Havana...

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Havana Day 1

The first morning in Havana we were greeted with a wonderful breakfast that was served to us by our apartment neighbors. At precisely 8:30am a feast arrived at our door and was nealtly set out for us to enjoy. It was delicious and nice to have a relaxing morning sipping coffee and indulging in the delightful food. One the great things when you stay is a Casa Particular is that most of the host will offer to cook meals for you. It's an easy way for them to make extra money but it's definitely a convenience to you. 

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After breakfast we made our way to the "Hotel National"  it's a beautiful hotel that sits right on the Malecon and over looks the water. It's absolutely worth checking out if only to sit and have a piña colada while you enjoy the view of the grounds or just to walk around and get a feel for the past. Either way it  was a nice start to our first full day in Havana.  

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Another great  reason to visit the Hotel National  is that you can take care of all your show bookings and exchange money if needed. The concierge lady at the hotel called the National Ballet and The Tropicana for us to make reservations and we were able to buy tickets straight from her with no extra charge. If you don't do something like that you will have to go in person to the location and book or have a local call and hopefully arrange something for you.

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We spent the rest of the day strolling around old Havana and it truly is a sight to see. There is so much lingering beauty hidden under the poverty stricken buildings. And the old cars that line the streets are an odd combination yet add to the hidden beauty of Havana. 

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While exploring old Havana we came across an old Basilica at the Plaza de Armas that is now used as a music venue. Although the Basilica is no longer used for religious purposes it is still dressed in all its religious sacraments. At 6pm the Basilica was scheduled to host concert of classical music with a Cuban flare. So from 6-7pm we enjoyed beautiful music sitting in a very old Catholic Church.

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When the musical presentation finished we strolled the roads of old Havana  and stumbled upon an incredible restaurant

LAMPARILLA 361

Lamparilla 361 e/ Aquacate y Villagas

Habana Vienna  Tel: 5 2895324 

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The food and the drinks were both outstanding, everything we had was delicious and the drinks were beautifully decorated with fruit and presented in unique glasses. After dinner we headed to the evenings 10pm main event, also what I was the most excited about,  Tropicana!!!!

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Tropicana was definitely a highlight for me, I've always wanted to see it and it was in no way disappointing.The show is beautiful and although I couldn't quite understand the words of the music the dancing and costumes told the story enough to understand what was going. The costumes were incredible they changed for each song which is pretty amazing in itself. If you have the opportunity to go to the show do it, you will not be disappointed.

Things to know about Tropicana 

1. You have to get there early!!! No matter which section you choose 1, 2, or 3 seats aren't assigned it's based on your party size and first come first serve. The early you arrive the better service and seats you will have. And don't be fooled row means tier, the first "row" is ground level 2nd is a step up and 3rd a bit higher.

2. Upon arrival you will receive cigars as a welcome gift so bring a cutters and lighter and you can smoke them during the show.

 3.  Technically they require you to buy a 5cuc pass to use your camera or phone but they never checked mine so if you hide it or say you don't have one you should be ok.

4. I'm not sure if there is an age requirement but there was no one topless only thonged butts. At the show I saw there was a song about how the colonial men came over and took the island women and I think it may have talked about rap due to the dance and body language.But honestly if you can't speak Spanish it will somewhat go over your head especially a child's, but again I'm not sure if there's an age requirement. It does however start at 10pm and finish at 12pm so time alone may limit a child's age.

 

 Havana Day 2

 We spent the day walking around the city again, we didn't plan much because we had tickets to the national ballet at 5pm so we couldn't really go to far from the city. We did stop in some street markets for souvenirs and I found the art to be a nice choice because most of it's original and represents Cuba well. It's also light because they just roll the canvas up which makes it  easy to pack.

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We also stopped back by the Hotel National to exchange more money, our host could only exchange USD and some of had Canadian dollars hoping to get a better exchange rate. While we were at the hotel we also booked dinner reservations for the famous "La guarida". Using the Hotel concierges was seriously a Godsend, without them reservations would have been very difficult. 

The national ballet is said to be 3rd in the world, although that being that I've never been to a real ballet so I had no expectations or anything to compare Cuba's with. The theater itself is stunning, even more so at night, it's one building that has been very well preserved among the dilapidated others.

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When the curtain opened reveling the stage and stunning backdrops I literally gasp. I was truly taken back by how beautiful it was. And the ballet it's self was wonderfully amazing!

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The whole cast was incredible and although like I said this was my first experience at a ballet I'm not sure how much better another could get. For 30cuc this was definitely a night well worth my while.  

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We finished the night up at the famous restaurant "La Guarida" if you have the time and can get a reservations I suggest checking this place out.

Paladar La Guarida, Concordia No.418 e/Gervasio y Escobar, Centro Havana, Cuba 

tel: (+53) 7 866 9947 (+53) 5 414 7852

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It is a very interesting and unique experience to see such a dilapidated yet exquisite home turned into a 4 story restaurant. It's also a true Paladar, meaning it's run by self-employers and not government run. And it's also a resident, so like I said it's a pretty unique experience and the food is exquisite. 

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Havana Day 3

For our last full day in Havana we decided that we would venture out just a little and hit one the beaches close by. We didn't go to Varadero due to the distance and time we had left in Cuba. But we did visit Mar Azul Playa del este, and for a beach 30 min from the city it was very enjoyable. The water is beautiful and the sand is soft although it's not white like what I'm use to being from the gulfcoast.

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If your looking for a beach town experience, this is not it. There are a few bars near the road and a few very small restaurants along with souvenir stands. But other than those few tiny bars and a small hotel you are out of luck. I actually walked around looking for a bathroom other than the ocean and nothing other than the hotel offered me any help. But if you'd just like to go to a beach and soak up some rays then Mar Azul Playa del este is great. For 16 cuc we rented 6 chairs and 2 umbrellas for an all day rate, which I thought was pretty cheap! We also had a guy serve us drinks and food all day, we even ordered a lobster for 18cuc that came with white sweet potatoe and rice. Although I think my favorite thing offered to us was a fresh coconut, that rum was poured straight into. Even though the coconut wasn't chilled nor was the rum it tasted so delicious and refreshing because the coconut water was so perfect no ice needed.

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 To sum it all up!  

All in all Cuba was an excellent experience!  We saw a lot in the short time we were there but there was also so much that we did not see and do. I would definitely recommend Cuba as a vacation destination, but make sure you can speak some Spanish even if it's just enough to get around. Otherwise have a guide or stay in a hotel where you're surrounded by help.

 

Things to remember 

1. Currency exchange is a pretty big deal! I read all the blogs before I left encouraging to bring different currency other than USD. But I found that even though you didn't have to pay the 10% extra charge  it was a lot easier just to exchange USD. If you're staying with a host they can exchange it for you without the fee and USD is easier for them to exchange. 

2. Transportation cost more than you think.  It's very cool to ride in the old cars and there's no extra charge to ride in the old ones vs a new ones. If you aren't staying in the heart of old Havana you will be spending money on transportation so make sure you factor that in to the cash that you bring.

3. There is no ATM for US based debit cards, nor can you use any US credit cards so the money that you bring is the money that you have.  They also prefer to exchange large new bills, you may run into trouble exchanging if you do not have them.

4. Find a hotel and use it's concierge to make reservations for dinners and shows. Your only other option is to go to the location you want booked and make the reservation in person. 

  

 

 

Arrival in Cuba and a day in Viñales.

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 Departing for Cuba 

 Sleep  the night before my big departure was almost impossible I mean how could I? I was way too excited! The day started early yet was surprisingly very easy. I did however have a bit of  pending nervousness surrounding the thought of switching airlines in Fort Lauderdale and still having time to get my visa, which is required before you receive your boarding passes for Cuba.

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As  I sat on the flight from ATL to FLL sipping my vodka soda trying to relax, all I could think about was the process of how and how fast I'd be able to get my visa, boarding pass and get back through security before the plan left. Luckily even though I did have to exit terminal 2 to get to terminal 3 because they aren't connected I didn't have to wait in the long check in line because  I only needed a visa. I just ask an attendant and she pulled me aside and made sure I got one. I don't know if that's how it's always done but I was very grateful it worked out for me, I paid the $50 for the visa and headed to security which was also pretty easy.

I will say everyone seemed to have a carry on so in the future if I make this trip again I'll probably pay for the "even more" options on JetBlue so I can board early and have a space for my luggage.

 Customs in Cuba 

Getting into Havana was the easiest customs I've ever been through they barely said a word to me. You do have to put your bags though a security check but then your in. FYI if you check your bags there is a possibility that you may have to wait hrs to get it. So I suggest doing carry on and then your good to and can hurry to the money exchange line. 

The money exchange line is insane!!! I waited at least an hr. But if you can speak Spanish there is the possibility that you could talk a cab driver into taking you to an exchange on the way into the city. A average cab fair into Havana would cost 20-30cuc so don't let them talk you into paying more.   

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The drive to Viñales

We decided Vinales would be our first stop instead of Havana. The idea was that we would do our farthest traveling first and then we'd be settled in Havana and not have to pack up and go again.

The ride out to Vinales takes about 2hrs in a newer car and in an old car give yourself 3hrs. The roads are windy and bumpy so I will say the newer cars might be a better option for the sake of comfort and speed.

Casa Particular in Vinales

For $35 a night we got 2 rooms with 2 full size beds each and very nice, clean bathrooms. The Casa Particulars are definitely an affordable way to see Cuba especially if you are just visiting towns outside the city for a night or 2. We were blessed to find a small treasure on airbnb

" Casa Sra. Mirtha Diaz" seriously it was the best! Mirtha  cooked a feast for us the the night we arrived for 10cuc a person and breakfast the next morning for 4cuc a person.  She then  sat up the best all day tour that only cost 30cuc + a 10cuc lunch.

  Touring Viñales   The morning of the second day started perfectly we awoke to a full breakfast of bread, meat ,cheese and fruit and eggs however we watched likes. It was definitely the start we needed for the full day we were about to have.

 

Touring Viñales

 

The morning of the second day started perfectly we awoke to a full breakfast of bread, meat ,cheese and fruit and eggs however we watched likes. It was definitely the start we needed for the full day we were about to have.

After breakfast we were led by Mirtha's husband to her fathers tobacco farm where we mounted horses and rode them all over the farm and surrounding grounds. The trail led us to a natural lake where we had a few beers and soaked our soar muscles in the cool water.

After breakfast we were led by Mirtha's husband to her fathers tobacco farm where we mounted horses and rode them all over the farm and surrounding grounds. The trail led us to a natural lake where we had a few beers and soaked our soar muscles in the cool water.

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I was particularly great full for the water hole because my horse lost its footing along the muddy trail. And as a result I gracefully had to eject into a lot of very red, yet soft mud. Luckily I'm an experienced enough rider and I foresaw the incident and I was able to avoid any harm. So FYI if you decide to do a trail ride make sure your horse stays in the middle of trail.

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But other than my fall the trail ride was awesome! We got to see the beautiful, untouched country side surrounded by mountains and valleys. After the swimming spot we continued our ride to a natural cave that for 2cuc each we were guided through and shown yet another form of the islands natural beauty.  

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Then we mounted our horses again and rode a few minutes over to a coffee and rum farm. There we sampled rum and learned about how the coffee was made. 

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Then we sat and enjoyed coconut cocktails where the host poured the rum straight into a fresh coconut and mixed it inside. After we finished the host cut open the coconut and we were able to eat the savory meat.

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After we'd had enough at the coffee and rum farm we headed back to the main farm where a delicious feast had been prepared for us.

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I'm pretty sure there is very few places we could have eaten the amount of true "farm to table" food for such a small price. The menu consisted of lobster, chicken, rice, black beans, salad, white a weet potato fries, and taro (which by the way was so good! Tasted just like a potato).

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After our amazing lunch we watched and learned how cigars were made and had the opportunity to purchase $30-$50 cigars for $3 each.

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To say the least we had a pretty amazing day! And it was definitely worththe $30 for the whole day. You will be a bit sore from the horse riding but it's well worth it. I definitely suggest venturing outside of Havana and seeing more of the country,Viñales was an excellent start to wonderful trip.

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Cuba Here I Come!!

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Well it's the night before my trip to Cuba and I'm bubbling with excitement I'm not sure ill actually be able to sleep. I think I've read just about every blog and Pinterest post I could find on Cuba. And I've gotmy "carry-on bag" all packed and ready to go. All that's left to do is get on the plane and fly the quick trip over. And Yes you did readcorrectly I did pack in a carry-on bag, I know who would've thought I could pack in a carry-on for an international trip. But I've accomplished it and I'm not gonna lie I'm pretty proud of myself. I will say it's a whole lot easier to pack in a small bag for warm weather destinations. And I have learned, and kept reminding myself over and over, thatyou do re-wear more things than you think. Although because I'm packing in such a small bag I did plan my outfit accordingly which is something that I usually don't take the time to do. So thistime therewas only room for a little bit of packing embellishment ( aka things you don't really need, but feel your wardrobe just would rather you have them) . So in saying all that I'd like to share with you my 10 Go to essentials when packing for a warm weather destination...

 My 10 Go To Packing Essentials For Warm Weather...

1. Packing cubes

Packing cubes are a must for any and  all travel. They are amazing they help the packing process tremendously and they help keep your clothes neat and organized on your trip. If your like me in the past I have found myself digging through my neatly folded clothes only to a heaping pile when I'm done. So use packing cubes!

 2. Lululemon leggings

I'm in the belief that leggings are an essential! I'm pretty sure they are Gods gift to the women's wardrobe, I mean what other piece of clothing is comfy, cute and can be worn as casual active wear or dressed up to wear with a pair of boots or heels? Nothing other than a thick pair of black leggings comes to my mind! And ladies just splurge and invest in some lululemon! Yes I know they are $98 a pair but they are worth it! I personally am a huge fan of the wander under style and I love the "lux" version they are darker than the regular ones and thinner for a warmer climate. Anyways hands down do it and buy you at least a pair! And FYI they are known to make your butt look good.

3. Impanema sandals

Ok I'm not sure how I didn't know about theses shoes my whole life but impanema sandals are literally the BOMB.COM first of all they are extremely comfortable and they are made of rubber they are somewhat shock resistant! Secondly they are so freaking cute!they come in a range of colors including silver and gold with different shapes and designs. They can be worn dressed down or dressed up and completely take the place of a heel in destination with a warmer climate. If you plan to be around water they are great. But I've also worn them walking all over Europe and they did not fail me. And just so you know they are extremely affordable and Amazon has a great selection to choose from. 

 3. Babyliss Pro Travel Blow dryer

Ok so being that I work in the Beauty field I find myself constantly thinking how I will fix my hair for a trip like this, especially when I'm limited on space. So I scoured the internet and found the babyliss pro travel blow dryer. It's a pretty great little gadget, it's small and compact. It even folds up but don't be fooled it's a got some power and it does a great job of getting my thick hair  dry in a timely manner. It's also duel voltage so you need is a plug adapter and your good to go.

4. Hanging toiletry bag

For any trip I would always advise have a toiletry bag that has a hook. Especially if you plan on sharing the bathroom with other guest. The hook gives you the advantage to get your stuff up and out of the way. You never know how much counter space you will have and it keeps your stuff in place.

 5. Micro fiber towel

  

These babies are great especially when using air bnb or staying in hostels. These towels are pretty nifty when your on the go and don't want to worry about finding a proper towel or waiting on one to dry so you can pack it. I found mine on amazon and it's great, it's large enough to wrap around you and it's quick drying so if you hang it up over night it should be dry and ready to pack in the morning. Plus you won't have to worry if the towel that was left for you was properly washed if you aren't staying in a hotel. 

 6. Peshtemal

A peshtemal is another great type of towel I prefer to use mine for more of a beach towel/ wrap because they take longer to dry. But they are also light and thin and very packable. They are technically a Turkish hand woven cotton towel and they come in some really cool patterns. You can find them online or at Amazon, look them up they are pretty cool. 

 7. Customizable makeup pallet

I know it sounds weird for a makeup pallet to be a packing essential but if you're anything like my makeup is a treasured essential anywhere I go. But when I travel I find myself trying to figure out what I should bring and what I shouldn't bring. Of course I want all the basics but when it comes to shadows,  blush and powder's how do you fit everything you need in compact bag. Well do not fear I have found the answer-customizable pallets. The first one I purchased was from NARS because I'm obsessed with their blush and highlight/contouring palette's so I ordered the empty pallet along with the refill blushes and shadows that I wanted to insert. I chose ones that were the basics for everyday use and added 1 or 2 for a good smokey eye/ night look. By doing this I was able to avoid all the bulky individual blush and shadow compacts and contain them in 1 flat minimal pallet. Now I just grab that throw in a few other essential and I'm good to go!

 8. Suave Deodorant "Powder"

Hands-down this is the best for any type of chafing. You know what I'm talking about, when you're on a trip and you're doing a lot of walking in your really cute sundress or cut off Jean shorts there is a possibility that there will be chafing between those thighs. Unless of course your one of those girls whom have thighs that don't like to talk to each other. But if you are like me then it's a battle to find a product that works.  And I promise I've tried them all and this one really does. And Ps you can also buy a travel size and throw it in your purse to use while you're out and about.

 

9. Makeup remover wipes

Not only will these wipes remove all the dirt and grime from your face, they can also double as a washcloth if you happen to be staying somewhere that's not a hotel and offers an abundance of towels and washcloths you'll be covered by having these wipes.

 

10. A small extension cord

You've all been in the situation before were there either wasn't enough outlets or the one you need to use is to far away from were you need to be. Throw a 4-10 foot

 

I hope that you find something in my packing essentials helpful to you! Now I'm off to get some shut eye, I'm praying I get a few hours before the alarm screams at me! Hola!!! 

How to achieve a loose wave with curling iron.

So today I decided I would show you all how to achieve a loose wave hair style by using a curling iron. This is a really easy fast way to get a nice casual every day look. like I said in the video I do suggest using aa 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch curling iron but any size will work just remember the bigger the curling iron the looser the wave. 

Cuba On The Horizon...

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Well ladies I'm back at it! Today about the ticket for Cuba, I can't wait I've always wanted to have a "Havana night " so fingers crossed that it will be just as epic of the trip as the UK. This trip will be a bit shorter than the UK five days total. I'm kind of looking at it like an extended weekend stay. But in saying all of that it's back to packing and figuring out what I can pack in a small carry-on for a few days. Luckily Cuba this time of the year has very nice warm weather ranging from the 70s to 80s. So I'm confident that I can get away with a carry-on.

 

The first thing I've done since I booked my flight was figure out what type of voltage and outlets Cuba uses. Of course packing the right hair essentials is always what I think at first LOL. This time I think I shall be in luck! According to my research Cuba uses the same voltage and outlets that the US uses. So I can throw my 5 pounds worth of adapters and converters in my drawer because yay I don't have to use them on this trip! All I have to worry about is successfully achieving the art of packing in a carry-on. I did learn from my last trip that you re-wear more clothes than you actually think. Although this trip I see myself wearing more dresses and or skirt so that means I'll also have to pack more underwear than I usually do.

 

100% items I know that I will bring on my trip:

1. Ipanema sandals

Why #1 might you ask because they are amazing and probably the best sandal for traveling in every day use. The great thing about them is they are completely rubber so if you are near water they're great but because they are rubber they are somewhat shock resistant. And not to mention they are super cute and can be worn in for a dressy or casual outfit! 

 

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2. Lululemon leggings 

OK first of all yes Lululemon is expensive $98 for the pair shown below ( wander under high ride).But Lululemon is also an amazing investment. They're thick, comfortable and they make your butt look good. but more importantly they can be worn as pants not just athletic wear.

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3. Babyliss Pro Travel Blow dryer

Yes of course one of the things I think about first when packing is how my hair will look on a trip. I mean hello I am a girl, and I'm in the beauty industry. But more importantly I want to look great in all my photos, and selfies. This blow dryer has it all its small and  and it folds up, but more importantly it's dual voltage and it has a pretty powerful kick to it.

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4. Retro Dress

Don't laugh bringing a retro dress to Cuba is going to be so fun to have. I don't know if you looked at pics but Cuba is pretty much in a time warp with old cars and architecture. So I will be able to take a few fun pics, plus I'll admit it I love the movie Dirthy Dancing Havana Nights and this is how they dressed. Now I can look the part and hopefully take cute pics! Ps this dress is from The Trashy Diva in New Orleans but they have an online store as well if you'd like to get yourself one as well. 

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Holiday look using the NARS "Sarah Moon" collection.

This is an absolutely beautiful collection, I'm definitely obsessed with everything about it! I've never been one to use gray, cooler colors on my skin but the way they designed these shadows they actually have lots of warmth as well. There's actually hint of lavender and fleets of gold mixed within the shadows and like I said they're so beautiful. And then they did an excellent job of matching the twist liner with the matt shadow color. The lipsticks are also great! I love the tubes they make it easy to apply and of course I love any Matt lipstick because it stays on a lot better than any other formula. Bottom line this is a beautiful collection that everyone should try before NARS retires the collection.

Day to night party makeup

So this is a really great look when you're going from a day look tonight look and you don't have a lot of time to switch it up in between. Let's say you need to go to an office party but then you have commitments after work and you just need to be able to run into the bathroom and give yourself a Sprucetop night luck. This video will show you how to get it all done! 

Coconut oil makeup remover!!!

So I'm pretty sure that Coconut oil is Gods gift to the beauty world! This all natural, unrefined oil is an amazing way to cleanse your face while moisturizing at the same time! I know it seems like you'd be an oily, greasy mess afterwards but the great thing about using a natural oil is that there is nothing in it to keep it from penetrating through the top layer of your skin. It can actually seep all the way down and do the job that regular moisturizer are suppose to. Coconut oil also has healing properties and natural spf so basically this is like I said Gods gift to the beauty world!!  Check it I promise you won't be disappointed!! 

Puppy Photo Shoot

So not only am I a makeup artist and hairstylist I'm also a photographer! And I belong to a family who raises and trains dogs to become service and therapy and companion dogs. So on my days I'm not beautifying others I'm usually helping out the family business by photographing these cuties and being the puppy model! Yes you read correctly I'm a puppy model on the side lol check out our website to watch more videos and see PUPPIES!! 

www.teddybeargoldendoodles.com 

Cooking lesson with Lauren- Alfredo sauce!

One of my favorite tag lines is "I kiss better than I cook, but I cook pretty damn good!!" 

So ive decided to share a quick and easy

( although very fattening)   recipe for Alfredo sauce! I mean who doesn't love a good creamy white sauce poured over your favorite pasta! Yum yum yum!! 

Concealing redness

So I read alot of blogs and magazines that pertain to beauty products because I'm always looking for the next best product. Well Ladies I've found a pretty amazing product you need to know about. The  iBobbie Brown retouching wand is awesome and worth the $40 you'll pay for it! The wands formula is light with a rang of coverage. A little goes a long way and with a light touch you can get a lot of coverage! It's smooth and light and you won't have nor feel like you've e got concealer caked on your face. In  this video I even used it to conceal the redness in my skin and it did a pretty great job, watch the video and watch it work magic!! 

Let's talk about your tan!

I'd definitely consider myself  a "sun worshiper" lol in the summer in my free time you'll find me laid out sipping a nice fruity drink soaking up as many rays as possible! But what do you do when it's cold out and your skin is pasty white? Well I've found the cure!!! Vita Liberta's products are honestly the best sunless tanner I've ever used! And in this video I show you how amazing it works!