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


Tips to Relax & Feel Happy During the Holidays

Monday, November 28, 2016

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

dunkin donuts coffee

The holidays can be pretty hectic. It's hard to find a balance between attending the family dinners, catching up with friends visiting from out of town, making a dish to bring to your work party, finding gifts for those you love, cooking for large amounts of people. Well, the list goes on. 

dunkin donuts coffee

With all the hubbub that the holiday season brings, it's important to spend some time to yourself. All you need to do is integrate these simple tips to help you relax during the holidays into your daily routine. Here's to a happy holiday season!

dunkin donuts coffee

1. Create a Morning Ritual

A morning routine can help you get excited & pumped up to begin the day. As I write this, I'm celebrating my morning with a cup of coffee. My drink of the day is brewed from the Dunkin' Donuts® Pumpkin Pre-pack Bag with a splash of Dunkin Donuts® Original Creamer mixed with Silk® Almond Vanilla Creamer. Fred prefers his coffee black. I'm listening to my "dance" playlist & checking emails as the San Diego sun remains hidden under a layer of grey clouds.

dunkin donuts coffee

2. Get Some Sun

Some people tend to get Seasonal Affective Disorder — mood changes related to changes in the seasons — as the days get gloomier & the sun comes out less. If you live in San Diego it's easy to get sunlight regardless of the season. However, you might want to consider a vitamin D supplement if you live in a winter wonderland. Make sure you're getting enough vitamin D during the winter months.

dunkin donuts coffee

3. Do Less

Don't over schedule yourself. If you give yourself an endless amount of tasks to do or events to attend, your stress will pile on. Relax during the holidays by focusing on quality versus quantity. Don't attend every single family function, work get together, & outing with old friends. Pick & choose particular gatherings. Be focused while you're there rather than worrying about making it to the next event in time.

dunkin donuts coffee

4. Laugh More

Watch a movie that always makes you laugh. Read a good book. Phone a funny friend. Play a comedy special on your bluetooth speaker & grab a cup of Dunkin' Donuts® Bakery Series Chocolate Glazed Donut coffee as you flip through a magazine. Laughter decreases stress hormones while increasing immune cells & infection-fighting antibodies. Laugh it up!

dunkin donuts coffee

I bought my coffee at Target, my destination of choice for coffee, holiday decor, & pretty much everything else. Save 5% on Dunkin' Donuts Coffee with this Target Cartwheel offer & take advantage of this Target Cartwheel coffee creamer deal.

dunkin donuts coffee

Hot drinks leave me feeling warm & cozy on cold days, which makes the perfect pick-me-up during the holidays. Whether you create a morning ritual that works for you or find a way to laugh more, remember to relax this season in order to be your best you!

dunkin donuts coffee

* 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. :]

Gilmore Girls Binge Watching Essentials

Friday, November 25, 2016

It's here! Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life is finally on Netflix! Woohoo! Fred & I finished watching the series a few months ago. It was his first time, but I remember watching Gilmore Girls as a teenager. Rory was definitely an inspiration in my pursuing journalism. It'll be fun to catch up with the characters & see what they've been up to after all these years.

The show is set nearly a death decade after the finale of the original series, following Lorelai, Rory, & Emily through four seasons of change. There are four episodes at 90 minutes each, which is equivalent to about eight regular episodes. Get in the Gilmore Girls spirit with these binge watching essentials!

1. Get yourself some Gilmore Girls merchandise to really get yourself in the mood. 
2. Stock up on food. Lots & lots of food. Mix & match. The funkier the better.
3. Get cozy. You're going to be watching Netflix for a while.

Alright everyone! Let's get to it. Time to binge watch Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life on Netflix. That's what I'll be doing this weekend anyway!

Shop the essentials

Will you be watching the show? :]

Vocabulary Time! // 3

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

We're back at it again with another round of Vocabulary Time!, your favorite way to expand your knowledge. I apologize for the delay in continuing the series, but we're here now & that's what matters. Whether English is your mother tongue or not, you can always learn new words. If you want to catch up on past Vocabulary Time! posts, check these out:

1. Dulcinea

  • adjective ▲ dul·ci·nea ▲ duhl-sin-ee-uh
  • Definition: a ladylove; a sweetheart
  • Example: My dulcinea & I have been together for three years. We plan to be married.

2. Cunctator

  • noun ▲ cunc·ta·tor ▲ kuhngk-tey-ter
  • Definition: a procrastinator; a delayer; a postponer
  • Example: Maribel was a known cunctator when it came to completing her homework. 
3. Natter
  • verb ▲ nat·ter ▲ nat-er
  • Definition: chatter; a casual conversation; to talk about unimportant things for a long time
  • Example: I went on a blind date & the guy nattered on about himself the entire time.

If you want to learn more about the words or hear the actual pronunciation, simply click on the corresponding link for each vocab word. It will take you directly to the dictionary page. I recommend going to the webpage & listening to the pronunciation. It makes a difference!

Did you know any of these words? Feel free to challenge yourself today & write a sentence using one of the vocab words. You get extra credit if you use two or more in your comment. :]

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Personalized Mini Green Bean Casserole Recipe

Monday, November 21, 2016

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

Green bean casserole. Ah yes, my three favorite words when it comes to Thanksgiving. My mom makes it every single year without fail; it's been part of my family tradition for as long as I can remember. This year I'm hosting a Friendsgiving potluck with my closest buddies. I want to do a creative twist on a classic dish by creating a personalized mini green bean casserole for each guest. Time for a fun, new tradition!

green bean casserole

How it Works

Choose unique add-in ingredients tailored to each guest to include in their mini casserole. You can pick any add-in that your heart desires. That's what makes this recipe so fun! I opted for herb goat cheese, asparagus, pine nuts, veggie bacon, & almonds with dried cranberries. If you want to up your side dish ante this Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving, I've got the perfect recipe for you. 

green bean casserole


1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell's® Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) of Del Monte® Blue Lake® Cut Green Beans, drained
1/2 cup milk
1 teaspoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/4 teaspoon rosemary, chopped
A large bowl

green bean casserole

Mini Green Bean Casserole Add-Ins & Toppings

French's Crispy Onions
1 teaspoon herb goat cheese
1 asparagus spear, chopped
1/2 teaspoon pine nuts
1/2 strip veggie bacon, chopped
1/2 teaspoon almonds, chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried cranberries, chopped

green bean casserole


1. Drain Del Monte® Blue Lake® Green Beans & prep your add-ins, cooking & chopping as needed.
2. Stir together the Campbell's® soup, milk, soy sauce, cracked pepper, chopped rosemary, & Del Monte® green beans in a large bowl.
3. Fill each ramekin halfway with the green bean casserole mixture. Then sprinkle a layer of your add-in to each respective ramekin.
4. Add more green bean casserole to the fill line of each ramekin.
5. Top each green bean casserole with French's Crispy Onions & remainder of respective add-in.
6. Bake for 13 minutes at 350°F.

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 13 minutes
Servings: Seven 3-oz. personalized mini green bean casseroles

campbells cream of mushroom

I found my green bean casserole essentials at Target in the soup & packaged dinner isle. I was tempted to purchase pretty much everything else in the store. What else is new? Target is the perfect location for all your Friendsgiving needs.

del monte green beans

Campbell's® creates a variety of soups that make for a quick & easy mealtime option. Just like in this recipe, add your own twist & favorite garnishes to any Campbell's® soup to make it special for family or friends. Del Monte® green beans are made with green beans, water, & a dash of salt. That's it! Fun fact: in green bean casserole, my sister prefers these canned green beans to fresh green beans.

green bean casserole

After eating our meal, we usually put on a movie that all of us have seen multiple times. That way we can just enjoy the company, chitchat, & occasionally quote the film when we do pay attention. It's the best way to catch up casually without being distracted. I hope you have a wonderful & delicious week!

How do these mini green bean casseroles look? What are your holiday plans? :]

* 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. :]

Style, Beauty, & Home: New Products I'm Excited About

Saturday, November 19, 2016

I went a little crazy this weekend & bought a bunch of new items. There were a few products I specifically had on my list such nail polish, pumice stone, & face scrub, but the rest were impulse buys. Let's take a look, shall we? I was last excited about some makeup & home products, perfume & candles, & candles & makeup.

insta-dri top coat

I was in dire need of some new nail polish because my current ones are ridiculously old. They started to turn viscous which made application rather chunky. No thanks. The Sally Hansen Insta-Dri Top Coat is a miracle worker. I'm excited to try the Sally Hansen Pearl Crush polish in Shell & Tell as well as the OPI one in I'm in the Moon for Love.

acrylic makeup organizer

Wide-brimmed hats are all the rage for autumn, but I didn't find myself attracted to any of the felt options or neutral colors. I opted for this beautiful blue Isaac Mizrahi one. Every blogger seems to have an acrylic makeup organizer of some sort, & I totally hopped on that bandwagon. It currently houses my lip & eye makeup collection. 

pine needle candle

I didn't like any of the fall inspired pumpkin candles, but I did find an Eadie & Wallace in Pine Needle. I always save a couple twigs from the Christmas tree each year to hold on to that refreshing pine smell. Luckily, this will tide me over at least until Christmas time.

Have you tried any of these products? What have you purchased recently? :]

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5 Things I'm Loving Right Now ♥

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Thank goodness it's almost the weekend, am I right? I got back from Portland, Oregon late Monday evening (it was midnight, so technically Tuesday morning) & have been playing catch up on my sleep ever since.

I could use the weekend to sleep in, do the laundry that's been piling up, & maybe just maybe I'll unpack. My friend Jordan is coming to visit on Sunday; I haven't seen her in a year! We plan to get some coffee then go on a morning hike. Other than that, here are five things I'm loving right now!

Heirloom Tomatoes

As I've mentioned before, I'm not a tomato fan in the slightest, but these heirloom tomatoes weren't terrible. Come on, that's saying something! I think it was the local, fresh, organic factor. Oh, & they're pretty too. I wonder if I'll ever like tomatoes...

Arcade Games

I haven't been to an arcade since I was in high school. This time around, Fred & I were trying to shield ourselves from the rain during our last day in Portland. We stopped by Ground Kontrol, a two-story classic arcade, & played some pinball, Donkey Kong (we were terrible), & Tetris.

Tree to Tub

I just got out of the shower & smell so good right now! Tree To Tub (formerly Soapberri) uses soapberries, which is a fruit, as the star ingredient in their shampoos & body washes. The soapberry shell produces a natural, cleansing, & antibacterial lather. Totally loving the Lavender Shampoo right now!

Cinnamon Sugar Scrub

I made a huge batch of cinnamon sugar scrub earlier this week & have been using it liberally. It smells so comforting like holiday cooking. I love the little jar as well. Thank you Target for always having cute stuff!

Andy Warhol

After spending a couple hours at the Portland Art Museum, Fred & I were about ready to go when we discovered another section of the museum. It just so happened to be an extensive Andy Warhol collection. It was truly wonderful to witness.

Do you like tomatoes? What are you loving right now? :]

* Disclaimer: I received product from from Tree To Tub as a PR sample. All opinions are 100% mine aka Carmen's. Learn more about my disclosure here. :]

DIY Cinnamon Sugar Body Scrub Recipe

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

This shop, DIY Cinnamon Sugar Body Scrub Recipe, has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. & its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StimulateTheSenses #CollectiveBias

cinnamon sugar body scrub

The holidays are coming! Seriously, they're right around the corner, creeping up on us with every passing moment. Family gatherings. Dinner with friends. Holiday parties. Are you ready? If you're not sure what present to give, why not take the leap to a handmade holiday season this year?

cinnamon sugar body scrub

I use essential oils year round. I mix & match oils in my mini diffuser. I add a few drops of essential oil to coconut oil & apply it to my legs for moisture & shine. From home fragrance to body care, Nature's Truth Essential Oils* can be incorporated in many creative DIY projects. If you're looking for a simple but special do-it-yourself gift to give friends & family this holiday season, you're in luck. 

cinnamon sugar body scrub

You Will Need

1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil
35 drops of Nature's Truth Cinnamon Essential Oil
Sealable container(s)

Makes 2 heaping cups of body scrub.

cinnamon sugar body scrub

How to Make it

1. Combine sugars in a bowl.
2. Slowly mix in the coconut oil.
3. Add Nature's Truth Cinnamon Essential Oil.
4. Mix together & scoop the scrub into your sealable container(s).
5. To use: massage a generous amount of scrub to wet skin & rinse off in the tub or shower.

cinnamon sugar body scrub

I love to use this scrub in the shower because the spicy scent mixes with the soothing steam to energize the senses. The cinnamon smell is uplifting & reminiscent of holiday baking, while the exfoliating sugars invigorate your skin.

cinnamon sugar body scrub

This Cinnamon Sugar Body Scrub is a simple DIY project that anyone will love. I even coaxed my boyfriend to try it out! Use any essential oils your heart desires such as 4 Thrive,  Wintergreen, or Peppermint (one of my faves). Feel free to experiment! I used cinnamon since it's one of my favorite scents.

I conveniently bought my Nature's Truth Essential Oils from in my pajamas without ever having to leave the house, but you can normally find them in the vitamin aisle. It took everything in my power not to purchase multiple items I don't need. Target always does that to me, but I was strong this time & only bought essential oils (to add to my growing collection).

cinnamon sugar body scrub

I'm a genuine essential oil lover & I sincerely hope you try this simple DIY Cinnamon Sugar Body Scrub Recipe. You can use Nature's Truth Essential Oils in body scrubs, massage oils, air fresheners, soaps, the list goes on. Here's wishing you happy holidays & happy DIYing!

What do you think of this body scrub? Do you use essential oils? :]

P.S. get a $1 off from Nature's Truth.

* 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. :]

The Importance of Taking a Vacation

Monday, November 14, 2016

The icy Portland air hits my face, turning my nose a bright red similar to that of Rudolph the reindeer. I wrap my grey & black fleece sweater around myself like a tortilla around a burrito. I hear cars whizzing across the road as my shoes squish squish squish against the bed of leaves beneath my feet. I feel alive, truly.

In Portland, Oregon you can see a change of the seasons. There are trees of glorious yellow & bold orange. When the wind hits the trees just right it looks like a glitter of confetti falling from a party, an endless amount of leaves rolling their way to the ground. Beauty at its finest. I smell the scent of fresh bread wafting through the air, a boulangerie patisserie must be nearby. I hear the clatter of construction. I wonder how this place will look in a matter of years.

the kat club

Taking a vacation is extremely important. It gets you away, if only temporarily, from the daily to dos of life. I know my list of tasks & errands has piled up during this trip, but it was much-needed. What better inspiration than to immerse yourself in a new place?

The circling of the helicopter quieted since my first day here. Portlanders protested the election of Donald Trump. Apparently, some anarchists joined the protest & began rioting, breaking windows & causing havoc. I wouldn't have experienced any of this if I was still sitting in my comfortable little apartment in San Diego.

That's the importance of taking a vacation, seeing something new, tasting something new, drinking something new, feeling out of your element, exploring the streets, seeing a different part of the world than you're used to, getting out of your little bubble of comfort. The world is big & there's so much going on around. See it. Experience it. Live it for yourself. It will make you a better human.

portland tree

When you come back home you'll feel different. After seeing a fraction of the world, you realize just how much more there is to see. You'll feel it the moment you get back, or perhaps the moment you know you have to go back.

I write this from my hostel bedroom, well aware that I must check out in about an hour. I know there is a bus ride, a train ride, an airplane ride, & a car ride to take today. In a matter of hours I will depart Portland, Oregon & return to San Diego, California.

Even so, I sit here thinking about my next trip. Where do I want to go? Hopefully, I'll pack correctly next time. But that's just part of the journey. I guess I need to finish this trip first, but I can still daydream about my next one. Wherever that will be.

Easy & Realistic Ways to be More Environmentally Friendly

Friday, November 11, 2016

This shop, Easy & Realistic Ways to be More Environmentally Friendly, has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. & its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #TubeFree #CollectiveBias

scott tube free

When people think of being environmentally friendly they think in extremes. Being environmentally conscious doesn't mean that you have to shop solely at thrift stores, go dumpster diving, & never shower again. Living a greener, more eco-friendly life can be done! Take a look at these easy & realistic ways to be more environmentally friendly!


1. Time Your Showers

How long are your showers? Sometimes I find myself mindlessly staring into the stream of water thinking about the meaning of life, unknowingly wasting two minutes. Simply use a timer or tell Siri to set an alarm for 10 minutes. Hop in the shower & get out once the alarm rings. In time it becomes easier to make the deadline & you'll go over less. My showers are about 10 minutes long now — down from 15+!

digital detox

2. Unplug

Go around to each of your rooms & see what's plugged in. It adds up! In my own bedroom there was: my camera charger, the TV, one phone charger, my laptop charger, Fred's XBox, my mini diffuser, & two lamps plugged in. I immediately unplugged all unused items. Unplugging unused gizmos can make a difference, even if by just a few watts. This can help save energy, which saves you money!

scott tube free

3. Switch to Tube Free Toilet Paper

It's simple, easy, & requires hardly any effort. Getting tubeless toilet paper doesn't involve much work, but it makes a huge impact over time. Did you know we use over 17 billion toilet paper tubes each year? That's an insane number! Scott Tube-Free Tissue* can help you reduce your environmental waste since there's no tube to toss.

scott tube free

scott tube free

I found Scott Tube-Free Tissue at Rite Aid in the Home Care section by the facial tissues & toilet paper. The tissue is cushiony soft for your comfort. I get a kick out of seeing the tube-free tissue simply roll off the toilet paper holder. It ended up saving me time since I don't have to throw away the tube; you only need to add a new roll.


4. Go Vegetarian

I recently celebrated 11 years of being vegetarian! Woohoo! Going veg can reduce rain forest destruction, pollution, & greenhouse gases, while saving water & other precious resources. If you look up "vegetarian calculator" it can calculate the number of animals you've saved & CO2 reduction from being vegetarian. In my 11 years, I've saved 2,222 animals & 2,145 lbs of CO2 from being released into the atmosphere.

junk mail

5. Unsubscribe from Your Junk Mail

Is your mailbox constantly cluttered by junk mail or promotional materials? Advertising mail accounts for 59% of all mail that Americans receive, & only half of that mail is even read. Nobody needs junk mail. It serves no positive purpose; it's a waste of space & resources. Unsubscribe from it all. Type in "stop junk mail" into your browser & get yourself off of those annoying mailing lists.

scott tube free

See? Being environmentally friendly doesn't have to be ridiculously difficult. From timing your showers to going tube-free, there are so many simple ways to change your daily habits for the better. Everything little thing helps.

Do you shop at Rite Aid? How do you try to be eco-friendly? :]

* 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 Have a Cozy Autumn Morning

Thursday, November 10, 2016

This post, How to Have a Cozy Autumn Morning, is sponsored by Pure Leaf but the content & opinions expressed here are my own.

I love the comfort of a cup of hot tea on a cold & rainy morning. I love seeing the steam dance its way out of the cup & into the air. I love feeling my hands thaw out as I wrap my fingers around the porcelain. I love watching the water transform from a clear liquid to a fragrant, dark drink as the tea leaves steep. I love it all.

pure leaf green tea

Fall is the perfect time to sip on a mug of hot tea. Sprinkle in some Netflix & a cozy velvet blanket & that's my definition of perfection. I like hot tea throughout the year — yes, even during the San Diego summer — but I enjoy it most when it's chilly outside. 

pure leaf green tea

I recently stocked up on some Pure Leaf hot tea from Albertson's to get me through the season, opting for their Green Tea with Mint & Black Tea with Vanilla. Both teas come with 16 pyramid bags in a resealable container. Pure Leaf tea leaves are picked, rolled, & crafted with the finest tea leaves from tea estates around the world. 

pure leaf green tea

The Black Tea with Vanilla combines Indian Assam tea with Madagascan vanilla beans to create a rich aroma & smooth taste. I like to include a generous splash of soy milk to my tea, but it tastes delightful without it because the vanilla shines through.

pure leaf green tea

I chose the Pure Leaf hot Green Tea with Mint because I'm trying to incorporate more green tea into my life. The real peppermint leaves refresh your palate & add so much flavor. I love this tea since it leans more toward the minty side.

pure leaf green tea

For the best taste experience possible, pour 8 fluid oz of hot water over one pyramid tea bag & steep for three minutes. Write down your to do list for the day as your tea steeps to perfection. I prefer using gel pens since they make me feel happy.

I write this in Portland, Oregon, where the temperatures are a drastic drop from sunny San Diego. Tea is most definitely on my mind. You can get $1 off Pure Leaf when you purchase at VONS/Pavilions, Albertson’s, & Safeway.

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


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