August 2016 / Carmen Varner // Lifestyle Blogger & Social Media + Blogging Coach


Incorporating Earl Grey Into Your Every Day

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

If you're as utterly obsessed with Earl Grey tea as I am, you're probably wondering how you can integrate it into your life more. A cup of tea is simply not enough, am I right? If you're an Earl Grey fan, an Earl Grey lover, or even a moderate Earl Grey drinker, then stay tuned for some fun spins on Earl Grey tea & how you can incorporate it into your every day.

earl grey soap

Earl Grey Soap

Get squeaky clean & smell like a fresh cuppa tea while you're at it. Etta + Billie* creates handcrafted, small batch soaps with organic ingredients. Their beautiful Earl Grey Soap has hints of sweet orange & bergamot with actual bits of tea leaves. The suds smell so soothing during my morning shower.

earl grey cologne

Earl Grey Perfume

Demeter Fragrance Library* has an insane collection of fragrances. Seriously, they have hundreds to choose from. I wore the Earl Grey Tea Cologne Spray & my boyfriend's eyes literally rolled to the back of his head. He loved it! This is one of the truest or a Earl Grey scents I've ever smelled. 

spun light

Earl Grey Cotton Candy

Enjoy a carnival favorite from the comfort of your own home. Spunlight Cotton Candy* is made with organic cane sugar, all natural flavorings, & no artificial dyes. The Earl Grey cotton candy comes compact in a small container, but begins looking whispy & cotton candy-esque as you start ripping off pieces. Super tasty! Rose is worth a shot too.

1821 bitters

Earl Grey Bitters

Drink your Earl Grey in a new way & include it in your favorite cocktail. Oh yeah! 18.21 Bitters* has some delightful choices, Earl Grey Bitters being one of them. Because Earl Grey isn't the most well known of bitters, it's even more fun to come up with your own cocktail recipes. I'm still experimenting but so far it tastes scrumptious with whiskey & lemon.

Do you like Earl Grey tea? Which of these sounds best to you? :]

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

Palm Springs // OOTD

Monday, August 29, 2016

Have you ever had one of those moments when you don't even realize you took something for granted, but then it's taken from you & all you can think about is how lucky you were? That happened on my trip to Palm Springs. I became enlightened as to the blissful temperatures of San Diego. I always forget how glorious it is until the moment I visit somewhere else.

palm springs art museum
Sunglasses: O by Oscar de la Renta (similar) // Dress: Old Navy (similar) // Vest: my Nana (similar) // Shoes: Old Navy (exact) // Purse: Betsey Johnson (similar)

Palm Springs was 106°F & unbearably hot. Truly. We did whatever it took to stay out of the sun, whether that entailed going to catch a matinee movie (Sausage Party) or making another stop at a cafe simply to sip on some iced coffee in an air-conditioned area.

palm springs art museum

We dropped by the Palm Springs Art Museum & had a blast looking at all the beautiful pieces. I'd highly recommended a visit if you find yourself in the area. Fred wanted to go outside to view some of the pieces & it turned out to be a gorgeous spot for an impromptu outfit of the day shoot.

As I mentioned in this post, breezy dresses are absolutely vital in the summertime. I want my dress to breathe easy & make me feel comfortable in the heat rather than constricted or restricted. This dress has been one of my favorites all summer long. 

I wore my Nana's vest to add some pizzazz. Crochet vests are severely underrated. They can completely transform a look. I wear this vest all the time, but never with this dress. I ended up enjoying the combination! We took a few shots, then headed back into the museum — you know, for the air conditioning. Ah yes, the blissful comfort of cold air.

What's your favorite summer look? Is it hot where you are? :]

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3 Steps to a Productive Day

Friday, August 26, 2016

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StoKColdBrew #CollectiveBias

Life is fast-paced. That's a fact. Add a career in social media & blogging, & the time goes by even quicker. It's incredibly hard to stay up-to-date. It's even more difficult to stay in the know while remaining invigorated & inspired to do so. Follow me into my day & see how I stay productive & motivated to achieve my blogging to do list!

cold brew iced coffee

Step 1: Breakfast

I always try to start my day off with a hearty, wholesome breakfast since it energizes me in the morning. I headed over to my local Ralphs to pick up some SToK™ cold brew coffee. I asked an associate where to find cold brew & she pointed me in the direction of the dairy aisle. I walked over to the aisle & found SToK™ right in the coffee & tea refrigerator.

While at Ralphs, an elderly woman saw me taking photos & curiously asked why I was doing so. I told her the truth & said I was working on a blog post! Ha! She was too cute. After that, I went to self checkout & the SToK™ 48 oz Cold Brew Iced Coffee was mine. Easy peasy.

I opted for the Un-Sweet version of the 48 oz Cold Brew Iced Coffee. Fred likes his coffee black while I add a touch of coconut creamer. I normally don't like black coffee but when I tried Fred's cup, it was genuinely delicious. I was impressed. Cold brewed & slow brewedSToK™ is bold enough to get my creative juices flowing in the morning. We made some avocado toast topped with a fried egg & munched on a side of papaya, grapefruit, & cantaloupe.

cold brew iced coffee

Step 2: Plan

After we're done eating breaky, the next step to achieving my goals is planning them out. I physically write down all the tasks I can think of on a piece of paper, so my eyes can see them. Then I identify three tasks I definitely want to achieve that day. This step is imperative to getting organized & prepared.

My top three goals for today are:

  1. Go to store to pick up facial cleanser product for post
  2. Write content & edit photos for my Palm Springs OOTD post
  3. Begin writing beauty subscription box preview

Step 3: Action

Okay, so I took the time to get pumped for the day, I wrote down my tasks, now it's time to turn those goals into action. With my overall list & my three must achieve goals in mind, it makes the action aspect easier to accomplish.

Since there are at least three items I must cross off, I make those a priority & work on them first thing. Begin with the hardest task first, so the rest of the list seems simple in comparison. I highlight what I did accomplish & write the date it was done. If I didn't complete a task, it's left blank until it's finished. I strike through tasks for posts I threw out all together.

cold brew iced coffee

And those are my three steps to a productive blogging day. There will always be a new social media update. There will always be new products to try. There will always be a growing to do list & goals that seem unachievable, but with a bit of energy, a cup of cold brew coffee, some planning, & some follow-through, anything is possible. Get SToK™ at your local Ralphs!

How do you stay productive? Have you tried SToK™? :]

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* Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Collective Bias, Inc. & its advertiser. As always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

How To Create Authentic Social Media Brand Mentions + Why They're Important for Bloggers & Influencers

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Social media is constantly evolving. With big-name influencers popping up every second & bloggers collaborating with huge brands, how can you get noticed? Whether you're a rookie blogger or a seasoned influencer, using strategic & authentic social brand mentions can give you the edge you need to move forward.

What is a social brand mention?

A social brand mention is the act of mentioning a brand or product on social media, be it Pinterest, Facebook, Snapchat. It can be anything from a quick shoutout on Twitter to a lengthy YouTube video.

Here I checked into the location & mentioned the brand in my caption. They liked & commented on the photo.

Why should I mention brands?

There are several reasons why you should actively & regularly mention brands throughout your social media & blog. The biggest reason is its benefit to YOU!

Here I tagged brands within my update. Tagging a brand can help to expand your reach.

Expand Your Reach

When you mention a brand, tag them in a post, talk about a product, there's always the chance that the brand will engage back with you. They may like your post, repost it, share it, create a dialogue with you, or reach out to you for further opportunities. That's a good thing!

Here I showed authentic excitement for a brand. They tweeted back, liked the tweet, retweeted it, & followed me.

Show Your Authenticity

Specifically call out the products & brands you're using so your followers can get a feel of your true & authentic self. Your readers want to know what you're genuinely buying & enjoying. Show them!

Here I posted a photo & tagged the brand. It gave me fresh blog & Instagram content.

Create Original Content

When you call out brands, you're creating original content for yourself. Integrating those social mentions can give you more to talk about, write about, & share. If you're struggling to come up with content, it may be as simple as talking about that deodorant you're really loving or that new coffee shop you visited twice this week.

Here I talked about a product I enjoyed. Someone tweeted back that they wanted to try the product.

Be An Influencer

Establish yourself as an influencer by building authentic social relationships with brands & readers. Brands are always hunting for relevant influencers, & your online activity can be a huge part of someone else's offline & online decision making.

Here I mentioned a product I'm loving, which gave me extra content. The brand liked the photo.

Work with Brands

At the very end of the authentic social brand mention chain is the potential to work with brands. Sometimes the brand will retweet you or share your mention or blog post, which can expand your reach. Sometimes the brand will email you to say thanks. Sometimes the brand takes note, keeping you on their radar for future possibilities. Sometimes the brand reaches out to send free product. Sometimes, just sometimes, they want to work with you for a paid post or campaign. Hell yes!

I reviewed a product on my blog in 2016. The brand reached out August 2017 to ask if I wanted free product.

How can I create an effective social brand mention?

Say you go out to dinner with your boyfriend. You really enjoyed yourself, so you tweet a photo of your meal & mention the restaurant. That's an effective & authentic social brand mention. Take a look at my formula for brand mentions. You don't have to do all five steps, but I recommend integrating at least three.

This contains the four steps needed to create an effective & authentic social brand mention.
 Here's my usual formula for a brand mention:
1. Tag or mention the brand
2. Include a photo
3. Write a brief caption
4. Use two or three related hashtags
BONUS STEP 5. Send a quick email to the brand giving them a brief compliment & sharing the link to your brand mention.

Creating authentic social brand mentions can give you the edge you need to move forward in your career, especially since it can expand your reach, give you the opportunity to discover new content, allow your readers to get to know you, & show your worth as an influencer.

What do you think of social brand mentions? How have you created an effective brand mention? Please share! :]

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e.l.f Cosmetics Haul

Monday, August 22, 2016

There's a wave of satisfaction that overwhelms me when I purchase something that I've been in dire need of. It's like accomplishing a goal, checking something off from my growing to do list. It's soothing & therapeutic in a way.

I really needed a new foundation & it had been a while since I bought any e.l.f. (Eyes Lips Face) products, so I scoured the website to make some purchases. I used to buy e.l.f. in mass quantities when I was in college. I would buy everything from eyeshadow to lipgloss & it was one measly dollar!

elf cosmetics

The times have changed or at least upgraded since then. I was surprised to see that the brand has blossomed into a high quality company with a huge range of products. I didn't opt for any of their dollar products. I got six items for the ever so affordable price of $26, which was one dollar above the $25 minimum for free shipping. Here's what I got.

elf cosmetics

Mineral Infused Face Primer in Brightening Lavender - This primer makes my face feel silky smooth to help evenly apply my makeup. I love the purple color, which is supposed to combat uneven skin tones.

elf cosmetics

Eye Refresh - Rather than buying a high end brand or even some other drugstore version, opt for this. It works the same & is much more affordable. Simply roll the Eye Refresh under your eyes for some morning invigoration.

elf cosmetics

High Definition Powder in Sheer - If you want to look Photoshopped in real life, the High Definition Powder is meant to create a flawless finish by masking fine lines & imperfections. Be sure to blend with a kabuki brush.

elf cosmetics

HD Mattifying Cream Foundation in Sand - I've never used a foundation like this before. The cream to powder effect is quite interesting. I'm not 100% sold on this, especially since my skin is oily. I generally buff the foundation & then add the High Definition Powder to give me a matte finish.

elf cosmetics

Lip Exfoliator in Mint Maniac - This lip exfoliator works well & tastes amazing. Short of making  it yourself, you won't find a better deal. I highly recommend getting the Mint Maniac version.

elf cosmetics

Acne Fighting Spot Gel with Aloe - I read so many rave reviews about this that I thought it was worth a shot. I've been using the gel for any pimples that pop up but will have to get back to you in the future as to whether it works for not.

What's your favorite e.l.f. product? Do you want me to do any full reviews for these items?
Leave a comment & let me know. :]

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Balboa Park // OOTD

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

San Diego County houses so many wonderful cities within it. There's Carlsbad, Del Mar, Encinitas, Poway, Solana Beach, & much more. The ocean is always nearby & the sun never ceases to kiss your skin. However, Balboa Park has always held a special place in my heart. I used to go there with my family & explore the park, browse the museums, walk across the bridge, & watch plays at The Old Globe

Tank: New Chic (similar) // Top: Thrifted (similar) // Shoes: Rue 21 // (similar) // Skirt: Thrifted (similar) // Purse: Betsey Johnson (similar) // Nail Polish: China Glaze // (similar)

Fred & I made it a goal to explore our own city & state in 2016 & we've been following that pretty effectively. We've visited CarlsbadCoronado, Del MarLa Jolla, OceansideSan Clemente, & just wrapped up a weekend in Palm Springs.  Balboa Park is a bit cooler than some of the inland areas so it wasn't as boiling hot.

I received two One-Day Explorer passes as a birthday gift (back in April), so we decided it was time to utilize them. The passes gave us admission to up to five museums, but had to be used in one day. We spent our time exploring Balboa Park's museums in all their glory. 

See that little sticker on my shirt? It was our proof of entry for the Museum of Man. I'm no longer in school, but I always yearn to learn. Museums are perfect for just that. We visited San Diego Natural History Museum, Reuben H. Fleet Science Center, San Diego Museum of Man, & the Timken Museum of Art.

P.S. Balboa Park is a prime spot for any Pokémon trainers out there. There are tons of PokeStops in the area. If you head over on the weekend, you'll catch your fair share of lures.

What do you think of this outfit? :]

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5 Things I'm Loving Right Now ♥

Friday, August 12, 2016

What a week, you guys! I'm currently in Palm Springs enjoying the start of a fabulous weekend. We plan to indulge in some delicious food, test out unique drinks, relax in a mineral spa, & simply witness a new place. In other news, I was stung by a bee last weekend & I'm still healing. My arm has been slightly red & itchy the last couple days, but it's going away. Eeek. I hope you have a happy weekend. Here's what I'm loving right now! 

North Park

North Park is a trendy little neighborhood in San Diego. Seriously, there's something cool everywhere you turn. We tried vegan ceviche & gourmet donuts. We saw some neat shops with cool knick knacks. This was a funky corner inside of a brewery. Rad!

Peach Papaya Iced Tea

I'm normally a fan of hot tea (Earl Grey), but this refreshing papaya peach iced tea hit the spot on a sizzling summer day. Sometimes you need to cool off with a rejuvenating drink. It wasn't sweet so you could really taste the fruitiness.

San Diego Beer & Music Festival

Fred & I attended the San Diego Beer & Music Festival a couple of weekends ago. It was full of a variety of tasty beers from various breweries all over the U.S. Somewhere were new to me & some were tried & true classics.

Summer Layers

Breezy dresses are an absolute necessity during the summertime. See my last OOTD here.

Fancy Oatmeal

No need to make your oatmeal all plain Jane. Inspired by those super fancy smoothie bowls, I created my oatmeal version with blueberries, blackberries chia seeds, flaxseed, & a drizzle of maple syrup to add some sweetness.

How's your week? :]

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How to Modernize Your Summer S'mores

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Feel that? That's the sun shining on your skin. That's your leg brushing up against a blade of grass during an afternoon picnic. That's the crrrunch of accidentally biting down on watermelon seed. Ah yes, that's the epitome of summer.



But what about s'mores? What about that ooey, gooey mess of chocolate, marshmallows, & graham crackers? They're such a classic treat but you don't have to go camping to enjoy them this summer. In celebration of National S'mores Day, take a look at some fresh & modern alternatives to your average campfire treat. 



S'mores Nut Butter

Have you ever thought of eating a s'mores sandwich? Well, think about it! Kerfluffle* is a gluten-free, vegetarian option to integrate s'mores into your daily life. The S'mores Kerfluffle Nut Butter swirls peanut butter, marshmallow, & chocolate together into a delightful mixture. Add it to your toast. Plop it in your oatmeal. Or if you're like me, just eat it off the spoon. The options are limitless.

camping mug

s'more candle

S'mores Candle

You already know that I'm a candle fiend (see my candle related posts here, here, & here), so a s'mores scented candle is only natural. The chocolaty vanilla S'mores Mug candle from Northern Lights* comes in a biodegradable & reusable mug that you can use long after you're done burning through your fabulous candle.

Marshmallow Coffee

Elevate your everyday coffee with a dash of cocoa powder & some vanilla marshmallows! Rather than adding sugar, simply toss in a couple marshmallows. It was unexpectedly delicious, & the perfect alternative to a cup of campfire hot cocoa. Dandies Marshmallows* are vegan & come in vanilla, mini vanilla, & pumpkin varieties. Must try pumpkin for fall!

marshmallow coffee


Milk Chocolate S'mores

Want to upgrade your regular s'more? Try a decadent chocolate covered version from Asher's Chocolates*. You have every component neatly within your grasp. No sticky mess here. The Milk Chocolate S'Mores melt in your mouth but won't melt on its way to your home. They carefully enclose your shipment with ice packs to keep it looking & tasting its best. So scrumptious!

Which of these modern s'mores ideas sounds the best to you? :]

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


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