Monthly Archives: September 2010

Vivian’s Birthday

On Monday, Vivian had another birthday, and we had a lot of fun things happening leading up to her big day.

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On Friday night, we dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge so Vivian could have her birthday jam at Jitterbugs’ Night Out. She got the lead the shim dance immediately following. After the dance, we decided to break from tradition and dropped by the cozy little Donut Stop in south of downtown instead of our usual haunt, Village Inn. It proved to be a great idea — the place was packed with teenagers drinking milk and playing games, and the warm, sugary goodness of a couple fresh donuts was a welcome change. Jenny and Lisa joined Vivian and me as we stuffed our faces with a few Bavarian cream donuts, and then we scraped together loose change and begged from friends (namely Ben & Ben) to get a couple more.

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The weather’s been absolutely gorgeous for the last week or two, so Vivian and I were sure to attend the final Lindy in the Park down at 11th and Farnam with our friends. Then on Monday — Vivian’s birthday — I decided to surprise her with a picnic lunch at Keystone Park. I brought some Sushi for Two from Sakura Bana, which we washed down with Green Tea in the best picnic weather possible.

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On Monday night, I took Vivian out to dinner with a bunch of our friends. We went to Malara’s Italian Restaurant, which is best known for its selection of homemade pasta. Vivian had spaghetti with white sauce and a laughably large sausage in the middle (just begging for a “that’s what she said” joke). There was enough left over to fill a to-go box that I and everyone at the table decorated with our happy birthday wishes.

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The lot of us returned to our house down in Bellevue, where I mixed up some martinis for the very first time for everyone. I made some vodka martinis, chocolate martinis, apple martinis, and a virgin apple martini with blended ice that seemed to go over best. I did learn the hard way not to mix “virgin” cocktails in the cocktail shaker — the carbonated ingredients exploded all over me and the kitchen, so I wound up wearing a Shirley Temple for the rest of the night.

Donna brought cake for everyone, and we ate it with some Bailey’s Ice Cream I special-ordered from our favorite ice cream parlor, Ted & Wally’s. After that, Vivian opened presents, which included a sock monkey hat, a new slow-cooker, and a water bottle filled with Lindor Truffles, among other things.

We had enough martini ingredients left over that I’ll have to schedule a cocktail party to use them up. It’d be nice to have an excuse to practice my mixing skills once again. In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Vivian! I love you and hope we have another wonderful year together.

Corny Cowtown Weekend

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The Omaha Jitterbugs held their eighth annual Cowtown Jamborama swing dancing event over the last weekend, no naturally, Vivian and I took part in the festivities. We and other members of the JIVE volunteers group moved tables and got things set up before a swinging opening night in the Elmwood Park pavilion. Playing for us were Big Sandy and his Fly-Rite Boys, a rockabilly band Los Angeles that seemed to have a mix of country music in their repertoire. Every Cowtown feels a bit like a family reunion, with old friends who’ve moved away coming back to dance with us, as well as the usual cast of “out-of-towners” who only make it to Omaha for this one event every year.

The one other highlight of the night was dining at “Five Guys” for the first time down on 72nd and Dodge. They recently opened three locations in Omaha, and I had heard about them recently as having been voted one the best burger chains in America. I found them quite similar to Inn-in-Out, with a deliberately limited menu selection and a focus on fresh products — specifically french fries cut on the spot from actual potatoes before getting fried in peanut oil. The other highlight was the extensive list of burger toppings, which included items like fried onions, mushrooms, and jalapeños. Needless to say, we will definitely be back, but if you’d like to drop by, be prepared to wait — every dish is made to order.

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On Friday night, we celebrated our friend Venche’s birthday in style down at Brix, the new “wine lounge” in West Omaha at the Village Pointe mall. It was an interesting place, with a variety of unique “small dish” appetizers and dozens of wines to sample from self-serve kiosks. I enjoyed a bubbly, sweet Australian white called Friend of Dreams and enjoyed goofing around with a bunch of our friends (one of whom decided to “borrow” someone’s camera and snap some amusing pictures).

We gathered at Venche’s house afterward to stuff ourselves further with Vivian’s delicious chocolate cheesecake while playing a couple lively rounds of The Game of Things.

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Vivian and I arrived late to the Friday night dance, and I’m awfully sorry we did. We had only twenty minutes to enjoy the amazing Little Harper Big Band, who played a set of fast-paced swing music that reminded me why I first fell in love with swing music back in the late 1990s. I also enjoyed dancing with several of the far more experienced “out-of-towners” and was quite amazed at how everything seemed to “click” into place during every eight-count swing-out. It was pure joy.

The party continued downstairs during after hours, where other hungry Lindy Hoppers got to chow down on everybody’s favorite menu option: breakfast after midnight.

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On Saturday, Vivian and I traveled down to Nebraska City to enjoy an afternoon at the Applejack festival. We’d attended twice before with friends, but this time we traveled by ourselves and took in a few sites we’d missed before. We ventured inside the Arbor Day Lodge for the first time, a 100+ year old manor which was home to Secretary of Agriculture and founder of Arbor Day J.S. Morton and his son Joy Morton, founder of the Morton Salt Company. Among other memorabilia, it had fascinating old blocks of lead type from the 19th century in the attic, and a hundred-year-old wooden bowling alley in the basement.

After the tour, we dropped by the Arbor Day Farm across the street for a wine-tasting, sampling apple wine and cherry wine and then grabbing some pumpkin butter and apple butter to take home with us. We ate lunch downtown at the Dinty Moore’s, a quaint lunch counter that appears to be unchanged since 1930. We both had a couple shredded beef sandwiches that gave us enough energy to visit the library’s book sale and go shopping for some apple pie before heading home.

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Vivian and I returned to the Eagle’s Lodge Saturday Night for some brief dancing, which included a jam circle to showcase the talents of some of our instructors. Peter & Mia, Kim & David, Karen & Andy, and Dan & Gabi all joined in. Then we dropped by the 906 Lounge in north downtown for the after-hours dancing. We had to circle the block three times to make sure we’d found the right location. The 906 Lounge in actually a bizarre kind of art gallery disguised as an auto junkyard, completely with barbed wire on top of the chain link fence surrounding the entrance. Inside, we had the usual jitterbug fare of sleepy-eyed dancing and breakfast after midnight (with egg casserole supplied by Vivian). Some of the ladies also enjoyed posing with a bust of Grover Cleveland, which was hilarious.

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On Sunday night came the main event: the corn-eating contest! I’d kept myself deliberately famished most of the day in order to build up the appetite necessary to devour 16 eats of corn. The contest started at seven o’clock JST (Jitterbug Standard Time), which turned out to be around 8:30. We got to see the “baby” corn-eating contest first, with the adorable children of Jitterbug veterans taking their few teeth to a couple ears of their own.

As for the grown-up corn-eating contest, Vivian got third place (again), and I took a close second behind this guy (who managed to down 17 ears of corn). Eric somehow beat me to finishing the first ear of corn, which he was more than happy to announce to everyone after the contest, so I’ll have to be faster on the mark next year. Unfortunately, this turned out to be the first corn-eating contest where we actually ran out of corn. I found myself with a minute to spare at the end with nothing more to eat and had to settle for cleaning the ears I’d already racked up. Nobody had to be taken to hospital to have a stomach pumped, so I guess you could say we were all winners.

Thus ends another crazy, busy weekend around the Cowtown Jamborama. Maybe next year Vivian and I will take a class or two, but until then it’ll be nice to settle back into the more or less “normal” routine of saving dancing until midnight and breakfast afterward to just one day a week.

Autumn Dancing

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On Friday night, Vivian and I met up with some of her former co-workers (and current friends) Tamra and Andy out at Noodle Zoo in mid-town Omaha. I’d been meaning to stop by for a good carb binge before JNO for some time and finally had the chance. We dropped in at our usual haunt at 24th and Douglas afterward to burn off what we could and join in a birthday jam for our mutual friend and jitterbug Margaret.

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With the cool fall weather come more beautiful opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors, and by that I mean dancing, of course. The United Methodist Church at 73rd and Cass was holding some kind of outdoor event, which meant a live band and as much dancing as we could stand on the grassy lawn. It was load of fun, though some of us got tired of dancing on the unwieldy surface and our performance degenerated into a demonstration of Lindy Fu.

After the dance, Vivian and I crashed at Dinkers for an impromptu burger date. The place boasted the “Omaha’s Best Burger,” so I’d been meaning to try them out for some time. I did enjoy their burger, but I found the greasy, homemade onion rings much more noteworthy.

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Sunday afternoon was just perfect for Lindy in the Park. Joining us were a few early out-of-towners come for Cowtown Jamborama, including Jillian and instructors Dan and Gabi. After a brief dance out at the new location at 11th and Farnam, we retreated to Ted & Wally’s to have some ice cream along with a few dozen other patrons who had to slog it out in the longest line ever imagined.

Labor Day Weekend

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It was a beautiful Labor Day weekend here in Omaha, where the weather went from muggy, hot summer to you-might-need-a-jacket fall literally overnight. I discovered this when I attended the last baseball game at Rosenblatt Stadium with Vivian on Thursday. This was my third game at “the ‘blatt,” and the crowd was larger than I’d ever seen it before (Vivian said it was on par with a College World Series game). We wound up parking in a residential neighborhood a few blocks away, where locals were selling space on their lawns one last time before the old park gets torn down. We got to watch the Omaha Royals soundly defeat the Round Rock Express as the sun went down, and then we were treated to one last show of fireworks to wrap up the 62-year legacy of Omaha’s famous ball park.

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The rest of the weekend was delightfully quiet and unproductive (though we did do some minor chores, such as mowing the lawn and caulking a chimney). Vivian got to use our barbecue as a smoker on Saturday night, cooking up some very tasty pork ribs that we ate while watching Star Trek IV:The Voyage Home (which is apparently her favorite of the series).

On Sunday night, we dropped by Jenny’s place for some burgers and brats, stuffing ourselves with a few friends while hanging out until midnight.

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On Labor Day, we tried working off some of what we’d eaten the night before by biking all the way across Omaha. We made the 16-mile trek on the Keystone trail, starting at the Culver’s in Bellevue and pedaling up to Democracy Park in north Omaha. It was a fun trip, and the weather was mostly cooperative. A passing thunderstorm pushed its way through that afternoon, but it stayed mostly cool and sunny throughout the day. We stopped halfway at KFC for some lunch, and then Jenny and Chris joined us for the journey home.