One of the things I look forward to most about summer vacations is getting time to relax, be super freaking introverted, lay on the beach, and devour books like it is my job. With my full time job, blogging side hustle, and trying to get enough rest, reading often gets put on the back burner in my life even though I love it. Taking a bubble bath and diving into a novel or just laying in bed and falling asleep with a good book in hand are two of my most favorite weekend activities so I have been trying to make a conscious effort to schedule those moments into my life. Now that we live right across the street from our local library, Matt and I are there almost every week picking up new books and then coming home and just laying on the couch reading together. It seems nerdy but you have to try it. It is one of the best ways to be together with your partner but still be doing your own thing.
Vacations are MY time for reading. Matt already knows to step back and let me knock out some novels. Whether we are in an airport or on the beach, reading is my jam. The minute vacation time hits, I am hitting the books. With Fourth of July weekend right around the corner, I wanted to share some of my must read books in hopes that you will have enough time to Amazon Prime them before you hit the road.
I have a pretty all over the place taste in books and I pull recommendations from blogs, magazines, and friends so you can count on me to provide a solid sampler of the best of the best.
1. "Superficial" by Any Cohen- This book is a Bravo lover's fantasy. Getting to hear the inside scoop on the man behind "The Housewives" is something you can't beat. Andy Cohen shares his fair share of first world problems that I sadly felt myself relating to more than I should. I really enjoy his stories about Wacha and I am convinced him and Charleston are long, lost brothers. This book is full of humor and #lifegoals. I may have to dub this the perfect beach read.
2. "Bite Me"- by Ally Hilfiger- I went on a huge rant about this book on my latest podcast. Ally does a phenomenal job of articulating the struggles of Lyme Disease that actually any chronic illness sufferer can probably relate to. This is a definitely a must read for anyone who feels that they are lost or misunderstood with any physical or emotional condition. And also their supporters! It seems like it would be a bit heavy for a casual beach read but somehow Ally does a great job of making her story captivating, not too dark, and informational, all at one time.
3. "Down The Rabbit Hole"- by Holly Madison- I heard about this book from The Skinny Confidential and one of her book recommendation posts. I wasn't sold on the whole Playboy thing but when I saw this as a featured book at the library I figured I should just check it out. As soon as I started reading this I was totally hooked! Holly Madison goes SUPER deep into her experience at the Playboy Mansion and her whole mindset that kept her there for so long. As a viewer of "The Girls Next Door" back in the day, I had one idea of Holly that this book proved totally wrong. She is actually an ambitious and savvy businesswoman who has accomplished some great things in the industry. This book took me only two days to finish and by the end of it I felt like I watched a documentary on the inside scoop of the Playboy Mansion and the Playboy Bunnies which I definitely couldn't get enough of.
4. "Tribes" by Seth Godin- Personal development books are some of my absolute favorites for vacation. I am pretty intense about always wanting to be productive so mentally bettering myself is appealing, even on days off. This book takes a unique approach at motivating and coaching people as well as rallying people to support your cause or movement. I found this book super valuable for growing my success in my full time job and with my blog! It is a quick read so you won't spend too much of your vacation "working".
Let me know what ya'll think about these summer picks and please let me know what YOU are reading on your summer vacation!
All of these books can be found on Amazon in a variety of hardcover, paperback , and Audible formats.
Usually I don't do back to back posts of the same series but I couldn't wait to share my May Must Haves delivery from Spoonie Essentials Box. I get so genuinely excited when I receive my SEB package because the boxes are always filled with things that are so needed. It honestly makes you feel like someone just knew what you have been needing, boxed it up in adorable packaging, and got it hand delivered to your door. I know I am a little late on sharing this but you know how life likes to get in the way.
Check out my review and sign up for your own box here!
Yup, we're going there today. Major truth bombs right here so if you aren't in the mood to get deep then you should keep on scrolling and come back when your are feeling like getting really freaking real.
Recently I have been feeling like I got hit by a bus. Regina George style, over and over again both physically and mentally. I have been really struggling to balance everything going on in my life. I know that sounds like I am being over dramatic because I am dealing with normal 25 year old stuff like a mortgage, friendships, money, work. But as someone who is prone to some serious anxiety and is a major control freak, the unexpected things in life are oh so rough for me. A hospital visit here, a random and unfortunately steep medical bill there, a random day where on top of a bad day at work I am plagued with body aches all day. I'm not here to complain. I'm here to put all of this out there because if you are suffering from a chronic illness chances are you feel this way too. And if you are a supporter of someone with a chronic illness then now you know how we feel everyday.
I usually can keep pretty even keel but when shit hits the fan for me I lash out at those closest to me (aka Matt) and I get just plain evil. I try so hard to be a a kick ass #girlboss at work putting in 50+ hours of time in per week, coming home and being a good girlfriend and dog mom, keeping my house clean, having a side hustle (shoutout to this blog), and trying to maintain a somewhat normal state of health (doctors appointments, sleep, food prep, research). I feel like I just can't win at all of these things 100%. I know it is because I always hold myself to unbelievable standards but I REALLY, like REAAAALLLY need to stop doing that.
I think a big portion of feeling so defeated is that the light at the end of the tunnel can sometimes seem so far away. On good days or weeks I feel upbeat and hopeful and then on bad days I feel like remission is just this imaginary thing that doctor's tell me about to keep me satisfied and trying more and more medicines until hopefully I find the magic combination. I feel bad whenever I think like that because I know people have it A LOT worse than I do. But like I said, this stuff needs to be talked about because honestly, I haven't seen anyone really put it out there like this.
The other day I reached a real breaking point for me that I haven't experienced since my first diagnosis. Things just piled on and all of a sudden everything went wrong at once. Our AC broke in our new house, work things were getting crazy, and on top of the my health took a weird turn. I got very sick two Fridays ago and ended up in the ER. I didn't know what was wrong but I did know it was way worse than usual so I needed to figure out why there was a sudden change. After hours of excruciating pain, dizziness, dehydration, and lots of pain medicine, blood work, and tests the conclusion was so irritating to me.
My lymph nodes in my intestines were swollen.
Are you kidding?
That is what caused me to feel like my insides were literally going to fall out?!
I went from the doctor telling me that I may have to have emergency surgery to telling me that my freaking lymph nodes were swollen?! My prescribed regime for when I returned home was more steroids, pain meds, and Pepto.
I'm in no way frustrated with the doctors. They did everything in their power to figure out what was wrong and they did. And it isn't there fault that there is nothing more helpful that can be done. Autoimmune diseases are a painful game of guess and check where sometimes things work and sometimes they don't.
I have been in this type of experience before but this situation was so defeating because:
1, I had been very strictly following my anti inflammatory diet and actually feeling better until the night before my ER trip. Things with Crohn's can change so suddenly. One minute things are okay and one minute they aren't. There is no planning with Crohn's.
2. I actually feel crazy whenever the doctor tells me its "just" this or "just" that, that is the problem. Like am I crazy for feeling the sickness, pain, and discomfort that I am? When I am feeling THAT bad I would expect them to find something gravely wrong with me. Instead it is "just" my lymph nodes causing all of this and my regular Crohn's flare up inflammation that can't be tamed. There is no measure on pain. They can only take my word for it. When they do tests and blood work and see it is "only" my inflammation, I feel like my pain isn't justified. Because of this I so often hide how I am feeling physically because its not like a broken leg where you can see something is wrong. That is why it is called an invisible illness with a serious limit of metrics to validate your condition.
I talked through this a lot with my mom who as a fellow Crohn's sufferer and totally gets it. I also worked through it with Matt who is a freaking angel for putting up with me. I slept for almost the whole weekend when I got home from the hospital and then was still foggy through the beginning of the week. Come the weekend I made the mistake of over committing socially (which was so incredibly fun) but now I am paying for it.
I am realizing my limits and I hate having limits. I know now that I can have only one weekend event and that is enough. I know that I need a sleepy Sunday to recoup for the week ahead. I know that as much as I love my friends, my health needs to take priority.
Right now I am still waiting for my Remicade to hopefully start working better. I get my next injection next Friday. For now I am coping with stomach/intestinal pain, foggy brain, and body aches. I switched up my diet again to see what happens and I am on a cocktail of a few medications all with different side effects that cause another issue in my body.
I didn't write this post to be super depressing or to have people feel bad for me. I have a great, beautiful, amazing life. I am not as sick as I could be. I have a job that understands that I need to take time for my health and even more importantly I have a support system that is always there for me and lifting me up. I have a house, I have money to pay my medical bills, and I have the access to great healthcare. I am writing this to shed light on the fact that when you look at me, I seem like a happy, successful, ambitious 25 year old girl. Most people who I meet will never know how I feel everyday because I don't share that with them. I worry about the judgement from other people for me not being able to be 100% at everything in my life. Mostly because they can't see that I am struggling so what must they think? That I am lazy? That I just don't care? That I am a slacker? That can't be any further from the truth. I am all about hustle but I am also struggling. Just recently I realized the true mind fuck that invisible illnesses are and I think that the term is thrown around so much but never actually, explicitly explained.
I hope you read this and can say "wow, yup I've been there, I feel you girl" or you pass it on to someone who hasn't been in mine (or your) shoes and they realize the struggle is most definitely real even though it can't be seen.
I always get so nervous before publishing posts like these because they aren't perfectly curated. Talking about this stuff isn't sexy or cool for Instagram but I keep coming back to my purpose. My purpose of this blog and they purpose of my going through my journey with Crohn's. If at least one person reads my story and can related or connect or feel validated in their journey and struggle then I did my job and served my purpose.
Episode 2 is here!
Better late than never. Technical difficulties pushed me back a bit but I recorded this last Sunday night, in hopes that it would be out a bit earlier in the week. I am glad I finally figured everything out and I hope you all enjoy Episode 2!
I talk about letting yourself have down time, my experience on "The F-Word Podcast", the keto diet, and Ally Hilfiger's book about her experience with Lyme.
I am working on getting some guests locked down for future episodes AND I have some cool suggestions from people that I am excited to incorporate.
When I originally was thinking through writing this post I was singing the tune of "oh my god I love summer, I love the heat, I love everything warm and summer". Now I am sitting here with fans blowing on me on an 87 degree day on day two without central AC. Yikes. And get this, they can't come out to repair it until Monday. It is like the universe had to knock me down a little from my "I love summer" high. Either way, I am fighting through the fact that I feel like I am in a hot yoga class 24/7 and I love my dogs more than I love myself so I give them prime fan blowing real estate.
Despite my air conditioning mishap I am still going to bring ya'll a little update on some products that I am obsessing over right now. The amount of different beauty products I try on a regular basis borderline crazy but I consider it research. I am not only a sucker for things that deliver results but also for super cute packaging. I love some good, cohesive branding and product names and packaging that wows. When it comes to beauty products there are always the latest and greatest trends that brands follow but how many companies can make virtually the same product with almost the same formulation playing into the same trend that everyone else is playing into? Every company does this. Yes, there are brands that sell you on formula or price point but something that I think can really set a product apart for their competitors: packaging.
In a world where everyone is documenting everything brands need to make their products beautiful and photogenic that way customers and influencers are more likely to snap a picture and share. There could be two products that are exactly the same but the one with more appealing packaging is the choice I will always go for. I think it is more than just about the fact that it "looks cute", I feel like it makes me feel like the brand put more care into the whole experience that their customer will have with this product. That makes me trust the brand more and in return I want to buy into the whole experience of what they are selling.
Right now some of my favorite products (for both performance and packaging) are summer themed and I am loving it. Palms, pineapples, & flamingos are taking over my vanity set up and I am basking in the cuteness.
These four items not only perfectly packaged but they also are must haves for my fresh, dewy summer look that I am currently really liking. I have been using brightening face wipes, a slight bit on foundation with highlighter mixed in, some swipes of mascara, and highlighter on my cheek bones and under my brows to top it off.
Like I said, I am a total sucker for packaging and TJ Maxx is my ultimate weakness. I always love picking up makeup wipes from TJ Maxx because they always have a great variety and you can get a package of about 60 wipes for under $5. The best part, other than getting the chance to try different brands, is that their selections always have cool packaging that varies in color and pattern. I love this because I can obsessively pick the packaging that best matches the aesthetic I am going for at the time. Just make sure when you are picking that you are reading the ingredients to make sure you are selecting a good product (and not getting suckered in by the cute packaging only) and make sure you are picking out a wipe that is fitting for your skin type.
One of the highlighters and the mascara that I am really liking right now are from The Beauty Crop. Both of these items I ordered or received via Birchbox. The Lighting Crew highlighter is a very thin formula that sits lightly on your skin. If you mix it in with a BB cream or light foundation and blend with a beauty blender you get a perfect dewy look. I love that the formula is light enough to easily blend with foundation because a lot of other highlighters can be way too shimmery for all over use. A little of this stuff goes a long way so this tiny $18 tube will be blessing your makeup bag with its pineapple cuteness for quite a while. The Fabulous Flocking Lashes is another current favorite. It is a waterproof formula that doesn't leave your lashes feeling dry or crispy. I usually hate waterproof mascaras but this one is a winner thanks to the moisturizing nature of it. It provides a very natural look that makes this a perfect product to rock when you want to look super effortless. For the full size tube it is about $20. I am flamingo obsessed (my mom is too, must run in the family) so I freak every time I see something flamingo themed. Must. Buy.
You can get both of these products here along with some other cute stuff. I got mine via Birchbox so I could use my reward points but if you want to buy them directly from The Beauty Crop website you can get 10% off of your first purchase (yay!).
My last must have isn't a hero because of the packaging but really because of the freaking heavenly summery smell. I usually am not one to take notice of the scent of makeup because that is not usually one of my deciding factors for making a purchase (unless it is disgusting). This product changed my mind. I received this Marc Jacobs highlighter complimentary to test for Influenster. I immediately noticed the delicious coconut smell with the first tiny pump of product. I just can't get enough of it not. It isn't like that sunscreen coconut smell, its like a nice coconut candle smell. Once I got over how amazing the scent was I realized that the product performance was pretty awesome as well. This gel highlighter is great for creating a natural glow on your cheek bones, brow arch, and even a tad right above your lip. A little goes a long way with this highlighter as well so I will be, for sure, enjoying this all summer long.
Currently they are out of stock but you can check it out here and bookmark that ish for when it comes back in stock. You can also get 15% off of your first purchase with Marc Jacobs Beauty.
Let me know what other products you all are loving for summer and other themed products that are taking over your makeup collection!
GUYS! Super exciting news. I know I just took the plunge and finally decide my own podcast but I also had the amazing opportunity to be a guest on one of my new favorite podcasts, "The F-Word Podcast". I am absolutely in love with their message and everything they stand for. I really can't do it justice with my explanation so I took the words straight from their website.
"We are Jackie and Emily--two friends who decided to start a podcast to openly discuss issues that are sometimes seen as a taboo in order to create a more understanding and empathetic world.
Luckily I had the chance to use their platform to share my story about overcoming anorexia and how that fight plays into my battle with Crohn's. I have never really shared my full story struggling with anorexia on any public forum and I really wasn't sure why (I did share a bit here). I just don't think I was ready to fully embrace it until now. Well, I ripped the bandaid off and here I am. Even more vulnerable and open and authentic than ever and I did it because I have seen the power sharing your story can have on others.
Please take a listen if you are curious about hearing my story and take a listen to the other episodes as well the hear stories from other amazing people who have struggled through a variety of different issues and who are brave enough to share their stories. Every episode is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration.
You can check out the podcast on their website HERE or on iTunes HERE.
Looking forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback!
If you know me at all you know that number one on the list of shit I'm obsessed with are my dogs, Charleston and Rhaegar. I literally cannot get enough of them. Like Matt actually gets irritated with me because I treat them like they are my babies. My Instagram is flooded with photos of their cute selfs snuggling, playing, melting hearts... and I'v had some people ask me what my favorite "dog products" are. Now I'm not exactly sure what specifically that encompasses but I think I've got the gist. I pulled together a short but well thought out list of the products/items that my dogs must have. Now I know that is a little psycho. It is actually me that must have this stuff because I just love to see them happy. Psycho. I know.
ACANA DOG FOOD
High quality and fresh ingredients are must haves when it comes to food for the pups. Rhaegar has a nearly fatal history with intestinal issues (why we get along so well LOL) so we have to stay committed to providing him with the right food and treats to keep his digestive system healthy and functioning properly. Originally we just switched Rhaegar to this food but Charleston got a sniff of it and it was game over. We had to switch them both because they loved it so much!
You can find an Acana retailer near you via their website.
We have two heavy chewers. Like crazily heavy chewers. So we have to have things for them to chew on that can hold up for more than 24 hours in our house. Antlers are a huge favorite because they last FOREVER. They aren't cheap but they are definitely worth it. There are a variety of different types of antlers that range in hardness so they are good for different levels of chewers. We like to get ours from our local shop because they have a huge selection and we can hand select the shape and size but you can also find them on Amazon in single orders or in bulk. Make sure to read the reviews and make sure they won't splinter easily if you have heavy chewers. As with any chew toy, make sure to keep an eye on your dog while they are chomping away and throw the antler away before it becomes too small and a choking hazard.
With the amount of packages that we get from Amazon I was really impressed that after only a couple of months they recognized that when the BarkBox package came it most definitely is theirs, not anyone else's. We signed up for the extra toy club so they get three toys, one edible item (like a knuckle or a trachea), and two bags of treats. This is the perfect amount of newness (and treats) to keep them satisfied all month long. The great thing about Barkbox is that you can customize the contents for your dog's needs. They take into consideration size, chew factor, allergies, etc. to make sure each box is full of things that pertain to your dog's preferences. From a human perspective I am so obsessed with this idea and their branding is out of control. Everything is so cohesive down to the information on the box, the tissue paper, and the emails they send out. Ya'll know I am a sucker for good branding so I was sold from one look at the website. Each box is curated for your pup each month, not only based on their preferences but also to align with a certain (and very adorable theme). Recently we've had a South Western box, an 80's box, and a Safari box... all so cute, so well branded, and so cohesive.
I really think that the idea behind BarkBox is a genius one. They take something that humans are already so obsessive over and willing to spend their disposable income on (their dogs) and pair that with a customer experience that is seriously enjoyable and leaves you trusting the brand and the products their products. You cannot beat that.
If you aren't sold on this yet, you're a psycho. But just incase HERE is a link to get a free BarkBox, love Charles and Rhaegar. You're welcome.
SLOW FEEDER DOG BOWL
Charleston eats like a true maniac. Literally he will be done a meal in less than 30 seconds. Our dog trainer originally recommended we get one of these to prevent him from choking or having indigestion issues. This definitely slows him down as much as possible and is really the only thing that works in order to do so. There are many different types with different patterns but this is the one most similar to what we have.
IQ TREAT BALL
We got this ball for Charleston for Christmas because we were trying to find a way to stimulate his mind. He is part Collie so he is definitely an intelligent little guy but he gets neurotic if he isn't constantly stimulated. This ball is his absolute favorite toy. He brings it everywhere around the house, even to bed. I swear, even when it doesn't have food in it, he carries it around like it is his pride and joy. This inspired us to start buying him different "puzzles" which have helped a lot with his anxiety. I can't tell you how seriously I recommend this ball and other puzzle games for dogs that are intelligent and anxious. We were told in Charleston's training classes that he is basically too smart for his own good sometimes so this helps his to exercise his inner genius.
We got this toy from BarkShop (link here for the exact one).
ANIMAL PLANET PET LASER TOY
We started out getting Rhaegar's attention accidentally with a laser heat thermometer and it got a little crazy after that. He became obsessed with "the red dot that follows him everywhere". He can be entertained by a laser pointer for, I kid you not, hours. Matt's mom got him this automatic laser toy for his birthday last month and he can't get enough. The laser randomly moves around the floor and Rhaegar chases it until he gets so sleepy and passes out mid pounce. For any dogs that like laser pointers I highly recommend this because number one, they will love it, and number two, it is hands free entertainment for when you need to get things done and can't play.
This app has been one of our best finds in a while. With Matt changing schedules that leaves some days where our boys need a little bit of care in the middle of the day so they aren't cooped up for too long. There are a ton of different "dog walker" apps out there but Rover has been my favorite. Within minutes of signing up I was able to create my profile with specific information about both dogs and easily view a plethora of dog enthusiasts for hire around my neighborhood. I was actually very surprised to see just how many people were close by and side hustling as a dog care taker!
I am so paranoid about who I leave my dogs with so it was incredibly comforting to read a variety of different reviews and be able to message care takers directly before booking them. The app is easy to navigate. It lets you choose the dates you need help and the service (walk, potty break, house sitting, dog sitting at the sitter's house) and shows you who is available on those days for those services. The interface reminds me of AirBnB which is definitely a compliment. Both bookings and payments are done right on the app so there is no hassle.
Our first week with our new Rover sitter has been great. She is phenomenal with both pups and makes sure to send me video and picture updates everyday. I have to say the whole experience has made me way more at ease about leaving my dogs in a sitter's hands.
SO WHAT'S NEXT?
What is next on my list of obsessive dog buys? I am thinking a Petcube. I always wonder what the dogs are doing during the day while I am at work and now that we have been trying to leave them out and not in the crate my curiosity has grown. I would love the comfort of knowing I can check out what the pups are doing at anytime and make sure they are okay. The other day I realized I really need one of these when Charleston's allergies were getting bad and I wanted to monitor him while I was at work to make sure they didn't get a lot worse in a short period of time. Matt and I have been looking into different cubes but haven't decided on one yet. If any of you guys have recommendations definitely let me know! We are kind of digging the one with the laser toy because Rhaegar will be obsessed with it. The treat dispensing one is cool too but if both dogs are alone together in a room I wouldn't want them fighting over treats. Decisions, decisions. Seriously though, if anyone has one please let me know if they are worth the money!
I know this post was a little different than the usual ones I have been doing but when I was getting questions about the pups I couldn't resist! If you like this kind of post feel free to drop me a DM or email and let me know what you like and what you want to see next!
Mental health advocate.
Sharing my raw and real journey through motherhood and navigating Crohn’s Disease. CrohnicallyBlonde is a place where I serve up my unfiltered commentary on chronic illness, mental health, pregnancy, and motherhood alongside lighter lifestyle content like beauty product reviews, travel tips, and book recommendations. My hope is that by authentically sharing my story I can help others going through similar situations not feel so alone and maybe even laugh along with me.