Beyond Words

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

Pie In The Sky November 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:00 pm


It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, which means your turkey should be thawing and your pies should be baking. Both turkey and pie, particularly pumpkin, are Thanksgiving traditions and I love them both. But did you know that pie at Thanksgiving really has nothing to do with pilgrims or Native Americans? In fact, common belief has it that the tradition was probably started by a magazine sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Who knew?!


What we do know is that we all have a pie preference. Me? I’m a pumpkin pie girl through and through. Maybe you prefer pecan or apple pie after your turkey, or a host of other pies. And, just like pies, which come in all flavors and styles, the one you like the best says something about your unique traits and styles. Just what do your pie choices say about you? According to the American Pie Council, Hellow Giggles, and Little Things, everything!


Pumpkin Pie

A Thanksgiving tradition and my absolute favorite, pumpkin pie is considered America’s second favorite after apple. Made of one of the earliest import foods that Europeans introduced the New World to, the orange squash quickly became beloved by colonitsts and remains so today.


The pie is a fall tradition too so those who like it best often consider fall their favorite season. Raising my hand there! Those who love pumpkin pie also love sitting at home cuddled up with a cozy blanket, a fire, and maybe a good book or good friends. Pumpkin pie is considered simple and a classic, and so are pumpkin pie lovers. They like to keep things chic but not fussy; are effortlessly elegant; and are most likely emotionally stable, consistent, and reliable. Simple also means you can’t stand drama or chaos and having a calm environment is very important.


Apple Pie

According to the American Pie Council, this my friends is America’s favorite pie.  If it’s your favorite, you’re probably “As American as Apple Pie” and love tradition and security. You tend to lean on the same products in your life again and again, whether it is your dish soap or your favorite jeans, and you are a grounded, realistic person and friend. You are also compassionate, love the outdoors, and enjoy being active.


Pecan Pie

America’s third favorite favorite, pecan pie is very sweet and so are you! Especially popular in the south, there are many versions of pecan pie, but all are sweet and all are beloved. If it’s your favorite pie, you’re likely thoughtful and analytical and have tons of friends. Those friends love your rationality and loyalty and often come to you for advice. Sounds like you are just like pecan pie itself: infectious!




You could call those the “Big 3 of Thanksgiving,” but there are other pies others prefer. Including:


Peach Pie

Probably my second favorite pie, peach pie has been around forever and is so versatile. You can serve hot or cold and make it with fresh, frozen, or canned peaches. If you love peach pie, you probably also love a challenge and love for your mind to be stimulated.  You are definitely a thinker but sometimes over analyzes thing and is someone who learns from mistakes and trials. You also hate to fail. Oh boy, raising my hand on all of these too!




Blueberry Pie

Blueberries can stain a table cloth or shirt like nobody’s business but guess what; if this is your favorite pie you couldn’t care less! A blueberry pie lover is that fun-loving, laid back, life of the party person. In fact, you’re kinda like the pie itself, which is considered by many the easiest to make, in that you are easy going and open minded and you love when others succeed. You are also very smart, have excellent taste, don’t embarrass easily, and are quick to laugh at yourself. Relax and be happy: you’re a blueberry pie lover!


Cherry Pie

When I think of a cherry pie I think tart, and guess what, so are you if this is your fave! It’s all in a good way though, in that you have attitude and confidence and you don’t let people push you around. You, like the bright red of the cherries themselves, also don’t mind standing out in a crowd and you live for a little excitement. That yearning for adventure means you’re a risk taker, are always trying new things and taking on new hobbies, and are rarely bored with life.


Sweet Potato Pie

Often confused with its more popular cousin the pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie has also been around since colonial times. It’s nostalgic and very southern, and so are you if it’s your top pie pick. It’s ingredients were adapted from African cuisine and it’s still a staple soul food item. It’s also usually a surprising but welcome sight at holiday gatherings and so are you!



Lemon Meringue Pie

Like the tangy center of this pie, you are bubbly and full of optimism. You are anything but “basic” and love bright colors and making the best of every situation and life in general. You could say your motto is “When life gives you lemons, make a lemon meringue pie!”


Chocolate Silk Pie

To me, this is basically a chocolate pudding pie but to those who favor it, it’s much, much more. Baked properly, a chocolate silk pie is just that: smooth. So are you. You prefer the best things in life and have great taste. Richness emotes from the pie and from you.


So there you have it. What does your favorite pie say about you? Just for fun, print this out, take it with you to your Thanksgiving get together, and see what your family and friends are too!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone.




How Many Millennials Does It Take to Roast a Turkey? November 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:27 pm

Have you heard the latest viral prank making its way onto moms’ cellphones everywhere? I certainly have because my daughter fooled me once with it just this week. Here’s the deal: text your mom and ask her how long you need to microwave a turkey because you’re going to a “Friendsgiving” and have been assigned the turkey, then sit back and wait for her head to explode. Yes, super funny and super clever, right? I laughed and laughed hard when she came clean…long after I sent her roasting instructions by pound and then got my wits about me and told her just to buy a cooked one. Fool me twice she did not.


But, when the shoe is on the other foot, Millennials aren’t laughing so hard, specifically when it comes to the newest addition of Monopoly. The classic board game’s maker Hasbro has introduced “Monopoly for Millennials” but apparently its target audience isn’t all too fond of the new hybrid.



For starters, seems the game’s cover offends them. On it, Monopoly icon Rich Uncle Pennybags wears sunglasses, holds a cup of coffee (perhaps a skinny non-dairy latte?), boasts earbuds, and wears a “participation” medal. Adding insult to injury is the tagline “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway.”


Okay, I get it, but have a little sense of humor snowflakes and laugh at yourselves for once.


It’s not just the cover that’s changed. Game pieces are no longer a thimble or iron (Sew? Iron? Sew 1970s!), but instead hipster hashtags, crying emojis, and the likes. But the tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek humor doesn’t stop there. The Chance and Community Chest cards are described as “super relatable” and instead of buying up properties and collecting money, players collect “experiences” that include “Parents’ Basement,” “Thrift Shop,” “Farmers’ Market,” “Friend’s Couch,” “Vegan Bistro,” and “Meditation Retreat.” Am I the only one getting a chuckle out of all of this?



Some aren’t laughing at all though. Twitter and other social media sites are awash in posts saying the game insults the very demographic it’s trying to entertain and is an unfair portrayal of them. On the flipside, others say the fact that Millennials are upset with the game solidifies the very reason for it and one Twitter user pointed out that new game has fewer spaces than the traditional version maybe because “Millennials are too lazy for a full game of Monopoly.”


Okay, that’s a bit much as I know many a Millennial and they might play hard but they also work hard. Hasbro agrees and in a statement calls the new version “a lighthearted game that allows Millennials to take a break from real life and laugh at the experiences and labels that can sometimes be placed on them.” Sound advice, right? Yes, but we are all too familiar with generation “my feelings are hurt.” The fact that Monopoly for Millennials losers don’t get a participation trophy is encouraging though.



So who makes up these young adults and often-mocked generation? When it comes to U.S. Census numbers, things are still developing so The Pew Research Center has come up with a new set of guidelines and nicknames and here’s a quick look at them based on birth year:


Baby Boomers – 1946-1964

Generation X (“Gen X”) – 1965-1980

Millennials – 1981-1996

Post-Millennials – 1997-Present

Some take it a bit further, calling Post-Millennials “Generation Z.” Not sure what comes after them, but let’s look at what we have.


Pew Research considers the Millennial cutoff date of 1996 important because it makes them a generation…the last generation…old enough to have experienced and comprehend 9/11. Personally, one thing that struck me this past September 11 was the fact that most of today’s high school seniors weren’t even born on that historic day in 2001. This is so weird to me. A day that changed my life will only be learned about (and how honestly?) in textbooks from here on out. Considered somewhat slacker-like, Millennials are not entirely to blame for their career setbacks and slowdowns. In their defense, those born between 1981 and 1996 were greatly affected employment-wise by the country’s economic downturn and Pew’s Michael Dimock says their slow start careers “will be a factor in American society for decades.”



Technology also plays a pivotal role in delineating between generations. Baby Boomers saw TV explode before their very eyes in living rooms across America, Gen X experienced firsthand the computer revolution, and Millennials brought with them cell phones and the internet. They, and everyone after, have virtually lived their entire lives on the internet, whether Googling information, tagging friends, or applying photo filters. Real data has always been at their fingertips but real life has not.


Society as a whole has also changed dramatically between generations, and those of the “old school” mind feel Millennials and anyone after them are the “participation trophy” generations and that we’re witnessing the results of that right now. Protest after protest fill our streets and it’s no surprise that many of them are those who didn’t “win” or get their way. Then again, maybe they were never allowed to lose and even when they did were told they were still “winners.”  “You finished 7th in the race Johnny, here’s a medal.” Accepting and handling disappointments might be challenging for them, especially if they were never taught proper coping skills. These generations are also often considered “entitled” by those who suffered through food rationing, the gas crisis, phones attached to the wall, and travelling with real maps. To make matters worse and life harder to navigate, these young adults have matured during a time when government and pop culture became virtually the same thing. Actors tell them how to vote and reality stars are voted into office. No wonder they’re crying!



When it comes to Generation Z however, they differ greatly from their Millennial cousins in many ways according to studies by both Vision Critical and Quartz at Work. They all FaceTime, Snapchat, and Instagram til the cows come home, and receiving a message from them that doesn’t include an emoji is almost unheard of, but the social media networks they prefer and the devices they consume them on aren’t always the same.


Gen Z’s most used device is the smartphone (they receive 3000 text message a month!), followed by TVs and laptops, while Millennials most lean on their computers, then  smartphones and TVs. In addition, Gen Z, sometimes called the “iGeneration,” claims to prefer cool products over cool experiences and although they are merely teenagers, they are often teens with cash but heads up: they don’t like details or advertising. Marketers to Gen Z better get on board the non-traditional ad train and embrace Instagram, YouTube, and short videos like those on Vine. If your target audience is Gen Z, mobile marketing should be your primary platform complete with mobile-friendly ad campaigns and websites. And make them short but edgy and creative. Gen Z has an attention span of 8 seconds and 70 percent watch two hours of YouTube a day.



Jobwise, 75 percent of Gen Z kids hope to convert hobbies into full-time jobs, 61 percent would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee, and 60 percent want to “change the world.”  Pie-in-the-sky to many, but kids gotta dream, right?


They also value opportunity for advancement but aren’t necessarily interested in moving quickly up the corporate ladder and their top “must haves” when it comes to first jobs are health insurance, a competitive salary, and a boss they respect. Regarding long-term careers, they value a stable career path and a work-life balance. Amen Gen Z!  Again though, they are uniquely focused on “dream jobs” however, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s great to have goals but it’s also great to work hard where you are and accept your current position. Not surprising is the fact that “working for an organization that aligns with their social compass” is perhaps the most important thing they consider when deciding whether to accept Job A or Job B.



So what does all this mean? It means Baby Boomers are leaving the work force more and more on a daily basis and that those replacing them may indeed be sensitive and a bit entitled, but they are also extremely tech-savvy and they know what they want. And, they can fix our computers and show us how to make Instagram stories.


What they don’t know how to do is roast a turkey. But that’s for another blog and another day.


Body Talk and Necklines November 10, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:49 pm

Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away, which can mean only one thing: holiday parties and holiday attire. Finding the right ensemble and the right jewelry for every holiday outing may be as easy as shopping your own closet and going with something tried and true from the past, or it may involve shopping for something entirely new. But, finding the style, cut, and neckline that flatter your body can sometimes be a bit more challenging. I’m here to help with the help of some experts for the holidays and every day.



Let’s start with body shape and type. For this I leaned on fashion queen Rachel Zoe, who has styled many a celebrity and has written many an article on choosing the right clothing for your body, and on fashionopolis. Not sure what to buy or even what body shape you have? Here’s a quick guide on both:


Pear: This woman generally has wide hips, a small waist, narrow shoulders, and a smaller bust. In general, your lower body is wider than your upper body and you have full hips and thighs. Clothing that looks best on a pear-shaped gal are dresses with intricate designs on or around the chest and flared skirts, which help create balance between her top and bottom areas. It’s also a good idea to enhance your waistline and arms and add volume to your shoulders and upper body. Avoid any clothing that draws attention to your hips or thighs.


Apple/Inverted Triangle: This body type has a full mid-section and less defined waist, broad shoulders, an average to large bust, and narrow hips. Your goal would be to elongate your torso and draw attention to your good legs, both of which will give the illusion of a smaller waist. Clothing choices should be a mini (show off those legs!) with an empire waist and structured pieces that add definition but hide any extra weight.


Rectangle: These girls have long, slender frames with a small to average bust, undefined waist, straight hips and bottoms. They are the complete opposite of a “curvy” girl and instead have shoulders and hips that are almost perfectly aligned. Look for maxis and midis with details at the shoulders to add interest to your straight up-and-down stature and flaunt your lean arms and legs if you’ve got them. Your goal is create the illusion of curves.


Hourglass. Think Marilyn Monroe and think full bust, narrow waist, balanced shoulders and hips, and a rounded bottom. This is the “curvy” girl that’s anything but overweight. Highlight those curves by accentuating your upper and lower body and flaunt that defined waist.


Petite. Not so much a body shape as a body size, petite women face fashion struggles their taller counterparts don’t. If you are 5’4” or shorter, choose mini dresses if you’ve got the legs for them, as the style will elongate even the shortest legs. If your legs aren’t mini-worthy, choose maxis, which will add length to your silhouette. Another good idea is to add flair on your sleeves.



Neck and Neck



Which brings us to necklines….


The wrong neckline can add weight on you and make you look shorter and even older. Choosing the right neckline will not only frame your face but can also create balance. In short, your outfit’s neckline can make or break your entire look.


And it’s where I run into trouble. I’ve never been a fan of how I look in a V-neck and was a long-time fan of scoop necks until a recent girls’ trip when one of them who could give Rachel Zoe a run for her money, suggested I avoid scoop necks and lean more toward collared shirts. Bingo! I was sold. What about you? Do you have a favorite neckline and is it the right one for your body and face shape? Let’s find out thanks to some tips by and


Scoop necks can beautifully display the collarbone and elongate a short or thick neck, but the curvy neckline can also highlight a round, full face. Many believe a scoop neck is flattering on nearly everyone, but I’m not one of them. I find that as a woman ages, so does her décolletage and the skin on her chest and it’s not an area I choose to highlight. It’s also suggested that those with broad shoulders should steer away from scoop necks.


So what about V-necks? For the same reasons I’m not a fan of scoop necks, I’m not a personal fan of V-necks either but they are considered universally flattering. The style is thought to balance out broad shoulders and thick waists, lengthen short necks, and even out Pear shapes. The key to making sure your chosen V-neck works on your body is all about how deep that V goes. A very high V can make a large bust look saggy and a plunging V can be too revealing. Rule of thumb? Small busted women should go for high Vs while those with large chests can go for deeper Vs to elongate their ample chest, just be sure you don’t go too deep! Susan Street of Susan After Sixty swears by V-necks and finds they, and scoop necks, flatter her inverted triangle shape and round face if they fall about four inches below her collarbone.


Crew necks, IMHO, are a safe and classic bet but Street feels that covering your collarbones if you have broad shoulders, are big busted, or have a roundish face will make all of them more pronounced. Also sometimes called a “Jewel Neckline,” this close-to-the-face casual style is best for those with long necks, narrow faces, and small busts since it can emphasize a large chest area, short neck, or double chin by creating the illusion of a shorter neck and bigger bust. Yikes!


Collared shirts have a sort of dressy yet casual preppy look about them and are great for anyone with a large chest or thin neck. If you want to add sexy or flirty to the otherwise traditional look, consider unbuttoning a few more buttons to expose just a bit more décolletage.



Boat necks, sometimes known as bateau necklines, are probably one the prettiest of all necklines. If you have any doubts about this, just picture Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. (And how fabulous was Princess Eugenie’s dramatic portrait neckline?) Did you not die when you first laid eyes on Markle’s minimal and elegant Givenchy gown of matte silk cady with that to-die-for open bateau neckline? I know I did. The nautical inspired style (get it….BOAT neck?) is a graceful and wide neckline that sits and hits right under the collarbone and shoulders. The style draws the eye up and balances out wider hips; a narrow face, neck, or shoulders; and a small bust. It is great for offsetting wide hips but if you’ve already got broad shoulders, avoid the look as it will make them look even broader.



A sweetheart neckline was the choice of another royal bride, Kate Middleton, whose Alexander McQueen gown was a bit more traditional and featured a sweetheart neckline under lace applique. If you’ve ever watched even one episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” you know this neckline is the choice of many a bride, royal or not royal. The open style generally makes any woman look longer and leaner while enhancing the natural curves of a large chested lady. It also creates curves for small busted women.


A cowl neck does the same thing: adds dimension and bulk to a small chest but the right one can also downplay a large one.  The folds on a cowl neck can give the illusion of a long torso and you can somewhat control just how much skin you want to show. Those with small busts should look for thicker wider folds, while big busted ladies should choose thinner folds.


If you have wide shoulders, an hourglass figure, and toned arms, a halter neck is for you. In contrast, you Apple shapes should stay away from the halter top, as it will make you look even bigger and heavier up top. This is a tough style to wear a bra with and there’s nothing less flattering than a bosomy girl trying to pull off a halter top. Just don’t.


Speaking of shoulders, what about off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, and last year’s trendy “cold shoulder?” Bridget Bardot make the off-the-shoulder look popular and the flirty style flatters shapes ranging from pear to athletic, petite to hourglass, and small/medium busts to narrow shoulders. This style naturally highlights your shoulders as well as the collar bone and draws the eye up, lessening attention to a fuller middle. Its dramatic cousin, the one shoulder, adds a touch of surprise to an outfit and is best for those with narrow shoulders and toned arms. As for the cold shoulder, I find it mysteriously makes any arms or shoulders look big and am of the thinking that the look has run its course.


Which brings us to the ultimate shoulder bearer: a strapless style. If your goal is to accentuate your shoulders and upper body, this is the silhouette for you. But be careful. Big busted or broad shouldered women and anyone without toned arms should avoid this look regardless of what anyone tells you. If you do go the strapless route, please be sure to wear a good strapless support bra.


When you think turtleneck you might think a classic LL Bean layering top for cold winter climates, but think again. Yes, all those colorful and trusty turtlenecks are almost every woman’s “must have,” but the neckline can also be very sophisticated and formal on the right dress or top. In either case, casual or dressy, what you want to look for is a style that doesn’t hit super high on the neck, but instead allows some breathing room. Me? I like a mock neck and velvet is oh-so-dreamy in either a turtle or mock neck.


The square neck is a good go-to for busty women and it also elongates a short neck and narrow shoulders but I find it a bit hard to pull off though for the same reasons as a V or scoop necks. But that’s just me.


I do love a great keyhole neckline though and find it flattering on almost everyone…especially bridesmaids for some reason. This timeless style subtly highlights collar bones and adds sophistication to any clothing.


Surplice necklines are those where fabric on one side crosses over the other side, often at or near the bustline, creating an alternative V-neck. Since the style also often employs cinching at the waist, it’s a great choice for a woman who wants to create a more defined waist.


So, now that you’ve identified your body shape and what necklines compliment it, what about accessories, specifically necklaces? Each neckline has necklace styles and lengths that work best with them. Let’s have a look.



Long necklaces and those with pendants compliment any collared shirt, boat neck, cowl neck, and of course turtleneck.


Chokers, bibs, and shorter necklaces are best with V-necks, sweetheart necklines, strapless, and anything that is off the shoulders.


As for scoop and crew necks, they can go with either long or short, depending on whether you want to draw attention to or away from your chest area, and they can easily support a necklace with detail and volume.


So there you have it: everything you’ve always wanted to know about body shape and necklines that compliment yours. Have fun shopping!




Tomorrow’s To Do List November 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:17 pm



As you lay yourself down to sleep tonight, don’t forget it’s time to set your clocks back one hour. Who doesn’t love an extra hour of sleep, right? Well, not everyone but as we “fall back,” we can also do some things around the house that we might otherwise forget or neglect to do. In other words, use this time switch as a biannual reminder.




Quick history though. The idea of turning clocks forward one hour during the summer was first conceived by New Zealander George Hudson back in 1895 but it wasn’t really until April of 1916 when the German Empire and Austria-Hungary first used DST as a way to conserve coal during WWI. Britain followed suit as did the U.S. in 1918 and the idea of “saving” as much daylight as possible became especially popular during the 1970’s energy crisis. In most of the United States, Daylight Savings Time begins the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November.


People either love the idea or hate it, but one group that seems to favor more morning light is farmers. These hard workers are typically early risers and prefer morning sun to evening sun as they believe crops are best harvested after dew evaporates.


In this crazy election cycle, you are probably either “for” or “against” the idea of changing times mid-year but whatever side you’re on, let’s all agree that there are a few things we can and should do each time we “fall back” and “spring forward,” including:



  • Replace batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. While you’re at it, check in with any elderly family members or neighbors and help them do this.


  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. In the fall you want your blades rotating clockwise, which helps bring warm air down.


  • Schedule a furnace and chimney inspection and replace filters in your heater and air conditioner units. Things get trapped and may deteriorate over the course of a year so make sure all your heating elements are safe and running as efficiently as possible.


  • Flip and rotate your mattresses. This can be accomplished by either literally flipping the mattress over or just rotating head and feet areas.


  • Clean out your pantry and refrigerator shelves. You’d be surprised how many items you may have in stock that are expired. Dates are there for a reason so adhere to them.


  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. Same thing with medicines and first aid kits. Safely dispose of all expired or discolored meds and do an emergency kit overhaul if necessary.


  • Revisit your emergency bag. This can be any bag or items you keep in stock for emergencies such as tornados, hurricanes, lock downs, or any other time you might need to “shelter in place.” Make sure batteries are new, foods aren’t expired, and emergency contact sheets are current.


If you have kids in the house, make doing all of the above a family event. Assign tasks and explain why what you are doing is important. Many of these could be the difference between life and death. In the meantime, sleep tight tonight!


Do you have any other “fall back” reminder suggestions? Please share!




All Dressed Up October 29, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:26 pm

A few weekends ago my family and I were out to dinner with another family who had young kids. One of the young boys was sitting next to me and getting a little restless with sitting still for so long. (Props to their mom and dad however, for not allowing any of the five kids to have a notebook or cell phone in hand!) The boy was finishing up his French fries and hamburger when I noticed he had some Ranch dressing nearby. I suggested he dip the fries in the dressing, to which I received a look of confusion and dismay. I kept encouraging him though and lo and behold, he did it and he loved it! Of course I went on and on from there explaining to him that Ranch dressing is good with almost anything.


Can I get an Amen?


What is it about that creamy herb bottle of yumminess? Similar to cream cheese, anything with Ranch dressing is better. Parties, tailgates, game days, and just about any event is not the same without it. You can say how gauche and icky it is, but you know it’s true.



Invented in 1950, the creamy dressing is today America’s most popular salad dressing and sold in more than 30 countries, some of which call it “American Dressing.” But as we all know, it’s certainly not reserved for salads. Servings of veggies, French fries, chicken nuggets, mozzarella sticks, and pizza just aren’t the same without it. Even chicken wings, those “in a class by themselves” appetizers from Buffalo, New York, are today served with Ranch Dressing on the side. But, as any true blue wing man will tell you, it’s Bleu Cheese that’s the way to go.




It’s those chicken wings that are credited (or blamed?) for making Ranch dressing the perfect side for pizza too. When Domino’s Pizza added wings and a side of Ranch to their menu back in 1994 they discovered that pizza eaters coast-to-coast were dipping their pizza slices in the Ranch along with their wings. There are pizza snobs who squeal at the thought of dipping a piece in Ranch, but it’s such a popular condiment and ingredient that Domino’s and other pizza makers now make Ranch flavored pizzas and we all have a Nebraska cowboy to thank.




Cornhusker state plumber Steve Henson had dreams of making it big so he headed west. He and his high school sweetheart wife Gayle landed in California and bought a real life ranch in 1954. Yes, “ranch” dressing has its origins at a true blue ranch!


Steve and Gayle opened the Hidden Valley Guest Ranch where guests enjoyed outdoor activities and homecooked meals. They loved all the activities, but it was the delicious homemade buttermilk salad dressing that had them at hello. So popular was the dressing that guests would ask for jars of it to take home. The demand was so great that the Hensons started a mail order business, which eventually led to the dressing taking over homes and grocery store aisles across the country.


By the 1970s the dressing was a bonafide hit, and by the time the grocery store bottle was introduced in 1983, it was gaining a cult-like following. Amazingly, it took something as far removed from a salad as you can get to make it a true household name and kitchen staple. In 1986 Doritos introduced its “Cool Ranch” flavor and rock star status was forever cemented.


Steve passed away in 2007 and Gayle in 1993, but not before selling the Hidden Valley Ranch to the Clorox company in 1972 for $8 million. Today his little ranch sells nearly $500 million of products annually.




So what is it about Ranch dressing that is so delectable and how did we live without it for so long? What I would have done to have had it around when I was a young girl. Italian, French, Green Goddess, Bleu Cheese, or Russian are all fine and good, but they just can’t compete.


First of all, it’s creamy without being heavy and a little bit goes a long way. Consisting of buttermilk, mayo, thyme, dill, parsley, black pepper, onion and garlic, it’s actually quite simple and easy to make. I for one will only buy Hidden Valley Ranch, but any and all are satisfying.


The New York Times reports that as good as it is, its ingredients are not unique in the culinary world. It cites aioli, Caesar dressing, French Onion dip, toum, and even Alfredo pasta sauce as all having similar ingredients and who doesn’t love all of those?!


And if you’re looking for organic and/or gluten-free, Hidden Valley Ranch is there for you. According to their website, most Hidden Valley products are gluten free and the company has a program where all products undergo scheduled and rigorous testing. In addition, all products are manufactured in facilities with stringent allergen control programs to prevent cross-contamination. Finally, Hidden Valley Organic Ranch is made with USDA-certified organic and National Organic Program compliant ingredients.




But what about those little packets of Ranch Dressing mix? I’ve always been a bit confused what the difference is between the “salad dressing mix” and the “dip mix.” Are they interchangeable? The answer is yes depending on the texture you’re after. If you prefer a thicker dressing, use the dip mix. If you’re looking for a more pourable dressing, use the dressing mix for a smoother texture. Either way, mix either of those into sour cream, on chicken, or just about anything and you have yourself an easy appetizer and flavorful meal. Put it in spinach dip, mashed potatoes, and meatloaf or just dip a few Ruffles potato chips in it…my favorite!


As with anything, Ranch Dressing has also taken over the internet. Google “Ranch Dressing” and a slew of recipes will pop up…both for homemade versions and recipes incorporating the dressing or dressing mix. Countless videos and You Tube tutorials are also available, as are any number of Pinterest boards.




There is also a slew of Hidden Valley products, ranging from seasonings to single serve cups to a host of flavors. I can’t help but wonder what cowboy Steve would think of his growing empire if he could see it now. And to think it all started with an American dream and a simple recipe.  How it should be, right?




Just Say JOMO October 27, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:26 pm

My husband and I make constant fun of our three dogs in that we say each of them has major FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. If one dog is in the back room with him, the other two follow suit. Where one goes, the others follow. Crazy dog owners that we are, we assume they assume there is some really fun stuff going out back there or lots of treats are being handed out and by golly they are not going to miss out.


We’ve all been there and done that. Attended that party, played that game, or watched that Netflix series all because we had FOMO. But we’re humans and humans, like dogs, crave validation and long for inclusion so be damned you tired body or broke bank account, we’re going to attend that concert even though we might rather be snuggling under the covers and reading a good book.



Enter JOMO, the Joy Of Missing Out. This somewhat new emotionally intelligent response to FOMO is music to the ears of introverts like me. Yes, I’m an introvert. Give me a small group of friends and I’m all over it, but present me with a room full of strangers and small talk and I’m out.  I’m also a nester and it takes a lot to get me out of the house. I love being home and am never bored at home. Call me a homegirl and I’ll give you a high five.


I did venture out last night and ironically it was to a book signing by a fellow nester: Myquillyn Smith of “The Nester” fame.  Smith readily admitted she is an introvert and loves being in her home…even though she’s moved several times. Her current “Cozy Home Tour” is all about getting the most amount of style with the least amount of stuff. I loved hearing her talk about making her home comfortable and that big is not always better. But I digress…back to JOMO.


JOMO is all about just being. Being with yourself. Being quiet. Being still. Being okay with not being where everyone else is or where everyone else is going. It’s hiding your To Do list and cancelling your schedule. This for many is very hard and challenging but we could all stand to retrain our brains to calm down and settle in. For a bit, just listen. Breathe. Rest. Be happy…or full of joy…that you have this time to do absolutely nothing. It’s helpful and it’s healing.



In some ways, I’ve rarely had an issue not incorporating JOMO into my life. In fact, my life is often the opposite as I debate again and again whether I want to do something or go somewhere. Don’t get me wrong, I love getting together with close friends and going to fun events. I’ll also jump at the chance to take a great trip, but not frequently. Travel is exhausting and stressful, so I save up my travel sanity for a few select trips a year. Trip after trip is not appealing to me and neither is a life of night after night or weekend after weekend of plans. I was OOT last weekend, so I’m reveling in being home this weekend. My simple but sweet night out with my girlfriend last night for the book signing was perfection.


Proof of my JOMO mojo is that I chose not to go to Book Club this week. Book Club! I love books but it felt like attending would complicate my busy day rather than enhance it even though I thought I should go. Instead, I chose my yoga class and an evening at home and with absolutely no regrets.



Sometimes you need to remind yourself that you can say no and eliminate the word “should” from your social life and free time. Skip that happy hour, say no that movie, and turn off your phone. It should come as no surprise that the latter of those is the biggest culprit in the current state of society’s FOMO.


Have you checked your Instagram lately? Facebook? Twitter? Email? We tell ourselves that all of them are enjoyable endeavors of life, but in reality they are stressers that take us away from life. I’m guilty as charged, especially with Instagram, but as Behavior Scientist Ashely Williams told the NY Times, “A lot of the time we fail to recognize the moments in our lives actually become our lives.” If you spend countless moments checking your feeds and “likes,” those feeds have become your life. Is that really what you want your life to be? Sadly, many a study has shown that the constant distraction of constant logging in and scrolling through is actually resulting in people feeling unhappy and sad. Not good my friends, not good.



So what can we do? First of all unplug. You should also set boundaries with those you’ve “friended” and communicate with online. Reduce their expectations that you will respond right away to texts or emails and eliminate any immediate response anticipations.  If you know you have unhealthy tech habits (raising my hand), set personal boundaries too and become more mindful of what your mind is focusing on.


But it’s not just the tech world that’s contributing to our increased FOMO and lack of JOMO. Binge watching and plan making are also culprits. Tehrene Firman of says we all need to find a balance between being a social butterfly and carving out self-care time and I couldn’t agree more. The old saying “go big or go home” may tell some to go out and hit the town, but to me it screams “go home and relax!” And yes, I’m well aware of the belief that we should live life to the fullest and that life is short, we also need to ask ourselves if life is all about going, going, going, and doing, doing, doing rather than just being. Remember, balance. Think JOMO.


Try saying “no” every now and then. Stop trying please others and do what you want to do and what you like to do. Stop trying to impress, keep up, and match up. I for one am not impressed with your constant parade of posted pics of this week’s trip or this Saturday’s delectable dinner and cocktail. I would, however, love to hear about a great book you read or a DIY project you accomplished. If you have found a way to regularly socially disconnect and emotionally recharge, I want to hear all about it too.


So, yes, you might see some posts of mine in the next few hours but rest assured I’m posting them from the comfort of my comfy home and I’m totally okay with that. You “gotta be there and have to do that” pals knock yourselves out, I’ll be thinking of you as I opt out and enjoy a whole lot of JOMO.


Mad for Plaid October 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:10 pm

Madmen men mad for plaid


For most of us, colder weather is either on the way or already here. Fall is my favorite season and one of the reasons is because I love all the cozy clothes you get to wear. This season feel free to be pretty in plaid as fall’s favorite pattern is everywhere and I couldn’t be more thrilled as I love a good plaid or check. And who doesn’t love the University of Tennessee’s checked end zones every football season?


The secret to making any pattern work is to keep it all chic and know when to say when. A plaid skirt is best with a solid top and maybe some tights or high boots. If you just have to have that pair of patterned tall boots on the other hand, pair them with a solid dress. Patterns go into the home nicely in the fall too, just make sure you don’t mix things up too much.


Surprisingly, plaid isn’t really a pattern; it’s actually a piece of clothing. Yep, my friends, today we’re clearing up all things plaid, tartan, check, gingham, and beyond!



Plaid vs. Tartan

We are all guilty of using the term “plaid” when talking about any fabric that has checks going this way and that. But, a plaid is actually a long piece of wool worn over the shoulder as part of traditional Highland dress.  Think Scotland and not your favorite flannel jammies.



Above: JCrew vest, Ralph Lauren skirt, Fendi bag


Okay, then what should we call the pattern we have long called plaid? Tartan thank you! Those flannel jammies? They’re tartan. For true traditionalists and those in Scotland, tartan will forever be a pattern while plaid is a piece of cloth that consists of tartan prints. So, tartan is a checked pattern that has stripes meeting at a 90 degree angle and the vertical stripes are exact duplicates of the horizontal ones.  A true tartan is a weave of colored threads registered with the Scottish Tartan Authority.


And yet, we will probably forever call patterned apparel “plaid,” and I’m okay with that. It just comes naturally. Sometimes these “plaids” aren’t colorful though and are often black-and-white. I’m okay with that too.


Above: Ralph Lauren, Target




One of the most famous plaids..err tartans…is the iconic Burberry khaki, black, and red check. Established in London in 1856 by Thomas Burberry, the brand’s distinctive plaid is recognized and imitated the world over. The Burberry plaid is a tartan recognized by the Scottish Tartan Authority and a forever fave of mine.


What about other checked patterns? Here’s a primer on some of my favorites:



Gingham is similar to plaid in that it is a fabric more so than a pattern and I was thrilled this morning to see Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen sporting a fabulous gingham shirt as he entered the stadium today.


Gingham originated in Malaysia and its name comes from the Malayan word for stripes, “genggang.” True gingham is a dyed in the yarn fabric, meaning the yarn is dyed before it is woven. Its distinctive print is a checkerboard pattern of simple thick colored lines on a white background.

 Above starting with dress: Mira, LL Bean, Lacoste


When you think gingham, you probably think summer not fall. The fabric is lightweight and a standard issue spring and summer wardrobe staple. As opposed to outdoorsy or grunge-style plaid, gingham evokes a somewhat preppy, conservative image and is possibly best known for being a classic red and white tablecloth.


Buffalo Plaid

I’ve always loved buffalo plaid and I love my husband who hails from Buffalo, but sadly the pattern and the city are not connected at all. In fact, it’s not even American in its origin, but rather Scottish. Of course! The story behind the distinctive red and black check is credited to Scotland and the Rob Roy tartan of Clan MacGregor. One of that famous family’s descendants settled in Montana in the 1800s and traded buffalo pelts with Native Americans in exchange for heavy Scottish blankets made in the style of the family’s tartan. Hence the name “buffalo” plaid.


 Above: Woolrich, Pendleton, Old Navy


Large blocks form the intersection of two different colored yarns on a traditional buffalo plaid. The colors are traditionally red and black and today the classic checked pattern symbolizes cold weather and signature warm brands like Woolrich and Pendleton.



Yet another type of cloth, madras came to be during the British colonial era in Madras, India. It is probably the most famous non-Scottish plaid and consists of colors commonly found in Indian textiles like yellow, pink, and orange. Like gingham, lightweight cotton madras is more suitable for summer and with its signature bright colors, it makes the perfect spring and summer wardrobe choice.


Above: Ralph Lauren and Gant



Another favorite of mine, windowpane check is classic and clean. The name comes from the windowpane-like square pattern formed by two perpendicular pinstripes, which make up the look. The grid formed by the crossing lines creates rectangles rather than squares as in many other checked patterns and these rectangles are almost always longer vertically than horizontally and are tall rather than wide.


 Above: Alfani, JJill, Eileen Fisher, Chico’s, 



This classic pattern needs no introduction to Alabama football fans, as it’s the pattern of the hat their beloved coach Bear Bryant wore. Today you’ll see Bama fans sporting anything and everything houndstooth to tailgates and football games, but the traditional look need not be reserved for those screaming Roll Tide.


Above: SweatshirtXY, Balenciaga, Oscar de la Renta, Ferragamo


Houndstooth is characterized by its two-tone design that consists of small broken or jagged checks. The name “houndstooth” came about because its series of notched corners bring to mind dog teeth. Also of Scottish descent, a true houndtooth design is made up of a specific repeating geometric block rather than squares all in a row and is an example of tessellation. A truly traditional houndstooth check consists of alternating bands of four dark and four light threads.



Usually found in a twill, which is not a pattern but a fabric, herringbone has a “dressed up” and formal image of suits and menswear. Named for its resemblance to the skeleton of a herring fish, this distinctive V-shaped weaving pattern is a popular coat style, like this one from Jones NY:


For the Home

Herringbone is a popular tile and wood floor pattern as well. Similar to a chevron pattern, it differs in that it has a zig-zag joint with ends touching and forming a miter joint while with herringbone the ends are butted.


A longtime fan of Mackenzie-Childs’ Courtly Check line, I’ve been conservatively collecting the distinctive black-and-white checked ware for the kitchen for years. A product of small Aurora, NY, MC can now be found in small boutiques and big retailers like Neiman Marcus.


Here are a few additional images of home ideas:


Above: Pottery Barn and Good Housekeeping


Above: Reusable melamine plates and Sur La Table blue plates



 Above: Pier 1 and Amazon 


So there you have it, everything you’ve always wanted to know about all things checked and “plaid.” Which one is your favorite?


Side note: If you’re more of a stripes girl, I recently read something that explains the whole “stripes make you look bigger” belief. Stylist and fitness guru Audrey Slater says the most flattering and versatile clothing item one can own is a nautical striped tee with three-quarter inch sleeves and a bateau neckline. I’m more of a crew or collared neckline girl, but I do love stripes and three-quarter inch sleeves. Slater calls this top “magical” in that it can make every woman look effortlessly chic, eternally young, and casually fit. She also recommends horizontal stripes only on tops and that vertical stripes on pants are the stripe to go with on bottoms. A pant with a vertical stripe down the leg will make you look taller and thinner. Whatever you believe or whatever you choose stripes wise, it’s probably always a good rule of thumb to not have horizontal stripes on the areas you least want to “enhance” and probably want to minimize. Time to go shopping!