It’s the middle of January and, let’s be real, a lot of those big resolutions that were set into motion for the New Year have fizzled out. I’ve been in that boat many times before, not because I haven’t wanted to make big changes, but because the goal was so large and I didn’t have a plan to get there. Now I take a different approach to making changes and especially resolutions. Instead of saying things I am NOT going to do, I choose habits to fill my routine with positive little actions that can add up. To really get specific, I break down the year into three month increments and have specific things to focus on during each of those times. The goal is to have these little changes become habits so every few months I can build on the progress. I pick one to two simple things in a couple different categories: mind, body, spirit, and business. I have a journal that I track my habits in each week and record how I am feeling.
Okay, so lets get into how I actually come up with these small habits. I brainstorm my intentions for the next few months and decide on my top words or phrases that speak to me. For example, my intention statement for these next three months is: “Level up. Comfort. Intention. Building trust and confidence by keeping promises to myself.” Once I am clear on my intention, I can come up with habits or small changes that will help me to get there. The more simple the better, because you are more likely to actually do these things. Making small changes that build over time is way more effective than setting out for a big change without a plan you can execute on. Try things like, “meditate for five minutes everyday” instead of aiming for what might be your ultimate goal of a half hour per day. The more you get used to these small habits, the easier it will be to build on them and get closer to your ultimate goal. It also builds your excitement and confidence when you can actually achieve the goals you are laying out for yourself.
I also find that the way I word my small changes also has a big impact on my mindset around them. This might not be for everyone, but for me it really make a difference. Instead of working the habits as things I have to do, I word them in a way that makes me feel like each action is serving me. For example, if I am trying to work out more, instead of saying, “I want to go to a workout class at the gym x amount of times per week”, I say “move my body in ways that feel good x amount of times per week”. This takes away the feeling of “having to” and also allows for some wiggle room. Having a little wiggle room in some areas is key for me. Life can get crazy, plans change, and especially with my health I need to have ways to adapt that don’t get me down and discouraged. If my goal is to move my body in ways that feel good, that means when I wake up with body pain on a Sunday morning, I don’t just ditch the gym because I can’t do that specific class I was aiming for. Instead I listen to what my body is asking for and can substitute yoga or pilates. I am keeping with my habit and serving my body.
So far since I have implemented this style of making changes and forming habits, I have been really pleased with the results and my overall mindset. This is just an overview of how I set these goals and stick to them, but if you want more details and specifics I can definitely share more. Just shoot me a message to let me know! I can also send you the details on how I lay out my journals.
This is a newer area for me to dive into on the blog, but as I’ve gotten more into achieving better mental health in the way of balance, I have become super interested in things like this. I read a ton of books and articles, which I take ideas and approaches from and adapt them into what works for me. It took me a while to find these specific things that really speak to my soul and just work, so I want to spread the love and hopefully my method can help someone else!
2019 has been a year of transformation for me. Probably one of the most emotionally/mentally transformative years I’ve had. It was a fucking hard year though and I haven’t had one of these “transformative” years since 2009. A decade later I went back on a journey to dig deeper in myself to find more happiness and be a better wife, friend, daughter, sister, and hopefully eventually mom. I became more spiritual in a sense of truly believing in the universe and a higher power’s plan. I’ve reached higher self acceptance and found grace within my mistakes and flaws. I’ve developed more love and understanding for those around me. I believe in myself and trust myself more than I ever had.
2009 was the first time I was strong enough to seek a better understanding of myself. To make a fully committed effort to deal with difficult shit and better my life for the future me I didn’t even know was ahead. Making the choices I did in 2009 set me up for the year of emotional exploration 2019 gave me. And I hope the work I have done this year will set my up for the me I will be in another 10 years. The past decade has given me some of the worst, lowest, and most confusing times of my life but also some of the best, most rewarding times I’ll cherish forever and all of those have shaped me as a person. I feel like we can mostly all say that in regards to a decade, especially one that spans almost your entire 20s.
Looking at the me in 2009 - little, fierce, scared but brave at the same time, confident in the future but so unsure about myself. Then I could never imagine what my life would be today because the journey has had many twists and turns. But now looking back I see the fight and passion in 2009 me and I can see how I made it to where I am. Although this isn’t what I imagined, it is better and what I am meant for in every way possible. I am thankful for the experiences both good and bad that have shaped me these past ten years and I know there will be equally and more emotionally turbulent events that this next decade brings.
Starting this next decade I wish for myself to continue to trust in a higher power, to gracefully accept things I can’t change, to use my passion to do good for others, and to fully appreciate every little gift life bestows me. Instead of going into the New Year with resolutions and things I want to change, my goal is to be the best me I can be everyday and be confident that doing that is enough. I want to leave behind expectations of what I "should" be and appreciate every bit of who I am and who I am becoming.
I hope that as you read this, you are thinking of what you have done to make yourself proud this past decade. I mean, you made it this freaking far, that is an accomplishment in and of itself. I for someone this is an inspiration to channel their strength into dealing with some difficult shit they are going through in hopes of a better future. I hope that someone is reading this and is like YES GIRL I am with you in this journey, because the journey is a beautiful place to be.
I am so ready for the magic this next decade has in store for us and I am feeling stronger than ever as I embark on this new adventure.
This post is about something I am super uncomfy talking about. I want to put it out there and get more comfortable because whenever I’ve shared things with this community it has lead me to more connection with other amazing ladies, often going through something similar. I mentioned this briefly in a previous post, that I took the leap and started talking to my doctors about fertility. Matt has wanted a baby since the moment we were legally married (and honestly before that) and I have been the master of excuses to push it off. Through a bit of self discovery I came to terms with the fact that I was actually truly terrified to be a mom. I had spent so much time focusing on just trying to get things stabilized to get through life, that it seemed such a distant possibility that me, myself, my body, could handle actually bringing a life into this world and then taking care of that life. To be honest, as soon as Matt and I started seriously talking about the potential of becoming parents, it triggered my anxiety to an ALL TIME HIGH. It is like every insecurity I ever felt about my body physically or emotionally bubbled to the surface, trying to convince myself that I would be a horrible mom and I was not qualified in any possible way.
I’ve been working through this for the past few months. As both a recovering perfectionist and people pleaser, the thought of having a little being that I am responsible for and could potentially totally mess up feels absolutely terrifying. I mean, I am already crazy about caring for my dogs, how will we throw a baby human into this mix? Everyone keeps telling me, “You’ll figure it out”. And, yeah, I know we will. I’m resourceful and have basically played the figure it out game most of my adult life. What worries me is my body being on the same page as my brain.
As much as I know that rationally this thought is not healthy, I feel like it is my responsibility to bring children into the world for our family. I haven’t gotten this pressure from anyone else, but my own feeling guilty brain. No matter how many 'green lights' I get, somehow I still feel self conscious that something is wrong with me. Ever since I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, I have been told that pregnancy was going to be harder for me. I was also threatened with that when I was 18 years old suffering from an eating disorder. I will never forget hearing “If you keep doing this to yourself, you’ll never get pregnant and you’ll never have babies”. I get that those telling me that were worried about me and trying to scare me into ‘getting better’. Now it rings in my head every time I visit the Obgyn or see a baby in the grocery store.
I’m scared of ‘failing’ my family because my body isn’t ‘good enough’. The thing is, if a friend were to spill this situation to me, I’d tell them this way of thinking is totally irrational and they are being so incredibly mean to their beautiful body and hard on themselves. But when the dialogue is directed at yourself, somehow things always are narrated a bit differently, huh?
How do you get past the fear of ‘failure’? How do you believe in your body when you feel like it is out of your control? How can you trust this body to bring the most precious gift into the world when it is hard to trust it to make it through the work week.
I’ve been working on positive self affirmations. I’ve been living by the mantra, “You are doing the best you can”. I’ve been making lists of all of the amazing things my body can do. And I’ve been praying to the universe. It’s hard to share these fears with those close to you, because they are all so hopeful and they are the people you don’t want to let down. I’ve been following along with the journeys of strong, inspiring, and truly amazing women on Instagram. Some of them I have the pleasure of knowing and some of them, just strangers, who are brave enough to share their stories with those who need to hear it. I know that my story has barely begun and it might sound crazy to those who have been through so much that I am so initially paralyzed by fear. But this is how it is, and I’m working to be okay each day with just doing the best my body and mind possibly can.
Got a little real on this one, and I hope to feel inclined to continue to do so. Please drop me a message if you are a fellow spoonie, member of the chronic illness community, or struggling in a similar situation. Let’s stand by each other.
Photo by Jade Nikkole Photography
Our next vacation is just a little over a month away and I am ready to go. I mean, I’m always ready for vacation, but this is our last Disney World trip for a little while. I know I always say this, but for real it actually is going to be. We have another fun, very Disney related trip that we’re planning in the winter so really we have to chill on the trips to WDW for at least a little bit. The other day someone commented that we literally always have a vacation/trip planned. Yeah, we do. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Honestly, for me planning the trip is almost as fun as going. I love researching where to go, hunting for deals, and looking forward to the plans. Disney World is probably the vacation spot where it is the most crucial to plan ahead. I think this might kind of be why I love it so much. There is so much involved in the planning it’s an activity in and of itself. The way I think about it, if you’re going to spend money on a vacation, why not enjoy the anticipation and planning of it.
I’ve done Disney World enough times to appreciate the planning that goes into it and respect the hell out of people who do that as a job. (Shout our to my sister). Luckily she helps me with all of the tough stuff (reservations, fast passes, etc.). I do always make a 30 days out plan no matter what trip I’m going on to make sure I’m ready when takeoff comes and my stress is as minimal as can be. One thing I’ve realized about traveling with Crohn’s is minimizing the stress in the front end of the trip can be critical in preventing a flare.
For those who aren’t anxiety ridden Type A’s like myself, you may think I’m crazy for planning so far out, but I promise you, there are a few things that if you do early will save you so much stress come travel time.
My first piece of advice is to make your packing list. I know this seems far out but I swear there is a reason. By making your list early, you can identify items you are missing/ need to order. You can cue up your Amazon Prime list to fill in the gaps on your list. I like to plan outfits ahead of time so I can look for deals on additional pieces I need. I also like to start ordering cosmetic items from Amazon because I can usually get a good deal for them and I’m not scrambling at the last minute to pick things up.
Extra Tip: A little bonus tip here... I get SO many samples of beauty/makeup/skincare products. Between subscription boxes, free samples, and gifted items I have a big collection. I keep all of my extra sample and travel sized products in a special bin in my bathroom closet. This way, I can grab items to pack quickly if I need to. This is also great for guests that are staying at your house! Real friends enforce each other’s skincare routines, okay?
Check for upgrades. I LOVE this one. For our honeymoon, our cruise line sent out and email to bid on upgrades. This was the first time I saw this, but ever since I’ve been ON IT. If a cruise ship or resort hasn’t reached capacity by 60 to 30 days out, sometimes they will let you bid to upgrade your accommodations. This usually means blindly putting forth an amount of money, designated by you and usually A LOT less than market value, to score a nicer room. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s always worth a shot. Sometimes vacation packages will offer add ons as it gets closer to your travel date that you can purchase for a discount. This includes things like drink packages!
Make sure dinner reservations are made and activity plans are solidified. This is a big one if you are traveling to a destination hoping to hit a hot spot for dining or drinks. When we went out to LA I knew SUR and Pump were on my ‘must see’ list, so I made sure to lock down reservations as soon as they were available. You can always switch things around as it gets closer, but it’s better to at least have something on the books. This is so key in Disney Parks where you can get highly coveted dining reservations six months in advance. Now this requires a TON of foresight so soon I’m looping my Disney planner sister in on a post to give you the whole scoop on that. Definitely it is something to be aware of though. When it comes to activity plans/ tours it is also important to research and plan in advance. Especially if there is something you really want to do or see, book it early so you don’t miss out.
These next 30 days as we gear up for our trip I’ll be knocking out these items on my ‘to do’ list. I’ve gotten a bit of a head start and have a huge Amazon clothes haul on the way, along with my outfit for Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. I’ll continue to update y’all on my finds and my preparation process!
It’s been a while since I’ve done a post about me. I talk about what trips I’m going on, products I’m trying, recipes I’m cooking. But, it has been a while since I’ve pulled back the curtain and given an update on what is going on behind the scenes of social media perception. Honestly, when things are feeling crazy in my life, it is a whole lot easier to keep my content light and airy. It is an escape from having to deal with the hard stuff. The thing is, the reason I started this blog in the first place was to talk about that hard stuff. The outfits, beauty products, vacations, and shopping recommendations are an added plus. Through feedback I’ve gotten, I know it is the hard stuff that makes the most impact and means the most in this community. It is also Mental Health Month so... what better a time than now?
The past two and a half years have been a total whirlwind. I bought a house, I got promoted, I bought a new car, I moved into my house, I got engaged, I got married, I planned another wedding, I had a big wedding, I planned a honeymoon, I went on a honeymoon, I finally feel like I got my health under control. And last fall I freaked the fuck out. It was literally the weekend of our first wedding anniversary I had an anxious meltdown. I had done so much and checked so many things off my list over the past two years, what do I do now? I thought it was just me being affected by the season change and feeling a little more down in the dumps. But, as I continued to have overwhelming anxiety week after week I called my mom because I knew I couldn’t keep being that miserable.
When I talked things through with her, it really made me realize what was going on. For the past two years I had been going, going, going. It had been great. I had been achieving goals and conquering huge life events. I had been in a constant state of planning, working, and productivity. I was at a point where I had so many big things planned, that once they were done, I was lost. I’ve always been someone who need to feel constantly productive and if I can’t be I pretty much lose it and shut down. Don’t worry, I’ve been in therapy for this for a long time. I also love and crave the stability of always knowing what is next and having a plan.
So here I was, coming out of my first blissful year of marriage, not knowing what is next. People were asking me left and right when I was going to have a baby, as if that were the only logical next step in my relationship. Was I a horrible person because I selfishly wanted more time to spend with just my husband? I came out of busting my ass at work only to find I don’t know what my next step is or what I am working towards. I was happy in my house, with my dogs, with my family, with my life. But I felt so, so sad and hopeless. For absolutely no apparent reason. My anxiety was back in full swing and my OCD that I struggled with as a child was back and terrorizing me. This also truly didn’t make sense to me because my Crohn’s was the most under control it has been in years and everyday was no longer a fight. But what do I do when I’m not just fighting to get by? Its like I had no idea how to function in a calm world.
I started up therapy again and I have gotten medication to help with my anxiety and OCD. Its a work in progress to simply be happy with how things are instead of always chasing the next achievement. I am getting there day by day and I’m also being a lot more open with what I’ve been going through. I was reluctant to share how I was feeling before, because I felt ungrateful. If I was sharing how anxious and unhappy I was when I was blessed with so many things in life people would 100% think I was a selfish, crazy, asshole. Turns out, that is not the case and the more I share, the more I realize there are a lot of other women (and men) out there going through the same thing or who have gone through it before. Its like you have an emotional hangover that you can’t get rid of. It can happen after a big life event, after achieving a goal that you’ve been working towards, or coming back from an amazing vacation. I just listened to The Skinny Confidential Him & Her Podcast episode with Mark Mason and they were literally talking about exactly this. For those of you who don’t know, Mark is the insanely successful author of “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck”. If he feels this emotional hangover and is so wildly successful, that in a weird way, made me feel even more validated in my feelings. The fact that he shared his experience so openly AND wrote his next book about it too, is a testament to his vulnerability and drive to help others. I recommend for everyone to listen to that podcast episode because it may make things click just a little more. It might make you feel like you’re not alone and it is valid what you are feeling. Or maybe this post will do that for you too. Who knows?
I think we all have our own “why’s” behind why we get this dark, heavy feeling. I haven’t figured out my “why” yet because, truthfully, this is always how I’ve been, and it's probably going to take years for me to unravel the root cause. Over the past 5 months, I’ve been working on balancing being happy with the now while still moving forward to whatever “next” is. Its been a test of my patience, self awareness, and mindfulness. While it hasn’t been easy, I feel so much better and more equipped to deal with life in general. My anxiety can still be crippling some days. I might have meltdowns about stupid shit. But, hey, at least I am owning it. I don’t know what is next for my family, my career, or pretty much anything else in life. Do we ever really know? Instead of focusing on the unknown I’ve been focusing on embracing that wild freedom of the universe and appreciating it for what it is.
I know this post got a little deep, but I feel like it needed to happen. I’ve been focusing inward so much the past few months and if you have noticed or not, I felt it would be beneficial to provide some context. As you all know, mental health is something I am very passionate about, whether it is in relation to chronic illnesses or a stand alone battle. It is something that impacts me, my family, my friends, pretty much everyone I know, in some type of way. Whether it be for fear of being judged or other reasons entirely, a lot of us suffer in silence. In today’s world that seems absurd. We are sharing what we have for every meal on Instagram but we aren’t addressing something that has such a large and painful impact in our lives? I hope moving forward we start sharing more about the real shit.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of attending my first ever Create & Cultivate conference. I’ve been wanting to go for a couple of years now and finally I was able to make it happen. Let me tell you, all of the hype I gave this event was totally warranted. The displays and installations were incredible enough to make the ticket well worth the cost. Live flowers, Insta worthy walls, and the most perfectly on brand decor was abundant. On top of the aesthetic, the content that was delivered was top notch and the room radiated serious girl boss energy.
I went with Amy (a la AmyScripts) and it was both of our first times attending Create & Cultivate. Since we were both rookies, we didn’t know what to expect at all. I mean we knew to expect as far as the content and flow of the day but as far as the dirty details and insider tips, we were pretty clueless. There were a few things that I wish a C&C veteran would have been able to share with us beforehand to help us prepare and make our day even better than it already was. I am volunteering myself, as the (now) experienced attendee, to share some insight onto what to expect and a few tips for making the most of your Create & Cultivate experience. Before I dig in, I will say, these are just my opinions based on my experience. Yours may be different if you attended in a different city or even if we attended the same conference! I want to hear your thoughts and tips! Please, please share! And, last, if you are looking for a recap of the event, you can watch my play by play via the Create & Cultivate story highlight on my Instagram.
Okay, here is the scoop…..
1. Dress for the day
This seems SUPER obvious but what I thought I should be wearing was not practical and definitely not sustainable for all day wear. I tried to dress cute but comfortable but also in something the represents me and my brand. My floor length kimono was cute in theory but was literally dragging through dirt by the end of the day. Plus, I was really cold. You certainly should pack a jacket and not make the rookie mistake I did. I didn’t understand that a lot of the event was going to be outside so I needed to be able to layer up or layer down based on the time of day and temperature.
I really tried for practicality by wearing heels but bringing flats. I wore my heels for a grand total of 30 minutes all day. And it was truly a pain to carry them around in my bag for the other 10+ hours. Next time, I am wearing comfortable flats and not bringing another option. There were tons of girls in the most adorable outfits with sky high heels, and if that works for them then go ahead babe, but for me I am not fun to hang out with when I am in pain.
Next time I’m opting for a more casual vibe; either jeans and a cute top or a jumpsuit paired with cute flats and a denim jacket of some sort. I’m telling you guys, I would have been SO much more comfortable if I would have followed this advice.
I've pulled together some items on my 'must have' list for next time.
2. Bring a big bag
*With extra room in it. The amount of swag and free stuff you get throughout the day is truly jaw dropping. I found myself wildly under-prepared to tote around my new goodies in my already stuffed (thanks unnecessary heels) bag. Next time I will probably go with a small bag to carry my essentials and a cute and large tote to store everything else. If you are traveling in from out of town to attend also keep this in mind. The gift bag alone is enough to set your luggage over the weight limit so make sure your re packing light and preparing to carry home your loot.
Here are a few of my suggestions:
3. The start time is a suggestion not a requirement
When it comes to schedules I love to abide. Having a solid plan and knowing where to be and when are two things that speak to my soul. That being said, it gave me MAJOR anxiety when Amy suggested we show up around 9am when the start time was 8am. Turns out, she was right. The world didn’t end, and this is a strategy I will follow next time. Create & Cultivate is a SERIOUSLY long day, so unless you can handle a 14-16 hour excursion, you need to get savvy with your scheduling. The morning schedule leaves a lot of down time for checking in and grabbing coffee/breakfast. We used this time to check out the pop ups and additional activities, which was great, but honestly, we could have fit that in later in the day. I also recommend prioritizing the panels you want to attend. If the morning panel isn’t hitting home with you as much as one of the keynote speakers at the end of the night, you may want to skip out in the morning so you can be engaged later in the day. By time we were exhausted, mid afternoon, we were seeing a whole new group of ladies roll in fresh faced and ready to go. They got the memo on how to do it!
This brings me to my last tip...
4. Prioritize and pace yourself
All of the pop ups, activities, speakers, and photo ops can be overwhelming. They jam pack the day with things to do so you are continuously engaged. I went into the day convinced that I needed to check every booth off my list and do absolutely everything. Have to get my money’s worth, right? That was another expectation that was wildly unrealistic. Going into the day, you have to prioritize what you definitely want to do/ what is worth waiting in line for, and make sure to plan accordingly. Getting to everything, while potentially possible, would be downright exhausting. Prioritizing and pacing yourself can ensure you have a fun day while still getting the most out the conference and not burning yourself out.
Create & Cultivate NYC was such a beneficial experience, like I really feel like I got a lot out of it. I came home inspired and ready to channel my inner boss babe. Now that I have the “insider tips” I can’t wait to see how great of an experience I have next time. To be honest, I considered booking a flight so that I could attend the Self Care Summit in Los Angeles in a couple of months, but somehow resisted. The next time C&C is on the East Coast, consider me in. Now, you have the tips to make the best of your Create & Cultivate experience, too.
So, tell me... have YOU been? What tips do you have that I should add to my list?
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
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.
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.
If you followed my blog/social media before Crohnically Blonde became what it is today, you know that fashion was a large portion of the content I shared (before I even knew “content” was a thing). I have always loved fashion – cue the years of me curating a huge book of magazine clipping inspiration in high school. In college I had a brief stint in fashion school in NYC which was my teenage dream and came back home without a degree but with exposure to a new platform to curate my inspiration. Tumblr. This was in 2009 when social media was just really at the very beginning of becoming a thing. A blogger was not yet an accepted job title, and a fashion influencer was not what we know it as today. I started sharing my own personal styling and outfits on my new blog on Tumblr and eventually Wordpress. Fashion has always been something that I have loved as a part of my life. I love putting together looks, I love sharing my inspiration with others, and I actually feel high off of finding a great deal on a designer piece.
When I started Crohnically Blonde I was in not a great place as far as body image or self-esteem. Crohn’s was ripping apart my body (actually pretty literally), I didn’t have control of my weight or how my body looked thanks to the medications I was on, and I honestly was happy to live in my comfiest sweatpants every day. The last thing that crossed my mind was sharing photos of me wearing things for the world to see, drawing attention to this body I had no control over. In the past, I was used to wearing whatever I wanted and not having to forgo trends based on my bloated stomach or weirdly unexplainable weight I was putting on in weird places. Fashion, as much as I loved it, was also the least of my worries at the time.
As an outsider looking in you probably would have no idea that I have struggled so much with this over the past three years. I come to work in my cute LOFT shirts and stretchy Old Navy pants that my friend so sweetly calls my “mom pants” and there is NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT. I have figured out a “uniform” that makes me feel comfortable in my own skin for the most part which is what I wear out to social events. I stopped experimenting with styles and just sticking to safe because that is the way I would feel comfortable and draw the least attention.
This really doesn’t seem like that big of a deal, I know. But to me it really was because I was missing out on something that used to be such a big passion for me. I had come to terms with the fact that I was never going to have my pre Crohn’s body back and I should appreciate that this is what I had to work with. I should appreciate how much my body does to fight and keep it going instead of shaming it for looking “weird” here and there. The thing is, I had PERSONALLY come to terms with this but then I spent hours scrolling through Instagram comparing myself to every girl to post and outfit photo and sending myself into a panic that I could NEVER put myself in THIS body out there like that.
I know, again, to some people this may seem ridiculous. To me it is not. At this point I’m in eating disorder recovery and dealing with a body that does its own thing health wise so I am on every level feeling absolutely out of control. At the same time as much as I hate myself for not looking like and Instagram model, I hate myself for caring and letting that hold me back. I preach authenticity and am all about owning your body especially through the lifetime struggle of ED recovery. I preach these things, empower others to do them, but yet, I am terrified to post a photo of me in an outfit.
As I’ve grown in my blogging journey and participated in more events and photoshoots I have come to realize that I have to stop letting this hold me back. When you break it down I am literally NOT participating in something I am passionate about and that I love because I am scared of… what? Comparison? Judgement? Both not things that I can’t stand to be the reason I shy away from something I enjoy.
So here we are and I will continue to share with you all. I want you to know that behind that outfit photo there is purpose and meaning for me posting it. Not only am I genuinely excited to, again, share my fashion journey but I am also excited to hopefully show someone else that just because you aren’t meeting your ridiculous standard of perfection you should still go for it, put yourself out there, and don’t let it hold you back. I also hope that you all will take away from what I share that to me fashion is about feeling confident in what you are wearing and learning how to dress for your body in a way that works for you and makes you feel great. I’m sharing the real dirty deets on what I am wearing (stretchy jeans and all) because that is what is real and authentically me. So enjoy and I hope this will inspire you to continue on this never ending journey of finding self-confidence with me.
I'm really, really excited that you will be able to keep up with all of my favorite looks via LIKEtoKNOW.it (here!) or download the app! I have been a huge LTKI fan for years so I am thrilled to finally be able to use the platform to share my personal style and finds.
Photo by Jade Nikkole Photography
Blonde babe. Maryland native. Crohn's crushing puppy mother to two sweet rescues.
Welcome to my unfiltered commentary on crushing chronic illness in your 20's and everything that goes along with that.