Sunday, September 17, 2017

Beaverton, Oregon Continues its Welcoming Week Celebrations in a Variety of Places

Portland is very well known as being a progressive city that accepts many people from various cultural, political and economic backgrounds. But its neighboring city to the West, Beaverton, is quickly becoming increasingly accepting of people from all walks of life as well. 

In January of this year, the Beaverton city council declared the city a "sanctuary" city, which means that the city is accepting of people, especially immigrants, who provide social, cultural and economic value to Beaverton.

Welcoming Week is a nation-wide celebration that sanctuary cities such as Beaverton are participating in to spread the message of acceptance among neighbors. The main website of Welcoming America, which is the social change agent, says that "during this annual series of events, communities bring together immigrants, refugees and native-born residents to raise awareness of the benefits of welcoming everyone." It is comprised of members, business and regular people who can use the website as a guide to learn how to host events and to write press releases to encourage spreading the message that by "welcoming communities [people] can foster a culture and policy environment that makes it possible for newcomers of all backgrounds to feel valued and to participate fully alongside their neighbors in the social, civic and economic fabric of their adopted hometowns."

So how is the city of Beaverton participating in this national Welcoming Week? Well, the main library hosted a pre-Welcome Week story slam last Thursday and various hosts throughout the city are hosting a variety of events. This afternoon, at 3, there will be a symphony of cultures concert held at a church, while at 4 p.m. there will be a potluck in a city park. Tomorrow night there is an African film screening at the Beaverton City Library, and on Tuesday evening there will be a poetry writing workshop as well as a play at the library.

Although the events have already started, please visit for a list of the upcoming activities. What's cool too is these events are all free to attend.

Christina Hanson is an adult services librarian at the Beaverton City Library and says that staff from both the library and city have coordinated the event planning, along with partner organizations who sometimes bring their own staff to help during the events. When asked how far in advance the Welcoming Week events are planned (this is the third year the city has participated in Welcoming Week), Hanson says that the planning starts about one year in advance. 

"The city encourages citizen groups, non-profits and other organizations to participate by holding [promotional] events ... through their networks," Hanson said. "There is a small group of staff who coordinated the main city-organized events who also serve as the point people for outside groups..." 

The city recently began organizing regular 'welcoming summits' with a wide swath of community groups to help with Welcoming Week planning..."

Ms. Hanson also noted that "Beaverton is the most diverse city in Oregon currently. Over one quarter of Beaverton residents were born outside of the United States. Beaverton's city council and mayor have been committed to using our demographics as a strength and joined Welcoming America's Welcoming Week initiative because of the direct connection to our community."

And while there are occasionally library volunteers to help with the activities when they occur, most of the events run pretty smoothly, Hanson added.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Sharing press release written by Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce for upcoming September 7th event at University of San Diego

"San Diego, California, August 24, 2017 --  The Hispanic Chamber of E-Commerce (HISCEC) is pleased to announce a public Q&A event and reception with Javier Palomarez, President and CEO of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce (USHCC), at 5:00 p.m., on Thursday, September 7 at the University of San Diego’s Joan B. Kroc Institute for Peace and Justice Theater.  

The USHCC represents 4.2 million Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. that together contribute more than $668 billion to the nation’s economy every year.  The USHCC also advocates on behalf of 260 major American corporations through a network of more than 200 local chambers of commerce and business associations.  

Mr. Palomarez is one of the nation’s top Hispanic business leaders.  He will discuss the critical importance of the commercial and economic relationship between Mexico and the United States and the economic impact of Hispanic entrepreneurs in the United States.

"Small business is the economic engine that drives the American economy - creating 2/3 of all new jobs nationwide. Hispanic entrepreneurs in particular, are launching businesses at a pace more than double the national average. Also, the importance of the relationship with Mexico to small business cannot be overstated. Of the American companies that export, 98 percent are small and midsize businesses, and account for a significant portion of the $1.5 billion in cross border trade every day," said Javier Palomarez, President & CEO of USHCC.  

“HISCEC is pleased to host this visit by Mr. Palomarez, one of the nation’s most important advocates for Hispanic small businesses and U.S.-Mexico trade and investment,” said Tayde Aburto, President and CEO of HISCEC.  “In the San Diego region, the entrepreneurship rate among Hispanics exceeds that of the region as a whole.  HISCEC and the USHCC give voice to the importance of Hispanic businesses to the regional and the national economy.”

HISCEC is a 1,100 member, San Diego-based business organization with a network of over 16,000 business owners and professionals, active chapters in Florida and Washington State, and strategic partners in both the United States and Mexico.  

HISCEC's mission is to promote the competitiveness of small- and medium-sized businesses in the marketplace through the use of the Internet as a business tool.  HISCEC’s overarching regional goal is to bring the Hispanic business community of the Tijuana-San Diego mega-region to the forefront of the national economic, commercial, and political agenda.  

For more information on this event and to register, please visit  More information on HISCEC is available at"

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

California Cheese Trail Founder Shows her Love of Cheese Through Yearly Map Printing

There's a map that cheese lovers can get their hands on each year. It's a map that showcases the locations of dozens of creameries and farms throughout California with a smattering of information on each. Some of these creameries and farms give tours to the public during certain hours, and some give tours by appointments only. And every year, a cheese lover and entrepreneur named Vivien Straus makes sure that this map is printed for the public.

The California Cheese Trail is not a literal trail but is the map itself. Cheese lovers can traverse California to as many creameries as they want - some are in remote locations and others are in more populated areas of Los Angeles - using this map as their guide to scramble across what Straus' entrepreneurial friends called the California Cheese Trail back in 2010. During a Marin County Economic Forum meeting, once her fellow board members realized she'd be a great agricultural representative, the cheese trail idea was created, and they knew she'd be the one to put the Cheese Trail idea in motion.

To start, she invited about 30 people to her home to talk about this idea and to raise money. The map was first printed in 2010 and Straus ensured that 25,000 copies were printed. At this time, they were only available to the public in two counties. Straus receives money each year to pay for marketing costs to print the map and maintain her website. She has a few advertisements on the map but she doesn't profit from this venture. 

Earlier this year, 75,000 copies of the map were printed. 73 creameries were featured. The online version of the map can be found at and showcases only 42 of the 73. People can print their own map online after downloading it as a PDF file - the 42 locations are the ones that are open to the public. The additional ones on the tangible maps showcase ones that are open to the public as well as ones that are closed to the public (available by appointment only). Straus assures that the real map is the slightly better version.

The northern California regional office of Whole Foods Market provided most of the funding for the $13,000 it cost to print the maps this year. Whole Foods Market is one of the few advertisers featured on the map. And while Whole Foods Market does not carry the maps in its stores, there are other ways to get them. The public can obtain these for free at the Marin County Visitors Bureau, the CaliforniaWelcome Center or the by contacting the Marin Agricultural Land Trust. Straus always keeps a few boxes of maps in her car when she's visiting places that might need them.

When asked why the head of marketing for Whole Foods Market of the northern California regional office supports Straus in her efforts, Norma Quon said:

“A few years ago, Vivien approached us and alerted me to the fact that the Cheese Trail Map was in jeopardy because of the costs associated with map printing. I had always been struck by the cheese map’s almost singular focus in promoting artisanal cheese and its encouragement of family farming, in an era when Northern California cheese making is still fairly new. 

Since then, Whole Foods Market has underwritten the cost of printing, both because of our belief in educating the consumer, but also [because of] our desire to support the overall program. Our NorCal cheese producers have worked incredibly hard to bring the highest quality products to the local market in a very short period of time... It’s an endeavor that we will happily continue to support.”

Straus also receives financial resources from the California Dairy Advisory Board for the map's marketing costs.

The California Artisan Cheese Guild is advertised on this years' map. It supports the website. The site attracts 12,000 visitors each month, according to Straus. If people scroll down to the bottom of the home page, they can download a free App as well from Google Play. It is also available on iTunes.

The executive director of the California Artisan Cheese Guild once stated a few years ago that "the project has been an essential marketing tool for the cheese makers." 

Straus is a beloved member of the cheese community. She understands how dairy farms work and she understands how businesses work. What led people to entrust her to take on this awesomely cheesy task each year?

It relates to her roots. Straus grew up on a dairy farm in the town of Marshall, Calif. She left home at age 18 and over the course of 9 years went to college in Portland, Ore., then moved to San Francisco to pursue theater acting then she ended up in New York and then Hollywood. But she moved back to her home town when she realized she wanted to be around more like-minded people who cared about farming communities like she does. She shares her love of the land and specifically, the importance of farming in her way, through the printing of the California Cheese Trail maps.

Straus currently helps run her family business called Straus Home Ranch, which is aptly named because this is located on the farm where she grew up. The ranch features a vacation rental property as well as plenty of space for weddings or corporate retreats. The cows on the property are diary heifers. And having grown up on this farm, she knows the value of hard work and that farms are essential to the community not just because they provide food, but because she was taught to respect land and open spaces. Her mother Ellen Straus founded the Marin Agricultural Trust in 1980 to try to hinder private development. The Marin Agricultural Trust is advertised on her map (free of charge). She treasures the beauty of the California coast ... all of California really, and she holds cheese makers near and dear to her heart.

Straus has met so many people who make cheese and many cheesemakers have ended up on the map.

For example, Keith Adams of William Cofield Cheesemakers in Sonoma County was glad to be on the map this year for the first time. Adams has noticed that there has been an upturn of visitors where he and his business partner sell cheese at an outdoor market called The Barlow in Sebastopol, Calif.

 Several creameries featured on the maps have employees who know Straus well. Over the years, people have felt she has been essential to the cheese community. Straus says the map is a great way for the general public to see more of California if people are taking road trips and that it can be fun for people to learn more about cheese and to see some farm animals.

Companies that make vegan cheese are not featured on the map. The Cheese Trail is truly an ode to dairy farmers and cheese makers who love to share their joy of cheese making with their patrons. 

Straus absolutely does not have a favorite cheese. If she does have a favorite cheese, it's a temporary feeling that depends on her mood. S
ometimes she likes soft cheeses and others she likes hard cheeses. She likes when different milks are mixed.

Straus absolutely does not have a favorite cheese maker on her map, but she values each farm for its own sense of cheese and farming pride. However, she does love that Ramini Mozzarella has water buffalo on site (after all, milk from water buffalo is how real mozzarella is made). She loves that Stepladder Creamery has goats on site and that sometimes visitors can pet the goats. She loves that Achadinha Cheese Company gives private tours and that “if people time the tours right, they can be part of the cheese making.”

Point Reyes Farmstead Cheese Company is another great company featured on the map this year (#53) and has been on the map since 2010.

Hilmar Cheese Company is located in the "middle of nowhere" - though not far from highway 99 - and it is the largest cheese maker in the world. Straus says they have a nice, walkable museum to tour and that it can be really fun to see workers unload 200-pound blocks of cheese. 

This map is her ode to all the dairy farmers, cheese makers, cheese conoisseurs and cheese lovers. Keep grating, creating and celebrating cheese and all it does for our souls and our palettes! 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Monday, July 17, 2017

Drivers for Survivors Announces Expansion of its Volunteer Service Area in Alameda County, Calif.

Drivers for Survivors is a non-profit organization located in Fremont, Calif. which pairs volunteer drivers with cancer patients who need rides to their medical appointments.

The mission is simply wonderful. In order for cancer patients to worry less about how to get to their appointments, Drivers for Survivors provides much needed support for those who already have enough on their emotional plates.

Executive Director Sherry Higgs started this non-profit and shared her enthusiasm with how her volunteers throughout the past five years have been life savers. More often than not, volunteer drivers - who have gone through back ground checks, have had a good driving record for at least five years, and have a reliable, working car - become friends with their clients.

Drivers for Survivors has been around for almost five years serving clients living in Fremont, Union City and Newark. As of July 1st, volunteers have since begun serving clients living in more Alameda County cities: Hayward, San Lorenzo, San Leandro, Castro Valley, Ashland and Cherryland. It is located at 39270 Paseo Padre Parkway, Suite 355.

Dubbed volunteer companion drivers by Higgs, these angels on wheels can decide how often they want to volunteer. Some people only have time to drive clients on weekends or once a week; the need is always there, but it's a stress-free scheduling environment because there is no schedule. There are no time slots that need to be filled in advance.

Ms. Higgs says that "volunteers will get an e-mail every day or a call when a (a pick up) needs to be fulfilled. No private information is given. For example an e-mail will list that the client is a Fremont resident, and his or her Fremont appointment starts at 9:30 a.m. and ends at 3:25 p.m at the Fremont Kaiser location. The volunteers reply back and [decide to take] number one or number five on the list. Sometimes volunteers choose a few appointments at once. Sometimes drivers bond really well with their passengers and decide to keep [giving] their passengers rides."

Once a volunteer chooses to accept a ride, a patient then decides which information to give to Drivers for Survivors volunteers. 

Volunteer drivers do need to give at least one client ride once every six months in order to remain in "active" status. Drivers for Survivors currently has 121 active volunteer drivers and has had 214 drivers overall since it began. She has had four volunteers who have volunteered since the beginning; in fact, the woman who gave Ms. Higgs rides to her appointments when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2010 is one of these four women.

Drivers for Survivors has received several awards over the years from California politicians and Ms. Higgs has been inducted into the Alameda County Women's Hall of Fame. (This organization recognizes women who are leaders who live in or work in Alameda County.)

Ms. Higgs has been very grateful for the serendipitous moments that have occurred over the years, thankful for every one's efforts to continue helping in the organization's growth. 

"We all need to grab onto something: a non-profit, or any cause…and give more of ourselves," she said. "The medical providers and our mainstream resources have so much on their plates already. Networks like ours are very valuable because we pick up some of the slack."

Drivers for Survivors is expanding its 403-square-feet office into the office space next door to create 333 more square feet for staff and interns by August 1. While 736 square-feet isn't huge, this much-needed space will continue to allow all staff, interns and volunteers to continue their dedicated work. Since the beginning, 11,500 rides have been given to 288 cancer patients.  And Ms. Higgs hopes to create satellite offices in other areas in the future to accommodate other volunteers and clients in the future.

Interns and non-driving volunteers are always needed for marketing, administrative support, and the need for putting up flyers in the community is always helpful. Drivers for Survivors also holds its annual gala at the Castlewood County Club, so fundraising efforts are key.

Drivers for Survivors also holds annual volunteer appreciation luncheons as well as quarterly volunteer trainings so volunteers can meet each other and discuss any relevant topics as needed. For example, volunteers may need to be trained how to help a blind cancer patient in and out of vehicles.

The logo on the brochures shows a red heart atop wheels. Ms. Higgs expressed the importance of "the synergy of working together" because Drivers for Survivors is doing the right thing.

"It's important to keep the momentum going," Higgs said. She speaks with such pride and love of the non-profit. She started as a one woman show and she understands the value of volunteers' time and efforts. Her energy and passion for the simple, but life-saving mission is heartfelt: love for the organization's mission is what keeps her driving onward.

If you're in the Alameda County area and would like to volunteer, please call 510-579-0535 or e-mail

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Non-profit Smile Oregon to hold its 7th annual walk at Gabriel Park in S.W. Portland July 15th

While people have said that a picture is worth a thousand words, a smile can go a mile in brightening someone's day. By simply taking a walk this weekend, you can learn what a community of parents and children facing certain dental challenges looks like who have teamed up with an Oregon non profit for guidance.

Smile Oregon, an Oregon non-profit founded in 2009 which helps Oregonians with cleft and craniofacial abnormalities obtain educational awareness, is holding its 7th annual community walk at Gabriel Park near Multnomah Village this Saturday, July 15th from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Registration is free. People can register online at and registration is preferred in advance as a picnic lunch will be provided (Smile Oregon needs to know how much food to have on hand). A suggested donation of $25 is encouraged at the walk.

Blaze, the Portland Trailblazers mascot, is expected to be there to entertain kids. There will be a kids music group to provide entertainment.

"The walk is a one mile walk which is a paved loop around Gabriel Park," Haleah Blank, a board member, described. "It’s a really nice family-oriented event. It’s a great way for kids to see what it looks like to give back. [Giving back] doesn’t need to be opening your wallet. It could just [be] simply showing up."

This is a community awareness event in which several board members of Smile Oregon will be present to meet community members who wish to learn more about its mission. Haleah Blank says that often times expecting mothers find out at the 18 to 20 week stage of pregnancy that their child has a cleft or craniofacial condition. Based upon the health insurance coverage each parent has, a cleft team could be assigned to work with the parents. Surgeries for cleft and other craniofacial conditions can begin as early in a baby's life at three months of age.

What is cleft lip? And cleft palate? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the lip of an unborn child forms between the fourth and seventh week of pregnancy. A cleft lip is when "the opening in the lip can be a small slit or it can be a large opening that goes through the lip into the nose. A cleft lip can be on one or both sides of the lip or in the middle of the lip. Children with a cleft lip can also have a cleft palate."

The C.D.C.P  says the cleft palate is an opening in the roof of the mouth when the tissue doesn't fuse together completely and that the palate is formed during the sixth and 9th week of pregnancy.

Smile Oregon assists people of all ages who have been affected; though usually since expecting parents discover these issues during pregnancy, help most often occurs with babies or young children. Smile Oregon does offer a $1,000 scholarship which it gives out annually to high school students with craniofacial issues who are planning to go to college. More details for this can be found at Oregon's student aid website:

Smile Oregon hopes to be able to continue to bridge the education gap between families and health care resources in the years to come. And by attending their walk this Saturday, you can meet other like-minded people who are experiencing cleft or craniofacial issues in their families or if you just want to learn more.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Flower, flower, poisonous power

I love flowers. I found this while taking a walk this afternoon and had to snap this pic. It's amazing what summer's bounties can offer. Flowers invoke a feeling of contentment. It looked like a daisy to me (minus the weed tendrils), but I checked out some reputable sites and it appears to be a common ragwort and is apparently poisonous. What a beautiful weed though!

It reminds me of the saying: You can look but don't touch. 

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Family Promise of Beaverton to Hold 'Drive In, Sleep Out' Fundraising Event This Weekend

For just $25 you can learn what it's like to sleep in your car for a night. Add a movie, popcorn, and great volunteers, and you have a great equation.

This Saturday, June 10th beginning at 5 p.m., an almost one-year-old Beaverton non-profit named Family Promise of Beaverton will hold a fundraising event at Beaverton City Fountain Park to teach attendees about its organization. Family Promise of Beaverton's mission is to help homeless families with children in the Beaverton School District obtain housing and find solutions to homelessness. The event ends Sunday, June 11 at 10 a.m. The park is located at 12500 S.W. Fourth St. next to the Beaverton City Library.

The event is called 'Drive In, Sleep Out.' The tagline is clever: 'Putting the Brakes on Homelessness.' Registration on their website is encouraged to attract attendees in two ways. First, attendees can pay $25 to spend the entire night in their car (called 'sleep out driver registration'). If registrants don't want to sleep in their cars but want to participate, they can donate $25 and register for the 'back seat driver registration'. To register online, please visit

Jolene Guptill and Lois O'Halloran, chair and vice chair of Family Promise of Beaverton, will be in attendance, as well as Barb Upson, another volunteer who helped get the organization up and running. This non-profit organization began when the national branch of Family Promise spoke with these women and other volunteers and provided them with teaching tools of how to get started. With Drive In, Sleep Out, Guptill, O'Halloran and Upson want to spread awareness of how homelessness exists in Beaverton as well as provide solutions to help school-district-aged students and their families get back on track.

According to their website, "the Beaverton School district informed [them in] November [of] 2016, [that] there were 49 'unsheltered' students in the first two and half months of the school year. Unsheltered means students had no place to stay; they are not only without a home, but no temporary hotel, no crashing on a relative’s floor, no friends couch, or even a car [existed]. The growing number of unsheltered students is a heartbreaking crisis that needs immediate action."

Guptill and O'Halloran are passionate about Family Promise of Beaverton's cause and are excited to meet attendees this Saturday evening.

"There are so many people experiencing homelessness and our goal is to get them into housing and to transform their lives," O'Halloran says. "There are people who are able to transform their lives with very little help."

Focusing on the positive aspects of turning peoples' lives around, rather than the negative connotations homelessness sometimes has is what Drive In, Sleep Out is about: To learn what it's like to live one night in your car.

Guptill is excited to raise awareness about suburban homelessness.

"There are such a large number of students affected in Beaverton," she says. "Family Promise of Beaverton is a small piece to a community response. We need to keep furthering conversations about what we as a community want to do to change this.

"It's rough to sleep or live in your car. We might learn more compassion for the members of our community who are homeless. [Hopefully] people can look upon [others] with more compassion."

She's really impressed with the community for allowing Family Promise of Beaverton to do this event. The plans have been in the works for only two months and over $20,000 has been raised. Sponsors of the event are community members who believe in this cause.

"The outpouring of donations has been really heartwarming," Guptill says.

Beaverton City Councilor Lacy Beaty will be in attendance to address attendees with a speech. Her colleague Councilor Mark Fagin is participating (sleeping in his car). There have been great sponsors who have donated food so dinner will be served to all attendees and any park goers who may be homeless. Participants will also receive a T-shirt. The family-friendly Zootopia movie will be shown, whether it's raining or not. For any additional information, please e-mail

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

BeeBomber dives into success as it gears up for Pacific Northwest farmer's markets

WEST LINN, ORE. - Leann Calvi is an entrepreneur, mother and dreamer. She owns and operates an organic skincare, facial care and beauty company in Oregon called BeeBomber Organic Skincare LLC. She's a nurse and loves all things organic. She cares about what she, her family, friends, and customers apply to their skin.

What began as a years-long hobby turned into her entrepreneurial gig. BeeBomber is a relatively new company. Calvi has quickly become active in the farmer's market world showcasing her lovely products in the Portland, Ore. metropolitan area.

Her products are numerous: BeeBomber makes lip balms, facial cleansers, arnica gels, exfoliating soaps, natural deodorants, body scrubs, hand and body lotions, perfume, facial toners, moisturizers and more. While most of these products may appeal to women, she hasn't forgotten about the men: BeeBomber sells a "citrus spice beard bomb" which is a beard styling gel. (This could be the perfect Father's day present for the bearded men out there!)

Her products are also available for sale online through her Web site:

She believes in the power of nature to heal our skin. She believes in aromatherapy and as a nurse she understands the importance of proper health benefits.

"I've long been researching the use of botanicals in the healing of our bodies. Nature has so much to offer!" Calvi says.

While she loves all of the products her company creates, her favorite product is the Bee Timeless Facial Serum.

"It really turns back the clock in a short period of time with daily use," Calvi says. "It's filled with antioxidants and essential fatty acids that nourish and minimize the visible signs of aging."

The BeeBomber products are all certified organic. But what other cool components do her products offer? One of her products is Orange Nutmeg Hand and Body Lotion. Among its ingredients are radish root filtrates and a fermented coconut fruit extract. The fermentation of radishes provides bacterial protection and that coconut provides yeast and mold protection.

Prior to starting her business, she watered her vegetables in her garden one day and saw a bee dive bomb into a flower next to her hand ... and thus her business name was born. Many of her products contain the words "bomb" or "bee" in their names. Her husband is the marketing creative behind her cute labels... which includes a cartoon-esque illustration of a bee buzzing around. So just because the business name dove into her head that day in the garden, why does she have the bee theme going on? It's because she knows that beeswax, honey and bee pollen are great for skin.

Calvi will be selling her products at the lovely Bridgeport Village Mall beginning this Tuesday, June 6th from 4 to 8 p.m. Bridgeport Village Mall is located at 7455 S.W. Bridgeport Rd. in Tigard, OR. 97224.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Brunette in the 'Burbs

Hey ya'll....

So I'm an atypical, young brunette living in suburbia and I thought I'd share my thoughts on suburbia. 

I'm from suburbia and there are things I love about suburbia. Wide, clean streets. Room for kids to play. Big driveways. But as I'm now in my late twenties (and feeling wiser than I was two years ago), I think a lot about life and why I moved far to start a new chapter in my life. 

I sometimes tire of all the traffic and traffic lights of a highly populated metropolitan area. But people are nicer where I live now than where I came from. People are rushed ... a little bit. It's nice to drive without fear of getting into an accident every second, which was the case of where I'm from. It's nice that certain people - usually older people - smile and say hi to me as I walk by, even though we're strangers.  

But sometimes - oftentimes - I crave a smaller town vibe. Like take this view of the Olympic Mountains. I took this from a wonderful vantage point on Easter weekend. It was so peaceful and beutiful to be in a small, quiet town enjoying this amazing view. My amateur photography skills don't do the view justice. 

I want to know what a small town feel is like. But I'm more liberal in my thinking and I feel I'd need to go visit a liberal-minded smaller town. When I read about small towns - you know, towns that have a main street and fourth of July parades - I often wonder if the camaraderie is stronger among residents compared to the sporadic, rushed paces of residents of big cities. It seems like the Sally Sues and Johnny Jones' of pie baking contests might just be good friends because their small town population and love of pies brought them together. It seems like in the movies and in real life articles, that certain small towns in America are very charming and it seems like everyone knows each other. 

Of course, I haven't ever lived in a small town - like a town with fewer than 20,000 residents - but I have this sort of Americana, small town dream in my head. What is it like? Ya'll should let me know...

Ms. Parmigiani 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

One man's trash is another inventor's treasure

Portland, Ore. --- Have you ever thought about where your trash comes from and where it goes? Have you ever thought about how plastic is made? Have you ever thought of overseas manufacturing and its severe impact on workers' health and the planet's health?

Really cool things are happening in which people build buildings out of empty plastic bottles. I recently stumbled upon a cool article written by Sustainable Business Oregon.

There is a really cool non-profit in Portland, Oregon called Trash for Peace. This organization literally uses plastic bottles as trash can bins, wood from old pallets to build amazing benches, and uses rims of bike tires as trash cans.  Check this cool organization out at

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Stumbling upon nature

      The other day, I walked outside to get some fresh air. I was relieved to take a break from driving. Driving, going, pushing, running, walking, hurrying, moving, packing, unpacking ... is all I do. Work, shop, eat, sleep, clean. Rush. Rush. Rush.

      It was a Sunday and I needed some fresh air. I meandered around, happy to be outside without having anywhere to drive to or get to. I stumbled upon beautiful nature behind my complex. I see the new homes being resurrected, so I know I live in a new, up-and-coming residential area. But wandering around last Sunday just about 100 feet directly behind where I live was amazing.

     I found concrete street already poured. I found driveways already existing. I found curbs. I was told by a family member that this used to be the site of a former residential area. But I was still in awe of seeing the "Christmas" tree standing proudly at the end of a driveway where a mobile home used to be.

        I walked around, breathed in the crisp December air, and kept taking pictures. It was interesting to see nature - brush, trees void of their leaves, and Douglas Firs - running wild amongst the concrete slabs of forlorn driveways and empty, cracked streets, trying to overcome it. Man versus nature.

     I saw a tractor slumped near heaps of cylinder concrete blocks thrown randomly in a pile. Nature versus man. Beauty versus rubbish. Quiet versus noisy. Habitat close to nothing. 

         Who had lived here before? Who decided to "clean up" the area with brand new homes? I had never before seen the ghost of an old neighborhood. It was beautiful to see the abundance of the trees and brush trying to break free from the chain-like concrete. It was a very interesting contrast of what was once there - the nature that is trying to regrow and reclaim its land. It's sad knowing that these trees will be chopped down to make way for another lot of homes. Maybe the few that survived chopping for the formal locale of residents won't survive the chopping block for the new, modern layout the builder has in mind. 

      It was almost eery walking in this old neighborhood which was reclaimed by nature. But it was amazing. Old versus new. Black, old concrete set against brilliant trees. 

          As I noticed an old fence at what must've been the former property line, my ears noticed the road noise. I was near two very busy roads that intersected on a corner. Reality came back. I always hate when suburban neighborhoods exist because it means urban sprawl takes place. There are very few forests left in Oregon in the crowded areas due to masses of people dispersing from Portland. Ironically, I am from So Cal - the center of suburban sprawl - where no nature exists, but is rather captured by the builders: the money talkers (and the nature takers). Roads and roads and roads are built. A million stoplights are put in.

        But last Sunday, I didn't think about public transportation and how stoplights in suburbia need to be synchronized. I just truly enjoyed being artsy and enjoying my surroundings, observing all of the contrasting elements.

       Relax. Slow down. Walk. Observe.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

I made something I've never made before. I'm slowly starting to learn about gluten free foods, as I try to listen to what my body is telling me, how my body feels and what I might need to cut from my diet.

I'm not for sure if I have a gluten intolerance, but I do have major stomach problems. I decided one day I'd like to make gluten-free muffins. After weeks of searching online for gluten-free blueberry muffin recipes, I kept encountering recipe repertoires that consisted of long lists of ingredients that made me sigh in exasperation and I felt defeated. I didn't want to make muffins anymore.

I grew up baking and cooking with my mom and sister Sara (, making mouth-watering Italian dishes and American cookies that delighted even our pickiest-of-eaters friends. I'm thankful to my mom who taught me how to sautee, steam, roast vegetables, how to chiffonade, and how to execute recipes well. I also learned how to survive on my own as I moved out of the house because I had been cooking for years. I often created my own recipes, blowing my taste buds into new dimensions.

My mom learned how to cook from her father, a full Sicilian, who, to this day, still drinks Scotch and has two cups of coffee a day; my awesome grandpa who comments like we all have in our family when a cook hasn't prepared food to our expectations: "Eh ... I could've made this better at home."

But I finally found a recipe on that listed most of the ingredients I had. I no longer sighed in exasperation and defeat. I finally found a recipe that I was looking forward to baking. The recipe called for 2/3 a cup of rice milk; I had coconut milk, so I used that instead.

 I mixed all the dry ingredients together, and then added the wet ingredients - canola oil, coconut milk (my choice), vanilla extract and maple syrup (my choice to use in lieu of agave nectar). The last thing I added were blueberries, which I washed beforehand.

I was excited when I remembered I had these re-usable silicone muffin pan liners my sister Jenny bought me about two years ago for Christmas. I am so excited I never have to buy muffin liners again!

This picture above is of the mix right before I put the pan in the oven. But the most important thing is .... the end result! After letting the muffins cool in the pan, and then on the rack, I tried one and they were't bad. For gluten-free, it was actually good. It wasn't sweet at all. But it was good. 

I'm young, but I'm starting to realize our bodies change and I wasn't in as good of shape as I used to be in. I have to be extra careful about what I eat, even though I've always been healthy. I have to be healthier. I've cut a few things out of my diet as I'm trying to lose a little weight. 

Gluten-free baking and gluten-free food in general can have a lot of calories. I've noticed this more and more, and I think it's because other things are added to gluten-free products to make them taste better. But as long as I eat smaller quantities and things in moderation (gluten-free or not), I'll be fine. And now I have weekend snacks! 

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sometimes I'm on the hunt for quirky and "corky" things!

Cork Planter Bookend Set
Photo from

This combines my love of book ends and organizing!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

I hosted a Meet Up event over this past weekend. Other young women and I made Valentine-themed crafts. It was so fun! I made this wreath from an idea I found from the Internet. (Thanks Google.) It took awhile, but this wreath was easy to make!

I bought red yarn, a round, styrofoam wreath, pink, red and white felt, and a ribbon. A new friend donated heart stickers, which I placed on the wreath. While this wreath wasn't my idea, it was my idea to put on the heart stickers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A New Year Brings New Beginnings

Although it's already seven days into the month of January, I still feel this new year will be new, special and encouraging. To have something new or a new person enter one's life means to have something unfamiliar and of recent origin enter one's life. Something unfamiliar, obviously, is different.

To me a new year will hopefully mean a year which will bring about good and different things. There's a reason I moved far from where I grew up. I grew up in a safe home and neighborhood, never went hungry, and went to great schools (well, I don't think anyone enjoyed middle school.) To me, my new year will include having faith, a better attitude about things, and even more perseverance to get what I want and deserve (i.e. a career, etc.).

Sometimes change, even with a new year which subtly slips away from the old year, is the best thing for people.

I borrowed an Oprah magazine and read an article by the popular author and life coach Martha Beck. She is a smart lady. It's rare when I relate to an author who writes for a magazine which seems to appeal to women in their 40s, 50s and 60s, but as a mid-twenty-something woman, I really related to the article Take a Flying Leap. You should read it.

Not everyone is able to overcome their fear of failure or has the ambition to change. This article is about how if someone feels an intangible pull that they should change their life (Beck calls it 'the call'), that someone should and ought to change and listen to the call of life. Be smart. Don't let the negative people pull you back.

For each door that closes, I realize another one opens. I don't always see the "opening," but what's important is that I try. If at first I don't succeed, try and try again. Some common sayings are common for a reason - because they're true.

I really love the serenity prayer saying about God giving me the grace to accept the things I cannot change, and the courage to change the things I can. I also love a Mary Engelbreit quote. It has something to do with accepting how you think of stuff you cannot change (changing your perception), but changing the things that you have the control to change.

I have no idea what's going to happen this year. But I have a good feeling. Always trust your intuition. It exists to protect you.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The first wreath I ever made!

What's great about living where nature is abundant is that I was able to make this wreath from real tree branches and real holly berries from my friend's holly berry bush in her yard!

It took a little time making it, but it was easy. All I did was use ties to bind the branches to a hanger (a metal one which I spread out in to a circle).

Now all I need is a wreath hanger! 

Happy holidays!!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The art of using up ingredients

For breakfast yesterday morning, I decided I wanted something a little bit more interesting. Even though I wasn't born in Italy, I truly feel like I have roots to my Italian heritage. I like how Italians seem to always find ways to use miscellaneous ingredients and don't waste food. I don't like wasting food. Since I cook for just myself, I always get creative of how to use food up before it starts rotting.

I made a wonderful sandwich. On medium heat and after I drizzled olive oil in the grill pan, I grilled a few tomato slices, whole garlic cloves and slices of a yellow squash. Then I grilled two slices of bread - bread I had on hand which I normally use for toasting. If I had a delicious ciabatta or sourdough bread, I would've grilled that; but again, I just used what I had on hand.

I layered the squash and tomatoes on the slice, and tucked the garlic cloves in. I added a few slices of basil leaves (I washed them of course) to my sandwich, and spritzed the mound with a little bit of salt and pepper, then added the top slice of bread.

I bit into the sandwich and I closed my eyes because it tasted so good. There is definitely an art to grilling, and luckily when I grill or roast my veggies, they always come out fantastically well. The vegetables are never hard - they are tender and the juices and fragrances are released.

It's amazing that such a simple sandwich is simply divine!

Mangia mangia!!