Beyond Words

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

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 12:44 am

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

When you first bring one home and if it has foil, remove the foil so the plant can drain. It’s best to place one on a plate or a saucer and never let standing water accumulate in the saucer. Keep your poinsettia’s soil moist but don’t over water. As for sun, poinsettias do best in somewhat cool but well-lit rooms. If you want to preserve your poinsettia for months to come, cut the plant back to two buds after the last frost and set it in your flower beds or containers on your porch or patio. Wherever you put them, make sure they stay well-drained and get plenty of sun. Keep in mind that in Central America, a poinsettia shrub can grow up to 12 feet tall! Around October, you will want to put the plants in a closet, basement, or anywhere that is light-free for 14 hours a day. Come morning, move them into the light and continue this process for 10 weeks, which should take you right up to the Christmas holidays!

 

Other ideas for poinsettias include buying several smaller ones to group in your home rather than one big one, and did you know they also make beautiful cut flowers? To do this, after cutting the ends of a stem sear them with a candle to keep the sap from escaping, which prevents the stems from drooping. Place them in a vase with water and check the water level regularly, as they can tend to drink up lots of water! Place them on a table or mantel and take in their long-stem beauty.

 

 

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

 

So there’s a “who, what, where, when, and why” on poinsettias, but what about Christmas cactus?

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:54 pm

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

 

 

Say “please” and “thank you.”

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

 

Hand write thank you notes.

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

 

Be on time.

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

 

Hold the door for the person behind you.

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

 

Always RSVP.

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

 

Ask before bringing a guest.

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

 

Dress for the occasion.

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Watch your mouth.

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

 

Take food and reach out.

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

 

Stay home when you’re sick.

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

 

Catch your sneezes and coughs in your elbow.

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

 

Step outside to take a call.

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

 

Keep the noise down.

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

 

Be a lovable house guest.

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

 

Clean up after yourself.

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

 

Never show up empty handed.

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

 

Let someone go in front of you in line.

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

 

 

Wait for everyone to be served before eating.

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

 

Be a polite dinner guest.

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

 

Remember your table manners.

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

 

Push your chair in when you leave a table.

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

 

Learn people’s names.

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

 

Look people in the eyes.

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

 

Shake hands firmly.

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

 

Take your shopping cart to the corral.

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

 

Give people a pass.

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

 

Ask before posting.

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

 

Don’t reply right away to an unkind message.

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

 

Clean up after your pet.

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

 

Use turn signals.

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

 

Wash your hands.

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

 

Let people off first.

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

 

Don’t groom in public.

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

 

Return and reply.

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

 

Say I’m sorry.

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

 

Teach your kids good manners.

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gifts That Give Back December 18, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:20 am

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

 

Say what?

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

ROMA BOOTS

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

 

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

 

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

 

FIGS SCRUBS

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

 

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

 

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

 

BETTER WORLD BOOKS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

TWICE AS WARM

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

 

BOMBAS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

LIFESTRAW

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

 

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

 

GREATER GOOD

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

 

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

 

Their partners include:

 

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

 

PURA VIDA BRACELETS

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Happy shopping and Happy Holidays to all!

 

 

 

 

Pie In The Sky November 19, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:00 pm

 

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

 

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

 

Pumpkin Pie

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

 

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

 

Apple Pie

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

 

Pecan Pie

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

 

 

 

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

 

Peach Pie

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

 

 

 

Blueberry Pie

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

 

Cherry Pie

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

 

Sweet Potato Pie

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

 

 

Lemon Meringue Pie

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

 

Chocolate Silk Pie

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

 

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

 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

 

 

 

How Many Millennials Does It Take to Roast a Turkey? November 16, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 10:27 pm

Have you heard the latest viral prank making its way onto moms’ cellphones everywhere? I certainly have because my daughter fooled me once with it just this week. Here’s the deal: text your mom and ask her how long you need to microwave a turkey because you’re going to a “Friendsgiving” and have been assigned the turkey, then sit back and wait for her head to explode. Yes, super funny and super clever, right? I laughed and laughed hard when she came clean…long after I sent her roasting instructions by pound and then got my wits about me and told her just to buy a cooked one. Fool me twice she did not.

 

But, when the shoe is on the other foot, Millennials aren’t laughing so hard, specifically when it comes to the newest addition of Monopoly. The classic board game’s maker Hasbro has introduced “Monopoly for Millennials” but apparently its target audience isn’t all too fond of the new hybrid.

 

 

For starters, seems the game’s cover offends them. On it, Monopoly icon Rich Uncle Pennybags wears sunglasses, holds a cup of coffee (perhaps a skinny non-dairy latte?), boasts earbuds, and wears a “participation” medal. Adding insult to injury is the tagline “Forget real estate. You can’t afford it anyway.”

 

Okay, I get it, but have a little sense of humor snowflakes and laugh at yourselves for once.

 

It’s not just the cover that’s changed. Game pieces are no longer a thimble or iron (Sew? Iron? Sew 1970s!), but instead hipster hashtags, crying emojis, and the likes. But the tongue-firmly-planted-in-cheek humor doesn’t stop there. The Chance and Community Chest cards are described as “super relatable” and instead of buying up properties and collecting money, players collect “experiences” that include “Parents’ Basement,” “Thrift Shop,” “Farmers’ Market,” “Friend’s Couch,” “Vegan Bistro,” and “Meditation Retreat.” Am I the only one getting a chuckle out of all of this?

 

 

Some aren’t laughing at all though. Twitter and other social media sites are awash in posts saying the game insults the very demographic it’s trying to entertain and is an unfair portrayal of them. On the flipside, others say the fact that Millennials are upset with the game solidifies the very reason for it and one Twitter user pointed out that new game has fewer spaces than the traditional version maybe because “Millennials are too lazy for a full game of Monopoly.”

 

Okay, that’s a bit much as I know many a Millennial and they might play hard but they also work hard. Hasbro agrees and in a statement calls the new version “a lighthearted game that allows Millennials to take a break from real life and laugh at the experiences and labels that can sometimes be placed on them.” Sound advice, right? Yes, but we are all too familiar with generation “my feelings are hurt.” The fact that Monopoly for Millennials losers don’t get a participation trophy is encouraging though.

 

 

So who makes up these young adults and often-mocked generation? When it comes to U.S. Census numbers, things are still developing so The Pew Research Center has come up with a new set of guidelines and nicknames and here’s a quick look at them based on birth year:

 

Baby Boomers – 1946-1964

Generation X (“Gen X”) – 1965-1980

Millennials – 1981-1996

Post-Millennials – 1997-Present

Some take it a bit further, calling Post-Millennials “Generation Z.” Not sure what comes after them, but let’s look at what we have.

 

Pew Research considers the Millennial cutoff date of 1996 important because it makes them a generation…the last generation…old enough to have experienced and comprehend 9/11. Personally, one thing that struck me this past September 11 was the fact that most of today’s high school seniors weren’t even born on that historic day in 2001. This is so weird to me. A day that changed my life will only be learned about (and how honestly?) in textbooks from here on out. Considered somewhat slacker-like, Millennials are not entirely to blame for their career setbacks and slowdowns. In their defense, those born between 1981 and 1996 were greatly affected employment-wise by the country’s economic downturn and Pew’s Michael Dimock says their slow start careers “will be a factor in American society for decades.”

 

 

Technology also plays a pivotal role in delineating between generations. Baby Boomers saw TV explode before their very eyes in living rooms across America, Gen X experienced firsthand the computer revolution, and Millennials brought with them cell phones and the internet. They, and everyone after, have virtually lived their entire lives on the internet, whether Googling information, tagging friends, or applying photo filters. Real data has always been at their fingertips but real life has not.

 

Society as a whole has also changed dramatically between generations, and those of the “old school” mind feel Millennials and anyone after them are the “participation trophy” generations and that we’re witnessing the results of that right now. Protest after protest fill our streets and it’s no surprise that many of them are those who didn’t “win” or get their way. Then again, maybe they were never allowed to lose and even when they did were told they were still “winners.”  “You finished 7th in the race Johnny, here’s a medal.” Accepting and handling disappointments might be challenging for them, especially if they were never taught proper coping skills. These generations are also often considered “entitled” by those who suffered through food rationing, the gas crisis, phones attached to the wall, and travelling with real maps. To make matters worse and life harder to navigate, these young adults have matured during a time when government and pop culture became virtually the same thing. Actors tell them how to vote and reality stars are voted into office. No wonder they’re crying!

 

 

When it comes to Generation Z however, they differ greatly from their Millennial cousins in many ways according to studies by both Vision Critical and Quartz at Work. They all FaceTime, Snapchat, and Instagram til the cows come home, and receiving a message from them that doesn’t include an emoji is almost unheard of, but the social media networks they prefer and the devices they consume them on aren’t always the same.

 

Gen Z’s most used device is the smartphone (they receive 3000 text message a month!), followed by TVs and laptops, while Millennials most lean on their computers, then  smartphones and TVs. In addition, Gen Z, sometimes called the “iGeneration,” claims to prefer cool products over cool experiences and although they are merely teenagers, they are often teens with cash but heads up: they don’t like details or advertising. Marketers to Gen Z better get on board the non-traditional ad train and embrace Instagram, YouTube, and short videos like those on Vine. If your target audience is Gen Z, mobile marketing should be your primary platform complete with mobile-friendly ad campaigns and websites. And make them short but edgy and creative. Gen Z has an attention span of 8 seconds and 70 percent watch two hours of YouTube a day.

 

 

Jobwise, 75 percent of Gen Z kids hope to convert hobbies into full-time jobs, 61 percent would rather be an entrepreneur than an employee, and 60 percent want to “change the world.”  Pie-in-the-sky to many, but kids gotta dream, right?

 

They also value opportunity for advancement but aren’t necessarily interested in moving quickly up the corporate ladder and their top “must haves” when it comes to first jobs are health insurance, a competitive salary, and a boss they respect. Regarding long-term careers, they value a stable career path and a work-life balance. Amen Gen Z!  Again though, they are uniquely focused on “dream jobs” however, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. It’s great to have goals but it’s also great to work hard where you are and accept your current position. Not surprising is the fact that “working for an organization that aligns with their social compass” is perhaps the most important thing they consider when deciding whether to accept Job A or Job B.

 

 

So what does all this mean? It means Baby Boomers are leaving the work force more and more on a daily basis and that those replacing them may indeed be sensitive and a bit entitled, but they are also extremely tech-savvy and they know what they want. And, they can fix our computers and show us how to make Instagram stories.

 

What they don’t know how to do is roast a turkey. But that’s for another blog and another day.

 

Body Talk and Necklines November 10, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 4:49 pm

Halloween has come and gone and Thanksgiving is a mere two weeks away, which can mean only one thing: holiday parties and holiday attire. Finding the right ensemble and the right jewelry for every holiday outing may be as easy as shopping your own closet and going with something tried and true from the past, or it may involve shopping for something entirely new. But, finding the style, cut, and neckline that flatter your body can sometimes be a bit more challenging. I’m here to help with the help of some experts for the holidays and every day.

 

 

Let’s start with body shape and type. For this I leaned on fashion queen Rachel Zoe, who has styled many a celebrity and has written many an article on choosing the right clothing for your body, and on fashionopolis. Not sure what to buy or even what body shape you have? Here’s a quick guide on both:

 

Pear: This woman generally has wide hips, a small waist, narrow shoulders, and a smaller bust. In general, your lower body is wider than your upper body and you have full hips and thighs. Clothing that looks best on a pear-shaped gal are dresses with intricate designs on or around the chest and flared skirts, which help create balance between her top and bottom areas. It’s also a good idea to enhance your waistline and arms and add volume to your shoulders and upper body. Avoid any clothing that draws attention to your hips or thighs.

 

Apple/Inverted Triangle: This body type has a full mid-section and less defined waist, broad shoulders, an average to large bust, and narrow hips. Your goal would be to elongate your torso and draw attention to your good legs, both of which will give the illusion of a smaller waist. Clothing choices should be a mini (show off those legs!) with an empire waist and structured pieces that add definition but hide any extra weight.

 

Rectangle: These girls have long, slender frames with a small to average bust, undefined waist, straight hips and bottoms. They are the complete opposite of a “curvy” girl and instead have shoulders and hips that are almost perfectly aligned. Look for maxis and midis with details at the shoulders to add interest to your straight up-and-down stature and flaunt your lean arms and legs if you’ve got them. Your goal is create the illusion of curves.

 

Hourglass. Think Marilyn Monroe and think full bust, narrow waist, balanced shoulders and hips, and a rounded bottom. This is the “curvy” girl that’s anything but overweight. Highlight those curves by accentuating your upper and lower body and flaunt that defined waist.

 

Petite. Not so much a body shape as a body size, petite women face fashion struggles their taller counterparts don’t. If you are 5’4” or shorter, choose mini dresses if you’ve got the legs for them, as the style will elongate even the shortest legs. If your legs aren’t mini-worthy, choose maxis, which will add length to your silhouette. Another good idea is to add flair on your sleeves.

 

 

Neck and Neck

 

 

Which brings us to necklines….

 

The wrong neckline can add weight on you and make you look shorter and even older. Choosing the right neckline will not only frame your face but can also create balance. In short, your outfit’s neckline can make or break your entire look.

 

And it’s where I run into trouble. I’ve never been a fan of how I look in a V-neck and was a long-time fan of scoop necks until a recent girls’ trip when one of them who could give Rachel Zoe a run for her money, suggested I avoid scoop necks and lean more toward collared shirts. Bingo! I was sold. What about you? Do you have a favorite neckline and is it the right one for your body and face shape? Let’s find out thanks to some tips by realsimple.com and renttherunway.com.

 

Scoop necks can beautifully display the collarbone and elongate a short or thick neck, but the curvy neckline can also highlight a round, full face. Many believe a scoop neck is flattering on nearly everyone, but I’m not one of them. I find that as a woman ages, so does her décolletage and the skin on her chest and it’s not an area I choose to highlight. It’s also suggested that those with broad shoulders should steer away from scoop necks.

 

So what about V-necks? For the same reasons I’m not a fan of scoop necks, I’m not a personal fan of V-necks either but they are considered universally flattering. The style is thought to balance out broad shoulders and thick waists, lengthen short necks, and even out Pear shapes. The key to making sure your chosen V-neck works on your body is all about how deep that V goes. A very high V can make a large bust look saggy and a plunging V can be too revealing. Rule of thumb? Small busted women should go for high Vs while those with large chests can go for deeper Vs to elongate their ample chest, just be sure you don’t go too deep! Susan Street of Susan After Sixty swears by V-necks and finds they, and scoop necks, flatter her inverted triangle shape and round face if they fall about four inches below her collarbone.

 

Crew necks, IMHO, are a safe and classic bet but Street feels that covering your collarbones if you have broad shoulders, are big busted, or have a roundish face will make all of them more pronounced. Also sometimes called a “Jewel Neckline,” this close-to-the-face casual style is best for those with long necks, narrow faces, and small busts since it can emphasize a large chest area, short neck, or double chin by creating the illusion of a shorter neck and bigger bust. Yikes!

 

Collared shirts have a sort of dressy yet casual preppy look about them and are great for anyone with a large chest or thin neck. If you want to add sexy or flirty to the otherwise traditional look, consider unbuttoning a few more buttons to expose just a bit more décolletage.

 

 

Boat necks, sometimes known as bateau necklines, are probably one the prettiest of all necklines. If you have any doubts about this, just picture Meghan Markle’s wedding dress. (And how fabulous was Princess Eugenie’s dramatic portrait neckline?) Did you not die when you first laid eyes on Markle’s minimal and elegant Givenchy gown of matte silk cady with that to-die-for open bateau neckline? I know I did. The nautical inspired style (get it….BOAT neck?) is a graceful and wide neckline that sits and hits right under the collarbone and shoulders. The style draws the eye up and balances out wider hips; a narrow face, neck, or shoulders; and a small bust. It is great for offsetting wide hips but if you’ve already got broad shoulders, avoid the look as it will make them look even broader.

 

 

A sweetheart neckline was the choice of another royal bride, Kate Middleton, whose Alexander McQueen gown was a bit more traditional and featured a sweetheart neckline under lace applique. If you’ve ever watched even one episode of “Say Yes to the Dress,” you know this neckline is the choice of many a bride, royal or not royal. The open style generally makes any woman look longer and leaner while enhancing the natural curves of a large chested lady. It also creates curves for small busted women.

 

A cowl neck does the same thing: adds dimension and bulk to a small chest but the right one can also downplay a large one.  The folds on a cowl neck can give the illusion of a long torso and you can somewhat control just how much skin you want to show. Those with small busts should look for thicker wider folds, while big busted ladies should choose thinner folds.

 

If you have wide shoulders, an hourglass figure, and toned arms, a halter neck is for you. In contrast, you Apple shapes should stay away from the halter top, as it will make you look even bigger and heavier up top. This is a tough style to wear a bra with and there’s nothing less flattering than a bosomy girl trying to pull off a halter top. Just don’t.

 

Speaking of shoulders, what about off-the-shoulder, one-shoulder, and last year’s trendy “cold shoulder?” Bridget Bardot make the off-the-shoulder look popular and the flirty style flatters shapes ranging from pear to athletic, petite to hourglass, and small/medium busts to narrow shoulders. This style naturally highlights your shoulders as well as the collar bone and draws the eye up, lessening attention to a fuller middle. Its dramatic cousin, the one shoulder, adds a touch of surprise to an outfit and is best for those with narrow shoulders and toned arms. As for the cold shoulder, I find it mysteriously makes any arms or shoulders look big and am of the thinking that the look has run its course.

 

Which brings us to the ultimate shoulder bearer: a strapless style. If your goal is to accentuate your shoulders and upper body, this is the silhouette for you. But be careful. Big busted or broad shouldered women and anyone without toned arms should avoid this look regardless of what anyone tells you. If you do go the strapless route, please be sure to wear a good strapless support bra.

 

When you think turtleneck you might think a classic LL Bean layering top for cold winter climates, but think again. Yes, all those colorful and trusty turtlenecks are almost every woman’s “must have,” but the neckline can also be very sophisticated and formal on the right dress or top. In either case, casual or dressy, what you want to look for is a style that doesn’t hit super high on the neck, but instead allows some breathing room. Me? I like a mock neck and velvet is oh-so-dreamy in either a turtle or mock neck.

 

The square neck is a good go-to for busty women and it also elongates a short neck and narrow shoulders but I find it a bit hard to pull off though for the same reasons as a V or scoop necks. But that’s just me.

 

I do love a great keyhole neckline though and find it flattering on almost everyone…especially bridesmaids for some reason. This timeless style subtly highlights collar bones and adds sophistication to any clothing.

 

Surplice necklines are those where fabric on one side crosses over the other side, often at or near the bustline, creating an alternative V-neck. Since the style also often employs cinching at the waist, it’s a great choice for a woman who wants to create a more defined waist.

 

So, now that you’ve identified your body shape and what necklines compliment it, what about accessories, specifically necklaces? Each neckline has necklace styles and lengths that work best with them. Let’s have a look.

 

 

Long necklaces and those with pendants compliment any collared shirt, boat neck, cowl neck, and of course turtleneck.

 

Chokers, bibs, and shorter necklaces are best with V-necks, sweetheart necklines, strapless, and anything that is off the shoulders.

 

As for scoop and crew necks, they can go with either long or short, depending on whether you want to draw attention to or away from your chest area, and they can easily support a necklace with detail and volume.

 

So there you have it: everything you’ve always wanted to know about body shape and necklines that compliment yours. Have fun shopping!

 

 

 

Tomorrow’s To Do List November 3, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 5:17 pm

 

 

As you lay yourself down to sleep tonight, don’t forget it’s time to set your clocks back one hour. Who doesn’t love an extra hour of sleep, right? Well, not everyone but as we “fall back,” we can also do some things around the house that we might otherwise forget or neglect to do. In other words, use this time switch as a biannual reminder.

 

 

 

Quick history though. The idea of turning clocks forward one hour during the summer was first conceived by New Zealander George Hudson back in 1895 but it wasn’t really until April of 1916 when the German Empire and Austria-Hungary first used DST as a way to conserve coal during WWI. Britain followed suit as did the U.S. in 1918 and the idea of “saving” as much daylight as possible became especially popular during the 1970’s energy crisis. In most of the United States, Daylight Savings Time begins the second Sunday in March and ends the first Sunday in November.

 

People either love the idea or hate it, but one group that seems to favor more morning light is farmers. These hard workers are typically early risers and prefer morning sun to evening sun as they believe crops are best harvested after dew evaporates.

 

In this crazy election cycle, you are probably either “for” or “against” the idea of changing times mid-year but whatever side you’re on, let’s all agree that there are a few things we can and should do each time we “fall back” and “spring forward,” including:

 

 

  • Replace batteries in your smoke and carbon monoxide detectors. While you’re at it, check in with any elderly family members or neighbors and help them do this.

 

  • Reverse the direction of your ceiling fans. In the fall you want your blades rotating clockwise, which helps bring warm air down.

 

  • Schedule a furnace and chimney inspection and replace filters in your heater and air conditioner units. Things get trapped and may deteriorate over the course of a year so make sure all your heating elements are safe and running as efficiently as possible.

 

  • Flip and rotate your mattresses. This can be accomplished by either literally flipping the mattress over or just rotating head and feet areas.

 

  • Clean out your pantry and refrigerator shelves. You’d be surprised how many items you may have in stock that are expired. Dates are there for a reason so adhere to them.

 

  • Clean out your medicine cabinet. Same thing with medicines and first aid kits. Safely dispose of all expired or discolored meds and do an emergency kit overhaul if necessary.

 

  • Revisit your emergency bag. This can be any bag or items you keep in stock for emergencies such as tornados, hurricanes, lock downs, or any other time you might need to “shelter in place.” Make sure batteries are new, foods aren’t expired, and emergency contact sheets are current.

 

If you have kids in the house, make doing all of the above a family event. Assign tasks and explain why what you are doing is important. Many of these could be the difference between life and death. In the meantime, sleep tight tonight!

 

Do you have any other “fall back” reminder suggestions? Please share!