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

SLIDER

A Dose of Color

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

I have this thing with color. Fred & I are currently on the hunt for an apartment, so we've been eyeing furniture & interior design options. I was looking at color swatches & found myself feeling incredibly inspired by how certain colors went together so harmoniously. Due to my newfound feeling of genius, I'm starting a series of photos & their respective color swatches.

Flowering Succulent

Blue Skies

How do I do it? I find photos from my collection that I'm drawn to. I then use the Eyedropper Tool in Photoshop to define particular colors throughout the photograph. Creating these little color swatches gives me so much joy. It's hard to articulate or identify why I get a kick out of this process. 

Strawberry Cake

The Tower

I posted a couple swatches to my Facebook to test the waters. One of my friends said she loved the neutrality of the tower. Another said he liked the soothing tones of the flowering succulent. I'd love for you to let me know which photo is your favorite & which color palette is your favorite. Are they both from the same set or are they different? :]

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How My Passion for Writing Turned Into a Blog & Then a Job

Monday, September 26, 2016

* Disclaimer: This post, How My Passion for Writing Turned Into a Blog & Then a Job, is intended for those 21+ & is sponsored by Wente Vineyards. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. 

Whether I wrote by hand on pen & paper in my little butterfly diary or whether I furiously typed posts on my trusty little laptop, writing has always been a part of my life. I first found writing in fifth grade. My best friend & I had matching journals, all set with a lock & key. We'd get together, write for a bit, then read excerpts from our journals.


My entries at the time weren't very profound. It always had something to do with what I did that day or what I ate. I complained that one of my friends was being mean to me, so she was no longer a part of my secret friend club. I mean, it was riveting stuff.


I moved from diary to diary, until I eventually joined a journalism class my junior year of high school. I was drawn to the art & ended up as editor-in-chief the next year. I decided to major in journalism, then came my blog, & I suppose the rest is history. I've had my blog for five years!


It's safe to say that writing has been a constant passion in my life. Even my humble blog began as a space on the Internet where I could write my poems & short stories. If you go back far enough you'll see my series of haikus & random stories about love & loss & all that good stuff.


Passion & inspiration go hand-in-hand, making wine the perfect complement to it all. The three make a harmonious blend. As I write this very post, I'm sipping on a glass of Southern Hills Cabernet Sauvignon from Wente Vineyards.


In fact, Wente Vineyards is a result of five generations of one family's passion for wine. Their video explains more about the passion behind the Wente winemaking. With hints of ripe black cherry & plum, & undertones of coffee & spice, this wine pairs perfectly with an afternoon of writing, typing, photographing, & being creative.


As an adult with a business & a blog, writing is still the number one passion in my life. My blog is my livelihood. I wish everyone could find their ambition in life, that thing that inspires them endlessly & motivates them to move forward.

Find & fuel your passion with free shipping on Wente wines. Use code: JRNYSHIP1

I want to know: What inspires you? Leave me a comment! :]

* Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Wente VineyardsAs always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

7 Things Brands Look for Before Working with a Blogger

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

As a social media coordinator & marketer as well as a lifestyle blogger, I've done my fair share of blog writing, publicity, press, events, & pretty much everything under the social media sun. I've been on both the giving & receiving end of social media marketing, so I have first-hand perspective on what brands look for before working with a blogger.




I've managed social channels for brands who focus on timeshares, sewing & embroidery designs, vegan energy bars, & more. Blogger outreach is the ideal way to get brands in touch with modern influencers. Whether you're a California lifestyle blogger or an organic mommy blogger, make sure your blog is on a brand's radar. If you want to receive more inquiries from brands, read up on these seven things brands look for before working with a blogger.


Other posts from my social media series:



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1. Quality Content & Photography

Before a brand even gets around to reaching out to you, we scour your blog to look at your content, your writing, & your photography. We browse your content & photos to judge if a possible brand collaboration would work. We want good spelling & grammar. We want clear & interesting photos. We want to see your personality shine through your words & content. We view your past posts as a reflection of what a collaboration would look like.

2. Social Media Following

We actively look at all of your social media channels to determine if your blog is a good fit for us. After all, we are providing a service, product, or financial compensation to you & your service is exposure, website clicks, & potential sales for us. You don't have to have an enormous social media following. Count up your followers on all your social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Tumblr, etc. My tip: sometimes it's more powerful to say, "I have 3,000+ followers across my social media channels," rather than "I have 907 Facebook followers, 750 Twitter followers, 824 Instagram followers, 500 Tumblr followers, etc."

3. Activity on Social Media Channels

What good is a social media following if you never Tweet, update, or post? We're looking to see if you're active on social media channels by updating relevant & regular information to what we're selling. For example, a vegetarian jerky brand reached out to me because I Tweeted several times about being vegetarian.

4. Engaged Readers

Engagement is extremely important! You can have a huge social media following but no engagement. You're more valuable to us if you have 100 daily views & 2 clicks to our website versus 10,000 daily views & 2 clicks. If you're lacking in followers, your engagement level may save you. If you have both a decent social media following & engagement that makes a wonderful mixture.

5. Demographics

All the above are great & everything, but are your readers who we are targeting? Your blog readers, their age, their location, & their habits, affect whether or not our brand is a good match for your blog. If we're selling candy bars but your blog focuses on healthy recipes, we're probably not a good pair. If you're a single woman in your early 20s, you may not be a good fit for our family-oriented timeshare rentals.

6. Reliability

Did you know that when brands send free stuff or pay for a sponsored post, that costs money? It usually comes from a yearly or quarterly budget set aside specifically for marketing, social media, or influencer outreach. Blogger outreach is costly & brands only have a certain amount of budget & inventory to give out, so we want to ensure that you will be a reliable blogger should we decide to work with you. How long does it take you to respond to emails? How often do you update your blog? What's your turnaround time for collaborative or sponsored posts? Do you have past examples?

7. Media Kit, About Me, or Sponsor Page

After we determine that everything about your blog is a good match for us, we look at your media kit, about me page, &/or sponsor page to find out more about you. We're trying to find your contact information, other brands you've worked with, your page statistics, & any readily available information. This is the final touch before we gather all the content we've accrued & either take it to a superior for approval or begin reaching out to you.

You heard it from me everybody! This is a step-by-step guide in what brands look for before working with a blogger or pursuing blogger outreach. It's a tedious & time intensive process to find the perfect match for the brand, but if we are a good team it's well worth it.

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Catch up on previous posts from my social media series:
How To Create Authentic Social Brand Mentions + Why They're Important

Were these tips useful? Let me know if you have any other questions! :]

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Oh & add me on Snapchat: carmenvarner 

Fall Prep // OOTD

Monday, September 19, 2016

According to the calendar, fall is approaching. In San Diego, it's nearly time to bust out your lovely layers, your cool cardigans, your stunning scarves — all those wonderful items of clothing that rarely get enough showtime in the city of sunshine.

Sunglasses: O by Oscar de la Renta (similar) // Top: Thrifted (similar) // Dress: H&M (similar) // Jacket: Sammydress* (exact) // Purse: Givenchy (similar) // Shoes: Nine West (similar)

I must admit this summer has been pretty mild compared to the last couple of years. It was doable, approachable. It was warm, sometimes hot, but never beyond bearing. What a beautiful place called come home!


In preparation for fall, I opted for this light denim jacket with zig zag detail. It has enough character, enough pizzazz to stand alone. Yet it's not too outlandish to wear with something bold or colorful. I styled it with some black & grey basics so the beautiful detailing could stand out.


If you remember from this post, I mentioned that I got a vintage velvet Givenchy purse from a consignment store in Palm Springs. This outfit was my first time wearing it out & I absolutely loved it. The velvet is a small, relatively unnoticeable detail, but one I adore.


The Sammydress jacket will be perfect for those chilly autumn evenings. It's relatively thin but thick enough that the wind won't go through it. I'm so excited for pumpkins & pumpkin spice lattes & all things allspice & crispy fallen leaves & everything that makes fall such a remarkable time of year.


The seasonal transition in San Diego is relatively minimal, but the preparation & anticipation is half the fun. I look forward to fully soaking in all the changes around me, those gloomier early mornings & those crisper afternoon walks.

Sunglasses: O by Oscar de la Renta (similar) // Top: Thrifted (similar) // Dress: H&M (similar) // Jacket: Sammydress* (exact) // Purse: Givenchy (similar) // Shoes: Nine West (similar)
I just look forward to having days where wearing a layer, even if it's then, is appropriate. Thank you Southern California for supplying 70°F weather all year long. I guess I shouldn't really complain, but it's genuinely Nice to have a change. Layers I'm coming for you!

What's your favorite part about autumn? Do you like this outfit? :]

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* Disclaimer: I received the denim jacket from Sammydress. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

Welcoming Autumn with California Fruit Wine Co.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

It was a warm but windy afternoon. The clouds looked like giant tufts of cotton candy slowly making their way across the azure skies. Fred played The Drums from his iPhone as I sat on a lawn chair overlooking the patio, leisurely chewing on an olive. It was the perfect balance — celebrating the end of summer while welcoming autumn.

california fruit wine

We sat there casually sipping on our Pomegranate Wine from California Fruit Wine Co.* (CFWCO). I added a few blueberries into the glass to complement the color & flavor. If you recall from this post, I was excited about becoming a founding member for their new Online Wine Club, a seasonally curated wine box that comes once a month. Don't mind if I do.

california fruit wine

Club members can choose between the two wine box ($27) or the four wine box ($45). I received the four wine box. Because wine not? Although that's the most overused wine joke in the entire universe, I'm sorry I had to say it.

california fruit wine

CFWCO wines are 100% natural. No artificial flavors. No added colors. The flavor & color of each wine comes directly from the fruit itself, which is something I can wholeheartedly appreciate. Despite the fruitiness, these are not dessert wines.

california fruit wine

The Pomegranate Wine is tart & fruity. It almost tastes like a muted fruit juice or a blend of actual genuine pomegranate juice mixed with wine. The flavors are smooth, made straight from pomegranates.

california fruit wine

Pineapple Wine tasted just about as delightful as I anticipated. The pineapple is fragrant, very evident, & sweet. It basically tastes like pineapple juice, so this is something to keep in mind whilst drinking. This makes the perfect mixer for a cocktail, just saying.

california fruit wine

As a seasonal treat, the Cranberry Wine is absolutely perfect for autumn. It has a bold zest & crisp bitterness. It tastes like a true cranberry juice & would make a wonderful addition to any holiday dinner.

california fruit wine

Yum! This Pumpkin Spice Wine is one of the most authentic pumpkin tasting drinks I've ever had. It tastes like the actual fruit — pumpkin— not some pumpkin flavored, pumpkin-esque concoction. It had the mildest flavor of the four wines I tried.

california fruit wine

I'd easily purchase the two wine box because these genuinely taste amazing. You can skip any month or cancel if you don't need new wine, but let's face it, you will. Become a founding member yourself & use promo code carmen to receive free shipping on your first 2-Bottle Wine Club purchase. Overall, I had a stellar experience with @cfwco & the #fruitwinenation

 Which wine flavor sounds best to you? Would you try a wine club like CFWCO? :]


Snapchat: carmenvarner

* Disclaimer: California Fruit Wine Co. provided product as PR samples. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

5 Ways to Kickstart Your Morning

Monday, September 12, 2016

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

turmeric supplement

I always thought of myself as a night owl. I'd have energy in the evening, so I stayed up late. I'd be tired come morning, would have energy at night, & the circle continued. But the key to a bright & early morning begins the night before. Plain & simple. Take a look into my updated routine to see just how I made the switch from full-fledged night owl to rookie early bird. These are my five ways to kickstart your morning!

turmeric supplement

1. Take Your Supplements

I take one multi-vitamin & two youtheory® Turmeric Extra Strength 120 Capsules every night after dinner. Taking my supplements has simply become a part of my routine. You can get youtheory turmeric capsules at Costco, along with pretty much anything else you could possibly need. Find the capsules by the vitamins & supplements section near the pharmacy.

turmeric supplement

Be on the lookout for their new packaging & formula. The old youtheory turmeric capsule formula had 450mg turmeric per three tablets, but the new formula has 1,000mg turmeric per two capsules! Less is more, right? It's basically three times the amount of turmeric per capsule!

turmeric supplement

The new youtheory turmeric packaging shows off the upgraded formulation as well as a more orange overall look. I like to take turmeric because it can help support a healthy inflammation response, healthy skin, healthy joints, while providing antioxidant properties. These vegan capsules are hypoallergenic, made without gluten ingredients, tasteless, & go down easy with a sip of water.

morning alarm

2. Get A Good Night's Sleep

This step is vital. Every step after is essentially pointless if you don't have a good night's sleep. Sleep is essential to your overall health & well-being. No amount of caffeine will ever do everything that sleep does to heal & repair your body. If you're a night owl, set your alarm & go to bed. It's simple. Get eight hours of sleep.

lemon water

3. Drink Water

You got your solid eight hours of sleep, your alarm went off, & now you're up! Congrats! It gets easier from here, believe me. Rejuvenate yourself from the inside out with a tall glass of cold water. Add lemon or fruit if you desire, but the cold water is there to invigorate your metabolism & hydrate your body. I added a couple slices of orange.

oatmeal

4. Eat Breakfast

Empower yourself with energy in the form of breakfast. Food has calories & calories are units of energy & you need energy to function throughout your morning. Here are my go-to breakfasts for a satisfying & wholesome meal: avocado toast with red chili flakes, yogurt with chia & some cereal, or oatmeal topped with chia seed, flax seed, allspice, & a bit of fruit.

turmeric supplement

5. Have "Me Time" 

Now that you're all pumped up & your morning is well on its way, take any amount of time to spend with yourself. I find that I'm more productive, happy, & motivated when I take a moment to enrich my own life with something. Mornings are usually pretty hectic, so I'm not spending an hour to casually read a book. I like to take 15 minutes to flip through a magazine, do some stretching, search for new music, or write down my to do list.

Have you ever tried youtheory turmeric before? How do you kickstart your morning? :]

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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. :]

Staying Cool at La Quinta Brewing Co. in Palm Desert

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

It was a sweltering, hellish afternoon in Palm Desert. The temperature on my phone read 106°F. The sun was beating down on my entire body. I could feel my face melting. I wiped away a bead of sweat from my temple as I sought refuge in the form of a brewery, La Quinta Brewing Co.* to be exact. I spotted their logo & name sprawled on the door & made my way inside.

la quinta brewing

la quinta brewing

Decor

The taproom was petite with additional seating in the back. Metal bar stools lined the windows. The nifty wooden bench by the entrance was littered with games like Jenga, Connect 4, & a beer trivia game. The walls were painted a bold burnt yellow. Decorations were minimal with a barrel & stools placed here or there to rest on.

la quinta brewing

la quinta brewing

Ambiance

The brewery was a haven in the heat. Upon entering, it felt like a blissful blizzard, a flurry of wind tickling my hair & chilling my spirit & soul. It's the perfect place to cool off with a soothing drink in hand. Patrons trickled in & out, chatting amongst one another while sipping their beers.

la quinta brewing

About

La Quinta Brewing Co. has two locations, the brewery taproom I went to & the Old Town Taproom just a few miles away. The brewery is young, around two & a half years old, but has already received its share of awards.

la quinta brewing

la quinta brewing

Beers

I tasted everything they had on tap. The Palm Springs brewery had a nice range of ales, IPAs, & porters. Most everything had a classic, timeless taste to it but there were three beers that stood out the most.

la quinta brewing

Sundaze Session Ale - With grapefruit, melon, lime, gooseberry, & passion fruit, the citrus tones are prevalent. The ale is zesty & fresh on the tongue. 

Indian Canyon IPA - This beer slightly reminded me of Citrus & Piney from Lost Abbey but with a paler, lighter malt background. This award-winning beer is worth a shot.

Koffi Porter - Slightly chocolaty & certainly coffee-y. They brew with chocolate, adding local coffee beans after fermentation. It was the smoothest beer of the bunch. I could see myself sipping it on a cool winter day.

la quinta brewing

la quinta brewing

Verdict

La Quinta Brewing Co. is a great pitstop to cool off with a beer in hand. Sit at the wooden bench & share a flight or two with friends to get a feel of your favorite. I ended up spilling one of the tasters on myself (pictured above, full outfit here) due too a light curve in the metal taster tray. Since it was 100+ degrees out, it dried up in no time. Play some games & enjoy a small sanctuary from the harsh Palm Desert summer.

How does La Quinta Brewing Co. look to you? :]

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* Disclaimer: La Quinta Brewing Co. provided product as PR samples. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

How to Have a Better Period

Monday, September 05, 2016

Periods are such mystical creatures. I still haven't gotten the full grasp of mine even though I've had my period for 14 (!!!!) years. Although my period varies from month to month, my question remains the same: how can I have a better period? After all these years, I've come up with a pretty solid routine for how to have a better period. Here are my survival tips!

red leaves


1. Prepare for what's to come

Y'all know your period is coming. It comes every month, time & time again. Be prepared for it! Stock up on food, snacks, drinks, pain relievers, & obviously, period supplies! My go-to period munchies are: dark chocolate, La Croix, & Cheerios. If you're cramping up, there's always ibuprofen, heating pads, or good ol' fashioned exercise.

veeda

veeda

2. Use products that work for you

Ding ding ding! This one is essential! Feel comfortable & confident in the products you use. Veeda* has a range of tampons, pads, & liners made from 100% natural cotton. Everything is hypoallergenic & toxin-free. The Veeda Tampons* with plastic applicator work insanely well for me. They're reliable & something I can count on, a necessity for something as fluid as a period.


3. Netflix

Girl, your body is an enigma of emotions & hormones. There's some pretty cool stuff going on inside your body right now & you need Netflix. Netflix is a must have when you're on your period. No matter how you're feeling emotionally, there's a show, movie, or a documentary to help you out!


4. Consult with friends

Fred is a sweetheart & I love him to death, but he knows nothing about periods. Literally nothing, except for the definition. If I have any comments, questions, concerns, or if I simply want to rant, that's what girlfriends are for. Girlfriends have first-hand period experience to always make you feel a bit better.


5. Avoid the scale

I've made this mistake before & I don't recommend it. Your body is going through some changes right now, what with the sloughing of your uterine lining & all. Do not go on the scale. It's a lie. Do not trust it when you're on your period. Just avoid it.

hotel bed


6. Self-care

It's perfectly okay to take a moment for yourself & spend some time relaxing. You deserve some rest! Enjoy an afternoon nap, paint your nails, do a face mask, binge watch your favorite show, call a friend, try a new recipe. Just do you!

What are your period must haves? Have you ever tried cotton tampons like Veeda's? :]

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Snapchat: carmenvarner

* Disclaimer: Veeda provided product as PR samples. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

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