Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009 wrap-up

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In short, it was a fantastic year. What does 2010 hold? Well, you can just skip on ahead to read, of course!

Christmas in North Carolina

Vivian and I were able to spend a lovely couple of days in North Carolina visiting my parents over Christmas. We were fortunate enough to escape the ice and snow that hit Omaha on Christmas Eve and had only a slight delay flying in from Chicago.


Vivian and I landed with enough time to attend a Christmas Eve candlelight service at my parents' church in Buies Creek. We woke up relatively early on Christmas morning to open presents. I received a couple books from my parents, a USB hub from Nathan, an iPod video adapter from Jonathan, and a new mouse from Vivian. I gave Vivian a music stand, and my mom put together a collection of recipes for foods I liked to eat growing up. I think that was more a gift for me than for Vivian. My dad got some nuts and some DVDs, and my mom got the world's tiniest frying pan from my dad. She apparently wanted a "small" frying pan, but this little thing was apparently designed to fry hummingbird eggs (one at a time).

At noon, we had a traditional Christmas dinner together, which at our house means turkey, stuffing, and cranberry sauce (with leftovers to last for a couple days). We spent the rest of the day dissolving into blobs playing an old copy of The Ungame and watching Holiday Inn.


On Saturday, the four of us took a day-long trip down to Wilmington, a picturesque little resort town along the coast. It seems North Carolinians are especially fond of their fried chicken, with several chains such as Church's, Chick Fil A, and Bojangles thriving when they don't exist in the Midwest. We enjoyed some artery-clogging goodness at Bojangles, before moving on to tour a battleship.

The U.S.S. North Carolina served for a couple years in World War 2, but it now serves as a tourist attraction. Vivian and I got to play with some turret guns and see where a couple thousand servicemen got to sleep, eat, and work while at war. It was a fascinating trip, and we didn't even get tired walking up and down dozens of tiny, harrowing flights of stairs.

We were able to get a brief glimpse of the ocean that afternoon before having dinner at the King Neptune Restaurant before going home.

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On Sunday, we went to church with my parents and had some genuine North Carolina barbecue down at Ron's Barn, a well-known local eatery. Barbecue in the south consists of shredded pork with a sauce made of red pepper and vinegar, which takes a little getting used to.

Afterward, Vivian and I took a walk around campus and enjoyed the gorgeous fifty-degree weather, just perfect for a walk through a cotton field. We weren't missing Nebraska's ice and snow one bit, and we enjoyed having a green Christmas.

Later on, we stopped by the Cotton Museum over in Coats, where we got to see some old cotton processing machines and quilt patterns used as covert signals in the Underground Railroad.


On Monday, our last day together, we had breakfast at the Red Barn restaurant, a favorite place for the Gideons group my dad belongs to. My dad showed Vivian and me some of his old, stored treasures afterward, including my grandmother's cut glass, tiny clothes he wore as a baby, and his old 'coon skin cap. That evening, my dad fried up some "rosettes," little flower-shaped donuts dressed with powdered sugar. We rounded off the evening with a round of Pictionary before packing up to go home.

It was great to be home for the holidays, and we were quite happy to spend a couple days away from the ice and snow back in Narnia. A winter full of crisp and cool 50-degree days could be very easy to get used to.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

3 years, 500 miles

DSCF0009.JPGBefore flying down to North Carolina for Christmas, Vivian and I took a moment to celebrate the third anniversary of our first date. This year, we went to the Melting Pot at Village Pointe mall in west Omaha, a cozy little fondue restaurant that we'd been meaning to try. We shared a white wine cheese fondue and then tried a variety of cajun meats and seafood together. The tables have their own individual hot plates, and we each got two skewers to keep simmering in our little pot.

We returned home to finish packing for our trip to North Carolina, and then I had a special present in store for Vivian. Two years ago, on the first anniversary of our first date, I showed her a music video I'd made recapping our year together. This year, I made a music video set to the music of 500 Miles by the Proclaimers. I used Final Cut Express instead of iMovie, which allowed me to do some more elaborate tricks with different shots (such as lip-syncing the soundtrack), and I collected footage of myself singing along with the song over the course of several months. I hope you all enjoy it as much as she did.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Dances, Parties, and Cookies

Last weekend, the Jitterbugs hosted their annual Christmas dance at the Eagle's Lodge. The "holiday" theme was a little understated, with almost no swinging Christmas tunes in the playlist (unless I missed it, we didn't even get to hear Jingle Bell Rock). Instead, there seemed to be a Charleston theme throughout the night, with a Charleston routine performed by Nate, Christy, and their latest band of students. There was also a Charleston contest held afterward that was pretty fun to watch.

On Saturday, Jenny had a Christmas party at her house in northwest Omaha. We got to build "gingerbread" houses out of graham crackers. Eric put together a nice replica of Memorial Stadium while Olin and Hugh competed to see who could create the tallest structure (using up most of the frosting in the process).


We managed to put up a fairly modest Christmas tree in our new home — it just wouldn't be Christmas without a tree of some sort. Then over the weekend, Vivian put together several different kinds of cookies to make little cookie plates for her co-workers and our new neighbors down in Bellevue. We also took a few trips around town to buy items for a gift basket to give to Vivian's mom before heading to North Carolina to see my parents for Christmas.

In the meantime, Vivian and I are quite happy to be home for the holidays in North Carolina instead of camping out on the floor in an airport somewhere. Merry Christmas, everybody!

Friday, December 11, 2009

UNO Swing Band and a Chili Throwndown

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We had a record crowd at JNO last weekend -- there were 106 people in attendance for the lesson and many more who stayed throughout the night for the dance. We had a live band from UNO playing for us, which probably helped draw in much of the crowd (including some family and friends of the band members), but these kids definitely knew how to swing (in a musical sense, of course). We even had an partner swing dance competition. Dan Wondra and Margaret Clancy took first place, which prompted many of the veteran Jitterbugs to respond, "about effing time!"

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On Saturday, we got to join the rest of Nebraska in watching the Huskers lose to Texas by one just point with one second on the clock. The star attraction of the night, however, was the chili. Eric and Ben hosted a Chili Cookoff with our new neighbors Troy and Merinda down in Bellevue. Vivian and I prepared a dish presumptuously called the "best chili you will ever taste," which I believe held its own even if it didn't place. By some amazing coincidence, the ones who took first and second third place in the contest just happened to be the judges, Eric and Venche. Purely coincidental, I'm sure.

Snow'd In

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It looks like winter came in like a lion this year, albeit a little later that usual. A couple feet of snow got dropped on the metro area in the middle of last week, closing schools and many businesses throughout the city. Vivian and I were able to have a lovely, quiet Wednesday together unpacking and digging our way out of our igloo. We'll be having a white Christmas for sure.

We both got to attend some fun, holiday-related events at work later on in the week. On Thursday, I had the honor of accepting a "Paper Anvil" award for some work I did for National Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Awareness month (that's a mouthful) from the PRSA. Vivian got to come to the awards dinner and join in a momentary bit of celebration.

Monday, November 30, 2009

The season begins

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The holiday season is well underway, and Vivian and I have been a little busy getting our new home unpacked and ready for visitors sometime soon. This year, we had Thanksgiving with Vivian's parents down in Bellevue, enjoying a turkey dinner with all the trimmings -- stuffing, yams, and "Taber salad," a savory gelatin made with mayo and tomato soup that was actually quite tasty. On Friday, we dropped by the Durham Museum for the Christmas tree-lighting ceremony and spent a few hours helping kids decorate cookies as part of the festivities.

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That night, Vivian and I went on a double date with Jenny and Keith in the Old Market. After dinner at Spaghetti Works, we walked around the Gene Leahy Mall, which had just turned on its Christmas lights the night before. Downtown Omaha is always beautiful this time of year, and it was nice to be able to look around before the temperatures dropped below freezing. Even so, we dropped in at 13th Street Coffee to warm up a bit and play with the plastic wind-up toys at the counter before heading off to enjoy all of 30 minutes at JNO.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A moving experience

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It was a pretty busy weekend for Vivian and me. On Friday, we were able to close on our new home in Bellevue right on schedule. We signed the note (along with a hundred other pieces of paper) and got our copy of the deed to the house. All we had to do next was move in. We'd been packing for the last week or so and had to forgo a night at the Eagle's Lodge in order to keep on track. We did manage to swing by Vivian's office party at Venice Inn as a kind of victory dinner for the two of us, however.

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On Saturday, about a dozen friends from the Omaha Jitterbugs and our new bible study dropped by our apartment to help us move, including Jillian, who came all the way from New York City to lend a hand. I don't know how we could have managed without all the help we got — we certainly couldn't have thrown Vivian's old couch off the balcony by ourselves. We filled a 26-foot moving van to capacity with all our worldly possessions, including a new couch and love seat, a refrigerator, and a washer dryer set. Getting all these things into our new home was nearly just as a challenging — the fridge couldn't get through the split-entry stairway without taking its doors off. We were all finished and ready for pizza a little before three, and Vivian and I took a couple minutes to "consummate" our new living space with a brief Lindy Hop in the living room.

Once we get done unpacking, we'll have everyone back over for a proper housewarming party (likely sometime in January). I have to give a special thanks to Rob, Eric, Nick, Lisa, Justin, Kelly, Jillian, Lee, Mark, Jon, Jack, Donna, and everyone else who dropped by and helped us make the big move to our new home! God has blessed us both with such wonderful friends and we don't know what we would have done without you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Wedding dresses and Cal Thomas

At the moment, Vivian and I are busier than usual because we're packing up to move into our new home in Bellevue! It's been a long road so far, but it looks like we'll be closing right on schedule on Friday at 4 p.m. Right now, we're boxing up all our worldly possessions and getting set for the big move on Saturday (and hoping we don't have any rain or snow in the meantime!)

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We've still found some time to have fun with friends over the last week or two. Last Saturday, Vivian attended a "wedding dress party" with some of our friends from Bible Study. I had a guys night out with the gentlemen from the same bible study, playing pool at Pockets and watching the Cornhuskers play Oklahoma. The girls showed up in their wedding dresses, which drew some attention from other patrons of the large sports bar. I had worn my tuxedo t-shirt, so Vivian and I looked like the perfect couple for a redneck reception.

(And speaking of weddings, congratulations to my brother Nathan, who was married to the lovely Ranae on the picturesque Eternity Beach in Oahu, Hawaii.)

The next day as started packing and then went to see Cal Thomas speak at Christ Community Church. I was actually surprised to see Cal sitting almost by himself at a book-signing table in the lobby, so I had a chance to shake hands and talk with him a bit. The place was packed, but Vivian and I were lucky enough to grab some seats fairly close to the front. I'd only seen Cal on political talk shows on TV before, but the man is quite funny in person, and it was good to hear someone talking about healing the political divide in the country today.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hallowed Ween

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Happy Halloween, everybody! Vivian and I enjoyed playing dress up with our friends once again. I bought a white collar shirt from JC Penney and put on some suspenders to become Bill Lumbergh from Office Space. I had to put on a few minor touches to complete the look, such as shaving off my infamous goatee and putting on my gigantic 10-year-old glasses. Vivian dressed up as a hot chick, and we enjoyed parading our costumes for a couple of our friends the week before Halloween.

Our mutual friend Jenny had a birthday party at Hugh's house, where a bunch of our friends dressed up in amusing costumes and carved pumpkins together. Merinda also had another blow-out event at her house, where several guests did the dance from Thriller together on her basement dance floor. They'd apparently been practicing just for the occasion. I got video from both events and have it linked below via YouTube.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

House Parties

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Vivian and I are closer than ever to being homeowners! After a month or two of thorough hunting throughout the Omaha metro area, we finally settled on a lovely little home down in Bellevue. We batted offers back and forth with the sellers and were finally able to arrive on a price last week. Before making our first offer, we had some of our friends over to see the house before making a final decision. It was quite fun to have a house party in someone else's house. The home isn't exactly what we wanted, but it's a good location and a very fair price. We're looking forward to moving in soon and calling it our own, but it still needs to be inspected, appraised, and underwritten before we can close. Keep praying in the meantime!

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In the meantime, we've still found time to enjoy parties at other people's homes, including our hopefully soon-to-be neighbors in Bellevue, Troy and Merinda. Merinda had been planning a giant birthday blow-out to celebrate turning 30, and had managed to book the Mezcal Brothers to perform in her basement of all things. Unfortunately, they had to postpone their appearance, but we still enjoyed making a scene dancing to Thriller and a wide variety of swing tunes. Geoff, our new Irish friend, brought some smooth Irish whiskey that it made much easier to make fools of ourselves on the dance floor before heading home.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Fall Fun

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Fall's finally here, and with it comes weather that's only slightly cooler than the weather we've enjoyed throughout the summer so far (which is insanely wonderful). Per tradition, Vivian and I went by Vala's Pumpkin Patch to check out this year's festivities. We went with our bible group from Christ Community Church, (which is the first time I've mentioned them in my blog so far, oddly enough) and got to wander through a corn maze, have some succotash, and pick out a pumpkin for carving later on.

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Another fall tradition is the Great at Adventures Hayrack Ride up in Santa's Woods. Vivian and I opted to take the less "rowdy" hayrack ride so we could enjoy looking up at the stars and not have to pick straw out of our clothes and hair for the next two weeks (like some other friends of ours will have to do). We did get to enjoy swing dancing in the barn to some country music and grilling hot dogs and smores on an open fire as well.