Believe it or not…

Dear Liza,

I know it has been, and still is hot here, but fall is definitely on the way. This morning there is a slight chill in the air. Some leaves are starting to turn. Kids are shopping for school clothes.

And the chestnuts are getting big. Last year was my first year in chestnut country, so I was just fascinated by these armored, spiky, golf ball sized nuts. Bridgett and I marveled at them and, when they started falling, collected about 30 pounds of the smooth,  mahogany colored things. We loved their color, their impressive size, and their smooth surface, like polished wood. We had big plans.

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Part of last year’s lovely, but useless, chestnuts

We would enjoy their beauty, maybe even make ornaments out of them, then roast them and eat them! “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” would be ours!!! Bwahahaha!

So we researched the best way to roast them, not having an open fire at our disposal. Hmmm. Turns out, there are two kinds of chestnuts….horse chestnuts, which you CAN’T eat because they are poisonous, and sweet chestnuts, which you CAN. The leaves and tree shape are the same. How to tell the difference? The differences in the wooden looking nut are slight and I was never sure which was which. I wasn’t willing to bet my health on it.

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Green hulls of sweet chestnuts

But the differences between both the flower and the green hulls that grow outside the woody part are very clear. The sweet chestnuts have flowers that are spiky, and green hulls that look like Muppets. The horse chestnuts’ flowers are rounded, and their hulls more like a medieval spiked mace. So this summer, we have made note of where each are growing.

Oddly, the poisonous kind are much more common. Whether it is a difference in disease resistance or just accidental, the people in charge of planting them, probably 50 years ago, planted a bunch of ‘conkers’ you can’t use. The only sweet chestnut tree we have found is near the entrance to the Lone Fir Cemetery. I walked by today and admired them, promising I would return when they fell.

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Green hulls of horse chestnuts

We still don’t have an open fire, but we have a lovely gas open. We will adjust. And Nat King Cole will be playing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Process is Progressing

Dear Liza,

As you know, I have been working on my children’s history story about Portland for a little over a year now. For the first six months I read about Portland history so I know how it became a city and what sort of interesting things happened here. The Oregon Historical Society and Belmont Library became my favorite hangouts.

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A Young Lady in 1903

I chose to put my story in the spring of 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt came through Portland on a country-wide tour. There was a parade, a ceremony in what is now Washington Park, and a banquet. It was a very big deal and I think it would make a good backdrop for a mystery story. But as I told you, I don’t know much about mysteries.

So, I studied that, too. For a few weeks, I read Nancy Drew books and articles about mystery story plots, character development, and clues.

But as a teacher, I never really understand something until I need to teach it. So I pretended I was teaching someone about how to make a mystery story.  I cut shapes out of paper to show everything that happened in the story: action, characters, description, distractions.

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A new way of seeing a story

I practiced using these pieces to map out the first eight chapters of The Bungalow Mystery, #3 of the Nancy Drew books. I could see when action happened, when characters were introduced, how the chapters alternated between action and description, and how each chapter ended in a new mystery or dangerous situation.

This took some of the mystery out of writing my mystery! I am now working on my own story, using these paper pieces to  make the characters move to solve the riddles of the story and come to a happy ending. If I don’t like the way it is going, I just move the pieces around! I feel organized, less confused, but flexible enough to create and re-create the story until it is right.img_9480.jpg

Of course, once I have this visual outline done, I still have to write the actual words….but that’s the fun part! I am happy to have found a way of working that works for me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to the Zoo

Dear Liza,

On Monday, Grandpa Nelson and I drove over to Auntie Katie’s house. School hasn’t started here in Portland yet, so we still have time for summer!!

First, there was some important business to take care of. Kestrel had lost one of her magic fairy keys (from a Birthday a few years ago at Fernie Brae here in town). It was, she said, tossed on the grass at the Ladd’s Addition Circle Park while she was making a magic spell, and lost in the grass. In the bright light of day, we figured we could find it.

Hands and knees for 30 minutes, asking at Palio Coffee and Pastries, and even enlisting friendly passing strangers, all to no avail. Whether the fairies decided they wanted the key back or we just looked in the wrong places, the key continues to be elsewhere.

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Jasper on the bronze goat

Then the next order of business, getting ready for the Zoo! Breakfast, shoes, and hats were found and dealt with, then we were on our way. Grandpa Nelson opted for the car so the trip home would be quicker when we were near the end. He’s a smart Grandpa!

It was a pleasant day…not hot, but sunny. Lots of people, but not crowded. We visited the Pacific Northwest Canyon (my favorite part of the zoo, because it is foresty and has lots of creeks and waterfalls) and acted out being coyotes and rabbits. We talked to the bears and saw river otters napping in their dens.

We had a sit down to refuel our good natures, with cookies, water, peanuts and a reading of Million of Cats by Wanda Ga’g.

At the petting zoo we visited with goats and saw a new “Catio” installation, with information about why keeping cats safe and happy is important for birds and other animals, as well as our sweet kitten friends. The kids also enjoyed the ice cream and merry-go-round. Because grandparents.

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Charge!!!

Then, off to see the elephants. They were coming out into the public area just as we got there, and Lily, the youngest, was positively prancing! She really seemed happy to be out with the people. Everyone was waving as she ran up and down, smiling a baby elephant smile.

The Free Flying Bird show was on, and we sat and watched eagles, parrots and even a North American Kestrel (the bird, not the cousin) fly from one perch to another. Oshi, the toucan, decided to re-write the script and flew from one perch, under the bushes, hung out for a while, to the top of the stage, and finally down to accept a bunch of blueberries. It was wonderful to hear the ladies ad lib the show during Oshi’s fly-cation, telling us about how they train the birds with positive reinforcement.

Lunch was next! Africafe fed us hot dogs and gave us a cool place to sit down. We watched people and drank so much water I thought we would pop, but zooing is thirsty work.

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Being Bears

On the way out of the zoo, we saw a sculpture group called “Lunch Break” by local artist Jim Gion, who died just a few weeks ago. We got to meet him this spring as he was sculpting outside his studio. He was a talented artist and a very nice man.

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Lunch Break, by Jim Gion

We had originally planned to also see the Children’s Museum, but we were done. We will come back Thursday for that. I was pleased to see how responsible the children were, wanting to see the museum but realizing it would be more fun another day. A quiet ride home, pizza for dinner, and a tired but happy Grandma delivered home.

More tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sauvie Island

Dear Liza,

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The Tiny Sauvie Island Bridge

Sunday, we went to the farm. Several farms, in fact, and all just about 25 minutes north of Downtown Portland. We went to Sauvie Island!

This island is where the Willamette River meets the Columbia, and at 26,000 acres is one of the largest river islands in the country. It is almost all farmland, flat, green, and beautiful. We drove up highway 30 and crossed the tiny Sauvie Island Bridge over the Willamette Channel, which is only about 20 feet wide, and there we were.

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No Partridge, just pears

First we stopped at a lavender farm. It was small, and the season was just over, but it was sure nice to walk around and see the flowers, as well as pear trees on the property.

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We got hungry and stopped at Kruger’s BBQ for lunch. Friendly people, pulled pork, salmon sandwiches and corn on the cob put us right. Bridgett was in heaven, walking around in the incredible sunflowers, zinnias and chickens. She likes to talk to chickens, but these were busy and didn’t talk back to her.

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Tall Yellow Joy!

Further along, Grandpa Nelson must have read my mind, because he found Columbia Farms where we got to pick our own blueberries. My farming genes must have wanted to get out and stretch, because it sure felt good to be out in a sunny field, picking the food I was going to eat. It only took about 20 minutes to get our flat full. We grabbed a couple ears of fresh corn for dinner and headed off. We drove the rest of the way around the island and headed back into town.

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Happy Berry Pickin’ People!

On the way, Auntie Bridgett realized we needed a few things from the market, so we stopped the New Seasons in the northeast part of town. We found some new things and had a sort of food adventure. By the time we had shopped, we were done in.

 

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Just waiting there..

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

 

 

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Rainy Saturday!!

Dear Liza,

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Bridgett is always prepared

It has been so hot here, and yesterday we had a break…it clouded over, the wind blew, and it rained! Well, enough to make everything smell wonderful and the trees glisten.

In the morning, Auntie Bridgett and I walked over to The Music Millennium for their customer appreciation BBQ. It was so delightful. There were free, and very delicious, hot dogs (from The Dog House, on Division Street), potato salad, Voodoo Doughnuts, and soft drinks. The chefs were friendly and funny. There was a “wacky wheel” that you could spin to win things. Auntie Bridgett won a Bob Marley CD and I got a beer cozy.

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The chefs

We enjoyed visiting with people and then went inside to do some shopping. I have never seen the shop so crowded! We found a new jazz cd, two DVDs (Sneakers and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid) that we had on VHS until they died, and a CD of the original Broadway cast of Fiddler on the Roof. Score!!

We walked home through the park because it was so nice and wet…everything smelled like life and growth and joy.

During the afternoon we worked on stories and art, and cleaning up for Grandpa Nelson who had been visiting YOU! In the evening, while it was still looking like rain, we packed a picnic and walked to Laurelhurst for the annual end of summer Symphony Concert. A group called the Three Legged Torso, a Klezmer group, played with them, and it was delightfully informal, fun, and Portlandish.

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Happy Crowd
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It’s just water, but she sure was fun to watch!!

Grandpa Nelson arrived in time for the concert and we enjoyed people watching, cookies, chicken, and wine. The final number was Stars and Stripes Forever, conducted by a lady who had never conducted anything before…fortunately, the symphony knew what to do.

What a nice, rain-ish day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

A Small, Yummy Adventure

Dear Liza,img_9343.jpg

As I have mentioned, my Pfaff sewing machine is at least 50 years old. I got it, used, as a wedding present in 1974, from my mother’s boss and dear friend, Madeline Campillo. In those 44 years, it has been repaired twice. It was time again, and the closest shop that works on Pfaffs is in Montavilla, just east of Mount Tabor.

The shop, called Montavilla Sewing Center, handles sales and repair of sewing machines and vacuums, and has a selection of all the fanciest machines. Once we got ours checked in, we wandered around appreciating the technology. We met Holly, who creates beautiful machine embroidery with these new machines and then puts the embroidered squares together in quilts.

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Holly making beautiful things

Since we were in the neighborhood, Bridgett suggested we go by Mt. Tabor Bakery for a snack. I was impressed with all they do! They sell bread, sure, but also local beers, scones, soups, and cheeses. We enjoyed coffee and a ‘breakfast cookie’ while watching a women literally rake the coals in the huge brick oven, getting it ready for tomorrow’s baking. This is back to basics, honest to goodness BREAD.

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Mt. Tabor Bakery

She explained that the coals get raked so their heat can saturate the bricks, which extend for about two feet in all directions. In the early morning, the baker rakes out the coals, mops the still really HOT oven, and puts the bread in. What a process, and all so we can eat yummy bread.

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Wood fired bread oven!!!

We noted the times and days that they offer ‘bread flights’, ‘cheese flights’ and ‘charcuterie flights’, so we can come back and get ridiculous with really good food.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Clothes Make the Doll

Dear Liza,

I had fun yesterday, making an old doll pretty again. Cousin Kestrel got her from a shop, and she needed some love.

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My Client

First, I washed her up. Years of living in toy boxes had given her some grime. A soapy wash cloth and Q-tip helped a lot! While she was drying, I headed downstairs to the fabric box. I chose a few pretty prints, but a bright stripe seemed the best bet for a simple summery dress.IMG_9331.jpg

I made a pattern out of newspaper, starting big and snipping down, making sure it was symmetrical and had a nice quarter inch seam allowance. Then I laid out the fabric and cut. I was happy with the shape.

Before I sewed the front and back together, I turned and stitched the neckline, armholes, and at the last minute, remembered the slit in the back so the dress could come off over the doll’s head. Then I sewed front to back, and put the dress on.

It was baggy, but a simple fabric belt took care of that. Getting the belt on made her look almost perfect!

But there is no fixing her hair, so I made a nice elasticized head wrap to focus on her pretty face, letting her one earring give her a whimsical charm.

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Ready to play!

I had so much fun with this project, I may adopt some more dolls for make overs!

Love, Grandma Judy

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Super simple edging