Tag Archives: Garden Cafe

Bacon, Eggs, and the Start of School

Summer vacation is drawing to a close after passing by in what seemed like a blur. Hannah and Aaron are gearing up to start a new school year, and we did a few things to celebrate.

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On Tuesday, I attended a luncheon with the Business and Professional People for Life at the Garden Café, and getting to hear from Don Bacon over lunch. It was the first time the group had met since Roe v. Wade had been overturned, so there was naturally a lot to talk about. I also got to ask him about the FBI raid of Donald Trump’s home in Mar-a-Lago, to which he responded, “if the FBI does not have 100% solid justification, they’re in trouble.”

You can read about the luncheon on my political blog and even see the live stream of Congressman Bacon’s talk on Rumble.

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On Wednesday, I dropped Aaron by Spirit Life Assemblies of God Church at 48th and Harrison to sign up for a year of Royal Rangers. The Royal Rangers are a group similar to the Boy Scouts that our mutual friends the Mills have been a part of for a number of years, and we thought it might be nice for Aaron to join in with his friends August and Gabe on Wednesday nights. They had some root beer floats and Matchbox car races, but Aaron mostly had fun in the gym with a few of the others boys.

We also bought a dozen eggs from our the Mills while we were there — eggs made by the chickens they have roosting in their yard. It interesting to have a dozen of farm-fresh eggs of many colors rather than the store-bought ones we were used to, and it was particularly interesting seeing the difference inside and out.

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On Saturday, we had a cookout down at Hickory Hill Park with our friends the Lenarts. The weather had cooled off a bit, and it was nice to grill some hamburgers and hot dogs under some thick, shady trees while catching up before the start of a new school year. Our kids had fun playing together on the playground and exploring the creek a bit, traversing a fallen log that had been turned into a bridge.

Then the next day, we took the kids to downtown Papillion to have some ice cream at Graley’s. Then we went to get some pizza up at the Little Caesar’s before heading home to eat and watch The Land Before Time with the kids.

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Monday was the last day before school started (for Hannah at least), so we had one last trip down to Elmwood Park with the kids. Vivian brought some lunch for the kids, and despite the light on-and-off rain, we all had fun being outside together one last time. The kids got some extra time on the swings (once or twice with me and mommy) and playing hide-and-seek with a couple other kids.

Then we finished off our visit by heading back down to Aksarben Village together to have some end-of-summer cupcakes at Jones Bros. I used to take the kids there all the time when they had free cupcakes of the day every week or so, but since then it’s become something more of an annual treat.

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That evening, we down to Chandler View Elementary to meet Aaron’s new teacher for his Second Grade year and get a look at his new classroom.

Then the next day, Hannah had her first day at Abiding Life Christian School, an independent little outfit Vivian recently learned about through our homeschool co-op. It’s the first time Hannah’s ever been part of a more “normal” school setting, but she seems to be acclimating to it quickly. She’s made a couple friends and even had a part of putting together her own lunch for the day. We celebrated that evening with some Uncle Jonny Pops before Aaron started his first day of school on Wednesday.

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Welcome Back to School!

Biking, Life Runners, Gardens, and Mules

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It’s been a fairly quiet week, as spring slowly makes way for summer. It’s been nice enough for me to take out the bike for a couple rides at lunchtime, spotting wildflowers in bloom all along the South Omaha Trail and then trying to outrun a thunderstorm on my way back from Trader Joe’s one day.

I also dropped by the Garden Café for a luncheon with Dr. Pat Castle from Life Runners. If you travel in pro-life circles, you might have seen his blue merchandise before, with “remember the unborn” and Jeremiah 1:5 printed on it. I got to have some chicken fried steak with a few co-workers and hear his story while also trying to live-stream his talk via my Facebook page, a little experiment I wanted to conduct before potentially trying it again in the future (perhaps with some Presidential candidates next year).

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In other news, Aaron had his first sloppy joe and later decided to try his culinary skills in assembling peanut butter crackers for mommy and me. Some baby birds hatched at my parents house, and I got to take a peek at them when coming over to borrow the tiller, which Vivian and I used to plant our garden tomatoes for this season.

I also dropped by the Twin Creek Theater with my friend Richard to see the new Dinesh D’Souza movie “2000 Mules” on Saturday night. I’d seen several of D’Souza’s films before, and this one seemed similarly heavy-handed in talking about election fraud. It did present a compelling case against the use of mail-in ballots for future elections and had some interesting segments on geolocation data on mobile phones. They could have made a whole film about how you can simply buy petabytes worth of user data that the common smart phone user likely doesn’t even know if available for sale to the general public.

Week of Easter 2022

We had a fun-filled Easter weekend with the whole family, and even though we had a passing storm and a frigid cold snap afterward, we still got plenty of time outside hunting for eggs, among other things.

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We had a fairly busy week leading up to Easter weekend, as well. On Monday, I dropped by the Garden Cafe to have some chicken fried steak and hear Donald Kleine talk about his work as Douglas County Attorney, including his involvement with the tragic case of Jake Gardner back in 2020. The next day, we had a line of storms pass through Omaha, which set off the tornado siren and sprinkled our lawn with tiny bits of hail, but fortunately didn’t cause much more damage (though there was plenty of lighting to go around).

I got out my bike for some quality pedaling around town in the meantime, heading by Hanscom Park one day and Trader Joe’s the next for a bottle of kosher wine, which we broke open on Maundy Thursday to have with some unleavened barley bread that I baked, just for fun. (Oy vey.) Then on Good Friday, Vivian cooked a rack of lamb for our Passover dinner, which we had with some rice made with “bitter herbs” to go along with it. Then we watched Prince of Egypt with the kids downstairs, a movie that’s quickly becoming a tradition for around Passover time every year for us.

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Then on a chilly Saturday morning, we took the kids down to Stonecroft Park for an Easter Egg Hunt with Bellevue Christian Center. They each got a turn to rush onto a field to scoop up plastic eggs filled with candy, and there were a couple bounce houses that kept them occupied while they were waiting their turn (when they weren’t climbing up slides the wrong way or rolling down a hill).

That afternoon, I put The Ten Commandments on the TV for us to watch as I struggled to make some deviled eggs, which didn’t want to be peeled without getting turn to pieces. Vivian made some hot-crossed buns in the meantime, and then that evening we colored some eggs with the kids. I got some markers to go along with the dye this year, so Hannah could draw a family portrait on one of hers. I even got into the fun and made an eyeball egg.

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On Easter Sunday, our kids got to find a couple baskets hidden in the house by the “Easter Bunny” before we put on our Sunday Best and headed off to church. I’d given up coffee for Lent and was quite happy to have a Cup of Joe once again instead of Postum for a change. Grammy and Pop-Pop came by with a turkey, which Vivian baked in the oven in the afternoon for our Easter Dinner, and the kids got to run around with Bella a bit before hunting for some Easter Eggs in our yard.

I put out my dish of Deviled Eggs later in the afternoon when my parents dropped by, along with Uncle Jonny, Uncle Nathan, and his girlfriend Cheryl. Vivian made Watergate and Potato Salads along with some roasted asparagus, and I carved up the turkey before dinnertime around five. It was the most people we’d ever had sitting at our dining room table, I think, and I could barely fit everyone into a single picture. Cheryl brought some cassava cake and flan for dessert, which we had with some key-lime pie Grammy made. The kids played on their iPads while I queued some Google Street View on the Raspberry Pi so Cheryl could show us her hometown in the Philippines before we called it a night.

It was a fun and busy weekend, but always a joy to have so much family under one small roof. Happy Easter, everybody!

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Happy Easter from the Johnson Family!

Rolling for initiative

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We’re pushing our way into Spring now, despite the occasional snowfall we’re still getting for some reason. On Sunday, I made a full English breakfast with leftovers and took Hannah by my parents’ house just to play some more video games with Uncle Jonny. Aaron’s been inventing his own paper and dice game with some D20’s he got for his birthday last year. He’s also had fun playing Mario Kart with his sister and me and making little stop motion videos with his digital camera. Mama Ginny also spent a week or two with us while the Mills were in Mexico, and it was nice to have Harold’s mommy for an extended visit.

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On Monday, I dropped by the Garden Café for a luncheon with Brett Lindstrom. He gave a talk about his campaign and various bills under consideration, particularly a few dealing with tax cuts, one of which got unexpectedly shut down the week before. As usual, there were several other candidates running for office, including one for Jeff Fortenberry’s seat, which he’s just recently vacated.

Then on Tuesday, I dropped by the OPOA union hall for a campaign kickoff with my friend John Sieler, who’s running for State Board of Education. I’ve known John for a couple years, and he asked me to help live stream his campaign event and take some photos, which I was happy to do. I even created Facebook page for his campaign using nothing but my cheap little Android before the event got underway, just so I wouldn’t have to stream the event from my own personal account. You can watch the video here.

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Then on Thursday, we had some unexpected fun down at Skate City for a “Roller Skating Party” with Chandler View Elementary. Hannah seems to really enjoy roller-skating, having gone a handful of times over the past year or two. I joined her on the rink as well, still ridiculously wobbly and unsteady on my feet. I only fell down once, though — onto the carpet (and getting a massive rug burn). It was still fun, and it’s so nice to see Hannah bravely trying something new and getting better at it every time.

We got the kids some chicken strips and hot dogs for dinner while we were there, and they spent some extra time playing on some of the games afterward, with earning enough tickets for a handful of little prizes.

Herbster, Biking and St. Patrick’s Day

Spring is right around the corner, making it warm enough for Hannah to take her dolls for a “swim” in the backyard and even for the kids to have some ice cream on the porch after dinner.

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On Monday, Charles W. Herbster paid another visit to Omaha, this time speaking at the Pachyderm luncheon at the Garden Café. I’d seen him twice before and almost didn’t go, but it was easier than packing a lunch for myself. The place was packed, with extra tables being hauled into the party room and overflow guests relegated to chairs (or standing) on the periphery. In addition to Herbster, who gave a stump speech on immigration, critical race theory, and accepting Christ, there were a dozen or more candidates and other folks giving 45-second pitches for their own campaigns or other issues. Though I’m still on “Team Lindstrom” for the time being, I found Herbster as charismatic than ever.

I was also reminded how much he likes to “name drop,” talking about a conversation with Mike Huckabee in addition to endorsements from Donald Trump and Gov. Kristi Noem. He also recently got an endorsement from my old friends Don and Sue Stenberg, and he was introduced by former Mayor Hal Daub, which seemed to suggest more local support. Of course, he also got a recent endorsement from Mike Foley, which naturally ruffled feathers with the Rickets/Pillen crew.

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I’ve been making more and more visits to Wildewood recently. In addition to a Wednesday night study on “Counter Culture” (with Hannah coming along for their youth group), I went on Tuesday for the Men of God dinner, having some chicken strips and chili while listening to one member talk about his work with local youth at a juvenile detention center.

It’s been sunny and warm this week, so I went for a few lunchtime bike rides on Tuesday and Wednesday, dropping by Trader Joe’s for some treats for St. Patrick’s Day, and then taking a trip up to the silos by the Field Club Trail. I even managed my first bike ride to work this year, though it was cloudy and windy and cold and not nearly as pleasant on Thursday.

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Then on St. Patrick’s Day, I wore a green shirt and tie to work and got to have some Irish soda bread with Kerrygold butter in the break room. There had been plenty of treats for days beforehand, including some cute St. Patrick’s Day donuts and pots of “gold” brought by some of our vendors.

Of course, we also had a veritable Irish feast at home that evening, with corned beef and cabbage with red potatoes made by Vivian. Donna also came by with some nut butter cookies and green Jell-O from Donna (and also Bella). Then after dinner, we watched Darby O’Gill and the Little People with the kids while eating some St. Patrick’s Day ice cream afterward. The movie was strangely more enjoyable for me the second time around. Aaron also cracked up at some of the scenes with the leprechauns but got a bit scared at the Cóiste Bodhar toward the end.

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Friday was Uncle Jonny’s birthday, so our kids colored up a couple birthday cards and brought them over to say “Happy Birthday.” Then on Saturday, we had some lovely weather for a walk over to my parents’ house again for a proper celebration. (Hannah even got to ride her bike over.) Uncle Nathan joined us all as we had some Casey’s pizza for lunch and then played some video games. We briefly tried playing an eight-player round of Pico Park together, but it proved to be a bit too difficult to get everyone to cooperate and complete more than a couple levels together. Hannah tried playing a game called “Heave Ho” with Uncle Jonny before we turned over to watching a few home movies to finish off the afternoon.

Family time, taxes, and civic engagement

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We’ve had a relatively quiet week or two enjoying some quality time with family. Aaron helped me to make pancakes and ice cube tray orange-sicles in-between games of chess and trips to the Sandy Park. Hannah’s also been horseback riding down in Plattsmouth and roller-skating with mommy during the week. I even spent one evening just drawing with the kids while listening to 80s music. That was special.

Harold’s Mommy also came to visit, which meant plenty of time building obstacle courses in the living room. On Groundhog Day I made sweet vermouth on the rocks with a twist (and added some bourbon, because I’m not a monster). Then on Saturday, I spent time with my folks and Uncle Jonny going through his library of old books and deciding which ones to keep and which ones to recycle. We had some Taco Bell and watched some embarrassing home videos before calling it a day.

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On Monday, the River City Republicans had Jim Vokal from the Platte Institute come talk about taxes at the Pizza Ranch. He specifically supported LB1264, which would focus on eliminating sales tax exemptions to increase tax revenue rather than the “EPIC” tax, which would replace multiple taxes with a single, higher sales tax.

In the meantime, we’ve had some delightfully warm January days, which meant I was out jogging nearly every day — and I didn’t even need a jacket.

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Then on Thursday, I attended a luncheon with Lt. Gov. Mike Foley and the Business and Professional People for Life. He talked about a handful of pro-life bills proposed by members of the legislature and answered questions about his future in politics. He had run for governor eight years ago and some thought he might try again, but he said there was simply too much money that would need to be raised (as the front-runners, Pillen and Herbster, planned to spend between $5-10 million).

My dad got to come along and personally ask Foley about his endorsement of Jeff Fortenberry over Mike Flood in the District 1 congressional race. One of the things I enjoy about living in Nebraska is how easy it seems to be to engage with our civic leader. Have a question for the Lt. Governor? Just go down to the Garden Café and ask him yourself (and maybe get some Salisbury Steak while you’re there).

Baseball, bike rides, and a sushiriffic birthday

It’s been another busy week leading up to Vivian’s birthday on Sunday, which meant working in trips for gifts and decorating cards in-between all the other activities we have planned (as well as the usual work-week stuff).

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I’ve been getting as many lunchtime bike rides as I can fit into my schedule, enjoying the fall weather and burning off such things as root beer floats in the break room. I’ve really enjoyed seeing such things as the odd “volcano” covered wit bricks from the Brandeis estate at Democracy Park, as well as odd sights as a Forrest Gump bench and remnants of historic old train tracks along the Keystone Trail and in south Omaha. I even got to “race” a Union Pacific train on my way back to work.

In other news, we got to have  chicken fried steak at a pro-life luncheon and hear from Dr. Ed DeSimone of the Creighton School of Pharmacy.

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In the meantime, Aaron had his last baseball game at All-Play, giving high fives to the team members rounding first base and having a picnic lunch with us afterward. Uncle Jonny came by to watch him play one last time as well, and I think Aaron was very happy he came by.

In the meantime, Hannah had another camping trip with her little friends from American Heritage Girls. She camped out overnight in 40 degree weather, which made it hard to sleep but still warm about to spend the night playing with “Pop-Its” in the tent with Sammy — something she drew a picture of afterward to commemorate.

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Then on Monday, we celebrated Vivian’s birthday, which required several days in advance of preparation. Grammy helped Aaron bake an decorate a cake on two separate days, letting him do everything from crack the eggs to mixing the batter to slathering on the frosting afterward. I trimmed Grammy’s hedges in the meantime, but also facilitated some trips to buy gifts with the kids and scheduling time to stealthily decorate some homemade birthday cards.

Then on Vivian’s big day, I took her down to Osaka in La Vista for a dinner of sushi, sashimi, and fish salad together as the kids had Happy meals with my folks. We returned afterward to have some of the cake Aaron made before returning to home to open a few presents, which included a Pop-It for Mommy, an avocado keychain, and a T-shirt from the Chosen, among other things.

Happy birthday, Vivian! I’m so happy to be able to grow old with you.

Matt Innis and Herbster & Conway

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I’ve had another couple of days busy “politicking” as a new campaign season gears up mere moments after the last one stopped. On Monday, I dropped by the Garden Café for a luncheon with Matt Innis, who had a presentation on the new “Health Education” standards, which have garnered quite a bit of contr0oversy over the past few months. Since his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Ben Sasse, he’s been giving presentations (and posting memes) to get the word out the new standards, which essentially amount to LGBT propaganda aimed at children as young as Kindergarten.

There was a fairly friendly crowd of around 50 people in attendance, with many familiar faces (such as former State Senator Merv Riepe and two school board members). I sat with a couple who were actually suing Westside Community Schools over a teacher who told other students — falsely — that their daughter was a racist and tried to use the “N-word.” It was certainly an engaging hour of discussion in the room, and I left wishing I’d have the chance to vote for Matt Innis again sometime (though he said he has no plans to run for office in the future).

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Then on Tuesday, I dropped by the Cross Training Center for a meet-and-greet with gubernatorial candidate Charles W. Herbster and Kellyanne Conway, Senior Counselor to President Trump. I saw many familiar faces in the crowd of around 60-70 people who attended, including Craig, Bob the sign guy, and my own city council member in Bellevue. Herbster and Conway arrived unannounced before the event and worked the crowd before things got started. Conway talked about her work in the Trump administration and dealing with political attacks. “People used to say you needed to have a fire in your belly,” she said, “but today you need to have the bile in your throat.”

Herbster talked for close to an hour about his campaign platform, cracking a few jokes while standing just a few feet away, making for a much more up-close and personal stump speech. They had time for Q&A and photos afterward (and of course I got one). It was an ideal campaign event, with lots of people both before and after the speeches to shake hands and ask questions. Herbster is also clearly the most Trump-like candidate in the running, right down tot he pre-rally playlist. The primary is still ten months away, so we’ll see if he can pull off an upset in 2022 as Trump did in 2016.

Parks & Politics

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Well, we’re getting a taste of summer in the midst of spring, with temps going from 90 to 55 like they just saw a state trooper. As such, we’re taking advantage of every opportunity when the weather’s gorgeous to take the kids out for quality park time, running up the Keystone Trail, swinging on the playground, and getting a semi-serious family selfie like we’re ready to drop an album.

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Then after park time, I dropped by DJ’s Dugout to hang out with some Young Republicans. I’m a bit too old now to be a YR myself, but I was still invited along to hear a few words from Mayor Jean on the state of the city. A few other local Reps were also on hand, such as Congressman Bacon’s communications chief Kyle, to give a few updates.

Mickey Manley (whose party affiliation I’m unsure of) was also there to encourage the youngster to join his Facebook group called “500 Millennials of Omaha,” which seems to be a lively place on social media to say the least.

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On Saturday, we had a fun outing with the kids to Mahoney State Park, which had free admission for the day. We took an obligatory trip to the top of the (perpetually shaking) observation tower to get a good look at the Platte River together and get a few goofy photos). Then we explored the forest near the river down at ground level afterward (and climbed a tree or two), as well as the lodge. We spent more time down at the newly-refurbished playground, trying out the rope bridge, merry-go-round, racing snail, and family swing.

We drove a few miles north to Ashland and had a quiet lunch at Breadeaux Pizza afterward. We walked up and down Silver Street just long enough to look at some meat before stopping by another playground just until some rain clouds came moving in.

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Then that evening, we watched Aquaman and planted a garden the next day. Then on Monday, I dipped into the political waters again to have dinner with the Governor down at the Garden Cafe. Gave a 40-minute talk to a handful of the River City Republicans to talk about on-going relief efforts from the massive flooding we had back in March, which included rebuilding major roadways and bridges. He also talked about taxes, specifically two bills in the legislature that will likely be raising them if they manage to pass.

There was some brief Q&A afterward, and I got to talk a bit with Ricketts about his recently “kicking over the hornets nest” posting support of pro-life bills in Alabama and Georgia. He’d recently been told by some left-wing groups that they were planning to protest him over it, which didn’t seem to phase him in the slightest.

Big Red

We’re approaching the end of September, but it feels more like summer now than the beginning of fall. That’s all right with me, though, as I hope to have more time to finish some work on the house and go on early morning treasure hunts with Hannah in the yard (and to Costco with Grammy).

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It’s also an election year, so that means meeting and greeting politicians ahead of the mid-terms, of course. On Friday, Senator Deb Fischer paid a visit to the Business and Professional People for Life luncheon down at the Garden Cafe. I got to attend with a number of my colleagues from the Pope Paul VI Institute and even got to share a table with Hal Daub and Mike Foley. There was something uniquely fun hearing Hal talking about free speech issues on UNL’s campus (as he’s a member of the board of regents) and watching the Lt. Gov. pass around photos of his new grand-baby on his cell phone.

Sen. Fischer also took several questions from the group on issues related to Planned Parenthood funding, bipartisanship in the Senate, and theatrics over the Cavanaugh hearings. Fischer said she’s driven 100-150k miles around the state during her term, and I think I believe it considering how often I seem to bump into her just in Omaha (unlike that other Senator we have).

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Fall also means it’s time for Husker Football, and for the first time in my 23 years of living in Nebraska, I actually got to attend a home game! I won a pair of tickets (generously donated by my boss) at a weekly drawing a work and got to take Vivian to see the Huskers play Troy at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln. We arrived just in time to follow a sea of red into the stands as the mascots goofed around before the National Anthem played, and then we baked in the sun for a couple hours as the Huskers lost 24-19. I’d watched plenty of these games on TV, but there’s nothing quite like watching it with the passionate fans in the stands (even when they’re clearly unhappy with the outcome). I even got to bring my DSLR with a telephoto lens to get some closer-up pictures of the action (and the crowd). I even got us a Runza to share for lunch, making for the most Nebraska picture in the world that doesn’t involve corn.

The only downer of our trip was getting a flat tire on the way out of the stadium, which meant spending an hour or two inflating it at a gas station down the street and then getting it patched up. I’ve never been so grateful for Walmart, as they fixed the tire when every other place in Lincoln was either booked solid or closed for the day. We finished off the day with dinner at Pho Nguyenn before a long ride home.

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Fall also means the Fall Festival at Gifford Farm. We hadn’t been there since 2016, so it was good to get back and let the kids slide down into piles of hay once again. We said hello to the horses, chickens, cows, goats, and other animals. Hannah and Aaron also got to decorate cookies, ride a hay rack, and look inside their favorite hollow tree.

The kids played some more in the children’s area (making a “house” out of the various instruments, gourds, and utensils they gathered up), and then we finished our day buying some pumpkins and having some flavored ice before heading home (where we said hello to a woodpecker and bumblebees in our own yard).

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Temperatures stayed in the 90s throughout the week, which made for a steamy experience at meet-and-greet with local candidates hosted by the Sarpy County GOP. My friend Phil came (with an appropriate shirt) to meet folks like Congressman Don Bacon, who suggested throwing me in the pool, which would have been great if someone got it on video. Bob Evnen, Rusty Hike, and a handful of others also showed up, along with Gov. Ricketts. He actually came dressed in a tie and jacket and somehow didn’t even break a sweat until after his stump speech.

There was time afterward for selfies, of course, but no swimming actually took place. Between this event and the one on Thursday, I was repeatedly impressed with how easy it is for someone who’s not even a donor to the Republican party to have access to people running for office. (I don’t mind chatting with Democrats either, of course, but most of those events on my radar come with a price tag, and that’s a hurdle I generally won’t jump.)


Visit to Gifford Farm