cookie decorating party

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

For as long as I can remember, I have decorated cut-out sugar cookies at Christmas time. We used to make them growing up–I remember stars, trees, bells, and candy canes.

My mom made them and we’d decorate with colored buttercream frosting we’d spread on with butter knives.

When I went to college I recreated the same thing. I wish I could find some pictures of the ones I decorated with college roommates! I do recall we rolled out the dough with a wine bottle because we had no rolling pin, ha!

After college I lived in an apartment with roommates and we decorated each year. When I moved into my first house, these friends came over to work on our cookies.  It’s tradition 🙂

I used to play bunco each month until a few years ago when we realized it wasn’t the dice game (that we hardly ever played) that we looked forward to each month–it was the company! We stopped playing bunco altogether and instead choose a fun activity each month that we otherwise might not get around to doing.

This cookie decorating party has become my designated “bunco month” the last few years and I love that the tradition carries on at my house in this way!

If you’ve ever wanted to host a cookie decorating party (for adults, kids, or both!) here are some tips for pulling it off with minimal stress:

  1. Start preparing 2 nights before. I made the cookies on Tuesday night and the icing on Wednesday night so Thursday evening I only had to lay it all out and wait for my guests. I needed enough for 10-12 people so I doubled the batch of dough as well as royal icing.
  2. Make clean up easy on yourself. I lined the whole table with a disposable table cloth and everyone got a paper plate.
  3. Have fun! some of my icing consistency was off, some of my cookies were on the crisp side, some of the sprinkles spilled…but none of us are professionals!

TO get started you’ll need  a recipe for cookies that do not spread even a millimeter. This was especially important for me because I borrowed some impression cookie cutters and the imprints would disappear if the dough spread! 

I have used this recipe ( 

These wonky little Grinch trees are so adorable it doesn’t even matter that my cookies aren’t perfect.

I think baking the cookies is the fun part. Royal icing is a whole different story. It is a labor of love 🙂 To make it easier I usually use this Wilton Meringue Powder so that I don’t have to worry about egg whites.

Wilton’s website actually offers their royal icing recipe to use with their product but I don’t recommend it. I used probably twice the amount of water they called for.

I have found from experimenting that it’s best it to start out with 3 tablespoons of the meringue powder along with 6 tablespoons of warm water. After this is mixed together on low speed I add in 4 cups of powdered sugar. I usually add more water here if it’s crazy thick to get it to form stiff peaks.

Really just play around with water (in increments of just a few drops at a time!) to determine consistency. You want stiff peaks.  You can also add flavor–I did a little lemon juice and a little almond extract to get it to taste less like liquid sugar.

Coloring it is time consuming, which again is why I like to dedicate whole night to icing. Just crank up the Christmas music, get out some wine and take your time. I picked 6 colors. So you need to make your two batches of icing (or 1 for a smaller party), then separate it into 6 bowls. Use gel food coloring.

It should still be at stiff consistency from the mixer and you want to color each bowl and transfer the colored icing into piping bags(I don’t use tips, just cut the bags when you are ready to use) Don’t use all the icing, leave some in the bowl to turn into thin icing! Add small amounts of water slowly into each bowl until it is thinned out. If you pick up your spoon and let the icing fall back into the bowl, you want to see it all “disappear” into the rest of the icing within 10 seconds.

Here is a tip for transferring icing into piping bags–wrap the bag around a cup! Then you can spoon the icing in from a bowl using both hands.

Your outlining icing is stiff enough to stay in a piping bag and not spill out. The fill icing is thinner so I rubber-banded those. I put all completed icings in an air tight container and stored overnight at room temp. That is a huge perk to not using egg whites.

The next step is just to set everything up! I poured sprinkles into cupcake liners just so they were easier to pinch instead of having to shake and dump them onto cookies.

We really had a great time decorating and chatting. I look forward to this  night every year! We enjoyed fancy Aldi cheese (my idea of cooking), wine/beer, the Christmas Pop station and the company. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

Best of all–here is a picture of clean up:

Hope everyone is having a great Christmas season! I always make enough extra cookies to save for the boys to decorate for Santa Claus. These cookies actually keep great in an air tight container or freezer! Stay tuned for their artistic talents coming up in about a week!

the green light to sleep in

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

After seeing the results I feel like I have to share my review with other parents who may benefit from a Hatch. I already left a glowing Amazon review and while I was writing such a long novel of a review I thought—this could be a blog post!

Our 3 year old (4 next month) Sam has always been a great sleeper. An excellent sleeper really. He is a Babywise baby through and through.
If you aren’t super familiar with that—I can’t recommend it enough. We basically did “Eat Wake Sleep” in that order every 3 hours-ish and stuck to a schedule. There is more to it than that and my love for the Babywise method is a whole different post that I may do one day!

My point is, from around 3 or 4 months of age, Sam started sleeping from 7:00pm-7:00am and not waking up at night. This continued until he was around 2 years old and we changed his bedtime to 7:30pm but he slept until 7:00am pretty much every morning unless he was sick.

 I take no credit for this and only have the book Babywise to thank for it— our second son was also a Babywise baby and while not quite as easy at first, he was also eventually a wonderful sleeper—so check it out!).

Anyway, early wakings were not something we had to navigate this far in our parenting journey other than the occasional sleep regression with our youngest, Tom. Sam loved sleep so much the sleep regressions missed him! We lucked out big time.

This summer both of our boys even had some weekend mornings where they’d sleep til more like 8:00am and 8:30am. Hallelujah.

Sometime into the fall, Sam started creeping back to an earlier wake time until it was more consistently 6:30am. This obviously wasn’t a huge deal, but we do try to be ready ourselves first and then get the kids ready/feed
breakfast/pack lunches etc. So his waking up at 6:30 was kind of cutting into my hair and make up time, ha!

Other that looking less than my best, I didn’t worry 🙂

I did not think we had a problem on our hands until his new waking time got to be closer to 6:00am. And then, the time change happened and 6:00am turned to 5:00am. The final straw was one week in early Nov where Sam woke me up at 4:45am and 4:55am several days in a row.

Just my opinion…but if the time on the clock doesn’t even start with a 5 yet, that’s the middle of the night, not the crack of dawn.

Fun side note—he really preferred waking me up…not so much his dad. Kids do have it out for their mother’s sleep sometimes 🙂

We tried making his bedtime later, we tried being stricter and just saying he couldn’t get out of bed until we came to get him, we tried sending him back to his room each time he woke up at and BEFORE the crack of dawn, we tried saying just get in bed with us and go to sleep.

None of it worked.

See here a picture of Sam who had been sent back to his room multiple times from 5:00am-6:00am on a Saturday only to wind up getting bored in his room, putting on a warewolf costume and water shoes, and coming to crash by our bed. He had tossed every shoe he owns out of his closet searching for the summer shoes.

Amusing? yes. How I want every morning to start? ehhhh.

I was especially bummed out that those early mornings when Sam was up an hour before normal we usually let him play a game on our phone or even start a cartoon and he really doesn’t need any more screen time than he already gets.

What had happened to our awesome sleeper of over 3 year?! Was this payback for not having to spend the first year of his life as sleep deprived parents?

I got to thinking that this could be a developmental leap ( I am a baby book freak, this developmental leap is referring to another one of my favorites—The Wonder Weeks).

Anyway, by developmental leap, I mean that I wondered if he was just getting older and had developed enough so that when he was waking in the morning he was mature enough and independent enough to start thinking about his day, what he was going to do, who he might see, and how it was going to go. So much so that he couldn’t get back to sleep.

He had actually recently begun saying “What are we doing today?” each morning when I woke him up (back in the good ole 7:00am days).

Also, I thought maybe he was having a hard time shutting out outside sounds like a garbage truck or my hair dryer or even birds chirping. In the past it may have just all been white noise to his little brain, but now perhaps he had developed into an older, more curious little boy who heard sounds that meant—New day! Wake up!

I needed a way to teach him when an acceptable time to start his day was, but he wasn’t quite old enough to read numbers. I did some Google research that led me to colored nightlights and “time to wake” alarms. I had heard of them but had no need so far. There are quite a few options to choose from.

This is very unlike me, but I went with the most expensive option—the Hatch. I read way too many negative reviews on the other ones. So many of them had weird quirks like a “yellow” stage where it’s okay to be awake but not leave the room which to me just encouraged more water shoe time. Anyway I didn’t want to just confine him to his room, I wanted him to get his sleep.

Another perk is that the Hatch was the only option that was both sound machine AND sleep trainer. The reviews glowed.

If we ever have another baby, our boys will share a room for a while. I told myself the Hatch would be an investment and something I think will come in very handy in a shared room so they won’t wake each other up.

So, how does it work?

It’s basically a sound machine and night light that can play a wide variety of sounds and display a very wide array of colors in any level of brightness. It can do color and sound at the same time or one or the other on their own. You set the programs on your phone on their free ap and it uses Bluetooth. And you can even go in and change it once the kid is sleeping (if you wanted).

I set ours up to be very simple. A dim red glow that they say enhances sleep (who knew?) starts at 7:45pm and plays a soothing white noise. At 7:00am, the noise stays on but the color changes to green. At 7:15am it goes off all together.

I decided to keep the noise running even as the green light turns on just to it wasn’t a jolt into silence that seemed like an alarm to wake up. Maybe he’d want to sleep til 7:02 and would like the white noise, despite the color of the Hatch? Anyway, you could pick countless ways to set this up.


How has it worked?

Better than I ever would have imagined.

Here is a little mantra we came up with so he’d remember—“red, red, stay in bed.” Of course we explained he could get up to go to the bathroom. However, we said he could not come wake up mommy and daddy until it was green.

On day 1 Sam came to us around 6:30am and told us it wasn’t green
yet. I had to laugh a little. So we explained again and tried again for night 2. That next morning he bolted out of his room at 7:00am yelling “it’s green it’s green!” He did this for the next 3 or 4 days. Technically, it was working.

However, he told us he was “waiting and waiting” for it to turn green. The light had given him a rule and he had obeyed it, but was it really solving the underlying problem of him waking up at the crack of dawn? It wasn’t…not yet at least.

I did some more research and I had this theory that he was no different than any normal adult. Many times I wake up at 4:00am or whenever it may be. I wonder briefly if it’s time to wake up. I glance over at my phone, the numbers confirm that it is not, so I roll over and go back to bed. I may even do that same thing at 6:00am if it’s a weekend.

I stay in bed until my clock tells me otherwise—not laying there waiting on the minutes to pass by, but usually going right back to sleep.

Sam was also waking up at odd hours wondering if it was the right time to get up, but now the light was instructing him whether or not it was. At first he was so excited for it to turn green, he never went back to sleep. But as time went on, there would be a day or two here and there where Sam would sleep through his green light “alarm” and we’d have to wake him up after 7:00am to get ready.

We have had the Hatch for a little over a month and Sam has slept in past the green the last 3 days in a row as well as 3 days last week. I think he is learning to allow himself to go back to sleep and get needed rest before it’s the right time to wake up!

(Yes, I am aware I just officially jinxed us.)

Who knows if my theory about the developmental leap was right. I am fairly confident, though, that he was developing a bad new habit that may have gone on too long and been quite hard to correct. Then again maybe it was a weird stage and he would have gone  back to sleeping in on his own.

Either way, I am so thrilled with the Hatch and all of it’s functions, and really do think it will come in handy should we ever have our two young boys sharing a room.

And in case you are wondering—I only wish I got a free Hatch for this review…but I did not. The opinion here is not sponsored in any way.

Anyone out there ever experienced this sudden shift in toddler wake time? I am still curious about it. If you do have this issue and haven’t tried a light yet… I obviously recommend the Hatch!

curly girl method

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I am so intrigued by this Curly Girl Method and I am only about 10 days in. I wanted to share my results/process so far with anyone who is feeling the way I was feeling about my hair.

Here’s my hair story.

What? You don’t have a hair story?! Just go along with me for a moment.

As a toddler I had curly hair like a lot of toddlers do. It had ringlets and my mom, who has straight hair, said people would often ask if she had curled it. Like anyone in the history of ever has had time to curl a 2 year old’s hair on the regular…

Anyway, the curls faded into waves and often got brushed out because we didn’t know what to do with them so I had a sort of fluffy look for a while.

some wild curls
sassy curls
the fluffy look

As a preteen, it started getting curlier and I learned about scrunching. However, the flat iron was all the rage at this point. Many times I even had friends iron my hair…with a clothing iron on an ironing board. I would wear it natural sometimes….though I considered it a more casual look compared to “fixing it” and wearing it straight. I felt like curly hair went with hoodies or yoga pants and straight hair was for formal dances, senior pictures etc.

In college and my early twenties I really embraced my natural hair. During this time my flat iron bit the dust, Taylor Swift hair was a thing, and my boyfriend (now husband) mentioned he liked it curly best. In this stage I only wore it natural and to fancy it up I would sometimes curl over it with a curling iron for definition.

No curling iron here, my curls had better definition back then – circa 2011


2014 ish in the August humidity and still less frizzy than it became in recent years

I feel like I had good hair days during this stage! I wasn’t following any curly girl method, but getting it wet and scrunching with a gel was enough.
Somewhere over the last few years (around the time I had kids) it started becoming more wavy than curly. And it began to look frizzier.

hair starts getting unmanagable–here I have a 15 month old am 5 months pregnant so I blamed hormones
Thanksgiving 2018 – this picture is what motivated me to look into a better routine for my hair

Both my boys have curls and people constantly ask me where they get their curls. I usually tell them… “oh I have kind of curly hair.”  At which point people say ahhhh you straighten it.

This happens weekly ! I looked back at pictures and realized my curls were barely there anymore..not even noticeable. I had waves and frizz. Not only that but it was so unhealthy and tangled all the time.

I would end up with such “rat’s nests” while showering that I’d often be in there until the water ran cold trying to sort through it. On occasion even crying from frustration and having to rip out knots.

I tried deep conditioners, detanglers, more expensive mouse and gel. My hair stayed the same.

What had gone wrong? Too many years of sulfates in shampoo? My brushing to detangle? Could it really have been the pregnancies? Was it heat damage from diffusing?

I started doing a little research on nursing my curly hair back to life and I found the Curly Girl Method. Full disclosure, I haven’t even read the book yet. What I did read were dozens of really amazing curl transformation stories with pictures that did not seem real. So I decided to give it a go.

Here is a basic idea of the method:

  • Wash your hair one last time with shampoo, and then get rid of it.
  • Get rid of the brush! (As a curly headed person I knew not to brush when wet or risk confusing curl pattern/frizzing the curls, but I will admit to often times brushing it out with spray detangler when it was dry before the shower—not any more.)
  • Buy a silicone free conditioner and use it to “wash” instead of shampoo. Just massage into scape with fingertips and rinse.
  • Use a generous amount of the conditioner all throughout hair and detangle with fingers or wide tooth comb while in the shower. (I bought this and it is a GAME CHANGER coming from someone who has been reduced to tears over my mess of hair.)
  • Rinse out most of the conditioner but leave some in. Do not wring hair. Scrunch water out with a t shirt, do NOT touch hair with a towel.
  • Apply product to wet hair, not damp hair.
  • Now stop touching it. Let it air dry, diffuse it, plop it (more on plopping below). Just leave it alone as much as you can. Touching equals frizz.
  • Trim hair regularly and/or see a stylist who specializes in curly hair.

So that is the curly girl method. Now here is what I do, what I use, and how it has worked so far.

  • I am washing hair every other day. I “wash” with this silicon-free conditioner
  • I add more conditioner and slowly comb my hair with my wide tooth in-shower comb. I part my hair at this time so I don’t have to touch it as
    much after shower.
  • Once it’s completely detangled I do the “squish to condish” method. This means I sort of squish and scrunch in the conditioner to make sure it’s all over and to get curl clumps to start.
  • Once shower is over, I flip my head over, still in shower but water off, and still with slightly conditioner-y hands, and I scrunch out as much water as I can. 
  • I grab a t-shirt that I have hanging by my towel and then use it to scrunch out a bit more water so it isn’t dripping.
  • It should still be pretty wet, and with head flipped over, I add in my product (Miss Jessie’s Jelly Soft Curls) all over with a scrunching technique.
  • I move on to a new dry t-shirt and plop. I wish I was savvy enough to provide you directions on plopping. You essentially flip your head over, gather hair as if you were doing a super high pony at the crown of your head (but don’t actually secure with a hair tie) and let it all plop down onto the t shirt, hair all piled on top of itself. Then wrap the t-shirt up and tie it so the curls are laying coiled up and secured to dry that way.
  • I sleep in this no problem and wake up to still damp curls that I briefly diffuse. Some people plop their hair for only 20 minutes and see results. The idea is–it helps your curls dry without having to fight gravity.
  • Second day I do not wash it but when ready to style, I spray it with a mixture of water and conditioner and then scrunch and let air dry.

I am not very far into this process and I do think the hair near my roots looks a bit off without shampoo. But not shampooing hasn’t been as bad as it sounds. They say it takes a few weeks for the hair to fully adjust to ditching all those sulfates in shampoo anyway.

For now, here is a little glimpse at my hair trying to be curly again. It’s not some crazy transformation but I do think my hair is better off with this method. I want to be a curly girl again!

This is actually the first day I didn’t shampoo…but I didn’t have my new gel in yet. Compared to the last year it’s decent.
Actually impressed with better curls after “plopping” the first time.
Day 5, second wash, still thinking this is better than the before!
Day 7 – did not plop overnight, instead washed hair in the AM and had to diffuse for forever
Day 9 – plopped overnight again..maybe too much product but happy with the curls still.
still day 9 – roots a little bogged down with product, it’s work in progress!

And that’s where I’m at now. I will post again at the 1 month mark.

Please let me know your experience with this method if you have tried it! Or join me in the process if your curly (or once-curly) hair feels like it could use some TLC.

And bless you if you have straight hair and took the time to read 🙂

for your Christmas entertainment

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I don’t know about everyone else, but I have been a Christmas movie and book addict so far this season. I don’t even mind Mickey and the Roadster Racers or Vampirina as much so long as they are Christmas specials.

Okay I won’t lie…I don’t usually mind Vampirina at all…that’s a good one. But you know what I mean.

The same can be said for story time. We have a lot of books, and I do get bored with some of them (although the kids don’t and that’s what matters). Still, it’s so nice to read bedtime stories that I enjoy, too!

Here I have compiled some of the movies and books I can’t get enough of each December.  Some for kids some for adults. I’d love any suggestions from you all! Especially on Christmas books, because Santa likes to deliver a new one to us each year.

BOOKS

The Grinch – this is a long story but it’s so much fun for me to read. Per Dr. Suess’s usual, it flows perfectly and is great for read aloud. Plus, I like doing the Grinch voice. “It came without ribbons!”

The Polar Express – we read this last week and I actually cried on the last page like an emotional Christmas weirdo. “At one time, most of my friends could hear the bell….” SOB. I think it made me think of my kids growing up and how short the magic is. (See this post.). I just don’t enjoy the movie version very much… probably because the book is so perfect as is.

Carl’s Christmas – this is great for little ones, especially if you have or love dogs. It has no words but some of the most beautiful illustrations I’ve seen. I always recommend it and gift it. I have memories of reading this at my aunt’s house growing up and it’s so interactive because you can ask the children what’s going on with the wordless pages or tell the story differently each time. Everyone who picks it up will “read” it differently.

The Gift of the Magi – I have yet to find a children’s version that I like, but I’m on the hunt. The full version is actually my favorite short story ever (Christmas or not). I feel like that’s something only my English Major self would say, but it’s true. “These two were the wisest.” I can’t make it through this without crying but it’s a good cry.

The Best Christmas Pageant Ever – If you didn’t read this in grade school, you aren’t too old to check it out. I vividly remember my 4 th grade teacher Sister Judith reading this out loud to the class. I bought it on my Kindle and then found it at a yard sale this summer for 50 cents and cannot wait to read out loud to the boys. They are a little young, but that doesn’t stop me from reading this myself every year (and crying, duh). You just have to read it. In case you aren’t attending any garage sales soon, here

Yes Virginia, There is a Santa Claus – okay so this is really more just a short letter than a book, but I enjoy reading it every year. The words are a little advanced for little kids, even though the letter is intended for an 8 year old (darn the demise of the English language). But, I think they’ll get the message.

 

MOVIES

It’s a Wonderful Life – it would appear I am compiling of lists of things that make you cry. This movie makes me so happy at the end I can’t keep it together. Don’t be like Phoebe on Friends and turn it off before the end, ha! “No man is a failure who has friends.”

The Family Man – okay this isn’t a classic like the one above but it IS a re-imagining of It’s a Wonderful Life that I have grown to love. Nicholas Cage even looks a lot like Jimmy Stewart! Anyway, this movie makes me so thankful for my husband, our two little wild animals (uh, kids) and our every day life. Oh and I cry, shocking.

Christmas Vacation – With all this boo hoo-ing I do, I have to include a funny one. Quite possibly the most quotable Christmas movie there is. I could watch it again and again. “Where do you think you’re gonna put a tree that big?” NEVER GETS OLD.

The Snowman – this never comes on TV anymore but I found the full length on youtube. I remember watching it on TV as a kid and I just love it. There are very few, if any, words. Mostly music about how snowmen come to life after dark and what they do. I think it’s beautiful to watch and listen to.

The Grinch – I like all THREE versions now. We saw the newest in theaters just this last weekend and it was very sweet. I couldn’t pick a favorite if you made me sooo just plan to watch them all!

The Preacher’s Wife –Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston are great on screen together. And she sings so of course that is wonderful. I love the story of a preacher struggling to keep his church afloat and a Christmas angel sent down to help (although he does get a little mixed up). It’s so worth watching and over the years has become one of my very favorites.

A Christmas Story – I am sure I have seen this movie no less than 150 times in my 30 Christmases. I love the humor and it will always always remind me of Christmas growing up. The old man makes me laugh more each year and the frazzled mother is now more relatable than Ralphie–ha!

The Family Stone – this is one of those strange instances where I saw it for the first time and didn’t like it at all. (The same thing happened with Step Brothers!! Which I now love.) Anyway, the more I watch it the more I love it. I love how the family isn’t cookie cutter and are a little all over the place. If you’re like me, it WILL make you cry. I should put a cry alert by most of these.

The Santa Clause – Sam has fallen in love with this (seen it probably 8 times since Nov 1) and I don’t mind a bit! It could never get old for me. Funny, magical, quotable! “A BEE sting?!” It would not be Christmas without it.

Four Christmases – I remember seeing this in theaters in college and knowing I had found a new Christmas classic! Dwight Yoakum absolutely makes this for me. “A rum pum pum pum, Brad!”

Well, that got out of hand quickly. I would like to say that even though they aren’t Christmas movies, excellent chick flicks for this time of year are: While You Were Sleeping and Sleepless in Seattle (Meg sings “harses, harses, harses” so it counts).

There are more, no doubt, but I won’t bore you with every last one. These are my highlights but I’d love suggestions if anyone has a few favorites to share!

the Aldi project: the results!

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Sorry to have kept everyone hanging! In retrospect, this was not the best project to take on a week before Thanksgiving…but the results are finally in!

Some details:

I bought everything Great Value at Walmart other than a few things that didn’t come in a generic brand (GoGurt and Tostitos salsa). I bought one name brand at Aldi since they had it and I knew Walmart did (Pepperidge Farm Goldfish).

After eating on Great Value for a week, I was fine with most of it but do not think that most Aldi is equivalent to a generic brand. Fit and Active, Casa Mamita…these are just better quality to me than Great Value.

I digress. I’m letting my bias show! Aldi fan for liiife.

Anyway…I had fun. I think I’d like to repeat this project a variety of ways!

Aldi vs name brand at Walmart.

Walmart name brand verses it’s own generic Great Value.

Aldi vs Ruler.

Who knows, maybe this is my future niche, ha!

Without further ado:

  • Goldfish = $1.66 Walmart/$1.78 Aldi (of course I was shocked)
  • Fruit snacks = $1.48 ($2.96 for 2 10 packs) Walmart/$3.29 for 24 pack Aldi
  • Peanut butter = $1.18 at Walmart/$1.29 at Aldi
  • Salsa = $3.98 at Walmart/$1.89 at Aldi
  • Tortilla chips = $2.00 Walmart/$1.49 Aldi
  • Loaf of wheat bread = $.88 Walmart/ $.79 Aldi
  • Sweet rolls = $2.50 Walmart/$1.99 Aldi
  • Strawberries = $1.98 Walmart/$2.29 Aldi (disbelief!)
  • Grapes = $1.88/lb or $3.76 Walmart / $1.79/lb or $3.58 Aldi
  • Milk x2 = $4.92 Walmart / $4.42 Aldi
  • Shredded cheese = $1.74/8oz Walmart / $2.59/12oz Aldi
  • Sour cream = $1.14 Walmart / $.89 Aldi
  • Butter = $2.53 Walmart / $2.29 Aldi
  • Yogurt tube = $3.94 Walmart / $1.49 Aldi
  • 2 lbs 80% lean ground beef = $7.56 Walmart / $5.58 Aldi
  • Onion =  $1.28/lb Walmart / $1.69/2 lbs Aldi
  • Can black beans = $.54 Walmart / $.57 Aldi
  • Can kidney beans = $.54 Walmart / $.55 Aldi
  • Can chili beans = $.54 Walmart / $.55 Aldi
  • Can tomato sauce = $.92 Walmart / $.25 Aldi
  • Chili seasoning = $.74 Walmart / $.28 Aldi
  • Tortillas = $1.98 Walmart / .$79 Aldi
  • Taco seasoning = $.30 Walmart / $.22 Aldi
  • Ham = $5.97 Walmart / $3.99 Aldi
  • Swiss cheese = $1.84 Walmart / $1.99 Aldi
  • String cheese = $2.84 Walmart / $2.35 Aldi
  • Pop tarts = $2.48 Walmart / $2.75 Aldi
  • Juice boxes = $2.48 Walmart / $1.99 Aldi
  • Frozen pizza x 2 = $5 Walmart / $4.38 Aldi
  • Muffin mix = $1.98 Walmart / $1.99 Aldi
  • Apple sauce squeeze = $4.98 Walmart / $5.39
  • K cups = $4.47 Walmart / $4.29 Aldi

Grand total:

$81.61 at Walmart vs $69.67 at Aldi 

My estimates were for a steeper savings–I thought the Aldi total would come in at $68 (hey that was pretty close!)  and Walmart would be $92.

Turns out the difference was not over $20 like I guessed, but exactly $11.94 for about a week’s worth of food.

It’s worth noting that the Aldi groceries yielded a bit more for a few items–more cheese, more onions, and more fruit snacks–because there was nothing comparable. But I didn’t get that picky and do a price per unit or ounce or anything, I just left it as is.

So, there you have it! If you are looking to save roughly $48 a month on groceries, Aldi may be worth a shot! $48 a month…$576 a year…that’s some serious Christmas shopping

As you probably noticed, there are some items Walmart had that beat Aldi but what was really shocking was the name brand prices. Great Value items that cost $2-3 were easily $4-5 if name brand.

I personally prefer to stay out of there because you are  bound to pick up some name brand over Great Value when it’s right in front of you or if you aren’t playing attention.

You can mindlessly walk through Aldi and put items in your cart knowing they are all a pretty good deal. On the flip side, it was work at Walmart to compare brands and sort through until I found the cheapest. I was there over an hour!

I hope you enjoyed my little project! I really think I will do it again sometime if anyone is interested in reading more comparison results.

Christmas acts of kindness

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Our random acts of kindness Christmas countdown is fast approaching!

Last night we made those delicious smelling cinnamon ornaments and I tried to pick my 3 year old’s brain some more on how he thought we could dedicate some time focusing on giving.

I tried to remind him about how giving is just as important, and enjoyable, as receiving. He was a tad focused on his craft and I was trying to keep the 2 year old from ingesting cinnamon glue dough…

But he did tell me he wants to give people cars, houses, and the like. He sounded like a small Oprah telling me “Everyone should get a real car!”

I can’t wait to see what ideas he comes up with as he grows old enough to understand! Here lately all he wants to talk about are the piles of gifts he wants for Christmas…

I decided to make a list of 24  acts for Dec 1 st – Christmas Eve where we will complete a small act of kindness that is doable for us. I had to keep things like time and money in mind because it’s that time of year where I feel broke and like there isn’t enough time in the day.

Here is our list, in no particular order. I will have to order these in our tree advent calendar so that certain items fall on weekend days, and some things are possible during holiday travel, etc.

If you are planning to do something like this, these are some things I tried to keep in mind:

– Little cost can have big impact – we will empty my change into Salvation Army buckets and only a few dollars worth of quarters for Aldi, but the kids don’t have any concept of that right now.

– Donate items instead of throwing them away, even damaged stuff – I don’t mean donate damaged things to people but don’t forget about animals! I have old towels and blankets that are a little worn out or stained but perfect for the shelter.

– Utilize sales and freebies – I got a pair of fuzzy socks the other day for free as part of a Cyber Monday deal. This time of year is full of stuff like that. Don’t pass up a sale on gloves just because your kids already have them, keep an eye out on sales for little items that are great to donate!

– Think of people who might need Christmas cheer – we tried to consider those who are bedridden, the elderly who can’t get out much or are in a nursing home, those at the hospital, those in the military overseas, etc. A simple poinsettia, drawing, or piece of candy can’t hurt!

– Get the stuff ready to make mornings or after school/work easy! Stack up the books you want to donate or the old towels and just have them by the door or in the car ready for drop off. I am hoping the boys can be a part of the great majority of these and to do that we have limited time frames.

I hope this inspires anyone reading to think of ways to spread Christmas cheer.

And here are those handmade ornaments on our new silver tree! We went a little pipe cleaner crazy Monday night so these were a nice balance. I’m looking forward to collecting handmade ornaments over the years for this happy little tree.

 

 

Mid Century Monday – prints

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

I haven’t blogged in a while but what a Thanksgiving week!

We were so busy bowling, eating, seeing Santa, seeing lights, picking out our tree, decorating said tree and the house and even fitting in some hours to move the playhouse along! I hardly had time to think about blogging.

See progress pic of playhouse with handy hubby:

So we have been busy. But I do have so much I want to blog about.

This year I made the leap from one to two trees and we just got the second one in tonight! It is my first artificial tree and I was really kind of overwhelmed with the options out there.

Pencil tree? Pre lit? Fun color? Flocked?

I actually love the look of flocked trees and ALMOST went that route, but I kept coming back to this funky silver one that seemed just perfect for a mid century space.

I am  blogging late because my oldest son and I stayed up past bed time to decorate it 🙂

I hope to do a blog post on my trees soon. They aren’t anything special but I actually found myself looking through photos of trees of years past and thought it would be fun to have a round up of them all in one place.

Anyway…It is Monday after all and I haven’t done a Mid Century Monday lately. I just realized today that I keep forgetting to blog about these awesome prints!

I figure they are from the 50’s so we’ll just call them MCM.

Here’s the story:

A few months ago my mom was organizing and found these prints that were my grandpa’s.

My mom and dad moved into my mom’s childhood home several years ago so in some parts of the home there are still items from my grandparents.

One of my favorite places like this is the library which is a whole different blog post. I have thumbed through parenting and marriage books written in the 1960’s and they are wild. I may share those later!

But my point–These “Four Seasons of Tokyo” prints were found in a file cabinet!

My grandpa served and was injured in the Korean War. He actually stepped on a land mine and from what I have heard was initially mistaken for dead. Needless to say, he needed medical attention and was taken to a hospital in Japan for US soldiers.

He spent a long time recovering there and came home with many souvenirs  from Japan…like these prints that appear to have hardly been touched ever since.

I thought I’d share here just because I think they are so cool and  have a retro vibe. Not only that but they have significance.

I actually photographed these with the protective sheet around the edge, if you lift it up, the white underneath it (the white around each print) isn’t even yellowed.

Our mid century home  has a lot of Asian inspired accents such as door handles and light fixtures so I know they will look great wherever we find a home for them and cannot wait to frame them!

I’ll be sure to post an update once these are being displayed properly.

 

 

 

the playhouse begins

The playhouse ground breaking has begun!

I know…normal people do not opt to start massive outdoor projects in the middle of (an especially cold) November. But, here we are.

You see, Santa really wanted to deliver this Christmas gift directly from sleigh to yard. But it turns out it was a bit of a logistical nightmare.

So that left the hubby and myself (now dubbed Hitler Joanna Gaines) to figure out this project. Thankfully some friends and my dad were willing to help with the more complicated parts and the heavy lifting.

I fully intend to do a series of posts on how this thing has come together, but I can’t wait that long and not show a sneak peek!

So far it has been:

-a good long weekend dedicated just to drawing it out/picking up materials at Lowe

– another few days for setting posts and letting the concrete harden.

– another weekend where my husband put in many hours getting the floor boards down, the house and windows framed out and the walls cut and hung!

I joined in for a half day of priming/painting and hopefully after Thanksgiving we (I like saying we but I’m just the painter here) can figure out the roof, install a railing around the deck, and build a ladder!

THEN Santa can really go to town decking this thing out!

I am so thankful to a new blog I discovered, The Handmade Home ,for providing directions on their own play house. We altered them a lot to suite our tastes so ours probably won’t resemble their handmade hideaway too much, but they were one of the few blogs that at least gave us an idea of how to start!

My goal is to post a reveal and step by step after Christmas. Two little boys are hopeful that the elves may visit the new clubhouse Christmas Eve night and add some fun stuff!

 

free Thanksgiving placemat printables

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. It’s a cozy time of year and the whole day is about food and family. It almost feels like Christmas but without the added stress/pressure/clutter of gifts.

I think it’s fun that people dress nice or buy a new outfit, get their roots touched up, and generally do their best to impress all for a day of sitting around talking and over-eating. Only in America.

But it do hate the way Thanksgiving gets passed over for Christmas decorations every year. Don’t get me wrong because I love Chrismtas decor and I, too, am chomping at the bit to get Christmas up! So I don’t blame anyone who does decorate early. It’s a lot of work and it’s nice to get
to enjoy it for as long as possible!

But still….poor Thanksgiving.

I think part of the problem (for me anyway) is that I don’t have Thanksgiving decorations. I have this someday goal of doing up the whole house for every holiday– Pinterest mom style– at some point in my life.

Right now I feel pretty good about my Christmas decorating game. And I’d say I’m halfway there for Halloween and Easter. But Thanksgiving gets nothing (Well, I do have a door hanger that says “give thanks” so not nothing…).

Anyway, this year is just not the year that I’ll go out and buy those amazing pumpkins I keep seeing or loads of burlap and leaves and pilgrim figurines… But I did have an idea that is fun in the moment as well as a really cool keepsake/Thanksgiving decoration and I want to share it with yall!

I have created several free printable Thanksgiving placemats that double as keepsakes!

My thought process for these is that I’ll have my boys (or anyone, any age!) fill these out, color on them, etc. and then I’ll laminate and tuck them away for next year.

Each year we’ll do new ones, so over the years I’ll build up quite a little collection of Thanksgiving placemats complete with hand written memories.

I don’t host Thanksgiving dinner at my house now. But maybe one day I will. Maybe my boys will be bringing home wives or girlfriends or their own children and I’ll get to display these Thanksgiving place mats out on a nice long table set for twenty people.

My house will surely be decorated for Thanksgiving by then, ha!

Click on any of these options for your free printables: Thanksgiving memories, Give Thanks (turkey), I’m Thankful For , Give Thanks (leaves).

Print them out on legal sized paper. If you don’t have a printer my go to is the UPS store—I printed all 4 of them there for $2.40.

Pick one style per year or mix and match them! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

the Aldi project: the list

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning, at no additional cost to you, I can earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase.

Do yall always make a list before grocery shopping? My shopping trip realllly suffers if I don’t.

I never fail to 1. Buy too many snacks and not enough meals and 2. Forget one tiny but crucial ingredient for the meals I do cook.

So, I’m a list gal all the way. Sometimes they are hand written and sometimes on my phone. When they are paper I even walk around with a pen and check them off as I go! Old school.

One time right out of college a group of friends and I were out on a Saturday night. A friend found a sticky note on the floor with a grocery list including the words “broccoli florets.” She brought it over to our table and said it HAD to belong to Taylor. Ha!

I haven’t changed my ways yet. Add in the two kids who like to distract me and I am even more reliant on my list than that 22 year old me.

As promised, I have created the simple grocery list I will use for my Aldi project. You can read the specifics on my idea here.

This list, for my family, is enough groceries for the kids’ breakfast (hubby and I don’t really eat week day breakfast), Sam’s packed lunches for
5 days, 4 really basic dinner meals for all of us, and some snacks plus one weekend breakfast.

Here is the “meal plan”:

Night one: tailgate sandwiches
Night two: taco Tuesday
Night 3: chili
Night 4: frozen pizza (I’m not trying to convince you guys I’m a chef…just go with this)
Night 5: just kidding. I hate cooking on Fridays, we go to Mexican.

Kids breakfasts: cinnamon pop tarts OR toast with strawberries and/or grapes, milk

Sams lunches: peanut butter sandwiches, cheese quesadillas, OR ham and cheese as main. Goldfish, fruit snacks, strawberries, grapes, yogurt, applesauce (combo of any of these 3) as sides. And a juice box to drink.

Side note: About 6 months ago when Sam started school and I looked into packing lunches you should have seen my lists. Very ambitious. Now it’s usually peanut butter 4 days a week at HIS request.

These handy little things SAVE me each morning though. Just fill in each area. The idea of dealing with multiple baggies and lids, etc sound like too much extra work for mornings.

Moving on…

Weekend breakfast: we usually pick up or go out to eat one weekend breakfast. The other day in we do easy like cinnamon rolls, blueberry muffins, pancakes or sometimes eggs/bacon/biscuits. I picked blueberry muffins for this list.

Snacks: grapes (go to snack for me and kids), cheese sticks, goldfish, apple sauce and chips and salsa

Throw in an extra frozen pizza for the weekend.

The exactrocery list will look like this:

Goldfish
Fruit snacks
Peanut butter
Salsa
Tortilla chips
Loaf of bread
Sweet rolls
Strawberries
Grapes
Milk x2
Shredded cheese
Sour cream
Butter
Moo tube
2 lbs 80% lean ground beef
1 onion
Can black beans
Can kidney beans
Can chili beans
Can tomato sauce
Chili seasoning
Tortillas
Taco seasoning
Ham
Swiss cheese
String cheese
Pop tarts
Juice boxes
Frozen pizza x 2
Muffin mix
Apple sauce squeeze
K cups

I am not good at this part but I think I will estimate the Aldi total at $68 and the Walmart total at $92?

I can’t wait for the results! Stay tuned!