block party and the BEST* brownies ever

August 11th, 2012

I love my town.

I live in a lovely, historic village that overlooks the Hudson River. It’s close enough to New York City that I can get in quickly (and often), but when I come home………..aaaah.

This month marks 20 years that I have lived here and I feel very lucky indeed. It’s quiet and safe, the schools are good, and I have a network of friends and neighbors that are, in a word,  “there” .

“There” when you need a cup of sugar/dog crate/extra folding chairs.

“There” to sit in your kitchen for 15 minutes, because you have to run out and the baby’s sleeping.

“There” when there’s illness or a new baby or a power outage, and a home cooked meal is so, so welcome.

Yet I dream – constantly – about leaving. And Mike and I talk – constantly – about leaving.

Why? Well, “before Noah”, I was starting to plan the next chapter in my life. One where the kids were no longer kids, and out in the world. One where we could start over, anywhere we wanted.

And now we’re “after Noah”. Which puts me in a conundrum. On the one hand, my town is as close to perfect for raising children as it gets. Why on earth would I leave? To learn a new school district, navigate the volunteer waters again, try and find the best OT/soccer class/music lessons?

But oh, the thought of staying here for another 20 years feels so…daunting. The SAME schools. The SAME routines. The SAME old SAME old. I’m ready for a change – new surroundings, better weather, you get it.

And then – just like that – there will be a day like this.

A block party.

You know the deal. All the neighbors pitching in, contributing food, coolers, crafts and music. And it’s as old school as you can imagine – sidewalk chalk, beads, water balloons and face painting.






Or forearm painting.


And I watch Noah run, play and “not eat” and remember why I love living here. And why it really won’t be the same as it was the first time. Because I’m not the same. And Noah’s a brand new kid. And it’s been more than a decade since I walked those halls, peeking into those classrooms.

And I’ve made a whole new crop of wonderful friends. Creative, smart, warm and loving families, with children just Noah’s age.

So I continue dreaming. And we continue talking.

And in the meantime, I bake up the BEST* brownies ever, put them on sticks and dip them in chocolate and sprinkles. Because a good block party demands nothing less.



So tell me – have you ever picked up and moved after many years in the same place? Have any of you left and come back? If you have kids, how did that affect your decisions?

And where is YOUR dream place to live?







on weighing ingredients
my favorite baking tips and tricks

The BEST* Brownies Ever
adapted, I think, from Bon Appetit

4 oz. unsweetened chocolate
2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 c. sugar (400 g)
3 eggs
1 t. vanilla
1 c. sifted flour (4 oz)
Pinch of salt

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 13 x 9 x 2 pan.

Melt chocolate and one stick of butter over low heat, stirring until smooth. Let cool completely.

In your mixer beat the remaining stick of butter with the sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, then blend in vanilla and cooled chocolate mixture. Add the flour and salt, beating till well blended. Pour into your prepared pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or till it pulls away slightly from the sides of the pan and a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it. Let cool completely in the pan. Cut into bars and serve.

* A note about “best”: In the “cake-y” vs. “fudgy” brownie debate, I’m firmly “Team Fudgy”. If you agree, then you too, will think these are the BEST brownies ever. That is all.

For Brownie “Pops”:
You will need: craft sticks, one bag of chocolate “candy melts” (or about 6 oz. chocolate chips) and assorted sprinkles.

When the brownies have cooled completely, cut into bars and place them slightly apart on a cutting board. Freeze  for 30 minutes. Remove from freezer and insert craft sticks. Freeze for an additional 30 minutes. Line a baking sheet with waxed or parchment paper.

Melt the candy according to package directions. Dip the tops of the brownies about one third of the way into the melted chocolate, followed by the sprinkles. Lay the pops on the prepared baking sheet – refrigerate for 30 minutes to set.

(print this recipe)

This delicious recipe brought to you by Donuts, Dresses and Dirt

41 Responses to “block party and the BEST* brownies ever”

  • Sheri, I love brownies. I clicked right on over because I love brownies. Then I got this fantastic personal story and awesome block party photographs to go along with it. You’re awesome.

  • Sheri! My husband and I have had that exact same conversation! In fact, we have entertained ideas of moving to the Hudson River Valley area.

    I think we’re looking for a change but we love our neighbors and have built a network, so I completely get the block party. It is amazing to be part of such a great group of people. But we’re also in need of a change. We’ve both lived in Maryland our whole lives (well, almost all of mine). It’s a strange conundrum.

  • I love the idea of the street party. We had drinks last night at a house in my parent’s street. All the neighbours were there and we all had the best time. When you find people like that, it’s hard to leave. Your brownies look amazing and I love how you served them. Your so creative and artistic Sheri xx

  • I’ve found that I regret more opportunities that I passed up rather than those I took advantage of. What’s the worst that can happen? You move back.

    Or you go for a few years before Noah is in school and then return.

    Life is short and there are many ways to live it. What’ll you regret more at 80 looking back? Going or not going?

    • sherisilver says:

      You’re reading my mind………..

    • I’m with Sandra on this one, Sheri. Probably because this is the FOURTH time I’ve lived in Seattle. Los Angeles twice, Atlanta once, Louisiana the rest of my life. I think one of the reasons it’s so hard for people to move is because they see it as a big permanent step when it doesn’t have to be anything more than a short adventure, if that’s all you end up wanting it to be. xoxo

  • It’s having been around the block a few times, eh?

  • What Melanie said!!

  • Sheri, I loved reading this post! And oh, the brownies – how amazing are those! The neighborhood gatherings remind me of the familiarity I experience when I go home (to Germany), where I’m surrounded by people I’ve known for most of my life. I’ve lived in Madison for almost a decade now and although I love this city and its people, I do feel ready for something new. I miss having other cities within close distance (here in the Midwest it always feels a little isolated). I’ve been intrigued with cities such as Chicago (though still the Midwest and I’m trying to escape the extreme temperatures of super cold and super hot), Seattle, Portland and the East Coast. Sometimes I dream about moving back to Europe. My goal is to become (professionally) location independent, so that I can visit and work in Germany on a more regular basis (and for longer periods of time). I’d love to be able to include more travels in my day to day life (though i’m sure, I’m romantisizing the overall work-travel experience a tad bit). Your location sounds so perfect, but I completely understand the urge to experience something new. I’m curious to see what you’ll end up doing. Maybe we’ll all meet in Seattle?

  • You know I’m a Florida girl at heart, aside from that 11 year NYC stint. But having just returned from visiting Southern California, I could entertain the idea of living there. I kind of fell in love with the area north of San Diego. I love where I live now. It’s the perfect place for the kids. But in five years, there will be none at home. It’s exciting to think about!

    • sherisilver says:

      Yes, we have a little more than “five” as you know! 🙂 Southern California is high on our “wish list” too! xo

  • So funny! On the same wavelength. I’m pining away for Beacon, and can’t stand the “better weather” where one can’t hide from 300 days of sun. Denver is treeless in comparison to the Hudson Valley. I just cowbirded about it. 🙂

    • sherisilver says:

      Right! Like, would I tire of the lack of change? So hard to tell! You lived in Beacon, NY? How did you like it? 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this post. My experience: it is actually quite difficult to start over somewhere else, somewhere new, especially when it is very new, and especially with children, but it also very rewarding in many ways. The new experiences –that diverge so completely from the easy routines that we fall into when we live in the same place for a long time– help us to grow in ways mightn’t have otherwise. That said, from what I can tell, NYC and the areas around = one of the best places, if not the best place in the world. I imagine that if had grown up here, I would not want to leave it for long.

  • Lots of typos. Oops.

    Also had to say: are you kidding me about these brownies? Please stop!

  • Mary Schnog says:

    Made the brownies yesterday(without the sticks and sprinkles) still fabulous! Did you double the recipe for the stick and decoration?
    And you would be proud … I used my scale not the measuring cups!!! Progress!

    PS Andy and I have the same thoughts you have about a move. We are in constant conversation regarding where and when! Loved your post on so many levels!

  • I feel you Sheri. I can relate to this post and I don’t even have kids yet. I always wanted to move abroad – Asia maybe. And it depresses me that I don’t do it. But Danny and I have good jobs, family, blah, blah, blah.

    Maybe my family and yours should just swap houses for a year!? Though something tells me I’m getting the better end of that deal than you. =)

    • sherisilver says:

      I love reading about your move to Texas – it was on my mind when I wrote the post! Austin is a place that “everyone” says we should consider – thoughts??

  • Going to try this? How many popsicles will this make?

  • Madeleine says:

    Dear Sheri, I want to try the brownies for my daughter’s baby shower. How do these travel? I want to take them to the location and put them on the table. Will they stay at room temperature without getting condensation?

    Many thanks.

Leave a Reply