Monthly Archives: January 2018

Sushi Train and a Walk for Life


It’s hard to believe it’s been eleven years since Vivian and I officially made it official back in 2007 (and a decade since I made it even more official a year later). I took the day off on Friday and we marked the occasion by going down to Yamato Sushi Train & Grill, the only “sushi train” in the Midwest outside of Chicago.

It’s a unique concept — after taking a seat, you can essentially help yourself to any number of color-coded plates as they make their way on a conveyor belt winding its way around the restaurant. The different colors represent different prices of food, and we helped ourselves to a some tasty sashimi, a variety of sushi rolls, octopus, and a kind of pickled calamari salad. It was all good, but the next time we come, we’ll have to arrive before the lunch rush ends, since the kitchen staff tends to stop making the more interesting dishes around two o’clock. I saw one unloved pair of raw oysters make their way around the belt several times before we left (each rotation taking seven minutes — we timed it).


Then next day, I headed down to Lincoln and participated for the Walk for Life for the first time. Participants gathered in front of the state capitol as local pro-life politicians took the stage to say a few words, including Gov. Ricketts, Lt. Gov. Foley, Senators Sasse and Fischer, and Congressmen Jeff Fortenberry and Don Bacon, and even candidate for State Treasurer Taylor Royal. Organizers launched clusters of pink balloons into the sky before the walkers started making their way through downtown to the UNL Student Union. There were at least one or two thousand people in attendance, including lots of enthusiastic youngsters, including a group of guys who braved the near-freezing temperatures shirtless and wearing “We love babies” in body paint.

Then at the UNL Student Union, everyone gathered to hear a talk from keynote speaker Ann McElhinney on her docudrama about Kermit Gosnell, the notorious abortionist currently serving a life sentence for murdering three infants. I’d heard McElhinney on the Steven Crowder program previously and was absolutely floored by the story she had to tell about Gosnell and his “clinic.” I won’t go into detail, since this is a mostly light-hearted and family friendly blog, but you should definitely check out her new film when it’s released. It looks amazing.


I stuck around long enough to get an autographed book and a picture with McElhinney before I left. Then I met up with Vivian and the kids, who had spent a couple hours bouncing around at Lost in Fun. We got some lunch at our favorite pizza joint, Big Sal’s on 27th, and then we took the kids to the park to run around a bit more before we headed home. I also got some pho from Pho Nguyenn to have for dinner. The soup itself came with raw ingredients to be boiled in the broth before eating, and it was easily the best soup we’d ever eaten.

Let’s get ready to sample!


It’s time again for our annual alternating “Have a Party because it’s Cold and Not Christmas” party, this year taking the form of hors d’oeuvres with our many friends. Vivian and I had to work to keep two cabin-feverish kids occupied while prepping food and tidying up the house, which meant taking Aaron to my parent’s house, to Burger King, and to the Park for some quality father/son time. Then both of the kids got to have a sleepover at Grammy and Pop-Pop’s house as we got some quality adult time on our own.

(Picture of our kids dressed up for no reason is unrelated to any of this.)


Then on Saturday night, we opened our doors for an Hors d’oeuvres Smackdown, and there were plenty of worthy competitors. We had bruschetta from Lexi, quesadilla bites from Jon, sausage pinwheels from Jenny, Scotch eggs and ceviche from Phil, bacon-wrapped pickles from Amanda, asparagus risotto with pretzel bread from Libby, Shrimp from Kate, and Greek-inspired stuffed potatoes from Frank. Vivian had plenty of her own “healthy” (non-competing) hors d’oeuvres, of course — roasted chickpeas, strawberries and goat cheese on crackers, Buffalo Chicken Celery Boats, and Loaded Zucchini Skins. (I had one special addition of my own, much to Vivian’s irritation.)

The winner was Lisa with her Gorgonzola Bites, which got six votes (from tasters too proud to vote for themselves). She received a special prize for her victory — a pig in a blanket! Vivian and I also got some special prizes of our own from Phil and Jen — a pair of matching T-shirts that will likely be worn again at our other food-related events.

After the judging, we broke open a couple beverages and played a few rounds of Wits and Wagers together before calling it a night. It was another successful food-related event. Just writing about it now makes me hungry!

Enjoying the Great Indoors

We’ve had some super-frigid temperatures over the past couple of weeks, which has prompted us to find ways to keep the kids busy over the past week or two that didn’t involve being outdoors (or staying inside playing video games all day).


Our first stop was the Kroc Center, which had a fun open house last Saturday. They had face-painting the whole family participated in, along with a red kettle bounce house and various stations around the facility we could check out (in exchange for a spin on the big wheel for a prize). We toured the fitness center, watched some ice sculptures being made, and then finished the afternoon with a long stay at the giant, indoor heated water park.

What makes the Kroc Center unique is that it’s part of the Salvation Army, a religious institution which had a praise team singing during our visit and also worship services on Sunday Morning. We learned a bit more about Ray Kroc via the docudrama The Founder, which is available on Netflix. He seemed like a jerk in real life, but his late wife Joan left enough money for a decent fitness center here in Omaha, so maybe it all evens out in the end.


The next day, we took the kids to First Presbyterian for another movie night. This time they got to watch Moana and try out their new fuzzy blankets, which they got from Uncle Jonny for Christmas. They had some crafts and treats after the movie of course, which kept the kids busy (and sugared up) until bedtime.


The following Saturday, we took the kids down to the Omaha Children’s Museum for another annual Star Wars Night. Our kids still haven’t seen any of the films, but they still enjoyed seeing Darth Vader and a couple storm troopers with their friends Sammy and August. They were also able to make their own foam light sabers, and Aaron particularly enjoyed dueling with his afterward. There were also several interactive exhibits upstairs, including a fishing pond, a train, canoes, and a microscope. Mostly though, they enjoyed running and jumping around after a few too many days of being cooper up indoors.


Then on Sunday, MPact had a mid-year presentation for parents at the Bellevue Christian Center. This year, Hannah and Aaron are a Daisy and a Rainbow, respectively, which means they both shared the stage for the first time. They recited a couple bible verses with their friends and got to wear their vest and sash with badges in front of all the parents gathered there. Of course, they also got cookies afterward, which was probably the real highlight of the night for the both of them.

In the meantime, I got to celebrate working at the Pope Paul VI Institute longer than any other job I’ve had. It’s been over four and a half years since I started here, and I’m still loving it — hopefully for many more years to come. I celebrated the occasion down at Chick-Fil-A with the kids.

Welcome home, Zoey!

Welcome home, Zoey!

We have a new member of the Johnson Family! Meet Zoey Happy Johnson, a one-year-old short-hair “tuxedo cat,” who we adopted on Wednesday through Petsmart and the Nebraska Humane Society. Hannah had been wanting a “real, live Zoey” for some time now, and after a year or two with a couple plush Zoeys, we finally broke down and got a real one. She’s still very shy and has spent much of the past few days hiding in our basement, but she’s also come upstairs to snuggle with Hannah in her bed during the night, so we believe she’ll be all right.

It’s still winter, of course, but we’ve also been doing other fun things with the kids around town. We’ll have more on that later. In the meantime, say hello to the newest member of our family!

Hello, 2018!

Welcome to 2018, everyone! The holidays have come to a rollicking close, though we wound up spending much of it indoors thanks to both a cold snap that brought temperatures well below zero and also actual colds among various family members. We took the kids to Burger King just to get them out of the house and play in their play area. We’ll likely be joining the Kroc Center just to have a place for the kids to run around when it’s this cold.

We’ve also had fun playing our Christmas presents, including the electric tire pump Grammy and Pop-Pop gave us, new blankets for the kids, new clothes, and my new Pebble watch. I also got rear-ended right before New Year’s, so hopefully I’ll get a new bumper (assuming they don’t total out the car).


On New Year’s Eve, Vivian and her folks made a bunch of tasty foods to say goodbye to 2017. We had hors d’oeuvres with a bunch of jalapeño poppers along with some olive bread Vivian made in her cast iron and some chilled Martinelli’s to toast the New Year at midnight. The kids stayed up until around midnight (in Portugal, Brazil AKA 7 PM), and then the rest of us stayed up until midnight having a cheese fondue together while the ball dropped in New York City on TV. Our neighbors were setting off fireworks every hour as midnight approached, even though the city of Omaha cancelled theirs due to the -16°F cold outside.

The next day, I decided to have some fun with the cold, watching bubbles freeze on the front porch and tossing boiling water into the air. It eventually “warmed up” to double-digits the next day, but we’ll still probably a long ways from spring (and painting the chimney). In the meantime: half-priced rib-eye at Aldi. Yum.