Monthly Archives: September 2011

Sushi, Cinedine, and Chicago

It’s been a fun, busy week celebrating Vivian’s birthday! Officially, she turned 25 (you figure it out) on Tuesday, but the festivities ran the gamut from last Friday to the following Thursday. I think we’ll be staying home on Friday night just to recover.

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Before the celebrations even started, we had a surprise visit from our old friends Mike and Bekah! They now have four kids — Drew, Alexa, Eden, and Owen (the fourth of whom we’d never met before). We had them over to our house for pizza, salad, and plenty of catching up before kicking off a week of birthday-related fun.

Of course, we had to drop by the Eagle’s Lodge for Vivian’s birthday jam at JNO. The crowd was decidedly thinner than usual, possibly due to the wake of people being “lindied out” after the Cowtown events during the previous weekend. We still had a great time, and there were plenty of die-hard swing dancers there who took turns with Vivian in her jam circle. Vivian led the shim sham afterward, and we capped of the night with a traditional run across the border for tacos at Alvorado’s until stupid o’clock.

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On Saturday, we had Vivian’s birthday party over at our house. This year, we did a “roll your own sushi party,” and we had origami as an “appetizer” beforehand. Everyone seemed to get in on the action, and we had some pretty impressive folded paper sculptures at the end of the night. Tamra made a T-Rex, Jessica made a flower, and Jenny and Vivian made, um, face masks.

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Of course, the highlight of the evening was actually making (and eating) the sushi. Vivian made up a bunch of sticky rice for us to use, and we’d supplied the basic ingredients for California rolls — avocado, cucumber, and imitation crab meat. Phil brought some more exotic things, such as raw white tuna, smoked salmon, cabbage, and mango. Lisa brought wraps to make inari, which seemed to vanish quickly after they were made. Mark brought us an actual wasabi root imported from Washington state, so we got to enjoy the real thing instead of the green-colored paste that even high-quality sushi restaurants seem to be restricted to. The potency of the wasabi lasted for only half an hour, though, so we had to eat it quickly.

We rounded out the evening playing a round or two of What’s Yours Like, and I presented Vivian with a “cake” made of maki rolls with lit candles stuck inside of them for Vivian to blow out. Around midnight, Vivian passed her guitar around for our fellow musicians to pluck around before calling it a night.

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In case I haven’t mentioned it enough, the weather here has been unseasonably gorgeous for the past week or two, so on Vivian’s birthday, I decided to surprise her at work with a trip to Benson Park to have some cobb salad for a picnic lunch. Afterward, we had a quick walk around the lake and fed a few of the geese lounging about. They seemed to expect we were about to feed them and paddled on over close to the shoreline when we got near. We’ve got to enjoy this a few more days before the long, dark, cold winter inevitably descends upon us.

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That evening, I took Vivian down to the “Cinedine” theater for the ultimate date experience — dinner and a movie, all in one go! We’d never actually visited the new Midtown Crossing complex in downtown Omaha, so it was kind of nice to wander about a bit. A live band was playing some music outside Coldstone Creamery for anyone nearby to enjoy — mostly families with young children wearing balloon headgear made for them by a clown and older folks walking their fluffy little dogs.

There were only a handful of movies at the theater to choose from, none of which we’d heard anything about. I did a quick search on Rotten Tomatoes and decided on Moneyball, one of those based-on-a-true-story sports movies that involved the Oakland A’s (a team Vivian actually saw herself growing up near San Fransisco) recruiting undervalued ballplayers in order to compete against other, wealthier, pro teams. It wasn’t the kind of movie I’d normally watch on my own, but I enjoyed it. That might have been because Vivian and I both got to watch it in comfy, reclining seats while eating prime rib wraps and fries served to us. I even got a glass of 12-year Glenlivet — something I never thought I’d be able to enjoy at the movies without sneaking it in under my coat.

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The next day, I gave Vivian one of her birthday presents — tickets to see Chicago at the Omaha Community Playhouse! She’d mentioned wanting to see the show in passing, but she didn’t expect that I’d actually get tickets to see it. I was even more surprised that I managed to snag the two best seats in the house — front row center! That meant we got to sit right behind Music Director Jim Boggess in the orchestra pit. He actually popped up to wish Vivian a happy birthday (Jessica, who is doing sound for the show, mentioned we were going to be there!)

It was a great show, of course, but even better sitting inches away from the performers as they pranced about the stage. One actor (Erik Quam playing Amos Hart) came down and shook hands with people in the front row during one number. There’s something about live performances that just can’t been duplicated in any other way — especially when you’re this close to the action.

Afterward, we got to shake hands with all the cast members out in the lobby, and I managed to get a quick picture of Vivian with the two leading ladies of the show, Vivian with leading ladies of the show, Kirstin Kluver as Roxie Hart and Melanie Walters as Velma Kelly.

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The birthday festivities weren’t done yet. Vivian shares her birthday week with both her dad and her mom’s friend Shirley, so on Thursday they took us out to our traditional birthday dinner at Outback Steakhouse. We had our bloomin’ onion and rib-eye steaks, as usual, and this time we actually mentioned that we had a few birthdays in our party. That meant our waiter brought out free ice cream. Sweet.

Back home, Jack opened his presents, and Donna served us up some decadent dark chocolate cake. (She’d also made some adorable fruits and vegetables made from marzipan, but they looked too dark cute to eat.)

I think Vivian and I are looking forward to a few quiet days now that we’ve had a busy week of celebrations, but I hope she’d had a wonderful 25th birthday! I love you, sweetie! Every year just keeps getting better.

Autumn kicks off

And with the blink of an eye, fall is here! We went from 91 degrees on Monday to 55 degrees on Wednesday with nary a segue in-between. I don’t care though — I love the season of changing leaves, and Vivian and I have been busy finding ways to enjoy it together.

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Last weekend, we attended Mitch and Amanda’s wedding. Amanda is one of Vivian’s co-workers and Mitch owns a comic book store out in Gretna. I’d met them all of twice and wasn’t sure how much fun I’d have at a wedding of two people I barely knew, but it was a great evening. The ceremony was short and the reception was long and fun, with beer and wine flowing and plenty of crazy dancing mixing things up throughout the night. I’ve been to plenty of long, dreary, dull weddings in my life, but this was one was ideal. I only hope everyone who came to our own wedding 38 months ago had just as good a time.

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This weekend was Applejack Weekend down in Nebraska City, so naturally Vivian and I had to go down to get our fill of apple turnovers, apple pie, and apple-picking at the orchards there. We dropped in at the firehouse’s pancake breakfast to stuff ourselves with flapjacks courtesy of the Pancake Man, and then walked down to the library book sale to grab a couple used, discount books. We skipped the parade of course, learning from experience that sitting through a couple hours of marching bands and shriners driving in circles wasn’t as much fun as exploring the rest of the town.

We dropped by Arbor Day Farm next to get a bottle cherry wine, among other things. We had the most fun at Kimmel orchard, where Vivian and I got to wander among the apple trees and stuff as many apples as we could into our ten-pound bag. We grabbed a couple stray grapes from the vineyard as well, which were absolutely succulent. I’d never eaten grapes right off the vine before, and it was like eating candy.

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Back in Bellevue, we dropped by the remains of our church picnic in Everett Park. They’d held a makeshift tailgate party outdoors completely with TVs to watch the game when it came on. I mostly ignored Nebraska crushing the Washington Huskies, who were downright pathetic (one guy literally dropping the ball at the one-yard line, giving the Cornhuskers an easy touchdown). I mostly enjoyed the chili, salsa, hot dogs, and fellowship with other members of our church (fellowship being Christian-speak for “pigging out.”)

Of course, this was also Cowtown weekend for the Omaha Jitterbugs, but the four long days of swing dancing events was more like background noise for Vivian and me. We showed up at the dances long enough to dance once or twice with each other and then pick up cups before heading home.

Labor Day Weekend

Nebraska has had a sudden and very welcome spurt of beautiful weather, recently. We’ve gone from 90 degrees and muggy to 70 degrees every day and sunny, so Vivian and I have been making the most of it before the snow and bitter cold hit.

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On Friday, I took Vivian on a “surprise date” to Matsu Sushi downtown. The rest of her co-workers were actually going on an all-you-can-eat sushi binge over at Wasabi sushi, but Vivian wanted to save that for a time when she won’t have restrictions on raw fish. We had a sushi caterpillar among other things and wrapped up the evening with a trip to the theater to see Captain America.

On Sunday, we had another bit of Asian cuisine down at China Road to give our friend Don a send-off party. He’s been reassigned at his job, so we won’t be able to see him at church on Sunday mornings anymore.

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On Sunday night, our mutual friend Jenny threw a labor day party at her house. The weather was still quite cool — just perfect for a game of stereo Frisbee in the backyard. We had burgers, and dogs and then settled down for a few more hilarious rounds of Telestrations inside. We also got to toss around a few Angry Birds sometime before midnight.

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Vivian and I had no specific plans for Labor Day, but the weather was so nice, we had to get out and enjoy it, so we took an impromptu trip to Lincoln to visit the Secret Bridges one more time before the baby comes due. There were several other people wandering around Wilderness Park on bikes enjoying the weather with us. A couple things had changed at the bridges since we’d been there last. For one, the old graffiti had been painted over. For another, someone had planted some flowers up on the top of the bridge. Someone had built a fire pit underneath the second bridge, and the old meadow had been overrun with a few trees and thistles. I poked around the trail a bit more and found a historical marker for a train wreck that occurred back in 1894, which the trail we were following had been part of the Rock Island line. I still don’t know much about locomotive history, but it’s still interesting to see the remnants of a hundred years still lingering about. (I even noticed the train tracks we always crossed had been lain 13 years apart — one with wooden ties, the other with concrete.)

The beautiful fall weather seems to be continuing indefinitely for the time being. Now we can only hope we’ll get to have another outdoor dance, camping trip, or some other outdoor event so we can fully appreciate it.

a Burger, a Buffett, and a Birthday

As of August 29, I’m a year older, probably not wiser, but having more fun than anyone approaching his mid-thirties should be allowed to have.

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The fun started on Friday night, where I dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for my obligatory birthday jam. Several other jitterbugs have birthdays at the end of August, so I seemed to be in good company on the dance floor (even considering folks like Troy and Ben Peet who didn’t join us in the circle).

Of course, any exercise I got dancing on Friday was quickly negated on Saturday when I decided to take on the horrifying “Stellanator” hamburger down at Stella’s in Bellevue. As a previous corn-eating champion, I didn’t think devouring the sandwich (consisting of six 6.5 oz burger patties, six fried eggs, twelve pieces of bacon, six pieces of cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, and peanut butter all on a bun served with a basket of fries) would be as painful and nauseous experience as it was. I came close to cleaning my plate, but not clean enough. Fortunately, I didn’t have a heart attack, and what went down stayed down.

It was enough to get me to swear off meat for the rest of the afternoon.

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That evening (after some proper digestion) Vivian and I invited a bunch of our friends over for drinks and banana splits. I’d realized earlier in the month that I’ve never actually eaten the uniquely American dessert before, so Vivian made one (small) banana split for me with some homemade ice cream. We were up until nearly stupid o’clock gabbing and playing everyone’s favorite new party game, Telestrations. We were fortunate enough to have Dan Wondra among our ranks drawing such things as a Jamaican on a hamster wheel and an angel pulling a king’s tail.

On Monday (the big day), Vivian made up a chocolate cheesecake that I was able to enjoy along with a sweet birthday lunch) Then when I arrived home, I got to see some fun decorations that Donna had left in our yard, which included a pink lawn flamingo with a birthday hat. (I’ll have to consult my dad to figure out what we can name him.)

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That evening, Vivian took me out to a restaurant we’d driven by about a hundred times but had never gotten around to visiting — The Bohemian Cafe. It’s an old-school ethnic restaurant that started back in the days when Omaha had a “little Bohemia” just south of downtown. I’m not a huge fan of Czech food, but the Jaeger Schnitzel and dumplings were quite good.

Much to our surprise, someone else was celebrating his birthday at the Bohemian Cafe in Monday: the oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett! I’d heard stories of Buffett dining at such humble places as Gorat’s and Piccolo Pete’s, but I never thought I’d bump into the third richest man in the world myself. On his way out, I worked up the courage to approach Buffett and ask if he’d be kind enough to let me get a picture with him just to prove to my friends that I wasn’t crazy. He happily obliged.

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Vivian and I drove up to Dave & Buster’s to spend the rest of the evening playing games together and racking up a few cups full of tickets. Vivian actually hit the 1000 ticket jackpot on Frogger, so we were able to walk out with a trio of cute Angry Birds plushies. Vivian took me home afterward to have some chocolate brownie-mousse birthday cake and presents to round out the evening.

It was another wonderful birthday weekend, and I can’t thank my lovely wife Vivian enough to helping to put it together. What we both discovered, though, is that so many fun things can’t be planned or even expected — they just have to happen.