Trying Something New with Something Old

Dear Liza,

I always like trying something new.


I have been making Art Journals with Ruth Inman for a while, using cracker boxes and other leftovers for covers. But the other day when I found this really old, falling-apart literature book, I thought …. Why not use ITS cover as a cover?


First, I helped the book finish falling apart, trimming the cover and selected pages with an Exacto knife. I saved the very old 2nd place ribbon I found inside. The handwritten inventory numbers and check-out pocket touched my librarian’s heart, so I made sure they were safe. I found one of my favorite poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Rhodora”, among the anthologized works, and saved it, as well as old illustrations.


Lovely, historic insides

I grabbed a yellow printed fabric from my box, thinking the texture looked like old alligator skin. Once I had it glued onto the cover, however, it became clear that I had mis-judged. It was too light. I resisted the urge to tear it off and decided to highlight the texture and darken the effect with some acrylic paint. It was better.

Improving the spine fabric

Sewing the signatures in

I stiffened the spine with some card stock, then laid in the inside fabric. I made four ‘signatures’ (sets of pages) and pierced the spine carefully to sew the signatures in.

A new book from an old book!

Since the book was printed in 1932, I plan to use it as a journal for my research and ponderings on history. I have been researching English and French history, and am now looking into the many places where they intersect. I am also curious about how they interacted with the Holy Roman Empire and, further away, the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire.

This historic, hand-made journal will give me a place, and an inspiration, to collect these thoughts, as well and other brain bits that pop up.

The Inspiration….

“Tell them dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,

Then beauty is its own excuse for being.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

So Much Pretty

Dear Liza,

It was so pretty the other day, we three all walked to Zach’s Shack for hot dogs! We had the cool back patio all to ourselves, and we enjoyed our spicy Chicago dog, Dylan dog, and French fries. I even indulged in a pint of Guinness. Yum!

We were all feeling very full when we were done, and Grandpa Nelson suggested we take the long walk home.

There is always a lot to see in a new neighborhood. Spring has sprung with Forget Me Nots and flowers I can’t even name, growing from every planter, lawn, and crack in the sidewalk. It is glorious.

The dogwoods are all getting ready to bloom by our house. This one, about ten feet tall, has already popped.

And, on any walk, there is something you see that, well, you just didn’t expect to. This time, it was Bernie Sanders. Yep, a life sized standup of the Senator from Vermont, as he appeared at President Biden’s Inauguration, sitting comfortably on a front porch. We passed along our best wishes and waved goodbye.

And before we got home, we saw a dragon and covered almost four and a half miles.

Not bad for “ just an afternoon walk”.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bakery Quest

Dear Liza,

With the weather being warmer and our spirits rising with every vaccination, we are feeling inspired to get out for longer walks. My dad, your great grandpa Lowell, always said you should only walk until you were half tired, so you could turn around and walk back home. We have discovered that if there’s a bakery along the way, you can just keep going!

When we bought this house, one of the reasons we loved it was the proximity of restaurants and businesses…. Lebanese food around the corner, pizza across the way and a nice pinball tavern and pulled pork just down the block. But no bakery! This has probably, in the long run, been a blessing. Baked goods are less dangerous if they are at the end of a good long walk.

So, we walk. Helen Bernhard, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite, is two miles north of us through lovely neighborhoods. Their donuts are the best in town (Sorry, Voodoo Donuts) and they have Florentines rolled into tubes and filled with peanut butter cream. Need I say more?

Helen Bernhardt Bakery on NE Broadway

The Fleur de Lis, just off Broadway, at 1.7 miles. away. I haven’t walked to it yet, but Grandpa Nelson has! They have all sorts baked goods, including his favorite cinnamon rolls, as well as huge slices of quiche and sandwiches on fresh baked bread. They even had, before the Covid restrictions, live music on Sundays.

Caught red-handed with brunch at Fleur de Lis


And just yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I discovered yet another one!
Lauretta Jean’s, on Division, is just a mile south. They have been at their current location for ten years, but we have somehow missed them. During Covid they changed from a dine-in cafe to a walk up window, with a pretty awning and delightful signage. They even have a few small tables out front for on-site snacking.

We picked up a lemon bar, a piece of chocolate oatmeal pie, and a piece of birthday cake to take home for Friday’s dessert. The pie was a bit too sweet, but the cake and lemon bar were spot on wonderful. It’s nice to know that there are still fine baked goods to be discovered!

Birthday cake in the window, with reflection from across the street…

I don’t know if the search for local baked goods is Holy Grail worthy, but it sure is delicious!

Love,

Grandma Judy

North in the Sunshine

Dear Liza,

The other day I knew I needed to get out of the house, but had no motivation. Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk, and promised me goodies somewhere along the way. I went.

We headed north through the Laurelhurst neighborhood, then kept going up to Kerns. About a mile and a half from home, we stopped at Oregon Park and watched two little girls learn that going down a slide doesn’t have to be a straight forward proposition. It was fun to see their inventiveness.

“Where next?” Grandpa asked.

“I’m not sure, but it seems I remember a bakery just over that way,” I said, pointing north west-ish. He checked his phone.


“Good call! Helen Bernhardt Bakery is just 1.2 miles away. Practically around the corner.” So off we went. In the neighborhood in between, we found all sorts of delights. These stone lions are very stylish and Covid-aware.


These vintage, hand-carved children’s rocking chairs sat outside a turn of the century home, as if waiting to be adopted.

Window art is wonderful along Broadway.


We got to Helen Bernhardt’s Bakery, which has good Covid procedures in place, and chatted with the lady behind the counter.

She said that this past Easter, a week ago, was the best Easter ever for the business. That’s since 1924! It’s nice to know that some businesses have been able to survive and even thrive in this weirdness, and that we will have this lovely bakery around for a long time.


Grandpa Nelson has been eaten by a camellia!

After sitting on a low wall outside the bakery, enjoying our donut, Florentine and coffee as we watched happy folks come and go from the bakery, it was time to “South” a little. That is, to head towards home. We found this incredible camellia bush that was huge outside and magical inside. The flowers under the ‘umbrella’ seemed to glow pink with the afternoon sun.


We walked back across the Banfield Freeway and were soon in our own neighborhood. We stopped to say Hi to Auntie Bridgett, who was working her shift at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, then got home to crash before dinner.

The Banfield….. an ugly scar of a road with good views

Another fine adventure!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walkin’ the Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

I love where we live! Sunnyside, in Southeast Portland, is the best!

Grandpa Nelson, chatting on the balcony

There are hundred year old houses, townhouses like ours, and brand new builds. Some of the trees were planted last year, and others have been here a long, long time. Heritage tree number 241, a Japanese maple, has probably been in the front yard of this house since it was built in the 1920s.

Because of how closely the trees and houses are spaced, winter, when the trees are bare, is the only time to get a picture of it.

Sunnyside was started in the 1890s as a trolley car neighborhood. Folks would live here, a few miles from the mud and stink of downtown, and be able to take the newly installed trolley cars to work.

From the 1900s…..

Back then, the houses and lots were bigger.

As the city became more crowded, newer houses were built in between the original ones. Each was built in its own style. These three very different houses stand within two blocks of each other.

1950s….


…. and 2020!

There are some industrial buildings that are being up-cycled, as well. Jacob’s Garage, which housed the trucks for the Belmont Dairy, is now a set of very cool condominiums, having kept its brick-Ish charm.

Every walkabout shows us new things! As flowers come up and trees leaf out, some of the hard lines are masked and softened, but the architecture of the turn of the century is still here if you know how to look.

Besides, where else can you find a tiny free library right next to a dinosaur-infested dogwood tree?

I can’t wait to share it with you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Picnic in the Allotment

Dear Liza,

It was so sunny and warm the other day, Auntie Bridgett and I took a picnic to our plot at the community garden. We have planted lettuce, radish, marigold and carrot seeds, which is all we can put in until it gets warmer and drier, and wanted to keep them company as they start sprouting.

Cheeses, fruit and haroset made a nice portable lunch. We each carried a camp chair to set up in the narrow space between our plot and our neighbor’s.

We got to meet Ruth, who is the manager for our garden. She showed us her plot, just across the pathway. She has a lot of flowers growing, and just a few vegetables. She headed off to work on a public plot at the top of the garden.

We set things out and the sun just kept getting warmer! I peeled off my jacket, then my sweater and hat…. down to my tee shirt outside, for the first time in about seven months. It felt fabulous, thank you very much.

We watched tiny birds eat bugs off the kale in the next plot, and heard the crows telling everybody something, very loudly. We noticed evryone’s tiny sprouts coming up and marveled at the beginnings of things.

When all the food was gone, I got up to pull some weeds (of course) and Bridgett got out her watercolors to make some pictures. As always, I enjoyed getting my hands in the dirt.

I harvested some mint that is sprouting up at the edge out our plot, enjoying the shade of the camellia bush. When it was time to go, I carried the weeds, since there isn’t a can for them at the garden. Auntie Bridgett put the mint in her backpack.

Back home, I worked on a watercolor of the camellias I pruned the other day. It’s spring again, and here I am, painting flowers. Funny how that works.

Camelias in my Nicole Curcio vase

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hopeful Collage

Dear Liza,

I have been having so much fun experimenting with mixed media! Putting watercolors, other paints, and collage together to tell about a feeling, or a day, just makes so much sense to me.

This piece is from Easter weekend. When I was out walking, I thought about how all springs are new beginnings. But THIS spring, with vaccines making us safer, we are being released from Covid captivity in addition to our cold winter isolation. This spring feels especially free-ing.

I collected some bits from my collage box, including candy wrappers and the little paper sleeve that was wrapped around my ice cream cone from the new Dairy Hill Creamery, down on Hawthorne.


I knew I wanted the ‘sad’ side on the left and the ‘happy’ side on the right, so I put some watercolors down for a first layer.

To show more clearly what made the sad side so sad, I stenciled and collaged some Covid-looking circles, and even spelled ‘Covid’ out in letters. Moving on from the sad, I laid down an ice cream cone wrapper bridge over a river made from a chocolate-wrapper bit of tinfoil.

I needed a happy side to be bright, so I stenciled a sun in a variety of yellows. The city is cut from an on-sale art paper from Collage art supplies. The bird was on a birthday card. The ‘JOY’ balloons are also from the ice cream wrapper.

To finish it off, I outlined the balloons and letters, and gave some detail to the sun. And to remember that this happened on Easter, I put some pretty eggs by the bridge.

Giving it a critical look, I realize that I made the water under the bridge wrong. But overall, I am pleased with the piece. It captures how I was feeling and incorporates bits of the day. I hope you have fun doing art this week!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Busy Easter

Dear Liza,

Easter Sunday wasn’t as warm or sunny as the day before had been, but it was still nice enough to get out for some fun.

After French practice and crosswords, Auntie Bridgett and I walked by our allotment to see how the seeds are doing. We have sprouts! The radishes and lettuces are sending up tiny green baby bits and I am so excited! I will come by tomorrow with the watering can to make sure they stay nice and moist.

We continued through the neighborhood, past pink drifts and blizzards of cherry blossoms, to the Pix-O-Matic on Burnside. Pix is a fancy French style patisserie. Due to Covid, they have installed high end vending machines to sell their pastries, but also Candy, toys, and odd bits of niftiness. We got a small collection of Easter candies and a pastry called a Shazam to have after dinner. Noticing that Kopi coffee was open, we stopped by and had interesting and delicious Ginger and cardamom coffees, and a blueberry scone. We sat at a tiny table on the sidewalk, watching and listening to all the humanity…..conversations, buses going by, car radios. It was nice to be OUT.

We got home and put the goodies away, did some art, and had lunch. Then Grandpa Nelson joined us and we walked way up into the Laurelhurst neighborhood, loving the spring flowers and blossoms on the hundred year old trees.

We got back in mid-afternoon and it was time to start dinner. I was cooking lamb shanks for the first time, and wanted to give myself time to do it right. Shanks tend to be tough, and need low and slow cooking. I used a recipe from The Spruce Eats online, and they turned out wonderfully! Tender, rich and yummy. I made mint sauce out of our mint from the garden, and it made the lamb even better! Hooray! I love learning how to make new delicious things!

Lamb shanks on the table, decorated with Pam Ferraschi’s ceramics

We remembered to save room for the Pix desserts, however. Shazam is an almond cake with caramel and mousse under a paper thin chocolate wrapping. Delicious!

And THEN it was time for my zoom visit with you, Liza. We chatted, giggled, and drew Easter eggs and bunnies. I showed you the collage I’ve been working on (more about that tomorrow) and visited with your mommy and daddy.

We finished off the busy day with “Escape from the Chateau” and working on a new jigsaw puzzle, and headed for bed.

Not bad for an ‘isolated’ Easter.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Portland Rainbow

Dear Liza,

Your great grandma Billie, my momma, knew so many poems by heart that they would sometimes just jump out of her when she was emotional. The words of the poems expressed how she felt better than her own words.

Rainbow over Ladd’s Addition

This is one I heard very often, a poem William Wordsworth wrote about 150 years ago. It is about rainbows, but it is also about trying to carry the wonder we feel as children into our adulthood. I have chosen it to accompany some lovely rainbow-colored flowers in our neighborhood.


My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:

So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;


So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!


The Child is father of the Man;


And I could wish my days to be


Bound each to each by natural piety.

And that is your poetry for the day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Still Growing, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Last summer, a few months after the Covid shutdown, I started painting with an online group organized by Ruth Inman. It made sense that we should start painting with flowers…. who doesn’t like flowers?

Step by step watercolor Cornflowers

My skills weren’t very good, and I was scared of making mistakes, but being with an old friend put me at ease. The tremor in my hand got in the way a bit, but I’d just power through, realizing that the wiggly lines could be just part of the picture. Flowers don’t have straight lines, anyway.


Wacky candy wrapper collage

As the year passed, Ruth would give us challenges to use different materials, like candy wrappers or other recycled papers. These let me realize that ART didn’t have to mean making a perfect painting every time. The making, the process, was the main thing. If other people liked it when you were done, that was a bonus. But it was not the main goal.

Fun with Acrylics

Realizing that, I got more confident. I also came to understand that different media work in different ways. Watercolors always show through, so planning is crucial. Acrylics are more forgiving and will cover up mistakes. Collage needs a careful hand but is amazingly freeing. And all of these can be used in the same piece, if you like!


This is my new favorite, a remembering of a drive along the Willamette. As I sat on a bench looking at Mt. Hood far away across the river, I planned out how I would construct it. Watercolors for the sky and ground, THEN the distant mountain (out of a bit of Kleenex box), THEN the flowers/ trees in front of it, then the river and dogs. I found the note in the sky folded up in our picnic table, and wanted to include it.

Close up!

I built up from the background to the foreground, and was pleased with how it turned out. The snow on the mountain is a tiny bit of Posca marker.

I’ve learned a lot this year. Mostly, I learned that I am still learning, which is a good thing.

Love,

Grandma Judy