I Am Woman, I'm a Wordsmith

Words, Wit and Wisdom for Today's Style and Decision Makers

Tuesday’s Tip April 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:07 pm

I ran across “The Help” last night on TV and was instantly mesmerized. I had forgotten what a truly wonderful movie (and book!) it is. Never, ever forget…





Tuesday’s Tip

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:53 pm

I ran across “The Help” last night on TV and was instantly mesmerized. I had forgotten what a truly wonderful movie (and book!) it is. Never, ever forget…





A Lot of Baggage

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:00 am



Family members and friends I’ve travelled with were pleased to recently learn that “Big Momma” went to luggage heaven. The well-travelled and oversized piece of luggage was near and dear to my heart but it was the bane of travel for many. It was huge and it was heavy. It could fit so much and was with me for so many years. Big Momma went with me to Europe and on so many family vacations, she went along with me on all of my annual OU girls’ trips, and she was there when I moved Kristen into her college dorm. Years of wear and tear finally caught up with her though and after a serious banging up by an airline earlier this year, it was time for me to replace Big Momma.


Have you shopped for luggage lately? It’s everywhere and there are so many different styles and brands. Spinners, hard-backed, soft-sides, and colors and patterns that will catch anyone’s eye on an airport baggage carousel. I knew I wanted something durable, something somewhat affordable, and something big. I found a bag I think I’m going to love and am amazed at how much lighter it is then Big Momma was…empty! I can fill this baby even more!



All this brought back memories of my parents’ tan colored suitcases like the one above. I remember how the handles felt in my hand and how those vintage Samsonites smelled. How weird to even think of carrying your luggage though, right? A virtual nightmare if you ask me! Well, if you’re as grateful as I am for wheeled luggage, you have Bernard Sadow to thank. Who?! And Macy’s. What?!


Mr. Sadow is credited for introducing suitcases that rolled and for that one reason will forever be hero of mine and many! But, surprisingly his wheeled contraptions weren’t immediately accepted and Saddow actually had trouble selling the idea for them. He was repeatedly told that nobody would ever buy a suitcase on wheels by department store buyers across New York City. Crazy, right?!


Sadow, the former president and owner of U.S. Luggage, had long been in the business of suitcases and came up with his brilliant idea nearly 45 years ago. Wrestling with his bags at an airport in Puerto Rico, Saddow noticed a man moving a piece of machinery on a wheeled platform and, as they say, the rest is history. Bingo.


Still, after weeks of rejections again, Saddow finally hit pay dirt when a Macy’s vice president liked the product and set his buyers buying. Macy’s sold the first ever rolling suitcases in October 1970 but, as wonderful as they sounded, they still had problems.


Remember those first rolling suitcases? I do! Wheels were mounted on their narrow bottoms, leaving users struggling with wobbling and tipping. Plus, there were those crazy straps that we pulled them with. Yes, the new bags were easier then carrying a bag, but often times you ended up doing so anyway.


It wasn’t until nearly 20 years later that today’s popular version of a suitcase on wheels was born. Pulled on two wheels, they boasted convenience and a handy-dandy retractable handle. Invented by Northwest Airlines pilot Bob Plath in the late 1980s, the bags were dubbed “Rollaboards” and were the start of the luggage company Travelpro, still the top choice for airline industry employees and other frequent fliers. If anyone knows travel, it’s pilots and flight attendants, right?




Just as cell phones have changed the way we communicate and fast food has changed the way we eat, rolling suitcases have changed the way we travel. Without wheels on her, Big Momma could have never made it to all the destinations she did. A lot of memories were packed in that bag; memories that will last a lifetime.


Palm Sunday April 14, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:32 am

Palm cross


Palm Sunday. The beginning of Holy Week and the Sunday when Catholics often think: “Oh dear, today’s gospel is the really long one!”


Yes, it’s the Passion of Christ, acted out from Jesus’ triumphal entrance into Jerusalem when palm branches were placed in His path, to His arrest on Holy Thursday and His Crucifixion on Good Friday. It also marks the beginning of Holy Week, the final week of Lent, and the week we anxiously await His resurrection on Easter Sunday.


Today we recall the crowds yelling “Hosanna” as Jesus rode a donkey amid the waving of palms. He was their hero only soon to become their “villain.”


Holy Week is a good time to think about who we consider our heroes and what we idolize. During our recent church’s mission, the guest speaker talked about what’s on our coffee tables and how those things often signify what we “worship.” Luckily, I do have a cross on our coffee table. I also have candles, books, magazines, and a clock. One of the books is on dresses; another is on the Sooners. Do I idolize them, and whatever I read in all those magazines, too much?  Am I too obsessed with time and not take the time to count my blessings and instead rush through life?  Hmmmmm….


This brings to mind the quote, “If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders.” What do you daydream about? Where does your mind tend to wander? What is on your coffee table?


I also like to consider Holy Week the final leg of my Lenten sacrifices and a time to jump start them. Being an empty nester, meals are sometimes a challenge to prepare for just the two of us and eating out often becomes the norm…or ordering in. During Holy Week I always give up fast food and eating out. It may sound silly, but on those nights when Smitty’s out of town something quick and via a drive through is sure easy. Not so this week. Instead, I’m hoping (and praying!) that my hunger for God increases, not my desire for a cheeseburger and fries.


Social media is increasingly proving to be a huge Lenten tool, especially for the younger generation. As they say, “this is not your parents’ Lent,” and it’s not. Popular apps like “Lentsanity” and blogs like “LifeTeenblog” are providing ideas and support and are being downloaded by the thousands. Even the Pope is tweeting. All this shows how relevant the Catholic church is even in our high-tech world. I’m pretty sure Jesus would approve.


So in this final stretch before Easter Sunday, let’s try to slow down and reflect. Reflect on what and who are really important and truly valuable. I’m guessing if we keep our hearts open and our eyes looking up, we just may find them.


A quick note:  thank you Megan G. for the beautiful cross photo I’m using in today’s blog.  I have never been able to make a cross out of a palm, as much as I’ve wanted to, and this one is the prettiest one I’ve ever seen!


The Language of Flowers and A Master’s Tradition April 12, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:06 pm

The grass isn’t always greener on the other side. The grass is greener where you water it.




Spring is officially here and the weather is finally beginning to look like it’s going to cooperate. It even rained this past week and may again in the next few days. I guess all of this means it’s time to buy flowers for outdoors and start tilling the garden.


I am the furthest thing from a green thumb and I’m not one to be found working in the yard yet I love flowers, particularly daisies, lilacs, and wild flowers. I also love when the Crepe Myrtles and Mountain Laurels reign in full bloom and I’d put Texas bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes up against any others in terms of pure yet simple beauty. My mom has always loved flowers so I guess she passed it on to me. Sometimes when I think of flowers, I think of her.  (Yes, I’ve already ordered her an Easter lily!)


I also absolutely adore Easter lilies. I love their brilliant whiteness among all of Easter’s traditional pastels, I love how they smell, and I love that I can plant them in my yard and watch them come back every year. Did I mention how obsessed I am with how they smell? One plant can literally fill a room with its intoxicating scent. Obsessed.


XXXDaisy crown


I recently read a book called “The Language of Flowers,” and although I didn’t love the book per se, I took away from it a real interest in all the references made to what certain flowers historically signify. Did you know almost all flowers, herbs, and plants have a meaning behind them? It’s so amazing!


Using what many consider the “bible” of “the language of flowers,” author Vanessa Diffenbaugh relied heavily on “The Floral Offering: A Token of Affection and Esteem; Comprising the Language and Poetry of Flowers” written in 1851 by Henrietta Dumont, to write her present day bestselling novel.


“After a childhood spent in the foster-care system, Victoria Jones is unable to get close to anybody and her only connection to the world is through flowers and their meanings,” reads the book’s back cover. In the story, Victoria finds work in a flower shop and learns she has a true gift for helping others through the flowers she chooses for them. Flowers give her meaning. Flowers give her life.


Readers learn that daffodils are for new beginnings, wisteria represents welcome, daisies mean innocence, camellias signify “my destiny is in your hands,” peppermint is for warm feelings, holly signifies foresight, and even William Shakespeare agreed that rosemary means remembrance. Not surprising to me is that red roses mean love but yellow roses indicate infidelity. Don’t tell Texans that! It’s all utterly fascinating to me.




Apparently too, the language of flowers in nonnegotiable and every flower has but one definition. This, outlined during the Victorian era, during which the original language of flowers was hypothetically spoken and ultimately revealed.


Do you want to tell someone you’re passionate about them? Then give them some bougainvillea. Care to tell someone you never forget them?   Simple carnations will do the trick. Protection can be had with some eucalyptus, a fern tells a recipient you are sincere, while fennel indicates strength. One of my favorites? Geraniums. They signify true friendship. I could go on and on…





The Masters of All

Another spring tradition is The Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Georgia. Considered the toughest ticket in sports to acquire, the “tradition unlike any other” is sure to be another classic this year. The green jacket winner will become an instant legend and the course’s signature azaleas and dogwoods are in full and amazing bloom. Those who have walked the course say it is truly magnificent. Smitty is fortunate to attend it again this year. It is his mecca and I am so thrilled he gets to be there.


Being the golf family that we are, I was surprised to learn something new about Augusta that I’d never heard before. I’ve always known about the dogwood trees and azalea bushes, but I didn’t know each hole at Augusta National Golf Club is named after a flower, tree, or shrub. How cool is that?! The holes were supposedly given the names to honor the heritage of the property, as the original land was a plant nursery when the club’s founders purchased it. Fittingly, each hole features the plant after which it was named along its length. Is it any wonder the course is so beautiful?




Here are the 18 holes and their flora namesakes:

1 – Tea Olive

2 – Pink Dogwood

3 – Flowering Peach

4 – Flowering Crab Apple

5 – Magnolia

6 – Juniper

7 – Pampas

8 – Yellow Jasmine

9 – Carolina Cherry

10 – Camellia

11 – White Dogwood

12 – Golden Bell

13 – Azalea

14 – Chinese Fir

15 – Firethorn

16 – Redbud

17 – Nandina

18 – Holly


Lady Bird


Yet another recent floral tie-in I enjoyed was taking my mom to the LBJ Presidential Library.   It’s all very historical and interesting, but beyond the civil rights and JFK exhibits is one dedicated to Mrs. Johnson.  An Austin legend, Lady Bird stuck to her roots (figuratively and literally!) with her choice of White House china.  No official seal or formality here, hers was bedecked with flowers. The former First Lady was a true flower fanatic. She’s who Texas can thank for our beloved bluebonnets along interstate highways and rural roads, and she’s also who we can thank for having those bluebonnets…and no billboards…alongside one of Austin’s busiest freeways, Loop 1/Mopac.   Thank you Lady Bird!



Flowers laugh

I bought some flowers for my front porch and back patio and will be potting them today. I also brought home a simple bouquet of long-stem flowers for my kitchen. No special occasion, just a little slice of heaven on my kitchen island.  I look at them and I smile.  Flowers have a way of doing that.





Tuesday Tip April 1, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:05 pm

The Real Dish on Loading the Dishwasher





Yes, I know. This doesn’t sound like the most interesting blog upon reading its title, but rest assured you may just learn something from it. I promise!



Loading the dishwasher is not something people want to read about or talk about, but those very people…like you…may be doing the most simplest of chores all wrong. Yes, you!





First off, keep in mind that many dishwashers and dishwasher detergents actually work better when they have work to do, so simply rinsing or gently scraping dishes before putting them in, rather than clearing all the food off of them, is advised by most experts. If the dishes are going to be sitting in the dishwasher for a day or two before being washed however, you might want to scrape off most of the food on them.



Once the dishes are rinsed and on deck to load, just how you put them in the dishwasher is what really matters if you don’t want chipped glasses and you do want clean dishes. To ensure the cleanest of dishes, follow these simple rules:


  • Let’s cut right to the chase: the utensils basket is where most people fail at loading a dishwasher. The key to getting clean forks, knives, and spoons is to stagger them in the slots that make up the utensils basket normally found on the bottom rack. Mix forks with spoons and knives and alternate their handles up and down. Always keep spoons separated so they don’t “nest” and spread all utensils out. There are several basket slots to use so don’t pile all silverware in only one or two! Some dishwashers have separate utensils racks above the top rack, leaving no room for error in this category
  • Plates go on the bottom rack, facing the center. It’s also a good idea to alternate big plates and little plates for maximum rinsing efficiency.
  • Pots, pans, and any dishwasher-safe cutting boards should be placed on the outer edges of the bottom rack.
  • Cups and glasses go on the top rack and be sure to place them between the tines, not on or over them.
  • Bowls should be placed at a diagonal along the tines on the center of the top rack, along with any dishwasher-safe plastic pieces.
  • All long serving spoons and utensils should always go on the top rack, not in the utensils basket, and preferably horizontally and with spoons facing down.
  • If you have hard water, you will probably want to use a rinse aid such as Jet-Dry or even household vinegar.
  • Never ever put iron, pewter, bronze or wooden spoons and bowls in the dishwasher.
  • Never put good knives in the dishwasher either; always hand-wash them.
  • It’s a great idea to occasionally put your sponges in the dishwasher as they can get pretty sketchy looking, and did you know a dishwasher’s top rack is the ideal place to wash all those baseball caps you and your family own?
  • Your dishwasher works best with hot water but may take some time to heat up, so always run the tap of the adjacent sink until the water is hot prior to starting the dishwasher. In addition, run the disposal before starting your dishwasher as the two often share the same pipe. This will ensure the drain is clear and ready to use for optimum cleaning.
  • Lastly, do those drippy glasses and cups drive you crazy when unloading a dishwasher?   Me too! I like to leave the dishwasher door cracked a bit when the cycle is done to allow air drying and I also try to remember to unload the bottom rack first, meaning any top rack drips hit the floor of the dishwasher rather than the plates!



It may not be your favorite chore but keep in mind how fortunate you are to have a dishwasher. It’s a luxury not shared by many in this world. I actually remember the day my family got one when I was growing up. Before that, dishes were a real chore with washing, drying, and putting away all done immediately after every meal. It’s also a chore you should have your kids be responsible for as early as elementary age. Start ‘em young and start ‘em right!


Tuesday’s Tip: Choosing a College That’s Right For YOU March 26, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:26 am

College bound

“The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating.”

John Schaar



If you are a high school senior (or the parent of one), you know it’s time to decide what university you are going to attend next year if college is your plan. Many have already done so, with dorms at countless schools already full. It’s not too late though and according to a bestselling book, there’s a college for every one and a high-ranked one may not be your best bet.


I was recently hired to proofread college entrance essays for a high schooler looking to attend a top-tier university. She’d already been accepted to both UT and Texas A&M but was holding out for an Ivy League. This struck me as odd, as UT and A&M are amazing schools and are also so many kids’ first choices! I’ve always said I feel sorry for UT and A&M alums as the odds of their kids being accepted to their alma maters are low considering both school’s “top 10 percent” acceptance policies.


I feel blessed. Kristen was accepted to my alma mater and her first choice “dream school,” the University of Oklahoma, and is thriving. She is a smart girl who works hard…an above average student from an above average public high school who is proving herself at a highly competitive major university. She is also having fun. Let me say that again, she is also having fun and enjoying college life.


This, come to find out, is just as important as making grades and making Dean’s Lists.




Malcolm Gladwell’s book “David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants” is a bestseller and in it Gladwell writes about, among many things, whether Harvard and the likes are really the right places for a child, even if they are accepted.


Crazy, right? Shouldn’t Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Princeton and other elite universities be the goal of every student and their parents? Apparently not.


Gladwell warns readers that college is expensive so why waste time and money at a school where you may not succeed to your fullest capacity? Yes, it’s impressive to be accepted to certain schools if you’re a high-achiever but just like clothes, even if it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it.


Bill Nye



Gladwell writes about a student at Brown University who loved science but ended up not pursuing it because her confidence sank to all-time lows in the school’s hyper-competitive atmosphere. You see, she was surrounded by students who quickly grasped concepts she was having trouble learning. This one-time whiz kid had always been a “top 1 percenter” but she suddenly found herself simply mediocre.  She was good enough to be accepted to Brown but not good enough to compete with her college colleagues. She met her match and felt out of her league. This was something she wasn’t prepared or equipped to handle. She ended up changing her major and pursuing another path…somewhat reluctantly.


Gladwell argues that had the young girl attended a less-demanding university, she may have stuck with her first love and gone on to do extraordinary things in the field.


In his book, Gladwell reports that the distribution of science degrees is identical at say a Harvard and a more mid-tier university. In both, the top third of a class got 55 percent of the science degrees while the bottom third received only 17 percent of them.   Research also shows that the top 1 percent of students from much-less-demanding schools produce more research papers in the first six years of their academic careers than most of the people who earned Ph.Ds. at the most demanding graduate schools – Harvard, MIT, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford and the University of Chicago. In other words, if you’re determined to major in a given field, doing so at any university may prove more beneficial than doing so at the Harvards and Yales of the world.


It is my belief that if a really smart and/or talented young kid attends a university that isn’t necessarily the strongest or the best, that student has a chance to really shine and set themselves apart. Not all students are highly competitive or need to be the smartest tools in the shed. There is much more to college…and life…then finishing first.


It’s equally important to feel comfortable where you go to college. I’m a big proponent of college visits and living in a dorm your first year on campus. The years you spend in college should be some of the most memorable of your life. You are going to work the rest of your life, so why take everything so seriously and be so miserable? You should be learning and growing not struggling and waning.


Grad cap

If all that doesn’t convince you, how about another reason why choosing the best college for you and not one based solely on reputation is important: the cost of going to college. It’s estimated that attending Harvard comes to just under $60,000 a year and other comparable schools average about the same. Do the math. That’s about a quarter of a million dollars for a degree that you might have also received for about half the price at another respected university.


Is it really worth it? I guess it depends on you and your wallet. Me? I prefer a happy child pursuing something she loves at a place where she feels loved.


Maybe Steve Jobs said it best when he said, “Your time is limited so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by the results of other people’s thinking and don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your inner voice. Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.”




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