Color wars

The Boy turned 9 last week, and we were somewhat stumped for what to do for a party. 

We've thrown a few different kinds of parties over the years, but they've all had a couple of things in common. a) It has to fit in our backyard. (or side yard. Or front yard. Whatever). And b) it probably will end up involving props of some kind.  For the first few years of the Critter's life, her birthday was a Bluegrass BBQ that slowly escalated into a multi-band jam.  And at some point I discovered that I could build medieval structures out of haybales, and then the fun really began. But this year, we were at something of a loss. 9 is tough, as the kid in question is beginning to voice an opinion about what kind of party he wants. 

I ran the Tough Mudder a couple of weeks ago, and I was somewhat tempted to build an obstacle course in the backyard (but then I realized, we had already done that). But that led to another thought, and we thought - color run! Wait. No. No running. Color wars! 

That we can do! I trotted out the pallets I had set up for last year's water battles, and made a team Red and team Blue fortification amidst the apple and pear trees. We looked up the recipe to make the color powder (turns out, it's just cornstarch and food dye, mixed baked and dried), but then we found an even better solution: you can buy the stuff for a few bucks. We ordered 100 packets.  

We ordered a box of those little nylon footsies they provide at the shoe store to try things on, and set up a production line. One bag filled two footsie socks. Tied off, they became handy little grenades that shed lovely color when you threw them, and splatted satisfactorily when they hit. And they could be picked up and thrown again and again. 

When the kids arrived, we divided them into a team Boys (made up of 8-9-10 year olds) and a team girls (which seemed to include a lot of older teens, and somehow, my lovely Bride, who wanted in on the action). 

She naturally became a prime target.  

We had only two rules, to keep it simple (just in case you want to try this madness at home) - One: you could only have one color grenade in hand at a time. And two, if you got hit, you had to retreat to your base before joining again. 

We gave everyone a pair of safety goggles, and set them loose.  The results were a lot of laughs, and some happy, exhausted, and very colorful kids. 

We had a lot of baby wipes to help folks clean up afterwards. (I did find quite a number of handprints on the walls inside the house that evening - a quick wipe down made it disappear, no problem).

I'm not sure which team won in the end, but I'm pretty sure the dog ended up being the most popular target. Poor, patient George started out in the thick of things, but ended up on the sidelines pretty quickly. The kids found her anyway, and spent the last of the powder creating Maine's only tie dye English Shepherd. 

Not sure exactly how we're going to explain this one to the groomer today... 

Okra & peppers

The gardens have been in full-on production mode for some weeks now. We were very successful with the early greens like arugula and lettuce, our snow and sugar peas. The zucchini came on in their normal mad rush, requiring constant vigilance at the risk of producing a cricket bat sized squash hiding beneath the leaves if you turned your back for a second. All of the squash has done pretty well - I have pumpkins ripening that may last until halloween (always a bit of a gamble), and a new variety of chinese squash that a colleague gave me that are just a gorgeous pale green. 

My tomatoes were gnawed to stumps again by our neighborhood deer - we saw a young 6 point buck yesterday evening standing underneath the pear tree. He was pretty nonchalant about seeing us as well, and flipped his tail at us as he trotted back into the wood line. I swear I could smell his guilty tomato breath from across the yard. 

For the first time ever, we've had a really successful crop of peppers. Our summer isn't normally long and hot enough to produce good peppers of any kind. But I tried a few banana peppers this year and have had a terrific crop that I've grilled, chopped and tossed with sausage and other goodies. 

I didn't plant okra this year (though I have in the past), but we scored a couple of bags at the town farmer's market this weekend. And my lovely Bride was kind enough to pickle up the bunch, along with the peppers I hadn't gotten around to eating yet.   (Both of these recipes came out of the Martha Stewart Living cookbook)


They're still warm and fresh out of the canning bath, and I'll have to wait a few weeks to try them. But I'll be putting these into a special 'Dad only' part of the pantry. They'll make an appearance on sandwiches and salads after they've had a month or two to mature.

Amazing what a little vinegar, spices and peppercorns can do to keep these vegetables long into the colder months.