How to welcome a new neighbor

When my husband moved into his first house in University Heights, the next-door neighbors came over with a large wine-and-cheese basket. Nothing could have been more appropriate for a wine-loving Italian … or for me, who got to enjoy it, too.

But, in reality, they didn't know whether we drank alcohol or even might be lactose intolerant.

So what's the best way to welcome a new neighbor? Rochelle Lulow, an etiquette expert and senior program director at American Greetings, suggests a simple "Welcome to the neighborhood" card (what else?).

"Written communication is really nice, because it gives you a little bit of distance," she says. "You can open the door for communication in the future, but you don't have to be over-the-top and push yourself on anybody."

Consider including a gift card to a local business, such as a favorite pizza place, says Lulow. That way, when the neighbors want to take a break from unpacking, the choice is nearby and convenient.

Or give your new neighbor a list of the best places in town: restaurants, grocery stores, coffee shops, dry cleaners., it's easy to quickly forget the name of a new neighbor.

Better yet, if you live on a tight-knit cul-de-sac, Lulow suggests giving an address book with all the neighbors' names and phone numbers. (Get each one's permission first.)

If you'd like to bring a gift, consider a package of paper plates, napkins and plastic silverware, so the neighbors can easily eat before unpacking the dishes. If they have children, bring an activity box filled with craft items, crayons and coloring books to keep them entertained while unpacking. Bottom line: The best gift to a new neighbor is the gift of convenience, Lulow says. Oh, and don't forget that card.

Although a creative welcome card is a great way to greet new neighbors — and help them remember your name — many of us still appreciate an easy, delicious dinner in the midst of a chaotic move.

Catherine St. John, a chef at The Western Reserve School of Cooking in Hudson, says a pasta basket is the perfect way to warm the heart and fill the tummy of your new neighbor.

She suggests giving the ingredients for an easy dinner, since, chances are, you don't know the new neighbors' plans. That way, they can make it and eat at their leisure.

Fill a basket with the following:
• Good Italian semolina dried pasta, shape of your choice
• Good bottle of olive oil
• Good bottle of balsamic vinegar
• Bottle of dry white wine (optional — but a 1/2 cup is needed for recipe)
• 16 fresh Roma (Italian plum) tomatoes and recipe for roasting … or, you do the roasting and include them in the basket (see recipe)
• Head of fresh garlic
• Wedge of Parmesan Reggiano
• Bunch of basil in a vase
• A printed copy of the pasta recipe, below (and the roasted tomatoes recipe, if you don't make them first)
Pasta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

16 Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound pasta of choice
1/4 cup olive oil from roasted tomatoes
6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
1 bunch fresh basil, shredded
(about 1 cup)
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
For the roasted tomatoes:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a baking dish, lay the tomatoes cut-side-up (you may need two dishes, in which case you can increase the amount of olive oil). Season with salt and pepper. Pour the olive oil over the top and roast for 1 to 1 1/2 hours in the oven. The tomatoes will have a light roasted look to them when they are done. Remove them from the oven. Allow the tomatoes to cool. When cool, remove them from the oil and peel off the skins. Set aside until needed. Strain the oil and reserve for using later.

For the pasta:
In a large pasta pot, bring the water to a boil. Add 1 tablespoon salt (salting the water before boiling makes the water heavy, and it takes longer to come to a boil). Cook the pasta. In a large skillet, heat 1/2 cup of the tomato oil. Saute the garlic and add the white wine. Reduce the wine by half. Add in the roasted tomatoes, (you can leave whole or coarsely chop). Bring to a simmer and add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for another 2 minutes. Add the basil and turn off the heat. Drain the pasta and pour into a warmed pasta bowl. Season the sauce with salt and pepper and toss with the hot pasta. Garnish with fresh basil sprigs and freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Notes: You can add shrimp or grilled chicken to the pasta or spice things up with some red chili flakes.

18% of people say they're "good friends" with their neighbors.

2.6% of people say they never talk to their neighbors.

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