Beyond Words

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

Picture Perfect July 24, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:38 pm


I love photographs but I generally don’t like having my photo taken. It’s a rare occasion when I actually like how I look in a photo. But, this is the time of year when you almost can’t avoid being in photographs. Graduations. Weddings. Vacations. All of them are picture-perfect circumstances to take photos.


To make matters worse, we are living in the age of social media sites where celebs and friends alike look fabulous. But think about it, how many shots were needed to get that one beauty and do you really think anyone would post an unflattering photo on Facebook or Instagram? And, unless you are a celebrity who has access to an on-call glam squad, assistant to capture all your fabulous moments, and professional airbrushing, you’re never going to look like a Housewife of anywhere or a model of anything.


But don’t worry; there are some things you can do to feel confident and beautiful in your photos. And guess what? They’re all free!


Strike A Pose

There are a couple of key things you can do to look your best in a photo. First off, stand tall and stand proud. Posture goes a long way so keep your head up, your neck long, and your shoulders back. Susan Street of “Susan After Sixty” and seen in the photo above, recommends imagining a string holding your head high and your body aligned beneath it. Nothing says “bad photo” or “no confidence” like a slouch so straighten up and smile right!


You never want to face the camera head on. Your goal is to create angles with your body…natural angles ladies. Too much posing looks like, well, too much posing. Keep in mind that whatever is closest to the camera will look the biggest so position those hands and feet right unless you want the impression of man hands and boats.


Speaking of hands; keep them relaxed. Street suggests pretending like your nails are wet. I also like the suggestion of making space between your arms and your body. Don’t go overboard though. Just a small and almost indiscriminate placing of your arms away from your body will prevent your torso from looking larger than it is. Another good tip is to rest your hands on top of your thighs. Again, stay relaxed though. Stiff equals bad.


The pose many are using today is the “hand on the hip” pose. For me, unless you’re 30 or younger this pose makes you look like you’re trying too hard to be 30 or younger. The pose is supposed to define your waist but if you don’t have said waist, it could be a waste of time. Millennials and sorority girls, hand on hip away. More mature ladies, steer away.


Now for the feet. Posing straight at the camera with arms straight down and feet together will make even the smallest of bodies look bigger. Instead, think “twist and shift.” Twist your body at the waist, turn one hip toward the camera, and shift your weight onto a slightly back positioned foot. Then, angle the foot that’s forward away from your body and turn your face toward the camera. Got it? I know awkward, right? Instead, just think:


One foot in front of the other or out to the side.

Weight on back foot.

Front toe pointed away from body.

Twist at waist.

Arms away from body.

Hands resting on thighs.

Turn face toward camera.

Shoulders back.

Tilt head.

Chin up.




Group Counseling

For group shots, I like to position myself at the end of a group. This way I can “edit” half of myself out of the shot if I want. But, this strategy doesn’t work when someone else posts or prints the photo without your edits! Your best bet is to stand slightly behind someone and at an angle. It also helps to avoid standing next to someone the same size as you. You will rarely find me front and center in a group photo.


If you’re hoping for a frameable photo, two other things you need to consider are light and background. We all want the beautiful beach behind us as we sit having an umbrella drink, but if the brightest part of a shot is behind you, those umbrella drinks and everyone drinking them will be silhouettes and the water will be super bright. On the other hand, if the light is directly above you, you will have unflattering shadows all over your face. Your best bet is to always face the light source.


As for where you stand and what’s behind you, unless it really doesn’t matter and you just want a quick snap, look for a background that contrasts with what you are wearing. If you’re wearing black, you probably don’t want to stand in front of a black wall. In most cases, the key in backgrounds is simple is best.


Where a camera is is equally important. The more eye-level you are with the camera, the better. Even better is to look slightly up toward the photographer and never, ever down toward the camera. This is something very important when it comes to taking a good selfie. Those, my friends, are a whole other story.


Selfie Confidence

I generally don’t take selfies and if I do, I’m probably with my daughter or a friend and they impatiently grabbed my phone from me and quickly snapped one. Similar to throwing a Frisbee or turning a cartwheel, I cannot take a selfie for the life of me. My favorite selfies are the ones with filters on Snapchat and Instagram where I can put rabbit ears or glamorous sunglasses on me. You will never see me post a simple selfie of myself.


Maybe you’re like me or maybe you just want to get better at taking a selfie so here are some tips:


Most selfie “experts” (it’s a sad day when there really are such things) recommend taking them in natural lighting and to never use a flash. If you are outdoors, try to have the sun behind you so you get that “halo” effect or block the sun with your head.


There’s probably no bigger selfie (and self-absorbed) expert than Kim Kardashian, and according to “Allure” magazine, Kim K’s two tips are chin down and camera up. Where you hold the phone is indeed crucial and a good rule-of-thumb is to hold it so the bottom of the phone is level with your eyes. Never snap away with your face straight toward the camera. Instead, think angles once again and turn or tilt your head to the side.


As silly as it sounds, if you know you’re going to be taking selfies, practice doing so in the privacy of your own home. Move and tilt your head and shoulders in a variety of ways to see which positions are most flattering on you and think natural.


Practice makes perfect when it comes to smiling too. If I smile too big, I look awkward and my eyes become small. Tyra Banks may be all about “smizing,” but I more prefer “soft smiles.”  Whatever works for you, natural is always best.


True expert photographers live by the “rule of thirds,” which can be helpful when taking a selfie. It’s all about composing your shot and this photo by Kristi Randal and from is the perfect example of how to place your face in the top-right or top-left corner of the frame. They also suggest keeping your eye line one-third down from the top of the frame and off to one side rather than putting yourself dead center in the middle of the frame. As you’re taking the pic, ask yourself: do you want an attractive selfie or a driver’s license photo?


As for apps and filters, yes, use them, just make sure you keep things looking natural. Your goal is for someone to think “what a great or interesting photo,” not “I wonder how she really looks!”


Finally, even if you’re uncomfortable as someone snaps away, stay away from cliché hand or arm moves. Relax and don’t overthink a selfie. Listen to “Allure” when it writes “A trying too hard selfie will never be a good one.”


Have fun, strike a confident pose, and you too will be picture perfect!









Beat The Heat July 21, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:43 pm


It’s officially summer as of last Thursday and with temperatures hovering at 100 where I live, it’s time to revisit ways to beat the heat. I posted this piece last year, thought “why reinvent the wheel,” and so I’m doing something I’ve never done (but might think about doing it more often): I’m reposting it!


When it’s so hot outside you just want to play it cool inside in the air conditioning rather than playing anything outside. But, some of us have no choice as our jobs or daily lives have us outside a lot. What to do when that is the case? Wear sunscreen, cover your head, and drink lots of water.




Let’s start with sunscreen. Do you really need it, what SPF is best, and how much should you use? First of all, yes, you need it. We all need it. Daily. Even in the shade. In fact, a new study found that 78 percent of people who used only an umbrella on a sunny beach day burned but only 25 percent of those who used SPF got sunburned. First of all, who doesn’t use sunblock on the beach? Secondly, don’t let the shade fool you. You will still get burned in the shade because it doesn’t block UV light.


As for SPF, higher isn’t the key, how you apply it and how often you apply it is. This doesn’t mean you should opt only for SPF 15 for a week at the beach, but it also doesn’t mean SPF 50 is the only way to go. According to “Good Housekeeping” magazine testing labs, people tend to apply only about one-third the amount of sunscreen needed to achieve the SPF level of that bottle. Think about it, if you’re using SPF 15 but doing a lousy job of applying it, you’re really using way less than SPF 15 and will most likely get sunburned.


We get sunburned because UV radiation reaches the earth in the form of UVB and UBA rays, the first one being the cause of skin cancer. Sunscreen uses SPF, which refers to the amount of UVB protection in that bottle.


So what exactly is SPF? If you thought the three letters stood for something scientific and formal, you’re wrong. They stand simply for Sun Protector Factor, which is a measure of a sunscreen’s ability to prevent the sun’s rays from damaging your skin.


As for what level blocks how much, sunscreens with higher SPF ratings block more UVB rays but none offer 100 percent protection. Here’s how it works. On average, it takes around 20 minutes for someone’s unprotected skin to start turning red when exposed to the sun. If that person had applied SPF 15 sunscreen, theoretically it would prevent their skin from getting burned 15 times longer.


Here’s another way to look at it. An SPF 15 product is said to block around 94 percent of harmful UVB rays while SPF 30 filters almost 97 percent of the rays, meaning 3.3 percent reach the skin. On the other hand, SPF 60 blocks 98 percent, allowing only 1.7 percent to reach the skin. But, opting for high SPF products sometimes give us a false sense of security that diminishes when we don’t apply that sunscreen correctly.


The best advice is to apply sunscreen liberally before going outside and then again once you’re outdoors. Be sure to hit all exposed areas of the body, spread evenly, and most importantly: reapply at least every two hours. This is crucial!


And if you’re thinking “but sunscreens aren’t healthy,” stop right there. Sunburns aren’t healthy either, and since ingredients need to be treated in chemicals for effectiveness, there is no such thing as a truly “natural” sunscreen. Buy them, use them, and be on your way.



Funny thing happened on the way to the beach: hearing my mom tell me again and again that that “30 percent of your body heat escapes out of your head so put a hat on in the cold.” Well, if that’s the case, why in the world would I want to cover my head at the beach or while playing golf? Is this why many cultures carry umbrellas when outside?


Perhaps, but sunshine on a hot day will actually make the outside of your head hotter…you know, your hair and your skin. In this case, a hat won’t keep your body heat in, it will keep the outside heat out. By keeping the sun’s hot rays off your head, you will stay cooler than if those rays were beating directly down on you. So, in the cold wear a hat and in the heat wear a hat. Easy peasy.


Okay, what about visors? Are they effective too? A lot depends on what your activity is going to be.


If you’re going to be at the pool or on the beach and occasionally cooling off in the water, a hat is a good choice. But, if you’re running or playing something like tennis, a visor may be a smarter option. According to and coach/trainer Mat Steinmetz, hats may protect your scalp from radiant heat, but the fabric in them can also lessen evaporative and convection cooling.


With both hats and visors, pick white ones with dark under-brims if possible and always opt for those that are lightweight, breathable, and absorb moisture but don’t interfere with the evaporative effect of sweating. Steinmetz recommends a full mesh hat that allows air to pass through.


The other role hats in the heat play are to block our faces, necks, and even chests from harmful rays. Wide-brimmed hats on the beach are not only stylish but smart. Your face is one of the most sun-sensitive areas of your body so making sure the sun doesn’t see it is the goal.




Don’t wait until you’re out in the heat to start drinking water. Everyone should drink lots of water every day, but if you know you’re going to be in the sun for an extended period of time, it’s even more important to hydrate before, during, and after. Why?


Because when it’s hot you sweat more and when you sweat more you could become dehydrated. In fact, heat travels through our bloodstream to our skin, resulting in sweat. As that sweat evaporates, we cool off and return to a safe body temperature but lose body moisture along the way. Our bodies function best at a certain temperature but when we get too hot, they need to cool down. Sweat evaporating on our skin can tends to cool us down but we need to replenish all that moisture oozing out of our pores. Drinking water also helps prevent muscle cramping, dizziness, heat exhaustion, and even heat stroke.


Many consider water our most essential nutrient. A person can live quite a while without food but for only days without water. Water in our bodies supplies nutrients, removes waste, maintains blood circulation and body temperature, increases metabolism, and carries heat away from our internal organs.


In addition to drinking lots of water, you might also want to hydrate with sports drinks that contain electrolytes and carbohydrates. You should also avoid alcohol and eat hydrating and potassium-rich fruits like watermelon, berries, peaches, nectarines, and bananas. An easy way to gauge if you are well-hydrated is to check your urine. If it’s pale, not cloudy or dark, you’re good to go!


So there’s my top 3 ways to beat the heat, or at least survive it. Be cool everyone!







Hummus: Healthy, Historical, and Delish! July 18, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:04 am

There’s a certain food making the rounds of many a table today. It’s made from garbanzo beans and is of Arabic origins. You’ve probably had some in the last month or so, if not more recently. Do you know what I’m talking about?


If you said hummus, you’re right! Didn’t know you were eating garbanzo beans? Thought it came from Whole Foods not a whole other country? Well, say a big “hmmmmm” and read on about hummus!


If you know anything about hummus, you might know that it is made from chickpeas, which are also known as garbanzo beans! What you may not know is that “hummus” is actually an Arabic word that means “chickpea.” So what exactly is hummus though?


Hummus History

In its purest form, hummus is a dip or spread made from mashed chickpeas and blended with tahini, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt. Extremely popular today because of its low-fat content and nutritious properties, hummus has actually been around for centuries and is one of the oldest known prepared foods. But is it Greek? Middle Eastern? Jewish?


Many cultures and regions around the world claim hummus as their own, but its exact origin has never been completely verified. Chickpeas, on the other hand, are another story. Vegetables that have been cultivated and grown throughout the Middle East and India for thousands of years, chickpeas were one of the earliest crops in Mesopotamia and were a common food on the streets of ancient Rome according to Top Food Facts. Some even claim they were known to grow in the gardens of Babylon. And if that’s not enough history for your appetite, chew on this little nugget: Plato and Socrates both mentioned chickpeas in their writings. Get out!


Arabs and Greeks are equally adamant that they “own” hummus, and even Israelis have joined the debate. No one really knows for sure, but the earliest known hummus recipes date back to 13th century Cairo and most historians and foodies say hummus most likely originated in Egypt. But, does it really matter?


It actually makes sense that multiple cultures were involved in the creating of hummus. Chickpeas have always grown abundantly in the Middle East and the Greeks and Egyptians were trade partners for centuries so many of their dishes intermix. In addition to hummus, baklava, the famous Greek dessert, is also made in the Middle East.


Today hummus is enjoyed the world over as an appetizer or dip most commonly served with pita or other flatbreads. It can also serve as a side dish or accompaniment to falafel or chicken and fish dishes. Common garnishes include chopped tomatoes and cucumbers, parsley, red peppers, onions, and pine nuts. Cruise down any grocery store aisle and you’ll come across hummus in a humongous assortment of flavors and styles. My favorite is the roasted red pepper.


In Egypt still, hummus is a popular dip while in Israel it is regarded a national food and is a common part of almost daily meals as its ingredients follow Jewish dietary laws. The spread is equally popular among Arabs who are adamant that the word is not only of Arabic origins, but the dish itself is too. It has long been an Arabic staple food served at breakfast, lunch, and dinner.


Me? I like it as an appetizer but then again, I could live on appetizers. I haven’t always liked hummus though. It was the texture that had me questioning its appeal, but once I found the roasted red pepper flavor, I was sold. Now I love it.


Healthy Hummus

What many love about hummus, besides its flavor, is its nutritional value. Chickpeas are chalk-full of fiber, protein, potassium, B vitamins, iron, vitamin C, folate, and manganese. Equally impressive is that it is low in calories, carbohydrates, and sugar. Most of the fat found in hummus comes from the tahini and olive oil that go into the making of it. Tah-what?


Tahini. Also based on an Arabic word meaning “to grind,” tahini is made from ground sesame seeds and is sometimes served as a dip on its own. It’s also a major ingredient of hummus, baba ghanoush, and halva. Very common in the foods of the eastern Mediterranean region, the Middle East, China, Korea, Japan, and India, tahini comes in either liquid or paste form. In Greece it is spread on bread and topped with jam while Israel considers it a staple food.


Like chickpeas, tahini has excellent nutritional value. It is a great source of calcium, manganese, the amino acid methionine, and healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. When made from raw sesame seeds rather than from roasted seeds, it is even lower in fat.


So there you have it, the history of hummus. Who knew?


Now it’s time to make some hummus. I came across this photo on Ina Garten’s “Barefoot Contessa” Instagram feed and just knew it would be fabulous. She called it “Israeli Vegetable Salad on Hummus” but I just call it yummy. Basically chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, and salad greens like arugula served on top of hummus. So easy!



And on that note, here’s an easy basic hummus recipe from Epicurious:



2 cups drained and well-cooked canned chickpeas, liquid reserved

½ cup tahini paste

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Salt and pepper to taste

1 T cumin or paprika

Juice of 1 lemon

Chopped fresh parsley leaves for garnish



Put all ingredients except the parsley a food processor and process.

Add reserved chickpea liquid as need to produce a smooth puree.

Serve drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with spices and parsley.


Recipe author, Mark Bittman of “The Best Recipes in the World,” says chickpeas are among the best legumes around and surprisingly, though generally not a big fan of canned beans, but for whatever reason canned chickpeas are not bad at all so he always keeps some on hand to make a batch of this at the last minute. He also adds that you can make hummus without tahini; but it will be a little looser and less complex tasting but still good. For my two-cent’s worth, I would totally leave out the cumin as I’m not a fan, and I might add some red pepper and crushed garlic on top.


Experiment and have fun with it and be ever so grateful to those little chickpeas!



I Have A Crush On You July 3, 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:00 pm


Have you heard of MCM? It’s short for Man Crush Monday on social media and it’s the distant cousin of WCW, or Woman Crush Wednesday. There are some women out there who I find absolutely adorbs, but a crush? Hmmmm…not so much. Men? They’re another story.


How do you define handsome? What constitutes hot or sexy? What about attractive? They all probably describe someone you might have a crush on or had a crush on at one point in your life. I distinctly remember having a crush on Stanley in junior high, Leonard in high school, and cute cowboy Carey stole my heart and then broke it in college. We’ve all been there but crushes can be so much fun!


So, without further ado, who made my MCM list today? Drum roll and in no particular order but by profession, they are…




Kevin Costner. I’ve loved him since way back and love how he’s aged so well. My idea of a man’s man.



Matt Damon. I fell in love with him in “Goodwill Hunting” and still find him so cute. I met him at our former golf club and he was nice as can be. That’s always a bonus.



Vince Vaughn. Not classically handsome but your every guy and so darn funny. Who doesn’t love humor in a man?



Bruce Willis. Something about him just makes me smile and long before Die Hard and Demi, he was so likable in “Moonlighting” many moons ago.



Taylor Kinney. Probably the most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. What was Lady Gaga thinking when she walked away from this?



Ashton Kutcher. I see Ashton and I see male model. But I also see goofball. A male model who’s goofy. I’m on board.



Olivier Martinez. “Unfaithlful” with Diane Lane. Nuff said. Schmuck in the movie and reportedly a schmuck in real life though.



Mark Wahlberg. Not classically handsome, but I love what’s inside Mr. Wahlberg. A true family man with abs of steel, doesn’t take himself too seriously and goes to mass almost daily. What’s not to love?



Cary Grant. Old school handsome. They don’t make them like this anymore.



Paul Newman. Near the top of my list year in and year out, Mr. Newman defined charm and class.



Channing Tatum. Just hot. That’s all. And I’ve never even seen “Magic Mike.”



George Clooney. He’s got that ornery smile and just seems like tons of fun. Travel the world with George Clooney? I’m in.



Sam Shepherd. This blast from the past hasn’t aged as well as I’d hoped, but in “Frances,” “The Right Stuff,” and “Steel Magnolias” he had that mysterious right stuff down pat.



Denzel Washington. Just a class act and a handsome one to boot. Everything about Denzel oozes authenticity and appeal…sex appeal.




Patrick Dempsey. The hair. The smile. The lovable roles in “Made of Honor” and “Sweet Home Alabama.” On that note, let’s add Josh Lucas, his sweet home sweet cast mate to the mix. No wonder Reese had such a hard time choosing!






Tennis players Tommy Haas, Feliciano Lopez, and Patrick Rafter. I think their photos speak for themselves.



Tim Tebow. Such a handsome, God-fearing man. Am still waiting for him to marry my daughter.



Kirk Herbstreit. ESPN “Gameday’s” cutie pie. Love me some Kirk.



David Pollack. Herbstreit’s “Gameday” colleague, Pollack always seems to be smiling and is equally as charming as Kirk.



Tom Brady. Hate his team. Love his face.



Adam Scott. This golfer from down under is downright handsome.



Mark Sanchez. Not the most successful of NFL quarterbacks but looks-wise he scores big.





The Edge. U2 guitarist, real name David Howell Evans, is rock ‘n roll sexy. Watch him in the “With or Without You” video and you’ll see what I see. The lead singer and drummer of his band aren’t bad either. Sorry Adam Clayton; but you’re one heck of a bass player.



Joe Perry. Lead guitarist of Aerosmith, Perry will forever be my “run away with sleazy rock star” crush.



Jason Aldean. Not country music’s most traditionally handsome artist, Aldean has the prettiest eyes in Nashville and in my eyes, puts pretty boys like Luke Bryan to shame. Blake Shelton? Cute but no mystery to him. Eric Church on the other hand, yes please.



Jon Bon Jovi. In my former life as an entertainment publicist, I met JBJ and couldn’t get past his chiseled face and dimpled chin. Equally attractive is that he married is hometown sweetheart and true Jersey girl.



Harry Connick, Jr. This multi-talented guy could also be with the movie stars (“Hope Floats” will always be one of my favorite movies ever and how lovable was he in it?) or TV stars (“Will and Grace” anyone?) but music is where he started so music is where he’ll be. The kind of guy you’d take home to mom and mom would love him. As would grandma, Aunt Betty, and anyone else around.





The men of “This Is Us.” All of them. Chris Sullivan as Toby. Vilo Ventimiglia as Jack. Sterling K. Brown as Randall. Justin Hartley as Kevin. Couldn’t find a photo of all four so separate props to my man Toby who is so lovable and patient with Kate. His “I’d marry the hell out of you” line was brilliant.



Seth Meyers. I know, weird right? Call him my quirky crush. Something about him I find so charming though. Call me crazy.



Tucker Carlson. Call me crazy on this one too, but his smiling eyes are oh so charming. So is his laugh and his brain.



Jason Lewis. Who, you ask? One word: Smith. From “Sex and the City.” You’re welcome.



And speaking of SATC, who didn’t love Mr. Big (except for that one lapse of judgment in the limo)?



Joshua Morrow. Otherwise known as Nick on “The Young and the Restless,” Morrow has been on my crush list for years. And he has an OU tattoo!



Shep from “Southern Charm.” The ultimate tool, over-aged frat boy, and forever bachelor, Shep still has something so endearing about him. Someday he’ll grow up. Someday.



Jonathan Jackson. Avery on “Nashville,” Jackson is the quiet sexy type on the show who is forever forgiving and patient with Juliette. Love him.



Dan Abrams. I’ve always thought this network news reporter had more than a brain. Tell me the news Dan; tell me the news.



Mark Consuelos. Is he not the cutest ever? Kelly is one lucky lady.






Marco Rubio. The political pickings are slim, but I find the Senator from Florida so endearing. I also have a crush on his politics. He’ll forever be my candidate and have my vote.


So there you have it. Clearly I’m not the “classically handsome” kinda girl. Do you agree with any of them? Totally disagree with any of my picks? Did I miss anyone? Who are your picks for MCM?