Brian Brown Nebraska Realty Ad

Support the population-we™ Movement here...

Monday, May 26, 2014

pop-we Dinner Club Reviews Black Oak Grill Omaha

Black Oak Grill Omaha.
This outing population-we™ (pop-we) foodies traveled to Midtown Crossing at Turner Park for dinner club. Becky wanted to share this recent find with the club; since, she frequented this restaurant with her new foodie gig as a Dishcrawl Omaha Ambassador. So, her pick Black Oak Grill Omaha located in the up and coming Midtown Crossing neighborhood (220 S. 31st Ave.) in Omaha, NE. Black Oak Grill touts that they're celebrating the great American tradition with its roots in a broad range of urban grills, neighborhood cafes, boulevard bistros and corner taverns. They have two locations; the second is in Branson, Mo.

Something unique about Black Oak Grill's Midtown Crossing location is there are two entrances. Off of the parking garage entrance you head down a staircase where you really notice the openness of the grill. Off of the Dodge Court entrance to the left you're greeted by the hostess stand. Walking to our reserved table we notice the large bar to the left with mounted horses adorned at the top. At our table, we will dine next to a huge window, which offers us foodies with sweeping views of Midtown Crossing.

The menu is an interesting combination of appetizers, sandwiches and main event entrees like Wohlner's steaks, ribs and pasta dishes. I decided on the Pulled Pork Sandwich which is BBQ pulled pork, house pickled jalapeños, and apple jicama slaw on brioche bun. I ordered onion rings instead of the fries and the up charge was pricey for my taste.

Becky's choice for dinner was a Turkey Burger on brioche bun as well as Sweet Potato Fries. She said, "it didn't disappoint!" She went on to say, "unlike a lot of places in town Black Oak's Turkey Burger has more of a Hamburger taste. It may be the tastiest Turkey Burger in town!" She will order it again. This month we had four birthdays to celebrate and were all treated to Mini Kahlua Ding Dong Cakes minus the Kahlua. Yum!

After compiling the surveys from the other pop-we Dinner Club foodies the club scores Black Oak Grill a 3.8 star average on a scale of 1-5.
Turkey Burger at Black Oak Grill.

Atmosphere/Decor – 4.6

Cleanliness – 4

Wait Staff – 3.8

Menu – 3.6

Food Presentation – 3.5

Food Portions – 3.8

Food Taste – 3.6

Cost (was the cost worth meal?) – 3.5

Noise Level – 3.5

Overall Experience – 3.8

For more information regarding directions, catering or Black Oak Grill Omaha, visit their website at

Fellow population-we™ readers, if you've been to Black Oak Grill leave us a comment and tell us what you thought? Read about Becky's Dishcrawl Omaha night out at Dishcrawl Across Omaha Tour Stops at Midtown Crossing’s Cantina Laredo, Black Oak Grill & Crave.

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.

-population-we™ blog post by Brian Brown
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to leave a comment, 'Pin' or 'Like' it.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Ag Awareness Act to Perform at River City Rodeo and Across America

How many times have you thought to thank a farmer today? Rhonda Ross, the founder of Thank A Farmer ® (TAF), has opened my eyes to reasons to feel gratitude for farmers and ranchers that I never considered. She honors farmers and ranchers as an entertainer and educator. She is bringing her infectious attitude and her creative act right here to my hometown at the River City Rodeo and Stock Show held at Aksarben in Omaha, NE., from September 25th to 28th in 2014.

TAF Magic Show
The TAF Magic show is not your ordinary magic show. Sure, there are fun magic tricks that make you wonder how she pulled them off. The agricultural theme adds a twist to the normal magic show fare while creating a setting for education. Rhonda's entertainment tools, which include juggling, twirling a basketball on a finger or even making music with a turkey baster catch the attention of the youth and adults as the TAF duo weave in facts about how farmers are essential for food, clothing, and much of what we use each day. If you think that you don’t need farmers for a rubber basketball, think again. She explains that some of the contents of rubber are animal byproducts. There are messages that help children become better consumers in her programs. I enjoyed watching her create a corn stalk, but will not give away the magic she performed with it.

Children interact with the act and farm animals. No magic happens without the children shouting the magic words, “Thank a farmer!” How sweet it is to hear that from the mouth of children! Rhonda's act at the River City Rodeo has been very popular and frequently requested. See for yourself by checking out this Thanks A Farmer flyer recap.                

Ag Awareness
Rhonda Ross, TAF founder.
Her educational entertainment makes an impact on the children and adults. Rhonda reports, “One city mother told me that her son came home telling her that there wouldn't be baseball if it weren't for farmers and then listed all the parts, just like I do in the show. She was very impressed how much he learned and remembered.”

A child in Omaha ran up to Rhonda after the program to tell her she was “part farmer.” She asked which part and the child replied that her grandpa was a farmer.

Agricultural education is very important in this modern age as adults and children may have little awareness or misconceptions about where food and other agricultural byproducts come from. “Most kids don't think about where food comes from or what it is, but I've found parents that don't know where food comes from or have ridiculous ideas. Peanuts grow on trees, chicks will hatch from store bought eggs if you incubate them, white eggs are bleached...etc.,” according to the TAF founder.

Thank A Farmer Day®
The TAF Magic Show is one of the ways that the non-profit organization, Thank A Farmer® increases Ag awareness among the general public. Thank A Farmer Day® is another way to help increase children and consumers understanding of the importance of farmers. The activities of those days center on reasons to give thanks to our farmers, ranchers, and producers. In the future, they would like Thank A Farmer Day® to be a nationally recognized day adopted by the federal government and set aside as a day to educate school children.

Ag Educational Booklets
TAF has fun fact booklets available for individual shipment, bulk orders, or downloads. Say the title Fun Farm Facts to Fool Your Family Friends and Other Fine Folks fast five times. It is such a perfect title for young inquisitive minds! I downloaded my own copy. The bold graphics catch the eye and the trivia made me think and in some cases laugh.

The Ross’s efforts are well-received by many of the farmers who have seen the mother and daughter team at work, and on occasion let Rhonda and Joyce know they appreciate the TAF work.

The River City Rodeo is a wonderful opportunity for Rhonda and her mother to reach a lot of city youth as field trips are organized for many of the school children in the area. If they have the funding, they are willing to travel anywhere across America there are city people to reach with their message. They would especially like to present their programs to city children who have never had a chance to see a live farm animal and need individual and corporate donations to help make this possible.

Joyce Rice Ross and the Back Story
Joyce Rice Ross.
It was a “where are they now” moment in my household that led me to Thank A Farmer®. My parents and I were wondering what Joyce Rice who at 17 was named “World Champion Baton Twirler” was doing now, and checked it out on google. She is the mother of Rhonda Ross and a spokesperson for Thank A Farmer®. She grew up on farm in the same community where my grandparents farmed near Greenfield, Iowa. Her family was friends with my paternal grandmother’s brother, Leo Lydon, and his family who lived on a neighboring farm. After speaking to Joyce Rice Ross on the phone for the first time several weeks ago, I felt like I was talking to family.

Her back story involves my dad’s first cousin Wilma Lydon. The blur of a twirling baton mesmerized a ten-year-old Joyce when she first encountered someone performing following the PTA meeting at her one room schoolhouse. Her desire to try her hand at the baton was boundless. On a visit to her neighbor’s farm, she learned that their eldest daughter Wilma had ordered a baton from a catalog. The other children including Wilma took a small turn with the baton. Joyce was still twirling hours later when it was time to go home. By that time, she had weak arms and shoulder, a hurting elbow, and black and blue marks on the inside of her arms, ribs, and legs. From what I know about sports psychology, this is the mindset of a true champion. It would be a few years before she perfected her routine. In recent years, she has also made the connection that milking the cows on her parent’s farm may have given her an advantage over her opponents as strong hands are critical to this sport.

As an adult, Joyce traveled the world entertaining. At one time, she toured with the Harlem Globetrotters, an exhibition basketball group. Rhonda was just a toddler when she watched the masters of the basketball entertainment in action. When she was handed a basketball, she surprised onlookers by twirling it without having been taught.

It has been a natural extension for Rhonda to carry on the entertaining tradition in a way to honor her farming heritage. Both she and her mother keep their pulse on issues important to the agricultural community. They know how to communicate their message in a way that city people without a farming background will understand.

Mutual Agricultural Heritage
The Bohan Family Farm in Greenfield, Iowa.
I was told that my Great-Grandpa Martin Bernard Lydon said that farming was a good way of life. He farmed near Greenfield, Iowa, and his children carried on the tradition on their respective farms. I have pondered the mutual agricultural heritage of The Ross's and I have in that area of the country. Given my family trips back to the Greenfield Iowa farm and later to town were often around the holidays. I think we probably visited the area at the same time. Perhaps they checked corn as we did on our drives to see if it was “knee high by the fourth of July.” Did our forefathers look up to the sky for signs of heavy dark clouds during a period of visible wilting in the fields? During a rainy period, they would have had to wait for drier soil to plant crops. If they ever passed my grandpa while he was on his tractor, he probably gave him the common “farmer wave” of a raised finger. I hope they both had an abundance of bumper crops and fattened livestock. I am reminded as I review this of how I was told that my Grandpa Bohan said that he did not have to gamble in his later years as he gambled all his years as a farmer. He continued to advocate for farmers after he retired.

Poem about Farm Crises
Rhonda spent countless hours on her grandparent’s farm. Her love and concern for farmers is very evident in her poem “Lost” written while an undergraduate at Iowa State University about the farm crises of the 1980’s. The poem has vivid imagery and is poignantly describes and abandoned farm. It was the first poem by an undergraduate published in Iowa State’s Agriculturalist magazine

Some years ago, I heard someone from town of Harlan, Iowa, tell about the nearby farmers working long, hard hours to harvest the crops during an extended dry period. Despite the myth that Omaha, NE., is not in the middle of a big corn field. I think it would be wonderful to frequently brush shoulders with farmers. Although I am often conscious of the work ethic of farmers, I have not always been mindful of how farmers benefit me in my daily life. I am beginning to see how their labors are needed for virtually every man-made item that surrounds me. I want to pay tribute to the agricultural background that I have on both sides of my family that goes back many generations. Thank you farmers, ranchers, and producers for all your mental and physical labors!

-population-we™ blog post by Barb Brown
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to leave a comment, 'Pin' or 'Like' it.

Pin It

Monday, May 12, 2014

Blogger Couple Celebrates #TheBrowns20 Wedding Anniversary

& they lived happily every after...#TheBrowns20
Nothing in life comes easy; especially marriage. With divorce rates on the rise in the U.S. this is clearly a fact. According to, "50% of all marriages in America end in divorce." Well, so this is no little feat, The Brown’s recently hit a milestone and celebrated our 20th Wedding Anniversary, which I coined on social media as #TheBrowns20.

Recently, I watched an interview with Pastor Rick Warren and his wife, Kay, that made me want to write this post. I’m so elated to share our anniversary with everybody--not just the highs but also the lows.

In regards to marriage Kay Warren said: “To get to intimacy you have to make it through the tunnel of chaos.”

Just like any married couple we’ve had set backs in our 20 year journey together. We’ve both grieved the loss of family and jobs. So, by no means has it been easy!

Odd Couple
Also, we’re so different. If they were to recast The Odd Couple as a husband and wife duo, we’d get the parts. Mr. Brown (Felix Ungar ) is neat and tidy and I’m not. I’m more like Oscar Madison, minus the cigar, of course. When it comes to tidiness Brian calls me: “Becky The Tornado!” Which is very ironic since our anniversary party was interrupted by an actual tornado (see my brother's Facebook status). Glad to report everybody is safe and sound. The only casualty--our gazebo top got shredded by the 82 mile per hour wind gusts.

We do have a couple things in common our love for family, food, blogging and scuba. This year instead of an opulent divacation we had a huge party with family to celebrate our 20 year union. All were in attendance from two year-old niece Jayna to 91 year-old Grandma Estelle. To commemorate, a bounce house was rented for the littlest party goers from Hop 2 It!! Bounce Rentals.

Happy 20th Anniversary sheet cake and homemade sugar cookies.
These days we’re also a blogger power couple and we have the population-we™ google analytics to prove it. Everybody who follows our blog knows were huge foodies. Mr. Brown is our resident Food Blogger for population-we™ as well as I am Dishcrawl Omaha's newest Ambassador in town. Read my very first post, Dishcrawl Across Omaha Tour Stops at Midtown Crossing's Cantina Laredo, Black Oak Grill & Crave. The Brown's live by the adage--that food brings people together! Food is always center stage in our life. We don’t just eat together, but cook and entertain side-by-side. For our recent 20th Wedding Anniversary party with family; we had three menu changes: Ribs, Brauts and finally decided on a “Walking Taco Bar.” Brian intends to share the recipe in a later post. So, stay tuned! We had hot dogs on-hand for the littlest of party goers too. And, did we have desserts! Homemade sugar cookies courtesy of BF Patty; homemade brownies from Brian's 91-year-old Grandma; Homemade pineapple cake thanks to my sister-in-law Lisa and a replica sheet cake of our wedding cake from my mother-in-law Jan. We truly are making life delicious together.

Anniversary Divecation in Montego Bay, Jamacaii. 

The more time we have together—we both realize our time together is a gift. A couple years back we both started a new water sport together, which reinforced our bond. I made a reference earlier that The Brown's usually go on a divecation for our anniversary. Our love for scuba diving is apparent. It is a sport we found that we can do together all the way into our golden years. Brian is my dive buddy through and through.

"B-r-e-c-k-y!" When Mr. Brown’s friends would utter these words it use to make me furious. Brian + Becky = Brecky. These days, I embrace it! If anyone is curious how the Brecky courtship began, yes I wrote a blog post on it: Cupid is Coming to the KVNO Airwaves This Valentine's Day. Perhaps Brecky will be our new hashtag. Look for it!

Stay In the Room
While writing this post, I kept coming back to a short film directed by Jennifer Anniston years back called, “Room 10." The short directed by Anniston and Andrea Buchanan--still haunts me. As a spouse lay dying on a hospital bed, a nurse comments with amazement on how long the couple had been married. The grieving spouse responds, “I just stayed in the room.”

Love is a choice and 20 years later The Brown’s are still enjoying our marital bliss but most important our friendship for each other. He is truly my foodie companion, dive buddy and best friend who has indeed stayed in the room. #TheBrowns20 #Brecky

(Editor's note: Sorry for the delay in getting this post out. We had technical difficulties (no power) courtesy of the tornado reported earlier in my post. The actual tornado NOT "Becky The Tornado.")

-population-we™ blog post by Becky Bohan Brown
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to leave a comment, 'Pin' or 'Like' it.

Pin It

Monday, May 5, 2014

pop-we Reviews Yin-Yang American Perspectives on Living in China

Do you feel China’s Pull? Then, you will be in good company when you read between the covers of Yin-Yang American Perspectives on Living in China. The preface by one of the editors, Alice Renouf relates how receptive China has become in the past few years to Westerners living in their country compared to when the Colorado China Council (CCC) started sending Americans to teach English in Chinese Universities in 1991. It is a sequel to Dear Alice: Letters Home From Americans Learning to Live in China. It is quite lovely to read her viewpoints on the changes in China she observed firsthand and through letters and later emails over the years.

Renouf contacted Mary Beth Ryan-Maher to see if she would do the tireless work of editing the 10 years of emails. She had been a former CCC teacher and a co-director of CCC Shanghai Summer TESL Institute. Ms. Ryan- Maher and I were in the same grade at Marian High School in Omaha, NE. In 12th grade, we both had a gifted teacher who made The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck and the Chinese Village in pre-WWI come alive. Of course, high school shapes your world view in so many ways and it has been wonderful to compare notes with her about her high school experience and teachers. She really admired teaches from Marian High and credits them with providing some of her motivation for wanting to explore the world and to teach. I have a memory of Ms. Ryan-Maher sitting very attentively two aisles away from me in the same row in religion class during our 12th grade year. On occasion when she spoke in class, it was in a very respectful manner. Given the emphasis in Asian culture on respect for elders, I would think she would be well received by the people of China.

My desire to immerse myself into this book was heightened by reading Devin Thorpe’s Your Mark on The World. Find out for yourself and read my review on Thorpe's book here. This book had some interesting insights into Chinese culture as Thorpe’s worked in China and some of the charity work featured in his book takes place in China.

Yin-Yang American Perspectives on Living in China did not disappoint! How I wish I had written more descriptive journal entries and letters after reading from this book. There are such beautiful and poignant passages. Amusing moments and touching moments abound. I loved experiencing different facets of China and regions that I had never heard about. The pull that the country holds for the teachers is so evident. Some teachers were of Chinese ancestry and went there to connect with their heritage and family still living there. The book is organized to help the reader experience many aspects of living in China from the initial observations to the reflections of those nearing departure. Ryan-Maher provides a cohesive thread by inserting transitional background information throughout the book.

Ms. Ryan-Maher shares her experiences in a Q and A below:

Q.  What were your impressions of China prior to visiting there the first time?

A.  I really didn’t know what to expect. What minimal knowledge I had was based on U.S. news media, which is rarely positive, and novels set in pre-modern China. I wasn’t sure what we would be able to buy, what we would eat. Naively, I wasn’t particularly worried about China-U.S. relations or how that might affect people’s perceptions of us although we arrived only a few months after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade (May 1999). Needless to say, that was a sore spot among Chinese and still is. One of the mothers in the book Yin-Yang writes how all her worries and fears about China never materialized. I must say that it wasn’t easy at first, but it exceeded my expectations in every way.

Q.  What were your initial impressions of China?

A.  My initial impression was Wow. We were living in Kunming, the capital of Yunnan Province in Southwest China, which in the scope of China and Chinese cities is considered a small backwater town. It was more than 3 million people! There was tons of commercial activity: stores, vendors, markets, neon signs, taxis everywhere, bicycles, buses. By U.S. standards, it’s a major city. It’s almost as large as Los Angeles, the second largest city in U.S. I was also so stunned by the natural beauty of Yunnan Province. Being from Nebraska, I was delighted to see corn growing!

Q.  From what I gather in reading the introductions to the book, it was a huge undertaking to read the emails spanning the time the students taught English in China and edit them for publication, “Yin-Yang: American Perspectives on Living in China” What was it like for you to read the emails of the students and decide which ones to share in the book?

A.  Yes, it was a major undertaking. Alice Renouf, the director of the Colorado China Council, saved all of these emails (from basically about 10 years) from teachers she had placed in universities in China. For the most part, I thoroughly enjoyed reading all those emails. They brought back many memories. Some emails were from folks my husband and I “trained” in the Summer Institute in Shanghai in August before they started their teaching assignments. It was great to read about their experiences. Of course, tone is so hard to read in emails. And email is not necessarily the best venue for introspection and insight. The emails selected had to resonate with me and/or Alice in some way in order to be included. Some of the writers are great storytellers. Some emails are a bit superficial but are included because they lend themselves to capturing the day-to-day rhythm of life and unique celebrations like National Day. We didn’t always agree with the all writers’ opinion, but we still included them to show various interpretations and experiences. We also had to track down the authors to get permission to use their emails in the book. Of course, we couldn’t find everyone, and we had to leave some good ones out.

Q.  As someone who has co-led the Colorado China Council’s Shanghai Summer Institute for new teachers do you have advice for anyone considering either teaching or working in China for a period of time?

A.  Number 1, of course, is read Yin Yang! Number 2 is to learn some Chinese. Robert and I took a 20-hour crash course in Chinese before we left and found a tutor soon after our arrival. It really helps, and if you try, people will help you.

Q.  I liked how you gave the different settings in China with some important landmarks or facts to correspond with the appropriate emails that matched that section. What places in China are most near and dear to your heart?

A.  We were fortunate to visit many parts of China in our year there and in subsequent summer visits. The city of Kunming where we taught and the towns of Yunnan Province are most dear to my heart, particularly Yuanyang for its remarkable rice terraces, Lijiang for its Old Town (a UNESCO World Heritage site) and the hiking trail along Tiger Leaping Gorge above the Yangtze River, and Zhongdian located in the foothills of the Himalayas with the largest Tibetan Buddhist temple in Yunnan County. Many people don’t realize the cultural diversity in China. The majority is Han and people know about Tibetans, but there are 56 distinct ethnic groups. Yunnan Province is home to 25.

Q.  In what ways do you think Confucius thought still permeates Chinese thought and culture?

A.  We visited Qufu, the hometown of Confucius, and Brian E. Lewis writes about his visit to the Confucius temple there in Yin Yang with both awe and disappointment (disappointment in terms of the lack of reverence for the site by the mobs of tourists). The popularity of Confucius’ teachings have waxed and waned in China throughout its long history, but it is nonetheless an ever-present and undeniable influence. In my extremely simplified understanding of it, Confucian values are about harmony: family harmony, social harmony and political harmony. One of the first books I read after returning to the U.S. from China was Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West (Random House, 1999) by Washington Post journalist, T.R. Reid, who lived in Japan for five years with his family. The book credits Confucius’ influence for much of the success of the “Asian Century” not so much economically but socially.

Q.  Is there anything else you would like to share?

   1. China is both the most beautiful and most brutal place I have ever been.

   2. “Everything has its beauty but not everyone sees it.” ~ Confucius

   3. A great book of essays about China today is China in Ten Words (Vintage, 2012) by Yu Hua.

Thank you so much, Mary Beth Ryan-Maher! I know from our correspondence that your feelings for China are deep. Yin-Yang: American Perspectives on Living in China can be found on and all other online book outlets. This book is a great resource for someone like me who wanted to vicariously experience living in China. It is also an excellent choice for those who are considering moving there or who have lived there and want to recapture some memories.

-population-we™ blog post by  Barb Bohan
© 2014 population-we, LLC 
If you enjoyed this post, make sure to leave a comment, 'Pin' or 'Like' it.