Category Archives: parties

It’s only a cheddar moon

Winter seems to have returned with a vengeance, with multiple snow days that have cancelled school and activities. Fortunately, the Saturday we chose to have our biennial cheese party, it was sunny and dry, so our cheesy plans kicked off without a hitch. I took the kids to Burger King for some running-around time before they had a sleepover with Grammy so Vivian and I could enjoy some adults-only time with our friends.

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This year’s cheese party was different, as we now had a category for cheesy dishes. Our friends brought such treats as Taco Cheese Balls, a Red Velvet Cheese Ball, and a pepperjack hash brown casserole (which won). Vivian made a cheese fondue bake with stacks of Camembert wrapped inside a pizza crust, which was quite tasty.

We had all the regular cheese samples of course, and the night’s winner was a Marco Polo cheese, narrowly beating out a North Sea cheese and a raspberry bella vitano. We had a delicious sampling of everything before telling some cheesy jokes and then passing out the awards. Jenny won for the cheesiest dish, Kody won for cheesiest joke, and Jen won for the best cheese of the night.

The party wound down afterward with a few rounds of Telestrations, which is always good for a laugh, especially with our friends (one of whom surprised us and wound up staying the night).

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Vivian and I got to enjoy a rare kid-free breakfast down at Village Inn before picking up Hannah and Aaron from Grammy (and bringing some pie to say thanks). We had more fresh snow that morning, so we day a quiet day inside afterward, nibbling on cheesy leftovers and letting the kids play with some of our cheesy props. I got to play with my Raspberry Pi a bit more, installing a few fun screensavers that the kids found fascinating.

Then that evening, Vivian baked some leftover bread with Camembert and garlic to make some tasty dinner for us. Then around 9:30, we got to watch a total lunar eclipse outside from our driveway. It was a nippy 12 degrees or so, but I went outside multiple times to get a few good shots, including totality, when the Super Wolf Blood Moon was complete. It was a beautiful sight, once I thought I’d miss when this morning it was snowing and overcast for most of the day.

Let’s get ready to sample!

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It’s time again for our annual alternating “Have a Party because it’s Cold and Not Christmas” party, this year taking the form of hors d’oeuvres with our many friends. Vivian and I had to work to keep two cabin-feverish kids occupied while prepping food and tidying up the house, which meant taking Aaron to my parent’s house, to Burger King, and to the Park for some quality father/son time. Then both of the kids got to have a sleepover at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house as we got some quality adult time on our own.

(Picture of our kids dressed up for no reason is unrelated to any of this.)

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Then on Saturday night, we opened our doors for an Hors d’oeuvres Smackdown, and there were plenty of worthy competitors. We had bruschetta from Lexi, quesadilla bites from Jon, sausage pinwheels from Jenny, Scotch eggs and ceviche from Phil, bacon-wrapped pickles from Amanda, asparagus risotto with pretzel bread from Libby, Shrimp from Kate, and Greek-inspired stuffed potatoes from Frank. Vivian had plenty of her own “healthy” (non-competing) hors d’oeuvres, of course — roasted chickpeas, strawberries and goat cheese on crackers, Buffalo Chicken Celery Boats, and Loaded Zucchini Skins. (I had one special addition of my own, much to Vivian’s irritation.)

The winner was Lisa with her Gorgonzola Bites, which got six votes (from tasters too proud to vote for themselves). She received a special prize for her victory — a pig in a blanket! Vivian and I also got some special prizes of our own from Phil and Jen — a pair of matching T-shirts that will likely be worn again at our other food-related events.

After the judging, we broke open a couple beverages and played a few rounds of Wits and Wagers together before calling it a night. It was another successful food-related event. Just writing about it now makes me hungry!

Cheese, Sushi, and Nintendo

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Over the weekend, Hannah and Aaron had a sleepover at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house while Vivian and I held our biennial Cheese Party, a tradition we kicked off way back in 2009. This year had a new stipulation of no domestic cheese, primarily to stave away anyone bringing a block of Kraft Sharp Cheddar or store-brand Havarti. We had a fun selection of cheeses this season, including a pesto gouda from the Netherlands, sweet cheddar from Ireland, beer cheese from Great Britain, a super-stinky reblechon from France, and this year’s winner, a caramelized Ski Queen cheese from Norway (AKA gjetost).

Our usual gang of cheesy friends joined us for the cheese, some wine, and some cheesy jokes, topped off with some Telestrations at the end. We still haven’t broken out our copy of Cheesy Parcheesi. Maybe next time. Congratulations to Libby for her winning cheese, Tamra for her winning wine, and Frank for his cheesy jokes!

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Later in the week, Vivian got to try out the pair of clippers she got for Christmas on Pop-Pop, giving him her very first haircut. Hannah and Aaron also went to the dentist for their annual check-ups and performed like champs.

Then on Thursday, Vivian and I celebrated our tenth Sushi Anniversary. Back in 2007, after having sushi at Sakura Bana, Vivian asked me on the way to JNO if I wanted to “make it official.” Every year since then, we’ve found a way to celebrate the occasion with sushi. This year, we went to Sakura Sushi & Hibachi in Council Bluffs, where they had the typical assortment of sushi and appetizers, along with some delicious tempura cheesecake for dessert. Half their restaurant is also a hibachi grill, and Vivian very much wants to come back to watch their entertaining chef preparing food right in front of us.

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One other bit of fun we had over the weekend involved my finally getting an NES Classic Console. I had to use Brickseek.com to send me an alert when the local Target had one in stock. Then I had to wait out front right before opening to get inside and grab one of the THREE units they had in stock that morning. I have it a good test-run that evening, and I even let Hannah and Aaron play with it a bit (Kirby’s Adventure seems to be Hannah’s favorite). It’s a good deal for $60, but I can’t imagine paying $300 to a scalper to get this thing. There are lots of fun games that all play just the way you’d expect, and the controller’s infamously short cord isn’t as much of an issue as I expected. The only real problem I had was with saving a game’s progress. There’s room for four save slots with each game, but it’s very easy to hit the wrong button and have your progress wiped out.

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We had a little more fun over the weekend when my mom and dad and Uncle Jonny came over Saturday night to have some pizza and watch What’s My Line. It was mostly fun just to have someone for the grandkids to play with other than mommy and daddy for a change. Then on Sunday, Mommy helped Hannah make her very first Apple Pie, which we all got to have for dessert after dinner.

Now, to wrap up, here’s a rundown of all ten years of our Sushi Anniversaries! Thank you for all the wonderful years of being “officially” yours, Vivian!

Plane of Fictional Worlds

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On Saturday night, Vivian and I transcended the Plane of Everyday Reality to attend a masquerade ball with around seventy other literary characters, all part of another one of Kaleb Michaud’s legendary murder mystery parties. The event was held at the former Poor Clares monastery in North Omaha, which gave the event its own unique sense of history and spookiness (complete with a crypt downstairs). Vivian and I were a part of the “OZ” table as Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion, AKA “King” of the Forest, respectively. Other tables represented fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen and the Brothers Grimm, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Olympian Mythology, Alice in Wonderland, stories from the Steampunk Era, Sherlock Holmes, Robin Hood and Camelot, and a few others.

There was food and dancing throughout the night (with Vivian losing much of her straw), but much of the evening was spent trying to determine all the other guests’ identifies. There were also some dramatic moments when characters not in the public domain, such as Katniss Everdeen and Bella Swan, dropped by in disguise and were ushered out to be “burned.” At the end of the night our teams were graded on how well we did, and I think our table may have won, but I’m still not sure even several days later. In any case, it was a very fun night, and I hope Kaleb has a few more of these down the road even as he enters the new adventure of fatherhood with his wife Tzeyu Lin.

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Of course, we’ve been busy parking it up with the kids as usual, enjoying lovely spring weather at Stinson Park and having a nice little picnic lunch at Memorial Park, taking in all the fragrant blossoms around the city (at least until the fires down in Kansas started stinking it up on Thursday).

Pigs in blankets

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The long, cold weeks of January always seem to need something to brighten them up (after all the holiday bliss of December), so Vivian and I have been having alternating post-Christmas parties involving food for our friends. This year, it was time for the hors d’oeuvres party. We invited our usual cluster of hilarious friends to bring their best bite-sized nibblets, including Korean Tacos, bacon-wrapped jalapeños, peanut butter and jelly bites, and other Fantabulous goodies. Amanda won this year’s pig in a blanket for her Cheddar Bacon Pecan Pizza, a close second to Frank’s grilled pepper sirloin on a baguette.

We finished off the evening with some Fact or Crap and Just Dance down in the basement.

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Then on Saturday, I got to see my second President of the United States in less than a week — William Jefferson Clinton. Yes, he’s gotten a bit older since the days of Monica, but Willie’s just as slick as ever. I actually enjoyed his speech much better than that other President who came to town, and his call for bipartisanship even seemed genuine. The usual cast of characters was there, of course, including Fake Security Guy waiting to get a picture autographed.

I must say, as a solid conservative who’s now seen Bernie Sanders, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and now Bill Clinton in person, there’s something to be said for crossing the red/blue divide. I’ve found democrats seem to want many of the same things republicans do, but each side sees the world in a completely different way. There’s much we can learn from one another if we let our guard down and listen.

I’m still planning on voting for Marco Rubio, though.

Cheese Party: Number Four

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Shelly Gillen and Tom Becka

We got another fresh batch of snow on Wednesday morning, which made for a slow, slippery drive to work. It hadn’t been cleaned up entirely by evening, and I nearly got stuck on a side street on my way to see Tom Becka’s second live show at the Pizza Shoppe.

Among the topics of the day, which included complaining about the snow, was a bill to legalize medicinal marijuana before the legislature. Tom’s special guest of the evening was Shelly Gillen, whose son has a disabling disease that causes a couple dozen seizures a day. She wants to be able to treat him with hemp oil and is trying to get a law passed so she can treat her son with it legally in Nebraska. The primary roadblock seems to be fear that it will lead to recreational use to marijuana, as doctors in other states seem to be able to write a prescription for it for just about any reason at all.

IMG_4425We had a sudden warmth for the rest of the week, with temperatures shooting to the mid-50s, which made for perfect snowman-building weather. Vivian took Hannah outside Friday afternoon to try to roll together a snowman or two in our front yard, but she seemed a bit more interested in eating the snow rather than building anything fun with it.

One of our friends seemed to be in a snowman-building mood as well. Vivian went out to check the recycling bin when she was greeted with a rather creepy visitor standing behind my Ford Taurus. I guess we were asking for it when we left the garage door open a bit too long.

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On Saturday night, we hosted our fourth bi-annual Cheese Party. We hosted our biggest crowd yet as a couple dozen friends stopped by to sample wine and cheese with us for an evening that was almost classy. Our defending champion, Mark, retained his crown and narrowly won with his Baltic Porter Bella Vitano. His prize was a set of cheese knives that handles that somewhat resemble swiss cheese. Merinda took home a set of decorative wine-stoppers for her 2014 Australian Moscato, and Ole won the prize for Cheesiest Joke with the one about a lady praying for groceries on her porch.

It was a great evening with a diverse group of friends, and I’m always amazed at how we can have a great time together with nothing more than some wine, cheese, and a few jokes.

Christmas Baby Party

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It’s the week before Christmas once again, and that means having one big festive Christmas Party at our house with Jenny and a jolly cluster of our mutual friends! A few of us had a couple babies in tow, of course. We put Hannah to bed early, but Aaron got to stay up late and flirt with little Lauren a bit before going down for a sugar-plum dream or two. Per tradition, we had a White Elephant gift exchange organized by Jenny. I got a child-sized life jacket, of all things, which may come in useful a few years from now when Hannah’s old enough to go canoeing. Other noteworthy items were an Irish pillow, a furry lamp of sorts, an old comic book of mine, and a Nerf Crossbow — yes, a freaking crossbow!

Once the gifts were all opened and we were plenty sugared up from Christmas Cookies, we headed downstairs to take Vivian’s copy of Just Dance 4 for a whirl. We had enough Wii Remotes to go around and look thoroughly ridiculous as we danced about to different songs. Some of the moves were questionable, and the ceiling fan got knocked a couple times, but it was all fun (and good exercise, I think). We finished off the night with a little Apples to Apples, which gave us the chance to use the card-table side of our convertible Foosball Coffee Table for the first time ever.

In other news, Hannah and Aaron are busy being adorable. Aaron also decided that he doesn’t like chicken, but we’ve been able to disguise it well enough with applesauce to avoid further tears.

Next stop: Christmas!

The hors d’oeuvres party

January tends to be a quiet month, with the chaotic bustle of three months of holidays and parties having come to an end abruptly with the turning of a new year. As such, Vivian and I have started the tradition of hosting food-sampling parties at the end of January, cheese parties on odd years and hors d’oeuvres on even ones.

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We hosted our second hors d’oeuvres party on Saturday with a handful of our culinarily-savy friends: Phil and Jen (of course), Cameron and S. Jael, Jenny, Libby, Tamra, Mark, and Lisa. We also had an unexpected guest early on in the evening: a fluffy little dog named Po who came knocking to come in out of the cold. I gave her a ride home as the rest of the gang practiced their moves and got ready for a showdown.

As usual, we had a lovely assortment of contestants: shrimp, bruschetta, chicken salad, blue cheese cookies with fig jam, chicken peanut salay, and a handful of other worthy contenders. Vivian and I broke out some baked brie and garlic, escargot, and even some caviar, adding to the European flavor of the evening’s dishes. The winner of the night was Phil’s smoked salmon puffs, which were made some scratch. (He even smoked the salmon himself!) We had some games and movies in the wings for the rest of the evening, but as usual we wound up just enjoying each other’s company for most of the night with the help of Riesling and chocolate wine.

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The next day at church, our Mongolian missionary Ingrid Kimmons dropped in to pay us a visit and share new from the far east. She came at the perfect time, since the polar vortex has drifted back north and left us with balmy 60-degree weather to enjoy. Hannah and her little friends got to play in the leaves after church, and then we took her to the park for a picnic lunch afterward. One thing I’ve learned about Nebraska weather is that there are plenty of gorgeous days to enjoy if you take advantage of them.

Roaring fires and seven first dates

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T’was the week before Christmas, and the Yule-Tide celebrations continue. We’ve been having annual get-togethers with Jenny and our cluster of mutual friends for a couple years now, and this time around someone had the bright idea of hosting this year’s Christmas party at our house. This worked out great for Vivian and me, because we were able to put Hannah down for bed before anyone arrived and didn’t have to worry about arranging a babysitter before spending a good, long evening with our fun friends.

We had plenty of food and drink on hand for everyone, and we had a White Elephant gift exchange that included such inexplicable gifts as a 1981 dish towel calendar, 90s music CDs, A Christmas Story wristwatch, pregnancy magazines, and a ceramic hippopotamus. We got a lovely fire roaring in the basement downstairs afterward, which made things perfectly cozy for roasting marshmallows and then playing Taboo and a couple hilarious rounds of Telestrations. Vivian won the evening by coming up with a lovely illustration of “Scapula.”

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On Sunday, Vivian and our church’s ensemble Christmas Choir got to perform a medley of songs in front of the church during offertory, which was quite lovely.

Then that evening, we celebrated the seven-year anniversary of my asking Vivian out on our first date. Grandma and Grandpa came to babysit Hannah and take her to church to rehearse for the Christmas Eve pageant, and Vivian and I dropped by Caniglia’s Venice Inn for dinner. We’d visited the lovely little Italian steakhouse (winner of Food Wars’ Omaha steak episode) several times in the past via the Friendship Program Christmas Party, which seems to be held there every year. I’m sad to say we didn’t have nearly enough room for the liver pate, toasted ravioli, mostaccioli, potatoes, and rib-eye steaks we ordered, but we ate just enough to have some nice leftovers for Monday’s lunch. After dinner, we took a trip downtown to get a couple anniversary snapshots on the festively-lit Gene Leahy Mall, and then we dropped by the Old Market Candy Shoppe to pick up a couple pounds of fudge. Our first date had been to the old French Cafe, and immediately afterward we dropped by the little candy store for fudge and have made an annual habit of it ever since.

It’s hard to believe that all took place seven years ago. My, how time flies!

The Cheese Party

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Last Saturday, the Johnson Family hosted the third Cheese Party at our home in Bellevue. We’ve been hosting it every other year since 2009, and January always seemed like the perfect, dreary month to do something fun after the holidays. (Naturally, about a hundred other people this year decided the same thing.) In any case, we had a fun time with our typical cluster of cheesy friends, sipping wine and trying out a number of hard, soft, and stinky cheeses together. Mark won the crown for a tasty Dubliner cheese and Phil and Jen won for a soft, stinky cheese. Ryan took the prize in for cheesiest joke after several rounds, which eventually turned into dirty limericks (after Hannah went to bed). We spent a little too much time cheesing around to watch one of the fine cheesy movies that Phil and Jen brought, but hopefully we’ll have the chance to do that next year. The Return of Captain Invincible looked suitably cheesy.

In other news, Walmart had some frozen turkeys on sale for 50 cents a pound, so Vivian and I bought a large one and decided to roast it. Add in some stuffing and cranberry sauce from Aldi and we had ourselves a little Thanksgiving in January, which was delicious. Hannah also turned 14 months old, becoming more a little lady every day. We also paid a visit to Lisa and her ailing mom, quite happy to share what adorableness our little girl can bring to those in need.