Sunny Walk to the Rhodies

Dear Liza,


It has been sunny all week! I stayed inside for a few days to work on my story, but yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I walked almost seven miles!

We headed straight south, down 33rd Avenue. This took us through the Sunnyside, then Clinton, neighborhoods that I have walked so often. We enjoyed seeing the cherry blossoms leaping up against the glowing blue sky.

Summer Concession stand at Kenilworth Park

We kept heading south, through the Richmond and Creston Kenilworth areas. It was fun to notice how different neighborhoods had been built at different times. The Victorian houses of the 1890s became Craftsman style in the 1910s and Ranch styles in the 1950s. It was like an architectural history lesson.

Then we came to the Reed neighborhood, at Steel Street. By then we were three miles from home and ready for a snack, but there were no (Gasp!) coffee shops around! It was weird.

But we persevered, heading west a few blocks, past what was once the edge of town. Right by a tiny stream crossed by “Harry’s Bridge”, we found the “Berry Good” fruit stand and got some juice to keep us going.

We finally arrived at our destination, the Crystal Springs Rhododendron Garden. This nine acre garden full of flowers, waterfalls and small lakes was founded in 1950 by some dedicated flower lovers when two “Cynthia” rhododendrons were transplanted to this spot.

The land was donated by William Ladd in 1917. You will remember his name from Ladd’s Addition and his donation of land for our Laurelhurst Park.

Just so you know where you are…

Tomorrow, I will tell you about the loveliness inside the garden!


Grandma Judy

Bridgett Spicer’s Art

Dear Liza,

You know Auntie Bridgett is an artist, right? Well, this week she sold three of her lovely paintings!!

Abstract Paris II by Bridgett Spicer

Bridgett shows her paintings, collages, buttons, magnets and zines at SideStreet Arts gallery at SE 28th and Ash Street here in Portland. She is one of nine members of the gallery and also handles the graphic design for their show postcards, their news releases, and advertisements. It is a big job!

Abstract Paris 1, by Bridgett Spicer

This last Sunday was a good day for art selling. The lady who had bought Bridgett’s wonderful collage of Max Jacob last year came by, and they got to chat. It is always nice to know where your art has gone.

Then a couple came in and, attracted by “(I wish I were) A Paris”, they went to the corner where Bridgett’s paintings were. They fell in love with, and bought, three of her wonderful blue “Paris Rooftops”!

Paris Rooftops, by Bridgett Spicer

I love these paintings, which were inspired by our vacations to Paris, and I am so pleased that people love and appreciate Auntie Bridgett’s art. It makes her happy to create it, and then it goes out and spreads happiness in the world.

That’s a win-win, as they say.


Grandma Judy

Fairy Gardens

Dear Liza,


One of the great joys of living in Portland is getting to spend time with your cousins Jasper and Kestrel. Yesterday afternoon, I walked over to their place through blinding sunshine and had fun with all sorts of projects.


Cousin Jasper had an essay to write about Sacagawea, the Shoshone woman who guided the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1803. He had all his notes, and even a good outline, so it was just a matter of coming up with sentences and transition phrases and actually getting the words down on paper. It was challenging, but by the time we headed off for dinner, it was ready to be typed into the computer at school.

Some Fairywork needs doing….

Cousin Kestrel and I had a few different projects. I had carried some rising bread dough over, and we shaped and baked it. I am afraid that I didn’t give it enough time and that it will be “under proved” and “under baked”. Baking while Grandma-ing is difficult!

We also had fun in the Fairy Garden. Since it was a dry day, and (almost) warm, we went out back to the little triangle of vinca, quince bushes and grass that is Kes’s garden.

Showing improvements!

Over the years, Kestrel has collected tea cups, pebbles and tiny animals for her garden, and they get re-arranged every year. The winter rains make a mess of things and they need to get dug out of the mud, rinsed off, and put back. It is a fun, but damp, process.

Hard working fairy engineer…

I enjoy being with Kestrel and Jasper for so many reasons. Seeing how they think and feel about the world, making up games and playing with words, and noticing the changes in their maturity and understanding, is amazing.

I am one lucky Grandma.

Love, Grandma Judy

Contemporary Art vs. Modern Art

Dear Liza,

Frank Benson’s “Portrait of Elizabeth”, from 1901, is Modern Art

I learn a lot when I go to PAM, our art museum, with Auntie Bridgett. She has studied art history, so she helps me see things in perspective.

All these styles, from 1890 to 1940 or so, are Modern Art!

For example, I always thought that since Modern usually means the newest and most current thing, that Modern would be the newest, latest art. I was wrong! Modern art, as it turns out, had a specific time span, from just before 1850 to about 1950. So Modern art is older than me!

One of Monet’s Parasol ladies, about 1875, is Modern Art

Modern Art also had a lot of different styles in it… Picasso’s cubism, Salvatore Dali’s surrealism, and abstract art are all “Modern” art.

Abstract, Modern Art

Art that is done NOW, (or at least, since 1950) is called “Contemporary” Art.

Since it is newer and not carried in as many museums or art books, people aren’t as used to seeing it… so they say “That’s not art,” which is exactly what people said about the great Impressionist Monet (1850s-1920) when HE started. It was “smudgy”, “sloppy”, and “unfinished”. They didn’t get it.

Aldridge’s “Biophilia”, from 2007, is Contemporary Art

So when I see Contemporary Art and think “That’s not art”, I try to hold my tongue. I try to see what idea the artist is trying to get across, and how well that did it. It can be a challenge, but challenges are good.

Art keeps making me ask questions and think harder about things.


Grandma Judy

Tiny Pink Promises

Dear Liza,

Yes, it is still chilly in Portland. But yesterday, Grandpa Nelsen and I walked all the way downtown, visited Auntie Katie, then took the bus home to do some grocery shopping and we didn’t get wet! Today it is raining… Grandpa Nelson went out for a walk anyway.

I am staying in to work on the story and make pinwheel cookies for a bake sale at Books with Pictures this weekend. But here are some pictures of spring blossoms getting brave in the parks.

I know that in the next month, I will have more incredibly beautiful pictures than I can reasonably post. So brace yourself!


Grandma Judy

Valentine’s Day

Dear Liza,

Flowers from Grandpa Nelson

I hope your Valentine’s Day at your new school was fun. After a busy day that included a visit from an electrician, shopping, and lots of baking, we had a nice evening out at Bread and Ink Cafe down on Hawthorne.

Our local house of deliciousness……

We bundled up, because it is still very cold here, and walked through our lovely neighborhood. I love that people leave their holiday lights up on their porches year round…they always look like there’s a party, and on these long dark evenings, that helps chase the blues away.

Auntie Bridgett being silly….

Bread and Ink served us wonderful Ciopinno, Salade Nicoise, French fries, and a wonderful local wine, with chocolate and orange cake for dessert. The restaurant was packed for the holiday, but we had good service nonetheless.

A fabulous Salade Nicoise
Handsome Grandpa Nelson…

I love that our Trouple has celebrated twelve Valentine’s Days, with many more to come. I love my people very much.

And me!

Love you, too, kiddo.

Grandma Judy

More Bits of Volcano!

Dear Liza,

The Volcano! Exhibit at PAM had so many treats for the eye, I have to share some more with you.
This triptych of paintings by Ryan Molenkamp is inspired by the sequential photographs taken of the actual eruption.

This construction by Charles Arnoldi, showing the chaotic effects of the blast on hundreds of acres of trees, is an echo of this couple having an earnest conversation.

And these Christmas ornaments, made from volcano ash and accidentally fused, shows the power and the beauty of nature.

Don’t you just love art?


Grandma Judy