Beyond Words

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

What A Doll March 16, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:48 pm

Somebody had a very special birthday this month and it’s someone who has had multiple impressive jobs, many a fabulous home, and a man who has eyes only for her. Who could it be? None other than Barbie! Yep, the Malibu princess turned 60 on March 9 and doesn’t she look fab for her age?!

 

 

     

During those 60 years Barbie has been everything from best friend to president. She’s been a doctor, an astronaut, a news anchor, a fashion editor, flight attendant, and everything in between. And despite numerous controversies surrounding her hair color, waist size, and skin color, Barbie remains Mattel’s best-selling toy.  A total of more than a billion Barbie dolls have been sold over the years and every year nearly 60 million are bought around the world. A whopping 100 Barbies are said to be sold every minute!  Not bad for a girl whose inspiration came from a risqué German doll named Bild Lilli.

 

 

Truth be told, I love Barbie and all things Barbie. I’ve always wanted a wall in my house filled with big vintage and pop art sketches of the doll but for some reason my husband is not on board. Go figure. And who didn’t love Danish-Norwegian dance-pop group Aqua’s fun and flirty 1997 hit “I’m A Barbie Girl.” You’re probably right now singing “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world, life in plastic, it’s fantastic” after reading the title.

 

 

If I were a gazillionaire living in a dream house with a ton of rooms, I’d dedicate one just to Barbie. I’d have all my old Barbies displayed, along with her Dreamhouse, clothes, and everything vintage. Those hangars! Those little bitty shoes! That white pink stole! And those carrying cases! I still have one exactly like the red one above and if I close my eyes I can picture how it feels and how it smells. These are childhood memories that have indeed lasted a lifetime.

 

 

Growing up a Hispanic brunette, I never cared that Barbie was blonde-haired and blue-eyed. My sisters and I played with her and her Dreamhouse that we still have at my mom’s house and we never, ever felt slighted by her whiteness or thinness. She was just a doll to us and one who gave us countless hours of playful pretend joy. We had Barbie and later added Midge, Ken, and Skipper and I remember how exciting it was when new Barbies had bendable knees and twist-and-turn waists. All these years later, today girls of all colors and shapes can find a Barbie in their own image, which is what Barbie was intended to be all along.

 

 

Created by then Mattel owner Ruth Handler and her husband Elliott, Barbie was inspired by the paper dolls their daughter Barbara played with and designed after Bild Lilli. (I also remember LOVING paper dolls, especially Betsy McCall ones that came each month in my mom’s McCall’s magazine.) The Handlers also invented Hot Wheels and named Barbie and Ken after their children. It’s safe to say that little did they know they had an icon on their hands when Barbie debuted at the New York Toy Fair on March 9, 1959. They probably thought they just had a cute doll with a ponytail, holding sunglasses, and wearing a swimsuit. Instead, what the Handlers handed the world was its most popular and famous doll of all time. Let’s give them a hand for doing so.

 

 

Since that debut, Barbie has undergone many a makeover, had many a career, and many a celebrity has been made into their very own Barbie doll. Some makeovers have been received with fanfare but others have been met with criticism, including and probably by some of those very stars who thought nothing of being a Barbie themselves. But that’ a whole other blog. So, let’s start with her figure. That ubiquitous and unrealistic figure that many say conveys an unrealistic body image to young girls.

 

 

A standard Barbie dolls is 11.5 inches tall, which equates to around 5’9” in real life and weighs around 110 pounds, which most experts and doctors consider underweight for her height. The doll’s “real life” measurements are estimated to be a 36-inch chest, an 18-inch waist, and 33-inch-wide hips. According to the BBC, if you made the original body into a true human size figure, she would have a 21-inch waist and 30-inch hips. Sadly, the average waist of an American woman in 2018 was 39 inches.

 

 

In response, Mattel has altered Barbie’s figure and a new line of body types including tall, petite, and curvy, was introduced. Curvy Barbie gained a great deal of attention and accolades but sadly many young girls still consider her “fat,” even though she would be an equivalent of a size 4 in women’s clothing. That, my friends, is not Barbie’s fault.

 

But that’s just the start of the controversies that have surrounded our Barbie girl.

 

Diversity was also lacking in early day Barbies, but in their defense, Mattel has attempted to create Barbies that appeal to a range of races and cultures and dolls representing all walks of life.

 

“Colored Francie” debuted in 1967 and is sometimes considered the first African-American Barbie, but she was made using the same head molds as those of white Francie so she lacked what many consider traditional women of color characteristics. A year later Christie was introduced and was considered more racially authentic and accurate.

 

In 1980 Mattel began producing Hispanic dolls, including Teresa who is currently one of Barbie’s best friends. In addition, mixed race Asian-American Raquelle was one of the “I Can Be President” dolls while Summer Gordon appeals to all the gingers in the world with her strawberry blonde hair and green eyes.

 

All in all, Barbie now sports at least seven skin tones, 22 eyes colors, and 24 hair styles and colors and the “Barbie Fashionistas” line includes a doll with a prosthetic leg and another in a wheel chair. Last year the “Inspiring Women” line was released featuring the likes of Amelia Earhart and snowboarder Chloe Kim, among others. And just this year, more than 20 “Sheroes” dolls bear the likes of female heroes like activists and gymnasts.

 

Barbie’s rep also took a hit in 1992 when the talking “Teen Talk Barbie” said things like “I love shopping” and “Will we ever have enough clothes?” As if those weren’t cringe-worthy enough, what ultimately broke the Barbie’s back was the now infamous “Math class is tough” phrase. Each doll was programmed to say four of 270 possible phrases and only less than 2 percent of all dolls sold said the dreaded math one. Still loud and vocal criticism led Mattel to eliminate it all together.

 

 

 

Given the full name Barbara Millicent Roberts, Barbie hails from the fictional town of Willows, Wisconsin and she attended Willows High School. Somehow she made her way to Malibu, California though. Her on-off boyfriend Ken Carson first appeared in 1961 and she had a famous younger sister named Skipper. Her family and friend circles continue to grow and morph and she even got a little friendly with Australian surfer Blaine when she and Ken were on a break. Oh my!

 

Through the years, Barbie’s cars are almost as famous as her wardrobe. She’s owned everything from a requisite pink convertible to more sporty Jeeps. She also holds a pilot’s license and can fly a commercial airplane. Barbie works hard and plays hard, and whether beach babe or boss lady, she lives her life to the fullest. Maybe that’s what we all love about her.

 

Barbie’s ever-evolving and progressive make-overs have also affected where she lives. Enter, the Barbie Dreamhouse. And what a dream it is.

 

 

The first Barbie Dreamhouse was introduced in 1962 and was made out of cardboard. It could be folded up into a portable luggage-like piece and is the one I had as a child. With a true minimalist vibe, the house is reminiscent of TV’s “Mad Men” and all things Rat Pack. Since then, Barbie’s digs have run the gamut and perfectly mimic the decades in which they were created, right down to their plastic.

 

 

The ‘70s saw Barbie move into a brightly decorated, fun, and girlie three-story home complete with an elevator, followed by a more realistic one a few years later that had working doors and windows. From there Barbie became urban-chic as she transitioned to city life as well as a full-blown “magical mansion” that featured a ringing telephone (remember those?!), a working doorbell, and a light-up fireplace. More recently Barbie’s home away from home boasts architectural details only a designer could dream up, including stained glass and bay windows, arches, and balconies. It’s important to also note that Barbie must be working hard as her most recent home has not one but two elevators.

 

 

 

Whatever her pros and cons, Barbie is an undeniable hit that has withstood generations of play and fame. In 2016 she was the subject of an exhibition at the Musee des Arts Decoratif in Paris and she is bonafide social media darling. Her Instagram account, @barbiestyle, has 2 million followers and nearly 6 million follow her YouTube animated vlogs. She is the subject of a Netflix series, has starred in close to 40 animated films, and a live-action movie featuring Oscar-nominated Margot Robbie is currently in production. I can’t wait for that one! Mattel is rightly proud of their girl and is commemorating her anniversary with a pop-up art installation in New York City. Think of the pink! Think of the lines! Think of the history.

 

 

Maybe deep down we are all Barbie girls, shouldn’t take her so seriously, and instead just have fun with the whole idea of a girl who can do anything and who dreams big. As they say, if you don’t have a dream, there’s no way to make one come true.

 

Happy Birthday Barbie!

 

 

 

 

Travel with Friends…For the Health of It March 12, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:56 pm

 

Looking for a way to improve your health and well-being? Phone a friend! Take a trip! Better yet, do both at once.

 

Just last week I returned from my annual girls’ trip with four of my college buddies. Every February we meet somewhere…all five of us live in different cities and some states…to relax, catch up, and enjoy being with each other and in a beautiful place. We take turns choosing the destination; no one votes, no one does a thing but show up unless you are the gal picking that year’s locale. For 16 straight years we have done this. We laugh, we cry, we swear, we sightsee, we shop, we spa, we eat, we drink. And for the first time this year, we had a bit of drama but as true friends do, we get through it and move on. Most of all we value each other and our time together, and apparently we are on to something.

 

In today’s society of strangers and random “likes,” it was comforting to recently read that taking a trip with your girlfriends is not just good for your soul but good for your health too. Yay! Yippee!

 

But, you say, we already knew that, right? Yes perhaps, but now it’s scientifically proven and research based. It’s also a win-win: both travel and friendships are good for you. I’m in!

 

 

Friends with Benefits

Here’s the deal: researchers have found that hanging out with gal pals can actually increase the production of oxytocin, the “feel good cuddle” hormone that our bodies naturally make when we’re happy. Since it raises our levels of joy, it can also make us more generous, more trusting, a bit friendlier, and a host of other traits we look for in…friends! And if this “feel good” evidence isn’t enough to convince you science nerds, hold your lab coats and read on.

 

 

News flash: friendship can extend your life expectancy, lower the chances of heart disease, and help you tolerate pain. And, none other than brainiacs at Harvard have discovered that people who don’t have strong friendships may be more depressed, suffer earlier cognitive decline, and may even die at younger ages then those surrounded by loyal friends. So important are friendships that a lack of strong social ties increases the risk of premature death by 50 percent and how lonely one feels increases the risk of dementia. Call those friends and call them now!

 

Better yet, take a trip with them, as the benefits of friendships are very, very similar to the benefits of travel. Combine the two and voila, you’ve got pure awesomeness.

 

 

The Friendly Skies

So we’ve learned having trusted and loyal friends reduces stress, has positive physiological changes in the brain, reduces the threat of heart disease, and decreases the risk of depression but guess what? Travel does all those things too. Well, as long as you can handle the growing stress of flying these days.

 

Now we’re learning that traveling with friends just ups the ante and may be just what the doctor ordered.

 

Getting away from the daily stressors in your life, especially if you can surround yourself with trusted friends while on your escape, has a way of repairing, rebooting, and rejuvenating both your mind and your body. You leave behind your schedule, your laundry, and everything else that keeps you busy and rushed.

 

 

We already discussed the benefits having heartfelt friends has on your heart, and when you travel you tend to walk more than you might at home, which is also heart healthy. Both friendship and travel relieve stress and can reduce the risk of depression. In fact, the Wisconsin Medical Journal reported that women who travel may be less likely to develop depression.

 

People who travel for pleasure also tend to have a “life is good and I am blessed” attitude and don’t you feel that very same way after spending either a week or an afternoon with good friends? It’s a level of satisfaction that no website or post can give you.

 

 

And don’t give me the “I feel guilty traveling without my family” reason. Unless you are a single mom or nursing a baby, and even they can still maybe get away for even one night,  that reason sounds more like an excuse. Your family will be just fine while you’re away and you’ll return to them a happier and recharged member. Our daughter still to this day reminds me of the time I left her with strep throat to leave on that year’s annual girls’ trip. She’s 25-years-old now but loves to remind me about it. Truth be told, I had taken her to the doctor, gotten her antibiotics, knew strep traditionally goes away quickly, and she was in good hands with her dad.

 

Phone a Friend

But don’t fret if a “friendcation” simply isn’t in the cards any time soon. A recent study showed that simply going out with the girls is equally beneficial. Happy hour? Check. Painting class? Yep. Round of golf? Tee it up!

 

The study, conducted by researchers at Oxford University, found that women’s overall health and happiness levels increase and improve the more they get together with friends. These quick snippets of love and laughter have a proven way of helping a woman heal faster from injury or illness and decrease stress and anxiety. The positive impact on both a woman’s mental and physical health proves that laughter is the best medicine.

 

 

But as women, we know that carving out time for a simple cup of coffee much less a five day vacay is difficult. We make time for family, work, exercise, and other commitments, but when it comes to girl time we tend to lollygag. In today’s mobile and moving world, it’s also common for friends to move away. I’ve lived in the same metro area for 33 years and have friends in different places from different phases of my life. They know everything about me, the good and the bad, and we’ve all been through so much. I love them but do I see them as often as I’d like? No, but each group does make a point of getting together and those are moments I treasure.

 

 

Maintaining close friendships may prove harder and harder as we age. Our kids grow up, jobs change, and energy levels diminish, but it’s important to point out that a Michigan State University psychologist found that in older adults, friendships are a stronger predictor of health and happiness than family member relationships. All I can say is that my girls’ trip consists of five women who don’t live near each other, have busy lives, and rarely see each other save for our annual trip, but we make it a point to do so every February. Yes, we know we are beyond lucky but we are also beyond dedicated.

 

 

So, whether booking a trip or making a reservation, what’s the key to building and maintaining a healthy group of gal pals? Most experts agree the smaller the group, the better.  A large group will never be intimate and a small, close-knit one has a much higher level of commitment, the odds of scheduling conflicts decrease, everyone will always feel they are being heard and are validated and nurtured, trust will soar, bonds will grow, and reservations are much easier to make!

 

 

So maybe it’s time we stopped focusing on filling our lives with more things and more busyness, and instead call up that friend or group of friends you love and miss. Grab a coffee, see a movie, have a glass of wine. Maybe even take a trip. Whatever you decide or can do, it’s time to invest in friendships and not things. Your heart, body, and mind will thank you for it.

 

A Pink Red Carpet February 25, 2019

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:17 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?

 

A Pink Red Carpet

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!