Monthly Archives: December 2017

2017: Year in Review

IMG_7886IMG_8197IMG_9345IMG_8757IMG_0125Me and Dennis Prager
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2017 is finally done!
Here’s a quick (OK, long and tedious) recap.

Favorite Foods of 2017

We’re closing out another delicious year, and 2017 was certainly another record year for culinary treats. Here are some of my favorites from the last 12 months before we ring in the New Year.

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1. Valentine’s Day Breakfast.

Vivian got to use her new smoker to serve me up some smoked salmon for a Valentine’s breakfast, served on a bagel broken with cream cheese and broken apart in the shape of a heart. Smokin’!

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2. Bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers.

Yes, I included these last year, but it’s one of the most delicious things you can put on a toothpick. Crispy bacon and a creamy, cheesy, onion soupy picture inside a (seeded) jalapeño. Give me as many as you can — I’ll eat them all!

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3. Easter Breakfast at Twin Valley Church.

Pastor Ryan and our Church Elders were at Twin Valley Church bright and early serving up a wide variety of different breakfast foods for the congregation — eggs, muffins, pancakes, bacon, strawberries, and nearly anything else you can imagine. The best part, however, was being able to have Fellowship together in the morning.

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4. Father’s Day Dinner.

Between Vivian and her mom, they can come up with just about the most delicious meals imaginable. This year for Father’s Day, they made for Jack me a plate of prime rib, scallops, and yucca along with a Crab Louie salad and Donna’s peanut butter chocolate pie for dessert. Rarely has such a delicious meal ever been served anywhere.

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5. Fried Bologna Sandwich.

We took an adventurous trip to Pella, Iowa back in May for Tulip Time, and we brought Hannah and Aaron along for the ride. Along with the parades, windmills, and tulips all around, there was plenty of unique food to be had. The best of which, I decided was the “Pella Bologna,” which we got from the In’t Veld Meat Market on Main Street. We fried up a few slices and put it on a toasted Pretzel Bun along with some mustard for a very delicious sandwich.

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6. Dim Sum at the Park.

Ever since Phil and Jen introduced us to Dim Sum last year, we’ve been having it nearly everywhere. We ate it on Valentine’s Day and for our First Date Anniversary, but I’ve especially grown fond of getting it at Gold Mountain in Aksarben Village, right across the street from Stinson Park, where our kids come to play at lunchtime. There’s nothing quite as nice as having pork dumplings on a lovely, sunny day.

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7. Cast iron skillet breakfast.

Vivian has become very fond of her cast iron skillets, which she particularly enjoyed using when we went camping down by the river in Louisville over Labor Day Weekend. She made some cheesy eggs and sausage with pancakes for everyone our first morning there.

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8. A year’s worth of Arby’s.

Props to Pastor Ryan for letting me know the first 50 people at the remodeled Arby’s in Bellevue got to have free Arby’s for a year. That means 52 Free Meal vouchers with your choice of sandwich. I’ve been able to eat there over a dozen times so far and haven’t had the same sandwich twice. These include the Bourbon Brisket sandwichAngus 3 CheeseCajun “Deep-Fried” Turkey, Smoke Mountain, the Venison sandwich, and the Gobbler.

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9. Big messy birthday burger from Five Guys.

Vivian and the kids surprised me for my birthday around lunchtime with food from one of my favorite burger restaurants. You may not think it’s much to look at, but it’s delicious (and comes with a ghetto grocery bag full of fries). We ate them all together at the Elmwood Park Grotto.

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10. Vivian’s vegetable medley.

Vivian has been making a unique vegetable medley with summer squash, Brussels sprouts, and a handful of other ingredients inside her cast iron skillet and serving it for meals, side dishes for parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas and just about any other time. It’s worth a mention just because of how much everyone enjoys it, including me (and I didn’t even think I liked Brussels sprouts).

A White Christmas

Merry Christmas, everyone! We’ve had a busy holiday weekend here in Omaha, and also a bit of snow to make this Christmas seem just a little more authentic.

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We kicked off our holiday weekend by splurging on some siding repair, banging up my shin slipping on some icy bricks, and then introducing Hannah to some Facebook photo filters. Then on Friday we took a tour through some neighborhoods lit with Christmas lights, which included one attended by Santa himself (who gave candy canes to Hannah and Aaron through our car window).

Then on Saturday night, Vivian and I celebrated our eleventh “first date” anniversary by seeing Star Wars: The Last Jedi at the Aksarben Theater and then dining on a massive selection of Dim Sum around the corner at the Gold Mountain restaurant. We wandered downtown to get fudge at the Old Market Candy Shoppe before a quick trip through the icy cold Gene Leahy Mall to see Holiday Island and get our annual picture on the bridge before heading home (where we found someone waited up for us).

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We got a couple inches of snow overnight, which gave us a white Christmas to enjoy after all. I shoveled the driveway and then watched the kids for an hour or two as they played in the new-fallen snow, making a few tiny snowmen and smiley faces out of footprints (for mommy’s amusement). Mostly, though, they just wanted to pelt daddy with snowballs. Even Hannah’s “friend” Layla got dressed up to spend some time with us outside.

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That evening, we had a Christmas Eve dinner of roast beef and potatoes with mushrooms and gravy (and Vivian’s famous veggies) with all four grandparents. Grammy was nice enough to watch the kids as Vivian and I went to a candlelight service at Twin Valley Church.

Then we returned to give Aaron and Hannah their new, matching Elf on a Shelf jammies before reading them the story of Jesus’ birth from Aaron’s new picture book bible, as well as reciting T’was the Night Before Christmas before sending them off to bed. Vivian and I opened our “stocking presents” with Grammy and Pop-Pop afterward and got all the presents arranged underneath our beautifully-lit tree. Then I snapped some lovely photos of the tree and our house lit up with the new-fallen snow outside before going to bed for a long winter’s nap.

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On Christmas morning, Hannah was up bright and early to find her Tinkerbell toy under the tree. Daddy, Aaron, and Grammy and Pop-Pop came shortly thereafter to open presents with the rest of us. Hannah got a new digital camera (which she used to document every moment of the rest of the day), Aaron got a walking, roaring dinosaur, Mommy got a Google Home (from daddy), and daddy got a Pebble smartwatch (from Mommy). Both kids also got an assortment of PJ Masks toys, which they will hopefully be able to share.

Somewhere in-between, I made up some Christmas quiche, which we ate for brunch along with a Strawberry Shortcake for Jesus’ birthday (Hannah blew out the candle).

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That evening, Vivian baked some Johnny Marzetti to my parents’ house for a Christmas Dinner and pumpkin pie with my brother Nathan. We ate and opened presents with my folks, and Hannah got to spend more time getting pictures with her camera.

It was such a full Christmas Day that we didn’t even have time for stockings, so after a long winter’s nap, we took the kids downstairs to open them on Boxing Day Morning in the basement before daddy headed off to work. Then that evening, Grammy and Pop-Pop came back to help Hannah make a fairy house and finish off some leftovers (with shrimp salad).

It’s hard to believe the big day has come and gone already, but we’ll enjoy the soft glow of Christmas for as long as we can (or at least until New Year’s).

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Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Parties, Ringing Bells

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Christmas is on its way, and there are plenty of parties to celebrate before it gets here. First up is the Pope Paul VI Institute Christmas Party (which Vivian and I have attended for the last four years straight). It was held at the Omaha Sheraton, and we got to have dinner with a some of my co-workers. Afterward, Institute Director Dr. Hilgers handed out some years-of-service awards to a handful of employees (including his wife Sue).

Then we played a rousing game of “Family Feud” with Christmas-themed survey questions. Our table managed to get second place and won some cute Christmas headgear. One table decided to cheat by consistently writing the top answers after they were revealed, and fortunately didn’t escape Ann or Donte’s keen eyes.

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My parents both also had birthdays around this time, so we dropped by with the grand-kids to give them a couple presents and some handmade cards. I got a book for my dad, and some new slippers and chocolate for mom. We also got to see our old Family Christmas Tree up once again, adorned with chocolate-bearing reindeer heads, among other things.

In other news, there’s a bright, new Aldi on 72nd Street. It’s designed to look and feel like a regular, high-end grocery store, with wide, open aisles, and even a sample lady with cheese on their opening day. I was one of the first 100 customers, which entitled me to a golden envelope containing a $10 gift card.

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On Saturday night, Jenny and Kody had their annual Christmas Party, this year at their new home way up in Bennington. Cody smoked up some ribs, chicken, and pork loin stuffed with apple chutney, which we ate with Vivian’s roasted vegetables and a bunch of other things (and Irish Cream Trifle for dessert).

We ate downstairs with a bunch of our mutual friends, and then we went upstairs for games afterward. Jenny and Kody had a sinister game consisting of unwrapping a giant ball of prizes wrapped tightly in industrial-strength plastic wrap. It took us about five rotations around the circle before we could rip through them all. I got some AAA batteries, a notepad, and Snickers bars for my effort.

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Then on Sunday night, I took Hannah to see our friends Brandon and Anne perform in the Thanksgiving Lutheran bell choir. They performed about an hour of beautiful Christmas music for us, and then they let some members of the audience come up and try to ring along with a few more songs. I got to try lugging around a giant 15-pound G bell, which isn’t nearly as easy at it looks, and I needed to use both hands just to keep time. They also had a giant buffet of cookies afterward, which was the real reason Hannah tagged along with me, so we stuck around to get sugared up with a few of our friends who came for the performance before calling it a night.

Baby Cakes and Olde Town Christmas

We’ve had a lovely, unseasonably warm start to December this year, with days in the 50s and 60s that made for the perfect time to visit the park at lunch time or to put up some Christmas decorations. I made sure to get the kids out of the house at least for a walk to enjoy the sunshine without a coat before winter actually gets started (which it will).

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On Saturday, Vivian and I threw a dinner party for a few of our mutual friends and mommies to be Tamra and Jen (and also Phil). Vivian made an elaborate chicken dinner, and Donna brought over some lovely baby cake and peanut cookies, as well as a few collections of disposable diapers arranged like little babies wearing sleepers.

We gave away a bunch of Hannah and Aaron’s old baby clothes after dinner, and Phil and I also disassembled our dear old crib so he and Jen could use it for their new baby boy next year. It was a little hard for Vivian and me to part with this piece of furniture where both Hannah and Aaron got to sleep when they came home from the hospital, but it was far past time for Aaron to graduate to a “real,” bed, which he immediately took a liking to.

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On Sunday, Hannah and Aaron played fairies and gave their kitties a weigh in before we headed to church. We skipped potluck so we could have a busy, busy afternoon doing Christmas activities in Bellevue. We stopped first by the library, where they had some snacks and crafts for the little ones. Hannah and Aaron got to make tiny “mouse” ornaments and some Popsicle stick bobsleds.

Then we went to Olde Town, where there was a Living Nativity at he firehouse followed shortly by a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (arriving by firetruck, of course). There were some other activities at Washington Park, including some live reindeer and a puppet show. Mostly, the kids wanted to play on the slide, the teeter-totter, and the jungle gym — and with the weather warm enough for short sleeves, we couldn’t blame them.

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We were pretty exhausted by the end of the day, but I took Hannah right out again after dinner to see our friends the Mills in the Bellevue Christian Center’s Christmas program. The program was scripted by Ms. Karla who performed an original song for the finale, and it consisted of a myriad of skits put on by the kids at BCC, along with songs in-between them. Lexi, Sammy, and Jake all participated and did a great job. Hannah particularly had fun playing with the “snowballs” that were thrown into the crowd during one of the final songs.

It’s getting colder this week, but that only means Christmas is right around the corner!