Road Trip Across the US

I just did something I never thought I’d do and never wanted to do. I drove to Oregon and back. To some of you this might sound like a fun trip, but it was never on my bucket list.

My brother called us after New Year’s to say that after the tumor was evaluated from his brain surgery in December his doctor recommended radiation and chemotherapy. My sister-in-law and nephew were scheduled to have a vacation in March. My brother didn’t want them to miss their trip, but he was concerned that navigating the last weeks of radiation therapy might be challenging by himself. He asked if we would come to Oregon. Yes, of course we would, but there is a pandemic and his immune system is compromised. Flying didn’t seem like a good idea so, Andreas and I decided that the safest way across the country Covid wise was to drive.

Andreas thought a drive across the country would be really fun and dove right into planning. He had maps and books open the day we said yes. He chose the route, booked the hotels and planned the food we would take in our cooler. We ate what we brought with us only getting take-out twice.

We bought a new hybrid car before the pandemic and put so few miles on it that we were still getting used to driving it during our trip. It was really nice to have a vehicle we didn’t have to worry about that also got decent gas mileage. Andreas and I have very different driving styles and the first few days were challenging. I scared him, he terrified me, but we didn’t die or wreck the car. The new car also had some new to us safety features which were super helpful.

We chose rt. 80 because it seemed the most snow free in the middle of March. It wasn’t quite; we drove through a few snow storms, but none too serious. Just enough snow and rain to add to driving stress. I admit, the scenery was beautiful in the snow. On the first night we met my cousins in Mishawaka Indiana. A few of them I had only seen on Facebook. Even though we were all masked and keeping our distance we had a nice visit. I hope to have another opportunity to visit them after the pandemic.

Our cousins were so nice to meet us in our hotel lobby in Mishawaka Indiana.
We were so tired after the first night of driving. Ha ha, we had no idea how tired we would be.

On the second day we drove through Des Moines, Iowa. A stained glass artist I admire from Philadelphia had a showing at the Des Moines Art Center. It was a wonderful show and the Art Center turned out to be much more than we expected. Since we were able to visit in the middle of a weekday, we didn’t have to worry about bumping into other people.

Here are some photos from the east to west part of the drive. Click on the photos to see them full size.

My brother was in good spirits when we arrived in Oregon and we were able to spend some time with my sister-in law and nephew before they left on their trip. We worked or went to school on separate computers throughout the house during the weekdays. On the weekend Andreas and nephew hiked and geocached in the Oregon forests. My brother, Andreas, and nephew played cards at night and my sister-in-law and I knitted, fed the pet rats Cheerios and grapes and caught up on things. We also watched movies as brother has a TV. The photo below shows my brother’s latest paint by number masterpiece in front of his little gallery.

My brother and I drove to Seal Rock beach on the Pacific coast during a rainy, windy Wednesday for a change of scenery and some fresh air. The weather was so cold we didn’t stay long.

His west coast town has lower Covid numbers than ours on the east coast and everyone but the college students seem to be pretty careful. We felt that we could venture out and shop a little bit. I met a former art student who I haven’t seen in fifteen years for dinner. She recently moved to Oregon from Alaska. We were able to eat safely outside and had a nice evening catching up. I also visited my parents a few times masked up sitting in their garage or driveway. That was strange, but it was nice to see them after a few years.

The week my nephew and sister-in-law traveled to visit nephew’s older brother at college, Andreas was a guest in our German friend Stefanie’s eighth grade English classroom in Bonn via a Zoom like program. Andreas was featured as a German immigrant to America and the students could ask him any question they liked. Even though the class was voluntary and met in the evening German time, most of the class showed up and they spoke for over an hour. I know Andreas had fun and I think the kids did too.

The photos below show nephews in California during spring break, Andreas speaking with the German students over the computer, the hospital where my brother had his daily radiation treatments, the radiation mask gallery and my brother waiting for train bringing my sister-in-law and nephew home.

Our weeks together went quickly and soon it was time to pack up the car and drive home. We changed route on the first day to avoid snow in the Cascade Mountains and ended up driving through some snow anyway. We weren’t quite as worried about Covid since we didn’t need to protect my brother any longer. We did notice on the way home, however, that fewer people were wearing masks.

Andreas booked a hotel that was established in 1911 in Cheyenne, Wyoming on our second night. A sign near the mirrored elevator stated that in the old days, cowboys would try to sneak their horses into their rooms by using the elevators to save money. We believed it. What we didn’t know until I wrote this and looked up the hotel is that it’s haunted. Which floor is haunted? the one we stayed on, of course. The room was tiny and the heater too loud to use. Andreas made the night better by picking up take-out so we had a warm meal. Cheyenne is an interesting town with not many masks in sight. The hotel, charming in some respects with stained glass and some interesting artwork was too serious about cowboys and Indians memorabilia.

We noticed that a storm front was coming in near the east coast and changed routes for the more southern rt. 70. The change of course gave us new views and we were able to avoid Chicago and travel through some different cities like Indianapolis and Columbus.

Even though we enjoyed watching spring progress through the car windows, after five days driving, home was a welcome sight. We were so happy to be back we couldn’t stop smiling through the first evening.

Now I can say I have driven across the US and back. I don’t need to do it again. It looks pretty from an airplane too.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Christmas Card

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.

Just resting his eyes…not sleeping on the job. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

This is my Biden won, the other guy lost face the day we heard the news.

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.

Article from the Newark Post
Gingerbread house making is a big mess. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum.
Bad dogs live here!
Notre Dame in Gingerbread with Gummy Bear stained glass by Joseph Daigle. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
I know, it’s crazy amazing. He did such a good job. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
My high school friend, Joelle was in town and stopped by the Arts Alliance to see Notre Dame. Photos by Mrs. Pezely and Joelle.

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.

The birthday boy. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Hopefully there will be cranberries and mashed potatoes on this table next year.
Tiny little family portraits. We live all over the US now, so this might be as good as it gets.

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.

Not the photo. haha

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.

October Inktober 2020

Hello, November 1st let me tell you about October before this election in two days, before things get potentially weird. (weirder)

Yellow leaves on a foggy day in our garden. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Andreas tries to stay warm during a socially distanced dinner.
Cooking smores over the fire. For my German friends a smore is two graham crackers, a piece of chocolate and burnt, melted marshmallows. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Personally, this was a productive month. I completed the Inktober challenge 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.

Six window for Special Olympics Delaware. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
White Clay Creek waterfall. Stained glass and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Mosaic cement stepping stones. Mosaics and photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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 best thing about carving pumpkins is roasting the seeds. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Scary Garden! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Social distance tongs for safe candy delivery. I hope most of the leftover candy goes to Andreas’ office. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Andreas experimenting with new spices. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We would like to travel somewhere for a weekend or so but Covid numbers continue to climb.

Current Covid-19 graph (October 31, 2020 numbers) by Andreas Muenchow

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.

Weekly dining out/outside at Sinclair’s Cafe with Mr. Bones. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

2020 March Winds Bring More Than April Showers.

March 23, 2020, we’ve been in self-quarantine for thirteen days. It sounds like the beginning of a dystopian novel. It’s not, it’s just an unexpected beginning to a different way of doing things.

Seen on our walk at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Seen on our walk at Longwood Gardens. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

At the beginning of the month we had warnings that we should be a little more careful and cleaner around each other because of a new Corona virus called Corvid-19. In February I started to buy a few extra canned goods and other foods that keep well. I’m happy I purchased a pack of toilet paper then. I wish I had picked up a bigger pack. My sister-in-law and I met at Longwood Gardens for a walk and carefully avoided door handles and washed our hands. I was asked to present at Career Day at The College School at the University of Delaware and was careful not to touch anything and wash my hands.

Career Day. Sharing with kids age six to thirteen about how important artists are in society and sharing artwork. Photo by Kathy Mosing Seeman
Career Day. Sharing with kids ages six to thirteen about how important artists are in society and sharing artwork. Photo by Kathy Mosing Seeman

Andreas’ sister Christina and husband George came over for dinner. I also traveled to New Jersey with the Trashy Women met to meet the Philadelphia group the Dumpster Diving Divas. Besides extra hand washing it was almost life as normal.

The video illustrates how to pronounce the letter u with an umlaut in German. Homeschooling.

The next week Andreas and I visited a friend who shared gooseberry plants with us, but I chose not to go to my welding class because it involved a small group of people.

Andreas and puppy Puccini dig out gooseberry plants on Maggies farm. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas and puppy Puccini dig out gooseberry plants on Maggie’s farm. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Welding project number one was a bottle tree. An older neighbor walking by commented that she really liked it. That made me feel a little better about trashing up the yard. Lol. Photo and bottle tree by Dragonfly Leathrum
Welding project number one was a bottle tree. An older neighbor walking by commented that she really liked it. That made me feel a little better about trashing up the yard. Lol. Photo and bottle tree by Dragonfly Leathrum

Welding project number two was a bird made from a shovel, clippers, rebar and a piece of an old art project created by Andreas' step-son David for the tail. Photo and bird by Dragonfly Leathrum
Welding project number two was a bird made from a shovel, clippers, rebar and a piece of an old art project created by Andreas’ step-son David for the tail. Photo and bird by Dragonfly Leathrum

I also canceled a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum with friends. After my Monday German class, the University canceled classes and went to an early spring break saying they would be back in a week or two and prepared the professors to teach online. My friend Linda came to the house and we recovered the kitchen chairs which saved me money since they won’t need to be replaced now.

Week three and I cancelled all of my private students saying that we would probably be able to meet again by the end of the month. All other meetings and meet ups are cancelled. I am still walking with friends but we stay at least six feet away from each other. I wear gloves when I get the mail because the mail person does not, then the mail sits in a basket for a while before I open it. I thought a project would be good to keep my mind off of the news, so I painted an immersive mural in our bedroom. I completed the mural including an intense clean of the room in six days. It was wonderful to work without distractions.

Painting branches on Aspen trees in the bedroom. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Painting branches on Aspen trees in the bedroom. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Now we sleep in a snowy Aspen forest. Soon I'll add birds and other creatures. It's a big change ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Now we sleep in a snowy Aspen forest. Soon I’ll add birds and other creatures. It’s a big change ha ha. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Andreas works from home without his normal distractions as well.

Andreas' home office. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ home office. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Home office option two. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Home office option two. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Continuing with projects will be good for us. We have decided to plant vegetables in our few sunny garden patches. These are hard to find in our wooded yard so, some of the vegetables will go in pots. Andreas is enthralled with his tomato plants. He is babying the tiny sprouts moving them to different sunny spots in the house throughout the day and checking them often.

Andreas carefully watering his tomatoes. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas carefully watering his tomatoes. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

On a strange note, I started knitting this snowy looking, winter scarf for my friend saying that hopefully it will bring snow and days off of work for her. Well now she's home from work until at least May. I think it worked too well. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
On a strange note, I started knitting this snowy looking, winter scarf for my friend saying that hopefully it will bring snow and days off of work for her. Well now she’s home from work until at least May. I think it worked too well. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

Today begins week four. We woke up early to be at the grocery store by 7am in the rain. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be crowded then. It was crowded, there were no disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer available for customers and half of the cashiers weren’t wearing gloves. We were. Andreas came shopping with me. It was very surreal. A lot of the shelves were empty, no one was talking, everyone was avoiding each other, some had masks and gloves. Most, mostly men, did not.

We are not unhappy to be quarantined. To me it is an easier isolation than I experienced living in Germany. I have my art studio and supplies. I have commissions that need to be filled and a German class to study for. Andreas has his work and his students to teach online. We are busy and healthy. Our family in Germany and the States are healthy too. We hope that everyone reading this is healthy and has work and hobbies to keep them busy. Our Governor is shutting down our state a little more strictly tomorrow until May 15th now. He has issued his fifth modification to his State of Emergency declaration ordering us to stay at home and closing all non-essential businesses. The University will not re-open to students until next fall and the visit from Andreas’ parents that we were looking forward to in May has been cancelled for now. We are incredibly grateful for electricity, the internet, you and each other.

What’s next? Stay home and stay safe all of you all over the world.

Do you have Bingo?
Do you have Bingo?