Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Rock Around the Clock

Avid fans of the Fancy Flours Cookie Cutter Challenge are tuning in today, because they know this month's cookie reveal must happen either today or tomorrow.

Today, it is.

Newcomers. Each month I identify a holiday worth celebrating and you scour the Fancy Flours website looking for the cookie cutter you think will be hardest for me to incorporate. My job is to marry the two. Last month we combined Bucknell's college orientation with an ear of corn. The month before we celebrated National Ice Cream Month using a 3D airplane cookie cutter.

My challenge this month was to combine a guitar with National Good Neighbor Day (Sunday, September 27). I selected National Good Neighbor Day to compensate for being a bad neighbor. We've lived in our house for almost two years and still there are people living on our 10-house street who I do not know.

Stop the madness, I know.

This month's idea came while traveling home from Taste of USA. Heather, Cheryl, and I broke up our 11-hour flight delay by leaving the airport long enough to enjoy dinner at Louisville's Hard Rock Cafe. When we walked in the door, I was greeted with guitars and, since guitars were on the brain, I made an immediate connection.
Then it hit me. Instead of Hard Rock Cafe, my husband and I would transform our home into the Hard Block Cafe. Richard has a Starbuck's-sized espresso machine - perfect for a Sunday evening dessert reception. Add in a some pie, some lemon bars, a few cupbrowookies and we're ready to go.

While invitations were delivered on National Good Neighbor Day, the event is being held this Sunday. We're building on Hard Rock's fun by putting names of famous singers on each guest's back. Roam the dessert reception, using "yes" and "no" questions to figure our which musical icon you are.

Give us the Top 40. Tell us another event for which you could use the cookie cutter, accompanied by your best shot at a slogan. If your slogan goes platinum you'll win your very own guitar.

Signing off until tomorrow... when we select October's cookie cutter.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

What's in a Smile?

Friday, October 2 is World Smile Day. The perfect chance for us to do what we do best... SHINE and cast rays of light far and wide!

Four line history. In 1963 Harvey Ball, a commercial artist from Massachusetts, creates smiley face. Quickly, it becomes the most recognizable symbol of good will and good cheer. Harvey doesn't like the over-commercialization of his symbol, so in 1999 the inaugural World Smile Day was born. The intent? Get back to the basics. Devote one day to smiles and kind acts throughout the world. Want to know more? Click here.

I had fun brainstorming a few ways my family and I could celebrate.

Treat bags for your neighbors

A traveling treat for your office
(the other side of the note card is a smiley face)

New tooth brushes for the kids in your life

Cupcakes for your children's friends

A note on the desk of your favorite assistant

Smiley faces on windshields of cars

Today is Tuesday. Four days and an unlimited number of ways we could spread the word. Our goal today? Generate AS MANY IDEAS AS POSSIBLE. All day. Non-stop.

This is no time to be a bystander. Facebook a friend. Twitter. Pick up the phone, text a message, send a fax or even a smoke signal.

Today, the sheer number of comments counts. The more comments we have, the more ideas we generate. The more ideas we generate, the more likely we are to find one that works for us - and the more we shine!

See you in the comment section.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Psst... What a Crock!

Psst. StingRay here. Yep, you guessed it. This might sting a little. Goal Fishers. Where are you Goal Fishers? If you don't know what Goal Fishing is figure it out for yourself or click here.

It's time for your quarterly stick. Only three more months till the year is out and you will have failed. Better get on the ball people. What about me you say. Let's not worry about me. I'm am a highly evolved creature. I'll let you know if I need to work on something. Right I'm good.

You may be wondering about the title. Crock. Most of you Goal Fishers will remember that Claudia was supposed to be spending the year perfecting the art of the Crock Pot. How has she done? Let's just say that the SMU Mustangs have more wins this season than dishes that she has made. Sadness. Not a meatloaf, or a stew, or a soup or a pot roast. Nothing, nada, zip, zilch, zero. The big bagel. Poor little Jack has been surviving on bags of Gold Fish, yogurt and the occasional banana. Claudia needs a Crock Pot Intervention. CPI.

Let's come up with a little challenge for her. Let's say that Claudia has to make at least one meal every other week from now till the end of the year. If she does that, she will have met her goal and dramatically improved Jack's diet. After all, it's all about the kids.

Here's where you come in. We need you to submit and agree on the punishment for failure. I know there are some creative and sadistic people out there. Let's see what you've got.

StingRay Out.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Ray for the Cure

Many of you may remember the post about creating a Vision board several months ago, the concept was that if you see the board everyday you are more likely to make your vision a reality. At the time Claudia shared with us how her first vision board was about Semester at Sea and asked us to brainstorm what we might put on our vision boards. I shared that day with the blog that I had a vision of walking in the Breast Cancer 3 Day walk which challenges walkers to walk 60 miles in 3 days time.

That day I created my non-creative non time consuming version of the vision board and here it is:
That's right my vision board that day was a post-it note with the simple words 3 Day Walk quickly written in pencil and stuck to my computer screen at work. Amazingly this simple tool worked wonders. Staring at the gentle reminder each day as I sat down to work made me realize I had to put my plan into action but still I procrastinated taking that important step until I shared my vision with the other women I work with at highlowaha and they all quickly rallied behind me. We established ourselves as Team Ray for the Cure and Katie and Cheryl agreed to train, raise money and walk with me while Claudia agreed to do whatever she could to make our efforts successful, even if it meant walking a training walk with me at 5am on a Saturday morning!

We were off!

Cheryl, Katie and I signed up as participants for the walk and started our fundraising efforts. Thanks to Robin I got my first donation in the significant amount of $21.80 it felt like the perfect start to making my vision a reality. And so after training walks that total over 200 miles and fundraising efforts that have us to 33% of our team goal I definitely see that this dream will quickly become reality.

On November 6, 7, and 8th Team Ray for the Cure will hit the streets of Dallas/Fort Worth spreading the spirit of Shine for 60 miles! (I'll probably even buy a few shirts to give out along the way!) We'll keep you informed as to who has blisters, where the best port-a-potties are, and what fun characters we end up meeting...I'll even take some video to share and probably post updates via Facebook and Twitter when we are at pit stops.

What can you do to help?

Think of ways you can help spread the message of Shine! Maybe for you it isn't walking 60 what is it? Share today how you might Shine and recognize others who Shine!

Don't forget we have Shine shirts with a personalized package to help make it easy for can order yours by posting sizes in the comment section.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Friday, September 25, 2009

Free For All Friday: Best Seller

Once upon a time..

there were four women... but tonight only three, bringing you another best-selling day of Highlowaha fun.

Prelude: Vote here
Chapter 1, Target Challenge
Chapter 2, Altoid Table Winner
Chapter 3, Super Bowl Snack Throw Down: Kate v. Lauren plus vote for next week's ingredient
Chapter 4, Shine Shirt Winner
Chapter 5, The cliffhanger... What is today's Free For All topic?
Glossary: Click here for Kate's Cheddar Cheese Recipe and here for Lauren's Cheddar Cheese Recipe

The end.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Three Squares

Face it.

If, during Highlowaha's celebration of National Literacy Month we could only bring to life childhood story, most of us would clamor for a spot in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Wouldn't we?

The fact that the author's birthday falls in September- the same month we celebrate literacy- makes a celebration of Roald Dahl's classic that much sweeter.

On the heel's of Tuesday's bean stalk and yesterday's talk of Rapunzel, I'm worried you think Ricky, Matthew, and Jack woke up on September 13, Dahl's birthday, t o a newly renovated home. That the living room became the Chocolate Room, the kitchen the Inventing Room, the library the Nut Sorting Room, the dining room the Television Room, and son on, and so on, and so on.

They didn't.

I'm a working mom. Who has time for that sort of thing?

Besides, September 13 was a Monday and I had an 8:30 a.m. meeting.

Instead, I decided (rigged) that we would bring his book to life by celebrating cho
colate....all day.

Three squares.


Lunch (sandwich with chips on the side) and...

Dinner (ok, it was dessert)

In retrospect I could have done so much more. Dahl was a creative genius. What about his Cavity Filling Caramels, Eatable Marshmallow Pillows, Lickable Wallpaper, Toffee Apple Trees, and his Candy Coated Pencils for Sucking?

Join me in celebrating Dahl's creative genius today, while bringing our week on Highlowaha full circle. Invent your very own candy worthy of space in Willy Wonka's factory. Be voted most creative, by my three experienced in-house judges, and you win the golden ticket.

The golden tickets earns you a "Shine" shirt, anonymously sent to the person of your choice.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Let Down?

If Richard and I can grow a beanstalk, surely I can get Rapunzel to let down her hair. Can't I?

Parr Park is located about a mile from our street. The house pictured above sits perfectly perched atop a hill overlooking the park. So majestic is this home with its peaked roofs and full length windows, it's hard not to imagine which rich and famous person must be taking up residence there.

As far as Matthew is concerned there is no question. Rapunzel. That's who.

From the start, Matthew has been certain this remotely placed home, made of stone, surrounded by trees, and fully decked with the requisite tower, is the very tower where Rapunzel is being held captive.

After all, If a bean stalk could grow through his window overnight then why shouldn't he think it is possible Rapunzel took up residence in his hometown?

Think it's funny?

Really funny is watching Matthew stand at the base of the hill, yelling with all his might, "Rapunzel, Rapunzel let down your hair, so I may climb the golden stair!"

The Rapunzel dream has been fun for me too. I've written a fairy tale entirely my own. In my fairy tale I write a letter to the residents asking... no begging... that they let me drop a 40 foot braid from their turret. That same day, Matthew and I "happen" to be walking the park when suddenly Matthew spots Rapunzel's golden stair. Imagine... the look of amazement on his face!

Wake up.

There's nothing like a little National Literacy Month to make one take action. Last Saturday was to be the day.
I climbed the 147 not-so-golden-stairs, running along side this 400 foot long driveway that, regardless of theorem, must be sitting at a 40 degree angle. Huffing and puffing like the big bad wolf, I rang the door bell. A very pleasant Asian woman answered the door and immediately I launched into my pitch...

My son.. he thinks Rapunzel lives in your... Are you familiar with story of Rapunz... well anyway, Matthew is convinced Rapunzel lives in the turret of your home. Would there be any... I mean... do you think it would be possible if I... my husband... or you, if you would prefer, could hang a long braid from the top? Not a real... I'd make it from sheets dyed yello... with a big red bow. I know it sounds craz...but do you think... What do you think?

The woman let me finish my pitch and then politely informed me the windows don't open - that there would be no way to hang the braid. No ladder, she explained, could even reach the window sill. Not even I, who considers my husband to be her knight in shinning armor and volunteers him for just about anything, could envision how he could get up on the ledge to attach Rapunzel's braid long enough to take a picture.

Let down. Big time.

This fairy tale didn't quite end happily ever after. Rapunzel will never drop her golden stair and Matthew's childhood belief that Rapunzel lives in the turret will never be affirmed.

But here's my moral of the story. Believing is powerful. Believing is the very thing that keeps life magical. I genuinely believed, that if I could make my pitch to the homeowners, I could convince them to play along. And, short of the windows not opening, I believe I was right.

Believing is what allows us to see possibility when others only see the mundane. Believing motivates us to ask more from others, while the rest of the world is busy retreating into smaller and more insulated worlds. Believing is unlimited in supply and therefore softens the blow of any single disappointment we must encounter.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it. How about you? What's your moral of the story?

Signing off until tomorrow...

P.S. Loyal Highlowaha readers will be interested in knowing today is Katie's birthday!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Magic Beans

"A house without books is like a room without windows. No man has a right to bring up his children without surrounding them with books, if he has the means to buy them." Horace Mann.
September is National Literary Month. We should celebrate.

One of my favorite memories of my, now five year old son, came a few years back. Matthew was almost three years old and each night we would convene in the "reading room" to share a book before bed. I got into the habit of rereading the same book to Matthew for weeks on end, believing if he was familiar with the story and could anticipate what was to come, his attention span would be longer. For us it worked.

While in the middle of reading, Jack and the Beanstalk one night, Matthew kept lifting his little leg and swinging on top of the book. Finally - a little annoyed - I asked Matthew what he was doing. Without skipping a beat he told me he was trying to climb into the story!

To be so enthralled with a book, you want to crawl inside? Music to my ears. Climb away.

A few days later, on a Saturday, Matthew was digging in our front yard. When I asked what he was doing, he told me he was planting his own magical beans (popcorn kernels), so he could grow his own beanstalk.

Grow your own beanstalk?!?!?

It was 4:00 p.m.

Around that time Richard came home from the grocery store. Passing him in the driveway, I told him I would be right back; that I had an errand to run.

Kids believe in magic for such a short amount of time, that this was no time to be practical.

So, at 9:00 p.m. after we knew Matthew was snug as a bug,
Richard and I set out to "grow" Matthew's beanstalk. It couldn't wait. He planted the seeds earlier that day, and the story goes that Jack's beanstalk grew overnight. While it is true Matthew might not even have remembered planting the beans, if there was ever to be a beanstalk, it had to be the following morning.

Four long rolls of brown packaging paper from Target. Two shades of green spray paint. Large sheets of green and yellow foam. And, one hot glue gun.

Somewhere around 2:00 a.m., Richard and I snuck into Matthew's room, wrapping the beanstalk around bed posts, through shelves, under his closet, and with enough stalk left over to drop it 15 feet to the ground outside his bedroom window.

It was dead of the summer, but we felt like Santa and Mrs. Claus.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter. He sprang from his bed to see what was the matter. You know the rest of the story....

Matthew was suitably shocked, Richard and I were proud of ourselves for having created a magical moment, and Matthew walked away with a memory that, two years later, he still occasionally mentions. Some day he'll realize it wasn't a real beanstalk and he'll naturally have to conclude it was a sham - that his old-fogy parents engineered the whole darn thing.

Is that so bad?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, September 21, 2009

Mo Shine

Two admissions.

First, I thought Thursday, September 24 was National Make a Difference Day. It's not. Saturday, October 24 is the day. Even better, because it gives us an extra month to prepare.

Second, I'm new to the whole "Soccer Mom" thing.

After a year of Matthew asking to play soccer, we finally decided to let him hang up his goggles for a shiny new pair of Adidas cleats. There's a whole indoctrination period for new parents, including things such as... uniforms, shin guards, socks, snack captains, team captains, and victory tunnels.

And, while I might be new to the age old norms proudly shared by veteran soccer moms around the country, I an no novice to the concept of shine.

Coach Mo shines and it was obvious from the start. That's the thing about people who shine - they radiate excellence. They hit the scene full throttle, letting you know immediately the experience you are about to have is different... better... than accepted practice. Such has been the case since Matthew began playing soccer five weeks ago.

Practices are filled with thoughtful soccer drills, borrowed from his continued experience in a semi-pro league. Focused on developing the talent of our five year olds, Coach Mo swiftly moves the boys around the field teaching them skills and strategy. My husband sits on the side lines admiring Coach Mo's patience, while I savor his sheer enthusiasm and the sense of purpose with which he conducts weekly practices.

That's the thing. Coach Mo has a full time job. Despite his responsibilities to work, family, and kids, he shows up three times a week ready to give 100% of himself to Matthew and his nine teammates. From laminated team rosters and schedules, to complimentary names printed on the back of each boys jersey, to the seriousness (and compassion) with which he coaches these young boys, Coach Mo stands out from the other 30+ coaches in the league.

This week, in preparation of next month's National Make a Difference Day, Matthew and I will secretly slip one of Highlowaha's infamous Shine shirts into Coach Mo's gym bag. His shirt will be rolled, slipped into a long paper bag labeled, "Shine" on the front, and with space on the back to write a note.

I suspect he'll love the shirt, but I expect it will be the anonymously written note accompanying the shirt that will mean the most to Coach Mo. People who shine will shine regardless of whether or not they get a shirt or a note telling them so. But, knowing someone noticed your commitment to going the extra mile just flat out feels good.

And, if you can do all that for just $10.00, why not?
So, you have a month (not just four days) to plan and scheme who you will present with an inaugural "Shine" shirt in honor of National Make a Difference Day. Yours will also come packaged in a brown bag, a shine sticker on front, and a convenient space for you to write a note on back.

Will it be a friend, a colleague, your aerobic instructor, the mailman who faithfully visits your house, the bank teller at your local bank, or better yet.. the barista at your local Starbucks? Will it be your child's teacher, the crossing guard at his school, the babysitter, the librarian, the person who cuts your hair, or someone you've been admiring from afar?
We've started a Rayvolution. One million shirts by 2013, because you know like I know, to make the world we live in a better... brighter place we must take time to stop, recognize, and to encourage excellence.

What size should I set aside for you and who will yours go to? Tell me in the comment section or go to

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

An Adventure in Shining

Hasn't this week been great?!? As you can tell from each of the daily posts Taste of USA was chock full of creative ideas! Even better? It was also chock full of creative people who shine! The creativity was excellent but the community was even better!

Sit back and enjoy this short video of our trip!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Psst... It's That Time

Here to vote for the Super Bowl Snack Throw Down? Hold tight. First we want to help you win a free t-shirt.

On the 18th of each month our blog community participates in a short and simple ritual. Whether you stumbled on our site or you are here to vote in today's Super Bowl Snack activities, jump right in. You're in Rome and you know what they say...

Do as the Roman's do.

It's easy. Thinking back over the past month, tell us your "high" (best thing that happened to you), "low" (worst thing that happened to you), and your "aha" (something you learned - fun fact, something about self, etc...). Post yours in today's comment section and your name is automatically entered in a drawing for the Ray Wattson shirt of your choice.

Visit our GalleRay to view your many choices of a one-of-a-kind Ray t-shirt.

I'll get us warmed up...

High: Meeting Peggy and Robin at Taste of USA, while catching up with old friends; a successful Struble Suds Dine By Design, raising $300+); an adult-only trip to Montreal with my husband; finally launching our Shine t-shirt campaign (1,000,000 shirts by 2013); and sunny days.

Low: Rainy days; not selling more Shine shirts at Taste of USA; a two-year who resists going to bed; red tape; and missing my parents.

Aha: Lively chatter, using fancy language is one way to increase your child's verbal skills, according to an article in the New York Times; there is SO much to know about cyberspace (I don't even know what I don't know); Leonardo Davinci had notebooks of filled with his ideas and he wrote backwards to avoid smearing his print.

A couple of clicks before heading into the comment section and you will be on your way.

Last week kicked off Highlowaha's Second Annual Super Bowl Throw Down. Sausage was the secret ingredient Lauren and Kate were challenged to use. You, the readers (50%); our celebrity judge (25%); and bar flies from Struble Suds, in Naperville, IL (25%), all voted. And, the winner from last week is...

Lauren AND Kate
A perfect tie

This week, the secret ingredient with which these women worked was mushroom. Check out their recipes at Goodies by Kate and Lauren's Kitchen, then place your vote in the first poll in the right hand side bar.

Finally, help us determine week four's secret ingredient by casting your vote in the second poll in the right hand side bar... Avocado or potato?

No shortage of something to say today, that's for sure:
  1. High, low, aha
  2. This week's winning recipe,
  3. and week four's secret ingredient
Signing off until tomorrow (when you get a fun, fun recap of last week's Taste of USA)...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Great Pumpkin

If you think this is the cutest Halloween idea shared during Highlowaha's Second Annual Taste of USA, you're wrong. Loyal reader, Peggy, taught us to make a few holiday items we will share with you after October 1... provided her agent agrees!

Be the hit of your block, your office, your play group, or your child's school with this simple and inexpensive Halloween treat.

Blow up balloons. Water balloons work the best and can be found at Walmart... even at midnight.

Paper mache the balloons using a flour and water mixture.

Cut small strips of newspaper. Tip: packing paper from some place like Hobby Lobby or Crate and Barrel works better than newspaper, Newsprint doesn't show through and you can do fewer layers. Let dry.

Cut squares of orange tissue paper and, using a foam brush and Mod Podge, cover the paper mache balloon.

Add eyes and mouth.

Fill with candy, confetti, and other Halloween treats.

Add stem and greenery to seal top of pinata.

Make someone's day.


During our twenty minute Taste of USA workshop, the participants and I brainstormed quite a few variations of this idea, all which could be used to be used this fall. My suggestion was the head of a black cat. Black tissue paper, eyes, whiskers, and ears cut from foam.

How about you? What is your idea of how else we might use this idea between now and New Years?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A Whacky Treasure Box

We usually spend Wednesday taking a Whack at something with Claudia but today we're following up with more fun ideas from Taste of USA with me, Cheryl.

Someone long ago, whacked the idea of what they could do with a greeting card. Cut in half. Fold it. Snip it. Say the magic words, "I Shine, You Shine, We All Shine!" and poof! You have a little box.

I don't remember who showed it to me but it's super easy to do. Here are the instructions:

For Taste of USA, I used the card stock paper that comes in pads. Start off with any size square piece of paper for the top of your box. Grab a ruler. Scissors or an Xacto blade. A folding bone is helpful but not necessary.

The second piece of paper that forms your boxes bottom should be about a quarter of an inch smaller on two sides than your the piece of paper that makes the top of your box.

Working on the back side of the paper measure diagonally corner to corner creating an "x" mark in the middle of your paper.

Fold all corners towards the "x".
Stay with me. I'm not sure I explain this next part well. Fold two opposite sides towards the middle. That's the photo you have above. Unfold and repeat with the other sides. Make sense?
Unfold the whole piece of paper and locate four triangles as pictured above. There are 8 triangles. you only need to cut four. Save your triangles for something else fun.

On the two skinny sides, cut two slits on each side. Start at the edge and cut until the next fold. You will cut a total of 4 slits. They are marked with the dashed line in the above photo.

Fold the points of the wide side to the middle. Pull up the flaps up and towards the middle. This is the base of the box.

Fold the points of the skinny side into the box. They will hold the box top together. Repeat with the second sheet of paper to create the bottom.

Slide the bottom piece into the top piece and call your aunt Betty because you now have a small box. Embellish with a ribbon, buttons, felt, foam shapes, glitter... should I go on?

I started making these boxes years ago out of the greeting cards that friends and family sent me for birthdays, holidays or just saying hello. My original intent was to make them into ornaments for my tree. If you are a veteran reader of Highlowaha, you know that I am a starter, not a finisher. So, I've carried around this collection of boxes for over 20 years. Neatly tucked into a bigger box.

But no more. This is the year that they make their appearance. They will Shine on my Christmas tree. And, they'll probably make some friends because I plan on getting the Christmas card stock paper, make some boxes, string them together and I'll have the cutest garland on the block!

What about you? How do you envision using your little boxes?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What a Ball!

Cute, huh?

While it is true the Elite 8 earned Swag Bags for signing up first to attend Highlowaha's Second Annual Taste of USA, everyone got to leave with a few small treats.

Our most prized giveaway was a collection of handmade "Shine" balls. The balls were initially conceived by Sandra at, discovered by Cheryl, and then replicated by your friends at Highlowaha. You know what they say... Imitation is the greatest form of flattery.

Making them is easy, but the impact is high. Here's how.
  1. Get a roll of crepe paper streamers and a handful of trinkets. We used yellow streamers and trinkets such as: smiley face balls, necklaces, tiny erasers, confetti, parachute men, a key chain, and a few other chatchka.
  2. Begin rolling the first item in a piece of crepe paper.
  3. Continue rolling the crepe paper, slowly adding additional chatchka.
  4. If easier, cut crepe paper and begin a new strand with each additional item rolled into your ball.
  5. Once all items are included, wrap a few additional layers of crepe paper to round out your shape.
  6. Use ribbon, jewels, foam shapes, buttons, and other accents to dress up the outside.
Voila. That's it.

Don't believe me? Check out the site where we originally discovered the idea.

In the spirit of Highlowaha, let's advance this idea of the Surprise Ball. For what other kinds of events could we use this idea? Orange streamers at Halloween, made to look like pumpkins? Blue and green paper made to look like globes? White streamers with black accents filled with treats and presented to your favorite soccer team? What else you got for me?

And while you're at it, what are some other ideas for trinkets to be included? Coins, stamps, stickers, rub-on tattoos, and what else?

Signing off until tomorrow...