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.