Having a suppressed immune system during flu season makes interacting with any human being feel like you are playing russian roulette with your health. Last year was the worst flu season I had experienced ever. I got the flu shot and still ended up with the flu. Twice. I spent a seriously huge chunk of my winter trying to get over being sick. I actually did a post about the remedies I found had worked. At least if I was going to spend that much time under the weather, I was able to gather some good tips to pass on.
This year my focus has been on taking preventative measures to make sure I don’t have a repeat performance of flu season 2018. Between how busy I have been recently and already having to take extra “down time” because of my Crohn’s, being out of commission for an extra week is incredibly inconvenient. This season I have seen success with a few tricks I’ve picked up over this past year. It is only February so while we aren’t out of the woods yet, I’ve at least made it this far and wanted to share. I have rounded up my “Essential Top 5” tricks for getting through flu season, including some products that have been a total game changers for me.
1. Stay hydrated with DripDrop
Adding a packet of DripDrop to your water everyday is a super simple way to load up on Vitamin C and make sure you are keeping your body hydrated. Staying hydrated is so important for keeping your immune system strong and moving toxins out of your body and vitamin c is the holy grail of immune system boosting tricks. DripDrop is an oral rehydration solution that treats and prevents dehydration. I make sure to have a packet of DripDrop added into my water to sip throughout the morning. It tastes really delicious too, so it feels like you are giving yourself a little treat. I’ve been doing this for the past couple of months and I have also noticed a difference in my energy levels, improvement in my skin, and best yet, I have stayed pretty free from nasty cold weather viruses!
The more I researched why staying hydrated is so important, I’m thought, well duh, how did I not put this together before. Think about when you go to the hospital… what is the first thing they do pretty much every time? Hook you up to an IV to get you hydrated. The fact that I can basically give myself all of the benefits from an IV everyday without the needles or hospital stays, is pretty game changing*. I like DripDrop specifically because the drink mix isn’t loaded with unnecessary sugars, it packs a ton of vitamin C into just one serving, and it works so quickly. My favorite flavor is the watermelon, it also turns your water pink so, pretty on brand, right? You can get the multi-flavor pack (here) so you can sample all three flavors and see what your favorite is.
2. Take your vitamins
Similarly to staying hydrated, I have been making sure that my body has all of the vitamins it needs so I can stay as healthy as possible. Traditionally I am not a big vitamin fan because they usually mess up my stomach and aren’t worth the hassle. For the past few months I’ve been trying Ritual Vitamins and have been loving them. They include everything you need in one capsule so you don’t have to lug around 5 different vitamin bottles in your purse. They also taste great because they are infused with peppermint essential oil and they don’t upset my stomach. Win. Win.
3. Consistently get a good night sleep
Being sleep deprived is your immune system’s number one enemy. It is important to make sure that during “sick season” you are giving yourself ample time to sleep at night and make sure to maximize those precious hours by getting to sleep quickly. This hasn’t always been a strong suit of mine but I have been working on meditating before bed, scheduling a “bed time” for myself (and abiding by it), and limiting blue light exposure before bed. Everyone has different tricks that help them sleep but being in a routine has really helped my body become more aware of when it is supposed to be snoozing. I recommend the Headspace and Relax Melodies apps for meditation and start about 20-30 minutes before you actually want to be asleep. Both apps have a lot of different options so there is something to help everyone drift off into slumber.
4. Manage your stress levels
This is the number one thing my gastro always tells me, keep my stress levels in check to help keep my body well. This is another work in progress for me but I’ve seen a lot of relief by managing the expectations I have for myself and the expectations I set with others. I used to always be nervous to say no to an activity or social event. Now, no is a response I give a lot and it is for the better. I also have recently been auditing my calendar to make sure that everything I’m doing is adding value to my life. Through doing this I’ve been able to cut out unnecessary tasks and use that time to relax instead and make sure I’m giving my body the down time it needs.
Part of stress management for me also includes staying active. Keeping a strict workout routine is difficult when there are so many surprises your body can throw at you. Crohn’s flare, aching joints, a random fever out of nowhere…. Just a few things that like to get in the way. I like to make sure that even if I can’t do something intense I am being active in some way. Two of my favorite ways to keep my body moving are doing yoga at home and taking my dogs for walks. Both are not strenuous and don’t put extra stress on my body but keep me active and give me time to clear my head.
5. Sometimes you have to play offense
While most of my tips are about heightening your body’s defenses, sometimes you have to play offense when it comes to protecting your immune system. During this time of year I always carry hand sanitizer, a hospital mask, and sanitation wipes. I especially do this for when I travel because you are in contact with so many people and so many potentially germ ridden surfaces. Making sure you are keeping your surroundings clean is important and allows you to proactively handle germs.
Hopefully these tips were helpful and you can implement them before “sick season” is over and get through flu free. If you have any questions specifically about the products or apps I recommend, shoot me a message.
Now about to go sip a big cup of DripDrop, watermelon flavor, please, and watch The Bachelor.
Photos by Madison Short ;; Jacket by AmyScripts
*2003 study shows no difference in effectiveness between ORS & IV.
I received this product for free for testing purposes but all opinions are my own.
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)
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.
This week I have a total badass babe, Julianna Rubino, on the podcast. She is the creator of one of my favorite blogs, Barre to Table, where she shares her workout routines, wellness tips, delicious recipes, and more. Her content always is super informative and she has me updating my grocery "wish list" every time I watch her Instagram stories. She balances working on her blog, teaching barre classes, heading up Baltimore's Electric Flight Crew, oh yeah, and working her day job in sales. Casual.
That being said, not only am I so excited to have you all hear her tips and tricks in regards to fitness and nutrition but she also has an inspiring take on how to balance everything you have going on in your life. She is the epitome of "hustle hard" but she knows how to still make time for herself and her family. #goals.
In this episode we cover some much requested topics, like time management, food recommendations, and her routine, as well as diving into things like how we feel about today's nutrition trends like intermittent fasting and plant based diets. Throughout the episode she drops some gems of advice and knowledge (along with some of her must have's and favorite products) so I can't wait to hear the takeaways you get from this one!
One of my favorite things about the advice Julianna gives is that her tips are so easy to seamlessly integrate in your life. Think, adding a 10 minute HIIT workout in when you first wake up in the morning or swapping ingredients in your favorite dinner with ingredients that will make you feel like your best self. Her recipes are also actually doable... as in not super complicated and don't take you an entire evening to make but impressively taste like it did. Seriously, her sweet potato gnocchi recipe is INSANE and way less complicated than it sounds. Promise.
Keep scrolling to see a round up of some of our favorite articles on Barre to Table and make sure to follow Julianna on Instagram (@barretotable) to get even more of her fitness and food tips. I am so thankful she came on the podcast and shared her wisdom with every one. I can't wait to work together again soon!
What were your favorite takeaways from the episode?!
BEST OF BARRE TO TABLE
FOOD + NUTRITION
Matt and I love traveling together. Being on vacation or on a trip where we are removed from the stresses of everyday life and we just focus on things we love doing and each other is the ideal situation. You find out so much about a person when you travel with them and if traveling is something you want to do as a couple, you have to make sure your travel styles vibe well. Luckily, Matt and I are on the same wavelength when it comes to jet setting so it quickly became something we loved to do as a couple and will continue to do (hopefully more often as long as the money and puppy sitters are there).
When we were making the decision on where to go for our honeymoon we definitely had some back and forth before we came to the final decision. My heart was set on Europe from the beginning because it had been years since I had been abroad and Matt had never been. Matt was pretty open to my suggestion but somehow the idea morphed into him going to see soccer games overseas which was NOT how I envisioned our honeymoon going. I mean that would be a great trip, just not for our honeymoon. I imagined my college days, gallivanting around Europe, without a care in the world, going from city to city while running off of practically no sleep. Back then, it was thrilling and made me feel spontaneous but now, just thinking of living like that gives me a stomach ulcer.
I am not “go with the flow”, I like everything planned, and I knew that as ridiculous as it sounded, in order to relax I would have to plan the shit out of a Euro trip before we went. Usually I would have jumped at the opportunity but when you are planning a wedding, hustling at your 9-5, blogging on the side, and trying to keep your health in check, the LAST thing you want is another thing to plan. Now I do have to give Matt credit, for as non planning as he is, he did offer to help but me being the extremely particular psycho that I am I insisted I was going to do this myself. I felt bad because I wanted us to have an amazing honeymoon but I didn’t have the time to plan something, especially on a budget, but at the same time I wanted it to be super specifically everything I ever wanted.
As Lauryn Evarts would say, “I don’t ask for much”.
Our friends had done a European cruise the year before and absolutely loved it. They were able to visit multiple locations and seemed to have remained relatively stress free throughout the whole thing, planning included. I had been on cruises my whole life growing up for our family vacations (including a European one) and Matt and I went on a cruise together a few years ago. It seemed like a perfect solution. And it was. Here’s why:
You get to experience a bunch of different places.
If we were going to pay for the flight and invest the time into going abroad we wanted to make sure we were seeing more than just one destination. Cruises give you that option! My first experience abroad was on a European cruise and I love that it gave me a little taste of so many different places. From that experience I was able to decide what my favorite cities were and make plans to visit again. With this being Matt’s first time abroad I wanted him to have a similar experience and be able to take in the beauty of the different culture, history, and architecture of a few locations.
Everything is taken care of.
Once you board a cruise you have to worry about absolutely nothing. You don’t have to worry about getting from city to city with all of your luggage, you don’t have to worry about where you are going to eat dinner, you don’t have to plan your days in port because the excursion has already taken care of that. Take it from the most anxious person ever, if I say you have nothing to worry about, you really don’t.
Upfront cost/ easy to budget.
This one is a huge relief especially when you are trying to plan and budget for a wedding at the same time. Before we even left for our cruise we had paid for our flights, the cruise itself, our excursions, and gratuity. This way there were no surprises and we could start paying these things months before we actually went on the trip. The only additional expenses were extra meals we had while in different ports and alcohol on the ship. With that it was super easy to track our expenses though so we didn’t have any colossally terrifying credit card bills to return home to.
We choose to do the 7 Day Adriatic Cruise through Norwegian Cruise Line. It was cost effective but still really nice which was important to us. We weren’t going to be spending a ton of time on the ship because we were visiting so many ports but I am a stickler for good food and service so we were not going to compromise on that.
Our itinerary was:
Sunday: Venice, Italy (EMBARK) --- Cruise leaves at 5:30 pm
Monday: Kotor, Montenegro --- 2:00 pm-8:00 pm
Tuesday: Corfu, Greece --- 10:00 am-4:00 pm
Wednesday: Santorini, Greece --- 2:00 pm-10:00 pm
Thursday: Mykonos, Greece --- 8:00 am-4:00 pm
Friday: At Sea
Saturday: Dubrovnik, Croatia --- 7:00 am-1:00 pm
Sunday: Venice, Italy (DISEMBARK)
We choose this cruise specifically because I was dead set on going to Santorini and we both really wanted to do the Game of Thrones tour in Croatia. This itinerary gave us the option to do both and also stop in Mykonos which was another destination I had wanted to check out.
We left out of Venice, Italy and neither of us had ever been there before so we were super pumped about this and wanted to get there a few days early so we had some time to explore. I also ALWAYS recommend getting to the port city early if possible just in case of any delays, missed flights/connections, or any other SOS moments. It also starts your vacation off a whole lot smoother when you aren’t stressed because you are down to the wire on your schedule.
We booked our flights so that we would fly overnight on a Thursday and arrive in Venice on Friday morning. That would give us half of Friday, all day Saturday, and half of Sunday to explore before we boarded the ship. The question here was, where were we going to stay? At this point we had invested the majority of our budget into the flights and the actual cruise so we were not going to be staying at any fancy hotels on the water. I looked. They were amazing. I tried to justify it. But I couldn’t. Instead we opted for an Airbnb that cost us about $120 or so per night. As much as I am a fancy hotel lover, I also really love staying in an Airbnb, especially in a new city. I feel like it really gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in the culture and what it would actually be like to live there.
Our small apartment was perfect for our stay. We had a full bed, a kitchenette, our own bathroom, and, thankfully, air conditioning. My favorite part is that we were tucked away from the street in a building that opened up to a private courtyard where we relaxed and enjoyed wine before we headed out for dinners. Our Airbnb host was so friendly and extremely helpful. She met us at the water bus station and walked us to our apartment. Since there are no real streets in Venice, things can get a bit confusing so we were thrilled she was there to help. We weren’t in a super touristy area so we had the chance to try out cafes that weren’t flooded with tourists and explore the residential areas that surrounded us. We stopped at the fancy hotels I mentioned before to grab a cocktail on their terraces and enjoy the views and then strolled back to our cozy home away from home. I absolutely loved it. AND it was way more budget friendly than the alternative.
TIP: We actually were able to cover the Airbnb expense with the points from my Capital One Venture Card. I got this card about two years ago to use for all of my business expenses. This means that I can pay that off every month with the money my company reimburses me with while racking up points to use to my next vacation. The thing I love about this card is you can use your points toward any travel expense, not just flights. That means pretty much anything from hotels down to your Uber. You also get a substantial point bonus if you spend a certain amount within your first three months of having the card. I can’t remember the exact amounts from when I signed up but we were able to use that bonus to put a serious dent into our flights to and from Hawaii back in 2016.
Speaking of flights…..
Flights are always the budget buster and there isn’t really a solid way to get around that. Of course if you are spontaneous and can randomly book a trip somewhere you can take advantage of those flash deals on flights and things of that nature but when you are traveling at very specific times, your options are limited. A trick that we used for this trip and our trip to Hawaii was piecing together one way flights that were more cost effective instead of just settling on the roundtrip package. On our way to Hawaii we did a one way flight to LA, hung out for a few days, took another one way flight to Maui, and then booked another one way flight home. It ended up being cheaper than the alternative and allowed us to break up our travel time. On this trip we searched surrounding cities for cheaper flights going abroad. Luckily, living in Baltimore gives us access to flights out of quite a few major cities within only a few hour drive. We found an Aer Lingus flight out of Philly that stopped in Dublin and then flew straight to Venice. Score. For our home flight we booked one from Venice, back through Dublin, and then to Boston, then Baltimore. It worked out really well and saved us a chunk of money that we could then put into other vacation related expenses.
Since we were already paying a decent amount to fly overseas, I wanted us to get the most out of our trip and not sacrifice any potentially great experience because of money. But at the same time I still didn’t want to blow our budget out of the water. We have other trips on the horizon that we need funds for too! We found a pretty good balance where we splurged on some things (like good food and wine) but saved in other areas that didn’t necessarily matter as much to us. Let me give you an example… On the ship they offer specialty dining packages which are really cool but not cheap. They allow you to visit the specialty restaurants that have some amped up décor and service along with a special menu. We did end up doing one night of specialty dining but the rest of the time we ate at the regular restaurants on board which still had great food/service and we had already paid for it in our initial booking price! Instead of spending big on the ship we went to nice dinners in Venice and Santorini where we could get courses of fresh local food and bottles of wine for a fraction of what that would cost on the ship.
The main expense that we accrued while on board the ship was alcoholic beverages. On our previous cruise we purchased the alcoholic beverage package that allowed us pretty much unlimited drinks for the duration of our , all for a flat, prepaid rate. We looked into the packages this time around but the cost seemed too steep for what we thought we would actually be drinking. Plus, we were going to be off of the ship for the majority of the time in ports where wine was cheaper than water. Definitely a better choice than on ship purchases.
At dinner we would split a bottle of wine that complimented our meal. The bottles were pretty decently priced in my opinion and the ones we tried were pretty good! I’m not a super wine snob or anything so I would think for someone with a more elevated taste they may disagree. I am at least moderately picky when it comes to wine though and they had viable options in just about every category. I did splurge on a few glasses of Veuve one night.
What about excursions?
Our excursions were prepaid from when we booked them months ago and some of our wedding guests gifted us excursions through our Wanderable site so that covered a large amount of our activities we had planned. If you are big into traveling I highly recommend registering on Wanderable. The website allows you to create your own page detailing your honeymoon plans and allows your wedding guest to purchase different experiences for you. The whole thing is customizable and you can add anything from excursions, to on board credits, to spa treatments, that your friends can contribute to or purchase in full. I am always into giving an experience instead of a material item so I think it is super cool to be able to actually see the couple you are gifting to, enjoy an adventure you purchased for them.
Even in Venice, where we obviously didn’t have any excursions, we didn’t spend a ton of money on activities. Everything is walkable to the transportation costs were very low. When we did need a boat or a car to get somewhere, we relied on public transportation which is very affordable. In Venice we did splurge on one activity which was a total MUST while we were there. A gondola ride. It was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life and it actually felt unreal. It was 100% worth the 100 euro we dropped and I would certainly do it again next time.
TIP: Before we left for our trip we opened up a Southwest credit card. Now these credit card tips aren’t supposed to make you think it is no big deal or that you should just open a bunch of credit cards. We don’t have a ton of cards and choose wisely based on the points/rewards which cards make sense to open when. We have been planning a trip to Florida in December and we knew that if we signed up for the card, spent money, and got the new sign up bonus points, it would basically cover our plane tickets for our next trip. This trick worked perfectly and by both using just one credit account to put all of our travel purchases on we were able to really track what we were spending and realistically communicate that to others now when they ask.
What’s the verdict?
Matt and I both agree, we are thrilled with our decision to have done a cruise for our honeymoon. Exploring Europe in such a carefree (but preplanned!) way allowed both of us to relax but also experience so many different places in the Mediterranean. Everyone always asks us if we wish we had more time in the ports. “It seems like such a short time!” is the number one concern I hear when other people are considering booking a trip for themselves. Of course we wish we had more time in ports. I would have loved to have spent a week on every Greek island we visited. That being said, I also don’t have months off of work and a trust fund to boot. For the time we had and the budget we had, there is no better way that I think we could have seen these destinations.
Now that Matt is at least a little more familiar with Europe and I am done with wedding planning, our next trip abroad will probably be planned out in my typical OCD fashion. It probably won’t be another cruise again for a little while just because we like to mix things up but I certainly will do a European cruise of some type again.
My overall verdict is that if you want to go to Europe on your honeymoon, you want to see more than just one place, and you want to actually relax, a cruise is 100% the way to go.
Hopefully this article helped to break down how we decided on our trip as well as how we made things as cost effective as possible. I know there were a lot of questions about this topic so if there are areas I didn’t touch on or things I didn’t answer send me a DM or drop it in the comments and I will make sure to address your topic.
Over the next month or so I am working on creating posts highlighting the different destinations we visited along with some tips, tricks, and recommendations from those places. Stay tuned and follow along on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) to be the first to know when these posts go live!
When it comes to beauty treatments and tricks, I am always down to try just about anything, especially when it comes to skincare. My husband is still confused at how I have so much space in our home dedicated to storing my various cleansers, face masks, sunscreens… you name it and I probably have it somewhere in my museum of skincare treasures. He has slowly warmed up to my excessive supply as I’ve slathered creams on his face that he admits “make him feel smooth”. You. Are. Welcome.
As you can imagine, the weeks leading up to my wedding I was CRAZY with my routine. Yes, I was getting airbrush makeup (done by my friend/makeup artist who is seriously the best) but good skin is the foundation to a beautiful makeup job. I didn’t always understand the importance of this, it took working in the makeup industry and putting makeup on such a variety of skin types to realize that even the best foundation won’t look perfect if your skin isn’t up to par. When my Crohn’s acts up (aka when I get stressed aka when I am planning the best but most stressful day of my damn life) my skin rebels and I break out especially around my jaw line. I’m not talking about a little blackhead that can be covered, but serious cystic volcanos that no matter how much you push and prod, don’t erupt. You all know what I’m talking about. They are the kinds of blemishes that you need a live Facetune edit to cover.
Leave it to me to get one of these nasty guys RIGHT before my wedding. I shouldn’t have been surprised since, you know, wedding, stress, Crohn’s, but like, seriously? I tried my usual at home remedies but none of my regular combos were working rid my face of this thing. The week of my wedding I called the doctor that does my Botox in extreme panic. How do I make this thing look normal? I had researched a ton of different in office treatments that I blurted out over the phone. They told me to come in ASAP and they would laser it off for me.
I had never tried lasering before but I was like hell yes sign me up. Not only did I get to try a new skincare treatment that could make me feel great about my skin for my wedding, I also got to do it for free because my doctor’s office is the best fucking place (shoutout Dr. Tag, ILY). Side note, I also love my doctor’s office because they are SO real about treatments and what they suggest to do and not to do. I was begging them to inject my face with cortisone to make my acne go away and they gave me a serious education on how that can actually cause divots in your skin, basically scarring your face. Yikes. This is why I appreciate their honesty.
I got to the office and had this tiny laser that looked like one of those mouth rinsing tools at the dentist, zap my huge pimple a few times in a row. I was expecting pain to the extent of some light botox but it actually felt like nothing but a little heat and a tiny shock. I immediately looked in the mirror and saw a difference. The redness and swelling had dramatically decreased. I follow up with an in office topical retinol treatment and was on my way with some fun free samples and a less inflamed face in about 20 minutes total.
I watched as the swelling went down over the next few days and by the day of my wedding (three days later) the situation had really improved. It hadn’t totally vanished by the big day but it was way more manageable and my makeup and photos turned out AMAZING. I was really happy with the results and I am glad I tried this treatment out.
After a few cocktails, the days after my treatment I would show everyone who would listen my close up before picture followed by an excited “do you see how good it looks now?! like look! seriously!”. Everyone was pretty intrigued and the biggest question I got was “how does that work?!”.
I’m no doctor but here is the scoop on how it was explained to me. Basically, cystic acne is nasty bacteria backed up under your skin. The laser targets that area with heat which kills the acne causing bacteria. No bacteria, no cystic acne. Boom. If you want to read more, “The Pretty Pimple” has a great article on laser treatments that I majorly stalked.
Full facial laser treatments can cost around $200+ but for just a spot or two I recommend talking to your doctor because you can do specifically those areas for a discounted rate. If you suffer from chronic cystic acne you can get a sequence of treatments (usually around 3-5 treatments depending on severity) and clear up the acne you are experiencing. While it isn’t immediate, it is definitely effective and it also helped to prevent scarring. About a third of the time I get some type of acne scar when I have a cystic breakout (probably because I try and handle it myself, whoops) but with this treatment there was absolutely zero scarring.
So what’s the verdict:
I will 100% do this treatment again. It yielded great results with little to no pain, not a huge investment, and no recovery time.
There was no scarring after the treatment and no scarring after the cystic acne healed.
I saw instant, positive results that continue to improve over a few days.
The only thing I would advise against is doing this the week of your wedding like I did. Of course if you are in a pinch, you have to do what you have to do but ideally avoiding trying new treatments immediately before a big event is the way to go. You never know how your skin will react so you want to try new products/treatments out in enough time where you could recover if something went awry. Out of all things to get done last minute though I would say this is not super risky and probably one of the better ones.
Overall…. I saw GO FOR IT.
Now obviously due to expenses and time I can’t run to my doctor every time I have a breakout so I have to find some treatments at home to help remedy the situation. I have shared some of my favorites in the past, one of which being the Fresh Umbrian Clay Mask. I only use it as a spot treatment instead of on my whole face and you only need such a tiny bit that I’ve had this bottle so long that they’ve redone the packaging. It’s not cheap so I’m not mad about it.
I also have been loving the cult favorite Mario Badescu’s Drying Lotion for like 7 years now. I use it mostly for whiteheads as opposed to cystic acne but it works super quick and is under $20. I have a set of pimple extracting tools that I keep on my vanity at all times (it was less than $10 from Amazon). I am the type of person that like NEEDS to pop a pimple when I have one which is not great for your skin but with the right tools it can be done in a proper way.
My last trick for fighting breakouts is to actually hydrate my skin. People automatically assume that when your skin breaks out you should dehydrate the shit out of it and turn your face into a desert. From my experience this only makes things worse because then your skin will overproduce oil and it becomes a vicious cycle. Do not be afraid of hydration. If done properly it won’t cause your skin to break out and it will only keep your skin looking tighter and younger which is honestly all I can ask for. I just started using the Peter Thomas Roth Rose Stem Cell Bio-Repair Gel Mask and I am in love with it. For my daily moisturizer I have really been loving the COSRX Snail Cream. It is affordable and insanely hydrating without feeling too heavy.
Maintaining even and smooth skin sans breakouts can be hard when you have underlying health issues, but it definitely is possible to a certain extent. While I have accepted that my skin will never be “perfect”, I love keeping my skin as healthy as can be and I love sharing my finding with you all!
I love when I have the chance to team up with other boss babes to promote really cool products or businesses. When Boho Babe Jewels reached out to do a collaboration I was pumped because their jewelry is so freaking cute (I'll get into details about that later), but they also are supporting a cause that I can 100% get behind.
Proceeds from one of their collections went directly to support the Crohn's and Colitis Foundation. Seriously, right up my alley. Supporting fellow Crohnies is also something I am passionate about. It is hard to have your own business or a side hustle regularly but doing it with a chronic illness is even more of an uphill battle. I know I've shared my struggles with finding time to fit everything with Crohnically Blonde into my schedule while still taking time to rest and maintain my health. I'm sure there are a ton of you badasses out there who are blazing the entrepreneurial trail while trying to keep your health on track. If so, I'd love to hear about what your hustle is and a tip for how you balance it all?
Take a look at how I styled my pieces and make sure to head over to their website to pick out some of your own. They are having a HUGE sale right now on everything (I'm talking like $15 for some great stuff) so the stars have aligned with the timing here... go check them out!
I was very excited when my two chokers showed up because I have been trying to nail the layered choker trend and have not been able to find the perfect combination. The trick is definitely to do a chunkier piece with a more delicate one layered on top. This balances out the whole look and prevents tangling. I made the mistake before of pairing two super delicate chokers and things did not end well. You can also wear them separately which is ideal for traveling because you get multiple looks in one. All of their pieces are handmade in Alabama so you know you are getting some love and positive vibes sent your way when you wear these.
I love these necklaces, I love Boho Babe Jewels in general, and I love the cause that they stand behind. Keep on killing it and go support our fellow Crohnie by treating yourself to some cute new jewelry.
Ya'll KNOW I am totally obsessed with self care and any product that I can add to my routine. Recently I was introduced to T Spheres which I have become completely obsessed with.
"What the heck are T Spheres?" is probably what you are thinking right now. Well they are a freaking life saver. They are massage balls that are infused with essential oils. It's like bringing the spa into your house.
I've been using the massage balls to number one, help with IBD related pain, and number two, help relieve muscle tension thanks to my new found hobby of attending barre class. You might be familiar with regular massage balls that you can use to roll out your muscles but these take it to the next level.
They can be heated or chilled to provide you with the optimal effect and they are infused with essential oils that align to a specific desired feeling. For example, I have lavender infused massage balls (Peace & Quiet) that I use for the evening on my shoulders and neck before I go to bed. The lavender is calming and soothing to help you relax before bedtime. In the morning or before/after I work out I use the Empower Mint to refresh and energize me.
Personally I like to chill the Empower Mint massage balls to give them an extra zing to help wake me up. I even bring these in the shower with me to roll out my muscles while my conditioner sits in my hair. #multitasking. The Peace & Quiet are my go to when I am have Crohn's related pain. I heat them and use them on my stomach and abdomen which sounds a little strange but it works like a charm.
There are so many ways that you can utilize these massage balls it is crazy. They have an entire tutorial/ video section on their website so you can make sure you are using them properly and getting the most out of their benefits. I also really love that they are so easy to travel with that you really can bring them anywhere. You can relieve your pain while sitting at your desk in the office. You can ease muscle tension when flying. You can pull them out of your purse at anytime. #preparedAF. I also love that these serve as portable ice pack and heating pads. As someone who often has to travel with both these are a space saver and super convenient. I mean... they can even go in the microwave. Can a regular massage ball do that... no.
I also love the oils from T Spheres. If you have been following along with my social media and the blog, you know oils have been my JAM recently. I love diffusing them as well as rubbing them all over me and anything else in sight. T Spheres actually also sent me some of their oils (because they saw I was clearly an oil obsessed crazy person) and I can't get enough. The lavender bath and body oil is seriously ideal to add into your nighttime bubble bath. Not only does it calm you down but it leaves your skin super smooth and moisturized when you get out of the bath. I also got to try the "Pep-Up Mint" oil which can really clear out any sinus problems you are having and wake you the heck up. I am not an early morning kind of girl so if I am showering it is speedy and I don't have time to soak in oils. I do incorporate oil by using it to moisturize my body, post morning shower. That way it sticks with me all day and I get the amazing moisturizing effects. Oh and in case this wasn't enough, these oils are hand blended and made to order so you can ensure you are getting the best and most fresh oils (also made with lots of love!).
T Spheres have become a crucial part of my self care routine and I am so incredibly happy be partnering with them to give ya'll a discount so you can try out your own! You can use my code "CROHNICALLYBLONDE" to get $5 off and free shipping until Mother's Day.
I am BEYOND excited that the Sprouts Ellicott City location is finally open! Yesterday I had the pleasure to tour the brand new store and experience all of the amazingness first hand.
Let me tell you, this exceeded my expectations in every way. There are seriously so many great things I want to share with you I don't even know where to start.
The selection of products is truly extensive and they really do focus on organic products so you feel good about anything you choose to purchase. I really appreciated the amount of specifically gluten free items they carry and this was definitely highlighted in the bakery section. The amount of gluten free bread selections they offer are more than I have ever seen. The baked goods are the same story; tons of delicious options.
There is a huge focus on produce so contrary to most grocery stores, all of the produce is in the dead center of the store! The fruits and vegetables that are in stock are plentiful and the options are vast enough that you can find even the most obscure ingredient from a Pinterest recipe. Not only is there a ton of great produce but it is actually decently priced. Now, I was definitely skeptical when I heard that Sprouts had 'great deals'. I feel like every store says this but rarely delivers. Sprouts is not messing around though. I was SOLD when I saw that avocados were 2 for $1. And, get this, they were actually ripe. Another rare situation in my grocery shopping experiences recently.
Moving on from the produce, there are a ton of other food sections to explore. There are ample selections of kombucha, fresh juices, cheeses, packaged goods, frozen meals, dairy, and just about anything you can think of. I usually try and stick to fresh foods but my hectic schedule sometimes leaves me staring in my freezer trying to see what the heck I have that I can heat up in three minutes. Luckily Sprouts is here to save the day with a selection of healthy, frozen meals (that are gluten free) and they even have frozen pizzas with cauliflower crust. Oh, and all of the frozen food was 20% off when I visited. WHAT!
The customizable approach they take to grocery shopping is something I really love too. Sprouts not only has a make your own trail mix area but also a wide variety of coffee beans you can select by amount and type, and just about the coolest thing ever, a spice counter where you can purchase the exact amount of certain spices that you may need. This helps to not only reduce waste but also helps to save you money because you don't have to buy a whole container of an exotic spice for one recipe.
If you're looking for some fresh, healthy food to grab on your lunch break they have a station where you can purchase freshly made sandwiches, prepared sides, and they have a delicious looking salad bar. While you're there, you can even pick up a fresh cut of meat for for dinner from the in house butcher.
The thing about Sprouts is you can literally get everything from this store. As if the amazing food selection wasn't enough, the vitamin section and the beauty are swoon worthy. There are vitamin experts on site that can provide you with any guidance you may need. And you may need it because the selection is super serious. I mean, I am a probiotic/supplement/natural remedy fanatic and this place really left me speechless. There are a ton of natural remedies which I struggle to find elsewhere and things like liquid chlorophyll that most people have no idea what the heck I'm talking about when I rave about it, but Sprouts gets me. The beauty products are another story because they also have such a selection I could get lost for hours. I did come home with a bottle of jojoba oil to cleanse my face with....
Overall, I had just an amazing experience at Sprouts and I was super impressed with their selections, their customer service/knowledgable employees, and their prices. Where else can you find Perfect Bars buy one get one free at $2.99 a pop? The answer is nowhere.
I can't wait to head back there this weekend to stock up on some new items for the week ahead. I can definitely see Sprouts becoming my regular stop for grocery shopping because it is just that darn good!
Sprouts in Ellicott City is open everyday from 7am to 10pm everyday so make sure to visit them ASAP, and chances are you may run into me there. Most likely piling the whole shelf of Topo Chicos into my cart (:
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.