2017 / Carmen Varner // Lifestyle Blogger & Social Media + Blogging Coach


Spending the Night at The Clement Hotel in Palo Alto

Friday, December 29, 2017

Northern California is beautiful this time of year as the red, yellow, & orange leaves gather on the ground, creating a squishy rainbow padding as you walk around. The evening air cools down to the point where you always need a protective layer for warmth. I'm from San Diego, where it's hard to find any sign of the seasons — leaves & layers included. An adventure to Northern California is just what I needed!

* The Clement Hotel invited me to stay overnight.

Fred & I created a mini trip out of it. We maneuvered our way out of Southern California, stopping in Bakersfield, Santa Maria, & Palo Alto along the way. The Clement is a luxury hotel with personalized service based in Palo Alto, California.


Palo Alto, California is about 35 miles south of San Francisco & 14 miles north of San Jose. Located in the heart of Silicon Valley, The Clement Hotel focuses on first-class accommodations in a boutique atmosphere.

Living Room

Fred & I chatted on the Outdoor Dining Terrace, checked our email, & scoped outside before heading back to the Living Room for the evening. We enjoyed a cocktail as well as a charcuterie board right by the fireplace. Warm & toasty!


The Kitchen adjoins the Dining Room & features a fully stocked Guest Pantry. There's also an on-site chef if you desire something more in-depth. I love that the Pantry is available 24 hours a day. That means if you're hankering for a snack at 3 AM, you could head down & grab water, fresh cut fruit, a cheese board, ice cream, or other munchies. 

Our Suite

We had a separate living room, bedroom, & bathroom, including cool gadgets like two 65 inch Samsung televisions, Nespresso Vertuoline coffee machines, & an in-room refrigerator stocked with a handful of beverages like mango juice, Coca-Cola, Sprite, & Voss water. I love that I could make a piping hot cup of chamomile tea right in the room, or get room service delivered straight to our door.


The bathroom includes two sinks, a super rad television built into the mirror, a soaking tub, separate rain head shower, & a Toto Washlet toilet with a heated seat, which my mom raved about during her stay in Toyko, Japan. I adored the ODE Natural Beauty Verde Olive Oil Sea Salt Scrub; it's genuinely one of the best body scrubs I've tried! I relaxed in the big tub as I checked myself out in the mirror. Okay, I was watching The Simpsons on the TV built into the mirror!

Roof-Top Deck 

We loved panoramic views of Stanford & Palo Alto from the roof-top deck. We found ourselves there at least twice during our under 24-hour stay. Up there you'll find a swimming pool, whirlpool, & private cabanas. There's even individual sunglasses & sunblock set out for anyone to use. If you're there in daylight, enjoy the bustling view of Palo Alto. If you're on the rooftop deck at night, stay cozy by the heaters & jam to the music with a cocktail.


I had a blissful but short experience at The Clement Hotel. From the TV in the mirror to the comfy white linens, The Clement gives guests a place to rest, unwind, eat, sleep, & simply enjoy their time in Palo Alto. It felt special to receive such personalized concierge service. It felt like what I'd imagine Kim Kardashian's everyday life is like: everything is taken care of, always the best of the best, & if they don't have it they'll get it for you! Sounds like a pretty sweet deal to me!

What part sounds the best to you? Have you ever had an all-inclusive stay before? How was it? 

* The Clement Hotel invited me to stay overnight for their A Suite Deal promotion.

Memories of London & Getting Festive for the Holidays

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

This post is sponsored by AMARA but the content & opinions expressed here are mine.

Memories of London, England

I just got back from a remarkable trip to London. This California girl marveled at the wintertime festivities throughout the city. Although the sun sets by 4:30 PM, London comes to life at night. Christmas decorations light up the sky, as tourists stop dead in their tracks to gawk at the vastness of it all, myself included.

The Oxford Street Christmas decorations made me oooh & aaah. Carnaby Street? Don't even get me started! Live music, delicious food, & Christmas cheer awaits at Hyde Park Winter Wonderland. There are heaps of holiday decorations around the city. It feels like every barbershop has a tree & every brewery has some sort of tinsel or bauble. 

But what happens when you head back home to sunny San Diego? What happens when you're back in the land of the 71°F/22°C December days when you finally acclimated the 2°C London afternoons? What happens when the holiday cheer & decor isn't as prevalent? Do it yourself!

When you're used to holly jolly holidays & you're not satisfied with the number of sparkly lights in your life, simply create your own festive heaven. Add a Multicolor Pom Pom Garland to your tree for a bit of colorful cheer. 

Of course, I chose the London double-decker bus decoration. We rode on the second story of the bus nearly much every day we were there. It's one of the best ways to see the city & get the lay of the land. There's even a red telephone box decoration, which is fitting since I took a photo in the telephone booth too! These ornaments make for long-term London travel memories that I can remember year after year.

Although I'm hankering for a piping hot Americano (a great way to warm up your hands from the frigid London air), it's not necessary quite yet in San Diego. Instead, I whipped up a festive-looking iced matcha latte with a fancy glass straw. The straws come in a set of four with a cute little brush to clean them with.

I'll never be able to recreate the smell of the London pubs — that mix of beer & hot food & people congregating together to shelter themselves from the drizzle of rain outside. But instead, I can reflect on the good times with a Maison Jardin Candle in Yuzu Rose Stonecrop or any of AMARA's other candles, like this Victorian Earl Grey candle.

Now I'm trying to get back into the groove of things. Adjusting back to the Pacific Time zone is rough. I feel exhausted even after a good night of sleep, but I'll recover soon enough. Time to organize my emails, write some posts, & get back to business. At least I have the London memories, the photos, the videos to enjoy!

Save money for your next trip. Get $40 in travel credit if you sign up for Airbnb. Fred & I used Airbnb during our trips to Paris, London, Tijuana, & more. 

How are you getting festive this season? Have you visited London?

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

5 Reasons to Love French Wine & Cheese

Monday, December 11, 2017

This post is sponsored by The French Ministry of Agriculture but the content & opinions expressed here are mine.

I visited France for the first time at age 17. I felt in awe of its grandeur, its lights, its food, its people. I visited again at age 20, 25, & again at age 27. I always leave France feeling full, delighted, enriched. I mean, I wrote a whole post about 12 Drool-Worthy Food Photos from Paris, France, so the love is real. As if you needed any more reasons, but here are five reasons to love French wine & cheese.


I went on a food tour when I visited France May 2017 & loved learning about the French food & beverage culture. We went around the city gathering cheese, bread, wine, & pastries. Someone asked how they could bring cheese back to their home in New York. The food guide gave a couple tips: ask cheese vendor if they can vacuum-pack it for you, make sure it's not a stinky cheese, & make sure it can travel well.

That's cool & all, but there's an easier way. Buy magnificent cheese & wine throughout the United States in stores like Whole Foods, Albertsons, Winn-Dixie, & more. You don't have to buy a ticket to France, vacuum-pack local cheese, ship yourself some wine, & then buy a ticket back home in order to eat French wine & cheese.


Find a wine or cheese that suits your palate. My boyfriend, Fred, isn't a fan of potent or intense cheese like blue cheese. He likes rich, creamy flavor of Ile de France Brie or the dense yet rich texture of Ile de France Goat Cheese.

I appreciate all types of cheese, whether it's a blue cheese or goat cheese. I grew up with French cheese. My mom lived in France for 3 years after she left Iran. I always hear stories about her first day there, how she gained 5 kilos in her first few months, how she didn't know one word of French. My aunt, uncle, & cousins still live in France. My mom is still fluent in French. I still love French cheese.


Not only can you find an array of products & flavors, but you can use every wine & cheese in a myriad of ways. Brie pairs well with apple slices, figs, jams, baguette, crackers, or a white wine like Légende Blanc. Be super cool like me & add brie to your sandwich. The St. Agur blue cheese goes well with salads, pears, fresh baguette, pasta, potatoes, on a cheese board & of course, plain.

My tip: scour your kitchen & cupboards to create your own spur-of-the-moment cheese board. :]


Fred & I noshed on the Saint André® triple cream cheese & sipped the George Duboeuf Beaujolais-Villages 2015 wine as we packed for our trip to London. On the palate, the Beaujolais-Villages 2015 tastes of cherries & raspberries with a touch of cinnamon.

It sounds like a dreamy date night, but I love that it turned an average Thursday evening into a memorable one. Was it the cheese? Was it the wine? Was it the prospect of going to London? It's everything!


You receive quality product when you opt for French wine & cheese. On the 2017 food tour, the guide talked to us about French products: their ingredients, their laws, their mastery & dedication to the craft. Whether you decide on Légende Rouge or Blanc or perhaps even Georges Duboeuf Pouilly-Fuissé 2015 or blue cheese or goat cheese, it'll be delicious & memorable!

A Bunch of Amazing Gift Ideas Under $50 Practically Everyone

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

'Tis the season for gift guides! To save you time & money, I created this massive list of amazing gift ideas for pretty much anyone in your life & they're all $50 & under. Yep, you read that right. $50 & under. From the wanderlusting world traveler to the up-to-date gadget lover, there something is something here for everyone.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links.

For the cool friend

These gifts are perfect for the cool friend. We all have that friend who has a je ne sais quoi quality to them. They're one-of-a-kind & awesome. You hold them with high respect & you're happy to have them in your life.

I Want to Believe T-Shirt // got my boyfriend this, he loves it. Also great if you're an X-Files fan!
Backless loafer mules // affordable version of the trendy $600+ Gucci loafers
Chunky knit sweater // can never go wrong with a chunky knit sweater
Enamel pin // your friend can put it on a bag, shirt, vest, hat, backpack, etc.
Laboratory beaker mug // the coolest mug for the coolest friend

For the World Traveler

These gifts are perfect for the person who loves to travel the globe. These presents can make their travels more comfortable & memorable. This friend is always ready for a trip, near or far. Adventure awaits! 

Travel journal // your friend can jot down all their adventures in this rad journal & pen
Plaid infinity scarf // a comfy scarf is a plane essential - trust me!
Los Angeles art print //  if your friend is home sick or itching for their next journey
Packing cubes // helps to compact & organize all packing needs
Active noise canceling headphones // comes with microphone, airplane adapter, & carrying case

For the Badass Blogger

These gifts are perfect for the badass blogger in your life. They're looking for some cool ways to elevate their blog posts, Instagram photos, online presence, & office. Take a look at these blog-friendly goodies.

Faux fur rug // a great way to spruce up the office corner or use as a blog prop
Diptyque Roses candle // this teeny tiny candle is photo-friendly for any post
Changeable felt letter board // personalize your next event, photo, blog post, or post it on your Insta
Light up phone case // get Kim Kardashian-quality selfies with this rad case
Clip on phone lens // add a little oomph to the average phone photo

For the Gadget Lover

These gifts are perfect for any gadget lover. What do you get to the person who owns every little gizmo & gadget? How about another gizmo? These items are totally useful, so they won't forget it in the back of the storage closet.

Bluetooth in-ear wireless headphones // who needs headphones with wires these days?
Portable Bluetooth color changing LED Speaker // a cool gadget to take it pretty much anywhere
PopSocket // they'll wonder how they ever used their phone without one
Aluminum laptop stand // thin, sleek, functional
Cactus headphone audio splitter // because we've all needed one at some point

For the Beauty Fiend

These gifts are perfect for all the beauty hoarders out there. Holla! Grab these holiday gift sets before they sell out. Gift sets tend to give you a better bang for your buck, which is why I love them. Oooh, so shiny.

Fenty Beauty Killawatt Freestyle Highlighter Trophy Wife // glow on, girl!
Tarte Goddess Essentials Color Collection // a three-piece set of goddess essentials
Fresh Sugar Lip Beauty Box // a gift collection with six lip treatments
Tarte Make Believe in Yourself Eye & Cheek Palette // this palette is stunning, read my thoughts on it

For the cooking master

These gifts are perfect for the cooking master who enjoys spending time in the kitchen. Professional or not, they're always experimenting with new recipes & could use some up-to-date kitchen necessities. 

Double mezzaluna // for quick chopping
Veggie spiralizer // their kitchen isn't complete without a veggie spiralizer
Bamboo single turntable // a great tool to organize/display foods & spices
Nut hammer // this just looks really cool
9 Piece professional knife set // oooooh aaaah knives

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. As always, all opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Things To Do at Playas de Tijuana, Mexico

Monday, November 20, 2017

Enjoy a view of the Pacific Ocean from Playas de Tijuana in the Northwestern corner of Mexico. Spanish for "beaches of Tijuana," Playas de Tijuana is a beach spot right at the border of Mexico & the United States. The border fence itself extends out into the ocean. You'll find street art, a variety of food options, & serene views at this unique beach on the border. There are many things to do at Playas de Tijuana!

Take in the Art

On the Mexican side, murals & graffiti cover the metal bar fence. Someone wrote "the peace is possible" across 11 of the iron bars. Another says "hay sueños," Spanish for "there are dreams." There's a red heart, a smiley face, hand prints, a peace sign. People's names: Juan, Hector, Mario, Ivan. There's even a dolphin sculpture, a lighthouse, & Tijuana sign for your Instagram selfie needs.

Stroll the Boardwalk

People watch as you strut your stuff across the boardwalk. Although there are some tourists, you'll more often see families hanging out together, couples grabbing lunch, kids running across the boardwalk, shop owners setting up for the day. You might see border agents or Mexican police simply because you're so close to the border. The beach is also dog-friendly, I saw people walking their dogs & enjoying the beautiful beaches with their canine friends.

Eat the Food

Eat an authentic meal with a peaceful ocean view. There are many food options as you walk across the boardwalk. Lots of seafood & micheladas. Eat a huitlacoche taco. Keep an eye out to see what's open. We were there around noon; many restaurants were closed or just opening up. Eating is obviously one of the best things to do in Tijuana (& Mexico & everywhere!).


Depending on when you arrive, there are reasonable parking options. We were there midday midweek & had absolutely no problem at all. Visit during a busy weekend or holiday, & parking might be a more difficult to acquire.

Come to Playas de Tijuana, Mexico for a day trip; there's plenty of things to do. Start off with a few cool photos by the Tijuana sign, walk the boardwalk, eat some food, & enjoy the weather! Check out more photos from my Tijuana trip here & here.

* This post contains an affiliate link.

Save money for your next trip. Get $40 in travel credit if you sign up for Airbnb. Fred & I used Airbnb during our trips to Paris, London, Tijuana, & more. 

Have you visited Tijuana? Leave a comment on your faves! :]

Staying Organized While Traveling, Blogging, & Working from Anywhere

Monday, November 13, 2017

Thank you to Tile, Inc., for sponsoring today’s post & inspiring me to keep track of everything that matters.

The last couple months have been so hectic as a new entrepreneur & there are no signs of it slowing down. Yesterday, I came home from a wedding only to realize I still hadn't unpacked from my Palm Springs trip two weeks ago. I kicked off my baby pink velvet pumps & walked over to my wall calendar to tally up the days until the next excursion. 

Just as I thought. Later this week, I'm heading to Northern California for a media trip. I get to stay in a hotel room for one night to create buzz on my blog for their holiday amenities. It's going to be a blast! Then, yep, London is in 2 weeks. 

I love this. 

I love that this is my life. 

I love that I am free. I can work from anywhere as long as I get Wi-Fi. Whether I'm crafting a blog post, sharing an update to my social media channels, or chatting via video call with one of my coaching clients, my workday feels like the summers of my childhood — long, exciting, beautiful, hopeful, marvelous, inspirational. But I always knew those childhood summer breaks from school would end. 

Summer ended, but I'm still here. That's the beauty of it. That's the beauty of being your own boss, of being an entrepreneur, of being self-employed, working from ANYWHERE. You don't know what next month will hold or next year. It's all within my own hands. 

But that's also the challenge. 

I'm constantly switching suitcases, bags, folders, backpacks. Sometimes it's hard to keep track where everything is. Did I leave my camera charger in the Palm Springs suitcase? Where the heck is my planner? Which backpack is my favorite sweater in?

Cue Tile.

Use Tile & the Tile app to be a part of the lost-and-found community, where friends & strangers come together to find everything that matters. You can easily hook, stick, or slide a Tile onto or into anything you don’t want to lose like the earrings your grandmother gave you or Earnie the stuffed panda, & of course, keys, phones, wallets. I put Tile in my business planner.

My planner contains receipts, deadlines, tasks, & everything I could possibly need to stay organized while traveling, blogging, & working from anywhere.

Tile gives me peace of mind so I can track my item in a jiffy. I use my phone to locate my planner & figure where it is. It ended up saving me time because rather than sifting through yesterday's suitcase & today's purse & everything in-between. Beep beep beep. I can find it right away.

My planner means a lot to me. It keeps me on track. It keeps me organized. It keeps me moving forward. It shows every single client session I've had this year. It's been there with me as I transitioned from corporate cubicle to the world of entrepreneurship. If there is something you can't stand to lose, put a Tile on it!

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

5 Things I'm Loving Right Now ♥

Friday, November 03, 2017

When I quit my full-time corporate job to pursue my own adventures, I didn’t realize how time-consuming everything would be. I figured by having an additional 40+ hours in a week, magic would happen. But that's totally not the case. Your business is your life. You are the boss. Every decision & action ultimately boils down to you. And even though there's always something to do, it's important to take some for self-care. It’s already been five months since I quit my job, so here are five things I'm loving right now!


The countdown is real, as it’s a matter of weeks until we head to London. If you have any recommendations on what to see, eat, experience, drink, let me know in the comments. I want to hear your suggestions! It’s been about 10 years since the last time I went so I could use a refresher.

Bra Detail

I got this cute embroidered bralet at C&A in Paris. Super affordable & adorable. It’s something I can wear every day if I wanted to. It makes me feel confident, sexy, & I love that it’s a functional souvenir from Paris.

Julie Bue's

One of my friend's sent me a few products from her natural skin care line, Julie Bue's. It’s been so fun to test her goodies out. She sent lip gloss, lip balm, bath bomb, coffee scrub, & hand cream. My favourites: the Citrus Zest Body Butter Lotion (works well to heal patchy skin from eczema) & Coconut Lime Lip Gloss. Get 10% off anything from her site when you use promo code ITSCARMEN.

Bachelorette Shenanigans

I attended my first bachelorette party & yes, it was just as crazy, adventurous, ridiculous, as all the movies portray (in its own way). Obviously, I had heaps of fun. The memories will certainly last a lifetime. Do you like my penis sticker?

Black Ice Cream

You may have seen this sexy black ice cream from Little Damage on Instagram. The black cones & ice cream are naturally colored with activated charcoal. I loved the spicy mango flavor, which totally tasted like the lollipop of my elementary school days. Flavors rotate seasonally, it's a surprise once you get there. TMI, but it makes your poop black too.

Alright everyone, time to get back to work. Blogging, coaching, planning, traveling it’s all in my hands. I hope you have a wonderful day & if you’re feeling a little frustrated or like you’re struggling a little bit just know that things take time, effort, consistency, just don’t quit. Make sure that you are always looking back, assessing your goals, & checking results.

If you have any recommendations on what to see, eat, experience, drink in London let me know in the comments. I want to hear your suggestions!


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