Tag Archives: 2013

#6. throw a fabulous dinner party

I love entertaining and consider myself the ever dutiful hostess. There is nothing more satisfying than cooking up a delicious dinner, wrapping around a table with friends and enjoying each other’s company over a bottle (or six) of wine and a heaping pile of pasta. So, with the new friends I’ve been making, I thought it would be the perfectly opportunity to throw the fabulous dinner party I’ve been wanting to have on my 213 in 2013 list. It doesn’t get more fabulous than carbo-loading and wine-guzzling with a group of newly acquainted people.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

One of my favorite parts about dinner parties? The table settings.

The guest list in the week leading up to the party grew from four to six to at the last minute, seven people. The more the merrier, I figured. And luckily, as an Italian, I always cook too much food anyways so I ended up having more than enough.

After spending the entire afternoon cleaning every crack and crevice of the apartment, I started whipping up a feast. Sundried tomato, ricotta and pesto torta with garlic pita chips to munch on. Fresh oven baked bread to soak up olive oil and fresh herbs. Seven layer lasagna smothered with fresh buffalo mozzarella, basil and crushed tomatoes. Green beans with sundried tomatoes, garlic and shaved parmesan. And a delicious, creamy, chocolate peanut butter pie. (Sorry there aren’t really any pictures…was too busy stuffing my face and having a good time!)

Mmm, peanut butter pie.

I was admittedly a little nervous about having all of these newly-minted friends over to my apartment. Not only did I barely know them, but none of them really knew each other. It had the potential to be incredibly awkward but I was convinced that good wine and food would be the ultimate icebreaker. And, I was right.

For five hours we talked, laughed, ate until the plates were empty and drank until the bottles ran dry. I didn’t fret about the lasagna not presenting itself perfectly on the plate. Or the fact that we were all so crunched together at the table we could hardly lift our elbows. I didn’t sweat about the sink not draining or the large pile of dishes in the kitchen.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Just one of a few (several) bottles of wine from the evening.

Instead I spent the night talking about books and movies and restaurants and life. Taking pictures of my cats, starting book clubs and planning vineyard tours. I got to know each of these girls a little better than I did before and realized how lucky I was to stumble upon each and every one of them because they help make this city feel more like home. Because they are incredibly funny, kind and wonderful people. Because it feels amazing to genuinely connect with a group of people after feeling disconnected for so long.

The wine was good. The food was delicious. But the people…the conversation…the memories, they were perfect.

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Making 2013 A Year for Living

While I’ve been making good on my promise to make 2013 my best year yet, I know I’m not the only one and I’ve been admiring other people’s goals for the year to come. My friends are planning on big changes this year — some are rightly taking the time to focus on themselves while others are looking to live by a set of values than a list of goals.

2013

Take some time today to check out each of their blogs and consider following them along on their own journeys.

1. Three Powerful Words for a Gutsy 2013: Jessica Lawlor (@jesslaw) writes this powerful and thoughtful blog about striving for a strategic vision for the year rather than a tactical one. I was inspired by this post because while my 213 in 2013 is very much tactical in nature, it made me think about the values I want to help guide me in my journey.

2. This Is My Now: Alex Crispino (@alexcharli), who has a heart of gold and who I have always known to put everyone else’s happiness and well-being before her own has decided to put herself first in 2013. As someone who has constantly witnessed Alex’s selflessness, I’m proud to see her making 2013 about her own happiness.

3. 13 Goals for 2013: Lauren Cox (@laurencox08) is someone who’s never been a fan of New Year’s resolutions as she writes in this blog post, but with all of the changes 2012 has brought her, she’s making this year different by setting 13 goals for herself to accomplish in 2013. My favorite on her list? Be more positive. Something I know I need to work on as well!

4. A Year for Living: One of the things I was hoping to accomplish with my 213 in 2013 project was to inspire others to chase after their own dreams and to start living their lives they way they’ve always wanted to. Katie has a list of 100 things she wants to accomplish in 2013 because as she says, “it’s time to finally start living again.”

If you’re looking to learn more about why I started the 213 in 2013 Project, check out my friend Matt’s blog post: Cool Things My Friends Are Doing: The ULTIMATE Resolutions List, and check back on his blog on a weekly basis for inspiring things that other’s are achieving this year.

TGIF everyone!

#5. make a pizza from scratch

As you read yesterday, this past weekend Mike and I knocked two things off my 213 in 2013 list thanks to the purchase of one Groupon deal for a painting and pizza making class. Since I’ve already told you all about the fun we had channeling our inner Picassos, today I’m sharing our experience channeling our inner Mario Batali.

The spread -- I had to try hard to resist eating the mozzarella before putting it on my pizza.

The spread — I had to try hard to resist eating the mozzarella before putting it on my pizza.

Immediately after drying our canvases, the painting instructor walked us across the pavilion to Oro Pomodoro, an authentic Neopolitan pizzeria and Italian restaurant. When we walked in the hostess greeted us with a cheery “Buongiorno!” and showed us to a long row of tables facing the kitchen. In front of us were all the ingredients you’d need to make a perfectly authentic Naples pizza: vibrant crushed tomatoes imported from Italy, chunks of silky, fresh mozzarella, aromatic basil leaves and the most incredible olive oil I’ve ever tasted.

Michael teaching us the secret to a good pizza dough.

Michael teaching us the secret to a good pizza dough.

The chef, Michaelo, came out from behind the coal pizza oven covered in flour and greeted us with a warm smile. In broken English, with the occasional slip of an Italian phrase or two, he began demonstrating how to make the pizza dough. I laughed as he went on a rant about Americans ruining pizza with their overly processed and enriched flour. He goes on to say that it’s the flour that is the true secret to making a fantastic pizza.

He’s truly an artist, although his medium is not paint but rather the spread of ingredients before him; sculpting the perfectly thin and round dough, caressing it as he gently molds the crust. He pours the marinara onto his canvas and begins to swirl it, painting every inch until he’s satisfied. Mike and I follow along, kneading and molding our dough. For a moment I forget I’m surrounded by others in my class and throw down a pinch of flour onto the table and yell “BAM!” as if I’m Emeril Lagasse. Michaelo just laughs.

My pizza before it went into the 800 degree coal oven.

My pizza before it went into the 800 degree coal oven.

After our dough has been sculpted and our marinara perfectly swirled, Michaelo comes over to inspect our work thus far. He nods as he walks down the length of the tables and gives me a “Brava” as he walks by my pizza. I beam with pride at his compliment. We then take the basil leaves and spread them over the sauce, followed by the mozzarella and a sprinkle of parmesan. Someone decides to not use all of their mozzarella, and being the opportunist that I am – I quickly grab it and spread the extra cheese on my pizza as others look at me, both envious and impressed that they hadn’t thought to do it first.

Watching Michaelo throw my pizza into the oven that he built.

Watching Michaelo throw my pizza into the oven that he built.

Michaelo walks us over, one by one; to the coal oven that cooks the pizza at 800 degrees. He smiles as he tells me that he built the oven with his own hands. He shoves my pizza into the oven and immediately I watch as the cheese begins to bubble. Michaelo is amused with how excited I am, laughing as I clap my hands in delight. The owner of the restaurant offers to take a picture of Mike and I with my pizza and tells me that if I’m ever interested, I could easily have a career as a pizza chef. Who knows… it could happen!

Mike and I with one of the two pizzas we made.

Mike and I with one of the two pizzas we made.

We rush back to our seats and I bring the first slice up to my mouth and sink my teeth in. I’m not going to even bother to try to put into words how absolutely incredible it tasted, because words honestly can’t do it justice. To put it into perspective, you know how you eat certain foods that transport you back to a particular place and time? The moment I tasted that pizza, I immediately found myself in Naples again, on the brick patio of the tiny trattoria where I had my first experience of true, authentic Neopolitan pizza. It was sensory overload… the smell, the taste, the memories, all cultivating into the perfect bite. I finished the entire thing. Not even a crumb was left over on the plate.

Bellisima... the finished product.

Bellisima… the finished product.

Call me crazy or overly sentimental… but that pizza, that moment, helped me find my appetite for life again. And I’m hungrier than ever.

#3. make a new friend

If you recall, a few weeks ago I wrote a blog post about the difficulties I was having with making new friends in my new-ish city. I’m glad I wrote it because for the longest time, I thought I was some sort of loser or weirdo for not being able to dive into the social scene and cultivate a brand new group of friends instantaneously. A lot of people reached out and shared similar stories of how challenging it can be to make new friends after college, especially when in a new city (and some in a new country! I can’t even imagine.)

With the holidays approaching and overhearing everyone talk about their “super-awesome-uber-epic” New Year’s Eve plans, from flying to Miami to dancing the night away in New York City, I felt like a total dud because Mike and I didn’t really have anyone to ring in the new year with besides each other thanks to being broke and not really knowing anyone in the area. I threw a pretty decent pity party for myself for a solid day or two, cake and confetti included, as I whined that making new friends shouldn’t be this hard.

Call it an act of ultimate desperation, but I jokingly went on to Craigslist and told Mike I was going to find my “new best friend,” knowing that I’d probably just end up having a good laugh at the usual crazies that post listings about “lady friends into Sailor Moon and anime who are into lady kisses just 4 fun timez.”

I went through about 10 – 12 of those kinds of listings… reading them out loud to Mike as we laughed that at least we weren’t THAT weird. That’s when I clicked on the last post before closing up shop for the night. Something about being embarrassed to use Craigslist (hey, me too), loving wine, blogging, attempting to cook, cats, a love for Philly, studying in Paris, etc., etc. It was weird. It sounded like I had wrote the post myself with everything we had in common. So, I swallowed my Craigslist pride and sent a response email. The worst that could happen? I wouldn’t hear back and I’d pretend it had never happened.

The ultimate boozy brunch experience: bottomless bellini bar

The ultimate boozy brunch experience: bottomless Bellini bar.

But I did hear back. And after emailing a few times, we met for brunch.  And it was awesome. Between great conversation, a never-ending flow of champagne and shamelessly taking pictures of each other’s food, it was a perfect Saturday afternoon. If you haven’t checked out Urbana’s bottomless Bellini bar yet… GO! The food is okay… but let’s be honest, people brunch for the booze, not the food.

Pumpkin spice waffle with apple butter and peach bellini.

Pumpkin spice waffle with apple butter and peach Bellini.

On Friday I’m hosting my first dinner party down here with my very, very small, albeit great group of new friends. Slowly but surely, this new city is starting to feel like home. It goes to show you that anything is possible, if you have the courage to step outside of your comfort zone and put yourself out there.

Make 2013 an awesome year — for someone else

The-Time-to-Be-Awesome-is-Now-Kid-President1-1024x576

While mindlessly switching between my Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook tabs last night, I saw a tweet from one of my favorite people, Rainn Wilson (come on, who doesn’t love some Dwight?) about helping Kid President make 2013 a more awesome year. Being on this “I’m making 2013 my best year ever” kick, I was naturally intrigued and followed the link.

I had never heard of Kid President before until I watched his most recent video about his 2013 “Awesome Year Challenge,” but I immediately fell in love and his idea for taking the time to make someone else’s year “awesome” is one that deserves a lot of praise. I know we should all be focusing on ourselves, making choices and decisions that will make us healthier, happier and more successful… however, that doesn’t mean we can’t all take some time to make another person’s life special, even if the gesture is small (like giving a high five.)

Check out the video. Do you have any ideas to help make 2013 an awesome year for somebody else?

Be sure to follow Kid President on Twitter @iamKidPresident and use the hashtag #awesomeyear with ways you’re making 2013 more awesome than ever.

#2. ice-skating under the stars

My routine during the work week is usually pretty predictable. After packing up at the office and sitting in migraine-inducing traffic, Mike and I would usually quick throw something together for dinner and spend the next few hours sitting mindlessly in front of the television. After spending 8 – 9 hours at the office, our brains felt like mush and I’d induce a coma full of Honey Boo Boo and Desperate Housewives of Whatever while Mike played way too many games of Bejeweled Blitz on his iPhone.

Needless to say, working full-time has put me into a bit of a rut. A boring one at that. So I was beyond excited to get out of work today knowing that Mike and I would be spending the night ice-skating under the stars and neon lights in Downtown Silver Spring — something I’ve been dying to do now for months.

We're lucky to have a killer outdoor skating rink only 5 minutes from our apartment in Downtown Silver Spring.

We’re lucky to have a killer outdoor skating rink only 5 minutes from our apartment in Downtown Silver Spring.

When I was younger, I’d spend almost every weekend with my friends at our skating rink up the street. It’s where I had many of my first “puppy love” middle school dates, where cheesy N’Sync love songs would play and we’d clumsily and awkwardly fumble to hold each others hands. But I also just loved how freeing ice-skating felt… after the pain in your feet melted into numbness, there was nothing more exhilarating then whipping around the rink with the cold air biting at your face.

That’s why I wanted to include ice-skating under the stars on my 213 in 2013 bucket list.

After coming home and changing out of our business professional attire, we bundled up in scarves, hats and gloves and trekked over to the rink. I practically had to drag Mike with me after his last ice-skating disaster a few years back. Long story short, Mike surprised me with two passes to the Blue Cross River Rink in Philly for Valentine’s day. While other couples were skating figure eights, holding hands and smooching under the moonlight, Mike gave up after spending 10 minutes clinging to the side of the wall in shame and went to spend the rest of the night next to the free chocolate fountain while I was left to skate alone. Cute, right?

Getting all laced up and ready to hit the ice.

Getting all laced up and ready to hit the ice. I have giant, giant man feet (size 11).

After listening to him whimper and whine about not wanting to embarrass  himself in front of all the eight and nine year old kids, we took our first tentative steps onto the well-worn ice. My legs were a little wobbly and apprehensive at first. It’s like getting on a bike for the first time in years… you have to shake off the dust and make your muscles remember what to do. Slowly but surely, one foot in front of the other, I began to glide around the rink.

This is cry-baby Mike, making one final plea to not go out onto the ice.

This is cry-baby Mike, making one final plea to not go out onto the ice.

And to my surprise, Mike took a leap of faith, let go of the wall and was skating right beside me. We spent the next two hours laughing, (almost) falling and singing Taylor Swift songs at the top of our lungs (not by choice… it was all they seemed to want to play.) We talked about work and life and made jokes. For the first time in a long time, I felt like we were actually spending time together and not just with each other.

The hood turned out to be quite dangerous as I nearly tramped several small children due to limited visibility.

The hood turned out to be quite dangerous as I nearly tramped several small children due to limited visibility.

We traded in our skates after our feet couldn’t possibly take another lap and our lips chapped from the bitter cold and finished up the night grubbing on Chipotle while remarking on how nice it was to not be in front of the television for a change.

From cry-baby to man of confidence...Mike finally let go of the wall.

From cry-baby to man of confidence…Mike finally let go of the wall.

It just goes to show you that life doesn’t end at your cubicle. You can still have fun and be adventurous because life isn’t defined by 9 to 5 parameters. It’s our job, our responsibility to fill those hours outside of work with color and memories and laughs. I know it’s only three days in to 2013, but I’m already proud of myself for waking up and realizing the time is now.

This is my life. And I’m making every second of it count.

#1. learn a new language

I took Spanish for three years in middle school & absolutely hated it… probably because I was still full of resentment towards my parents for not letting me take French. Something about it not being “practical.” I didn’t want to take French because I thought it was practical. I wanted to learn it because the sheer thought of the beauty of the words wrapping around my tongue and leaving my lips was irresistible.  I wanted to be that cool, sexy girl with a cigarette hanging from her mouth, a glass of red wine in hand, whispering something about Hemingway and Stein in the world’s most beautiful language.

But instead I sat in a cramped, worn desk while listening to Ms. Hernandez yell at me about my inability to roll my r’s.  The only time I ever enjoyed the class was when she brought in empanadas. I think I pulled off a C average. The only things I can remember now are hola, adios and of course, gato.

Fast forward to high school, I enrolled in French and spent the next three years falling in love with the language and the culture. I studied French artists, musicians and cuisine. I began dreaming of truffles, macaroons, unevenly paved side streets and jazz musicians filling the night air with the sounds of their trumpets and saxophones. I became a francophile. A Parisian at heart. So much so that I went on to spend five weeks studying French at the Sorbonne two summers ago.

I think learning a new language is one of the best things you can do in life. It unlocks an entirely new world for you, giving you access to a culture you had until this point only read about in National Geographic years ago. It connects you to the global community and broadens your understanding of the billions of people around you.

language course

Learning a new language isn’t easy though. Which is why I’m starting this item from my 213 in 2013 bucket list early — so I have time to make the necessary dedication. I found this awesome deal on Living Social — only $25 gives you access to Livemocha’s online language learning portal for six months, with 38 languages to choose from. I’m still debating which one I’m going to take up but once I decide I’ll update you on the progress I’m making.

If learning a new language this year is one of your goals, check out the deal and consider taking the plunge. FOX News offers some great tips for those who wish to learn a new language — be sure to check it out.

Don’t forget to make today, and every day after count, whether it’s learning a new language or taking that painting class you’ve always wanted to. Because if not now, when?

Ciao.