Category Archives: Christmas

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!

A Full-On Family Christmas

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Merry Christmas, everybody! It turns out we had a white Christmas in Omaha after all. Of course, the weather folks were predicting just barely a dusting up until a few minutes before eleven inches fell on the metro area. It made for a slippery, treacherous drive to work on Thursday morning, but by noon o’clock the sun was out and turning everything to slush. The city had also transformed into a frosted winter wonderland, but that also meant I had to get our driveway shoveled up and scraped before it froze over.

Then Vivian and I brought Hannah outside to play a bit in the snow, making a snow angel, building a snowman, and also teaching her how to throw a snowball (but she decided that snow was better to eat than to throw).

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The inclement weather brought cancellations to our Christmas Eve service plans, which was a bit of a shame, but that did give us more time to have a proper Christmas Eve Dinner together with our friend Shirley. Jack made some roast beef with vegetables as Vivian helped out with the sides. Then afterward, Hannah and Aaron each got to open up a present or two, which included some new Christmas Jammies for both of them. Then after they were in bed (and the dishes were washed), the grown-ups got to open up our “stocking” presents together while having pie. Among many things, such as lens wipes and snowman ornaments, I got a tiny tub of Marmite that I immediately put on a cracker. (And then it mysteriously went missing. We haven’t seen it since.)

Before the grown-ups went to bed for a long winter’s nap, we got the presents all sorted out underneath the tree for Hannah and Aaron to see when they woke up the next morning. They both got quite a haul once again this year. I have to wonder where on earth we’re going to put all their new loot!

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The next morning, Hannah got up around six-thirty to find that Santa had come overnight. We’d set up a tiny table with a pair of chairs for a set of “tea party” snacks for Hannah and Aaron to nibble once they got up and started opening presents. They both got a handful of books, games, and many different toys, including a plush Olaf and a set of Peppa Pig figures. Hannah also got a toy penguin that danced to Papa Americano, which she played repeatedly until Pop-Pop told her to put it away in the basement where he didn’t have to hear it anymore. I mixed up some batter and made Christmas Waffles for everyone, which we ate with whipped cream and strawberries courtesy of Donna.

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That afternoon, Donna and Vivian put the finishing touches on their cakes, which we brought to my mom and dad’s house on Christmas night. Dad put up his family of plastic lawn flamingos for the occasion, and then Jonathan, Nathan, and Ranae all joined us for a full and fairly complete family meal together. My parents cooked up a trio of Papa Murphy’s pizzas for dinner, and then we opened a slew of new presents in the living room afterward. Hannah got a Play-Dough set, Aaron got a toy train, and my mom got practical gifts such as MREs and a First Aid Kit (yay, dad). We had some cake afterward to celebrate Jesus’ Birthday, and then we finished off the evening looking at a few goofy slides Uncle Jonny had picked out for our amusement before going home.

It was a lovely Christmas overall, and we finished off the holiday by finally watching Star Wars: The Force Awakens in the theater on Saturday morning. Mom watched the kids, and then all five of us in the Johnson Clan went out to lunch together at Village Inn to reminisce before calling it quits.

I’m so happy to have so many lovely people to share the holiday with. Merry Christmas, everyone!

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!

Christmas Brunch

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Merry Christmas, everyone! The Johnson Family Christmas of 2013 started off on Christmas Eve with a candlelight service down at Twin Valley Church. We had about an hour’s worth of songs and scripture reading, and Hannah got to dress up and participate along with a bunch of other little children who went up on stage with our portrayal of the holy family. We finished things off by turning down the lights, holding candles and singing Silent Night together. There were several guests who came to join us, including our friend Shirley, Randy and Jolene, as well as Pastor Drew’s folks.

We returned home for the evening to have a few hors d’oeuvres for dinner and exchange a few presents. Hannah got to open a new Elmo from Roxanne, which she took with her as she toddled off to bed. Then we started hauling up a load of presents to place underneath the tree for Hannah to find once she woke up the next morning. It was really the first time we got to “play Santa” in this way, and I think we were quite ready to settle our brains for a long winter’s nap by the time Christmas was ready.

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The next day, Vivian’s parents dropped by bright and early see Hannah’s reaction as she woke up to find a pile of presents for her underneath the tree. The haul for her third Christmas included such items as a baby doll high chair and bed, magnetic drawing tablet, and play dough, all of which she seemed to focus on with a single-minded focus that left no room for interest in other presents (for at least half an hour at at time). Donna had brought some delicious quiche for a Christmas Brunch that we ate halfway through openings presents as a break. Hannah was quite happy playing with her new gifts and not quite interested in taking a nap that afternoon as we’d hoped, so I offered to pull on her new Minnie Mouse boots and drop by the park for some swing-time in the above-freezing weather. Dinner that night consisted of DiGiorno’s Pizza, a tradition carried over from my parents who had the brilliant idea of not spending Christmas Day in the kitchen roasting a turkey. We had a few more fun presents to pull out of our stockings after dinner, which included a balancing bird, and a tape measure that became Hannah’s newest Best Toy Ever (as well as some clowning around).

It was a wonderful Christmas to say the least, partly because Hannah was now old enough to enjoy a bit more of it with us.

Merry Christmas, 2012!

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Merry Christmas, everyone! Christmas seemed to come awfully quick this year, and Vivian and I found ourselves scrambling to get last-minute stocking stuffers at Nobbies and wrap presents before the big day arrived. Fortunately, all our gifts went out on schedule, even a last-minute Hannah Calendar I made for my folks and forgot to send until the Thursday before Christmas.

On Christmas Eve, we stopped by Twin Valley Church for their candlelight Christmas Eve service. I was on hand to do the overhead lyrics, as usual, and I also grabbed my camera to snap several pictures of the kids and adults all participating up at the front of the church. Afterward, we invited Donna’s co-worker Shirley over to our house to have a dinner of hors d’eourves and then open our “stockings” together before bedtime.

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Christmas Day brought with it a predictable slew of loot. Vivian got a gravy boat, Jack got some pants, Donna got a trifle bowl, I got a relic of America’s past, and our friend Eric dropped by and made off with some WD-40 (among other things). Hannah got an activity center with enough buttons to keep her occupied for a while, and Vivian also got a decoy present to distract her from the real one hiding around the corner (a Nintendo Wii marked for Hannah).

We finished off the evening with a giant Christmas dinner with all the trimmings for the six of us. Once our family recovers from a series of colds we’ll have to get an early start on our New Year’s Resolution and hit the Y to work off some of the Christmas goodness we’ve been enjoying. And by goodness I mean fudge. Lots of it.

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.

Christmas in North Carolina

Vivian and I were able to spend a lovely couple of days in North Carolina visiting my parents over Christmas. We were fortunate enough to escape the ice and snow that hit Omaha on Christmas Eve and had only a slight delay flying in from Chicago.

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Vivian and I landed with enough time to attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at my parents’ church in Buies Creek. We woke up relatively early on Christmas morning to open presents. I received a couple books from my parents, a USB hub from Nathan, an iPod video adapter from Jonathan, and a new mouse from Vivian. I gave Vivian a music stand, and my mom put together a collection of recipes for foods I liked to eat growing up. I think that was more a gift for me than for Vivian. My dad got some nuts and some DVDs, and my mom got the world’s tiniest frying pan from my dad. She apparently wanted a “small” frying pan, but this little thing was apparently designed to fry hummingbird eggs (one at a time).

At noon, we had a traditional Christmas dinner together, which at our house means turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (with leftovers to last for a couple days). We spent the rest of the day dissolving into blobs playing an old copy of The Ungame and watching Holiday Inn.

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On Saturday, the four of us took a day-long trip down to Wilmington, a picturesque little resort town along the coast. It seems North Carolinians are especially fond of their fried chicken, with several chains such as Church’s, Chick Fil A, and Bojangles thriving when they don’t exist in the Midwest. We enjoyed some artery-clogging goodness at Bojangles, before moving on to tour a battleship.

The U.S.S. North Carolina served for a couple years in World War 2, but it now serves as a tourist attraction. Vivian and I got to play with some turret guns and see where a couple thousand servicemen got to sleep, eat, and work while at war. It was a fascinating trip, and we didn’t even get tired walking up and down dozens of tiny, harrowing flights of stairs.

We were able to get a brief glimpse of the ocean that afternoon before having dinner at the King Neptune Restaurant before going home.

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On Sunday, we went to church with my parents and had some genuine North Carolina barbecue down at Ron’s Barn, a well-known local eatery. Barbecue in the south consists of shredded pork with a sauce made of red pepper and vinegar, which takes a little getting used to.

Afterward, Vivian and I took a walk around campus and enjoyed the gorgeous fifty-degree weather, just perfect for a walk through a cotton field. We weren’t missing Nebraska’s ice and snow one bit, and we enjoyed having a green Christmas.

Later on, we stopped by the Cotton Museum over in Coats, where we got to see some old cotton processing machines and quilt patterns used as covert signals in the Underground Railroad.

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On Monday, our last day together, we had breakfast at the Red Barn restaurant, a favorite place for the Gideons group my dad belongs to. My dad showed Vivian and me some of his old, stored treasures afterward, including my grandmother’s cut glass, tiny clothes he wore as a baby, and his old ‘coon skin cap. That evening, my dad fried up some “rosettes,” little flower-shaped donuts dressed with powdered sugar. We rounded off the evening with a round of Pictionary before packing up to go home.

It was great to be home for the holidays, and we were quite happy to spend a couple days away from the ice and snow back in Narnia. A winter full of crisp and cool 50-degree days could be very easy to get used to.