Suitcase Diaries: DENVER, COLORADO

“I actually cried at the top of a mountain range.
So yeah, it was humbling.”

Devil’s Head Trail

Denver, Colorado is such a unique travel experience. If you come from a city, Denver seems so vast. A lot of open land with emphasis on the natural beauty of the state. If you come from a small town, you feel both eagerness to explore yet comfortable touring the city and mountains.

Denver was a humbling experience for me. I traveled alone, yet spent all my time with my best friend. She has called the Centennial State her home for over three years, thus allowing me to come as a tourist and explore as a local. Talk about the ideal way to see a new place.

If I had to sum up the trip in 5 words: nature, peace, relaxation, inspiration, and ice cream (I’ll explain the last one later)

Let’s start with the highlight of the trip – the nature

Let me just say this… I traveled from Philadelphia. I am a city dweller, if you will. Fast walker, subway rider, quick thinker, and overall fast-paced lmao – I’m not used to slowing down. Or hiking mountains. Taking in the scenery. But let me just tell you about the SCENERY.

PRO TIP: don’t forget to put off your hiking for a day or so. It’s important to get acclimated to the higher elevation, especially if you come from a place close to sea level.

Our first hike was Devil’s Head Fire Lookout trail near Sedalia, CO.

Quick facts:

  • 2.8 miles round trip, roughly 2+ hours
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Elevation gain: +940 ft
  • Drive from Denver: 1 hr 15 min

Facts cited from: Day Hikes Near Denver

This was the perfect hike for a newbee like myself. Like I said, I’ve hardly ever stepped foot up a mountain (they makes PA mountains look like hills). I felt like I conquered this one, tho of course I stopped as necessary to catch my breath – and take photos, obvi.

There were many spots along the way to stop and take photos with breathtaking views. As you reach the top, you’ll spot a small cabin where the seasonal fire lookout rests from dusk to dawn. There are a multitude of fun facts in case you are interested in where they get their food, how often they come down the mountain, etc.

The view is outstanding, like nothing I have ever seen before. Snow-capped mountains in the distance look more like paintings. Loads of greenery and tops of trees. Natural rock fixtures and a bright blue, clear sky.

additional nature sights:

Lake Dillon centered by a vast body of still water and mountain scenery for a
jaw-dropping backdrop

Breckenridge typically covered in snow and skiers, I had the joy of seeing this in the summer and let me tell you, it was still bustling!

Loveland Pass (where I cried lol) we drove up this mountain with nonstop views until the very top where I naively presumed all to be seen was out my passenger side window. Wrong. So wrong.
360 views that resulted in me feeling so small, so grateful, and full of tears.

Next up, let’s discuss – brews and food

Bigsby Folly Winery

What better way to spend my first day getting acclimated than to tour a few breweries + a winery? Kidding, I don’t recommend getting wasted in your first 24 hours lol the elevation is like a generous bartender and will get you drunk. Fast.

Alas, if you are being careful (preferably with friends) and drinking a water in between beverages, it is a blast exploring the relaxing nature of breweries and rooftop bars in RiNo (River North Art District).

A few to name:

American Bonded an adorable rooftop bar (indoor seating also available) with a kickass bartender the day we were there – s/o to him. If you want a quick snack, this is your jam. We ordered cheese curds and the ranch was out of this world
Bigsby Folly winery with an industrial, retro, artsy vibe to it. Grab yourself a glass of wine. I’ll be the first to tell you that you deserve it!
Stem Ciders was probably my favorite location, as I’m a cider connoisseur. Loads of cider at this place, and a lot that are Denver specific

Onto food, as you’ll need some substance after dabbling in the brews:

BRECKENRIDGE

This town is a GEM. One of my favorite spots. Quaint and nestled between the mountains, this town offers a happy stroll along their main street for loads of window shopping and lunch options

Bangkok Happy Bowl Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar delicious and quick service during lunch. 10/10 would recommend the shrimp tempura roll and the crab Rangoon appetizer
TBar one of the food/drink options along the gondola ride to the top (PS – the gondola is free, just a small fee to park). Grab a drink and enjoy the view! Tons of food options here as well

Gondola ride in Breckenridge

UPTOWN

Park & Co. solid choice for a downtown dinner. A+ on my turkey burger and fries and again, the ranch slays
Coperta this Italian restaurant had me drooling the moment I laid eyes on its menu. I’m always good for a solid food recommendation and I’m telling you right now to get the spaghetti cacio e pepe (see below) or the rigatoni carbonara

LOWRY

Lowry Beer Garden okay, besides Coperta (who doesn’t adore pasta?) this was my FAVORITE meal. Low-key beer garden with quick service and high quality food, grab yourself a cider and a fish sandwich… or really anything else. This place won’t disappoint

I’ll never skip a cold brew & bagel:
Woodgrain Bagels your bagel heaven. Don’t skip this if you are nearby! Plain, everything, salt + pepper, onion, and the list goes on
Copper Door after your bagel, stop by this friendly quaint coffee shop where the barista ran out of cold brew but offered to hand brew a different batch of iced Americana (or something like that) – solid customer service

I told you I’d get back to the ice cream:
High Point Creamery the first night I was there we grabbed ice cream from here after dinner, and it’s the perfect way to end an evening! Delicious, creamy, and at least 10 flavors I’d never heard of before. Think: lavender… or French toast *drooling*
Rocket Ice Cream sitting right outside the Lowry Beer Garden (see above ^) the ice cream here is..
1. Conveniently located after you finish dinner in the beer garden
2. Offering unique flavors that make a delicious treat post-dinner

Lastly, I’d like to mention – miscellaneous things

If you’re a city dweller and want to explore the “busier” side of Denver, LoDo (lower downtown) is very walkable with the free MallRide and MetroRide. Union Station is very cool to see (not to mention clean!) and contains misc. shops/food options inside

If, by some chance, you are traveling from Lake Dillon to Breckenridge (you could make this a trip btw), please drive along Swan Mountain Road. I couldn’t stop sticking my head out the window and snapping photos – which even looked gorgeous from a moving car. This scenic route showcases houses on hills, bodies of water, and mountains in the background. This is best if you have a friend to drive so you can peek out the window 😉

My final tip is simply to keep in mind the airport is located about 45 mins from the city, give or take based on traffic. Not the worst, but be prepared for a long-ish Uber/Lyft ride depending on where you are staying. If you happen to have a friend in the city, you’re one lucky SOB.

My wrap-up thoughts? I’m in love! I think everyone should plan a trip here, hike at least once, treat yourself to some authentic breweries, and enjoy the peace. It is no wonder everyone in Colorado hikes on weekends, the mountains do wonders for a clear mind.

Xoxo,
Katrina
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Spironolactone for Hormonal Acne | 30 Day Update

And so goes the ongoing story of a girl in her mid-twenties who just can’t get her f*#king skin to cooperate. Listen, it’s an uphill battle. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. We will get there and we will prevail eventually. But it’s going to take time. That’s the harsh reality of conquering hormonal acne. It creeps up on you quickly, but takes time to mend.

There are a multitude of reasons why you could have developed hormonal acne: hormone imbalance, gut issues, stress, food intolerance, and the list goes on. Thus being so, there is a varying list of remedies to help improve your skin. On the long list are some prescription options – two of them being Tretinoin and Clindamycin (which I have been prescribed now for 10 months).

Another item on the list of prescriptions that has been proven (in small dosage) to control acne: spironolactone.

Spironolactone is a medicine typically used to treat high blood pressure. Ironically, in lower doses, it can block the male hormones in our bodies which are known to cause oily skin and clogged pores. It is also a diuretic, which means it will make you pee a lot, so it’s important to consult your dermatologist and primary care doctor if you are interested in seeing if this is the right medication for you. Pro tip: drink a shit ton of water to ensure you are maintaining your hydration properly.

With all of this being said, here is a history of my skin issues and how Clindamycin and Tretinoin have come in to save the day. If you’re more of a video person, you’ll enjoy this version. They are nothing short of miracle workers.

HOWEVER, my skin is still not in check. Though exceedingly less than before, I still suffer from under-the-skin painful bumps. My skin is still blotchy and red, and my acne still gets rather enflamed. Essentially, I haven’t rid of it yet. This leads me to my new prescription (recommended by my dermatologist): spironolactone.

Disclaimer: I have read in several blog posts/articles that major changes on spironolactone aren’t seen until month 3 and on. However, I wanna give y’all the tea on how it’s affecting my skin in the first month. Enjoy!

Here is my 30 day skin diary after starting spironolactone.

After 1 week on spironolactone:

I have noticed an increase in breakouts and the intensity of them. Prior to starting this medication, my acne was maintainable with the occasional painful hormonal blemish. When it did flare up, it was concentrated. This week I have spots in new locations. Less than ideal, obviously. Also v painful. Alas, I read that this was happen so I am gritting my teeth and baring through it.

After 2 weeks on spironolactone:

This week I’m having the same issue, just trying to stick it out. Beauty is pain and beauty takes time, so I need to be patient. If I can achieve crystal clear skin in the long-term, I’ll suffer in the short-term. I have a couple new spots that are large and painful. Otherwise, I don’t notice much difference in my skin (as far as oil production).
*Interesting to note that I got a blemish on my back this week, which is very rare for me. I wonder if there is a purging stage to this and that’s what brought it to the surface.

After 3 weeks on spironolactone:

Not much has changed in my skin this week. MAYBE, if anything, I notice I am a little more on the dry side (typically, I am v oily and have a shiny t-zone by noon). No more large breakouts, but my skin isn’t calm. I have some redness and small blemishes, more than typically. I shall check in next week!

After 4 weeks on spironolactone:

Wowwwww my skin is fucked HAHAHAHA – all we can do is laugh really, am I right? Listen, we will prevail. It’s all trial and error and if I didn’t document this then I’d be suffering ALONE. I just stole a peek at my skin in the bathroom at work, and let me tell you, it ain’t pretty. It’s patchy, flaky, dry skin season bitchessss.
Again, obviously not happy about it.
However, I can see it through for the long run gain. Here’s hoping my 3 month progress report shows a bit more clarity (in my skin & goals for this medication).

My final wrap up

So that’s THAT. Fun stuff. Not gonna lie, I’m ending this a little bitter. It’s a bummer to not see results after a month on a new medication, which is seemingly making my skin worse. But I will say, everything I’ve read said things start to improve around that 3 month marker. I am hanging in there and believing in that 3 month revolutionary morning I wake up with crystal clear skin. Lol. Okay, a little over-dramatic as far as expectations are concerned, but that’s what I’m known for.

Signing off with dry, flaky skin. Cheers to the 3 month check-in which will *hopefully* bring more positivity. Here’s an adorable photo of myself to boost morale. Cheers.

Xoxo,
KS Loves

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EMPTIES (drugstore + high end)

WASSUP. I usually do my empties posts in video form nowadays, but my channel is turning into an empties post every other video lmao – I’m not having any of that. I want variety over there, so I’m bringing the empties post HERE. Why? Because I know we all love a good empties review blog post.

Below you’ll find TEN products I have completely emptied and are going into the trash as we speak. That means I’ve tried the entire packaging. I have full reviews, some of which I’ll rave about… others, meh. Let’s dive in.

Let’s start with mascaras, because I have a fuck ton of ’em.

  • Essence Volume Stylist 18 hr Lash Extension
    Of the two drugstore mascaras, this one is going to be my favorite. I’d highly recommend this over the lash princess (see below), as you can achieve feathery spread lashes that will last throughout the day.
    The best part? It costs $4.99
  • Essence Lash Princess Volume
    This mascara I could pass on. I likely won’t repurchase. It was very liquid-y, which more often than not led to goopy, chunky lashes that didn’t spread nicely. If you’re looking for thicker lashes, you might like this. I prefer mine spread evenly and full of volume.
  • Lancome Monsieur Big
    YOOOOOOOOOOOO this mascara is FIRE. I love it so much. Like, false lashes worthy. Use a lash curler before going in with this mascara and you will boost your look x 100 – I swear.
    Better yet, the travel size is $12.00 and it’ll last you awhile. Run!
  • Clinique High Impact
    I wasn’t a fan of this. Just didn’t impress me. The formula is very lightweight; if you’re into super natural (barely there) mascara, you may like this! For me, it wasn’t enough volume.

Moving on, shall we? Next up, powders…

  • Coty Airspun loose setting powder
    THE GOAT. My favorite. Hands down. The best powder to *blot* the earth. Lol. ALSO – it’s $5.97 on Amazon. SO like, hello. It sets makeup incredibly, does not move foundation underneath. Keeps me matte throughout the day. HIDES my pores entirely. Banging product.
    The only con: you’ll smell like your grandma’s perfume from 1954.
  • IT Cosmetics bye bye pores pressed powder
    This was not a favorite for me. I’d say hard pass on this one. There was nothing special about it and I don’t feel a need to spend $29.00 on a powder that didn’t “wow” me. If anything, the Coty airspun blurs my pores + stays matte WAY more efficiently.

Two more makeup-related products.

  • Tonya Crooks TheBrowGal instatint brow gel
    I actually really loved this product. It made it SO easy to define my brows. Quick swipe swipe, and you had some pigment (for a badass brow), plus it was easy and not messy! I’m not good with pencils or pomades so this is a bomb product for me. I’d use it daily. I also don’t think $22 is unreasonable for this product. 10/10 recommend!
  • Soho buffing powder brush
    This is my ALL TIME favorite bronzer brush. I picked it up on a whim at Marshall’s or TJ Maxx years ago. It was time to retire it. Lol. It’s a solid brush, but it’ll definitely shed as you wash. Doesn’t phase me as it’s the PERFECT bronzing brush lmao. I’ll keep an eye in the future at TJ Maxx’s bc I’d love to snag it again. Otherwise, it’s available on Amazon. Distributes products well and made it look like I was a bronzing PROFESSIONAL. Super easy to use.

Lastly, skincare!

  • Origins energy boosting gel moisturizer
    This was a SUPER fresh and hydrating moisturizer. I am a big fan. I’d consider buying this (if I want to spend a little extra ca$h money) because I do find the quality is THERE with this product. Origins does skincare right and ever since my friend got me started on them, I’m hooked.
  • Alba Botanica hawaiian oil-free moisturizer
    I am a MEGA fan of this moisturizer. If you are ballin’ on a budget and want a super rich and lush moisturizer (daytime or nighttime), this is your option. My esthetician recommended this to me when my skin was going through it, and I’ve never looked back since. It’s an affordable option with skin benefits and hydration that sinks into your skin. I’ve purchased around 5 of these at this point. When I run out… I notice a difference in my skin! It’s parched without it. Big fan.

So those are all of my recent empties – I live for a good empties post! I hope you enjoyed and found a review of something you were interested in. Let me know your thoughts. Have you tried any of the above? I’m v curious to hear from you.

Xoxo,
KS Loves

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