My First Christmas Tree by Lane Murray

My family got our very first Christmas tree three winters ago, my freshman year. After years of begging for a sharp and sweet smelling pine to put right in the bay windows that face the entirety of our street, my step-dad finally joined my side in the argument, and thus my mom was out-numbered. This first tree was about five and a half feet tall and it was adorable, (for context, the average Christmas tree is about seven and a half feet tall.) I think most people would have scoffed at our tiny tree, but to me it was the perfect addition to our home for the weeks leading up to, well, Hanukkah. 

Yes, Hanukkah, tis’ the season! All the years of tree-refusal on my mother’s part were 100% warranted, as she (and myself) are born and raised Jews. The last time we went to temple, I couldn’t even tell you, but the whole family rejoices for holiday dinners annually, as that’s our way of maintaining Jewish tradition. Now my grandparents, on the other hand, about had a heart attack when they walked in our door that winter only to be faced with a tree lit up for the street to see. And even though they couldn’t object to how wonderful it smelled, they were not too pleased.

Now the question, which I understand completely: Why? Honestly, aside from that sharp smell and mesmerizing sparkle of the lights, I’ve always felt like these seasonal trees establish an emphasized sense of togetherness amongst the people of which it shares a home. At this point I don’t consider ours a Christmas tree, we don’t celebrate Christmas in the slightest form and we have no reason to. But, December is the only month that my mom, step-dad, sister, and I, who all live different yet equally busy lives, find ourselves sitting in the living room together on, say, a Wednesday evening, chatting with one another.

My desires for a tree when I was younger may have come from the inflated and consumer-geared nature of “the Christmas spirit,” which I had admittedly always felt left out of, even though I’ve always my appreciated my heritage. But as I got older and grew away from that empty jealousy, I still wished for my sharp smelling, enchanting pine. Each year I cherish the month that we spend with our not-Christmas tree, and as my family members have come to feel the same way over the past three years, I can confidently say that our trees have been reaching a soft seven feet 🙂

Here We Go Again by Esti Goldstein

Mamma Mia. A timeless soundtrack modeled after songs by the seventies band ABBA, performed by modern actors and actresses and all skillfully woven into a (kind of) family-friendly tale of love, paternal identity confusion, money problems, fourth marriages, and mother-daughter relationships all set on a stunning Greek island. What could be better? A love of Mamma Mia has long been passed down as a tradition on the cross-country team as some of our favorite songs to belt on the way home from meets and our class was no different. But when we heard that a sequel was soon to be coming out, the reactions were varied. Some people were excited for an extra two hours to spend with our beloved characters while others were concerned the sequel would flop, as many do. I wasn’t sure about my feelings, on the one hand, I would absolutely love to have more dance numbers and ballads to sing on bus rides and in my kitchen but on the other, I would hate to have my positive feelings towards the movie ruined. So I waited. And although the movie came out in 2018, it was only until this Saturday that I watched it. I went in a little nervous because a friend who had previously viewed it was critical of the plot and thought the first one reigned supreme. But, I was determined to keep an open mind.

It was not often during the viewing that my friends and I were sitting down, but rather on our feet lip-synching ecstatically, ballroom dancing, or on the verge of tears as we loudly sang along with the longing duets. I am happy to announce that not only was Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again a successful prequel to the first but that it took on it’s own identity and in my opinion, surpassed the first. However, this may have been due to the fact that instead of one young male lead, there were three present throughout the film which caused an embarrassing amount of swooning. Not only was the cast impressive, with Lily James appearing as the young Donna Sheridan, but there were many new ABBA covers that will certainly become favorites of mine such as “Fernando” and “Andante Andante.” Cher’s rendition of “Super Trouper” with the whole young/old cast, including a Meryl Streep solo at the end (that may or may not have induced tears) was the cherry on top of an excellent sequel. All in all, I am beyond pleased that these songs will be stuck in my head for the next month.

Mamma Mia! poster, Belfast (November 2014)

Sleep Procrastination by Kevin Jiang

I’ve experienced the following scenario too many times this year:

6:45 AM (alarm goes off): Ugh, the alarm again? What time is it? It seems like this alarm goes off earlier every day. Come to think of it, are you sure it doesn’t go off earlier every day? Anyway, I’ll dismiss this alarm and go back to sleep. I’ve got another one set for later anyway.

7:20 AM (second alarm goes off): Again? No way that was 35 minutes. Why can’t I sleep in peace until I actually have to go to school? Snooze button!

7:30 AM (alarm goes off after snoozing): School doesn’t start for another 35 minutes, and it takes no more than 10 minutes to drive there. I like school, but I like sleeping more. I’ll be okay. Snooze.

7:40 AM (fourth alarm of the morning): I’ve heard this same alarm tone too many times this morning. Maybe I won’t snooze it this time, just so I don’t have to hear it again. Oh, wait, I can’t. School starts in 25 minutes, and I haven’t made sure I have everything, eaten breakfast, or anything. Perhaps I should consider sleeping in my jeans so that I don’t have to change when I get up in the morning. That’ll equate to 3 extra minutes of sleep tomorrow. But for today, I should try to get moving.

7:50 AM (wandering around looking for something in particular that I can’t remember): 15 minutes until school starts. I should probably leave. I don’t even know what I’m missing, anyway.

8:00 AM (enters school): Hey, I made it here on time! Looks like those extra 45 minutes of sleep were worth it after all!

This seems like a feeling that is universal to most high school students. Perhaps I’m a bit on the extreme end by giving myself only 10 minutes from getting out of bed to out of the door, but it’s definitely felt my most students at some level. And I make it to school on time every day, meaning my 45 minutes of sleep procrastination won’t have any tangible negative consequence, besides for occasionally having to use a pen instead of a pencil because I forgot to find one in my 5 minutes wandering around. Rinse, and repeat tomorrow. Score.

It’s All About College by John Stevenson

Yes I know I am only a junior, but college stress has seemed to find its way on top of me.  Now, my first thought in everything I do that is school related is “Will this put me in the best position for my college applications?”  It is almost impossible to get off my mind the dread of being rejected by my first choice, I cannot even fathom it. I have been doing plenty of research on some of my first choice schools, but I have noticed that has just added to my stress level.  I have also noticed how ridiculously competitive college is today, and the whole application process has just become a bragging contest of personal achievements. Even in high school, the only thing that matters is “what grade did I get,” the value of knowledge has almost been forgotten.  

In 20 years, the grade you got in physics will not matter, what will be important is who you are as a person and how you used your learning to impact the real world.  This is a hard pill to swallow, but most of the things you learn in high school will almost never be applicable later on in life, depending on your career. What will be important is how you grew as a person, how you overcame challenges, and how well you can make relationships with others; that is the true key to success.  I try my best to use this mindset as I try to be the best person I can be everyday. I have also learned to underreact (Thanks Mr. Konopinski!) because life goes on and the past cannot be changed. Recently, I have been to a few college admission meetings and there was a common theme in all of them. Colleges want good people that have interesting lives, rather than try-hards that only go to school and live, for lack of better words, boring lives.  I even heard a story of a valedictorian with a 4.6 GPA and a 1580 SAT that only cared about school, being rejected for a student with 4.3 GPA and a 1440 SAT who dedicated his high school career for helping others in and out of school. All in all, never compare yourself to the achievements of others, focus on your strengths and what you can do in the future.

One of the Writing Center’s Greatest Resources by Gabbi Fortin

Here in the writing center, there are so many things that student writers can play with to help with nerves, or just to help them think. We have Kinetic Sand, Rubix Cubes, mini Zen Gardens, the list goes on. However, there’s one thing that stands out from the others. One thing that, from the moment you pick it up, your mind becomes engrossed in your work. This thing, is Crazy Aaron’s Thinking Putty. 

I’ve had experience with other brands of slime, putty and everything in between. Play-Doh can be too dry, slime can be, well, too slimy. Some brands of putty just don’t have the right consistency, or they just don’t engender enough air pockets and bubbles. But Crazy Aaron- well, Crazy Aaron does it just right. 

Some things to do with the putty:

-Make a perfect sphere and put your finger in the middle. Try and make the ring as thin and even as possible before it gets too thin and breaks.

-Create a really thin layer of the putty and fold it onto itself. This makes for great air pockets.

-Make a ball and bounce it on the table (yes, it bounces, and it bounces really well.) I have yet to do this, because I’m terrified of it falling on the ground and becoming really dirty.

-The best thing, I think, is to just squeeze it, over and over again. It becomes hypnotizing after a while.

A few weeks ago I decided to purchase my own putty off of Amazon, that way I don’t just have to wait until 4th period to play with putty. What arrived in the mail was a silver tin full of smooth, dark blue putty. What’s really cool is that my putty gets lighter from the heat of my hands, and it glows in the dark. 

Yes, I realize I sound like a six year old boy who just got a new truck to play with, but I’m totally fine with it. 

Whether or not the putty actually makes me more productive than I would be without it is a different question altogether. For now, I’m just happy playing with my putty while writing!

Chronicles of a Plant Killer by Aaliyah Williams

If I could wish to be endowed with one thing, one new talent in particular, I’d wish for a green thumb. House plants are like little friends that you take care of, like pets that just sit and smile towards the sun all day. I’ve tried a few times to keep a plant in my room, but aside from the one successful attempt to keep a tiny flower pot (which bloomed, actually, but with yucky smelling flowers that filled the entire second floor of my house with their fragrance), I’ve never actually been able to grow a plant.

I’m proud to announce that once someone trusted me to water their plants while they were away on vacation! The woman had heard about me through the Onaway mom grapevine, and my status as the premier babysitter of Onaway-going children had earned me the community trust needed to water someone’s plants. Of course, it was a bit of a disaster; Shaker Heights was hit with that terrible heat wave that always drives people inside, right around the beginning of July where temperatures everyday hit somewhere around 95 °F. The family suggested I stop by once or twice a week to water the plants, but I ended up needing to come by everyday just to keep the plants from dying. In the end, I over-watered some mint plants and under-watered some hanging flowers, but all the plants were more or less alive when the family came back from vacation (which I was extraordinarily proud of).

If I’m lucky, I might fall asleep and wake up tomorrow as Poison Ivy, being able to grow, healthy, thriving plants anytime I choose (and walk around in a little green leotard made of leaves). For now though, I think that the plant community might benefit if I stopped attempting to cultivate a garden with such little gardening talent–I’m going to stick with kids and dogs instead.

An Open Letter to an Absent Study Hall by Grace Geier

Dear 2nd-Period Study Hall students,

The Writing Center awaits your visit, and every day we long for you to appear at our door. Our endless supply of candy and readily available interns are at your disposal, yet you seem not to care for our help. What did we do to deserve this silent treatment? Why have we lost your trust in our writing process? I promise you won’t regret a trip to the writing center, and I can guarantee that we’ll shower you with helpful advice and Skittles (or whatever candy of your choice). Whether it be an English literary analysis, a foreign language essay, an IA, or any other writing-related work, your 2nd-period interns are here to assist you. Please don’t turn your back on a chance to grow as a writer. We can’t wait to meet with you!

Sincerely,

Your very own writing center

What is Wrong with the Browns? (Part 3)

In my last installment of “What is Wrong with the Browns?”, the 2-5 team traveled to Denver to face the Broncos. The Broncos came in at a lowly 2-6, but still managed to beat the Browns 19-24. At this point in the season I thought all hope was lost, and that surely the Browns’ Head Coach, Freddie Kitchens, would be getting fired following the embarrassing loss. To my surprise they kept Freddie, and the decision seemed to pay off as the Browns won three straight games, with these wins coming against the Bills, Steelers, and Dolphins. Baker Mayfield looked much improved in these games and was a main factor for the Browns success. However, the Browns faced some adversity as they lost their best defensive player Myles Garrett to an indefinite suspension. This of course came in the infamous game against the Steelers in which he hit Mason Rudolph in the head with a helmet. This event was widely discussed in the media and it set up a decisive rematch between the Browns and Steelers on Week 13.

Image result for mason rudolph myles garrett

The Browns came into this game with an advantage as the Steelers were now on their third-string quarterback Duck Hodges. The Browns looked good to start the game, taking an early 10-0 lead. This lead didn’t last though as offensive struggles in the second half  led to the Steelers to come back. Down 20-13 with a little over a minute left in the fourth quarter, the Browns had a chance to tie up the game. Sadly, Baker Mayfield threw an interception to former Brown, Joe Haden, sealing the game for the Steelers.

Following this loss, reports have since come from the media detailing the growing frustration from wide receiver Odell Beckham. In addition, reports have begun to circulate about the dysfunction between Head Coach Freddie Kitchens and Offensive Coordinator Todd Monken. Overall, the team is in disarray and playoff hopes are beginning to dwindle.

 

 

 

 

The Best Holiday Snack by Emma Jevack

Ah, the holidays. A time of festive activities, being with family, and (of course) baking. Unfortunatley, I’m not naturally talented in the latter category. It seems any cookie, pie, or confectionary recipe calls for a dozen different ingredients, 20+ steps, and you will probably wreck your kitchen in the process. That’s why I’ve abandoned the traditional perimeters of holiday treats and now make puppy chow.

Puppy chow is also known as muddy buddy, monkey munch, or any other regional venecular (but during the holidays, it’s fun to call it Reindeer Chow). It’s a fast and easy recipe that yields a delicious snack everyone can enjoy!

Reindeer Chow Recipe

Ingredients:

  • One box of Chex mix (normal or any flavor)
  • 2 cups peanut butter
  • 2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup powdered sugar (use more as needed)

Instructions:

  • Put all the chex mix in a very large bowl.
  • Mix the peanut butter and chocolate chips in a bowl.
  • Put in microwave for 30 second intervals until melted into a liquid. Be sure to stir inbetween the 30 second rotations.
  • Pour chocolate peanut butter mixture over chex mix, stirring as you pour. Add enough so that every piece is coated, but not too much that you can’t even see the cereal.
  • Add in powdered sugar, mixing as you go. Add more than a cup if needed, but add enough that you can pick up an indiviual piece without touching the peanutbutter and chocolate part.
  • If neccesary, put in a large gallon Ziploc bag and shake with powdered sugar
  • Spread evenly on a cookie sheet,  let it sit for a minute, then enjoy!

 

 

lots of breakfast by emilia richter

Today I want to write about breakfast. I love reading about food, so I might as well write about it! I love breakfast because it starts off the day. It gives you energy for what lies ahead, and best of all, it looks really cool. Instagram is full of fancy breakfast pictures for a reason. It’s ~so~ aesthetic.
Some of my favorite breakfast foods are: Eggs. Scrambled with garlic powder, paprika, salt and pepper. On the plate they look fluffy and a rich sort of yellow. Or fried eggs with a dense, almost orange yolk in the center. The white surrounds the yolk like a thick doily. The edges are crispy and curled up a little. Or even hard-boiled eggs, peeled the right way. Taken straight out of the pot and into cold water, tapped against the table, and peeled with the water still running. The shell comes off like an orange peel.
Waffles. Textured, with little cubicles, waffle offices. Warm, with a melting pat of butter in the middle and maple syrup waterfalling down the sides. I put blueberries inside the cubicles – workers at the office. Raspberries, almonds, cheerios work there too. Anything really. Or pancakes. They are so hard to make correctly. The batter is always fine. Light cream color, not too many lumps, and thicker than milk but thinner than frosting. I grease the pan with oil, then with butter, then with cooking spray, because it won’t stick this time. It can’t.
I ladle the batter on and wait for it to bubble. Of course, it sticks. Pancake scramble, again.
Sometimes I eat dinner for breakfast. Warm rice noodle soup with vegetables and beef. Halved sweet potatoes, fresh out of the oven and covered in my classic garlic-powder-paprika-olive-oil mixture. Salt and pepper too.
I like to switch it up and eat breakfast for lunch. Not like what they give you in elementary school, plastic-like sausages and indestructible pieces of bread. I’m talking a fat bowl of oatmeal. Oats, whole brown flax seeds, chia seeds, pumpkin seeds. Sesame seeds. Coconut sugar and cinnamon. And best of all, blueberries. Drench it in almond milk, nut milk, pea milk or a combination of all of them. Oats are the best when they have been sitting for a while. Then they are cakey and dense, but still moist. The sugar or syrup has melted into the mixture, giving it the perfect amount of sweetness. Natural sweetness. Not like Sour Patch Kids sweet. Like real sweet.
I like avocado for breakfast too. I love how perfectly spherical the pit is and the shadow it casts on the green flesh. It’s not a bright green, and it’s not a dark green. It’s a deep, medium green. I love when food has deep color like that. Some foods, like boiled eggplant, are dull-colored and translucent. Even the purple skin is faded and blends in with the rest of the stew.
When I want a healthy breakfast, I take an egg or two and crack them in a bowl. I add some almond milk and break the yolks with a fork. They bleed. Paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper go into the bowl. Then I use my wrist to move the fork, blending everything together and creating little air bubbles. I grab my small circular pan. I grease it heavily. I can’t have it sticking this time. Not today. I put the pan on the stovetop, pour in the egg mixture and turn the heat to medium-high. Then I wait.
When the edges of the egg-circle are solid, and the outer area is almost cooked, I take a spoon and start lifting. Sometimes, the patty is perfect and I can flip it without a problem. Most times, flakey, dry, burnt egg residue is glued to the bottom of the pan and I roll my eyes in frustration. Either way, a circle is a circle. When both sides are cooked, I place the patty onto a rice cake that is somehow always the same size. I like to put vegan cream cheese on the rice cake, if there is any left in the fridge. Then I take a bite, feeling the crunchy, bland rice cake combine with the smooth, cold cream cheese and the fluffy spiced egg. Yum.