Beyond Words

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

Just Say “Thank You” November 30, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:48 pm



Thanksgiving is behind us and Christmas is right around the corner. We spend Thanksgiving being thankful and at Christmas we give and receive. It’s important to hold onto gratitude all year long, but even though in your heart of hearts you are thankful and grateful, if you’re like me sometimes it’s hard to accept a gift or a compliment.




Yep, that’s totally me.  If somehow I do manage to utter a “thank you” of any kind back, it’s almost always qualified with a disclaimer such as “I got it on sale” or “It only looks good because I just came from the hair salon.”  Ugh! Are you with me?


Apparently I am not alone in this loss for words or becoming overly self-deprecating when good words come my way. Journalist Jeanne Wolf writes that accepting flattering words graciously is not only a skill, but an art and she says it’s time we all learn what to say in the face of admiration. Count me in!


There are generally three types of people when it comes to compliments: the humble, who despite good intentions, can sometimes come off as unappreciative; the confident who readily accepts accolades but might seem a bit cocky; and those in between the two. That person is our goal. But how do we get there? And what about those annoying people who are forever begging for compliments?


In a world full of superlatives where everyone gets a trophy and self-confidence is jacked up to the inth degree, sometimes it’s hard to even know if a compliment is sincere. Still, as “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series author Jack Canfield told “Town and Country” magazine, “A compliment is a gift and when someone gives us a gift they really want us to have it. If I give you a present and you give it back to me or you instantly give me another present to kind of make it all even, somehow there’s the sense that you never really received it.” Hmmmm….interesting.


So, think of compliments as gifts and acknowledge them much like you would a present.  You wouldn’t reject a gift so don’t deflect praise. A simple “that’s very nice” or “you just made my day” is more than enough to show your appreciation, and leave it at that. Remember to be personal and try to be original. If this is challenging for you, practice comfortable expressions of gratitude that fit your personality.


It’s not only what you say that matters, but how you say it. Your facial expression, body language, and tone of voice all give credence to your “thank you’s.”


Keep in mind too that praise is not all about you. When someone compliments you, it says a lot about them too. If sincere, that person is demonstrating respect and admiration by taking the time to say something nice to you. Don’t brush it off or appear entitled.


“If you want to lift yourself up, lift someone else up.”

Booker T. Washington.


Yes, compliments are complicated but genuine admiration and accolades are to be appreciated at the highest levels. At the same time, maybe it’s time you turn the tables and work on giving more compliments. When you do, be specific, sincere, and do so face-to-face whenever possible. Everyone loves a compliment whether they’re good at receiving them or not. The art of complimenting is a two-sided painting. Start practicing today!




Happy Thanksgiving! November 26, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:10 pm

Give thanks1


How To Observe Thanksgiving


“Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks.”

1 Thessalonians 5: 16-18


Count your blessings instead of your crosses

Count your gains instead of your losses

Count your joys instead of your woes

Count your friends instead of your foes

Count your smiles instead of your tears

Count your courage instead of your fears

Count the good instead of the bad

Count the happy instead of the sad

Count your health instead of your wealth

Count on God instead of yourself.


Happy Thanksgiving everyone! I am thankful for you!



Three Ingredients. One Holiday Classic. November 25, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:24 pm

GBeans casserole Elf


“I know, let’s combine Cream of Mushroom soup, dried up onion rings, and green beans and call it a Thanksgiving tradition!” What in the world and who in the world?! Yes, I’m about to reveal the mystery of the green bean casserole.


You all know what I’m talking about: that once-a-year vegetable dish using the three ingredients named above. I tried it for a couple of years but couldn’t sink my teeth into it…literally and figuratively. Separately I like all three ingredients but together just didn’t work for me. I wanted to love it, but I just don’t. Like it, yes. Love it and want it, no.  I’m back to fresh green beans broiled with red bell peppers and garlic. But…just because I don’t care for the casserole doesn’t mean I’m not curious about it.


The love-to-hate dish has actually graced Thanksgiving tables since the 1950s according to the History channel.  It all began in a test kitchen at the Campbell Soup Company’s New Jersey headquarters. That’s where, in 1955, Dorcas Reilly concocted the idea pretty much on a whim. Reilly worked in the company’s Home Economics Department and says she doesn’t even remember how she came up with the idea of uniting the three ingredients into what has become one holiday classic.


The recipe was instantly popular and Campbell’s gave it away on recipe pamphlets. It was simple in that it required ingredients most homes always had on hand, it could be made a day ahead and reheated, and it was a vegetable. Today Campbell’s estimates 40 percent of their Cream of Mushroom soup sold in the U.S. goes into making the infamous green bean casserole. Reilly was honored for her idea in 2002 and presented the original recipe card to the National Inventors Hall of Fame in Akron, Ohio.


Who knew? Now you do!


Green beans

Courtesy Target


Classic Campbell’s Green Bean Casserole

1 10.4 ounce can Campbell’s® Cream of Mushroom Soup

1/2 cup milk

1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 dash black pepper

4 cups cooked cut green beans

1 1/3 cups French’s® French Fried Onions

Stir the soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, beans and 2/3 cup onions in a 1.5 quart casserole dish.

Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling.

Stir bean mixture.  Sprinkle with the remaining onions.

Bake for 5 additional minutes or until the onions are golden brown.






Give Thanks and Give November 24, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:21 pm

two hands


Yesterday I wrote about buying groceries and the agony of going to a grocery store for Thanksgiving shopping. Sadly, there are many out there who would love to go to the grocery store but don’t have the means or money to do so.  Although I detest going grocery shopping, I’m forever grateful that I am able to buy all the food my family will share and enjoy on Thursday.


As with so many of you, I’m also cooking for those less fortunate. The holidays are a popular time to do so and the menu is pretty much set this time of year, but the hungry and the homeless need food 12 months a year so if you’re not buying turkeys and potatoes, here are some recommendations of what’s best to pick when giving groceries.


For a protein, think canned tuna packed in water. The cans are inexpensive and small and three ounces of tuna supplies a whopping 20 grams of protein and other heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids and nutrients.


Vegetables are hard to come by in food banks but one sure winner is canned pumpkin. As opposed to other canned veggies that are high in sodium, canned pumpkin is very low in salt and is a good source of fiber. No need to bake it either, as it can be added to oatmeal, yogurt, and a host of other foods and provides more than 200 percent of the daily recommended amount of Vitamin A. And, it’s not for Thanksgiving only!


Like vegetables, fresh fruits aren’t often found on a food bank shelf. So, instead of donating a can of sugar and syrup-filled canned fruit, how about choosing a jar of sugar free applesauce?


Water is of course an always in-demand beverage for donations and milk is always one of a food bank’s most requested items, but as I wrote yesterday, it’s hard to keep fresh for long periods of time. Instead, think about giving unsweetened boxed almond milk, which can stay on a shelf until it’s opened and has both Vitamin D and calcium, two nutrients people who are hungry lack most often.


Finally, don’t forget condiments but in this case skip the ketchup, which has added sugar. Instead, go for mustard, which doesn’t have sugar and through the mustard seed, has antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties.


So as you sit down to gobble on turkey and all the trimmings this Thursday, remember the “thanks” in Thanksgiving, but also the “giving.”


To Market, To Market

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:02 am

grocery store


I did my grocery shopping for Thanksgiving today. That’s always fun.  Not!


I do not like nor enjoy going to the grocery store. I’ve always said if I ever win the lottery I will hire someone to go grocery shopping for me. Sadly I do love Thanksgiving, which is of course the big momma of grocery store visits. Double-sided lists are not uncommon and forgetting one important item is to be expected.


I have friends who actually enjoy going to a supermarket and I just shake my head. They love going to Whole Foods, Central Market, Sprouts, even Costco. Me? I run in and run out as fast as I can from either Randall’s or HEB.


Grocery stores are big business even though the average supermarket makes about 1.5 percent net profit a year. They also hold their very own little “secrets” as I recently read about in “Readers Digest.”  Here then are some “Secrets your grocer won’t tell you” that I feel are Thanksgiving timely.


grocery cart


Ever notice that when you walk in the door you are often greeted by the smell of freshly-baked bread or yummy rotisserie chicken? It’s all planned that way as grocers know certain smells get your salivary glands working. They say never go grocery shopping on an empty stomach but no one ever mentioned not to smell!


If it’s not the deli or bakery that gets your attention right away it’s often the produce department. Why? Because all those pretty colors put you in a good mood as does the idea that you’re buying healthy.


And those misters on the veggies? They are cleaning the food and making them look fresh, right? Well, yes and no. Keep in mind the water also adds to an item’s weight so you might opt for dryer veggies that are sold by weight.


Shopping carts are getting bigger and are almost never cleaned. Yes, many stores offer the smaller ones, but in general the ones we all go to are double the size they once were and could be why customers have reportedly bought 19 percent more food than they have in the past.


Studies show that consumers also buy more when a store is crowded so you may want to do your grocery shopping on a Monday or Tuesday, historically the least crowded days. Worst days? Weekends of course.


Grocers know that 95 percent of shoppers have no idea what items on the shelves cost with the exception of milk, bread, bananas, and eggs so we really don’t know when we’re getting a good deal and when we’re not. We all fall for the “sale” and “buy two get one free” deals.


Music matters in a market. Stores generally play two types of music overhead: either upbeat “sing-along” songs that put shoppers in a nostalgic and good place or music with a rhythm slower than the average heartbeat. The latter has proven to result in shoppers spending more time in the store and buying 29 percent more than they planned.


10 items sign


Most people think milk is almost always located at the back of a store so you have to walk through aisles to get to it, but it’s really because milk needs to be refrigerated right away. Fridges are located at the back so trucks can quickly unload milk deliveries.


Speaking of milk, shop around. Pharmacies and convenience stores often have lower milk prices than a grocery store.


Watch what you grab. Sale signs are sometimes placed between products. For example, a 50 percent off 10-ounce package of ham will be placed next to the full-priced 16-ounce package. Make sure you grab the right one!


Buying in bulk is not always cheaper, especially in the produce department where individual peppers and avocadoes are almost always less expensive than bags of them.


Volume is important in specials. For example, a “10 or $10” promotion is very effective. Shoppers will buy 10 of something on sale even if buying only five would be less expensive. Do the math before doing the buying.


Speaking of math, “buy one, get the second one 50 percent off” is really only 25 percent off each item. Better deals might be had.


Just because something is advertised in a grocery store flyer doesn’t mean it’s on sale. Often times those pretty pictures are full-price items grouped next to some that are on sale.


If you see the words “previously frozen” on seafood at the meat and seafood counter, know that those same products are probably found in the frozen food case for up to 40 percent less.


Brown bags make bread go stale faster. When you get home, put all loaves in airtight plastic bags right away.


Meats have many markings, but what’s perhaps most important is the USDA quality grade. “Prime” is best, followed by “Choice,” “Select,” and “Standard.” Also interesting is that every T-bone has a small filet mignon on the bone and a New York strip on the opposite side. Sometimes buying a T-bone is your best bet.


Lastly, know that store employees are there to help you. A butcher can grind up a sirloin roast for you, tenderize a steak, or season any piece of meat. Bakers will often slice a loaf of bread for you and deli counters have a wide variety of items for your choosing. Even floral departments will often give you free greenery to go with loose flowers. Competition is tough and they certainly all want to please you, the customer.


Happy shopping and Happy Thanksgiving!



One Potato, Sweet Potato November 21, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:25 pm

Sweet potato soup chipotle


I’m trying something new this Thanksgiving. I’m doing my sweet potatoes in the crock pot. I know it’s probably not the best day to try out something new but I’m doing it anyway!


I love sweet potatoes. Normally I make a canned yam casserole with pineapple and marshmallows for Thanksgiving but my new recipe calls for real sweet potatoes and I couldn’t be happier.


So what is the difference between yams and sweet potatoes? Truth be told, they’re both sweet potatoes but according the Ree Drummond of TV’s “Pioneer Women” fame, if you’re living in the U.S. you’ve probably never seen a true yam. Wait, what? The cans I see on grocery store shelves clearly say they are yams.


Not so fast my friends. Real yams are actually tubers of tropical plants and are related to native grasses and lilies found in Africa, South America, and the Pacific. They come in various sizes, some as big as 100 pounds, but don’t pack the healthy beta carotene punch that American ones do. So, what gives? Why are those bright orange canned goods called yams?


Drummond writes that when orange sweet potatoes were introduced to the U.S. in the 1930s, shippers labeled them “yams,” which is the English form of the African word “nyami.”  And although they are an American Thanksgiving staple today, they really weren’t a part of the annual November holiday until the 1800s.



Candied yams


I prefer real sweet potatoes and can’t wait to make my casserole for Thanksgiving.  Not only are they delectable to eat, they are chalk-full of nutrients. One large sweet potato contains nine times the daily recommended allowance of vitamin A while sweet potatoes in general:


Contain high levels of potassium

Have twice as much fiber as other potatoes

Are rich in Vitamins C and E

Are natural antioxidants and anti-inflammatories

Are rich in beta-carotene

Have a low GI, which helps reduce blood sugar

Are a good source of manganese

Possess antibacterial and antifungal properties

Help improve skin and contain collagen

Help prevent rheumatoid arthritis

Are soothing for the stomach and prevent constipation

Contain iron

Promote a healthy digestive track

Help with emphysema

May lower health risks associated with heavy metals and oxygen radicals


What’s not to love, right? And, you can love them in more than just casseroles, baked, or mashed. Sweet potato soup is to die for, and don’t forget those two southern staples: candied yams and sweet potato pie.


One more thing before I share my recipe: when you buy sweet potatoes, look for smooth skins and firm bodies and store them in a cool, dry place. If they come in a bag, take the out of it and never put them in the refrigerator. The longer you store them after harvest, the sweeter they will be. Enjoy!


Crock Pot Sweet Potato Casserole




5 medium to large sweet potatoes

2 cups chicken broth

¼ cup butter, cubed

2 eggs lightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup brown sugar



½ cup brown sugar

1/3  cup melted butter

1/3 cup flour


*I will also be adding cubed pineapple and mini marshmallows to the topping and will not include pecans as the recipe called for.



  1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1-2 inch cubes. Place them in crock pot. Add chicken broth and cubed butter. Cook on high for 3 hours or until potatoes are soft enough to mash.
  2. Mash potatoes and add eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla. Add to crock pot.
  3. In separate bowl combine topping ingredients and sprinkle over potatoes. Cook on high.
  4. Serve and enjoy!




Say My Name, Say My Name November 9, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:30 pm



Reading my book last night (the wonderful “Traveling with Pomegranates” by Sue Monk Kidd) I came across a thought-provoking passage where her daughter, Ann Kidd Taylor, writes about the fear of “losing herself” when she gets married. She’s contemplating who she will be and what her name will be. Hyphenated? Just her husband’s last name? Keep your maiden name? Obviously she chose to use both her maiden name and her husband’s last name with no hyphen, but it got me thinking.


Why is it that the bride changes her name but not the husband? Here’s a little history that I found fascinating.


Some historians trace the idea back to the days of hunter gatherer clans. Members of clans were mostly all related to each other so young members would meet with other tribes or clans to find unrelated spouses. When they did, the woman would join her husband’s clan so she took the name of his clan. Vice-versa was never the case.


In medieval Europe, women were considered owned by men; first by their fathers and then by their husbands. (cough, cough, gag, gag.) This is still the case in some restrictive Arab and Muslim countries but tell my daughter and her friends that they will be “owned” by their husbands and you’re liable to get “owned!” In those ancient times though, when Mary Jones married John Smith she did not become Mary Smith, but rather Mrs. John Smith! Surprisingly this was even common practice up until the 1970s and the fact that my parent’s checkbook was for “Mr. and Mrs. Tony Luna, Jr.” is proof of this. I can’t even imagine.


Royalty is a whole other story. It was assumed the husband would inherit, buy, or build the family home so his last name was the name of the house. For example, Tudor, which I know of as home design style, but it’s much more than just half-timbered gabled homes in high-end neighborhoods. The House of Tudor was a royal house of Welsh and English origin that descended in the male line from the Tudors of Penmynydd. I have no idea how to pronounce that but I’m guessing their home was in “Tudor style” and I’m guessing they were the big dogs of their time.


Another privilege of being royal is that you don’t even have to use your last name. Does anyone know Prince William’s last name? His full name is actually William Arthur Philip Louis Mountbatten-Windsor. “Windsor” because that’s the name King George V, Queen Elizabeth’s father and William’s great-grandpapa, chose as the royal surname in 1917, and “Mountbatten” because William’s granddaddy and the Queen’s late husband Prince Philip, had the surname Mountbatten. But, Prince William occasionally draws his surname from his “Prince of Wales” title, which means in a roll call he would be called William Wales. He also sometimes chooses to go by William Cambridge from his Duke of Cambridge title and his wife Kate’s official title is Duchess of Cambridge. Confusing, right?


One more royal tidbit. One is never called Sir <<enter first name here.>> For example, Lawrence Olivier is to be called Sir Lawrence, not Sir Olivier. More confusing, right?




It seems women had had enough with all this surname ballyhoo and decided to make it simple: they’d keep their first names but use their husband’s last name. Very good.


In Spanish cultures it’s totally different though. When Isabella Lopez marries Diego Garcia, she becomes Isabella Lopez de Garcia, which basically means she is now Isabella of the Garcia house. If I lived in Spain or Mexico or Panama, I would be Carla Luna de Smith. Hmmmm….


As with almost anything, much of this can be traced back to the bible. In biblical times, when a woman got married, she would join her husband’s family so it made sense that she also took his name as she was now a part of his family not her father’s family.


It all sounds a little unfair to women, but historically it was also to remind the man of his responsibility for the well-being and support of the family. He was the head of the house and seeing his name everywhere kindly reminded him of it.


Fast forward to today and things are much different, even with conservative ole me. Before I got married I was a TV news anchor and reporter and my on-air name was naturally Carla Luna. When I got married I remained Carla Luna on air. It is normal for women on TV to do so and it was also in respect to my dad who had passed away. I love my maiden name and chose it as Kristen’s middle name. You can take Luna away from the girl but you can’t take the girl away from being Luna.


Unlike my book’s character, I never considered marriage as a threat to my individuality. I didn’t recite a vow of “obedience” (and if you remember my favorite royal, Princess Diana, also famously left that part out of her vows) but I do consider taking Smitty’s last name as a sign of my commitment to our marriage. Plus, with Smith I knew I’d never have to spell my last name again and I could name our children anything I wanted!




Another issue that came up in “Traveling with Pomegranates” was what name do children take in a marriage where the wife retains her maiden name? I would think it would all be very confusing and complicated if Kristen had a different last name than mine. That’s also one reason why I opted against hyphenating my last name. But, that’s just me.


So, there you have it; the story of the mysterious lost maiden names. In today’s world of powerful and independent women and husbands who are sharing household chores and child rearing, it’s kind of surprising that upwards of 60 percent of brides take their husband’s last name. Imagine that, something old-fashioned holding steady. I like it.


Mercy Me November 8, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:38 pm



That is one of my favorite and most trusted prayers. In it, God is telling me, “I’ve got this Carla. Trust me. You have my word. You have my blessing and my grace.”


I’ve always liked the name Grace for a girl and who doesn’t love the song “Amazing Grace?” It’s a beloved classic and the lyrics are, well, amazing. What is grace though, and more specifically, what is meant by God’s grace? Is it merely a prayer we say before a meal? Heavens no!


Better yet, what is mercy? It’s a common name for a hospital and “mercy me” is often uttered but is it understood? What does it really refer to and/or mean? Mercy me I’m confused!




An email I received this past week compared grace and mercy. It said grace is getting what we don’t deserve and mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Huh? Max Lucado helps out by saying the difference between the two is best illustrated in the Prodigal Son parable. Mercy, he writes, gave the son a second chance and grace gave him a feast. Remember, this reckless son squandered all of his inheritance through unscrupulous living, as opposed to younger his brother who stayed and worked his father’s fields. Yet, when the older son returned and asked his father’s forgiveness, his dad through a lavish party for him. The younger son became angry and envious but later came to understand that his brother was given grace and mercy because “he was lost and now is found.”


That’s how God works too. Broken lives can be touched by His mercy and grace. Just like with the prodigal son, it is never too late.


“It is an insult to God to think your sins are greater than His mercy.”

Mother Angelica


Grace is generally defined as a supernatural gift from God that helps one achieve eternal salvation. Mercy, on the other hand, is when God extends compassion to those in need. God shows mercy to sinners and we in turn are expected to be merciful to others. We are His hands and feet here on earth and are to live as He would.


In reading about grace and mercy, I found that neither is earned and are often undeserved yet God, in Psalm 136, promised His loving mercy “endures forever.” I love how “Our Daily Bread” stated it, “In our disposable culture and temporary world, the permanence of God’s mercy gives us hope. We can trust Him because His mercy will never fail.”


We’ve all uttered the phrase “There but for the grace of God go I” and many of us have visited Graceland in Memphis, the famous home of Elvis Presley. But, did you know that “graceland” can also describe the place you find yourself when God forgives you and brings you out of darkness? Even when we are most down and downtrodden, sin and envy-filled, God’s grace can enter our lives as Paul tells us in 2 Cor. 12:9.




A Year Of Mercy

Earlier this year Pope Francis proclaimed an “extraordinary Holy Year of Mercy,” which will run December 8, 2015 through November 20, 2016. His hopes are for the church to “make more evident its mission to be a witness of mercy” and a “place of mercy freely given.”


Holy Years are usually held every 25 years, the last one being in 2000 in celebration of the Great Jubilee. Extraordinary holy years, like the upcoming one of Mercy, are less frequent but also feature pilgramages and celebrations, calls for conversion and repentance, and special opportunities are provided for believers to experience God’s grace through the sacraments, particularly confession. By doing so, you will be strengthened, healed, and better equipped to fulfill God’s plan for your life.


Again, it’s never too late. As Pope Francis said, “God doesn’t tire of us; we are the ones who tire of seeking His mercy.” Grace, it’s amazing!