chronic illnessfamilyholidaysproduct review

eMeals: Gluten-Free Meal Planning Made Easy

Disclosure: I am a member of the eMeals Blogger Network which includes a one year subscription to eMeals. This post also includes affiliate links. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and always strive to share brands and products that I believe can greatly benefit this community! 

Cooking has never been my forte but when I was diagnosed with Celiac disease in 2010, a lot of my best recipes had to go out the window. My lack of kitchen creativity paired with the overwhelming health challenges of the last six months meant my kitchen has pretty much been out of order save an occasional slow cooker dinner every now and then.

I know that meal planning is not only healthier for my family but is better for our budget which of course is a major concern when dealing with disability. When you plan out your meals for the week and make one trip to the grocery store for meal items, you can plan your shopping around sales and cut down on all the “extras” that somehow appear in your cart every time you make your way to the check out. When I attempted gluten-free meal planning on my own, I felt like I was using the same handful of recipes every week and that was if we even cooked at all. I definitely needed to find something new for the sake of our health (and our wallets).

When I visited Type A Conference in September, I was introduced to eMeals!

eMeals is an awesome service that allows you to create meals plans based on your eating style (such as gluten-free, vegetarian, or even slow cooker!), family size, and even your favorite place to shop for groceries! After signing up, you will receive an email with your seven day meal plan filled with simple yet creative recipes that include a main dish and sides. Not only does the email include all seven recipes but it also includes a shopping list with everything that you need customized for store you selected! To make it even better, the meal plan is coordinated with weekly sales at select stores!

Could it be any easier?!



Now that I am beginning to get my life back and I am excited to dust off my kitchen and put it to good use specially for the holidays right around the corner! I will definitely be sharing about my favorites along the way! The only thing I have noticed so far that I would tweak about the meal plans is the ability to select foods your family does not eat or other food allergies outside of the main meal plan categories. With having Celiac, I choose the gluten-free meal plans but I do not have the option to state that we don’t eat seafood or mushrooms or that I am allergic to nuts. In the grand scheme of things, I consider this a minor problem and within a couple weeks of receiving meal plans, I have many recipes in my arsenal that I am able to swap out for recipes included in the weekly meal plan that may not suit my family’s taste buds!

If you struggle in the kitchen like me (please tell me I’m not the only uncreative cook out there!) or want to start meal planning to keep your family (and budget) healthy, I definitely recommend checking out eMeals! Dinner plans start at $10 per month for 3 months or $58 for the whole year which brings the monthly cost down to $5!!! You can also get a jump on Black Friday/Cyber Monday and save 30% using promo code CYBER which makes eMeals deals even sweeter!


If you plan on spending more time in the kitchen this holiday season, where will you be finding your recipes? Family hand-me-downs, your favorite cookbooks, or trying something new (and finally putting your Pinterest boards to use) after finding a recipe online?


Disclosure: I am a member of the eMeals Blogger Network which includes a one year subscription to eMeals. This post also includes affiliate links. As always, all opinions are 100% my own and always strive to share brands and products that I believe can greatly benefit this community! 

bloggingproduct review

Blog Design for Dummies Review (by a blog design dummy)

Disclosure: I was not paid a dime to review this book but wanted to write this Blog Design for Dummies Review because it is an AMAZING resource that I think every blogger should check out! This post does contain affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own. These resources rock.

Blog Design For Dummies Review: By A Blog Design Dummy

Although I started blogging back in 2007, it took me couple years to really begin to understand what blogging really was and the whole bloggging community that existed beyond my own blog’s front door. The best thing I ever did for my blog was discovering The SITS Girls and signing up for a group class of 31 Days to Building A Better Blog. I met so many amazing ladies who have now become friends and supporters both of my blogging journey and my personal journey through life with chronic illness.

One of these amazing ladies was Melissa Culbertson.

Melissa blogs over at Adventuroo as well as over at Blog Clarity, which is a fantastic site that provides blogging, writing, and social media tips for bloggers. When Momcomm began, Melissa hosted weekly blog design critiques (which I was lucky enough to be one of the first critiques – check out this blast from the past blog design!) and these critiques went on to pave the way for Melissa writing Blog Design for Dummies so I totally take credit in helping her become the design rockstar she is today! Totally kidding! Melissa is a rockstar all on her own!

As I mentioned yesterday, as a part of reclaiming my life, I am working towards a new look here at a New Kind of Normal so I jumped at the chance to become more hands-on in the blog redesign this time around so I picked up her book, Blog Design for Dummies!

I am a total design and coding dummy and while I consider myself a pretty logical and analytical person, I have absolutely no background in anything graphic design related (I have degrees in music and pastoral care) so I was a little apprehensive.

My fears were totally unfounded.

I felt like this book was written for me. It was like a blueprint on how to plan your blog design from start to finish. From how to access what your goals and needs are to how to implement them from the overall theme to even the smallest of design elements so that you could feel your voice, your goals, and your dreams in every aspect of your blog design.

On my first reading of the book, I felt like I was back in grad school going highlighter happy.

Blog Design For Dummies - Inside Look

The language of the book was written in a way that anyone can understand. Its technical in each the reader about the important aspects that make up an effective blog design while insuring that the important information doesn’t get lost in over technicality.

I have always used a blog designer in the past and while I will continue to use a designer with this upcoming redesign, I felt like I am twenty times more aware of each integral pieces that makes up a design. I know know how to take a look at my current design and assess what is working and what is not working which helps me plan an effective redesign from the ground up. I have such a clearer understanding of how to find my voice and set my goals so that I can see those things throughout the design from the overall look and feel of the blog to how the navigation works to using those finishing touches that tie everything together.

On my second pass of the book, I went Post-It note happy and bookmarked each of the sections I wanted to focus on the most as I begin to plan my redesign.

Blog Design for Dummies - inside Look

Thanks to Melissa and Blog Design for Dummies, I have my to-do list started for planning this redesign and I think I am more excited than ever for things to come here at A New Kind of Normal!

I wanted to write this Blog Design for Dummies review because I know there are other people out there who want to step up their blog design so that they can achieve their dreams! If you are considering adding a custom design for your blog for the first time, planning a redesign like I am, or are simply looking for ways to assess your current design and make small adjustment that increase the overall functionality of your blog, you need to check out this book!

If you are not planning to change your blog design but are looking to grow your blog and create fresh content ideas, Melissa’s rockstar skills go way beyond blog design and her Content Brew course may be just the ticket! Cyber Monday hits a week early over at MomComm and on Monday, November 25th Content Brew will be on SALE for only $35 using promo code novbrew! Mark your calendars! You don’t want to miss this! (I am starting this for the 2nd time myself so if you want to partner up and work through it together, give me a shout!)

Disclosure: I was not paid a dime to review this book but wanted to write this Blog Design for Dummies Review because it is an AMAZING resource that I think every blogger should check out! This post does contain affiliate links. All opinions are 100% my own. These resources rock.

chronic illness

Coming Up For Air: Reclaiming Life With Chronic Illness

This past week may have been the hardest week of my life. I don’t think I have ever been so low before. I felt like I was in the bottom of a deep, dark pit and life with chronic illness had become suffocating. Until now.

As you know, I am in the process of fighting for disability due to my multiple chronic illnesses. In addition to filing for SSI with the help of an attorney, I have been trying to file my claim with my long term disability company as I have paid on a LTD policy for over eight years while working for my previous employer. When my doctor put me out of work, I thought that SSI would be the headache as I believed paying into a policy in case of circumstances such as this would provide necessary resources. After all, is that not the point of purchasing short term and long term disability policies? Needless to say, working with my LTD company has become a complete nightmare.

After months and months and 28485620 pages of medical records, I received a letter from the company that hit me like a ton of bricks. It felt like so much more than a denial letter. I am not sure if I have ever felt so judged, belittled, and demeaned not only as a patient but as a person. I am too young. I am too put together and look too well to be as sick as I am claiming. I am exaggerating my symptoms. I haven’t been to the hospital enough. I’ve worked this long being ill, why stop now. There were six pages of statements such as these.

Obviously feelings are probably at the bottom of the company’s priority list and avoiding making payments is at the top but the picture that they painted with the words they used of my life and the impact that multiple chronic illnesses have on every aspect of my life could not have been farther from the truth. They even tried to pin the doctors not only against me but against each other which added to the hurt. I had always bragged that I had such a great team of physicians supporting and advocating for me so it was almost a double whammy. At that moment, not only did I feel judged and disrespected by a faceless insurance company but betrayed by doctors I had grown to respect over the last ten years.

It was the hardest thing I have ever had to read. Thankfully my husband was home when I read the letter because honestly, I am not sure how I would have reacted if I was alone after reading the letter. It was like I had been stabbed in the heart and I plummeted very quickly into a very dark place.

I felt completely empty and even the smallest things took an enormous amount of effort. My anxiety was through the roof and I began to question everything.

The only thing I could cling to was the promise that God was with me through even the darkest moments. I had to believe that He was with me and had plans for me despite the hardships I was facing. Clutching Hope in one hand and the hand of my husband in the other is what got me through. He supported me in a way surpasses understanding.

So here I am a week later working to put the pieces back together. I had an appointment with my rheumatologist yesterday which helped to put me back on the path to healing (at least mentally and emotionally). He listened patiently and compassionately as I emotionally regurgitated my feelings and fears about the current my state of health and the disability process. He reminded me that no matter what the letter said that I have his complete support. He was worked with companies like these for years and they with exploit every loophole possible while pinning the blame of denying the claim on the doctors versus themselves. He had my back.

For the first time in a week, I feel like I can breathe again. I am ready to start reclaiming life with chronic illness and ready to start feeling like myself again. My true self.

I have purple dye on my hair as I type. I have plans to overhaul the blog design to get a fresh jumpstart. I am full of ideas to pour myself back into writing.

I am ready.

Fresh air feels good.

Photo credit: spinster cardigan / / CC BY