Category Archives: Omaha

From sunrise to sunset

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Vivian and I got to have some fun on the weekend. Our friend Jim threw a barbecue at his house, so we got to grill up a bunch of meat and watch I am Legend on a big makeshift screen made from a bedsheet outdoors. Vivian and Venche also had the bright idea of sneaking into the basement to fill a couple of water balloons and launch an aquatic war on all the unsuspecting males outside. Jim even invited me up on the roof of his house so I could get a couple pictures of a gorgeous sunset as he played a game of catch.

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Speaking of which, Vivian and I got to watch both the sunset and the sunrise together on Saturday. We got up bright and early to drive down to Bellevue and watch the sun peek out from behind the trees across the Missouri River. Then I got a couple more snapshots of the sun dropping back down west of Papillion at the end of a very long day.

Check out the video from Jim’s cookout.

Springtime birthdays

Spring is finally in the air as a long winter that made Narnia look downright tropical takes a backseat to warmer days. May is also a popular month for birthdays, it seems, as we had a number of them last night at Great Adventures batting around a piñata for Cinco de Mayo.

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I had quite a bit of fun with friends in Lincoln and Omaha over the weekend. On Friday, I went with Vivian to have gizzards for the first time at Popeye’s on Dodge. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of them, but they were quite good with honey (and very sticky). At JNO, we had a special jam circle for the graduating class of 2008, so I got a chance to take with a few of the lady seniors in our circle.

Saturday, Vivian and I took a look at a few more apartments. For some reason, the apartments just south of Omaha in the suburb of La Vista all seem to be much nicer and much less expensive that the older apartment in midtown Omaha. We both really like Applewood Pointe, though I was also quite taken by Thomasville. They had some great amenites, including an heated indoor pool and a huge gym, but little things like the large collection of Beer bottles strewn about the property (and some telling reviews online) led me to believe I was in the middle of college party central.

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After our apartment hunting, Vivian and I dropped by the Spaghetti Works in the Old Market to say “happy birthday” to our friend Robin. A bunch of our mutual friends showed up, and we got to stuff ourselves with pasta, salad, and birthday cake while snapping random pictures of each other.

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To work off our carbohydrate binge, we took a nice long walk around Heartland of America park after lunch. Spring was definitely in the air, and we passed by a couple birds who were on the nest. A large male swan (a “cob,” I’ve since learned) was fiercely guarding his mate (a pen), who was sitting on her nest by a stairway in the park. He was hissing at us when we got near, so we had to tiptoe around him carefully. We stumbled upon a nest of Duck eggs on the other side of the pond was well. Trees all over downtown Omaha were in full blossom as well, turning these formerly overgrown twigs into giant allergy inducing wondered. They filled the air with the sweet smell of springtime.

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Back in Lincoln, I got to celebrate a second birthday with my other group of friends from Bible Study. Sarah was celebrating her 24th down at Lee’s Chicken in West Lincoln, so I got to eat even more fried chicken with them. (It was good, but I think I’m pretty much done with chicken and all fried foods in general at this point.) Robyn was busy taking pictures with me, and Sarah got to have cake and ice cream with a sparkler in the center to celebrate her turning another year.

On Sunday, I went out again with the bible study gang to Schlotzsky’s for some more less-than-healthful sandwiches after church. I spent the rest of the day getting a head-start on packing up things in my apartment for the big move I’ll be making before the end of the month. I worked with the windows open, and it felt great to let a little of that fragrant springtime air into my apartment.

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(If anybody would like to help with my big move to Omaha, I’m planning on making my exodus on Saturday, May 24. We’ll have pizza afterwards for anybody willing to lend a hand.)

Hot and cold in Omaha

IMG_8190.JPGIt’s been another eventful weekend in Omaha. We started off on Friday night with an 80’s party put on by one of our many friends named Sarah. We had a great time. First off, they had a 80s trivia game, where we had to pick out different actors, musicians, and movies from the 1980’s based on pictures hanging up all over the house. I lost at that, but did pretty well afterwards at the air guitar competition. I started things off by banging away on a pink guitar to “Dancing With Myself” by Billy Idol. Thankfully, nobody got that on video. Other noteworthy performances included Ben doing Footloose by Kenny Loggins, Jon doing What I Like About You by The Romantics, and Chris with a hilarious performance as Weird Al Yankovich as “Fat.” Jenny took the cake, however, with an energetic rendition of You Spin Me Right Round by Dead Or Alive. After the contest, we did some group Karaoke to Love Shack by the B-52s. It was the easiest song I’ve ever done, since I only had to mimic Fred Schneider’s monotone singing voice, and I didn’t have to pretend to carry a tune.

IMG_8220.JPGOn Saturday, I went to hang out and play a few games with Eric, Ben, and a couple others at Troy’s house in Bellevue. One was a game I couldn’t remember: we came out with different “products” by shuffling random cards of adjectives and nouns together, and then we bid on them. We rolled dice to see which ones paid off, and I didn’t quite follow the logic behind the game. All I know is that I lost in the end. Afterwards, we played a very fun game called Cash and Guns, using foam pistol to shoot at each other and cards that said “bang, bang, bang.” It was as much as a boys game as I could possibly imagine (even though I played the girl).

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Afterwards, Vivian and I went to the 1314 building for the grand opening of their coffee bar. The votes were in, and they were going to call it Sozo, not the name I would have picked. It means “salvation” in Greek, but Hugh said that some people might be confused, thinking that they serve “so-so” coffee. It coffee itself was pretty good, though I’m definitely not a coffee drinker. We all got to have some of the black coffee samples, and I think Ben and I liked the Brazilian Nut flavor best.

After we were sufficiently caffeinated, we headed off for some ice skating. The group had reserved a rink at Hitchcock Park just for us that evening, so I joined everyone to risk injuring my knees, hips, and even worse, my dignity by slipping around on the ice once again. Rob Meyers was able to help me out a bunch by showing me to tighten my laces properly. Once I did that, I was almost able to skate like a normal person. It was definitely a workout, and I was sore the next day from falling down a couple of times. Fortunately this time, I didn’t bruise much more than my ego.

Wild West Birthday Weekend

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It was another busy weekend in Omaha. On Friday night, a bunch of us gathered at the California Pizza Kitchen out on Pacific to stuff ourselves with specialty pizzas, piña coladas, and creamy desserts before going dancing. Tamra gave Eric an up-close-and-personal look at her key lime pie. JNO this week was held in the basement of St. John’s church at Creighton University, and Hugh got to have his birthday dance with several of the lovely ladies attending.

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On Saturday night, the real party began. Vivian and I went shopping for some cowboy duds so we could arrive in style. I got a novelty arrow-through-the-head ornament that proved to be quite painful if left on for more than a few second. We also brought some cap guns that didn’t seem to help Eric much with his migraine. Jenny and Sarah came as saloon girls, and got to have their pictures taken a couple thousand times showing off their gams and wads of play money stashed in very creative places.

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In keeping with the Wild West theme, we broke out with the cards and play money and started a couple games of Blackjack and Texas Hold ’em to see who could wind up with the most money by the end of the night. I managed to hang onto my original $20, while Vivian cleaned up with a couple straights. Not bad for a beginner. I’ll be sure to hang onto my wallet if we ever play with her for real money.

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Cowboy grub was more than abundant all through the night. We had chili and baked potatoes with toppings, and plenty of chips with salsa. Hami braved the near zero degrees outside of grill up some delicious tender lamb, and Jenny baked up a couple nice birthday cakes for Hugh and Lisa (a cream cheese mocha cake and a raspberry creme cake, respectively).

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We stayed nearly a full hour after the official party closing time of one o’clock playing all sorts of other non-gambling games with one another. I got to try Twister for the first time, which seemed to be a battle of endurance to see how long you could support your full body weight on one hand. Jessie easily won every game until Eric found a way to throw her off the mat with a shift of his torso on a right-foot-green call.

We also broke out the Cranium for an after-midnight challenge of trying to follow directions with half your brain asleep. I used the funky-smelling clay to keep myself stimulated while failing to recognize “Born in the USA” and trying to draw blimps with my eyes closed.

Good times were had by all. Yee-haw!

Gobble gobble

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It was a fabulous four-day weekend down in Omaha this weekend as Vivian and I celebrated national Eat a Turkey Day with family and friends. My brother Nathan was able to make it up to Omaha on Thursday to have Thanksgiving Dinner with Vivian’s parents and our mutual friend, Eric “Onion-Boy.” We ate a big, juicy turkey, which didn’t seem to phase its distant cousin Diggy, who was too busy whistling the theme to the Andy Griffith Show and perching on Nathan’s shoulder to notice that we were eating one of its relatives. Vivian made some meat roll ups, and I made some deviled eggs that all contributed to filling us up with hors d’oeuvres prior to the actual meal.

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The real fun came after the food, when Nathan broke out with the Wii and we all took turns playing bowling and golf together. Vivian had the chance to clobber us in both golf and bowling as I tried desperately to get my ball to go somewhere in the vicinity of a hole once in a whole. Of course, we had to create custom “Mii” characters for both Eric and Vivian’s dad, of course. The one we made for Onion Boy provided almost as much amusement as the games themselves.

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On Friday, Vivian and I helped out with a cookie decorating table at the Durham Western Heritage Museum, where they were holding some Christmas festivities and lighting a giant Christmas tree for the season. It was a great time watching kids get high on sugar and mistake Vivian’s Dad for Santa Claus (he told them he was just his grumpy elf). As volunteers, Vivian and I got to participate in the festivities for free, which included live music by Heidi Joy

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We couldn’t leave the museum without getting a picture with the big man himself (and his misses) before taking a long, frigid walk through the Gene Leahy mall, all lit up with festive Christmas lights, sipping hot cocoa and egg nog to keep from freezing outside in the picturesque wonderland that is downtown Omaha in the winter.

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Saturday marked the return of Lindy in the Mall, an Omaha Jitterbugs event where we steal a portion of the Mall of the Bluffs for ourselves and do the Lindy Hop for the amusement of Christmas shoppers wandering by. On this particular Saturday, Sarah and the rest of the terrible trio were reunited for the first time in ages as they took to the floor.

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After the dance, Vivian and I took a look around the mall, stumbling upon a kiosk selling “Power Player” video game systems. These were familiar-looking self-contained video game units designed into a game controller that plugs directly into your TV, but instead of coming with one or two games of Pac-Man and Galaga, it came with dozens and dozens of fairly popular NES games, including Super Mario Bros, Contra, Bomberman, and even Duck Hunt with its own little light gun. I quickly recognized the system as a pirated game console, with tacky packaging that lacked a company logo and including such artwork as a screen capture from Star Wars the Phantom Menace. After some investigation, I found the units had been around long enough to warrant their own page on Wikipedia. I didn’t buy one, but I was seriously tempted. Honestly, who couldn’t resist being able to play sweet little games like Excitebike and Balloon Fight again?

Hugh and a bunch of us went out to Old Chicago afterwards for dinner and then took a walk through downtown Omaha to see the newly-lit Christmas lights. We headed on to Blockbuster afterwards for a lengthy debate on whether to watch Big or We are Marshall that evening when we crashed at Ben’s to hang out until two in the morning. Ben’s such a good sport.

Moving Nathan in Nathan's new apartment

On Sunday, I returned to Lincoln to help Nathan move into his sweet new apartment. It’s a brand-new complex with all sorts of amenities that almost make to want to move in right next door: free golf, free hot tub, free washer and dryer in the apartment, free cable, and all sorts of extras. Plus, no more noisy college kids playing obnoxious country music at three in the morning. Boo-yeah!

Thankful with friends at GAMe

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It was another pretty quiet weekend, as Vivian and some of her friends had a road trip up to O’Neill and Battle Creek to visit friends, leaving me in my apartment to update my good old portfolio for most of the day. I did get to spend some quality time with Viv on Sunday, getting pictures from her road trip uploaded to her Flickr account, and then taking a walk and playing on a see-saw for the first time since I was in elementary school. Viv always finds ways to make me feel like a kid again.

My friends and I are gearing up for a big, jam-packed Thanksgiving week, with something big happening pretty much every day all the way through Friday. On Monday night, we had a dinner and worship time with GAME on Jones Street, where we got to pig out on more turkey and mashed potatoes than anybody could eat, and then had worship and time for giving thanks afterward. Micah, Erin, and their little ensemble treated us to songs on their guitars as members of the group got up to light a candle for every thing they were thankful for this year.

Quiet Weekend

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It was a quiet weekend here in Lake Wobegon, my home town. Wait, that’s another show. It’s actually been a quiet weekend here in Omaha, where I spent the weekend with Vivian, mostly hanging out. We went to JNO on Friday night, as usual, grabbing some barbecue beef brisket at the Smoke Pit with the illustrious Dan Wondra beforehand. On Saturday, the two of us went shopping at Younkers to get some discount clothes using some community coupons we’d purchased for that day only. Afterwards, we went for a beautiful autumn walk through the Fontelle Nature Center in Bellevue. The leaves were mostly going to brown, but we still saw some pretty fall colors and a gorgeous view of the Omaha skyline and bits of Iowa across the river. Since the trees had mostly shed their leaves, it was easier to see through the expansive woods.

We did drop by Becky’s housewarming party late Saturday night, but we spent Sunday mostly to ourselves, going to church together and then got a bunch of groceries and some Cold-Eze before heading home. I made Viv some chicken noodle soup for lunch, and we watched watching Punky Brewster together. She had been feeling a little under the weather all weekend, and I was hoping to snap her out of it. Sunday night we went by Walgreens to get some prints made from her digital camera and stopped by Zio’s for pizza before getting bread from Panera. It was a quiet weekend all around. You can tell by the relatively skimpy output on my Flickr account.

Swinging Halloween Weekend

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Last Friday, we had our annual Halloween Dance with the Omaha Jitterbugs. Vivian and I returned as Wine and Cheese, this time sporting some custom t-shirts I created just for the event with We earned a spot among the finalists in the costume contest, which was quite an honor, even though we didn’t win. I couldn’t quite argue with Ruth getting first prize for being an authentic Jitterbug, of course. The Jack and Jill contest proved to be a little difficult for Jonathan in his grass skirt. At first he couldn’t decide whether to lead or follow, and then his coconut bikini kept falling off, providing much amusement to both his follow and everyone else watching.

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We saw plenty of great costumes throughout the night, far too many to post in one blog. You’ll have to consult Cliff’s pictures to see most of them. Eric came again as Johnny Bravo, this time wearing the appropriate colored t-shirt. Other costumed favorites included Chris as Quail Man, Cliff as a Deviled Egg, and Rob returning as SpongeBob SquarePants.

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On Saturday night, a bunch of our mutual friends stopped at Venche’s new house in northwest Omaha for a housewarming party. We had some goofy karaoke down in the basement, and everybody cleared out in time for me to try singing by Bowling for Soup’s 1985. Upstairs, we stuffed ourselves silly at the baked potato bar and then played a round of Crap or Not. It was more fun to hear Eric and others asking their own Crap or Not questions, which turned out just to be a series of “did you know” trivia questions. Vivian, for instance, knows two languages, but speaks only one.

We also played a hilarious round of Apples to Apples and an extensive game of Mafia until well after one in the morning. Good times.

(Thanks to Cliff for getting the picture of me and Viv as wine and cheese. You can see the rest of his Halloween pictures here.)

Jenny’s Birthday Weekend

Over the weekend, our friend and Vivian’s roommate Jenny celebrated her 27th birthday in style, and that meant a day or two of food, dancing, and party hayhem in general for all of our mutual friends.

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On Friday, we kicked things off by crashing at Famous Dave’s down in the old market. There’s no better way to start off a birthday weekend than by stuffing your face with rib tips and garlic mashed potatoes. We had over fifteen people show up for the event before heading on over to Jitterbugs, and it was a grand old time seeing old friends and taking goofy pictures of ourselves with the digital cameras we brought. Viv left hers at home again, so she had to take a couple cute ones with her camera.

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After dinner, a bunch of us went to the Eagle’s Lodge for Jitterbugs Night Put, as usual. Both Jenny and Cliff got to have their turns in the birthday jam, and I got to practice tossing my camera back to other people in the circle as I ran up to get my turn to dance with her (trying oh so skillfully not to knock her on her face). I also made sure to get some pictures of Cliff dancing, since he’s the Jitterbugs unofficial photographer and rarely gets the chance to have his own picture taken.

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On Saturday night, we had Jenny’s official birthday bash out in her friend Hugh’s big house in west Omaha. It was a costume party, and Jenny dressed up in a very nice flapper costume she got from Target, looking very authentic as she stopped to do the Charleston in the living room. We had a good crowd that seemed to come and go throughout the night. Vivian and I showed up promptly at seven, which meant mostly waiting around an hour or two for the guests actually to arrive.

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The party was actually a costume party, so we were all encouraged to dress up as something or other before we came by. Venche, Bente, and Robin came as a trio of cheerleaders and tried to do a pyramid (“You guys are definitely junior varisty,” Benta said with an eye-roll). We had plenty of great costumes all around, but the guy who really took the cake (and first prize, awarded by Jenny) was Rob, who arrived in a full SpongeBob SquarePants outfit made out of a large cardboard box and convoluted foam from his mattress.

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Vivian and I came dressed as Wine and Cheese, with a foam cheese hat Viv ordered straight from Wisconsin, and a cork hat I was able to make that afternoon with some supplies from Menard’s. We had some pumpkin carving going on in the living room, so Vivian and I both got to carve up some pumpkins we’d bought that afternoon at Wal-Mart. I haven’t carved a pumpkin since I was a kid, so it was loads of fun, and Viv was able to save the seeds for some potential pumpkin seed roasting.

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Toward the end of the night, things started to get just a little bit crazy. Vivian and Jenny got into a boxing match using some borrowed boxing gloves, and Olin decided to reveal his true feelings to Jessica by putting ice cubes down her shirt.

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On Sunday, Jenny was baptized at Trinity Church in Omaha, along with a couple dozen other believers who got up to take the plunge during and after the morning service. It was such exciting testimony to see so many men and women devoting their lives to Christ, some of them a long time coming, including an athetist of over 30 years who had nearly committed suicide before coming to the Lord.

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That afternoon, Vivian and I joined some of her long-time friends at a Fainting Goat farm just north of Mead, Nebraska. There were dozens and dozens of people here who all knew Vivian and family through a chain of acquaintances, all stemming from her one-time nextdoor neighbors down in Bellevue. There were all kinds of food for us to stuff our faces, including some delicious stuffed jalapeno peppers that Viv’s mom made for the occasion. We also had a roaring fire for making smores, and there was some caramel apple dipping, leaving our hands plenty sticky for the whole afternoon. Vivian and I got to play around with the goats, too. It was the first time I remember ever holding one of those little guys. Apparently, they were being raised for being pets, dashing any hopes I had of trying some goat cheese.

Vala’s Pumpkin Patch

It’s fall in Nebraska, and one of the big attractions near Omaha is Vala’s Pumpkin Patch, a large farm outside of Gretna with a theme-park atmosphere and dozens of attractions that turn these rolling acres into a carnival for one month every year.

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Jenny and Hugh, and Vivian and I braved the rain and mud and met down there Sunday afternoon for an afternoon of fun. We all took our hand at aiming apples at some metal cornfield pirate targets with a giant slingshot, and we were all able to pose behind some giant cartoon cutouts placed every so often around the park.

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Halloween also played a big part in several of the attractions and shops. Jenny got to try out a couple of rubber eyeballs, and we got to walk through a haunted farmhouse with classic face-changing pictures on the walls.

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The sun peeked out and made a rainbow for us just before it went down. We night settled in, we grooved to the tunes of a robotic skeleton band and danced on the tables until one of Vala’s employees told us to knock it off. We also made sure to grab some caramel apples before heading off for home.

You can check out all the pictures here.