Beyond Words

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

Salt or No Salt? February 22, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:45 am



Did anyone else read that Jimmy Buffett plans to open a retirement community in Daytona Beach based loosely around his famous “Margaritaville” song? I did, and I’m down. The community, set to open Fall 2018, will have a total tropical vibe with a pool with cabanas instead of a park or statue like most town squares and promises to embrace the relaxed lifestyle epitomized in Buffett’s songs.  Music, food and beverages will be big part of the 6,900 home community, and you never know when Jimmy himself might show up for an impromptu concert!

It’s perfect timing to announce his latest venture, as today is “National Margarita Day” and any day is the perfect day to have a margarita.


Considered the perfect cocktail by so many, Margaritas are not only popular, they are legendary. What other drink is the subject of a song that you know all the words to?


“I blew out my flip flop

Stepped on a pop top

Cut my heel, had to cruise on back home

But there’s booze in the blender

And soon it will render

That frozen concoction that helps me hang on…”


Yeah we’ve all sang “Margaritaville” right along with Jimmy Buffett and we’ve all searched for our lost shaker of salt, but do we know why we sing it and why we drink them?


We sing it because it’s a fun song and we drink them because they are the perfect combination of sweet and savory, but who invented the margarita? There are as many legends as to who to credit as there are legendary hangovers blamed on them.




Most historians credit Carlos “Danny” Herrera for inventing the mix of triple sec, tequila, and lime juice back in 1938 at his restaurant Rancho La Gloria somewhere halfway between Tijuana and Rosarito, Mexico. Apparently his customer, former Ziegfeld dance Marjorie King, was allergic to all alcohol except tequila so Herrera combined the elements of a traditional shot of tequila – a lick of salt and a wedge of lime – and made a yummy drink out of them. A few years later bartender Albert Hernandez started serving the cocktail at La Plaza outside of San Diego in 1947, and the rest is salt or no salt history.


Maybe. Yet another commonly accepted margarita origin story credits bartender Don Carlos Orozco with its creation. Orozco had been experimenting with drinks in Hussong’s Cantina in Ensenada, Mexico and offered one to Margarita Henkel, the daughter of the German ambassador. His version consisted of equal part tequila, Cointreau orange liqueur and lime, and its name is self explanatory.


Still another claim to margarita fame comes from Juarez, Mexico and Tommy’s Place Bar where it is said that in 1942 Francisco “Pancho” Morales mixed the first ever margarita. Mexico’s official news agency and many experts say Morales has the strongest claim to having invented the Margarita and they are sticking to their story.


I also like the story that Dallas socialite Margarita Sames concocted the drink for her guests at her Acapulco home in 1948 and that Tommy Hilton returned to the states and started serving them at the Hilton chain of hotels. But, according to Jose Cuervo, (yes, THAT Jose Cuervo), the cocktail was invented in 1938 by a bartender in honor of Mexican showgirl Rita de la Rosa.


Lastly, one tale begins the drink’s history at the legendary Balinese Room in Galveston, Texas. It was there, in 1948, that bartender Santos Cruz reportedly created the drink for singer Peggy (Margaret) Lee and named it after the Spanish version of her name.


So many origins, so many tales.




Ironically, “margarita” is a German form of the name Margaret and was introduced to Mexico with no Hispanic origin. In Spanish, “margarita” means “daisy so my guess is the drink was named after someone rather than for literal purposes.


The first time a margarita recipe was ever published was in 1953 in Esquire magazine who dubbed it the “Drink of the Month.”  The recipe was:


1 oz. tequila

Dash of Triple Sec

Juice of half a lemon or lime

Pour over crushed ice, stir.

Rub rim of stem glass with rind of lemon or lime and spin in salt.

Pour and sip


That recipe pretty much holds up today, although many say a margarita in its classic form consists of tequila, lime juice, and Cointreau or Triple Sec.


Margaritas are traditionally served in a true margarita glass, which is a version of a classic champagne coupe; but today you’ll find them served in everything from high balls to beer mugs. What a margarita comes in often depends on what kind of marg you order. A “on the rocks” one will normally be served in a high-ball glass but if you order one “straight up” with no ice, you’re likely to find it in a martini-style glass. A true margarita glass will generally hold a frozen marg, but sometimes on the rock versions come in them too. Whatever you order, be sure to say if you want salt on the rim. Personally, I prefer either on the rocks or frozen with no salt and simply order “rocks no salt” or “frozen no salt.”


Margaritas of every kind pack a lot of proof in their punch, even more than Manhattans, which taste like they have so much more alcohol in them. In fact, one standard margarita has just over 33 percent alcohol, about the same as a martini and more than double a bourbon and water, Screwdriver, Mojito, or a vodka or gin and tonic. They also have a lot of calories, but let’s not ruin the day. Tomorrow: skinny margs!


Due to their high alcohol content, it’s not unusual for a restaurant to limit the number of margs you can order. But, don’t tell that to the 2012 California State Fair, which hosted the largest margarita ever according to Guinness World Records. That’s when the “Calarita,” which contained 4,650 bottles (2,100 gallons) of tequila and 8,400 gallons of margarita mix, took a 20-horse-power blender to mix the 25-tall, 10,500-gallon cocktail. Think of the calories in the puppy!



I’m sure many of you have your “secret” and “best margaritas” recipes, but here are a few of mine:


1 small can frozen limeade then, using the empty limeade can, measure 1 can tequila and one can of beer. Mix with ice and serve. Trust me, the beer makes all the difference. If you don’t believe me or are more of a traditionalist, substitute the beer with Cointreau or Triple Sec for sweeter margs.


There’s also the yummy “Cadillac Margarita” made famous at Nuevo Laredo’s Cadillac Bar, which has you shake tequila, Triple Sec, sweet and sour mix, and lime juice with ice. Pour over ice in a traditional margarita and salt-rimmed glass and then “float” Grand Marnier on top. Delectable!


So enjoy a margarita today and think of all those who came before you. But, whether you order salt or no salt; rock, frozen or up; drink responsibly and don’t drive. Salud!







Vests With The Fur February 21, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:48 pm



Even though much of the nation is currently experiencing winter or extreme weather, I’m enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Still, it’s never too hot to think about fashion and since it’s still winter, how about a blog on something wintry? Like say, fur vests!


I know, I know, so unlike me to go with something as nontraditional as fur vests but remember, I do love all things sparkly and glitter, so why not?


It all started when I got a text from a darling friend of mine asking if I thought she was too old to wear a fur vest. I thought about it and we went back and forth and decided that, no, a woman of any age can rock one…as long as it’s done age appropriately. Isn’t this the case with everything though?




You’ll find and see fur vests everywhere as they are hot as ever (excuse the pun) and ways to wear them run the gamut. At first I told my friend that the look just wasn’t me, but maybe it is. Doubtful, but maybe.


The great thing about a fur vest, at any age, is that one can glam and dress up any outfit. Put one on with jeans and a t-shirt and you instantly become not sloppy but stylish. Belt one over a knit dress for a modern look, combine one with leather pants if you’re looking for an edgy look, pair one with a floaty dress and boots, or add a chunky sweater and leggings to one and you’ll find yourself in a comfy and casual look. So many options and so easy!


Fur vests, whether real or faux, are not only fashionable but warm. But unlike bulky coats, they are more part of an outfit than outerwear. They are also fabulous layering pieces that will make you feel part boho hip and at the same time, French chic. They also can make your arms look thinner than they maybe are.


Think about it: you’re wearing a shaggy vest over a flowy blouse so guess what: the chunkiness of the vest will overpower the visual of your arms, letting them appear long and lean. Who doesn’t love that?!


Styling-wise, there are just a few tips to consider. If you are on the petite side, choose a vest that ends at your hip bone, which won’t cut off your legs, giving the illusion of long, lean legs. Petite women should also take into account the scale of a vest and avoid any that are boxy.


So, whether you go faux or real is up to you, but another choice to made is animal print or a sheared look. Quality is important with the first, as inexpensive can easily turn hoochie momma but with shearling, even inexpensive options often trend upscale. Whatever you do, think real world not red carpet and never, ever go full-out Russian princess. Keep it all low-key.


Here are just a few examples of fur vests done right:

img_1436 fur-vest-look-5 faux-fur-vest-and-dress-533x800 faux-fur-vest


3  vest-with-fur-collar-anthropologie  4 fur-vest


Go with your gut and you will know when you find the right vest and the right ensembles for that vest. Don’t try too hard and don’t force the look. If it screams you, embrace it. If it’s not your deal, scream no thank you. Have fun!




On a side note, I read a post today that goes hand-in-hand with today’s post and one I wish I had written. It was titled “What Not to Wear After Age 50” by Rage Michelle on and it is brilliant.


Basically she wrote, “Google ‘what not to wear after age 50’ and you will have your pick of thousands of articles telling you what looks terrible on your old body. We could spend hours studying the clothes we shouldn’t wear and the slang we shouldn’t use and the makeup techniques we need to retire. But you are over 50. Wear whatever you want. If you’ve made it to 50 and still need to consult articles on how to dress appropriately then you are so missing out on one of the best things about being over 50. One of the best things about getting older is realizing that we don’t have to spend our energy worrying what other people think and we get to be comfortable in our own skin. Still, there are a few things that women over 50 really shouldn’t wear:

    • The weight of the world. If you must, perhaps just carry the weight of a few smaller continents.
    • Shame and regret. These are especially hard to wear after 50.
    • Rose colored glasses. By the time we hit 50, we need to suck it up, take those glasses off, and punch reality into submission.
    • Too many hats. When you wear too many hats, it’s easy to forget which hat you’re wearing.


I couldn’t agree more and will be following them from here on out.





Step Up! February 17, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:59 pm


You either love them or hate them. Either way though, you really can’t avoid them and they are considered “the” way to get in shape. I’m talkin steps. Stairs. Whatever you want to call them. I wouldn’t go straight to I hate them but I certainly don’t love them. In a weird way, I’m kinda obsessed with them.


I wasn’t so obsessed with them on my recent trip to San Francisco though. Funny thing happened on the way to Alcatraz, Coit Tower, dinner, lunch, and everywhere in between: you have to climb a lot and climb a lot of stairs. What makes this doubly hard in the City by the Bay, is most ways of getting to those stairs are very hilly…as in straight up and straight down…again and again. And again! I quickly learned how out of shape I am and how in shape my friends are. Can somebody please call an Uber? I’M ON VACATION!




I “felt a blog coming” when I huffed and puffed up the above steps to Coit Tower, when my design friend showed us photos of one of her client’s stairs that have her grandkids’ names on each riser, and when I saw this set of eerie steps at Alcatraz:


I couldn’t help but wonder where they lead to and the stories of those who climbed them. Goosebumps.




“Take the first step in faith. You don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step.” Martin Luther King, Jr.


Staircases are not only necessary evils, many of them are famous. I have three favorites: Santa Fe’s “Miraculous Staircase” in Loretto Chapel, and Santa Scala and the Spanish Steps in Rome.


loretto-chapelBeing that I was born and raised in Santa Fe, that famous spiral staircase is both very familiar and special to me. My mom attended Loretto Academy and climbed up and down those stairs as a choir member.


The staircase is considered miraculous for many reasons, including its two perfect 360 turns with no visible means of center support as well as the fact that no nails were used in the structure; a structure made of wood not common to the area. Then there’s the mystery about who built it. When Loretto Chapel was completed in 1878, there was no way to access the choir loft so carpenters were called in to address the problem and recommended using a ladder due to space constraints. Not satisfied with that precarious idea, the Sisters of Loretto prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters. On the ninth and final day of their novena, a man appeared at the Chapel with a donkey and a toolbox looking for work. Months later, the elegant circular staircase was completed, and the carpenter disappeared without pay or thanks.



spanish-steps  vatican  santa-scala

Another city that has its share of Catholic lore is of course Rome, which my daughter and I visited following her semester in Spain. We will never forget running into some of her friends who also studied in Spain ironically on the famed Spanish Steps, as well as pretending to be Audrey Hepburn in “Roman Holiday” on them. The Vatican is also home to many stunning stairways, but the one I cherished the most in all of Rome was the Santa Scala, or “Holy Steps.” The steps can be found in the non-touristy Lanterna area and legend has it that Jesus walked up them before facing Pontius Pilate. Today, people crawl up on hands and knees. I still get chills thinking about seeing them.



Two other set of steps that caught my eye long ago are Paris’ famous lantern steps and the Potemkin monster-of-a-staircase in Odessa. Squeal!

paris-lights1   potemkin-famous-steps-in-odessa



Film has also given us some famous steps, including those Rocky gloriously ran up and the ones Scarlett ran down in “Gone with the Wind” right before Rhett told her, “Frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

rocky gone-with-the-wind-atlanta-house-red-staircase




“There is no elevator to success. You gotta take the stairs.” Caridee


Not all staircases are famous but many are fun and fascinating. Take these for example. You have boxwood perfection, a Parisian piano for your feet, a lovely heart, the tops of steps with encouraging thoughts, book titles, a crazy rainbow palette, and a staircase with a slide. Yippee!


topiaries stairs-piano   heart   tops1 books-steps rainbow-from-traditional-home  slide-stairs


How fun would it be to do something like those in your home? Granted, they may not be your cup of tea or perhaps a tad too much, but it is fun thinking about unique banisters, risers, balusters, runners, and the likes for your home.



For risers, consider doing something different with them like these with numbers, tiles, and a gradient pattern. And how cool is the lighted staircase?

stairs-with-numbers   stairs-with-tiles1  teal-gradient-stairs_gal stairs-with-lights1



Staircase-wise, this contemporary black floating staircase and really cool jagged one are both so very interesting but I gravitate more toward the middle Craftsman-style and the last more traditional look.

fun cool craftsman better-homes-and-gardens



Glass is also an option. Out of these two, I find the first one amazing but the second one more me.

modern glass



When it comes to what to put on your stairs you, of course, can go with wood, carpet, or tile, but why not try a unique runner like these from Domino Magazine and Elements of Style? The middle one is pure perfection.

stairs-with-grass-domino-mag elem-of-style-stairs anteloperunner2_560px



And call me old school, but given the right room and décor, nothing says “grand” like a traditional some stair rods. And how cute are these runner clips?

traditional-staircase stair_rods_web stair-clips



Balusters and rails are where you can go fun without looking crazy. I’m raising my hand for the ombre balusters.

tree-banister rope-bannister oar-banister1  ballistar



I also like the idea of adding storage under your staircase; a normally wasted space. That bookshelf, floor, and light fixture! Swoon!

70bd651dc4750840918f78f1b998167e  space_under_the_stairs storage-space-books



And who doesn’t love this New York City fire escape-style shelf?




I can’t even say how gorge these entry stairs are. They give new meaning to “grand entrance.”

verandaentry1 verandaentry 14c8b2900138b0393ec33259c1c53804



If you’re a bride, think long and hard about having a photo shoot on a magnificent set of steps like this one:




Exterior banisters are a whole different blog, but I couldn’t let this gem of a simple iron piece of work and an insanely flawless porch go by.

exterior  porch_railings_with_flowers




“The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord and He delights in his way.”

Psalm 37:23


Lastly, there’s the proverbial stairway to heaven, and not Led Zeppelin’s. It is said that prayers are the stairs that lead us to God, so despite my aches and pains, I guess I’ll say my prayers and take the stairs.







A Sinful Sunday? February 5, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:17 pm

Editor’s Note: You may or may not have noticed my blog header has changed to “Beyond Words.” You may or may not have also noticed I haven’t written in a while. I’ve been in a bit of a lull regarding just the right words and just the right topics to write about. You could say the “write” words just haven’t come and, at the same time, I’ve been thinking of changing the focus and title of my blog. Sitting in mass this weekend I heard just what I needed to hear and voila: I’m back! My new “Beyond Words” blog will continue to be more of the same with maybe a few tweaks here and there. You need do nothing different to receive it and I can still be found at I hope you continue to read my words and as always, let me know when I get off the “write” track.





Happy Super Bowl Sunday…or as Father Larry said in his sermon, “the superest of all Sundays.” Well, kinda.


We all know it’s merely “super” because either the NFC team (New England Patriots) or the AFC team (Atlanta Falcons) will go home tonight World Champions. Again, kinda. Not really “world” champions, but Super Bowl Champions. It’s a day to be with family and friends and to eat, drink, and be merry. It’s also a day when, as Father explained, the 7 Deadly Sins rear their ugly heads.


Of course there is Gluttony. We eat foods we know we shouldn’t and we eat way too much. Many of us will also drink too much.


There is Envy. We are all envious of those pesky New England Patriots, their famed quarterback and coach, and all their past Super Bowl heroics. It’s said the only people rooting for the Patriots today are Patriot fans. The rest, are envious.


We will show Anger when the team we’re rooting for calls a bad play, turns over the ball, or when the other team scores.


Patriots fans will be full of Greed today, as they hope for their fifth Super Bowl victory. Quarterback Tom Brady will also be vying for his fifth Super Bowl title, which will make him the most prolific NFL QB in history…Super Bowl ring-wise at least.


Fans on both sides of the field will most likely display Pride as they cheer on their hometown boys.


The rest of us are sure to exhibit Sloth; sitting in front of televisions for virtually the whole day. Work? We’ll get to it tomorrow. Laundy? It can wait. Today is a day for America to take the day off!


As for the last of the deadly sins, Lust, let’s hope we don’t partake in it, if only that we lust for our team to win and not that Brady gets hurt!


All of this is, of course, fun and the game of football, but look ahead and as soon as tomorrow, and we are likely to be guilty of those very sins in our daily lives.


Do we work so hard to make more and more money that we neglect our family?


Do we eat even when we’re not hungry and serve ourselves whopping portions of what we do eat?


Do we get angry driving in traffic and envy those driving nicer cars than ours?


Are we so full of pride that we have lost our sense of humility?


Do we lie around watching mindless TV rather than going for a walk or volunteering somewhere?


And, do we lust after things that are immoral or just plain wrong and have impure thoughts or actions?


If you answered yes to any of those, no fear; you are not alone. At the same time you might tell yourself “no harm, no foul” if I cursed at the driver next to me or if I am proud of my accomplishments. The problem is, all these sins are the roots of greater sins such as murder, adultery, theft, and others.




So how can we avoid being sinfully proud, envious, and the like? By praying. It’s that simple. Simply pray every day. Pray for the gifts of the Capital Virtues.


Chastity will help you overcome lust and the infected acts it encourages.


Generosity will make you less greedy. Start by detaching from things of this world.


Temperance will overcome gluttony by helping you live in moderation.


If you have the gift of Brotherly Love, you will be less envious, which will lead to less badmouthing and a genuine happiness for others.


Anger can be weakened by meekness, which will help you control resentment while cultivating patience.


Humility will topple your pride and help you rely less on your will and more on God’s.


If you feel you have the sin of sloth, pray for Diligence and the ability to fulfill your duties in life, even when they are tiresome.


Whatever you do, don’t get overwhelmed. Instead, start with just one or two and watch how the others will be none too happy to creep into your life.


As I read my Facebook and Instagram pages these last few weeks, I see an incredible amount of envy, anger, pride, greed, and the need to insult and degrade. It is both alarming and disturbing how much hate and bitterness prevails. I have been guilty of them myself, but learned a good lesson on Friday.


As I was getting my hair done, my stylist and I were talking about the current state of our country, and after a lengthy discussion, I mentioned how I think it’s unfair that the “winners” of this election are being inundated with insults and abuse by those not victorious and are not allowed to be openly happy and celebratory. I was expecting a “Yeah, that’s just not right,” but instead my very wise and astute  stylist replied, “maybe it’s an opportunity for us to be humble.” Bingo.


What a great place to start.