Let’s Talk About the Weather.

Honestly, I have spent most of April looking forward to May. I love warm (not hot) weather when I can have the windows open day and night. April felt very cold this year, maybe because we’ve had freeze warnings the last three nights. One day cold, the next day warm, typical spring weather here I suppose.

Today, May first, I am writing with All of the windows open and also with a slight hangover. Last night we hosted a goodbye party for our French Professor housemate, Julien. It was a nice evening, warm enough to enjoy eating dinner on the deck with friends who have met Julien over the last eight months. Later when it became cooler, we talked and laughed together inside.

Julien is going back to France earlier than expected because he found out after his trip home for Christmas that he is soon to be the father of twins. As you can imagine he is excited to start planning this new adventure with his girlfriend. We will miss him very much as he has become part of our family. He is the quietest, cleanest, most considerate renter I have ever had. We will miss our dinners together and his occasional cooking.

Julien’s stuffed tomatoes! Yum!

Back to chilly April. On a cool, rainy, Saturday morning I volunteered with my Trashy Women friends Jamie and Maggie at the Newark Center for Creative Learning’s Green Fest event. Maggie signed us up to make robot characters using old cans, wire and found objects. The kids loved it. Jamie and I were a little overwhelmed. Trebs was also at Green Fest with her farm stand. After the event she, Maggie and Jamie came back to our house and Andreas cooked a lot of food to warm everyone up.

Making Tin Man Robots.

That evening I drove to Wilmington to watch our nephew, Sam Parsons, break a state record running a mile under four minutes at his former high school track. It was an exciting event. I was happy to hang out with my sister and brother-in- law and to see Sam.

The next week my artist/ musician friend Monika and I traveled by train from Wilmington to Washington DC to see artist/ musician Laurie Anderson’s show The Weather at the Hirshhorn Museum. Laurie Anderson is one of my favorite artists and it was wonderful to see, hear and read a show of her work.

We also saw other exhibits at the Hirshhorn and then walked over to the National Gallery for lunch and to see the collections there. It was a great day with perfect weather, I hope we are able to travel together again soon.

Gardens and gardening have been a big deal this month. I have been working with the Newark Garden Tour Committee to find new gardens for the 2022 Garden Tour. Andreas and I visited Whimsical Farms to pick up our tomato plants and we have been busy preparing our gardens for the growing season. Seeds and seedlings for the vegetable and flower plots were put in the ground while Andreas dug up new beds for his berry plants. We had an invasive Bradford Pear tree removed on the 19th and Andreas has used the branches to create new borders and a natural fence. The strawberries, rhubarb and cabbage are growing well so far and we are planning to plant sunflowers and tomatoes next weekend.

 A new painted mural in the living room covers up some boring beige walls. I wanted to add a darker color behind the artwork but have a light color on the rest of the wall and add some movement with a stripe. I’m happy with the way it turned out. I think it warms the room up a bit.

Last weekend was the last Cecil County Arts Council Wine and Dine event of the year. Maggie invited our Trashy Women Collective (and Andreas) to attend and we had a fun night at a restaurant in Elkton, Maryland showcasing a local book/ paper artist. These dinners have become the only time we go out. I will miss the events during the summer and look forward to them starting up again next year.

Last but not least a studio update. This month I have been working on glass commissions, a secret painting that I will reveal next month, a mural proposal that may or may not be accepted and my studio assistant Julia and I have begun making mosaic stepping stones. Hopefully this first week of May brings weather warm enough to work with cement and grout. Ha ha, no guarantees.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum, Monika Bullette, Maggie Creshkoff and Terry Foreman.

Transit, Transitions and Transformations

 My last blog ended with the cliff hanger, ”I hope my next blog will say I was worried about nothing and Lufthansa totally came through for us and that they flew us to Philadelphia.” Let’s continue from there, shall we?

After I wrote that blog post Andreas and I went out for a last dinner in Lübeck. We had a nice time even though we were anxious about traveling.

Bamboozled again! That is not a plant, that is a cleverly disguised tiramisu!

On the way back to our Airbnb we were passed on the street by a group of policemen in riot gear which is not a common sight. While we were commenting about that we heard chanting around the corner and found ourselves at the beginning of an anti-Covid restriction march. Andreas stayed to watch the march, I did not.

That night Andreas became very sick. We thought it was maybe food poisoning from dinner. He didn’t sleep all night and we needed to leave early the next morning for our trains to Copenhagen. He slept all day on the trains and was feeling terrible.

We arrived at the Copenhagen airport in the early evening and spoke in person with someone at the Lufthansa ticket counter. We discovered that no planes were flying from Frankfurt to the US on our day of departure, but we could go the day after. We said, we are here now, so what about tomorrow? We were able to do that, but it included a five-hour layover in Chicago to eventually arrive in Philadelphia.

It was good that we chose the next day, Wednesday, instead delaying until Friday because on Friday Philadelphia had a snowstorm. However, we didn’t think things through.

(We stayed at Pod Hotelhttps://cityhub.com/copenhagen/. Our room was the size of the bed. The was a communal living area, kitchen and bathroom. Perfect for the single 20yr old. We are neither.)

Our hotel was an hour from the airport, we needed another Covid test and our plane left at 6am the following morning. Also, Andreas was sick and feeling nauseous, weak and feverish. After finding and walking to and from our Covid test we were able to sleep around 9:30pm. We awoke at 3am to return by subway to the airport. Poor Andreas couldn’t eat and hadn’t eaten anything since our dinner the night before we left Lübeck. He slept every chance he had all the way home. Our travels from Lübeck to our home took 31 hours. Crazy, right? We were so happy and grateful to see our brother-in-law George when he picked us up in Philadelphia.

Andreas in Chicago.

Our house has never been so appreciated. We also enjoyed the snowy weekend following to have an excuse to rest and recover.

We spent the beginning of February getting re-organized and back to work. I waited an extra two weeks before resuming my art classes because of the high Omicron numbers. It’s nice to have most of my students back now. I missed them.

I’m taking two classes this month. One is the continuing German class at the Saengerbund and the other is a photography class with my friend Ray. I want to learn how to use my digital camera. I’ve taken all of my photos over the last decade with my phone. That’s okay, but now I want to print and exhibit some of them and they can not print as large from the phone files. The Newark Arts Alliance has a show coming up featuring White Clay Creek State Park, so I have been shooting new photos there while enjoying the hikes and scenery. Ray is also showing me some editing tricks on the computer. It’s been an informative, fun class.

Before we traveled to Germany, I had begun a mural in our small bathroom of an arctic scene with icebergs. Now it is finished with the addition of Arctic animals.

I have also been creating new pieces for two Trashy Women shows. One for a Wine and Dine event in Maryland, and the other for a Gallery show that will open next month at the Oxford Arts Alliance in Oxford, PA. There was an extra challenge to incorporate donated musical instruments.

Peace and Quiet

Now that people know we are home I am becoming booked again with commissions. I can’t wait to show you some of them soon.

As we excitedly wait for spring with its warm weather and flowers here, we are also saddened by the news from the Ukraine. Andreas has an acquaintance who is reporting from the front lines for the Washington Post (Whitney Shefte). He thinks much of her as a person who reports with integrity, empathy, and compassion. Andreas keeps up with the latest news reading the Washington Post, New York Times, Spiegel Online (German), and BBC while also watching news shows on the German Public TV channel ARD. Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people. We hope for peace.

Snowflakes from our garden

All photos and artwork, except for Bobby Hanson’s Duchamp sculpture (I just painted it), by Dragonfly Leathrum

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

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

Before and After

Before
Before

After a month and a half of painting and cleaning, the rental property we purchased is ready. I’m so TIRED!! I’m also feeling happy that I met my deadline, came in under budget and the house looks good.

After
After

Back of house
Back of house

The inside painting ended up being a little more complicated than I imagined. Most of the walls and ceiling are wallpapered under existing paint. That meant that all the walls needed to be primed before two coats of paint. The trim and windows also required a primer coat. I tape all of my edges when I paint, but soon learned that when I removed the tape it pulled off old paint and wallpaper. Then there were the walls with wallpaper that needed to be removed.

Before dining room.
Before dining room.

After dining room
After dining room

During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.
During painting the dining room. Do I look tired? I AM! The room was hand painted with a brush. Every color has two coats of paint.

Before dining room
Before dining room

Dining room after
After dining room

It was a steep learning curve aided by the sage advice from Facebook friends who suffered before me. I hired a painter friend to come on the weekends to handle the more difficult spackling work, wallpaper removal, ladder work in the hall and some of the rooms. His professionalism, knowledge and tricks were invaluable. I learned a lot from him and he did a great job.

Before hallway
Before hallway

After hallway
After hallway

After hallway
After hallway

I invited the former owners over to see the changes I made and they liked them. They even changed the heater filter for me while they were there.

Before kitchen
Before kitchen

After kitchen
After kitchen

Andreas and I had concerns that finding renters would be difficult because the University has been uncertain about opening in the fall. I’m happy to report that we found three, none are students, I know their families and I’ve known all of them for over a decade. Today I collected leases and handed out keys. The first to spend the night is a pet rabbit named Benny. It felt really good to turn over the house to others and know that I can work in my studio again tomorrow.

Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha
Before and after basement stairs. Why would I want to change this? haha

While I’ve been working at the house Andreas was offered a summer research job with a colleague in Copenhagen. We are hoping to travel there this winter so they can also work in person, but the timing is unknown because of America’s handling or mis-handling of the pandemic.

Before yeast cake
Before yeast cake

After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.
After. Andreas has been baking every weekend.

We are still quarantining here, but not as strictly. I’ve expanded my shopping to include the hardware and paint store and once in a while we find ourselves social distancing with Christina and George in the house if the weather is too hot. The University decided to have classes online in the fall which makes me happy and Andreas sad. He was really looking forward to teaching an undergraduate class in person.

Before home haircut.
Before home haircut.

After home haircut.
After home haircut. Andreas won’t let me cut his hair lately. He’s trying to bring back the feathered mullet.

Daily gardening has stopped because of the heat and mosquitoes, but the tomato plants are still being well cared for. A few are as tall as me and are producing fruit. The smaller plants at the new property are doing well too.

The beginning of our future gardens. We need rain.
The beginning of our future vegetable garden. We need rain.

Yesterday was my birthday and we enjoyed a delicious socially-distanced dinner at Christina and George’s place. It’s strange to sit down to dinner, not across the table, but across the room from each other and to wear masks in passing.

My birthday cakes. on the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That's a German one. I'm not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina's cake was her mother's recipe.
My birthday cakes. On the left a rhubarb cake by Andreas. That’s a German one, I’m not 57. On the right a cake by Christina. Both very delicious and German. Christina’s cake was her mother’s recipe.

Distance dining. Fantastic dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons
Distance dining. Fantastic birthday dinner by Christina. Photo by Christina Parsons

Life is good here. We hope you are doing well too. Please wear your mask.