Beyond Words

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

Resolve to Commit January 8, 2022

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:53 pm

I recently started the book “The Midnight Library” and its subject matter got me thinking. Thinking about life as I know it and have known it, hopes and dreams, and New Year’s Resolutions.  In brief, the book is about Nora Seed and the regrets that have piled up. Some legit; some just in her mind. But, when she finds herself at the Midnight Library, she’s given a chance to make things right and do things differently through its books. Needless to say, this guilt-ridden cradle Catholic and library/book lover is all over it.

 

Don’t get me wrong, I love my one beautiful life and am so grateful for my many blessings, but I do have regrets and probably would have made different…and better…choices a few times in my life. Nothing earth shattering or life changing, just ones filled with more wisdom and less chance. More grace and less naiveté. It’s never too late, right?

 

 

Come Monday, we all might be feeling regretful. That’s the day, January 10, that a British study estimates most of us will have ditched our New Year’s resolutions. Stateside, even though a projected nearly half of all Americans made resolutions January 1, (or in this year’s case, January 3) nearly half of them will fail at the long-term achievement of them.

 

Ugh. Are you already a resolution fail?  Are you regretting either the one you chose or the pursuit of achieving it?

 

 

Every year my New Year’s resolution is to learn something new. I’ve taken classes in everything from Italian to ice skating, cooking to shooting a gun, bridge to yoga. I LOVE yoga and its bridge pose but I hated bridge. Too quiet, too serious, and way too much math.  My husband and I took dance lessons (he hated them) and I’ve improved my golf game (he loves it.) I’ve also learned to cross-stitch and tried Pickle Ball. Funny thing is, is that except for golf and yoga…and this blog, which I started on a whim in 2016…I haven’t continued my learning curves and haven’t really committed to any of them. Jack of all trades you say, master of none? Perhaps.  An interesting article on this very thing recently ran across my lap and I learned that the effects of being only partly committed to things can be heartbreaking.

 

If we are honest with ourselves, I’m sure I’d find I’m not the only one out there who is a half-committer. We check the box, dive in, give it our best, procrastinate, get distracted, and abandon it. This is the case with me with ambitions other than New Year’s resolutions. I’m a dabbler. I love to learn about something, give it a shot, and then I’m done. Apparently this is frowned upon and unless you really don’t like something, not committing to it will likely result in letting yourself down and maybe even letting others down. We beat ourselves up and brew up negative self-doubts.

 

Yikes. And here I thought I was just trying to expand my scope. Note to self Carla: commit!

 

Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin has tips on how to commit to committing and make sure resolutions we set are successful. First off she says, be specific. Don’t just say you want to find more joy or calmness in your life but instead identify what gives you joy or makes you calm and then resolve to do those things. “Read a good book” or “surround myself with people who are fun and likable” are way more likely to be accomplished than simply “be happier” and “sign up for tennis lessons” assures you will “learn to play tennis.”

 

And dump the demanding mindset. Seems like our resolutions are often grim or a grind. The more pleasant something sounds, the more likely you’ll do it and feel a sense of accomplishment. “Have lunch once-a-month with friends” will probably get checked off the list long before “learn to do my own taxes.” Think about it, if learning how to do your taxes is crucial, you’ll learn to do them resolution or no resolution.

 

Experts suggest setting smaller goals you truly want to accomplish something and keep at it. Rather than saying “I’m going to lose weight this year,” say “I’m going to work on losing 10 pounds between now and March.”  Also think about what didn’t work last year or in the past. Ask yourself why and either fix the problem or move on. Some also recommend setting monthly goals rather then or in addition to year-long commitments. Accomplish something every month or commit to doing something (or not doing something) for 40 days.

 

 

Rubin offers great advice and provides a great free tool with her annual list of things you’d like to do by the end of the year. She reminds us that items on this year’s “22 for 22” list can be easy or ambitious, one-time undertakings or habits that stretch for years. The list also contains your choice for your “Word of the Year.” A list and a word prompt?  Hmmmmm…pretty sure I quickly printed it out and got to work.

 

Almost instantly I wrote “Discipline” for my word.  I was thinking not only more self-control and self-discipline, but maybe that dreaded C word: commitment. On the flip-side, during my first yoga class of 2022, fabulous instructor Nicki of Inner Essence Yoga asked us to choose an Intention for 2022 and a word for 2022. Intention-wise, I went straight to “Hope and Healing” and first word that came to my head was “Acceptance.” So, do I commit to something this year or accept things as they are? Hoping it all works out!

 

 

I like the idea of setting “intentions” rather than making resolutions or even setting “goals.” The word just sounds more user-friendly and practical.  “I intend to learn or do XYZ and my intent going in is pure” jives with me way more than “I resolve to…” Tumaytoes tohmahtoes perhaps, but whatever works.

 

Whatever I choose to do or learn this year, I’m pretty sure it will be something safe and soundly thought out. I am not a risk taker. I don’t mind difficult or challenging, but risky or uncertain will certainly get a “no thank you” from me. I have zip-lined in the rain forest, took a solo dog sled ride in Alaska, and love doing the annual Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day, but that’s about it. I can’t even think about anything risky I’m interested in trying. If you think of something for me, please let me know.

 

Instead, I’m going to focus on something  “new” instead of something “no way.” I’ll learn something new, go somewhere new, and do something differently. The challenge will be figuring out how to really commit to something.  But, do I really need to? Do I have to?? If I decide to take piano lessons, do I really need to perfect my skill at it? Isn’t it okay to just enjoy learning the basics of something new and then moving on to something else? I’m thinking yes.

 

Lastly, accept the fact that you aren’t the same person you were one year ago (who is, right?!) and embrace the new and maybe different you. Remind yourself of your successes and victories and replace that dreaded I “have” to with I “get” to unless the “have to” is health related or essential. Stop wasting energy on people and things that drain your brain, show gratitude, and face the year and your intentions enthusiastically and with confidence. I’m confident you can do it!

 

 

Making a List: Christmas Carols & Movies December 22, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

One of my many favorite things about this time of year is that I know every time I get in the car, Christmas carols can be found on radio stations galore. Sirius/XM has playlists playing everything from classics to country and one of our local stations always dedicates December to non-stop Christmas music. The classics bring back childhood memories, Mariah and Brenda get me singing along and bopping, and any song sung by a children’s choir melts my heart.

 

I also love Christmas movies and have watched so many Hallmark movies. Yes, I know, make fun of me but I’m guessing many of you have watched one or two or two dozen yourselves. All those “Christmas in the Rockies” and “A Crown for Christmas” flicks have somewhat the same plot line but I love them. They are uplifting, stress-free, and chalk-full of love and morals. I also love that other stations including UPtv, GAC, Lifetime, and others are serving up their versions of Hallmark hall of famers. Even Netflix has a few!

 

So, which of the above are my favorites? I thought I’d make my list and check it twice and see how the two lists compare to yours. Let me know and let’s go!

 

Carla’s Favorite Christmas Songs

1. “Away In the Manger.” Hands-down my favorite Christmas song. I especially love the line “But Little Lord Jesus no crying He makes.”

 

 

2. “Feliz Navidad.” The Jose Feliciano version. Only.

 

 

3. “Do They Know It’s Christmas/Feed the World” by Band Aid. I remember when this event happened. How nice that we banded as one and weren’t so divided. And ask yourself, do they know it’s Christmas?

4. “The First Noel.” Always gets me in mass.

5. “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” by Brenda Lee. A classic.

6. “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” by Bruce Springsteen. The Boss does Santa.

7. “White Christmas” by Bing Crosby.

8. “All I Want for Christmas is You” by Mariah Carey. MC creates a classic. Who doesn’t love it?

9. “Walking in a Winter Wonderland”

10. “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” by Darlene Love.

11. “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole.

12. “Do You Hear What I Hear?”

13. “Rudolph, the Red No-Nosed Reindeer” by Gene Autry.

14. “Christmas Time Is Here” from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”

15. “Oh Holy Night” any traditional version.

 

As you can gather from the above, I’m not a big fan of classic carol remakes. I don’t mind an occasional Martina McBride or Josh Groban version, but give me Bing and Brenda anytime. However, there are two remakes I am currently obsessed with by the amazing band For King & Country. Their versions of “Little Drummer Boy” and “Go Tell It On The Mountain” are as they say, viral, and worth a listen. They are powerful yet purposeful and give me chills.

 

I also like Blake Shelton and Gwen Stafani’s “You Make It Feel Like Christmas.” I love him and it’s a fun and bouncy little jingle.

 

And now….movies. I recently saw “Christmas With The Chosen” and liked it, but it’s too early to put it on my favorite list just yet. Here are those that do make my list:

 

 

1. “National Lampoon’s “Christmas Vacation.” Clark, I gotta say, your family follies are a Smith family Christmas tradition. We know it by heart and we laugh every time.

 

 

2. “Elf.” Buddy stole my heart and this movie is an annual must-see. Smiling is my favorite too Buddy.

 

 

3. “It’s A Wonder Life.” Every time a bell rings an angel gets its wings. George Bailey not only inspired many, I named a dog after him years ago. Great message. Great movie.

4. “The Snowman.” This animated beauty should be watched by every child out there and its book is a great gift to go with it. Trust me on this. You’ll love it.

 

5. “White Christmas.” Bing. Danny. Rosemary. Vera. The Costumes. The singing. The magic.

 

6. “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” If you didn’t watch the history behind this classic on “CBS Sunday Morning” this past Sunday, do yourself a favor and find it online. It will make you love Charlie and the gang even more.

7. “The Holiday” starring Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz is delightful.

8. “Miracle on 34th” Kris Kringle’s big debut so to speak and a reminder to believe and have faith.

9. “Love Actually.” A modern take on love and the holidays. Hugh Grant. Liam Neeson. Colin Firth. Laura Linney. Emma Thompson. Keira Knightley. British accents. Need I say more?

10. “The Family Man.” Definitely not an upbeat Christmas flick, it stars Nicholas Cage is a kinda new take on finding the meaning of life. No one can compare to Donna Reed, but Tea Leoni plays a great role.

 

Runners Up: “Last Holiday” starring Queen Latifah, “The Polar Express,” and “The Bishop’s Wife.” So many movies. So little time.

 

I can’t wait to read your lists and your take on mine. Enjoy and keep them coming!

 

Growing Christmas, One Plant at a Time December 20, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:00 am

If there’s one thing that screams “Christmas,” it’s the bright red of a poinsettia plant. We see them everywhere, from grocery stores to floral shops, but why? Why are they the Christmas plant of choice? And what about that holiday-named Christmas cactus? What’s its story? Let’s find out!

 

Poinsettias make beautiful additions to any Christmas décor but did you know this unofficial flower of Christmas isn’t really a flower per se? Native to Central America, the colorful parts of a poinsettia are actually the leaves of the plant, with the flowers being the small yellow dots in their centers. And although red leaves are the traditional Christmas choice, white and pink are actually quite popular too. But how and why did they become associated with Christmas?

 

It all goes back to a Mexican legend that tells the story of a young girl Pepita and her cousin Pedro who were on their way to church to visit the Christ child on Christmas Eve. The two children couldn’t afford to bring a gift to leave behind so Pepita picked a bouquet of weeds on the way and left them lovingly and humbly in the nativity scene where they soon transformed into beautiful red flowers. From that day on they became known as “Flores de Noche Buena” or “Flowers of the Holy Night.” How they ended up in the U.S. and one of the most treasured Christmas traditions is yet another story with a classic American twist.

 

Poinsettias get their name from Joel Roberts Poinsett, who was the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico. He brought the plants back home in the early 1800s but they really didn’t become a holiday tradition until a century or so later. That’s when entrepreneur Paul Ecke, Jr. sent free poinsettia plants to TV studios across the country, which later ended up on none other than “The Tonight Show” and Bob Hope holiday specials. The trend caught on and today there’s even a National Poinsettia Day celebrated on December 12, the anniversary of Poinsett’s death.

 

The beautiful thing about poinsettia plants is they can last forever, even for those whose thumbs are anything but green. In fact, many will keep their foliage well into spring, especially those with lighter leaves.

 

When you first bring one home and if it has foil, remove the foil so the plant can drain. It’s best to place one on a plate or a saucer and never let standing water accumulate in the saucer. Keep your poinsettia’s soil moist but don’t over water. As for sun, poinsettias do best in somewhat cool but well-lit rooms. If you want to preserve your poinsettia for months to come, cut the plant back to two buds after the last frost and set it in your flower beds or containers on your porch or patio.

 

Wherever you put them, make sure they stay well-drained and get plenty of sun. Around October, you will want to put the plants in a closet, basement, or anywhere that is light-free for 14 hours a day. Come morning, move them into the light and continue this process for 10 weeks, which should take you right up to the Christmas holidays!

 

In Central America, a poinsettia shrub can grow up to 12 feet tall and did you know they also make beautiful cut flowers? To do this, after cutting the ends of a stem sear them with a candle to keep the sap from escaping, which prevents the stems from drooping. Place them in a vase with water and check the water level regularly, as they can tend to drink up lots of water! Place them on a table or mantel and take in their long-stem beauty.

 

 

Finally, are they poisonous? Long thought to be dangerous for both dogs and children, poinsettias are really only mildly toxic and the “poisoning” quotient they afflict is somewhat exaggerated. Here’s what we know: if the leaves are ingested, vomiting often occurs but since it would take a large amount of ingested leaves to be considered truly toxic, they generally don’t lead to poisoning as most animals and kids won’t eat loads of them because of their nasty taste and the unpleasant texture of their sap.

 

So there’s a “who, what, where, when, and why” on poinsettias, but what about that other holiday favorite: the Christmas cactus?

 

 

When you think of a cactus you probably think of a desert, but the Christmas cactus is said to have originated in the tropical rain forests of Southern Brazil. These plants often grow on top of other plants and among tree branches and because of their native origins, they thrive in humid conditions. And, these plants with long green arms and a rainbow of flowers can actually last for years. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, when cared for properly, they can live 20 or 30 years!

 

 

Known as a Christmas cactus, the plant actually has two cousins – the Thanksgiving cactus and the Easter cactus, which are very similar and get their names mainly from when they bloom. Don’t stress too much about which one you have, just focus on how to care for them.

 

All Christmas cactus thrive in cooler temperatures so it’s advised you keep them away from heat sources and put them in a cool place away from heaters and fireplaces. They also prefer sunny locations indoors, which can prolong blooms, but at night keep them away from light sources including lamps and overhead lighting. Proper drainage is also key.

 

Outdoors, make sure the temperature is warm and place them in partially shaded locales. Over-watering, considered watering before the soil is dry, is the main culprit to unhealthy plants. When watering, be conservative and if possible, choose to mist them, which they love. Think rain forest here and you’ll soon see a showy plant with stems arching over the pot’s sides and flowers in colors like peach and orange, as well as the traditional pink and red.

 

An added bonus to Christmas cactus is that they are easy to propagate. To do so, trim a few segments off a healthy plant and put them in a small pot, preferably with some of the original soil. Care for these new sprouts just like you would the parent plant. The best time to propagate is in the spring.

 

In many a home it’s just not Christmas without one or more poinsettias and a beautiful blooming Christmas cactus. Now you know why this is and how to ensure your plants live up to their traditions. Have fun and happy growing!

 

 

 

 

Do You Know What I Know? December 17, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:42 pm

It’s no secret I’m very traditional and love a good tradition. In a recent blog I dove into Advent, why we give gifts, and St. Nicholas. Today I’m continue the traditions and “why” theme and am including some fun facts and a little trivia on Santa’s reindeer. Enjoy!

 

 

Tis the season for seeing “Merry Christmas” and all things Christmas everywhere.  Sadly, you also often see the word “Christmas” shortened and referred to as “Xmas,” which has always irked me. In my thinking, doing so literally removes the real meaning of Christmas: Christ. But, I’m happy to report that there’s a somewhat acceptable explanation for it.

 

Apparently the X in Xmas doesn’t replace “Christ” from the word with the English letter X, but rather with the Greek letter “chi,” which looks like the English letter X. Chi is the first letter in the Greek word that we translate as “Christmas” and ancient Christians would abbreviate it by using only the first letter of it. They meant no offense and coincidentally, the letter also resembles a cross. In addition, the word “Christ” is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word “messiah” and both mean “anointed.”

 

I still much prefer “Christmas” over “Xmas,” but am happy to learn the origins of the latter meant no disrespect to why we celebrate Christmas. Amen!

 

 

You don’t need to look very far this time of year to see those beloved red-and-white-striped treasures, candy canes. You see real ones hanging on trees, created and grouped onto wreaths, decorating packages, and all sorts of red-and-white themed Christmas decorations. They’re fun and they’re festive and they have an interesting story behind them.

 

On that very first Christmas morn, who were the first people to visit and meet Baby Jesus? That would be the shepherds and as they paid homage to the newborn Savior, they carried with them their crooks, which they used in the fields to round up sheep. It’s no coincidence that candy canes resemble those curved rods and that if you turn one upside down, you get the letter J for Jesus. The traditional colors of a candy, red and white, are also significant as they represent our Lord’s sacrifice and purity. Lastly, candy canes are just that: candy. They are sweet and meant for sharing so do so!

 

Candy canes can also be somewhat healing too, depending on how much actual peppermint they have in them. Peppermint, as many know, is great for taming tummy troubles like nausea to menstrual cramps and recent evidence shows it may also be a powerful response to irritable bowel syndrome. Peppermint is also known to curb cravings, with one study reporting that by just smelling peppermint oil every two hours, participants were less hungry and less liable to overeat.

 

In addition to merriment and giving, the holidays are also known for bringing on headaches caused by tension, anxiety, and alcohol, but did you know that rubbing peppermint oil on your forehead and temples can be just as effective as acetaminophen at relieving the pain? Plus it smells so good!

 

Speaking of smell, tis the season for many a stuffy nose and congestion and yes, peppermint can help here too as it is chalk-full of menthol, the compound found in over-the-counter cough and cold medicines.

 

Peppermint oil is one of my favorites, and I use it in many ways, including:

 

  • Inflammation/arthritis/tendonitis: massage on inflamed area or joints
  • Headaches – rub on temples, forehead, sinuses, and neck
  • Respiratory – rub on sinuses
  • Appetite – inhale to curb
  • Diffuse for mental clarity
  • Itching – rub on area

 

I also use it in combination with other essential oils to relieve joints and muscle aches, sciatica, arthritis, inflammation, and tendinitis.

 

There are many versions of peppermint oil out there, so just make sure you get a pure and natural variety. I personally swear by Young Living and highly recommend its Peppermint Oil, along with all of its other essential oils and products.

 

Finally, the scent of peppermint can also improve concentration and has been linked to improved alertness, motivation, and even performance.

 

There are so many benefits and so many uses of sweet peppermint and who doesn’t love a festive candy cane?

 

 

We’ve all heard the song, have sang it many times, and probably know all the words by heart but what in the world are we talking about with “calling birds,” “maids a milking,” and “lords a leaping?” They’re all part of the famous “Twelve Days of Christmas” carol but they don’t signify the 12 days before Christmas as many believe and they have a Christian origin.

 

The celebration behind the tune started back in the Middle Ages as a way to mark the days between Christmas Day and the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6. From 1558 to 1829, Catholics in England were forbidden from openly practicing their faith so a song of 12 days was written as a catechetical tune that included hidden meanings of the faith. Secretly and on the down low, the verses reminded believers of some of the tenets of their faith without being overtly religious. This way, they could be sung without fear of punishment.

 

On that “note,” here are what the “Twelve Days of Christmas” symbols symbolize:

 

First Day: A partridge in a pear true. Jesus. Mother partridges are known to pretend they are injured as a way of keeping predators from their helpless nestlings, much like our Lord protects us.

 

Second Day: 2 turtledoves. Mary and Joseph and the Old and New Testaments.

 

Third Day: 3 French hens. The 3 Wise Men; the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; and the 3 Theological Virtues; faith, hope, and love.

 

Fourth Day: 4 calling birds. The four evangelists – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – and their four gospels.

 

Fifth Day: 5 golden rings. The first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Also called the Pentateuch, from the Greek words for “five” and “books,” they are meant to answer the basic questions of life and its origins.

 

Sixth Day: 6 geese-a-laying. The six days of Creation as written in the Book of Genesis.

 

Seventh Day: 7 swans-a-swimming. The seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord as well as the seven Sacraments: baptism, confirmation, Eucharist, reconciliation, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony.

 

Eight Day: 8 maids-a-milking. The eight Beatitudes given to us through Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount. Guidelines for true happiness, they have the power to turn the values of a secular world upside down.

 

Ninth Day: 9 ladies dancing. The nine Fruits of the Holy Spirit: charity, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, generosity, gentleness, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity.

 

Tenth Day: 10 lords-a-leaping. The 10 Commandments.

 

Eleventh Day: 11 pipers piping. The 11 faithful apostles: Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James, Simon, and Jude.

 

Twelfth Day: 12 drummers drumming. The 12 points of the apostles’ beliefs and their creed.

 

 

And finally, just for grins, how about some fun reindeer trivia and facts?

 

All of Santa’s reindeer were female because only female reindeer keep their antlers in December.

 

Reindeer are one of the only mammals that can see UV light, allowing them to see predatory polar bears against the snow and lichen, that fungi, moss-like plant they eat.

 

Caribou is simply the North American name for reindeer.

 

As the name suggests, reindeer are a species of deer and the only deer species in which both males and females can grow antlers. Yes dear…um deer!

 

The Sámi people, those famous reindeer herders of northern Norway, really do use reindeer to pull sleighs through the snow.

 

And now that you know all the 12 Days of Christmas meaning, do you know the names of all nine Santa’s reindeer?

 

And just to be safe, here’s a fun “Reindeer Food” idea to do with your kids: combine oats, “snow” glitter, and silver glitter in a bowl and have your children sprinkle it on the lawn or your porch on Christmas Eve. Tell them it will attract Santa’s sleigh with food and sparkle!

 

So there you have it and now you know. I love this kind of stuff and I hope you do too!

 

Merry Christmas everyone!

 

It’s the Most Wonderful and Stressful Time of the Year December 9, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:53 pm

 

Tis the season.

 

Tis the season for stressing out and burning out. But does it need to be? Isn’t it instead supposed to be wonderful?

 

 

Maybe it’s time we all just say no. No to over committing, over spending, over trying, over decorating, and over everything. It’s actually very sad that the most wonderful time of the year is often the most stressful. Funny how we currently see the word “peace” everywhere but don’t often feel it or foster it. Let’s start right now and give peace a chance.

 

 

It’s hard; I know. I’m the list maker of all list makers and tis the super bowl of list making seasons. Gift lists. Party lists. Decorations lists. Food lists. Lists of lists. But think about it, how much of all that is really essential?  Really essential?

 

 

 

Let’s start with gifts. Maybe it’s time to do a re-evaluation of who you exchange gifts with. My hunch is that if you asked many of them, they’d be all for ending whatever gift exchange tradition you may have. As for kids, stop buying them everything they want and ask for. I’ve mentioned many times on this blog that since our daughter was born 28 years ago, she has only received three Christmas gifts (and maybe a little surprise in her stocking.) If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are certainly good enough for the rest of us. I also like my friend’s three gift idea of something you want, something you need, and something to read. How about instead of stressing your mind and your bank account out by buying everything on their list, you consider this:

 

 

Decorations are another doozy. I’m one for not putting up Christmas décor until after Thanksgiving, which makes Thanksgiving just that and not pre-Christmas, but I do feel the stress of having to take down all my pumpkins and turkeys immediately after and putting up our loads of Christmas decorations.

 

 

This year, I’m taking it a bit slower. Our decorations are out, out tree is up and the lights are strung on it but I’ve yet to hang to ornaments. I love our ornaments and I don’t want to feel rushed or pressured when unpacking them and hanging them up. I want to enjoy doing so and if that means not doing something else or waiting to do it, so be it. Taking the joy out of this joyful time creates unjoyful stress, drags us down, and depletes us.  Let’s instead do less and be more.

 

 

It’s all about measuring less on what’s on your calendar and more on what’s in your heart. Let things go. The line at the grocery store? Let it go. Your neighbor’s light display is bigger and bolder than yours? Let it go. Squeezing in that nail appointment? Let it go. Trying to accomplish too much? Let it go.

 

Speaking of that, if you tend to prove who you are by what you do or what you accomplish, news flash: it’s time to ask why. If a full calendar makes you feel important, take a good look at your appointments and commitments and decide what’s important, desired, and matters. Maybe, just maybe, consider giving and doing 90 percent rather than needlessly extending yourself at 110 percent. Good work never comes from someone who is overworked.

 

 

There’s a popular saying in Italian that says, “Dolce Far Neinte,” the sweetness of doing nothing.” I know it’s hard but also try doing nothing. Yep, nothing. Don’t stress about over-decorating and RSVPing “yes” to every invite. Doing nothing, as my girl Courtney Carver of “Be More With Less” reminds us, allows you to listen to your heart rather than all the chatter out there. Doing nothing will actually give you the energy to do something. Something you want to do. Something purposeful. Something mindful.

 

 

In today’s age of experts everywhere and on everything, it’s a bit comforting to realize Jesus came into the world as a baby, not an expert. He wasn’t born in a castle or to a king and queen and later ate with sinners and outcasts. He was actually a very simple guy. Simple, my friends, is good.

 

That simple guy proved this once again in the story of Martha and Mary. Invited into Martha’s home, she gets upset with Mary who sits listening at Jesus’ feet and leaves all the planning and prepping to Martha. Hostess with the mostest Martha complains to Jesus about Mary’s lack of help, only to be told by Him that Mary was to be commended for being still. Ouch. Truth be told, I’m a Martha. Big time Martha. Time to be more like Mary.

 

 

Celebrating Jesus’ birth should be peaceful, not stressful. He longs for us to rest in Him not be busy because of Him. It’s hard though, as that uninvited guest named Anxiety shows up on our doorsteps every Christmas. This is especially the case for women, who often bear the brunt of shopping, cooking, decorating, and all the details that go with. All the Marthas out there can often be overwhelmed and complain.

 

This Christmas however, this Martha is trying my hardest to not have a Martha Christmas, but a Mary one. Here’s hoping all of you also find joy and peace this Christmas season and many silent nights.

 

 

Advent, St. Nick and Why Do We Give Gifts? December 5, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:52 pm

advent-wreath1

 

In many Western Christian churches, including most Catholic and Lutheran parishes, today marks the second Sunday of Advent. On this day, a second candle on an Advent wreath is lit. The purple candle is called the “Bethlehem Candle,” demonstrates Faith, and reminds us of Mary and Joseph’s treacherous journey to Bethlehem.

 

The word “advent” comes from the Latin word that means “coming.” During Advent, Christians patiently await the coming of their Savior, Jesus Christ. An Advent wreath is made up of various evergreens, representing continuous life, as well as four candles that symbolize the four weeks of Advent. Legend has it that the four candles and the four weeks each represent 1,000 years and together total the 4,000 years between Adam and Eve and Jesus’ birth. Three candles on the wreath are purple and one is pink. They signify Christ being the light of the world and the contrast between darkness and light.

 

On the first Sunday of Advent, which begins the season of Advent four weeks out from Christmas, a purple “Prophet’s Candle” is lit as we focus on Hope and Jesus’ coming. Today’s purple candle will be followed by next Sunday’s pink “Shepherd’s Candle” reminding us of Joy and the birth of Jesus. On the last Sunday of Advent, the “Angel’s Candle” of Peace is lit. Some Advent wreaths also add a fifth white “Christ Candle” is the middle, which is lit on Christmas. Advent officially ends on Christmas Eve.

 

Growing up my family didn’t really celebrate Advent and my childhood home never had an Advent wreath or the other popular item, an Advent calendar. We basically had Jesus and Santa.

 

 

st-nick

Tomorrow Catholics celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (and my dog Nikki’s birthday…named after the saint!) Considered the “first Santa,” good ole St. Nick wore a red coat like Santa, had a beard, and loved to share and give. He’s also mentioned in the classic “The Night Before Christmas.” Who knew?!

 

A very rich and generous man, St. Nicholas heard about a family that didn’t have enough money to buy food so he snuck onto their roof and threw some gold coins down their chimney. The coins landed in their stockings, which were hanging over the fire to dry. This, my friends, is why we hang stockings on fireplaces and put treats in them!

 

still-seek-him

 

And why do we give presents? Well, think of the 3 Kings. They brought gifts to the infant King and by giving to others, we model their generous act. Our daughter Kristen only gets three presents at Christmas, which has been our family tradition all her life. If three gifts were good enough for Jesus, they are certainly good enough for the rest of us!

 

 

All of these things explain some age-old traditions and also demonstrate the true meaning of Christmas. It breaks my heart to see the real reason for the season become increasingly “offensive” and secular, and my hope is that by sitting back and understanding exactly why we have days off in December and why stores love this time of the year, we will realize that there is so much more to it all than just time off, shopping, and Santa. I have hope.

 

A Thanksgiving Feast Safe for Fido November 23, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:49 pm

happy-thanksgiving-pets1

Thanksgiving is two days away and you know what that means: food. Lots of food! And, as much as we love all the turkey and fixings they are no bueno for something else we love: our pets.

Thanksgiving also means lots of people and kitchen chaos, which means you may not pay attention to what your dogs eat or sneak on the side. But if you want a day without a pet emergency room visit, you might want to take note of the ASPCA’s do’s and don’ts of Thanksgiving for pet owners.

Basically, the rules include no pets in the kitchen, stuff your turkey but not your pets, no booze hounds, and take out the trash!

pet-care_thanksgiving-safety-tips_main-image

When talking turkey, it’s tough to not give your dog a little nibble of the bird but just make sure it’s fully cooked, skinless, boneless, and has no tracings of twine or foil. The skin can be especially dangerous for Fido, as it will have spices, sauces, and fats that are both dangerous and hard to digest.

Bones, even those cooked like neck bones, are the worst and if ingested, will wreak havoc on a dog or cat’s digestive track. They splinter inside an animal and could lead to that dreaded emergency room visit.

Lastly, be sure to double bag and wrap-tie the turkey carcass and toss in an outside bin.

What’s the other Thanksgiving Day standard? Pumpkin pie! The pie is my absolute favorite but raw yeast dough will not be your pet’s fave. If ingested, the yeast converts sugars in the dough into carbon dioxide, gas, and alcohol, which can result in a bloated almost drunken pet with severe pain. This could be life-threatening and comes into play when making rolls and other bread items as well.

Nutmeg is a key ingredient in pumpkin pie and yams, but it is a big no-no for dogs. In fact, the seasonal favorite can cause seizures and central nervous system problems if ingested by a pup. Pumpkin and sweet potatoes themselves are fine in moderation; just make sure they don’t have any nutmeg or other spices.

Sage is also a popular Thanksgiving Day spice but it’s equally dangerous. It contains oils that upset a pooch’s tummy and should be avoided.

Along those same lines are onions and garlic. These two are pretty commonly known as bad for dogs, but just in case you didn’t know it, keep them away from your four-legged friends at all costs. Both contain sulfides that are toxic to dogs and can lead to anemia. Between the two, onions are more toxic than garlic and cooking them does not reduce their toxicity.

When I think of the holidays from my childhood, I remember my parents always had a big bowl of nuts on the coffee table. They were in a special wooden bowl and were not shelled. An old-school nutcracker and shell picker were always part of the set-up but when I think about it, it’s nuts to have nuts laying around if you have dogs, which we always did.

Nuts, especially walnuts and macadamia nuts, are uber dangerous for your dog. If a bad reaction occurs, a dog will be unable to stand, will vomit, suffer tremors and an elevated heart rate, and will have both a fever and weakness within 12 hours of digesting the nuts. Thankfully most symptoms go away but why risk it? Keep those nuts up high people.

Other things you should keep away from your pets

Drippings and Gravy

Turkey Stuffing

Raisins and Grapes

Mushrooms

Corn on the Cob

Butter

Chocolate

Alcohol

recipe-for-dogs

It’s not all bad news though and there are plenty of Thanksgiving Day items that can be safely added to your mutt’s menu, including:

Boneless, skinless and well-cooked turkey meat (no skin)

Sweet potatoes (plain)

Plain pumpkin puree

Green beans

Cranberry sauce

Carrots (raw or cooked but plain)

Apples

If you think your precious pet may have ingested a potentially poisonous substance, call the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center at 888-426-4436. It’s a number you should probably keep handy all year long.

Have a Happy Thanksgiving and one with safe and happy pets!

 

Tis the Season…for Thanksgiving! November 22, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:45 pm

Rockwell

 

“Thankfulness is the beginning of gratitude.  Gratitude is the completion of thankfulness.  Thankfulness may consist merely of words.  Gratitude is shown in acts.”  Henri Frederic Amiel

 

Okay I’ve had it.  I’ve had it with Christmas taking over Thanksgiving’s important November role:  that of holiday to be treasured not trumped.

 

I LOVE Thanksgiving.  I love the food, I love the football, I love the family and friends, and I love fall.  I hate that people are already putting up Christmas trees and Christmas lights.  Don’t get me wrong, I also love Christmas, but there’s a time and a place for everything.  And a month.

 

October is for Halloween.

November is for Thanksgiving.

December is for Christmas.

 

The holidays shouldn’t mix and match.  It’s just wrong to be serving your turkey and dressing as you turn on the lights of your Christmas tree.  I know many of you disagree with me and countless of you have maybe already begun your Christmas decoration deluge.  It’s bad enough that retail America starts with the Christmas stuff in October, but it’s not the Christmas season yet!

 

Thanksgiving is very important.  Giving thanks and being grateful always is, so devoting an entire day to doing so should not be overshadowed by any other holiday or event…including the dreaded Black Friday.

 

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For those of you who don’t know or have forgotten its origins, the very first Thanksgiving was celebrated by the Pilgrims in answer to their prayers for an end to the drought so they would have food.   Those same pilgrims worked side-by-side with their new neighbors, Native American Indians, in a show of ultimate acceptance and teamwork.  These are important moments in our nation’s history and deserve to be saluted…all by themselves.

 

So please, do us all a favor and put away your lights and ornaments for just one more week.  Let’s all give Thanksgiving the holiday and the honor it deserves.

 

Agree or disagree?  Please let me know your thoughts on this.

 

Pretty & Plated November 15, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:02 pm

 

I had a dinner party this past weekend and had so much fun creating a fun tablescape that incorporated both the season and the meal. And, even though our meal (prepared and plated by the fabulous Chef Katy Parker BTW) didn’t consist of turkey and it’s not officially Thanksgiving just yet, I kinda wished I had some of those old school turkey transferware plates.

 

You know the ones, brown and white normally and probably found in your mom or grandma’s hutch or kitchen. Love them, hate them, or don’t really care about them either way, the plates are not only pretty and festive, they’re historic.

 

As with most things formal and proper, we have the Brits to thank for turkey plates and I’m not talking turkey blue plate specials. I’m talking turkey plates that are special.

 

Staffordshire

Following the Revolutionary War, Great Britain was licking its wounds and its economy was struggling but instead of writing their then nemesis America off, those brilliant Brits began targeting us Yanks with their famous dinnerware like the simple yet stunning 1765 platter from Staffordshire pictured above. Soon everything from our historic landmarks to patriotic scenes to even the expansion of the west would eventually be found on plates and platters from Pittsburgh to Portland. It was a certain handsome bird however, that took center stage in the center of the plate.

 

Shortly after President Abraham Lincoln declared the fourth Thursday of November as the nation’s official Thanksgiving holiday in 1863, English potters began producing turkey-themed dinnerware for the American market. Already the star of both English and American feasts, the turkey quickly became the symbol of the new holiday and American tables were suckered into all things turkey.

 

Southern Living

I’m a sucker for a formal set table, although I rarely set one myself, and I love china. I have mine from our wedding, as well as my mother-in-law’s less formal one and my mom’s. We use my mother-in-law’s as our everyday plates and just recently my non-sentimental husband commented that he really likes using them and that they make him happy. Who knew simple china from England could make the brash boy from Buffalo blush?!

 

 

Southern Living

I’m also a sucker for a picturesque plate wall like the one above fabulously configurated with…yes…turkey plates! What a great idea for all of you out there who may have a plate collection but don’t want to use them for their original purpose. I’m floored by this wall!

 

Royal Doulton

Today turkey-themed plates by the likes of Wedgwood, Royal Doulton, and Ridgway can be found but you may need to look hard for the real deals as they can sell anywhere from $500 to upwards of $1,500. One of the original originals is the above classic blue-and-white “Flow Blue Turkey Platter” from Royal Doulton. You’ll also find various versions by various makers in lots of colors, including the traditional brown and white as well as blue, green, red, and even purple. Oddly enough, finding some in black (which I would LOVE!) is rare, so if you do, snatch them. I’m a big fan of a host of transferware patterns and will always gravitate toward those in green and white, red and white, and of course the brown and white turkey.

 

Johnson Brothers His Majesty pattern

One of the most popular patterns and one of my faves is the above “His Majesty,” which was produced by Johnson Brothers from 1959-1996. The company and all of its patterns were acquired by The Wedgewood Group in 1968 and from 1999-2004, Wedgwood partnered with Williams-Sonoma on reproduction patterns.

 

Williams-Sonoma

Today the retail giant offers not only a stately “Plymouth Turkey” dinnerware collection but the above “Plymouth Birds” collection, which is equally festive and perfect for family feasts and every day dinners.

 

Sadly formality is not trending or going viral these days. Considered as uncool as a flip-phone or file folders is formal dinnerware. Crystal goblets, sterling silver place settings, and porcelain china dishware aren’t on any millennial or Gen Xer’s wedding gift registry and it makes me sad. What makes even sadder is when I see “Honeymoon Fund” or “Wedding Fund” on their registrations. What? But, that’s a whole other blog I guess.

 

So, what I’ll do with all my china, crystal, and silver that our daughter probably wants nothing to do with is not something I think about. Until the day comes, I’ll continue to enjoy having a casual glass of wine in my Waterford crystal and our nightly dinner on Wedgwood china. I’ll also continue to crave some turkey plates on which to gobble gobble goodness. If anyone has any they’d like to unload, I’m more than happy to help your efforts. We’ll both be thankful.

 

Blogger’s note: I can’t close this blog without sharing a great little turkey tip I recently ran across. Instead of roasting a big 20 pound or larger turkey that takes up so much room and takes so much time to cook, think about instead roasting two smaller birds. Not only will cook time be reduced, guests will have more chances at those coveted legs and wishbones. You’re welcome! 

 

A Berry Interesting Thanksgiving Tradition November 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:35 pm

Thanksgiving 2020 will look much different for many of us, but some things will still hold true, especially the food we eat. We may not be hosting friends and family, but we will probably still be feasting on turkey, stuffing, pies, mashed potatoes, green beans, rolls, and cranberries. I was never a big fan of cranberries back in the “open a can and pour out the log” days, but I’ve grown to love them. What exactly are those little red berries though and why do we generally only eat them once a year?

 

The small, red, and tart fruit is actually very healthy and we can thank Native Americans for the tradition, as they mixed cranberries with deer meat waaaay back in the day. They may have even shared some with the pilgrims on that first Thanksgiving Day.

 

History also notes that sailors used cranberries as a source of Vitamin C to prevent scurvy and more recent studies suggest cranberries promote gastrointestinal and oral health, raise the good HDL cholesterol, and may even help prevent cancer.

 

 

The very first official harvesting of cranberries was by Revolutionary War veteran Henry Hall, who planted the first commercial beds in Dennis, Massachusetts in 1816. Many of today’s cranberry bogs are in fact more than 100 years old!

 

Cranberries grow on low-running vines in sandy marshes and are one of only three commercially grown fruits native to North America. The other two being blueberries and Concord grapes. During harvesting, the berry marshes are flooded, special equipment is used to knock the berries off the vines, and then they float to the surface. Most of the world’s cranberries are grown on some 50,000 acres in the U.S. and Canada and are harvested in September and October. Perfect timing for fresh cranberry sauce at Thanksgiving!

 

Each year, Americans eat about 400 million pounds of cranberries, 20 percent of which will be consumed over Thanksgiving. The fruit can be eaten both fresh and dried, and is popular in muffins, trail mixes, cereals, salads, and of course juices.

 

So what do you prefer? Fresh or canned? Whole berry canned or jellied? I prefer the whole berry but if you like that blob of gelled stuff, here’s a fun way to make it festive using cookie cutters:

 

 

And just in case you don’t have enough food planned (LOL!), here are some yummy recipes that use cranberries. Use them this week or all year long!

 

 

Cranberry Brie Cups (Great for Thanksgiving morning!)

1 8 oz. tube crescent rolls dough

1 8 oz. wheel of brie (can substitute cream cheese)

½ cup whole berry cranberry sauce

Optional: chopped pecans on top

 

Preheat oven to 375 and grease mini muffin tin with cooking spray.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out crescent dough and pinch together seams.

Cut into 24 squares and place into muffin tin slots.

Cut cheese into small pieces and place inside crescent dough.

Top with a spoonful of cranberry sauce.

Bake until crescent pastry is golden, about 15 minutes.

 

 

Festive Pineapple Cranberry Salad (My favorite!)

1 can mandarin oranges

2 pkg. raspberry flavored gelatin

1 can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 apple, chopped

Optional: chopped pecans

Drain oranges and pour juice into sauce pan with 3 cups cold water. Bring to boil and remove from heat. Add dry gelatin and stir 2 minutes. Stir in cranberry sauce. Pour into large bowl and add oranges and apple. Refrigerate 1 ½ hours or until slightly thickened.

 

 

Three Ingredient Cranberry Relish

(Anthony Bourdain calls this, “Delicious and truly one of the easiest recipes in the world.”)

Wash 1 large orange under warm water. Dry and coarsely chop skin, flesh, and pith. Remove seeds. Combine orange and 12 oz. fresh cranberries in food processor. Pulse until mixture appears grainy. Transfer to bowl and fold in 1 cup sugar. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Serve cold or at room temperature.

 

 

Tangy Cranberry Meatballs (great use for any leftover cranberry sauce!)

Leftover cranberry sauce

¼ rice vinegar

2 T ketchup

2 T soy sauce

2 t Worcestershire sauce

1 t brown sugar

¼ cup water

2 lb. pkg. precooked cocktail-size meatballs

 

In a large saucepan combine all ingredients except meatballs, cook on medium low, and stir until smooth.

Add meatballs and cook until heated, about 10-15 minutes.

 

 

Cranberry Nut Bread (my mom’s)

2 cups fresh, whole cranberries

2 T butter

2 cups sifted flour

1 cup and 2 T sugar

1 ¾ t baking powder

1 t salt

1 egg, well beaten

1/3 cup orange juice

1 t grated orange rind

¼ cup water

Cut cranberries in half. Melt and set aside butter. Sift together dry ingredients. Combine egg, orange juice, and water. Make well in dry ingredients and add liquids. Stir in butter. Add orange rind and cranberries. Bake at 350 for 1 hour.

 

 

Cranberry Salsa Dip

1 12 oz. bag fresh cranberries, rinsed

½ cup sugar

Green onions, chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped

1 lime, juiced

Pinch of salt

2 8 oz. blocks cream cheese, softened

Put all ingredients except cream cheese in food processor. Pulse until ingredients are chopped coarsely. Put in airtight container and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. After, spread softened cream cheese on serving plate and spread salsa over cream cheese. Serve at room temperature with crackers.

 

 

Cranberry Hot Tea

1 48 oz. can cranberry juice cocktail

1 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 cup orange juice

1 cup lemonade

1 cup pineapple juice

Cinnamon sticks

Combine all ingredients in a Dutch oven over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, 10 minutes or until sugar dissolves. Serve warm with cinnamon stick garnish.

 

 

Cranberry Punch

2 bottles cranberry juice

1 ½ bottles water (using juice bottle to measure)

2 cans frozen orange juice, thawed

Juice of 3 lemons or 9 T lemon juice

1 pkg. red hot candies

Whole cloves and sugar to taste

Put all ingredients in pot and heat on low until red hots melt. Transfer to crock pot to serve and keep warm.

 

 

Cape Cod

Mix 1 part vodka with cranberry juice to taste in highball glass and fill with ice. Garnish with lime wedge.

Variations:

Sea Breeze: add grapefruit juice

Bay Breeze: add pineapple juice

Cosmopolitan: add triple sec and serve in martini glass

 

 

Cranberry Kiss Cocktail

1.5 oz. cranberry vodka

2 oz. cranberry juice

1.5 oz. simple sugar

Lime wedges and mint leaves

Muddle 3 lime wedges and 8 mint leaves in a shaker. Add other ingredients and shake well with ice. Strain into a martini glass and garnish with floating mint leaves.