May 29, 2012

i really should be working ...

I had my gallbladder removed last week. (That's a post for another day.) My yearbook submission date was May 25, but I knew there was no way I'd feel like working on yearbook right after my surgery, so I got an extension from my yearbook rep. Now I'm back at work and feeling good, so it's time to buckle down and finish the yearbook. So tonight, I silenced my phone, turned on some music, and sat down with a stack of spreads to proofread.

That was three hours ago. In those three hours, I did manage to proofread three spreads. But I also ...
  • Carried on a Facebook conversation with Blendy and Janae about The Bachelorette. I have somehow managed to be spoiler free so far this season, so I have no idea what's coming down the pike ... and I'd like to keep it that way! My top three right now are Arie, Doug, and Sean. And Kalon and Ryan so have to go!
  • Perused this list of celebrity Republicans. I have no idea how accurate it is, but I always knew I liked Freddie Prinze, Jr.!
  • Watched a couple episodes of What I Like About You. (Yes, Val, "Ground-Turkey-Hog-Day" was one of them!)
  • Fell into that black hole known as YouTube. Seriously! What is it about being under pressure that makes terrible fan videos so appealing?
  • Played "Words with Friends" on Facebook. I'm truly terrible, but I enjoy it—and I'd be willing to play any of you ... just send me a request!
  • Fell into that black hole known as Pinterest. I am totally trying this tightlining tip I found!
And now, it's time for bed. Maybe it's time to start using LeechBlock again!

    May 20, 2012

    crafting with blendy & becky: rice heat therapy bag

    The title of this post should actually be "Crafting with Susan & Becky"—when I told Blendy I wanted to make these rice therapy bags (discovered through Pinterest, of course) for our April craft project, she politely declined. So I turned to the woman whose help I would have needed to enlist anyway: my mom!

    I think the last time I used a sewing machine, I was a freshman in high school. The sewing part of Home Ec was rather tramatic for me—we were required to make items of clothing and then wear them to school. This was bad enough on its own, but the day I chose to wear my terrible plaid jumper was also a day I stayed after school to work on yearbook. So did my cousin, who was responsible for the yearbook page of the yearbook ... and she took a picture of me working on my spread. So my horrible jumper is now immortalized on the pages of The Reflector. After that experience, I swore off sewing ... until now!

    Apparently, when I swore off sewing, I really swore it off because I remembered virtually nothing. My mom had to basically hold my hand the whole way through—from cutting out the fabric to pinning it together to threading the sewing machine to actually sewing!

    If you want detailed instructions, you should really go to "Sew, Mama, Sew!"—the site that inspired me. They give great directions! I didn't really follow their directions, though—I needed something simpler. So here's what I did ...

    Find a fun fabric for your bag. Or you could do what I did and raid your mom's fabric scraps! (I didn't care if my bag was particularly beautiful ... after all, I was going to be the one sewing it!)

    Cut fabric into approximately 8x20 inch rectangle. Fold in half to create 8x10 inch rectangle. If you have a fabric that doesn't look the same on both sides, be sure to fold so the right sides (what will be on the outside at the end) are together.

    Pin on the three non-folded sides. Leave about four inches unpinned.

    Sew. Try to keep your lines straight. (I was very bad at this.) Be sure not to sew the unpinned section.

    Trim the edges and turn the fabric right side out.

    Pour two pounds of rice into a bowl. Add 10-ish drops of essential oil and stir together. (You may need more or less—adjust until it smells right to you. I went WAY overboard with my cinnamon bark. Repeat after me: Less is more!)

    Carefully fill bag with rice.

    Stitch the hole closed. (Sorry, I can't give better directions for that—I did what Mom told me to do, but I don't think I can accurately describe it!)

    To use your bag, heat it in the microwave in 30-second increments until it's as warm as you'd like.


    Note: This really was my April craft, and I did everything up to the rice part in April. It just took me a while to get my essential oils, so I finished in May.

    May 19, 2012

    need a saturday morning laugh?

    So true! My favorite line: Do you wanna be Jim & Pam, or do you wanna be Ross & Rachel?

    May 15, 2012

    guest post: "leopard" by rae zhong

    Here is the final installment in the series of short stories written by my students. Today's story, which received first place votes from several students in the class, is rather morbid. Despite the "ick" factor (or perhaps because of it), I really enjoyed this story, the first place winner in our contest. (See Natalie's second place story here and Elaine's third place story here.)

    by Rae Zhong

    It was at noon when I woke up, and I was in an unfamiliar place. The last thing I can remember was the sound of a gun. I was hungry. I tore off the bloody flesh from the chicken which was just two feet away from me, the scarlet liquid splashing upon my face and the grass.

    Stale. Yuck.

    I ate part of his body and threw the rest in the brushwood. The bloodstained chicken corpse made me sick.

    “Hey, take it easy, buddy. Don’t waste your food.” There was a voice from the tree behind me. I ignored him. Because that’s the way I treated a stranger.

    “I know this is your first day here, but as a leopard, especially in a zoo, you can’t be picky on your food. I understand you want to have something that tastes delicious, yet in this place, the choices could only be chicken, chicken, or chicken.” The leopard smiled and swung his tail, looking like he'd been telling a funny joke, although it sounded dumb to me.

    In the next hour, he was being so loquacious that it seemed to me his tongue was going to fall off from his mouth. His name was Jeffery, which was given to him by his feeder. I sneered at him. "We are wild and solitary hunters. We don’t need names. Names are for little cats that are obedient to humans."

    “You act exactly just like me when I first came here,” he said, “Arrogant and unbending. I tell you, time will swallow and perish all of your pride. Once you are here, you will never escape from this cage. Your world is this forest and the people outside the iron fence. And don’t even try to run off; they would seize you again.”

    I didn’t retort; neither did I tell him the plan that was already in my head.

    Life in the zoo was miserable. People turned us nocturnal animals into diurnal just because the zoo opened during the day. We could not have any freedom on hunting food nor choosing food. We could not even stay in the cave because people would not be able to see us. The only thing we could do is walk in front of the fence in order to let people visit us.

    I wanted to end this boring life as quickly as possible.

    So I obeyed everything the humans said, acted just like a biddable kitty. I didn’t bite or roar at anyone. I ate what they gave me. I wagged my tail like a stupid dog while they were feeding me. I smiled at them even though they could not understand a leopard’s smile. I could tell they trusted me bit by bit. I waited patiently until one day my feeder approached me with another disgusting chicken, calling me “Tom” (what an ugly name!), and I knew that it was time.

    It was time for escape.

    I immediately jumped on the feeder, using my claws to scratch his arms and legs. I saw shock and fear on his face, and I saw my dreadful face in his pupil. Was this right? I doubted myself for just one moment. "But what can you do? Stay in the zoo till you die?" another part of me retorted.

    “Tom! What are you doing! Stop! ” It was Jeffery. Oh, I forgot he was in there, too. He ran to me, tried to separate us. “Don’t you know what it would cost you to kill a human? Your life! ” He shouted at me. I knew. I didn’t plan to kill people. I just tried to run off. The back door of the leopard forest was unlocked and two workers of the zoo were standing outside. They saw me running to them. They tried to shut the door. But it was too late. I jumped on the open door and broke it with my cuspid, and those frightened people ran away.

    I heard Jeffery yelling, but I could not stop myself. I kept running like an arrow shooting out of the bow. I ran out of the zoo. I ran into the city. I made a huge ruckus among the frightened people. I didn’t stop until my shins cramped and my claws hurt. And I realized I was at the outside of the city. There was only grass, trees and mud roads around me.

    Am I free?

    I could not tell. I was out of the cage, but I had no clue where I was. I didn’t know how far it was from here to my home or how long would it take to go there. What could I do?

    I was depressed. I missed my talkative friend Jeffery. I missed his dumb jokes, his laughing, and his amiable advice. I regretted my actions. Well, kind of. Yet I knew I would never go back to the zoo. I walked and walked. I hunted a rabbit. I ripped his head off, tasted his fresh flesh, but it didn’t taste as good as I thought it would.

    "What’s wrong?" I sighed.

    Suddenly, my legs started walking back. I could not control them; it was not my brain that told them to do so. The direction was to the zoo. I was insane. Yes, I was sure of it. The light wind blew my soft fur, leading me to the place I hated but missed.

    I was going back.

    I heard the sound of a gun.

    The last sound I heard in my life.

    CITY NEWSPAPER: The leopard that ran out of the zoo was found dead. Greedy hunters stripped off his fur and threw his dead body in a field.

    About the author: Rae Zhong (center) is a sophomore from China. Art is her passion. She also participates in music, speech, and track.

    May 11, 2012

    guest post: "confession of the big bad wolf" by natalie bui

    Today we have the 2nd place winner in my students' writing contest. (See the 3rd place story here.) You never know what you'll get when you ask students to write from the perspective of an animal! Here's a twist on The Three Little Pigs ...

    Confession of the Big Bad Wolf
    by Natalie Bui

    “Stop…What’s happening? Wolves can write, and a confession? But, not just any wolf? That’s…the big bad wolf. A….a…a…”

    Those might be some of the questions that are popping out of your head after you have run at least a mile away from me. I must admit that yes, I can speak human language and yes, I am the Big Bad Wolf. What’s wrong with that anyway? It’s not my fault that you are scared of me. It’s old Grimm’s fault. He always says bad things about me just because I’m hungry, and I want to eat. Like anyone else, I have emotion, too. In fact, I’m very shy and sensitive. But now, I have to stand out, to clear my name from all that bad reputation, and to tell you what really happened that night between me and the three little pigs.

    After a long, starving weekend, I went hunting again. It was Easter Break, so most animals in the forest had gone away to visit their families. I’d been walking forever, but still, there was no food in sight. Fortunately, I saw a big pond full of fish. Filled with happiness, I immediately jumped right into the pool and caught lots of fish. What? You say you’ve never seen a wolf that eats fish before? Well, use your imagination. It’s a fairy tale. Let’s get back to my story. I was enjoying my fish prize when a big drop of rain fell on my face as well as my newly-made fire. Wet and exhausted, I fell down and cried, desperately holding my half-cooked fish in my hand, wishing that a fairy godmother might appear. Suddenly, I heard music coming from afar. I immediately hopped up from desperateness, put the fish in my bag and started to run as fast as I could to where the music came from. After a mile or so, I ran across a beautiful house made out of straw. Beautiful but flimsy, I told myself. Through the window, I saw a little pig singing and dancing joyfully. I hurriedly knocked on the door.

    "Dear little pig, I’m cold and wet. Could you please let me in?" I asked. Unfortunately, I not only have the ugliest look but also the most recognizable voice in the world: evil, creepy and somehow girly!

    The poor little pig yelled out: "Never! Go away, Big Bad Wolf!"

    My nose tickled, and a sneeze came before I could stop myself. A-A-Ah-Chooooooooooooo……………!

    I must have had a cold. Straw overwhelmed my face. When I opened my eyes, the straw house had magically disappeared. Where was this super power coming from? It must have been the result of my track practice recently. The poor terrified little pig had dashed away as fast as he could.

    "Wait! I’m so sorry! I will help you build that house again!" I exclaimed. I sprinted after him with the fish bags smacking on my back. He got into another house made of sticks and locked it.

    Better than a straw house, but still not so safe, I thought. Through the window, I saw two pigs shaking with fright. It must be his brother over there. I asked again: "Dear little pig, I’m cold and wet. Could you please let me in?"

    “Never, go away Big Bad Wolf!" they answered.

    That was when I felt like another sneeze coming.  A-A-Ah-Chooooooooooooo……………! 

    A rain of sticks fell upon my head. Again, the two little pigs disappeared before I could explain anything. I followed them immediately. This stupid fish bag was getting heavier and heavier because of the rain. Finally, I came to a gorgeous house made of bricks. Through the window, I saw three pigs with stunned faces. How many brother pigs are there? Again, I asked: "Dear little pig, I’m cold and wet. Could you please let me in?"

    "Never, go away Big Bad Wolf!" they shouted out.

    That’s when I felt a sneeze coming in. Not again! Oh please, oh God, I prayed, I will definitely die if a rain of bricks falls on my head this time.  A-A-Ah-Chooooooooooooo……………! 

    Fortunately, God was fast. The house was still there, and I was still alive. I jumped with joy and happiness. Unfortunately, I ended up landing on their chimney. This must have been another result of my track practice. Suddenly, I smelled something. That’s weird. I smell like BBQ, I thought. I looked down, just to see smoke coming out from my feet. I screamed in horror, and jumped back out. I landed safely on the ground, but it felt like I was missing something. My tail….and my fish had become part of the Pigs' supper. I walked away, hungry, wet and burned, feeling terrible. Well, I did hear that Little Red Riding Hood will visit her grandma next week. I should try my luck then!

    And as they say: “And they all lived happily ever after. The end.”

    About the author:
    Natalie Bui (left) is a sophomore from Vietnam. She was a member of her school's speech team in 2011-2012, and she was the novice serious prose champion at one meet. She enjoys reading and sleeping in her spare time.

    May 9, 2012

    guest post: "love or die" by elaine chen

    May is that insanely busy time when my life gets super stressful because of looming yearbook deadlines. This year is worse than most because, well, my staff and I have really struggled to get pages finished! Through the end of May, I probably won't be creating much original content for this blog, other than a few book reviews. But I do have a treat for you! I recently held a writing contest in my ESL Reading class. The students were to write a story from an animal's perspective, and the top three entries would receive bonus points on the final and be published on my blog. Today, we have the third place winner. Be sure to leave a comment telling Elaine what you think of her story!

    Love or Die
    by Elaine Chen

    This is the city of spiders. The most remarkable scene is in front of an elegant house, and many spiders are waiting outside.

    “Sorry, I can’t.” This is my daily conversation with my suitors because I want to find someone who loves every aspect of me and not only my beauty. I am a pretty Black Widow spider; my name is Abby. I think those suitors only like my beauty and don’t know me. However, one particular day, the one appears who will make my wish come true.

    This night I hear the most familiar melody: “Never mind, I'll find someone like you; I wish nothing but the best for you, too. Don’t forget me, I beg; I remember you said. Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.” This is my favorite song. I begin to find who is singing this song. 

    I see a spider under my window, and he is playing a guitar. He is a tarantula spider not a black widow spider. But he is a really handsome boy and he has nice voice. I feel good about this, so I begin talking with him. His name is Hitler and he likes to sing. He also is an attractive boy. Tonight is the darkest night, so he can't really see my face. I think I find a nice boy, and he really loves me, not just my beauty. I don’t care that we are not same kind of spider. I just know I love him and he loves me. I want to be with him. So quickly we are married. I think I am the most happy spider who ever lived in the world. 

    After a while I have a new trouble; I am expecting a baby. In my family, if we have a baby, we need to kill the husband because we need to have more nutrition. If I don't kill my husband, I will die. My husband doesn't know this law because he is a tarantula, not a black widow. I feel very tangled because I don’t know what to do. I don’t want to kill my husband. I love him to much. For a long time, I feel confused. Finally I make a decision. I have to sacrifice myself for my husband, but I will not tell my husband why I am dying. 

    I feel more and more weak. Tonight I lay on my bed, and I feel someone close to me. Eventually, I can’t move or speak. Then I see my husband Hitler by my bed. I want to ask him to help me. But he doesn't say anything or do anything. He just looks at me, and then he begins to cry. “I feel sorrow about that, my dear. Your friend told me every black widow will kill their husband. I know you will kill me and eat me; if you don’t eat me you will die. But I don’t want to die, so I just will eat you. I am so sorry. You need to remember I will love you forever.” 

    I want to tell him I will not eat him, but I can’t speak. I also want to tell him my body has toxins. If you eat me, you will die also. But I do not have the strength.

    After that, I hear the most familiar melody: “Never mind, I'll find someone like you; I wish nothing but the best for you, too. Don’t forget me, I beg; I remember you said. Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead.”

    Finally we all die.

    About the author:
    Elaine Chen (right) is a sophomore from China. She is currently a sophomore. Elaine enjoys playing on her computer in her spare time.

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