Monthly Archives: September 2016

Cajun, Sushi, Viviroonie

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In case you hadn’t heard, Vivian had a birthday over the past week, an event (like mine) that spread itself out over several days with our family and friends. It started, naturally enough, at Jitterbugs Night Out on Friday at the Eagles’ Lodge. This was actually the first JNO all year where we went dancing and didn’t actually have to arrive early to help set things up for the dance. We were even able to put the kids to bed before we left, leaving Grandma on hand just in case the house caught fire. There seemed to be a good crowd that night, so Vivian got to dance with several new people in-between our various jam circles with friends before the night was up.

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On Saturday, autumn seemed to roar into town with a brief and massive thunderstorm. We took the kids down to the farmers’ market in the morning before the storm hit, grabbing a handful of tasty things like Italian sausage and garlic bread that we would inevitably turn into dinner before the weekend was over. We took the kids by Conagra’s headquarters to climb a few trees and say hello to the “Muffin Man,” and we also saw the water display on the Gene Leahy Mall one last time before winter. It was still feeling like summer before the thunderstorm hit, so we dipped our feet in the blue water before heading for home.

Then that evening, we went out to Jazz for some Cajun food with our cluster of mutual friends. Our friends Phil and Jen shared their giant plate of crawfish, which I was somewhat surprised to see looked exactly like tiny little lobsters, and were essentially eaten the same way. After dinner, we walked a few blocks up the road to catch some Improv comedy at the Backline. They had three sets of comedians on stage to perform skits based on title suggestions from the audience, one of which was “Vivian takes them down,” courtesy of Tamra. That level of personalization made it all the funnier.

As we walked to and from the Backline, Jen pointed out a local speakeasy along the way, which was Looking Glass Cigars and Spirits in the front and The Wicked Rabbit in the back. If we ever drop by the Backline again (i.e. for 88 Improv), we’ll have to try to check it out.

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Vivian’s actual birthday came on Tuesday, which started off with Camp Toast for breakfast with the family (prepared with help from Hannah) and then opening some presents from the kids. That evening, I dropped by Beijing Tokyo in Bellevue and got some sushi and a “pu pu platter” for dinner with Vivian. Donna had also brought by a big chocolate birthday cake, which we lit up with candles for Vivian to blow out before we ate some. Then we headed downtown for some obligatory birthday ice cream at Ted & Wally’s (with the kids, of course).

Happy birthday, sweetie! I love growing older with you every year.

Outdoors in Autumn

We had a gorgeous bit of weather over the weekend, with the cool taste of autumn coming in-between some random storms and a few more dog days of summer hanging on. It gave us the perfect opportunity to enjoy a few autumnal traditions with the kids once again.

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On Saturday was the Applejack Festival in Nebraska City. We’ve been able to take our kids down to the Big Apple every year of their lives so far, starting first with the pancake breakfast at the fire station, of course. I caught a couple flapjacks on my own, and then we said hello to a few friends as we ate and then checked out a few fire trucks before we left. We went by the library to let the kids play in their new “under-the-sea” exhibit, playing in a few shells and starfish, playing dress-up, and finding some pirate booty before moving on.

Then we went on up to Kimmel orchard for a little apple-picking. The crowds are usually overwhelming at this place, but we arrived early enough to get in and out without much trouble. We also got to take a hay-rack to the middle of the orchard, where there were still plenty of crisp apples waiting for our kids to pick before heading out.

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I crashed at home with Aaron for the rest of the day while Vivian took Hannah to celebrate her friend Sammy’s fifth birthday at Henry Doorly Zoo. I didn’t get to attend myself, but from the pictures Vivian took, it looks like there was cake, presents, and a ride on a carousel. Of course, the kids probably had the most fun at the new “Alaskan Adventure splash parkrunning around in a spray ground built around seals, polar bears, and other various arctic wildlife.

Maybe someday Vivian will update her blog and tell everyone about these events herself.

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Then on Sunday, we dropped by Gifford Farm for their fall festival. We’ve been a part of their “family” for about as long as I’ve known Vivian, so we bring the kids at least once a year to see the animals and explore the farm with us. This year, they got to ride ponies, see a black chicken, a fluffy duck, and the usual assortment goats, pigs, and other wildlife. They also went on a few slides, decorated a few cookies, rode on the hay-rack, and spent some extra time in the tree house. We actually wound up staying until after they closed before going home to cool off and call it a day.

I still had a busy day ahead of me mowing my parents lawn and watching some MST3K, but I was OK with a little of that to finish off the weekend.

Jill Stein, Balloons, and Relay Corn-Eating

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It may seem like the 2016 Presidential Election has been going on since the dawn of time, but it’s not quite over yet. On Wednesday last week, Green Party candidate Jill Stein dropped by to speak at Metropolitan Community College, which was the same day a warrant was issued for her arrest for vandalizing a bulldozer at a Dakota pipeline protest with the words “I approve this message.” Her supporters didn’t seem concerned about this, however, and they even gave Dr. Stein a (graffiti-ed) toy bulldozer to commemorate the event.

couple hundred people were in attendance, and nearly all of them (by a show of hands) were former Bernie Sanders supporters still hoping for a “revolution” this year. I also saw some familiar faces, including Powerline blogger Dave Begley (you can read his write-up of the event here). I can’t say I agree with much of what Dr. Stein had to say, but she was very nice and met with everyone after her talk (particularly for pictures). In a way, she reminded me of Dr. Ben Carson, who was similarly recruited into politics as an ideologue despite a lack of experience and knowledge of the political world. Hopefully, I’ll be able to see Gary Johnson before the election is over and cross all four major candidates off my list.

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In other news, this weekend was the fourteenth annual Cowtown Jamborama, so Vivian and I had to drop by and participate in the festivities. On Saturday, we brought our kids by for lunch and a little dancing at the Sokol Auditorium, where most of the weekend’s events were being held. Vivian ate Indian food as the kids got to run around a bit, and I discovered that both Aaron and Hannah just loved to dance with mommy and daddy, which warmed my heart.

Afterward, we dropped by Cornflower Creamery for a some ice cream with Uncle Eric. I had a Lindyhoppers’ Delight: sweet corn and black raspberry crisp ice cream with salted caramel sauce and whipped cream.

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On Saturday night, we headed down to Ditmar’s Orchard with a handful of our friends (and Grammy) for their annual Fields of Flight. We squeezed in with a good-sized crowd to see a dozen or more balloons take flight and then glow after the sun went down. We actually found a “shortcut” to bypass the massive traffic backed up to the Interstate, coincidentally cutting right in front of Phil and Jen along the way. In addition to seeing the balloons fly and light up (up close this year) we also got to go inside one of them with Hannah and Aaron.

We had some food and samples of wine afterward, and both Hannah and Aaron enjoyed dancing like crazy as the live band played before we finally dragged them home. I have a feeling this is going to be another one of our favorite annual traditions!

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On Sunday, we returned to the Eagles’ Lodge to participate in a corn-eating relay race on the final day of Cowtown Jamborama. This was much different from years past, where instead of eating the most ears in a certain amount of time, teams of four had to eat four ears of corn the fastest. Our team — kernel panic — came in third, but it was still fun to participate. The Jitterbugs also had an adorable presentation with the Itsy Bitsy Jitterbugs, some of whom stayed for the dance, of course.

Then afterward, Omaha’s own Prairie Cats took the stage for a farewell dance. I’ve always been partial to the fast-paced neo-swing sound of bands like the Prairie Cats, so I was on my feet and dancing for nearly every song before the dance was over.

Meanwhile back at the house, Grandma Johnson was getting Hannah to clean her room. That was a lovely little way to finish off the weekend!

A Week-Long Pizzarrific Birthday

I just finished wrapping up a long week full of birthday that lasted from my actual birthday all the way through Labor Day weekend. Thank you to everyone who helped make it so enjoyable — especially to our grandparents who made certain portions possible via babysitting!

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The fun kicked off on my actual birthday, of course. Hannah woke me up with a bag full of presents she picked out herself at the Dollar Tree, which included a plush Shark that now graces my desk at the office. At work, my co-workers presented me with a lovely birthday cake and decorations outside my office door.

Then over lunch, Vivian took me out to Sergeant Peffer’s, a Beatles-themed Italian restaurant in midtown, where we shared a couple pizzas and even a side of anchovies. Then I dropped by Ted & Wally’s for my birthday ice cream, and Vivian gave me her special present — a 12-photo picture frame, which I was able to use to showcase all of my presidential selfies, something I’d been itching to do ever since Tom Becka suggested the idea back during the primary.

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Tuesday marked the grand opening of Coneflower Creamery, the brainchild of our long-time swing-dancing friend Brian Langbehn. He’s been planning the “farm to cone” ice cream shop for some time now, and he even grew a legit ice cream man beard in the process. I dropped in during my lunch break for a sugar cone full of raspberry cream goodness to show my support on day one. Be sure to stop by sometime, but be prepared for a long line reaching out the door!

That evening, Hannah’s preschool had orientation, so she got to play with all her school friends as all the grownups got briefed on the school year ahead. Our little girl is growing up so fast!

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In other news, Jack and Donna returned from their month-long road trip to California and back. They visited friends and family around Fortuna and Yosemite National Park, and they brought back gifts for all of us, including a pair of coonskin caps for Hannah and Aaron.

At the same time, the trusty bike my dad had given me to commute to work finally called it quits. I’d spent just over $100 on new tires and broken spokes, but after it left me stranded for the third time on Wednesday, I had had enough. Rather than give the bike repair shop $228 to replace a wheel and the same tires I’d bought a few months earlier, I instead paid $100 for a fairly decent Trek 720 I found on Craigslist. It gave me a lovely smooth ride to the office, and I’m looking forward to riding it to work from now until the snow comes (which hopefully won’t be for a while).

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On Friday night, we kicked off a long, Labor Day Birthday Weekend by setting up at JNO and then dancing into the night with the UNO Jazz Band. They had a few singers who performed in the style of Louis Armstrong and the Andrews Sisters, and the band played a great variety of dance-able songs throughout the night. I had my birthday jam as well, of course, and then we grabbed a few pastries at the Donut Stop on the way home to say “thanks” to Vivian’s folks for babysitting.

Then on Saturday, my parents invited all of us over for a dinner of smoked ribs to celebrate the Labor Day Weekend. I made some broccoli salad in between mowing my lawn and my parents’ lawn before dinner time. Then afterward, we went to the patio and roasted some s’mores over Nathan’s fire-pit, which he’d given to my parents a few weeks ago. Aaron got to have his very first s’more, and Hannah got her fill as well before running off the sugar high on the lawn before we headed home.

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On Sunday Night, we had my “official” birthday party at our house. Hannah spent the afternoon at Grammy’s house decorating my birthday cake herself, and then a handful of my friends brought pizza over to help celebrate. (Sunday was our friend Richard’s actual birthday, so we let him blow out his own candles in a separate ceremony.) I got a pair of MST3K DVD movies from Richard, a six-pack of unique sodas from Phil and Jen, and a lovely bottle of Scotch from Mark. After pizza and cake, we played a few hilarious rounds of Telestrations together while Kate’s girls kept Hannah and Aaron occupied until well after their bedtimes, mostly by building a fort in the basement. (Emma actually joined us in the game as well.)

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We’d planned on some major downtime on Labor Day Monday, but then Lauritzen Gardens decided to have free admission, so we headed down with the kids see all the flowers in bloom for fall. We usually visit the gardens on Mother’s Day weekend in the spring, so it was a treat to see all the plants and flowers in full bloom before fall truly sets in. That included banana trees with fruit ready to drop in the greenhouse, the rose garden in its full splendor, a corn maze, and a tasting area with stevia, curry, and chocolate mint plants all available for sampling. We also got an extended tour of the miniature train set, which we discovered included models of recognizable Omaha landmarks, including the Woodmen Tower downtown. Then before we left, our friend Jessica from KMTV Channel 3 dropped by to get some B-Roll of Hannah and Aaron for the 4 PM broadcast (which we unfortunately missed).

Now I’m back at work still recovering from my busy birthday week. Thank you everyone for making getting older so much fun!

Family night, game night, and Louisville Lake

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On Friday night, the Omaha Jitterbugs had another “family night” before Jitterbugs Night Out. Vivian and I were scheduled to set up anyway, so it only made sense to bring along Hannah and Aaron for another night of itty bitty dance instruction, courtesy of Lindsey and company. Both Hannah and Aaron had fun running around with a handful of other kids, following along with some basic dance steps, and also making good use of a stray cart.

Aaron was even bold enough to step up to the beginning lessons with the grown-ups when it was time for the “real” dance to start, but he also got to help Mommy at the front desk (when Edith Ann couldn’t be there herself).

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On Saturday morning, I broke out some tools and installed an early birthday present for myself: a Rachio Smart WiFi Sprinkler Controller! It seems like it rains every time I schedule our lawn sprinklers to run, so now I have a controller that can access weather reports via wifi and issue a rain delay automatically so this won’t happen again. Smart!

Then that evening, we took the kids down to Kate’s for another Epic Game Night of Awesomeness. Eric brought his smart phone to add goofy features to a few of our faces, and then we had snacks and played a round of Apples to Apples as the kids wreaked havoc in the next room. (I also had some Potato Dreams, which I still can’t quite explain.)

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids down to the Louisville Lake for the afternoon. Yes, summer is quickly switching over to fall, but it was still a toasty 88 degrees or so, and the cold water was more than welcoming. The kids spent some quality time splashing and soaking in the water, as well as burying themselves in the sand and playing with someone else’s sand toys. We topped the day off with some ice cream before heading home.

Next stop: my birthday! (Spoiler alert: I get older and have pizza.)