Beyond Words

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

Spread the News October 21, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:40 pm

Butter, etc


Did you hear the one about margarine being one molecule away from plastic and that it shares more than 20 ingredients with paint? I did and it was news to me! It also prompted me to research the little cooking devil and other spreads. Turns out none of it is true and that it’s not so devilish after all. In fact, the same could be said about butter and a variety of other foods. You see, one little variation in structure does not make a near miss a full match. We as humans are only a few DNA links away from chimpanzees but that doesn’t make us the same.


So why the rumors though and which one is better: butter or margarine? Let’s start with the rumors, which may stem from the fact that margarine’s origins came from a French chemist.


FDA To Propose Ban On Artificial Trans Fats


Margarine is the imitation butter spread of all imitations and was created in France when chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries developed a substance called oleomargarine in response to Emperor Napolean’s request that someone make a butter alternative suitable for the armed forces and lower classes way back in 1869. Who would have ever imagined margarine came from the French, the culinary connoisseurs? Say it ain’t seaux!


At its inception, the principal raw material in margarine was beef fat, but in 1871 Henry W. Bradley of New York created and patented his process of making margarine using vegetable oils. Years later during the Great Depression and World War II, the supply of animal fat was greatly reduced and a shortage of butter occurred, both paving the way for the popularity of margarine, or as it was often called, “oleo.”


Funny thing is that this non-dairy product is always found in the dairy case. The primary ingredients in it today are vegetable oil, water, salt, and emulsifiers. Since it is made from vegetable oils, it contains the “good” unsaturated fats: polyunsaturated and monounsaturated.


There are many brands of margarine though and their contents vary. One thing that doesn’t is true margarine’s fat content, which is required by law to be 80 percent. Any item with less than that is considered a “spread” and can have fat content ranging anywhere from 10 to 90 percent. In general, the lower fat content the higher percentage of water and lower percentage of vegetable oil.


Margarine may not have the saturated fat that butter does, but it often contains partially hydrogenated oils, or trans fats. Not only do trans fats increase cholesterol levels, they lower good HDL cholesterol levels and raise levels of bad cholesterol LDL. The more solid the margarine, the more trans fat it likely contains. This is why stick margarines usually have more trans fats than tub margarines.


Still, many margarine brands that you find on the aisles of your favorite grocer are a bit healthier than they originally were. Most popular brands have eliminated hydrogenated oils as well as trans fats, and some brands boast Omega-3 fatty acids, have low or no salt, and are sometimes made with olive or vegan oils. The oleo of old has come a long way!





Butter on the other hand, is a true dairy product and is essentially the fat of milk. Through the churning process, butterfat is separated from buttermilk and butter is the result of the cream that is separated from the milk. In the U.S., all butter must be pasteurized, meaning the cream used to make it is first heated to kill pathogens and prevent spoilage. Butter can be either salted or unsalted and you’ll also see “sweet cream butter” on some labels.


Most butter commercially produced in the U.S. is sweet cream butter. This doesn’t mean it’s sweeter or creamier than other butters, it simply means it was produced from fresh sweet cream rather than from soured or cultured cream, which is more common in Europe and other places. Cultured cream is created by adding cultures, bacteria cultures, to the butter before it’s churned, which causes the butter to be a bit more tangy and even a bit sour. There is also “whipped butter,” which means air was added to it to make it lighter and more dense. It also has fewer calories and lower fat content than non-whipped versions.


Since butter is an animal fat, it naturally contains cholesterol and is higher in saturated fat than margarine. And any commercially sold butter in the U.S., whether sweet cream, whipped, cultured, salted or non-salted, must, just like margarine, be at least 80 percent fat.



Buttery toast


Although most would agree that good butter wins the all-important taste test over margarine, what many consider the deciding factor in choosing one over the other is often calories and fat content. Surprisingly, the two contain nearly the same amount of both, about 100 calories and approximately 12 grams of fat.


Some health experts say neither is the “better” choice but if you must, spreads sold in tubs are a bit healthier than either butter or margarine sticks. These vegetable oil spreads usually contain less than 2 grams of saturated fat per tablespoon.


The basics? Margarine contains unsaturated “good” polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats, butter contains high levels of saturated fat, but many margarines have high amounts of trans fats.


Butter will probably forever be on the list of foods to avoid regarding the risk of heart disease, but stick margarines, with their high levels of trans fats, aren’t far behind. Either, and even margarines free of trans fats and low in saturated fats, are still loaded with calories.


As for substituting one for the other when baking and cooking, it’s generally not recommended to do so, as margarines with lower fat content have more water, which can result in tougher or more watery baked goods.


One option and one that earned the Good Housekeeping “Seal of Approval” are “buttery sticks” from “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter.” GH testers were impressed by their taste and versatility, that you can use the sticks just like butter, and that you don’t have to wait for them to soften. Perhaps best of all, they have only 3.5 grams of saturated fat, no trans fats, and 45 percent less saturated fat than regular butter. They also boast plant-based ingredients are a blend of vegetable oils.


Whatever you choose, your goal should be to avoid or at least limit the amount of saturated fats in your diet and avoid trans fats all together. If you opt for tub versions that have less trans fats but not the handy-dandy measurement markings that we all love about sticks, you can sometimes find economical and clever ways to reuse and repurpose the tubs!





Did you know that margarine and butter are both types of shortening? What?


Yep. Although most of us think of shortening as that white, flavorless tub of stuff that mom and grandma use every Christmas; butter, margarine, and even lard can be considered shortening.


When pig-fat heavy lard was frowned upon in the cooking world, manufactured fat products were created for baking uses. Originally shortening was synonymous with lard, but when margarine was invented, it too was considered a shortening. The main difference between shortening and lard is that lard comes from animal fat while shortening comes from a variety of oils that are plant-based.


Vegetable shortening as we know it was invented in 1910 by Proctor and Gamble. The company developed the product as an alternative to lard and introduced Crisco to American cooks as a more healthy and digestible substitute for lard or butter. It gained popularity because it was reliable, cheaper than butter or lard, and flavorless.


The term “shortening” originally referred to fats used to “shorten” the protein platelets in baked goods and gluten strands in wheat. It’s that “shortening power” that lumps butter and margarine right up there with shortening and lard but today “shortening” almost exclusively means hydrogenated vegetable oil “vegetable shortening.”  It’s meant to lack any discernible flavor, and since it has 100 percent fat content rather than butter and margarine’s 80 percent, it results in a very tender baked good.  Shortening is rarely used in other areas of cooking and today the term “shortening” seldom refers to butter and is more closely related to margarine.





Healthier alternatives to butter or margarine include olive oil, vegetable oil-based spreads, and something called ghee.


Ghee is a type of clarified butter popular in South Asian dishes. The word “ghee” comes from the Sanskrit word for “sprinkled” and it’s made by melting butter and skimming the fat off the top of it. When cooled down, the result is a creamy looking solid that looks just like butter but doesn’t need to be refrigerated. It can be used much like either butter or margarine but lacks many of the health risks the two contain.


Since it’s made from milk solids, impurities have been removed so ghee is lactose friendly. It’s also known to promote flexibility and lubricate connective tissue, making it a popular item with yogis. It’s many health benefits also include being rich in fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, E, and K, which promote bone and brain health and boost the immune system. Finally, since ghee converts fiber into butyric acid, it is beneficial in healthy digestion.




Recipes often call for “softened butter,” but how do you know just how soft and how do you avoid the tragic microwave melt down? At all costs, avoid softening butter in the micro as it will more than likely melt too fast and will melt unevenly. Butter will soften at room temperature in about 30 minutes, so if you know you’re going to need softened butter, plan ahead and pull it out of the ‘fridge. Butter is officially softened when it can be easily squished between your thumb and forefinger. You can also test the softness by gently pressing the top of the stick with your index finger. If an indentation remains but the stick holds its shape, it’s good to go. If you can’t press your finger very much, it needs to soften some more but if it’s mushy and soft to the touch, it’s become too soft.


In those dreaded moments when you need softened butter but have only refrigerated sticks, here are three ways to soften it safely:


  • Cut it into small chunks as they will soften quicker than a whole stick.
  • Place a stick of butter in a Ziploc bag or on wax paper and pound it using a rolling pin. Then remove the flattened version and set it to cool at room temperature.
  • If you’re in a real hurry, a warm water butter bath is your best bet. Pour a few cups of very hot water into a double boiler. Put the butter over the water but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t melt. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a sauce pan with a metal bowl inside.


I don’t know about you, but the next time I’m buying butter/margarine I’m certainly going to look much closer at labels and contents. I’ve always been under the impression that butter was better only because it’s been around for so long and is what my mom always uses. It’s “old school” and wasn’t “invented” like margarine was. To me, “invented” sounds more like a science experiment and not food item but I’ve learned that butter isn’t always better. Better read those labels!


A New Spin on Fidget Spinners October 1, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:52 pm

Fidget spinner


They are everywhere. They are fidget spinners, the popular toy that consists of a centered ball-bearing that allows the metal or plastic piece to spin on its axis with little effort and pretty much non-stop. You could say they are the toy of 2017 but as with anything, there are up sides and down sides to them.


Marketed as a way to keep fidgeters focused and relieve stress, the spinners have also demonstrated to do just the opposite and have even proved dangerous. A co-worker’s son swallowed one of the ball bearings and there has been no scientific evidence of yet that they are beneficial for treating the “three As:” anxiety, ADHD, or autism. In the end, they are really what they were first marketed as: toys.


Leave it to Pope Francis to take them a step further.




During a staff meeting last week, our director gifted each of with a fidget spinner. I’d heard of them but had never really seen one. I, like everyone else at the meeting, were a little curious as to why she would give a fidget spinner to a roomful of grown-ups. She, like Pope Francis, had a reason.


We learned that during a recent homily the Holy Father surprised the congregation by taking a fidget spinner out of his pocket. He then used it in a most unusual and inspiring way to explain the Holy Trinity.


“Just as St. Patrick used the three-leaf clover to teach his followers about the Trinity, I am using my aluminum Tri-Fidget Spinner to reveal the mysteries of our God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis said. “As the spinner spins faster, the three arms seem to become a single disc yet they maintain their individuality.


The Father gave us the Spirit...


Genius. Yes, the Trinity consists of one God that is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and the three persons share one nature and receive the same worship, but they are also three distinct beings.  Returning to the spinner comparison, Pope Francis so eloquently pointed out that just as an improperly balanced spinner won’t work very well, our faith will falter and our lives will suffer if our view of God is improperly balanced.


“Could we execute a behind-the-back move if our fidget spinner was unbalanced?” he asked mass attendees. “No. It is the same if we don’t balance God equally as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.


Truth be told, any way you look at it the Trinity is a tough one, even for a cradle Catholic like myself who grew up calling the Holy Spirit the Holy Ghost! God is indeed one, but he is also three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. How can this be? Well, as a friend one time posted, “If God were small enough to be understood, He would not be big enough to be worshiped.”


Still, in our logical world how can we grasp the Trinity? One way is to consider water, which comes in three forms: solid, liquid, and gas. But, water can only be either ice, flowing water, or steam. God on the other hand can be all three at the same time. Some consider God the Father to be the solid piece of ice, God the Son to be Jesus flowing through our hearts and minds, and God the Holy Spirit to be the gas.


Another way to symbolize the Trinity is with fire. God is the fire itself, Jesus provides the warmth and the light, and the Holy Spirit is often depicted as a flame but can also be the smoke the permeates through our lives.


Lastly, we can also turn to Genesis to understand the Triune God. In the first three verses of the bible, the Trinity was present. Think about it:


“In the beginning when God (the Father) created the heavens and earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep while a wind from God (the Holy Spirit) swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, “Let there be light (Jesus).”


In the end, perhaps the Trinity is not for us to completely understand but to simply believe. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “Jesus didn’t say ‘take and understand,’ He said “take and eat.”


As we take and eat today and every day, let’s all try to keep things properly balanced. If you need a fidget spinner to remind you to do so, spin away.


A Cup of Savings to Go Please September 30, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:00 am


Happy National Coffee Day friends! No, this isn’t a blog about coffee; it’s a blog about money. But still, I love coffee so I’ll have a cup while writing about money.


When it comes to money, we spend a ton of it on coffee. In fact, if you buy two lattes a week, you’re spending $500 a year on just to-go coffee drinks! Five hundred dollars! And that doesn’t include the coffee you drink at home and most people who frequent coffee shops do so way more often than just twice a week. That’s a lot of dinero on java.


But, if you instead invested that money spent on coffee, in 10 years you’d have enough to take a great vacation. Save it for 20 years and you’d be able to pay for one year of college tuition. Yowza! Makes you think twice about coffee to go, doesn’t it?


As I said, I love coffee but I’m not a buyer of lattes or cappuccinos at Starbucks or anywhere else. For starters, I can’t stand the size names of Starbucks drinks! Why isn’t the “grande” the large anyway?!



Great advice but not the advice many Americans are heeding. According to CNBC, nearly 70 percent of American adults have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts and almost half of U.S. families have no retirement accounts savings at all. What gives?


In some cases it’s simply a matter of not being able to, other cases lean toward not knowing how or just not choosing to. In the case of the younger generation, the common thinking is “I’ll save more when I make more.” This is not the way to go about it though, because the younger you start saving, the better; even small amounts saved early on are better than no amount at all; and because it’s just often not the case according to Money Expert Kimmie Greene.


“Often times what happens is when people make more, they don’t save more, they spend more,” she told CNBC.


Money and numbers expert I am not. Far from it as a matter of fact. But it does make perfect sense even to me that the earlier you start saving, the smarter the plan is. When you’re young, it’s even more advantageous because of interest and compound interest in particular, which is basically interest on interest. It is the result of reinvesting interest, rather than paying it out, so that interest in the next period is then earned on the principal sum plus previously-accumulated interest.



“A penny saved is a penny earned.”

Benjamin Franklin


Saving doesn’t have to mean investing in stocks or working with a broker and saving large amounts of money. As Ben Franklin said, even if you save one penny, you’ve earned a penny!  Saving money for retirement is important, but so is saving for a host of different things such as major purchases like homes, college tuition, medical expenses, and other needs. It can also mean living within your means and knowing when enough is enough. As Mary Poppins so eloquently said, “Enough is as good as a feast!


But, how much should you be saving right now and how much should you have saved by now? Fidelity Investments says a good rule of thumb is to have the equivalent of your salary saved by age 30 and 10 times your final salary in savings if you want to retire by age 67. Greene’s shared her timeline with CNBC and it’s similar albeit more detailed. It’s still a pretty simple formula.


In your 20s have the goal of saving 25 percent of your overall gross pay and make sure your expenses don’t exceed 75 percent of that gross income.


By age 30 you should have the equivalent of your annual salary saved. This includes retirement contributions, company matching funds, cash, and investments.


After that you should have:

Twice your annual salary saved by age 35

Three times your annual salary saved by age 40

Four times your annual salary saved by age 45

Five times your annual salary saved by age 50

Six times your annual salary saved by age 55

Seven times your annual salary saved by age 60

Eight times your annual salary saved by age 65


I think you get the drill. What I like about this plan is that it’s not based on how much you should have saved, but is based on one’s annual salary. Someone making $50,000 a year until their 65-years-old should not be expected to have the same amount saved as someone making $500,000 a year all that time.



There’s no question it’s tough to do though. We live in a consumer-based society and are constantly fed the belief that not only is bigger better, but more is magnificent! Live like the Kardashians and buy $1,000 phones. Put it all on a credit card and pay a little at a time. Ugh.


Then there’s the school of thought studied by many that, “life is too short and I’m going to live for today.” Awesome and have fun doing so, I just hope if your life ends up being long, you’re financially prepared to make up for all that spending and the likelihood that Social Security may not be around to help you out. There’s also insurance costs and medical expenses. My friend’s daughter is a successfully employed woman in her 20s but recently had a medical issue cost her thousands of out-of-pocket dollars despite having decent health insurance. Good thing she had saved her money!


If you are looking to save, what are some of the best ways? First off, spend less. Again, I’m no financial expert but finding a reputable financial advisor you trust is a good place to start if you’re looking to make investments and save large amounts. Which brings me to a burning question I’ve had forever: if brokers and investors are so good and so successful, why are they working? But I digress. If your funds aren’t quite on the “financial advisor level,” meet with banker at your local financial institute. A simple savings account may be the way to go. And don’t be afraid to toss spare change in a jar…they really do add up! Something else I read years ago is to save every $5 bill you get. You don’t get them all that often, stocking away $5 doesn’t seem as painful as $20, and take my word for it, they add up too!


So maybe the next time you pull up to order a drive-through venti non-fat soy latte, you might think about saving that $5 bill instead of spending it. It might just earn you a king’s ransom.


Shades of Fall September 25, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:40 pm

It gets confusing that fashion industry. We just had New York Fashion Week but don’t be fooled, what was shown on the fall runways is actually what will be worn and sold spring 2018. Think of collections as what will be in store and in stores next season. But, no worries; here’s what you need to know about what to wear this fall. At least color-wise.


I’m going by the Pantone Color Institute’s “Fashion Color Report,” which the paint and color experts compile after evaluating what colors were most prominent in fashion week collections. Every season Pantone creates a palette inspired by the hues fashion designers used on the runways and I couldn’t be more thrilled with what colors they advise we should be wearing this fall.


JCrew hair ties1

In a nutshell, it’s many of the colors that make up both my home décor and my closet racks: a little bit of red and whole lot of camel and gray. I like to think of my design color style as my spice rack: I love a mix of nutmeg, paprika, oregano, and a dash of saffron. Or, maybe it’s my ‘fridge with even amounts of lean beef, tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan! And it goes without saying that both my closet and home are chalk-full of classic blacks and whites.




The photo above is from JJill and I literally could own every piece and have a closet that could look very similar if I grouped my blacks, whites, and camels like they did.



RZoe Pre-fall 2017

Here you have some selections from Rachel Zoe’s pre-Fall 2017 collection and I love every single piece. The black and white. The red. The fringe. The glitter!


Pick and choose from both of them and voila; you have right now’s fashionable colors and the official shades of fall.


Pantone’s Leatrice Eisman says this palette is “Bookended by a dynamic Grenadine red and a tawny Autumn Maple and leans more to warmth.” I love it. Cue the awesomeness!


Let’s look at each of the colors:



Grenadine good group

Grenadine is described as a powerful, evocative, and dynamic red. It is a very vibrant tone of red; almost a orangey-red. It’s definitely not a color for the faint of heart but instead a confident color and a self-assured attention-getter.



Tawny port group good

Tawny Port takes those reds to new depths and is more elegant and sophisticated. Much like a good port wine, it looks and feels full-bodied and rich.



Ballet slipper group

Ballet Slipper can go almost bubble-gummy or more similar to recent “it” color, blush. I guess it depends on how broken in the ballerina’s toe shoes are! Pantone describes it as reminiscent of the rosy glow of health and you can consider it soft, safe, and subtle.



Butterrum group good

Butterum is a toasty shade evocative of drinking a glass of Butterum by a roaring fire. In my world, it’s a classic camel and one of my all-time favorites.



Navy Peony group

Navy Peony is basically your classic navy and is considered a dependable and anchoring shade. It also takes some of the load off of black as the go-to neutral. In fact, many are saying navy is the new black but even though I’ve surprised myself of late at how much navy I now have, it will never take the place of black in my closet. It just won’t.



Neutral gray group

Neutral gray, however, could. I love me a yummy gray and love that you can wear it as a muted pop of accent or as head-to-toe classiness. You can also easily glam it up by making it a more sparkly silver. When I picture the color I picture something fuzzy and warm like velvet, suede, or cashmere.



shaded spruce group

Shaded Spruce is a meshing of teal and emerald to me but Pantone says it’s designed to make you think of the forest and the protectiveness of evergreens. I’m not feeling the forest but do like the color as I like green in general and have always thought of it as “God’s color.” But be careful when pairing it with any of the above reds and don’t go 1980’s jewel tones on me.



Golden Lime group

Golden Lime is a yellow-green shade and that leans toward chartreuse. It’s never been a color I gravitate toward as I have olive skin. If I was a betting woman, I’d ante up that it will never make it to my closet. Just saying.



Marina group

Marina in the only true cool color in the palette and it brings with it a freshness and brightness. It’s very periwinkle to me and is utterly yowza! I love it! We all need a little “vitamin sea” in our lives and Marina is the color that will bring it.



Autumn Maple group good

Autumn Maple is a quintessential autumn color but the new version has a tawny, russet hue that keeps it fresh yet classic. Close your eyes and smell the maple syrup!


So there you have it: a brief roadmap on the colors you might be seeing a lot of right now and the ones you can confidently use to create a wardrobe. Be smart though, consider what looks good on you, your budget, and if you really and truly need any of it. Truth be told, I could easily not buy one new thing this fall and have the Fall 2017 color palette pretty much covered. It’s still fun to talk about it though, right? Which ones are your favorites?



The Old College Try September 19, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:30 pm

I’m one of those who if asked “would you go back to college today?” I answer not “yes,” but “hell yes!” What was not to love? You are learning, are living with friends, and have fun activities available 24-7. For me, college literally changed my life. I played hard but studied hard, had the time of my life and made life-long friends. To this day, I take a trip once-a-year with four college girlfriends. We’re on our 15th year now. With that being said, it naturally comes as no surprise to me that all things college are tres chic right now.



Ann Arbor

To prove this, look no further than Graduate Hotels, owned by former Auberge Resorts executive Ben Weprin. The 39-year-old entrepreneur’s AJ Capital Partners has launched the group of properties in college towns across America and they are not only trendy, they are trending.


Currently located in Ann Arbor, Michigan; Oxford, Mississippi; Athens, Georgia; Madison, Wisconsin; Tempe, Arizona; Berkeley, California; Charlottesville, Virginia; Lincoln, Nebraska; Richmond, Virginia; Bloomington, Indiana; and Minneapolis, each property is customized to be in sync with the local university’s vibe.


For example, in former home of author William Faulkner and current home of Ole Miss, Oxford’s Graduate Hotel’s room keys resemble Ole Miss ID cards and the concierge desk is a bookshelf. Weprin is currently a “big man on campus” in the hospitality industry and explained his school of thought to “Town and Country” magazine.


“Everyone goes back to their college and they’re proud of the place,” he says. “Why shouldn’t the visit to college be something memorable too?”


I concur, and to do this Weprin and his team scour local antique shops and flea markets to find items that inspire décor. Each site celebrates a youthful optimism and cultivates spirit and memory making. Best of all, they are affordable and yet they boast five-star touches.


These all remind me of hotels we stayed at when my daughter and friends did college tours during her junior year of high school. We stayed at small hotels, many of them right near campus and often owned and managed by the university. I particularly remember The Hotel at Auburn University and The Inn at Carnall Hall in Fayetteville. They were such treats to stay at and I highly recommend researching similar sites at any universities you may be touring in the future.



LSU lazy river

It’s probably only a matter of time before LSU, Clemson, Bama, Mizzou, and Texas Tech have Graduate Hotels in their cities, but until then, they can at least lay claim to some of the country’s only country-club-like amenities having to do with water.


All of them have actual floating rivers on campus. Yes, lazy rivers! Can you even imagine? Let’s see, go to class, go study, then go float the river. I’m in! At SMU in Dallas, students don’t have an actual floating river but they do have a tanning pool shallow enough to allow sitting in chairs and chaise lounges comfortably. If I’m the admissions director at those schools, these perks are front and center in all recruitment materials.



Founded by two Ivy League alums, Hillflint is right on top of the collegiate trend. The company is the place to go if old school knit sweaters are what you’re looking for. Crafted to remind customers of happy college memories, their product line is like taking a trip back in time. No trendy metallics, flashy bling, or catchy phrases, just simple block letters and striped arms.


The owners founded the company after graduating college, and are quick to admit they did so because they wanted to offer something to friends that would outlive souvenir tee-shirts and something more indelible, just like the memories of their college years were. Today 120 universities allow their logos and trademarks on Hillflint sweaters with styles ranging from Stadium to Tailgating and a host of others that definitely make the grade.


The fashion industry has of course taken note of the current “college is cool” trend. Or did they set the trend? Either way, cardigans were all over runways, including those of Gucci, Altuzarra, Chloe, and Miu Miu, which means retailers coast-to-coast will be stocking them this fall and winter.


A fashion favorite for years, the cardigan was created by none other than Coco Chanel. In 1925, the style maven was frustrated with how crew neck sweaters ruined her hair and felt tight, so she revamped them and designed the first timeless cardigan. I wonder if the buttons were pearls.


So as you enjoy a good college football game this weekend, whether in a stadium seat or a living room chair, know that all things college are too cool for school right now. Boomer!


That’s a Wrap: Emmy Fashion September 18, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:49 pm

It’s called TV’s biggest night but this year, I wouldn’t know.  Truth be told I didn’t watch a second of last night’s Emmy Awards, but a girl loves her some fashion so I did check out Red Carpet wrap-ups. Funny thing happened on the way to my voting though: I didn’t know half the people mentioned in article after article, blog after blog. Tessa Thompson? No idea. Issa Rae? Not a clue. Natalie Dyer? Dying to know who the girl in the gorgeous green gown was. But know or not know, here are my no’s and my say yes to that Emmy dress. 


Natalie Dyer in oh-so-flattering high-neck green Vera Wang. Those pleats! The simplicity! the train! Per-fection.




Also in Vera Wang and a winner in my eyes was Issa Rae. Her asymmetrical tomato red Wang had just enough flash to make it interesting but simple enough to stay classy. Beautiful dress. Beautiful lady.




Some hated Tessa Thompson’s multi-colored Rosie Assoulin halter dress, but she kinda crushed it and I kinda liked it.




Some also didn’t give a round of applause to the short Stella McCartney blue blazer dress Reese Witherspoon chose, but I thought it was a classy yet edgy choice. Loved the matching suede pumps too and if I had those legs I’d choose short too! I might have pulled her hair back into a pony though.




No idea who she is but Kiernan Shipka looked flowy, airy, and a tad Greecian in a speckled Miu Miu. Up close, the detail and fabric were dreamy.




Two names forever on any of my “favorite” lists: Mandy Moore and Carolina Herrera and they didn’t disappoint. Moore was pure awesomeness in her black and white tiered Herrera and her hair and make-up were on point.



Claire Foy served fashion notice in her off-the-shoulder black Oscar de la Renta jumpsuit and I loved everything about it except the rope embellishment. “The Queen” would have been perfectly royal without it. I would have liked a smile too rather than that stiff upper lip.



Feathers are rarely a fashion favorite of mine, but something about Zoe Kravitz’ colorful feathery Dior Haute Couture stole my heart.




Nothing “little” about Julie Bowen’s side-ruffled Albert Ferretti black dress. The cap sleeves were so flattering and her hair and jewelry were beyond perfect. This funny girl consistently kills it fashion-wise. Love her style and loved last night’s look thank you very much.




And a big shout out to Sterling K. Brown who won Best Lead Actor in a Drama Series for his moving and amazing role in “This Is Us.” Not only does he win my best actor award, he also wins my “best dress male” award for keeping it traditional and classy. Nothing tops a man in a simple tux. And BTW, if you want to hear something touching, Google the part of his acceptance speech that didn’t make the telecast. The guy is a class act. Hands down.


And finally, my worst dressed. No pictures needed.


So many raved about Jessica Beal’s look but it did nothing for me. She’s always just one of those who I think is gorgeous but never quite cuts it on a Red Carpet. I guess when you have JT on your arm, who cares, right?


Debra Messing may be coming back as the beloved Grace in “Will and Grace,” but her eggplant dress last night was just a mess and anything but graceful.


Sofia Vergara looked stunning in her white Mark Zunino, but it felt a bit bridal to me and do we really need to see Vergara in yet another mermaid gown?


Robin Wright was just a no. No to the saggy-boobs dress and no to the hair. Claire Underwood would be appalled.


I don’t know who Ariel Winter is but I do know she tried too hard to be sexy and to be noticed. So did Evan Rachel Wood in her “too many details” white menswear look.


Did I miss anyone? Do you agree or disagree? Please do tell!











The Town That Built Him August 1, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:16 pm


Country singer Miranda Lambert had a song a few years back called “The House That Built Me” and it’s one of my top 10 favorite songs of all time. It tells the story of an adult woman going back to her childhood home and asking the current owners if she can take a look around. They lyrics are poignant and the tune is haunting. It’s a beautiful song:



I know they say you can’t go home again.

I just had to come back one last time.

Ma’am I know you don’t know me from Adam.

But these hand prints on the front steps are mine.

Up those stairs, in that little back bedroom

Is where I did my homework and I learned to play guitar.

And I bet you didn’t know, under that live oak

My favorite dog is buried in the yard.

I thought if I could touch this place or feel it

This brokenness inside me might start healing.

Out here it’s like I’m someone else,

I thought that maybe I could find myself

If I could just come in I swear I’ll leave.

Won’t take nothing but a memory From the house that built me.



This past week my husband and I went back to the town that built him, East Aurora, NY.  The“village,” as they call it, is a picture-perfect Norman Rockwallish colonial town on the outskirts of blue collar Buffalo and it offered him the best of both worlds: safe and charming yet full of hard-working people. It made him who he is.


The birthplace of President Millard Fillmore, the historic Roycroft design movement, and Fisher-Price toys, EA has history and charm. Mr. Fisher and Mr. Price actually started their toy company in a local garage and kids from the village were put on the boxes. This photo is my husband on the snap beads box.


His was a childhood filled with playing in the park and riding bikes. His home away from home was the East Aurora Boys Club. (Now the Boys AND Girls club! Oh the horror!) The club has stood the test of time and while we were in town it had a ceremony inducting a few locals, including a good friend of ours, into the Wall of Fame. When I first heard about us attending, I thought “but I don’t want to do that!” Am so very glad I did.


The place was packed and the speeches were moving. So much inspiration. One inductee gave a couple who took him into their home as a child a bowl of candy. Lifesavers. As the emcee noted, “At the boys club we learned to win but we also learned to lose. We learned self-respect and to respect others.” These traditions and values continue to be taught today.


In today’s fractured world, one big glaring splinter is the appreciation of generations. The Greatest Generation just can’t understand the morals and values of today’s Generation X. Millennials look at their Baby Boomer parents like they’re something out of Game of Thrones. But, if we step back and really think about it, yes we might have different opinions, but we can also learn something from each other. This is where places like the boys club come in. Generation after generation is guiding the youth of the town and even though checkers and chess may not be as popular as video games in the game room, pick-up basketball is still king. Best of all, it’s organized by the kids and not all of them get a trophy.


Walking to mass on Sunday (yes, walking to mass…so cool!) I couldn’t help but think how fortunate the kids in East Aurora are to grow up where they do. They have all the high-tech they need but they also have the low-tech past staring them in the face everywhere they go. Nostalgia carried me all during our visit and it continued as I listened to the priest’s sermon. He noted that when we are young, we are gaining things. We gain knowledge, physical growth, and new emotions. But, as we age we start losing things. Our health, our memory, our friends and family. We should never stop learning though. I learn so much from the little three-year-old buddies I teach and vice versa. Ten-year-olds at the boys club are learning the same things their grandpas did. Old teaches the young and the young teach the old.


Another place this concept is alive and well is at Vidler’s Store in East Aurora. It’s a multi-story, old-school five-and-dime that is a true treasure. Every time we go back, I have to go to Vidler’s. Inside you’ll find everything from toys of generations past to the latest in home décor. I spend literally at least an hour there as do the hordes of people visiting it daily. Yes, ceramic cookware is cool, but so are paint-by-number sets. In life, we need both.


The house that built my husband, his childhood home, is at the top of this blog and is walking distance from Vidler’s, the church, and the boys club. His mom is in a nursing home now and I so wanted to knock on the door and ask the new owners if I could touch the place and feel it. I never got the nerve.


In her song, Lambert sings “You leave home, you move on, and you do the best you can. I got lost in this whole world and forgot who I am.” Going to the boys club ceremony, walking the creaky aisles of Vidler’s, staying with my brother and sister-in-law, and attending my husband’s 40th high school reunion, reminded me that despite moving to Boston and eventually Texas, thankfully my husband hasn’t forgotten who he is and where he’s from. I’m pretty sure he never will and it’s something to sing about.