We didn't get as many people as we sometimes do; by my estimates, we had about 60 people total, with a peak of about 30-35 people. (I tested an estimator that turned out to be reasonably accurate: mentally inventory the spaces where people are; for each space, count 5 for some people present, and 10 for a place where people gather, such as the kitchen near the food table. This estimate worked out pretty well.) One indication of the smaller size: there was never a large population in the family room, and there was only a group in the dining room very late when we played games there.
We seemed to get a few people from a lot of social groups. We got more Apple folks at this party; four of the younger men from the office joined us. They seemed to hit it off well with Onny, whom I'd invited from the Stanford alumni party a few weeks ago.
We tried a couple of new experiments with this party:
In order to try to draw in people with children, we started the party at 6pm instead of 7pm and mentioned the kid-friendly early evening in our invitation. Lori felt really pressured by the earlier start time, and woudl rather have had the 7pm start. We didn't get many people coming early, but we did get the Maltzes and Kevin and Alaina coming then--so the quality added by the 6pm start time was high, if not the quantity.
In order to get only recycling in the recycling bins, we bought a large trash can to put among the recycling bins. We also got large blue recycling bags to put in the recycling bins. These changes seemed to work. I'm not aware of any non-recycling put into the recycling bin. (We did get some ribbing because we hadn't changed the sign that referred to the white trash can when we got the black trash can, but it seemed to work fine.) The large blue recycling bags were a great help with the fact that we'd missed the previous recycling week, and our recycling bins were nearly full. One error: we didn't have trash bags large enough for the black trash can. We compensated by just putting trash in it and hoping that we wouldn't overflow; we'll hose out the can if necessary after trash day.
After working hard all day to get shopping done and food prepared, I felt tired and sort of out of it by around 9:30. I kept hosting, though; I closed the door on the last people at 3:30am.
I actually got to play some games late at night. Marc asked about Cthulhu 500, so we sat down to play. This was actually one of the best games of Cthulhu 500 I've played; there was a lot of back-and-forth among the pack. In the late game, it was very hard for me to pass anyone else, because I didn't have many speed enhancers, but I was able to wreak some havoc with the Giant Tentacle. After Cthulhu 500, we were all too frotzed to play that again, but I pulled out Cosmic Wimpout and we had two fun games.
Logistically, I think we really succeeded this time. We had plenty of food, but we generated very little leftovers--but a fair bit of that is because people ate things because they were there, even though they weren't particularly yearning for food. I think that we could have hosted another 20 people without any feeling that we didn't have enough food.
Our menu, with annotations and commentary:
Our planned contributions:
- Veggie Tray - A small veggie tray from Giant Eagle, which was put out late and mostly eaten. (As before, "mostly eaten" is the target we aim for.)
- Fruit tray - made from fruit brought by Bobbie, also put out late and mostly eaten.
- Smoky Cheese Ball - I mixed it up in the morning and put it in the freezer to chill. By the time Lori got around to shaping it, it had frozen completely solid. Thawing it in the microwave failed badly, but thawing it in a water bath worked. It was about half eaten.
- Cheese and Sausage - we got a cheese and pepperoni party tray from Giant Eagle that came with a tub of olives in the center. This was about the right amount; the cheese was all eaten, but there was pepperoni left. (The olives weren't eaten much.) We also had a block of aged Irish cheddar (about 1/2 pound), which was completely eaten.
One package of Triscuits and one package of Town House crackers was enough; our second package of Triscuits was unopened, as was one of the tubes of crackers within the Town House package.
- Tortilla Chips and Salsa - half a bag of mini Tostitos was eaten. We put most of a 16-ounce jar of salsa into the serving bowl and then discarded what was left; I don't remember how much was eaten, but it wasn't running out.
- Sun Chips and French Onion Dip - about half a bag of Sun Chips was eaten. (We didn't put out potato chips this time.) An 8-ounce container of dip seemed about right.
- Pretzels - we got a bag of pretzels, but never opened them.
- Veggie Chips and Dip - We put out a bag of veggie chips, and Lori mixed up a sundried tomato dip from a mix we had. The dip was not heavily consumed; every time I tried it, I was surprised by the strong tomato flavor.
- Nuts - Two containers of Planter's Mixed Nuts were mostly eaten. (We bought the containers on Friday, but one of the containers had rancid nuts. Fortunately, we'd opened them in time to exchange them on Saturday.)
- Mini Quiches - we had a package of Nancy's Mini Quiches (24 mini quiches) in our freezer that we'd bought for some former party. We baked them and circled around with them around 11 or 11:30. They were mostly eaten then, and late-night folks eventually finished them off. I'm so glad to have them out of our refrigerator.
- Irish Coffee Cupcakes - People praised these highly as usual. We made 24, which got finished late. It's worth remembering for next year that the recipe makes about twice as much frosting as the cupcakes call for (because it's actually a recipe for a layered torte).
- Shamrock cookies - On my first grocery trip, I saw a package of green cookies that looked like they were deliberately shaped, so I picked them up. When I brought them home, Lori pointed out that they were shaped like a green pair of lips. Bwuh? So I bought a dozen shamrock cookies on my next trip out. The cookies were only about half eaten, but it was good that we had them, particularly because more than one of the kids present enjoyed them.
- French Caramel Pecan Bars - a favorite recipe, because it's pretty easy and it makes a lot. I don't remember any particular comments on them this year, perhaps because I made them instead of Lori. (Cooking reminder: lining the baking sheet with aluminum foil makes it much easier to cut them, because you can remove them from the pan with the foil and not worry about a knife on a nonstick pan.) They were about half eaten.
- Baked Artichoke Squares - I made the crescent roll base and the topping ahead of time, and then baked it for extra time as the recipe recommended. It was rather overdone--the bottom was black in several places. But about half of it got eaten when I promenaded it around the house, and the rest got eaten eventually.
- Sausage Snack Wraps - I made two recipes of these. (One Giant Eagle had no little sausages whatsoever, not even a place on the rack for them (despite having an ad posted for them), and the second Giant Eagle I tried had only the Lit'l Beef Smokies, not the Lit'l Smokies that I usually use. It turns out that the Lit'l Beef Smokies run about 40-42 to a pound, instead of the consistent 48 for the Lit'l Smokies.) I baked the first recipe and put them out in the chafing dish around 7pm, and they got eaten within an hour or two. I baked the second recipe around midnight, because I thought that they wouldn't stay nice if they weren't baked. I was expecting them to become leftovers, but they all got eaten by the party's end. I served the second batch with some of the New Braunfels Smokehouse mustard, which was a very nice mustard to accompany them.
food brought by others
As always, I'm going to forget some things here. For planning purposes, that's sort of okay; extra contributions and extra guests will tend to balance out.
- Onny brought spinach-and-paneer samosas, which were very tasty and disappeared pretty quickly.
- Monica brought banana bread and white-chocolate-chip cookies, both of which were mostly eaten.
- Aunt Laurene brought some foldover things in cheese and meatball flavors, which seemed to all be eaten eventually.
- One friend of Heather's whose name I forget brought some Italian eggplant-meat patties, which all got eaten at some point. I tried one and found it surprisingly good.
- 2 Coke - 1 1/2 drunk
- 2 Diet Coke - 1 and change drunk
- 1 Diet Vanilla Coke - unopened
- 2 Caffeine-free Diet Coke - 1/2 of 1 drunk
- 1 Sprite - 1/2 drunk
- Berryclear Sprite Remix - somewhat drunk
- 1 A&W Root Beer - completely drunk (it was untouched at Christmas. Go figure.)
- 1 Giant Eagle Orange Soda - half drunk
- 1 Giant Eagle Fruit Punch soda - somewhat drunk, mostly by me.
- 1 bottle ginger ale - mostly drunk
- 1 diet ginger ale - somewhat drunk
- 3 cases beer (Yuengling Lager, Yuengling Black and Tan, Yuengling Light Lager) - only half of each case was put out. but other people brought beer. Most of those three half cases were drunk.
- The boxes of Franzia Merlot and Franzia White Zinfandel that we had from the previous party. I don't know how much was drunk, but both are less than half full now.
- Some Jameson's was drunk; it's hard to track how much.
Contributions included some St. Brendan's Irish Cream Liqueur (half drunk), a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon (unopened), and a bottle of sparkling wine (drunk late).
Ice: we used 30 pounds of ice in the cooler with all the beer. We had a 22-pound bag of ice in the other cooler, but we never actually used that cooler. We used two 7-pound bags of ice to keep the ice bucket filled, which exhausted those bags; since ice is cheap, a third bag would be good just for safety.
- 4 packs of St. Patrick's Day napkins. Opened but unused.
- 4 packs of St. Pat's plates. All used.
- 2 emergency-backup packs of 60 plates. Unopened.
- 2 packs of 38 16-oz. cups, plus some more cups we had around. We now have most of 1 pack. Planning 2 packs per party is probably wise.
- Plastic cutlery. Not much used.
- The pack of party toothpicks was actually opened this time.
- 3 plastic St. Pat's tablecloths. Used 2. Still a great idea. I bought an extra because I wasn't sure that one would be long enough; it turned out that the cloth was just long enough to cover the top of the fully-extended table.