I Am Woman, I'm a Wordsmith

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

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.


Spice Things Up August 20, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:35 am

Spices and Herbs


While enjoying drinks and apps this past week with some friends, the topic of meal delivery companies came up. It was agreed that it’s a great idea and that if chosen correctly, the meals are actually good!


Another great thing about them is that all necessary herbs and spices for each meal come pre-measured and ready to go. We talked about deciding what to make for dinner each night and the horror of coming across a recipe that requires several if not many herbs, most of which you probably don’t have in stock or if you do, the stock is old and outdated because you use so little of it and so infrequently. To, excuse the pun, add salt to the wound, spices are expensive!


With so many herbs and spices to choose from, I thought a handy-dandy; clip-and-save guide was called for. There are way more spices than the four Simon and Garfunklel sang about and Christopher Columbus would be amazed that today’s grocery stores often have an entire aisle devoted to the things he travelled the world in search of. I loved researching the topic and hope you enjoy reading and learning from it. Bon appetite!





A pea-sized fruit that grows in Mexico, Jamaica, Central and South America, allspice has a delicate flavor that resembles a blend of cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. It’s best used in pickles, meats, boiled fish, gravies, puddings, relishes, fruit preserves, and general baking.



A beautiful star-like spice, anise is a flowering plant native to the eastern Mediterranean region and Southwest Asia. Most known for its licorice flavor, anise also has similarities with fennel. It is commonly used in alcohols and liqueurs such as anisette and ouzo, and is popular in holiday baked goods, candies, and breath fresheners.



The dried leaves and stems of an herb grown in the U.S. and North Mediterranean, basil has an aromatic, leafy flavor with hints of pepper, cloves, anise, and mint. Use it in pesto, tomato dishes, soups, and on squash, lamb chops, and poultry. Dried basil is more pungent than fresh, but fresh leaves turn black quickly so use them right away.



The dried leaves of an evergreen from eastern Mediterranean countries, bay leaves are sweet, herbaceous, and floral. I use them each year in my Christmas Potpourri gifts and they are also good for pickling; in stews, sauces, and soups; and also on meats and fish.



The seed of a Dutch plant, caraway’s flavor combines anise and dill. It is great for baking breads; in sauerkraut, noodles, and cheese spreads; and it adds zest to French fries and asparagus.



Anybody who knows me knows I hate cilantro but it’s a popular (and in my opinion, waaaay over-used,) herb so I will include it here. Just know that if you ever make a dish to share with me, make it sin cilantro! Cilantro is also known as coriander and Chinese parsley in other parts of the world and is traditionally added to Tex-Mex and Asian dishes. This pungent, grassy-flavored herb is now thrown in nearly everything. It’s said the Julia Child considered cilantro “the devil’s herb,” and I couldn’t agree more.



Cinnamon is obtained from the inner bark of cinnamon trees and used in both sweet and savory foods. The term “cinnamon” also refers to its mid-brown color. Cassia is the strong, spicy flavor associated with cinnamon rolls and other such baked goods and it handles baking conditions well. Ceylon cinnamon has a lighter brown color; a finer, less dense and more crumbly texture; and is considered to be subtler and more aromatic.


Cinnamon is most popular in dessert recipes and as a drink adornment. Available both ground and in stick form, the popular spice also has many healing properties and is great as a room deodorizer. Today Mexico is the top cinnamon importer.



The aromatic flower buds native to Indonesia, cloves are regularly used in Asian, African, and Middle Eastern cuisine. I also use cloves in my Christmas Potpourri gifts and they lend flavor to hot drinks, meats, and marinades. They can also be used to enhance apples and pears and are known to have antioxidant qualities.



Cumin comes in both ground and whole seed form and adds an earthy flavor to food. It is excellent in stews, soup, chili, gravy, and achiote blends. The seed comes from a flowering plant in the Eastern Mediterranean and is part of the parsley family. Cumin seeds are often mistaken for caraway seeds as the two share an oblong shape and coloring. Also used as a medicinal plant that has been around for centuries, mention of it can be found in both the Old and New Testaments.



It bears clarifying that there is no spice or herb called “curry.” Curry is actually a popular Indian cooking method and the term is generally limited to dishes prepared in a sauce with leaves from a curry tree.


Curry powder, on the other hand, is a spice mixture developed by the British and usually contains turmeric, coriander, cumin, and mustard. You can identify this type of curry dish by its trademark yellow color. By contrast, curry powders and curry pastes produced and consumed in India are extremely diverse; some red, some yellow, some brown; some with five spices and some with as many as 20.



Boasting a clean, aromatic taste, dill is the seed of the dill plant grown in India. It is often the predominant seasoning in picking recipes and adds a nice flavor to salmon, sauerkraut, potato salad, green apple pie, and cucumber salads. Dried is not very flavorful so use fresh whenever possible.



The root of this flowering plant is part of the turmeric family and originated in the Southern Asia rainforest. It is a hot, fragrant spice and is that pinkish-salmony colored item you see served next to sushi. Ginger is a common ingredient in Indian and most Asian recipes and fresh ginger root is a nice additive to seafood, meat, and vegetarian meals. Powdered ginger is what’s used in gingerbread, cookies, crackers, ginger ale and ginger beer. Ginger is also a popular digestive aid and fresh pieces of ginger root can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the freezer for up to three months.



Grown mostly in France and Chile, marjoram is from the mint family and has a sweet-minty taste. It’s used in drinks, jellies, lamb, and to flavor soups, stews, fish, and sauces.



Known to induce sleep and possessing anti-inflammatory qualities, nutmeg is the seed of an evergreen tree indigenous to the Indonesian Spice Islands. Usually used in a powdered form, it enhances many dishes, including soup, gravy, beef stew, minced meat, rice pudding, and chutney. It’s sweet and savory flavor is a favorite in the U.S. for pumpkin pie as well as sprinkled on top of drinks like egg nog and rum punch.



Another plant of the mint family and a species of marjoram, oregano’s dried leaves are great in herb dressings and dips. It’s also a long-time kitchen favorite in tomato and chili dishes, pizza and Greek and Italian specialties. Oregano is a great anti-fungal and anti-oxidant, with one teaspoon having as much anti-oxidant makings as one apple. Dried has a stronger flavor than fresh and it can be used in place of marjoram.



A mild, sweet red pepper from Spain, Central Europe, and the U.S., paprika is both aromatic and prized for its brilliant red color. Use it to garnish pale dishes, salad dressings, hard-boiled eggs, and for seasoning chicken.



Recognized as the traditional but unused table garnish, parsley is the world’s most popular herb. It is widely used in European, Middle Eastern, and American dishes such as mashed or boiled potatoes, risotto, tabouli, pesto, goulash, and as a rub for chicken and meat dishes. Flat leaf parsley is used for cooking while the curly version is what you see used for garnish. Sprinkle on at the end of cooking to give your dish a delicious and vibrant taste. A relative of celery, parsley is also highly nutritious and has wonderful healing properties and is a great source of folic acid and vitamins K, C, and A.



Salt’s proverbial buddy and the world’s most traded spice, black pepper comes from a woody vine and is native to India although Vietnam is currently the world’s largest pepper producer and exporter.


White pepper consists of the seed of the pepper plant alone and has a slightly different flavor than black pepper. It is often used in cream sauces, Chinese and Thai cuisine, salads, and mashed potatoes.


Pepper should be stored in airtight and dark containers and areas, as it loses its flavor and aroma through evaporation and when exposed to light. Most experts recommend using whole peppercorn in peppermills rather than shakers and suggest grinding whole peppercorns immediately before use.


If you come upon salt and pepper shakers without a “P” and an “S” on them, the one with fewer holes at the top is usually salt, as you should use less of it in food.



Peppermint is actually a hybrid cross of watermint and spearmint and is an ingenious plant in Europe and the Middle East. The plant produces no seeds but can grow virtually anywhere. It’s usually used raw and the leaves are often used in tea, chewing gum, and toothpaste.


When a recipe calls for “mint,” spearmint and peppermint can be used interchangeably. Peppermint has a sharper flavor, while spearmint tends to be more delicate and sweet. Use peppermint in savory dishes like salads and vegetables, but spearmint in richer dishes like gravies and sauces. Either are fantastic rubs for lamb. It is one of my favorites, great for belly aches, can reduce fevers, and is known to renew energy.



The ingredient in one of my favorite salad dressings, poppy seeds come from a flower grown in Holland. They have a nut-like flavor and are great for topping breads, rolls, and cookies and are also delicious in buttered noodles.



I have a giant rosemary bush in my backyard and my dog often comes in smelling like the fragrant, pine needle-like herb. Grown in France, Spain, and Portugal, rosemary has a piney bittersweet taste and is great in lamb dishes, soups and stews; and sprinkled on beef. It is also a beautiful landscape item. Dried Rosemary is as good as fresh but if you use fresh, be sure to crush the needles to release their scent and flavor.



Often considered the world’s priciest spice, saffron is native to Southwest Asia but today almost all saffron is grown in a belt from Spain to India and Iran accounts for nearly 90 percent of world production. The spice is highly-regulated with quality control measures and real Spanish-grown products are protected against other countries undermining its genuine brand and rightly so, as the hay-like and sweet flavor of true saffron is key to perfect and authentic paella. Saffron sells for around $5,000 a pound so when you buy it, you do so in very small quanties of delicate red threads. Saffron starts as a purple flower and adds a rich golden-yellow hue to dishes. Expensive to buy, it can be substituted with safflower and turmeric but never truly replaced in dishes like paella and French bouillabaisse.



The leaf of a shrub grown in Greece, Yugoslavia, and Albania, sage has a mild minty flavor. Use it for meat and poultry stuffing; and in sausages, meat loaf, hamburgers, and stews.



Used in mayonnaise-based dressings and sauces, this peppery herb is also good in sautés of chicken, fish, and seafood. It can have a bittersweet flavor with hints of licorice and vanilla and should be used sparingly since its flavors can quickly overwhelm a palette.



Also the leaves of a shrub, this one from France and Spain, thyme boasts a strong and distinctive flavor that is both pungent and lemony. It’s best reserved for poultry seasoning, croquettes, fricassees, and fish dishes. Its flavor stands up to long cooking and thyme is also a natural cough expectorant.



A root of the ginger family, turmeric has a mild, gingery pepper flavor that is both warm and bitter. Grown in India, Haiti, Jamaica, and Peru, it is the main spice in curry dishes. It is commonly used in Asian food and often blended with mustard to flavor meats, dressings, and salads. It’s also frequently sourced to flavor or color curry powders, butters, and cheeses. The root of turmeric is also used widely to make medicine and is thought to be a good anti-inflammatory.





Although salt is a mineral not a spice, I’m including it here because it is used in so many dishes and some consider it a chef’s most important tool second only to a knife.


Salt is essential for human life and saltiness is one of the basic human tastes, along with sweet, bitter, sour, and delicious. Although widely-used, excessive salt consumption can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Keep in mind that one teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium and that the FDA suggests a maximum of 2,400 mg of salt per day.


The three most widely-used salts are table, kosher, and sea salt and, although their chemical make-up is the same, each one’s texture and density differ.



Table Salt. Table salt is mined from underground salt deposits and consists of fine, evenly shaped crystals and it is denser than other salts. It’s the most widely-used salt and is best for exactly what its name implies – sitting on the table for personal meal enhancement – but it is also good in pasta dishes and soups. Table salt comes both iodized and without added iodine. Iodized table salt is known to prevent thyroid goiters and has significantly reduced disorders of iodine deficiency in countries where it is used.



Kosher Salt. Kosher salt is less refined than table salt and boasts big, coarse flakes. It does not contain iodine and is often considered the most versatile salt. Some but not all kosher salt meets certain and strict requirements, meaning it is produced under conditions approved by Orthodox Jewish law. It’s a good choice to rub on meats to seal in their juices and is recommended for scouring stubborn food particles off of cast iron. If you want to only use one type of salt, I recommend kosher, as its course texture impressively enhances flavors.


Sea Salt. Sea salt flakes are collected from evaporated seawater and are typically unevenly shaped. The more expensive of the three salts, it is best used for finishing purposes and you want to use it with caution.


One other salt worth mentioning is Pickling Salt, which is ultrafine, dissolves quickly, and is great when making brine.


Storing spices


How and where you store your spices is as important as how you use them. We buy ginger and nutmeg during the holidays and rarely use them again. But, the experts at McCormick & Co. say the shelf life of properly stored spices and herbs is around four years for whole spices, two-to-three years for ground spices, and three years for leafy herbs. Smell your spices for freshness. No scent or a bland smell means it’s time to toss them.


One more tip: one tablespoon of fresh herbs is equivalent to one teaspoon of dried.


Happy and flavorful cooking!





Hats Off To Summer August 12, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:51 pm


I just completed a friendly texting competition with a friend on whose Texas city was currently hotter…not in popularity, but in temperature. Her “current temperature” of 106 topped my 102, but my “feels like” temp of 113 topped hers. Yep, 113! The thermometer might as well just read “too damn hot!”


These are the long, hot dog days of summer when I avoid being outside at all costs, but if I need to be three things are must haves: sunblock, lightweight clothing, and a hat. I’ve always been a hat girl and since I’m growing my hair out, I’m thrilled that I can now put it in a ponytail, (albeit a tiny one!) which means I can wear a baseball cap without looking like a boy. Yay me!



Philip Treacy


Baseball caps are all fine and good when playing golf, boating, or some other sporty activity, but for women ixnay on the ballcapays unless you just have bad hair and are out running a few quick errands. With so many styles of fun and fashionable hats out there, why settle for something a boy can also wear?


One of my favorite bloggers and fashionistas, Holly Golightly, is big on hats and can pull them off like nobody’s business. Holly lives in Palm Springs and who knows heat better than those in Palm Springs? Hers was the first Eugenia Kim embroidered hat I saw and, although I don’t live the lifestyle that could pull one off, I find them so festive and fun.


Kelly Golightly

Eugenia Kim


Kim is the current milliner of choice to the stars and recently spoke to Marie Claire magazine about how to pick that perfect hat.  It was a fascinating discussion on way more than just fascinators!


“It’s all about proportion and finding that sweet spot that brings harmony to the face,” she explained. “If your face is small, don’t overpower yourself with too wide of a brim. If your face is large, look for styles with more width.” In short, size does matter!


It should go without saying that if you’re sporting a chic hat, leave the bright prints and statement jewelry at home. Hats alone make a big statement so let them do the talking. Other rules instruct that a hat should sit comfortably on your forehead, your bangs should be pulled back, and as a woman you don’t need to remove your hat indoors unless it obstructs people behind you. Also, do your best to match your sunglass style to the feel of your hat. Aviators probably shouldn’t be worn with a formal topper while “look at me, look at me” sunnies look just silly with a ball cap. I personally I love a bold lip on a woman who can pull off the perfect hat look as well as any hat coupled with a low pony. Sleek and sophisticated.


Face shape

So what kind of hat can you stylishly pull off? It all depends on your face shape and then finding one that both suits you personally and fits your lifestyle. And what if you’re not sure what shape your face is? The above should help you out.





Fisherman cap1   Boater1

Oval faces have it made, as they can pull off almost any style of hat, including trendy and cool fisherman and boater style caps. Options are virtually limitless for you so your selection can be based solely on personal choice.



Newsboy     Fedora-Hats-for-Women

If you have a round face you want to avoid anything low to the head or rounded and look for something that has sharp lines and a tall crown. To add a more balanced proportion to your face, choose a hat with an asymmetrical brim or wear the brim slightly slanted.  Your goal is to create length and a newsboy or long-rimmed fedora can help you reach that goal. Think more Indiana Jones and less Indiana basketball.



Womens-Cloche-Hats Bucket1 Crusher

On the opposite end of the face shape spectrum are those of you with oblong or long faces.  Styles that work for you and help add width to your face and shorten your crown are cloches, crushers, or bucket style hats. Hats with wide brims that can be turned down are also winners. Losers are hats that are tall or sit high on your crown. Long-shaped faces should favor crowns deep enough to cover your forehead.



Floppy   Cloche  Bowler1

Square faces need a hat that will soften their hard angles and prominent jawlines. Think curvy like floppy hats, cloches, bowler hats, and even beanies to help round out the crisp lines of your features.



elegant-bow-spell-color-sun-hat-women-summer-beach-straw-bucket-hats29034 Pillbox formal

Last but not least, heart shaped beauties have a love/hate relationship with their large foreheads so look for toppers that make it look more narrow. A brimmed hat of almost any style will accomplish this, especially one with a medium-sized brim. Cloches and Pillbox hats also work well.




Like I said earlier, I love hats and shopping for them can be so much fun. On my recent college girls trip to Palm Springs we visited a hat store and had a blast picking out one for each of us. Did we make the right choices based on our face shapes? Who knows. Maybe we should have just all gotten a crown.




Panama whiteEver heard of the Ecuador Hat?

If you’re looking for that “one size fits all” hat, Kim suggests the Panama hat, calling it universally flattering and in essence the “LBD of the hat world.” It may be perfection, but it’s not Panamanian.


On a recent trip to Panama I learned that the iconic “Panama Hat” is actually made in Ecuador and is that South American country’s most iconic souvenir. So how did hats that have been made in Ecuador for centuries become “Panama hats?


Panama hats in PanamaTheories abound but most center around the fact that Panama’s position as a trade and transport region as early as the mid-1850s resulted in Ecuador exporting its hats to Panama to sell from there. Without today’s technology of labeling where a product is made, people assumed the hats were made in Panama since that is where they were purchased.


In addition, travelling by boat through Panama proved a shorter and easier route to search for west coast gold for many east coast Americans who, along the way, bought straw hats in the Central American country to protect them from the sun. They quickly became “Panama hats.” Years later while the Panama Canal was being built, many of the construction workers building it wore the hats because they were lightweight and breathable in the hot and humid Panama weather.




But, perhaps the hat’s most celebrated moment came when President Theodore Roosevelt was photographed wearing one while visiting the Canal in 1906. From that point on, “Panama Hat” is the name that stuck. Teddy probably didn’t know it, but more than a bear is named after him.










I Want My MTV August 1, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:10 pm

I will officially get nothing done today. As much as I have on my “to do” list, you won’t find me packing and purging or planning and plotting, you will find me in front of the TV. Watching MTV. What is a grown woman doing watching MTV? Why, watching videos of course. Old videos.


Today marks the 25th anniversary of the legendary music television station. Once groundbreaking when it debuted with The Buggles’ “Video Killed the Radio Star” video, today’s MTV is total trash but back in the day…oh back in the day.



It all started on Saturday, August 1, 1981 with the words, “Ladies and gentlemen, rock and roll.” From there the original MTV theme song, which I can still hear in my head, was played over a montage of space-themed footage. What was dubbed as “the best of TV combined with the best of radio,” became an instant success.


Within two months, record sales soared and bands such as Men at Work and Human League, whose songs weren’t playing on the radio at the time, quickly had hits. Who can ever forget Colin Hay’s eyes as he sang “Who Can It Be?” It made stars of Devo, Hughie Lewis and the News, and Bow Wow Wow. And Tawny Kitaen and Whitesnake. It also put the font Kabel on the map, as it was used in left hand corner of every video, telling viewers the artist, song title, and album.


I remember it all like it was yesterday. The rocket ship open. The moon landing with an MTV flag. We’d all gather at my friend G. Calvin’s house between classes at OU and watch videos. Video after video after video. We’d never seen anything like it and we were in awe. There they were, all the bands and singers we loved, right on our TV and doing amazing and entertaining things. Rock on.



MTV is where I met Madonna. Her “Borderline” and “Lucky Star” videos changed my life. It’s also where many of us ‘80s girls learned to dance that goofy Go-Gos “swing your arms” dance move. But the Go-Gos. I mean. No one was cooler. Okay except maybe The Police in their haunting “Every Breath You Take” as Sting stared you down and played a STANDING BASS and Stuart gorgeously slammed the drums. U2’s black-and-white “Every Breath You Take” was equally haunting and brought us Bono’s amazing voice and muscles and The Edge’s amazing everything. Swoon.


MTV also brought the second British Invasion and bands from all over Europe made us say “wow!” Soft Cell (remember “Tainted Love?!”) and Madness were probably my favorites but they would probably cringe if they knew we used their hit song “Our House” as a sorority theme. Then there was “Flock of Seagulls” and their trendsetting hair as well as Aha, whose “Take On Me” video set the bar for creativity.


The videos themselves often didn’t make sense, but that was the beauty and intrigue of them. One of my favorites was Tears for Fears’ “Everybody Wants to Rule the World.” Watching it now it’s totally illogical but the memories it brings back are anything but. The opposite holds true for another of my faves, the Rolling Stones’ “Just Waiting on a Friend.” To this day when I hear it, I think of my friends Penny and Christie and can envision the video of Mick, Keith and the gang meeting each other on the steps of what is probably a New York City walk up. Simple in its depiction of good friends and powerful in that it still reminds me of mine. Girls just want to have fun, right?


“Springsteen, Madonna, way before Nirvana. There was U2 and Blondie and music still on MTV.”

Bowling for Soup’s “1985”


The videos may not have been prolific but they were original. They were also mostly free of vulgarity, unlike today’s offensive grinding videos full of video whores and hate. Yes there was “Like a Virgin,” but how tame it was compared to today’s twerk fests. Something else they were free of was politics and activism. With the exception of “women power” videos like Benatar’s “Love is a Battlefield” or Robert Palmer’s stepford wife-like “Addicted to Love,” it was a love fest. I didn’t love Duran Duran, but I loved their “Hungry Like a Wolf” video. Who didn’t?! It was MUSIC television. Just music. Imagine that.



But it wasn’t only the videos that had us at hello, there were also the VJs: Martha Quinn, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, JJ Jackson, and Mark Goodman. Martha was the cute and quirky one, Alan and Nina were the hotties, while JJ and Mark were just plain cool. They didn’t try too hard and we loved them all.


It’s funny to watch it all today. In the videos you see pay phones, shoulder pads, and bad animation. Think about it all you tweens and millennials though, it was like having YouTube on your TV 24 hours a day and playing only music videos. No dumb shows, no contests, no nothing…just the music and the artists you love all day every day. It was pure heaven. I want my MTV. How it used to be and just for today.