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Monday, May 28, 2012

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Biaggi's

Biaggi's Omaha
This month population-we™ (pop-we) foodie Caryn decided on going for Italian cuisine at Biaggi’s Ristorante Italiano. Biaggi’s was started in 1998 in Bloomington, Ill. and now has more than 23 locations throughout 12 states. We went to the location (136555 California St.) in Omaha, NE.

When you walk in there is a host stand, a couple benches for waiting and a couple doors. The doors open up to unveil large party rooms, so that your party or large group can have some privacy. From the host stand you can see the spacious dining area and there is a bar just a few steps away. We were the first from the dinner club to arrive so Becky and I sat at the bar and enjoyed a Caprese salad. It was a light and refreshing dish. Each section of the salad was drizzled with balsamic dressing followed by a layer of sliced red onions,  tomatoes, mozzarella and basil leaf. Our party of 12 was seated in the dining room next to a large stone fireplace giving our table an at home type of feel. The ladies in our party kept commenting on the fire place; especially, the huge earns filled with sun flowers.

Everyone in our dinner party had ample servings of Biaggi's bread with olive oil and Parmesan cheese. I decided on the Capellini di Mare which is angel hair pasta, shrimp, calamari in spicy tomato sauce served with mussels and clams. The seafood was cooked very well which I enjoyed; however, the sauce I thought was not spicy…actually I thought it was a little watered down which was disappointing. I managed to soak up the sauce with Biaggi's bread.
Biaggi's Caprese Salad

After compiling the surveys from the other foodies the pop-we Dinner Club gives Biaggi’s: 4.2 star average on a scale of 1-5.

Atmosphere/Decor - 4.5

Cleanliness - 4.41

Wait Staff - 4.08

Menu - 4.33

Food Presentation - 4.33

Food Portions – 4.16

Food Taste - 4.25

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) - 3.75

Noise Level – 3.19

Overall Experience - 4.25

If you would like more information regarding Biaggi’s and even get some of their recipes, check out their website at

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.
Biaggi's Ristorante Italiano on Urbanspoon
-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
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Monday, May 21, 2012

pop-we Applauds Completely KIDS℠ for Earning Chamber's Nonprofit of the Year Honor

We've all seen the street sign that reads: Caution Children Walking in Street. Than there are the hidden signs that can only be seen in the eyes of impoverished kids throughout the metro: Caution Children in Need. No other Omaha nonprofit has answered this call better than Completely KIDS℠ who recently was recognized for their selfless efforts. The Greater Omaha Chamber named Completely KIDS℠ as the Nonprofit of the Year during the Big O! Excellence Awards Luncheon May 15 in Omaha, Neb.

“We are thrilled to be the recipient of this award,” said Completely KIDS℠ Executive Director Penny Parker. “It’s a testimony that members of the Omaha community acknowledge the needs we are trying to meet daily, and that they value the work we do.”

Completely KIDS℠ disaffiliated last year with its national organization, Camp Fire USA, as a way to ensure that the money the organization raises stays in Omaha. The name Completely KIDS℠ more closely reflects the services the organization provides and presents opportunities to grow programs for the families of the children it serves.

Annually, Completely KIDS℠ serves more than 2,000 children and teens through out-of-school time programs in eight schools, three homeless shelters and at the Completely KIDS℠ building, addressing the needs of the whole child by building on four components – youth development, nutrition and healthy meals, academic support and school partnerships, and family.

Volunteers filling backpacks for their weekend food program.
Nearly 32,000 meals were served last year in its Kids Café, and more than 16,500 backpacks filled with nutritious child-friendly food were distributed. Youth participate in service learning and academic enrichment, and staff members engage families through family nights at each location and via the Family Support Center at the Completely KIDS℠ building.

“Our organization has had a longstanding relationship with this community, and we are fortunate to have loyal donors who recognize the unique role we play,” Parker said. “Our transition this past year into Completely KIDS℠ only aligns us closer with our mission and allows us to more effectively serve the Omaha community.”

While Completely KIDS℠ core programming serves children and families primarily in South Omaha, its Prevention Education programs use education-theater to reach children and adults across Douglas and Sarpy counties. The Prevention Education programs teach children how to recognize, report and avoid inappropriate interpersonal and online interactions through “The Bubbylonian Encounter” and “Adventures of Natalie the Net Nanny.”

The Nonprofit of the Year award recognizes an organization for its excellent stewardship of resources and exceptional outcomes. Organizations are evaluated on the following criteria:

  • Outcome-based service/program delivery practices that exhibit community impact and involvement.
  • Demonstration of financial stability and good stewardship of donor dollars.
  • Demonstration of commitment to its organizational mission.

Completely KIDS℠ was selected out of three finalists for the nonprofit award, including Legal Aid of Nebraska and Lutheran Family Services of Nebraska.

population-we™ salutes Completely KIDS℠ for slowing down and helping out the kids in need in our Omaha Metropolitan community. Congrats on your recent honor!

For more information about Completely KIDS℠, visit
- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, May 14, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Day Done Island Style

While on vacation in Jamaica recently a small island called Sandals Cay — Sandals Resorts Private Island just off the coast of Sandals Royal Caribbean — got overrun by a rowdy group. No, they weren’t pirates but individuals who have chosen to give away the wealth of knowledge instead – teachers. Teacher Appreciation Week is a week-long celebration in the United States observed the first full week in May. However, we found out last week while in Jamaica it is also a global celebration.

Sandals Cay the site of  the annual Teachers's Day Lunch
On May 9, a few Sandals Resorts in Jamaica (Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, Negril and Whitehouse regions) opened its doors to 49 schools from across the region at this annual event in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Day. Teachers from across Jamaica were recognized for their work in the classroom during this 14th annual Sandals’ Teacher’s Day.

Other Sandals resorts in Jamaica hosted teachers for this special day; however, this blogger and blogger husband happened to be guests at Sandals Royal Caribbean and got to witness the island Teacher Day’s festivities first hand. In the Montego Bay region a lovely surprise awaited more than 80 teachers who were whisked away by boat to Sandals Cay for a Teacher's Day luncheon. Several parishes from the surrounding area were in attendance. At the island, teachers were provided with a free buffet and live entertainment as well as engaged the teachers in resort activities and awarded them with additional prizes.

From the beach we could hear a roll call of the different schools take place followed by an echo of laughter. Institutions of all sizes were represented. One school only had two representatives in attendance. The Jamaica School of the Deaf was also among the roll call participants. A live Reggae band belted out tunes for the teachers and other island guests to enjoy. Some teachers garnered door prizes by being lucky enough to sit at a chair with a sticker. As we walked by the luncheon area teachers were smiling ear from ear, too.

Back at the mainland, the Sandals Cay Island was still rocking. At Sandals Royal Caribbean, I kept hearing people ask what was going on at the island and Sandals staff would tell guests it was a Teacher Appreciation Day event for parish teachers. We felt very honored we got to share in the festivities in observance of Teacher’s Day 2012, as well as see a few Jamaican teachers get honored for their hard work in the classroom in molding young minds.

- population-we blog post by Becky Bohan Brown 
© 2012 population-we, LLC
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Monday, May 7, 2012

1887-2012: Benson Nebraska Celebrates 125 Years

My family does not wait for “Small Business Saturday” to roll around to patronize small local businesses. The Benson Business District is located just blocks from our house, but unlike strip malls or developments in suburban areas, the business district and the Benson Community have 125 years of history. With the celebrations in 2012, there will be even more community activities and entertainment close to home. Being the second generation raised in the Benson area, I feel the roots of my family all around me in the neighborhood, in the churches where family and friends have worshiped, and in the buildings where my family has shopped for three generations.

The town was named for Erastus Benson who founded it in 1887.  It was annexed by the city of Omaha in 1917.

Benson is known as a “City in a City.” When my grandfather bought his first home in the Benson area in the 1945, he said that the city limits were 66th Street. In Benson, one can visit a salon, invest money, dine, create your own art or take yoga lessons. Treasures await those who have an eye for vintage and antique items. If you need to send a package, there is a Post Office right in the district where my uncle and neighbor both worked many years as a mail carriers. In addition, medical needs can be met at doctor’s offices, dentist offices, podiatrists, and therapists in the business district.

There is a variety of dining choices and bars in Benson. The Pizza Shoppe, which has a zesty something that I sometimes crave, has been the site of my families’ parties. It is a venue for local entertainers to perform and holds writers’ workshops. In April and May, they are hosting brunches to raise funds for the restoration of the historical Benson Theatre building where my mom viewed movies on the big screen. An area diner, Leo’s, has hamburgers that are true Americana. Espana is a restaurant brings the traditions of Spain right to Benson as it serves appetizers. Beercade is the new bar on the block and features pin ball machines and retro video games.

In addition to the banks in the area where my parents and I have accounts at now, there is also Metropolitan Building & Loan where you can earn interest on your savings. When my mom was a youth, she and the neighborhood children took the profits from their small carnival to purchase a Money Order made out to their charity of choice. At the time, the owner and founder, Leroy Brown worked at the bank with his son Ralph Brown. Now Ralph Brown who is in his 80’s works there with his son Skip Brown. Saving money there comes with personal service and a friendly conversation if you like. Using old fashioned registers and writing down customers’ records by hands are touches that I really appreciate. When tax season comes around, I trust them with my work. Real Estate and Estate Law are other services provided here.

Another place where my family never feels like a number is Jane’s Health Market. Every few to several months, I may make an outing with my parents to Benson, but I am a beneficiary every day that I partake of the vitamins and other items purchased at Jane’s Health Market. In addition to wide aisles of health products, there is also a Deli where you can purchase fresh items. It is such a lovely place as they restored the molded tin ceilings and use the floor space to be very inviting for gathering with tables near the deli and a sitting area in another section. If you time it right, you may be able to get fresh from the oven bread, which is baked in a building connected to their store.

Perhaps no place is steeped with as much history for my family as the Benson Branch Library. Checking out books as a child improved my mom’s literacy. When I was a child, 10 books over the summer in your reading level could earn me a little celebrity status when a certificate was delivered to my grade school wrapped in a ribbon. The basement is where my mom took baton lessons as a child. There are two people that I really associate with the library. My Aunt Anne Rickels who worked as a librarian at the Benson Branch before I was born. Through the years she patronized the library and from what I was told was never late in returning a book. Knowing how circulation at a library is important, she would have books brought from other libraries there for her to borrow rather than get them sooner by going directly to the source. When another new library in town was built, she said it should have been money used to enhance the Benson library, which she called the “step sister.” When Hal Daub, a graduate of Benson High School, was Mayor the library was enlarged keeping the integrity of the original building and matching the brick façade outside to the original. My aunt was said to have tears of joy when she witnessed this expansion.

Charlotte Hauser showed how much one citizen can do when they put their mind and heart into it. She may have read every book she get her hands on as a child and today children’s hands still wrap around books bought with funds she raised for the effort. She raised money with Garden Walks where people paid a few to see the greenery and blooms.

In addition, to individual gardens, Benson now has a community garden where citizens can volunteer.  The Benson area will be even more “green” with upcoming landscape additions to this urban area that will include more plants, trees, improved traffic flow, and better pedestrian accessibility.

Given the fact that the town of Benson in its inception supplied the needs of farmers in surrounding areas, it is fitting that there is now a Farmer’s Market right in Benson with fresh produce that changes as different crops come in season in our area.

The Benson Business District, Benson Neighborhood Association, students at Benson High and area Churches sometimes team together for open houses, parades and other socials. Going back to childhood, I liked going with my family to meet cousins at the Benson Sidewalk Sale on a hot day in July close to my Birthday. In addition to the usual traditions, there will be even more fun and celebration as Benson celebrates its 125th. The festivities kicked off in March. The weekend of July 27th will be filled with concerts in fireworks in Benson Park. Other activities include a pancake breakfast, interfaith Church service at Gallagher Park, and a Benson Days Festival with a Kids Zone area.

Several years ago, I kept erasing my thoughts about the changing face of Benson on an essay test, which was part of the English section of a standardized test because I really wanted to convey my feelings. There is so much more I would love to say and my description is by no means complete. I am continually finding something new and wonderful in Benson as we pass through the area. In this area so rich in history, one needs to bring a sense of discovery as he or she explores the “city in a city.”
-population-we™ blog post by Barb Bohan
© 2012 population-we, LLC 
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