Disney on Ice (Part 1)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Last night Auntie Olga, Cousin Liza and I had such an adventure. We drove all the way to San Jose for dinner and a show! The dinner was at Bluefin Sushi, a very pretty and delicious Japanese restaurant. We had the sushi sampler and Liza ate all of her California Roll. Liza’s glass of apple juice came with lots of ice, which she hates, so Olga fished it out …with chopsticks! The idea of having too much ice on our way to and show on ice gave us the giggles. I opted for hot tea, which felt very good on my Friday-afternoon-teacher-tired throat.

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Inside Blue Fin Sushi, San Jose

The GPS in Auntie Olga’s phone had found the restaurant, so we let it guide us to the parking lot, as well. There were only about 15 minutes until the show started, so the lot was almost full. We got Liza into her full Princess Elsa finery in and beside the car…pink and blue winter boots, sparkly dress over her school clothes, and a long blonde braid. We joined the flow of tiny princesses and their (mostly female) guardians and headed down the sidewalk.

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Olga and Liza

The lobby at the top of the impressive staircase was packed with people, souvenir booths, photo booths, and snack stands.

Liza and I at the base of the Shark Tank’s steps

We didn’t need any of it, so we high-tailed it to our seats. Having just come UP a long flight of steps, it made sense that we would go DOWN another, into the ice arena used by the San Jose Sharks hockey team and known as The Shark Tank. This evening it was less shark and much more princess…. magical lighting, mysterious sets tucked up on the high ceiling waiting their turn, and hundreds of spinning, sparkling, flashing lights on toys held by children.

The Shark Tank with added Magic

I was amazed at how a hockey arena could be filled with light, lightness and color. Lights under the ice, moving light effects and music turned what is usually a noisy, collision-filled space with Disney magic.

I have been a Disney fan most of my life. The Disneyland Park opened when I was one, and I can’t count the number of times I have visited. I think I have seen every Disney movie at least once, and I can sing a frightening number of songs by heart.

Seeing this show reminded me of why I love Disney. The stories are about following your dreams, taking risks, and realizing your heart’s desire. True, in the 1950s the dream was finding your Prince Charming and holding on forever, but the stories have grown. They now encompass dreams of devotion to family, personal empowerment, literacy over ignorance, and embracing one’s different-ness. Mulan, Merida, Belle and Elsa are my heroes. And they were all on the ice in San Jose.

I will tell you more about the show tomorrow!


Grandma Judy







Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Liza figuring things out

One of my favorite things to do here at Uncle David’s house is read books with Liza. She loves “If you give a Mouse a Cookie” and anything about dinosaurs. Lately she has been reading more to me!

She is learning letters and sounds at her school, and a few months ago she noticed OPEN signs on stores we could go in. Then she saw the same sign on the Steinbeck Library! We checked out books in the Word Bird Series, and she is enjoying recognizing some words and figuring others out.

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She is starting to read everything! The other day she wanted more light in the kitchen so she found the remote control Uncle David made and read  “…k…kitch…kitchen!” She pressed that button and turned the light on. She was so excited! I am sure she will be reading before she goes to school, just like your Mommy did.

Remote Control for Lights

In Uncle David’s house there are also books in Russian, which are gifts from Auntie Olga’s Mommy, Baba Alla. There are bright and colorful, but I can’t read them! I only know four letters in Russian, the four that spell “Liza”.

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Beautiful Russian Book

I don’t know if I will be able to learn to read Russian, but I am practicing speaking it.

“Liza, kudah tapitchki?” (Liza, where are your slippers?)

“Ya niz naito.” (I don’t know.)

“Na.” (Here)

There is sure a lot of learning going on here in Salinas!


Grandma Judy

Party in Prunedale

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Liza in a Fabulous Backyard!

Yesterday Cousin Liza and I went to a party in the hills of Prunedale, just north of Salinas. Our friends Kitty Petruccelli, her husband  Mike Godin, and their kids Isaac and Rhys were visiting from Florence, Massachusetts. They were staying at the very cool home of Thomas and Susanna.

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Rhys on the Trampoline

It was chilly there, though not snow-cold like up there in Portland, but the sunshine was so bright and the sky so blue, it felt almost unreal. When we got there, we saw Rhys, who is going-on-seven, jumping on the trampoline. Liza watched for a while, then climbed up and let Rhys bounce her, then got up her nerve and jumped very well. She was having so much fun!

Liza and Rhys


Inside, the grownups were setting out delicious vegetarian food and talking. Along with our hosts there was Bill Minor, who plays piano and writes poetry, his wife Betty and their son Tim, who coaches high school track in Reno, Nevada. He and I talked about teaching and why we love being able to make a difference in kids’ lives.

Angela der Ramos, who I met, along with Kitty, at a writing class at UCSC in 2001, arrived and told us about her work with the teacher’s union and her run for the CTA board. She, too, is making a difference, but from further up the teaching/administrator/policy making food chain. Her energy and truth-telling is always amazing to me.

As the afternoon moved along, Liza found a sand pile in the yard and she and Rhys played there for a while, then Thomas started gathering firewood, and Liza helped him. She helped lay the fire in their new fire pit, just up the hill from the house. She has lots of practice from helping her daddy.

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Fun is Where You Find It!

There is also a very nifty guest house, which used to be a barn. It has one room downstairs and one upstairs, connected by a ladder. Thomas showed Liza how to use the safety bar to get up and down. We liked looking out at the trees from the top floor. It was like being in a tree house.

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Brave Liza on the Ladder

Once the fire was built, people started moving out to the yard. It was chilly enough that the fire felt good, but Thomas stayed in bare feet. My phone stopped working, so I have no photos of faces around the fire, which I was hoping to get. I also have no pictures of Kitty, Mike, Angela, or Bill…blog fail, sorry.

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Liza and Thomas Contemplating their Fire

When it got near bedtime, Angela gave us a ride back home and we had a late dinner of crab salad that Auntie Olga had made. Very tasty.

Then a little bit of Mary Poppins, and off to bed.


Grandma Judy


Sniffles and Memories



Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I think I must be fighting off the cold bug that’s been going through my classroom. This morning I woke up with an icky throat and stuffy nose. Since I wasn’t needed to do anything today, I decided to really take care of myself and see if I could beat it.

I had a breakfast of healthy muesili and yogurt with blueberries, then had many cups of tea and went to bed. I read until I fell asleep. I repeated this pattern for chicken soup lunch and leftover dinner.

At 6:00, Cousin Liza and Auntie Olga got back from the ocean and brought me a lovely camellia flower! I asked where they found it and Liza said she had found it on the ground and just picked it up! Florist by serendipity.

Gifts to My Heart

She found a vase in my room that we put water in and then the flower. It looks beautiful sitting between the mirror and a photograph of my lovely people taken when they were in Dublin, just a few years ago.

Memory is a funny thing.  Their trip to Dublin seems like so long ago,  yet my mother’s passing and Liza’s birth, which happened the same year, seem like only yesterday. Maybe it’s the cold germs.

Tiny Baby Liza



Time to drink some more tea and head for bed.


Grandma Judy

Valentine’s Day

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

We have been celebrating Valentine’s Day all this week! We started a few days ago, when Auntie Olga and I spent an evening helping Liza decorate her Valentine cards for her class at school. There were 18 cards, and each one needed a name…. “Elizabeth”, 18 times. Then there were the stickers, then putting them in the envelopes, then sealing the envelopes. Such a production! But we had fun. Liza is getting very good at signing her whole long name.

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 Artist at Work

Then there was the preparation in my classroom. The fourth graders cut, punched holes, and sewed their Valentine’s mailboxes, and then they decorated them with cut paper. They were all different and wonderful.

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Dragon-Made Card

Today I opened the present Auntie Bridgett left for me when she left on Sunday. There was wonderful lavender soap and lovely pink socks. The picture on the socks is a little girl and her pet squirrel, each saying “…No, YOU act normal.” There was also a handmade card from my sweet Bridgett. One day I will have a show at an art gallery with all the one of a kind cards she has made me over the years.

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Card and Socks!

Then, during the day, my vice principal Erin brought me a bouquet of flowers that had been delivered from Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson! There were roses, carnations, and day lilies in a beautiful vase..they looked so pretty on my desk, surrounded by spelling lists and bottles of Elmer’s glue.

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Flowers from my Sweeties

During our school party, I received so many lovely cards and presents from my Room 10 Dragons! Two stuffed bears, a panda, candy candy candy, and a coffee cup. Such wealth! But more important is the love and respect of my sweet students.

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My School Goodies

Finally, this afternoon, Cousin Liza got home from school with HER goodies from school. Cards, candy, stickers, and even bubbles to play with at the park. She sure has nice friends.

I hope you all had a nice Valentine’s Day in Portland, too.


Grandma Judy

Our Favorite Things Part 2

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Lunchtime had arrived. We walked from the Rec Trail up to Lighthouse Avenue to Tilly Gort’s. It was founded in 1969, and the photograph of its original staff shows a smiling group of children of the 60s. Originally a vegetarian restaurant and coffee house, it has widened its offerings to include vegan and ‘with meat’ menu items, all of which are delicious.

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We had the tofu pesto scramble and Huevos Rancheros, and I had a freshly squeezed carrot juice. It was fabulous! I thought of Bugs Bunny and his oath never to mix radish juice and carrot juice, and that made me laugh. The art on the walls and the great food definitely rejuvenated us for the rest of our day.

Bridgett at Tilly Gort’s

Further down on Lighthouse is an art-making space called Progress, not Perfection, run by Jessica Ansbury. You pay a fee and get to use their supplies and space to make art. It is popular with birthday parties, but also individuals who live in small spaces and just need room.

Art Space!

We figured that as long as we were in the neighborhood, we should walk a little further down to Forest and visit our friend Germaine at her shop Imagine Art Supplies. Germaine is also an artist, and her beautiful and inspirational work hangs on the walls, above her well-chosen inventory. Bridgett asked her classic question. “What is your favorite new thing?”

Germaine in her element

Germaine immediately showed us Porcelain, a newly improved type of pen and paint, which can be used on glass or glazed pottery, fired in a home oven, and become dishwasher and food safe. THIS is a revelation! Bridgett loves decorating recycled to-go coffee cups, and this would allow her to make practical, usable art pieces. Very Exciting. We said good bye to Germaine and her shop cat, and headed off with several jars and pens to try out.

Bearing our prize purchases, we headed back down to the Rec Trail back to the Aquarium, where we caught the Monterey Free Trolley. We had walked a long way and were a bit foot weary. We got off at Alvarado Street so we could see the Plaza and shops on our way to the Transit Plaza.

Monterey Free Trolley

Realizing we were early for our bus home, we stepped into Old Capitol Books, a used book store with a great selection. There was also a poetry reading going on, so we had the lovely experience of milling about in literature and art with the satisfying cadences of poetry floating over our heads.

We caught the number 20 back to Uncle David’s house and crashed until dinner and Bridgett’s departure. Our friend Mark Gurley, the best Lyft driver on the planet, came by and whisked her away to the San Jose Airport.

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Me and my girl



It has been too short a visit, but I will see her soon!


Grandma Judy

Our Favorite Things Part 1

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Sun on the Bay

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

After visiting so many of her favorite people, yesterday was a day of seeing all of Auntie Bridgett’s favorite things. Uncle David gave us a ride to Monterey and dropped us near the Recreation Trail and Fisherman’s Wharf.

We stopped in at The Wharf Market for coffee. This is an old building that used to be the chandlery, which is a fancy name for a boat stuff store. It has become a coffee and pastry shop, produce market, and wine bar. The people are friendly and the coffee was good.

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Fresh Veggies at The Wharf Market

We wandered toward the Fisherman’s Wharf, a very touristy part of the city, enjoying the chilly sunshine and all the sights and smells….whale watching boats loading up, caramel corn being made, seagulls gulling…very pleasant. We thought about the shops that used to be here and have gone elsewhere or gone under.

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Our Offering to Doc Ricketts
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Bridgett, Fisherman, and Cat

Following the Rec Trail, we passed  the familiar and beloved statues of Santa Rosalia, Doc Ricketts, and memorials to the divers and fishermen of the area. There is always such a variety of people in Monterey. We passed the posh hotels welcoming visitors in town for the AT&T Golf Tournament, and the souvenir shops with customers wearing t-shirts with rude slogans on them.

We passed the Boatworks Boat repair yard and noticed this piece of sculpture which is almost complete, just getting the last coats of paint. It seemed odd, but made sense. Where else in town is there room to work on something this big? I wonder where it is headed.

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Sculpture Almost Finished

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Realizing it was nearing lunchtime, we weighed our options and decided on Tilly Gort’s on Lighthouse Avenue. More on that next time!


Grandma Judy