Holiday Beef with the Grill

I was the first one out of bed this morning, and started early on cleaning the potatoes to be baked. Eaddie came in from a night outside with the cat, and I made her and myself a couple breakfast croissants. Then I got the potatoes baking in the oven so I could shower and get ready for everyone else to show up.

Kevin and Julie were the first to arrive. Dad brought over the bacon for the potatoes, but had to go back to get Mom. Noah showed up out of nowhere, which was a little bit of a surprise in spite of the fact that we were expecting him.

I had a lot of trouble with the potatoes because they weren’t completely baked through, and I had to put them back into the oven after they had cooled off a bit. When I finally did get around to starting the grill, I couldn’t figure out why the coals wouldn’t light. We all just kind of assumed it was the humidity from the rain, but over an hour later, multiple attempts at lighting more oily rags, and even a guest appearance from the leaf blower, I realized the blower fan was blocked by the bag of charcoal I had under the grill. Once I removed that, the temperature shot up from 140 up to 500 degrees pretty quickly.

Everyone had already given up and started eating salads, but I got the steaks and eventually the vegetables onto the grill once it was hot enough, and everything turned out pretty good. I got lucky with the grates being close enough that I didn’t even have to use a special pan with the squash and zucchini. I lost a couple asparagus, but retrieved some of them later. The steaks cooked a lot faster than I expected, so they went beyond the medium rare I was targeting. I guess the thermometer lied, because I definitely found a cooler spot in the one I measured.

Everyone enjoyed the food, we had a nice fire in the fireplace, and everyone but Mom participated in the cookie decorating tradition. It was a lot of fun, but I only get through a couple of cookies before I’m done, especially after a long day of cooking.

After the cookies, people started filing out. Eaddie talked about pulling an all-nighter to try and catch Santa Claus, but Summer went straight to bed. Eaddie spent a little time with the cat, but it was loud and rainy, and we found the leak in the roof over the bathroom, so she ended up coming inside. I had been tired for hours, with smoke-filled eyes, so it wasn’t long before I made it to bed too.

Kidnap Mr. Sandy Claws!

Deep Dried Chicken

I got up this morning and made a couple caramel lattes for us. The magic club was having their Christmas party in Fort Smith, so I prompted Summer and we got ready to go. Eaddie stayed behind since she traveled all day yesterday. We took Summer’s car to get Dad, loaded up, and headed west. We were the first ones to the venue, which was the Riverfront Pavilion instead of the amphitheater building we normally use. Evidently there was a scheduling conflict, so they upgraded us.

Summer lost an earring, but we never did find it. People were filling in pretty quickly by then, so we got the food laid out, tables set, and had our lunch and a show. The best performer by far was a younger guy I hadn’t seen before with a great linking rings routine. Everything else was fairly predictable for the occasion. At the end of it all, everyone left as quickly as they had arrived, and we were the last ones out.

We stopped in Ozark to charge for just a bit, and then made it home fairly early. We dropped Dad off and came home to find Eaddie doing laundry. Summer did some work in bed and I watched an interesting and long Smarter Every Day video which was a speech that Destin gave to some folks in the Artemis program. I shouldn’t have dawdled so long and gone to bed early instead.

Apparently milk ratios are a key technicality.


Summer got up this morning and started prepping her food for hosting Thanksgiving. The fireplace kit I ordered came in a day late, but just in time for us to put it together and get wood loaded onto it. Kevin called just as I was finishing up, and I met him at the old house to load up the old sofa to bring to the new house. Since he had room in the truck, I also had him dump the old mattress I still had in the garage.

We unloaded the sofa really quickly, and Eaddie vacuumed so we could get it placed in the sunroom. I got a fire going, and people eventually started showing up. All of the out-of-towners came in first, so we had to rush everyone else. Mom and Dad brought Doug, and then Julie and Kevin showed up with most of the hot food.

It was a really great time, and we clearly had way more usable room to spread out than if we had been at my parents’ house. We did have one chaotic moment with a flooded bathroom, so I spent some time mopping up in there, but it was still a great first time to host a big family event.

Once everyone had enough socialization for the day, the girls and I cleaned up the kitchen and dining areas and settled in for the night. They did a really great job getting everything clean in a really short amount of time. I felt like I hit a brick wall, but still dawdled a bit before making it to bed.

That was a lot of potatoes.

This Guy Fawkes

Summer had a race in Conway this morning, and Eaddie had to get to the high school to take a bus to Conway for her orchestra concert. I got up pretty early myself and took a bath before Summer got back home. Then we packed up for a night at Alice’s.

We left Eaddie with the Model Y and took the Murano to Conway, which was awful after living on Autopilot for the past year. My arms were constantly tired, and all of my muscle memories were wrong. Our first stop was the liquor store in Morrilton, and then the China Town buffet in Conway for lunch. We finished up there just in time to make it across town to the Conway High School for Eaddie’s concert.

Both bands were pretty good, but I think my absolute favorite song was Eaddie’s last one. The concert was pretty short with only three songs from each of two bands, and then we headed straight to Alice’s place, only making a brief stop at a Dollar General for some energy drinks.

It was a small party this year. Alice and Josh were there, and Josh had one other friend come by. I took Summer, Alice, and the kids to the guest house to check things out, and then to see her in-laws next door briefly before going back to the house. They had some snacks there, but the girls mostly just chatted in the kitchen while the guys went down to start the fire. By the time we made it down the hill, it had mostly died down.

It was a great night of chatting by the fire though, and then we got to retire to a guest house instead of making the drive home after midnight. The guest house was a really cool, two-level house with everything we could have needed. Summer crashed pretty quickly while watching an episode of Fear Factor, which appeared to be on repeat. I wrapped up pretty quickly myself so I wouldn’t sleep too late.

That’s enough 90s television.

Al imPastor

I held on to a headache for most of the day. I wanted to move some more stuff from the old house, but I guess we got rained out, or at least de-prioritized again. Maybe I’m just not being vocal, specific, or immediate enough when I say that I want to move things, but I really thought I made this weekend’s goals clear. The girls left at some point to get some stuff so Eaddie could make Oreo balls, and Summer said she was making al pastor for dinner. I didn’t unpack what she bought, otherwise I would have noticed the slab of beef.

We ended up getting two things done today. Dad came over to carve pumpkins, and brought his drain snake along to try and clean out the drain for the driveway. He tried to run an old washcloth through after he got the snake all the way down the pipe, but it wouldn’t make the turn. I’ll just have to get a hose out later to clean it out, assuming I can access the spigot at ground level on the front of the house. It’s possible that it doesn’t work, like the second on on the back of the house.

Once we finished with that, we came inside and carved pumpkins. I couldn’t think of anything more scary than “8.5% for 30 years” worth of home loans, so that was my pumpkin. I carved until my fingers bled, and then ended up cutting out the letters anyway because they weren’t visible enough.

Summer got dinner going while I went to the Neighborhood Market for the things they forgot. I found some bags of rice that apparently just had to be microwaved. They smelled good when we cooked them, but the rice was rubbery. Summer’s beef “al pastor” was tough and mostly cold and dry. I had been excited all day, so dinner was a big letdown. I don’t think she could even tell me what cut of beef she bought. I’m pretty sure she exclusively shops by complete impulse after a weekend of fighting various things around the house.

My headache compounded with at least a dozen other aggravations from the day got the best of me, so I went to find some quiet in the bedroom, and then called it an early night.

I should really have checked the murder basement.

Good Mourning

I woke up several times with a pounding headache last night, and then I was the first one up in the morning even after sleeping in for a little while. I took a shower and eventually headed home to change before picking up some donuts and coming back to the girls. Summer and I had to go to the store for some flowers for Lelan’s altar for Bác Vân, so we sent Eaddie to my parents’ house to pick up some stuff separately.

Eaddie beat all of us there, we arrived just behind Dad and Doug, and then Mom came along way later. Lelan already had most of the food done, but waiting for Mom to shower and show up an hour late put us behind. Randall and Danielle were already there, and Julie and Kevin eventually showed up. Eaddie had to go to band practice, so she left before we could eat.

We had a good meal and great conversation. Julie talked about flying a lot. Eaddie finally finished and showed up just after food had been mostly put away, but I made her a bowl with some of everything. Summer left early to start some laundry, and after Lelan finished cleaning everything up, she and Stephen, my parents, and I went to the cemetery.

I dropped Eaddie off at the house and then took Julie the sticky rice pot she forgot at Lelan’s, and then we were at the grave for a little while to burn incense and arrange fake flowers. We chatted there for a while before everyone parted ways.

Earlier, Summer had gotten a text from her old landlord about the couple of things we left behind, and the state of the property. She had been in the home for nearly a decade, without a lease, and she wanted us to do a better job of cleaning and mowing. Summer had no expectation of getting her deposit back, and was even ghosted when she asked about only paying for half a month of rent, so she just paid for the full month. Even Lelan thought the text was a little silly, but I still had to go to the house anyway to get the plant cages that I forgot.

While I was there, I started to move the TV stand and cabinet we left in the house. Then I noticed the neighbors outside, so I walked over and asked if they wanted any of that stuff. They were super stoned stoked to get free stuff, so I put it outside and told them to take the grill and chairs out back as well.

When I got back to Summer’s, I got on a roll cleaning up some things and did a load of laundry. The dryer made an awful racket, so I wondered if something was jostled in the move. I’ll need to take it apart and check sooner than later. Eaddie came out to vent about English class for a bit, and then it was off to bed, late as usual.

Filian obligations fulfilled.

YouTubed Traditions

I went home for a shower, then picked the girls up for Bác Vân’s funeral early this morning. Most of the family was already there for the private viewing, and then the service opened to the public a couple hours later. Bác Tran, Dad, and Dan all got up to share some words, and I learned some things from Dan about my family that I don’t think any of us ever knew. It was hard, and the service seemed to carry on forever since we had gotten there so early, but we finally made it across town to the cemetery for the burial.

It was high noon on a day with a heat advisory. The family kept having to research traditions that they wanted to keep alive, while choosing which others to let slip into the past. They had incense and a bowl of rice and egg. I was just happy to see the job through. Serving as a pallbearer wasn’t as bad as I had imagined, but having some extra muscle helped.

Afterward, I took the girls to my house to change and then we headed out to Centerville to visit Steven and Chris’s farmhouse. It was a different farmhouse than we’d visited before. Apparently the other had gone to the kids as a playhouse. It was hot outside even covered on the porch. Randall had a couple deep fryers going for eggrolls, and Julie had picked up the Pasta Grill they had catered.

It wasn’t long before Lelan started calling for fish sauce, which Mom hadn’t had time to make. Danielle also wanted some mint for mojitos, so I took Mom back to Russellville. She picked some fresh mint while I found the dried stuff inside, where Doug and his son Mike were waiting for a call from their insurance company. That whole thing felt a bit odd, but I eventually got out and took Mom home to make the fish sauce.

It took us way too long to complete everything, but we made it back to the farm and had some eggrolls that had gotten soggy by then. It was mostly hot and miserable, so everyone crammed inside where Uncle Mai was loudly attempting his magic trick again. We rode it out until everyone started to file out, and then the girls and I headed home.

Summer had to work the next day, so she went to bed. I was hot and sticky from sweating so much, so I talked Eaddie into going swimming with me. We headed to my parents’ house and chatted inside for just a bit before going out back. The tree frogs came out after dark, and I played with them a bit. One started croaking while sitting on my finger, which was really cool. For some reason, Eaddie was absolutely terrified to touch them.

We swam, looked at stars, sang at frogs, and eventually made it inside to munch on a few leftovers while we visited with the family. Eaddie seemed to genuinely enjoy meeting everyone, and even wanted to go back early the next morning before people started leaving.

We eventually made it back home, where Noah pulled into the driveway just before us. Eaddie stayed up watching a scary movie with him, and I did my best to get to bed for a few hours of sleep before her 16th birthday.

This year just won’t slow down.

Elec Man

I took Eaddie to school this morning and made it home to have a bowl of cereal before the electrician showed up. John and two of his henchmen showed up and got right to work, running some conduit up the side of the house and into the attic. I was a little worried about how it might all turn out, but overall I was quite pleased. I did have to climb into the attic once to pass along some tape, but outside of that, we didn’t spot any termite damage, and the Wall Connector powered right up. Dad showed up near the end to check things out, and once the guys were done, he wanted to take me to the airport to see the plane that he and Julie just bought.

I let him drive the Model 3, and we made it about halfway there before he realized he had forgotten the trash bag he needed to clean out the plane. We finally made it to the airport though, and drove past a really fancy jet to get to the hanger.

We stopped in to talk to the guy in the hanger next door, and he came around to chat with us some more while we cleaned just a little bit of trash out of the plane. I got Julie to come out, but she wasn’t in any condition to socialize. As she ran us off, she introduced us to her new boyfriend, Kevin, who would be joining us for Mom’s birthday dinner.

I got back home and put the garage back together, possibly better than it was before. By then I was pretty hungry, so I ran to Taco John’s for a snack and went by Superfast to visit with Summer. She was busy though, and put me to work filling her washer fluid drums. After that I went home and showered so we could go to Pasta Grill for dinner.

Summer had to work right up to dinner time, so I met her at Superfast and she drove us to the restaurant. Julie and Kevin were already there, and of course Mom and Dad were several minutes late. It was a fair time visiting, and most of the food was okay. I ordered the Grill Pasta, which was incredibly heavy. I was disappointed in the portion size, and then it was so saucy that it felt like eating forks of butter. I ended up taking well over half of it home.

When the girls got home from hanging out with their friends, Autumn came into the bedroom to tell us all of Eaddie’s drama, which had me rolling my eyes. Summer called Eaddie into the room so she could tell us herself, and we talked for a little bit. Then after Eaddie cooled off in her room for a while and I watched some TV with Summer, Eaddie came out to the kitchen table and chatted with me for quite a while longer. She felt good about how she responded to her classmates, and laughed at how accurately I described her friendships.

Now if only I could be as successful.

Witchy Woman

I slept way better last night, no thanks to the constant snoring that Autumn did all night long. It aggravated all of us to the point that even Eaddie woke up and yelled at her to flip over, which helped for a bit. I wanted to sleep in a bit since we didn’t plan for breakfast, but that didn’t happen. I got up and showered while the girls packed everything up, and then they loaded into the car like we were leaving, but I went to check on Mom to see if they had plans.

We ended up going to the clubhouse to play some more games until Dad finished at the convention. Then we went downtown to try and find a seat at the Local Flavor Cafe. There was very clearly a group of people outside waiting, so we went to La Familia for some Tex-Mex instead.

The food was great as always, but the already-bitchy Autumn just got worse when I called her out for ordering three bean burritos for $20 when most of the rest of us shared fajita platters for a buck less. We made it back for the matinée show, and then we headed straight home after that.

Summer hadn’t been feeling the best over the past day or two, and it just got worse as we drove home without a word, listening to a new playlist maker I tested out on YouTube Music. Once we got there, the girls unloaded and Autumn started some laundry while Eaddie played the flute for literally hours. Summer put on the first Iron Man, and then went to bed. I laid with her for a little while, but still had to finish my evening routine before going to sleep myself.

Who’s got time for that?

State of Dinner

I had a horrible time trying to sleep again last night, but surprisingly it didn’t hurt me too bad during the day. We had breakfast and got out of the hotel, then made it down the road to The Butterfly Palace. It was a relatively short wait, but the greenhouse was a bit smaller than I expected for the size of the building. There also weren’t quite as many butterflies as I had envisioned, but it was still a good time. They had little vials of “a scoop” of orange Gatorade mixed with two quarts of water with a little fake flower on top, and we carried those around just hoping for butterflies to land on us. I had the bright idea to stick mine behind my ear, and I think I was the first one to actually attract a butterfly.

It was a really neat experience, and we watched a little short 3D film about monarchs before we made it downstairs for a tiny reptile room and a really cool mirror maze. I started really feeling the effects of my lack of sleep while the girls were looking around the gift shop, so I waited in the car until they came out. Then we started heading toward Eureka Springs, stopping in West Branson for gas, and then Reeds Spring for some lunch at Parmesan’s Pizzeria. Their tiny dining room was packed, so we waited for a table, and the pizza was worth the wait.

We finally made it to Eureka in the rain, and got checked into the hotel after a bit of a wait. They gave us a room right next to my parents, which was convenient. I bounced back and forth between our room and theirs to talk to Mom, and then Summer and I went down to the convention center to find Dad. We weren’t hungry during the dinner break, so the girls and I found a recreation area by the pool that had ping pong, mini golf, air hockey, a couple of pool tables, and some other stuff that was mostly out of order. It was actually a lot of fun, and was probably the best thing we could do to keep out of the rain.

Eventually we had to make our way back for the evening show, and Eaddie got picked as a volunteer again. The girls seemed to enjoy it enough that we thought they might actually be willing to stay another night, but then Autumn started to get cranky again as the evening progressed.

After the show, we all went downtown for a really late dinner at The Spring on Main. We actually parked right by the entrance, but I didn’t realize it was upstairs, and we walked up a couple blocks before I realized we were in the wrong place. We made our way back down, and then up the stairs into a small, mostly empty restaurant and bar. The menu gave me a little bit of sticker shock after glancing at the prices online, but I think it was worth it. Everyone was really happy with their upscale food. It all tasted really fresh and delicious, and the service would have been excellent even if we hadn’t showed up 30 minutes before closing.

Once we ate, we headed back to the room and we had to practically wrestle Autumn into the shower after over 48 hours. Summer put on Indiana Jones, and I wrapped up as quickly as I could, hoping to sleep through Autumn’s relentless snoring.

Suffer silently.