Beyond Words

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

Spring Fashion Trends April 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:52 pm

This has been an unseasonably cold winter even in Texas. Over the weekend we went from 88 one day to 48 the next. Up north, as they say, winter has been nothing short of horrendous and yet somehow calendars are still saying it’s spring. So, whether you’re digging out from yet another snow storm and are dreaming of warmer weather or if you’re smack dab in the middle of beautiful sunny spring days, how about some spring fashion?!

 

I’m pretty much a black, white, and camel girl with an occasional splash of color or pattern thrown in, but a few trends are standing out to me and most of them I can raise my hand to. Everyone from Prada to Target are on board with offerings from clothing to accessories. So let’s all say bye-bye to winter and say hello to these fun trends hitting runways and stores:

 

Cat Women

A cat person I am not. Kittens, maybe. Kitten heels though, yes! And guess what fashion fans, the kitten heel is back and in a big way. Can I get an Amen?

 

The low-heeled but sleek pump popularized by Audrey Hepburn and Jackie O is the current shoe of the moment. Princess Di liked the style (until she divorced Charles, at which time she could wear stilettos for days) is customarily a comfortable two-inch heel in solid colors but this season’s versions are coming in all sorts of florals, textures, patterns, in your basic pump as well as sling-back versions and even a few lace-ups. And don’t for a minute think this trend is reserved for the Talbots set as proven by H&M’s versions. Yippee!

Dior  H&M1 MKors  Prada

Above From left: Dior, H&M, Michael Kors, Prada

 

 

Checkmate

We’re not talking Daisy Duke or picnic tablecloth here, we’re talking a fun and classic way to perk up your wardrobe. Typically checked in white and a bold color, this year’s version is both fun and flirty. Designers are on board and are offering a variety of styles and silhouettes. I die for the Carolina Herrera gown below.

Valentino  Target1  Chicos1Carolina Herrera

Above From left: Valentino, Target, Chicos, Carolina Herrera

Michael Kors    Henri Bendel    Kate Spade

Above From left: Michael Kors, Henri Bendel, Kate Spade

Express  JCrew1  Christian Louboutin1  Keds

Above From left: Express, JCrew, Christian Louboutin, Keds

 

 

In Full Bloom

Always a spring favorite, florals are blooming everywhere. I’ve never been a big floral girl myself, but I do love the Lover shirt below I first spotted on Kyle on the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills (yes, I watch it!)  Standard florals are still in, but this season’s versions are also characterized by dramatic colors and big buds. The tropics are especially hot (excuse the pun) with palm leaves and hibiscus flowers favored by designers. If you go the floral route, just be sure to keep the rest of your outfit subtle and solid.

Valentino  Simply Darling  Lover  H&M  Ann Taylor

Above From left: Valentino, Simply Darling, Lover, H&M, Ann Taylor

Steve Madden  One Faith Boutique  Mia   Balenciaga1

Above From left: Steve Madden, One Faith Boutique, Mia, Balenciaga

 

 

Line Them Up

I love me a good stripe and this season’s offerings have me lined up for a few pieces. You’ll find everything from sporty stripes to sophisticated ones just be sure to take note of the horizontal stripes in all the wrong places rule. Thankfully with shoes, anything goes! How cute are the sporty but tailored Sheln crops below?

Caycee  Sheln  Ann Taylor  Alyson Haley

Above From left: Caycee, Sheln, Ann Taylor, Alyson Haley

Asos  Zara1  No. 21 2  Loeffler Randall1  Franco Sarto1

Above From left: Asos, Zara, No 21, Loeffler Randall, Franco Sarto

 

 

As with any trend, don’t go overboard on any of these “of the moment” offerings, and unless you have the money to do so, don’t spend a ton on them. Consider them simple additions to your current wardrobe and consider it done!

 

 

 

Feet First March 31, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:49 pm

pedicure

 

Last Thursday my toe and fingernails were in dire need of some sprucing up so I headed to my favorite salon to get some TLC. It’s my favorite not because I love the technicians or because it’s a lovely place or even because they serve wine (they don’t). It’s my favorite because they rub your legs and feet for what seems like FOR-EVER. Like seriously; 10-15 minutes on each side. It’s pure heaven.

 

What is it about getting our feet rubbed that is so fabulous? Think about it, the rubbing of hands and arms doesn’t feel half as great as the rubbing of feet during a mani-pedi appointment. And massages? Yes, the back and shoulders being rubbed down is such a treat, but when the masseuse gets to your feet it’s pure luxury. Rub my feet I ask; just rub my feet.

 

Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to my feet right now because I actually hurt my left foot last week. I have no idea what I did to it, but the top felt bruised and I had to ice it and oil it up for two days. It’s all better now but it made me think about my feet.

 

Reflexologyfoot

 

Our feet are not only essential in many ways, but influential too. Did you know each of your feet has more than 7,000 nerve endings? SEVEN THOUSAND! Also called reflexes, they correspond to every organ system in your body. EVERY ORGAN. If you’ve ever had reflexology, you know this as pressing on them can stimulate the nervous system and open energy pathways that may be blocked, congested, or injured. Everything from digestion to headaches to PMS can be affected by pushing on the right areas of your feet.

 

It’s also interesting how putting specific essential oils on certain areas of your feet can prevent illness, alleviate altitude sickness and allergies, ease aching muscles and joints, and a whole lot more. When travelling recently, during the current flu season, and before heading into my class of three-year-olds, I put two Young Living oils on the bottoms of my feet to prevent catching anything and I’ve yet to get sick this year. Knock on wood.

 

customer-getting-pedicure-at-salon_jpg-600x390

 

As powerful as they are, feet aren’t very popular. Very few people like touching them and in all honesty, they aren’t the most attractive areas of our bodies. Thinking about this makes me respect pedicurists even more. Day in and day out they clip, scrape, and rub client’s feet. As I contemplated all of this during my pedicure last Thursday, it dawned on me that I have never seen the owner/manager of the salon give a pedicure. She sits at the first manicurist table, answers the phone, and is forever working on someone’s fingernails but never does she give pedicures. Why is this? Is it below her to do so? Does not doing them make her feel superior to her staff? In all honesty it kinda bothered me.

 

What about humility?

Teamwork?

Lending a hand in a pinch?

 

I returned home still analyzing this (and over analyzing it cuz that’s what I do) and remembered I hadn’t read my Lenten daily reading and “Our Daily Bread” blog that morning. I sat down to read them and of course it was all about Jesus’ “basin of love.”  Chills.

 

jesus-washing-the-feet-calvin-carter

 

On Holy Thursday, we read about how Jesus washed the feet of His disciples right before The Last Supper. Back in His day, even Jewish servants were spared this task because it was seen as beneath even them. Jesus being Jesus though, washed the feet of all of them including Judas, knowing full well he was going to later betray Him.

 

Ironically, right before Jesus washed their feet, the disciples had been arguing about which one of them was the greatest. It was customary to wash feet often back then but since there was no servant present, the 12 didn’t know what to do and never considered washing each other’s feet. Then, Jesus stepped in and stepped up. He showed love, he showed respect, and he showed humility.

 

I’ll think of this the next time I get a pedicure and the next time a masseuse rubs my feet. They truly have basins and hands of love. And humility. I’m humbled by them all.

 

 

 

 

Time for a Time Out March 25, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:59 pm

Today's plans

 

Today I rest.

 

It’s been a busy two weeks. For the past 10 days we have hosted various out-of-town guests…all of who we love. It has been wonderful but as you know, it can also be exhausting. There’s been lots of driving, lots of going out, lots of planning, and lots of golf. I know, poor us, right? But, my body and my brain are saying “We need rest.” So today, I rest.

 

I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in exhaustion levels. Many of us either recently had Spring Break or are currently on it. But how many of you actually took a break on Spring Break and how many packed up the kids and stressfully travelled, did some spring cleaning, or worked right through the break?

 

Do nothing

 

In today’s world of overachieving and staying forever busy, unplugging from life can be hard, even when handed a break.  Our phones keep us plugged in 24-7. We have calendars on them, calendars at home, calendars for our calendars. It wears us down.

 

We ask each other, “How are you?” and the answer is often “Busy.” It’s like we think of being busy as a badge of honor and if we’re not busy, we’re lazy or unambitious. But forever busyness wears us out and can be destructive and even counterproductive. As my blogging friend Courtney at Be More with Less states, “Good work doesn’t come from someone who is overworked and the sleep deprived have trouble making good decisions.” Neither sound like anyone I want to be.

 

Today, I want to be that person who reads the Sunday paper in one sitting and maybe after just sit and read my book. I may even take a bath. I want to take time to renew and refresh so come Monday, I’m ready to take on the week.

 

Invest in rest

 

Today is the day God commands us to rest. He created the universe in six days and even He then rested. We need rest to have energy, passion, and joy. Pastor Phil Restor calls rest a physical activity that has emotional benefits but just as it’s sometimes challenging to put exercise into our daily lives, it can be equally challenging to allow ourselves to rest. There is constant pressure to be doing, but the more we do, the more drained we get.

 

Restor recently challenged his readers to “give up busyness” and warned that busyness doesn’t always translate into effectiveness and that there’s nothing wrong with checking out. You need look no further than Mary and Martha to demonstrate this. When Jesus visited the two sisters, Mary sat listening intently to our Lord while Martha was too busy preparing things for Him. She missed out and Jesus called her on it.

 

XMake a list

 

How many times have you missed out on what really matters because you were too busy doing things that really don’t matter and aren’t necessary?

 

I’m raising my hand.

I’m a “to do list” girl.

I’m forever making lists and feeling accomplished when I check something off.

These lists keep me organized and on task, but every now and then I need to put those lists away and instead lyst to do nothing.

 

XSchedule

 

We must remind ourselves that no matter how much we get done during any given day, there is always going to be unfinished tasks. We never actually get everything done so why stress ourselves out by always being on the go? Even when we reach the end of the ultimate to do list of life, there will be things we leave unfinished. Maybe instead of focusing on our lists, we should be focusing on our lives.

 

You Can Stop Now for rest blog

 

Start by stopping. Stop committing to so much and make time for priorities instead. Do what you like to do, not what others like to do. How many times has someone asked you to do something but you reply, “I can’t, I have too many things to do.” Overcommitment is a societal epidemic and it is unsustainable. We falsely believe everything on our lists is dependent on us. We feel important when we are busy but often have no time to do the things that feed our souls. We must start choosing wisely.

 

XChoose wisely

 

I recently posted that quote on Instagram and got a ton of likes. Wake up call people. Busy, tired people. We can choose who we associate with. Do the people you associate with wear you down or lift you up? Do your daily tasks energize you or exhaust you? Perhaps not totally, but we can choose who we allow into our lives and what we do.

Say no to busy

 

Today, just for one day, I’m saying no. No to “do you want to….” and “I need to….” I’m choosing to unwind and stop. Just stop. And breathe. Wanna join me?

 

The Real Dirt on Houseplants March 14, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:02 am

House in plant2

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Houseplants

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Plants in living room

 

DÉCOR DARLINGS

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Plants in office

 

OFFICE SPACE

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

 

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

 

 

 

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 11:51 pm

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

 

 

Grocery store Barbie

 

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

 

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

 

 

Grocery store clipart

 

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

 

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

 

 

Grocery store basket

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Grocery stores quote

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

Meal kit delivery

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Islands in the Sun? February 24, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:59 pm

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Anguilla

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

 

Antigua

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

 

Bahamas

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

 

British Virgin Islands

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

 

Dominica

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

 

Puerto Rico

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

 

St. Barts

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

 

St. Maarten/St. Martin

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

 

Turks and Caicos

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Year of the Dog February 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:49 pm

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

 

 

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