Beyond Words

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

It Just Doesn’t Add Up July 30, 2012

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“The hardest math to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.”   Eric Hoffer


Actually, I’m really good at counting my blessings; it’s the math part that’s tough for me.  Always has, always will.  This, somewhat confuses me.  Literally and figuratively.  You see, I have forever loved reading, writing and anything to do with words.  (Maybe that’s why I married a Smith – so I could be a wordsmith!)   So, by looking at the chart below, this would make me a left brain thinker.




Yes, I use logic, I’m detail-oriented, love facts, am nostalgic, prefer order, am realistic and practical, and I’m not a risk taker.  Why then, am I so bad with numbers???  It just doesn’t seem fair.  Am I alone in this quandary?  Are you great with either words or numbers, but not both?


And by bad, I’m mean very bad.   I remember always struggling with math and most sciences.  Once I had to learn how to divide two digit divisors, I was lost.  Forever.  Geometry is probably the only math that made any sense to me, maybe because I could see how I might apply it in the “real world” someday.  Algebra?  Forget it.  I might as well have tried to learn Russian…speaking, writing, and a whole new alphabet!  Trig?  No way, Jose.  Science was a little more bearable for me.  My favorite high school teacher was Mr. Muir, who taught Biology.  I didn’t love the course subject matter per se (dissecting frogs?  Eeeewww!!!!) But, I enjoyed the class as a whole.  I also really liked the Astronomy course I took my first year of college.  But Chemistry?  Ugh!  It’s the perfect yet terrifying storm of science and math!


Speaking of college, my Journalism major meant I only had to take one Business class, i.e.:  a math and number class.  Back then we were allowed to take one “Pass/Fail” course so I, of course, chose to use that golden ticket on my “Personal Finance” class.  Other than the fact that I had a famous OU football player in class with me, the course will forever be lodged in my left brain knowing section because I would have gotten a B.  To this day I still languish over the fact that my official college transcript could have had a B in a Business class! 




Yep, that was me and sadly, my daughter Kristen has inherited my lack of number knowledge.  I felt so bad for her growing up because she had a mom who couldn’t help her with the simplest of homework assignments.  As a matter of fact, I was totally lost once she got to around third or fourth grade.  From there on it was either “ask dad” or hire a tutor.  I remember when we had to buy her her first $100 calculator for Algebra – I panicked just looking at it.  There’s no way I would know how to even start using it!  I don’t even like calculators!


If I’m in charge of tipping, you can bet that person is going to get either 20% (if he or she is good or very good) or maybe a tad more then 10 percent if the service is bad, as figuring out 15 percent of anything just doesn’t happen in my brain.  Decimals?  Can’t help you.   And Pi?  If it’s not pumpkin or apple, I’m lost.  Who knew it’s really a mathematical constant  that is the ratio  of a circle’s circumference  to its diameter?   Whaaaat?  There’s even a Pi Day, the unofficial holiday commemorating the mathematical constant.  Pi Day is observed on March 14  (or 3/14) since 3, 1 and 4 are the three most significant digits of π in the decimal form.  Here’s how I like to remember that: 



What confuses me even more about the “Left Brain/Right Brain” so-called logic is that I’m very emotional or “feeling,” and philosophy and religion are very important to me.  I’m also slightly creative yet not at all artistic.  I guess things aren’t always black and white and easily analyzed and rationalized.


What about you?  Do you have both right and left brain functions and sometimes wonder how you function with them?  What “other side of the brain” trait do you wish you had? 


I’ll take my love of words and lack of number sense and be happy.   I may be schizophrenic but at least I have each other.









Sunday’s Scripture July 29, 2012

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It is believed that the phrase “Do not be afraid” can be found 365 times in the Bible.  That’s one for every day, meaning we should live everyday fearless and in total trust.


Going For The Gold July 28, 2012

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“Sport is friendship.  Sport is health.  Sport is education.  Sport is life.  Sport brings the world together.”

— Juan Antonio Samaranch, 1996 Olympics


I had no plans to do a blog on the Olympics, but after watching last night’s Opening Ceremonies I just couldn’t resist.  I’m a sucker for the games.  It would be a dream to cover them as a journalist.  Guess I need to study Journalism at PennState like my daughter’s high school buddy who is doing just that…as a student!  How awesome!


So, what did you think about London’s Opening Ceremonies?  I’ve heard grumbling about them in comparison to China’s most recent games but I actually kind of liked the historical and somewhat low-key tone of them.  HRH the Queen as a “Bond Girl” was brilliant, but can she not smile, ever?  I know there’s been controversy over the U.S.A. team’s outfits being made in China, but personally, I think the debate should be that they were pretty dreadful style-wise!  I loved Sweden’s festive yellow and blue uniforms and fittingly, Bermuda’s Bermuda shorts. 


What I really loved about the Opening Ceremonies was the prominent role children had and in watching Muhammad Ali’s wife tell him “grab the flag” and “wave” as the legend tried his hardest to take part in it all.  Seeing basketball superstars Kobe and LeBron videotaping it all on their phones as they walked in was also memorable, if for no other reason even American multimillionaire icons consider the games special.   I also loved the “honor guard” of Olympic site construction workers as the torch entered the stadium.  The torch itself was unique and impressive, but I still think the best torch lighting ever was Barcelona’s shooting of the arrow in 1992.  Who can also ever forget that Spanish city’s diving venue?  I have a feeling neither of those will ever be topped.  It’s like trying to top Al Michael’s famous “Do you believe in miracles?”


I remember that amazing Lake Placid event, and I have lots of Olympic memories in my memory bank.  I actually remember Nadia’s “Perfect 10” in Montreal and I had posters of Mark Spitz with all his medals hanging in my room.  What memories do you have?   Do you have favorite Olympic sports and/or athletes?  I like all of the sports, but I particularly enjoy women’s gymnastics.  Cathy Rigby; Nadia; Mary Lou; Kerri Strug and Shannon Miller and the entire 1996 gold medal winning “Magnificent Seven; and most recently, gold medalists Carly Patterson and Nastia Liukin.  I love them all. 


I even remember famous Soviet gymnasts like Olga Korbut, Svetlana Khorkina and Svetlana Boginskaya.  I will admit that I’m happy with today’s political state of affairs in the world, but the Olympics have never felt quite the same without the former Soviet bloc teams. I respected Soviet gymnasts and East German swimmers, but boy did I want the U.S.A. to beat them!  It’s just not the same rooting against Japanese gymnasts and Australian swimmers.


As always, I think Bob Costas did an outstanding job last night.  Ditto for Matt Lauer.  I thought they were both entertaining and informative.  Who knew Denmark was extremely competitive in table tennis and that the country of Tuvalu sold its domain to a California company for millions?!  Who even knew there was a country called Tuvalu?! 


Maybe my friend Jane’s son does now, as he had a giant world map out last night and found every country on it as the teams entered the stadium.  What a bright idea!   He might also know that Nicaragua is Central America’s largest country, even though I didn’t despite the fact one of my dearest friends is from there!


What an honor it must be to represent your country – small countries like Liechtenstein, war-torn nations like Syria, and the home team Brits.  And what about the women of Saudi Arabia?  This is the first Olympics ever that women will be competing for that  Arabian kingdom.  Speaking of women, 2012 marks the first time there are more women than men on the U.S. team.  You go girls! 


There’s nothing like the Olympics and there’s nothing like rooting for the red, white and blue home team.  Who doesn’t get misty-eyed watching the stars and stripes rise as the National Anthem is played for one of our treasured gold medal winners?  There are also others worth cheering on, like the South African runner with prosthetic legs, athletes who are their nation’s sole representative, and any nation that has never won an Olympic medal.  The thrill of victory is always matched by the agony of defeat though.  I’ve always said the two loneliest people in the world just might high school freshmen boys and anyone who finishes fourth in the Olympics.


Let those games begin and let’s root for everyone.  Let’s hope for faster, higher, and stronger.  For us.  For the world.




Friday’s Funnies July 27, 2012

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Mount Rushmore from the Canadian side!  😉


Think About It Thursday July 26, 2012

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I found this amazing.  Hope you do too!


Wednesday’s Words of Wit and Wisdom July 25, 2012

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“The wishbone will never replace the backbone.”  Will Henry


Tuesday’s Tip July 24, 2012

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©Kathy Womack


Wined and Dined Done Right

 On a recent lazy Saturday, my husband and I stopped off at a Texas Hill Country winery as we were heading home from a day driving around the nearby rolling hills.  We walked in having no idea that a tasting event was in progress.  It was both surprising and fun and made our day complete.  Not soon after, I saw a posting from the Austin Dining Club (more on them later) regarding “The Unspoken Rules of Wine Tasting” as reported by “Bon Appetit” magazine.  I thought it’d be interesting to share some of those tips with you.


I would venture to guess that most of you enjoy a glass of wine every now and then, but do you really know what you’re drinking, how to drink it, and even how to order or buy it?  I have my favorite brands and favorite varieties, but when it comes to actual wine tasting, I can get a little bit lost regarding the sip, swallow and spit routine.  I know a dry red from a sweet white, but don’t ask me about vintages, tannins, or fermentation.  Yes, I’ve been to Napa, but no I’m not a wine expert.


Sommelier Belinda Chang, Winemaker Charlie Wagner, and Napa Chef and Vinter Michael Chiarello are experts and it’s them who “Bon Appetit” and blogger Jason Kessler went to for tips and answers.


First and foremost they highly recommend planning your wine tasting itinerary.  Don’t just get in the car and stop wherever and whenever.  Instead, research what varieties you like and target those vineyards and tasting rooms.  Don’t be shy either, when you enter the tasting, let your preferences be known.  I don’t like very dry white wine so why would I want a wine tasting staff member to pour me a sample? 


Much like a dinner tasting menu, start light and build from there.  You probably wouldn’t start off with a rib-eye and end with a light salad, so keep the heavy reds for the end of your tasting experience.  It’s also recommended to begin with the driest wines first.  A simple rule of thumb:  lightest to richest and most simple to most complex.


Once wine is poured, keep your hands off it!  Actually, keep your hands away from the liquid area of the glass, as body temperatures can affect taste.  You should never hold a wine glass from anywhere other than the stem…that’s why they have them.  Now you are ready to hold the glass up to the light to observe the wine’s clarity and color.  Then, tilt your glass and let the wine run down the sides.  Wines that leave heavy streaks on a glass are said to have “legs,” meaning more alcohol and more sugar content. 


From there, take a tiny sip of the wine and swirl it in your mouth.  This may feel silly and unnatural at first, but the process of doing so actually aerates the wine, allowing oxygen to unleash all of its great flavors.  Keep in mind that the point of wine tasting is to have your whole mouth – front, middle, and back – actually taste it. 


Now, it’s time to spit.  This can be seem even more uncomfortable than swirling but is yet another tasting necessity.  Remember, what goes in should come out…preferably in one clean and quick “poof.”


Once you have all of this down, it’s time to have fun and enjoy the experience.  Whether you’re in Napa, Sonoma (which, by the way don’t like each other at all!), Bordeaux, Chile, or the Texas Hill Country, talk to the tasting staff and make friends with others around you.   Discover what you like and maybe even take a little home with you.


Just What the Sommelier Ordered

When it comes to all things culinary, “Bon Appetit” is always thinking, so the experts there also asked a sommelier the secrets to ordering wine.  Often times a wine menu goes from one person to another before someone brave enough accepts the job of ordering for the group.  This can be a little intimidating, but don’t let it be.  It’s the sommelier’s job to help you find the right wine, so let him or her do their job…you just need to help them a little.


First off, don’t just say you want a “good wine.”  Tastes vary so wide that this is neither safe or smart.  If you don’t see a brand or variety of wine on the menu that strikes your fancy, instead of asking the sommelier what he suggests, tell him what you like.  Do you tend to like red or white more?  Do you enjoy a light, fruity white wine or a full-bodied dry red? If that’s too challenging for you to determine, tell him what you don’t like.  I don’t like either very sweet or very dry wines, so that’s what I would let him know right off the bat.  From there, let him do his job. 


If you order a bottle, be sure to really taste it when the server pours you a glass.  This is your chance to either tell him thank you or perhaps even no thank you.  Don’t wait till several glasses have been poured to let him know you’re not happy with the selection.  Last tip:  slowly enjoy each drink.  Wine is made to be savored.



Vineyard or Winery?

Where you buy wine can also get a bit confusing…and I’m not even talking about stores.  You will notice that some wine labels say they come from a winery while others say they are from a vineyard.  What’s the difference between the two?  There are definite methods to the madness, but, my research on the “Taste of Wine” website revealed there are no legal standards for the use of the terms so any wine producer can call themselves a winery or vineyard if they so choose.

According to the online webpage, a vineyard is, as the word suggests, a “yard” where vines are grown — specifically vines for grapes used to produce wine.  A vineyard may be small with just a few acres or it might be huge with hundreds of acres. Some wine producers may have just one or two areas they call their vineyards or they may have dozens spread around a region, all used to produce a variety of wines.  Those vineyards, however, are not always where wines are produced.  Their grapes may be grown for the purpose of creating wines, but the people in charge of tending the grape vines aren’t always the ones who make the wines.  

A winery, on the other hand, is a place where wine is produced.  It is basically where every part of the process of creating wines takes place once the grapes have finished growing and have been harvested. It is not the same as a vineyard.

In general if someone is going to put “vineyard” on their bottle of wine, they are likely responsible for both growing the grapes and producing the wine you’re drinking.  It is common for vineyards and wineries to be at the same location and managed by the same people, but there are many cases where they are separate.   Many small, family-owned vineyards can’t afford to own and run their own wineries so they ship their grapes to large wineries for processing. There are also wineries that specialize solely in producing wine from grapes sent to them from smaller vineyards and there are wineries that create wines from both their own grapes and grapes sent to them by others.  One setup is not necessarily better or worse than the other. What matters most is your own opinion of the wine when you drink it.


About Austin Dining Club

Created by Founder Gwen Cash, ADC’s mission is to bring people together to experience and explore the art of fine dining.  Members visit some of Austin’s premium restaurants and enjoy getting to know new and interesting people over a great meal.  Cash is also working hard to create a non-profit organization to provide cultural dining experiences for underprivileged children in Austin.  For more information, go to


About Kathy Womack

Austin artist Kathy Womack is best known for her “Women and Wine” series, a series of which I own several and adore.  They are elegant paintings and prints of the simple act of enjoying a glass of wine with friends we cherish.   As Womack says, “The success of the series lies in the fact that I share this view with many women today who might feel the weight of our commitments and just need to get out and mingle.”  For more info, check out





Southern Fried July 23, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:14 pm

It seems so many people I talk to lately are either preparing to take a child off to college or to tour universities in search of the perfect one for their son or daughter. I have just one more week at home with our daughter before we take her back to college and it all reminds me of a trip I took a few years back that still brings a smile to my face. 

 adirondacks & a front porch...priceless!

 Seeing the South Through Its Universities

I knew the trip was going to be a memorable one as soon as my friend Kelly and her daughter Robyn picked us up in their loaded-down, big as Texas, SUV.   What I didn’t know was just how memorable it would turn out to be.


It was the four of us:  Kelly, Robyn, my daughter Kristen, and myself.  Texans headed into the Deep South to visit potential universities for high school juniors Robyn and Kristen.  It would be the Spring Break of all Spring Breaks.  We had it all mapped out:  drive through six southern states in one week and return with college choices in mind.  Kelly was armed with mountains of AAA maps and we both had files of confirmation numbers for campus tours, staff appointments, and hotel reservations.  Leaving Austin early in the morning, we headed east as we made our way south.  First stop:  Vicksburg, Mississippi.  Or so we thought.

 As we drove mile after mile through just Texas, we realized that, without any male riders aboard, we could stop wherever and whenever we wanted – flea markets, small-town boutiques, restrooms- all had our names on them!  

 Finally crossing the Texas state line into Louisiana, we couldn’t help but realize just how long we’d been driving….but only in Texas!  Getting restless, we blew through the Bayou State and finally arrived in Vicksburg.  Even though we wanted the trip to be entertaining, we also wanted it somewhat educational so Vicksburg was our first scheduled “must see.”  We arrived in the historical Civil War town in the middle of the night, found a hotel, and rested.  We woke up early, and with Vicksburg native Myra as our guide, we drove into the Nationa lMilitary Park.   We drove out very impressed.  Even the girls knew they had just seen something special.

 No rest for the weary though.   We had five universities to tour in five days.  Although we debated for months which ones to include on our itinerary, we settled on MississippiState, Ole Miss, Alabama, Auburn, and Arkansas.  (Tennessee, Clemson and Georgia didn’t make the cut.)  We loved something about each one but will most fondly remember the friendly and endearing admissions counselor at MSU who constantly said “I’m just pickin” instead of the more familiar “I’m just kidding.”  We will also never forget a wonderful one-on-one meeting the four of us had with an Ole Miss Chancellor.  Her nameplate said “Dean” but her visit with us about being a mom of a college-aged girl as well revealed much more than an educational pedigree:  she was a true southern lady and was smart enough to never forget it.

 In between our college visits, we managed to visit Elvis’ birthplace in Tupelo, Graceland in Memphis, and dear friends who live in Alexander City, Alabama.  We drove thousands of miles and got very little sleep, but what we will remember most from our “Southern Swing” are the laughs we shared and the kindness we were shown.  In the end, the girls chose two schools not even on our itinerary (Oklahoma for Kristen, Oklahoma State for Robyn), but I know I speak for all of us in saying we’d do it all again, just for the fun of it.

 The South.  <3

Sweet Tea and Sweet People

So what is it about the south?  My daughter loves all things southern, from the boys she dates to the music she listens to.  She only looked at universities in the south and is enormously proud to be a born (but Sooner bred!) Texan.  Being the daughter of a Yankee from New York and a Hispanic from New Mexico, I guess you could say all those years of Texas history classes proved their worth!

 In our trip to southern universities, we experienced  first-hand what southern hospitality is all about.   Everything seems calmer in the south, slower, from the drawls to the doings.  Say what you will about the south (i.e.: “rednecks”), but no one ever retires “up north.”  Southerners are celebrated for their charm and their gentleness.  In Margaret Mitchell’s famous “Gone With the Wind,” Scarlett O’Hara was not written as typically attractive, but the novel does state that people around her were taken by her charm. 

 Southerners are also known for their sweet tea and sweet dispositions.  They are also fiercely patriotic and put faith and family first.  Manner are paramount to southerners, and as the mom of a young woman, I want nothing more than for her to dress and act like a lady and to be treated as such from a fine young gentleman.  Don’t get me wrong, I still want her to have the guts and grit of Leigh Anne Tuohy from “The Blind Side,” but at the same time ask herself “WWAD?”  “What would Audrey – as in Hepburn – do?”  As she says, “Don’t mess with Texas, and don’t mess with Texas women!”

 So, do you use real mayonnaise in your chicken salad?  Do you say “yes sir” and “no ma’am?”  Do you think pearls never go out of style?  Do you believe good manners can take you places neither money nor education can?  Do you love college football?  Do you consider thank you notes a necessity?  Then, ya’ll just might be southerners!  Yeehaw!








Sunday’s Scripture July 22, 2012

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Think About It Thursday July 19, 2012

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Enough’s Enough

 How much is enough?  Do we really need more than we have?  What if we could finally come to the understanding that what we have right this minute is really and truly enough?  Those, my readers, are not my words but a descriptive review of the Will Davis Jr.’s new book “Enough:  Finding More by Living with Less.”  The book was recommended by Susie Davis, whose blog “The Good News Girl” is one of my favorites.  It arrived in my in-box as I was writing my recent blog about the little things in life, in which I talked about loving simple daisies over extravagant roses.  I also included one of my favorite quotes, “enough is as good as a feast,” from Mary Poppins, and it got me thinking.

 I’ll admit it:  I’m a pack rat.  A major pack rat.  My husband would agree and would probably go so far as to say I’m a hoarder, even though I guarantee he’s never seen or heard of the reality TV show.  I say it’s because I’m so nostalgic.  He’d say it’s because I’m crazy.  Thankfully, I am an organized pack rat.  I know just where everything is, even though those “things” should probably be donated or in the nearest landfill.

 Whatever the case, when do we ever have enough?  When are we satisfied?  We live in a society that stresses more…more money, more stuff, more power, more everything.  In his book, Davis challenges us to move away from this type of thinking and instead discover the peace that comes through contentment with what we have and compassion for those in need.  His goal is to show us the rewards of living with less in order to be more and do more with our lives.  Sounds simple enough, right?

 I don’t watch “Hoarders” but I am newly addicted to Pinterest.  Many say it is the on-line version of hoarding, and I gotta kinda agree.  My boards do consist of cool ideas and tips, but some are just collections of things I love and cherish.  But, isn’t it more important to collect moments, not things?   How do we become not just happy, but truly content?

 George Lorimer once said “it’s good to have money and the things money can buy, but it’s also good to check once in awhile to make sure you haven’t lost the things money can’t buy.”  And what would those be?  I believe they are faith, family, friends and good health.  Without those, nothing else really matters, right?  They should be the “things” we strive to attain and cherish.  Sadly, I don’t always practice what I preach.

 Maybe I should take a personal challenge and not buy one thing for a certain amount of time.  I would probably discover that my life would not suffer a bit from doing so.  Do I really need another frame, another pair of shoes, or another end table?  I’m hearing a resounding NO!   

 My friend Christie is probably saying it the loudest.  She of the exquisite taste and fabulous wardrobe, but, she of recently selling her stunning Florida home with everything in it.  WHAT?????  No way!  When she told me, I about fainted.  I think I’d rather bungee jump then sell my house with EVERYTHING in it!  What’s the lesson here though?  The more things you own, the more they own you.


So true and so what got our country into the current debt crisis.  “I can’t afford that huge house with a pool but the bank will lend me the money anyway so let’s get into debt up to our eyeballs and buy it anyway.”  There will always be someone with bigger, better and more things than you.  Rather than envy, I often sympathize with those who live in Hollywood or anywhere where money is abundant, as the competition to keep up with the Joneses must be exhausting.  Maybe that’s why they turn to plastic surgery and substance abuse so often.  They own everything and have been everywhere, the only thing left to change is ME and then numb the inevitable dissatisfaction I have with everything.  An exaggeration?  Probably, but maybe ever so slightly accurate.  A pretty face doesn’t always mean a pretty heart, and it certainly doesn’t always mean a happy heart.  Some people are so poor all they have is money and still others have more money then sense.

 One of my favorite children’s authors was Maurice Sendack, who recently died.  I keep a favorite quote of his on my refrigerator:  “There must be more to life than having everything.”  Yes, Mr. Sendack, there must be.   To find that life, maybe the secret is simply not letting the things you want make you forget the things you have.  It’s called being grateful and it just might be the real secret to genuine happiness and to finding what’s truly “the right stuff.”