Beyond Words

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

A Thanksgiving Feast Safe for Fido November 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:49 pm

happy-thanksgiving-pets1

Thanksgiving is two days away and you know what that means: food. Lots of food! And, as much as we love all the turkey and fixings they are no bueno for something else we love: our pets.

Thanksgiving also means lots of people and kitchen chaos, which means you may not pay attention to what your dogs eat or sneak on the side. But if you want a day without a pet emergency room visit, you might want to take note of the ASPCA’s do’s and don’ts of Thanksgiving for pet owners.

Basically, the rules include no pets in the kitchen, stuff your turkey but not your pets, no booze hounds, and take out the trash!

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When talking turkey, it’s tough to not give your dog a little nibble of the bird but just make sure it’s fully cooked, skinless, boneless, and has no tracings of twine or foil. The skin can be especially dangerous for Fido, as it will have spices, sauces, and fats that are both dangerous and hard to digest.

Bones, even those cooked like neck bones, are the worst and if ingested, will wreak havoc on a dog or cat’s digestive track. They splinter inside an animal and could lead to that dreaded emergency room visit.

Lastly, be sure to double bag and wrap-tie the turkey carcass and toss in an outside bin.

What’s the other Thanksgiving Day standard? Pumpkin pie! The pie is my absolute favorite but raw yeast dough will not be your pet’s fave. If ingested, the yeast converts sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide, gas, and alcohol, which can result in a bloated almost drunken pet with severe pain. This could be life-threatening and comes into play when making rolls and other bread items as well.

Nutmeg is a key ingredient in pumpkin pie and yams, but it is a big no-no for dogs. In fact, the seasonal favorite can cause seizures and central nervous system problems if ingested by a pup. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes themselves are fine in moderation; just make sure they don’t have any nutmeg or other spices.

Sage is also a popular Thanksgiving Day spice but it’s equally dangerous. It contains oils that upset a pooch’s tummy and should be avoided.

Along those same lines are onions and garlic. These two are pretty commonly known as bad for dogs, but just in case you didn’t know it, keep them away from your four-legged friends at all costs. Both contain sulfides that are toxic to dogs and can lead to anemia. Between the two, onions are more toxic than garlic and cooking them does not reduce their toxicity.

When I think of the holidays from my childhood, I remember my parents always had a big bowl of nuts on the coffee table. They were in a special wooden bowl and were not shelled. An old-school nutcracker and shell picker were always part of the set-up but when I think about it, it’s nuts to have nuts laying around if you have dogs, which we always did.

Nuts, especially walnuts and macadamia nuts, are uber dangerous for your dog. If a bad reaction occurs, a dog will be unable to stand, will vomit, suffer tremors and an elevated heart rate, and will have both a fever and weakness within 12 hours of digesting the nuts. Thankfully most symptoms go away but why risk it? Keep those nuts up high people.

Other things you should keep away from your pets

Drippings and Gravy

Turkey Stuffing

Raisins and Grapes

Mushrooms

Corn on the Cob

Butter

Chocolate

Alcohol

recipe-for-dogs

It’s not all bad news though and there are plenty of Thanksgiving Day items that can be safely added to your mutt’s menu, including:

Boneless, skinless and well-cooked turkey meat (no skin)

Sweet potatoes (plain)

Plain pumpkin puree

Green beans

Cranberry sauce

Carrots (raw or cooked but plain)

Apples

If you think your precious pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4436. It’s a number you should probably keep handy all year long.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and one with safe and happy pets!

 

Tis the Season…for Thanksgiving! November 22, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:45 pm

Rockwell

 

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.  Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.  Thankfulness may consist merely of words.  Gratitude is shown in acts.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

 

Okay I’ve had it.  I’ve had it with Christmas taking over Thanksgiving’s important November role:  that of holiday to be treasured not trumped.

 

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  I love the food, I love the football, I love the family and friends, and I love fall.  I hate that people are already putting up Christmas trees and Christmas lights.  Don’t get me wrong, I also love Christmas, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  And a month.

 

October is for Halloween.

November is for Thanksgiving.

December is for Christmas.

 

The holidays shouldn’t mix and match.  It’s just wrong to be serving your turkey and dressing as you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree.  I know many of you disagree with me and countless of you have maybe already begun your Christmas decoration deluge.  It’s bad enough that retail America starts with the Christmas stuff in October, but it’s not the Christmas season yet!

 

Thanksgiving is very important.  Giving thanks and being grateful always is, so devoting an entire day to doing so should not be overshadowed by any other holiday or event…including the dreaded Black Friday.

 

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For those of you who don’t know or have forgotten its origins, the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in answer to their prayers for an end to the drought so they would have food.   Those same pilgrims worked side-by-side with their new neighbors, Native American Indians, in a show of ultimate acceptance and teamwork.  These are important moments in our nation’s history and deserve to be saluted…all by themselves.

 

So please, do us all a favor and put away your lights and ornaments for just one more week.  Let’s all give Thanksgiving the holiday and the honor it deserves.

 

Agree or disagree?  Please let me know your thoughts on this.

 

Pretty & Plated November 15, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:02 pm

 

I had a dinner party this past weekend and had so much fun creating a fun tablescape that incorporated both the season and the meal. And, even though our meal (prepared and plated by the fabulous Chef Katy Parker BTW) didn’t consist of turkey and it’s not officially Thanksgiving just yet, I kinda wished I had some of those old school turkey transferware plates.

 

You know the ones, brown and white normally and probably found in your mom or grandma’s hutch or kitchen. Love them, hate them, or don’t really care about them either way, the plates are not only pretty and festive, they’re historic.

 

As with most things formal and proper, we have the Brits to thank for turkey plates and I’m not talking turkey blue plate specials. I’m talking turkey plates that are special.

 

Staffordshire

Following the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was licking its wounds and its economy was struggling but instead of writing their then nemesis America off, those brilliant Brits began targeting us Yanks with their famous dinnerware like the simple yet stunning 1765 platter from Staffordshire pictured above. Soon everything from our historic landmarks to patriotic scenes to even the expansion of the west would eventually be found on plates and platters from Pittsburgh to Portland. It was a certain handsome bird however, that took center stage in the center of the plate.

 

Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November as the nation’s official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, English potters began producing turkey-themed dinnerware for the American market. Already the star of both English and American feasts, the turkey quickly became the symbol of the new holiday and American tables were suckered into all things turkey.

 

Southern Living

I’m a sucker for a formal set table, although I rarely set one myself, and I love china. I have mine from our wedding, as well as my mother-in-law’s less formal one and my mom’s. We use my mother-in-law’s as our everyday plates and just recently my non-sentimental husband commented that he really likes using them and that they make him happy. Who knew simple china from England could make the brash boy from Buffalo blush?!

 

 

Southern Living

I’m also a sucker for a picturesque plate wall like the one above fabulously configurated with…yes…turkey plates! What a great idea for all of you out there who may have a plate collection but don’t want to use them for their original purpose. I’m floored by this wall!

 

Royal Doulton

Today turkey-themed plates by the likes of Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Ridgway can be found but you may need to look hard for the real deals as they can sell anywhere from $500 to upwards of $1,500. One of the original originals is the above classic blue-and-white “Flow Blue Turkey Platter” from Royal Doulton. You’ll also find various versions by various makers in lots of colors, including the traditional brown and white as well as blue, green, red, and even purple. Oddly enough, finding some in black (which I would LOVE!) is rare, so if you do, snatch them. I’m a big fan of a host of transferware patterns and will always gravitate toward those in green and white, red and white, and of course the brown and white turkey.

 

Johnson Brothers His Majesty pattern

One of the most popular patterns and one of my faves is the above “His Majesty,” which was produced by Johnson Brothers from 1959-1996. The company and all of its patterns were acquired by The Wedgewood Group in 1968 and from 1999-2004, Wedgwood partnered with Williams-Sonoma on reproduction patterns.

 

Williams-Sonoma

Today the retail giant offers not only a stately “Plymouth Turkey” dinnerware collection but the above “Plymouth Birds” collection, which is equally festive and perfect for family feasts and every day dinners.

 

Sadly formality is not trending or going viral these days. Considered as uncool as a flip-phone or file folders is formal dinnerware. Crystal goblets, sterling silver place settings, and porcelain china dishware aren’t on any millennial or Gen Xer’s wedding gift registry and it makes me sad. What makes even sadder is when I see “Honeymoon Fund” or “Wedding Fund” on their registrations. What? But, that’s a whole other blog I guess.

 

So, what I’ll do with all my china, crystal, and silver that our daughter probably wants nothing to do with is not something I think about. Until the day comes, I’ll continue to enjoy having a casual glass of wine in my Waterford crystal and our nightly dinner on Wedgwood china. I’ll also continue to crave some turkey plates on which to gobble gobble goodness. If anyone has any they’d like to unload, I’m more than happy to help your efforts. We’ll both be thankful.

 

Blogger’s note: I can’t close this blog without sharing a great little turkey tip I recently ran across. Instead of roasting a big 20 pound or larger turkey that takes up so much room and takes so much time to cook, think about instead roasting two smaller birds. Not only will cook time be reduced, guests will have more chances at those coveted legs and wishbones. You’re welcome! 

 

A Berry Interesting Thanksgiving Tradition November 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:35 pm

Thanksgiving 2020 will look much different for many of us, but some things will still hold true, especially the food we eat. We may not be hosting friends and family, but we will probably still be feasting on turkey, stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and cranberries. I was never a big fan of cranberries back in the “open a can and pour out the log” days, but I’ve grown to love them. What exactly are those little red berries though and why do we generally only eat them once a year?

 

The small, red, and tart fruit is actually very healthy and we can thank Native Americans for the tradition, as they mixed cranberries with deer meat waaaay back in the day. They may have even shared some with the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day.

 

History also notes that sailors used cranberries as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy and more recent studies suggest cranberries promote gastrointestinal and oral health, raise the good HDL cholesterol, and may even help prevent cancer.

 

 

The very first official harvesting of cranberries was by Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall, who planted the first commercial beds in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Many of today’s cranberry bogs are in fact more than 100 years old!

 

Cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy marshes and are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to North America. The other two being blueberries and Concord grapes. During harvesting, the berry marshes are flooded, special equipment is used to knock the berries off the vines, and then they float to the surface. Most of the world’s cranberries are grown on some 50,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and are harvested in September and October. Perfect timing for fresh cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving!

 

Each year, Americans eat about 400 million pounds of cranberries, 20 percent of which will be consumed over Thanksgiving. The fruit can be eaten both fresh and dried, and is popular in muffins, trail mixes, cereals, salads, and of course juices.

 

So what do you prefer? Fresh or canned? Whole berry canned or jellied? I prefer the whole berry but if you like that blob of gelled stuff, here’s a fun way to make it festive using cookie cutters:

 

 

And just in case you don’t have enough food planned (LOL!), here are some yummy recipes that use cranberries. Use them this week or all year long!

 

 

Cranberry Brie Cups (Great for Thanksgiving morning!)

1 8 oz. tube crescent rolls dough

1 8 oz. wheel of brie (can substitute cream cheese)

½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce

Optional: chopped pecans on top

 

Preheat oven to 375 and grease mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough and pinch together seams.

Cut into 24 squares and place into muffin tin slots.

Cut cheese into small pieces and place inside crescent dough.

Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

Bake until crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.

 

 

Festive Pineapple Cranberry Salad (My favorite!)

1 can mandarin oranges

2 pkg. raspberry flavored gelatin

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 apple, chopped

Optional: chopped pecans

Drain oranges and pour juice into sauce pan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add dry gelatin and stir 2 minutes. Stir in cranberry sauce. Pour into large bowl and add oranges and apple. Refrigerate 1 ½ hours or until slightly thickened.

 

 

Three Ingredient Cranberry Relish

(Anthony Bourdain calls this, “Delicious and truly one of the easiest recipes in the world.”)

Wash 1 large orange under warm water. Dry and coarsely chop skin, flesh, and pith. Remove seeds. Combine orange and 12 oz. fresh cranberries in food processor. Pulse until mixture appears grainy. Transfer to bowl and fold in 1 cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

 

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs (great use for any leftover cranberry sauce!)

Leftover cranberry sauce

¼ rice vinegar

2 T ketchup

2 T soy sauce

2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 t brown sugar

¼ cup water

2 lb. pkg. precooked cocktail-size meatballs

 

In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except meatballs, cook on medium low, and stir until smooth.

Add meatballs and cook until heated, about 10-15 minutes.

 

 

Cranberry Nut Bread (my mom’s)

2 cups fresh, whole cranberries

2 T butter

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup and 2 T sugar

1 ¾ t baking powder

1 t salt

1 egg, well beaten

1/3 cup orange juice

1 t grated orange rind

¼ cup water

Cut cranberries in half. Melt and set aside butter. Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquids. Stir in butter. Add orange rind and cranberries. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

 

 

Cranberry Salsa Dip

1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

½ cup sugar

Green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 lime, juiced

Pinch of salt

2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened

Put all ingredients except cream cheese in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped coarsely. Put in airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. After, spread softened cream cheese on serving plate and spread salsa over cream cheese. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

 

 

Cranberry Hot Tea

1 48 oz. can cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup orange juice

1 cup lemonade

1 cup pineapple juice

Cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Serve warm with cinnamon stick garnish.

 

 

Cranberry Punch

2 bottles cranberry juice

1 ½ bottles water (using juice bottle to measure)

2 cans frozen orange juice, thawed

Juice of 3 lemons or 9 T lemon juice

1 pkg. red hot candies

Whole cloves and sugar to taste

Put all ingredients in pot and heat on low until red hots melt. Transfer to crock pot to serve and keep warm.

 

 

Cape Cod

Mix 1 part vodka with cranberry juice to taste in highball glass and fill with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

Variations:

Sea Breeze: add grapefruit juice

Bay Breeze: add pineapple juice

Cosmopolitan: add triple sec and serve in martini glass

 

 

Cranberry Kiss Cocktail

1.5 oz. cranberry vodka

2 oz. cranberry juice

1.5 oz. simple sugar

Lime wedges and mint leaves

Muddle 3 lime wedges and 8 mint leaves in a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with floating mint leaves.

 

 

 

 

Take My Breath Away October 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:48 pm

 

I read something interesting this past week detailing just how important deep breathing is and that it is one of the body’s strongest self-healing tools. I took a deep breath as I read all about how it lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rates, decreases stress hormones, oxygenates the blood, exercises the lungs, increases physical and mental energy, and improves immunity. Wow. Quite a lot for a simple “just breathe” tip, right?

 

 

I knew some of this but not all of it. As luck would have it, I had my yoga practice the day I read all about the benefits of good breathing and my amazing yoga instructor Nicki of course knows all about all of this. Yoga, as any of you yogis know, is big on big, deep breaths. It’s just one of the many things I love about yoga as closing my eyes and breathing in through my nose and out through my mouth calms me, centers me, and drains my brain. Now I know it does all that and so much more.

 

 

Think about it, breathing means life. Without it; we are dead. In talking about this after class, we all talked about how important proper breathing is in activities like swimming. Nicki also pointed out that babies breathe from their bellies, not their chests. Watch a baby breathe and you’ll see their bellies go up and down in perfect yoga “big belly breath” sequence. Sadly, as that baby grows up he or she, like most of us, start inhaling and exhaling with “chests breaths,” those quick and tense breaths that we are all guilty of. We learn chest breathing through life and all of life’s experiences. It’s time to take a deep breath and change that habit.

 

 

You might call that kind of breathing “labored breathing” and where do you also hear about labored breathing? When and while a woman is in labor! Hard, painful breaths are instructed as she pushes to bring life out into the world. Not a type of breathing we should all strive for in our daily lives, right? And speaking of hospitals, let’s all take a moment to remember all the horror stories we heard regarding Covid including desperate breathing issues and ventilator desperation stories. As I write this, a dear friend’s granddaughter is at a hospital as she was not breathing well. We are all hoping and praying that God will breathe life into her little lungs and send her on her way back home where she can do all those healthy baby belly breaths.

 

 

Webster defines the word “breathe” as “to draw air into and expel from the lungs; to inhale and exhale.” In order to achieve those big beneficial breaths mentioned above, it’s important to breath into your belly, pulling it back toward your torso, and then release that breath boldly and allow your belly to expand. Oh the horror, right? Aren’t we supposed to hold our stomachs in to achieve maximum style points? Yes and no, holding the stomach in has many benefits but try to relax it as you breathe and remember, the exhale is as important as the inhale.

 

This is true in the animal kingdom as well. When our beloved dog Nikki recently suffered a near fatal bout of pneumonia, our first clue that something was wrong was noticing her labored and unnatural breathing while she slept. It alarmed us and prompted us to get her urgent care. Nicki mentioned that one of her dogs has an enlarged heart, as does our Nikki, and we’ve both been told by our vets to count their breathing to make sure it’s not too labored and or fast.

 

The idea of breathing even makes its way into the world of sommeliers as it’s often said wine needs to “breathe” in order to develop its flavor and bouquet. We also use the word to express confidentiality or secrecy when we utter, “Don’t breath a word about it.”

 

 

We are often told to “just breathe” or “breathe deep” when things are going awry or we are feeling stressed and anxious and “take a deep breath” is often code for “calm the heck down” before being told to “take a breather.”  What does this tell us? It tells us breathing, but breathing right, is essential and key to healthy living both emotionally and physically.

 

I love when a message clearly conveys itself to me as breathing has the past few days. Even this morning as I played my morning meditation and reflection app, (“Pray as You Go” if you’re wondering…it’s short and it’s awesome!) I was first instructed to take in some deep breaths as I examined my week. It totally inspired an “I feel a blog coming” mood and it also reminded me that Jesus breathed on His disciples to calm their fears and inspire in them the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit.

 

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It doesn’t take a biblical scholar or rocket scientist to remind us that breathing is living and in order to live a healthy life, we’d do ourselves a big favor to breathe deep and fill those bellies with air. Take a breather this week and pay attention to how you breathe. Doing so just may take your breath away.

 

Unmasked and Unafraid October 19, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:16 pm

Halloween is quickly approaching and as much as I’m thrilled that, after a year of being masked up, kids can once again Trick-or-Treat this year and hopefully the only masks they’ll be wearing are those that go with their costumes. Still, let it be known I am not a Halloween fan. I don’t like anything ghoulish or scary and I really don’t like dressing up in a costume. In fact, almost any invite that requires a costume is almost certainly a “no” for me. Yes, I’ll do it for the most special of cases, but I will never choose to do it on my own or suggest it be done.

 

As a kid, this wasn’t necessarily the case as I have very fond memories of my simple either Tweedy Bird or Caspar the Friendly Ghost costumes that consisted merely of a flimsy yellow or white cape-like costume and a plastic face that was more Jason from “Friday the 13th” than anything friendly. Maybe the key word here is simple. The more elaborate the costume requirement, the less I’m prone to put it on.

 

If you don’t believe me on any of this, ask our daughter. She swears she doesn’t like Halloween much either and blames me. I was never that mom who went all out for her child’s Halloween costume but, I am also proud to say that one of her costumes was award winning. We still laugh about it today.

 

Our church was hosting a pre-Halloween fest for parish kids and being the dog lovers that we are, we (okay I) chose what was really a dog costume for my sweet daughter. It was a giant Milk-Bone dog biscuit that a real dog would wear horizontally on their long body (think maybe Lab or Golden Retriever) but our girl wore it vertically. I added some home-made ears out of one of her hairbands, a fake nose, a (gasp!) leash around her neck, and voila! The cutest costume ever was born. And get this; her unpretentious little costume won the costume contest that night! Yep, she beat out the most elaborate get-ups and came home top dog and dog-gone proud. You could say it was probably one of my proudest Halloween moments.

 

I’m also pretty proud of costumes my husband and another couple and I wore one year. She and I hand hand-painted a giant “Y,” “M,” “C,” and “A” on four separate white t-shirts and then we each donned either a cowboy hat, army helmet, hard hat, or police officer cap and became The Village People. We thought we were so clever (and what an easy costume!) but didn’t realize till later that many of the photos we took were of “ACMY” rather than “YMCA.” Oh well, give us points for creativity.

 

Yet another easy-peasy costume I put together for my hubby and I was “The Graduate.” He had recently attended an honorary university event and was sent an elaborate graduation gown and motar board to wear to it, which later made the perfect Halloween party costume with me on his side wearing an animal print pillbox hat, black pumps, and a cocktail dress. Yep, I was Mrs. Robinson! Here’s to you!

 

Finally, a dear friend and I once dressed as the then popular band The Black Eyed Peas by simply donning a painted on black eye and white t-shirts with a big “P” on them. Again, I’m all for simple.

 

So Carla, as you’re lying there on the couch show me on this puppet what you don’t like about costumes. This might be what a therapist would ask me in addressing my aversion to costumes. First and foremost I don’t like the hassle. Put me in scrubs and I’m a doctor or put me in a white jacket and white hat and I’m a chef. But, it ends there. I’m okay with conceptualizing something clever or elaborate but my creative juices dry up when it comes time to shop for all the necessary pieces.

 

 

I also don’t like attention and I don’t like pretending. I don’t like to pretend I’m someone I’m not and I certainly don’t like pretending I’m a sexy whatever at my age and cannot stand when women of a certain age put on the fishnets, bunny outfits, or hot cop with handcuffs costumes. Not a good look ladies; not a good look.

 

So there you have it…my take on what many of you might consider one of your favorite holidays. You have fun buying your costumes and I love you for it. I’ll enjoy looking at all your photos but until then I’ll be right here unmasked and unafraid.

 

 

 

It’s the Little Things October 3, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:33 pm

 

When I fly, I always like to pack a few snacks in my carry on. Grapes, cherry tomatoes, some kind of crunchy snack, and something sweet are my travel to go choices. This past week I included DOVE Promises, those little square pieces of chocolate that pack a punch. Much like Hershey’s Kisses, one or two Promises satisfy and gratify.  Each one also comes with a sweet quote inside their wrapper. The one I opened said “Don’t stop until you’re proud.” Snapple drinks do something similar under each cap, and that company brilliantly ties in the quote with their website.

 

You could say both of these are examples of how the little things in life can bring big chunks of joy. Bigger is not always better. Travelling along the eastern seaboard last week from Maryland to New Jersey I witnessed this geographically first hand. I found it fascinating that in 2.5 hours we drove through four states. In Texas, that wouldn’t get you from Austin to Dallas or Dallas to Houston. Everything is indeed bigger in Texas.

 

But back to the small things. There are so many small wonders in the world that we often don’t pay attention to. I’m thinking we should and what better time to start then now?

 

Take the Qtip. What would we do without them, right? This engineering feat was created in the 1920s for baby care and today more than 30 billion are sold each year. Each diameter of the cotton ends is the same for every single swab but they are not meant to be ear cleaners, even though 99 percent of us probably use them for just that. It’s worth noting that on every Qtip package is a warning against doing so. What else do we use these small wonders for? Applying make-up, stirring liquids, as fire starters with matches, and a host of other personal and ingenious uses.

 

Then there’s the Chinese take-out box. The iconic white boxes seem pretty unassuming to look at, but they are actually amazing little pieces of design. They’re cut from one piece of paper and folded, leaving no seams where liquids can’t seep out of. And, if you pop the wire handle off, they turn into a plate. Who knew, right?!  What we do know is that this box style is now used for not only food, but for boxing gifts, party favors, and a whole lot more.

 

The boxes are somewhat surprisingly an American creation, patented in 1894 by Chicago inventor Frederick Weeks Wilcox. An, funny that the little works of origami often contain American food, as Chinese-American cuisine is very different from the food you find in China. So in essence, you have American food in an American box. USA! USA!

 

 

On my trip I also realized I’m also a big fan of that little thing called a travel neck pillow. Yes, I know they are a bit cumbersome to carry, but boy am I always so grateful I have one once onboard. Thank you to whoever invented them! And thank you to whoever invented the apple corer and slicer that gives you eight perfect slices of an apple. Mine is shaped like an apple and I couldn’t love it more.

 

And lastly, two items we all use and love but maybe don’t give enough credit to for making our lives just a little bit better: Post It Notes and beverage collars, those cardboard cup wraps that are used everywhere coffee is sold.

 

I write this during the week that the Feast of St. Therese was celebrated. Therese, for those who don’t know, was known for her “little way.” St. Therese of Lisieux was a French Carmelite nun who died at the age of 24 in 1897 but her little life changed people in big ways and still does to this day. Therese believed that he actions were ways to let God’s love work through her towards others, regardless of how big or small they were. This philosophy is known as the Little Way and is about doing the smallest actions with big love. Therese lived a simple, hidden life of holiness and didn’t chase lofty achievements or merits. She even wrote about how much care she put into folding napkins at the dinner table.

 

St. Therese is one of my favorite saints and if I can employ her “little way” in even the littlest ways I’d be big-time happy.

 

In the end, let’s all remember that it really is the little things that matter. The little words and notes of praise or thanks. The little random acts of kindness. The little meals and little walks. The little quotes inside a little piece of chocolate. These are the things that make life sweet. What little things and small wonders come to mind for you?

 

Smells Like Fall September 30, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:42 pm

 

Don’t laugh; it could happen. Probably actually is. That’s the state we are in: masked up and everything pumpkin spice. I realized this yesterday as I strolled through the grocery store (unmasked BTW) and saw just a few masks but a ton of pumpkin spice everything. Yes, there was the requisite supply of the “Three Cs of Pumpkin Spice:” coffee, creamers, and candles, but who knew people have a craving for pumpkin spice butter, hummus, cereal, crackers, chips, and even oatmeal, which I, guilty as charged, recently purchased at Trader Joe’s. It’s crazy out there people!

 

Blame it on Starbucks.

 

 

The coffee chain claims credit for any and all pumpkin spice phenomenon, which they introduced to the the masses back in 2003. Today, Starbucks sells 20 million pumpkin spice lattes each year and it is their top-selling seasonal beverage of all time. Shocker. Funny thing is, the drink contains no pumpkin but instead is merely topped with pumpkin spice, which is a blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and ginger.

 

 

Courtesy: Paris in Four Months

I’m a coffee lover and always say I like a little coffee with my creamer, but a pumpkin spice latte lover I’m not. I’ll drink one now and then during this time of year, but you won’t find me in line for one or buying the coffee to use at home. But, I do love fall and I enjoy pumpkin scented candles and pumpkin bread. Don’t even get me started on pumpkin pie though, which is my absolute favorite.

 

So what is it about all things pumpkin and particularly pumpkin spice? Turns out it’s all about not our mouths and taste buds, but our noses and sense of smell.

 

 

According to Johns Hopkins University, it’s not the taste of the favorite fall flavor, but instead the smell of it and the associations it bubbles up. Apparently of all the senses, smell is uniquely tied to memory. In fact, the part of the brain that processes odors sits right next to the part that processes memories. Close your eyes and think about this for a minute. Think about fresh baked bread or freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies. Does your mind go to how they taste or how they smell and a memory associated with them?

 

 

This year’s pumpkin spice barrage started in August, weeks before fall actually began, and we can count on it to hit us annually and circle back next year. Coincidentally, Johns Hopkins found that the more you’re exposed to something, the more it ingrains itself in your preferences so by simply experiencing pumpkin spice everything every year, the more familiar and reassuring that scent becomes. Even though the lattes and popcorn haven’t been around forever, they now bring with them a certain nostalgic comfort and pleasant anticipation. Being that our sense of smell inspires memories, light those candles and baked that pumpkin bread!

 

 

But back to fall. I may not love pumpkin spice lattes but I love fall. I love everything about it: the weather, the clothing, football, and Thanksgiving. I’m not a Halloween fan though, so my fall décor is all things pumpkins and harvest. No scary or ghoulish things at Carla’s home.  But, there will be lots of pumpkins; lots of pumpkins. Maybe this year I’ll add some pumpkin flavored coffee creamer and noodles just to spice things up. My sense of smell and pumpkin spice manufacturers everywhere will be ever so grateful.

 

When a Blogger Can’t Blog September 10, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:53 pm

I had lunch with some dear friends yesterday and during our time together one of them mentioned that she hadn’t seen any of my blogs of late. I told her I’ve had so much going on in my life, including many a crisis and heartbreak, that I just didn’t have the energy to write. She wisely said, “Maybe that’s the best reason to write.” Bingo Liz. You were right so here I am. Blogging. Writing. Lamenting.

 

Remember when we all couldn’t wait for 2020 to end and for 2021 to start fresh and new? Well, I’d give my right arm (which, BTW is one of my laments today) to go back to 2020 and say adios to 2021. As a nester and introvert, 2020’s lockdown felt “safe at home” not “stuck at home” to me and I loved it. Yes, there was worry and fear about the virus and I occasionally missed lunches with friends, travel, and shopping but on the whole, I was okay. I was also the most physically fit I’d been in years. I walked with abandon, took up tennis again and played 2-3 times a week, golfed regularly, treasured my online yoga class, and ate healthy for the most part.

 

Then came 2021.

 

Seemingly overnight but in reality in just in a matter of one month, our country was turned upside down and the pandemic was anything but gone. I could go on and on about this, but anyone who knows me knows where I stand and anyone who loves what’s going on and is responsible for it can go stand somewhere else.

 

Thankfully, I did sneak in an annual college girls’ trip in February, which was so good for the soul, but soon after returning all of Texas found itself not stuck in COVID, but rather SNOVID. For an entire week power was in and out, freezing rain was followed by ice and snow, and cities and towns were shut down for days on end. Again, for a nester it was kinda cool but after two days of sitting at home in a full-length puffer, long-johns, and ski cap the cool quickly wore off and we were ready for some heat. I will say however, those COVID masks made for great face warmers!

 

After that weather weirdness spring sprung but so did a lot more. Our long-planned trip to Lake Tahoe was partly hampered by wild fires but I’m not complaining. It was memorable and fun in its own crazy way. So, not to go into too much detail and bore you to death, I’ll just quickly mention what all’s had me in a funk during the past six months or so:

 

  • I finally had to medically address back and leg issues that unfortunately may have been exasperated by all that physical activity I mentioned about. Go figure. I had to get an MRI, the worst nightmare for a claustrophobic like me, which resulted in a back injection and now PT. Things have improved some but am pretty sure my neck and right arm are up next and will probably require much of the same. Awesome.

 

  • Family members were hit head on by a drunk driver and are still healing physically and emotionally. Seeing them suffer while staying with them on multiple occasions to help out was taxing and painful. So needless. So senseless.

 

  • Our daughter has been on an emotional roller-coaster of her own and suffered the ultimate of heartaches, from which she is still healing. Jeremiah 29:11 is reassuring as always and she is a strong woman but no mom wants to see her daughter suffer on any level. When she hurts, I hurt.

 

  • My sisters and I are taking the final steps of placing our mom in an assisted living facility, a move she is fighting every step of the way, making a hard decision even harder. It’s time though and she will be safer and hopefully happy.

 

  • Oh, and did I mention our country, its economy, and world standing are all falling apart daily? This is what happens when hate rules people’s thoughts and choices. There’s nothing like sitting in your childhood home for probably the last time with your mom and watching our country surrender to and arm an enemy we so vehemently once opposed live on TV.

 

  • And after wiping tear after tear off my face as we drove home from mom’s, the very next day one of our dogs was on death’s door for more than 48 hours…all while I’m dealing with my daughter and my mom…but she has rebounded like a Phoenix.

 

  • In the span of one week I sent sympathy flowers to three friends who lost their dads and a card to another.

 

  • Oh, and let’s not forget 9/11 and the 20th anniversary of that devastating day.

 

And that’s just what I can think of off the top of my head.

 

It literally has felt like I haven’t been able to deal with one blow before another blows me over.

 

But like Nikki our dog with apparently nine lives, I continue to try to live my best life and be grateful and live as if the above is true. I’m not looking for pity or pretending I’m alone and “woe is me.” For me, putting it all down in writing is actually therapeutic and I’m so grateful to my friend for encouraging me to do so. Trust me, I know so much of what has happened could have been so much worse and in the midst of all the pain, I’m more convinced than ever that God’s protection reigned and Guardian Angels were working overtime.

 

 

That’s one of my favorite quotes from one of my all-time favorite movies and is so true. I’m paying a lot more closer attention to the good stuff but still, and as always, we tend to ask “Why?” I was talking to my husband about our daughter’s pain and asked “What is the lesson to be learned here?” to which he answered, “Carla, maybe there isn’t a lesson. Maybe it’s just life.” Ouch. I hate it when he’s right!

 

I also know that many have it much worse. A mom I know lost her son tragically and was diagnosed with colon cancer in a matter of months. I ache for her and wish I could share her pain and take so much of it away.

 

 

That is so true and often proves itself as time passes. But, we can never heal by going back to what breaks us and as Leanna Crawford so eloquently sings in her song “Fragile Heart,” “Where you feel apart becomes where you begin.” Amen sister.

 

I still have much to deal with and get through and find myself bummed one minute and grateful the next. I’d really like 2021 to begin again but since that’s not happening, I need to.

 

The old saying “God never gives you more than you can handle” has popped in my head almost on a daily basis and when it does I most often say, “Okay, I’m good here God. You can stop.” But, I also know He helps us handle what we are given and will be there every step of the way for me and with me. Believing this and that everything will be okay is hard for me though. I’m a worrier. I’m really good at it.

 

But as luck and God would have it, I just this week ran across a workshop by one of my most favorite people on earth that has my name written all over it. It’s called the “Creative Courage Workshop” presented by spiritual mamma and all around amazing human Susie Davis. I’m signed up for the virtual event and could not have signed up faster.

 

You might be interested too. Designed for anyone who strives for peace instead of worry and fear and anyone tired of anxiety and worry bossing them around, it’s worth considering. Give it a look at susiedavis.org. The world is a scary place right now and I for one need calmness, peace, and faith.

 

To get there, I need to let go of so much. I need to let go of worry and fear. I need to let go of guilt and setting boundaries. I need to let go of wanting to fix everything. I need to let go of my fantasies. I need to do what I can but accept I can’t do it all and fix everything. In short, I need to leave everything in God’s hands so I’m more able to see His hand in everything.  I can’t wait to see what that looks like. Hopefully calmer and better.

 

I’ll leave you with a fun little graphic below. Read it first top to bottom and then bottom to top. It’s amazing what a little change in perspective can make. Enjoy!

 

Pencil Me In August 14, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:04 pm

 

Students are headed back to school and school supplies are being bought up in stores coast to coast. I love school supplies and can totally relate to the above meme. Notebooks. Highlighters. Binders. Calendars. Planners. Folders. Markers. Sharpies. Glue sticks. Post-its. White Out. Pens. And, of course, pencils. I love them all.

 

Elements of Style

As I write this, if I glance at the wall in front of me in my office, I see a giant pencil hanging on the wall. And I mean giant. It’s one of my favorite pieces of “art” and brings a bit of whimsy and color to the room.

 

When our daughter was school-aged, no matter the age, I was that mom who hated the pre-packaged and boxed up school supplies. I longed to take her to every Target and Office Max in the area and stock up on everything and anything. She should feel lucky but am not sure it’s on the top of her “Why mom mom is awesome list.”

 

 

Markus-Spiske

If she were to make such a list, maybe she could use some fun colored pencils, which are always fun to write and draw with. Again, doubtful.

 

 

Or maybe she could use a fat pencil or a little golf pencil, which BTW are great for early writers as they are the perfect fit for their little hands.

 

Yes, I love pencils and all things office supplies. Sooooo……when I came across a story about a man who sculpts delicate works of art on the tips of pencils I took notice. I think you will too.

 

Pencil Thin Master

Jasenko_Dordevic

Jasenko Dordevic is a Bosnian sculptor who has erased the improbable when it comes to works of art by carving miniature sculptures that are not only stunning but mind-boggling. Inspired by lead artist Dalton Ghetti, Dordevic has been creating sculptures on the tips of graphite pencils since 2010 and loves the fact that pencils, long used as tools for making art, are now art themselves. Amazing, right? Here are a few samples of his truly amazing work courtesy TOLDart.

 

      

 

 

I don’t know what kind of pencil Dordevic uses but I do know this school supply loving blogger decided to pencil in time to learn all about the writing tools we take somewhat for granted. What exactly is the famous No. 2 pencil and why is it called that? Why are most pencils that signature yellow-gold? Intrigued? Read on.

 

 

Meredith Miller Matthews

The photo above shows a variety of pencils and was posted by a mom to demonstrate that the prettier the pencil does not always mean the longest lasting or best bang for your buck. We’ve all bought them and we’ve all been frustrated by crumbling leads as we try to sharpen them. Come to find out that Ticonderoga pencils are hands down the most popular and respected among those who know. Tico what?

 

 

The Write Stuff

Ticonderoga

It all started back in 1812 when curious ship captain son Joseph Dixon discovered a love for experimenting with graphite found on his dad’s boats. The young entrepreneur mixed the mineral with clay and water, rolled it into strips, and baked it in his mom’s oven.  He later pressed it all into cedar wood and the first Ticonderoga pencil was born.

 

Dixon went on to amass graphite, iron, and steel factories and during the Civil War, when soldiers were seeking a more practical alternative to the quill pen for writing home, Dixon’s pencils became widely popular and the Dixon Crucible Company was soon making 86,000 pencils a day. Today the company (thankfully!) makes a wide variety of writing utensils, including colored pencils and golf pencils.

 

It wasn’t until 1913 that the yellow No. 2 Ticonderoga pencil was introduced. Originally made with a brass ferrule, it was temporarily changed to green plastic due to a metal shortage during World War II but returned to its now-iconic color and metal ferrule after the war.

 

 

So what exactly is a No. 2 pencil? It all has to do with the graphite grading scale and a pencil’s location on it depends on the hardness of its graphite core. The higher the number, the harder the core is and the lighter its written marks will be. A No. 2 pencil is the second darkest, is considered by many as the perfect pencil, and is sometimes also called an HB pencil. It has a soft core and leaves darker marks but it they and other “soft” pencils dull faster and require more frequent sharpening.

 

 

So who really invented the pencil? Most agree that the ancient Roman writing instrument called a stylus is the granddaddy of them all. Scribes used the thin metal rods to leave a readable mark on papyrus, the early form of paper. Graphite entered the picture in England in 1564 and was a writing hit. Graphite “sticks” were originally wrapped in string but were later inserted into hollowed-out wooden sticks. Sounds like the first ever wooden pencil to me!

 

Stateside, William Monroe, a Massachusetts cabinet maker, is credited with making America’s first wood pencils and none other than author David Thoreau was known not only for his writing skills but for his pencil making ones as well. Who knew?!

 

 

But why yellow? Amazingly, pencils have been painted yellow ever since the 1890s as the best graphite came from China where yellow is associated with royalty and respect. American pencil makers wanted people to know the very best graphite was used in their pencils so they painted their pencils yellow to symbolize a regal and crowning achievement following European producer Koh-I-Noor’s lead in painting their lead items yellow.

 

 

Blackwing

Then there’s the Blackwing pencil, favored by the likes of John Steinbeck, Stephen Sondheim, Leonard Bernstein, Quincy Jones, Duke Ellington, E.B. White, and Looney Tunes creator Chuck Jones.  Crafted in the 1930s by the Eberhard Faber Pencil Company, the pencil with the celebrated rectangular eraser became synonymous with quality and was considered the calligraphy pencil of all pencils. But then, in 1998, Blackwings were discontinued and a buying frenzy ensued, including one by Sondheim who reportedly bought a lifetime supply of them. Thankfully, the pencil was re-introduced in 2010 and cult-following number two has ensued over a number No. 2 pencil.

 

 

Write This Down

Evelyn_Henson

I leave you now with the above graphic of colorful pencils with traits and virtues we should all strive for as well as two things having to do with school supplies, pencils, or both. One, is that as kids return to school, many don’t have the supplies they may need, particularly art supplies that allow them to create and learn at the same time. Enter “Painting Pandas,” a nonprofit dedicated to giving art tools and visual art lessons free of charge to the underserved and who may not have access to them and ages 5-12. Check them out at paintingpandas.org.

 

Lastly, “The Parable of the Pencil” has always been one of my favorites and what better place to put it, then “write” here? Thanks for reading…and writing. Keep leaving your mark, sharpening your skills, erasing your mistakes, and focusing on what’s on the inside. It’s what makes you and all pencils special.