The incoming of summer sunshine reminded me that I was overdue for my annual dermatology appointment. I made an appointment to be seen this Friday and have a nice skin check up to make sure all is well. I never used to put much thought into skin abnormalities because the chances of it being skin cancer seemed so far fetched to me. This was seriously naive behavior considering both of my grandfathers have a history of skin cancer and in college I was visiting the tanning bed like it was my second home. Bad. Idea.
As I took more of an interest in skincare I realized how horribly I was ruining my skin by baking it in the sun. I started lathering up with SPF instead of tanning oil and called it a healthier lifestyle. Once I was diagnosed with Crohn’s, my awareness of the risks of skin cancer heightened. The more research I did, the more I understood the link between Crohn’s and skin cancer. The immunosuppressants us with Crohn’s are often on, can highly increase the likelihood of skin cancer. While the exact reason for this link is not 100% explained yet, the correlation can’t be ignored.
I started lathering SPF 50 all over my face, neck, and hands on the daily. I started covering up my scalp while on walks with my dogs. And I started spending a whole lot more time under the umbrella while on the beach. The risk of skin cancer is not worth a balmy glow I can easily get from a bronzing lotion. Even if you are not at a high risk for skin cancer, the sun is the most damaging thing to your skin. Is it worth getting prematurely wrinkled? I vote no.
All things in the table here, I am a firm believer in regular dermatology evaluations, especially if you have an autoimmune disease/ are on immunosuppressants. No matter how much you do to protect your skin now, you can never be 100% immune to the dangerous effects of UV rays, and sadly, the damage you have done can contribute to problems you may face now or in the future.
Obviously none of us are perfect. There have been days I forget my SPF and there are days I’ve spent too much time in the sun in favor of a good time with friends. I’m not saying you can never allow your skin see the light of day because, let’s get real, that’s super unrealistic. What I am saying though, is that you can do your best to 1. protect your skin and 2. do your due diligence with check ups.
Hopefully I’ll be reporting back after my appointment tomorrow with good news of no skin concerns. Until then, I wanted to leave you all with a few kick ass sunscreen recommendations. These are a few of my favorite products that infuse my love of skincare with the responsibility of protecting my skin.
Drop me a comment and let me know your SPF loaded product recommendations. I’m always in for a good new product to try.
Photo by: Madison Short
Happy Thursday! I'm popping in to give a quick scoop on some fun things I can't get enough of right now. I've been trying to decide a good way to round up things I'm obsessed with for a long time. I'm experimenting with a little recurring feature on the blog to see what we think. So here we go, ready to kick this thing off.
Danny Pellegrino's Podcast, "Everything Iconic"
This podcast is one that I can't get enough of recently. I listen to it while I get ready in the morning, driving to meetings, while I take bubble baths at night, like ALL the time. Danny cracks me the FUCK up and puts me in such a good mood. He recaps Bravo shows (sometimes shows from other networks too) in the most hilarious ways. The best part are his "Danny Detours" where he talks about the most random stories that have me truly crying laughing in my car.
Better Wine Co. Nitro Rose
This stuff is so freaking good. I randomly found it at the liquor store and then realized it was made locally. Like true Maryland pride, ya'll. It's super light and tastes so good. The alcohol level is pretty on par with a can of beer so it is a perfect option for summer day drinks. Since I can't drink beer I always come in too hot with a wine at the pool at noon deal and I'm sleeping by 2pm #canthang. This might be the answer, but also, two cans of these and I'm still asleep, so who knows.
#JackieOFlow Instagram Presets
MY GIRL. Jackie O from The Morning Toast (which I am also obsessed with) launched two kick ass sets of Instagram presets to keep the flow good. I bought the indoor set and have been using them like crazy. They have such a bright aesthetic which is refreshing when the Gram seems to be mostly washed out or orange AF these days. 10/10 Highly recommend.
Lancome Monsieur Big Mascara
The mascara I didn't know I wanted, but I needed. I have been on a mascara journey since a year ago when I had the traumatic experience of having to get ride of my lash extensions. I looked like a sad, naked mole rat for a few months and am still trying to recover. My lashes have never been the same and I have been back and forth between mascaras. This is my favorite one yet. Truly it is. Tons of volume and length but not clumpy. Also not cheap, but I'd say worth it. Honestly, if I wasn't three margaritas deep and super sleep deprived on Cinco de Mayo, this purchase probably wouldn't have happened. I am oh so happy it did though.
This should require no explanation. One of my favorite shows to ever grace my television screen. Also, the reason I spend many nights Zillowing houses in Charleston, SC.
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?
Saying a little proactive cheers to the weekend today. I’m counting down the days until this Friday when I’m going on a much needed long weekend girls trip to New York City. Amy Scripts and I are headed to Create & Cultivate. We’ve been dreaming of attending this conference for years and now that we finally have the opportunity, we’re making the most of it with a jam packed weekend in the city that never sleeps. As crazily excited as I am, anytime I look forward to an event, I enter the situation with an overwhelming amount of anxiety that honestly really sucks. There have been countless times that I’ve looked forward to events or trips, only to be hit with a Crohn’s flare or complication that has put a damper on my day. That’s the reality of IBD and while I can’t eliminate the possibility of feeling sick, I can make sure I am armed with the proper tricks up my sleeve to help me stay feeling as good as possible.
I scheduled my Remicade for today (a Tuesday ugh), but I needed to have it before the trip so I’d be feeling as good as possible. I stocked up on all of my prescription and OTC meds to throw in my extra large tote bag. And I’m making sure to throw ample amounts of DripDrop ORS packets in my purse. Everyone has their own way of navigating IBD and for me this is how I do it. I know certain things that will make me sick and avoid them. Then there are other things I have no idea will affect me until my digestive systems makes up its mind that day. When I’m traveling, I’m constantly eating at new places and trying new foods and cocktails. I’ve mentioned this before, but trying out a city’s unique cuisine and cocktails is one of my favorite things. IBD you’re not stopping me from that! I know the chances of me having a reaction to a food I eat out is higher than making something at home, but let’s be real, I’m going to NYC.... girl’s gotta enjoy herself. Where I’m really careful though (and where DripDrop saves me) is in the cocktail department. You know I’m a fan of a rosé or a cold glass of champagne, do not get me wrong, but the dehydration risk really does freak me out..... no matter how many times you see me post #roseallday.
Let me tell you, when you’re already dehydrated (thanks Crohn’s) and indulge in a few alcoholic beverages, things can take a bad turn. Most likely you’ll end up extremely hungover with GI symptoms to boot. Not fun when you’re trying to have a lively girls weekend, not fun when you are trying to make the most of your days exploring a city, and not fun when you are sharing a bathroom. SOS.
That being said, I am not saying see ya to my favorite NYC cocktail spots (While We Were Young and Pietro Nolita, I’m looking at you!). Life is about BALANCE. And enjoying the heck out of yourself when you get a well deserved break. After indulging in a couple beverages I make sure to drink a packet of DripDrop in my water before I go to bed AND when I wake up. This helps me to feel so much better when I get up in the morning and keeps my body from experiencing those negative impacts of dehydration. It’s like my secret weapon for not feeling like a total hungover human. My favorite packets to use in this case are the full serving sticks that you mix into 16oz of water.
This also makes me super popular on group trips because everyone is asking me for DripDrop. How popular now are those services who give you in home IVs to cure your hangover? I’ve basically got that in a little pouch. Dehydration is honestly one of the worst feelings and I’m incredibly happy that I won’t have to deal with that mess this weekend. I’m not saying this means you can go out and get college drunk and feel fine. I’m saying that you can enjoy celebrating with friends, trying cocktails at an event, and trying that bottle of wine you have no idea how to pronounce. You can live life without the constant anxiety of how dehydration will impact you. You can avoid that pit in your stomach that makes you feel like you are going to miss out. You can feel a little more like your 27 year old self who just wants to laugh with her friend at dinner and cheers to celebrating a well deserved weekend off.
Photos by Madison Short
Not going to lie, the blonde part of Crohnically Blonde, definitely takes some upkeep. Especially when you are like me and are insanely specific about the exact tone of blonde you want. Not too warm but not on the gray spectrum, just a nice, icy in between. I don’t ask for much.
The reality behind getting the “perfect” blonde is a lot of wear and tear on your hair. Bleaching, toning, breakage, toning shampoos that can by super drying… I’ll thrown in hair extensions and a high heat curling iron sometimes just to really push things over the edge. I am no stranger to needing some extra TLC on my locks and handling the aftermath of damaged hair.
Since my last hair touch up, I’ve been trying out some new products to help keep my hair looking and feeling its best. Shampoo is something I feel like I never can get 100% right so that has been a big area of focus. I limit the number of times I wash my hair per week to truly the lowest number possible without looking totally unpresentable, so when I DO wash my hair, I want to make sure I am loading it up with good products that actually serve a purpose. Got to multitask.
I have been a long time fan of the purple toning shampoo and tried so many different types and brands. The issue I always run into is, as color perfecting as they are, they are so drying. Recently, I feel like I have discovered the ultimate solution to this situation. It seems simple but it is a total game changer. I have been double shampooing. The first time with whatever toning shampoo I am going to us, and the second time, following up with Maple Holistics Silk18 Shampoo. I let that sit in my hair for a good five minutes and then rinse it out. I am telling you guys this stuff has really smoothed out my hair and made it less prone to tangles and knots.
In the past I have been skeptical about using super nourishing shampoos because I have such fine hair. Sometimes using thick, hydrating products will really weigh it down and make it look greasy. Fortunately, Silk18 doesn’t have that effect. It cleanses your hair to remove build up and then nourishes it with 18 silk amino acids so you are actually “feeding” your hair instead of just piling conditioner on it to smooth it out temporarily.
Pairing Silk18 with any purple shampoo is my go to way to keep my hair color great while keeping it healthy. I also have loved using Silk18 alone and leaving it on for 20 minutes or so when my hair needs some extra loving. I even have used it on my extensions a few times which has really helped to smooth out the ends.
Maple Holistics continues to be a brand I can count on for quality natural products that won’t break the bank. It is less than $20 for a 16 ounce bottle. I highly recommend getting the largest size for sharing purposes…. More on that to come. I have super sensitive skin and have actually broken out in rashes along my hairline from using new shampoos. With this stuff I haven’t had any issues and it feels super soothing on your scalp. You know when you get your hair colored and you scalp feels dry afterwards? Use. This. Stuff. Leave it on for 20 minutes and you will feel so refreshed and the discomfort will be gone.
As I’ve been tracking my results over the past couple of months, I also discovered that when my husband ran out of his shampoo, he started using this too! I am not good at sharing my products but I let this one slide because, to be honest, his hair gets CRAZY in the winter and needs some help. If he was going to use my shampoo he at least needed to report back with his findings. His verdict was that his scalp feels so much better and he is having less dandruff throughout the day. I have noticed his hair looking and feeling smoother and overall it being easier for him to tame and style. I guess it looks like I am Amazon Priming a 16oz bottle to my house ASAP.
I hope this suggestion helps my fellow blondies (and not blondies!!) out, especially going into summer when chlorine and salt water can do a number on your hair. Maple Holistics is also a brand you can feel good purchasing from because they are naturally formulated, have recyclable packaging, and are cruelty free!
Have you tried any other products from Maple Holistics? Any other favorites that I should pick up?
Last Spring/Summer we spent just about every weekend wrapped up in some type of wedding activity. Whether it was planning our wedding, going to a wedding, or recovering from a wedding, we were busy pretty much 24/7. We spent the colder months in hibernation mode, recouping funds, organizing our house, and binge watching a lot of Netflix. Now that the weather is warmer, Matt and I have been looking for weekend activities that are fun, cost effective, and will get us away from our Netflix cave. We’re in that in between phase of adulthood where frequenting the local bar scene is not at the top of our to do list but at the same time we aren’t ready to cart kids around to soccer tournaments. Over the past few weeks, we’ve been trying out a few millennial adult friendly date night ideas that I want to give you the scoop on. Today I’m sharing all of the details on our first date night adventure that had us in tears laughing and totally wanting to do it again.
Luckily this event is available not just in Baltimore, but across the country. We went to a Murder Mystery Dinner hosted by The Murder Mystery Company! My mom has always loved Murder Mysteries so I was beyond excited that we had the opportunity to attend a professional one. Matt on the other hand was a bit skeptical because he thought he would have to act in front of everyone. I assured him this wasn’t the case and told him there would be food and he was sold. We went on a Saturday night to one of the performances that was held at a local Greek restaurant. The theme was “Til Death Do Us Part”, which basically meant the trashiest wedding you could ever imagine. It was great. Dressing up in the most inappropriate wedding attire possible was encouraged. We weren’t sure how much everyone would really commit so we wore regular date night attire and I wish I would have went big! Next time I am totally dressing up. Everyone’s outfits were hilarious and luckily we got there early enough to watch most of the crowd enter and get their “mugshots” taken.
The Murder Mystery troupe had us cracking up from the moment we entered the room and began dropping clues as they seated us at our table. While we chatted with our table-mates (now teammates!) dinner was served and mysterious binders were passed out. A few members of the audience were asked to join in the fun and play a specific character in the murder case (all of the details were in the binder). After the scene was set, a “murder” occurred and the rest of the night was like a live action clue game. I won’t give away specifics in case you want to go to the same show, but we spent the next couple of hours interviewing characters, discovering motives, and bribing our opponents with fake cash. Matt and I couldn’t stop laughing and we thoroughly enjoyed coming up with wild theories on who committed the murder. Through the information we and our teammates gathered, we were able to narrow down the suspects and identified the killer!
The performance and dinner lasted about two and a half hours and we were kept entertained the whole time. During breaks in the performance guests were able to grab drinks from the bar and chat with other dinner guests. It was a perfect mix between dining, entertainment, and spending time together. After years of going to basic dinners for date night, this was a welcome change that got us using our brains and strategizing together. As avid lovers of game nights, this took things to a whole new level with the interactive aspect.
Our final thoughts on the Murder Mystery Dinner:
Our verdict: We will definitely be back again, and introducing our friends to the good time that is The Murder Mystery Company.
If you are local to Baltimore, check out your local showtimes. If you are in another city, check out the shows that are near you! The next theme that the Baltimore crew is doing is “Death of a Gangster”. I am already planning my outfit……
My schedule has been jam packed in the most fun kind of way recently, but it has sent me into an anxious spiral around meal planning and having to eat while on the go. It has been a few weeks since I gave an update on how the Savory Living online program is going, so I definitely wanted to share what I have learned. I am never going to be the person who cooks at home every night. I am self aware enough to accept this! So I love that the program isn’t just teaching me ways to cook (although I do love that piece of it), it is teaching me the science behind other food decisions I make while at restaurants or eating in a situation where I didn’t create the menu. I’ve pulled together my takeaways from the past two weeks, so hopefully you can learn from what I have learned! If you haven’t I also recommend you read my post about flavor balancing and this post about what this online resource is.
Savory Living has taught me some great tips for improving my cooking skills, but to really be able to implement these changes as part of my everyday life, I needed some tips on what to order at restaurants. I have to face the facts here. As great as I get at cooking, my lifestyle just isn’t conducive to home cooked meals everyday. I am often dining out for client lunches at work or grabbing something last minute while I am on the go between meetings. For dinner, I try and have a better structured plan for the week but when you throw in social events, birthday celebrations, and spontaneous summer get togethers, the weekly meal plan can quickly get thrown off. Matt and I also really love trying new restaurants. This might seem weird for someone who is so reliant on “safe” food options but it isn’t just about the food. I have always loved going to new restaurants to experience the ambience, the design, and the whole experience of dining out. It isn’t so much about the food, but being able to have some tips on what to order, would make it even more enjoyable.
Choosing what to order at a restaurant can be really difficult when you are balancing multiple food allergies or sensitivities. I always try and research my options before I arrive at a restaurant to see what the gluten free choices are. Unfortunately, this can sometimes leave me with the only GF option being a salad. I love a good salad but my body does not. Uncooked vegetables can be a nightmare for me although I truly enjoy the taste of them. I can’t tell you how many work lunches I have been on where I reluctantly ordered a salad because it was the lesser of the evils. I was trying to be “healthy” but it really was backfiring.
In my third session of the Savory Living program, I got the scoop on dark leafy greens and how to incorporate them into my diet, even while dining out. At first I was super reluctant because I automatically associate veggies with feeling sick (totally the opposite of what you are supposed to think, right?!). The key is having COOKED dark leafy greens and cooking them right so that they taste good. There is a whole Vegetable Flavoring Guide that Sue gave me, similar to the flavor balancing chart, so I could easily learn how to make this stuff taste really good at home. I’ve got that down and can make a frozen spinach into a mouthwatering side dish. Really, I can, and I never thought I would say that. When I am ordering from a restaurant, instead of defaulting to the salad section, I look at what vegetable sides I can get. Usually restaurants have seasonal veggies which are cooked, so they are a lot easier on your stomach than a salad and you are going to get more complex veggies which are richer as far as nutritional benefits. This really has changed the way I order at restaurants and I am opting for a protein and veggie sides instead of the dreaded salad. This makes ordering a whole lot less stressful. I select my veggies first and go from there, that way I know that I am crowding in the good stuff first.
I’ve also started to get creative with incorporating veggies in different ways at home. Instead of always making a veggie a side, I’ve been trying to understand the ways in which their unique flavors can contribute to a dish and really enhance it. I’ve been really obsessed with the cauliflower gnocchi from Trader Joe’s so I’ve been playing around with different protein and vegetable combinations with it. My favorite so far is throwing in some broccoli rabe and chicken sausage in with it. The more I learn about food, the more I am growing to really appreciate it for it’s flavors and benefits instead of just something I have to have to keep going. The Savory Living program has really helped to shift my mindset and I’ve picked up a ton of tips that I actually am implementing. I’ve been able to really shift the paradigms I had about certain foods and move away from the reluctance I have had in the past.
The next session I am starting today is all about how sugar impacts the body. I am so excited for this one because I know sugar can be such an inflammatory ingredient but it is found in just about everything. More to come on my finding from this round!
I’ve gotten some really positive feedback on these posts around what I am learning so I am SO excited to say that you can try your first online session for FREE!! Follow this link and use the code "PZC4F2ZM" to sign up, and with my code you also get 10% off of the program! The first session alone is full of such valuable information and you get to learn it all from the convenience of your own sofa.
As always, let me know if you have any questions at all, and drop me a message telling me what your favorite vegetable focused restaurant order is?
Looking at me on any given day, you’ll see me with a smile on my face, makeup done, and a cute outfit. Maybe some days I look a little under the weather or tired. But, when I walk into a meeting or a party or an event, no one can guess by looking at me that I am suffering from an invisible illness, Crohn’s Disease.
It’s crazy how much can be happening inside while outside you look fine. Lifting the veil on the fact that you can still be sick while not looking it, is something I’ve felt strongly about since my diagnosis. If you have a physical injury or a visible illness, others have visual “proof” of what you are going through. When you have an invisible illness, life is full of people commenting “well you don’t look sick”. I try and take that as a complement but it’s a double edged sword. I don’t want people to think I look the way I feel but somehow it makes me feel less validated and frustrated. I feel like if people can’t see my struggle they don’t expect me to be struggling so I need to live up to that standard.
If I don’t look sick than my mission is to feel that way. My mission is to live my best life and accomplish as much as i can even though I have Crohn’s Disease. That means traveling, being active, having a family, and not letting my symptoms hold me back. Dehydration is something that impacts me regularly. When I am having a Crohn’s flare it is really easy for me to become super dehydrated and that can feel so miserable and be downright dangerous. I already have to slow down sometimes because of symptoms that are out of my control, and I am NOT going to let dehydration be one of them. Controlling what you can is key. I carry around DripDrop in my purse everyday that way I can proactively handle the signs of dehydration and if it gets to the point of dehydration I can start treating myself immediately instead of potentially having to take a trip to the ER.
I was always scared of doing anything that would risk me becoming dehydrated because I knew my body’s situation was already fighting against me. It was hard to workout or go hiking because I would feel worse afterwards instead of better an energized. Even traveling became such an anxiety trigger for me because I knew dehydration would inevitably become and issue. DripDrop is like my little safety packet that I can have with me all the times for when I need it.
As the control freak I am, I want to make sure I am managing as many aspects of my illness that I can. There is only so much you can do to control your insides though. I can put on makeup and do my hair to make myself look outwardly “well”, but what is the solution for the inside? You can change what you are putting in your body, but with Crohn’s symptoms you are constantly fighting dehydration. Sometimes it feels like it doesn’t matter what you are putting into your body because you feel so miserable either way. I can’t control what foods my body is going to dislike on any given day, but I can control my hydration levels. Being able to have control over something so important for my body is a huge win.
I am thankful that there is a company out there that saw the importance of dehydration relief and committed to making a difference in people’s lives with their products. DripDrop is not only helping people, like me, with chronic illnesses. Their products are helping first responders, military personnel, and competitive athletes. These are all situations where they don’t have time to deal with dehydration. By giving them the power to take control of their dehydration relief, it gives them the power to focus on the missions they are working towards without skipping a beat or having their bodies hold them back. That is how I feel by using DripDrop. I can focus on my mission, instead of focusing on symptoms.
Everyone has a mission that they are working towards and I want to hear what yours is. For every social media post that you tag with #SticktoYourMission, DripDrop will donate one DripDrop stick to humanitarian aid. By sharing your mission you are helping DripDrop drive their mission of providing dehydration relief across the world.
If you haven’t read my post yet about my journey to more anti-inflammatory eating, definitely do so. It was the launching point for my new experimental dive into cooking, which you may have seen on my Instagram stories. While I’m not a total pro, yet, I’m really proud of how far I have come in the cooking game.
I’ve been working with Sue Levy, from Savory Living, on little behavior changes that I can implement in my life that can make a big impact on my health. I’ve been in tune with my body and what feels good for me, so that I can actually customize what I’m eating in order to feel the best I can. Sue has been helping to walk me through these little changes and helping me learn how to cook so that I can own the knowledge of what I’m eating. The whole program is online and takes less than an hour or so a week so it was easy for me to add into my already crazy schedule. Sue and I can communicate through the website directly so it is super efficient and she can give me advice and direction as I am working through recipes and new foods, day by day.
Throughout these first few weeks so far, I have gained a lot of confidence in my cooking abilities for the first time in my life and I have realized how delicious the food I’m able to make. It took me 27 years to take an interest in cooking because it took me until now to have someone explain it to me in a way that clicked with my brain.
Sue introduced me to this really cool concept called flavor balancing. It’s all about adding elements to your dish that are acidic, sweet, salty, and bitter until it tastes like a balanced and artful combination. This really demystified things for me because it reminded me of any other artful practice like interior design or fashion. It is all about balancing all of the elements of a room or an outfit so that one piece doesn’t overpower another. If you find you are decorating a room with a lot of heavy pieces, you need to add in some airy, textural accessories to balance it out. That is the same with food.
This was a crazy realization for me to the point that I called my mom to explain how making dinner was like designing a room. The confidence built since I felt like I had almost a secret formula that would make my food taste good. After I got the flavor balancing concept down, Sue gave me her holy grail of flavor balancing…. Her global cuisine flavor chart which basically teaches you what to balance to create any type of flavor you are craving. For example, if you want to make something with a Greek flavor profile, her guide literally lists exactly the different items you can mix from each flavor category to create a perfect dish. It also tells you exactly what proteins, fats, veggies, and herbs to add in. It is basically a formula that you can’t mess up for making great tasting dishes. She also has a lot of other guides that are formulated in this same way, like her guide to making your own vinaigrette at home which, in case you were wondering, I totally nailed. There are also videos that you can follow along to, so really, I couldn’t mess this up.
I just can’t fathom that it took me so long to learn to look at cooking this way but I am so thankful that I finally “get it”. It has also made my grocery shopping and meal planning so much easier. A little hack on how I’ve been planning out meals lately is, I pick a flavor profile that I want to focus on that week and I buy the herbs, vegetables, protein, and fat that fit with that “formula”. It’s nice because I can mix and match the ingredients, I know that they actually go together, and I can create different meals with the same core ingredients. This has actually saved us money because before I would find a random recipe online, buy all of the ingredients, use them once, and they’d go bad. Now I’m actually using our food to its full potential and appreciating the many ways in which I can incorporate it into a meal.
Here is an example… last week we were in the mood for some French flavors so we stocked our house with the essentials.
Now that I’m experimenting more with flavors, I’m realizing what I like, as well as new combinations. I improvised a meal to surprise Matt the other night - scallops pan seared in butter/garlic and seasoned with parsley, salt, pepper, lemon. I baked asparagus and seasoned it with salt, pepper, and some parmesan cheese on top. I’m learning that no matter what the flavor profile, I pretty much like parmesan and garlic with almost everything. The meal was a hit and I was, not going to lie, super impressed with myself.
I’m going to continue to share these meals I am making…. Like tonight’s, shrimp scampi with broccoli and gluten free red lentil pasta. I’m not sharing to show off, okay maybe I am a little, but I love sharing how easy these concepts are and how I’ve been implementing them into my life. I wish I would have had this “I get it” moment years ago so I’m shouting it out to everyone I know!
This was only the second session of the program and I just started the third this past week. Each session is teaching me new skills to build on top of each other. This week I’m working on crowding my diet with greens and learning how to cook said greens properly. This is a must needed skill for IBD sufferers because leafy green veggies can be hard to handle if they aren’t cooked. As I’m adding onto my skills in the kitchen, not only am I feeling more confident but I am feeling better physically and mentally, and I’m saving money.
I was on the phone with Sue on Saturday raving about all of these things she has taught me. We chatted for almost an hour about this and she just is a wealth of knowledge about these tips to create lifestyle habits that support the best you. I’m SO excited, because she offered to get on a 20 minute call with any Crohnically Blonde readers who are in need of some of some of these personalized tips. She is offering to do this totally for free which is incredible! Shoot me and email or message on Instagram if you want to schedule a call with her and I can send you her link to do so! If you do chat with her I can’t wait to hear your thoughts on her tips and the passion she has about helping others!
Stay tuned for more of my cooking adventures…..
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.