Monthly Archives: February 2016

Pizza in Lincoln, Circus in Council Bluffs


The weather has been steadily getting warmer here in Nebraska, making for several days where we can get some quality time outdoors without so much as a coat. On Wednesday last week, the Johnson Family took a road trip to Lincoln for a day nearly identical to the one we had in mid-March last year. I got to do a morning’s worth of freelance work for my old employer at Land and Sky, and Vivian took the kids to Lost in Fun in South Lincoln where they had a ball bouncing around and shooting hoops. Afterward, we all went out to lunch at my favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th Street. The weather was so nice, we drove up the street for a little play time at Pentzer Park up the street to wear the kids out a bit before heading home.

In other news, Jack and Donna got to celebrate their 38th wedding anniversary with us over at the Crab Shack, we all got our fill of seafood before stuffing ourselves even further across the street at the Cheesecake Factory.


A few days later, the Shrine Circus was in town, so Vivian and Grammy took the kids down to the Mid-America Center to see them. It was Aaron’s first trip to the circus, so I had to be sure to get a picture of him with one of the terrifying clowns. They had tigers jumping through flaming hoops and a dog and pony show, just like our visit a few years ago. They also had some new acrobats, Mr. Springs and Tulga, and a whole team of “jumping people” AKA The Chicago Boyz, who Hannah seemed to like the best. I was able to take a break from work to join the family for a bit during the day, which was nice. Of course, the kids also had to get their own souvenir light sabers from the show, and we had to struggle to keep Aaron from whacking his sister on the head with his.

Fish Fries and Chocolate Dinners


The Lenten Season is upon us again, and that means Fish Fries (in addition to giving up Facebook). Our friends Nate and Lexi had their fourth young-un the other day — Gabriel — and dad decided to give mom some alone time with the baby by joining the Johnson Family for a fish fry down at St. John Vianney’s. They had the usual assortment of fried fish, pancakes, tomato soup, et cetera, and we got there early enough to avoid most of the line that usually accumulated by mid-evening. Of course, we also had five kids in tow, but a couple balloons (and an extra long French Fry) kept them fairly occupied before we were able to get our food. This was also Aaron’s first fish-fry experience, and he managed to clean his plate fairly well with the rest of us. We saw some familiar faces, including Frank and the Guitar Guy, as well as Cliff, who I used to work with at Land and Sky some eight years ago. It’s a small world.


In other news, Twin Valley Church has a new pastor. You may remember back in November Pastor Drew and his family left our church and moved to Clear Lake, Iowa. Since then, we’ve been searching for a new pastor for our little flock, and after a very brief search came across the resume of Pastor Ryan Folken. He and his family used to live in Nebraska back in 2008 but had to move due to the recession. They seemed to be quite eager to move back, and after visiting extensively with our church family, Pastor Ryan agreed to become our new head pastor. On Saturday, I helped a bunch of people from TVC (and a few of Ryan’s old friends here) move into the parsonage next door to the church. He and his family seem like a wonderful fit for us, and by some coincidence they have two boys and two girls (one Hannah’s age) just as the Rietjens did.


Sunday, of course, was Valentine’s Day. Vivian got up early and made me a lovely flower-shaped apple tarts for breakfast and a handmade valentine. Hannah and Mommy both got a cardsflowers and candy, some of which Hannah ate right away, of course. Hannah had also made cards for both grandmas, and Aaron got to give Grammy a bunch of roses when she came over to babysit.

That evening, Vivian and I went down to James Arthur Vineyards in Lincoln for a chocolate-themed Valentine dinner. There was a personal chocolate fondue, salad with chocolate vinaigrette, and a coffee and cocoa-crusted Beef Tenderloin, each with its own wine pairing. Jenny and Kody came as well, and we stayed so long talking about wine and other things that the four of us were the last to leave. Visiting JAV always brings back memories of when I poured for the Lincoln Ad Club’s Taste of the Vine events a decade ago. I’ll have to remember to come back and visit when they have live music again in the summer.

Four-course Wine & Chocolate Dinner
Food by Dinner & Company and wine from James Arthur Vineyards

  1. Appetizer: Chocolate Caramel Fondue with Fruit. Paired with Amo Te, a very sweet red wine.
  2. Salad: Spring Salad with Strawberries and Chocolate Chunks. Paired with Horizon, a lighter red wine meant for summertime.
  3. Entrée: Coffee and Cocoa Crusted Beef Tenderloin, Asparagus with Chocolate Drizzle, and White Chocolate Risotto. Paired with Nebraska Red (dry) or San Realto (sweet).
  4. Dessert: Chocolate Macaroon Bars, Raspberry Brownie Dessert, and Bavarian Mint Fudge. Paired with Aura, a clear, port-style wine.

Snow Day and a Super Bowl


We got a little snow in the Omaha metro area over the past week, and the National Weather Service saw fit to give the snowstorm an actual name: Kayla. I decided to take a day off work, as did much of the city, which gave the road crews an easier time to clean up the white stuff. I spend the day shoveling and playing Hungry Hungry Hippos with Hannah and Uncle Jonny. Some people were actually without power, so with both heat and Internet, we were quite content.

On Saturday, it warmed up to the mid-40s, so we took the kids down to the park for a little sledding fun. I’d grabbed a sled at Walmart last week and we were able break it in sending Hannah and Aaron down a few modest slopes. Aaron even made the trek to the swings in his snow boots so he could have a brief, snowy swing with Hannah before we called it a day.

Sledding fun with the kids!


Sunday was the Super Bowl, so we invited the grandparents over (and Uncle Jonny) to watch the Broncos give Cam Newton a little taste of humility while eating giant piles of nachos, among other things. Hannah was content to play with grandma, for the most part, but she did make an accurate prediction once again about the game’s outcome. Aaron also seemed fascinated with Lady Gaga singing the national anthem, and I was able to put his hand over his heart without a fuss. It was the first and only football game I’ve actually watched all year. That shows what kind of sports fan I am, but I’ll take any excuse to eat nachos.

Caucus Finale and Rainbow Badges

If you’re sick of all my election-related posts, this will be the last one for a while. It’s Caucus time in Iowa, and that means all the candidates are making one last sweep through the Hawkeye state. I was able to see three different candidates over the weekend, and I even managed to drag Vivian and my dad along for part of the ride.


Saturday started off bright and early with Rand Paul at nine o’clock. The usual gang of media types, photographers, and random libertarians were on hand to hear the Kentucky Senator give one last appeal for votes (with Rep. Tom Massie). He didn’t stick around long afterward, greeting only a few people for handshakes and pictures before speaking to the media and heading on to his next event. He even outright refused to give autographs to the few people I saw asking for them.

There was a good turnout, but I was secretly hoping for a surprise appearance by Ron Paul, who didn’t show up until Sunday night in Iowa City. (I did, however, bump into Rand Paul’s sister. I told her to say hi to her dad for me.)


Then at noon, Marco Rubio paid one last visit to Council Bluffs, this time for a town hall “in the round.” Rubio took a handful of unscreened questions and then stayed around to meet and greet every single person, just like before. I was able to coax Vivian into coming to personally meet the man she planned on voting for, and I even got a picture of the three of us. I also brought along a football for Rubio to sign, in honor of his football-related mishaps on YouTube.

A five-year old Rubio fan named McCoy stole the show, however, dressed in a white shirt and cowboy hat and snapping several photos with his own little camera. His mom said he watched the debates with her and became a Rubio fan all on his own. She even gave him a hashtag #mccoy4rubio so I could share the photos with her later. (Though I doubt Reuters will be doing that.)


Then on Sunday, Vivian and I made a trek down to the Quaker Steak and Lube to see Chris Christie — the one other candidate Vivian wanted to see in person. The small meeting area of the restaurant was packed, and Christie took an hour’s worth of questions from a handful of people (but not me, unfortunately). He also promised to be back in Nebraska come May. Hopefully he’ll still be on the ballot by then. He stuck around only for a few minutes of handshaking and pictures afterward before heading on to his next event. I didn’t get the chance to introduce him to Vivian, but he did wave to the both of us in the parking lot.


It was 50 gorgeous degrees outside, so I took the kids for some quality playtime outside before our Snowstorm Kayla hits on Tuesday. That meant walking around and splashing in some muddy puddles together, of course.

Then that evening, Hannah got to participate in a kind of open house presentation with all her little friends from Rainbows at Bellevue Christian Center. The teachers told everyone about the badges they had been earning, and the kids got to sing a song for all the grown-ups. I was there to get pictures as any proud papa, and it was hard to believe my little baby girl is growing up so fast.

Next stop: Snowmageddon!