Family * Travel * Food

8 Housewarming Gift Ideas Under $20

*This post contains affiliate links

If you are trying to figure what to give someone who is getting a new apartment or house, it can be a challenge. You don't always know a person's specific taste, color schemes or overall style. I like giving and receiving practical gifts that people will actually use. I have put together a list of great ideas that all cost under $20.

1. A cast iron skillet- I say it all the time that every person needs one of these in their kitchen. It's versatile and can be used to saute, fry, broil or bake just about anything savory or sweet. You can even include of of these silicone handle covers

2. Kitchen towels and dish cloths- You can go with neutral colors or even holiday-themed designs depending on what time of year you buy them. Anyone can use kitchen towels and I feel like you can't ever have enough of them. 
3. A baking sheet- If you are buying for someone who bakes and cooks often, this is a must have! My favorite one that I have 2 of is the commercial baker's half sheet size. It's perfect for baking cookies, pastries, fish, chicken, and roasting veggies. I cover mine with foil and parchment for less clean-up. 

4. An automatic soap dispenser- It can be used in either a bathroom or kitchen and is touch-free. 

5. Stemless wine glasses- These are a no-brainer for your wine-loving friends. They come in different colors, shapes and sizes. 

6. Wine cork holder- I have one of these and love it! It serves as a cute decoration for any living or dining area. Since they are affordable, you can even grab an inexpensive bottle of wine to go with it. 

7. Glass storage containers- These are a better alternative to the plastic ones and can be used as storage for leftovers or even to take lunch to work or school. 
8. A cutting board set- I love having a few different sized cutting boards for cutting specific items by group. One for meats, one for veggies, and one for fruit. 

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Gadgets that give your home a warmer feel

When skies are gray and the weather is chilly, there’s nothing like coming back to a nice warm home. A roaring fire is a real treat, but that’s not practical for everyone, and even when it is it will often only heat one room. The good news is that constantly evolving technology has led to the development of some great gadgets for keeping your home snug. These are some of the best.
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Smart thermostats
Once upon a time the only way you could control heat sources in your home was to manually turn them on and off. Thermostats made it much easier, enabling you to set precise temperatures for your central heating, and now the next generation of thermostats lets you do that from wherever you are – even if you’ve gone overseas on vacation and forgotten to turn the heating off. You can make sure you have a warm home to return to even if you’re working irregular shifts, and it’ easier than ever to avoid waste, which also makes this good for the environment. in addition, you can sync it to other apps, so that, for instance, if your fitness app notices that you’re working out, it can tell your boiler to heat water ready for a shower.

Thermal bedding
If it’s hard to get your home to warm up in the mornings or if you tend to get cold at night, thermal bedding is a great solution. It’s now much more diverse – and much safer – than the traditional electric blanket. A thermal pillow, for instance, can aid relaxation, and some emit a gentle scent of lavender, known for helping people get to sleep. You can even buy thermal coverlets that are separately adjustable on different sides, so you and your partner can both be comfortable even if your preferences vary. Thermal blankets can be used in bed but are also great for keeping you warm as you wander round the house upon waking, or for curling up in on the sofa at the end of a long day.

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Innovative lighting
Feeling warm enough isn’t just about the actual temperature of your home – it also has a psychological element. Few things factor into this as much as your choice of light. Even little details like having a lighted outlet cover in each room to help you find your way around at night can make a difference. One of the great things about the shift toward diode based lighting is that it offers a much wider range of colors, including lights whose color you can change. Using lights with yellow or pink tones makes your home feel much warmer than using blue tinted or plain white lights, and with a set-up like this it’s easy to temporarily change the lighting if, for instance, you need to be able to see better to clean up a spill.

Luxurious faux furs
Home always feels warmer when you have something to snuggle up in. These days there are faux furs as good as the real thing. They’re more affordable, have none of the same ethical issues and give the home a real touch of luxury. The secret is a technological one – not only have the materials used improved, but designers have discovered that mixing short hairs with long ones enables a fur to trap much more air, creating an insulating barrier that stops body heat escaping. It’s even possible to get thermal fur pillows that generate heat internally so that you’ll feel as if you’re hugging a snugly animal.

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A cozy kitchen
A warm kitchen at the heart of your home can make a big difference to how cozy the whole place feels. If you use a kitchen range that’s on all the time, heat from it will spread throughout the house. If that’s not practical for you, using a slow cooker can have a similar, if subtler, effect. It will also spread delicious smells throughout the house. Thinking about the hot food you’re going to enjoy in a few hours’ time will make you love being in your home. In the mornings, try a bread maker with a timer switch so that you can wake up to the warm scent of fresh food being prepared.

Gadgets like these can make all the difference if your home is feeling chilly. They’ll not only heat it up, they’ll make you feel cozier and more at ease. A home like this always feels welcoming, whatever the weather.

Limelens Smartphone Lenses - Holiday Photo Gadgets For Guys or Gals

If you are looking for a fun gift idea for the guy or gal in your life, I have something cool to share. I have heard of the lenses for smartphones before and was thrilled to get my hands on a set from LimeLens to play with. Oh my goodness, let me tell you that these lenses are amazing! The Limelens set is the perfect gift for those who are interested in photography in general, or just want to kick their photos up a notch from their smartphone. The set includes both The Thinker – Dual Macro / Wide Lens and The Captain – Supreme Fisheye Lens. In the case you will find all three versions of our Limeclip, a welcome envelope, instructional booklet, stickers and lens accessories such as protective lens caps and microfiber lens cleaners.

It is so easy to install your lens of choice. You simply choose the Limeclip that correctly fits your phone and you remove the backing and stick it on. I keep a case on my phone so that if I don't want or need the clip on there, I can simply switch cases. Honestly, it doesn't bother me and I love that it is already there for when I want to slide a lens on to capture a moment on my phone. 

So I'm sure you're wondering if it works. Here are some examples below using both lenses. 
This was taken with my iPhone camera (no lens) 

This was taken with the addition of the Macro lens from the same distance. You can clearly see how zoomed in it is.
Taken with just my iPhone camera
Taken with Limelens fisheye lens from the same spot. So cool!

As you can see, these lenses make your ordinary pics pop! I bet anyone you give this to as a gift would LOVE you forever. It comes in a handy case that can be stashed away and taken with you just about anywhere. They usually retail for $99, but are currently on sale for $49.99! What an amazing value! Go check it out, you won't be sorry. Come and and join #TheLimeLife This would make a great gift for anyone who owns a smartphone. 

I received a product sample in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own as always. 

The newest additions that make me love homemakin' even more

Last week, I witnessed something horrific that I hope I never have to go through again. I watched the top heating element in my oven burn and spark from one end to the other. I was devastated. I use my oven almost daily... sometimes even up to 3 times a day. What was I going to do? I have nagged expressed to my husband over the last 3-4 years how much I would love to upgrade my range and have a convection oven. We made plans to do this next year but I had to do something soon. I searched online and looked at dozen of ranges from different stores. I already knew that the option of convection would more than likely not be in my price range. I was so surprised when I found one that was affordable . I went with a Frigidaire Speed-Bake range from Lowe's. I would have loved the smooth top but since I cook in cast iron pots and pans a few times a week, I knew it wouldn't be a good choice. I had to stick with the old school electric coils. I am SO happy with my purchase and since Sunday, I have baked different things a total of 8 times. Hey, I need to get my practice with the convection feature!
I am loving the gorgeous color I have been getting on my sweet baked goods and the less baking time as well. I just roasted a whole chicken today and it was perfectly brown and crust on the outside and moist and juicy on the inside.

Another item I got this week is the Silpain baking mat. I reviewed the Silpat late last year and was excited to see what the Silpain was like. Silpain is different from Silpat because the surface is like a fine mesh that is made specifically for baking doughs and breads. 

I made my Cheese Spinach & Artichoke Crescents on the Silpain and I could see the difference with how nice and crusty the crescents came out.
Of course, there was no sticking so I was very pleased with the results. I am already making a long list of things I want to bake in the very near future. I better make sure to incorporate some low-fat and healthy items with the desserts and pastry ideas I have in my head :)

I just had to share my newest kitchen toys. If you own a convection oven and have any tips you can share, I would greatly appreciate it!
Shelly, Mom Files

Vollyeball, elections and cupcakes

I have to apologize for my lack of personal posts. My life has been consumed with obligations but most importantly, my family. The girls just finished up their volleyball season which allows me to have a little more free time. It was bittersweet for both girls. They did not win very many games but did play exceptionally well compared to the previous years. Chardie is an emotional wreck because her high school volleyball years are officially behind her. She wanted it all to be over, yet she will miss it. Brie had a hard time losing so many of their games but felt great winning the last game against their old coach. It was such a sweet victory for them. I have to say that Brie played amazingly all season long. She has so much talent and it was so cool seeing the two girls play together.

It is crazy that they girls are 16 and 18 now. Brie has outgrown all of us in height and is so mature. My baby girl has grown up and the next stop will be driving. She has not been very enthusiastic about driving like most teens would be, but she is ready now. It feels weird to say that I am mother to an adult child. The good thing is Chardie was in no rush to turn 18 and says she doesn't see what the big deal is. She will be voting in the election next month and is excited to do so. I still can't get over that! Speaking of election, I can't wait for it to be over! I know everyone has their views and opinions but social media makes you want to throw up with it in your face 24/7. I won't lie, I have had to unfollow and unfriend some people that got way too out of hand. Regardless of which way it goes there will continue to be unhappy people. I do have to say that this is the funniest thing I have seen all week!
I'm so sorry, I couldn't help myself!

Another thing that happened recently that has nothing to do with anything is I purchased some new kitchen gadgets. I have been baking and cooking since before I was a teenager and have never owned cake decoration supplies or cupcake transporters. How on earth do you have children in school for over a decade and not have anything to carry your cupcakes in? I have baked hundreds of cupcakes over the years and can't remember how I was sending them to school. I also have been wondering why I have never had icing bags with the piping tips. I am now officially obsessed with making pretty cupcakes. I do need to play around with the different tips to learn how to make more designs. I made this gorgeous cupcakes recently to sell at the girls' Dig Pink volleyball game to raise money for breast cancer.
They were white cake with homemade cream cheese frosting that I tinted to make pink. Pretty, huh? Speaking of baking, I am so excited about all the baking that will be going on in my kitchen over the course of the next few months. I have already made a wish list of some things I want to have to make my baking experiences better. Can't wait!

What's going on with you?
Shelly, Mom Files

"Flavor It" Review & Giveaway

I am such a big fan of kitchen gadgets. I received a neat item from Primula Products called Flavor It Pitcher 3-in-1 Beverage System. You can make a wide variety of amazing infused beverages using just about any ingredient you want.  You can make fruit flavored teas, water, wine, even iced coffee! The only limit is your imagination!

The beverage system includes:

  • Flavor Infuser - can be filled with fresh fruit, herbs, or spices to lend intriguing flavor notes to water, tea, punch, and more. Creating a multitude of beverage options from cucumber lime drinks to blueberry iced tea, to sangria and more. 
  • Stainless Steel Tea Infuser - designed to brew loose tea or ground coffee, either hot or cold. The infuser's filter sits low in the pitcher, accommodating small quantities as well as a full pitcher. 
  • Chill Core - filled with non-toxic gel, it is better than ice because it keeps the beverage cool without diluting the flavor.

I decided to test it out over the weekend and decided on fruit infused water. My daughters are big on fruit flavored water so we took a vote and went with peach and lime. I added slices of peaches and limes into the Flavor Infuser and added filtered water the pitcher.
I love the design of the pitcher because it fits perfectly in my fridge door. This frees up more space for bulky milk jugs and other drinks. I let the fruit infuse overnight and we all tasted the water. It was fantastic and very refreshing! I plan to make sangria this coming weekend and will use red wine with a mixture of fresh fruit. My 16 year old is looking forward to make some vanilla flavored iced coffee. I really love that you can tighten the lid to close it to reduce spills. The pitcher itself is BPA-free, dishwasher safe, scratch resistant, shatter proof and  stain resistant. 

The Flavor It Pitcher 3-in-1 Beverage System would make a great wedding, anniversary, hostess or holiday gift. Check out Primula Products on the web, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

How would you like to win one? One lucky Momfiles reader will win the Flavor It Pitcher 3-in-1 Beverage System. Enter in the Rafflecopter widget:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Giveaway is open to US Residents only and will end on October 25, 2012. One winner will be chosen at random and will be contacted via email. Momfiles is not responsible for any lost or stolen prizes. Good luck!

I received a product sample for review purposes. All thoughts/opinions are 100% my own as always.
Shelly, Mom Files

Silpat made my homemaker and baking dreams come true! {Review & Giveaway}

**Contest Closed** 
Winner is Sammi~ Congratulations!

For many years, I have watched the Food Network and Cooking Channels and have drooled over admired the professional chefs cooking gadgets. One particular item that always stuck out was the Silpat baking mat. When I got the offer to review one in my little old kitchen, I excitedly jumped at the chance! I really can't explain how giddy I got when I saw this little beauty for the first time.
I immediately started brainstorming ideas and recipes that I could make with my new Silpat Half size mat. After reading up and watching a video about Silpat, I was intrigued by so many things. Silpat is truly non-stick and never requires greasing. You get even baking every time and no burnt cookies on the bottom! You can use it up to 450 degrees baking temperature and it can be used up to 3000 times! That's good news for me since I bake all the time. I am amazed at all you can bake on a Silpat mat! 

I decided to bake up something savory; Cheesy Spinach & Artichoke Crescents. I took one of my favorite dip recipes and paired it with crescent roll dough. I really wanted to see how well the crescent roll dough would do since I find that they always stick to the pan and also either over-brown or brown unevenly. I just had to find out what would happen! 

For my filling I used a half pack of cream cheese, 1/2 pack of frozen spinach (thawed and water squeezed out), 1/2 of a small jar of marinated artichokes finely chopped, 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese, 1/2 tsp garlic powder and a dash or two of red pepper flakes. You could double this recipe if you are making it with two cans of crescent roll dough (I only used one). I just spooned about a tablespoon of the cheese mixture on the crescent roll dough triangles and spread it out a bit. I rolled them up, placed them on my Silpat baking mat and brushed them with a little egg wash. I baked them at 375 for 16 minutes and this is what they turned out like. I have to mention that I normally NEVER bake anything at the temperature a recipe calls for. I always go 10 degrees under. This is the first time in forever I actually went according to the package baking instructions. 

Now here was where the true test came in. Is it possible for a crescent roll to come off of the baking surface without sticking? Not only did it come off easily, I was able to shift the pan and all of them slid to one end! I was able to pluck each one off with my fingers. No spatula needed! 

The bottoms were perfectly and evenly brown. Even the one or two splashes of egg wash came off perfectly. There was nothing stuck to the Silpat and all it took was a rinse to clean it. 

The Silpat baking mat has exceeded my expectations and have made my homemaker and baking dreams come true! I can't wait to bake all kinds of pastries, cookies and even roasted veggies and fish on it! I anticipate it will become my most used kitchen gadget of all time. Be sure to check out Silpat on the web, Facebook,  Twitter and Pinterest. I think this is a great gift to give for a  housewarming, Christmas, birthday, wedding or any occasion for that matter! 

How would you like to experience this amazing item for yourself? One very lucky Momfiles reader will win their very own Half Size Silpat Baking Mat! Enter below: 
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Giveaway is open to US Residents only and will end on October 15, 2012. One winner will be chosen at random and will be contacted via email. Momfiles is not responsible for any lost or stolen prizes. Good luck!

I received a free product sample for review purposes. All opinions are completely my own, as always.
Shelly, Mom Files

My $2 Find!

I was doing my usual shopping in Walmart this weekend and stumbled upon this gadget. I have seen it a few times before but didn't bother with it. It is a sandwich sealer and decruster. It is a frugal way to make your own 'UnCrustables' at home. You just start off with your 2 slices of bread, add your filling in the center (I used peanut butter and apricot preserves) and then your press the sandwich cutter down over your sandwich. You end up with a crust-less and sealed sandwich. It worked great! Glad I finally broke down and bought one. You can find them hanging in random places. I found mine on the aisle with the coffee. My only recommendation is to not over-fill your bread.

Shelly, Mom Files

Adding to my cast iron cookware collection

If you have been a regular blog reader or you follow me on Facebook, then you would know how much I love to cook and bake. I have fallen in love with cast iron cookware in recent months. I currently own the big, two-sided griddle/grill, a small frying pan and now a large, deep pan (great for frying) and a shallow pan (great for steaks and for days when the big griddle is too much).

My hubby actually brought them home as a surprise. He bid on them and bought them at an auction. How thoughtful was that?! I am so excited that I have so many different size options and these will get plenty of use in the years to come. I am so happy they are pre-seasoned as well. Hopefully I will be able to properly maintain all of my pieces to be able to pass down to my kids. 

You will be seeing some upcoming recipe posts using my new pans in the near future :-)
Shelly, Mom Files

The Poor Man's Keurig

For 3 years now I have bugged  nicely asked my husband for a Keurig coffee brewer. Being the frugal man he is, he reminds me of my old school Black & Decker Cup-at-a-Time coffee maker. He's like why spend $80-$100 when you already have the original version? You know what? He is so right. I bought this gadget about 12 years ago for about $15 at Walmart. I have even purchased additional ones as gifts.
Strangely enough it has hung in there after numerous uses, and even traveling on road trips, being used in the office at work and of course at home. It still makes a steaming hot cup of strong coffee. I can use any ground coffee I want and don't have to purchase the little pods and I can brew to my desired strength. I don't think one little K-cup would work for a gal like me. I am used to drinking coffee as strong as motor oil!  I guess it really makes sense after all to stick with my old school machine. I haven't seen these brewers around in some time but if I do, I might need to purchase it as back-up! 
Shelly, Mom Files

CSN Stores $45 Gift Certificate Giveaway

Winner is #121 Tania~ Congratulations!

I tell you what, CSN Stores has been my go-to when I am researching items that we need around the house. They have over 200 online stores and offer everything from wooden swing sets to bakeware. I have used CSN quite a few times and I have been completely satisfied with the ease of use of the website, the vast amount of choices and variety, fair prices and the super fast delivery. Now that I think about it I sure could use some new cookware and bar ware (hint hint to the hubby)

The great folks at CSN Stores has offered a $45 online gift certificate for one lucky Momfiles reader to use on anything from their 200+ online stores.

Here's how to enter~Mandatory: Visit the CSN site and tell us what you would purchase if you win the certificate. Perhaps a new coffee maker or something for your office?

For additional entries:

* "like" Momfiles on Facebook and leave me a message on my wall letting me know you entered this giveaway
* "like" CSN Stores on Facebook
* Share this giveaway on your Facebook wall
* Follow Momfiles and CSN Stores on Twitter
* Tweet this giveaway (one time per day) Example:
Enter for a chance to win a $45 @CSNStores gift certificate #giveaway from @momfiles
* Follow Momfiles through Google Friend Connect
* sport the Momfiles button on your blog (please leave blog link)
{Be sure to leave a separate comment for each entry method to count}

This contest will end on February 24, 2011 at 9:00 pm EST and is open to Canada & US Residents only. Winner will be chosen at random and contacted via email. Please be sure to leave an email address in your comment if you do not have a Blogger profile. Good luck to all!
Shelly, Mom Files

Another dinosaur

I wanted to share another dinosaur that lurks around the Ismail domain. It is my most FAVORITE cooking utensil EVER. I got it as a hand-me-down from Dwayne's grandmother when we left to move to South Carolina 15 years ago. She had it for 20 years+ before then. I remember my mother having a similar pot spoon growing up.

I have searched high and low for a new one since the handle broke about 5 years ago. No luck. I don't care if I spend a lot to get a new one, as long as it is as good as this one. I will use this one forever or until it gives out. No other pot spoon can compare. It is so well made (probably the reason I can't find one nowadays). When I update my will next year I will give it to one of the girls (of course I have to be dead first). I'm serious. I love my spoon! It's a shame that things just aren't made as well anymore.

Shelly, Mom Files
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