Saturday, January 30, 2010

Yellow Envelope Project: Georgia

The recipient for this week's Yellow Envelope Project seems particularly fitting considering we just finished celebrating, National Have Fun at Work Day.

Those new to the site might wonder what we mean by the, Yellow Envelope Project. The project was created to recognize everyday people who reject the status quo and opt for excellence. Recipients of our Project shine and, because they shine, their corners of the world are brighter

This week's recipient was nominated by a fellow colleague. The nominator described their office environment as serious and corporate. A strict dress code is in place, rules exist about what items you can and can't have on your desk, and no promotion is granted to an employee until the spouse is interviewed (I suppose so the company can assure there is mutual understanding about the "real order of things").

Today's winner of the Yellow Envelope Project is a ray of sunshine in an otherwise gloomy environment. Below is brief description of what makes Brace deserved of our recognition.:
"Brace singlehandedly brightens up our entire office. She pushes the envelope by decorating her cubicle for every holiday. She also surprises people in the office by decorating their cubicles for special events such as birthdays, promotions, and people getting engaged and having babies. She is a one woman show. Brace uses her own money to do special things, since our office would never support the activities. A while back I received a handmade birthday card from Brace and when I opened the card, out poured a bunch of confetti. Brace makes work fun. She shines and that's why I think she deserves to be a winner of the Yellow Envelope Project."
Telling Brace she shines is easy.

Simply take five minutes to jot her a short note. Tell Brace you heard about her thoughtful gestures and that you think it is great she spends time brightening her corner of the world. Put your note in a yellow envelope - or a white envelope decorated with all kinds of yellow markers and stickers. Write the words, "Yellow Envelope Project" in the return address and mail it to the address below. You'll feel great about doing it and you will make her day.

Join me, won't you? Even feel free to throw in some confetti.

1 Cedar Run
Apartment F
Dunwoody, GA 30350

Signing off until Monday...

Friday, January 29, 2010

FFAF: Inspire Your Heart...

Happy Friday, Highlowaha fans! Cheryl here.

Sunday, January 31st is National Inspire Your Heart with Art Day. Quite fitting for a girl who will be driving down to next to nowhere Cypress Mill, Texas that very day to embark on a week long painting workshop with a fabulous artist named Bob Burridge. I've been planning it for over a year now. I hear his classes are fabulously inspiring and they fill up quickly so you can imagine how excited I am. I will be eating, sleeping and making art for 5 days straight.

I have no doubt that I will be well on my way to completing my 2010 resolution next week and inspiring the rest of the year to follow suit. (Jessie- your piece WILL be finished next week!!) I can't wait for this new experience.

But, what does that have to do with you. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.

I could, of course, go on and on about all the wonderful art out there. Old and new. The Internet provides us with such great resources to discover and purchase art. Just scan Etsy or PapernStitch for lots of great artists.

And art covers a broad spectrum. Photography, watercolor, ceramics, jewelry making, weaving, knitting, cooking, sculpture. Music is a form of art and one of my very favorites. Dance is a form of art. Shoot, kamasutra is the Art of Making Love! Whatever form of art you love I hope you will celebrate it on Sunday.

I was chatting with a friend that said in that sad voice, "I'm not artistic." That's all well and good but it doesn't stop you from appreciating it. On Sunday, just take 20 minutes out of your day and embrace your favorite form of art. (Maybe I shouldn't have mentioned kamasutra.) In the comment section, tell us what form of art you appreciate most? What inspires you? But before we run into the comment section, I have a little project for you.

It's another little Valentine gift for your loved one. Many years ago I attended a wedding shower where the hostess made a sign for the bride and groom. On one side of the sign it said Yes. On the other side it said No. It's a gift for the bedroom when you need to communicate with your honey. My version is a small pillow you can leave on your bed.

Do I need to spell it out for you? We're still PG-13, right? It's for the bedroom, wink, wink. It's an easy way to communicate your mood, wink, wink. Oh hell, let's get on with it.

I chose to work with felt because 1) I had a lot of laying around my house and 2) it holds its shape and is super easy to work with. Especially if you're not a seamstress. If you are a natural with needle and thread or a sewing machine, please feel free to adapt this to your skill level because it could be really cute. But, I'm telling you- this simple one is CUTE if you'll excuse me for bragging on my own work.

1. Cut out two squares of fabric the same size.

2. I drew the words yes and no on paper. You can use the computer if you think you're not artistic enough. I wanted my letters to touch so the stitching would flow from one to the other.

3. Cut out the words on paper. This is your pattern. Your template.

4. Turn the words backward on another contrasting color of felt and trace with a Sharpie and cut this out.

5. Using embroidery floss, stitch one word on each of the felt squares.

6. And embellishments like this cute little heart. Hi cute little heart. You inspire me.

7. Once both sides have their words stitched to them place them back to back and start stitching around the edge. I used double width of floss for the edges. Just tie a knot at the end and stitching the thread up through the middle of the two fabrics so the knot is hidden. Go to town around the edges.

(Note: I did not stitch the edges with the stuffing in the middle. Why make things more complicated trying to hold it in there?)

8. When you get nearly all three sides done, throw some kind of stuffing in the middle. I had Polyester batting laying around (did I do that right Claudia? Laying?) so that's what I stuffed in the middle. (And honestly, I could have used more.)
9. Finish sewing the edges, put it on your bed, sit back and wait for your honey to come in and see what you're mood is. Is cute, yes?
Glad you agree. But maybe your sweety deserves more than just a simple yes and no.
Maybe YOU want to add some spice to your life and in your bedroom. Go ahead. I dare you. Instead of just yes and no... why don't you put Yes on one side and OH YEAH on the other.
Your sweety will thank you for it. I promise.
Don't forget to tell us in the comment section what form of art inspires you most.

My job as cupid is done here. Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, January 28, 2010

You're Fired... Up

Are you like so many Americans, trudging through the work week, counting the minutes until quitting time? You might even like your job, but still you find yourself breathing a sigh of relief on hump day, followed by a happy dance on Friday.

There is an art to keeping work fun. It takes some... well, work. Having fun at work means remembering colleagues birthdays, hosting pot lucks, tuning into the highs and lows of your office mates, laughing over favorite t.v. shows, baking extra cookies for the break room, pulling pranks, declaring theme days, rewarding one another for work well done, and so much more.

Last month we decided to tackle fun in the work place, by partnering with Fancy Flours to celebrate, National Have Fun at Work Day. As is usually the case, readers voted on which cookie cutter I should have to incorporate into the celebration. This month the dragon was the winning cookie cutter.

Work Day Drag-on?
Fire up and...
Now it's your turn to slay the drudgery. How you'll make your work place more fun tomorrow?

P.S. If you're eyeing my dragon cookie because you know the Chinese New Year is coming up and you want your very own, don't despair.

Win your very own dragon cookie cutter. Visit the comment section and recommend other occasions for which it could be used. Add a slogan and earn brownie points. The person Cheryl, Heather, and I agree came up with the best idea and slogan will win his/her very own dragon cookie cutter.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kate Wins in Overtime

I used to think I worked hard bringing you a blog post each day.

Then I began recapping highlights from Highlowaha's Second Annual Super Bowl Snack Throw Down. Now I know... I am a slacker. It is Lauren and Kate, our favorite foodies who competed this entire football season, that are true All Stars.

These two women cooked seventeen recipes over an eighteen week period AND competed in a week of half-time activities. They exemplified creativity and skill as, each week, Kate and Lauren worked to incorporate the secret ingredient voted on by our Highlowaha readers. We challenged them by selecting things such as asparagus, wine, pineapple, and everything in between.

Little did we know when we put these two women head to head, exactly how well matched they were. Both fierce competitors, both fighting week after week, and both taking their turn as leaders of the pack.

The only thing harder than creating their weekly recipes might have been judging the weekly recipes. Recipes were judged on (1) creative use of the ingredient, (2) most likely to be eaten first, (3) best photograph, and (4) reproducibility. Struble Suds, Beantown Baker and you the readers were our esteemed judges for the first fourteen weeks. The foodie who earned the majority of the votes won the overall vote for the week.

At the end of the regular season the score was: Kate, 11 votes vs. Lauren 7 votes.

9/11/09, Sausage
9/18/09, Mushroom
Winner Lauren: Marsala Potato Skins
9/24/09, Cheese
10/2/09, Potato
Winner Lauren: Sweet Potato Hummus
10/09/09, Sour Cream
10/16/09, Asparagus
Tie: Lauren, Frittata Bites. Kate, Asparagus Wrap Up
10/23/09, Black Beans
10/30/09, Hamburger
11/13/09, Cayenne
11/20/09, Tortillas
11/27/09, Wine
12/4/09, Onion
Winner Lauren: Brie Stuffed Mushrooms
12/11/09, Pineapple
Winner Kate: Upshot Brownies
12/18/09, Turkey

Post Season Play: During post season play, Struble Suds and Bean Town Baker each still cast one vote. But, it was the third vote where we switched things up a little bit. Heather, Cheryl, and I agreed to make each recipe and to appoint a panel of celebrity judges who collectively cast the third vote. During play offs, each competitor earned a point for each vote they received - meaning each competitor could earn upwards of three votes per week.

1/8/10, Worcestershire
Lauren: Sloppy Joeys, 2 votes.
Kate: Drop Kick Chip Dip, 1 vote
1/15/10, BBQ Sauce
Kate: Bowl Game BBQ Nachos, 1 vote

The score going into this week's competition was Kate 13 vs. Lauren 11.

In true Lauren and Kate form, it was a contest to the bitter end. The first two votes rolled in earlier this week. Bean Town Baker voted for Lauren. That makes it Kate, 13 vs. Lauren 12. Struble Suds voted next. Their vote went to Lauren, making the score heading into last night, Kate 13 vs. Lauren 13. A TIE!

Recipes were made, dishes tasted, and votes were cast.

The final score is...
1/22/10, Kielbasa
Kate: Inside Pocket Sausage, 1 vote

Kate, 14 vs. Lauren, 13

And the crowd goes wild! What a season it was down to the bitter end.

A true and heartfelt thank you to all the people who helped make the Second Annual Super Bowl Snack Throw Down work. First and foremost, thank you to Kate and Lauren who have been troopers and good sports throughout the entire competition.

Thank you to Bean Town Baker and Struble Suds who graciously accepted our invitations to be guest judges and who provided thorough critiques each week.

Thank you to Heather who really did most of the organizing and to Katie K. who generated many of our weekly polls.

Cheryl, your picture collage is, of course, first rate.

And to Michelle and all the other fans who turned out every week interested in the outcome, thank you.

But wait...

Don't go yet. Tune in next week to find out what secret ingredient Kate must cook with and who she will be up against in Super Bowl XXXXIV.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Got a Minute?

Whether you are new to our site or a veteran reader who knows exactly what to expect given the Shine logo, there is something in today's post for you.

This week, by the way, is National Take Back Your Time Week.

It's kind of fun to think about taking back your time. I have images of myself marching right up to my three year old son, stomping my feet, and saying, "Give me back the fifteen minutes I had to fight with you about brushing your teeth this morning." Or, how about the person who still uses checks. Wouldn't you love to tap him on the shoulder and ask for the five minutes back you just wasted standing behind him in the check out line?

Truth is, gaining time is a little like losing a bad habit. You never real lose a bad habit, you simply replace it with a new one. The same is true with time. You never really get time back, you just gain more by managing what you have better.

So, if you are Cheryl and this is the Year of Art or Lindsay Marie who is committed to the Year of Yoga, or Peggy all revved up for the Year of Balance, or me determined to make this the Year of the Book, or anyone else excited to make something new happen in 2010, then taking (or making) time is an important topic.

Our friend and companion for the next year, M.J. Ryan, pulls no punches in her book, "This Year I Will..." She explains that, "Falling into the no time trap when it comes to exercising is really like saying to yourself, 'I don't want to work out.' "

And since few of us would admit to such unabashed laziness, we must explore how to steal back the time necessary for making our dreams a reality.

I'll be brief, so I don't end up owing you time.
  • I lose time when I allow myself to check email and read blog comments throughout the day. I take back my forty wasted minutes when I only check in twice a day. The extra time could be pages towards my book.
  • I lose time when I stay up late watching Iron Chef on the Food Network. I take back the time when I go to bed at a reasonable hour and am able to wake up thirty minutes earlier. Thirty minutes is just enough time to fold and put away a load of laundry or to edit what I wrote the day before.
  • I lose time when I don't plan my week in advance, because small pockets of free time are frittered away contemplating what I could be doing if I just had a couple minutes. Taking 30 minutes at the start of the week, to generate a list short tasks, could generate upwards of 70 minutes. That time could be used for reading books about publishing books.
Ryan reminds us, "Time is one of our most precious resources, Even if you can carve out only fifteen minutes a day to devote to your new habit, that's ninety-one hours over the course of one year."

Tell me how you might steal back some time in order to get what you really want this year?
Make it good and your name will go in a drawing to win your very own $25.00 Planner Pad - the best calendar on earth. And if you live close by, I'll throw in a lesson on how to use it.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Box of Shine

I love writing a daily post where the pictures can do all the talking. I feel like today is one of those days.

Yesterday a small gathering of women joined me to send boxes of sunshine. Our goal? Put a ray of sunshine in the mailboxes of family and friends around the country.

We called the party, Box of Shine.


All things yellow!

Each guest brought twelve yellow items and boy, did they get creative! Starbursts, handmade yellow fortune cookies, beautifully packaged yellow jelly beans, seeds for yellow flowers, yellow tea bags, bumble bees, happy faces, yellow toiletry items, m&ms, yellow note cards, calendars, pencils, post-it notes, and MORE!

All I had to do was supply:

Boxes, tubes, and mailing envelopes...
Packaging tape...
Ribbons and stickers...
Scissors, notecards, and markers, and...
Fun stickers to decorate the outside of our packages (compliments of Cheryl).
Include yellow food (compliments of my culinary friends)
Some decorations

Insert great company...
Put it all together and what do you get?
It was a great afternoon of friends, fun, and food - topped off with 31 boxes of shine.It might be mid-January and cold where you are, but for a brief time yesterday at my house it was warm and shining!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Yellow Envelope Project: Atlanta

It's been a week and I'm still thinking about Sanjay Gupta, the CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, whose work in Port au Prince on January 17 exemplified what it means to shine!

I know we pride ourselves on using the Yellow Envelope Project to recognize every day people who do extraordinary things and that you might not think Gupta is an "ordinary" guy. It's true he is regularly on t.v., but t.v. or no t.v., I maintain he is a deserved recipient of this week's Yellow Envelope Project.

Despite other doctors and nurses leaving, due to alleged security issues, Gupta stayed overnight as the lone doctor on duty in a Port au Prince field hospital. Gupta shines because he listened to his conscience instead of giving into fear. I want to know, if the tables were turned, there would be compassionate people like Gupta, willing to pitch in and do their part. Click here to get the full story.

Please join me in sending Sanjay Gupta a short note in a yellow envelope. Tell him what you think about his staying to tend to those 25 patients. Tell him he shines!

Remember to print the words, "Yellow Envelope Project" in the return address. Final note: it would be nice to have a good showing this week, as I am sure his inbox is full and we want our envelopes to get noticed.

P.O. Box 105366
One CNN Center
Atlanta, Georgia 30348

Signing off until tomorrow...

Friday, January 22, 2010

Free For All Friday: Technical Difficulties

T.G.I.F. everyone!

Click below, but don't blink. We experienced quite a few technical difficulties while taping, so who knows how much of today's video will actually transmit.

Don't forget to visit and to click on the words, "donating a mammogram." Get 10 other people to visit and help provide mammograms to underprivileged women.

Finally, win the unclaimed rooster cookie cutter by sharing suggestions for fun ways we might celebrate Highlowaha's upcoming anniversary week. Coming your way in mid-February!

Signing off until tomorrow...

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Labor of Love

Months and months ago I did a post on a concept explained by Malcolm Gladwell as Concerted Cultivation. In his book, Outliers, Gladwell shared research showing that children whose parents cultivated their skills and interests ultimately outperformed children whose parents did not.

What Gladwell was saying - in Highlowaha language - is that a child's inherent talents and gifts will shine brighter when their interests are supported by parents.

I'm here to say that Concerted Cultivation or shining or whatever you want to call it takes time and is tiring.

In December my middle son gotten bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. He sold pine cone ornaments in our neighborhood and $22.00 later got a taste of what it feels like to be a boss. I think he decided it suited him well. This, of course, was right up Richard's alley, as he's an entrepreneur and could cultivate til the cows came home. He and Richard held lots of business meetings, one of which was Richard explaining to Matthew that, in order to continue making money, he had to "feed the roots."

Mostly Matthew didn't want to hear much about "feeding the roots" and instead wanted to blow his whole wad of cash on Bakugons and candy. Finally, after some additional cultivation from me, Matthew decided it would be acceptable to part with $6.48 to "feed the roots" of his business and create our next product.

Valentine cards with a twist.

But, first...

Here's where the theoretics of Concerted Cultivation meets the realities of implementation. Who do you think was really helping Matthew trace, decorate, stencil, cut, glue, and stamp his 40 handmade Valentine cards?

You got it.

Oh, and by the way... fifteen minute increments. That was the longest a work shift could last before Matthew was ready to move on to something new. About the same amount of time it took to get all the supplies out and set up.

But, right on schedule Matthew's cards are done and he's ready to start selling. According to him, "Two dollars per card or as much as you are willing to pay."

Take a look.

White puzzles mounted on hearts of either red or pink card stock and then decorated with complementary hearts cut from stencils.
Each puzzle valentine was placed in a brown bag, along with a decorated white envelope. Brown bags were stamped with pink and purple DO-A-DOT paints from Crayola and a white heart (compliments of mom) reading, "Thrill Your Valentine to Pieces."
Instructions are placed on the back of each bag to assure ease of use.
A small display showing a "Before" and "After" shot.
And, of course, the 0h-so-important-carrying case that allows Matthew to peddle his wares through neighborhoods, parks, his school, and - if he has it his way - through the grocery store with Richard on Saturday morning.
Matthew is excited about the prospect of 40 valentines at $2.00 a pop, but he is also excited to donate $0.50 per card sold to Haitian Relief (that's a Concerted Cultivation conversation for another blog post).

Me? I'm excited for this second little business venture to come to its natural cultivated conclusion. I also think I'll make a concerted effort to have Matthew's next project involve wood, nails, a jig saw and the sundry other tools taking up space in Richard's half of the garage.

Limited edition cards. Get yours today.

Signing off until tomorrow...

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Bon Voyage

Pola, our favorite exchange student, leaves on a 4:50 p.m. flight this afternoon, so closure has been on my mind. Today's post started out as a review of last night's dinner and a short segment on the importance of formally bringing closure to community.

Years ago I co-authored a work book for student leaders and the final chapter was dedicated to suggested activities someone like an resident assistant could do with students on her floor. Whether with an exchange student or a group of 70 residents, the principles are the same...

Organize a celebratory event, chock full of balloons and themed decorations.
Serve food, since food has a magical way of bringing people together (hamburgers were Pola's request for her last American meal).
Facilitate an interactive activity, allowing people to share their feelings and memories.
Top it off with a little comfort food to soothe the pain that comes with sadness (apparently brownies are uniquely American),
A keepsake to commemorate the experience, and of course...
a final photo to document your cherished time together.
A recap of principles and a tribute to Pola is how today's post started.

Really though, this post isn't about closure. It's really about the time spent together that makes closure between people seem warranted. We got to host Pola for 104 days and in that time she became part of our family. We got to know that she loves ice cream, hates waking up early, loves spending time with her girlfriends, but could do without our dog May Day. She got teased by Richard and Ricky, jumped on my Matthew and Jack, spoiled by her U.S. grandmas, and doted on by me - the only other girl in the house.

She became part of the family.

We laughed when Richard paid her $10.00 to finally make a decision in 30 minutes or less, listened when she cried about missing home, cringed when she put milk in her orange juice, and watched with admiration at the discipline required to earn "A"s in classes not taught in her native language.

Last night we brought closure to Pola living in our home. The truth, though, is that our connection to Pola is just beginning.

I think that's the way it's supposed to go with real communities, isn't it?
Signing off until tomorrow...

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Happy Hunting

For some of us, today is our first day back to work after a long weekend.

What better way to start the week than with a health dose of SHINE?!?!

It seems we are in good company. The Secret Society of Happy People declared this week, Seventh Annual Hunt for Happiness Week. As is the case with happy people who shine, they are no slackers. Click here to check out their website.

But, do more than check out their website.

Commit right here, right now.

Commit that this week you will do something in pursuit of happiness.

Write in a journal * splurge on a treat * flip through a fun magazine * get your blood pumping * introduce yourself to someone new * pay a compliment, make a coffee date * take a walk with a loved one * day dream, fill your house with the smell of chocolate chip cookies * do a favor for someone, flip through old photographs * reconnect with an old friend * send a package, de-clutter your home * meet your postman, learn something new about yourself * name your year(!) * find some quiet time * do something daring * write a letter to someone you would like to meet * check something off your to-do list * tell your family you love them * swing on a swing * color in a coloring book * find shapes in the clouds * play a board game * pamper your feet * listen to a favorite CD * Print the word, "Shine" somewhere in sidewalk chalk...

What will you do?
Signing off until tomorrow...