On the Yellow Brick Road

Smokin' a Brisket on my Big Green Egg

We are having a party tonight to thank all the people who helped us move into our home in St. Paul.  To celebrate I am smokin' a brisket on my Big Green Egg.

Big Green Egg

So what is a Big Green Egg?  It is a space age ceramic kamado style cooker that uses lump charcoal, not charcoal briquettes, for its heat source.  You can grill, BBQ, bake and smoke with a Big Green Egg.  Here is a photograph of my current setup

In additon to my Big Green Egg I also have a BBQ Guru Digi Q II which comes with a temperature probe for the inside of the Big Green Egg, a meat thermometer probe and a fan which are all controlled by a self contained computer.  Here are photos of the computer and the fan

I soaked both apple & cherry wood chips, along with apple wood chunks to provide the smoke.  While they were soaking.  I prepared the brisket.  Unfortunately it was frozen so it needed to be defrosted.  After that was done I washed, dried, and then put on some of my Memphis Rub on it.  Here is simple version of a Memphis Rub, mine has more spices and I am not giving that away

Memphis Rub

  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons onion powder
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne

Normally I would leave the rub on for 24 hours before I cooked the brisket but I didn't have time for that.  So while the rub was being absorbed into the meat.

Fire Preparation

I follow the standard wisdom about setting up my charcoal in the Big Green Egg the very largest lumps of charcoal at the bottom, followed by a layer of wood chips, followed by a layer of smaller pieces and another layer of wood chips, and finally a last layer of charcoal plus more wood chips and the wood chunks along the edges of the fire box and charcoal.  I fill the firebox to the top for these long burns.

When I light the charcoal I use only one 'lighting' block because I want the fire to heat up slowly.  Once the fire gets to hot it is very hard to cool down.  Then I put the on the plate stone, which basically allows for indirect heat cooking.  You could also use it to bake bread.  Then the grill.  After that I wait until I see that the temperature inside the grill is at least 100 degrees F.

Time to Start Smokin'

At this point it is time to bring out the brisket.  It is best to put the fatter side down because it protects the rest of the meat from the heat of the charcoal.  There is plenty of fat in the meat to make it moist.  Then it is just a matter of checking the meat every once in a while.  Here is the photographic evidence from the night's smokin'.

At about 6:00 am on Sat. morning this is what came off the grill.

I then cut off the portion that is used to make burnt ends.  The rest was wrapped in aluminium foil and all of it was put back in the Big Green Egg.

After about another hour the portion that was wrapped in aluminium foil was wrapped in a towel and put into a small ice chest.  This allows the meat to continue to simmer in its own heat and moisture.

The burnt ends continued to cook for about another hour or so.

By 11:00 am on Sat. everything was done, sliced or chopped, and ready to be served at our party at 4:00pm.

I heated up the Big Green Egg to over 500 degrees F to burn off all the grease and grim on the plate stone and grill.  After 20 minutes at that temperature everything is essentially dust and is quickly scrapped off.  I then shutdown the BBQ Guru Digi Q II and closed down the Big Green Egg to get it to cool off.  There should be enough fuel left for me to relight it around 2:30 pm or 3:00 pm and get it to 200 degree F. to reheat the brisket and leftover ribs for the party.


Trust, Vulnerability, and Honesty

Recently I have been learning how to trust, be vulnerable with another person, and be honest about my emotions.  All three of these things are new for me.  I learned early in life to not trust.  As a parent myself I know how easy it is to let your children down.  I also learned from my parents mistakes, that it is important to apologize immediately for those mistakes.  I learned along the way it was not safe to be honest with my emotions and feelings at home.  I know my parents are very sorry for those mistakes now and I have forgiven them for those mistakes.

In fact I still care "infected emotional wounds" from those times.  I am learning that being vulnerable means being in a situation where I can share my true emotions with someone else and not try and control the situation.  In the past I have tried to control the situation by anticipating (ruminating) what the response would be instead of being in the moment.  In the past I would guard my try feelings so I wouldn't hurt the other person or so that I could answer the question the way I thought they wanted me to answer.  I would lie.  I would deceive.  

My work in individual and group therapy has helped me begin to work in these areas.  But as my therapist has told me "Real therapy happens outside of sessions and group."

Trudy and I have been in deep conversations during the last week.  One of them has been very painful for both of us.  And it needed to happen.  Other conversations have not been as painful and have helped me clarify in my own mind many of my thoughts about the last five years, some of which I will elaborate on in this posting.

Being honest about Topeka

In the past I have written that I blame and have been very angry at the members of church that Trudy served and the synod.  I was angry because I felt we were brought there with partial and incomplete information.  I actually believed we had been lied to so the synod and church could get a pastor and be 'done with it'.  In fact I wanted to be a victim to the circumstances around going to Topeka.

The truth is, if I had been having honest conversations with Trudy at the time she was looking at synods about my concerns things would have turned out differently.  I should have voiced my concern about being in a small city like Topeka or Wichita.  I wish I had brought up my fears about job and career possibilities for myself in the Topeka and Wichita area.  And when the congregation got so upset about the possibility of us living Lawrence I buried my 'warning' feelings.

In the end I had many choices concerning how and why we ended up in Topeka KS.  I made bad choices.  I choose to not be honest, truthful, trusting and vulnerable with Trudy.  In the end, we have all paid a terrible price for those mistakes.

Closing for this week

Although this has been one of my most anxious weeks I am satisfied and proud of myself for taking steps to become healthier.  Especially to have a healthier relationship with Trudy, Benjamin and Catalina.  I know I have a very long road ahead of me.  At least it is a yellow brick road and I am heading for my Undiscovered Country.


Not in Kansas anymore

We are now in Minnesota and I am still calling this blog "On the Yellow Brick Road".  Why?  Well the simple reason is because I can't think of a better name to call it . A deeper reason is that I am on a journey and a lot like the people who traveled on the Yellow Brick Road I am looking for Oz.  Not like in the movie which was a dream but like in the books a real place.  A fantastical place where mystery still exists.  In another way I think of myself on a journey to my "Undiscovered Country" in many of the same ways as Captain Kirk had to discover that he had to let go of his hatred and fear in order to discover something new and wonderful.  And so a "Yellow Brick Road" seems like a good metaphor to describe where I am and where I am going.

The move up here

I have to write about the actual move because it was an event.  When I arrived on Sat. it was clear there was still a great deal of packing to be done.  Trudy, Benjamin, Catalina and I tackled the packing a number of rooms every day so that we could have most of the house packed before Wed.  On Wed. Trudy and I went to pick up the first truck.  We got a 26' truck from Penske Truck Rental.  We had help off and on all day long.  Unfortunately it was very hot and we really didn't have enough help to load the truck.  By the end of the day Benjamin and I were beat.  I could barely walk.

Thursday Trudy and I got the second 26' truck.  We had more help to help take apart some furniture and load the trucks.  Again it was hot and people had to leave before we were done.  Plus Trudy was still packing boxes until the last minute.  Trudy also had to get Roger from the Kansas City airport, a 90 minute drive each way.  By the time we were done packing the second truck, got to the hotel, showered and ate it was close to 10pm.

Thursday night a monster thunderstorm rolled through Topeka and wiped out power in town.  We had no power in our room so we all slept poorly.  The next day Roger and I took off in the trucks for the Twin Cities.  Trudy and the kids went to the house to get the pets.  We had downed tree branches and not much we could do about.  More about this later.  Trudy also picked up our friend Dean to help us with truck driving.

It turns out driving a 26' truck is not that hard once you get up to speed.  They are noisy but pretty easy to drive.  Benjamin road with me part of the time.  We had a good time talking and listening to his Johnny Cash CDs.  Later I napped in Roger's truck and then he and I shared what was going on with each other.  In fact one of the best things about the trip was spending a fair amount of time with Roger.  I miss my brother.  He is a great guy.

We got to St. Paul, unpacked our luggage, checked into the hotel and went to Bubba Gumps for dinner.  Everyone slept very well on Friday night.

Saturday the guys got up early and headed to the house to get started.  By the time people started to show up we had one of the trucks more than 1/2 unloaded.  We had plenty of help and were able to be unloaded by noon.

So now a week later we have unpacked everything we really need.  The only thing left is the basement needs to be unpacked of boxes when have books that need to go various places around the house.

Homeowners Associations

So after the storm, we heard that our neighbor spent a couple of hours cutting down branches and cleaning up the mess for us.  I sent him an email thank you note.  A day or so later I got a long somewhat nasty email basically accusing us of abandoning our home.  I pointed out that we had been making arrangements on the road Friday to have things cleaned up but nothing could be done immediately because tree trimming places were busy taking care of fallen trees as opposed to downed branches.  Also someone had 'dumped' some trash in our front yard instead of taking it to the dump and he decided we had someone doing work at the house who had done it.  Basically he made a bunch of assumptions instead of finding out what was going on.

The worse part was the fact that he threatened to take the matter up with the city and/or sue if things were not taken care of by a certain date.

He also isn't happy that we are going to be renting the property.  As if we need his permission to decide what to do with our property.  If he wants to buy the house he is more than welcome to make an offer, we would entertain one.  But honestly I think the neighbors would rather have the house rented rather than have us walk away from the house and go into foreclosure.  That would really screw up property values.

Some people just assume the worse in their neighbors.  They also have their priorities all wrong.  He claims to be a Christian but I would say he worships his house more than he worships God Almighty.  I have seen how much he preens over his property.  I wonder if he spends that amount of time with God.  Or money on God's mission.

This has convinced me more and more that I will never live in a neighborhood with a homeowner's association and I won't sign extra covenants associated with any house I buy.

In any case we hired someone to take care of the trash around the house from the storm damage. 

Time to close this one up

We have some stuff we have to get to make this place more liveable.  So it is time to signoff.

Week 46 Back in Minnesota

Separation is ending

I am about to fly back to Kansas City and then Trudy and the kids will be taking me back to Topeka KS for the last time (I hope) .  The long separation from my family is about to end.  I am both very happy and also anxious about the change.  I am happy because I have missed being with them all the time.  I have missed the interaction with Trudy, Benjamin, and Catalina.  My interaction with each of them and the interaction between each of them.  I have missed watching Catalina and Benjamin grow up this last year.  I have missed being with Trudy.

I am anxious about the change because I have become use to living by myself.  I have developed patterns of living that help me cope with being alone.  I am not use to 'answering' to anyone.  I am not use to having anyone daily expectations on me.  I am not sure how I will handle these changes.  I think since I am aware of these changes I will be better able to cope with them.

The plan

One of the new things for us is that the plan is Trudy's plan.  Usually I have the moving plan.  This time I am leaving everything in her hands.  I am trying to learn how to not be in control of everything.  So the plan is to pack Sunday thru Tue.  Wed. we get the first truck and start packing it.  Thurs we get the second truck and finish packing the first truck and pack the second truck.  Most of the help shows up on Thurs to pack trucks.  Roger, my brother, shows up on Thurs. evening.

We will then drive up on Friday to the Twin Cities.  On Sat. we will unload the trucks in the Twin Cities.  I have arranged for help with unloading the trucks.

New Journeys

This blog "Week x Back in Minnesota" is going to be laid to rest after this week.  I think I will be starting something new.  It seems like I am starting a new chapter in my life and a new title makes sense.

I hope other people found this blog useful.  I found it useful to write about my weekly experiences.

Week 45 Back in Minnesota

Big changes in two weeks

Last weekend Trudy, Benjamin, Catalina and I picked a place to live here in the Twin Cities.  We will be living in the Highland Park area.  We are only about two miles away from Highland High School which is where Benjamin and Catalina will go to school.  Here is a YouTube video of the house (just turn off your sound because the music is terrible).  So the moving date has been set.  I will be flying back to Kansas on Aug. 13 to help finish the packing.  We will be loading rental moving trucks on August 18th.  Driving up to the Twin Cities on August 19th.  And then unpacking the trucks on August 20th.

If any of you are able to help with any part of this move it would be greatly appreciated.

We are so grateful that my brother Roger is coming out to help us with driving one of the trucks and unpack the trucks in the Twin Cities.  He is a great guy!

So in two weeks the experience of living apart will come to an end for all of us.  Trudy and I both know there will be a time of adjustment to get use to living together again.  Hopefully that will not take 47 weeks to happen. 

Topeka house

We have had many showings but no one has been interested enough to come back a second time or make an offer.  It is disheartening because we set the price to a point where we are 'underwater'.  You would think someone would recognize that our house was a steal at this price.  We have also had a couple of people who were interested in renting it but that hasn't happened either.  Like I have said before we can't afford to be making house payments and rent payments for too long before we will be drowning.  Now I am starting to understand why people are walking away from their homes and taking the hit on their financial history.  A short history of how we all got here.


Yes I am excited about being together.  I am also nervous and anxious about the upcoming move.  There is a lot to do in two short weeks.  With hard deadlines that means a lot of hard work and long hours.  I am grateful to Trudy and the children for their hard work.  I am sure it will all work out.  But I am still nervous and anxious.