Saturday, October 31, 2009

Yellow Envelope Project: Kansas

H A P P Y H A L L O W E E N!

Thanks to some of you, we already have a short queue of people worthy of being featured in Highlowaha's weekly Yellow Envelope Project. Hang tight, we will get to them all.

The Yellow Envelope Project, for those new to the game, is a program designed to catch people from around the world in the act of shining.

Shining takes many forms. It can be excelling at a job; doing a random act of kindness; volunteering for a non-profit; leading a cause; following someone else's cause; being a role model; going above and beyond; and countless, countless other examples. Nominate anyone you want by simply sending an email to Be sure to include your nominee's first name and mailing address, along with a short paragraph describing what makes him/her shine.

Something funny happened last week and I can't resist using the Yellow Envelope Project to tell you about it and to create some fun for Angela from Gardner, Kansas.

Last Saturday I received a hand addressed envelope in the mail. Inside was a beautiful handmade Halloween card - similar to the kinds of creations Peggy has gotten us so used to. The inside was signed with a short note.

Problem was I didn't recognize the last name, nor did I recognize the handwriting. I looked at the front of the envelope again and realized digits on the street address must have been confused and inverted.

The card wasn't for me at all, but that doesn't mean Angela's thoughtfulness has to stop there. Does it?

Angela E's deserves to be the recipient of this week's Yellow Envelope Project. Angela is one of us. She understands mailing someone a card is thoughtful, but that mailing someone a handmade card SHINES. She didn't wait for a birthday, or an anniversary to send an obligatory card, nor did Angela resort to a predictable Christmas form letter. Instead, Angela took an unsuspecting occasion like Halloween and filled her friend's box with a treat.

Our gesture won't get lost on Angela. She sends mail, so we know she will appreciate receiving mail. Lots of it. In yellow envelopes. Filled with kind words. And a cryptic return address that reads, "Yellow Envelope Project."

Go forth and help make her mailbox SHINE!

632 N. Walnut St.
Gardner, KS 66030

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, October 30, 2009

Free For All Friday

Get ready for some Snack Throw Down Half Time fun. But, first...

Check out our winners of: monthly t-shirt, owl cookie cutter, and Altoid Table prize.

Lauren, Kate, and all you raving Throw Down fans. Listen up. Listen very carefully....

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Ya Hoo!

Wise old readers know that today is the reveal for this month's, Fancy Flours Cookie Cutter Challenge. Newcomers, pay attention. This monthly ritual is a hoot!

Each month I announce the occasion for celebration and you, the readers, select the cookie cutter I must use. We've seen porcupines, fish, mermaids, ears of corn, guitars, and even a 3-D airplane. This month the holiday we are celebrating is Halloween and the winning cookie cutter was the wise old owl.

An owl on Halloween is no where near the stretch an airplane was for National Ice Cream Month or that a mermaid was for my husband's June birthday. Interestingly enough the natural link between Halloween and owls made this month's challenge... well, more of a challenge.

I initially visualized each owl dressed in a different Halloween costume. But, my resident artist is over worked and under paid, so I had to let that idea go. Instead I made ornaments I could hang on my Halloween tree. We will have a house full of kids on Saturday night and I have to believe they'll think cookies growing on trees is both a trick and a treat!
Concept, good. Execution, fair.

I thought I'd redeem myself by supplementing this month's primary idea with a fun suggestion for packaging the owls in small brown bags and presenting them to special people in your life.
Concept, good. Execution, fair.

In a last ditch effort, I decided to compensate for my luke warm performance by... baking more! These cookies are dedicated to Kat who won the ear of corn in August and suggested we resurrect the cookie cutter in October to make "Earie" Halloween Cookies. So, here you go, Kat...

I call this... "Eyes and Ears."
Concept, great. Execution, fair.

Now it's your turn. Visit the comment section and suggest another occasion for which we could use the owl cookie cutter, along with a winning slogan. The idea voted most creative by Katie, Cheryl, Heather, and I will receive his or her very own owl cookie cutter.

Tune in to Friday's video to find out HOO won!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Meet Me at 2:18 PM!

I think shining means sometimes controlling our egos.

I've been baking and doing crafts all week in anticipation of Halloween. Fun cookies, teacher gifts, and goodies for my office mates were what was in store for today. With a little luck you might have been as pleased as I with what I shared. You might even have mentioned today's idea to a friend or shared it with a relative. Added bonus... Highlowaha (and I) would get to look good to another person.

Yes, shining means controlling our own egos.

In the wee hours of yesterday morning one of Heather's closest friends passed away quietly in her sleep. For over three years Julie has suffered a degenerative disease: a disease those closest to Julie knew would eventually kill her.

Today we will set Halloween aside.

Many of you might remember Julie's story from, Paint the Town Red, a post I wrote over a year ago. Heather rallied our Highlowaha readership to gather Coke Reward points that we could donate to Julie. Julie's family had been saddled with endless doctor bills, so small luxuries were no where in the family's budget. The thousands of points we accumulated over five month period allowed Julie to acquire small luxuries that made the time confined to her house more bearable.

Collecting Coke Reward points was symbolic. Julie LOVED Coke and made it her habit to consume a couple of cans each day. Heather's suggestion to help Julie, by engaging in something that brought a smile to Julie's face, seemed in keeping with spirit of our blog - the Spirit of 218.

I am not all that eloquent. I am no preacher. And, I am in no position to say anything profound about death. It's way over my head.

But here's what I'm thinking.

I'm thinking, when my time comes, I am going to hope my absence will be felt and that life for those around me will not simply march on, uninterrupted. I don't have grand notions of a national holiday, but I like to believe friends' work days will be interrupted, family will stop what they are doing, and the comfort found in busy daily schedules will suddenly seem trivial.

Join me today at 2:18 p.m. for a Coke. I know you are busy and that Coke might not be part of your daily routine, but my request is not so much about Coke. Really, my request is more about the discipline of being fully alive and present in the life your are living. It's about honoring the 31 years of Julie's life and in our own small way saying, "Julie, the life you lived in your corner of the world, mattered."

Don't be too busy.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Inflated Spirits

The whole is always greater than the sum of its parts.

The week after Taste of USA we shared a series of 20-minute craft projects featured during our time in Louisville. The pumpkins pictured below were one of the projects. In true form, Highlowaha readers immediately jumped in making countless suggestions of other Halloween shapes we could make using the same technique - paper mache, paint (or tissue paper), hot glue, and a sundry other craft items.
I decided I would try some of your suggestions. And, one spider, bat, ghost, owl, mummy, Frankenstein, pumpkin, and wicked witch later I had created a menagerie of sorts.

I think they are pretty cute and filled with holiday treats, they will make perfect surprises for the boys on Matthew's soccer team.

Proof that the whole is always greater than the sum of its parts. Thanks for making Highlowaha shine!

Thanksgiving? Anybody, anybody?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, October 26, 2009

Double Ds

Delicious and Decadent. Double D all the way. That's what I'm talking about, baby!

Today's post is compliments of Jen, celebrity judge for Highlowaha's Super Bowl Snack Throwdown. Weeks ago, Jen challenged her blog readers to submit a pink recipe in the Power for Pink Challenge, by Saturday, October 31, in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I'm no baker, and even less of a chef, but I recognize fun when I see it and Jen's challenge immediately sounded up my alley. A community of readers using their creativity to be socially conscious.... If blogs could shine, it would be for reasons such as that!

I'd like to say I toiled for weeks over which recipe to use, but my decision happened within minutes. It went something like this...
Claudia: "Diana (trusted colleague and Martha Stewart's greatest rival), what recipe could I make that is pink?"
Diana: "Oh, I don't know. What about turning Bakerella's infamous cake balls into breasts?"
Claudia: "Perfect. Done. Diana, whose Bakerella and do you have her cake ball recipe?"
If I had the crafting expertise of Diana the boobquet would be as beautiful as it is delicious. But, since I am no expert baker, I should at least have the crude wit of someone like Mr. Struble, owner of Struble Suds. That way, what my boobquet lacked in aesthetics, it could make up for in humor.

Alas, I am neither artisan nor comedian.

How about you?

Tell me what pink recipe you might have cooked up or... give me the best zinger you've got about my creation.

Signing of until tomorrow...

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Yellow Envelope Project: Arizona

This week's recipient of our Yellow Envelope Project exemplifies why the project exists.

Equally good is how I came to know of this story.

A week ago a friend called excited to tell me, after four years of thinking about doing a nice gesture, that she finally did it. Dawn wakes up each morning at 4:00 am, so she can head to the gym. By 5:30 am she has exercised, taken a shower, and is ticking things off her checklist while walking the isles of Walmart. Impressive, I know.

Over the past four years, Dawn has slowly become more acquainted with one of the few Walmart clerks working the register at such an early hour. They exchange pleasantries and, I imagine for both of them, enjoy warmth in the familiarity of their weekly exchanges.

Dawn explained to me, that for the past couple of years she has wanted to offer the woman a ride home. Somewhere along the line she learned the woman rode a city bus to and from work, but Dawn's has two children and is usually rushing home to get them up and ready for school.

Last week her children had a three day weekend, so Monday morning Dawn didn't have to rush home prepared to jump start their morning routine. Instead, she offered to give a lift home to the Walmart clerk she has slowly come to know over the past four years. Appreciative, the woman accepted.

During the drive Dawn finally learned the woman's name - Brenda. She also learned Brenda lives 30 miles from the store. She takes a city bus every night and every morning in order to fulfill her job responsibilities at Walmart. Her shift begins at 9:00 p.m., but Brenda must leave home more than two hours early to catch a bus that will get her to work on time. She does the same long trek home every morning after having worked an eight-hour shift.

Every day a 12 hour ordeal so she can get paid for her 8 hours of work. Every day, like clock work, Brenda is there. And Brenda doesn't just show up. Dawn describes her as happy, good natured, and filled with gratitude.

Brenda is what this Yellow Envelope Project is all about. She is hunkered down in her corner of the world, gracious, pleasant, and working hard to make her time here matter. She might never win an award, be featured on t.v. or in a magazine, or win public acclaim, but Brenda is a star.

Please join me in letting Brenda know that, though half of her day is spent at the Walmart in Tempe, Arizona, her spirit shines far and wide, making her an inspiration around the country.

Brenda (cashier on the 9pm-5am shift Monday-Friday)
c/o Walmart
1320 W Elliot Rd
Tempe, AZ 85284-1193

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, October 23, 2009

It's F-U-N...

On a stick!!I will admit that when I first thought of sharing this post with you I was excited. I imagined about how cute these little crafties were going to be. And then I started making Fun on a Stick and said to myself- Cheryl, this isn't THAT fun. It's just cut out paper on a stick.

Maggie the Magnificent to the rescue. Dunt-dun-duh! (That doesn't type out so well. Insert your own superhero sound effect.)

I said to her, "I'm doing a post called Fun on a Stick and it's really starting to feel like a stick in the mud." Maggie the Magnificent replies with, "We had a party once and everyone had to bring a food on a stick."

Okay, take the thermometer out because this starting to feel much better now. So, jump on your pogo stick and hop on in because I am officially declaring today FUN FRIDAY ON A STICK!
It all started when I started seeing the mustaches on a stick and these fun pictures of people at a party posing for the camera with their Mustaches on a Stick. It was cute and playful. Kind of like the picture below.
Then I thought that it would be fun if you made a funny mouth and maybe in the spirit of Halloween a Vampire or carved pumpkin mouth.

Or open a Kissing Booth. Give me a lil' smooch, baby!

But wait! Glasses would be fun, too. Cat-eye glasses, Jackie O. glasses or even better Ray glasses.

Don't stop with just one Fun on a stick. Team them up to have even more fun.

Now those are cute and can be made as elaborate or as simple as you want. All you need is a stick. I used skewers because that's what I had on hand. Draw or pull up some clip art to get your designs. I'll admit that printing out the mouths, gluing them to posterboard and cutting them out with scissors was much easier. On the glasses I used Elmer's glue to attach the sticks but on the others I just used plain old Scotch Tape.
Stretch your creative mind and bedazzle, paint or even add yarn to your mustaches. Go ahead- I've got you warmed up. What would you add to your fun on a stick?

But we're not stopping there. Oh no! We're moving to food. Shish kabobs, Corn Dogs, Carmel apples, Cotton Candy- they're all on a stick.
You have foods that are sticks- breadsticks and drumsticks.

Fruit! On a tooth pick or a skewer! Cheese! We don't need no stinking cracker! You can put anything on a skewer and voila! Fun on a stick. Heck, you can even make brownies, cookies and cake balls- all on a what? You got it- a stick! Ooh! Serve sushi and eat with...chopsticks! Somebody stop me!

Don't forget about fun activities! Sparklers aren't just for the Fourth of July, you know. And pinatas! How are you going to break them open? With a stick! Break out that horse on a stick and take a gallop around the room. Stick horse Races! Pick-up-sticks!
This is getting to be very Slap Stick so before you pull out your matchstick and burn me at the stake (which technically is just a big stick) I'm going to leave you with this: Today is also known as Free For All Friday (but I'm lobbying to change it to FUN FRIDAY ON A STICK) so keep going with the stick theme if you want or throw out another word that we can center a party idea around.
All Announcements will be in the comment section because I know we have some Snack Throw Down Stuff going on. Be sure to check out Kate and Lauren's Black Bean recipes. Polls should be up over on the right------>>> Don't forget to vote.
I've got my lipstick on straight with my broomstick in hand and I'm off to save the world so, signing off until tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

That's Bologna!

Saturday, October 24 is National Bologna Day!

I'd consider passing right over this holiday, but bologna actually conjures up a fond childhood memory for me.

To me, my mother was magical. Her Halloween costumes were the talk of the town, our Christmas trees looked like they belonged in magazines, we went to school impeccably dressed, and yes, even bologna could be turned from rags to riches under my mother's supervision. Or, so it seemed to me.

Bologna sandwiches were not regular fare in the Kamhi household, but every once in a while on a hot summer day or, accompanied with soup, on a cold rainy day, my mother would roll cottage cheese in a slice of bologna.Somehow it seemed fancier and more sophisticated than a few pieces of bologna slapped between slices of white bread. It wasn't, really. It was my image of my mother - magical, imaginative, glamorous, and sophisticated - imposed on something as simple as her bologna recipe.

Funny what we remember, isn't it?

So how 'bout it? This Saturday take a stroll down memory lane and purchase some bologna. Use it to make a smiley face; eat it with some white bread; roll some cottage cheese inside; or create your own recipe.

If you have friends, they will thank you for the slice of nostalgia. If you have kids you could be making a memory that, in their eyes, will forever make you...
Consider sending a photograph of you at your National Bologna Day celebration. Email it to and we will post a slide show on Sunday.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

I Scream Sundae

The countdown is on. Only ten days until Halloween.

Last week my sister in law left a batch of ghoulish fingers in our mailbox. Great cookies aren't they? Cassie has a blog and this whole month she is featuring simple Halloween treats. Check her out

That same week, my office mates and I were addressing invitations to a work luncheon. I couldn't help but think Cassie's fingers, with tags attached, would be cute invitations.

Next year.

This year I decided I to use Cassie's ghoulish fingers to make I Scream Sundaes.
It was frighteningly easy. A scoop of ice cream mixed with all the fixings - eyeballs, ears, teeth, worms, dirt, and fingers for licking!

A definite hit in a house of all boys.

What about you? Do you have a recipe for some kind of gross grub that you wouldn't mind sharing?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Mums The Word

Rituals are important, because they allow us to shine.

I was reminded of this last weekend when my son and his friends celebrated Grapevine High School's homecoming.

Today's post could be a purely funny one. I could rant about the craziness of Texas homecomings and $200.00 mum my son's girlfriend is wearing. We could take guesses at the cost of Ricky's "garter" - worn proudly around his bicep all day... and night! We could laugh at the idea these contraptions are even called Mums, since hidden behind that huge wad of plastic #@!* one could hardly tell there sits a (fake) flower. We could laugh at how, over time, this ritual has gotten so big, the one-time-small-corsage has become nothing short of a long dress!

All of that would be 100% legit. Believe me when I tell you, Richard and I were ill-informed. We spent the majority of last week in utter disbelief that this entire underworld could exist and we could be so unaware. An entire homecoming industry right under our noses and we had NO IDEA!

The shock of "Mums" is begin to subside and here is what I'm left with...

Rituals, with all their impracticality and self-imposed importance, have their place.
  • Last week Ricky learned what it feels like to be a small part, in one chapter of someone else's history book. Floats, pep rallies, and yes, even mums are all part of Grapevine's longstanding Homecoming tradition. The longevity of this ritual sits squarely on the shoulders of each generation and their commitment to being a good steward.
  • He learned the power of rituals in creating a sense of inclusion and conversely, as we scurried about assuring our German exchange student had a mum too, a sense of exclusion.
  • And, not entirely insignificant, on this day - Friday, October 16 - Loren walked the hallways of school sporting a mum - a symbol made especially for her - signifying that someone else thought she shined!
Weddings, the Tooth Fairy, graduations, New Years, and even our monthly Highlowaha ritual all exist to recognize the importance of individuals. They create moments; snapshots in time when the anonymity created by life's hustle and bustle is replaced with an acknowledgment that each of us, in our own right, matters. Even shines!

So what ritual are you committed to and how do you use it to let others know they shine?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, October 19, 2009

In The Bag

It's Monday. I would love, love, love to deliver a great big long post to start your week off right. But, I can't.

This festive trick is so easy there is simply no way to draw it out and and make it more complicated than it is.

Card stock, paper, scissors, stapler, glue, and stickers.
Enough cellophane bags and holiday candy for each recipients of this thoughtful gesture - colleagues, neighborhood kids, students in your residence hall, or your favorite barista. Note: I am using the smallest sized bags I could find. They only hold two bite-sized Hershey bars. It's the thought that counts.Cut paper to size and fold over. Insert cellophane bag between folded card stock. Staple shut. Add embellishments using stickers or other festive decorations.
Done. Upscale treats made easy.

This entire post, by the way, is compliments of Peggy whose eyes are probably rolling to the back of her head right this very second. She taught us this trick at Taste of USA 2009. Only when Peggy taught it to the group, it was all very civilized and perfectly organized.

She used earthy toned paper, fall rubber stamps, special markers, and ribbons. In other words, mine is the Walmart version of Peggy's fancier, more tasteful Nordstrom's version.
Thank you, Peggy for making our blog community a better, more creative place. I appreciate you.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

It's That Time...

It's the time of the month when Highlowaha readers, new and old, come together to share their "high," (best thing) "low," (worst thing) and "aha" (something learned) from the past month.

It's a simple blog ritual with big payoffs. We get to know one another better and you stand to win a Ray Wattson shirt. See the GalleRay to check out your choices.

With no further ado, I'll get us going...

High: I finally broke the seal on my crock pot.
And, four hours later...
It seems to have worked!
Take that Sting Ray!

Low: Both sets of my car keys disappeared this month, requiring me to have a new key cut. Not a small or inexpensive proposition for my Honda Pilot.

Aha: The project I am overseeing at work has shed a lot of light for me on how college-aged students use social media to build relationships and community. Interesting. Very interesting.

How about you? What's your high, low, and aha for the month?

P.S. I got my card off in the mail yesterday for our Yellow Envelope Project. How about you?
Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Yellow Envelope Project: New York

Who cuts a hair dresser's hair? When a dentist needs dental work, how does she select her dentist? How does a masseuse decide who to hire for a massage?

I assume they pick the best. That's the benefit of "having been there." Hairdressers, dentists, and masseuses have logged hours in their respective fields. They know tricks of the trade, inside scoop, and who's who in the industry. They employ the best to do their work, because they know the best will deliver in a way others can't.

So who is best qualified to fill the mailboxes of people who shine?

People who shine for a living. You - the people who, day in and day out, work your corner of the world, slowly and steadily making it a brighter place to be.

Week #2 of the Yellow Envelope Project. Quick review for those of you just tuning in.

Spread the word... Shining is in! Each week I post the address of someone who, for whatever reason - big or small - shines. Reasons can be as big as solving world peace or as small as sharing a smile at just the right time.

YOUR job is to help perpetuate this culture of excellence by sending a short note - snail mail. The note will inform this week's recipient you got word of his accomplishment and that you think what he did was worth celebrating. That's almost it. Short, sweet, and to the point.

I say "almost," because there is one more detail. Your note must be sent in a yellow envelope and the return address should read, "Yellow Envelope Project" (yellow envelopes available at Kinkos and most office supply stores).

That's it. Short note. $.44 cent stamp. Yellow envelope. Postmarked within the week.
This week we recognize a woman passionate about her work. She is a teacher on a mission to help women understand complex nursing concepts surrounding birth. She takes tough topics such as the interplay of hormones and gets you up and rocking to CCR favs with new words. She's always got a listening ear and shoulder to lean on. She empowers women by traveling the country sharing useful information about labor and parenting.
Take a second to applaud the passion and creativity this woman uses to engage her students in learning!

23 Wallingford Rise
Fairport, NY 14450-9390

Signing off until tomorrow... Yes, tomorrow - October 18! Join us for our monthly reflection.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Free For All Friday

Thank goodness it's Friday - Homecoming Friday for so many of us who live in Texas. Go Mustangs!

Lots of ground to cover, since our new format means we only videotape every other Friday.

Check out our video. It's the only way to:
  • Meet the fourth person at our table is this week
  • Discover this week's Super Bowl winner or find out next week's competing ingredients
  • Find out if your are this week's lucky Altoid Table winner
  • Catch the names of contest winners over the last couple of weeks
  • Get clued in on Highlowaha's Yellow Envelope Project
  • Receive the ever important prompt for this week's Free For All Topic(s), and...
  • See our shining faces!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Nothing to Sneeze At

We do not learn to shine by studying the practices of those who are sub par and then vowing to do the opposite. We learn to shine when we observe people - no, surround ourselves with people - who shine and then emulate those characteristics we consider responsible.

Mrs. Telford shines and, if anybody else at Grapevine High School is watching, they can't help but also notice the creativity, passion, and commitment of this tenth grade Social Studies teacher.

My oldest son Ricky would gladly spend a fifth hour swimming laps each day if he thought it would absolve him from having to do homework. He's smart and he's curious, but he's also be a minimalist - especially when it comes to doing school work he considers boring. Mrs. Telford's history assignment is one of the only times this year Ricky has gladly engaged in school work.

Cover all six sides of a tissue box with pictures and information found while researching art from the four ancient civilizations. Simple, practical, and hands-on enough for a kinesthetic learner like Ricky.

I wanted to meet the teacher responsible for snapping Ricky out of his complacency, so earlier this week I arranged a meeting. I arrived at Grapevine High School to meet Mrs. Telford and to thank her for shining at her work.

The exchange was telling and went something like this...

Walk into the classroom and find Mrs. Telford speaking with someone on the phone. She was making plans to video tape a Holocaust survivor she arranged to have visit her classroom today - Thursday.

After she hung up, I introduced myself and got right down to business. Thank you for shining and could I photograph samples of her creative project to share with my loyal blog readers? She agreed. I, after all, thought the tissue box idea could be adapted for holiday gifts. Surprise grandma and grandpa by replacing pictures of Egypt and the Fertile Crescent with notes and family photos. Fun, inexpensive, and functional.

The story would have ended there, but immediately I realized the memory card was not in my camera and that I would have to return home.

Mrs. Telford explained she could leave the classroom door open for me, but that she could not be there, due to a leadership meeting she must attend at 4:15.

That's what we did. I went home, came back, photographed the tissue boxes... and then couldn't help but look around. Here's what I saw...

Walls covered in student art work, posters, pictures, postcards, and maps of all sorts. Seats arranged to foster discussion, a desk piled high and deep with enough papers to warrant a sign reading "Pardon our Progress," and an entire wall of nothing but awards and photographs she'd taken with students.

Here's what I know...
  • Not all teachers challenge their own creativity by assigning projects hard to grade, but easy for students to get excited about.
  • Not all teachers make the extra effort of having a Holocaust survivor visit their classroom to share a personal account.
  • Not all teachers are so passionate about their work they are willing to create even more of it, by taking on the red tape associated with securing a video camera.
  • Not all teachers are on their way to a leadership meeting. Only those who are viewed as worth following.
  • Not all teachers build a classroom environment that feeds all the senses and leaves you wanting more.
  • Not all teachers get close enough to students to show up in the same photograph - never mind to have a whole wall full.
  • And, not all teachers have been presented with 8 Distinguished Teacher Awards.
Mrs. Telford shines. There is no question.

Here's what is most amazing. I arranged to meet Mrs. Telford because of one creative project she assigned to my son. Everything else I have shared with you, I learned by being in her classroom for less than five minutes.

You know what that means?

It means it's true. It means we at Highlowaha are right. People who shine don't just shine at one thing. They radiate! They, like Mrs. Telford, don't know how to apply shine to only one area of their life. They apply excellence to everything they do, making the world a brighter and more worth while place.

Shining bright like Mrs. Telford is nothing to sneeze at. It's a way of life we want to reinforce every chance we get. This post, coupled with a Shine t-shirt, is on its way to Mrs. Telford as we speak.

How about you?

Whose your Mrs. Telford and how will you let her know she shines?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Darkest Before the Dawn

Every once in a while I am reminded of the importance of our blog's mission - make the world a brighter place by helping others SHINE.

Monday I was reminded of how much harder shining is when so many people are conditioned to accept mediocrity.

Heather, Katie, Cheryl, and I are on a mission to sell 1,000,000 Shine shirts by 2013. You might have heard. Earlier this week I went to Kinkos, hoping to make copies of a postcard promoting four great reasons to surprise someone with a Shine Shirt. Fifty copies on white card stock would provide me 200 postcards. Twenty copies of another sheet was all I needed to attach one gift tag per shirt.

Seventy colored copies on white card stock - one sided. That's what I wanted. "No problem," says Hillary the hourly Kinko's employee. "That will be $125.32."

One hundred twenty five dollars and thirty two cents for 70 color copies! The only thing shining at that very moment should have been the gold plated paper on which my postcards were being copied! I respectfully declined and assured Hillary I could get copies somewhere else for cheaper.

Hillary's response? "Well, if you can find them someplace cheaper and bring in a written quote, we will match the price. It's just that those are Kinko's prices."

So let me get this straight. Hillary wants me to do the leg work of finding a lower price, requesting a printed quote, delivering it back to Kinkos, and then letting Kinkos make my copies. All for what? So I can have the privilege of giving business to a company with no conscience? I don't mean to shoot the messenger, Hillary, but... "No thank you!"

The next day I took my order to the copy center at the University of North Texas, where I work. Same exact order, but instead of costing $125.32, Shawn charged me $32.73. A difference of $92.59. Say what you want about overhead and corporate expenses, but almost four times as much? I don't think so.

Today's post is not about Shawn shining. I'm sure he's a very nice guy, but charging me a reasonable price for a modest order does not automatically make for shining. No, today's post is more about the challenges of shining when the world around us is dimmed by apathy and poor judgement.

We have our work cut out for us. Whether Kinkos, your work place, the dry cleaners, or your local grocery store, we must each find a corner of the world and commit to making it SHINE!

Where might you start?

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bone to Pick

I started out packaging what I hoped would be fun birthday gifts for my nephews and ended up creating what I think could be a fun Halloween treat.

I'll share.

Matthew thinks he is an archaeologist and can frequently be found on dinosaur digs in our backyard. I bought him the Dino Dig, pictured below, a few months ago hoping to convince him to get out of the heat and continue excavating at the kitchen table.
He loved it!

Rule of thumb. Always give a gift you yourself would enjoy receiving. I'm certain the rule holds true for boys aged 5-8. Around the same time, I purchased my nephews Highlowaha T-Ray shirts from Cafe Press. Note: T-shirts, when given to anyone under the age of 15 are never considered a "real" gift. Never.

Dino Dig + T-Ray Dinosaur Shirt. I feel a theme coming on.

Why simply give a gift when, with a little effort, you can give a gift that SHINES.
Wrap shirts in brown lunch bags, taping balls to each end. Shape and use plenty of tape until package begins to look bone-shaped. Paper mache, using flour, water, and strips of paper. Cover with acrylic paint and add a layer of crackle to make bones look aged. Whole process should take no more than 30-40 minutes.
Here are my nephews birthday packages wrapped, with bones attached dinosaurs worked into the bows. But you, who doesn't have nephews birthdays to celebrate?...
Consider this....

Ditch the t-shirt; use toilet paper rolls to make packages smaller, and to give them their shape; and fill with plastic bugs and candy. You'll be the hit of any Halloween celebration.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, October 12, 2009

Planting Seeds

The air is crisp and the sky is overcast.

The arrival of fall gets me pondering and searching for touches to make Thanksgiving special. When a guest in someone else's home, I like to bring a thoughtful hostess gift. And, on the lucky years my family gets to host, I enjoy building something fun into our holiday tablescape.

Seven weeks away, it's time to start planting seeds.

This year the Paper Acorn will come to my rescue. Heather, who has an eye for spotting unique items in keeping with the spirit of Highlowaha (and whose birthday is TODAY!), invited Etsy, artist Jessica Wolf, to send us a sampling of her work. Though Jessica creates all kinds of custom packaging for weddings, parties, and gifts, she generously sent us a sampling of the four acorn boxes pictured above.


I especially love them filled with simply decorated acorn cookies and some fall colored shred.

For Thanksgiving I will commission Jessica to make me a collection of acorn boxes using colors such as gold, terra cotta, olive green, and other earthy tones. They will be perfect atop each place setting of china and filled with small treats.

Take a look.

Or, check out what I did last year. More amateur than Jessica's, but festive nonetheless.

Want to win the four boxes pictured above? Here's how...

"Bearing a tiny seed that will produce a mighty oak, the acorn reminds us that great results can be born of humble beginnings." Tell me about one of your great results, born from humble beginnings.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Yellow Envelope Project: Texas

Week one of Highlowaha's "Yellow Envelope Project."

Excellence breeds excellence. You know it's true. Tiger Woods has forever raised the bar for the game of golf. Nancy Goodman Brinker - a woman on a mission - has painted the world pink and raised over 1 billion dollars for breast cancer research on behalf of her sister, Susan G. Komen. My father, a born educator, not only taught English for 40+ years, but in the process inspired future generations of passionate teachers. Even one waitress can improve service provided by an entire restaurant staff when she is remarkable at her work.

The Yellow Envelope Project is an ongoing effort to reward excellence in our communities. It is an effort to recognize those who - in the words of Highlowaha - SHINE!

Each week we will post the address of someone submitted by one of you, along with a short paragraph describing why the nominee shines.

Your job is to find ten minutes sometime during the weekend to write a note telling our selected recipient that you think she/he SHINES. The note can be short... one paragraph; four lines; or two words - "You Shine." Decide for yourself.

The important thing is that you do it. Excellence breeds excellence. When people shine, the world is a brighter place. And, if by simply recognizing someones excellence, they shine a little brighter or a little longer, then isn't the .44 cents worth it?

You shine. That's why you meet up with us at Highlowaha each day. So help our "Rayvolution." One yellow envelope mailed to one person who shines keeps the rayvolution going.
Pat, the person we honor today, shines at being a friend. She has extended herself to a couple whose medical problems have left them in a time of need. Pat has raised money, cooked meals, folded laundry, and generally pitched in to make sure the couple's needs were met. It is not only her financial help, but her active participation in the couple's life that really makes Pat stand out and SHINE!
Come on and do it. Get out paper and a pen, find a yellow envelope and send your note to :

15615 Fagerquist
Del Valle, TX 78617

Signing off until Monday.