Tag Archives: dreams

Home Is Where the Oven Is

July 18, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Nicola Shartrand decides to spend a lazy summer morning with her two young children in their home near Lake Manawa, odds favor the happy trio baking sheets of cookies before noon in their newly renovated kitchen.

When she drives deeper into Council Bluffs to the family’s bakery, often with kids in tow, she makes hand-painted macarons, tortes, breads, cookies, and dozens of cupcakes, which then fill space in the display case, ready for public consumption.

And when John Shartrand takes the family across the Missouri to their restaurant that bears Nicola’s name, they no doubt top off the meal with Nicola’s award-winning Italian lemon cream cake.

The Shartrands’ life revolves around the food created in three different kitchens. The family travels back and forth along the routes that connect the points in their life: Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare at 13th and Jackson streets in Omaha’s historic Old Market; Stay Sweet, Nicola’s—their bakery at 805 S. Main St. in Council Bluffs; and their gracious home in hues of gray on a quiet cul-de-sac.

The restaurant represents 15 years of ambition, hard work, and faith rewarded; the bakery, which opened in December, symbolizes dreams fulfilled; the new home kitchen has its own story, one with deep meaning for the family.

“John knew I had been putting in all these hours all these years at the restaurant, and he said, ‘You’re going to wake up one day and the kids will have graduated high school, and you will have missed the whole thing,’” Nicola recounts. “He said, ‘You love baking, you’re really good at it, why don’t you practice while you’re at home? Let me run the restaurant at night.’”

And so the original home kitchen became a laboratory for perfecting and tweaking popular dishes served at Nicola’s Italian Wine and Fare, creating new dishes, and developing recipes for baked goods. Nicola experimented for six months on the lemon cake “because Martha Stewart said every restaurant should offer something lemony.” Once perfected, the light, moist, not-too-sweet lemon cake exploded on the scene. As a result, demand for all her baked goods exploded.

So did the family kitchen.

“I pretty much destroyed it from overuse,” Nicola says, laughing as she proceeds to list a litany of problems. “We went through every single major appliance. The cabinet doors fell off from constant opening and closing. The stove went out. We needed a bigger refrigerator. And it was a really cramped working space.”

For Nicola’s birthday two years ago, John announced he would build her a new kitchen. “I wear many belts,” he quips.

The couple used a computer program offered by an assemble-it-yourself home furnishings store to measure, design, and order the materials for the new kitchen. The transaction could have gone better.

“They told us our plans were too ambitious, that we were out of our league,” John says. And when it came time to lug 279 flat boxes out of the store, “they said they wouldn’t help me.”

Undeterred, John loaded a U-Haul truck by himself, drove home, and emptied every little chrome knob and handle, every shelf, drawer, door, and cabinet from the containers. It only took a month to transform the culinary space.

They painted the new cabinetry gray to match the wall coloring. The cabinetry—above and below the long kitchen counter—helps provide 50 percent more storage space than before.

A narrow floor-to-ceiling pantry pulls out shelves and drawers to hold foodstuffs categorized by cans, bottles, and paper, “so nothing gets lost inside it,” Nicola says. Two bottles of industrial-size Worcestershire sauce appear prominently in front, as does a gallon of olive oil, which she affectionately refers to as “the best stuff on earth.”

A backsplash made of off-white, 3-by-6-inch glazed subway tiles provides a simple, clean, classic look.

The couple complemented the backsplash tile by placing an off-white, solid slab of quartz on top of the kitchen island, located in the middle of the open floor plan.

Underneath, a cabinet with 20 drawers of different depths neatly holds everything from dozens of spatulas (Nicola keeps breaking them) and half-used bags of fennel seeds to large pots and pans.

A two-door stainless steel KitchenAid refrigerator shares the kitchen’s color scheme with its gray interior, and the double-oven stove “makes cooking Thanksgiving dinner for the family really easy,” Nicola says.

The doting husband’s wish for his wife, to spend more time with Stavros, 9, and Gigi, 7, has resulted in personal growth for Nicola. Her stay-at-home baking experiments proved so popular she now supplies other restaurants and coffee shops with her sweets. She also takes special orders.

The extra income enabled John and Nicola, who both grew up in Omaha, to purchase a brick-and-mortar commercial space in Council Bluffs last November, which handyman John transformed into a full-service coffee bar and bakery. With its commercial-grade mixers and appliances, Stay Sweet, Nicola’s has taken over as the primary baking site.

John now works 14-hour days. He opens the bakery to start the espresso machine and bake muffins, intersects with Nicola and the kids in the afternoon, then crosses the bridge to oversee the restaurant.

The reward for all this hard work: a happy family.

Visit nicolasintheoldmarket.com and staysweetnicolas.com for more information about Nicola Shartrand’s culinary enterprises.

From left: Stavros, Nicola, and Gigi Shartrand.

This article was printed in the July/August 2017 Edition of Omaha Home.

Jorie Lyn Scheele

April 15, 2016 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The dream is always the same. Admiring, envious, unseen…but necessary. A synthesis of literary theory, Leroux, and Lloyd-Webber. In the dark spaces between the scenes, the watcher waits silently deconstructing the narrative, discovering new intentions for old lovers between the moments where time passes and beauty lives aloud on the stage of the Opéra de Paris.

Jorie Lyn Scheele, 22, has experienced Phantom of the Opera live four times from Omaha to Las Vegas. Her soundtracks have metaphorical grooves worn into them. She’s viewed the 2004 film, starring Gerard Butler, often enough to make any view count a gross estimate. Cosplays, podcasts, reviews, and theories round out her obsessed Phantom fangirl résumé. But there’s more.

Scheele dreams about the Phantom in terms that would make philosopher Jacques Derrida say, “Je te l’ai dit!” [“I told you!”]

“I remember after the first couple of times I had watched Gerard Butler as the Phantom I had this distinct dream where I am experiencing things in between the scenes,” Scheele says, describing what semioticians and literary critics refer to as “suture,” human minds looking for answers to questions like, “what’s a chicken doing by the road anyway?”

“I’m in the time jumps between scenes hiding, which is why you never see me,” Scheele says, describing one fun, emotionally involved thought experiment. “I just kind of have theories in my mind and ended up having dreams about them and I went with them. To this day, I feel like some of those theories are what really happened.”

Credit for the Phantom fetish goes to her father, Monty, who broke out the original 1986 cast recording on a Colorado road trip when Jorie was 7.

“The first time I remember hearing it, my dad discovered the original soundtrack on CD and we were getting ready for vacation. He was like, ‘I have been waiting to share this!’ So we listened to that soundtrack straight through as we’re driving out to Colorado. I just remember the music being so good, even at such a young age. I remember thinking, ‘I just have to see this.’”

That began Jorie’s obsession with the musical about a man (or perhaps a dark angel) obsessed with an ingenue. She’s consumed all of Christine’s sadness, Raoul’s desperation, and the Phantom’s lonely rage in all its forms from the original Leroux to the Gerard Butler vehicle, right up to her anticipated fifth live performance at the Orpheum Theater. The beloved show runs April 20 through May 1.

To the outside observer, what a fan does can seem obsessive, and obsession can sound a tad alarming. Fortunately Scheele’s avocation is organizing social gatherings for the Omaha Sexy Nerd Society, an umbrella organization and social group for all things nerd. They encourage sci-fi fanboys and comics fangirls to mingle at weekly gatherings around Omaha, singing nerd-themed karaoke, talking “Star Wars,” or building massive pillow forts. They drag high geekery into the light at their annual fan convention, Convergence, as well.

The Phantom—shy, lonely but hopeful, possibly bitter, hiding behind masks and opera—might feel right at home at one of Jorie’s events. Encounter

Visit omahaperformingarts.com to learn more.

JorieLynScheel

Dream Weaver

June 17, 2015 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

This article originally published in May/June 2015 edition of Omaha Magazine.

As Orenda Fink awoke one morning from uneasy dreams, she found herself transformed into a 15-year-older version of herself.

The Kafkaesque revelation, which was triggered by the death of her beloved dog, Wilson, sent the dream-pop singer-songwriter, then 36, tumbling into existential despair.

“I didn’t really have anywhere close to an idea of a concrete framework for thinking about death—I just never really thought about it,” says Fink, now 39, who is also half of the on-again, off-again Saddle Creek Records duo Azure Ray. “You think about it all the time, but you never really think about it.”

Unbeknownst to the grieving dog mom at the time, she says, Fink’s white chihuahua-terrier mix had come to unconsciously symbolize, in a sort of Jungian slip, everything she had experienced throughout most of her 20s and 30s.

So when the arthritic, cancer-ridden Wilson—whom she named after the genius behind The Beach Boys’ Pet Sounds—was eventually euthanized, Fink says, it was as if her entire adulthood had been put down, leaving Fink in a deep depression that even anti-depressants couldn’t tame.

“I feel like I died—that something in me died with him,” she says. “He was like a time capsule for all these experiences.”

Despondent, desperately clinging to any clues that could define who she was, how she fit into the cosmos, Fink did what any musician of her caliber would do: She wrote a record. But before her third solo offering, Blue Dream, could manifest, Fink would have to endure a yearlong journey into the darkest parts of her being and extract, through dream therapy, answers that she says had always been with her.

“I am walking down the street, wrangling three dogs with no leashes,” Fink writes in her dream journal just after she began therapy in 2013. “The first dog is Wilson as a puppy, the second dog is Wilson old and infirmed. The third dog, the most haunting, is Wilson as a white blur of a dog with no discernible edges or lines.”

Fink says her first vivid dream about her dog started a night or two prior to her first therapy session. Each dream thereafter included Wilson in some form or another, she says, symbolically conveying messages that she’d then decode with professional help.

“The therapy started with dreams and it ended with dreams. All we talked about were dreams throughout the course of the year,” Fink says about opting to heal her depression solely through Jungian dream therapy.

The self-described Type-A Virgo, already prone to anxiety and impatience, says she furiously wrote in her prescribed dream journal with the sense that she was communicating with her collective unconscious, or the pool of cumulative knowledge that psychiatrist Carl Jung believed (or “knew,” as Fink points out he’d say) was inherent in all of humankind.

“It was just a phenomenal process,” she says. “Because when I got it, when I understood what the message was, it was immediate sobbing, weeping—transcendent sobbing.”

During her spiritual awakening, Fink says she started writing music again, which had become an almost lost art form to her in the wake of Wilson’s death.

“All of a sudden, I had this little pile of songs that I realized were about what I had just gone through, and it was essentially the whole story,” she says.

Fink named her aural tale Blue Dream, which she released on Saddle Creek Records in 2014. The polished yet surreal eulogy to Wilson—and to her former self—plays like the soundtrack to a lost episode of David Lynch’s early-‘90s serial drama Twin Peaks.

The woeful tunes were produced by Ben Brodin (Mal Madrigal, McCarthy Trenching, Our Fox, The Mynabirds) and Fink’s husband, Todd Fink (The Faint), who says he witnessed his wife overcome much of her distress through the album-creating process and her discovery of a universal, timeless consciousness. The Faint front man says he was initially skeptical of what he calls Fink’s “prophetic dreams,” but that those days are now long gone.

“I think it makes perfect sense to look for answers in your dreams when you have a relationship with your subconscious like she does,” says Todd. “I’m just glad she found what she needed.”

With an oversaturated music-producing market, including technological advances that have facilitated the production and distribution of songs, Fink’s next battle might take place well below the apex of self-actualization on the hierarchy-of-needs pyramid. But food, shelter, and…well, a good life…won’t be hard to find as a working musician, Fink says, just so long as she can stay true to the artistry of her work and keep it “as pure as possible.”

“I guess I’m just, as hokey as it sounds,” Fink says, “a believer in the universe taking care of you, however that’s supposed to be. If I’m meant to create music and I have things to contribute, then the universe will somehow keep that going.”

OrendaFink