Thursday, April 30, 2009

April Showers Bring...

First and foremost...
HAPPY BIRTHDAY WISHES TO ERICA!!!!










Good morning HLAland! Heather posting today's post and I'm struck by the appropriateness of today's title as I sit at my computer typing today's post, late no less, because of a thunderstorm which temporarily knocked out our power. April Showers have certainly visited Grapevine, Texas this month.

Today's post however doesn't talk about the torrential rain that is beating against my window at this very moment. No, instead it talks about all the fun and creative ways we can look at this age old adage.

While we certainly already covered baby showers when we hosted our virtual shower in February I'd be remiss to not address the fact that for a May baby an "April Shower" would be ideal featured around the fact that the baby is the "May Flower". I'd picture umbrellas and flowers galore. It would also provide a fun twist for invitations and party games.

But lets get past the obvious form of shower and explore some other "showers" that we can infuse with some HLA creative energy.
  • There are of course our morning (or night time) showers. You might think there is no way to make this creative, get in, get clean, get out (and if you are like me get out before your child starts crying). But I've always been told, and found it to be true, that the time in the shower is some of your best thinking time. But when you have that "aha" moment or brilliant idea in the shower does the thought leave your head before you are finished drying yourself off? If so I stumbled upon this fantastic idea of putting a dry erase board in your shower to capture those great ideas. You never have to lose a creative thought again. And, even better, why not "steal" one of your kids bath crayons and just use that for your fun ideas?

  • Baby Showers, Bridal Showers and the like. Here is a creative idea I've just learned about. Typically we "shower" a first time baby with all sorts of amazing things and then leave the parents on their own for future children. The thought behind this is that they already have the "big stuff" but often the baby will be a different gender or twins and that means different clothes or different needs altogether. What if for subsequent children friends and family "sprinkled" the new arrival buying small essential items like clothing, diapers, and bath supplies?

"Pins, Diapers, Bottles Galore
Suzanne and Brian are having one more
Big sisters Logan and Sophia have plenty to share
This is only a "sprinkle" to show that we care"

But now onto the real "shower" of our post. "Showers of Kindness" or more specifically in our community "Showers of Random Acts of Kindness". You may remember last year (actually around this time) Claudia embarked on a week of RAKs to get herself out of a funk. Well friends I feel I can speak for both Claudia and I when I say that we are in a funk again. With husbands working long days and way too much on our plates, coupled with the rainy weather we need some help to get out of this funk. So, today on this last day of April I am challenging each member of highlowaha to engage in a random act of kindness. Whether letting someone in front of you in line at the grocery store, buying a co-worker's coffee, or any other good deed we'd like to spread kindness in our shower today.

Report back to highlowaha what your RAK was and get in on a drawing for a fun derby prize!
Also we'd love to have you weigh in on other fun "shower" ideas.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Psst...

Sting Ray, here...
You didn't think a little Swine Flu was going to keep me down, did you?  It's gonna take a whole lot more than some sick pork to keep a cartilaginous fish like me in check.  

The fact is, there are only two days left in April and then the whole first quarter of Goal Fishing is kaput.  Someone has to kick your @$$ and make sure you don't blow the remaining nine months on self pity and pathetic excuses.  

Listen, I'm no Anthony Robbins.  I'm not prepared to give you a pep talk, pump you filled with Amway mumbo jumbo, and tell you that the Law of Abundance insists we can all have anything we want as long as we close our eyes and visualize our lives rich and full.  Here's the truth.  You close your eyes to envision your life rich and full and you'll either get hit by a car or an opportunist like me will steal your wallet.

There's only one way to make good on that overly ambitious resolution of yours - get off your @$$ and take get moving.  There ain't no amount of psycho-babble, no number of self-help books, or Oprah episodes that can make your resolution happen for you.  You wanna lose weight?  Then either eat less or move more.  You want to be more organized?  Then either bring less crap in your house or snap out of it and get a plan for what you have.  Money is your issue?  Unless your prepared to grow it or counterfeit it, then you got it Sally Sunshine... either spend less or earn more. 

One things for sure... STOP making excuses.

2010 is months away.  You really wanna look back and have to say, "S#$%, I blew it again."  Heck no you don't!  And not because I really care if you disappoint yourself, but because you can bet your @$$ I'll be standing at the New Year's finish line, bubbly in hand, hat on my head, blowing my horn and chanting, "I told you so." 

So fess up.  Where are you on your resolution and what are you going to do about it?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

We Interrupt This Regularly Programmed Show

... for a very Tasty Tuesday! Sorry, no Cupbrowookies today. So why the Tasty Tuesday? Well, if you're a veteran reader you will remember last year when Claudia was "Reaching for 5,000 before May 1st" where she needed 5,000 visitors before she would explain what Highlowaha meant. She reached her goal on April 28th - one year ago today!! I'm telling you this is kismet or serendipity or whatever because me writing today's post was not planned with that anniversary in mind.

Claudia was encouraged by our comments and she announced the next day that she wanted us, the readers, to give her somewhere to go. She pulled out her Van Oech Whack Pack and asked us to come up with a way for us to decide a couple of things; first, where would she go and second how to decide where to go?

She initially said she would take roll call and throw out 4-5 states a week and then we would have to post something about our state and she would rate our participation. We pulled the Van Oech card that said to Combine Ideas. Treye threw out the "Taste of" idea and the ball just started rolling from there. And that's where the fun all began.

We created a second blog, Taste of USA, and I put up little tidbits of each state throughout the months of May, June and July. One of our readers suggested that I go with Claudia to this all-creative, all-entertaining party and being the desperate single mom looking for an adults only vacation, I was completely game! In the end it came down to a rolling vote in the comment section on the last day of the contest, a Free For All Friday, with neighboring states, Pennsylvania and New York battling it out. On July 25th, Pennsylvania won by a nose and our day was set for September 6th.


While at Taste of USA in rainy Philadelphia, Tera, Treye, Julie, Amy, Claudia and I were having dinner after a fun day of running in the rain, eating Philly Cheese steaks and lots of cupcakes, after sharing creativity ideas, and lots of laughter (and where the dinner waitress had NO time for us) when Julie and Tera came up with West Coast battles East Coast. They even went back to their rooms where they spent a great deal of time coming up with brackets. It was awesome! Thank you both so much for your enthusiasm.

We didn't stay with the girls "West Coast vs. East Coast" theme but decided to seed the states based on the most readers/visitors from each state. Taste of USA 2009 will be rolling out on Monday, May 4th. It's going to be a ton of fun! And it's going to be super-fast paced so we need you to keep up and vote! There are 3 brackets. They are the Liberty, Freedom and Independent brackets. Every Monday through Friday for the month of May we will have one voting competition for each bracket. All you have to do is vote for the state you would be most willing to go to for Taste of USA 2009 - an explosion of creativity and entertainment with Highlowaha! I will warn you now: There is no Free For All Friday and we will know our destination by the end of May! Once we know our destination, we will decide on the best time for our adventure but we are looking at an early September weekend. Full details and bracket information are available today over at Taste of USA.

Claudia, Heather, Katie and I want you there! Where do you want to go?

Don't think I've forgotten about our Give-away Derby. We have a fun Travel Pack to get you ready for the trip. Enter today's drawing by submitting the answer to these three questions:

1. If I could go anywhere in the world, I would go to ___________________.
2. If I could go anywhere in the continental US, I would got to ___________________.
3. My all time favorite vacation was when I was ___ years old when I went to _______________.

Announcements:
Thanks so much to all of you that participated in the Slug Bug Weekend Challenge. It was a slow weekend for all but you have earned your patches. If you need a piece of denim to get started please let us know at highlowaha218@gmail.com. By the way, yesterday I saw 22 slug bugs.

Derby Hat's: Don't forget to email your derby hat photo to Katie by May 1st at 5pm to highlowaha218@gmail.com. This is another patch yielding event! My jeans are looking cute!

Signing of until tomorrow...

Monday, April 27, 2009

Dig It!

Did you have a good weekend?

You know how when you see people for the first time on Mondays they often ask how your weekend was, but in such a way that they are really confirming your weekend was good?  Maybe it's a social norming thing.  Most people, when asking that question, are really only ready for the cursory response, "Great.  How about yours?"

Most people aren't really prepared to hear...

"Actually, pretty crummy.  My husband and I had plans to go out on Friday night and at the last minute our plans were derailed due to my husband's work.  I couldn't get hold of the baby sitter in time to tell her not to come, so she showed up anyway.  Instead of dinner and a social event at a local university, I went shoe shopping alone (didn't find a thing) and spent an hour in a bookstore reading a birth order book about how youngest children (that's me) are attention seeking and irresponsible.  The same national crisis that derailed our plans on Friday still loomed on Saturday, so Saturday was no better.  Rather than attend the annual art fair, we'd been looking forward to for months, we piddled around the house waiting for another work-related phone call.  No art fair and with it went my rationale for not tending to the eleven loads of laundry waiting to be done.  Sunday the phone call finally came.  While we weren't waiting around the house any longer for a phone call, I was flying solo with three boys."  

Add to it a couple of arguments, overcast weather, P.M.S. (T.M.I., I know), spotting only one (1) Beetle Bug all weekend, two baskets of laundry still to be folded, and as you can imagine... "No, my weekend was not great."

How about yours?

What does that have to do with today's topic - Kitchen Junk Drawers?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Normally my weekend would be chock full of so much activity, I wouldn't give our kitchen junk drawer a second thought.  But this weekend we were around the house more than normal and my panties were already in a bunch, so every time the drawer got opened and closed I couldn't help but notice exactly how junkie the junk drawer had gotten. 

The junk used to be compartmentalized in small black baskets (one for pens, one for batteries, one for appliance type stuff) until one day, Richard, the purist, decided he didn't like the baskets and got rid of them, opting instead for the purely junkie junk drawer.

As unnerving as this drawer is to me, here's an observation.  The boys love it.  To them, this drawer is nothing less than living their very own Indiana Jones adventure.  It's an archaeological dig and to them discovery is every bit as thrilling.  Tidy the drawer and the adventure is gone.  The drawer when messy peaks the interest of everyone - old and young.  It's a curiosity shop chock full of interesting chatchka.  Jack, two; Matthew five, and Ricky 16 can each, at some point during the day, lose themselves in adventures of our junk drawer.

The neat nick in me, though, just can't stand it.  This completely disheveled drawer is just screaming out to be emptied and sorted.  Like-minded things grouped together, items reconnected with mates living in other parts of the house, and blatant junk finally thrown away...
While the neat nick in me likes it organized, why "mess" with a neat thing?...   

So, what's up with your junk drawer?  Where in the house is it?  How junkie is it?  What's something interesting we would find if we rummaged around? And, when is the last time you dumped it out and started over.

One more thing... we're in the middle of a run for the roses, so today's another chance to win a Highlowaha prize.  Buried deep in the recedes of the Beeny Junk Drawer was a 3.5 oz. Cadbury Dark Chocolate Candy Bar, .27 cents, a gift card with a remaining balance, and a couple more items of interest.  Win a creatively packaged grab bag of treats from the Beeny Junk Drawer by doing the following...

Identify three things in our junk drawer, without repeating items already posted by another reader.  Be as specific as possible when identifying items.  It will make it easier for those who come after you.  Get your items right and your name will be placed in a drawing for the one of a kind grab bag.  While on the subject of winners...  Tera, you won Katie's Derby Hat Challenge.  Actual cost of Katie's hat was $5.48.  Tera came the closest without going over by guessing $4.08.  Congratulations, Tera! 

Signing off until tomorrow...
   

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Get Your Hot Glue Guns Ready!!!

Happy Saturday morning, Highlowaha! Katie K here to get your hot glue guns running! One week from today, the fastest two seconds in sports will take place at the 135th Kentucky Derby in Louisville, Kentucky. As some of you may know, I lived in Louisville for 4 years while going to school at Bellarmine University. It is there that I met Claudia and Heather, along with many other Highlowaha community members.

As a member of the Louisville community for four years and having grown up in Kentucky my entire life, I have seen my fair share of news and sports coverage of the Kentucky Derby each year. One thing I always notice is the hats those women wear! There is nothing quite like a Derby hat. For today's post, I decided to look and see if there was any history associated with the hats at the Derby, and I was lucky enough to find it!
"Hats have played an important role in the history of horse racing for centuries, dating as far back as the world famous Royal Ascot in the United Kingdom, where it is decreed that 'all guests within the Royal Enclosure adhere to a strict dress code: male attendees must wear full morning dress including a top hat, whilst ladies must not show bare midriffs or shoulders and must wear hats'. It didn't take long for the royal dress code to catch on at the major racetracks in the United States. Albeit a less severe dress code than the Royal Ascot, Churchill Downs patrons taking in the Kentucky Derby in particular have been enjoying this respected tradition since 1875."
So today in HLA Land, we will make our own Derby hats for this year's Derby. I, along with my friend Candace, made a hat as a demonstration for today's post. Our hat is a JMU theme (our colors are purple and gold). There are pictures below for you to see so you can get some inspiration. Also, if you do a google images search for KY Derby hats, you'll find some great examples! All of this leads me up to the announcement of HLA's first Derby Hat Parade!



Take the next week to make your very own Derby hat. Then, take a picture of yourself in your hat and email it to us at highlowaha218@gmail.com by Friday, May 1 at 5 pm. Come back next Saturday morning to see our parade of Derby hats. This is a patch-yielding event, but you must submit a photo in order to earn your patch. Cheryl put out some competitive words yesterday when she said we should all be jealous of her jeans- we need to give her some stiff competition! Get those hot glue guns toasting and then toe it up at the gates to see who gets most creative with their hat....and earn another patch for your denim!

Seeing as how today is another day in our Derby giveaways, I invite you all to place votes on how much you think it cost me to make my hat. In the comment section this weekend, the person who guesses the closest in dollars and cents, without going over, will win a Michael's gift card to help them in making their own hat. You have until Sunday at 8 p.m. CST to cast your vote.

Announcements:

Yesterday's Winner:
With a guess of 47 slug bugs, our winner from yesterday is AZLori! Congrats! The record number of slug bugs seen by the O'Pry family is 44....for those who are curious!

Gift of 218:
In early March, HLA community member Melanie emailed Cheryl, Claudia, Heather and I informing us that she had two tickets to the show Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, which was coming to Louisville in May. Melanie offered these tickets to our community in an effort to raise money for the Gift of 218. Our team immediately decided to do a raffle in a few locations in Louisville. On Monday of this past week, all the sold ticket stubs were collected and totaled. In the end, we sold 54 raffle tickets and raised $270 for our Gift of 218 service initiative! Luckily, this is enough money to grant another gift. Some of us in this community know of a single mom of a young daughter who has worked and put herself through college for the last several years. She will be graduating two weeks from today. We would like to grant her a memory as she celebrates this significant accomplishment in her life. More details to come soon. In the meantime, if you know of any deserving families that you would like to see receive one of our Gift of 218 memories, please email us more information about this family to highlowaha218@gmail.com.

Signing off until Monday with the song of the day...

Friday, April 24, 2009

Slug Bug vs Punch Buggy

Welcome to Free For All Friday! Cheryl here.

Growing up, we called the game Slug Bug. But, in doing some research on the topic some people call it Punch Buggy. Do you know what I'm talking about? The game where when you see a Volkswagen Beetle you scream Slug Bug and punch your sister, brother or friend? Two punches on red. And don't forget to scream, "NO RETURNS!" How many versions of the game exist? I'm sure you all have your own twist on the game.

I don't know why the game is so much fun for me. Maybe it has to do with the fact that my first car was the hand-me-down aqua blue bug with the latch hook rug doors that said "Baja" in red. What a POS! But it got me around and at 16 I didn't care much that the breaker wouldn't hold and I had no tail lights or that when it rained something electrical cut out and it would have to be push-started. Good car memories. Back to the game.

I don't remember getting into any fights over hitting or being hit by someone over the game but when it came the time for my two boys to learn the game I didn't really see the fun in them hitting each other over every Slug Bug we saw driving down the street. And living in the DFW area you see quite a few. So being the diplomatic mom that I am, I turned Slug Bug into a team sport. We're The Ragtop O'Pry Team. When we first started counting, I would pick the boys up from school and the first question would be, "How many bugs did you see?"

They put pressure on me to see more than the day before. And now... I think I may have developed Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. I can't drive past a bug without saying the number that it represents. The first one is always easy. It's number 14 that I screw up on. Is that the 14th one or the 15th? Then I have to replay them in my head. There was the green one driving through the airport, then 6 at the dealership- I am always guaranteed to see at least 2 at the Volkswagen dealership (imagine my happiness when they had 10 of them lined up right out in front so that I could easily count them as I sped by on Highway 183), the blue one, that's 8 and there were the 5 at the mechanics shop on Oak Lawn that's 13 so yes this white ragtop is 14! Whew. I can keep going now. While talking on my cell phone, in mid-sentence I'll say out loud the number of the slug bug that just passed by... So, we were at the soccer game- 18- and the boys played really well. Does that make me crazy?

The Ragtop O'Pry Team has a record for the week days and a record for the weekend. On average during the week, I will see about 20. Yesterday before I got to work I saw 22 and had 32 under my belt by the end of the night. Driving home from our South Texas Thanksgiving holiday we hit our all time high. So in honor of our Derby Give-away, whoever guesses closest to our all time record will win some great travel games for entertaining the troops.

Want to earn a patch? Come back on Monday and tell us how many Slug Bugs your team saw over the weekend. So, starting tomorrow morning through Sunday, count the number of slug bugs you see. You'll earn a patch for participating. If you need some denim to get your patchwork started, we'll include a bag.

How about you? What fun games do you like to play? Or, what is something that makes you crazy? In honor of Free for All Friday, if you have another topic that you need help with from our all-powerful-collective brains give it to us!

Announcements: We've had a fun week of Derby Give-aways. Thanks to everyone who has participated. Claudia is taking a plethora of goodies to the post office tomorrow. So, be on the lookout if you won something.

Yesterday's winner for the book: The Five Love Languages came down to Peggy and Tera. The two were entered into a drawing and Tera was the lucky winner. So of course you want to know the answers right.... Katie and I are both words of affirmation, Claudia is quality time and Heather is acts of service. Great job everyone.

I think we're still waiting on how much money was in Matthew's college fund AND if you haven't mailed us a post card with your address for the RAK box, you should do that! Right now! We were scrambling for some addresses tonight and you could win a RAK in the future.

In closing, maybe counting Volkswagen's doesn't make me crazy but starting to count how many times the toilet seat is up in the ladies room at the office because it's the cleanest place I've ever worked surely does! First stall, seat up, water blue- 3.

Signing off until tomorrow....

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Wat's Yur Lnguae?

Having trouble understanding that title? Don't worry, you're not the only one. As some of you may remember, Claudia mentioned on Tuesday, that I, Katie, was feeling a little ill. For three days now I've had a raspy, almost non-existent voice and it has taught me that sometimes it's harder to communicate than we realize. These three days reminded me of a presentation I went to back in the Fall semester about a book called The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. While the book focuses on couples, the presentation I attended was talking about employees and friends. The main point behind the presentation was how people have different ways in which they prefer to communicate and be appreciated- the five love languages. Today, I want to share with you these five languages and what a person may appreciate based on their language.

To begin, let's take some time to figure out what each of your love languages is by taking this very short quiz:

I feel especially loved when:

  1. People express how grateful they are for me, and for the simple, everyday things I do through words.
  2. A person gives me undivided attention and spends time alone with me
  3. Someone brings me gifts and other tangible expressions of love
  4. Someone pitches in to help me, perhaps by running errands or taking on my household chores
  5. Someone expresses feelings for me through physical contact
* * * * * *
Now, let's discuss what your love language is based on your answer to the question above.

A = If you chose this answer, then your primary love language is Words of Affirmation. You feel loved when another person tells you that he or she values you as a person and appreciates your special way with the most ordinary tasks. Sometimes all people want is a hand written note that thanks them for their contribution, or a verbal compliment telling them, "You must be the best baker in the world! I love your oatmeal cookies!"

B = If you chose this answer, then your primary love language is Quality Time. You feel closest to another person when you receive focused attention. Whether it’s sitting on the couch and having a brief conversation or playing together in a tennis league, quality time is a love language that is shared by many. Setting aside focused time for these people is what matters most to them.

C = If you chose this answer, then your primary love language is Receiving Gifts. Tangible expressions of love assure you that the other person is not only thinking about you, but that he or she cares enough to show you. These gifts need not come every day, or even every week. They don’t even need to cost a lot of money. Free, frequent, expensive, or rare, any visible sign of your love will leave them feeling happy and secure in your relationship.

D = If you chose this answer, then your primary love language is Acts of Service. You feel most loved when someone helps you carry out your responsibilities. Even simple things like laundry and taking out the trash require some form of planning, time, effort, and energy. These little sacrifices will mean the world to you, and will ensure a happy relationship.

E = If you chose this answer, then your primary love language is Primary Touch. You feel most loved when you literally make contact with another person. You enjoy being touched and feeling another's embrace. It is important to remember that this love language is different for everyone. What type of touch makes you feel secure is not necessarily what will make your mate or friend happy. It is important to learn each other’s dialects. That way you can make the most of hugs, handshakes, kisses, or other physical contacts.

What becomes most interesting is when you begin interacting with others who do not have the same primary love language as you. This creates an interesting dynamic of trying to communicate with one another through different languages. Each of these languages makes us feel appreciated in one way or another, but we each have our primary language which we prefer. I hope that each of you takes time to share with us in the comment section what your primary love language is based on your answer to the question. Also, feel free to give an example of how someone has shown you love or appreciation through your preferred language.

Before I close out for the day, don't think that I forgot this was the HLA Derby! Have no fear, we will have a prize for today! I have taken this short quiz and I also had Claudia, Cheryl, and Heather take it too! Anyone who can correctly guess what our love languages are will go into a drawing for a copy of The Five Love Languages book. Since some of you may not know us as well as others, if you can guess correctly for 2 out of the 4 of us, you will be entered into the drawing.

Attention to the anonymous posters of HLA Land: Don't forget that if you post as anonymous, we will not be able to put you into the drawing to win our Derby prizes! Feel free to post as anonymous if this makes you feel comfortable, but we would love for you to have a chance at winning some of these fabulous prizes!

Yesterday's Winner:
After Cheryl, Claudia, Heather, and myself voted last night, we simply could not decide between Peggy's Mother's Day cactus/porcupine joke or Melanie's phrase about a sharp cookie. So, I put both of their names into a hat and had my friend Candace draw one out. And the winner is....
Melanie with her phrase "You are one SHARP COOKIE!"
for the first day of school or finals week!

Congrats, Melanie! The porcupine cookie cutter will be headed your way!

Signing off until tomorrow with the song of the day...

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stuck on Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

You might remember in early April I introduced you to the Wonderful World of Fancy Flours. This is my A #1 go-to place for cookie cutters in every possible shape. Over 600 cookie cutters. That's what they have in stock. Creative people like us could spend hours hunting for a cookie cutter to fit our special occasion, as well as creating occasions to justify buying the many quirky shapes.

Briana and her friends at Fancy Flour were excited to join Highlowaha in our venture titled, The Cookie Cutter Challenge! A reminder of how it works...

I announce an occasion worth celebrating and all of YOU vote on the cookie cutter I must incorporate. If you're competitive and fun-spirited like Heather, you pick the oddest, hardest, most unrelated cutter you can find on their website. My task... bake, decorate, package, and deliver the cookies to unsuspecting people.

That's why, in the month of April, I ended up with a PORCUPINE cookie cutter. Fortunately in April we are using the cutter to celebrate Earth Day and it is true, porcupines do, in fact, walk on planet earth.

So here's what I've got...

Porcupine Cookies

Packaged with an Earth Day Tag
Get it? Point? Quill?

Each cookie was packaged in a cellophane bag and each tag relays a different Earth Day fact.

That's my crack at it.

Now here's some fun. Today one of you lucky readers will win your very own heavy duty, brass, porcupine cookie cutter - compliments of Fancy Flours.

How?

Generate another occasion for which the porcupine could be used and tell us your winning slogan! My teammates and I will confer via email tonight in order to pick the winner. If you're really on a roll, feel free to also take a crack at my Earth Day slogan.

Think this is fun? Check back in early May to help select the next cookie cutter for our May challenge.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

T'was the Night Before...

Claudia here. What fun would it be if we spared you all the behind-the-scenes mayhem?

So late last night, I decide I should call whichever of my other teammates was responsible for writing this morning's post. There are, after all, lots of prizes to be given away today and I wanted to make sure, whose ever day it was, that she made room for a list of winners in her post.

Call Katie. She sounds like #$%!. I ask her if Tuesday is her day. "No." she coughs into the phone. I tell her she sounds horrible and to go back to bed. Then it occurs to me there's too much noise in the background for her to have been asleep. "What are you doing?," I asked. "Watching Eight is Great." (or whatever the name of that crazy show is). "You should be at home asleep. You're sick." "Thanks, mom." she says lovingly. We hang up.

Next Heather. Pick up the phone to begin dialing. Heather goes to sleep early (beauty sleep, you know), so I'm already pushing it at 9:10 our time. Realize I can't remember her number off the top of my head. Blame it on my dyslexia. It's some combination of 7s, 4s, and 3s. I know that because, of course... 4+3 = 7! No. We're not going back to Las Vegas. After a few tries, BINGO. "Heather, are you... It's me, isn't it? I just called to ask who is writing tomorrow and suddenly I realized it's me! Gotta go."

Phew, I made it. Here I am! Cheryl, you were spared.

It's a good thing today is mine, because I have a lot to say.

Santa was a hit! By hook or crook, with many irons in the fire, and lots of grace under pressure (ask Katie about the saying one day. She'd love to explain) my halls were decked and we were ready for Santa to arrive for Matthew's Birthday party. A quick review for the party planners in us all. And, if you're just tuning in you should know my son, Matthew, decided at Christmas that he was going to invite Santa to his birthday party.

Borrowed artificial Christmas tree from my in-laws. Pre-lit. It was perfect. Easy Peasie. Threw on some garland, ornaments, candy canes, and a few other chatchka. Holiday decorations adorned the mantle and were carefully placed in other visible parts of the house. Christmas music was playing, a welcome banner for Santa and friends, and a cut-out snowman for "Pin the Carrot on Frostie." The table was set in red and green with cups, plates, and napkins picked up at the after-Christmas sales in January. Even stockings were stuffed - one for each child attending the party to take home as a goodie bag.

We were set.

But no decorations or goodie bag could have begun to have compete with the arrival of Santa! He was perfect (with the exception of showing up in his Honda Element, instead of his reindeer sled). His beard was authentic, his wire rim glasses were an impeccable replica, and even his girth was the real mccoy. As it turns out, this Santa was contracted with the Macy's Day parade for 10 years. He does all kinds of modeling and photo shoots for Christmas paraphernalia, catalogs, and the like. Who knew?

He walked in the door (no chimney) and immediately took command of the room. He knelt down and personally greeted Matthew who actually didn't seem all that vexed by the whole thing. Santa took Matthew by the hand and led him into our side porch where the Christmas tree was set up and began greeting all the children. Some kids jumped right in. Others who were uncertain held back a little bit. But, ALL were quick to come around when they realized Santa had his red velvet sack of toys in hand!

Presents were handed out to all the kids, a portion of a book was read, and each kid got to ask Santa a question. What's it like living in the North Pole? How do you get in when there is no fire place? Is it hot or cold in the North Pole? What are the elves doing right now? Where's Rudolph? What's your favorite kind of cookie (chocolate chip and snickerdoodles in case you're wondering)?

Forty minutes and Santa was in... had check in hand (which by the way, he donates 100% of to the Salvation Army and last year he donated over $150,000)... and was out. The whole thing seemed magical and I genuinely think the kids enjoyed themselves. At that moment I felt like I was in the act of creating the spirit of 218. And what better feeling is there?

Take a look at some of the pictures...

And while we're on the subject of Santa... we have some prizes to give away. Two solid weeks of giveaways is what we promised and so that's exactly what it will be.

Let's begin with Saturday's 218 t-shirt. And the winner is...
Chaotic.
Visit the GallaRay to select the Ray design you would most like to have on a t-shirt. Then, email me your preferred size (cbeeny@lslog.com) and we'll get your shirt off to you in less time than it took me to mail off Brian's. Promise).

Next. The second digital key chain. The winner was selected by Tera for generating an especially creative idea about how to use digital photos. And the winner is...
Melanie

The Wilton Brownie Fun book, for a reader who pitched in and tried to help rename Cheryl's tongue twister of a recipe. And the winner is...
Tera

And finally... to one of the people who became eligible for the William Sonoma Brownie pan by revisiting us yesterday after 4:20.... The winner is...
Kat
who was first to post at 4:29

As for the piggy bank... still counting. Stay tuned though.

Oh, and one more pic. What do you think Santa is telling her?!?... (read Heather's comment in the comment section for information about this question and today's prize!)
Signing off until tomorrow when who knows who will show up...

Monday, April 20, 2009

It's a Cupcake, It's a Brownie, It's a Cookie... NO!

It's a Cupbrowookie!!! What's wrong with that name, Ray? And they are so delicious and yummy my stomach is growling just at the thought of them. They are the best brownie-cookie-cupcake I have ever tasted. I don't care what you call them as long as you agree with me that they are DELICIOUS!!!

Here is what you need:

(Preheat your oven to 350 degrees)

Betty Crocker Original Supreme Brownie Mix

Betty Crocker Chocolate Chip Cookie Mix

Aren't my helpers cute?
Mix them according to Betty's instructions
Now, here's where it can vary. I wanted mine to look pretty and when I made them in the 13 x 9 pan the first time I had trouble getting them out of the pan and still look appealing so I went with the cupcake method this time around. It's more work to do it in the cupcake pan but they look oh, so cute when put in basket.... just wait....

But, on with what I did here: put a spoonful of brownie mix in each cup followed by a spoonful of cookie dough mix. I wanted to make more and not have them over the top of the paper so the frosting would just sit down in the cup and not drip over the side.
Throw them in the oven and bake about 12-15 minutes.
They'll look like these below:
Yummmy!!!

  • From here you can use a pre-made frosting or the frosting that comes with the brownie but my favorite is to make a chocolate ganache. Let the cupbrowookies cool completely. When they're cool make the ganache. Here's the recipe:

    Chocolate Ganache
  • 12 oz. semi-sweet chocolate morsels (I don't follow directions very well. I think I used milk chocolate morsels. Still delicious.)
  • 3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • Heat cream and butter until just before boiling in a small sauce pan. Pour the heated mixture over the chocolate morsels in a separate bowl. Stir until smooth.
Go ahead and whip that up (and just forget about the fat and calories. I did. They're worth it. I promise.) and spoon it over the top of all the cupbrowookies. If you're just using the large pan it's super easy just to pour it on top.
Add some cute sprinkles.
These make the perfect serving size!! I wrapped all of mine individually in Saran Wrap with some cute brown and pink curling ribbon. I added cute little chick cupcake toppers on some of them. Arranged them in cute basket from Target. Wrapped that in cellophane with a homemade recipe card and voila! Cute, inexpensive Easter baskets for our friends to enjoy!

So, you see, Ray... they are a cupcake, a brownie and a cookie. Say it with me.... Cup-brow-ookie. Cupbrowookie! They sound like something that you would enjoy while at Summer Camp. Ooh, what if we deleted the cookie and added marshmallows and gramah crackers? Then what would they be? And, one last question while I have you... do you like your brownies more fudge like or more cake like? Don't forget- leave a comment and Ray will have a drawing to give away the brownie pan.

Nerds Unite!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Psst...

MaRayjuana, here...
Hey Mon,

Irie.  Time to get those nerds out of here, burn one down and really get creative.  It's 4/20.  It's the day to roll a spleef and think about brownies.  If you know nothing about the day, Google it.  God, I love brownies.  Their shiny skin, the crumbly yet moist cake, the chocolate ooh, I need some brownies.  But I'm so comfortable.  Don't make me get up.  Hey Mon, somebody bring me some brownies.  I'm stoned and I can't get up.

Speaking of brownies and being stoned.  Cheryl must have been baked when she came up with the name Cupbrowookie.  WTF?  Say that 20 times fast!  They rock and I wish had about fifty of them right now bud dude, that name suuuuuucks.  I know, I'll smoke a bowl, drift off to sleep and you guys come up with a better name for this cross between a cookie and a brownie.  The winning name wins a book with more than 140 brownie recipes.

One more ting mon, check back in at 4:20 or so and get a peek at Cheryl's totally awesome recipe.  Let me know you're out there and I'll put your name in a hat to win my favorite brownie pan.  I'd share my recipe with you but I like to put in some of my own special Rasta herbs.

Irie.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Tradition Continues

Welcome to the 18th! Cheryl here. Who wants to win a t-shirt?

If you're new to Highlowaha, every month on the 18th we share our high, low and aha's from the month honoring the name of our blog. We asked the winner from last months drawing Brian, aka BKRoot to have a seat at the table with us and share his high, low and aha's with us. Here's more about Brian and his HLA's for the month; take it away Brian!

I'm 27, with a bachelor's degree in English Writing and a master's degree in Student Affairs in Higher Education. I work in residence life at the University of Pittsburgh at Greensburg. In my former life, I wanted to work in
journalism. In fact, I worked part time for my local, public newspaper throughout high school and even into college and grad school.

Nowadays, my job entails supervising Resident Assistants and managing a mostly-freshmen residence hall. I am the director of a living community known as OACS
(Outdoor Adventure & Community Service), and I advise the Resident Student Council, as well. I love working with college students on a daily basis. It's adventurous - and sometimes tiring - but all worth it in the end. Sometimes they teach me more about myself than I think I teach them about themselves.

One other duty I have is advising the Habitat for Humanity campus chapter. This past March 7 students and I embarked on a road trip in a 12-passenger school van to Walton County, Florida, for an alternative spring break that involved working on a home for a single mother and her two kids. This is, by far, one of the greatest opportunities I've had to help make a difference in someone's life.

One of the common threads you will find in my life is my involvement in various community service-related activities. I am secretary of my local Kiwanis Club in Greensburg, PA. I am on the board of directors of the Central Westmoreland Habitat for Humanity. And I play a key role in the logistical planning of the Juvenile Diabetes Walk for a Cure each September here in Greensburg.

I love dogs and cats, as well as bowling, fishing in the summer, driving, listening to various music, and perusing the internet. I'm a very laid back person. For those who know Myers-Briggs, I'm an ISFJ.

HIGH - Purchasing a new laptop earlier this week... truly a highlight for me, especially if you know how much I rely on my computer. It's an HP Pavilion, for those curious minds out there.

LOW - Getting a speeding ticket on the way back from visiting my family earlier this month. It really put me in a bad mood for a few days and cost me $180 I don't really have to spare right now.

AHA - Some of my students truly "get it." They understand more than I give them credit for sometimes.

Claudia, I know that ISFJ business means somthing to you! I can't wait to hear about that. Thanks for sharing, Brian. It is an honor to have you at our table and we look forward to many more days on the blog with you...maybe you will even make it 2009 Taste of USA!! Where do you want to go?

Today, you also find us at the beginning of our Give-away Derby. And what fun it has been already. The Beeny's are still counting Matthew's College Fund Money. The winner of the Target gift card will be announced soon. Yesterday, Heather had us guessing and a little more than amazed at how many photos she has taken since the birth of adorable Lily with Kat guessing the final number of 6,737! Congrats, Kat!! One more winner will be decided for the other digital key chain from the creative ideas posted yesterday. There is plenty of fun still to be had and today's derby gift is a Highlowaha Ray Wattson t-shirt. They are all the rage!

One of my high's this month is the fact that there are 11 new t-shirts designs available to pick from with more to come. What's that? Can't wait for the 18th to roll around to have your own Ray Wattson Original? You can now purchase your very own t-shirt. Just click ------>HERE<-------- and you too can purchase your very own! Or, one for a friend. Or, one for a kid in your life! Below is a design sample of the ever popular...

Be sure to check out the gallery. Tell us your favorite.

As is tradition here at Highlowaha, everyone who submits their high, low and aha today is submitted into a drawing to win a Ray shirt. The winner gets to pick their design of choice.

I'll chime in with my own high, low, and aha's in just a bit but for now, signing off until Monday...

Friday, April 17, 2009

And They're Off!!!!

Good Morning HLA!!! Did you know that HLA and I, Heather, share something in common?

We were both born in Kentucky, home to one of the greatest 2 minutes in sports history, The Kentucky Derby. What probably only our Kentucky readership knows is that the greatest 2 minutes in sports becomes the greatest 2 weeks each year as they kick off all the fun and exciting events that surround the Derby.

Tomorrow marks the official start to Derby action with "Thunder over Louisville", an amazing air show which lasts all day long and is capped with a fantastic fireworks display that is set to 20 minutes of themed music, and then for two weeks straight the city will be one Derby event after another. There are chow wagons and parades, sports events and bed races, the list goes on and on. And, of course, we couldn't let Derby go by without embarking in our own Derby of sorts.

Tomorrow as Louisville begins their 2 weeks of action so too starts 2 weeks of action at HLA. Be prepared for the greatest 2 weeks in HLA history as we begin The Give-away Derby.

Yes, you read that right. Each day for 2 weeks (lasting until Kentucky Derby Day, May 2nd) not only will you get a creative concept a day but there will also be a prize up for grabs as we up the ante and create our own thunder on the internet. Each day will be different so you just need to know to check in early, read the post, and see what you need to do that day to win.

But of course, HLA couldn't just settle for 2 weeks of give-away action...Claudia began our give-away journey yesterday when she offered up a $25 Target giftcard which will be delivered to the person who came the closest to guessing the total in Matthew's "College Fund". I couldn't let her show me up so today we have a give-away as well which means we are actually embarking upon the greatest 2 weeks and 2 days in HLA history!

It is, of course, Free For All Friday and so today we revisit Tera's dilemma posed last week and creative ways to display digital photography so it doesn't sit on your computer unused. Obviously we've got a few fun ideas from our March Madness participants with "Shutterfly books" and "Animoto" but I'm sure that each of you has a few thoughtful suggestions of your own so be sure to post all your creative ideas for Tera today.

My idea?

I grew tired of people always asking me if I had a picture of Lily with me at the most inopportune times (at a meeting, a conference, on my way out to my car)...certainly I am no slack at taking pictures but I could never remember to carry a picture around with me, that is until my Mom gave me a digitial keychain. This keychain, like your typical digital photoalbum stores a number photos and recycles which is on display during a pre-determined interval...hook it on your keyring and voila! Never caught off guard without a picture again.

So today I'm giving away not one but TWO digital keychains. Each keychain in question holds over 50 photos and has a 1.5" display. Here's how you can win them:

Keychain #1 will be sent to the lucky reader who can offer (as determined by Tera) the most creative way for her to utilize her digital photos.

Keychain #2 will go to the reader who in a (high, low...AHA) battle guesses the number of photos in MY digital library which began the day Lily was born (6/1/2007). I'll commit to checking on at least every hour to tell you which guesses are high, which guesses are low until someone hits it right on.

Signing off until tomorrow (when another giveaway occurs as we celebrate the 18th of the month!)...

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Penny Saved is a Penny Earned

Claudia here. Today is my son, Matthew's, fifth birthday. You probably expect me to spend time telling of Saturday's Christmas-in-April themed birthday party; about his carefully selected birthday present; or reviewing the highs, lows, and ahas of his fourth year.

All that can wait.

Today is the culmination of a five-year goal - the fruition of a project a full FIVE YEARS in the making. Here's the back story...

In March 2004, down the hall from where my office was located at Bellarmine University, the thoughtful women of the Office of Financial Aid presented me with a big white piggy bank. Stretched across the front are the words, "Matthew's College Fund." The irony of this gift coming from the Office of Financial Aid did not escape me. It was the perfect creative gift coming from the perfect people.

Knowing the grim reality of sending a child to college (never mind three kids), I immediately brought the pig home and Richard and I ceremoniously placed in it the first shinny quarter. The drop was long and the echo loud. Each of us took a guess at how long it would take to fill the bank. Me, the optimist, guessed 2.5 years. Richard, the self-proclaimed realist, guessed 3 years.

Side bar. Something you should know about me is that when I get fixated on something I can be relentless. I broke dollar bills when my total at the store was $5.01, just so I could get the $.99 in change. I rummaged through the console of Richard's car stealing his change. And, any money found in the laundry (including dollar bills) was immediately dropped in Matthew's CAVERNOUS piggy bank.

Back to the story line.

Two and a half years passed. Not full.

Three years passed. Still not full.

Four years passed. STILL not full

And then I became obsessed. Five years. That's it. Not a day past his fifth birthday until that pig is filled. I should tell you I thought the bank was full in December. Unfortunately, Matthew made it his business, and took great joy, in finding ways to squeeze in just one more coin.

Then last night it happened. Using a Thomas the Train engine the last coin was pounded through the slot and into bank. No matter how much we shimmied the pig, trying to get the money to settle, not one more coin would fit.

Not so smooth transition.

Somewhere around year two I decided once the bank was full that I would send Heather B., Dawn, and the rest of the Bellarmine Financial Aid staff a (Kimack) picture postcard to thank them for their thoughtful gift and to let them know how much money the bank actually held.

So how much does the bank hold? This has way too much fun potential to just blurt it out willy nilly. No. Guessing the total amount of money in Matthew's piggy bank is exactly the kind of fun my friends at Highlowaha would enjoy. So how about this? You guess and whoever comes closest can win the final $25.00 Target gift card (leftover from our drive for RAK postcards)?
This might help.
  • The bank weighed 52 pounds
  • $117.00 in bills were found inside (I should mention that one day Richard asked me if I knew where his three missing $20.00 bills were. We found them last night).
  • It was filled with pocket change, pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters (we don't discriminate against pennies).
  • Beeny Family guesses: Matthew, $32.00; Ricky, $520.00; Richard, $880.00; Claudia, $802.18. Jack is barely two and most of what he says is still indiscernible, so I have no idea what he guessed.
Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Psst...

Tax Rayturn

Psst.  It's Tax Rayturn, here.  I tried to wake Claudia but Stingray was over there late last night.  I'm a bit worried.  By the way, that's not a smile on face.  Stand on your head and look.  It's that day again.  I hate tax day.  If you think today is bad wait till next year.  This is the day when Uncle Sam is either kind enough to give us some of our money back or in my case comes asking for more.  

I'm sick about it.  I'm a good Ray.  I don't start wars.  I'm not on welfare.  I'm not on Medicare and I'm not drawing Social Security.  Yeah, yeah, yeah....I know what you're thinking.  What if it was you?  Or, just wait till you retire buddy.  I get it.  We all have to do our part.  This is America.  Blah blah blah.  I wish my buddy Stingray was here.  I talked to him last night.  He was like a crazy person.  Nothing but long strings of extremely creative yet disturbing profanity.  I tried to lecture him the way you want to tell me.  I couldn't get a word in edgewise.  At one point, he said he was coming to the house.  I was afraid he was going to stick me.

Drunk.  That's what he was.  Drunk and mad.  What do you say to a guy like that?  What are you going to say to me this evening when I'm drunk and mad?  Not only do I have to pay, but I have to stand in line at the post office to do it!  Why did I wait so long?  Because I like to hang on to the few coins that I have as long as I can.  It probably wouldn't be so bad if we could write on the back of our check all the programs that we wanted out money to go to and all the ones that we didn't.  I'd kind of like that.

I'd pay teachers more.  Maybe save a baby seal or two.  Give some kids some medicine.  Send Dr. Phil to Antarctica to work with the penguins for a few years.  Hell, I'd even send Sarah Palin with him.

What about you?  What would you write on the back of your check?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Do-Re-Mi

Peggy got me thinking yesterday when she mentioned that she had a theme song of the day for her birthday. It got me thinking about music and the major role it has played in life. I remember as a kid when we would take family vacations every summer, we would always drive through the night. I would get to ride in the front seat as my dad drove because I couldn't sleep in the car. Part of my duties for the night-time drive was controlling the stereo. I used to love flipping through all of his cassette tapes and finding my favorites. My love of music is something I learned from my dad. I believe my love for random music at random times came from those nights of listening to his mixed tapes as we drove.

Then there were my teenage years of thinking I was the next Britney Spears. Turning my stereo up as loud as I thought my mother would let me have it (or sometimes louder) and belting each song at the top of my lungs. Looking back on those days now, I apologize to my family for the years of painful singing that must have come from my bedroom. My brothers would be outside on the basketball court picturing that they were shooting the winning shot of a national championship game, and I was inside my room picturing myself in front of a sold out crowd as the next Celine Dion.

This love of music in my youth turned into a gift I liked to share with others beginning in my teen years and running through to today. In high school, I took part in a group called CLC, which was a group of my classmates that met each week with a teacher from school to just talk about life’s issues. At the end of our two years together, I put together a CD of songs that reminded me of them, of our group, and of the times we had spent together laughing, crying, and sharing memories. Each song was representative of a specific person in the group or a specific memory I had of us together. I wrote a letter to all of them along with the CD, explaining the reasoning for each song to be on the CD. This was the first of a few times that I would put a CD like that together for someone I cared about deeply.

For me, music has been a way of expressing myself. I have put together those compilation CDs, I have put pictures/PowerPoints to music (as I did for my friends for graduation last year), I have sent music to a friend who needs a pick-me-up, and I have shared music to celebrate holidays (such as Peanut Butter Jelly Time). Now, I would like to share my love of music with each of you every time that I make a post. I will sign off each time with my song of the day. My song of the day often matches the mood I’m in when I’m writing the post. Look for the first song of the day at the end of today’s post.

Now, what about you? How have you used music in a creative way recently? Have you ever shared the gift of music with other people? What is your song of the day today?

Signing off until tomorrow with…The Song of the Day

Monday, April 13, 2009

Keep the Main Thing the Main Thing

Before today's post...

Happy Birthday Peggy!!!!!!!









Now it's Heather with our regularly scheduled program:

Sometimes in life and especially in our creative endeavors it is easy to be distracted by all the details of a project and to lose track of what was meant to be the primary focus. I once had a supervisor who was known to say (quite often I might add) that we should remember to keep the main thing the main thing. Although at the time this was quite unnerving there is truth in this adage and I was reminded of this during a recent business trip.

You see, I was staying at a fairly nice hotel who had just adopted this "Sleep System" as their major selling point in their rooms and boy did they have all the details of this sleep system in place. When you walked in the room you were greeted with a satchel of "sleep system" product placed on the bed. The satchel included:
  • Eye mask
  • Ear plugs
  • Lavendar Spray for your bed linens
  • A brief description of the other things in the room that were a part of the "sleep system".
That description detailed the black out curtains that hung from the windows, the guaranteed wake up call or your room cost refunded, the sound proofing that had occurred from room to room to assure you wouldn't have to deal with periphery noise and the sleep sounds CD that was placed in your cd player. As a programmer at heart I was impressed with all the details they had covered and was interested in seeing if this program made a difference in my hotel experience.

That day as I went about my conference business I was reminded of the "sleep system" by signs in the restrooms, scrolling screens in the conference center and that evening when I turned on the tv I was greeted with an image of a couple sound asleep in their bed as they clearly benefited from the "sleep system" in place at this particular hotel.

I was primed and ready to take part and see what all the fuss was about so I decided to participate in full. I called the front desk for my guaranteed wake up call, I put in the sleep sound CD, pulled the black out curtains closed and sprayed my sheets with lavendar linen spray and I got in bed ready for the best night of sleep I had ever gotten (at least since Lily was born). What greeted me however was one of the most uncomfortable beds I had ever gotten into. The bed linens weren't plush and comfortable but more scratchy and stiff and the bed itself was hard as a rock. I slept okay that night, after all I wasn't being woken up by a crying baby, but I couldn't help but think that this hotel had loaded all this money into this "sleep system" and had proceeded to miss the boat on the most essential item for a good night's rest...the bed itself.

All this to say that when expressing your creativity or embarking in a new life endeavor it is easy to get caught up in all the fun that the details bring but most times it is essential to be sure that what you are delivering is as great as HOW you are delivering it.

How about you? Tell us a story of when all the details were in place but the final product fell through...or better yet a story of when both details and product came together for a great experience. Our goal today? NO LURKERS!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Geranium Seeds


I'm making some progress on the corner of my world that I promised to work on this week, but still it needs a touch more inspiration. I'm not prepared for an unveiling just yet.  When I am (and it will be before summer's end), you all will be among the first to know. 

Do you have a favorite childhood book?  I do.  One of them is, One Hundred Pounds of Popcorn, a book I gave away last year to Stacie for winning a contest.  Another favorite is the story of a woman who buys a new geranium and places it at the center of her kitchen table.

Does anyone know the book I'm talking about?

I'd do anything to know its title right now, so I could share it with all of you. It would be the perfect end to our week about home decorating.  Actually, it would have been an even better start to our week about home decorating, but I only remembered the book this morning while taking a shower.

The story line is simple.  An older woman (at the time she seemed older, in retrospect she was probably twenty-something) purchased a new geranium to place at the center of her kitchen table.  So beautiful was the geranium, she had to replace the table cloth so it looked as fresh as her new plant.  Such a nice change was the table cloth that suddenly her kitchen curtains looked old and worn.  She made new curtains to match the new table cloth that matched the new geranium.  So nice was the new geranium, new tablecloth, and new curtains that suddenly the kitchen floor looked dull.  Off the woman went to wax the floors so that they would look as good as the new curtains that matched the table cloth that matched the new geranium.

So the story goes until eventually the whole house is freshened up - and all because of the new geranium she bought for the kitchen table.

How about you?  Do you have a symbolic "geranium" you purchased that inspired you to spruce up your home?  Or is there a "geranium" you have your eye on that would be all the motivation you need?  Tell us.

As for me... I'm off to buy a new geranium for my bedroom.

Signing off until Monday.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Free For All Friday: Easter Eve and So Much More

You should know that the four of us truly enjoy one anothers company and that we look forward to spending every Thursday night together so we can talk about our Highlowaha community.

I wonder if your ears were ringing.  

They say your ears ring when you're being talked about and we spend a lot of time talking about how much we are enjoying getting to know all of you.  Last night we talked about how much fun it was to get a peek into Chaotic and Peggy's worlds by seeing photos of their homes.  We also mentioned how nice it was to see Robin back on the scene and pondered where some of the oldies but goodies might have gone.  Longstanding reader, Nan, even stopped by the house for a few minutes and promised to come back again next Thursday night.

We could spend another day talking about interior design.  Andrea has more tips to share... Remember greenery in your home and make sure it looks fresh ; use catalogs to gather home decorating ideas and then visit discount stores to achieve the same look for less money; No roller coasters.  When you scan a room in your house you don't want the up and down lines of a roller coaster.  The goal is to pick furniture and hang pictures in such a way that there is one general line.

It's Free for All Friday, so why spend the whole day talking only about decorating and clean- sweeping?  

What else ya got that we can talk about?

We could brainstorm fun things to put in Easter Eggs.  Oops... Been there done that.  That was last year's Free For All topic.  And you know the rules...  creative idea a day, never repeating the same idea twice.  Check out last year's post for fun ideas.  http://highlowaha.blogspot.com/2008/03/free-for-all-friday-show-me-money-and.html

Favorite Easter candy.  How about that?

I polled Heather, Cheryl, and Katie.  Here are ours.  Heather: Papas Eggs (when she's in Northern Kentucky and get hold of them.  Cadbury Mini Eggs otherwise.  Cheryl: Robin Egg Malt Balls; Katie: Cadbury Mini Eggs (from the freezer); and me: Russell Stover Coconut Nests (with the three jelly beans neatly tucked in the center).

How about you?  What's your favorite Easter Candy?

Cassie, only one more week until your mom's big 80s celebration.  Need any last minute advice or ideas?

Respond to one of our topics or pose your own!

Signing off until tomorrow...


Thursday, April 9, 2009

Mine...

Kitchen...
Closets...
Crafts...


Yours?????

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Picture This!

It's Wednesday and I'm still working on my clean sweep.  Each day I've committed to spending fifteen minutes working on some small portion of my bedroom.  Maybe on Saturday I will reveal what I've been able to accomplish - I hope along with the accomplishments of some of you other brave souls.  A handful of you posted encouraging words or sent emails with suggestion for things I might try.  Thank you for not writing off me... or my bedroom.

Today we'll move on to Andrea's Tip #2.  Family Pictures.  We briefly touched on this topic yesterday, but today we'll go into a little more depth.  Here's what Andrea has to say...
"Update or add family pictures to your space.   This really personalizes your home, makes others feel welcome and makes you feel good too.  You do not need to worry about matching all the frames (unless you want that look)  -this way you can buy frames when they are on sale or use ones you already have."
A few more thoughts about pictures:
  • Tallest to smallest: Whether they're on a table or a shelf, arrange the largest photos at the back and the smallest ones in front.  Photos, unlike many other collectibles, can sustain a little crowding.
  • One display per room: Determine where a grouping of photos will fit and place one grouping only in each room so as not to dilute their impact.
  • Rearview photos: Avoid displaying photos on a coffee table or other surface in the middle of the room since the backs will always be visible.
  • Photos with books: Photographs and books can coexist in a bookcase if you keep them well-organized, and on separate shelves.  In a small, three -or four-shelf bookcase, arrange the books on the top and the bottom with the photos in the middle.  In larger or wall-to-wall units, arrange alternating bays with books and photos for a clean, librarylike look.
  • Black and white with color: Except for you purists, family photos in color or black-and-white can be grouped together on a tabletop.  But there's a strong visual appeal in keeping old black-and-white or sepia-tone photos in one area and contemporary color photos in another.
I found these three complementary frames on sale at Bombay Company (before they went out of business) This week's activity has finally motivated me to fill them.  According to Andrea, three of anything makes for a nice grouping.

Also, believe it or not... I taught Andrea a trick during one of her visits to my house.  According to her industry policies, she is not physically allowed to hang my pictures.  In other words, I have to be the one to drive nails into the wall.  I didn't want to waste my money (or her time) hanging my own pictures, when all I really wanted was the benefit of her expertise in clustering a group of framed family pictures on a big blank wall.  I used white paper and painters tape to hold their places until Andrea was gone and I could do it on my own.

Consider doing this as you work to rearrange art and pictures in your house or apartment.  
It could work with mirrors too!

What fun or creative idea you have for dealing with pictures?  

Katie or Sue, maybe you will take a second to talk about the great gallery of photos in your basement!  I love it.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Note to Self

Oh the pressure.

Yesterday I casually mention we were going to spend the week experimenting with decorating tips from my unpretentious decorator friend, Andrea, and immediately tales of people moving in, moving out, and getting organized are shared. I'm thrilled our timing is so perfect and will count on all of you to help make sure my content is up to snuff.

In a way today's post is dedicated to Peggy. More than once Peggy has commented that reading Highlowaha is a little like having a life coach. I love that. Truth is there are at least 100 websites you could probably visit to get real expert advice on home decorating. We can't compete on content alone - especially since I've already admitted to being void of the decorating gene.

But here's how we can compete. What we can't provide in original home-decorating-content we can make up for in being a supportive yet challenging community.

Here's what I propose. For the next few days I will share a tip or suggestion, followed by a 15-minute application challenge. You read the tip and then apply it to a corner of your home. Come back later in the day (or the next day) and tell us how it went. We'll coach each other through the process and maybe by the end of the week we'll each have something to show for it. In fact, consider taking a before and after picture and maybe I will post them on Saturday.

Fifteen minutes. No more.

Here we go...

Andrea's Tip #1: Declutter
Create a notebook with a page per room and make a specific list of every area you want to declutter or improve. Break it into areas that can be tackled in 15-30 minute segments. For example - top right drawer or upper closet shelf. Then devote 15-30 minutes a day (no more) to tackle each item on the list and then cross it off. We all like crossing off items on lists! This way you do not have to wait for an entire day (that never comes) to declutter the whole house.
To me, "A page per room" is the most important part of her advice. A page per room means that your list can grown and change. It implies this is not a one-time deal and that you will be adding on (and crossing off ) your list for a long time to come.

Commit today to getting your notebook and, if nothing else, labeling each page a different room in your house or apartment. Then brainstorm - stream of consciousness things you would like to do in order to spruce up your space.

I'll start by sharing a page out of my notebook. Master bedroom. Bed: get new pillows, new throw pillows, and a comforter to fit our new king sized bed; get new night stands and lamps; find end table and lamp for couch area; hang pictures; consider an area rug and a some kind of window treatment for bedroom window; deal with bookshelf; find better space for trunk of blankets.

So serious am I about motivating you to work along with me, I am actually going to share pictures of our bedroom. Sharing these pictures ranks right up there with last year's Reaching for 5,000 campaign, when I was fighting tooth and nail not to have to post a picture of me wearing a bathing suit. Our bedroom is the one room in the house most people never see, so it's easy to make it the most neglected. Take a look and you'll see that's an understatement.


My purse and work schedule will prevent me from tending to our entire room this week, but I will identify a portion of it to work along with you. Tune in tomorrow to find out more.

Now tell me.... what small space will you commit to working on this week?

Signing off until tomorrow...