Happy Birthday to the best Cat Dad!

Today is a very special day. It’s my husband’s 21st birthday! I would write about how awesome the present I got him is and how surprised he was, but he opened it almost two weeks early when he got into the amazon box before I realized what he was doing. On the plus side, he got a ton of use out of his present already, so it’s safe to say that I did okay picking it out!

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Aren’t they cute? They’re about ten ounces, so it’s perfect for his morning coffee. Plus cats and coffee are just a great morning combination, don’t you agree?

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Today, J also has his first day of teaching at the school he’s contracted with. He’ll be teaching ESL to the parents of students from the Academy. This is really exciting, as J has a knack for languages and a real passion for helping people. After he gets done with work, we’re headed out to a local restaurant for small plates and wine- gotta celebrate legal drinking age somehow, right?

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Anyway, today’s Tail Wag Thursday is dedicated to J. He’s a loving pet dad and ready to rescue any animal that crosses his path, whether it needs it or not. We have five cats, two dogs, and a beta fish currently. The beta fish came from the first school that J volunteered at, and was named Spider-man by the eager school kids. I’m pretty sure Spider-Man is much happier here with us, as J is obsessed with making his fish friend as happy as possible.

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J is also the excitable dad to two dogs, but not the one in the picture. Our foster dog, Minnie, loves seeing her daddy, and whines if he’s been away from her for too long. Rio, our dachshund mix, loves to cuddle up with J at night (and take his spot when he isn’t expecting it.)

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As for the cats? You’ve never met a better cat dad than J. He’s always up for a rousing game of “chase the toy mouse,” and he willingly gives our cats their weekly medication, even though he risks losing a limb each time.

So happy birthday, J! Our pets and I wish you the best birthday ever and thank you for being the best friend, husband, and pet dad in the world.

Dealing with Depression

When you’re ill, it’s easy to get depressed. You’re not on track like your friends, your body is attacking you at every turn, and nobody really seems to understand.

When it’s real, clinical depression, you need to get help. I’ve been there! Counseling and properly medicating my pain got me back to a more normal mindset- but here’s the thing. I still fight depression. Daily.

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Yep. That’s right. Me, Miss Positive Blogger, fights depression every single moment of every single day. Sometimes it’s the pervasive empty kind, and other times it’s just an overwhelming sad. So far, my best line of defense has been overwhelming positivity. I’ve done #100HappyDays, I’ve done the Seven Day Positivity Challenge, and I’ve read The Happiness Project. When I was sunk into my deep dark pit, I thought everyone who said “fake it til you make it” was a lying jerk who needed to leave me alone. Now? I cling to every little happy moment I can get.

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Sometimes, like when I get glutened or have an especially bad pain day, faking it isn’t enough. Those are the days I have to be gentle with myself. I drink hot chocolate and vanilla coke. I buy a large milkshake without beating myself up about it. I spend extra cuddle time with the kittens, even though there’s laundry to be done and dishes to be washed. I lay in the hammock and watch Minnie chase bugs around the yard. I take a million selfies and delete all but one.

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After I self-care crawl back out of a slump, I like to keep busy. Whether that means painting in the floor, calling up a friend, or binging on video games while my husband sleeps at night, I do whatever it takes to keep my mind active. This is also the time I take special care of my body, because a healthy mind needs my body as nourished as possible (especially since I have some nutritional problems from my celiac.) So the post-slump peak is full of fresh juices and cute, vegan salad bowls.

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But the most important thing about tackling my depression is being able to reach out. Sometimes, all the self care in the world won’t be enough to tackle that bad brain. In those times, I have to know when to call in a backup team. Whether it’s talking it out with my mom, crying with my husband and best friend, or actually sucking up my pride and seeing my counselor early, knowing when to reach out is a huge step in fighting depression. Reaching out and getting help can mean the difference between a bump in the road and digging a depression well from which you refuse to emerge.

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If you’re anything like me, it’s scary to reach out. You don’t want to admit you’re sliding back into depression. After all, everyone has fifteen bad days in a row, right?

Well, some people might, but you don’t have to. If you’re struggling, please take care of yourself and reach out. If you’re not struggling, reach out to friends and family who are. You’ve all seen the “depression hurts” commercials. It does. But we can all do our part to make it hurt less.

If you feel like you can’t reach out to someone, I am happy to connect you with resources!

Thrifting for Photography

This weekend, my friend and I decided to go thrift shopping. She was on the lookout for a desk, and I was on the lookout for anything I could craft with, or anything to help improve my photography. I take a lot of pictures of food, and although our table is vintage and has recently come back into style so it makes a cute background, our plates are just old. Seriously, whenever I post a food picture, someone has to comment about how their grandma used to use those plates.

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This is the plate we most often use for meals. It was my grandparents’ plate, and as far as I know, they’ve had it for longer than I’m alive.

That’s why I was so excited to see a deal at the thrift store we went to. You could get three coffee mugs for 99 cents- an awesome deal since I collect coffee mugs- or three plates, bowls, or saucers for $1.99.

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This was the first thing I spotted. After this green bowl came into my view, I knew I was going to have to buy it. J makes a lot of soups, chilis, and stews in the winter. The bowls we have now are awesome to eat out of, and pretty nostalgic, but they photograph horribly. So this was calling my name.

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Next, I spotted this striped plate hidden under a pile of other plates. It’s pretty and graphic, and I really think food will pop on it.

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Finally, I grabbed this tiny white saucer. It’s a lot like the ones we used at my wedding, so half my love for it was sentimental, but seriously, it was cute and I could spare a few cents on it.

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Since cute dinnerware is half the battle of good food photography, I’m pretty impressed with what I got for two dollars. I wish I had found a cute mug, but alas, I think I’m stuck with my kitty mug for now.

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You know what? Actually, I think I’m okay with that.

Macarons and More

Today should be Style Sunday. Should being the operative word there, because it is not actually Style Sunday. Although I had every intention of dressing someone up in something trendy, doing their makeup, and photographing it, I actually spent most of the weekend doing anything but looking cute. It was a tee shirt and yoga pants weekend as I thrift shopped for plates and cups for my food photography, took my brother too and from a County Fair, and met up with a friend to discuss our upcoming plans for our Disney trip.

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This is the face of an exhausted but happy spoonie who has discovered the perfect place to meet for serious travel discussions. While some people might suggest a library, a coffee shop, or even a Panera, I have a bit of a different idea. In my mind, there’s no better place to get some work done or have a serious discussion than the local chocolatier.

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Yeah, hot chocolate is fantastic. It was finally cold enough to have an actual hot chocolate (with cinnamon and hot peppers, just the way I like it.) Before this, I was having to make do with frozen hot chocolate, which is great but definitely not the same.

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But let’s cut to the chase. There’s a real reason I chose this place, and it has nothing to do with their namesake sweet. I am here for one reason, and one reason only: macarons.

Macarons are the standard by which I judge any bakery or restaurant that has them. The best are from Rice and Noodles Vietnamese restaurant in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The worst won’t be named, but if you’re at overpriced French bakeries in St. Louis, Missouri- look out.

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I know I shouldn’t judge too harshly. Macarons are notoriously difficult to make. But if we’re speaking truthfully, while the best macarons taste like slightly crispy pillows around a creamy center, the worst ones taste like styrofoam Oreos. And that’s just not acceptable.

Every restaurant has the traditional flavors, like pistachio and strawberry. I give big points for any restaurant or bakery that goes above and beyond the usual offerings while still providing some quality, adorable desserts.

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So when I stumbled through the door of the chocolatier today and neon purple macarons greeted me, I couldn’t help but get excited. Recently, this chocolatier has had some delicious Earl Grey macarons, so I had high hopes. These turned out to be blackberry goat cheese.

I know what you’re thinking. “Goat cheese? In my macarons? That sounds absurd.” You’re right. It does sound absurd. But this was done right. So right. This was delicious.

So while these aren’t ready to knock Rice and Noodles out of the running just yet, I’m glad I have a solid place to snack on some macarons while I write blog posts like this one. I’ll take all of them, please.

Where’s your favorite place to get macarons?

Being A Spoonie

I’ve been chronically ill my whole life, but I’ve only been a spoonie for about two years. If you’re a healthy person, this may sound like a lot of gibberish to you, but don’t worry. There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for my obsession with kitchenware.

You see, a spoonie is simply a person with a chronic illness or disability that identifies with The Spoon Theory, written by Christine Miserandino about her experience with lupus. Since a lot of disabled or chronically ill people have similar experiences, her way to explain being ill rung true with a lot of us.

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Being a spoonie is more than just being ill though. When you take up the spoonie label, a whole new world opens up to your sick self. Spoonies are, as a friend once said, “the coolest group of people you never want to be a part of.” And it’s true. Being a spoonie means having a support group, both across the internet and many times in real life, that’s available at any time and has experienced almost everything you’re going to go through.

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Other than community, being a spoonie means having an easy way to explain your chronic illness to healthy people. Because seriously, healthy people, we love you- but sometimes you just don’t get it!

When I’m searching for a way to make my husband or friends understand, I can send them a link to the spoon theory, paraphrase, or send them, phrase in hand, to the almighty internet. Sure, the spoon theory doesn’t work perfectly for all aspects of my illness, but it’s a good place to start explaining.

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There’s a lot of great reasons to be a spoonie- last but not least because it’s a lot easier than typing “chronically ill” all the time- but there’s more to it than that. Being a spoonie has made me more friends than any other movement or community I’ve joined. Being a spoonie has helped me accept my illnesses, and work with them instead of constantly fighting to the brink of exhaustion. Being a spoonie has given me the drive to advocate and educate about my rare disease. I’ve been able to help newly ill and newly diagnosed people find their way into the spoonie world.

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This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I’m pretty aware of my illnesses, but there are a lot of people who aren’t. Awareness is great! It helps get us money and research for the illnesses we fight. It helps other people recognize their symptoms and get a correct diagnosis that otherwise could take years. This week, if you’re a spoonie, I challenge you to share your story. If you’re not, I challenge you to educate yourself about the unique challenges the chronically, invisibly ill face. And to all of you, I challenge you to be kind to yourself this week. You deserve it.

Friday Five

It’s Friday, which means it’s time for me to gush about my favorite things of the week again! This week I’m excited, because I have a lot to talk about with you guys.

1. Covergirl Foundations

I have tried a lot of foundations. From high end to drugstore, they all work for a while, then irritate my skin to no end. We’re not talking acne here. We’re talking full on rashes, hives, and horrible itching. This is generally considered “not good” by the majority of the population, so that leaves me with skin that looks funky and no way to cover it.

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Enter my three new best friends in the makeup world. Covergirl NatureLuxe liquid foundation in 305, and Covergirl Sensitive Skin powder and liquid foundation in 210 (powder) and 205 (liquid).

I’m not sure why my face color varies so widely in these three foundations, especially two of them seem like they should be identical, but I really don’t care. These aren’t breaking me out, they look flawless, and they’re cheap too! Seriously, nothing better.

2. Beet Salad

I’ve talked about this before, but I’ve fallen even more in love with this, if that’s possible. Each week I get to pick out one “treat” at the grocery store. This week I picked out a pint of local beet salad!

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Goat cheese, mandarin oranges, and local root veggies. What could be better? Well, not eating all of it at once and freaking out that your pee turns neon pink, probably. (Am I allowed to talk about that on a blog? Well, I just did.) Other than the unfortunate side effects of consuming large amounts of these bright veggies, this has probably been the highlight of my week.

3. Apple Cider Vinegar.

Great for digestion. Great for your skin. Apparently great in fresh juices with a little bit of ginger, too. Need I say more?

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(Speaking of juice, I just found out that my watermelon juice habit is actually good for me. Watermelon has a ton of iron, which is great because I am always lacking iron. Plus it’s pretty, too!)

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4. NYX matte lipstick in “Nude.”

I’m almost ashamed to admit is, as someone who talks about makeup as much as I do. Out of all the fabulous lipsticks I have collected over the years, I did not previously own a true nude.

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I cleaned out my makeup drawer earlier this week, which meant a lot of swatching and a lot of “keep or ditch” conversations with friends. During my total overhaul of my lipstick collection, I noticed that I had a ton of fun winter colors, but nothing to transition into fall! I had to fix this.

So I am now the proud owner of Nyx’s “Nude” matte lipstick. I’ve worn it twice since I got it this week and I’ve gotta say, it’s fantastic.

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5. Desserts.

Okay, this is a broad category, but let’s be real. When I was little, sweets were the last thing I wanted out of a meal. Now? This is my first time admitting it, but I love sweets. Macarons, cheesecake, frozen hot chocolate, I love it all. Which is why it made my week when my husband surprised me with this treat:

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Yep, you’re seeing this right! Frozen hot chocolate from a local chocolatier, and macarons that combined two of my favorite things- dessert and Earl Grey! Do I have the best husband or what?

So what are you loving this week?

Apps for Cats.

My cats have always been fascinated by my cell phone. When there’s music playing from it or it’s ringing, they think it’s their mission in life to find the source of the noise and destroy it. If I’m playing Tetris or writing a blog post instead of paying attention to them, they also think it’s their mission in life to destroy the thing taking away mommy’s attention. They’re a little spoiled.

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Not too long ago, as an experiment, I searched “cat app” in the App Store. The first one that popped up was “Cat Fishing 2” by Purina. It’s a free app that has fish moving around on screen and bubble noises to attract your cat’s attention. The fish start off slow, but your cat can “level up” and the fish will move faster.

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Sorry for the bad pictures, but the lighting in our house is from the fifties and doesn’t seem to work well for cat photography. Anyway, this is one of our kittens, Echo. Echo is obsessed with the little fish on the cell phone screen.

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In fact, he’s decided that he doesn’t have to wait for me to actually turn the app on. If my cell phone is out, he will pick it up by the case and drag it around until I get it away from him and turn on Cat Fishing.

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Not all of my cats are interested in the app, but 3 out of 5 love it. For cats, that’s a pretty good ratio, especially since one of our cats has no interest in anything that she can’t eat.

For a free app, it offers everything my cats and I could wish for, and hours of fun. I definitely recommend at least trying it out if you have kitties- but buy a screen protector first.