Celebrating Health

Dear Liza,

Nothing makes you want to get out and about like spending a long day in a hospital. So after Wednesday’s eternal visit to the Emergency Room, I took Grandpa Nelson on a long walk. We went all the way to Mt. Tabor Park.

A fence with benefits!

Mt. Tabor is a 636 foot high dormant volcano right here in Southeast Portland, two and a half miles from our house. We started after coffee -and-crossword puzzles, when it was sunny but still cool.

Portlands’s own mythical animal

I love walking through new neighborhoods! I always discover beautiful and unusual houses, gardens, and …. well, things. These sheet copper fence-toppers, shaped like silhouettes of a squirrel, a dog, and Sasquatch, tickled me.

Who knew?

Further on, we found the Lincoln Street Kayak and Canoe Museum, with a small handmade boat in the window, as well as books and other information. It is closed for now, of course, but is delightfully dusty and quirky. According to the website, the collection is mostly full-sized functional replicas of traditional small craft, created by Harvey Goldman,” to augment his research. Peering through the window, I could just make out the outlines of more than a dozen narrow boats up on racks.

Yep, that’s the frame for a kayak!

As we got closer to Mt. Tabor, the hill got steeper, and we slowed down a bit. It was getting warmer and we were starting to run out of gas. We were thinking maybe we had violated my Dad’s rule of “only walking until you are halfway tired.”

We’re going here…. not all the way up there!

But we soon saw the long stretch of grass that is the off leash dog park, continued past the community garden, and found some shade. We sat and delighted in watching the world go by as we caught our breaths.

Grandpa Nelson, feeling shady…

Tomorrow, I will tell you about our return trip!


Grandma Judy

Downs and Ups

Dear Liza,

I know you and your school friends started distance learning yesterday. I would be starting school too, in the same situation of being on-line rather than in class, if I hadn’t retired a few years ago.

Encouragement from everywhere…

Because I taught school for thirty years, Fall has always been emotional for me. The joy of seeing old friends and students, the stress of starting new challenges, the fun of doing what I loved, all added up to a bit of an emotional avalanche.

Yesterday was a different kind of avalanche. It started with a pretty routine doctor’s visit. I thought I had a kidney stone and wanted it checked out. After a few tests, I was relieved. No infection, no stone. So I can go home now, right?

Well, because of a heart diagnosis from a few years’s back, they wanted more tests to make sure my heart was all right. This meant a trip to the Emergency Room, which is where they do tests here. Auntie Bridgett had driven me, and when it became obvious this was going to be a longer haul, she went and fetched Grandpa Nelson. They sat in the waiting room while I sat in the bed behind swinging doors.

Occasional hard truth…

SEVEN hours later, after blood draws, sonograms, and MRIs, I was pronounced ‘just fine’ and excused. No idea what the ‘stone’ pain or symptoms were from. My heart is healthy, although I was given the name of a local thoracic surgeon to see ‘to follow up’ on the heart issue, just in case.

We got home near midnight, too stressed to sleep and too tired to think straight. I felt as though I had gone to put my toe in a river and ended up being washed miles downstream. I’m not sure what the bill for this medical fiasco of an afternoon will be, but pray that my insurance covers it.

So, that was the down part of the day. The UP part?

That my people were with me, caring for me, sending me love and concern. Grandpa Nelson smuggling me a Payday candy bar because I hadn’t eaten all day. Auntie Bridgett bringing me the Willamette Weekly crossword puzzle. Offspring worried from afar. Doctors who explained and comforted, even through long hours of administrative frustration. Coming home to a cat who missed us.

And a random flower photo.

Well, sweetie, I hope your day was better than mine. Today I plan to go for a long walk to celebrate being ‘just fine’ and take an oath to stay out of hospitals for a long, long, time.


Grandma Judy

Update on Dr. Wo

Dear Liza,

About two years ago, I wrote to you about a Chinese herbalist who had worked and lived in Portland around 1903. His name was Dr. C. Gee Wo.

Doctor Wo’s ad from the early 1900s

Back then, I learned that the doctor was from China and had studied herbal medicine both there and in Nebraska. He married a woman named Saide Celestine Starbuck and then they moved to Portland, Oregon, where he ran offices and sold medicines until he retired around 1921.

Last summer I went in a walking tour of Chinatown here in Portland, and learned that Dr. Wo had been very well known in the city, and had a clientele that included both Chinese and White people.

And then, this morning, it got even more interesting. Kol Shaver, a collector and dealer of antique and rare books in Vancouver, Washington, contacted me. Kol has been looking for information about Dr. Wo to help categorize some of his writings, and mfound information in my old blog! It made me ridiculously happy to be useful.

Kol runs an on-line shop at zephyrbook@gmail.com and was also able to give me more information about Dr. Wo.

Dr. Wo issued a series of books entitled “Things Chinese” through his Company Chinese Medicine, which had testimonials about his medical treatments. The testimonials within the book indicate he was still living as of 1926. He was also present at the baptism of his grandson Kenneth, born to his daughter Celestine (her mother’s middle name) in 1925.

Kol told me that although there is still no information about the Doctor’s burial, but Mrs. Wo and their daughter are buried right here in our own Lone Fir Cemetery, even giving me the section and plot numbers! I could go visit!

Paying my respects to Mrs. Wo….

But, as Kol told me, if you didn’t know what you were looking for, you’d never find it. Mrs. Wo’s tombstone reads “Sadie Leo, 1868-1927”. Maybe because of anti-Chinese prejudice, they chose not to use their surname “Wo”. Close by is Celestine “Guie” Tongue Cooke, their daughter, who was born in 1898 and died in 1971.

Their daughter Celestine…

Also nearby is the smaller grave marker of Henry Leo, a son, who was born on August 27, 1903, and only lived two days. I mourned for his parents and little Guie, who would have been just five years old when she lost her baby brother.

And little Henry, who only lived for two days.

I am so happy to have been in contact with someone who is interested in Dr. Wo.


Grandma Judy

Frog and Snail

Dear Liza,

The new place….

Auntie Bridgett and I walked over to a new restaurant the other day. Frog and Snail has replaced the small, comfy Chez Machin, and we wanted to give the new place a try.

Diffused sunlight makes everything pretty!

It’s just a half mile walk down to Hawthorne, enough to work up an appetite. The new owners have lightened up the interior space and spaced the tables appropriate for Covid-19, but we wanted to enjoy their back patio, because, as Dr. Fauci says, “outside is better than inside.” The nice masked waitress led us through the restaurant, down a hallway and up a few stairs, and there we were.

I don’t know if it counts as “outside”, because it has walls and a roof, but the wide back door was open and only two of the six tables were occupied, so we felt comfortably spaced. I waited until everyone else had left before taking pictures because people get self-conscious around cameras.

The space was light and airy, with a corrugated plastic roof overlaid with garden style lattice and sun sails, which gave it a whimsical feel. There were posters from Le Cirque d’Hiver in Paris, photos of the City of Light, and a rustic mural in the concrete wall.

Like many other restaurants, Frog and Snail has its menu online, and you scan it with your phone. This prevents passing germs around with laminated menus, or throwing out hundreds of pieces of paper a day.

We chose Quiche Lorraines for lunch and the Classic Crepe (Nutella, banana, and toasted fresh graham crackers) for dessert. The quiche was deep and creamy, and full of onions and bacon, with a crisp crust. The crepe was sweet and soft and rich, and we were glad we had decided to share it! It would have been too much food for one person to finish.


We enjoyed sitting in the lovely space and looking at the poster of the Cirque d’Hiver, and realizing we had walked past that very building on our last visit to Paris in January 2014. We stared at the photo of the Eiffel Tower, figuring out where it was taken from. This brought all our memories of Paris forward, and we both got that glazed-eyed look of being far away, walking down chilly Parisian streets and stopping in at tiny places for chocolate chaud. Sigh.

Okay, if that’s the Conciergerie, then we must be….

Eventually, we had to get a move on and do some mailing at the postals, then take the long way home to walk off some of that cream and chocolate.

The rest of the day was lazy and sleepy, full of quiche and memories of France.


Grandma Judy

Remembering Islands

Dear Liza,

Well, I finally got the Big Island of Hawaii the way I liked it. Using paint, embroidery and quilting, I found the texture and shapes I wanted to remember.

The Big Island, as remembered

Yes, I know I didn’t give enough room to the emergent volcano in the south east corner, and little red sparkly beads, to denote flowing lava, have been suggested. But for now, I am happy with it.

And now my mind has wandered to another island. This one is located inside a certain theme park in Southern California, and is named after title character in Mark Twain’s most popular book.

Sketches for my next island

I started with sketches from my memory, then went on websites to see the lovely hand drawn maps from 1955. I realized the three-quarter view that showed the buildings skewed things a bit.

Photo credit, Disneyland and Walt Disney Corporation

So I cheated. I went to Google maps, found Anaheim, and zoomed in. The satellite setting shows right where everything is, and it isn’t as I remember it. The cove we crossed on the pontoon and suspension bridges are tiny compared to my memories.

Satellite view…

The “fort” that sold pickles from a barrel felt and as though it was at the end of the world, alas, was not. But my memories of joy and adventures are intact. The feeling of rocks under my sneakers and dust in my nose is there, waiting to be called up.

My version of this island will be a compromise between my childhood adventures and the actual place they happened, between the illusion and the reality. And that’s okay, too. Off to paint now!


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

Our family likes words. We make them up, rhyme them, put them in the ‘mouths’ of cats and hands, and play games with them. Scrabble, limericks and puns are sort of our family tradition.

The beginning….

Since the corona virus shutdown has been keeping us home more, we are finding new ways to play with words. Crosswords.

It started with the printed puzzles in the Willamette Weekly newspaper, but that’s only one puzzle a week! We needed more. Grandpa Nelson found online sites with daily puzzles, which grow in difficulty from Monday to Sunday. Monday’s can be done in under ten minutes., while Sunday’s can take more than an hour and require extra cups of coffee.

We also discovered that some puzzle creators are more fun than others. It’s not enough to ask for a river in Eastern Europe. We love puns. (Tiny sounds from the sheep pen? Bopeeps)

Merl Reagle, king of crosswords

Merl Reagle’s puzzles are our favorites. He was actually famous for his puzzles, which he created for The Washington Post, the New York Times, and other magazines and newspapers. He was even on an episode of The Simpson’s! Merl shared our silly love of words. He passed away in 2015, and I am grateful for the internet that we can still enjoy his good work.

I was enjoying the crosswords so much, I wanted to make my own. It’s harder than it looks! I found grids online, but couldn’t get the printer to enlarge them. So I drew one. Ten squares in each direction, each square being two centimeters, will just fit on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper.

Rough draft

Once I had the grid, I wanted some clever words to be “the long ones”, the theme of the puzzle. Given the era we are in, I chose “viral video” and “corona beer”, and started making the words to connect.

This is where it got challenging. Words that fit one direction resulted in unworkable combinations of letters in the other. I found myself googling weird collections of letters to make it work. AOLA? Association of the Locksmiths of America. Solved!

My first puzzle…

Since my puzzle was only ten by ten, I was able to get it done in just an hour or so. Auntie Bridgett did the tidy numbers in the corners. Creating the puzzles takes longer than solving them.

And the clues….

Now, I get to give it to Grandpa Nelson and see if he can solve it.

Then, I will make another one, just for fun.


Grandma Judy

Signs of the Times

Dear Liza,

There’s a lot to be stressed about…

Between the political unrest and the pandemic, people are feeling very stressed these days. The big signs of this are protests and violence, which can overwhelm the small goodnesses that are happening in corners of neighborhoods.

Lots of little signs of love and hope…

When I go out walking, I look for these small signs and take comfort in my fellow humans’ capacity for kindness, cleverness, and joy.

Sharing delicious apples….

And yet, amid the apples and sweetness, we need to remember that the fight for fairness isn’t over yet.

It’s not time to stop yet….

We need to keep those who have been killed and brutalized in our mind as we make decisions about who will run our cities and our country.

Take care, love people, and stay well.


Grandma Judy

Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.


Grandma Judy

On-line Happy Hour and the Go-Gos

Dear Liza,

Friday was a very warm day. Eighty-eight degrees, with a dry, bright sky. The heat of July has let us know it’s not done yet.

Newest bunch of flowers…

It was a good day, though. I got to practice with watercolors some more, painting a vase of flowers similar to my first one in gouache. Flower arrangements are good subjects. They remind me of my Momma, your great grandma Billie, so painting them is like having a long visit with her.

We met our new neighbors across the way. They are nice people, and the lady has a wonderful “Ramona the Pest” tattoo (from the original 1968 Louis Darling illustrations of that Beverly Cleary Classic) on her arm. I think we may be kindred spirits.

From Ramona the Pest

Ruth Inman, long-time friend and artist, had her first “Last Friday” Open House on-line, and we attended with cocktails in hand. It was great to see her studio and all her good work. She has such a whimsical touch and color sense. You can see her stuff at “ruthinmanart.com” .

Some of Ruth Inman’s beautiful work

We had dinner out at the newly re-opened for social distancing Suzette, our local Creperie. It was yummy and fun to see their bright new decor.

Suzette’s new interior

We watched the Giants beat the Texas Rangers at Oracle Park, in front of ‘cheering’ cut-outs of fans. A bit weird, (especially since the Giants usually don’t play the Rangers) but better than no baseball at all.

Still not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame…

And for the finale of the evening, we watched a new documentary on The Go-Gos, a music group that Auntie Bridgett likes. I had barely even heard of them, so I learned a lot!

They started in 1979 as an all-girl punk rock band, and matured into fine musicians and the first all girl group that wrote and performed their own material to get a Number 1 debut album. They were incredibly successful in an industry that didn’t want them to be. It was very interesting, and I got to hear some fun new music.

And then, when it was cool enough for sleep, we all crashed and said good-bye to July. What will August bring? Hold on tight!


Grandma Judy

Watercolor vs Gouache

Dear Liza,

I have been telling you about painting with watercolors for a few months now. I have been using this little MALA set we found in one of the teeny tiny libraries years ago, and enjoying it very much.

My freebie paint set!

And, as it so often turns out lately, I was wrong…. just a little bit. Since I don’t know much about how watercolors acts or looks, I assumed that the matte finish and slightly chalky feel of my finished pictures was ‘just how watercolors work’ and my slightly muted colors were because I wasn’t applying them properly.

Pretty, but not what I was expecting…


I have been using gouache! Gouache (you say it ‘go-wash’) is a watercolor that has ground up chalk in it, so of course it feels a little chalky and looks more matte, and less transparent, than regular watercolor.

This realization came about when I re-worked of one of my fantasy islands from this…

To this….

“You shouldn’t have been able to cover that blue with the brown,” Auntie Bridgett said. “Watercolors are too translucent.” Her eyes lit up. “This is gouache!”

And suddenly, the chalky texture and soft colors of my flower vase made sense. My frustration with my non-shimmery dragonfly wings was explained. I was never going to get the transparency of watercolor using gouache.

I felt better, knowing it wasn’t ‘just me’ and that there were benefits of using gouache, not the least of which was, ‘Hey, it was free.’ But artist Auntie Bridgett, who has been very supportive of my painting, realized that she has a very nice watercolor set, and let me use it.

Starting to use actual watercolors!

This set has tubes, instead of cakes, of paint. The texture of the diluted paint is smoother and silkier. I really notice the transparency, even getting frustrated because I have gotten so used to the gouache! And it still has the “Hey, it was free” feature.

First real watercolor trial…

So now I am on a new learning curve and having fun with it. And while parts of me are in lockdown and stuck inside, other parts are just a happy seven year old with a new toy.


Grandma Judy