Posts from the ‘Gift Giving’ Category

Need a new recipe for your family potluck party?

Its 2 days before Christmas and all my gifts are wrapped and placed safely under the tree for my friends and family. As the story goes, I hit a bump in the road last night while tweaking my sister’s gift (won’t be revealed until next week for her viewing purpose). So I have one more stop on my map tonight to exchange said gift. After that I will fully be in holiday party-mode. I stumbled across this MAGNIFICENT website just last week and have already tested 1 recipe with intentions of trying another one tomorrow:

Believe it or not, this is a jello shot! There’s always room for jello, especially in a cocktail setting. 2 sisters have created an art out of these once only-acceptable-in-college party snacks. I’m obsessed! I made the Blackberry Cosmo Martini Jelly Shots this weekend for friends, and they were a huge hit! I will be making these Candy Cane Martini Jelly Shots this weekend for my family. My aunts will enjoy the throwback, sans the messy fingers.

I refrigerated overnight in a bread pan and cubed them to look like the above photo. They were perfectly gelled, even after sitting out for an hour or 2 while my guests were devouring. The recipe says it will make 24 shots, but I got almost 60 from a single batch and they were 2-bite size. All the ingredients are very inexpensive (under $3 each with the exception of the alcohol. If you’re really on a budget, make them virgin!) but your guests won’t even realize because they will be too busy appreciating your efforts! And isn’t it really the effort that counts here?

I hope everyone has a very happy holiday weekend and if you’re having guests, show off your home with all the deceivingly inexpensive tricks you have learned!

Merry Christmas! I’ll be back next week!

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Home Depot Designer Coasters

Coasters are something that you don’t go out specifically to shop for, but instead may remember to look at if you’re already out. We’ve acquired a few of the cheap cardboard bar coasters in our lives, not exactly worthy of my champagne tastes, but have made do for the time being. Well that time has expired. I grew tired of the coaster sticking to my glass every time I went for a sip. I needed heavy duty coasters to protect our hand stained coffee table. To Home Depot!

I know what you’re thinking: huh? Coasters at Home Depot?

Yes! Designer couture coasters!

These are heavy duty floor tiles, $2 each.

With a little glue and a patch of felt ($.49)…

My tables are protected from water marks and my glass can rest comfortably (and fashionably) upon.

If there’s someone you haven’t yet shopped for, or if you want to add a little supplement to the bar-ware you bought your mom, these are perfect. The malls are PACKED this week, but Home Depot is not! This project cost me 5 minutes and $8.50. Wrap some ribbon around the stack and present it beautifully under the tree.

Christmas tree, oh Christmas tree…

We’ve had our tree up for the past 2 weeks but it took as long to be camera-ready. In addition to a light snafu…as in we didn’t buy enough…we also had no wrapped gifts under the tree. And a decorated tree without some holiday joy underneath is nothing more than a mischief night spectacle.

Chris and I went to 2 different tree farms before relinquishing to the $50 price tag for a 6½ foot tree. Since we’re new to the area and only knew of a few tree farms that we pass during our daily commutes, we figured that we could possibly end up spending more on gas and time looking for a less expensive tree. (The next day we passed the Produce Junction 2 blocks from our home with a sign that read “All Trees: $27”). The lessons we learn.

As this year marks the first time Chris and I would have our own tree, we were faced with many decisions that would affect all future Christmases. Having no decorations already, we also had to buy the tree stand, skirt, ornaments, etc. etc. that we will continue to use year after year.A trip to Kmart and $100 later, we were ready to begin.

Real or fake?

My family has always used a real tree. My dad would have it no other way. Chris’ family uses a fake tree. A fake tree may be more practical and would eventually prove to be less expensive, but having nowhere to store a tree 11 months out of the year, we had no choice but to go real. Chris was excited by the authentic pine tree smell, and he also got to show off his newly acquired handy-man skills.

It didn’t fit. Chris had to scrape off the sappy bark with a steak knife. It worked perfectly and while we may have 1 less steak knife, we now have an arts & crafts knife. Win-win!

The supplies:

We used red and gold as our color scheme. Anything more than 2 colors starts to look tacky in my opinion, and while some people define Christmas as tacky, I like to keep it simple.

Candy canes are a must on any tree. We bought 4 boxes and have probably eaten half of that since. Eating food straight off a tree, how much more natural can we get!

 

Skirted tree:

Skirted tree wrapped in ribbon with sporadically placed red ornaments:

Fully ornamented with star on top and popcorn bin underneath.

Above you can see the light snafu I mentioned earlier. We only bought 150 lights, thinking that was plenty. By the time we had realized it wasn’t, we were in our sweatpants with Christmas music blaring and hot chocolate in the microwave. It took another week and a half before her bottom was lit up.

Twinkle twinkle

(The peacock perched above is a prelude to my New Years Eve attire).

Here is a close up of the “snow” we used for the first and last time. It was essentially a bag of glitter that now comes to work with us on our faces, coats and shoes. Every inch of our floor, even after several sweeps, now sparkles with faux snow. Opt out.

Decorating a Christmas tree is a fun tradition at any age. It brings families together and enhances the holiday spirit. With work, school and other obligations, the last week of December can sneak up on a person. But there’s no forgetting the holiday joy when you come home to a tree that you decorated with your loved ones. Merry Christmas!

Gifts that keep on giving

If you’re looking to save more in the new year but aren’t willing to give up certain luxuries, such as seeing movies, a nice hair cut, or eating to name a few, the following are great gifts to ask for this holiday.

Gift Cards

Some say gift cards are offensive, impersonal, and impractical gifts. They only make more work for the recipient who must go spend it. I wholeheartedly disagree. A gift card is the gift of shopping. Who wouldn’t love that! For those of you who disagree, I would like to present an exception to the impersonal gift card stigma. The salon.

I made a decision a few years back that my hair was an investment I was not willing to scrimp on. I have a thick pile of curls atop this head and the $15 Hair Cuttery trim just wasn’t doing it for me. If you have poker straight hair that only requires a steady pair of scissors and no product, by all means, Hair Cuttery is for you. But my locks require more maintenance. I try to stretch my salon visits to 3 times a year but sometimes it’s not possible. On top of that I purchase salon quality product regularly. This can add up to several hundred dollars a year. Therefore, a gift certificate to my salon would be personal, thoughtful, practical, wonderful, necessary, etc. etc.

Memberships

Along the same lines of a gift card is a membership. A membership still gives the recipient some freedom to choose their own gift, but may not be as broad. A gift card to Macy’s leaves many options. Do I want a jacket, a purse, a sofa, sunglasses… But a membership is 1 thing in a large variety.

ShoeDazzle is a monthly style service available for $39.95/month. You begin your membership by creating a “Style Profile” outlining your taste in fashion and shoes. Based on the results, 5 pairs of shoes, handbags and jewelry are selected by the stylists for you to choose from every month. You are charged only after making a selection and can also choose to skip months without the obligation to pay. Gift cards are available in 1, 2, 3, 6 or 12 months.

A similar service is Beer of the Month Club. With memberships starting at $22.95 a month, beer is chosen for you by a panel of experts and shipped in a 12-bottle variety pack each month. For those of you who don’t like beer, the same organization also offers wine, gourmet chocolates, cigars, cheese, and flowers. You can mix and match to get 2 months of each for a year. I love getting packages in the mail, even if it’s something small that I ordered as a gift for someone else. Just seeing the box below my mailbox gives me a warm feeling of excitement. I can only imagine my delight if it was wine in that box.

Are you a Blockbuster fanatic? If you love to curl up and watch a good movie without paying the $4.99 Comcast fee or a trip to the video store, Netflix is perfect for you. For $9.99 a month you get unlimited movies mailed to your home. That’s the price of 2 movies OnDemand. You can only have 1 movie out at a time so you may not be able to watch 3 movies each week, but 1 movie a week is good leisure time for such a low cost.

If you’re the head of a large household or just like to buy in bulk, a membership to Costco may be a rewarding gift for you. For a $50 annual membership fee, you will save hundreds a year on groceries, jewelry, furniture, electronics, basically everything but an iPad.

Food

If you’re someone who enjoys eating, but you can’t cook, or you’re always too tired to chop up all those vegetables, or you just don’t know any good recipes, there are plenty of gifts out there for you. Since fasting is not really an option to save money on take-out, viable alternatives include cooking lessons or just a few cookbooks. I request cookbooks every year because I like to have them on display in my kitchen, but I also enjoy reading them. I like to challenge myself with new recipes in order to make cooking fun. I look at cooking as a science experiment that you get to eat. I can have fun in the kitchen, toying with different spices and condiments, and I may end up having to order a pizza when all is said and done, but I always learn something. Next time I make a chicken wrap I won’t add french dressing, salsa, AND barbecue sauce.

Some of my favorites:

One thing I do hate about cooking is all the supplies needed. I don’t mind stocking up on produce for chicken pot pie, but when I get home and realize I don’t own ramekins in which to bake the pot pie…I get frustrated. That’s why I never leave Home Goods empty handed. I’m always picking up little tools that you don’t think about, a portable slicer, a lettuce saver, salad spinner, etc. I like salads and really wish I could eat more, but in the winter I’m more about soup. So when i buy a bag of lettuce and only have 1 or 2 salads a week, it will be bad before I can have my 3rd. My lettuce saver keeps the lettuce fresh and crisp for upwards of a month.I like to cook with alot of vegetables. Adding a bundle to plain chicken can instantly make a healthy meal. But all the chopping and dicing!This little baby is on Amazon for under $15.

But what to do with all the leftovers? It’s only Chris and me in our household and cooking for 2 can be hard to adjust to. Sure you can freeze it in tupperware and have it for dinner the next night. But when Target sells lunch boxes this cute for adults now, why not eat your chicken soup at work, saving the $7 you would’ve spent on a sandwich, and have fun cooking again tomorrow!All of these gifts will keep on giving throughout the new year and you’ll have more in your bank account as a result. What more from a gift could you possibly want!

Make your own gifts

Be careful, you may want to keep these “gifts” for yourself. The good news is they are so inexpensive and easy to make, you can make one for your friend, and another one for yourself!

Last year Chris and I fermented vodka for a few of our close friends. We bought funky corked bottles at stores like Home Goods and Marshall’s, peeled lemons (no white pith) and placed in vodka along with raspberries. After 2 weeks they tasted like flavored vodka, which some may enjoy, but we prefer fruitier, less stringent drinks. This Limoncello recipe from Learnvest will deliver just the thing:

What you’ll need:

  • 8 lemons
  • 750 ml bottle of 100 proof vodka
  • 2 cups of sugar
  • Funky corked bottles

First combine the lemon peels (no white pith) with the vodka in a jar. Let this sit airtight for 1 week.

When the week is up, boil the 2 cups of sugar with the 3 cups of water and let cool. Strain the peels from the vodka mixture and stir in the sugar mix. Pour the tasty concoction into the funky bottles and add lemons for garnish if you choose. This gift will also go good with a set of martini glasses if you want to go the extra mile.

If you’re looking for something that will last longer, this picture frame tray is a good idea for the entertainer in your group.

I love trays. They’re decorative, keep clutter off the table, easy to hide, and they just add that little touch that a boring coffee table needs. They’re especially handy for the popular upholstered coffee tables that have been taking furniture stores by storm. When I was tray shopping upon move in, I was specifically looking a tray that I could hang on the wall when not in use. I didn’t find it. So when I saw this Picture frame tray at BHG, I knew what my bedside tables would be getting for Christmas.

Remove the glass from the frame and paint a color of your choice (skip this step if the original color is appropriate). Once dry, screw a drawer pull onto each short side of the frame. Place the glass back in with a decorative wallpaper or fabric remnant in the place of a photo. Or for a more personalized touch, keep a photo of something sentimental in the frame(think landmark, page from their favorite book, recipe for the cookie dough you 2 devoured before baking). Pair with these photo coasters from Bed, Bath & Beyond for a full coffee table wardrobe:

If you’re looking for something less sappy for a colleague, MIL or new acquaintance, these Gourmet Spoons from Learnvest will show how thoughtful you are without being a permanent reminder in the home.

What you’ll need:

  • 2 cups of gourmet chocolate chips
  • 20-25 heavy-duty plastic spoons
  • Nuts, small candies, or crushed candy cane bits
  • wax paper
  • Decorative plastic wrap
  • Ribbon

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave for 2-3 minutes and stir until smooth. Dip the spoons into the chocolate and sprinkle on the candy bits. Refrigerate on wax paper until chocolate hardens. Wrap each spoon separately and tie with the ribbon. Present in a decorative box or tin. These can be savored as a lollipop or used to stir flavor into drinks.

I have not personally tested these DIY gifts yet but plan on doing so next week. Check back for my experience and review.

Cyber Monday is here!

Thanksgiving 2010 is officially over but I thoroughly made the best of it. I woke up at 11 every morning and had bacon and eggs for breakfast, a hearty turkey and potatoes lunch, and pumpkin bread and similar pastries for dinner. It was a sad moment waking up at 7:30 this morning and having oatmeal on my way out the door, gym bag in tow.

But I’m over it already because today is Cyber Monday! For those of you who made it out this Friday, I sincerely hope the hassle was worth your while. I live near the 2nd largest mall in America and got caught in 40 minutes of crawling traffic just trying to pass it on Friday! It’s going to be a long month.

I usually plan ahead for Christmas gifts, at least with an idea of what to get for various family members. Electronics and clothes are usually my go-to. Dresses or kitchen gadgets for my sisters and mom; cologne, books, or a trendy new electric toy for the 3 men in my life. But this year I decided to take full advantage of a stress-free Thanksgiving. I wouldn’t even allow Christmas tunes in the car until today.

Unless you know exactly what you are looking for today, surfing the web for a good deal on a camera or TV can be quite overwhelming. Below I’ve outlined a few great deals, in my frugal opinion, seen around the web today. And just think, no waiting in lines!

Last Christmas, before I had ever even heard of Cyber Monday, I ordered Chris a 50″ TV from Amazon’s “open-box warehouse” special. Until yesterday I’d never seen a better deal for such a large TV (if you’re reading this after Monday I suggest you try Amazon specials for such large items). But Best Buy is trying hard to compete. Today on their website only, you can purchase a 60″ Mitsubishi television for $599, $400 lower than the original price.

I’m not an expert in the electronic field, so I can’t vouch for Mitsubishi, but a 60″ TV for the average price of a 32″ sounds like a bargain no matter what the brand is.

If 60″ isn’t your thing, Walmart is selling this 7″ swivel Undercounter TV for $89.99. This is great for someone who likes to follow along with Giada de Laurentiis or just enjoys the background noise while cooking. It includes a timer, FM radio, and remote control..the perfect kitchen companion.

If you know someone who still drives sans GPS, catch them up with the times for under $100! Amazon is offering this TomTom 5-inch for $89.99, seen elsewhere originally for $229. I don’t know where we would be without our TomTom, probably stuck in Georgia somewhere…which may not be so bad. Who can rely on Mapquest these days with all the unexpected detours and spontaneous food stops that are inevitable on a road trip! This is a steal!

Most clothing stores are also offering free shipping along with a percentage or flat amount discount.

Check out all the deals at CyberMonday. Happy shopping! If you miss out on Cyber Monday and can’t stand to pay full price, understandably, I’ll be posting several DIY gift how-to’s all month long.

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