Today is Good Neighbor Day. I have no idea how I know this stuff, but I happened to see it a few months ago and put it on my calendar. Mainly because I have the best neighbors and I wanted to let them know. I purchased a fall mixed bunch of flowers (my favorites….dahlias and zinnias) from the local farmer’s market and one bunch of roses from Costco. I added a few things from the garden including a little basil and thyme. Using salsa jars that I had removed the labels from, I added a piece of kraft paper tied up with bakers twine. I saw an arrangement this weekend while I was in Phoenix and that was my inspiration. You may have seen it on my instagram. It was from Camelback Flower Shop inside a wonderful restaurant, Chestnut Fine Foods.
If you didn’t reach out to your neighbors today, there’s still time. Some calendars list September 28th as National Good Neighbor Day.
I recently found a gorgeous rug at Ikea. Of course I couldn’t just buy it and be done with it. I had to go home and think about it. While I was thinking about it I was asked by Rug Pad USA if I would like to review a rug pad. I have to admit I have never really put enough thought into buying a rug pad. I have always bought the inexpensive non-slip kind that never stays in place, stains and discolors the wood floor underneath….your basic nightmare. Rug Pad USA has rug pads in every size or custom sizes and for every surface, like rugs pads for hardwood floors. They are all made in the USA and are guaranteed. They have a 15-20 year warranty! As soon as I received the rug pad and unrolled it and put it into place, I noticed a huge difference. I placed my new rug over it and have been enjoying it ever since.
Our new rug is just what I wanted, but it’s quite thin and so the rug pad gives it all the comfort and actually makes it feel more luxurious and comfortable. Check out Rug Pad USA right here and use pr15off code for a 15% discount!
I decided that I needed to do one more post on Italy because the place where we stayed deserves its own post. It was pretty amazing! I found it through the usual means of research….I googled “What’s the name of the resort in Letters to Juliet?” Yes, we are those Americans that went all the way to Tuscany to stay at the same hotel where the charming movie was filmed. Upon checking in and touring the grounds a bit, my husband asked, “How did you find this place again?” Since it was even more beautiful than I had imagined, I was okay with letting him know that my extensive research was basically a google search.
Borgo Scopeto Relais dates back to the eleventh century. Every building has been meticulously renovated and is truly magnificent. It is set up on a hill overlooking Siena. Upon entering the property you drive up a road lined with cypress trees. The buildings are made of stone and the shutters and doors are the perfect shade of gray blue. The rooms are gorgeous, many with their own terrace area. We had two rooms that felt really more like a small apartment with beautiful furnishings, stone floors and an iron staircase that separated the two rooms.
The property had everything from two pools, tennis, a spa, walking and bike trails along vineyards with gorgeous views. The cellar had a pool table and workout room. Breakfast was served on the patio each morning. The service was impeccable. As much as I love to travel to new places, I know we’ll head back to Borgo Scopeto Relais. The only question is when.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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?
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.
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.
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!
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
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
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.
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!