Category Archives: Anniversaries

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.

Carly & Sushi

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The Iowa Caucus will be all over in a week, so the candidates are making one last buzz though the state. On Monday, Carly Fiorina dropped into the Dixie Quicks on Broadway after getting snowed out once last week. I took Hannah to meet the one Republican woman running for president. I’d shown Hannah a video of Fiorina on CNN Saturday, and she told me “I want to run for President when I grow up.” Mrs. Fiorina had a nice, brief chat with Hannah (and her dinosaurs) before taking the stage.

Around 50 people braved the snowy roads to come out to participate in the town hall, including a few familiar faces in the crowd. Grandpa Johnson also came along for the visit and seemed very impressed with the former HP CEO, enough so that he took a yard sign home.

IMG_0701Assorted Sushi at Tokyo Sushi in Omaha

The next day, Vivian and I celebrated nine years of “officially” dating by having our traditional sushi binge down at Tokyo Sushi. We both got our fill of sashimi, assorted rolls, grilled squid, and green tea ice cream. Then we took a brief walk around the Old Market. We dropped by Ted & Wally’s to look at their exhibition of 6900 or so paper cranes, and then we ducked into Hollywood Candy down the street. The place had grown since we’d last visited, with a tiny movie theater and a maze of hallways and corridors containing random memorabilia, vinyl records, and other oddities (in addition to candy).

It was a fun, albeit brief mid-week date night to celebrate nine years of actually dating. Even though we’re rapidly approaching middle age, that doesn’t mean we have to act like it.

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!

Office Party

Christmas is coming fast, with weather that’s so up-and-down that we’ve had days of lovely sunshine at the park followed by weekends full of rain. Yes, rain. In December. (At least we don’t have to shovel it.)

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One of the latest Christmas traditions for the Johnson Family has been the Pope Paul VI Institute Christmas Party. My current employer has been the only one so far to have a legit Christmas party every year, always at some hotel with catered food among other things. What’s also nice is our mix of co-workers who can actually have fun with one another outside the office as demonstrated by a couple of our physicians’ creative uses of peppermint cones. The choir from a local Catholic High School came to sing a few Christmas carols for us over dinner, and Vivian and I both got the chance to catch up with co-workers and their spouses, who we usually only see once a year. Plenty of photos were also snapped, of course.

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Then on Tuesday, we had an Unexpected Sushi Night out with the kids. I’d bought a Groupon to Matsu Sushi back in August, hoping to use it while downtown with the kids, but they were unexpectedly closed on Sunday. That meant we had to use our Groupon before it expired, so we sat down for some bento boxes and tonkatsu pork for Hannah and Aaron. I was very impressed how Aaron dug right into his dinner and even tried a maki roll, while Hannah managed her chopsticks like a champ.

I’d hoped for a lovely walk by the river to look at Christmas lights, but the kids seemed more interested in slides and a playground frog instead. That was fine, but then it started to rain again, which became a downpour that sent us a home a little early.

Christmas is just around the corner!

Scratching the Seven-Year Itch

Has it really been seven years already? It seems like just yesterday Vivian and I were saying our vows down at Twin Valley Church together with all our friends and family in attendance. Since our anniversary fell on a Sunday this year, it seemed appropriate to stop back at the little church where it all began for a brief blessing by Pastor Drew before starting our fun day together.

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We kicked things off with a breakfast of ricotta pancakes down at Amato’s, and then we drove up to Fremont to check out the Splash Station we’d seen driving by every time we went camping at Fremont Lakes. It was a modest little water park with a couple slides, a wave pool, and plenty of things for kids — ideal for a return trip with Hannah and Aaron if we ever go camping in Fremont again (and I expect we will).

We got some ice cream down at Zesto’s and then decided to drop by the Fremont Lakes just for the heck of it. We got to splash around in some decidedly non-chlorinated water, and I got the surprise of being nibbled on multiple times by something swimming in the water with us.

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We headed on back to Omaha for dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack that evening, sharing a lobster steam pot for two and a dish of seafood appetizers. We also exchanged our appropriately-themed anniversary gifts. Vivian gave me a new coffee mug with copper print on it and a pair of wool gloves with removable fingertips (for using my smart phone). I gave Vivian a small copper rose and — of course — the latest in my series of Anniversary Comics. Every year, I find ways to fit more and more images into a single piece of paper, thoroughly covering all the fun things we (and our kids) got to do during our seventh year of matrimony.

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We got to have a bit more fun even after our anniversary. On Monday, Hannah and Aaron got to come to Stinson Park for a picnic lunch, cupcakes from Jones Bros., and some quality time splashing about in the fountains. I brought a change of clothes again so I could get wet with them before returning to work.

Then on Wednesday, my folks treated us to a dinner of rib-eye steaks and spumoni at Cascio’s. It’s one of several “Italian” steakhouses in Omaha, and very similar to the experience we had at Mister C’s, Venice Inn, Piccolo’s, and Johnny’s Cafe (and certainly worth the visit).

Happy Anniversary, sweetie! I can’t wait to see what our eighth year together has in store for us.

Sushi Date: Take Eight

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The weather has continued to be unseasonably gorgeous (for January) here in Omaha, so naturally we’ve been taking the kids to our favorite park over and over again. I actually took Monday off so Vivian and I could celebrate our eighth “Sushi Anniversary” together, but we also dropped by the park to let the kids run around a bit over lunch (and eat cupcakes). Aaron got to try out a slide for the first time (with mom’s help), and Hannah got to roar and run around inside the “dance house” where the Jitterbugs gathered last summer for Lindy in the Park.

Late that afternoon, I took Vivian to see the fourth and final Hobbit movie at the Twin Creek theater, nabbing a matinee show before dinner. This year’s sushi binge was down at Tokyo Sushi/Omaha in the Old Market. We’d actually eaten there once or twice before with our friends, and they were good enough for another visit. I paid extra to have sashimi and could easily have eaten raw fish all night, but we had other rolls and horribly delicious fried things to enjoy to kick off another year of being “official” together.

And because I know Vivian will be wondering, here’s a list of all our Sushi Dates so far:

  1. 2007: Sakura Bana
  2. 2008: Also at Sakura Bana
  3. 2009: Blue Sushi in West Omaha
  4. 2010: Sushi Japan Yakiniku Boy
  5. 2011: Village Seafood Buffet at the Rio in Las Vegas
  6. 2012: Wasabi on West Maple
  7. 2013: Okinawa Sushi
  8. 2014: Matsu Sushi
  9. 2015: Tokyo Omaha

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!

Anniversary in Lincoln

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It’s been a relatively quiet couple of weeks for the Johnson Family. Our little boy Aaron turned one month old and seemed to be growing up so fast. Uncle Jonny came down for a brief visit, and Vivian got a snapshot of three generations of Johnson men to mark the occasion. We also had a lovely visit from the Polar Vortex, which sent the temperatures in Omaha down to a lovely 70 degrees for an entire week, giving us the chance to visit the park with Hannah multiple times before it left.

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This last weekend was also our sixth wedding Anniversary, so Vivian and I decided to celebrate with a trip to Lincoln (with the kids — thanks Grandma and Grandpa!) I’d lived in Lincoln for six years but never really got out and saw much of the attractions around town while I was there. Our first trip was to the state capitol, where we rode to the top for some picturesque views and a few obligatory selfies underneath the dome. The Senate wasn’t in session, but we were able to pick out pictures of our State Senator from the gallery down below. (I also tried making off with some marble tile from the courtyard as a souvenir but decided against it.)

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We had a brief lunch at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th Street, and then headed on to the UNL State Museum at Morrill Hall. One of my Comic Genesis friends told me months ago that the Titanoboa was paying the museum a visit, so I made sure to get plenty of photos of myself with that horrifying model snake. There were also plenty of old bones and glowing rocks to check out, and we even dropped into the Planetarium to see a show on the Google Lunar XPRIZE (narrated by Tim “to Infinity and Beyond” Allen).

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After our visit, we dropped by the Sunken Gardens to check out the many flowers in bloom before heading back to Omaha, where we had dinner reservations waiting for us at the 801 Chophouse. We’d had steak there plenty of times before, but this time around we split a lobster in honor of our honeymoon in Maine (which is an anniversary tradition now). Throw in some souffle for dessert, and we were stuffed for the night (not counting Vivian’s special truffles when we got home).

We also exchanged our anniversary gifts. Year Six is the iron anniversary, so I gave Vivian a heart-shaped cake pan, and she gave me a lovely graffiti cocktail shaker .I had also done up a new anniversary comic to celebrate our sixth year — a tradition since our paper anniversary. Every year, I get to remind myself of all the fun things we’ve gotten to do throughout the year and all the milestones that have come and gone. I love you, Vivian! I can’t wait to see what Year Seven has in store for us.

Bonus: Hannah plays “baseball” with a flyswatter as the Blue Angels fly over our backyard.