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
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!
The past six months or so have been nuts, getting ready for our wedding and honeymoon. Every weekend and every free moment after work was full of decisions, logistics, and often times chaos. Planning a wedding is no joke, especially when you have no wedding planner and have to arrange all of the moving parts yourself. I had immense help from my mom, stepmom, and dad but being the absolutely psychotic micromanager that I am, even when projects were left in the best hands I was still stressing.
On top of that we were planning an 11 day European honeymoon which not only required a slew of decisions and finalizing details but also arranging care for the pups while we were gone. We had family and friends step up to help us in this area as well which we couldn't be more thankful for.
Through all of the planning I really tried to step back and enjoy the process. Ideally you only plan a wedding once (or twice if you eloped like us!) so why not take everything in and try and appreciate all of the work that goes into throwing the biggest party of your life? Living in the moment is not my forte but I really did make and effort. I wanted to enjoy the other festivities that lead up to the big day…. the bachelorette party (lucky for me, I had one in New Orleans and a winery day planned close to home!), the bridal shower, the days leading up to the wedding when our family was together. It makes me so happy now to look back and realize I truly got to enjoy those moments. I can say the same for the wedding and the honeymoon as well.
In order to live in the moment these past few months, I took a big step back from sharing everything in my life in real time. I have all of these sweet moments and details documented and eventually I will share them with the world but in the moment I wanted them to be privately enjoyed. Instead of focusing on creating moments for the rest of the world to see, I wanted to genuinely enjoy those moments for once. I have shared photos after the fact on Instagram with updates and kind words for those who made these moments happen. I have gotten messages over and over again of people asking why I didn’t share more details from this event or that event or my planning process. The answer is because I was actually living it. And I have written down every request from every person who has reached out and I promise I will share the details. Now that I have had the chance to take things in for myself, I can share them with the rest of the world and I am so freaking excited to do so.
I have also had people ask about the podcast. It is coming back! We have guests lined up, we have some really good topics, and we are ready to dive back in. Same goes for blog content. I stepped back from pushing out content in these areas for a bit because I didn’t want to publish content I didn’t love. And I didn’t have time to create the content I would feel good about. I wasn’t going to write a shit post or record a shit podcast just to get something out. I also had some partnerships and companies that I was (and still am!) partnered with that I was creating content for. I feel very strongly about these publications and their ability to reach a large audience and make a difference so while you haven’t been able to read everything I have created for them yet, it is coming and you will be able to see the hard work I have put in behind the scenes.
Balancing my life has been a chaotic sort of shit show for the past six months but I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything. Thank you to everyone who has followed this journey on Instagram through posts and stories and is revisiting my site now for all that is to come. I appreciate you. I have taken your requests and suggestions very seriously. And I can’t wait to share the details of my life with everyone again.
WHAT YOU CAN LOOK FORWARD TO.....
Drop a comment or a DM on Instagram and let me know what else you want to hear about!
In the podcast this week my mom and I opened up about our ongoing struggles with eating disorders and recovery. We thought it was fitting because it is National Eating Disorder Awareness Week. First off, if you haven't listened to this week's episode, stop and go listen ASAP (HERE!).
In the podcast we didn't go too far into our backstories but focused more on a real time update and the continued struggles we've experienced. After the podcast went live I had quite a few people who were curious about how we got to this point and our experience when we were in the darkest parts of our experience.
So I figured why not create a post answering those questions....You can hear/read about my entire story in this post and on The F- Word podcast (episode 15). I also dive into some coping tools and a recovery focused book that I love in this post.
My mom has just recently become a huge part of Crohnically Blonde so has not yet had the chance to share her full story. Diane shared a bit about her past struggles with anorexia and how her struggles and then recovery evolved through having children and then combating Crohn's.
I hope ya'll enjoy what she has to share and I am so excited for her to continue to share her experiences and wisdom with us!
I began my issues with Anorexia in early high school, didn’t seem to have issues in college, resumed my issues after college and seemingly moved beyond my issues a few years after my second daughter was born. While in high school, Anorexia was recognized, but not discussed much and according to what I knew, not many people knew how to deal with it. My best friend was concerned and talked to my parents. I vaguely remember my parents addressing it with me and my dad trying to convince me to eat ice cream.
After college when I got married, I resumed my anorexia. I don’t remember during any of this time anyone ever telling me that I was fat or too big. It was all me. Why? Was there a gene involved? Was it a product of my apparently not so happy childhood? Was it society? Yes. No. I don’t know. I just knew that I had to carefully watch what I ate, make sure I exercised a lot and never got above a certain weight that I had determined was my healthy weight according to my perception of how I looked. And this was a full time job as I thought about it constantly. There were a couple of times that I allowed myself to gain some weight. When I was trying to get pregnant. Because at the lower weight, I didn’t have my period. During this time of trying to get pregnant, being pregnant and after the births during breast feeding, I was still very obsessed about what I ate and how much I exercised. Actually, I weighed my least amount ever when my second daughter was one.
What happened next? I don’t know exactly, but about two years later I sought help for what was diagnosed as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Besides medication, I saw a counselor that helped me through some issues that I didn’t realize I had. I am very good at shutting off parts of my life. Then I didn’t seem to have Anorexia any more.
Really? Okay maybe not Anorexia, but I still had body image issues which I didn’t fully acknowledge for many more years. I raised my girls knowing I had had an eating disorder so was very careful not to let my vocabulary and behavior show this or affect them. I thought I did a good job with that. Well, no I didn’t.
Today, I still have body image issues and now I have Crohns.
This is where in my story Michelle and I pick up to discuss the issues-do you mentally ever get past an eating disorder? How does it evolve as you get older? What about other health issues on top of it? What about social media?"
In honor of Eating Disorder Awareness Week, Diane and I decided to take the plunge and share our truths about ED recovery this week on the podcast.
I started my journey through treatment and towards recovery 8 years ago now and have learned that it is a just that... a journey. There is no magic switch that makes an eating disorder go away, not to mention the havoc that my Crohn's has wreaked on my body image.
It took me a long time to want to share my story so publicly, especially on my own platform, which I know seems weird coming from someone who talks about bowel movements and vomiting like it is my day job. For some reason (which we dive into in the podcast) talking about a mental illness was more difficult for me to address than talking about my physical one.
The topic of ED's and even more the topic of recovery are so near and dear to Diane and I. We've both suffered, fought, been knocked down, gotten back up again, and that is why we share our stories, as uncomfortable as it may be. You're not alone.
Whether you have an ED, have had an ED, know someone who has an ED, or just ever experienced negative self talk and put yourself down because of something related to your body, please give this a listen.
Listen to our stories, feel free to share with us yours, and lets continue to fight this stigma and utilize this community to continue healing.
Stay tuned this week because there are some more blog posts coming about ED related issues, recovery, and a whole lot of realness.
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.