The Road to…

I’m going to try my best to not turn this post into a big sentimental, sappy piece talking about achievement, but it’s been a good weekend so no promises. This weekend has been one that I’ve actually been working towards for a long time.

North Scott

The smaller thing that happened was the first round of regionals for girls’ high school tennis. I mentioned a little before that I’m also involved in my school’s tennis team. I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t take tennis as seriously, but only because I haven’t had the chance to. For the last I don’t know how many years my priority sport has always been swimming. Tennis has always been a sport that I played, but never reached for my best ability. Anyway, I had regionals this weekend, and this season for tennis hasn’t really been the most successful. I don’t take private lessons and I didn’t practice enough before and during the season. We were playing North Scott High School, which I had actually never heard of before so I had no idea what I was in for. When the meet started I noticed right away that the girl that I was playing was definitely at my level or lower. We started quickly and things were going great. I’ve learned to be self-conscious when playing so that I don’t get over excited and mess it up for myself. I won my match and a majority of the girls on my team did as well, and it was a much needed win.


The much bigger thing that happened this weekend was IBA. IBA stands for Iowa Bandmaster’s Association. Each year, IBA holds a two day long festival/convention to feature bands, and as a meet-up for band directors across the state. I was first introduced to this IBA convention when I was an 8th grader. I was selected to be in the 8th grade honor band. Being selected for that honor band was really the beginning to me becoming an established musician. This year I was selected to play in another honor band, however this year it was a much bigger deal. This year Kennedy High School’s Wind Symphony was the 4a honor band. Obviously many of you don’t understand what exactly that means, but, it’s sorta the biggest honor a high school band can receive. The process to getting there was very extensive. My director already had plans on trying out for the spot. Once marching band season was over, we started with our intense practice of learning the music and getting it recorded. The beginning process all occurred between October to January. It was a little after winter break when we had received the results. I’m actually ashamed to say this, but I honestly didn’t think that our band had a chance to qualify. When our director, Mr. Wacker, finally announced the news we were all over the moon. The euphoria only lasted for a minute though, being selected as the honor band meant that our group would need to prepare a exceptional, forty-five minute concert. It also meant that our hard work had just begun. We were selected towards the end of January and our concert was May 15th. During that time we received a number of new pieces, and had many extra rehearsals. As the weather got warmer and schedules got busier, the feeling that IBA was just a chore continued to grow. The numbers of days left started to dwindle and I don’t know about everyone else, but I was getting pretty nervous for the concert. At the time I didn’t feel that we weren’t prepared, most of my nervousness came from the pressure that came with playing multiple solos. On the day of the concert we had to go to school for half of the day. It was the last day of AP testing so nothing actually got done in class. Our whole group left around noon and our concert wasn’t until 5pm, so there was plenty of time to relax. When we arrived in Des Moines, the nerves hadn’t kicked in, but as we continued and it go closer and closer to warm-up I could feel myself getting nervous. My big solos were in the second song, so during the first song I was focused on playing it correctly and getting into the right mindset needed to really play well. The second song, Redacted by John Mackey, is a different piece which features many unique solos. My solo starts off the piece. When I was playing I was very aware of all the things that I had worked on throughout those four months. I tried to remember all the notes that different directors and clinicians had told me. I remembered to really try to be expressive and take my time with all the notes. As I was playing I couldn’t really hear myself over my own thoughts, but I thought it probably sounded ok. The concert continued and I have to admit that we sounded really great. At the end of the concert I was so proud of our little group and all that we accomplished.



Lemon-Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp


I did it! I stepped out of my comfort zone and blogged about real food. I have this bad habit. I usually find new recipes by looking on random sites and fun looking blogs looking for inspiration. However, that is not my problem (branching out and connecting with other blogs is my ultimate goal!) My problem is that whenever I am looking for recipes I’m always hungry! And because of my stupid stomach causes me to bake foods that aren’t necessarily the healthiest. This week I decided to change my ways and cook a real meal. I found this post on Cooking Classy with a touch of fancy; Lemon-Parmesan Angel Hair Pasta with Shrimp.



1 1/4 lbs. peeled and deveined shrimp

12 oz. dry angel hair pasta

3 Tbsp. olive oil

3 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp. lemon zest

3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

3 Tbsp. fresh chopped basil

3 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley

1/2 cup finely shredded parmesan


Cook pasta in salted water as directed on packed (keep in mind that the pasta takes longer to cook, so have water boiling when you start cooking shrimp)

Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water before draining

In a large skillet, heat olive oil and butter over medium-high heat. Add shrimp (you can remove tails first if desired), season with salt and pepper and sauté for 2 minutes. Add garlic to shrimp and sauté until shrimp has cooked through, about 2 minutes longer.

pastta passta

Toss drained noodles in with the shrimp along with the 1/3 cup of reserved pasta water, lemon zest, and lemon juice. Add the remaining pasta water 1 Tbsp at a time as needed. Toss in 2 Tbsp of parsley and 2 Tbsp of basil, then sprinkle in parmesan cheese and remaining parsley and basil. Serve warm.


I really enjoyed making this recipe, and thought that the final product was delicious. I’m not as skilled with cooking actual dishes, and sautéing, so my mother gave me some assistance. I was surprised with how much butter and olive oil was used, so I would recommend cutting both amounts in half. Reducing the amount of oil and butter won’t drastically change the dish as a whole. I thought that there was too much oil and grease, and even more grease was added to it buy the cheese. Having my mother’s help was good, because she taught me things that weren’t necessarily mentioned in the recipe. When I was adding the shrimp there was some water in the bowl they were in. She told me that it was very important to not add the water. She said that you’re not trying to boiling the shrimp, but sauté it. If you decide to try this recipe I would remember to start cooking the noodles before you start cooking the shrimp. I made the mistake of starting to cook the shrimp a little too early. By the time the noodles were finally done cooking, the shrimp were well done. Another thing that I hadn’t realized before, was the purpose of reserving some pasta water. When I was cooking the noodles, I forgot to add the water and the noodles were getting dry. My mom informed me that I needed to add the water so that the noodles wouldn’t burn.

I learned a lot making this recipe and thought it was really good.

Happy cooking.



Last week, I posted about what high school life is really like, and I got surprisingly positive feedback. Thus I decided to share my current and past experiences again in the hope that it helps people. When you’re a junior in high school, like myself, you find yourself making lots of big, important decisions. Some of them aren’t as huge like, What club should I join? Should I take the ACT this April or wait for June? Am I going to prom this year? Should I apply for that internship? And there are some bigger ones, What college should I apply for? Do I want to go in-state or leave? Do I even want to go to college?! All these things are big things that really affect how your future will pan out.

Okay, okay. Obviously I’m still a student and I don’t exactly have the qualification to be giving advice to people my age or possibly older. However, for my age I feel that I have a stronger grasp of the whole idea of college compared to many people in my grade or above. It’s weird. During my whole high school career, my main goal has been to make it into a prestigious college and make something of myself. Even before I entered high school, I always knew the grand importance of college. I have an older brother who is four years older than me. The age difference isn’t huge, but it meant that as I was entering high school, he was entering college. I’ll admit that I wasn’t a very involved sister. I was very involved in my own life, and didn’t really care for what was going on with my brother. I obviously love him and interacted with him throughout our childhood, but I always thought that my brother was a loser and didn’t do anything exciting. The summer before my 8th grade year, my family was touring colleges for my brother. During this time, I understood that colleges were extremely important, but I really didn’t understand them. On one specific family vacation we went to the Eastern coast and visited schools like, UNC, Duke, and Emory. At the time the only college aspects that I cared about was, whether or not the school had pretty dorms.

Over this past spring break, I went on my very own college tours. Realizing that I was actually touring colleges was crazy. In just around 4 years I went from not knowing a single thing about colleges, to comparing top ranked schools across the country. It’s weird to finally notice that I’ve really grown up. It comes as a slap in the face to realize that adult life is right around the corner. It’s even scarier to realize that basically the rest of your life is determined by the choices that you make at a young 17 years old. There’s an argument to be made that the college that you attend doesn’t necessarily control your life, but a lot of the decisions that we make (high school juniors) in the next few years, will greatly affect how your life will pan out. How to Choose a College, written by Frank Bruni. Was an informational, opinionated article about his niece’s experience choosing which college she would attend.

Layers of Love Chocolate Brownies


This week I was really experiencing a sweet tooth, and possibly found the sweetest recipe on the internet. In a previous recipe I had used Toll House Filled Morsels. I thought they were very interesting and wanted to bake a recipe that called for them. I went on the Toll House website to look at what kind of recipes they had. I didn’t end up finding a recipe with the filled morsels, but found this one instead, Layers of Love Chocolate Brownies.



3/4 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (or 1 stick) butter, cut into pieces

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 large eggs

1/2 cups packed brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup chopped pecans

3/4 cups white chocolate chips

1/2 cup caramel ice cream topping

3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips



Preheat oven to 350 degrees, Grease 8-inch baking pan

Combine flour, cocoa and salt in small bowl

Beat butter, and sugars in large mixer until creamy.

Add 2 eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla extract; mix well.

Gradually beat in flour mixture.

Reserve 3/4 cups of batter.

Spread remaining batter into prepared baking pan.

Sprinkle nuts and white chocolate chips over batter. Drizzle caramel topping over top.

Beat remaining egg and reserved batter in same large bowl until light in color. Stir in semi-sweet chocolate chips. Spread evenly over caramel topping.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until center is set. Cool completely in pan or wire rack. Cut into bars.

I chose this recipe because not only did it look delicious, but it didn’t seem like traditional brownies. There are multiple layers to these. I found that this recipe was pretty straight forward. However I found that the wording used in the instructions were confusing at times. When following the recipe its important to know the difference between batter and mixture. Knowing the difference between batter and dough wasn’t necessarily important in this specific recipe, but as a baker it’s good to know the difference. Most of the recipes that I’ve baked for this blog are cookies. Cookies are made out of dough. Brownies and cake, on the other hand, are made from batter. There’s probably a technical culinary definition for the difference, but I don’t know it. They way that I differentiate the two is that you can pour batter. Batter is meant to be poured, and dough is meant to be handled and shaped. Now keep that in mind…

This recipe was simple and seemed plenty delicious, however, my final product wasn’t as good as I hoped it would be. If you look on the original website with the recipe, you’ll see that there are multiple layers (well 2) in the brownies. I’m pretty sure that I followed the directions correctly, but after the brownies had been baked the bottom layer was crumbly and dry. I don’t want to blame the recipe, but when making it, I would try to either add, more liquids or use less cocoa powder.

I noticed even before I was done making the brownies that something wasn’t right with my batter. Usually for brownie batter it is easy to pour. The batter than I had made, wasn’t very liquid-y. It was very puffy and seemed more like cookie dough.


The top layer of brownie seemed much more normal. The recipe calls for you to mix 3/4 cup of the already combined batter with one egg. As you can tell by the picture, this batter seems much more like what brownie batter looks like.

I made a slight change to the recipe (because I messed something up). Instead of adding the caramel topping in the middle. I decided to drizzle it on the top of the brownie batter. There wasn’t necessarily a reason behind it other than, I had forgotten the add the caramel.


I found this recipe very good, and easy to follow. The brownies are pretty rich, so I would recommend serving with a large glass of milk.

Happy Baking!

Swimming 2015-2016

Suit options:


Girls wear black tshirts and jeans

Black background with water splashes (edited in)

Alisabeth Von Presley for photographer

Seniors with individual head shots



Black tshirt with

Front: “Take Your Mark To Make Your Mark”

Back: last name and Kennedy Women Swim and Dive 2015-2016


Quarter-zip (if possible)

Front: Swimming Logo, top left-side breast area

Back: Last Name


Green hooded sweatshirt

Front: Normal swim logo “Kennedy Women’s Swimming and Diving”

Back: Last name

“Follow the Light”


“Follow the Light” can be interpreted in a few different ways. The most popular interpretation would be when someone is dying, and they “follow the light” to a higher, better place. However, in this case, that is not was I am referring to. I’ve mentioned before that my school has a program in which we bring interesting speakers to share their stories and experiences. This week our speaker was, Hannah Holman. Holman is a cellist in the New York City Ballet. She came to speak and share her story of her ups and downs that comes with music performance. Along with sharing her musical journey, she played a few short pieces (that were gorgeous).

She started off by playing Bach’s very recognizable, and popular Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude. (The linked tab is not of Holman playing, its Yo-Yo Ma.) I wasn’t entirely sure if I wanted to go to her talk. I’ve mentioned before that I play clarinet and that I’m very passionate about the values of music. I expected her “talk” to just consist of her listing her accomplishments and playing a few short pieces. That specific day was also particularly packed for me. I played in the pit for our school’s musical, Nice Work If You Can Get It, and we were presenting it for the first time that day. Talk would end at 12:25 and I had to be ready to warm-up at 12:30. After some intense thought, I decided that it was worth it to attend her talk. And I’m very thankful for my decision.

I found her talk especially helpful in my situation. In a few of my previous blogs, I’ve written about the importance of college and different topics involved with making decisions. One of the big decisions that I’ve been faced with is “What does my future in music look like?” The question on how I will continue my music career has been on my mind for about the last year. In the past there’s been drama and complications between music and my education. I’ve thought about dropping music a few times, simply because there has been too much stress involved. However, I’ve persevered through it all, and I’ve found myself still enjoying it. Recently, I found myself thinking that quitting music would be a huge waste a time. I’ve been playing clarinet now for around 7 years, and I’ve learned so many things about music and myself.

Hannah Holman explained how when she was little, she knew that she wanted to continue pursuing music. She came from a family full of cellists. Her father and grandma are both great cellists, and were big influences for her music career. She repeatedly mentioned that one of the big reasons that she has continued to pursue music is because music is the only thing that stimulates her mind and heart. She mentioned that during many times during her schooling, she changed her majors and made huge decisions based on her happiness. I think that that is a really important point to remember. With all the decisions to make, the biggest thing to consider is your own happiness.

S’mores Cookies


Earlier this year, well actually as my first post. I posted about different variations of the traditional s’mores recipe. This week I revisited S’mores, but made them into cookies. I actually didn’t find this recipe on my own. I was in a slump and wasn’t sure what exactly to make next. I went to my friends in need of inspiration of what to bake next. Immediately one of my friends found this lovely little thing. It was posted on Sweet Paul, S’mores Cookies. Something that I liked about this particular website is that is gives a biography of the author/chef of the recipe. In the biography it talks about his baking background, which I thought was very interesting.


1 1/2 cup flour

1 1/2 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers

1/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/2 cup butter

3/4 cup brown sugar

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs

1 cup chocolate chips

64 mini marshmallows (depends on size of the cookie)

chunk-ed chocolate- you can chop up your own favorite chocolate bar (approximately dime sized)


  1. Whisk flour, crushed graham crackers, baking powder, and salt in bowl and set aside
  2. Put marshmallows and chuck chocolate on a plate and set aside. Cream the butter and sugars until well combined
  3. Add eggs and vanilla extract and beat well. Add dry ingredients until well combined
  4. Stir in chocolate chips
  5. Drop two ounce cookies onto ungreased baking sheet and bake in 350 degrees for 8 minutes (depends on cookie size)
  6. Take cookie sheet out of oven and quickly press four marshmallows and three chocolate pieces into each cookie
  7. Return to oven and bake for an additional two minutes of until marshmallows are brown
  8. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy!


I really enjoyed making these cookies. Looking back at the whole process however, I have some tips that will make the whole thing much easier.

I would recommend gathering all the ingredients before you starting mixing and combining, it makes things easier later on. When I crushed the graham crackers I did it by hand. I have a little device that it meant for crushing nuts or things, but I felt that the pieces would be too small. In the picture of the cookies on the website, the cracker pieces were large enough to see after they had been baked. The only problem with crushing by hand is that it is kinda difficult. It completely depends on everyone individually on how big you want to pieces to be. After I had crushed them by hand, I felt that the pieces were still too big, so I took a big wooden spoon and stirred and crushed the crackers some more. Having very crushed cookies is not a problem at all. The graham cracker flavor will still be distinctly there.


I didn’t realize until later in the process why it had you put the marshmallows and chocolate on a plate. I thought the instruction was pointless because I thought I would just mix in the chocolate and marshmallow. If you read through the instructions, you would have noticed that halfway through the baking process, you remove the cookies from the oven and press in the chocolate and marshmallows. Having the ready on a small plate especially when you have many cookies on a single baking sheet.


When timing when to take out your cookies its important to remember a few factors to have the best results. I found that the best time to take out the cookies is when you can tell on the outside that the cookies are definitely cooking, but still soft enough to press things into the cookie. If the cookies have been cooked for too long, the chocolate and marshmallows won’t stick into the cookies. However, if you add the marshmallows to early, then they’ll melt while the cookies are finishing being baked. It may just be because I’m cautious when I’m baking, but I leaned towards the “early” side of adding the marshmallows. My marshmallows did end up melting a bit, but they flowed through the cookie, and held the whole cookies together better when they were cooled.


All of my friends were huge fans of these cookies, and have been asking for more and more. I personally thought that they tasted much better when they were cooled. The melted marshmallow and chocolate with the warm cookie, was a little too much sweetness for my taste.

I hope that my tips were helpful, and that you try the recipe.

Happy baking!



Now that spring has sprung, so has the start of spring sports. The new activity that I’m in is tennis. The way that I view high school tennis, is extremely different compared to how I view high school swimming. Towards the beginning of the year I was blogging heavily about all my experiences with swimming and all the stress that comes with the sport. I don’t take tennis as seriously as I take swimming. Tennis is more of a leisure sport for me. I have been playing tennis for quite a long time, but I never committed as much as I did to swimming. Tennis is something that runs in my family. Both my parents play tennis, and my brother plays as well. My mom plays tennis much more seriously than my dad does. During my dad’s free time he enjoys cycling with a community group. My brother played tennis in high school just like I am. When he was a student our school’s tennis team was much better, and he was not able to make it onto the varsity team.

This is the third year that i will have been playing tennis for my high school. The first two years, I was on the 9/10 team. I had also played tennis in middle school. Tennis has a lot less stress that comes with it. Practices are a lot more fun, and in my school there’s more opportunity to socialize with my friends compared to when I have my face in the water. In the past I didn’t take tennis very seriously. I would obviously try during meets and challenge matches, and my natural competitive side would come out when competing with my peers. I wouldn’t say that I have a natural talent for tennis, I guess I just have good timing.

This year I’m on the varsity team. Going into this year I was nervous that I would be on JV, and I secretly hoped that I would make varsity. Before the season started I wasn’t taking any private tennis lessons and I probably hadn’t picked up a racket since June of last year. Right before the season started, my nerves got to me and I asked if I could play tennis with my mom. She was beyond excited to hear that I was finally showing interest in the sport and was over the moon about me wanting her help. Other than practicing here and there, I also looked online for simple little tennis tips that would help me. I’m good at rallying with my opponent. I can hit and return balls for hours. I haven’t taken any private lessons in the last few years, so I don’t know about any of the trick shots. Tennis Tips, has been really helpful in explaining different techniques and strategies. I’ve been reading it more and more because I think that it has really improved my game. 


Squares with Nutella

Nutellla Square

This week I decided to stick with a pretty simple recipe. I was browsing at a local book store and found a cute book that looked like a Nutella bottle. It caught my attention because it was unique. The book is called, Nutella: the 30 best recipes. I looked inside the book, and found a simple little recipe.


7 cups corn flakes

3 cups hazelnuts

1/2 cup Nutella

2 tbsp butter

3 tbsp sugar

3 tbsp honey

Coarsely chop cereal and hazelnuts in a food processor and transfer into a large container

Over low heat, melt the butter, sugar and honey

Add Nutella to the chopped cereal and mix until well blended.

Add butter, honey, and sugar mixture and mix again.

Transfer the mixture to a square baking sheet lined with parchment paper, and spread with spoon to a thickness of an inch or so.

Place the baking sheet into a refrigerator for at least 3 hours.

Once cooled, cut mixture into squares, can be stored in the fridge for a maximum of 1 week.

I was drawn to the recipe because it seemed pretty simple, and even though it’s a dessert it did seem relatively healthy. For the people that have followed and read my posts before, they should know that I don’t necessarily always follow the directions. I take after my mother when I bake. I don’t mean that in a bad way, I just learned from watching her cook and bake, that there can be easier ways to do things. Some of the changes that I made in this recipe weren’t really shortcuts, but just changes that happened.

I was in a hurry when I was buying the ingredients for this. I didn’t realize until I had gotten home that instead of buying the corn flakes, like directed, I had gotten rice flakes. I don’t think that there was a big difference between the two. I would just imagine that the corn flakes would maintain a harder crunch loner. With rice cereal, it softens faster. Another difference that I made was that there were no hazelnuts at the store that I was shopping in. There were plenty of different peanuts, almonds, and cashews. I didn’t want to exclude the nuts entirely and decided to just use mixed nuts that I had a home. I didn’t realize that the mixed nuts that I had at home were salted.


Nutella Squares


By using mixed nuts, it obviously add color to the mixture, gave a more variety for textures in the squares.


Nutela Squares


This is what the butter, sugar, and honey mixture. I kept it at very low heat to make sure that the mixture didn’t burn. As the mixture continued to cook, it started to thicken and there was a stronger smell of honey. I kept the nut and cereal mixture in the bowl pictured. I placed the Nutella directly on top of the mixture and mixed with a wooden spoon. I would recommend using a wider bowl. You can’t really tell from the picture, but it gets narrower towards the bottom. The problem that I had was that I couldn’t get the Nutella mixed properly with all the cereal and nut mixture. Once I saw that it wasn’t mixing completely, I added the butter/sugar/honey mixture to try and get more of the cereal covered. I tried to add more Nutella to have the mixture together, but I realized that if I wanted it to even become a bar I would need to add more honey. The Nutella would never cause the mixture to set, it was the honey that would set the mixture and keep it together.

*Tip If you’re having a problem with your honey and it seems solidified, try microwaving it to make it liquid. Honey is a food that never goes bad, so no matter what it looks like, don’t throw it out because it’s fine.

Happy eating.

High School Gist


I’ve mentioned many times in this blog that I’m a junior in high school, but I like to keep new readers informed and up to date. Junior year has the reputation for being the hardest of the four years in high school. I’ve had a theory throughout my high school career. Freshman year is the year when you’re basically the babies of the school, you’re innocent and don’t really know anything. Freshman typically  view themselves as being older than they really are. They’re obsessed with the idea of being in High School and see themselves as being so old and mature. Sophomore year in my opinion is the worst year. You’re technically not the babies anymore, and you don’t get the same special treatment that you did during freshman year. Sophomores are in that awkward stage. This is defining year. You decide if you want to take those extra AP classes, what extracurriculars you want to commit to, what friends you want to keep, and those that you choose to leave behind in middle school. (Obviously this isn’t the case for everyone, but this is my experience.) During my sophomore year I took what many called, the hardest AP classes offered at my school. Looking back I know for sure that the AP classes that I took were not the hardest that I took. I took AP Biology and AP World History. Other classes offered that are much harder would be AP Micro/Macro Economics, AP Statistics, AP Calculus and AP Music Theory. The AP classes that I took were difficult, and the work load between the two classes combined caused a lot a stress for me. My view of junior year was that it was going to be the best year. When you’re a junior, you’re one of the top dogs in the school. You’re no longer part of the underclass, and this is your third year. You’re more knowledgable and you understand just how high school works. Once you become a senior, I always thought that it would be surreal. This is the last year that you aren’t technically an adult, and its the last year before you enter *cue dramatic music* College. I pictured it as a just really fun year overall. I knew even as a freshman that it would be unbelievably emotional. There would be ups and downs. Classes would be harder, teachers would be nicer, there the complications with college, and graduation. Again, I can’t say anything about senior year because I haven’t experienced it yet.

I hope that my description of the different levels of high school was helpful. This may not really help any of my readers, but I felt that it’s important for people to know what high school is like. High school is a big part of everyone’s life. It’s nothing like High School Musical, and I think knowing what to expect it very valuable.