If you stopped by last week, you probably saw that we were frantically preparing our home and yard for a neighborhood party, scheduled for last Friday night. While our frenzied efforts paid off, unfortunately I may have doomed our party from the get-go, jinxing the weather simply by using the words "Garden Party" on the invitation. Though we intended to use the outdoor space for the event, Mother Nature had other ideas. But let me back up a bit.

In the five days leading up to our neighborhood shindig, we identified several a boat load of must-do items that needed to be completed before 40 or so people descended upon our home. The list of tasks/chores included: 

  • Trim the topiaries and plant flowers in the front urns
  • Plant flowers in the front bed, and mulch the area
  • Clean the front steps and vestibule
  • Rake up the sticks and debris along the side of the house
  • Clean out the beds in the back yard
  • Plants herbs
  • Plant the vegetable garden
  • Clean and oil the outdoor furniture
  • Clean the house
  • Oil the kitchen counters
  • Replace the Christmas carol artwork in the sun porch with something less seasonal
  • Purchase wine, cups, and other party items
  • Set up an outdoor buffet for the party

You might be thinking, "Are these two out of their minds?" A sufficient answer would be, yep, resoundingly so. But we've come to discover over several previous crunch times that giving ourselves tight, if not nearly impossible deadlines is one of the best motivators to help us to cross nagging items off of our home repair, maintenance, and renovation lists. 

So how did we do after all? Here's a quick breakdown of what were able to accomplish.

We picked up some new flowers at the nursery and planted them in the front urns while also giving the topiaries a little trim.

While up front we also planted some new flowers in the front bed, and spread some fresh mulch to breathe a little color into the area.

The front steps and vestibule were covered in a layer of yellow-green pollen, so we completed our facade beautification with a quick wipe down of the whole entryway.

Moving to the side of the house, we raked the sticks and debris that had accumulated all winter. We also did our best to clean and organize the narrow area next to our house in the backyard, throwing away any trash, broken pots, or other items we didn't particularly need.

We completed the backyard prep by cleaning up the various beds and containers in the area, and planting ourselves some lettuce and herbs in a container garden...

We also tackled our third (and hopefully successful) attempt at planting an organic veggie/fruit/herb garden.

With all of our plantings complete, we turned our attention to the interior of the house. We broke up cleaning into a several night process and worked our way top to bottom, vacuuming, dusting, organizing, and tidying. There's nothing like a party to help you notice your home's "problem areas."

On Thursday night Alex oiled and waxed the kitchen counters so they'd be nice and dry by the time of the party. We're still using the same oil/wax combo we mentioned before and are still really liking the look and function of the product.

One of the items on our checklist that was long overdue was the replacement of the Christmas carol artwork in the sun porch with something less seasonal. (We'll be back with more details on this project later this week.)

After all of our extensive efforts around the house, we were finally ready to set up for the party itself. Keeping an eye on the weather radar in the run-up to the party, we were hopeful the threat of rain would hold off until after the event, but the closer we got to party time, the less likely that looked. The thing is, we're the partying type, and we're not going to let a threat of a little bit of rain, wind, thunder, and some pretty awesome lightening rain on our neighborhood block party parade. Rather than set the drinks up outside and food in the kitchen, I went ahead and designated the dining room for the appetizers and dessert people would be bringing to the potluck style event.

...And the kitchen wine bar to act as, well, a wine bar. Novel idea, eh?

And with that, our marathon that felt more like a really long sprint of preparation was complete and we were ready for people to arrive. The various weather teams had been calling for a 50% chance of rain Friday evening. Though the threat existed, by the time our 7:00pm party's start time rolled around the weather seemed to be slightly holding off. But about 10 minutes after the first few people arrived, the skies opened and a downpour of epic proportions commenced. I received a one word text from a good friend that summed it up. "Monsoon."

Alex snapped the following photo of our previously perfect backyard after the rain had begun to let up, but the "Garden Party" concept was no more. Our party was apparently meant to be a springtime indoor party rather than the relaxing indoor/outdoor event I had envisioned. 

As guests arrived the dining room table was filled with a collection of delicious food.

From cheese to deviled eggs and everything in-between, there was something for every appetite.

This tradition of the neighborhood "TGIF" parties started several years ago by another neighbor who brought the tradition from her old neighborhood in New Orleans. We've found it to be a great way to meet new neighbors on the block, as well as get together with old friends. We consider ourselves fortunate to live within an area of homes with such friendly and accommodating neighbors. In a day and age of city living where many are more likely to avert their eyes when they pass someone on the sidewalk, It's not often that you can find an area where everyone is so friendly and likes to take a little time to spend with their neighbors.

The age range of our block goes from mid 20's to early 80's, and everywhere in between. It's an eclectic and interesting mix of interests, backgrounds, and professions, and it's always fun to get together.

Do you do any neighborhood entertaining? If not, would you consider hosting a party like this one or starting a similar tradition? How do you prepare for entertaining in your home? Are you a checklist person, or do you like to fly by the seat of your pants? I'd love to hear what your strategy is.

Comments 12


4/23/2013 at 11:23 AM
Your house and backyard are beautiful!
Thanks so much, Amanda. :-)
4/23/2013 at 2:30 PM
I am a fly by the seat of my pants person that WANTS to be a checklist person. Trouble is I always lose my dang list.

It looks like it was still a great time! I think its awesome that you all to that together. We have never lived in a neighborhood like that. Ours right now is friendly, and it would be fun to try to start something like that (we've only been here for three weeks).
You should totally start this in your neighborhood, Bekah! It's really fun, and is such a good way to get to know those around you.
4/23/2013 at 3:06 PM
It would be great if all neighborhoods did this. I have gotten to know many of my neighbors from walking my dog and working in my yard, but there have been no neighborhood parties. Now I want to have a party.
You should do it Jessica! (And I agree. Having a dog is a great way to meet the neighbors as well!) :-)
4/23/2013 at 8:19 PM
Love, love, love your cooler for the wines. Willing to share your source? (Such a good photo of it with the lighting.) I live in Alexandria also, but not in Old Town. Will you be participating in other house tours?
Hi Rae. I picked up this beverage cooler on sale from West Elm last year. In a house as small as ours, I struggle with purchasing items that only have one use, so on the 360 days a year we're not using it for drinks, it serves as Lulu's toy basket. :-)

(No other house tours planned at this time, but it was a great experience and we could see doing it again if asked!)
4/24/2013 at 1:54 PM
I recently sorted out my garden as it had all these unnecessary construction tools everywhere, planted a few flower pots too:)
It feels so nice to make progress like that, doesn't it?
4/24/2013 at 2:11 PM
Our suburban neighborhood (loop street, 75 houses) has done an annual progressive dinner since 1965 :-) It's a lot of fun, and for grownups only. In the fall, we hold a family barbecue in the park (yup, we have our very own neighborhood park, because two of the original house lots didn't sell, so they made a park). My pre-party cleanup is always the same: throw clutter into closets or the garage, dust, run the vac, and tell hubby to clean the bathrooms!
That sounds like quite a cool tradition and something that's very special to carry on. It's funny you mention the community park. We have the large parking area behind our houses. And while I'm sure people love having a place to park their cars, I always dream of an alternate reality where we could turn the whole area into a large community park just for our neighborhood. If only we didn't need cars.
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