Category Archives: Land and Sky

Christmas Reunions

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On Friday night, Vivian and I headed to Venice Inn to crash the Friendship Program Christmas party. Vivian hadn’t seen many of her co-workers since she left for maternity leave back in November, so every few minutes she was excitedly greeting someone. She also got to have her first official “drink” in about ten months (a chocolatini, of course). We filled up on meatballs, sausage, and toasted ravioli courtesy of Venice Inn in the meantime while Betty passed out seasonal door prizes to 80+ different people. Anthony accepted his ceramic snowman as if it were an Oscar and gave a stirring speech until Betty grabbed the microphone back.

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Friday night also marked our first trip back to Jitterbugs Night Out since the baby came. Friday was the Jitterbugs’ annual Christmas party, so they had the Stan Harper Experience drop by to belt out some swingin’ renditions of Christmas songs, (my favorite of which was that Peanuts’ Christmas piano song). There was a white elephant gift exchange later on, where a dozen or so guests got to receive random gifts ranging from a collection of swing music CDs to a can of Progresso soup. There was also a Jack and Jill competition toward the end of the night, but Vivian and I had worn out our feet by then and were ready to call it a night. I think we must be out of practice. Still, it was great to see several of our old swing dancing friends, and I’m sure we’ll still be coming back.

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On Saturday night, the whole family headed up to northwest Omaha for Jenny’s annual Christmas party. We put together “gingerbread” houses (with graham crackers) once again, and I took a stab at it this time, finding frosting to be a somewhat inadequate adhesive for constructing anything much larger than a graham cracker tent.

We had our own white elephant gift exchange, which enabled Vivian to trade in a star-shaped candle holder for a half-full bottle of washer fluid. I lucked out by swapping a kitschy “Have a Dickens of a Christmas” diorama for a set of “hobo tools” (consisting of a Swiss-army style fork and spoon), narrowly escaping the clutches of a stainless steel necklace holder in the process. Other noteworthy “prizes” included a copy of The Day I Shot Cupid by Jennifer Love Hewitt, a book Jon seemed to enjoy leafing through quite a bit.

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On Sunday, Vivian and I took our turn lighting the advent candles before the church (the theme for this one was “peace”). It also gave us the chance to introduce Hannah formally to the rest of the congregation, though almost everyone has had the chance to see her being adorable for just about anybody willing to hold her so far. That afternoon, Grammy and Grampy dropped by for a photo shoot with Hannah, and later on we took her on her very first walk around the neighborhood. She seemed quite fascinated with being outside for a change and looked up at the sky (or what she could make of it) with amazement.

That evening, a large group of us went by the Hillcrest home down on Harlan to sing Christmas carols to the residents there. Jessica Ritchie accompanied us on piano when we found one availabe, and we decked the halls together for a good hour making sure everyone possible got a bit of Christmas cheer. Afterward, we retreated back to Twin Valley Church to have some spicy venison chili courtesy of Jeff before heading home.

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Monday evening a big night for reunions for both Vivian and me. I took a trip down to Lincoln to catch up a bunch of my fellow Land and Sky “alumni” over dinner and drinks at Granite City. Joining us were (from left to right) Dan, Jeanie, Vanchessa, Julie, Paul, and Mark. It’s been a good three years or so since I’ve seen anybody from the old “gang,” and it brought back a lot of memories — most of which I probably shouldn’t repeat here. Thanks, Julie for getting us all together once again!

As for Vivian, Gail — her old best friend from high school and “Babo’s” previous owner — dropped by with her husband and little girl to pay us a Christmas visit. Vivian had been communicating with her online via Facebook for as long as I’ve known her, I think, so it was nice to finally meet up. They spent the day touring the Children’s Museum downtown, where Hannah got to “ride” on a slide and wiggle around in the “wiggle room.” We’ll have to take her back there older when she’d big enough to stand inside of a six-foot bubble. We had dinner that evening together at Carlos O’Kelly’s and then I took everyone downtown for some ice cream at Ted & Wally’s. The place still seemed to be packed in spite of the fact that it’s December, but we managed to beat the rush and have a scoop of egg nog, maple walnut, and “halva nice day” ice cream before calling it a night.

Christmas, here we come!

Goodbye, Land and Sky

Out for one last drink with the gang
On Friday last week, I finally said “goodbye” to Land and Sky after four long years. Much has changed since I joined the company in 2004, more than I could put into one blog posting. My flexible, part-time schedule with the company allowed me to fill my extra days with freelance work and drawing comics. During this time, I met loads of friends on Comic Genesis and made a comic five days a week that changed my life. I was able to travel to Las Vegas with the company on five separate occasions. That gave me a taste for travel that led me to visit St. Louis, Toronto, and London with my comic friends. I was a one-man marketing team for four years, updating websites, doing all of our brochures, and taking care of everything you could think of in regards to promoting our “specialty sleep systems.”

It was certainly a roller coaster ride, and now it’s finally come to an end. On Monday, I start fresh with a whole new career in Omaha. I’ll be living roughly ten minutes away from my new home, and I’ll be much closer to all my Jitterbug friends here in Cowtown, not to mentioned my soon-to-be wife Vivian.

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It was a fairly eventful weekend even without the job change. Vivian had two bridal showers and came home with a carload of gifts from our generous friends. On Sunday morning, we got to wake up with the rest of Omaha to some tornado sirens. We hid downstairs in the basement laundry room trying to find some news about the storm on one of the worthless local radio stations. None of them had any live reports, of course, so I had to go back upstairs eventually to see what was happening on the Internet of all places. Nothing around our apartments was damaged, but we did get a little less sleep than usual.

Sunday afternoon, Vivian and I dropped by Taste of Omaha on the way to Lindy in the Park. They had dozens of pavilions set up along the riverfront on the way to the Gene Leahy Mall. Village Inn was there with pies on sale, so I got to gorge on a slice of triple-berry and some strawberry crepes. Vivian found a booth with some stretchy printed polyester outerwear and another that printed the meanings of our first names on a piece of paper.

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Afterwards, we dropped by Eric’s place to play Frisbee in his living room and eat jambalaya together in his kitchen. It was a very spacious place, and Eric and Ben seemed to have fewer personal possessions than I was keeping in the back corner of my closet, so we had loads of room to stretch out. We also started making naughty phrases with the plastic letters on the fridge, and for some reason Eric made Vivian and me go stand in the corner.

Goodbye, Dan

IMG_7754.JPGIt’s a special day today: leap day, a day that comes only once every four years. It’s also Dan Guthard’s last day at Land and Sky. I don’t often post articles about my day job very often, and I don’t think any of my co-workers even knows this blog exists. I do spend a good portion of my time here at the office bonding with the people who work here. Dan was our production manager at Land and Sky, starting in Quality Assurance about eight years ago. He’s been the backbone of our production facility, and it’s going to be hard to see him go.

IMG_7789.JPGWe went out to Arnold’s Tavern in Havelock on Thursday night to celebrate his years of service. It was a fairly decent place for a bar, though they didn’t serve any food. A bunch of our regular crew showed up to say goodbye: Julie, Allison. and Vanchessa, the girls from customer service; sales reps Jeanie and Paul; Dan Miller the shipping manager; and a few others. I didn’t spend a dime of my own money as folks around the table bought round after round for us all: strawberry daiquiris, margaritas, British Bulldogs, Alabama Slammers, and a couple tequila roses. Paul even went out and bought us a couple pizzas from The Isles up the street. They had some great pizza there, the Paul said he could find in Lincoln.

It’s always great to spend some time “off the clock” with the gang you hang around from eight to five every day. Someday I’m going to have to put together one long post about them all.

The last trip to Las Vegas

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This weekend, I took another trip down to Las Vegas to help out with our booth at the semi-annual Las Vegas Market furniture show. Part of job this time around was to check out our permanent space over in the almost-constructed Building C at the World Market Center. I had to don a hard hat and eye protection to go check it out with a couple guys interested in sharing the space with us.

I was also responsible for tearing down the booth and getting it all packed up to send back to Nebraska. It’s always a bit of chore to shove half a dozen 300-pound latex beds into plastic bags and box them up, but being able to spend a weekend in Vegas on the company’s dollar makes it all worthwhile.

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I stayed downtown again, enjoying the Fremont Street experience and fairly decent walking weather. The last time I was here, I stayed at the Monte Carlo, which is a fairly nice place when it isn’t on fire. The city was fairly busy with the usual amount of drinking and rampant pornography, though there were a couple good shows available. Jerry Seinfeld was making an appearance at Caesar’s Palace, while Drew Carey and the cast of Whose Line were performing at the MGM Grand again. I saw them last year, and they were excellent. The “must see” show, however, would have to be Terry Fator, the puppet guy from America’s Got Talent. He’s going to be at the Hilton later in February, and if he were in town when I was, I would have to go check him out. Vivian’s raved so much about him, I’m sure it would be worth it.

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It was a fairly short weekend in Vegas, and I didn’t get much time for extra sight-seeing other than my usual walk up and down the strip, camera in hand, snapping pictures of everything in sight with every other tourist from around the world. I did stop by the M&M’s World for a cute 3-D movie, “I lost my M in Las Vegas.” It had to be the only family-friendly show in all of Sin City. Of course, I also had to make a stop at Inn-n-Out Burger to scarf down a couple double-doubles before the trip back home. I did so much walking around town, I figured I deserved it.

All in all, it was another productive weekend in Las Vegas. This has become a regular thing for now, and it seems like I’m finally getting the hang of it. Here’s a final tip for all your travels planning to visit the city of neon lights: sit on the right side of the plane, and you’ll have a great view of the strip during takeoff and landing.

See all my pictures from Las Vegas this year.

Work and play in Lincoln

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It’s been a pretty full week with mom and dad here in town. On Thursday, we had Viv over to play with the Wii. I made sandwiches for dinner and then we went to Mike and Bekah’s for dessert. Some of Bekah’s family was visiting, and between the lot of us we had more than our share of native Californians, which naturally led to discussions about earthquakes, artichokes, and Disneyland. Today, after lunch with some of dad’s colleagues from academia, mom and dad came by Land and Sky afterwards to try out a couple of our all-natural beds. They seemed to like our one model with memory foam the best. All they need is a good rope now to strap it to the top of the van and haul it back east to North Carolina.

Feeling Lucky!

It’s been another eventful day in Las Vegas! The tradeshow here has been very busy, with much better traffic than either of the two Las Vegas shows I’ve attended. Our group was able to meet with customers all through Thursday when last year the show had dropped dead around Wednesday noon. I attribute it mostly to having a much better location at the head of Pavilion 3 rather than being shoved back in a dark, forgotten corner of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Last night, I played Blackjack for the first time in my life and I won $40! I was waiting at the New York New York to have dinner with one of our sales reps and I decided to play some cards to pass the time. I honestly didn’t expect to win anything, so I just put down $20 and decided to play until it was done. I lost some, and then won some, lost some, won some more, and finally when I had around $60 in chips, I saw Paul coming and decided to cash them in. I’m smart enough to quit while I’m ahead!

After dinner at the Excalibur, I took a walk down the strip to burn off some of the shrimp and prime rib I had for dinner. I stopped inside M&M’s World, where you could buy all the M&M’s you wanted in any color of the rainbow, along with more M&M merchandise than I care to think about.

I got back to the Golden Nugget in time to see the canopy light up on Fremont street. They have a light show downtown every hour on the hour for around six minutes where they play music and display some psychedelic graphics overhead. If you’ve ever turned on “visual effects” in iTunes, this is very much the same kind of thing. Very cool!

Today, I get to babysit the trade show for one last day and visit with some of the few remaining customers we may have milling about. Then tonight, I get to pack up the show, heaving several big heavy beds into boxes and onto a palette, ready to ship back to Nebraska. I’m hoping to have enough free time tonight to visit a show before heading back home tomorrow.

Viva Las Vegas!

I just spent my first day in Las Vegas at the World Market Center helping with our trade show. The trip from Nebraska went very smoothly, and I was able to fire up my laptop and watch 12 Monkeys for most of the flight. The picture above is how the strip looks when you land at the airport, and I couldn’t help but think that it looked like a giant amusement park for adults.

I checked in at the hotel and then went down to the World Market Center to join the rest of the sales team. Here we have me, Paul James, Ron Larson, Jeanie Kensinger, and Doug Edwards. Ron’s the president of the company and the rest of the team do sales. I’m in marketing, so I got to see how the displays I put together for the show looked when they all came together.

That evening, Ron took us out for drinks at the club at the top of Mandalay Bay, where we had an unbelieveable view of the city below. In the picture above you can see the imposing black silhouette of the Luxor, with the Excalibur, MGM Grand, Tropicana, and other strip properties in the distance.

I’m staying at the Golden Nugget, which is in Downtown Las Vegas, rather than on the Strip. I was a bit tired from the busy day, so I didn’t get to see the light show on Fremont Street, but I did get to take a relatively quick trip down the Strip on the Deuce, which is the bus that runs from one end of town to the other here. It was the best way to travel: $2 for a one-way trip, and much cheaper than a cab. It took a little while since we had to stop for passengers every few blocks, but it was good to meet a few other tourists while checking out the neon lights of the Strip from the second floor of the bus.

More pictures tomorrow!