Beyond Words

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

The Real Dirt on Houseplants March 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:02 am

House in plant2


Even as parts of the country continue to dig out of snow and ice, I’ve been treated to unseasonable high 70s and low 80s. So, what’s a girl to do on a day off? Plant flowers! I’m not an overly proficient “green thumb” and I leave the beds and gardens to a professional, but I do enjoy some potted plants on the porch and patio. They bring color, life, and even a little joy to outdoor spaces and I love seeing them. But, did you know plants also bring life and much more inside your home?


Just being near a plant can actually result in many benefits, including increased health, a reduction in headaches and coughs, more energy, reduced allergy symptoms, faster recovery and healing following an illness, reduced stress and anxiety, increased creativity, and an overall feeling of happiness. Really? Really!


It’s all true, and we have NASA and other experts to thank for this great info. When NASA employees recently researched ways to clean the air in space stations, they learned that certain plants are great at doing so. In fact, they found that live plants can actually remove mold and toxins from the air and filter out common toxins and pollutants found in space stations and homes everywhere.


This is not only good news, it’s great news, as the Environmental Protection Agency estimates the inside of our homes are often more polluted than the outsides. This is due to toxins released from household cleaners, synthetic fabrics, and plastic products as well as the toxins we produce when we cook. Cooking and cleaning it seems, can cook up some very unclean household pollutants!


What to do? Yes, you can choose environmentally friendly and organic cleaning products but you are still going to bring toxins into your house through your shoes and any items you bring into them. Your best bet say many experts is to have numerous houseplants scattered throughout your home. It’s actually recommended you use at least 15 air-cleaning plants every 600 square meters. Some of the most effective include:




Peace Lily. Often considered one of the most effective choices, this hearty and white-flowering lily removes chemicals like formaldehyde and trichloroethylene; benzene, a common household chemical and known carcinogen; and mold spores in the air. They also purify the air of trichloroethylene, a chemical found in cleaners and solvents, and they remove alcohols and acetone in the air.


Philodendron . Noted by NASA among the best types of houseplants for removing especially higher concentrations formaldehyde.


Aloe Vera.  These succulents not only relieve burns, they release and produce oxygen, and have earned the nickname “oxygen bomb.”


Spider Plants. Said to absorb toxins, gasoline, formaldehyde, styrene, and carbon monoxide, Spider Plants are among NASA’s top 3 types of houseplants.  It is said one Spider Plant cleanses 200 square meters, “exhale” oxygen overnight, and remove carbon monoxide and other toxins or impurities.


Estragon/Tarragon. Thought to remove 60 percent of air toxins and 50 percent of feces particles within six hours, the plant also releases oxygen during the night, making it a great bedroom plant.


Florist’s Mum. The chrysanthemum got its name from the Greek words for “gold” and “flower,” the “gold” coming from the mystical healing powers the flower.  Very effective at removing benzene, a cancer-causing carcinogen associated with chemicals, plastics, cigarettes and off-gassing; mums also remove trichloroethylene found in solvents and cleaners, formaldehyde, and ammonia. And Texans think they’re only for football Homecoming celebrations!


Ficus Tree/Weeping Fig. Said to be overall great air purifiers, these trees not only do good things but look good in a room.


Gerbera Daisies. These bright, multi-color, flowering plants are effective at removing trichloroethylene, which you may bring home with your dry cleaning, and are also good for filtering out the benzene found in many household inks. NASA says they also absorb carbon dioxide and give off oxygen overnight, which is said to improve your sleep. They make the perfect pick-me-up plants for bedrooms and laundry rooms.


Golden Pothos. NASA places this plant among the top 3 types of houseplants great for removing formaldehyde. Also known for removing carbon monoxide and increasing general indoor air quality.


Boston Fern. Act as humidifiers and help restore moisture in the air, making them the perfect plant for those who suffer from dry skin and other cold weather problems. Plus they are so full and pretty!


Queen Fern. Known to clean out and eliminate formaldehyde, toluene, and xylene you may have hiding in your home.


Moth Orchid. Said to remove VOCs (volatile organic compounds) and formaldehyde commonly off-gassed from paints, solvents, and other synthetic materials, orchids may be considered by many “hard to grow,” but they are oh-so-pretty. I like putting one in my shower!


Bamboo Palm or Reed Palm. According to NASA, these stately palms remove formaldehyde and also act as natural humidifiers.


Rubber Plant. This trusty houseplant cleans the air by emitting high oxygen content and it also purifies indoor air by removing chemicals like formaldehyde.


English Ivy. Known for removing the chemical benzene, a known carcinogen found in cigarette smoke, detergents, pesticides, and the off-gassing of other synthetic materials; English Ivy is also said to be fantastic for asthma and allergies.


Snake Plant.  Found by NASA to absorb toxins such as nitrogen oxides and formaldehyde, the Snake Plant is not only gorgeously multi-green in color, it requires minimal watering.


Although these and other plants are great for purifying your home’s air quality and removing toxins from it, they may not be for everyone. Some may cause an allergic reaction to handlers, while several are considered potentially poisonous to kids and plants. Be sure to check any and all precautions before purchasing a plant for your home.  In addition, be honest about your commitment to a plant and choose wisely. Travel a lot or not good at tending to a plant? Go for those that are easy to grow and maintain.



Plants in living room



Not only do live plants add a level of cleanliness to your home, they add a feeling of the outdoors and nature too. Enhancing your living space with a botanical style is something Interior Stylist and best-selling author Selina Lake specializes in. Lake never shies away from placing a bold plant somewhere or implementing a leafy designed wallpaper or fabric in her unique way of mastering bringing the outdoors in. It’s a design element popular from coast-to-coast and in all architectural styles.


Mimicking nature is a fabulous way of giving a room an organic and truly alive feeling. When starting out, be sure to mix shapes, sizes, and kinds of plants in addition to different types of greenery. This will add both a surprise element as well as texture. Make a grouping of multiple plants for a fun centerpiece, find a spot for a large potted tree, and even consider cut branches and berries from the outdoors.


Fiddleleaf Figs are especially popular décor items as their violin-shaped leaves lend a visual interest to any space and they are also very low-maintenance.  Another easy-to-care-for plant is the Philodendron mentioned above. Their heart-shaped leaves and trailing stems are designer favorites and the fact that they can survive in even the lowest of light make them a “go to” for all habitats and climates.



Plants in office



But don’t limit your plant plans to your home. Researchers in the U.K. and the Netherlands found that employees who had live plants on their desks, or at least in view from them, had higher levels of concentration and performed tasks faster and more accurately than their plant-free counterparts. And you don’t need a large tree to do the trick. In fact, a small container of peppermint is a great choice as its invigorating scent is said to increase alertness. Plus, who doesn’t love peppermint?!


So the next time you’re looking for that unique décor item, skip the pillows and knick-knacks and head to the plant aisle. You’ll be glad…and maybe ever healthier…you did!




Price Check and Clean Up on Aisle 5 March 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:51 pm

I want to preface this blog by saying I do not like going to the grocery store, I’m not one of those who enjoys cooking or experimenting with different foods, and I’m the first to admit that if I ever win the lottery one of the first things I’ll treat myself to is a personal chef who will cook for me and shop for me. Okay, I said it, I own it, and now I’m writing about it. Grocery shopping that is. Say what?



Grocery store Barbie


On a girls getaway over the weekend the recent grand opening of a ginormous HMart Asian Grocery was the topic of conversation. Word on the street was that it’s good, it’s different, and it’s HUGE. The store encompasses nearly 70,000 square feet…that’s bigger than a football field…and took over the space formerly occupied by Sports Authority AND Bed, Bath & Beyond. When I hear these numbers, it’s beyond me how anyone isn’t overwhelmed just walking into the place. I’ve yet to do so.


But, a person’s grocery store is a special and personal place, as I came to find out when we moved just a little more than a year ago. Even I, a self-confirmed non-liker of grocery shopping, missed my former grocery store! I longed for it and am only now warming up to my new one. Think about it; there are few things in life as daunting as doing major shopping in a grocery store you’re unfamiliar with. It can take twice as long and be three times as frustrating.



Grocery store clipart


Grocery stores are big business. Annual sales hover around $7 billion and the industry employs nearly 5 million Americans. And as HMart demonstrates, big stores are not uncommon with just over 40,000 square feet being the median grocery store size. That’s a lot of crackers and cucumbers! In fact, the number of products found in an average grocer in 1975 was a mere 9,000. Today that number is nearly 40,000. I’m pretty sure half of those items are just toothpaste and cleaning supply choices. Good night. What ever happened to simple toothpaste and a do-it-all disinfecting cleaner?  But I digress.


Still, all is not well in the industry. Classic brick-and-mortar supermarkets are facing super competition from the likes of Amazon and in-home meal kit delivery services. So what are they doing to adapt to growing competition, unique millennial shopping habits, changing technology, and finicky consumer demands? They’re strategizing how to get you in their stores and changing up traditional product placement on shelves.



Grocery store basket


It’s all about keeping customers coming in and getting those customers to spend more. Consumer psychology research is in full force and has revealed many a trick of the trade. It all starts right as you enter the store: carts are big enough to fit enough food for a family of, I don’t know, say 20? Once inside, you’re often greeted by fun and festive seasonal items that put you in a good mood and are most likely adjacent to the produce department. After filling your cart with kale and zucchini spirals, the thought is you will feel healthy and good about yourself as you make your way to the more non-healthy aisles. This is where you’ll find cereal boxes and chips placed on lower shelves so they are eye-level, which attracts attention, and the placing of previously “middle aisle” products in the prime supermarket real estate of the perimeter. Traditionally the place to find produce, meats, and dairy products, some stores are now placing boxed items and even paper products on the outer rim aisles. The coveted front-of-store end caps and checkout aisle shelves are also being used in unique ways not previously seen.


Combo shopping is also in full force. Think all those “buy spaghetti sauce and get the spaghetti and parmesan cheese for free” offers as well as the clever mix of dinner kits sold alongside cake mixes and other dessert options. Even if it’s not a healthy choice, nothing says “buy me now” like “buy one get three free” or “great value deal.” Grocery stores are also partnering with food brands in “trade spending” promotions to encourage purchases. For example, Kellogg’s recently ran a program that placed its boxes of cereal in the produce section. Genius!


Companies like Coca-Cola work feverously to determine the best ways to position their products even in the less-popular center aisles and work with stores on shelving arrangements and prominence. Clustering products is also aimed at getting your attention and money. This type of displaying may involve placing products commonly used by senior citizens or new moms in one convenient area.



Grocery stores quote


Americans spent about $150 on food per week and one in 10 say they spend more than $300. Millennials are a huge target audience for the food and grocery industry, as their average weekly food spending is more than that of older adults and their tastes tend to be more pricey and particular.


These young adults, my daughter included, spend most of their hard-earned money at the likes of Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Sprouts, and other natural food stores and they shop often as they prefer to buy only what they need and buy fresh. Your basic chains like HEB, Kroger, and Randall’s have had to keep up and have upped their organic and ethnic options but how they sell is becoming as important as what they sell.


When you think about it, the younger generation is all about their phones and healthy eating, so why not marry the two? She said yes in that many chains are now accepting Apple Pay and other mobile payment options. One service that is sure to boom allows shoppers to scan items with a mobile app as they shop and then pay through a self-checkout and maybe even through the app itself. Sold!



Meal kit delivery


Online shopping, delivery services, and curb-side pickup are growing trends and everyone seems to be on board, with Amazon buying Whole Foods and Target buying Shipt. It’s no wonder, as online grocery spending is expected to reach 20 percent of the market and pass the $100 billion mark in the coming years. The $2.2 billion meal kits market, such as those offered by the likes of Plated and Blue Apron, is also expected to continue growing with some estimates projecting a 30 percent increase for the ready-to-make meals market that delivers to customers’ doorsteps.


Don’t count out your neighborhood grocers just yet though. They still have a firm grasp on the market and are primed to be not only your local food market, but special events locales as well. Dining areas and food courts, like those found in that spanking new HMart, are welcoming customers with events like coffee nights and wine tastings. Shoppers are encouraged to stop at various stations throughout the store to taste samples while listening to live music, resulting in their store being more inviting and a place where they can actually have fun.


Surprisingly I have yet to try any of the delivery, curbside, or meal kits options. Yes, I’m not a lover of grocery shopping but I’m also a bit OCD and like what I like. I find the idea of selecting items for someone else to purchase for me and then having to be home for the delivery as overwhelming and stressful and just doing it myself. For now I’ll just continue placing my reusable grocery bags onto a cart, checking things off my handwritten list (I still have not warmed up to any grocery list app), and hope I don’t forget anything.






Islands in the Sun? February 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:59 pm


Punxsutawney Phil wasn’t kidding when he said we were going to have six more weeks of winter. The east coast continues to get snow, the south is under water, and even the sunny southwest is cloudy and gray. Enough already! Don’t get me wrong, I love a little bit of winter and winter clothes, but this year’s temperatures are enough to make all of us long for some warm beaches and hot weather.


In fact, many of you may be planning Spring Break and summer vacays, but if you’re looking at Caribbean islands, you may want to do your research. Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria caused major damage to numerous locales and some are still in the midst of recovery, which means they might not be the best places to plop your tourism dollars in just yet. It’s really a sad situation, as the winter months are the busiest time for tourism in the Caribbean but this year many resorts remain closed. so, whether you “Cuh-RIB-ee-un” or “Care-uh-BEE-un,” you will want to do your research.


In a nutshell, the hardest hit islands and those still in recovery mode are: Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Puerto Rico, St. Maarten/St. Martin, and the U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John).


Those that were outside the paths of the storms or suffered little or no damage include: Aruba, Barbados, Belize, Cayman Islands, Curacao, Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, Nevis, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and Trinidad and Tobago.


Here’s a rundown of where some of the popular islands that suffered damage stand today tourism wise and a map for reference:



All beaches are back to normal but some big resorts are still in the process of opening. Phone and internet service have been restored to most parts of the island, as has water service. The main issue Anguilla is still facing is lack of power.



Antigua was largely undamaged during the hurricanes, but its sister island Barbuda was devasted, where 95 percent of properties suffered significant damage. In Antigua, the airport and all resorts are open and were minimally affected by Irma.



Southern islands of this island nation suffered severe damage, but all major tourism centers were minimally impacted and are operating as usual.


British Virgin Islands

Like Anguilla, power remains a problem in the British VI but airports are open even though the islands have less than half the number of hotel rooms they had before the hurricanes.  The main tourist islands of Tortola and Virgin Gordo were severely damaged and last I checked a curfew remains in effect from 8 p.m. – 6 a.m.



Not to be confused with the Dominican Republic, Dominica is still in the recovery phase of rebuilding after being overwhelmed by the storms. Water, electricity, and mobile phone service are still being restored to many parts of the island although most roadways have been cleared of debris. Many locals are still living in shelters, more than 35 percent of the island’s treasured dive sites were damaged, and the island’s vegetation and infrastructure were both heavily damaged.


Puerto Rico

Hurricanes Irma and Maria caused nearly $100 billion worth of damage to Puerto Rico but today the airport and cruise ports are open and some hotels are taking reservations, although most of them are still operating on generator power only.  Power is still an issue for around 75 percent of the population, and even those with electricity suffer frequent power failures. In addition, nearly 26 percent are without running water.


St. Barts

Electricity has pretty much been restored island-wide, as has internet service. The airport is open for commercial flights but the popular Eden Rock is not scheduled to reopen until sometime this summer.


St. Maarten/St. Martin

The Dutch side of this twin-nation island lost more than 70 percent of its hotel inventory but nearly 50 percent of it is back and the airport is open. What suffered major damage on St. Maarten were the island’s nature and environment, as well as the beaches. Water quality is also still being addressed. On the French side of St. Martin, recovery is still in full gear after what local leaders called the worst natural disaster in their history. Hotels are expected to reopen this spring, as are many restaurants.


Turks and Caicos

Some resorts reported damage after Irma and conducted cancellations, but all are now open and power, electricity, and water are on and back to normal.


U.S. Virgin Islands (St. Croix, St. Thomas, St. John)

These islands were particularly hard hit by the storms, with St. Thomas and St. John feeling the hardest brunt. Hurricane Irma pummeled the islands as a Category 5 storm, with wind gusts as high as 225 miles per hour. Two weeks later, Hurricane Maria, another Category 5 storm, slammed into them and was followed by weeks of rain.


Throughout the Virgin Islands, many small and mid-size hotels have reopened, as have villas and time shares. But, nearly three-quarters of hotel rooms remain out of commission and some are still housing relief workers. The islands’ famous and popular large resorts took the worst damage and many remain closed. Frenchman’s Reef is the largest resort on St. Thomas and the islands’ second largest employer but owners have an uncertain timetable for reopening. It’s estimated 80 percent of St. Thomas’ grape trees were uprooted and its coconut palms suffered a 70 percent loss. On St. John, the Westin has cancelled all reservations through 2018.


That being said, power is mostly back, cruise ship ports are in good shape, restaurants and shops are open, and direct flights to and from the mainland U.S. are slowly coming back.



The best advice? Check with a travel expert or contact local tourism officials in any destination you are considering. Also ask around both personally and online. There are many travel sites where travelers can post updates and advice and nothing is as solid as first-hand knowledge from friends and family.


Until then, hunker down, stay warm and dry, and dream of your toes in the sand and an umbrella drink in your hand.








Year of the Dog February 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:49 pm


Happy “Year of the Dog!” In my world, every year is a year of the dog but now it’s official. Yesterday was the Chinese New Year, which rang in the Year of the Dog. This dog lover couldn’t be happier.


Truth be told, it’s not really a year to celebrate pets or man’s best friend, it’s actually the beginning of the Chinese New Year. Each Chinese New Year brings with it an animal for that year and celebrations are held for two weeks or more. According to Asian astrology, your birth year and the animal it represents determines your personality traits. On last year’s Chinese New Year I had a dinner party and collected my friends’ traits according to their year of birth. It was so much fun!


As for years of dogs, there are actually five types for different Chinese New Years, with 2018 being the Earth Dog. Anyone born in an Earth Dog year is predicted to be communicative, serious, determined, and responsible. A few famous people who were born in a Year of the Dog are Winston Churchill, Mother Teresa, Elvis Presley, and President Trump.





This year is the first Earth Day year since 1958 but someone born in any dog year is said to be sincere, honest, and loyal. They rarely abandon family, friends, or workplaces; are good at helping others; but may be a bit worried and anxious inside. Hmmmm…sounds a lot like actual dogs, right?


Still not convinced? Here’s a test: put your dog and your wife/husband in the trunk of your car, return, and see which one is happy to see you. Pretty sure it will be the one with a tail.



Dogs are amazing animals. Here are just a few fun facts about my favorite four-legged animals:


  • Dogs are healers. Simply caring for a dog can reduce anxiety, brighten a mood and reduce stress.


  • One study showed that within 10 minutes of looking into a dog’s eyes or petting a dog, the brain gets neurochemical bursts of oxytocin, prolactin, dopamine and endorphins, all chemicals that make us happy and relax us.


  • Other studies suggest that living with a dog reduces the symptoms and severity of depression and also boosts one’s immune system, reduces blood pressure, and lowers heart rates.


  • A British hospital actually “prescribes” a dog for patients who have suffered heart attacks and has found the chances of a second heart attack in them dropped 400 percent!


  • A study published by “Pediatrics” journal found that children who live with dogs during their first year of life got sick less often than kids from dog-less homes. The research revealed that the dirt and microbes brought in the house by Fido actually bolster helpful bacteria in a child’s immune system.


  • Babies who live with dogs are 31 percent more likely to be in good health than those who don’t, 44 percent less likely to develop ear infections, and 29 percent less likely to need antibiotics during their first year of life.


  • Owning a dog is known to help you better maintain an active lifestyle and retain a healthy weight.  Dog owners are said to be both emotionally and physically healthier and have lower cholesterol and blood pressure.


  • Dogs are said to be able to see things we cannot, as my friend can attest to following the deaths of her mom and dad. Her dog, she says, would look up in their bedroom and stare for minutes as if something or someone was up there. There are many similar reports of dogs doing this.


  • It is said that when a dog sees its owner its brain secretes the same substances ours do when we are in love. In short, your dog is truly in love with you!



We are all still reeling from the horrific school shooting in Florida last Wednesday and the arguments over gun control and mental health care are in full force, but perhaps an Ohio high school and a Houston non-profit have a partial solution. The two are participating in programs aimed at improving school safety by “employing” dogs that can detect guns and drugs in classrooms, hallways, and parking lots. Granted, this may not have stopped the Valentine’s Day shooting, but many experts say just knowing there are enforcements and measures in place to stop crime is sometimes enough to deter it.


Two other very interesting programs are an innovative one that pairs dogs with anxious witnesses called to testify in court hearings and trials and another one that provides service dogs in a school for students on the autism spectrum or have mood or neurological disorders or ADHD. These dogs can tell right away if someone is nervous and are trained to calm those nerves. It’s truly miraculous and I’ve seen it firsthand.


“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.” Ben Williams


As a supporter of and volunteer at The Dog Alliance, I’ve seen autistic kids relax during learning activities simply by having a dog nearby to pet and I’ve witnessed veterans suffering from PTSD do the same through the fabulous “Hounds for Heroes” program.


These types of therapy and service dogs are nothing new. Seeing eye dogs have been around forever, firefighters once used Dalmatians to protect their trucks and “sound” an alarm, and police officers still use dogs in a variety of ways.  A dog’s ability to either engage a person or relax one also makes them perfect for disaster relief and servicemen and women are uniquely attached to their “war dogs.” Even Florence Nightingale recommended small pets for the chronically ill.


What is new is the plethora of service, therapy, and emotional support dogs…and make no mistake they are all different.



Service animals are not considered pets,  are legally defined by the Americans With Disabilities Act, and are trained to meet the disability-related needs of their handlers who have disabilities. Federal laws protect the rights of these individuals in public places. Think seeing-eye dogs, guide dogs, and any dog that is trained to do work or perform tasks for their owner.


Therapy animals are not legally defined by federal law but some states have laws describing them. Usually they are the personal pets of their handlers and work with volunteers to provide therapeutic benefits in a variety of settings. They are usually not service animals but sometimes have dual roles as both. Think dogs in libraries, hospitals, and nursing homes.


Emotional support animals have come under recent scrutiny thanks to an airline passenger who recently showed up for a flight with a peacock for emotional support. Boarding was denied and resulted in several airlines tightening the rules regarding flying with emotional support animals. One airline reported that the number of comfort animals has jumped 75 percent in just the last year and they have seen a big increase in animal-related incidents.


In general, emotional support animals have no legal definition, are considered pets, and are not protected under the ADA.


All of these dogs love their owners and more than likely possess the attributes associated with someone born during this current Year of the Dog. When it all comes down to it, it’s really all about love, loyalty, and helping others. In this dog eat dog world, here’s hoping the Year of the Dog brings more of all of those to each of us.







Super Heroes February 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:48 pm

XKim Throckmorton-Kimmel batman

What is a superhero?


When asked that question, many would say perhaps Superman or Wonder Woman. Maybe even Batman or Spiderman. They are part of Marvel and DC Comics “Super Heroes” of screen and lore, but are they really super or heroes?


Tampa Bay Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy posed a similar question in his post for “the Players’ Tribune” when he asked, “Is Batman a superhero?” The crowd roars, “Of course he is” and although McCoy agreed and noted Batman is his superhero of choice, it might not be for the reasons you’d think.


We all know that Superman can fly and has super-human strength and that Spiderman can scale walls and buildings, but McCoy appreciates the fact that Batman doesn’t really have any superpowers. What? Holy Batmobile Robin, this must be the work of the Joker.


But it’s not. And it’s why Batman is his favorite.


Unlike most superheroes, Batman doesn’t possess any superpowers and relies instead on his mind. As McCoy wrote, “His greatest attribute is that he’s highly intelligent. He’s just a regular dude who always finds a way to get the job done.” Those abilities are what McCoy respects and strives to emulate in play on the field and life off it.


It got me thinking.


If Batman can qualify as a superhero without any true superpowers, what about the rest of us? What else can qualify as super human abilities? Who else can we consider superheroes?


What about the bus driver who gets your kids to school safely every day?


What about the pipe layers whose work ensures you get clean water by merely turning on a tap?


And how about the engineers who finagle stop lights? Their handiwork sees to it that vehicles stop and go at the right times.


And yet, society tends to make superheroes out of  famous but often undeserving athletes, movie stars, musicians, and TV personalities. “Oprah is my hero,” you heard again and again recently. “I want to be like Tom Brady young boys think coast-to-coast. That’s all well and good, Oprah has done some amazing things and Brady is the greatest ever, but do they qualify as superheroes? Probably not.


Kids love superheroes though…real and fictional. And that’s okay. They need heroes and they need imagination. I tell my little preschoolers to catch their sneezes and coughs in their elbows by bringing around their superhero capes. It works every time. Who doesn’t want to be a superhero and have a cape?




I’m currently obsessed with the song “Something Just Like This” by the Chainsmokers and at first hearing was immediately attracted to the lines “I’m not looking for somebody with some superhuman gifts, some super hero” that are included in the lyrics:


I’ve been reading books of old

The legends and the myths

Achilles and his gold

Hercules and his gifts

Spiderman’s control

And Batman with his fists

And clearly I don’t see myself upon that list

But she said, where’d you wanna go?

How much you wanna risk?

I’m not looking for somebody

With some superhuman gifts

Some superhero

Some fairytale bliss

Just something I can turn to

Somebody I can kiss


That’s probably what we all look for in our super heroes: someone we can turn to, not some fairytale bliss.




Someone I regularly turn to is God, and I would venture to say Jesus is indeed a superhero; perhaps the superest of super heroes.


I also rely on my family and friends for support and inspiration and I consider all of them superheroes. None of them have superpowers; they are merely super people in my eyes.


My mom is a superhero. Raised by her grandparents, she widowed at age 52 and yet somehow managed to pay my out-of-state tuition. She’s not perfect, but she’s heroic.


Super hero window washers


Doctors…good doctors…may not have “super powers” per se, but they have healing powers and in many cases are super heroes. Same with teachers and fire fighters.


Superheroes come in all shapes and sizes and vary from person to person. Someone I consider worth admiring someone else may detest and vice versa. But maybe it shouldn’t be so much who we consider heroic, but what we consider heroic attributes.


Take for example Captain Marvel. I had no idea that his “Shazam” was actually an acronym and a call for the wisdom of Solomon, the strength of Hercules, the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles, and the speed of Mercury. How cool would that be, to merely shout something and you gain a truckload of formidable traits?


Depending on who you are or where you are in your life, you might give a shout out for intellect, health, wealth, will, strength, endurance, patience, acceptance, wisdom, or serenity. Society needs superpower science and technology, but don’t we also need love and peace and superheroes who promote them?


Calmness is a superpower


My mind is constantly reeling…it only sleeps when I sleep…so I greatly admire those who are centered and calm. I also hold in high esteem anyone who is in good physical shape (because I’m not) and someone who appreciates a good laugh (because I do too.)


Intuition is superpower


Couldn’t agree more, and even if I don’t agree with your reasoning, I appreciate your conviction and the fact that you stand for something. I also respect someone who is a deep thinker and can engage in interesting conversations. I’m a voracious reader and researcher but I also tend to overthink things, so “going with your gut” is a trait I relish and work on.




In the end, what is anything super without faith and hope? We hope for the best and hope all goes well. We’re constantly hoping for a cure and holding out hope against hope.


It’s my hope that maybe we all take a cue from Batman and start using our brains in heroic ways to keep hope alive. I’m no Wonder Woman, but it might just make a powerful difference.


A Matter of Taste January 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:58 am

A month or so ago our dog and house sitter noticed I always have a mason jar full of Swedish Fish on my kitchen counter. He came in one day and said “I bought you some and didn’t even realize they came in different colors!” He, like many, assumed the popular red version is all there is but they also come in green, yellow, and orange. He also assumed the different colors tasted the same. I immediately said “No way! The yellows are lemon; the greens are lime, etc., etc.” End of story.


Until Sunday.




On the way to see a local musical production, friends and I were having lunch when one of them said she recently heard that gummy bears may be different colors but not necessarily different flavors. What? Blasphemy! This gummy candy lover couldn’t believe her ears and neither could the rest of the crowd. You see, we love our gummies so much that one of these sweet friends always brings sweet little snack bags of sweet gummy candies to enjoy during the show.


I personally love all gummy candy. Swedish Fish. Gummy Bears. Dots. Jujy Fruits. Fruit Slices. Spice Gum Drops. Jelly Beans…but only the original ones…not Jelly Bellies. I love jelly candies so much I give them up for Lent every year. So, you can imagine the horror and curiosity levels when I heard their flavors might be poser flavors!




Apparently it’s all related to how color affects not only moods and productivity, but also what flavor we think we taste. An orange gummy candy? Well of course its flavor is orange. Purple? Hello, grape. But what about red? It could be a number of flavors but most commonly cherry, strawberry, or maybe watermelon.  The same goes for drinks and other flavored items. An orange drink tastes like orange. A purple lollipop is grape flavored. But could a green gummy be cherry flavored or even the same flavor as a purple one? That’s the story. That’s the mystery. And I’m on it fellow gummy gurus.


Scientists and researchers are also on it and are analyzing how our five senses affect each other. Our eyes see yellow so our tongue tastes lemon. But, one researcher told Ashlie Stevens of WFPL in Louisville, Kentucky that he gave students a row of clear beverages that had fruit flavoring in them and asked them to differentiate the flavors. No problem, they aced the test. But, when he added food coloring to those drinks that didn’t match the flavor, he found they said the orange drink tasted like orange even though the flavoring may have been grape. The color of their beverage totally impacted what flavor they thought they were drinking. So have gummy candy manufacturers been doing this all along?




Apparently Skittles has, as the little round candies have different fragrances and different colors, but they all taste the same. Skittles execs admit this though so they really aren’t hiding anything. On the other hand, Haribo gummy bears, the leader in the world of gummy bears, promise their product has five flavors: lemon, orange, pineapple, raspberry, and strawberry. And Haribo should know. The German company made the first gummy candy in 1922 and currently operates 15 factories that produce more than 100 million gummy bears every day. But, if you venture away from more “high-end” and name brand gummy candies, you’ll discover that you get what you pay for, as less different colored candies in less expensive versions often all taste the same, regardless of color.




Okay, but what about my beloved Swedish Fish? Say it ain’t so Malaco! Developed by the Swedish candy producer Malaco in the late 1950s for the U.S. market, Swedish Fish company execs swear the flavor of their fish-shaped gummies vary by color. I think they do, but if given a blindfolded test, I’m not sure I could tell the yellow from the green.


Funny you should ask because John and I did such a test in a lab known as my kitchen and my friends and I did one as we sat waiting for the play to start. Granted, neither of these consisted of professional hypothesis testing, but they were fun and a bit conclusive. John had me blindly taste Swedish Fish (twist my arm!), sometime different colors; sometimes the same color in a row. We concluded that the flavors of Swedish Fish vary by color but I couldn’t necessarily taste lemon with the yellow, lime with the green, etc. They all tasted different but how they tasted didn’t scream their corresponding color. So there’s that.




For the Haribo and Lifesavers blind taste test in another lab called a theatre, I closed my eyes and ate one gummy bear. Then another. Then another. The first two tasted similar but the third one was different. I did the same with the Lifesaver Gummies in the bag. We decided that the gummy Lifesavers definitely have different flavors although you can’t always pinpoint exactly what flavor it is but that the flavor variation of the gummy bears was much more subtle.


One candy whose flavor is often debated is the red Swedish Fish. Some say it’s cherry, others call out raspberry, and still many think it’s fruit punch or black currant. One popular theory is that they taste very similar to lingonberries, which are used in Nordic and Baltic cuisines. No one knows for sure and no one is telling.  We do know for sure  that the flavor of a red Swedish Fish, whatever it may be, is unique and specific only to it and that it’s texture is a bit different than the others. You might also be interested in learning that each Swedish Fish candy has “Swedish” on it and that they are vegan and 100 percent animal cruelty-free. I knew I loved them!


Jelly beans


So I leave you knowing a little bit about how our five senses intermix when it comes to taste and that Haribo, Swedish Fish, and Lifesaver Gummies all have different colors with different flavors. I can also personally attest that fruit slice candies and spice gum drops all have different flavors, as do Jelly Beans. None of it is scientific on my part, but it was sure fun conducting the tests. Just to be sure, you might want to test some yourself and while you do, have a gummy for me. Sweet!








I’ll Drink to That January 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:58 am



The toasts have been made and the cheers have been said. Champagne corks were popped on New Year’s and hot toddys were enjoyed over the holidays. Don’t’ get me wrong, I love a nice glass of wine or Bailey’s on the rocks, but a new year brings with it new goals so why not make one of them to drink up on beverages that are healthy, some in ways you never expected?



Yep, we all know drinking water all day every day has so many benefits but it can also be something we tend to forget about drinking. But don’t.


Chew on this: your brain is 90 percent water and your body is 70 percent. On top of that, most of your blood and cells are water-based. Drinking water increases energy, relieves fatigue, promotes weight loss, flushes out toxins, improves your complexion, helps with digestion, and boosts your immune system.


How do you know if you’re drinking enough water? One thing to consider is the color of your urine. If it’s mostly clear, you’re probably good to go…and go you will! Something else to consider is how many people worldwide don’t have regular, if any, access to good clean drinking water and consider it a luxury. How easy we have it to simply turn on the faucet or visit any retail outlet and, voila, water. Clear and clean water. If nothing else, drink it daily in honor of those who would love to. Just saying.


Most experts recommend drinking 64 ounces a day. If that sounds like a lot of water and possibly undoable for you, spice it up with berries, mint, lemons, or limes. Me? I honestly don’t keep a running tab on how much water I drink each day, but I always have a bottle of water with me wherever I go, I always keep a big glass of water in my kitchen, and I always take a bottle with me to bed. I love water!



Aloe Water

We all know that an aloe plant is the best way to relieve burn pain, but the juice made from the tropical plant goes way beyond topical. Aloe Vera juice or water are both great ways to hydrate and they have major anti-inflammatory properties that help relieve heartburn, digestion issues, constipation, and improve liver function. They’re also packed with nutrients like vitamins B, C, E, and folic acid.


The hydration qualities of aloe juice or water are also beneficial to the outside of your body, including your skin. A rich source of antioxidants, aloe can heal and cleanse the skin and may help reduce acne and other skin conditions like psoriasis and dermatitis.


I prefer aloe water but aloe juice also has a mild flavor. I especially like the pulp, but then again I’m an orange juice with pulp drinker. If you can’t stomach drinking it solo, consider adding it to smoothies and shakes. Just make sure to choose purified and decolorized versions of both.



Coconut Water

Another popular water choice today is coconut water. I haven’t jumped full-blown onto the coconut water train, but it has millions of devotees of its powerful nutritional punch of electrolytes, phosphorous, calcium, and loads of potassium. All of these make it a great post-workout beverage as it’s said to replenish and refuel aching bodies and muscles. Again, if you don’t like drinking it on its own, mix it with plain yogurt and some fruit for a nutritional and yummy smoothie.





Unfortunately I’m not talking the southern tradition of sweet tea, which I do love. I’m talking green tea and other healthy herbal teas.


Green tea is reportedly so good for you that some researchers says it’s the healthiest thing you can drink. It’s all about the catechins and polyphenols. Catechins are is antioxidants that fight and may even prevent cell damage. Polyphenols give tea its anti-inflammatory qualities and anti-carcinogenic effects. Green tea has also been shown to improve blood flow, help keep blood sugar levels stable in people with diabetes, lower cholesterol, and prevent some heart-related issues like high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.


Tea, especially green, may also help with weight loss. Yes, it has zero calories but its combination of caffeine and catechins speeds up your metabolism and increases the number of calories you burn from fat.


What’s good for the body is also good for the mind.


Green tea also contains I-thianine, an amino acid that may help increase the frequency of alpha waves in the brain. The result? Increased feelings of relaxation and a calmness of mind and spirit.


I love bottled green tea for on the go and for lunch, but the best and healthiest way to drink it is to opt for hot, caffeinated , and unsweetened versions. Here’s why: much of green tea’s heart healthy benefits get destroyed during the decaffeination process and a cup of hot tea is much more relaxing than a cool bottled version while you’re out and about.


If you’re an old-school “I love to brew my tea in a teapot” person, more power to you, as the longer tea steeps the more catechins you consume from it. But, there are so many quick and easy ways to make a hot cup of tea today there’s really no excuse not to. I also enjoy a hot cup of peppermint tea to cure what ails my belly and some chamomile to help me sleep better. Whatever method and whatever flavor you choose, enjoy!




My name is Carla and I’m a milk drinker. Pure, whole, regular ole milk. I drink it every night with dinner and I’m not ashamed to say it. My 87-year-old mom has drank it all her life (and is known to put half-and-half in her coffee!) and is healthier than most 30-year-olds, so I look to her for proof that milk is not a four letter word. Yes I’m aware of the hormone issue and the almond and soy revolution, but for now, I’m sticking with cow’s milk. Except…I did recently discover chocolate almond milk and I’m sold!


“Milk does a body good” says the ad campaign, but all milks are not created equal. There’s that little issue of hormones in cow’s milk, so many physicians and nutritionists recommend plant-based milks like soy milk instead. With so many people today having dairy allergies and being lactose-intolerant, it’s good there are multiple milk options. But, if you don’t opt for cow’s milk, keep in mind that you may need to supplement potassium, protein, and riboflavin in your diet.


In addition to its signature calcium, whole milk from a cow also contains vitamins B1, C,  and D; as well as niacin and folate. It also contains minerals that boost the body’s bone formation and enzyme functions. The Mayo Clinic says everyone needs calcium for bone health and to help your heart, muscles and nerves function optimally and milk is an excellent source of it. Kids who don’t get enough calcium may not reach their full adult height, and adults may have low bone mass, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis. In addition to possible harmful hormones, cow’s milk also contains saturated fat, so nutrition experts and The American Heart Association both recommend nonfat versions.


Soy milk provides an option for those who are allergic to dairy, are lactose intolerant, or just aren’t crazy about the taste of dairy milk. Soy is low in fat, rich in protein, and offers healthy B-complex vitamins. It’s also low in saturated fat but avoid the common added sugars and reach instead for unsweetened soy milk.


Almond milk is naturally sweet and silky and has a nutty taste of, well, almonds. But, it’s low in calories and chock full of minerals and vitamins like D, E and A, as well as calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, iron and phosphorous. Perhaps best of all is that the fat in almond milk is heart-healthy because it contains monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, which research suggests can protect against coronary heart disease. Like soy milk however, almond milk often contains added sugars so it’s best to get unsweetened or “light” varieties. Pretty sure my chocolate almond milk does not qualify for this.


When comparing cow’s, soy, and almond milk based on calories and saturated fat, they are all pretty even. An eight ounce serving of nonfat cow’s milk has 90 calories and 0 saturated fat, the same serving of soy milk boasts 110 calories a .5 saturated fat, and an equal serving of almond milk has 60 calories and 0 saturated fat.




It’s no secret that coffee is hot…as in in your cup and in society in general. Whether you prefer a plain black cup of java or a non-fat sugar free soy latte, you know just where to buy it and just how to make it. But, did you know that coffee has antioxidants that may help prevent cell damage caused by free radicals and that it’s the country’s number one source of antioxidants? The number one source. Who knew, right?


Research also suggests that a daily eight ounce cup or two of either caffeinated or decaf coffee protects against heart disease and stroke. By regularly drinking a cup of joe you may just reduce the risk of having calcium in your coronary arteries, which is a sign of vessels hardening and narrowing and can ultimately cause heart attacks. Coffee consumption is also linked with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s and a lower incidence of death in general. With coffee shops on every corner and coffee taking up entire grocery store aisles, it’s no wonder we drink coffee not only in the morning, but all day long. Maybe this is a good thing, as those who drink three to five cups a day get the biggest benefits. I’ll take one to go please…and make it grande!


So raise your glasses to water, milk, tea, and coffee and say “cheers” to a healthy and hydrated 2018!


Drink up!