Thursday, November 5, 2009

Holiday Hostess Gift Ideas - Gifts that Give Back, Part 1

My favorite holiday hostess gift of all time came from the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital’s Holiday Hope Gift Book.

What’s especially special about gifts like these is that the stories behind them can spark meaningful conversations (and action) to advance good causes. Many items feature art designed by patients and “100% percent of profits, after all related expenses, benefit St. Jude Children's Research Hospital," according to the Web site.

Check out the lovely selection of ornaments - I first found out about the St. Jude Hope Gift Book maybe a year or two ago after seeing their ornaments recommended in a magazine, but the ones I wanted were sold out. So if you see something you like, consider buying it sooner than later.

What I have my eye on this year: holiday ruffle plates. Imagine how heart-warming they could be when topped with homemade cookies!

I want to write more ideas for “gifts that give back” in future editions...

Do you have a favorite place to buy quality, affordable gifts that give back to charity? Email me at valuforia at

Necklace that Looks Way More Expensive Than It Was (IMHO)

After admiring some stunning gold jewelry made by a designer for Hollywood celebrities, I was searching for similarly styled pieces with significantly lower price tags.

That’s when I found this gold-over-silver hooped necklace at Kohl’s, and have worn it countless times since - I think it looks smashing with black V-neck shirts and sweaters. You gotta love how a nice necklace lengthens and flatters the figure by drawing the eye upward. The 16-inch necklace is the one I own, but it’s also available in 24-inch length.

It could make an impressive looks-more-expensive-than-it-was gift, for yourself or others.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Make Someone’s Day for Less Than $10

How often can you make someone’s day with a nice present - one that’s personal, special and gift-wrapped - for less than $10?

I found such a gift recently in the form of a half-pound box of See’s Candies, which the folks at the local See’s counter helped me customize for my grandmother. (They also waited patiently while a long line formed as I tried to be quick about picking the candies gramma would like best.) 

It was hard to choose with dozens of options like milk chocolate or dark, marshmallow, caramel, cafe au lait, vanilla buttercream, apricot, strawberry, raspberry, etc., etc.

Bonus tip: So that your recipient can easily figure out what’s inside each confection, include a product list (I got one from the store) complete with color photos and descriptions. Invite her to circle the sweets she likes best and send the list back to you for future gift-buying reference.

How nice to give a $10 gift and get a way to connect with a faraway loved one!

Do you have a gift idea that’s $10 or less and truly something special? Email me at valuforia at

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Where to Find Bargain Area Rugs

The ground-in spaghetti bolognese on my old dining room rug was the last straw.

The rug had to go. I chose “beige” before we had kids. Now the color could be more aptly described as “dirt.”

We had wanted a new area rug for a long time - the trouble was finding a store that offered a wide selection and affordable prices. It seems like so many large area rugs cost upward of $1000.

I searched around online and off, but couldn’t find what we wanted. Something with neutral but rich color that would hide stains. Something with a bit of panache, but no graphics or patterns that could clash with table decor.

Then Google led me to, where I found many area rugs with reasonable prices. I’m beyond pleased with the 8’ by 11’ Flora Moderna rug pictured above that I bought for about $300 by using a discount code posted on Coupon Cabin. Would you believe shipped this ginormous thing for $2.95?

Monday, October 12, 2009 Offering $25 Gift Certificates for $2

You’ve probably heard the buzz about, the site that’s been featured in news stories galore because it offers discounted gift certificates (such as $25 gift certificates for $10) to oodles of restaurants.

But it gets better... also dishes out extra special deals via promo codes.

Example: I recently bought a $25 gift certificate to an upscale seafood restaurant in my neighborhood for $2.

Nope, that’s not a typo. $2 for a $25 gift certificate. Which I used during a friend's birthday celebration and it allowed us to sample more appetizers than we might have otherwise chosen to afford. To get the gift certificate for $2 instead of $10, I used an 80 percent off (who gives 80 percent off?!?) coupon code that I found on Coupon Cabin.

Actually is running another 80 percent off promotion now (expires today 10/12), mentioned at Coupon Cabin and also on's Twitter feed.

Seems to be worth watching to see which of your local restaurants are offering gift certificates, and what kind of special promotion the company comes up with next.

Photo credit: Jacek Kutyba

My Favorite $5 Find for Fall

Nothing makes a house feel more homey than a nice candle.

But try finding one that doesn’t a) reek like cheap perfume b) come in an unattractive jar with a label plastered on the front and c) cost $15 or more.

Not easy, in my experience. So I was delighted to discover at Walmart this triple-tiered candle with pleasant pumpkin, spice cake and caramel scents, for about $5. Five dollars! This is a hearty, good-size candle, about six-inches tall, and it also came in several other colors and fragrances. I was so giddy that I didn’t have the good sense to buy several.

Perhaps the best part? I flipped the candle over and was pleasantly surprised to discover that it was manufactured in the USA by a company in Kentucky.

Warmth, light and autumn now grace my kitchen table, for just a few dollars.

P.S. - I didn't see the candles at the Walmart Web site, but hope we can still find them in-store...

What Is Valuforia?

Valuforia is what I call the feeling you get when you buy something truly special and exceptional at a reasonable price. Value + euphoria = Valuforia.

The Valuforia blog and email newsletter (coming soon) aims to give you tips and ideas for discovering deals and bargains on low-cost, high-quality items - everything from towels and toys to wine and food.

Who am I?

I’m a freelance writer, former TV news producer and current mom who works part-time so that I can spend after-school time with my two little boys. I’m constantly seeking creative ways to stretch our budget and would love to help you do the same - together let’s discover products that offer something more for a little (or a lot) less!

I hope you enjoy Valuforia and invite your feedback - contact me at valuforia at

- Michele