SLIDER

My Life According to Instagram

Monday, February 29, 2016

Instagram is the perfect social media outlet to get your creative juices flowing. There is so much remarkable imagery it's difficult to walk away uninspired. I'm always on the hunt for a worthy shot, so take a look at the last few weeks of my life according to Instagram photos.

Check out my Instagram account!

california lifestyle blogger

From left to right:


1. This stunning sunset was taken after I had a follow up appointment to my gingivectomy procedure  — the light at the end of the tunnel.
2. I got some new candles & makeup. Suffice it to say, I was excited to immediately rip them open & try them out.
3. I went out with my family to celebrate my mom's birthday & we got a plate of fries to share. This batch from Brigantine was particularly thin & crispy, my favorite.
4. Coffee, coffee, coffee! I don't drink too much coffee, so it's kind of a thrill when I do.
5. I was browsing through my summer trip to Europe photos & love this one from Gouda, Netherlands.
6.  We had a tiny bit of rain here in San Diego, & I clearly had to take advantage of that which came from it.
7. #IHaveThisThingWithFloors
8. A breakfast burrito is such a pick-me-up.
9. The last bit of photographic proof that Southern California had some gloomy, grey, rainy skies. Rain is such a rarity that it's beauty cannot & should not be ignored.

Looking back at my Europe trip photos had me yearning desperately with wanderlust. Thusly, my boyfriend & I decided to plan a weekend trip to San Clemente in March. It's not too far away but still unfamiliar enough that we can enjoy the thrill of exploration. Until then, these colorful photos will have to do. Wishing you all the best!

Which Instagram shot is your favorite? Do you have any plans to travel this year? :]

Follow me for more fashion, travel, & the California way of life:
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Oh & add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now ♥

Friday, February 26, 2016

One of my most favorite things in life is the excitement of looking forward to something in the not so distant future. Whether it's a mini staycation or a night out with friends, the thrill of counting down to an event makes me giddy. It's a small thing, but it produces a noticeably positive difference in my life. Right now I'm looking forward to Coachella in April; the preparations have already begun & I can't wait! Until that blissful moment of packing up the car & heading to Indio, California, I must remain focused on the present. Here's what I'm loving right now:

cinnamon pull apart muffin

Cinnamon Pull Apart Muffin 

I purchased some organic biscuits at an irresistible price. I normally never buy them but couldn't resist. I figured I could integrate them into my repertoire to create a new dish. I hopped around, slightly followed a recipe while simultaneously creating my own concoction. The cinnamon pull apart muffins were a success & my boyfriend gobbled them up in record time.

valentine's day

Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day comes & goes as does everything in life. I was pleasantly surprised when my boyfriend got me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. We're not very big on holidays so it was just a nice little token of love. I sincerely appreciated it & always love fresh flowers. Thanks babe!

undaria algae oil

Undaria Algae Oil* 

I briefly spoke about the Undaria Algae Oil from OSEA in my Valentine's Day Gift Guide for Her & I'm still digging it. This oil is so rich & luxurious. I feel like a queen when I slather it on after a shower. It smells divine & works miraculously, especially if you're having issues with dry skin.

carlsbad california

Carlsbad, CA

I spend most of my days in Carlsbad & I have no regrets about this. It is genuinely one of my favorite cities in the world because it has everything Southern California & San Diego has to offer without the unnecessary crowds. Blue skies, the Pacific ocean nearby, warm weather, delicious food, fantastic shops,  & good vibes. Paradise found.

california lifestyle blogger

Nana's Hand Me Downs

My Nana passed away about two years ago. Not only did I inherit her car but also a good deal of her clothes & accessories. This shiny purse is just one of the many items from my grandmother's collection. I love its sleek, Art Deco look. It seems retro but also could be modern.

What are you loving right now? :]

Follow me for more fashion, travel, & the California way of life:
   Bloglovin // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest // Twitter

Oh & add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links & PR Samples. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

Social Media Tips for Twitter (from a Social Media Professional)

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

How is your Twitter game? Twitter is a fast-paced social media channel where you can create a profile for yourself, your business, your blog, or your brand. It's a place to tell your story through text & photos. Twitter is unique because it has a feed-style format with each tweet being only 140 characters or less. You have to articulate yourself quickly & effectively. I'm a professional social media manager & these are imperative tips to keep in mind when it comes to Twitter.

Social Media Tips for Twitter (from a Social Media Professional)

1. Tweet Often

Twitter is fast! Since the social media site is basically a feed, your tweet from an hour ago gets left behind. Your reader's Twitter is constantly updated & you don't want to be at the bottom of the feed. Make sure you're updating your Twitter multiple times during the day. Aim to send out at least five tweets per day.

2. Tweet at Optimal Times 

Not only is it important to update often, it's vital to tweet at the most optimal times for your readers. The peak times to tweet range from 8 am - 1 pm Pacific Standard Time. However, the optimal times differ per time zone. If most of your Twitter followers are based in the UK, factor that into your timing. Noon to 1 pm local time is always an optimal time to post.

You may be interested to read: How to Run a Facebook Boost Post

3. Use Hashtags 

Tweeting with no hashtags is basically useless. Your tweets won't be relayed to those you are specifically trying to reach. Curate your tweets & tailor it to your audience. Start with a simple hashtag & then do a bit of research to see what hashtags people utilize. For example, do a Twitter search for #FashionBlogger or #SocialMedia & see what other hashtags are being used.

Social Media Tips for Twitter View Analytics

4. Consider Your Twitter Analytics

If you want to tweet at optimal times or see which of your hashtags work, you have to know your target audience. Take a look at your Twitter analytics & get to know it. Viewing your analytics can help you see which of your tweets do the best, how many impressions your tweets get, how many profile views you've received, where your audience is from, & more. The more information you have the better you will do.

5. Schedule Your Tweets

If you're too busy to consistently update your Twitter, scheduling your tweets is the way to go. As a social media coordinator, I don't have the time of day to create live tweets for every single client. I schedule several tweets out each day, taking into account the best time of day to post. Easy. Breezy. Effective.

Losing followers? Check out: 10 Reasons Why You're Losing Followers

6. Engage Your Audience

Twitter isn't only about self-promotion. Engage with your audience. Ask questions. Share posts & tweets that aren't your own. Reach out to your audience, engage them, & reel them in. You want to captivate your readers so they keep coming back whether it's for the relevant links to your blog or the cool quotes you retweet.

7. Create a robust profile

Is your profile completely filled out? Write a short description, include your website, & please, please, please make sure you have a profile photo. The last thing you want is the generic egg profile picture. Your profile is the first thing people see, so make sure they can get as much information as possible from it.

Social Media Tips for Twitter Use Hashtags

8. Create a Twitter Summary Card

You may have seen that some people on Twitter have a nice little blurb with a photo under their tweets with links. You can get it too. A summary card can be used for a variety of content such as blog posts, news articles, products, & more. Simply add the sample code to your website. Here are more thorough directions.

The ultimate social media guide: Social Media Tips & Tricks: A Roundup

9. Favorite & Retweet Others

Set some time aside to favorite, retweet, & respond to other tweets. It shows that you aren't only trying to promote your brand & get attention. Favoriting & retweeting others benefits you because people are interested in who retweets them. In the end it will get you more exposure. Be genuine when it comes to favoriting & retweeting; find interesting tweets that you truly like to share.

10. Be Transparent 

A while back I did a whole post on the importance of transparency when blogging but it's also important to be honest on social media sites. If you are paid to promote a certain product, you should add that into your tweet whether it's #Ad, #SponsoredPost or #AffiliateLink. If you want to be taken as a serious, credible source of information, you must develop an honest & transparent relationship with your readers.

11. Participate in Chats

A simple Google search will give you a plethora of Twitter chat options, so you can figure out which would be a good fit for you & your blog. These discussions normally include a particular hashtag for Tweeters to use. Chats are the perfect way to get in touch with like-minded people, talk about similar topics, & find out new information. Set a goal to participate in one or two chats per month to begin with.
Social Media Tips for Twitter Use Polling Feature

11. Use  the Polling Feature

This feature is awesome. Ask questions about your blog, what to post, what products people like, etc. Polling is a great way to get people engaged while also understanding more about your readers & users. It can be fun & quirky or educational & productive. It is what you make of it.


13. Pin Your Tweets 

Twitter allows you to pin one tweet to the top of your profile. This is the first thing people see when they browse your account. Pick your pinned tweet wisely, choosing something that your readers will find interesting or useful; I recommend pinning a link or a poll & changing the pinned tweet every two weeks.

Remember to check back here often for more social media tips & tricks to improve your brand, blog, &/or business. You can always leave a comment, email me, tweet at me with any questions you may have. If it requires a lengthy response I may be inclined to write an entire post about it. Thanks for reading.


Which of these social media tips for Twitter was the most helpful for you? Do you have any other Twitter-related questions? :]

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Follow me on social media for more fashion, music, & California happenings:
  Bloglovin // Facebook // Instagram // Pinterest // Twitter 

Add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner

A Brunch Date at Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge

Friday, February 19, 2016

Warning! Warning! Caffeine overload! Sugar rush! I wish someone had cautioned me about the delicious overindulging that was about to happen upon my visit to Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge*. Skybound is the perfect destination for caffeine freaks, dessert hoarders, & foodies of all kinds. I was invited to come into their Vista location to give them a bit of a taste test. The lounge focuses on quality, well-sourced food & has two locations: Vista & San Diego. Let's enter, shall we?

skybound coffee

skybound coffee

Ambience

The atmosphere was open & bright. Natural light shone through the abundance of windows leaving you with a smidgen of sun & a touch of warmth. Tables decorated with bright pink gerbera daisies in mason jars gave Skybound a homey, relaxed touch. My boyfriend, Fred, & I were able to choose from ample seating. Music played quietly in the background; I'm pretty sure I heard Jack Johnson at some point. The friendly Skybound team seemed willing to answer questions & made our experience a positive one. Beth & Nancy were the ladies taking care of us; they were attentive & knowledgeable about the product.

skybound coffee

Location

A consistent influx of people trickled into the lounge. As one person left another arrived & the cycle continued. It showed me that Skybound is a hit among the locals, a place people enjoy frequenting. Skybound is situated near a high school, which factored into their decision not to sell beer or wine as they do in the San Diego location. Despite its proximity to the high school, the patrons vary in age — a woman in her 60s reclined casually on a cozy, padded chair; a man in his 20s sat facing the window, typing frantically away on this laptop.

skybound coffee

Coffee

First up on the caffeine train was the coconut milk cortado, which is essentially a small espresso with a touch of milk. Although it's petite in size, it's potent & gets straight to the point. The cortado is perfect for a true coffee lover since its flavor & sheer amount of caffeine gives you quite a kick in the pants. Retails at $2.50.

skybound coffee, latte art

My personal favorite was the mocha with soy milk. It was beautiful, light, & airy. Rather than some sort of generic chocolate syrup, they use Dutch processed cocoa to create a rich but not cloyingly sweet mocha. This was one of the better mochas I've had in my lifetime. Retails at $3.25.

skybound coffee, latte art

For it's photogenic properties, they also gave me an Italian latte with regular milk. The milk apparently makes it easier to design latte art. The latte was beautiful & perfect for Instagram photos! It had a nice head of foam & caffeine kick. Retails at $3.50.

skybound coffee, breakfast burrito

Brunch

Incidentally, Fred & I visited Skybound on their very first day having a fully running brunch menu. How cool is that? I chose to vegetarian-ize the mango salsa breakfast burrito. It came with eggs, cheddar cheese, potato, black beans, avocado, arugula, & homemade mango salsa. The regular breakfast burrito normally comes with bacon & sausage. The fresh arugula gave it a nice crunch & zest. My boyfriend said it was filling, tasty, & scrumptious. The mango salsa & the arugula formed such a different flavor & experience to the average breakfast burrito. Retails at $8.50.

skybound coffee, french toast

We also got the French toast made with local organic artisan bread topped with freshly made vanilla whipped cream, strawberries, & bananas. It was absolutely delectable with the maple syrup. The flavor & quality of the bread make it stand apart — not your average French toast. Retails at $9.

skybound coffee, affogato

Dessert

After we stuffed ourselves for brunch, they gave us dessert! The affogato classico was a double espresso poured over chocolate gelato topped with whipped cream & dark chocolate sauce. It was intense. The balance of flavors melded into a perfect harmony. An affogato is a great choice to share with a friend or loved one. Retails at $6.75.

skybound coffee, dessert lounge

By the time Chocolate Fantasy came around, I was hopelessly & utterly stuffed. We took a couple bites & boxed the rest to go. I consider it a chocolate lover's paradise. The Chocolate Fantasy isn't on the menu since it comes directly from a bakery & depends on what's fresh, but it's a moist chocolate cake layered with chocolate mousse, chocolate ganache, mocha paste, & espresso chocolate. Retails at $6.50.

skybound coffee

To Go

As if all of that wasn't enough, Skybound gave us two drinks to go: Thai tea & an iced sea salt caramel coffee. After returning home & crashing from all the sugar & caffeine, we took some sips of the drinks. My boyfriend preferred the Thai tea & I adored the sea salt caramel iced coffee. Both were extremely creamy, decadent, & thick. The Thai tea retails at $3.25 & the sea salt caramel at $3.75.

skybound coffee, california lifestyle blogger

skybound coffee

Verdict

The Vista location is nice, open, & the staff is friendly. My boyfriend said, "I'd definitely come back here." The standout pieces for me were the soy milk mocha, French toast, affogato classico, & the sea salt caramel iced coffee. Basically everything. My boyfriend's favorites were the soy milk mocha, mango salsa breakfast burrito, affogato classico, & the Thai tea. Survey says: Skybound has all-around delicious drinks, desserts, & food. I genuinely had a marvelous experience at Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge & would return anytime.

How does Skybound look to you? Which item looks the yummiest? :]

You may find Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge: 
1661-a S. Melrose Dr.
Vista, CA 92081
(760) 727-2718
* Disclaimer: Everything was received complimentary from Skybound Coffee + Dessert Lounge in exchange for an honest review. All opinions in this review are 100% mine aka Carmen's. :]

Product Empties: Face & Body

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

"Hello. It's Empties. I was wondering if after all these months you're done using me." Yes. Yes, I am. Finally. At long last, I am done using you & you're officially part of the empties crew. Congratulations. You did it! Now everyone in the world can read about it. Don't forget to read up on my last empties post Product Empties: Face, Hair, & Body!

california beauty blogger

St. Ives Blemish Control Apricot Scrub - This is a face scrub I repurchase often because it's affordable & it works. It's straight to the point. The scrub is oil free, contains 2% salicylic acid, & is made of 100% natural exfoliants. The apricot scrub leaves my skin feeling refreshed but not overly exfoliated. I might want to try a different brand for my next facial scrub, just to think outside the box.

Aura Cacia Organic Rosehip Oil* - I used this organic rosehip oil with vitamin E nearly every morning & night after washing my face. It left my skin hydrated but not excessively oily. I wasn't a big fan of the smell, so I ended up adding about 10 drops of Aura Cacia Lavender Essential Oil to enhance the fragrance. The rosehip oil worked well & it's something I would consider purchasing. Read a little bit more about my Aura Cacia review.

california beauty blogger

Crystal Essence Roll-On Deodorant* -  I really like the idea of a roll-on deodorant because it's an easy process. However, after finishing an entire deodorant, I can safely say Crystal's roll-on version wasn't the most efficient. I felt the roll-on didn't protect me from odors; it also went on relatively wet, making me feel a bit sticky. The Chamomile & Green Tea scent smelled positively lovely, but I'd be inclined to try a different all natural deodorant brand to see if it worked better. Find out more in my Crystal Deodorant review.

Aroma Naturals Lavender Passion Flower Castile Soap* - If you know me at all, you know I adore lavender & the Aroma Naturals 4-in-one castile soap didn't let me down. This little guy comes in a handy 2 oz. bottle, perfect for travel or the shower. I have no complaints about this, I do admit I only used it as a shower gel. Apparently you can utilize it as a shampoo, hand wash, or a shave soap. Check out the other castile soaps Aroma Naturals sent me.

california beauty blogger

Primal Organics Banished™ Face Toner* - To be honest, I didn't like the smell of this initially. It took some warming up to, but I eventually began spritzing it on my face every day after cleansing my face & before moisturizing. The retail price is $44 so consider it an investment. I can't say for sure if it did anything for my skin so I doubt I would buy this myself. Find out more in my Primal Life Organics Paleo Skincare Review.

Tom's of Maine Spearmint Antiplaque & Whitening Toothpaste - I always called this brand "Tom's" like the shoes, but didn't realize the full name is Tom's of Maine. You learn something new every day. This empty product is actually my second Tom's of Maine toothpaste & I've already purchased a third one.  I try a different flavor or function each time & I dig it. This is my current favorite toothpaste brand. The ingredients are natural & I like that they share what ingredients are used & what the purpose is.

It's nice to look back & recognize what has been thoroughly used. It's a great way to hold yourself accountable & not get any new items until you finish what's in your possession already. What was your latest empty? Would you be down to try any of these products? :]

Follow me for more fashion, travel, & the California way of life:
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Oh & add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links & PR Samples. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

Sometimes It's Perfectly Okay to do Nothing

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Do you ever have one of those days when you feel like a glob of goo? One of those days where any type of movement feels like your ultimate nemesis & the thought of chipping away at your growing list of errands gives you the heebie-jeebies? That's how I feel today & that's okay. Sometimes it's perfectly acceptable to do nothing.

Today I am feeling a bit sickly & sore, which I might add is not the norm; I rarely get sick & albeit I'm not very ill. However, my nose perpetually runs, creating a red & raw itchy patch. My jaw is aching from my oral surgery procedure yesterday, so I'm stuck slurping down liquid foods. Here I am sipping on a now lukewarm mug of Earl Grey tea with a splash of almond milk. Apparently hot food or drink are not good for my stitches. If you add me on Instagram, you could have seen me lisping & drooling post-surgery!)

california lifestyle blogger

I have a pile of crumpled tissues & a half drank glass of water by my side, while I permanently apply lip balm to my cracked lips — a byproduct of yesterday's surgery. I'm lying in bed with laptop in my lap (so that's why it's called that...) watching Whitney Houston powerfully belt out the national anthem at the 1991 Super Bowl, which somehow led to my watching Mariah Carey's live performances circa 1995, which promptly guided me to Celine Dion's "My Heart Will Go On."

Then I remembered I had yet to watch the finale of Project Runway: Junior, which eventually influenced this post. I realized that in the midst of our busy bee lives, we really have to take a moment to rest & relax & just enjoy the little things. There will always be a list of things we have to get done & priorities we have to switch around. Sometimes we need that moment of pure nothingness, complete & utterly void of productivity, to feel our best. That's where I'm at right now.

california lifestyle blogger

Let this be a public service announcement to say: sometimes it's perfectly okay to do nothing. There's no need to feel guilty about sleeping in on the weekend or taking a moment to heal your mind, body, & soul. Think of it as an investment. If you take a moment to repair yourself, you'll be much more constructive when the time for action comes.

Join me today & this weekend in watching the gorgeous Leonardo DiCaprio in Titanic, endlessly browsing videos of puppies learning to howl, & drinking cups of tea to make ourselves feel better. This is our temporary bliss.

How do you like to do nothing? What's your favorite movie to watch when you're feeling under the weather? :]

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Add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner

January: My Month from A - Z

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Jeez Louise it's Februrary. The first month of 2016 has officially flown away like a juvenile bird leaving the nest. Goodbye January! I'd say I'm having a hard time believing it but, I always say that so I should just move on. This year I'd like to begin a new series summarizing my month in A - Z format. Let's go over the A, B, Cs.

affogato, skybound coffee

Affogato - Oh my word! This thing is delicious. An affogato is a coffee-based dessert made with piping hot espresso poured over some nice, cold gelato. The dessert is extraordinarily rich & every human being should try it at least once in their lifetime.

Beanies - I am all about that beanie life. I have a large collection considering it's not usually too cold here in San Diego. But I don't care about practicality. I seem to buy a new one every fall/winter season. Definitely a winter must have.

Celebrating the new year with friends - It was such a pleasure to have a handful of my closest friends with me to ring in the new year. Long gone are those days of desiring a grand & glamorous celebration for New Year's Eve. All I need are my friends & some snacks & I'm all set.

Dry January - For the entire month of January, I had not one drop of alcohol. The first couple weeks were harder because I normally like to kick back & enjoy a couple beers on the weekend. After the second weekend went by I focused on doing different things with my weekend that didn't involve alcohol. Stay tuned for a full post on this experience.

Emails - As a blogger, I always get such a kick out of checking my email. Most of the time there's something really nice & juicy in there. It's basically a little gift waiting to be read. January has been very fruitful in its collaborative emails.

california lifestyle blogger

Fred - On January 16, my boyfriend & I celebrated our three-year anniversary. I seriously can't believe how fast the time has gone. 

Gilmore Girls -  Fred & I are doing our best to blast through Gilmore Girls.  I remember watching the series as a pre-teen & teenager,  so it brings me memories of an interesting time in my life. The dialogue is witty, quick, & still extremely relatable. I think Rory was my inspiration to study journalism!

Hair extensions - I like to pretend I'm a glamorous celebrity when I put in my hair extensions. It's a simple way to revolutionize your entire look. I seriously feel like a different person. Crazy how hair has such an effect.

california lifestyle blogger

Instagram - I've been in love with Instagram this month. Despite being a social media professional, I lagged at updating it every day. In January, I added a couple new photos each day & it's working out well.

Job - I started a new job in December & finally got in the groove of things this month. I still have a lot to learn about hotels & timeshares; the more I know, the more I can tailor it to my social media strategy.

Knowledge - As I juuuust mentioned, I've been learning a lot, you guys. That's good for you too since it adds to my Social Media Basics series.

Lip liner - Lip liner just pumps me up. It's a surefire way to feel like I'm fully dolled up & ready to take on any challenge. Most of the time I use lip liner by itself.

Making a Murder - I talked about this captivating show on 5 Things I'm Loving Right Now ♥ & I'm mentioning it again because it's really that good. Just go ahead & watch it this weekend if you haven't already.

california lifestyle blogger

Necklaces - If you read my latest outfit of the day post, Golden Hour, you'd know that I'm digging this necklace. It's chic & it goes with almost anything. It has a cool iridescent quality to it too.

Okra chips - Yooo. Okra chips are so good. They're super crispy & pretty much hollow inside minus the seeds. It's an intriguing texture & flavor, but I suggest trying it. I didn't grow up on okra so it's something I'm still getting acquainted with.

Packages - "Brown paper packages tied up with strings. These are a few of my favorite things." ♪♫♬ Yes, I'm getting all The Sound of Music-y on you. Like emails, packages are so exciting!

Quotes - Sometimes a person of the past said something so eloquently that you can't help but quote them regularly. Quote are perfect for inspiration, reference, & just about anything really.

Retype - This app is awesome. It's an easy way to integrate text onto your photos. It's ideal for Instagram, blogs, & whatever you feel like using it for.

Sunsets - I actually didn't know I was that into sunsets until I looked back on my photos from the month. I captured a sunset at least two or three times each week, so I'd have to say that makes me a fan.

earl grey tea

Tea, tea, tea - I've been drinking a lot of tea recently. My go-to is Earl Grey with lavender. It's a harmonious mixture of two of my favorite things. Nature is great & whoever thought to  combine lavender & Earl Grey tea together is a genius in my eyes.

Unabashed - I work every day at not being embarrassed when taking outfit photos. It's still a work in progress, but I'm getting less self-conscious. 

Vinebox - Subscription boxes are super trendy & why not try something different? I love the idea of a wine subscription box that comes right to your doorstep.

southern california sunset

Winter - Since I get up early in the mornings, it's quite frigid outside. Sometimes it's cloudy, sometimes it's misty, sometimes it's rainy, sometimes it's icy. By the time 9 am rolls around, the winter feel is usually gone. Being an early bird gives me the opportunity to actually wear some layers.

The X-Files - Yessss! Fred & I finished the entire X-Files series & its subsequent movies just in time for The X-Files revival. The six-episode mini-series is perfect for all sci-fi fans out there. I'm excited to see how it goes.

Youth - Every day we get older, so we aren't as young as we were the minute before. I love looking back on where I've been & where I'm going.

Zzzz - There's much to do & never enough hours in the day. I'm a human being who relishes on eight hours of sleep per night & it's been difficult to catch up on those ZzzZZzz's. Can we add more time to the clock or something?

My questions to you:
Do you spell it 'jeez,' 'geez,' or some other version?
How was your January in 5 letters? For example, A, C, L, O, S. :]

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The Girl Who Stops to Smell a Blossoming Rose

Monday, February 08, 2016

I'm the girl who stoops down in the grass to peek curiously at the little patch of blooming flowers. I'm the girl who places a white daisy behind her ear until it withers in the most woeful way. I'm the girl who will most certainly stop dead in her tracks to smell a blossoming rose. I truly, genuinely, absolutely adore flowers — always have & always will.

blossoming rose

This pretty in pink Vintage Romance bouquet from ProFlowers* makes me ever so joyful. Something about this time of year leaves me hopeful; my heart feels open to the future & the light it may hold. The new year has been kind to me so far, gently guiding me from January to February & eventually beyond. 

blossoming rose

I'm getting the hang of tailoring my social media strategy to the hotel & resort industry. I've learned a myriad of information in such a short period of time. My brain acts like a thirsty sponge, desperately trying to cling onto new facts without dropping any data. I'm upping my overall social media game. Knowledge is powerful, in the most self-empowering sense. Success!

blossoming rose

Regardless of certain holidays, large sporting events, or prestigious award ceremonies everyone's a winner in some capacity. ProFlowers' #WelcomeToWinning campaign aims to express all the reasons why we — you, me, & the world — are winners in our own right. And we are! I just want to take this moment to tell you that you rock! You're an awesome person & you deserve happiness!

blossoming rose

As someone who considers herself a bit of a flower fiend, this vibrant bouquet left me hypnotized. Vintage Romance comes with budding Asiatic lilies, hot pink roses, delicate Queen Anne's lace, & hearty ruscus. You also get to pick the vase of your choice & I, of course, chose the champagne bucket. It's chic & multifunctional. Maybe I'll actually buy some champagne to utilize it! Hehehe.

blossoming rose

The flowers were delivered straight to my doorstep, but it was up to me to cut, style, & arrange everything within the champagne bucket vase. I think I did an applaudable job, considering I'm not a florist by any means. Winning! I'm learning a lot about myself this year. The flowers lasted a good seven days before starting to slowly die & decay.

blossoming rose

2016 has been a unique year, a time of growth & knowledge. I also started wearing eyeshadow on a regular basis, so 2016 is simply overflowing with opportunities. This year is off to a brilliant start & I'm positively thrilled of what will come of it. Now time to kill it again in February or at least try to.

How are you winning in 2016? Think of one way you're rocking this year so far! :]

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* Disclaimer: I received the Vintage Romance bouquet from ProFlowers. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

Valentine's Day Gift Guide For Men

Friday, February 05, 2016

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching & that leaves the world questioning what gifts to get for the men in their lives. Men claim to be easy to shop for, but are they really? Follow along with my Valentine's Day gift guide for men for five foolproof presents to get the men in your life. Giftgiving just got easier.

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men

What do men want? Do they desire something fancy? What about something practical & functional that they can use every day? These are the questions that will leave your world spinning, grasping for answers. To assist in this endeavor, I've consulted with my boyfriend of three years, Fred, for some go to Valentine's day gift ideas for men. Here we go...

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, buddha teas

Saffron Green Tea* - The flavorful combination of saffron with green tea makes the perfect Valentine's Day gift any tea lover. Being Persian I grew up on saffron so tasting it in a cup of piping hot tea gave me a refreshing wave of nostalgia. My boyfriend, however, is not a saffron aficionado & he very much enjoyed it. The pure, natural, chemical-free Saffron Green Tea from Buddha Teas is a unique gift for a unique guy. 

My boyfriend says: "This tea is packed with flavor. I've never tried saffron before & now I have another tea to rotate during my morning breakfast routine."

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, dr. squatch shave kit

Shave Kit* -  I mentioned Dr. Squatch in my Christmas gift guide for men because their soaps are seriously amazing. For Valentine's Day, give your husband, boyfriend, brother, dad, male friend a nice shave kit. The Dr. Squatch version comes with a clay mint shave bar, synthetic shave brush, & a really cool copper shave mug. Is it bad that I want to steal the mug from my boyfriend & just use it for a Moscow Mule?!

My boyfriend says: "I enjoyed the new experience of applying shaving cream using a soft bristle brush. The shave bar smelled great & lathered well. Overall, my shaving experience was improved, which I never thought could happen."

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, ocean cleansing mudd

Ocean Cleansing Mudd* - Men enjoy skincare too. After all, the face is an important part of the body. With hints of tea tree & peppermint oil, the OSEA Ocean Cleansing Mudd has a nice kick to it. The mudd cleanses pores & controls oil. The packaging is simple & classic. It's an interesting & unique concept that will leave your skin feeling rejuvenated & tingling.

My boyfriend says: "The mudd actually feels like it cleans & refreshes my skin. It's the most invigorating facial cleanser I've ever tried. The packaging looks really cool too."

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, awesome socks

Awesome Socks*-  For the fashion forward man, consider a rad sock subscription. Sockwork donates a percentage of its proceeds to veteran-oriented charities. Choose the type of socks, customize your order, then get your socks. Do your good deed of the day & get him some socks with a purpose. They'll jazz up any outfit! My boyfriend wore these dark blue ones with black jeans & black Vans.

My boyfriend says: "The socks were soft & comfortable; my only two requirements for a great sock. I like the different designs since they add personality to an article of clothing that normally isn't the star of the show."

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, cheesy puffs

Serious Cheesy Puffs* - Oh my word, y'all! These handcrafted baked corn puff snacks from Fuller Foods are intensely good. You can choose between three flavors: Sriracha Cheddar,  Blue Cheese Jalapeño, & Asiago Black Pepper. They are shockingly spicy, so make sure you have some water & tissues on hand.

My boyfriend says: "I was surprised when I first saw the absurdly large puffs, but on my first bite, the size didn't matter. I really liked that each flavor featured a different type of cheese & spice. The Blue Cheese Jalapeño was my favorite because it was the perfect mix of cheese & heat."

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men, cheesy puffs

Valentine's Day Gift Guide Ideas For Men

Men are wonderful creatures. Your dad, your fiancé or husband, your brother, your really cool coworker, all deserve a bit of recognition. This Valentine's Day gift guide for men is filled with presents to suit a variety of personalities. Now go out there & conquer those gifts. Valentine's Day is less than two weeks away!

Which of these Valentine's Day gifts for men looks the best to you? :]

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* Disclaimer: Everything was received complimentary as PR samples. All opinions in this guide are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

Date Ideas to do at Home

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

Baby it's cold outside or maybe you're just feeling lazy. Not all dates have come in the form of some sort of extravagant outing. You could have a joyful, romantic, unique date experience at home. For the most part these are extremely budget-friendly, fun, & engaging. No excuses. If you cross off one of these simple stay-at-home date ideas per week you'll have three months worth of dates. Take a look at these date ideas to do from home. 

date ideas to do at home

1. Massage exchange - Take turns giving massages. You can break it down by body parts such as one person massages the other person's back & then you switch or you could do a good old-fashioned 30 minute massage swap. You can ask the other to focus on certain problematic areas or have them wing it.

2. Online cooking video - Look up a video or cooking show & choose a meal to recreate. Be sure to purchase your ingredients beforehand. Then the two of you can create your own version & learn something new without the cost & inconvenience of attending a cooking class.

3. Beer tasting - Many grocery stores give you the option of purchasing beers individually. You can pick six various beers  & create your own wonky six pack. Pick a couple that you like, have your significant other pick a couple, & then the both of you can choose two new ones to test out. Now you have your very own at home beer tasting without the expensive brewery price.

beer tasting

4. Game night - Go Fish. Monopoly. Jenga. Scrabble. Yahtzee. Ticket to Ride. Guess Who? There are a myriad of games just waiting to be played & it's the perfect date idea for homebodies. Have fun. Be youthful. Break out of your date night rut & enjoy a game. Guess Who? is one of my personal favorites!

5. Bubble bath - You always see couples in movies cuddling up in a bubble bath, but when was the last time you did it? Recently or never? You should give it a go. I'm dying to know if two people can realistically fit in your bathtub. It always looks so spacious in the films. If it doesn't work out you can pick another choice from these date ideas to do at home.

6. Movie marathon - This is different than the average sitting home & watching Netflix days. The movie marathon is where you choose a movie series or genre & watch them all. Be it a Harry Potter movie marathon or a Christmas themed movie marathon, enjoy the ride.

7. Order delivery -  Some of you may think this isn't a romantic date idea, but it is to me! My boyfriend & I normally create our own meals & eat at home so ordering delivery would be a unique date experience. Give yourself a break & have the food come to you. You can give a restaurant a call or some places even allow online orders. Enhance the delivered food by eating it in a nice dish.

chili ramen noodles


8. Karaoke - Go to YouTube & search "karaoke songs with lyrics." Instead of going out & embarrassing yourself in front of dozens of people, why not do karaoke at home? Sounds like a plan to me. That way I can sing — well, attempt to sing — without doing it in front of an audience. Then only people laughing my atrocious voice are me & my boyfriend.

9. Build a blanket fort - I talked about building a blanket fort in my Non Cliche & Totally Not Lame Valentine's Day Date Ideas post & I'm mentioning it again because it's a true classic. Cozy up together & bring out your inner child by assembling an awesome blanket fort.

10. Reminisce with photos - Good memories. Bad memories. All of the memories come flooding out when you look at photos. I did this with my boyfriend a few weeks ago & it was a mind-boggling experience. We've been friends for over eight years & dating for about three; looking back at ancient Facebook photos, printed photos, & whatever else we could find brought up memories & recollections from moments long past.

love is in the air
Actual photo of a photo of me & my boyfriend circa 2007!!

11. 
Indoor picnic - This date idea is perfect if it's cold, rainy, snowy or if you're generally feeling lazy. Prepare your food, snacks, drinks, & picnic basket as normal; then establish your set up in an open space. Add blankets, pillows, & you can even pop in a movie. Hey, it's only a handful of steps from the kitchen to the picnic spot. Simplicity is good.

12. Sports & drinks - Taken from the wise lyrics of Olivia Newton-John, "Let's get physical!" Technically you don't have to get physical; you get to watch other people get physical. Whether it's the latest soccer game or MMA match, watch a sport & drink up! You can create your own cocktails or maybe get fancy with wine while you watch the sporting event.

13. Seven Minutes in Heaven - Turn your at-home date night into a blast from the past. Every teenager has at least heard of this game if not played it. I personally have never actually played Seven Minutes in Heaven so it would make an interesting "date" experience. Basically, the idea is you & your partner spend seven minutes in a closet. Nobody else. No lights. Just two people. Nobody knows what goes on in there but the two of you.


15 more date ideas:

Keep the romance alive, even if you're lazy. Hopefully you were inspired by this list of date ideas to do at home. Not all dates have to include a pricey restaurant & a movie. Switch it up. Jazz it up. Which of these date ideas appeals to you? Do you have a date idea to add to the list? :]

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