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.
Andreas’ class finished mid-month and my private art classes on the deck outside haven’t been meeting as often because of the weather.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Thanks to everyone who sent cards and cookies! We are fat and happy and miss you all very much.
I spent a November evening looking through our 2020 life in photos trying to find this year’s Christmas card image. We have a few photos together, but in every one we are wearing masks. My dark sense of humor thinks this would make an “funny” card. Andreas says, “No, not for Christmas, it should be positive.” Back to the search.. garden photos.. no, not Christmassy either.
We didn’t travel ANYWHERE. Which feels strange to us; I didn’t go to the beach this fall. No Oregon photos, no Germany photos, just us in the house staying safe.
Besides the Covid, (I don’t have to share a graph this month, you all know what’s going on,) it has been a good month. We have a new President on the way which we are both very happy and relieved about. Andreas worked the election polls again. His exposure to over 2,000 people was a little scary and another Covid test was taken.
I participated in The Newark Arts Alliance Gingerbread House contest. That turned out to be pretty fun. Thanks to my friend Joe Daigle and his epic effort of creating an edible Notre Dame it became a big event.
Andreas had a nice birthday, I hope. It was quiet and he worked all day but the weekend before we had a small lunch party outside with his best friend Pablo and our brother-in-law George.
We had a weird little Thanksgiving. Just the two of us, but thanks to pandemic times and modern technology we were able to see and speak to most of my family over Zoom. Our friends Mary and Les picked up Indian take-out food and dropped it off at our door. Andreas worked through the day, but took the evening off to watch a few movies. All in all, a good day.
Maybe for some of you, spending time in the house has led to some renovations and re-arranging. I spent a lot of time this month moving my office upstairs from my studio. Once space was cleared in the studio, art supplies in the garage filled the office void, which brings us to today with a major garage clean out and re-arranging. That felt good.
So, back to this Christmas card. We settled on a photo that simply captures a day in the life of being home. Nothing special or exotic, just home and we are happy here.
Hello, November 1st let me tell you about October before this election in two days, before things get potentially weird. (weirder)
Autumn is here, the leaves that are still hanging on are showing their colors and the rest are sitting unraked in our yard. I should hashtag that. We are the #unraked! Compost, that’s what we’re all about ha ha.
We’ve had two cold Fall nights, both of which we had another couple over for drinks on the deck. We get creative by adding blankets and more candles to deck décor. Andreas hung red Christmas lights from the arbor for Halloween night and they will stay there through the Valentine’s Day.
Personally, this was a productive month. I completed the Inktober challenge https://inktober.com/ where everyday a different word prompt is given online and it must be illustrated in ink. I translated most prompts to German to grow my vocabulary. Sometimes the words are very difficult to illustrate, sometimes the image comes to mind immediately. That was challenging, fun and I’m glad it was only for thirty-one days.
I’ve also been working in Stained Glass and mosaic. I completed the windows due for the Delaware Special Olympics and have been trying to use up smaller pieces of glass in the studio by creating hearts in different colors. I hope to have some in stock for Christmas.
I finished a commission for a local Brewery creating three different beer labels. I’ll be able to share those images when the beer is available for sale in the next year or so.
I’m filling mosaic stepping stone orders. It’s much easier to work outside in cooler weather because there are less mosquitoes.
October is all about Halloween and we tried to make it fun for the neighbor’s kids. We decorated the garden with a big spider web and carved pumpkins. I waited by the door to give candy, but not many showed up. Sadly, many of the kids and parents weren’t wearing masks. It’s Halloween, the only day of the year when masks are cool!
The election is two days away. Andreas has chosen to work at the polls again. He has been very busy with class preparations and other work demands, often working through the evening and weekends. He is still trying out new recipes, but less often.
We would like to travel somewhere for a weekend or so but Covid numbers continue to climb.
I hope to report next month that the election went smoothly, that the horrible subhuman currently in office is in prison and the Covid numbers are much lower here and around the world.
Summer is over, fall has begun. We have been so busy working on our individual interests that it hasn’t occurred to me that there is much to write about. Besides feeling work busy, we also spend time on other projects to avoid thinking too much about Covid 19 and the political mess in this confused country. Add the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the upset and maybe you can understand our need for extreme focus and new distractions.
As always, the garden keeps us busy and happy. It is always changing and beautiful. As we plan our new garden at the rental property, we are making sure we have plenty of composted soil here to move next door.
A few of Andreas’ tomato plants did well next to the driveway. Deer nibbled the plants next door.
The interior of our home is being relabeled in German to assist my struggling German language learning.
When I’m not studying, I have been working mostly in stained glass completing projects for clients.
I also chose to bring back a few art students. I’ve been teaching outside with Covid precautions. It’s been going well. It’s very pleasant to teach outside. I’m not sure what I will do when the weather becomes colder.
Even though Covid numbers in our City are not positive news we have chosen to go out a little more because we need a change in routine. We now go to a Café at 7am once a week for breakfast. We sit outside and during most visits we are the only customers.
Andreas is allowed back to his University office and will work there a few days a week.
We were invited to a friend’s garden for a distanced dinner.
Andreas is still experimenting in the kitchen. He is becoming a better cook every week. I’m lucky that he enjoys cooking so much.
We are trying to embrace the new normal. Some days are better than others and there are no longer expectations for an all clear Covid-19 signal.
Keep on keepin’ on, y’all. Register to vote and wear that mask.
P.S. I’m trying out this new WordPress Block format so the blog might look a little funky.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Life is good here. We hope you are doing well too. Please wear your mask.
We have big news, but first, the Garden Tour. Andreas and I have been preparing for this event for months. We’ve been gardening, improving the outside appearance of the deck and house and creating artwork to place in the garden and to sell.
Recently, I refreshed most of the paint on the Art Car and created 10 mosaic stepping stones to sell during the tour. They all sold. I even sold a few of the old stones from the ground that I made years ago.
The tour was a success. The Newark Arts Alliance sold a lot of tickets. We think we had over a hundred people walk through physically distancing themselves and wearing masks. Andreas and I distanced ourselves from others on the deck. The weather was perfect! Warm with low humidity. Even the mosquitoes weren’t too bad.
We had a wonderful time and ended the day sharing wine with friends who had purchased the wine in Germany when they visited us. Wine from Cochem on the Moselle! That was a huge treat.
So, the BIG news is that Andreas and I settled on a rental property today. We bought a neighbor/ friend’s house to fix up and hopefully rent out. The property is across the street from ours and we will be extending our garden to include more vegetables and fruit trees as that yard receives more sun. We’ve been working on making this happen since March. I’m excited to start painting to make it a fun, cool place for someone to live in and an easy place for us to garden.
Now we hope life will slow down to a summer pace and the Coronavirus will disappear soon.
Star date: May 29, 2020, week 11 ½ of quarantine from Covid 19. The Governor will lift quarantine restrictions next week, but it is for economic not health reasons. The numbers of infected and dying are still relatively high here so, we are staying home. We’ll continue quarantining until those numbers go down. We are not sad about staying home, rations are holding out and Christina brought toilet paper.
Last week Andreas and I finished our classes. I got a 93% in my German 1 class and now I wish I had taken it for credit. Ha ha. It was a lot of information to learn in a few months and I was getting pretty confused with different sentence structures in the end. I signed up for the next level class in the fall so I better figure out what I mixed up over the summer. We don’t know yet if the University will hold classes online or in person in September. We’re guessing that they will try to do both.
The sidewalk repair and heavy machinery driving by finished at the same time class did. They are working on a different street now, but they must like us because they’ve left their equipment, rock pile and potty on the side of our house. The rock pile is a huge attraction to the smaller, louder neighborhood children.
Since the weather warmed the garden grows and blooms. It started with the camellias, azaleas and Celandine poppies.
Now we are seeing irises, roses, peonies and Mountain Laurel. The Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour is on for June 13th. Who knows what will be blooming then?
The vegetables we planted struggle. We really don’t have enough sun. Andreas’ poor tomatoes look sad and small, but they are still alive so we have hope. I can’t remember where I planted kale now. I don’t know if I’m seeing Kale or weeds. Sometimes I pick and eat it anyway. If you don’t hear from me after this post, you’ll know what happened. I just harvested some cherries and the blueberries and currants should be ready soon. The birds that we have been admiring will soon become our competitors for food. They will probably win.
We try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. We re-stained the deck, have been eating outside and occasionally hosting a family member or friend for social distance coffee. Today, however was hot and humid and the mosquitoes have returned. If you are from here you know that they are our “state bird” and there are a lot of them.
I’ve been painting. Nothing major, just fun stuff around the house. I painted a bird house, signs for the plants, the mailbox, a bee house for a friend, some cement mushrooms for the yard and have been working on paintings to show with the Trashy Women. Now that it’s warmer and sunnier I will be making mosaic stepping stones to sell at the Garden Tour and the Art Car needs its annual paint refresh.
Andreas is in research proposal and paper writing mode in his office. He sent something off to NASA last night.
We hope you all are well, keeping busy, wearing your masks and staying safe.
Week seven of quarantine. Andreas just sent his parents a depressing email (and probably graphs) commenting on how poorly our country was handling Covid19 compared with Germany. He asked that I write something uplifting to balance him out. He is still a little obsessed with monitoring the news and creating virus death graphs, but is beginning to focus more on his own research. It’s good that he’s teaching this semester.
Busy is modus operandi. If we stay busy with work, school and projects we don’t feel as isolated and the weeks go faster. The tough days, at least for me, are when one project is finished and another has yet to begin. Luckily, we have an ongoing project of taking care of the garden and tending to our new vegetable plants. As of April 23rd, the Newark Garden Tour is still scheduled for June 13th and we are preparing for that. It may be cancelled later, we don’t know.
Our garden is looking a little torn up at the front because the City came and installed a new water main under the sidewalk.
After they finished in front of our house, I heard the sound of rushing water. It was so loud that we could hear it at the top floor. We checked all of our pipes and the computer data of our water usage online. Everything was OK. I called the City and they didn’t believe us saying it was probably our problem. I called back a few days later and spoke to someone in the water department. She didn’t believe me, but sent people out. Those people didn’t believe me and came into the house to check the meter. No masks or gloves!! When they finally checked the connection at the sidewalk they said, oh, it’s us. Four days later, the water is still leaking, they sent a crew to fix it.
One workman asked the others, “Ok, which one of you were drinking when you installed this?” He asked the man digging in the hole how it was going. Not so good the man replied, Its wet down here.
We had a nice Easter with George and Christina. They distanced themselves from us on our deck and we shared cake and coffee with at least six feet between us at all times. We Zoomed with our German family using two laptops, a phone and a security web-cam to accommodate all levels of computer skills. Later Easter evening, we Zoomed with my mother’s side of the family while we ate dinner. That was probably the only time we’ve all been “together” in over a decade.
Some fun things have happened in the neighborhood. One day people created chalk drawings on their sidewalks and they have been placing teddy bears in their windows so the kids can have a “bear hunt.”
I’ve been sewing masks and clothes, working on a commission and most recently painted the fireplace.
We have also used Zoom to teach (Andreas) and take a class (me.)
We try to keep in touch with family and friends.
We are grateful to have access to technology like this, grateful to have work that we can do from home and very grateful that we are well and the majority of our family, friends and acquaintances are still well. We realize that even though we are all experiencing the same virus, quarantine “storm” that we’re all not in the same boat and that this experience is worse for some.
I think we are still happy to be home but are definitely looking forward to warmer, drier weather so we can work outside.
My Father wrote this story about my Grandmother’s hair. The story began during the “Spanish Flu.” I’m sharing here mostly with family, but I think it’s a good story. My Grandmother lived in Middletown and Dover, Delaware USA.
In my Father’s words:
(In these days of pandemic, isolation and social distancing, I am reminded of my mother’s stories of a similar time in the past. I will try to tell the story based on some childhood remembrances, family history documents, genealogical research and my imagination. I have included some snapshots that Mom had saved. The people in my story are real. Some events are historical, some my personal experiences, and some made up as I would imagine them. I am sure that my older brothers have different remembrances and I would like to hear their corrections to my narrative.)
My story begins in 1918 at the farm and home of Fred and Lydia Baker, their children and extended family. This was a four-generation household including the parents, children, Lydia’s widowed mother, Mrs. Hester Shockley, and daughter Ethel’s toddler son, John. Also living on the farm was a hired hand. Other workers would come and go as needed. The two boys, Grover now 25 and Fred Jr., 20 had left last year for war in France and their letters home were exciting. Grover, Mom’s favorite, had joined the National Guard in 1912 and served from 1915 to 1917 guarding the border in New Mexico against the bandit, Poncho Villa. He was a wagon driver and was promoted to Cook in France. Fred Jr. joined up in 1917 and served as an Army Corporal in France. The four girls are at home: Ethel, 24, Hester, 22, Bertha, 21, and my mother, Margaret, age 7. Bertha will marry and leave at the end of November.
The family kept up with the news of the world, especially the progress of the war in Europe. News then came that fall of a particularly deadly disease, the “Spanish” flu, sweeping the country. Schools, churches and public assemblies were closed and everyone was urged to stay home and in isolation. The Baker farm was 3 miles from town and one quarter mile from the nearest neighbor. They were self-sufficient and isolation was the normal routine. When the crops came in, they could be delivered and paid for with minimum contact with others. There was no sickness on the farm. Everyone rejoiced at the news of the November 11 Armistice to end the fighting of World War I.
1919 came with milder weather and less snow than a year ago. The farm was looking forward to a prosperous year. Then in the springtime came two events, joyous and devastating. First, Grover and Fred Jr. came home from France. Second, the flu pandemic was back with a vengeance. There was a real danger of sickness on the farm and the house was quarantined. Family members without sickness were displaced to the outbuildings and fields. I don’t recall hearing about which family members were outside and which were quarantined or of the severity of disease. None of the family members died. In an effort to contain the disease or, possibly just to avoid caring for it, long hair was cut and heads shaved. Mom, age 8. had her hair cut. This was apparently a traumatic experience or she just did not like it that way, but it was not cut again for almost 80 years.
Mom’s hair grew and styles changed. Before she married in 1933, her hair was dark brown and usually had a part and stylish wave in the front and was gathered into a bun in the back. The bun became two buns, one on each side.
As her family grew, braided pigtails replaced the buns in Mom’s hair. This basic style stayed with her for about 40 years. As a boy, I remember watching her routine as she cared for her hair. Washing and drying were major undertakings, drying as she combed it out while sitting in the back yard on sunny days or over the furnace register in the dining room. When we got a new furnace with hot water baseboards, she had to buy an electric hair dryer which she never liked. The pigtails were braided then wrapped around her head, first one way twice around then the other way twice around then the arrangement held with hairpins. If she was going out, a hairnet covered the whole thing. When I asked her why she didn’t wear her hair short and wavy or curly like other women we knew, she would tell me about the 1919 quarantine.
By 1980, Mom’s hair had greyed then turned to a bright, snowy white. Her hair was also thinner and finer and harder to braid into pigtails. So, the pigtails were replaced by a big, swept up bun on top, held with hairpins. A hairnet usually covered everything.
When Mom moved into White Chapel Assisted Living in 1998, her care givers and daughters-in-law convinced her that her hair would be easier to manage if it were cut. So, her hair was cut, but not so short that it could not be collected and pinned up to the top of her head.
Mom died on Sunday. November 7, 1999. When I was called to rush back to the hospital that morning, I got there just after she passed. The nurses had straightened her bed, removed the IV’s, tubes and machines. They had also combed her hair out straight and over her shoulders. It looked so strange and they obviously had no regard for the eight-year-old girl in 1919.
Andreas mentioned at lunch today that my friends, more than his friends, have a better chance of surviving an apocalypse. I know farmers, knitters, potters, clothing makers, foragers, natural healers, chefs, beekeepers, gardeners, carpenters, mechanics etc. and most of them know each other. He said that his professor friends might not survive as long. He mentioned a possible egg shortage that he heard about on the news, I said don’t worry about eggs, I have that covered, I know people.
Then he started to doubt his own survival skills. I reminded him that he is a trained paramedic, he has completed survival classes for the Arctic. If we have another Ice Age or become northern Canadian refugees, he has been trained to protect us from polar bears, and can escape from a helicopter that has crash landed into the ocean. I hope he never has to use those skills.
Lately I’ve tried to interest him in growing more vegetables in the yard and why it’s important to be self-sufficient. Honestly though, it takes a village. Without our friends with the above-mentioned skills our vegetable plots and limited skill set wouldn’t be enough.
Building a community of people with useful skill sets who are willing to share, collaborate and barter (as long as they stay 6ft away from you) is the best chance for survival and happiness. If you don’t have a useful skill now is a good time to learn one. It doesn’t have to be something major. A neighbor gave us a bag with two amazing chocolate chip oatmeal cookies last week. When you’re rationing snacks that’s a big treat.
Luckily, most of us aren’t at a survivalist point in our collective experience, but as we’re self-quarantined in a pandemic it’s something to think about. How can you feel useful to others?