I Am Woman, I'm a Wordsmith

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

New Kid on the Block October 15, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:05 pm



New kid on the block. No one wants to be THAT person. But, it’s what I am right now. I’m the new neighbor. The new girl. The new kid. And, I don’t like it.


Don’t get me wrong, we are all moved in our new home and I’m loving it. I also love the neighborhood and have surprised even myself in how quickly I feel at home. As many of you know, I initially dug in my heels at the beginning of this whole move idea, partially looking forward to it and partially asking “why?” But, we’re here and I have no regrets. As they say, a home is where you make it.


But as pleased as I am with our home and our move, I’m still the new kid on the block. This is something I’m struggling with. I’m not a “go out and meet everyone you can” kinda gal and I detest small talk and big groups. I’m more of a small, intimate group girl and am very happy with the friends I have. But, make new friends I must so rather than host a pity party or refuse to embrace it all, I’ve instead jumped in and gone to everything I possibly can. Adios comfort zone.




Book club? I’ve joined and been twice.

Ladies Spa Day? Oh yeah, you know I was at that one.

Golf? I’ve yet to actually go out on ladies play day, but I will.

Tennis? Racquets are currently being restrung and I’ve been invited to join a team.

Bible Study? Am bummed they meet on a day I work, but will join up when I can.


So yes, I’ve pushed myself to giddy up for almost everything I see posted. It’s been a bit stressful and kinda caught up with me last night for Ladies Game Night.


I’d RSVP’d weeks ago, but thanks to a busy week and horrible allergies keeping me up at night, I just wasn’t feeling it. Plus, the night before I had gone to Book Club so I was sporting a “social box checked” attitude. “But it’s two different groups Carla. Don’t you want to make friends?” the little voice in my head asked. Go away, go away! I just want to take a bath, read my book, take some allergy meds, and crawl in bed.




Then my phone rang. It was my daughter. My voice of reason.


I told her my dilemma and she didn’t hesitate to tell me that making new friends is “like a job and right now it’s your job!” Ouch. This from the girl who has solid and loyal long-time friends and has had no problem making new ones as she moved to both Scottsdale and Dallas after graduating. Guess I should listen to her on this one. Role reversal in full affect.



“You can only grow if you’re willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”

Brian Tracy


Feeling comfortable with the uncomfortable. That’s my new mantra so out I went to Ladies Game Night and boy did I have fun! It was a smaller group and there were a few who I’d already met. Yay! I also met several new women I really liked and when I mentioned to one that I’m thinking of getting back into tennis, she and another woman immediately welcomed me to join their team. Double yay!


It’s important to have friends in your life. Girl friends. As much as we love our husbands, dogs, coworkers and the like, girlfriends are vital in a woman’s life. Not all of them will be your BFFs, but many will leave a mark and have an impact. Never settle but always be open. Treasure the old but relish the new. It’s all a balance that may not be easy but worth the effort.


So lessons learned. Get your butt out there Carla. Yes it can be exhausting but it can also be rewarding. Here’s looking at you new kid.



Water, Water Everywhere! October 10, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:47 pm


“Can I get you something to drink?” the waiter asked. “Yes, I’d like a club soda with lime please,” I replied. “Would you care for sparkling water or seltzer?” he asked. “No thank you, just plain ole club soda.”


Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think ordering a simple drink would be so complicated. But if you’ve been to a restaurant lately, you may have also been subjected to a host of questions when you order water. Tap or bottled? Lemon instead of lime? Club soda or mineral water? Insanity!


Granted, there are differences between them all so I’m here to help. Sadly, it goes beyond “sin gas or con gas” as in Spain and “sparkling” elsewhere in Europe. Just take a walk down your grocery store water aisle and you’ll see what I’m talking about.


Flavor and carbonation seem to be what separates each from the others. So what makes them bubbly and which ones taste best? Taste is entirely personal, but carbonation is another thing. It occurs naturally in mineral water but all other effervescent waters get their fizz from carbon dioxide.


When talking “carbonated water,” we’re talking soda, mineral, and seltzer; all of which are called “sparkling water” on menus and store aisles. Basically they are all plain water with carbonation added in varying methods.




Soda water is carbonated water with subtle flavoring in the form of mineral ingredients and sodium.

Mineral water traditionally comes from natural springs.

Seltzer water is also plain, unflavored carbonated water but without added minerals.

Sparkling water is just plain water that is carbonated.

Then there’s tonic water, which isn’t actually water per se.


To make things even more confusing, both seltzer and club soda are called “soda water.” I recommend not using “club soda” and instead ordering seltzer or club soda specifically, because as you’ll learn below, they are not the same.


So, without further ado, here then is a rundown of some of the confusion conspirators.



Club Soda

Probably the all-time favorite. Mix it with vodka or with a refreshing lime wedge and you have yourself a great little beverage. In short, club soda is simply plain water with carbon dioxide added carbonation as well as mineral-like ingredients that enhance its flavor. Whether you choose Schweppes, Canada Dry, or any store brand, soda water is the “go to” drink for many.


Club soda has many clever uses as well, most popular of course being stain removal. Who hasn’t asked a waiter or bartender for some club soda after dripping something on your clothing? Club soda also works well in rinsing chlorine out of hair, minimizing heartburn and indigestion, cleaning stuck-on food from a warm cast iron skillet, making fluffier pancakes, and watering houseplants.



Mineral Water

Think Perrier or Pellegrino. These waters come from natural springs and are often bottled at the source. They also contain minerals like salt and sulfur and for the most part, their carbonation is natural. The bottles look pretty on the table but mineral waters are the most expensive of the carbonated waters so save them for “as is” sipping and choose other waters for mixed drinks.




What Is It About Topo Chico?

Topo Chico water from Mexico is probably the most popular mineral water where I live, and its bubbles are in fact legendary. Way back in 1440 an Aztec emperor’s daughter was gravely ill but her life was saved by the healing waters of Cerro del Topo Chico in Nuevo Leon. This lead to the bottling of the waters, which have been for sale since 1895. The company was also the first to bottle Coca-Cola in Mexico and claims the mineral composition in Topo Chico water promotes good bowel function; helps digestion and brain function; creates a sense of calm; serves as an antioxidant; and promotes improved heart, nervous system, and kidney function. Who knew?!



Seltzer Water

Basically good ole plain water that’s been artificially carbonated, seltzer water is actually named after the German town of Selters and the natural springs in it. Seltzer, unlike club soda, has no added minerals and is salt-free but can be interchangeably used with club soda in most cases. It is also the type of water used to make all those flavored bottled waters you see.



Tonic Water

As I mentioned above, tonic water is actually more of a soda than a water. It is considered a carbonated soft drink and contains quinine, a bitter crystalline compound present in cinchona bark and once used as an antimalarial drug. Quinine is what gives tonic water its distinct bitter taste and helps it pair nicely with gin. Unlike other waters, tonic water has calories: about 130 per 12 ounces.



So there you have it. The 4-1-1 on bottled waters. Drink up!







The People’s Saint October 9, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:39 pm



As many of you know, I’m a dog lover. I love their enthusiasm, their companionship, and their loyalty. Someone else who loved dogs, and all animals for that matter, was St. Francis of Assisi. October 4 was the Feast Day of St. Francis and it’s always a favorite of mine. I loved taking Boomer to be blessed during mass last week and I always cherish our “Blessing of the Animals” chapel at work when the kids bring stuffed animals to be blessed…all in honor of the saint who loved animals.


The “Peace Prayer of St. Francis” is also a favorite. Anytime it is sung during mass, I literally tear up. Something about it just touches my heart. I remember when it was played during Princess Diana’s funeral. I about died. How appropriate that the funeral of the “people’s princess” included the prayer of the “people’s saint.” So what is this fabulous prayer? Many of you know it, but for those who don’t, here it is:


Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

Where there is sadness, joy

O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console

To be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive

It is in forgiving that we are forgiven

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life


So beautiful, but what does it really say?




The Prayer

What I love is the use of the word “sow,” as in to plant, to scatter, to spread. In other words, God, help me plants seeds of faith where there is doubt and to scatter light where there is darkness.


The other thing I like is the call to be an “instrument” of God’s peace. Back when it was written, playing an instrument was considered a divine skill and instruments themselves were thought of as sacred. Think about it, to be an instrument of God’s peace. That was saying so much back then.


Some versions use the word “channel” instead of instrument, which I also love. By praying “make me a channel of your peace,” you are asking to be a passage or a route toward God’s peace. Beautiful.


In the end, we are all instruments in God’s plan, right? He is the great symphony and we are merely players that only together make a beautiful sound. He is our composer and we are the reeds through which His music is played.


The Man

St. Francis is indeed one of the world’s most popular and beloved saints. His brown robe is known to many and his love of nature is legendary. But who was this peace loving man?


Francis was born into wealth, his father being a successful merchant. Ironically his father wanted him to not be a man of God, but a man of business like himself so he changed his baptismal name of Giovanni, after John the Baptist, to Francis because he loved France and all its finery.


Born in Assisi, Italy, young Francis enjoyed an easy life and was loved by all. He was happy and charming and took care of the sick but he did poorly in school and was known for his partying ways. He later enlisted to fight in the battle between Assisi and Perugia but was captured and imprisoned. While in prison, he received visions from God telling him to spread the word of Christianity and live in poverty.


Upon release from captivity, Francis abandoned his life of luxury and began serving Jesus. He begged for food and shelter and told people to return to God. Seeing how close he was to God, many became his followers and later evolved into today’s Franciscan order of priests and brothers.


The power of St. Francis only increased when Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio took his name and became Pope Francis. A simple man himself, the pope explained his choice of a somewhat unorthodox name was inspired when his friend Cardinal Claudio Hummes hugged and kissed him and told him “don’t forget the poor” when he went over the 77 votes needed to become pope.


“I took the words of my great friend and chose to be called after St. Francis, the man of poverty, the man of peace, the man who loves and protects creation,” he told journalists upon his inauguration. In doing so, the “people’s pope” took the name of the “people’s saint.”


St. Francis is considered the Patron Saint of animals, merchants, and ecology.


The Legends

Francis is said to have had the power of miracles and was the first person to receive the stigmata of Christ – marks resembling the wounds Jesus suffered when He was crucified. They would remain visible for the rest of his life.


Francis’ ministry of telling people how much God loved them also included his love for all animals. His devotion to God’s creatures resulted in them obeying his commands, which is why depictions of St. Francis almost always include animals surrounding him. It’s also why churches worldwide conduct “Blessing of the Animals” ceremonies in October.



Yet another legend about St. Francis is that we have him to thank for today’s nativity scenes. Francis is credited with creating the very first Christmas Eve nativity scene back in 1223. He had visited Christ’s birthplace in the Holy Land and was so inspired by its simplicity that he recreated it during a mass. He literally set up an empty manger inside a cave, complete with animals, in hopes of promoting more poverty-centered spirituality rather than the rampant greed and materialism that prevailed at the time. Remember, Francis at this time was devoted to poverty and seeing for himself that the King of Kings chose to be born in a humble stable amongst animals only reinforced him and his religious order to imitate these virtues.


St. Francis died on October 3, 1226 and was canonized a saint less than two years later on July 16, 1228.


The Crosses

St. Francis is associated with two crosses: the San Damiano and the Tau cross. One of my most treasured objects is the Tau cross made out of Italian olive wood that I bought at The Vatican. I love its simplicity and how you can easily hold it in your hand.



The Tau cross was very dear to St. Francis and today is an essential element of the Franciscan way of life. He reportedly sealed the letters he sent with it and began all of his actions with it.


The last letter of the Hebrew alphabet, Tau was also used symbolically in the Old Testament. It was later adopted by early Christians who saw in it the prophecy of the Last Day much like the Greek letter Omega, as well as its cross-like form.




I’ve also been given a San Damiano cross as a gift from Assisi. The cross is believed to be the one St. Francis used when he was praying. The original one hangs in Assisi’s Santa Chiarra Church in Italy. It is considered an icon because it contains images of people who took part in its meaning.


Back to the Peace Prayer, which wasn’t actually written by Francis. It was first sighted on a holy card bearing a picture of St. Francis during World War I. The prayer bore no name but because of the holy card, became known as the Peace Prayer of St. Francis, and totally embodies his spirit of simplicity and charity.


So after learning all of this, I revisited the prayer and have included some ways in which to not just recite it, but live it.


Peace Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace

We are the strings on which the music of God is played and the reeds through which the breath of God is blown. Show me how to sing your praises.


Where there is hatred, let me sow love

When faced with hate, show me how to plant love.


Where there is injury, pardon

Help me seek healing and reconciliation, not approval or acceptance, so the flower of forgiveness can bloom in my soul and in the hearts of others.


Where there is doubt, faith

Show me how to minister to another’s doubt and focus on the needs of their soul.


Where there is despair, hope

Help me be simply present where there is despair. Sometimes all someone needs is a listening ear and a kind word.


Where there is darkness, light

Show me how to give light in darkness by not just entering another’s darkness, but by holding the door open so light can shine in.  


Where there is sadness, joy

Help me bring not just comfort and solace to others but to also remember that a cheerful heart is good medicine.


O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console

Let me have the courage to give what I can to help another know he is not alone.


To be understood as to understand

Teach me how to truly understand others and respect their dignity.


To be loved as to love

Let me not yearn for others to love me but for me to love others unconditionally and for no receipt.


For it is in giving that we receive

Remind me that my spirit is nourished by giving.


It is in forgiving that we are forgiven

Show me that each day is an opportunity to forgive myself and others and to live in the freedom of being less than perfect.


And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

Allow my self-interests and negative attitudes to die so that I don’t live separate from you and remind me that not only am I promised eternal life, but that all of my words and actions have eternal life on earth.














Friday Night Sights September 23, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:10 pm



Fall is officially here. Yesterday was the first day of fall and I couldn’t be happier…unless of course we were enjoying fall-like weather rather than the current 90 degree temps. Cringe worthy.




I love fall; it’s probably my favorite season. I love the colors, I love the weather, and I love the clothing. In my world, fall also means football and no place on Earth does football like Texas high schools. It was the subject of a bestselling book and movie but it’s more than just a game. It’s a religion.


Entire towns and neighborhoods show up for kick-off. Friday Night Lights bring out the best of sights and sounds. Coaches and quarterbacks may immediately come to mind, but Friday Night Lights also means bands and drill teams. In small town Texas and big city suburbs, they all come together and make magic.





The Game

Texas high school football is big time in no small way. Players enter the field through giant posters, inflatable mascots, and smoke machines. College recruiters love Texas high school players and many NFL stars got their starts in the Lone Star State. Friday night football games are rituals and almost required. Fans of all ages head out to the stadiums, many of which are bigger than some college fields.





The battle of stadiums became heated and unofficially official when Allen ISD built its 18,000-seat palace in 2012. Today it is the fifth largest in Texas but is still notable as the largest that serves as home field for only one high school. Beneath the behemoth are areas for wrestling, a golf simulator practice area, and a collegiate comparable weight room. Two years after opening however, it was closed due to foundation cracking but was reopened in 2015.






Residents of McKinney live a mere five miles from Allen and recently approved a bond package that allocates $70 million for a new high school stadium, the renderings of which are shown here. That’s 70 MILLION dollars and all those millions were approved by 62 percent of voters. The 12,000 seat facility will boast artificial turf and a 55-foot high-def screen that will be bigger than those in some NFL stadiums.


Toyota Stadium in Frisco is officially the biggest host of Texas high school football with a capacity of more than 20,000. But, it is a multi-purpose facility owned by the City of Frisco, Hunt Group, Frisco ISD, and Collin County. Events range from high football to home matches for FC Dallas to Jimmy Buffett concerts.


So many boys play high school football in Texas that there are six main divisions, with most of them having two divisions making really a total of 12. In other words, there are just too many Texas high school football teams for there to be one state champion per division. Yowzah.


Half-time is just as important in Texas. Marching bands and drill teams are considered royalty at many schools and being chosen to be in them is very competitive.


The Drill

Just like the game itself, no one does drill teams like Texas. Maybe that’s because they originated in Texas.



The first group of its kind in the world and still considered the best by most is none other than the Kilgore Rangerettes of tiny Kilgore College in East Texas. It was there that in 1939 Dean B.E. Masters asked Gussie Nell Davis to devise a half-time distraction that would keep fans in the stands. Davis created a Broadway-caliber show made up of coeds wearing red-white-and-blue western-style outfits. The dance team was an instant success and Davis went on to direct the team for 39 years. Today dance teams from around the world visit Kilgore for instruction and there is even a museum dedicated to the Rangerettes.







The precision and high-kicks that Davis introduced lives on today with high school drill teams sporting short, flared skirts; brimmed hats; and white cowboy boots. It’s estimated more than 15,000 Texas girls are drill team members and have high-kicked their way into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades and presidential inaugurations, onto national magazine covers and international tours, and have been featured in television and film.






The Band

Fans also stay in the stands to watch Texas high school band performances. They are larger than life and rival many a college band. In fact, those college bands we all love are made up of former Texas high school “band geeks” and they bring the fun to football. To me, no football game is complete without a band stirring things up and bringing down the house.


At Texas high schools, a band winning a state championship is as lauded as any team’s crown. Texans love their marching bands and naturally Texas has what many consider the biggest high school band in the land.



Allen High School’s “Allen Eagle Escadrille” has more than 800 members and takes up the entire football field, end zone to end zone, when it performs. In Allen’s stadium, 1,000 seats are reserved just for the Escadrille. The Dallas area school has marched at half-time for the Dallas Cowboys, has performed overseas, and has been invited to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade multiple times. They are truly a sight to see but so are most Texas high school bands.






Mums the Word

Then there are the mums. The massive and mysterious mums. They are crazy and confusing.


In truth, it doesn’t get any more Texas than a Homecoming mum. Considered a rite of passage by high school girls they are also considered ridiculous by many. They are huge and they are expensive. If you don’t believe me, Google it or visit Pinterest and get ready to feel both shock and bewilderment.



As the photos will show, these mums don’t have a real flower on them. Instead, they are made up of fake flowers (traditionally chrysanthemums or “mums”), ribbons, letters, feathered boas, stuffed animals, battery-powered lights, and trinkets that represent the wearer’s interests and activities. Did I mention they are huge? Bigger than a dinner plate and often floor-length, they are so heavy (at least 20 pounds!) that mere pins are not adequate so girls wear them around their neck. Works of art maybe and costly ones too.


Back in the 1950s, high school boys began buying chrysanthemum corsages for their homecoming dates, tying in the post-war prosperity that was sweeping the nation as well as the traditional fall flower. Decorated with simple ribbons, they were relatively small and cost around $3. Add two zeroes to the end of that and you have the average cost of a mum today.


Money making machines, homecoming mums are big business for entrepreneurial and creative professional mum makers who are in demand every August and September and make them for anyone willing to pay for them. Or, you can visit any Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc. and either make your own or purchase a pre-made one.



Boys wear them too, albeit much smaller ones. They often match the girl’s ginormous one and are commonly attached around the arm with a garter. Both boys and girls wear them to school the day of the homecoming game and after, girls traditionally hang them in their rooms as badges of honor. When we recently moved I went back and forth on what to do with Kristen’s. I finally came to the conclusion that she’d be fine with me “donating” them.



Personally I think the “my mum is better than your mum” competition is a bit unhealthy and ridiculous but I also I appreciate the old-school custom and charm about them. In today’s world of “everything new is better” mentality, it is nice to see something timeworn and deep-rooting passed on to generation after generation.




No I in Team

So, as much as obnoxiously-priced stadiums might merit scorn and you might detest a drill team’s short skirts or those silly homecoming mums, there’s something that holds them all together: teamwork.


To make a team succeed, there is no room for selfishness or personal credit. Teams share in their successes, big ones and little ones, and should be confident that all members have each other’s best interests at heart. They rely on each other and depend on each other’s strengths. Doubt and suspicion have no place on a team. Trust in each other and in the leaders of that team are fundamentals to true teamwork. Learning this while either playing, marching, or dancing can later be applied in real life situations so play on footballers, march on band members, and keep on kicking drill teamers! As for the mums, well, sometimes they involve a little teamwork too.



Is Your Wardrobe Making You Look Old? September 19, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:56 pm



It’s that time of year; time to start thinking about pulling out the fall clothes and saying goodbye to summer attire. I know, I know, many of us are still in the throes of 90 degree weather, but the first day of fall is this Thursday so why not at least plan your fall attire?






As with all fashion, picking what’s right for your budget, right for your body, right for the season, and all while being age appropriate, can sometimes be challenging. I’ve written it before and I’m writing it again: just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it.


We never want to dress the same way we did 20 years ago or like a twenty-year-old if we’re “mature” women, but we also don’t want to look older than we really are. It’s true that just one single fashion boo-boo can make age you as much as 10 years and we definitely don’t want that, right ladies? Here’s the deal: when you dress too “young” it only makes you look old. When an older woman (let’s say 40 and over) wears styles geared toward a younger population, even if they fit they will promote “she looks good for her age” thoughts. “For her age” being the key. Why would you ever want your clothing to emphasize your age? Insanity! Wouldn’t you rather the comments be “she looks great!?”


I recently read something by author Sabrina Rouge about fashion mistakes that make you look older and found them interesting. Think about it. JLo, Kris Jenner, and Madonna are all women old enough to know better yet are often photographed in clothing that is much too young for them. Yes, they sometimes look great for their age, but they can also look like they are just trying too hard.


In short, the mistakes are:

Dressing too trendy

Wearing same-fit outfits

Dressing in all black

Wearing something based on sentimentality

Choosing too long (or too short) of skirts

Using too much heavy eyeliner

Wearing anything jersey

Not defining your waist

Covering up your neck

Wearing bad undergarments



Trends aren’t always your friends

We all want to look hip and fashionable, but the mistake many make is wearing those trendy items long after they’re in style or wearing too many of them at one time. Wearing multiple or tired trends won’t make you look modern; they’ll make you look out of touch. Think about it: the current New York Fashion Week is showing spring 2017 fashion. To true fashionistas, spring 2016 trends will be “so 2016” come 2017. We can’t all have Gigi’s or JLo’s closets, full of entirely new wardrobes each season, but we can all shop smart. The best advice is to buy maybe one or two inexpensive trends each season and stick to the classics for the rest of your apparel. My other favorite rule: if you wore the trend the first time it was popular, you are too old to wear it when it comes around again years later. Yes I rocked ‘70s fringe in the 1970s, but I would look like a fool wearing it today.


The photo of Jane Fonda at the top of this blog is a perfect example of a mature woman overdoing a trendy look. I personally think she looks ridic. The two photos below show much more stylish ways to rock boyfriend jeans at any age. Wear them, but keep everything else classic and classy.

atlantic-pacific-site1 annina-mislin-instagram-feed-street-style1

Atlantic-Pacific                     Annina Mislin



Mix it up

Another mistake women make is wearing same-fit pairings. Your outfit goal is to create balance in what you’re wearing so if your bottoms are tight, wear a loose top. If your bottoms are loose, wearing a tighter top is ok.


In the stunning outfit here from the Rachel Zoe Report, the pleated skirt is flowy so the fitted top looks fabulous. Had the skirt been tight, a similar top would cheapen the look while a flowy top with this skirt would add unnecessary bulk to even the smallest of frames.



Black clothes matter

My closet staples are black, white, and camel. I throw in colors and a rare print every now and then, but I’m pretty plain Jane. We can all agree that black is indeed slimming, but wearing too much of it is also aging. This, I did not know. As Runge noted, skin gets lighter as we age so wearing a lot of black, especially near the face, washes us out. If you’re like me and you love a cool charcoal or basic black, be sure to include a colorful accessory and bright lip.






Not your 30’s wardrobe

Do you hold onto pieces that either don’t flatter your figure or scream 1990s? Did you love wearing a something when you were 15 years younger and it still fits but is maybe a bit too young for you now but you wear it anyway? If you answer “yes” to either of those questions, think twice.  Toss what you wore in your 30’s and don’t wear anything for sentimental reasons.



The short and long of it

It’s no secret that as we get older, our hemlines generally get longer, which for the most part, is a good thing. The bad thing is that sometimes we wear skirts that are too long and too matronly. Yes, mature ladies shouldn’t wear miniskirts anymore, but plain skirts that come to your ankles and worn with the wrong shoes will make you look frumpy. Unless you purchase a new stylish maxi dress, stick to skirts that hit right above or at the knee. Don’t go too long but don’t go too short either.

miniskirt maxi-skirt



Eye spy too much liner

As we age we become concerned about wrinkles, particularly those around our eyes. So, what do we often do? Apply make-up…lots of make-up. Eye shadow, eye liner, false lashes, brow pencil, just to name a few products. But, applying heavy liner or dark eye shadow will not make your eyes “pop,” they will age you and accentuate the very wrinkles you are hoping to camouflage. Think more subtle shadows, little or no liner, and bring out your cheeks with contouring.


Consider the photos below of Britney Spears and Giuliana Rancic. The shots of them wearing tons-o-black makeup really do make them look much older…and harsher.

brittany brit giulianarancicupdosbobbypinnedupdol9lmbok_1jyl giuliana1




Jersey girls

I’m guilty as charged in this one big time and the athleisure trend isn’t making it easier to steer away from it. Jersey fabric may indeed be comfy but if not fitted properly, it clings to every inch of your body. Tight leggings, yoga pants, and any other “comfy” bottoms need not be too tight and if they are, be sure to wear a top that hides all your bulges and lumps and choose styles that are draped or ruched. Another option is to “dress them up” as in this photo.






What a waist

Most of us love wearing clothing that is loose and comfortable. But be careful. Oversized clothing may hide your flaws, but it can also turn you into a shapeless bob. I never, ever tuck anything in, but I’m warming to the idea that belting an outfit appropriately actually creates an hourglass illusion. I love Susan of “Fifty Not Frumpy’s” advice of belting loosely and below your natural waist as seen in her photo here.





Stick your neck out

As with eyes, we become more and more concerned about wrinkles and rolls on our necks and we tend to over-compensate and cover those necks up with stuffy turtlenecks. But unless you’re knee-deep in snow or frigid weather, a tailored collared shirt will be much more flattering as will a stylish scarf.


Underneath it all

All of the above has focused on what you wear on the outside, but what you wear under all of it matters just as much. The perfect outfit can be ruined by the wrong undergarments. Words of wisdom: get fitted by a bra professional, choose seamless hipster undies, and consider the below.


So there you have it. It is possible to cover up body imperfections, look fashionable doing it, and look your age…not older but not too young. It’s all just a matter of knowing what styles to choose and what mistakes to avoid.


Home Sweet Home September 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:04 am

Front door mat


I’ve spent the past week unpacking, repurposing, and putting our new home together. I’ve also headed back to work right smack in the middle of doing so. Today, right now, is the first time in more than a week that I’ve sat down at my computer to take a moment. To think. To read. To write. To breathe.


Our home is coming along. The rooms are livable and taking shape. I was blessed with a friend who helped me put my kitchen together. She loves doing so and I so enjoyed her laughter as well as her style and wisdom. As many of you know, I also adore Erin Gates and her “Elements of Style” blog and book. I’m catching up on her writings and loved a recent one titled “A House Full of Personality.” In it, Erin writes:


“I love that this space looks lived in, loved, and decorated over time. Nothing too perfect or precious, just a gorgeous celebration of this family’s particular brand of cool. I’m so over perfection. In a world ripe with Pinterest-worthy everything and Instagram-filtered reality, I crave more realness from people.”


Bingo. She nailed it. That’s my goal for our new home. I want it to be our home, not a decorator’s home, not a Pinterest or Instagram home, not even a popular brand or trend home. A pretty home, but simply the Smith home.


Where I live will never be picture perfect. I will always have that one side table or piece of art that just doesn’t go or is perhaps dated, but if it brings me joy, it stays. Yes, I use that deciding factor and I use it often. Trust me, it works!


So, with Erin’s words in my head I tackled the move in. Truth be told, moving is sooooo overwhelming and I’m already soooo over it. But, unpack I must so I’ll do it with a grateful heart and a curious mind.



“To me, style is about years of collecting, figuring out what you like, and weaving it all together. The important thing is owning your look and not minding what others think. It can be tricky to find style confidence, but once you find it, you’re free.”

Anna Last



First things first. I love the openness of our house and the fact that, with so many windows, I rarely have to turn lights on during the day. But, with so much openness and tall ceilings and doors, I’ve come to discover that some of my smaller scale furniture is getting lost in the bigger space. Our previous home had smaller rooms that lent themselves to a cozier feel. This new house screams “give me space!”


Not about how big a house is

Our new house also has fewer rooms. I’ve gone from three living areas to one and from two eating areas to one. Fewer rooms mean less space in which to put all the things I love and need. Even considering how much we got rid of before we moved, we find ourselves still eliminating many items. I feel it’s shameful we paid to have the stuff moved, but there really was no way of knowing exactly what would fit and what would work. Note to self: this is what happens when you build a home, which I’d never done. And probably will never do again.  Placing pieces in the right spots is perhaps my biggest challenge right now but I’m working it.


Fortunately I’m devotee of the decorating tip of choosing items that can work in more than just one room and sticking to one palette and style. This way, you can easily swap items from one room to another. Maybe that small server no longer has a home (hello house with no formal dining room!) but works great as an end table or nightstand. Always consider scale and function, but before going out and buying something new, shop your house first. You’ll be amazed at what you might find! Shop season-less too. Yes, it’s fine to add seasonal décor here and there, but keep your basics, well, basic.



“Be fearless and love how you live. You’re unique and your home should reflect that.”

Kim Myles


A good home

I am by no means a decorator or designer by trade and rely on my personal preferences and expert advice from friends and shelter publications. I like many design forms and qualities, but recreating those looks in my home will just never happen and most of what you do see in my house will be of my choosing. I know what I like and what works for our lifestyle. I don’t want a head-to-toe professionally designed home and I don’t want my home to feel like a furniture showroom or the home of someone other than me. I prefer a lot of personal flair and a bit of imperfection. Formal and playful both appeal to me, but too much formality can be stuffy and dated and too much playfulness can feel silly and unstructured. My goal is the perfect combination of timeless tradition and casual coziness.


“I want my house to be like a diary. Your home should reflect your travels and history.”

Cat Deeley


A home, in my opinion, should fit the people who live in it. Consider your lifestyle, your family’s heritage, and the area where you live. By all means, consider the style of home. Nothing burns me more than a classic colonial on the outside only to walk in and discover mid-century modern décor. No, no, no and no. I’ve had to deal with that a bit in our new home. I love crown molding and lots of trim work, but our house does not lend itself to that look. I’m also having a heck of time saying “yay” or “nay” to exterior shutters. I’m obsessed with shutters, but thankfully I’m working with an honest and professional shutter maker who is making me think twice about them.


In addition to history, a home also needs order. Maybe not to the extent that I require in my OCD world, but order is a must. All your design hard work will go unnoticed in a room full of mess. Make it pretty too. Fluff the pillows, clear the clutter, and make the beds.


“Be true to what you love. Buy things you like and don’t worry about whether or not they match. Matching is overrated. If they are all things you love, they will just naturally come together.”

Suzanne Kasler


Matching, it seems, is no bueno. Your goal is interest and texture, not sameness. As Nick Olsen says, “There can’t be too much matching going on. There has to be something a little off in a room or it will look over-decorated.”


I’m big on accessories, especially art, but I’m having to edit what I display in a major way and I haven’t even started. Accessorizing will be the last thing I do. I like to live in a home for a bit before putting any art up or any decorations out.


Have nothing in your house...Think of accessories as jewelry for your home and go bigger than you think. Done right, they can take your decor palette to the next level without breaking the bank. One large object has a lot more impact than several little ones. (I have trouble with this one!) At the same time, don’t make the mistake of not layering enough. You want to incorporate enough accoutrements to make a room look finished and the best way to do so is to display them in such a way that guests get a sense of who lives there and what the homeowners find interesting. Present items so that no two shelves, tables, or countertops are the same. Rows are dull and it’s better to display personal items you’ve acquired through the years than items you just recently purchased at the nearest home store. I would say predictability is as overrated as matching.


Stick to what Designer Stan Topol describes as “the unassuming over the conspicuous and the tried-and-true over the latest flash in the pan. It’s far better to have one exquisite item in a room than a half dozen of lesser quality.”


Another tried and true rule of thumb is to group similar objects. Old paintings scattered around the house will look dated, but a grouping of them could be interesting. Same with anything you collect. Keep it all tasteful though and think odd numbers. Display three similar articles, not two or four.


house-without-booksTwo other things I’m obsessed with are lighting and books.


In our new home I chose two lantern-style fixtures for over our kitchen island rather than the customary and suggested three small pendant lights. The lanterns weren’t even intended for this use but I LOVE them and am so happy with them! What I’m not a big fan of is overhead lighting. Give me lamps and give me lots of them.


I also like lots of books. In my dream home I’d have a mahogany library with rolling ladders and I encourage you to have books and have them everywhere. Coffee table books, cookbooks, shelves of books. I don’t care that most people read books on their tablets now and print recipes off the internet, books are actually one of my favorite accessories. Nothing says a life well lived like real books.


Other tips include hanging mirrors everywhere and incorporating real plants and fresh flowers in several rooms. I particularly love a real plant in the master bedroom, which can give it a sort of spa appeal and nothing brings cheer to a room more than a vase of fresh flowers. Treat yourself to them often!


Photos are also inviting, but don’t go overboard. Frame them elegantly, display them tastefully, and then let your home showcase your family’s journey through artful photos that tell your story.


Lastly, spend money on things you will have for years like sofas and beds. When it comes to things like lamps and coffee tables, which you may change out more frequently, less expensive is perfectly fine.


Perhaps the most important thing every home needs is personality. Yours! I’m a fan of Edie Wadsworth who encourages the finding of peace, purpose, and passion. She also encourages finding them your way and says:


“I don’t follow decorating rules. If I love something, then I’ll find a place for it in my house. Life is too short to follow the rules.”


Sounds like good advice. I’ll try my hardest to follow certain décor standards all the while following my heart at the same time.







A Cross to Bear August 21, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:08 pm



I learned something today in mass about the cross that, in all my years of being Catholic, had never heard before. A special presentation on stewardship mentioned the idea that the vertical portion of a cross symbolizes our connection to God in heaven while the horizontal part symbolizes our relationship with others. In other words, we focus on God above while reaching out to others.


Love it. Blogging it.


Ironically I also learned something else about the cross this past week that I’d never heard. Many believe the popular and traditional style of a “six panel door” gets its distinct look courtesy of a cross and an open bible. Originating back in the 1700s, the door’s top four panels represent a cross while the bottom two represent an open bible. Reading this, I knew I had to look further into it.


Sure enough, I ran across an article on the “Historic House Blog” that explained this legend.


6 panel door with cross

Apparently during the Georgian period in America, a new door was designed using a frame and panels. The door, today called a “six panel door,” is still the most popular style of door in the country. These doors generally consist of two vertical stiles running the length of the door and are connected by horizontal rails. The frame is then filled with “floating” panels that fit into the grooves of the stiles and rails. Dealing with the menacing issue of wood swelling and leaking, 1700 engineers designed this door to minimize swelling and shrinking and increase security and durability. In a word, it was brilliant.


The entry and exit masterpiece is also sometimes called a “Cross and Bible door” or a “Christian Door” because if you look at one you can see how the framing of the door’s upper portion can outline a cross while the lower two panels could be envisioned as an open bible. Not everyone buys into this folklore, but I love six panel doors, I love Georgian and Federal architecture, and I love the cross and the bible so I’m a believer!


The cross is probably the most powerful symbol in all of Christianity. We see them in our churches, on top of our churches, on the backs of our cars, and in the jewelry and clothing we wear. An unadorned cross is common in all Christian faiths, but the crucifix is quintessentially Catholic.



A crucifix is not meant to be pretty. They are painful to look at but they are meant to remind us of the suffering Jesus did for us. I personally love the “Risen Christ” cross my parish has above the altar but it is definitely not the norm. In addition, all Catholic parishes worldwide depict the Stations of the Cross inside and often outside of the church.  But why; why a cross?


First of all the cross symbolizes suffering; the suffering Jesus endured for us. By “taking up the cross,” we surrender our wants and needs to God, accept our burdens with faith, and we show reverence for what our Lord did on our behalf. He died for us. We can certainly humbly withstand our sufferings in His name.


In the same vein, the cross symbolizes death; a death we are encouraged not to gloss over or hide. It is our hope that when we die, we will be raised by the cross and live eternally in heaven.


Of course, the cross is also about hope and life. On Easter Sunday we celebrate Jesus rising from the dead after dying on the cross, giving us hope and giving us strength.


Practicing Christians should identify with the cross. It is our calling to live as Christ did and by church doctrines. It is our faith, our identity, and our symbol to the world that we are followers of Christ. By professing this faith, our words and our actions should be guided by the cross.



 “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

Luke 9:23



But why on earth are Catholics forever making the Sign of the Cross? I grew up doing so not only before and after praying and during mass, but also when I drive past a Catholic church or when I hear a siren.


Making the Sign of the Cross may be the most common of all Catholic actions and is done often. We do it when we pray, when we enter and exit a church, and all during mass. It is a way of professing our belief in the Holy Trinity: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. By marking our bodies with it, we mark ourselves as Christians, proclaim our discipleship, and declare that we truly belong to Christ. It’s important to note that the Sign of the Cross is not simply an action but a prayer itself.


Cross in clouds

The Sign of the Cross is also sacramental, as it is used in baptism and links us forever to the body of Christ. But, it is not unique to Catholics, as many would have you believe. Used by Episcopalians, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians during baptisms and other ceremonies, the sign was even encouraged by Martin Luther who recommended doing so first thing in the morning and at bedtime. In addition, Eastern Christians, both Catholic and Orthodox, employ the practice, albeit in reverse the order, touching their right shoulder on the word “Holy” and their left shoulder on the word “Spirit.”


Lastly, during a Catholic mass, an ancient Jewish tradition is performed. Parishioners often make three little cross symbols on their forehead, their mouth, and their chest right before the gospel is read. This comes from the Jewish custom of honoring scripture that says, “May the word of the Lord be in my mind, on my lips, and in my heart.” It’s one of my favorites.



“At the foot of the cross, we are all equal.”



Catholics also put it into practice before, during, and after all masses. As we enter a church, using holy water to make the Sign of the Cross declares that we are baptized, ready, and willing to participate in the miracle of the mass and doing so upon leaving mass says you will take the mass with you as you go about your day.


It’s not unique to places of worship. Who hasn’t seen an athlete cross him or herself before or after a competition or witnessed it time after time in movies? It is holy and it is cultural.


So the next time you see a cross, think about what it really means. Yes it means “I’m a Christian!” but it means so much more. You may never look at a door the same way.