Category Archives: Anniversaries

11 years

Welcome to Hell’s Front Porch, also known as Nebraska in late July! We just finished up a beautiful weekend that ended with a cold front finally moving in to relieve us from near triple-digit temperatures, but we still found ways to have fun in the heat!

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On Thursday night, we took the kids down to B&B Grill and Arcade for one last evening of hot dogs and games before they closed forever. It’s a unique place where you can get a foot-long with mac & cheese or fried pickles — drawing on the chalkboard tables while you wait. We got our fill of greasy appetizers as well and then played a handful of games, including skee-ball, a racing game, whack-a-frog, and a touch screen ticket swiping game — the last of which earned enough tickets for a few teeny tiny prizes. I also got a commemorative glass before we headed out.

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The next day, Vivian and I spent a hot, steamy afternoon at Fun Plex. They’d put in a few set of “Rockin’ Rapidswater slides that we had yet to try out, which proved to me relatively calm compared to the near abusiveTyphoon Falls” (the left side of which I can never get down without being flipped over completely). We spent a little more time in the wave pool, particularly trying to get an underwater selfie with our new waterproof camera, and we also spent time on a few rides — bumper boats, bumper cars, and go-carts — having fun like kids again.

We spent most of our time in the water, though. Not having the kids meant we could even imbibe in a piña colada at the adults-only bar — which is the only way to spent time outside when it’s nearly 100 degrees

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Once we’d had enough of Fun Plex, we headed on up to Dave & Buster’s for some food and games. We arrived in time for Happy Hour with some drinks and appetizers, and then I got a plate of steak and pasta, which included some lobster sauce — commemorating our honeymoon in Maine once again. After that, we made use of a Living Social deal for unlimited games, getting our fill or racing games and even some old-school Ms. Pac Man (always my favorite) before the evening was done.

Of course, no anniversary would be complete without one of my annual Anniversary Comics, celebrating in ink all the fun we’d had over the past year. I gave this year’s to Vivian once we got home — now we just have to find a place to hang it up.

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It was still steamy and hot on Saturday, so we took the kids down to spend the afternoon at Louisville Lake. The water was mostly lukewarm, but it felt good to cool off and play with some of our water squirters for the afternoon. We even got ice cream sandwiches for a snack halfway through.

It was nice to get some time in at the lake before a line of thunderstorms rolled through, pushing temperatures down to the 70s. We’ll probably make our way back there at least one more time this season — hopefully before the snow starts.

Embracing Life, Celebrating Sushi

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We’re still adjusting to the return to normalcy in the midst of arctic temperatures as January wraps up. That includes MPact starting again, and our little Prim and Rainbow got to have a brief mid-year show-and-tell with their groups at BCC. Mostly, it meant watching several volunteers struggle to keep a few little ones from wandering off stage and listening to the older ones recite scripture and sing a few songs for the grown-ups in the audience.

We’re still quite proud of our little ones, of course, and very happy they get to spend their Wednesday nights learning about the Bible with so many of their little friends (and the three different pledges of allegiance they apparently have).

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Then on Friday night, I got to attend the 45th Annual Celebration of Life dinner with several of my teammates form the Pope Paul VI Institute. My boss, Dr. Hilgers, was actually being honored in absentia with a lifetime achievement award, which was accepted by his wife Sue. Naturally, I was on-the-job getting pictures and live-streaming some video (thanks to his daughter Dr. Teresa for holding the camera). Several of our elected leaders were also there, including Lt. Gov. Mike Foley (who played emcee), the Governor, and a Congressman or two.

I got to learn a bit more about the world of the newly-renamed Nebraska Embracing Life before hearing from the keynote speaker, Gianna Jessen. Gianna was the victim of a chemical abortion forty years ago and supposed to have been aborted, but she miraculously survived and lived to tell us a bit about her life (and be the inspiration for the film October Baby). She has some physical disabilities from the abortion procedure, including cerebral palsy, so she was a bit unsteady standing at the wheeled podium at the front of the room. She actually called on our Governor to literally stand by her side and give her physical support as she gave her talk, which he did like a true gentleman.

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The next day, Vivian and I celebrated our sushi anniversary, marking twelve years since we made things official in 2007. We left the kids with mom and dad and went off to Hunan Fusion in West Omaha, getting our fill of sushi, including Shrimp Tempura rolls, Spicy Crab Rolls, Hawaii Rolls and Black Widow Rolls.

We walked off our lunch afterward and headed down to the Indian grocery store afterward and picked up a few things to make chicken tikka masala later in the week.

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Of course, one sushi date isn’t enough, so a few days later, we swung by the Jade Palace for some drive-thru sushi in an impromptu lunch date. For fast-food sushi, it was surprisingly good (and made to order).

In the meantime, we’re enjoying an arctic snap that brought temperatures below zero (for the high) and enjoyed spending a little more quality time indoors, eating pork chops with Grammy and Pop-Pop and spending 1500 of Vivian’s Wii points before the Wii Store closed forever, letting the kids play such classic games as Mario 64 for the first time. Fortunately, things will warm up by the time the Super Bowl rolls around. This year, Hannah’s picked the Rams to win, so we’ll see if her four-pick winning streak holds up! (Aaron’s picked the Patriots.)

Christmas 2018

Merry Christmas, everyone! The Johnson had a lovely yuletide with the family, celebrating with presents and eating way too much food, per the norm (including tamales, Nachos Navidad, and the occasional graham cracker gingerbread house).

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We kicked things off on Friday driving around town and looking at Christmas lights on display. Wood River Drive had a lovely display that featured Santa handing candy canes out to those of us driving past. We went by Linden Estates up north as well, and Hannah and I dodged traffic and tour buses to get a close-up look at the glowing trees on Nicholas Drive. We swung by Aksarben Village to see the Stinson Park spire lit like a Christmas tree and then headed north to Memorial Park, lit up in red, white, and blue splendor. We finished off the night with the most elaborate display in town, which was ironically a few blocks from our house. Every year this thing seems to get bigger — I suspect the owners add a new bit ever season.

I burned a custom mix of traditional Christmas songs to keep us in the spirit all on our drive, which was a welcome change from the local “Christmas station” that plays mostly ads in-between non-stop loops of “Last Christmas,” “Simply Having a Wonderful Christmastime,” and other horrible earworms from Michael Buble and Mariah Carey.

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A few days later, Vivian and I celebrated our twelfth first date anniversary in downtown Omaha. We had plans for the night other than dinner, so we wandered through the near-frozen waterfront by the Gene Leahy Mall one more time and wandered by our favorite candy shoppe, where the candy man was busy making a chocolate cabin, among other things. We got our usual batch of Christmas fudge before heading back to have dinner at a lovely new Indian place we stumbled upon named Shahi (in what use to be in the O Lounge). Vivian and I stuffed ourselves with a dinner for two, which included a handful of appetizers, lamb curry and chicken tikka masala over rice and garlic naan bread, some tea for each of us as well as dessert (which we didn’t have room for).

We took one last walk down to our favorite bench just t say goodbye, as the city plans to destroy this lovely little spot in town and remodel it for a couple years. I for one will certainly miss it.

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I took a half-day on Monday and then head downed with Vivian and the kids to the four o’clock Christmas Eve service at Wildewood (dressed in our Christmas finery). I was somewhat surprised to find the place packed wall-to-wall, with only a handful of seats available and ushers hauling out rows of folding chairs for the near overflow crowd. A string quartet from the Omaha Symphony played music up front as the Pastor led everyone in a series of scripture readings, songs, and a skit revolving around Away in a Manger. We also had the obligatory candlelit singing of Silent Night (with glow sticks for the kids). Afterward, we were invited to put prayer requests on the “western wall,” as well as sending selfies to people we cared about. It was a ice little service, but if we return next year, we’ll have to be sure to come earlier.

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Back at the house, Jack and Donna came by to prepare a roast beef and potatoes for a Christmas Eve Dinner. After dinner, we introduced the kids to some Christmas Crackers, which they had fun pulling on to open with us but were somewhat underwhelmed at the prizes inside, which included a luggage tag, a tape measure, and a tiny picture frame, among other things. We settled the kids down for a long winter’s nap in their new Christmas jammies before hauling out a truckload of gifts fro the car to start arranging underneath the tree. We basked in the tree’s glow for a little while afterward and had some candy cane pie from Village Inn, which Jack had apparently been saving for weeks.

There was certainly something magical in the air this Christmas Eve. I was actually so impressed with the full moon when I took out the garbage that I let loose with a jolly “Ho ho ho” as loud as anything that might come from Saint Nick. Little did I know, however, that Hannah was still awake in her bed and bolted out of there in shock at having actually heard Santa Claus.

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Hannah, of course, could barely contain her excitement as Christmas morning approached and actually got up to peek in a few stockings (one for her doll) and set out her toys to watch the tree. Vivian and I eventually got up a little after six to have coffee and then Hannah hand out the presets as we slowly set about opening our gifts. Hannah got some toys based on character from a few of her favorite shows, and Aaron got a plush Kirby, a new sled, and a comfy new sweater. Both kids also got a pair of plush sleeping bags for sleepovers, the first of which they got to have in our living room at the end of Christmas Day. I got some new cargo shorts, a fidget spinner, and an ice bucket, among many other things, and Vivian got a giant Bible timeline, which well have to figure out where to put later on.

Sometime mid-morning I popped some quiche and banana bread in the oven, which I’d prepared in a rush the day before. We had a nice little Christmas brunch together (and mincemeat pie afterward) as a break from opening presents and then let the kids watch Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer before setting about opening stockings as the afternoon began to wind down.

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It was a rather pleasant 45-degrees outside, so once Jack and Donna headed home, I walked to my mom and dad’s house with Hannah and Aaron for a lovely Christmas Day walk. We got to open a handful of new gifts at my parents’ house, which included a Squirrel Girl for Hannah and a plush Mega Man for Aaron. I’d bought a bone-in ham for dad to cook in the oven, and we all sat down for some Christmas Dinner around six. We opened a few more gifts afterward, which included a Nintendo Switch from Uncle Nathan to Uncle Jonny. I borrowed it long enough for some soy face selfies and then let the two of them play some Smash Brothers as the rest of us packed up and headed for home.

I’ve got the rest of the year off now as I use up some accumulated vacation time at work, getting to do such mundane things as getting oil changes for our cars and catching up on laundry and housework. The end of the year is just around the corner, though. Stay tuned for a few of my highlights through the year as we close out 2018!


A full, unedited 36 minutes of Christmas.

The Big Ten

Vivian and I got to enjoy a couple lovely days in Kansas City to celebrate a decade of marriage together! Grammy was kind enough to handle the kids while we were gone, which made this a rare chance for us to get some kid-free time together.

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We headed on down Thursday afternoon, putting some 535 miles of wear-and-tear on a rented Kia, which I’d estimated cost less than the same on our own car.

Then we spent the rest of the afternoon at IKEA, having a few of their signature meatballs as a snack before browsing the various home and kitchen items on two floors and finding quite a few things that we actually needed — and all dirt cheap. Vivian was most impressed with the children’s play area, where we play to drop the kids of the next time we visit (so we can have a meatball lunch all by ourselves).

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From there, we checked into our hotel and then strolled down to the Power & Light District to have a surf-and-turf dinner at Bristol, commemorating our honeymoon on Bar Harbor ten years ago. I got to give Vivian an aluminum cheese plate and a couple souvenir packs of cards I’d been holding onto for nine and ten years. (There was also my ten-year anniversary comic ready as well, of course.)

We got some Crème brûlée for dessert and then took a quick walk around the District, checking out a free concert with the Casey Donahew band just around the corner. I’m not a country music fan, but it was fun to see such a packed house enjoying the free music. After that, we dropped by Union Station long enough to poke around a few of their exhibits and see the colored fountains across the street before heading back to the hotel.

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The next day, after a greasy breakfast at Waffle House, we spent a couple hours getting wet at Schlitterbahn. A number of our friends had raved about this particular water park for years, so we’d had it on our short list of places to visit in Kansas City (even after that particularly gruesome incident in 2016).

We had a good time going down a few slides on tubes and riding through the rapids and waves on the multiple rivers around the park, but the place seemed to be a bit of a disappointment. About half of the rides were closed for various reasons — some having failed inspections and others being “short-staffed.” I doubt we’ll be going back anytime soon, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it closed before then. I also discovered my dad’s waterproof camera wasn’t quite as waterproof as advertised, which was another massive disappointment, but we still enjoyed ourselves (and got tickets at a discount from Groupon).

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We spent that evening at the Country Club Plaza, having dinner at our favorite KC restaurant, Jack Stack. I got my usual platter of meats (beef ribs, beef brisket, and burnt ends) with a cheesy potato bake, and we shared an obligatory piece of their insanely good carrot cake for dessert.

The weather was an insanely gorgeous 70-80 degrees during our stay, making for a much more pleasant walk through the Plaza than in previous years (when it was around 100). We walked down to the Better Cheddar to splurge on some fun cheeses from their collection, as well as a bottle of balsamic vinegar from Modena, Italy. Phil Rosenthal had raved about it on his Netflix show, Somebody Feed Phil, and while it tasted similar was “regular” balsamic vinegar, we found it to be far smoother and a bit sweeter, much like a fine wine.

We finished off the evening watching The Incredibles II at the Cinemark before having a romantic walk along the riverfront before calling it a night.

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We headed home the next day, but not before a quick trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. I can’t recommend this place enough, as they have a lovely collection of work from all different eras. Vivian and I especially like the Impressionists, and I love the broad, vivid brushstrokes of Claude Monet and Paul Cézanne. I also admired a pair of paintings by Rococo artist Gaspare Traversi, each of which featured one person eerily breaking t he fourth wall (and staring into your soul).

The weather was still lovely outside, which made for a nice stroll through the Museums beautiful (shady) grounds to and from our car (parked a few blocks away). Then we got some lunch (and tacos) at Jack in the Box before heading home — a place Vivian had grown up with and one you can’t find in Nebraska.

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We made a brief detour through Nebraska City to pick up some apple wine and an apple pie on our way back home. Hannah and Aaron had been surprisingly good while staying with Grammy for the past couple of days, and Hannah’s room had somehow become magically clean while we were away. I’d gotten them each a mouse from IKEA as a surprise when we returned home (which Hannah named “Lisa” and “Dockendock”.)

Happy ten years, Vivian! I can’t wait to see what the next decade has in store.

Sushi Train and a Walk for Life

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It’s hard to believe it’s been eleven years since Vivian and I officially made it official back in 2007 (and a decade since I made it even more official a year later). I took the day off on Friday and we marked the occasion by going down to Yamato Sushi Train & Grill, the only “sushi train” in the Midwest outside of Chicago.

It’s a unique concept — after taking a seat, you can essentially help yourself to any number of color-coded plates as they make their way on a conveyor belt winding its way around the restaurant. The different colors represent different prices of food, and we helped ourselves to a some tasty sashimi, a variety of sushi rolls, octopus, and a kind of pickled calamari salad. It was all good, but the next time we come, we’ll have to arrive before the lunch rush ends, since the kitchen staff tends to stop making the more interesting dishes around two o’clock. I saw one unloved pair of raw oysters make their way around the belt several times before we left (each rotation taking seven minutes — we timed it).

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Then next day, I headed down to Lincoln and participated for the Walk for Life for the first time. Participants gathered in front of the state capitol as local pro-life politicians took the stage to say a few words, including Gov. Ricketts, Lt. Gov. Foley, Senators Sasse and Fischer, and Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon, and even candidate for State Treasurer Taylor Royal. Organizers launched clusters of pink balloons into the sky before the walkers started making their way through downtown to the UNL Student Union. There were at least one or two thousand people in attendance, including lots of enthusiastic youngsters, including a group of guys who braved the near-freezing temperatures shirtless and wearing “We love babies” in body paint.

Then at the UNL Student Union, everyone gathered to hear a talk from keynote speaker Ann McElhinney on her docudrama about Kermit Gosnell, the notorious abortionist currently serving a life sentence for murdering three infants. I’d heard McElhinney on the Steven Crowder program previously and was absolutely floored by the story she had to tell about Gosnell and his “clinic.” I won’t go into detail, since this is a mostly light-hearted and family friendly blog, but you should definitely check out her new film when it’s released. It looks amazing.

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I stuck around long enough to get an autographed book and a picture with McElhinney before I left. Then I met up with Vivian and the kids, who had spent a couple hours bouncing around at Lost in Fun. We got some lunch at our favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th, and then we took the kids to the park to run around a bit more before we headed home. I also got some pho from Pho Nguyenn to have for dinner. The soup itself came with raw ingredients to be boiled in the broth before eating, and it was easily the best soup we’d ever eaten.

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!

Anniversary on Cloud Nine

It’s been nine lucky years since Vivian and I first tied the knot, so we decided to celebrate by spending the day down the road in Lincoln getting some sun and getting stuffed (per the norm).

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We started the day exploring Wilderness Park, home to the Secret Bridges and also the “Devil’s Gate,” which I only recently learned about online. The whole area had been a kind of retreat for Methodists around the turn of the century but had since been turned over to the city as one large, meandering park. After some quick lunch at D’Leon’s, we checked out the Gate and then tried finding our way back to the Secret Bridges, but it had since become nearly unrecognizable, overgrown with trees and foliage and a new barricade that made it much harder to traverse. (A stopped train didn’t make it any easier, either.) We only got as far as the first bridge for a selfie before giving up.

We spent the rest of the afternoon down at Star City Shores, a water park built back in 1996 that I wasn’t really even aware of until now. They had a few water slides, and a giant, water-dumping bucket that kept us cool as temperatures climbed into the upper 90s (with enough humidity to push the heat index well above 100).

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Then that evening, we had dinner at the Rodizio Grill in the Haymarket. It’s a “Brazilian Steakhouse” that specialized in serving you an endless parade of meat carved tableside — ham, sirloin, chicken, ribs, and a dozen other options all cooked via rotisserie and served until you tell them to stop. If that weren’t enough, they had a salad bar that included such items as seviche and four-cheese mac and cheese (with bacon) that could have easily served as a meal in itself. Throw in a series of endless sizes (which included fried polenta fries) and we were pretty much stuffed from the word “go.”

Vivian and I had anniversary gifts for each other as well. I got Vivian a hand-thrown cheese plate and a voucher for a paint-your-own pottery place in La Vista. Her gift for me was an amazing make-your-own Scotch kit, complete with barrel. That’s going to be fun to try out!
Of course, I also had my ninth Anniversary Comic, featuring all the fun we’ve had with our friends, family, and each other over the past year. Thanks for making so many memories with me, sweetie! I can’t wait for Year Ten.

Cheese, Sushi, and Nintendo

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Over the weekend, Hannah and Aaron had a sleepover at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house while Vivian and I held our biennial Cheese Party, a tradition we kicked off way back in 2009. This year had a new stipulation of no domestic cheese, primarily to stave away anyone bringing a block of Kraft Sharp Cheddar or store-brand Havarti. We had a fun selection of cheeses this season, including a pesto gouda from the Netherlands, sweet cheddar from Ireland, beer cheese from Great Britain, a super-stinky reblechon from France, and this year’s winner, a caramelized Ski Queen cheese from Norway (AKA gjetost).

Our usual gang of cheesy friends joined us for the cheese, some wine, and some cheesy jokes, topped off with some Telestrations at the end. We still haven’t broken out our copy of Cheesy Parcheesi. Maybe next time. Congratulations to Libby for her winning cheese, Tamra for her winning wine, and Frank for his cheesy jokes!

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Later in the week, Vivian got to try out the pair of clippers she got for Christmas on Pop-Pop, giving him her very first haircut. Hannah and Aaron also went to the dentist for their annual check-ups and performed like champs.

Then on Thursday, Vivian and I celebrated our tenth Sushi Anniversary. Back in 2007, after having sushi at Sakura Bana, Vivian asked me on the way to JNO if I wanted to “make it official.” Every year since then, we’ve found a way to celebrate the occasion with sushi. This year, we went to Sakura Sushi & Hibachi in Council Bluffs, where they had the typical assortment of sushi and appetizers, along with some delicious tempura cheesecake for dessert. Half their restaurant is also a hibachi grill, and Vivian very much wants to come back to watch their entertaining chef preparing food right in front of us.

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One other bit of fun we had over the weekend involved my finally getting an NES Classic Console. I had to use Brickseek.com to send me an alert when the local Target had one in stock. Then I had to wait out front right before opening to get inside and grab one of the THREE units they had in stock that morning. I have it a good test-run that evening, and I even let Hannah and Aaron play with it a bit (Kirby’s Adventure seems to be Hannah’s favorite). It’s a good deal for $60, but I can’t imagine paying $300 to a scalper to get this thing. There are lots of fun games that all play just the way you’d expect, and the controller’s infamously short cord isn’t as much of an issue as I expected. The only real problem I had was with saving a game’s progress. There’s room for four save slots with each game, but it’s very easy to hit the wrong button and have your progress wiped out.

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We had a little more fun over the weekend when my mom and dad and Uncle Jonny came over Saturday night to have some pizza and watch What’s My Line. It was mostly fun just to have someone for the grandkids to play with other than mommy and daddy for a change. Then on Sunday, Mommy helped Hannah make her very first Apple Pie, which we all got to have for dessert after dinner.

Now, to wrap up, here’s a rundown of all ten years of our Sushi Anniversaries! Thank you for all the wonderful years of being “officially” yours, Vivian!

A Stormy Little Christmas

Another fabulous Christmas has come and gone. This year, we got to enjoy a three-day weekend for the holidays, which was particularly nice since we had a whole Monday just to recuperate and clean house after a busy time with the whole family.

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The Christmas weekend started on Friday, with Vivian and me celebrating ten years since our very first date way back in 2006. We managed to squeeze in a movie this time around, ducking into the Aksarben Cinema to see Rogue One before anyone on Facebook could spoil it for us. We went down to the Old Market afterward to get our Christmas fudge from Mike at the Old Market Candy Shoppe, and then we crossed the street to have some Indian food for dinner at Himalayas (located in the Indian Oven’s old spot).

Vivian and I got to reminisce about old times before our traditional walk up and down the Gene Leahy Mall, lit with festive Christmas lights. It was much warmer than usual, with not-quite-freezing temperatures that made it a much more pleasant walk. Several other couples were out at the same time and asked us to get their pictures on the bridge while we were getting our own. We made one last stop by Ted & Wally’s for some date ice cream to celebrate ten first dates together!

  1. 2007: The French Café
  2. 2008: La Casa Pizza
  3. 2009: The Melting Pot
  4. 2010: The Passport
  5. 2011: The French Café
  6. 2012: España
  7. 2013: Venice Inn
  8. 2014: J’s on Jackson
  9. 2015: Le Bouillon (formerly the French Cafe)
  10. 2016: Himalayas
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On Christmas Eve Day, we got a little taste of a white Christmas as the world was covered with fog and icy mists throughout the day (what Vivian would call a “California Christmas”). After spending the morning cleaning house and getting food ready for the next day, we dropped by First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue for their Children’s Christmas Eve service at three o’clock. They had some live music and some traditional Christmas songs, as well as a story for the kids abut Mortimer Mouse.

We returned home to put some reindeer food out on the lawn before going inside for Christmas Eve Dinner. Jack and Donna made pork and chestnut stuffing along with some mincemeat pies for dessert. Hannah and Aaron put on their jammies, and I recited I recited Twas the Night Before Christmas before sending them off to bed (dancing sugar plums optional). After that, we — I mean Santa — filled the stockings and laid the presents under the tree. We also opened a few stocking gifts for each other, and Jack hot his milk and cookies before taking the sleigh on home.

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On Christmas Day, we got to have some thundershowers early in the morning as the kids got up to see their presents. We let them open a couple to each other, including a set of matching baby kitties for Hannah to go along with her plush black-and-white cat Zoe. I made some banana and chocolate chip pancakes for breakfast, which we ate before we headed off to church. Yes, I insisted on going to church — it only happens once every seven years.

Back home, I made up our Christmas quiche for lunch before we opened some more presents. Hannah got a new “friend” named Layla, who stayed with us for the rest of the day. Aaron was quite happy with his train set and drum set, and mommy and daddy got a few gifts as well. Grandma and Grandpa Johnson came by later with Uncle Nathan and Jonny to spend the evening with us. We had some Christmas pizza for dinner and opened more presents, some of which were goofy gag gifts from the kids to us. Hannah got a good deal of mileage out of some wind-up Groucho Glasses. Even Santasaurus had a gift before Christmas was done.

It was a busy, busy weekend, and I’m glad we had Monday to recover. Mostly, it was wonderful just to have all our family under one roof again. Merry Christmas, everybody!

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.