If you guys haven't noticed I've really embraced Instagram Stories after a long while of shying away from anything following the Snapchat model. I never jumped on board to Snap bandwagon just because to me it honestly just seemed like a whole lot of work and set up for little to no ROI. Let me explain.... you have to make a conscious effort to make sure you are promoting yet another user name on another platform for your brand, you have to make sure you are keeping up adding brands you are going to promote on both Instagram and Snapchat, and it just was another app that I had to deal with. Sounds high maintenance but I also just couldn't get into the whole sharing every little thing in my life until I realized there was actually value I could add by doing so. I still don't share everything but I do get to share quick tips on products, funny things about my dogs, and give people a look at what my non curated life looks like. Not only does this leave my Instagram feed freed up but it also has helped me to connect with readers/followers of CB in a whole new way. I just love it now. I like that Instagram is already something that I utilize on the regular so adding a new feature is easily integrated into my social media habits. I love that I can just tag brands that I already love without having to go find and follow on another site and I love being able to see updates from not only my friends but businesses and bloggers I follow along with. Instagram you did it right. There are a whole lot of other things that I do not like about you right now but I will save that for a different post..... (in case you haven't heard, Google "Instagram algorithm" be prepared for lots of shade).
Basically the point of this whole rant is that I've been utilizing stories to share real time updates and finds so I think I have slacked a little on sharing them on here. I DO want to get back to doing that though because I think it really is important to have posts to go back to that round up the top content you are sharing day to day. So, takeaway #1- follow me on Instagram to see real time updates, #2- enjoy this new, updated post of all of my favorite new and now finds that I can't get enough of.
I absolutely LOVE decorating for Fall. That being said, though, I don't like veering from my neutral color scheme and the usual fall colors don't go with my whole "look" I have going on at home. In the past I have been all about the white pumpkin decorating craze that dominates Pinterest but this year I switched things up to green pumpkins! They aren't AS basic as the white pumpkins but still fit my color scheme requirements. I picked up some cute decor for Fall (including green pumpkins, at Hobby Lobby and Target).
FARMACY LIP BLOOM
I got a sample of this product at Sephora the other day and have been so obsessed ever since. It is super moisturizing, tastes amazing, and adds a perfect finish to your lips if you are going for a natural look (which I pretty much always am). I can't get enough of this stuff and have been recommending it right and left to pretty much every person I meet. You can get it for yourself HERE. You won't regret it.
LE PEN PENS
I am so OCD about office/school supplies and the pens/pencils that I write with so when I found these I was skeptical at first but soon made a believer. I ordered these bad boys off of Amazon (I have the multi color pack) for writing and color coding my planner and for organizing my notes at work. The thin tips make it so easy to write neatly and the color selection is amazing. You can get them on Amazon and have them at your house in two days. Score.
BRUSH ME ORGANIC WHITENING TOOTHPASTE
I did a whole Instagram post on this stuff but to give you a quick rundown.... this stuff is a miracle for whitening teeth painlessly. It is made of clay, it is organic, it is pain free, and you can get 30% off of your first order with my code "M30". Click here, you are welcome.
This stuff has become my go to. So far I have tried their Pinot Noir and the Rose and both have been heaven for my tastebuds. The wines aren't too sweet and definitely gets you a little buzzed with your first class (or is that just me?). Did I mention that they come in cans? Yup, cans. So they are great for bonfires and other outdoor Fall events. Especially for us gluten free folk who can't drink beer, these are a cool alternative so you don't have to look like the asshole drinking out of a wine class while everyone else has Miller Lite cans.
I always see Moon Juice products featured by The Skinny Confidential but haven't been totally sold. The other day I gave in and tried this Brain Powder one morning at work. I was pretty surprised that about 20 minutes after drinking the powder (I mixed it with caffeine free mint tea) I was more alert, awake, and focused. Usually it takes me a couple cups of coffee to get to that point but if this powder can get me amped up that quickly without the negative gastro effects from coffee then I guess it is worth it! Get yours here.
I am always on the hunt for products that will hydrate my skin without making me break out or have a reaction from it. ThirstyMud is heaven for skin transitioning seasons. I put it on for about 20 minutes while I am taking a bubble bath and when I take it off my skin feels plump, moisturized, and so smooth. A little of this stuff goes a long way so you can make the jar last.
KONG DOG TOYS
Charleston is obsessed with toys that we can stuff treats into and those things will keep him busy for hours. Kong toys are a lifesaver when we are trying to get things done around the house and need Charleston to be occupied. Rhaegar is a little easier to entertain. We put him in front of the window and he can stare for hours. I like to browse the different Kong toys at my local pet store to decide what is best for my boys. There are different ones for different ages and strength of chewers.
BLACK BEAN PASTA
It all started with Red Lentil pasta from Trader Joe's and then when I saw this stuff I had to give it a try. This has quickly become a dinner staple in my household especially when I need to whip something up quickly. While I usually opt for zoodles or spaghetti squash for a gluten free pasta alternative, this pasta is a great way to get your carb fix while still packing in protein and keeping gluten free. I usually just make this quickly with a bit of olive oil, garlic salt, and parmesan cheese. Perfect come home late from work week night dinner.
BUTTER LONDON WINK EYE PENCIL
I was going through my makeup to organize it the other day and found an unopened Butter London eye pencil that I got for free a while ago and never had the chance to use. What! So I started using this in Earl Grey and have become kind of addicted to it. I like that it is a softer color than the black I usually use. It blends easily and is long lasting so I don't have to worry about it smudging throughout the day, even when my eyes are watery from allergies. I've used other Butter London products, all of which have been great, so I wasn't surprise when this stuff exceeded my expectations. You can get yours from Ulta.com.
MARLEYLILLY MONOGRAMMED BALLET FLATS
I am a Tory Burch flats girl through and through. Call me basic, but I love how comfortable and durable they are. I have worn some variation of a Tory Burch flat almost everyday to work for the past year or so. My black flats are on their last leg so I wanted to replace them but try something new. I have been loving monograms lately, especially with my new monogram (I am so corny, I know). When I saw that I could get monogrammed flats from Marleylilly I had to place an order ASAP. I am so picky about my shoes but these definitely are up to my standards. They are cute, comfortable, and unique to you.
I can't wait to hear what you guys end up trying or have tried from this list! Also, please feel free to message me any recommendations on new things to try! I am always game for a new product.
In light of the recent, devastating hurricane I have teamed up to help promote Knack's efforts to Uplift Houston and give back to the community. There are endless families and individuals that are displaced, waiting in shelters to rebuild their lives, and mourning the loss of what they once called their home. Knack is doing what they can to give back and ease the pain of those suffering. By purchasing one of their three Uplift Houston gift boxes, they will donate an identical box to a hurricane survivor in need or provide a monetary donation of equal value to a shelter.
I think this is such a cool way to donate and honestly it is such an easy way to make an impact. The boxes range from $81- $136 and not only are you donating but you are also getting a box for yourself. I know that we shouldn't need personal incentives to help our fellow humans who are struggling but this is a great way to take advantage of a special gift and give it to someone special who is close to you. In times like this where people have lost their loved ones and are struggling through serious hardships, it is so important that we take an extra moment to appreciate those close to us.
Knack in and of itself is an amazing brand that focuses on lifting up others and conveying how much you care in the perfect way. I love what they are doing for our friends down in Houston so I am urging you to get involved!
The link to the boxes is HERE!
Let me know which box you choose to send!
Crohnically Blonde is sending lots of love and light to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
I have this whole motto where my blog is about kicking chronic illness's ass. Usually I think I am pretty good at it. But recently, I have been getting my ass kicked. I hate admitting that because that's not who I am. I am not someone who spends a long weekend unproductively on the couch. I am not someone who lets physical defeat get me down mentally. But you know what, I am realizing that maybe that has to be a part of who I am now. I exhaust so much mental energy being upset that I am "not productive" or "I'm shitty because I didn't make it to the gym". I am so damn hard on myself. But it is against my nature not to be.
I also get frustrated REALLY easily when things are not in my control or I can't solve a problem. A blessing and a curse I supposed. Recently, a lot has been out of my control. My symptoms have escalated and I am having more bad days than good. The thing is, it isn't my gastro effects of Crohn's that are crippling me from living a normal life. It is the fatigue, joint aches, muscle pain and all of this is just getting worse. I am so thankful that my Remicade has definitely helped my gastrointestinal issues but I can't help but wondering, what else is going on? There has to be something else. There is no physically possible way that a 26 year old should feel this way.
I have went through the motions, gotten blood work done, MRIs, CT scans, sonograms. Somehow I am a perfect specimen of a human on paper now. But my body is telling me otherwise. I thought, maybe I just need to go to the gym more and be more active and my joint pain will go away. Wrong. I made it 30 minutes into a gentle yoga class before my wrists were swollen my knees were aching and my one knee actually gave out when walking down the stairs when I got home. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Coming from someone who used to frequent 90 minute intense hot yoga classes, frequented other classes at my local gym, and have a serious collection of Piyo programs that I loved to do at home, this was a wake up call. Even during periods of time where I wasn't working out as frequently I could drop in for a HIIT class and hold my own, and now I can't even make it through a damn gentle flow yoga class?!
I scoured through my blood work to see if there were any signs of something that maybe my doctor was missing when she told me everything was "fine". I also in a fit of range sent her a probably not so nice message explaining that "fine" is not what I would use to describe my situation right now. I am not blind to the fact that with one autoimmune often comes others. Many doctors have speculated there is something else that is going on behind the scenes but they have never been able to pinpoint it. I have a recommendation to go see a Rheumatologist which I supposed I should but somehow I feel like its just another dead end. I have been frantically researching my symptoms (I'm long past being concerned about when WebMD says I'm on the brink of death), and have found some theories that I will share as I go through this journey of, hopefully, diagnosing what else is going on. I am not only going to see the recommended Rheumatologist but also a specific Lyme literate doctor as well so I can make sure I am covering all bases.
I have some theories of my own which I don't want to share until I am sure, but let this serve as another example of why taking control of your own health and doing your own research is so crucial. You have to be your own advocate.
I will make sure to keep you guys along on this journey with me and as always I appreciate anything that you guys have to say as far as questions or comments. If you have been in this similar situations and have stories of your diagnosis I would LOVE to hear those stories and pieces of advice as well.
I do also have to close this post out with addressing the mental impact that this whole thing can have. It can literally make you feel crazy because on paper you seem fine but you aren't! People start to act like it is all in your head. But it isn't. I know that, other Spoonies know that, and what has helped me so much in staying sane through this is leaning on the online support community and hearing about other people's similar situations. Us chronic illness fighters have to stick together and support each other, which comes back to the reason why I started Crohnically Blonde in the first place.
I've been a little M.I.A. this past week. Mostly because my health hasn't been awesome. I've been super exhausted leading up to my Remicade this past Friday and I've been trying to relax as much as possible. As much as I hate being a hermit and feeling under the weather, it is a good opportunity for me to test out new self care products (skincare, bath products, etc.). Now that I am bouncing back a bit I am excited to share some of the new things I've tried.
My number one new product right now is amazing, hydrating, and only $12 (and can be at your house almost instantly thanks to Amazon Prime). Drugstore brands are revolutionizing their products more and more to compete with the prestige lines of skincare and makeup. Long gone are the days of looking down on skincare products because of their lower price tag. Every time I read a beauty blog or watch a tutorial, there is a heavier mix of prestige and drugstore brand products that when mixed together can create the perfect cocktail of products that are not only amazingly effective but also affordable. I used to blow more money than I care to admit on high end beauty and skincare products but the more new drugstore brand products that I try the more I am swayed to sometimes swing by my local CVS instead of Sephora.
This e.l.f. Bubble Mask has been hyped up all over the internet for a while now but I just recently decided to give it a try. To be honest, I was not expecting much and thought it was some crazy thing that middle school girls use for fun. Well, it is kind of amusing but it also does a damn good job of hydrating your skin. I left it on all over my face and neck for about 20 minutes while I was taking a bath. It comes out of the bottle as a clear gel substance but as soon as you rub it on your face it is game time. Tiny bubbles take over and as they pop it creates a soothing, tingling feeling on your skin. When about 20 minutes were up I rinsed the product off of my face and was genuinely surprised at how smooth my skin felt. I looked more youthful, fresh, and rejuvenated. I thought that maybe I was just having a good skin day but the experiment proved to be legit when after a long day at work I brought life back to my sad looking skin. I think this stuff is the real deal.
Something I worry about when I shop drugstore brands is that the ingredients may irritate my skin or cause me to break out. This actually is a little bit crazy because often times when you compare products at different price points they have the same or very similar ingredients. It is all about doing your research and also some trial and error. The Bubble Mask didn't cause any irritation to my skin or cause any breakouts which was a huge win. The only negative I can come up with is that it feels kind of weird to leave on for an extended period of time. With some hydrating masks that are more creamy I will actually leave them on my face and neck all night. I know this isn't recommended but, yes, I do it. This mask is more of a 'do while you catch up on your DVRed shows' or 'while you take a bubble bath' kind of thing.
Overall, I think this stuff will be a lasting part of my routine going into the winter. For $12, you can't beat the price, and it definitely helped out my tired skin. I suggest you head over to Amazon and order one of these ASAP to add to your self care routine. I'm serious. With colder weather creeping up it is best to be proactive with hydrating and prep your skin in advance instead of waiting for disaster in ensue. I literally do this every year and wake up one day at the end of November wondering why I look like a psycho who hasn't put on moisturizer in 10 years. Don't do that. I also like to think that since I am dehydrated (thanks Crohn's!) pretty much 24/7, quenching my skin's thirst with some yummy products are even more necessary.
I can't wait to hear what you guys think once you try this or if you have already tried this! I also would love to hear any recommendations that you have for hydrating products/any must haves going into the chilly months!
Be back with some more later this week.
The Crohnically Blonde podcast is back from vacay and in full force. I am completely in love with this week's episode that I recorded with Michelle Ness from Millennial Mom Life Crisis. Over some wine we chat about pretty much everything. From starting a blog, to building a brand, to relationship tips, to how to get all of this ish done.... we dig into it all.
I also love that this collaboration is such a good example of how our passions (and the internet) bring people together. Michelle and I went to high school together, we were actually on the JV cheerleading squad together (LOL!) but never clicked. Years later and a half a country apart, leave it to our love of blogging and talking about real shit to bring us together to create some great content for both of our readerships and totally bond.
You guys have to go check out her blog, she is absolutely hilarious and you will not be able to get enough of her honest and humorous approach to motherhood and life. Keep up to date on her new posts by following her on Instagram @millennialmomlifecrisis & @nessova_.
After we recorded we came up with about ten more ideas of things we want to podcast about so expect to be hearing more Michelle/Michelle collaborations coming up!
I am so excited to hear your thoughts on this episode and I hope you love it just as much as we do!
First off, thank you so much for all of the kind words on Matt and my engagement! We appreciate it so much and I REALLY appreciate you all being so patient while I get back into the swing of creating regular content. Let me tell you, between work and wedding talk I have been a busy lady.
This post is not going to be all about the warm and fuzzy though. It is going to be about the truth behind my vacation and Crohn's issues. The reason why I am doing this post is because I need to be honest and real with you all. On Instagram it looks like I am living the dream on vacation, eating, drinking, literally loving my damn life. And yes, I am loving my life, but there is a side that I don't share in the Instagram captions. For me, this was the first vacation since my Crohn's has gotten really bad that I actually listened to my body (for the most part) and didn't feel guilty. That being said, I really enjoyed myself and I navigated the complications in a way that I could deal with.
We were in Disney World for 10 days (including travel days) and I was definitely anxious when planning the trip. I absolutely LOVE Disney World but at the same time it is incredibly draining to walk around in the 90+ degree weather for over 12 hours everyday. Since Matt and I hadn't been together before we were really looking forward to this and I wanted to make the best of it. Lucky for me, Matt is so incredibly understanding of my situation and is just very "go with the flow" so it makes vacation plans pretty easy. Since I had been to Disney before it was fine if we didn't do every little thing in the park and Matt was just happy to be doing what I wanted to do which was really sweet. My sister is a Disney fanatic (even more than I am) and staying in the park from open to close every single day that she was there. I took the exact opposite approach. I used Fast Passes to my advantage to schedule my day and I stack ranked what I wanted to get done so that I could do my top priorities first incase I started feeling sick. I mapped out bathrooms and breaks throughout the day so that I could keep myself going as long as possible. I feel like I actually developed a pretty good strategy for tackling the Disney World parks so I wanted to share my tips, in hopes that it can help you all if you ever decide to take on the most magical place on earth.
1. Use Fast Passes to your advantage
Fast Passes were a lifesaver for us. Disney has seriously upped their game with Fast Pass + so that you can prebook Fast Passes a certain amount of days in advance depending on if you are staying in a Disney resort (60 days out) or have pre purchased a ticket (30 days out). By planning Fast Passes you can ensure that you get the main attractions that you are interested in done and done in a timely manner. By knowing that I had already scheduled my top attractions I was able to more leisurely go through the rest of my day. This is really helpful because it eliminates unnecessarily waiting in lines and having to sprint from ride to ride to get things done. Once you utilize all three of your Fast Pass + vouchers you can book another. If you book your passes in advance and show up to the park early you should ideally be able to get all of the main rides done with minimal lines and far before the fireworks start. I was there during the height of summer vacation, booked 30 days ahead instead of 60, and I barely waited for any attraction.
2. Get there early
We made sure to get to the parks right when they opened or before everyday. I know myself and I know that around two or three o'clock I start to crash hard. That being said, I wanted to get everything done as early as possible so that I could enjoy every second of it. In addition, getting to the parks early helped to cut down on wait times. This especially was helpful at Animal Kingdom where the new Avatar ride had a three hour wait less than an hour into the park opening. I don't know about you all, but I was not about to be able to wait in a three hour line with limited water supply, no bathroom breaks, and no seating. I hate to sound like I am preaching first world problems here but I wanted to ride that ride! Luckily, my sister's friend worked at Disney before and has a season pass so she knew the tricks to getting ish done. She advised us to get to Animal Kingdom at 7:30am to get in line for the Flight of Passage which we did and we are SO happy that we did. No line and we were able to get everything else done pretty early. Unfortunately there is no pattern on how I feel sick on rides so I went on Expedition Everest which I have always loved and got super sick on round one. I had to sit some things out for the rest of the day and even by dinner I wasn't feeling any better. I got extremely sick after we ate (despite the amazing recommendations from the chef, it was all my temperamental intestines not the food). We skipped out on the fireworks which was disappointing since they are new but it was worth it to get to be there early to ride the new Avatar ride and to be able to wake up refreshed and not so sick the next day.
3. Stack rank what you want to do so that you aren't disappointed if you have to tap out before the day is over
Matt and I did this everyday. We decided what were our "must do's" our "try to do's" and our "skips". This was great because it kept us on track tackling what we wanted to do and not wasting energy on things that didn't mean as much to us. We made sure to include meals in this too which is something I feel like I potentially could have looked over. When we had dinner reservations that we really, really wanted to make sure we were there for, we paced ourselves to make sure we took breaks and rested so that we could last through dinner. This also proved to be a great strategy for parks like Hollywood Studios where once we finished our to do's we were able to go back to the resort and enjoy some relaxing pool time which proved to be better time spent than roaming the park based on our analysis.
4. Don't push yourself by trying to stay from park opening through the fireworks every night
This kind of piggybacks off of the get there early thing. It can be a little different though. I know for me, I function better when I wake up, get stuff done, and then can rest. Some people function in the opposite way and can enjoy the parks later after sleeping in. The latter can definitely pose a problem if you are looking to hop on rides without a Fast Pass, but if you are just hanging out this can be a great strategy. When we went to Epcot to just hang out and look around on our second day there we waited to go to the park until the World Showcase opened at 11am because we knew we didn't need to be there beforehand to get on any rides. That allowed us to stay at the park later than we would have if we would have gotten there unnecessarily at the crack of dawn. There is no right or wrong way to plan this out but I do recommend you decide which fireworks shows you MUST see and plan your days to accordingly start later. If you know you need to do an open to close day (aka what I did in Magic Kingdom and it was so worth it) make sure to plan that day either as your first full day there or after a break day.
5. Use the Disney World app to find bathrooms quickly
The Disney World app is so darn helpful. Everything from wait times to restaurant menus are at your finger tips. Despite all of the really cool features and information, I have to say one of my favorite ways to utilize this app is locating the nearest restroom. I honestly feel like this should be a thing just in life. An app where you can find the nearest bathroom?! HOW COOL. Not to mention, at Disney you already know that the bathrooms are going to be clean and well kept (yassss!.)
6. Map out breaks throughout the day
Breaks are crucial to surviving a long day. Whether it is planning some extra time hanging out at a restaurant or enjoying the AC at an indoor attraction, all of the parks have at least a few areas where you can kick back and relax for a few. At Magic Kingdom I like hanging out behind Cinderella's castle near the gardens. There is some great shade back there during the afternoon hours and it isn't a hugely traveled path. I know this may sound crazy but Enchanted Tales with Belle is also a great way to relax and escape the heat. It is all air conditioned and you get to sit and watch the performance which is always super cute. In Animal Kingdom I like the Finding Nemo show and The Lion King show to relax, rehydrate, and cool off. Epcot is a little easier because of the ample restaurant areas and indoor attractions but when in doubt Living With The Land and Turtle Talk With Crush are always more chill options. Hollywood Studios is more of a half day park right now while they are going through renovations but if you do need a break there are some cool Star Wars shows going on throughout the park as well as an indoor theater that shows about a 10 minute film on the history of the Star Wars Brand... aka there is air conditioning involved.
7. Stay hydrated
Drinking water is not my forte. I am actually so bad at it. I forget to hydrate and often times I end up hydrating with wine instead. When they give you free champagne at every meal in Disney because of your engagement, can you really blame me? If you answered yes, then stop reading. Just kidding. I had to actually, consciously, hold myself accountable to drinking at least one bottle of water per hour. I filled it up via water fountains to don't worry I wasn't spending a fortune but I was holding myself accountable to not passing out.
8. Utilize the wait staff/chefs to decide what to eat
One of my favorite things about Disney is their amazing customer service. This includes their amazing dining experiences which they put full effort into whether in a food court or a sit down dining facility. There was not one restaurant that I went to where the chef did not come out, talk to me, and help me figure out what was best for my diet. The gluten free options are plentiful and the chefs are more than accommodating for any other needs you may have. With customer service like this there is no reason for you not to take advantage of consulting with these amazing chefs and the talented waitstaff.
9. Take a nap on your first day there
Traveling is hard. I like to make sure that on my first day on vacation, if I can, I arrive early enough so that I can get settled in the hotel and then take a nap. I love being able to nap for a good few hours on the first day. This may sound ridiculous because "I should be out having fun and exploring" but I am so exhausted by time I get to a vacation that it is almost guaranteed I will get sick if I do not get a day to nap. Now that I know this about myself, Matt and I always try and factor in that "nap period" into our vacations. Not going to lie, he likes a good start of vacation nap too.
10. Schedule a break day if you can
I know this isn't doable for everyone but if you can, a break day is so helpful. Being on your feet, in the sun, and being super active for full days at a time can be rough if you have a chronic illness and aren't usually able to do so. By allowing your body a day to rest, you may feel like you are wasting precious time but really you are gearing up to tackle the rest of the week. Usually I like to schedule these midweek and spend them reading by the pool. If I can, I schedule two break days to allow for ultimate relaxation and rejuvenation. If you can, book a spa day at the Grand Floridian followed by High Tea. You won't regret it.
11. If you have to cancel a reservation, its okay
Disney staff is incredibly understanding. I'm not saying that you should make a habit of having to cancel reservations but if you have to they are extremely understanding. Usually there is a charge for canceled reservations within a certain period of time, especially within 24 hours. Thankful when we had to cancel a dinner reservation because I was really feeling sick, Matt explained my situation with Crohn's and they were quick to wave the fee and send me well wishes.
12. Enjoy yourself and be in the moment
I feel like I always end my travel advice posts with this. Enjoy every second of your vacation and especially revel in the moments where you are feeling well. It is easy to get down on yourself if you aren't feeling your best but positivity is crucial in those situations. I used to put so much pressure on myself to get everything possible done when I was traveling but I had to change my tune a little. As long as you get out of it what you want then you are doing it right in my book.
I hope this is helpful for my fellow spoonies and Disney fanatics, alike. I also have a few more posts coming up about some Disney trip related topics that, if you like this post, you will hopefully find those valuable as well! If you are planning a trip coming up and have any questions about my experience or want some great recommendations shoot me an email at email@example.com.
Well hello everyone, it has been a while hasn't it? Before getting back into the posts that I have planned I wanted to give ya'll an update on life since I know it has been a couple of weeks since I have checked in on the blog. If you follow me on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) you know that I was just on vacation in Disney World for a week. My goal going into my vacation was to be really present and not focus so much on documenting in the moment. I did gather a lot of good stuff that I want to share, just I want to share it now that I am back instead of using that precious time with Matt and my family to do so!
Also, kind of a big deal.....
I GOT ENGAGED!
Yup! So excited and so in love. I won't get all mushy but I am so incredibly excited to spend my life with Matt and be a part of the Pickens family! It honestly is the most amazing feeling to know that you are committing to standby, support, laugh with, and experience all of life's adventures with your best friend.
All of that being said, I have spent the past week that I have been back in Maryland sharing this beautiful time with my family and friends and just soaking in all of the excitement and love that is around us.
I have loved hearing from you all on Instagram and your kind words are so appreciated. I am excited for this new chapter of life and I am so excited to bring you guys along on the journey. Holy shit.... I HAVE TO PLAN A WEDDING!
I want to first give a shout out to Brandon Cobian Photography who took these amazing photos (and many more to come on the blog). He is currently shooting in the Baltimore area so make sure to get in touch a book something. He has some serious skills and even got Matt to smile during our shoot! Ha!
Having a pretty and cohesive Instagram feed has always been something that has been important to me since the day I realized Instagram was a public facing social media platform that could build your brand. It was a freaking epiphany when I realized it was not just for editing weird pictures of my shitty makeup job or some blurry photo of my college friends and I “just being basic LOL”.
Instagram has evolved from being a glorified, old school Facebook album with filters to being a serious place where you can build your brand, your career, and actually make a lot of money from it.
Now, I am not saying I am an expert by any means, my account, my brand, and my blog are most definitely a work in progress but what I can tell you is, part of building something is the discovery along the way. And part of MY brand is sharing with you the tips and tricks that I uncover. This is actually part of the reason why I didn’t created a new Instagram account for my brand, I just changed my personal one over to @crohnicallyblonde. Why the EFF would I want all of my new followers at 26 years old to see the photos that I thought 19 year old me thought were worthy of Instagram? Well friends, it was a different time back then. Instagram has evolved, and so have I. But I have always had hustle. If you scroll back (not encouraging this but if you want to, be my guest) my Instagram was full of random photos of things that I bought at Nordstrom Rack (or wanted to buy because I was too poor) and where to get them and often their price.
My feed had a ton of makeup posts that shared reviews on the makeup in a super candid real way. Example: I post a hot selfie of myself and talk about Naked Skin foundation by Urban Decay that just came out. Yeah I wanted to post me looking good on a Friday night but I actually was providing people with value. This was actually so on brand for what I was doing back then because I was in makeup sales for almost 5 years, before the days of heavy social media marketing. I had a beauty blog called Beautybombbb (throwback) where I talked about makeup and clothes in a very real and relatable way but never marketed it. I had a decent following of people but I didn’t commit enough to succeed in such and over saturated market. The whole point is, I left this stuff up on my Instagram and I want my followers who stalk the shit out of my account to see that I didn’t just one day wake up and decide to start a blog and an Instagram and BOOM everything is pretty and beautiful. No, there was work and years of practice and honing in and trying out every new app until you find the ones that you like for editing and planning. Plus I kind of like where I came from because it makes me appreciate how far I have come creatively. I like to look back and see how my aesthetic has evolved and matured into what Crohnically Blonde is today. And guess what, it will continue changing an evolving so stay tuned.
What I DO want to share with you guys today are some of the tricks that I have picked up along my blogging/Instagram journey.
1. YOU HAVE TO TAKE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS THAT MATCH YOUR BRAND
I know this seems so basic that it is insulting that this is one of my tips but it is SO true. Beautiful photos are key because those are the ones more likely to get liked, commented on, and reposted. That is just the truth in it. Lucky for you, you don’t need to have a professional grade camera to take heart eye emoji worthy shots. So many people (myself included) who are starting out building their Instagram feed shot their content with their iPhone. My dad who is a photographer said that more and more professional photographers even are posting iPhone images in their professional feeds because of the high quality that you can achieve. This doesn’t mean that you can just snap a photo on your iPhone and call it great content. You have to think about the composition of the photo, the lighting, and the focus of the photo. It requires practice to get it right. To address the matching your brand piece, this means that you are shooting and editing to match the style of your brand as far as color, tone, products, layout, and everything else that plays into it.
2. Have tried and true editing apps and saved setting/filters for a cohesive look
Does anyone use the filters on the actual Instagram app anymore? This one is huge since there are so many apps out now that are competing to catch your eye. Once you narrow down a few, you figure out your editing process and you can save your settings to make sure your photos are all pretty cohesively edited.
A few of my favorites of the moment are:
Facetune- Not to make you look like a Bratz doll… no no no. I use this app for whitening my whites in photos and lightening up a picture. You use the whiten tool that you would actually use for teeth whitening and use it on your background/feature product. I love this trick for flat lays. This trick has been a total game changer for my feed as far as making photos flow and look like they are part of the same series even if I am shooting in different environments.
ColorStory- I love this app mainly for the tools that you can use to edit curves, exposure, tone, and much more in a photo. You can also save your preferred settings and use them again as a default filter for future pictures. They also have some cool filters that I like as well if I lessen the intensity to about 50% or so.
Looksee- They have some cool filters, specifically for nature and food that I like to take into ColorStory to edit the lighting afterwards.I also like that they have celebrities/influencers create filters that you can purchase for a couple of dollars.
Word Swag- I just recently discovered this app for quotes and I LOVE it. You can use their pre made backgrounds or use your own photo and put quotes of top of them. The quotes can be in a variety of different fonts, layouts, spacing, and styles most of which are pretty well designed. I love this app for making content for Instagram stories and making quote blocks to post that aren’t pulled from Pinterest like everyone else’s.
3. what value are you adding with this post?
My rule is that I try to make 50% of the photos I post on Instagram add value in one way or another. Pretty pictures are great but if they aren’t backed by content they can only take you so far. To me a “value driven post” is a post that is either sharing information about a place/product that your audience will be interested in, sharing a tip, trick, or recipe, or promoting your other forms of content (ie. blog, podcast).The reason why I go for around 50% is because my brand isn’t just about products and blog posts, it is about getting to know me in my natural habitat, knowing my boyfriend, my dogs, my life. If you are all business then it hurts your likeability, authenticity, and people’s ability to relate to you. I do make sure to try and pose a question in my captions to get followers engaged, especially on photos where there isn’t necessarily a direct value add.
4. Make sure your aesthetic carries over to your blog as well
This one is kind of a no brainer but I have to mention it. Make sure the aesthetic of your Instagram matches that of your blog so that users know what they are getting into. If you have a dark and moody Instagram aesthetic and then your blog is light and pink and girly this causes a disconnect in your brand an confuses readers.
5. PRODUCT ENDORSEMENTS- MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THE PRODUCT/ IT IS BRAND COHESIVE
I like doing product endorsements and reviews. I actually love it. I love being able to influence buying behavior through social media and I love having the opportunity to try new products. That being said, I only do endorsements or ads for products that align with my vision, mission, and brand. Sometimes brands don’t think before they reach out or they don’t do their research. For example, I’ve been asked to partner with brands to promote products that clearly contain gluten. How in the world am I supposed to try and genuinely endorse a product that I can’t even try?! As cool as the paycheck or free stuff can be, if you start filling your feed with BS products that don’t fit with your brand, you lose buy in from your followers. In addition, make sure that if you do agree to endorse a product you can put your own spin on the post both aesthetically and you can use your own words to describe your authentic experience. I just did a post for Roam Fitness and I loved how they handled it. They gave me creative freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted and it turned into a really informative and authentic post that people responded to.
6. Plan your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and read like a story
I never used to plan my Instagram posts out but the more OCD I get about how it looks the more serious I get. Make sure you are thinking about how the sequence of your photos looks and how the story will flow to your followers. Make sure it is cohesive but also has a healthy mix of content. I use an app Postvu to upload potential posts and arrange them to see how they will look in my feed.
7. Utilize insta story to build your brand
This is something that is newly important due to the increasing popularity of story mode. Utilize your Insta Story to share behind the scenes content and show the more authentic and less curated version of yourself so that your followers can get to know the real you. This is something that I am working on because I am so bad about remembering to do stories. Putting this on my goals list! I love when bloggers and Instagramers that I like put up tidbits of behind the scenes, easily digestible content.
8. Don't make everything so curated that it seems fake
As much as I love a good Instagram feed that is aesthetically pleasing, you have to have a sense of human in your posts. Everything in your life isn’t perfect. If it is then good for you, you are literally the first person ever who can say that. Showcase the realness of your life and the little imperfections. You can do this with photos, with the stories you tell in your captions, or you Insta Story.
As I said before, my brand is still a work in progress but I wanted to share my tricks with you that I have discovered so far. I am so obsessed with the art of social media and human consumption of content. I read so many books about it, listen to podcasts, read articles, it just excites me. I hope this post adds value to you guys and if you have any questions about the apps I mentioned or any of the advice I shared please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Recently I had the chance to learn about an insanely cool new addition to BWI that I am pretty obsessed with on all levels. Roam Fitness is the first in airport gym that is actually past the security line. Yup. You heard that right.
My favorite thing about Roam is that it is really about creating a whole experience. When the founders of Roam were building the foundation of the gym they took into account everything that a customer would encounter during their journey of working out in an airport. They identified the pain points of travelers wishing to work out and created an all encompassing solution which leaves you really no excuse why you wouldn't want to workout at Roam! Their goal is to make the travel experience better overall.
So here is my breakdown on why Roam is so freaking cool.
The location. Roam is past security. This little detail makes a huge difference. Think about how early you arrive to the airport just to go through security (especially for international travel) and then once you are through you are bored out of your mind. But, if you wait to go through security, your luck will probably leave you with a two hour line and a missed flight. By Roam being located past security you don't have to worry about having to stand in line post workout and you can maximize your workout time.
The equipment. The founders of Roam made sure to do ample research about what people really wanted in an airport gym. Since space is limited they had to make sure that what was being put in really was going to be utilized and the best of the best. They have state of the art cardio equipment ranging from treadmills, a rower, and spin bikes. They also have free weights, TRX equipment, and an area for yoga and stretching. There is something for everyone which I think is great. If I am up early catching a flight I might want to get in my usual cardio workout or if I have a delayed flight and am stressed out of my mind some yoga could be the answer.
The amenities. Roam left no rock unturned when they were thinking about the customer experience. Every excuse that you could come up with to not workout, they have an answer for. The number one thing I thought of when I heard about the concept of an airport gym was, well what if I didn't pack workout stuff in my carry on? Roam thought of that too. That is why they actually have clothing and shoes that you can rent. They have a selection of Lululemon workout gear (yaaaaasssss!) and Brooks shoes that you can borrow and return, as well as a retail space where you can purchase your own to take home if you love them so much. If you do bring your own clothes and shoes, they have you covered there as well. They actually vacuum seal your workout gear before you take off so that your sweat isn't stinking up your carry on. This concept is absolute genius. Obviously you are going to want to take a shower before boarding your flight so they have shower facilities that you can reserve ahead of time for 15 minute increments. There is no college dorm waiting for the shower kind of thing going on and you can proactively plan this into your travel schedule. All shampoo, conditioner, and soap is provided and there is a styling bar with every complimentary product you could think of from hairspray to tampons. They really did think of everything. While you are working out you can lock your luggage away in state of the art lockers that even have charging ports for your electronics. To add to the convenience there are monitors located around the facility with flight updates and announcements so that you can track your departure time conveniently.
The people. Roam made it a point to hire team members coming from hospitality backgrounds so that they can play a part in enhancing the customer experience. The airport experience can so often be unpersonalized, stressful, and sometimes people are just downright rude. When you go to Roam you are promised to be greeted by a friendly, helpful face that can assist you through your whole experience at Roam. I don't know about ya'll but for me just having a friendly person to connect with during a stressful experience can make a world of difference. I also like that having such trained and skilled team members really elevates the experience and makes the whole process feel pretty darn luxurious.
The brand. You know I am ALL about a cohesive brand that really thinks of everything. Well if it isn't clear already, Roam has that going for them. They want to create that "me time" feel of traveling and really encourage people to utilize Roam as an escape from the stresses of travel and pamper themselves. From getting your body moving and feeling good, to pampering yourself with a relaxing shower (with great products!), to continuing the feel good vibes through your day by picking up some of the delicious healthy offerings that Roam sells to eat and drink.
The other really cool thing about Roam is that you get to have a luxurious experience with a reasonable price tag. A day pass is $25, a month pass is $100, and a year pass is $350. With each pass you have access to the entire facility, all of the amenities, and the expertise of the on site staff. I pay $25 at the airport for a handful of magazines and some iTunes episodes of The Bachelor to keep me busy. That money could be a lot more well spent.....clearly......
I am so happy that I had the opportunity to get some behind the scenes insight into Roam Fitness and the journey of its creation. I love hearing stories of entrepreneurs who hustle hard and create things that benefit the greater good. Something that really stuck out to me that the CEO, Cynthia Sandall, mentioned was how much research went into creating Roam. The years of testing out facilities, deciding on equipment, making sure that customer pain points were addressed, and implementing little touches that make the brand so cohesive really set Roam apart as a company.
I know so many Crohnically Blonde readers are local to the Baltimore area and travel out of BWI regularly so there is no excuse now why you shouldn't carve out some time in your travels to treat yourself to a luxurious workout experience. I know for me, health is a huge thing that I worry about while traveling. I have to keep up with my activity and nutrition so that my Crohn's doesn't wreak havoc on my vacation or work trip. I am honestly relieved that I know there is a place so close to home that really values making your health a priority physically and mentally even while traveling. I can't wait to frequent Roam every time I fly out of BWI and I am looking forward to seeing some of you there!
Make sure to check out their website for more details on what Roam Fitness has to offer and give them a follow on Instagram to stay up to date with the latest and greatest happenings (@roam_fitness).
**I will also be doing a giveaway on Instagram for a one day free pass for Roam Fitness @ BWI so make sure to follow me (@crohnicallyblonde) for a chance to win! **
Happy Monday everyone! Today I am mixing things up because The Brunette Blend tagged me in a cool "How Well Do You Know Me" challenge. The gist is, I answer the 11 questions that she created, create 11 new questions, and tag 11 more bloggers to answer those questions. The trail continues on and on. I think this is such a cool way to connect bloggers and introduce readers to other bloggers with similar taste! This also really reminds me of the quizzes that everyone would post on their MySpace pages #throwback. Please tell me that someone else remembers that....
Here goes nothing!
1. Let’s get this out of the way ASAP. *N Y S Y N C or Backstreet Boys?
Ugh, wait... why is this question so hard. I was a Backstreet Boys girl through and through but I do have to say I love me some JT.
2. Has your blog changed directions since you started?
I actually started my blog during my freshman year of college with a totally different direction. I started off as mainly a beauty/ lifestyle blog because I was in makeup sales throughout college. I went on a hiatus for a bit and came back with Crohnically Blonde which is a concept I am absolutely in love with. I still incorporate a lot of beauty and fashion but that isn't my main focus.
3. Who inspires you to be better?
I know this sounds corny but my boyfriend Matt really inspires me. I see how hard he works to provide for our family and allow us to live great lives. He supports me 110% in my full time job and with all of my blog goals as well. He gives me genuine feedback and always has my best interest at heart. He not only encourages me to be great in my career but also in my personal life. He encourages me to slow down and enjoy the little things, especially our family.
4. What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
My Day Designer. I swear this thing keeps me sane. No matter how much I try and integrate my plans into my phone/Outlook calendar I HAVE to write things down. Whether it is appointments or a "to do list" I can't resist crossing things off in my planner once I complete a task.
5. What is your social media platform of choice?
6. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Pet both of my dogs and give them a kiss. Usually Charleston sleeps above my head and Rhaegar is near my feet. It just sets the tone of my morning giving the pups a little love.
7. What have you learned from blogging?
I've learned the power of sharing your story. I never realized how impactful the things that have shaped me in my life can be to others. Never be afraid to share.
8. What was the last photo you took?
My mail from The Skinny Confidential <3
9. What movie do you quote on a regular basis?
Not a movie but usually Vanderpump Rules. I'm the devil and don't you forget it.
10. What is one of your beauty tips or hacks?
I'm going to do a blog post on this but I use CBD oil on my face for anti-aging/moisturizing benefits. I have a roll on that I originally was using for my jaw pain at night but when I started to realize the skin where I was applying it was smoother and clearer than the rest of my face I realized I was onto something. I use it all over my face every couple of nights and put it on breakouts too. This works especially well to prevent over drying from acne treatments. Here's the scoop -- I use this face mask (its really great for cystic acne too!). I usually leave it on overnight which you aren't supposed to do and can be a bit drying but it definitely does the job of clearing things up. I follow it up with some topical CBD oil which is moisturizing and has healing benefits. Seriously guys, you must try.
11. What are the three things that ALWAYS make it into your grocery cart?
Sparkling water, avocados, Halo Top (Birthday Cake flavor)
Annie from The Californienne
Raquel from Sincerely Nourished
Melissa from Simply Meli
Shannon from Sunny Coastlines
Julianna from Barre to Table
Sam from The Salty Twig
Michelle from Millennial Mom Life Crisis
Amanda from Cashmere And Jeans
Shelly from Arizona Girl
Hannah from Blissfully Brunette
Amanda from Fashion to Follow
My 11 questions are....
1. What is one beauty product you can't live without?
2. What inspired you to start your blogging journey?
3. What is your favorite blog post that you have ever done? Make sure to link to it!
4. What was the last book you read?
5. What is your go to brunch order?
6. What is your guilty pleasure TV show?
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
8. What is your favorite movie ever?
9. What is the biggest take away that you have learned from blogging?
10. What motivates you when you are having a bad day?
11. What is one word or phrase that you use way to much but just can't stop?
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.