Let’s Talk About the Weather.

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

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

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

Julien’s stuffed tomatoes! Yum!

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

Making Tin Man Robots.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas in Bad Wildungen 2021

Ok, first of all for the non-German readers, Bad Wildungen doesn’t mean that Wildungen is bad. Bad is the word for bath or spa, so this is a spa town. It was first mentioned near some hot springs around 800, its castle was built around 1200, they persecuted a bunch of witches between 1532 and the mid-1600s and received its recent name in 1906. At least according to Wikipedia.

Bad Wildungen from the Castle

We chose to travel there because Andreas’ parents were there for Christmas with a bus tour. I thought it would be nice to visit with them during the holiday. It was kind of a crazy idea made crazier by the topography and the temperatures. Okay, this might not have been my best idea. His parents were pretty booked with their tour. They made time for us both days to have coffee, but I feel a little bad that we pulled them away from their events. Our Airbnb was near the castle. If you know castles you know that they are likely built on the top of a hill. The town was at the bottom of said hill and Andreas’ parents were staying across town from there. One day Andreas logged over 16,000 steps on his phone.

We also chose our Airbnb because it was the cheapest one and the photos were nice. When we arrived, we found that it was built out of old stable in a barn. Kind of cool and Christmas story like. There were rabbits, cats, cows, chickens and a very shy, weird sheep. The owner had a dog, but sadly I didn’t get to meet it. There was a lovely garden outside our bedroom door. It was a sweet place, but very cold. It was in the 20’s F outside. The floor was so cold we kept pillows under our feet when we were sitting.

But then, Christmas morning SNOW! A white Christmas! It was awesome and beautiful. We slid down the hill by the castle through the woods. Andreas’ worn-out Birkenstocks had no tread on them. Yes, he wears sandals in the snow. We walked through the parks to his parent’s spa as the snow fell and then walked with them over slippery sidewalks and cobblestones to the old town for coffee and cake. I was worried about them falling, but they weren’t hearing my concerns, they were going out.

All in all, a beautiful few days in Bad Wildungen. We probably won’t be back there again, but if spas are your thing I recommend.

Covid Christmas eve church service in front of our Airbnb. The preacher is on the wagon behind the tractor with a Christmas tree.

Photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Happy Fall Equinox

Hi friends, let me catch you up on the second part of our summer on this first day of Autumn.

Andreas and I began the month of August celebrating the four-year anniversary of our first coffee date with more coffee. We had a fun time remembering how nervous we were to meet each other in person after connecting online.

Early August was a time of preparation. Andreas completed and submitted a grant proposal long in the works. Next, we prepared a party for grad students who are attending his classes. We had a nice bar-b-que outside on the deck serving salmon, sausages, potato salad and local corn on the cob. Andreas had to teach a few of the new foreign students how to eat corn this way. They enjoyed throwing the finished cobs into the garden to compost.

 The most important thing Andreas had to prepare for in August was his trip to western Greenland aboard a Danish Navy vessel. His job was to assist his friend Steffen in Copenhagen with data collecting and processing aboard the ship. He left in the middle of the month for a five-week long voyage from Aasiaat to Thule Greenland.

While Andreas prepared for his trip, I prepared the house and our guest room for our nephews from Oregon to visit at the end of the month. They arrived with a long list of ideas of what they would like to do in Newark. We accomplished some things, as much as we (I) felt like during a hot, humid week. Unfortunately Andreas was at sea because they enjoy many of the same activities he does.

College nephew waking up with his cup of tea at 11:30am.

We visited local relatives who haven’t seen the boys in a long time, went swimming almost every day, and did a survey on the best playgrounds in the city; Downs School won.

Ritter Park.
On the playground at Downs School.

My friend Christina and her finance’ Scott super generously hosted us for dinner three times. The night nephews arrived Christina had a party with some of our high school friends. The boys played cornhole and got to talk with people their dad and I have known for years.

Another night she and Scott made spaghetti and we all watched an Indiana Jones movie. On the boy’s last day in Newark their aunt, uncle and cousin drove up from Baltimore and Christina hosted again. I am forever grateful as a person that doesn’t like to cook to have such amazing friends. My nephews are pretty good at cornhole now too after so much practice and good tips from Scott.

Since I don’t cook too much we also went to some fun restaurants. We visited the Miss Oxford Diner sitting at the counter and listening to the waitresses’ conversations with the locals. We drove past some Amish farms which the boys hadn’t seen before. We went to Jessop’s Tavern in old New Castle and walked around the Delaware river and historic buildings.

Delaware Tourists.

We also ate at Feby’s in Wilmington because nephews were told that seafood on the east coast is really good. They were brave about trying new things.

We were invited by our cousin Erin to hear her play with the University of Delaware marching band. The band gave a friends and family performance after their band camp week. Unfortunately, we were sitting far away from where Erin was on the field, but we got a few photos. After the band performance we had ice cream at the UD Dairy and then walked around the botanical gardens.

On the evening I had to work the boys walked to Main St. by themselves to have dinner during the city’s alfresco night. They gave themselves a campus tour, ate more UD ice cream then landed on the porch at Klondike Kates Restaurant for dinner. They took their time walking home arriving after dark which made Auntie-Fly a little nervous. It was the first time they had ever dined out on their own together, kind of cool. In a very unteenage fashion they left their room and bathroom as clean as they found it. Their bed was made and they sent me a thank you card. Their mother should be proud.

A few days after the boys flew home, I received a message from Andreas saying that his Navy vessel was unexpectedly called into service. He and the other scientists onboard were told to go home and he was dropped off at the Thule US Air Force Base on the north western coast of Greenland. Luckily, he was able to secure a military flight to Baltimore soon after and then, surprise he returned home two weeks early. This is great news for me, but I feel sorry for the scientists and their mission. That is a lot of money and time lost. Here are a few of Andreas’ photos from his trip. The man standing on the ship is Andreas’ colleague Steffen.

Through August and September in the studio I have been working on my yearly commissions for Special Olympics Delaware and a few smaller side commissions and skateboards.

I am also working on a large painting commission, but the level of complexity involved has made for very very slow progress (sorry customer/ friends). A University of Delaware art student contacted me asking about a paid internship and I hired her two weeks ago.

Dragonfly Art Studios new intern Natalie from Milton, DE

Natalie has been preparing painting surfaces and cleaning stained glass for me. We talk about being an artist and the business of art. It’s interesting for me to hear how the art department has changed at my alma mater during the past twenty-nine years. It’s wonderful having her work here. It forces me to spend a little extra time in the studio and she is helping me catch up on some projects I’ve been putting off.

Play with your food.

In garden news the tomatoes keep coming and coming. Everyday we pick at least one. We had a good crop of carrots and recently we have planted a fall crop of radishes, leeks and something else. I can’t remember the third thing so we are referring to that as the winter surprise.

Just some of my friends I caught up with this month. There are more, but I have photos of these guys. That is Christina with the beautiful purple cocktail.

I will end this blog by mentioning as of fifteen minutes ago Andreas and I have rented our guest room to a visiting professor from France. He needed a place and we had one. So now Julien lives in our house this year. He seems very nice.

Summer Recipe: add Gardens, Friends and Art

It is a rare, gorgeous 73-degree July morning. I love having the windows open and the air conditioner off. Yesterday was my birthday. I spent most of the day finishing and uploading a grant proposal that is due in a couple of days and teaching. I also made time to swim and Andreas cooked a wonderful dinner to share with our friends.

We have enjoyed a good summer so far. The gardens have been prolific with fruits and vegetables. In some cases, producing much better than past years. Andreas is still perplexed that we were able to grow cabbage. The new variety of produce is stretching his recipe library and I think he enjoys the challenge. Of course, we are growing more than we can eat, which is no accident. We get a lot of joy sharing any extra.

We are more social now. We have attended art openings, parties, and dinners. On the 4th of July we hosted our first large party for our friend Mary, so she would not need to host her annual party at her house. She provided the guest list, we provided the house, drinks, and sockeye salmon to grill. Mary’s guests and mutual friends brought the rest of the food. It was a fun pot luck on a mild Sunday afternoon.

Our nephew Sam Parsons tried to qualify for the Olympics running for Germany. We were able to watch the race on two screens concurrently. The first was on the TV at my brother-in-law’s house in Diez, Germany that I connected to via Zoom while the second was Andreas’ laptop in Newark, U.S.A. Complicated, right? Technology is amazing. Andreas figured out how to access the German network on his computer so we had a better view.

As an early birthday present to myself, my friend Linda and I took a train to New York City for three days. We stayed in an Art Deco style hotel in Greenwich Village, dined at vegan restaurants she wanted to try, walked all over the hot and humid streets of Manhattan, and went to museums. We had two fun, relaxing evenings. The first evening we drank at the hotel bar and shared some appetizers. We were the only patrons in the bar and restaurant. On the second we went to a bar called Wilfie and Nell recommended by my niece Molly. Wilfie and Nell seemed to be favored by twenty/ thirty year olds as a date destination bar. We were surrounded by well dressed couples on their best behavior sharing sweet stories. Oh, and the fries were really good. We recommend.

 Linda and I saw the Alice Neel show at the Metropolitan Museum of Art before we walked through the Calder show at the MoMa. In between we somehow found time to lunch on vegan sushi. The Alice Neel show was my main incentive for traveling to the city. We entered the gallery by snaking through other galleries in a crowded line. Despite the wait, I was inspired to be in the same space with so many of Neel’s paintings. It’s an improved experience over flipping through reproductions in a book. The Calder works were wonderful in person and I enjoyed seeing his sketches. Linda commented that he must have very strong hands. Most likely he did working in metal.

Below are some works by Neel, Calder and many other artist that inspired me that day.

 I thought the vegan restaurants Linda researched were imaginative and the food was very well made. Some highlights for me were vegan mac and cheese, Thai food (noodles!), sushi and the peanut butter brownie honeycomb vegan ice cream she found. I will be dreaming about that ice cream. Linda is a well known vegan chef; she made some cute videos of our restaurant experiences. You can see them on Facebook at Ester’s Kitchen and on Instagram @esters_kitchen_ek. She also describes the restaurants and menus more eloquently than I will here.

A vegan breakfast shake with banana, basil, ginger and cacao.

Linda and I felt surprised and mildly annoyed that a lot of businesses don’t accept cash, and menus can only be read on QR codes. That feeling may be us showing our age. We were happy to encounter masks wearing and outdoor dining options across the city. The new to me bike lanes are wonderful, but like in Amsterdam, you have to watch out for the electric bikes.

As with every other season, work consumes most of our time. Andreas is editing and re-writing a paper with colleagues, writing a proposal and preparing to teach three courses in the fall. He is also on the hunt for lantern flies in the garden killing as many of the invasive buggers as he can. I am teaching, working on commissions and in my free time painting new works for upcoming Trashy Women shows. Recently I was given musical instruments to upcycle into art. So far, I have transformed a violin from it’s original brown state to a disgruntled portrait ha ha. Yesterday I picked up some lovely pieces of rusted metal from an artist’s home in Maryland to re-imagine into who knows what. Having a great summer. Hope you are too.

Written by Dragonfly Leathrum

photos by Dragonfly Leathrum

Walker Hotel photos by Linda

Del Pizzo

Gibby Annoucement photos by the Gibby Center.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Before and After

Before
Before

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

After
After

Back of house
Back of house

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

Before dining room.
Before dining room.

After dining room
After dining room

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

Before dining room
Before dining room

Dining room after
After dining room

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

Before hallway
Before hallway

After hallway
After hallway

After hallway
After hallway

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

Before kitchen
Before kitchen

After kitchen
After kitchen

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

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

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

Before yeast cake
Before yeast cake

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

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

Before home haircut.
Before home haircut.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Growing Food Not Lawns. (Hopefully)

Andreas' Graham Thomas roses at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ Graham Thomas roses at sunset. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

 Andreas and I recieved recognition from the Audubon Society for our natural habitats and attention to planting for the birds.
Andreas and I received recognition from the Audubon Society for our natural habitats and attention to planting for the birds.

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.

Fresh paint on the Art Car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Fresh paint on the Art Car. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Mosaics are like puzzles. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Mosaics are like puzzles. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Seven of the ten stepping stones created for the tour. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Seven of the ten stepping stones created for the tour. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Andreas at Garden Tour speaking with visitors. Photo by Josh Shannon of the Newark Post
Andreas during the Garden Tour speaking with visitors. Photo by Josh Shannon of the Newark Post

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.

Tired and enjoying some wine after a long day. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Very tired and enjoying some wine after a long day. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Big house for rent. Four bedrooms and three full baths.
Big house for rent. Four bedrooms and three full baths. Say goodbye to the lawn, garden beds are coming.

The kitchen is a little outdated looking, but it's in excellent condition. That goes for the rest of the house right now too.
The kitchen is a little outdated looking, but it’s in excellent condition. That goes for the rest of the house right now too.

The back of the house.
The back of the house.

Now we hope life will slow down to a summer pace and the Coronavirus will disappear soon.

Time to read again. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Back to reading. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Art Gardening in Nottingham Forest

There is a dove with babies living in that Trumpet vine. She doesn't seem to mind us.
There is a dove with babies living in that Trumpet vine. She doesn’t seem to mind us.

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.

Our hero Christina braved Costco and brought TP. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our hero Christina braved Costco and brought TP. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Thanks City of Newark for the new water pipe and sidewalk. These guys did a great job.
Thanks City of Newark for the new water pipe and sidewalk. These guys did a great job.

Since the weather warmed the garden grows and blooms. It started with the camellias, azaleas and Celandine poppies.

Andreas' favorite Fire Azaleas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ favorite Fire Azaleas. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Peony. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Peony. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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?

Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Iris. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Graham Thomas rose. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Graham Thomas rose. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

The gardener. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
The gardener. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Mountain Laurel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Mountain Laurel. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Dinner on the deck. Andreas cooked. Photo by Andreas Muenchow
Dinner on the deck. Andreas cooked. Photo by Andreas Muenchow

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.

Wren house and photo by Dragonfly
Wren house and photo by Dragonfly

A rose by any other name is still a rose. Sign and Photo by Dragonfly
A rose by any other name is still a rose. Sign and Photo by Dragonfly

Mason Bee house and photo by Dragonfly
Mason Bee house and photo by Dragonfly

Snail mail with flair. By Dragonfly Leathrum
Snail mail with flair. By Dragonfly Leathrum

Is it poisonous? Yes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Is it poisonous? Yes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Yeah, probably not coffee in that mug. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Yeah, probably not coffee in that mug. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

 

 

 

 

Same Storm Different Boats

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.

Andreas has been spending sometime trying and following new recipes. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas has been spending sometime trying and following new recipes. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

He learned how to cook my favorite German meal. Kartoffelpuffer mit Lox. He made homemade applesauce too. Yum!
He learned how to cook my favorite German meal. Kartoffelpuffer mit Lox. He made homemade applesauce too. Yum!

Andreas figured out that he can order German chocolate through Amazon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas figured out that he can order German chocolate through Amazon. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Pink Camillia in the garden. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Pink Camillia in the garden. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Celendine Poppy in the front garden. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Celendine Poppy in the front garden. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Wildlife! Yikes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathru
Wildlife! Yikes! Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I painted a house for bees. They're not using it yet. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
I painted a house for bees. They’re not using it yet. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Our garden is looking a little torn up at the front because the City came and installed a new water main under the sidewalk.

Our new water pipe. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our new water pipe. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.

Fixing the leak and cracking the driveway.
Fixing the leak and cracking the driveway.

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.

Easter Zoom Kaffee Klatsch America and Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Easter Zoom Kaffee Klatsch America and Germany. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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.”

We have a Polar Bear for the bear hunt. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We have a Polar Bear for the bear hunt. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

Our sidewalk message before the sidewalk was taken out. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our sidewalk message before the sidewalk was taken out. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I’ve been sewing masks and clothes, working on a commission and most recently painted the fireplace.

Before...
Before…

After!!
After!!

We have also used Zoom to teach (Andreas) and take a class (me.)

George, James and I "in" German class.
George, James and I “in” German class.

We try to keep in touch with family and friends.

Happy hour with high school friends. Screen shot by Christina Peters.
Happy hour with high school friends. Screen shot by Christina Peters.

German family Zoom time. So cool.
German family Zoom time. So cool.

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.

Our glasses are fogging up. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Our glasses are fogging up. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

I think we are still happy to be home but are definitely looking forward to warmer, drier weather so we can work outside.

 

Survivalists

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.

I like to collect books like this. Just curious, not crazy. (yet, ha ha)
I like to collect books like this. Just curious, not crazy. (yet, ha ha)

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.

One of Andreas' training manuals sponsored by the National Science Foundation.
One of Andreas’ training manuals sponsored by the National Science Foundation.

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.

Andreas' tomato seedlings. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
Andreas’ tomato seedlings. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

We're also trying to re-grow vegetables from clippings. This is a little celery re-starting. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum
We’re also trying to re-grow vegetables from clippings. This is a little celery re-starting. Photo by Dragonfly Leathrum

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?

Cree