Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,

I have told you about our Rose Gardens, our Japanese and Chinese Gardens, but did you know Portland has Fairy Gardens?

They are harder to find than the City gardens, but this may be on purpose. Fairy-folk are a bit shy among us Big’uns, so these tiny marvels are not mentioned in any city guidebook. When walking through neighborhoods, you have to keep your eyes open and look down amongst the rocks and hedges. The telltale signs are pebbles in a curvy line, an over-large mushroom, or tiny doors leading into hillsides.

Another thing that makes Fairy Gardens hard to find is that they are so small. An entire community of fairies can fit in even a Portland sized yard, tucked between rose bushes and towering dahlias.

Dragons chatting with Fairy folk in the Northeast

I love finding Fairy Gardens all over our city. Clearly, fairy-folk only establish their gardens among sympathetic, gentle humans, and I like that Portland has been given the Fairyfolk stamp of approval.

A thriving village in the Southeast

Also, I think fairies are wise gardeners. They know enough to leave the giant trees alone, focussing on the tiny weeds that can choke a flowerbed. They encourage the ladybugs, bees, and butterflies in their efforts to keep the flowers safe and healthy.

Cousin Kestrel is very helpful to our local fairies

I hope you can come visit soon, so we can go find some Fairy Gardens together.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Our Fourth

Dear Liza,

I saw that you had a walk along the lovely coast at Monterey and even a barbecue with your mom and dad. Here, we all went for nice long walks through the old, tree filled Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Fourth of July in Laurelhurst

The flowers are so beautiful and the yards kept so pretty, it is almost like some house and garden tour. Houses here were built from 1917 to about the 1950s, so there is a lot of variety, and the lots are steep because every house had a big cellar. The trees grow fat and wide and make lovely shaded walk.

Dahlias that look like fireworks…

We had a nice big bowl of soba noodle soup for dinner, and started watching an old Jimmy Stewart movie called “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” about an idealistic young man learning, and doing something, about corruption in government. In about the middle of the movie, I wanted to walk out to see if I could find the lunar eclipse. It would only be visible during moonrise. My wonderful people agreed to pause the movie and we headed out.

Weird, funny, true poster….

We saw this poster, which is funny and true and sort of sad at the same time, and we saw (and heard!) folks setting of fireworks, but we never got to see the moonrise. The same trees that make us love Portland so much make it hard to see the horizon.

Out of hundreds that heard, the only ones we saw

We got home and finished the movie, with Jimmy Stewart (guided and inspired by Jean Arthur) giving a filibuster in the Senate and smashing the political machine that was running his state. Right triumphed, evil was stopped, and all was well.

Jimmy Stewart, fighting corruption

It was hard to fall asleep, because the fireworks were so LOUD they shook the windows. After weeks of seeing video of political protests with some buildings set in fire, it was hard to relax.

Jean Arthur and Thomas Mitchell help out

If we are, as some people say, in a revolution, I imagine we may be hearing more of these disturbing sounds.

Sigh. Big fat sigh.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Mixing It Up a Little

Dear Liza,

Human beings are creatures of habit, they say, but I have always disagreed. I like to go on adventures…walking eight miles to Sellwood, bussing across town for a hike, taking the train to Vancouver and biking around the city. But as we go along in the quarantine, I realize how much I am leaning on my habits. Especially in uncertain times, we feel the need to do normal things in the normal way.

Starting simple

Here, that means morning coffee with news on the sofa, writing blogs, then crossword puzzles, then French practice on Duolingo.

The recent addition of online watercolor classes with Ruth Inman in Illinois has helped fill Tuesday and Thursday mornings with art and conversation. It has also given me courage to make more art.

Little flowers are less daunting

The other day I painted my first sunflower. I had been doing little daisies and simple roses, which feel less daunting. Sunflowers are imposing. They are flower royalty that literally looks down on everyone. They have gravitas.

Floral royalty

And when I got it done, I felt pretty good about it. I asked Auntie Bridgett. “It’s not bad,” she said kindly. “But you could use some colored pencils to bring it out more, to make it pop.”

My first thought was, “What if I screw it up?” But I slapped that thought down, stepped over it, and moved on. We walked to Collage down on Division Street and bought me some Vera Thin pencils along with more watercolor paper.

Painted, penciled, and almost done

I started playing. Painting like before, but with the knowledge that some parts would be enhanced or shaded with pencils. I learned about complementary colors and how to use them for emphasis, that shadows are never black, and that short lines can make lovely curves. It is another tiny step outside my comfort zone.

Back to daisies, but with more oomph

This using of paints and pencils, or pastels and collage, or crayons and paint, is called mixed media. You mix bits that you already know, some you don’t, and come up with something new. This is an interior adventuring, and one I am enjoying very much.

Maybe it will keep my adventurous muscles strong for when I can go adventuring outside again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

…And While We’re on the Subject…

Dear Liza,

So, the other day I was remembering how my Momma encouraged us to deal with sad times by finding things to be grateful for. And then yesterday, coming back from running errands, I found the Gratitude Tree.

This is a tree planted in the parkway at SE 36th and Main Street. I don’t know how long it has been there, and don’t know how I have missed it until now. Indeed, I may have seen it, but since I didn’t NEED it, it didn’t register. Brains are like that.

Anyway, I stopped and had a good visit with the Gratitude Tree. It carries the website http://www.gratitudedojo.com and is covered with Manila tags, which are attached to a rope by thin wire. Hundreds of people have written what they are grateful for and attached their thanks.

These acknowledgements of gifts great and small made me smile. And, like the Grinch, my heart grew a few sizes. Even in the midst of racial upheavals and violence, an international pandemic and incompetent leadership, there is a lot to be grateful for.

I don’t know who has provided our neighborhood with this wonderful way to put our joy and appreciation on display. I wish I did. I would make them a batch of cookies and write them a limerick.

Cookies don’t travel well online, but here is the limerick.

Down in Sunnyside there is a tree,

That became a ray of sunshine for me.

Instead of berating,

This tree’s celebrating!

And the love’s out there for all to see.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Gratitude

Dear Liza,

It seems there is a pendulum in my emotions that swings back and forth. Most days it is somewhere in the middle, and I go through the days happily reading, painting, and cooking.

But every few weeks or so, the pendulum swings all the way to total energized happiness, and I walk for miles and make cookies. A few weeks later, it swings back, and it is a struggle to get out of bed and make conversation.

My people

I know we are all going through this together, but we are doing it mostly alone. And it’s hard, sometimes. My Momma was a big fan of gratitude in times like these. She grew up in Dust Bowl Oklahoma and didn’t have much in terms of clothes or toys. But she loved her tiny flower garden and her dog.
So now it’s my turn.

Near family

I am grateful for:

My family, near and far. The near ones hold me together with love, patience and silliness, and the far ones remind me that we will all be together again someday.

Far family

Old friends. Some I know from kindergarten, high school, or just last year. But the network is there and lets me remember my connected-ness.

My health. This is a gift that I try not to abuse or take for granted.

Wind and clouds

Flowers, plants, wind, and clouds. The other day, watching the wind make the trees dance in the sunset was the highlight of my day.

Crossword puzzles, baking, and art. These small challenges keep my brain active and make me laugh. Also, cookies!

Well, I feel better. I hope you find a lot to be grateful for and that it brings you joy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Black and White Therapy

Dear Liza,

Since we are staying in so much and we can’t get out for concerts or shows, movies and games have become more important in our evening plans.

Fred and Ginger In Top Hat

Our household doesn’t like some very popular types of movies. The string of DC and Marvel comics-based super heroes do not thrill us. We don’t care for violence or explosions. I guess we are kind of old fashioned.

So, we like old fashioned movies!

Alfred Hitchcock’s classics are very well written and suspenseful while much less violent than modern movies of their genre. We enjoy them very much.

Old musicals from the 30s, 40s, and 50s are wonderful to watch when we need a break from reality, when going out for a hot dog can be a health threat and politics as usual has ceased to work for anyone but the politicians.

Last night we watched 1933s Flying Down to Rio, and it was delightful. Besides the incredible clothes and manic facial expressions, it was Fred Astaire’s and Ginger Rogers’ first movie together. They didn’t play the lead characters, but were supporting bigger stars, Dolores del Rio and Gene Raymond as star-crossed lovers. They only had one full-on dance number, “The Carioca”, but their humor and chemistry were obvious, and they went on to make nine more movies together.


So, in case you are old fashioned too, here are my (mostly) black and white movie recommendations:

Nick and Norah Charles on the case…

The Thin Man series, starring William Powell and Myrna Loy as society detectives. The original is the best, but they are all good, with actors like Jimmy Stewart in unexpected roles.

Dial M for Murder

Hitchcock’s movies are all good, but my favorites are Dial M for Murder, Rear Window, and To Catch a Thief.

Musicals : Anything with Fred Astaire and/ or Ginger Rogers, and movies with Gene Kelly and his casually athletic dance moves, like On the Town or Brigadoon.

On the Town

I also like the old Katharine Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy pair-ups like Adam’s Rib and Pat and Mike. I am a sucker for smart ale my dialogue mixed with romance.

ADAM’S RIB, Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, 1949

I hope you enjoy some of these, and maybe discover some of your own favorites.

Love,

Grandma Judy

All Those Blueberries

Dear Liza,

We finally got home with our groceries and all those blueberries, and man, was I tired! We put out feet up, had dinner, and finally had the energy to deal with our fruity bounty.

Auntie Bridgett has sharp eyes!

First, they needed to be washed. These wonderful berries from Columbia Farms are organic, but bird poop and tractor dust are not welcome in my kitchen. We dumped them in the sink, swished them around, and scooped them into our biggest bowl.

Ready to get frozen and bagged!

Since most of these berries are going to spend the next six months or so in our freezer, they needed to be dried and then frozen individually before being bagged and stacked.
This process happened in several stages, since our freezer is small.

Meanwhile, I found a new recipe for blueberry cobbler. The one I used last year, from Martha Stewart, was too sweet for our tastes. This one, from the All Recipes website, had less sugar.

All Recipes Blueberry Cobbler before being devoured

Recipe:

Combine 3 cups berries, 3 T white sugar and 1/2 c orange juice in an 8×8 pan. Set aside.

In a small bowl, blend 2/3 c flour, 1/4 t baking soda and a pinch of salt.

In a medium bowl, cream 1/2 cup butter 1/2 c sugar, 1 egg, and one t. Vanilla until light and fluffy. Just bring together with flour mixture. Spread topping evenly over berries. Bake at 375 for 40 minutes.

I added 1/2 oatmeal to the topping for more crunch.

Once the cobbler was cool enough to eat, we piled some in bowls and slurped it up. It was so good! And, of course, we had some for snack the next day. And the next. It was even better after a rest in the fridge.

I plan to enjoy these berries for months to come, and maybe even make a nice blueberry cobbler for Christmas!

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Lighthouse Inn

Dear Liza,

A place with some history to it!

Once we sadly said goodbye to Sauvie Island and headed back towards town, lunch was definitely next on the agenda. Auntie Bridgett pulled over in front of a small, idiosyncratic cafe called The Lighthouse Inn.

Cool welded chains

This building has been here since 1865 and carries a lot of history.

Bank alarms and post office boxes

Shortly after the town of Linnton was established in 1844, this was a branch of The First U.S. National Bank and Post Office, and even a barber shop. The brass grill of the teller window and the tiny brass post office boxes are still there, adding to the story.

There are reminders of the area’s location on the Willamette, and its importance to the shipping industry that built the city. Each table has a ship’s bell above it with a pull rope (I guess if you want more beer, like, right now. The tables are held up by ship’s chains, welded to hold their shape. For many years, starting in the 1950s, this was where longshoremen would come after a long cold day loading and unloading ships, to get a drink and something hot to eat.

There is a wonderful old drawing of the river steamer The Portland II between the men’s room and the ladies’.

All the way from Lancashire

In other decorative touches, the walls are paneled with at a crazy quilt of different types of wood, and over several of the tables are old English railroad signs. Every place you looked, there was something interesting, quirky, and just plain odd. I loved it.

We chatted with the owner, enjoyed french fries, fried chicken and ahi tuna, caught our breath, and continued on to do the shopping.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sauvie Island, Masked

Dear Liza,

Wiiiiiiide open spaces

Yesterday we got to do something normal! That is, something we have done since we have lived in Portland. We drove out to pick blueberries on Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River, and is a big dollop of farms and wild area just minutes from downtown Portland.

The tiny Sauvie Island Bridge

To get there, we crossed to the west bank of the giant Willamette River, drove north a bit, and then crossed the tiny Multnomah Channel, and there we were. Pastoral paradise.

Ready to go!

Now, of course there were accommodations for Covid-19. We all wore masks, kept our distance, and used the farm’s boxes to keep from giving them any of our germs.

Staying distanced but still jigging along…

But the picking was the same. Pulling pounds of juicy berries off bushes, planning the dozens of cobblers and muffins, is very satisfying, in a hunter-gatherer sort of way.

Bounty!!

Among the bushes, we listened to parents chat with their kids and smiled at our first post-Covid babies. We watched dozens of swallows swoop low to get berries, only slightly discouraged by the broadcast hawk shrieks. We reveled in just being outdoors, being part of the world. As the box filled up, we picked slower, not wanting our time to end.

Auntie Bridgett, getting just a few more!

There is so much of Sauvie Island we haven’t seen yet. There is a nature preserve full of water birds. There are farms that specialize in Marionberries.

The house garden at Columbia Farms

But eventually, the call of lunch got too loud to tune out, and we needed to head off. Of course, this lead to another adventure! More tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Vegetable Gardening Experiment

Dear Liza,

The condominium where we live is very nice. It is bright and comfortable and is in a busy, lovely neighborhood. But what it lacks is a yard. Partly, this is a good thing.. I don’t have to mow or weed. But when I DO want to play in the dirt, I don’t have a spot.

So when we realized that our kitchen window gets full sun all day, that became our garden spot. We have used it to grow lettuce and chives from seed, and to keep some pretty orchids. But now we have an almost Frankenstein experiment going on.

Auntie Bridgett read that the bottom of a celery stalk would keep growing, even when you had eaten the rest. This was almost too weird to believe, but the window sill was free, so we gave it a shot.

We put a half inch of water in a plastic dish and set the root ends of the stalks in. Then, as with all experiments (and gardens), we waited. It didn’t take long,

Within a day, we had tiny green shoots coming up, as though the celery was saying “I’m not done yet!” As they got bigger, we made space in the planter box and moved them into the dirt. And they are still growing!

They probably won’t grow into a whole new stalk, I keep saying. But I didn’t think they would grow at all, so what do I know?

Love,

Grandma Judy