The City Fair

Dear Liza,

Rose Festival season is here, and the city is so busy! Friday afternoon we took the bus downtown to see what was happening at the City Fair. This is the carnival part of the festival at Tom McCall Riverfront Park, and we haven’t gone since before the Covid shut down.

I know I am getting to be an old lady, because the rides looked terrifying! Even watching them made me fear for my life.

It was early afternoon, so there weren’t many people yet, which was fine. As much as I enjoy people watching, big crowds just make everything harder!

The production of the carnival was a bit … underwhelming. The rides were colorfully painted, but the juggler dropped everything and was clearly struggling.

The best thing to see was the Jim Neill Museum historical display about the American Rosie the Riveter Association, who celebrate the women like my momma who went to work in the aircraft Industry during World War II and saved the country. Here is an old picture of my Momma and her sister Hazel heading off to work in 1944.

The best thing to DO was, of course, play pinball! We found the Monopoly game, which had a lot going on and fun sound effects. We enjoyed our game until the machine kept our quarters, and then we said good-bye.

Grandpa Nelson found his carnival favorite, kettle corn, at a unicorn-decorated stand under the Morrison Bridge.

The best view of the day was Mt. Hood 90 miles to the east, looming over a new apartment building.

When we had seen all the things and eaten the snacks, we caught the magic 15 and headed for home. I was well and truly worn out, and happy for a bit of quiet time before the baseball game.


Grandma Judy

Making a Gratitude Journal

Dear Liza,

I have found another sort of Journal to make! It is a Gratitude Journal, creating pages of collage and other media of things, places and people that bring me joy.

For the base of the book, I used a board book, like children use when they are little. It gives a nice sturdy work surface for collage. This one had this nifty format of short pages that get longer towards the back of the book, which made it even more interesting.

I decided to create one page for each of the types of things I am grateful for. That way, I would be thinking grateful thoughts on all the stages…. finding the papers, composing the page, and later, when I look at it. I looked through my boxes of magazine clippings and ephemera and started pulling pieces out!

From previous books, I have figured out to lay a napkin layer down (other folks use gesso) with Mod Podge to give the papers some grip on the page. I also wrapped the edge of each page with strips to keep them from peeling.

As always, there was lots of placing, moving, trimming, and talking to the pieces to get each page just right. I started with my adopted city of Portland. All my favorite places are there!

The next page was all about art. The art I have learned from Ruthie Inman and Auntie Bridgett Spicer, as well as stuff I make up on my own… it all makes my life richer.

The next page is all about travel, with clippings from magazines, maps, and language calendars.

Gardens are next, with my own veggie plot as well as public gardens that I love to visit. Just walking through a garden makes my world better.

The last, and largest page, is for the people in my life (of course Mouse counts as people!) Most of them are represented by images… can you guess who is who? On this page are also things I love doing with my people… cooking, doing crossword puzzles on the couch, walking, biking, and learning.

I love that when the book is closed, I can see what each page is about… all that gratitude at a glance!

And no, I haven’t decorated the front or back covers yet. I wanted to get this blog written for Friday, but didn’t want to have to hurry the art. I will show it to you when I get it finished.

I enjoyed making this book so much, I have already picked up another second hand board book. What should THIS one be about?


Grandma Judy

May Flowers, Part 2

Dear Liza,

Once Ruthie Inman got us started on her May Flowers project, we had some more paper-collecting to do. White with black text, black with white text, and red with any color of text.

I started with the background, made of dozens of bits of white and off white with small black text.

I like the way the tiny lettering faded into the background.

Then the fiddly bits need to be dealt with. Cutting red, black and blue bits to fill in the bike, tire and some last minute orange for the basket tested my scissor skills. That done, it looked like a proper bicycle. Proper, but too plain.

I trimmed the flowers from weeks ago so they fit better, placed, placed, and re-placed them around the basket, and finally glued them down. I like the way they spill out! A few leaves cut from the same painted text topped it off.

I finished it by putting the spokes in the wheel, and was very happy with the results. Now, on to the next project!


Grandma Judy

It’s Purple Season!

Dear Liza,

As Spring has moved along, we have noticed the general color palette change. March was (mostly) the light pinks of cherry blossoms, coming onto the trees before any other color in the neighborhood.

But last night we went for a walk around the neighborhood and found a shift. Now, it seems to be purple season. This unusual rose was the first to catch my eye, and after that, I couldn’t stop seeing it.

The early big-headed lavender is up and full of bees and smelling like summer.

This Rhododendron is ten feet tall and sharing a lot of beauty.

I almost missed these deep purple petunias because they were so low to the ground!

And as we made our turn at the park, we saw this lovely iris standing above a bed of poppies.

Happy Purple Season, Liza!


Grandma Judy

The Garden at Books with Pictures, One Year On

Dear Liza,

A year ago, Auntie Katie and her friends planted a garden in the skinny triangle of ground behind her bookshop, Books With Pictures. Everyone helped with weeding and watering during the hot summer and fall, and the garden rested through our cold, wet winter.

And now that summer is on the way, everything is coming up roses!

And irises, lilacs and dahlias!

And lupines!

The Rhododendron that Katie bought on Mother’s Day has settled right in and started blooming. She named it Barney (for the big purple dinosaur) and he is showing his Barney colors.

This past year there have been story times, concerts, trivia contests, and book signings in the garden.

That little stage has seen a lot of talent.

Katie just put in some benches, so there is always a place to sit in the sun or the shade, whichever you like. They are good places to enjoy the flowers and watch the world go by.


Grandma Judy

A New Cape for Kestrel

Dear Liza,

With grand daughters around, there are always going to be projects! Our latest one is a delightful cape for Kestrel. She and Auntie Katie picked up the fabric and trims a few weeks ago. We used a cape we already had as the pattern.

The pattern is very basic, just two different sized rectangles, so the cutting and hemming went pretty quickly.

Things got trickier when I needed to attach the hood to the cape. The fabric is so slippery! The pins kept sliding out. I said bad words.

Kestrel braided some fat yarn for the loop closure and we found the perfect button. Once those were on, she could wear the cape. But it wasn’t done yet!

We pulled a dozen silk flowers apart, laid the cape in the floor, and got down to work! It was crouchy, fiddley work, but we got about fifty petals sewn on. Mouse helped, of course….

Kestrel was going to wear the cape to her school dance, but due to a scheduling snafu, she will wear it at the local Burning Man event, called SOAK. I hope it survives the camping trip. But even if it doesn’t, it was sure fun to make. When you and I get together, I’m sure we will have some projects, as well.


Grandma Judy

History Pub at the Kennedy School

Dear Liza,

Spring means going out more, and last Monday we went out to the McMenamin’s Kennedy School for one of their wonderful History Pubs!

We ate dinner at home, because two nights of McMenamin’s food seemed a bit of an indulgence. But Grandpa Nelson made sure we didn’t suffer too much.

We went to hear Marilyn Clint, a former Rose Queen and current CEO of the Rose Festival, talk about the history of the Rose Festival in Portland. She knows it from the inside out, and is a real history buff, too. She had a lot of interesting stories.

She told about Harry Lane, who was Mayor of Portland from 1905 to 1909. Harry was a man ahead of his time. He rode his bike from his house in the Eastside to work downtown. He was pro-women’s suffrage and pro-integration. He was the Mayor who got naval ships to come visit Portland for the Rose festival, by writing a letter to the Department of the Navy. Fleet week has been part of the Festival ever since.

Harry was also a pacifist, and as a Senator in 1917, he voted against American getting into World War I. His position was not popular and he was viciously attacked in the press. His health was not good and he suffered from stress, and he passed away the next year.

Marilyn told us about Silas Christofferson, who carried his biplane, piece by piece, up to the top of the newly built Multnomah Hotel in 1912. Then, during the Festival, he flew it off the building!

Other flight-related shenanigans involved a hydrogen balloon race that ended in two of the contestants making a crash landing in Bull Run Lake and having to walk themselves home.

Here’s a silly picture of Grandpa Nelson posing with the statue of a Royal Rosarian (yes, it is a real group) at the Rose Test Garden in Washington Park. I love this time of year, with Spring Fever hitting everyone and roses and activities blooming like crazy!


Grandma Judy

Sketchy People Year Seven

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I took the number 20 from the Mt. Tabor Art Walk all the way downtown to see our friend Jack Kent. His newest book, Sketchy People Year Seven, was being released and we wanted to be there!

We got some coffee with Grandpa Nelson at Barista Coffee shop, then found Jack in front of Pinky, a quirky gift shop on NW 23rd Avenue. As we stood there chatting, this young man came out of the shop. He had just gotten a tattoo, right inside the shop, of one of Jack’s “Sketchy People!”

We were surprised, and Jack was stunned. That is some hard-core fan action.

We shopped and chatted, and then Jack closed up his table and we all headed off for dinner at the nearest McMenamin’s restaurant, The Ram’s Head.

Like most McMenamin’s, The Ram’s Head has a history. It is in the historic Campbell Apartment Building, which was built in 1912, and The Rams Head served as the Campbell’s dining room. In 1920, when Prohibition was passed, it became a “blind pig”: slang for a secret speakeasy, where people could buy illegal cocktails.

We loved it! The original coffered ceilings and tin wainscoting give it an old time charm. In addition to the usual quirky and delightful artwork, there are squashy chairs and a very cozy feeling.

For Auntie Bridgett to get her McMenamin’s passport stamped, we needed to find a Blind Pig somewhere… we did, finally. Right there, on the wall behind Grandpa Nelson. Can you see it?

We ate and chatted with Jack and then headed for home, via the Magic number 15. What a day full of adventures!


Grandma Judy

Mt. Tabor Art Walk Adventure

Dear Liza,

The summer activities continue! Sunday was the Mt. Tabor Art walk. We covered a lot of ground, met some lovely people, and saw a lot of art!

We decided to take the bus to get around, and mapped it out ahead of time with Trimet’s online maps. Auntie Bridgett also marked up a paper map so we knew where we were going.

We took snacks and water to avoid hungry-grumpiness and caught the number 14 to get to our first artsy neighborhood.

First on our tour was Georgina Ottavarino, who does collage and hand-made books. Her work is so precise and colorful, and she was so good at explaining things, I got inspired to do some more of both!

Georgina’s little studio is set in her backyard garden. Everything about her yard was peaceful and inspirational. I never wanted to leave.

Our next stop was a house where three artists were sharing space, and I visited with Tami Katz, who does beautiful fused glass. We talked about doing art with friends over Zoom and Skype during the pandemic shutdown, like I do with Ruthie Inman. I guess we all found ways to stay happy.

Bridgett and I ate our peanut butter and jam sandwiches sitting on a curb in the sun, enjoying the tree-lined neighborhood and the conversation of folks going by.

Our next group of artist studios were about a mile north, so we walked a block and caught the number 71 and then the 15 up the hill, to save our leg muscles. We found jeweler and artist Jo Brody’s art displayed in the front porch, and her husband Mark’s mosaics around back.

Jo does wonderful work, but I was there for the mosaics!

Mark’s work was inspirational. Large and small, quirky or not, comic or poignant, he does it all.

Mark told me about his work in progress, a giant cement toy jack, currently in his basement. When it is finished, it will be moved (not an easy task) to Lake Oswego for their Gallery Without Walls this summer.

We walked up the street and found Pat Stevens, who makes prints. I love her work, and how she uses bits she doesn’t like as quilty pieces! We talked about getting together with grand daughters who live far away. Her Elena is in Montana, much closer than you are in Denmark!

When our eyes were full, it was nearly 3:00 and time for the second part of our day. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Art Picnic at Colonel Summers Park

Dear Liza,

This past Saturday, we took a picnic and walked to our first Art Picnic. Auntie Bridgett had heard about this event too late to join, but we wanted to see how art and picnics would work together.

We walked through the neighborhood, enjoying all the roses that just started blooming in our newly-summery weather. This one is called “Scentimental.”

The park had quite a few people milling around and artist’s tents set up, but we found a nice piece of lawn in the shade of a fine old tree, got comfy, and checked out the scenery. I love the old brick building at Colonel Summers Park, but I’ve never seen it open.

The first artist we talked to was this talented and quirky fellow who makes heads of all sizes from ceramics. The teeth are made from acrylic fingernails! Adorable in their own way, but a bit creepy for everyday.

We found our friend Jack Kent, who does a series of cartoons called “Sketchy People.” He released his seventh collection book this past weekend.
Auntie Bridgett looked around and chatted with folks for quite a while, but Grandpa Nelson and I decided to relax in the blanket in the shade.

As you can tell from our naked legs, it was shorts weather! What a lovely day.

Grandma Judy