Beyond Words

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

Fashion Forward World Cup July 9, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 6:32 pm


Everywhere you look, it’s World Cup mania and it has been since June 14. Rabid fans dress up, get painted up, and offer up some of sports’ greatest…and worst…fashion moments. It’s estimated nearly 3.5 billion people will watch grown men kick a black-and-white ball around for 90 minutes and hope their national team is the ultimate champion of the world’s ultimate sporting event held every four years. Russia is hosting this year’s event, marking the first time it’s held in Eastern Europe. The final is slated for July 15 in Moscow’s Luzhiniki Stadium, sure to be filled with 80,000 screaming fans. Only four teams remain and have a chance to claim the coveted title-France, Belgium, England, and Croatia-but unlike a Super Bowl or NBA champion calling themselves “World Champs,” World Cup winners are truly champs of the world. That’s about all I know.


So, what’s a girl to do who loves sports but doesn’t love the current sport of the moment? Resort to something else she loves and knows: fashion! I recently read an article on World Cup team jerseys and thought, “now there’s a soccer story I can relate to!”


But first, some World Cup background. Consider the following a sort of “World Cup for Dummies.” Then we’ll take a look at World Cup style.



I don’t know a lot about soccer (or football as it is called everywhere but in the U.S.) but I do know Germany won 2014’s World Cup with a 1-0 nail biter over Argentina. The Federation Internationale de Football Association, or FIFA, was founded in 1904, governs the sport, and oversees the World Cup. Qualifying rounds involve more than 200 teams worldwide, with the final 32 national teams, including 31 determined through qualifying competitions and the automatically qualified host team, playing for all the marbles. During the month-long tourney, 64 matches are played in 11 cities and there were some qualifying surprises. It’s also a surprise to not have one Central or South American team in the semifinals.


Lots of “firsts” happened this year, including Iceland and Panama qualifying for the first time since the World Cup began in 1930. And, for the first time since 1938, Germany (you know, the defending champs) didn’t advance past the first round and no African team passed to the second round for the first time since 1982. At least they qualified though, which was not the case for four-time champion Italy (the first time since 1958,) or for Cup stalwarts the Netherlands, Chile, New Zealand, Cameroon, and yes, the United States; marking the first time since 1986 that Uncle Sam didn’t send a team to the World Cup.


REUTERS/Christian Hartmann

To say soccer is huge across the world is putting it mildly. Like crazy huge. But in the U.S., it’s still waiting to be “that” sport, lagging behind our beloved NFL, NBA, MLB, and other competitors. I’ve thought for the longest time, considering how many young kids play on soccer leagues in the U.S., that it would take off but it just hasn’t. Experts say the U.S. has so many other options for kids and that soccer’s global attraction is partly because anyone anywhere can play it with only one piece of equipment: a ball. I’ll never forget seeing a group of young French boys while riding the train from Reims to Paris last month who were playing soccer on a basketball court complete with two hoops. Bingo I thought. There’s the proof. Even though they could have used that one ball to play hoops, they chose soccer. It’s in their blood. And now I can’t imagine how excited those little boys are that their country is in the “final four” of the World Cup.



That being said, a soccer fan I am not. To me, the matches are too long and too boring. Sit for hours to watch your team lose 1-0 is not what I call an exciting afternoon. And the constant drones and chants coming from the crowd hurt my head and make me crazy. Enough already. I guess that’s what you resort to though when there’s not a whole lot to cheer about on the field. And what’s up with the clock? It seems to go backwards and there’s always that random and somewhat mysterious amount of time at what seems like the end of the match. The game clock winds down, match appears to be over, and yet players play on, game goes on, and then suddenly, it’s over. Just like that. Done. You win. I don’t understand it and I don’t understand much of the game other than like hockey, the goal is to score a goal in the net. About all I know is soccer players usually have great legs, Mexico lost but advanced thanks to South Korea, and Spain was eliminated during a somewhat controversial shoot-out against host country Russia. Maybe they need to call Robert Mueller.


But enough of that, let’s talk fashion. World Cup fashion.



What better way to start a fashion discussion than to consider accessories. At the World Cup, the best accessory is the trophy, which is truly a gem.


Designed by Italian artist Silvio Gazzaniga, the 13 pound beauty is made of 18 karat gold and has a stunning malachite base. The design is two human figures holding up the Earth and on the bottom is a plate engraved with the names of all previous winning countries. Since 1974, six nations have won the trophy and by 2038, there won’t be any more room for new engravings. FIFA requires that every World Cup winner receive a gold-plated replica of the trophy. Gold and malachite. What’s not to love?


As for the actual jerseys, the article I mentioned above that caught my eye was by Susan L. Sokolowski of “The Conversation.” Ms. Sokolowski not only writes for various publications and news services, she is also Director & Associate Professor of Sports Product Design at the University of Oregon and spent 20 years working for a major sports manufacturer. When it comes to team jerseys, she knows of what she writes.


First of all she notes that there are many FIFA guidelines teams and designers must adhere to. For instance, all jerseys are required to have sleeves and the sleeves must be free of logos except for event badges. In addition, unless a jersey is striped or checkered, it can’t have more than four colors and all jerseys should avoid looking even the slightest bit like a referee’s or risk being banned.


As for logos and patches, there are strict guidelines for them too. I’m looking at your PGA: please pay attention! Your players are beginning to look like NASCAR drivers and it’s not a good look. FIFA is precise and stern on the size and placement of logos, including the manufacturer’s, as well as players’ names and numbers. You won’t see any UPS or UniQlo logos on these players. Golf clap please.


From there, it’s on to functionality, after all they are athletic wear first and foremost. Teams will labor over cut, fit, fabric, and ventilation of a shirt as well as comfort and fluidity of shorts. Socks must stay up but not be too tight and they of course need to coordinate with the rest of the uniform.




Once rules are followed, it’s up to the manufacturer, its designers, and each country’s national soccer federation to agree on a design. Some countries like Argentina rarely stray from their traditional and practically trademarked blue and white stripe while Brazil customarily wears yellow and green but this year went another route…and went right out of the tourney. Others take more risk and hope to stand out doing so. Case in point this year: Nigeria.



The country’s unconventional and striking lime green shirts with black-and-white sleeves of jagged stripes are hands-down the most popular of this year’s Cup and sold out within hours. The Nike-designed shirts are a hit even if the team is no longer in the tourney, proving a clever design is sometimes all it takes to be a winner.


And speaking of winners, other than Nigeria, here are my winners for “Best Dressed” 2018 World Cup teams:


Spain. If the U.S. isn’t playing I’m rooting for Spain and I rooted for these red with with bands of yellow and navy diamonds running down one side. Ole, ole, ole, ole!


Iceland. They qualified for the first time ever and these cobalt blues with a vertical off-center red-and-white banner stripe  qualify for “best dressed.”


Germany. Although the defending champs didn’t make it past the first round, a round of applause please for these slick white jerseys with embellished with a black and gray graphic print of different sized stripes. The jerseys also boast four stars for the country’s four World Cup titles and are a throwback to the ones the team wore in 1990 when they won the Cup.


Belgium. It should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that the argyle-patterned red jerseys of the somewhat surprising semifinalist team from Belgium make my list of best dressed. I die for argyle.



Croatia. I love me a check, plaid, and even checkerboard and I love these jerseys. They’ve been known to rock a red check too and not only did the team send Venezuela and star Lionel Messi home, they also beat fellow best-dressed Iceland and Nigeria as well as home Russia. Check mate!


With Belgium and Croatia still in the hunt, I can’t wait to see what they come out with for their next matches. Who gets your best dressed?







Today’s Headline: The End of an Era July 7, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 7:31 pm

It’s the official end of an era and a sad day in my house. The writing’s on the wall, but sadly not on my driveway each day. Effective immediately I am “this” close to not being a daily newspaper subscriber. I know, who cares right? But hang on and know that I have subscribed to my local daily paper for more than 30 years. I love nothing better than reading every section of the paper while I relax in my jammies and drink my coffee. Sometimes I catch up and read several days at a time, but rarely do I not get to them.


Problem is, the paper has become just too damn expensive. My latest invoice reflects an increase in price that put it over the $100 mark…and I only get it Wednesday-Sunday! And try as I may to make headway with their subscription services department, they couldn’t or wouldn’t budge. Seems like they’d rather lose a loyal customer than offer a better deal. I know, I know, the cost of printing and delivering front page headlines continue to increase, but by gouging subscribers, are newspapers not pricing themselves right out of existence?


It’s not good, as the benefits of reading actual newspapers are far and wide. Not only does doing so involve the essential skill of reading; one also learns vocabulary, about other people and places, and so much more. Where else, in one sitting, can you read about what’s happening in your city and the world, politics, religion, sports, the economy, entertainment, business, trade and commerce, home and fashion trends, and of course the comics, horoscopes, letters to the editor, and even all those advertisement flyers? Think iconic news events and headlines, whether they be man landing on the moon, 9/11, or the Cubs winning the world series, and I’d bet the house it’s not a website that comes to mind.


I have loved newspapers for as long as I can remember and would have probably gone the print route for my career instead of the broadcast route had it not been for some college professors who convinced me my future was in TV news. I have no regrets there, but the love of print remained in my veins and still does.



It all began when I was a young girl and my friend Julie and I had a paper route. Yep, two girls rolling, rubber-banding, and delivering morning papers throughout our neighborhood. I can still envision how black our hands would get but how much fun we had pulling wagons behind our bikes filled with newspapers. From there it was a staff writer at the University of Oklahoma’s “Oklahoma Daily,” where I covered sports and editorials. After several years and a professional stint in TV news, I walked away from the news business and jumped to the other side as a publicity and media relations specialist.  Roles were literally reversed as I then pitched stories to newspapers and it was always a part of my job to read the paper every day. I was in heaven scanning the pages looking for and clipping out any and all articles that had anything to do with the industry and places I worked for. I eventually went the freelance route and wrote for various magazines and newspapers. Today I still write for a monthly publication and I read. I read my daily newspaper.


But not no mo. Makes me sad.


But I’m alone.



Newspapers across the country are hurting as more and more Americans get their news digitally. According to, the estimated total U.S. daily newspaper circulation in 2017 was 31 million for weekday and 34 million for Sunday, down 11 percent and 10 percent respectively from just one year prior. The Pew Research Center reports weekday circulation for U.S. daily newspapers fell 8 percent in 2016, marking the 28th consecutive year of declines and the lowest weekday circulation since 1945. What would historical archives be without the iconic photo of Harry Truman elatedly holding up the front page that incorrectly called the presidential election in 1948. Somehow Donald Trump doing the same thing regarding Hillary Clinton but on a tablet instead just doesn’t have the same impact.


And yet, digital seems to be the wave of the future if not already the present. Rare is it to talk to a millennial who subscribes to a newspaper, as they get their news on-line. Publications are embracing this as they move to offer more digital material and include free digital access to all paid subscriptions. So popular is digital data that according to the Pew Research Center, “The New York Times,” the nation’s second most popular paper after “USA Today,” added 500,000 digital subscribers in 2016, an increase of nearly 50 percent in just one year.



Still, discouraging trends can be seen in the number of actual daily newspapers in the U.S. In 1970 there were 1,748 dailies but that number was down to 1,286 in 2016. Yes, 1,200 daily papers is still a good number, but the fact that nearly 500 closed their doors is enough to make headlines considering the jobs that were lost and the customers who were abandoned.


Jobs still remain in newspaper industry but are fewer and far between. According to Bureau of Labor numbers, nearly 40,000 people work as reporters, editors, and photographers at daily and weekly publications. This doesn’t account for how many others are employed printing those papers, delivering those papers, and handling everything from customer service and circulation to staff human resources.



Who is hired is changing as drastically as what is covered and what is written. Sought after staff members are now not only investigative minds, skilled writers, and talented photographers, but tech whizzes as well. You can’t have or offer on-line content if you don’t have on-line savvy staff members.


Advertising is still the bread that feeds the beast and last year digital advertising held its own, accounting for 31 percent of newspaper advertising revenue, up from 17 percent in 2011. However, Pew reports double-digit declines in advertising revenue for the industry as a whole, with total ad revenue of $18 billion in 2016, nearly one-third of the $50 billion it was a mere 10 years ago.



In contrast, circulation revenue, the amount of money newspapers earn from subscribers has remained steady at around $11 billion, but it’s simply not enough to make up for advertising losses. Maybe that’s why my personal subscription rate has nearly doubled in just one year. Sadly, the revenue of my household doesn’t see the ROI or benefit of keeping the expense of newspaper subscription a worthwhile line item. Momma has to look after her bottom line too.


I’m not one to read the paper online so I’ll settle in with my Sunday only delivery for now and hope against hope that things change, prices decrease, they miss me and make me a subscription offer I can’t refuse, and I can go back to reading my daily paper. The news probably won’t be good and I won’t hold my breath.




Designing Woman July 6, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 1:13 am


That is one of my favorite quotes ever and one I try to live by. I’ve learned this and so much from Courtney Carver’s fabulous “Soulful Simplicity” book in which she describes how “living with less can lead to so much more.” Carver is all about simplifying everything: our homes, our closets, our lives. She’s also behind Project 333, a minimalist fashion challenge that invites participants to dress with 33 items for three months to prove you don’t need all that clothing you have and that you probably wear the same favorites again and again anyway. I’ve yet to challenge myself to this one, but apparently you feel cleansed and complete afterward.


I am all about scaling down where I live though. Just under two years ago my fellow empty nester husband and I scaled way down, moved, and downsized. Our new home is small compared to our previous one and to the majority of those in our neighborhood (I hear the real estate mantra of “never own the biggest house in your neighborhood” repeating in my head) and we love it. It’s not a big home but what’s great, as a neighbor recently told us, is that we use all of it. Yes we do. Another neighbor, who lives in a ginormous house, made us an offer to switch homes because he wants to raise his kids in a “real” home so they have real world expectations. Love his McMansion, but no thank you.



Speaking of McMansions, I recently read something that said their time has run its course and that they are now considered more tacky then trendy.  Even back in the day when we weren’t empty nesters I would often look at big houses and think “We could have one. Why don’t we?” In hindsight we didn’t and don’t because we don’t need one. Funny how “need” often loses to “keep up” with the proverbial Joneses. Family after family I know have large homes but not necessarily large families. Room after room go unused. I don’t get it. But maybe I do.



Instead, I love the philosophy of celebrated designer Ilse Crawford. In a recent Netflix documentary on her (part of the fabulous “Abstract” series), I learned that Crawford stands firm on creating environments where humans feel comfortable, public spaces that make people feel at home, and homes that are habitable and make sense for the people who live in them. Perhaps the key words here being “make sense.”


Crawford is adamant that interior design is not necessarily “a look” or all about showmanship and frivolity as so many consider it to be. She notes that more than 80 percent of our time is spent inside buildings and that how those buildings are designed affect how we feel and how we behave. This is why she puts us at the start of every design process. Her aim is functionality and comfort and believes that how one feels in a space and how that space works are equally important, if not more, than how that space looks. In her mind, task lighting is enormously different than mood lighting and purpose is worlds away from posh.


Highly sought after worldwide, Crawford lives by the design idea that spaces, whether they be homes, offices, or businesses, should soothe and enhance the senses.



So, rather than seeing a space and designing it in all the latest styles and what she personally prefers, she steps back and combines design with living, as detailed in her book “A Frame for Life.” In doing so, Crawford bridges the worlds of interior design, architecture, and product design using her unique philosophy of putting the human being at the center of any and all design plans. Genius.


It all makes sense, right? Yes I could have a big ole house and one decorated by the most popular of designers, but would I feel good in it? Would it feel like home? I’m going with no.


It also makes sense that Crawford has essentially developed a whole new way of looking at interior design. Born and raised in London, she is the daughter of an artist/pianist mother and economist/journalist dad. As she admits, her brain and way of thinking is a combination of both. She sees the art in things but also the reality; interrogates a space’s use but empathizes with who uses it. She worked from a very young age but the first thing she ever bought was a lampshade. Again, logical meets decorative.


Crawford studied history and the history of architecture but would dive into issues of Vogue after pouring over books and assignments. The designer-to-be was set to attend NYU but her mom died and she needed to stay home and help with her four siblings. How people behave differently in different spaces always fascinated her and the drab and dreary hospital halls and rooms that she’d frequent while her mom was ill were the first places she realized her “how does this space match the human needs” idea, leading her to further her studies in behavioral science and anthropology.



From there Crawford hit the ground running, working in an architecture firm, editing “Architecture Journal” and “World of Interior,” successfully launching “Elle Deco,” and later completing a successful stint at Donna Karan until she decided to start her own studio. She’s also head of the Eindhoven Design Academy in Holland, considered by many as the world’s best design school, and says it’s her passion to nurture students to always questions why and how their work improves the reality of life. She has since designed for the likes of New York’s SoHo House, Swarovski, and projects from London to Miami, Las Vegas to Asia. Her projects aren’t reserved for the upmarket though. One of her most acclaimed jobs was none other than redesigning IKEA’s restaurants and cafes.


The project was the perfect opportunity to employ one of her favorite elements:  incorporating the Danish word “hygge,” which means to make the ordinary extraordinary and the normal special. This might mean making rectangular tables oval or using a mix of materials that create texture but also touch the skin and give you memories.



These ideas were also put in place in an airport gate lounge she was asked to redesign, which like many of the hotels she’s worked on, she designed to feel more like a home. In restaurants she’s big on putting the kitchen where it can not only be seen, but heard and smelled.  More than anything, she wants people to feel they belong.


Don’t get me wrong, Crawford’s expertise does not come cheap. All that sensibility comes with a high price and only the fabulous can afford her fabulous talents, but it’s a concept we can all incorporate into our lives and our homes. We can also incorporate another word Crawford casually throws around, “besjala,” which means “to put soul into a place” in Swedish.


I don’t want empty unused rooms and matchy-matchy furnishings in my house. I want soul. I want comfort. In her book “Home Is Where the Heart Is,” Crawford embraces this saying, “The more virtual our world becomes the more we need the physical.” But she doesn’t mean physical as in physically big or impressive, she means the basic human quest for safety, love, respect, and self-fulfillment that expands into and improves our lives and our homes. Yes, it’s the American dream to dream big and dream about a big home and yes, you may have worked really hard to earn it, but do you need it or just want it. If it’s the latter, ask yourself why.


As impressive as she is, equally impressive is that Crawford and her Colombian-born husband live not in a London palace or country estate, but in a compact city loft. Just goes to prove that this uber-famous and high-powered designer practices the practicality she preaches. She’s clearly not only a designing woman, but a wise one.




Duly Noted June 30, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:52 pm


I was at a store yesterday purchasing something and realized that when a sales clerk gives me my receipt and bag full of goods, I often say “thank you.” But why? Why am I thanking THEM for buying something? They of course say “thank you” back but it got me thinking about giving thanks and specifically those little endangered species items known as thank-you notes.


Are you with me in that they are becoming a lost art and just aren’t used as much as they used to be and as much as they should be? What has happened to a written and mailed (yes, in an envelope with a real stamp) note of thanks to someone? I do still get them every now and then, but it seems like more often than not, I send a birthday, shower, or (gasp) wedding gift and think months later, “did they get it?” I never heard that they did. For all I know they hated the gift!




Truth be told, they more than likely loved the gift (since it was probably on their registration list) but just failed to mail a thank you note. This, my friends, is a major pet peeve of mine. If I’ve taken the time to either personally choose a gift for you or scroll through page after page of gifts you’ve registered for and pick one, you should take the time to thank me. Simple as that, right?


But sadly, in today’s electronic and computerized age, the handwritten thank you note is either considered old-fashioned or too time consuming. Think about it though, the time it takes to write a quick three sentence note, address an envelope, and put a stamp on it takes about the same amount of time that finding someone’s contact info and blasting them an impersonal email or text. Think about this too: who doesn’t love feeling appreciated and finding a sweet note of thanks in their mail along with bills and junk mail? Besides, when was the last time you printed an electronically-sent thank you message? Right, never. But, a sweet note written on fabulous stationery could sit around on your counter or desk for days, even weeks, serving as a gentle reminder that you are appreciated and the note writer is grateful. It’s so much better to be remembered than deleted.


Maybe it’s the actual writing of the notes that keeps people from doing them, which goes hand-in-hand with the demise of cursive writing. But don’t fret! If Jimmy Fallon can do it on his show, you can do it in your home! It’s really not that hard and is simply the right thing to do.




So, how do you start? Margaret Shepherd, who wrote “The Art of the Handwritten Note,” says a proper thank-you note should be five things: specific, prompt, succinct, personal, and generous. It helps if you have some nice cards or stationery, but never let a lack of them or lateness in sending prevent you from sending a thank you note. A genuinely written note on spiral notebook paper that arrives months later is better than no note at all.


From there, think about what you want to say so you don’t have to rewrite one and waste paper. Address the note personally and thank the recipient for the gift. Be specific. Proper etiquette dictates you should describe the gift in your note so name it and how you plan to use it or why you love it. Add also maybe a personal note that mentions something specific about your relationship with the recipient. Nothing says “fake” like a “thank you for the gift I love it” thank you note!




So when should you send a thank you note? First of all, it’s never wrong to send one. In general, you should mail a thank you note any time you receive a gift. Yep, anytime. I personally draw the line with close family members, stressing the close. If siblings and cousins gather for Christmas or if my sisters send me a birthday present (don’t even get me started on birthday cards and presents though!), I generally opt out of sending them thank you notes. If, however, a distant aunt or even grandparent sends our daughter a gift, she absolutely should mail them a thank you note.


According to, you never really need a reason to send a thank you note, but these are three reasons you should always send one:


Someone had done you a favor. This could be a kind gesture like driving you to the airport or a doctor’s appointment, picking your child up from school, or letting you use your washer and dryer in absence of their broken ones. In my opinion, these notes don’t necessarily have to be mailed, as I’ve appreciated a personally delivered bottle of wine or vase of flowers. Whatever you choose, choose to show you are grateful.


You’ve received a gift. Yes, this includes shower and wedding gifts of course, but it also includes a casserole after surgery or something they bring you from a vacation. Gifts come in all shapes and forms and all should be acknowledged.


Other rules of thumb include mandatory thank you notes for shower and wedding gifts. Notes of appreciation for both baby and wedding shower gifts should be mailed within three weeks of the shower and mailed to everyone who sent a gift, even those not in attendance and those you personally thanked in person at the shower.


Every wedding gift should be acknowledged within three months of the wedding. Early wedding gifts should be acknowledged upon receipt and before the wedding day itself.


It’s a good idea to keep a record of all the gifts you receive for both showers and weddings. Record what the gift was, who gave you the gift, and the date you mail the thank you note. If someone gives you both a wedding shower and wedding gift, you must acknowledge them in individual thank you notes.





When it comes to kids, it’s important to start them young. Remind them that someone took the time to send them a gift so now they need to take the time to say thanks. Doing so not only helps teach them the gift of gratitude and serves as a way of practicing writing and penmanship, but research shows that children who learn to express gratitude have less envy, materialism, and depression. Doing so also results in better grades and improved relationships.


It’s obvious I’m a stickler for thank you notes. I love stationery, I love writing utensils, I love to write, and I’m a very grateful person on the whole. Since our daughter (now 25-years-old) was old enough to know she received a gift from someone, I had her sit down and write thank you notes to the best of her ability. To this day I often ask her if she sent a thank you note to someone, whether it be for a gift or for the use of their vacation house. Send the note. Say you’re thankful.


The most important things are to make it a habit and make it fun! Bring out fun paper, stickers, markers, and colored pens. Sit down with them and let them go to work, keeping in mind their age and writing abilities. Etiquette guru Emily Post says three-to-five year olds can scribble and maybe draw a picture of the gift, six-to-10 year olds can start doing some actual writing, while older kids and teens are able to take more responsibility and an “owner’s flare.” In all cases, focus on how nice the gift was and why they are doing the note in the first place. If there are many gifts to acknowledge, like say for a birthday party or First Holy Communion, perhaps make a template of words and have the child fill in the blanks.


Sadly a recent survey of 6,000 moms found that only 30 percent have their children acknowledge a gift with a thank-you note. The demise of this tradition is disturbing, as it shows not only a lack of gratitude but a missed opportunity to also show good manners and simple etiquette. Even the busiest of parents should make it a priority to start the habit of repaying kindness with kindness a priority.


If writing a thank-you note is just too much for a child, using a computer software to create an electronic card is okay, just be sure the child does it and that it’s personal. Your goal with all notes of thanks is to acknowledge the gift and to say thanks.


Finally, be sure to practice what you preach. When you sit down to write a thank-you note, make a big deal of it in front of your kids. Talk about how much you appreciate the gift or gesture and that you’re telling the recipient how happy their thoughtfulness made you.



Even if you’re not in the school of “it’s the right thing to do” group, there are many other great reasons to send a thank you note. My favorite of which is that being grateful actually increases your happiness and improves your mood. Professor Robert Emmons of the University of California, Davis concluded this in a 2008 study and summarized it by saying “gratitude is the forgotten factor in happiness research.” So by writing a thank you note to someone you make them happy and you can increase your own happiness.  It’s a win-win!


Gratitude is indeed good for the brain according to Dr. Christian Jarrett of the “Science of Us,” whose brain-scanning study results suggest gratitude tasks have a self-perpetuating nature in that the more you practice gratitude, the more attuned you are to it and have a feeling of well-being and reduced depression. Imagine how happy newlyweds must feel writing all those thank you notes!


Plus, when you feel good you often do good, which would explain why physical health increases when psychological health increases. sites a 2013 study on the connection between gratitude and physical health that showed those who express gratitude are less likely to experience aches and pains and feel healthier overall. Grateful people tend to take part in healthier activities proving when you’re happier in life you make happier choices.


Handwritten notes are important to any civilized culture and have been the preferred method of communication for centuries. The traditional way of communicating is still one of the best ways to build and foster relationships, especially when coupled with the expression of gratitude.


Lastly, but for many of you perhaps most importantly, sending a handwritten note may help you stand out among the masses. Distinguishing yourself amidst hundreds of applicants and interviewees may just be the winning ticket, even in today’s digital world. In fact, some employers still consider the practice essential and have even been known to hire a person because of receiving a thank-you card. A mailed note can also serve as an indirect way to reach back out to a potential boss and to even reconnect with them long after meeting them. They simply demonstrate good manners, and who doesn’t like and appreciate good manners?



The pros of sending a thank-you note far outweigh the cons and everyone, whether it’s a CEO or grandma, appreciates getting thanks in writing. In the end, the goal is to express gratitude and to send a little bit of joy someone’s way. Doesn’t everyone like to feel appreciated? Don’t you? Write on!








Books Clubs: Read All About Them June 17, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 9:18 pm


I can’t remember the last time a couple of movies got me thinking and writing, but the past week or so has proven a goldmine.  I’m not one of those who will go to just any movie and Hollywood in general has me feeling a bit “thanks but no thanks,” but as I wrote about just recently, “Always at the Carlyle” was a delightful little film and this week “Book Club” did the trick. Although the movie is unrealistic in many way and Jane Fonda’s role of an aging sexpot is excruciating to watch at times, the movie itself was way more enjoyable than I expected. In short, it’s about four aging friends going through life’s little peccadilloes as they keep their years long Book Club alive. I won’t go into any details but I will say it made me think about book clubs in general.



I’m in a neighborhood book club and was in one in our former neighborhood. The two are vastly different in that my current one is large, meets at a clubhouse and has a sit down dinner before discussing the book but my former one was much smaller and intimate. I love to read but am not a big crowd person. For me, the smaller the book club, the better and my perfect book club is one in which close friends gather at each other’s houses to discuss a book that they take turns choosing. I’d prefer a quarterly club, but monthly seems to be the norm.


I favor meeting quarterly or maybe every other month only because I’m not one of those who can read a book a month and I also want to read one of the many books I have stacked up and read it just for myself. In any book club, my MO is to look at the list of upcoming books, choose a few but usually not all, and read them at my leisure and on time for the book club meeting. My worst nightmare? A book club that picks the next book at each meeting. Not joining. Not happening.



So yes, I love to read but I don’t want to spend time reading something I have zero interest in when I have that stack of books I’m anxiously waiting to delve into. Doing so just feels too much like an “assignment” and I’m past that. Will I read something I didn’t pick but kinda piques my interest? You bet. I’ve done so many times and have been grateful many times.


What is it about book clubs that makes them so popular? They haven’t always been a thing, but today they are everywhere. It’s estimated more than 5 million Americans belong to one or more book clubs. Most are “anything goes” groups regarding what books are chosen to read but some are more targeted toward specific audiences, authors, and subject matter. In any case, it’s all about the book but some clubs, depending on the size and scope of the group, can even morph into support groups, longtime friendships, and much more. Book clubs are so popular now, there are books on book clubs!



I watched the most wonderful documentary a few months ago that demonstrated this perfectly called “Book Club.” It’s about eight women who started a book club in 1944 and those still living still get together today. They met each other in Washington, D.C. when their husbands were government employees and they wanted to read to feel important and improve their minds. Along the way they had babies and grandbabies, some divorced and remarried, one went back to school and got her Masters, and they all put things on hold during the war. The women couldn’t all afford to buy the same book so only one would purchase each month’s choice and read it to the others. They took turns buying subsequent books and all agree when one said “This book club is the most continuity in my life. The people are more important than the books we read.”


Love it. And, so true.



It is all about the people. And the books. Ironically, as author Gretchen Rubin wrote, reading is really a solitary act but one that society has transformed into a group activity. She quotes journalist Robin Marantz Henig and talks about how by reading, you enter another world and that discussing a book is kinda like gossiping, only your gossiping about fictional characters.


So popular are book clubs right now that a new job title has emerged: Professional Book Group Facilitator. No lie. And they make pretty good money; so good that authors are jumping on board the book group leader bandwagon and supplementing their incomes by leading groups on the very books they wrote. How cool would that be to sit and listen to JoJo Moyes give you personal insights into her books?  Even better, how I’d love to step into Nashville’s Parnassus Books and run into owner and author Ann Patchett, whose recent bestseller was “Commonwealth.”


Which takes me to my current dream: to own a quaint little bookstore on the quaint little town square in the quaint little town I currently live in. I’d host wine and cheese nights, children’s story time, girls nights out, and of course a book club. The club would be, yes, about books and reading and authors, but it would also be about community. In today’s society of strangers, we all need community: the community you live in, the community of readers in your area, the community of joy and pain.



Those are the things I believe at least half of all book club members are really attracted to and why, on any given month, roughly half of my current book club attendees have actually read the book.  You may enjoy reading and discussing Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch” and will be amazed by  Yeonmi Park’s “In Order to Live,” but if you don’t like or connect with the people you read and discuss them with, is it really worth your time and does it delight and inspire you?


As the ladies in the “Book Club” movie learned even while reading the “Fifty Shades” series, who you read with is really as important as what you read. It’s just one of the many things you learn at a book club.



Your Room is Ready June 11, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 3:15 pm


Over the weekend I saw a fabulous little film called “Always at the Carlyle,” which provides a peek inside the iconic New York City hotel. But to call it a “hotel” is an understatement. Long the favorite of royalty, presidents, and famous people from all walks of life, The Carlyle is equal parts hotel and history and offers unparalleled luxury. Presidents Trump, Truman, and Kennedy have all stayed there as have other A-listers like Pauls McCartney and Newman, who started concocting his own brand of salad dressing in the dining room.


The rich and famous love its celebrated white glove service and well as unwavering discretion and confidentiality. The film describes both, thanks to interviews with staff members and the likes of George Clooney, Harrison Ford, Naomi Campbell and a host of other superstars who frequent the hotel.  As the film started, my friend who was with me quietly said, “I love hotels.” And she should know, she’s traveled extensively and her daughter is in the industry. I love hotels too, even the small room she and I shared on an Alaskan cruise, which wasn’t grand by any means, but oh so memorable just the same.



I have many fond memories of big and small, famous and ordinary hotels, and in this age of Airbnb and VRBO, I’m still one who prefers a fully-staffed hotel over a private home or flat for rent. There’s just something about checking into a nice hotel. You are greeted warmly, robes and slippers await you in the room, you don’t have to worry about cooking or cleaning, and room service is at your beck and call. Put “resort” in the name and I’m all over it.



What’s not to love?  Well personally for me, it’s any hotel that charges for either Wi-Fi or parking. And as wonderful as room service is, it can be expensive. It’s one of the conveniences you pay for though and is of course totally optional. Regardless of how fabulous a hotel is though, it’s the staff that makes the difference. The staff at our hotel in Paris recently is a perfect example of how they can make or break a trip. In a word, they were fabulous. Maybe that’s why it’s called the “hospitality” industry.




I remember as a child thinking the swimming pool at a Denver motel was heaven on earth when my family would vacation there.  I treasure trips and the places I’ve stayed abroad, in cities and small towns, beaches and mountains, and with both family and friends. Many were fabulous, but others, like Norman, Oklahoma’s La Quinta, are as full of wonderful of memories as those in Paris to Panama. I love hotels so much that I take photos of them before checking out.



I am certainly not alone, as the hospitality industry continues to annually steadily increase and employs more than 15 million people in the U.S alone. Globally, there are more than 700,000 hotels and resorts with 15.5 million rooms. In the U.S., the numbers are just more 52,000 properties and nearly 5 million rooms. The retail value of the global hotel industry is nearly $500 billion with revenue of U.S. hotels nearly $200 billion. The Travel and Tourism industry, under which hotels fall, now accounts for more than one-tenth of global GDP and is one of the world’s fastest-growing sectors with booking totaling more than $1.5 billion in 2017.


But enough with the numbers, let’s get back to the fun.


Surprisingly, vacationers make up the majority of hotel guests with only 40 percent of travelers booking rooms for business purposes. That’s what I’m talking about. Packing your bags and getting away from it all with a little vacay and stay at a hotel.



In “Always at the Carlyle” you learn that often times famous patrons don’t just spend a week at the luxury property, but months. At one point Clooney casually mentions that he and his wife stayed three months at the hotel’s top-of-the-line suite, which later you find out can go for $20,000 a night. A NIGHT! I’m no math major but I do know that $20,000 times 90 days is more than most Americans make in a year. (In the same scene, John Hamm admits he’d rather build a school then spend that much a night on a room. Hashtag amen Don Draper.


It was fun to learn a host of other tidbits behind The Carlyle’s old world walls, like the fact that Michael Jackson, Steve Jobs, and Princess Diana all rode the elevator together one time and get this, the hotel still has elevator operators. I’m not sure why even the rich and famous can’t simply press a button, but how “wow” must that one ride have been for the operator?



Other behind-the-scenes glamour included JFK and Jackie’s numerous visits, as well as those of Lucille Ball, Jack Nicholson, and Prince William and Kate Middleton. Sadly, Anthony Bourdain also talks about the hotel in many on-camera scenes, which were a bit unsettling and poignant to watch considering his death over the weekend.


The iconic Carlyle’s 190 lavish rooms and suites include one named after Princess Di and one named after Roger Federer, who is walked up to his room by none other than the hotel’s manager. The scene reminded me of just how impressed I am with Rafael Nadal who, along with his entire team, stayed in our same Paris hotel. Here’s a guy who has won the French Open 11 times, is the number 1 player in the world, could stay at any Parisian penthouse or palace, and yet instead chooses a mid-range hotel. Maybe it’s the quiet street it’s on or that the nondescript location affords him privacy. Maybe he’s just humble and a little bit human.



After watching the movie, my friend and I both agreed we would love to go to The Carlyle. We might not be able to stay there, but we’re equally enamored with its Café Carlyle, The Gallery dining room, and Bemelmans’s Bar. The intimate Café Carlyle serves up classic cabaret to its dinner crowd and still enforces a strict “jacket required” dress code. In The Gallery, you’ll sit in an exquisite area inspired by the sultan’s’ dining room at the Topikapi Palace in Turkey, replete with antique kilim banquettes and red-fringed velvet chairs. My favorite however, was Bemelmans’s Bar, named in honor of Ludwig Bemelmans who created the classic “Madeline” children’s books. The Art Deco bar has an extensive drink menu and large murals by Bemelmans fill the wall, including some of the little French girl and her school friends all in a line. The walls make up the only surviving Bemelmans commission open to the public.



It all makes you want to be that other children’s classic, Eloise, who famously lives in another landmark New York hotel, The Plaza. I’ve heard there is an Eloise Suite you can stay in, probably overlooking Central Park and Fifth Avenue. Concierge! I’m ready to check in!


The Carlyle sits on E. 76th on the Upper East Side, conveniently and fabulously between Madison and Park Avenues and as one staff member says in the film, takes one back to a more graceful and refined era. Back in the day, when The Carlyle first hit the scene, style was desired and service was expected. To prove this, he says look no further than old films of Yankee game fans and people walking the streets of New York and take note that they had coats and hats on, and not of the ball cap type. Elegance and sophistication reigned even at the ballpark and as he says, what you wear influences how you act and how you are treated. The staff of The Carlyle, many of who have worked there for more than 20 years, are dressed impeccably and offer service with a smile. Just like they did nearly 90 years ago and how they always do. Always. Always at The Carlyle.


An American in Paris June 5, 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — carlawordsmithblog @ 2:33 pm


Oh Paris. City of Love and City of Light. You with your grand buildings, grand landmarks, grand shopping, and grand attitude. We’d met before when I walked your lamp lit streets and marveled at your monuments with my husband some years back. I added Paris to our plan of golfing in Scotland and figured I’d love Paris and like Scotland. It turned out it was the other way around.


This time, it was a girls trip: just me and my daughter. A dream trip. We’d been planning it for months and were so very excited about it. And you didn’t disappoint Paris. We came home with memories and stories to last a lifetime.



If you’ve ever been to Paris, you know the drill: the iconic Eiffel Tower, the Mona Lisa and other works of art at the Louvre, glorious Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysees and its dominant Arch de Triomphe. And fan or not, the Alma Tunnel, Alma Bridge, and the flame that stands above it serve as memories of Princess Di and have become tourist spots in their own right.




But, it can all be overwhelming. There is sooooo much to see and do in Paris, and maybe that’s why it’s the world’s most visited capital. Even though I’d been there and seen that, I looked forward to doing it all again with my daughter. She’s not a big museum kind of girl, but we got in what we could. In between we had two other things to tend to: a train ride to visit champagne country and attend the French Open…both Bucket List items for each of us. I’m still pinching myself just thinking that I was actually at Roland Garros.



We took a taxi to Roland Garros, as we did many times in the city. Can I just say the driving is insane? There are literally no lanes, tons of scooters scooting in and out of traffic, and it’s a total survival of the fittest to say the least. The areas around the Arc de Triomphe and Place de la Concorde are dire straits of streets with cars, busses, and scooters weaving in and out, sometimes sideways, and virtually stopping in the middle of an intersection. I cannot even fathom driving in Paris. Thankfully I will never have to find out.


Paris is much more than towers and museums though. It’s as much about the food and the people as it is the glitz and the glam. Let’s start with the food.





If there’s one word that describes Paris cuisine, it’s bread. Bread is everywhere. You sit down, they give you a basket of baguettes. Crunchy, flavorful, fresh baguettes. My daughter is quite the health nut but while in Paris her “no carbs and no sugar” mantra be damned! We ate bread till we couldn’t eat anymore. We also ate plenty of desserts, including Hotel Costes’ legendary cheesecake (truly the best I’ve ever had) and mounds of macarons. How amazing those little gems are when they’re fresh and soft. Oui oui please!



The same can be said about French fries in the French capital. You want fries with that? You get a giant plate of the slimmest and crispiest little indulgences you can imagine. They go with and are served with everything. High dollar fish dish? Served with fries. Ham sandwich? Load ‘em up.



As for main meals, we weren’t home so we went big. Reservations were made at some of the city’s finest restaurants and most hit the mark, although we also left some feeling a bit duped and even a bit hungry. Our favorite? A truffle pizza and Paris’ version of caprese salad at Café de l’Homme. It didn’t hurt that we had a friendly and fun waitress from the U.S. and that we sat in full view of the Eiffel Tower, but even without those bonuses, the pizza was uh-mazing. So amazing we ordered two!



I highly recommend making dinner reservations, or “bookings,” for meals. Luckily we had some and our hotel assisted in others. One of the first things I asked our driver from the airport upon arrival was whether the French took siestas much like the Spanish and Italians. He assured me they don’t. Major faux pas. Countless times we’d grab a croissant and café au lait for breakfast, walk and tour, eat lunch, and around 2 or 3 p.m. were in need of a glass of rose and a cheeseboard. We’d enter an open door and a restaurant fully staffed only to be told “we are closed.” What? Your door is open, the waitress is right there. But no, many places close between 2 and 7 p.m. That’s when they start dinner service, which normally would feel so late but after a day of so much, it was actually a treat to not have to eat dinner until even a 9 p.m. reservation. Lessons learned.



We also stood by our “when in Paris” vow and tried the city’s trifecta of traditional cuisine: steak tartare, foie gras, and escargot. Truth be told we hated steak tartare and the foie gras. Regardless of how sophisticated it is considered and how seasoned it is prepared, being served what looks like a plate of raw ground beef just didn’t sit well with either of us. As for the foie gras, eewww. At first bite you think “this isn’t so bad,” but as the bite sits in your mouth, flavors and textures become more than we could bear. It didn’t help that the high-end and highly recommended restaurant we sampled it at demonstrated the worst service and common courtesy I’ve ever seen, but attitude withstanding, the stuff is no bueno.



The escargot though. We loved every bite of those little snails and the sauce they are in. We learned how to eat them and how to dip the bread slivers in the empty shells and we loved every bite and every morsel. Bon appetit indeed!


What we didn’t love was the service in France. Yes, we knew full well that meals are to be savored and those American habits of sitting down, placing our order, eating our meal, and moving on needed to be cast aside in Paris. We get it. We played the game and liked it for a bit. But after a few days of sitting for sometimes 20 minutes before even being acknowledged by a waiter started to wear thin. We’ve been walking, we’ve been touring, and we’re hungry and thirsty. Please help us! Funny thing is, they really don’t care. Which brings us to the people.




When I visited Paris previously with my husband, we were pleasantly surprised the French weren’t as snobbish as we’d been warned. In all honesty, they aren’t snobbish or rude per se, they just aren’t accommodating. Their hospitality is lacking and they are non-apologetic in every sense of the word. We joked that Parisians abide by a “too bad so sad” posture  and it became almost comical. Wait for an hour and 10 minutes to be waited on? No apology. Tour you signed up for was cancelled? Too bad so sad. Paris quickly became a city of pump fakes as much as a city of pomp and circumstance.


But in all their aloofness, they are irresistibly and effortlessly chic. They look good, they know it, and they own it. Like a boss. We had so much fun people watching and noting who was European and who screamed American. We discovered Euros love their stripes and they love their wireless earpods. If they weren’t talking as they walked, they were smoking while they ate. Watching it all was such a treat and full of many laughs.



But can we talk about hygiene for a minute? Amidst all that style came a stench. Like no other. Seinfeld would call it “The Beast,” but let’s call a spade a spade: it’s BO! You’re walking down an open air street or sitting in a café and a whiff of the foulest body odor overwhelms you. Literally. It seemed like we were either always smelling food, fabulous perfume, or the lack of simply using deodorant. I guess it’s part of the charm.


Finally people, smile once in a while. You live in this fabulous city but a smile is hard to come by and belly laughs are for those silly Americans.




Shopping in Paris is fabulous. Strolling Avenue Montaigne and Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honore is like flipping through the pages of Vogue. Chanel. Louis Vuitton. Dior. Saint Laurent. Cartier. Goyard. All lined up like pretty little boxes. But, get there early to the most popular ones, as lines start forming long before the doors open. But, once inside you are treated to the fabulously renowned Parisian one-on-one service. Total “Pretty Woman” moments one after another.



There’s also beaucoup mid-range shopping and souvenirs for days. Galleries Lafayette is one of the city’s most famous department stores, but a Dillard’s it’s not. In fact, it makes Neimans and Nordstrom look like Target. Housed in a stunning multi-level ancient building, it’s worth visiting even if you’re not a shopper.



So, what did I love about Paris the second time around? Mostly just experiencing it all with my daughter. We laughed a lot, ate a lot, learned a lot, and walked a lot. Rushed as we sometimes felt, we took it all in and will forever be grateful for the opportunity to go. I loved taking in the architecture, the lanterns, the ironwork, and the windows. And really, raining or not, who doesn’t love looking at the Eiffel Tower as you eat your meal?



I also loved just stopping at any one of the numerous street-side bistros to take a break and take it all in. I’ve always been a fan of bistro chairs and to see them in abundance and ready for some cooling off and conversation was a dream come true.


Thankfully, our hotel was perfect and I have my trusty and amazing AAA agent to thank for it. It was a smaller property on a quiet street right near the Eiffel Tower, Alma Bridge, and Avenue Montaigne and the staff was phenomenal. Did I mention Raphael Nadal and his team was staying there and we hung out with them a few times? Yeah that didn’t stink.



We quickly discovered that many people we talked with were intrigued by Texas when asked where we live. They literally think we ride horses, that it’s dangerous, and wondered if we went to Barbara Bush’s funeral. They could care less about American football but have a thing for LeBron. About America in general, they find it appalling we have so many homeless, are amazed that so many things are drive through, and that we are so apologetically patriotic. And yes, they all asked about our president and we were happy to educate them on the state of our burgeoning union.



In the end, Paris was, well Paris. Big, beautiful, and noisy. Our expectations were sky high, which as my husband so eloquently reminded me, is never a good thing. But, most of those expectations were met and when they weren’t, pleasant surprises quickly took their place. When you’re lucky enough to visit Paris with your daughter, you know you are blessed and there’s nothing a rude waiter or cancelled tour is going to change. Merci Paris and au revoir!