recession friendly gift ideas


For many people I know, this past year was a hard one. Layoffs, home emergencies, new family members to adjust to … it’s been a lot to handle. At the same time, we’re all feeling the pinch of this crummy economy looming over us. But there is a bright side – we still have plenty to give when an occasion arises. Someone’s birthday or anniversary coming up? How about something from this list of go-to ideas that are recession-friendly, and thoughtful to boot! 
Things you can do that lend themselves nicely to a hand-made gift certificate:
• Help get a garden or yard ready for planting
• Throw the guest of honor a potluck
• Offer to watch or walk family pets
• Share your skills to teach someone something new – help with taxes, cooking how-to, bike repair, online misc.
• Help with the everyday tasks: ironing,organizing, etc. Even unexpected help with something mundane (like ironing) is a nice treat. Making a trip to Goodwill to drop off unwanted items after!
• Help make dinner! This is so appreciated by families with new babies, but would also be welcomed by families with older kids and busy schedules, working couples with crazy deadlines, and don’t forget your single friends – they work hard too!

Things you can give:
• A book of your simple go-to recipes
• Maps of favorite neighborhoods (printed off the web), with your added notes about cool things for frugal adventures: a walking (or biking!) tour of an interesting or historic homes, quaint parks, gardens, libraries, unusual museums (check schedules for free days), cool street art murals, etc.
• Share a magazine subscription (I love passing on, and getting, design mags!)
• Share plant cuttings that you’ve started and/or potted (basil, succulents, houseplants, etc). Find super-cheap pots at Goodwill. Flowers from your garden are always nice too.
• Handmade greeting cards: I’m always realizing I need a birthday or thank-you card at the last minute and often just run to the drugstore to grab one. A handmade set to stash in my desk at work would be handy. Throw in a few forever stamps for extra sweetness!

Remember, it really is the thought that counts! — Rebecca F.

Photo credit: Jen Firlik

would you pay $400 for a slow cooker?


Don’t get me wrong, I love slow cooking — in theory. One thing I don’t love? That if you want to develop flavor in your slow-cooked vegetables and meats, you have to pre-brown in a separate pan. Seems to defeat the one-pot idea, to me. All-Clad and Williams-Sonoma came up with a solution to my particular dilemma: the The All-Clad Deluxe Slow Cooker. Instead of a ceramic (and oh-so chippable) insert, the Deluxe has a cast aluminum non-stick coated insert, designed to start on the stovetop and finish in the slow cooker. When I first heard whispers of this mythical, Pegasus-like slow cooker, I was so excited, as I though that the insert was cast iron , not aluminum coated with nonstick. Wrong. That’s about the only way I’d even consider putting up the $400 to own it. Do you have one? Or are you like me, who will stick to her $30 programmable Crock Pot Smart Pot, and brown in a skillet before hand? — Megan B.

kinda genius: tocky alarm clock


I’ve mentioned before my quest for the perfect alarm clock, but alas, the search continues… I’m currently coveting the tiny Tocky alarm clock, $69 by Nanda home. Tocky is the snooze abuser’s tough love: taking off from the nightstand and rolling around the room, forcing you to turn it off. I’ve tried my share of annoying alarm clocks before, but Tocky’s just as adorable as irksome — and can record voice and mp3′s to aid in the rising and the shining. And as someone who is not so gifted in this department, I’m thinking this just may stop my oversleeping. Or at least save my husband from my endless snoozing! Check out videos from ThinkGeek of Tocky in action to fully grasp the awesomeness. And good luck finding one in any other shade except black (though you can buy a two pack of skins in different colors for $10) — it seems they’re backordered almost everywhere until at least April. — Megan B.

sales that make us happy


Room and Board is offering discounts of 15 % off at their lighting event — on iconic fixtures like Nelson pendant lamps, and this fun Tube Top Colors table lamp, a steal at $93, through 3/30.

Need a whole new set of outdoor furniture? Save 15% off select outdoor furniture purchases of $1500 or more at Crate and Barrel, like this surf collection, and alfresco grey collection (complete with its own Marimekko Sunbrella fabric — LOVE).

Design Public is deep-discounting table linens and bedding by Area, Sanford Burrows, and Unison, and offering 52% off wallpapers by Hygge and West.

Get a jump on Spring cleaning: save 20% off the Ginger Pomelo collection of cleaners at Caldrea through 3/27. Sounds like the perfect scent for the season!

throw some back, give some back: one hope wine


When not editing Shelterrific, I like to enjoy a nice glass of wine occasionally. Ok, more than occasionally. And sometimes when I’m editing. There, I said it. So what could be better than a little philanthropy with my glass of Cab? ONEHOPE wines, a new label from winemaker scion Rob Mondavi Jr., is doing just that: donating an impressive 50% of its profits to various causes, from autism research to AIDS awareness. The wines are sourced from California grapes primarily grown in Napa and Sonoma, and are available in Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Zinfandel. I was able to taste a few at a recent event, and found both the Cabernet and the Zinfandel to be very drinkable and food-friendly — and affordable at a $9.99/ bottle price point, though the website lists the prices at twice as much. It’s readily available at wine retailers everywhere (hopefully for the price I saw them at). Drink up! — Megan B.