Sunday, July 15, 2007

Block party dud

Yesterday was our block's annual block party. (Special note to those who live it the midwest: Yes, they actually have block parties here, it's not just a figure of speech!)

Four months ago, we got a notice that the party was being planned. Then we got a visit from one of the organizers who reminded us about it and wanted to make sure we would be around for it. Then about a month ago, we got the official date and time notice, along with a bill for $70 per house for the necessary permits, a live DJ, rental of a gigantic inflatable climbing/sliding device for the kids, cotton candy machine rental, etc.

It seemed the event was pretty organized, yes? I'll get back to this in a minute.

At any rate, we had bought hamburgers and lots of hot dogs, not really knowing exactly how the party worked. We knew that some people were buying big pans of catered food and they had invited us to come eat with them. Would people from up or down the block drop by our place and want to eat our food? We wondered. We didn't know, because this was really our first block party while living on this block - we were out of town for the one the year before. I made a gallon of Sangria just in case neighbors dropped by.

So Friday night, yes, the very night before the block party, and fairly late in the evening, a note appeared taped to the door of the houses that told us when to have our cars off the street and that there would be a community "desert table" and that each household was asked to bring one "desert" to the table. Hmmm, would that be Mojavé or Sahara? The party would begin at noon. So where was the advance notice to make a "desert"? That didn't make me too happy.

I got up early Saturday morning and threw together a pan of Anita's favorite brownies, and defrosted a FoodSaver bag of chocolate chip cookies that I had made a few months ago for just such an occasion...when a dessert is needed quickly and nothing is on hand.

The brownies were fabulous in flavor, of course, but didn't seem to have baked quite long enough, because they fell apart too easily and were overly moist. Odd, because I had them in the oven for 40 minutes, longer than it should have taken them to bake.

Byrne had come out from Astoria for the weekend, knowing that we were having the block party, and that was of interest to him, so he visited. It's always nice to hang out with Byrne because he is so laid back and, like me, is into cooking, gardening, and other stuff we like, so it's always a nice visit. He and Jess arrived back from the train station and shopping at about 11:40.

At 12:45, about 45 minutes into the party, Byrne and I wandered up the block in search of the "desert" table. The street was empty, so there was no hurry. One of the organizing neighbors said they would be setting it up later, after the inflatable was taken down. Okay, back to the house. On the way back, we spotted some neighbors I knew and stopped to chat for a few minutes. They asked us how our remodeling had gone, since they knew that we had done a lot of work on the house before moving in, and I suggested that they come down and see it. They have lived on the block for 30 years and knew Jess' parents well, and were familiar with how the house looked when Jess' parents lived in it. I was hoping that they would stop by sometime that day, since Jess and I had worked very diligently on getting it all cleaned/tidied up in case neighbors who wanted to see the house came by. They didn't commit since they had company coming that afternoon, but sounded positive.

Jess rolled the grill out into the street and got the charcoal going and I made hamburger patties while Byrne cut up cauliflower and broccoli for a salad I was preparing. We brought chairs out and some TV tables to hold the condiments and plates and finished meal items.

During our setup, our neighbor to the east came by and said that she had other things going on that day and wasn't staying for the party. And both neighbors across the street from us weren't participating either, neither was our neighbor to the west of us. And since there's a large 7 ft. hedge that divides our yard from the neighbor to the east, you don't really see our yard if you are east of our house. All these things added up to the fact that it didn't really look like our end of the block was participating.

We grilled our burgers and ate them, along with our salad, and about 5 neighbors walked by. Three of the five were from the house next door to the east, who weren't really participating, they just wanted to see what was going on. Their 3 year-old daughter loves our dogs, so she wanted to stop and pet them. This was the extent of our visitors, and they didn't come into the house.

After lunch, we threw a blanket out on the lawn and laid down to enjoy the mild weather, and ruminate on what we would do for next year's party, since this one was such turning out to be such a dud.

At about 3:00, we walked the block again to search for the elusive "desert" table and it still wasn't there. We watched the kids playing musical chairs while the DJ cranked the music. We never saw the cotton candy machine, but saw its aftermath, the discarded paper cones lying in the street, sticky with the patterns of dirty shoe soles stamped into them.

Grrrrr. I didn't fix the brownies for nothing, did I?

At 4:30, we decided that nothing was happening, and we rolled everything back inside. The other end of the block was noisy, but we couldn't be bothered. We decided that next year, we would invite ten or fifteen people over so that our end of the block would be active...because if we left it to our neighbors, it would be just like this year...dudsville.

Unfortunately, I couldn't re-freeze the cookies I thawed, so those that I didn't eat will go to waste since Jess and Byrne were good boys and didn't eat any of them. The brownies will now be their replacement in the freezer. The neighbors from up the block never dropped by – they were too busy entertaining.

All in all, a letdown. But it was still a pretty day, and I got some relaxation in. And for reading all that, you get a couple of recipes!

Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

Serves 8

1 lb. cauliflower
1 lb. broccoli
1 c. mayonnaise
4 Tbsp. cider vinegar (don't subs. wine vinegar)
1/2 c. sugar or 3 packets each of Splenda and Equal
1/2 tsp. ground celery seed powder
1/2 tsp white pepper
1/2 c. golden raisins
3 slices Louis Rich turkey bacon, browned and drained
Prepared ice/water bath in large bowl.

Rinse cauliflower and broccoli well; slice off any brown or gray spots from top of cauliflower and discard. Cut both into small florets. Place florets in a deep micro-safe bowl, cover with plastic wrap (not touching food!) and make 4 vents with a fork or knife. Cook on high power for four minutes. Remove from microwave and toss into ice/water bath to stop cooking and allow to chill for 10 minutes. I routinely do this using a mesh colander to hold the vegetables and a dutch oven with the ice bath, so that when the ice bath has been completed, I can easily pull the vegetables up and drain them. Meanwhile, boil some water and then throw in the golden raisins. Let them plump for about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Mix together mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, celery seed powder, white pepper using a whisk to eliminate lumps.

Drain vegetables well. Transfer to prep bowl and pour dressing over vegetables and add raisins and bacon pieces. Toss well to coat, and transfer to serving bowl.

Fabulous Sangria

750ml Cabernet Sauvignon
4 1/2 c. fresh orange juice [not from conc.] or equal parts orange juice and pineapple juice
9 ozs. Christian Brothers Brandy or Courvoisier cognac
2 c. Monin Red Sangria Syrup (can be purchased at
pinch (and I do mean pinch) of cinnamon
Fresh fruit, cut up (lemons, limes, oranges, Fuji apples, pineapple, grapes)

Mix all together and chill. I make this the night before so the fruit has time to infuse flavor.


At 7:43 PM, July 15, 2007, Blogger Jess said...

Jess and Byrne were good boys, but Byrne really deserves the credit. Your discussion of the cookies and brownies really had me tempted as the night wore on. I almost gave in, but Byrne set a good example that I managed to follow. So the credit goes to him for last night's good behavior!

At 11:14 AM, July 16, 2007, Blogger pinknest said...

what?! how lame!! i was sure from the sound of it that hundreds of people were going to be there and that it was going to be insane. bah! well, at least you got to enjoy some good food. you guys should definitely round up the troops next time and start a sangria and frozen drinks table.

At 11:47 AM, July 19, 2007, Blogger Dantallion said...

I can't imagine a block party where I live. I don't think any of the neighbours actually like each other enough to ever want to socialize.

Sorry it was such a dud. Especially since wasting chocolate chip cookies should be a capitol offence.

I have a brocoli-cauliflower recipe, but it requires no cooking, and it uses spiced rice vinegar instead of cider vinegar. Excellent. I look forward to trying yours.

At 8:50 PM, July 24, 2007, Blogger doggybloggy said...

Bokey...what? I see you commenting over at Pinknest and I have passed thru sometimes but NOW is the time that got me....

THIS block party would have put me over the cause I cant live on blocks and two that nobody got into it (I live on a block now but have "never" in my mind been a "block person")

At 9:16 PM, July 24, 2007, Blogger Marc said...

pinknest - yup, that's the plan! Next block party, they won't know what hit them!

Dan - the neighbors are actually nice, but too many of them were just doing their own thing and not socializing...and if you're not going to socialize, then why have a party?!

doggybloggy - welcome and don't be a lurker! Yes, it put me over the top, alright. I'm not really much of a "block person" either, but I can handle it once a year! But sadly, this wasn't a good year.

At 4:47 AM, July 25, 2007, Blogger Shenida Weave said...

Yeah... but do your block parties end up with plenty of c*ck sucking sex in leather thongs and chaps in the streets? :) Maybe some day you Midwesterners will "move up" to the West Coast style of block party ;)

By the way, unashamedly stealing a page from your playbook, I've started posting my own recipes to my blog... if you decide to make one, let me know if you live or die ;)


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