Trashy Woman sends German trash to America: Is it Art?

In the US I am a proud member of an Artist Collective called Trashy Women. We are a collective of nine women artists who all have our own artistic specialties. There are painters, ceramicists, jewelers, sculptors, glass workers and some of us work in all these mediums. When we meet as a collective and show together, we make art out of found objects and trash. Some people called it upcycling which is a useful step up from recycling.

Meet the Trashy Women Artist Collective seen here at their opening at the Newark Arts Alliance From left to right: Sue, Caryn, Trebs, Donna, Dragonfly, Jamie, seated Maggie and not pictured Jo, and Mindy. Photo by Mary Lowenstein Anderson
Meet the Trashy Women Artist Collective seen here at their opening at the Newark Arts Alliance From left to right: Sue, Caryn, Trebs, Donna, Dragonfly, Jamie, seated Maggie and not pictured Jo, and Mindy. Photo by Mary Lowenstein Anderson
A good day at the beach. People ask me if I'm collecting rocks and I reply no, I'm collecting garbage to make art. Then they look at me funny and I say I'm picking up glass so the doggies don't hurt their feet. This makes them happy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A good day at the beach. People ask me if I’m collecting rocks and I reply no, I’m collecting garbage to make art. Then they look at me funny and I say I’m picking up glass so the doggies don’t hurt their feet. This makes them happy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In March the Trashy Women will be having a show at the Gibby Center for the Arts in Middletown, Delaware. I really wanted to participate in this show but I’m almost 4,000 miles away in Bremerhaven Germany this year. Bremerhaven has no shortage of garbage, but my tools and art supplies are in the States in my studio. So, what can I create for this show? I had collected a pile of beach glass from the Weser-Strandbad and some broken shards from the street but I wasn’t sure how I was going to put it together without my stained-glass supplies.

March 7-13 2019. If you're near Middletown, Delaware that day I hope you can make the show.
March 7-13 2019. If you’re near Middletown, Delaware that day I hope you can make the show.

I walked to the hardware store for inspiration and found some wire in the gardening section. I figured I could wrap the glass with the wire and create an image from there. An insane, time-consuming undertaking, but what are sabbaticals for if not for projects like this?

Let the madness begin. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Let the madness begin. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Creating the image. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Creating the image. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I started with a piece of paper equaling the dimensions of the mailing box I picked up from the post office. I wasn’t taking any chances with shipping. Ha ha.

Then I drew an image on the paper and placed the glass on the image using colors and shapes that I felt were appropriate. Once the image was realized I proceeded to wrap each piece with wire and then connected the pieces together. Connecting the pieces was tricky, especially on the first window. I developed a method of “sewing” them together with the wire.

Sewing it together. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Sewing it together. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ouch! Working with wire's dark side. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ouch! Working with wire’s dark side. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

By the third one I was a pro. Like all things I make they are over engineered and extra strong. Probably much stronger than they need to be.

Andreas graciously models window #1. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas graciously models window #1. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I then had to figure out how to hang them. I didn’t see any chain around that I liked, so I used some left-over yarn from a scarf I knitted for my sister-in-law and double knitted some rope. In Diez I found key rings to hang them from hooks in the show.

The wave. This piece has sold. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The wave. This piece has sold. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The face finished. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The face finished. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

So yeah, they’re weird and very different from what I would have created in my comfort zone at home. I’m happy with how they turned out and they’re very interesting in the sunlight. The wave has sold already from a social media posting and I’m hoping the other two find good homes at the show. After my painting show at Art Impressions Gallery in Bremerhaven on April 27th, I’m hoping to make more.

Dragonfly in the studio. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Dragonfly in the studio. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Ready to go. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Ready to go. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Hello new in-laws, I bring you eel.

We headed south by train last week to Diez to visit Andreas’ brother and sister-in-law, also my in-laws now I’m happy to say.

Andreas reflected in the train window pulling into the station in Cologne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas reflected in the train window pulling into the station in Cologne. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We arrived mid-day Thursday with a box of Bremerhaven smoked fish and an eel wrapped in newspaper. That evening, after dinner, Andreas’ brother Burkhard put an old card game in a cigar box, that he had been storing in his basement on the table. The cards were of tractors, race cars, tanks and ships. I’m not sure how the game was meant to be played but young Andreas had been fascinated by the stats of the various vehicles on the cards and had organized and ranked them accordingly as a kid in the 60’s. We ended up throwing away all but the icebreaker ship. (they were stinky)

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Friday, we traveled by car on the Autobahn (oh boy!) to Weilburg where we had a yummy, roadside Currywurst lunch and then visited the Rosenhang Art Museum. The Museum was created in a renovated brewery and the eclectic mix of modern art presented is all part of a private collection.

Inside the Rosenhang Museum in Weilburg, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Inside the Rosenhang Museum in Weilburg, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In fact, the owners of this space and collection also sell tickets and walk around monitoring and greeting the visitors. Some of the brewery equipment is still in place and the gallery spaces are rough, weird and totally refreshing after years of experiencing art on boring white walls.

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"Porcelin Car" by Ma Jun, fiberglass 2008
“Porcelin Car” by Ma Jun, fiberglass 2008
My favorite piece in the museum by Cornelia Schleime
My favorite piece in the museum by Cornelia Schleime

Later that evening Burkhard and my new sister-in-law Carina hosted a homemade pizza dinner party with their friends. We had a great time and ate and drank too much.

Burkhard's neighbor friend gets a lesson in pizza dough making before the party. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Burkhard’s neighbor friend gets a lesson in pizza dough making before the party. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

On Saturday Andreas, Burkhard and I visited Limburg to do some shopping and sight seeing. Limburg has some great older architecture that survived the war.

Limburg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Limburg. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We also got to see some of Burkhard’s restoration work. He’s a master craftsman specializing in restoring very old wooden windows

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Behind the Limburg Cathedral. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Behind the Limburg Cathedral. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

After Limburg we returned to Diez for coffee and cake and then to see Burkhard’s latest project, the restoration of an entire home.

Smallest cookie with biggest coffee. Diez, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Smallest cookie with biggest coffee. Diez, Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Inside the restoration. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Inside the restoration. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Selfie in a spooky cellar that would make an awesome speakeasy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Selfie in a spooky cellar that would make an awesome speakeasy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Burkhard shares his vision for the house and garden project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Burkhard shares his vision for the house and garden project. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The next day we drove to Carina’s hometown to have coffee with her parents. Her mother always presents a beautiful table with delicate china, flowers and homemade cakes. It’s really special and her cakes and coffee are wonderful.

Marga gets a lesson on her iphone from Carina after coffee. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Marga gets a lesson on her iphone from Carina after coffee. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Later that night everyone settled in in front of the TV, two of us with our knitting, to watch a German Survivor re-cap show and some strange game show where the contestants were popping balloons with radio controlled cars.

Cozy by the wood stove. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Cozy by the wood stove. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

On Monday, before we returned home, Andreas and I walked to town for coffee and to see the bookstore’s new window. The woman who works there creates really cool scenes with cut-out and painted cardboard.

The sign says if you can see pink elephants you should go inside the bookstore so they can help you. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The sign says if you can see pink elephants you should go inside the bookstore so they can help you. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I’ll leave you with a little bit of Diez history that has haunted me since our visit last Christmas. These stairs connect the shopping district to the neighborhood we were staying in and we walked them every day.

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This sign says:

Down these stairs, 41 Jewish orphans and their tutors were taken in a dark night in a pogrom-like action on 20 August 1935 by Nazi-sympathizing local citizens from the Israelite orphanage next to the castle and were pushed to the marketplace. The next day they were deported to Frankfurt. The married couple who directed the orphanage were probably murdered in concentration camps along with many of the children.

In memory of the victims

A warning to the living

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(“Translating the inscription, I am appalled by its poor writing. A pogrom is described as “pogrom-like,” violent pushing, beating, and yelling at the Jewish children is described as an “action,” and local citizens are described as “Nazi-sympathizing local citizen.” The voice is passive and the violence is implied. The first sentence reads poorly, because it names neither the perpetrators nor their actions.”    ~ Andreas Muenchow)

According to Wikipedia the Jews in Diez can be traced back to the Middle Ages around 1286, but after WWII, “Almost nothing remains of a Jewish presence in Diez.”

The castle in Diez. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The castle in Diez. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Diez and Limburg are really beautiful cities. If you’re traveling through Germany, I recommend them.

In Bremerhaven it’s just lunch, no big deal….

There are a few things about being on sabbatical in a country where I don’t speak the language that have been particularly hard on me. One, I don’t like doing a lot on my own that involves interacting with other people, and two, the lack of empathy that my native speaking German husband has about number one.

Yes, I know a few German words and some people here speak a little bit of English, but it’s awkward and tiring for both sides. I don’t stay home all day, I go out for walks and pick up whatever shopping the apartment may need. However, one thing that I haven’t felt like doing is going out to eat by myself. My reasons are I can only translate small bits of the menu, I don’t understand the waiters, they don’t understand me and I feel that it’s boring and lonely to eat alone. My husband thinks my reluctance is due to a lack of confidence. He doesn’t see the “big deal” with any of these reasons. He, the confident, native speaking male goes out for lunch or coffee at whim.

Two weeks ago, this came to a head when I was sick and suggested that we go out for burgers and fries. I had had a craving. He didn’t want to eat those things and said no. At the end of the week he made a reservation at a restaurant he knew for sure didn’t have these things to punish my “lack of confidence.” In his mind I should have gone to a restaurant on my own if I wanted a burger or fries. You can imagine how well that went over.

Anyway, it made me think that maybe I should try to go out to lunch on my own. There are a few restaurants in town that I’ve been asking him to visit with me since July. I decided to give each one a try and see how the experience goes. If it goes well, great, I’ll start going out more by myself and if the experience isn’t good at least I tried and he can stop being a jerk about it.

Library book, check! Take out container, check! Wallet, check! Ready to go...
Library book, check! Take out container, check! Wallet, check! Ready to go…

Monday, day one: Milchbar Cafe’.

Milchbar Cafe. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Milchbar Cafe. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Ok, Milchbar Cafe’ was a success. I admit I started with something easy. It’s a 50’s style American themed restaurant. Ha ha. Most of the menu is in English. Is that cheating? I don’t care. I had a beautiful burger. It looked like a photo in a menu. You know how the food is always beautiful in the menu photos but then a disappointment in real life? This burger did not disappoint. Good fries too, and a coke bottled in Berlin. I was the only one in the restaurant. The waitress knew as soon as I opened my American mouth that not much German was going to come out of it. She apologized saying her English was terrible. I apologized back saying my German was terrible. We figured out my order anyway.

Alone in The Milchbar watching Bremerhaveners. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Alone in The Milchbar Cafe’ watching Bremerhaveners. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

After my food arrived two women and a man came in for milkshakes. The man absentmindedly whistled under his breath to the juke box’s Rock around the Clock and Tequila while the women checked their phones.

So, day one, pretty good. A little boring and lonely but not horrible because the busy road outside the window was pretty entertaining. I’m ready for day two.

Tuesday, day two: Pier 6

I’ve been asking to go to Pier 6 restaurant since we received a recommendation from Andreas’ co-worker last summer. So today was a big day. Pier 6 is a pretty nice restaurant by the harbor and I read that they have a Snack Karte or menu in the middle of the afternoon. So, I went for a long walk that ended at the restaurant. I asked the waitress if the table I had chosen was OK and she said yes, but that they’re only serving drinks. I said, no Snack Karte? She said no, the chef called out sick and there wouldn’t be any food until the evening shift came in. So, out I go.

Ubersee Bistro. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Übersee  Bistro. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I walked around the harbor to the Übersee Bistro. I asked for a coffee and sat down to look at the menu. The waitress said they weren’t serving food until six so I had coffee for lunch. I was the only one in the place. The waitress had a nice tattoo on her forearm. I commented on it and showed her a little bit of the one on my arm. She then proceeded to show me other tattoos pulling her shirt up, down and all around. Nice girl, I tipped her half the price of the coffee for the tattoo show.

Just reading some Nick Hornby, minding my own business in the Ubersee. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Just reading some Nick Hornby, minding my own business in the Ubersee. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Wednesday, day three: The Strom

The Strom Restaurant is located on the bottom floor of the Atlantic Hotel. The hotel is shaped like a sail and is in the background of most of my Bremerhaven photos as well as every postcard you can buy here. It’s located on the Weser River at the top of the dike. I walk past it a few times a week and have been curious. The inside of the restaurant was a surprise. The beams on the ceiling radiate out from a main breakfast bar area in a sun pattern. The room is painted in different oranges hues and I picked a sunny day so the place was glowing. I sat next to a heater by the window which was very cozy. Much warmer than our apartment.

I loved the interior at the Strom. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
I loved the interior at the Strom. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The waitress was mildly distressed that English was being spoken but she did well and I threw in as much German as I knew to try to help her out. I passed up on the Essence of Water Buffalo with vegetables and herbs for Hähnchenbrustfilet. Google translate choked on this word so I’ll tell you it means chicken something or other. I ordered chicken because we never eat it a home. Andreas doesn’t like it and I hate to cook it. So, Hähnchenbrustfilet with curry pear savoy vegetables (sounds better than it was) and dumplings. The dumplings looked and tasted suspiciously like potato pancakes. Lunch was artfully placed on a plate that was struggling to be just as artsy. It was good. I brought my book with me for company.

The Strom at the Atlantic Hotel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The Strom at the Atlantic Hotel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Thursday, day four: Der Wasserschout

Der Wasserschout is a little building built in 1897 as a Lock Keeper’s house by the old harbor. The website said that they didn’t open until three, which was fine for a late lunch. I walked across town to the restaurant to find out that yes, it was open at three but they didn’t serve food until five. The waitress was pretty annoyed to have to tell me this in English. Did it say something on the website in German or was there a sign posted? Yes, If I had bothered to translate the website before I left the apartment, I would have noticed that. So, back home and no lunch today.

Friday, day five: Casper, David & Co.

Casper, David is located across from the tiny Modern Art Museum. It has a bar so I can sit by myself without feeling like I’m hogging a whole table.

The view of the Art Museum from Casper, David & Co. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The view of the Art Museum from Casper, David & Co. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I went for Hähnchenbrustfilet again because I learned the word on Wednesday. I didn’t have to pronounce it because it was in the “Casper Sandwich.” Ha ha! I cheat! Anyway, I gave my whole order today in German, thank you very much. The waitress was nice and even though she raised an eyebrow at my pronunciation she didn’t look annoyed.

Basketball hoop over the bin and a dumbwaiter for food and dishes. I wonder where the kitchen is?
Basketball hoop over the bin and a dumbwaiter for food and dishes. I wonder where the kitchen is?

The coffee was the best so far and I had a pretty good time reading my book and munching pommes. An older man came up to the counter to pick up take out and started chatting with me. I have no idea what he said, but he seemed nice too. I like Casper, David and I’ll visit again.

Me, my coffee, my book and I. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Me, my coffee, my book and I. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My experiment has ended. Will I continue to eat out every day? No, of course not. I just wanted to jump into the pool with both feet and no noodle. I may go out more often though, and be a little less sad about Andreas not wanting to join me. I have to thank him for giving me a push out the door.

 

 

 

Lübeck, Germany: Island Living at it’s Best

At the bus stop in Breherhaven on the way to Lubeck. I believe those two are playing rock, paper, scissors, Batman, bunny foo foo and are stuck in a draw. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
At the bus stop in Bremerhaven on the way to Lubeck. I believe those two are playing rock, paper, scissors, Batman, bunny foo foo and are stuck in a foo foo draw. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Sometimes in life you pick favorites. It’s discouraged, right? Even though people ask for an opinion of a favorite this or that all of the time, we are encouraged to keep an open mind to discover new things. I have a favorite German city, just in case you were wondering. It’s Lubeck, and yes, I do have an open mind about it. I expect to discover another even more wonderful city during my year abroad, but in six months Lübeck still wins.

The Dom through the trees. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The Dom through the trees. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I convinced my brother and his family that we must visit Lübeck during our eleven-day excursion. Andreas and I chose our favorite Airbnb and booked the whole thing last spring.

One of the bathrooms in our Airbnb. You have to be very careful not to hit your head on that beam when you use the potty. The ceiling is low. I love this place. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
One of the bathrooms in our Airbnb. You have to be very careful not to hit your head on that beam when you use the potty. The ceiling is low. I love this place. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Three bedrooms and two shared kitchens and baths. I thought that having this much “space” would be good for the six of us. I wasn’t aware that what I think is a lot of space is very tiny for other people. My brother and his family are use to more space and more bathrooms. The Airbnb was referred to as “another one of Dragonfly’s dollhouses”. Ha ha, so true. I can see it now in retrospect and have learned a lesson. Sorry to smoosh you in there, family.

Andreas and nephews play Skat in the "dollhouse" living room. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas and nephews play Skat in the “dollhouse” living room. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In Lübeck we found ourselves splitting off into little groups. Brother and sister-in-law to the Christmas market for Glühwein while Uncle Andreas and Auntie Fly hang out with the kids, sister-in-law and I yarn and resale shopping, Andreas and shorter nephew Geocaching the island with seven finds! We also went out to dinner as a group. My husband is a very patient menu translator, a saint really.

Sister-in-law and I found this amazing yarn and fabric store. I visited this store three times in three days. Heaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Sister-in-law and I found this amazing yarn and fabric store. I visited this store three times in three days. Heaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We planned one special lunch to introduce my family to Andreas’ local family as we were newly married three weeks before. We chose a restaurant in the cellar of the Heiligen-Geist Hospital. It is one of the oldest existing social institutions in the world founded in 1227. I regret not photographing the interior, it was cool and I hope to tour the rest of the building when we visit again. (Check it out here) Andreas’ parents, Aunt and older cousin were able to attend. We had a very nice lunch and I would recommend the restaurant. (English menus! Andreas had the day off.)

The author with her new German family feeling very lucky and loved. Photo by Patrick LeathrumThe author with her new German family feeling very lucky and loved. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The author with her new German family feeling very lucky and loved. Photo by Patrick Leathrum

After lunch we visited Jakobikirche. The church of the seafarers built around 1300. Andreas’ aunt mentioned that she hadn’t been inside in years. She said it’s where the town stored the bread reserves during WWII.

Jakobikirche The church of the seafarers. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Jakobikirche The church of the seafarers. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

My brother and entourage moved on to Berlin the next day so we invited Andreas’ parents to join us for a night in the Airbnb. They are local to Lübeck and we thought they would enjoy seeing the place and its special location.

Enjoying the slideshow of our Arctic trip on the computer while relaxing in our Airbnb. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Enjoying the slideshow of our Arctic trip on the computer while relaxing in our Airbnb. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We toured the city and visited the large Buniamshof sports complex that Christa’s father managed from 1950 to 1973.

Christa lived on the second floor of this building at the Buniamshof Sports Complex as a teenager. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Christa lived on the second floor of this building at the Buniamshof Sports Complex as a teenager and later Andreas and his siblings spent many days playing here as children. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Impossible sometimes to take a photo of these two. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Impossible sometimes to take a photo of these two. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We had lunch in the Im Alten Zolln bar nearby that Christa’s father liked to visit. When he visited for too long Lothar would fetch him home in the days before Andreas was born.  It was nice listening to Andreas’ parents reminisce about the days before they were married.

Lunch at Im Alten Zolln. Lots of family history here. The also have awesome kartoffelpuffer with smoked salmon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Lunch at Im Alten Zolln. Lots of family history here. The also have awesome kartoffelpuffer with smoked salmon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Lothar and Santa at Im Alten Zolln. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Lothar and Santa at Im Alten Zolln. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The next morning, after a huge breakfast at Café Calma where Christa made a beautiful salad bouquet, we were back on the train happy to be returning to Bremerhaven and a few quiet months at home. Goodbye Lübeck, you are my go to place for art supplies (no good arts and crafts places in Bremerhaven), fun cafe’s, cute shops and beautiful churches. I can’t get lost when I visit because you are a small island and that comforts me. Until next time, my favorite.

The author and Christa at Cafe Calma. Christa holds her bouquet created from the fancy salads accompanying our breakfasts. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
The author and Christa at Cafe Calma. Christa holds her bouquet created from the fancy salads accompanying our breakfasts. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
What should we do with these pretty flowers? ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
What shall we do with these pretty flowers and bits of baby greens? ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Auntie Fly and Uncle Andreas attempt a family Christmas

Next stop on the Christmas train was Bremerhaven, Germany. We hoped that a couple of days in Bremerhaven at our apartment might be a relaxing place for Christmas.

We arrived on the 23rd, checked brother and sister-in-law into their hotel by the river and then got the kids settled in at our place. On Christmas Eve morning Andreas and my brother bicycled to the outdoor market in Geestemünde and then to the fish market. I can’t believe how much food they carried back on bikes for the six of us.

Christmas eve and Christmas day's dinner ingredients from local Bremerhaven markets.
Christmas eve and Christmas day’s dinner ingredients from local Bremerhaven markets.
Uncle Andreas cooking soup all afternoon. Luckily he has some wine. Notice the laundry pile in the corner by our baby washer.
Uncle Andreas cooking soup all afternoon. Luckily he has some wine. Notice the laundry pile in the corner by our baby washer.

Andreas created a wonderful vegetable soup while shorter nephew and I went to the zoo down the street. That’s the first time I have been to a zoo on Christmas Eve. We also stopped by a few playgrounds.

The playground in the middle of the zoo. Auntie Fly spies on nephew with telephoto lens, nephew spies back.
The playground in the middle of the zoo. Auntie Fly spies on nephew with telephoto lens, nephew spies back.

The others napped here and there and we washed many loads of laundry. Laundry involved careful timing because we don’t have a dryer, so we hung the clothes all over our apartment. My sister-in-law bought clothes line at Woolworths to hang up socks in her hotel room. She said, “My mother told me to bring a clothes line and I didn’t listen.” I would never think to travel with one, but I might now.

Taller nephew's favorite napping spot. He couldn't stay awake in that chair.
Taller nephew’s favorite napping spot. He couldn’t stay awake in that chair.
Learning Skat from the master.
Learning Skat from the master.

In the evening Andreas began to teach the German card game Skat which he plays every week with friends at home. I’m glad I wasn’t involved, there seems to be a pile of rules, what a bore. My sister-in-law and I were happy to knit and ignore. Taller nephew was absorbed in the book 1984.

Christmas Pickle
Christmas Pickle

Christmas morning arrived with a pickle hiding in the tiny tree, (My family says it’s a German thing?) and a few new games for the nephews.

Tiny tree/ shrub
Tiny tree/ shrub

We ate Andreas’ famous pancakes for breakfast and then settled in for more naps, laundry and games. Shorter nephew and I discovered a zip line at a local park and then he and Uncle went for a bicycle ride around town.

Andreas made a giant quantity of potato salad (which he finally finished eating Jan. 3rd) and we ate smoked fish from the fish market. I tried smoked eel for the first time. It looks scary, but it’s delicious. My wonderful husband took off the skin and deboned it for me, otherwise yuck forget it.

Coming “home” for a family holiday was in fact a good plan. We were rested, had clean skivvies and were ready to catch our next train on the 26th.

Hurry up and eat that breakfast, sleepy nephew! We have an early train to catch.
Hurry up and eat that breakfast, sleepy nephew! We have an early train to catch.

BicycleDAM!

Not quite 4:00pm in Amsterdam a few days before Christmas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
 Amsterdam a few days before Christmas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Look out! Don’t cross yet! Watch out for the scooter! These phrases peppered our trip to Amsterdam. The bicyclists and the sheer number of bicycles are bananas. The bicycle path is SERIOUS business. We were warned about them in every guide book and video about the city. Do not step into these lanes carelessly and be as cautious about them as cars when crossing the street. The bike lanes host motorized scooters in many variations as well and everyone is keeping speed.

Crooked buildings in a crooked town. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Crooked buildings in a crooked town. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I think it’s great that so many people commute by bike. It’s interesting to see what it looks like when bicycles outnumber cars four to one in a city. Parking for bikes seems to be a problem. They crowd most sidewalks in front of stores and on residential streets. Small children ride seated with parents on the bike either front, back or in a covered cargo bin on special bikes. I didn’t see many under ten pedaling in the lanes. Fun fact: They say that they pull out 12,000 to 15,000 bikes from the canals every year.

Wet selfie of Andreas and the Author in Amsterdam. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Wet selfie of Andreas and the Author in Amsterdam. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas and I met my brother and his family in Amsterdam for the beginning of an eleven-day trip. Amsterdam, gray and drizzly was wonderful.

Swinging in the rain... Uncle Andreas, Auntie Fly and shorter nephew take a much needed museum break in Vondel Park Amsterdam. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Swinging in the rain… Uncle Andreas, Auntie Fly and shorter nephew take a much needed museum break in Vondel Park Amsterdam. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I loved the canals, the tall crooked houses and the friendly, English speaking people. It was a nice break from Bremerhaven, Germany to be able to speak English with someone and not feel embarrassed about it. We stayed in an Airbnb with steep staircases, a little kitchen and giggling neighbors in the next house over; twenty minutes walking distance from my brother’s hotel.

My brother's wife can knit anywhere. Here she is in a giant chair in their hotel lobby. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My sister-in-law can knit anywhere. Here she is in a giant chair in their hotel lobby. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Thank God Andreas has a good sense of direction. I was always pointing the wrong way.

We walked past this awesome cheese shop. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We walked past this awesome cheese shop. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The six of us toured the city and the art museums. My brother’s family saw many more museums than we did for the kids. Andreas and I are pretty content to sit in a coffee shop and people watch. We did visit the Rijksmuseum which I loved. It wasn’t very crowded and there were some wonderful portraits.

Stained glass in the Rijksmuseum. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Stained glass in the Rijksmuseum. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A favorite painting from the Rijksmuseum.
A favorite painting from the Rijksmuseum.
The Rijksmuseum also has some wonderful doll houses.
The Rijksmuseum also has some wonderful doll houses.

The Van Gogh Museum was lovely too but very crowded. I did enjoy seeing so much of his work in one space. I came away with a new feeling about the paintings.

Peeking over the crowds at the Van Gogh Museum.
Peeking over the crowds at the Van Gogh Museum.

Andreas and I travel differently. I’m used to traveling with some bread and cheese in my backpack, a couple of candy bars and bottle of water. He finds the best coffee and has it ground for the Airbnb, he likes nice restaurants and orders what he doesn’t know how to cook himself and wine. In the morning we look for bakeries and eat fresh bread and pastry. We stay in safe, clean places. I definitely prefer this type of travel. Ha ha.

Nephews entertaining themselves in a cafe' with a rousing game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Batman, Bunny Foo Foo. It's their own creation. Bunny Foo Foo trumps. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Nephews entertaining themselves in a cafe’ with a rousing game of Rock, Paper, Scissors, Batman, Bunny Foo Foo. It’s their own creation. Bunny Foo Foo trumps. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The finer restaurants have swings. Or should have for nephews. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The finer restaurants have swings. Or should have for nephews. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The experience in the city was a little overwhelming at times but wonderful especially before Christmas. Get to Amsterdam, it’s unlike any city I’ve visited.

Appreciating the architecture. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Appreciating the architecture in Amsterdam. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

 

 

Married Backwards

Our first morning back in America and we're awake at 4:00 am making pancakes. So happy to be home. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our first morning back in America and we’re awake at 4:00 am making pancakes. So happy to be home. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas and I chose to get married halfway through our year-long honeymoon/sabbatical in Germany. Two weeks ago, we flew home to America to see friends, to go through a huge pile of mail, and to reinforce our dislike of suburban car culture. Oh, and we got married too.

Andreas with his wedding present in front of my Art Car. Driving after 5 months was fun, but I quickly became tired of traffic and parking lots. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas with his wedding present in front of my Art Car. Driving after 5 months was fun, but I quickly became tired of traffic and parking lots. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Saturday night came the wedding reception. We had a potluck party at our home with friends and family. It was great to catch up with everyone. We did not expect to be able to see our friends until well into next year, so this was truly fun and special.

We almost forgot the obligatory cutting the cake photo. Lucky for us Caryn baked a cake.
We almost forgot the obligatory cutting the cake photo. Lucky for us Caryn baked a cake.
My wonderful work friends. Love these women! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My wonderful work friends. Love these women! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
It's not a wedding without flowers. How great to have flowers in the house in the wintertime. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
It’s not a wedding without flowers. How great to have flowers in the house in the wintertime. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
This photo is special to me because it shows how wonderful and caring my friends are. Other friends helped the party run smoothly as well. We're lucky to have such great friends.
This photo is special to me because it shows how wonderful and caring my friends are. Other friends helped the party run smoothly as well. We’re lucky to have such great friends.

Sunday afternoon my Uncle George officiated our wedding. This was a small affair with eleven people in our living room in front of the fire.

Andreas, Uncle George and Dragonfly. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography
Andreas, Uncle George and Dragonfly. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography

We toasted to our commitment to love and cherish with fancy champagne gifted from friends. This was not planned, because we received the champagne the night before. Half our guest had toasts prepared and delivered them while we stood in a circle with our glasses. I love this memory and recommend small weddings. We then moved on to a local restaurant. With so few people we conversed easily and fully enjoyed the experience.

Lots of kisses for the bride. Left to right: Sherri,Matron of Honor, us and Uncle George and Christina, Best Woman. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography
Lots of kisses for the bride. Left to right: Sherri, Matron of Honor, us and Uncle George and Christina, Best Woman. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography
Michael, Sherri, Dragonfly, Andreas, Christina and George. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography
Michael, Sherri, Dragonfly, Andreas, Christina and George. Photo by Glenn Davies Photography

Next year, our jeweler friend Caryn Hetherston will deliver the rings she is handcrafting to Germany when she visits and, perhaps, Andreas will propose. Ha ha

This was waiting for Andreas when he returned to work at AWI in Bremerhaven. He works with some awesome people. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
This was waiting for Andreas when he returned to work at AWI in Bremerhaven. He works with some awesome people. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Cold enough to visit an Eisbär

I live in a smallish, northern, German city on the Weser River. Bremerhaven has five first class museums (that I know of) and a zoo. All of these are a short walking distance from my apartment. Exciting for a suburban girl from Delaware.

This morning Andreas’ graduate student, Cassandra from New York, (so upstate she can “see” Canada from her house) and I decided to visit Zoo am Meer. (zoo next to the sea). We chose to go on an icy cold day because the zoo is home to mostly colder climate animals and creatures that live in the water, including an Eisbär (polar bear). I’m not a huge fan of zoos and I certainly did not want to see the poor polar bear in the heat of summer. Thus, a frosty November morning seemed like happy polar bear weather.

We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We assumed this was a duck until she decided to check us out. Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Before moving to Bremerhaven, I read a short chapter in a German guide book describing the city. The book suggested that Bremerhaven was good for a day visit at most, and there was a very strange zoo created out of cement to look like a giant rock.

Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Arctic Fox, Zoo am Meer, Bremerhaven. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The zoo is strange, however, I really enjoyed my visit. It may be because Cassandra and I were the only visitors for a while. The habitats were nice and well planned around a climbing area for children in the giant rock landscape. Most of the animals seemed pretty content for being stuck in a zoo in Bremerhaven, including the polar bear.

Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Zoo am Meer Bremerhaven Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.
No match for a polar bear. Photo of the author by Cassandra Elmer.

A Fishhead and a redhead walk into a cafe’ in rainy Schleswig

How do two Americans in Germany celebrate a birthday? They travel to Schleswig! Now I have my German friend’s attention. They’re all thinking, Schleswig, what the hell is so special about Schleswig? Everything and nothing, friends, it was a fun, laid-back, easy, romantic weekend away.

Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle
Schleswig, Germany from a window in Gottorf Castle

In July Andreas brought me to Lübeck for my birthday. So, I said that he should pick his favorite place for his birthday. Easier said than done. So many choices! One week I was told that we would travel to Spiekerroog, the next week to Föhr, every few weeks he would choose a new place. Finally, a week before his birthday I begged for a decision, so that I could Google the place, and his finger landed on the map at the town of Schleswig in northern Germany.

Andreas is born and raised a “Fishhead.” He loves fish, cold, windy, rainy weather and sitting in little cafes eating “Kuchen” listening to the locals speak “Plattdeutsch” by large bodies of water. Schleswig was all these things.

We stayed in a small hotel instead of an Airbnb which is unusual for us, but it was attached to a little restaurant, included breakfast, and was on the water. The hotel was located by Holm an old fishing village. In the center of the village is the oldest Abbey in northern Germany.

The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The oldest Abbey in northern Germany. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

A beautiful, idyllic place full of cafes and artisans. The people in the village are proud of the age of their homes and often have the year posted in large iron numbers.

Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas Muenchow appreciating the glass art in front of a gallery/ studio in Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

They and the rest of the city are also extremely fond of roses. There are two or three trained rose bushes on the front of every house and most stores. It must be amazing when the roses are in season. We were lucky enough to see some blooms in November.

A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A lane in Holm. Notice the rose bushes trained against the houses. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The biggest surprise for me in Schleswig was the art collections. We visited an Outsider Art museum located in a poorhouse from 1630.The building was almost more interesting than the art. Next, we walked to a modern art museum located in the old stables of Gottorf Castle.

A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
A surprisingly wonderful museum showcasing modern art by north German artists. A must see if you visit Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We also viewed the art collections in the Castle as well.

The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The chapel in Gottorf Castle, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We found the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig (hard to miss the tallest building in town) that had its original stained glass. Most of the churches we’ve visited so far have been bombed and replaced with modern glass so this was really exciting. (for me)

An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
An amazing 3-D wood carving. The intricate details were unreal. Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Beautiful, intricate, huge stained glass window in the Cathedral of St. Peter of Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Between museum visits and walking around town in the rain were many stops to café’s for coffee and cake.  Andreas had birthday cake many times over the weekend.

Cake at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Cake and coffee at the castle. Salted caramel and marzipan. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

In the first café we sat near a Danish girl in snow pants who also celebrated a birthday. Her family played a tiny music box and sang Happy Birthday in English.

The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The birthday boy, Andreas Muenchow, with his favorite gooseberry torte and hot chocolate. Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We didn’t just eat cake in Schleswig, although it felt like it, Andreas also enjoyed many fishy dinners with local beer which made him pretty happy.

Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Super good, fishy birthday dinner. Holm, Schleswig. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The best indication of whether Andreas and I like a place is if we start researching housing prices, which we did on our third café morning. I recommend giving Schleswig a visit. It seems to be very popular with bicyclists during the summer months. There is also the Hedeby Viking Museum which we missed due to walking distance and time restraints. I’d like to return there someday.

Old in Art School a brief review

When I recently published a blog about my current artwork I searched WordPress out of curiosity to see what other women artists create and write. I came across Dr. Nell Painter and read that she had recently published a book titled Old in Art School. This caught my attention as I’ve considered returning to art school after 26 years to earn my MFA.

Old in Art School by Nell Painter. I recommend.
Old in Art School by Nell Painter. I recommend.

I was hoping for some tips on applying to schools, managing graduate critiques and the general atmosphere and expectations of art graduate school from the perspective of someone older than 25. The book offered this and a truly interesting memoir about Dr. Nell Painter. The full story was unexpected and I’m happy that she spoke of her life experience during her studies, not just the art school happenings. I am sad to read that women are still thought of as somewhat second-rate artists who will probably not become “real artists.” I had enough of that sentiment during the completion of my BFA.

Pages bookmarked for future reference and so many new artists (to me) to look up. Old in Art School by Nell Painter.
Pages bookmarked for future reference and so many new artists (to me) to look up. Old in Art School by Nell Painter.

I recommend this book to women artists and anyone else who is considering a career change mid-life. Also, to anyone who enjoys a beautifully written memoir.

Nell Painter and I both had/have a German sabbatical year. We also hail from Newark. Painter lives in New Jersey and I’m usually in Delaware. I hope to meet Dr. Painter someday to talk about our paintings over coffee or a beer.