Autour du Monde: l’Irlande/Ireland

Hello darlings and welcome back!! This week I’m bringing you the second installment of my Autour du Monde series all about Ireland!

Several years ago, I made the discovery that the country of Ireland grants citizenship to people whose grandparents and/or parents were born in Ireland. This news was a dream come true for me, because I knew having citizenship in a country that is a member of the EU would grant all kinds of benefits to me throughout the entirety of the European Union, including France. 

Once I discovered this opportunity, I approached my mom to talk to her about it. My grandmother was born in Ireland, so I had the right to claim citizenship, but couldn’t do so until she had acquired it for herself first. Luckily, this was something that had been on her bucket list for a long time, so it was a no-brainer for the both of us. The entire process took about two years, and there was a lot involved. If any of you are interested in the process, let me know, and I’ll write an entire post on it. 

Once we’d obtained our citizenship, we both applied for an Irish passport as well, as it makes traveling through the EU a breeze. 

I was so excited, I told my mom we needed to go to Ireland to celebrate! My mom had also promised my sister that she would take her there as her college graduation gift, et bref (French slang that essentially means “long story short”), we booked tickets for the entire family to go over Christmas of last year. 

Throughout the planning stages, we ended up settling on the idea that this should be a heritage trip of sorts: we’d stop in Dublin, of course, but after that the goal was to see where both my grandpa and my grandma’s families had lived for so long. (We do still have some family that lives there, but most have long since moved on.) This meant we needed to span long distances across the country, which also enabled us to plan for other sites along the way. But our first stop was Dublin. 

We opted for an AirBnB, as hotel prices were outrageous. We didn’t know much about the layout of the city and ended up staying in a weird spot–kind of far away from everything, but it was fine. Next time, however, I’d like to be more centralized. 

Dublin has a decent public transportation system. There is a train that you can catch from the airport into the city, as well as buses, and of course, taxis. We spent the first few days taking taxis everywhere, but we did rent a car due to our plans to go all over. (Driving in Ireland was an experience, let me tell you.)

Every year at Christmas time, our family goes to high tea at the Brown Palace here in Denver. But since we were going to be in Dublin this time, we wanted to find an alternative and wound up at the Shelbourne, pictured above. 

The Shelbourne is an upscale hotel from the 1840s and just beautiful inside, especially since all of the Christmas decorations were up. Booking afternoon tea in advance is 100% necessary, as the hotel is very popular!

The afternoon tea service consists of tea (of course) and a serving of scones, tea sandwiches, and pastries. Our waitress was a young French woman, so I ended up getting to practice my French, which was fun, and everything was delicious.

Immediately next to the Shelbourne is Grafton street, a very famous and popular spot for shopping. Since we were there right before Christmas, the entire city was crawling with people, especially in this area. We had several people tell us it usually isn’t as crowded, so that’s something to keep in mind if you aren’t big on crowds. 

Directly across from the hotel is St. Stephen’s Green, a large public park that is both beautiful and rooted in history. During the Easter Rising in 1916, a group from the Irish army engaged in a standoff with the British army who had stationed themselves at the Shelbourne. The park is full of statues and plaques that outline the details of the battle. 

The next day we went to Trinity College, which is where the Book of Kells is housed. Unlike at the Shelbourne, going to see the exhibit is on a first come, first served basis. The tickets are really affordable, and they offer discounts for students and children. Pro-tip: show up early, as the line ends up going out the door pretty quickly!

The exhibit also houses other illuminated manuscripts, such as the Book of Dimma, pictured above. (Photography isn’t allowed, however, which I found out by taking this photo, haha!) The exhibit is also full of examples of the tools and processes used to create these incredible texts, as well as plenty of linguistic information, which I found particularly interesting. 

At the end of the exhibit is the actual Book of Kells. It sits in a large glass case, in order to preserve it. Every day, the next page is turned, so it’s kind of a gamble on what you’ll be seeing. We lucked out and were able to see the beautiful and intricate artwork, not just text. Either way, though, the exhibit is worth it. 

At the end of the exhibit, visitors are then ushered into the famous Long Room: a library that dreams are made of. It was also used in a scene of one of the Star Wars movies–but that scene was filmed without permission! 

The room is lined with the busts of many great writers and philosophers: Shakespeare, Aristotle, Plato, Wilde, take your pick. Dublin is a city of literature UNESCO site, so you’ll find plenty of Irish writers heads in here. Each aisle and corner of the Long Room is filled to the brim with countless books!! A bibliophile’s fantasy, to be sure. 

Outside of Trinity College is one of the main drags of the city. The boulevard is lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants. It’s also easy to access several museums from there, and it eventually bleeds back into Grafton street. 

Personally, I would recommend taking public transportation and/or taxis around Dublin. Driving there was a challenge. The streets are poorly marked, and they change names about every mile, not to mention the one ways that are also poorly marked. On top of that, the traffic was HORRID. This might’ve been thanks to the holiday season, though. Regardless, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car unless absolutely necessary. Another thing we learned once we got there is renting a car is very expensive. In Ireland, it’s required to purchase insurance for your rental car, which we didn’t realize. This detail ended up doubling the price of our rental car. Not a nice surprise!

The one thing I would recommend doing, however, is booking a tour to see Newgrange. For those who don’t know, Newgrange is an ancient monument that is dated about 1000 years older than the pyramids in Egypt. It is one of three mounds that have been excavated in Ireland, and they’re in the process of excavating a couple more.

The structure is completely freestanding. The process used to build Newgrange involved absolutely no mortar, as you can see in the picture above. It’s really impressive to behold, especially considering how advanced this process was at the time it was built. Due to its archaeological and cultural significance, it’s also a UNESCO site.

We lucked out and were able to book our tour on the winter solstice. This is the best day of the year to go, as this is the day the light from the sun completely illuminates the inside of the structure. 

Access to Newgrange is available solely through one of the tours, as Ireland is making an effort to preserve these incredible architectural feats. We booked our tour through here, and it was worth every penny. Plan to spend all day on the tour, as you’ll also stop at the Hill of Tara on the way. 
Pro-tip: if you’re planning on going in the winter, it’s wet, windy, and can be cold out in the country! Wear water/mud proof shoes, as well as a jacket and hat. You’ll thank me later!

The next day, we departed from Dublin and headed about two and a half hours west towards a small town called Roscommon. This is where my grandfather’s family lived on a small farm outside of town. 

Again, we opted for an AirBnB, and ended up staying on a farm in an even tinier town called Strokestown. After all the hustling insanity of Dublin, staying in the middle of nowhere on this charming farm was a welcomed change. We even had a peat fire going at night–the genuine Irish experience!

Roscommon was about twenty minutes from where we were staying, and we only spent two days in the area. The town was cute, and we had the most delicious Irish breakfast there. (Think scones, sausage, ham, eggs, and tea–yum! Easily the best sausage I’ve ever had.) However, there isn’t a ton going on there.

After Roscommon we drove all the way over to the west side of the country to stop at the Our lady of Knock shrine for Mom and Moira, who are devout Catholics. And then it was onward to Dungarvan in the south. 

What was supposed to be a three hour drive from Knock turned into more of a five or six hour drive. Another thing to know about driving in Ireland is that the time the GPS says it takes to get anywhere is a lie. The majority of Ireland is rural, and essentially every road is a winding, two lane road. Due to this, the drive time is significantly increased. If the roads were straight… yeah it’d definitely be a lot faster. 

Dungarvan is a larger city that sits in the southeast of Ireland, on the coast. It is here, and in a small town just outside of Dungarvan called Kilmacthomas, that my grandma’s side of the family has lived for a long while. 

We stayed in an adorable AirBnB directly across the street from the church my grandmother was baptized in, and about ten minutes from the ocean. (Which, if I haven’t mentioned this before, I recommend staying in AirBnBs ran by women. In my experience, they are better stocked and maintained. No offense, men.)

Personally, Dungarvan was my favorite part of the trip. I’m completely in love with the ocean, but don’t get to see her very often due to living in a landlocked state, so any time I have the opportunity to go to the water, I’m stoked. The city is also very cute, and large enough that everything you could need is accessible. 

We spent a lot of time at the beach via a trail called the Connigar, in English, or AnCoinigéar, in Irish. The coastline in this region is stunning: it’s incredibly rugged and moody, unlike any other beach I’ve been to. 

This beach is also located right next to the Irish speaking part of the country, which I thought was awesome. I learned while I was there that the term “Gaelic” is a very American thing; the Irish just refer to their language/culture as well, Irish. 

The water was absolutely freezing, of course, but it was an excellent beach to comb for seashells. And there must’ve been some ceramics/glass facility that used to be around because we found an abundance of sea glass and broken ceramics!


We ended up returning to this place each day we were in Dungarvan, and walking pretty far up and down the coastline. I definitely recommend this beautiful spot if you’re planning on going to the southern region of Ireland!

There is also the remains of old Dungarvan castle smack in the center of town, and just outside of Kilmacthomas is an easy hike to Mahon falls, which we did on St. Stephen’s Day.

On our way back to Dublin we stopped in the Glendalough Wicklow mountains. We didn’t spend a ton of time here, but we did see more old ruins, and there are plenty of cute mountain towns here.

If/when I make it back, I’d like to spend more time here, as well as in the Conne Mara mountains in the northwest of the country. I’d also like to see the Cliffs of Moher, which is the one thing we didn’t get to do that was on our list. 

Overall, it was a lovely trip! The people in Ireland are so kind and friendly, and their broughs are stupidly charming. Even in the winter time, the country was so green! Next time I’d like to go during a different season, so hopefully it won’t be as wet, though we were graced with pretty good weather most of the time. 

So, what do you think? Have you guys ever been to Ireland?  Again, I tried to cover everything pertinent, but if you have any questions, please let me know in the comments below! As always, I appreciate your feedback. 

Follow my adventures on Instagram @aubreyautourdumonde

Until next time my loves! Xoxo

-A 

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Autour du Monde: le Maroc/Morocco

Hello darlings and welcome back!! This week I’m introducing another series for my blog: Autour du Monde, aka “Around the World,” for those of us who don’t speak French. Initially I was planning to hold off on starting this series until after I’d moved to France (especially since I plan to do LOTS of traveling while I’m there!), but the more I thought about it, I decided writing about the places I’ve already been to would be a nice way to ease into it all. So here we go!

If I haven’t already mentioned this before, traveling is my absolute favorite thing. There’s nothing in this life I find more fulfilling. That might sound kind of cliché because lots of people love to travel, but that’s because there’s great reason to. 

When I was younger, I always dreamed of traveling internationally. Sure, we traveled around the country pretty regularly with my family–mostly to the east coast–but never had I been able to go abroad before. The place I wanted to visit above all others was France: a dream of mine since I started studying the French language back in sixth grade. However, I’d never quite been able to make it happen for myself. It seemed incredibly expensive, I could never find anybody willing to commit to going with me, and the idea of traveling solo internationally was way too intimidating. 

My, my, how things have changed, haha.

So finally, a year and a half ago, I made my dreams come true. My university was offering a short-term study abroad program, around 3 weeks, called “France and the Islamic World.” The program consisted of a week in France, and slightly longer than a week in Morocco, not including travel to and from the United States. I saw my opportunity, and I grabbed it. 

I will never be able to explain how glad I am that I did. I didn’t come from a family with a ton of money, so me making this happen for myself was a big deal on more than one level. This trip was one of those moments in your life where the dramatic shift and growth within yourself is palpable. A moment when you know that nothing will be the same again. I had tasted the fruit, and I knew there was no turning back. My appetite would only grow from here, and oh yes, it has. 

The fact that the first stop on my trip was Paris, and that I was going alone, in a sense, couldn’t have been more appropriate, either. But this post isn’t about that. At some point I will be writing about France, but I haven’t decided if I’m going to write one behemoth of a master post, or if France will be an entire series by itself. (Which would you rather read? Please let me know in the comments down below!) This post is about Morocco. 

I still remember the moment we started to fly over the edge of Morocco, looking out my window and seeing the continent of Africa. I felt my body shift from being wrought with anxiety, to buzzing with excitement. Frankly, I’d never foreseen myself visiting Africa in my lifetime, but thank god that’s changed. 

We landed in Marrakech, which is pretty much smack in the middle of Morocco. It’s an old imperial city, and also a very popular vacation spot for the French. It’s been dubbed the Pink Pearl of the Desert, due to the pink tint of the old walls and buildings, it’s also known as the Oasis in the Desert. 

The local currency is Dirham, pictured above, and the exchange rate is approximately 10 dirham to 1 USD. Of course there are bills that exist as well, but I only have coins left. And yes, Morocco is incredibly cheap. I recommend traveling here in general, but it’s an especially great place to travel on a budget!

Some things to know: 

-Morocco has three official languages: Arabic, French, and Amazigh, which is the language of their indigenous people, the Berbers (more on them later).

-All of the signs there are in Arabic and French. If you don’t speak one, or both, of these languages, you’re going to have a hard time getting around. People speak both in Morocco, and many speak three including Amazigh. The only places where people spoke English, at least in my experience, were in the airports and hotels. 

-Moroccan Arabic is different from standard Arabic, due to the fact that they were colonized by the French–there’s lots of French words that have been blended into their dialect of Arabic.  (If you’re an Arabic speaker I’m not sure how intelligible it is.) Colonization is also the reason for the French on the signs, and why everyone speaks it. 

-You can’t exchange your dirham back into Euros or USD, so plan to spend it all, or keep it. Also, ONLY withdraw money from bank ATMs, or the ATMs in the airport. Identity theft is a thing.

-You’ll get a lot farther with the locals if you know a few words in Arabic or French. I can’t tell you how many people were amazed that I defaulted to speaking French with them, as opposed to English, as an American. We’ve made a pretty bad name for ourselves going around the would expecting everyone to speak English, attempting those few words is such a profound act of respect. Learn a few. 

-You CANNOT drink the water there. I spent way more money on bottled water than I expected to. Plan to do the same!

-Morocco is easily the most progressive of the MENA countries. Besides the UAE, that is. However, it’s important to remain respectful. While you don’t have to sport a hijab, you should wear long pants and abstain from bearing your shoulders and chest area. 

We stayed here in Marrakech. The hotel basically resembled a palace and was very nice. There are many other places you can stay, however, for a fraction of the cost. This hotel is located in the newer part of the city, but it’s not terribly far from the Plaza Jemaa el’fna, which is where you’ll want to spend all of your time. 

The Plaza Jemaa el’fna is the heart of the city, so it’s where everything is located: restaurants, shops, etc. It’s also where the souk is located, which is a big reason most people are attracted to Marrakech. That, and it’s couscous heaven. 

Side note: if you share any of my food allergies, specifically the nut and sesame allergy, it’s fucking difficult to eat in Morocco. I ended up sticking to mostly fresh vegetarian stuff while I was there.

Pro-tip: drink ALL of the mint tea while you’re there. It’s a Moroccan specialty and it’s DELICIOUS. Plus it’s safe cuz the water has been boiled. 

Also, eating local food anywhere you go, instead of opting for something familiar like a hamburger, is always a good idea because that’s what they know how to make!

The souk is an incredible place. It’s filled with anything and everything you can imagine, and it’s packed with people, so make sure to hang on to your purse/wallet. The souk/square is where the majority of people work and make their living. I think most people would suggest you try and haggle with the shop owners, but personally, everything was already so discounted I didn’t feel right doing that. Use your own discretion. Either way, this is where you’ll want to purchase souvenirs. 

I opted to use the souk as an opportunity to invest in fabric pieces. I bought scarves for every lady in my life, as well as purchasing a pair of Moroccan house shoes, and a giant tapestry, part of which is pictured above. 
The Plaza itself is a UNESCO world heritage site, because it is a place where oral history gets passed down from generation to generation. If you walk around the square, you’ll see large groups of people gathered around one person: that’s the storyteller. Until quite recently, the Berber language was uniquely oral, so the lack of a written alphabet created the necessity for these story tellers, and the practice is still alive and well in the Jemaa el’fna today. 

Pro-tip: the square is also filed with women selling jewelry and henna. Sometimes they’ll come up and try to start putting henna on you. Don’t let them. Whatever material they use to make it can give you a rash and isn’t always safe. There are many safe places to get henna in Morocco, but the souk isn’t one of them. 

Another place to stop and see is the Bahia Palace, built in the late 19th century, and meant to be the greatest, most immaculate palace of its time. Bahia means “brilliance,” by the way. It’s filled with many gardens, and so peaceful and lovely. It’s also filled with cats, as much of Morocco is, haha.

If you’re looking to get out of the city for a little while, just outside of Marrakech is the Ourika Valley and the Atlas Mountains. They’re filled with Berber villages, which we got to see. The mountains are very different from the ones we find here in Colorado, so I loved it. They definitely have their own beauty. 

We also rode camels around in the mountains. This is the girl I rode. It’s important to note that camels are not native to Morocco. They have been imported solely for the purpose of making money off of tourists who have a certain set of ideas in mind when visiting MENA. The same goes for the snake charmers in the square. These are byproducts of Orientalism. 

Also, many people charge you money to take photos of them. In example, it cost extra money to take the photo of that camel. At least they’ve found a way to capitalize upon appropriation, am I right? Haha. 

Further north is the economic capital, Casablanca. This city is much more modern and sits right next to the ocean! There’s even familiar places like McDonald’s, but again, eat somewhere local. However, the real jewel of Casablanca is the stunning and incredibly-sized Hassan II Mosque. This is the only place in Morocco that I wrote a hijab, because it was the only place it seemed essential and respectful.  

Most mosques aren’t open to the public, but this one is. It’s difficult to tell in photographs just how gargantuan this architectural feat truly is. It’s also a source of controversy because of how much it cost, and because the king hired a French architect, a Christian, to build this mosque instead of a local, and/or a Muslim. The dichotomy between the very rich and the very poor is most apparent in Casablanca, in my humble opinion. 

This mosque is easily the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, architecturally speaking. There are too many intricate details to try and explain, or capture. (For example, there are cutouts in the floor gust allow you to see the ocean!) If you do nothing else in Morocco, visit this mosque. It is an absolute must-see. 

Not far from there is the city of Rabat. This is the capital of Morocco! It’s also very modern, and sits next to the ocean. It, too, has a souk, and that iconic blue that Chefchaouen is normally credited for, while remaining much less touristy. 

It’s also home to lots of surfing!! There are several beaches and pedestrian-friendly jetties that go out into the ocean. Careful though, the waves get HUGE and I watched several groups of people get soaked while trying to selfie. 
There are many gardens and the Chellah to visit in Rabat, as well. The Chellah is an ancient necropolis, and really impressive to see. It’s been overtaken by storks and flora, so it’s excellent if you enjoy birdwatching. 

Pro-tip: lots of hotels include some sort of spa, and you need to get a hammam while you’re there!

Further north still is the city of Fez. We didn’t spend a ton of time there, but we did visit a ceramics factory, which was really neat. This is another great spot to purchase some souvenirs! It’s also very close to the Spanish border, and if you go slightly north out of town you can take the hydrofoil across to Spain!

Overall, the entire country is very beautiful, culturally and linguistically rich, and everyone I met was incredibly kind. Plus, everywhere is very Instagram friendly. Especially if you have a thing for tiles and doors. 

Visiting in the middle of winter is probably the best time. We enjoyed temperatures in the 70s, and lots of sun the entire time. In the summertime it can reach over 120 degrees Fahrenheit!

Wow!! That was a lot of information! If you’re still reading, thank you and congratulations for making it this far, haha. I tried to cover everything I could think of, but if I left something out or if there’s anything else you’re curious about, please let me know! I’d love to answer your questions. 

Until next time, if you’d like to see more about this, and other places, please head over to my Instagram @aubreyautourdumonde

Where are you planning on traveling next?! What are some of your dream vacations? Let me know!

Bisous!! Xoxo 

-A

Colorado Summer Series: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Hello, and welcome to the second installment of my Colorado Summer Series! I would like to take a moment and say thank you to everyone who reached out to me and gave me feedback on last week’s post. The response was really positive and encouraging, and it really helps me when I hear from you guys! Plus I really want to cultivate and encourage interaction and engagement, so thank you for responding!

This week’s post is all about the Great Sand Dunes National Park. The last time I was there was just about three years ago, and for the rest of the family it was around five. We wanted to get some camping in while my sister was still here, and my mom had an appointment in Alamosa, so we came up with the idea to just head over there once we were done, which worked out really well. 

The park is located in the southern third of the state, and is about a four hour drive from Denver. It is easily accessed from Highway 285, or from I-25 South. As someone who’s taken both routes, I recommend just taking I-25–the drive is MUCH prettier that way. 

Similar to last week, the Sand Dunes are incredibly unique, geographically speaking. The park sits in the San Luis Valley between two mountain ranges: the Sangre de Cristo, and the San Juan mountains. 

The dunes themselves are the highest in North America! The dunes came into existence a long time ago thanks to a behemoth of a volcano (the largest in the world, at one point) that used to exist in the area. 

When it erupted, the lava created the base of the San Juan mountains that line one side of the valley. At the same time, the Sangre de Cristo mountains were forming on the other side of the valley. As the lakes in the area started to dry up, all that was left in their wake were the beds of sand. Wind blew down from the Sangre de Cristo mountains–bringing rocks, pebbles, and sediment with it–and pushed the sand up one side, while wind from the San Juans blew sand up the other, leaving it trapped between the two mountain ranges. 

Once in the park, it’s easy to see and understand what I’m describing above.  The mountains line the park, while the dunes sit essentially at their merging points. There’s also a creek, known as Medano Creek, that runs between the parking lot and the dunes. Depending upon the time of year and the snowfall from the winter before, the water levels vary. We got lucky this time, and the creek was pretty full. There is also a natural ebb and flow to the water, which is really neat to see. The phenomenon is known as a “surge flow,” and only occurs in three or four other places throughout the world! You can find loads of other information about the dunes and the park here

On top of all of that, the site used to be home to three different Native American tribes: the Southern Ute, the Jicarilla Apache, and the Navajo. Which might explain why we stumbled across the above photoshoot between this woman and the person in traditional dress! (I bet her photos look incredible.) 

Unlike the Paint Mines, this park is EXTREMELY touristy. The creek is by far the most populated area in the park. By mid-day the banks were completely lined on both sides with people. Going in the evening like we did is definitely the secret. By then most people had left for the day, and the creek was nice and quiet. 

Another key to visiting this park is to plan to camp outside of the actual park. While it’s pretty cheap to camp inside the reserve, availability is sparce, and if you don’t book well in advance, you’ll be SOL anyway. There are a few cabins, an RV park, and a lodge just outside of the park, but the aforementioned rules apply here, too. 

Immediately behind the cabins is a nicely sized campground. I stayed in this spot both times I’ve gone down there, and had no problems. That being said, the prices have definitely gone up since the last time I was down there. We paid $65 for two nights. Yuck! However that’s still cheaper than in the park, or in one of the cabins, which will put you out $55 a night.

The dunes themselves make for an excellent hike, but are deceivingly difficult. The closest of the two highest dunes, creatively dubbed “High Dune,” is a 3-mile roundtrip. Star Dune, the tallest dune, is located only a mile and a half beyond that. 

Normally, 3 miles is no big deal, but my sister and I didn’t make it to High Dune. We’re both pretty experienced hikers, her much more so than I, but we severely underestimated the amount of water necessary to make it up there. 

If you’ve ever run on the beach, you know how difficult it is to run on sand versus the pavement. Well, this was even tougher than that. The sand is loose, not like beach sand, and you’re gaining a lot of elevation fast! (Around 500 ft in 1.5 miles!) With these powers combined, and desert-like conditions, it turned out to be a lot tougher than we anticipated. 

We went through three big Nalgenes between the two of us, and ended up hiking two miles instead of the full three. But boy, did it kick our butts!! It’s also important to note that we had a lot more water on us than most people did. Please don’t be cocky, BRING MORE WATER THAN YOU THINK YOU’LL NEED! I repeat: bring more water than you think you’ll need. 

Looking back, we should’ve started our hike at least an hour earlier. We started around 9:30 am, but 8:30, or even 8, would’ve been a better time. The sand gets surprisingly hot during the day–it can reach up to 140 degrees Fahrenheit!

It’s difficult to understand and appreciate how massive these dunes truly are–which is why you should go there in person. 😉 In order to capture all of their awesomeness on camera, you need the light of the late evening. But since we hiked in the morning, I obviously wasn’t blessed with the appropriate lighting. The only way to begin to understand what they’re like from my photos is to stare at the tiny dots in the photos, which are people. Hopefully that gives you some perspective. 

If you’re looking for somewhere to get away from it all, the dunes are a pretty incredible place. But if you go in the summer, just know that everyone else went there to get away from it all, too. Thanks so much for reading! What places should I cover next? I’m looking for recommendations! Until next week, my darlings!

Let’s be friends on Instagram! @aubsaintlaurent 
Xoxo

-A

Colorado Summer Series: Paint Mines Interpretative Park

Hello darlings!

It’s been over a month since the last time I posted. Everything just got so hectic (as it always does) at the end of the semester with finals–it took over my life! But now that we’re all settled into summertime, I’m back in the saddle, ready to dedicate lots of time to cultivating my blog!

During my hiatus I was able to sit back and ask myself what it was that I wanted to focus on this summer, blog-wise. My first instinct was travel, travel, travel, since it’s my biggest passion, and the summer is everyone’s favorite time to do so. However, I won’t be doing any big trips this summer since I’m in the process of saving up money to move to France for a semester in December! As tough as it is for me to wait that long to do any traveling, I know it’s going to be so worth it in the long haul. 

So! Instead of focusing on any sort of domestic and/or international travel, I decided to shift my focus more locally. Colorado is plein with national parks and natural wonders; we are home to some pretty unique geographical and ecological areas, and people travel from all over to see this wonderful state!

All of that is to say I’ve decided to start a series highlighting some of these fabulous and interesting places. This post is the first installment of my Colorado Summer Series, and I hope it will inspire you to visit my beautiful state and/or get out and explore your own local area, wherever that may be! 🙂 Let’s get started. 

My sister, pictured above, is currently visiting from Kansas. Her and I decided to take a trip to the Paint Mines Interpretative Park at the suggestion of our dad. I’m a Colorado native, but I’d never heard of this place before. It turns out neither had he, despite how many years he spent living here, as well. According to the article he sent me, this place is still a bit of a hidden gem.

The park is located pretty much due east of Colorado Springs in El Paso County, just outside of a small town named Calhan. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Colorado front range area, it’s about an hour and forty minute drive from Denver, making it perfect for a day trip. 

The area is pretty unique from an ecological standpoint, as it is an intersection of prairie, badlands, and wetlands. It’s also a protected area in Colorado, due to its archaeological significance: they’ve found evidence of humans living there from 9,000 years ago! It’s also believed that the Native Americans used to heard buffalo into these rocky channels as an easier way of hunting them. You can read in more detail about the park here, though the website isn’t the greatest. 

There are about four miles of trails throughout the park, and it’s mostly flat, which makes it an excellent option for families. We decided to take the trail that headed straight for the rock formations, cuz that was the entire reason we were there. The trail quickly turned into white sand surrounded by low growing grass, bushes, and other assorted flora. It didn’t take us long to reach the impressive rock formations at all, maybe about a quarter of a mile into the park. 


The first formations we stumbled upon were stark white. Their unique shape is thanks to literally millions of years of erosion. 

It wasn’t until we got a little deeper into the park, however, that the real awesomeness commenced. The alien-like shapes of the hoodoos (pictured above) combined with the yellow and pink coloring of the rock was like anything we’d ever seen before! Pair that with the Jurassic-feel of the surrounding environment, we felt like we’d stepped onto another planet. 

The naturally occurring (yes, really!) hues of pinks and yellows is due to the selenite clay, jasper, and limestone that has been revealed via the erosion. It’s really incredible to see in real life! 

In comparison to other parks and trails in Colorado, this one does seem to remain fairly unknown. We saw around ten people the entire time we were there, which is minimal compared to other popular places, such as Rocky Mountain National Park.

Overall the trip is well worth the drive. The easy hiking and the eerie ethereal beauty of the formations create an incredibly enjoyable experience any time of day or year. 

Pro-tip: there’s minimal shade available as there aren’t any trees, and the rock formations essentially form a wide-mouthed canyon. Bring LOTS of water, a hat, sunglasses, and more sunscreen than you think you’ll need, especially if you’re fair-skinned! 

I’d love to know what you guys think about this article and starting this series! Have you ever been to this magical place? What are your travel plans for the summer? Let me know in the comments down below! 🙂 Please join me on my journey, let’s become friends on Instagram: @aubsaintlaurent

Until next week! Bisous xox

-A 

Minimalist Fashion and Project 333

Hello my darlings,

Today I thought I’d try something a little different. This week’s post isn’t going to be beauty-related, but instead it’s going to be about fashion.

If any of you are like I am–which, if you are reading a beauty and lifestyle blog, I have a sneaking suspicion you are–then you have a passion for fashion. Personally, I have been really into clothes since before I can remember. I’ve had a thing for shoes from a VERY young age (we’re talking 3 or 4 here), and I have always loved to be well-dressed!

When I was younger, I was all about staying trendy. And while this meant that I was perpetually donning new clothing and staying relevant, it also meant I needed to buy a new wardrobe every season, and constantly found myself overwhelmed in excess clothing that hardly ever got worn again.

As I’ve matured, and specifically within the past two years, I’ve started to change the way I think about my style, and fashion in general. I’m an avid documentary watcher, and as consequence of such I started watching documentaries about fast-fashion and consumer consciousness. Both of which are topics I’ll cover in other blog posts… (If you are interested in these subjects before then, I would suggest starting with this documentary.)

As I’ve spent more and more time exploring these topics, I’ve recently become interested in the idea of investing in staple pieces that are well made and will last from season to season–classic pieces–rather than constantly pouring money into poorly-made, cheap clothes that will only be relevant for one, or maybe two, seasons. And through my exploration of what this means, I’ve also become interested in the phenomenon of minimalist fashion, and by extension, the capsule wardrobe.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the capsule wardrobe, it is basically the idea of building a wardrobe around a few staple pieces. For example: a white t-shirt, well-fitting jeans, a silk blouse, a blazer. But overall the idea is that you have these basic pieces that will last you from season to season until they die, or you do, whichever comes first.

Over the past few months I’ve slowly been purging my wardrobe and investing in a few classic pieces that will take me from season to season. It’s been an interesting exercise in redefining my own style, but I wasn’t exactly feeling ready to fully commit to the minimalist wardrobe. However, the other night as I was watching yet another documentary on minimalism, I stumbled across Project 333 (pronounced “three thirty-three”).

The overarching theme of the project is based in the capsule wardrobe idea: it challenges people to build a wardrobe using only 33 pieces, including shoes, outwear, and accessories, and to wear these 33 pieces for 3 months. Once I finished hearing about it, I felt so inspired! I knew this was exactly what I had been looking for. Which is what brings us to this week’s blog post. I have decided to take on this challenge as my own experiment in the world of minimalist fashion. And since May 1st in on Monday, there’s no time like the present.

The Project 333 website outlines a few rules, but also encourages anyone looking to take on this challenge to put their own creative twist on it. As stated above, the woman who designed this project encourages participants to build a wardrobe of only 33 pieces, though there other fashion bloggers who assert the magic number is actually 37, and others still who embrace the slim number 12. Regardless, I think the point is if you’re trying this idea/project out, you’re doing it right.

As far as the rules for Project 333 go, the gist is basically this:

-First, go through your closet and make a donation bag for the clothes you don’t like anymore

-Throw out whatever articles of clothing that have reached the end of their life

-Build a wardrobe with 33 pieces

-This number includes shoes, accessories, outerwear, but does not include loungewear, workout clothing, underwear, or sentimental jewelry that you wear every day

-Box up the rest of the clothes that aren’t included in your capsule wardrobe

-Cry (jk)

I opted out of boxing up the rest of my clothing, instead I decided to hang up my new wardrobe on the opposite side of my closet, so there would be no confusion. Also, I just went through my clothing a few weeks prior, so I decided to skip the initial step.

To be frank when I started the process of building my capsule wardrobe I thought it was going to be pretty easy. I went into thinking about which pieces I absolutely love and wear frequently, as well as trying to develop some sort of cohesive color story that I thought would aid me in picking out what to wear. Which, it did help, but I also learned quickly that 33 is a surprisingly small number when it also includes accessories, outwear, and shoes.

Here’s what it looks like right now:

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Since the months I’ll be conducting this experiment include two summer months, I definitely wanted to include shorts and lighter-weight pants. Also, I live my life in leggings, so of course they’re getting put in.

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(Please excuse the horrible quality of these photos, gosh. The lighting in my room is awful.) I also wanted to include dresses since it’s spring and summer, as well as this full black skirt that is really only wearable during the upcoming time of the year. Each of these four dresses are favorites of mine. I wanted to make sure to include pieces that I love to wear at any time, that are also well-made and that fit me well. There are two other dresses that I plan to include in my wardrobe, but they’re currently in the laundry, soooo…..

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In this super shitty photo that includes the shirts I’ve picked out, this is where my idea of a color story is the most obvious. I have been really into muted tones recently: greys, blush pinks, dusty purples, etc. Plus black and white go with literally everything and will make it easy to mix and match the different pieces in this wardrobe. That being said, I still may make a few tweaks to this section of the wardrobe before Monday.

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The outwear section was seriously the toughest part. Colorado is pretty unpredictable when it comes to weather, especially in the spring. For example, earlier this week it was in the high 70s, and as I’m writing this, it’s snowing! Plus we technically aren’t out of the freeze-zone until after Mother’s Day weekend. So, this may be where I have to give myself a little bit of flexibility out of necessity, but we’ll see what Mother Nature brings. Anyway, three of the four pieces are neutral colors, the floral jacket is one of my favorite pieces I own. I’m completely obsessed with floral print, and again, this piece is really only appropriate during spring/early summer, so I had to throw it in.

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Shoes! I am a shoe freak, so only wearing four pairs of shoes over the next three months might be kind of depressing, but whatever. Again, neutral colors all the way…

Two things I did notice while going through the initial process of building this wardrobe is one, that I was immediately inspired to go through my wardrobe again and get rid more stuff, and two, I do in fact wear a large bulk of the clothing I own. So! As I embark upon this minimalist journey, I invite you all to follow my voyage on Instagram. Please let me know your thoughts on what I come up with!

Now, I want to know what you guys think! Are you interested in Project 333 and/or minimalist fashion and consumer consciousness at all? What are some of your favorite pieces in your wardrobe? What’s your favorite season to dress for? Leave your answers in the comments below!

Thanks so much for reading, my loves. Until next week!

Bisous! xx

-A

 

Skincare, Skincare, Skincare!

Hello loves!

If you couldn’t tell from the title of this week’s blog post (well, really last week’s because I couldn’t get it together to post over the weekend), we are going to dive into some skincare. This is only going to be pt. 1, as I am always hunting for different skincare products, and will be updating you along the way.

My whole life I’ve had basically normal skin, so I’ve been pretty lucky. As a teenager I had incredibly clear skin, and if I ever tried to use products for my skin, that was when I would experience pimples. In the past year or two, however, my skin has changed a lot. I assume it’s one of the joys of being in your mid-to-late twenties, however I’m pretty pissed that nobody ever mentioned the fact that you can get acne as an adult. But I digress…

So, within the past year I’ve been becoming increasingly more interested in developing some sort of skin care routine, but in my hunt I’ve also discovered what an incredible challenge it is to find products that are safe for use! I wish I had a dollar for every skincare product I’ve come across that has either shea butter, almond oil, or avocado in it. WHY? And on the other hand, when I find products without those ingredients in them, they seem to be ridden with chemicals.

As I’ve mentioned before, I like to stick to things that are more on the natural side, especially when it comes to stuff I’ll be putting on my skin on the daily. So, here’s what I’m currently using on my face. Bonus: they’re all from the drug store!

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I present to you my current favorites! The first item I’d like to discuss is the rosehip seed oil. You can find a vile of it at any natural grocer, I personally go to Sprouts, but I’m not sure how far and wide Sprouts store exist. Remember when I said my skin has changed? Well, I now experience the joys of enlarged pores on my nose and immediately around it on my cheeks. I also tend to get pretty oily in those areas, which goes hand in hand with having enlarged pores. At first the notion of putting oil on the areas of my face that are already oily seemed really counter-intuitive, and I had this recommended to me by my boyfriend of all people. But his sister is an esthetician, so I decided to give it a try, and the difference has been amazing! Overall my pores are much less visible, and my skin feels much more even overall. It’s also a pretty popular ingredient in anti-aging products, so it will also help you to stay young and fresh! Supposedly. I only use a dime size for my entire face, and the vile didn’t even cost me $5.

Next on the list are the two Pacifica Beauty products. I found these guys at Target. They are kind of on the pricey end for a drugstore line–the cactus and kale lotion was $14.00 for 1.7 fl oz–but the entire line is vegan and cruelty-free. Plus there’s no added dyes or coloring or perfumes: a major bonus for anyone with allergies and/or sensitive skin! These two products have really helped me to develop a daily skin routine as well. I apply the cactus and kale renewing lotion in the morning before my makeup, and then I use the sea algae and coconut face cleanser to remove my makeup in the evening. They are both very light, and smell delicious! They’re gentle on the skin and leave my face feeling refreshed, hydrated, and soft.

The last product in this photo is a face mask by Que Bella beauty. This is another line from Target, which I have become quite obsessed with. (I’m also obsessed with Target in general, but who isn’t?) They offer a wide range of natural beauty masks for the “spa at home” effect. I purchased this box of like ten different masks around Christmas time, and have used all of them except this one. Personally, I prefer mud masks to sheet masks, and most peel-off masks, but that’s just me. Also, I really only use masks when I feel like my skin needs a little extra help, or I’m feeling super self-indulgent and want to get boujee with my skin. Que Bella claims that at least 80% of the ingredients in their masks are all natural, so again, right up my alley. So far my favorite mask has been the skin calming one with lavender and aloe vera in it. Lavender is one of my favorite smells! Also, these masks cost $1.99 each!

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These two guys I also purchased from, you guessed it, Target! These are the products I don’t use on the daily. I only use the Yes to Carrots product when I’m in the shower, and the blackhead scrub only once per week. The product claims that you can use it up to 2x daily, but personally I think this product is too harsh for that. I, of course, get blackheads on my nose and my chin thanks to my enlarged pores which become clogged easily, so I like to exfoliate my face weekly to help combat that, and to leave my face feeling renewed and fresh!

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And finally we arrive at the CeraVe products. One theme you may have noticed in all of the aforementioned products is their moisturizing capabilities. I live in Colorado, and it is DRY, DRY, DRY here, thanks to the high-plains/desert situation. Also, my entire life I have LOATHED the feeling of dry skin. So I’m pretty compulsive about putting on lotion, chapstick (vaseline), and drinking water. That’s where these guys come in. I lather my body in this stuff to combat the awful feeling of dry skin.

So, what are some of your favorite skincare products? I’d love to here your suggestions in the comments! Also, I want to start experimenting with luxury skincare products. If you guys have any luxury skincare that you’re addicted to, please let me know what it is!

Let’s be friends on Insta! You can follow me @aubsaintlaurent

Love you guys! xx

Hypoallergenic lippies

Hello darlings and welcome back to Hyperallergique!

Today I wanted to delve into the realm of lip products, because this area has been one of my biggest challenges in the world of beauty when it comes to my allergies. As I mentioned in my previous post, some of the most common ingredients that makeup brands love to use when it comes to moisturizing are almond oil, avocado oil, shea and argan oil, as well as sesame and sunflower seed oil. While these are wonderful ingredients for people sans allergies, they are a nightmare for those of us with nut/seed allergies! (And believe me, I figured out these were common ingredients the hard way.)

Of course, there are a wide variety of lip products on the market these days: everything from the classic stick lipstick, to lip gloss, liquid lips, satin finish, matte, etc. So, the options are virtually endless. I, however, am an avid supporter of the liquid lipsticks–they’re virtually all I own anymore–and let me tell you why:

  1. Classic stick lipsticks, in my experience, are the lip products that most often contain ingredients like shea, almond, and sesame. For example, it’s pretty much impossible for someone dealing with nut/seed allergies to purchase a Sephora-brand lipstick as they all contain shea. This was a stunning revelation for me, as I used to have a huge collection of their lipsticks. L’Oréal lipsticks are also a big no no: their lipsticks contain both sesame seed oil and argan oil. Also, in case you didn’t know, L’Oréal has an impressive list of other companies they own, such as Lancôme, Kiehl’s, Yves Saint Laurent. Lancôme lipsticks contain macadamia oil, as do Yves Saint Laurent lipsticks. I can’t say for 100% certainty that the rest of their companies follow suit, but I wouldn’t be surprised. Let me know in the comments down below if any of you want me to research this further.
  2. Liquid lips, on the other hand, tend to be much safer in the ingredients realm. Which isn’t to say that all of them are this way, but I’ve had much more success with liquid lips vs classic stick.
  3. They are weightless!! I absolutely love how light-weight they are–it doesn’t feel like I have anything on my lips. Plus, most of them are kiss/drink/food proof (with the exception of oily foods of course).

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By far my favorite liquid lipsticks belong to Jeffree Star. I’ve followed him since Myspace days, so when I found out that he had started his own cosmetics line, I knew I had to try it! His liquid lips (if you’ve been living under a rock) are vegan and cruelty-free, and they’re 100% allergen-safe on the nut/seed front.

His Velour Liquid Lip in the shade Celebrity Skin was the first liquid lip I ever purchased, and I was instantly hooked. Overall the formula has been incredibly consistent for me, and I love the wide range of colors he offers. The only shade I’ve ever had trouble with is the yellow shade from his summer collection last year. Both the formula and the coverage were horrible! However, this seems to be an anomaly as every other lipstick I’ve purchased has worked great. Plus, they’re full coverage.

I’m literally always eating or drinking something, so I like that I don’t have to worry about whether or not the lipstick is coming off, or reapplying. However, if I ever do need to reapply, the lipsticks tend to take a second layer really well, which isn’t always the case in liquid lips.

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Two other brands that I really enjoy are the Sephora brand liquid lips, and the Kat Von D!

The consistency on the Sephora lipstick is really nice. It’s pretty lightweight and definitely full-coverage. They don’t leave your lips feeling overly dry, either, thanks to the rose oil in them. NOTE: the Sephora lippies contain sunflower seed oil, buyer beware! They also offer a HUGE range of shades.

As far as the Kat Von D Everlasting liquid lips are concerned, they have a give and a take. They are also lightweight and not very drying, but the formula hasn’t been as consistent for me. For example, the black shade, called Witches, is really patchy. It definitely takes a lot of work to get that opaque coverage we’re all looking for, especially when it comes to a black lipstick. That was disappointing, but at the same time I purchased several shades after that, and they’ve worked great! Ps. they’re also vegan and cruelty free (like Kat herself)!

What other liquid lips have you guys tried and loved? Hated? Let me know in the comments! Thanks so much for reading. Have a great weekend!

Follow ya girl on Instagram @aubsaintlaurent

Welcome to Hyperallergique!

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Hi! That’s me, Aubrey. I’m a 27-year old, French-obsessed, makeup and fashion enthusiast. I also happen to have quite the list of food allergies. Specifically, I am allergic to:

-Nuts (peanuts, hazelnuts, almonds, walnuts, tree nuts; though my doctor says to just avoid them all)

-Sesame seeds (a common cross allergy in people who have nut allergies)

-Tomatoes

-Avocadoes (a common cross allergy in people who are allergic to almonds; bananas are too, but luckily I’m not allergic to those)

-Shellfish

I also have a long list of other allergies, but those aren’t really relevant at the moment.

I didn’t have any food allergies for most of my life; it wasn’t until after I gave birth to my daughter that they started to develop. So, as I’ve had to navigate my way through life with food allergies over the last almost-eight years, I’ve discovered having food allergies affects way more than just my diet.

As someone who loves to play with make-up, as well as being a regular human who is a fan of hygiene, I’ve discovered just how many products for the body tend to include ingredients such as almond oil, shea butter, argan oil, and avocado oil. (Side note: argan and shea are both a form of tree nuts–which I found out the hard way!) These ingredients are great when it comes to moisturizing, but not-so-great if you are someone who has a nut allergy.

A few weeks ago while I was hunting in Target for a lipstick that I could actually wear, it occurred to me that while make-up companies have begun labeling when their make-up is vegan and/or cruelty-free (which I am an ardent supporter of), the notion of needing to mark when their make-up is allergen-safe still isn’t really on their radar.

And I get it, people with food allergies are still in the minority. However, there are more and more of us each year. Currently, there are around 15 million people in the United States alone who are dealing with some sort of food allergy, surely I can’t be the only one among that group who enjoys make-up.

In my perpetual frustration, it also occurred to me that amongst all of the beauty gurus, blogs, etc., that exist in the social media world, nobody has decided to tackle this issue yet. In my experience I’ve learned that if there’s a service out there that I wish existed but doesn’t, A. I’m not the only one, and B. some of the most successful services were created by the people who needed them. So here we are.

In this blog I plan to cover which beauty and body products are safe for those of us with food allergies. From makeup, to lotion, to body wash, shampoo, perfumes, etc., I am here to be your allergen-safe Sherpa. As I am also a busy college student, I will be updating this blog once a week, every weekend, until life allows me some more free-time during the summer. Maybe I’ll also include some alternative recipes and fashion stuff here and there. We’ll see where the journey takes us!

For now, I thought I’d start off by discussing the products I have on my face today in first photo:

20170408_124113_HDR For a face primer, I’ve been using Maybelline’s Master Prime in shade 300. Which you can purchase for about $7 at Target. The green tint of shade 300 serves to color correct any redness in the complexion, which I have a great deal of! It also blurs and smoothes the face, which helps to minimize the look of pores and give you an even base on which to apply your makeup. If you’re having a no-makeup day, you can also apply this all over the face and wear the primer by itself, as the green tint disappears once you’ve rubbed it in.

For a concealer, I’ve been using the Maybelline Age-Rewind concealer in shade Fair. This concealer has become somewhat of a cult-classic on YouTube, especially if you happen to follow Tati. I enjoy it because it’s hydrating and is full-coverage, so it actually cover up my dark under-eye circles. (It’s also ultra-affordable!)

For foundation lately, I’ve also been into another YouTube sensation: the L’Oreal Infallible Pro-Glow. I wear shade 201, because I’m pale as can be. They do offer a range of shades, but–in my humble opinion–they should offer more for their customers who have lovely shades of brown skin! For me, the coverage is more of a light-to-medium, which is nice when you aren’t feeling the full-coverage look. It’s also really affordable, which is always a plus!

Today for lips I’m wearing a Sephora-brand liquid lip in the shade Fig Luster. They normally run around $14, and have rose-hip oil in them which is a great alternative for a moisturizer for those of us with allergies! HOWEVER, it is important to note that these lippies have sunflower seed oil in them, so for those of you who are allergic to sunflower seeds, steer clear.

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For eyes: lately I’ve been ADDICTED to the Kylie Cosmetics “The Royal Peach” palette. The colors are pretty unique, and blend out like a dream. The palette is forever sold out, like almost everything else on her site, which is annoying. It also retails for about $46, so it’s up there in price, but I still love it. In the crease and on the lower lash line I’m wearing a blend of the shades Duke and Crush.

Also on the lower lash line I’m wearing a Sephora-brand eye-shadow in the shade Colorful. They offer a variety of finishes, as well as colors. The one I’m wearing is a matte-finish. They can be kind of patchy, but are definitely buildable. Again, these are pretty affordable, and the Sephora brand is highly under-rated in my opinion. But more on that later…

For brows I used a combination of Benefit Cosmetics Precisely, My Brow in shade 5, and Gimme Brow in shade 3. These are definitely on the more expensive end, both retailing at $24, but the eyebrows are the frame of the face soooo…. It’s worth it. Also all I really need to do is fill in my brows, as opposed to drawing them on, so they’re both nice for doing that. And they’re pretty versatile products if you’re like me and like to switch up the shape and whatnot of your brows, pending on your mood that day.

For blush, Wet n Wild Color Icon in the shade The Princess Daquiries. If you aren’t on the Wet n Wild train, it’s time to hop on. Their make-up is SO affordable, and it all works great! This shade is a nice peachy-pink which is great for everyday wear, especially in the spring and summer! They are also cruelty-free.

For today’s highlight I’m wearing Urban Decay Afterglow in shade Sin. It’s a lovely white-gold shade, which, again, is great for my paper-white skin. Plus, it stays on ALL DAY. The consistency is really buttery and easy to work with, as well as STRONG AS HELL. Again, kind of on the pricey side.

For mascara I’ve been keeping it old-school with a Mary Kay mascara. I have a friend who sells it, and I love the way it separates my lashes and gives them volume without flaking or smudging. I’m not sure how one obtains Mary Kay makeup without knowing a seller…

Thanks so much for checking out this week’s post! If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, concerns, I would love to hear from you! Also, if there’s a specific subject you’d like me to talk about, please let me know. I am here for you! Bisous xx

Follow ya girl on Instagram @aubsaintlaurent