Category Archives: New Year

Happy New Decade

Hello, 2020 — a New Year, a New Year, and a new season of writing on the wrong year on everything. Seriously, it’s going to take a while for 2020 to sound more like a real-life year and not a TV show.

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Somehow, we ended the year in the same way we started it — with a visit from Senator and Presidential Candidate Elizabeth Warren. I’m honestly surprised she’s still in the race, considering the gaffe claiming Native American ancestry. She’s one of the farther-left candidates on the Democratic ticket, which is a shift from her earlier days when she supported such things as school choice. She’s still one of the front-runners, however, so I joined a couple hundred people at Woodrow Wilson Middle School to hear her talk about teachers’ unions, climate change, and other Democrat issues. (Strangely enough, she didn’t once mention Donald Trump or the impeachment, which was something of a surprise.)

Her husband Bruce Mann was also in the crowd, which seemed a mix of older folks, families, and young people. Sen. Warren also seemed to make a point of making time for “selfies” after her Q&A session, which at least half the crowd of around 300 stuck around for. It was interesting to see how many people were getting selfies before the event started. Unlike most folks in the crowd, however, I wanted to get a question on video rather than a selfie. Her staff didn’t seem sure hat to make of that (and seemed a bit suspicious of me), and they insisted on holding my phone for me when I got up to meet Sen. Warren. Was going to ask if she’d appear on the show of her former student, Ben Shapiro, but I decided to ask a softball supplied by my daughter Hannah and asked about Warren’s kids instead. You can see a video of that here.

It’s always a bit of a thrill to meet the Presidential candidates I hear about on my daily podcasts, even if I’m not planning on voting for them. In about a month, they’ll all be gone!

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Then on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated the only way we know how — with lots and lots of food! We made some homemade corn dogs with a corn dog maker unearthed from our basement, along with some frozen fruit smoothies using a smoothie maker Hannah got for her birthday. My folks (and Uncle Jonny) came by a little later and got to meet Harold the Guinea Pig. They brought along a fondue set and some sirloin steak to cook in boiling canola oil, which was quite tasty. We also sampled some unique cheeses I’d gotten from Aldi, which included an “ash” brie and Borgonzola.

After my folks left, Hannah played Trouble with Mommy and Grammy while waiting for midnight. Jack and Donna joined in and stayed later for a cheese fondue that Vivian cooked up for us. Hannah stayed up late as well, having fun dipping things in the cheese fondue and serving them to us rather than eating them. We had the TV tuned to the ball drop in New York City and then toasted the New Year when they replayed it for the Central Time Zone, ringing in a new year and a new decade.

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We slept in on New Year’s Day and then had a mostly quiet day cleaning up and then playing at the park with the kids. It was warm enough for them to have an hour or two to run around the Sandy Park before Jack and Donna came over to our house for dinner. Jack brought a black-eyed pea soup made with leftover Christmas ham (specifically the bone), which we had with a table full of hors d’oeuvres (hooray for meat roll-ups).

Now that the holidays are officially over, we’re going to have to start taking down our decorations and thinking about all the things we can expect in 2020 — fun and otherwise. Happy New Year, everybody!

New Year Fondue

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I decided to take off from work the few days between Christmas and New Year’s, which let me recover a bit after Christmas and get some extra time with the kids. We did mundane things like get both of our cars an oil change, and we got the kids some exercise running around at the Kroc Center and at Burger King over lunch. I also got Hannah to decorate a belated Christmas card for Uncle Nathan so I could send him a belated Christmas gift (namely CASH).

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We got some more quality time with family and food on New Year’s Eve. My folks came over with Uncle Jonny to join us for a round of Apples to Apples, and then Jack and Donna stayed with us until midnight having some cheese fondue as the last moments of 2018 faded away. Hannah was bound and determined to stay up until midnight with us, and she spent some time drawing pictures with Grammy. She crashed eventually sometime around eleven, but we roused her before midnight came to the Central Time Zone.

I popped open a bottle of sparkling white as we rang in the New Year together before calling it a night. We spent New Year’s Day recovering from the night before, letting Aaron practice the alphabet on my Raspberry Pi and having some of Jack’s spicy black-eyed peas for dinner.

Tomorrow, it’s back to work (and reality) after a lovely, long Christmas break. Bring it on, 2019!

Hello, 2018!

Welcome to 2018, everyone! The holidays have come to a rollicking close, though we wound up spending much of it indoors thanks to both a cold snap that brought temperatures well below zero and also actual colds among various family members. We took the kids to Burger King just to get them out of the house and play in their play area. We’ll likely be joining the Kroc Center just to have a place for the kids to run around when it’s this cold.

We’ve also had fun playing our Christmas presents, including the electric tire pump Grammy and Pop-Pop gave us, new blankets for the kids, new clothes, and my new Pebble watch. I also got rear-ended right before New Year’s, so hopefully I’ll get a new bumper (assuming they don’t total out the car).

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On New Year’s Eve, Vivian and her folks made a bunch of tasty foods to say goodbye to 2017. We had hors d’oeuvres with a bunch of jalapeño poppers along with some olive bread Vivian made in her cast iron and some chilled Martinelli’s to toast the New Year at midnight. The kids stayed up until around midnight (in Portugal, Brazil AKA 7 PM), and then the rest of us stayed up until midnight having a cheese fondue together while the ball dropped in New York City on TV. Our neighbors were setting off fireworks every hour as midnight approached, even though the city of Omaha cancelled theirs due to the -16°F cold outside.

The next day, I decided to have some fun with the cold, watching bubbles freeze on the front porch and tossing boiling water into the air. It eventually “warmed up” to double-digits the next day, but we’ll still probably a long ways from spring (and painting the chimney). In the meantime: half-priced rib-eye at Aldi. Yum.

Welcome to 2017

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Happy New Year, everyone! We had a lovely welcome into 2017 with a quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. I had time to enjoy some of my Christmas presents, such as ingredients for some Moscow Mules and an egg patty maker for my breakfast sandwiches. The weather has also been wonderfully accommodating — warm enough to rake some leaves or take one last trip to the park (for cupcakes).

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Lauritzen Gardens also had free admission through the end of 2016, so I took a long lunch break and went to visit with Vivian and the kids on Thursday. We’ve been to the gardens in the spring, fall, and now the winter, and every time it’s a different experience. This time, there were winter flowers inside along with a giant poinsettia Christmas tree. The train sets had also been moved inside for the season, which Aaron was naturally fascinated with. We didn’t expect much to be in bloom outside (other than a Christmas tree or two), so we had a long walk through the greenhouse before we left.

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Then on New Year’s Eve, we celebrated a countdown at the Bellevue Library. Mrs. B, who has since retired, got roped into introducing a few of the new books for 2017 to the cluster of children gathered there. Then we threw confetti and blew party whistles to ring in the New Year (which was happening someplace over Uzbekistan at the time).

Then that evening we went to Twin Valley Church to have a game night with a few of our friends as we counted down toward the new year. We played a couple rounds of Telestrations and Apples to Apples while eating our standard New Year’s feast of chips and dip, washing it down with sparkling cider (in champagne flutes) as the ball dropped in New York City. We packed things up and returned home in time to celebrate 2017 in the Central Time Zone before heading off to bed.

I had an extra day off on Monday to relax as the kids played inside and Vivian and I went out to lunch at Beijing Tokyo. The holidays seemed to linger a bit as we left our tree and lights up long enough to get some pretty pictures of them with my new tripod, but it’s about time to say goodbye to Christmas and then hello to January. At least there’s a Cheese Party involved.

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Goodbye, Christmas

New Year 2016

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Happy New Year, everyone! The Johnson Family welcomed 2016 with some family and friends on New Year’s Eve. Daddy got off work early and came down to the Bellevue Public Library, where Hannah and Aaron (and mommy and grammy) were ringing in the New Year with confetti, noisemakers, and some books read by Mrs. B.

Then that evening, we had both sets of grandparents over along with our friends Jenny, Kody, and Lydia to have some hors d’oeuvres and cheese fondue together. Then we watched the time-delayed ball drop in Times Square downstairs, marking another one of Earth’s trips around the sun.

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We still had plenty of snow to enjoy over the long, three-day weekend, so on Saturday we took the kids outside to play in some of it. Aaron got his first experience tossing around the white stuff, Hannah made some snow angels, and Vivian showed them both what it means to throw a snowball. We even dropped by Grandma and Grandpa’s house to play in their snow for a bit. Dad snapped a new, wintry family picture for us, and then we went inside for some hot cocoa — another lovely first for our little ones.

Cheese Fondue

The dawn of a new year is upon us again, and that means living it up during that brief week between Christmas and New Years when nobody’s really ready to go back to work.

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On the Saturday before New Year’s, we decided to drop by the Omaha Children’s Museum with the kids to have some time at the “indoor park.” I invited my parents along, who could get in for free as guests and watch their grandchildren running around and having fun. We did a little face-painting and spent some time putting balls in the pneumatic tubes before heading upstairs to the farm exhibit. Hannah spent the rest of her time playing on the retro playground (saved from Richman Gordman’s Zooland) and taking a trip on the carousel. We also found a few minutes for a father/daughter puppet show before calling it a day. Then we stopped by Five Guys for some good, sloppy burgers for dinner on the way home.

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On New Year’s Eve, the Bellevue Public Library was having a special lunchtime event. Mrs. B got up to read a few of the new books at the library for 2015, including one with “no pictures” by B.J. Novak from The Office. They also had door prizes, and Hannah got a Frozen storybook with a read-along CD. We counted down to the “New Year” (which was striking someplace in Bangkok) and sang Auld Lang Syne before tossing some confetti and calling it a day.

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That evening, we rang in the New Year in Nebraska with all four grandparents at our house. Vivian prepared a lovely Cheese Fondue from scratch using Gruyere and white wine in our fondue pot. It was quite delicious, though we had to keep adding wine to keep it from turning solid on us. My mom and dad called it a night early as the rest of us sat through a few musical acts in Times Square as 2015 struck the East Coast and then the Central Time Zone before we headed off to bed.

On New Years Day, the kids were nice enough to let us sleep in a bit before we got up and watched the Rose Parade. That evening, Jack and Donna returned to our house to have some tasty black-eyed peas and cornbread for our traditional New Years’ dinner together. Then my dad came by and we watched Alabama play Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl. The Tide lost, of course, but it was a memorable evening as it was the first time my dad and I had ever actually watched Alabama play in a game before. It’s hard to believe, since my dad is a 1995 graduate of the U of A, but somehow we’d never gotten around to watching his alma mater play in an actual game before. Better late than never.

Happy New Year, everyone, and welcome to 2015.

Black-eyed Peas

Happy New Year, everyone! Vivian, Hannah, and I have enjoyed ringing in the new year with our family and friends as the calendar turned another page.

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Shortly after Christmas, Phil and Jen invited us over to their place for a “hot pot” dinner with Cameron and Phil’s sister (now husband and wife). Phil and Jen are always great about introducing us to new culinary and cultural experiences, so we all got to enjoy picking out tofu, chicken, seafood, and bok choy from a simmering pot in the middle of the table with a variety of chopsticks. Even Hannah got in on the action, which was adorable. One thing I love about my daughter is that she’s never hesitant about trying new things.

We had some gorgeous post-Christmas weather on Saturday, with highs in the 60s, so I made sure to take Hannah down to the park to enjoy it while we could, happily playing outside and having a burger for lunch. Uncle Jonny came down for a post-Christmas visit, so we got to catch up with him watching some cheesy movies, and then we went to see Frozen with Uncle Nathan and have dinner at Village Inn.

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On New Year’s Eve, the Johnson Family joined a bunch of our friends at Twin Valley Church for a game night as we waited to welcome 2014. I played a couple rounds of Scattergories and Pictionary, and we even broke out Operation for a few minutes of extracting plastic toilets and boogers with a pair of electronic tweezers. Hannah got to toddle around with a few of the TVC kids and figure out a Mr. Potato Head. Pastor Drew and a few of our other friends spent a couple hours playing Ticket to Ride, and then they spent an hour or two more going over the rules of an even more complicated game called Seven Wonders. I think they eventually got to play before midnight, because Randy managed to win by a few points. Midnight rolled around and we all cheered Happy New year before going home to collapse.

On New Year’s Day, Vivian and I slept in and spent a good portion of the day playing clean-up and shoveling the inch or two of snow that fell overnight off our driveway. That evening, we dropped by Jack and Donna’s for a New Year’s dinner of black-eyed peas and ham. Donna read Hannah a story or two (without the help of Hannah’s new LeapFrog Tag Junior) and then gave a couple of us haircuts before calling it a night.

Ringing it in

The holidays have quickly drawn to a close, and I felt reluctant to let the Yuletide Joy pass away into the boring cold winter of just plain January. Of course, we still have one last hurrah in the form of New Year’s Eve, which means fun with friends, as usual.

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The first stop on the party train was Katie’s birthday, which actually falls on New Year’s Eve, but we celebrated the Saturday before. Vivian and I made the trek from Bellevue to one of Omaha’s nine or ten Olive Gardens, all of which were packed to the brim with people requiring us to park our car somewhere in the middle of Elkhorn and climb over a few snowy mountains to make our way back. We brought Hannah along, and she seemed to enjoy chowing down on lasagna and chicken Parmesan with the rest of us.

After dinner, we scooted on down to Katie’s house afterward to have cake and participate in everyone’s newest favorite game: Progressive Word-Guessing. This where we all submit words based on a theme (Halloween, Christmas, winter, or whatever we happen to be doing at the moment). We have two teams and for the first round (using Jon’s Droid as a timer) each team member takes a turn trying to get the others to say the word by describing it without saying the word itself. For the next round, we do the same thing only using two words. For the third round, we use only charades, and for the fourth (and rarely reached) round, we have sound effects. It’s been a fairly easy stand-by game requiring only slips of paper, a bowl, and a timer, and is still the only way you can scream “Buddy the Elf” in public.

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On New Year’s Eve, our family dropped by Pastor Drew’s house for an evening with their herd of kids and a few other friends from church. We brought an assortment of nibblins’ for dinner, which included addictive quinoa cupcakes made with Parmesan cheese courtesy of Kelly. Hannah enjoyed getting some girl time with the Rietjens kids, who played quietly when they weren’t treating her like a giant doll that they could tackle, dress up, and put to bed at will. The “adults” got to play a series of crazy games based on “minute to win it,” which included stacking chocolate donuts, golf balls, swinging fruit, and shaking our butts. It was a fun and crazy way to finish off the end of the year, and we watched a series of funny YouTube videos as the year concluded, toasting it with Martinelli’s before going home.


In other news, Hannah loves bubbles.

New Year’s Dedication

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Happy 2012, everybody! The Johnson Family had a wonderful little reunion of sorts over the year, as you might have guessed from my blog’s year-end review. Mom and dad flew into Omaha Thursday afternoon, so I took a few days off work to spend some quality time with them and their new granddaughter. The weather has been unseasonably beautiful for the last few weeks, so we enjoyed both a green Christmas and safe travel conditions for the folks. (It was even warm enough for Vivian and mom to go for a walk with Hannah!)

Naturally, we had to celebrate by dropping by Louie M’s Burger Lust on Friday, but mostly we spent a good deal of time doing nothing but taking turns cuddling with Hannah around the house.

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On Saturday, Dad and I took a trip to Tish’s in Council Bluffs to say hello to Newt Gingrich, who was dropping in again shortly before the Iowa Causes began. The place was jam-packed with people and newsmedia, who all seemed to enjoy cramming into every bit of available space for pictures and video as the former speaker squeezed his way to the podium. Newt’s wife Callista was also there, as were Newt’s daughters and a handful of grandchildren. Dad was lucky enough to get a seat in the front row, which made for some nice dramatic shots. We stuck around to shake hands with the Gingriches and get a picture with them before heading home.

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Back home, the rest of the family — namely Nathan, Ranae, and Jonathan — showed up later that evening to exchange belated Christmas gifts (and birthday gifts for the parents). Mom got a puzzle, dad got framed photographs of Grover Cleveland and Calvin Coolidge, and Hannah got a small plush monkey from Campbell University (among other things). I volunteered to make spaghetti for dinner while mom tossed up a salad. It was the first time I can recall the two of us ever cooking together (or at least cooking in the same kitchen). Jonathan brought along an old film called Ruggles of Red Gap, so we watched that while we ate. We called it a night around eight o’clock as Nathan and Ranae headed home and mom and dad headed back to the hotel. The rest of us stayed up until midnight to watch the ball drop on Times Square while sipping sparkling wine and Martinelli’s to ring in the New Year.

(We also wished a Happy Birthday to Santasaurus.)

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On New Year’s Day, Vivian and I joined both sets of grandparents and a handful of our friends at Twin Valley Church to witness Hannah’s dedication before the congregation. It was wonderful to have both sets of grandparents on hand for the occasion, especially since this was the first grandchild on both sides of the family. Drew said a few words and prayed while holding our little girl. She was very well behaved, though Vivian and I were both holding our breath with pacifier and bottle ready just in case we needed them. Special thanks to Eric for taking all the wonderful photos.

Afterward, we rang in the New Year together down at Village Inn over dark coffee and breakfast-for-lunch. The grandparents joined us again that evening for ham and black-eyed pea soup for dinner. The rest of the weekend wound down quite uneventfully, which was fine by me. We spent more quality time hanging with the folks and taking plenty of adorable pictures before mom and dad flew home Tuesday morning.

New Year’s in Kansas City

Vivian and I spent another New Year’s Eve in Kansas City, a town we’re both growing increasingly fond of, and not just because it’s the home to our two comic friends Vort & Michelle (who actually live in Independence).

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We beat a nasty snow and ice storm and headed down a day early to stay at the Sheraton next to the decked out Country Club Plaza. We’d visited the Plaza a few times before, but we’d never seen it dressed up for Christmas. It was quite lovely to walk around in the not-quite-freezing weather and enjoy a piece of cheesecake down by the Cheesecake Factory before bedtime.

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We had a fun-filled time the next day seeing a few new sights around Kansas City, which mostly included food. After a greasy breakfast at the Waffle House, we dropped into the Better Cheddar, which is quickly becoming one of Vivian’s favorite haunts, to spend a small fortune on cheese, jellies, and various sauces. We also dropped by the World Market for more off-shore goodies before having some barbecue lunch up at Arthur Bryant’s, which was a favorite of my dad’s when we lived in Warrensburg. It was a fairly typical (albeit famous) KC barbecue joint, though Jack Stack is still going to be our favorite for some time.

Afterward, we had time to gawk at the ruins of the Wheatley Provident Hospital, which had apparently been the first black hospital built in Kansas City. We rounded out the day by visiting Union Station, KC’s old train station which has since been remodeled as a kind of large museum (not unlike the Durham). Most of the exhibits were closed, but we did drop into the Build a Dino workshop to create our very own Santa Saurus. The holidays will never be the same. ROAR!

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Our next stop was Vort and Michelle’s home down over in Independence. We had dinner and killed some time cracking up to Jeff Dunham talking to his puppets and playing Kirby’s Epic Yarn on the Wii. Once Fading Aura arrived from Colombia and then made a quick trip up to Walmart to buy ingredients to make chocolate chip cookies before midnight. We rang in the New Year with sparkling white wine and grape juice and then played a game called Outbreak as the first dark hours of 2011 unfolded before us.

P1020597On the first day of the new year, I went “geo-caching” with Fading Aura down around Watts Mill near the Indian Creek Bike Trail. Geo-caching is a bit like a treasure hunt, where you find hidden items using GPS and record it in a log book both at the site and online (mostly for bragging rights). It was sunny, windy, and unexpectedly frigid outside, but we managed to find our cache and check out the ruins of the old Watts Mill before retreating to the warmth of the car.

Among the other ruins we expected that day was the quite dead Bannister Mall up the road. It was built back in 1980 and the main structure had been torn down about two years ago. All that was left were rows and rows of vacant strip malls that looked like something out of a post-apocalyptic zombie film.

The mall wasn’t completely dead (though it is featured at deadmalls.com). There was a “GenX” clothing store still open, along with a Burlington Coat Factory that felt it was necessary to hang a banner and remind everyone “Yes, We are still open!!!” The rest of the facility was just a sad example of suburban blight, with bizarre details like boarded-up windows and bleached-white stop signs to remind us how long it had been since anyone cared about this property.

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Back at the house, Fading Aura made some of his delicious trademark waffles for a late breakfast, and then we introduced Vivian to Doctor Who by firing up the first episode of Season One (from 2005). It was much easier to follow than I expected, and we might wind up watching more.

Before we said goodbye, we headed down to the local Steak and Shake for lunch. They don’t have one of these in Omaha, and as a “burger snob” I was eager to give it a try. The chain has been around for some seventy years now and has the distinction of being both a fast-food drive-thru and a sit-down, wait-you-at-your-table restaurant. It was definitely a step above most other burger restaurants I’d visited. We spent the rest of our afternoon eating and drawing together before Vivian and I headed on back to Nebraska.