Monthly Archives: July 2010

Family Reunion

P1080251.JPG P1080261.JPG

It’s summertime once again, and my parents stopped to visit us on their annual road trip across the United States. There are three great things about being a college professor — June, July, and August. It was especially nice to have a house large enough for both my parents and my brother Jonathan, all of whom spent the week with us.

I took Thursday off to spend some time visiting with everyone, and we were treated to lunch at Mahoney State Park with a few of dad’s colleagues with the National Association of Scholars. It’s always fun to hear them discuss what’s happening behind the scenes in academia, particularly my dad’s theory of the coming “academic bubble.”

That evening, we got some burgers, fries, and onion rings from our local landmark burger joint, Stella’s. We got to use our new deck table for the first and enjoyed them outdoors in a relatively mosquito-free environment (that’s in part to our friendly local bats).

P1080266.JPG P1080284.JPG

We had the whole family over for dinner on Friday night, which included Nathan and his wife Ranae. To celebrate, my dad had Dreamland Barbecue in Tuscaloosa, Alabama overnight some of their famous barbecue ribs that we enjoyed many years ago when we lived down there. The big box of southern goodness came with a loaf of white bread and a couple extra jars of sauce to save for later.

We spent a while catching up with Nathan and Ranae, who my parents hadn’t seen since they were just dating a year ago, and played a couple goofy rounds of Apples to Apples before calling it a night.

P1080291.JPG P1080302.JPG

On Saturday, Vivian and I took mom and dad down to the Farmer’s Market in downtown Omaha to browse for some fresh produce to enjoy back at home. We bumped into a street magician who had to “borrow” a $20 bill for a magic trick and had some homemade root beer and other samples before retreating back to the car to escape the blistering July heat. (I tried unsuccessfully to get mom and dad to run inside Ted & Wally’s instead, where they were serving Kahlua-flavored ice cream.)

We also dropped by an antique mall local somewhere in the vicinity of Waterloo. I had been hoping to see a few “antique” toys from my own generation, but they had mostly old kitchen implements, neon Coke signs, and a few hilariously outdated books on the shelves. We returned home to watch a particularly cheesy episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 while Vivian made some homemade ice cream. Vivian’s been on a homemade ice cream kick ever since she found a recipe in the Fontenelle Nature Center’s newsletter, so my parents gave her an ice cream maker as anniversary gift.

P1080336.JPGLunch at Amato's

On Sunday, mom, dad, and Jonathan joined Vivian and me for a church service at Christ Community Church. Afterward, we dropped by Amato’s Cafe for lunch. Dad had seen the small cafe on 60th and Center featured on the Food Network program Diners, Drive-ins and Dives with Guy Fieri. It’s a quaint little cafe with gigantic ricotta pancakes, and they’d apparently been getting plenty of traffic since being featured on the show. If you decide to drop by, come early — they close at one o’clock (1:30 on weekdays).

P1080369.JPG What a corny couple!

Jonathan headed on home to Wayne a little after lunch on Monday, and then Vivian, mom, dad, and I spent the afternoon visiting the Strategic Air and Space Museum‎ out by Mahoney State Park. We’d driven by the display fighter jet on I-80 for years but had never ventured inside the giant museum / hangar, and it was quite an interesting visit. I actually found a display on Nazi eugenics more interesting than all the aircraft on display (which included a replica of the Pod Racer from Star Wars: The Phantom Menace), but we all had a good time for the three or so hours we were there, and we hadn’t even seen everything the place had to offer by the time it closed.

We stopped by a cornfield so dad could take a couple quick, corny photos of Vivian and me before calling it a day. Vivian made up some tasty marinated salmon and sushi for dinner, and we wound down watching The Pajama Game downstairs before bed.

All in all, it was a great (albeit lazy) week with the family, and I’m sure we’ll be doing it all over again next year.

Anniversary in Kansas City

It’s hard to believe, but Vivian and I have spent two wonderful years together as husband and wife. To celebrate, we decided to take a little shorter trip this year and head down to Kansas City to enjoy some of the sites of our neighbor to the south over the weekend.

P1070625.JPG P1070630.JPG

Our first stop, naturally, was for some KC barbecue at Fiorella’s Jack Stack. Vivian and Jenny found this place by accident when searching for a place to eat other than the nauseatingly ubiquitous likes of Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s or Kona Grill. We had a couple gigantic onion rings as an hors d’oeuvre and then dove into a couple plates of dinosaur-sized beef ribs. We topped it all off, of course, with the legendary hot carrot cake that Vivian and Jenny remembered best (partly because they got it for free when the chef made it by mistake).

P1070765.JPG P1070656.JPG

Vivian and I spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the Country Club Plaza, which was the nation’s first shopping center designed for people traveling by car (ironic considering it was just a few blocks from our hotel). I always love walking the streets and admiring the elaborate Spanish-style architecture, even when it happens to be a muggy 97 degrees outside. I did a little research on Yelp before our trip and found a lovely little cheese shop for Vivian to explore called The Better Cheddar — we spent a good hour or two there digging through hundreds of different cheeses, including some Limburger (though we weren’t quite brave enough to buy some). We finished off the afternoon dropping into the theater to see Twilight Eclipse together. Vivian and I had actually watched Twilight and New Moon together in the week or two previously, so I can safely say we got our fill of sparkling vampires (and I’m personally looking forward to the upcoming parody film, Vampires Suck).


We stayed at the Embassy Suites just a few blocks away from the Plaza and had a good time there as well. There was an adult swim after ten o’clock, so Vivian and I were able to enjoy some time in the pool without a hundred screaming kids splashing around with us. We also got to try out our waterproof digital camera, which we are happy to report works quite well even when submerged. We dropped by World Market afterward to get some salmon pate and wine to enjoy back in our room. It’s a shame they no longer exist in Omaha.

We both got a free breakfast downstairs the next day that kept us going until well after lunch, which was an added bonus. We also brought our own real maple syrup from the World Market to use on the pancakes — after tasting the real stuff on our honeymoon, I don’t think either of us could go back to artificially flavored “pancake syrup.”

P1070792.JPG P1070845b

On Saturday, we visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, which was also located just a few blocks from our hotel. As an art major, I enjoyed being able to see works by Rembrandt, Caravaggio, and Monet up close and personal with Vivian (who incidentally discovered that she’s a fan of Impressionism). They had plenty of other works in various media from different periods, but we were only able to see a portion of the museum before our feet started giving out. I did find time to give a brief lecture in the auditorium about the artistic freedom of not wearing any pants.

Vivian and I enjoyed a quick game of badminton outside before heading back to the hotel.

P1070869.JPG Lobster Dinner at the Savoy Grill

That evening, Vivian and I enjoyed a romantic seafood dinner at the historic Savoy Grill in downtown KC. In memory of our trip to Bar Harbor, we both ordered giant lobster dinners and lobster bisque, all of which was magnificent. Neither of us had actually eaten lobster since our honeymoon two years ago, so it was a joy to break out the crackers and enjoy some of that soft-shell goodness once again. The staff at the Savoy Grill definitely made the dinner an experience — we even had the owner stop by to sing us an Irish blessing before we left. It was a splurge, but I’d definitely go back.

P1080022.JPG P1070978.JPG

On the day of our anniversary, Vivian and I beat the summer heat by heading up to Oceans of Fun for the day. I had been to this water park just once back in middle school, and it was even more fun now than I remembered. This might have to do with us visiting on a Monday with much smaller crowds than there would have been on the weekend. We were able to visit just about every water slide we liked without much of a line, and I gave our waterproof camera a pretty good endurance run filming myself shooting down one slide after another (and then trying to stay upright as I hit the water at the bottom).

P1080050.JPG P1080089.JPG

That evening, we dropped by Oklahoma Joe’s — another local barbecue place I’d found via Yelp — and enjoyed some brisket together as we changed a few anniversary gifts. One of these was the second of my series of Anniversary Comics, which sum up the year we’ve spent together.

We took a trip down to the Plaza one last time to pick up a few mementos and some more cheese before making the long drive back home. When we arrived, we found Vivian’s parents had left us a nice table setting along with dinner for the next day. It’s definitely nice not to have to worry about making dinner when you’re on vacation.

Thus concluded two wonderful years with the most wonderful bride I could ever imagine. People still occasionally ask us, “How’s married life?” Honestly, it keeps getting better and better. I love you, Vivian! I’m lucky to have you.

Highlights from our trip

Mahi Mahi

P1070567.JPG Mango Salsa and marinaded salmon

Thursday was a fun day for Vivian and me. We had Donna over to celebrate her birthday. Vivian made a fancy Asian feast, featuring marinaded Mahi Mahi with mango salsa, California rolls, edamame, and Miso soup. I contributed an ice cream cake from Dairy Queen, which we adorned with candles for Donna to blow out before it melted. We had enough sushi ingredients left over for Vivian to make some tasty inside-out rolls for our dinner on Friday. Yum!

Gardens, Shakespeare, and Hot Dancing

P1070230.JPG P1070232

It’s summertime, and the livin’ is easy. Our backyard garden is starting bare some fruit. Vivian picked our first orange tomato and green beans on Saturday, and we were able to produce enough lettuce to make a fresh salad. There’s nothing quite as tasty as produce from your own soil. In other news, I turned on our sprinkler system for the first time on Saturday. We’ve had so much rain lately that I haven’t had much reason to try it out yet, but it was honestly quite fun to turn it on for the first time. Little sprinkler heads started popping up all over the yard, pushing their way out of the dirt and mud from a the world’s longest winter. One pipe underneath a new patch of concrete seems to be broken, but other than that, it looks like our lawn will be able to get some water whether it rains for not.

P1070309 P1070321

On Saturday night, Vivian and I attended yet another one of our favorite summer traditions — Shakespeare on the Green at Elmwood Park. I’ve attended performances for the last three years (in 2009, 2008, and 2007) and have always had a fabulous time, even when we were rained out. I arrived early enough to grab a decent spot before the park filled up with other spectators. Those of us who arrived before the show were able to enjoy some singers dressed in period garb, our favorite juggler, some Irish folk music, and a miniature version of Romeo and Juliet performed by a local high school drama club.

As for the main event, this year’s production was a musical version of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and while I would have preferred a more straight interpretation of Shakespeare, it was still a great show.

P1070371 P1070473

On Sunday, we had another episode of Lindy in the Park. It was starting to feel more like July, which required more liberal use of sunblock and ample quantities of Ted & Wally’s ice cream afterward (Amaretto and almond — yummy). We had a great turnout despite the heat.

United in Rock

Hanging out at Memorial Park P1060685.JPG

Happy Independence Day, America! Vivian and I had a great weekend with our friends all over Omaha. We kicked off the weekend with a bang (literally) at Memorial Park, rocking out to the sounds of Kansas, Styx, and Foreigner with over 80,000 of our fellow Omahans. There were people claiming spots before five in the morning for the 6 p.m. concert, but I was able to squeeze in a spot for a couple of us after leaving work early. We had a terrific view of the stage, and I managed to squeeze my way to the front of the crowd to snap a few closer shots of Styx as they performed. Joining us on our blanket were Jenny, Ben, Randy and Jolene. Many other friends of ours also shared spaces at the park, from Becki near the front of the stage, to Hugh and Sarah who managed to squeeze in somewhere behind the port-a-potties.

The concert itself was terrific — the bands all played a selection of their signature songs, and they topped off their performance with a spectacular fireworks show. Naturally, it was a bit of a hassle to squeeze our way through the crowd back to our cars, but we were able to get downtown to JNO to stagger through half an hour of dancing before calling it a night.

P1060579.JPG P1060772.JPG

In other news, Vivian’s brother Oliver was in town for the week, so we took him out to eat at El Dorado’s, one of our favorite South Omaha restaurants, and we stuffed ourselves with a platter of surf and turf. On Saturday, at Oliver’s suggestion, I spent some time cleaning our deck with a pressure washer. I had been wanting to clean and seal it since we’d bought the house last winter, and the wood had several years’ worth of dirt and grime covering its surface. The pressure washer blasted it off so cleanly that it was actually fun! Next we’ll just have to wait for it to dry out long enough to stain and seal it. Then it’ll be as good as (nearly) new.

P1060810.JPG P1060924.JPG

On Saturday night, Keith and Jenny hosted a beer-tasting up in northwest Omaha. Keith brought a selection of mostly sweet beers, ranging from Leinenkugel’s summer shandy to a syrupy organic strawberry beer. I don’t think we had any consensus on what we liked best, though I had a preference for the Samuel Adams Cherry Wheat. Oscar grilled up burgers and brats for the bunch of us, and Eric make some root beer floats. After the sun went down we shot of plenty of fireworks (of course), though half the crowd seemed to enjoy watching the array of explosives our neighbors brought out across the street.

P1070016.JPG P1070064.JPG

We had a rainy morning on the Fourth of July, but a bunch of us in the Omaha Jitterbugs still made it down to Ralston to dance in their annual parade. It was actually nice to have a cool sprinkle during our parade than the muggy sauna that we’ve experienced in years past. We crashed at Dairy Queen afterward for burgers, ice cream and quite a few amusing photos with each other before going home to dry off.

P1070106.JPG P1070092.JPG

That evening, Vivian and I joined a few random friends to watch the fireworks form the pedestrian bridge downtown. The rivers was flooding some of the banks and providing quite a happy place for mosquitoes to breed and eat us alive. The muggy weather also made things rather interesting for fireworks — the smoke trails tended to hang in the air for minutes on end, and the low-flying clouds made the sky look like the multicolored rumblings of Mordor. We still enjoyed the light show, though, and we rounded off the evening watching Red Skelton DVDs at Lisa’s before calling it a night.