Harold’s Home!

Dear Liza,

I’m sure you remember Harold, Auntie Bridgett’s stufftie. He has been with us for years, traveling all over Europe and Canada, as well as keeping us company when we were home.

For the last few years, Harold has been staying with Niece Madilyn in San Diego, while she was mourning the loss of her own dear stufftie, Bear. Harold and Bear had been friends and he wanted to be supportive.

But how Madi has agreed to let Harold come home ! We are so happy!

Cousin Kestrel has even decided to make a stuffed friend for Harold. She chose the same fabric I used for your placemats and napkins! Then she made the pattern and got the bits cut out the other evening. Next week, she will continue working on it. I will keep you posted if her progress!

I am hoping Harold will be strong enough to come with us on our visit later this spring.


Grandma Judy

Discovering New Art Downtown

Dear Liza,

We made a trip to downtown Portland the other day, getting computers repaired and buying new boots. We were early for our appointment at The Genius Bar and sitting around inside the Apple Store gives me the heebie-jeebies, so I went out for a walk.

As I was waking along, I looked down …. And saw a quote engraved into a stone in the the sidewalk!

“I could have been a contender. “Marlon Brando’s lament of lost legitimacy in “On the Waterfront.”

As I kept walking and looking, I saw more! Some were serious and lyrical, like bits of poetry by e. e. cummings and prose from Ursula K. LeGuin.

“Nothing can surpass the mystery of stillness”, by e. e. cummings, was part of a term paper I wrote in high school. Seeing it here, in my adopted city at this point in my life, was an amazing bit of circular memory. I got a little teary-eyed.

But of course, the next minute, I saw this brick that said “gobbledygook”, and got the giggles. I proceeded to see “granfalloon”, and then saw Groucho Marx’s

“I never forget a face, but in your case I’ll make an exception.” Nostalgic tears were defeated by more giggles.

By that time it was our turn at the Genius Bar, and then we headed off to lunch at McMenamin’s. Once we got home, I tried to find the name of the art installation, but have not been able to find anything about it. I’m glad I live in a city where Art just sneaks up in me!


Grandma Judy

Illustration Progress

Dear Liza,

I am still working in the illustrations for your story, Adventure Grandma, and have changed gears a bit. Instead of drawing the pictures of our imaginary adventures in Denmark, I am playing with collage and acrylic paints.

As I go along, I am discovering all sorts of new possibilities and difficulties. Finding the right colors and patterns is tricky. I found some in my collage box and am creating others. You never know what will work. All the circles for my moons, suns and bicycle wheels came off Kleenex boxes.

I need to make sure that all the illustrations are cohesive, as Tim Gunn says, so they look like they are going to the same party. I am doing this by using some of the same colors on each page. Red and yellow from our Portland Art Museum magazine are featured in flames, bicycles, sails, and the Peacock Theater.

Then there are the actual shapes and sizes of all the bits. Trying to make sure that the unfortunate cyclists are believable lead to a sort of accidental circus.

The process of collage involves making a thousand decisions. You get an idea of what your picture should look like, then hunt for paper that will get closest to that. There is a lot of reconsidering and rejecting along the way.

I am having such fun with this project! My only worry is getting it all done before we visit you in the spring, so I will go work on it now.


Grandma Judy

New Year’s Jazz at 1905

Dear Liza,

December is definitely our month for going out! In the 35 days between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve, we have two anniversaries and three major holidays. It feels a bit much, sometimes.

We have spent the last half-dozen New Year’s Eves at home because we were worn out from all the holiday-ing. But this year, Grandpa Nelson found a place we just couldn’t resist.

1905 is a jazz club, cocktail bar and pizza joint all in one, up in the Mississippi neighborhood. It’s a small place with seats and tables for about 45 people. We ordered our food and drinks by way of an app called Union, which minimizes close conversations with strangers.

The Caili O’Doherty Quartet played a wonderful set of different types of jazz, from Herbie Hancock’s “Butterfly” and “Come Running to Me” to Betty Carter’s “Tight”. Callie lead the band with her melodic and racy piano playing.

Parnell Newton, on trumpet, was innovative and powerful without hogging the sound wall. He could make the trumpet sing, shout, or whisper. Cory Cox, on drums, was all over the drum kit, putting in amazing flourishes that gave the music texture and imagination.

Ross Garlow played the stand up bass with head-bopping joy, dancing with his instrument as he laid down the bass line.

Besides the wonderful music and the joy of hearing it live, the pizza was outstanding and the cocktails delightful. We will definitely head up to 1905 again, once we have recovered from this holiday season.

Happy New Year!


Grandma Judy

A Very McMenamin’s Holiday

Dear Liza,

I have told you about the McMenamin brothers and all their interesting restaurants created in historical buildings. Last night, we visited another one! Auntie Bridgett drove us through the rain and dark to the Chapel Pub.

It all started with Grandpa Nelson’s Christmas gift to Auntie Bridgett, a McMenamin’s Passport. This is a little booklet, like a real passport, which has a page for each region in Oregon. When you visit a restaurant (or bar, or hotel) on that page, you get a stamp.

Some larger venues have lots places to visit and get stamped. Edgefield has a dozen! When you have filled a page, you get a prize. This can be a free appetizer or drinks, but mostly what you get is the fun of going out.

This is, of course, a very clever marketing scheme, sort of an adult version of “Collect ‘em All!” We know this, and we don’t care. It is fun. We always have a good time at a McMenamin’s, enjoying the artistic renovation, the historical preservation, friendly service, and reliably tasty food and drink.

The Chapel Pub started life in the 1930s as a mortuary and chapel, which may explain the green “spirit orbs” in one of my photos. I imagine any mortuary would have a few lingering ghosts.

Another charm of The Chapel Pub is its historic pipe organ, and last night we got to hear it played. The talented and versatile Steve Kerin brought his giant suitcase of music and played requests for an hour and a half. Enjoying a Terminator Stout at the bar while listening to Steve play Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” on the organ was a high point of the 2022 holiday season, for sure.

Have a wonderful new year!


Grandma Judy

Zooming Again!

Dear Liza,

After what seems like a really long holiday break, Ruthie Inman’s Zoom Art group is back together. I have missed doing art with this bunch of friends!

This week, Ruthie asked us to assemble collage materials in very specific color groups: white with black, black with white (an important difference!), reds, and something neutral, like a light brown print. I was intrigued. I dug in my scrap box and found some bits.
Ruthie had found a wonderful art piece by Deborah Shapiro for us to use as reference. The red wine positively sparkled!

Art supplies are always a bit crowded on my desk, but I make it work!

As the meeting started, Ruthie, Shirley, Vimi and I chatted about everything under the sun and started sketching, sorting and snipping.

A quick hour and a half later, we were all surprised at how well our pieces were looking.

The next meeting, we made more progress.

But still not quite finished. But we will play along, and all will be well. Patience!


Grandma Judy

International Adventure Grandma

Dear Liza,

Since you moved to Denmark, I have been studying about your new country so I can feel like I am visiting you. Denmark is a lot smaller than the United States. It is even smaller than the state of Oregon, where I live.

Don’t get me wrong. I really, really, like that Denmark is small. It is like Peter Pan’s Neverland, so it is never too far from one adventure to another.

The story is about an imaginary YOU and an imaginary ME traveling around Denmark, from Copenhagen to Horsens. The current title is “International Adventure Grandma”.

I have looked at a bunch of maps and websites, and have followed streets and bike paths with Googlemaps. I have found fun things to do and gotten us involved in interesting disasters.

And after four months of working away and lots of help from friends and family, I felt almost ready to share. But something was missing. It needed pictures.

I am not an illustrator, but have decided to do the pictures myself and learn as I go along. Here are some very rough ideas. I haven’t even decided if the pictures will be water colored, colored pencils, collages, or some other media. I am still learning.

But I promise it will be done by the time we visit in the spring!!


Grandma Judy

A White, Slushy Christmas

Dear Liza,

By some freak of nature, we had grey clouds and snow on the ground for The Winter Solstice, and you, in Denmark, had clear skies and sun! It snowed a few days before Christmas and, though it got a bit soft and slurpy, the snow was still with us December 25th.

I had to get out and see it! I put on as many layers as I could, including long underwear and gloves that were gifts from Auntie Christy, and headed out. Traffic hadn’t started yet. I stood in the middle of Stark Street and enjoyed having it all to myself.

I love how everything looks magical with a layer of snow! It’s like we live on a plain cake all year, and then “Whoosh!” it’s someone’s birthday and here comes the frosting.

I walked carefully, planning my steps to avoid landing on my rear end, and headed for Laurelhurst Park.

Just as I suspected, kids were in the ravine with their sleds, even though the ground was clearly visible through the icy cover.

And most of Firwood Lake was frozen over! This wonderfully weird blue-grey sheet of ice chased the ducks all the way to the east end, where the inflow pipes keep the water moving. The whole flock paddled there, keeping each other company and grumbling a bit.

Soon, I headed home to get some feeling back in my toes!

Grandma Judy

Freezing Outside, Cozy Inside

Dear Liza,

December 21st is always a special day for us. It is the day Grandpa Nelson and I got married! It is also officially the first day of winter, and the longest night of the year. This year, it was also the coldest.

When We Three stepped out to catch our Lyft ride to La Moule for our anniversary dinner, it was near freezing! The Christmas lights on all our neighbors’ balconies sure looked pretty.

The driving was safe, but only because it has been so DRY that there was no water to freeze on the roads.

Our dinner was incredible, as usual. The waitress even brought us glasses of champagne for our anniversary! I had a radicchio salad and moules (mussels) served with buttery garlicky sauce and crusty baguette, and Auntie Bridgett had escargot served on focaccia bread with a creamy, yummy sauce.

Grandpa had pommes frites (French fries) and a fine glass of Merlot.

We shared and laughed and had a great time. It was a fine way to celebrate 48 fun years!

We got home and lit the candles for the fourth night of Hanukkah while enjoying the Christmas lights. Never miss a chance to celebrate!

Happy Everything!


Grandma Judy

Mt. Tabor Bread’s New Location

Dear Liza,

Way back in 2018, in what we now refer to as “The Before Times”, (before the Covid Pandemic) I wrote a blog about a local bakery called Tabor Bread. We often stopped by on our long walks up Mt. Tabor, picking up drinks and substantial snacks to hold us on our hike.

It had a real brick oven and baked wonderful breads in the old-fashioned way.

So imagine my horror when we heard, mid-pandemic, that because of the lack of in-person business, the bakery was closing its doors. Tabor Bread was more than a place to get muffins and sandwiches; it was a Portland institution!

Fast forward to this summer, and Grandpa Nelson found an article in the Willamette Week newspaper that said that Tabor Bread is re-opening! Hooray!! And that their new location is on Belmont Street, just a mile up from us! Hooray again!!

And just last week, as Auntie Bridgett and I were walking to deliver an item for “Buy Nothing”, a local sharing organization, we just happened to pass right this new location. We stopped in.

We found an impressive and delicious collection baked goods, and picked up something for everyone. A buckwheat blueberry muffin, a cardamom bun, and a molasses cookie later, we strolled home to enjoy our finds. Even with out their old brick oven, they were all delicious!

Also, lined up on long shelves, were many bags of different kinds of baking flours. I am always interested in trying new flours. Between the baking and the eating, of course, we will be heading back soon.

Always something new to see, find, and eat!

Love, Grandma Judy