Category Archives: Fish Fries

Fish, Lions, Spaghetti, and the Mads

It’s been another crazy, busy week at work and home for the Johnson Family (fueled by avocado toast), but at the end of it, we finally have a car once again, which was a relief. I was able to use it for several errands, including a lunchtime rendezvous with Vivian, Grammy, and the kids.

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On Friday, we had our second fish fry of the year, this time landing at our traditional haunt, St. John Vianney. Our kids braved a cold and windy evening to play on the playground as we waited for our friends the Mills to arrive. Then we braved a shorter-than-usual line to get our annual dinner of fish, French fries, grilled cheese, tomato, and pancakes. Guitar Guy was there, as usual, to lead us all in “bah bah baaing” along to Sweet Caroline. When the food was gone, there was still time for some silly photos, and even Frank stopped by to frighten everyone with a new profile picture.

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On Saturday morning, Hannah had an appointment to “read” a book with a sweet therapy dog named Gillian at the Bellevue Public Library. Then we stuck around for a performance of martial arts and Chinese Lion dancing courtesy of the Jing Mo Tong Athletic Association (from Lincoln). I’d never seen a performance like this before, which involved throwing tangerines and lettuce at the audience, among other things. We hung around afterward so the kids could touch a few of the lion costumes before heading home.

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I took the kids out for some park time that afternoon. Then that evening, I dressed up went to see MST3K veterans Frank Conniff and Trace Beaulieu (AKA “the Mads“) once again for their third annual visit to the Alamo Theater. This was my third time seeing them riffing life, and my dad, brothers, and Richard Burney all came along as well. The movie of the evening was “The Creature Walks Among Us,” the third film in the “Creature form the Black Lagoon” trilogy, and the Mads’ riffing helped us get through some of the more tedious moments of the film, of which there were plenty (90% of them involving slow-moving boats).

Of course, I hung around afterward for the meet-and-greet, since getting a selfie with the villains from one of my favorite shows is always a thrill, even if I’d done it three times before.

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Sunday night, Wildewood church had a fundraiser spaghetti dinner for a young lady named Lexi, who’s been diagnosed with stage four bone cancer. Many local businesses donated food for the event, and there seemed to be a fairly good turnout, as the food was nearly gone when it was time for us to go. Hannah got her face-painted like a dalmatian and then got in some running around afterward with Aaron. Our kids can have fun with just a big empty field and a tree, which is a happy break from video games — now that we have the weather for it (random blizzards up north notwithstanding).

Fish Fry, Skating, and St. Patrick’s Day

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The Lenten season is upon us again, so that means touring some of Omaha’s famous fish fries, in particular the one at Holy Name. It’s is one of the biggest draws in town, attracting such guests as Congressman Don Bacon, as well as our tiny group. The fish is good, and watching it being battered in a custom-made contraption is a show all in itself.

This particular fish fry is baffling as many in the crowd outside — and packing the halls inside — seem more interested in standing around drinking instead of lining up for fish, making it difficult for the rest of us to know where to go. It’s a fun time once you make your way inside, though (and the smell will linger with us for weeks).

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The next day, I went downtown with Hannah to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade. It had been delayed a week due to unexpected snow and nasty weather, and it was about half as long as last year as well. We still saw the standard of parade participants, ranging from politicians to Star Wars characters, to Irish dancers, clowns, and even a Family Reunion of sorts. The weather was just about perfect, with temperatures rising to the fifties, so Hannah and I spent a little extra time watching geese fight along the now tree-less Gene Leahy Mall and looking at some of the flooding along the Missouri River. We even took a few minutes for a daddy/daughter date at Chick-Fil-A before heading on home.

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Later that day, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday with my parents and Uncle Nathan. Jonathan wanted to go roller-skating down at Skate City on Fort Crook, so I brought Hannah along and spent some quality time staggering awkwardly around the rink with her for an hour or two. It was legitimately the first time I’d ever gone roller skating, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as I imagined (particularly after one guy helped tighten my skates). Hannah, much to my surprise, had a grand time skating around the rink using a kind of walker they had on hand for the little ones.

Then that evening we headed back to my parents’ house for some Marco’s Pizza and pumpkin pie for dessert. We finished off the evening watching some family slides with the folks and then playing some Choose Your Words before calling it a night.

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On Sunday, we celebrated St. Patrick’s Day with our traditional dinner of corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes and Irish soda bread, though we also had some special green foods for the kids that we hoped would be more palatable.

Then on Monday we headed down to the waterfront a family to get a look at some of the flooding from the Missouri River. The devastating flood has made national news, but we live and work far enough away from the flooded area that we’ve been largely unaffected. It was daunting to see the statues at Lewis and Clark landing drowning once again (as they did in 2011), as well as the entirety of River’s Edge Park completely underwater, making me wonder about the fate of Loessfest this year.

The kids mostly enjoyed the chance to get outside and run around, and we also saw a number Canadian geese migrating overhead, flying in wave after wave heading north in V formation. The effects of the flood were sobering in the meantime, but I couldn’t be prouder of the response of our friends and neighbors, who are stepping up with volunteers and supplies gathered at nearly every church I can name, including the ones we attend on Sunday and Wednesday night. Nebraska Strong, indeed.

Fish fry, St. Patty’s Parade, and Chili

It’s the season of “spent” once again, which naturally means indulging in a variety of lenten foods together with our friends.

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First item on the agenda is a fish fry at our traditional fish fry of choice, St. John Vianney in Millard. Our mutual friends Jenny and Kody, Jon, Phil and Jen, and their parents (who’d never been to a fish fry before) all joined us in the long, long line before getting our fill of fried fish, mac and cheese, french fries, and all the other greasy beige goodies available. My old co-worker Cliff dishes the fish, and Guitar Guy (whose name turns out to be Win) had us all “bah bah baaing” along to Sweet Caroline as we ate. We got a few raffle tickets as well, but nobody won anything. We did also see our friends the Mills — we’ll likely do a fish fry with them at a different venue in a couple weeks.

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On Saturday morning, we enjoyed some slight-above-freezing temperatures in downtown Omaha to see the St. Patrick’s Day parade, which was put on by the Ancient Order of Hibernians in Omaha. We got to see some Convertibles, monster trucks, and lots of people dressed in green. There was even a legion of Stormtroopers wearing kilts for whatever reason. And of course, there was plenty of candy, and we got a bigger share than usual being at the very tail end of the parade. We wound up missing the first half of the parade, but it was still nice to be able to see our first parade of the year in relatively nice weather (and stumbling upon an already-paid-for parking spot).

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Then that evening our friend Jessica was hosting her Second Annual Chili Cookoff at her apartment. Kate brought her girls, who played happily with Hannah most of the night as the rest of us samples each other’s chili. We saw a number of familiar faces form the night before, including Phil and Jen, who brought along some Mapo Tofu. There was also a rare appearance by Richard Burney, who brought along an Irish chocolate cream pie and a copy of RiffTrax, which kept us terribly amused toward the end of the evening.

Big winners of the night (if Chili gift cards, no less), was Phil for the mist unique chili, Kate for the spiciest, and Vivian for the best overall! We finished off the night with some delightfully weird RiffTrax shorts, courtesy of Richard, which included kids making horrifying monstrosities out of grass. of all things.

Mayors, Blossoms, and a Final Fish Fry

Spring has sprung, if the flowers in our yard are any indication. That means bike rides to work and starting my battle once again with the weeds in the yard. Of course, we’re also on that hairline trigger before we switch from heat to AC as the summer months loom around the corner.

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It’s also Election Season in Omaha as the city gets ready to pick a Mayor once again. I spotted young upstart Taylor Royal doing some campaigning on the corner of 132nd and Center on Tuesday last week on Primary Day. The 26-year-old candidate got 11% of the vote and went on to endorse incumbent Jean Stothert.

Meanwhile, Lent is winding down, so we went for one last Fish Fry with my parents and our friends the Mills. This was actually my parents’ first-ever fish fry experience. We went to St. Matthews’ in Bellevue, which was unfortunately not the all-you-can-seat experience I had been hoping for, so some of us were disappointed. On the upside, there was no mile-long line to stand in before dinner, which was just as well since the Mills had to flee to Homeschool Prom, and my parents left as soon as the band started up. Vivian and I let the kids play outside for a bit and rewarded them with the Last Piece of Pie before calling it a night.

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Lots of flowers are blooming all over Omaha in the meantime, including a bunch in our own front yard. On Saturday, we took the kids to Memorial Park to have a picnic under some blossoms and get some quality time on the playground while the weather was sufficiently gorgeous. We also ran into Kaleb and his family for the first time since the Murder Mystery last year. We may have to do one again sometime (perhaps with our kids).

Then that evening, our mutual friend Kate had a game night with a bunch of our mutual friends. We played a few hilarious rounds of Telestrations while having pulled pork and chicken doctored up with some of Phil and Jen’s Insanely Spicy Barbecue sauce. as usual, I was deeply appreciative of having friends with kids, which cancelled out the need for a sitter.

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Sunday was Palm Sunday, and I got to round up some palm branches for the kids to wave during the opening song, as nobody else seemed to think about it. We stuck around afterward for a lovely family photo outside, since we were all in our Sunday Best (and I just happened to have a tripod and telephoto lens in the car).

Then on Tuesday, Omaha Mayor Jean Stothert appeared at Big Mama’s Kitchen in a meet-the-candidates event held by “the hungry club.” I dropped in just long enough to grab a picture or two before being pulled away by a few guests who happened to show up at the office while I was away.

Rain, rain, go away

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We’ve had more than a solid week of gloomy gray skies with rain off and on that’s kept us indoors for the most part. We did take the kids for a semi-random romp downtown on the Gene Leahy Mall downtown on Friday. We got to see some ducks and a robin in-between going down slides and getting our first family photo on the First Date Bridge. Mostly, however, we were looking for Jesse Watters from Fox News, who was in town for the Spin Stops Here Tour. I was hoping he would be doing some man-on-the-street interviews downtown but had no luck spotting him or his crew.

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Then that evening, we squeezed into St. John Vianney’s with our kids for our second fish fry of the year. We saw a few familiar faces there, and we talked a handful of our friends into coming with us, including a few little ones who danced up “on stage” (as Hannah called it) with the Guitar Guy for a few songs. I mostly stuffed myself with fish in-between getting photo bombed, but it did feel good to come back to this place… for the eighth year in a row now!

In other news: Hannah made a gingerbread house.

Fairies and Fish Fries

We’re still having bouts of bi-polar weather, with 70-degree temperatures one day and freezing the next. The weather service predicted up to six inches of snow on the weekend, and we got exactly got ZERO. The only thing I can accurately predict is that we’ll have fun no matter what’s going on outside.

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Since it’s Lenten Season, however, that means we’re having fun inside standing in line, drinking beer, and eating fish with our friends. First stop on our Fishy Friday tour was St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, located out of Omaha’s Exurban wasteland, Gretna (with miles of cookie-cutter neighborhoods in every direction but not even one grocery store). The fish was top-notch, though I did find the lack of guitar player and meat wheel a tad disappointing. We still had plenty of fishy fun with our friends up to (and past) closing time.

The next day, Hannah made gingerbread cookies with daddy. She did nearly everything herself, aside from picking the ingredients and putting everything in the oven. Nothing beats baking cookies for quality time with the kids, other than perhaps reading a good book.

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St. Patrick’s Day wandered by and punched us in the face on Friday. We gave the kids some Lucky Charms for breakfast and got them dressed up in green for the day. Then that evening, we had our traditional Irish American dinner together — corned beef, cabbage, red potatoes, and soda bread, all washed down with a bit of Irish Stout and Mint Irish Cream.

Then on Saturday, we dropped by the Fontenelle Forest for their Fairy Faire. Hannah and Aaron both put on their wings, hear a fairy story, and play with some bubbles. Even daddy got in on the fun. They also got tokens to spend on a snack and some woodland components to assemble a fairy house at various points in the forest.

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We also had a few birthdays over the weekend. After the Fairy Faire on Saturday, we took the kids to the Y for Little Matthew Lenart’s birthday party. The kids got sugared up with a Batman Cookie Cake, and then we swam it off in the pool together for a bit.

Then on Sunday, I took the kids via wagon to my my parents’ house to celebrate Uncle Jonny’s birthday. Hannah made him a birthday card, and Nathan and I (somewhat jointly) gave him the giant hardcover book, Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the NES Library — a book created via Kickstarter that reviews pretty much every NES game ever made. The weather was delightfully warm, so the kids got some quality time outdoors playing with balloons (some filled with water) while grandpa brought some Chinese food and pizza home for dinner.

Something fishy

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Because once is never enough, on Friday last week we dropped by St. John Vianney a second time for a fish fry with our friends. This time around, we braved the line with Lisa, Jenny, Kody, and Jon, as well as Phil and Jen when they finally arrived a few hours later. A bunch of Vivian’s friends from Friendship Program also came along, including Cliff and Amber and their baby boy. We all had our fill of fried fish and carb-laden sides as Guitar Guy played our standard set of songs. Lisa also happened to win another package of raffle meat, repeating her win from our very first first fry back in 2009 (no meat dress this time around, though). After dinner, we enjoyed playing with some eye-gouging paper airplanes before calling it a night.

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Spring definitely seems to have returned to Nebraska, at least for the time being, so on Saturday we took the kids down for some quality time at the Sand Park. Aaron braved the slides like a champ, repeatedly flopping his way down the curvy, bumpy slides without a problem. Hannah also made a friend with a set of construction toys, and even Grandma and Grandpa came by to visit a bit before we went home.

The next day, we had our first grill-out of the year, having burgers out on the patio as a way of kicking winter to the curb, at least for now. (We could still certainly have another blizzard or two before June. You never know.)

Fish Fries and Chocolate Dinners

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The Lenten Season is upon us again, and that means Fish Fries (in addition to giving up Facebook). Our friends Nate and Lexi had their fourth young-un the other day — Gabriel — and dad decided to give mom some alone time with the baby by joining the Johnson Family for a fish fry down at St. John Vianney’s. They had the usual assortment of fried fish, pancakes, tomato soup, et cetera, and we got there early enough to avoid most of the line that usually accumulated by mid-evening. Of course, we also had five kids in tow, but a couple balloons (and an extra long French Fry) kept them fairly occupied before we were able to get our food. This was also Aaron’s first fish-fry experience, and he managed to clean his plate fairly well with the rest of us. We saw some familiar faces, including Frank and the Guitar Guy, as well as Cliff, who I used to work with at Land and Sky some eight years ago. It’s a small world.

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In other news, Twin Valley Church has a new pastor. You may remember back in November Pastor Drew and his family left our church and moved to Clear Lake, Iowa. Since then, we’ve been searching for a new pastor for our little flock, and after a very brief search came across the resume of Pastor Ryan Folken. He and his family used to live in Nebraska back in 2008 but had to move due to the recession. They seemed to be quite eager to move back, and after visiting extensively with our church family, Pastor Ryan agreed to become our new head pastor. On Saturday, I helped a bunch of people from TVC (and a few of Ryan’s old friends here) move into the parsonage next door to the church. He and his family seem like a wonderful fit for us, and by some coincidence they have two boys and two girls (one Hannah’s age) just as the Rietjens did.

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Sunday, of course, was Valentine’s Day. Vivian got up early and made me a lovely flower-shaped apple tarts for breakfast and a handmade valentine. Hannah and Mommy both got a cardsflowers and candy, some of which Hannah ate right away, of course. Hannah had also made cards for both grandmas, and Aaron got to give Grammy a bunch of roses when she came over to babysit.

That evening, Vivian and I went down to James Arthur Vineyards in Lincoln for a chocolate-themed Valentine dinner. There was a personal chocolate fondue, salad with chocolate vinaigrette, and a coffee and cocoa-crusted Beef Tenderloin, each with its own wine pairing. Jenny and Kody came as well, and we stayed so long talking about wine and other things that the four of us were the last to leave. Visiting JAV always brings back memories of when I poured for the Lincoln Ad Club’s Taste of the Vine events a decade ago. I’ll have to remember to come back and visit when they have live music again in the summer.

Four-course Wine & Chocolate Dinner
Food by Dinner & Company and wine from James Arthur Vineyards

  1. Appetizer: Chocolate Caramel Fondue with Fruit. Paired with Amo Te, a very sweet red wine.
  2. Salad: Spring Salad with Strawberries and Chocolate Chunks. Paired with Horizon, a lighter red wine meant for summertime.
  3. Entrée: Coffee and Cocoa Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Asparagus with Chocolate Drizzle, and White Chocolate Risotto. Paired with Nebraska Red (dry) or San Realto (sweet).
  4. Dessert: Chocolate Macaroon Bars, Raspberry Brownie Dessert, and Bavarian Mint Fudge. Paired with Aura, a clear, port-style wine.

Holy Name and Homemade Pizza

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It’s been a busy week here in Omaha, with lots of fun involving food (of course). On Monday last week, with temperatures pushing their way into the 90s, the whole family took a trip down to Lincoln. I had some freelance work to attend to, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun for an afternoon of bouncing around. Hannah had been there when she was just one year old, but now she was old enough to visit more exhibits than just the ball pit, such as the big ceiling-projected video game in the “dark room.”

For dinner, we drove up to Big Sal’s and gave Hannah and Aaron her first taste of mom and dad’s favorite pizza place in Nebraska. Yes, Aaron got to nibble on bits of black olive and pizza crust, and Hannah managed to finish a whole piece by herself.

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The next day was St. Patrick’s Day, so we got to imbibe in our annual tradition of corned beef and cabbage, Irish soda bread, and red potatoes. Every store was selling out of corned beef up until March 17, and then the price plummeted to less than $1/pound, so we picked up some that on sale to have a couple reubens down the road (which were, in fact, invented in Omaha. Don’t let anyone tell you differently.)

No green beer or Bailey’s, however — I’ve given it all up for lent.

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On Friday, we had our second Fish Fry of the year, heading up to Holy Name in north Omaha with a cluster of our fabulous friends. I’d heard about this fish fry from our mutual friend Lisa, primarily being one of the first and biggest fish fries in the area. It was also notorious for having one of the longest lines, which was quite ironic, because when we arrived, there was absolutely no line at all. Seriously, we were able to walk right in, but we stood in the hallway for some time just to get the whole standing-in-line experience. (A crowd outside was hanging around for the same reason, I expect.)

The cafeteria was packed pretty tight, however, steaming hot and filled with the smell of fried fish that stuck to your clothes. The fish itself was hands-down the best I’d had at any fish fry before. We had freshly-battered chunks of pollock that were steaming and delicious the moment they were put on your plate. I washed it down with a can or two of Cheerwine that I smuggled in from outside and a fun night of goofiness fueled by deep-fried goodness.

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Then on Saturday, we celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday down at my parent’s house. Jonathan had been wanting to relive his childhood, so my dad put out the lawn flamingos and spent the afternoon playing Intellivision and eating homemade pizza for dinner (literally the way mom used to make). Vivian also brought along one of her legendary chocolate cheesecakes.

We brought the kids along, too, of course. They got some time being cute with grandma and grandpa, which included learning the joys of chasing a red dot from a laser pointer all over the house.

Spring Breaks

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I think spring is here at last, with the last of the slow melting under highs creeping into the upper 70s. That also means it’s time for our first Lenten Fish Fry of the season. Of course, we had to go to St. John Vianney’s, and this time we took the Mills with us. Lexi had never been to a fish fry before, and Nate hadn’t been to one since his days in Michigan, so we braved the crowds to feast on batter-dipped cod, tomato soup, grilled cheese, french fries, et cetera (as in pancakes). This was also the first time Hannah (and Sammy) had been able to actually participate in the fish-eating feeding frenzy as mom and dad got to “bah bah bah” along to Sweet Caroline courtesy of our favorite Lenten guitarist and his (probably tipsy) backup singers. Good times never seemed so good.

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Of course, family trips to the park are now practically mandatory with short-sleeved weather upon us. We got to drop by our favorite neighborhood park with my folks on Saturday for some quality time pushing the kids on the swings and trying to send Hannah flying off the X-Wave teeter-totter. The weekdays were even nicer, with lunchtime weather nice enough for a brisk walk up the Keystone Trail or even our first family picnic on a blanket at Stinson Park.

We got a brief moment of extra excitement when Vivian was interviewed by WOWT Channel 6 for a story on child safety. They ran the story during the ten o’clock news on Saturday, so check it out if you’d like to see a glimpse of us during our typical romp in the park.