2018 / Carmen Varner // Lifestyle Blogger & Social Media + Blogging Coach

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What is Huitlacoche? What Does It Taste Like?

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

What is huitlacoche?

Corn smut is a plant fungus caused by Ustilago maydis. While most farmers would consider this fungal disease an infection worthy of eradication, corn smut is considered a delicacy in Mexico, more commonly referred to as "huitlacoche." If you're left wondering: well, is huitlacoche safe to eat? Yes! The fungus is considered a maize mushroom or type of edible mushroom. You might even hear it referred to as cuitlacoche, corn truffles, Mexican truffles, maizteca mushrooms, corn mushrooms, & bunch of other terms.




What does huitlacoche smell like, taste like, look like?

I first tried huitlacoche back in 2016; I even mentioned it in my July A - Z monthly recap & my July Favorites. My boyfriend's mom made a batch. I ate it by itself, as a side. It's earthy but not as stinky as mushrooms. It tastes like corn. The texture is a bit mushy, just like cooked corn. There might be an occasional fiber from the corn. It looks dark, like a blackish, brownish color, kind of the same color as a crimini mushroom or Portobello mushroom.

How do you eat huitlacoche?

I loooove quesadillas de huitlacoche. Delicious. If quesadillas aren't your thing, you can add huitlacoche to your soup or burrito. You can make a huitlacoche taco or sope. Basically, you can add huitlacoche as a filler or side, the same way you'd integrate something like black beans or mushrooms. 



What's the nutritional value of huitlacoche?

High Protein
Huitlacoche is higher in protein than most maize or corn, & could be considered as an alternative protein source for vegetarians (or anyone), according to a research study published in Food Science and Technology (Sociedade Brasileira de Ciência e Tecnologia de Alimentos).

High in Minerals like Magnesium & Phosphorus
The study also shows that huitlacoche is high in minerals magnesium & phosphorus. Higher magnesium intake may reduce the risk of stroke, diabetes, & osteoporosis (National Institutes of Health). So load up on that huitlacoche!

High in Fatty Acids like Oleic Acid & Linoleic Acid
Huitlacoche is high in fatty acids like oleic acid & linoleic acid. Due to the plant fungus & how it alters the corn, huitlacoche is loaded with nutrients corn doesn't normally have, such as lysine, an amino acid.

High Carbohydrate
At the end of the day, huitlacoche is still corn, so it has a high carbohydrate content. The great news is that huitlacoche has a high cellulose content (a type of carbohydrate), which can be beneficial for digestion. Sounds like a win to me!

Low Fat 
Huitlacoche is low in fat, which makes it a great choice for anyone looking for lower calorie & lower fat foods.

So tell me, would you try huitlacoche or quesadillas de huitlacoche? Have you? How do you like to eat it? Leave a comment below if you have any questions! :]

Your Guide to Fresh Eucalyptus Leaves in the Shower

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

I love eucalyptus. Maybe it's because I was born in Australia. Maybe it's because it smells like a warm embrace on a cold morning, soothing yet invigorating (kind of like fresh mint). Maybe it's because this fragrant green plant is the perfect addition to your next shower. What is eucalyptus good for? Plenty of things!


Hang Eucalyptus in Your Shower

Hanga bunch of fresh eucalyptus leaves in your shower to freshen up your bathroom. Simply tie it with a string or rubber band near your showerhead. The hot water hits the leaves to create a eucalyptus steam, kind of like an all-natural shower diffuser. The oils from the leaves give off an incredible scent that can last for weeks. Wondering how long does fresh eucalyptus last in the shower? Scroll down for the answer.

How Long Do Eucalyptus Leaves Last in the Shower? What is eucalyptus good for?



Where Can I Buy Eucalyptus Leaves?

I'm based in Southern California, so I find my favorite eucalyptus bouquet at my local farmers market, flower shop, or grocery store. I've seen eucalyptus fresh leaves at Trader Joe's, Vons, & some grocery stores by the flower section. You might be able to find it at craft stores too!

Care Tip: Shake off the leaves after every shower to avoid gnats or rotting. 

The fresh eucalyptus bunch leaves can be flat & hold a lot of water. Shake it, shake it, shake it like a Polaroid picture! Hey yaaa! After you turn off the water, shake as much water from the leaves as you can. Then you're ready to go.

How Long Do Eucalyptus Leaves Last in the Shower?

It ultimately depends how frequently you shower & how you care for the bundle of leaves. If the eucalyptus shower gets used multiple times a day, it may last 3 weeks or so. We had our eucalyptus bundle for 2 weeks, went on a 3-week trip, & came back to the most fragrant, fantastic scent of eucalyptus wafting through the bathroom. We used it for one more week before heading to the farmers market for a new bundle.

How Long Do Eucalyptus Leaves Last in the Shower? What is eucalyptus good for?

Can I Use Eucalyptus Essential Oils Instead?

Of course! You can use whatever you have on hand. I dabbled with eucalyptus essential oils for several years. It all started in 2014 with my very first bottle of eucalyptus essential oil. I prefer the fresh leaves because the scent is much more potent than the essential oils. But the eucalyptus essential oil is convenient & travel-friendly since you can take a small bottle with you wherever you go.  Click here for my favorite eucalyptus essential oil (*affiliate link). Eucalyptus oil still has benefits too!

What is Eucalyptus Good For? What are the Eucalyptus Benefits?


You might ask yourself, so...what're the eucalyptus bunch benefits? It smells fantastic. It's a natural room perfume. But in addition to that, it can help clear your sinuses or a stuffy nose. Just inhale the eucalyptus steam as you shower.


Do you use eucalyptus leaves in the shower? Leave a comment! Tell me about your experience. Feel free to ask a question! What are some of the eucalyptus benefits you've found? 

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Blog & Instagram Photo Prop Ideas from Amazon to Elevate Your Flat Lay Photography

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Buy blog & Instagram photo props & flat lay styling pieces from Amazon! It's convenient, affordable, & you never have to leave your house! Shop for Instagram photo prop in your three-day-old hair, giant sweatshirt, & no pants. Ahhh, that's the dream. Want to be a digital influencer, Elevate your flat lay photography with these Instagram-worthy Amazon props that I swear by!

*Disclaimer: this post includes affiliate links.

Faux Sheepskin Rug


Blog & Instagram Photo Prop from Amazon to Elevate Your Flat Lay Photography

This elevates every blog post & photo. It's chic, simple, & acts as a palette cleanser. Sometimes I put it out when guests come over because I'm cool like that. It helps that it's incredibly soft. Choose from multiple sizes to fit your blogging/room/dimensional needs. If you're wondering how to be a blogger & digital influencer, this prop is a good place to start. 

Faux Marble Contact Paper


Blog & Instagram Photo Prop from Amazon to Elevate Your Flat Lay Photography

This beautiful wine, marble, & succulent set up is A LIE!!! I taped this white & grey glossy faux marble contact paper onto a poster board & it works wonders. Spill something on it? Simply wipe it away with a sponge. Gets too dingy? Replace the used contact paper. I've had the same sheet for over a year & haven't needed to swap it out. The roll is worth it! This is one of my favorite flat lay photography props as a digital influencer.

Gel Pens


Blog & Instagram Photo Prop from Amazon to Elevate Your Flat Lay Photography

Flashback to the 90s, right? Okay, hear me out here. This gel pen pack comes with 48 pens to suit any rainbow your heart desires. Pick & choose colors to go with your theme or Instagram feed. Style the pens with stationery for any blog-related photography. Personally, I write with gel pens too since the colors keep me organized.

Wall Tapestry


Blog & Instagram Photo Prop from Amazon to Elevate Your Flat Lay Photography

These plant wall tapestries are enormous & beautiful. I pinned mine up & I use them all the time. Stand in front of them for a selfie. Hold your coffee up for a cool background. The options are as limitless as your imagination. Plus, I get compliments on them all the time. I got the banana leaf wall tapestry & the cactus wall tapestry.

Which Instagram photo prop would you use? What are your goals as a digital influencer? Tell me. Leave a comment. :]

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any of my related social media platforms, I may make a commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Bunkers del Carmel Turo de la Rovira Barcelona: Things to Do + The History

Friday, November 16, 2018

What if I told you there's a magical 360° view of Barcelona that's completely free?

Free dollars. Free euros. Free o'clock.

Free things to do in Barcelona? Count me in!


Hike Bunkers of Carmel on Turo de la Rovira for a panoramic view of Barcelona.

Imagine a panoramic look at Barcelona from 262 meters/859 feet above sea level. Picture yourself looking out at the Mediterranean Sea, La Sagrada Familia, & the entire city of Barcelona from up high. Find this unforgettable location at Bunkers del Carmel on the hill known as Turo de la Rovira, the site for the defense of Barcelona during the Spanish Civil War.

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The History of Turó de la Rovira

Turó de la Rovira is a Museu d'Historia de Barcelona (MUHBA) heritage space, which officially opened in 2011 after undergoing restoration. It once contained the anti-aircraft battery used to defend Barcelona from air attacks. Pretty historic, eh?


The View of Barcelona, Spain from Bunkers Del Carmel

Perhaps you're a sucker for savoring spectacular sights. Me too, my friend, me too. If you want to take a selfie, get the best Instagram shot, or snap a memorable photo, this is the spot to check out. The view of the city is incomparable from the top of Bunkers del Carmel. On one side you can see the Mediterranean Sea, La Sagrada Familia, & all the Barcelona hot spots. On the other side, stare out at the Barcelona homes.




Things To to Do at Bunkers Del Carmel on Turo de la Rovira

Remember that it's free of charge to explore. Who doesn't love free things to do in Barcelona, Spain? Everything adds up: the museums, the cathedrals, the parks. Why not add something free to the list? So you made it up Turo de la Rovira, now what?

Have a picnic on top of the world.

Take snacks & drink so you can have yourself a merry little picnic. It goes without saying to pick up after yourself & dispose of any trash.

Have you visited Bunkers del Carmel? Have a question? Want to share your experience? Leave a comment below!


Where to Stay in Barcelona

What are some accommodations options in Barcelona? Here's a map with some affordable options.

Booking.com


I Need To Be My Own Best Friend

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

I'm writing this on my cracked iPhone as I ride the metro from Poble Sec to Mundet. I'm in Barcelona, Spain. It's my first time here. It's October but the temperatures remind me of San Diego. I'm happy & unhappy simultaneously. 

I'm writing to pass the time. I can’t help but feel turned around, as though my navigation is completely askew. Where is my compass? Where is my internal guide? Perhaps I haven’t been listening. I take things too much to heart. I think about scenarios that don’t exist. I crave friendship & connection but am horrible at executing it myself. I prefer online community & communication. I have to write in order to understand myself & my feelings. 


I’ve been lost because I haven’t spoken to myself. I am a person. I can have a relationship with myself. I should have a relationship with myself. Who am I? What do I like? How would I describe myself? What do I want?

I need to be my own best friend, my biggest supporter. I need to quit holding myself back, quit critiquing my every move. If my friend did that to me, they would be a crappy friend. Am I being a bad friend to myself?

Shouldn’t I be best friends with myself? Shouldn’t I have more faith in myself? Shouldn’t I care more about myself? Shouldn’t I be a better friend to myself? Shouldn’t I communicate with myself, understand who I am, what I want, what I like? Just like I’d get to know any human. It’s time to stop second-guessing every choice. It’s time to stop tallying, counting, take note. It’s time to do. It’s time to take action. It’s time to live.

I deserve a good relationship with others but it starts with me. If I were to name my 5 best friends, I wouldn't be on the list. This needs to change. I need to be my own best friend.

What are your thoughts on this mental health & self-care subject? Leave a comment & tell me a bit about yourself!

Small Moments Matter, No Matter Where You Are

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Picture this: I'm up in the sky on a plane for 11 hours & 30 minutes as I transport from one side of the globe to another. I'm heading to Barcelona, Spain to gobble up patatas bravas & take in the beauty of La Sagrada Familia.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 

Shirt: Soo Jin // Sunglasses: Dopemo

Then I take a short $29 plane ride from Barcelona to Berlin. Yes, it's true. It only costs $29 to fly from one country to another. For less than a tank of gas — which would only take you from San Diego to Los Angeles — you can stop in another country. 
I'll experience Berlin, Germany's rich history & sit down for a picnic at Viktoriapark. After Deutschland, I venture north toward the fjords of Norway. I'll trek through the forest of Nordmarka in Oslo, Norway then sigh at the view of the city from the roof of the Opera House.

Shirt: Soo Jin // Pants: Hue // Sunglasses: Dopemo // Cowgirl Boots: similar on Amazon

I always have to remind myself: life is not only about the big moments — the graduations, the trips across the world, the pay raises, the engagements, the babies. The milestones are obviously important in life, but don't let them guide you, propel you. Create your own moments & milestones each day.

Shirt: Soo Jin // Pants: Hue // Sunglasses: Dopemo  

Even when traveling, some moments are mundane. You might spend the evening making mushroom tortellini & garlic bread in your London flat, then watching three episodes of Gilmore Girls on Netflix before heading to bed. Small moments matter, no matter where you are.

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Shirt: Soo Jin // Pants: Hue // Sunglasses: Dopemo // Cowgirl Boots: similar on Amazon

Now when I make mushroom tortellini & watch Gilmore Girls at home, it makes me think of that night in our Knotting Hill neighborhood. It doesn't seem like such a minuscule moment; it morphs into a moderately meaningful one. This practice of remembering a good, small moment helps me feel more present, especially in times of stress or anxiety. 



The next few weeks will be packed with adventure, jet lag, & going outside of my comfort zone as I visit new-to-me countries & cities. I leave on Sunday. Right now I'm running around trying to do everything I need to complete before take off. Did I pack my underwear? Do I have a phone charger? Wait, where is my passport?!


What are you looking forward to? How do you make small moments matter? :]

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, I may make a commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

The Benefits of Drinking Fresh Mint Tea

Friday, September 28, 2018

My stomach gurgles. The thought of eating food causes my stomach to turn. Every bite I take feels dry, deliberate, forced. Everything I eat leaves my body just as quickly as it entered. Gross, but real life. My body turns against itself for a week, which makes me take a moment to appreciate my body & the healthy moments.

My mint tea ritual started one evening after I read that mint tea might help an upset stomach. So I bought a pot of fresh green spearmint.

"I'll try anything." I thought. Bland foods like applesauce & toast weren't helping. It's day 3 & I can barely eat. My insides slosh around.

I tried fresh spearmint tea that night. Sip sip sip.

"What is this feeling? This feeling of...comfort." My gut stopped doing flips long enough for me to smile as I watched The Office. My stomach stopping singing long enough for me to take a couple bites of my soup from lunch that I hadn't eaten.

HALLELUJAH! Relief.

I drink fresh mint tea anytime my stomach starts feeling a little funky. It truly helps.

* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you click &/or make a purchase through certain links on this site or any related social media platforms, I may make a commission from that click &/or purchase. It's at no additional cost to you. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Fresh mint tea has health benefits

Should I Use Peppermint or Spearmint?

Spearmint & peppermint very closely related, so they have similar properties in relation to their appearance, flavor, use, & cultivation. It all boils down to personal preference; you may use both peppermint or spearmint. Oh yeah!

What's the Difference Between Peppermint & Spearmint?

Peppermint has a higher menthol content, making it more minty & potent in flavor: think peppermint bark. Peppermint is often used medicinally to soothe aches or relax muscles. Peppermint packs a punch. It's considered spicier than spearmint, giving it the "pepper" name in peppermint.

Spearmint is lighter, more delicate, & less likely to overpower other spices. Spearmint can be found in sauces or your next mojito. Spearmint goes well with feta, tomatoes, olives. You might find spearmint in Greek food like tzatziki or maybe Vietnamese Banh Mi.

How Do I Make the Fresh Mint Tea?

1. Boil water & pour into a mug.
2. Pluck a couple stems & leaves. Add it to the hot water.
3. Let the stems & leaves steep in hot water for 5 minutes.
4. Muddle or mash the leaves & stem to release more flavor & the natural oils.


Do I Only Use Leaves? Do I Throw Away the Stems?

Use both! Both the leaves & the stems contain flavor. If you toss the stems, you're not getting the maximum benefits from the mint. Pluck off parts of the leave & stem simultaneously.

What Does It Do? How Does Mint Tea Help? What is the Benefit?

Botanicals like ginger, peppermint, spearmint, & fennel are known for their natural remedies. But mint is pretty cool because of its versatility. Here are a few things peppermint & spearmint can help with:

Allergies - Mint contains an antioxidant & anti-inflammatory agent called rosmarinic acid, which may help with allergies.

Caffeine-Free - Drink this any time of day without jitters or crashing. No caffeine!

Common Cold / Sore Throat - The menthol can have a soothing, cooling effect on your throat.

Decongestant - Mint contains menthol which is a natural aromatic decongestant to can help break up phlegm & mucus.

Indigestion / Gas - Studies show that mint improves symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome like abdominal pain.


Can I use a peppermint or spearmint tea bags instead?

Yes, totally. Use whatever you have on hand. Relief is relief. You'll get more of the natural nutrients with the fresh version, but peppermint or spearmint packaged/bagged tea might do the trick. You can also buy organic dried peppermint leaves or dried spearmint leaves in bulk to use for tea.

Where can I buy it?

You can buy fresh peppermint or spearmint at your local farmers market, grocery store, or herbs section. If you can't find it, here are some online options:

- Peppermint tea bags
- Spearmint tea bags
- Organic peppermint leaves
- Dried organic loose leaf spearmint

Can I drink this if I feel totally fine?

Of course. Mint tea genuinely tastes amazing (if you're a mint fan). By all means, drink your fresh peppermint tea with breakfast; sip your spearmint tea on a cool winter afternoon or a hot summer's day; drink mint tea in the evening as you read a book. It's naturally caffeine-free so you can drink it whenever you get the urge.

Finding My Balance as a Blogger, Influencer, & Entrepreneur

Thursday, September 20, 2018

This post is sponsored by Himalayan Water but the content & opinions expressed here are my own.

As an entrepreneur, I have many job titles: blogger, social media coach, traveler, digital influencer, consultant, creator, strategist, photographer, editor, owner. I struggle on the daily to find balance with all the components needed to create a successful & sustainable business while maintaining a healthy & happy lifestyle. Right now my mind is racing with everything on my growing to do list: 

1. Book accommodations for my upcoming Spain, Germany, & Norway trip.
2. Research what to do in each city we're visiting: Barcelona, Berlin, Oslo.
3. Create a newsletter to send out by the weekend.
4. Organize & delete photos from my computer.
5. Transfer photos to my external hard drive.
6. Take photos for a couple brand partnerships: a clothing line & a yerba mate tea company. 
7. Stay hydrated (since my skin is much clearer when I drink water).

Do we ever figure it all out? Do we ever have it completely balanced? Every time I feel I have a grasp of how the world works, earth sends me for a loop. It's a day by day journey. I accept the challenge of finding balance, harmony, equilibrium, peace.



Walk • Move • Get Outside

Going on a walk (or doing some type of movement) is one of the best ways to refresh my brain when it starts to get all jumbled up with stress & my to-do list. Fred & I like to going to walk two or three times throughout the day so we get off our bums. It's easy to spend hours sitting typing on our laptops, brainstorming strategy meetings, or one-on-one in-depth coaching sessions with clients. The fresh air, the sunlight, the lack of technology resets my brain. Today I switched it up with a yoga session in the park with a couple of girlfriends.

Water • Stay Hydrated

We all need water & that's just a fact, but ensuring we drink enough is its own problem. I tend to suffer from headaches when I don't drink enough water; it's genuinely beneficial for my mental health to drink more. Right now I'm carrying Himalayan Water with me.

Himalayan Water is naturally pH balanced & journeys for 20 years through the mountains, through an underground aquifer, then goes through a layer of clay, & then rests in a confined aquifer 400 feet below ground. So basically, the water is naturally filtered & doesn't see the light of day until it's bottled at the source of the base of the Himalayas. 


Write • Journal

I begin each day by writing in my morning pages. In its essence, it's a journal. It allows me to get whatever's on my mind onto paper so I can focus on things that truly matter. Sometimes writing out how I'm feeling or what I'm thinking about or perhaps the fact that I don't want to write at all can be useful. Sometimes it gives me blog post ideas, content material, captions. Sometimes it's simply good to reflect & realize what's going on my brain.

Which is the most helpful to you when you want to find your balance: walk, water, or write?

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

How To Use Google Flights to Find Cheap Flights

Monday, September 10, 2018

Hello friend! I hope you're having a thoughtful, interesting, productive day. The last several weeks zoomed by in a ridiculously rapid haze of writing, creating, clients, emails, & making moves. During all the hubbub, Fred & I looked for flights throughout Europe. I get a lot of questions asking how I afford to travel. My secret? I use Google Flights as my own personal flight scanner. 

Google flights flight scanner tips London Canada

It's a strategic process. I used Google Flights to search for tickets to Paris last year. I used it to find the best prices to Portland, Oregon. I've used Google Flights for several trips & it's my favorite way to save money on flights. We used Google Flights to book our latest trip too. In October, I headed to Spain, Germany, & Norway using tickets found via Google Flights! 

Dying for more travel secrets? Sign up for travel tips, hacks, best photo spots, & behind-the-scenes designed for blogger, influencers, & travelers.


Play Around With Airports


Google flights flight scanner tips

In an ideal scenario, we'd fly out from San Diego International Airport since it's the closest airport to us, but sometimes you can save $200+ from flying from LAX.  It adds several hours of travel time but $200+ can make all the difference if you're on a budget or trying to travel affordably. Play around with the closest airports to you & to your destination to see price fluctuations. For example, roundtrip tickets from San Diego to Paris cost $560, whereas roundtrip Los Angeles to Paris is $360.




Keep Your Dates Open



You're less likely to get a good deal if you have to travel during a specific timeframe. If possible, keep your dates open. Check different dates & compare prices. That's why our winter trip to London was so affordable. Cloudy, frigid, with a dash of snow, but holy moly, Christmastime in London still warms my soul when I think about it. Because we keep our calendar open, we accidentally booked Bucket List moments every time we travel: Christmas in London, Autumn in Portland, Spring in Paris, Halloween in Oslo.

Check for One-Way Flights or Multi-City



We kept it simple by booking roundtrip flights the first couple Google Flights excursions. 7 nights in France. 9 nights in London (10, if you count the night we spent at London Gatwick Airport). If you're keen to explore multiple cities or countries on your trip, one-way flights or multi-city option is your best bet. It cost us a little over $29 for our flight from Barcelona to Berlin. $29. Less than a tank of gas & I'm off to a new country.

Be Aware of Flight Times & Layovers



The $506 roundtrip LAX to Amsterdam flight with a 3-hour layover seems perfect until you look at the fine print: you have one stop in London where you have to transfer from London Heathrow Airport to London Gatwick. You'd have to deboard the plane, take your luggage, get a ride to a completely different airport, go through customs & security in 3 hours?! Sounds like a missed flight to me! Be aware of flight times & layovers on Google Flights. You might find a great price but there might be some sort of weird layover or stop or time. After playing around with dates more, I found a $493 roundtrip LAX to Amsterdam flight with 1 hr 45-minute layover in Philadelphia. Now that's doable.

Book Directly With the Airline



Google Flights gave you affordable options & now you're ready to make a purchase. Heck yes! Save dollars when you book directly with the airline. Go to their website, search for your exact flight, date, & time, then make the purchase from there. Don't forget to sign up for any rewards to maximize potential savings.

Did these tips help you? 


Now that I booked my affordable flight tickets, time to find Airbnb accommodations, research things to do, eat, experience, & start my countdown! You have a trip planned? Have you used Google flights to find cheap flights? Do you use a flight scanner?

Sign up for travel tips & behind-the-scenes, a newsletter for blogger, influencers, & travelers who want the best, most current information & ideas.


* Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. Learn more about my disclosure. :]

Blogger Mail Products I'm Loving

Friday, August 24, 2018

As a San Diego lifestyle blogger, influencer, social media professional (or whatever you want to call me), brands sometimes send items for promotional consideration. You might see things on Youtube or blogs like "HUGE PR UNBOXING" or "Blogger Mail Haul." I find this type of content fascinating because I'm nosy like that, but also because the social media & public relations world changes every day.


I love experimenting & learning about new-to-me brands, products, & concepts. Although brands send me free items, I don't talk about everything because, well, not everything is blog-worthy or a must-have. However, this blog post is meant to share a few goodies that brands & publicists sent me in the last few months that I genuinely enjoy, use, & want to share with YOU - because YOU ARE COOL.


*Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. 


Dry Brush Kit

I am wayyyy behind on the dry brushing train. Better late than never, as they say. One of my lovely friends & former coworkers connected me with ZenMe, a brand offering natural solutions to promote skin health & well-being. The ZenMe dry brush kit comes with a dry brush, pumice stone, exfoliating gloves, & a konjac sponge. Genuinely a great deal for the quality & amount of items in the set. Exfoliate pesky areas like your feet with the pumice stone - so effective!


Better Body Foods

Food gives me life. Literally. Better Body Foods aims to share healthier, nutritious food & ingredients without losing flavor. I particularly like the PBfit®, a powdered peanut butter with cocoa. Better Body Foods has a range of essentials like organic coconut flour to their LIVfit Superfood® Organic Superfood Blend with organic pea protein, flax seed powder, chia seed powder, hemp protein, & more goodies.


Christie Brinkley Stick Highlighter

Christie Brinkley is iconic. She's one of the first supermodels, gaining worldwide fame in the late 1970s with her cover on the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. She's stunning & radiant, but now we can get the same glow with the Christie Brinkley Authentic Beauty Strobe Show Natural Glow Stick Highlighter. The stick makes application easy & mess-free. I feel like my own version of a supermodel.


Poop Spray 💩

We all poop, right? Like, that's a fact. Simply spritz a couple sprays of DooDooJuice into the toilet bowl before you do your business to reduce smelly odors. DooDooJuice makes for a perfectly practical gift. Read the reviews if you want a laugh! If you want a low-down on how these types of products work, what they do, if they work, & how to integrate them in YOUR life, read my full post here.

So tell me: which product sounds the coolest to you? I'd love to know what YOU are into. Leave a comment. Say heyyyy. :]

7 Things To Do at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas

Friday, August 10, 2018

I'm a tiny speck amongst the majestically carved Franklin Mountains & the vast Chihuahuan Desert landscape that surround me. I wipe a bead of sweat from my brow. It's barely 8 a.m. but the sun is no joke. I pull the brim of my El Paso hat down to cover as much of my face as possible. 


I'm exploring Franklin Mountains State Park as a familiarization tour guest of Visit El Paso. I look at the other travel influencers, journalists, bloggers, & writers. Everyone is taking photos. I put my phone on a wooden post, set a self-timer for 3, 2, 1. I smile. "Cheese!" I say to myself. I look at the picture.


It's glorious. Mother Earth is photogenic in that way. If you're a nature lover, hiking fan, or desert enthusiast, add Franklin Mountains State Park to your El Paso, Texas To Do List. There's so much you can do!

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1. Nature Watching

The state park has a diverse ecosystem of birds, reptiles, coyotes, squirrels & maybe a mule deer or perhaps you'll spot a mountain lion.

2. Rock Climbing

Go on a rock climbing adventure! Bring your own equipment & climb at the designated area in McKelligon Canyon or at Sneed’s Cory in the Tom Mays Unit.

3. Camping

Stay at one of 14 tent campsites or 5 RV sites. Campsites don't have water or electricity. Click here to find out more about Franklin Mountains State Park camping & RV options.

4. Dining

Ok, there aren't any restaurants but you can still enjoy a meal on the mountain. Find picnic benches & shade so you can take in the view while you eat. It's such a good view. I loved eating my breakfast & watched the desert come to life in the morning.

5. Hiking

The hiking trails at Franklin Mountains State Park are intense. You could spend a lot of time exploring the 100 miles of trails on almost 27,000 acres. Bring water, cell phone, good shoes, & a hiking buddy.

6. History

Native American tribes made the area their home for thousands of years. Find their deep mortar pits for grinding seeds. If you're really lucky, you might spot their colorful pictographs & etched petroglyphs on boulders & rock walls. 

7. Events

Franklin Mountains has an active events pages which you can check out here.


Clear your mind & spend time with nature at Franklin Mountains State Park in El Paso, Texas. Start off with a peaceful brunch on the mountain then camp overnight after a long day of exploring the trails. The entrance fee for adults is $5. Children 12 years & under are free. What are you waiting for? :]

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Which activity sounds the most fun to you? :]

My 13-Year Vegetarian Anniversary + The Future of Plant-Based Omega-3 & Protein

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

This post is sponsored by iWi but the content & opinions expressed here are my own.


At the age of 15, I decided to go vegetarian. 

Being vegetarian means I don't eat meat, poultry, or fish. No chicken nuggets. No hamburgers. No fish fillets. Well, not in the standard sense of the word, at least. It's a privilege to have access to plant-based protein options that provide alternatives to some of the meals I had when I ate meat. It might be a privilege for me, but it's becoming a worldwide necessity.

Did you know the global population should reach 9.1 billion people by 2050? That means producing 70% more food for an additional 2 billion people while simultaneously combating poverty & hunger, according to The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. Those are hard numbers to look at.

Will there be enough land, water, & genetic diversity to meet demands? That's where innovative brands who want to change the world come to play. iWi is an algae-based nutrition company interested in building a sustainable & scalable way to feed the world. Just what the earth needs!


They grow algae for iWi Omega-3 Supplements in deserts using non-arable land, brackish water (salt water), & the sun as their main source of energy. It's exciting to have products like this available on the market. The times are changing &, to be honest, should continue to change!

When I turned vegetarian 13 years ago, there were hardly any vegetarian options available in grocery stores & restaurants. I'm happy to see a change in the landscape as brands like iWi produce green Omega-3 & protein while supporting & developing local & rural communities. Now I can have a convenient vegetarian/vegan source of Omega-3!


I'm particularly excited for the future of iWi as they delve into protein powder, protein snacks, protein bars, drinks, & alternative meats & fish over the next few years. Keep your eye out for iWi. Let me know if you'd like me to delve deeper into my favorite vegetarian protein options!

Use promo code 15IWILIFEO for 15% off your order. Head over to Amazon to shop iWi. It’s better for you & better for our beautiful planet.

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

How to Set Effective Personal & Business Goals So You Actually Get Things Done

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Instead of sitting, waiting, & wishing for things to happen, establish clear goals & create actionable tasks to complete them. There's no time to wait. NOW IS THE TIME. Follow these tips to make the most of your goals. Interested in establishing successful blogs?

Take it from me, someone who CONSTANTLY gets off track. These strategies increased my overall productivity compared to the month before. 



1. WRITE IT DOWN

What good is a goal if you can't even remember it? Write your goals somewhere so you can see it. Type them in the notes section of your phone. Write it down on paper. Looking at your list serves as a constant reminder to strive for your goals.

2. BE SPECIFIC

Simply saying "I want to blog more" doesn't amount to much. How often do you want to blog? For how long? On which days? Where? What were you doing before? Vagueness is not your friend. The small details make a difference. A better & more specific goal is: "I want to publish one blog per week for the next 4 weeks. I can commit to writing, editing, & photographing my post on Saturday mornings since that's my only free time."



3. SHARE YOUR GOALS

What pushes you more (or is more embarrassing) than having a friend ask, "Did you ever finish that thing you were working on?" or "I thought you were going to give up watching so much Netflix." Sharing your goals might be the shove in the right direction. If you feel unmotivated, your friend asking "Whatever happened to...?" could be just what you need to keep going. So tell your friends & family! Share it on your blog or on social media. You could also hire me as your coach. :]

4. DON'T GIVE UP

It isn't easy to create successful blogs these days. Whatever your goals are, don't give up if it doesn't happen or work out right away. Sometimes life gets in the way. Distractions happen, but don't let it completely derail you. Don't be discouraged if it doesn't instantly work out. Keep at it! I was blogging for 4 years before I earned even one cent!!

5. DO IT

Don't just say you're going to do something, do it. Don't procrastinate. You want to workout more or write more? Well, get up off your butt & head to the gym or go on a walk or start typing on your laptop, even if you have nothing to say. Actions speak louder than words, so let your actions do the talking.

1 Year Self-Employment Update: Life as a Blogger, Influencer, Entrepreneur

Monday, July 02, 2018

Holy spicy guacamole.

I quit my job one year ago.


A lot happened. I chronicled all the details in my 3-month update & again in my 8-month update with a word of encouragement - I talked about my travels, my brand campaigns & sponsorships, & all those juicy details. But it's been a few months since then.

I ended up spending my one year self-employment anniversary in El Paso, Texas as part of a press trip! 



It's crazy to think I gave my two weeks notice & quit my corporate job one year ago!! I recall that nerve-wracking day. How could I forget? I left the office for the last time feeling scared, excited, hopeful. 

I had no idea what it would be like to be on my own as a San Diego blogger, influencer, & budding entrepreneur. Ups & downs. Highs & lows. Successes & failures. A bit of everything, really.

One year later, I’m walking around downtown El Paso, Texas for a familiarization tour with Visit El Paso. We had breakfast on a mountain at Franklin Mountains State Park, then I fed a state park AJ the giraffe. We hopped over to La Union, New Mexico for wine at La Viña Winery. It's all a part of the job. It's part of the ever-changing landscape of being a writer, a San Diego lifestyle blogger, a content creator, a travel influencer, an inspirer. 

Expect to see an El Paso travel guide in the upcoming weeks!


My El Paso, Texas press trip inspired my career even further. It reinforced the reason why I quit corporate America in the first place. Dare to follow your dreams, but more importantly, don’t forget to put in the work. In the day-to-day, it’s practically impossible to see your progress but you must believe, have strength, & faith & continue putting in the effort. 

Dream on.
Work hard.
Live harder.

After weeks of struggling with self-doubt, I empowered myself to take action & LAUNCH.

I launched the July Blogger & Influencer Challenge as a way to cover some of the information in my private coaching but make it affordable & accessible to more people. Every weekday in July each registrant receives coaching content straight to their inbox geared for badass bloggers & influencers looking to increase their social media reach, following, opportunities, & income.


Need some help making progress on your blog or social media platform? Want guidance on how to get more views, followers, opportunities? Struggling to understand the online world or how to find readers/clients? Fill out my FREE Discovery Questionnaire if you're interested to find out about more coaching & how I can help you.

Stay up-to-date on my travels & blogging adventures on Instagram & Instagram Stories.

So tell me: are you new around here? What kind of blog posts do you want to see? How can I HELP you? :]

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