December 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!


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