Friday, February 27, 2009

Lip Balm for Girls of All Ages

Item: Softlips lip balm

Price: $3.99

Where to Buy: Your nearest drug store.

Review: Chapstick: Bad gift.

Softlips: Great gift.

I've been a fan of Softlips lip balm for nearly 10 years, when I discovered it in college. Love the scents, love the tubes, love the way it works. And the price is right, too.

The first thing you'll notice is how the balm makes your lips tingle -- in a good way -- as soon as you put it on. Even after that feeling wears off after a couple of minutes, you're still left with a pleasant smell and, yes, noticeably softer lips.

The tubes are long and slim, and they easily slip into your pocket or purse. The simple, classic design doesn't look childlike, like so many lip balms available today.

I currently have two Softlips: the vanilla flavor as well as a rose-tinted balm that provides a barely-noticeable color. As an added bonus, the two balms were sold together for $4 at Rite Aid. I've noticed that this is a common promotion for Softlips.

If you're looking for a small token or stocking stuffer for a girl from age 17 to 70, Softlips would be it.

Image from:

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

5 Cheap Wedding Favors

Like it or not, the wedding favor has become a staple in the modern day wedding.

But that doesn't mean they have to break you nuptial budget. The gifts for your guests can be simple, elegant and, yes, even cheap.

Here are 5 cheap wedding favors for receptions of all sizes:
  1. We had nearly 300 guests at our 2003 wedding, so a cheap wedding favor was essential if I didn't want to break the bank (or, to be fair, my parents' bank). I went to the restaurant supply store GFS, which sells large bags of fortune cookies. I wrapped each cookie in blue plastic wrap and attached a note telling our guests how "fortunate" we felt having them participate in our big day. The other side of the note listed our new address.

  2. Instead of individual favors, my sister opted for table-wide gifts at her 2008 wedding. She picked out Hershey's Kisses in silver and rose-colored wrappers (the wedding colors) and sprinkled them in the middle of each table. Each favor doubled as a centerpiece. Certainly sweet on the pocketbook!

  3. A friend married in early July, just a few days before Independence Day. She and her husband wrapped a few sparklers with a pretty ribbon for each guest and included a matchbook that proclaimed that they were "A Perfect Match."

  4. Cheap and green: Take a cue from my cousin and distribute flower bulbs or seeds to your guests.

  5. You can buy tealights in bulk for only a few cents apiece. Wrap each one in netting or cloth and attach a personalized note. Perhaps: "The Light of Our Lives" plus the date of the wedding.
Favors are a nice way for a couple to thank their guests, but you don't have to wipe out your savings to show your appreciation. Cheap wedding favor is *not* an oxymoron!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Cold Nights, Warm Hands

Item: Wonder Warmers hand warmers

Price: $14.99/pair

Where to Buy:

Review: I'm not often into romantic gifts, so I was pleasantly surprised when my husband got me the small Wonder Warmers hand warmers for Christmas a couple of years ago.

We'd marveled at them at a holiday fair about a month before: Each pouch is filled with gel and a single, small, flexible disc. Flex the disc and the gel crystallizes and immediately heats. The small ones stay warm for about 30 minutes. That's more than enough to time to keep me warm as I wait for the subway on a cold winter evening and trudge through the snow on my way back to our apartment.

The best part? They're reusable. Surround the pouch with boiling water for 5 to 12 minutes and it's as good as new.

More than anything, I wish I would have had some Wonder Warmers as a high schooler attending all of those football games on chilly Friday evenings. Wonder Warmers also makes different sizes and shapes, even one specifically for the neck and shoulders ($29.99).

Image from:

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Sound of Music: 1965 Best Picture

Item: The Sound of Music

Price: $14.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

Review: One of the most thrilling moments of my life? Boarding the van for a "Sound of Music" tour in Salzburg, Austria. Rare was the trivia that our tour guide imparted that I didn't already know.

"The Sound of Music" has been one of my favorite movies since around junior high. I even went through a phase when I watched the three-hour flick nearly every Wednesday night for several months while my parents and sister went to town and I had the house to myself.

While I don't watch it nearly every week nowadays, I do manage to squeeze in a viewing every year or two. I'll be the first to admit that some of the songs are more than a bit cheesy (The hills are alive? C'mon.), but I still can't resist the romance, the optimism and Maria's good nature. The movie was one of the major reasons I studied German in high school and eventually majored in it in college.

"The Sound of Music" not only makes a great gift for any woman who like movie musicals, but also it is a perfect introduction to classic movies for the young and uninitiated.

Oh, and the least magical moment of that "Sound of Music" tour? Walking into *the* church where Maria and Captain von Trapp married in the film and seeing a real wedding in progress-- while some Shania Twain song in German was being piped through the speakers. I never imagined that you solved a problem like Maria with Shania Twain.

Image from: Amazon

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

You Can't Take It With You: 1938 Best Picture

Item: You Can't Take It With You

Price: $14.94

Where to Buy: Amazon

Review: "You Can't Take It With You" is one of those movies you'll love, but afterward you'll have a hard time explaining why.

It's funny, but not in the same way award-winning movies are today. Much of the humor in "You Can't Take It With You" comes from the events, not from the dialogue.

Yeah, some of the dialogue is clever, too. But the hilarity comes from the presentation, not just the lines. In fact, I was just reading some of the "memorable quotes" on IMDB, and they all seemed distinctly less hilarious that they did when I watched the film. But that won't make me erase the film from my stockpile of movies I've saved on the DVR.

In any case, you'll always look like a film connoisseur when you give the gift of Jimmy Stewart. And "You Can't Take It With You" is one of the best.

Image from: Amazon

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Apartment: 1960 Best Picture

Item: The Apartment

Price: $10.99

Where to Buy: Amazon

Review: As a child of the '80s and '90s, I was first introduced to Jack Lemmon in "Grumpy Old Men." I wasn't inspired to further explore his career.

That all changed in the last year, and "The Apartment" is the biggest reason that Jack Lemmon is now one of my favorite actors.

The Academy Awards will be presented this Sunday, Feb. 22, so this week I will highlight my favorite "Best Pictures" that would make thoughtful, thrifty gifts for the film fiends in your life.

"The Apartment" stars Lemmon as C.C. Baxter, a bachelor businessman who gets ahead by lending his apartment to two-timin' bosses. It all falls apart when his crush, a lovely elevator operator played by Shirley MacLaine, tries to commit suicide in C.C.'s apartment while having an affair with his boss.

Extramarital affairs and attempted suicide are rarely the ingredients for a comedy du jour, but this film and its clever, witty, funny dialogue holds up even today.

Impress your movie-loving friend even more by pairing this movie with "Irma La Douce," another Lemmon-MacLaine flick.

Directed by Billy Wilder, "The Apartment" is a classic movie gift for the serious film aficionado and casual movie buff alike.

Image from: Amazon

Friday, February 13, 2009

Lindemans Framboise

Item: Lindemans Framboise

Price: $9.69

Where to Buy: BevMo! or your nearest liquor store

Review: I've never known a girl to say no to wine. But I also know more than one who raves about Lindemans Framboise no matter what the occasion.

The dark pink hue makes it the perfect beverage for Valentine's Day or any romantic evening, and the bottle's shape differentiates it from lower class beers. (Hey, I'm all for lower class beers at certain times and certain occasions. But are you really going to argue that Miller High Life is appropriate for Valentine's Day, even if it is the Champagne of Beers?)

But mostly I love it for the flavor. Distinctly framboise (French for "raspberry"), but not too strong. I'm not a beer or wine connoisseur, but Lindemans Framboise is delicious.

Image from: BevMo!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Fruit Bouquet

Item: Delicious Daisy Fruit Bouquet

Price: $35

Where to Buy: Edible Arrangements

Review: I've never been a big fan of bouquets of flowers. Sure, they're pretty for a few days, but then the stems droop, the petals crack, and I sadly have to throw them in the trash.

This holiday, choose something just as pretty but a whole lot tastier. This fruit bouquet includes strawberries, pineapple, honeydew, along with the mug it's arranged in. Who needs another clear, tall vase anyway?

Larger fruit arrangements are $100+, and a few are more than $200. But you can snag a cute Edible Arrangement for your sweetie for under $50 and even have it delivered.

Image from: Edible Arrangements

Monday, February 9, 2009

Duct Tape Wallet

Item: Duck Tape Wallet

Price: $21.95

Where to Buy: Ducti

Review: When I used to wrack my brain for a gift for my boyfriend-now-husband, my mom would suggest a watch or a wallet.

No doubt those are classic gifts, but why not go for something a little more unique but still in the same vein?

The duct tape wallet is sure to get a smile and a second glance from your guy and anyone who's around when he pulls it from his pocket.

The best part? When the wallet starts to fall apart -- as all billfolds eventually do -- it's easily fixable. With duct tape.

But no need: There's a lifetime replacement warranty.

Image from: Ducti

Friday, February 6, 2009

5 Cheap Valentine's Day Gifts

You can't buy love.


Yes, that old-as-time saying still holds true, but the fact is that many people still expect a gift on Valentine's Day as proof that their significant other is as in love with them as ever.

Even typing that sentence kind of made me want to gag. I know my husband loves me, and a gift -- no matter how expensive (or cheap) -- won't prove he loves me any more (or less).

That being said, a small token of remembrance does warm my heart. Here's 5 cheap ways to say "I love you" on a budget:

  1. Instead of the standard dozen roses in a vase, "hide" a flower in a different location around the house- inside a kitchen cabinet, next to her toothbrush, on the driver's seat of the car. And you don't have to get roses. Consider something cheaper but just as sweet, like daisies.

  2. Buy a pack of his favorite gum and attach a note: "I'm stuck on you!"

  3. Boxes of fortune cookies are available at many grocery stores for a few bucks. Wrap, and attach a note: "Every day I feel more fortunate to have you by my side."

  4. Pick up a tin of Altoids and attach a note: "We're 'mint' for each other."

  5. Choose her favorite candy: a chocolate bar, a bag of Tootsie Rolls, whatever. Attach a note: "Each day with you is sweeter and sweeter."
Cheap Valentine's Day gifts don't mean you love your husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend any less. In fact, think of cheap Valentine's Day gifts as a way to show your creativity and love at the same time.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Photo Stamps

Item: Photo Stamps

Price: starting at $15.99

Where to Buy:

Review: For bridal showers, baby showers and even an early Christmas gift, I think it would be difficult to come up with a more inventive gift than a set of photo stamps.

What proud mom wouldn't want to send out birth announcements with a cute picture of the newborn right on the envelope? And instead of those corny "Love" stamps from the post office, newlyweds can send their thank you cards with an image from the ceremony.

Upload your photo on Snapfish, and the personalized stamp can be purchased in groups of 20 in several different values.

Image from:

Monday, February 2, 2009

Ste. Brighid with the Groundhog Throw Pillow

Item: Ste. Brighid with the Groundhog Throw Pillow

Price: $19.99

Where to Buy: CafePress

Review: At first glance, it looks like one lovely lady holding one ugly cat.

But that's no cat, ladies and gentlemen. That's a groundhog.

Today the pest that terrorized the farmland I grew up on gets his (or her) day in the sun. Scratch that. Hopefully he gets a day filled with clouds and no shadows, hearkening an early spring.

Even though I was terribly afraid of groundhogs as a child, this pillow with artwork by Thalia Took makes me want to adopt a groundhog as a pet and give him a loving home. Awww, look at those sweet paws!

But this pillow isn't just for Groundhog Day. I can guarantee it will be a conversation starter all year long.

Image from: CafePress