Category Archives: House

Gardens and Braids

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It’s been a relatively quietly week at the Johnson House. Hannah had her last day of preschool, Vivian and I had our last sessions of BSF, and Aaron got to have his last monthly photo shoot with Hannah in their little red wagon. Meanwhile, the weather’s become increasingly gorgeous, which means more time outside tending to the yard. Over the weekend, Vivian planted some new berry bushes in the yard, as well as a new batch of tomato plants for the garden. Hannah came along to help, of course.

We also got to spend some quality time with my folks over the weekend. On Saturday night, Vivian attended Tamra’s bachelorette party, which somehow involved running an obstacle course while wearing a white dress, so I took Hannah and Aaron by to visit. Grandpa microwaved some peeps for them as they looked around the garden and got to see some robin eggs. Then on Sunday, I returned with the whole family to give the lawn a mow. Vivian braided my mom’s hair in the meantime, and then we had some pizza and Jell-O for dinner. I also taught our kids some basic exercises like push-ups and jumping jacks, which they seemed quite tickled to follow along with.

Shaking the Gifted Hands

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In case you couldn’t tell, it’s summer. The hot, steamy days have been good to our tomato crop, and Hannah got to pick her first vine-ripened tomato from our garden (which we used to make bruschetta). We spent some quality time at Grandma and Grandpa’s house last Saturday as well, giving Vivian some “me” time while sampling some mystery greens, having burgers and watermelon, and playing some video games. Speaking of which, Hannah got to play our Wii for the first time the other day, taking a spin at Mario Kart but mostly just enjoying being the “princess” on the screen. Aaron also got to try pizza for the first time. (News flash: he loved it.)

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Then we had a big, fun afternoon on Sunday, all thanks to Dr. Ben Carson. The world-renowned neurosurgeon and current presidential candidate paid a visit to Council Bluffs. My parents came along for the hot, muggy afternoon as the man with “gifted hands” spoke to a crowd of a thousand people or so (which included the usual cast of troublemakers). He spent some time talking with the media afterward as everyone crowded around, and then he spent a good hour shaking hands at the meet-and-greet tent. A live band played some classic rock for the crowd and then Mary Rice Hopkins and Puppets with a Heart (who has a TV show on TBN) put on a puppet show for the kids with her counterpart Darcie Maze. There was also face-painting for the kids and free sweet corn, so Hannah got made-up for the first time and Aaron got to eat his first-ever ear of corn.

Dr. Carson took the stage again for some Q&A before calling it a day. I was amazed at the man’s stamina, as he was in constant motion from three to six o’clock without so much as a bathroom break (that I could tell) in-between. I also give him props for being the only President candidate I’ve seen so far to arrive on time. It was the most fun I’d ever had at a political event before, and I was glad to see another presidential candidate putting himself out there to meet the voters — no ropes necessary to keep anyone away.

Fun with Dirt

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We’ve had some intermittent showers over the past couple of weeks, which has made our time outdoors a bit sporadic. We went out for a picnic in Olde Town Bellevue last Wednesday shortly before we were inundated with rain for a couple days. Hannah and Aaron both got to swing, ride a teeter-totter together, and get a selfie with mom and dad on the bench swing before some drizzle swept through town.

By the weekend, things had cleared up enough for Vivian and me to wear ourselves out tearing up the garden and overturning all the soil to make it ready for some tomatoes, kale, and basil for our garden this summer. I was able to keep the kids happily occupied while Vivian got that part of the planting done.

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On the following Tuesday, the Fontenelle Forest had actual mud at its Mudpies program, but it was unfortunately too cold and drizzly to make mud footprints outdoors (like they did last year). Hannah did get some quality time making a makeshift mud pie along with her usual run of painting and play-doughing. Hannah went to Grammy’s house later to make her own edible mud pie, which she proudly shared with me when I got home that day. Aaron enjoyed just sitting around and looking adorable.

Things were clear enough on Thursday for us to have dinner outdoors on Grammy and Pop-Pop’s new backyard deck. The grand kids had spent a good portion of their day there while Grammy got the van fixed, and Hannah made an adorable bit of art on the chalkboard that Vivian shared with me via cell phone.

Balloons and barbecues

The dog days of summer are well underway, and as the hot, muggy August days drift by, Vivian and I are still keeping busy having fun with our friends (among other things)

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Last weekend, we went to the wine and balloon fair with Jenny, Jon, and Sarah Adair out in way West Omaha (where Maple Street thinks it’s in Gretna). It was hot and windy, and there wasn’t actually much ballooning. About two or three were able to take off before the balloon people gave up. There was plenty of wine to be sampled, however, with local wineries such as James Arthur Vineyards and Soaring Wings making some welcome appearances.

Vivian and I spent that Saturday and Sunday staining our backyard deck. It looked like it needed some sprucing up, with plenty of dirt and grime that we had to spray off with a pressure washer. Now were treated the surface with some lovely red stain that seemed to breathe new life into the old wood surface.

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Saturday night, Vivian and I headed down the street to the Nothnagels’ house for their annual barbecue. Vivian brought her legendary artichoke dip and some banana rum that tasted quite interested with a strawberry margarita. People enjoyed the food outside and made use of the playground next door before the ravenous mosquitoes decided to take over the backyard. Inside, we made good use of the giant basement dance floor to Lindy Hop to every goofy track we could find on Troy’s laptop, and I also wound up “swinging” Shannon’s cute kids C.J. and Kasee around until I was dizzy. Some people played Rock Band upstairs, and Vivian got me to croak along to Green Day’s Know Your Enemy, which I know best as the bicep track from Body Pump 72. There were also a couple amusing games of Twister that seemed to lack a clear winner.

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On Sunday, I got to enjoy some Lindy in the Park at their new location up beneath the archway at 11th and Farnam. The new location was a little breezier and had more shade than the usual spot down the river on the Gene Leahy Mall, so I danced on the uneven pavement with a few of our Jitterbug friends before heading back to the Nothnagels to help consume a few of the leftovers.

The next day, Vivian and I both reached a milestone in our experience at the YMCA — we both completed our “summer sweat” cards. Over the summer months, participants could get a free T-shirt if they participated in 30 different group fitness classes and collected initials from their instructors in order to prove it. The deadline was September 3, so we both made it with a few days to spare. Go team!

Bathrooms, Hot Dancing, and Burger King Ribs

It’s been a fairly quiet week or so. Vivian and I have been taking advantage of our new subscription to NetFlix, and last Friday we kicked off the weekend by sampling some flame-grilled ribs at Burger King. Yes, the Home of the Whopper is now home to ribs, breakfast bowls, and funnel cake sticks. It’s apparently about one pancake short of becoming a drive-through Village Inn, but that’s OK with us.

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In other news, Dennis and I managed to (nearly) finish off the Great Bathroom Project of 2010. We had to improvise in a few places, such as adding a washer and a longer screw when some of the fittings were too short to fit through the new tub shell walls. It was a much better solution that the one a grumpy store clerk at Lowe’s gave us, which was pretty much to start all over again.

On Sunday, the Jitterbugs had another episode of Lindy in the Park, which was more than welcome, despite the 90-degree heat. Vivian and I got to work up a sweat outside and then crawl inside Ted & Wally’s for some chai and PB&J ice cream afterward. Yummy.

Next weekend, Vivian and I will be hosting the annual Comic Genesis cookout at our house, which means we’ll be having a couple old friends staying here for the weekend. That will definitely be an adventure!

15 minutes of fame

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It’s been a fun, busy week for Vivian and me, with lots of cool things happening in a fairly short space of time. On Wednesday last week, I finally got around to mowing our lawn for the very first time. I had to get up early in the morning in order to make time for it (in-between rain showers and other activities). That evening we both went down to South Omaha to celebrate Cinco de Mayo at El Dorado, a lovely Mexican restaurant on the corner of 24th and Q. They specialize in seafood, and la comida es muy auténtica — our waitress didn’t speak much English, and I had to fall back on what I could remember of my high school Spanish in order to translate.

On Friday, I crossed another big milestone in my life: I turned one billion seconds old at 11:45 a.m. (something that happens only twice in an average lifetime)!

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I dropped by JNO on Friday, and our good friends from Sioux Falls David and Anna got to spend the night at our place. On Saturday, Vivian and I had some fun trekking down to Lincoln to explore the Secret Bridges for a little while. We returned home that evening with avocado smoothies and Big Sal’s pizza to enjoy our Netflix account. Yes, we finally subscribed to the DVD-rental-by-mail cult, and we’ve filled up our queue to more than 50 different films so far. We managed to cross off Revenge of the Nerds, D.A.R.Y.L., and Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan off the list in the first three days. Hopefully it’ll be worth our $9 a month.
Secret Bridges trip

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Sunday was Mother’s Day, of course, and Vivian prepared a delicious brunch of crustless quiche and strawberry crepes for her parents and me. We also gave her a goofy toad for her garden. I gave my own mom in North Carolina a call to say Happy Mother’s Day and make sure she got the flowers we’d had delivered.

We had enough time afterward to drop by the very first Lindy in the Park of the season, working off a few of our excess calories just in time to have some ice cream at Ted & Wally’s immediately afterward.

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The biggest highlight of the whole week, however, came on Sunday night. On Valentine’s Day, I’d given Vivian tickets to see Whose Line all-stars Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood live at the Holland Center downtown. They were as funny on stage and in person as they were on TV, and guess who got called up on stage for the sound effects game toward the end of the show? That’s right — me! It was quite a thrill to shake hands with two brilliant comedians I’ve watched on TV for so many years. It was also pretty exciting to burp on command and hum “La Cucaracha” as an imaginary car horn for a couple thousand people.

Burgers, Bathrooms, and Renaissance Fairs

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It was another eventful weekend in Omaha, and Vivian and I got to enjoy some of the gorgeous spring weather we’ve been blessed with. Our weekend started off with a burger grilling contest at Tamra and Andy‘s house. We competed against them both, along with Tamra’s brother Michael and their mutual friend Avery, in coming up with the best burger recipe. Vivian and I took only fourth place with our Bay Burgers made with basil and minced garlic, while Tamra took first with her burger made with “special sauce.” It was a good time even if we didn’t win, and we got to stuff ourselves with plenty of juicy ground beef all around. (I personally liked Michael’s Danger Ranger Special the best.)

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On Saturday, I got to attend my very first Renaissance Fair. I’d heard of these things before, mostly from my geeky friends, and had wanted to attend one for quite some time. The event was held at the Bellevue Berry Farm, which seemed like a Western-themed version of Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, at least when it isn’t dressed up with Medieval Festivities. Vivian and I got to see a joust, some dancers playing with fire, and sword-fighting demonstrations from both pirates and ninjas. We also got to tour some of the more education booths, where we could try on chain mail and churn butter. We also got to have a turkey leg and some homemade root beer for lunch, a swell as browse through a large selection of swords. Topping the day off was a performance by 88 Improv, who were hilarious, as usual.

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On Sunday, we took over a Cici’s Pizza restaurant with our friends from bible study, and then dropped by Lowe’s to buy some things to remodel our upstairs bathroom.

Our friend Dennis gracious volunteered to spend Monday with me tearing it apart and cutting out the 35-year-old plumbing so we could install some new fittings, specifically a shower head for a bathtub that lacked one. We both owe Dennis one of the biggest Ones that has ever been owed, as he did pretty much everything while I mostly watched and handed him tools as needed. After three or four trips to the hardware store (and much soldering), we had a fully functional shower where once had only been a leaky faucet. Awesome job, Dennis!

A moving experience

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It was a pretty busy weekend for Vivian and me. On Friday, we were able to close on our new home in Bellevue right on schedule. We signed the note (along with a hundred other pieces of paper) and got our copy of the deed to the house. All we had to do next was move in. We’d been packing for the last week or so and had to forgo a night at the Eagle’s Lodge in order to keep on track.

We did manage to swing by Vivian’s office party at Venice Inn as a kind of victory dinner for the two of us, however.

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On Saturday, about a dozen friends from the Omaha Jitterbugs and our new bible study dropped by our apartment to help us move, including Jillian, who came all the way from New York City to lend a hand. I don’t know how we could have managed without all the help we got — we certainly couldn’t have thrown Vivian’s old couch off the balcony by ourselves. We filled a 26-foot moving van to capacity with all our worldly possessions, including a new couch and love seat, a refrigerator, and a washer dryer set. Getting all these things into our new home was nearly just as a challenging — the fridge couldn’t get through the split-entry stairway without taking its doors off. We were all finished and ready for pizza a little before three, and Vivian and I took a couple minutes to christen our new living space with a brief Lindy Hop in the living room.

Once we get done unpacking, we’ll have everyone back over for a proper housewarming party (likely sometime in January). I have to give a special thanks to Rob, Eric, Nick, Lisa, Justin, Kelly, Jillian, Lee, Mark, Jon, Jack, Donna, and everyone else who dropped by and helped us make the big move to our new home! God has blessed us both with such wonderful friends and we don’t know what we would have done without you.

House Parties

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Vivian and I are closer than ever to being homeowners! After a month or two of thorough hunting throughout the Omaha metro area, we finally settled on a lovely little home down in Bellevue. We batted offers back and forth with the sellers and were finally able to arrive on a price last week. Before making our first offer, we had some of our friends over to see the house before making a final decision. It was quite fun to have a house party in someone else’s house. The home isn’t exactly what we wanted, but it’s a good location and a very fair price. We’re looking forward to moving in soon and calling it our own, but it still needs to be inspected, appraised, and underwritten before we can close. Keep praying in the meantime!

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In the meantime, we’ve still found time to enjoy parties at other people’s homes, including our hopefully soon-to-be neighbors in Bellevue, Troy and Merinda. Merinda had been planning a giant birthday blow-out to celebrate turning 30, and had managed to book the Mezcal Brothers to perform in her basement of all things. Unfortunately, they had to postpone their appearance, but we still enjoyed making a scene dancing to Thriller and a wide variety of swing tunes. Geoff, our new Irish friend, brought some smooth Irish whiskey that it made much easier to make fools of ourselves on the dance floor before heading home.

Househunting

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The search is on! As many of you know, Vivian and I are in the process of finding a home right now in a desperate last-minute attempt to take advantage of low home prices, low interest rates, and $8000 in free money courtesy of you and me, the taxpayers. We’ve found a number of nice-looking homes, but we’re still riding the see-saw of “can we still afford it when we have kids” and “hey, a wet bar in the family room!” It’s quite a fun ride, though, and you all will be the first to hear once we manage to snag our humble, new abode.

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Our hunt for a house didn’t manage to distract us too much from the Omaha Jitterbugs’ annual Cowtown Jamborama. We didn’t have the time or funds to attend any of the workshops over the weekend, but we did manage to attend all four of the evening dances on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. It was great seeing so many old friends from out of town and dancing with such a wonderful blend of people. We had some terrific live music as well, specially from the Little Harper Big Band, an amazing local swing ensemble that I hadn’t even heard of before. Alas, Vivian and I didn’t participate in the corn-eating contest either, but from what we heard, we could have mopped the floor with the guys who won. Maybe next year. (Seriously, ten ears in eight minutes is hardly even a SNACK!)