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Monday, March 25, 2013

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Summer Kitchen Cafe

Sugar Cookies.
I had a game plan for this population-we™ (pop-we) Dinner Club outing. Knowing going in this cafe is all about comfort food, I had chosen to pick this Saturday night as my cheat night. At Summer Kitchen Cafe, temptation meets every patron at the door. The Omaha, Neb, restaurant has a full blown bakery counter. The smell of a bake shop engulfed us immediately. The counter had cakes, cookies, muffins, pecan rolls and pies. I snapped a picture of some sugar cookies and would decide later if that would be my dessert.

There are three locations in Nebraska: Omaha, Bellevue and LaVista. Each cafe offers catering and serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. Summer Kitchen is named after the gathering place where women would gather before the days of air-conditioning to: bake, cook and preserve produce. Having a separate building meant the women would not have to heat up the farmhouse. It also became the gathering place where family and guests would meet. The cafe website reads: "So, with that in mind, don't heat up the kitchen in your house tonight. Head out to the SUMMER KITCHEN. We'll be waiting for you with a big plate of something good to eat."

Most readers are aware that last year Brian and I joined LA Fitness (formerly known as Urban Active Fitness) and found a great personal trainer (Mike Good). As a result, we've turned a 180 in our lifestyle choices -- our exercising and eating habits have changed the most. When you've lost as much weight as we have you look at food in a much different way. That is why I decided this night, I deserved some down home cooking.

Waiting for the others to arrive in our party (one of those being my husband), I glanced over the menu. I immediately noticed a roast turkey & dressing meal. My mind was made up...or was it? I also noticed a southwest chicken quesadilla with a side taco salad. In all my days, I'd never seen a taco salad accompany a quesadilla. Now, I was torn, eat comfort food or a healthier alternative. Text messages went back and forth, and Brian finally announced he would not attend. He was clear across town at his friend's house for the guy's annual movie day/night. Later, he would tell me they watched '80s flicks until the wee hours. Now, I'm dateless, too! So, that turkey meal was looking very tempting.

Frustrated Mr. Brown stood me up, I was in even more a quandary. So, I borrowed a trick from my dad's eating out playbook and asked the waitress which she preferred: the turkey or quesadilla? The verdict was the southwest chicken quesadilla. She sat the dish in front of me and liked promised it came with a side taco salad. The chicken was tender, veggies still had a crunch to them; and the pepper jack cheese oozed out of the flour tortilla. It was tasty! The bonus was the side taco salad. Its crisp Romaine Lettuce, spicy meat, beans; and shredded cheese topped with a dollop of sour cream, was refreshing.

We had a small showing; there were seven of us in all. However, everyone was in agreement it made the evening nicer for visiting; since, they sat us at a round table. No gravy or sugar cookie for this gal tonight! I would indeed eat healthy and get to pick another cheat night. Thanks Caryn for a wonderful outing at Summer Kitchen! This evening, the Summer Kitchen is still a gathering place, which offers a big plate of something good to eat.

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Summer Kitchen: 4.42 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor – 4.57
Southwest Chicken Quesadilla & Taco Salad.

Cleanliness – 4.42

Wait Staff – 4.42

Menu – 4.42

Food Presentation – 4.57

Food Portions – 4.42

Food Taste – 4.42

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 4.28

Noise Level – 4.28

Overall Experience – 4.42

For more information regarding directions or Summer Kitchen's menu, visit their website at

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you've been to the Summer Kitchen 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.
Summer Kitchen Cafe & Bakery on Urbanspoon

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

Spring Garden Plan Available from Better Homes and Gardens

Like most novice gardeners, I can't wait to soon feel the sun on my face and earth beneath my fingers again. With that said--only two days remain (March 20) until spring--which means it's time to plan your garden. By no means am I a master gardener. All I've learned is what I've picked up gardening alongside my mother. A couple years ago we moved into a brand new house so when it comes to gardening we are starting with a clean slate. Intentionally, we've waited to plant around the foundation to allow the ground to settle. Yippee -- it's finally time! The general rule my mom taught me is to wait and plant until after Mother's Day. However, that doesn't mean we can't start planning now. This year, to help do so I've relied on Better Homes and Gardens' garden plan finder. Better Homes and Gardens is offering it free to online readers at

My plant selection.
At this site, get garden plans that meet your specific needs. Better Homes and Gardens offers two plans: a flower or a vegetable garden. You will need to know what United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) zone your state is in as well. Just click through the questions. You can fill it out as many times as you like. I originally picked a small garden and decided to do it again with a large garden plan, too. The final product includes a down loadable PDF of proposed flowers and a diagram showing you exactly where to plant each flower.

Be prepared to answer the following questions. No worries, it's multiple choice!

  • How much time do you hope to spend in the garden each week?
  • How much light does the garden site receive?
  • Would you like a produce garden -- one that includes fruits and vegetables?
  • Where do you live? (You have to know your zone here read below for details).
  • What is your favorite plant from this list of beauties?
  • Is your garden site small or large?
  • How long have you been gardening?
  • Is rainfall plentiful in your region or is a drought-tolerant garden the way to go?

On the very final question, they do ask if you want any of Better Home and Gardens' newsletters delivered to your in box, too? You can pick "no thanks" and opt out of course.

The USDA Hardiness Zone Map divides North America into 11 separate zones. Don't know what planting zone you reside in? Go here and enter your zip code to find out. We live in Nebraska, which is 5A. Since we live in the Midwest, frost is a constant enemy to gardeners in our region; especially, early on in the planting season. I just follow my mom's rule and plant after Mother's Day. The Better Homes and Gardens' plan helps you determine the best plants for your landscape, sun, shade and climate needs to ensure success with every planting. My free plan came with an illustration of the garden, a detailed plant list and an easy-to-follow planting guide. This season thanks to my plant list, I'll plant a Sun-Loving Garden for the North, courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens. Good luck planning and planting your gardens this spring!

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

'Sparks' Fly at Annual Omaha Film Festival

W. Somerset Maugham once wrote: "Good characters are so actual, so individual, so human that it is impossible not to feel that if one of them were pricked, real warm blood would flow." In film, who is responsible for this outcome the actor, director or screenwriter? Recently my husband and I attended the 8th Annual Omaha Film Festival to find out. At the film festival, we viewed the Omaha premiere of "Sparks."

Tickets for the Omaha premiere.
"Sparks" is based on a graphic novel (comic-strip) series, which has been adapted for the big screen by the co-creator and director, Christopher Folino. Earlier in the day on March 9 both my cousin and I attended a graphic novel signing at Krypton Comics, where we met Folino as well as co-creator and actor William Katt. Folino told us about the premiere, which happened to coincide with the Omaha Film Festival.

Both my husband (Brian) and I grew up reading comic books and like many are gaga over the recent Avenger series being brought to life on the big screen. With that said this movie was definitely up our alley. The cost was $8 a piece to attend the premiere only. A description from the film's website said: "A superhero noir thriller about a masked vigilante Ian Sparks who discovers the dark side to heroism. Going after the nation's most notorious super criminal leaves Sparks' life and reputation in ruins." Before the movie rolled Folino said: "We love it enough for you!"

"Sparks" had a "Sin City" feel with less than PG-13 sex appeal. Folino mentioned "Casablanca" is a favorite of his. I could see glimpses of Casablanca scattered throughout the film; especially, when it came to kissing scenes. However, it is based off a graphic novel, so there are some "Silence of Lambs" moments. I say moments, because they cut away and don't show the actual heinous acts; however, that leaves the viewer to speculate. This film is also for the ladies; since, there's a love triangle that plays throughout the film. For an independent film with a shoe string budget they managed to pull together a familiar cast (Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, Katt, Clint Howard). However, there were moments where it was campy -- I'll let you decide where. I truly appreciated Ashley Bell's portrayal of Lady Heavenly. Seeing a strong -- in every sense of the word -- woman on the screen was refreshing. It is overall entertaining! Chase Williamson delivers a believable role as Ian Sparks. Movie goers get a front and center seat to see how an up-and-coming superhero finds his tortured self and true love at the same time.

Seated with Dr. San Guinary.
For Brian and I what really brought the film to life was the Q&A session held directly after the premiere. A mainstay at most film festivals. Established in 2005, the Omaha Film Festival gives independent film artists a platform for sharing their work and creating a dialogue with the community. We got to hear from Folino and Katt first hand. According to Folino, they shot the movie in 12 days and mostly at night. Only two film editors were on staff to cut the film, too. It doesn't get any more independent than that. There were a bevy of questions asked by the movie goers. Time and time again, Folino reminded those in attendance -- it was not easy. "We almost went broke a couple times!" I asked Folino: "How he came to be a screenwriter/director?" He credited his Dungeon and Dragon days for his creative side. He also enthusiastically told us his journey from working at a public television station, a Home Depot video taping wood and stint video taping gamers' play video games.

At the premiere we also sat with Dr. San Guinary, Omaha's original and favorite horror host since 1971. He reported that the Superhero Blood Drive in Omaha was well attended. Krypton Comics and Dr. San Guinary teamed up for a mobile American Red Cross Blood Drive during the graphic novel signing. They told donors: "You can meet the Greatest American Hero (William Katt) and BE a great American hero at the same time!"

In short, for this film it is a marriage of all three (actor, director and screenwriter) which successfully makes each character come to life on the big screen. That question would not have been answered if we did not witness it firsthand through the eyes of the director (Folino) and actor (Katt) at a film festival. So, remember you don't have to travel to Sundance or Cannes to see independent films, attend a film festival in your own backyard. We plan to attend Omaha's Film Festival again next year!

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

pop-we Founder Shares Resources to honor National Grammar Day

Today, March 4th, is National Grammar Day in the United States! I whole wholeheartedly agree with A.A. Patawaran's quote: “Grammar to a writer is to a mountaineer a good pair of hiking boots or, more precisely, to a deep-sea diver an oxygen tank." Wherever you reside in the world no language is simple to learn. However, those that are more closely related to your native language are certainly going to be easier to retain. Learning a completely different writing style can be a huge challenge, but does not necessarily make a language more difficult. However, grammar and sentence structure plays a much larger role in difficulty. That is why today is set aside to celebrate language and all its quirks and frustrations and fascinations.

To celebrate National Grammar Day, I'm taking this time to reveal to our population-we™ readers the contents of my grammar arsenal.

With introduction of social media like blogs, some believe that proper grammar in the 21st Century is declining. When I started blogging in 2011, the quandary started for me as a writer. On one hand, I could stay true to my journalistic foundation of following a standard usage style, which I learned in college. On the other hand, I could bend to the blogging masses and throw spelling and grammar out the window. Many bloggers have little respect for spelling or sentence structure as they keep their online journals. I've tried to stay true to my journalist foundation. In my quest to adopt proper English usage, I've often leaned on the following resources:

  • I bought the next manual in college. I attended school before Microsoft Word handled documentation for you. Switching between The American Psychological Association (APA) or Modern Language Association (MLA) depended on the professor. That is where A Pocket Style Manual came in handy.

  • "The little book" will help any writer. Required to purchase The Elements of Style in graduate school, it is a 86 page summation of accuracy and brevity in the use of English. 

  • The next resources were obtain at a National Seminars Group seminar. When I first started in my PR career I attended a few seminars. In 1997, I attended a business writing workshop and picked up a Business Writing and Grammar Skills Supplement, which I still rely on to this day. I also picked up a desk set of National Seminars Resource Library. Pictured above it includes: Webster's Dictionary, Webster's Computer Dictionary, Webster's Spelling Dictionary, Webster's Grammar Dictionary and Webster's Thesaurus. National Seminars Group is a Division of Rockhurst College Continuing Education Center.

  • When in a pinch, I often call up the Grammar Girl website at The site offers tips and grammar exercises to help you learn. For $1.99, a Grammar Girl App is available. The Grammar Girl show has been in the iTunes top 100 for three years. You can subscribe to a free newsletter, too.

  • Do you worry that you have to abandon grammar while you are composing comments on twitter? The solution to grammatically correct tweeting is this free app, 'twactions/140, It allows me to still use the proper word choice under the 140 word limit.

  • The last resource in my arsenal is google itself. I call up the web at and do a Google Search. Of course, I look for the most credible source.

I take the writer's craft quite seriously. Just as a professional basketball player has to practice their free throws or a singer has to practice singing before a performance. I've tried to stay true to my journalist foundation and have never looked back.

As you can tell, I just don't rely on one resource, but many. What is in your grammar arsenal? Please share a comment, Facebook or Tweet us.

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