It’s a Rainy Day

Dear Liza,

I watched a lot of Sesame Street when I was younger. Not as a child, I’m too old for that! But when I was working in Day Care Centers and doing Day Care myself, the day usually started and ended with Big Bird, Bob, Susan, and the rest of the neighborhood.

Besides keeping kids occupied and educated, it got me started learning sign language. But it was really the music that sticks with me.

In Portland, the song I sing to myself most often is ”It’s a Rainy Day.” It goes like this.

“It’s a rainy day, it’s rainy day

It’s raining outside so I cant go out to play.

Why do we need the rain, any way?”

The verses go on to explain exactly why we need the rain.

“Rain falls everywhere, fills the rivers and streams, flows into the reservoir, it’s purified and cleaned….”

“Water for the forest, millions of thirsty roots,

Water for the flower gardens, vegetables and fruits.”

I sing this when I want to go for a walk but would rather not get soaked. I sing it when I miss the sunshine. And it helps.

I’ll bet thousands of grown ups still know this song from their childhood, but I can’t find out who wrote it! On all the lyric sites, it is listed as ”by Sesame Street”. Maybe it was a group effort, like most good things.


Grandma Judy

Visiting Ramona

Dear Liza,

We had a few days between rain storms, so Grandpa Nelson and I went for a nice long walk.

Not far from our house is this pair of wonderfully carved trees. The trees grew in this parkway on Glisan Street for many years. When the trees died, instead of taking them out, someone carved them into birds on pedestals. They just make me smile.

We headed northeast over the Banfield freeway and into the Hollywood neighborhood.

This freeway runs through Sullivan’s Gulch, a low spot that divides the east side of town. Since the Gulch isn’t very pretty and is no good for buildings, it also holds passenger rail lines of Trimet and freight train lines. Crossing the freeway when the trains are also running by is extremely noisy!

We got out of the cold with a stop at the Bitter Rose coffee shop and enjoyed coffee, tea and fabulous cardamom brioche bun. A few blocks along, we found this amazing display of hand-turned music boxes, mounted so passers-by can turn the tiny cranks and enjoy them. Again, I smiled.

Finally we arrived at our destination, Grant Park. This park sits between Grant High School and Beverly Cleary Elementary school.

It also is home to these delightful bronze statues of Ramona Quimby, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy. These characters were creations of our local famous author, Beverly Cleary.

Beverly grew up here in Portland from the 1930s through the 1950s. She used street names, businesses and local landmarks in her stories, which have been beloved by many generations. She passed away last year in Carmel, California, at the age of 104.

The statues were created in 1995 by Portland artist Lee Hunt.

We headed home through the sunny cold afternoon, finishing up our five mile walk just in time to make dinner. Boy, were we ready!


Grandma Judy

Postcard Swap

Dear Liza,

I love finding new ways to use art! I make cards and gifts for friends and family and pretties for myself. And now, Ruth Inman has started a postcard swap.

This is a thing where folks volunteer to make a postcard to send to a stranger. The stranger makes one, and you swap. I like this idea for so many reasons.

I get more things to make (always good). I get inspired to try new things. I get to know other artsy people and learn from them, even if they live far away.

Since I am learning about mixed media right now, my postcards are a layers of acrylic paint and collage. Since they are for the month of February, they are red and have hearts.

But, like any handmade thing, they are a little different.

I hope the person who gets my postcard enjoys getting it as much as I enjoyed making it.


Grandma Judy

More Sad Good-Byes

Dear Liza,

The Covid pandemic is shuttering more small local businesses, I am sorry to say. Between fear of infection discouraging folks from going inside to shop or eat, vaccination requirements making staffing difficult, the owners themselves getting sick, and the general economic downturn, we have lost two favorite places as of this past Saturday.

The first is our dear Hob Nob, where Jason and his crew were some of the first folks to welcome us to the neighborhood. The Wonderful David, Cane, Morgan, and Kate have had to find other places to be, and we will miss them.

Good pulled pork sandwiches, inexpensive wine and super-goofy-friendly wait staff made the Nob a fun place to go hang out, people-watch, and then walk the block home.

While out on our walk today, we stopped by the Flower Bomb, which is closing its doors, too. Solara had the bad luck of opening in her new digs in February 2020, just a month and a half before the shut down.

We will miss her and her delightful shop. I wish her well.

We have also said goodbye, since the pandemic, to Noun, a cool antique shop; The Nerd Out, a comic themed restaurant and bar; and Bistro Agnes, a lovely french restaurant downtown.

We are learning important lessons. If you like a place, support it to help it stick around.

Don’t put off for tomorrow what you can eat out today.

Appreciate where you live!


Grandma Judy

Technology Frustrations

Dear Liza,

I got a new phone the other day. I didn’t want one, but my old one (which was a refurbished used one) had finally died. It wouldn’t hold a charge and wasn’t able to be secured anymore.

In usual times, we would head downtown to the Apple store and choose a new one, and their clever experts would set it up. But these are not normal times and Apple is wisely limiting crowds in the store. Grandpa Nelson ordered one from the website and asked that it be delivered across town, with the promise that the delivery person would also set up the phone. Three delivery dates came and went, and no phone.

Frustration was running high, but after the third day, we pivoted to a new plan. We ordered the phone online, drove downtown, and were handed the phone to set up ourselves. Once we got it home, however, the real frustration began. First, the phone, the charger, and the sleeve had to be ordered and shipped separately. When they arrived, the adapter to connect the charger to the wall socket wasn’t included. More ordering. More waiting. Another drive downtown.

It got weirder. Grandpa Nelson has an android phone, and we use a google network for all our phones. It is cheaper than Apple -friendly systems like Verizon. The trouble is, to set up the Apple phone in the Android universe takes some fancy dance steps. After more than an hour on the phone with a very patient customer service guy, we got my phone plugged in and able to talk to folks.

So, after four solid days of technology frustrations, I have a phone that works.

Don’t even get me started on passwords.


Grandma Judy

Art Therapy

Dear Liza,

The other day, I woke up grouchy. There wasn’t really any reason for it, I just had a chip in my shoulder. Art projects I had started weren’t working the way I wanted. A story wasn’t as good as it should be. Nothing felt right.


After stomping around the house all morning and irritating my lovely people, I went for a walk and stomped around the park. I watched the dogs, listened to the birds, and smelled the rain in the mud. I am glad I did.

When I got home, I didn’t go near the art or writing projects I had wrestled with. Instead, I opened my box of collage papers and just started gluing pieces down.

I know enough to stick with colors that look good together. The first few I chose were red, so I went with that. Watercolor pencils, tissue paper from Pittman and Davis fruit boxes, and a small envelope filled up the bulk of the space.

The circles on the tissue paper were looking good, so I pulled out some circles that I cut from magazines years ago. A watercolor piece I did online with Ruthie Inman got cut out and added. A little bit of black made it better.

I made a weird little dude to hide in the envelope. And after more than an hour of cutting and gluing, I felt better!

Art therapy. It works!


Grandma Judy

Bye Bye, Mollie!

Dear Liza,

We put all the Christmas things away last week, but pretty Mollie from Mollala, our tree, was still here. We were waiting for the regular Sunnyside School Christmas tree recycling event, which we carry our tree to every year. This was us last year.


Sadly, the school has canceled the event as a way of making sure people stayed properly distanced and safe. But what would we do with Mollie? As lovely as she has been, cut trees have a limited life, and she was getting very dry.

Clever Grandpa Nelson solved the problem! He found that Boy Scout Troop #24 was having its own tree recycling fund raiser. It was a little further away at the Walgreens parking lot, but totally do-able.

We pulled Mollie from her stand and as gently as possible, dropped her off the balcony. I’m sorry I don’t have that picture! She was raining needles and floated down quite elegantly.

Then we loaded her into my garden wagon, lined with cardboard to protect it from sap and punctures. Bridgett volunteered to be the beast of burden, we helped steer and hold her steady, and off we went, a half a mile through the neighborhood.

The Boy Scout troop charges us $17 to take the trees, then delivers a few hundred of them in a flimsily customized trailer to McFarlane’s Bark, a landscaping company just south of town.

The company then mulches the trees and uses it in yards.

It was good to find another way to recycle our tree and help out local folks. It is odd, though, after almost six weeks, to have a completely un-Christmased living room.

That’s okay. Only 350 days until Christmas 2022!


Grandma Judy

An Evening with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

I miss seeing you and your family every week, but here in Portland I do get to visit with Auntie Katie and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. Last week we picked up a delicious dinner at Yama Sushi on Division and we had a fun evening.

We got to visit with Sir Isaac Snooten, Kestrel’s hognose snake. He is very friendly and doesn’t mind being handled gently and quietly. He really likes Cousin Kestrel and even likes to climb in her hair!

Grandpa Nelson, however, does not like snakes. He and Cousin Jasper played chess with the new set we got him for Christmas, and Jasper won. He is getting really good.

We also did a nice ceremonial ‘first opening’ of two of Auntie Katie’s gifts, some superhero action figures. Squirrel Girl has been a favorite of their house for years, and Kestrel even dressed up in a Squirrel Girl costume for a Comic Con when she was about three years old. Squirrel Girl comes with her own scooter with a basket to hold

Tippytoe and her other squirrel friends.

The other action figure was Mystique, from the Marvel stories. She seems scarier and comes with hands of different colors for when she changes. And of course, we needed to have our two superheroes go on an adventure together!

When it was time for us to go, we had hugs all around. I hope you have a good week with lots of hugs, too.


Grandma Judy

Making a New Kind of Book Part 1

Dear Liza,

This week in our Tuesday Thursday art group we are starting a new kind of book. It is called a Concertina book because it is folded like a Concertina, or accordion.

Ruth Inman, as usual, is our teacher. The supply list for this project was long because it is a multimedia project that includes an old book, fabric, and an endless list of possible collage materials.

First, we separated the hardcover book from its covers with a sharp X-acto blade.

Then, after some careful measuring, we made the Concertina part by gluing pages together and giving them a sharp crease in exactly the right place.

Since this book is going be all black and white, Ruthie showed us ideas for making interesting patterns…

And we let them dry while we chatted about other things to use for patterns.

I used black acrylic paint and the spongy wrappers from our Christmas fruit, cut up meat trays, a carved wine cork, and an old kitchen sponge.

We needed to let the first two-page spread dry before adding any more. I was mostly happy with it, but when it was time for the second two-page spread, I decided to use more black and white, with less grey. You can see how many different ways a black and white page can look!

Spread number 1
Spread number 2 (for now)

I like it, but there will be lots more added before it is all done. I will show you the finished product…um…. when it is finished! So there.


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

I can’t believe it, but it’s time to take down the Christmas decorations. Auntie Bridgett does such a thorough job of making the house pretty with bows, trinkets and candles, it is a full day’s work to wrap them all carefully and Tetris them back into their boxes.

There area lots of goodies to consider, and most of them are breakable. There is livestock….




And, of course, a National Park full of bears.

It is always hard to say goodbye to our seasonal friends, but we know that we will see them again next year.

Adieu for now, Christmas!


Grandma Judy