Monthly Archives: November 2017

Smoked Turkey and Christmas Lights

We just got finished with a fun, filling, and frankly exhausting Thanksgiving Day Weekend, where every one of our four days “off” was filled with activity.


Thursday was a remarkably warm Thanksgiving Day, so once the Macy’s parade was done, I decided to take the kids for a walk to my parents’ house. Hannah got to try “walking” her new kitty and grandpa got to show us the giant turkey was was busy smoking in the backyard.

All four grandparents eventually joined us for another Thanksgiving Meal under one roof. Dad carved the turkey, and we had a huge assortment of stuffing, potatoes, salad, fruit salad, Jell-O salad and other standard Thanksgiving foods on the side. We even had festive plates (which were easy to clean up) and a lovely centerpiece featuring pumpkins from Vala’s. Top that off with lemon meringue and pumpkin pie and we called it another delicious Thanksgiving for the record books.


The lovely weather continued on Black Friday, so we took the kids for a walk back to my parents’ house to play a bit in the leaves (and help rake them). Grandpa also told Hannah a story about Tomtens, and Aaron got to try extending his train tracks into the living room. We ate the rest of Hannah’s birthday cake together, and then Hannah got to open a couple late birthday presents for grandma and grandpa and Uncle Jonny — her very first purse and a set of Octonaut Toys, respectively.


Then that evening, we went down to Union Station for their annual Christmas Tree Lighting. Grammy and her crew were decorating cookies as usual, so Hannah and Aaron got to get sugared up a bit before making a tea light snowman and then exploring the museum a bit. Santa was on hand for pictures and lap-sitting, of course, so we took Hannah and Aaron to see St. Nick while the line wasn’t too long. Then we took them downstairs for their annual run through the trains downstairs. We also got to look at a handful of “ethnic” Christmas trees upstairs, all decorated with ornaments relating to various cultures and countries around the world.

As seven o’clock approached, a high school show choir sang some festive Christmas songs before Mayor Jean, David Mangelsen, and Santa got up to light up this year’s tree. It was topped with a “150” star to commemorate Nebraska’s sesquicentennial, and everyone got to wear special glasses that turned the glare from the lights into tiny candy canes, Santa heads, or elves. We stuck around long enough to play in the confetti a bit and get a few nice pictures in front of the tree, but we eventually made our way back home, thoroughly exhausted.


The next day, I did a little bit of work on the deck with my dad as the weather was still lovely. Then we took the kids to downtown Papillion to see their “winter wonderland” when the sun went down. They had bonfires with free hot chocolate and s’mores for the kids. There was some live music outside the library after they turned on the Christmas lights on the north lawn. We also got to see a pair of reindeer that were on-hand just for picture-taking (as were a couple Christmas trees).

We dropped by the Papillion Eagle’s Lodge to see Ariel before making our way to the firehouse for cupcakes and cannolis. Then we wrapped things up walking through some more lights and an 1860s farmhouse on our way back to the car. It was a lovely evening, but a little crowded and chaotic as we tried to see everything in the space of a few city blocks (wiping us all out again).


Then on Sunday, we spent a couple hours having a soup potluck at church and then helping to decorate for Christmas. Vivian made a tasty baked potato soup that nearly put me to sleep before hanging garland on both ends of the sanctuary. The Papsons also got to be a Living Nativity for a few minutes by putting Simon in the manger up front.

Then that afternoon, I continued the Christmas decorating at our own house. I’d put up the lights last week, and now we hauled up the tree and put the snowman out front. We also positioned the laser display Vivian got for Christmas last year to give our house a little sparkly goodness. Most importantly, of course, was that Santasaurus came out of his box, officially ringing in the Christmas season for 2017.

It was a fun, albeit exhausting weekend, and we spent a little time recovering digging into some classic Christmas movies, courtesy of our local library.

Two Birthdays and Johnny Boyd


We’ve had a fairly busy week getting ready for someone’s six-year birthday party, with Thanksgiving coming not too far behind. That didn’t stop Vivian and me from driving up to the Reverb Lounge in Benson to see one of my favorite swing groups — Johnny Boyd and his band. Indigo Swing was one of the very first swing bands I ever listened to (thanks to Legostar from Comic Genesis), and they’ve even appeared in a couple of my web comics from time to time.

This is the third time I’ve seen them in person (first at Cowtown in 2013 and then at the Reverb a year ago), but it’s still surreal to hear songs I’ve heard for over a decade being sung in person just a few feet away by the man himself (as I’m Lindy Hopping to them). Vivian came along with me and actually got Johnny to play my favorite song by request, How Lucky Can One Guy Be. Jitterbug regulars Dan Wondra, Lisa Barrett, and Sherri Bevins also dropped by, as well as Koterba, who got me to take both as picture of him (and his son) with Johnny and do a quick one-minute interview with him between sets, which you can see on YouTube.

It was a fun, fun night, and it reminded me just how much I love the sound of neo-swing. I bought a CD for Johnny to autograph and have been listening to it in my car during my commute for the last couple days. There’s no antidote to bad traffic like good music!


On Saturday, we celebrated Hannah’s birthday with a handful of her little friends — Nicholette, Kate’s three girls, and Sammy (along with her brothers, who mostly stayed occupied playing video games downstairs). It was a fairy themed party, so once our guests arrived, they all received their own pairs of wings. They then got to and decorate their own fairy houses with moss, sticks, buttons, and other ornaments. They even got little miniature fairies to live inside the houses.

Donna made an elaborate cake featuring fruit-themed fairies gathered around a cake of our own house outside a giant tree house with Tinkerbell sleeping inside (Zoey the cat also had a cameo). The girls had cake (and played with the fondant fairies) for a bit before Hannah got to open her presents. It was a fun little party, but the clear highlight was the cake, which Hannah played with all week after the party was over.


Of course, we had another birthday party to attend before the day was over. Our mutual friend Phil was turning 40, so we dropped by his place to stuff ourselves with a variety of pork products and blueberry cupcakes (blue also indicating the gender of Phil’s new baby, as we learned later). I got Phil a pack of seasonal hot sauces from Volcanic Peppers in Bellevue (which Phil was familiar with, of course) along with a card featuring himself as a bottle of “I’ve Had My Phil” hot sauce. Kate brought her girls along to the party, so Hannah got extra playtime with them before we called it a night.


On Sunday, we brought a shoe box filled with toys and school items for Operation Christmas Child, which Lynne had blessed before the service. After church, we dropped by a new Bánh mì sandwich shop in Bellevue to grab some lunch on the way home.

Then in the afternoon, our kids got to play in leaves for a couple hours in the afternoon. We raked them up first before letting them dive into the leaves and throw them at each other for a while. I got to put up the Christmas lights as well, but Vivian had expressly forbidden me to turn them on until after Thanksgiving.


Hannah’s actual birthday came on Wednesday, and mommy took her for some quality time at her favorite restaurant play place. That evening, we had a low-key celebration with Grammy and Pop-Pop. We had some lasagna for dinner, and then we had some more birthday cake, which Hannah helped to decorate. Hannah also got to open some more presents, which included some more kitties and a light-up moon for her room.

Next stop: Thanksgiving!

Saving the Daylight


It’s been a remarkably quiet couple of weeks at the Johnson House. The day after Halloween, we celebrated five years of Chick-Fil-A with the kids (as if we needed an excuse to eat more chicken) and got free sandwiches for helping with their canned food drive. The sun set on Daylight Saving Time a few days later, which we celebrated with a potluck at church and one last afternoon walk-walk to my parents’ house before it starts getting dark at five o’clock. I’ve been taking advantage of the time change by getting up early to have coffee with Vivian and breakfast at McDonald’s with my dad and Pastor Ryan.

It’s still warm enough to take the kids down to the park to play and have dim sum for lunch every now and then. Grammy came by one Saturday to have pumpkin pecan pancakes with us and then give Hannah and me a couple haircuts. Vivian even took the shears to Grammy for a bit to even out the back of her head where it’s hard to reach. In other news, Hannah found her lost kitty Zoey in the back of our closet, so now she has two of them somehow.

The holiday season is about ready to kick off, but first we’ve got a date with Johnny Boyd and a birthday for Hannah to look forward to. More on that in the next update.

This is Halloween!

At some point, Halloween became a multi-week holiday season all on its own. I don’t mind of course — it means we get more use out of our costumes, and a whole lot more candy to boot!


We kicked off the spooky fun last Sunday, when we took Hannah and Aaron for some trick-or-treating at First Presbyterian Church in Bellevue. There were plenty of tables set up with candy for the kids, and there were a handful of carnival-style games in the rec room for Hannah and Aaron to play. There was one “spooky room” with some dangling spiders and ghosts that mostly amused Hannah. Nicholette’s little brother, who could pass for Aaron’s twin under normal circumstances, also came in an identical Green Gecko outfit, which was even more hilarious.


Then on Friday, Vivian and I dressed up as the Loan Arranger and a 404 Error and took a long-overdue trip to the Eagle’s Lodge — where we hadn’t gone swing dancing together since last Halloween. Nate and Lexi came as well (dressed as old-timey gangsters), and we saw a handful of familiar faces throughout the night. We did a handful of group dances, including the (Monster) Mashed Potato, a shim sham, and Thriller, led by Takashi, of course. There was a costume contest with prized for both most creative and most authentic. The “eclipse” couple were the clear crowd favorite, but my personal favorite was the guy who came as “Billy,” which made some plenty of hilarious pictures once I put the two of them together.


On Saturday night, Jenny and Kody hosted their annual Costume Party, once again at Dean and Sarah’s (new) house in West Omaha. We whipped up some brooms brought along both our kids for the first time, who had fun running around with Delana and a few of the other little ones who came along. All our usual friends were there, including Phil and Jen, Jon Paper, Aunt Jessica, Anne and Brandon, Heather and Shane, Libby and Ole, the Hoffmans, Tamra and Ryan, Katie and Li Ya and several others. We had several group dances throughout the night, including another round of Thriller led again by Takashi (and this time I got Libby to take some photos). Matthew’s Star Lord mask got some extra use by Jon and me, and I got one big group picture of everyone toward the end of the night before we headed home, exhausted.


The on Sunday, several businesses in Olde Town Bellevue held their own trick-or-treating event. The weather was an irresistible 60 degrees through most of the afternoon, so we took the kids down to get even more candy from the collection of cute little shops downtown. We saw lots of familiar faces down there, including Rutiger the Magician and Mrs. B from the library. An odd-looking group of Jellyfish also made an appearance walking down Mission Avenue together. The best costume of the night by far, however, was a girl dressed in an Owlette costume, which made for a perfect picture with our Cat Boy and Gecko in the bounce house together!


By the time Halloween Night finally rolled around, it felt like we’d been trick-or-treating all month! It was also nearly freezing with legit snowflakes coming down, so we spent just a few minutes trick-or-treating around our neighborhood, visiting Grandma and Grandpa’s house first, of course.
Then we retreated to the Heritage Ridge assisted living facility on Fort Crook and Hwy. 370 to trick or treat with some of the seniors there, where it was much, much warmer. Grammy and Pop-Pop held down the fort with their assortment of Pumpkin Ghouls to hand out treats and keep an eye out for tricksters, such as the guy who nailed some essay to a cathedral half a century ago.

IMG_5742Happy Halloween!