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Monday, December 30, 2013

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews McKenna's Blues Booze and BBQ

McKenna's Big Easy.
Smell smoke? This month population-we™ (pop-we) foodie Becky decided on barbeque at McKenna’s Blues Booze and BBQ. Located at 7425 Pacific Street in Omaha, NE, Mckenna’s has been serving up great barbeque with a Louisiana roadhouse feel since 1991. They also are connected with the Omaha Blues Society, bringing local and national Blues entertainment to town. So, whether you are having dinner or dropping in for a beverage; McKenna's offers a great venue for national, regional and local Blues acts.

When you first walk in the door you immediately come to the host stand. From there you can see the large bar along the north wall adorned with corrugated metal, which is sectioned off with chain link fencing. The walls are covered with Blues posters of acts throughout the ages, along with some familiar “Blues Brothers'” movie posters. The flooring is nothing fancy--just polished concrete. Also, above the windows there is a large neon sign that reads, “When Adam First Meet Eve…That’s When The Blues Started.”

Tonight I decided to try the Big Easy, which is a smoked brisket sandwich with cheddar, barbeque sauce and onion strings served on a pretzel bun. This sandwich works! The pretzel bun sets it over the top paired with the tangy barbeque sauce. The brisket is slow smoked to be juicy and tasty. Another tasty treat is the Smoked Chicken Nachos. Piled high with chips, chicken, black eye beans served with salsa on the side. In my opinion some of the best nachos in Omaha.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives McKenna’s a 4.09 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor – 4.4
McKenna's Rib Sampler.

Cleanliness – 3.8

Wait Staff – 4.2

Menu – 4

Food Presentation – 3.9

Food Portions – 4.6

Food Taste – 4.4

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 4.1

Noise Level – 3.3

Overall Experience – 4.2

For more information regarding directions or McKennna’s menu, visit their website at http://www.mckennasbbb.com/.

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you've been to McKenna’s leave us a comment and tell us what you thought?

Want to do this yourself? To review how to start your own dinner club, visit our January post about doing just that. Remember it is a template; tweak it to fit you and your friends’ tastes. pop-we Dinner Club: good food…good friends…good times.
McKenna's Blues Booze & BBQ on Urbanspoon

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, December 23, 2013

12 Days of Ornaments Revealed

Nothing illuminates the Christmas spirit more than decorating a Christmas tree. Indeed, the most cherished Christmas items in the Brown's household hang from a limb. When a lot of people get married their Christmas tree is practically bare but not for these newlyweds. Ornaments have been at the epicenter of holiday tradition for my husband; since, he was a little boy. Every year for Christmas all the grandchildren in his family would get a special ornament from their grandparents. I had my own ornaments to contribute too. For a while my mom worked for Hallmark and shared her love of ornaments with our family.

Watching Clinton Kelly's 12 Days of Ornaments on "The Chew," I decided to share a snip it of The Bohan Brown's ornament collection with my Twitter followers. Not all of our ornaments are handmade but they still truly come from the heart. So, if you follow me on Twitter (@beckybohanbrown) you have already seen them in their entirety. If not, I'm unveiling the 12th ornament and recapping the rest that appeared on Twitter in this blog post below.

Brown ornament 12: A nativity ornament highlighting the true meaning of Christmas, Christ is born! #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 11: Represents a momentous occasion, The Brown's first married Christmas together! #12daysofornaments



Brown ornament 10: On our Christmas tree crayons make anyone young or a bit older crack a smile. #12daysofornaments



Brown ornament 9: A patriotic thanks to any military away from their families this Christmas! #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 8: To celebrate @GOSCUBANE's annual party here's my very first Scuba ornament. #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 7:
Who doesn't love sequins especially on a Christmas tree? The Brown's do! #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 6: My mom's favorite #Hallmark ornament, Madame Alexander's Colonial Christmas. #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 5:
A gift from my brother reminds us of Uncle Dean who collected Coke products. #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 4: Most don't have this ornament on their tree, the one & only wienermobile! #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 3: A teddy bear stocking bought at a local craft show adorns our Christmas tree. #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 2: To celebrate Grandma's 91st birthday Brian's favorite Snoopy ornament from her. #12daysofornaments


Brown ornament 1: Representing our @BensonHighNews roots a bunny ornament resides on our tree! #12daysofornaments

Merry 12 Days of Ornaments to all of our population-we™ readers! You too can participate in 12 Days of Ornaments. Are you an ornament lover or collector too? If so, comment below on what your favorite ornament is and be entered into a drawing to win an ornament for your very own tree. Your email must accompany your submission. 

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Thursday, December 19, 2013

How to Make a Repurposed Winter Outdoor Holiday Decoration

Since our first Christmas our holiday decorations have always been a hodgepodge of old and new. Some passed down and others bought off the clearance rack; since, Brian and I were both in college when we first got married. So, indeed we've been penny pincher's from the start. These days the torch has been passed and The Bohan Brown's household now hosts Christmas--so it's all about curb appeal.

This post is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) craft project, which is based around a repurposed (recycled) item. We want to share with our population-we™ readers that Earth Day should be commemorated every day of the year! For The Brown's: a recycled home project evokes something you already had around the house; were given specifically for repurposing; picked up thrifting or bought at a ReStore. To be classified as population-we™repurposed project: one- or all- components should be recycled in the project. In this case, you'll see below we used items already on hand. Here's our post--a repurposed craft project that will greet a passersby and any house guests pulling up to our house on Christmas day 2013.

Inspiration for Project:
We have two huge planters out front, which I change out for the season year-after-year. For Christmas and through spring we've decorated it with fake pine trees and candy canes bought from the local dollar store. However, one artificial pine tree snapped from the epic winds we get here in Elkhorn. So, instead of going to the store to pick up a brand new tree; I decided to embark on a repurposed craft project. See how we repurposed items into an outdoor holiday decoration below.

Repurposed Components:


The planter with grass.

Pine tree branches.

Laundry bags and mini straw hay bales.

Rope and used candle decoration.

Other Things You'll Need:

Wheel barrel, clippers and saw.

Staple gun and scissors.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Pull the dead flowers but the grass out of the planter.
Step 2: Grab the wheel barrel, saw, clippers and scissors.
Step 3: Cut or saw the branches from the pine tree.
Step 4: Place branches in planter with dollar tree candy canes on each side.
Step 5: Place mini straw hay bales on waterproof laundry bag.
Step 6: Cut to size.
Step 7: Wrap like a present.
Step 8: Staple in place on each end.
Step 9:  Place twine around the present and tie into place.
Step 10:  Cut item from candle decoration and place on top as the bow.


Finished outdoor winter holiday decor. 

Re-purpose Tip! 

Ms. Pepper, the helper.

Bobby pins.


You too can do this yourself. Every DIY project is better done with a friend. In my case, our 15-year-old rescue dog, Pepper, was on-hand for this project (see the helper above). Also, use your imagination. I used a torn waterproof laundry bag as our wrapping paper. So, finding something on-hand that is waterproof is key, as well as something heavy (like a hay bale) that won't blow away with gail force winds. Lastly, I ran out of supplies for my staple gun and used bobby pins instead. Happy Holidays and repurpose DIYing!


-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, December 16, 2013

Miracle on Farnam Lights Up Midtown Crossing in Omaha


The Omaha Community Playhouse's 2012 Window Display: A Christmas Carol.
Decorated holiday storefronts are things of Christmas past or are they? Midtown Crossing has taken a page out of Christmas past and transformed three-city blocks into "Miracle on Farnam." Since it's inception two years ago, Miracle on Farnam is Omaha's newest holiday tradition. Come be part of Miracle on Farnam now through Wednesday, January 1st, at Midtown Crossing. Re-visit how ordinary window spaces can to be transformed into holiday splendor like in years past from 31st-33rd and Farnam-Dodge Sts. Whether by car or foot, best of all admission is free at Midtown Crossing's Miracle on Farnam.

This year's 21 Miracle on Farnam participants are listed below:

- The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation: The Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben Foundation Celebrates 118 Years in the Heartland
- Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts: 28 Years in the Implicate Order by Pascual Sisto
- Fontenelle Forest: Making Mystery Tracks in the Snow
- Love’s Jazz & Arts Center: The Gift
- The Omaha Community Playhouse: Page to Stage
- Joslyn Castle Trust: Joslyn Castle Holiday Greetings
- Joslyn Art Museum: Mini Masterpieces with Joslyn Art Museum
- The University of Nebraska at Omaha: Winter Campus Art Showcase
- Omaha Symphony Guild: A Tribute to Christmas Spectaculars’ Past and Present
- The Kent Bellows Studio & Center for Visual Arts: Concentricity
- Strategic Air & Space Museum: From Our Space to Your Space, Happy Holidays!
- Lauritzen Gardens: A Victorian Holiday-
- The Durham Museum: “It’s Beginning to Taste a lot like Christmas”- The Making of an Omaha Tradition
- Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium: A Chilly and Cheery Christmas (The spirit and traditions of a penguin’s Holiday Season)
- Nebraska Shakespeare: The Twelve Months of Shakespeare, The Gift That Keeps Giving - All Year Round 
- El Museo Latino | The Latino Museum: The Piñata – A Holiday Tradition
- Omaha Performing Arts: Deck the Halls
- The Rose Theater: Narnia – What lies beyond the wardrobe doors?
- Omaha Children's Museum: Up on the Housetop
- Opera Omaha: Miracles, Magic and Music  
- Brandeis: Brandeis Window Display Celebrates Old, New Holiday Traditions

For more details on each window display, visit http://www.miracleonfarnam.com. To see the windows in their entirety you have to stop by in-person. After stopping by, make sure to vote for your favorite! The winning nonprofit earns a $3,000 donation from the Baer Foundation. The Baer Foundation is a philanthropic endeavor that supports various charities, including Nebraska arts and educational agencies. You can vote online at http://www.miracleonfarnam.com/vote/.

Midtown Crossing welcomes everyone to re-visit Christmas past; bring that special someone or whole family to experience 21 window displays from local nonprofits until January 1st. Happy Holidays!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Thursday, December 12, 2013

Top 10 Made-For-TV Christmas Movies

It's that time of year, made-for-TV Christmas movie time! I truly don't know what my fa la la la la  fascination is with these shows? I mean in some of the made-for-TV-movies the story lines are so obvious and the acting is downright campy; no matter, the shows always seem to put a smile on my face.

You're wondering where to watch these holiday TV movies? Now through Christmas they're easy to happen upon; you can find the movies on a myriad of cable and satellite channels. I'd check your local listings for times. In some cases, you can even watch them on-demand at Internet streaming media outlets too. 

I know there's a cult following for these budget holiday shows. This time of year, my dearest friends and relatives constantly find ourselves always talking about our favorites. Anyone online can't help but notice the made-for-TV Christmas hype too. In this social media age hashtags are a flutter everywhere with made-for-TV holiday titles. 

population-we™ readers, join me as I rank my Top 10 favorite made-for-TV Christmas movies according to cable networks, on-demand media and genres below: 

Genre: Historical
Plot Summary: "Silent Night" (2012) is the true 1818 story behind the popular Christmas carol, Silent Night. In a small Austrian town, a young new assistant priest tries to bring the church closer to the common people but instead clashes with his superior. In the end, the young priest embraces the true significance of the Holy Night.

Network: Lifetime
Genre: Family
Plot Summary: "Moonlight & Mistletoe" (2008) finds a Boston toy executive returning home to help out her dad after a fall. She finds the all-year Christmas village, Santaville, outdated and near bankruptcy. Watch as the main character is whisked away in a love triangle between a shy woodworker and financial advisor. 

Network: ABC Family
Genre: Comedy
Plot Summary:  "Kristin's Christmas Past" (2013) is set around a time traveling 30-year-old who winds up in Christmas past offering advice to her younger self.

Network: Lifetime
Genre: Family
Plot Summary:  "Christmas in Paradise" (2007) follows two families looking to escape bad holiday memories by vacationing over Christmas at a Caribbean resort. In the process, both families come together and learn some Puerto Rican culture as well as the magical Christmas story of the three kings.

Network: ABC Family
Genre: Romance
Plot Summary: "A Holiday for Love" (1996) unrolls as a business executive is sent to a small town to assess which of the workers in a local factory should get laid off but instead falls in love with a single mom.  

On Demand: Netflix
Genre: Historical
Plot Summary: "Silent Night" (2002) is a fact-based World War II story set on 1944 Christmas Eve, which finds a German mom and son seeking refuge in a cabin on the war front. When she is invaded by three American and German soldiers; she successfully convinces the soldiers to put aside their differences for one evening and share a Christmas dinner.

Network: Hallmark
Genre: Romance
Plot Summary:  "A Holiday Engagement" (2011) dumped by her fiancé she may or may not find true love when she hires an actor to pose as her fiancé for the holidays.

Network: ABC Family
Genre: Comedy
Plot Summary:  "Christmas in Handcuffs" is the tale of a desperate woman who literally kidnaps & handcuffs a stranger and parades him as her boyfriend at her parent's house for Christmas.

Network: Lifetime
Genre: Action Adventure
Plot Summary:  "Special Delivery" (2008) follows a bonded courier in the Pacific Rim who is tasked with delivering a 15-year-old teenager to her mom by Christmas. Based mostly in Hawaii, this babysitting detail turns into a Magnum PI episode with plot twists throughout.

Network: ABC Family
Genre: Action/Adventure
Plot Summary:  "Christmas Bounty" (2013) puts a twist into the typical love triangle scene. A former bounty hunter turned school teacher determined to keep her past a secret finds herself rushed back into the family business. At the same time she struggles with feelings for her new Manhattan man and former New Jersey bounty hunter boyfriend. A lot of action scenes in this movie.

I guarantee, nothing makes the holiday stress melt away faster than watching made-for-TV holiday movies. So, merry made-for-TV Christmas movie watching!

(Editor's note: Plans are to make this an annual listing. So, remember to check back again the same time next year!)

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, December 9, 2013

Fishing Before the Cold Midwest Weather Sets In

By now, most boats have been put away, and we’re now in the waiting period between the time of open water and all out ice fishing in Nebraska. Area anglers are eagerly awaiting safe ice to walk on, while I’ve heard of others who have already headed north for some fishing. Even though we were on the water less than a week ago, this weather makes it seem farther back than that. We made one last effort that lasted four days, and some of the fishing was fairly decent.


Elmwood Reservoir before dark. (Courtesy of Brian Robinson) 
My friend Ward and I, and his son Parker fished Lake McConaughy before this cold weather set in. While it was a bit chilly, the fishing conditions were still comfortable. I’m sure we would have been warmer had the fish been cooperating. The fish were clearly spread out in larger areas of the lake, including the dam, sand flats, and numerous drop offs. Fish we did find seemed to be negative and proved hard to hook. This went along with the information we had heard the week prior as well. It was still a great trip that provided us with four nice fat walleyes up to 22 inches, with a few bonus pike in the 30-inch range.

On our trip home, we stopped and fished Elwood Reservoir for a few hours. It took us a while to find fish, but once we did, these fish were much more cooperative. While I caught the walleyes at McConaughy, Ward and Parker really put on a show and left me far behind. Ward reeled in a Master Angler (MA) wiper at just above 24 inches, while Parker came very close to MA status on a nice white bass that went over 16 inches. Numerous fish were caught on slab spoons, including one walleye. Ward hooked a monster of a fish, which unforfunately left us shaking our heads as it popped the hook. It’s possible that it was a large wiper, but Ward believes it may have been a muskie. I have heard of far fewer muskies caught the past two years, but some still prowl the waters of Elwood, and I believe some of them are quite large. I also believe they are extremely rare in Elwood due to past low water levels, but I know of a recent 46-inch catch that resides in my neighbors house just down the road. My uncle hooked it in the spring of 2012.

The results prompted me to return the next day, along with it being the absolute last nice day before the winter front was to arrive. The weather proved to be great at 65 degrees, and the fishing wasn’t bad either. I caught numerous white bass up to 16 3/4 inches, and five wipers up to 23 inches. This time of year the fish will make you work to find them, and this day was no different.

Now, winter boat projects are in order to make next year even better. In the meantime, making new jigs and spoons, arranging a few ice fishing trips and finding some open water to fish are at the top of the priority list. Stay warm if you can, and enjoy the ice fishing season. With these temps, safe ice will be formed before we know it.

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Robinson
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Thursday, December 5, 2013

How to Protect Your Curb from Snowplows This Winter

ReStore Reflectors.
This time of year everybody in the Midwest is bracing themselves for a four letter word, s-n-o-w! So, when the temperature drops in these parts, yes snow is inevitable. With snow, homeowners are required by law to maintain our walkways and driveways by shoveling. If you live in the city limits, it's up to your city works department to however plow the streets in your neighborhood. That is where this post comes into play. Year-after-year since moving into our new Elkhorn neighborhood we've been plagued with a problem. Vehicles clearing our roads of snow; unfortunately, during the process of pushing the snow aside--peel back the grass along our curb too.

This post is a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) household project, which is based around a repurposed (recycled) item. We want to share with our population-we™ readers that Earth Day should be commemorated every day of the year! For The Brown's: a recycled home project evokes something you already had around the house; were given specifically for repurposing; picked up thrifting or bought at a ReStore. To be classified as population-we™ repurposed project: one- or all- components should be recycled in the project. In this case, this blogger husband and wife team live in an area that receives lots of snow--here's a buy we found to combat our snowplow woes at a local ReStore.

Our neighbor's prepare for snowfall too.
If you're not familiar with this type of store, the concept is to give products a second life. Habitat for Humanity ReStores provide a socially and environmentally responsible way to keep good, reusable materials out of landfills. To learn more about the ReStore we visited, read my post at: Be Green, Shop at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. To alleviate our snowplow problem, we've borrowed a tip from area businesses snow removal playbook. To save their businesses' high-priced manicured lawns, they place reflectors in the parking lots and sidewalks for snow removal. While at the ReStore, we happened upon some reflectors (see picture above), and immediately bought a dozen. And, strategically before the ground froze we placed them along our curb to warn the snowplows too steer clear.

If you live in a neighborhood that has a Homeowners Association (HOA) covenants; you may want to check to see if reflectors are permitted. Our neighborhood has one but no one abides by it. This year, The Brown's are not alone, corner lots around the neighborhood are littered (see picture at left above) with their own reflectors awaiting Nebraska's first snowfall. The only difference between our reflectors, we saved ours from a landfill, by purchasing them off season at a ReStore. Keep repurposing!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, December 2, 2013

Fall Fishing Tips

Though the weather has turned colder now, the fishing action has remained hot. The water temperatures have varied anywhere from 41 to 46 in the areas we’ve been fishing in Nebraska, but the fish have yet to slow down.

At the Tri County canal system, the saugers are gathered in somewhat predictable areas and definitely stocking up for winter. We found them in water from 12 to 30 foot deep. With the water temps down to 41 degrees, it’s safe to say the chilly weather out west brought us some mighty cold water. The fish did not seem to care. Saugers are like walleyes in that sometimes they can be picky about what you can catch them on. But this wasn’t the case for us, which was a nice change of pace. We caught them on jig/plastic combos, slab spoons and blade baits. The most interesting part of our day was that not one walleye was boated. Saugers typically relate to areas with current and are usually found deeper in holes than walleyes, but it was clear they had this area completely taken over.

A variety of crankbaits.
Fall fishing is well known for being a great opportunity to catch trophy fish and this year has been no different. A variety of tactics will work, such as trolling crankbaits, casting crankbaits, even dragging live bait. But a real go-to this time of year is slabbing. Slabbing is using a variety of lead and metal spoons with a vertical jigging presentation to imitate dying bait fish. As these fish fall to the bottom, predators are there to feed on them. The biggest key, as stated before, is to find the fish using your sonar units. Once you’ve done that, the real fun can begin.

Slabbing is a tactic that’s very popular on area reservoirs like Harlan, McConaughy, Johnson, Elwood and Sherman. We have fished a few of these areas and had mixed results. Some days have been outstanding, while others have been a bit of a struggle. Fish locations in the fall do change by the day in some areas, and we’ve even seen them change by the hour. When we have found large pods of predators feeding on shad and alewives, we have done well on numbers of white bass, wipers, smallmouth bass, and walleyes. On the flip side, when the fish are difficult to locate, our success has been far less. To illustrate this point, earlier this week, two of us boated a drum, a crappie, 10 wipers up to 24 inches and well over 50 white bass up to 16 inches. The very next day on the same water, two of us struggled to find three wipers and nine white bass.

Another great way to catch fish in the fall is to fish at night; especially, during periods related to a full moon. Night trolling can be very effective at times. Long lining stick baits such as Rapala Husky Jerks, Original Floating Rapalas, Shallow Shad Raps, Smithwich Rogues and Storm Thundersticks are all great baits to start with. Throwing these same baits from the shore in shallow rocky areas may be an even better tactic to target trophy fish.

Now that we’ve had our first snow of the winter season, the water temps are sure to be near freezing in some areas. I’ve even heard reports of ice starting to form on some lakes. With time off around the upcoming holiday weekend, we hope that some of the weather will allow us to get on the water another day or two, and see if we’re able to put any more fish in the boat before it’s put away for the winter. We’ll see you out there.
(Editor's note: Welcome to our newest pop-we contributor--Brian Robinson! Join Brian as he chronicles his passion for fishing the Midwest waterways of Nebraska. Learn more about Brian at this link.)

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Robinson
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Thursday, November 28, 2013

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Council Bluff's Pizza King

We crossed the bridge to royalty this month as foodie Scott claimed Pizza King in Council Bluffs, Iowa, as our population-we™ (pop-we) Dinner Club's next stop. Since it was established in 1965, the Poulos family have been running the Pizza King. Located at 1101 North Broadway, this place got its name by starting with its namesake, pizza. Over the years they have expanded into steaks and seafood, which has brought them many first place accolades such as: service, bartender, pizza, server and favorite overall restaurant. Today it is still open seven days a week.

When you walk through the front door, before arriving at the host stand, you will pass a banquet room and a door to the bar on the right hand side. They can seat 350 people in the dining room and offer a full service bar. For larger parties there are three large banquet rooms for any occasion. We dined in a banquet room this evening. Looking at the décor, I do not believe it has changed much over the years--with the brass fixtures and large mirrors along the walls.

Tonight I decide on their lasagna. When it came out I was surprised that it was a good thick square. The sauce was a little on the sweet side but I was happy with the overall taste. It also came with a salad and bread. Salad was a little plain, not much too it, also they drowned it in dressing, which I did not care for.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Pizza King a 3.93 star average on a scale of 1-5.
Pizza King Lasagna.


Atmosphere/Decor – 3.5

Cleanliness – 3.87

Wait Staff – 4

Menu – 4.12

Food Presentation – 4

Food Portions – 4.25

Food Taste – 4.12

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 4

Noise Level – 3.5

Overall Experience – 4

For more information regarding directions or Pizza King’s menu, visit their website at http://pizzaking1101.com/.

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you've been to Pizza King leave us a comment and tell us what you thought?

Want to do this yourself? To review how to start your own dinner club, visit our January post about doing just that. Remember it is a template; tweak it to fit you and your friends’ tastes. pop-we Dinner Club: good food…good friends…good times.
Pizza King on Urbanspoon

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, November 25, 2013

How to Make a Repurposed Thanksgiving Door Decoration

The biggest way to think we before me is to be stewards of our environment. Check! Many family and population-we™ readers already know of The Brown's commitment to be green. Brian and I have both blogged about our earth-friendly efforts since we both became bloggers. Also, every April our blog has dedicated all that month's blog posts to Earth Day, a cause near and dear to our hearts. So, we are recyclers through and through! Now we are embarking on yet another venture featuring our recycling and green lifestyle efforts and welcome our readers to join us!

Watch for articles sprinkled through our posts each month about Do-It-Yourself (DIY) household as well as arts and crafts projects based around repurposed (recycled) items. More importantly, we want to share with our population-we™ readers that Earth Day should be commemorated every day of the year! For The Brown's: a recycled home or craft project evokes something you already had around the house; were given specifically for repurposing; picked up thrifting or bought at a restore it store. To be classified as population-we™ repurposed project: one- or all- components should be recycled in the project. In this case, you'll see below we used items already on hand. Here's our very first post--a repurposed craft project that will greet our house guests entering The Brown's home this Thanksgiving.


Inspiration for Project:

Recently our 15-year-old rescue dog, Pepper, had a house guest over for a long weekend. Like any good fur-friend, Pepper shared her toys with one-and-a-half-year-old Australian Shepard, Zoey (watch Vine video above or at this link). Unfortunately, one dog toy did not make it. Enter the repurposed idea: I'd been decorating for our upcoming Thanksgiving gathering and didn't have a door decoration yet. So, instead of tossing the dog toy's rope in the trash--see how we recycled it into a Thanksgiving or Autumn Door Decoration.


Repurposed Components:


Rope from broken dog toy.

Over-sized fake leaf.

Other Things You'll Need:

Scissors and Duck Tape.


Step-by-Step Instructions:

Step 1: Take the scissors and cut the rope off of the dog toy.
Step 2: Rip off two small and two larger pieces of duck tape.

After Steps 3 & 4 below.

Step 3: Fasten each small piece of duck tape to the end of the frayed rope.
Step 4: Turn over leaf and fasten the rope to the back with the remaining two large pieces of duck tape.

Finished repurposed craft on the door.

Re-purpose Tip! 

You too can do this yourself. Don't have an over-sized fake leaf? If so, use a real leaf of any size from your yard. No industrial dog strength rope either? No worries Mon, just fasten it to the back with any twine or rope. Wool-ah you have a Thanksgiving Door Decoration, too. Happy Thanksgiving and repurpose DIYing!


-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, November 18, 2013

Shop Local Buys for Gym and Outdoor Activities This Holiday

Graphic courtesy of American Independent Business Alliance.
Those who have been bitten by the workout bug know the number one accessory is a proper listening set up. I’m a shop local kind of gal. I think my drive to shop local is because I grew up in Benson, Neb. Today the area is more a destination spot with a hub of trendy shops, restaurants and bars. However, during my childhood it was like a small town square with a grocery store, dime store, ice cream shop, florist, jewelry and toy store. All within walking distance, too. My sister reflected on this in her post on Benson Nebraska Celebrates 175 Years. Another need to shop local, as a entrepreneur and business owner, I’m drawn to help my fellow comrades. I belong to the Shop Local Omaha | Omaha Local Independent Business Alliance (OL!BA). population-we™ (pop-we) readers may think that’s odd for a blogger. However, my social media business (population-we, LLC) is local. I reside in Elkhorn (really Omaha) with our food blogger and dog blogger and the majority of the posts detail events happening in our hometown. Currently, all of our pop-we contributors reside in Omaha, too. I’ll talk about OL!BA in a later post. Back to shopping for my workout arsenal!

While on the shopping prowl, I usually research the best buys online and buy local instead. I encourage our readers this November 30th to Shop Small at local shops and merchants as well. Also, under way now through December 20th--Shift Your Shopping--encourages customers in their hometowns to shift his/her spending and buy or go local and shop at independent merchants this holiday shopping season.

Graphic courtesy of American Express.
What follows is how I accessorized my iPhone for my weekly workouts by buying from a local Omaha store.

MDR-AS200 Active Sports Headphones @ Nebraska Furniture Mart (retail $19.99; sale price $17.99) 
When I spotted these pink headphones on the shelf--I bought them on the spot. They are uber comfy, help drown out background noise, and are adorable to be seen in. They also are lightweight and water-resistant (I'm a SCUBA diver, so this is key). I really like the unique loop hanger that fits comfortably over my ear--so I don't have to worry about the ear buds dropping out.

Griffin iPhone Trainer Armband Holder @ Nebraska Furniture Mart (retail $29.95)
You have to be able to strap your iPhone on for that run or brisk walk. So, here’s my favorite accessory: a Griffin Trainer Armband Holder. It works well on the wrist, bicep or tossing in a cup holder. It also sports a plastic screen; giving you the ability to pick music easily, send texts, scroll through emails, and update any social media statuses on your run or walk.

This isn’t necessary a slam against this product but a buyer beware tip.

Consumer Tip and Buyer Beware
When I workout at home I sometimes do dictation. I’m a blogger and soon to be author; unfortunately, when I purchased my most recent iPhone I had a mishap and lost hours of my dictations and interviews. So, sickened by this fact, I decided to invest in a separate digital recorder. I was in the market for a digital recorder and number one on the list was the price point. After researching online, I found that Wal-Mart not Nebraska Furniture Mart had the best price in town. I spoke to the Walmart associate and with his assistance decided on the Olympus DP-201 Voice Recorder, Silver (paid retail $23). I got it home and instantly noticed something was wrong. At first glance the package looked like it had been tampered with. Sure enough, I opened the back of the recorder and to my dismay noticed the batteries had exploded. I didn’t just get duped on this buy, but Walmart did too. It was obviously a return! That being the fact--it should’ve been in the clearance section--not back on the shelf with the rest of the brand new recorders. This whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth.

Instead, of getting in-store credit at Walmart, I took my money and went to Nebraska Furniture Mart. At "The Mart," as us locals call it, I happened upon an Olympus WS-801 Voice Recorder (retail $119/clearance rack $21) and we’ve been together ever since. I don’t know how I got by without having this in my writing arsenal. It is super compact, easy to use, has oodles of storage (2GB), a built in USB plug in, battery rechargeable capability, and even has a radio function.

In the end, there is a happy ending for this blogger; however, electronics buyer beware--check your packaging for tampering. And, most importantly--support your hometown business and Shift Your Shopping to a local business this holiday season!

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, November 11, 2013

Step-by-Step Ways to Work From Home No Matter Your Craft

Still looking for that dream job? Why not consider another option that is right under your fingertips. Whether you’re a blogger or a crafter, both careers have one thing in common; each job can be done from home. However, before you make that decision to branch out on your own there are some first steps to consider. These steps might include how to get started, stay motivated and find a job or a buyer for your craft. No matter your profession, jobs from home are out there -- just follow the steps below to get started.

Understand Your Craft
Before getting started do some research on your craft.
a) Attend a workshop.
b) Read a book.
c) Talk to others who are already working in that field.

Setting Up Shop
Your mind is made up -- you’re really going to do this -- so now it’s time to set up a designated workspace at home.
a) Home dwellers: pick a room away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the house.
b) Apartment or dorm residents: pick a space that provides the most light and area with enough room to spread out.

Proper Tools 
In order to be successful at your new job you have to have the right tools. Tools will vary on your craft; however, there a couple that should be in every at work from home arsenal.
a) Computer
b) Printer
c) Internet Connection
d) Telephone
e) File cabinet

Who You Are Matters 
Be real. You are the face behind your chosen craft, so put your best face forward in every social situation. A sell or job can be found at anytime or anywhere.

Contact Info is Crucial 
Make it as easy as possible for anyone to get a hold of you. Provide contact information over various means of communication.
a) Telephone
b) Email
c) Skype
d) Address

Elevator Pitch 
You’re in business for yourself now. Be prepared to tell anyone at a moment’s notice about your new at home job. The pitch can vary from medium-to-medium.

Sell, Sell, Sell
No matter your craft there are several ways to quickly start drumming up business. They are:
a) Business Cards
b) Email
c) Classified Ads
d) Craigslist
e) Social Networks
f) Word-of-Mouth

You Must Social Network 
It’s free! The only way to be successful without breaking the bank is to promote your services via social networks.
a) Facebook
b) Twitter
c) Blogging Platform (Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr) 
d) LinkedIn
e) Pinterest
f) Google+

Be Patient
Bill Gates didn’t build Microsoft overnight; so allow yourself some time to build momentum.

Routine Home Work 
The only way to stay motivated with a home job is to make your work a daily habit.

Today the entrepreneurial spirit is alive more than ever. As discussed, with the advent of social networking, a working from home job is even easier and less costly to obtain. Consider any of these easy to follow actions steps to welcome home your first sale or get your very first paid job from home. In the end, be your own boss and land that dream job without leaving home.

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, November 4, 2013

Author Alan Sitomer Discusses National Novel Writing Month & His Writer's Success Academy

Alan Sitomer.
While reading Alan Sitomer’s posts, you may feel like he gets you. Granted he may have never met you, but he knows how you think. He knows that as a writer that you are constantly writing in your head and looking at your everyday encounters whether they are ordinary or absurd as potential fodder to tighten up a story or to heighten the tension in a plot.

I was introduced to Sitomer when he was a guest author at YA Reads for Teachers (and Other Adults!), which is a goodreads group for teachers, librarians, media specialist and other adults where they discuss books and also network for professional development.

Sitomer has written books for young children, middle school age youth, young adults, and adults. His style can be pretty funny and I am told downright gritty at times. I don’t think you have to be a genuine nerdish type to identify with and cheer on the nerds in his books. Of course, it helps to connect with your inner nerd persona when you read and compare notes as you travel down your personal memory lane. Some of his books are set in the hip hop culture or high crime neighborhoods. They are popular reads for youth with similar backgrounds while appealing to a wider audience.

This resident population-we™ (pop-we) poet very much likes that Sitomer makes hip hop poetry accessible to youth and has co-authored a book comparing poetry to the classics. Closer to home in the
Midwest, the Nebraska Writer's Collective (NWC), is involved in the cause of promoting poetry to youth. To learn more about NWC's effort, read the pop-we article on Nebraska Writers Collective Brings Poetry to Midwestern Youth.

I started following Sitomer on facebook because he actively promotes literacy. He had a status hinting about something big that was about to happen that piqued my interest. I was delighted to see him roll out WriterSuccess.com.

Since I write nonfiction, I appreciate that there will be a section under that heading. I also love to read about the process of writing whether it is fiction or nonfiction. WriterSuccess.com launched just in time to provide support for those participating in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) where a 50,000 word draft of a novel is completed between November 1 and November 30th. It doesn't cost to participate and entries are accepted from around the world at the official NaNoWriMo web site.  

It's National Novel Writing Month!
This event encourages people to start writing without stressing during the draft about sentence structure with online community and support.

Sitomer has been published by Disney, Scholastic, Penguin & Mattel. He was California Teacher of the Year, 2007. He has also written educational materials for Triumph Learning to help increase comprehension among students.

Sitomer answered questions that I sent him following one of his speaking events. The Q-and-A (Q&A) is below. Anyone with additional questions related to writing may submit them at the Q&A section at WriterSuccess.com.

Q: You launched the web site for Writer's Success Academy just in time for NaNoWriMo. As I compose my questions, it is still late October and I see that you are already providing writing preparation advice for the month long challenge and it looks like you will be there for them for the duration of November giving tips and moral support. Do you have any advice you would like to share with the pop-we readers to help them as they participate in NaNoWriMo now or in future years?

A: Writing a novel is a physical, emotional and spiritual journey. The fact is, when I was first "breaking in", the support was limited in that there were not resources like the Internet available. And so, I had to cobble my education together as I went over the course of years and years. I launched WriterSuccess.com as a free resources to help others cause I have been there. From advice on craft to getting an agent to managing publicity and so on, this is meant to be a living, breathing resource where writers can turn for thoughtful, valuable materials... at no charge.

Q: I read your book "A Catastrophe of Nerdish Proportions (Nerd Girls 2)."  There was a lot of humor in the book and some exaggerated characters. Yet, there were also very tender moments that were believable. Do you have advice for balancing humor and the serious in the same book? Do you have advice for tackling serious topics in a sensitive way?

A: I think all my books feature underdogs who tackle their own inner struggles in a way that often mixes comedy with deep drama, fear with confidence, terror with courage and so on. Emotionally, I write like this because I feel as readers - as people - we live like this. A doesn't always lead to B, sometimes good things land in our laps and we feel bad when we get them and other times we discover we are stronger than we originally might have suspected. In NERD GIRLS, well... those kids have tons of heart and as a writer, I am very proud of the book because the characters really display a deep sense of character.

Q: Do you have any advice for those who want to promote literacy among youth?

A: Please, please, please make this effort. Whether it's something as simple as reading to your own kids (or cousins or nieces and nephews) or perhaps buying a book as a holiday gift for a youngster - they really do make AWESOME gifts... it's not too hard to help fight the good fight on this front if you set an intention to do so. Literacy is everywhere and it is so, so important for young people to have keen skills in this area of their life.

Q: What are some of the services that you and other professional writers will be providing for authors and teachers at the Writer's Success Academy?

A: At WriterSuccess.com, we're not looking to sell anything right now. We're looking to give back. So in that way, we're not constrained by having to "go after targets" or anything like that. We are simply going to grow, grow, grow and add, add, add material for a long, long time. That's why we created an email list. People should sign up to have good quality stuff arrive in their box without feeling like the wool is going to be pulled over their eyes in terms of us trying to conflate commerce with contribution. At some point the model might change and we might offer services for sale but for the foreseeable future, we're all about inspiring, encouraging and helping others.

It is good to see that Sitomer has not forgotten what it is like to be a beginning writer. He knows how many revisions may be made and rejection letters may be received before a writer receives even a modicum of validation. Although the act of writing is solitary, he and the other professional writers at WriterSuccess.com are there to offer their expertise and much needed moral support along the way.

Other sources:
- Wikipedia: National Novel Writing Month
- USA Today: It's NaNoWriMo time! Pledge to write a novel in a month

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, October 28, 2013

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Blair Marina

Nebraska's Blair Marina restaurant.

This month population-we™ (pop-we) foodie Marv decided we would head north near the Missouri River to dine at the Blair Marina. Located at East Highway, Blair, Neb., follow Highway 30 east till you reach Marina Drive (coming from the west), take a right head south. You will see a small building on the right side of the road. Since opening in 1959, the restaurant has been a bait shop surrounded by four lakes stocked with fish. The marina has also seen two longhorn steers, buffalo and bears housed on the property.

When you arrive, you walk into a lobby where there are a few benches with old pictures on the wall showing the history of the area. One picture that caught my attention was a picture of a train bridge with a caption that talked about how they tested the strength of a new bridge. It said by driving back and forth across the bridge adding cars to the train on each pass. I thought this was comical to think compared to today’s standards, but back then that was standard practice. The dining area looks unchanged since opening, with moderate wall decorations and a dimly lit atmosphere.

Looking over the menu, I decided on a steak for dinner that came with a salad, potato and vegetable. It was a nice size steak cooked to my liking, a good medium temp. My meal I enjoyed, well seasoned and tasty. However, in talking with the rest of the group, it seemed everyone that ordered a steak enjoyed their meal; those that ordered something else seemed less than pleased. My wife had ordered the coconut shrimp. When the shrimp was brought out you could tell that it was over cooked. Instead of the golden brown you would expect--it was a very dark brown. If you do try the Marina, I would highly recommend the steak, as our waitress would not even recommend the chicken.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Bair Marina a 3.44 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor – 3.14

Steak and hash brown dinner.
Cleanliness – 3

Wait Staff – 3.85

Menu – 3.42

Food Presentation – 3

Food Portions – 3.85

Food Taste – 3.57

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 3.57

Noise Level – 3.7

Overall Experience – 3.28

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you've been to Blair Marina leave us a comment and tell us what you thought?

Want to do this yourself? To review how to start your own dinner club, visit our January post about doing just that. Remember it is a template; tweak it to fit you and your friends’ tastes. pop-we Dinner Club: good food…good friends…good times.
Blair Marina on Urbanspoon

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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Monday, October 21, 2013

Blogger Husband & Wife Partake in Omaha's Annual Benson Zombie Walk

Recently my husband and I got our picture taken quite a bit. Even at the time, Brian remarked: "We haven't gotten our picture taken this much since our wedding!" So, now we truly know what it is like to be stalked by novice photographers and paparazzi. However, in our case it was our intention, along with thousands of willing participants at the 2013 Benson Zombie Walk in Omaha, Neb.

The previous year, Brian and I attended the zombie walk, but as observers. We were the one's snapping pictures with our cameras and iPhones. Whisked away with the zombie hysteria, I folded and allowed myself to become a victim at last year's zombie walk. Read about it at A Victim's Account from Benson's Zombie Walk Omaha 2012. However, on Oct. 19th, we chose to be full-fledged zombie walkers at the 2013 Benson Zombie Walk. Numerous Benson area businesses co-sponsored festivities, but the Nydm-nedm (NYDM) Nebraska Chapter volunteered their time on this Saturday to staff make up areas and pass around donation buckets. Proceeds from the sixth annual event went to the Sienna Francis House, a homeless shelter located in downtown Omaha.

The Undead. Here I am pictured with another zombie walker.
The zombie walk wasn't the only activity taking place in downtown Benson, but it was the only free one. In fact, there is no charge to participate in the Benson Zombie Walk. The street by Jake's Cigars & Spirits was closed off and street vendors were there to entice zombie walkers and onlookers with food and games. For an admission price, a band, costume contest and Dr. San Guinary's Zombikini contest, all took place immediately after at the The Waiting Room Lounge.

Overall, the 2013 Benson Zombie Walk was fun--but a bit exhausting. Be warned, this walk is not for very little kids or for people with walking issues. The route they take you down is a little ways down the road. To begin, the horde walks down an alley and emerges to several professional photographers and videographers. Next, the zombie horde moves along down the street cutting through the Great Western Bank parking lot. Cars passing by on Military Avenue slow down in amazement. We witnessed an ambulance announce over the load speakers, "brains!" This got an immediate reaction from zombie walkers. At the halfway point, we crossed over an overpass and journeyed the rest of the way via Military Avenue and Maple Street to downtown Benson. The zombie walkers' final destination, The Waiting Room Lounge.

The organizers warned us zombie participants before the walk that there were a lot of professional photographers on hand. He told everyone to be in character. I can equate being the undead to being an animal in the zoo. Everybody is looking at you and taking pictures. Zombie walkers and onlookers are in very close proximity. People lined the sidewalks and we literally walked between them. I found it the easiest to scare the little kids; especially, with a cold stare or zombie, "Raaarrrr!" Feeling guilty, I would wink back at the little kiddos, at the very end. One little girl we came upon was so frightened, she had wedged herself behind her dad and the building her family was perched in front of. Her two siblings, however, were grinning from ear-to-ear as we passed by. The best horde action to note, came in front of Jiffy Lube. A worker sat on top of the shop's sign; unbeknownst to him, within an instant he caught the eye of some zombies on the sidewalk. Kind of eerily, just like in the movies, all the undead clambered to try and get some of his brains. Moaning and jumping after him--who was just out of reach--it was a true sight to see!

How do you know if your costume is good? In our case, everyone wanted our picture. A couple zombie pats on the back are in order for The Brown's and our volunteer make up artists. We followed the instructions laid out on the Zombie Walk Omaha website, which Brian and I noticed most did not, and dressed as "zombie vikings." We pieced our outfits together after stops to Goodwill and Fairytail Costumes and Rental. The final touch to our zombie transformation was our makeup. Like most, we took advantage of the make up artists provided by the event. They had two locations available, and we picked The Pizza Shoppe. For $3 a piece donation, The Brown's were transformed to The Viking Zombie Brown's (see video below).



The Brown's have the look down; now we had to play the part. Here's some tips on how to walk like a zombie. Remember slow is good! No "World World Z" zombies in this walk. Dragging a foot, slumping your shoulders, moaning and bouncing off of your zombie buddy works. Like I said, it was exhausting! Staggering like a zombie, my hip started to hurt and Brian commented afterwards that his knee bugged him. If you aren't a fan of crowds, stay home! The 2013 zombie walk garnered more than 5,000 people, including both walkers and onlookers. All-in-all, I do recommend attending--it was for a good cause and was cheap family fun.

My advice to picture takers in attendance next year, don't say "cheese" to a hoarde of zombies--if you really want that true zombie stare say "b-r-a-i-n-s," instead.

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2013 population-we, LLC 
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