Category Archives: North Carolina

Christmas in North Carolina

Vivian and I were able to spend a lovely couple of days in North Carolina visiting my parents over Christmas. We were fortunate enough to escape the ice and snow that hit Omaha on Christmas Eve and had only a slight delay flying in from Chicago.


Vivian and I landed with enough time to attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at my parents’ church in Buies Creek. We woke up relatively early on Christmas morning to open presents. I received a couple books from my parents, a USB hub from Nathan, an iPod video adapter from Jonathan, and a new mouse from Vivian. I gave Vivian a music stand, and my mom put together a collection of recipes for foods I liked to eat growing up. I think that was more a gift for me than for Vivian. My dad got some nuts and some DVDs, and my mom got the world’s tiniest frying pan from my dad. She apparently wanted a “small” frying pan, but this little thing was apparently designed to fry hummingbird eggs (one at a time).

At noon, we had a traditional Christmas dinner together, which at our house means turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (with leftovers to last for a couple days). We spent the rest of the day dissolving into blobs playing an old copy of The Ungame and watching Holiday Inn.


On Saturday, the four of us took a day-long trip down to Wilmington, a picturesque little resort town along the coast. It seems North Carolinians are especially fond of their fried chicken, with several chains such as Church’s, Chick Fil A, and Bojangles thriving when they don’t exist in the Midwest. We enjoyed some artery-clogging goodness at Bojangles, before moving on to tour a battleship.

The U.S.S. North Carolina served for a couple years in World War 2, but it now serves as a tourist attraction. Vivian and I got to play with some turret guns and see where a couple thousand servicemen got to sleep, eat, and work while at war. It was a fascinating trip, and we didn’t even get tired walking up and down dozens of tiny, harrowing flights of stairs.

We were able to get a brief glimpse of the ocean that afternoon before having dinner at the King Neptune Restaurant before going home.

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On Sunday, we went to church with my parents and had some genuine North Carolina barbecue down at Ron’s Barn, a well-known local eatery. Barbecue in the south consists of shredded pork with a sauce made of red pepper and vinegar, which takes a little getting used to.

Afterward, Vivian and I took a walk around campus and enjoyed the gorgeous fifty-degree weather, just perfect for a walk through a cotton field. We weren’t missing Nebraska’s ice and snow one bit, and we enjoyed having a green Christmas.

Later on, we stopped by the Cotton Museum over in Coats, where we got to see some old cotton processing machines and quilt patterns used as covert signals in the Underground Railroad.


On Monday, our last day together, we had breakfast at the Red Barn restaurant, a favorite place for the Gideons group my dad belongs to. My dad showed Vivian and me some of his old, stored treasures afterward, including my grandmother’s cut glass, tiny clothes he wore as a baby, and his old ‘coon skin cap. That evening, my dad fried up some “rosettes,” little flower-shaped donuts dressed with powdered sugar. We rounded off the evening with a round of Pictionary before packing up to go home.

It was great to be home for the holidays, and we were quite happy to spend a couple days away from the ice and snow back in Narnia. A winter full of crisp and cool 50-degree days could be very easy to get used to.

Last days in North Carolina

The rest of the week here in North Carolina has been delightfully quiet. One of the best things about coming to visit last year was being able to do absolutely nothing for such long stretches at a time. Watching a couple truly awful episodes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 together and doodling on the couch brought back such good memories when we would spent every Saturday morning together just like that.

IMG_6345.JPG Egg nog fudge getting eaten fast

Of course, no Christmas visit would be complete without plenty of sugar-loaded Christmas snacks. My mom made a couple jars of frosting-covered pretzels that were eaten almost right away. I also bought a tub of egg nog fudge for the family to try, but had unfortunately left it in my car when we were hurrying to the airport. Vivian saved the day by sending it via UPS, and we were able to receive it and devour it all on Friday.

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On Saturday, Dad took my to the attic and showed me some of the family keepsakes from the vault, including old coins, watches owned by my grandfather and great grand father, and other such heirlooms to be passed on eventually. We spent some more time playing Apples to Apples in the afternoon and watching the truly painful Castle of Fu Manchu, starring Christopher Lee in a role he’d most likely want to forget.

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On Sunday, we were able to go to church together, and it was the first time I’d been able to attend my parent’s church in four years. It was nice to do it again before returning home for a taco launch and a rousing game of Balderdash.


We dashed off to the airport later in the afternoon, but we first had to get the annual Family Christmas Photo, this time posing in front of Jonathan’s Patrick Swayze Christmas Bar Stool. We had a couple straight shots, but the picture you see above is the one we all seemed to like the best. Family togetherness just doesn’t get much better than this.

Look who came to meet me at the gate when Nathan and I arrived home: it’s my sweet Vivi, with her hair all bright red and carrying a bunch of happy Welcome Back balloons! Thanks so much, sweetie! I missed you while I was gone.

Road Tripping in North Carolina

It feels so good to be home for the holidays, spending a whole week with all five members of the Johnson Family together again. We’ve been pretty busy getting in more quality time during the Christmas season.

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On Wednesday, the whole family took a trip into Raleigh to stop by a mall or two and look for the AV cables necessary to connect a Wii to an analog television set. Nathan got a couple new Wii games for Christmas and was itching to play them sometime before leaving for Nebraska. I saw one restaurant at the mall called the California Pizza Kitchen and immediately thought of Vivian, who is always telling me about Round Table and other of west coast pizza chains that I would have to try if I ever go to Petaluma.

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Today, my parents and I took a trip out to the coast together. Our first stop was New Bern, which had once been the capital of North Carolina. We had lunch at a lovely little seafood restaurant called Captain Ratty’s. Dad and I shared a platter of mussles, shrimp, oysters, clams, and crab legs. We walked up the street and visited the birthplace of Pepsi, which was more like a small gift shop than an actual museum, much to my dad’s disappointment.

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We did a little more sightseeing on the way down to the ocean, walking around the old Governor’s Mansion (called the Tryon Palace) and dropping into the Maritime Museum to check out such things as a Franel lens from a lighthouse and wreckage from Blackbeard’s pirate ship.

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Our final destination was Fort Mason state park, where we got to walk along the beach and see the Atlantic Ocean. It was the first time I’d seen the Atlantic before, if you don’t count seeing it from an airplane flying to England. We stayed to watch the sunset and then had a late drive home. I got to walk along the shore a while chasing seagulls and picking up a couple stray seashells. I also walked out along a long row of precariously-placed jagged rocks to get some shots of the sun setting over the ocean.

All in all, it was a great, busy day being a tourist, but I was definitely ready to unwind and get to bed when we returned home.

The Christmas Update!

Merry Christmas, everybody! My brother Nathan and I are celebrating this week by flying out to North Carolina to visit my parents and my other brother Jonathan in Buies Creek.

IMG_6068.JPGOn Sunday, the night before we flew down, Nathan and I went to visit with Vivian and her parents at their house in Bellevue. Donna had a beautiful display underneath her tree of tiny Dickens’ A Christmas Carol houses and miniatures. The five of us had dinner together, and then we got to open a huge assortment of gifts and stocking stuffers.

Among the gifts were chocolate penguins, nuts, a pocket calendar, nail trimmers, nuts and nutcrackers, a toy top, and a number of things. I got From Vivian, I got a Superman Christmas ornament, a remote control car, and MacFreelance, a billing and time-keeping software package for the Macintosh. It’s made by a company called Macware, which I discovered is located right in Omaha.

IMG_6077.JPGI had presents for Vivian’s parents, and I gave Vivian a green cashmere sweater, a plush Tigger, and a couple little things. Nathan got her some Ghirardelli chocolates, which I have since become addicted to. We had a great time together, and I was overwhelmed by Vivian and her parents’ generosity. We opened a package of egg nog fudge I had bought from the Old Market candy shop to celebrate the season before heading on home for the night.

The next day, Nathan and I flew on our to North Carolina. Vivian is taking care of the beige bomber for the week. The flight out was uneventful, and we actually got there 20 minutes early. We flew with Southwest, which always seems to go smoothly. Jonathan was still working when we arrived home, so we got to have dinner together and I hung Vivian’s Superman ornament up on the family Christmas Tree.

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When Jonathan returned and the whole family was finally together again, we opened presents. I got copies of iLife from Nathan and Quicken from Mom and Dad, making this a Christmas where I received more Macintosh software than any other. I also got some Super Mario cartoon DVDs from Jonathan. Jonathan got four classic NES games from Nathan and me, and Nathan got Madden 2008 and Super Mario Galaxy from mom and dad, which should be loads of fun to play if we can manage to get an analog adapter for his Wii. We also got some cans of pringles, almonds, and Extra brand gum from mom, which were all easily consumed shortly after being opened.

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Christmas Day proved to be lazy and wonderful. We watched a couple episodes of Mystery Science Theater, and Jonathan had plenty of episodes to go around again this year. I also brought out the remote control car that Vivian gave me and had a tug-of-war with Jonathan’s little remote control monster truck.

After a lazy afternoon, we got together for a nice Christmas dinner at the end of the day, with a turkey breast and all the usual extras: stuffing, sweet potatoes, sweet pickles, and pumpkin pie. It was a lovely Christmas, but the best part was being able to have the whole family together again for a whole week of Christmas.

Flying home to Nebraska

It’s our last day in North Carolina, and it’s been a lovely week of doing almost absolutely nothing with the family. One memorable moment came a few days ago when my dad let us into one of the lecture halls at Campbell University to play some Perfect Dark on their big screen. I was finally able to lose to my brothers while being able to view my square in something slightly larger than a postage stamp.

Tonight, around 6:25 PM Eastern time, my brother and I will by flying on home to Nebraska. Then tomorrow I’ll be celebrating New Year’s Eve with some of my web comic buddies in Ames, Iowa and learning some new swing dance steps from some longtime friends of my buddy Dusan “Legostar” Jeftinija. Naturally, I’ll have some pictures from that to share as well.

Here’s to hoping the weather’s tolerable all the way home!

Christmas Vacation, Part 2

It’s been a great week here so far with my family in North Carolina. My brother and I flew in on Sunday and have been hanging out with my folks and my brother all week. We had a lovely Christmas dinner on Monday and opened presents. We all pretty much got a bunch of DVDs and books that we’ve been enjoying all week. I got Police Squad (the TV series that spawned the Naked Gun movies), The Wizard, Triumph of the Nerds, and Amazon Women on the Moon to satisfy all of my geek cravings. I also got Season One of Punky Brewster, a show I grew up loving and feeling almost ashamed to admit it now. It’s such a cute show.

We went to eat with the folks a couple times this week, stopping by a Waffle House today and a place called Mama Dip’s yesterday. I got to try Chitlins for the first time in my life, and let me tell all of you out there, you don’t ever want to be anywhere near this stuff. I won’t go into details, but the smell alone from these things is like a barnyard. I actually ate one piece and nearly got sick, but hey, you have to try new things if you ever want to live life to its fullest! We’ve also been spending loads of times watching Mystery Science Theater 3000 and a bunch of other movies. This week has really reminded me of what a vacation is really all about–getting away from your everyday drudgery and being able to do nothing for a little while, just so you can put everything else in your life into perspective. Sometimes I get so caught up with my job, my freelance work, and my online projects that I don’t have time to sit back and see it all in perspective.

I’ll have more pictures to share once my Internet connection isn’t quite so unstable!