Happy New Year to the Crohnically Blonde fam!
After the amazing year that 2017 was it is going to be hard to top in 2018 but I like to believe that things just keep getting better. I am starting the year off by refocusing my energy on myself, my family, and my passion (this blog!). I've been reading a ton of great material that has helped to get me back in gear and motivated because honestly I have been in SUCH a funk for the last few weeks of 2017. I always get super deep and into my feelings reflecting and critizising every little thing I could have done better which I know, is not cool, I'm trying to stop. I just have this perfectionist attitude that I can't quit!
I've done a lot of reflecting and I've decided to spend January filling my life with relaxation and self love. I know this sounds absolutely nuts because most people spend January kicking their asses into shape at the gym and picking their bodies apart to motivate them to get back in the game. I am not doing that.
Yes, I have health and fitness goals that I am trying to reach, I always do in some way or another but I am including that as part of my self love. I'm not beating myself up to reach my goals, I'm teeing it up in my mind as "how can I love myself more?".
I am all about this.
So I don't know about you, but when I think of myself relaxing I get really stressed out. Weird. I know. I get stressed about all of the things that I could be doing that are productive and all of the successful people who are on the move 24/7 and here I am trying to just watch an hour of The Real Housewives without feeling guilty.
I literally have SUCH a problem with this so I have come up with some cool ways to relax while I am productive. Multitasking at its finest. Now, I know this isn't the best advice. Experts or whatever would probably say, you need to spend X amount of time relaxing per week or day or something but I am just doing what works for me so here we are.
I find the things that bring me joy and relaxation and I pair them with some type of productive activity so that I not only feel productive while relaxing but it also makes me like to do annoying productive tasks that I am trying to complete. (I promise I also do relax fully but that is usually in the form of a bubble bath where I am literally forced to not do anything else but sit in a bathtub).
Here are a few things I like:
These are just a few things that I like to do to relax while still handling the things I have to handle in life. My goal for January is to relax while cleaning my entire house and making a solid plan for the year. Obviously that includes a lot of those tasks above which I am not so thrilled about but I can look forward to it because of the fun/relaxing things I will pair with them.
Below I have included links to a few of my favorite things that relate to this post so definitely take a look and let me know what else you do to relax while being productive AF.
Happy New Year y'all! Let's make it happen.
What I'm Listening To...
On Audible: It's Not Okay
I'm trying to catch up before Andi Dorfman's new book release. This Bachelor Nation alum is spilling everything and as a reality TV lover this book is everything. So entertaining while still light enough to multitask while listening.
Via Podcast: And That's Why We Drink
Ghost stories mixed with true crime mixed with hilarious just about everything... sign me up. One of the hosts also has Crohn's Disease which automatically makes her one of the crew.
What I'm Watching ...
I'm obsessed. It might be a problem. It is full of drama but if you miss 10 minutes it is easy to pick back up. You can binge watch on demand or via Hulu. It will keep you busy while you clean out your whole house, basement, attic, and garage. Promise.
What I'm sitting on...
Accupressure Mat (in hot pink of course). Make sure to grab one of these from Amazon. They have the best selection for great prices.
There has been so much to be thankful for lately between our wedding, quality time with friends and family, and the holiday season. During exciting times of the year it is easy to get wrapped up in the fun and end up over exerting yourself so I have been making a serious conscious effort to keep myself and my health in check.
The thing with Crohn's and any chronic illness really is that it never goes away and even if it seems like it does it can always creep back up. My symptoms are something that are aways with me. On holidays, on vacations, on my wedding day, Crohn's is always the extra guest to the party. I know this sounds super depressing and at first it really was. Over time, though, I have learned to make it work and still enjoy things to the fullest in my own special way.
The reason I wanted to write this post at this time of year was because as I mentioned before it is far too easy to over exert yourself and by time Christmas and New Years come you are too sick and exhausted to celebrate. This used to be highly frustrating for me because I used to love to be at pretty much every social event or party I was invited to which was a lot during the holiday season. Now I've had to cut it back and decide what events are most important and I prioritize how I want to spend my "out" time.
You do get used to it! Your family and friends will start to respect your limits and sometimes it can actually be kind of nice to have to spend an evening snuggled up binge watching Christmas movies. I am extremely thankful for the medications and research that have helped get me to a point where my symptoms are manageable and I am thankful for the doctors who have devoted their life to finding better treatments and hopefully a cure.
Antidote asked me to be a part of a video they released featuring fellow chronic illness bloggers sharing the reasons why they are thankful for medical research. I was very excited to share my candid thoughts and be part of a group of such strong individuals who are fighting each day.
Take a look at the video below and remind yourself why YOU are thankful this holiday season.
If you follow me on social media, you know that Matt and I officially tied the knot a little over a week ago! I wanted to post about it beforehand so badly but was trying hard to keep it under wraps until the day of. We almost made it there until we couldn’t help but to share our excitement. As little rules as people say there are these days around weddings, I have most definitely gotten my fair share of confused glances (and texts) since we let everyone know. I wanted to create a post sharing with everyone WHY we choose to do things this way and to recap the sweet details of our day. Luckily we had our wedding photographer, Madison Short, with us every step of the way to document the best day of our lives.
First things first, I am not pregnant. Everyone keeps asking me this and I have to set the record straight here once and for all. We had always talked about doing a small wedding since we first decided we were going to get married. Of course things escalated and I wanted to have an intimate ceremony but a bigger party as well. Nothing with me is ever simple so instead of deciding on one we decided to do both. As I mentioned in my post before, my health insurance was a big reason for us needing to tie the knot ASAP once we officially knew we were going to get married. The financial incentive for making it official in 2017 was also increased because we bought our house this year. Tax returns, hello. Anyway, we decided that it would be great to have an intimate ceremony with only our immediate family and then we’d have the party/renewal ceremony next summer. That would give us the best of both worlds- getting married, legally, when it makes most sense but still having the time to plan our dream big day.
On a completely unreasonable note, having two ceremonies gave me the opportunity to live out my wedding dreams in multiple seasons. This is ridiculous, I know, but from the start I couldn’t decide between a winter or a summer wedding so now I got both. We set the date strategically in November, before the holidays (and around the health insurance!) so that our immediate family would be able to attend. Matt’s mom suggested that we do it inside of a restaurant so that we wouldn’t have to worry about bad weather. This actually turned out to be amazing that we went with that option because it happened to be the coldest day of the year so far.
LOCATION + FOOD
We chose to have the location be Petit Louis in Columbia, MD, per recommendation from my mom. The food is absolutely amazing and the French theme was chic and right up my alley. We rented out a room that perfectly fit our 17 guests and had room for us to do our mini ceremony right in front of the table. We opted for a 1pm start time so we had our picks from their lunch menu. For food we had stationary cheese plates and a choice of soup or salad to start. The main course had four different French inspired options and for dessert there were three delicious options including my favorites the chocolate mousse and the crème brûlée. They were so accommodating with many attendees being gluten free and one vegan. They made sure to keep all of our glasses forever full with champagne and our wine selections.
One of the reasons why we choose Petit Louis (besides the amazing food and cool décor) was because it is right on Lake Kittamaqundi which is beautiful in the fall. We did our first look out on the pier and had a ton of pictures with an autumn inspired backdrop. Even though it was cold, we couldn’t have asked for a better day.
Décor is a big deal to me. We were lucky because the restaurant already is very beautiful and has a great fall color palette so we were working with a good canvas. My stepmom, Mona, is a florist extraordinaire so she created two beautiful arrangements for the table, my bouquet , and a boutonnière for Matt. The colors were amazing and went so well with the vibe I was going for.
I also really wanted to have some other little details that show our personalities. We had beautiful champagne glasses and a cake cutting set that Matt’s mom got for us which totally added a personal touch and are great to have at home as reminders of our amazing day. We wanted to have a cake just to cut but didn’t need it to be served to everyone (the crème brûlée was indulgent enough) so we went for a tiny gluten free naked cake from Kupcakes and Co. Matt picked out the cake topper and I thought it was such a perfect representation of our little family! If the dogs couldn’t be there in person at least they were on the cake!
MY OUTFIT + DETAILS
It took me longer to decide on my dress for this day than it did my actual, full out wedding dress for July. I wanted to wear something that would wow Matt but I didn’t want it to be similar to my actual wedding dress. I cycled through white dress after white dress but everything was either too summery or just not me. My mom suggested to go for something gold and at first I was not into the idea. When I thought about it more I fell in love with the idea and then this dress. It was comfortable, not insanely pricey, and actually something that I can see myself wearing again. Maybe for an anniversary date night?
Part of what I always pictured for a fall/winter wedding was having some cozy fur to wrap myself in. I found a few from BHLDN that I liked but wasn’t keen on spending the money on one. My mom remembered that she had a fur stole that was passed down from my grandmother. It was absolutely perfect and was a great way to make me feel like my grandma who I was so close with was there to enjoy the day with us. I also wore her pearl bracelet. Something old and something borrowed. Check.
My grandma was such a huge part of my mom and my life so it really was so special that we incorporated some of her pieces. She always loved fashion so much so it really seemed fitting. My mom surprised me the night before the ceremony with a jewelry box and locket with an angel that had photos of both her and my grandma in it. I, of course, was sobbing and so in love with this gift that allows me to keep these two strong women, who I admire, close to my heart.
My other jewelry was from Kate Spade (earrings) and from Kendra Scott (necklace). These were my something new and something blue. My shoes were also something new and definitely were a showstopper in my opinion. Originally I was just going to wear plain nude heels until my best friend Kelli told me that I should get some killer heels and wear them for both events. Any reason to justify a Badgley Mischka purchase and I am sold. I also choose some new perfume and went with Kate Spade’s Walk On Air which is delicate, fresh and now reminds me of how amazing that day was.
Hair and makeup wise I am pretty low maintenance. No really, I swear. I actually did my makeup trial with my friend Shauna the morning of the ceremony. She always does an amazing job and this was actually my first time getting airbrush makeup done professionally. It lasted from 6am when I got it done until literally 10pm when I took it off. I was AMAZED. Worth the money for sure. Lauren at Dakota Salon is my regular hair stylist so she knows exactly how to make my super fine hair look luscious. She threw some clip in extensions in and we went for a soft, romantic look that was different enough from what I am going to have for the July wedding. It was nice because it didn’t feel too overdone but still made me feel absolutely beautiful.
We didn’t want Matt to be too dressed up but we wanted him to look sharp and feel great. Cue J. Crew. His shirt, pants, and tie are all from J. Crew and not only fit him great but are actually things he will wear again (expect a repeat performance at my company Christmas party). It didn’t make sense to invest in a super nice suit for one day when he already was going to have to get another one for July. Since he wears scrubs to work every day it isn’t like he would get great use out of all of these suits! He really liked what he was wearing and it made him feel confident and comfortable which was the most important thing. He invested in some nice dress shoes from Nordstrom Rack because he can wear these for multiple occasions including the wedding in July! At first we were unsure about doing a boutonnière but Mona made a game time decision to include one and I am so happy that she did.
THE LOVEY STUFF
The whole day was absolutely perfect. Being able to say our vows to each other in such an intimate setting was perfect. I didn’t know how nervous I was going to be to speak in front of everyone! I think it was the whole emotions piece of it that gave me butterflies. Matt’s mom performed the ceremony and it was absolutely beautiful. I think pretty much everyone in the room teared up. We decided to do a first look because we spent the night apart from each other and wanted a moment to just be with each other before everything started. I tapped him on the shoulder and he turned around with the most genuine smile I had ever seen. I told him to ‘bend the knee’ because we were joking that I looked like a Khaleesi/ Jon Snow mash up with my long blonde hair and fur. We were cracking up like only us nerdy GOT lovers would.
WHY WE LOVED IT
This way of tying the knot was absolutely perfect for Matt and me. We get the best of both worlds, celebrating in a low key and intimate way but also being able to bring our extended family and friends together to celebrate with food, drinks, music, and a ton of laughs. We wanted to make sure the party for everyone was exactly how we want it to be so we did not want to rush it and move up the timeline of everything. I was so worried that people would be offended that they weren’t invited to this ceremony but that wasn’t a good reason to change my whole plan. We had such a great time just truly celebrating our love and now I feel like we can relax and really let loose when the time comes in July.
Thank you to everyone who made our ceremony so special through planning, attending, and supporting Matt and I through everything. We appreciate everything more than words can even express and we are so blessed to have a team of supportive people in our lives as we begin this new chapter together. As for our family and friends who we didn’t have the chance to celebrate with yet, we look forward to #PickensIDoRoundTwo in July 2018!
I hope you guys enjoyed this recap and I hope this shed some light onto what the heck I have been up to instead of creating content recently. Things will resume to normal now…until round two comes along, and I will continue sharing my planning stories and tips in my new series. I received so many encouraging and congratulatory messages from you all on social media and I appreciate it infinitely. Crohnically Blonde is officially a married woman!
The past three and a half months have been a total whirlwind to say the least. Being engaged is both the happiest and craziest time you can ever imagine. While, in theory, being engaged is between you and your partner, it really ends up being a time where your friends and family rally around you in excitement about what is soon to be the biggest and most exciting commitment of your life.
Now Matt and I have such a funny love story, which you should hear about in our upcoming podcast but we never were going for a fairytale wedding situation… ironic considering the whole Disney proposal thing. Since the day we decided we were going to get married we actually were convinced that we were going to elope on an island somewhere. As things actually started to get real, we realized that we so badly wanted our closest friends and family there and it just wasn't feasible to do the destination thing. So we decided to do a small wedding that was going to be focused on us spending time with the people we loved who were supporting us on our new journey and overall just having a damn good time. That being said we still have about 100 people that we want to celebrate with us which can really add up price wise. Also, as superficial as this sounds, it is the truth; I love décor, I love details, and I like everything in my vision to be just right. This comes with a price tag. Especially after working for a wedding planner in the past, my standards of “the perfect big day” some could say are a bit unrealistic for what cash I actually want to (and can) shell out. With us just buying our first home, my medical bills being sky high, and us wanting to travel the world before starting a family in the next few years, we have been determined to create our perfect big day on a budget that is actually realistic. For the past three months I have been working with Matt and my closest family and friends to plan an event that is going to be budget friendly, beautiful, and so freaking fun.
This is where a lot of my time has been taken up where I would usually be spending it blogging and I was super stressed about my lack on contributions to Crohnically Blonde. Matt (he’s so smart that’s why I love him) suggested that I start sharing my experiences of wedding planning through the blog because there have to be some other people out there that are going through the same thing. Duh. Thank you fiancé. So that is where this series of posts started. I want to share with you guys my planning journey in hopes that it can inspire or help you. Learn from my mistakes and please take my successes and use them for your own big day.
To start off this series I wanted to rewind back to right when Matt popped the question. After the shock and the love and the tears and all of that jazz happened it set in…. I’m engaged, what the heck do I do now?
I definitely thought that and I panicked a little inside. I could not have written this post until I was out of the initial couple month storm of craziness. Now looking back I can organize my thoughts and break down what exactly I would recommend to myself (or any of you) right after you are officially engaged.
First piece of advice….
Don’t immediately share on social media.
I know coming from me who lives and breathes Instagram this may come as a shock. I always thought that I would be Instagramming my ring ASAP as soon as that thing was on my finger. I actually waited until the afternoon the day after to announce our big news. Not a huge gap of time but enough time for us to just enjoy each other and be happy living in the moment. This also gave us a chance to tell our families and our closest friends first so that they would see if before the rest of the internet. Once I posted I was flooded with well wishes online, via text, and by phone call. It was a lot to handle and while I am so thankful, it was nice to have that special time where it was just Matt and I celebrating our commitment. For a short while it is your own sweet, romantic secret.
Figure out if you have a deadline.
Okay, now this one sounds weird but it is really helpful. Is there a certain time that you want to be married by/need to be married by? Example for me: my health insurance was about to be dunzo so I knew the sooner the better. This helped me to craft a timeline of when the actual ceremony needed to happen and helped me narrow down venues. If there was a venue that would be booked two years out, that was going to be a hard no for me (and also most likely out of my price range). If there is a “deadline” per say then that may force you to get a little creative which sometimes can turn out to produce the best events. Knowing that we were setting a date for less than/a year out meant that I had to start booking things almost immediately after returning from our trip (where we got engaged). Now this doesn’t mean to start going crazy and booking every single thing right away but you need to lock down the things that are really important to you so you don’t miss out. That brings me to my next tip.
What are the elements of your wedding that are most important to you and your S.O. For me I know my photographer was #1 and I would take out a second mortgage on my house if I needed to get the one I wanted (just kidding but like am I kidding?). Shout out Maddison Short. Matt’s number one thing was having a really good DJ. Knowing that those two things were so important and “make or breaks” as I like to call them for the big day, we booked these vendors first and actually planned our date around when they were free. We got super lucky in this situation because my sister’s big in her sorority is the wedding photographer I wanted so she was flexible with us and our DJ is one of my college friends who is a professional DJ. Things just worked out here which I couldn’t be more thankful for but seriously if the vendors you want are in high demand (which ours definitely were) you need to lock them down ASAP.
Figure out who your wedding party is going to be and ask them.
I think this is so important to do early on because part of the planning is the fun of bouncing ideas off your girlfriends and also part of the benefit is they help to take some of the stress away. I asked my bridesmaids pretty soon after we got engaged to be in my bridal party and I couldn’t be happier. (There will be a post on how to craft the perfect Bridesmaid Proposal coming up, don’t worry). They will be there to really be invested and help along the way. It also helps to have conversations upfront with members of your bridal party about what you expect from them. For example, my MOH is my sister Amanda. She also happens to be in her last year of college and is totally swamped. Some of my other bridesmaids are getting married, in dental school, and about to graduate high school this year so that can also be stressful and leave little time for participating in the usual "bridal party activities". My best friend Kelly is in my bridal party and while she is not officially the MOH she has taken on a lot of the helpful planning duties. I explained the situation to her from the start and she has been a huge help taking the stress off of my MOH. Being a bridesmaid shouldn’t be a burdening experience so make sure you are communicating and being as open as possible about your expectations the whole way and hearing them out if they say they need some help from other members of the party or your family.
Whether you are on the groom side or the bride side, another perk of asking your party early is that you can start planning the Bachelor/Bachelorette parties early. This means watching out for deals, maybe getting early booking discounts, and planning ahead so the maximum amount of people can come.
Find someone who has been there and done that recently.
This isn’t always and option but I really have found this to be helpful. I have a few friends who have gotten married in the past few years that I have been bouncing ideas off of like crazy. They know those little things that you wouldn’t even think of… I mean, event insurance?! They also have great referrals and I am a firm believer that referrals are the best way to find vendors. There are things that I know from working in the wedding planning business but when you are piecing things together on a way tighter budget, things have to get a little more strategic and creative. That is where utilizing what these friends have done and their experiences can make your life a lot easier. Also, they keep you sane because they know how ridiculous this process can be. It was my married friend that introduced me to Natural Calm, coincidence? I think not.
I am OCD about just about everything so getting organized was one of the first things that I did. I am going to do a whole post on just exactly how I organized things in case you want to use my “model” but however you do it I suggest you make it fun. I picked up a bunch of super cute office supplies from Target to use and went to town. There are so many moving parts to a wedding and more contracts for different vendors than you will ever see in your life so being organized is so crucial. This also helps you to make sure you are on time with payments and not irritating vendors because you realize you forget to cut them that check you owe! Even though I have a Pinterest board (multiple, let’s be real), I also like printing out inspiration photos and collages so I can see everything together. Kind of a waste of paper but that is just how my brain works. There are plenty of actual planners that are specifically for wedding planning which are great if you want a separate book. For me I integrate everything with my Day Designer that I use regularly so I am seeing my upcoming “to do’s” every day and not falling behind. Another tool that I love is the wedding checklist on The Knot. I haven’t exactly followed the timeline of when to get things done (I’ve been early, overachieving AF) but it is a great reminder of little things that I would have definitely forgotten if they weren’t on the list.
My last piece of advice for those few months following your engagement and really up until your day of (and beyond) is...
Don’t forget about your partner.
Things can get really crazy. There is a ton of attention on you from friends and family which is great because they love you and want to celebrate, but don’t forget the reason why you are celebrating. You have to make sure you aren’t getting too caught up in the planning and decision making that you neglect your S.O. When it all comes down to it, the wedding is one, literally one day, of your life. Your marriage is forever so cherish this time that you have before your big day to really remember why you are so excited to spend the rest of your life with this human.
I hope these few tips have helped/will help you all! I wish I would have know all of these tidbits a few months ago! As I said before I can't wait to keep sharing my planning experience with you. You shouldn't just expect the basic bridal blog topics though. I want to touch on some things that maybe aren't the happiest part of the experience because someone needs to put it out there. I'm talking- body image/trying on wedding dresses, managing expectations (and opinions) or those around you, and anxiety of being sick on your big day (chronic illnesses are the ultimate wedding crashers). Of course we will also touch on some lighthearted topics which I'm super excited about to: bridesmaid proposals, choosing a caterer, how to get organized with your planning, and why you don't have to (and probably shouldn't) do everything by the book.
As always, if there is anything that you are excited to hear about, shoot me and email or message on Instagram and I will make sure to add it to a post soon.
In light of the recent, devastating hurricane I have teamed up to help promote Knack's efforts to Uplift Houston and give back to the community. There are endless families and individuals that are displaced, waiting in shelters to rebuild their lives, and mourning the loss of what they once called their home. Knack is doing what they can to give back and ease the pain of those suffering. By purchasing one of their three Uplift Houston gift boxes, they will donate an identical box to a hurricane survivor in need or provide a monetary donation of equal value to a shelter.
I think this is such a cool way to donate and honestly it is such an easy way to make an impact. The boxes range from $81- $136 and not only are you donating but you are also getting a box for yourself. I know that we shouldn't need personal incentives to help our fellow humans who are struggling but this is a great way to take advantage of a special gift and give it to someone special who is close to you. In times like this where people have lost their loved ones and are struggling through serious hardships, it is so important that we take an extra moment to appreciate those close to us.
Knack in and of itself is an amazing brand that focuses on lifting up others and conveying how much you care in the perfect way. I love what they are doing for our friends down in Houston so I am urging you to get involved!
The link to the boxes is HERE!
Let me know which box you choose to send!
Crohnically Blonde is sending lots of love and light to those impacted by Hurricane Harvey and those who are in the path of Hurricane Irma.
I have this whole motto where my blog is about kicking chronic illness's ass. Usually I think I am pretty good at it. But recently, I have been getting my ass kicked. I hate admitting that because that's not who I am. I am not someone who spends a long weekend unproductively on the couch. I am not someone who lets physical defeat get me down mentally. But you know what, I am realizing that maybe that has to be a part of who I am now. I exhaust so much mental energy being upset that I am "not productive" or "I'm shitty because I didn't make it to the gym". I am so damn hard on myself. But it is against my nature not to be.
I also get frustrated REALLY easily when things are not in my control or I can't solve a problem. A blessing and a curse I supposed. Recently, a lot has been out of my control. My symptoms have escalated and I am having more bad days than good. The thing is, it isn't my gastro effects of Crohn's that are crippling me from living a normal life. It is the fatigue, joint aches, muscle pain and all of this is just getting worse. I am so thankful that my Remicade has definitely helped my gastrointestinal issues but I can't help but wondering, what else is going on? There has to be something else. There is no physically possible way that a 26 year old should feel this way.
I have went through the motions, gotten blood work done, MRIs, CT scans, sonograms. Somehow I am a perfect specimen of a human on paper now. But my body is telling me otherwise. I thought, maybe I just need to go to the gym more and be more active and my joint pain will go away. Wrong. I made it 30 minutes into a gentle yoga class before my wrists were swollen my knees were aching and my one knee actually gave out when walking down the stairs when I got home. THIS IS RIDICULOUS. Coming from someone who used to frequent 90 minute intense hot yoga classes, frequented other classes at my local gym, and have a serious collection of Piyo programs that I loved to do at home, this was a wake up call. Even during periods of time where I wasn't working out as frequently I could drop in for a HIIT class and hold my own, and now I can't even make it through a damn gentle flow yoga class?!
I scoured through my blood work to see if there were any signs of something that maybe my doctor was missing when she told me everything was "fine". I also in a fit of range sent her a probably not so nice message explaining that "fine" is not what I would use to describe my situation right now. I am not blind to the fact that with one autoimmune often comes others. Many doctors have speculated there is something else that is going on behind the scenes but they have never been able to pinpoint it. I have a recommendation to go see a Rheumatologist which I supposed I should but somehow I feel like its just another dead end. I have been frantically researching my symptoms (I'm long past being concerned about when WebMD says I'm on the brink of death), and have found some theories that I will share as I go through this journey of, hopefully, diagnosing what else is going on. I am not only going to see the recommended Rheumatologist but also a specific Lyme literate doctor as well so I can make sure I am covering all bases.
I have some theories of my own which I don't want to share until I am sure, but let this serve as another example of why taking control of your own health and doing your own research is so crucial. You have to be your own advocate.
I will make sure to keep you guys along on this journey with me and as always I appreciate anything that you guys have to say as far as questions or comments. If you have been in this similar situations and have stories of your diagnosis I would LOVE to hear those stories and pieces of advice as well.
I do also have to close this post out with addressing the mental impact that this whole thing can have. It can literally make you feel crazy because on paper you seem fine but you aren't! People start to act like it is all in your head. But it isn't. I know that, other Spoonies know that, and what has helped me so much in staying sane through this is leaning on the online support community and hearing about other people's similar situations. Us chronic illness fighters have to stick together and support each other, which comes back to the reason why I started Crohnically Blonde in the first place.
Well hello everyone, it has been a while hasn't it? Before getting back into the posts that I have planned I wanted to give ya'll an update on life since I know it has been a couple of weeks since I have checked in on the blog. If you follow me on Instagram (@crohnicallyblonde) you know that I was just on vacation in Disney World for a week. My goal going into my vacation was to be really present and not focus so much on documenting in the moment. I did gather a lot of good stuff that I want to share, just I want to share it now that I am back instead of using that precious time with Matt and my family to do so!
Also, kind of a big deal.....
I GOT ENGAGED!
Yup! So excited and so in love. I won't get all mushy but I am so incredibly excited to spend my life with Matt and be a part of the Pickens family! It honestly is the most amazing feeling to know that you are committing to standby, support, laugh with, and experience all of life's adventures with your best friend.
All of that being said, I have spent the past week that I have been back in Maryland sharing this beautiful time with my family and friends and just soaking in all of the excitement and love that is around us.
I have loved hearing from you all on Instagram and your kind words are so appreciated. I am excited for this new chapter of life and I am so excited to bring you guys along on the journey. Holy shit.... I HAVE TO PLAN A WEDDING!
I want to first give a shout out to Brandon Cobian Photography who took these amazing photos (and many more to come on the blog). He is currently shooting in the Baltimore area so make sure to get in touch a book something. He has some serious skills and even got Matt to smile during our shoot! Ha!
Having a pretty and cohesive Instagram feed has always been something that has been important to me since the day I realized Instagram was a public facing social media platform that could build your brand. It was a freaking epiphany when I realized it was not just for editing weird pictures of my shitty makeup job or some blurry photo of my college friends and I “just being basic LOL”.
Instagram has evolved from being a glorified, old school Facebook album with filters to being a serious place where you can build your brand, your career, and actually make a lot of money from it.
Now, I am not saying I am an expert by any means, my account, my brand, and my blog are most definitely a work in progress but what I can tell you is, part of building something is the discovery along the way. And part of MY brand is sharing with you the tips and tricks that I uncover. This is actually part of the reason why I didn’t created a new Instagram account for my brand, I just changed my personal one over to @crohnicallyblonde. Why the EFF would I want all of my new followers at 26 years old to see the photos that I thought 19 year old me thought were worthy of Instagram? Well friends, it was a different time back then. Instagram has evolved, and so have I. But I have always had hustle. If you scroll back (not encouraging this but if you want to, be my guest) my Instagram was full of random photos of things that I bought at Nordstrom Rack (or wanted to buy because I was too poor) and where to get them and often their price.
My feed had a ton of makeup posts that shared reviews on the makeup in a super candid real way. Example: I post a hot selfie of myself and talk about Naked Skin foundation by Urban Decay that just came out. Yeah I wanted to post me looking good on a Friday night but I actually was providing people with value. This was actually so on brand for what I was doing back then because I was in makeup sales for almost 5 years, before the days of heavy social media marketing. I had a beauty blog called Beautybombbb (throwback) where I talked about makeup and clothes in a very real and relatable way but never marketed it. I had a decent following of people but I didn’t commit enough to succeed in such and over saturated market. The whole point is, I left this stuff up on my Instagram and I want my followers who stalk the shit out of my account to see that I didn’t just one day wake up and decide to start a blog and an Instagram and BOOM everything is pretty and beautiful. No, there was work and years of practice and honing in and trying out every new app until you find the ones that you like for editing and planning. Plus I kind of like where I came from because it makes me appreciate how far I have come creatively. I like to look back and see how my aesthetic has evolved and matured into what Crohnically Blonde is today. And guess what, it will continue changing an evolving so stay tuned.
What I DO want to share with you guys today are some of the tricks that I have picked up along my blogging/Instagram journey.
1. YOU HAVE TO TAKE BEAUTIFUL PHOTOS THAT MATCH YOUR BRAND
I know this seems so basic that it is insulting that this is one of my tips but it is SO true. Beautiful photos are key because those are the ones more likely to get liked, commented on, and reposted. That is just the truth in it. Lucky for you, you don’t need to have a professional grade camera to take heart eye emoji worthy shots. So many people (myself included) who are starting out building their Instagram feed shot their content with their iPhone. My dad who is a photographer said that more and more professional photographers even are posting iPhone images in their professional feeds because of the high quality that you can achieve. This doesn’t mean that you can just snap a photo on your iPhone and call it great content. You have to think about the composition of the photo, the lighting, and the focus of the photo. It requires practice to get it right. To address the matching your brand piece, this means that you are shooting and editing to match the style of your brand as far as color, tone, products, layout, and everything else that plays into it.
2. Have tried and true editing apps and saved setting/filters for a cohesive look
Does anyone use the filters on the actual Instagram app anymore? This one is huge since there are so many apps out now that are competing to catch your eye. Once you narrow down a few, you figure out your editing process and you can save your settings to make sure your photos are all pretty cohesively edited.
A few of my favorites of the moment are:
Facetune- Not to make you look like a Bratz doll… no no no. I use this app for whitening my whites in photos and lightening up a picture. You use the whiten tool that you would actually use for teeth whitening and use it on your background/feature product. I love this trick for flat lays. This trick has been a total game changer for my feed as far as making photos flow and look like they are part of the same series even if I am shooting in different environments.
ColorStory- I love this app mainly for the tools that you can use to edit curves, exposure, tone, and much more in a photo. You can also save your preferred settings and use them again as a default filter for future pictures. They also have some cool filters that I like as well if I lessen the intensity to about 50% or so.
Looksee- They have some cool filters, specifically for nature and food that I like to take into ColorStory to edit the lighting afterwards.I also like that they have celebrities/influencers create filters that you can purchase for a couple of dollars.
Word Swag- I just recently discovered this app for quotes and I LOVE it. You can use their pre made backgrounds or use your own photo and put quotes of top of them. The quotes can be in a variety of different fonts, layouts, spacing, and styles most of which are pretty well designed. I love this app for making content for Instagram stories and making quote blocks to post that aren’t pulled from Pinterest like everyone else’s.
3. what value are you adding with this post?
My rule is that I try to make 50% of the photos I post on Instagram add value in one way or another. Pretty pictures are great but if they aren’t backed by content they can only take you so far. To me a “value driven post” is a post that is either sharing information about a place/product that your audience will be interested in, sharing a tip, trick, or recipe, or promoting your other forms of content (ie. blog, podcast).The reason why I go for around 50% is because my brand isn’t just about products and blog posts, it is about getting to know me in my natural habitat, knowing my boyfriend, my dogs, my life. If you are all business then it hurts your likeability, authenticity, and people’s ability to relate to you. I do make sure to try and pose a question in my captions to get followers engaged, especially on photos where there isn’t necessarily a direct value add.
4. Make sure your aesthetic carries over to your blog as well
This one is kind of a no brainer but I have to mention it. Make sure the aesthetic of your Instagram matches that of your blog so that users know what they are getting into. If you have a dark and moody Instagram aesthetic and then your blog is light and pink and girly this causes a disconnect in your brand an confuses readers.
5. PRODUCT ENDORSEMENTS- MAKE SURE YOU ACTUALLY LIKE THE PRODUCT/ IT IS BRAND COHESIVE
I like doing product endorsements and reviews. I actually love it. I love being able to influence buying behavior through social media and I love having the opportunity to try new products. That being said, I only do endorsements or ads for products that align with my vision, mission, and brand. Sometimes brands don’t think before they reach out or they don’t do their research. For example, I’ve been asked to partner with brands to promote products that clearly contain gluten. How in the world am I supposed to try and genuinely endorse a product that I can’t even try?! As cool as the paycheck or free stuff can be, if you start filling your feed with BS products that don’t fit with your brand, you lose buy in from your followers. In addition, make sure that if you do agree to endorse a product you can put your own spin on the post both aesthetically and you can use your own words to describe your authentic experience. I just did a post for Roam Fitness and I loved how they handled it. They gave me creative freedom to pretty much do whatever I wanted and it turned into a really informative and authentic post that people responded to.
6. Plan your feed to be aesthetically pleasing and read like a story
I never used to plan my Instagram posts out but the more OCD I get about how it looks the more serious I get. Make sure you are thinking about how the sequence of your photos looks and how the story will flow to your followers. Make sure it is cohesive but also has a healthy mix of content. I use an app Postvu to upload potential posts and arrange them to see how they will look in my feed.
7. Utilize insta story to build your brand
This is something that is newly important due to the increasing popularity of story mode. Utilize your Insta Story to share behind the scenes content and show the more authentic and less curated version of yourself so that your followers can get to know the real you. This is something that I am working on because I am so bad about remembering to do stories. Putting this on my goals list! I love when bloggers and Instagramers that I like put up tidbits of behind the scenes, easily digestible content.
8. Don't make everything so curated that it seems fake
As much as I love a good Instagram feed that is aesthetically pleasing, you have to have a sense of human in your posts. Everything in your life isn’t perfect. If it is then good for you, you are literally the first person ever who can say that. Showcase the realness of your life and the little imperfections. You can do this with photos, with the stories you tell in your captions, or you Insta Story.
As I said before, my brand is still a work in progress but I wanted to share my tricks with you that I have discovered so far. I am so obsessed with the art of social media and human consumption of content. I read so many books about it, listen to podcasts, read articles, it just excites me. I hope this post adds value to you guys and if you have any questions about the apps I mentioned or any of the advice I shared please don’t hesitate to reach out.
Happy Monday everyone! Today I am mixing things up because The Brunette Blend tagged me in a cool "How Well Do You Know Me" challenge. The gist is, I answer the 11 questions that she created, create 11 new questions, and tag 11 more bloggers to answer those questions. The trail continues on and on. I think this is such a cool way to connect bloggers and introduce readers to other bloggers with similar taste! This also really reminds me of the quizzes that everyone would post on their MySpace pages #throwback. Please tell me that someone else remembers that....
Here goes nothing!
1. Let’s get this out of the way ASAP. *N Y S Y N C or Backstreet Boys?
Ugh, wait... why is this question so hard. I was a Backstreet Boys girl through and through but I do have to say I love me some JT.
2. Has your blog changed directions since you started?
I actually started my blog during my freshman year of college with a totally different direction. I started off as mainly a beauty/ lifestyle blog because I was in makeup sales throughout college. I went on a hiatus for a bit and came back with Crohnically Blonde which is a concept I am absolutely in love with. I still incorporate a lot of beauty and fashion but that isn't my main focus.
3. Who inspires you to be better?
I know this sounds corny but my boyfriend Matt really inspires me. I see how hard he works to provide for our family and allow us to live great lives. He supports me 110% in my full time job and with all of my blog goals as well. He gives me genuine feedback and always has my best interest at heart. He not only encourages me to be great in my career but also in my personal life. He encourages me to slow down and enjoy the little things, especially our family.
4. What is one thing you couldn’t live without?
My Day Designer. I swear this thing keeps me sane. No matter how much I try and integrate my plans into my phone/Outlook calendar I HAVE to write things down. Whether it is appointments or a "to do list" I can't resist crossing things off in my planner once I complete a task.
5. What is your social media platform of choice?
6. What is the first thing you do in the morning?
Pet both of my dogs and give them a kiss. Usually Charleston sleeps above my head and Rhaegar is near my feet. It just sets the tone of my morning giving the pups a little love.
7. What have you learned from blogging?
I've learned the power of sharing your story. I never realized how impactful the things that have shaped me in my life can be to others. Never be afraid to share.
8. What was the last photo you took?
My mail from The Skinny Confidential <3
9. What movie do you quote on a regular basis?
Not a movie but usually Vanderpump Rules. I'm the devil and don't you forget it.
10. What is one of your beauty tips or hacks?
I'm going to do a blog post on this but I use CBD oil on my face for anti-aging/moisturizing benefits. I have a roll on that I originally was using for my jaw pain at night but when I started to realize the skin where I was applying it was smoother and clearer than the rest of my face I realized I was onto something. I use it all over my face every couple of nights and put it on breakouts too. This works especially well to prevent over drying from acne treatments. Here's the scoop -- I use this face mask (its really great for cystic acne too!). I usually leave it on overnight which you aren't supposed to do and can be a bit drying but it definitely does the job of clearing things up. I follow it up with some topical CBD oil which is moisturizing and has healing benefits. Seriously guys, you must try.
11. What are the three things that ALWAYS make it into your grocery cart?
Sparkling water, avocados, Halo Top (Birthday Cake flavor)
Annie from The Californienne
Raquel from Sincerely Nourished
Melissa from Simply Meli
Shannon from Sunny Coastlines
Julianna from Barre to Table
Sam from The Salty Twig
Michelle from Millennial Mom Life Crisis
Amanda from Cashmere And Jeans
Shelly from Arizona Girl
Hannah from Blissfully Brunette
Amanda from Fashion to Follow
My 11 questions are....
1. What is one beauty product you can't live without?
2. What inspired you to start your blogging journey?
3. What is your favorite blog post that you have ever done? Make sure to link to it!
4. What was the last book you read?
5. What is your go to brunch order?
6. What is your guilty pleasure TV show?
7. If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
8. What is your favorite movie ever?
9. What is the biggest take away that you have learned from blogging?
10. What motivates you when you are having a bad day?
11. What is one word or phrase that you use way to much but just can't stop?
Things have been crazy this past week! And I can't wait to tell you all about it.....
So first off, it was the week before my Remicade infusion so I was not feeling so hot. On Monday we were scheduled to FINALLY get our AC replaced in our house after three excruciating weeks of waiting. I came home from work a bit early to meet the repair technician and was greeted by two completely destroyed TV remotes all over our bed.
My two little troublemakers ATE, literally ATE TWO REMOTES. This was so ridiculous because we've been leaving them out of the crate for almost a month now with no issues. Luckily, they didn't eat the batteries so it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought but I did end up spending six hours between the regular vet and the vet ER with Rhaegar who was the main culprit. After a pretty penny spent on getting him back to normal, I am happy to say him and Charleston are okay and healthy but they did lose their privilege of roaming free while we are at work.
Other good news, we did finally get our AC replaced thanks to my dad and stepmom coming through and helping out with that while I was at the vet all afternoon. We have a cool new Nest thermostat and a completely new AC system that should last us for a long, long time (or at least it better).
Needless to say, we were pretty exhausted by time Fourth of July rolled around so we kept things low key and had family dinner at my parent's house which was relaxing and a great opportunity to catch up with them.
Other than that I have been keeping things superrrrrr chill this week in preparation for my Remicade appointment yesterday. I wanted to give you all an update on that as well. This was my fourth treatment and I was hoping to get some more answers after my inconclusive hospital visit a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, there isn't much that can be done differently. I am off of the steroids because they cause some major sleeping issues for me and I started two new antacids which I haven't tried before so hopefully I will see a difference with those. My doctor also moved up my Remicade to be only 7 weeks apart instead of 8 weeks which will hopefully help me avoid that hardcore crash during that last week. Have any of you guys seen luck with changing the schedule around a bit?
Overall, I think the Remicade has been a lot better for me and more effective than the Cimzia but I still am not back to my best self. I think with Remicade the times that I feel well I feel a lot better than usual but the times when I don't feel well are the lowest of lows. Sometimes I don't know what is better: to feel really high and really low or to just feel low grade shitty all the time? Only time will tell if this is going to be the long term solution to my case of Crohn's.
I also am supposed to go BACK onto the Keto diet which I was originally on and then off because of the liquid diet/hospital situation and now I guess it is back on. I am definitely going to have to get things back in check over these next two weeks before I leave for vacation because the last thing I want to do is spend my entire time in Disney being sick.
I've been doing a ton of research about the different restaurants that Matt and I have booked for our trip and lucky for me, Disney is incredibly accommodating of dietary restrictions. I've seen some blogs about the different options that they offer as well, which has been super helpful. I am going to try and document what I am eating while I am there and share the different options that are offered in hopes of helping other people who have dietary restrictions and are trying to enjoy Disney World as well.
I seem to get a lot of positive feedback on my travel posts so I will make sure to document everything that I am doing with packing, eating, preparing, researching, all of that good stuff. So be on the lookout for that!
I will be spending the rest of this weekend while I am feeling under the weather from my Remicade, creating some new content and responding to any emails that I have gotten from you guys! There are some pretty exciting things that I have in the works and some collaborations that I can't wait to share with you all. Just stay tuned! Now that I should be feeling better in a few days we are back in business.
Something that I don't think I've ever addressed is what the weekend after Remicade actually looks like. I think people assume it is a lot of stomach issues that make someone sick after getting the infusion. It makes sense to think that because that is usually the case but this version of feeling under the weather is a totally different breed. Your joints ache, it is impossible to get comfortable, and it feels like you are running a fever constantly. I feel like I can never drink enough water to feel not dehydrated and I develop a cause of perpetual sore throat. Usually the first night I fall asleep decently early but wake up in the middle of the night with aches and pains that I can't get rid of. By time I get back to sleep it is usually on and off with some really strange dreams which aren't a proven side effect but I SWEAR I dream the weirdest shit after Remicade days. I end up sleeping (or at least laying in bed) until at least noon which sounds like it would be nice but not when you are insanely uncomfortable. After being up for 3-4 hours just sitting on my sofa I start to crash again and have to retreat to bed or curl up with a blanket and Netflix. I usually like to read when I don't feel well but my eyes literally ache for a few days after Remicade so I can only read in small segments of time. I am irritable and cranky and my skin literally hurts to touch. Getting Remicade is basically like having the flu and not being able to do anything about it.
I know to someone who has never experienced this it could potentially sound over dramatic. Well it isn't. It is 100% truth right here.
I personally try and make the best of it by making Remicade weekends special for Matt and I where we rent movies, play board games, and spend hours snuggling with the dogs. It is an excuse to do nothing all weekend which isn't horrible. For the hours when I feel like a functioning human I can be very productive with blog stuff because no one is messing with me!
As always, I am don't share all of this to have people feel bad for what is happening in my treatment, it could be SO much worse, so feel bad for someone who has it a lot worse. I am honest so that if you are going down the path of Remicade you know what to expect. I am honest so that if you are the mom, dad, boyfriend, girlfriend, brother, sister, best friend, coworker, boss, or in anyway in relation to someone who is going through Remicade, you know what that person is going through and maybe you go a little easier on them during the weeks leading up to and following their treatment. So share, share, share this and hopefully the compassion will grow.
I hope you are having a safe and relaxing weekend and I will have another post up for you guys ASAP!
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.