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Hello there, dust sprites. I probably don’t have to tell you this, but I am a makeup newbie. Sure, I wear mascara, and I’m a total lipstick junkie (always have been obsessed with lip products in general), but when it comes to just normal, everyday things like applying foundation, I literally have no clue what I’m doing (outside of just smearing tinted moisturizer or BB cream all over my face). This is the summer I figure things out.

When I was younger, my mom encouraged me whenever I felt like playing with cosmetics. I’m pretty sure she loved the idea; I flip flopped from tomboy to girly girl on the reg, and she really enjoyed my girlier times. Heck, my mom was the mom who tried to convince the other moms to let my friends pierce their ears. I remember her purchasing my very first blush compact (Maybelline) and lipstick (some sort of frosted pink Avon variety). Mostly, though, she bought me endless glitter gel and LipSmacker products in my preteens (and that one green lippie from Wet n’ Wild that like… changed color with your body temperature or something).

Most of you reading know that she died when I was sixteen, which was really right around the time I started becoming somewhat more interested in wearing make up “for real.” It was actually something we argued about a little, because she was way more into the idea than I was. And sixteen year old girls argue with their moms about everything. Literally. In the end, I just never really learned. There was the occasional reddish eyeshadow, black eyeliner pencil, and black lipstick (because baby goth), but I just never figured out the normal stuff. My father supported/tolerated whatever weird teenage thing I wanted to wear or put on (including blue hair and darling customized vampie fangs), but makeup was certainly out of his scope of knowledge. I’m 90% sure he thought my red shadow was just pollen allergies.

Writing this all out really just makes me feel nostalgic, which is kind of how makeup makes me feel in general. It also make me feel so incredibly thankful for my parents. All girls deserve a mom and dad like mine. Nobody’s perfect, and of course I don’t only have warm and fuzzy memories about my mom (again, moms and teenage daughters), but a lot of who I am today is because of her. I appreciate that.

I recently placed a mega-order with Ulta. These products are all new to me, so I thought an unboxing post with some initial thoughts might be fun.

Everything I purchased is, as far as I know, cruelty free (not tested on animals). Some of the parent companies of these particular brands do business in countries that require animal testing. I will provide notes where applicable. Some of the items I actually felt confident about are a little more on the pricey side, but they’re from brands I know I can trust when it comes to transparency. As always, you should use your wallet, and your voice, in the way that works best for you. Logical Harmony is the best resource I know when it comes to researching cruelty-free beauty.

Now let’s get to it! I didn’t take a ton of photos; my bathroom lighting is …less than ideal?

Pacifica Transcendent Concentrated Concealer in light.

  • 100% vegan and cruelty free / Made in the US / formulated without parabens, phthalates or petroleum

I occasionally use a cream concealer with a brush, but I’ve never purchased or used a wand before. Pacifica is a brand I am familiar, comfortable and 100% happy with, so I felt safe making this choice. I have nothing but praise for this brand, and the fact that they make cruelty free beauty more accessible to everyone.

Initial thoughts: The shade is fine for me, as long as I blend it out. I appreciate the lighter coverage; I’ll be able to use this with both a BB cream (which I’m more comfortable with) and a more traditional foundation.

Pacifica Radiant Shimmer Coconut Multiples

  • 100% vegan and cruelty free / Made in the US / formulated without parabens, phthalates or petroleum

Let’s learn how to contour! I chose this as a product to learn with because a number of folks online said that it was a very natural and light looking pallette. I’ve also learned over the years that I really can’t use powder-based products because they consistently turn my face into a patchy desert.

Initial thoughts: First, this palette smells incredible: straight up creamy coconut. I don’t know how I feel about the shimmery “contour” color, but I like both the highlight and the blush. These are light, and I like that I can build them up very slowly. In the end, this isn’t really all the great for contouring, but I’ll use the light shades often.

If anyone has any recommendations for a cruelty free matte contour palette, I’d be happy to hear them! Please!

ELF Online Exclusive Contouring Brush

  • cruelty free

As it stands, the majority of my tools and brushes are either from ELF or ecoTools, so this seemed like a no-brainer. I appreciate ELF’s lower price point. It’s probably worth noting here that while all of ELF’s cosmetics are apparently vegan, not all of their skincare products or brushes are. I have no idea how to use a contouring brush, but I’m about to find out.

Initial thoughts: I know this is a cheap makeup brush, and cheap makeup brushes are the same as cheap paintbrushes. This is fine for practicing and playing around, but it sheds quite a bit.

Too Faced Travel Size Hangover Replenishing Face Primer

  • cruelty free (parent company is not) / silicone-free

According to the internet, a primer is a good and useful thing. I chose this one because it’s travel-sized (in case I hate it) and is made with coconut water (and I’m not ashamed to admit, too, that one of my favorite YouTubers uses it).

Initial thoughts: This is really nice! My skin, especially my undereye area, is desperately dry. I will probably end up purchasing a full sized bottle of this when I run out. I would consider adding this to my “every day” list.

Juice Beauty PHYTO-PIGMENTS Flawless Finishing Powder in translucent 

  • vegan and cruelty free / made in the US / formulated without parabens, silicone, or synthetic dyes and fragrances / uses organic ingredients

I’ve received Juice Beauty products in a couple subscription boxes, and this is one of those companies I’m happy to shell out a little more money for. There were solid reviews for this particular product.

Initial thoughts: I was not expecting this to be shimmery. Is all finishing powder shimmery? That can’t be right. I need some more practice with this. I probably won’t be buying another shimmery finishing powder when this runs out. Again, if you have any matte recommendations, please let me know in the comments!

J. Cat Beauty Online Exclusive Spray, Set, Go Setting Spray in Go Aloe

  • cruelty free

This was inexpensive and seemed like it might be refreshing, especially with summer around the corner.

Initial thoughts: This is a very pleasant way to end a makeup routine. I like it! It also toned down the shimmer on my face a little bit.

Tarte Amazonian Clay Waterproof Brow Pencil in rich brown

  • cruelty free (parent company is not) / formulated without parabens, phthalates, triclosan, sodium lauryl sulfate

I’ve used other Tarte products, and have always experienced good results. It made sense to me to purchase a new-to-me product like an eyebrow pencil from a familiar brand.

Initial thoughts: This is another one of those light, but buildable products. This means there’s is a lot of wiggle room, which I appreciate because I don’t know what I’m doing. Filling in my brows is …going to take some getting used to. I do love the tiny spoolie brush.

NYX Cosmetics

  • cruelty free (parent company is not)

I decided to try three different NYX lip products because of that aforementioned lip product obsession. I’ve never purchased anything from this brand before. Price points are solid, and the variety can’t really be beat. Even though I got these for fun, I was still hemming and hawing over swatches for about a week before I made my final decision.

Lip Lingerie in Corset

Initial thoughts: The smell of this product is awful, but the color and texture are amazing. This is a pretty much perfect nude. I will probably pick up one or two other shades of the Lip Lingerie.

Soft Matte Lip Cream in Stockholm

Initial thoughts: This smells exactly like the Bonne Bell LipSmacker Frosting in vanilla that I was obsessed with in middle school. I love everything about this product. I’ll definitely be trying some more shades, but Stockholm ended up being a really nice shade for me.

Liquid Suede Cream Lipstick in Stone Fox

Initial thoughts: I like this formula okay, but this was my least favorite of the three. That said, the color is fabulous. I really couldn’t resist a gray lipstick.

I had a blast unboxing these and just playing around. Thank you, Ulta! Again, if you have any suggestions or tips, please leave them in the comments or hit me up on Twitter or Instagram @girldust. I love to hear from you!

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Thanksgiving ::

I wrote a little bit last year about how the world can be kind of dismal. Things, on a global scale, seem as though they have not improved. Perhaps they never will, but I am still thankful to be a part of it. I am thankful for the people who choose kindness. To my fellow American citizens, happy Thanksgiving. I hope that you have what you need and maybe a little bit of what you want.

This has been a productive but difficult year for me, with lots of change and some serious introspection. There is more to come. I am thankful for a partner who has supported me in all ways. Being able to lean on him, even just a little bit, even when I don’t want to believe I need help, means everything. I am thankful especially for my dad, and my immediate family, for being the incredible, beautiful people they are. I am thankful for my mom’s family, the sheer magnitude of their love, even through a computer screen. I often feel odd and a bit left out, but never in their company. I am thankful for the closeness we had when I was young. I am thankful, too, for Timothy’s family, for having welcomed me with open arms ten years ago.

I am thankful for each and every one of my friends, especially those far away old best friends I rarely see. I love you. I am thankful for the friends I have made in my adulthood, because it seemed unlikely that I would manage such a feat. I am thankful for the accidental friends: former roommates, Timothy’s friends, and the girlfriends and wives of those friends. Thank you for accepting me. Thank you having a beer with me.

I am thankful for my new home, this cozy little house by the river. I am thankful that I finally feel like I am home, because I have not felt this way in a long, long time. I am thankful for pine forests and salt air. I am thankful for all the opportunities I’ve had to travel.

Thanksgiving ::

I am thankful for the tortoise. I am thankful for the half-blind warrior cat who sometimes calls our home his home. I am thankful for the little tufts of fur between his toes, and the way he always smells like leaves. I didn’t realize how much I missed having a cat until one decided to attach himself to me.

I am thankful for board games. I am thankful for mugs of hot coffee. I am thankful for the sound and smell of charcoal on paper. I am thankful for the museums I visited when I was small.

Stay warm and cozy, friends. Remember all those who came before, who spoke languages slowly being forgotten. Thanks for reading.

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Yesterday I was reminded that I do not visit Vermont as often as I should(/need). A day is never enough, especially when the sun is shining and everything is green. And while I am happy here on the Maine seacoast (this certainly feels like home), there is nothing quite like the Densmore homestead.

A number of these shots are Timothy’s.

Homeland ::

Homeland ::

Homeland ::

Homeland ::

Homeland ::

The above photograph is from my 2002 high school photography class. The exterior of the barn has lost some paint since then, for sure, and it seems my father is forever patching the roof. When he was young, the top floor was home to chickens. Some of the nesting boxes and metal feeders still remained when I was little, though I haven’t ventured to the upper levels in many years. This barn is such a huge part of my childhood landscape. It’s impossible to imagine it not occupying that space.

Homeland ::

Homeland ::

Before we left, I shared with my niece (who, by the way, is one of the coolest small people I know) that this little copse of birch trees is one of my favorite places. There is magic there. It is the place I will always return to.

See you again soon, Achenmead West.

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Tomorrow is Thanksgiving. The snow is finally falling.


I am thankful for family, old friends, and the new friends I have somehow made along the way. I am thankful for the people who help pick me up when I stumble, and I am thankful for the people in my life who accept that I am rarely the one who reaches out. Thank you for reaching out to me, even in small ways.

I am thankful for computers, and for the internet, but I am even more thankful that I was lucky enough to spend most of my young life without either of these things. I am thankful that I can close my laptop, pick up a book, and be just as content. I am thankful that I know how to write a letter, address an envelope.

I am thankful for the opportunity to further my education. I am thankful that I have learned things, and continue to learn things, that shake my foundations a little bit.

The world is a bit of a dismal place to be, right now, but if art, music, and literature tell us anything, it’s that it always has been, and probably always will be. These outlets also tell us, though, that there are inspired people doing beautiful things in the face of sadness and anger. I am thankful for those people. I am in awe of those people. Thank you for fighting the fight.

I am thankful for freshly baked bread. I am thankful that I was taught how to make grilled cheese on a cast iron pan. I am thankful for the birds feeding right outside my window. Thank you, for giving me a moment of pure joy for the cost of nothing more than black oil sunflower seeds.

I am thankful for sharpened Prismacolor pencils and grey drawing paper, flannel shirts and thick socks, cruelty-free lip balm. These are unnecessary objects, but small joys nonetheless.

I am thankful to be safe, loved, and in relatively good health. I am thankful for a heart, body, and mind that allow me to take care of others. I am thankful for all the people who have taken care of me.

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I needed a blog sabbatical. I can’t be bothered to offer an explanation. Suffice to say I was feeling a little weary and self-indulgent. But hello. Since my last post, I’ve been home to Vermont, spent some hours in Boston, planted some greenthings, and have had some really great beer. More on that forthcoming. Welcome back. This post has been in my drafts for ages, so I figured I’d polish it up and send it out into the world. Friends, it’s a start!

Dani and I are currently in the process of planning a baby shower for a co-worker who is pregnant with her first little kidlet. Since all  of our gifting ideas seem to be rooted in rainbow fantasy hippy land, we’ve decided to go with an appropriately themed party. I’m honestly out of my element, here;  I haven’t planned a party since college, and I have zero experience with baby showers (and babies). That doesn’t mean that brainstorming hasn’t been a total blast, though. Can we wear unicorn horns and fairy wings? I don’t know, but there will be glitter on the cupcakes.

Buying baby stuff is lots of fun, but I was feeling like poor mama was getting left out of the equation. Their registry is obviously focused on more practical items, so we’ve been trying to find balance, picking up little things here and there that will pamper mom and keep her spirit high when things are looking tough. After all, carrying this little human around has been (and will likely continue to be) a lot of hard work!


1 bebe // 2 mama


3 bebe // 4 mama


5 bebe // 6 mama


7 bebe // 8 mama // 9 mama


// 10

If you’re a mom, tell me what your favorite baby shower gifts were! Was there anything you received that was super thoughtful? We’ve also encouraged people to bring books to the shower instead of greeting cards, so feel free to leave some suggestions!

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