Social Media Icons

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

My Trip to Secrets Papagayo Costa Rica

This is not a sponsored post, all opinions are my own.

Until this trip I hadn't been on a vacation in 13 years! Can you believe it? It was a well over-due trip that I'm so glad I got to make with my mom. She had been wanting a beach vacation and I wanted to try some place new and exotic, so we landed on Costa Rica. And I could haven been happier with that decision.

I used Apple Vacations online to book the vacation. I'd used them before (13 years ago) and knew they were reputable. Using their site and Trip Advisor I looked at lots of reviews and finally decided on Secrets Papagayo. I liked that it was an adults only, all-inclusive resort that had high reviews... sold! We booked 4 nights in June.  

I will say flying there from Denver is no picnic, as direct flights were hard to come by and much more expensive. So it was about 12 hours each way of flights and layovers... not fun. But so worth it! When the day finally came to leave I was so nervous that my mom wouldn't like it or the resort would live up to the hype. I couldn't have been more wrong. 

Landing in Costa Rica was shock as the heat and humidity hit you in the face on the jetway (hey I'm from Colorado, 20% humidity is too much) but the airport is nice and they move you through customs quickly. Unfortunately my mom's bag was lost in our layover in Miami, so it took a while for us to file the claim, find the luggage, and setup a delivery to our hotel the next day. I was concerned about transportation, but I shouldn't have been. The van had waited for us and were ready when we got there.


The resort is only about 30 minutes from the airport so the ride wasn't long and the driver gave us a mini tour and lesson on Costa Rica for the trip. Pulling up to the resort was lovely as their check-in/lobby is beautiful and tropical. The bellhops were extremely friendly welcoming you and getting your bags organized.

Check-in also went smoothly, and of course there's a littel sales pitch about their rewards program, but you get a drink and it only lasted about 15 minutes (pretty good I thought). Then off to the room! 

To get around the resort they have shuttles, which are just larger golf carts. And man are they zippy! The driver asked our names and room number and didn't forget us the entire time we were there. Then it was up some stairs (there are a lot of stairs at this place, not for the faint of heart...or knees) to our lovely bungalow. 

To describe the rest of our stay I've divded my post into a few sections to make it easier; Facilities, Food, Activities, Nature and Weather, Staff.



Facilities


The room was beautiful and breezy with great air conditioning and a huge king sized bed (shared with my mom). The bathroom was also lovely, but these rooms are meant for couples as there isn't much privacy from the bathroom area to the room.



The entire complex is beautiful. It's set into a hill on the bay off the Pacific Ocean. So there are many hills, and as I mentioned, stairs in the resort, but that's what the shuttles were for. They were really easy to access, we never waited more than 5 minutes to be picked up.

All the bathrooms, pool areas, restaurants, and rooms were clean and well maintained. Everything seemed very tropical and gorgeous and there were all types of plants and flowers to see, didn't chairs to sit in, swings, and nooks, and anything else you might need in a resort setting.


Food


I've got to say I wasn't expecting much in regards to food. I thought it'd be pretty standard hotel fair but would get us through. And as it was an all-inclusive resort it was "free" so I wouldn't complain. But let me tel you, MIND BLOWN! The food was amazing! Whod've thought?

There is a buffet, 3 a la carte restaurants, a coffee shop, and room service provided. Along with a number of bars that may serve food as well. 

Market Cafe (buffet) - We ate here for every breakfast and lunch and were never disappointed. They had a Costa Rican station for more of a local flavor, and then everything else you could want. The food was delicous, different each day, and new and surprising. I especially loved the arepas and seafood salad (with the largest muscles I've ever seen). And their coffee was really good, this is important and I was pleasantly surprised.

Hitmitsu (asian fusion) - This is an a la carte restaurant with asian food and sushi. To be honest we ate there twice and only had sushi both times, so I can't comment on their other dishes. The sushi wasn't the best, but it was good with some interesting flavors I hadn't tried before. They included guajillo chile and mango in some of there rolls to blend the cultures' flavors... pretty tasty.

Seaside Grill - By far my favorite meal of the trip! I'm not usually a big steak person but my mom is, so I gave in and we went for dinner one night. Oh man, I'm so glad I did it was so good. The steak was tender and cooked medium-rare per my request. My meal included a potato, truffle puree which was delicious! And I got a fried calamari appetizer as well and it was the best calamari of my life! No tough chewiness here, just yummy-ness.




















Activities


The hotel offers many activities from pool volleyball, hikes, and water aerobics, to wine tasting and fruit carving, to kayaking and paddle boarding. Some were free and some were an extra charge, but nothing was very exspensive. Unfortunately, because we were only there for 3 full days, we didn't participate much, but if I ever went back I'd definitely want to do more as it looked so fun.

There were a good amount of excursions available as well and again they were affordable (as far as excursions go) and they come in half-day or full-day options. We chose a half-day option as we'd just got off a long travel day and did the Jungle Boat Cruise. 

The morning of the excursion we're picked up by the tour bus with a friendly tour guide. He spoke about Costa Rica, the towns, produce, and animals. He continued as our guide through the boat tour as well which was nice.




The boat took us up and down a murky brown river with lush forest on either side. We saw many birds, lizards, and dragonflies. But we also saw some baby and fully-grown crocodiles (no thank you!), bats, and howler monkeys. It was a beautiful ride with lots of information about the local animals and plants. The guide and driver truly want you to see animals, so they try really hard to find them for you.




















Nature and Weather


First off, I knew we were going in the wet season (About May-October) so I should've expected all the rain, but I didn't. Most mornings were nice and warm, but cloudy. Then in the afternoons the rains would come in... you could actually see it off the bay. It would rain usually from about 2pm to 5 or 6pm and then would clear up, until it rained again overnight. All the rain did make the grounds and forests so beautiful and green, but it did limit what we could do in a day.

But as I said all the drives, hikes, and boat rides were so amazingly green because of the rain I couldn't hate on it too badly. As you've noticed I'm sure, I was obsessed with the green landscape. Where we were (Guanacaste) is considered a dry forest so during the dry season apparently there's a lot of brown. About 2-3 hours away from the hotel are the rain and cloud forests, which I will definitely be going back to see!

The beach at the resort was also really nice. It is a black sand beach with the trees and greenery coming down pretty far. The water was clear and also a lot warmer than I was expecting.



Staff


The staff at the hotel was outstanding! When we arrived we were greeted with "Welcome Home" and I feel the staff truly wanted you to feel at home and enjoy every aspect of your stay. The shuttle drivers often remembered our room number and names, the bartenders were willing to help me with my Spanish and created all kinds of drinks, the waiters and waitresses were always very kind and helpful. 

It was often explained to us that "Pura Vida" is the national saying of Costa Rica. Literally it means a life that is pure, but colloquially it is used for everything (like OK in English). I heard it used for thank you, I'm fine, and good-bye. Besides being a cool idea I'll be incorporating into my life, it was fun to see the staff use and live it!

Just an FYI... I new that this hotel had couples and romantically things, but I wasn't aware that that's what they cater to. My mom and I were the only non-couple I saw at the hotel. So be warned if you are looking to hand with other singles this may not be the place for you.



Overall, as you can probably tell, I had an amazing time in Costa Rica. I would recommend it, especially Secrets Papagayo to everyone and I can't wait to go back!

Follow me on social for this & more adventures  @ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

What I Packed for Costa Rica



I can't believe I'm already gone and back from my vacation to Costa Rica. It was amazing but definitely not long enough. However, I plan on savouring my trip with a lot of pictures and a few blog posts. So watch out for the next few weeks here to see what I got up to at Secrets Papagayo in Costa Rica.

Make a List


I'm always nervous about packing. I mean I dream about it, obsess, and mildly freak out. I feel like I'll forget something important. So to combat this I've developed a habit of writing a list so I don't forget anything. Below is what my list looks like... a little over-the-top, yes. But let me tell you... I didn't forget anything this trip! Yay!


For this post I'll focus on the clothes I brought. I actually had to go out and buy almost an entirely new summer wardrobe for this tip! I am not the most confident when it comes to summer dressing. What can I say? You can hide a multitude of sins behind layers, small clothes and thin fabrics haven't been my friends. So I needed pretty much everything for this trip... swimsuits, shorts, blouses, coverups, etc...


What to Pack


Of course, you're list might be different but this is what I brought on my trip and they served me well! Costa Rica is a tropical environment right above the equator, so I packed all warm weather clothes and swimwear. However, after being there, I would have liked to bring a skirt for dinners as I felt a bit underdressed. 

Swimwear

Swimsuits - I definitely recommend at least 2 swimsuits, I learned the hard way that humid environments mean things don't dry. And putting on a wet swimsuit is hard and disgusting! Between your legs ends up feeling like a heavy-flow day on your "time of the month" and it's just not fun. I brough these 2:

A white swimsuit from Asos that's very girlie with lace and ruffles. But bewarned big-boobed ladies, I needed a safety pin to cage in my ladies in the water (they tend to get a mind of their own)! 

A coloful swimsuit from Target with a lace-up back. I figured this would conteract the white swimsuit as it covers the ladies while showing some back. Also the pattern on this one makes it really flattering.

Coverup - Well you gotta have a cover-up! It's nice to wear on the way to the beach and back and it looks cute too! I got mine from Marshalls (similar here, here, and here)

Bottoms

Shorts - Ok, buying shorts for me is about as fun as a pap smear, but lasts longer! I've got some thighs people, and day-to-day I'm okay with that, but when I was trying on shorts I struggled. I learned that they'd look cute while standing but when I sat my thigh fat would squish out like playdough... not cute! But I did find 3 shorts that I'd like and you know the trick? Stretchy fabric! All 3 are stretchy and so when you sit they keep covering my thighs instead of becoming implements of torture. The jean shorts are from Target and the 2 other from H&M (and they're only $12!).

Jeans - Yes, I know, jeans in a humid and hot place should be a sin! But hear me out, these jeans are very thin and stretchy so I was able to wear them with no problems. And they're embroidered! I've been looking for embroidered jeans forever. Again these are from Marshalls and so I don't have a link... but there are embroidered jeans everywhere!

Tops

My only requirements for tops for this trip were breezy, thin, and sleeveless! It's hot in Costa Rica, so I thought sleeves might be a little much. Here are the shirts I brought, or similar options (Gray, White Eyelet Similar, Floral, Black Tanks Similar Here and Here)



Whew! Well that's pretty much it, I did throw in some workout clothes and few extra t-shirts. So how do you pack for vacation? Lists? Last minute?


  


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Summer Anti-Haul - What I Don't Want to Buy



I feel like sometimes as a blogger (millenial, female, and just myself) I tend to talk a lot about the things I want to buy. What I want, all the time - can make me envious, self-indulgent, and down on myself. Now, of course I'm very grateful for everything I have and do appreciate the things and the not-things in my life. 

Sometimes we just need a reminder of all the things we don't need. So when I saw The Anna Edit and Phyrra do anti-hauls on their channel I was inspired to do one as well.

Below are the things that I don't feel the need to buy this summer! 


Flat Sandals - anti-haul




#1 - Flat Sandals


Or slides or mules... Although I think flat sandals are really cute, my feet are having none of it. With my plantar faciitis and flat feet, I have to wear sandals (all shoes for that matter) with support. Thank God Burkenstocks are back in fashion... and when they're not I'll still be over here rocking them.


Ruffles - Anti-Haul



#2 - Anything with Ruffles


I've never been a "girly" girl when it comes to dressing. I've been dabbling a little more in the feminine realm these last few years but I just don't feel comfortable in flouncy unstructured clothing. And then they go and add ruffles to everything. I know it's gauche right now but I'll stick to classic, simple sillhouettes and leave the ruffles to other ladies.


Fake Tan - Anti-Haul




#3 - Fake Tan


Oh damn... I might be the only person on the planet to say this but I hate fake tanning! The smell, the sitting, the orangeness, the streaks, getting an even color, and having to do it all again in a week. It's just too much, I'll just stay pastey, thank you!



Makeup - Anti-Haul




#4 - Summer-Proof Makeup


Obviously I love wearing and doing my makeup as much as the next gal. However, summer rolls around and we all become obsessed with our makeup lasting forever. But you know what, I'm going to let my skin shine through this month. I bought a very light coverage Coola BB cream with a matte tint to even me out a bit and protect. Then it's all about a bit of concealer and glow and eyes! I'm into the easy, minimal makeup look in summer so if (when) it melts off I'll look more glowy and less like a child in my mother's makeup after a steamy shower. But one thing that I'll still wear and recommend for regular summer days or events is the Urban Decay All Nighter Setting Spray. This shit is legit, your makeup will last longer!


Basket Bags - Anti-Haul




#5 - Basket Bags


Is it just me or shouldn't there be more to a bag than a basket? I need pockets and organization and a damn place for my phone! It makes me anxious just thinking about all my possessions jostling around in a basket vying for a position at the top. Nope, just nope, I need pockets and a zipper! 


I hope you liked this post and have thought about some of the current trends you won't be needing this season! Happy summer to you all!

Let's Be Social! @ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'



Thursday, June 1, 2017

It's My Birthday! Success and Goals

Ah! It's my birthday and I'm 32 this year. Time keeps passing whether or not I want it to, but that's inevitable I suppose.


In all reality though, I'm loving my 30's; they're so much better than my 20's! I'm enjoying my freedom, I know who I am and what I want out of life, I'm able to do the things I want and am still looking forward to the future.

So last year I wrote 31 goals for 31 and I'm really proud to say that I've reached a majority of them! A quick rundown of what I've accomplished in the last year:
  • I purchased a condo and started living with my brother!
    • Things are going well and were working everything out together
  • I've started saying "yes" more to blogger events and collabs
    • And I've been so impressed with the friendly, supportive community here in Denver
  • I've been working on making new friends using the Bumble App (iTunesGoogle Play Store)
    • I've met some really lovely ladies, and it's great to have single girlfriends to talk to!
  • I've overhauled my diet, started with Whole30 
    • And have been eating pretty well since then (about 80% clean and 20% what I want!)
  • I've bought a swimsuit (2 actually) and will be wearing them on my vacation to Costa Rica this month!!! (more posts to come on this)
  • My attitude has been a lot better, I've been more grateful and focusing on the good aspects of my life... most of the time.
I think I did pretty well for myself last year. Especially because last year was a challenge and a year of growth for me. I had a lot of change, healing from my divorce, and focusing on myself to do. And I'm so glad I took the time to do it. I'm now stronger, calmer, happier, and enjoying life so much more!

A few of the goals I am still working on, so I'm going to roll them over to this year's goals. I have a lot fewer this year, but I think their really good ones.
  • Invest in nice, classic clothes that I feel great in. Really focus on my wardrobe and buy clothes I love!
  • Don't let fear rule. Sometimes the doubt and fear is more debilitating than anything, it can keep me from even trying.
    • I've especially had fear when it comes to dating; meeting new people and opening up has been so challenging for me. But I'm working on it!
  • Continue on my health journey - Run the Bolder Boulder 10K this year. I have a year to train and I want to do it!
  • Try something new (often)! Do something that scares me.
    • I keep meaning to signup for a spin class or Yoga on the Rocks and I constantly talk myself out of it.... no more!
  • Work on marketing my blog more and focus on the business side of things. 
    • Not my strong suit but it must be done
  • Allow myself to dream and want and reach for my goals instead of settling for the status quo and.or mediocre. I can do great things!
See only 6 goals this year, but they're big ones so I'm going to have to work hard. But I just know that 32 is going to be a great year! It has to damnnit!

Also my blog turns 3 on June 3rd, so I'm excited to apply these goals to my blog and document everything on here. This has been a great outlet for my makeup obsession and personal life. Thank you all for your support!

Let's Be Social! @ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Tips for Taking & Editing Photos

I've been blogging now for about 3 years (can you believe it?!?) and although I'm still no expert photographer or photo editor I have definitely picked up some tips and tricks to editing my photos.

I use my phone (Samsung Galaxy S6) primarily for my blog photos. It's just so conventient... and let's be honest I can't justify buying an expensive camera. And I'm sure many of you do the same.

Aura Photo Frames is sharing the guide below on tips for great pictures from your phone and asked me to include it in a post. I love these tips and have started incorporating them into my photography. So it seemed like a great fit to write about how I take and edit photos.

Aura Photo Frames are smart frames that making displaying your phone photos easy.  They automatically choose your best pictures and sort out blurry or duplicate pictures. 

Taking Great Pictures with your Phone



If you're interested in learning more about the frames, or placing an order you can do so here.

Now that you can take great pics with your phone, I wanted to show you my favorite apps for editing them.

Apps for Editing Pictures


Once I've taken photos with my phone I select the best one(s) and use a few different photo editing apps to prepare them to post on the blog and on social media. I use different apps for different features, below are my favorite picture editing apps:

Photoshop Express (Android/iPhone)


Original Picture

Edited in Photoshop Express
This mobile Photoshop doesn't have all the orignal's bells and whistles but it does offer a little more than your average app - Along with exposure, color, and saturation, you can adjust the whites, highlights and shadows of your pictures.

 It also has the ability to remove redeye and blemishes (which can come in handy) and has a nice cropping feature and filters to play with.

I like that this app is intuitive and easy to use, I use it for almost all my social media postings. 

Photogrid (Android/iPhone)


Original Picture

Edited in Photogrid

I use Photogrid whenever I want to make a photo collage. This app is also pretty simple and straightforward. It gives you options for the grid layout, background colors, and border thickness. I also use this app alot for adding text to my photos as it's got pretty great fonts and format features. 

You can also edit your photos in this app, but I usually edit them in Photoshop Express first. 

Pixlr (Online)

Example at top of post

If you don't want to shell out for Photoshop, Pixlr is a great alternative. There's no signing up or downloads required, and it's a pretty robust option for photo editing. 

It has a similar layout to Photoshop, so if you're familiar with that you'll step right into Pixlr, You can do a lot with this app, my most commonly use features are: curves, color balance, cropping, and image resize.

I edit most of my blog pictures using this app and find that it does a great job for my basic needs.

Well those are my most used photo editing apps for social media and blog posts. I hope this post helps you with taking pictures using your phones and editing them afterwards. Remember, as a beginner (and beyond) it's ok not to have the msot fancy equipment, just keep practicing and you'll improve. I kow I just keep getting better and better. 

Thank you!
Let's Be Social! @ Twitter | Instagram | Bloglovin'

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Bold Lips done Cruelty-Free


||Originally Post at: Denver Style Magazine||

|Photography by: Krysta's Kaptures|

I'm all about the bronzer, lighter bases, and big lashes for my usual spring and summer makeup. But for this year there was a trend all over the spring/summer runways that had me intrigued: a bold lip colors with barely-there makeup. I saw these looks at the Chanel, Valentino and Jason Wu runways (just to name a  few).

This is way out of my comfort zone! Anyone who knows me, knows I don't usually (ever) wear lipstick. I am a chapstick girl through and through. But I'm always down to try new looks and this sounded fun.

For these looks to have the easy, breezy feel I wore minimal makeup: a light foundation with lots of bronzer and a bit of mascara. Definietely summer friendly! I love that it's a pretty easy look but you look pulled together, and it's so quick.

So here's my cruelty-free take on bold lips with a no-makeup makeup look!

#1 Berry Pink


I think I've decided pinks are my favorite lip colors to wear, and I especially love this metallic color. For a matte lip, it's pretty comfortable and it just brings something extra special to a look.

#2 Orange-y Red




I think this is the most "Amber-friendly" formula. It's a light gel stain that you can leave pretty sheer or build up for more color. I think it gives that cool popsicle-stained lip look that's popular in South Korea. And this color is great for when you have a bit of a tan and brightening up a look. I'll definitely be picking up the more pink-red color of this too!

#3 Vampy Purple




Ok, this is the most out there of the colors and it's a little crazy But I saw something similar on the Acne Studios runway so I thought, why not?! It's definitely very striking and would be fun for a night out with the girls dancing. I'd feel special without having to worry about my eyeliner going all panda on me!

All Together Now!



Pink Lips

Red Lips

Purple Lips

I think I'll be busting this look out more and more as the temperatures rise. You know when you're lucky to put on a bra let alone a full face of makeup! So what do you think? Would you try this trend?

Test your Cruelty-Free Beauty knowledge and support a great cause here!