Sunday, October 31, 2010

An Ode to Case Managers: Goal Setting

For all my case manager friends, this one is for you. You know that goal setting can be both excruciating and exciting and the challenge to finding a way to getting someone engaged in goal setting, who has previously lived their life in a rhythm free of such a thing, is enormous. The battle to even begin thinking in terms of goal setting is 1/3 of the battle. The other 1/3 is defining a goal, and the last is actually doing the goal. So props to you for helping people get over these humps and empowering them to think in these terms. This, I feel, is a huge part of your work and unfortunately the part that doesn't always get the most credit.

Plus, don't you think someone should donate these ridiculously cute goal setting chalkboards to you? When I saw them, I couldn't help but think how useful they would have been when trying to convince a 13 year old that goal setting isn't a completely obscure and stiff thing that just didn't, in any conceivable way, fit into her life.

Next time I'm in a place where I'm trying to get a teenager to consider the effectiveness of goal setting, I may make it a DIY project, thanks to The Bright Life for the inspiration.

But until then, my 2 goals:

1. Buy some milk.
2. Finish homework.

"The trouble with not having a goal is that you can spend your life running up and down the field and never score."
Bill Copeland

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


I never knew I enjoyed watching and listening to birds until we moved to Avalon Park this August. Since our move, I have seen more varieties of birds daily than I have in my life combined. Previously, I never understood bird-watching as a hobby, and when I heard Radiolab's story of Michigan's attempt to save the Kirkland warbler, especially at the cost of a human's life, I rolled my eyes.

Yet, every morning when I walk to my car and see a rich blue Stellar's Jay or an American Goldfinch, I praise God for creating these beautiful little creatures that are so delicate. For a second I can even imagine myself getting up early to go watch them in their natural habitat, stirring around and doing their thing. Lately though, they have been making fewer appearances.

They will be missed this winter. But until then, they can fit into the little things of life:

Bird Perched on a Branch Necklace

Retro Birdie Slim Wallet


Flock of Birds Scarf

With all the amazingly adorable bird-stuff out there, it is clear I am not the only one who enjoys birds.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Noodles & Company Beaverton

Next time you are eating you're waiting for your favorite pasta dish at Noodle & Company in Beaverton, take a look at the number card. You'll notice it is no longer a picture of Portland street sign, but a Beaverton one. Number photo cards were taken and made by yours truly.

It was a blast driving all around Beaverton taking the pictures. Here are a few of my favorites:

Mason Jar's As Lighting

I know there are some people out there that absolutely adore mason jars and find millions of excuses to use them both functionally and as means of decoration. I like the classic look of mason jars, and have my own uses for them, and since its canning season, I figure we should celebrate alternative and creative uses for mason jars:

Friday, October 22, 2010

Love: European Food Store

Through a random series of events, I stumbled upon a shopping area in Tigard that I have blindly driven by many times, and found none other than Anna’s European Foods! This was a most excellent discovery because, thus far, since we’ve lived in Tigard, I had not seen any European food stores. I knew there were a handful in Beaverton, but none that were as conveniently located as they were in Portland, on every major street.

Now my need for pelmeni, vareniki, and Russian meats will be fulfilled. I was starting to get worried, and even cranky at the thought of not having Russian food so conveniently close by. Now I can enjoy all of my favorites at a moments notice, plus they serve hot food too, for those lazy kind of days.

Mmm.. I think you can figure out what I am going to have for lunch today.

Of course, I will be eating these pelmeni with sour cream and while eating, listening to this song: Na Zdarovya!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Working in Beaverton for the past two months, I have learned quite a bit about the city that is home for 87,500 people. I have discovered unique antique shops, quirky restaurants, and a bountiful farmers market. The city has much to be proud of, including a bakery that has been in Beaverton since 1925.

The Beaverton Bakery will always have a special place in my heart because in 2009, during my search for someone who could make me a cake like this:

They were the only ones willing to commit, despite the complexity and danger of fondant melting due to the heat of summer. They committed, and did a wonderful job:

Now the difficult part is walking down the streets of Beaverton and resisting the strong aroma of baked goodness. I may succumb to the temptation every once in a while, but mainly the whiff of freshly made cake reminds me of our special day, which is usually enough to satisfy.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Craft: Message in a Spool

Looking for a way to sneak in a little special message for a special someone? I thought this was an absolutely irresistible simple craft found on Ruffled, a blog all about vintage, indie and DIY brides.

With all these crafts I'm stumbling upon, when Portland's rain comes - I think I will be quite content and busy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Discussion About Teachers Unions

At last the discussion regarding teacher unions and their role in education is on the table. For so long people have complained, blamed, and defended teachers and teacher unions for the failure in education without having an actual thoughtful conversation that acknowledges the failures and is open to changes.

This conversation is especially exciting following the recent documentary Waiting for Superman and response it generated by organizations such as Stand for Children. For true educational reform to occur, conversations need to happen at the level that is most directly related to the people and process of education itself - on the local teacher level. Are they being adequately supported? Are they capable of doing their job? Who is to blame if they aren't? Tough questions - good discussion.

Listen to it online at Talk of the Nation.

Brilliant: Urban Outfitters Apartment

I was browsing through Urban Outfitters the other day and came across some things that made me chuckle thinking "who thought of that?! its brilliant!" Of course when you come across such things, its impossible to keep them to yourself - so here you go!

Raining Cats & Dogs Shower Curtain - Who would have thought?!

Yes, I may be slightly biased because of my Russian heritage, but this Matryoshka Bath Mat would be unique touch to a bathroom.

This Owl Letter Holder makes even the dullest of mail look like it has its proper stylish place. Such a needed creation!

Of course looking at all of these awesome home stuff makes me wish I had more rooms to decorate or more friends getting their own place and having house warming parties. Good thing the holiday's are just around the corner. . .

Monday, October 18, 2010

Songs That Stick: Soy Guapo & Apple Juice

There are some songs in this world that are so rediculous that they are actually catchy and you can't them out of your head. Here are a couple from this past week:

SNL's The Bjelland Brothers:

And a little lesson in adjectives from Spanish class:

Guapo by Sr. Wooly:

Enjoy and good luck getting these out of your head! :)

Friday, October 15, 2010

Love: College Tax Credit

Last year, when David and I were filling out our taxes, we discovered something that made us very happy: thanks to the college tax credit, we were practically reimbursed for all of our previously paid college tuition. Of course we did a happy dance. And now, I am doing a happy dance again. Why? Because our dear president Obama is urging congress to make the college tax credit permanent.

Why is this such a big deal? It makes college more affordable - 12.5 million people used it last year. Even though I am finishing up my college track - I still have 3 brothers who have their share of education to go through. Cost of higher education can be daunting - and the loans often acquired post college - depressing. This is a great incentive for people to achieve their goals and not be in the hole spending money to pay off student loans. Money saved from not having to pay student loans (or paying them off as soon as they come in) allows for more money to be spent in the market, helping the economy.

Yes Obama, please continue urging congress on this issue!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

How Ever Do I Decide?!

Election season is upon us and it is usually daunting. So many conflicting messages from candidates who are more interested in pointing out their opponents flaws than sharing their strengths and action plans when they take office. I usually end up skimming the voter pamphlet while eating cereal in the morning and then make random decisions based on what I feel like at the moment because, how much impact could a candidate make anyways, right?

Working in city government has taught me that candidates and their perspectives can and do make a difference in many ways. Government leaders set the tone for what is accepted and how cities are run. Although there is a large bureaucracy, elected officials do set priorities on funding and programs that directly affect the public. Who knew - it actually matters. That is why this year I am excited to have come across the Oregonian's Voter Guide.

The Oregonian's Voter Guide lets you compare candidates and measures side by side, in simple language. The effects of each measure are clearly stated and candidates answer the same questions, so you can get a clearer perspective of what's at stake. You can also narrow in on races that are specifically in your area and bypass the headache of trying to figure out which district you live in and what issues actually apply to you.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Irresistible Timekeepers

It's still only October, but gorgeous 2011 calendars are starting to pop up and I simply can't ignore it. Currently we have an adorable calendar sent from David's Oma & Opa, which features cute critter illustrations with an inspirational fruit of the spirit verse. Even though most of our life is kept organized by Google Calendar, I still enjoy having a wall calendar to keep me in perspective of what day it is and what is to come.

Design Sponge featured this adorable canvas calendar that I am tempted to make. Who knows, maybe a lucky friend will get one for the holidays. Despite lack of time, I am feeling quite crafty...

Some more that grabbed my attention on Etsy:

A Bunch of Animals

Year In Food Photographs - Original Photos by Amelia Kay Photography

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sin in Silence

It makes us uncomfortable to think about it, let alone talk about it, but statistics show that 1 in 4 women will experience domestic violence at some point in their life. Chances are you know somebody who has been affected by it - I know a handful of people. The destruction and pain is heart breaking - and it is an issue that I believe the church must acknowledge as real.

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. I admit, I don't know a whole lot about the issue, but I do know that it happens far too often to stay unspoken and unexplored. I invite you to watch Sin in Silence, a documentary about women who, in defending their lives found themselves in prison. Or if you don't have time, consider reading the article at Her.Meneutics.

If you are interested in learning how the church can help a good read is Healing the Wounds of Trauma. If you feel so moved, consider hosting a Swap for Good or sharing this documentary with a friend.

If you know someone who is experiencing domestic violence, don't let them suffer in silence. Know your local resources. Call the U.S. National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1 (800) 799-7233 for help or the 24 Hour Women Crisis Line at 503-235-5333.

Waiting for Superman Review

If you don't live under a rock you probably know that there is a problem with the education system in America. Drop out rates are unacceptable and it seems like no matter what legislation is passed, the problems do not seem to go away. Davis Guggenheim's Waiting for Superman acknowledges this issue and skims through the basics of the problem and possible solutions. If you are interested in education or just want to be more aware of some of the many issues in public schools today, this is a great start. The documentary doesn't go as deep into the issues as I would like, but it does provide a basic Education 101 look at the achievement gap, low-test scores, tenure, bad teachers, etc.

This movie did leave me inspired to research more about teacher unions and how they impact what happens in the classroom and beyond. It seems ironic that an organization that is meant to protect teachers can be the very thing that holds education from moving forward.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Charter Schools Part II

Recently I wrote about why I love and hate charter schools all in the same breath. Turns out, I'm not the only one with passionate feelings around education and the need for reform to be a united effort with collaboration from both charter and public schools. Tyler Whitmere of Portland's Stand for Children wrote a review in the Oregonian on the new movie Waiting for Superman, which is out today. In her review she pleads:

"To truly change our country's public education system, we must avoid the reflexive tendency to point fingers. We must start working together -- parents, teachers, principals, unions, advocacy groups, elected officials and members of the business community -- for real change."

Charter schools are part of the solution, but not the entire solution she argues.

I am excited to see Waiting for Superman - finally a film that will bring some of the issues in education to light. I am hoping it will stir dialogue, which would lead to action.

We are going Sunday night, if this interests you, consider joining.

I plan on posting my review on the movie next week.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Rediscovering: Myspace Music

Somewhere sophomore year in college I decided to drop Myspace altogether and focus my social media energy on Facebook. It was a sensible shift considering most of my active "friends" on Myspace were middle school youth that I was mentoring. The bulletin was constantly flooded with meaningless spam. I was generally ready for the more mature trend.

But there was something that Myspace offered me that Facebook has yet to replace: Myspace music and the joy of discovering new music that I actually liked.

The other day I was looking for a new CD to play in my car and found one I made in 2008 with songs I discovered on Myspace music. When I got home later that night I just had to revisit some of those artists on Myspace and see what they have been up to. Of course then I found some more artists that I now like and will be making a mix CD with.

Some that I enjoyed and will continue to enjoy:

Amber Rubarth, Angel Taylor, Hope, Mozella, The Weepies
, Barry Louis Polisar

And in honor of my favorites from the early days - Mika's Relax Take It Easy:

Warning: seeking music on Facebook may result in countless hours spent discovering more musical talent than practical time in a day to listen to.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


This Fall I'm taking a Zumba class at Portland State University and I love it! Its definitely kicking my butt - I am always sore after the class for at least a couple of days, yet I am having so much fun with it.

What is Zumba? It is a latin-inspired dance fitness class that will definitely make you sweat. Here is how it came to be:

"Celebrity fitness trainer, "Beto" Perez, stumbled upon the concept of Latin-inspired dance-fitness in his native Cali, Colombia in the mid-‘90s.

One day, he walked into his aerobics class and realized he had forgotten his aerobics music. Thinking quickly, he grabbed whatever tapes he had in his backpack. Beto's tapes were comprised of songs he loved, the traditional Latin salsa and merengue music he listened to all his life. But it was a challenge to improvise a whole class on the spot using non-traditional aerobics music. Beto rose to the challenge and from this last-minute improvisation a revolutionary new concept in fitness was born – the Zumba Fitness-Party™! The class soon became the most popular class at his fitness facility and then spread around the world."

And here is an example of it in action:

And Zumba in the news:

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Love & Hate: Charter Schools

Fall has officially arrived, and I am enjoying yet another wonderful class titled "Enhancing Youth Literacy." In this class, we discuss issues facing the public school system, trends in education, etc. I thoroughly enjoy discussing issues in education, but I especially perk up when discussing charter schools because I have had a very close and personal relationship with them. My two relationships have been pretty intense, leaving me with strong feelings of both love and hate for charter schools.

Charter schools are publicly funded schools that do not have to necessarily follow the rules in place by existing school districts. There is a lot of room for charter schools to specialize in whatever area they choose and provide alternative education that is creative and innovative.

I love the idea of charter schools. With an average of approx. 50% drop-out rate in Oregon, it is clear that the regular public school system isn't working for everyone, so it makes sense that there are alternatives available that give an opportunity for students to try school from a different angle, in a different setting.

Charter schools begin for various reasons - from my experience there are those that are created to help struggling students and those made to help succeeding students exceed. I believe both are important and a charter school can address both needs (struggling and not challenged enough).

I am for experiential learning and teaching innovation. I believe school should be challenging and inspiring. Students need to feel like there is a purpose to their education - that what they are learning counts in the greater scheme of things.

I went to a charter school the second half of my high-school life, and I am thankful for it. The school I went to gave me an opportunity to get a glimpse of the professional world and figure out what strengths I have that can be used in the adult world. I was able to narrow down what I wanted to study, and because of the independence and freedom given to me, I was better prepared for college.

All of that to say, I have also seen charter schools that terribly fail their students. I have seen good ideas go to waste because there wasn't enough manpower on the side of the charter school. When staff are spread too thin, trying to implement creative teaching methods to struggling high risk students - disaster is imminent.

What I hate most about charter schools is the tension that exists when some people feel like their idea of education is better than the public school version, and when the goal to create the school is more about personal ideologies than a cooperative effort. When there isn't clear and open communication between the sponsoring school districts and the charter school, things can get ugly. I hate when charter schools are created to get students out of the school system before trying to address the issues as to why the kids are having problems in the public school to begin with.

My example would be a Russian charter school that ran in Portland for a couple years. The charter school was aimed at Slavic youth who were not doing well in the regular school. The goals and mission sounded great. The reality was that the issues the students faced were greater than what the school was able to address. Being spread too thin, without enough staff and without enough professionals on hand, students did not make progress. Eventually the school closed because the charter school was not able to deliver.

What could have been a great opportunity for students, failed because the district and the charter school were divided from the start. There was tension and not enough manpower to deliver quality education to students. Instead of collaborating with the school district to create additional support to struggling Slavic students at David Douglas, the charter school created a greater division which confused families and left students scrambling to find what to do when their school got closed.

My point is that charter schools are very powerful. They leave a lasting impact. They can be wonderful and they can be terrible. I love and hate them all in the same time - but ultimately if implemented correctly, I love em!
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