Food and I have always had a love/hate relationship. I feel like that’s sadly too often the case in people with IBD. Throw constantly working to stay in recovery from an eating disorder and you’ve leveled up to a status that “It’s Complicated” can’t even begin to cover.
Over the years I’ve tried a plethora of food related remedies to help with my digestive issues and seen plenty of nutritionists for both that and my eating disorder. I’ve tried the keto diet, low FODMAP diet, removing dairy/gluten, liquid diets, Chinese herbs…. a lot of things. Some of them have stuck, like I now know what foods don’t agree with me, but I don’t feel like I’ve developed a truly sustainable and enjoyable way of eating. Plus, I still have a variety of issues leading back to autoimmune and inflammatory problems and I still have no way to fix those things.
Over the years I’ve developed such a stress surrounding food and meals. What is going to make me sick? Will this make me gain weight (on top of the weight I’ve gained from my medications)? Is this food really good for me? How the heck do I actually even cook something properly? I am a hot mess when it comes to anything in the kitchen.
I’ve had such a stress around food preparation that I never really learned how to cook. Like, I’m really, really not great at it. Matt doesn’t even want me to cook our Sunbasket deliveries alone because he’s concerned for my safety. I wish I was kidding. I love enjoying good food though; I get that part. The marriage of flavors, the textures, the balance. Creating a successful dish is just like putting together a well-designed room or outfit. It is a science and an art, just one that my heart has never been behind.
I never made it a priority to learn how to properly cook for or fuel myself because I have always just gotten by with my half-assed attempts. My life has been so busy that there was always an excuse as to why cooking simply wasn’t for me. It is funny how you can make all of the excuses when it involves you, but when it involves others the game changes. Let me explain……
Sue from Savory Living reached out to me to connect about her unique online experience. The goal is to help you eat right for your body in a way that is customized to you and lifestyle. At first I was skeptical because I can’t tell you HOW many people have reached out to me telling me that their special diets or products would cure my Crohn’s Disease. That a shake would rebalance my immune system. That eating only raw vegetables would revive my digestive system. The list goes on and on and I always called bullshit, especially after all of the years of desperately trying whatever I could.
I looked into Sue’s company, Savory Living and I was pretty impressed. Savory Living is an online experience that, in 12 sessions, helps you develop healthier habits that YOU choose, teaches you how to cook food that is good for you, tastes good, and gives you the “why” behind adding in those certain foods. It is focused on mindfulness around what makes you feel good, showing up and committing to yourself, and ADDING good foods to your plate instead of focusing on elimination. The program slowly guides you to make small changes over time so that you don’t feel overwhelmed. Baby steps to set you up for success. I am ALL about this and have tried to do this for myself but the thought of what the heck I’m supposed to eat gets too daunting and I run out of the grocery store in a cold sweat.
I had a long call with Sue and we connected immediately. Hearing her story of how she’s thriving as a mom and entrepreneur, and crushing a rare disease that was determined to hold her back, was super inspiring. She explained how she made lifestyle changes for herself (and her family!) that really stuck and helped to create a drastically healthier life and an increasingly good prognosis for her health conditions. By the end of our conversation I was in awe of how much she really just wants to share her knowledge and experience in order to help others who were suffering from chronic ailments.
As she walked me through the program I was really drawn to how education focused it is. The whole goal of the program is to help you discover how to eat right for you (getting anti-inflammatory eating to solve the issues you are experiencing) and to guide you through the change to make it easy, manageable, and fun. Then she hit me with something that SHOOK ME….Sue explained that we teach our kids how to walk and talk and read and write but we never teach them how to eat.
THIS. RIGHT. HERE. Is what got me. If I don’t learn how to have a healthy relationship with food and figure out how to best fuel my body, how would I be able to teach my kids? The thought of leading my future children down the complicated food path I have traveled completely horrified me. This thought played over in my brain all day after our conversation.
So here I am. I have finally committed to learning a bit more about food, food preparation, and the “why” behind what we put in our bodies. I am starting an online program with Savory Living in hopes of creating a better lifestyle that I can pass onto my future kids and my family.
The program is a total of 12 sessions with two weeks in between to implement your new tricks. During those two weeks you implement three different changes to your life that are positive and trackable. You log what you are eating each day in the Savory Living portal so that you can be aware of any correlations the food you eat is having with your body, mood, energy level, etc. The classes are only 25 minute long videos which are easy to digest (haha get it….) and to the point, plus there is a ton of food ideas, cooking content, and other resources that you can explore. It is super interactive and personally I can’t wait to try out the recipe videos! You also have a coach who is helping to hold you accountable and advise you as you go through the program. This means a built-in person to help you if you are having a grocery store meltdown. Sorry in advance, Sue.
I am hopeful that educating myself more on food and nutrition instead of turning a blind eye, because it’s just too stressful to think of, will help me to feel better physically and mentally. I am hoping what I learn can help me adapt my lifestyle and feel excited about eating and cooking instead of treating those actions like a dreadful chore.
As I go through the programI am going to share my thoughts with you, as well as some bits and pieces of knowledge I’m getting. I’m going to track how I feel as I implement these lifestyle changes and you can come along on this journey with me. Since each program takes a full two weeks, I’ll be posting a “check in” every month or so to track progress and see how things are going.
One of my intentions I set for the year was to be more mindful and I am excited that this program and support are going to help me be more informed about what I am putting in my body and more mindful of how those things make me feel. As always, if you have any questions as I start the Savory Living program, drop me a message, and make sure to follow along via Instagram for even more updates along the way.
In the category of life hacks, I feel like I have found the holy grail. And I have to share it.
Every time I would scroll Instagram I would wonder how the heck these girls afford to have so many nice clothes and new pieces in basically every photo. Of course there are sponsorships and borrowed clothes for photoshoots…. and friend’s closets. There is a long way to climb before you reach that level and a lot of events that need cute outfits along the way. So how do you manage keeping your budget in line, keeping your outfits fresh, and getting to enjoy quality pieces? Renting them.
This is the secret that I have just found out about.
Rent the Runway Unlimited.
You all know, before I recommend something I like to try it for a bit of time and weigh the pros and cons. I’ve been using Rent The Runway since October (so almost four months now) so I feel like, now, I can give you the full scoop.
I’m going to break it down for you as to what RTR Unlimited is, why I have been loving it, and some of my tips for getting the most bang for your buck.
You all are probably familiar with Rent the Runway, the website (and brick and mortar) where you can rent designer pieces for a specific amount of time for super affordable prices. I’ve used RTR for many different occasions and always have had a great experience. My friend, Julianna from Barre to Table, told me about Rent The Runway Unlimited and I figured based on my previous RTR experiences, this one would follow suit.
RTR Unlimited takes the original concept of RTR and amps it up to fit your everyday needs. Basically it is Netflix for your clothes. You can borrow up to four designer pieces that you personally select for as long as you want and exchange them as often as you want. It is pretty simple and self explanatory, like you can’t mess this up.
I was curious as to what the selection of pieces would be and I was happily surprised to see the wide variety of clothing and accessories available to Unlimited members. There are brands like Tory Burch and Kate Spade that may already be in rotation in your closet, but renting allows you to get your hands on some more unique pieces without feeling like you made a sunk investment. There are also other brands that may not be in your everyday affordability range but renting them allows you to wear them without the hefty price tag.
Speaking of price tag, I won’t lie, I was a bit skeptical at first about the $159/month fee for RTR Unlimited. It sounded great but was it worth it? I got my first month for $99 (you can also get that discount here!) which happened to coincide with my anniversary and two photoshoots. I thought this was perfect because I was already going to have to get new outfits for those events so I might as well just try renting instead… for experiment’s sake. You can also pause or stop your membership at any time so there was really no penalty in trying it. I ended up totally getting my moneys worth for the first month and swapped out a grand total of 11 pieces in the first month alone (I’ll get more into getting the most bang for your buck later on). I have kept my subscription going and still feel like it is totally worth it at $159/month.
I feel like I actually save money and don’t buy shit I don’t need.
How much of your closet is full of random clothes you bought for one occasion, wore for one Instagram picture, and then threw on a hanger to fade away into forgotten darkness. That is a lot of my closet and it is sad to see how much money I’ve thrown away on clothes I don’t wear that aren’t even that great of quality.
By renting pieces I am not tempted to purchase clothes for one time wear which saves me money and closet space. It also allows me to rent super trendy pieces without feeling guilty for spending money on something I will only wear for one season (or one Instagram if we’re being honest).
If there is something you rent and can’t seem to part ways with, you are in luck. RTR has great deals on purchasing rented pieces. Like really good deals. So far I got a $290 Tory Burch tote for $70 (in perfect condition) and a winter coat that was usually around $300 for only $79. I’ll also note here, if you love something but don’t want to commit to it just yet you can keep renting it, month after month.
I hope you are sold on at least trying it for a month because I swear it is a game changer. If you are in, keep reading because I’m sharing my tips to get the most value out of your subscription.
Always check the reviews before your order a piece. This part works similarly (read: identically) to traditional RTR. Other renters can post their reviews/photos and you can look up the reviews from people with similar sizes/body types to yours. This is so helpful especially when you are shopping brands that you aren’t super familiar with. It also helps to eliminate any surprises when you see what a piece likes on an everyday person versus a model.
The most important thing in my opinion is….
Plan, plan, plan.
This is key. The shipment schedule is everything here. Usually I return my rented items on a Monday, they arrive at the facility on Wednesday which is when I can make my new selection, and my next shipment arrives on Thursday, in time for the weekend. I strategically decide when to rent pieces and how many pieces at a time based on the events coming up. If I know it is a busy month, I will plan out specifically the days that I will place and return my orders so that I can ensure I get a fresh shipment every week. If you want optimal delivery time you have to place your order before 3pm so to make things easy I keep the next pieces I am eyeing saved in different folders. This makes it easy to just make your selections in between a meeting or on a trip to the bathroom at work without having to put too much thought or time into it.
If you are maxing out your subscription, you can get up to four new pieces per week, you just have to be diligent about exchanging them on time. If not, it isn’t a huge deal and you still will get a great value, but with proper planning you can really make your subscription worth every penny.
You also don’t have to return everything at once. RTR delivers your shipments in an easily shippable garment bag with a prepaid shipping label, so as long as you have one of those in your possession you can always swap out items. There has only been one occasion where I wanted to return a piece but didn’t have a garment bag, but that was my fault thanks to poor planning and I ended up getting a new shipment and using that bag to return the piece within two days. Another perk of being able to send back pieces after you wear them is you don’t have to do laundry. They dry clean everything for you which, especially when dealing with delicate fabrics, makes life a whole lot easier.
The moral of the story is, Rent The Runway Unlimited is LEGIT. It has saved me money, helped me style some super cute outfits, and feels like Santa is coming to your house once a week. I could go on for about five more posts talking about the little details of RTR Unlimited but I will chill out for now. I’m interested to hear if you all have tried RTR/RTR Unlimited or if you are now interested in trying it. If so you can use my link for a little discount (YAY!).
If RTR is something ya’ll get excited about I would love to continue with some posts on my favorite RTR picks, how I use RTR Unlimited for trips, and maybe even share some tips on fits/styling. I just love being able to share such a helpful service and share a little secret of what is behind a lot of blogger’s trendy Instagram’s. It always confuses me when bloggers/influencers don’t want to share where they got a piece of clothing or if they rented something/got something used. I feel like it is so important to share the reality because for most of us, just casually buying a Chanel bag for an Instagram photo isn’t attainable.
I think RTR Unlimited is a totally genius idea that puts the luxury of fashion into everyones hands, helps to reduce waste, and can save the members of the Instagram generation a whole lot of money. You know I nerd out over how businesses are built and the psychology behind their concepts and RTR caught my attention in that realm. I highly recommend you listen to the “How I Built This” podcast episode with RTR creator Jean Hyman. It will give you an even deeper appreciation of the brand and the mindset shift the fashion industry had to make to make it successful.
Photos by Jade Nikkole Photography
Ever since we have been in our home (two years now, I can't believe it!!) I have been all in on decorating for just about every holiday. A few months ago I asked you all what you wanted to see more of on the blog and, to my surprise, a ton of you wanted to see more home decor/decorating on a budget. I never really saw that as my "specialty" but just something I did to add some festive vibes to our house without blowing a ton of money. The Christmas decor post I did got a ton of love so I figured, why not continue with Valentine's Day?
I have a few areas in my house that are constantly rotating with holiday decor. I only decorate my first floor (living room, dining room, kitchen) to keep things easy, and I try and save money by purchasing items that can flow from season to season. For example, I bought some adorable Christmas pillows that were red and blush colored so, boom, now they can take me through Valentine's Day. I am all about making things easy so most of my decorations are from Target because I can get them all in one spot while running errands or get them delivered quickly and for free (thank you REDcard!). Target is great because they have a ton of cute things that are inexpensive and trendy so you can use them for only one season and not feel bad but they are good enough quality that you can reuse year after year if they still work for your style.
In this post, I've highlighted a few of my favorites from this year along with some tips on how to incorporate decor from other holidays (money saving YESSS).
If you have read my Christmas decor post, you know that a letter board is one of my favorite decor items. They can easily be switched from holiday to holiday and can have cute saying displayed in between. Currently we have "New Year Who Dis?" featured in our dining room and between holidays, quotes from "The Office" frequent the board. I got one in millennial pink because it gives a cheeky pop of color but also fits for just about every holiday/season.
As far as taking decor from Christmas into Valentine's Day, pillows are a super easy thing to invest in that work for both. I love having some pops of pink for Christmas and of course, red is a Christmas staple. The throw pillows I bought were holiday neutral enough (but still festive) that they could seamlessly transition into Valentine's Day. For pillows, they can often be pricier so I like to invest in ones that are versatile but at the same time can be punchy and cute.
These are some of my favorites now from Anthroplogie. They are absolutely adorable, super soft, and definitely versatile. The color combinations are so freaking good.
Another item that I love investing in are candles. Specifically great smelling ones. I love the Capri Blue Candles and they come in punchy colors that just scream Valentine's Day. They aren't cheap, but they are amazing enough to continue using 365 days a year.
When it comes to candles I love putting them out on my coffee table and dining room table. I like to put jars that are running on empty on my cabinet shelves in the dining room to add some color (#repurposing). My cabinet is my focal point of the dining room and I switch it out for every season. This year I've loaded it with adorable wedding photos, candles, and a big, pink "XOXO" balloon ($3 from Target).
In the dining room I also always switch out my table runner or placemats and I always get some themed paper straws or our bar cart.
This is the table runner I got this year. So cute, right?!
And these are the paper straws! I throw them in either a mason jar or a mercury glass jar and add a cute bottle of rosé to the bar cart and, boom, so cute and festive.
Now onto the living room... I have my carry over pillows from Christmas along with some furry pillows and throw blankets. I do like to add one or two fun items to spice things up. This heart throw pillow is a personal favorite and this garland is prefect on our TV stand.
Wreath wise, you can definitely get away with a red theme from Christmas or a pink theme for Spring, but if you are in the mood for something spot on, this wreath is everything. And won't break the bank.
I like to think that getting in the holiday spirit doesn't just mean decorating your house, but also yourself when necessary. I totally fell in love with this Valentine's themed robe from Victoria's Secret. It definitely is festive but cute enough to wear all year round while doing your makeup in the morning. I also am loving these super cute coffee mugs that can be used for Valentine's Day or just when you want to channel some romantic vibes. Both are great investments that can get you in the holiday spirit but also can be adorable and useful all year round.
Stay tuned via Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) to see live updates on my home decor and drop me a message with any recommendations or tips you have for holiday home decorating!
(Photo by Madison Short)
Happy 2019! With the New Year upon us I know everyone is making resolutions left and right. I am all for it if you are a resolution maker and that works for you but for me I am self aware enough to know that by February 1st any resolution I’ve made is out the door.
A lot of resolutions tend to focus on giving up something or punishing ourselves for not “being our best self”. I don’t know about you but not the vibe I want to go into a new year with. I like to set goals and intentions instead. I know that doesn’t really sound that different when you hear it but it is. I like to think that goals and intentions come from a positive place. When you set them you are choosing to implement positive habits into your life and they’re coming from a place of self love and wanting to do what’s best for your mind, body, and soul. The new habits you form to achieve these goals will have a positive connotation and hopefully you’ll be excited about implementing them into your life.
It’s kind of like a big old mind game but honestly, I’m telling you, the way you look at things changes everything.
If you’re still looking for what goals and intentions you want to set for this year, take your time! Don’t rush into it just to declare you’re doing something, wait until you are passionate because that will make you way more likely to succeed.
While you’re dreaming and crafting your big ideas for 2019 here are a few quick things you can do this week so help start this year on a positive note.
1. Purge your social media
I LOVE this one. You know that person who every time you see their post there’s a pit in your stomach? It could be a person who you constantly compare your life to and always feel less than. It could be an old friend who is always spreading negative vibes. There are a lot of other categories these fall in but you get the point. If you’re following someone whose posts spark a negative reaction in you, BYE. UNFOLLOW. There are a lot of things in life you can’t control but who you follow is something you can.
2. Do something nice for someone
Pay it forward in the Starbucks line. Sign up to volunteer on a Saturday morning. Donate to your favorite animal rescue. No matter how big or small this one will help another person and put a smile on your face as well.
3. Clean up/organize your home
I know some of you are reading this in horror. One that you think cleaning will start your year off on a positive note, or two that it can be done this week/in a week. I’m not here to ruin your weekend, I promise, but I do believe organizing/ cleaning even just a little space in your home can make you feel accomplished and can help reduce anxiety.
4. Buy a new planner
Nothing starts the new year off on a fresh note like a brand new planner. I love getting a new planner because I’m an office supply nerd. Also, I thoroughly enjoy writing in all of my plans for the year so I know all of the great things (trips, weddings, birthdays) to look forward to!
5. Plan to do something you’ve always wanted to do no matter how big or small
If you’re looking at your shiny new planner and it feels a little bare, so something to fill it up! Make plans to do something you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t yet. Whether it’s trying out skydiving, checking out a new hiking trail, taking a coding class, or traveling somewhere exotic. No matter how big or small this will be something fun that you can look forward to and check off of your bucket list. And put in your planner.
Last thing and probably my favorite/most important....
6. Make a list of everything you are thankful for going into the year
Do this and I promise you, it will lift your mood and make you realize how much amazingness you have in your life. During a time of year where everyone is hustling and pushing ahead it’s nice to take some time to appreciate what you do have, all that you’ve accomplished, and the people that have helped you do so.
I hope you all have started off your year in the best and most “you” way possible. I’ve spent my first week of 2019 with lots of self care and puppy snuggles. Can’t complain here.
Photo by: Jade Nikkole Photography
Being dehydrated has always been a sad and annoying complication of having Crohn’s Disease. Through vomiting and diarrhea you are pretty much always losing valuable fluids that your body needs to function and, when you are feeling under the weather, forcing yourself to drink the high volume of water that your body needs can be hard and honestly downright painful.
I have struggled with this issue for years and it gets even worse when I am working out! I love being active but when I am dehydrated and lethargic it is difficult to get moving. There have been times that when I do get my butt to a workout class I’ve almost passed out because I’ve had Crohn’s issues the night before and my body isn’t refueled/re hydrated enough to handle a workout.
I’ve dabbled in a few re-hydration methods and finally found something I can proudly advocate for. DripDrop is an oral re-hydration solution that is so easy to use and I can carry it in my purse at all times. Its a powder that comes in little packets (for either 8oz or 16oz servings). You just add the powder into your water and, boom, you have an electrolyte drink. Now I know when you hear electrolyte drink you are thinking about some nasty, sugary sports drink but this is NOT the case. It tastes great (my current favorite is the berry flavor) but isn’t loaded with added sugars. This is also ideal for people with sensitive stomachs because you know those sugars are not our friends. Basically this stuff re-hydrates your body super quickly by only have to drink 8-16oz of water instead of two to three times that amount.
You know I am skeptical about products and especially ones that claim to help with Crohn’s related issues but let me tell you I’ve tried this stuff and I am an actual fan. It works quicker than any other re-hydration drink I’ve tried and doesn’t upset my stomach. I also really love that it has 110% of your daily recommended Vitamin C because, let’s be real, when you have Crohn’s your immune system sucks so we need all of the Vitamin C we can get.
I love the idea of this being such an easy thing to add into your daily routine. Like you can throw it in your purse… there is no excuse why you can’t use DripDrop. It is already on my packing list for my two upcoming trips because flying gets me super dehydrated which then leaves me landing in my final destination with a killer headache and skin that looks like the Sahara desert.
While I started loving this product because of the benefits for my Crohn’s related issues, I since, have been loving the other benefits as well. Staying hydrated can give you some gorgeous glowing skin… something I rarely have had despite my skincare product obsession, now to be changed by my new found hydration routine. I’ll keep you posted on this one…
Last thing, you all also know I love to have a glass or two of rosé from time to time. I am not 21 anymore so after about two glasses I feel my skin drying up like a sad prune and my insides reminding me of how horrendous they will feel the next day. Cue DripDrop because if you drink this before bed on a night of indulging you are number one, super responsible, and number two, will wake up feeling fresh despite the rosé. If you aren’t one for a proactive approach and you’ve already been cursed by a hangover, it is all good. Pop some in your drink in the AM and you are good to go.
I am telling you guys, this stuff is a life saver and whether it is because I am having a Crohn’s flare or because I had one too many spicy margaritas, I am here for it, I am about it, and I recommend it. That being said, in honor of Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week, I am doing a special giveaway with DripDrop! The winner will receive two boxes of DripDrop sticks and a super cute DripDrop bag. To enter, head to my Instagram and check out the post of my pink water for details.
What flavor are you excited to try?!
Let’s talk money….
Something that a lot of people don’t realize is the impact that Crohn’s (or really any chronic illness) has on finances. Imagine budgeting each month an extra equivalent of your mortgage payment or car payment just so that you can stay well enough to continue earning that money. Once you get that into your budget you learn how to live and even manage to save money. The budget thing is working. Then imagine taking that extra money you worked your ass off to save for a nice vacation and having to use it all on a new treatment that you need to actually keep yourself alive. Or a surgery. Or a hospital visit. Or if its not that drastic you find yourself slowly dwindling away at your savings account to pay for specialty doctors visit, special supplements, and holistic treatments that insurance doesn’t cover. Thats the reality of finances when you have Crohn’s.
I am by no means writing this to complain about money or finances. I know that I am beyond blessed to have a job that I am well enough to work at, a side hustle for extra cash, a husband who also works his butt off, and a family that would help out if I needed it. I am here to shed light on the reality of what having a chronic illness can do to your financial situation. If an affluent, college educated, 20 something with a well paying job she is well enough to work at faces these issues, think about the people who are less fortunate facing the same thing…. It makes me feel lucky to be in the position I am in with the support I have but breaks my heart knowing that there are others out there who are literally spending their last penny just to stay alive.
If you don’t suffer from Crohn’s or a chronic illness you are probably naive to the things one must budget for. A lot of people just think, oh yeah more doctors visits that sucks. It is way more than just that (I mean that is part of it but we’re here to talk about the less obvious).
Doctors visits add up. Even if you are just paying a $20 or $30 copay that can really amount to a lot on top of everything else. You also are not just seeing one doctor. You see your gastro for the root cause of the issues but often times you are also seeing other specialists for the other autoimmune diseases you have developed or to help remedy the side effects from the medication you have to be on. Add in some urgent care visits because you have a weakened immune system and are sick every couple of months at least. Oh, and add in some visits to your therapist/psychiatrist because being sick all the time can cause anxiety and depression.
Next up, medication. Some things are covered fully by insurance which is great but other medications you have to fight to get covered and can still end up being $200-$300 per month. Once you add in infusions that is a whole other story/insurance situation that can be equally as expensive if not more.
Then there are supplements and vitamins. Those things ARE NOT CHEAP. My doctor, love him, but he recommends a probiotic that is literally $200 a month. I. CAN’T. No, but I LITERALLY CAN’T. Then there are all of the vitamins you are deficient on that you have to buy over the counter that add up. Fun fact, if you are so deficient in something that you have to get a super high prescribed dose insurance actually covers it! #unfortunatelifehack
Holistic treatments and alternative medicine are a whole other ball game that most insurances won’t touch so you are paying out of pocket for things like acupuncture or medical cannabis. Not cheap, extremely helpful, potentially not sustainable due to cost.
Dental care is another area where people often are naive to the correlation. Ever since my Crohn’s started escalating my previously perfect teeth all of a sudden were wearing down due to excessive acid reflux. I had cavities that popped up apparently the root cause was also the Crohn’s. I ended up spending an absurd amount of money on a retainer/night guard situation that is supposed to help protect my teeth and prevent future damage. The jury is still out on the ROI of that one…..
The list continues on…. food for special diets, multiple sizes of clothes due to weight gain/loss and bloating, factoring in days off of work if you are paid hourly, unexpected medical procedures, etc.
As I mentioned before, I just want to raise awareness around this impact of Crohn’s/chronic illnesses. I talk about a lot of things very publicly and finances aren’t usually one of them. I don’t think anyone wants to run around shouting from the rooftops that they have just shelled out an exorbitant amount of money on their Crohn’s treatment. This really just scratches the surface of the financial depth of chronic illness. There are so many other factors that stem from the extra financial burden and, for me, most of it is around the guilt I feel. When Matt and I were dating and I was in the beginning of my treatment there were times when he had to pay my medical bills for me. I didn’t ask, he offered, but it still pained me. As a ruthlessly independent person I literally felt (even more) sick to my stomach thinking about him doing that. I was in my early 20s, just started a new job, and had no money in the bank. I am lucky that I have him. Now that I am in a good place career wise my pride has kept me working relentlessly to bring in as much money as possible for our family so that we don’t have to make sacrifices because of MY health. I don’t want to be the reason we can’t go on a family vacation or the reason why we have to empty our savings to pay a doctor.
While the cost of Crohn’s is high I’ve found that sometimes it isn’t even the money that hurts, it is the guilt, fear, and anxiety that go along with the financial burden that really are taxing.
This year marks our second holiday season in our house! Last year was a whirlwind with our wedding ceremony and planning for our big celebration for the summer. We were super busy and in major budget mode so Christmas festivities and decorating were pushed by the wayside while we hustled through life. This year things have slowed down so we are trying to enjoy every second of the holiday season and make sure our cozy home is just as festive as we are.
While we are amping up our holiday spirit we are also trying to do so on a budget. As much as I love swooning over the huge trees and the extensive displays of Christmas decor on Pinterest, I have to be realistic. We live in a townhouse which is perfect for us but doesn't boast a ton of additional space for 9ft trees and such. The challenge is decorating for a smaller space while on a budget and also looking cute. The perfect trifecta.
I have some tricks up my sleeve that will help you do all three. Now I'm no Martha Stewart so these recommendations are simple and do not require much DIY work. I know there are a ton of DIY hacks for Christmas decor but I do not have time for that. Just being honest.
First things first. Get yourself a tree! And don't spend a fortune.
I know this will shock some of you all but I have never had a real tree in my entire life, I always go artificial. That is just how I grew up. So if you are looking for the real deal just skip this section.
If you are like me and keep it artificial, check out Target. They always have great deals on trees and they are pretty good quality (they also have a TON of options)! We just got our new tree on Black Friday for 40% off from Target. They are still on sale for 30% off now and they have plenty that are under $150 and even under $100.
My top picks are...
You can use these trees year after year if you opt for a classic option or if you want to go trendy (this blush tree is calling my name) the choices are cost friendly enough that if you want to mix it up next year you can.
When it comes to decorating the tree I know there can be mixed opinions. Some people like their tree to be very cohesive and others want every ornament they've ever owned since birth on the tree. I've settled on a fun middle ground that keeps my OCD in check but still has a fun bit of history and personality.
Since my sister and I were born, every year when we were young, Santa would bring us a special ornament that represented us or that we were just really into that year. As we got older we picked these ornaments out for ourselves. Looking back at our ornament collections now is so fun because you can see how we progressed through the years. While I don't want an entire tree that is all childhood memories they are fun to sprinkle throughout the tree each year and always prompt some funny stories while we are putting them up.
I like to start with a neutral set of ornaments that can serve as a base. I feel like the neutral helps to keep things cohesive and then you can add in fun pops whether they are your childhood picks or something funny that you and your hubby are loving this year. Like these disco balls.
These are the basic ornaments I like from Target. They are only $15 per set so you can stock up. They also come in a ton of different colors so you can pick which neutral or base color you want to go with.
When it comes to decorating the rest of the house I have a similar mentality. When we first moved in I invested in some more neutral items that vibe well no matter what kind of Christmas decor theme we choose. These are things like a classic green garland, gold reindeer figurines, and a big fur wrapped present. To me fur and glitter reindeer are neutrals, to you they may be different but you get what I'm saying. Most of these pieces I got from Hobby Lobby when they were having a 40-50% off sale.
This year I decided to add some pops of color and picked up some accents from Target. I love Bullseye's Playground aka that area at the front of the store that has seasonal items from $1 to $5. To be fair I was oblivious that this was called Bullseye's Playground until my mom told me and it all just clicked. (Thanks mom). The selection online isn't that great so I do recommend checked out the in store options. This year I picked up fun dish towels, a table runner, and glittery snow covered faux succulents, all together under $20. Last year I picked up some towels for our powder room, snowflake wine glasses, and coasters, also all for under $20.
These little pieces are a great way to add some trendier cute decorations to your collection without breaking the bank. If they aren't still trendy or relevant next year, you won't feel bad because you didn't invest a ton in them.
I also love using letter boards (like in my first photo!) for funny holiday quotes. I have a blush pink one and a black and white marble one that I rotate based on the season. They also are cute decor between holidays as well. When in doubt a quote from The Office is always relevant.
Another trick I have for updating your decor each your on a budget is using mini ornaments. You can pick them up for only about $3 per set and you can put them in anything from vases to mason jars. They are a super easy way to add a new pop of color (or glitter) into your look.
An area where I don't mind spending a little more money is in the pillow department. In a smaller space these can be a great way to add festive decor into your home. Each year I fall in love with a new collection of holiday pillows but, let's be real, it doesn't make sense to buy five Christmas pillows that will only be out for about 6 weeks to a month. I hack this by investing in some wintery pillows that can be out all season and then accenting them with one or two Christmas specific pillows!
Here are some of my picks for pillows you can enjoy all winter long.
These are the two Christmas pillows I chose for the year! Matt always complains that I don't add enough color into the house so I'm trying to branch out from my go to's. I love that these are a bright and fun take on Christmas colors and the pom poms/tassels are right up my alley.
Similar to pillow, wreathes aren't cheap! As much as I love a big Christmas wreath, this year I opted for one that definitely has Christmas vibes but is holiday neutral enough to remain on the door all through winter.
This one is also on sale right now which is even better!
My last piece of decor (for now, at least) that I picked up this year is this adorable garland! Our Christmas tree is in our dining room (small space probs) and while we can still see it from our living room it isn't front and center. I'm hanging this garland under our TV to add some more festive vibes to the space we are in most. For only $15 I think it is a steal and it can be repurposed in different areas of the house next year.
Last but not least, the stocking situation. We don't have a fireplace in our home so that means no mantle to hang our stockings. We also are so extra in the dog parent department so we have stockings for them as well. It took me a while to find a cute place that we could display our stockings that didn't make them seem out of place.
Finally I had an epiphany and used command hooks to hang them down our railing. It allows them to be on display and you can decorate the railing with a traditional garland or something different and fun each year. After the holidays are over you can remove the hooks with no damage done! If you don't have a railing these obviously also work in other areas of the house so find a cute place where you can create your own stocking display.
Make sure to follow along on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) as I continue to share our home as we decorate for the holidays! I hope my tips and tricks were helpful in making your home a cozy and festive place to enjoy with your family this holiday season.
The holiday season is upon us which means you are looking for gifts to give to the special people in your lives. I love consulting gift guides of my favorite bloggers to get some ideas especially when it comes to buying for my sisters and friends. I wanted to kick off my series of gift guides with one that is near and dear to my heart.... a Spoonie Gift Guide!
If you are someone living with a chronic illness you know there are some really special comforts in life that truly are some of the best gifts. There may not be a magic pill you can gift to someone who has a chronic illness that will make it all better, but there are plenty of gifts you can give that can help reduce anxiety, create a more comfortable way to relax, and provide a bit of luxury to a day of self care.
You can shop my picks below so you can treat the spoonie in your life this holiday season (or yourself... alway appropriate to treat yourself). I also have included some brief descriptions, giving you the scoop on why these are the perfect gifts!
1. slip Silk Pillow Case - When you aren't feeling so hot it's no secret that you can spend a lot of time in bed. Having a luxurious pillow case can make you feel at least a bit pampered while you are getting your beauty sleep. The numerous benefits for your skin and hair simply by switching to this pillow case can make you feel like you are treating yourself while you snooze.
2. Herbivore Detox Bath Salts - Baths are won of my favorite ways to unwind after a long day and they help a lot with chronic joint and muscle pain. I also love how cute this jar is because you will actually want it to be displayed in your bathroom.
3. slip Silk Sleep Mask - I never understood the hype around sleep masks until I wanted to sleep in a bright doctors office. Game. Changed. This is a gem to someone who is constantly exhausted.
4. Audible Membership - Audible is the gift that keeps on giving. It allows you to consume content straight through your earbuds in a relaxing way. When you are nauseous or have a migraine the last thing you want to do is read a book or look at a screen. Audible solves all of these problems and is also a great companion for when you are getting infusions or suffering through a long wait at the doctor's office.
5. Pajama Set - Feeling cute and put together goes a long when when it comes to mindset and morale. Even if your hot date this weekend consists of Netlixing by yourself it feels good to get a little fancy in these adorable (but still ultra comfy) pajamas.
6. Earbuds - This goes hand in hand with the Audible Membership. Listening to books, podcasts, or music can be a great distraction during medical procedures or when you just aren't feeling great and need to take your mind somewhere else. Also, great to wear when you don't feel like speaking to any other humans.
7. Mask Frenzy by Peter Thomas Roth - Masks are another great way to practice self care. This set has all of the greatest highs from PTR but isn't necessarily something you can justify spending the money on yourself. This is a special gift that will remind the spoonie in your life to spend a little extra time treating themselves.
8. Gravity Blanket- These are proven to help with anxiety and insomnia which are two things many spoonies experience. Who doesn't want the gift of better sleep?
9. Teddy Bear Faux Fur Bath Robes - Again, sometimes its nice to feel pampered without having to leave your home.
10. Acupressure Mat - These are out of this world when it goes to helping decrease muscle pain and discomfort. They are are proven to help lover anxiety.
Did I miss anything? Let me know what else you would add to the list.
Also, stay tuned for my next gift guide coming soon.
Going into a holiday that is pretty much solely revolved around food can feel like a real nightmare for someone who has IBD. The Thanksgiving table is an uncharted war zone full of things that could potentially set your digestive system into full SOS mode, not to mention the exhaustion of having to actually speak to humans all day, oh and did I mention a limited number of shared bathrooms. Yikes.
My family is always extremely accommodating and supportive of my dietary needs and medical situation which is a relief but even so, I still experience a variety of road blocks throughout Turkey Day. I figured if I am running into these issues, I cannot be alone in my struggle. We are getting it all out here on the table (no pun intended)… all of the annoying things about this food focused holiday. Actually feel free to share this with your family/relatives so they know what you are going through. Never fear though, I will also supply you with some tips on how I get through the day and actually end up having a pretty enjoyable time.
The first issue with Thanksgiving, or really eating at anyone’s house where you did not prepare the food, is how are you supposed to know the actual ingredients of what you are eating? Grandma might say that her dish is gluten free until she realizes that whoops there were bread crumbs in there, do those have gluten? and BOOM your whole day goes to shit. Literally. Or there are the other types of people who know what is in their dish but INSIST you try it anyway. Like I get that your corn pudding was pinned 700 times on Pinterest but that STILL does not change the fact that me and corn are not friends. I don’t see you asking the person with a shellfish allergy to “just taste” your crab dip because its “that good”. Just because my reaction doesn’t involved an epi-pen doesn’t mean it doesn’t count. And to be honest, I still may also end up in the hospital. Re: the last time I though quinoa was a good idea.
As I mentioned before, my family is really good about being accommodating with dietary restrictions. Even still, I can’t always predict that the dishes that on paper meet all of my requirements still won’t make me sick. It could be a spice or an oil that I sets me off, or maybe a specific vegetable that I don’t normally eat. Or honestly it could be anything under the sun that my body just decides to hate that day. Either way, you can try as hard as you want to avoid things that will make you sick but at the end of the day there are no guarantees.
At that point you are stuck out of your house, utilizing a common bathroom, and still having to speak to people despite feeling horrible. Not a great situation. Side note here really quick: this is all assuming you are going elsewhere to celebrate Thanksgiving. If you are hosting it at your house, damn girl, good for you. I can barely figure out how to make my Sunbasket deliveries so I am not with you there but like I said, good for you. So back to the situation where you are sick and have one bathroom and have to talk to people. Sneaking away for a 20 minute bathroom break can be a good excuse to get some downtime from the fam but I also would rather spend that hiatus hiding in a closet somewhere, strolling around the backyard, or literally anywhere but one of the common bathrooms.
Even if you make it through the day without any digestive melt downs it can just be a really exhausting day. Between prepping food, catching up with family, and having little to no time for yourself, it can take a toll on you even if you love being around your family and are having a great time. Over exerting yourself around the holidays can be hard to avoid because you are just really so excited to spend time with your loved ones and celebrate.
So now you’re reading this, nodding your head, and wishing someone had a magic pill to make your Thanksgiving digestive drama go away. Well I don’t have that (because TBH science isn’t my strong suit) but I do have some suggestions based on what I incorporate into my own life and a whole lot of research (aka years of trial and error).
I try and set aside “downtime” every holiday… including Thanksgiving. I usually do this by creating a tradition out of it. No one messes with traditions. For example, on Thanksgiving morning instead of jumping right into big groups and festivities I watch the parades with my mom and my sister. This gives us all time to relax and ease into our day. It allows us to spend time with each other but also not be “on” having to really socialize. We are all on the same page with this one. Maybe you make a new tradition for yourself that revolves around being home at 6pm and getting a start on Christmas movie watching. Relaxing, festive, and still fun.
Next up… Bring your own food if you are concerned. To be full disclosure, I’ve heard mixed reviews on this. Some hosts says its super rude to bring your own meal. Some say THANK YOU because they don’t have to deal with your dietary restrictions and risk being the one that sends you into a shit storm. I personally think this is totally fine and you are actually doing your host a favor. As long as you are messaging it properly that you are doing this because you value spending time with everyone so much and want to make sure you are feeling your best to do so, then I think its perfectly appropriate. Bring a nice bottle of wine to share with everyone and one as a host gift and you should be good to go.
In addition to bringing your own meal, or instead of if the thought of rolling into dinner with your own lunchbox is giving you anxiety, at least bring a dish to share that you know you can eat. By doing this you are sharing the love and contributing to the dinner but you are also hedging your bets because you know there is at least one thing YOU made and YOU can eat. This is also a fun opportunity to show your family that your “weird” diet can still yield some really delicious recipes. And hey, if no one else is into your gluten free stuffing, you will get all the leftovers to yourself. Win, win.
Last piece of advice, and actually my favorite, is to make the holiday not about the food. I know this sounds absurd and impossible especially when we are talking about Thanksgiving. It is doable though. Think about what are the other things you can enjoy and celebrate about the holiday. Thanksgiving… you are (most likely) off of work, you are spending time with people you love, you get to wear a cute outfit, this is a perfect excuse to force your significant other to take corny Instagram photos with you… or dress your dogs up in turkey costumes… maybe that is just me. What I am trying to say is there are plenty of things to look forward to about the day that are non food related. Parades, football, getting ready to Black Friday shop, or literally just celebrating you have a day to not be at work. I don’t care what it is but there has to be something that gets you excited that has nothing to do with turkey.
I know all of this is way easier said than done and the holidays can be a tricky time. Try and hang in there, enjoy what you can, and accept when it’s time to tap out early to binge watch Hallmark Christmas movies. There is NOTHING wrong with that.
This week on the podcast my lovely sister, Amanda, joined us to give a different perspective on having early stages of Crohn's and how she managed that through college and now her early adult life. She got very real on topics like dating, talking to your employer about your digestive issues, and trying to teach a room full of five year olds while you're afraid you might shit your pants. GOOD TIMES.
I'm so happy she was willing to share her story. I think her journey to diagnosis and how she is managing her symptoms are so relatable to anyone at that stage of their life/ IBD.
While we do tackle some serious stuff we have plenty of laughs as well. Diane introduces Amanda like she is writing her match.com profile and Diane AND Amanda both admit what kind of uncivilized humans they are taking vitamins on an empty stomach. That's a big "no no" guys.....
I hope you enjoy listening to this one and as always feel free to leave any questions or comments you have for us!
You can follow Amanda on Instagram here + here.
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.