Chopped by Claire Borden

I LOVE cooking shows. One of my longtime favorites is Chopped, a TV show where contestants must make a three course meal incorporating four mystery ingredients for a chance to win 10,000 dollars. Last night, five of my friends and I were laying around my house looking for something to do but coming up empty every time. Then suddenly, inspiration hit. What if we divide into teams and play Chopped ourselves? This got us up and moving quickly as we drew from a hat to decide teams. Two were judges, and the rest were competing against each other.

The mystery ingredients included Takis, peanut butter, chicken tenders, romaine lettuce, and sriracha, and we had 25 minutes to turn them into two dishes. My team consisted of my brother, my friend, and I. Tensions were running high as the two teams tried to sabotage and insult each others dishes with early 2000s pop songs playing loudly in the background. Another curveball was the fact that our judges were incredibly picky eaters, so whatever we made had to be simple enough to appeal to them.

At the end of the 25 minutes my team had assembled a tostada topped with crispy chicken tenders, shredded lettuce, a dusting of taki crumbs, and a sriracha aoli. For our desert we made peanut butter stuffed cookie dough balls crusted with crushed pretzels shallow fried and drizzled with nutella. While I wasn’t pleased with the creativity of our entree, it didn’t taste half bad, probably because it only consisted of ready made chicken tenders, a tortilla, romaine lettuce, sriracha and sour cream, and takis. Our desert however was the crowning glory. It was creative, delicious, and the presentation was beautiful. I was certain we had the competition in the bag.

The other team ended up re-frying the chicken tenders in the taki crumbs and serving them as lettuce wraps drizzled in sriracha, and though I may be biased, it neither tasted nor looked appetizing. For their desert they made some sort of cookies and cream marshmallow fluff peanut butter monstrosity that felt like cheap pandering to the judges’s childish palates. Luckily the judges saw through it, and the other team’s dish was on the chopping block. Although the only prize was cleaning the kitchen, this was a fun and inexpensive activity for bored teenagers, and we are already planning our next cooking game show adventure.

A Love Letter to Shaker Rugby By Claire Borden


When I joined the rugby team, I was a quiet ninth grader trying to adjust to a new school. I had never really been good at a sport before, and I don’t know what exactly made me choose rugby, but when my science teacher told me the team was recruiting, I decided to join. All of the contact was very daunting at first, but I realized as long as I tackled and fell properly, I wasn’t really in danger. I have never been particularly aggressive before, but I learned that I liked tackling, and I was good at it. I had never been in a space before where that kind of physical aggression was encouraged and even celebrated in women. It felt revolutionary. Rugby allowed me to unapologetically take up space and be “unladylike”. It also gave me an outlet for the frustration that I bottled up all day in school. 

Our team is scrappy. Very few of us had ever played the game before, and we struggled a lot with numbers. We didn’t win a game until my junior year and we were often beat by double and even triple digits. But we kept showing up to practice and working to improve. We practiced outside all year long, rarely canceling because of weather, because as a small, new team we did not have access to an indoor practice space. We played one memorable game on Mothers Day outside in 40 degree weather during a sleet storm. 

This year we saw all of our hard work pay off. We recruited many new players, and finally had a full team. We started to score frequently and even win games. Last weekend we went to the state tournament as part of the flex division, the more casual division of club teams that we play against every weekend. We ended up placing second in our division and it was incredibly emotional for our whole team and a celebration of our incredible resilience and tenacity. It was also our nine seniors last game, many of whom have been on the team since it started, so it was definitely bittersweet. Even though I couldn’t play because of a sprained ankle (rugby injury) it was an incredible day and I am so proud of how far we’ve come.

Downton Abbey by Claire Borden


My mom and I love to watch TV together. There is no better feeling than coming home with our favorite takeout and turning on an episode of our show. For us, TV is an immersive experience. When we would watch America’s Next Top Model we would pretend to be Tyra Banks for hours after finishing the episode, debating whether our cats were more “high fashion” or “commercial” and practicing our smize. As we watched the models get judged, we would critique their photos with the authority of professional models. 

After we finished the later seasons, which were our favorite, we decided we needed to find a new show. My mom suggested Downton Abbey, a popular period drama about a wealthy family in England.  I reluctantly agreed, but I did not have high hopes. How could anything replace the drama and artistry of Top Model? Boy was I in for a treat. I was enthralled by whirlwind romance, witty dialogue, stunning landscapes and outfits, not to mention those accents! While watching Top Model worked us into a frenzy with eliminations and screaming matches between models, Downton Abbey soothed us and let us escape to a world without  responsibility, where ladies maids and valets dress you for dinner, and your biggest problem is finding an heir to inherit your fortune. In order to complete the experience, we usually watch an episode with a cup of earl grey (like the earl of grantham) and some sort of pastry or sweet in hand, and our cats on our laps. It is our sacred time. 

But what I love most about it is that it’s something for my mom and I to do together to relax. It’s a built in hour that I get to spend with her, which is not to be taken for granted given how busy we both are. It sort of reminds me of the way she used to read to me, a chapter every night before bed of a book we would choose together. I want to treasure every moment with her before I go to college, because even though I hate thinking about it, this is probably the last time I will ever live under her roof and be able to call upstairs for her, instead of calling her on the phone.

We are almost finished with Downton Abbey. It feels bittersweet and symbolic of how I am approaching my senior year and 18th birthday. Although it makes me sad, I am also excited to create a new tradition, and I know no matter how old I get, I will prioritize spending time with my mom and creating special rituals for us.

The Orthodontist by Anna Welsh

There is absolutely nothing in this world that I detest more than the orthodontist. The dentist may be a close second, but the orthodontist always prevails. At least at the dentist, I can feel like I have accomplished something. I can walk out with a brighter smile, despite the pain I endured in the dental chair to get it. I walk out of the orthodontist feeling heavier, beaten down. My mouth is battered, and I carry a new box of Invisalign trays in the crook of my arm. The orthodontist seldom delivers good news. My teeth, somehow, are still not straight.

I have been going to the orthodontist since elementary school. I have gone through teeth pulls, rubber bands, and tooth attachments. I have felt the squeeze of their tools in my mouth, begging my stubborn teeth to realign themselves. My older brother graduated from the orthodontist and subsequently was voted “best smile” by the senior class. I’m the bitter younger sister, left behind on a gray plastic chair beneath a bright yellow light.

I begrudgingly went to the orthodontist this past Friday. I sat in the corner of the waiting room, ten years older than every other patient. Suddenly, the sun began to shine through the windows. Birds began to sing. A rainbow extended from the dry asphalt of the parking lot over the building. The orthodontists smiled widely and told me what I had been waiting for, waiting for since I first entered that godforsaken orthodontist’s office. I was almost done. By next year, my teeth would finish the cruel cycle of Invisalign trays tightening around my teeth with every coming week. I would be done. I could almost hear a choir of schoolchildren singing “Hallelujah” in my ear.

There were certainly setbacks. I lost a good few of my Invisalign trays, I forgot to wear them, and I once swallowed a rubber band. Alas, I had prevailed. Never again would I step foot in that orthodontist’s office, I would be done. No longer would my mouth be stretched and prodded. No longer would I have to deal with the gloved fingers of an absolute stranger touching my teeth. I have never received such wonderful news.

(Actually Good) Sapphic Representation by El Szalay

It’s that time of year again. You walk in to your local Target to find the aisles stocked with rainbow merchandise. Companies change their profile pictures to rainbow versions of their logo. That’s right, it’s Pride Month.

In my last post, I wrote about queer representation in The Legend of Korra and how Nickelodeon ruined the show’s chance of pioneering LGBTQ+ representation in family-friendly television. I briefly mentioned at the end of that post what I planned to write about for this one. I’ve had this idea since the beginning of this school year, but wanted to save it for my last one, since I could tie it in to Pride Month. I wanted to recommend good examples of sapphic (non-men loving non-men) people and relationships, specifically in books.

First of all, what makes sapphic representation great? Here’s some qualities that I look for:

  1. The sapphic characters are taken seriously. By this, I mean that they aren’t over-fetishized or exclusively based on stereotypes. It shouldn’t feel like their sexuality is their only relevant character trait, or like they were just thrown in there because the creator wanted a sapphic character.
  2. The creator is a queer woman/non-binary person. This isn’t to say that men or straight women can’t write sapphic relationships well, but it’s generally more relatable when it’s written by someone who understands how queer women work. Plus, queer creators are less likely to shy away from letting their characters talk about their queerness.
  3. Diversity. Queerness is often linked to whiteness, so seeing non-white characters who are open about their queerness helps create a more accurate, inclusive narrative of LGBTQ+ people today. Plus, many trans or gender non-conforming people also identify as sapphic, yet it’s hard to find stories about them.
  4. Lastly, for the sake of this blog, the sapphic characters are lead characters. There are some really amazing examples of queer women as side characters out there (such as Tara and Darcy from Heartstopper), but I want to take the chance to highlight media that focuses on the beauty of sapphic love and joy.

All that considered, here’s two books that I recommend you check out this Pride Month!

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Synopsis: Evelyn Hugo is known for her scandalous lifestyle, having been married seven times in her life. Several years after leaving the Hollywood scene, she approaches relatively unknown journalist Monique Grant, asking her to write and publish her biography. As Evelyn goes into great detail about her life and her marriages, she reveals the truth about several of her scandals, including who her true love really was

I’ve seen this book hyped up on TikTok for several months before I actually read it, and I understood the hype as soon I as I started it. The characters were lovable (well, except for the ones that were not supposed to be) and all had interesting stories to tell. Evelyn’s bisexuality is handled very well, especially when she comes out to Monique and explicitly says she is bi. After all, it’s not often that queer characters openly state their identities. I also thought it was interesting that a lot of Evelyn’s story takes place before the Stonewall Riots, showing what life was like for queer people before liberation movements rose. All in all, I absolutely adore The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo for its story and the way it addresses LGBTQ+ issues in history.

CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains depictions of sexual assault, domestic abuse, cheating, homophobia, biphobia, alcoholism, and some mentions of suicide.

The Girl from the Sea by Molly Knox Ostertag

Synopsis: 15-year-old Morgan lives by the beach on a little island, and she hates it. Her family and friends don’t understand her, and she doesn’t know how any of them would feel about her being a lesbian. That is, until she befriends the mysterious girl who saves her from drowning and realizes island life isn’t as horrible as she thought.

If you, like me, are a huge sucker for graphic novels that you can read in one sitting, this is the book for you. First of all, the art is stunning. The whole book is in full color, and I could spend several minutes admiring the art. The main story itself isn’t super unique (minus the selkies), but I’d argue that makes it even better. Morgan’s story may not be unique, but that makes her very relatable to queer readers and offers a realistic perspective for allies hoping to learn more about the queer experience. The characters, especially Keltie, are so fun and the ending broke my heart. Though I do wish Morgan and/or Keltie clearly confirmed their sexualities, The Girl from the Sea, is a cute, easy-to-read graphic novel that is worth checking out.

CONTENT WARNINGS: This book contains homophobia and mentions of drowning.

Happy reading, and happy Pride Month!