Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy Holidays from Cheap and Cheerful

Dear Faithful Readers,

Sending all the best for a cheap and cheerful holiday!

May your shopping be merry and your wallet not be light.

We'll be back on January 4th for more fun in 2010.

I'd love to hear your comments on any features or topics that you would like to see on the blog in the New Year.

And ... thank you for reading in 2009!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Favorite Things: Lands End Stockings -- 50% Off and Free Embroidery

These stockings are amazing; my sister has these for her entire family and often gets asked if she made them! Plus, they are available now for 50% off and with free monogramming. Perfect for a stocking "upgrade" for your family or a gift for newlyweds or a new baby! Free shipping through December 31st. If new stockings are something on your list, don't let this great deal pass you by.

Deal of the Day: Portable North Pole Video Email from Santa!

For believers, young and old! And totally free! Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Bzz Agent -- Word-of-Mouth Marketing

If you like sampling free stuff and telling your friends about new products, check out BzzAgent. It is totally, 100% legitimate. A friend told me about it and I recently signed up. So far, I've been on "campaigns" for AveenoBaby and ROC Night Cream. It is fun to try the free products, plus you get coupons and sample sizes to pass out to others. If you've got some time over the holidays, complete the online sign up and you are ready to roll. Tell them I sent you and be sure to let me know your experiences.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Money Mantra #11: Quit While You're Ahead

Repeat after me: I will not do any last minute shopping. I will not do any last minute shopping. I will not do any ... Got it? Remember that holiday gift list that you carefully created and pledged to stick to? Ah, yes, that one. It is ok to "quit while you're ahead". After all, how many of those last minute, add-on gifts end up being favorites? Be happy with the gifts that you've chosen, give them with a loving heart, and focus the other magical parts of the holidays. And those after Christmas sales? Avoid the impulse buys. Only get things you really need and will use up in one more Christmas season. Otherwise, stay home, brew some coffee and curl up with the See's Bridge Mix. After all, New Year's resolutions are right around the corner.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Favorite Things: Kiehl's for Him

Are you still wondering what to get for the man who has everything? My man is getting some Kiehl's love this year. Their products are fresh, just manly enough, and well priced. Check out the selections for him. And while you are at it, add in some Grapefruit bath gel or Lip Balm #1 for yourself.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Paula Deen's Gingerbread Cookies


For the cookies:
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 stick salted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/4 cup molasses
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting work surface
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt

For the icing:
1 cup confectioners' sugar, sifted
1 to 2 tablespoons milk
Red and green food coloring, as desired
Assorted sprinkles, as desired

Using a mixer on low speed, cream the brown sugar and butter in a large bowl until thoroughly combined. Mix in the eggs and molasses.

Sift together the flour, ginger, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt in another bowl. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture and mix with a spoon. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap; place in the refrigerator until firm, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 350. Let the dough sit at room temperature for about 15 minutes, until pliable. Line 1 or more cookie sheets with parchment paper. Take about 1/2 cup dough at a time and roll on a floured surface until - to 1/4-inch thick. Cut out shapes with 5-by-3-inch gingerbread boy and girl cookie cutters. (Re-roll the scraps.)
Using a spatula, transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheets, leaving space between them. Refrigerate the cookies for 20 minutes, then bake until they just begin to brown at the edges, 18 to 20 minutes. Cool slightly, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, make the icing: Combine the confectioners' sugar and milk in a bowl. Leave white or divide among bowls and add food coloring. Decorate cookies with icing; use a pastry bag to pipe eyes, mouths, buttons and bow ties. Top with sprinkles.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Favorite Things: The Christmas Gift by Francisco Jimenez

Centered on the struggles of a poor family, this beautifully written and illustrated book speaks to the true meaning of Christmas. I highly recommend this book as a way to talk to your children about what it means to really give and receive a gift. The full text is presented in both Spanish and English. It is available from many online booksellers or call your local bookstore. It will be a Christmas gift you won't soon forget.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: "Homemade" Iced Sugar Cookies

Want to know a fun and easy shortcut? Grab a Betty Crocker Sugar Cookie mix, a tub of vanilla frosting, some festive sprinkles and you're in business. I "doctor" up the store bought icing a bit with powdered sugar or even with peppermint extract and these cookies pass as totally homemade. Shhhhh, the secret recipe is out. I won't tell if you don't.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Favorite Things: Stella & Dot Jewelry

Madge showed me this super duper jewelry website this weekend. Such cute items in a wide variety of price points. And just in time for that last minute shopping for a little gift "from you to you". Go ahead. Window shopping doesn't cost anything. Also, last time I checked Santa was still accepting lists and I believe you can link your Santa quite easily to this page.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Favorite Things: Tomie de Paola Our Lady of Guadalupe Book

This is one of my favorite books of all time and an appropriate gift for tomorrow's Our Lady of Guadalupe Feast Day. The message of humble Juan Diego and the miraculous Virgin of Guadalupe is inspiring even if you aren't of the Catholic faith. It's a story of quiet gratitude, simple gifts, and being true to yourself. A perfect message for holiday time or anytime.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Deal of the Day: Check Out Target's Daily Deal

Sign up for email or text message alerts for's Daily Deals. When the deal is gone, it's gone but each deal also comes with free shipping! Just when you thought you could not love Target any more than you already do ... Click here to learn more.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Deal of the Day: Land's End Women's Cashmere Sweater

The "St. Nick's Pick" daily deal on Lands' End is a women's v-neck, crew neck or scoop neck sweater for only $49.50. You save $40. This deal is valid today only.
Click here to check it out!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Barefoot Contessa's Roast Pork Loin with Fennel

There is nothing fancy in this dish, but there is tons of flavor. Pair with two simple sides and a no fuss dessert and you've got holiday dinner.

2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 (3-pound) boneless pork loin, trimmed and tied
3 small fennel bulbs, tops removed
8 carrots, peeled, and thickly sliced diagonally
10 small potatoes (red or white-skinned), cut in quarters
2 yellow onions, thickly sliced
4 tablespoons good olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

With a mortar and pestle, or in a food processor fitted with a steel blade, grind together the garlic, 1 tablespoon salt, and thyme leaves. Add the mustard. Spread the mixture over the loin of pork and allow it to sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut the fennel bulbs in thick wedges, cutting through the core. Toss the fennel, carrots, potatoes, and onions in a bowl with the olive oil, melted butter, salt, and pepper to taste. Place the vegetables in a large roasting pan and cook for 30 minutes. Add the pork loin to the pan and continue to cook for another 30 to 50 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted into the middle of the pork reads exactly 138 degrees. Remove the meat from the pan and return the vegetables to the oven to keep cooking. Cover the meat with aluminum foil and allow it to rest for 15 minutes. Remove the strings from the meat and slice it thickly. Arrange the meat and vegetables on a platter. Sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Serve warm.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: KISS -- Simple and Fun Gift Ideas

Everyone knows the mantra -- "K.I.S.S.", right? If keeping it simple were only that simple, right? Here are a few K.I.S.S. gems from family and friends:

* The Trader Joe's Gift "Basket" -- Buy a Trader Joe's resuable bag, fill it with yummy Trader Joe's goodies (Soft Bite Biscotti? Sparkling Pomegrante Cider? Some Dark Chocolate bars? Tea? Coffee? Dried Cherries? The fragrant Orange Blossom body wash?). You've got a great gift and I'll bet you spend less than $20. Add a thoughtful card. Carry. Place into the arms of a deserving recipient.

* Got asked to bring holiday dessert to a party? Betty Crocker Brownie Mix -- $.89. Peppermint Stick Ice Cream -- $2.99. Whipping Cream -- $1.99. Chocolate syrup -- $2.99. Squeals of delight -- Priceless.

* Do an ornament exchange. If you're planning a cocktail hour with friends or neighbors, ban gifts and implement an ornament swap. Everyone family wraps one ornament and includes a note explaining why the ornament was chosen and a holiday wish. Set up a table by the front door. As people leave the gathering, they take an ornament to open together at home and to enjoy on their tree.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know -- How do you K.I.S.S. during the season of spending?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Favorite Things: Starting A Holiday Gift "Tradition"

Do you ever feel like deciding what to get your loved ones is even harder than the actual purchasing of the gift itself? Make it easy on yourself and start a yearly gift "tradition". We've started a few and it has made a huge difference. For example, we buy holiday books each year for our nieces and godchildren. We mail the books right after Thanksgiving so the kids can enjoy them throughout the month of December. It is fun to help build their holiday book collection by adding to their library each year. Another fun gift tradition is sending a wreath or centerpiece each year. LL Bean has some very pretty wreaths and evergreen garlands at reasonable prices. Each year, the recpient will look forward to having a fresh decoration to add to their holiday display. Perhaps my favorite gift tradition is holiday food delivery. When we were little, our aunt and uncle sent us a huge metal tin of popcorn from The Popcorn Factory each year. We eagerly anticipated its arrival! (We even washed the tubs out after Christmas ended or the popcorn disappeared and used them as storage for our growing ornament collections.) Having a gift tradition makes creating your holiday list so much easier and buying a "family" gift can help you save some cash too. It's a win-win -- great gifts for great people with a hassle free approach.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Do you have holiday gift "traditions"? Please share!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Deals of the Day: Five Under Ten -- 5 Gifts Under $10 For The Under Age 10 Crowd

Five fun items to consider adding to your holiday gift list or birthday party gift closet:

1. Melissa and Doug Classic Card Games: This trio of games is only $9.99. I picked it up the other day for my son and it has been a huge hit. The cards are sturdy and colorful.

2. Make some special occasion pancakes and set this wrapped book on the table. You'll be giggling in no time. Eric Carle's illustrations are delicious too! Just $8.99 for the sturdy board book.

3. A cuddly fleece jacket from Children's Place. I saw these in the store today and there are adorable choices for boys and girls. All under $10, plus lots of 15% printable coupons out there.

4. Ok, so this one is only for girls but who can resist these retro leg warmers? Can you say flashback to "Flashdance"? Only $7.50!

5. Let him whack at his little sister all he wants with this Nerf Sword. Just kidding. But you know any active kid would love running around outside on a crisp afternoon with this in hand. $10 for 30 minutes of wearing themselves out is a bargain!

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Please share your favorite under $10 gifts for those under 10 or those trying to relive their youth.

Money Mantra Number 10: The Best Things In Life Are Free

Just when the holiday gift giving season is draining your wallet faster than you can say "Ho, ho, ho", pause and remember that the best things in life are free. Give the present of presence. Put down the Blackberry and really cuddle with a loved one. Giggle about your day. Play Go Fish ten times in a row. Set aside fifteen minutes to call an old friend. Take an early morning walk around the block with your family and just talk and listen. Write down a list of funny holiday memories and put them on your fridge. Your presence is a gift both to yourself and others. No strings attached. No fancy wrapping required. No hefty price tag. The perfect present is presence.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Favorite Things: Pamper Yourself

In this busy holiday season, don't forget to take some time to relax and enjoy. Surround yourself with a little luxury. The bath products from Flourish Bath + Body may be just what you need to pamper yourself a bit without breaking the bank. This I know for sure -- the Blood Orange Lip Balm or the Brown Sugar Body Scrub would be welcome in my stocking. What's your favorite scent?

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Favorite Things: Fun Favors from

I was excited to find another fun source for personalized gifts for kids (and the kids at heart who know special little people). Check out The metal lunchboxes are to die for. Hey, you're never too old for a stylish carrier for your PB&J. 10% off your purchase with the code TP10.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Challenge -- December: A Free Stocking Stuffer

For many years, a family tradition has been to write a letter to each member of the family to place in their Christmas stocking. These lovely notes share memories from the year and remind the reader that he or she is loved and cherished. I challenge you to write a stocking note (or two or three or more) this year. It's free and just takes a few minutes. But, believe me, the notes are priceless. So grab a card, grab a coffee, grab a moment to yourself and put your love into written form.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What "free" gifts are a part of your family's traditions and rituals?

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Cyber Monday -- Boom or Bust?

Snag any good deals today? I was disappointed at what I saw but maybe I was missing something. Please share with the class.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Black Friday -- To Shop or Not To Shop?

Are you hitting the stores on Friday? Why? Or why not? Share your thoughts here. If you go, what is your strategy? If you don't go, do you shop online on Friday? We'd love to hear what our readers are doing this year. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Deal of the Day: Land's End Fine Gauge Cotton Sweaters

Land's End is known for quality and value. And right now, you can get some of their famous cotton sweaters for under $30. This women's v-neck style is super cute and under $25!
Land's End is also spotlighting a daily St. Nick's pick; I have been watching the site daily and the deals are amazing. Add on free shipping with no minimum purchase -- all just a click away. That's my kind of shopping!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Favorite Thing: Members Only -- a gift that keeps on giving

What to get for the kid who has everything? Or the art lover? The train fanatic? For anyone who loves a fun, local adventure? Why not give the gift of a membership, whether it is a year long pass to the local zoo, museum, aquarium, or even a series of classes at an art or music studio? Holiday gift giving does not need to be about more stuff; it can be about creating memories and giving yourself a reason to set aside some time to have fun. When Santa's sleigh is feeling weighted down with material goods, think outside the box and treat your loved one to something special that will last the whole year through.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Have you ever gifted a membership or outing? Did you use any creative packaging to present your gift? Please share.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Not Your Average Green Bean Casserole

You know you love it, even when it's made with the Campbell's soup from a can. But why not go for this relatively no fuss version by Alton Brown.


For the topping:
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons panko bread crumbs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Nonstick cooking spray

For beans and sauce:
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1 pound fresh green beans, rinsed, trimmed and halved
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
12 ounces mushrooms, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup chicken broth
1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees F.
Combine the onions, flour, panko and salt in a large mixing bowl and toss to combine. Coat a sheet pan with nonstick cooking spray and evenly spread the onions on the pan. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven and bake until golden brown, approximately 30 minutes. Toss the onions 2 to 3 times during cooking. Once done, remove from the oven and set aside until ready to use. Turn the oven down to 400 degrees F.
While the onions are cooking, prepare the beans. Bring a gallon of water and 2 tablespoons of salt to a boil in an 8-quart saucepan. Add the beans and blanch for 5 minutes. Drain in a colander and immediately plunge the beans into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Drain and set aside.
Melt the butter in a 12-inch cast iron skillet set over medium-high heat. Add the mushrooms, 1 teaspoon salt and pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms begin to give up some of their liquid, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and nutmeg and continue to cook for another 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir to combine. Cook for 1 minute. Add the broth and simmer for 1 minute. Decrease the heat to medium-low and add the half-and-half. Cook until the mixture thickens, stirring occasionally, approximately 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in 1/4 of the onions and all of the green beans. Top with the remaining onions. Place into the oven and bake until bubbly, approximately 15 minutes. Remove and serve immediately.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: The Rule of Three

Before I explain "The Rule of Three", I give full credit to my friend Bridget from Baltimore for planting this idea in my head last holiday season.

In addition to the lovely tradition of Santa Claus, Christian churches celebrate the birth of Jesus on Christmas Day. According to Biblical tradition, three magi (or wise men) visited Jesus shortly after birth and presented him with three gifts -- gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

If Jesus got three birthday gifts, why can't Santa pick just three gifts for each child?

The story is working well here at Casa Ferrara. Three gifts from Santa, a few from Mom and Dad, plus all of the fun things from aunties, uncles, and grandparents = MORE than enough stuff.

Emply the Rule of Three this year and let me know how it goes!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Santa's Little Secrets

Santa has been busy here in Sacramento. With great sales already in progress, I've started gathering gifts for Christmas morning. Since my family does read the blog, I am not going to give away too many specifics but I will share some secret sources for great "stocking" gifts.

1. Scholastic Books Clubs: You can get super cute, holiday themed paper backs for $1 or $2 from the October and November Book club flyers. I normally get about $20 worth of books to have on hand for sending to friends, cousins, or to take as a hostess gift for a party held where little people live. Since these are books that normally retail for $4.99 and up, my savings is substantial.

2. Michael's Dollar Bins: I've found adorable stationery, magnets, notepads, rubber stamps, and stickers for $1 and sometimes 2 for $1.

3. Airline Miles: We don't travel much but we do earn some miles each year. These miles tend to expire in December or January. When we have enough miles to "buy" magazine subscriptions, we share the wealth with others. Nothing fancy, just treating a friend to a year of reading.

4. Shop on December 26th or 27th of the year before for great ornaments, cards, tissue and gift bags. I got great wooden ornaments for $2 each last year that will make perfect hostess gifts during this year's party season.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your "Santa secrets"?

Monday, November 16, 2009

Favorite Things: J. Crew Pajama Pants

My husband's pair of these pajama bottoms is ten years old. They are just now looking "broken in". At $39.50, they aren't cheap but they will last forever. Plus, who can resist the pair pictured? You can even add a monogram! If my husband's pair wasn't still in such super shape, he would be getting these for Christmas. Maybe in another five years?

Friday, November 13, 2009

Favorite Things: Cookie of the Day on

I love holiday baking. Well, I love simple, cheap and cheerful holiday baking. A project that brings friends together for laughter and ends with edible treats is always a winner. For some holiday baking inspiration, check out the Cookie of the Day feature on
Whatever your skill level, budget, or time frame, there are some fun baking projects that will make your family and friends smile. Just be sure to save a few for Santa!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Deal of the Day: Free Flatbread at Jamba Juice on November 17th

Free Jamba Juice flatbreads, sort of like a mini pizza, are free from 2 - 5 pm on Tuesday, November 17th. Call your nearest location to confirm participation. I tried the Southwestern Chicken last week and it was tasty. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Deal of the Day: Create It Yourself at

If you haven't already stumbled upon the site, is worth a look. You can design your own t-shirts, Vans, mugs, posters and more. I love the kid's tees; with everything from Star Wars to Scooby Doo, you're bound to find something cheap and cheerful. Or maybe your grown up Star Wars fan wants a shirt that says, "Han is my homeboy!" A big part of the fun is the DIY feature because you can create exactly what you want! Plus, until Sunday, $5 off all orders of $35 or more with the code VETERANSDAY9.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful (Holiday) Money Mantra: Sticking To It

I will carefully create and faithfully stick to my holiday spending budget. I will carefully create and faithfully stick to my holiday spending budget. I will carefully ... You get the picture.
While holidays are clearly a time of indulging in rich entrees, sumptuous desserts, and treating those you love to special gifts, it can also be a time for overspending. Creating a budget is task number one before any holiday shopping can begin. Take some time to look at your finances and determine a reasonable amount for your gift giving. Keep in mind -- a simple, thoughtful token of affection is more important than fancy packaging and big price tags. Spending time over a cup of coffee with a friend, rather than exchanging gifts, can be even more valuable. Or maybe this is the year to institute a "name swap" rather than buying for everyone in your family?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: How do you create your holiday budget? How do you plan your shopping to be sure that you stick to your budget? Please share!

Monday, November 9, 2009

Favorite Things: Personalized Plates

If you've been reading Cheap and Cheerful for awhile, you know I love monogrammed and personalized items. So, how cute is this personalized melamine plate? This Etsy seller has other adorable items and special discounts for the upcoming holiday season. Just be sure to shop early as the creator is getting ready for a holiday break with family and friends.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Tiny Prints $100 Gift Certificate Giveaway

Check this out:
Get a jump on your holiday photo cards! Win a $100 Gift certificate to @tinyprints. Great designs! @katydidandkid
You just might be the lucky winner!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Ideas from our Faithful Readers

* Julie from Seattle recommends Chef on a Shoestring from the CBS Early Show:

* Tracy from Sacramento pointed out these adorable slippers on L.L. Bean. Right now, on, you "earn" a $10 gift card for any order over $25.

* Margaret from San Diego came across this unique popsicle machine from Williams-Sonoma. Yum.

* My husband reports that he spent $125 dollars at Safeway today and "earned" $20 of Kohl's cash. You can get $20 off if you spend $20, getting yourself 50% off items worth $40. You can redeem the certificate between November 9 and November 21.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know what our other awesome deal detectives have seen lately.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Deal of the Day: Faux Uggs at Target

The real deal Uggs, even for kids, are upwards of $80 and certainly out of my price range. I found these faux Ugg boots at Target today for just $17.99. While they are labeled for girls, these could would totally work for your little man as well. I just wish they had some in Women's 9.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Favorite Things: Fun and Funky Hostess Gifts

As much as your host would appreciate a nice bottle of wine or bouquet of flowers, why not think outside of the box when picking a hostess gift?

Here are a few ideas that are fun, funky, and under $5.

* At most grocery stores and also online, you can find these kitchy candles. Wrap it up in some cellophane and top with a ribbon.

* I love giving cute, colorful paper napkins or fingertip towels. Caspari, sold at Target and stationery stores, has some unique designs.

* Wrap up a picture frame. Then, send some prints from the evening in your thank you note for the hostess to place in the new frame. Aaron Brothers is having a 25% off the entire store sale right now.

* Bring a game. It is always easy to find a card game or board game on sale. You can bring something for the host family to play later or to enliven the event.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your favorite go-to hostess gifts?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Crafts: Wooden Storage Box

For less than $4, you can get a sturdy wooden box (like this one) and decorate it for just about any purpose. Paint it. Decoupage it. Stain it. Stick some treasures or even a gift card inside and you're all set. This craft is easy enough for anyone who can hold a brush or sponge and would be a fun activity for a holiday gathering. Or instead of buying gifts to exchange, invite some friends over for cookies and coffee and pick names when everyone arrives. Set up a fun craft and each person creates a box (or other craft item) for the person whose name they have selected. Trade creations at the end of the party and no one goes home empty handed. Cheap. Cheerful. Creative.

Favorite Things: iPhone Skee Ball App

For just $.99, you can buy a great stress relieving application for your iPhone. Believe me, the iPhone version of Skee Ball is just as much fun as the real thing. Just don't let your almost five year old try it. Well, unless you realize first that he'll be able to beat you after about ten minutes. Happy rolling!

Monday, November 2, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Challenge November: Daily Gratitude

My friend says that her motto for 2009 is "Grateful, all damn year!" During the month of November, the Cheap and Cheerful challenge is to take some time each day to think about gratitude. This might involve keeping a list of things for which you are grateful, talking about blessings over dinner, or taking the time to tell someone you love that you are thankful for them. Feel free to share your thoughts on gratitude here. Sometimes you don't realize how lucky you are until you say it out loud.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Favorite Things: Tell Me A Story Games by eeBoo

Santa has been searching for educational, yet fun stocking stuffers and she stumbled upon these today. Since Santa loves telling stories, these beautifully illustrated story cards are going in my sleigh this year. Perfect for stimulating the imagination and great for cuddle time on the couch. Grab the cards, snag a blanket, and spend some quiet time together. These circus themed ones are available on Amazon but I've also spotted other varities in the Land of Nod holiday catalog. Only $10 on Amazon with free shipping.

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Side Dishes from Sunset Magazine

I heart Sunset Magazine. And the hot-off-the-press Thanksgiving 2009 issue has an amazing selection of side dish recipes for the big day. My favorite is probably the classic glazed carrots and pecans but I would happily eat each and every one of the fifteen recipes. Click here to check out the tasty dishes. After all, cheap and cheerful isn't just a mantra for retail shopping. It's a philosophy about holiday planning, too. Keep it simple. Great food, simple decorations, and fantastic people to share it with. That is what the holidays are really all about.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Deal of the Day: Stationery and Stamps from

Save 40% and get free shipping on orders from through January 10, 2010. I don't know about you but I just might get myself a little personalized treat while I am crossing names off my holiday gift list. They carry everything from luggage tags and book plates to address stamps and embossed notes. Simply use the code holiday09 and you are on your way to great deals on some awesome products.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Deals of the Day: Get 'em while they're hot

* Land's End color contrast totes: A great option for a teacher gift; about 20% off normal retail price.

* Rumor has it that all Old Navy costumes will be on sale in stores on Friday and Saturday for just $2. Call your local store for confirmation.

* Seen on Target end caps: Summer themed paper products such as invitations, note cards and napkins. I got some adorable, bright hued thank you cards, a pack of 10, for $.78!

* Tiny Prints: 20% off a Studio Basics card order of $5o or more, plus free shipping. Use the code LAPBCCCFZA until November 9th.

* The Picture People: 30% off code available right now; why not get a jump on holiday gifts? Sign up for email alerts and print your coupon off their website.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What deals have you spotted lately?

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Favorite Things: Table Top Puppet Theater

Why not give the gift of imagination? This table top puppet theater will provide hours of fun for little and big people alike. For just over $20, this is a great birthday or holiday gift. For the gift that keeps on giving, you can buy puppets for the gift recipient for holidays throughout the year. Or even make some characters of your own as a fun activity. I can't wait to see the stories that my kids conjure up with this new addition to our toy chest.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Giada's Baked Penne with Roasted Vegetables

Wondering what to do with all of those veggies from your CSA box? I think they would taste delicious in this dish! This would also make a good "side" for the vegetarians at your holiday table.

• 2 red peppers, cored and cut into 1-inch wide strips
• 2 zucchini, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
• 2 summer squash, quartered lengthwise and cut into 1-inch cubes
• 4 cremini mushrooms, halved
• 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced into 1-inch strips
• 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
• 1 teaspoon salt, divided
• 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
• 1 tablespoon dried Italian herb mix or herbs de Provence
• 1 pound penne pasta
• 3 cups marinara sauce (store bought or homemade)
• 1 cup grated fontina cheese
• 1/2 cup grated smoked mozzarella
• 1 1/2 cups frozen peas, thawed
• 1/4 cup grated Parmesan, plus 1/3 cup for topping
• 2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
On a baking sheet, toss the peppers, zucchini, squash, mushrooms, and onions with olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and dried herbs. Roast until tender, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook for about 6 minutes. Since you will be cooking the pasta a second time in the oven, you want to make sure the inside is still hard. Drain in a colander.
In a large bowl, toss the drained pasta with the roasted vegetables, marinara sauce, cheeses, peas, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Using a wooden spoon, gently mix, until all the pasta is coated with the sauce and the ingredients are combined.
Pour the pasta into a greased 9 by 13-inch pan. Top with the remaining 1/3 cup Parmesan and butter pieces. Bake until top is golden and cheese melts, about 25 minutes.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Favorite Things: The OK Book

Our 4 and a half year old son is the first born son of a first born son of a first born son of a first born son. Perhaps it isn't his "fault" that he tends to like things a certain way? Hey, I've got a stubborn streak myself even if I can't claim birth order destiny of any sort. This great book will be in our son's "stocking" this year. But I look forward to reading it with him and reminding myself that it is OK to be "just OK" at something. Or even at a lot of things. Actually, it is better than OK to be just OK; it is completely, 100% normal.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Favorite Things: A. Tierney Baubles and Beads

Umm, I love just about everything on this site. Like this necklace. And this bracelet. There are so many cute gifts on this site -- for your mom or your sister, or even your friend or babysitter. There are also preppy, monogrammed gifts for kids. The prices are great and the styles are fun and fresh. Santa just might have found a new supplier.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Deal of the Day: Spooky House Gingerbread Kit

I've spotted this fun craft (and snack?) all over town. Who says gingerbread is just for Christmas? And the walls of this spooky, kooky castle come glued together! Perfect for kids (and their helpers) who would prefer to have fun decorating the domicile rather than waiting for the walls to hold their shape. One candy corn for me, one for the roof, one palmful of jelly beans for me, one palmful to add to the walkway. Now, that's my kind of cheap and cheerful family fun. This Wilton brand kit retails for between $10 - $13 dollars at Walmart, Target, Michael's, drug stores, etc. So get your goblins together, make some hot cocoa, play some tunes on your iPod, and glob that icing on the roof. Just make sure you have some extra "decor" on hand for those, like me, who sample the spooky swag while they work.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Favorite Things: Deep Thoughts

Some people sit around and drink hot toddies after holiday meals. Others watch sporting events or take naps. If you are at my house, you linger over dessert and read from Deep Thoughts by Jack Handey. Who even remembers now what year we started this hilarious, gut-busting-laughing-like-crazy ritual? If you love laughing with your friends and relatives, pick up a copy of one of the classic volumes. I dare you to read a few pages without busting out in giggles.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Putting a price on customer service

If you are reading this blog, I assume that you like saving money as much as I do. But is your favorite part of saving money being able to do so without sacrificing a positive shopping experience? It is certainly what I prefer. After a particularly unsatisfactory transaction today at a local retailer, I've been pondering the "price" of good costumer service. As prices plummet and stores compete for business, will the shopper get better service or worse treatment?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What has been your in-store experience during the down economy? Any good dirt to dish on getting good or bad service.

We're all ears.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Favorite Things: Daniel Green Slippers

Those of you who know me know that I hate socks. With a passion. When the start of sock wearing season begins, I am not a happy camper. But the one thing that brightens my mood are my Daniel Green slippers. Cozy, slip-on happiness. And on sale for only $24.95. Things are looking better already.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Deal of the Day: Etsy Photo Holiday Cards

Looking for a fresh, fun, and affordable alternative to the usual photo card designs? Check out the selection on Etsy; you can purchase a digital template from a designer and print your own cards at your favorite photo store. With 5x7 prints at Costco at just $.39 and many locations offering 4x6 prints for $.12, you can get a unique design at a great price. Simply, add envelopes and mail! (Or maybe you have cards from after Christmas 75% off sales and just need a neat photo to slip inside?) Click here to see one of the best photo card sites on Etsy. Happy Shopping!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Crafts?

With the rain and cold weather on the horizon, I've been thinking a lot about projects -- both for adults and kids -- to fill up those stuck-in-the-house afternoons. Or even something fun to do with the extended family during holiday visiting. I'd love to look into some crafty fun to feature here on Cheap and Cheerful. Perhaps one of you out there could be my next guest blogger?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What sets of supplies and or project kits have you found that create simple, worthwhile craft items for you and your family to enjoy?

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Apple and Pear Crisp

Who can say no to warm fruit with a brown sugary topping, with ice cream on top? This is Ina Garten's version but feel free to experiment. You really can't go wrong!

2 pounds ripe Bosc pears (4 pears)
2 pounds firm Macoun apples (6 apples)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

For the topping:
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup old-fashioned oatmeal
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Peel, core, and cut the pears and apples into large chunks. Place the fruit in a large bowl and add the zests, juices, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Pour into a 9 by 12 by 2-inch oval baking dish.

For the topping:
Combine the flour, sugars, salt, oatmeal, and butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed for 1 minute, until the mixture is in large crumbles. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit, covering the fruit completely.
Place the baking dish on a sheet pan and bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, until the top is brown and the fruit is bubbly. Serve warm.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

And the winner is ... Announcing Cheap and Cheerful's First Giveaway Winner!

The free photo class pass goes to Kim B.! Congratulations. I will be sending you an email with more details about getting signed up for the class. Your photo philosophy is very similar to the teacher's own thoughts on good picture taking so I know you will love the class!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful's 200th Post! Photo Class Pass Giveaway!

Good morning faithful readers of Cheap and Cheerful! This morning marks our 200th post. We are celebrating this milestone with our first giveaway.

You can win a pass to Katrina Kennedy's amazing online photo class -- "Kids, Captured Through the Lens". Click on the button at the top of the blog for more details.

Post a comment here describing your photo taking philosophy. One winner will be chosen by our illustrious judging panel.

Deadline: 5 pm tomorrow, Sunday, October 11th

Class begins on Monday, October 12th

Friday, October 9, 2009

Favorite Things: Elephant Apron from Stonewall Kitchen

This adorable apron is perfect for your pint sized Julia Child or budding Jacques Pepin. And while you're shopping on Stonewall Kitchen, check out their amazing gift baskets. Instead of buying friends holiday gifts that take up space in their homes, fill up their bellies with treats from this website. With everything from gourmet hot fudge sauces to blueberry pancake mixes and savory snacks, you can find something for everyone on your list. You can even purchase today and set up a future delivery date. Brilliant.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Deal of the Day: Garnet Hill Cashmere Sweater

My mom just scooped up two of these cashmere beauties on a buy one, get one half off special. And although that deal is gone, be sure to check out Garnet Hill's other "sale of the day" items. 'Tis the season to start stocking up for those special under the tree items. (PS -- I like the charcoal one. Just kidding.) I guess Oprah loved this sweater too; it is one of her featured favorite things this year!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Deal of the Day: DOD Tracker

I stumbled upon this cool website this morning. It tracks online deals and items offered at steep discounts. It might prove to be too much information for my tastes, as I am often more focused on deals offered at just my favorite stores, but I am going to bookmark it and report back.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Do you have a favorite deal watching website?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Cupcakes!

I love cupcakes. But I don't love spending $2 for each treat. Why not make your own?
These cuties caught my eye on Food

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup root beer, flat
1/3 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
1/4 cup sour cream
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

8 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 pinch fine salt
1 teaspoon banana extract, or more to taste
1 to 2 drops pastel food coloring, optional

Equipment: 12 cup standard muffin tin
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line standard muffin tins with cupcake liners or spray footed cupcake holders with nonstick spray.
Put the butter, root beer, and cocoa in a microwave-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on High until the butter melts, about 2 minutes. Whisk to combine.
Meanwhile, whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl. Whisk the sour cream, eggs, and vanilla together in a small bowl.
Whisk the hot cocoa mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir in the sour cream mixture just to combine; take care not to overmix. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared muffin cups, filling each one about 3/4 of the way full, about 1/4 cup per cupcake. Bake cupcakes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 25 minutes. Cool the cupcakes completely in the tin on a rack. Remove from liners and return cakes to a rack.

For Frosting: Bring a few inches of water to a boil in a saucepan that can hold a mixer's bowl above the water. Whisk the egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl by hand. Set the bowl above the boiling water and continue whisking until the mixture is hot to the touch and the sugar dissolves, about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the mixture to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat at medium-high speed until eggs beat up into a cool stiff meringue, about 5 minutes. Add a few drops of desired extract and/or food coloring and lightly beat into the meringue.

To decorate: Using a spoon, offset spatula or piping bag, dollop, spread or pipe about 1/2 cup meringue on top of each cupcake to make a ghost or monster of your choice. Decorate with candied eyeballs or other candies. These can be finished 2 to 3hours in advance and held at room temperature.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Favorite Things: Fabulous Items To Support A Great Cause

Breast cancer research is a project that is near and dear to my heart. October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month and there are a lot of awesome pink products out there. Purchase a pink product and the proceeds go directly to breast cancer research. I think a little Christmas shopping for a good cause is in order. I've got my eye on this adorable, multipurpose bag. You could use it was "wrapping paper" for all those fun treats from Santa. I think that is what this "Santa" plans to do ... But, shhhhh, don't tell!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Money Mantra #8: Admit Your Money Mistakes

John Powell wrote, "The only real mistake is the one from which we learn nothing." When you are trying to live cheaply and cheerfully, there is no question that stumbling blocks will be a part of the budgeting and spending cycle. Everyone has their weaknesses in saving money, whether it is "needing" the newest shoes, a penchant for too many lipsticks, overspending on eating out, or indulging in an electronic gadget that isn't as useful as it should be. In order to overcome your money missteps, I propose making a "no buy" list and keeping it in your wallet.

Mine would read: "No black t-shirts, no stationery, no seasonal items, ...".
By keeping a no buy list, I am identifying where I spend money that isn't needed and reminding myself of my past errant purchases. When I can avoid my money mistakes, I can move those dollars toward something else on my "to buy" list.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your "soft spots" in your spending? How do you avoid these money mistakes?

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Favorite Things: Ikea Playroom Rugs

If you are looking for a colorful, durable rug at a great price, make a trip to your local Ikea. We've found great rugs for our playroom and bedrooms for under $50. Just recently, my husband found a super cute, square rug with a faux quilt sampler look for our daughter's room for only $24.99. After all, rugs don't last forever when you've got soccer cleat tracks, crushed goldfish, and baby lotion competing for space. At under $50 a piece you can get two rugs per room per year and not stress about the stains and every day accidents.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What cost effective floor covering solutions have you found?

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Favorite Things: KidBean Wooden Toys

Last year, I stumbled upon this website when looking for a quality, wooden doll bed for my daughter's favorite friends. Not only did I find a bed for "Annie, Caroline, and Clara" and sometimes an errant stuffed animal, I truly bought a toy that my daughter will be able to pass on to her children. Last, but not least, I experienced excellent customer service and got the item at a very fair price. If you are buying gifts for a little person in your life, I highly recommend KidBean. Nothing cheap in the construction but all cheerfully created items that will last for years to come.

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your favorite wooden toy websites or stores?

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Barefoot Contessa Pea Soup

This soup is by far the easiest and tastiest soup that I make on a regular basis. It's a perfect make ahead starter for a dinner party as it stores well in the refrigerator.


2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 leeks)
1 cup chopped yellow onion
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (I use the Safeway Organic and it is just fine!)
5 cups freshly shelled peas or 2 (10-ounce) packages frozen peas (Trust me, the frozen ones are great!)
2/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves, loosely packed
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup creme fraiche (I use Daisy sour cream!)
1/2 cup freshly chopped chives
Garlic croutons, for serving (You can make your own from a day old baguette.)


Heat the butter in a large saucepan, add the leeks and onion, and cook over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until the onion is tender. Add the chicken stock, increase the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Add the peas and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, until the peas are tender. (Frozen peas will take only 3 minutes.) Off the heat, add the mint, salt, and pepper.
Puree the soup in batches (or use a stick blender). Place 1 cup of soup in a blender, place the lid on top, and puree on low speed. With the blender still running, open the venthole in the lid and slowly add more soup until the blender is three-quarters full. Pour the soup into a large bowl and repeat until all the soup is pureed. Whisk in the creme fraiche and chives and taste for seasoning. Serve hot with garlic croutons.

Cheap and Cheerful Challenge -- October: Give a Treat to Someone Else

Cheap and Cheerful's challenge for October is to give a treat (not a trick!) to someone else. Whether it is donating a costume to the AKS Foundation, buying canned food for the needy, or even just paying for the car behind you on a toll bridge, we can all make an effort to share with those around us. If you want, post a comment here about your chosen action. Who knows? You might inspire others to do the same.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Deal of the Day: Colorful and Fun Memory Games

I've written before about great birthday gifts for under $15. Here's my latest favorite to take to preschool parties. It's a sturdy set, with beautiful graphics of international children. You can find it here with free shipping. There are several other themes (animals, candy) made by the same company and offered for the same price. Now if I can only talk my own kids into replacing our very worn "Dino Match" game.

Beg, Borrow, and Steal: Printable Fun

Need something to keep little fingers busy while you cook dinner? Here's my favorite free printables page. Bookmark it and print away!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Deal of the Day: Christmas in September?

I've been casually searching online for Christmas outfits for the kids. My parents get them a nice outfit each year as a gift and I love gathering ideas and then showing the options to my Mom. I ran across a bit of interesting "comparison shopping" that I thought others might like. First, look at this. Adorable, right? I'd love a "nutmeg" dress myself. But then look at this. While it does not come in nutmeg, it's an adorable velvet dress for under $20. I don't know about you buy with the $60 savings I could get shoes, tights and a sweater, too. Do I sound like a Ross commercial?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: Have you found similar items at very different prices? Share your finds here.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Favorite Things: Halloween Blanket from TheGoebelGirls

I couldn't resist posting this adorable Halloween blanket from TheGoebelGirls. Way too cute! October is almost here. I know my little pumpkins love cuddling with their Woobies. (And stealing mine, too!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Deal of the Day: Boy's Shoes at Children's Place

I am one of "those" moms who makes her kiddos dress up for church. Totally mean, I know. Usually, I find great deals on Sperry boat shoes for my son on Amazon, but I recently found some super cute dress shoes at Children's Place. My son had some sneakers and boots from Children's Place before that have held up very nicely so I decided to try their dressier styles. These loafers looks great and cost less than $15. I just might have to go back and buy another pair in his next size!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Deal of the Day: Polka Dot Tote from Sam Moon

Cheap and Cheerful faithful reader Dianna suggested this site. Sam Moon Trading Online offers a variety of adorable gift options at super prices. Check out this precious polka dot tote bag. Only $9.95!

Fill it with coloring books, crayons, Play Doh or other little kid goodies and you've got a perfect Christmas gift for under $20. Thanks Dianna!

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: To Steam Mop or Not to Steam Mop?

I have to admit: I don't mind housecleaning. Well, and we don't quite have the budget for a maid service so having a positive attitude toward a necessary task makes it more fun. With two little sticky people in my house and hardwood floors in almost every room, I am looking for a quick way to buff up my floors. Normally, I used the Method O-Mop which works just fine but it isn't the most efficient process. Swiffer Wet also works for me in a pinch but I dislike all of the waste.
I've been "window shopping" online, checking out the steam mop universe. Before I pay $100 for one, anyone have any advice? All real world experience you can offer is appreciated.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Deal of the Day: Graco Nautilus Car/Booster Seat

Three carseats for the price of one! Does it get any better than that? This seat was recommended to me by several friends and I am so glad I took their advice. It is a perfect seat for a preschooler who can still fit a 65 pound 5-point restraint while allowing the child to grow into the high back booster and backless booster features. The seat design is attractive, the safety features are top notch, and the price is an amazing $144 on Amazon with free shipping. Check out this product. I think you will be as impressed as I am. Now if I can just convince his little sister than her "hand-me-down" big kid seat is just as cool. It's going to be a tall order. We might just end up ordering two of these!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Favorite Things: Windmill Kids

I'm a sucker for smocked dresses. And shopping at Windmill Kids means that indulging in stocking my daughter's closet with the adorable garbs is affordable. Windmill Kids is a true mom and pop company, run by a couple in Maine who has triplets! Save $5 off an order of $35 and up with the code TGHS. Act fast -- there are already some adorable holiday dresses on the shelves, as well as great prices on summer smocks. Code expires on September 30th.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Southwestern Pasta Salad

This is a great side dish for a party, especially if you have vegetarian guests. It's also easy to substitute less or more veggies, add cheese, add a bit of sugar to the "dressing", etc. Enjoy!

1/2 (16 ounce) package rotini pasta
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons chili powder, or to taste
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups whole kernel corn
1 (15 ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup diced green bell pepper
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup chopped roma (plum) tomatoes

Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add pasta and cook for 8 to 10 minutes or until al dente; drain.
In a large bowl combine oil, lime juice, chili powder, cumin, salt and garlic. Stir in pasta and set aside to cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
Stir in corn, beans, green pepper, red pepper and 1/2 of the cilantro leaves. Spoon onto a platter and garnish with tomatoes and remaining cilantro. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Deal of the Day: Snapfish 40% Off Sale

Check out these great deals on Snapfish. Mugs, photo books, coasters and more! Just in time for you to save those end of the summer memories. You might even take care of some stocking stuffers before the holiday madness begins. Or get your Halloween costumes early and make some greeting cards with the smiling faces of your little goblins.

Favorite Things: Gloveables

My pal Wendy brought me a pair of these today. One word: fabulous. Everyone needs a pair or two or three. After all, who says cleaning your house has to mean torn yoga pants and a bleach spotted t-shirt? Or at least you could jazz up said cleaning outfit with a pair of Gloveables? You know you can't resist!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Favorite Things: Old Navy Ruffle Trim Cord Jacket

Looking for a little something to keep your little missy warm as the temperatures drop? This item meets all of my criteria for a functional coat at a great deal: nice construction, cute details, and a dark color to hide chocolate chip cookie crumbs and playground grime. This adorable jacket is yours for only $20. Also, free shipping with a $50 purchase and 40% off sale on right now. Totally worth a few minutes of your browsing time.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Smoothie

This one is a family favorite. Feel free to add/improvise to this basic recipe.

2 cups of ice
2 cups of milk
One heaping blob of peanut butter
One gigantic squirt of Hershey's syrup
One frozen banana
One cup of vanilla yogurt

Throw it all into a blender. Hit the start button. Enjoy.
If you like it frostier, add more ice or another half of a frozen banana.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: Ideas from our Faithful Readers

* Katrina from Sacramento recommends checking out Swap Mamas, an online forum for trading clothes and gear with other moms. If you've already tried it, please leave a comment with your experiences.

* I did some coupon code googling and found a 15% off code for Costume The code is EERIE99. I was not able to find an expiration date but it worked today! Also, the site is offering free shipping now for orders over $75.

* Have you ever tried The site goes "live" on Thursday late in the evening or Friday early morning each week and offers printable in-store coupons. You "search" the site for links to coupons in various denominations -- from the grand prizes of $75 or $50 off $100 to smaller amounts that are still great deals. The in-store coupons are good for one week. This tip was passed on to me by Alyssa in Colorado.

* Cheap and Cheerful wants to know: What are your recent deal finding success stories?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Favorite Things: Somersault Snacks

My daughter asked for these at Peet's today and I am so glad I said yes! These tasty morsels are totally worth a try. I have to admit that I was still tempted to get the Iced Lemon Scone but was very satisfied with splitting a sack of the S.S. Sea Salt Somersaults with my little one. Find them. Buy them. Eat them. Plus, you can request a free sample from their website. Totally cheap and totally cheerful.

Deal of the Day: Rock Out for Less

If you are a Led Zepplin fan or know a faithful follower of the group, here is a super deal.
The Definitive Collection boxed set is 50% off today on Amazon. Click here for the details. Santa might need to pick up one of these for "his" sleigh. Never too early to start gathering gifts for the upcoming holidays. Well, maybe we should get past Halloween first ...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: What's in your Halloween bowl?

Cheap and Cheerful wants to know -- What do you pass out on Halloween? Do you stick with candy or do other non-edible items? Where have you found the best prices on Halloween treats?

Please post a comment and share with other Cheap and Cheerful faithful readers.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Favorite Things: Three Designing Women Address Stamps

As the holidays approach and the addressing of holidays cards looms closer, I was thinking today about these. I have two of these well made stampers by Three Designing Women and I also love giving them as gifts. Perfect for a house warming present, a newly married couple, or any stationery lover, there are so many unique and appealling designs. There are many online stores listed in this site and you can also "shop local" for one by looking up your zip code on the retailer list. Happy stamping!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Charity: Halloween Costumes for the Annika Kelly Strain Foundation

My family has been blessed to get to know the Strain family. You can read about them and their Foundation here. In honor of Annika, the Strain family coordinates a Halloween costume closet for young cancer patients at UCSF. Imagine Halloween in the hospital made spectacular with a rack of costumes to choose from and special treats, too.

If you would like to donate a new costume, in any size from infant to teen, mail it to the address below before October 15.

AKS Foundation
130 Funston Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94118

I get about 50 hits on my blog each day. If everyone who reads this donates just one costume, think about the difference we can make for kids who really deserve a fun Halloween. Spread some love. Share your wealth. It will bring a smile to a kid and his or her parents. And that is certainly priceless.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Chickpea Salad

This Rachael Ray recipe is a perfect go-to salad for lunches or as a side dish for a party. As she would say, "Yummo!".

2 (15-ounce) cans chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 small red onion finely chopped
1 small red bell pepper, finely chopped
A few ribs celery and leafy tops, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced or grated then grinded into a paste with salt
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons rosemary, finely chopped, a few sprigs
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine chick peas with onions, peppers, celery, garlic, red pepper flakes and rosemary in a medium bowl. Dress salad with vinegar and oil, salt and pepper.

Deal of the Day: 20% Off Major League Baseball Online Store

For any baseball fan in your life, get 20% off your purchases at Plus, shipping is only $1! I just snagged a Giants jersey and cap for my little baseball player's Halloween costume. Just use the code EXTRABASES. Now if only the Giants could make the playoffs ...

Friday, September 11, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Charity: Giving Back

I lived in Washington DC for six years, starting in June 2001. When the plane crashed into the Pentagon, I was about 8 miles away. While my life didn't change as dramatically as others did that day, the tragic loss of life and sense of insecurity for our country certainly impacted me. I was thinking a lot today about the ongoing lessons of that day. About community and coming together. About helping others in good times and bad.

I am thinking about adding a new "column" to the blog -- one on saving money little by little, on giving up some everyday "treats" so you can share your blessings with others in your community.

I've got a charity I am thinking about highlighting in October but I want to approach my friends who run the group first. I am also wondering if you have any suggestions about small groups that make a big difference.

Please post a comment. And hug your loved ones extra tight tonight. And every night.
Life, despite its ups and downs, is good. And,for that, I am grateful.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Favorite Things: TheGoebelGirls on Etsy

I've had my "Woobie" for 37 years. And now, the next generation of Woobies have arrived. You'll love my mom's newest endeavor, an Etsy shop stocked with adorable blankets and burp cloths. Made from the softest flannel around, you might just want one for yourself. Click here to be transported to cuteness. And if you mention my blog when you order, she will give you a 10% discount.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Favorite Things: Pottery Barn Halloween Treat Bags

Well, these treats bags aren't really cheap ... but they sure are cheerful! Imagine your little princess with this delicate pink fairy tote. These candy collectors come in lots of clever shapes -- spider, ghost, shark and pumpkin to name a few. Free standard shipping right now on all costumes and treat bags. If they made an adult sized version of the cupcake costume, I might actually consider dressing up. Yum!

Cheap and Cheerful Chatter: $.99 Cent Stores

In honor of 09-09-09, I'm posting a question about $.99 stores. I admit that I don't often go to stores like the Dollar Tree or $. 99 Only so I'd love to hear your opinions. Please share your dollar stores deals and shopping strategies.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Cheap and Cheerful Cooking: Tomato and Crouton Salad

I've got tomatoes on the brain because they continue to grow and grow and grow in my garden.
This Tomato and Crouton Salad recipe by Brian Boitano looks amazing!

3 tablespoons olive oil, plus 1/4 cup
3 tablespoons butter
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and freshly
ground black pepper
1/2 loaf ciabatta
bread, cut into small cubes
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 pints red and yellow,
grape and pear tomatoes, sliced in 1/2
1 cup halved, sliced kalamata olives
1/2 pound perlini mozzarella
8 basil leaves, chopped

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
In a small skillet over medium-low heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the butter, garlic, red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook to infuse the butter and oil with the garlic, about 4 minutes.
Add the cubed bread to a large bowl, pour the butter and garlic mixture over the bread and toss to coat. Transfer to a sheet tray and bake until crisp, about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool.
In a small bowl whisk together the remaining olive oil and red wine vinegar and set aside.
In a large serving bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, mozzarella, croutons, basil, and the oil and vinegar mixture. Gently toss to coat all the tomatoes and croutons. Let the salad sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Favorite Things: Beetle Spoon and Spork

Are you ever in need of a little distraction at the dinner table? Or do you dislike using disposable flatware when you're on the go? If you answered yes, you'll love the Beetle Spoon and Spork. Packaged in a plastic pod to pop in your purse, the spoon and spork unfold for action. They are dishwasher safe and 100% fun. Retailing for about $9 each, they make fun treats for the little everyday celebrations or small holiday traditions at your house.


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