Fetching Lala Home

Dear Liza,

After Auntie Bridgett got the house decorated, it was time to get our Christmas tree. We headed down to our favorite Christmas tree lot, just 15 blocks away at 48th and Belmont. The folks there are always helpful, fun, and all their trees are from farms in Molalla, just a few miles from Portland.

We named our new tree Lala, after her hometown, as we named last year’s tree Molly. Yes, we name stuff.

Getting her home was easy, and we even had a plan to get her upstairs to the house without tracking needles up the stairs.

A long rope, a bosun’s knot, and a couple of good pulls, and up she came, from the front patio up over the balcony railing and into the front room.

But of course, she wasn’t really home until she got decorated.

So now she is home, and our home is ready to start the 2022 Christmas season. Happy Christmas!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Littering Leaves

Dear Liza,

It is leaf season in Portland! After hanging around on trees all summer, tons of photosynthesizing bits are giving up the ghost and decorating our neighborhood.

We are now at that magical, all-to-short period between green leaves on the trees and slimy, slippery leaf mulch in the gutters. It makes me so happy that I dash about like a squirrel, taking pictures of the lovely, pre-mulch mosaic.

The city of Portland has major infrastructure dedicated to collecting these masses, and most (but not all) of our neighbors are very good about clearing them away. We appreciate this, even as we watch the color drive away, because wet leaves can really trip you up. No one wants to start winter off with a busted hip.

The Fall brings so many changes. Green leaves become brown and yellow. Brown branches, now blooming with moss, become green. Colorful flowers die back and are replaced by Christmas lights.

Transitions are sweet, kissing one season goodbye and welcoming another. Happy Fall.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Chilly First Friday

Dear Liza,

Last Friday was very cold but not wet, so Auntie Bridgett and I bundled up and walked over to First Friday at SideStreet Arts Gallery. Although she is not a member anymore, she still has art on the wall and lots of friends there.

I wore my light-up hat because by the time we stepped out at 4:30, it was dark outside! These short winter days sure make me appreciate light. And warmth. And art!

The gallery is all decked out for Christmas, with several small trees decorated with hand-made ornaments. Our friend Melody Bush has carved these whimsical Santas from basswood.

Besides Christmas themes, there seemed to be birds everywhere!

Amelia Opie made this bright owl from wood and clay…and there was a whole flock of birds along one wall! Scott Cameron Bell’s Ceramics, Jackie McIntyre’s paintings, and even a raven book carving by Melody Bush.

I got to visit with Anna Magruder, a new member of the gallery, about her paintings that bring history to life. I had recognized many of the images from my history research. Here, she shows a fictionalized Abigail Scott Duniway leading women to vote.

When we had seen all the art we could digest, it was off to find dinner. The temperature was dropping quickly, so we dashed across 28th Street to The Bivy, a pod of food carts. We enjoyed the wood fire pit as we waited for our dinner of chicken crepes to be ready, then walked home enjoying the Christmas lights in the neighborhood.

I hope you have a wonderful week!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out of One Holiday and Into Another

Dear Liza,

We are still eating some Thanksgiving left overs, but Christmas is definitely on the way! Auntie Bridgett, the patron saint of Christmas decor, has been very busy.

After she made the house pretty and bright with four boxes of gnomes, candles and ribbons, we took her out for a walk in the cold. We managed to time it between rain showers.

The clear weather and bright leaves were so classically Fall! Even at 47 degrees, we were comfortable because we wore lots of layers. We walked down to Hawthorne Street and did some people watching, but didn’t go into the shops. Too crowded!

We saw some relics from Halloween out in yards, meeting their inevitable fate with a smile… sort of.

We made a long two mile loop down Hawthorne, to 43rd, then back past the library and into our nice warm house. Tea and pie all around, please!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Remembering Thanksgivings

Dear Liza,

This Thanksgiving, I spent a lot of time feeling grateful for the special people in my life. Not just the family that was here, but those who are far away or who have passed on.

This giant Turkey platter was your Great Grandma Billie’s, and was on every holiday table when I was growing up. I have recently found out that a dear friend and former student, Sammy Rios, has the same platter. It was her mom’s, too.

This delightful ceramic bread pan was a gift from Bridgett’s mom Donna years ago. It makes delicious bread and good memories, even when Donna is in Fallbrook and we are here.

I was thinking of you and your family a lot, Liza. This silly set of snack plates from your Momma Olga years ago made me smile and think of all our holidays together.

And while I was remembering, I found this photo from Great Grandma Billie’s kitchen in Lompoc, with Grandpa Nelson introducing your Daddy David to the joys of Turkey.

Also from that kitchen in Lompoc, the whole gang! Great Grandma Billie, Uncle Jim, Uncle Tim, corners of Lynn’s and Wade’s heads, me, and Grandpa Phil Conway, with your Daddy David on the table.

It is nice to remember good old times, but I don’t want to get lost in them. There is so many reasons right now to be joyful.

Happy Everything! See you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Thanksgiving Together

Dear Liza,

While you and your folks spent Thanksgiving day in The City of Lights, the rest of us all got together at my house in Portland.

After a Turkey mix-up was sorted out (with Laurelhurst Market giving us the best service ever and a fine upgrade) we got everything started and Auntie Katie and Cousins Kestrel and Jasper came over.

Auntie Katie and Jasper taught Bridgett and me how to play role-playing games. The most well known of these is Dungeons and Dragons, of course, but there are lots of others. We were playing Magical Kitties.

We got to make up feline characters with personalities and magical powers, as well as their humans, who had troubles for the kittens to solve. It was fun, and next time it will be even better because we will know more of what’s going on.

We had lots of food, too. The giant half Turkey cooked well in the crockpot, the pumpkin purée got spiced, and veggies were roasted. There was homemade bread, of course. I had baked a regular loaf and four smaller round-ish loaves, which Kestrel transformed into a “bread Turkey”. It was fun, and just as tasty as ever.

We took a long walk after supper, and we saw some lovely Christmas lights (Which I totally forgot to take pictures of, stay tuned), and then back for PIE! Beside delicious apple and pumpkin pies, Auntie Katie made something absolutely new.

This is a Hanishi Custard pie, which is also called Faerie Pie, made with eggs, cornstarch, and vanilla and colored with butterfly pea flowers. It had a Graham Cracker crust flavored with rosemary and lavender. It was amazing; sweet without being sugary, soft and creamy. A Thanksgiving Day triumph of pie.

My contribution to dessert was Grandpa Nelson’s favorite, Pinwheel cookies. The apple and pumpkin pies sat beside them on the counter until knives and forks came out and we ate until we were hopelessly stuffed.

By then, the thread of the game was lost and it was time for the evening to end.
We divided up leftovers and loaded our fridge and Katie’s car, hugged our last hugs and headed in for ginger tea and bedtime.

Love,

Grandma Judy

McMenamin’s Grand Lodge

Dear Liza,

I have told you about the McMenamin brothers an all the wonderful hotels, restaurants, bars and concert venues they create by restoring historic properties.

This weekend we drove clear out to Forest Grove and saw The Grand Lodge. This property was built in 1922 as a retirement home and care facility for members of the Masonic lodge. It has a large hotel building, smaller out buildings, and large gardens.

The Masons struggled to keep it open through the 30s, and it suffered major roof damage in the 1962 Columbus Day storm. In 1999 the McMenamin brothers bought and renovated it, creating a hotel with a spa, soaking tub, two restaurants and five bars and lovely gardens.

The hotel is delightfully quirky. The main floors are bright, with murals telling about bits of local history. There are incredible mosaics and artifacts from Asia, reflecting the women’s auxiliary of the Masons, which is known as the Eastern Star.

The basement also has rooms to rent, the spa and soaking tub, and even The Doctor’s Office Bar.

But the third floor is the weirdest of all. The walls and ceilings are painted dark and the rooms have names like “The Left Hand of Darkness”. I took a bunch of pictures, not really knowing anything about the place. It was creepy but beautiful.

Once we got home and I looked at my pictures, I saw odd green circles in some pictures from the third floor. These are called “ghost orbs” because they sometimes show up in pictures of haunted places. The thought is that they show the energy of spirits hovering around.

Auntie Bridgett did some research and learned that this floor is said to be haunted by a lady named Rose, a resident of the Masonic home who passed away just shy of her 100th birthday. She was known to use lavender cologne and sometimes her scent lingers in the hallway.

Of course, being on the top floor, there are delightful windows bringing sunshine into the spookiness. I don’t know that I would want to spend the night up there, but it sure was fun to visit!

I love learning about new places!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Playing with Pumpkin

Dear Liza,

You know I can’t resist a bargain; if I see something useful for a good price, it is hard for me to pass it by. That is how I came to be processing 20 pounds of pumpkin Wednesday morning.

This fine specimen of pumpkin-ness was for sale at Trader Joe’s for $3.97. That came out to about 20 cents a pound! Needless to say, it came home with us, first as a lovely decoration for Halloween, and then as food.

I have roasted pumpkins before, so I know the drill. but this was just…. More. Auntie Bridgett helped me, and we used the electric knife to cut through the thick skin. We scraped the inside and got loads of seeds to roast for later.

We roasted the halves one at a time, because that’s all that would fit in the oven. We let them cool and peeled the skin off, and chopped them into chunks.

Then came the noisy bit. Using the food processor, I ground the pumpkin into a purée, which will be useful for pies, puddings and side dishes for the next several months. I ended up with 8 quart bags full, all stacked in the freezer like gold at Fort Knox. It took all morning, but I feel very rich for making so much food out of such a small investment.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Out for a Drive

Dear Liza,

Since we have lived in Portland, we have used our car less and less. I thought of this as a good thing …. Less pollution, less wear and tear, more exercise. Right?

As it turns out, cars need to be driven. Some electrical parts of the car are always on, and need electricity from the battery. Driving generates power which charges the battery. Therefore, if you don’t drive the car enough, eventually the battery will die. This happened to us a few weeks ago and we decided that if we are going to keep Miles, we needed to take him out more.

Heading home, Grandpa Nelson found us a new (to us) McMenamin’s venue for lunch! It is called the Grand Lodge and used to be the Masonic Lodge’s retirement home in Forest Grove. As with all the McMenamin’s, it was delightfully quirky and historic. I will tell you more about it in the next blog.

We are still in blinding bright Fall sunshine along with below freezing temperatures. On the drive home, Mt. Hood loomed like a ghost, enormous and covered in snow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Improving the Hat

Dear Liza,

Last Christmas, Bridgett’s mom Donna gave me a great wool hat. It is very warm, gives protection from our bright Fall sun, and looks great. What could be better?

Well, I had an idea. Since our nights are getting longer, it would be nice to be easy to see on our after-dinner walks. Remember, a few years ago I sewed lights onto my big wool coat? Unfortunately, it made carrying grocery bags difficult and I was always afraid of tearing the lights off.

So I carefully unstitched the lights from the coat and sewed them into the hat!! The wire will go down into my pants pocket and be safe from bag handles and such.

It took a while to get it just right, but Sunday evening, I gave it a try, and it worked really well! I will stand out like a street lamp on my next walk in the neighborhood.

I look forward to getting out and about, even when it is dark and cold.

Love,

Grandma Judy