Beyond Words

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

What a Crock February 24, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:51 pm

Truer words have never been said and as many of us are experiencing or recently experienced a snow and ice-covered world, just hearing the words “crock pot” warm me up. To me, crock pots are the things where warm and yummy meals are made: chili, soup, stews, and the like. They’re also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year and boy do they have an interesting backstory.



First things first though. If you use “Crock Pot” and “slow cooker” interchangeably, don’t.  Come to find out that all Crock Pots are indeed slow cookers but not all slow cookers are Crock Pots. In fact, “Crock Pot” is right up there with Kleenex, Band-Aid, Q-Tips, and Scotch tape. Crock Pot my friends, is a brand name, which was news to me.



Also news to me is that the original slow cooker’s story is rooted in the Jewish Sabbath. The device was inspired by a story inventor Irving Naxon’s Lithuanian mother told him about a bean stew. Legend has it that she and other moms would cook a bean-based stew in their village bakeries back in Lithuania. The stew was called Cholent  and is a traditional Jewish dish that customarily cooks all day. However, it’s rooted in the Jewish Sabbath, which is a day of rest and no work for observant Jews. This means ovens were turned off so the stew would be put on heat before sundown Friday night and cook until the end of Saturday services the next day.


All of this got Naxon thinking so he created a portable device that consisted of an insert that was held up by a case with a heating device. He applied for a patent for it in 1936 but it wasn’t until 1940 that he got one for what he called The Naxon Beanery and voila, cooking history was officially stewed.



Naxon sold his Beanery to Rival Manufacturing in the early 1970s who rebranded it as the Crock Pot and ran with what they sensed was a genius and timely product. They quickly marketed it to a new and growing market: working mothers. Boasting the Crock Pot “cooks all day while the cook’s away,” advertising appealed to the new female work force who loved that they could put food in it before leaving for work and come home to a home-cooked meal. Truth be told, when my husband and I were first married I quickly learned he hated Crock Pot meals because his working mom served almost nothing but. He’s somewhat warmed up to slow cooker meals but they aren’t his favorites by any means.


Sales of slow cookers slowed down a bit in the 1980s, which some partially blame on a little invention called the microwave. Today however, slow cookers are as popular as ever with nearly 83 percent of American families owning one. Amazingly, their design has changed very little over all these years save for a removable insert. This is truly the sign of a great invention!


And on this subject, I’d be remiss to not briefly talk about slow cookers’ kitchen cousins, Insta Pots and Air Fryers. I have neither as I’m not a big appliance girl so what I share is what I’ve read.



The Battle of the Pots: Crock vs. Insta

Both Crock Pots and Insta Pots are popular kitchen appliances aimed at making cooking easier and more hands off. They have a lot in common and unique uses and they are both brand names. Here’s a quick comparison.


As mentioned above, Crock Pots are the original slow cookers, which is still their main use and draw. In recent years however, the brand has started making “multi-cookers” that can pressure cook, which is Insta Pot’s claim to fame. Traditional Crock Pots are slow cookers, while all Insta Pots are multi-cookers.


Crock Pots are best used for stews, searing, pulled pork and brisket recipes, short ribs, pot roasts, and chilis and soups. One huge advantage of them is that they are travel-proof in that they have latches and handles, making them a go to for pot lucks and parties.


When I hear “Insta Pot” I have visions of my mom’s old school pressure cooker used to cook beans, posole, and a host of other traditional New Mexican dishes. The pot was big and metal, had a weird little removable contraption on the top that wiggled and whistled, and the whole thing just seemed very dangerous to me.  Enter Insta Pot.

Known for its time and space-saving attributes, the brand is still fairly new, launched only in 2010. Nonetheless, it has an extremely loyal following as was the first product to make pressure cooking easy and helping busy families get food on the table, fast. As they say, Insta Pot, insta food.


Insta Pots are often considered merely electric pressure cookers, but they can also steam, warm, sauté, work as a rice cooker, and even slow cook ala a Crock Pot. Still, their main function and attraction is pressure cooking. This method of cooking cooks food by raising the boiling point of water and trapping steam, which results in reduced cooking time. And just like Crock Pot has introduced steam cooking, Insta Pots can be used as Crock Pot-like slow cookers; the results will just be a bit drier.


So, if you can only choose one, which one do you pick? In short, if your desire is solely slow cooking process, go with a standard slow cooker. If you want pressure cooking and the option of slow cooking, Insta Pot may be your best bet. Much, however, depends on what you’re cooking and how you want to cook it.


Luckily, both appliances save time. As “Good Housekeeping” reports, Crock-Pots are great for busy people, early birds, and anyone who likes to plan ahead. “Just throw ingredients together in the morning and come home to a finished meal.” Insta Pots on the other hand, are best for last-minute people and those who get home late as they can take advantage of the pressure cook function and get a hot meal on the table in a matter of minutes.



A few more things to consider include ease of use and price. Traditional slow cookers are more affordable then Insta Pots, which may have more functions but can also be a bit large for smaller areas. This is a plus for some, but for others using an Insta Pot can at first be a bit confusing and intimidating. I guess if you can afford both and have room for both, choose both!



Air Fryers

So there’s that…the diff between slow cookers and new-fangled pressure cookers. But what about the equally popular air fryer? Where does it stand in the kitchen appliance VIP league and how does it compare to a slow cooker?


Both countertop appliances are capable of cooking delicious meals and both cater to those who want their meals fast, particularly after a hectic day. They differ vastly however in how they cook and what they cook best.


You could say air fryers are basically mini convection ovens. They are ideal for anyone who wants their food quick but prefer true oven-baked meals. But don’t let the name fool you. Food cooked in an air fryer is not “fried” per se but instead, air is used to mimic the process and taste of fried food while almost completely eliminating the need for cooking oil. They are also increase the browning of food by concentrating more heat on the outside of the food.


So what is convection cooking? You’ve probably heard of it as many ovens offer a convection setting. Convection is one of two main methods of heat transfer, the other being conduction, which is the most basic way of doing so. It basically works in that something hot touches something cool and heats it up. It’s our basic ovens and is what is in play on a stove top as well.


Convection, on the other hand, is considered more efficient as it add the element of motion to the cooking process and heats food faster, sometimes reducing cooking times by 25 percent or more.


Convection baking, introduces a fan to the process, allowing hot air to be blown around and onto the food. This produces crispiness, which is what makes air fryers so popular. The air essentially bounces off food surfaces, cooks food thoroughly in minutes, and adds a lovely browning in the process. Since air fryers are smaller than traditional convection ovens and bakers, the fan is closer to the food meaning the food will cook faster. Keep in mind however, that because air fryers are small they have relatively small cooking areas meaning they can accommodate only about two servings at a time. They may not be the best bet for large families or anyone cooking for even a medium-sized group unless you don’t mind cooking in batches. Some also consider them loud, with decibels sometimes ranging about as loud as a vacuum cleaner.


But, the food results they boast make them worth it for those who love them. They produce crispy, evenly browned foods without having to actually deep fry them and are popular for lovers of French fries, tater tots, chicken wings, potato chips, chicken tenders, and a host of other foods. They can also be used to grill, bake, roast, toast, fry, dehydrate, and reheat certain foods. All of these options are perhaps what make them a bit intimidating to master and use for some.


A slow cooker uses moist heat to cook and simmer food over a long period of time. Its heating element in the base of the appliance emits heat up and transfers it from the bottom up across the sides of the pot. The food is heated from within and is surrounded by steam underneath the lid.


If you ask any air fryer aficionado, they will recite a list of benefits including the simple fact that they massively reduce cooking times and that you can have a healthy meal in less than an hour. They are ideal for dorms, apartments, campers, or any space with a small kitchen and they are portable and energy efficient.


Besides the raves of slow cookers mentioned above, they are also popular because they don’t heat up a kitchen, making them ideal for hot summer months and hot climates.


Head-to-head, if you like options in cooking methods, an air fryer will provide more versatility but if you want something simple and reliable, a slow cooker is the real deal.


Photo credit: E. Childress

In the end…whether it be an air fryer, a steam cooker, or a traditional slow cooker…choose what best suits your needs and wants, what you can best afford, what you have room for, and what makes you happy. Whatever you choose…and I know many who have all three…know that it all started by a young man just trying to make life easier for the women in his life. And that’s no crock.











The Perfect Storm? February 19, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:36 pm


Photo courtesy Becky M.

Well, we made it Texas. Barely and not completely just yet, but today there is light at the end of the tunnel. And that light, at least in my neck of the woods, is sunlight. I actually got a little teary seeing it this morning. It’s been that kind of week.



I35 Downtown Austin

After days of below freezing temperatures and five storms in seven days, Texas today is bathed in sunlight and bathed in hope. We are just learning that the state’s power grid was “this” close to a total black-out that could have lasted months, so having or hearing about any power right now makes all of us giddy and grateful.



Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the ENTIRE state of Texas just went through a major and one for the books winter weather event. You might, in fact, know more about it all then we do as we’ve suffered through multiple power outages that left us snowed in and shut off. Meteorologists seriously have no comparisons to go to on this one. (And to everyone in my beloved Oklahoma who experienced similar weather: be safe and know I’m thinking of you too.)


It all started last Thursday with freezing and crippling rain and continued for an entire week with rounds of heavy snow, sleet, more ice, and pretty much anything cold you could throw at us in the way of wintery precipitation. We were warned it was coming but we had no idea.



At the beginning, it was shocking to learn every single Texas county was under a winter storm warning; all 254 of them.



Skier in downtown Austin

Records were broken left and right. Austin alone broke the previous record for consecutive hours at or below freezing with 144 hours. That’s six days. Six long days at or below freezing. Often without heat. Without power. Without communication. And without water.


It also recorded the city’s coldest temperature in 72 years and accumulated the most snow since 1937.



The forecast day after day was chilling. Literally. The entire area was in single digits.



At one point the storm measured 221 miles wide. That’s a storm as big as New York to Boston and longer than the entire state of New Jersey.



And…the area was given its first ever wind chill warnings.


Earlier this month Puxatony Peat predicted six more weeks of winter on Groundhog Day and in true Texas fashion, the Lone Star State decided to get it over with all in one week.



This was the second snow event of the year for Austin, which in and of itself is highly unusual. But unlike the serene snow we received a few weeks back, which brought the kids out and flooded social media with beautiful winter scenes, this one was not fun and it wasn’t beautiful. It was ravaging. It was upsetting.



And for all you mountain mammas and northeasterners commenting “please, we get these all the time,” save your breath and move along. Austin was actually colder than many other places and waking up to 6 degree weather is no fun regardless of where you are. I’ve been in Buffalo and experienced 8 feet of snow fall in one fell swoop but didn’t experience massive power loss or frozen and busting pipes. It just doesn’t stay that cold for that long in these parts and our homes and energy grid are not equipped to handle it. More on that in a bit.


What we do deal with every year are torridly hot summers…April thru October…temps rarely go below 90 and 100s are common. We invite all you making fun of us to visit in July but without air conditioning and let’s throw in without water. Not so funny now, right? A dear friend of mine did joke, writing “Dear Mother Nature: have you forgotten we native Texans endure the insufferable summer season as a trade-off for moderate winter weather?” Mother Nature clearly didn’t care this past week.



It was a miserable week; and we personally didn’t have it as bad as others. Our power went on and off every day but it did come on. We had to boil water and internet service was sketchy but we have water. One minute power would be on, fireplace lit, and heat blowing and literally with no warning, everything would shut down. We’d put our puffers and beanies back on and sit in a darkened house with an inside temp that would quickly dip into the 50s. Often times we’d have no communication ability for hours on end. It was so weird and a bit creepy.


And then boom, power back on! (We are just now learning that these rolling outages literally saved the entire grid from shutting down so in hindsight, thank you outages!) We knew it was temporary so it was days on end of anxiety and walking around in layers, Uggs, and long johns under my yoga pants. Even our landline didn’t work. We’ve kept a landline because I remember during numerous tornadoes (we’re used to those!) the landline was the only phone that worked. Might be time to rethink this.



Still, we had it better than many. Multiple friends didn’t have power for days and still don’t.  Many still don’t have water. It’s been horrifying to hear their worries and know there was nothing they could do and nothing we could do to help. Some went to hotels or friends and families, but streets were impassable so why risk it? Others chose to stay put and in case pipes burst. Yep, many a frozen pipe burst as Texans historically do not insulate pipes, flooding entire rooms. Texas homes are also historically poorly insulated.


So what did I learn from it all? A LOT.



I learned to fill bathtubs early on in case we lost water. Among other uses, this water could be used to flush toilets.


I learned to also fill pitchers, thermoses, pots, and any other vessels with water. Not only did this provide peace of mind, they were filled with pre-boil water stages water so they were safe to drink.



Photo courtesy Lana G.

I learned that when all else fails, you can use snow to flush those toilets. If more desperate, you can put a plastic bag in the toilet and toss after use. My husband swore he’d go outside before doing that!



I learned that my impulse purchases during last summer’s riots of Boundery lightbulbs and solar charges were lifesavers. Check them out!



I learned that as much as I love candles and how romantic and peaceful candles they can be, those lightbulbs were downright winners as I drank wine in an appropriate winter-themed glass that I didn’t even realize fit the them until a friend pointed it out.



Photo courtesy Sharon M.

I learned from my ingenious friend that you can make margaritas using snow like her version here and that if you live near a hospital you are less likely to lose power and water as the areas around them are considered critical power sectors. The same often holds true for fire stations.


I learned that my group texts and social media were lifesavers, lifelines, and entertainment.


I learned that, if you have power and/or can open your garage, you can use cars and golf carts to charge phones and other devices.


I learned that in times without power or water, use paper plates and other disposable utensils.


I learned that gas stoves are the only way to go as you can light their fuses even in the event of a power loss. We also have a gas heated water heater and fireplace.


I learned that one appliance you might want to reconsider is a touch faucet, as you can’t “drip” them and once battery power goes out, so does it.


I learned that even the smallest amount of ice is dangerous. On day one, my husband slipped and fell on our icy driveway and ultimately had to get X-rays. He’s fine but trust me; we haven’t left the house since. My Sunday paper sits on the still frozen driveway and has been for going on six days.


I learned that scammers…from insurance to plumbers to a host of others…start early.



I learned that when those beautiful icicles hanging from roofs fall, they are like spears and hit the ground. Behold but beware!



Photo courtesy Stephanie A.

The very first morning of the storm I learned how much I love and missed my morning coffee. No power? No coffee. However, I quickly learned to make several cups of coffee once power came on, put them all in a pot, and heat them when needed on the stove. Or use a French Press like my ingenious friend did.


I learned that if you’re a camper and have an all-season tent, pop it open if you lose heat and camp right inside your house.


I learned that you can cook on your outdoor gas grill if need be. Just dress warmly!



I learned you can make a quick heater out of a pot, candles, and some bricks. Granted, I didn’t try this and have no idea if it really does work but I saw it mentioned many times. Just be careful!



I learned what it’s like to live with “rolling” blackouts and my heart aches for those who do so regularly and repetitively.



I learned that dogs eventually end up liking the snow but that walking on ice and ice-covered snow makes them appear like they’ve been over-served at the nearby tavern. Can’t deny I didn’t laugh just a bit.


I learned I really missed my ever present glass of or bottled water.





And speaking of water, I learned that one minute we’re asked to drip our faucets to keep pipes from freezing but then suddenly asked to not drip them to conserve water.


Which brings me to: boil water advisories. Yep, if you had water pressure at all, you were instructed to boil water prior to drinking it. I learned that water quality issues are related to lack of electricity, frozen and broken water lines, and people dripping those faucets.


I learned energy constraints often have impact on the water system because the water system requires energy for treatment and pumping.


And, as a bonus, should you lose all water pressure, I learned you should turn off water heaters as they pose potential fire hazards at that point.


I learned that when building or buying a house you should demand water heaters…and pipes…be put in the slab, not in the attic. My husband suffered through busted pipes in Houston and we’ve experienced a water heater overflow that fell through the roof. Both his pipes and the water heater were in the attics.


I learned that nearly 12 million…probably more…Texans reported water service disruptions. That’s a lot of people people.




I learned there were many similarities between a year’s worth of COVID restrictions and our “SNOVID” constraints, including:


COVID taught us how to stay home but now we were being asked to stay home and learn survival skills.


Wipes and sanitizer work great when you don’t have water.


We were forced to stay home. Again.



Grocery stores were in demand but supplies and hours of operation were limited.


We rely heavily on our phones and other devices. Without them, we feel lost and out-of-touch.


Anxiety and uncertainty ruled the day.


We worried about similar things like the elderly and getting food on our tables.



On the bright side, hotels that have suffered for the past year were suddenly fully booked.


Schools that were just starting to reopen were again more shut down. Our kids continue to pay the price and will suffer down the road.


Masks were great at keeping your face warm while sitting inside a cold house.



Houston “traffic”


I learned that everyone is suddenly an energy expert. Except for all those “experts” we gave power to…actual and political.


I learned Texas is the only state with its own electric grid, which manages 26 million Texans’ access to electricity. There are three grids in the Lower 48: one covers eastern states, another western states, and the third covers Texas. Only Texas. This essentially means Texas is beyond reach of pesky federal regulations but it also means it can’t import energy from other states.


I learned a new acronym: ERCOT. The Texas electric grid is managed by ERCOT, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which proved neither electric nor reliable.


I learned that this grid has some serious vulnerabilities and clearly needs improvements and inspection.


I learned that figuring out why things got as bad as they did energy-wise quickly and sadly turned political. Shocker, right?


Texas Governor Greg Abbott will rightly take the brunt of the criticism, particularly from the left, which is desperate to permanently turn Texas blue. Political blue; not cold weather blue. Look for them to run with it for months on end. Abbott is taking it like a big boy however, saying the failures are ultimately on him. But fault and guilt go deeper. Any minute now I’m waiting to hear it’s all Trump’s fault and Biden has the answers. But I digress.


One side is screaming “we need more fossil fuel energy, not less” while the other side touts and practically celebrates the fact that red Texas failed to protect its own; somewhat more concerned about the state of their beloved renewable energy policies than the state of Texas and its frozen residents. As with everything, there are not two sides to every story, there are three: one side, the other side, and the truth.



In reality, the answer most likely falls somewhere in between both camps. Yes, feel good green energy has it bonuses, but we need to ensure that they not only feel good, but do good. At the same time, boy am I glad the millions of Texas drivers weren’t all charging their electric cars at one time and I’m equally glad windmill blades are often made from fossil fuels (as is all that Plexiglas we see everywhere), which may support at least a few of the precious job losses the industry is currently suffering. And then there’s….drum roll…nuclear power. And before you get all “Three Mile Island” on me, keep in mind that when done right, it is safe and effective. Ask France, where nuclear power is the largest source of electricity. Call me crazy, but don’t count it out.


The truth is yes, Texas did not handle the storm well and we as a state were simply not prepared for this fluke of a weather pattern. I’ll give it somewhat of a pass in that it was a once in a generation storm and not something any Texas taxpayer would have approved expensive precautions for in regards to insulating windmills and/or solar panels, which froze and are useless when the sun isn’t shining. If anything, this storm proved that we cannot rely on those two energy sources as our base load and no amount of research or funding could have prevented downed power lines laden heavy with ice. It’s just what happens. All capacity to produce energy was reduced. Everything froze. The entire state was trying to heat homes and trying to get power at the same time. It all hit the proverbial fan.



I also learned Texas is the nation’s number one producer of wind energy and that 25 percent of the state’s energy is wind. Sadly, wind is a “use it or lose it” commodity and you can’t store it. All of us learned that not only did windmills freeze up or shut down, so did many natural gas wells, lines, and plants as well as oil pumps and drills and many refineries were forced to temporarily shut down due to the weather.  The irony that green energy failed during a snow storm in the midst of global warming in Texas is not lost on those who question total reliance on it.


I learned that it’s not uncommon for energy generating companies and plants in Texas to shut down and cut back during the normally low demand winter season to do maintenance on facilities and get ready for the peak load summer season. You can’t blame them for this.


Amazingly, I learned that five of the 16 member ERCOT board members don’t live in Texas and that one lives in Canada. Explain this to the millions of Texans who have sat for days in homes without heat and with temperatures below freezing.


I learned the tried and true “supply and demand” rule ruled as ERCOT CEO Bill Magness said in an interview. He explained that a main problem was an increased demand that the supply couldn’t meet and that when demand exceeds supply, demand needs to be cut. In short, cut off users who are demanding heat and power. This resulted in rolling power outages that varied from one hour to multiple hours; sometimes days.


IMHO, maybe it’s time we all start thinking with our heads and not just our wallets. Texas has for years opted out of paying for measures that may or may not protect us from similar storms due to expense, and somewhat rightly so. We need to increase our energy independence and utilization of our state’s vast natural resources and stop listening to outside sources that have nothing at stake but their pockets and agendas. I think we’ve come out of this learning that the less we use fossil fuels the more we ultimately need them. Green energy policies are promising but vastly under-researched and tested. Ultimately, maybe it’s high time we stop allowing politicians to make energy policies rather than those in the actual industries who know the realities.


In short, we need to insist our energy is a low risk mix of renewable and fossil fuel energy and use both efficiently. Texas perhaps should seriously consider winterizing plants and energy sources. It might be costly, but the cost of another event like this one is equally costly. In Texas that might mean solar during the hot summer months and fuel in the colder winter months. If nothing else, this storm proved Texas needs energy diversity and traditional sources if it wants to go out alone. Then again, I’m no energy expert.




As luck…or God would have it…in the midst of all this was Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent. Tradition calls for fasting and sacrifice during the 40 days leading up to Easter and its timing could not have been more perfect. How often do we take things like water and power for granted? All during the past week I’d think to myself, “this must be what it’s like to live in many a socialist, impoverished, or third world country” and it’s a state I pray our state or country never chooses to go by way of ill-advised policies. I’m so very grateful for my home, the water that flows from its faucets, the heat that blows, and the hardworking people who plowed the streets and got electrical lines up and running.


Stillness and quiet are all well and good, and I tried my hardest to appreciate them during those moments of complete isolation but it was hard. Hard because of the uncertainty of what the next hour would bring, whether a pipe was going to burst, heat was going to stop, and a host of other worries and anxieties. And this coming from a certified nester and introvert so you’d think all this should be right up my alley. It wasn’t though. I’m also a certified planner and worrier so the elements wreaked as much havoc with my soul and my emotions as they did with the streets and power plants. Yes I learned a lot from and during it, but I’m glad it’s over.



At the beginning of this piece I included a photo of our first snow storm this year vs. this storm. Weather is a crazy thing and weather in Texas is especially crazy. You have to stay on top of it and as my friend from California says, “everyone in Texas is a meteorologist.” She jests, but it’s kinda true. You have to be. But just be patient; the weather might be brutal, but as they say in Texas, just give it a minute.


I’ll close with something a friend saw and shared. It pretty much sums up the week and sums up Texas.






Bejeweled February 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:36 pm

It’s no secret we’ve all been hidden behind masks for going on a year now. We have been rendered expressionless and boy am I glad I didn’t fork out the big bucks early last year for some teeth straightening as our smiles have also been masked. Our eyes have not only been our windows to the world and the windows of our souls, but pretty much the highlight of our otherwise covered up faces. They say if you have pretty eyes, this is your time to shine! Eye agree!


As with any suppressed time, there has got to be a silver lining, right? The medieval years of plague were followed by the Italian Renaissance that spread throughout Europe and the 1918 pandemic was followed by the Roaring ‘20s, so maybe there’s hope. One place that seems to be the case this time around is in jewelry. As “Town and Country” reported, both costume and high-end jewels are proving their pandemic power and I’m on board.


Think about it. Masked and homebound for months on end, a sentimental necklace or some frivolous earrings could literally make one’s day. On our many Zoom calls and face times, just the right jewels could set either an “I’m all business” or “I’m here for the party” tone. As T&C reminds us, jewels can also serve as connections to and reminders of all those loved ones we can’t visit or hug as well as bedazzled hopes that yes, please say yes, we will someday be dressing up again and adorning our maskless faces with precious and beloved gems. In the meantime they can upgrade our daily athleisure wear outfits and are, in a sense, one of very few feel good mementos we can cherish.


And, don’t think for a minute that the jewelry industry hasn’t taken notice. Not only did it survive 2020, it thrived. Whether it was at Tiffany or Target, people bought and didn’t think twice about it. Necklaces. Earrings. Bracelets. The works. And it worked. E-commerce also flourished and high-end jewelers quickly discovered in-home selection shopping. It was the perfect storm and as I look out my window and see trees and yards covered in ice thanks to a rare local ice storm, what better day to talk about “ice,” as in the kind that adorns your fingers, necks, and earlobes?


A Market for Gems

So big is jewelry right now that there are actual fine gem investment firms that will help you purchase stones or pieces as investments. Yes, you could wear that one-of-a-kind necklace if you’d like, but these financial houses are focused solely on buying stones for profit.


Not unlike the art market, stones and jewelry investments are not only a hedge against inflation; there is a limited supply of them so their value isn’t swayed by elections, governments, or other outside influences. They can also be sold quickly and in a pinch and can be packed away and taken with you, unlike a building or a yacht.


If you’re lucky and wealthy enough to dabble in this market, think quality over quantity, as a small high-quality stone will retain more value than a large stone of mediocre quality. Think Harry Winston, Chopard, Bulgari, and a host of other prestigious and luxury brands.



A Girl’s Best Friend

They say diamonds are a girl’s best friend and whether you agree or not, diamonds definitely are timeless and beloved. Born in the center of the earth billions of years ago, they are used to mark life’s most important occasions and milestones and are probably the oldest things most of us will ever touch or own. So in demand and profitable are they that the discovery of diamonds in 1967 in a Botswana mine turned the impoverished nation into a thriving one and is home to the world’s richest diamond mine.



Naturally some diamonds are bigger and better than others but the Four Cs…cut, clarity, carat, and color…reign in any and all sizes. Any diamond is worth treasuring but there are some out there that we’ve all heard about and that have legends all their own.



Let’s start with the Tiffany Diamond, most recently worn by singer Lady Gaga at the 2019 Oscars, making it the most expensive jewel ever worn to the annual Hollywood soiree. Worth an estimated $30 million, the stunning 128-carat yellow rock was purchased by Charles Lewis Tiffany in 1878 and had previously been worn publicly by only two women. Mrs. E. Sheldon Whitehouse was the first to don it in public at the Tiffany Feather Ball in 1957 but it was none other than the always classy and chic Audrey Hepburn who made it forever famous when she wore it for the film “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.”  You might not be able to borrow it for an event, but you can see it as the rock is on permanent display at Tiffany’s Fifth Avenue flagship where it attracts more than 300 visitors each day.



And speaking of actresses, we can’t talk diamonds without talking Liz; Elizabeth Taylor that is. Her 33-carat and reportedly perfect Krupp Diamond that Richard Burton flew to his yacht on the Thames so he could give it to her is noteworthy on so many levels. Then there’s the 69-carat pear-shaped Taylor Burton Diamond, which was the first diamond to fetch more than $1 million when Burton outbid Aristotle Onassis for it.




And, how about the Hope Diamond? Beautiful and distinct in its blue tone, the 45-carat stone was stolen from Louis XVI in 1792 and was missing for 20 years before resurfacing in London. Today it is housed in the National Gem and Mineral collection at the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C.



And last but certainly not least, we can’t possibly talk diamonds without talking the royals. Undoubtedly the caretaker of the world’s most expensive, expansive, and exquisite jewels, Queen Elizabeth and company have an entire tower protecting their jewels and when you look at a photo of any one of them wearing a crown or opulent necklace, it’s almost hard to believe that each of those gems you’re looking at are real. A crown full of real diamonds and a giant necklace of real rubies! Wow.



For me though, my favorite is the Greville Emerald Kokoshnik Tiara that the Queen lent to granddaughter Princess Eugenie for her 2018 wedding. Maybe it’s because emerald is my birthstone and I love it. Maybe it’s because I loved Eugenie’s wedding look from head to toe. Maybe it’s just because it is stunning. Created in 1919, it consists of rose-cut pave diamonds set in platinum and features additional emeralds, including the center one that’s 94 carats. Fit for a queen indeed.



My other favorite royal crown is that of Princess Victoria, which she wore for her 2010 wedding. I love that it is pretty much gem free but is stunning in its own unique way. Officially called the Cameo Tiara, it is thought to be one of the oldest tiaras still in use. The stunner is set in gold with pearls surrounding seven large Neo-Classical cameos. Since I was a young girl, cameos have always been a favorite of mine so them, coupled with my beloved pearls, stole my heart right along with Victoria’s simple and elegant gown.


But I digress just a bit as I could go on and on about royals. Next blog?



I just returned from my annual college girls trip and this year’s destination was one where residents and visitors alike are very proud of their jewels. The bigger the better (in their minds) and the more logos and trademark gems they can sport the better they maybe feel about themselves. Even belts are now somewhat considered “jewels” as they come adorned with buckles blazing the logo of many a brand. Don’t get me wrong, I love jewelry and treasure a few of my special pieces, but when is too much too much and enough enough? Apparently not soon enough.


I’ve always loved a strand of pearls and love them with everything from a wedding gown to jeans and a t-shirt. I also like diamond stud earrings and a good watch. On the flipside, I love my grandma’s squash blossom necklace as well as all my costume jewelry right up there with these, my all-time faves:




One can only think of the iconic Coco Chanel in her long strands of pearls as well as former First Lady Barbara Bush and her trademark pearl chokers. Simple pearls were also a signature of Wallis Simpson who was rarely seen without a polished set around her neck. I wore my mom’s for my wedding and today wear them with everything.



Princess Diana Engagement Ring

Wallis, the Duchess of Windsor, had nothing on the Princess of Wales. Diana, who had access to the world’s greatest jewels, was known to combine low-cost costume jewelry with the likes of the Cambridge Knot Tiara, but it’s her stunning engagement ring that will go down in history.


Consisting of an impressive center 12-carat sapphire stone and substantial accent diamonds surrounding it in white gold, the style broke with royal tradition in true Diana style and I always loved the idea that it matched her stunning blue eyes. (I also quite loved the similar yet smaller ruby engagement ring Prince Andrew gave to the Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson. I thought the choice of ruby was brilliant considering Fergie has that fiery red hair.) Fittingly, Diana’s ring now sits on the finger of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, who as wife of Diana’s eldest son William is the future queen. Ironically, the ring was inherited by Di’s younger son Harry who gifted it to Will. Perfection.



Diamond Studs

A pair of little sparklers on each ear can go with any outfit (or mask) and they will never go out of style. They are an investment you will never regret and forever treasure.


Cartier Watches

Rolex has long been the go to for many an up-and-comer as a way of cementing their “I have arrived,” and there are a host of other brands that cost as much as a car, but when it comes to watches, my heart is with Cartier. The exemplar Tank watch has been a favorite since 1917 and the Santos watch, with its signature “bolts,” is equally distinctive.


Created in 1904, the Santos is one of the Cartier brand’s most popular pieces. Louis Cartier created it for his friend, Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont, and it boasts Cartier’s trademark “bolts” on an array of gold and stainless bands.



Cartier’s equally famous Tank watch was introduced in 1917 and is today still a go to for many a stylish man or woman. Louis Cartier gifted the first Tank watch to American General John Joseph Pershing and some of his officers in 1917 following the success of American and British armies’ protection of Europe. The watch was inspired by British Mark IV tanks used in battle and was something of a trendsetter as at the time, pocket watches were the standard. Today’s version sports the same Roman Numerals as the original, as well as the now famous Cartier hallmark blue sapphire crown.


Cartier LOVE Bracelet

Which brings me to the beloved Cartier LOVE bracelet, introduced in 1969 and is today still a best seller and mainstay of any wrist stack. Loved not only for its simple and enduring style, it is also one of the most Googled jewelry pieces the world over and boasts an enviable resale value. What makes the bracelet extra special is that it is literally locked onto the wearer’s wrist, symbolizing eternal love.


It was created in 1972 by Juste un Chou who was inspired by American hardware stores for its design. Minimalist yet memorable, the bracelet locks around the wrist, comes with a tiny screwdriver, and comes with a serial number to counter its many counterfeits.  It is oval in shape in order to fit as closely as possible to the wrist and was designed for both men and women. When the bracelet first launched, there was a policy that a customer could not buy a LOVE bracelet for themselves and Cartier gave pairs of them to many a famous couple, including the Duke and Duchess of Windsor and Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. It is rumored that some hospitals keep Love bracelet screwdrivers on hand in case one needs to be removed in an emergency. Now that’s a statement piece! Cipullo went on to later design Cartier’s popular “nail” bracelets.



Yet another Cartier classic is their Trinity “Rolling” ring, a unique “movable” ring made of three interlaced bands of yellow gold, white gold, and pink gold. Created by Louis Cartier in 1924, the ring quickly earned iconic status for both men and women and is today a popular wedding band.  I like to think that its name has something to do with yes, the three bands, but also the Holy Trinity.





If it’s good enough for Audrey, it’s good enough for everyone else, right? Whether you covet an iconic Tiffany setting in a wedding ring, a Paloma or Paretti heart, the somewhat new and trendy Tiffany T bracelets, or the Jean Schlumberger enamel bangles that Jackie Kennedy Onassis was rarely seen without, the legendary Tiffany blue box is waiting for you.


But, even if you can’t fork out some green dough for some Tiffany blue, did you know you already own a piece of Tiffany on the dough you do have? Every U.S. dollar bill has the Great Seal of the United States on it, and that seal was designed by Tiffany way back in 1885.



A year later, that famous ring setting was introduced by Charles Lewis Tiffany. The six-prong setting is virtually hidden and allows the brilliant diamond to seemingly float above the band. Nothing flashy or trendy about the setting; just a simple solitaire (granted that solitaire could be big!) setting. What’s not to love?


If you’re more a trophy guy or gal, you’ll be interested to know that the championship trophies handed out to NFL and NBA champions were designed by Tiffany. In 1967, Tiffany produced the first Vince Lombardi Super Bowl Trophy and in 1978 the brand was commissioned to create the NBA’s championship trophy. I guess this gives a whole new meaning to “trophy wife.”


One of my first treasured Tiffany pieces is my “Return to Tiffany” charm and bracelet. The still popular bobbles debuted in 1969 and each one comes with an actual serial number and if lost can be returned to Tiffany and reunited with its owner. Love it!


Another piece of Tiffany I treasure is my Paloma Picasso heart necklace. It’s so simple and fluid and can be worn every day…nothing fancy or flashy…just pure delight. The Picasso collection was launched in 1980 and was inspired by the graffiti on New York City buildings and the chic, graphic jewelry designs are still wildly popular today.


On my list right now is the Tiffany T Smile Pendant. I’m thinking of it for our upcoming 35th anniversary. I saw it while on my girls’ trip and loved it. It’s simple, a bit whimsical, and the two Ts make a smile. Who doesn’t love a smile?



Kendra Scott

Okay, before you naysayers say “no way,” hear me out. I know, Kendra and her signature pieces are everywhere. But, I remember when our daughter was in high school and KS had just come out. The girls loved her but to buy her stuff, we had to venture to her flagship store. Soon, we could go to various small boutiques. By the girls’ freshmen years in college, Kendra Scott was just starting to make waves but within a year her bright colored “Danielle” earrings flooded the market thanks to many a celebrity who sported them. Today, as young as elementary aged girls are wearing her stuff. Still, what I like about Kendra and why I support her is because she is a true self-made millionaire woman who started her empire in her garage and that her jewelry isn’t very inexpensive but not very expensive either. Where else can you go to a “Color Bar” and design your own piece but not break the bank? I also like and respect her because she gives and donates to many a request and charity. Say what you want, but this girl is a Kendra girl.



Van Cleef & Arpels Alhambra

I don’t own an Alhambra but I wish I did. Grace Kelly wore several of the clover-shaped motif necklaces and wore them as every day jewelry despite their high cost and today you will find every Bravo TV housewife sporting multiple versions of the necklace and earrings originally created in 1968 by co-founder Estelle Arpels’ nephew Jacques Arpels.


Legend has it that young Jacques loved finding and collecting four-leaf clovers and giving them to friends and family. He went on to use the shape when he created the first Alhambra collection in 1968 with the Alhambra long necklace, composed of 20 clover-shaped motifs. This symbolic design achieved immediate success and is today recognized throughout the world as a token of luck.


Its talismanic design is also reminiscent of traditional Moorish quatrefoil and the collection is said to be named after the Alhambra Palace in Granada, Spain, which boasts a number of sweeping archways. Its connection to Spain makes it all the more sentimental and special to me.



Whatever you choose or whatever you can afford, a piece of legacy jewelry should be your goal. Two of my best friends always wear necklaces of charms that have deep meaning to them. I distinctly remember my grandma’s plastic snap-bead necklaces and would love to have them today and as we virtually celebrate Mardi Gras this year, who doesn’t love some purple, gold, and green beads whether they’re hanging from your neck or hanging on a fence? Often free but fun-filled, they are the epitome of joyful jewels.


If versatility is your goal, look for that perfect and will never go out of style statement piece that can effortlessly change the look of a t-shirt, dress, or blouse. A simple gold band goes a long way too. Maybe your choice is by an unknown jeweler who crafts a piece with no distinct logos or trademarks. I particularly love an Austin jeweler, Sanctuary Project, who creates wonderful pieces that benefit survivors of trafficking, violence, and addiction. If your purchase helps others, it’s even more precious.



Anything that’s sentimental that you can pull out and put on to make you smile and make you shine inside or out, is worth it. I’m thinking a smile necklace.  After all, a smile is the most beautiful curve on any woman’s body.



Compliments to the Chef…and Anyone Else January 31, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:26 pm


You look fabulous!


Your presentation was amazing!


I couldn’t have done it without you!


You’re the best!


Don’t we all love hearing any and all of the above? We love being praised, appreciated, needed, and complimented, so in honor of this past week’s National Compliment Day (I love these things!) we’re talking all things accolades today.


I hate receiving compliments. Said no one ever.


Oddly enough, as much as we love feeling the love, many of us aren’t good recipients of compliments. Raise your hand if when someone tells you “I love those shoes,” your reply is something along the lines of “they’re so old” or “I got them on sale.” A gracious, “thank you so much” is the perfect reply so why do we often feel like we have to justify…or nullify…a compliment?



We live in a very critical time surrounded by a society of online strangers and anonymous insults, so you’d think it’d be the other way around…that we’d praise someone right back for praising us. Not only does discounting a compliment suck positivity out of praise, it also deflates the donor of that praise, maybe make them feel dumb for even thinking of complimenting something you so obviously seem is unworthy of praise, invalidate their judgement, and at the very least, create a moment of social awkwardness.



The art of complimenting is indeed tricky. Knowing how to give one…and how to receive one…are both skills everyone needs to know. When you compliment someone, be sure it’s for their benefit and not just a way of manipulating them, which takes us into the world of flattery, defined as excessive or insincere praise. Don’t be fake; be sincere. Anything faux or misguided is painfully transparent. Make sure those words of affirmation are from the heart and void of any ulterior motives.



Complimenting someone means you’ve been paying attention, which is maybe why they are often hard for me to acknowledge properly. I don’t like attention and even though one of my dominant Love Languages is “Words of Affirmation,” I prefer hearing them somewhat privately and certainly not so everyone else can take note and spotlight me. Taking notice of someone’s praise-worthy acts or qualities is also somewhat of an art form. Awareness and being observant don’t come naturally to everyone but if you want to up your compliments game, up your listening and watching skills too.



Ironically, even though being complimented can be socially awkward at times, it’s a well-known fact that complimenting someone in public goes a long way. I remember learning this years ago as it pertains to spouses. It’s always a good idea to compliment your spouse in a crowd. Don’t go overboard and to the point that it makes him or her uncomfortable, but praise away. On the flip-side, make it a habit to praise and compliment people behind their backs too. Yep, behind their backs. When you compliment someone who’s not present, the compliment can feel even more genuine.



Giving someone a shout-out is a win-win, as research shows both the giver and the receiver get an emotional boost and the energy resulting from a simple “thanks for being a great friend” is undeniably positive. We all have our doubts and insecurities and might wonder if anyone really notices us and our good works. Someone on the receiving end of praise is more than likely strive to do more of what got them that praise, whether it be practicing more or working hard. Simply put, compliments amplify positivity and are very powerful gifts.


With all the bickering out there, the sure way to end an argument or heated discussion is to compliment the person on the opposite end of the argument. You of course don’t need to agree with what they’re saying, but telling them “I admire your passion for this issue” or “Sounds like you’ve done some research” can put a much-needed halt to any negativity. The same holds true when you’re trapped in a conversation of gossip that may be making you uncomfortable.


If all this makes it sound like the simple and thoughtful act of giving a compliment is somewhat of an art form, it’s cuz it is. It’s also an important social skill and an essential part of social life and etiquette. As I mentioned earlier, always praise someone sincerely and also be specific in that praise. A somewhat vague “you cut your hair” may have the intent of “I love your new haircut” but may also leave the person wondering what you really mean. Be precise with your praise.



Woman’s Day

Gretchen Rubin of “The Happiness Project” makes no bones about it that being on the receiving end of a compliment makes anyone happy, but she also says to think outside of the praise box and maybe compliment someone on the less obvious. For instance, instead of complimenting your hair stylist on how great she does your hair, praise her for her hard work, gorgeous smile, or even her successful parenting skills. Think about what someone does but probably rarely gets recognized for. That grocery store clerk may work hard and do a great job during these trying times, but if he has amazing eyes or is super friendly, let him know as you swipe your card. This can be especially true for kids. If Leo won first place, tell him you’re proud of that but that you’re even more proud of how hard he worked to get there. Praise the process, not the outcome.


Lastly, let’s take care of a little grammar and spelling. I often see “compliment” and “complement” used incorrectly and it drives this wordsmith nuts. Both words are derived from the Latin word “complere,” which means “to complete” but they are not interchangeable. “Complement” refers to something that completes something else while “compliment” means to remark in the form of admiration, esteem, or approval.  A tip to remember which is which? Look at the spelling, as “complement” has an “e” after the “l” just like “complete” does, while “compliment” has an “i” after the “l.”


Compliments make the world a better place and there you have it, the complete world of compliments. I enjoyed researching this topic and I admire you for reading about it. You’re the best!


Snow Wonderful January 12, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:21 am

Who knew a snowstorm could bring such joy to a region, a city, and my neighborhood?  After being locked-up and quarantined for nearly a year now, kids and grown-ups alike took to the streets in a peaceful protest of warm and sunny weather and reveled in quickly found jackets and gloves as uncommon snow fell from the sky and did so for an entire day. Dogs scampered and sniffed. WFH and homeschooling took a quick pause. People were silly and a lightness filled the snow-filled air. It was beautiful. Big, fat, fluffy flakes falling from the sky for hours on end. Snowmen were made, sleds were created, and social media was filled with snow many photos. Oh wait, did I mention this happened in Central Texas, where in mere days temps are predicted to be in the 70s?



Friends and family out west and up north laughed as we shared photos with them and went on and on and on that it was “still snowing!”  Sorry guys, but our elation was as pure as the driven snow we were gazing at and we chose to make snow angels! Yes, we’ve had snow before, most of the time a mere dusting that wreaks havoc but is gone before photos can even be uploaded. Yesterday it was a snow day like I remember while growing up in the Rocky Mountains or like in my husband’s hometown of Buffalo. During the winter months growing up, my elementary school PE class on Fridays consisted of hopping on a Greyhound bus and riding it up the mountain for ski lessons. I loved every minute and to this day, when I smell a bus, it reminds me of that happy snow-filled moment of my life.



And speaking of Buffalo, it’s where Wilson Bentley’s amazing library of snowflake photographs is housed at the Buffalo Museum of Science and yes, those are real photos of real snowflakes! I cannot think of a more perfect place for it then Buffalo, also home of the famous Blizzard of 1977, the butt of many “lake effect” snow and weather jokes, and those lovable Buffalo Bills who, in a show of perfect timing for my household, had just a day prior won their first play-off game since 1995. Go Bills! We are snow excited!



Buffalo is also where I experienced and totally enjoyed eight feet of snowfall one Christmas. Yep, eight feet. It started snowing Christmas Eve and didn’t stop till sometime after New Year’s. We were literally snowed in there for days but it was one of our family’s most memorable Christmases. It was crazy. It was beautiful.



That’s what folks in these parts thought yesterday as up to six inches fell and accumulated city-wide. It was a thrill for all and seemed to almost wipe clean the miserable stain of the previous week and election cycle. It may not be able to actually wipe away a virus, but for one glorious day it wiped away hate, animosity, and stress.


Thank you snowflakes. Simple snowflakes.



I’ve always loved snow and that “Little Book of Snowflakes” is one of my favorites. I actually have it in our powder room at this very minute for guests to look through as they take care of business. The photos in it are amazing but author and photographer Kenneth Libbrecht was not the first to capture the delicate objects on film. That honor belongs to Mr. Bentley.



Bentley’s obsession with snowflakes began more than a hundred years ago on a small farm in Vermont. Young Wilson had an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and was extremely curious even at the earliest of ages. He quickly became enthralled with his school teacher mother’s microscope and began studying rocks, birds, and everything in between. But it was snowflakes that fascinated him the most.



He concocted a way to collect the fragile flakes and began drawing them in a notebook. He later asked for a camera, which he trained himself to work and eventually attached a microscope lens to. It was in 1885 that he captured the earliest known photo of a single snowflake. He continued improving his photographing skills and snowflake collecting techniques and was asked to write about his methods and findings. Being an introvert though (yay introverts!), he first hesitated  but eventually agreed and was later featured in articles in the likes of “Popular Mechanics” and “National Geographic.” His 1931 book, “Snow Crystals,” features some 2,400 of his amazing images.



It is said that no two snowflakes are alike and that billions of them fall during one snow storm. Billions. Not all are beautifully symmetric but all are amazing in their own way, some no bigger than the head of pin but still decorated with a unique pattern. As for the largest snowflake ever recorded, it was found in Montana and measured 15 inches in diameter. Oh how dear old Mr. Bentley would have loved to have photographed that one!



There is something calming and peaceful about snow. Yeah, don’t tell that to the people of Buffalo or other places that get tons of snow every year, but I personally love a beautiful snow storm and the calming energy it brings with it. Speaking of snowy cities, which one do you think got the most snow during the last year? Here is the official standing of the snowiest cities of 2020:


Anchorage, AK

Spokane, WA

Buffalo, NY

Worcester, MA

Minneapolis, MN

Billings, MT

Pittsburg, PA

Fort Collins, CO

Erie, PA

Cleveland, OH



A snowflake isn’t a frozen raindrop, as many might believe, but rather a single crystal of ice that grows directly from water vapor in the air as the snowflake slowly drifts to earth. In short, a cloud is made from countless microscopic water droplets and when one freezes, snowflakes result. Simply moving from place to place within a cloud produces an infinite variety of different shapes of flakes, their patterns emerging as they tumble through the clouds and the air.



In the end, it was just one day. One magical day though. We did wake up to snow-filled yards the next morning, but save for a few shaded patches, it’s all but melted away. What a delight though to see how that same snow melted many a heart for a brief day in a most taxing period of time. I for one am snow grateful.


A Leap of Faith January 1, 2021

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:54 pm

We’ve collectively waited for this day for nearly a year, but now that it’s here, does anyone else feel a little meh about it? I know I do. The celebrations were muted and the uncertainty remains. It’s as though we’ve anticipated it for so long and now that it’s arrived, things are pretty much the same as they were yesterday…and in October…and in July…and back in March. Yes, there’s hope with the vaccines, but we shall wait to see.




Maybe for me it’s because 2021 didn’t start off on the right foot…literally. The annual Polar Plunge that I l’ve looked forward to for many years running was cancelled. Of all the years we needed it! But, I’m vowing to jump into the new year feet first anyway and with a lot of hope and a little optimism.

2020 was rough. To say the least. But it was also a good year for many. Friends of mine welcomed a beautiful baby boy into their lives after many years of fertility struggles. Weddings happened, albeit edited ones. And if you’re reading this, you survived a year thousands did not. So, 2020 will be a “good” year for so many and for that, I am grateful.



But here we sit, all hoping this year is infinitely better than its predecessor.  But as I mentioned above, not much is different today. We’re still on lock down, struggling businesses are still closed, the virus is still out there, and sadly, a year that began with the chorus “we are all in this together” ended with still so much hate and animosity permeating our beloved country. I’m also exceedingly troubled by the direction so many people chose for our country. It’s something I will never, ever understand. So, where does that leave us? Are we hopeful? Pessimistic? Relieved? What do we really and truly want starting today?


Oddly enough, that very question was asked of my amazing yoga instructor Nicki at @InnerEssenceYoga and her response is one we can all embrace:



In other words, it’s on us people. We feed the flames, we feed the monsters, and we ultimately feed our souls. Let’s all try to focus on not only unity but what’s at stake if we don’t. Namaste!



There’s no denying 2020 has been a tumultuous year but in the midst of all the chaos, I’m pretty sure we each can come up with some positives and things we can appreciate. The little things. Maybe it was a book you read that you loved or the discovery of a new TV show that you enjoyed watching.  Perhaps you connected with your stay-at-home family on levels you never had. Maybe it was making new friends in your circle that was increasingly smaller or a new puppy. Courtney Carver of “Be More with Less” suggests creating a “Little Things Journal” to keep track of all of these soft nuances in our days that bring us joy and magic.


Carver takes this a bit further by reminding us we need to let go…let go of 2020 as much as we can and let go of the things that we just don’t need anymore.  These might include guilt; the guilt you have from not doing things, what you didn’t get done, or how you did things last year as well as the guilt of what you chose to help you feel better. If baking bread or shopping online made you happy during quarantine, it’s okay. Give yourself grace that you might have added a few pounds since last spring and kindly remind yourself that you can take those pounds off. Or not. Let go of guilt.


Let go of old goals and expectations and thoughts and beliefs that just don’t fit you anymore. Maybe you didn’t achieve your goals but remember, many of them might have be made back in January and things changed dramatically after. You are not the same person this January that you were last January or even last year as a whole. Things don’t always go our way and we will all fail, but don’t allow your failures to define you. Cut your goal-oriented self some slack and feel the freedom of starting over. At the same time, let go of expectations of others.


Let go also of what other people think or say about you. Live your best life and let them live theirs. Let go of any resentment, pain, or envy and replace them with forgiveness and understanding. We all changed in 2020 and none of us are obligated to be the same people we were even one year ago. Embrace the new you and stop caring about what others think of you. Their circus and monkeys are not yours to tend to and vice versa.


Let go of your mistakes. Acknowledge them and learn from them, but remind yourself of the successes you experienced and progress you made in 2020. Steer you brain train off the negative 2020 track and take stock in what you accomplished and the little things that made you smile. Make peace with 2020 and make peace with yourself.



Now it’s time to not see obstacles anymore, but opportunities instead. Start today by embracing you and giving yourself more credit. Look out for yourself and stick up for yourself. Self-care is not selfish and can indeed be done while caring for those around you. In fact, the more you love yourself the more you can give and share love with others. When you think better of yourself you live a better life, despite any obstacles or adversity.


Make happiness a priority and continue doing anything you enjoyed in 2020. Maybe it’s a new hobby or something you learned that brought you joy. This year, put your heart and soul into it in meaningful but healthy ways and see where it can take you emotionally.


Keep paying attention to the right people in 2021 and show them love and respect. If 2020 taught us anything, it’s how important some of the people in our lives are. We learned who we value, who we missed, and who we can count on.


Find the balance. Juggling working from home, homeschooling, and trying to stay healthy and informed is exhausting. Not much of that will change in the immediate future so work hard but rest, stay informed but unplug. The news cycle is toxic right now. Walk away from it.


Consider and reflect on your 2020 wins. Maybe you walked more and got more physically healthy. Maybe you organized and simplified. Maybe you learned all kinds of new things while homeschooling your kids. If you look and seek, you will find achievements you may not have been paying attention to.


Think beyond the pandemic and the politics and ask yourself what made 2020 memorable. Maybe it was someone you connected with for the first time or a milestone date. I had both. I turned 60 in 2020 and I made wonderful new friends when I took up tennis again and had the time to play more golf. When I look back on 2020 I also find memorable the time our daughter “got” to spend at home with us, reading more, slowing down, staying healthy, discovering a new priest and his fabulous Sunday sermons online, and that I really don’t need manis and pedis and not having to go to the appointments was actually freeing. I also learned just how big an introvert I am, and coupled with the fact the I’m also an empty nester, I actually didn’t mind and sometimes actually enjoyed the #stayhome mandate. But that’s just me.



So as we all dive into 2021, ask yourself what’s one thing you learned in 2020? What’s one hard thing you did and triumphed over? What is your biggest 2020 regret? What were some of 2020’s positive experiences? And finally, what are you grateful for? Be honest and then jump feet first into this new year and let go of the things you can’t control and make the positive changes you can.  It’s time to leave behind what you don’t need and the many bitter disappointments we encountered. It’s time to take a leap of faith.


One For the Books December 31, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:05 pm


Have you made yours? It’s down to the wire now with mere hours left. This year is different though, so maybe our resolutions should be different too. Yes there will probably still be the requisite “lose weight,” “eat healthier,” “exercise more,” and “worry less,” vows, but how about some unique goals to greet a new year that was preceded by the most unique of years.



LOL and sad but true but how about joining me and “Happiness Project” author and all things happy guru Gretchen Rubin in a fun and different New Year’s resolution idea for 2021 that can actually boost our happiness? It’s called #Read21in21 and promotes reading for 21 minutes every day in 2021. Sign me up!



None of us could go much further than our homes this year but we can go all kinds of places just by getting lost in a book. An added bonus is that, in addition to being entertained, we can learn so much when we read, especially if doing so becomes a habit…a good habit.


As Rubin says, if we have habits that are good for us, we’re far more likely to be happier…hence our constant push to improve our habits of healthy living and healthy eating. And, research shows we should by all means add reading to that list, as reading is good for us. In fact, reading is the most effective way to overcome stress, beating out both listening to music or taking a walk. It also improves mental health, prevents cognitive and memory decline, makes us more empathetic, increases imagination and vocabulary, and enhances acceptance during uncertainty…something we all need more of right now right? If you’re a nighttime reader, it can also improve healthy sleep patterns and increase restful sleep.


Still need convincing? Okay, then consider the fact that if you sign on to read for 21 minutes every day for 365 days it adds up to 7,665 minutes or almost 128 hours of reading. That sounds like a lot of reading and a lot of books, but when you think about it, I bet you spend way more than 21 minutes online, on your phone, on social media, or watching TV every day. How about replacing even just one of those with a book for 21 minutes?



Every Christmas I’m reminded of that fabulous tradition in Iceland and can’t help but wonder if it could happen in the U.S. Sadly, we’d probably all argue about what to read. Insert sad emoji here.


But, even though we may not have done this for Christmas Eve, we can take the idea into the new year. Give books for gifts this year and ask for them for birthdays. If you’re not in a book club, consider joining one..even a virtual one… and make it a habit to visit local book stores and buy from them as often as possible. If your local library is open, get a library card. Have I mentioned that a dream of mine is to have a library card from the New York Public Library?



If you are considering signing on to #Read21in21, Rubin has some encouraging reminders to help you, including:

  • Designate and rearrange a space to create a more inviting area for reading. I did this last year just for prayer and meditation daily readings and it helped immensely.
  • Improve reading  lighting with a good lamp or a light that clips onto your book for reading in bed.
  • Log the books (make a list!) you want to read and maybe even those you’ve read to revisit at the end of the year.
  • Upgrade your earbuds and/or tablet if you read online.
  • Invite friends and family to join you in your reading mission and share and borrow books with them.
  • Introduce this challenge to your book club and celebrate everyone’s successes at year’s end.


In order to help form and strengthen the habit of reading, pay attention to what books you like. I tend to prefer non-fiction and novels and am not a sci-fi or mystery reader. The odds of succeeding at reading 21 minutes every day are much higher if I read what I like so I’m sticking to genres and topics that are my faves. As much as I love reading, this is the reason book clubs are a bit of a challenge for me…I tend to not read a pick I wouldn’t well, pick. On the flip-side however, reading something out of your comfort zone might be interesting and informative and might even surprise you. It’s your reading challenge and your call. No one gets to tell you what to read!



Another option if you’re out of book ideas (which I’m never not!) is to consider books on subject areas you have a personal interest in. Reading a book on something you already know you like opens the subject up in a whole new way. If you enjoy gardening, maybe read about the gardens Monet painted.  I love restaurants and one of my favorite books is “Garlic and Sapphires” by Ruth Reichl, former food critic and editor of Gourmet magazine. Maybe you loved a certain movie, find the book it was based on and read it. Are you a new parent or starting a new job? Read up on parenting and the industry you’re in. Another fun idea is to revist a book you remember from high school or college. On my list for 2021 is t re-read “Go Ask Alice,” which I remember heavily impacting me in high school.


Always keep in mind that what we read impacts us…it can inspire us, shape our thoughts, and even help us reach our potentials…but it can also negatively affect us if we’re not careful. Choose your books wisely.



Most importantly, make it fun and don’t stress about it. I’m a big proponent that unless you are reading for a class, if you start a book and don’t like it…stop reading it! There’s nothing worse than feeling like that book you looked forward to diving into feels like an assignment. I’m also a proponent of real books, but if you like audio-books or reading on a device, they count! So does re-reading a book you’ve previously read and reading to your kids. Spiritual reading also counts. Reading the bible, daily meditations, and books related to spirituality and self-help may be the best books you can read in these uncertain times.



Okay, so say you’re not loving the idea of reading for 21 minutes every day. I get it. It’s not for everyone. But, maybe you can alter the idea to fit you and your one beautiful life. Maybe exercise for 21 minutes every day. Maybe do a hobby like paint or a jigsaw puzzle every day. Vow to visit 21 new restaurants (if they are open!) in 2021. The list is endless and I’d love to hear your ideas.


At the beginning of each new year we are excited for a fresh start and we reflect and long for renewal and recharging. In 2021, this idea is on steroids. But maybe you don’t want to make a reading resolution…or any resolution at all. That’s okay and Rubin offers the option of writing your “21 for 2021.” And no, it’s not scary and doesn’t need to be extremely challenging. Here are some ideas:


Instead of a list of the standard resolutions of what you hope to do or accomplish, list things you want to stop doing. Stop worrying. Stop overeating. Stop criticizing. Yes, I know this goes against the popular thought that you’re more likely to succeed at positively-worded goals, but I kinda like this idea.


Keep your list focused on one area of your life such as your family, your free time, or your work rather than your entire world and the world as a whole. Instead of “be more helpful,” try “help my co-worker with challenging projects.” Rather than “teach my kids to pray,” aim to “pray more with my kids.”


Go in on a list with a family member or friend. Teamwork is a great motivator!


Make a list of only things that are fun!


Whatever you choose to do, make it doable and watch how you word it. As Rubin writes, would you rather “practice” piano or “play the piano?” “Turn off the TV and lights earlier” or “Get more restful sleep?” “Don’t eat sweets” or “Reserve sweets for one day a week?” It’s all about how we word it and how we go about it.



Brittany Fuson

2020 was indeed one for the books and one filled with uncertainty and division. It’s worth celebrating the end of though and by starting 2021 with something you can actually control is a way to start it off right. Pick your passion and book it.



Ring in Luck and Hope December 30, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 8:19 pm

Never has a new year been so anxiously awaited and saying goodbye and good riddance to a current year been so popular than right now. We are indeed so ready to drop the ball on 2020 but sadly, the iconic big ball in New York’s Time Square will drop but not in front of merry revelers and a massive crowd. For the first time in 114 years, this year the famous countdown so wonderfully hosted by Dick Clark for what seemed like hundreds of years, is going digital and will be livestreamed to quarantined homes across the globe. So 2020, right?


The tradition dates back to 1907 when a 700-pound sphere made out of iron, wood, and 100 light bulbs descended and marked the beginning of a new year. Since that first drop, seven different versions have been designed and used. The current version consists of a brightly patterned orb covered in LED lamps and Waterford Crystal panels and weighs nearly 12,000 pounds.


Also gone are many big New Year’s Eve bashes and galas as we’re all still asked (and in some cases, mandated) to refrain from socializing and congregating in large groups. So how, pray tell, are we to ring out the most tumultuous of years and ring in what is hopefully the light at the end of a very dark tunnel? Leaving behind the bad vibes of 2020 is on all of our resolutions list and I’m guessing just about anything goes this twisted year.



Food is always popular so it’s good to know that in a year when we could all certainly use a little more luck, many foods promise wealth and good fortune and are the perfect mates for those celebratory champagne toasts.  We’ve all heard that making a dish of black-eyed peas is said to be lucky, but if you’re like me and don’t like those little dotted peas, no worries, we have options!



The pork and rice dish commonly referred to as Hoppin’ John with Greens consists of those peas, but adds to them ham hocks, turnip greens, and other ingredients to make a soupy delight. The turnip greens are said to symbolize paper money and the peas, coins. But, if you don’t like pork, fish is also considered a good luck dish based on the belief that fish only swim in one direction…forward…which is what we all strive to do at the start of a new year.


Germans believe having a spoonful of sauerkraut on New Year’s Day will bring blessings and wealth, but leave it to the Italians, who I believe have the best food on planet earth, to bring it with their traditional new year meal of Lentils and Cotechino, an Italian large pork sausage, similar to salami.


If you’re looking for a new and different way to ring in the new year in this most different of years, scan the globe as countries around the world have many interesting traditions, and in fact, one of the most popular ways of acknowledging a new year comes from English and German folklore.



It’s no secret that when the clock strikes midnight on December 31, young and old alike kiss someone. These days you actually choose who to kiss, but according to the original English and German folklore, you kissed the first person you come in contact with and it’s them who you’re to share good luck with. Be careful who you’re standing next to!



Another popular tradition and one that I love is participating in a Polar Plunge on New Year’s Day. I’ve done so for the past several years and admit it is my favorite New Year tradition and one that is so cleansing and invigorating. I did plunge on January 1, 2020, which apparently didn’t do any good, and am so bummed that our local plunge has been cancelled this year. If you’re wondering, this cool custom takes place in cities around the world and consists of running or jumping into frigid water on New Year’s Day. Until I did it myself I thought it was the craziest thing I’d ever heard but I was sold on the cold!



Still looking for a unique way to say Hello 2021? Here are some fun international ideas:


In Brazil everyone wears white on New Year’s Eve, which is thought to bring luck and peace. Brazilians also believe you can increase your luck by jumping over seven waves and make one wish for each.


If you wake up in Denmark and find tons of broken dishes in your yard or on your porch, consider it a good thing. Sounds crazy, but those crazy Danes go around breaking dishes on the doorsteps of their friends and family and believe the more shards you find, the luckier you’ll be. Danes also physically “leap” into the new year by standing on chairs and jumping off, making sure their feet are actually airborne at midnight and that they land firmly in the new year.


Spaniards also have some fun and quirky new year rituals. From Seville to Madrid, you might find people wearing red underwear on New Year’s Eve, especially if the undies were given to them by someone else. Spaniards are also known for their love of sherry, so it’s appropriate that grapes are also part of their new year traditions. Easting 12 grapes at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve is thought to ensure 12 months of good luck for the coming year. Ole!


Spain’s Mediterranean neighbor Greece also has a fruit-based new year tradition, albeit a bit more ferocious one. At the stroke of midnight, Greeks toss pomegranates on the ground and believe the more pieces that burst into pieces, the more abundance you will have in the new year.


In Ireland, people open their doors at midnight on New Year’s Eve to let the old year out and the new year in. This year we might want to include windows!


Keeping bad things away and evil at bay is the meaning behind dressing up in bear costumes and dancing from house to house in Romania. Now this I’d like to see!


This next tradition reminds me slightly of the King Cake Mardi Gras tradition of baking a baby inside each one, but this time it’s Bolivia, Greece, and other countries where it’s considered good luck to bake coins into desserts to celebrate the new year.


Scotland can lay claim to perhaps one of the most famous new year traditions, that of Auld Lang Syne. We all know it, we all sing it, but why?


Auld Lang Syne began as a Scottish poem written by Robert Burns in 1788 and then set to the tune of a traditional folk song. The well-known and beloved tune is used to bid farewell to the old year and is also sung at funerals, graduations, and other occasions. Its Scottish title can be translated into standard English as “old long since” and loosely translated in the first line of the chorus to “for the sake of old times.” Both it and “America The Beautiful” have the same meter, songwriter George M. Cohan quotes the first line of it in in chorus of “You’re a Grand Old Flag,” Beethoven wrote an arrangement of it in the original brisk strathspey rhythm as part of his “12 Scottish Songs,” and the tune is played and sung by the crowd at the conclusion of Edinburgh’s fabulous Military Tattoo, which I’ve had the privilege of seeing and highly recommend!


So there you have it, fun and festive ways to say hola 2021 and au revoir 2020. Here’s to a blessed 2021, where even in Ireland they’ll probably be saying “don’t let the door hit you” to 2020!



Hindsight 2020 December 27, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:34 pm

Anyone remember the above meme from early this year? Boy were we way off!



My intent today was to write about looking forward to 2021, much like everyone and their blogging dog is doing, but am feeling a bit blue today and I’m not sure why. Maybe cuz Christmas is over, families are back in their hunker-downed homes, and what festivities and fun there were, are done. It was undoubtedly a strange Christmas for most of us…and anyone who disagrees just isn’t being honest… and all we have left to look forward to is 2021, which IMHO doesn’t look much better, at least from the get go.  But if we’ve learned anything this year it’s to remain hopeful and hope-filled so I will do so.



We learned a lot this most uncertain and train-wreck of years but not all of it was negative. Yes, we couldn’t ravel, send our kids to schools, eat out, and had to wear masks everywhere, but we also learned to look inward, reconnect with others and connect in ways we never had, slow down, our homes are indeed our sanctuaries but may need some tweaking, and how to be comfortable being uncomfortable. Sadly, this year we also witnessed unbearable pain and loss, unprecedented acts of violence and hate, unhealthy levels of fear and anxiety, and a disturbing lack of any hope for unity in our country but, we also helped each other, realized what really matters, and witnessed good amongst the evil…for the most part. It was, for all intents and purposes, a collective wake up call for literally the entire world and if only we could put that wake up call to bed for all eternity. If only.



For me personally, the silver linings of 2020 included slowing down and getting outdoors more. I took up tennis again and met a fabulous new friend by doing so and got closer to other women as I golfed more. I read more and I prayed more. I walked and I did yoga online and discovered a great squad of fellow yogis. I also learned I’m waaaaaay more of an introvert than I ever knew and realize now I always have been. I had no problem with #stayhome but being an introvert also means my worry radar is off the charts, which didn’t serve me well during 2020. More on that in an upcoming blog!



So what did you learn this CRAZY year? What did society as a whole learn? Here are just a few things we’ve all learned to some extent or another:


How strong our friendships are and who our real friends are. I think we would all agree with this one and I for sure can honestly say a big “amen” to it. Who reached out to you? Who did you really and truly miss?



Our homes are where our hearts are, but “hindsight 2020,” we’d make some changes to them. The entire home industry – real estate, design and décor, and remodel/construction – surprisingly boomed in 2020 as we were all forced to stay home for work, school, play and everything in between. The result? We saw our homes in a new and different light and the “open concept” so popular on HGTV maybe wasn’t the perfect pandemic answer. Designer Erin Gates writes that separate living areas, offices, kid study areas, dens, and livable and bigger outdoor living spaces are now all the rage. For nearly a year, we’ve felt the collective need for separate Zoom and study rooms as our big family rooms proved a messy eyesore in the background of online meetings and distracting for studying and homeschooling. Enter the office and study areas, answers to indefinite WFH situations, allowing kitchen and dining tables to remain just that, and convenient ways to literally and figuratively shut the door on work and school at night. “Escape” rooms are also trending as we crave a quick get away from the fam. These might be separate sitting rooms or maybe an indoor/outdoor sunroom. Whatever you discovered, find what changes you can make and make them in 2021 as it doesn’t look like a whole lot is going to change very soon.



How to press pause and savor quiet, alone time. Struggles for many, especially extroverts, over-achievers, and those who live alone, these were nonetheless much-needed new skills for many. We were forced to face our emotions, simply enjoy time and space, let go of busyness and learn that it alone does not equate to happiness or productivity, and how important resting and recharging are. And, perhaps most importantly, we learned to be happy with ourselves and accept our flaws, including those gray hairs we couldn’t get colored, those eyelash extensions we couldn’t replace, and those chipped finger and toe nails we couldn’t “pick color” for. I have not had a pedi or mani since March and I gotta tell you, I don’t miss them at all.  In short, we learned to let go…let go of high expectations and perfection, old habits that were unhealthy, and anything that weighs us down. When 24-7 newscasts and social media blasts contain an incredible amount of suffering and loss, gloom and doom, lies and hypocrisy, we are forced to look inward and elsewhere for inspiration and hope.


We really can do it all. Granted, this was forced upon us as we learned to juggle working from home while homeschooling our kids but learn we did. I don’t have kids at home but I know this had to be immensely challenging for mom and dad and I salute them all. I cannot even imagine. Still, hopefully time at home allowed families to gain valuable insight in and gratitude toward each other and maybe, just maybe, we actually had a little fun at home every day. Sadly, many learned they had to give up their jobs in order to take care of the kids and homes, but hopefully along the way some of them also learned to live with less and put others first. This is a tough one.


Try new things. This might be baking bread or asking for help. The courage to try something new was all the rage early on in 2020 and unlocking new talents was the result. We were forced into our homes but out of our comfort zones and had to make the best of it.



Gratitude, but a whole new kind of gratitude. Instead of being grateful for travel and shopping, we were grateful for our health and that of family and friends as well as for front line workers in hospitals and grocery stores, and truck drivers and delivery services. We learned who and what is really essential and it wasn’t who or what we would have predicted it to be.



What about you? What did you learn? What else did we all learn in 2020 that perhaps isn’t or wasn’t so obvious?



After such a challenging and tumultuous year, it’s really hard to imagine life ever getting back to “normal” and I for one am peaking at 2021 with one eye shut as very little of what I see coming around the bend seems positive or promising. Still, I say goodbye to 2020 with both those eyes looking up and fingers crossed with hand on heart. So long 2020. It’s been real. Real strange. Real hard. Real frustrating. Real eye-opening.




1 Corinthians Christmas Version December 20, 2020

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:13 pm

It is one of most popular readings from the bible and is often quoted in both secular and non-secular worlds. It talks about being patient, kind, and honest and not being envious, proud, or rude. It was read during my wedding and I had to memorize it to be initiated in my college sorority. It is, 1 Corinthians 13 and one of my favorite scriptures. I recently read the idea that single men and women should replace the word “love” with the name of who they are thinking about dating or marrying. Love it! I’m guessing many of you do too and probably know it almost by heart, but did you know there is a Christmas version? It’s not found in the bible, but it’s well worth a read. Enjoy!


1 Corinthians 13 Christmas Version


If I decorate my house perfectly with strands of twinkly lights and shiny balls

but do not show love to my family, I am just a decorator.

If I slave away in the kitchen baking dozens of Christmas cookies and arranging them on a beautifully

adorned table but do not share the true meaning of Christmas, I am just another cook.

If I volunteer at a soup kitchen, carol in a nursing home, or donate to charity

but do not demonstrate simple kindness to strangers, it profits me nothing.

If I attend holiday parties but do not go to church, I have missed the point

and am celebrating the wrong thing.

Love stops cooking to hug a child.

Love sets aside decorating to kiss a spouse.

Love is kind during the holidays though harried and tired.

Love doesn’t envy another’s home that has coordinated Christmas china,

perfectly strung outdoor lights, or a flawless tree.

Love doesn’t ask family to get out of the way but is thankful they are in the way.

Love doesn’t give only to those who are able to give in return or those on our lists,

but rejoices in giving to those who can’t and those who aren’t.

Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

Love never fails, even at Christmas.


Merry Christmas everyone!