Are They Worth It or Not….

All over TikTok or Pinterest, people constantly post new “hacks” or “finds”. Like many others, I tend to get interested, want to try it out myself, and await results. I won’t lie, some of these new trends are really not it. But on the other hand, others are actually beneficial.

To start off, I want to talk about the Apple pencil. To be completely honest when I first heard about it I thought it was one of the stupidest new Apple products to be released. But, I have changed my mind. This product is worth the money for high school students taking many classes at the local community college along with actual college students. Using it with an iPad is a life changer. I personally use the app “Notability” but “GoodNotes” is another excellent choice. With these apps, you can take all of your notes digitally and organize them into their own sections. There are tools to copy and paste images, highlight, change pen style and size, and much more. It makes note-taking easier and honestly a lot more fun. I also use Notability to download a monthly planner to keep track of my life.

Up next is the fabric tape clothing hack. This has totally saved my closet. Since I am short, a lot of pants I buy are so long that they drag on the ground. I love the style so I really do not want to get rid of them. I first saw fabric tape on TikTok and thought I should try it out. I was a bit skeptical if the take would actually hold for a whole day but I was pleasantly surprised when it lasted the whole 90-degree school day. There are many brands but I use the Scotch Double-Sided Tape. This stuff is very sticky and durable. I put the pre-cut thin pieces at the edge of my pants and then fold them inside. This way, if you do not like the cuffed pant look you can still shorten your pants.

Bare but Better by Kiss

Lastly, I am going to share one of my favorite beauty hacks. I love either getting or doing my own nails all the time. The only problem is that it can get very pricey when I get them done and it takes a long time if I do them myself. Instead, when I am feeling lazy, I buy fake nails from Target or Walmart. The trick is to not buy press-on nails. Rather, buy ones that include nail glue. This makes the nails stay for a much longer time as if you were getting acrylic nails. Simple file your nail beds a little, brush off the dust and then glue them down without using too much glue. The fake nails offer many cute designs that look like real nails.

These finds of mine are all over the spectrum of different themes, but they are the trends I use the most. The internet can really provide great ideas and I have taken advantage of many while also facing some failures along the way. 

A Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is a classic book often assigned in many English classes. But do not automatically label the book as a boring old classic your teacher shoves in your face. Released in 1985, this novel is a futuristic dystopian storyline, unlike many stories assigned in most classes. 

The novel takes place in the Republic of Gilead, a totalitarian state that oppresses women and glorifies men. The Republic of Gilead replaced the United States for reasons including falling birth rates. The story follows Offred, a current handmaid. In Gilead, the purpose of a handmaid is simply to give birth. But handmaid’s only mate with their specific commanders, who the handmaid’s change their names to represent. For example, Offred is the handmaid of Fred, since she is of Fred. The majority of the novel follows Offred, experiencing sexist encounters with others. Since, like many others, I knew what it was like to live in a normal country before Gilead took over. 

the cover of the novel

Now that you know the simple backstory, I will not spoil any more of the book. But, the themes discussed in the novel are what sets it apart from most books. We get to see strong female power, resisting a hierarchical society that looks down upon women. Also sending the important message that oppression and restriction of groups will never succeed since resistance will always occur. 

As the plot follows Offred, the novel has many nail-biting moments that make you feel as if you are on the edge of your seat. This book also involves some action scenes and violence, which puts a nice twist on novels that are simply all dialogue. Additionally, The Handmaid’s Tale includes a little bit of romance at the same. 

Overall, I would recommend reading this novel. For all the book worms out there, it contains action and stresses political topics while revolving around a strong female lead.

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood is available to checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. It is also available to download for free from Libby.

Stranger Things, Is it Worth the Hype?

If you have opened any social media platform in the past month, various Stranger Things 4 content has probably crossed your explorer page. First airing in 2016, Stranger Things is a science fiction horror television series. Starring child stars like Millie Bobby Brown and Noah Schnapp, the show revolves around 4 middle school boys who meet a girl who is a government science experiment. One of the boys gets kidnapped by a sub-dimension monster, afterward, all the seasons follow the aftermath of this event.

Stranger Things Season 1 Promo

Without spoiling the actual series, I would recommend this show. But, I would be curious if you get scared easily. For young children, Stranger Things may get too creepy to handle. At first, I found the series slightly scary. But, each season progressively gets darker. The main reasoning for this pattern is so that the show matures alongside the child actors. Even though I found the show slightly disturbing, the plot is so intriguing it almost forces you to continue watching to find out what happens. The kids also bring a level of comedy creating a great atmosphere. Here, the kids are the ones that are always swearing and going against the adults. 

Another cool aspect of this show is that it takes place in the 1980s. The music, clothing, and horror thrill style all emulate the trends of the 80s. So, it makes the show a great piece of media to watch as a family. The parents love all of the 80s references and the children love relating to the children in the show.

On that note, the music soundtrack for Stranger Things is excellent. Many 80s classics have been brought back to the billboards of this show. Songs like “Running up That Hills” and “Should I Stay or Should I go Now” have increased in popularity after their use in the show. I have found the soundtrack makes the show seem less dark and more fun. 

Overall, after watching all of the seasons I would highly recommend this series. There is a nice mix of horror and comedy while also revolving around a very detailed plot.

Freshmen! Time to Get Involved!

Volunteering helps the community and is a great opportunity for teens to reach out and gain some leadership experience. For incoming freshmen in high school, it is the perfect time to start the first step in becoming involved in your local community and set yourself up for the opportunity to gain leadership experience. For incoming freshmen, I recommend attending your school’s club rush. Every school has different clubs with different unique opportunities. There are some common service-based clubs that most schools have that you should be on the lookout for. 

Key Club International is a student-led volunteer club that has a large community across the nation that is linked together through social media and division-held events. For those in the SoCal area, the key clubs come together to attend the Fall Rally at Six Flags and decorate a float at the Rose Bowl Parade. Key Club has its own student board with positions like Secretary, Treasurer, Vice President, President, Historian, and more that are great chances to gain leadership experience.

Another amazing club is the Red Cross Club. The members of this club serve under the internationally recognized American Red Cross. All service events serve under the universal goal of humanitarian help. This organization gives the chance to become involved in and lead blood drives and much more.

Besides becoming involved in clubs on campus, the internet is a great source for finding very interesting and unique service opportunities. Search for local events that are looking for volunteers or create your own event based on a personal passion. One of the best parts of volunteering is that you can focus on certain communities or groups that you feel passionate about. Get in touch with different organizations and find out what you can do or present your own ideas! 

Also one of my favorite and most rewarding volunteer experiences comes from returning to my old elementary and middle school. Find different events that you may have attended when you were younger and volunteer at them! This could be a science fair or orientation. Either way, get back in touch with your old school and see if there are any upcoming events that you could return back to your old school days to help out.

The universal idea is to find a way of volunteering that is interesting and exciting to you. If you love music, find music-based service events. If you love reading, get in contact with the local library. Regardless, when you are starting your high school experience try to find your passion and use it to find a club or organization that interests you and allows you to give back to the community.

The Easy Ways to Escape Boredom

Now that summer is coming up I know that I will eventually get bored and sit scrolling on TikTok for hours on my bed. But come on, there are better and more productive ways to fill the time than mindless scrolling. I admit I also can spend hours on my phone even if I know that I am not gaining anything or even being entertained in some cases. I then develop the ick feeling of being bored, unproductive, and tired that most of you have probably gone through.

One way to get rid of that feeling when it seems like there is nothing to do is to reorganize or redecorate my room. Go through all your photos  and print them out to arrange on your walls or orientate your furniture. You can put together a collage or bulletin board with random things around your room or redo your bulletin board as I do. Then wipe down all your counters and vacuum your floor so your room is fresh, clean, and has a new atmosphere. Sometimes to get rid of the ick feeling of boredom, cleaning your room to perfection is the trick. 

Sometimes if it gets really bad, I give myself a mini spa day. Start with taking a long refreshing shower or bath, deep conditioning your hair by doing a hair mask. Then leave the shower and complete a skincare routine. Put on a face mask or moisturizer so your face will feel clean and fresh. Next up, give yourself a manicure, pedicure, or both. You use your hands and feet every day, freshen them up and it will feel great. 

When laying on your bed on your phone, force yourself to stand up and do a workout. This doesn’t have to be a high-intensity weightlifting workout. Do some yoga and meditation by finding different videos on YouTube. Yoga and meditation help clear the mind and stretch out your body that has been sitting down for hours. For all those people with lingering stress, yoga will help relieve a lot of the tension built up in your body. Or go for a walk or light jog outside or on a treadmill, giving yourself some fresh air and also forcing your body to be active. Although it will be painful to start, once your workout, whatever it may be, is over, you will feel much better.

I know most of these suggestions seem very basic, but when someone is addicted to their phone and has been stuck inside for hours, many people develop this gross feeling that is hard to go away. Over time, I have found that completing these different activities can help motivate me and honestly get rid of that gross feeling.

-Lilly G.

Beginners Guide to Boba

Recently, the new trend is boba. Expanded past the Asian American community, boba is a new nationalized sensation. Boba is made from tapioca flour that is then cooked in a sugary syrup. The tiny black balls are then usually placed in various types of teas, slushies, or smoothies.I have grown up drinking boba and even have ratings of all the shops I have been to on my phone. I do not want to call myself obsessed, but it may be true. Nevertheless, the real question is, what is good or bad boba and where should you go?

Brown Sugar Milk

If it is either your first time at a boba shop or first time having boba, a good staple is getting the classic black milk tea with boba. If you dislike super sweet items I would advise lowering the sugar level to 75%. You usually cannot go wrong with classic black milk tea, making it a good sample to try. It is well balanced, sweet but not overpowering. Another good boba for a first timer is Thai milk tea with boba. Do not let the orange color scare you, it is simply strong black tea with various spices that is then sweetened with condensed milk. This drink is very creamy and compliments the boba pearls. If you dislike caffeine, most shops have black sugar milk. This drink is whole milk combined with a brown sugar syrup and boba. The combination is very delicious and does not contain caffeine.

Southern Orange Country is filled with many great boba shops. In the Mission Viejo area, the closest is Ding Tea. Ding Tea has a lot of the classic flavors and is pretty good for what it is. My personal favorite from there is the Wintermelon Milk Tea. If you want to stay as close to Mission Viejo as possible, Ding Tea is a great choice. Also centrally located is ShareTea in Lake Forest. Similarly to Ding Tea, ShareTea has great classics like their Thai Milk Tea. My personal favorite shop is OMOMO in Irvine. Their fruit drinks are made from fresh fruit and their boba is the softest and chewiest you can find. Any drink is a good choice there, especially the fruity drinks. The issue is that the line can be long, so be prepared. Another one of my favorites is Tastea. Also located in Irvine, Tastea has the best slushies compared to any other shop. I usually get the Lychee Freezie, which is a Lychee slush with Lychee jelly and bits combined with honey boba. Their drinks are fresh and their boba is nice and soft.

As a boba enthusiast, I hope this article encourages you to go either get boba or try it for the first time. Happy Boba-ing!

-Lilly G.

Biology? What?

Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Environmental Science…. the list continues for a while. As a current high schooler, one of my new interests is learning about biology. When I first signed up for AP biology for the 2021-2022 school year I was not the most excited, to say the least. But, now being 5 months into the course, I am happy to say I made the right decision in choosing which course of the many sciences offered to take. 

Just like most people, when I go through my daily schedule, the interactions inside and outside of my body were not a thought that ever crossed my mind. But now, my perspective has shifted. One of the most interesting aspects of biology is learning how all of those little organelles inside of your body all work together to create specific outcomes that keep you alive. Unlike most other offered courses, normal or AP biology highlights the extreme complexity of organisms and how our bodies have evolved into completing intricate processes such as cellular respiration. If you are a person like me, someone that is always curious about how things we expect in life work, biology is an interest that may be worth picking up. 

For those of you reading this and still not found a spark of interest, you may be more interested in the other parts of biology. Currently, I am learning about genetics, or how organisms inherit distinct traits. If you have ever stared at your family and wondered why you look like none of your siblings even though you come from the same set of parents, it is not just a fluke. Siblings could show traits that even their parents do not have and it is still completely normal! Coming from a big family of 6, I had always wondered why I did not look like a single one of my brothers and sisters. Learning about recessive traits, dominant traits, etc… explains why there is such a low likelihood of you looking like anyone else in the entire world.

Personally, these types of topics are thoughts that have lingered in the back of my mind and now that I am actively learning about the interactions of life, are all answered. So, to any of you still reading this, I encourage you to find an interest that you find curious and interesting so that you want to find out more. Biology is a topic that applies to everyday life and is complex and always offers something new to learn.

-Lilly G.

What is Happening in Ukraine?

All over the news for the past week, the Russia-Ukraine conflict has been a devastating scene to watch. Currently, Russian troops are flooding through the Ukrainian border. Russia’s leader Vladimir Putin claims that Russia can not feel “safe” as a result of the Ukrainian push to join NATO and become more westernized. For those who are unaware of the term NATO that is being thrown around lately, NATO is the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. Created post-WWII to try and prevent future hostilities, NATO is a military defense alliance that includes 28 European countries and 2 North American countries, including the United States. One of the main points of NATO is that an attack on one is an attack on all. Putin has been very adamant about keeping Ukraine out of NATO. For a geographical reference, Ukraine and Russia share a border. As a result, there are many Russian-Ukrainian ties between the people in both countries. Putin does not want any western influence to disrupt his current dictatorship.

Bomb shelters in Subway Stations

Rockets have been shot in the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with over 2 million civilians living in the city. Unlike past global conflicts that the newest generation read in textbooks, visuals are not provided. The difference currently is the influence of modernized technology and social media. Through cell phones, people across the globe have seen real time videos or rockets filling the skies and destroying the cities. Over social media Ukrainians have posted video of their bomb shelters inside of the subway stations. Citizens have been recording their current conditions with covered windows and packed bags, waiting for the bomb siren. 

In order to protect the country, all men ages 18-60 have been ordered to remain in Ukraine to protect their land. Families are being separated as the men stay and the woman and children attempt to flee. President of Ukraine Volodymr Zelenskyy has stayed present. He has not been hiding but rather leading his people and fighting alongside them. 

As for external involvement, the U.S has announced sanctions against the Russian Central Bank. Meaning business with Russia has been closed and assets have frozen. Additionally, the U.S and other Allies have taken some of the Russian banks off of the SWIFT financial messaging system. The hope is to put economic pressure onto Russia. The elite wealthy class of Russia will definitely feel the pressure from bank removals which is one of the hopes from these sanctions. The Biden Administration has made it very clear that the United States will not intervene militarily in Ukraine. The main reasoning being it could ignite another World War, the current conflict being regional. The current troops throughout Europe are not present to fight Russians, but to defend NATO allies, which is part of the defense alliance.

-Lilly G.

Lunar New Year!

Lunar New Year! Lunar New Year! Lunar New Year! The year of the tiger has been a hot topic for the last couple of weeks. Apple has even come out with tiger engraved their AirPods cases. Many have heard about Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year, but have learned what it represents. Due to the growing number of Asian Americans in America, awareness of this holiday should be spread.

Lunar New Year is originally celebrated in East and Southeast Asian cultures such as in China, Vietnam, Korea, etc.  Depending on the culture, Lunar New Year is referred to differently. For example, in Vietnam, rather than saying Lunar New Year, the celebration is referred to as Tết. The exact date changes depending on the year since the celebration marks the first new moon on the lunar calendar. More than just the new start to the year, the new year is a day for unity, family, and rebirth. 

Depending even down to each family, traditions change. Some consist of attending New Year festivals that are filled with food, games, and more. Also in some cultures, like in Vietnam, many people attend Buddhist temples on the eve of the new year. Nowadays, most families host dinners at night. The new year also signifies the time to celebrate past ancestors. Personally, in my family, we set up traditional food alongside photos of old family members and each family member makes a prayer to them. 

Traditional Vietnamese Wedding Ao Dai in red with gold printed patterns  dragons/phoenix - optional head piece - couple or single
These are example of outfits worn on the New Year

Also, one of my favorite traditions is dressing up in traditional wear. Often dresses and outfits differ depending on the culture. For example, in Vietnamese culture, we wear an áo dài on Lunar New Year at our celebrations. Dressing up helps symbolize a fresh start for the new year. The beautiful dresses are colorful and can contain very intricate designs. 

Red Envelopes. Many people have heard the phrase “red envelopes”. On the new year, family and friends give out red envelopes filled with money inside. By giving the “lucky money” people hope to pass down luck and good fortune. Many children often try to visit as many family members and close friends as possible during the time of lunar new year to collect as many red envelopes as they can. 

Your Guide to Chinese New Year 2019 — Red Envelopes, Great Events and The  Year of the Pig
Here are Red Envelopes that are given out at celebrations!

This just scratches the surface of the various traditions celebrated from culture to culture during the lunar new year. It truly is a time of the year to look forward to. Many Asian extended families are large, and this is the one time a year to see cousins and other family members you may not have seen for months. 

-Lilly G.

Marvel Marvel Marvel, Is it as Good as they say?

Spiderman! Spiderman! Spiderman! Ever since the release of Spiderman: No Way Home, the Marvel fan base has been reignited. The Covid-19 pandemic has put a hold on most production of movies for the last year and a half, nevertheless, this new marvel movie has earned over $1 billion of profit since its release on December 17, 2021. In honor of the new interest in the Marvel Universe, here are my absolute favorites movies.

Along with most of the fanbase, one of my personal top movies is Avengers: Endgame. This movie brought together almost every Marvel character to fight a common enemy. Additionally, the sound and visual effects are immaculate. The images of space are breathtaking and make you feel as if you are alongside the Avengers. Most importantly, it finally tied up a respectable ending to some of the original Marvel Characters including Iron Man and Captain America. Both beloved characters that have been portrayed on screen for over a decade received proper endings.

Another personal favorite is the 2017 film Thor: Ragnarok. If you are a lover of both comedy and action, this is the perfect movie for you. This movie has many lines that will guarantee a laugh from you. Additionally, the movie showcases both strong female and male leads that fight alongside one another. The story follows Thor attempting to prevent the Goddess of Death, Hela, who happens to be his sister, from taking over Asgard. Along the way he gathers the Hulk, Loki and a Valkyrie to aid him. For any Loki fans out there, his more caring side is broadcasted during this movie.

Now back to the big movie going around, Spiderman. Spiderman No Way Home was an amazing movie to experience. For any people who have not seen it, there may be tiny spoilers ahead, read with caution. The new Spiderman movie and end of the trilogy was a masterpiece. It follows up on the revealing of Peter Parker’s identity and the audience witnesses the effects on Peter’s life. Doctor Strange aids Peter during this difficult time along with his best friend Ned, and girlfriend MJ. Just like any other teenager, the stress of college admission is showcased which causes Peter to make many rash decisions that cause major consequences. For any fans of the original Spiderman trilogy or The Amazing Spider Man movies, this movie is a must see. 

If any of you reading are now convinced to watch some Marvel Movies, I advise you to be ready for an addiction that may come!

-Lilly G.