Monthly Archives: July 2016

Bed, Breakfast, and Branched Oak Lake

Vivian and I just finished celebrating eight years of marriage with a quick, midweek trip to the countryside to get some peace and quiet away from the city for a day or so. This year was a bit special in that I didn’t tell Vivian anything about what I had planned and let the whole thing be a surprise.

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We kicked things off on Tuesday with dinner at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in West Omaha, having steak and lobster (and cheesecake) in honor of our honeymoon in Bar Harbor, Maine. I presented Vivian with my annual Anniversary Comic, which included memories from the year including us meeting presidential candidates, going camping, and our dearly departed Flappy (among other things). Vivian had a special, and fairly unorthodox gift for me — a Nest smart thermostat I’d been wanting for some time! Now I’ll just have to find a nice day to turn off the air conditioning long enough to install it.

We headed on west to Pine Crest Farms, a cozy little Bed and Breakfast outside of Valparaiso hidden among the trees, wildflowers, and crickets. The empty-nested proprietors (Harriet and Jack and brother-in-law Don) and turned their shady home into a B&B twenty years ago. Vivian and I were their only guests for the night, so we got such amenities as the pool all to ourselves. They even had a lovely gift platter for our anniversary, which included a bottle of sparkling cider from Colonial Williamsburg. It was so good we may have to order a case of it for Thanksgiving.

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Being a Bed & Breakfast means, of course, that we also got to have breakfast the next day. Harriet made us some lovely quiche with sausage and fruit to start the day. Afterward, Vivian and I took a few dirt roads down to Branched Oak Lake for a swim, which was lovely since the temperatures were now well into the 90s. We found the giant lake to be a lovely spot for a possible future camping trip, and conveniently close to wineries such as James Arthur Vineyards.

We were in absolutely no rush, but we eventually made our way down to Wahoo (the home office of the Late Show) once we got done swimming to have a quick Mexican dinner at Acapulco after finding the perpetually-closed Wig Wam Cafe to be closed once again. After dinner, we did a bit of shopping at a warehouse surplus store around the corner, which had some great deals in their freezer section on deep-discounted guacamole, and pot stickers. We loaded up on frozen food and a few extra gifts for the kids before heading home.

It was a lovely day trip in the country, and aside from the occasional tractor making it difficult to get to where we were going, we had a lovely time. Hopefully we can do it again soon, since I missed out on Wahoo’s Famous Wieners. Maybe next time.

Celebrating Seventy

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Vivian’s mom turned 70 over the weekend, so naturally we had to pull off a larger-than-usual celebration. Her first big surprise of the weekend came on Friday, when her sister “Uncle” Mary and niece Brenda came to visit from California. Vivian had kept their trip a secret for months and we welcomed them with Digornio’s on the patio.

Then on Saturday, we had a big shin-dig in the basement of Twin Valley Church. Jack and Keith grilled up a bunch of pork, Vivian and I brought in a bunch of sides, and the Omaha cake club brought in a flowery birthday cake (of which Hannah got a giant corner piece). A whole bunch of our mutual family and friends came to celebrate as well, while at the same time a few people from church were outside working on the concrete (we gave them cake, too).

That evening, we took Mary and Brenda down to the pedestrian bridge to walk from Iowa to Nebraska and back. It was a lovely, cool evening (in contrast with next week’s heatwave) to see the sun go down. We stopped by the Old Market for a peek inside the Hollywood Candy shop, and then we returned home with milk shakes and onion rings for dinner afterward.

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On Sunday after church, we all went to see the new Raptor Refuge at the Fontenelle Forest. It’s a fairly elaborate bird sanctuary with a variety of hawks, owls, and other birds of prey in for a variety of maladies, including broken wings. The refuge is built like a series of tree houses interconnected by a set of suspension bridges (which Hannah and Aaron found much more interesting). I even got a staff member to identify the hawk that’s been squatting in our front yard (it’s a Cooper’s Hawk). We stayed a little while to explore the forest and see a few tree houses and xylophones, but it was hot and muggy without even a hint of a breeze, so we headed home to cool off before long.

Then that evening, we took Donna, Mary, Brenda, and Jack out for a delicious sushi binge at Tokyo Sushi. Mary and Brenda especially like sushi, so we all got our fill before walking it off a bit in the old market. Mary and Brenda stopped by Iron Decor & More to get some lawn sculptures, and we took a stroll to the passageway and back before having ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. Donna got a free scoop since it was her birthday, of course.

Mary and Brenda will be with us another day or two and are visiting the Omaha Zoo on Monday. Then they’ll head home just in time for Vivian and me to go off and celebrate eight years of marriage together. More on that in my next update.

Macbeth and the Mads

I had a tremendously fun weekend here in Omaha, and I spent some of it bumping into famous people “in the neighborhood.” More on that in a second.

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On Saturday, we got to see the final performance of Macbeth with a few of our friends at Shakespeare on the Green. We got to see a Q&A session with the cast, and the kids from Camp Shakespeare performed their own truncated version of the play. Director Vincent Carlson-Brown presented an award to the 500,000th Nebraska Shakespeare attendee, which was a girl a bit too young to take advantage of the free parking space her prize entailed (among other things). They also announced the retirement of the company’s long-time sound engineer Rande Ferguson, who received an award for his 30 years of service.

The show itself was wonderful, of course, with a great musical score and “slow motion” fight scenes that added to the drama. It was much cooler than Taming of the Shrew had been a few weeks ago, with no chance of rain this time, so the crowd was decidedly larger. Among the guests was Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, who we bumped into before the show started. There’s something unique about Nebraska, where you can bump into the governor like any normal person on a Saturday night.

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Then on Sunday, I took a fun trip with my dad down to O Comic Con at the Mid-America Center across the river. I went specifically to see Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, who played Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank (the “Mads”) on the movie-riffing show Mystery Science Theater 3000. They had a Q&A session for guests and plenty of time for autographs and pictures at their booth, and I thanked them both for all the laughs they’d given our family over the years.

Then I discovered, right across the aisle, were Bob McGrath and Emilio Delgado — AKA Bob and Luis from Sesame Street. I’d grown up watching both of these guys interact with Big Bird Oscar the Grouch as a kid, so I said hello and thanked them both for being a part of my childhood. I learned later that both “Bob and Luis” and “the Mads” had gone down to the Old Market to have ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. I only wish I’d been there to get a picture of THAT.

Paper Lanterns and Kenny Loggins

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Summer is officially here, and we’ve had a long, fun week celebrating Independence Day, among other things. On Wednesday last week, I got to meet Lt. Gov. Mike Foley at a luncheon as he gave a talk about current issues in the courts and the legislature. I’d bumped into him briefly at work and at a fish fry, and I even saw him once when Obama was in town), but I never got to hear him actually speak before, and I was impressed with how thoroughly knowledgeable he was on the issues.

Then that evening, we had dinner with our friends Jenny and Kody and made use of their apartment’s swimming pool. It was Aaron’s first pool experience, and he seemed quite ready to take off on his own. If only we had a pair of water wings handy.

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On Friday, we met up with Lexi and her kids for a little quality time at the All-Play Splash Park. The weather was a fairly cool 72 degrees, and the water was even colder, but that didn’t keep us all from running through the sprinklers like little kids for a couple hours before lunchtime. Our kids had so much fun that they both actually took a long nap in the afternoon.

That evening, we took the whole family down to Memorial Park to see Kenny Loggins cut footloose for around 70,000 people. A couple local bands kicked things off, along with KFAB’s Scott Voorhees, before Kenny Loggins rode into the Danger Zone. There must have been technical issues during the performance, because Loggins continually called to people off stage and had someone change his battery pack in-between songs. He also saved his most popular songs (from the 80s movies he’s best known for) for the very end, playing through Danger Zone and Footloose while Vivian was in the bathroom with Hannah.

Of course, Hannah and Aaron were probably unaware that a concert was even going on as they played happily with their bears, chased bubbles with little Delana, and abused our friend Brandon. There were also fireworks at the end, prompting plenty of “Oohs” and “Aahs” from our kids before calling it a night.

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Saturday was a relaxing day, as our Lantern Fest got postponed due to a day full of rain. I took the kids to my folks’ house for brunch and watched a truly terrible movie called Roller Gator with both of my brothers. Then that evening, we embarked on a pizza challenge dreamed up by Uncle Jonny — we visited two pizza shops gave them each a $20 bill, and told them both “Surprise me.” I think Marco’s did the best, with a half-and-half combo and a fancy crust, while Domino’s gave us a meat pizza with a somewhat soggy Brooklyn crust. It was a fun (and tasty) contest nonetheless, and both kids got quality time with the grandparents before and afterward.

Later on, we got a bit of a scare as Aaron woke up at eleven gasping for air and starting to turn blue. Vivian took him to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with croup, coughing up some phlegm, and got some medication that made him crazy hyper for a couple days.

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On Sunday, we took Hannah down to the Raceway of the Midlands for a belated Lantern Fest. I’d bought the tickets well in advance as paper lanterns had been made illegal in Nebraska and I didn’t know if we’d have the chance to experience such a thing again anytime soon. We had a great deal of fun even before it got dark getting some balloons made up (by our friend Jen), having our faces painted, and trying out the fireman’s obstacle course. We shared our fire pit with a new friends and made some s’mores over a few logs as the sun went down.

Local Guitar Guy (who also appeared at Kody’s birthday party) played a few songs as we decorated our lanterns and got them ready set aloft. It was harder than I expected — the dampness made the lanterns hard to ignite, and the occasional breeze made it easy for the lantern to blow around and catch fire before taking off. Vivian and I did get both our lanterns airborne, though, and they joined hundreds of others as they congregated in the sky together. Then we celebrated with a new more fireworks at the end of the night before heading on home.

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On Independence Day, we dropped by Ralston for their annual Fourth of July parade. We nabbed a patch of green on a hill that gave us a front-seat for most of the parade, which was nice since we hadn’t arrived nearly as early as we should have. There were the usual assortment of politicians on hand: Omaha’s Mayor, Nebraska’s Governor, and a very lively band of young folks marching with Don Bacon. There were also clowns, tiny cars, rollergirls, and Star Wars cos-players.

The Omaha Jitterbugs were also there to provide a dance for Vivian near the end of the parade. One of the nice folks next to us bought tiny slingshot monkeys for all the kids on hand, which was nice (and kept Hannah and Aaron occupied all the way back to the car). We also sat next to some other nice folks who I hope find our blog and the picture I took for them.

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That evening, we celebrated the rest of the fourth with family, food, and fireworks at home. Jack and Donna brought ribs and a lovely American Torte, and I made some of my cowboy caviar and potato salad for a patriotic dinner together. Then we had some fun setting off a handful of fireworks from the end of our driveway when it got dark. Vivian had bought the usual array of fountains, artillery shells, and Roman candles particularly playing with sparklers and swords. Aaron seemed more interested in playing with Grammy, but Hannah got a real kick out of the sparklers. Donna and Vivian also got to have a sword fight before we called it a night.

Happy 240th birthday, America!