Vernal verses: a diversion from test-taking dread

by William Walker, junior writing coach

The trees are leafing out!

The birds have begun to shout!

The other day 

I saw my first cottonwood fluff of the year!

Hip hip Hooray! 

Finally, some doggone good stuff—spring is here. 

But before we all can truly relax and enjoy the delightful weather, there’s one big thing on many of our plates: testing. Ewwwwwww! I know, sometimes the urge is strong to banish Trevor Packer and all that he represents to somewhere far away where they can’t hurt us anymore, but that’s unfortunately difficult and probably illegal. Also, the college credit/GPA boost can be nice (STILL DOESN’T MEAN IT’S FUN THOUGH). 

As a backup option, I bring you springtime poetry, that it might soothe your test-taking woes! As you can see from the start of this post, my poetry skills are simply out of this world. I’m afraid I can’t show you much more, lest I burn your eyes out with its sheer stellar magnificence. Instead, you’re gonna have to make do with whatever other stuff I have on hand.

Get comfortable! Take a refreshing sip of water (or other choice beverage). Up first is “Dear One Absent This Long While”, by Lisa Olstein. 

It has been so wet stones glaze in moss;

everything blooms coldly.

I expect you. I thought one night it was you

at the base of the drive, you at the foot of the stairs,

you in a shiver of light, but each time

leaves in wind revealed themselves,

the retreating shadow of a fox, daybreak.

We expect you, cat and I, bluebirds and I, the stove.

In May we dreamed of wreaths burning on bonfires

over which young men and women leapt.

June efforts quietly.

I’ve planted vegetables along each garden wall

so even if spring continues to disappoint

we can say at least the lettuce loved the rain.

I have new gloves and a new hoe.

I practice eulogies. He was a hawk

with white feathered legs. She had the quiet ribs

of a salamander crossing the old pony post road.

Yours is the name the leaves chatter

at the edge of the unrabbited woods.

(It’s a bit sadboi. You might imagine it as some kind of elegy for the speaker’s test scores! Or perhaps even a teacher yearning for the return of a long-missing assignment!!)

Our next poem is a bit more warm and springy. I hope you enjoy “More Than Enough”, by Marge Piercy:

The first lily of June opens its red mouth.

All over the sand road where we walk

multiflora rose climbs trees cascading

white or pink blossoms, simple, intense

the scene drifting like colored mist.

The arrowhead is spreading its creamy

clumps of flower and the blackberries

are blooming in the thickets. Season of

joy for the bee. The green will never

again be so green, so purely and lushly

new, grass lifting its wheaty seedheads

into the wind. Rich fresh wine

of June, we stagger into you smeared

with pollen, overcome as the turtle

laying her eggs in roadside sand.

I read it just as a celebration of spring and a reminder to enjoy the world around you. Good advice. Finally, here’s “Today”, by the one and only Billy Collins:

If ever there were a spring day so perfect,

so uplifted by a warm intermittent breeze

that it made you want to throw

open all the windows in the house

and unlatch the door to the canary’s cage,

indeed, rip the little door from its jamb,

a day when the cool brick paths

and the garden bursting with peonies

seemed so etched in sunlight

that you felt like taking

a hammer to the glass paperweight

on the living room end table,

releasing the inhabitants

from their snow-covered cottage

so they could walk out,

holding hands and squinting

into this larger dome of blue and white,

well, today is just that kind of day.

Thank you for joining me today in enjoying this poetry. I wish you all the swift arrival of “today”, whenever it may be! You’ve made it this far; summer is just about 4 weeks away! Until then, strap in tight, but don’t forget to occasionally take a moment to pause, relax, and maybe take a pleasant walk. Perhaps “today” is today; it’d be a shame to let it pass you by!

Happy Birthday to Me!

by Tyler Wasielewski, junior writing coach

8 Awesome Birthday Cakes | A Cup of Jo

Ah yes, I’ve survived one more revolution around the burning ball of gas that is our sun. I’m quite happy to be celebrating 17 years of life and I think it’s fair for me to say that along with the doctor that extracted me instead of delivering me, I owe my life to my parents. After raising two boys of their own who were approaching the threshold to becoming teens, what could go possibly wrong with raising two teenagers and a toddler?” And well… They did one helluva job. I’m very grateful for that they’ve done for me over the past 17 years. One of the things I’m most grateful for is how they nurtured my interest in music; they helped foster this interest into the musician I am today! Which leads me to what I’ll be doing with you, my dear reader, today! In celebration of this somewhat peculiar tradition, I’d like to blend the festivities with my love for music and share with you some insight about the music surrounding birthdays.

Now you may have heard about how the famous Happy Birthday song was copyrighted and that because of this, your favorite shows had to sing some knock-off from Wish. But, did you know that this seemingly simple song’s origins are slightly more complex than what you would have originally thought? The song was originally written by Patty and Mildred Hill, who released the song originally as “Good Morning to all” in a book for children’s songs. Apparently, the children loved these songs so much, they made some mad remixes of them by changing the lyrics for different occasions and eventually gave life to what we all know as the Happy birthday song! Eventually, this song was bought by The Summy Company and was then passed around until it ended up in the hands of Warner Bros to which they held onto the copyright for the song until 2015! The judge overlooking this copyright realized that the copyright only applied to a certain transcription for the piano and the copyright on the song became void! The WB company amassed almost more than 50 million dollars from this song alone!

Now that the copyright is now void, we can now have the privilege of hearing the song on TV or in restaurants because it’s no longer under the control of Warner Bros. After learning about its copyright, all of the pieces fell into place. All those years of wondering why TV shows would sing “For he’s a jolly good fellow” and why certain restaurants would have some lame song based off of their restaurants for MY birthday finally came to an end as I realized that they literally couldn’t sing the songs without having to pay a large sum of money to the song’s previous overlords at Warner Bros. 

In the spirit of this deceivingly complex song, I would like to share with you a video that I really enjoy that is nearly 20 minutes of just Happy birthday song remixes. This video was created by the pianist Nahre Sol. In it she plays different compositions of the song in the styles of different composers. She provides brief descriptions of what is happening while she is playing the song and they explain the composer’s style. From the regimented baroque era of Bach, to the flowy impressionism of Debussy, to the more odd contemporary styles of Cage, Sol has all of her bases covered when it comes to each era of piano music. If you ever get the chance to watch it or are interested in what made each composer’s style so unique, I highly recommend that you watch her video (I really enjoy the styles of Beethoven, Chopin, Satie, and Debussy)! It’s my gift to you, happy listening!

Skincare FAQs

by Steven Wang, senior writing coach

My skin has been through a lot. Salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, retinoids — none of it stopped the pesky pustules that scattered my forehead. It wasn’t until I changed up my routine and saw my dermatologist that my skin began to clear up. And, with the hot, humid summer weather coming our way, a lot of our skin concerns are starting to resurface. So, what better time to talk about skin issues than now? 

Here are some answers to common skincare questions by yours truly, Steven Wang.


Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What’s a common skincare routine?

Repeat the steps below morning and night:
Cleanser: find a gentle cleanser that does not strip the skin of its natural oils.

Treatment: utilize an active ingredient to target existing skin problems (acne, hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, etc.).

Moisturizer: layer a thin gel or cream to protect the skin and lock in moisture after cleansing.

SPF (morning only): apply sunscreen to prevent premature aging, dark spots, and skin cancers.


How do I cleanse my face?
Take a pea-sized amount of the product and apply it to a wet face. Lightly massage the cleanser into the skin for thirty seconds and wash off with water. Gently pat the skin dry to avoid any friction. Aggressive tugging on the skin can actually damage the skin.

How do I choose a treatment?

Here’s where it gets complicated. There are tons of active ingredients available on the market to target concerns from eczema to cystic acne, but I’ll be going through some of the common ones.

Benzoyl Peroxide: an antibacterial that drys out the skin and prevents acne.

Salicylic Acid: a beta-hydroxy acid that softens clogs in the pore.

Retinoid: a cream that increases the rate of cell turnover, improving acne or wrinkles.

Vitamin C: a skin brightening agent.

Hylauronic Acid: an ingredient offering an extra layer of hydration.

Are there different types of moisturizers?

Yes! For more oily skin, I recommend a lightweight gel. It’s tempting to not moisturize when your skin is shiny, but adding that thin layer can prevent your skin from drying out, overcompensating, and producing extra oil as a result. For dryer skin, a thicker cream can be used to lock in moisture instead!

How important is sunscreen?

Sunscreen is a must if you care about skin cancer and aging. In fact, the Skin Cancer Foundation states that 90% of visible skin aging is attributed to the sun! And, believe it or not, SPF can also help with acne. After a pimple grows inflamed and exposed to light, it leaves behind a dark mark known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). Applying sunscreen every morning can reduce the appearance of the mark and leave the complexion looking clear and glowy.


Unfortunately, these tips won’t be a perfect fix to any skin issue, but you can always contact me if you need more advice. Still, I guarantee that you’ll walk away with something new. 

Why I Love Being Ethiopian/Eritrean – Take a Look into My Culture!

by Lydia Kahsay, sophomore writing coach

If you know me, you probably know that my family is from Ethiopia and Eritrea, countries in Northeast Africa, specifically, in the Horn of Africa. My heritage holds a deep place in my heart, and I love telling people about it. So, in honor of that, here is a list of things I love about my culture!

1. The Food!

Look at these gorgeous platters…

If you have never tried Ethiopian/Eritrean food, you’re missing out. Regardless of your dietary restrictions, there are options for everyone! Our food is vegetarian/vegan friendly, and you can also find dishes containing meat. We call our food injera, which is a sourdough flatbread that is spread out on a plate, with different dishes placed onto it. Injera is made from a grain called teff, which is naturally vegan and gluten-free. Injera is used to scoop the dishes up (no utensils needed at all!) and eaten. 

Injera

Popular Meat-Dishes:

Doro Wat

Doro Wat is a spicy chicken stew, made with berbere (traditional spice mix). The chicken is slow-cooked in the spice blend consisting of berbere, onions, garlic, and ginger, with hard-boiled eggs added when the dish is almost ready. This is such a great dish to eat, and if you eat meat – it’s a must-try! 

Tibs

Derek (crispy) beef tibs in a shekla dist (traditional clay holder), with awaze (spicy sauce) on the side.
More tibs! Instead of derek tibs, these are softer and juicier.

Tibs is a dish containing diced beef or lamb, sauteed with onions, jalapeños, garlic, and rosemary. There are different variations of this dish, as other vegetables can also be added to it. Simple, yet so delicious!

Kitfo

Kitfo is ground beef with kibe (traditional spiced butter) and traditional chili spices. It’s cooked for a little bit, so although it may look completely raw, it’s not entirely! If you aren’t comfortable with eating raw/almost raw meat, kitfo can be cooked to your personal liking.

Popular Vegan + Vegetarian Dishes:

Beyaynetu (Combination platter)

Beyaynetu, which translates to “combination”, is a platter of vegan dishes, ranging from stews, and mixed vegetables, served on injera. Shiro, (which is my personal favorite!) is a spicy chickpea stew, and is absolutely delicious! There are tons of vegan-friendly dishes in Ethiopian/Eritrean cuisine, as these options stem from religious practice. Don’t these platters look delicious? I can confirm that they most definitely are! 

Helpful descriptions of each vegan dish!

One more thing I would like to mention when it comes to our food, is, the act of gursha! In our culture, we provide gurshas to those we love and respect. A gursha is basically the act of feeding injera to one another. While eating as a group, we scoop a dish into the injera, feeding the person we choose to give the gursha to. This is an act that may sound strange to Westerners, but I can assure you – it is filled with beautiful tradition, rooted in love, kindness, and respect, strengthening our relationships with one another. 

The second day of a traditional wedding (melse), with the bridesmaids feeding gurshas to the bride and groom!

Another food-related custom that I love, is the tradition of using one large platter to eat together. In many of the photos shown above, large platters have been utilized. Eating together is a very important part of our culture, emphasizing the connection, love, relationship, and community between us!

As there is a large Ethiopian and Eritrean community here in the Twin Cities, I encourage you to visit some Ethiopian restaurants and try our food – you won’t regret it! 

There is definitely more I could talk about when it comes to our traditional food and customs, but, I should keep going. There’s so much more I love about my culture that I’m excited to share with you all!

2. The Community and Diversity!

The relationships formed within the Ethiopian/Eritrean community are a very close one, which is another thing I love about my culture. Our culture tends to be very family-oriented, as we have a deep love for our families, prioritizing family needs, with an emphasis on respecting elders. Our culture is also very diverse, as, fun fact – Ethiopia contains over 80 ethnic groups, with over 80 languages spoken in the country. Eritrea contains 9 (recognized) ethnic groups! This brings a level of diversity like no other, as the two countries are filled with unique cultures, customs, and traditions that vary from each ethnic group. Ethiopia is one of the oldest countries in the world, and Christianity, Judaism, and Islam have been in the country for many centuries! You’ll find different faces, languages, traditions, and a way of life in each part of Ethiopia and Eritrea. Regardless of the differences in ethnic tribe or culture, we are still one as Ethiopians and Eritreans. Isn’t that beautiful?

Map of the prominent ethnic groups in Ethiopia (left map), and Eritrea (right map) 

—– 

The beautiful faces of Ethiopia and Eritrea!

3. The Pride We Have in Our Culture! 

It’s no doubt that Ethiopians and Eritreans have a deep sense of pride and love for our culture. This is especially evident in the diaspora around the world. We are filled with pride in the depth and beauty our culture and countries have to hold, and in each of our traditions. Another fun fact – Ethiopia is the only country in Africa to never have been colonized by any country! This gives us a big sense of pride! Ethiopians and Eritreans around the world continuously find ways to connect, build community, and celebrate our rich and beautiful culture. 

4. The Coffee! 

Coffee (buna in Amharic, bunn in Tigryina) is extremely important within our culture. Although it is not 100% known where coffee originated, it is said that coffee originated from Ethiopia. Some share the legend/story of a ninth-century goat herder, named Kaldi. While in the forest, his goats ate some coffee berries, and became extremely energetic at night, unable to sleep. Perplexed by this, Kaldi decided to also try the berries, eventually becoming energized, as well. From there, coffee was discovered, after he shared it with those around him. 

We hold traditional coffee ceremonies, as this is a very significant part of our culture. You might be wondering, how do you perform your coffee ceremonies? First, fresh grass (or a mat) is spread out across the floor on which the ceremony will be performed on. Second, the jebena (clay coffeepot) is filled with water and placed on top of heat. Then, the coffee beans are rinsed in a separate pan, and once clean, they become roasted. Once the beans are roasted, the aroma of the coffee beans fills the home! The beans then become crushed, turning into coarse ground. At this point, the water in the jebena is hot and ready. The coffee ground is poured into the jebena, then set back on the heat to boil. Once boiled, the coffee is ready, and served into beautiful and delicate traditional coffee cups! 

Example of a woman preparing buna/bunn in the traditional ceremony!

5. The Beauty!

Ethiopia and Eritrea are beautiful countries, with unique and incredible landscapes. I love traveling to both countries, as the diversity of the landscape leaves me in awe. Every single part of both countries are fascinating and beautiful, and I constantly find myself learning something new on each trip I embark on with my family. From the mountains to the forests, and many astonishing sights, you won’t be disappointed. The history that is rooted in certain architecture is incredible, and each part of Ethiopia and Eritrea are filled with such deep and stunning things. I could go on and on about the beauty and landscape of the countries! 

The Danakil Depression

——-

Every time I think about my culture, my heritage, and the journey and sacrifice of my parents immigrating to this country, I am astonished and filled with gratitude. I am thankful to have been raised in a home where my parents emphasized the importance of staying connected and close to our heritage, through the language, food, clothing, tradition, and more. To echo what I have mentioned many times throughout this post – I love my culture, and where my family comes from. I am filled with pride in my roots, and I will never get tired of talking about my culture. There is so much more I could write about in regards to what I love about my culture, as it’s a never-ending list. The love I have for my heritage fills me with so much joy, and I hope you were able to learn more about my culture, and enjoy it! So, from myself to you, አመሰግናለሁ/የቐንየለይ! Thank you for reading! (Written in Amharic/Tigrinya)

(Lastly, I would also like to spread awareness about the current situation and conflict in Ethiopia. The things that have been occurring are atrocious and incredibly devastating, and I would encourage you to read about the situation, and help out in any way that you can. Thank you.)

April Fool’s Prank

by April Wang, sophomore writing coach

Hello, this is April (the writer of this article, not a personified version of the month or anything)! Isn’t it fitting that I’m writing for the first day of April? While you’re here reading this post, let me share some of what having a name like mine entails, which I’m sure you must be incredibly curious about. 

The most common question I get regarding my name is whether I was born in April. The inevitable follow-up question is whether my parents named me April because I was born in April—to which my default answer is, “They say no, but I think yes.” I have perfected this answer through many years of trial and error.

There is another, slightly more unexpected consequence of sharing my name with a month. One day in sixth grade, I had been working with my classmates when I heard the teacher shout out emphatically, “April!” I jumped and whipped around to see what had prompted my teacher to call for me so emphatically, only to find that she had been announcing the date of our final exam. This series of events has repeated countless times.

A major advantage of having a name like April, however, is that I’m allowed to claim 30 days out of each year as mine. This has made up for many of the small inconveniences my name has brought.

Are you wondering why I’ve been talking about my name so much? Looking at the title of this post, you’re probably expecting some sort of prank in honor of April Fools’ Day. You’d be partially right: the prank is that there is no prank!

April Fools’!

So there was no such prank before I began writing this post, but now I have written it into existence. Now that it exists, I’ve shared my name-related April Fools’ prank. But since the prank depends on not having a prank, it’s no longer valid. And since it’s no longer valid, the prank is once again valid. It’s become a paradox*!

Has April’s April Fools’ Day paradox-prank messed with your head a bit? Being named April, I have an unspoken responsibility to embody the April spirit, and part of that includes bringing some confusion and chaos to the first day of April 😉

Happy April Fools’ Day!

*A paradox (as defined on literaryterms.net) is a statement that contradicts itself, or that must be both true and untrue at the same time.

Happy Waffle Day!

by Jasmine Wong, sophomore writing coach

Happy International Waffles Day!! Today, March 25th, is the day where all the waffle lovers out there can celebrate their undying love for the crispy, golden, sweet breakfast treat. With spring break just around the corner, this break would be the perfect opportunity to celebrate by making some fresh waffles or experimenting with new waffle flavors. Now, in celebration of this exceptionally important holiday, I have prepared three unique waffle recipes that stray from the classic waffles everyone knows. In preparation for these recipes, I browsed the internet for inspiration for peculiar flavors that many people have never tried. As a result, the three different recipes I recreated were Bacon Waffles, Chocolate Orange Waffles, and Raspberry Pistachio Waffles. Do not worry! All of these recipes are super duper easy and simple! This is coming from a person who couldn’t figure out how to use a waffle maker correctly and proceeded to partially melt and ruin a silicone spatula, then could only get a burned pile of waffle remains as a product. Not one single waffle survived that mess. As you can see, my first attempt went extraordinarily well. Nevertheless, I eventually did successfully make the waffles and they turned out pretty good! With consideration for the individuals, like me, who face difficulties in culinary, I tried to make the ingredients and instructions as simple as possible. Here we go!

BACON WAFFLES

If you are a savory-sweet kind of person, these sweet waffles with the savory touch of bacon may be the waffles for you!

Ingredients:

(Makes about 8, depends on the size of the waffles)

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar/sweetener
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ⅔ cup melted butter or oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • Bacon

Pre-step: Cook some bacon

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients together and wet ingredients together in separate bowls

Step 2: Mix dry and wet ingredients together

Step 3: Use scissors to cut up cooked bacon into small pieces 

Step 4: Turn on your waffle maker/heat up your waffle pan, and sprinkle bacon pieces to cover the bottom of the pan, then pour waffle batter into the mold

Step 5: Once the waffle is cooked through, place it onto a plate and enjoy with some more bacon and other preferred toppings(optional).

Original recipe: https://www.food.com/recipe/bacon-waffles-141878

CHOCOLATE ORANGE WAFFLES

Chocolate + orange is a rarely seen combo of flavors, especially as a waffle flavor; those who love pairing chocolate and fruit together should give this unique combo a try!

Ingredients:

(Makes about 8, depends on the size of the waffles)

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar/sweetener 
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ⅔ cup melted butter/oil 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp of any type of chocolate powder
  • 1 Tbsp of Orange zest, or the zest of 1 orange
  • Chocolate chips

Pre-step: Zest an orange, put it to the side

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients together and wet ingredients together in separate bowls

Step 2: Mix dry and wet ingredients together

Step 3: Mix in the orange zest and as many chocolate chips as you want

Step 4: Turn on your waffle maker/heat up your waffle pan, and pour waffle batter into the mold

Step 5: Once the waffle is cooked through, place it onto a plate and enjoy with some orange slices and other prefered toppings(optional).

Original recipe: https://www.greatbritishchefs.com/recipes/chocolate-orange-waffles-recipe

RASPBERRY PISTACHIO WAFFLES

This flavor combination is harmonious and delicious. Crunchy and tangy, nutty and sweet, it really is a wonderful treat! 

Ingredients:

(Makes about 8, depends on the size of the waffles)

  • 2 cups of flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar/sweetener 
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups milk
  • ⅔ cup melted butter/oil 
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional)
  • ½ cup mashed raspberries
  • 2 cups crushed pistachios 

Pre-step: Mash raspberries and crush unshelled pistachios(medium-sized chunks) set to side

Step 1: Mix dry ingredients together and wet ingredients together in separate bowls

Step 2: Mix dry and wet ingredients together

Step 3: Mix in the mashed raspberries

Step 4: Turn on your waffle maker/heat up your waffle pan, and sprinkle crushed pistachios to cover the bottom of the pan, then pour waffle batter into the mold

Step 5: Once the waffle is cooked through, place it onto a plate and enjoy with some more raspberries, pistachios, and other preferred toppings(optional).

Side note: 

To store waffles, you either keep them in the refrigerator(short-term) or freeze them(long-term).

HAVE A GREAT SPRING BREAK AND ENJOY!

Easy, Simple Eco-Friendly Ideas!

by Carmen McLaren, sophomore writing coach

As the health of our planet becomes an increasingly dire issue, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the scale of the crisis. If you’re like me, you’re often left wondering what could possibly make a difference. It can be very easy to get consumed by the stark realities of the situation, but many aspects of it are out of our control. It can be difficult to make big changes, as many people our age aren’t in charge of their lifestyles. However, every small effort matters. Here are some easy eco-friendly ideas you can try out!

Online thrifting:

Buying clothes second-hand is a great way to reduce your footprint. From combating fast fashion to diverting old items from the landfill, there are many environmental benefits. Plus, thrifting can be a lot less expensive and there are so many great finds. In the age of COVID, many of us are avoiding in-person shopping and stores. As we shift more to online shopping, you may not be visiting your local thrift store. There are so many amazing online thrift shops, so here are a few ideas at the top of the sustainability list: swap.com, thredup.com, and thrifted.com.

Ecosia:

This is an awesome app that acts as a search engine or browser extension like Safari. Using the income and profit from search ads, Ecosia plants trees all over the world. It’s that simple! On average, you need about forty-five searches to plant a tree. The browser has up-to-date information on Ecosia’s projects, news about your impact, eco tips, and more! You can also set Ecosia as your default browser by going to Settings>Ecosia>Default Browser App. 

Reusable shopping bags:

I’m sure it’s not breaking news that the plastic bags you get while shopping and buying groceries are pretty harmful to the environment. Using your own bags that you can wield time and time again is a great way to contribute to the solution! However, it can definitely be hard to remember to bring a bag with you all the time. It’s been helpful for my family to keep some bags in our cars and on the mud room counter so that they’re always within reach. Even so, we’ve definitely forgotten to bring bags in with us despite their intentional location, so don’t worry if it slips your mind. If someone else in your household is the main shopper, you could politely suggest that they consider using reusable bags, and help with the organization. You could also offer to come along when you can too!

Living more eco-friendly doesn’t need to be stressful, impossible, or super expensive. Sustainable products are often more expensive and less accessible, but I’m hoping that as consumer demand grows, they will become more widely available. Every small decision makes an impact, and it’s never too little or too late. I hope these tips gave you a few ideas, have fun with them!

Leaving Minnetonka

by Braden Alexander, sophomore writing coach

The cliche way to start this blog post could be to say I never expected to write it. That wouldn’t be the truth. I first moved to Minnesota 4 years and 1 day ago because of my dad’s work. The assignment was always going to be temporary, and that was something we knew from the beginning. 

At the time, I expected to only spend 2 or so years here at Minnetonka. I expected this to be a bump or hiccup before I inevitably returned to Kentucky or Ohio. I can honestly say that my time in Minnesota, and especially my time here at Minnetonka has been far more than that. When I walk out of MHS for the last time in June, it will no doubt be incredibly bittersweet. As I was sitting down to write this blog post, those emotions were already beginning to surface.

In this blog post, I have decided to put off some of those sadder emotions that leaving Minnetonka will bring in favor of discussing everything that this district, school, and its people have given me. Moving to Minnetonka in the middle of 6th grade opened me up to a variety of new opportunities. One immediate opportunity was simply the people. My 6th grade at Mt. Washington in Ohio had 30 people. At MMW, most classes were nearing that total by themselves. There are so many people at Minnetonka schools, and I believe anyone can find their niche and “their people”. 

The people that I met and befriended at Minnetonka also helped me take advantage of many of the opportunities in athletics and extracurriculars at MHS. My friends were the reason I ended up picking lacrosse in 8th grade and have continued playing to this day. I would probably never have picked up a lacrosse stick without coming here. And while this will likely be my last spring donning blue and white for Minnetonka, I will continue to play in Kentucky. Here at MHS, I was also able to participate in a variety of activities including Knowledge Bowl, Model UN, and, of course, a brief period where I was able to work as a writing coach. 

I wish that that brief period could be a long one. I wish I could play 4 seasons of lacrosse as a Skipper. I wish that I could participate in Vantage and the other programs that this school offers. I wish that my relationships with my friends, classmates, teachers, and coaches were not ending prematurely. I wish that in June 2023, I would be graduating wearing blue. There is a great deal that I would have strived to do and achieve if I had a junior and senior year at Minnetonka. While there are many aspects of returning to Kentucky that excite me and I’m still hopeful and prepared for the future, ultimately I have spent four meaningful and amazing years here at Minnetonka High School. This is a special place that I will miss dearly. 

I’m still working on how to properly say goodbye to Minnetonka. Fortunately, I’ve got a couple months to figure that one out. So instead I’ll say something else. To this district, this school, and the people in it: Thank you.

Attack On Titan: Anime Becoming Mainstream?

by Omar Yousef, junior writing coach

For thousands of years, Sushi was a staple in Japan, eaten by the poor and rich alike. In the early 1900s, it was brought to the US by Japanese immigrants. It wasn’t until 1966 that the first sushi restaurant, Kawafuku, opened up in Little Tokyo. At first it was only eaten by the Japanese who lived around the Los Angeles area, but eventually young fashionable people started to appreciate these plates of rice and raw fish. After this a new sushi restaurant named Osho opened up outside of Little Tokyo and rich clientele and movie stars started to eat. It didn’t take long for the trend to become nationwide, and now sushi can even be found at your local Cub.

Anime, which is any animated Japanese show, has been around in the US for a while. Shows like Naruto and Deathnote have become somewhat popular in the US, but haven’t quite caught steam. Up until now, anime has been seen by some as entertainment for mostly disturbing cosplayers and furries. But a trend of increasing popularity has started. Even though most don’t notice it, anime audios dominate tiktok. Netflix and Hulu have seen a rise in US anime viewership and started to put Japanese shows on their platforms. To top it all off, earlier this month, it was found that Attack on Titan is now the most popular show in the US. Is Attack on Titan the new Osho? Is this the start of anime becoming mainstream?

There must be a reason AOT has become so popular when other animes have tried for decades. For one, the animation and storylines are a lot closer to what Americans are used to. There’s less iconic Japanese exaggerated expressions, and the drawings are similar to cartoons Americans grew up watching, like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Ben 10. Also, the imagery and attention to detail done is crazy impressive. The show also tackles a lot of dark themes, which helps defeat the narrative that anime is childish.

Another reason is the portrayal of female characters. In many past anime, female characters are portrayed as helpless characters with tiny waists. They are usually weak and not at all integral to the story. In AOT, some of the fiercest warriors are women, which may be why the show has started to become popular with women as well (along with them finding the characters attractive).

Finally, I think the most important reason is TikTok. Hype for new episodes gets posted every week, exposing the show to the millions of Tiktok viewers. Trends like the “Eren Jaegar” hairstyle have somehow been able to get teens watching shows like Grey’s Anatomy to watching a cartoon about titans who eat humans.

Attack on Titan has changed the narrative of how anime is seen. Watchers can now admit they watch these shows without being called a “weeb”. With the popularity of sushi and the come up of anime, Japanese culture seems to be taking over. What’s next, are we gonna be seeing teens doing origami?

Showtime!

by Kiana Yusefzadeh, senior writing coach

Birmingham Royal Ballet UK tour of Swan Lake in 2020

While this has been a very strange time for the performing arts, it has also been a time of transformation that has made art forms such as dance available to broader audiences. At the beginning of the pandemic, countless shows were postponed indefinitely. When it became clear that audiences wouldn’t be able to gather for what has now almost been a year, dance companies took on the challenge and made the necessary changes so that their planned seasons could still move forward. Although it would be more ideal to perform in front of a live audience, recorded repertoire has now found audiences through online platforms.

Many leading ballet and modern companies are not always the most accessible location-wise, and although these companies go on tour, the distance poses a challenge for dance enthusiasts who live far away. Now that virtual seasons are more commonplace, there is an opportunity for more people to see shows that they wouldn’t have before. Here is a list of some of the companies I would recommend watching!


New York City Ballet-

NYCB is in the midst of their virtual season right now, and have performances available to watch through June. Current performances highlight choreography by George Balanchine, a famous choreographer who greatly influenced American ballet一from the stylistic technique he created, to repertoire that is performed globally. What’s great about this company’s virtual season is that it also includes rehearsal footage for anyone interested in learning about the process of setting a piece on a dancer. The piece that most recently aired, the Prodigal Son, is available right now and Theme and Variations will air as soon as March 4.

https://www.nycballet.com/season-and-tickets/digital-season/

Alvin Ailey-

One of the most famous modern companies in the world, it is distinguished by the Horton technique which inspires it’s broad repertoire. While the live virtual season has ended currently, the piece Revelations, choreographed by Alvin Ailey himself, can be found on their website.

Revelationshttps://www.alvinailey.org/performances-tickets/virtual-winter-season 

Royal Ballet-

The Royal Ballet, based in London, has always recorded and shared shows through Youtube and DVDs, even before the pandemic began. There are even full length ballets available like Swan Lake, free of charge! This company also has recorded rehearsals available to watch, which highlight the level of detail that goes into every piece. One unique ballet with incredible sets that I would highly recommend is Alice in Wonderland choreographed by Christopher Wheeldon. 

Alice in Wonderland (rehearsal)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8hud8u5Kp7w&t=498s 

Swan Lake (full version)- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z1tdKI16QFc 


If you have never seen a ballet before, or it’s just been a really long time since you’ve gone to see a show, I hope these resources can give back some of what the pandemic has taken away. Happy watching!