, but the thought behind the book is a book to provide advice to readers on how to handle the challenges in everyday life. Whether a mother has problems juggling housework and work and family or an office worker wonders whether he is just a number in the call center or is he really making a difference? These people, in the words of the author, nee to hold on to hope, even on their darkest days.

While the book is intended to be practical, it is only practical, if you have the bible handy and can read the bible. What surprises me is the fact that either the author thinks only Christians struggle with this issue or he thinks that only Christians can find a solution to the problem because they have the bible handy.

Overall, I cannot stress how much I would hope that these books were written in a more general way, so that more readers could enjoy the book and Christians are not perceived as such an elitist group.
available on amazon.com



Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Book Review: So Much To Celebrate: Entertaining the Ones You Love the Whole Year Through by Katie Jacobs

This is a cookbook with recipes and gorgeous food pictures. But what really sets this book apart from other cookbooks is the fact that it goes beyond the recipes and amazing pictures. The author does include seasonal party ideas and include some basic instructions for events such as a chocolate party or a harvest-themed party. I also liked the detailed instructions on some of the basics, such as how to make a really good pie crust.
Overall, this book is a great addition for the a beginner, but also for an experienced bake because the recipes include some more unusual items such as Peach Caprese Salad or Grilled Avocados with Picco de Gallo. Of course traditional recipes are also include such as cobblers, turkey burgers and chicken pot pie. I was thrilled to see a whiskey tasting party that we will use when the Kentucky Derby comes around and the Mother's Day tea Party that perfect for having a bunch of girlfriends over.
Love the many party ideas and also how well written and detailed the recipe guidance is. Overall, I am very happy with the book and while I bake a lot and cook meals every day, I still found some new additions to my recipe collection.


available on amazon.com

available on amazon.com

Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Product Review: Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent

I was excited to try out the new (to me) Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent  in convenient packs. While i have problems understanding a certain hype among some people with pods, I definitely was excited to try out the detergent for its intended use - to get some clothes cleaned in a traditional washer and dryer.

I did not have to measure and while there is slight scent from Citrus and Cedar through the addition of essential oils and botanical extracts, the packs are good for your laundry and good for nature as well. Plus they are safe for kids and pets because they contain 0% dyes, synthetic fragrances, and artificial brighteners. Another good thing, they work in both HE washers and standard washers, even my 14 year old washer had no problems getting the laundry clean and all stains removed
Talking about stains, I picked my dish cloth to see if the spots and stains from putting wet dishes on this cloth three times a day would be cleaned using the Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent  It worked fantastic. I used cold wash cycle temperature to be easy on nature and my household bills and the stains came out like nothing was ever there. Must be the Quadruple-Enzyme Formula that is to so though on stains and despite being or maybe because it has a USDA Certified Biobased Product ranking of 94%, Seventh Generation Free & Clear Laundry Detergent  was a hit in my laundry routine.

How can you beat a product that makes the job easy (pre-measured packs), efficient (all stains are gone) and does something good for nature at the same time? This is a clear winner in my book.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - dish dryer clothes is good as new thanks to Seventh Generation detergent!

copyright Durhamonthecheap


Disclaimer: I received free products in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Book Review: Decluttering at the Speed of Life: Winning Your Never-Ending Battle with Stuff by Dana K. White

I call myself a neat freak, but I also feel that I could do with a lot less stuff in my house. Working full-time and having family obligations does not leave much time to declutter and start decorating rooms with a theme, so I was hoping this book would give me some ideas how I can clean up my house without needing to set aside time for projects etc.

The book does deliver on the basic promise that decluttering does not need to be a major undertaking that requires time set aside on weekends, but can happen as part of everyday life.  So for me this book was an excellent read.

One thing I like is that the author instills humor into the book. While the book is in general a hoe-to guide to clean up your act and your house, it is done so in an entertaining way that makes reading not boring, but something you actually enjoy to do. Which is important because I normally would not read a book in this subject since I also think that I do not have time to declutter to begin with. So after having started on this book, I made short mental notes about what to do in the breaks that I would otherwise sit around and drink coffee or wipe the kitchen counter for the 15th time that day. I use these breaks to declutter. If I see an old box in the pantry that I moved for the umpteenth time, I now take it and trash it. If it did not get used for the last year and the expiration date is way in the past, remove it. Same for clothing; I have in the past moved blouses around and around - still neatly hanging them in the closet, but now I have a second hamper in the bathroom for just these items that are intended for the donation door at the thrift store.

When I have more time, such as an hour, I actually tackle a closet in the kids room or a closet in the office and come prepared with plastic bag in hand. This gives me a reasonable timeframe to get something done and still does not require me to set too much time aside.

As you can see, the book is already paying off for me and I am sure it will pay off for most readers. Decluttering, I found, has another benefit. Now that I am removing items from the house, I also am very careful what is being bought. I do not want to reclutter my house and then have to go through the decluttering process again.



available on amazon.com

Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Product Review: Free & Clear Baby Wipes

I received recently a few sample packs of Free & Clear Baby Wipes. The sample packs were convenient sized to fit into a purse and use on the go. I took them along and found it is really nice to have clean wipes available, especially when you leave home with the kids. During flu season, it is handy to have wipes with you that are free of fragrance and can be used to wash hands before eating or wipe the table at the restaurant.

The Free & Clear Baby Wipes are not only good for you, but are also good for nature because they use 70% less plastic than the original wipes, thanks to the use of plant materials. In addition, they are free of alcohol, fragrances & dyes and the list goes on. They are also free of parabens and phthalates; and of course they are hypoallergenic. Despite they softness and the ease of which to use them on sensitive skin, the wipes are really strong, thick and a good size. We used them to wipe hands of the kids, then wipe the table and any seats at restaurants that were dirty. They never failed us, did not tear and still had plenty of moisture in them when we were done.

The kids prefer them to the antibacterial lotion that we normally use. So now, kids get the wipes, adult the lotion and we can hopefully avoid the flu for the rest of the winter.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - convenient small package to take the wipes along on the go


Disclaimer: I received free products in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Jesus Calling Adult Coloring Book: Creative Coloring and Hand Lettering by Sarah Young

This book is for the coloring enthusiast. While the theme is Christian and religion, the images are very nice and offer a variety of scenarios. Words, nature and animals - something for every taste. I found the book to be high quality, the paper is nice and thick and will handle some erasing without tearing.

I also liked the ability to tear out individual sheets because we often share books and this makes it easy to work in a group. Pictures are on both sides of the pages, so I do not anything other than colored pencils.

The words are lightly drawn in and allow you to either trace them and leave them open or trace and then color them in. I am not sure I would have not preferred a normal dark line to begin with because for exercising writing free hand, I would use other books. But this is no big deal and may appeal to others.


Overall, this is a nice adult coloring book that allows you to use it in the group setting and share the pages. I also thought the quality of both the paper and the drawing were nice. I really enjoyed the variety of subjects covered.



Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Book Review: Finish First: Winning Changes Everything by Scott Hamilton & Allison Fallon

With the Winter Olympics going on, this book was an interesting read on several levels. Mr Hamilton ended up winning a gold medal at the Olympics many years ago (not really that long ago, but in a sport that is dominated by a new crop of teenagers every four years, it does seem a couple of generations ago). He is using this book to excite people about demanding the best - of others, of themselves and of society. Figure skating was not a very successful sport this year for the US and some critics have said that the US skaters are not fighting enough and are not determined enough. Just today I was reading in papers that the skaters were missing their families and wanting to go home. While this is understandable, other nations have athletes too that are separated from their families and yet, these athletes seemed somehow more determined and more willing to compete for whatever it takes to win a medal.
Mr Hamilton in this book is addressing the fear that outcompeting and seeming too competitive is somehow a bad thing in this society, whereas other countries embrace. And not just in sports, but also in research and business. Competition is good according to Mr Hamilton and we should be excited to see where it takes us and when we hit the infamous wall. Seemingly appeasing people and trying to get along with people is not what brings out the best in us, competition will.
Will you succeed every time - No! But giving your best and trying your hardest to better than others is the only way that you will succeed in the end.
I think as a woman in a career dominated by males being too competitive is something that will seem negative to some supervisors. it is not expected behavior of women in the US and does not fit the female stereotype. You can either then settle for a middle of the road career that will never provide you with the chance to show your full potential. Or you can, and this is what I have done, do your best and push yourself, no matter what, showing excellence in as many things as you can. Eventually the environment will be right for you to shine and then you are ready, because you have striven for excellence all the time. I found this book to be very optimistic and inspiring. it does not paint the world as perfect, but it also makes sure that the only way you will find success is by trying your best every single time. 
available on amazon.com


Disclaimer: I received a free copy pf the book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Book Review: Hello Mornings: How to Build a Grace-Filled, Life-Giving Morning Routine by Kat Lee

I am a morning person, but I have plenty of friends who could stay in bed until noon and still feel like they need some more rest. So I picked up this book to see whether this author really presented some useful tips on how to be a morning person and maybe I could learn something too in the process.

The author claims that three minutes is enough to get the morning off to a good start. Unfortunately, this includes bible study. I would have preferred if the author had focused on calling this process something more generic, such as reflection or meditation.  I find that some of the best books for life advice often curtail their target audience by limiting themselves in totally unnecessary ways. This too is one such book. Many people want to ensure that their day gets off to a good start and this book has some good advice. I think the author would have captured a wider audience keeping the book open to people of various religious backgrounds.

Overall, I liked the book and felt it was well written and contained easy to follow steps that made for a more effective start in the morning by providing something that many people are missing - structure. Even though it only takes a few minutes, having a plan and some structure I know helps me to get my morning started. Once I am in my routine, things flow and come naturally. I get stuff done without thinking about them in particular and actually plan my day and think about issues at work most effectively while engaging in that morning routine.

I recommend this book especially for busy moms that need to juggle job and family and take care of both in the morning. A well written book that can help people and  makes a morning routine something to look forward to and not a drag.



available on amazon.com

Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Restaurant Review = Texas Roadhouse Durham, NC

Living in Southern Durham, we have a lot of restaurant and eateries available in the area and rarely venture out to North Durham. One place we regular visit in the Northern Durham location is the Texas Roadhouse. There is only one location in Durham and judging by the people waiting for dinner every evening, they could fill two locations up easily in Durham. The reason, I believe, they are so busy is not just the quality of the food, which is good for a chain steakhouse, but also the price they charge for the food. The value based on portion size, taste and quality is excellent. Two people can have dinner for $40 and that includes either two sides with your entree or a salad and a side.
For one of our visits, we elected to have an appetizer. They do have a bloomin oinion, which is good, for us though a little bit greasy and since we usually have some left over, we opted for the fried pickles. The pickles were crispy on the outside and the inside was juicy. They held up well when reheated the next day. We also opted for the horseradish sauce rather than the more high calorie Ranch dressing. Overall, I definitely recommend the pickles rather than the fried onion, especially if you are only two people for dinner.
The appetizer = Fried Pickles with a Cajun horseradish sauce - good portion (this was left for the leftovers box)
House Salad - nice variety of item with your choice of dressing (in this case oil and vinegar)
 Their house salad (or Caesar salad alternative) are considered a side. I usually opt for the house salad rather than a side because the salad has a nice variety of items added. It has tomatoes, cheese, egg, croutons, and some greens. My dressing of choice is oil and vinegar and they give you plenty. It is a good portion and I have never had a bad salad in the place. I cannot speak to their Ceasar salad, but based on the calorie count indicated on the card, I do expect a lot of dressing to come with that as well. You have been warned!
It is a steakhouse and so my dinner entree is usually a steak. I used to order fries with the steak, but prefer now the baked potatoes, either as Russet or sweet potato, and usually just ask for butter and sour cream. They do offer a loaded baked potato option, which costs extra, but it also is pretty much lunch at other restaurants. Again, in case you have not realized it by now, bring a good appetite and the portion size is huge. For steak, I usually have the NY Strip in 8oz, although they offer larger portions of it and on Friday through Sunday they also have prime rib. Steak is prepared to order and so far, I have not been disappointed. This is especially true considering the prices charged.
It is a steakhouse after all - so here is the main dish with their version of fries. I prefer their baked potatoes (regular or sweet)


Salmon - very juicy and a good portion for the price. The two sides were mashed potatoes and green beans.
 They also have fish and chicken dinners and my guest usually prefers a fish selection. The salmon is very good. Again, good portion size and nice and juicy. As sides, you can select from rice or potato dishes and a variety of vegetables. You can see again the portion size of the sides, the salmon dinner is filling and goes for about $12. Quite affordable for a dinner that fills you up.

sweet tea in the t-go cup (just ask for one) and the famous peanuts in buckets

Now something about the actual atmosphere of the place. It is noisy; this is not the place for a business dinner or even romantic date night where you want to have quality conversation. They have music playing, the place is crowded and the staff ever so often will put in a line dance routine to up the volume of the place some more.  It is good for family night out and when you want to relax and have fun. They provide free peanuts to the guests (also in the waiting area to help you kill the time when the wait is up to one hour for a table). So have some peanuts in between your courses and when you want to stay a little bit longer and finish up your beverage.
Tips:
  • do call ahead seating. It will cut down on your wait time on busy days, which is seemingly every day for dinner around 7PM.
  • Ask for a to go cup for your tea or soda, they usually bring you a fresh drink.
  • save the rolls and excellent cinnamon butter for the next day, you can probably also get another order of rolls to go. I personally just save the initial basket they give you because the prices are so good, I hate to exploit their positive customer service to get more free stuff.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed are my own and I have not received any compensation for this post.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Book Review: Developing the Leader Within You 2.0 by John C. Maxwell

As someone that studied leadership in college, I am fascinated by the books that go into leadership theory and how to become an effective leader. This book is a revised edition of a book originally published more than two decades ago. John Maxwell has updated his vision of leadership and then goes on to explain how to become an effective leader. He covers topics such as when is someone a manager versus a leader - this to me has always been the core to being a leader, moving away from merely managing people, projects or tasks to effectively leading a group of people and transforming not just yourself into a leader, but transforming the employees into a team. Hint: It takes more than repeating that there is no i in team.
He also covers topics such as how to effectively motivate people and get them to do their best because they want and not because you make them.
I also like that he still recognizes that a leader is an individual, not all lessons will be applicable to every reader and leaders in different situations may require different lessons. But overall, this book will be useful for anyone that is tasked with leading an effort be it in a company, in school, in T-ball or in a family.

available on amazon.com

Disclaimer: I received a free book in exchange for an honest review. The opinion expressed is solely my own and has not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Book review: Blessed Are the Misfits by Brant Hansen

The full title of the book is "Blessed Are the Misfits: Great News for Believers who are Introverts, Spiritual Strugglers, or Just Feel Like They're Missing Something" by the author Brant Hansen. 

This is an interesting book and is intended for reader, who sometimes or maybe often feel at odds with the regular church and the traditional messages.  
The description makes it clear, if the church in its current form makes sense to you and you feel at hime here, do not read the book or you may feel lost, be uneasy and maybe even get a little bit mad.

This book is intended for people that may not appreciated the louder aspects of the religious culture seen in many churches, the TV evangelists and the people that are in your face religious. Religion to me and in our family was a very personal affair, that was independent of politics and the rest of society. While we, if asked, indicated our religious affiliation, we were not overt about which church we belonged and had no issues opposing certain lessons in the church or disagreeing with the leaders locally and nationally.

The author of this book is radio host Brant Hansen and he tries to assure people that not agreeing or fitting into the mold of the modern Christian is perfectly fine and acceptable and there is nothing wrong with you!

If you often feel that your subdued art of being religious does not fit in with the outspoken members your church - no problem. If you feel that making religious a very personal affair and are not willing to stand up in front of people or carry around signs showing your religious affiliation - no problem. This in your face, let me be hard attitude about religion is not always comfortable to people and the author shows that there may be more of these misfits than originally thought.

This book may not fit in with church teaching about mission work and being loud and proud about Christianity at every corner of your life, but for us quieter souls it is a welcome tonic that shows that quiet adherence to the Bible can be just as good before God than the endless desire to be open to the public about your beliefs.


available on amazon.com