- January: After celebrating the New Year with friends in Kansas City, Vivian and I celebrate with her parents and light the fireplace for a (literal) housewarming party. We also celebrate our third Sushi Anniversary.
- February: Matt made a heart-shaped meatloaf for Valentine’s Day. We also went to a Fish Fry at St. John Vianney’s for a second year in a row (thus making it a tradition).
- March: Now that we have a house, Vivian and I host a late-night Pancake Party, just because we can. We also had a couples night out at GAMe, taught some kids how to dance, and watched a hockey game.
- April: This was a month for parties: a taco party, a burger party, a tea party, Easter, birthday parties for friends and co-workers, as well as the last meeting for the Shovelers as the torch is passed to Lisa.
- May: I get my fifteen minutes of fame making sound effects for Brad Sherwood & Colin Mochrie on stage at the Holland Center.
- June: Vivian and I play host for the (final) annual Comic Genesis cookout.
- July: We and some friends get to see Styx, Foreigner, and Kansas live in concert with about 50k Omahans in Memorial park. Vivian and I also celebrated our second anniversary in Kansas City, shopping in the Plaza, visiting a museum, eating lobster, and cooling off at Oceans of Fun.
- August: Matt has a birthday full of awesome at Johnny’s steakhouse and Fun Plex. We also had a fun camping trip canoeing up the Niobrara.
- September: Vivian had a birthday made of sushi, Malara’s and martinis. We also ate lots of corn at Cowtown and attended the last baseball game at Rosenblatt stadium.
- October: Vivian and I participate in one of Kaleb’s famous murder mysteries, take a trip to Vala’s, and host a birthday party for Jenny at our house. We also learned the dance from Thriller and performed it every chance we got.
- November: Trader Joe’s opens, the Amarillo closes, and Hugh and Sarah have a wedding of extraordinary magnitude.
- December: Vivian and I ring in the New Year with friends in Kansas City. We spent a little extra time hanging out in the Plaza, eating some barbecue, and adopting Santasaurus. I also won a chili contest.
Merry Christmas, everyone! Vivian and I are wrapping up another whirlwind holiday season here in Nebraska, sharing time, food, and gifts with family and friends over the course of a week or two.
The weekend before Christmas, we had something of a family get-together with Jonathan, Nathan, and Ranae joining us on Friday night to see the premier of Tron Legacy at the Twin Creek cinema. Vivian and I had watched the original Tron a few weeks earlier in anticipation of the sequel, and I have to say that I was very impressed with how they managed to continue the story so well after 28 years. Of course, the visual eye-candy is what made the film so much fun to watch, but I also decided the plot was much deeper than the 1982 film (which felt more like a cheesy and clunky excuse to use computer graphics).
After the movie, we had everyone’s favorite breakfast-for-dinner down at Village Inn and then returned to our house to open presents before going home. Vivian got some vanilla bath soaps from Nathan and Ranae, and I got a book I’ve been meaning to read — Never Eat Alone: by Keith Ferrazzi. (Ironically, I’ll probably be reading it on my lunch break … alone.)
On Christmas Eve Eve, Vivian and I celebrated our fourth First Date Anniversary. We went down to the Old Market and had a very unique dinner at the Passport, where Vivian had duck with an orange glaze and I got to try ostrich steaks for the very first time. We made the obligatory trip to the Old Market candy shop afterward to get some egg nog fudge, then went down to the bench along the Gene Leahy Mall to not kiss for a few minutes before heading over to 13th Street Coffee to warm up.
We wrapped up the night by watching The Voyage of the Dawn Treader back in Bellevue, which was quite enjoyable. I read the books years ago but remembered very little, so watching the film made me want to start reading some of the Chronicles of Narnia once again.
We spent Christmas eve day happily doing as little as possible, wrapping presents and watching the movie Elf. We attended the Christmas Eve service at Twin Valley church for the first time. Pastor Drew had a message about the original St. Nicholas for the kids, and we sang a variety of Christmas songs, along with Silent Night by candlelight.
We had Jack and Donna over for some Cheese Fondue back at the house, which was quite tasty. It came in the form of a mix Vivian picked up at Trader Joe’s and I got to enjoy it with parsnips for the very first time. We opened a boatload of presents afterward, which included a new hard drive and some red shorts for me, a chocolate fondue pot and a Snuggie for Donna, a book on grilling for Jack, and a new shirt and a book on cheesemaking for Vivian.
On the big day, we opened some presents at home via telephone with my parents and then stuffed ourselves with hors d’eourves and Christmas dinner at Vivian’s parents’ house. Vivian’s co-worker Sherry, her husband Rob, and their son Matt joined us for the feast, as did Onion-Boy and my brother Jonathan. I got to try my hand at carving turkey for the first time, which wasn’t as easy as it looked. Our meal came with party favors that included small paper crowns (that we all put on immediately). Afterward, we opened our stockings, which had plenty of innuendo going around thanks to such gifts as “monkey butt” powder and “caulk saver” (as if nobody knew that was going to happen). We also had a more-than-welcome visit by everyone’s favorite Christmas dinosaur, Santa Saurus.
We returned home and had a few more gift exchanges with Jonathan, which included a boxed set of Mystery Science Theater 3000 movies for Jonathan (from mom and dad), a box of chocolates for Vivian, and some Weird Al CDs for me (both from Jonathan). We spent the Day After Christmas together watching Devil Fish (via MST3K), the Mouse that Roared, and eating pizza and leftovers to round out the weekend.
Christmas is fast approaching, and it seems everywhere we turn is a celebration of some kind. On Wednesday, we had our Small Group Christmas Party, which involved having cocktail wieners and cookies while exchanging a variety of gifts (most of which included fun board games). We also got to coo over Justin and Kelly’s new baby girl, Sydney.
On Friday night, Vivian and I decided to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows: Part 1 together, just on a whim. Since Voyage of the Dawn Treader was opening that same night, we had a not-all-that-full house to enjoy the show. And by enjoy, I mean I watched and followed along since I had already read the book, while Vivian sat bored out of her mind wondering when the main characters would just hurry up and die already.
The rest of the night, of course, was spent at the Eagle’s Lodge dancing to the Grand Marquis, who were paying us a visit. Afterward, we crashed at Alvorado’s once again for some tasty late-night Mexican food, and we hung around for a while goofing off and playing with Ben Cass’ magnetic balls. (Yes, I know how that sounds). Naturally, I had my camera snapping everything in sight, as usual, much to some people’s irritation.
On Saturday, we got the fringes of the blizzard that brought down the Metrodome. It was mostly gale-force winds and snow that cut you like sheets of stinging sand, but nothing that made the roads too treacherous to drive on. Our furnace also blew a fuse, making me fairly glad that we’d just renewed our home warranty with Service One. We had him give the furnace an annual check-up as well. Another heating company had “found” a crack in the heat exchanger and said we had to buy a new furnace right away or we could die in our sleep. For some reason, Service One couldn’t seem to find the same crack. Maybe that’s because they aren’t in the business of selling furnaces.
As such, we were a little late to a wedding for Bart and Margaret, two mutual swing dancing friends of ours. I did have time to dance with the bride, but I had to sing the song myself, as the band had already packed up. There was time to snap a handful of pictures, of course, and act a little silly with all of our friends.
Vivian and I had some tasty Nachos Navidad for lunch and washed it down with some McDonald’s Egg Nog Shakes — both apparently a Christmas tradition for Vivian. We were also able to do almost all of our Christmas shopping before the end of the day. The blizzard had somehow kept all the holiday shoppers indoors, allowing us to browse a couple different stores at our leisure to pick up a few items (which will be revealed at the proper time, of course).
That evening, Sarah Adair had an apartment-warming party at her new digs. Several of us stopped by to sip wine and play a few games. Things did seem to get pretty goofy fairly quickly. Innuendo ran wild during What’s Yours Like, Eric actually ate a ketchup-coated cracker, and then Jon, Jim, and Kris also decided to run out into the snow for some reason. They thought it’d be fun to run along the railroad tracks behind the apartment building and bring half of it back inside when they returned. We still had plenty of fun once they got cleaned up.
(And by the way, “Are we still on cake?”)
We had yet another Christmas party on Monday, this time with our new friends from Twin Valley Church. The pastor’s brother in law lives in the house next door, so we gathered there with several other church members and attendees of the Monday Night “game and bible study” group. We got to stuff ourselves with stromboli, tabouleh, tortilla soup, and an assortment of sweets for dinner, and then we had a fairly competitive white elephant gift exchange. I had to fight to keep a pair of extendable marshmallow tongs, while others got to fight over the hot sauce and chocolates we brought with us. The most popular item seemed to be a large dart gun, which I was actually happy to give up, since I had an identical model sitting in my closet at home (waiting for next year’s Comic Genesis Cookout).
In case I hadn’t mentioned it earlier, Vivian and I have recently started attending Twin Valley Church here in Bellevue, the very church where we got married two and a half years ago. That’s right, we’ve abandoned our local mega-church in favor of a small church where people actually recognize us when we walk inside. It’s a very welcome change. We had dinner with our pastor and his family recently, Vivian’s singing with the choir, and I’m being recruited do such things as work the audio board and A/V system when other people are out of town. It certainly feels nice to be involved someplace again.
On Tuesday night, we went to dinner at Amarillo with Mark and Lisa from church. Amarillo is a barbecue restaurant on Fort Crook road where I took Jack and Donna for their blessing before I proposed to Vivian in 2008. It’s been open for a couple decades now and had such noteworthy guests as Sean Penn, Garth Brooks, and several others. Its last night open was Nov. 30, so we got to enjoy some ribs, feather bones, and “dirt cake” for one last time.
On Friday night, I attended the Friendship Program Christmas Party at Venice Inn, imbibing in a few drinks with co-workers before gorging on steak and toasted ravioli.
On Saturday, we finally got our Christmas tree. We found a lovely little Fraser Fir at a nearby lot and hauled it home (slipping and sliding all the way) on top of my Taurus. It fit just perfectly in the living room, and Vivian and I spent the next couple of days decorating it with lights and ornaments. Our whole living room is now basking in the soft, warm glow of the holiday season every night.
On Sunday evening, it was time for Eric and Ben’s annual Chili “Throwdown,” held once again in the Nothnagel basement. This thing seems to get bigger every year, with 42 guests and about 15 or 16 competitors joining in this year. Vivian made up her Best Chili You Will Ever Taste once again, and I put together my own special concoction: pizza chili. It included typical chili ingredients such as ground beef, onions, and stewed tomatoes, but I also added green peppers, black olives, mushrooms, garlic, pizza seasoning, pepperoni, Jimmy Dean’s hot sausage, and pizza sauce. I think it came out quite well and it won a prize for “most unique” chili of the evening.
Vivian and I were predictably stuffed by the end of the night, quite possibly because we did more sitting around and watching the Simpsons pretend to be Muppets instead of dancing off what we’d just eaten. Maybe next year.
Vivian and I were able to attend our first professional football game at Rosenblatt Stadium last Friday, which was a certainly interesting experience for the two of us. We’d been to Rosenblatt several times, but we’d hadn’t seen the field dressed up for football before. It was very surreal experience. The weather and the crowds were also noticeably different — the family-friendly atmosphere had given way for beer-swilling drunks screaming at the field and fighting with each other in the stands. I could almost understand — it was below freezing and the line for hot cocoa stretched all the way around the stadium. It was still fun to watch some professional football huddled together near the end zone, but the visiting Tuskers plowed the field with the Nighthawks, and Vivian and I headed home early rather than watch the carnage play out.
Fall is quickly making way for winter, with colorful leaves turning dry and brown as the dreaded white stuff starts sputtering down from the sky. That meant Vivian and I had to break out the rakes and clean up our lawn for the very first time. We’ve come full circle in our little house — we bought it nearly a year ago and we’ve got to experience all four seasons with it now.
We kicked off Thanksgiving weekend at Jenny’s house on the following Wednesday, enjoying some drinks and treats while playing What’s Yours Like with her new boyfriend, Kris. Ever since I made martinis at Vivian’s birthday party back in September, I’ve been a bit of a fan of mixing drinks. I made Manhattans for myself and Eric, appletinis Jenny, Venche, and Jon, and virgin appletinis for Vivian and Kris. I could have made another virgin appletini for Eric, but he seemed to like grabbing for Vivian’s.
We got to celebrate Turkey Day for the first time at our home in Bellevue, and we had Jack and Donna over to share in a feast that included turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, pearled onions, cranberry sauce, and everything else you’d need to induce a day-long Thanksgiving Coma.
Vivian and I took a trip down to the Old Market that evening to enjoy the recently-lit Gene Leahy Mall and walk off a bit of our meal. As such, we discovered the Hollywood Candy store has a new, much larger location at 12 and Jackson. Among the aisles and aisle of candy were a new soda fountain and a small movie theater in the works. The owner bumped into us and mentioned that he plans to show free B-grade movies there once the theater is finished. I’m thinking sugar rush + bad movies = MST3K.
Despite being entirely too full, we still stopped by Ted & Wally’s for some egg nog ice cream before our walk down to the Gene Leahy Mall. We got our annual photo taken down there before heading home for the evening.
On Black Friday, Vivian and I skipped the homicidal three in the morning crowds and enjoyed a very tame and not-too-crowded stroll through Walmart, where we picked up Batman Begins and Bladerunner for $2 each along with our egg nog. We visited the Durham that evening for their Christmas tree lighting and helped Donna’s cake-decorating group hand out cookies for the kids to decorate before the main event.
Later on, we dropped by JNO to welcome back Jillian from New Yawk City. She was able to have a Birthday/Welcome Back jam toward the end of the night. Jenny and Kris made an appearance as well, and we inducted him into the tradition of having breakfast and BS’ing down at Village Inn afterward.
Vivian and I have had a fun week or so just hanging out with one another. On Thursday last week, she got an award from Friendship Program, where she’s spent the last five years of her working life. We got to hang out with a few of her goofy co-workers and have some tasty hors d’eourves provided by the staff.
On Saturday, Vivian made good on a bet we had on the Nebraska / Texas game a few weeks ago and took me out to lunch at the place of my choice. Naturally, I chose Wasabi, the All You Can Eat Sushi restaurant out on West Maple. The place was absolutely amazing. You order sushi from a menu similar to Sakura Bana or any traditional sushi restaurant, except you only pay once. We stuffed ourselves with maki rolls, shrimp tempura, miso soup, green tea ice cream, and an assortment of other items that would have put us well in bankruptcy if we’d eaten anywhere else.
We waddled on over to the Michael’s next door to browse the art supplies and play with the toys over there as we let our giant meal settle.
Vivian and I headed down to the new Trader Joe’s at One Pacific Place afterward. The place was packed, as we’d expected. Trader Joe’s is the kind of grocery store you’d get if Whole Foods and Aldi had a baby — the selection is mostly all-natural foods and specialty items usually found only on the west coast (such as Italian Dry Bologna, or whatever it’s called), and it’s also almost entirely store-branded products. That means the prices are actually quite reasonable. I picked up a big bottle of sweet vermouth for $5 as well as a bottle of the notorious Two Buck Chuck (which was actually $3).
I was also impressed with the effort Trader Joe’s made to localize their store with murals on the walls of noteworthy Omaha landmarks, such as the Lauritzen Gardens and the Dundee Theater. It was fun to try to identify them as we squeezed out through the checkout line with our goods in tow.
We were still stuffed from lunch, so we walked down the Big Papio Trail as the sun set. The light was hitting the colorful leaves of a nearby grove of trees, and Vivian wanted to stop and get some lovely fall pictures of ourselves before heading home.
Our little Honda Civic hit a big milestone on Sunday night — it finally made it over its first one-hundred thousand miles. Vivian wanted me there on hand with a camera to capture the moment on video.
On Tuesday, I decided to take Vivian out for a “just because” date, so we dropped by the always-appetizing Charlie’s on the Lake to have some seafood for dinner, and then we went to the AMC theater around the corner to watch Facebook: The Movie (also known as The Social Network). It was quite compelling, and much better than I expected, probably because they didn’t include anything about Farmville.
On Saturday, Vivian and I and a bunch of our mutual friends got to see Hugh Kam and Sarah Hansen married out at Peace Presbyterian Church in West Omaha. It was the ideal wedding ceremony — brief and to the point, and followed by a long and fun reception. We had dinner and speeches by Best Man Olin and Maid of Honor (Sarah’s sister) Laura. Then we had several hours to burn off our dinner dancing to music by DJ/MC Troy. There seemed to be an equal mix between swing and country music, as well as welcome inclusions of “Shout” by the Isley Brothers and a conga dance. (The Chicken Dance and the Hokey Pokey were notably absent.)
Of course, I was on hand to take plenty of photos and video, and I put together a brief video summary of the event online.
Vivian and I had some more fun on Sunday crashing at Sam & Louie’s in Bellevue to have pizza with new friends from Twin Valley Church, where we’ve been attending for the last couple of months. Afterward, I dropped by St. Martin’s up in South Omaha, where our swing dancing friends Jessica Ritchie and Dan Wondra were participating in an art show with Arts for All. Jessica had her photos on display, and Dan was, of course, drawing caricatures. He did one of me mixing up nasty drinks, as is my forte now, apparently. We also did one or two swing dance demonstrations to anybody who happened to wander by.
We had our first freeze warning of the season shortly before All Hallows Eve, so Vivian and I did a late evening harvest of our tomato plants so we could have a chance to eat some of them. We had plenty of green tomatoes still waiting to be picked on the vine, and even some red ones. It looks like some bruschetta may be in our future.
Among our slew of Halloween events was a brief birthday party for Vivian’s co-worker Sally. She dressed up as Waldo, so I made a themed card for her and joined the gang from Friendship Program for pizza and burgers dressed as Inigo Montoya. Vivian came as a piece of sushi.
Friday night was the Halloween Dance at JNO, so Vivian and I wore our costume over to the Eagle’s Lodge for a night of dancing. We had plenty of worthy competitors in the costume contest this year, which included Rob and a Whoopie Cushion, Jaimie as Little Bo Creep, and Dan Wondra as… Dan Wondra.
The highlight, however, was our brief performance of the Thrill the World dance in the middle of the dance floor. We’d been practicing in Merinda’s basement for the last month of two, and it was quite exciting to jump out and perform in front of a bunch of unsuspecting swing dancers. We’re already talking about doing the whole six-minute song next year, perhaps at the Haunted Manor here in Omaha.
On Saturday night, Merinda had another classic Halloween party in her basement. Some of us donned new costumes just for the occasion, including Lisa as Running with Scissors, Jaimie as Mother Nature (or Poison Ivy, take your pick), Brianne as a Blue Ox (with Paul Bunyan standing by) and Ben Cass as the Creepy Panda (no, I don’t get it either). Dan and Cathy got to take the cake as the Creepy Swing Dancing Zombies, with make-up provided by the Haunted Manor. Seriously, Dan looked remarkably like Freddy Krueger.
It was a long, fun night, with plenty of silliness and mixing of drinks. I got to give away some of our own store making Martinis, Appletinis, and White Russians who anybody who wanted them. Of course, Troy’s radioactive rum was probably quite enough for anyone.
With fall well underway, and only a week or so left in October, it was high time for a trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch with a bunch of our mutual friends. The weather was just about perfect — sunny and cool with nary a trace of the “80% chance of rain” the forecasters had been warning us about. As such, there was plenty of room for us to act like crazy kids bouncing on orange trampolines. We also got to ride around on pedal carts, get lost in a corn maze, wander through the obligatory haunted house, and gorge on succotash without waiting around in line. It was a terrific time, and we got to see just about everything we wanted (except for a surprise appearance by The Godfather).
That evening we celebrated our friend Lisa’s 50th birthday party at the Bancroft Market / Reception Hall in south downtown Omaha. Our Jitterbug and Classical Music disc jockey Ben Rasmussen appeared with his band Insignificant Other and covered a variety of 60s and 70s songs for our dancing enjoyment. I poured a couple White Russians for everyone and got stuffed on nachos, cake, and other hors d’eourves over at the snack table. A few hours of dancing wasn’t nearly enough time to burn it all off, but we still had a great time hanging out and being silly under nearly midnight.
It’s election season once again, and I decided to drop by Bellevue University to check out a debate between 2nd District Congressman Lee Terry and his would-be opponent, Tom White. I went in with an open mind, already more or less decided on my vote, but I was somewhat disappointed when the “debate” quickly turned into an exchange of personal attacks. To be specific, all Tom White seemed to want to talk about was Lee Terry’s alleged conversation with a female lobbyist, much to the irritation of his wife in the front row and most of the audience. I’d much rather hear from each candidate what they’d do differently in Washington instead of why I shouldn’t vote for the other guy.
I have to admit one thing about Lee Terry — he’s awfully easy to run into in Omaha. He regularly holds coffees with Lee at local restaurants and hosts town hall meetings, which makes it easy for noisy constituents to come and complain to him about things. The one moment that stands out to me most, however, was when I bumped into him at Deitz music shop down on Cornhusker while doing some Christmas shopping. There’s something that makes you feel quite warm and fuzzy to know you can just run into your own congressman like any other human being, that he’s not walled off in some fortress of solitude back in Washington. He was buying his son a guitar for Christmas, so I didn’t do much other than shake his hand and say hello, but it felt good to know I could tell him what was on my mind as well.
Now if only I could bump into Ben Nelson the same way.