Monthly Archives: February 2021

A Re-Fi and a Fish Fry

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I was able to check a major item off our to-do list last Thursday when Vivian and I finally closed on refinancing our mortgage, taking advantage of some record low interest rates, going from 4.125% to 2.75%, knocking out PMI and nearly five years off our loan in the process (and somehow paying less per month).

Vivian had Hannah along, and we all went out to Fuddruckers afterward to celebrate, a restaurant I hadn’t eaten at in over a decade. Because of Covid, their famous toppings bar was closed, so eating there was much more like a Five Guys than the Fuddruckers I remember. As such, I got a ribeye sandwich instead of a burger, which was quite tasty with mushrooms.

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On Friday, we were able to attend a real, live, sit-down and dine-in Fish Fry way out in Gretna, such in time for their mask mandate to expire. We shared a table with a handful of our friends and had some fried fish with coleslaw, beans, and macaroni and cheese courtesy of the American Legion Post 216. A handful of our friends joined us, including (eventually) Phil and Jen and their son Gabriel, who we hadn’t seen since the last in-person fish fry we’d attended, pre-pandemic.

Aaron made himself a bean sandwich, and we kept the kids busy with a video game and my phone, which Hannah used to take photos and videos of our table. We also let them have a few treats from the dessert table to get properly sugared up before heading home.

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The weekend itself was fairly quiet. It was warm enough outside to nearly vaporize our snowman, so I decided to take the kids on a walk over to Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I’d finally put some batteries and memory cards in the kids’ digital cameras, which kept them occupied taking pictures and videos throughout much of the day.

On Sunday, Vivian made some bean soup or lunch, and then I broke open a can of Goya coconut water and tuned in to President Trump’s speech at CPAC. There’s something unforgettable about the energy of a Trump rally — not just from Trump himself but from the crowd, which can interact directly with him in completely spontaneous chants of “We love you!” As irritating as it is to see one election leading right into another, it was oddly thrilling to feel that vibe once again.

Fish, snow, and sledding

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Our friends the Mills went on another road trip this week, which meant Harold’s mommy got to stay with us for a couple days. Hannah and Aaron enjoyed having the with us and set up a giant play-area for her and Harold to run around together in the living room, including when we had Virtual Church on Sunday (because of some more freakish snow).

In the meantime, it’s Lenten season again, which means fish fries. There are only a handful of options this year, but I thought we could start with one right at home — with some battered fish, fish sticks, fries, tots, and shrimp all from Aldi. We had a bit of a feast at our house for our first Fishy Friday. Then Hannah and Aaron played some classic NES games — specifically Super Mario Bros. and Maniac Mansion. Aaron even got to beat King Koopa (and rescue Toad, who Hannah described with a laugh as “the wrong guy.”)

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On Saturday, Vivian broke open a collector’s item to make some old fashioned Aunt Jemima pancakes for breakfast. She also made a batch of bacon with enough grease left over for me to make some tasty breakfast popovers, which I stuffed with scrambled egg, bacon bits, and cheese. Tasty! (Meanwhile, Aaron’s been having fun assembling his own breakfasts in the shape of a smiley face or the “Statue of Liberty.”)

Then overnight, we got SEVEN inches of heavy, wet snow dumped on us (which was forecasted to be two or less). That meant we stayed home from church and I had a serious day-long workout digging out both our driveway and my mother in law’s, with some lunch in-between to keep me going. Thanks, Vivian!

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Fortunately, the snow melted fast as temperatures soared back into the 50s on Monday. I had a session of Beer and Bloviation with a few like-minded friends down at the Lucky Bucket. They also had a sale on cases of beer, $20 for 24 bottles, which I was allowed to mix and match. That should keep us stocked until after Easter, at least.

The melting was happening fast on Tuesday, so we took the kids down to a slushy, wet Memorial Park for one last season of the season (probably). They each got to coast down the eastern slope a bit but then turned to explore the park a bit, particularly where several people had been making snowmen and/or giant snow boulders along the south lawn. Mommy and the kids has also made one in our own yard, which hadn’t quite yet melted by the time I returned home to take a picture.

Axis & Allies, Valentine’s Day, and Temperature Tuesday

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Cold enough for you? We’re in the middle of a record cold snap, with temperatures down to -26°F and making Nome, Alaska look warm by comparison. It’s so cold that wind generators are frozen solid and our power grid is having rolling blackouts just trying to keep up. It’s weather made for warm popovers and staying in bed — at least until that global warming finally kicks in.

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Saturday happened to be Jake’s birthday, so Aaron and I were invited over for a round of Axis & Allies and then pizza for dinner. I’d never played the game before, but I was vaguely aware about how complicated it was and how long it would take to play. Nate and I spent a good half hour just setting up the board with tiny plastic miniatures before Lexi, Jake, and a few friends came by to try to play. I played for England as Jake played the United States, but each turn and its subsequent moves took so long that eventually people started leaving the table in-between rounds. I kept Ginny occupied in the meantime before letting her take over the game board, and even Aaron came by to see what we were up to, taking Jake’s pieces and having a war of his own until it was time for Jake to actually play.

We stuck around for some pizza and wings along with red velvet birthday cake for dinner before heading home. As for the game, it was abandoned after an hour or two, but I think Nate probably won, as he seemed to be the only one with anything resembling a strategy by the time we packed it up.

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Sunday was Valentine’s Day, so I made some heart-shaped banana bread and frittatas for breakfast — making good use of Vivian’s cast iron skillet. Then at church, they had the multipurpose room set up for their “café” for the first time since last March, so we were actually able to have coffee and donuts (or shortcake made by Hannah in her class) with a few of our friends before heading out.

On the way home, I grabbed some burgers and a heaping bag of fries from Five Guys for a Valentine’s Day lunch — keeping up something of a tradition we’ve celebrated in years’ past. Then we exchanged some Valentine’s gifts at home, which included a squishy taco cat, some cuddly toys, some cheese for Vivian, and some chocolate strawberries made by Hannah. I also decorated some cards, of course, which Hannah and Vivian thought were funny.

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Sunday evening, we returned to church with a family night with several of our friends. They church had a fancy dinner of chicken strips and chicken sandwiches served up by the youth group, and every family had their own table (with name cards on the center pieces). After dinner, the had a series of goofy “minute to win it” games, where Sammy got to collect candy hearts with chopsticks and our family got to stack candy hearts on a tongue depressor in Vivian’s mouth. Every family got to participate, including the Lenarts, who tossed cookies and marshmallows into a bucket on Matthew’s head. Then afterward we got some stylish family photos taken in the photo booth before calling it a night.

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The record cold came on Monday and Tuesday, so Vivian and I tried tossing some boiling water into the air to see if it would turn into snow. It didn’t quite work, but it did create a whole lot of steam (and the kids seemed to enjoy watching out the window). We celebrated afterward with breakfast pizza.

Then on Tuesday, I also dropped by Runza for “Temperature Tuesday,” scoring a free Runza with the purchase of onion rings and a drink thanks to the bitter cold. It’s so cold out that the drain pipe from our washer froze to a clog and widespread power shortages knocked out some traffic lights on my way to work (thanks, green energy). I did see a bike left by the Keystone Trail, making me wonder if someone had gone for a ride and given up halfway. Before long I’ll be riding back to work myself (and complaining of triple-digits highs once again).

In the meantime, I’m keeping warm with jambalaya for Fat Tuesday and Chili at the Men of God Tuesday night meetup at Wildewood.

Trunk Time and a Super Bowl

We’re still in the reign of the White Witch for the past week or two, with temperatures in single digits and us making the most of the Great Indoors when we’re not venturing out for a Bible Study or something. Hannah’s made some balloon friends, and daddy’s made some more popovers (which go great with avocado, strangely enough).

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On Saturday night, the Mathis family invited us over for dinner. We had some corned beef and broccoli along with some Valentine sugar cookies we brought. Emmett has been celebrating Mardi Gras early with masks and a table decoration with appropriately colored balloons. After dinner, we played a memory game called Say the Word, which was very much like the “picnic game” (which Aaron has enjoyed playing at grandma and grandpa’s house). Our kids mostly enjoyed a kind of playdate afterward playing with dominos, and Hannah made a picture of a bear with some tiles.

It was around zero degrees when we left and found the car had a nearly-flat tire. Fortunately, the Mathises had an electric pump I was able to use to fill it back up.

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We went to church the next day, and Aaron and his Sunday school class had fruity treats for everyone as we came out of the service. I spent some time during the afternoon going through another one of my dad’s trunks, this one containing some old coins and stamps collected by my grandmother, as well as some odd currency sent to my dad by a friend (including a paper Shekel and a gag seven dollar bill with Jesus on it).

That evening was the Super Bowl, so I headed home and helped Vivian put our a spread of food for us to watch the game. My parents and Uncle Jonny came over to watch the Buccaneers roll over the Chiefs, and even Harold came out of his came to watch with us (and munch some salad). Hannah kept herself busy making little hors d’oeuvres for us with the crackers, chips, and dip we’d had set out.

It was a fun weekend, but I’m looking forward to some warmer days ahead. In the meantime, we have a tire to fix.

Snow Time like the Present

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So, it’s still winter, but we’re always finding things to do, both inside and out. For instance, Hannah broke open the geology kit she got for Christmas and has been proudly showing us the rocks she’s dug out of it.

Then on Friday last week, Grammy stopped by to help Hannah and her friend Sammy make and decorate some cakes together. They created a few cupcakes first for practice before putting together some lovely cakes with underwater themes — complete with gummi fish and sea creatures. The girls did all the decorating themselves, and Hannah got to cut herself a little piece afterward — right from the middle of course.

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The weekend was full of cold and cloudiness, so we decided to take the kids down to Lincoln for a trip to Lost in Fun — our first time there in about a year and a half. Usually, I have some other business in Lincoln to warrant such a trip, but this time it was entirely just to get out of the house. Hannah got plenty of time in the foam ball pit, climbing on the walls to jump in — or be thrown in by daddy. Aaron discovered the ball cannons and got to explore some of the large “Habitrails” with Hannah, and both kids had a little time on the bouncing pillows as well.

We called it a day after about two and a half hours, and we stopped by Big Sal’s for some pizza for dinner on our way out of town (per tradition).

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On Sunday evening, I visited Converge Church in west Omaha with my dad for some “Burgers and Batman” with the men’s fellowship group there (fellowship being code for “pigging out”). Someone had been having fun in the snow out front and made a giant “Kool-Aid Man” sculpture, which can be seen quite plainly from 144th street. Inside, the men had brought a couple dozen foil-wrapped “sliders,” and they asked us all to bring along various sides and ingredients to put on them. I got some peanut butter and pickle for mine, along with some guacamole and bacon.

After that, we settled down to watch The Dark Knight Rises, the third installment in he Christopher Nolan Batman trilogy. I’d seen the movie way back in 2012 with Vivian and Hannah at the Boulevard Drive-in Theater in Kansas City, but I wound up missing much of it because Hannah got cranky and unhappy toward the end instead of falling asleep as I’d hoped. I rather enjoyed it the second time around, partly because it was made back when Hollywood had no problem portrays cops as the good guys, particularly when fighting an angry mob of anarchists.

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We had a little more fun on Monday, when Aaron got to make some homemade ice cream as part of a school project. That meant mixing up some chocolate and cream in a bowl along with a few cups of actual snow scooped up from our yard. Then we actually gave it a taste, and it wasn’t too bad, though the kids both wanted the “real thing” afterward.

I watched Groundhog Day on groundhog day with Vivian, one of my favorite movies that doesn’t seem to get old after all these years. Then on Wednesday, we took the kids sledding out by Bellevue East once again. The weather was predicted to turn much, much colder, so we enjoyed the above-freezing temperatures for just a bit before calling it a night.