We spent August's birthday weekend in Arkansas with my sister Sarah and her family in their new home. Sarah and her husband just recently moved to Arkansas, only weeks before their second son, Gavin Matthew, was born (under water in their home)! Sarah's husband, Patrick, is one of sixteen chefs employed by Tyson foods in Fayetteville. He is one of four who works for the national restaurant division, which means that you can go in Steak and Shake, Applebees, Papa John's, or Moe's- pretty much any chain, and eat something he and his buddies created. Pretty cool eh? This, to me, is the proper retribution for the unfortunate situation he found himself in right after graduating from the Culinary Institute of America and being unable to find anything except work as the chef at a Carrabba's. Carrabba's has strict recipe making rules, they want the pasta at every Carrabba's to taste exactly the same. So even when Patrick vastly improved some of the sauces on the menu, they were thrown out without being used because they weren't the same as every other Carrabba's sauces. Well, you can sort of understand that even though it would be infuriating for a creative young chef fresh out of culinary school. After a few years there and a few more working for a New York regional bakery called David's Cookies, Patrick landed this great job at Tyson Foods. Now he makes up the recipes for all of the Carrabba's! Beautiful! I was able to tour the kitchens and all of the amazing facilities at Tyson. Their kitchens are any girl's dream! They cover everything from gorgeous Viking ovens with eight burner ranges to massive deep fryers with pumps for the used grease (where does it go? away. evidently they use it for fuel); they even have Pizza Hut pizza ovens and Burger King burger broilers with which to try their recipes. It took a better part of a rainy afternoon to take all of this in. But, all in all, it was a really great way to spend a rainy afternoon. So sorry Gustav, you just couldn't get us down!
We spent several days in Fayetteville, and Labor Day was spent at what sounded like an amazing water park. This was a daddy and big kid outing. Patrick and Seth, who is two and a half, George, Amabel, and August were the big participants. The mommies and babies stayed home. Sunburns and stories came home with the crew though, and we heard all about the super fast water slide tubes, the giant mushroom umbrella with water cascading all around it, the much kid friendlier dolphin and boat slides, and the high dive off which Patrick later regretted trying tricks.
For whatever reason, this year August was all about tractors. His birthday gifts included many Schleich farm animals and a great big red tractor and his first few Transformers. So the biggest event of our weekend was that Aunt Sarah arranged for him to ride on a really really big tractor for a birthday treat. It was pretty enormous, so enormous that he was actually a little scared. Luckily, there was room for Amabel inside too. They had a great ride, but I think Elspeth was a little sad there wasn't quite enough room for her too. After the tractor ride, we took a trip to the Farmer's market in downtown Fayetteville, a charming little place, where, among other things, we found delicious, pink peaches, sweet and refreshing limeade (or caffeine packed iced coffee for the mommies), and colorful bundles of zinnias.
August's actual birthday was the Wednesday after Labor Day and was spent mostly on the road from Arkansas to St. Louis. We had a nice little party for him the night before we left though. Patrick helped the kids makes individual sized pizzas at home. They got to roll out the dough and put whatever toppings they wanted on them. For dessert, the kids got to make their own ice cream sundaes, and of course, each sundae was complimented by a nice slice of birthday cake. The following morning, we had a little more sweet for breakfast at the local doughnut bakery before saying goodbye and heading off to the Lou. We stopped about halfway to St. Louis in Springfield, Missouri at the super big Bass Pro Shop. We saw lots and lots of turtles and fish, spiders, snakes, ducks, and even a lonely pheasant. We had been there the same time last year when George guest preached at a church in Springfield. But it was fun to go back and to have something a little entertaining to do on the road for Aug's big day. Once we arrived in St. Louis, we enjoyed dinner and dessert, hot dogs and oreo icecream cake, prepared especially for the birthday boy by Grandma.
So, maybe that's enough for today- a trip to Arkansas, two birthday parties, and an interesting description of Patrick's occupational history. We'll chat about Elspeth's birthday sometime soon. She's two now, you know. And it will take a whole post to explain all that that involves anyway.