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

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.

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.

“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”-Pablo Picasso

I think my comedian friend Bobbie Oliver summed up January’s mood pretty well when she said, “Now when I wash my hands for 20 seconds, I sing Happy Birthday to the coronavirus.”

Yes, we are still self-quarantining, but enough about that. January began with…..I usually say something about New Years Eve, we didn’t have a New Year’s Eve. We did what we do any other pandemic night. We only stayed up until midnight because we were binge watching an old show.

The insurrection at the Capitol building in Washington DC earlier this month was shocking and disgusting. Andreas was glued to the news and the event found its way into most conversations for a few weeks. We were happy the inauguration on the 20th went smoothly and we have a new president. He seems to be busy trying to reverse some of the horrible things the former president put into place. I wish him luck.

A funny social distancing story, we moved our fire pit to a space in the garden where we could safely distance with two other people. Unfortunately, to do this you can’t huddle around the fire to stay warm. Yeah, didn’t think that through. We had two visits and frozen toes. We’ll wait for a warm day for company.

I completed my annual stained glass, polar bear commission for Special Olympics Delaware. Not being able to leave the house meant production went faster. I finished two weeks early and took a week off to make new pillow covers for our boring pillows. I’ve been wanting to do this for months.

The little men on the pillow in the back are cut from a sweatshirt I used to wear in the mid-eighties. The legs and arms on the monster are sewn from old socks.

Andreas has been teaching a winter session class called An Introduction to Ocean Science. The class meets every day for an hour and forty-five minutes on Zoom. It’s a lot of work and takes up most of his time, but he enjoys teaching and has a good group of students.

Andreas explains the Coriolis Effect for his students using a read cabbge and a beer coaster. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas explains the Coriolis Effect for his students using a red cabbage and a beer coaster. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We are sad to say that his Tante Annemarie passed away earlier this month. He has been writing a blog about her in his spare time. I thought it might be a short remembrance, but it is turning into a biography of her and his family. He is putting in a lot of time researching German history to better understand the time period she grew up in. Many calls have been made to his mother and brother in Germany to authenticate memories and stories. I’ll post it here when he is finished.

Andreas working on his blog over the weekend.
A slide of Andreas in Tante Anne’s garden 1962

Andreas is still experimenting with new recipes and spices for our usual dishes. We are trying to limit our shopping trips which encourages culinary creativity. If you have any new recipes you’ve recently discovered please share them.

I am keeping busy completing winter projects for my business and the house. I have a show coming up in February at a local café showing my Diner series and a Trashy Women show scheduled for April. Inspiration and new ideas come when I’m problem solving. There is no boredom, just a feeling of sameness in this box of a house. We are excited for spring. The daffodils have already started to push through the leaves. Last year’s seeds are organized and we are planning new vegetable beds. Snow is in the immediate forecast! We are well and hope you are too.

Daffodils
The daffodils think it’s spring.
Ready for warm weather!

Quiet Quarantine Christmas

We’ve had a very quiet December. Thinking back over the month I feel sad about that. I miss Christmas parties and my friends, but it has also been a fairly stress-free holiday minus all of the usual obligations.

We celebrated our 2nd anniversary at home with take-out. We considered traveling to a bed and breakfast, but what’s the point, most things are closed and we don’t feel comfortable in the places that are opened.

Anniversary gift from Andreas, an Angelique Kidjo CD wrapped with the only blooming flower in the garden.
Cheers to two years!

Andreas’ class finished mid-month and my private art classes on the deck outside haven’t been meeting as often because of the weather.

Student finishing a watercolor painting on a sunny morning.
Self portrait. I’ll teach that again when we can stop wearing masks.

Andreas has been chopping up our wood piles and we’ve been enjoying fires on colder nights. We trash picked a nice wood rack from a neighbor so we can store some wood near the house to keep it dry.

Andreas keeping warm on a cold day.

He has also been trying more new recipes. This month he made a Christmas Stollen, granola and ham.

I was very happy that we had some snow and that it stayed on the ground for a few days. I hope we get a lot more this year. Snow makes everything prettier.

Catching snow flakes
The next day everything was covered in ice.
Bird seed eater.

My friend Sherri and I have been walking in the evenings taking turns between our neighborhoods to see the Christmas lights. That’s been really fun. Andreas hung lights on the deck and we have little candles in our windows.

Both Andreas and I took a day off on Christmas day. I caught up on the newspapers and he read a book. Andreas cooked a ham from our friend Trebs’ farm along with a lot of red cabbage.

Newspaper nest
Best seat in the house.

On Boxing Day, we hosted our Scottish friend Pablo and Andreas cooked Bubble and Squeak. I think it turned out really well. We felt uncomfortable distancing ourselves so far from Pablo and wearing masks when we weren’t eating. All worth it to enjoy good company and stay safe.

Pablo with his own dining table.

Thanks to everyone who sent cards and cookies! We are fat and happy and miss you all very much.

Family Zoom party

We wish you all a healthy, happy New Year!