Tag Archives: Stella’s

Parade, Fun Fest, and Moon Pies

We’ve had another week of lovely spring weather, which means lots of time to get outside to a park or two, smell the blooming lilac in our yard, and have a couple more bike rides around town.


On Sunday last week, August had a birthday party down at Swanson Park. That meant a couple hours of our kids having quality time running around together. The boys spent some time roaming through the woods, where Aaron found an abandoned sled lying in a creek. Hannah and the girls walked through the forest making a video together (which I haven’t seen yet).

In the meantime, Nate grilled some hot dogs, and I brought along our fire pit to make a couple s’mores over the fire later on. Donna also made August a lovely cake with him and his little pets together, all of which we enjoyed eating afterward.

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On Monday, I dropped by the Pachyderm Luncheon again to hear from Rick Holdcroft on current issues before the legislature. My friend Stephen showed off his new mug and I chatted with a few other people about politics for a bit.

The weather was also nice enough for some extra time biking. I went by Towl Park one day, where they a have some lovely flowers blooming. They finally fixed one half of the Center Street bridge, with a new walkway across for me and my bike (this one watthour the hazardous bumps on the other side). I also dropped by Hy-Vee on another day just to pick up a fun dessert for Vivian and the kids — RC Cola and Moon Pies, a combination that’s legendary in the South.

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On Tuesday evening, I helped Hannah get an extra hour of volunteer time cleaning up trash along the street for an award with American Heritage Girls. Then I took the next day off completely so I could get the car an oil change. I got to do some yard work around the house afterward and helped Grammy fix a doorknob in our hall bathroom (which had to be taken apart and treated with WD-40). Then Vivian and I went out to Stella’s just for fun — having some burgers and onion rings there for the first time in nine years or so.

That evening, I took Aaron down to Royal Rangers, where the weather was nice enough for them to have their “flag pledges” outside. Then they made “healthy body bags” before eating some brownie cupcakes. I went biking again the next day and got some RC Cola and Moon Pies to bring home to dessert — a thing neither Vivian nor the kids had ever experienced before.

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Then on Saturday, I had my first professional photo gig down at the Arbor Day parade in Nebraska City. My friend skip had skipped down and hired me to fill in to snap photos of Deb Fischer’s crew walking along Central Avenue during the parade. I saw a few familiar faces, such as state senator Rita Sanders and our junior senator, Pete Ricketts, but no Deb once again. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect, and I got a bunch of photos along the route before the parade was done. Vivian arrived with the kids to see just the last few moments of it, including Hannah’s friend Justin from her school (and a Cardinal, who gave Aaron a high five).

We hung around for a while afterward, getting some burgers from the Pin High Clubhouse & Grill with the campaign and eating down at Steinhart Park afterward. The kids played on an old merry-go-round and got to see a veterans’ memorial with a giant tank and an anchor. Afterward, we dropped by the Arbor Lodge Mansion for a peek inside before playing a bit more at the Arbor Lodge State Park before getting ready to head home. There were a handful of other things we might have done if we’d had more time, such as visiting the Wildwood Historic Center or the Arbor Day Farm Tree Adventure, but that will have to wait for another visit (Vivian told me to put it on the calendar).

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Then on Sunday, we took the kids down to Werner Park for Fun Fest, an annual event by the Autism Society of Nebraska. The kids got to meet some Star Wars characters who wound up riding a carousel with them. We also saw Spider-Man, Runza Rex, and Miss Nebraska USA as we walked around looking at the exhibits.

The kids got to play with bubbles and throw a few axes in-between grabbling merch from the dozens of vendors inside the big tent. There were some 30 mph winds blasting through nearly the entire time, but we did all right all the way up to the final walk around the park before heading home. Then we had some pizza for dinner and watched the movie Babe before finishing off the weekend.

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The biking weather continued through the next week, so on Monday, I took a trip up to Memorial Park to see a new statue installation. It’s based on the famous photograph of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J day, marking the end of World War 2. It was particularly nice to pedal around a bit as the trees are still in blossom, and I also bumped into my friend Denise and her dog Rocko on my way back down the hill.

Then on Tuesday, I pedaled up the Field Club Trail and dropped in on Gerald Ford’s birthplace via Leavenworth Street. The trees were in blossom there as well, though I also noticed the plaques with names of governors and Presidents hadn’t been updated in over a decade. It was just nice to get out and get some sun while burning about 1500 calories in the middle of a weekday.

Our home for the holidays


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Vivian and I just wrapped up a busy couple of weeks playing host to my parents visiting from North Carolina. During the day, they went with Vivian and Hannah to all their fun, weekly activities, such as attending Mud Pies at the Fontenelle Forest and Storytime with Mrs. B at the Bellevue Public Library.

We also spent a couple evenings catching up with them, playing a few games, and going out to Stella’s for some of their classic burgers-on-a-napkin. Vivian and I even got to have a date night eating at the Crystal Jade and watching Catching Fire while Hannah stayed with Grandma and Grandpa Johnson.


I also managed to get some much-needed work on the house done with the help of my dad. Among other things, we got a new flagpole mounted on the front of the house, which had been a gift from my in-laws on my birthday this year. It was a great chance to try out my new drill with some screwdriver bits. Nothing more father-and-sonly than that.

Jonathan came down a little later as we all had a fairly standard Thanksgiving meal together: turkey, stuffing with gravy, poppy-seed biscuits, cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, potatoes, pearl onions, Taber salad, sweet pickles, green olives, and grape Martinelli’s. It was the first time I’d had Thanksgiving with my parents since they moved to North Carolina over ten years ago.


The next day, mom and dad left for North Carolina, and Vivian, Jonathan, Hannah, and I enjoyed some fairly quiet Black Friday shopping. One advantage to all the stores moving their sales up to Thursday is that the stores are relatively quiet on Black Friday, with plenty of deals still waiting for us on their respective palettes.

That evening, Vivian and I took Hannah to the Durham Museum once again for the annual Christmas Tree lighting. Grammy and Papa were at their stations once again at the cookie decorating booth, and Vivian and I took turns with Hannah as she went to see Santa and then made a candy cane out of pipe cleaners and beads. “Vintage vocalist” Michael Walker was on-hand again to channel Frank Sinatra in the minutes before the main event, and Omaha’s New Mayor Jean Stothert joined David Mangelsen and a few other keynote speakers on stage to count down the tree-lighting once 6:30 rolled around. People then rushed the stage for some yule-tide photo opportunities before heading home.


Vivian and I spent most of Saturday recovering from our Thanksgiving activities. On Sunday, we had a Soup Potluck at Twin Valley Church, immediately followed by some decorating for Christmas. Vivian and I took turns watching Hannah inside and out while putting up some garland and getting other ornamentation in place with the rest of the church. The day wound down fairly quickly as we continued to dig through all our leftovers from our four or five days of feasting, and we easily managed to pack away enough food for leftovers for the next week (or two).

It’ll be nice not to have to cook for a while!

a Burger, a Buffett, and a Birthday

As of August 29, I’m a year older, probably not wiser, but having more fun than anyone approaching his mid-thirties should be allowed to have.

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The fun started on Friday night, where I dropped by the Eagle’s Lodge for my obligatory birthday jam. Several other jitterbugs have birthdays at the end of August, so I seemed to be in good company on the dance floor (even considering folks like Troy and Ben Peet who didn’t join us in the circle).

Of course, any exercise I got dancing on Friday was quickly negated on Saturday when I decided to take on the horrifying “Stellanator” hamburger down at Stella’s in Bellevue. As a previous corn-eating champion, I didn’t think devouring the sandwich (consisting of six 6.5 oz burger patties, six fried eggs, twelve pieces of bacon, six pieces of cheese, grilled onions, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapeños, and peanut butter all on a bun served with a basket of fries) would be as painful and nauseous experience as it was. I came close to cleaning my plate, but not clean enough. Fortunately, I didn’t have a heart attack, and what went down stayed down.

It was enough to get me to swear off meat for the rest of the afternoon.

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That evening (after some proper digestion) Vivian and I invited a bunch of our friends over for drinks and banana splits. I’d realized earlier in the month that I’ve never actually eaten the uniquely American dessert before, so Vivian made one (small) banana split for me with some homemade ice cream. We were up until nearly stupid o’clock gabbing and playing everyone’s favorite new party game, Telestrations. We were fortunate enough to have Dan Wondra among our ranks drawing such things as a Jamaican on a hamster wheel and an angel pulling a king’s tail.

On Monday (the big day), Vivian made up a chocolate cheesecake that I was able to enjoy along with a sweet birthday lunch) Then when I arrived home, I got to see some fun decorations that Donna had left in our yard, which included a pink lawn flamingo with a birthday hat. (I’ll have to consult my dad to figure out what we can name him.)

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That evening, Vivian took me out to a restaurant we’d driven by about a hundred times but had never gotten around to visiting — The Bohemian Cafe. It’s an old-school ethnic restaurant that started back in the days when Omaha had a “little Bohemia” just south of downtown. I’m not a huge fan of Czech food, but the Jaeger Schnitzel and dumplings were quite good.

Much to our surprise, someone else was celebrating his birthday at the Bohemian Cafe in Monday: the oracle of Omaha himself, Warren Buffett! I’d heard stories of Buffett dining at such humble places as Gorat’s and Piccolo Pete’s, but I never thought I’d bump into the third richest man in the world myself. On his way out, I worked up the courage to approach Buffett and ask if he’d be kind enough to let me get a picture with him just to prove to my friends that I wasn’t crazy. He happily obliged.

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Vivian and I drove up to Dave & Buster’s to spend the rest of the evening playing games together and racking up a few cups full of tickets. Vivian actually hit the 1000 ticket jackpot on Frogger, so we were able to walk out with a trio of cute Angry Birds plushies. Vivian took me home afterward to have some chocolate brownie-mousse birthday cake and presents to round out the evening.

It was another wonderful birthday weekend, and I can’t thank my lovely wife Vivian enough to helping to put it together. What we both discovered, though, is that so many fun things can’t be planned or even expected — they just have to happen.