Beyond Words

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

Books Clubs: Read All About Them June 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:18 pm

 

I can’t remember the last time a couple of movies got me thinking and writing, but the past week or so has proven a goldmine.  I’m not one of those who will go to just any movie and Hollywood in general has me feeling a bit “thanks but no thanks,” but as I wrote about just recently, “Always at the Carlyle” was a delightful little film and this week “Book Club” did the trick. Although the movie is unrealistic in many way and Jane Fonda’s role of an aging sexpot is excruciating to watch at times, the movie itself was way more enjoyable than I expected. In short, it’s about four aging friends going through life’s little peccadilloes as they keep their years long Book Club alive. I won’t go into any details but I will say it made me think about book clubs in general.

 

 

I’m in a neighborhood book club and was in one in our former neighborhood. The two are vastly different in that my current one is large, meets at a clubhouse and has a sit down dinner before discussing the book but my former one was much smaller and intimate. I love to read but am not a big crowd person. For me, the smaller the book club, the better and my perfect book club is one in which close friends gather at each other’s houses to discuss a book that they take turns choosing. I’d prefer a quarterly club, but monthly seems to be the norm.

 

I favor meeting quarterly or maybe every other month only because I’m not one of those who can read a book a month and I also want to read one of the many books I have stacked up and read it just for myself. In any book club, my MO is to look at the list of upcoming books, choose a few but usually not all, and read them at my leisure and on time for the book club meeting. My worst nightmare? A book club that picks the next book at each meeting. Not joining. Not happening.

 

 

So yes, I love to read but I don’t want to spend time reading something I have zero interest in when I have that stack of books I’m anxiously waiting to delve into. Doing so just feels too much like an “assignment” and I’m past that. Will I read something I didn’t pick but kinda piques my interest? You bet. I’ve done so many times and have been grateful many times.

 

What is it about book clubs that makes them so popular? They haven’t always been a thing, but today they are everywhere. It’s estimated more than 5 million Americans belong to one or more book clubs. Most are “anything goes” groups regarding what books are chosen to read but some are more targeted toward specific audiences, authors, and subject matter. In any case, it’s all about the book but some clubs, depending on the size and scope of the group, can even morph into support groups, longtime friendships, and much more. Book clubs are so popular now, there are books on book clubs!

 

 

I watched the most wonderful documentary a few months ago that demonstrated this perfectly called “Book Club.” It’s about eight women who started a book club in 1944 and those still living still get together today. They met each other in Washington, D.C. when their husbands were government employees and they wanted to read to feel important and improve their minds. Along the way they had babies and grandbabies, some divorced and remarried, one went back to school and got her Masters, and they all put things on hold during the war. The women couldn’t all afford to buy the same book so only one would purchase each month’s choice and read it to the others. They took turns buying subsequent books and all agree when one said “This book club is the most continuity in my life. The people are more important than the books we read.”

 

Love it. And, so true.

 

 

It is all about the people. And the books. Ironically, as author Gretchen Rubin wrote, reading is really a solitary act but one that society has transformed into a group activity. She quotes journalist Robin Marantz Henig and talks about how by reading, you enter another world and that discussing a book is kinda like gossiping, only your gossiping about fictional characters.

 

So popular are book clubs right now that a new job title has emerged: Professional Book Group Facilitator. No lie. And they make pretty good money; so good that authors are jumping on board the book group leader bandwagon and supplementing their incomes by leading groups on the very books they wrote. How cool would that be to sit and listen to JoJo Moyes give you personal insights into her books?  Even better, how I’d love to step into Nashville’s Parnassus Books and run into owner and author Ann Patchett, whose recent bestseller was “Commonwealth.”

 

Which takes me to my current dream: to own a quaint little bookstore on the quaint little town square in the quaint little town I currently live in. I’d host wine and cheese nights, children’s story time, girls nights out, and of course a book club. The club would be, yes, about books and reading and authors, but it would also be about community. In today’s society of strangers, we all need community: the community you live in, the community of readers in your area, the community of joy and pain.

 

 

Those are the things I believe at least half of all book club members are really attracted to and why, on any given month, roughly half of my current book club attendees have actually read the book.  You may enjoy reading and discussing Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” and will be amazed by  Yeonmi Park’s “In Order to Live,” but if you don’t like or connect with the people you read and discuss them with, is it really worth your time and does it delight and inspire you?

 

As the ladies in the “Book Club” movie learned even while reading the “Fifty Shades” series, who you read with is really as important as what you read. It’s just one of the many things you learn at a book club.

 

 

Your Room is Ready June 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:15 pm

 

Over the weekend I saw a fabulous little film called “Always at the Carlyle,” which provides a peek inside the iconic New York City hotel. But to call it a “hotel” is an understatement. Long the favorite of royalty, presidents, and famous people from all walks of life, The Carlyle is equal parts hotel and history and offers unparalleled luxury. Presidents Trump, Truman, and Kennedy have all stayed there as have other A-listers like Pauls McCartney and Newman, who started concocting his own brand of salad dressing in the dining room.

 

The rich and famous love its celebrated white glove service and well as unwavering discretion and confidentiality. The film describes both, thanks to interviews with staff members and the likes of George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Naomi Campbell and a host of other superstars who frequent the hotel.  As the film started, my friend who was with me quietly said, “I love hotels.” And she should know, she’s traveled extensively and her daughter is in the industry. I love hotels too, even the small room she and I shared on an Alaskan cruise, which wasn’t grand by any means, but oh so memorable just the same.

 

 

I have many fond memories of big and small, famous and ordinary hotels, and in this age of Airbnb and VRBO, I’m still one who prefers a fully-staffed hotel over a private home or flat for rent. There’s just something about checking into a nice hotel. You are greeted warmly, robes and slippers await you in the room, you don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning, and room service is at your beck and call. Put “resort” in the name and I’m all over it.

 

 

What’s not to love?  Well personally for me, it’s any hotel that charges for either Wi-Fi or parking. And as wonderful as room service is, it can be expensive. It’s one of the conveniences you pay for though and is of course totally optional. Regardless of how fabulous a hotel is though, it’s the staff that makes the difference. The staff at our hotel in Paris recently is a perfect example of how they can make or break a trip. In a word, they were fabulous. Maybe that’s why it’s called the “hospitality” industry.

 

                                                      

 

I remember as a child thinking the swimming pool at a Denver motel was heaven on earth when my family would vacation there.  I treasure trips and the places I’ve stayed abroad, in cities and small towns, beaches and mountains, and with both family and friends. Many were fabulous, but others, like Norman, Oklahoma’s La Quinta, are as full of wonderful of memories as those in Paris to Panama. I love hotels so much that I take photos of them before checking out.

 

 

I am certainly not alone, as the hospitality industry continues to annually steadily increase and employs more than 15 million people in the U.S alone. Globally, there are more than 700,000 hotels and resorts with 15.5 million rooms. In the U.S., the numbers are just more 52,000 properties and nearly 5 million rooms. The retail value of the global hotel industry is nearly $500 billion with revenue of U.S. hotels nearly $200 billion. The Travel and Tourism industry, under which hotels fall, now accounts for more than one-tenth of global GDP and is one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors with booking totaling more than $1.5 billion in 2017.

 

But enough with the numbers, let’s get back to the fun.

 

Surprisingly, vacationers make up the majority of hotel guests with only 40 percent of travelers booking rooms for business purposes. That’s what I’m talking about. Packing your bags and getting away from it all with a little vacay and stay at a hotel.

 

 

In “Always at the Carlyle” you learn that often times famous patrons don’t just spend a week at the luxury property, but months. At one point Clooney casually mentions that he and his wife stayed three months at the hotel’s top-of-the-line suite, which later you find out can go for $20,000 a night. A NIGHT! I’m no math major but I do know that $20,000 times 90 days is more than most Americans make in a year. (In the same scene, John Hamm admits he’d rather build a school then spend that much a night on a room. Hashtag amen Don Draper.

 

It was fun to learn a host of other tidbits behind The Carlyle’s old world walls, like the fact that Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, and Princess Diana all rode the elevator together one time and get this, the hotel still has elevator operators. I’m not sure why even the rich and famous can’t simply press a button, but how “wow” must that one ride have been for the operator?

 

 

Other behind-the-scenes glamour included JFK and Jackie’s numerous visits, as well as those of Lucille Ball, Jack Nicholson, and Prince William and Kate Middleton. Sadly, Anthony Bourdain also talks about the hotel in many on-camera scenes, which were a bit unsettling and poignant to watch considering his death over the weekend.

 

The iconic Carlyle’s 190 lavish rooms and suites include one named after Princess Di and one named after Roger Federer, who is walked up to his room by none other than the hotel’s manager. The scene reminded me of just how impressed I am with Rafael Nadal who, along with his entire team, stayed in our same Paris hotel. Here’s a guy who has won the French Open 11 times, is the number 1 player in the world, could stay at any Parisian penthouse or palace, and yet instead chooses a mid-range hotel. Maybe it’s the quiet street it’s on or that the nondescript location affords him privacy. Maybe he’s just humble and a little bit human.

 

 

After watching the movie, my friend and I both agreed we would love to go to The Carlyle. We might not be able to stay there, but we’re equally enamored with its Café Carlyle, The Gallery dining room, and Bemelmans’s Bar. The intimate Café Carlyle serves up classic cabaret to its dinner crowd and still enforces a strict “jacket required” dress code. In The Gallery, you’ll sit in an exquisite area inspired by the sultan’s’ dining room at the Topikapi Palace in Turkey, replete with antique kilim banquettes and red-fringed velvet chairs. My favorite however, was Bemelmans’s Bar, named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans who created the classic “Madeline” children’s books. The Art Deco bar has an extensive drink menu and large murals by Bemelmans fill the wall, including some of the little French girl and her school friends all in a line. The walls make up the only surviving Bemelmans commission open to the public.

 

 

It all makes you want to be that other children’s classic, Eloise, who famously lives in another landmark New York hotel, The Plaza. I’ve heard there is an Eloise Suite you can stay in, probably overlooking Central Park and Fifth Avenue. Concierge! I’m ready to check in!

 

The Carlyle sits on E. 76th on the Upper East Side, conveniently and fabulously between Madison and Park Avenues and as one staff member says in the film, takes one back to a more graceful and refined era. Back in the day, when The Carlyle first hit the scene, style was desired and service was expected. To prove this, he says look no further than old films of Yankee game fans and people walking the streets of New York and take note that they had coats and hats on, and not of the ball cap type. Elegance and sophistication reigned even at the ballpark and as he says, what you wear influences how you act and how you are treated. The staff of The Carlyle, many of who have worked there for more than 20 years, are dressed impeccably and offer service with a smile. Just like they did nearly 90 years ago and how they always do. Always. Always at The Carlyle.

 

An American in Paris June 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:33 pm

 

Oh Paris. City of Love and City of Light. You with your grand buildings, grand landmarks, grand shopping, and grand attitude. We’d met before when I walked your lamp lit streets and marveled at your monuments with my husband some years back. I added Paris to our plan of golfing in Scotland and figured I’d love Paris and like Scotland. It turned out it was the other way around.

 

This time, it was a girls trip: just me and my daughter. A dream trip. We’d been planning it for months and were so very excited about it. And you didn’t disappoint Paris. We came home with memories and stories to last a lifetime.

 

 

If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the drill: the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and other works of art at the Louvre, glorious Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysees and its dominant Arch de Triomphe. And fan or not, the Alma Tunnel, Alma Bridge, and the flame that stands above it serve as memories of Princess Di and have become tourist spots in their own right.

 

      

 

But, it can all be overwhelming. There is sooooo much to see and do in Paris, and maybe that’s why it’s the world’s most visited capital. Even though I’d been there and seen that, I looked forward to doing it all again with my daughter. She’s not a big museum kind of girl, but we got in what we could. In between we had two other things to tend to: a train ride to visit champagne country and attend the French Open…both Bucket List items for each of us. I’m still pinching myself just thinking that I was actually at Roland Garros.

 

 

We took a taxi to Roland Garros, as we did many times in the city. Can I just say the driving is insane? There are literally no lanes, tons of scooters scooting in and out of traffic, and it’s a total survival of the fittest to say the least. The areas around the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde are dire straits of streets with cars, busses, and scooters weaving in and out, sometimes sideways, and virtually stopping in the middle of an intersection. I cannot even fathom driving in Paris. Thankfully I will never have to find out.

 

Paris is much more than towers and museums though. It’s as much about the food and the people as it is the glitz and the glam. Let’s start with the food.

 

 

 

THE FOOD

If there’s one word that describes Paris cuisine, it’s bread. Bread is everywhere. You sit down, they give you a basket of baguettes. Crunchy, flavorful, fresh baguettes. My daughter is quite the health nut but while in Paris her “no carbs and no sugar” mantra be damned! We ate bread till we couldn’t eat anymore. We also ate plenty of desserts, including Hotel Costes’ legendary cheesecake (truly the best I’ve ever had) and mounds of macarons. How amazing those little gems are when they’re fresh and soft. Oui oui please!

 

 

The same can be said about French fries in the French capital. You want fries with that? You get a giant plate of the slimmest and crispiest little indulgences you can imagine. They go with and are served with everything. High dollar fish dish? Served with fries. Ham sandwich? Load ‘em up.

 

 

As for main meals, we weren’t home so we went big. Reservations were made at some of the city’s finest restaurants and most hit the mark, although we also left some feeling a bit duped and even a bit hungry. Our favorite? A truffle pizza and Paris’ version of caprese salad at Café de l’Homme. It didn’t hurt that we had a friendly and fun waitress from the U.S. and that we sat in full view of the Eiffel Tower, but even without those bonuses, the pizza was uh-mazing. So amazing we ordered two!

 

 

I highly recommend making dinner reservations, or “bookings,” for meals. Luckily we had some and our hotel assisted in others. One of the first things I asked our driver from the airport upon arrival was whether the French took siestas much like the Spanish and Italians. He assured me they don’t. Major faux pas. Countless times we’d grab a croissant and café au lait for breakfast, walk and tour, eat lunch, and around 2 or 3 p.m. were in need of a glass of rose and a cheeseboard. We’d enter an open door and a restaurant fully staffed only to be told “we are closed.” What? Your door is open, the waitress is right there. But no, many places close between 2 and 7 p.m. That’s when they start dinner service, which normally would feel so late but after a day of so much, it was actually a treat to not have to eat dinner until even a 9 p.m. reservation. Lessons learned.

 

 

We also stood by our “when in Paris” vow and tried the city’s trifecta of traditional cuisine: steak tartare, foie gras, and escargot. Truth be told we hated steak tartare and the foie gras. Regardless of how sophisticated it is considered and how seasoned it is prepared, being served what looks like a plate of raw ground beef just didn’t sit well with either of us. As for the foie gras, eewww. At first bite you think “this isn’t so bad,” but as the bite sits in your mouth, flavors and textures become more than we could bear. It didn’t help that the high-end and highly recommended restaurant we sampled it at demonstrated the worst service and common courtesy I’ve ever seen, but attitude withstanding, the stuff is no bueno.

 

 

The escargot though. We loved every bite of those little snails and the sauce they are in. We learned how to eat them and how to dip the bread slivers in the empty shells and we loved every bite and every morsel. Bon appetit indeed!

 

What we didn’t love was the service in France. Yes, we knew full well that meals are to be savored and those American habits of sitting down, placing our order, eating our meal, and moving on needed to be cast aside in Paris. We get it. We played the game and liked it for a bit. But after a few days of sitting for sometimes 20 minutes before even being acknowledged by a waiter started to wear thin. We’ve been walking, we’ve been touring, and we’re hungry and thirsty. Please help us! Funny thing is, they really don’t care. Which brings us to the people.

 

 

THE PEOPLE

When I visited Paris previously with my husband, we were pleasantly surprised the French weren’t as snobbish as we’d been warned. In all honesty, they aren’t snobbish or rude per se, they just aren’t accommodating. Their hospitality is lacking and they are non-apologetic in every sense of the word. We joked that Parisians abide by a “too bad so sad” posture  and it became almost comical. Wait for an hour and 10 minutes to be waited on? No apology. Tour you signed up for was cancelled? Too bad so sad. Paris quickly became a city of pump fakes as much as a city of pomp and circumstance.

 

But in all their aloofness, they are irresistibly and effortlessly chic. They look good, they know it, and they own it. Like a boss. We had so much fun people watching and noting who was European and who screamed American. We discovered Euros love their stripes and they love their wireless earpods. If they weren’t talking as they walked, they were smoking while they ate. Watching it all was such a treat and full of many laughs.

 

 

But can we talk about hygiene for a minute? Amidst all that style came a stench. Like no other. Seinfeld would call it “The Beast,” but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s BO! You’re walking down an open air street or sitting in a café and a whiff of the foulest body odor overwhelms you. Literally. It seemed like we were either always smelling food, fabulous perfume, or the lack of simply using deodorant. I guess it’s part of the charm.

 

Finally people, smile once in a while. You live in this fabulous city but a smile is hard to come by and belly laughs are for those silly Americans.

 

 

THE SHOPPING         

Shopping in Paris is fabulous. Strolling Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is like flipping through the pages of Vogue. Chanel. Louis Vuitton. Dior. Saint Laurent. Cartier. Goyard. All lined up like pretty little boxes. But, get there early to the most popular ones, as lines start forming long before the doors open. But, once inside you are treated to the fabulously renowned Parisian one-on-one service. Total “Pretty Woman” moments one after another.

 

 

There’s also beaucoup mid-range shopping and souvenirs for days. Galleries Lafayette is one of the city’s most famous department stores, but a Dillard’s it’s not. In fact, it makes Neimans and Nordstrom look like Target. Housed in a stunning multi-level ancient building, it’s worth visiting even if you’re not a shopper.

 

 

So, what did I love about Paris the second time around? Mostly just experiencing it all with my daughter. We laughed a lot, ate a lot, learned a lot, and walked a lot. Rushed as we sometimes felt, we took it all in and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to go. I loved taking in the architecture, the lanterns, the ironwork, and the windows. And really, raining or not, who doesn’t love looking at the Eiffel Tower as you eat your meal?

 

 

I also loved just stopping at any one of the numerous street-side bistros to take a break and take it all in. I’ve always been a fan of bistro chairs and to see them in abundance and ready for some cooling off and conversation was a dream come true.

 

Thankfully, our hotel was perfect and I have my trusty and amazing AAA agent to thank for it. It was a smaller property on a quiet street right near the Eiffel Tower, Alma Bridge, and Avenue Montaigne and the staff was phenomenal. Did I mention Raphael Nadal and his team was staying there and we hung out with them a few times? Yeah that didn’t stink.

 

 

We quickly discovered that many people we talked with were intrigued by Texas when asked where we live. They literally think we ride horses, that it’s dangerous, and wondered if we went to Barbara Bush’s funeral. They could care less about American football but have a thing for LeBron. About America in general, they find it appalling we have so many homeless, are amazed that so many things are drive through, and that we are so apologetically patriotic. And yes, they all asked about our president and we were happy to educate them on the state of our burgeoning union.

 

 

In the end, Paris was, well Paris. Big, beautiful, and noisy. Our expectations were sky high, which as my husband so eloquently reminded me, is never a good thing. But, most of those expectations were met and when they weren’t, pleasant surprises quickly took their place. When you’re lucky enough to visit Paris with your daughter, you know you are blessed and there’s nothing a rude waiter or cancelled tour is going to change. Merci Paris and au revoir!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Wedding Fit For A Duchess May 20, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:45 pm

Flag and cup

 

I’m sitting here on a rainy day feeling totally rested after a long night. No, I wasn’t out dancing the night away; I was up all night in anticipation of…wait for it…The Royal Wedding! Yes, I’m that crazy. Some longtime girlfriends and I had a sleepover Friday night complete with crowns, Union Jacks, tea and scones, and Elderflower. We knew full well we’d have to get up bright and early to watch American Meghan Markle become an official member of Britain’s royal family as she married Prince Harry so we dutifully set our alarms for 4 a.m. because we wanted to watch it all live. Me? I didn’t sleep a wink, choosing instead to catch up with and visit the night away with one of the fellow crazy ladies.

 

But enough about me, let’s get on with the wedding!

 

Dress

The Dress

First things first: the dress. In a word: perfection. I loved it. I loved its simplicity, its elegance, and its tailoring. It’s almost as though each of the subsequent royal brides have tapered their gowns more and more. It all started (in my mind at least) with young Diana Spencer’s ginormous “all about the ‘80s” voluminous gown. As much as I hate to say it, I didn’t personally love it, but I do love all it stood for and that Di chose then somewhat unknown designers to create it. It was fairy tale and it was a gown only a princess could wear. Then came Kate Middleton and her lovely lace Alexander McQueen gown. So pretty. So feminine. So romantic. Fast forward to yesterday and we have Markle’s very leek boatneck gown by Claire Waight Keller for the House of Givenchy. The gown was stunning in its simplicity. It was constructed from double-bonded silk with a matte finish that added just a bit of flash to its otherwise low-key silhouette.

 

 

Entrance good

Some reviews have come in saying it was too plain and even me, a “Say Yes to the Dress” devoted watcher, thought for just a hot minute, “maybe it could use a rhinestone belt or a strand of pearls.” But then I thought “NO!” It was flawless as is. I also thought back to the time when a young Carla was shopping for wedding dresses with her mom. I tried on dress after dress that incorporated lace, sequins, pearls, every kind of adornment and volume you could find. Nothing clicked though so I asked the attendant if she had any dresses that were sparkle and shine free. She looked at me funny and said there was one but she didn’t think I would like it. I tried it on, fell in love, and would choose it again today. Much like Meghan’s, it was simple and adornment free.

 

What mine didn’t have was Meghan’s gorgeous and oh-so-long veil along with a royal tiara….Queen Mary’s diamond bandeau tiara to be exact. Even though I was hoping she’d wear the Spencer tiara I loved it all and say “Bravo Meghan!”

 

Meghan-Markle-hair

Commentary has also poured in about Meghan’s hair. She had a piece up top that kept falling and the back could have maybe used a few more bobby pins, but it all made her just a little bit real. Lastly, I’ve heard she could have used a bit more lip color. I loved her natural freckled face and full lips. She’s a natural stunner so why cover it all up?

 

 

 

Smile

The Groom

Who doesn’t love Prince Harry? Even before Prince William lost his hair, Harry was always considered the “hot” one by my daughter. I didn’t see it right away, but I certainly did as the years passed. He is most definitely his mother’s son and he looked so happy and in love at the wedding. I loved watching him and Wills arrive together in their military best and seeing him gaze adoringly at his lovely bride. When he told Meghan “You look amazing” as she joined him at the altar, hearts broke near and far. He is smitten and love looks good on him and so does a wedding band, which he is choosing to wear; another break from tradition.

 

 

Stairs1

The Ceremony

Nearly 2 billion people are said to have watched the event and how glorious was the weather and the bride and groom’s choice of tons of natural flowers adorning the chapel? Meghan continued to break tradition in that she entered the church alone, attended only by two young boys carrying her veil train. It was magical and brave at the same time. About halfway up the aisle, Harry’s dad Prince Charles joined her and presented her to his son. I’m not a Prince Charles fan, but it was moving.

 

Aisle

The wedding was also  a bit untraditional in that it took place at Windsor Castle. Even though Windsor is the oldest and largest occupied castle in the world, most royal weddings and affairs take place at either Saint Paul’s Cathedral or Westminster Abbey, both in London. I kinda like that they chose the small and quaint streets of Windsor to greet the crowds in the historic open aired Ascot Landau carriage. Say what you will, but no one does it like the Brits. No one.

 

No review can be done without mentioning Bishop Michael Bruce Curry’s sermon about love that mentioned, among other things, slavery and Martin Luther King, Jr. I was skeptical about it while watching it as shot after shot of uncomfortable Brits in the audience either squirmed or laughed, but in watching it again later, it was actually a great little message. Maybe a bit too long and long on posturing, but the intent was good. Still, the reaction of Harry’s cousin Zara Phillips is sure to go down in meme history. Then there was the gospel choir singing “Stand By Me.” Beautifully done but non-traditional for sure.

 

 

With mom

Meghan’s mom, Doria Ragland, is also trending, partly because she was the only family member invited to the wedding and partly because of her nose ring. To be sure, it was a simple diamond stud on her right nostril, but something probably never seen on an MOTB at a royal wedding. I thought she looked gorgeous albeit lonely as she sat in the wedding of her only child alone, but beautiful.

 

Mom watches

I really, really liked her pistachio green Oscar de la Renta coat and dress and couldn’t help but think about all that was going on in her head as she rode in a royal carriage with her daughter and watched as she married a real life prince.  A multitude of memories surely filled her proud and grateful heart and warms mine.

 

The part I enjoyed most about the ceremony was just watching Meghan and Harry. The two are clearly in love and are soul mates. I read something that said “find a girl or guy who looks at you the way Meghan and Harry do.” Amen.

 

Exit

And speaking of amen, how cool was it that “This Little Light of Mine” and its celebratory “amens” was played outside as the new Duke and Duchess of Sussex exited the chapel?

 

Lastly, the ties to Di cannot go unnoticed. Much has been written that two of the diamond’s in Meghan’s ring were formerly Diana’s, but did you know her bouquet contained Forget-Me-Knots, which were Princess Di’s favorite? In addition, rumors have swirled that the empty chair next to William in the chapel was “for” his and Harry’s momma, Di’s sister Lady Jane Fellowes did one of the readings, the Welsh hymm “Guide Me O Thy Great Redeemer” was also sung at Diana’s funeral, and the aquamarine ring Meghan wore later in the evening was a gift from Harry and was his mom’s. I die.

 

 

The Guests and The Fashion

Another somewhat break in tradition, the ceremony wasn’t an official state affair and was attended “only” by an intimate (on royal scale) 600 guests, including 30 royals and heads and no true heads of state per se. Instead, guests included many of Meghan’s “Suits” costars and other commoners. Common or not, the fashion was not. Here is my recap:

Amal

Amal Clooney

Hands down the best dressed guest. Her marigold yellow Stella McCartney sheath with cap sleeves and a to die for small train was the best of the best, as was the matching netted hat and neutral pumps. My friends and I swooned and never wavered that she won the day.

 

Dame Major good

Dame Norma Major

The wife of former British Prime Minister John Major, Dame Norma lived up to her title in a pale yellow suit that was tailored to perfection and age appropriate. She looked elegant and relaxed and proved you don’t have to go overboard to look good.

 

Karen Spencer

Karen Spencer

Call me crazy but I liked Countess Spencer’s custom Pamella Rowland violet caplet dress and matching fascinator. The wife of Diana’s brother Charles, the countess was every bit royal and stunning and his tie matched her dress!

 

Lady Kitty Spencer

Lady Kitty Spencer

Diana’s niece through her brother and close cousin of Harry, the Dolce and Gabbana model did them proud in a green and floral dress and fascinator with matching shoes and bag. She is stunning!

 

Fergie

Sarah Ferguson

Not only was I so happy to see Fergie on the invite list (she’ll forever be a favorite of mine), I thought she looked great. She’s always had some of the best legs in London, and she didn’t disappoint in a navy dress and matching jacket with white piping by Emma Louise Design. She flawlessly accessorized her look with a matching pillbox hat with embellished navy netting.

 

Sarah Rafferty

Sarah Rafferty

I had never heard of Rafferty, but apparently she is an actress and friend of the bride and she looked amazing in a navy dress with on-trend bell and embellished sleeves and matching fascinator.

 

Jessica-Mulroney

Jessica Mulroney

I wasn’t familiar with Ms. Mulroney either but I certainly am now. Her royal blue custom tea-length fit and flare with cap sleeves by Di Carlo Couture was stand-out chic and I love that she kept her shoes neutral. She is one of Meghan’s BFFs and her twin boys carried her veil train.

 

Kate

Kate Middleton

What doesn’t the Duchess of Cambridge wear that I don’t love? She stunned in a prim and proper primrose yellow wool silk tailored Alexander McQueen (who also designed her wedding dress) coat and dress along with a perfect Philip Treacy hat and her signature pumps, this time courtesy Jimmy Choo. How cute was Princess Charlotte too?

 

Sophie

Sophie, Countess of Wessex

I’ve always liked Sophie, wife of Harry’s uncle Prince Edward. She’s very low key, doesn’t get a lot of press, but she killed it in a periwinkle blue ankle-dusting skirt and matching beaded top by Suzannah with a coordinated Jane Taylor feathery fascinator.

 

Queen

The Queen

Never too shy to wear a little color, Queen Elizabeth looked fabulous in a lime-colored silk tweed coat and floral dress by Stewart Parvin. I loved it the instant I saw it and loved the pop of purple in her Angela Kelly hat. Fun fact: the Queen often chooses bright and stand out colors because she wants people (who often stand 10 deep) to be able to see her in a crowd.

 

And now, the biggest disappointment of the day: Pippa Middleton. Ugh.

 

Pippa and can

Remember how Kate’s sister stole the show at her wedding to Prince William? Well, she’s trending again, but not in a good way. In a true “what was she thinking” moment, Pippa was one of the first televised to arrive and upon seeing her mint green and floral dress, one of my girlfriends immediately dubbed it an “Old Navy dress.” Don’t get me wrong, I love Old Navy, but for a royal wedding?  NO way!

 

We weren’t alone in our disappointment, as the internet has exploded and is comparing her dress to a can of Arizona green tea. Never a good thing to be compared to a can of anything but what great publicity for the tea!

 

Honorable mentions: I thought Serena Williams looked good but hated her necklace; Princesses Eugenie and Beatrice stepped up their game and also looked good, especially Eugenie and her Jackie O vibe; I liked Oprah’s pale pink Stella McCartney dress and her shoe choice but thought her hat was too big but hats off to her for making a last minute fashion change because she thought her first choice was too white; and Victoria Beckham stayed true to her frozen B face and unmemorable dress.

 

After

Meghan Markle’s wedding dress will undoubtedly remain memorable for years to come, as will the stunning high neck halter top white dress by Stella McCartney she wore as she and Harry departed a post-wedding reception. And how handsome does he look in a “simple” tux?!

 

Carriage

It’s no secret that Meghan Markle is breaking British royalty barriers, being not only American but also older than Harry, divorced, and biracial. If the wedding proved anything though, it’s that true love is a powerful thing and is what really matters. As the choir sang, “I won’t be afraid, just as long as you stand by me.” Here’s hoping love stands the test of time for Harry and Meghan and that he stands by her and she by him.

 

 

 

 

 

Royally American May 15, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:57 am

 

 

 

Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with British royalty…particularly Princess Diana. My daughter of course knows this and said she loves me more than I love Princess Di on her Mother’s Day social media post. My friend Shirley knows this; she sent me a Meghan and Harry tea cup for my birthday. Considering this, you can imagine how excited I am about this Saturday’s Royal Wedding. So excited, that some girlfriends and I are having a sleepover Friday night and waking up bright and early to watch the festivities live in our jammies with jam and scones.

 

Quick backstory. One of the ladies and I have a sad royal connection. I was at her house the night Diana died in that tragic car crash in Paris. I will never, ever forget where I was and as fate would have it, she’s hosting the slumber party. We’ve all known each other for more years than I care to say and have all written for a living at one time or another, so one of them shared a funny video of British talk show hosts making fun of American English.

 

It’s All Rubbish…or Garbage?

Jokes were on us as they made fun of Americans complicating English, claiming we have changed it to help us “understand it better.” They also teased us for needing a bit more explanation than Brits do. We’ve made a simple “bin” a “waste paper basket,” “horse riding” “horseback riding,” “squash” “racquet ball,” and “glasses” “eye glasses.” Funny blokes, right?

 

There’s an old saying that America and Britain are two great countries divided by a common language and if you ask a Brit’s opinion, they’ll likely say “You don’t speak English, you speak American.” Off with their heads!

 

 

But, with American Meghan Marckle marrying Prince Harry this Saturday, I thought it’d be fun to take a look at the two countries and their versions of the same language. First though, can we just talk about a British accent?

 

I die. I die to hear someone speak with a British accent. They could tell me to F off and I’d probably say “thank you.” It is so proper. So pure. So aristocratic and Downton Abbeyish. I love how they say “nay-buh” not neigh-brrrr and “gare-raj” not “guh-raj.” On the “Real Housewives of Beverly Hills,” Lisa Vanderpump can say the exact same thing in her British accent that American Lisa Rinna says but it will feel oh-so different.

 

UK or GB?

Let’s first get something else out of the way: the difference between England, Great Britain, and the United Kingdom. In short, England is a country, this we know. Great Britain consists of the countries England, Scotland, and Wales and is merely a geographical term regarding the land mass those three encompass.

 

The United Kingdom is what we Americans might call the “big dog” and its full name is United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. It consists of all of Great Britain plus Northern Ireland and it is a sovereign state represented by one central government. The four are considered separate in the minds of locals and sporting events, but all powers come from the UK. It’s kinda like the 50 states being separate states but “ruled” by a nation of laws. They all have their own flags, and did you know Britain’s “Union Jack” combines aspects of all three? It consists of the red cross of England’s Saint George, the white saltire diagonal cross of Scotland’s Saint Andrew, and the red saltire of Ireland’s beloved Saint Patrick.

 

To be sure and as is the case in the U.S., there are many different English accents in the U.K. Comparing an Irish accent to a Scottish accent is like comparing a Boston accent with a Bama one and even parts of London speak differently. When in doubt, revisit “My Fair Lady.”

 

As for the people, anyone from the UK can call themselves British, although Scots prefer Scottish and those from Wales prefer Welsh. It gets a little more complicated in Northern Ireland where Protestants often consider themselves British but most Catholics consider themselves Irish.

 

As for the law of the land and where the Royal Family comes into play, the UK is a monarchy and its Monarch and Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II. Since the monarchy is constitutional, the Queen is limited to non-partisan functions but she does appoint the Prime Minister, is Commander-in-Chief of the British Armed Forces, and is the Head of the Church of England. (The Church of England is the state church of England. A schism with the Papacy occurred in 1534 when Henry VIII was denied an annulment and he declared himself the supreme head of the Church of England.)

 

English Speakers

Okay, back to English. How did our two countries get in this “he said, she said” battle between the language we both speak? Well, let’s give credit where credit is due and tip our bowlers to the Brits as they were speaking English long before “new” England and the rest of the U.S. was even around.

 

Let’s start first with vocabulary. We both use the same word for many things, but in England “toilet” is “loo,” you “queue up” not stand in line, an elevator is a “lift,” you live in a “flat” not an apartment, you go on “holiday” not a vacation, and you “flick” channels not change them on a TV. Heard of fish and chips? Well, those chips aren’t really the “chips” Americans think of but rather French fries. Funny thing is that Brits traditionally call all vacuums “Hoovers,” which is an American company. I guess you could say we’re both a little crazy…or looney.

 

Then there’s that little thing where a Brit says they’re going to university or hospital, not THE university or THE hospital. They also spell things differently, but for that, we have someone named Webster to thank.

 

Spellcheck It

Noah Webster was an American lexicographer who took it upon himself to reform English spelling in the late 1700s, just in time for America to claim its independence from England. Webster wanted all words to be spelled how they sound so he changed words like “colour” to “color” and “realise” to “realize.” (My spellcheck immediately corrected the former, but if I was in England, that wouldn’t be the case.) Some in Britain call this “Spelling Imperialism,” but in true American fashion, we still use advertise and merchandise and although it might still polarize some, it is a compromise.

 

Brits tend to use “shall” a wee bit more than we Americans in that they would ask, “Shall we eat,” rather than “Should we eat?” They also refrain from using “do not,” saying “You needn’t get so angry” rather than “You don’t have to get so angry.” Something else the Brits do that I love is how they turn statements into questions without using the preverbial tag. In the States we’d ask, “You don’t really care, do you?” In Britain, the statement becomes a question merely by asking it as one through voice inflection and by leaving off the “do you?”

 

Whatever the case, we English speaking country cousins still have a mutual respect for each another and we are allies through thick and thin. Or so I think. Americans admire British rock and royalty and they appreciate our confidence and capitalism. Best of all perhaps, is that we both say “cheers” when toasting.

 

So cheers to Meghan and Harry. May our American duchess-to-be-bring a whole lot of stars and stripes to the UK and mix it with just a wee bit of Union Jack. She may not be Di or Kate, but one thing’s for sure; Meghan Marckle is going to bloody sparkle! Here here!

 

Heavenly Pearls April 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:55 pm

 

Today heaven officially gets a new angel. And she’ll be wearing pearls.

 

Former First Lady Barbara Bush will be buried in Houston today and then taken by motorcade for her final resting place at the Bush Presidential Library in College Station. Following her death on Tuesday at the age of 92, tributes endlessly streamed. Mrs. Bush, the only women to see both her husband and son sworn in as President of the United States, was special in many ways. Known for her quick wit, being tough as nails, and undying loyalty, she was a class act that held her own and held her family together. The family matriarch was also known for something else: a nearly constant strand of pearls.

 

 

She wore them for her husband’s inauguration (and can we just stop and pay tribute also to how stunning her black and cobalt blue dress by Arnold Scaasi was?) and she wore them to baseball games. They were her signature and her trademark.

 

 

 

All week I’ve seen social media posts suggesting the wearing of pearls in her honor and the above Houston billboard was perfection in outdoor media. Barbara Bush will forever be remembered for her strands of pearls, as will many other stars like Jackie Kennedy and Princess Diana.

 

 

 

I loved Barbara Bush and I love pearls. I always have. I love their simplicity, uniformity, and level of old school tradition.  I wore them in my wedding, I wear them with pajamas I have that have pearls on them, and I made sure our daughter was given a strand for graduation. They are my “logo” for this blog and for my Instagram account.

 

 

 

The name Chanel conjures up visions of conservative and traditional clothing and accessories, but the woman behind the name, Coco Chanel, was actually a bit of a rebel. Yes, she used pearls in her fashion, but she went just a step further by layering multiple strands of pearls in a way that raised eyebrows but years later the look endures on edgy stars like Rihanna.

 

 

 

I agree. Pearls are so distinct in their simplicity. They’re not gaudy and not flashy. They are always in style and enhance any outfit, whether it be black tie or boyfriend jeans. They are a staple in most women’s jewelry boxes and the world of pearls is fascinating.

 

In the fine jewelry world, few names are as influential as Cartier and the namesake behind the legendary red box gems is interestingly tied to pearls. In 1917, Pierre Cartier  traded a double-strand pearl necklace for his landmark Fifth Avenue flagship store in New York. Today, there are many types of pearls and it’s worth knowing what’s what.

 

Most of us have heard the term “cultured pearl,” but what exactly does that mean and are they really the best? In some ways, yes, but in many ways a “natural” pearl is really the best of the best. Both cultured and natural pearls are formed when a foreign object is inserted into an oyster and over time, layers of nacre form what becomes a pearl. The big difference is that with natural pearls, nature causes it all while with cultured pearls, the object is injected by man.

 

Natural pearls are very, very hard to come by and are super expensive so I’d venture to say that with the exception of the Jackie O’s and Princess Di’s of the world, most pearls you and I see are either cultured or fake.

 

 

We can thank Japanese entrepreneur Mikimoto Kokichi for giving the world the cultured pearl and all those pageant crowns. There are also a few reputable manufactured and man-made pearl companies, including Spain’s Majorica. But don’t for a minute think all man-made pearls are cheap in quality or cheap in price. A strand of Majorica pearls can cost in the thousands but are well-made and should last a lifetime or more.

 

Like the “4 Cs” of diamonds, there are “5 Factors” used to evaluate a pearl: luster, surface, perfection, color, shape, and size with luster and surface being the two most important in the grading process. The surface shine and depth of a pearl’s glow is called its “luster” and the higher the luster, the better. In addition, a “smooth” surface is ideal, meaning the pearl is free of cracks and holes. Finally there’s a pearl’s shape. Perfectly round ones are rare and considered the cream of the crop. Many consider the exceptionally large cultured South Sea pearl the ideal pearl, with a Tiffany triple-strand version costing just under $2 million.

 

Freshwater pearls are also very popular and are less pricey because they are more abundant and easier to grow. The irregular shaped pearls are grown in mussels in lakes, ponds, or rivers and are very durable and a bit more casual.

 

 

When shopping for pearls, always ask for an authenticity receipt and if in doubt, do the tried and true tooth test. Slowly and gently rub the pearl against your teeth. If it has a gritty feel, it’s real. If it’s smooth and slippery, it’s probably fake. The best pearl strands are strung on silk, not nylon, and a knot should separate each pearl to keep them from rubbing against each other.

 

Once you’re the proud owner of a string of real pearls, taking care of them is vital. Keep them away from products like hairspray and perfume, don’t get them wet, and never use commercial jewelry cleaners like paste on them.

 

As we say goodbye to America’s Grandma today, wear a strand of pearls with pride and in honor of her and her legacy. Be they real or fake, her pearly whites are sure to be smiling.

 

My pearl Bucket List:

 

           

 

 

How to wear your pearls or any other necklace? Here are some tips on necklace lengths and necklines.

Common pearl necklace lengths:

A “collar” is 10-13” and rests against the throat.

A “choker” measures 14-16” and nestles just above the base of the neck.

“Princess length” refers to strands that are 17-19” long and come down to just above the collarbone.

A “matinee” length measure 20-24” and falls just above the breasts.

An “opera” length is 28-35” and is long enough to reach the sternum or breastbone.

 

 

 

 

A Blast from the Past I’m Not Sold On April 15, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:54 pm

 

I’ve tried it, given it a shot, but I’m just not on board and I’m not sure why. I’m talking about the new “Trading Spaces” TV show. It pains me to say this because in its heyday between 2000-2008, I really liked the show. It was fun, it was different, and it was entertaining. I find today’s version none of the above, but why? I love nesting, I love design and decor, and I love mindless TV. I have some possible answers.

 

First let’s look back. “Trading Spaces” debuted on TLC in 2000 and hired two designers to redo two rooms in two different homes. The twist was sets of neighbors actually traded spaces in that they decorated each other’s room per the designers “visions.” Homeowners had no say in the design and often times those visions were visons of horror. Hay, CDs, and fake flowers  were glued onto entire walls, furniture was epoxied onto the ceiling, and a host of other awfulness made sure the meager $1000 budget per room proved you get what you pay for.

 

 

Somehow it all worked though. Maybe it was because the show is considered by many to be the first home makeover series of its kind that has since spawned everything from “Property Brothers” to the beloved “Fixer Upper.” Another attraction was its cast, almost all of whom have returned for the new version. I always loved host Paige Davis and her hip-hugger jeans and hairstyle and we all loved carpenter Ty Pennington who became an even bigger household name as host of the critically-acclaimed ABC “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition series that promoted volunteerism and helping others. Ty and Paige are both back (but I’m not a fan of Paige’s new hairstyle) as are Vern, Frank, Genevieve, Doug, Laurie, and Hildi who, in my opinion, tries her hardest and maybe too hard to create obnoxious and unlikable spaces.

 

Maybe that’s it: it’s all too silly and in a word: dumb. In a world where Chip and Joanna create livable and likable spaces maybe the time has passed on the idea of creating craziness. I don’t know about you, but I’ll take shiplap any day over burlap walls. Maybe it’s just me but I’m thinking it’s more than just the passing of time and trends, as I also remember loving Lynette Jennings, Candice Olson, “While You Were Out,” “Design on a Dime,” and Matt and Shari from “Room By Room.” The latter was the first show to air on HGTV back in 1994 and is still the longest running decorating show in TV history, boasting a whopping 14 year run. For some reason I think I would still like a 2018 version of it, as well as anything Jennings or Olson might offer. “Trading Spaces?” Not so much.

 

 

But why Carla, why? Maybe it’s just because I’ve grown up and my tastes have changed. I’ve been there done that, have moved and moved again, and am now happy in a one-story home that I feel is homey, simple, and just good. I don’t have any desire to paint walls to replicate a Gucci scarf (like one recent “Trading Spaces” episode did) and would much rather own a Gucci scarf to wear.  For me right now, the more simple, the better.

 

But, I am apparently in the minority as McMansions are everywhere and ratings for “Trading Spaces” have been good. The premiere was seen by nearly 3 million people, ranking it the number one show that night.  High Nielsen numbers are something the original regularly enjoyed, but what they had no idea would matter just as much down the road are social media numbers. The new show thrived there too and was the number one social primetime TV program on Facebook and its hashtag trended on Twitter and Instagram. Trading Spaces-1. Carla-0.

 

So, maybe I’ll give it another shot. I am DVRing it just in case there’s nothing else on and I’m in the mood for mindless viewing but then again I also record “Fixer Upper,” “Say Yes to the Dress,” and “Southern Charm.” Pretty sure I’ll opt for either Waco, New York, or Charleston but what about you? Are you a fan of the new “Trading Spaces?” Please share your thoughts!