Beyond Words

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

Perfume: It Just Makes Scents April 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:05 am


The other day as I jumped in a friend’s golf cart I was surprised when she said, “You’re all done up to play golf!” I said, “But I’m just in normal golf clothes” to which she replied, “But you’re wearing perfume.”


I didn’t know how to respond, as I almost always add a spritz of fragrance as I sprint out the door regardless of where I’m going, whether it be to meet the Queen of England or play a round of golf. You could say it’s how I was raised.


One of my fondest childhood memories is of my mom and dad getting ready to go out. They always got dressed up and my mom always wore perfume. She still keeps her lovely bottles of perfume perched like little trophies on a bathroom counter mirror.  Joy and L ‘Air du Temps were her go-tos and to this day they remind me of her. We were a solid middle class Hispanic family so perfume was considered very special in our home. We got it for gifts and we gave it for gifts. Still do to this day. Every year I get perfume from my mom for either my birthday or Christmas. I do the same for my daughter and my husband is firmly all in on the sweet smelling gift-giving idea.


I just adore fragrance. I can’t leave the house without putting on a scent, even when I’m at my most minimal and rugged.

I have bottle of perfume in every handbag.”

Sarah Jessica Parker


I’m with you Carrie Bradshaw and Kate Middleton might also agree.


Just last week I learned what perfume the Duchess of Cambridge wore on her wedding day to Prince William: “Bluebell” by English brand Penhaligon. And while most of us can’t afford an Alexander McQueen gown similar to Kate’s, we can afford her royal-approved scent, which goes for around $50. Who doesn’t want to smell like a princess and have a special “something blue” to wear on her wedding day?



I don’t know if Bluebell is Kate’s signature scent, but I do know than mine is Chanel’s Coco Mademoiselle. I’ve worn it for years and never tire of it. I do, however, like other scents, and on a crystal cake stand in my closet are perched some of my other favorites: Carrie Bradshaw’s perfectly named “Lovely,” David Yurman’s classic gold Eau De Parfum, Nina Ricci’s L ’Air du Temps (probably from my mom!), Caudalie’s The Des Vignes, Cartier’s classic red, a small sample of the currently popular “Flowerbomb” to see what all the hoopla is about, and a trademark Chanel No. 5 perfume that I bought in Chanel’s flagship Paris boutique.


If I could, I’d probably also have a bottle of Ralph Lauren’s original square red-bottled fragrance, as it will forever remind me of college. Sweet Honesty, Jovan Musk, and Clinique’s Aromatics will always bring back my younger years. Then there’s Charlie, White Shoulders, and even Halston. We all remember them, right? Perfume has a funny way of lingering in our memories. You could say it’s almost spiritual.



Well there you have it, it’s not only spiritual; it’s biblical, with the next verse stating “For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ.”


I recently read Author Rita Snowden’s story about visiting a small village in Dover, England. Sitting one day in an outdoor café, she picked up the most beautiful of scents and later learned that what she smelled was the villagers themselves, most of who worked in a nearby perfume factory.


The blog “Our Daily Bread” compares a person’s aroma with their Christian life, quoting Paul as saying “we are the aroma of Christ, spreading His fragrance everywhere.” Indeed. We “spray and spritz” Jesus through our words and our actions. We can tell others about Him, speak words He would be proud of, and conduct ourselves in Christ-like ways. At the same time, as we follow Jesus, we become permeated with His fragrance and carry His aroma with us.


Okay, so we want to smell good and do good, but when it comes to perfume, how can we do it best?


First of all, understand that perfume is activated by body heat so for long-lasting results spray it on pulse points like your wrist, neck, behind your knees, and on your ankles. If you want a more subtle scent, spray it on your hair and clothing and if you really want your scent to last, layering may help. This is when you combine a body lotion with a perfume. Either way, make sure your skin is always moisturized as nourished skin helps a fragrance last longer. Also, be sure to store perfume bottles away from light sources.


Fragrance in perfume is built in what are called “notes.” The “top” notes of a fragrance are what you smell right away but burn off the most quickly. These are often citrusy or fruity. Florals are often “middle” notes, which are considered the heart of any fragrance, are warm and soft, and last longer than top notes. “Base” notes develop last, linger longest, and consist of those heavier woodsy and musky scents.


Still, just because a scent smells wonderful on someone you know doesn’t mean it will smell the same on you. Just as chemistry-like labs are where perfumes are concocted, body chemistry is really the final ingredient in how any fragrance smells. I’ve had many a friend and family member buy Coco Mademoiselle because they like how it smells on me only to be disappointed that it smells entirely different on them.


Many perfumes stand the test of time, others come and go. The newest trend in perfume is “fragrance cocktailing.” This is the art of mixing two or more scents to create a scent no one else will have or be able to purchase, unless of course you divulge your mixing secrets.


If you are tempted to go this route, consider doing so with two fragrances that have a common ingredient, say jasmine or musk. Or if you’re the adventurous type, do the opposite and mix two completely different scents such as citrus and spice. Either way, have fun with it as there is no right or wrong way!


Okay, but what’s up with cologne, perfume, eau de toilette, and the likes? Basically, they are all variations based on the potency of the perfume. The higher the concentration of fragrance oil, the more staying power and usually the higher price. Parfum boasts the most oil concentration, followed by Eau de Toilette, and then Cologne, which got its name from the German city in which it was first created.


The word perfume comes from the Latin “per fumus” meaning “through smoke” and its origins vary from India to Cyprus to Persia.


The first modern perfume is thought to have been made at the command of Queen Elizabeth of Hungary in 1370. France soon became the center of perfume making but perfumes were used primarily by royalty and the wealthy to mask body odors. It ultimately came into its own with Louis XV’s reign who named his court “la cour parfumee” court and who demanded a different fragrance for his apartment every day. Madame de Pompadour was also known to order generous supplies of perfume and Napoleon continued the tradition, demanding two quarts of cologne every week and 60 bottles of jasmine extract every month. Still, it wasn’t until the 19th century that modern fragrances really developed as chemists began using molecules to create new scents and later when a little glass bottle with a number on it hit the market.



In 1903 Chanel No 5 perfume was created by the House of Chanel and the rest is perfume history. Everyone knows its iconic simple square bottle but the story behind it and its name is just as intriguing as its scent.


From an early age, the number 5 was important to French orphan Gabrielle Chanel. She attended daily prayer at her convent-run orphanage in a circular pattern that repeated the number five and she had an affinity for the five-petal rose that was found in the abbey’s gardens and surrounding hillsides.


Years later and then a high-end fashion designer, “Coco” Chanel was presented with small glass vials containing sample selections to be made into a perfume under her name. The vials were numbered 1 to 5 and 20 to 24 and she chose the fifth vial.


She later told her master perfumer, “I present my dress collections on the fifth of May, the fifth month of the year, so we will let this sample number five keep the name it has already.”


Coco Chanel was just as instrumental in the iconic bottle’s design, desiring one in sharp contrast to the elaborate crystal fragrance bottles popularized by Lalique and Baccarat. Instead, her bottle would be “Pure transparency; an invisible bottle and simple bottle adorned only by precious teardrops of perfume of incomparable quality.” The bottle’s shape has remained unchanged since 1924


A friend I’ve known since our daughters were in preschool has worn the same scent all these years. If I close my eyes I can smell it, if I smelled it anywhere I would look for her, and if she wore any other fragrance I would pitch a fit. At work just last week I hugged one of my coworkers and smiled as I smelled like her perfume all day. That’s how significant perfume can be. There’s a reason the global fragrance market is worth an estimated $40 billion. Smells like a winner to me.


Do you have a signature scent? Do you wear perfume and if so, when? Do certain perfumes remind you of certain memories or people? Please share your thoughts!






For Sale: Sanity During a Move and What I Learned April 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:51 pm


Quick, name three things that make most people cringe.



Going to the dentist.

Moving/Selling their home.


Those are just three and I’ve done all of them in the past year. Didn’t enjoy one.


Funny thing is, since moving to Austin 30 some years ago, we have moved five times! This fact is a bit surprising to me considering what a nester I am and considering my husband owned a home in Houston during the big bust in the 1980s, had to write a check for someone to buy it, and swore he’d never buy another house in Texas again.


Fast forward and my sweet Yankee boy is still in Texas and just bought his sixth house here. Never say never, right?


Our most recent move was eight months ago and consisted of a major downsizing. We are loving our new one story home and the neighborhood it’s in and I’ve surprised even myself at how quickly I felt at home. And good thing, because I don’t want to sell a house or move again anytime soon!


For the first time, we built our house, which was great but which also means every little detail had to be selected by us. This can be both exciting and painstaking. My best advice? Don’t rush through any decisions. Consider and reconsider every knob, light, drawer pull…everything.


I put a lot of time into the kitchen and master closet and am thrilled with both of them because….storage! Our kitchen is bigger and brighter than our previous one and I love the white beadboard cabinetry with black hardware. I also love the two lantern style pendant lights I convinced the builder to use over the kitchen island rather than three small ones that were given to me as choices. I also scrapped one upper cabinet and had them add a bookshelf, which I’m obsessed with. In hindsight I wish I would have gone with an apron-front farm sink, but that can always be done later!


Closet-wise, I couldn’t be happier. When meeting with California Closets to design it, I jumped on the shoe cubbies as well as additional shoe shelves for. You just can’t have enough shoe storage, right? The closet also has drawers for him and drawers for her, including one that is a jewelry drawer complete with a jewelry storage insert. I also had them include space for my ironing board and iron. I’m an ironing freak so these tools deserve a spot of their own!  Something else I’m thrilled I thought of when working with the builder was eliminating florescent light boxes and opting instead for several can lights. Someday I envision replacing the center one with a fabulous chandelier! I also did this in our utility room and will be changing out the flush mount for a pendant or chandelier.


Now for some things that I would rethink or do over.


I really, really wish I would have made one of the bathtubs in at least one of the extra bedrooms a walk-in shower. Again, can be done in the future but woulda, coulda, shoulda at the get go.


In another bathroom, the light switches are behind the door. How did I not notice this, especially considering I had them move a thermostat and switchplate off a main room wall so I could hang a large piece of art on it? Besides, who put switches behind a door? Grrrr….


I’m proud to say I didn’t have any mirrors hung in any of the bathrooms, as I really wanted to select them myself. I do kind of wish I would have opted for pendant lighting over the sinks instead of the wall mounts, which I did do in our powder room.


In our entry we have a wall of windows that are operable. Considering the Texas heat and constant allergens in the air, I wish I would have made them fixed, like the ones in our family room.


I added kitchen drawers, but wish I would have added at least two more.


I know, I know…pretty picky, right? But you should be! You are paying a lot of hard-earned money for a home. It’s hard though because you are picking and choosing soooooo many things!


All in all though, I love our home and am so very grateful.


The Business of Real Estate

On any list of “things that are stressful,” selling a house is usually somewhere near the top. Nothing anyone tells you beforehand can change this.


So, what did we learn from recently going through it all?


Number one, we learned to be picky about the realtor you choose. My husband’s entire family has worked in real estate for as long as I’ve known him (31 years) and many, many friends are realtors. They pretty much have a market made in real estate heaven right now with Austin, but even though houses may sell in a matter of days, the process is still stressful and choosing an agent is still critical.


In choosing our agent, I respected my husband’s appeal to not choose a realtor friend. He’s a successful businessman and wanted to keep this business deal purely business so we went with someone he was familiar with but came to find out he wasn’t a hustler. Our original agent seemed to work around the premise that our house would sell itself but guess what, it didn’t. We ultimately switched agents and are so impressed with Realtor #2 who was such a go-getter, great communicator, and sold our home in no time.


This brings me to probably the smartest real estate tip I’ve heard. As we were signing the title to our new home and discussing our selling experience with the title agent, she said it’s not an uncommon complaint in Austin right now, or in any “hot” market. Her advice? Always choose a realtor who was a realtor when the market wasn’t so hot. These long-time agents know what it takes to market a home and are willing to work overtime to do so. If all your agent thinks they need to do is put up a sign, post some photos online on MLS, and are difficult to get a hold of, keep looking.


When interviewing agents, do your homework. Your best bet may be someone who specializes in your neighborhood or style of home. Most of all you want them to go the distance for your house so ask them point blank who will be handling your phone calls, marketing your home, taking you to look at houses, and their hours and days of availability. Real estate is a 24-7 business. Your agent should be too. Ask them specifics about how and where they will market your home. The MLS is a must, but don’t let them stop there. If they offer references, ask who they are. If they’re relatives or good friends, ask for additional ones. Finally, know about added “administrative fees” that are on top of standard commissions. We learned this the hard way with the agent who ultimately didn’t even sell our house. These fees are negotiable so negotiate away before signing away!


When deciding on a realtor, you will run across hundreds. Everyone sells real estate today. My friend who used to sub where I teach? She’s selling real estate. Former stay-at-home moms? You’ll find their names on “For Sale” signs now. Be picky and think of them as any other professional you might hire to do work for you.


If you are selling a house, you will hire a “listing agent,” sometimes also referred to as a “seller’s agent.” If you are looking to buy a house, you will hire a “selling agent.” Confusing, right? Just remember, a listing agent or seller’s agent holds the listing to sell your home, while a selling agent represents someone buying a house. In essence, when you sell your house, the listing and selling agents typically split the commission.


To add more confusion, they are all pretty much real estate agents, but they might not be realtors. What?


Yep, Realtors are only those who are member brokers of the National Association of Realtors, the industry’s trade association. And what, you ask, constitutes a broker? Basically a broker owns or manages a real estate office or franchise, teaches real estate courses, holds various licenses sales agents don’t, contracts with sales agents to work for the brokerage, and also works directly with buyers and sellers.


Whew! Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, what might those listing and selling agents advise you? Here are just a few tips I’ve come across again and again:


If you are selling, don’t be put off by potential buyers wanting to look at your property in 15 minutes or so. Let them, even if your house is a bit messy. Messy, not dirty. Why? Last minute types often make impulsive buying decisions and your house may just be their next one. This is also why the agent you hired should be available at all times, as you are expected to be able to show your house at all times. Remember those key words: YOU HIRED. They are working for you.


Plug-in air fresheners and other masking products will turn off as many visitors as they will impress. Avoid them.


Open Houses in some markets are beneficial, but in hot markets they aren’t necessary or as popular as the majority of visitors aren’t potential buyers, but nosy neighbors.


Don’t overprice your house, which is the most common mistake home sellers make. Focus on a fair price, not your dream price. Yes, it’s your home but it’s also business. Take your emotions out of it.


Don’t miss the final walk through (and during it, don’t miss things like switch plates behind doors!) This is your last chance to make sure repairs have been done, things are as you requested, and all items that convey are still there.


When getting your house ready to show, clear off all countertops and stage it. You want potential buyers to see what the house will look like with their stuff in it, not yours. Plant flowers, buy more lamps, and do anything you can to make your home homier. Also look for things that may not bother you like a broken window blind or faded front door but that will turn away a buyer. In other words, see your house through the eyes of a buyer.


When analyzing property values and appraisals, keep in mind that they assess nearby homes of similar size, not the inside of them or any upgrades you’ve made to yours.


Millennials are a growing and important real estate demographic and it should come as no surprise that they have very specific wants and needs. These first-time homebuyers ages 20-36 look for open floor plans, energy efficiency, and a place they can ultimately morph into their own style with little effort. Most importantly, they want new kitchens and baths and make sure your agent is up-to-date on all real estate websites and apps, as that is where Millennials head first. Not proficiently marketed online? Not gonna sell!


Lastly, if your house just isn’t selling perhaps look no further than St. Joseph. Yes, that St. Joseph. Small statues of Joseph have long been buried in the front yard of homes that are for sale and many swear by them.


As head of the Holy Family, Joseph is seen as a source of domestic strength and home security and the practice of enlisting his help in real estate matters dates back centuries. It all started when European nuns buried medal of the saint as they prayed for property on which to build convents. The only rules? Bury the statue upside down and next to the FOR SALE sign.


So there’s my two-cent’s worth on moving, selling a home, and building a home. I would love to hear any tips you have so please share!










The Halfway Point March 26, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:00 pm

Well, we’re officially halfway through Lent. How are you doing with your Lenten sacrifices? Have they gone wayward much like New Year’s Resolutions do, or are you still giving up and giving more?


Why do we give up things during Lent?


Giving up things we like is said to help us realize that the pleasures of this life are not what we live for. We are traditionally encouraged to abstain from contraptions and trappings that take our attention away from God and anything that distances us from God.


Most followers also abstain from meat on all Fridays during Lent and the reasons why vary. Some say it’s a way of following the apostles in saying no to our wants in order to say yes to Jesus. Abstinence from meat also reminds us that Christ offered his own flesh and blood for us on the cross. And yet another tradition holds that years ago only the very wealthy could afford meat and fish was a poor man’s meal. By choosing fish over meat during Lent, we are reminded of that Jesus lived a very simple life and preached humility.


The purpose of fasting is also to open up space inside of us to make room for the Holy Spirit to work. Spiritual writers use the analogy of a stringed instrument in that unless the body of a cello is empty, it cannot produce beautiful music.


In the middle ages, meat, eggs, and milk were forbidden during Lent. That’s one of the reasons we celebrate with Easter eggs. After 40 days of having no eggs, they became part of Easter morning breakfast traditions. Eggs are also symbols of new life, which is what we all received on Easter Sunday.


In addition to fasting, we are asked to offer up prayers and almsgiving. Prayer is said to be our relationship with God, almsgiving is our relationship with others, and fasting is our relationship with ourselves.


So why 40 days?


You really need look no further than the bible for the answer, as 40 is a very significant number throughout scripture. Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai, the Great Flood lasted 40 days and 40 nights, the Hebrews wandered in the desert for 40 years, and Jesus spent 40 days in the garden praying and preparing for God’s plan.


If you look even closer at all of those, one thing sticks out: they all involve pain and struggle. Our Lenten sacrifices shouldn’t give us pain, but they should remind us that God uses suffering to bring us closer to Him.


There’s something else that takes 40 days to complete: birth. When a pregnant woman reaches her 40th week, she is considered full term. Ironic? Probably not.


Lent hasn’t always been 40 days long however. In early times, the fasting time leading up to Easter was as short as two days but got gradually longer and longer and by the 4th century, it officially began six weeks before Easter. Fasting is not required on Sundays though, so Ash Wednesday and the three days following it were added, giving us today’s 40 days of Lent.


Okay, but why is it called Lent?


The English word “Lent” comes from the Anglo-Saxon word “Lencten” meaning “spring.” It is also derived from the German word “Lenzin,” which means “long” as in the lengthening of days as spring approaches. It can also be looked at as a time during which we can work on lengthening the time we spend in prayer and charity.


Lent is practiced all over the world, so naturally there is a word for it in almost every language. Most of those words have something to do with the number 40. In Italian it is “quaresima” and derived from the Italian word for 40, quaranta. Same with Spanish, where is it “cuaresma” and similar to “cuarenta, the Spanish word for 40. In French they call it “careme,” which is similar to “quarante,” the French word for 40.



Lent is a time to renew your mind, body, and spirit. It’s also a time to grow in your faith and prayer life. And, it’s not just a Catholic thing. Observed in Anglican, Lutheran, Methodist, and Eastern Orthodox faiths, Lent officially began on Ash Wednesday and will end on Holy Thursday, March 13.


There’s still time to make those amends and find that spirituality. In reality though, there is always time for them. Lent simply reminds us of the importance of doing so but if you’re like me, a timetable and deadline are pretty much all I need to succeed at something. And the way I look at it, if Moses, Noah, and Jesus could all do it, so can I.


Green With Envy March 17, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:30 pm

Happy Friday and Happy Saint Patrick’s Day! We are all Irish today and there’s a good chance you are wearing something green as you read this. Forever connected with Ireland, Patrick was a gentle and humble man who was actually born in Scotland. Ordained a bishop, he was sent to Ireland to preach the gospel and used the shamrock to teach people about the Trinity. The simple, green plant grows abundantly in Ireland so he cleverly used its three separate parts to explain the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Soon after hearing Patrick’s message, kings and entire kingdoms converted to Christianity and Catholicism.


Ireland was sold, and today we all are just a wee bit Irish, but did you know there are more Irish people in the U.S. than in all of Ireland? An estimated 34 million Americans claim Irish ancestry but the population of Ireland in just over 4 million! St. Patrick is said to be buried in Down Cathedral in the County of Down in Ireland, and ironically we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day on the day he died.


So now you know the story behind the saint, the holiday, and why you are wearing green today. Green is definitely tied to St. Patrick’s Day, but it’s also tied to jealousy. You know it, you’ve heard it: “green with envy.” That my lads, is nothing to celebrate.



Envy can cause major problems and even wars. It can make us physically ill and it wreaks havoc in relationships. The strain it puts on us brings out the worst in us. Living in a state of “green with envy” leads to saying mean things to others, thinking malicious things about others, and maybe even acting out negatively toward others. In a word, it’s bad.


Still, most of us struggle with envy at one time or another. We envy someone else’s possessions, successes, and life in general. Their kids are smarter, their house is bigger, their job is better. The many faces of jealousy come in the way of wanting something we don’t have such as money, power, beauty, or even fame and prestige. But all of those begrudging thoughts get us nowhere and ultimately make us feel blue.



You see, regardless of how much we covet what others have and strive to top them, there will always, always be someone better than you in some way. Always. And, as Michael Dell so eloquently said, “If you’re the smartest person in the room, find a new room.”


That’s why the constant comparing of your life to someone else’s results only in you feeling inadequate. The only thing comparisons do is point out what you lack and how you don’t measure up. In your mind that is.



I’m as guilty as anyone about doing this. I think it’s human nature to do so and especially if you’re a Type A personality like me. I live for perfection and everything in its place. If and when I do something, I give it my all and truth be told, I secretly hope someone notices and appreciates my efforts. Interestingly, I’m not super competitive and try my best to be happy with what I have. Where I stray is home décor. I know. It sounds crazy and I love my home, but I’m forever finding new ways to decorate and embellish. I might also occasionally stray to the evil side of envy when it comes to my family. Don’t we all?


So, how can we, in today’s “bigger and better” world, avoid that pukey shade of green with envy? One way is, when you feel envy rearing its ugly head, sit back and honestly ask yourself, “What am I jealous of?” “Who am I jealous of?” “How do I compare myself to others?” “Why do I do this?” Also, keep in mind that those people in the gated mansions have problems and struggles just like the rest of us…they just deal with them surrounded by luxury. But remind yourself of one of life’s most reliable rules: money does not buy happiness. With more money comes more pressure and with fame and power comes more responsibility.


At the same time, think of ways you can be like those you are jealous of. That friend who has the perfect body? She likely works out and eats right. Get off the couch, put down the ice cream, and just do it. Those material things you think you need so bad? Maybe they were earned by hard work and saving money. Still, there are some ways you just won’t have what they have, be it wealth or health, but keep in mind there are people out there praying for what you do have and what you maybe aren’t appreciating.



That’s when you should make a list of all you are thankful for and proud of, all of your accomplishments, and all the things going right in your life. Instead of being envious and jealous, be grateful and confident. In doing so I think you’ll find all those Joneses you are trying to keep up with are probably no better off than the Smiths. Hey, I’m a Smith! Time for me to keep up only with who I am and what I’m blessed with.


Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all and may you reap the blessings of his prayer.



Hashing Out Hashtags March 7, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:44 am


Did you know that if a nation existed whose citizens were only Selena Gomez Instagram followers it would be the 16th biggest country in the world, with a larger population than Germany or France? What? That’s just cray-cray!


If the first thing you thought after reading the above paragraph is “Who’s Selena Gomez” or “What’s a follower,” you can stop reading right now and go back to your flip phone. If you know just who or what I’m talking about, hashtag read on!


As the rest of us know, or maybe don’t know but are interested in knowing, “followers” are those who are connected with you via social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, and Instagram. They “follow” everything you say and post. Ms. Gomez has more than 100 million of them, more than any other Instagram account holder. Take that Taylor Swift, Beyonce, and anyone with the last name Kardashian or Jenner. These diehards follow the singer’s every word, every photo, and every hashtag.


Hash what?


Hashtag. You know, that little tic-tac-toe or pound sign you see everywhere and right in front of words on social media? Well, it’s called a hashtag, it’s all the rage, and it’s got rules. Yep, there are right ways and wrong ways of using hashtags and I’m here to enlighten you, my millions of readers. Yeah right, Carla. #dreamon.


So, what are hashtags and how should you be using them? Wisely and carefully.


Hashtags are basically words or phrases used primarily in Twitter and Instagram posts as ways of tagging those posts to similar topics posted by others and creating searchable links to find them. For example, you post a photo of your new Golden Retriever puppy and include #goldenretrievers in the post. Well, if your account is public, your post will join the posts of others who also included #goldenretrievers in their post. And, if one of your followers clicks on that hashtag, they will be directed to a page full of photos that mention the identical subject. At the same time, hashtags allow you to easily find content that you’re looking for en masse. Some people find this cyberspace way of connecting with and engaging with others who have common interests a very exciting discovery mode.


Pretty much created by Twitter, the hashtag was designed to organize posted content by topic and keywords. This not only allows fans to find similar subject matter all in one place, it allows brands to track and measure their reach. The idea proved so popular that other platforms are now hashtag homes. Many brands and bloggers live and die by them. One place they are extremely commonplace is Instagram. Everyone hashtags their posts, but are we hashtagging the right way?


I know of what I write because I’m as guilty as the next poster in hashtagging perhaps incorrectly. Trust me, my millennial daughter loves to remind me that I don’t have to hashtag everything. Let’s remember that a hashtag’s main purpose is to group your post with similar posts. They are not ways for you to be cutesy or witty, although isn’t it fun to do so? Hee-hee.


Instagram Instances

Let’s focus on Instagram, a platform I’m familiar and comfortable with. Just like Facebook and Twitter, you have a profile and a news feed and people can follow you and like your posts. Unlike Facebook, you can only access Instagram from a smart phone or compatible tablet. The emphasis of Instagram is sharing only photos (and short videos) and your feed consists only of photos you post and the short comments you attach with them.


Instagram was created as a way of posting photographs mostly by companies and bloggers. A designer might post a photo of a dining room they’ve staged and hashtag #diningroom, #tabledecor and #dining rugs. An exercise studio might post photos of yoga poses and tag #warriortwo, #downwarddog, and #childspose. Followers can then click on those hashtags and see similar posts. That’s how it’s supposed to work. As with anything though, it has literally gone viral and now everyone and anyone has taken it to new levels.


If you log onto Instagram right now, you’ll see posts by celebs and friends, all bearing hashtags ranging from #proudmom to #lovemydog to #feeltheburn. You’ll also see some like #roadtripwiththefam and #annismybestfriend. You might also run across #just kidding instead of simple “just kidding” sans any hashtag. Some of those are okay, some not so much.


If you’re wondering how to do Instagram hashtags in a good way, you’ll notice a big difference in tags your friends include and tags professionals include. Check out this post by Heather Scott Home & Design. It’s perfection.



Now check out my recent post, which includes tags that are more clever and less product or service centered.



When I post something, I tend to either post a photo I took and really like or some interesting words. I love words and cannot get enough of thought provoking quotes or sayings. I also think of my Instagram page as an extension of my blog in some ways. I will always post a photo from a recent blog and tag my blog site in it as well as hints as to what the blog is about. Do I need to be on Instagram? Probably not. I don’t have a particular or highly sought after brand; I simply like photographs, like this one I recently posted with more straightforward tags:



I am not alone. Through smart phones, everyone is a photographer. You really can’t eat a meal or attend an event without someone taking a photo. As for the rich and famous, don’t let their photos fool you. They are most likely taken by someone whose job it is to capture their boss in the best light and then post it with perfectly worded captions. Some famous people post their own stuff; many do not.


When a photo is posted, it probably needs explaining and maybe in a hashtag. The hashtag is a major player in popular culture and is increasingly vital to the way we communicate socially. The word can be found in both the Oxford dictionary and the Scrabble Dictionary. Marketing-wise, every brand and company is on board, with some like Breathe Right nose strips actually incorporating many hashtag mentions in a clever TV ad. And who hasn’t seen Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake mockingly act out the overuse of hashtags? #veryclever #veryfunny.


It’s interesting to note that the word Instagram was chosen as a way of combining “instant camera” with “telegram.” Although it’s only been around since 2010, the free mobile app now has more than 600 million active users and was acquired by Facebook in 2012 for approximately $1 billion. It’s estimated that around 60 photos are uploaded every second and the total number of pictures uploaded now exceeds 1 billion. Holy selfie shots!


Part of the attraction is the many filters Instagram allows users to, well, use. You can tweak and edit your photo with more than 20 filters that instantly add brightness, contrast, and overall attractiveness. Ironically, if you don’t use a filter on a photo you post, you hashtag #no filter.



Hashtag Do’s and Don’ts

So how should you use hashtags? Number one, the fewer the better and the shorter the better. Remember, the intent of a hashtag is to get your content shared on sites with similar content. If a follower can neither easily read or remember your tag, your battle is lost before it even began.


Secondly, your page must be public in order for your hashtags to appear on corresponding hashtag pages.


It’s also important to know that you can include numbers in a hashtag, but not symbols like dollar signs. Spaces, punctuation, and emojis are also forbidden by the hashtag Gods. Finally, you can only tag your own posts, not anyone else’s.


Try not to use hashtags to voice your opinion. If you post a photo of the White House during your visit to D.C., appropriate hashtags might be #whitehouse, #washingtondc, or even #amercia, but maybe not #ilovetrump. Just saying.


Reserve the use of hashtags to Twitter and Instagram. Facebook is really not the place for them because the algorithms it uses prioritizes in a way that codes a long list of hashtags as too sales pitchy and they will likely be deemed as spam. If you must hashtag on Facebook, limit the number to no more than two. The same could almost also be said for Instagram and Twitter. Remember, less is more. Too many hashtags could make you come across as desperate.


Don’t be vague with your hashtags. The more specific you can be, the more targeted your audience will be. #vancouverhotels will be much more effective for a hotel chain than just #vancouver.


If you have a brand, by all means hashtag the actual brand name, but also what the brand is about. A company that leases condos on the coast of Florida would be smart to hashtag the company name, but also #floridabeachliving and #floridarentals.


In addition to the pound sign preceding tags, you might see an @, which is considered a reference to another person or company. If selected, you will be directed to that site. For example, if I put @espn on a post, you click on it and will go straight to ESPN’s Instagram page. You can also put the @ in front of your friend’s name to make sure they see that post. If you copy a post you liked, it’s common courtesy to either hashtag the original poster or include a “regramjanedoe” tag.


Hashtag things like cities, brands, trades, and subject matters like weddings and dog breeds. And remember, short and sweet and focus on specifics. Your hashtag is supposed to make finding your content easier, not harder. You want your tag to add content to your post, not convolute it.


Still, stay personal and stay on point. Even though machines and computers will put your post where you maybe want it to go, don’t you also want to do that yourself? Your posts should in a way, speak for themselves and not rely on hashtags to do all the work for you. That would just be #lazy and #uncreative.


If you just want to have fun with your Instagram page and hashtags, do. No one is saying you can’t. In fact, use hashtags to personalize your post by expressing feelings about the photo, explaining the image, and even being clever or funny. Rumor has it that posts with hashtags get more “likes” and isn’t that really what life is all about?







Salt or No Salt? February 22, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:45 am



Did anyone else read that Jimmy Buffett plans to open a retirement community in Daytona Beach based loosely around his famous “Margaritaville” song? I did, and I’m down. The community, set to open Fall 2018, will have a total tropical vibe with a pool with cabanas instead of a park or statue like most town squares and promises to embrace the relaxed lifestyle epitomized in Buffett’s songs.  Music, food and beverages will be big part of the 6,900 home community, and you never know when Jimmy himself might show up for an impromptu concert!

It’s perfect timing to announce his latest venture, as today is “National Margarita Day” and any day is the perfect day to have a margarita.


Considered the perfect cocktail by so many, Margaritas are not only popular, they are legendary. What other drink is the subject of a song that you know all the words to?


“I blew out my flip flop

Stepped on a pop top

Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home

But there’s booze in the blender

And soon it will render

That frozen concoction that helps me hang on…”


Yeah we’ve all sang “Margaritaville” right along with Jimmy Buffett and we’ve all searched for our lost shaker of salt, but do we know why we sing it and why we drink them?


We sing it because it’s a fun song and we drink them because they are the perfect combination of sweet and savory, but who invented the margarita? There are as many legends as to who to credit as there are legendary hangovers blamed on them.




Most historians credit Carlos “Danny” Herrera for inventing the mix of triple sec, tequila, and lime juice back in 1938 at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria somewhere halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico. Apparently his customer, former Ziegfeld dance Marjorie King, was allergic to all alcohol except tequila so Herrera combined the elements of a traditional shot of tequila – a lick of salt and a wedge of lime – and made a yummy drink out of them. A few years later bartender Albert Hernandez started serving the cocktail at La Plaza outside of San Diego in 1947, and the rest is salt or no salt history.


Maybe. Yet another commonly accepted margarita origin story credits bartender Don Carlos Orozco with its creation. Orozco had been experimenting with drinks in Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico and offered one to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the German ambassador. His version consisted of equal part tequila, Cointreau orange liqueur and lime, and its name is self explanatory.


Still another claim to margarita fame comes from Juarez, Mexico and Tommy’s Place Bar where it is said that in 1942 Francisco “Pancho” Morales mixed the first ever margarita. Mexico’s official news agency and many experts say Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the Margarita and they are sticking to their story.


I also like the story that Dallas socialite Margarita Sames concocted the drink for her guests at her Acapulco home in 1948 and that Tommy Hilton returned to the states and started serving them at the Hilton chain of hotels. But, according to Jose Cuervo, (yes, THAT Jose Cuervo), the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.


Lastly, one tale begins the drink’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. It was there, in 1948, that bartender Santos Cruz reportedly created the drink for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee and named it after the Spanish version of her name.


So many origins, so many tales.




Ironically, “margarita” is a German form of the name Margaret and was introduced to Mexico with no Hispanic origin. In Spanish, “margarita” means “daisy so my guess is the drink was named after someone rather than for literal purposes.


The first time a margarita recipe was ever published was in 1953 in Esquire magazine who dubbed it the “Drink of the Month.”  The recipe was:


1 oz. tequila

Dash of Triple Sec

Juice of half a lemon or lime

Pour over crushed ice, stir.

Rub rim of stem glass with rind of lemon or lime and spin in salt.

Pour and sip


That recipe pretty much holds up today, although many say a margarita in its classic form consists of tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau or Triple Sec.


Margaritas are traditionally served in a true margarita glass, which is a version of a classic champagne coupe; but today you’ll find them served in everything from high balls to beer mugs. What a margarita comes in often depends on what kind of marg you order. A “on the rocks” one will normally be served in a high-ball glass but if you order one “straight up” with no ice, you’re likely to find it in a martini-style glass. A true margarita glass will generally hold a frozen marg, but sometimes on the rock versions come in them too. Whatever you order, be sure to say if you want salt on the rim. Personally, I prefer either on the rocks or frozen with no salt and simply order “rocks no salt” or “frozen no salt.”


Margaritas of every kind pack a lot of proof in their punch, even more than Manhattans, which taste like they have so much more alcohol in them. In fact, one standard margarita has just over 33 percent alcohol, about the same as a martini and more than double a bourbon and water, Screwdriver, Mojito, or a vodka or gin and tonic. They also have a lot of calories, but let’s not ruin the day. Tomorrow: skinny margs!


Due to their high alcohol content, it’s not unusual for a restaurant to limit the number of margs you can order. But, don’t tell that to the 2012 California State Fair, which hosted the largest margarita ever according to Guinness World Records. That’s when the “Calarita,” which contained 4,650 bottles (2,100 gallons) of tequila and 8,400 gallons of margarita mix, took a 20-horse-power blender to mix the 25-tall, 10,500-gallon cocktail. Think of the calories in the puppy!



I’m sure many of you have your “secret” and “best margaritas” recipes, but here are a few of mine:


1 small can frozen limeade then, using the empty limeade can, measure 1 can tequila and one can of beer. Mix with ice and serve. Trust me, the beer makes all the difference. If you don’t believe me or are more of a traditionalist, substitute the beer with Cointreau or Triple Sec for sweeter margs.


There’s also the yummy “Cadillac Margarita” made famous at Nuevo Laredo’s Cadillac Bar, which has you shake tequila, Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, and lime juice with ice. Pour over ice in a traditional margarita and salt-rimmed glass and then “float” Grand Marnier on top. Delectable!


So enjoy a margarita today and think of all those who came before you. But, whether you order salt or no salt; rock, frozen or up; drink responsibly and don’t drive. Salud!







Vests With The Fur February 21, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:48 pm



Even though much of the nation is currently experiencing winter or extreme weather, I’m enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Still, it’s never too hot to think about fashion and since it’s still winter, how about a blog on something wintry? Like say, fur vests!


I know, I know, so unlike me to go with something as nontraditional as fur vests but remember, I do love all things sparkly and glitter, so why not?


It all started when I got a text from a darling friend of mine asking if I thought she was too old to wear a fur vest. I thought about it and we went back and forth and decided that, no, a woman of any age can rock one…as long as it’s done age appropriately. Isn’t this the case with everything though?




You’ll find and see fur vests everywhere as they are hot as ever (excuse the pun) and ways to wear them run the gamut. At first I told my friend that the look just wasn’t me, but maybe it is. Doubtful, but maybe.


The great thing about a fur vest, at any age, is that one can glam and dress up any outfit. Put one on with jeans and a t-shirt and you instantly become not sloppy but stylish. Belt one over a knit dress for a modern look, combine one with leather pants if you’re looking for an edgy look, pair one with a floaty dress and boots, or add a chunky sweater and leggings to one and you’ll find yourself in a comfy and casual look. So many options and so easy!


Fur vests, whether real or faux, are not only fashionable but warm. But unlike bulky coats, they are more part of an outfit than outerwear. They are also fabulous layering pieces that will make you feel part boho hip and at the same time, French chic. They also can make your arms look thinner than they maybe are.


Think about it: you’re wearing a shaggy vest over a flowy blouse so guess what: the chunkiness of the vest will overpower the visual of your arms, letting them appear long and lean. Who doesn’t love that?!


Styling-wise, there are just a few tips to consider. If you are on the petite side, choose a vest that ends at your hip bone, which won’t cut off your legs, giving the illusion of long, lean legs. Petite women should also take into account the scale of a vest and avoid any that are boxy.


So, whether you go faux or real is up to you, but another choice to made is animal print or a sheared look. Quality is important with the first, as inexpensive can easily turn hoochie momma but with shearling, even inexpensive options often trend upscale. Whatever you do, think real world not red carpet and never, ever go full-out Russian princess. Keep it all low-key.


Here are just a few examples of fur vests done right:

img_1436 fur-vest-look-5 faux-fur-vest-and-dress-533x800 faux-fur-vest


3  vest-with-fur-collar-anthropologie  4 fur-vest


Go with your gut and you will know when you find the right vest and the right ensembles for that vest. Don’t try too hard and don’t force the look. If it screams you, embrace it. If it’s not your deal, scream no thank you. Have fun!




On a side note, I read a post today that goes hand-in-hand with today’s post and one I wish I had written. It was titled “What Not to Wear After Age 50” by Rage Michelle on and it is brilliant.


Basically she wrote, “Google ‘what not to wear after age 50’ and you will have your pick of thousands of articles telling you what looks terrible on your old body. We could spend hours studying the clothes we shouldn’t wear and the slang we shouldn’t use and the makeup techniques we need to retire. But you are over 50. Wear whatever you want. If you’ve made it to 50 and still need to consult articles on how to dress appropriately then you are so missing out on one of the best things about being over 50. One of the best things about getting older is realizing that we don’t have to spend our energy worrying what other people think and we get to be comfortable in our own skin. Still, there are a few things that women over 50 really shouldn’t wear:

    • The weight of the world. If you must, perhaps just carry the weight of a few smaller continents.
    • Shame and regret. These are especially hard to wear after 50.
    • Rose colored glasses. By the time we hit 50, we need to suck it up, take those glasses off, and punch reality into submission.
    • Too many hats. When you wear too many hats, it’s easy to forget which hat you’re wearing.


I couldn’t agree more and will be following them from here on out.