- In January, Zoey Happy Johnson became a member of our family. We joined the Kroc Center, had an hors d’eourve party, and celebrated another sushi anniversary. We also had some pizza in Lincoln, and Matt met Ann McElhinney and various politicians at the Walk for Life. There was also Star Wars at the Children’s Museum, and then we barely saw a lunar eclipse.
- In February, we saw Ben Shapiro speak at Creighton University. There was a Super Bowl and some sledding. We celebrated Valentine’s Day, a 40th anniversary with Grammy and Pop-Pop, and birthdays for Kate’s girls and also Gabriel. I also attended a Free Speech event and drove a Dodge Challenger for a week.
- In March, I rubbed elbows with Don Bacon, a few of his friends, and the Vice President of the United States. We attended a St. Patty’s Parade and had a Rock ’em Sock ’em birthday with Uncle Jonny. We had fish fries at St. John Vianney and at home, Jessica had a chili cook-off, and Phil and Jen had a baby. We also went to the Fairy Fair, and I started reading 12 Rules for Life.
- In April, we had Easter on the First (no fooling). Vivian had her first (obstacle course) 5K, and I got to meet the Mads again. I also rubbed elbows with Republicans at the county convention, and I also got to meet Charlie Kirk. Jen had a General Tso’s for her birthday, and Hannah finished her first year of Classical Conversations. Winter also refused to end.
- In May, August and Ben had birthdays. I got to meet Reb Brown, watch a debate, and attend a victory party for Deb Fischer. We visited Lauritzen Gardens, and I made burgers, crab dip, and cake for Mother’s Day. We few kites with the family, played in mud, and lit a fire in our driveway. Hannah and Aaron graduated from Daisies and Rainbows. We also went to the SumTur, saw Frankie Valli at Loessfest (followed by a concert and fireworks), and had a Memorial Day Feast. Hannah also lost some teeth.
- In June, we said goodbye to the Kuehmichels, Aaron played tee-ball, and we ate more sushi. Aaron turned four at the splash pad, and we celebrated Father’s Day with steak, Golden Corral, and some old photos. We had water balloons at Lindy in the Park, and then I got to meet Starship at Memorial Park!
- In July, we saw Much Ado About Nothing and King John at Shakespeare on the Green. There were fireworks at Jon’s house, a breakfast with some politicians, and a parade with friends for Fourth of July. Vivian did the Color Run, the kids did VBS and a cake show, and Grammy had a birthday with Paella. Vivian and I also celebrated ten years of marriage with Schlitterbahn, lobster, and barbecue in Kansas City (also a drone).
- In August, I went over-the-hill (literally) and celebrated my 40th birthday with steak, pancakes, a distillery tour, and a picnic party at Elmwood Park. We kept cool at Louisville Lake, the Stinson Park fountains, the all-play splash pad, and our backyard pool. We saw some planes at the Offutt Air Show, and I saw political tour buses for Brett Kavanaugh and Tax Cuts. We had a night of hot dogs, balloons, and face-painting at B&B, we took in one last movie at the SumTur, and we had some swing dancing with the Gooch (followed by Fazoli’s). The kids also headed back to school.
- In September, I went to Memorial Stadium to see my very first Husker Game with Vivian (followed by Pho and a flat tire). We picked apples in Nebraska City, got pumpkins at Gifford Farm, and saw some balloons at Ditmar’s. Vivian had a birthday with beautiful weather, lasagna, and calamari steak. I also had lunch with Deb Fischer (and Hal Daub and Mike Foley), a pool party with Don Bacon and Pete Ricketts, and a steak fry with Pete (and his dad) governors from Indiana, Iowa, and Texas.
- In October, we had a chilly camping trip to Fremont Lakes with the Mills and all our kids. Vivian went on a Bubble Run and attending a (rainy) Trump rally for the first time with me. We had beautiful fall weather (along with a freak snow) and roasted s’mores and hot dogs with a fire pit or two. The kids trick-or-treated at First Presbyterian and around the neighborhood, and I wore two costumes for Halloween parties with the Jitterbugs and Jenny. I also took the family to Vala’s for our annual visit and had dinner with Pete and Don ahead of the election (along with a New York Times reporter).
- In November, I hung out with Ben Sasse and a few other congressmen, and then I spent election night with Pete Ricketts and his gang. Hannah turned seven with a kitty party and continued celebrating through Thanksgiving. Then we kicked off the Christmas season with tree lighting ceremonies at the Gene Leahy Mall and Union Station, and Turning Point brought their first speakers to UN-O.
- In December, we celebrated Christmas with a murder mystery, a Christmas light driving tour, a Christmas program with Hannah, and parties with Jenny and my workplace. My parents celebrated their birthdays with seafood, I said goodbye to the Bush Train, and I watched a debate with Kara Eastman and Scott Voorhees (among others). Vivian and I had a first date anniversary, we celebrated Christmas with both sets of grandparents, and then we rang in the new year with cards and cheese fondue.
As my bathroom scale can attest, I love food — often to a fault. Food isn’t just a means of sustenance — it’s an every day celebration of cultures and flavors and pairs deliciously with friends and family and many happy occasions we celebrate throughout the year. In 2018, I picked ten special dishes to highlight memorable moments of eating throughout the year. If you’re not hungry now, you will be at the end of this list.
I recently learned how to make ceviche with a simple recipe involving freshly-squeezed lime juice and a white fish (usually tilapia). It was particularly easy to make but also very, very tasty. I put a bowl of this together for Cinco de Mayo last year and could have easily eaten the whole bowl myself. I never thought I could find something tastier than sushi that I could do with fish without cooking it with heat, but I was wrong — ceviche wins every time.
This was a fun treat for Father’s Day — a frozen chocolate cake with layers of ice cream woven in-between. This cake was particularly special because my kids helped to make it! I also regretted not taking a better picture of it — I actually put my “good” camera aside so I could enjoy most of Father’s Day without worrying about the pictures, but somehow I missed getting better documentation of this fun little dessert.
In our house, the Super Bowl isn’t about the game. It isn’t even about the funny, memorable commercials. It’s always about the food — and nothing but the food. Nachos with gooey cheese and buffalo wings with blue cheese on the side especially make this day something to look forward to.
I also have a tradition of getting Hannah to pick the winning team, and so far she’s been four-for-four. I don’t know if she’ll pull it off again, but I know one thing — our whole family will be well-fed (and our stomach lining will be regretting it for days).
In my opinion, the whole purpose of having a garden in your backyard is to grow your own tomatoes — those ripe, succulent fruits with flavor you can’t buy in any grocery store. And one of my most favorite things you can do with tomatoes is turn them into bruschetta — with basil from out own garden as well along with fresh-chopped garlic and olive oil served in a toasted baguette. Sprinkle some shredded Parmesan on top and you have the best appetizer you can put in your mouth. There has never been an occasion where we’ve had any of this left over.
For Mother’s Day, I found a recipe for a chocolate liqueur cake online and decided to roll up my sleeve and try making it myself. It wasn’t terribly difficult, much to my relief. It came out moist and delicious, with quite a bit of the actual liqueur flavor coming through even after baking. I was particularly proud of this one.
I came upon this inexplicable morsel on Father’s Day. My dad wanted to go out to breakfast with my brothers for a morning full of fat, sodium, and calories down at the Golden Corral. The food was greasy and mediocre, but on the way out they started to bring out the lunch items, and this was one of them. I had just enough room to pop one of these teeny, tiny cheeseburgers in my mouth on my way out the door, and my goodness, it was delicious. The burger tasted flame-broiled, the bun seemed to be buttery and toasted, and the pickle just seemed to bring it all together in cheeseburgery goodness. It was by far better than anything else on the buffet, and I only wish we’d come for lunch instead.
On a rainy September day, my dad and I headed up to Fort Calhoun for a steak fry with the Governor. I’d wanted to go mostly to rub elbows with four different governors and a handful of other VIPs in attendance (including patriarch of the Ricketts family, Joe Ricketts).
What I didn’t expect was that the steak at this fairly modest shin-dig would be really, really good. I couldn’t identify which part of the cow the steak came from, but it had been slow-smoked by the All-American Beef Battalion and seasoned with Walton’s out of Wichita. And it was darn good steak, too — far more tender than the cut would suggest.
Some of my favorite foods have more to do with the memories behind them than the food itself. After a fun night of dancing with some Jitterbug friends, I suggested we get something to eat at a nice Italian restaurant around the corner. Unfortunately, they were either too busy, too understaffed, or too indifferent to serve us anything. After half an hour of waiting, we hadn’t even gotten someone to take our order, and even the drink I’d ordered at the bar hadn’t made its way to our table. I wasn’t terribly eager to pay $20+ for a plate of spaghetti, so I suggested we bail and wound up going to Fazoli’s instead.
Wow, what a difference. The food probably wasn’t the same “quality,” but we got it right away, paid a fraction of the price, and had unlimited bread sticks to boot. And believe me, after all that waiting, we were absolutely starving, and the pile of noodles with red and white sauce you see above was absolutely delicious. Naturally, the company of good friends made it even better.
No steak in the world (or Omaha) beats Vivian’s steak. She sauteed it with butter using her cast-iron skillet and serves it up with fried mushrooms and garlic cloves, which go well either atop of the steak or on a baked potato (or both). Whenever Aldi has a deal on rib-eye, I make sure to pick up a bunch — both to cook right away and to freeze for later. This is my favorite dinner item any night of the week.
Kansas City may be known for Jazz and Barbecue, but Jack Stack will always be known for the warm, gooey ecstasy that is its carrot cake. Vivian and Jenny discovered it by accident when a waiter found himself with one extra cake and decided to give it to them for free — they finished every bite and have been clamoring about it ever since. Mention Jack Stack, and they won’t talk about the burnt ends or the ribs — they’ll mention the carrot cake every single time.
Seriously. It’s served piping hot with cream cheese frosting melted on top, and you will savor every freaking bite. At the end, you’ll wonder why you bothered eating anything else that day when you could just have had this.
- In January, we celebrated our tenth sushi anniversary and hosted our fifth cheese party. I got to watch a dramatic BCS Championship Game with my pastor’s family and my dad. The kids got to see some trains and some characters from Star Wars. Vivian gave Jack a haircut, and I said goodbye to my old Taurus (and hello to a CR-V). Donald Trump also became President, and Hannah made an apple pie. Hannah and I also got a new toy.
- In February, we had enough snow for sledding and a snowball fight at the park, and enough warmth for a bike ride to work and around the park with the kids (in short sleeves). We watched the Superbowl go into overtime, and Hannah reenacted the event the morning after. We had quiche, smoked salmon, and dim sum for Valentine’s Day, along with a Murder Mystery Dinner. We also took the kids to the circus and celebrated Grammy and Pop-Pop’s anniversary. Jessica also hosted a chili cookoff, and then we had jambalaya with friends for Mardi Gras.
- In March, we had fish fries at St. John Vianney and St. Charles Borromeo. We did Dr. Seuss at the Children’s Museum and Fairies at the Fontenelle Forest. Hannah made Gingerbread men, Vivian made corned beef for St. Patrick’s Day, and my dad made Kung Pao Chicken Pizza for Uncle Jonny’s birthday.
- In April, we rubbed elbows with Jean Stothert, Taylor Royal, Pete Ricketts, and Scott Walker, some democrats, and the Prairie Cats ahead of the Omaha Mayoral race. Our flowers bloomed, we had a picnic or two, and we had one last fish fry with my parents and the Mills. We had a full Easter Weekend with breakfast, egg hunting, dinner, and a reunion with The Mads from MST3K. There was also a Ren Fair, Telestrations, and a Roof Baby.
- In May, we took Grammy and the kids to Pella, Iowa for a Tulip festival. We flew some kites with Grandpa, and we celebrated Mother’s Day with Ceviche, Chicken Alfredo, and pie. I got to see Mayor Jean get reelected while hobnobbing with a Congressman and a Governor or two. Hannah graduated from Preschool and Rainbows and played in some mud. We also saw 88 Improv, visited Stinko at the Lauritzen Gardens. and then shook our booties to KC and the Sunshine Band at Loessfest.
- In June, the Rietjens came to visit, the Folkens got some meat, Aaron turned three, and Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy came to visit. Jenny and Kody had a housewarming, Bellevue had a tornado, and the kids got swim lessons and a sandbox. Deb Fischer had a town hall and kicked off her Senate campaign, and I had breakfast with Dennis Prager. There was also King Lear, Father’s Day, a Food Truck War, Lindy in the Park, and Kool and the Gang.
- In July, we saw Merry Wives of Windsor and the Ralston Parade in the rain. I had pancakes with some Republicans and had fireworks with the family for the Fourth. I sang the Nations of the World song with Yakko at O Comic Con (and also saw Nellie Olson, Non, Courage the Cowardly Dog, the Blue Ranger, Big Bird, and Darth Maul). We had a garage sale for Hannah and a birthday for Grammy. Vivian and I had an anniversary with a water park, a secret bridge (and gate), and way too much Brazilian Barbecue. Hannah, Aaron, and Grammy all places in the cake show, we visited the lake, and Phil and Jen warmed their house. We also visited the SumTur, and I met my Congressman at a town hall.
- In August, we took the kids to Fun Plex and Lost in Fun. Vivian and I saw a solar eclipse at the Homestead National Monument in Beatrice with Nathan, Bill Nye, and a few thousand other people. I had a tomato-riffic birthday, and Libby and Ole tied the knot.
- In September, we went camping over Labor Day with the Mills. We watched some balloons glow at Ditmar’s Orchard and won free meals for a year from the Bellevue Arby’s. There was an invasion of butterflies, and Hannah got a haircut. We picked Apples in Nebraska City and then bounced around at Metro FCU’s MemberFest. We had Hibachi, Sushi, and a fire pit for Vivian’s birthday, and we also saw John Crist and Jonnie W in “El Corn.”
- In October, we had a long, fun day at Vala’s and took a Hayrack Ride with the Halls. We saw some beautiful autumn leaves, watched the Jungle Book, and had Daddy’s Night at Welcome School. We also celebrated Halloween at the Children’s Museum, at First Presbyterian Church, with the Omaha Jitterbugs, at Dean and Sarah’s house, in Olde Town Bellevue, and at Heritage Ridge!
- In November, we saw Johnny Boyd and his band. Hannah had a “fairy happy” Birthday, and we had a big smoked turkey for Thanksgiving. We kicked off the Christmas season with a tree-lighting at Union Station, a Winter Wonderland in Papillion, and some decorating at home and at church.
- In December, we celebrated some mommies-to-be. We kicked off the Christmas Season in Olde Town Bellevue, at the Library, at Thanksgiving Lutheran, and at BCC. We had Christmas Parties for Work and Friends, and had a big Christmas Weekend with lights, snow, and celebration at home, church, and my parent’s house. We also had a first date anniversary with Dim Sum and rang in the new year with a cheese fondue.
We’re closing out another delicious year, and 2017 was certainly another record year for culinary treats. Here are some of my favorites from the last 12 months before we ring in the New Year.
Vivian got to use her new smoker to serve me up some smoked salmon for a Valentine’s breakfast, served on a bagel broken with cream cheese and broken apart in the shape of a heart. Smokin’!
Yes, I included these last year, but it’s one of the most delicious things you can put on a toothpick. Crispy bacon and a creamy, cheesy, onion soupy picture inside a (seeded) jalapeño. Give me as many as you can — I’ll eat them all!
Pastor Ryan and our Church Elders were at Twin Valley Church bright and early serving up a wide variety of different breakfast foods for the congregation — eggs, muffins, pancakes, bacon, strawberries, and nearly anything else you can imagine. The best part, however, was being able to have Fellowship together in the morning.
Between Vivian and her mom, they can come up with just about the most delicious meals imaginable. This year for Father’s Day, they made for Jack me a plate of prime rib, scallops, and yucca along with a Crab Louie salad and Donna’s peanut butter chocolate pie for dessert. Rarely has such a delicious meal ever been served anywhere.
We took an adventurous trip to Pella, Iowa back in May for Tulip Time, and we brought Hannah and Aaron along for the ride. Along with the parades, windmills, and tulips all around, there was plenty of unique food to be had. The best of which, I decided was the “Pella Bologna,” which we got from the In’t Veld Meat Market on Main Street. We fried up a few slices and put it on a toasted Pretzel Bun along with some mustard for a very delicious sandwich.
Ever since Phil and Jen introduced us to Dim Sum last year, we’ve been having it nearly everywhere. We ate it on Valentine’s Day and for our First Date Anniversary, but I’ve especially grown fond of getting it at Gold Mountain in Aksarben Village, right across the street from Stinson Park, where our kids come to play at lunchtime. There’s nothing quite as nice as having pork dumplings on a lovely, sunny day.
Vivian has become very fond of her cast iron skillets, which she particularly enjoyed using when we went camping down by the river in Louisville over Labor Day Weekend. She made some cheesy eggs and sausage with pancakes for everyone our first morning there.
Props to Pastor Ryan for letting me know the first 50 people at the remodeled Arby’s in Bellevue got to have free Arby’s for a year. That means 52 Free Meal vouchers with your choice of sandwich. I’ve been able to eat there over a dozen times so far and haven’t had the same sandwich twice. These include the Bourbon Brisket sandwich, Angus 3 Cheese, Cajun “Deep-Fried” Turkey, Smoke Mountain, the Venison sandwich, and the Gobbler.
Vivian and the kids surprised me for my birthday around lunchtime with food from one of my favorite burger restaurants. You may not think it’s much to look at, but it’s delicious (and comes with a ghetto grocery bag full of fries). We ate them all together at the Elmwood Park Grotto.
Vivian has been making a unique vegetable medley with summer squash, Brussels sprouts, and a handful of other ingredients inside her cast iron skillet and serving it for meals, side dishes for parties, Thanksgiving and Christmas and just about any other time. It’s worth a mention just because of how much everyone enjoys it, including me (and I didn’t even think I liked Brussels sprouts).
- In January, we saw many different politicians in the run up to the Iowa Caucus, including Ted Cruz, John Kasich, Rick Santorum, and Hillary Clinton. Carly Fiorina, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Chris Christie, and even Barack Obama and Bill Clinton. Our kids had fun playing in the snow and playing with trains at my parents’ house. Hannah got some badges at Rainbows, and we hosted our third hors d’oeuvre party. There was also sushi.
- In February, we had a Snow Day and took the kids sledding. We watched the Superbowl with the family, had a fish fry with the Mills, and welcomed their newest family member, Gabriel. Twin Valley Church got a new pastor and helped him move in, Jack and Donna had an anniversary, and Vivian and I celebrated Valentine’s Day at James Arthur Vineyards in Lincoln. The kids went to Lincoln to get Lost in Fun and have pizza, went to the circus, and visited park after park after park. I also learned how to lose at Rummy.
- In March, we said goodbye to our sweet cockatiel, Flappy. We had another fish fry with two tables of friends, had a reunion with the Rietjens, and I got to meet economist Stephen Moore. Vivian and I had dinner with the Folkens, visited a park with Lexi’s kids, danced to a live band at JNO, and ate pizza for Uncle Jonny’s birthday. We also celebrated Resurrection Sunday with egg-dyeing, Easter dinner, and new Easter clothes.
- In April, Vivian and I participated in a literary murder mystery and went to see Phantom of the Opera. Hannah and I had a daddy/daughter dance, and we brought Pig Pig home for the weekend. We also surprised Dennis for his 40th birthday.
- In May, we celebrated birthdays with Kody, Jen, and Jessica. We visited Lauritzen Gardens with my parents and the Mills, attended the Cinco de Mayo parade, and ate some quiche and ribs on Mother’s Day Weekend. Franklin Graham had a prayer rally on the steps of the Capitol Building in Lincoln. We also saw the return of the Prairie Cats at JNO (with a cameo by Tom Becka) and we celebrated Good Times with Kool & the Gang at Loessfest.
- In June, we went to the drive-in, Tamra and Ryan got married, and Aunt Nancy and Uncle Andy came to visit. We took the kids to a Jitterbugs Mom Prom, we visited the Bohemian Cafe one last time, and I celebrated Father’s Day. We saw Taming of the Shrew at Shakespeare on the Green. Aaron also turned two and took his first dip in a pool.
- In July, we celebrated Independence Day with Kenny Loggins, Paper Lanterns, Pizza, Fireworks, and a Parade. We saw Macbeth (along with the Governor), and I rubbed elbows with Dr. Forrester and TV’s Frank and some guys from Sesame Street at O Comic Con. Some of Vivian’s family came to celebrate Donna’s 70th birthday in Omaha, and Vivian and I had celebrated our eighth wedding anniversary at a B&B in the country. Hannah also won another cake award, and I caught a glimpse of Jimmy B’s last performance at the Sokol.
- In August, we spent some time with our friends Jessica and Kate (and Kate’s kids). Ben and Venche (finally) got married, Mrs. B retired, and Vivian shot some arrows. We also had a family night at JNO, took the kids to Lake Louisville, and I had a pizza-riffic birthday. Also Mike Pence.
- In September, Vivian and I both celebrated birthdays in our fun, respective ways. We had ribs and s’mores with my folks for Labor Day, took the kids to Lauritzen Gardens to see flowers in the fall, and I bought a new bike. Gifford Farm had a fall festival, Nebraska City had an Applejack Festival, and we got to watch some balloons fly at Ditmar’s Orchard. The Jitterbugs had Cowtown at the Sokol with a corn-eating contest and Prairie Cats back at the Eagles Lodge. Johnny Boyd and his band paid a visit at the end of the month, and I also brushed shoulders with Donald Trump, Jill Stein, Don Bacon, and Rudy Giuliani as the 2016 election refused to end.
- In October, we had game nights with Kate and Tamra and a campfire with Twin Valley Church. Welcome school had a Daddy’s Night and we took the kids to visit Vala’s. The kids went to Costco and the park and saw the beauty of autumn along the Keystone Trail and in the Fontenelle Forest. We had a picnic with Don Bacon and a rally with Mike Pence. My dad also made brats, and both the kids and the grown-ups got to celebrate Halloween (with fava beans).
- In November, Donald Trump was elected President, and we celebrated the end of the election with free food at Fazoli’s. It was (still) warm enough for a trip to a park or two (with pumpkin bread), and Hannah and Aaron had leafy fun with friends. We had another game night at Kate’s, birthdays for Phil and Deena, and Hannah turned five with a tea party, Rapunzel, and a Christmas Castle Cake. There was also a trip to the Children’s Museum, Thanksgiving and Christmas at Union Station, and a Winter Wonderland in Papillion (with chili).
- In December, we saw Santa and Elsa at the Children’s Museum. Vivian and I had dim sum with friends, saw Tom and Jeff at the Kaneko, and made a breakfast casserole for my parents’ birthdays. We had Christmas Parties with friends and co-workers, had carols and soup at church, and we drove around to look at Christmas lights. Vivian and I celebrated ten years since our First Date. Then, we had a lovely Christmas Eve and Day — followed shortly by New Year’s Eve celebrations at our local library and at Twin Valley Church.
What new adventures will 2017 bring? We’ll just have to wait and see!
If you know me, you know I love food. There’s something about good food that brings people together, and some of my favorite memories are spent with good food enjoyed with family and friends. Here are my top ten favorite dishes from 2016 (in no particular order).
The Bohemian Cafe, a mainstay in Omaha’s historic Czech neighborhood, closed its doors this year. It was the first place Vivian came to eat when in Omaha (with our late friend Keith, who also passed away this year). It was also where I bumped into Warren Buffett when Vivian took me there for my birthday in 2011. The food was from another era. This particular dish was their roast Beef with burgundy gravy and mushrooms, sweetsauer cabbage, and dumplings (which were especially memorable). This place was a gem and it will be missed.
We went to this place twice in 2016 to get our fill of sushi, and we also took Vivian’s aunt and cousin there when they came to visit (pictured above). The sushi is very good and the menu is fairly extensive. You can even get sashimi at certain time, but the fact that you can have as much as you like makes this place particularly special.
My favorite pizza place in Nebraska or anywhere else nearby. Whenever we stop by in Lincoln, whether for a freelance gig or to visit the state capitol, we try to make a trip to Big Sal’s for lunch. I always get a large combo and also try to use a Groupon whenever it’s available (and it usually is).
One of the highlights of shopping at Costco with the family is being able to stop by the food court for one of their 1/4 lb. hot dogs for lunch. You can get them with a drink for just $1.50, which is likely a loss-leader for Costco. The best part, however, is just being able to go out to lunch with the family after shopping (and nibbling on samples, of course).
This year, I learned how to make some simple quiche for both Mother’s Day and Christmas. Preparing these things was remarkably simple. I buy pre-made frozen pie crusts and then fill them with cooked bacon and sausage, cheese, onions, peppers, spinach, or whatever. Then I pour an egg-and-cream mixture over them and bake for 15 minutes at 375° F. It’s especially nice to prepare these a day ahead of time so they’re easy to throw in the oven when it’s almost time to eat.
For Dennis’ birthday this year, our mutual friend Jen made this super-rich, super-dense, multi-layer carrot cake with cream cheese frosting. You could hear it landing on my plate with a “thud” and it was the sort of thing you savor with every bite.
One of Vivian’s specialties are bacon-wrapped Jalapeño poppers stuffed with a cream cheese and onion soup mixture. She usually tried to get all the seed out ahead of time so they’re not too spicy, but I don’t mind them hot. It just means it take a little longer to enjoy them all. (I would recommend removing the toothpicks, however.)
I first learned about the cubano sandwich while watching the 2014 Jon Favreau film Chef via Netflix. It’s made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, mustard, and sometimes salami on bread put through a panini press, and it’s quite delicious. For Father’s Day, I got to have one with onion rings and a seafood salad that was quite generous with crab and avocado. Best Father’s Day lunch ever!
I must be unusual in that I love liver and onions. Somehow, the iron-rich dish tastes good and feels good, particularly served hot and smothered in a sauce made with butter and red wine. The fava beans added a nice, meaty side, and a good red wine, in this case a Chianti, is a must.
Pfft. Pfft. Pfft. Pfft.
Vivian made these beautiful little things for me for breakfast on Valentine’s Day this year. What can I say? They were nearly too beautiful to eat, but I made sure I got a nice picture of them first, of course.
- In January, we attended a belated New Year’s Party and watched some football with my dad. Hugh turned 50, and I saw Tom Becka live at the Pizza Shoppe. The weather was also unseasonably warm, which meant lots of quality time at the park. Also sushi. And cookies.
- In February, we got a big snowfall and watched the Super Bowl with the family. Hannah made a snowman, and we hosted our fourth Cheese (and wine) Party. For Valentine’s Day, we had dinner at Malara’s with Twin Valley Church and had a five-course dinner with wine-pairings at James Arthur Vineyard. I also saw Jessica Hische at the Waiting Room and had watched MST3K with the folks over breakfast.
- In March, we celebrated my parents’ 40th anniversary at Big Mama’s Kitchen (and then at our house for a slideshow). The Mayor of Bellevue read to our kids at the library and we attended fish fries at St. John Vianney and Holy Name (with and without lines). We had a picnic in the park and Vivian got to be on TV. We also took the kids to Lincoln for a day-trip for Lost in Fun and Big Sal’s Pizza, and we also celebrated Uncle Jonny’s birthday with homemade pizza and Intellivision.
- In April, Hannah hunted for eggs for Easter, and she got to see some baby robins at grandma and grandpa’s house. Hannah and Aaron got to enjoy tulips, lilacs, and other blossoms. Vivian and I saw Brian Regan and had pizza on a date day, and then we made dumplings for Jen’s birthday. We also had the Mills over and flew a kite with grandma and grandpa.
- In May, we saw the Cinco de Mayo parade, went to Lindy in the Park, and toured the Lauritzen Gardens with our friends. Sherry and Bob came to visit, Hannah made mud at Mudpies, and we celebrated Mother’s Day with our three moms (and handprints). I also got to see Chicago (and Fake Journey) at Loessfest. And finally, Jenny and Kody got married up in Iowa Falls. Also: fun in a box.
- In June, Aaron turned one year old, and got to celebrate with a water table and a birthday picnic in the park with his friends. We saw As You Like It and Othello with our goofy friends at Shakespeare on the Green and then saw Eddie Money and Joan Jett at Memorial Park. I visited Spielbound, we saw Big Hero 6 at the Sumtur, and we took the kids to a splash park and the Children’s Museum over lunch. Hannah also saw Mary Poppins at the Rose and both kids got to ride in their new wagon.
- In July, we celebrated the Fourth with a cookout at our house, a parade, and Patriotic Cheesecake and ribs at my parents’ house. Jack took us on a riverboat ride for Donna’s birthday, Anne and Brandon got married, and Vivian and I celebrated our anniversary with Amato’s, a water park, and Joe’s Crab Shack. We went on a camping trip without the kids, I lost my shirt, and Hannah picked her first tomato. I also got to meet Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.
- In August, we got to meet Dr. Ben Carson at a big Family Festival in Council Bluffs (also Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal). We visited Werner Park with a few of our friends, had one last Lindy in the Park, and saw Cinderella at the Sumtur. I also celebrated my birthday with the Jitterbugs, friends at Spin pizza, and a Beatles tribute band.
- In September, Hannah started preschool, and we had ribs with my folks for Labor Day. We went camping with our kids and the Mills family, and then we got pancakes and did dinosaur things at the Applejack Festival. We visited Gifford Farm, saw some cows at the CenturyLink Center, and Hannah and Grammy both entered a cake show (and Hannah won first prize). Vivian also had a birthday involving Kirk Cameron, the Cheesecake Factory, a Supermoon Lunar Eclipse, and Outback Steakhouse (and eventually JNO).
- In October, Hannah got her Big Girl Bed, and we visited two Pumpkin Patches: Vala’s and Bloom Where You’re Planted. We had a Hayrack Ride at the Hall’s and went to Jitterbugs both for a Reunion Dance and a Halloween Dance (in costume). Jenny had a Back to the Future Party to celebrate Marty McFly’s arrival. We also had trick-or-treating as a family at the Mall, at Gifford Farm, and on our own street, of course. Also Chris Christie.
- In November, we said goodbye to the Rietjens with burgers, Chick-Fil-A, and a baptism. Phil and Hannah both had birthdays, and Presidential candidates Rand Paul, Carly Fiorina, and Marco Rubio all came to town. We also had Thanksgiving and kicked off the Christmas Season at Union Station (with Mayor Jean Stothert).
- In December, dad made ribs for a joint birthday party with mom. Vivian and I went to the Institute Christmas Party and then we took the kids out for sushi. I saw presidential candidates Mike Huckabee, Bernie Sanders, and even Donald Trump. We also had a full-on white Christmas with a snowman and two Christmas dinners, and we rang in the New Year with Fondue, per tradition.
- In January, we rang in the New Year with black-eyed peas and had dinner at the Kuemichels’ new house. He had an hors d’eourves party, went on a sushi date, and Hannah played with her friends outside.
- In February, we got a membership at the Children’s Museum, we had a Nifty-Fifties Party at church, and we had some meatloaf and ribs for Valentine’s Day. Hannah also made her first snowman and got to go to the circus. My parents also moved back to Nebraska after more than a decade in North Carolina.
- In March, we had a pink and blue party and learned we’ll be having a boy in June! We went to Jitterbugs’ Night Out (twice), dropped in on one of Kaleb’s Game Nights, attended a fish fry, a St. Patrick’s Party, and wished Little Matthew Happy Birthday. I went with Hannah to mud pies, took Vivian out to Big Mama’s Kitchen, and also brought Hannah to the Benson Library to meet Clifford (among other people). Mom and dad also provided free babysitting until they bought a house, and then we took them to Venice Inn to celebrate.
- In April, we ended lent with pasta at St. Pius X, we grilled out with Jack and Donna, had a freak snow, and took Hannah to her first Easter Egg Hunt. We had Easter dinner with all four grandparents for the first time and went to Venice Inn a couple times more to say goodbye. Gifford Farm got threatened by a fire while Keystone
DrugsHomecare actually burned down. I also met Yaron Brook from the Ayn Rand Institute while the Mills had another baby.
- In May, we celebrated Cinco de Mayo at the tail end of the parade and then flew a kite with grandpa, Hannah painted a cup for Mother’s Day and played in some mud. We visited the Lauritzen Gardens with grandpa and grandma Johnson, raided Wohlner’s before they closed, attended JNO and Lindy in the Park, saw Frozen at the Sumtur, saw a concert with our friends at Stinson Park and then saw Loverboy, The Guess Who, and Three Dog Night at Loessfest.
- In June, Hannah helped make a pizza and got to play in some sand. We also got to attend Shakespeare on the Green and see Uncle Kracker, Smash Mouth, Sugar Ray, and Blues Traveler at Memorial Park. Best of all, of course, we welcomed our son Aaron Edward into the world.
- In July, we celebrated the Fourth with burgers and fireworks at our house, a parade, and barbecue ribs with the family. We went to Louisville Lake with Libby and friends and then went to Lincoln to celebrate our anniversary with flowers, a snake, and selfies. Eric also had a hot, hot birthday, and Vivian and I went to the ballpark for hot dogs.
- In August, Tamra had a giant Jenga birthday, we went to the Sumtur twice more, we had a baby shower at work, and we celebrated my birthday in Lincoln with pizza, wine-tasting, and hot dogs. We also went to Cedar Rapids for a big family reunion celebrating my Uncle Ben and Aunt Carol’s 50th wedding anniversary.
- In September, my folks took us to Johnny’s Cafe for a belated birthday. Vivian and I spent a day at Fun Plex, Laughed Our Way to a Better Marriage™, and took Grammy and Hannah to see a balloon glow. We also attended the Applejack Festival, had a birthday by the lake with Venche, visited Gifford Farm, and dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge once or twice. We even did some painting and camping for Vivian’s birthday.
- In October, we visited the Farmer’s Market, went on a hayrack ride, and visited Vala’s with our friends. We went to Cedar Rapids for a family wedding with some fall fun in the Amana Colonies afterward. We also participated in every aspect of Halloween, from Trunk-or-Treat at the Y, to Trick-or-Treating in our neighborhood (with horses), and dropping by Jitterbugs Night Out. We also had Aaron dedicated at our church with a bunch of family and friends in attendance.
- In November, we got a big, new dining room table to make it easier to celebrate Thanksgiving. We got to visit the Zoo for free with Hannah, played a bit in a light dusting of snow, and celebrated Hannah’s third birthday. We also went see Santa and the tree-lighting at the Durham, per tradition.
- In December, we celebrated Christmas with all four grandparents (and Uncle Jonny) for the very first time. We hosted a smashing party with with gifts and games at our house, checked out some Christmas Lights, Aaron looked cute in his new blue suit, and we had the traditional Christmas Eve service at Twin Valley Church. We also took my folks to the Children’s museum and rang in the new year at the library and at our house with a Cheese Fondue (and football).
- In January, Hannah met the Duweling family in Lincoln and said goodbye to Lisa’s mom. We also hosted our bi-annual cheese party and had our annual sushi date.
- In February, we celebrated Mike Duweling’s 50th birthday, watched the Superbowl, went on stage with 88 Improv, had a Murder Mystery party at church, made meatballs with Phil and Jen, and watched the Oscars with Bente and friends.
- In March, we went fish-frying, visited Harold Lloyd’s house with my brother Jonathan, had a St. Patrick’s Day ingredient party, and took Hannah on her first Easter Egg hunt.
- In April, I saw graphic design hot-shot Aaron Draplin. We also took Vivian’s co-workers swing dancing, helped Tamra move, and got Hannah her very own swing.
- In May, I attended a workshop with Christian and Jenny. We also cracked open a piñata, celebrated Mother’s Day, took Hannah to Gifford Farm, attended a Friendship Program prom, saw John Stamos and the Beach Boys, had a reunion with Vivian’s youth group, and saw a movie at the Sumtur.
- In June, Amber and Cliff got married, we had Father’s Day, Vivian and I went camping, we saw Pat Benatar and Loverboy at Memorial Park, and then saw Titus Andronicus at Shakespeare on the Green.
- In July, we shot off some fireworks, saw Twelfth Night at Shakespeare on the Green, watched the Stormchasers as Hannah rode a merry-go-round, and celebrated an anniversary with a drive-thru safari, swimming, and lobster. Mike and Merinda got married, and Hannah got to see clouds. Matt also appeared in a book by Clark Howard and started a new job at the Pope Paul VI Institute.
- In August, Vivian and her mom did some painting, Tamra and her dad celebrated a birthday and a retirement, and the Jitterbugs danced at Friendship Program. We rode on an air boat, we had Lindy in the Park with live music, and I celebrated my birthday with burgers and hot, hot dancing.
- In September, Jessica moved to North Carolina, and Hannah got her first haircut. We also took Hannah apple-picking in Nebraska City, entered a corn-eating contest (with Hannah), and got to see Johnny Boyd and his band at Cowtown. Vivian also had a sushi-licious birthday.
- In October, I took Vivian to see Les Mis and we took Hannah back to Gifford Farm. PK got married, we visited Vala’s with friends, got some pumpkins, and went hayrack-riding with our church. We also had Halloween with friends, more friends, the YMCA, and the mall. We also learned that we had a member of the family on the way!
- In November, we took Hannah to a park or two and hung out with the Lenart family. Mom and dad came to visit and stayed for Thanksgiving dinner. Hannah turned two years old and had a party with a bounce-house and a bunch of her friends. We also took Hannah to see Santa at the Durham Museum and watched the tree-lighting.
- In December, we decorated for Christmas, rang a few bells, and visited the zoo with friends. We attended a work Christmas Party, hosted one at our house with a roaring fire, and celebrated seven first dates. Hannah went on stage for Christmas Eve and we opened presents with family before celebrating the New Year with our friends at Twin Valley Church.
So what awaits us in 2014? Well, a new child for one thing, and we can’t wait to see what other surprises the new year has in store for us.
- In January, we hosted an hors d’eourve party, had some “offal” food with Phil and Jen, said farewell to the Prairie Cats, and laid Vivian’s cockateil Babo to rest.
- In February, we got a heaping helping of overnight snow. Vivian and I had Valentine’s Day at Catfish Lake and with friends at church. I had my first father-daughter dance, and Hannah also went to the circus. Vivian and I also helped Jenny move out of her house and then attended parties at Hugh’s and Dean’s.
- In March, we attended fish fry after fish fry. Jenny had a housewarming, Pastor Mark Ashton went swing dancing, and Vivian and I had our first family picnic. We also surprised our friend Don and attended a murder mystery costume party.
- In April, we had a lemon party to kick off springtime, and then we took Hannah to the park. We celebrated a birthday or two a little Easter in-between, and Vivian and I ate some rocky mountain oysters.
- In May, we had Lindy (and Windy) in the Park, celebrated Mother’s Day, saw Mitt Romney, and had a lakeside work party. We also did some karaoke at the Pizza Shoppe, sweat to the oldies at Jon’s house, and helped move a friend or two.
- In June, I celebrated my first Father’s Day. Hannah saw her first baseball game and her first Shakespeare on the Green. We also went camping and canoeing with some friends on the Niobrara River.
- In July, the family came to visit. We danced in a parade, went to Jazz on the Green, sampled beer at Upstream, and took Hannah swimming for the first time. Vivian and I also had an anniversary day at Fun Plex.
- In August, we took a practice vacation to Kansas City, had some fun outdoors, and witnessed somebody kidnap a few of Eric’s plush friends.
- In September, Vivian and I spent a week in northern California visiting several family members and old friends. Hannah also got to experience the Cowtown corn-eating contest.
- In October, the Johnson Family carved a few pumpkins and dressed up as s’mores for Halloween. We also kicked off autumn with a hayrack ride and a trip to Vala’s.
- In November, we got to “eat mor chikin” at Bellevue’s first Chick-Fil-A. Hannah visited the zoo, celebrated her first birthday, and had some Thanksgiving with us. We also introduced her to Santa at the Durham.
- In December, I made like Clark Griswold and lit up our house for the first time. Hannah experienced snow for the first time, we had some chili, and we celebrated the end of the world. We also celebrated Christmas, of course, with a couple of our friends, and we had a wacky New Year’s party with Pastor Ryan.