The Best Aldi Finds This Week

On Wednesdays we shop at Aldi.

I wanted to blog about something really on-brand for me, and if you follow me on social media you know I’m an Aldi Queen. I grew up going to Aldi in the ‘90s with my grandparents and it was a totally different beast—juice barrels and dry packaged donuts as far as the eye could see. These days Aldi is a lot sleeker and more organized, and they have definitely stepped up their product selection. One of my favorite things about Aldi is Aldi Finds, which is just a rotating selection of seasonal items. I thought this week I would put together a list of the best current Aldi finds for my neglected blog.

By the way, my store re-stocks on Wednesdays. Some do on Sundays. Aldi is kind enough to share what’s new in their ads a week ahead of time, so if there is something you really want it’s easiest to plan that way. Sometimes half of the fun is going in and seeing what you can find. Here are my favorite Aldi finds from this week.

Huntington Home Painted Candle, $7
I went for the candles today. And groceries, but mostly the candles. Aldi has amazing candles at such a great price. I honestly hoped these would be a little bigger, but they’re still great. There are four colors/scents. I got the orange and brown ones, Pumpkin Praline and Cedar Oakwood.

Crofton Cheese Grater, $7
I also got a cheese grater. Nothing super exciting, but I’m usually satisfied with the value-to-price ratio from the Crofton products at Aldi.

2″ Potted Succulent, $4
I didn’t see these at my Aldi, sadly. The pots come in four colors (green, purple, white or black), but I especially wanted this black one. I love anything with a celestial pattern and little succulents are perfect for decorating the bathroom and kitchen.

Huntington Home Animal Storage Basket, $30
I wanted to get one of these adorable fox storage baskets to keep Atlas’s toys in, but they were already gone at my Aldi by 9:30 AM. Bummer. There were some white rabbit ones left, but I didn’t love those as much. $30

Whole & Simple Protein Bowls, $3
I try not to do frozen lunches too often, but hey. I can only make so many homemade meals these days, guys. Super pleasantly surprised with the flavors they’ve had of these. I got this one and a cilantro lime one today. I make them in the oven—it takes 40 minutes but it tastes so much better than microwaving.

What’s your favorite Aldi find ever? Do you know of a secret Aldi that has all the best goods? Do you want me to post what I’m looking forward to next Wednesday? Let’s talk, people.

My Favorite Makeup Products for Everyday Use

my favorite makeup products-2.png

This is actually a request I got from one of my Facebook friends who said she’s looking into switching to a more natural beauty look, and asked for some product recommendations (I’m incredibly flattered, obviously). I typically don’t feel like beauty is “my space”—I consider myself an amateur, but I have settled into some products and techniques I’m comfortable with.

  1. Boy Brow by Glossier, $16: Foundation and eye makeup can make light or thin brows seem to disappear into the face, so this is a must on days I wear makeup. For a night out I might take more time filling them in, but for day-to-day I love this product—you just swipe it on like mascara. It’s so easy and makes them look fuller and groomed without looking unnatural or exaggerated.
  2. Lumene CC Cream, $15: I love this CC cream! The coverage, texture and price point are all amazing for me. I have some light sun damage I like to cover up and this does a decent job without feeling heavy or cakey. Unfortunately, it’s getting harder and harder to come across so I’m looking for a replacement if anyone has suggestions.
  3. NYX Matte Bronzer, $5: I don’t really have a holy grail bronzer, so this is another category that I’d love suggestions. When I need to buy a new bronzer I just go for low price and matte finish. I use the “3” technique—swiping a soft three shape along each side of my face, hitting the forehead, temple, under the cheekbones and jaw line—for adding depth. Also for natural makeup, I use a swipe of the bronzer on a crease brush to lightly add depth to the crease of my eye in place of eye shadow.
  4. e.l.f. Matte Lip Color in Natural, $3: This lipstick is slightly hydrating, matches my natural lip color and is so affordable. I love to add a little color to my natural makeup look with this.
  5. L’Oreal Voluminous Mascara, $6: This is my OG favorite mascara. I’ve been using it since high school. My lashes are naturally light and kind of stubby, and this adds a natural, soft-looking fullness to them that I love. I’ve tried a lot of higher-end, expensive mascaras, but I always come back to this one.
  6. Maybelline Instant Age-Rewind Concealer and Dark Circle Eraser, $7: A dark circle eraser is exactly what I need in my life, and this does the trick for me. I use it under my eyes, over some of my aforementioned sun damage spots (use SPF, ya’ll) and around my nose to combat redness. Also, age-rewind, because I’m aging. (Like a fine wine, FYI.)
  7. Haloscope Highlighter by Glossier in Quartz, $22: This highlighter looks super natural and dewy, is so easy to apply and it lasts forever. I use my finger to pat it on very lightly in places light naturally hits—the tip and bridge of my nose, my cheekbones and cupid’s bow. I also lightly highlight the inner corners of my eyes—the reflecting light makes eyes look bigger, brighter and more awake.
  8. Milani Blush in Romantic Rose, $9: My goal with blush is to add a natural looking flush to my face. If you’re not sure which blush color is right for you, take a look in the mirror next time you’re barefaced and a little flushed from a workout or a wrestling match with your toddler and make a mental note of how that looks. Recreating that naturally flushed looked adds a healthy glow that artificial-looking colors won’t. For me, this rose color looks most natural.

A few things to note:

  1. These are the things that work for me. I have combination (leaning dry) skin that’s very fair and a little sensitive. If your skin type is different, read reviews to see how products will work for you and research what works best for your skin type, texture and shade. Reviews are everything.
  2. Eyeliner is noticeably absent from my daily makeup routine. My personal opinion is that eyeliner is best for full-on glam looks, not day-to-day. If done with absolute precision, eyeliner can do wonders. For me, it takes too much time and a rushed eyeliner job always makes my eyes look smaller and more tired. Less is better when you’re going for natural.
  3. All of this is in conjunction with skincare. The BEST makeup primer is cared for skin. And lots of SPF, guys. Take care of your skin. Wash it, moisturize it, say nice things to it, whatever.

Homemade Strawberry Shortcake

I decided to make this today for a couple of reasons.

  1. It’s a polar vortex and the whole family is home snuggling up, playing video games and getting on each other’s nerves. Great time to bake.
  2. Strawberries were on sale at Aldi so I bought a surplus. Like, needed-to-hurry-up-and-use-them surplus. I love Aldi, but the freshness window on their produce can be a little tight.
  3. When I was thinking of things to make and mentioned strawberry shortcake, Daphne and Cole both told me they’ve never had it. YIKES. That can’t fly in my house. I grew up eating strawberry shortcake. It’s my jam. It’s time for it to be their jam.

Because of the polar vortex, I was going nowhere to buy ingredients, so everything needed to be homemade. It was super easy and I had everything on hand. Here’s what you’ll need:

Strawberry Topping:
1 pint strawberries
2 tbsp sugar

Shortcake: (adapted from this Genius Kitchen recipe)
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 stick (or 1/2 cup) of softened butter
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla

Whipped Cream:
1/2 cup cold heavy whipping cream
1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla

Start by washing your strawberries and cutting them into quarters. Place cut strawberries in a bowl and mix in sugar. Cover and refrigerate.

Set your oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9 x 9 baking pan. (I used a round cake pan, you could also use a square dish.) In an electric mixer, mix together flour, sugar and butter until thoroughly mixed into a large crumb-like consistency. Scoop out 1/2 cup of this mixture and set it aside. Add the rest of the shortcake ingredients, mix together and spread into your pan. It will be thick and kind of difficult to spread—don’t worry! Top it with the crumb mixture you set aside and bake for 35-40 minutes.

When the cake is finished baking, set it aside to cool and make your fresh whipped cream. Whisk heavy whipping cream, powdered sugar and vanilla in an electric mixer on high until stiff peaks begin to form. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 12 hours.

Slice the cooled cake, top it with whipped cream and a spoonful of your strawberry mixture. Let me know if you try this recipe!

What To Know Before Planning A Small Wedding

I haven’t posted here in a long time—in fact, not since before our wedding. Life has been extremely busy since then! We found out in November we’re expecting a baby this July, we had the normal hectic holiday season, and now we’re caught up in the busyness of spring sports for the girls.

A lot of people have already seen some of the details of our wedding since we were lucky enough to be featured in a local wedding magazine (Heartland Wedding Ideas), and both our amazing photographer, Lauren Konrad, and the owner of our reception venue, Vintage Love Rentals, shared blog posts about our big day. But now that things have settled down, I decided to get back into the swing of blogging and share some more intimate details about our decision to have a small wedding and how we pulled it off.

hilary+++cole135

If you’re contemplating a small wedding, already planning one, or just curious how it went for us, here are some pointers:

Continue reading “What To Know Before Planning A Small Wedding”

8 Rules I Use to Save Money

 

In a lot of ways, a financial diet can end up feeling like a diet diet—boring, tasteless, unsatisfying, terrible, the worst—the list goes on and on, really. But also like a real-life diet, making just a few small changes is often a better starting point than an entire overhaul. It’s a lifestyle change.

My grandma introduced me to the idea of saving money “for fun” a while ago, and since then Cole and I have gotten really into making small changes that feel more like a money-saving game than a punishment. Here are eight “rules” we made for ourselves that have been relatively easy and painless ways to spend less money:

  1. The Dollar-per-Wear Rule
    This is probably my favorite rule, or at least the one I share most often. It was introduced to me a few years ago by a thrifty co-worker and I’ve been kind of obsessed with it ever since. The rule is simple: any clothing item you buy must be worn at least one time for every dollar you spend. It’s great because it discourages any clothing purchase you don’t really love or need, but it allows you to invest in things you’ll really love and use. It’s also a great way to prevent “bargain buying” that doesn’t really end up being a bargain. A trendy, cheap, fast-fashion buy might seem like a better use of your money than an expensive pair of shoes—but realistically, a $100 pair of booties you wear 150 times is a steal compared to a $20 pair you’ll only wear three or four times.giphy
  2. Borrow Things
    A lot of things make sense to invest in yourself, but sometimes it’s just smarter not to. This is also somewhat of a loophole to my dollar-per-wear rule—if you’re going to an event that requires clothing you don’t own or normally wear, trying to find a one-time use garment for $1 is really dumb. But spending $60 on a dress for a themed event that you’ll never wear again is also really dumb in my opinion. Ask around to see if anybody has whatever it is you need. Also, Rent the Runway is genius. I wish I had known about it sooner, especially as a teenager. Imagine, instead of spending $400 on a prom dress by a designer I didn’t know, that I would never touch again, and never get around to reselling—I could have spent $90 on a Badgley Mischka rental and called it a day. You live and you learn, I guess.
  3. Spend MORE Money on Stuff
    This is really hard to do sometimes and it seems so counter-intuitive to saving. And sometimes you don’t know what is worth investing in until you’ve gone through trial and error. For me, it was skillets. I’m embarrassed to admit how many $12 skillets I bought and destroyed until I just bought a couple $40 ones and felt like I’d transformed into Bobby Flay. For Cole, it was spending probably $300 on a few different pairs of work shoes that killed his feet before he realized it made more sense to spend $200 on the pair that would fit comfortably and last for years. I would say, if you keep buying multiples of something that you could afford to invest a little bit more money in, go for it. It will save you money and time in the long run.
  4. Stop Spending Money on Free Stuff
    Like books. I love books. It’s one of my favorite gifts to give and receive, and something I’ve spent a lot of money on for myself over the years, until I realized I didn’t need to. Do you remember the scene in Good Will Hunting where Matt Damon tells the loser at the Harvard bar “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got at the public library for $1.50 in late fees”? While a Harvard degree might be slightly more valuable than a public library card, he kind of has a point. At the very least, you’ve probably wasted dozens of dollars on books you could have read for $0 in late fees (because you’re better than that). Libraries are free and fabulous and totally under-utilized. Books, e-books, movies, and video games are waiting to be borrowed FOR FREE. Plus, when I see somebody with a public library card on their person, I just immediately feel like they’re classier and cooler.x7wrgvx
  5. Make Your Own Food
    If you don’t already do this, surprise. It’s the quickest way to start saving money, for so many obvious reasons. This is one thing that Cole and I have really tried to commit to that has had the biggest impact on our financial (and physical) well-being. We still eat out occasionally, because we’re not monsters, but we try not to do it more than once a week. And I don’t just mean dinners—we take lunch to work, we eat breakfast at home, take coffee with us instead of stopping for it, and I even started carrying snacks in my bag so I don’t hit up the vending machine at work. (Yes, I’m that snacks-in-her-purse lady and I’m embracing it.)
  6. Decide What You Can Live Without
    Some stuff is really easy to decide you don’t need. $80 cable package? Who needs that when Netflix is $15 and your grandparents give you their HBO Go password. Some stuff is harder, because you convince yourself you need it. I love makeup and I spent a long time only buying luxury brands, because, treat yo’ self. Then at work, I sampled a CC cream by a brand I had never heard of that was so fabulous, I was sure I would never be able to buy my own. When I went to review it, I realized it was sold for $14 at Walgreens and it kind of changed my perspective on brand names. I’m back to drugstore makeup and, spoiler alert, I look exactly the same.
  7. Waste Not, Want Not
    Another money rule I try to live by is using what I have before I buy more of it. I know that sounds like a no-brainer, but it’s something I struggle with for some reason. I mostly do this with beauty products—I want to buy ALL the lotion, even when I have a few half-empty bottles at home. My favorite part about this rule is that it prevents me from buying things I won’t end up using. I spent like 45 minutes this past summer reading reviews of every self-tanner, just to remember I had two barely-touched bottles at home. I promised myself I would use those before I bought new. Guess what? It’s October and I only finished one of the exisiting bottles, because, as it turns out, I’m not really a self-tanner person, and also, I might be a slow learner.giphy1
  8. Practice Gratitude
    Listen, my mom is the *queen* of positive affirmations and I know how annoying and hokey it can seem, but it really does work for me and it helps me put money into perspective. Cole and I try practicing gratitude every day, usually it’s as simple as thanking God before dinner for giving us everything we need and so many things we really don’t deserve. Other times, we have to gently remind each other when we’re acting entitled or a little spoiled. When you really value you the things you have and realize what an enormous gift it is to lie down in a warm, clean bed every night, have a home, have a car, and have enough to eat, you really do want less.

In full disclosure, we don’t follow these rules 100% correctly, 100% of the time. We have lazy weeks where we eat multiple meals out, we splurge on stupid things, we can be wasteful. The important thing is to be patient with yourself, and don’t cut yourself off from spending any fun money—it defeats the purpose. The point is to phase out things you don’t really want or need, so you can have more what makes you actually feel good.

I hope you find these tips and tricks as helpful as we have. Share your saving tricks in the comments!

DIY Reading Canopy

kinetic

Daphne turned 8 last month, and in the weeks leading up to her birthday she decided a hanging canopy was at the top of her wishlist. We moved into our new home in August and aside from her bed and some clearance art from Hobby Lobby, her space had been lacking any personality. I gave her access to my Pinterest account and she was immediately drawn to these cozy corner nooks.

Fortunately, this ended up being really easy to DIY and the end product only cost around $24—both the canopy and rug were $12 a piece.

The canopy I used came with hardware and was pretty easy to install. (Note: this says it’s a bed canopy, but in my personal, totally unprofessional opinion this seems kind of dangerous for a child to sleep in. Reading in it, awake, seems fine to me.) The trick for us was finding the space in D’s room to hang it. We decided to do a corner next to a window with lots of natural light, and we hung it a few inches from the wall to keep the integrity of the circular shape when it draped down.

The rug came from Marshall’s and was on clearance on for $12. IKEA has a similar one for $15. We originally decorated with a throw pillow, but ultimately decided it was a good place to store stuffed animals.

readingnookcloseup.jpg

Here’s a close up of the inside. It looks small, but it’s a surprisingly comfortable fit.

readingnooktop.jpg

In case you’re wondering, this is what the top of the canopy looks like. It’s a little flimsy ($12, remember?), but overall I think it looks fine. In the future we might add a fun trim or something.

This ended up being a great way for us to give her room some personality without spending a lot of time or money and Daphne loves it and uses it more than I expected. And, to be honest, at under $30, this is one DIY that I won’t even be mad taking down in a few years when she outgrows it.