Tag Archives: Japan

November/December 2018 60 Plus Opener

October 16, 2018 by

‘Tis the season for snowbirds to fly south. It’s hard for me to imagine being a snowbird, though. I genuinely enjoy Nebraska’s winter months: the blowing snow, beautiful scenery, and families gathered for holidays.

These days, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas is arriving earlier every year. Santa’s face appears in promotions around town as soon as we clean off Thanksgiving dinner plates. Nevertheless, my heart warms with anticipation for candy canes and silver lanes aglow.

But not everyone in the Lemke family is—in the words of Bing Crosby—“dreaming of a white Christmas.” One of my granddaughters will be traveling to Japan, taking advantage of her school’s winter break. Japan is still in the northern hemisphere, and it can get quite cold in the winter. This granddaughter, Sarah Lemke, must take after me—not being a snowbird and all. (She is a contributing photographer with Omaha Magazine.)

Japan is a truly remarkable country, and I feel so blessed to have traveled to Japan on multiple occasions over the years.

Although Christmas is not a national holiday in Japan, the holiday is celebrated by many throughout the country. Devout Christians may shudder at the thought, but it’s true that Christmas has become a commercial holiday (enjoyed even by those who do not observe the date’s religious significance) all over the world.

In Japan, there are many unique Christmas variations that American travelers—including my granddaughter—may discover to be delicious. Local restaurants have capitalized on the occasion to create Christmas ramen (designed to look like a Christmas tree), sashimi Christmas cakes (with raw fish), and seasonal bento boxes (lunch boxes produced with artistic flair).

It came as a surprise to me, but Kentucky Fried Chicken is a beloved Christmas dinner in Japan, thanks to the long-running marketing campaign “Kentucky for Christmas” (which the American fast-food franchise launched in 1974).

Call me old-fashioned, but when I gather with family and friends for Christmas, I think I’ll stick with a more traditional family dinner spread.

Merry Christmas! 

Gwen Lemke

Contributing Editor


This article was printed in the November/December 2018 edition of 60Plus in Omaha Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

The Fabric of Life

January 15, 2017 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

When Ian Rose and Robert Voelte moved to a new condo on the top floor of the historic Beebe & Runyan Lofts, northeast of the Old Market and Gene Leahy Mall at Ninth and Douglas streets, the location provided everything the elementary educators and arts enthusiasts were looking for.

“We’re able to walk to the Holland. We’re able to walk to the Orpheum, the Old Market, all the parks down here. We’re also members of Film Streams, so we can walk over there as well,” Voelte says. “And as much as we’re passionate about teaching, we’re also passionate about travel. We’re close to the airport, which makes it really convenient because we do travel quite a bit, and it’s easy to get there.”

textiles1However, the spacious two-bedroom, two-bath, 1,700-square-foot unit just can’t accommodate their entire collection of beloved artworks, furnishings, accents, and decor carefully selected over 30 years. So rather than giving up a sizable percentage of these treasures or relegating them to permanent storage, Voelte has come up with an inspired solution: change out decor and refresh the look of his and Rose’s home twice a year.

“I thought about how museums only have a small percentage of their holdings on display at any one time,” he explains. “I decided to adapt that idea for my home and only display a limited amount of my belongings at one time, rotating things in and out. I am able to appreciate my home and the decor even more because everything always seems new and fresh to me.”

The process evokes good memories of past adventures, old friends, and even the story of how each item was acquired, Voelte says. The pieces come from all over the world, and much was purchased during or influenced by travel. Core favorites include an antique Chinese chicken coop used to store dishes and linens; an antique Japanese kitchen cabinet that serves as a bookcase in the master bedroom; hand-carved one-piece spider tables from the Bamileke tribe in Cameroon; mid-century walnut Eames chairs; Akari washi—paper lantern lamps made by Noguchi in Japan; and Verner Panton dining chairs.

textiles31textiles6“I think our home is very unique,” he says. “My style is eclectic with Asian, African, natural, classic, and utilitarian themes. Authentic vintage textiles previously used in utilitarian ways—indigos from around the world, Indonesian ikats, Japanese obis, African tie-dyed raffia skirts, and Kuba cloth—are often the inspiration that begins the design process.”

It’s never quite the same look twice, Voelte adds, but he does work around his core pieces as well as some palette constants.

“In late spring or summer, the feeling is lighter and fewer items are on display. The mood is brighter with hand-dyed indigo fabrics, khakis, whites, creams, and seashells—things I associate with summer because we are both teachers who look forward to travel, socializing, relaxation—recharging our batteries,” Voelte says. “In the fall and winter, decor gets changed out, including rugs, artwork, and linens, as well as some furniture rearrangement. It is a more spiritual, reflective, introspective time, which is reflected in darker colors: purples, charcoal, Chinese red. The decor is more layered with design elements.”

The Renaissance Revival-style building in which the couple’s condo is located was built in 1913 to serve as a warehouse and showroom. The original architect was John McDonald, best known for the Joslyn Castle. The Beebe & Runyan building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998. Rose and Voelte purchased their condo as a raw space following the building’s 2007 conversion.

“When we walked in, we immediately were drawn to the exterior brick wall on the west side, which has two inlaid brick arches that span three windows each,” Voelte says. “It is quite eye-catching.”

textiles1Their unit boasts sloped ceilings that reach a height of 16 feet, original brick walls, and wood posts and columns. They finished the space as a semi-open loft designed with custom finishes and natural materials like walnut cabinetry built by hand, honed marble counters, and slate tile or refinished original birdseye maple floors.

Every detail shows thought and consideration, like backsplash tiles that were hand-carried in a suitcase from California. Niche and built-in shelves highlight special artworks. “Everything has to be aesthetically pleasing to me or it won’t be in my house,” Voelte says.

The space was also designed with entertaining, especially dinner parties for family and friends, in mind.

“I love to cook, so I spend a lot of time in the kitchen,” Rose says. “Our kitchen is so open that even when you’re in the kitchen, you’re not detached from the rest of the home. I can still be in the middle of what’s going on.”

“As much as we love to travel, we love our home,” Voelte says. “We have a great life!”

Visit beeberunyan.com for more information. OmahaHome

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Bombs Bursting in Air

September 15, 2014 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The Omaha suburb of Dundee didn’t expect an enemy attack during World War II. Bombs weren’t reaching the U.S. heartland in 1945.

That’s why many thought of fireworks when a loud boom and a flash of light appeared in the sky over 50th and Underwood Streets the night of April 18. A few bleary-eyed residents ran outside in their pajamas. Seeing nothing threatening, they went back to bed.

Word soon got out that the explosion that jolted the neighborhood out of bed was caused by an incendiary device that had floated from Japan by balloon.

Hal Capps was 10 years old when the bomb went off. He remembers his father arriving home from his job at the Buffett grocery store in Dundee and saying: “Something happened in the neighborhood last night, but they’re not talking about it.”

Americans were asked to be mum about the bombings. “They didn’t want the Japanese to know how far inland the balloon had come,” says Capps.

Residents in the suburb that was annexed by Omaha in 1915—against their will— had other things to talk about at that time. Dundee and the rest of America was still mourning the April 12 death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Churchgoers were in the pews at the then-new Saint Margaret Mary Catholic Church or at Dundee Presbyterian, founded in 1901.

They were greeted by name at the grocery store founded in 1869 by Warren Buffett’s great-grandfather Sidney. In 1915, Warren’s grandfather Ernest moved the store to 5015 Underwood where the Dundee Bank now sits.

They saw movies at the Dundee Theater featuring local boys—such as The Ox-Bow Incident starring Henry Fonda, who grew up in Dundee before achieving movie stardom. Or maybe they saw Yolanda and the Thief starring Fred Astaire, who was also born in Omaha.

Signs of World War II were ever present. Dundee women collected tin cans for the war effort. Victory gardens were planted.

But then in August of 1945, the Enola Gay—a B29 bomber built at the Martin bomber plant near Omaha—dropped its atomic payload on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later, 

Nagasaki was bombed. Japan surrendered, ending World War II.

People in Dundee no longer had to whisper. The balloon bomb story was now public.

The bombing of Dundee was not forgotten. The Dundee-Memorial Park Association put up a plaque in 1992 on a building near the southwest corner of 50th and Underwood Streets that begins: “Dundee Bombed in World War II.”

What it doesn’t say is that the Japanese balloon bombs were indeed (insert chuckle here) “bombs.”  Of the few Japanese balloon bombs that actually reached the United States out of thousands launched, only one caused deaths; a woman and five children were killed in Oregon.

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BB and CC Creams

September 24, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

You may have seen the commercials with actress Kate Hudson and other makeup-brand personalities talking about their revolutionary BB and CC creams. You might also have thought, “I have no idea what those words mean.”

That’s because BB and CC creams are fairly new to Americans—or at least to most Americans in the Midwest.

The original version of what is now BB Cream was created in the 1960s by German dermatologist Dr. Christine Schrammek to protect and heal the skin of her patients. Eventually, the cream found its way into Korea and Japan in the 1980s and was advanced. In fact, BB cream became the well-kept beauty secret of many Asian celebrities. Now, however, these creams are a huge hit in practically every beauty market across the world, including our own.

Still, most people don’t exactly know what the creams are (or, more importantly, what they do). Fortunately, Joel Schlessinger, M.D., FAAD, FAACS, of LovelySkin in Omaha has the answers.

First of all, BB Cream stands for “beauty balm,” and CC Cream stands for “color corrective.” Again, these words might mean little if you don’t know what balms and color correctors do.

According to Dr. Schlessinger, BB is a multitasking cream that serves as a moisturizer, primer, foundation, and even sunscreen. CC also functions in several ways, providing the same benefits as BB but with an added bonus: color correction. For women with uneven skin tone, acne, or redness, CC seems to be the better option.

“CC creams can be very beneficial for acne-prone or oily complexions due to their lighter formulation and full coverage,” Dr. Schlessinger adds. “Investing in a good CC cream can shorten your daily routine, enhance your skin’s appearance, and prevent premature aging.”

So what’s the main difference between the two creams? “Coverage and weight,” says Dr. Schlessinger. “CC creams tend to be lighter with better coverage while BB creams are heavier and typically don’t offer full concealing benefits.”

Of course, both save you money and time. For example, one CC cream can replace foundation, moisturizing cream, facial primer, sunscreen, and concealer. Let’s face it—anything that shortens a daily beauty routine and lessens makeup expense is greatly appreciated.

Wondering where you can get BB and CC creams? Pharmacies, grocery stores, makeup outlets, skin care retailers, online shopping—they’re everywhere. Budget-friendly brands like Almay, Clinique, Garnier, and L’Oreal have begun releasing their own versions. Makeup store Sephora carries several professional makeup brands. And, of course, Dr. Schlessinger’s LovelySkin sells brands like Supergoop!, jane iredale, Stila, Dr. Brandt, Dr. Dennis Gross, and B. Kamins.

LovelySkin is located near Oak View Mall at 2929 Oak View Drive. For more information about these products, visit lovelyskin.com.