- January: After celebrating the New Year with friends in Kansas City, Vivian and I celebrate with her parents and light the fireplace for a (literal) housewarming party. We also celebrate our third Sushi Anniversary.
- February: Matt made a heart-shaped meatloaf for Valentine’s Day. We also went to a Fish Fry at St. John Vianney’s for a second year in a row (thus making it a tradition).
- March: Now that we have a house, Vivian and I host a late-night Pancake Party, just because we can. We also had a couples night out at GAMe, taught some kids how to dance, and watched a hockey game.
- April: This was a month for parties: a taco party, a burger party, a tea party, Easter, birthday parties for friends and co-workers, as well as the last meeting for the Shovelers as the torch is passed to Lisa.
- May: I get my fifteen minutes of fame making sound effects for Brad Sherwood & Colin Mochrie on stage at the Holland Center.
- June: Vivian and I play host for the (final) annual Comic Genesis cookout.
- July: We and some friends get to see Styx, Foreigner, and Kansas live in concert with about 50k Omahans in Memorial park. Vivian and I also celebrated our second anniversary in Kansas City, shopping in the Plaza, visiting a museum, eating lobster, and cooling off at Oceans of Fun.
- August: Matt has a birthday full of awesome at Johnny’s steakhouse and Fun Plex. We also had a fun camping trip canoeing up the Niobrara.
- September: Vivian had a birthday made of sushi, Malara’s and martinis. We also ate lots of corn at Cowtown and attended the last baseball game at Rosenblatt stadium.
- October: Vivian and I participate in one of Kaleb’s famous murder mysteries, take a trip to Vala’s, and host a birthday party for Jenny at our house. We also learned the dance from Thriller and performed it every chance we got.
- November: Trader Joe’s opens, the Amarillo closes, and Hugh and Sarah have a wedding of extraordinary magnitude.
- December: Vivian and I ring in the New Year with friends in Kansas City. We spent a little extra time hanging out in the Plaza, eating some barbecue, and adopting Santasaurus. I also won a chili contest.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Vivian and I are wrapping up another whirlwind holiday season here in Nebraska, sharing time, food, and gifts with family and friends over the course of a week or two.
The weekend before Christmas, we had something of a family get-together with Jonathan, Nathan, and Ranae joining us on Friday night to see the premier of Tron Legacy at the Twin Creek cinema. Vivian and I had watched the original Tron a few weeks earlier in anticipation of the sequel, and I have to say that I was very impressed with how they managed to continue the story so well after 28 years. Of course, the visual eye-candy is what made the film so much fun to watch, but I also decided the plot was much deeper than the 1982 film (which felt more like a cheesy and clunky excuse to use computer graphics).
After the movie, we had everyone’s favorite breakfast-for-dinner down at Village Inn and then returned to our house to open presents before going home. Vivian got some vanilla bath soaps from Nathan and Ranae, and I got a book I’ve been meaning to read — Never Eat Alone: by Keith Ferrazzi. (Ironically, I’ll probably be reading it on my lunch break … alone.)
On Christmas Eve Eve, Vivian and I celebrated our fourth First Date Anniversary. We went down to the Old Market and had a very unique dinner at the Passport, where Vivian had duck with an orange glaze and I got to try ostrich steaks for the very first time. We made the obligatory trip to the Old Market candy shop afterward to get some egg nog fudge, then went down to the bench along the Gene Leahy Mall to not kiss for a few minutes before heading over to 13th Street Coffee to warm up.
We wrapped up the night by watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader back in Bellevue, which was quite enjoyable. I read the books years ago but remembered very little, so watching the film made me want to start reading some of the Chronicles of Narnia once again.
We spent Christmas eve day happily doing as little as possible, wrapping presents and watching the movie Elf. We attended the Christmas Eve service at Twin Valley church for the first time. Pastor Drew had a message about the original St. Nicholas for the kids, and we sang a variety of Christmas songs, along with Silent Night by candlelight.
We had Jack and Donna over for some Cheese Fondue back at the house, which was quite tasty. It came in the form of a mix Vivian picked up at Trader Joe’s and I got to enjoy it with parsnips for the very first time. We opened a boatload of presents afterward, which included a new hard drive and some red shorts for me, a chocolate fondue pot and a Snuggie for Donna, a book on grilling for Jack, and a new shirt and a book on cheesemaking for Vivian.
On the big day, we opened some presents at home via telephone with my parents and then stuffed ourselves with hors d’eourves and Christmas dinner at Vivian’s parents’ house. Vivian’s co-worker Sherry, her husband Rob, and their son Matt joined us for the feast, as did Onion-Boy and my brother Jonathan. I got to try my hand at carving turkey for the first time, which wasn’t as easy as it looked. Our meal came with party favors that included small paper crowns (that we all put on immediately). Afterward, we opened our stockings, which had plenty of innuendo going around thanks to such gifts as “monkey butt” powder and “caulk saver” (as if nobody knew that was going to happen). We also had a more-than-welcome visit by everyone’s favorite Christmas dinosaur, Santa Saurus.
We returned home and had a few more gift exchanges with Jonathan, which included a boxed set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies for Jonathan (from mom and dad), a box of chocolates for Vivian, and some Weird Al CDs for me (both from Jonathan). We spent the Day After Christmas together watching Devil Fish (via MST3K), the Mouse that Roared, and eating pizza and leftovers to round out the weekend.
Christmas is fast approaching, and it seems everywhere we turn is a celebration of some kind. On Wednesday, we had our Small Group Christmas Party, which involved having cocktail wieners and cookies while exchanging a variety of gifts (most of which included fun board games). We also got to coo over Justin and Kelly’s new baby girl, Sydney.
On Friday night, Vivian and I decided to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1 together, just on a whim. Since Voyage of the Dawn Treader was opening that same night, we had a not-all-that-full house to enjoy the show. And by enjoy, I mean I watched and followed along since I had already read the book, while Vivian sat bored out of her mind wondering when the main characters would just hurry up and die already.
The rest of the night, of course, was spent at the Eagle’s Lodge dancing to the Grand Marquis, who were paying us a visit. Afterward, we crashed at Alvorado’s once again for some tasty late-night Mexican food, and we hung around for a while goofing off and playing with Ben Cass’ magnetic balls. (Yes, I know how that sounds). Naturally, I had my camera snapping everything in sight, as usual, much to some people’s irritation.
On Saturday, we got the fringes of the blizzard that brought down the Metrodome. It was mostly gale-force winds and snow that cut you like sheets of stinging sand, but nothing that made the roads too treacherous to drive on. Our furnace also blew a fuse, making me fairly glad that we’d just renewed our home warranty with Service One. We had him give the furnace an annual check-up as well. Another heating company had “found” a crack in the heat exchanger and said we had to buy a new furnace right away or we could die in our sleep. For some reason, Service One couldn’t seem to find the same crack. Maybe that’s because they aren’t in the business of selling furnaces.
As such, we were a little late to a wedding for Bart and Margaret, two mutual swing dancing friends of ours. I did have time to dance with the bride, but I had to sing the song myself, as the band had already packed up. There was time to snap a handful of pictures, of course, and act a little silly with all of our friends.
Vivian and I had some tasty Nachos Navidad for lunch and washed it down with some McDonald’s Egg Nog Shakes — both apparently a Christmas tradition for Vivian. We were also able to do almost all of our Christmas shopping before the end of the day. The blizzard had somehow kept all the holiday shoppers indoors, allowing us to browse a couple different stores at our leisure to pick up a few items (which will be revealed at the proper time, of course).
That evening, Sarah Adair had an apartment-warming party at her new digs. Several of us stopped by to sip wine and play a few games. Things did seem to get pretty goofy fairly quickly. Innuendo ran wild during What’s Yours Like, Eric actually ate a ketchup-coated cracker, and then Jon, Jim, and Kris also decided to run out into the snow for some reason. They thought it’d be fun to run along the railroad tracks behind the apartment building and bring half of it back inside when they returned. We still had plenty of fun once they got cleaned up.
(And by the way, “Are we still on cake?”)
We had yet another Christmas party on Monday, this time with our new friends from Twin Valley Church. The pastor’s brother in law lives in the house next door, so we gathered there with several other church members and attendees of the Monday Night “game and bible study” group. We got to stuff ourselves with stromboli, tabouleh, tortilla soup, and an assortment of sweets for dinner, and then we had a fairly competitive white elephant gift exchange. I had to fight to keep a pair of extendable marshmallow tongs, while others got to fight over the hot sauce and chocolates we brought with us. The most popular item seemed to be a large dart gun, which I was actually happy to give up, since I had an identical model sitting in my closet at home (waiting for next year’s Comic Genesis Cookout).
In case I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, Vivian and I have recently started attending Twin Valley Church here in Bellevue, the very church where we got married two and a half years ago. That’s right, we’ve abandoned our local mega-church in favor of a small church where people actually recognize us when we walk inside. It’s a very welcome change. We had dinner with our pastor and his family recently, Vivian’s singing with the choir, and I’m being recruited do such things as work the audio board and A/V system when other people are out of town. It certainly feels nice to be involved someplace again.
On Tuesday night, we went to dinner at Amarillo with Mark and Lisa from church. Amarillo is a barbecue restaurant on Fort Crook road where I took Jack and Donna for their blessing before I proposed to Vivian in 2008. It’s been open for a couple decades now and had such noteworthy guests as Sean Penn, Garth Brooks, and several others. Its last night open was Nov. 30, so we got to enjoy some ribs, feather bones, and “dirt cake” for one last time.
On Friday night, I attended the Friendship Program Christmas Party at Venice Inn, imbibing in a few drinks with co-workers before gorging on steak and toasted ravioli.
On Saturday, we finally got our Christmas tree. We found a lovely little Fraser Fir at a nearby lot and hauled it home (slipping and sliding all the way) on top of my Taurus. It fit just perfectly in the living room, and Vivian and I spent the next couple of days decorating it with lights and ornaments. Our whole living room is now basking in the soft, warm glow of the holiday season every night.
On Sunday evening, it was time for Eric and Ben’s annual Chili “Throwdown,” held once again in the Nothnagel basement. This thing seems to get bigger every year, with 42 guests and about 15 or 16 competitors joining in this year. Vivian made up her Best Chili You Will Ever Taste once again, and I put together my own special concoction: pizza chili. It included typical chili ingredients such as ground beef, onions, and stewed tomatoes, but I also added green peppers, black olives, mushrooms, garlic, pizza seasoning, pepperoni, Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage, and pizza sauce. I think it came out quite well and it won a prize for “most unique” chili of the evening.
Vivian and I were predictably stuffed by the end of the night, quite possibly because we did more sitting around and watching the Simpsons pretend to be Muppets instead of dancing off what we’d just eaten. Maybe next year.