Category Archives: First Date Anniversaries

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.

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!

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!

Nine First Dates

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It’s Christmas Eve eve at last! Every year, December 23 also marks the anniversary of my first date with Vivian, so this year, I decided to take the entire day off to celebrate. A good chunk of that was spent at the Omaha Children’s Museum, where they had a special visit by Elsa and Santa Claus in a flurry of cute photo-worthy moments, filled with soapy suds of “snow.” Aaron had a good time playing with the water table and then in the ball area trying to catch the near-constant dropping of balls from the ceiling. Mommy and Hannah put on makeup in the meantime, and then we went upstairs, where they had a super hero exhibit. That kept Hannah busy climbing to the top of a tower and playing with a few of the Super Hero toys available for little ones. Of course, we also had to take a trip on the carousel and the train in-between going up and down the slides. Nothing like a little exercise before nap time.

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That evening, I finally took Vivian out to see the last of the Hunger Games films, Mockingjay Part 2. I’d been waiting for the end of this series ever since I finished the books a couple years ago, and it really didn’t disappoint — or diverge very much from the book itself, of course.

After the movie, we took a trip downtown, per tradition, to get some fudge from the Old Market Candy Shop. Mike was on hand to personally package up a special order of egg nog fudge for us, which we added to our bag of truffles, white chocolate almond bark, and assorted fudges (pumpkin, dark chocolate, and peanut butter).

Then, we walked next-door to have dinner at Le Bouillon, the sister restaurant to the Boiler Room now located in the same spot as the French Cafe, where we had our first date nine years ago. The decor was very much the same as the French Cafe, though the menu was quite a bit different. Our waiter described it as a “farm to table” style of food with various categories meant to be selected in a multi-course meal. In the end, we both picked a few dishes that sounded good and shared them all — rock shrimp to start, followed by Calamari Provençale, Fougasse, and finally the Cassoulet. It was all very good, and I think we might be back again next year.

We finished off the evening with a brief walk through the Gene Leahy Mall to see the beautiful Christmas lights. It made me think about all the other first date anniversaries we’d celebrated so far, which included multiple trips to the same locations, sometimes under new ownership.

Thanks for the wonderful memories so far, Vivian. On to Christmas!

Christmas with Four Grandparents

Christmas has come and gone once again, and even though our season has been as busy and packed as ever this year. Vivian and I celebrated our eighth first date anniversary down at J’s on Jackson in the old market, enjoying the Seafood Pappardelle Pasta and Beef Tip Au Poivre and then sampling some of the drinks at the Brickway brewery across the street. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it down to the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge before they closed at nine, so I had to make my way back there again the next day.

It feels like the Holiday Spirit left a little too quickly. Still, this was a very special Christmas, because it was our first with both our children (and Aaron’s first-ever), and also our first with all four grandparents present and accounted for!

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We decided this year to have “Christmas Dinner” on Christmas Eve. That meant bringing the grandparents over a little early to prepare the roast beef, potatoes, stuffing, Taber Salad, and all the trimmings for us to enjoy by five o’clock. The office went dark and quiet around one o’clock, so I took off early to grab some groceries before we got the Christmas feasting underway, and we kicked off the evening with a toast with Martinelli’s in Red Solo Cup Goblets.

Shortly thereafter, we went to Twin Valley Church for their candlelight Christmas Eve service. There were, unfortunately, no adorable kids up front in nativity costumes as there had been in several Christmases past. Still, I was able to help put together a humble presentation of scripture, songs, and YouTube video. Of course, there was also the obligatory singing of Silent Night with candles lit on all sides. Our old friend Aunt Jessica was also back from North Carolina for the holidays, so I got a few quick photos of her with her extended family.

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Christmas morning was as fun as ever, with Hannah up at the crack of 6:30 to see what Santa brought her. We had a dollhouse and any number of My Little Ponies and plush toys lurking about underneath the tree. I made up some horribly sweet Belgian Waffles for a Christmas breakfast, which we ate with strawberries before opening the Grown-Up presents. I got a few ornaments, socks, and some cotton shorts. Vivian also surprised my stockings off with a SmartThings Hub and light switch, enabling me to do such awesome things as dim the Dining Room chandelier from my phone. I’ve been itching to do some home automation with the power of WiFi, so naturally Donna told Vivian, “You’ve created a monster!”

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On Christmas Evening, the weather (45 degrees and sunny) was nice enough to warrant a walk for me and Hannah over to my parents’ house a block over. Then we got to spend the evening with all four grandparents and even Uncle Jonny. We spent a little while opening up our stockings and pulling out any number of “stuffers,” one of which included a toaster oven for Vivian. Then we had our “traditional” dinner of frozen pizza with mom and dad before breaking out the coffee and pie and having a rousing game of Balderdash to finish off Christmas.

Now we’ve gone back to plain old gray-and-dreary winter so quickly that I wish we could let the holiday linger just a bit longer, even if it means hearing Simply Having A Wonderful Christmas Time once more. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Roaring fires and seven first dates

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T’was the week before Christmas, and the Yule-Tide celebrations continue. We’ve been having annual get-togethers with Jenny and our cluster of mutual friends for a couple years now, and this time around someone had the bright idea of hosting this year’s Christmas party at our house. This worked out great for Vivian and me, because we were able to put Hannah down for bed before anyone arrived and didn’t have to worry about arranging a babysitter before spending a good, long evening with our fun friends.

We had plenty of food and drink on hand for everyone, and we had a White Elephant gift exchange that included such inexplicable gifts as a 1981 dish towel calendar, 90s music CDs, A Christmas Story wristwatch, pregnancy magazines, and a ceramic hippopotamus. We got a lovely fire roaring in the basement downstairs afterward, which made things perfectly cozy for roasting marshmallows and then playing Taboo and a couple hilarious rounds of Telestrations. Vivian won the evening by coming up with a lovely illustration of “Scapula.”

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On Sunday, Vivian and our church’s ensemble Christmas Choir got to perform a medley of songs in front of the church during offertory, which was quite lovely.

Then that evening, we celebrated the seven-year anniversary of my asking Vivian out on our first date. Grandma and Grandpa came to babysit Hannah and take her to church to rehearse for the Christmas Eve pageant, and Vivian and I dropped by Caniglia’s Venice Inn for dinner. We’d visited the lovely little Italian steakhouse (winner of Food Wars’ Omaha steak episode) several times in the past via the Friendship Program Christmas Party, which seems to be held there every year. I’m sad to say we didn’t have nearly enough room for the liver pate, toasted ravioli, mostaccioli, potatoes, and rib-eye steaks we ordered, but we ate just enough to have some nice leftovers for Monday’s lunch. After dinner, we took a trip downtown to get a couple anniversary snapshots on the festively-lit Gene Leahy Mall, and then we dropped by the Old Market Candy Shoppe to pick up a couple pounds of fudge. Our first date had been to the old French Cafe, and immediately afterward we dropped by the little candy store for fudge and have made an annual habit of it ever since.

It’s hard to believe that all took place seven years ago. My, how time flies!

It’s the end of the world as we know it …

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… and we feel fine. Part of the reason for that is we invited a bunch of our mutual friends over to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar and civilization as we know it. We invited everyone to bring along whatever food and drink they’d like to indulge in for their last day on earth, so we had shrimp cocktails with champagne, pigs in blankets, cookies, and everything else you can imagine (including homemade egg nog from Phil and Jen). We played an insanely silly game of “Encore,” which required us to name endless series of songs containing a word chosen from a deck of cards. I think we could have let Jen and Jessica do most of the guessing. My brothers even stopped by to join us, and we had a pre-Christmas gift exchange before calling it a night.

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You also might have heard about a line of snowstorms that hit the midwest over the past week — we went from being green and soggy to having a white Christmas after all. That was good news for Hannah, because she got to put on her snow clothes and go outside to experience snow for the first time in her life (and just in time for her 13-month birthday). She seemed to enjoy it, though she discovered quickly that walking in snow wasn’t going to be as easy as toddling around on the driveway. This was also the first time she’s ever walked outside.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I celebrated our First Date anniversary, commemorating the night six years ago when I took her out for the first time to the French Cafe (completely by accident — La Casa Pizza was unexpectedly bursting at the seams and didn’t take reservations). We went to see the Hobbit at the Twin Creek theater, which was a very decent film, albeit very long and padded with extra scenes. (Remember the “extended” versions of the Lord of the Rings films? It was like that times two.)

Afterward, we headed up to Benson and had a dinner of tapas at España, making use of an about-to-expire coupon. I had a decent margarita and we both filled up on an assortment of tiny dishes served family-style: fried cheese, blue cheese stuffed mushrooms, Picadillo de Carne, Flamenquines, and seviche. Afterward, per tradition, we made our way down to the Old Market and braved a few blocks of freezing cold to get some egg nog fudge from the Old Market Candy Shop.

Next stop: Christmas!

A Johnson Family Christmas

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Christmas is a time of traditions, and one tradition for Vivian and me is celebrating the anniversary of our first date. It was five years ago last Thursday that I took her down to the Old Market for dinner at French Café (after La Casa Pizza proved ridiculously over-crowded), so we dropped by again to commemorate the occasion. On the menu were Duck Cassoulet, Bouchée à la Reine, and several other things I can’t pronounce.

After dinner, we upheld another tradition by bumping into Jenny and Friends, who were down at the Con Agra skating rink. We also made our annual trip to the Old Market Candy Shop for fudge and found the Tannenbaum shop open for the first time in our five years of dropping by. We took a brief, freezing trip down to the Gene Leahy Mall for pictures before running back to 13th Street Coffee to warm up before going home.

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On Christmas Eve, Vivian and I attended a candle-light service at Twin Valley Church with her parents (and family friend Shirley). The Rietjens lit the final advent candle, and then Drew read an assortment of scriptures telling the Christmas story while the kids in the church acted out portions while in costume. Yes, it was about half an hour worth of adorbs and kid-friendly silliness in front of everyone (and Sean was somehow rendered speechless).

We returned to our house afterward to find a pile of food and presents on our doorstep. Jack and Donna dropped in with Shirley, and we spent Christmas Eve stuffing ourselves with an assortment of hors d’eourves for dinner before opening our first set of stocking stuffers together. (Hannah meanwhile, just lay around being cute.)

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On Christmas Day, Vivian and I dressed Hannah up in her Christmas outfit and attended church together. Back home, we opened presents with Jack and Donna before having a giant Christmas dinner together afterward (with roast turkey, of course). Jack got a meter of chocolate, Hannah got about a thousand ornaments, and I got plenty of pictures of everybody (OK, just a handful). Uncle Eric dropped by to join in the fun and seemed mildly amused at some of the stocking stuffers we’d saved for him.

The greatest gift this year, though, was being able to celebrate with Hannah Marie for the first time, even though she doesn’t quite know what’s going on yet (outside of eating and pooping). Merry Christmas, everybody!

Christmas 2010

Merry Christmas, everyone! Vivian and I are wrapping up another whirlwind holiday season here in Nebraska, sharing time, food, and gifts with family and friends over the course of a week or two.

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The weekend before Christmas, we had something of a family get-together with Jonathan, Nathan, and Ranae joining us on Friday night to see the premier of Tron Legacy at the Twin Creek cinema. Vivian and I had watched the original Tron a few weeks earlier in anticipation of the sequel, and I have to say that I was very impressed with how they managed to continue the story so well after 28 years. Of course, the visual eye-candy is what made the film so much fun to watch, but I also decided the plot was much deeper than the 1982 film (which felt more like a cheesy and clunky excuse to use computer graphics).

After the movie, we had everyone’s favorite breakfast-for-dinner down at Village Inn and then returned to our house to open presents before going home. Vivian got some vanilla bath soaps from Nathan and Ranae, and I got a book I’ve been meaning to read — Never Eat Alone: by Keith Ferrazzi. (Ironically, I’ll probably be reading it on my lunch break … alone.)

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On Christmas Eve Eve, Vivian and I celebrated our fourth First Date Anniversary. We went down to the Old Market and had a very unique dinner at the Passport, where Vivian had duck with an orange glaze and I got to try ostrich steaks for the very first time. We made the obligatory trip to the Old Market candy shop afterward to get some egg nog fudge, then went down to the bench along the Gene Leahy Mall to not kiss for a few minutes before heading over to 13th Street Coffee to warm up.

We wrapped up the night by watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader back in Bellevue, which was quite enjoyable. I read the books years ago but remembered very little, so watching the film made me want to start reading some of the Chronicles of Narnia once again.

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We spent Christmas eve day happily doing as little as possible, wrapping presents and watching the movie Elf. We attended the Christmas Eve service at Twin Valley church for the first time. Pastor Drew had a message about the original St. Nicholas for the kids, and we sang a variety of Christmas songs, along with Silent Night by candlelight.

We had Jack and Donna over for some Cheese Fondue back at the house, which was quite tasty. It came in the form of a mix Vivian picked up at Trader Joe’s and I got to enjoy it with parsnips for the very first time. We opened a boatload of presents afterward, which included a new hard drive and some red shorts for me, a chocolate fondue pot and a Snuggie for Donna, a book on grilling for Jack, and a new shirt and a book on cheesemaking for Vivian.

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On the big day, we opened some presents at home via telephone with my parents and then stuffed ourselves with hors d’eourves and Christmas dinner at Vivian’s parents’ house. Vivian’s co-worker Sherry, her husband Rob, and their son Matt joined us for the feast, as did Onion-Boy and my brother Jonathan. I got to try my hand at carving turkey for the first time, which wasn’t as easy as it looked. Our meal came with party favors that included small paper crowns (that we all put on immediately). Afterward, we opened our stockings, which had plenty of innuendo going around thanks to such gifts as “monkey butt” powder and “caulk saver” (as if nobody knew that was going to happen). We also had a more-than-welcome visit by everyone’s favorite Christmas dinosaur, Santa Saurus.

We returned home and had a few more gift exchanges with Jonathan, which included a boxed set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies for Jonathan (from mom and dad), a box of chocolates for Vivian, and some Weird Al CDs for me (both from Jonathan). We spent the Day After Christmas together watching Devil Fish (via MST3K), the Mouse that Roared, and eating pizza and leftovers to round out the weekend.

3 years, 500 miles

DSCF0009.JPGBefore flying down to North Carolina for Christmas, Vivian and I took a moment to celebrate the third anniversary of our first date. This year, we went to the Melting Pot at Village Pointe mall in west Omaha, a cozy little fondue restaurant that we’d been meaning to try. We shared a white wine cheese fondue and then tried a variety of cajun meats and seafood together. The tables have their own individual hot plates, and we each got two skewers to keep simmering in our little pot.

We returned home to finish packing for our trip to North Carolina, and then I had a special present in store for Vivian. Two years ago, on the first anniversary of our first date, I showed her a music video I’d made recapping our year together. This year, I made a music video set to the music of 500 Miles by the Proclaimers. I used Final Cut Express instead of iMovie, which allowed me to do some more elaborate tricks with different shots (such as lip-syncing the soundtrack), and I collected footage of myself singing along with the song over the course of several months. I hope you all enjoy it as much as she did.

Three-year anniversary video
(Music: 500 Miles by The Proclaimers)