Monthly Archives: October 2012

Playing Dress Up

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The Merry Month of Halloween marches on, and that of course means more costuming with our friends. On Friday night, the s’mores family paid a visit to the Omaha Jitterbugs for a night of swing dancing and a costume contest. We didn’t win, but we did manage to make it into the finals. Adam took first place as Bob Ross (with a Pretty Little Tree). Other noteworthy contenders included Takashi as Michael Jackson (who led us once again in a round of Thriller), Maggie as Captain America and Eric as a Low-Key Loki, and a completely unintentional James Jonah Jameson, the grouchy editor of the Bugle (see Spider-Man). It felt good to be dancing again with our usual round of swing-dancing friends, though it’s kind of hard to Lindy Hop while wearing a giant cardboard graham cracker, so I didn’t keep it on for very long.

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On Saturday Night, we went to Ruth’s very extensively decorated house for Merinda’s annual Halloween Bash. Everyone got to dress up again, and this time Hannah got to be an extremely cuddly lion (which I was able to turn into a manticore with the addition of a few horns). Frank Ortiz got to be a disgruntled ladybug, Joe was some kind of Elvis, and Ben Peet got turned into a Rug-Bee (from Griffindor House). It was a fun night that evening included plenty of our usual weirdness and even some dancing in the cleared-off living room, though without Takashi to lead us we couldn’t successfully complete another Thriller dance (but that didn’t keep us from trying).

The s’mores family

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October’s always been a month jam-packed with events, and one reason for this is the slew of birthdays that all seem to cluster around this time of year. On Friday night, I paid a visit to the Eagle’s Lodge to join in Jenny and Lisa’s birthday jam. On Saturday afternoon. Vivian and I dropped by her old neighbor Toni’s house for a fun outdoor birthday barbecue (bacon-wrapped jalapeño poppers, anyone?)

That evening, Hannah got to experience dressing up for Jenny’s annual birthday costume party. This was our first chance to dress up as a family, so we decided to come as a s’more. I got to squeeze myself between two large piece of cardboard graham cracker, Vivian wore a Hershey Bar apron, and Hannah got herself stuffed with a couple extra onesies to be our little marshmallow. Our collection of costumes took third prize at the party, coming in second to Paul and Leane as a couple of Spartans and Heather was a shower scrub. We had several other noteworthy costumers in our ranks, including Tamra and Ryan as Aesop’s Tortoise and Hare, Libby as a bamboo-wielding kung-fu person, and Jon Paper and his (malfunctioning) duct-tape pants of the future.

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Of course, no autumn would be complete with a hayrack ride, so on Sunday afternoon we took Hannah on her very first. The Halls at Twin Valley Church host an annual potluck dinner at their ranch south of Omaha, so we dropped by with a couple dozen other church members and got toted around a couple square miles of countryside. The weather was darn near perfect for this time of year — around 80 degrees and quite cozy (at least until the clouds and wind started rolling in later in the day). We finished off the day evening with a roaring campfire and s’mores once the sun went down. We also had chili and soup for dinner with such treats as Donna’s miniature Ghost Cookies for dessert.

Ah, autumn!

Fall is definitely the most festive time of year for the Johnson Family in Omaha. October is always packed with fun things happening outdoors and in, and the weather is more than accommodating for those of us who enjoy the colors changing this time of year.

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On Friday night, Tamra dropped by to babysit Hannah so Vivian I could have a date night. We went to the premier of Atlas Shrugged Part 2 at the Oakview AMC (which was much better than Part 1 — I highly recommend checking out) and then had a late dinner together at the Zin Room downtown. The next morning, we dropped by our friend Phil’s 5 Buck Lunch Truck for some breakfast burritos. If you’re ever in the vicinity of the O’Reilly Auto Parts Store on Galvin in Bellevue, stop by and check it out.

That evening, our autumnal festivities kicked off with a pumpkin-carving party at our mutual friend Amanda’s house in mid-town Omaha. Several people brought tasty pumpkin-related goodies (including a pumpkin liqueur), and we had some fun playing 80s-movie charades and carving up pumpkins as a storm passed briefly overhead. We also had amusing “deaths” taped to our backs and we had to spend the evening guessing how we “died.” I can’t remember who won the pumpkin-carving contest, but we had plenty of worthy competitors. Hannah also seemed to enjoy her first genuine Halloween party, despite a brief plague of spiders (both real and plush).

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On Sunday, Hannah got to experience another fall tradition — her first trip to Vala’s Pumpkin Patch. Vivian and I were somehow able to beat the traffic by taking the secret passageway on 168th street (thanks, Eric). Hannah got to see some pig races and wander around a corn maze with us for the very first time, though she’s unfortunately not old enough yet to participate in the go carts of the jumping pillows just yet. She did get to see a giant pile of colorful fall leaves for the first time, which she spent a few minutes playing in as everyone with a camera (including passersby) snapped pictures of her adorableness. We got enough exercise to justify having succotash and giant pork tenderloin sandwiches for dinner before calling it a night.

Birthday sushi binge

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At the end of September, the Johnson Family celebrated another vivacious year of Vivian. My mom and dad sent her a lovely cheese gift package, and I arranged to have a special cake bouquet delivered at some random point during the day. Vivian actually spent most of her day driving dad to the DMV and taking mom to the dentist after a long, expected night at the airport (trying to get home from California). That evening, however, it was all about Vivian. She asked me to make her a deep dish pizza for dinner, which was once again an adventure in kneading dough and figuring out how many toppings I could pile on top of the crush without turning everything into soup. Afterward, we dropped by Ted and Wally’s in the Old Market for some free birthday ice cream for dessert.

On Friday, I took Vivian down to the Eagle’s Lodge for her annual birthday jam. The crowd was a little thin, but we still had a fairly decent stock of leads, which was good to see just a couple weeks after Cowtown. Grammy and Grampy had Hannah for the evening, so we were able to dance without juggling babysitting duties.

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The next day, Vivian and a bunch of our friends went down to Wasabi on Maple Street for a giant sushi binge. We’d been to Wasabi a couple times before, including once for dinner, so we were well-versed in how to order from the all-you-can-eat sushi menu without winding up in the hospital. What we weren’t prepared for, however, was all of our food coming to us piecemeal, which meant we spent a great deal of time trying to remember what we’d ordered and eating off one another’s plates.

We crashed/recovered afterward at Frank’s house, where he’d set up a fire pit for s’mores and random goofing around to wind down for the evening.

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Jack’s birthday was actually also on Saturday, so we took him out for his free round of ice cream on Saturday before our sushi binge. Then on Sunday we took him and Grammy out to dinner at Red Lobster. The next week, Vivian and I dropped by the downtown Farmer’s Market for one last time. Winter seems to have nearly snuck up on us, reminding me what it’s like to venture outside without a jacket. We stocked up on kale and bok choy and then dropped by the Upstream for lunch.

On Sunday, we finished off our weekend by celebrating our friend Lisa’s birthday at church with a “surprise” potluck downstairs.

California, here we come!

Vivian and I just got back from a long, fun week in Northern California. We brought Hannah along for the ride, who turned out to be a good little traveler on her first big family trip.

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After a brief diversion to Oakland, we flew into sunny San Francisco Tuesday afternoon. We had a bit of an adventure getting out of the city, fighting rush hour traffic, learning what “sharp crest” means on Divisadero Street, and of course passing over the most-photographed bridge in the world.

We spent the evening with Vivian’s “granny” in Petaluma, who got to meet a Hannah very happy to get out of the car. Vivian and I had fettuccine alfredo with Donna at one of Vivian’s favorite haunts, the New Yorker on Petaluma Boulevard, and Hannah crashed after a long day of travel by car and plane.

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The next day, after a brief stop by Miwok Park and Merlin’s Shop of Mystical Wonders, we hit the road to Fortuna and beyond. Of course, we had to drop by a few tourist traps along the way, such as a drive-thru tree in Leggett. Hannah got to sit inside of a hollowed-out redwood, sharing her adorableness with a bus of senior citizens who dropped by to snap her picture.

That evening, we met several members of Vivian’s extended family. First was her grandmother, “Nanny Nonie,” which meant we had four generations of ladies hanging out with us for a couple days. We had fish and chips together down at the Eel River Brewery with Vivian’s Aunt Judy, some of which Hannah got to nibble, which made her very excited.

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We spent the next few nights at the 150-year-old farmhouse of Vivian’s Great Uncle Rich in Hydesville. Donna practically grew up there, and Vivian had several visits to the farm during her childhood. She got to do such things as ride on Uncle Rich’s donkey, Neeta, who was still around for Hannah to ride on.

Hannah got to meet a couple more relatives while we were in town, such as her great Uncle Sandy, her great Uncle David, her second cousin Shannon, and her other great-great uncle, Ernie. I was quickly enamored with picturesque views of distant hills and the flowers that seemed to grow almost everywhere. (Hannah seemed to like them, too.)

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We drove back down to Petaluma on Saturday, which happened to be Hannah’s ten-month birthday. Naturally, we had to snap a decent picture of her for Facebook. We took several around various redwoods we dropped by on our way down south, which took us most of the day. That evening, Vivian had a reunion with her old Youth Group from Petaluma Christian Church. I picked up some pizza from Pinky’s, an old-school pizza parlor that Vivian’s dad and Uncle Lewie had actually worked at years before. Hannah spent the evening playing with new friends in the church multipurpose room, and I got to watch a few home movies of Vivian as an angel in a Christmas pageant in-between changing diapers.

We went back to PCC the next day to attend church together, and Vivian had the chance to say hello to several of her old friends again (and get some cute pictures in the garden out front).

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On Sunday afternoon, we took Hannah to up Santa Rosa to say hello to her great Uncle Lewie and Aunt Sandra. We had some lunch out on their newly-repaved backyard and spent a couple hours keeping Hannah from crawling aroudn on the ground eating everything she found.

We had one last day in Petaluma on Monday. Vivian took Granny shopping at G&G and got several things she could only get here in Northern California, such as a variety of brie cheeses that were actually might right here in Petaluma. We stopped by Jennie Low’s for some Chinese food and then later took Hannah by Luchessi Park (AKA the “duckie park“, where Vivian had spent many days playing as a child). For dinner, we met up with my old bible study friend James (who drove all the way from Stockton) and Vivian’s friend Ann for dinner. We ate at Mi Pueblo, which was coincidentally the very same restaurant Vivian and I ate at right before leaving Petaluma four years ago. I’d met James over a decade ago at Wayne State College but hadn’t seen him in years, so it was good to catch up.

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On Tuesday, we flew back home, but we had a few extra hours of rushed sightseeing before our flight left SFO. We stopped first in Novato to get a glimpse of the Good Shepherd Lutheran School, where Vivian had attended (and Donna had taught) when she was a child. We headed on to the Marin Headlands, where I got my first glimpse of serious bay area fog. I’d hoped to get a glimpse of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay itself, but a thick sheet of white unfortunately kept that from happening.

We wound up having a lot more fun cruising through San Francisco itself. We headed downtown via Lombard Street, famous for being the Crookedest Street in the World for about a block between Hyde and Leavenworth (and hilariously recounted by Bill Cosby). Vivian and I had to dodge about a hundred tourists snapping pictures at the top and bottom of the winding street, and then of course I had to go and join them with Vivian creeping behind. We wound through downtown snapping pictures of various sights as we came upon them, from the Transamerica Pyramid to random trolley cars, to the Bay Bridge. Vivian wanted to visit Chinatown, which she remembered visiting as a child, so we wound up visiting one of the east side and west side of the peninsula (who knew San Francisco had two of them?)

We dropped by See’s Candy to pick up some toffee and grabbed some lunch in a small Chinese restaurant around the corner. We had time for one last stop before rushing to the airport, and that was to Lincoln Park to check out the Western Terminus of the Lincoln Highway. For some reason, I’ve been fascinated with America’s first continental highway, particularly since it passes right through Omaha, so I wanted to stop and get a good look at the end of it before flying home.

And in case you were wondering, Hannah was an excellent little traveler. This was her first time on an airplane and she slept through about half the trip. The rest of the time Vivian and I just had to make sure she was fed, watered, and entertained. Hopefully she’ll be just as amicable when we hit the skies as a family in future trips (when she’ll be more likely to remember them).