YA fever pt. 1

If I had to pick a genre for everyone to read (because I’m a dictator), I would pick YA. Young Adult themes are universal because whose life isn’t in flux?? And who doesn’t relate to life being out of control, learning about yourself, and going on a journey? I think YA is all of those things and it appeals to kids, teenagers, young adults, and certainly adults.

It Wasn’t Me by Dana Alison Levy – This is a great book for teachers! It talks about the traditional consequences, such as detention, and looks at another way to deal with misbehavior, restorative justice. The kids thought that justice circles are touchy-feely and not going to work. I still have doubts about restorative justice but the most valuable part of it is that there are rarely just perpetrators and victims. Also, the victim is rarely the only one affected by the crime. When I was teaching and even now, I often think about what is the most effective way to handle misbehavior and injustice (whether perceived or real.) Because whether it happened, who did it, or who it happened to, is not really the question you want to be asking. You want to move forward and for people to feel right again. I love this book and I’m thankful that the author looked at a tricky problem that has no perfect solutions.

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas – I loved this book! It was so funny and really captures Newport Beach well. It’s relevant today because Islamophobia is still real, and a lot of racist still can’t find Iran on a map. I related to Cindy because she wants to feel American, but her life is not at ALL American. When you aren’t American, you don’t get “Dream big and make it happen.” It simply doesn’t work that way for you. (Even when you ARE American, it hardly works that way.) This book wasn’t just funny– it has a lot of heart and I highly enjoyed it. It’s great for fans of historical fiction, immigrant kids, and anyone who wants to laugh at the absurdities of living somewhere and belonging nowhere. Thank you Firoozeh Dumas for writing this very important book!

The Ugly One by Leanne Statland Ellis – I enjoyed this book because it reminded me of The Lighting Queen by Laura Resau. Both have to do with Central America and mythology. I love how Micay doubted herself and felt worthless, but she found her calling and pursued it. I want to read more books about non-western mythology like this one. Not to sound dramatic but society really does make women feel like if they aren’t pretty, they are worthless, from a young age. It is WORK to unlearn that kind of thinking. Micay went on that journey and found that she could heal people. It’s important to find your strength, but it’s also important to know that even if you haven’t found what makes you special, your life is still worth living. ❤

Things That Surprise You  by Jennifer Maschari – Middle school is the worst and it takes a middle school teacher-author to capture all the minor pains that go on at home and at school when you are 12. My favorite character has to be Hector! He is so wonderful and a friend you want, though not necessarily the coolest or at first. Middle school is subtly or outright painful!

I Believe in a Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo – She is sooo good at writing YA! Despite the characters’ questionable choices, her books are always so much fun to read. I really love all the K-drama references and how Desi took the tropes literally. I will read Maurene’s books because they remind me of the first YA books I ever read, back in the early 2000s when they were “teen lit.” AKA The Princess Diaries! I love that YA hits serious themes and has become so sophisticated, but sometimes it’s really nice to read a book for fun.

What do you love about YA?

Graphic novels!

Graphic novels are so awesome! I wish they had been around back when I was a student. Graphic novels written just for kids. I love the CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington because it combines so many awesome things: cats, space/NASA, and our world. The author did an interview here about his process. It really is adorable and I’ve been loving the specific crossovers I’m seeing lately! Comics can really bring together people with different interests, and not the traditional reader. As a format, graphic novels are really powerful and I’m excited to see their applications in the classroom.

One such application is using non-fiction graphic novels for informational reading/writing! Drowned City is a GN about Hurricane Katrina, and it was definitely researched and a lot of facts went into the making. It really captures the short span during which the event happened, and I learned a lot about Hurricane Katrina. It would be so great to do a dual-text comparison of this and a news article, interview, or video on the same event. Kind of wish I was a teacher so I could design these kind of lessons!

Graphic novels can also be used for fantasy! Making Scents and Chasma Knights are both partly based in the real world with fantasy elements. Chasma is about a world where toys have power, and Making Scents is about a boy who has dog-like abilities. Graphic novels appeal to kids because a lot of us are visual learners, and as teachers, we are always pairing text with images to help clarify. It makes perfect sense that GNs would help all kinds of readers make sense of the story.

Lastly, I loved Cici’s Journal. It’s a two-part book about an aspiring writer/journalist. Cici discovers an abandoned zoo as well as a library book that has been checked out by the same patron for years. On her quests to uncover these mysteries, she alienates her best friends, her mom, and her mentor. The drawings and mementos are absolutely precious and really bring the story to life. I’ve always loved journal-type books like Amelia and other diary formats. They are so precious to read and to be honest, I’m still that kind of person.

Will you give graphic novels a try? If you are a teacher, might you incorporate GNs into your lessons?


Inspiration: Think.Make.Share.

I found the perfect blog for me! It’s a blog from the creative studios at Hallmark called Think.Make.Share. I’ve spent hours looking over every single section/link and it is honestly my dream come true! There are so many things I want to make from there. I’m making a list so that I remember:

More to come!




I really love all things DIY and I keep finding inspiration for them. These are some of my favorites.

  • Hallmark has a wonderful blog called Think.Make.Share. I want to do everything on here! I will be reading this blog all the time.
  • Oh so beautiful paper has a DIY section that’s perfect for papercrafts.
  • Babble has a DIY section that’s geared towards parents but great for gifts.
  • The Creative Independent has amazing guides on balancing daily life and creating.

A creative hobby that ties together the things I love–writing, drawing, sharing, and having an opinion–is zines!!! I had heard about them before. Now is the time to make one! Here are some resources I’ve gathered about making zines:

Excited to embark on my zine adventure!

Dreamy Meals List!

What do you call the food that appears in your dreams? It is literally dreamy food. I’ve dreamt plenty of times about clothes I don’t own and it was all a fantasy. Fortunately, when food appears in my dreams, they are food I’ve had (or seen on Pinterest/social media/the internet), and I very much hope they will reappear in my life by way of cooking, going to a restaurant, or a Ratatouille situation.

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  • Pasta
    • Butternut squash ravioli (it tastes like fall)
    • Mint, ricotta and lemon caramelle (this is such a cute pasta! it looks like candy)
    • Filipino spaghetti (I am kind of obsessed with sweet pasta)
  • Chinese
    • Potstickers (potstickers are so democratic; you can fill them with anything your heart desires)
    • Scallop lo mein (noodles are my fav carb! I’ll never say no to noodles)
    • Scallion pancakes (this is a Chinese food MUST and I really want to master it)
    • Orange, walnut and dates wonton (it is heavenly and the best dessert)
  • On toast
    • Disclaimer: I’ve not made any of these but that’s why they are DREAM-Y
    • Kimchi, soft-boiled egg, and sesame seeds (I love the Korean twist on it!)
    • Refried beans, salsa, and cilantro (I already know I’d devour this)
    • Goat cheese, strawberries, edamame, and salt (*chef’s kiss*)
  • Indian & Thai
    • Saag paneer (it’s one of my fav dishes!)
    • Chicken tikka masala (chicken tastes good in every cuisine)
    • Cauliflower and chickpea masala
    • Spicy glass noodle salad (SO yummy! I love the spicy twist on salad)
  • Budget meals
    • Spicy tuna guacamole bowl
    • Actually, the longer I look on BudgetBytes the more I realize that dreams, or at least dreamy foods, are attainable.

I will keep on dreaming!

My mentor, Ann

When I think about my time teaching, the most beneficial thing I got out of a difficult experience would be the friends I made. Getting to know teachers as peers, not as a student, is such a privilege.

Today, I want to talk about my mentor, Ann Wilson. She was my Induction mentor during my second year, and that was a really strange year for me because I came out of a horrible experience, and I didn’t have a classroom. I was working with many different teachers and to be honest, felt lost. It was hard to know what my role was and everything was super unclear. She did so many things that helped me, even if it did not make the particular situation better:

  • She made me feel seen and heard. This, in turn, was how I wanted to make students and people in general feel.

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  • She gave to-the-point and meaningful presentations and it was Google Slides #goals. Teachers go to a lot of professional development, and a lot of it is not very applicable to your own classroom. However, Ann always made a point to involve participants and it didn’t feel like being talked at for an hour.

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  • She stressed the importance of revising in teaching and in everything else. She openly talked about how it takes a few years to master a grade level, and it wasn’t until your third, fourth, or even fifth year that you really know what you are doing. Mistakes are to be expected, but not fatal, and “you’re not going to go from here to there in one day.”

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  • When I was having a hard time working with some of the teachers, she told me that other people can do what they do, but you have to make sure your side of the street is clean. That was really incredible because it was so frank. Anyone else might’ve told me to just hold my tongue and deal with it, or even that the other party is right and I’m at fault. However, Ann acknowledged that sometimes other people ARE wrong, and even if they bully you, you don’t become like them. She encouraged me to do the right thing even if there is no immediate payoff.

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  • I loved the way she talked about running her classroom. I think I would have really liked to be a student in her classroom! She treats her 3rd graders like little people, and did not baby them which is something I have always struggled with doing. She gave students responsibilities, but she did have hard times too with certain students. I love how she talked about helping students grow as readers and writers, and all the math strategies she helped me come up with. Teaching is a craft and just like any craft it takes practice and a ton of research and finding what works for you. This is an approach I’d like to take no matter what job I have.

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In short, Ann encouraged me to revise often and write well. She also gave me a really good approach to living life, not only as a teacher but as a person.

Food hacks! from Trader Joe’s

I love Trader Joe’s because they have such great products that seem to be made just for you. As someone who is not at all good at cooking, I will rely on them a lot when I am feeding myself. Even the cooking class that I go to uses ingredients from TJ’s. I think it’s like faux-cooking where you are opening packages and mixing things together, but the result is that you still have a really good and filling meal and that’s all that matters. I compiled links to some recipes based on TJ’s products!

For some food gurus, the decision to simmer homemade spaghetti and meatballs on the stove rather than heat up a can of ravioli in the microwave is evidence of a person’s moral fortitude.

My food might not taste great but I do find cooking to be meditative. I love rolling, rationing things out, combining, cutting (even though I’m not great at it yet), and even doing dishes. I am excellent at doing dishes from all my time assisting at Hipcooks! All in all, I’m excited to move out because I love having my own kitchen to play in.

PS. It sounds crazy but during some truly hopeless and dark times in my life, the thought of the life I might someday lead has kept me going, and cooking is one of them. You could say it’s a fantasy. I want to keep living and even live a long life so that I might someday bring all those tutorial videos that I watch into practice.

PPS. I thought about my mentor teacher Ann Wilson today and even though I’m no longer teaching, she has inspired me to live a good, “well-revised” life. I will write more on her later!

(Monday) Morning Edition!

What I am reading this week:

  • Travel Guide to Monterey, California! I love Monterey! My dream is to live there one day. I love the central coast and how it’s close to both the water and the forest. I’m excited to go there for my friend @floandcat ‘s reception. It’s just such a peaceful and calm place.
  • Vegan sandwich recipes! I love sandwiches and tbh I’m intrigued by the idea of vegan sandwich fillings. I love tricking myself into eating meat and food that tries to taste like other things 😛 . I love the original versions of these sandwiches, I will definitely be returning to this.
  • Airbnb host kicks out black guests in racist exchange This was so unsettling to watch. It brought up a lot of questions I had already been wondering about. What does it mean to be a minority and person of color, and how do you confront infighting? It might not even be appropriate to call it infighting. As I go deeper into diverse books and supporting all creators, I think back to the people who have supported me and those who have put me down. What if the people putting you down are actually people just like you?
    • When I was teaching, some of the people I’ve had the hardest time with are Asian women. I don’t really know who to share this with because it might be those particular women, and I don’t want to put my own race and gender down. Is there a place to critique people in the groups you belong to, without being “self-hating”? =/
  • Giant cross-stitch! I think my next craft is going to be embroidery. I love meditative crafts like paper cutting, making dumplings, and cross-stitching because it helps me manage anxiety. I also love details and things coming together in the end, so I think this is a very suitable craft for me.
  • I. M. Pei’s obituary I think architecture is a kind of art too. It requires attention to detail, imagination, and it is most definitely a craft. How do architects make their own style and not make something for the sake of standing out, but because it is functional and useful too? I think these design questions help me a lot too, in the career that I am trying to pursue.
  • How to Find a Romance Novel I’m super glad to see that romance is evolving and becoming more inclusive! The thing I like most about it is that it is not written TO be like by the GP, and its somehow confident that readers will find it even if most people don’t. There are a few romance novels that are on my list this summer, and I’m so happy that there is romance for every one <3.

More TK!

Excellent books with female protagonists!

The really cool thing about these books is that they show change in women over time. They could all be classified as women’s fiction! 🙂

Convenience Store Woman is particularly wonderful. One reviewer described it like a stage play and it makes sense. It’s a hyper-detailed description of a convenience store worker who has been there for 18 years!!!!! She’s at the age where people are asking her why she’s not married and doesn’t have a career. I would have to say the most disappointing part of the book was when it looked like she would get settle and finally get a real career job, However! Spoiler Alert: She actually realizes that the Convenience Store is where she belongs, and chooses to embrace the life she HAS been living all this time. That definitely felt like a victory.

I loved What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper, for both the illustrations and the story. It’s about Gerta, a Holocaust survivor and the three years between the end of the war and the next chapter of her life. She meets Lev, a fellow survivor who wants to marry her to start a new life. However, Gerta refuses because 1) she is initially in love with this other survivor, Michah, who is a Zionist and kind of awful and 2) she doesn’t see the point in doing anything permanent. However (and nevertheless), they do get married. It seems that Gerta does find herself and can picture a new life unfolding, which may be the greatest victory of all.

I LOVE THE CILLA LEE-JENKINS series. I actually met the author Susan Tan, at Kweli19! I love how it’s semi-autobiographical. Cilla is just the coolest kid and I related to so many of her Struggles. The illustrations by Dana Wulfekotte are just adorbs and capture the story so well. I love everything about this series including:

  • How Cilla references writing and plot devices IN HER LIFE
  • The fact that Cilla wants to be an author extraordinaire
  • All 4 of her grandparents: Grandpa and Grandma Jenkins, Ye Ye and Nai Nai
  • Her little sisters Gwen and Essie
  • Her friends, Colleen, Melissa, and Ben. The supporting cast in this series is pretty solid! I also love the teachers she’s had all three years. It could be pretty hit or miss.
  • The book doesn’t shy away from some of the doubts and uncomfortable situations that Asian-American women face.

So so happy that these books exist. ❤