Saturday, April 11, 2015

Pound Cake Recipe!

For the Cake:

1 Cup of butter/margarine (2 sticks) 
1 Cup of Vegetable Shortening (I usually don't use shortening, but I added it to the recipe because I have heard that it works well)
3 Cups of Sugar 
6 Large Eggs 
1 Cup of Evaporated Milk 
3 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour 
1 teaspoon of Baking Powder 
1/2 teaspoon of salt 
1 Tablespoon of Vanilla Extract 
3 Tablespoons of Lemon Extract (or whatever extract you're gonna use) 

For the Glaze:

2 Cups of Powdered Sugar 
2 Fresh Lemons

1) Set your butter and eggs out and let them reach room temperature. This will allow the butter to mix easier and the eggs will allow the cake to rise better. 

2) Get out your big mixing bowl, electric mixer, measuring spoons and cups, a sifter, a baking sheet, and a cake plan.
3) Preheat your oven to 300F with the rack in the middle of the oven. 

4) Grease your Cake Pan and dust it with flour. 

5) Cream the cup of butter and shortening together in your big mixing bowl with that electric mixer (or attempt to whisk it). 

6) As you go, add eggs, sugar, milk, and both the lemon and vanilla extracts. Make sure the mixture is smooth.

7) Sift the flour, and add your baking powder and salt to the batter. Add the flour in increments.

8) Now for the baking!  Scrape the batter into your cake pan and place it on a baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Set your timer for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

9) Put 2 cups of powdered sugar in the bowl and squeeze 1 1/2 lemons worth of juice into the sugar and mix well. 

10) If your cake is done, perform the toothpick test on it (toothpick in and out; any batter on it, then it isn't fully cooked). Turn off the oven and let the cake sit inside for 10 more minutes. Then transfer the cake to a plate. Do not worry if the top of the cake is browned and cracked - it's supposed to be like that.

11) While the cake is hot, apply the glaze to your cake. If you have a crack in your cake (usually!) make sure to fill that up with glaze.

12) Congratulate yourself on making a delicious cake, and then invite friends and family over to eat it so you don't end up finishing it all yourself! :) 
1) Remove the lemon extract to get plain vanilla (or replace it with a different extract).
2) Watch your cake while it's in the oven. Only YOU know when it's done! Every oven is a little different.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Indonesia Child Smoking

Can you imagine a young child smoking when he or she barely knows how to walk? In Indonesia, children as young as three-year-olds are smoking cigarettes. And over the years, things have been getting even worse. Lisda Sundari, deputy director for education and advocacy at the local children NGO Lentera Anak, said the quantity of kids 10 to 14 who smoke has multiplied in the course of recent years, and has tripled for 5- to 9-year olds.
Sixty-seven percent of Indonesian men and 41 percent of 13 to 15 year-old young men smoke. Indonesia is one of the few nations on the planet that hasn't agreed to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. This implies cigarettes are still cheap to a great degree  (around one dollar a pack) and cigarette advertising has not been outlawed.
What is so bad, you ask? The harsh additives in cigarettes narrow blood vessels and puts enormous strain on the heart. It also leads to a lack of oxygen and shortness of breath. Nicotine, a dangerous chemical in cigarettes, is not just exceptionally addictive for youth, its a poison - a drop of pure nicotine would murder a person.
Additionally, cigarette ads are still completely ubiquitous across Indonesia. These promotions are on television, in daily papers and magazines, and put on trees lining the streets. Indonesian urban communities are crowded with announcements guaranteeing pleasure, style, and confidence. Cigarette organizations support the majority of the nation's concerts and sporting events.
Ladies and gentlemen, next time you see a child or teen anywhere in the world that doesn’t understand the effect of these dangerous chemicals, remember these young kids in Indonesia, and tell them to do the right thing.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Advertisements: The Bane of Our Society

Today I want to give us all some food for thought about ads. I have seen just too many of them nowadays, and knew I had to share my opinion with you guys! :)

So imagine this: You’re eyes are glued to the TV screen. You cannot look away from it. The fake, electronic light is blinding. You have lost all concern for what surrounds you. You don’t need food, water, or sleep. You cannot live.

Because you see the latest teddy bear, Ted234Lightning.

Go ahead, laugh. It’s funny. Yes, it is simply hilarious how every single day of our lives, we are so easily distracted, so easily wanting the unnecessary, so easily brainwashed. Who is this evil force that turns human beings into senseless creatures of desire?

Yes, the advertisement. In Latin, ad vertere means "to turn toward", meaning to call attention to a business. Just someone out there hoping to get some money by spreading the word about their work.  Sounds pretty harmless, right? Now, ads have morphed into a dangerous weapon. Day by day, month by month, year by year, people suffer even more because of these wastes of time.

So if it’s gotten this bad, the solution is simple. We need to get rid of all the advertisements altogether.

According to informative television show, Brain Games, giving people less options actually makes them happier. They gave some people lots of options for ice cream flavors, and others only three options. The participants faced with several options felt conflicted, dissatisfied, and wishing they had chosen something else. When just faced with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, the choice was usually obvious, and there were no regrets afterwards.

It works the same way with ads. Being convinced daily that you never have enough is a huge money waster, and can make people get more than they need. You never wanted the Teddy234Lightning until that ad introduced you to it. Think. You can’t miss what you don’t see!

A young child’s entire perception of the world can be destroyed because of these omnipresent ads. Food advertising and child obesity, for example, have been found to have a disturbingly close connection. The rates of obesity in America’s children and youth have almost tripled in the last quarter century. “Approximately 20% of our youth are now overweight with obesity rates in preschool age children increasing at alarming speed” ( states that kids spend about “44.5 hours per week in front of computer, television, and game screens - more than any other activity in their lives except sleeping.” Ads are abundant online, and kids are being targeted even when their parents are unware.

Additionally, in 2010, spending on advertising was estimated at $143 billion in the United States and $467 billion worldwide. With that kind of money, we could build a nature reserve to protect endangered animals, save hundreds of thousands of young starving children, and get me a ton of iPads. Even after all of that spending, we would still have a colossal amount of money left.

Clearly, these ubiquitous, sly, and plainly evil ads need to be eliminated completely. Advertising is tantamount to turning the entire human race into mindless robots. Things are getting worse. Companies are coming up with even more seductive strategies to make us do what they want. New technology, new ideas, new ads. Why wait? Let us act now. Let us take control our futures, instead of letting the future control us.

Book Review of Freak the Mighty

NOTE: I would say this is a more of an in depth analysis of the book than a book review, per say. I suggest that if you haven't read Freak the Mighty By Rodman Philbrick, that you should get off this website and read it now! My review does contain spoilers - I would suggest you read it only to understand more AFTER you have read the book.

In the inspiring novel, Freak the Mighty, Rodman Philbrick tells the story of two boys that face many difficult problems-- one who has no belief in himself, and the other who is severely handicapped. The two briefly meet each other in daycare, and then one of them, Kevin (commonly known as Freak) abruptly moves away. Max doesn’t ever expect to see the short, smart, blonde boy with fierce eyes ever again, until Freak moves back next door, the summer before eighth grade. The two become fast friends, riding dragons and going on adventures and facing their extraordinarily difficult lives together. As the story progresses, Max grows from being a boy with a low self esteem, to a person who is not afraid to express himself and enjoy life. As the story unfolds, Max learns numerous lessons. Freak taught Max that “Remembering is an invention of the mind” (Philbrick 141). Grim and Gram taught about the importance of family support. Meanwhile, Loretta reinforced the lesson Grim taught Max about going  out into the world and doing something, because every life is worth living. Indisputably, the theme of this story is that no matter what the circumstance, because moping is a waste of the opportunity all of our lives are!

Right at the beginning, Max is lonely and pessimistic, hating everything about himself, even saying his “brain is vacant”. As a young child, he is known as “Kicker”, venting his anger on others, using his way of “saying things with [his] fists and feet” (Philbrick 1). Tormented by the fact that he is a “spitting image of his old man” (Philbrick 25), a murderer who is in jail, Max leads rough childhood. Teased by his peers and whispered about by his own grandparents for looking like his murderer father, Killer Kane, Max is at the worst place he could be-- until Freak comes along. Seeing Freak’s intelligence and confidence, Max begins to put himself down even more. Then, when Max retrieves Freak’s ornithopter bird, a friendship begins to spark. Talking together, Max listens and opens up a little bit. He learns so much from Freak-- from new words, to actual life lessons. Max recounts one of the many times he spoke with Max, saying “Except later it was Freak himself who taught him that remembering is an invention of the mind, can remember anything, whether it really happened or not” (Philbrick 2). This phrase sticks in Max’s mind, becoming key to an important lesson he learns later on. Being with Freak, having a friend, Max is hovering over the mopey pit that is his life, not quite out, watching, seeing the whispers continue, the Fair Gwen being scared of him.

As the story progresses, Max begins to feel a togetherness, as if he is part of a team and a family. When the Fair Gwen meets Max, he discovers that she isn’t scared of him at all. On the contrary, she speaks with him as if he was an adult. When Max goes home, thinking back on that day, he says, “Everything seems really great, just like Gwen says, except when I lie down on my bed, it hits me, boom, and I’m crying like a baby. And the really weird thing is, I’m happy” (Philbrick 27). Max finally feels included, a feeling he has never really experienced before. Not soon after, they go on dangerous adventures together, including standing up to the scary Tony D. After Max rescues Freak on his shoulders, Freak declares, “‘We’re Freak the Mighty, that’s who we are. We’re nine feet tall, in case you haven’t noticed ‘“ (Philbrick 40). Freak and Max both feel like they are being a part of something that is greater than themselves. When Freak declares that they are nine feet tall, he is referring to the fact that they can do so much more together, having fun, rather than alone. By towering above the world and “slaying dragons and fools”, Freak is showing Max that they defeat anyone out there, that they aren’t less than anyone. Max is feeling happier, knowing he is part of an unstoppable team, and this ecstasy changes his perspective on life for the first time.

Reaching the  middle of the story, Max begins to favor his friend over his grandparents, and really allow himself to take a chance and try new things. A clear example of this is when he goes on his first night quest, despite the fact that Grim and Gram would never approve. For the sake of a fun adventure that would make his life more interesting, Max disregards his grandparents wishes, and finally has the confidence he needs. “ There’s no moon, the sky is dark and empty, and the backyards are so lonesome...the truth is, I’ve never been out alone at this time of night ” (Philbrick 57). Though he has opened up while spending time with Freak, he can’t bring himself to share his opinions or even answer a simple question in class. He describes his problem, saying, “I can’t explain what it is, except that my mouth shuts up when there’s more than one or two people, and a whole classroom full, forget it” (Philbrick 78). As Max is tormented by his peers throughout 8th grade, Freak consoles Max, but Freak the Mighty or not, Max still doesn’t value himself or believe in his intelligence, so he doesn’t feel that his opinion even matters. Meeting Loretta and Iggy, them saying he is “a ringer for old Killer Kane” (Philbrick 68), and in school constantly being ridiculed for being brainless makes Max feel broken inside. Deep down, Max hates himself for being like his father, and hates how he is always associated with him and can never be a good person because of his resemblance to his dad, his mom’s killer. Then, Freak makes a bold move: introducing Freak the Mighty to the 8th grade class, reminding Max to not let himself down, to make the best of his life and experiences.

As the story continues, Max and Freaks friendship continues to grow. At Christmastime,  Max receives a very special gift from Freak: a dictionary. “‘Exactly,’ Freak says, ‘but different because this is my dictionary ’” (Philbrick 97). By hand creating a dictionary and putting in Freak’s favorite words and own point of view in terms of definitions, Freak is showing Max something that is essential to his growth. The dictionary is a symbol of what Freak has made of his life, despite all of his limitations --he hasn’t copied anyone else, he freely stated his own interpretation of the words, and he wasn’t shy about it. Freak is attempting to show Max that he can have an enriching life life while having so many physical problems, so why can’t Max? As time goes by, the story turns darker, as Max’s father gets released from jail and defies the restraining order put on him, not to mention stealing Max out of his own bed. At this point, Max is at a state of self reliance that he doesn’t panic, and he even says, “Somehow I always knew this would happen, that he would come for me, in the night, that I would wake up to find him there, filling the room, and I’d feel empty.” Max knew that confronting his father and his past as a whole was inevitable. He believes that it had to happen some day, and he won’t run away or feel hopeless, because he finally recognizes the importance of a meaningful life, and he wants a sense of closure. Max doesn’t want to feel like he spent his entire life running away from his past. He is at a state of maturity that he wants to end this, once and for all, and just get on with things. Over the course of the book, he has grown from panicky and shy to ready to confront his worst fear with bravery.

As the story reaches the climax, Max’s father continues to keep him under his custody, hiding him from the police, patronizing and chastising him, and even tying him up as he sees fit. Despite Iggy and Loretta’s previously bad behavior and criminal nature, they still have the heart in them to recognize that such misbehavior is completely immoral. Loretta expresses her opinion on this matter to Max while trying to rescue him from his father. “‘ It ain’t right,’ she whispers. ‘Keeping your own kid tied up, it ain’t right.’” As Loretta and Iggy prepare to rescue Max, they show him that he is worth saving, and no matter who his father is, he doesn’t deserve such horrible mistreatment. As Killer Kane notices the rescue attempt, he begins to kill her, the very same way he killed Max’s mother, all those years ago. Max travels back into his childhood, saying, “‘Stop! I see you! Daddy, please stop, you’re killing her!’” (Philbrick 48). Max is no longer afraid to stand up for what he knows is right, even when going through trauma and in an extremely difficult situation. With the help of Freak with his ingenious concoction of kitchen ingredients, Loretta and Max make their escape. However, the difficulties haven’t ended yet, since Freak suffers through a seizure and needs to visit the hospital.

As the story comes to a close, Max visits the hospital and the extent to which Freak is sick begins to sink in. Lying in the hospital bed, Freak gifts Max an empty book, and tells him to “fill it up with all our adventures” (Philbrick 150). The empty book is a symbol of all Max’s possibilities in life, and that this is only the beginning. Writing in the book symbolizes enjoying an enriching life, one to be proud of. As Freak dies, Max goes completely crazy, shoving people out of his way and seeking time alone. When he confronts Dr. Spivak about the fact that Freak lied to him about getting a robot body, she corrects him. She tells him that everyone needs something to hope for, and if that was what helped Freak get through his life, to make him feel better, then that isn’t lying. Dr. Spivak is implying that by going on adventures and dreaming about having a robot body, Freak made his life more interesting for himself, and in the following weeks, Grim tells Max the same thing. “Grim tries to tell me it isn’t how long you’ve got that matters, it’s what you do with the time you have” (Philbrick 158). Despite all these people trying to help him out, Max shuts them all out, hiding in the down under and wallowing in grief. Later, he meets Loretta on the street, and when she enquires on what he has been doing lately, he merely replies, “Nothing”. “ She gives me this long look, and she goes, ‘Nothing is a drag, kid. Think about it’” (Philbrick 160). By saying this, Loretta, like so many other people, is trying to show Max that one should always make the best of their life, no matter what the circumstance. Then, boom, Max gets it, and he begins to write about his experiences, all the “unvanquished truth stuff...going, for months and months, until it was spring again, and the world was really and truly green all over” (Philbrick 160). Spring and green represent Max’s autonomous happiness. Finally, Max has a value for his life and himself-- he truly has changed.

As Max goes through the roller coaster of his life, there are many consistent ideas and lessons people have to share with him. To begin with, Grim and Gram support Max as they see his true, empathetic and friendly nature. On the other hand, at the beginning of the novel, when Max’s grandparents whisper about him rather than stand by him, this has a huge negative effect on his self esteem. Therefore, a distinct theme of family runs through the book. Additionally, friendship is another prominent theme, for without Freak’s empathy and kindness towards Max, he would never have begun to gain confidence in the first place. Being together made Max feel happy and free of his past. Furthermore, Max learns that “Remembering is just an invention of the mind” (Philbrick 141). When Freak says this, he means that Max doesn’t have to remember or think about his father or his past if he doesn’t want to. He can forget things that will cause him pain, and remember only the things that make him happy. His brain has the power to recall whatever he wants. Another prominent idea is one that Loretta taught him, that one must never waste one’s life doing absolutely nothing, because that will ultimately be a waste of time and make one unhappy in the end. Even Max’s father taught Max an important lesson about betrayal, and being wary of those who lie and have killed. Now, Max knows not to blindly trust people, because there is always someone out there that doesn’t have pure intentions. All of these ideas and lessons neatly fit into one central idea: Life is always worth living. Every person mentioned has knowingly or unknowingly made life easier for Max in the end, taught him priceless life lessons. Sometimes, life can look bad,but the key is to just work through, keep having fun, knowing that someday, today or in a decade, light will prevail over darkness.

It is evident that Max has learned to spread his wings and fearlessly fly into the sky like the 

powerful bird he is. No longer a friendless, scared pessimist, Max finally embraces the life

given to him. With the help of his best friend, grandparents, and even his father, Loretta, 

and Iggy, Max has become a completely changed person. The riveting story, Freak the 

Mightyurges us to value our lives, because this is our only opportunity. Think about it: if 

your life ended now, would you have felt that your experience was fun, enriching, worth it? 

Life can be taken away from us in the blink of an eye, so we should all cast aside all our 

reservations, looking deep down inside of us...what do we truly want our life to be?

If You Have Hope, Strength, and Friendship...

I am really grateful for all the good friends I have in my life, as well as my hope and strength that got me through even the toughest of times. This is the story I wrote, inspired by that feeling. :D

She was running. From what, who, where, she didn’t know. Tiredness was taking over her

body and spirit, tossing her life carelessly through its sneaky fingers. Feeling powerless against

everything, she fell; her tiara tumbled to the ground, her silken clothes torn. Her last memory was the

deep blue of the starry night beyond the mass of tangled tree branches. She lay unconscious, breathing

shallow, as moonlight shone over her - just a vulnerable girl in the night, nearly dead.

 As the first drops of the morning dew fell on her face, she awoke to the gentle rustling of the

wind, inhaling the sweet scent of pine trees. But some thing was wrong. The birds weren’t tweeting.

The bees weren’t buzzing. And faint footsteps were now thundering towards her. Panic swelled inside

her dry throat and she looked up. People. Masked people with knives.

 A scream escaped her lips, and suddenly several of the armaments were hurled at her. She

sat there, paralyzed, her mind running wild. Then, suddenly a new power flowed through her. Now

was her moment to act, her only chance at survival. She ducked and wove through the maze of the

assassins’ knives, grabbed two of the flying weapons and slashed back. Cut and bloody, she ran, barely

coming away with her life, once again.

 The girl had just enough energy left in her to stumble into a small wooden hut in the woods.

As she entered the doorway, she was transfixed by the radiance of the woman standing before her,

eyes blue as the ocean, with silky chocolate brown hair and dressed in a simple white gown. Then her

vision blurred and she lost consciousness once more. When she came to her senses, she was shaking

her head violently, pulling at her disheveled hair, muttering to herself.

The radiant woman smiled kindly, “ My name is Anne and yours is Emma. And I will show

you the way to your home and to your mommy and daddy.”

 “Where is home?” She scratched her head and looked up at Anne expectantly.” “And I got

hurt,” whimpering she tried to show her all her cuts and bruises. But they were all gone, every last one.

 Anne smiled. “I do think I did a good job healing you.”

 Emma stared at her in wonder, “Hurt all gone? Home – I want to go home.”

 Anne said, “Come, I will show you the way to get back to your home.”

 Anne walked Emma to the edge of the forest and pointed to the far side of the city, all the way

to a little red house. “That right there is where you have to go. In that house is an old woman who has

broken her way into your home. You can recognize her by a golden lion’s paw that has replaced her

left hand. She is evil. You must drive her out. Then your home will become yours again and you will

find your family too.” Saying so, she placed near Emma a slender twig that had two soft green leaves

attached to it. Anne whispered, “These leaves will give you hope and friendship. The twig provides

you the strength to succeed. Use it well.” Then she transformed into a doe and sprinted away.

 Emma picked up the twig and suddenly felt a jolt of energy surge through her body, clearing

all the fogginess in her mind. She said to herself, “Yes. I will reclaim my home and find my family.”

Then with fierce determination burning in her heart, she walked out of the forest and into the city.

 Meanwhile, in the kingdom of Ashercroume lived a princess named Emma, the only child of

King William and Queen Isabel. She had an abundance of anything money could buy, but not freedom.

Her parents wouldn’t let her out of the palace for fear that she would be harmed by the Forbidden One.

 Princess Emma didn’t believe in the Forbidden One. She didn’t remember one bit of her

grandmother’s story happening, even though she said it occurred only a year ago. But for the sake of a

good tale, here is what she said:

 It all started when preparations were being made for Princess Emma’s eleventh birthday

celebrations. A tall, slender young woman with a pointy nose and thin lips had come to the palace

seeking work in the kitchen. Although she dressed like a normal citizen of Ashercroume, she had an

unearthly aura about her, with eyes that shimmered like icicles. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of

the birthday preparations, this woman sneaked into Princess Emma’s bedroom. A scream then echoed

throughout the palace. Some guards even claimed that they saw the woman fly past dragging Princess

Emma with her. Luckily, Princess Emma was found sleeping peacefully in her bedroom. The guards

were immediately banished from the kingdom for lying about the princess. However a note was found

in the kitchen. It said:

 “King of Ashercroume, there is a lot of power in being a ruler. You don’t deserve the power or

wealth. I will make sure that your child too shall never ascend the throne. She will live, but driven

mad by my power. And when tomorrow comes, a worthy leader shall rule over Ashercroume. In other

words: me. Say goodbye to your rule.”

 The next morning a blinding light emanated from a little red house on the far side of the city and

enveloped the kingdom of Ashercroume. The king sent his soldiers to investigate. But one by one, they

fell dead at the threshold of the little red house. Rumor had it that it was the home of an old woman

with supernatural powers. She did as she pleased, stealing cattle from the farmers, money from even

the poor and creating misunderstanding and havoc among the subjects of Ashecroume. The citizens,

in their fear had named her the Forbidden One. No one dared contradict her or oppose her magical

powers, so the land came under the Forbidden One’s control.

 While the girl, Emma, set out for the city, Princess Emma had decided that she was going to go

out of the palace, regardless of the existence of the Forbidden One. She was tired of being cooped up

in the boring palace, so she smuggled herself out the palace gates to explore the city. The princess was

amazed by the city with its smell of baking bread, vendors hawking groceries, pots and pans, clothes

and all kinds of other goods. Children of all ages ran around playing and shouting in excitement.

Numerous carriages traversed the streets.

 Among the hustling city crowd, Princess Emma noticed a girl about her age looking slightly

lost. This must be her first time seeing the city too, she thought. Princess Emma walked up to the girl.

 “Hi! My name is Emma. What’s yours?”

 “Oh!” The girl looked up in surprise. “My name is Emma too. I am looking for a little red house.

 Do you have any idea where that is?”

 “Little red house? Why would you want to go there? The Forbidden One lives there!”

 “Forbidden One!” Emma felt an instinctive trust for Princess Emma, so she revealed

 her mission to kill the Forbidden One in order to save her family.

 “How will you ever manage to do this?” Princess Emma queried after thinking for a minute.

 “I will succeed with hope, friendship, and strength.” She pulled the twig out of her pocket and

 “Hope, friendship, and strength...what?” Emma narrated her experience with Anne to the

 “Okay, then. Let’s go!”

 “Let’s go? You don’t have to come with me. What if you got hurt?”

“Oh, I’ll be fine.” Princess Emma walked up to a boy and asked, “Do you know where the

Forbidden One’s lives? My friend and I are new in town and are curious. We’ve heard quite a

bit about her.”

 “The Forbidden One controls Ashercroume from her little red house about fifteen miles

 here. No one ever approaches her. I suggest you don’t try.”

 “Oh, no, we are just curious,” lied the princess as she ran back to inform Emma.

 The two girls started the long walk to the Forbidden One’s hut. The road south was dusty and

seemed endless. Hot, sweaty and tired, they did eventually get to their destination. Both Emma and the

princess stared at the house they were to break into. It was a small cottage, with two windows lit up by

the glow of the setting sun. The two stared in wonder, thinking about what was ahead...

 “Looking for someone?” An old woman stood before them, smiling a twisted smile. She was

wearing a patched brown dress and shoes of the same color. A paw peeked out of her long left sleeve.

 Emma was quick to act, drawing out her two knives, tossing one to the princess. They both held

their knives high, ready to attack.

 "Why are we being violent, friends? Let us go inside." With a lazy flick of her wrinkly, gnarled

hand she paralyzed both the girls and pulled them into her hut. With an evil cackle she tied them up

tight and threw them against the wall. As they lay bloody and unconscious, the Forbidden One pried

the knives out of their hands and poised each above each girl's heart. Then with a thundering force she

plunged both knives. And when she pressed her ear against each of their hearts, she chuckled knowing

there wouldn't be any heartbeat.

 But there was. The power of hope, friendship, and strength had saved the girls from death.

Disappointed, The Forbidden One raised her knife high in the air once again.

 "Wait!” commanded a woman’s voice.

 "Anne?" The Forbidden One fixated her gaze on Anne’s ocean blue eyes. Then she lunged

toward Anne, and a new battle started.

 Meanwhile, Emma and the princess began to gain consciousness. Finally when their eyes

opened, they saw the Forbidden One with her back to them – fighting!

 "Oh my! Is that Anne?!" Emma stared in surprise. The two girls then crept into the Forbidden

One's kitchen and grabbed the largest knives they could find. Then they ran up and hacked at the

Forbidden One from behind. Arms flailing around, she collapsed, leaving Anne standing before the

 "Come, I have a lot to explain to you." Anne led Emma outside, leaving the princess in the hut.

 "Emma, I had told you that when you defeated the Forbidden One, you would be free to go back

home to your parents. The truth is, you don't have ordinary parents. You were born to the king and

 "The king and queen?! But..."

 "Once you hear the whole story, you will understand all."

 "The Forbidden One knew that you were the next in line to be the ruler of Ashercroume. She

coveted power and Ashercroume's wealth. So, in order to usurp the throne, she transformed into a

young woman, kidnapped you from the palace and wiped out your memory. As she was flying over the

forest dragging you with her, you bit her hand and broke free, falling to the forest floor. Fearing that

you would be recaptured, you ran until you fell unconscious. The masked people who attacked you

were servants of the Forbidden One. Luckily you escaped and made your way to me. I gave you the

twig with the leaves, and you know what happened next."

 "Then I went to the city!"

 "Yes. So you see, you would not be have been safe with your parents until the Forbidden One

was dead. So now, my child, you may go back home."

 " memory...just to be sure..."

 Anne seemed to understand. "Here we go then,” she said chanting some magical words. With

that Emma's memory was fully recovered.

Smiling widely, Emma said," Now lets go inside to Emma!"

 "Emma, your friend was just an orphan named Lily, pretending to be a princess until I got you

back home, with no idea that she was doing it. The king would have been mad at her for masquerading

as you even though it was by my magic, so I had to send her away."

 "Send her away? Please bring her back! She was my only friend!"

 "Okay... I can try, Emma."

 After a few more chants, Emma, I mean Lily was back, her memory revived too. After learning

the truth, she felt very, bad, but the real Princess Emma insisted she come back to the palace with her.

Laughing and skipping, they ran back home, carefree and happy, with Anne walking behind them.

"May hope, strength and friendship stay with you both."

The End of the School Year!

As the end of our school year approaches, I think about much as I'm excited for the summer, I'll kind of miss school in a weird way. So, I wrote a poem! :)

The End of the Year
Oh, how the time goes by
Like a bird, racing through the sky
A year of learning, of new friends,
A year that suddenly has seemed to come to an end
Our oldest leave us,
Our youngest prepare
This is the turning point
Growing, changing
Leaving behind our childhood
Embracing adulthood
Making choices
Deciding what our lives are going to be
Some are leaving
Some are only starting
Learning, developing, exploring, being ourselves
Being a little wild, crazy, weird
The year has ended
But there are some things we will always remember
Our youngest
Their innocence, their excitement, discovering new things
Our 7th graders, growing, changing
Our oldest, teaching, setting examples,

And we anticipate our summer break
With excitement and joy
We are eager for the sun to claim our bodies,
To go swimming and travel and play
With nothing in particular to do all day
But deep in our hearts we will always miss this year
An unforgettable time
Just having fun
Cherish this time, think back on it
Because time goes by
Like a bird racing through the sky

John Walsh: An Inspiring Story

On July 27, 1981, a little 6 year old boy is with his mother, shopping at a Sears department store in Florida. He spots some teenage boys playing at a nearby video game stand, and gets excited. He turns to his mom, “Could I watch them?” His mom agrees, and adds, “I'm going right over here to the lamp department.” “Okay, Mommy, I know where that is,” he says and skips off. Shortly after, a security guard sends the teenagers out because of their unruly behavior. The little boy is sent out with them. He is too timid to explain that he’s not with the teenagers and that his mom is still shopping at the store. As he stands outside, the teens begin to drift away, and the little boy is alone and unsure of what to do. A man appears out of the shadows, promising him candy and toys if he comes over to his car. The little boy, thrilled by the prospect of treats, approaches the man’s car. As soon as the boy is inside, the man begins to drive. Two weeks later, the child's severed head is found 120 miles away, in a canal.
The boy in the story was Adam Walsh, the only child of Reve and John Walsh. The day they came to know that their son was brutally murdered was also the day that all seemed lost. John Walsh's rage fueled a desperate need for revenge on the kidnapper, who was yet to be found. Later, he plunged into depression and even considered suicide.  He could no longer work. He lost his dream project, a $26 million hotel he was building. His house went into foreclosure. Many in his shoes would be paralyzed by their grief. But John Walsh felt his grief and anger, and yet did something different.
Four days after his son’s funeral, John Walsh created the Adam Walsh Outreach Center for Missing Children, a place to help other families of missing children. He also helped pass Missing Children’s Assistance Act. This led him to co-found the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children along with Ernie Allen and former President Ronald Reagan; the powerful organization helped find more than 183,000 missing children.
In his quest to make our world a safer place, John left his hotel business and became the host of a TV show - 'America’s Most Wanted'.  Once he began working on this show, he realized that the law enforcement he held responsible for not finding his son, lacked the funding to do their jobs properly. He then developed a partnership with many organizations he struggled with in the past including the police department. Working together, 'America's Most Wanted' brought photos and information about fugitives to people’s living rooms through TV and helped nab more than 1,200 criminals globally. He is now working with CNN to develop 'World's Most Wanted'.
John Walsh also advocated for the Amber Alert Network because he realized that not enough people had been looking for Adam, and he had difficulty spreading awareness about his own son’s kidnapping. The Amber Alert System uses TV, radio, electronic billboards, as well as emergency broadcast systems to find kidnapped children. Furthermore, he established fingerprinting programs, made sure security was sufficient at schools, put faces of missing children on milk cartons, and verified that missing persons units were present at all major police offices. In addition, he convinced the government to provide a national center, database and toll-free line devoted to missing children. John Walsh was thus able to use his own experience to identify problems with the process of finding missing kids and helped forge solutions.
I wondered however: how was John Walsh able to overcome his overwhelming sense of devastation and accomplish all this? His deep love for his son and a burning desire not to have his son's death be in vain gave him the strength to make sure that others aren't hurt the way his family was. By his life and his work he taught the world that in order to overcome a devastating tragedy, find a cause that one cares about deeply. Deeply enough to want to do something about it despite ones own heart break. This will provide the  power, strength and drive to surmount ones pain for that greater cause.
27 years later, when his son's killer was finally identified, John Walsh no longer wanted revenge. He was simply grateful for answers and some sense of closure. He taught us that life isn't over when horrible tragedies befall us. He has successfully transformed his tremendous grief and rage into a powerful motivation to make our world a better place.

I shared this story to raise awareness of the power of one person. Everyone can make a difference, including you. I hope you remember the wonderful work of John Walsh. Please keep in mind the safety rules our parents all taught us! If you can, maybe consider donating some money to a few nonprofit organizations protecting children, to make sure that kids all over the world can stay safe. :)