Al Fresco Dining + Italy

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

I think we enjoyed every meal outdoors the entire time we were in Italy.  Almost every cafe and restaurant had outdoor seating and in the evening the paper place mats and napkins were replaced with beautiful linens.  In Italy there’s never a rush to finishing your meal and you must ask for your check.  It’s not just a meal, it’s an experience.  And we love that.  Well that and the wonderful food.

Al Fresco Dining

Al Fresco Dining + Rome

Al Fresco Dining + Rome

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Monday, July 28, 2014

When we arrived in Rome we had about a four hour drive to the first place we would stay for a few days.  I wasn’t sure if driving approximately 320 km was the best planning on my part since we had just lost a nights sleep, but within 20 minutes of FCO we were driving along the coast line and fields of sunflowers were everywhere.  It was the shortest long drive ever.

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

The countryside was just as picturesque as I imagined.  The sunflower fields seemed to be at their peak, although I don’t exactly know when that takes place for sure and it can change from year to year.  I had read here that some years are sunflower years and others are not.  We saw plenty of sunflowers on both the drive from FCO to Livorno and then from Siena back to Rome.

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

Sunflower Fields + Tuscany

The light was amazing and seemed to last for hours.  The last three photos were taken at a roadside gas station along the autostrade.  As I was walking back to the car I noticed lavender plants against the yellow building.  Beauty really is everywhere.

Lavender + tuscany

geraniums + Italy

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Summer in Italy and every house has potted geraniums.  Bright red and pink and overflowing.  We noticed if someone had a larger piece of property it was almost certain they had a proper garden.  But even those living in stone or brick apartment buildings with maybe a window or two had geraniums.  There were window boxes, pots on balconies and often basil plants were tucked in between the flowers.  Geraniums are like the universal plant that’s hardy and easy to grow.  Our porch growing up had large pots of perfect red geraniums that my mother cared for by deadheading the flowers, feeding them with Miracle-Gro and tilling the soil to make it look as though they were just planted.  In Italy the geraniums range from robust, overgrown to a bit scraggly and yet all beautiful.

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

Geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

geraniums + Italy

We took many dirt roads that lead to a house or two at the end.  No one seemed to mind that we were there or that we were taking photos before we headed back to the main road.  I think here we call it trespassing.  Often we were even greeted by the homeowner or caretaker…I was never quite sure.  We were driving a rather large Mercedes rental car.  Maybe it was the car….maybe we looked innocent enough, we’ll never know for sure, but I made a mental note to always rent a luxury car.

 

 

Laundry Day in Tuscany

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Laundry day seems to be everyday in Tuscany.  As we drove through towns and villages and walked through the city streets…it seems everyone hangs their laundry out to dry during the summer months.   In the United States, clotheslines were once a fixture in every suburban backyard and even in small backyards in more urban areas.  It seems that now many have resorted to the more convenient method of the dryer.  Not so in Italy.  Everywhere we went, town after town, city street after city street, it was hard to not see a display of clothes hanging to dry.  I loved it!  As soon as we arrived home, my husband hung one line from tree to tree and now I hang my clothes and sheets out to dry almost every day.  So what do you think?  Do you air dry your clothes or would you consider it?

Laundry Day in Tuscany

Laundry Day in Tuscany

Laundry Day in Siena, Tuscany

Laundry Day in San Gimignano

Laundry is done for the day in Siena, Tuscany

All done.

 

July 4th decorations

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

I’m getting ready for the 4th starting with the front door.  Last year I used my Sharpie paint pen to write a quick message on my glass front door and it has been all over Pinterest.  I wanted to do it again and this time my house has a fresh coat of white paint so I think it looks even better!  I took this same design and made a stencil to decorate a pan of brownies.

My front porch/door decorated for July 4th

Using the same idea as the design on the front door I made a stencil.  Once I cut the pattern out I realized I could use both the cut out pieces and the stencil for two pans.  I simply drew the design onto a piece of paper the same size as a brownie pan and then cut it out using a small scissors with a pointed tip. I baked the brownies in two pans, one a 9 x 9 and the other an 8 x 8 pan, both lined with parchment so that I could easily get them out of the pans without breaking them.  I let them cool for about an hour and then set the stencil and the pieces on top of each brownie and simply dusted them with powdered sugar.  I used a small mesh strainer and tapped it lightly.

July 4th decorations

stencil to decorate brownies for July 4th

As you can see it’s a very rough design and yet somehow when placed on a pan of brownies and lightly dusted with confectioners sugar, it just turns out.  Well, I think so anyway and my son and about seven of his friends devoured them.  Although not all of the boys would eat the ice cream I supplied.  I find living in Connecticut, we may only be 45 minutes from Yankee Stadium, but there are a lot of Boston fans in this area too!

July 4th decorations

 

 

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

Monday, June 23, 2014

Last week RedEnvelope asked me to contribute to their “Anatomy of a Picnic Guide” and I wrote this post.   That got me thinking of all the summer salads that we love to take on picnics and this one is by far our favorite for a side dish.  It’s so easy, but so good!

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

fresh corn and tomato salad

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

3 cups corn (from 4 ears of corn or about 3/4 of a bag of Fire-Roasted Corn from Trader Joe’s).

1 cup of cherry or grape tomatoes cut in half

1/2 cup cubed fresh mozzarella

6 basil leaves,  chiffonade

The Vinaigrette

1/4 cup good olive oil

3 tablespoons balsamic

1 teaspoon dijon

salt and pepper

a pinch of sugar

This is my go to vinaigrette that I use on almost every salad.  (I don’t always add the pinch of sugar).  The mustard emulsifies the ingredients and makes it the perfect consistency.  I make it in a jar and then add it to the salad just before serving.

Fresh Corn and Tomato Salad

 

Favorite Brownies for summer

Saturday, June 21, 2014

We made brownies this morning using my favorite recipe from Smitten Kitchen and then decorated them for summer with a template I cut out last night.  I simply used a piece of card stock and roughly drew a nine square grid for the 9 x 9 pan, drew letters and cut them out leaving a stencil.  My design is a little rough, but we still like the way it turned out.  We set it on top of the brownies that I had taken out of the pan and dusted it with confectioners sugar and carefully lifted off the stencil leaving nine squares of HI SUMMER and a sun!

favorite brownies for summer

favorite brownies for summer

favorite brownies for summer

Picnics + Summer

Friday, June 20, 2014

Our family has always loved picnics, so I am contributing to RedEnvelope’s “Anatomy of a Picnic Guide.”   A picnic is a chance to enjoy the outdoors, family and friends and delicious food.  When we lived in California we would often head down to the bluff and catch the sun setting over Catalina while enjoying a simple meal.  But you don’t have to live at the beach to make a picnic perfect.  All you need is a bag to pack a tablecloth or a blanket, a simple meal, a few drinks and you’re set for a memorable picnic at a park, a lake, a beach or even in your own backyard.  I use Weck jars to pack my food.  They never leak and they look beautiful sitting on the table.  Throw in some paper plates and napkins, add a small votive candle or fresh flowers and you’re all set!  RedEnvelope has some great ideas, check it out right here.

Picnic + Summer

picnic + summer

One of my favorite pasta salads for a picnic is this one from Giada!

Picnic + Summer

Sun setting over Catalina, California

 I’ll never stop missing those California sunsets!

summer travel + bing rewards

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Later this summer we are going to Italy. We are pretty excited and traveling of course requires a bit of research.  This is where Bing comes in….I get rewards for doing what I do best…researching places I really really want to go.  Last winter we decided on Tuscany after watching the movie Letters to Juliet. It was a cold and snowy weekend and seeing them them drive through the country side of Tuscany in the summer….well that’s all it took.  So with Bing Rewards I can research places to stay, eat, shop, what to bring, flights, car rentals…you name it, I researched it and all while earning points that I can redeem on gift cards that I can use on travel related stuff.

Bing Travel post

Travel Research + Bing

The hotel in the above mentioned movie is actually a real place.  It’s called Borgo Scopeto Relais and it really is located  in Siena.  It actually looks more amazing on their website than in the movie.

Bing Travel post

Just to make sure I get as many rewards as possible while I search out things to do in Siena, I’ve made Bing my home page on all my devices.  It’s that easy to get rewarded!  Check out Bing Rewards for yourself!

I’m required to disclose a sponsored partnership between our site and Bing. I have been compensated in exchange for this post in the form of payment, product or experiences.

DIY Father's Day Gift Wrap

DIY Father's Day Gift Wrap

DIY Father's Day Gift Tags

and one more…courtesy of the Geico commercial . . . and boots and pants and boots and pants. . .

DIY Father's Day Gift Wrap + Funny quotes that kids say

By now you know how much I love to use Engineer Prints from Staples.  I’ve used them for birthdays and graduations (here and here) and to decorate Madeline’s dorm room.  Staples makes it easy to upload your photos, choose the size you want and pick them up in a few hours or have them sent right to your door.  I of course order and pick them up the same day I typically need them.  This year I tried something a little different and I actually planned ahead.  My kids are 19 and 15 so we’ve done everything for father’s day.  Last year we made the DIY gift wrap using some favorite photos and it was a huge hit.  Since we can’t repeat ourselves, we decided to make a list of all the funny and sometimes strange things they’ve said over the years.  You know those funny little things your kids say and even if they want to forget them, the rest of the family just keeps bringing it up?  In a Microsoft word document I typed a list of all of the quotes from my kids alternating between Madeline and Patrick.  I tried a couple of font styles and then simply took a photo of the documents and uploaded them to the Staples website under Engineer Prints.  I chose the largest size so that we can use it as gift wrap.  I think he’s going to love it!  So start making your list!

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