AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Social Media Graphic.jpg With social media increasingly prevalent in society, it is important to not realize blocking a certain site/app is not a permanent solution since numerous others will be created; instead learn to adjust, grow and make the best out of these programs.

After my experience reading about the power of face to face conversations over digital media, I was intrigued by the science behind social media’s impact on the human mind, and, more importantly, eager to brainstorm solutions.

Scientifically, the brain’s reward center, the same place that is activated when someone wins money or sees pictures of people they love, is also activated when seeing large number of likes on a picture.

Social media users often will feel the urge to like images that are already popular or trending; then, they will model their own content to be similar to these so-called popular posts so they can garner the pleasure of more likes.

Ironically, the increased positive feedback loop feeds a negative, vicious cycle in which people start to engineer the most likeable version of themselves online.

Some of the most popular posts on my timeline include: amazing vacations, parties, new outfits (beach bodies), hanging out with larger group of friends, eating cool food, going to interesting locations (sometimes only for the photos!) and concerts, just to name a few.

When viewing these snazzy posts on a dull, slow moving day (after all, aren’t the dull days when you most likely want to find excitement online?), an automatic human instinct is to compare and compete.

Unfortunately, these awesome moments account for a very small percentage of a person’s life. Of course, people aren’t inclined to post about chores, homework, grocery shopping or other affairs of everyday life on social media.

Social media heightens FOMO (fear of missing out) by allowing a person to compare their valleys with another person’s mountains. FOMO can have drastic repercussions that extend into habits such as refreshing apps incessantly and even needing to check throughout the night to be available and connected.

While it seems natural to assume people turn their attention to social media when their real lives aren’t exciting enough, sometimes just the opposite is true. Often, people are so focused on capturing and sharing experiences that they forget to enjoy the moments in real time. Photos are valuable, but at the same time memories are invaluable.

Personally, I often joke with my friends that there is no need to head out to watch fireworks on July 4th or buy concert tickets when I can just see it all on Snapchat.

Unfortunately, this means that I miss out on a day’s adventures: a quick car ride to Andy Brown Park, smiling (somewhat awkwardly) at the people who parked next to us, searching for the best spot to put down a blanket, seeing and hearing the fireworks light up the sky right in front of me, and even the frustrating traffic on the way back home.

At this point, I thought the greatest problem is that social media causes us to create more perfect versions of ourselves and that we forget to embrace the normal moments of life, but then I saw the flip side: private accounts that are all about unfiltered posts.

From PTs (private twitters) to spamstagrams/finstas (Spam instagrams or Friends only instagrams) to private Facebook groups, almost every social media platform has a way to gather a closer, more secretive group.

On these accounts, people will post about their true, imperfect lives, rambling thoughts, and perhaps their slightly inappropriate taste in humor. This can be just as dangerous by creating a false sense of anonymity and security.

Just earlier this year, a group of Harvard admits felt immune to real world consequences and chose to post inappropriate memes on a Facebook page they thought was private; soon after, they lost their admission offer after officials deemed their humorous creations unacceptable.

Thus, the solution to the detriments of social media cannot simply be to share one’s true personal life; the unfiltered thoughts and ideas can often be too personal and lead to their own complications.

Instead, I propose this list of five ideas to ensure a positive social media experiences:

  • ensure that any image that is edited (Photoshop or other enhancements) has a distinction on the picture or informative note in the caption
  • use social media only for limited amounts of time to connect with a limited group of people who you know well in real life
  • never assume that any form of online presence is anonymous or private
  • do not be afraid to broach the subject with trusted friends/family; jointly agree on how to best use social media
  • do not merely shut out social media, it can be beneficial and even if you block a certain site/app, thousands of others will be created; instead learn to adjust and grow with it
AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Photo credit: Murthy Photography

“Dance first. Think later. It’s the natural order.” -Samuel Beckett


I love to plan, discuss, analyze, plan some more and over-analyze every decision. I enjoy neat to do lists, orderly plans and mathematically sound, rational decisions. When I first read this quote, I was skeptical, wondering how anyone doesn’t think while performing.


About eleven years ago, I began my journey as a dancer. For years to follow, I did not understand what bharathanatyam, an ancient Indian classical dance form, offers; I assumed an arangetram (a solo graduation) is the end of a dancer's journey. Frankly, I practiced little outside of my 45 minute weekly class because dance was merely another chore, one at the very bottom of a never-ending to do list.


As time passed, we learned complex dances with quick footwork; many of my fellow students were even quicker to leave. There were moments when I was ready to quit, frustrated with the inability to understand the rhythm or portray a specific emotion. Retrospectively, I’m glad my parents encouraged me to continue and my teacher Smt. Madhusri Sethuraman didn’t give up on me even after I had given up on myself.


As a younger girl I went to productions of older students without knowing their full value, without appreciating the rich and unique beauty that each dancer brings to his/her performance. Yet, I continued consistently attending classes and programs, following through on a commitment I wasn’t even sure I had made.


I gradually traded in boredom for inspiration; I felt the urge, a desire to perform myself. I knew what I wanted to get out of dance, but wasn’t ready to put my all into it.


This is when my parents informed me that an arangetram is no longer a distant dream, but a tangible possibility. I jumped at the opportunity, not knowing the full depth of what I was getting myself into.


During this year of preparation I learned that it is not enough to understand the gist of the stories or merely act like the characters. I had to become the characters, portray abhinaya (emotions) with nuances I have even experienced in my 16 short years of life.


I learned it is not enough to watch videos or just run through steps in my mind; dance (much like math in fact!) isn’t a spectator sport, it can only be learned through immersion.  I had to dedicated myself fully - body and soul - to each and every step to ensure the technique was graceful and clean.


I was frustrated that I understood the rhythms in theory, but couldn’t execute it in action: I counted, I clapped, I stomped, I used a metronome, I listened, I sang, I cried, I laughed...until finally there came a time I did.


As I increased not only the time spent practicing but the effort put into perfecting the practice, I realized it is possible to dance unconditionally, even subconsciously. In the middle of hundreds of temple performances and productions I attended as viewer and performer alike, thousands of hours of practices, and millions of critiques (some harsher than others!), I learned to love dance.


This past year, I developed a new sense of self-confidence as a grew closer to the people around me, my parents, my guru (teacher) and my dance friends who became family. From weekly classes, to temple performances, to photoshoots, to daily classes, Bharatanatyam has become ingrained into my identity.


Dance was never my love at first sight, but it was something much better: a love that grew steadily over the years to something that I wholeheartedly embrace today. Just as people continue to learn new things even after graduating from formal schooling institution, a dancer must continue to set new goals and improve after their arangetram. I look forward to the many post arangetram classes, performances and improvements I will surely make.


Once I knew the dances inside and out, I could tell the stories backwards and forwards, and I was physically fit with the stamina for an approximately two hour long performance, I was ready to fight my final battle, one of emotional and mental strength. I needed to remain calm and clear headed, even during difficult, stressful moments.


Despite my best efforts, I forget steps. I lose count of the beat. I know I am utterly and completely lost right in the middle of a dance. Yet, I keep going.


Why? Because dance has taught me to live in the moment: I dance first and think later.

AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Trump Tweet.JPG On July 26, current US President Donald Trump tweeted a series of 3 messages that stated transgender people cannot serve in any capacity in the military.

On Wednesday July 26, current US President Donald Trump tweeted a series of 3 messages that stated, "After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military. Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail. Thank you."

Following this message, Twitter users have taken a variety strong stances. Some responses to Trump's message included former Vice President Joe Biden tweeting, "Every patriotic American who is qualified to serve in our military should be able to serve. Full stop." and American actress and singer Zendaya reposting a picture with the words "Trans People Are Not A Burden." The hashtag #TransRightsAreHumanRights is trending even a day after the tweets.

To further criticisms of his actions, many Twitter responses also screenshotted and cited previous tweets in which Trump had stated he would protect the LBGTQ (Lesbian, Bisexual, Gay, Transgender and Queer/Questioning) community -- and even claimed he would be a better president for LGBT Americans than his opponent, Hillary Clinton. The LBGTQ community took multiple setbacks in recent times as Trump also made a decision several months ago to reverse an Obama administration policy allowing transgender students to use the bathroom of their choice.

Although Trump's decision was revealed in 3 short 140 character tweets, the gravity of the situation comes from a much longer history. We must take a look back to the policy that would allow transgender individuals to openly serve in the military initially approved by the Defense Department under President Barack Obama. After Obama left office the policy was left under review until last month when Defense Secretary James Mattis announced that he was delaying enactment of the plan to begin allowing transgender individuals to join the US military.

Mattis claimed that "Since becoming the Secretary of Defense, I have emphasized that the Department of Defense must measure each policy decision against one critical standard: will the decision affect the readiness and lethality of the force?" in a memo late last month. "Put another way, how will the decision affect the ability of America's military to defend the nation? It is against this standard that I provide the following guidance on the way forward in accessing transgender individuals into the military Services."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders echoes Mattis in claiming the move is based only on a "military decision" and "not meant to be anything more than" that. She did not have an answer ready when asked what would happen to active transgender military members, but stated some implementation will take place lawfully.
Although Trump's tweet suggested he had already consulted with generals and military experts, he may have left out other key government officials/departments. The exact course of actions that will follow remains unclear.
Do you believe Trump made a justifiable decision?
You are encouraged to vote and also add your comments.
AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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ReclaimingConversation.JPG Sherry Turkle's book on reclaiming conversations discusses the role of devices in various environments and argues for implementing more face to face interactions in an increasingly technological world. Photo by: Akila Muthukumar

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed reading Reclaiming Conversation: The Power of Talk in a Digital Age, written by Sherry Turkle, widely acclaimed MIT professor and licensed clinical psychologist.


The book is the fourth in a series about evolving digital culture and is split into chapters regarding the role of technology in friendship, relationships, the workplace and education.


All the chapters came together in these overarching ideas: 1) how an individual handles their physical device 2) how an individual carries themselves in a virtual world and finally 3) how the individual applies what they find online to the real world.

1. Handling the physical device

I appreciated Trukle’s insight that even a face down phone has tremendous power. It may seem that technology is only harmful when someone is deeply addicted, drawn into a virtual reality, but this doesn’t always hold true. It is much easier to approach a new person when their device is not in sight. A phone face down next to someone new means an increased chance that once a conversation is going, they will eventually look down. While many might not think twice about leaving their phones out during a casual conversation, it is essential to realize the person they speak to (whether it is their best friend or the President), will feel more valued and respected when they put devices away.


While it is frustrating when my teachers or parents take away a phone during an important lecture or family vacation, respectively, I realize how it is beneficial. I may complain and please that I will not be glued to my screen, but having my phone automatically means I can see the new notifications pop up and I can feel the vibrations of new messages. Trukle discusses how phones and apps are designed to keep us interested in them; thus the best way to fight temptation is to put our devices away.


Interestingly, I realized, even with zero notifications/messages, I pick up my phone and fiddle with it to pass the idle, awkward moments; I turn it on and off aimlessly and (you can ask any teen to verify!) text uselessly just to “look busy.” Without my device, I would be forced to make eye contact with someone sitting near me and be much more observant of my surroundings.


Now be sure to answer the survey and share your new technology goal on social media (especially if it is about using social media)! Encourage your friends/followers to set their own goals!




2. The Virtual World

Trukle discusses how we often want to portray our best selves - amazing vacations, fun parties and proud moments - on social media. Then, we look for acceptance through more likes, more followers, more positive comments and more shared opinions. Trukle goes as far as to suggest we avoid controversial topics, especially when we may support the less popular side, since we only want to associate positive thoughts - a getaway from real world stress - to our online worlds. While there are certainly exceptions, she cites an observable trend, making her case extremely compelling.


Communication also becomes unusually easier when we hide behind a screen. Children lose empathy and find it easier to be hurtful when they don’t have to see a physical reaction to their actions. Similarly, it is easier to provide a seemingly heartfelt apology over text. Trukle cites the trend of numerous families taking their disagreements to a text conversation to control emotions, to allow messages to be edited, to ensure nothing is misspoken in the heat of the moment. Unfortunately, communication and basic human skills are compromised in choosing this quick fix.


3. Integrating Online Experiences into the Real World

What sets Trukle’s book apart from the many, many lectures I (along with my millennial peers) hear was moving past describing the irresistible draw of technology. Instead, she questions the popular belief that we can simultaneously manage both the real world and the virtual one on our phones, slipping between them as we please.


I fiddle with my phone and get distracted for a few seconds during casual conversations. I hear with my ears, so why should it matter where my eyes and hands go? Yet, I came to realize the importance of eye contact to developing better relationships. Trukle specifically details how a parent turning to their phone means they turn away from their children; this creates a vicious cycle that teaches children it is acceptable to prioritize their device over the people around them.


Technology also causes shorter attention spans since we want everything fed to us in exciting bits and pieces, just as they are on social media. With limits on word counts and video lengths, Twitter and Instagram always keeps things brief. Unfortunately, in real life we need to accommodate longer conversations and initiate small talk, even with people we may not like. Focusing deeply on one thing, “unitasking” as Trukle coins it, brings a plethora of benefits to our focus and ensures the best possible job is done.


As a millennial brought up in a generation filled with technology, I have heard/read/seen enough warnings and been given plenty of unsolicited advice, but this book resonated with me. Maybe it was because of the strong, unwavering tone that Turkle adopts. Maybe it was the pages full of detailed studies and sources she cites. But maybe, just maybe it was the personal encounters she recounted that struck too close to home, too close for comfort. Reading this book, urged me to truly “reclaim conversation” once again.

AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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TurnerFalls.JPG Turner Falls is a scenic, natural getaway that houses Oklahoma's largest waterfall. Photo by Akila Muthukumar

Summer is a great time to spend with your kids who are usually off and about to school,  extracurriculars, Friday night football games, competitions and much more. But with July quickly coming to a close, you may feel this summer just hasn’t been adequate. Maybe your budget has been too tight or it’s just been impossible to take off enough days from work.


If so, do not fear, these are the top 5 summertime ideas that I enjoyed (in no particular order). They pack plenty of fun into one short weekend and were all affordable and memorable.  


  1. Turner Falls Oklahoma

Although this choice requires a trip out of state borders, the long drive (3-4 hours) was well worth it. Turner falls is located in a scenic mountainous area with a nearby zipline station. The drive to the park provided ample opportunity for sightseeing, ranging from giant wind turbines on the outskirts of Oklahoma to the natural wonders of caves and cliffs within the park. Turner Falls has campsites for overnight stays, but we were able to cover a lot within one day (6 hours). The main attraction is a nearly 80 foot waterfall; visitors can swim in the basin below the fall, moving as close as 5 feet from the pounding water stream. The park is filled with different water locations and includes a few exciting slides (nothing extreme) that mesh well with the natural aura given by the location. Instead of buying food, we packed a picnic


  1. Ray Roberts State Park

From kayaking to geocaching to grilling vegetables over an open flame, this camping trip was a fun family weekend and the only overnight event on this list. We found it the perfect place for first time campers who didn’t want a completely out in the wilderness experience. The State Park Workers were always nearby to help set up tents, give short tours and answer any questions. We choose to stay at a campsite but are considering a future (more expensive) visit in a lodge, with time to try horseback riding, nature watching and explore photography. Sleeping outdoors was initially scary and slightly uncomfortable, but slowly the sound of dozens of insects went from annoying buzz to soothing lull that made it easier to fall asleep.


  1. Visiting a Local Farm

Many seasonal fruits, especially blueberries, blackberries or strawberries, tend to ripen during the summer. If you visit some nearby farms, you can pick these fruits yourselves. Beware of insects and plan ahead with plenty of sunscreen and repellent. When visiting this blueberry farm (approximately 3 hours spent there), my family also enjoyed the sweetest jams, ice creams and other freshly baked treats at the farm’s small cafe. The place had benches perfectly placed between the rows of bushes for rest stops and potential picnic sites. We also ran into a peach farm when we got lost on the way back, but we were out of time to pick the fruits ourselves; we still bought a pound of delicious peaches that were just picked that week by farmers.


  1. Waterpark

Going swimming at the aquatic center or local rec center are great ways to cool off in the summer, but they just don’t give you the feel of a serious summer event. Instead, try hitting a local waterpark such as Hawaiian Falls, NRH2O or Hurricane Harbor. These parks will have plenty of thrilling rides for the daredevils, but safer options such as a lazy river, wave pool, or kiddy park for those who only want to get their feet wet (literally!). The parks are interspersed with pizza and fast food options to treat yourself after a day of swimming in the heat. I went with a large group of people to Hawaiian Falls, which allowed us to save money with a group deal for entering the park. If you cannot collect enough people, consider searching for other deals or special timings.


  1. Staying Home All Day

Interestingly enough, one of my best summer days was the chance to stay at home all day. This means no grocery shopping, no running quick errands, not even going on a short walk. My family found it difficult to all be cooped into house for so long. Oftentimes we are caught up in our endless to do lists and our desire to find an exceptional experience that we forget so much of it happens at home. Plan a day with movies, board games, card games, crafts and cooking together. Eventually you will run out of things to do and everyone might be slightly restless but that is OK. Have your family sleep in, ignore their work responsibilities (briefly at least!) and take the time to be bored with each other. It may seem odd, but the experience will be refreshing!

AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Photo by: Akila Muthukumar Hi Sweetie is an excellent choice for trying Thai rolled ice cream, an exciting summer treat that comes to life in front of customers. The ice cream cup on the right is described in the article.

Your typical ice cream scoop on a waffle cone is an all time summer favorite, but who could have guessed that this sugary delicacy had a new trick rolled (no pun intended!) up its sleeve.


Rolled ice cream originates from Thailand and started a craze a few years ago within the United States. This Instagram and Snapchat worthy confection is especially popular among a younger generation that appreciates food aesthetic. Although I am, arguably, a little late to this party, I couldn’t be happier that I joined.


For anyone who has not yet tried rolled ice cream, I would definitely recommend they take the chance. Here are some of the most popular places in the DFW area. The restaurants usually have a vibrant atmosphere, cutesy designs and, most importantly, an easy-to-view station where the ice cream is rolled.  


  • I CE NY located at 2625 Old Denton Rd #812, Carrollton, TX 75007

  • 10 Degrees F Rolled Ice Cream in Vista Ridge Mall

  • Hi Sweetie Rolled Ice Cream located at 8604 Preston Rd Ste 121, Plano, TX 75024.

  • Chills 360 located at 2646 Elm St, Dallas, TX 75226


Watching the ice cream being made was almost as enticing as eating it; I visited Hi Sweetie in Plano, but the process of making the ice cream rolls is similar to other places.


First the flavor of ice cream that one desires - for me, chocolate - is poured (yes, poured, because the ice cream is currently in the form of a sweet, flavored milk) onto an extremely cold metal surface. It is similar to a pizza pan or stove, with the exact opposite function.


As the liquid is slowly freezing, a fruit or cream is thrown into the mix. Here, I chose to have blackberries. They were chopped vigorously into small pieces that were spread throughout the chocolate liquid.


Next the staff member spreads the semi-liquid, creamy mixture into a thin circle on the cold surface. Finally, a metal spatula is used to scrape the ice cream into anywhere from 4 to 6 rolls.


When I visited, a new staff member was being trained to make the rolls. Thus, I learned that it takes significant strength and precision to make perfect rolls - all while eager customers have their eyes glued onto you.  I find that there is something oddly, inexplicably satisfying about watching the ice cream slide off the metal and roll into beautiful cylinders.


The rolls are scooped into a cup and any additional toppings - sprinkles, fruits, candy, marshmallows, crackers and more - can be added. At Hi Sweeties, I chose to add a fluffy marshmallow, M&Ms and sprinkles.


While I chose the custom choice, Hi Sweetie also offers certain combinations, such as Banana Split or S'mores, which already have set flavors, fruit mixings and toppings. If I visited again, I would still opt to create my own, because I enjoy experimenting with different tastes.


The final product is almost too perfect to eat. I eventually (after one too many pictures at the super cute tables) dove in and found the taste to be similar to that of regular ice cream, but my fruit mix in (blackberry) added a distinct texture and a slightly sour flavor to the mix.


Overall, I enjoyed watching my meal come to life, the flavor combination and found the price to be reasonable at Hi Sweetie. In the larger scope of things, getting rolled ice cream was a 10/10 experience.

AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Photo by Akila Muthukumar Joe the Baker can be found at the Coppell Farmers Market every Saturday from 8 am to noon selling his handmade treats and getting to know his community better.

If you crave a crispy on the outside, light textured, slightly chewy, cream filled macaron, look no further: Joe the Baker is a unique family-run business that serves pastries and cakes, with a specialty for classic, elegant French macarons. Baker is unique is being the only person in the DFW metroplex to offer a giant macaron cake (called the Big Mac).


“I was pretty lucky, I knew very early that I was going to cook professionally,” Chef Baker said. “I was four or five years old and I remember seeing these pictures from Europe of this pastry competition and [thinking] that’s what I am going to do. I’ve known pretty much my whole life, never lost interest, and chased it since then.”


Chef Joe Baker starting cooking in Montana in his teenage years. When the Iraq campaign began, he joined the war efforts. Soon, he realized he missed the kitchen and went to culinary school at L’Academie de Cuisine in Washington, DC after the army.


Baker’s professional career stemmed from humble beginnings that allowed him to solidify his passion as a pastry chef.


“I always tried to work at the nicest place I could, and sometimes that was Pizza Hut or Dunkin’ Donuts,” Baker said. “I started working for free (called a “stage”) at a mid level restaurant and a bakery to see if I wanted to be a savory chef or pastry chef.”


After an intense yearlong of pastry school, Baker worked at Cityzen (now closed) under Eric Ziebold, a world renowned chef, and Amanda Cook, an award winning pastry chef.


“I went from culinary school, straight to the top, if there is such a thing,” Baker said. “It was the best restaurant in D.C. I was constantly trying to learn as much as I could.”


Baker artfully manages his personal life with his professional one; he moved to Mexico and eventually to Texas to support his wife and family; with his own business, Baker can dedicate more time towards his son.


In Texas, Baker diversified experience through catering companies, consulting for restaurants such as John Tesar’s Spoon (now closed) and working at hotels, including the Mansion on Turtle Creek and the Omni Dallas.


Baker states working as an instructor at Le Cordon Bleu Dallas helped him grow the most since, “you don’t really understand something until you have to teach it over and over again.” At this time he was also featured on Food Network's Sweet Genius.


“Chef Baker has always been a very cutting edge, leading the pack as far as trends are concerned,” Victoria Hooker, fellow colleague at Le Cordon Bleu Dallas, said. “He was always experimenting with food, learning, growing and doing new things.”


Since a debut in April 2014, Baker decided “to bet on [himself] and start [his] own company.” His main team includes Joe Baker (chef/owner), his wife, Blair Baker, (photographer, webmaster, bookkeeper, and public relations), his pastry assistant, Rachel Wilson, and other support staff.


Running a family owned business allows his products to be more customized. Requests for gluten-free, dairy-free, nut-free and vegan products are accommodated. Custom flavors or designs can also be preordered for additional fees.


“When you are not on top, you don’t get to be a part of the creative process the same way,” Baker said. “My favorite part of my own company, is getting to have more direct say and helping people get what they want. It’s nice to talk with the person who wants the pastry and it’s fun to tackle the challenge, see how it can be done.”

Baker’s schedule is flexible and adapts to the needs of his customers, whether it be for a food order, consulting or cooking classes. Mondays and Tuesdays are his guaranteed kitchen days when he buys products, talks with his staff and checks wholesale accounts. Baker also has learned to manage emails, phones and other logistics.

“I know he’s always had an entrepreneurial spirit,” Hooker said. “ One of the things he has done as he developed this entrepreneurial side is become very involved in the community. He does things for the city, [for example], last week for [July] 4th he was out here doing a chef demonstration and he is always involved in the farmers market.”


Currently, Baker’s business does not have an official storefront, but sells delectable products at different locations around North Dallas, such as Royal Blue Grocer in Highland Park and Liberation Coffee Company in Coppell. Online orders can be placed here.


Baker and his team can be found at the Coppell Farmers Market every Saturday that it is open from April to December. At the Farmers Market, a box of Market Macarons costs $10 and includes 6 macarons while Market Quickbreads cost $5; the flavors for both treats are seasonal and color schemes specific to certain holidays.


“The reason I’m out here at the Farmer’s Market is that I believe in this,” Baker said. “It’s time for people to start trusting pastry chefs again. I’m out here trying to create the community. I think there is a passion for nature that is missing in the global economics of food.”


Baker’s business goal is simple: “Support your local guy. Shake their hand. See what they have going on.”


Contact Info:



Twitter: @Joe_theBaker

Instagram: joe_the_baker


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School Supplies.JPG At the Metrocrest Back to School Extravaganza, a variety of school supplies are packaged into bags to be handed out throughout the days. Multiple volunteers must take on shifts to make this day possible.

For middle and high school students, summer is an excellent opportunity to dedicate time towards volunteering. Volunteering fulfills national honor society requirements,  helps a student find what they love and is a great chance to give back to one’s community. Here are a list of 20 general volunteering ideas; any specific organizations that are referenced are located in the DFW area.  

  1. Local Library: Check with your nearest library to determine if they have a teen group that meets to plan library events, especially youth activities. Even if not, libraries host a variety of summer programs that usually require intermittent volunteering. Other library jobs can include sorting, shelving or checking out books.
  2. Pet Shelters If you enjoy working with animals, consider working with Lost Paws of Texas or a similar organization to manage shelters, play with animals or help at adoption events around the community.
  3. Senior Home: Volunteer at a senior home by spending time with older residents, even if it’s just to talk. If you get creative, organize a group of friends to make homemade (approved) snacks or gather a musical troupe to entertain (sing, dance, act, etc…).
  4. Red Cross Volunteer: Assist as a Blood Donor Ambassador at blood drives near you or organize your own. After some experience, you could be ready to train others or hold an officer position in your local chapter!
  5. Teaching/Tutor: Passionate about a certain subject in school, play a musical instrument at a high level or tech savvy? Consider passing your skills on to other students. Technology skills are especially useful for senior citizens.
  6. Hospital Volunteer: Hospitals usually allow teens to volunteer in select programs. Job duties may include interacting with patients or managing clerical duties.
  7. Community Garden: Spend a day at your community garden helping by planting new flowers/trees or pulling weeds and caring for the ones already planted. If you enjoy it enough, you can look into getting your own plot of land to grow some fresh fruits and vegetables.
  8. Trash Pickup: Adopt a local highway or drive to your nearest park and make the area litter free! Gather a group of volunteers to fundraise/split costs for trash pickup equipment such as large bags or a trash picker stick, also remember to stay safe!
  9. Soup Kitchen: Volunteering is all about providing necessities to those who don’t have it; a great choice to give to those with less is by visiting a soup kitchen or homeless shelter. For those who want to make the extra commitment, organize an additional drive to collect the items to be distributed.
  10. Farmers Market Ask a vendor to help manage their booth/attract more customers or serve as a general guide for newcomers. Extra hands are always appreciated to help pack and unpack items!
  11. Habitat for Humanity: If you are in good physical condition, considering building homes for those who may have lost them in a recent disaster. A lot of logistics are already worked out if you attend with a well known group such as Habitat for Humanity.
  12. Lifeguard: What better way to fend of the summer heat than to work near a pool all summer? If you are a qualified swimmer, consider volunteering as a lifeguard at your nearest recreation center or water park. Just don’t forget your sunscreen!
  13. Use your vocabulary skills on This is an unique opportunity - you can sit in front of a laptop and do good for the world! For every answer you get correct on this website, 10 grains of rice will be donated through World Food Programme.
  14. Social Media Coverage: Ask a local business or nonprofit if they would like social media accounts on Snapchat, Instagram or Twitter to reach Generation Z youth. If they already have accounts, ask to manage them briefly, you can help them gain new followers and spread the word further.
  15. Metrocrest Services: As the school year approaches, it’s time to start thinking about school supplies and necessary vaccinations. Instead of only considering these items in the context of yourself, look out for other children by helping Metrocrest package school supplies and hold a Back to School Extravaganza for other items.
  16. Crisis Line: If you have always had the tact to speak calmly to an aggravated friend and enjoy being a good listener, consider volunteering as a counselor for a teen crisis line.
  17. Babysit: Watch a younger sibling or ask your parents friends to watch their kids for sometime before venturing to new homes. Once you are comfortable with kids’ activities and food, expand your prospects.
  18. Get Creative: Organize a bake sale or garage sale to fundraise. Plan a canned food or clothing drive to collect items for the needy. Write cards to soldiers fighting overseas. Maybe your top picks won’t always count as official hours, but find something you love to do that also helps others.
AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Ingredients This sweet summer Kulfi (Indian ice cream) can be made with a few common ingredients.

If you are looking for a delicious summer treat, try this refreshing Indian ice cream treat that uses a blend of both common ingredients and unusual spices.


Estimated time: 15 min prep and 8 hours to freeze

Serves: 10 people



5 slices of bread

14 fluid ounces Sweetened Condensed Milk

12 fluid ounces of Evaporated milk

One pint of heavy whipping cream

Tumeric powder



Additional Supplies

A large container to mix and freeze all ingredients

A can opener

Spoon or similar stirring device




  1. Take the bread slices and peel the outer crust.

  2. Tear the bread slices into small pieces, approximately 1-3cm squares. The pieces do not have to be exact or even, but must be small.

  3. Open and pour the pint of heavy whipping cream.

  4. Open and pour the 12 fluid ounces of evaporated milk.

  5. Open and pour the 14 fluid ounces of sweetened condensed milk. If the consistency is too thick to pour easily, use a spoon to scrape the insides of the can.

  6. Open cardamoms and pour black seeds into mixture.

  7. Crush a pinch of turmeric powder and sprinkle over top.  

  8. Take a spoon or similar stirring device and mix well for around 15 minutes.

  9. Refrigerate for at least 8 hours and cool for around 10 minutes for best taste.

AkilaM BubbleLife Intern
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Photo courtesy of Victoria Youngblood Baldwin Victoria Youngblood Baldwin (far left) stands with her students at Collegiate Academy at Grapevine-Colleyville ISD after winning a competition. At this time she was an AVID coordinator, one position in her journey towards helping more people get the best possible education.

For most people education is synonymous to formal schooling, limited to the years at the beginning of their life. For Victoria Youngblood Baldwin, education is a doorway to future opportunities and a lifestyle she continually seeks to grow and expand her leadership.  


Youngblood Baldwin has been an english teacher, an english team lead, an AVID (Advancement via Individual Determination) teacher, an AVID coordinator, a dean of students and will be assistant principal in the 2017-18 school year. In the past years she has worked at both Irving ISD and Grapevine-Colleyville ISD, but is moving forward to Arlington High School.


Q: How would you describe your progression through each position you have held?

A: I like helping people and I feel like that is my calling. So really it all starts from doing a good job when I help my kids and I am asked to implement that with larger groups. Every teacher I help is also another 150-200 students that I could also reach by helping that person. Every new position has helped me help new people


Q: What is your favorite part of being in a classroom?

A: One of my favorite things about being a teacher was getting to know my students through their writing and connecting with them and their personal experiences through reading. Often, we would read a story and find how it connects to our life.  We were able to have discussions to get a bigger picture.


Q: How was being a dean different from a teacher?

A: The biggest difference is that I’m not limited by just students who are assigned to me by classes, I help all the students in the school. When students have significant problems or concerns or just something that is going on in their world, I have the time to be able to sit down and talk with them. In the classroom, I had such a limited amount of time so I couldn’t get to down to the root of the problem, [but as a dean] my time is more flexible.


Q: Why are you interested in moving to administration?

A: I wanted to continue to help more students and more people. My sphere of influence grows. As assistant principal I will not only be able to help the whole school, but work on structures and things within the tasks I’m assigned.


Q: What do you anticipate being your biggest challenge as an administrator?

A: I think it will be meeting the needs of the students: making sure they are successful in reaching their goals and holding them accountable. I need to make sure the high school experience is one that they will enjoy, but make sure they meet academic that balance.


Q: What is the best aspect of public schools?

A: We have something for everybody, whether it is an after school club, a sport or another activity. We try our best to find something a student is interested in and get them involved. Students who are involved in extracurriculars are more likely to graduate on time, which is one of our goals for our students. We just make sure they have the skills - teamwork, reading, writing, math - so they are able to be successful wherever they go.


Q: How would you describe education?

A: It creates doorways and opportunities for people to do what they love and give back. Students who might come from a background of poverty, just don’t have much, education is the key to getting better jobs so they don’t have to struggle. Also students can see the world, they can get scholarships to learn outside of their state or hometown to new cultures, and further themselves in making a career.