Saturday, November 30, 2013

(Fast) Food Review: Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche

I normally do not eat anything other than Dollar Menu items from Fast Food places and even those occasions are rare. But a large part of my Thanksgiving vacation was spent cleaning up one of my rentals because my former tenant may not have been familiar with the concept that water can clean up dirt. So after another morning painting, cleaning, scrubbing and taping one last wall for painting tomorrow, I decided that I would splurge and reward myself with some fast food goodness.

The Wendy's on S. Roxboro just got renovated and so I decided that I would give their menu a try. I saw a sign for something called "Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt on Brioche" and that just sounded good on so many levels, not the least because I love brioche and mushrooms melt sandwiches in general. I ordered only the sandwich, no need to add fries and other stuff to that burger. I planned to make my own salad at home to keep the meal somewhat healthy and also because I prefer my own salads with just an oil/vinegar dressing rather than regular salad dressings.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - brioche burger from Wendy's with my homemade healthy meal ingredients
The nutritional info is kind of scary with 600 calories, 34 grams fat, 1390 mg sodium, 2 grams fiber, 34 grams protein, but this is probably the first full-size burger I have had in almost 6 months.Anyhow, with my salad and the apple as a meal it was not all bad.

The flavor itself was good. The brioche was nice and sweet, well balanced with the smoky bacon and the earth mushrooms. The Wendy's burger is always good size and so the burger is actually just the right size that can bite into the bun and get all flavors with each bite. As the above image shows, there is plenty of bacon and lots of mushrooms. The cheese hold everything nicely together and the brioche is for me the best burger bun right now on the market. It is soft, but still has enough chewy consistency to not melt through if you let the burger sit for a while. I hope that Wendy's decides to offer the brioche as an alternative on more burgers because to me that brioche bun makes the Wendy's Bacon Portabella Melt a real winner.

Disclaimer: All opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Book Review: Merlin's Blade (The Merlin Spiral) by Robert Treskillard

This is a great young adult book dealing with Merlin, King Arthur and playing in early Britain. What Robert Treskillard manages is bring the history and times of King Arthur to life in a way that makes it interesting for young readers and create stories that provide important life lessons to the readers.

available from
In this book, Treskillard describes how Merlin, who by nature is shy, must overcome his shyness when placed in the center of a fight to protect his village as well as the ruling king against outside danger. In addition, Merlin is also half-blind and needs to overcome his physical limitations to protect the girl he loves. A hero with weaknesses and is able to overcome them can provide important lessons to young readers who may face their own doubts about abilities and fitting in. Importantly, this book tells the early years of Merlin and King Arthur, making it very appropriate for younger readers.

Rather than retell some of the story here, let me just recommend the book for young adults and adults, who like to read a new take on this legend. Even tough the legend of King Arthur is well known by most , the book provides an interesting introduction to the legend and is written almost like an action story taking place in early Britain. I should caution readers that the book ends with a cliffhanger and most readers will want to read the next book to determine how the story goes on in Merlin's Shadow. It may be a good idea to buy several books from the series to follow the story in one sitting.

Overall, this book and I presume the series overall, tell in an age-appropriate language the legend of King Arthur and Merlin, whose lives are intertwined through battles and experiences. I always have been a fan of the legend of King Arthur and I found this book to be an entertaining read.

Disclaimer: I was provided a free copy through in exchange for an honest review. The views expressed in the blog post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Trip to Wilmington - nice in the off - season as well

Last week I was able to drive to Wilmington for a conference. It was my first time in this coastal city and I quite enjoyed the historic downtown area. On the first day, we had summer-like temperatures in the 80s, but then it cooled down significantly into the 50s for the next two days and time spent outside was not so pleasant anymore.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - image from the boardwalk in Wilmington.
 Unfortunately my free time was limited to the evening hours because I spent all day at the conference. But I was able to walk to the conference center from the Wilmingtonian, which was a really nice hotel. And this walk led me right along the boardwalk and so I could enjoy the boats every day.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - the lawyer in me has to take an image of the courthouse

copyright Durhamonthecheap -  the coast guard was visiting and you could take tours on the ship
As I stated, I stayed at the Wilmingtonian, which is located just one block of the lively and well lit downtown Wilmington area. While people are encouraged to only venture outside after dark in groups, this hotel is only one block away from the downtown area with lots of restaurants and so the neighborhood is quite safe. The Wilmingtonian offers the advantage of free parking all day and all day they provide snacks and beverages, which is very nice. In the morning they provide freshly brewed coffee and wrapped pastries, such as muffins, and all day long they offer juice, tea and saoda + yogurt and fresh fruit as well as snack bars. I can highly recommend the Wilmingtonian for a stay, especially if you plan to explore the historic downtown area.

from the website of the Wilmingtonian -
In the evening, you have your choice of various restaurants in downtown Wilmington, several offering local beers and unique dinner options. If you just want a sandwich, they got chain stores, such as Jimmy Johns, in the downtown area as well. But I highly recommend sampling the local cuisine and enjoying some fresh seafood! Overall, even in the off season, Wilmington is a nice place to visit for a weekend and offers a reasonably priced vacation destination.

Friday, November 22, 2013

House Party sampling event: Gevalia Foam - new latte, cappuccino and macchiato beverages for Keurig!

Thanks to House Party we were able to sample new Gevalia beverages specifically for the Keurig brewer at work. I got three different flavors, the Mocha Latte, the Cappuccino and a Caramel Macchiato. The early favorite was definite the Caramel Macchiato; everyone wanted to sample and taste this one.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - three different samples of Gevalia foamy goodness to go with magazines and donuts!
I also raffled off some of the design stencils because the smiley face was so popular. So it and the heart stencil were raffled off and we will see if we can post pictures later on about the use of the stencils on some of the foamy goodness. To go with the coffee, I had bought some donut holes because what goes better with coffee than some nice sugary donuts?

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the spread for the Gevalia House Party
I also handed out the coupons to everyone and several members in the party already stated that they sometimes buy the regular Gevalia coffee in the store, but now will keep an eye out for the K-cup varieties available in local stores. A couple of people stated that they will just order the K-cup varieties online and the Mocha Latte was in the meantime getting high marks as well for his nice balance of chocolate and coffee flavor!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - enjoying some Gevalia coffee, the caramel macchiato was an early favorite!
We were impressed with the fact that Keurig now can be used to create coffeehouse creations in the regular Keurig thanks to the extra froth package available with the Gevalia packaging. It is such an ingenious solution to the problem of how to create coffeehouse drinks at home or, as in a our case, the office.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - having a good time with coffee and dessert!
 Overall, everyone was impressed with the coffee samples included, although several people indicated that they value the quality of Gevalia coffee and did not expect anything else from the makers of Gevalia in their attempt to come of up coffeehouse drinks. Several guests grabbed different samples and are now looking forward to trying additional flavors next week.We have a Keurig at work that allows to adjust the amount of water used in brewing, so several people started off with the least amount of water required (6oz) and then added hot water as needed to get to their individual desired strength. We love that Gevalia has now come out with these coffeehouse drinks, so we can enjoy a latte at work or at home without having to spend a fortune or even leave the home or office because all we need now is access to a Keurig. Thanks Gevalia and House Party for providing us with the opportunity to sample the Gevalia coffeehouse drinks!

Disclaimer: I received free samples from House Party in exchange for hosting a sampler party and providing feedback about the products. The opinions expressed in this blogpost are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Moms Meet sampling opportunity: KIWI magazine, a magazine with tips for healthy and organic living

Through Moms Meet, we got to sample issues of KIWI magazine. This magazine is great for people who want to live healthy and focus on green and organic living.
I hosted another party for Gevalia coffee today as well and figured a magazine would be great to accompany coffee and dessert - the typical European tradition of drinking coffee and reading a magazine or newspaper came to mind.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - two different issues thanks to Moms Meet with plenty of samples for sharing!
 The guests were really impressed with the nice variety of recipes that were included, especially the beet salad was a hit. Many of us love beets and are always looking for new ways to prepare them.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - KIWI magazine and some coffee + donuts for a little break at work!
I saved one issue of the back to school edition for people that were on vacation today, so they can enjoy it next week. But we had enough of the Thankgiving special so that every guest attending or invited could get their own issue. I had two Thanksgiving magazines left over; one I used to share with a colleague, whom I met for lunch, and I also used one to give to a neighbor of mine that is interested in using more organic recipes and adopting a more green lifestyle.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - checking out the KIWI magazine issue, especially the recipes were a hit!
No one in my group had seen KIWI magazine before, but they had heard that Moms Meet and KIWI magazine were sponsoring a lot of the sampling parties that we have had so far. They were excited to look at the craft ideas as well and thought some of the children images were really cute.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Beet salad and oven apples, perfect for the fall and the cold weather!
Overall, the quality of the magazine, including articles, pictures and writing, got high marks and the guests were happy to have finally gotten to know KIWI magazine.

Disclaimer: I received free issues of KIWI magazine as well as some money off coupons in exchange for holding a sampler party and providing an honest review of the magazine to Moms Meet. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Monday, November 18, 2013

eMeals - a year of meal planning plus coupon savings delivered to your inbox every week!

I know that a lot of my friends are like me and still cook meals for their families every day. Growing up with working women in my family was never a reason to not have a home-cooked meal on the table. And while we all have our standby recipes that we can whip together from pantry items, ever so often we all want to try out a new recipe. I am no different. It is nice to fix spaghetti and meatballs or make some warm potato salad and hot dogs, but I am also wanting to try some new recipes. The problem is a lot of the recipes that I find on the usual recipe sides take a lot of work and a lot of unusual ingredients that would then just sit around the pantry.

But I have now come across a great site called eMeals that offers a subscription service for weekly meal planning. Best of all, as part of this campaign, all my readers can get their own subscription to eMeals at a rate of 35% off the regular subscription price. I was surprised to find out that eMeals is the market leader in online meal planning solutions for consumers. They offer a great variety of individualized meal plans and I really mean individualized because you get to choose from over over 50 weekly plans based on your preferred food style, family size and grocery store. They include such meals plan as classic, clean eating, simple gourmet, low fat, low carb, paleo, portion control, organic, vegetarian and gluten-free meals.

yummy recipes and easy to prep with eMeals

Because you can enter your preferred grocery store, consumers using eMeals can actually save a lot of money.  On average using eMeals can you  around $1,000/year because of the smart meal planning and coupons!That is one reason why Dave Ramsey supports eMeals ( And because you can suit your shopping list that comes with each meal plan to the size of your family, there is a lot less food waste because your shopping list fits your meals and your family size.

And if you were like me and figured that some ingredients would be one time only use, do not worry. eMeals makes sure that all the ingredients you buy are used in multiple recipes - what a great idea!
This is the recipe that I immediately wanted to try. Four ingredients and two sides in less than 60 minutes!

I downloaded two plans from eMeals with the subscription, one for this week and one for the preceding week. I looked over the recipe and one came to mind immediately, an apricot glazed chicken with rice.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - 4 ingredients for the main dish and 5 minute prep time, super easy!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - sauce is being mixed and it already smells good!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - 5 minute prep time, they were not kidding. This is easy and fast cooking.

copyright Durhamonthecheap- I wish my blog had the ability to showcase smells. It is amazing!

copyright Durhamonthecheap- love the sugary sauce that comes with the apricot-glazed onion chicken!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Sunday meal thanks to eMeals!

I modified the apricot chicken a little bit since I had some carrots at home that needed using up. I also skipped on the rice since I had some leftover pie for dessert and figured that was carbs enough. That is what I love about eMeals, they suggest a main dish, but you can be flexible on the sides. I had a vegetable garden, so during the summer I would routinely add veggies from the garden. I have not bought any peppers or tomatoes all year because we had so many in the garden.

So if you are hungry right now and want to try out eMeals, this is the perfect time. If you sign up now at eMeals , you can save 35% of the normal subscription rate. You can find cool recipes such as a Paleo Roast Turkey in time for Thanksgiving here   

Disclaimer: I received a free subscription for a year worth of eMeals in exchange for a review on my blog. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Subscription box review: Nature Box with natural snacks (introductory price was $1)

copyright Durhaonthecheap - Nature Box contents, 5 full-size snacks and I got it delivered for $1
Recently Nature Box had a Halloween Special and they offered their box as an introductory special for $1 (including shipping). Since Cravebox and Goodies Co recently stopped sending out boxes, I decided to give Nature Box a try. So far, I am quite impressed with the contents.

I got a nice selection of dried fruit, containing cranberries, cherries and blueberries. A bag of mixed nuts with almonds and pistachios is something I am quite eager to try next. Some grain wafer and corn kernels were also included for people that prefer savory snacks. Lastly, I got some macaroon granola that you can use as breakfast or as a snack in between meals.

So far I have only been sampling the kernels and I actually like them. They are crunchy and not too salty. Best of all because they are a good size, you can actually eat them individually rather than having to pop a handful into your mouth.

Friday, November 15, 2013

My experiences with the DualTemp layer Sleep Number bed

copyright Durhamonthecheap - you can see the air circulating cooling system (hose)
I went to Southpoint Mall to visit the Sleep Number store and try out the DualTemp layer for a mission. Joel, the sales manager, was great. He explained to me the function of DualTemp. You can cool the bed or heat is depending on your personal preference and each side can be individually adjusted.

In addition, the cooling or heating set up will emit white noise throughout the cycle, helping you fall asleep because the white noise helps you ignore other noises around you. I really was impressed by how clear the temperature effect was. Joel had the model bed set to cool and despite having layers of comforters on it, as you can see in the picture, the bed was comfortably cool. I can imaging how great this would be in the summer!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - looks like a regular bed, but more comfortable
Despite the additional temperature adjustment, the bed does not take up more space than usual and you can even use your own bed. You do not need the bed frame from Sleep Number. So if you finally found the perfect bed frame, do not fret. You can buy the mattress and keep your bed frame. In addition, and this was really surprising to me, you can try out each Sleep Number bed, including the Dual Temp, for 100 days. It is quite an investment and so you want to be sure you are really happy with it. Sleep Number understands this and therefore they offer this really generous plan for you to try their product for 100 days. Great offer! In addition to the extended trial period, Sleep Number of course offers payment plans to make the bed something that most people can afford.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - I would love to have such a bed in our house! The comfort!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - the air circulating makes white noise, also a plus in helping you fall asleep!
Like I said, Joel was great. Very patiently explaining me all the functionality. Because the DualTemp is still a Sleep Number bed and so you can adjust the firmness of course and now in addition to how soft or hard the bed is, you can also set the temperature now. This is almost as if you had your very own personal computer programmed for maximum comfort in bed. Joel also said that these beds have been very popular and after my Sleep Number visit I can see why.

For more information on the DualTemp Sleep Number bed, go to the product site SLEEP NUMBER® DualTemp(TM) Layer
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Joel was great in explaining the details of DualTemp from Sleepnumber!
Disclaimer: I received some compensation for this visit to Sleep Number through Nevertheless, all opinions expressed in this blog are my own and have not been influenced by or any other third party.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

On-line classes about Fashion and Style through SKILLSHARE

I love photography, but have never taken a class on the subject and really want to advance my skillset. So what to do? I came across a site called SKILLSHARE that is an online platform for classes on a bunch of topics, including now classes from their new School of Fashion and Style. They provided me with a free code and I opted to take the class "Introduction to Fashion Photography: Capture the Look". I selected this class from a broad selection of classes on all kinds of fashion-related topics because it is outside my comfort zone and I felt that I could really benefit from learning about how take pictures of people. I usually prefer landscapes and animals because they are good subjects for spontaneous images that never looked staged.
So I have always been hesitant about taking images of people for fear they looked staged. I started the first lesson and I really like the vibe of the class. There was a brief video with images from a real fashion shoot and the photographer gave a brief overview of her approach to taking fashion images. But what I really liked was the assignment. It provided a step-by-step instruction on what to do and really tied in well with the class. In addition, it was a basic assignment that was suitable for an introductory class and is certainly something that I can handle. 

I can actually see myself taking this picture after completing the class, I love the background mood.

One concern I had with taking classes related to a hobby that I hope I can turn into a side-job and maybe even a career was the time that I would have to commit to such a class. I work full-time and work pays the bills, so I cannot afford to miss work and really need a flexible class schedule. Online classes are perfect and the prices for these classes are just right. They are affordable; my class was less than $30. Plus, you can tell that the instructors and the people teaching you the class are passionate about their subject and want to help you succeed in learning new skills. 

again, I really like the mood that the background sets and I never noticed how important the background is to taking pictures of models. The mood is mostly background and complements the fashion.
My first lesson was on “Inspiration and Model Scouting“and this was perfect for me. I usually select landscapes that emit a mood and one of the lesson topics was selection on a background for a fashion shoot. I can basically move from my favorite landscape backgrounds to fashion photography by including a friend in the image. I never thought about fashion photography in combination with my usual landscape topics, but it all of a sudden clicked. And the ability to progress from my favorite scene of a landscape to a fashion shoot makes the task a lot less daunting. I also liked the fact that the instructor did not make the assumption that you have a portfolio and connections to real-life models or their agencies. I appreciated her recommendations to start off with friends and generate your portfolio that you can then use to approach agencies for future shoots. 

This set of images shows the breadth of classes that are offered. Something totally different, but still quality
Overall, what I like about the SKILLSHARE online classes from their School of Fashion and Style is the online format, the step-by-step instructions they provide, the passion the instructors have for their subject and the feasibility of the class assignments that can easily fit into the schedule of someone like me who works full-time. I am really happy I discovered these classes and feel confident, yet even after only one lecture, that I can gain valuable skills from this class that enable me now to expand the subject matter in my photographs.

SKILLSHARE also offers classes on how to start a fashion business and make industry contacts!

So if you are curious about SKILLSHARE, visit their homepage at If you are like me and you are interested in Fashion and Style classes, the broad range of topics offered here will probably surprise you as much as it surprised me. You will definitely find a class in your area of interest.  

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post by SKILLSHARE. Nevertheless, the opinions expressed in this post are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Sunday bargain shopping trip - lots of clearance items at the S. Roxboro Kroger

This morning I stopped by Kroger to buy groceries and use up a bunch of free product coupons that I had, including two products from Pillsbury and the Freebie Friday download from Dole.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - bargain shopping at Kroger is easy. All this for less than $9.00!
While I was at the Kroger, they were pricing out a lot of clearance items, including frozen raspberries and a bunch of skillet meals. They also reduced blintzes and pierogies, plus from frozen vegetables. So if you are looking for bargains, the S. Roxboro Kroger will have plenty of clearance items this weekend. I picked up a lot of clearance items as well, including raspberries, skillet meals and blintzes. All the items above were less than $9 out of pocket - what a bargain!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Requiem for another subscription box: My last Goodies box October 2013

So with Goodies another subscription service stops. First Cravebox, now Goodies - what is a blogger with a yearning for new items to review to do? Well I did make use of a special to Nature Box and signed up with them and my first Nature Box is supposed to get here next week. We will see how I like their products.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Goodies October 2013 box contents - loved all of it! So sad to see this box stop.

The above image shows the contents of the October 2013 box for Goodies. I love everything in it. The Nourish Kellogs sample is great for the cold morning we have, when people want a warm breakfast. The Lunchables Jr was nice, although I did not care that they included blueberry-flavored dried apple pieces. I would much rather have real fruit in the flavor indicated included. The Belgian truffles were awesome, smooth and silky, just dissolving in your mouth. The smores bar was a great snack since it was healthy, but still tasted great.

I love Chai and I was happy to see a new brand included since it will give me more options when buying Chai in the future. I have not had time to try out the pizza dough, but I have some veggies from the garden in the fridge and so a homemade pizza with some peppers and grated cheese and may a little bit of ham and some onions sounds like a good dinner in the near future. The Greek yogurt in the bag was outstanding because the flavor was strong and the portion size was just right. Best of all, you can now pack yogurt in the lunch bag and do not need to keep it cool. The weakest component was probable the Choco-Pie because the chocolate flavor was weak and the whole concoction tasted almost stale. I was not a friend of this sample.

Overall, this was one of the better Goodies boxes and so that makes it double sad that no more Goodies Boxes will be coming my way. I discovered some great items through Goodies. We are still sampling the Chipotle Mango and Raspberry sauces that I got to know through this subscription service. I hope that Walmart will come up with a new subscription service at some point in the future because they had some awesome products and for $7 the price for each box was more than reasonable.

Do you have a favorite subscription service for food, makeup, clothing etc? What makes that subscription service special to you?

Disclaimer: I received the Goodies Company box in exchange for a nominal fee. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by any third party.

Rare treat - Dunkin Donuts Dozen and a large coffee with cream and sugar

And before everyone panics, no I did not eat a dozen donuts from DD. I simply splurged for a weekend treat on buying a dozen donuts from DD to enjoy and treat ourselves to fresh donuts and flavors that we like. We have survived our grocery story holiday with plenty more money in a bank account and I still monitor carefully what I am spending (less than $12 at Harris Teeter today). So I felt that I could splurge on dessert for the weekend.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - wonderful dessert for the weekend for $10 and everyone gets to enjoy it!
As I was selecting the donuts, I noticed several new flavors. Besides our usual favorite of toasted coconut, they now also have a chocolate coconut at DD. New to us was also a red velvet donuts. No dozen would be completed without the frosted maple or the lemon. And then of course there is the Bismarck. Combined with a large coffee, cream and sugar, to go, just looking at the picture makes you happy. At least it makes me happy.

What is your favorite donut flavor? And are you a Dunkin fan or do you prefer any of DD's competitors?

Book review: Plain Peace (A Daughters of the Promise Novel) Paperback by Beth Wiseman

This book deals with the struggles of a young Amish woman, who struggles with combining her own personal desire of love and marriage with the demands and strict discipline enforced by her grandfather. I think we can all relate to this situation. Everyone went likely through a phase of teenage rebellion in which we felt that our parents just did not get it that we were growing up and especially the case of a dad who is overprotective of his little girl, even though she is in her 20s already.

available on here
While Anna is certainly no rebellious teenager, the struggle she faces to live her own life is something that is reminiscent of teenagers longing for independence. Things really get problematic for Anna when Jacob Hostetler moved to Paradise and seems not to worry about the imposing figure of Anna's grandfather, who also happens to be the bishop. Jacob is starting to court Anna and Anna herself is longing for the love of Jacob, dreaming already of marrying him.

But how to show her grandfather that falling in love with Jacob and marrying him is not equal to betraying her faith? And how to convince  the bishop that his ways may seem outdated and also threaten the community itself?

But Anna is not the only one who feels that she has to keep a secret. It seems that her grandfather's strict rules slowly force almost everyone in the community to hide personal wishes, desires or actions. This cannot end well. But Anna manages to change her grandfather and get him to understand that adapting his rules to the current times is a small sacrifice in exchange for creating a healthy and open community of Amish.

This book contains a list of questions that are intended to reinforce the major themes of the book and help the reader in discussing the book. I found the questions to be helpful when read beforehand because they made me more aware of character developments as I was reading the book. As an added bonus, the book in an Appendix also has some really yummy recipes, including a wonderful raspberry chocolate cheesecake that I cannot wait to try out.

I liked this book despite its fairly overt Christian theme. One of the main themes of this book is forgiveness. The community is healthier because people trust each other to have errors in judgment forgiven and not having to keep secrets makes life so much easier for individuals.

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

Is anyone still reading a real newspaper? In any case, this comic will work for online stories as well!

I saw this image on Facebook. It was posted by a lawyer friend of mine and I wanted to share it. News articles can be fairly depressing at times and with the economy still not really recovering and many people still struggling financially, any bit of humor that can be injected into the news helps.


I really like that the politicians in Washington are actually called by, in my opinion at least, their appropriate names. It is not as if anyone these days have much faith left in congress or its members to righten the ship and bring about a recovery through legislation. If the economy recovers it will be by other forces, not through decisions and actions by our government.

So next time you read a story about Washington politics, think of an elf-lord commenting about the actions of the homestar runner and river spirits getting together for a discussion and requesting a tumblr post to help them reach the final decision.

Redecorating your home and needing to paint a room, but wanting to do it on the budget? Benefit from the mistakes of others

I have painted almost all the rooms in our house since the rooms were all the same plain light yellow when we moved in and I could not stand the uniformity of the rooms. I need personality in the rooms and so plenty of color on the walls is one way in which I make the room fit their purpose or the person that uses a specific room. Painting is one way in which you can easily spruce up your house and it is also one of the cheapest ways to decorate the interior of your home. But even paint can be pricey, often costing $30 a gallon.

Here comes the service of home supply stores to mix up paint into play and how you can turn the mistakes that happen when custom colors are mixed into an advantage for you and your wallet.Home Depot and Lowes will not only have regular missed tint sales throughout the year, but you can just stop the store and usually find on a cart near the paint area a bunch of paint cans with custom colors gone awry.

copyright Durhamonthecheap - a missed tint in dark green provides a nice wall color for a home office
I have used missed tints almost exclusively for the past few years when needing to paint a room in our house or one of the rentals. No need to pay full price for paint, when you can take your time and find very nice colors at bargain prices. The above room is our home office and I love the dark green. I was actually looking for a green paint for the walls and was so happy when I found the dark green for $5. I have one wall in white as an accent wall because in front of it is a dark wood bookshelf. But the rest of the room has dark green walls and it makes it very cozy in the winter.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - a missed tint in turquoise provides the background for a Tiffany-inspired guestroom
For the guest room I was lucky to found a turquoise color that reminded me of Tiffany blue. I wanted to do that room in blue and a neutral color, such as brown or gray. I was lucky to have found bedding in blue / brown at Ross on clearance and also bought the curtains on clearance. The wall color seems like a natural fit and no one would every suspect that the color was an accidental find and bought very cheap due to a home supply store employee having made a mistake when mixing a custom color.

So next time if you need paint for a home decorating project. Take your time, stop by Home Depot or Lowes a few times and check out the missed tint carts to see whether you can find bargain paint for your room and save a few bucks upfront!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Crowdtap sampling: Truvia Natural Sweetener

As indicated earlier, I received a huge gift pack from Crowdtap to host a party for Truvia, an all-natural sweetener. Today we party day and that means yesterday was baking day. I had decided early on to make Truvia-sweetened muffins with orange and raspberry flavor and then serve some croissants to go with the Strawberry (sugar-free from Smuckers) that Crowdtap had provided. I also served from Halloween-inspired sugar cookies since it is this time of year. Everything turned out great and my colleagues were impressed with how well Truvia tasted in the bake muffins. I had used the baking blend from Truvia, supplied by Crowdtap, and you can use it just like sugar, no conversion necessary. This makes baking with reduced calorie sweeteners so much easier. I hate to have to convert between the original recipe and any recipe with sweetener, but having a Truvia baking blend means that I can simply follow the original recipe.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia to the rescue, making the low calorie muffins
 Above you can see operation " baking with Truvia" underway. It was really easy and the Truvia crystals behaved just like regular sugar when mixing the muffing dough.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia-containing muffin mix ready for the oven!

copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia muffins and some sugar cookies for the brunch party!
 Above you can see the muffins and they browned nicely in the oven, but still stayed moist. This is the same consistency of my regular sugar muffins and so Truvia really does behave like sugar when using the baking blend for muffin baking. I was definitely impressed!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia baking blend works great for muffins and cookies!
The goodies are ready for sampling and I will pick up some croissants to go with the jam tomorrow before work. I love croissants for brunch/breakfast because the butter is baked into the dough and so it is enough to just add jam, no need to extra butter!
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia-sampling event at work with goodies and samples!
We had a really nice spread and I loved that Crowdtap had included some goodies like the t-shirt and the spoon because they were great for decorating the table. I like to add some informational material as well or items such as the spoon because they are eye-catching and help people remember the brand name.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia sampling event, the spread!
 Plenty of informational material on Truvia, such as recipes and websites, and then various forms of Truvia to educate the guests about what Truvia is and how it can be used. Most have either used or are currently using Truvia to sweeten their coffee using the single serving packets. No one had even seen the spoonable containers of Truvia and none of my guests had even heard that a Truvia baking blend was even available. So this was a real discovery sampling event for my guests.
copyright Durhamonthecheap -adding Truvia to the coffee by the spoonful and without guilt!
 We all sampled Truvia in the coffee and one person remarked that it really looked like sugar and, after tasting the Truvia in her coffee, stated that it sweetens real nice and she actually preferred the spoonable container to the single serve packets.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia sampling underway
 Everyone sampled the baked goods, especially the muffins since people wanted to see how Truvia tasted in bake items.
copyright Durhamonthecheap - Truvia is being enjoyed by everyone!
 We got a few more fans for Truvia, especially the baking blend was an item that people liked because they never even thought of trusting their baked goods to a sweetener. But having a specially blended baking blend available is so reassuring that a couple of the guests stated they would go and now buy Truvia baking blend to substitute for their sugar and make dessert healthier!
copyright Durhamonthecheap -closer look at the Truvia products and recipe suggestions!
Overall, the party was a success, even though we had it in two installments due to work conflicts. But the ladies at work really appreciated the opportunity to learn about Truvia and especially sampling baked items that were made with Truvia to see how well Truvia held up compared to sugar when used in home-baked goods. Truvia definitely impressed and the baking blend will make its way into several homes among my guests. Everyone is looking for health substitutions, but our families demand dessert and so Truvia is the solution. Fix dessert, but not with all the sugar. So you can fell good as a mom providing your family with dessert, but still keep dinner healthy and lower in calories!

Disclaimer: I was provided a sample package / giftpack by Crowdtap that contained items for hosting a sampling party. The opinions expressed in this blog are solely my own and have not been influenced by Truvia, Crowdtap or any other third party.