Diez, Eisenbach and a little Limburg on the side

Last week Andreas and I rode the trains to Diez, Germany to visit his brother Burkhard and our sister-in law Carina. Diez is a little town in the state of Rhineland-Palatinate about an hour north of Frankfurt. The town is in a beautiful valley along the Lahn river. A lot of the homes are on the hills surrounding the valley and the views are wonderful. Andreas’ brother lives in a house above the town and we stayed in a little hotel at the base of his hill. I think we were the only guests in the hotel, at least it felt that way. The hotel is one of the only affordable places to stay in town. Our room was small and the bathroom was at the foot of the bed with a see-through sliding door. We were happy to leave the room.

Each morning and night we walked up the stone stairs to the castle and then further up the hill to Burkhard and Carina’s. I wrote about the sad history of these stairs here. We spent most of our days in their apartment eating, talking and playing with their 8-month-old kittens. Their place was beautifully decorated for Christmas. I’m glad we were able to see them close to the holiday.

Burkhard restores old wooden windows for homes, castles and monasteries. One afternoon he showed us a few of his current projects. We drove across the valley to a new studio that he and his partner built in an old barn owned by a carpenter friend. The studio has an amazing view across the valley to the Lahn.

After that we went downtown to a house built over 300 years ago where he is restoring the windows. The current owners striped everything down to the original beams and walls. The original 17th century construction methods are fascinating to me. We were lucky enough to find the owner there working. She gave us a full tour explaining all her work and plans in German and, thankfully, English as well. On one adobe wall she had tubes of water placed to provide radiant heating. She invited us all for drinks next year to see the finished project. I am really looking forward to that.

Another day we drove into Limburg for Indian food: I was introduced to Pani Puri which is the weirdest, most amazing food thing I have tasted in a long time.

Pani Puri

This snack is one of the most common street foods on the Indian subcontinent. Ingredients include potato, onion, flour, chickpeas, mint, onion, coriander leaves, green chili, ginger, lemon, sugar, chaat masala powder, black salt, salt and cumin. Looking up the history, I found many different stories, recipes, and names such as Pani puri or fuchka fhuchka or gupchup or golgappa or pani ke patake. On days when I feel like there is nothing good in the world I want to remember that there are still experiences like eating Pani puri to be discovered.

Friday, we drove to visit Carina’s parents Marga and Bernd in Eisenbach. Marga always bakes amazing cakes and we sat together in the kitchen enjoying them with coffee. In Diez Burkhard had shared some baby photos of himself and Andreas so, I asked Carina if she had any to show. Her father brought her baby album to the table and we had fun looking through it. (She was a very cute baby.) He also showed us albums from the early sixties when he and Marga were traveling and partying with their friends. I love old photos. When we were leaving Bernd shared an apple that he harvested from his garden. We enjoyed the sour apple with slices of marzipan and chocolate in Diez. Marga passed us home-made red currant and elderberry blossom jam that we are now cherishing for breakfast and lunch here in Lübeck.

I have to say that a big part of our visit was the kittens. They are so cute and so bad. The black one is Herr Rossi and the silver, striped one is Cleo. Cleo is part Siamese and Maine Coon. It will be very interesting to see what she looks like in a few years. Someone is always yelling, “Herr Rossi, NEIN!” Ha ha, they are SO curious.

A few additions: We were happy to catch a painting show by Liv. Please follow her on Instagram. Her paintings are wonderful.

And this painting below was a surprise for Andreas to find in Burkhard and Carina’s living room. The painting always hung behind their grandparent’s sofa. No matter where they moved it was there. It was the only original artwork that Andreas remembers seeing during his childhood in a home.

The artist signature is Muller-Schlunz. Both “u” should have umlauts.

We are back in Lübeck now. The place with lots of fish food for my fishhead husband who is also a pain in the butt when it comes to editing these posts. (He wrote that, not me.)

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum, Andreas Muenchow and Carina Schmidt-Munchow

Lübeck and Neustadt Part 2

Happy New Year from Lübeck! Andreas and I returned to the city after our short stay in Magdeburg. We were able to book one of our favorite Airbnbs in the Stüwes Gang. The house is a historical landmark. I have written about this Airbnb and Lubeck before here, here and here. The house is very old has been renovated in creative ways showcasing much of the original architecture. It’s tiny, but very cool. We were able to get our favorite upstairs room and were happy to meet a friendly couple renting one of the rooms below us. Ciaran and Michele were traveling from Cologne where Ciaran, originally from Ireland, owns an Irish bar called Buskers. I enjoyed the opportunity to speak English with someone, especially someone with an Irish accent. He was also nice enough to leave me the book he was reading when he left.

We took it easy this week in the city. Andreas found the local library and we spent a few hours there following our interests and discovering new ideas.

We also revisited the Behnhaus Museum to see some local art, and for fun we made a point of trying new streets and different routes to and from the house.

While changing our route we also discovered some new artwork.

We have found a little bar that we are fond of called Kandinsky. If we happened to be in that part of the city in the afternoon, we would stop in for a glühwein. The bar is small, dark, mostly empty and a little smoky from the patrons and the candles. I like the atmosphere while Andreas likes the alcohol and local news papers and magazines. I think they are mostly known for their whiskey selection.

Andreas with his gluhwein and magazine.
My first view of Kandinsky through my rain covered, mask fogged glasses.

To celebrate on New Year’s Eve Andreas picked a fancy restaurant near us. The Schabbelhaus was originally a bakery, a museum and then hosted restaurants. It was destroyed in the war and rebuilt. His parents had celebrated the christening of his cousin Petra there in 1962. His mother remembers all of the details including the wine they bought and how much it cost. For dinner Andreas chose the full New Year’s Eve menu with four courses and dessert. I picked something smaller. The food, and ambience was perfect for the occasion. I wish we were able to dress a little nicer, but when you travel with only a backpack, extra fancy clothes are not an option.

At midnight we stood at the kitchen window in the Airbnb and watched the fireworks and drones in the sky while listening to the church bells ring.

Behold the worst photo I’ve ever taken of New Year’s Eve fireworks.

We began our new year with another visit to Andreas’ parents in Neustadt in Holstein. Christa prepared a lovely brunch for us. She also fixed the fraying straps of Andreas’ backpack while he and his father worked on Lothar’s old laptop. In the afternoon we met her younger brother Klaus and Andreas’ cousin Kirsten for coffee and cake. Andreas hadn’t seen them in 36 years. They are lovely people and I hope we are able to meet them again soon.

As I write this, we are in Diez (more about that soon) and we have learned that our flight home has been cancelled. We are working with Orbitz to figure something out and have been unable to reach our airline. We were scheduled to travel to Copenhagen next for Andreas’ work, but we have cancelled due to their crazy high Covid numbers. We will be traveling back to Lübeck to the apartment we stayed in at the beginning of our trip. We feel that it has the best work space for us and we do need to get back to work. Also, as far as Andreas can figure out with the numbers available to him, Covid cases are lower there than in the USA, Denmark and other areas in Germany.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Hundertwasser in Magdeburg Germany

Two days after Christmas Andreas and I traveled to Magdeburg from Bad Wildungen. This involved a taxi, an hour long bus ride and three different trains. The temperature was 23F ( around -5C ) so, late trains at small stations without shelter were not appreciated. My little toes were very cold. Our first train was 25 minutes late which made us miss our second train. We, along with 20 passengers ran as fast as we could with heavy backpacks and bags to catch the second train only to see it pull out in front of us. It was a clumsy, comical sight that I wish I had videoed. Waiting for a new second train over a cup of train station coffee, we sat with a friendly cardiologist in a crowded, unheated café.

Magdeburg is located in the former East Germany or as our friend Siegfried corrected us, middle Germany. The city was destroyed twice. Once in 1631 and again in 1945. In 2005 it celebrated it’s 1200th anniversary and in 2013 it was flooded. So, why the hell would we want to visit there? Well, because my Christmas present from Andreas was ten minutes walking distance from the train station:

My favorite artist built a hotel here. “Friedensreich Regentag Dunkelbunt Hundertwasser, (December 1928 – 19 February 2000) was an Austrian visual artist and architect who also worked in the field of environmental protection. Hundertwasser stood out as an opponent of “a straight line” and any standardization, expressing this concept in the field of building design.” He’s a fascinating character and artist. If you are interested in knowing more about him read here.

Back in 2018 Andreas and I visited Hundertwasser’s museum in Vienna. Being inside one of his structures is an experience so different from seeing them on a computer or in a book. This hotel the Grüne Zitadelle has shops on the bottom floor with public courtyards, passageways and bathrooms. There were hotel rooms, apartments and offices above that. The building also hosts a kindergarten. There are meadow ramps up the building sides and green roofs and terraces.

Our room was small with a very high ceiling. All of the corners of the room and walls were curved. No plastic or tropical wood was used in creating the room. The bathroom was tiled in his style with primary colors. We had a very nice stay there. Every time we left the room, we discovered something new.

We stayed for two nights and had one day to explore the city. Unfortunately, we were there on a Monday and all of the museums were closed. It was very cold so we explored the area close to the hotel, returned to warm up and then ventured outside again. By chance we met the man in charge of the tourism bureau while he was throwing a ball for his dog. The dog was very pretty with a plaid bow tie. He had no interest in us. The nice man mentioned that he was an exchange student in Nevada while he was in high school so, his English was easy to understand.

The Archway to the right of the nice man and his dog in the photos above is significant because Martin Luther walked through it many days of his life.

The local Christmas market was still open and we were near a shopping district so we explored some book stores and a few churches. Magdeburg had many churches along the Elbe River. Most were bombed during World War 2 and several were razed by the communist regime took over the city. There are still a few left in various stages of ongoing restoration.

Luckily, we had some food with us in our room because on the evening of the second night when we were thinking about going out, we heard a lot of noise from the street. When we opened our window, we saw what turned out to be an illegal protest march of 5,000 people. They were protesting Covid related restrictions. There were also a lot of police men and women walking around and driving in vans. We ate our leftovers a few floors above them and watched the spectacle. None of the protesters were masked. Again, seeing something in real life as apposed to a screen is so different.

The next morning I said goodbye to my Christmas present experience and we took three trains back to Lübeck for New Years.

I love this photo. The marbles were so pretty.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Christmas in Bad Wildungen 2021

Ok, first of all for the non-German readers, Bad Wildungen doesn’t mean that Wildungen is bad. Bad is the word for bath or spa, so this is a spa town. It was first mentioned near some hot springs around 800, its castle was built around 1200, they persecuted a bunch of witches between 1532 and the mid-1600s and received its recent name in 1906. At least according to Wikipedia.

Bad Wildungen from the Castle

We chose to travel there because Andreas’ parents were there for Christmas with a bus tour. I thought it would be nice to visit with them during the holiday. It was kind of a crazy idea made crazier by the topography and the temperatures. Okay, this might not have been my best idea. His parents were pretty booked with their tour. They made time for us both days to have coffee, but I feel a little bad that we pulled them away from their events. Our Airbnb was near the castle. If you know castles you know that they are likely built on the top of a hill. The town was at the bottom of said hill and Andreas’ parents were staying across town from there. One day Andreas logged over 16,000 steps on his phone.

We also chose our Airbnb because it was the cheapest one and the photos were nice. When we arrived, we found that it was built out of old stable in a barn. Kind of cool and Christmas story like. There were rabbits, cats, cows, chickens and a very shy, weird sheep. The owner had a dog, but sadly I didn’t get to meet it. There was a lovely garden outside our bedroom door. It was a sweet place, but very cold. It was in the 20’s F outside. The floor was so cold we kept pillows under our feet when we were sitting.

But then, Christmas morning SNOW! A white Christmas! It was awesome and beautiful. We slid down the hill by the castle through the woods. Andreas’ worn-out Birkenstocks had no tread on them. Yes, he wears sandals in the snow. We walked through the parks to his parent’s spa as the snow fell and then walked with them over slippery sidewalks and cobblestones to the old town for coffee and cake. I was worried about them falling, but they weren’t hearing my concerns, they were going out.

All in all, a beautiful few days in Bad Wildungen. We probably won’t be back there again, but if spas are your thing I recommend.

Covid Christmas eve church service in front of our Airbnb. The preacher is on the wagon behind the tractor with a Christmas tree.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Lübeck and Neustadt in Holstein part one.

After much discussion and weighing Covid odds and restrictions, Andreas and I chose to travel. We wrapped up our Delaware commitments, packed our backpacks, masked up and flew out.

We arrived in Lübeck after a long, but fairly easy trip and went to our favorite pub for dinner. Andreas ordered “Sauerfleisch” (cold pork in sweet-sour jelly) that he can not find where we live. I ordered what I thought was a veggie burger that ended up being ewes’ cheese on bread. It was really nice to be back in Germany specifically in this town and at Christmas time.

We tried a new Airbnb on the other end of the island because our favorite was booked and this new one had a washer. It was a good choice.

In the kitchen at the first Airbnb.

The apartment had everything we needed including a fully stocked kitchen with teas, oil, sugar etc. left over from former tenants and or supplied by the owner. We found it really easy to cook a lot of our meals. Andreas was able to take advantage of the farmer’s market to stock up on his favorite fishes and cheese. Nice to feel like we were saving some money starting out.

Thankfully, we did not have any Christmas shopping to do and could spend our time walking around the city choosing less crowed coffee houses, shops and museums.

The Christmas markets were busy and you had to show an ID and vaccination status to be allowed in. The police were also monitoring the shoppers on the main streets to make sure everyone is masked. We feel that this is why the Covid cases are lower in this state than any other of the 15 states in Germany. Restaurants and shops are also checking vaccine status and identification before you can enter. It has not been an inconvenience but, the mask wearing outside is tedious for me, because my glasses fog up so much. Half the time I ca not see where I’m going and hold onto Andreas’ arm like a blind person while muttering, “Damnit, I can’t see shit.”

As soon as we settled into town, we took a day trip to visit Andreas’ parents in Neustadt. We had a nice coffee and dinner with them and invited them to Lübeck in the following days.

It is always fun to see Lübeck through Christa and Lothar’s eyes because they spent their formative years here. The stories are good and bad. Life was not easy here during and after WWII, but they still had some fun. We enjoyed one fancy dinner out at our favorite restaurant. Andreas ordered a mystery four course dinner that ended in a very cool dessert.

Andreas’ very cool dessert.

His parents were having so much fun in Lübeck that we found them an AirbBnB to stay the night and visit through the next day.

Two things have improved for me in regards to traveling over here. One, I have been walking a lot with my friends at home over the past two years and I am in much better shape to keep up with Andreas. Two, even though I am still terrible at it, I do understand more and can speak more German which makes life a little less frustrating.

Next stop: Bad Wildungen.

Arts, Crafts and Covid

November was all about the hustle. Andreas and I have set a December 14th deadline to wrap up all 2021 classes, commissions and social engagements because we hope to travel overseas again.

The deadline has been good for me to focus on my commission list and not let distractions slow my routine down. I’m still learning how to be a full-time artist and am trying to push myself everyday to focus on studio work and marketing. I have hired a new studio assistant; a former student of mine, Julia Robinson has joined Dragonfly Art Studios. I taught Julia private art lessons through her junior high and high school years. She has recently graduated college with a degree in Studio Art. Her focus at the moment is in fabric arts and crafts. She is a huge help keeping the studio organized and keeping up with some production processes.

Julia grinding glass for future windows.

I’m participating in four shows this winter. The first show is at the Havre de Grace, Maryland Maritime Museum. The show is called, Up to Here and it addresses the issue of climate change through art. The opening of the show on the 19th was well attended. Andreas and I drove down with our friend Maggie and went out to dinner after the show.

On the 24th, Julia and Andreas met me at Sinclair’s Café on Main St. in Newark at 7am to help hang my solo show of photographs. The photos are macro images of plants, flowers, ice and cicadas from our garden. The show is titled Nottingham Forest 2020. During our Covid self-quarantine time I focused my camera on our garden and created a new body of work. This show will be on view until February 2022.

The third show that I prepared work for this month is The BIG Little and Little Little Art Show at the Talleyville Frame Shoppe and Gallery in Wilmington, Delaware. This is a group show where artists submit work that is 6”x 6” square. This year we were also able to submit work that was under 4” square for the Little Little show. The exhibit will be up through the month of December.

The fourth show that I’m preparing for will open in March at the Oxford Arts Alliance in Oxford, Pennsylvania. This is a Trashy Women group show.

In addition to preparing work for shows I’ve been filling commissions for clients. I painted a birdhouse with the characters from the P.D. Eastman book, The Best Nest for a family in Connecticut, made five polar bear stained glass windows for Delaware Special Olympics’ Polar Bear Plunge event and finished a logo design in stained glass for a new client. I have three more commissions on the table that I’m trying to finish for our December 14th deadline.

The artist collective Trashy Women that I belong to met up at the Cecil County Arts Council’s Gala on the 5th. The theme and dress code for the evening was black and white. Of course, none of us got the message so, we were our colorful selves sticking out of the crowd as usual. It was a very fun night. We met up again on the 26th for Treb’s mother’s birthday at Whimsical Farm for a bonfire potluck. It was a cold night, but Andreas, Julien and I had a good time.

Andreas turned 60 on the 9th. His sister Christina made him a special German cake and she, George and Julien sang him a happy birthday. We had a party with his friends on the 13th. Andreas grilled meat from Treb’s farm and we had a big potluck dinner. It was the first time we had seen a lot of these friends since summer.

Birthday boy with his German cake.

I missed his dinner on the 9th with family because my German teacher at the Saengerbund recruited me to create and lead a craft project for St. Martin’s Day. I created templates for paper lanterns that my classmates put together. We had to learn the lantern song and paraded around the Saengerbund bar with our finished lanterns. I spent two days preparing that project. A little silly, but worth it.

Louis and Martin hard at work on their craft project.
Laterne Laterne

On the 22nd my cousin Tom and his family were in town to visit cousin Erin. We met for lunch at Homegrown Café and then returned to the house to see the studio. Pictured is cousin Skylar’s significant other Lane, whom I got to meet for the first time. He made friends with a monster pillow right away.

I spent Thanksgiving morning at Sherri’s house watching her cook and playing with her cats.

Sadly, on Thanksgiving afternoon our family dinner was cancelled because my aunt wasn’t feeling well so, Andreas cooked a German dinner for Julien and I. We were able to have an American Thanksgiving dinner on Saturday thanks to Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Dave. They generously invited Julien as well so he could enjoy the whole experience.

A traditional Thanksgiving dinner thanks to my aunt.

The beautiful fall leaves have now fallen from the trees. My friend Terri and I enjoyed them when they were at their peak on our walks. I would normally say the weather is getting cooler, but it’s 55 degrees today.  I had the Chimney repaired and cleaned so Andreas could have a fires in the fireplace. Hopefully we can use it soon.

A month ago we thought that the Delta variant numbers were going down we planned our December trip. Lately we are questioning whether we should travel. Andreas, Christina and I recently consulted with their brother Burkhard about traveling in Germany.

Sibling Kaffeeklatsch

Now there is a new variant and the world is gearing up for changes. I can’t predict what my next message to you will be about. Will you see photos of Germany or somewhere in the USA? Time will tell.

Let’s not end the blog with Covid, let’s end with a craft. On the last day of the month my friend’s Mary and Marijke came to my kitchen to create gingerbread houses for the Newark Arts Alliance Gingerbread Bash. Marijke created Santa emerging from a chimney with a Christmas tree and Mary and I built the three little pigs story in gingerbread, candy, pretzels and cereal. The big, bad wolf has blown down the straw house and is headed for the stick house. The terrified pigs are running to their brother’s strong brick house. The brother is not amused. Ha ha, see you next month.

Photos and artwork by Dragonfly Leathrum.

October

It’s November? I feel like I’ve somehow missed my favorite month spending most of October in the basement studio. The art studio is busy with students. My portfolio students only have a month left to finish and submit their portfolios and they are working hard. I have them coming for extra Saturday classes and working from home. Pretty impressive commitment for middle school kids.

While they draw, I wrap glass to be soldered together for Special Olympic polar bear windows. Most years these are created in January, but I hope to travel this winter. I also spent a little bit on marketing the studio and ordered Dragonfly Art Studios t-shirts. Message me if you would like one.

My friend Mary Anderson, a ceramicist, has generously hired my studio assistant Natalie for her studio. Natalie’s main interest is ceramics, so this is a perfect fit for her. Mary says that Natalie has her studio so clean and well organized it looks twice as big. I realized after having an assistant that this is something that helps my studio run better so, I’ll be looking for another one in the future.

Natalie and artist Mary Anderson in Mary’s studio.

An artist friend connected me with the Middletown chapter of the AAUW (American Association of University Women). They asked for a talk about myself and my artwork. I worked into the talk how the myth of the starving artist is continuing to hurt the careers of women artists. The talk went really well. It was fun showing them my work and drinking coffee from little teacups with saucers.

The Middletown, Delaware chapter of AAUW.
The Middletown, Delaware chapter of AAUW.

Andreas’ teaching in the classroom has changed our schedule patterns developed during the pandemic. He’s been at the office or teaching until 7pm most days. We only eat meals together on the weekends when he has time to cook and bake. I miss having dinner together every night. Our housemate Julian cooked a French meal for us one night, it was amazing. He seems to be settling into Newark and the U of D well. I try to include him into as many activities as possible, but we are all busy. He and I did carve pumpkins a few weekends ago. Halloween isn’t popular in France so this was his first time carving one.

The garden is still giving tomatoes, radishes and raspberries to cook with. Even now in the beginning of November we are still harvesting. Other fruits and veggies are purchased from the Newark Farmer’s Market and Calvert Farms. It’s great having friends who are farmers.

Early in the month Andreas and I were featured in our former local newspaper in Bremerhaven, Germany. The reporter found me through this blog and wrote to ask what home means to us. Both of us have moved quite a few times and that wasn’t an easy question to answer. After thinking it over Andreas and I realized we’re not very attached to a home. Although, we do really like Newark and love our friends here. Andreas is attached to the well-being of this garden and I’d prefer to be in my studio, but as long as he and I are together, we can live just about anywhere. Pretty cool to be able to stay connected with Bremerhaven like that. I was also featured in our city’s local paper for my artwork.

More social engagements are filling in the calendar. We are becoming more comfortable being around others. Early in the month my friend Sherri and I had lunch with some former work friends. I think it has been 18 years since we last saw each other. My sister-in-law Christina, a few of her friends and I went to a photographer’s art opening on a Friday night and she cooked homemade pizzas afterwards.

So, the best thing about October is Halloween, of course. This year I was invited to an artist friend’s house in Maryland on Mischief Night for a Halloween party. She has the coolest collection of spooky things I have ever seen. Her house was wonderful for fun photographs.

Halloween night Julien, Andreas and I handed out candy to our neighborhood trick-or-treaters. We’ve also eaten way too much candy ourselves. Andreas had candy for dinner last night. It’s bad ha ha.

November is beginning well, I want to say I’ll try to leave the studio more to enjoy the leaves changing, but I don’t think it will happen.

Strawberry begonias in our garden.

Happy Fall Equinox

Hi friends, let me catch you up on the second part of our summer on this first day of Autumn.

Andreas and I began the month of August celebrating the four-year anniversary of our first coffee date with more coffee. We had a fun time remembering how nervous we were to meet each other in person after connecting online.

Early August was a time of preparation. Andreas completed and submitted a grant proposal long in the works. Next, we prepared a party for grad students who are attending his classes. We had a nice bar-b-que outside on the deck serving salmon, sausages, potato salad and local corn on the cob. Andreas had to teach a few of the new foreign students how to eat corn this way. They enjoyed throwing the finished cobs into the garden to compost.

 The most important thing Andreas had to prepare for in August was his trip to western Greenland aboard a Danish Navy vessel. His job was to assist his friend Steffen in Copenhagen with data collecting and processing aboard the ship. He left in the middle of the month for a five-week long voyage from Aasiaat to Thule Greenland.

While Andreas prepared for his trip, I prepared the house and our guest room for our nephews from Oregon to visit at the end of the month. They arrived with a long list of ideas of what they would like to do in Newark. We accomplished some things, as much as we (I) felt like during a hot, humid week. Unfortunately Andreas was at sea because they enjoy many of the same activities he does.

College nephew waking up with his cup of tea at 11:30am.

We visited local relatives who haven’t seen the boys in a long time, went swimming almost every day, and did a survey on the best playgrounds in the city; Downs School won.

Ritter Park.
On the playground at Downs School.

My friend Christina and her finance’ Scott super generously hosted us for dinner three times. The night nephews arrived Christina had a party with some of our high school friends. The boys played cornhole and got to talk with people their dad and I have known for years.

Another night she and Scott made spaghetti and we all watched an Indiana Jones movie. On the boy’s last day in Newark their aunt, uncle and cousin drove up from Baltimore and Christina hosted again. I am forever grateful as a person that doesn’t like to cook to have such amazing friends. My nephews are pretty good at cornhole now too after so much practice and good tips from Scott.

Since I don’t cook too much we also went to some fun restaurants. We visited the Miss Oxford Diner sitting at the counter and listening to the waitresses’ conversations with the locals. We drove past some Amish farms which the boys hadn’t seen before. We went to Jessop’s Tavern in old New Castle and walked around the Delaware river and historic buildings.

Delaware Tourists.

We also ate at Feby’s in Wilmington because nephews were told that seafood on the east coast is really good. They were brave about trying new things.

We were invited by our cousin Erin to hear her play with the University of Delaware marching band. The band gave a friends and family performance after their band camp week. Unfortunately, we were sitting far away from where Erin was on the field, but we got a few photos. After the band performance we had ice cream at the UD Dairy and then walked around the botanical gardens.

On the evening I had to work the boys walked to Main St. by themselves to have dinner during the city’s alfresco night. They gave themselves a campus tour, ate more UD ice cream then landed on the porch at Klondike Kates Restaurant for dinner. They took their time walking home arriving after dark which made Auntie-Fly a little nervous. It was the first time they had ever dined out on their own together, kind of cool. In a very unteenage fashion they left their room and bathroom as clean as they found it. Their bed was made and they sent me a thank you card. Their mother should be proud.

A few days after the boys flew home, I received a message from Andreas saying that his Navy vessel was unexpectedly called into service. He and the other scientists onboard were told to go home and he was dropped off at the Thule US Air Force Base on the north western coast of Greenland. Luckily, he was able to secure a military flight to Baltimore soon after and then, surprise he returned home two weeks early. This is great news for me, but I feel sorry for the scientists and their mission. That is a lot of money and time lost. Here are a few of Andreas’ photos from his trip. The man standing on the ship is Andreas’ colleague Steffen.

Through August and September in the studio I have been working on my yearly commissions for Special Olympics Delaware and a few smaller side commissions and skateboards.

I am also working on a large painting commission, but the level of complexity involved has made for very very slow progress (sorry customer/ friends). A University of Delaware art student contacted me asking about a paid internship and I hired her two weeks ago.

Dragonfly Art Studios new intern Natalie from Milton, DE

Natalie has been preparing painting surfaces and cleaning stained glass for me. We talk about being an artist and the business of art. It’s interesting for me to hear how the art department has changed at my alma mater during the past twenty-nine years. It’s wonderful having her work here. It forces me to spend a little extra time in the studio and she is helping me catch up on some projects I’ve been putting off.

Play with your food.

In garden news the tomatoes keep coming and coming. Everyday we pick at least one. We had a good crop of carrots and recently we have planted a fall crop of radishes, leeks and something else. I can’t remember the third thing so we are referring to that as the winter surprise.

Just some of my friends I caught up with this month. There are more, but I have photos of these guys. That is Christina with the beautiful purple cocktail.

I will end this blog by mentioning as of fifteen minutes ago Andreas and I have rented our guest room to a visiting professor from France. He needed a place and we had one. So now Julien lives in our house this year. He seems very nice.

Summer Recipe: add Gardens, Friends and Art

It is a rare, gorgeous 73-degree July morning. I love having the windows open and the air conditioner off. Yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of the day finishing and uploading a grant proposal that is due in a couple of days and teaching. I also made time to swim and Andreas cooked a wonderful dinner to share with our friends.

We have enjoyed a good summer so far. The gardens have been prolific with fruits and vegetables. In some cases, producing much better than past years. Andreas is still perplexed that we were able to grow cabbage. The new variety of produce is stretching his recipe library and I think he enjoys the challenge. Of course, we are growing more than we can eat, which is no accident. We get a lot of joy sharing any extra.

We are more social now. We have attended art openings, parties, and dinners. On the 4th of July we hosted our first large party for our friend Mary, so she would not need to host her annual party at her house. She provided the guest list, we provided the house, drinks, and sockeye salmon to grill. Mary’s guests and mutual friends brought the rest of the food. It was a fun pot luck on a mild Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Sam Parsons tried to qualify for the Olympics running for Germany. We were able to watch the race on two screens concurrently. The first was on the TV at my brother-in-law’s house in Diez, Germany that I connected to via Zoom while the second was Andreas’ laptop in Newark, U.S.A. Complicated, right? Technology is amazing. Andreas figured out how to access the German network on his computer so we had a better view.

As an early birthday present to myself, my friend Linda and I took a train to New York City for three days. We stayed in an Art Deco style hotel in Greenwich Village, dined at vegan restaurants she wanted to try, walked all over the hot and humid streets of Manhattan, and went to museums. We had two fun, relaxing evenings. The first evening we drank at the hotel bar and shared some appetizers. We were the only patrons in the bar and restaurant. On the second we went to a bar called Wilfie and Nell recommended by my niece Molly. Wilfie and Nell seemed to be favored by twenty/ thirty year olds as a date destination bar. We were surrounded by well dressed couples on their best behavior sharing sweet stories. Oh, and the fries were really good. We recommend.

 Linda and I saw the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before we walked through the Calder show at the MoMa. In between we somehow found time to lunch on vegan sushi. The Alice Neel show was my main incentive for traveling to the city. We entered the gallery by snaking through other galleries in a crowded line. Despite the wait, I was inspired to be in the same space with so many of Neel’s paintings. It’s an improved experience over flipping through reproductions in a book. The Calder works were wonderful in person and I enjoyed seeing his sketches. Linda commented that he must have very strong hands. Most likely he did working in metal.

Below are some works by Neel, Calder and many other artist that inspired me that day.

 I thought the vegan restaurants Linda researched were imaginative and the food was very well made. Some highlights for me were vegan mac and cheese, Thai food (noodles!), sushi and the peanut butter brownie honeycomb vegan ice cream she found. I will be dreaming about that ice cream. Linda is a well known vegan chef; she made some cute videos of our restaurant experiences. You can see them on Facebook at Ester’s Kitchen and on Instagram @esters_kitchen_ek. She also describes the restaurants and menus more eloquently than I will here.

A vegan breakfast shake with banana, basil, ginger and cacao.

Linda and I felt surprised and mildly annoyed that a lot of businesses don’t accept cash, and menus can only be read on QR codes. That feeling may be us showing our age. We were happy to encounter masks wearing and outdoor dining options across the city. The new to me bike lanes are wonderful, but like in Amsterdam, you have to watch out for the electric bikes.

As with every other season, work consumes most of our time. Andreas is editing and re-writing a paper with colleagues, writing a proposal and preparing to teach three courses in the fall. He is also on the hunt for lantern flies in the garden killing as many of the invasive buggers as he can. I am teaching, working on commissions and in my free time painting new works for upcoming Trashy Women shows. Recently I was given musical instruments to upcycle into art. So far, I have transformed a violin from it’s original brown state to a disgruntled portrait ha ha. Yesterday I picked up some lovely pieces of rusted metal from an artist’s home in Maryland to re-imagine into who knows what. Having a great summer. Hope you are too.

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum

photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Walker Hotel photos by Linda

Del Pizzo

Gibby Annoucement photos by the Gibby Center.

The Merry Month of May

May was about being outside as much as possible. We appreciated every warm, sunny, mosquito-free day in our garden, in others gardens and on our deck.

My main project this month was acting as Chair of the Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour. I did my best impression of a responsible adult to keep the event and the people on schedule and informed. I think the event went well. It was a very warm day, we had almost two hundred people tour six local gardens and everyone seemed to have a good time. Andreas and I led the garden hosts around to each other’s properties at the end of the day. Even though they were hot and exhausted, they were in good spirits and enjoyed sharing their garden knowledge.

Our own blooming garden has transitioned from tulips and azaleas to peonies and roses. The ferns and hostas are filling in the bare spots and the view is lush and green.

Our second garden across the street is growing well. We’ve harvested some radishes, the tomatoes, cabbages and peas are getting taller and the flowers are starting to bloom. Andreas has all of his strawberry plants in the ground now and I think we’re finished digging and removing sod until next year.

This spring the cicadas emerged after 17 years in the ground. They really like our area of town. We didn’t see any in the gardens on the Garden Tour, but they are everywhere here and singing loudly. I like them a lot, I think they’re fun to photograph and they provide a lot of food for birds and other creatures that eat insects. It is a little gross to go for a walk, though, because it’s impossible not to step on them.

Cicada song.

I was focusing on outdoor art projects this month before the mosquitos come. I’ve made eight stepping stones for clients, a few for us and painted a bird house for a Newark Arts Alliance fundraiser. I continue to take on more private students; some of the older ones have been vaccinated. My studio needed organizing and a good cleaning after having it to myself for a year. Andreas helped me build some extra shelving and it’s much nicer now.

My Bremerhaven portrait series moved from the café to my friend Thom Thompson’s photo studio. He’s already sold a painting.

Andreas had a busy month working on a paper, helping his graduate student prepare her thesis, gardening and working at another election. It’s also rhubarb season, so we’ve been enjoying that in pancakes every Saturday.

Now that we are fully vaccinated, we are slowly coming out of the house and enjoying the things we used to. We ate indoors at a restaurant for the first time. Andreas walked in, opened his arms and announced very loudly and happily, “I’m vaccinated!!” We are also having friends over occasionally and eating at the same table instead of distancing.

We have new neighbors across the street and a new neighbor hiding behind our trees eating Andreas’ favorite plants that he shoos away with his coffee cup. Ha Ha, all is well here.

All photos by Dragonfly Leathrum