Hoofin’ it to the Nursery

Dear Liza,

You knew that it was only a matter of time before we headed to the Portland Nursery, right? With Spring only a month away and a spot in the community garden waiting for us, Auntie Bridgett and I headed off to see what we could see.

A little bit of snow doesn’t stop The Portland Nursery!

It is still cold here… it was jacket and gloves weather as we walked the mile and a half to Portland Nursery on Stark. Patches of snow still shivered, bunched up under trees and beside stairways, and even in the nursery itself!

Portland Nursery has had a year to get Covid protocols in place, and have done a fine job. One way traffic lanes, arrows on the ground, and limited people inside the buildings help keep everyone safe while letting us gear up for garden season.

Happy quince owners!

Of course, most of the nursery shelves are empty at this time of year, but everyone was finding what they wanted. These folks choosing a quince bush were happy to tell me about their spring expectations. “It is grafted!” They said. “It has red, pink and white blossoms on each branch!” I am excited for them!

Our new babies-to-be

We hunted up seeds for our garden plot, trying to find small species so we can have more variety. Little Finger carrots, Black Beauty zucchini, Salad Bowl lettuce, tiny Parisian Gherkin cucumbers, Cherry Belle radishes, and Sugar Pie pumpkin seeds all came home in my sack! We didn’t buy tomatoes or sunflowers yet…. I want to do more research and find the best growers for our damp city.

Everyone is gearing up for spring!

On our way home, the wind was picking up, bringing us rain for the coming week. We saw a crow up in her last-year’s nest, plucking out leaves and getting it just right for spring.

See? I’m not the only one who is anxious for winter to be over!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Stepping Away from the Map…. For Now

Dear Liza,

A little over a week ago, I pulled out an old project to work on. It is a map of Portland done in appliqué and embroidery. I have been adding and adding, trying to recreate the intricacy I see in my head, on the fabric.

The East Side

Oregon Poet William Stanford was once asked, “How do you know when to stop editing?” He replied, “When it stops feeling creative.”

And that’s where I am, for now, with my map. In the last ten days I have added dozens of buildings, streets, and trees. I have gotten braver and freer with embroidery. I even think I know what I want to do with the river.

The West Hills, Downtown and the Willamette River

But it has stopped feeling creative. I feel like I am adding in desperation, thinking this next tree will make the difference. And it just isn’t. So I will set it aside again for a while and come back to it later, with fresh eyes.

Mouse likes to be right in the middle of the creative process!

That ‘later’ may be next week or next year. But it will be waiting for me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making an Art Journal Part 2

Once I had the main shape and look of my art journal, I set it aside to let my nerves settle. Doing too much fiddly detail work gives me the heebie jeebies.

The next day I set out to make the journal pretty and ready to use. I glued the first page down to the the inside of the front cover, and the last page to the inside of the back cover. This makes the whole thing very sturdy and more all-of-a-piece.

First page glued down to inside front cover…

When these had dried, I saw that the pages pulling against the cover had bent the cover a bit, making it rounder at the spine than it had been. This was unexpected, but I don’t mind it. I have seen some old books with this, and now I know why!

A little rounder on the spine…

I realize now that I forgot a part here. I was supposed to poke holes in the front and back cover to put in a closure, like a ribbon, to tie and keep the journal closed. Having missed that bit, I figured out an alternative.

Meanwhile, I got some more pretty paper from Auntie Bridgett’s cupboards and glued them over the inside front and back covers to make them pretty and fit my theme. Since I am going to use this journal to record everything about my garden this summer, there are flowers, butterflies, and birds.

And with the book finished, I can write and create in it and not worry about losing information and Art about my garden.

Here is my Plan B closure. Auntie Bridgett was trimming the handles off an old tote bag, and I liked the look of the crisp black bow tie against the pastels of the cover!

It is still cold out and there is even some snow on the ground, but my imagination is already on its way to summer!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Making an Art Journal Part 1

Dear Liza,

I have been doing lots of art in Journals lately. These have been store-bought sketch books or notebooks that Auntie Bridgett gave me.

But now, my friend Ruth Inman (ruthinmanart.com) has been teaching me how to make my own! Yes, books from scratch! And since I love books and cheap art supplies and I hate throwing things away, I am loving it!

Front and back covers, with flexible spine already glued on

The one I am working on now is going very nicely. I started out with a saltine cracker box for the cover, a lighter weight cover from a drawing tablet for the flexible spine, and some collage-y paper from Auntie Bridgett’s boxes for pretty.

Once I got the cover glued together and decorated, I made ‘signatures’ from odd pieces of art paper, printer paper, and card stock. These can be any size that fits inside the cover. Signatures are folded sets of four sheets of paper that make the pages of the book. There is a lot of trimming to get this part right, so I used a cutting mat, a metal ruler, and an exacto blade.

Then comes the tricky bit. I measured each signature to find the center, and poked three tiny holes (I used manicure scissors) along the fold. Using heavy button thread, I sewed the pages of each signature together along these holes, making sure all the signatures had holes in the same place.

Three hole binding for the signatures

Since my book had a wide spine, I poked holes for four signatures. Again, I was super careful to measure so the holes lined up with the signatures, and also were evenly spaced back to front.

Spaces for four signatures, at three holes each.

The next part was frustrating, because it felt like I needed extra hands! But once I slowed down and took it easy, it was do-able. Using the button thread, I stitched each signature through its own set of holes in the spine, tying a tight double knot to hold each signature in.

And this is what it looked like! It is actually a book! I am so excited!

Threads that hold the signatures in

Of course, there is more to do before it is just right. I will show you that tomorrow!

All the signatures are in!

Love,

Grandma Judy

In the Garden!

Dear Liza,

When we first moved into our house here in Portland, we noticed the Blair Community Garden just two blocks away. Fitting in between a long term care facility and a few houses, the L-shaped lot is filled with raised beds of various sizes.
Knowing I would be missing my own garden back home, Grandpa Nelson offered to see if we could get a space in the garden. “Sure!” I said, eager to get out and dig.

It’s just up the block!!

That was in 2018, and there was a waiting list. A long waiting list. But we got word last night that we’re in! We have a 10 foot by 10 foot raised bed in which to grow anything we want! I am excited, happy, and feeling just a wee bit overwhelmed.

This sunflower has been calling to me….

I am verklempt with possibilities. We will need some equipment! Some hand tools, and a hose, and a wagon to haul them back and forth the two blocks to the garden.
AND what will we grow? Basil, of course, for pesto. And cherry tomatoes and chives and all sorts of lettuces. Sunflowers for Auntie Bridgett. Fresh baby carrots for Grandpa Nelson. Some squash and most surely, a pumpkin!

I need to do a LOT of homework about what is and isn’t grow-able here. I have always gardened in Southern and central California, and Portland is a very different, and soggier, place. There are also rules to make sure our garden plot doesn’t interfere with anyone else’s. I have already had folks volunteer to help me. This should be fun!

And as soon as the snow melts, I’ll be there.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Shoveling it Forward

Dear Liza,

The temperatures are rising, and we are done getting any new snow (for now, anyway). Now is the time, apparently, to shovel the walks. Our neighbors John and Stacy got out this morning and took care of their walk, and continued all the way to our gate, and the sidewalk.

Auntie Bridgett got out, borrowed their shovel, and cleared from our walk up to Jonathon’s, next door. She was really scooting along!

When she was almost done, Grandpa Nelson headed out for his turn, working up to Trevor and Kara’s place.

Once I had finished a batch of cookies I made for John and Stacy for loaning us the shovel, I stepped up. My two mates made it look so easy, I figured I could steam forward. However, I found that the snow was just too darn heavy for me to lift! I felt like an old lady, but didn’t want to break anything.

Trevor came out and did some more, continuing the good-deed-doing all the way to the end of the lane, meeting up with the other set of buildings. Curt came from around the corner and cleared the sidewalk in front of the building.

It was so good to see all our neighbors out doing, talking, and working together, becoming more neighborly. Everybody doing something lets everyone accomplish anything!!

Maybe this summer we can even get some potlucks going….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Icy Magic

Dear Liza,

Just as I was getting used to snow, I started noticing the ice. A icy glaze covered every tiny branchof every bush and tree in the neighborhood, as though they had all been dipped in glass. I couldn’t stop staring at them.

The forecast was for warming Monday evening and rain through the week, so I am glad I managed to see the ice and get the pictures I did.

The sharp, drippy shards of icicles are amazing and alien looking, but something I saw that I didn’t expect was this lovely frozen-bumpy effect on car windows and mirrors. The temperature was so low that the rain froze as soon as it hit.

Sadly, all this magic will be gone by Tuesday morning. Icicles will drip into non-existence. Snow will melt and flow into the bioswales and from there to the river. We will be back to normal, and that’s okay, too.

Weird bubble mirror and Auntie Bridgett

I’m glad the snow doesn’t last long enough to be just “that darn white stuff”.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Snow in Portland! Part 2

Dear Liza,

After we realized the front gate was blocked, we headed out the garage door. Snow was there, too, but we could stomp through and get to the sidewalk, anyway. We walked toward Laurelhurst Park, staring at icicle drips and snow covered steps along the way.

Ghostly garden steps

We watched a cheery parade of folks dragging sleds and carrying plastic trash can lids. Every pair of cross country skis in East Portland was in use. It was like a party!

Tinseled nandina

And once we got to the park, the fun continued. Sledders found the ravine. Big fluffy dogs rolled and ran in the snow, like kids let out of school. People of a certain vintage walked like penguins, taking tiny steps.

The Off Leash area run amok!

At the west end of the park, one of the hundred year old trees had fallen across SE 33rd, barely missing the windows and facade of a house almost as old as the tree. It must have been a windier night than I realized! Of course, the downed tree became a temporary jungle gym for neighborhood kids, who climbed over its frosted branches.

By this time, my phone and I were both out of energy, so Auntie Bridgett and I trudged home. But this snow isn’t going anywhere for a day or two, so I’ll show you more frozen beauty tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Snow in Portland! Part 1

Dear Liza,

In winter, Portland is mostly a wet and chilly city, not a cold and frozen city. This weekend has been different.

Our patio gnomes, snowed in…

We knew the snow was coming. The weather reports warned of heavy snow, freezing temperatures, and icy bridges. We did extra grocery shopping so we wouldn’t run out of things if we couldn’t drive or walk to the market. And when we went to bed Thursday night, it was snowing.

For me, a girl from the beach in Southern California, there is always something magical about snowfall. Unlike rain, which falls quickly and races away along the gutters, snow comes down at a leisurely pace, as if it is enjoying the scenery along the way. Then it makes little piles, settling in for a visit.

Modern art sculpture of trees in the courtyard…

Friday was a wonderful, mostly-stay-inside day. Grandpa Nelson and I got out to walk around the building just to hear the snow crunch under our boots, then got back inside before we fell in our butts. Tucked back inside, we watched as the snow came and went, with some chilly wind rattling the ice on the branches of the dogwood tree across the way. Even my bonsai forest, The Hundred Acre Wood, out on the balcony, got some snow.

Hundred Acre Wood in snowfall…

When we woke up Saturday, we saw that quite a bit of snow had decided to stay and visit. The little gate that separates our patio from the main walkway was frozen shut, the latch having been welded and glazed by freezing rain.

Frozen latch

Once I got that melted via a hot washcloth (thanks for the advice, Auntie Katie!) I realized that I had a bigger problem. The bottom six inches of the gate were buried in the snow. But my dad would not have been deterred, and I didn’t want to be, either.

I went in search of weaponry, but when we moved from our house in Salinas to our townhouse with no yard, we gave all that away. No shovel, rake, or push room, not even garden trowels. What did I have? A spatula and some cardboard.. I tried, I really did. But no go. There was no going out that way.

These footprints went nowhere!

Sigh. More tea…. more sewing. It could be so much worse.

I will tell you about our victory and adventure in the snow tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to Map Making

Dear Liza,

A year and a half ago, I started a sewing project to celebrate and explore my new city. I love maps, and sewing them is a way to enjoy the process of city-building.

Bare beginnings…..

I got the basic sections laid out … the west hills, downtown, the Willamette River, and the east side, where we live.

I started by laying in the main parks, Laurelhurst ( and the smaller Lone Fir Cemetery) in the east, and Washington Park in the west hills. I didn’t forget the North and South Park blocks downtown. The dozens of trees in Washington Park took days to pin and sew!

Parks!

I decided that I didn’t want to make a block -for-block exact map, but I did lay in some main streets so it would make more sense. Then I laid in the warehouse district on the east bank.

The Willamette River divides Portland east and west, and so far I have put in the Hawthorne and the Morrison Bridges. They require a level of precision that gives me the shakes, but I like the way they are turning out.

It was at this point, about a year ago, that I ran out of ideas. I couldn’t figure out what to put in next. So I folded up the map and set it aside.

And this week, after months of painting, baking, and writing, I figured it out. The map came back out and I started putting in the Laurelhurst and Sunnyside neighborhoods, where we live. I used a blanket stitch to show the rows of Victorian houses, and added dozens more trees.

The last three days work!

And today, while listening to the Impeachment hearings, I put in most of the buildings downtown. There will be more streets downtown, and more embroidered details as they are needed.

I’m sure there will come a time when I run out of ideas again, and will pack the map away for a while. But for now, I’m sure having fun with it!

Love,

Grandma Judy