Pretty Planet

Dear Liza,

The weather is getting nicer here, with just sweaters needed most days. I had to get out for a walk.

Everything is blooming! This chestnut tree is about fifteen feet tall, which means it is just a baby. The pink blossoms stand straight up, about six inches tall, and the bees love them.

Banks of rhododendrons planted in the 1920s line the sidewalks of the Sunnyside and Laurelhurst neighborhoods.

Since it is almost June, the roses that Portland is famous for have started blooming, as well. They look particularly nice when growing a bit wildly by a wonderful old house.

And, of course, it rained a bit while we were out. Not enough to be miserable, just enough to decorate the roses and remind us of what makes this part of the country so lush and green.

I got home, a bit damp, but happy to live on such a pretty planet.


Grandma Judy

Spring Sundowns

Dear Liza,

Portland weather doesn’t do anything by halves. When it is cold and windy in mid-February, it is dishearteningly grim. When it rains for a solid month, like this past April, it is a soggy mess.

And when the sun finally comes out, like it did this week, it is dazzling.

On an after-dinner walk to see the sunset, I caught these shots of the last rays of sunshine lighting up the treetops in Laurelhurst Park.

As your Grandpa Nelson often says, we live on a pretty planet.

Out for another adventure in the sun tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

First Bicycle Adventure of the Year

Dear Liza,

With warm and sunny weather in the forecast, it was only a matter of time before someone said, “We should go out for a bike ride.” This year, it was Auntie Bridgett.

So we did! There was some time spent pumping up tires and untangling bungee cords, but very soon we were off! Grandpa Nelson and Bridgett wore shorts, but I don’t own any! I wore jeans.

We decided to stay on “Greenways”, which are regular streets, but designated as “Bikes have the right of way”, and on special bikes-only paths. This means we didn’t have to worry about getting run over by cars. Always a good thing.

We headed down 34th to the Clinton neighborhood. I thought we were going for ice cream, but we kept going and going. We crossed the railroad tracks using the overpass, and the elevator was surprisingly working! It was very cool.

Not so surprisingly, we found ourselves at Grandpa Nelson’s favorite place : The Tilikum Bridge.

We hopped off the bikes and enjoyed the views of the river right below us and Mount Hood, covered in snow almost a hundred miles away. We were being watched over by a light fixture that looks like something from Star Wars.

But we were feeling the miles and the sun, and decided to head back towards home and find some nourishment. We found another branch of Broder, the Scandinavian restaurant we have enjoyed in the Mississippi neighborhood. Not needing lunch but desperate for sugar and hydration, we ordered ableskivers, lemonade, and cucumber soda. What a treat!

Ableskivers are a Danish speciality, round-like-the-globe doughnutty pieces of fabulousness, and are served with lemon curd and lingonberry jam. We stuffed ourselves and slurped the sweet sodas. It was wonderful.

Eventually, though, we did need to start back. I was dreading going back up the hill, but once I figured out my gearshift ( I have to re-learn it every year) I was fine.

We pulled in, parked the bikes, drank more water, and pretty much crashed. We had only done four miles, but with muscles that hadn’t used in more than two years.

We will get out for another ride soon, I hope!


Grandma Judy

Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 2

Dear Liza,

After lunch, I gathered up all my supplies. Gardening tools, several pounds of ground up egg shells, seeds, and lettuce seedlings I started in an egg carton all got piled in a box, and off I went.

The egg shells got worked into the soil for the tomatoes and sprinkled all around.

The delicate lettuce starts got planted while still in their cardboard cribs.

The five different organic cherry tomatoes got planted in their cages, in the sunniest part of the garden.

As I was working, a neighborhood cat (complete with collar and bell) came by to visit my catnip plant! She was very relaxed, like she was in her favorite pub. She barely even noticed me.

The ’shadier’ side of the garden, closest to the tall camellia bush, got sown with carrot, zucchini and radish seeds, so doesn’t look like much at the moment. I will keep you posted.

The dahlias got put between the sunflowers and the catnip, and boy, is that a full garden! Look at all that green! I am very pleased and will go back early tomorrow to make sure everything is okay. (I have learned not to be too optimistic!)


Grandma Judy

Finally, a Real Gardening Day! Part 1

Dear Liza,

Months ago, I decided to start my garden early this year. I thought I could outsmart the weather. I had squash and cucumber starts in my window in February!

Then came the wettest Spring on record, complete with an April 15th snowfall. My super-early transplants survived the snow but got eaten by wet-loving slugs and I ended up with nothing. Zip. Nada. Bupkis.

So much for rushing things.

But now it is mid-May, and weeks of mostly sunny weather are predicted. So, back to the nursery and we’ll try this again!

Fortunately, Portland Nursery is there for me. Auntie Bridgett drove me down and after getting side-tracked by cool sculptures and Fairy Moss, we picked out five different organic cherry tomato plants, a Delicata squash, some dahlias and a begonia.

We delivered them to the garden, went home for lunch, and back to the garden for the digging fun! More about that tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Paper Mosaic Reprise

Dear Liza,

I have been bitten by the mosaic bug again, and I looked online for some inspiration. I found this is 1,600 years old mosaic, and I chose it because I love the eyes.

I know mosaics are labor intensive and wanted to start small, so I focused on just “the windows of the soul”, using a piece of backing paper about 5 x 8.

I sketched the basic shape in yellow pencil on dark paper about 5 by 8 inches. The dark background would mimic the grout usually used between tiles.

Since I loved the irregularity of the skin tones, I decided to paint a bunch to play with. Painting these swatches on heavy watercolor paper makes for bits that are easy to handle.

Then came the slow part, trimming and fitting and gluing. They should be small enough, but not too small, close enough, but not too close. It is intense work and I can only do it for about half an hour at a time.

There is a lot of second-guessing and talking to the bits as I work, lots of squinty work.

I was hoping to get this piece done today, because summer weather is predicted to start this weekend and I will (with any luck) be busy with planting and such.
But I didn’t. Here’s what have for now.


Grandma Judy

Ruthie’s Acrylic Skins

Dear Liza,

I have learned something absolutely new from my friend Ruth Inman. She has found a way to re-use acrylic paints that dry on the palette.

Back when I first started painting, I was dismayed to learn that acrylics, unlike watercolors, become plastic once they have dried. Adding more water doesn’t dissolve them back into paint. This means that once that acrylic is on the palette, you need to use it, or throw it out. For my frugal self, this was bad news. But Ruthie discovered a way to make use of this dried paint.

First, prepare a background for your piece with acrylic paints. Any color combination that is complementary to the colors on your palettes will be fine. Let that dry.

Next, choose a few plastic palettes with good layers of acrylics on them. I use plastic food lids, so they sit around a lot and get re-used. Give the palette a spray of water. Make it wet, even a bit puddly, and let it sit for about 10 minutes, until it starts to wrinkle.

Using your fingernail or palette knife, gently ease the edges of the paint layer up. If it is a nice thick layer, it should peel up in one “skin”. But even if it tears a bit, it is useful.

If the skin is too big for your purpose, use your fingers to tear the skin into smaller bits. Look at both sides of the skin; the prettiest may be on the bottom.

While the bits of skin are still sticky and wet, press them down onto the background. Press firmly, but don’t worry if the edges are not all flat. The raised frills add dimension. They will stick once they have dried.

The trick to this sort of art is not to get fixated on what you intend the picture to be. The leaves of red flower on the yellow background was going to be a bit of landscape, but looked more like leaves. I turned it ninety degrees and added the flower.

These flowers looked better apart, so got trimmed and put on cards.

The irregular and colorful nature of the skins lends itself to flowers and leaves, but could also work as feathers for birds or maybe even mountains and landscapes.

I am happy with the results and will keep experimenting.


Grandma Judy

New Murals!

Dear Liza,

We had a few lovely days of weather, which means the Portland artists are out, making warehouses beautiful with street art.

Down on SE 11th, the back and side walls of World Pac Auto Parts have been improved by a few new murals. This fellow reminds me of ”Old Fred” from the Peter Max and Beatles inspired Yellow Submarine.

This super-stylish (and stylized) rock llama just makes me chuckle. I love how the Portland Street Art Association encourages making our streets more fun.

Fun won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it can’t hurt, either.


Grandma Judy

A Paper Mosaic

Dear Liza,

You know I love mosaics. I am fascinated by how the tiny bits fit and flow together to create larger images. I have taken hundreds of pictures of mosaics over the years.

I have even made some! The side table we use everyday is made from upcycled plates, a big broken bowl, and floor tiles from a building that was torn down, years ago, in Salinas.

But mosaics made from tile or plates are very heavy, and tend to be large. Good for a garden, maybe. But that’s an idea for later.

But mosaics made of paper could be smaller and lighter. And since one of the things I like best about mosaics is using ’damaged goods’ to another purpose, why not recycle some of my less-than-successful pictures into one?

I also had scraps from trimming a large piece down for cards…

Maybe they could work together? Because of the hot orange, I started with a starburst idea.

Could it look even better with the blue and black? I tried. Oh, yeah.

Continuing with the blue and into the green, I like it better and better.

And though I can see ways I could have done it better, I like this a lot. I think I will be playing with this some more.


Grandma Judy

Friday in Mississippi

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I got to drive north to the Mississippi neighborhood on Friday. GiftyKitty, Clody Cates’ shop, had sold nearly all of Auntie Bridgett’s pins, and needed more!

Business is important. But first, of course, was lunch. We stopped at Broder, where we had some carrot cake months ago, to check out their lunch menu. It is very Scandanavian forward, with rye bread, pickled herring, and ableskivvers. Auntie Bridgett ordered the roasted mushrooms, which looked delicious. I ordered the Nord Bord, which is like a smorgasbord on a platter.

There was a hard boiled egg, two slices of rye bread, thinned sliced ham, two kinds of cheese, pickled onions, roast potatoes in a spicy mustard sauce, and even a tiny apple tart for dessert. It was amazing. We ate until we were stuffed.

Then to business! I love visiting GiftyKitty. Clody and her business partner Larry have done a wonderful job creating the whimsical space full of art, pillows, and all sorts of kitty themed goodies.

Bridgett and Clody talked business while Larry and I swapped life stories and chatted about the beautiful kitten art done by local artists like Amelia Opie, Melody Bush, and Alicia Justice.

When it was time to head off, we got distracted by the Pistils Nursery. It is housed in this building that looks like something out of an old Western movie, but was actually built in 2001 to look like a piece of history.

The inside of the building houses a charming collection of indoor plants and terrarium supplies.

In the small side yard, outdoor plants are policed by two small chickens who seem to enjoy the company (and maybe the bugs!)

By this time, the rain was starting, we were worn out, and it was time to head for home.


Grandma Judy