Pasta Making with Yvonne

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Hi, guys!

I am still feeling the high from Yvonne’s pasta making class last night because we had so much fun! Nick and I have always enjoyed cooking together and are always trying something new. My family is Italian and I’ve been making pasta sauce for years now. I never really thought about taking the leap into the noodle making, but Nick had been saying he wants to try making them. I would kind of just roll my eyes and tell him the amount of work it’d be! When thinking of ideas for Nick’s birthday, I thought to myself if he wants to make noodles, let’s learn how to do it right! After some research, I came across Yvonne’s website. Pasta is her specialty so I gave her a call right away. After talking to her about her class, I was SO excited and booked us a class right away!

We were really excited the day of and found our way to Handmade Pasta by Yvonne, in the North Hills area of Pittsburgh. We were greeted by Yvonne and her husband, Jim. It’s a small shop that Yvonne makes her pasta in, but they also sell bags of their pasta, as well, as olive oil and some other goodies. Shortly after two other couples arrived, Yvonne handed us our aprons (that you take home!) to begin our pasta making journey.

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First, Yvonne gave us a quick rundown of what to expect for the evening. She then demonstrated how will we make the dough and learned some technical tips along the way, like using room temperature eggs. Then it was our turn. She walked around to each individual, helping as needed. After this quick process was done we had to let the dough rest.

She had a table set for us and had us sit while opening some Prosecco to welcome us all to their shop. Then she brought out an antipasto plate for each of us. Little did we realize that she would keep coming out with more food! She said wanted the experience to be similar to what it would be if you went to someone’s house in Italy to learn how to make pasta.We didn’t stop eating once we stepped through the door. We tried about 8 other various Italian appetizers she made (not all photographed due to chowing down), all while she talked to us about their families time in Italy and the different foods we were eating. We were already stuffed!

Then it was time to burn off some of those calories and get back to the pasta making! Yvonne demonstrated, then just has you go for it. We were taught how to prepare the pasta by hand cutting and machine to see which way we prefer. She then cooks up some of your noodles served with the olive oil flavor of your choice (she’s hooked up with Olive Tap ). And mangia, again! I actually preferred the hand cut noodles, but they were a lot more work (of course). But holy moly both ways were goooood. Handmade pasta is just out of this world compared to boxed pasta!

After that, it was time let the pasta dry a bit before packing it up to take home. Which also meant time for dessert! Yvonne brought out various different cookies and homemade gelato with strawberries and balsamic glaze, along with espresso to drink! We were stuffed and basically in food heaven. We had such a good time with the others in our class and making new friends. So much that we all signed up for the advanced class, which is ravioli, in July together!

I can’t say enough positive things about our experience!  Yvonne was so patient with us and fun to learn from. Her husband, Jim was doing his share of work in the background by cleaning up after us to make each transition extra easy so we could concentrate on pasta making. If you have any interest in learning how to make pasta this class is worth every penny! If you don’t have any interest in making pasta, I still recommend stopping by her store to pick up a bag to enjoy.

Thank you, Yvonne and Jim for a wonderful pasta making class and meal!

Xo, Anna

Your People.

Today as I was wasting time on Pinterest, I came across an old quote that I love.

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This quote has always resonated with me. I find myself coming back to it from time to time and it’s become almost like a life evaluation for myself. I interpret the “with” part of the quote as both communication and physically. So good news, It’s not necessarily your 5 co-workers that you spend 40 hours a week with, but hey, it could be.

Anyway, I think it’s good to stop and reflect on who you are spending your energy on as it can so easily be wasted on the wrong people. I’ve watched many people, including myself, hang on to relationships that don’t bring out their best selves and they don’t gain anything positive from. We all get sucked into these situations from time to time, but the good thing is, is most of us (hopefully) one day wake up realizing it. I think one of the biggest reasons for friendships coming and going in my life is that I knowing my worth. Do you know yours? It’s really easy to underestimate. I have let go of friendships that aren’t doing anything for me emotionally or bringing my best self out. Is it hard to do? Absolutely. But I continuously change as I grow, as do others and that’s 100% okay in my book. There isn’t anything wrong with doing what is best for yourself.

Today, I sit and think of those 5 very special people to me, as well as, the bumpy road to get here. Their qualities are admirable and I can only hope that they rub off on me. I close my eyes and think of them to see very driven, adventurous, creative, honest, funny and compassionate people.

What are the best qualities of your people?

Xo, Anna

6 Tips for Online Dating

6 Tips For Online Dating

Hi, guys! Happy Friday! So February is one of my favorite months because it’s just such a LOVE month.  Not only is there Valentine’s Day, but it’s also the month that Nick and I started dating AND got engaged (he would want me to tell you that it wasn’t all on the same day). Anyway, for those of you that don’t know, Nick and I actually met online! I know, crazy, right? I still can’t believe it. We always get a million questions after someone finds out. I’m pretty sure it’s because we are normal adults (kinda) and we found love on the internet. Online dating seems to have a negative stigma sometimes and it can be overwhelming, frustrating, but also very rewarding! It’s not for everyone but it is for you if you want a different way to meet people. It’s 2017 and we use technology for just about everything else, why not this? An algorithm gave Nick and I a 97% match. Mind. Blown. And my biggest reason you should try it is simple… What if it works!!!

Here are my 6 tips for a successful online dating experience:

  1. The username
    • You finally talked yourself into this and now you have to think of a username? Eek. Don’t stop here. Because I would constantly delete and remake a profile, I used a few different names. The last one that I used was song lyrics that I liked at the time. I was “LittleTalks” and it was one of my better ideas because it attracted people that liked the same music as me. Try thinking of a hobby or interest you like when coming up with a name.
  2. How to pick your profile photo
    • Use current photos! Catfishing is real, folks. You can ask Nick about his story. Thankfully, it never happened to me.
    • Don’t go overboard. Post one head shot, one body shot, and one with family/friends.
    • Keep your clothes on ladies and gents if you’re looking for the real deal.
  3. What to say about yourself
    • Don’t give everything away! This makes it easier to ask questions in messages so that you can get to know one another.
    • Be honest! I remember rolling my eye’s at Nick’s profile when reading that he taught his grandma how to golf, funny story… he actually did!
    • If you have a sense of humor, try to show it! If you’re serious, show it!
    • If there are questions offered from the dating service, answer them. This is how their algorithms work in finding you the best matches.
  4. Messages
    • Who messages who first? Blah, I know. If you’re interested show it, but be a little creative in your first impression. If you can sense their sensor of humor and you’re attracted to that, compliment it. If they are a foodie, ask what their favorite place to eat in the city is.
    • Don’t overthink it, just be yourself.
    • This is the point where it’s okay to be picky! If you met everyone you messaged with, you’d be very busy.
    • If you’re not interested at any point, let them know.
    • If you’re interested after some messaging, get their information for one of their social media accounts if it makes you feel more comfortable. No, this isn’t creepy, they shouldn’t have anything to hide. Add them on Facebook, that way they can see you’re somewhat normal too.
  5. Meeting
    • Are you still not sure about this whole online dating thing? I wasn’t either. Though I knew I was interested in Nick, the whole idea of meeting him was very intimidating. So I highly recommend Skype, Facetime, Google Hangout, whatever to see each other’s faces and talk for a bit. This makes the first meeting feel so much more normal.
    • Don’t meet someone unless you are comfortable with it and genuinely want to meet them. This makes the whole experience way more fun!
    • Be smart! Go to a public place and tell a friend what you’re doing, ya know, just in case… or have your sister stalk you on the Find my Friends app (Heather!).
    • Grab a coffee or a cocktail. Don’t commit yourself to an entire meal or activity for the first time meeting. If cocktails lead into dinner, then perfect, things are going well!
  6. Happily ever after… or not… but maybe!
    • Be patient, your dream man or women isn’t always online waiting for your profile. It’s like real life dating still, you’re just using a website to help introduce you to people. If it doesn’t work out for you, at least you tried!

Are you considering online dating, but haven’t pulled the trigger yet? Here are some other things you should know:

  • Online dating can be like a second job. There’s a lot of people out there. If you’re serious about it, it can take a chunk of time to weed through the masses.
  • Do you want to wait until you meet someone in person? Yea, I did too. But, just do me a favor and keep in mind that when you meet someone at a bar you know nothing about them. When you meet someone from online, you at least know something about them! It should be less intimidating.
  • Try a free online dating website to see how you feel about it. There is no harm in canceling it.
  • You are going to see someone you know on the site, maybe even an ex… and maybe even your ex’s best friend who will message you. That’s a true story. But, get over it, everyone wants to find their love!

I want to conclude and give a special thank you to OkCupid for allowing me to find the man of my dreams!

Have you had success with online dating or not so much? What advice would you share?

XO, Anna

Hawaii- Part Two

part2Aloha, again!

I hope you enjoyed my first post about our trip to Hawaii. It truly is a beautiful state and I had a dream last night that we booked a trip back! Though Waikiki was fun, we were ready to get away from all the hustle and bustle and check out another great spot of Oahu that I found while doing some research. We booked an Airbnb and when Nick was done working for the week, we took the scenic route to the North Shore. First off, I would highly recommend you take the long way when doing this drive to be along the coast. It’s truly beautiful! The photo above was taken from the car. The North Shore of the island is so much more laid back and much more our speed. Haleiwa is the main town there which looked like it was taken straight out of some sort of surfer movie. It was quaint and so much more relaxed than where we had just been. Noticing the laid back trend yet? There is only one resort in the area! Here is where we stayed, The Little Studio by the Sea. If you find yourself needing a place in the North Shore, I highly recommend it. So like Hawaii- Part One, I’ll run through what were my favorite activities:

Ziplining

Lucky for me, Nick had a surprise planned for me during our first day of “official” vacation since he was finally done working! We were going ziplining!! So this was a bucket list item for me that I was also always kind of worried about so never pursued. He booked us a tour with CLIMB Works and the adventure started right from what beginning where we took an ATV ride up the mountain. It was all seriously SO FUN! Don’t get me wrong, I was nervous every-single-time it was time to let go, but the staff was incredible. They were entertaining, personable and knew their stuff. Their mission, in a nutshell, is that CLIMB is an acronym: Challenge. Learn. Inspire. Master. Believe. It was super inspiring and they eased you into pushing yourself within the course. Plus, it’s through their farm, which meant tropical snacks along the way!

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Snorkeling

One of the major perks we found through Airbnb was that our place had all the beach equipment you could need while on vacation, which included snorkeling gear. To get to one of the most popular snorkeling locations in the area, we just had to walk down the street and we were there at Sharks Cove! It was pretty crowded there and no sharks were in sight (whew). We ended up going out a little further away from all the kiddos and explored until our hearts were content. It’s so cool to see the fish and coral in their natural state! I didn’t take the camera with us, but we walked back in the morning to snap a quick photo of our snorkel spot!

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Food Trucks

Holy food trucks. If you haven’t figured out yet, we happen to be staying in the best sport ever and we were also next to food truck heaven! We ate at a lot of different places and even had the very popular garlic shrimp at Giovanni’s Shrimp Truck, but we had two favorites.

The first was the pizza from Impossibles Pizza, sounds crazy, I know. Pizza in a food truck is good? We put in our order while walking down for sunset and it was ready for pickup by the time we walked back. You can see for yourselves with the reviews! Though we heard when the surf is good you can’t find this truck anywhere. I’m 100% serious. Hawaiin life sounds pretty amazing sometimes.

The second was Aji Limo, where we both had poke bowl dishes. Poke is kinda like raw seafood salad, that is a cross between sushi and ceviche. It’s seriously so good and I don’t know how I didn’t have it in my life for 28 years!

Beaches

We opted for a beach day over shopping in Haleiwa basically for lack of space to bring back and because we are in Hawaii after all! All of the beaches are gorgeous, we hopped around to a few, but we spent most of our time at Waiamea Bay and Three Tables Beach. We relaxed, took in the sunshine and watched some surfers catch the waves! We spent our last day beaching it until dark. I couldn’t think of a better way to end our trip.

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Just like that our two night adventure in the North Shore and our Hawaii trip had come to an end. We endured the ten hour flight and were back in the chilly Pittsburgh. It was a trip that I will alway be very gracious for, for many different reasons. But, the main reason was that it couldn’t have come at a more perfect time in my life and was an amazing recharge for a start to new career chapter. Mahalo, Hawaii for being so friendly and beautiful. Until next time…

XO, Anna

Hawaii- Part One

Hawaii- Part OneAloha!! Holy cow guys, it’s been 3 months since we were in Hawaii and I’m still swooning over here like we just got back. Nick gets to travel quite a bit for work and when his work trip to Hawaii came up (total job envy!), I just had to go with him! Not only would it make it affordable, it was somewhere I’ve been dying to go! I have so much to share about the trip so I’m going to split it up into two parts. The first part of our trip was spent in Waikiki because that’s where Nick needed to be for work. We stayed at the beautiful Waikiki Beach Mariott Resort, right on the beach! Waikiki is a bustling place, to say the least. It’s super commercialize which was fine for a couple days because it’s still stunning there! Since I spent most of the days solo while Nick actually had to work (bummer) I did a lot of exploring and relaxing on the beach/pool. Here is a quick recap of a few of my favorite activities around the area!

Hawaii- Part One Manoa FallsManoa Falls

So I have a thing for waterfalls and I wasn’t leaving Hawaii without seeing one. With major jet lag, we were all messed up and kept waking up super early. So we took advantage of it the first morning and went to Manoa Falls bright and early for a hike. Just a short drive out of the city and you are in the lush mountains of the Oahu island. It was a fun and easy hike that introduced us to a different side of Hawaii. It was gorgeous and unlike any hike I’ve ever done. Everything was vibrant green unlike anywhere I’ve ever been. The lush forest of bamboo with it’s pop of florals was a beautiful sight to see. We made it to the waterfall and it was the most breathtaking waterfall I’ve ever seen. It was SO tall! I could’ve hung out there all day, but the bug bites were getting outa control even with all my bug spray. We headed back and they were making lei’s in the resort lobby. YES!

Hawaii- Part One- Luau Luau at the Waikiki Aquarium

We felt obligated to get to a luau while visiting because what better way is there to really get into the Hawaiian vacation spirit? Was it touristy? Absolutely. Was it fun? Absolutely. When planning the trip I randomly checked Groupon and there was one for the Diamond Head Luau. Score! Because luau’s are not cheap. It was in walking distance to our hotel and a great price so we went for it. There was lei making, ukulele lessons and so much more before the show and dinner. The show was so fun to watch the dancing and learn more about Polynesian culture. The food was okay but it did force us into trying some traditional Hawaii food that I ended up falling in love with (poke!!). Would I go again? Probably not. But it was definitely fun for our first Hawaiian trip.

Hawaii- Part One- Photo TourOahu Photography Tour

Recently we bought a new camera to document life together and for trips like these. I’ve always loved taking photos for fun so when looking for activities this one spoke to me. I’m by no means a photographer but they said all skill levels were welcome and I needed a way to explore without a car. It was a small group unlike many other large bus tours in Waikiki and enjoyed this experience so much. The photo above is from one of my favorite stops, Makapu’u Beach. How pretty are the contrasting colors of the greenery, lava rock and bright blue ocean? I’ll write a separate post about my tour with the Oahu Photography Tour soon with some of my favorite photos!

Hawaii- Part One- Diamond HeadDiamond Head State Monument

Who doesn’t want to hike an inactive volcano crater when in Hawaii? It erupted like 300,000 years ago so don’t worry. I recommend not doing this hike in the heat of the day, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do when the hubby is working and gets off at 3 pm. It was so hot and all uphill, but so worth it. The view from up top is gorgeous! It was so sunny and crowded that I didn’t see signs of any other islands. But it is said that you can see the offshore islands of Moloka‘i, Lana‘i and Maui! Very cool.

Waimanalo BaySunrise at Waimanalo Bay

What’s better than starting your day with watching the sunrise, I’m not sure? Because I love it. After my photo tour, I fell in love with Waimanalo Bay and I just had to get Nick there. When a light bulb went off that a sunrise would be gorgeous there, I convinced him that we could wake up and drive to sunrise before he had to go work. We cut it close because it was about 35 minutes to the east side of the island and traffic is kind of crappy in HI, whoops. Regardless it was worth every second to about the only ones on this beautiful beach and watch the start of the day. I can’t get over the glow of the sun on the beach. It was unreal!

With gorgeous beaches, waterfalls, a zillion rainbows, great food and mai tais, how can you not be in love with this island already? Little did we realize how cool the North Shore would be. Stay tuned for part two! Mahalo, Hawaii!

Xo, Anna

Hawaii- Part One

DIY Memory Ornament

DIY Memory Ornament

Hello, again!

I’m popping in for a quick DIY post. I realized after I was done making my ornament that I should’ve maybe taken some photos along the way to share to process. I’ll get better at this blogging thing eventually, I swear!

An ornament could be made in memory of so many things, whether it be a wedding, a birth, etc. My mom made me one with my tassel from graduation! If you’re someone like me, you keep things to remember the special days. Those knick knacks can sometimes end up stuffed in a drawer and you just don’t know what to do with them! I decided I could take some things that I had saved from our wedding and put them in an ornament. As a personal preference, I am someone who is a big fan of Christmas trees filled with ornaments that hold many years of memories. Plus, it makes them so much more fun to decorate.

This is what I used…

  1. Clear glass ornament bulb
  2. Wedding dress scraps from fittings
  3. Pin from bouquet
  4. Dried flower that would fit without breaking
  5. Tag from our invitations
  6. String used to wrap around our invitations to hang the tree
  7. Toothpick to move the pieces around to be in the order you prefer

Basically, just put in whatever you’d like the ornament to have a forever keepsake! Using a toothpick helped me move things around once I got them into the bulb to get the positions that I preferred.

Here is a close up of the final product!

DIY ornament

What do you have sitting around that you could put in an ornament? Let me know your ideas!

XO, Anna

St. Lucia Day

 

St Lucia Day

Can you believe we are in the midst of the holiday season and that next weekend is Christmas?! It’s the time of year where the word tradition is used more than ever and families have their special ways to celebrate the season. Some people look for the pickle ornament in the tree, some make cookies, but ultimately a lot of traditions come from a family’s heritage.

My mom is Swedish and my dad is Italian. Basically, the Italian side of things is celebrated all year long since everything Italian is readily available and scrumptious. The Swedish side of things, however, is always put a little on the back burner. There was one day a year my mom wouldn’t let that slide and it was every December 13… St. Lucia day. Here is a quick video on what the heck this day means: Swedish Lucia For Dummies.

One of part of this tradition is that the youngest daughter is “Lucia” aka me. Which for many years I thought was cool because my favorite American Girl doll, Kirsten was Swedish and had an outfit to match me. Eventually, I was too cool for it, but hey, I came back around. In our family, we typically decorated the tree, drank hot chocolate and ate the delish St Lucia buns (Lussekatter) that my sweet mother slaved over. Those buns were the best part! I remember helping my mom shape the dough in the shape of an “S” and sneaking some extra bites of the Swedish pearl sugar.

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As the years go by I develop a deeper appreciate of where my family is from and how it’s molded us. This year I decided I wanted to give the whole St. Lucia Day thing a go, as the youngest daughter is supposed to, and also test my baking skills. I was super nervous but my mom gave me the recipe, some special key ingredients and I was off to the kitchen to give this a go, with a little help from Goggle of course. But really, who scolds milk before using in a recipe and why?

It was a fun and long (5 hour!!!!) challenge, these buns really pushed me out of my baking comfort zone! To my surprise, they were just as good as I remembered! Okay maybe not… everything my mom makes taste way better when she does it, but still, I did it!! I had family over to our apartment and we spent the afternoon munching on Swedish food and enjoying each other’s company to recognize St. Lucia Day.

We may not celebrate it as traditionally as they do in Sweden, but it’s nice to spend a day acknowledging our roots! I don’t know anyone else besides our family that celebrates this day. Does your family have any unique holiday traditions?

Happy St. Lucia Day and God Jul!

Xo, Anna