Beyond Words

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

Friday Night Sights September 23, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:10 pm



Fall is officially here. Yesterday was the first day of fall and I couldn’t be happier…unless of course we were enjoying fall-like weather rather than the current 90 degree temps. Cringe worthy.




I love fall; it’s probably my favorite season. I love the colors, I love the weather, and I love the clothing. In my world, fall also means football and no place on Earth does football like Texas high schools. It was the subject of a bestselling book and movie but it’s more than just a game. It’s a religion.


Entire towns and neighborhoods show up for kick-off. Friday Night Lights bring out the best of sights and sounds. Coaches and quarterbacks may immediately come to mind, but Friday Night Lights also means bands and drill teams. In small town Texas and big city suburbs, they all come together and make magic.





The Game

Texas high school football is big time in no small way. Players enter the field through giant posters, inflatable mascots, and smoke machines. College recruiters love Texas high school players and many NFL stars got their starts in the Lone Star State. Friday night football games are rituals and almost required. Fans of all ages head out to the stadiums, many of which are bigger than some college fields.





The battle of stadiums became heated and unofficially official when Allen ISD built its 18,000-seat palace in 2012. Today it is the fifth largest in Texas but is still notable as the largest that serves as home field for only one high school. Beneath the behemoth are areas for wrestling, a golf simulator practice area, and a collegiate comparable weight room. Two years after opening however, it was closed due to foundation cracking but was reopened in 2015.






Residents of McKinney live a mere five miles from Allen and recently approved a bond package that allocates $70 million for a new high school stadium, the renderings of which are shown here. That’s 70 MILLION dollars and all those millions were approved by 62 percent of voters. The 12,000 seat facility will boast artificial turf and a 55-foot high-def screen that will be bigger than those in some NFL stadiums.


Toyota Stadium in Frisco is officially the biggest host of Texas high school football with a capacity of more than 20,000. But, it is a multi-purpose facility owned by the City of Frisco, Hunt Group, Frisco ISD, and Collin County. Events range from high football to home matches for FC Dallas to Jimmy Buffett concerts.


So many boys play high school football in Texas that there are six main divisions, with most of them having two divisions making really a total of 12. In other words, there are just too many Texas high school football teams for there to be one state champion per division. Yowzah.


Half-time is just as important in Texas. Marching bands and drill teams are considered royalty at many schools and being chosen to be in them is very competitive.


The Drill

Just like the game itself, no one does drill teams like Texas. Maybe that’s because they originated in Texas.



The first group of its kind in the world and still considered the best by most is none other than the Kilgore Rangerettes of tiny Kilgore College in East Texas. It was there that in 1939 Dean B.E. Masters asked Gussie Nell Davis to devise a half-time distraction that would keep fans in the stands. Davis created a Broadway-caliber show made up of coeds wearing red-white-and-blue western-style outfits. The dance team was an instant success and Davis went on to direct the team for 39 years. Today dance teams from around the world visit Kilgore for instruction and there is even a museum dedicated to the Rangerettes.







The precision and high-kicks that Davis introduced lives on today with high school drill teams sporting short, flared skirts; brimmed hats; and white cowboy boots. It’s estimated more than 15,000 Texas girls are drill team members and have high-kicked their way into the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parades and presidential inaugurations, onto national magazine covers and international tours, and have been featured in television and film.






The Band

Fans also stay in the stands to watch Texas high school band performances. They are larger than life and rival many a college band. In fact, those college bands we all love are made up of former Texas high school “band geeks” and they bring the fun to football. To me, no football game is complete without a band stirring things up and bringing down the house.


At Texas high schools, a band winning a state championship is as lauded as any team’s crown. Texans love their marching bands and naturally Texas has what many consider the biggest high school band in the land.



Allen High School’s “Allen Eagle Escadrille” has more than 800 members and takes up the entire football field, end zone to end zone, when it performs. In Allen’s stadium, 1,000 seats are reserved just for the Escadrille. The Dallas area school has marched at half-time for the Dallas Cowboys, has performed overseas, and has been invited to the Tournament of Roses Parade and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade multiple times. They are truly a sight to see but so are most Texas high school bands.






Mums the Word

Then there are the mums. The massive and mysterious mums. They are crazy and confusing.


In truth, it doesn’t get any more Texas than a Homecoming mum. Considered a rite of passage by high school girls they are also considered ridiculous by many. They are huge and they are expensive. If you don’t believe me, Google it or visit Pinterest and get ready to feel both shock and bewilderment.



As the photos will show, these mums don’t have a real flower on them. Instead, they are made up of fake flowers (traditionally chrysanthemums or “mums”), ribbons, letters, feathered boas, stuffed animals, battery-powered lights, and trinkets that represent the wearer’s interests and activities. Did I mention they are huge? Bigger than a dinner plate and often floor-length, they are so heavy (at least 20 pounds!) that mere pins are not adequate so girls wear them around their neck. Works of art maybe and costly ones too.


Back in the 1950s, high school boys began buying chrysanthemum corsages for their homecoming dates, tying in the post-war prosperity that was sweeping the nation as well as the traditional fall flower. Decorated with simple ribbons, they were relatively small and cost around $3. Add two zeroes to the end of that and you have the average cost of a mum today.


Money making machines, homecoming mums are big business for entrepreneurial and creative professional mum makers who are in demand every August and September and make them for anyone willing to pay for them. Or, you can visit any Hobby Lobby, Michaels, etc. and either make your own or purchase a pre-made one.



Boys wear them too, albeit much smaller ones. They often match the girl’s ginormous one and are commonly attached around the arm with a garter. Both boys and girls wear them to school the day of the homecoming game and after, girls traditionally hang them in their rooms as badges of honor. When we recently moved I went back and forth on what to do with Kristen’s. I finally came to the conclusion that she’d be fine with me “donating” them.



Personally I think the “my mum is better than your mum” competition is a bit unhealthy and ridiculous but I also I appreciate the old-school custom and charm about them. In today’s world of “everything new is better” mentality, it is nice to see something timeworn and deep-rooting passed on to generation after generation.




No I in Team

So, as much as obnoxiously-priced stadiums might merit scorn and you might detest a drill team’s short skirts or those silly homecoming mums, there’s something that holds them all together: teamwork.


To make a team succeed, there is no room for selfishness or personal credit. Teams share in their successes, big ones and little ones, and should be confident that all members have each other’s best interests at heart. They rely on each other and depend on each other’s strengths. Doubt and suspicion have no place on a team. Trust in each other and in the leaders of that team are fundamentals to true teamwork. Learning this while either playing, marching, or dancing can later be applied in real life situations so play on footballers, march on band members, and keep on kicking drill teamers! As for the mums, well, sometimes they involve a little teamwork too.



Is Your Wardrobe Making You Look Old? September 19, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:56 pm



It’s that time of year; time to start thinking about pulling out the fall clothes and saying goodbye to summer attire. I know, I know, many of us are still in the throes of 90 degree weather, but the first day of fall is this Thursday so why not at least plan your fall attire?






As with all fashion, picking what’s right for your budget, right for your body, right for the season, and all while being age appropriate, can sometimes be challenging. I’ve written it before and I’m writing it again: just because it fits doesn’t mean you should wear it.


We never want to dress the same way we did 20 years ago or like a twenty-year-old if we’re “mature” women, but we also don’t want to look older than we really are. It’s true that just one single fashion boo-boo can make age you as much as 10 years and we definitely don’t want that, right ladies? Here’s the deal: when you dress too “young” it only makes you look old. When an older woman (let’s say 40 and over) wears styles geared toward a younger population, even if they fit they will promote “she looks good for her age” thoughts. “For her age” being the key. Why would you ever want your clothing to emphasize your age? Insanity! Wouldn’t you rather the comments be “she looks great!?”


I recently read something by author Sabrina Rouge about fashion mistakes that make you look older and found them interesting. Think about it. JLo, Kris Jenner, and Madonna are all women old enough to know better yet are often photographed in clothing that is much too young for them. Yes, they sometimes look great for their age, but they can also look like they are just trying too hard.


In short, the mistakes are:

Dressing too trendy

Wearing same-fit outfits

Dressing in all black

Wearing something based on sentimentality

Choosing too long (or too short) of skirts

Using too much heavy eyeliner

Wearing anything jersey

Not defining your waist

Covering up your neck

Wearing bad undergarments



Trends aren’t always your friends

We all want to look hip and fashionable, but the mistake many make is wearing those trendy items long after they’re in style or wearing too many of them at one time. Wearing multiple or tired trends won’t make you look modern; they’ll make you look out of touch. Think about it: the current New York Fashion Week is showing spring 2017 fashion. To true fashionistas, spring 2016 trends will be “so 2016” come 2017. We can’t all have Gigi’s or JLo’s closets, full of entirely new wardrobes each season, but we can all shop smart. The best advice is to buy maybe one or two inexpensive trends each season and stick to the classics for the rest of your apparel. My other favorite rule: if you wore the trend the first time it was popular, you are too old to wear it when it comes around again years later. Yes I rocked ‘70s fringe in the 1970s, but I would look like a fool wearing it today.


The photo of Jane Fonda at the top of this blog is a perfect example of a mature woman overdoing a trendy look. I personally think she looks ridic. The two photos below show much more stylish ways to rock boyfriend jeans at any age. Wear them, but keep everything else classic and classy.

atlantic-pacific-site1 annina-mislin-instagram-feed-street-style1

Atlantic-Pacific                     Annina Mislin



Mix it up

Another mistake women make is wearing same-fit pairings. Your outfit goal is to create balance in what you’re wearing so if your bottoms are tight, wear a loose top. If your bottoms are loose, wearing a tighter top is ok.


In the stunning outfit here from the Rachel Zoe Report, the pleated skirt is flowy so the fitted top looks fabulous. Had the skirt been tight, a similar top would cheapen the look while a flowy top with this skirt would add unnecessary bulk to even the smallest of frames.



Black clothes matter

My closet staples are black, white, and camel. I throw in colors and a rare print every now and then, but I’m pretty plain Jane. We can all agree that black is indeed slimming, but wearing too much of it is also aging. This, I did not know. As Runge noted, skin gets lighter as we age so wearing a lot of black, especially near the face, washes us out. If you’re like me and you love a cool charcoal or basic black, be sure to include a colorful accessory and bright lip.






Not your 30’s wardrobe

Do you hold onto pieces that either don’t flatter your figure or scream 1990s? Did you love wearing a something when you were 15 years younger and it still fits but is maybe a bit too young for you now but you wear it anyway? If you answer “yes” to either of those questions, think twice.  Toss what you wore in your 30’s and don’t wear anything for sentimental reasons.



The short and long of it

It’s no secret that as we get older, our hemlines generally get longer, which for the most part, is a good thing. The bad thing is that sometimes we wear skirts that are too long and too matronly. Yes, mature ladies shouldn’t wear miniskirts anymore, but plain skirts that come to your ankles and worn with the wrong shoes will make you look frumpy. Unless you purchase a new stylish maxi dress, stick to skirts that hit right above or at the knee. Don’t go too long but don’t go too short either.

miniskirt maxi-skirt



Eye spy too much liner

As we age we become concerned about wrinkles, particularly those around our eyes. So, what do we often do? Apply make-up…lots of make-up. Eye shadow, eye liner, false lashes, brow pencil, just to name a few products. But, applying heavy liner or dark eye shadow will not make your eyes “pop,” they will age you and accentuate the very wrinkles you are hoping to camouflage. Think more subtle shadows, little or no liner, and bring out your cheeks with contouring.


Consider the photos below of Britney Spears and Giuliana Rancic. The shots of them wearing tons-o-black makeup really do make them look much older…and harsher.

brittany brit giulianarancicupdosbobbypinnedupdol9lmbok_1jyl giuliana1




Jersey girls

I’m guilty as charged in this one big time and the athleisure trend isn’t making it easier to steer away from it. Jersey fabric may indeed be comfy but if not fitted properly, it clings to every inch of your body. Tight leggings, yoga pants, and any other “comfy” bottoms need not be too tight and if they are, be sure to wear a top that hides all your bulges and lumps and choose styles that are draped or ruched. Another option is to “dress them up” as in this photo.






What a waist

Most of us love wearing clothing that is loose and comfortable. But be careful. Oversized clothing may hide your flaws, but it can also turn you into a shapeless bob. I never, ever tuck anything in, but I’m warming to the idea that belting an outfit appropriately actually creates an hourglass illusion. I love Susan of “Fifty Not Frumpy’s” advice of belting loosely and below your natural waist as seen in her photo here.





Stick your neck out

As with eyes, we become more and more concerned about wrinkles and rolls on our necks and we tend to over-compensate and cover those necks up with stuffy turtlenecks. But unless you’re knee-deep in snow or frigid weather, a tailored collared shirt will be much more flattering as will a stylish scarf.


Underneath it all

All of the above has focused on what you wear on the outside, but what you wear under all of it matters just as much. The perfect outfit can be ruined by the wrong undergarments. Words of wisdom: get fitted by a bra professional, choose seamless hipster undies, and consider the below.


So there you have it. It is possible to cover up body imperfections, look fashionable doing it, and look your age…not older but not too young. It’s all just a matter of knowing what styles to choose and what mistakes to avoid.


Home Sweet Home September 2, 2016

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:04 am

Front door mat


I’ve spent the past week unpacking, repurposing, and putting our new home together. I’ve also headed back to work right smack in the middle of doing so. Today, right now, is the first time in more than a week that I’ve sat down at my computer to take a moment. To think. To read. To write. To breathe.


Our home is coming along. The rooms are livable and taking shape. I was blessed with a friend who helped me put my kitchen together. She loves doing so and I so enjoyed her laughter as well as her style and wisdom. As many of you know, I also adore Erin Gates and her “Elements of Style” blog and book. I’m catching up on her writings and loved a recent one titled “A House Full of Personality.” In it, Erin writes:


“I love that this space looks lived in, loved, and decorated over time. Nothing too perfect or precious, just a gorgeous celebration of this family’s particular brand of cool. I’m so over perfection. In a world ripe with Pinterest-worthy everything and Instagram-filtered reality, I crave more realness from people.”


Bingo. She nailed it. That’s my goal for our new home. I want it to be our home, not a decorator’s home, not a Pinterest or Instagram home, not even a popular brand or trend home. A pretty home, but simply the Smith home.


Where I live will never be picture perfect. I will always have that one side table or piece of art that just doesn’t go or is perhaps dated, but if it brings me joy, it stays. Yes, I use that deciding factor and I use it often. Trust me, it works!


So, with Erin’s words in my head I tackled the move in. Truth be told, moving is sooooo overwhelming and I’m already soooo over it. But, unpack I must so I’ll do it with a grateful heart and a curious mind.



“To me, style is about years of collecting, figuring out what you like, and weaving it all together. The important thing is owning your look and not minding what others think. It can be tricky to find style confidence, but once you find it, you’re free.”

Anna Last



First things first. I love the openness of our house and the fact that, with so many windows, I rarely have to turn lights on during the day. But, with so much openness and tall ceilings and doors, I’ve come to discover that some of my smaller scale furniture is getting lost in the bigger space. Our previous home had smaller rooms that lent themselves to a cozier feel. This new house screams “give me space!”


Not about how big a house is

Our new house also has fewer rooms. I’ve gone from three living areas to one and from two eating areas to one. Fewer rooms mean less space in which to put all the things I love and need. Even considering how much we got rid of before we moved, we find ourselves still eliminating many items. I feel it’s shameful we paid to have the stuff moved, but there really was no way of knowing exactly what would fit and what would work. Note to self: this is what happens when you build a home, which I’d never done. And probably will never do again.  Placing pieces in the right spots is perhaps my biggest challenge right now but I’m working it.


Fortunately I’m devotee of the decorating tip of choosing items that can work in more than just one room and sticking to one palette and style. This way, you can easily swap items from one room to another. Maybe that small server no longer has a home (hello house with no formal dining room!) but works great as an end table or nightstand. Always consider scale and function, but before going out and buying something new, shop your house first. You’ll be amazed at what you might find! Shop season-less too. Yes, it’s fine to add seasonal décor here and there, but keep your basics, well, basic.



“Be fearless and love how you live. You’re unique and your home should reflect that.”

Kim Myles


A good home

I am by no means a decorator or designer by trade and rely on my personal preferences and expert advice from friends and shelter publications. I like many design forms and qualities, but recreating those looks in my home will just never happen and most of what you do see in my house will be of my choosing. I know what I like and what works for our lifestyle. I don’t want a head-to-toe professionally designed home and I don’t want my home to feel like a furniture showroom or the home of someone other than me. I prefer a lot of personal flair and a bit of imperfection. Formal and playful both appeal to me, but too much formality can be stuffy and dated and too much playfulness can feel silly and unstructured. My goal is the perfect combination of timeless tradition and casual coziness.


“I want my house to be like a diary. Your home should reflect your travels and history.”

Cat Deeley


A home, in my opinion, should fit the people who live in it. Consider your lifestyle, your family’s heritage, and the area where you live. By all means, consider the style of home. Nothing burns me more than a classic colonial on the outside only to walk in and discover mid-century modern décor. No, no, no and no. I’ve had to deal with that a bit in our new home. I love crown molding and lots of trim work, but our house does not lend itself to that look. I’m also having a heck of time saying “yay” or “nay” to exterior shutters. I’m obsessed with shutters, but thankfully I’m working with an honest and professional shutter maker who is making me think twice about them.


In addition to history, a home also needs order. Maybe not to the extent that I require in my OCD world, but order is a must. All your design hard work will go unnoticed in a room full of mess. Make it pretty too. Fluff the pillows, clear the clutter, and make the beds.


“Be true to what you love. Buy things you like and don’t worry about whether or not they match. Matching is overrated. If they are all things you love, they will just naturally come together.”

Suzanne Kasler


Matching, it seems, is no bueno. Your goal is interest and texture, not sameness. As Nick Olsen says, “There can’t be too much matching going on. There has to be something a little off in a room or it will look over-decorated.”


I’m big on accessories, especially art, but I’m having to edit what I display in a major way and I haven’t even started. Accessorizing will be the last thing I do. I like to live in a home for a bit before putting any art up or any decorations out.


Have nothing in your house...Think of accessories as jewelry for your home and go bigger than you think. Done right, they can take your decor palette to the next level without breaking the bank. One large object has a lot more impact than several little ones. (I have trouble with this one!) At the same time, don’t make the mistake of not layering enough. You want to incorporate enough accoutrements to make a room look finished and the best way to do so is to display them in such a way that guests get a sense of who lives there and what the homeowners find interesting. Present items so that no two shelves, tables, or countertops are the same. Rows are dull and it’s better to display personal items you’ve acquired through the years than items you just recently purchased at the nearest home store. I would say predictability is as overrated as matching.


Stick to what Designer Stan Topol describes as “the unassuming over the conspicuous and the tried-and-true over the latest flash in the pan. It’s far better to have one exquisite item in a room than a half dozen of lesser quality.”


Another tried and true rule of thumb is to group similar objects. Old paintings scattered around the house will look dated, but a grouping of them could be interesting. Same with anything you collect. Keep it all tasteful though and think odd numbers. Display three similar articles, not two or four.


house-without-booksTwo other things I’m obsessed with are lighting and books.


In our new home I chose two lantern-style fixtures for over our kitchen island rather than the customary and suggested three small pendant lights. The lanterns weren’t even intended for this use but I LOVE them and am so happy with them! What I’m not a big fan of is overhead lighting. Give me lamps and give me lots of them.


I also like lots of books. In my dream home I’d have a mahogany library with rolling ladders and I encourage you to have books and have them everywhere. Coffee table books, cookbooks, shelves of books. I don’t care that most people read books on their tablets now and print recipes off the internet, books are actually one of my favorite accessories. Nothing says a life well lived like real books.


Other tips include hanging mirrors everywhere and incorporating real plants and fresh flowers in several rooms. I particularly love a real plant in the master bedroom, which can give it a sort of spa appeal and nothing brings cheer to a room more than a vase of fresh flowers. Treat yourself to them often!


Photos are also inviting, but don’t go overboard. Frame them elegantly, display them tastefully, and then let your home showcase your family’s journey through artful photos that tell your story.


Lastly, spend money on things you will have for years like sofas and beds. When it comes to things like lamps and coffee tables, which you may change out more frequently, less expensive is perfectly fine.


Perhaps the most important thing every home needs is personality. Yours! I’m a fan of Edie Wadsworth who encourages the finding of peace, purpose, and passion. She also encourages finding them your way and says:


“I don’t follow decorating rules. If I love something, then I’ll find a place for it in my house. Life is too short to follow the rules.”


Sounds like good advice. I’ll try my hardest to follow certain décor standards all the while following my heart at the same time.