Saturday, May 30, 2009

On Your Toes

EXTRA! EXTRA! Kentucky Won and is the host of our Second Annual Taste of USA! Thanks to all who voted, to Tera and Julie who helped develop the new approach, and to Cheryl for making turning our idea into a reality! Lots of planning to come.

Now onto today's topic.

The other day I was walking across campus for a meeting and Nicole, the campus employee whose job is to stand at the gate greeting visitors, flagged me down to tell me she liked my toe nail polish.

Now, I (Claudia, by the way) don't consider myself a girly, girly, so being noticed for something as feminine as toe nail polish was a real compliment. Don't get me wrong, I'm not the girl changing my own oil, splitting my own wood for the fireplace, or spending my weekend sitting in a tree stand waiting for prey of the season, but manicures, pedicures, and outfits topped off with accessories are new to me. Lipstick is still no where in my repertoire.

Nicole and I had a quick exchange about my toes. She asked what color my polish was (no idea) and then offered up that her favorite color was something called, "Amped Up." When I arrived at the meeting to which I was headed, I shared the story of my fun exchange and she immediately chimed in that her favorite color was Cherry Jubilee.

All this talk about toe nail polish immediately made brought me back to the years I spent working at Southern Methodist University (SMU) with a student named, Erin. Erin was a terrific student and her "signature" was flip flops on her feet. It had to be sleeting or inches of snow had to be covering the ground for Erin to give up her flip flops for something with a covered toe. SMU is in Dallas, which is to say it didn't sleet or snow very often - if at all. Erin, the girl from Michigan, with a bone to pick with cold weather, could almost always be seen in flip flops.

Erin's favorite color... Hoola Hoop. In fact, Erin would tell me to ask her about the color of her nail polish just so she could have the chance to say it... "Hoola Hoop." It is kind of fun to say, I have to admit. Go ahead try it. Say it out loud, just once, "Hoola Hoop."
You might be wondering where I'm going with all of this. It's summer, toe nail polish is in, and we're a blog about creativity. Only Crayola rivals the creativity that goes in to naming colors for nail polish bottles. Crayola and Highlowaha, that is.

I thought it would be fun to spend today using our creativity to develop fun new names for toe nail polish. "And the Rocket's Red Glare," "Cherry Tomatoes," or "Bubble Yum" are just a few of my attempts at fun names.

How about you? Below are a few colors. This weekend, let's paint the toe red and take a shot at creating our own nail polish names. Who knows, there could even be a fun prize in it for the name that most strikes my fancy.

Signing off until Monday...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Now I'm Free.....Free for Allin'.

Good Friday morning HLA Land, it's Heather here with a fun new format for our Free for All Friday posts. You see while we had originally planned to showcase our favorite backyard game, namely cornhole, unfortunately that plan was derailed because Katie wouldn't leave her clothing in Kentucky to bring her parent's cornhole set to Texas. Where are her priorities?

But all is not lost because we had also planned to begin working on the new format for Fridays. We'll stick with this concept at least for the summer and we hope we can hone our skills as time goes on. Let us know what you think...
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G-agX3UNLxE




Signing off until tomorrow...

HLA Hoopla

Good morning, HLA! It's Katie here to bring you another day of celebration for National Backyard Games Week! Today we are going to talk all things carnival! A few weekends ago, Heather posted about local festivals in our towns, but today I'm posting to challenge you to host your own festivals and carnivals in your backyards!

As inspiration for today's post, I will share that Claudia purchased some banners from Pottery Barn that are meant for your own at-home carnival. Take a look at the slide show below to see some of the banners hung throughout her backyard. (sorry, blogger was having issues and I could not upload the pictures directly into the post when I wrote this!) These banners would make the perfect decoration and inspiration for any backyard carnival.


One way to incorporate a backyard carnival into your summer plans is for you to host your own neighborhood carnival. Picture this: You volunteer to host the carnival in your yard and then invite each neighbor to host a booth at the carnival. One neighbor may take face painting, another the classic duck pond, and another pin the tail on the donkey. Each family in the neighborhood would attend the carnival with their children, but would also host a booth. This would be a great summer get-together for your neighborhood! If you feel so inclined, many of the banners pictured above would make great additions to your carnival. I'm sure Claudia will be glad to share purchasing information.

For those of you in Student Affairs, what about a carnival at your summer staff retreat? Each department within your division could be responsible for hosting a booth. Judicial Affairs could take a pie throwing contest, and Res Life could take the ring toss.

When I think back on the early seasons of Jon & Katie Plus 8 (before all the drama began), I remember when they hosted a birthday party for the sextuplets that was a carnival. What if each attendee was in charge of having a booth instead of bringing a present? The possibilities are endless!

Just as we shared our summer traditions and plans for water and soaking up some sun, how about we share plans we can make for carnivals this summer? Who is up for the challenge of planning a summer carnival for your neighborhood, family, or friends? What carnival game ideas do you have or have you been a part of in the past? Do you have a theme in mind for your carnival?

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

It's Time to Get Wet & Wild

Jump on in! It's Backyard Game Week. Monday, Claudia showed us how to make a Gutter Sundae. Some of us were grossed out about the sharing aspect but Claudia fixed that by adding either a graham cracker or brownie barrier. Yesterday Claudia showed you how to use a Big Mouth Bass cookie cutter from Fancy Flours to create and invitation for a Backyard Party. Today I am happy to be talking about having fun in the sun while splishing and splashing! I hope it's getting warm in your neck of the woods because summer is my favorite time of year. For me, the hotter the better. I feel very fortunate to have a pool right out back so that when we wake up on the weekends, we pull on our suits, slather on the sunscreen and start the day off swimming.

As a kid I spent my summers at the public swimming pool sliding, diving and flipping. Pulling from my memory banks, I remember the classic game of Marco Polo or maybe you prefer Sharks and Minnows. Do you remember playing chicken on the shoulders of a friend? Or, under water tea parties? What was it called when you go underwater hold hands with a friend, matching up your feet and pushing so that your bottoms bumped. Hours of fun! I didn't care what I was doing as long as I was in the water.

What every pool needs and what I didn't have growing up is noodles! You have to have noodles. You blow air threw one in and you have a whale or a fountain or good ol' splash in the face. Sit on them to keep you afloat. My 7 and 8 year old boys spend more time chasing each other around the pool trying to pelt each other with the noodles or shoot each other with a water gun that I've got my constant life guard voice saying, "WALK!" They climb in and out of the pool so much I know they're getting an arm workout. They make me tired just watching. Oh, and no day is complete at the pool until everyone has done a cannonball! Even me.

But what if you don't have a pool?
Enter the hose and sprinkler. They make so many fun sprinklers now days but even 30 years ago I remember the clown sprinkler we had. The water pushed up his hat and you ran through the stream. My favorite is still the classic sprinklers that just wave back and forth. Before I got the irrigation system installed the boys loved helping water the yard. I use the word helping lightly.

What about a slip and slide? They've come a long way baby! We just had the yellow strip that went across the yard. No cushy ending to catch you. You just slid off the end. Now they have the blow up sides to stop you at the end. They even have boards that you can slide on to prevent stomach rashes and things you can slide under- like 3-D shark mouths! Yes! The goggles JB is wearing are 3D Goggles! What will they think of next?


So, when the summer heat starts beating down, jump in the nearest pool, break out the hose and sprinkler systems, get the super soaker guns out and cool down. What's your favorite way to beat the heat? I don't know about you but this is my favorite... (my extra cold beer is missing in this picture!)

ANNOUNCEMENTS:
Yesterday's winner was Sporadic Spy for "I feel like a fish out of water without you." SS, what now? Care to cast us a clue? You won a Big Mouth Bass Cookie Cutter!!! Where do we send it?

Rock the VOTE! Don't forget to go over to Taste of USA to vote for either Virginia or Ohio today. Polls open around 6:30am CST. Tomorrow is between Indiana and New York. Friday we have our final poll!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Catch This!

From Monday's ice cream to Tuesday cookies.  Maybe that makes tomorrow Weight Watcher's Wednesday.

Welcome newcomers!  Jump right into our fun.  Returners will recognize today as Part II of our newest favorite monthly ritual - The Fancy Flour Cookie Challenge!

Brief overview.

Each month I (Claudia) suggest a holiday worth celebrating.  Then you (the readers) scour the Fancy Flours web site for one of the 600+ (yes, you got it... over 600) cookie cutters you think I should have to use when baking up some holiday fun.  Then Heather (my nemesis) jumps in and encourages each of you to find the cookie cutter most diametrically opposed to whatever holiday I have identified.  Once all the votes are in, the winning cutter is tallied and I must set to work finding some...any point of connection between my holiday and your cookie cutter!

Sounds like fun, right?

In April we celebrated Earth Day and you challenged me with a porcupine.  I packaged them in non-environmentally friendly cellophane bags (as so aptly pointed out by I-don't-miss-a-beat-Anonymous) while asking, "What Quill You Do to help the Environment?"

In May I announced the celebration of National Backyard Games Week (May 25-31) and you fired back with a Big Mouth Bass Fish!  With a little bit of help from Katie, Cheryl, Heather, and our occasional consultant - Nan Anderson - here's what I've got.  You might not be able to tell, but the colors are a deep green and a rose color (prettier in person).

Here's what they look like once packaged.  I'm using them as invitations to a backyard celebration we are having next weekend.  Cookies were bundled in batches of five and wrapped  in recycled brown grocery bags and, for a final touch, topped off with fish netting and raffia.  The slogan reads, "Reel Friends, Real Fun" with an invitation to join us for an afternoon of outdoor fun.  The red fish hook attached to the raffia reads, "Hook, line, and sinker - the most fun you'll have all summer.

So that's what I've got.  How about you?  Make your suggestion of an occasion and slogan worthy of this Big Mouth Bass.  If it is voted the winning slogan, you will win your very own fish cookie cutter (compliments of Fancy Flours).  Just ask Melanie.  She won last month's porcupine by suggesting cookies for your favorite student, with a tag reading... "You're One Sharp Cookie."

Wanna vote on the cookie cutter to be used in June's challenge?  Be sure to tune in on Tuesday, June 2.

Until then, make a splash and show me what you've got.

Signing off until tomorrow...


Monday, May 25, 2009

Gutter Sundae Monday

Hopefully each of you took the Memorial Day holiday seriously and slept in.  I know I did.  

Claudia here, back from Leadershape and loving every minute of it.  My week away, with a group of motivated college  students ready to improve the world, was every bit as rewarding as you might expect.  We did a challenge course, talked Inclusive Leadership, wrote vision statements, set stretch and manageable goals, watched a thought provoking video about social entrepreneurship, discussed the discipline required in being a person of integrity, laughed a lot (even cried a little bit), and before leaving committed to staying the course on our leadership journeys. 

If there are any new St. Mary's readers joining us for the first time today, welcome!!!

Today's creative idea is compliments of the staff at the John Newcombe Tennis Center where I spent the last week.  It happens the idea is perfectly timed for Memorial Day Weekend when the celebration of all things summer is top of the order.

Introducing the Gutter Sundae.  It is the perfect solution to pool parties, end-of-season soccer parties, staff gatherings, neighborhood gatherings, and any other event where you're dishing out ice cream.  It's every bit as simple as it looks...

Simply buy a piece of guttering from either Home Depot, Lowes, or your local hardware store.  Line the gutter with tin foil and then build and serve your sundae.  Unlike a big bowl, the Gutter Sundae stretches the length of the table and allows every one to dig in at once.  Clean up is easy - pull out the tin foil (ice cream is usually gone) and hose it down.  If you're like I am and have a hard time leaving well enough alone, consider decorating the outside of the gutter.  Paint it with the name of your child's soccer team, draw a ruler, or sketch a sundae.  The possibilities are endless!

So how about you?  For what event might you use the Gutter Sundae and more importantly what would you put in yours?  Bananas?  Hot Fudge?  Flavors of ice cream?  Sprinkles or nuts?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pegboard Turned Organizer

Good morning, HLA land! I am back after a long hiatus from making a post! This past week I have been getting acquainted here at UT Arlington and have been without access to the Internet. I'm back now, though- have no fear!

The weekends for me usually include a bit of cleaning and re-organizing from the whirlwind of the previous week. For that reason, I'm going to share with you all an organization idea that a friend of mine shared with me a few months ago. It involves jewelry, though I think you could stretch it to include any number of things.

My friend from college, Ashley, has a lot of jewelry (like many of us) and was looking for a way to organize it so she could walk in first thing in the morning and just grab the pieces she wanted to wear that day. I know for me, with my jewelry box, I spend half of my time trying to find a matching pair of earrings or pulling apart necklaces to get at the one that I want. Well, with her solution of a pegboard, that problem is solved! Easy access= saved time each morning! With the discussion of budgets in mind yesterday, this organization solution is also cheap and budget-friendly!


Here's what you will need. Simply make a short trip to Home Depot to pick up a 2x4 sheet of pegboard (less than $5). If it's more than you need or if you want to fit a limited space, just ask them to cut it to size. This is a service that they will provide for you, free of charge! You can buy the pegboard in white instead of the industrial color, but you could also consider painting it to match or accent the walls of the room in which you will hang the board. The other supplies you will need include 1/2 inch boards or 1 inch by 1 inch boards on the sides to stick the pegboard out from the wall. If you screw the pegboard directly to the wall, you won't be able to put the hooks through the holes in the pegboard. You will also need hardware to hang the board, a screwdriver, and the hooks to hang the jewelry.

The hooks come in a variety of sizes, so you can buy exactly what you need to fit the space in a way that makes sense for you and your jewelry! For some people, they have a lot of long necklaces, so they need more hanging space so the necklaces don't get tangled. For others (like Ashley), they have more earrings and Ashley created a solution for storage with an ice cube tray!

What about the rest of you? Do you have a way to store your jewelry that you want to share with all of us? Any other organization tips for the day? (Kat, I am sharing this organization idea with you in mind! Happy Fish-food!)

Have a great Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

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

Friday, May 22, 2009

Zig! Zag!

Welcome to the most hodged-podged, Free For All Friday ever and today I really need your help. With all this writing about bacon, being sick and keeping up with Taste of USA I have some how been caught off guard and my regularly scheduled content isn't ready. So hang on because I'm not really sure what you're going to get. Zig and Zag!

While I was at home on Wednesday wishing I just had a bad hangover and able to eat a slab of bacon to cure it, I watched some TV in between dosing. I watched Trading Spouses where the mom from Grapevine switched with a mom from a south Dallas. The twist to the show is that the mom's get to decide how the other family gets to spend their prize money of $50,000. I couldn't believe the words that were coming out of this Grapevine ladies mouth! She expected this new family to fix her coffee and make her meals. She acted like she was coming in and "rescuing" this family. Back home she had her dear 70 year old, Japanese mother in law waiting hand and foot on her and her family. The south Dallas mom quickly caught on to the fact that MIL did all the mom's work. The mother in law got a bulk of the money. Has anyone seen this show? What are your thoughts?

I also watched Ellen. She's hilarious. She gave away the Flip cameras that are so cool. I wish I had one to give away to you today. But I don't. She had last year's American Idol winner singing on the show. I know we have some American Idol fans out there. Not me. I haven't watched a single show. I tried to get into it but I got so irritated at the beginning of the season when they focus so much on the horrible singers for comedic purposes. But, I hear it was a huge upset the other night with Kris winning over Adam. Maureen, are you still reading? I know you were cheering for Kris! Who were you cheering for?

I also watched Oprah. Her show focused on a family giving up all technology. It was only for seven days but still. No TV. No video games. No computers. No cell phones. AND- they couldn't eat out. They had to shop at the grocery store on a budget. (Y'all probably all do that anyway, don't you?) At first, they were in shock but as the show went on they realized that they liked doing things together. There was a time period when I was unplugged. Not the "No eating out part" because I don't cook but the no technology part for sure. The boys weren't old enough for video games yet, I didn't have a computer at home, and we did have a TV but we didn't have any service to it. We lived in the mountains on the basement level so antennas didn't work. We did watch videos though. That may have violated the rules.

My point is, could you do it? Could you? Would you? Give up all the technology that comes into your home and reconnect with the people that live there?

Today I am going to my very first Field Day with my boys so I will be unplugged for the day. Scheduled events include the shoe toss, the wooden spoon/egg relay, the sponge/water relay, tug-o-war, 50 yard dash, sack races, the balloon toss and MORE! I took the day off from work and I'm just going to soak in the sun, fun competition and snow cones extending my Memorial Day weekend even longer. Life is grand! Do your kids have Field Day?

Thanks so much for hanging in there with me on this unscheduled content. Now, feel free to discuss TV, debate Ellen vs. Oprah, unplugging from technology, or your favorite field day event. I will check in with you at the end of the day and can't wait to see what y'all have drummed up. Make it good! And juicy!

Signing off until tomorrow...

P.S. I'm sorry you have to work today, Margaret. I hope it's the fastest day ever so you can get on the golf course!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Documenting the Fun



















Good morning HLA land. It is Thursday, May 21st and that means it is my (Heather's) 4th wedding anniversary. There are so many topics I could write on today...creative anniversary gifts for your spouse, fun weekend trips to take as a couple, ways to celebrate your love everyday but...today's post will reflect back on our actual wedding day.

Bal and I are simple, easy people. We definitely wanted a wedding but we didn't want a big elaborate shindig that would cost us $25,000 and put us in debt before we even got married. With that in mind we found a cute little bed and breakfast across the river from Louisville and used it for both our wedding and reception locations. I became the DIY bride making
everything from our cake table decorations to the invitations and guestbook. We tapped our assets to get white chairs, tables, linens, and a sound system and our friends came through with catering, flowers (thanks to CKB and her Mom) and coordinating the day of. Everything was beautiful and went off with only one minor glitch which I'll let Stacie tell.The real purpose of today's post comes after the wedding. 

You see, of course we had a photographer however, if any of you have gotten married recently you know that it takes weeks, months and in Laura Kline's case a YEAR to get your wedding album. All this hype, all of the details and they are all lost for months as you wait impatiently to have some record of the event.

Well...Claudia has an answer to that and I was the lucky recipient. You see, Claudia made it her job at our wedding and reception to document the day through the eyes of a photographer. She captured each momentous occasion, every romantic glance, and all the friends and family gathered for the event. She got the preparation of the reception, the details of the cake and the flowers, and the groom anxiously awaiting me at the altar. She sent these photos for 1 hour processing and in less than 2 days had a miniature wedding album pulled together with all the best pictures mounted with captions. It was fantastic to have an
album that quickly that I could share with those colleagues and friends who weren't at the wedding.

So...for those of you heading into wedding season this June that are looking for a cheap but VERY meaningful wedding gift consider doing something like this for the newlyweds. I can promise you that I loved having that album and still four years later I turn to it for a quick reminder of just how great that day was.

I'm off to give my husband a kiss before we get ready for work.














Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I Like Mine Extra Crispy

Cheryl here. Do you know what I love about our blog here at Highlowaha? We're not constrained by any one idea. We can discuss parties and party decorations one day, baking treats another. We can talk about friendships, parenting and community and so much more. We can zig and we can zag and go wherever the day takes us. Isn't it wonderful? Guess where I'm going to take you today? Bacon!

Bacon, bacon, bacon~ it's a wonderful thing! Pancetta, Canadian and Slab! Bacon is our friend. I'm mean really. It is so completely versatile.

You can put it on your breakfast sandwich or club sandwich, your burger and your classic BLT.

You can crumble bacon and put it on just about anything. Salads, baked potatoes, pizza and soup. Go ahead and add some flavor. Flavor your beans and your broths and even your Vodka- all with bacon. (Okay purchase the Vodka from the store but I hear they make it!)

Eggs and bacon. They were made for each other.

You can wrap it around shrimp, scallops, jalapenos, and steaks. Even asparagus.

Somebody stop me because I'm about to break out into a Bubba Gump Bacon Montage!

Bacon goes with everything!















I have to try these bacon cups! You can try them, too. Just check out the instructions over at Not Martha. They look pretty easy. You throw salad in them, of course!

Bacon is loved by so many people there are whole websites dedicated to bacon. There is the Royal Bacon Society, I Heart Bacon and Bacon Unwrapped.

I thought I was going to be so clever and be the very first to make Pancake and Bacon Cupcakes but you guessed it. I am not so clever because lots of someones have already made them! There are actually so many out there that there are too many to share... just google it and make me a batch.

Just this week, Margaret sent me a link to a new dessert that she knew we would both love. I love cotton candy. She loves bacon. Put them together and what do you get? Bacon Cotton Candy! It was from some where in South Carolina.
I could go on and on about bacon but I'd rather hear from you. Do you love bacon? What do you love it on or around or in? Calling all Bacon Lovers! Give me your favorite recipe!
Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Transformation Tuesday

Have you ever wondered, "Why am I here?" or "What's the meaning of life?" Cheryl here, and I know I have. Have you ever experienced an event that was so dramatic and/or traumatic that it transformed your life, your relationships, and your way of thinking? Today is the anniversary of that event for me- I consider today my second birthday. You need a little history.

20 years ago today, I was attending Texas Tech University majoring in Architecture and I was realizing that I may never understand the math and physics portion of this degree. My dreams of being an Architect were falling apart. My roommate decided she was going to go to Arizona for the summer and I had to shuffle to find a place to live. I felt a little displaced. My cousin also attended Texas Tech and he had room for a third roommate for the summer. That worked except that I had a cat (see, I had a pet) and his fall roommate was allergic. The decision was to relocate my cat and my roommate's cat to my sisters house for the summer.

The plan was to make the 11 hour trek from Lubbock to Refugio on Thursday, stay Friday and Saturday, and then head back to Lubbock on Sunday. Get in. See some friends. Drop off the cats. Get out. It started out as planned but quickly got derailed Friday night.

On Friday, my mom and I went to the infamous Moya's for lunch. Yum. I love me some Moya's. This is what it looks like: Wave hello to the folks you haven't seen. Hello old friend. Oh, hello old friend that I'm no longer speaking to because you led me to believe you were interested in me but were dating someone else. He really is a nice guy despite that incident. Lawrence came to the table and asked if I was still mad at him. I can't remember what I said but I must have forgiven him because we made plans for him to pick me up at Ethel's Beauty Shop.

I went and got my haircut. Hello Ethel. My hair misses you. She trimmed and we talked for a very long time. You see, the other thing going on in the background was that my parents who had been divorced since I was 12 decided that they would get back together. It was a difficult time for me because I hadn't really spoken to my dad in those 7 years after their divorce. If we did speak, you can guarantee that is was an argument. That's a whole different story but you can see that I was experiencing a bit of turmoil. School wasn't going well, I felt displaced when my roommate moved, I was mad at my friend, I was not eager about rebuilding my relationship with my dad and everything seemed to be strangling me.

I know, I know. Get to the point. When did your life change? Lawrence and I spent the day joking, laughing, running his errands and catching up. Oh, and I was drinking. He dropped me back off at home. From there the details are long and boring and complicated but we ended up back together at around the 9pm hour. We went on a "beer run" because that's what we do in small towns- never mind the fact that I was only 19. And that's when it happened.

As we travelled east in his Suburban on Ymbacion Street, we approached the train tracks. Small town- no flashing lights, no warning cross bars and a smaller road positioned parallel with the tracks. I can't tell you exactly what happened because I have no memory of it. I don't know if I saw it or if I braced for it or not. Afterwards, Lawrence said he thought a car was coming down that little road. I was told that as we began to cross the tracks the train hit the front tire on the drivers side, the suburban spun around and the back corner struck the train whereas that force threw us in the ditch. We were young and stupid and not wearing seat belts. I was a human pinball and he held on tightly to the steering wheel that he smashed his faced with and suddenly it didn't matter that I didn't understand physics or that I felt displaced or that my parents were back together.

At that moment my life was transformed into something else. It was transformed into surviving internal bleeding, exploratory surgery, years of dental work, and a new outlook on life. What was my lesson? It's hard to put it in one sentence but something like this: Life is not always easy but if you can keep it simple and focus on the good things you have, life will work itself out. Not that the lesson has always stayed with me in the past 20 years but I try to remember it on the anniversary of the occasion. And believe me, there are lots of times that I need to remember. Obviously, I survived and didn't suffer any real traumatic effects from the accident. Lawrence also survived just in case you're wondering. I gave up the journey to be an Architect and went back to square one. I moved back home to a place where no matter what happens, I will always belong. My dad and I began on our journey of rebuilding our relationship and I'm happy to say we made it through.

So back to those questions of "Why am I here?" and "What is the meaning of life?" I believe that there are many levels and many answers to those two questions. But, the best answer I ever heard was from a man in Utah. When Dick was asked " What's the meaning of life?" he didn't miss a beat and he calmly answered in his mello voice, "Love."

How about you? Do you have a moment where you felt transformed? Maybe you didn't feel it at that moment. Maybe you felt it months or even years later. It doesn't have to be a traumatic thing like a train accident. It can be an Aha moment when the light bulb came on and you finally understood physics. (That aha still escapes me.) Do you have an answer to: Why am I here? Or, what is the meaning of life? Please share.

So, Happy Second Birthday to me. I'm only 20- I can't even legally drink. Hmm... I wonder what Colorstrology says about May 19th. And what Chinese animal I am.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, May 18, 2009

A break from your regularly scheduled programming...

It is that time of month again when we like to take a break from our typical post of providing a creative idea or concept in order to take time to reflect upon the past month. For those of you who are new to the blog Claudia shared with us (after we hit 5000 visits to the blog) that the name highlowaha comes from a tradition she uses with her family each night at dinner to facilitate conversation and help to learn more about her children's day. She asks each person to share their high from the day, their low from the day, and then their "aha" or what they learned that day.
Claudia has used this tool with students, staff, and just about everyone else imaginable and now it has become our own tradition here at HLA.
The process is simple. We ask for you to leave a comment with your high, low and aha from the last month 18th-18th and one lucky poster will be selected at random to receive a Ray shirt of their choice.

I'll get us started and you'll take it from there:

High: Katie arriving in town, cutting my hair (it needed it desperately), Bal getting a promotion at work, watching Lily learn new things.

Low: Work has been all consuming lately and has me bogged down. I don't like that feeling at all.

AHA: If you work hard and are loyal that will be recognized and pay huge dividends. If you are valuable only because of your knowledge but are lazy and unmotivated or have a bad attitude it doesn't matter how valuable your knowledge is.

There you go. So how about you? Take a moment to "stop and smell the roses" and reflect upon this month with us.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Festival Fun!

In small towns across America the late spring and summer months are marked by festivals and farmers markets. I like these small town festivals because I think they give us a small chance to, as Peggy would remind us, "stop and smell the roses" or as Katie posted the other day "live for the moment". Without having to venture too far from home we can be transported into another place with carnival games, rides, street vendors and food on a stick.
This weekend is "Main Street Days" here in Grapevine, Texas. It is raining again here today so Bal and I made it our goal to get to the festival last night. I checked with my boss and he let me leave work at 4 so that I could get Lily and get to the festival. Bal and I met and parked at a local children's park and walked into the festival
(rather than paying the ten dollars to park close by).
Then we spent the next few hours roaming Main Street and taking in the sights, sounds and smells. Around every corner were amazing street vendors many of whom would fit right into our creative community. At major intersections there were opportunities to try your hand at riding a bucking bronco, scuba
diving, kayaking and more. We stopped to let Lily explore the petting zoo (she clung tightly to me the entire time) and bounce in the bounce house for a few minutes before we continued on our tour. As we reached the one end of the festival we came across two vendors one with soft serve ice cream and one with chocolate covered frozen bananas. Since it was 88 degrees in Grapevine yesterday these vendors were doing bang up business and the Snow clan contributed. $10 later and Bal was enjoying his ice cream treat while Lily munched happily on a frozen banana.
By the time we left the festival I was feeling like we had gotten a taste of summer, had enjoyed a nice slow evening as a family and had let Lily truly be a kid. It was a ton of fun and I've got pictures to prove it:



















But this isn't all about the festival in my town. No, I've taken some time this morning to research some fun festivals coming to YOUR town. So hang tight.

Peggy and Cristine and any other Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin readers:
How about hitting the Naperville Ribfest over the 4th of July? Boasting the "best barbeque you'll ever taste" and "fun for every age" it might just be the way to spend your holiday.

Maureen and other New York, New Jersey readers:
It looked like a great option for you is action in early September for the National Estuaries Day "Little Neck Bay Festival". Join the community at Alley Pond Park for games, crafts, canoe rides and more.

Kat and other Arkansas readers:
Seems like you have a fun festival happening this week as well with Crawdad Days in Harrison, AR. Held the third weekend of May on the banks of Lake Harrison and in historic downtown and boasts, "hot music, hot cars, hot food, hot fun!" Sounds like it!

Chaotic and other South Texas readers:
How about checking out the Kyle, Texas "Fair on the Square" in early September?
Held at Gregg-Clarke park it has a BBQ cook-off, parade, arts, crafts, food and a WHOLE LOT MORE!

Cassie, Robin, Stacie, Melanie and other Louisville readers:
You all, I'm sure know the fun of the St. James Art Fair but we are talking summer fun. So, how about checking out the Locust Grove Family Picnic? This fun event is June 14th and costs only $5 for a carload of people and you can enjoy all of great food along with bluegrass music, and watching "slow" crafters spinning, weaving, making pottery, soap, rughooking and so much more!

Brian and the Pennsylvania crowd:
It seems like your best bet for festival fun is to scoot on over to West Virginia to Fairview for "Mayhem on the Mountain" a fun music festival located in Indian Meadows Campground. It's an overnight event so gather up your friends and camp out while enjoying the summer music fun the last weekend of May.

Tera, Treye and all the Cleveland/Erie folks:
Evidently the Great Lakes is the place to be for summer festival fun. The website I found says nearly every weekend there is a festival to attend. The one that looked the most exciting to me was the "Hessler Street Festival" held in late May. With the normal festival activities they say that patrons literally are dancing in the street. But you can also check out Great American Ribfest, Twin Fest (a festival of twins), 185th Slavic Street Festival and a whole slew of others.

Alright, so now you have NO excuses not to have some summer festival fun. I've given you the scoop in your area but...I'm sure that you living there no so much more. So chime in today and give the scoop on what festival folks in your area should be attending and why.

Have a happy Saturday.

Signing off until Monday...


Friday, May 15, 2009

You're My Favorite

It's Free For All Friday! Cheryl here and today I want to share with you some of my favorite things in hopes that maybe you will share some of your own. The things that I love along with some new things that I want to keep fresh in my mind and use at a later date.

1. Paper lanterns- I don't own one but I've always loved the look of them. I want to run out and purchase one of every color and every size and throw several parties in different themes... orange, white and black for Halloween. All white for a cocktail party by the pool. Pink, blue, and yellow for a baby shower. You get the picture.

2. Along with the paper lanterns I have fallen in love with the styling's of Fabric Bunting... I've always seen these in the solid color vinyl ones and eh- they didn't do so much for me but lately I've seen them in these great vintage fabrics and I'm telling you, it's LOVE! Just google fabric bunting- you'll fall in love, too.

3. Cotton Candy reminds me of being a kid. Whenever I see it at an event all fluffy and pink on it's white paper stick I know I have to have it. And I let me boys have their own, too. I love how their fingers and faces get all sticky with it. I'm also partial to rock candy.

4. Pepperoni Pizza- my comfort food. Growing up we had a pizza oven and my mom could always tell when I felt better after being sick because I would cook up a Tony's frozen pepperoni pizza and eat the whole thing by myself! Oh, the days of eating whatever you wanted and still being skinny!

5. The single greatest invention- the iPod! You couldn't record a record or 8 track tape but then cassettes came along and the Mix Tape was invented. Then the Mix CD I guess but he iPod puts all those to shame! You can have list after list of music. My iPod is filled with country to rock to cheesy 80's and other oldies to blues and jazz. I have my workout mix, my mello mix, and so on. Music- it makes me feel good.

6. Blueberry Stack Cake is the cake that me dear ex-mother-in-law would make for everyone of my birthdays and it is divine! I haven't had it since I've been divorced but this year for my 40th birthday I am determined to bring it back into my life. I even have the recipe.

7. The Starbucks Caramel Macchiato is the perfect mix of coffee. Breakfast of champions!

8. Diana Gabaldon's Outlander series has provided an escape like no other. Time travel, romance and historical adventure sweeps me away time and time again. These books are long and involved so whenever she has a new book coming out (and she has another one coming out in the fall) I start re-reading the series so I can remember all the details.

9. Not all sandals are made alike but I like them all. There's nothing better than a cute pair of sandals and pretty pedicure to make a girl feel special. I realize I maybe girlier than others but I may transform you yet. Okay, maybe not any guys reading but maybe you have a favorite pair of shoes, like your golf shoes or something.

10. These boys are the best gift my ex ever gave me. I remember holding Drew in the glow of his blue cloud lamp in the middle of the night thinking, "How in the world can someone love another person this much?" The weight of his tiny body and that enormous love always makes me cry. And I love the second one just as much.

I didn't even mention my favorite beer, my favorite restaurant, my favorite stores to shop at and so on and so on. It's endless, isn't it?

Today is Free For All Friday and so feel free to share your favorites or any other topic that you would like the brains of this readership to give you some tips on.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Psst...

So I’ve got a dirty little secret. I’m a total Grey’s Anatomy addict. Seriously. I mean come on the hot chicks and drunken nights, all wrapped up with a little blood and guts.  Television doesn't get any better. Truth is I like to picture myself in on the action…you know a little Ray’s Anatomy.

But what are they doing making Izzie be the one that dies off? I love that blonde headed vixen and now that she shaved her head we have the bald look in common, Alex step out of the way Ray is coming in for the score! Maybe I should say Alex and Denny step out of the way. What is up with Denny creeping around anyway? Move on Denny, surely there are some hot angels in heaven!

What is up with Cristina and Owen? SERIOUSLY…the man tries to choke you and you are even thinking of getting back together with him?!? Come home to Ray baby I’ll treat you right.

It isn’t all about the sex either I mean, what’s cooler than seeing some guy baseball bat an engagement ring into the woods? I love it! You know McDreamy and Meredith will NEVER end up getting hitched. She’ll end up knocked up and raising their love child alone while he hooks up with the latest and greatest resident on rotation.

Alright I’m off to stock up on the good liquor for tonight’s 2 hour finale (I’m inviting a few of the ladies over to enjoy it with me.)  What about you?  If it's not Grey's Anatomy, what show are you addicted to and why should I watch it?

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

They've Gone and Done It Again

Claudia here for Whack on the Side of the Head Wednesday.  It's been a while since we've observed this time honored tradition at Highlowaha.  Hasn't it?  Back in the day when I was flying solo, "whacking" was my way of pausing mid-week and letting readers do the heavy lifting.  I laid (or is it lain) out the problem and you flexed your creative muscles trying to solve it.  Now that I am keeping such good and able company, my weekly pause and your weekly whack on the side of the head has become less necessary.

But not today.

Today we need to put our heads together in order to solve a problem.  

As of yesterday the United States Post Office raised their prices... AGAIN!  Today a stamp is $0.44 and the rate of everything from Express Mail to Priority Mail, First Class Mail, and Media Mail has also gone up.

Why do I care?  I love mail.  Not only that, but sending and receiving mail - is an integral part of the Highlowaha experience.  T-shirts, baked goods, baking supplies, and all sorts of other goodies are shipped out on a somewhat regular basis.  With each rate hike, I am more aware of the amount spent on shipping and of our young blog's absence of "sponsors."  Treats are part of the spirit of 218 and I just can't see that changing.  Besides, look at what Seth Godin (brilliant marketer) says about the benefits of mail over other mediums of connecting with people...
"Email is dying because it's free.  If you can send an email for free to 100 of your closest friends, instantly, you probably won't abuse the privilege.  But someone else will because they might define 'friend' differently than you or I.

100 times 100 is ten thousand.  Spam.

So now people don't reply when you send them a resume, because it costs too much to do that ten thousand times.

Twitter is next.  The paradox is obvious: to grow, you need to remove friction from the medium.  If it's not easy and free to use, people won't.  But then it gets big and it becomes profitable, so people use it too much.

The churn rate at twitter is reported as 50%.  That's because of lack of friction as well.  Easy to get in, easy to get out.

Stamps are underrated.  Friction rewards intent and creates scarcity." 
Mailing packages (friction) is one of the ways we encourage readers to engage (intent) with our community.  And it is the daily commitment from each of you that makes (creates) Highlowaha the unique (scarcity) blog site. 

It's a Highlowaha formula we're not prepared to mess with.  So, the dilemma is this...  How do we continue living the spirit of 218, by surprising readers with packages, in spite of rates that are quickly becoming cost prohibitive? 

Now for the part of the process with which you are familiar - the Whack.  This is when Roger von Oech provides us with a creative principle to jar our thinking.  Then you get to apply the principle while trying to solve our dilemma.

Try a Random Idea: There was once an Indian medicine man who made hunting maps for his tribe.  When game got sparse, he's put a piece of fresh leather in the sun to dry.  Then he'd fold and twist it, and then smooth it out.  The rawhide was now etched with lines.  He marked some reference points and, a new map was created.  When the hunters followed the map's newly defined trails, they usually discovered abundant game.  Moral: by letting the rawhide's random folds represent trails, he pointed the hunters to places they hadn't looked.  Stimulate your thinking in a similar way.  Open any book at random and put your finger down on a word: How does it relate to what you're doing?  What associations can you make?  What random ideas can you try?  

That's a lot to think about and a lot to respond to.  I'll get out of the way and let you do your thing.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Living for the Moment

Good morning, HLA! It's Katie here and it's currently 3:15 am. I have yet to finish packing so that I can leave Virginia later this morning. I have spent the last 8 months at JMU and so in my post today I would like to take some time to reflect on my experience and what I've learned from the people I've met along the way.

When, I came to JMU, I had just spent four years at Bellarmine where I lived my four years up to the max and took on every leadership position I could get my hands on at the time. All of this involvement and leadership helped me to learn a lot about my abilities, interests, and talents as a student. Then, I came to JMU and I was able to mentor and supervise some undergraduate students who were experiencing the same journey I had been on for the past 4 years. What I found was that sometimes I got so caught up in the work I was doing that I forgot to remember what was most important- enjoying each moment for what it is.

I was reminded of this tonight as I was sorting a pile of books that I wanted to take with me to read for the summer and a pile of books that could stay here in Virginia in storage. One of the books I stumbled upon was "The Why Cafe" by J.P. Strelecky. This is one of my favorite books of all time. A professor of mine from Bellarmine had me read it during my sophomore year. The book is all about a man who is driving one night and gets lost on a long abandoned road. He keeps driving until he stumbles upon a cafe and decides to stop and get a bite to eat. Once inside the cafe, he is confronted with some of life's most profound questions. Ultimately, his experience in the cafe confronts him with the way in which he has been living his life and asks some important how and why questions.

As I flipped through the book, I quickly stumbled upon one of my favorite parts of the book. Essentially, it asks why we spend so much time and energy doing the things we don't find fulfilling because when that one thing comes along that we find fulfilling, we won't have the time or energy for it anymore. The book also speaks of how we spend so much time talking about how we are planning for the days when we can do what we really want to do instead of just doing them right now.

About the time that I read through that section of the book, I dropped what I was doing, grabbed the book, and headed off to spend time with a friend whom I have become very close to this year. I had to ask myself, why spend the night packing and being alone in my apartment when I could go fulfill my friendship by spending some of our last hours in town together by talking through our memories of the year and how our friendship has developed since we met in August? For me, I know that my life is fulfilling when it is concentrated on the relationships I have with others and how I fulfill each of those relationships. Tonight, by spending 3 hours talking with her, I was doing what I wanted right in that moment instead of spending time on something I didn't find fulfilling. This is our last night in town together and that time will never come again (she has graduated and will not be returning next year)- why waste my time packing when I can live my life in a way that I find fulfilling? For me, I'm so glad I spent that time with my friend, fulfilling what has been a great friendship for me this year. I will leave Virginia tomorrow knowing that I spent some of my last hours here with one of my best friends and I will know she is aware of how much she means to me. After all, I did give her my copy of that book to read.

This is my challenge to each of you: Do one thing today that you find fulfilling that you would not normally make the time to do. After all, if you don't do it now, you may never have the time or energy to do it when it comes around again. What is it that you find fulfilling? What will you do today to add that special dimension to your day?

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

Monday, May 11, 2009

Second Course

Claudia, here.  Prepare for a some fun today, but don't peter out early.  Today's post is capped off with Summer 2009 Highlowaha Challenge.  You won't want to miss it!

Those of you around last year probably remember one of our most acclaimed posts, titled a Feast for Your Eyes.  It was an unbelievable display of creativity, featuring a ballroom of 50+ dinner tables - each table with their own theme and table scape.  This year was no different as I, Scoop Beeny, hit the beat in order to bring you highlights from this year's annual event.  

The event, titled Dine By Design, is a fundraiser for the church a friend of mine attends.  Women volunteer to "sponsor" a table and, in turn, develop a theme, decorate the table accordingly, and then sell tickets to seven other girl friends who will join them for an evening of fun.  Elaborately decorated tables are the stars of the night - not the food (which is spaghetti donated by a local restaurant), nor the service (which is provided by husbands dressed up in black and white).

For people like me who love details and ascribe to the belief that packaging is everything, this event truly is a feast for the eyes.  Each table takes on a life of it's own.  Each theme tells an elaborate story using props for centerpieces; carefully selected plates, chargers, and cutlery; thoughtfully packaged gifts on each woman's plate; bolts of all sorts of material wrapping the backs of chairs; clever napkin rings; and in some cases even canopies constructed above tables.  No detail is to small and no amount of effort is too big for these women.  It is a truly remarkable sight.

Let me tell you what else I love.  I love what this event stands for.  It is a grand gesture bringing together large groups of women talented women and giving them a platform to do what they do best - create!  It is everything we at Highlowaha stand for - people using their creativity to help community.  The fact that it is so well done, with such an impressive number of participants, and a following so far-reaching, that people from all over the metroplex come to take photographs, is just icing on the cake!  The event works, because it is the perfect marriage between talents (planning events/parties), interests (socializing with friends), and need (fundraising for the church)

Take a look at just a few of the tables...

Hog Wild

Aloha

Because I Said Sew

Garden Party

Treasures

Going on Safari

Birds of a Feather

Start your Engines

Sugar and Spice

Yee Haw

Highlowaha Summer 2009 Challenge:  Commit to hosting a Highlowaha Dine By Design event (dinner, brunch, coffee, happy hour) at your house sometime between now and Monday, August 31.  Claim your theme, get busy developing your table scape, invite your friends, and help us raise money for the Gift of #218 Fund (remember, every $200.00 we raise allows us to provide another family a Gift of #218 experience).  Soon after Labor Day, we will feature photographs of each of your table scapes.  Charge $20.00 a person, $10.00, or $5.00.  We don't care.  The idea is to challenge your creativity while helping us help community. 

So what do you think?  Are you in?  Want to claim your theme today?  Safari? Nautical? Ship wrecked? Hollywood?  Board Games? Wild, Wild, West?  The possibilities are endless!  As for me.... Mine is going to be a murder mystery dinner based in the 50's.  Picture the scene of the crime (my dinning room) as the quintessential 50's soda shop.

In days to come we hope to create a link on our site that helps us keep track of which of our readers is planning to host a Dine By Design event, the date, and your theme.   Until then, DIG IN! 

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Concerted Cultivation

Good morning.  Claudia here, coming to you from Harvestwood Court, where we take Sleep in Saturday seriously.  

Tomorrow is Mother's Day and while I could fill today's post with all sorts of creative gift ideas, that is what most of last week was about (topped off with a final surge of creative ideas by our very own Peggy).  Instead, today I am going to share a parenting idea with you and then let you tell me what you think. 

The concept is Concerted Cultivation.  Here's a short story to put it in context.

About a month ago Matthew came home from his Pre-K class complaining that his teacher never calls his name to do art.  All the other kids got to make bumble bees except for him.  Translated (by a mom who spends much of her day working with college-aged kids who have a completely external locus of control)...  "Poor me. I am a victim.  Everyone is out to get me.  Poor pathetic me."

Immediately I asked Matthew if he told Ms. Latrice he wanted to do art or, in fact, if he asked her why it seems his name never got called to go to the art table.  "No" to both, he replied.  We spent the next fifteen minutes talking about what he might say to Ms. Latrice at school the next morning.  We talked about how he might tell Ms. Latrice he was feeling left out without accusing her of being mean.  In fact, by the end of the conversation we decided the best approach might be simply asking Ms. Latrice how she decides which kids in class get to do art and when.  

The next morning in the car I reminded Matthew of our plan to talk to Ms. Latrice.  He was getting cold feet and tried to convince me that I should talk to her for him.  I assured him he could do it and then we walked through the conversation one more time.  Once in the classroom, I held Matthew's hand as we walked up to the teacher and then I set the stage by telling her that Matthew had something he wanted to ask.  Sure he hemmed and hawed a little bit, but in the end he successfully spit out the question.

Ms. Latrice, like the pro that she is, immediately got on eye level with Matthew and quickly explained, because the art project was elaborate and required lots of help by the teacher and the teaching assistant, that she was calling students to the art table by rows.  He was in row four and she simply hadn't gotten there yet.  She thanked him for asking and finished off the conversation with a big hug.  Matthew skipped off with a smile on his face, proud of what he did, and more confident about his place in the classroom.  Maybe on that day Matthew learned that advocating for himself does not have to be scary and we can do it in such a way that people don't feel defensive or affronted.

That sort of interaction, according to Malcolm Gladwell's most recent book, Outliers, is called Concerted Cultivation and that practice, over time, can put children at a real advantage.  Concerted Cultivation can come in a lot of forms.  It can be coaching children through an interaction like the one described above or it it can be observing your child's innate interests and skills and then intentionally creating opportunities for them to engage with them.  Either way, this attempt to actively assess a child's talents and opinions exposes them to a constantly shifting set of experiences.  They learn teamwork, how to cope in highly structured settings, and how to interact comfortably with adults and to speak up when necessary.

Sometimes just assigning a name to an experience or set of circumstances allows us to talk about something, that earlier might have seemed too abstract or nebulous.  Using the phrase, "Concerted Cultivation," I can think of all sorts of situations growing up where my parents were trying to cultivate - in a concerted way - the interests, skills, and opinions of my sisters and me.  Here's one.  Before my sisters began high school at the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan, my mother registered them for a summer-long experience exposing them to unique locations and experiences throughout the city. This did two things.  First, it built confidence in my sisters that they could maneuver city streets on their own and second, it gave them appreciation for the endless opportunities to which they would now have access.  

Here's a small example of where they might have missed an opportunity to cultivate.  I was a shy child who loved to fly low on the radar.  The less attention I drew to myself the better.  Consequently, when we ate a restaurants, I was always too shy to ask for a doggie bag.  In fact, I would beg my parents not to ask for a doggie bag, because even that was too embarrassing for me.  While my parents wouldn't abide by my "No Doggie Bag" rule, they never forced me to cultivate the skills/confidence necessary to speak up for myself and request a doggie bag just because, yes... I had the nerve to want to bring my leftovers home!  Of course, in the end, maturation took care of my "bone to pick" with doggie bags (puns are the lowest form of humor), but maybe some opportunity was lost to build my assertiveness at an earlier age.

So, now that we have this shared language of "concerted cultivation," tell me what you think.  Do you agree?  What examples might you have of doing it well or of lost opportunities?  Can you reflect on examples of how your parents might have done this (or not)?  This year we will celebrate Mother's Day by rolling up our sleeves and getting into the trenches of parenting.  Tell me your thoughts about "concerted cultivation."

Friday, May 8, 2009

A Gift Giver's Nightmare

Heather here and I'll be honest, I struggled with coming up with a topic for today's post. Obviously it is Friday so SOME of the pressure is removed as I get to hand the reigns over to you but...I still need to set the framework. It seemed that we had a tone this week that tied in with gift giving with Cheryl's fun card idea, Katie's pot full of summer fun (we are waiting on pins and needles to learn what punch line she used) and of course Claudia's "You're one hot teacher" idea for Cinco de Mayo. While it makes sense to do another bit on gift giving it feels a little redundant and not living up to the idea of a NEW creative idea a day to go straight "gift ideas" on this Friday. As I literally and figuratively "slept on it" today's blog became a little bit about self disclosure on my part.

You see...this week has made me realize something about myself that I'm a little afraid to admit. A few weeks ago Katie introduced us to Love Languages and it was shared that mine was "service" add that to the fact that I am frugal (to a fault) and it becomes pretty hard to buy for me. Take for instance Mother's Day...last weekend in an effort to dull the pain of our husband's work schedule Claudia and I made a trip to the Brighton Jewelry store, we searched the racks and I found what I "thought" was the perfect Mother's Day gift for myself. A fun cuff bracelet that was around $50...not too expensive but more than I would EVER spend on myself. Fast forward to last night when Claudia, Richard and I are sitting around talking about what a great husband Matt Struble is for writing that amazing letter about Cristine. That turned our thoughts to Mother's Day gifts yet again and I mentioned that I was probably forgoing the Mother's Day gift this year so that we could put extra money towards my Mom's gift (a flight to Dallas for a visit this summer). Claudia's jaw fell to the floor as she reeled that I had found the "perfect gift" and then just decided never mind. Why?!? Because I'm far to practical to see the benefit of spending $50 for something as unnecessary as a silver cuff bracelet. It isn't that I don't like accessories, or that I don't think they look fantastic on people but for me?!? Nah!
I'm the same way about flowers, shoes, clothes, whatever....unless I NEED the item I feel like it is a total waste.

So my realization? I am the gift givers nightmare...what is the delicate line between practical and inconsiderate?
Most women would balk at their husband giving them an iron for their birthday...me, bring it on. The same goes for vacuum cleaners, pots and pans, or anything practical that I NEED so that I don't have to spend the money on the item otherwise.

So in honor of the fact that my poor husband has to figure out my gift giving needs for Mother's Day in two days and the fact that we have a slew of gift giving events in the near future with Graduations (yay Cassie P and Lindsay Marie!!!), Mother's Day, Father's Day, June wedding season and just the end of the school year let our community at highlowaha help you with your gift giving nightmare. Give us the details of that person you can never figure out how to buy for and we'll help you come up with something that is creative but totally them.

But of course, I couldn't let the day end without a few gift giving suggestions of my own.
First this is the link to a fun video that was made for me for Mother's Day (a gift I loved because it was FREE) that I think our readership will enjoy. Watch it to the end so you can send it out to all the Mother's in your life.
http://news.cnnbcvideo.com/?nid=zeumpvjkHCL9uK6mHKpFQDM4MDI0Mg--&referred_by=11625284-8Ekr5Wx&p=moveon

And here are the Teacher Appreciation gifts that Claudia and I pulled together for Jack, Lily and Matthew's teachers. The envelope contains a gift certificate for a pedicure at a salon just around the corner from daycare and we pulled it together with the flip flops and fun ribbon...

























Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Survival of the Fittest: The 10 Week Challenge

Congratulations to Montana Kelly on the birth of her daughter,
Delanie Grace on May 1, 2009!



Good morning, Highlowaha! It's Katie here, but before we get started I would just like to say thanks so much for all of your wonderful ideas and punch line suggestions yesterday! I plan to mill it over today and then make some final decisions tonight as I pull their gifts together. I will certainly let all of you know how it goes over.

As promised yesterday, today I will share another piece of my world with you. As I mentioned, I am currently a first year graduate student at JMU. In the early part of next week, I will be leaving JMU for the summer. I will be headed home to Kentucky to see friends and family for a few days, and then it's off to Arlington, Texas for the summer to work in Orientation at the University of Texas- Arlington. There is one minor detail that has to fall into place before all of the fun can begin- PACKING!

I am a procrastinator to my core, and packing is no different. Those of you with college-aged children have probably felt the parental frustrations of your children waiting until the last minute to pack up their things. I am no different. Except now, I've moved enough times and far enough away from home that my parents don't have to stress over it anymore- just me! Yesterday, in an effort to avoid studying for my final exams, I decided to do some packing. I realized that I needed to make some quick decisions about what I wanted to take with me to Texas and what could stay here in Virginia, in storage, for the summer. Obviously, there are some things that have to come with me, such as: clothes, shoes, bedding, office supplies, and toiletries. However, I have a lot of possessions which I do not necessarily need to bring with me for a 10 week stint in Texas.

For me, it's like survival of the fittest for my "fun" gadgets and gizmos. I decided to challenge myself to decide on the top 3 things that I think I will use this summer and allow myself to pack those. After all, I do only have my little car with me and so space is a factor I have to take into account. Here's what I narrowed it down to and the fun objects that will be coming with me for the summer:
  1. Cookie Baking/Decorating Supplies: cookie sheets, piping and flooding tools, cookie cutters, dye for the icing, etc.
  2. My Craft Corner: Sharpies, stickers, paint, mailing supplies, glue gun, mod podge, etc.
  3. iSound and iPod: What would my summer be without my music? I will be bringing these with me so that I can listen to some great music while making those cookies and sending those packages. Plus, I have to share this love of music with my new roommate, right?
So, if you were packing to move somewhere for 10 weeks, what 3 "fun" items would you bring with you? These are things that you don't have to take with you, but deep down you could never live without. I can't wait to hear what each of you would bring! Plus, if you have any packing tips- I'm always happy to hear those, too!

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

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Beach With No Sand

Good morning, Highlowaha! It's Katie here after what feels like a really long hiatus! However, I'll be with you the next two mornings bringing a piece of my world to you. Today, we're going to be on a similar wavelength as Claudia was yesterday with her Cinco de Mayo/Teacher Appreciation gifts. Let me start with a little background.

I am currently a first year graduate student at James Madison University. I work as a graduate Hall Director in a residence hall that houses 235 freshmen. In my building, I supervise eight undergraduate students who serve as resident assistants on each of the nine floors in my building. I have been with these students since August when we went through training together and then opened our hall to all 235 freshmen to enter their first year of college. Now, eight months later, it is time to bring the year to a close as all of those freshmen will be moving out of our hall this Friday. As their supervisor and as a way to say thank you for all of their hard work this year, I am hosting a "closing dinner" for my staff on Friday evening. At this dinner, I will be presenting each of them with an end of the year gift from me as a token of my appreciation for their hard work this year.

Enter today's post. I have the gift, I have all the supplies I need, and I'm in the process of pulling it all together. However, one VERY important piece is still missing from these gifts. The punch line!!! What is a fun gift for my staff without a fitting punch line to go along with it. What I mean by punch line is the tag to go on each of the gifts that will, in one short sentence, give them a synopsis of the purpose behind the gift. An example of this was at the beginning of the year, when I gave them each a bottle of Coke, a package of popcorn, and some toenail polish. The punch line for that gift was "Pop Your Feet Up and Relax"! For this gift, I have nothing! This is where you, my trusty HLA community and friends enter the picture for me! You are just the creative group of people that I need to help me out! For me right now, it's like I have a beach, but no sand. I need the sand to top if off (talking in a figurative way).

I have included a picture of one of the gifts I am giving them to help you understand what they will receiving. For each of them, I painted a terracotta pot and am having all of their residents either sign their name or write them a short note. Then, on the inside of the pot will be a magazine, a pair of flip flops, a pair of sunglasses, their favorite candy bar, and some sunscreen. As you can tell, it has sort of a relaxation/summer focus. So what do you think? Do any punch lines immediately come to your head? Throw them my way! I have been thinking on this for weeks and I just can't seem to come up with the right line!

What about the rest of you? Do you have any gifts that you will be giving to wrap up the end of the year for your students, your child's teacher, your Girl Scout troop, etc? What will you be giving them and do you have any great punch lines that you are using? Please feel free to share in the comment section today.

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