Beyond Words

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

Heavenly Pearls April 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:55 pm


Today heaven officially gets a new angel. And she’ll be wearing pearls.


Former First Lady Barbara Bush will be buried in Houston today and then taken by motorcade for her final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station. Following her death on Tuesday at the age of 92, tributes endlessly streamed. Mrs. Bush, the only women to see both her husband and son sworn in as President of the United States, was special in many ways. Known for her quick wit, being tough as nails, and undying loyalty, she was a class act that held her own and held her family together. The family matriarch was also known for something else: a nearly constant strand of pearls.



She wore them for her husband’s inauguration (and can we just stop and pay tribute also to how stunning her black and cobalt blue dress by Arnold Scaasi was?) and she wore them to baseball games. They were her signature and her trademark.




All week I’ve seen social media posts suggesting the wearing of pearls in her honor and the above Houston billboard was perfection in outdoor media. Barbara Bush will forever be remembered for her strands of pearls, as will many other stars like Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana.




I loved Barbara Bush and I love pearls. I always have. I love their simplicity, uniformity, and level of old school tradition.  I wore them in my wedding, I wear them with pajamas I have that have pearls on them, and I made sure our daughter was given a strand for graduation. They are my “logo” for this blog and for my Instagram account.




The name Chanel conjures up visions of conservative and traditional clothing and accessories, but the woman behind the name, Coco Chanel, was actually a bit of a rebel. Yes, she used pearls in her fashion, but she went just a step further by layering multiple strands of pearls in a way that raised eyebrows but years later the look endures on edgy stars like Rihanna.




I agree. Pearls are so distinct in their simplicity. They’re not gaudy and not flashy. They are always in style and enhance any outfit, whether it be black tie or boyfriend jeans. They are a staple in most women’s jewelry boxes and the world of pearls is fascinating.


In the fine jewelry world, few names are as influential as Cartier and the namesake behind the legendary red box gems is interestingly tied to pearls. In 1917, Pierre Cartier  traded a double-strand pearl necklace for his landmark Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York. Today, there are many types of pearls and it’s worth knowing what’s what.


Most of us have heard the term “cultured pearl,” but what exactly does that mean and are they really the best? In some ways, yes, but in many ways a “natural” pearl is really the best of the best. Both cultured and natural pearls are formed when a foreign object is inserted into an oyster and over time, layers of nacre form what becomes a pearl. The big difference is that with natural pearls, nature causes it all while with cultured pearls, the object is injected by man.


Natural pearls are very, very hard to come by and are super expensive so I’d venture to say that with the exception of the Jackie O’s and Princess Di’s of the world, most pearls you and I see are either cultured or fake.



We can thank Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi for giving the world the cultured pearl and all those pageant crowns. There are also a few reputable manufactured and man-made pearl companies, including Spain’s Majorica. But don’t for a minute think all man-made pearls are cheap in quality or cheap in price. A strand of Majorica pearls can cost in the thousands but are well-made and should last a lifetime or more.


Like the “4 Cs” of diamonds, there are “5 Factors” used to evaluate a pearl: luster, surface, perfection, color, shape, and size with luster and surface being the two most important in the grading process. The surface shine and depth of a pearl’s glow is called its “luster” and the higher the luster, the better. In addition, a “smooth” surface is ideal, meaning the pearl is free of cracks and holes. Finally there’s a pearl’s shape. Perfectly round ones are rare and considered the cream of the crop. Many consider the exceptionally large cultured South Sea pearl the ideal pearl, with a Tiffany triple-strand version costing just under $2 million.


Freshwater pearls are also very popular and are less pricey because they are more abundant and easier to grow. The irregular shaped pearls are grown in mussels in lakes, ponds, or rivers and are very durable and a bit more casual.



When shopping for pearls, always ask for an authenticity receipt and if in doubt, do the tried and true tooth test. Slowly and gently rub the pearl against your teeth. If it has a gritty feel, it’s real. If it’s smooth and slippery, it’s probably fake. The best pearl strands are strung on silk, not nylon, and a knot should separate each pearl to keep them from rubbing against each other.


Once you’re the proud owner of a string of real pearls, taking care of them is vital. Keep them away from products like hairspray and perfume, don’t get them wet, and never use commercial jewelry cleaners like paste on them.


As we say goodbye to America’s Grandma today, wear a strand of pearls with pride and in honor of her and her legacy. Be they real or fake, her pearly whites are sure to be smiling.


My pearl Bucket List:





How to wear your pearls or any other necklace? Here are some tips on necklace lengths and necklines.

Common pearl necklace lengths:

A “collar” is 10-13” and rests against the throat.

A “choker” measures 14-16” and nestles just above the base of the neck.

“Princess length” refers to strands that are 17-19” long and come down to just above the collarbone.

A “matinee” length measure 20-24” and falls just above the breasts.

An “opera” length is 28-35” and is long enough to reach the sternum or breastbone.





A Blast from the Past I’m Not Sold On April 15, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:54 pm


I’ve tried it, given it a shot, but I’m just not on board and I’m not sure why. I’m talking about the new “Trading Spaces” TV show. It pains me to say this because in its heyday between 2000-2008, I really liked the show. It was fun, it was different, and it was entertaining. I find today’s version none of the above, but why? I love nesting, I love design and decor, and I love mindless TV. I have some possible answers.


First let’s look back. “Trading Spaces” debuted on TLC in 2000 and hired two designers to redo two rooms in two different homes. The twist was sets of neighbors actually traded spaces in that they decorated each other’s room per the designers “visions.” Homeowners had no say in the design and often times those visions were visons of horror. Hay, CDs, and fake flowers  were glued onto entire walls, furniture was epoxied onto the ceiling, and a host of other awfulness made sure the meager $1000 budget per room proved you get what you pay for.



Somehow it all worked though. Maybe it was because the show is considered by many to be the first home makeover series of its kind that has since spawned everything from “Property Brothers” to the beloved “Fixer Upper.” Another attraction was its cast, almost all of whom have returned for the new version. I always loved host Paige Davis and her hip-hugger jeans and hairstyle and we all loved carpenter Ty Pennington who became an even bigger household name as host of the critically-acclaimed ABC “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series that promoted volunteerism and helping others. Ty and Paige are both back (but I’m not a fan of Paige’s new hairstyle) as are Vern, Frank, Genevieve, Doug, Laurie, and Hildi who, in my opinion, tries her hardest and maybe too hard to create obnoxious and unlikable spaces.


Maybe that’s it: it’s all too silly and in a word: dumb. In a world where Chip and Joanna create livable and likable spaces maybe the time has passed on the idea of creating craziness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take shiplap any day over burlap walls. Maybe it’s just me but I’m thinking it’s more than just the passing of time and trends, as I also remember loving Lynette Jennings, Candice Olson, “While You Were Out,” “Design on a Dime,” and Matt and Shari from “Room By Room.” The latter was the first show to air on HGTV back in 1994 and is still the longest running decorating show in TV history, boasting a whopping 14 year run. For some reason I think I would still like a 2018 version of it, as well as anything Jennings or Olson might offer. “Trading Spaces?” Not so much.



But why Carla, why? Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up and my tastes have changed. I’ve been there done that, have moved and moved again, and am now happy in a one-story home that I feel is homey, simple, and just good. I don’t have any desire to paint walls to replicate a Gucci scarf (like one recent “Trading Spaces” episode did) and would much rather own a Gucci scarf to wear.  For me right now, the more simple, the better.


But, I am apparently in the minority as McMansions are everywhere and ratings for “Trading Spaces” have been good. The premiere was seen by nearly 3 million people, ranking it the number one show that night.  High Nielsen numbers are something the original regularly enjoyed, but what they had no idea would matter just as much down the road are social media numbers. The new show thrived there too and was the number one social primetime TV program on Facebook and its hashtag trended on Twitter and Instagram. Trading Spaces-1. Carla-0.


So, maybe I’ll give it another shot. I am DVRing it just in case there’s nothing else on and I’m in the mood for mindless viewing but then again I also record “Fixer Upper,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” and “Southern Charm.” Pretty sure I’ll opt for either Waco, New York, or Charleston but what about you? Are you a fan of the new “Trading Spaces?” Please share your thoughts!


Spring Fashion Trends April 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:52 pm

This has been an unseasonably cold winter even in Texas. Over the weekend we went from 88 one day to 48 the next. Up north, as they say, winter has been nothing short of horrendous and yet somehow calendars are still saying it’s spring. So, whether you’re digging out from yet another snow storm and are dreaming of warmer weather or if you’re smack dab in the middle of beautiful sunny spring days, how about some spring fashion?!


I’m pretty much a black, white, and camel girl with an occasional splash of color or pattern thrown in, but a few trends are standing out to me and most of them I can raise my hand to. Everyone from Prada to Target are on board with offerings from clothing to accessories. So let’s all say bye-bye to winter and say hello to these fun trends hitting runways and stores:


Cat Women

A cat person I am not. Kittens, maybe. Kitten heels though, yes! And guess what fashion fans, the kitten heel is back and in a big way. Can I get an Amen?


The low-heeled but sleek pump popularized by Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O is the current shoe of the moment. Princess Di liked the style (until she divorced Charles, at which time she could wear stilettos for days) is customarily a comfortable two-inch heel in solid colors but this season’s versions are coming in all sorts of florals, textures, patterns, in your basic pump as well as sling-back versions and even a few lace-ups. And don’t for a minute think this trend is reserved for the Talbots set as proven by H&M’s versions. Yippee!

Dior  H&M1 MKors  Prada

Above From left: Dior, H&M, Michael Kors, Prada




We’re not talking Daisy Duke or picnic tablecloth here, we’re talking a fun and classic way to perk up your wardrobe. Typically checked in white and a bold color, this year’s version is both fun and flirty. Designers are on board and are offering a variety of styles and silhouettes. I die for the Carolina Herrera gown below.

Valentino  Target1  Chicos1Carolina Herrera

Above From left: Valentino, Target, Chicos, Carolina Herrera

Michael Kors    Henri Bendel    Kate Spade

Above From left: Michael Kors, Henri Bendel, Kate Spade

Express  JCrew1  Christian Louboutin1  Keds

Above From left: Express, JCrew, Christian Louboutin, Keds



In Full Bloom

Always a spring favorite, florals are blooming everywhere. I’ve never been a big floral girl myself, but I do love the Lover shirt below I first spotted on Kyle on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (yes, I watch it!)  Standard florals are still in, but this season’s versions are also characterized by dramatic colors and big buds. The tropics are especially hot (excuse the pun) with palm leaves and hibiscus flowers favored by designers. If you go the floral route, just be sure to keep the rest of your outfit subtle and solid.

Valentino  Simply Darling  Lover  H&M  Ann Taylor

Above From left: Valentino, Simply Darling, Lover, H&M, Ann Taylor

Steve Madden  One Faith Boutique  Mia   Balenciaga1

Above From left: Steve Madden, One Faith Boutique, Mia, Balenciaga



Line Them Up

I love me a good stripe and this season’s offerings have me lined up for a few pieces. You’ll find everything from sporty stripes to sophisticated ones just be sure to take note of the horizontal stripes in all the wrong places rule. Thankfully with shoes, anything goes! How cute are the sporty but tailored Sheln crops below?

Caycee  Sheln  Ann Taylor  Alyson Haley

Above From left: Caycee, Sheln, Ann Taylor, Alyson Haley

Asos  Zara1  No. 21 2  Loeffler Randall1  Franco Sarto1

Above From left: Asos, Zara, No 21, Loeffler Randall, Franco Sarto



As with any trend, don’t go overboard on any of these “of the moment” offerings, and unless you have the money to do so, don’t spend a ton on them. Consider them simple additions to your current wardrobe and consider it done!




Feet First March 31, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:49 pm



Last Thursday my toe and fingernails were in dire need of some sprucing up so I headed to my favorite salon to get some TLC. It’s my favorite not because I love the technicians or because it’s a lovely place or even because they serve wine (they don’t). It’s my favorite because they rub your legs and feet for what seems like FOR-EVER. Like seriously; 10-15 minutes on each side. It’s pure heaven.


What is it about getting our feet rubbed that is so fabulous? Think about it, the rubbing of hands and arms doesn’t feel half as great as the rubbing of feet during a mani-pedi appointment. And massages? Yes, the back and shoulders being rubbed down is such a treat, but when the masseuse gets to your feet it’s pure luxury. Rub my feet I ask; just rub my feet.


Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to my feet right now because I actually hurt my left foot last week. I have no idea what I did to it, but the top felt bruised and I had to ice it and oil it up for two days. It’s all better now but it made me think about my feet.




Our feet are not only essential in many ways, but influential too. Did you know each of your feet has more than 7,000 nerve endings? SEVEN THOUSAND! Also called reflexes, they correspond to every organ system in your body. EVERY ORGAN. If you’ve ever had reflexology, you know this as pressing on them can stimulate the nervous system and open energy pathways that may be blocked, congested, or injured. Everything from digestion to headaches to PMS can be affected by pushing on the right areas of your feet.


It’s also interesting how putting specific essential oils on certain areas of your feet can prevent illness, alleviate altitude sickness and allergies, ease aching muscles and joints, and a whole lot more. When travelling recently, during the current flu season, and before heading into my class of three-year-olds, I put two Young Living oils on the bottoms of my feet to prevent catching anything and I’ve yet to get sick this year. Knock on wood.




As powerful as they are, feet aren’t very popular. Very few people like touching them and in all honesty, they aren’t the most attractive areas of our bodies. Thinking about this makes me respect pedicurists even more. Day in and day out they clip, scrape, and rub client’s feet. As I contemplated all of this during my pedicure last Thursday, it dawned on me that I have never seen the owner/manager of the salon give a pedicure. She sits at the first manicurist table, answers the phone, and is forever working on someone’s fingernails but never does she give pedicures. Why is this? Is it below her to do so? Does not doing them make her feel superior to her staff? In all honesty it kinda bothered me.


What about humility?


Lending a hand in a pinch?


I returned home still analyzing this (and over analyzing it cuz that’s what I do) and remembered I hadn’t read my Lenten daily reading and “Our Daily Bread” blog that morning. I sat down to read them and of course it was all about Jesus’ “basin of love.”  Chills.




On Holy Thursday, we read about how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples right before The Last Supper. Back in His day, even Jewish servants were spared this task because it was seen as beneath even them. Jesus being Jesus though, washed the feet of all of them including Judas, knowing full well he was going to later betray Him.


Ironically, right before Jesus washed their feet, the disciples had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. It was customary to wash feet often back then but since there was no servant present, the 12 didn’t know what to do and never considered washing each other’s feet. Then, Jesus stepped in and stepped up. He showed love, he showed respect, and he showed humility.


I’ll think of this the next time I get a pedicure and the next time a masseuse rubs my feet. They truly have basins and hands of love. And humility. I’m humbled by them all.





Time for a Time Out March 25, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:59 pm

Today's plans


Today I rest.


It’s been a busy two weeks. For the past 10 days we have hosted various out-of-town guests…all of who we love. It has been wonderful but as you know, it can also be exhausting. There’s been lots of driving, lots of going out, lots of planning, and lots of golf. I know, poor us, right? But, my body and my brain are saying “We need rest.” So today, I rest.


I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in exhaustion levels. Many of us either recently had Spring Break or are currently on it. But how many of you actually took a break on Spring Break and how many packed up the kids and stressfully travelled, did some spring cleaning, or worked right through the break?


Do nothing


In today’s world of overachieving and staying forever busy, unplugging from life can be hard, even when handed a break.  Our phones keep us plugged in 24-7. We have calendars on them, calendars at home, calendars for our calendars. It wears us down.


We ask each other, “How are you?” and the answer is often “Busy.” It’s like we think of being busy as a badge of honor and if we’re not busy, we’re lazy or unambitious. But forever busyness wears us out and can be destructive and even counterproductive. As my blogging friend Courtney at Be More with Less states, “Good work doesn’t come from someone who is overworked and the sleep deprived have trouble making good decisions.” Neither sound like anyone I want to be.


Today, I want to be that person who reads the Sunday paper in one sitting and maybe after just sit and read my book. I may even take a bath. I want to take time to renew and refresh so come Monday, I’m ready to take on the week.


Invest in rest


Today is the day God commands us to rest. He created the universe in six days and even He then rested. We need rest to have energy, passion, and joy. Pastor Phil Restor calls rest a physical activity that has emotional benefits but just as it’s sometimes challenging to put exercise into our daily lives, it can be equally challenging to allow ourselves to rest. There is constant pressure to be doing, but the more we do, the more drained we get.


Restor recently challenged his readers to “give up busyness” and warned that busyness doesn’t always translate into effectiveness and that there’s nothing wrong with checking out. You need look no further than Mary and Martha to demonstrate this. When Jesus visited the two sisters, Mary sat listening intently to our Lord while Martha was too busy preparing things for Him. She missed out and Jesus called her on it.


XMake a list


How many times have you missed out on what really matters because you were too busy doing things that really don’t matter and aren’t necessary?


I’m raising my hand.

I’m a “to do list” girl.

I’m forever making lists and feeling accomplished when I check something off.

These lists keep me organized and on task, but every now and then I need to put those lists away and instead lyst to do nothing.




We must remind ourselves that no matter how much we get done during any given day, there is always going to be unfinished tasks. We never actually get everything done so why stress ourselves out by always being on the go? Even when we reach the end of the ultimate to do list of life, there will be things we leave unfinished. Maybe instead of focusing on our lists, we should be focusing on our lives.


You Can Stop Now for rest blog


Start by stopping. Stop committing to so much and make time for priorities instead. Do what you like to do, not what others like to do. How many times has someone asked you to do something but you reply, “I can’t, I have too many things to do.” Overcommitment is a societal epidemic and it is unsustainable. We falsely believe everything on our lists is dependent on us. We feel important when we are busy but often have no time to do the things that feed our souls. We must start choosing wisely.


XChoose wisely


I recently posted that quote on Instagram and got a ton of likes. Wake up call people. Busy, tired people. We can choose who we associate with. Do the people you associate with wear you down or lift you up? Do your daily tasks energize you or exhaust you? Perhaps not totally, but we can choose who we allow into our lives and what we do.

Say no to busy


Today, just for one day, I’m saying no. No to “do you want to….” and “I need to….” I’m choosing to unwind and stop. Just stop. And breathe. Wanna join me?


The Real Dirt on Houseplants March 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:02 am

House in plant2


Even as parts of the country continue to dig out of snow and ice, I’ve been treated to unseasonable high 70s and low 80s. So, what’s a girl to do on a day off? Plant flowers! I’m not an overly proficient “green thumb” and I leave the beds and gardens to a professional, but I do enjoy some potted plants on the porch and patio. They bring color, life, and even a little joy to outdoor spaces and I love seeing them. But, did you know plants also bring life and much more inside your home?


Just being near a plant can actually result in many benefits, including increased health, a reduction in headaches and coughs, more energy, reduced allergy symptoms, faster recovery and healing following an illness, reduced stress and anxiety, increased creativity, and an overall feeling of happiness. Really? Really!


It’s all true, and we have NASA and other experts to thank for this great info. When NASA employees recently researched ways to clean the air in space stations, they learned that certain plants are great at doing so. In fact, they found that live plants can actually remove mold and toxins from the air and filter out common toxins and pollutants found in space stations and homes everywhere.


This is not only good news, it’s great news, as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the inside of our homes are often more polluted than the outsides. This is due to toxins released from household cleaners, synthetic fabrics, and plastic products as well as the toxins we produce when we cook. Cooking and cleaning it seems, can cook up some very unclean household pollutants!


What to do? Yes, you can choose environmentally friendly and organic cleaning products but you are still going to bring toxins into your house through your shoes and any items you bring into them. Your best bet say many experts is to have numerous houseplants scattered throughout your home. It’s actually recommended you use at least 15 air-cleaning plants every 600 square meters. Some of the most effective include:




Peace Lily. Often considered one of the most effective choices, this hearty and white-flowering lily removes chemicals like formaldehyde and trichloroethylene; benzene, a common household chemical and known carcinogen; and mold spores in the air. They also purify the air of trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents, and they remove alcohols and acetone in the air.


Philodendron . Noted by NASA among the best types of houseplants for removing especially higher concentrations formaldehyde.


Aloe Vera.  These succulents not only relieve burns, they release and produce oxygen, and have earned the nickname “oxygen bomb.”


Spider Plants. Said to absorb toxins, gasoline, formaldehyde, styrene, and carbon monoxide, Spider Plants are among NASA’s top 3 types of houseplants.  It is said one Spider Plant cleanses 200 square meters, “exhale” oxygen overnight, and remove carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities.


Estragon/Tarragon. Thought to remove 60 percent of air toxins and 50 percent of feces particles within six hours, the plant also releases oxygen during the night, making it a great bedroom plant.


Florist’s Mum. The chrysanthemum got its name from the Greek words for “gold” and “flower,” the “gold” coming from the mystical healing powers the flower.  Very effective at removing benzene, a cancer-causing carcinogen associated with chemicals, plastics, cigarettes and off-gassing; mums also remove trichloroethylene found in solvents and cleaners, formaldehyde, and ammonia. And Texans think they’re only for football Homecoming celebrations!


Ficus Tree/Weeping Fig. Said to be overall great air purifiers, these trees not only do good things but look good in a room.


Gerbera Daisies. These bright, multi-color, flowering plants are effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning, and are also good for filtering out the benzene found in many household inks. NASA says they also absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep. They make the perfect pick-me-up plants for bedrooms and laundry rooms.


Golden Pothos. NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldehyde. Also known for removing carbon monoxide and increasing general indoor air quality.


Boston Fern. Act as humidifiers and help restore moisture in the air, making them the perfect plant for those who suffer from dry skin and other cold weather problems. Plus they are so full and pretty!


Queen Fern. Known to clean out and eliminate formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene you may have hiding in your home.


Moth Orchid. Said to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde commonly off-gassed from paints, solvents, and other synthetic materials, orchids may be considered by many “hard to grow,” but they are oh-so-pretty. I like putting one in my shower!


Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm. According to NASA, these stately palms remove formaldehyde and also act as natural humidifiers.


Rubber Plant. This trusty houseplant cleans the air by emitting high oxygen content and it also purifies indoor air by removing chemicals like formaldehyde.


English Ivy. Known for removing the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, detergents, pesticides, and the off-gassing of other synthetic materials; English Ivy is also said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies.


Snake Plant.  Found by NASA to absorb toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde, the Snake Plant is not only gorgeously multi-green in color, it requires minimal watering.


Although these and other plants are great for purifying your home’s air quality and removing toxins from it, they may not be for everyone. Some may cause an allergic reaction to handlers, while several are considered potentially poisonous to kids and plants. Be sure to check any and all precautions before purchasing a plant for your home.  In addition, be honest about your commitment to a plant and choose wisely. Travel a lot or not good at tending to a plant? Go for those that are easy to grow and maintain.



Plants in living room



Not only do live plants add a level of cleanliness to your home, they add a feeling of the outdoors and nature too. Enhancing your living space with a botanical style is something Interior Stylist and best-selling author Selina Lake specializes in. Lake never shies away from placing a bold plant somewhere or implementing a leafy designed wallpaper or fabric in her unique way of mastering bringing the outdoors in. It’s a design element popular from coast-to-coast and in all architectural styles.


Mimicking nature is a fabulous way of giving a room an organic and truly alive feeling. When starting out, be sure to mix shapes, sizes, and kinds of plants in addition to different types of greenery. This will add both a surprise element as well as texture. Make a grouping of multiple plants for a fun centerpiece, find a spot for a large potted tree, and even consider cut branches and berries from the outdoors.


Fiddleleaf Figs are especially popular décor items as their violin-shaped leaves lend a visual interest to any space and they are also very low-maintenance.  Another easy-to-care-for plant is the Philodendron mentioned above. Their heart-shaped leaves and trailing stems are designer favorites and the fact that they can survive in even the lowest of light make them a “go to” for all habitats and climates.



Plants in office



But don’t limit your plant plans to your home. Researchers in the U.K. and the Netherlands found that employees who had live plants on their desks, or at least in view from them, had higher levels of concentration and performed tasks faster and more accurately than their plant-free counterparts. And you don’t need a large tree to do the trick. In fact, a small container of peppermint is a great choice as its invigorating scent is said to increase alertness. Plus, who doesn’t love peppermint?!


So the next time you’re looking for that unique décor item, skip the pillows and knick-knacks and head to the plant aisle. You’ll be glad…and maybe ever healthier…you did!




Price Check and Clean Up on Aisle 5 March 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:51 pm

I want to preface this blog by saying I do not like going to the grocery store, I’m not one of those who enjoys cooking or experimenting with different foods, and I’m the first to admit that if I ever win the lottery one of the first things I’ll treat myself to is a personal chef who will cook for me and shop for me. Okay, I said it, I own it, and now I’m writing about it. Grocery shopping that is. Say what?



Grocery store Barbie


On a girls getaway over the weekend the recent grand opening of a ginormous HMart Asian Grocery was the topic of conversation. Word on the street was that it’s good, it’s different, and it’s HUGE. The store encompasses nearly 70,000 square feet…that’s bigger than a football field…and took over the space formerly occupied by Sports Authority AND Bed, Bath & Beyond. When I hear these numbers, it’s beyond me how anyone isn’t overwhelmed just walking into the place. I’ve yet to do so.


But, a person’s grocery store is a special and personal place, as I came to find out when we moved just a little more than a year ago. Even I, a self-confirmed non-liker of grocery shopping, missed my former grocery store! I longed for it and am only now warming up to my new one. Think about it; there are few things in life as daunting as doing major shopping in a grocery store you’re unfamiliar with. It can take twice as long and be three times as frustrating.



Grocery store clipart


Grocery stores are big business. Annual sales hover around $7 billion and the industry employs nearly 5 million Americans. And as HMart demonstrates, big stores are not uncommon with just over 40,000 square feet being the median grocery store size. That’s a lot of crackers and cucumbers! In fact, the number of products found in an average grocer in 1975 was a mere 9,000. Today that number is nearly 40,000. I’m pretty sure half of those items are just toothpaste and cleaning supply choices. Good night. What ever happened to simple toothpaste and a do-it-all disinfecting cleaner?  But I digress.


Still, all is not well in the industry. Classic brick-and-mortar supermarkets are facing super competition from the likes of Amazon and in-home meal kit delivery services. So what are they doing to adapt to growing competition, unique millennial shopping habits, changing technology, and finicky consumer demands? They’re strategizing how to get you in their stores and changing up traditional product placement on shelves.



Grocery store basket


It’s all about keeping customers coming in and getting those customers to spend more. Consumer psychology research is in full force and has revealed many a trick of the trade. It all starts right as you enter the store: carts are big enough to fit enough food for a family of, I don’t know, say 20? Once inside, you’re often greeted by fun and festive seasonal items that put you in a good mood and are most likely adjacent to the produce department. After filling your cart with kale and zucchini spirals, the thought is you will feel healthy and good about yourself as you make your way to the more non-healthy aisles. This is where you’ll find cereal boxes and chips placed on lower shelves so they are eye-level, which attracts attention, and the placing of previously “middle aisle” products in the prime supermarket real estate of the perimeter. Traditionally the place to find produce, meats, and dairy products, some stores are now placing boxed items and even paper products on the outer rim aisles. The coveted front-of-store end caps and checkout aisle shelves are also being used in unique ways not previously seen.


Combo shopping is also in full force. Think all those “buy spaghetti sauce and get the spaghetti and parmesan cheese for free” offers as well as the clever mix of dinner kits sold alongside cake mixes and other dessert options. Even if it’s not a healthy choice, nothing says “buy me now” like “buy one get three free” or “great value deal.” Grocery stores are also partnering with food brands in “trade spending” promotions to encourage purchases. For example, Kellogg’s recently ran a program that placed its boxes of cereal in the produce section. Genius!


Companies like Coca-Cola work feverously to determine the best ways to position their products even in the less-popular center aisles and work with stores on shelving arrangements and prominence. Clustering products is also aimed at getting your attention and money. This type of displaying may involve placing products commonly used by senior citizens or new moms in one convenient area.



Grocery stores quote


Americans spent about $150 on food per week and one in 10 say they spend more than $300. Millennials are a huge target audience for the food and grocery industry, as their average weekly food spending is more than that of older adults and their tastes tend to be more pricey and particular.


These young adults, my daughter included, spend most of their hard-earned money at the likes of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other natural food stores and they shop often as they prefer to buy only what they need and buy fresh. Your basic chains like HEB, Kroger, and Randall’s have had to keep up and have upped their organic and ethnic options but how they sell is becoming as important as what they sell.


When you think about it, the younger generation is all about their phones and healthy eating, so why not marry the two? She said yes in that many chains are now accepting Apple Pay and other mobile payment options. One service that is sure to boom allows shoppers to scan items with a mobile app as they shop and then pay through a self-checkout and maybe even through the app itself. Sold!



Meal kit delivery


Online shopping, delivery services, and curb-side pickup are growing trends and everyone seems to be on board, with Amazon buying Whole Foods and Target buying Shipt. It’s no wonder, as online grocery spending is expected to reach 20 percent of the market and pass the $100 billion mark in the coming years. The $2.2 billion meal kits market, such as those offered by the likes of Plated and Blue Apron, is also expected to continue growing with some estimates projecting a 30 percent increase for the ready-to-make meals market that delivers to customers’ doorsteps.


Don’t count out your neighborhood grocers just yet though. They still have a firm grasp on the market and are primed to be not only your local food market, but special events locales as well. Dining areas and food courts, like those found in that spanking new HMart, are welcoming customers with events like coffee nights and wine tastings. Shoppers are encouraged to stop at various stations throughout the store to taste samples while listening to live music, resulting in their store being more inviting and a place where they can actually have fun.


Surprisingly I have yet to try any of the delivery, curbside, or meal kits options. Yes, I’m not a lover of grocery shopping but I’m also a bit OCD and like what I like. I find the idea of selecting items for someone else to purchase for me and then having to be home for the delivery as overwhelming and stressful and just doing it myself. For now I’ll just continue placing my reusable grocery bags onto a cart, checking things off my handwritten list (I still have not warmed up to any grocery list app), and hope I don’t forget anything.