Beyond Words

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

A Pink Red Carpet February 25, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:38 pm

I watched very little of last night’s Oscars telecast (I had to see Gaga and Bradley’s duet) but no one loves fashion more than me and if anything, the Academy Awards are also fashion awards in a sense. You could say the Red Carpet turned pink and playfully feminine this year, as pretty in pink and over-sized bows were the dominant trends.  Sooooo…after Googling and surfing, here are my pics for best and worst.



Helen Mirren in Schiaparelli Couture

I’ll start with my choice for “Best Dressed,” and it’s none other than the always classy and stunning Helen Mirren in this tiered tulle jewel. The color and cut of the dress were perfection and I really liked her hair, which is a style almost anyone can pull off.


After Dame Mirren and in no particular order are other looks I loved:



Allison Janey in Pamela Roland

Ms. Janey has become a reliable red carpet sensation, as look after look are tasteful and elegant.  I don’t know if this tuxedo-style dress was velvet, but I loved it. The satin lapels and cummerbund-style wrap around her waist were so chic yet traditional, and the necklace was perfect.



Angela Bassett is Reem Acra

Bassett is another one you can almost always count on on any red carpet and last night’s hot pink gown was no exception. I love the over-sized bow but was a bit disappointed in the very obvious “ride over” wrinkles.



Laura Marano in Celia Kritharioti

Another fabulous bow belonged to this singer-actress who made everyone take notice at her first ever Oscars. The canary yellow atop a muted pink made for a playful,  fresh, and fun choice. Not sure about that purse though. Still, I can’t wait to see what she does at her next red carpet!



Ashley Graham is Zac Posen

Damn girl, work those curves! I normally feel like Graham tries too hard, but this time she nailed it. Loved the pulled back hair and simple diamond choker.  I’ve never seen her look better.



Gemma Chan in Valentino Couture

Straight off the Spring 2019 runway, this amazing pink pleated…and is that smocking?!…epic dress is how you make an entrance and own the carpet. Best of all, the “Crazy Rich Asians” pulled it off oh-so elegantly, much like her movie character would have.



Kiki Layne in Atelier Versace

Ms. Layne stayed away from hot pink and instead chose this sleek bubblegum straight-line gem. Loved the cutout on top and the big ole’ bow in the back. Flawless perfection.



Olivia Coleman in Prada

Perhaps the biggest surprise winner last night, Coleman took home the “Best Actress” trophy in this fabulous forest green mock-neck dress with sheer sleeves and a fabulous wrap/train. She was truly a winner last night!




Melissa McCarthy in Brandon Maxwell

I actually think McCarthy’s pants pick was not only striking but flattering. I loved the black-and-white color scheme and that cape affect. Sometimes, as in this case, it’s worth taking a fashion risk. Well played Ms. McCarthy.



Tina Fey in Custom Vera Wang

Fey is rarely a show-stopper but the funny girl is no fashion laughing matter. She always brings sleek sophistication and style to the red carpet and her cobalt blue sleeveless sheath continued the trend.



Julia Roberts in Elie Saab

Although she didn’t walk the red carpet, the Oscar winner is sure to make many a “best dressed” list in this one-shoulder, appropriate amount of leg-baring hot pink gown. Roberts has killer legs but rather then wear a “slit up to there” dress, she kept it classy. Roberts always looks fabulous but also like she just threw something on. Her effortless style and decorum are qualities many a star should take note of.


Selma Blair in Ralph & Russo

Ms. Blair didn’t walk the Red Carpet either, but the fact that she walked with a cane and showed up at after parties in this bandage-top multi-striped dress with a sheer cape turned heads. The dress alone was breathtaking but the cane, necessary after her recent diagnosis with MS, was the night’s bravest and best accessory.



From there, my “oh so close” list includes:


Lady Gaga in Alexander McQueen

Although I did like her choice of dramatic black and the leather opera gloves, I just didn’t love it and I’m not sure why. But, can we talk about her necklace? The 128-carat Tiffany center diamond hadn’t been worn since Audrey Hepburn did so in photos for “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” It, along with the gloves, brought Old School Hollywood Glam to the carpet, and I do like that.



Kasey Musgraves in Giambattista Vali Couture

The singer rarely shows up in something expected or conventional, and I love that about her. Although her layered pink ball gown with accordion pleats and a tutu-style neck was a bit much, something about it I liked. It was whimsical and that sweet little bow belt made me smile.



Glenn Close in Carolina Herrera

I’ve always said if I could have any one designer create clothing for me, it would be Carolina Herrera, who designed Close’s 42-pound gold shimmery double-breasted dress with a dramatic train. I feel like I should love it because I love glitter, love Herrera, and normally love capes and trains but I can’t help but feel the whole look would have been so much more tasteful yet just as memorable without the cape and train.




As for couples, no one could compete with:


Irina Shayk and Bradley Cooper. He’s so adorable and talented; she’s stunning and has a great simple haircut. Together they are so dang cute.



Jordan Peele and Chelsea Peretti.  Not very familiar with either of them but I LOVED her dress and how happy does he look?



Kelly Rippa and Mark Consuelos. Find you someone who looks at you like Consuelos is looking at Ripa.



Dana Carey and Paula Zwagerman. Dana Carvey on a “best dressed” list? Now that’s funny. Not so much though and it’s amazing what a traditional tux can do to a man. As for Zwagerman, I love the maxi coat look…love, love, love…but can someone please do something about her hair?



Mike Myers and Kelly Tisdale. Another Wayne’s World funny man winner. Again, standard tux and how pretty did Tisdale look in that sheer-necked floral over-lay dress? Really, really pretty.



Jennifer Lopez and Alexander Rodriquez. More than anything, I put them on this list because they are hotness defined as a couple, because of ARod alone, and because she just seems to get prettier and prettier by the minute. That being said, I was not a fan of her dress. Yes she looks fab-u-lous, but haven’t we seen this look over and over again on her and so many others, including Molly Sims and Brie Larson just last night? And her hair; don’t even get me started.



Other then the truly outlandish (really Pharrell?), when it comes to “worst dressed,” here are three of mine:.


Charlize Theron in Dior

Please don’t hate me because she’s beautiful. And, she normally sets the bar on most carpets. But, she’s on this list because I was a bit disappointed in the Wedgewood blue high neck dress and I’m not a fan of her brunette bob. Yes, the back was dramatic and the jewels were stunning, but it just all left me kinda meh.



Sarah Paulson in Brandon Maxwell

Many are putting her on their “best dressed” lists today, but I can’t. I just can’t.  I liked the pockets but otherwise found this puffy hot pink cut-out dress…or mess…just too much and can we say something about her hair? You make millions of dollars a year, had an entire glam team get you ready all day, and you come to the red carpet with bad hair and bad roots? No, just no.



Maya Rudolph

I tried ad naseum until I got nauseous trying to find the designer of this caped disaster but to no avail. Maybe no one wants to claim it. Maya: my grandma called and wants her wallpaper back.



And that’s a wrap. Is there anyone I missed or anything you disagree with?











Getting Real February 24, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:57 am

We are mere days away from the month of March, which means we are probably light years away from all those New Year’s Resolutions set back in January. But don’t worry, it’s not too late to begin or even begin again.


I read an article recently titled “Get Real Resolutions” that caught my eye and made me think. The piece in Family Circle magazine spoke about not the usual “lose weight,” “stop smoking,” or “eat healthy” vows but instead unexpected goals that might just change your life. I liked many of those listed, researched the subject, put my brain and heart to work, and have created some “get real” resolutions. See what you think!




Embrace a mantra each morning. I like this one as I love words and I love inspiration. A mantra is simply a repeated word or phrase to set the tone for the day. You set an intention, such as “be a warrior not a worrier,” (I need that one for sure!) and move on. My mantra right now is “Keep moving the chains.”


Stretch for five minutes every morning. Yay! I actually do this! I love my yoga class so each morning I do a few stretches and poses…nothing too intense but rather just enough to take away stiffness and get me on my way.


Say no once a day. This is sometimes hard to do, but think about it. How many times do you say “yes” to something and then either regret it or dread it. Remind yourself that just because people you like enjoy doing something, it doesn’t mean you have to. Pick and choose and choose wisely. Which brings us to…



Set personal boundaries. “Boundaries” are common in therapy and codependency, but everyone should set boundaries.  Author Courtney Carver (her book “Soulful Simplicity is one of my faves, as is her bemorewithless blog.) reminds us that businesses often have policies to let employees know what is expected of them, and when it comes to ourselves, those “policies” can be the boundaries we set up so others know what to expect from us and sometimes and more importantly, what not to expect. Without boundaries we fall into that trap of saying “yes” when we really want to say “no” and we stay quiet when we want to participate or disagree. When setting boundaries, just remember one thing: there is only one person who can honor your boundaries 24-7: you!


Don’t schedule your free time. A study by professors from Ohio State and Rutgers Universities came to the conclusion that in order to be happier, stop scheduling your free time. When a leisure activity is planned, they told the Washington Post, we enjoy it less as it just becomes another item on our “to-do” list right up there with a dentist appointment and taking our car in for service. This may all come down to the fact that society is so obsessed with being busy. Personally, I think busyness is overrated and how I spend my time and days is really none of anyone’s business. Making our leisure activities part of our productivity goals will not only make them feel forced, they won’t fee fun.



Find a hobby. Multiple studies show that doing things you are passionate about improves your mood, relieves stress, and creates joy in your life, so it’s time to leave your to-do list behind and find your athletic, intellectual, or creative side. A dear friend of mine in Pennsylvania recently revisited painting and she is in heaven with her classes and results, which are beautiful! My annual New Year’s Resolution has forever been “Learn something new,” and finding a hobby runs right along these lines. Although taking Italian and ice skating lessons didn’t turn into hobbies for me, yoga and cross-stitching did. This blog started out as a way for me to do what I love, write, but morphed into not only a hobby but much more. My 2019 resolution has been to learn about podcasts and find some I love. I already have and have found a small handful of them that inspire and motivate me.


Read something spiritual or inspirational before checking your phone each morning. This was actually suggested on one of those podcasts I’ve recently discovered and I vowed to do it. Some mornings I do, some mornings I don’t. Sadly phones have their own lights so you can easily check them in the dark without having to turn on a light. But, if I do the phone first, I check my emails and read at least one of four daily inspirational emails I get.


Ask for help once a day. Do what? Are you kidding me? I’m so strong and self-sufficient I don’t need any help. Sound familiar? If so, it’s time to start asking for help. Those who admire and love you should be more than happy to lend a hand or give advice and will very likely be honored you asked. This positive cycle of giving and getting is a win-win for all.


Plan a staycation. Yes, we all love those vacations to places on our Bucket Lists we hope to one day visit, but traveling is expensive and stressful travel, especially if it involved air travel. Instead, plan a night in a local glamorous or funky local hotel, eat somewhere you never have, and take part in some entertainment or activity you might not normally do. You will feel invigorated and stimulated.


Get a daily dose of nature. To be in nature is to be nurtured. A good friend of mine is currently hiking and backpacking through Patagonia and commented that she forgot how important nature is to her attitude and sense of happiness. I’m not quite there with her as binging on Netflix or reading a good book are as liked by me as taking a walk.  Sadly, I often say I want to walk more but end up doing it sporadically. It doesn’t help that the weather has been anything but stable lately and it will be in the 100s before I know it so I do make sure I always have the next best thing in my house: fresh flowers and real plants. They are proven to make you happy and remove toxins. So, if you can’t go outside, bring eh outside inside.


Don’t rush. This one’s easy for me as I love being in my home, am never bored in my home, and can be a bit of a homebody at times. For me, this one not only means “slow down people,” but also “don’t rush to do something.” An example of this happened just this morning, long before I started writing this blog. I woke up early (rare for me if I don’t have to) and immediately started thinking of all the things I needed or wanted to get done today. But for some reason, instead of crossing things off my list, I hopped back in bed and watched an episode of HBO’s brilliant “My Brilliant Sister.” (My brilliant friend in Florida recommended it, and if you haven’t seen it, check it out.) But even though I could have easily selected the “next episode starts in 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 seconds” option, I didn’t. I simply closed my eyes for just a bit and sat in silence. I then got up so refreshed and inspired.


Clean out your social media accounts. Not only are Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the likes massive time-wasters, they can also be demoralizing and depressing. They are also highly addictive. I know. I can tend to scroll post after post and then do it all again. But all those photos of fabulous vacations and fabulous friends are echo chambers of negativity for many and are now true addictions as well. In fact, tech obsession now has 12 step programs that deal with everything from social media to video games. For these people, technology has officially gotten in the way of daily functions and is negatively affecting their jobs, families, and even self-care. Okay I’m not that bad, but I vow to unplug more often as I know full well that the world doesn’t stop spinning if I’m not on my smart phone and the same holds true for you.



Make an inventory of people you listen to. I don’t mean on TV or in music, I mean really listen to, as in friends, spiritual leaders, family members near and far, talk radio, and maybe even motivational podcasts. Then, consider if the lives they are living are worth emulating and if they are people you truly admire and respect. Start listening to these people more and find ways to eliminate listening to those who bring you down, who you don’t respect, or who are just toxic.  Next…


Ask yourself “who do I envy?” The answer will say a lot about you. It might be highly personal and eye-opening, but once you list those you are jealous of you will see your priorities right in front of your face and hopefully be motivated to change them accordingly. For example, if you envy your neighbors with the big houses, maybe you need to be less materialistic. But, on the other hand, if you’re jealous of someone who is in good shape, use that envy productively by taking on a healthier and more active lifestyle. From there…


Ask yourself what you lie about. Again, doing so will not only raise your own awareness and reveal weaknesses you have, it will hopefully encourage you to eliminate what you do lie about and embrace a life that better reflects your true values. Asking yourself why you lie about certain things is also helpful.


Forgive every first of the month. Holding on to grudges or waiting on hoped for apologies does nothing but make us angry, anxious, or even antisocial. Instead, every first of the month think about anyone who annoyed you, hurt you, lied to you, or did anything that was unpleasant or mean and internally forgive them. You have to move on after doing so though. At the same time, remember to forgive yourself for things.


Change your phone’s wallpaper weekly. I love this idea but I don’t know if I’ll do it. My goal is to maybe change it monthly for starters and see how I like it. The problem is, I always have a favorite photo as my lock screen and I might miss it when it’s gone. But, the suggestion of not only using photos but also inspirational quotes, gratitude boosters, or other uplifting messages as wallpaper is intriguing to me. I’ll keep you posted!


Get rid of five things every month. This may sound like getting rid of all your belongings by a certain time, but think about how many things you buy each month. Getting rid of five things won’t result in a blank slate or state of minimalism, but instead a more tranquil and less cluttered one. Do you really need every wooden spoon in the kitchen or 50 pairs of socks?




As a friend once posted, “The grand essentials to happiness in this life are something to do, something to love, and something to hope for.” I hope these set you on that path of happiness and would love to hear if you have any to add.


Time For A Little Group Hygge December 27, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:58 pm

Today I attended a workshop where the leader asked us to think about and share special things from the holidays. One woman raised her hand and said “Singing in three separate candlelight ceremonies.” Another mentioned spending time with family and yet another was grateful for being invited to dinner at her neighbor’s, whose home and table setting were “straight out of Southern Living magazine.” Me? I shared that what made this past Christmas so special and memorable was that it was simple and simply quiet, real and really relaxing. All was calm and all was bright. Just the three of us chilling, eating what we don’t normally eat, and binge watching “The Crown.” After the discussion, the leader brilliantly pointed out that not one of us mentioned any gifts we got. Not one. What does this tell us? A whole lot.



It all related beautifully to her word of the workshop: hygge. This Danish concept is all about slowing down and savoring the moments while making the ordinary extraordinary and the normal special. Pronounced “hoo-gah,” it’s a word and philosophy we could all use in our lives and it should come as no surprise that we can thank the Danes for it.


Year after year Denmark ranks as the “happiest country in the world” and according to this year’s World Happiness Report, it is still among the top three although Finland and Norway are now 1 and 2. Still, Danes have held the distinction for seven straight years so these Lego loving Scandinavians must know something about how to be happy, and can’t be all hype or hygge.


But first, how do all those happy experts come up with their happiest results? By measuring objective data on things like crime, income, civic engagement, education, and health as well as subjective indicators like how often someone experiences positive or negative emotions, their sense of freedom, and even levels of generosity. This year’s top five countries are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, and Switzerland. The U.S. ranked 18th.



Denmark consistently boasts a stable government, low levels of public corruption, high-quality health care and education opportunities, and generous unemployment and child care benefits. But, it also has some of the highest taxes in the world (nearly half of every Dane’s income goes to the government), one of the world’s highest rates for electricity, extremely expensive gasoline, and up to 180 percent of the value of an automobile goes towards a registration tax. Maybe that’s why they ride bikes everywhere!


But, as Meik Wiking of Denmark’s Happiness Research Institute says, “We are not paying taxes. We are investing in our society and we are purchasing quality of life.” Again, great for a country of less than 6 million people but try selling those tax, electric, and gas rates to 325 million Americans; especially considering the lack of trust we have in those who would be handling any socialized programs.




In researching this topic, what struck me as most impressive about the Danes is that they trust each other. They really trust each other. In fact, nearly 80 percent of Danes say they trust most people and most don’t ever lock doors. This fact was discovered by Helen Russell who wrote a book I’m dying to dive into entitled “The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country.” Russell writes that yes, the country’s small population and cultural homogeneity have lots to do with this trust, but so does the fact that the trait is taught in schools and then learned and realized through everyday interactions with trustworthy people and institutions.


Unfortunately in America this is not the case. It’s no secret our overall levels of trust are dramatically declining – whether it be with our neighbors, coworkers, media, or government – Americans for the most part are today living in a fairly distrustful state. We don’t know our neighbors, we don’t trust the media, and as for the government? Yeah, not happening.


But how can this be, aren’t we the richest country in the world? So shouldn’t we be the happiest? Apparently not. In the U.S. we generally align happiness with income but the Danes have learned that having someone you can rely on and trust is way more valuable than more money and more things. Genius, right?



This explains something else I found intriguing about the Danes: they don’t brag or boast. Ask my daughter what her mom cannot stand and she’ll say “someone who is sneaky, phony, or braggy.” Maybe I should move to Denmark, as they live by an unwritten law called “Janteloven” based on a 1930 novel that instills a spirit of “don’t act like you’re better, smarter, or richer than anyone else.” Can I get an Amen?! Don’t be taking your mega-mansions, expensive cars, or Birkins to Denmark as you won’t see them living in them or driving them and Danes in general dress very informal. Now granted, some of this has dwindled in and around Copenhagen, but to the average Dane, your hygge is way more impressive than your Hermes.


Which takes us back to hygge, a word even the Oxford Dictionary added last year and says can be used as a noun, adjective, or verb. Often described as “cozy,” a more accurate translation would be “high-quality social interactions and intentional intimacy.” In Denmark, hygge is fully integrated into all areas and levels of Dutch society and culture and is considered paramount to happiness and an overall sense of well-being. It also counteracts stress, often resulting in a “glass half full” and “can do” attitude.  And, the concept is catching on globally.


Although we in America don’t have a linguistic equivalent of hygge, many other countries do and most of them rank high on happiness lists. No surprise there, right? The word and philosophy are also trending on Instagram and Google, and visit any online or retail bookstore and you’ll find hundreds of book titles dealing with it.



At its core, hygge is about building closeness and trust and based upon the idea that if you’re happy you make better choices and vice versa. You could say hygge is a little like a hug and when all is said and done, is basically a “feel good” mood. So when you think about what made your holidays special, what comes to mind? My hope is a whole lot of hygge.






Growing Christmas, One Plant at a Time December 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:44 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 named 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. Keep in mind that in Central America, a poinsettia shrub can grow up to 12 feet tall! 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!


Other ideas for poinsettias include buying several smaller ones to group in your home rather than one big one, 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 greatly 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 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 rainforests 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.



The photo above is of my dear friend’s stunning Christmas cactus that shows the fruits of proper care. Amazing and beautiful, right?


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. Overwatering, 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!






Simple Rules of Etiquette for the Holidays and Every Day December 21, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:54 pm

A friend of mine recently shared a post from titled “Little Social Etiquette Rules Everyone Should Follow” and I loved it. The holidays are when we are out in public quite a bit, when we are guests or host them, and when we’re sharing several meals with others. Hence, they are the perfect time to reflect on these simple gestures that everyone, regardless of age or income bracket, should follow and respect.



Say “please” and “thank you.”

It’s really so simple and should be taught at even the youngest of ages. They are truly still the magic words.


Hand write thank you notes.

If a male college graduate who we just celebrated with a mere week ago can manage to write a nice note of appreciation and pop it in the mail, so can you mom-to-be, bride and groom, new mom, hostess with the mostest, or anyone else. NO EXCUSES!  Repeated no “thank you” notes from you? No demonstrated gratefulness? No future gifts from me.


Be on time.

We are all busy, especially this time of year, but your busyness does not justify making people wait for you. What’s most annoying are individuals who are always late. Really people, figure it out. It’s a flaw that needs addressing and it’s just downright rude.


Hold the door for the person behind you.

This doesn’t only pertain to men and it’s not about opening a door for someone. It’s making sure the person behind you doesn’t get the door slammed in their face as you get on with your plan. And let’s not forget to always say “thank you” when someone either opens or holds the door for you. Again, magic words people.


Always RSVP.

Tis the season for many an invite and tis the right thing to RSVP to every single one. Even a “maybe” is better than no reply at all and reply ASAP. Don’t keep the host guessing and put yourself in their shoes. Wouldn’t you want to know if five or 50 people were attending your event? Again, no excuses and with so many invitations today coming by way of Evite, it’s as simple as a click to reply. Just do it.


Ask before bringing a guest.

If the invitation reads “Bob and Mary Jones,” Mr. and Mrs. Jones should never assume it includes their five kids, no matter how well you know the hosts. Proper etiquette says the names of anyone invited will be on the invitation but when in doubt, ask.


Dress for the occasion.

There’s a fashion saying in Texas that “you’re never overdressed in Dallas and never underdressed in Austin.” Pretty accurate I will say.  I love to be casual but also enjoy an occasional black tie event and I tend to lean more toward thinking it’s better to be overdressed then underdressed. But proper attire is quickly going by the wayside, which is a problem we recently faced at work. We wanted to encourage parents to dress their kids in what we called “Sunday best,” but quickly realized many no longer bring out their best on Sundays. In a world where athleisure and jeans are the way to go, asking someone to dress up may be met with distaste or tasteless outfits.


I’ll also never forget the time when my daughter was volunteering as a teen Hospitality Minister years ago but was asked to not participate one Sunday because her attire was not approved. She was livid and I couldn’t help but agree with her that yes, they should be glad a teen wants to volunteer in church and that Jesus would not care what she was wearing but only that she was there. At the same time, I reminded her that Jesus knows she had better options at home to choose from!


So please, dress appropriately for the occasion and if you’re not sure what the dress code is, ask. Keep things on the conservative and modest side for funerals and family events and save the leather and lace for the club and New Year’s Eve. And dress age appropriately. Nothing says “tacky” like a grown woman dressing too young. As they say, if you wore it the first time it was in style, when it comes back around, you’re too old to wear it.



Watch your mouth.

There are too many words in the English language to have to resort to those that are offensive, juvenile, or both. So you like to drop the F bomb do you? Great, do it in the privacy of your own home and learn more respectful and intelligent language when in public and in mixed company…especially groups that include kids and elderly. Trust me, no one is impressed by your potty mouth. They’re called “bad” words for a reason. They’re bad English and they’re bad manners. Don’t like this rule? Wise the F up.


Take food and reach out.

This pertains to not only potlucks of course, but to a new neighbor, someone who just suffered a death in the family, or someone who’s been sick or had surgery. Don’t ever pretend you don’t know someone is grieving. In today’s social media world, that is nearly impossible so if you don’t know what to say or do, just say you’re sorry. And remember that if you’re on the receiving end of this gesture, be sure to return any non-disposable containers to their owners and it’s always a thoughtful gesture to return them with something inside…be it brownies or bath bubbles. And at the risk of sounding redundant, send a thank you note when you receive something.


Stay home when you’re sick.

Sharing germs does not qualify as social etiquette and I don’t care how important you think you are, no one is important enough to infect the office, party, or classroom.  Which brings us to…


Catch your sneezes and coughs in your elbow.

Yep, your inner elbow…not your hand or fist. Think about it, when you sneeze into your hand and then touch things, all those germs are now spread onto anything you touch. But, what can you touch with your inner elbow? Nothing, and that’s the point. Just cover your mouth when you sneeze or cough. If you must, think about your inner super hero and grab that cape as you sneeze and cough into your elbow.  Shazaam!


Step outside to take a call.

I rarely answer my phone when I’m anywhere public and if I do, I make it quick and quiet. Take note people, no one wants to hear your conversation and from what I’ve heard in some of them, you shouldn’t want them to either! Yes, I understand you sometimes have to take a call, so when you do, step outside or aside.


Keep the noise down.

Have to take that call? Then please do so quietly. Better yet, excuse yourself and take it privately. Nothing annoys me more than someone yacking away as I’m trying to relax during a mani-pedi appointment. And along these lines, turn your ringer down and silence your text beeps. We know you’re oh-so-important, but no one wants to hear the constant pings as they sit in the cubicle next to you.


Be a lovable house guest.

Your hope is probably to be invited back to wherever you’re staying, so your goal should be to be a good guest. This means making your bed every day, removing bathroom items when not using them, taking your host to dinner, and bringing a “thank you” gift with you upon arrival. The day you leave, remove the sheets on your bed, place the comforter over the mattress, and make a neat pile of the sheets and any towels you used. Better yet, take them to the laundry room if possible. And of course when you return home, mail a thank you card to your host.


Clean up after yourself.

Housekeeping only comes in hotels so unless you’re in one, it’s your responsibility to clean up your messes and put away your things. This is especially true when you’re a guest in someone’s home but it also pertains to your own home . What about at work? You, it’s all on you. Throw those wrappers away, put those office supplies back where you got them, and wipe down what you dirty.


Never show up empty handed.

What you take doesn’t need to be fabulous or personal, it just needs to be. Anytime you attend something in someone’s home, a hostess or housewarming gift is appropriate and appreciated. And guess what, if you receive them what do you need to do? Mail thank you notes!


Let someone go in front of you in line.

If you have a basket full of items and the person behind you only has a few, let them go first. If you’re mailing a truckload of packages and someone is merely dropping off a postage-paid item, step back and let them go ahead of you. Trust me; they will remember your kindness and hopefully pay it forward.



Wait for everyone to be served before eating.

Not one bite people; not one nibble. I have heard a rule that if the party is six or more, those who get their meals first can start while the food is hot, but I’d play this one by ear.


Be a polite dinner guest.

We get it, you’re living a gluten-free vegan life, but unless you have true allergies, we really don’t care and don’t care to hear about how unhealthy the rest of us are. That being said, if you are allergic to a food being served, simply and politely say so but if you just don’t care for an item, be polite and quietly move it around your plate. Whatever the case, never ever expect the host to prepare a special meal for you.


Remember your table manners.

This includes being polite about what’s being served, but it’s also about not talking with food in your mouth, chewing quietly, using your napkin that stays on your lap and is folded nicely when you leave, and sit up straight.


Push your chair in when you leave a table.

Simple, right? But I challenge you to pay attention here on out and notice how many people don’t do so…whether it’s in a five star restaurant or a dive bar.


Learn people’s names.

Hand up here, as this is truly one of my weaknesses. Try as I may, and I’ve tried every so-called no-fail trick in the book, and I am still horrible with names.  It’s gotten to the point that when I meet someone new, or someone again for the second or 200th time, I jokingly admit that I’m bad with names, almost apologizing before I call Wendy “Megan” the next time I see her.


Look people in the eyes.

Who doesn’t love this, right? Look up from your smart phone, listen to what someone is saying, and even look them in the eye when toasting.


Shake hands firmly.

Have you ever shaken hands with someone and it was that awkward “bent hand half shake?” Ick, right? Man up everyone and shake firmly.


Take your shopping cart to the corral.

No my friends, rain or shine snow or sleet, the front or side of a parking space is not the proper place to leave your cart. There’s really no excuse for doing so, as parking lots today generally have “cart corrals” up and down every aisle. Get your steps in and do the right thing…and push your cart to the end.


Give people a pass.

You really don’t know why the waitress was rude or why a driver cut you off so give them a pass. Maybe they just learned a loved one died. Maybe they were late to a meeting that would determine getting a much-needed job offer. Be nice and be forgiving.


Ask before posting.

How many times have you seen a posted photo of someone who looks great in the shot but everyone else looks not so good? Even if the whole group does look presentable, always ask all of them if it’s okay to post the pic…unless you’re under the age of 30 because everyone in that age group posts everything and anything. Also, don’t over-tag people. I rarely tag anyone because I figure if they want the pic or post, they can simply save it or screenshot it.


Don’t reply right away to an unkind message.

I know, it’s hard. Someone emails or texts you something insulting, rude, or just mean and what do you want to do? Go right back at them. But don’t. Breathe a little and wait a day before responding. You will thank your cool head in being the bigger person and they might even apologize during those 24 hours of silent ghosting.


Clean up after your pet.

Here’s how it works pet owners: your dog poops anywhere that’s not your property and you scoop it using a plastic bag that you wrap around your hand, scoop the poop, pull the bag down over your hand and said poop, and tie a knot in it. Then, proceed to toss the bag in an appropriate receptacle. I love dogs, but I hate when I see random poop somewhere that a dog owner didn’t pick up. It’s not okay.


Use turn signals.

Lots of cars out there this time of year, and who doesn’t know this????? Are you going to turn? Then use your turn signal! Easy-peasy please!


Wash your hands.

Remember the Seinfeld episode where  Poppie didn’t wash his hands before making Jerry’s pizza dough? Well, that’s how most people feel if you don’t wash your hands after using the restroom. I don’t care if you touched very little, you touch enough and need to wash your hands. And wash them before eating and after blowing your nose for that matter.


Let people off first.

Getting on an elevator or train? Let those coming off of either exit before you enter.


Don’t groom in public.

Please don’t brush your hair, floss your teeth, or put on make-up in public, especially at a table. Reapplying a quick swath of lipstick maybe, but pulling out a compact and mirror? No, just no.


Return and reply.

This applies to texts, phone calls, and emails. If someone takes the time to message you, call you, or leave you a voicemail, you need to make the time to reply and reply promptly.


Say I’m sorry.

Learning to say you’re sorry is one of the hardest things to do for some and one of the earliest lessons little ones should be taught.


Teach your kids good manners.

I love that my school offers an afterschool manners class as it’s never too early to teach good manners. Teaching is all well and good, but so are good role models. Parents and teachers: lead by example. At all times.


So there you have it; the dos and don’ts of social etiquette. Do you have any to add? Please share!










Gifts That Give Back December 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:20 am

Christmas is now mere days away, but time is nothing in today’s world of prime and express shipping. And of course there’s always brick and mortar stores. Are you still looking for a gift for that person who has everything or that family member who is hard to buy for? Well maybe you should consider doing business with any number of “one for one” companies.


Say what?


In a word: TOMS. You know those comfy, casual, and a tad crunchy for some slip on shoes? I love them and have many pair. I also love that every time I buy a pair, someone somewhere gets a pair for free. That’s the “One for One” business model and it was basically invented by TOMS Founder Blake Mycoskie.  His simple idea has grown into a global movement of helping a person in need with every product purchased and what better way to spread the holiday spirit than by giving…and giving twice?


These for-profit businesses are also charitable without asking for donations. It’s all revolutionary and highly successful, with TOMS shoes alone providing more than 86 million pairs to children worldwide. On top of that, TOMS Eyewear has restored sight to more than 600,000 people and TOMS Roasting Company has helped provide more than 600,000 weeks of safe water just in the last four years.


So what can you do? You can shop TOMS or any number of companies who give back when you give. Here are just a few examples:



This Dallas-based nonprofit’s mission is “Give Poverty the Boot,” and they back it up quite literally by donating a brand new pair of rain boots to those in need every time you purchase a pair of their rain boots. So why rain boots you ask?


Roma Boots believes that if your basic needs aren’t met, then your higher needs can’t be met and shoes are important tools to fulfilling many a basic need. Children in need often lack proper footwear, leaving their feet exposed to harsh weather as well as cuts, bites, infections, and parasites. Roma Boots chose rain boots because they provide protection from all of that and because they are a necessity in cold and wet climates but can also be worn in dry and arid climates.


You really can’t go a day without seeing someone in a stylish pair of rain boots so why not take the right step and make your next purchase a pair of Roma Boots?



Many medical professionals in resource-poor areas don’t have access to basic medical supplies, including sanitary clothing. In fact, many perform life-saving procedures in jeans and t-shirts. Enter Figs Scrubs’ “Thread for Thread” initiative.


For every pair of scrubs bought through the program, Figs will provide antimicrobial scrubs to health care providers worldwide. So far, the company has donated thousands of scrubs in more than 35 countries and looks to continue doing so through generous customers’ buying habits.


Yes, I know scrubs aren’t the most sought after or longed for Christmas gift, but maybe you can make them special by ordering a themed pair for that nurse or doctor in your life. Or how about buying a bundle of them for that new med school graduate in the family? Think of the lives you might save!



This one is an idea right after my own “loves real books” heart and it’s simple: every time you purchase a book on, they donate a book to someone in need. Leave it to two Notre Dame grads to come up with this brilliant idea.


Christopher “Kreece” Fuchs and Xavier Helgesen were sitting around after graduating from Notre Dame wondering what they were going to do with their newly minted degrees that held little promise in a falling economy. They ended up getting jobs tutoring the Fighting Irish football team and ran with an idea they put together after seeing so many textbooks going unused or being discarded.


Fast forward a few years and you’ll find them behind a business model that made “cents” and was environmentally friendly: keep books out of landfills, sell some, and donate others. They partnered with libraries, held book drives, and even won a business plan competition at their alma mater.


To date, Better World Books has raised millions of dollars for literacy, saved millions of books from landfills, created jobs for hundreds of people, and has provided books to millions who might otherwise not have them to read. The hope is to continue saving literacy and the planet and the company is happy to note the rest of their story is still being written.



The Twice As Warm Project has one simple goal: provide new winter clothing items to people in need. Specializing in gloves, hats, scarves, and tops, TAW creates high-quality, made in the USA products that keep you warm and spread warmth to others. Each purchase you make provides a new clothing item to someone through the “Wear One, Give One” option. In addition, the same items are given to local shelters and organizations in need of warm winter clothing for their clients.



So you’ve probably heard or seen the ads for these socks, billed as the best socks ever. They might very well be fabulous to wear, but what’s also fabulous is that for every pair you purchase, Bombas donates a pair to someone in need. So far, the company has donated nearly 13 million pairs of socks.


It all started when founders heard that socks are the number one most requested clothing item at homeless shelters and knew they had to do something. They got cracking on creative marketing campaigns knowing full well that the more socks they sell, the more they can donate.  Social media and advertising were buzzing with a new word: bombas. And rightly so.


Derived from the Latin word for bumblebee, Bombas is not only the company’s name but its inspiration. You see, bees live in a hive and work together to make their world a better place. They’re small but their combined actions have a big impact on the world. That’s why the company is named what it is and why its mantra is “Bee Better.”


The sock company has taken things a step further so to speak, in that they don’t donate the same socks you and I might buy, but ones specially designed for homeless shelters and the homeless population. Specially engineered scokcs were created to specifically meet the needs of people who don’t have the luxury of putting on a clean pair of socks every day. An anti-microbial treatment ensures they don’t need to be washed as often and reinforced seams and darker colors give them greater durability with less visible wear. I’d say this alone qualifies as being better.



Water, water everywhere. At least that’s what it seems like on a daily basis as water bottles are everywhere you turn. I carry one with me almost at all times and it’s not uncommon to see others doing the same. So, rather than buying a reusable bottle from just any place, why not do so at


For every product you purchase, whether it is a reusable water bottle or a water filter, a school child somewhere receives safe water for an entire year. In fact, the LifeStraw team is committed to redefining the safe drinking water space through technology, innovation, and product quality and design. Drink up, but do so in a way that helps others.



I recently discovered this company by accident when I bought a couple of Christmas presents that benefitted The Animal Rescue Site. Come to find out the site is part of Greater Good, which provides easy online ways to help people, pets, and the planet.


Since its launch, Greater Good has contributed more than $50 million to charities worldwide in addition to more than $175 million in cash and in-kind grants to partners across the globe. The group believes in paying a fair market wage and gives preference to products made in a sustainable fashion or by fair-trade collectives. They will not do business with those who engage in child labor, coercive manufacturing environments, or treat animals inhumanely.


Their partners include:


Some donate a percentage of purchases and some participate further through “one for one” programs. Past projects have addressed a wide range of vital needs including disaster relief; food and care for people and animals; providing mammograms and related support to women; funding research in the areas of autism, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and breast cancer; preserving and reforesting threatened habitats; and providing scholarships and new books to children.



Here’s one that’s near and dear to my heart. It’s not a company that gives the “one for one” option, but it gives. And gives big.


Anyone who knows me knows my husband and I love Costa Rica. We go there every year and come home each time more and more in love with the country and the people who live by the slogan “Pura Vida,” pure life. It’s a philosophy of living life to the fullest and treasuring life’s simple pleasures that permeates the small Central American country that has no military. It’s the Switzerland of Central America and its celebration of life was not lost on two Southern Californians who saw it, felt it, and started a company that embodies it.


Griffin Thall and Paul Goodman visited Costa Rica as a graduation gift in 2010 and crossed paths with two bracelet makers who created beautiful artistry yet lived in poverty. Griffin and Paul asked them to make 400 bracelets to take back with them to California, which they sold in a small, local boutique. The bracelets immediately sold out and the two knew they were onto something bigger and greater.


Today the bracelets are worn by millions around the world and artisans now span the likes of Costa Rica, El Salvador, India, and places in between. Every Pura Vida bracelet is handmade with quality and care and the artists making them can now depend on a steady income and positive working environments.


The company partners with nearly 175 charities around the world and has donated more than $1.5 million to causes and charities. There are specific bracelets for a host of causes ranging from hurricane relief to baby loss to suicide prevention. The bracelets serve as a reminder that good can come in the simplest form and to slow down and live in life’s littlest moments. I’m a proud supporter of Pura Vida Bracelets.


So there you have it, just a few companies that have made it big but give back in a big way. I know there are many others like them that I’ve left out, so if you know of any, please let me and my readers know. There are never too many opportunities to help those in need and to spread the Christmas spirit every day and every month of the year.


Happy shopping and Happy Holidays to all!





Pie In The Sky November 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:00 pm


It’s the Monday before Thanksgiving, which means your turkey should be thawing and your pies should be baking. Both turkey and pie, particularly pumpkin, are Thanksgiving traditions and I love them both. But did you know that pie at Thanksgiving really has nothing to do with pilgrims or Native Americans? In fact, common belief has it that the tradition was probably started by a magazine sometime in the mid-nineteenth century. Who knew?!


What we do know is that we all have a pie preference. Me? I’m a pumpkin pie girl through and through. Maybe you prefer pecan or apple pie after your turkey, or a host of other pies. And, just like pies, which come in all flavors and styles, the one you like the best says something about your unique traits and styles. Just what do your pie choices say about you? According to the American Pie Council, Hellow Giggles, and Little Things, everything!


Pumpkin Pie

A Thanksgiving tradition and my absolute favorite, pumpkin pie is considered America’s second favorite after apple. Made of one of the earliest import foods that Europeans introduced the New World to, the orange squash quickly became beloved by colonitsts and remains so today.


The pie is a fall tradition too so those who like it best often consider fall their favorite season. Raising my hand there! Those who love pumpkin pie also love sitting at home cuddled up with a cozy blanket, a fire, and maybe a good book or good friends. Pumpkin pie is considered simple and a classic, and so are pumpkin pie lovers. They like to keep things chic but not fussy; are effortlessly elegant; and are most likely emotionally stable, consistent, and reliable. Simple also means you can’t stand drama or chaos and having a calm environment is very important.


Apple Pie

According to the American Pie Council, this my friends is America’s favorite pie.  If it’s your favorite, you’re probably “As American as Apple Pie” and love tradition and security. You tend to lean on the same products in your life again and again, whether it is your dish soap or your favorite jeans, and you are a grounded, realistic person and friend. You are also compassionate, love the outdoors, and enjoy being active.


Pecan Pie

America’s third favorite favorite, pecan pie is very sweet and so are you! Especially popular in the south, there are many versions of pecan pie, but all are sweet and all are beloved. If it’s your favorite pie, you’re likely thoughtful and analytical and have tons of friends. Those friends love your rationality and loyalty and often come to you for advice. Sounds like you are just like pecan pie itself: infectious!




You could call those the “Big 3 of Thanksgiving,” but there are other pies others prefer. Including:


Peach Pie

Probably my second favorite pie, peach pie has been around forever and is so versatile. You can serve hot or cold and make it with fresh, frozen, or canned peaches. If you love peach pie, you probably also love a challenge and love for your mind to be stimulated.  You are definitely a thinker but sometimes over analyzes thing and is someone who learns from mistakes and trials. You also hate to fail. Oh boy, raising my hand on all of these too!




Blueberry Pie

Blueberries can stain a table cloth or shirt like nobody’s business but guess what; if this is your favorite pie you couldn’t care less! A blueberry pie lover is that fun-loving, laid back, life of the party person. In fact, you’re kinda like the pie itself, which is considered by many the easiest to make, in that you are easy going and open minded and you love when others succeed. You are also very smart, have excellent taste, don’t embarrass easily, and are quick to laugh at yourself. Relax and be happy: you’re a blueberry pie lover!


Cherry Pie

When I think of a cherry pie I think tart, and guess what, so are you if this is your fave! It’s all in a good way though, in that you have attitude and confidence and you don’t let people push you around. You, like the bright red of the cherries themselves, also don’t mind standing out in a crowd and you live for a little excitement. That yearning for adventure means you’re a risk taker, are always trying new things and taking on new hobbies, and are rarely bored with life.


Sweet Potato Pie

Often confused with its more popular cousin the pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie has also been around since colonial times. It’s nostalgic and very southern, and so are you if it’s your top pie pick. It’s ingredients were adapted from African cuisine and it’s still a staple soul food item. It’s also usually a surprising but welcome sight at holiday gatherings and so are you!



Lemon Meringue Pie

Like the tangy center of this pie, you are bubbly and full of optimism. You are anything but “basic” and love bright colors and making the best of every situation and life in general. You could say your motto is “When life gives you lemons, make a lemon meringue pie!”


Chocolate Silk Pie

To me, this is basically a chocolate pudding pie but to those who favor it, it’s much, much more. Baked properly, a chocolate silk pie is just that: smooth. So are you. You prefer the best things in life and have great taste. Richness emotes from the pie and from you.


So there you have it. What does your favorite pie say about you? Just for fun, print this out, take it with you to your Thanksgiving get together, and see what your family and friends are too!


Happy Thanksgiving everyone.