Beyond Words

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

My Cup Runneth Over August 16, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:14 pm

The smell of fresh brewed coffee is truly one of life’s little pleasures. If you are a coffee drinker like me, you know the joy of tasting that first sip of morning java. There’s just something about the flavor and the warmth that starts me off on the right foot. A coffee snob I am not though. I’m not of the Starbucks bandwagon and I don’t own a French press. I’m not picky about the actual coffee, but I am picky about the creamer. Give me medium-to-strong coffee and a flavored creamer and I’m happy. Lots of creamer. I prefer a flavored sugar-free version but will do plain creamer if need be. I jokingly tell my friends that like my Sooner crimson, I like my coffee with cream!



Not surprising then is that my favorite, as my husband calls them, “fruh-fruh” coffee drinks (he drinks his black and his personality totally matches the above chart!) are café con leche, a tall skinny latte, café au lait, or cappuccino, and yes, my personality matches my coffee choices too. The last one, cappuccino, is made with espresso and a milk foam mixture and is popular the world over. Its origins are not surprisingly Italian, as is its name, but the name didn’t come by way of  a barista or coffee grower, but by someone who may just surprise you.




Way back in 1648 a young Mark of Aviano became a Capuchin monk and eventually made his way preaching all over Italy following several years of cloister. He became counselor on religious and political matters to Leopold I, emperor of Austria; secured the release of Vienna from the Ottoman Turks; and worked as a peacemaker throughout Europe. Legend has it that the Ottomans fled from Christian soldiers but left behind their strong, bitter coffee. As a way of making the brew sweeter and more palatable, it was mixed with honey and milk and the new drink was named after Blessed Mark’s order, the Capuchins, which later mutated into “cappuccino.” The monks are known for their brown hooded robes, which happen to be the color of a cup of cappuccino, and “cappuccino” is Italian for “hood.”


Cappuccinos aren’t the only coffee with a history. In fact, the history of coffee itself is quite interesting and also has a connection to monks, albeit a smaller one than cappuccino.




According to many and the National Coffee Association, coffee was originally discovered in Ethiopia where it’s said a goat herder named Kaldi learned the amazing potential of coffee beans after he noticed an increased level of energy in his goats after eating coffee berries. Kaldi quickly told the abbot of the local monastery about his findings who subsequently made a drink using  the berries and discovered he was much more alert after doing so. The abbot spread the word with other monks and soon word moved the Arabian Peninsula and Middle East, where as early as the 16th century coffee was used to help with concentration.


Coffee made its way to Europe by the 17th century after European travelers to the Near East discovered what they considered an unusual dark black beverage. Religious life came into play yet again however, when in 1615 local clergy condemned the drink when it arrived in Venice. So great was the controversy that Pope Clement VIII was asked to intervene but after tasting it himself, he found it delightful and gave it official Papal approval.


Coffee and coffee houses flourished in Europe, so much so that many businesses grew out of them. Lloyds of London, the famous insurance marketplace, began as a coffee house. It wasn’t long before coffee made its way to America, thanks to the British in the mid-1600s. It was a hard sell however, as tea was the preferred drink in the New World until 1773, when the colonies revolted against a heavy tax on tea imposed by King George III. Yep, what you had was the Boston Tea Party, something we’ve been hearing a lot about lately and something that forever changed the American hot drink preference to coffee. I’ll drink to that!


It wasn’t long before missionaries, travelers, and traders started sharing and selling coffee beans and seeds and trees were planted worldwide. Plantations cropped up in huge numbers and nations were established based on their coffee economies. By the end of the 18th century coffee had become one of the world’s most profitable export crops and today it is the second-most traded commodity in the world behind only petroleum.  As for rankings by metric tons of exported coffee, Brazil tops the list followed by Vietnam, Colombia, Indonesia, and Ethiopia.



Caffeine is burnt off as coffee is roasted so “light” coffee actually has more caffeine then medium or darker blends.



Whether you’re a liker of a robust coffee or a lighter “breakfast blend” drinker, know that caffeine is burnt off as coffee is roasted so “light” coffee actually has more caffeine then medium or darker blends. There are so many brands and types of coffee it’s almost hard to keep up with all of them. I get nervous just walking into a coffee house and having to decide what coffee drink I want and what size. So many choices!  But whether you prefer Tim Hortons or Gevalia, regular or flavored, there are two names that have interesting histories: chicory and Folgers. Yes, Folgers.


Let’s start with chicory.



Think New Orleans and you think chicory coffee. No visit to the Crescent City is complete without coffee and beignets at the legendary Café Du Monde. But is chicory coffee, which is all Café Du Monde and many other NOLA coffee houses serve, different or special? As the French would say, oui oui!


Chicory is actually a pretty flowering plant and it’s the root of the plant that gets roasted and ground into chicory coffee. Since the 19th century the French have mixed it with coffee and the word “chicory” is a English-ized version of the French word “chicoree.”


According to “Smithsonian Magazine,” following that famous tea party up in Boston, the French established coffee plantations in the Caribbean and solidified the trade with the founding of New Orleans. Coffee crops soon became part of the city’s culture and by 1840, the port of New Orleans was the second largest importer of coffee in the U.S. But during the Civil War, Union blockades cut off access to the port so ingenious Louisianans began looking for ways to stretch coffee supplies. They tried acorns and beets but discovered that chicory was the way to go as it is cheap and goes a long way. The rest, is coffee history although today very little chicory is grown commercially in the U.S. and even Café Du Monde gets it supply from France.


Who does get their coffee from New Orleans? Folgers!



“The best part of waking up is Folger’s in your cup.” You’ve heard it a million times and probably just sang the tune in your head as you read the words, right? The jingle is one of America’s most recognizable and is easily considered a part of American culture. But it didn’t start the Folger’s story. That’s a whole other story.


It all began when a young James Folger and his brothers moved from Nantucket to San Francisco in search of gold. They didn’t find gold per se, but he ultimately found something golden.


James’ brothers headed out to work in the mines but he got a job at The Pioneer Steam Coffee and Spice Mills and later became a full partner. After the Civil War and resulting economic collapse, the company went bankrupt but Folgers convinced creditors to pay off the debts and then he bought out all remaining partners. J.A. Folger & Co. was born.


Coffee demand increased during WWII, but wartime shipping routes from Central America to New Orleans made NOLA one of the largest green-coffee markets in the U.S. so construction began on a New Orleans plant for Folgers in 1960. The company, now a part of the J.M. Smucker Company, still manufactures its coffee at its New Orleans plant today.



Interesting little stories, right? But what about those famous and beloved cups of coffee from none other than McDonald’s and Dunkin Donuts? Yep, say what you will, but Mickey D’s and DD’s have some pretty amazing coffee.


The reported secret behind McDonald’s coffee is the blend of Arabica beans used by its supplier Gavina and grown in Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, and Costa Rica. It is considered true gourmet coffee and is a medium roast. It’s also said that McDonald’s brews fresh coffee every 30 minutes so you never get a cup of old tasting brew.


Dunkin Donuts also boasts that its coffee comes from 100 percent Central and South American Arabica beans. The chain also works with the Rainforest Alliance to make sure its coffee is ethically sourced. In fact, the grocery store version of Dunkin Donuts coffee is USDA organic and Fairtrade.



It’s estimated that 64 percent of Americans over age 18 drink coffee every day, with Baby Boomers leading the pack. When it comes to worldwide coffee consumption, the Finns have us all beat. Only Finland and Sweden drink more than 22 pounds of coffee per person per year, with the Finnish drinking nearly three pounds annually. That’s a “latte” coffee and who knew, right? I would have thought it would be Americans, French, or Italians.


One more fun tidbit. How and why is coffee called “joe?” Credit a man named Josephus Daniels who became Secretary of the Navy during WWI. Among his many goals was to improve morality among the sailors and one way he tried was by prohibiting alcohol and purchasing more coffee. Disparagingly, a cup of coffee became known as a “cup of Joe Daniels,” which ended up being today’s more common “cup of Joe.”



There are many names for coffee. Some refer to how it is made or brewed, such as drip or espresso, while other names describe a specific beverage made using coffee such as latte or cappuccino. It’s also common to hear coffee called “java” but not all coffee is truly java in nature.


“Java” actually comes from the island of Java where the Dutch introduced coffee during the 1600s. They soon began planting coffee on several Southeast Asian islands, including Java, where Arabica coffee is still grown today. How and why all coffee came to be called java is somewhat of a mystery although many assume the Dutch started it.



So we’ve established that people the world over think coffee is good, but did you know it can also be good for you? We often associate coffee with the caffeine in it and the jitteriness it can cause, but that’s a very small part of the plant and bean’s make-up. Yes, elevating blood pressure is a concern we should individually consider, but some studies have shown that coffee drinkers have a slightly lower risk of having a stroke and showed no signs of increased heart disease risk.


The bottom line is that coffee has an impressive number of health benefits and is high in antioxidants. Many of the nutrients in coffee beans find their way into brewed coffee and studies show that countless people get more antioxidants from coffee than from fruits and vegetables combined. A single cup of coffee is said to contain Vitamins B2 and B5, Manganese and potassium, and magnesium and niacin. Granted, the RDI percentages of each might be low, but when you consider that most of us drink more than just one cup per day, the numbers can quickly add up. And this is regular coffee, not any of the new vitamin and nutrient-infused brands like Vitacup. Other studied benefits of coffee include:


  • Improves energy levels, mood, and brain function.
  • Can increase fat burning and boost metabolic rates through its caffeine, which is one of few natural substances proven to help with fat burning.
  • Stimulates the nervous system, which signal fat cells to break down while increasing epinephrine/adrenaline blood levels.
  • May lower risk of Type 2 Diabetes, Parkinson’s, and colorectal cancer; may protect from Alzheimer’s and Dementia; and may protect the liver from both cancer and cirrhosis.
  • May fight depression and reduce suicide risk.


It should be noted that research indicates the presence of cafestol in coffee does affect the body’s ability to metabolize and regulate cholesterol so anyone with high cholesterol issues should take note.



So there you have it; everything you want to know about coffee and then some! I’ve enjoyed learning all about my morning (and sometimes afternoon or evening) friend and I hope you my friends did too.


Do Them a Favor August 12, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:31 pm

One of the growing list of misfortunes coming from the current COVID crisis are the many weddings and other would-be celebrations that have either been cancelled or postponed. Yes, when we’re dealing with job losses, deaths, and other more critical fallouts, a wedding may seem minor to many but to the families of the bride and groom, a cancellation or postponement are both catastrophic…and expensive. I’ve heard of several who have done one or the other and my daughter has been in or invited to many that have as well. And to add salt to the wound, they often get little or none of their money back, which is a vow no one wants to take.


But, that’s not the reason behind why I write today. I write to remind everyone about a common courtesy related to weddings and other events you are invited to.


My dear friend sent me something regarding RSVPs and she got me thinking. Do we even know what they truly are and do we really care? To me, they rank right up there with handwritten thank you notes. I’ve blogged about thank you notes before and I still say write them and send them! I’m also here to say that if I go out of my way to send you that registered wedding or shower gift, send you flowers for a death or a birth, or any other special token of my love and congratulations and I never receive a “thank you,” you probably won’t be receiving anything from me in the future.


But today’s post is about responding; not to a gift but to an invitation. Equally important so, if you’re one of the growing number of people who don’t RSVP and/or don’t send written thank you notes and aren’t teaching your kids to do so, you might want to stop reading now. Those of us with manners and etiquette won’t miss ya.


So, onto RSVPs.


Let’s think about it for a minute. You’re having a couple of neighbors over for a dinner party. You’re expecting 12 of them and plan accordingly. But, only six show up and the other half didn’t let you know they weren’t. You’re left with a much smaller affair and a lot of leftover food and empty seats. You’re probably not real happy with those who didn’t show. Now think about these same series of events occurring but with a much larger event like a 300 person wedding. You. Would. Be. Livid. And rightly so.


Whether we’re talking book club, a casual birthday party, a medium-sized baby shower, or a large wedding, you, as an invited guest, have two obligations: bring a gift and RSVP. Okay, maybe you don’t need to bring a gift to book club, but you do need to RSVP!



Four little letters: RSVP. But, what do those four letters stand for? Most of us would say something along the lines of “the favor of reply is requested,” which is pretty close. Eaux seaux close. Somewhat surprising is that credit goes to the French, who IMHO, are not the most polite or cordial people on the planet but who in this case got it right. Oui oui!


RSVP is an abbreviation for the French phrase “respondez s’il vous plait,” which directly translates to “reply, if it pleases you.” Funny how what seems like an option is understood by the French as a demand and that’s how it’s regarded the world over.


Stateside, it all started with, not surprisingly, socialites in the 1800s. These women more than likely idolized all things French style and perhaps even English status, so they wanted to be on board the bourgeois bus and none other than manners maven Emily Post climbed on board with them.  Failing to reply to an RSVP was tantamount to social out casting and showing up to an event without doing so was equally appalling. I’m not much one for social climbing or being someone you’re not, but I gotta agree with the ladies on this one.



Today’s high-tech world means many a high-tech invite, but there are still plenty of paper and mailed formal invitations out there. Many of them come complete with a self-addressed and stamped reply card that you, as the recipient of the invitation, should return ASAP or before the date listed. Yep, RSVP ASAP. It’s so easy!  Simply fill out the card and pop it in the mail.


Reply cards may vary a bit as some might include a meal choice and a line to fill in, which is usually preceded by an “M.” Following the M, write in your name (Mrs. Jane Smith or Mr. Marco Lopez) and then check the “will attend” or “won’t attend” box. As the above photo shows, you can make this task a bit more fun by how you word the options.


Another spot you might be asked to fill in is how many will be attending with your party. This depends on who the invitation is addressed to and whether you are allowed to bring a “Plus One,” or guest. How do you know?  Check who the invitation was addressed to, either on the front envelope or on the inner envelope. An invitation might go to “Mr. and Mrs. Gilbert Feinstein and Family” and then the inner envelope would have written on it, “Gilbert, Sophie, Tucker, and Megan.” This means the whole family is invited so if all four are going to the event, put down four. Some invitations might just include your name on the invitation “and guest,” which means you are welcome to bring one guest. Fill in the RSVP with either one or two attendees. If an invite is addressed just to you, you’re going solo. And one more thing, never, ever ask if you can bring a guest!


If an invitation doesn’t include a pre-addressed reply card, it more than likely will have another option like an email or phone number. In any case, the rules of RSVP ASAP still apply.

As for the growing in popularity electronic invitations available through sites like Evite and Paperless Post, you will still be given options to respond; even if it’s with a simple “yes” or “no” reply button. Just make sure you do so as these are the types of invites that often get entered on our calendars right away but then go to cyberspace black holes never to be looked at again until maybe the day of the event. RSVPs to these simple invitations are just as important as those to multi-enveloped and engraved card-stock invitations.


In all RSVP cases, waiting to see if you get invited to something better or perhaps more personally preferred is not reason to hold off on sending an RSVP. Just as RSVP ASAP rules the reply roost, so does “first come, first served.” If the date is open, it’s open for the first event you get invited to.


Then there’s the sometimes confusing but really not “regrets only” option. This simply means the host is counting and planning on your attendance unless they hear from you otherwise. No need to reply unless you cannot make it.


Sadly, there will always be those who show up who didn’t RSVP. I remember a dear friend’s daughter was getting married last year and she didn’t know what to do as many invited guests had not responded either “yay” or “nay” to the fairly formal and costly affair. She didn’t know what to do.


Most experts agree that a phone call or text is appropriate follow-up to mailed invitations while online invites often include a follow up option. Just be sure to keep it cordial and friendly although your head may be exploding at the very idea that you even have to do this, and let them know you’re reaching out to confirm they’re attending. Put it on them to have to say, “OMG! I forgot to reply and I’m so sorry to say we won’t be there.” Hopefully they won’t do that again!


If you are the sender of an invitation that will include an RSVP date, that date is important. says a good rule of thumb is to set your RSVP deadline three weeks prior to formal events like weddings and two weeks out for more casual get-togethers like birthday parties. These are dates assuming your invitation went out around six weeks prior to the event.



So why all the fuss? Well, for one, hosts spend lots of money planning their events and it’s just plain rude to not let them know whether they should be spending any money on you. Knowing how many people will be in attendance can also determine where to hold an event and even what to serve. It may sound like it’s all about money but it’s also all about manners.


As much of the world continues to venture into a less formal and more casual way of life, I’m of the thinking that some things should never change. Being grateful and being polite are not “formal.” They are courteous and gracious, decent and respectable. Nothing old-fashioned about that. You can thank me later for this one.




Growing Like a Weed August 3, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:03 pm

With travel limited this summer, I seem to be a sister of the traveling porches. I’ve gone from our back patio to my mom’s back porch, back to our patio, onto my friend’s patio on a recent and much-need visit, and back to our patio. It’s all been good and both my mom and friend’s yards were abloom with my favorite flower: daisies! The simple and happy flower always brings a smile to my face so for a brief break from the virus, riots, and everything else destroying our country, I’m venturing away from the gloom and doom and instead writing about something happy and sappy: the delectable daisy. I hope it brings a smile to your face!



One of the most familiar flowers in the world, daisies can be found on every continent except Antarctica. They grow abundantly and they grow just about anywhere. So popular are they that, much like a rose, even a child can recognize and name them. They are playful and even somewhat whimsical. They exude joy and innocence. Nothing fancy or expensive, just simple and simply delightful.


Their name is even special. “Daisy” originates from the Old English phrase “daes eage,” which means “day’s eye.” It is thought the flower was given the name because they close their petals at night and open them up in the morning. I’m no morning person, but I loved learning this.



In addition to their unique name, daisies also have a unique history. For literally thousands of years we have had a love affair with them. Cave carvings dating back to 3000 BC depict daisies and it’s a well-known fact that ancient Romans used them medicinally. The oils from daisies were extracted and used to treat wounds, avoid infection, and promote healing. The Romans were onto something, as we’ve come to learn that daisies contain anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial properties and tea made from them can be used as a diuretic, to sooth sore throats and ease coughs, slow bleeding, and even treat colic. Not bad for a pretty little flower, right?


Victorian-era daisies also claim quite a history, as it was the ingenious and queenly Victorians who created the well-known “he loves me, he loves me not” pastime of plucking the petals of a daisy one-by-one. They also considered daisies a symbol of fidelity, making them perennial perennials in wedding bouquets.



They are still popular in bridal bouquets, baskets, and vased on a table, but did you know daisies are also edible? Closely related to artichokes, daisies make for a charming garnish, are great sources of vitamin C, and can relieve indigestion. Maybe “please don’t eat the daisies” is not so accurate after all! And lucky April birthdays, as the daisy is their birth flower.


If you’re like me, when you think of a daisy you probably think of the classic white-petaled bright yellow centered blooms, but there are many different versions of a daisy. Gerbera and Shasta are probably two of the most popular varieties, all of which are related to sunflowers. I am not a fan of sunflowers but it does make sense.



Growing daisies is somewhat of a no-brainer, even for a non-green-thumbed person like me. They say there’s a daisy for everyone and everyone can grow daisies. What I love about daisies in a garden is that they grow somewhat tall and full. I like to think of them as texture for my beds in that they stand out and stand tall yet stand unpretentious and carefree. Most start blooming in early summer and will gloriously continue to do so through fall. They are extremely adaptive and thrive in both wet and dry climates, sun and shade, and even mountains or prairie fields. As Melody Rose of wrote, “they ask for very little and give back so much.” Plant that in your brain and grow with it.


In general, sow daisies in the fall for spring and summer blooms. Ridiculously easy to grown, simply prepare your garden soil by removing weeds, sprinkle daisy seeds, and keep them moist the first two-to-three weeks. A sunny, well-drained bed for starters is best. Once full and blooming, be sure to divide daisies when they become too bushy by removing a root ball and replanting it at least a foot away from the original plant. It’s also important to remove dead-heads from blooms to promote regrowth. One last tip: watch for aphids as they tend to like daisies. If you do see the pesky little critters on your flowers, simple spray with water, which usually shoos them away.


Although many daisies are considered annuals in that they bloom for just one season, many agree that if healthy and free of any frost, they tend to act more like perennials and return each year. I know for a fact that my mom’s daisies, which are in 7,000 feet and see snow every year, come back every year.



Although one of the most beloved flowers, daisies are not beloved by ranchers and farmers. Considered weeds in many parts of the world (one of the reasons they are so easy to grow), daisies can create hoe-ly havoc in pastures. Daisies produce huge amounts of seeds that remain viable for decades, meaning they are super hard to eradicate on places like farms and ranches. To make matters worse, cows don’t eat them so they tend to overgrow overtime and in abundance. Pretty yes, but a pretty pain too. On the flip side, deer don’t eat them either, which makes them the perfect deer-resistant garden plant.


With all the talk of saving the bees these days, it’s also important to note that bees and other pollinators love daisies. Shastas are their favorites, but all daisies seem to “bee” popular and much like people, it’s partly due to their shape. Boasting a flat and open center, a daisy provides a large landing spot on which bees, butterflies, and other buzzers can easily collect pollen and nectar.



I couldn’t agree more with Ms. Lindbergh, who happens to be the author of my favorite book ever, “Gift from the Sea.” Clearly I’m not alone. Just look around and you can get lost in daisies on everything from clothing to jewelry to home décor and don’t most of us know at least one person or pet named Daisy? My grandma had a cat named Daisy Mae. Daisy was the object of Gatsby’s love. Daisy Duke made jean shorts famous. Who wouldn’t want to wear, decorate with, or be named after a flower associated with purity, loyalty, simplicity, and humility; a flower that even alone in a vase, exudes the word “cheerful.” If you ask me, what this country needs more of right now is more daisies. After all, where flowers bloom, so does hope.