Category Archives: Sushi

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.)

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.

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!

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.

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!

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

Seven years of good luck

Seven years ago, Vivian and I went out to have sushi with a couple of our friends at Sakura Bana one Friday night in January. I had asked Vivian a week earlier if she wanted to be my girlfriend, and on this particular Friday after dinner, she asked me, “So… you want to make it official?” A year and a day later, I got down on one knee and asked her the same question on bended knee.

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Every year since that fateful night, we’ve been celebrating January 26 as our Sushi Anniversary, having some form of sushi even if it meant going to the seafood buffet at the Rio in Las Vegas. This year, we braved 60 mile-per-hour winds to eat at Matsu Sushi in downtown Omaha, having some delicious bento boxes with sushi and vegetable tempura together. Vivian’s parents were nice enough to watch Hannah for the night, so we spent a little time after dinner being adventurous, trekking out into the long-forgotten corners of Omaha in search of First Street, which turns out was tucked away on a lonely dirt road behind the Zoo. Who knew? We also discovered that the Gene Leahy Mall, always the location of choice for Lindy in the Park, appeared to be all finished with its reconstruction. Maybe once it warms up we’ll be dancing there once again.

In other news, Hannah got some portraits done at JCPenney, so we can now share her cuteness at a professional level. My parents also sold their house in North Carolina and are planning to move back to Omaha in about a month, which is amazing news. That means we’ll have both sets of grandparents living nearby to provide free babysitting visit anytime, which is certainly exciting.

Happy Sashimi

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Over the weekend, we celebrated both Vivian and Jack turning another year. On Friday, it was Vivian’s birthday, so we kicked off the festivities with a lunchtime birthday date at La Buvette in the Old Market, sampling wine and cheese and a few Greek things and enjoying some gorgeous fall weather eating outdoors. Afterward, we walked up the street to Ted & Wally’s so Vivian could get her free birthday ice cream for dessert.

That evening, we gathered with a bunch of our friends at Tokyo Omaha (coincidentally a few blocks away) for a birthday sushi binge. Vivian took full advantage of the restaurant’s all-you-can-eat format by getting a plate full of tasty sashimi. A whole bunch of our favorite, goofy friends came along to join us for the birthday bash, and then afterward we went to the Eagles’ Lodge for Jitterbugs Night Out. You can’t have a birthday without a birthday jam, of course! We barely had room when we returned home to have some of the massive angel food cake Donna made for us. Fortunately, my brother Jonathan stopped by to help us eat it over the weekend (and brought a pie of his own from Village Inn).

Vivian got to open a few presents before we all went to bed, which included tickets to see Les Misérables on Friday next week. (Check back for that update next week!)

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Of course, this weekend was also Jack’s birthday, having been born two days apart from Vivian (and a couple years, of course). We celebrated the way we have for many years — bloomin’ onion and rib-eye steaks at the Outback Steakhouse. We returned home to open some presents afterward and then went to Ted & Wally’s for some more birthday ice cream. Jack found a way to ruin a perfectly good cone with two scoops of black licorice ice cream (and a scoop of pistachio in-between).

In other news, we had a bit of sadness as Vivian’s Uncle David passed away in California after an unfortunate fall. He was taken off life support on Friday and was fortunate enough to leave this earth with no long-term suffering or illness. Hannah got the chance to meet him when we stopped by to visit Fortuna last year. He will be greatly missed.

Sushi date, part six

Winter seems to come and go with fits and starts this season, with a blizzard here and there and temperatures ranging from single digits to almost 50. I’m not complaining one bit, of course, but Vivian and I have learned that if we want to take our little girl outside to play, we have to make sure to time it just right. Personally, there’s nothing I find cozier that doing freelance work from inside my warm, cozy house.

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On January 26, Vivian and I were able to leave Hannah with the grandparents and go on our sixth annual Sushi Date together. For those of you who haven’t been reading for the past couple years, Vivian and I went to Sakura Bana on the night we “made it official” and started dating, so we’ve gone out for sushi together every year since then (including going all the way to the seafood buffet at the Rio in Las Vegas). This time around, we dropped by Okinawa Sushi at 120th and L, making use of a Living Social coupon and getting a giant sushi boat to share. I swear, there’s something about sashimi that tastes both decadent and healthful all at the same time. After dinner, we took a stroll downtown to the Old Market to get some ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. Tonight, they were serving garlic butter popcorn, which brought out a grimace from Vivian (we got baklava and apple pie instead).

It’s hard to believe that it’s been six whole years since we first started dating. Of course, I like to remind the two of us that we are still dating — we just have some special circumstances nowadays.

Sushi and hors d’oeuvres

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Last Friday, Vivian and I celebrated our Sushi Anniversary, commemorating five years since we first started dating, and four years since I proposed to her. Since our relationship officially started shortly after eating at Sakura Bana in 2007, we’ve picked a different place for sushi every year since then (including a trip to the seafood buffet at the Rio in Las Vegas a year ago). Our sushi venue of choice this year was the all-you-can-eat insanity of Wasabi on West Maple. Vivian and I came hungry and devoured two plates of raw fish and rice together and washed it down with a glass of plum wine.

Afterward, we burned off what we could at Jitterbugs Night Out. Grammy and Grumpy were kind enough to take Hannah for the evening so Vivian and I were able to dance until midnight with our friends, just like old times.

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On Saturday night, Vivian and I upheld our new annual tradition of Doing Something in January to break up the post-holiday monotony the month of January usually brings. Our idea this time was to have an hors d’oeuvre party, challenging our friends to make tasty bacon-wrapped things impaled on toothpicks and other bite-sized morsels. The winner for the evening was Tamra’s googly-eyed crab rangoon, each of which were painstakingly shaped to have actual pincers of the sides. That was cute. Our grand prize was a plastic pig wrapped in a blue blanket. Get it?

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Then somebody broke out the Riesling and all hell broke loose. The best part about parties with our friends is that Vivian and I can plan no specific entertainment whatsoever and we still wind up spending a few hours cracking up with each other. Jessica in particular bent over backward (or forward?) for our amusement in-between singing VeggieTales songs and being generally goofy.

Of course, adorable Hannah Marie also added to the fun of the evening. She got passed around to just about everyone, including Eric, who did a little dance with her on his lap that she seemed to get a kick out of. We wrapped up the night playing a couple rounds of Telestrations, concocting horrible new double-entendres that will likely be repeated ad nauseum for the next couple of weeks. (Anybody need to polish the coffin?)