Day After Thanks

Dear Liza,

We spent yesterday being thankful, and it was a full day. My life has been blessed, full, funny, a bit unusual, and very, very happy.

Me, out and about

I am thankful for being alive and healthy. My body at 60-plus years is still running, although a little rusty. With proper maintenance it should have a lot more miles in it.

We three

I am thankful for my dear people. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett love me with all my faults. They are my people to look after and cook for, to play with, to dance and draw and do puzzles with.

Almost everyone!!

I am thankful for my extended family. You and your Mom and Dad, Auntie Katie and the cousins, are not within hugging distance at the moment. But all things pass and before very long we will be hanging out at the Laurelhurst Park, or back on the beach in Monterey together. Meanwhile, we send letters and zoom and know we are loved.

Just keep learning, just keep learning…

I am thankful for learning. Being able to keep my brain young by learning French, art, and history makes everyday challenging and fun. I have always preached about “life-long learning” but never fully appreciated it until now.

Portlandia, in all her glory

I am grateful for our home here in Portland. This city has been such a fine place to retire, with art, theater, and all the urban buzz. The buzz is muted for a while, but will return with gusto, I have no doubt. And with Portland’s energy and social awareness, that will be a fine thing to see.

I am grateful for Democracy. The American Experiment wobbled for a while, but seems to be righting itself. I am glad to be able to have faith in our country’s future.

Gratitude is a great mindset. Hang onto it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

… And I’m Cooking Anyway

Dear Liza,

We are just feeding the three of us this Thanksgiving, but whatever it is that makes me want to cook, once the cold weather hits, doesn’t care. The Neanderthal instinct to make heat and lots of food is strong.

Tuesday I baked a batch of Oatmeal Everythings. These cookies have evolved over the years and contain oatmeal, whole wheat flour, raisins, walnuts, flaxseed, chia seed, and whatever else looks good. We are already up to our eyebrows in food, so these went to the neighbors.

Lots of cookies!

Wednesday was the the pumpkin pie. I found a less sweet version online and gave it a try, using the last of our Halloween pumpkins, roasted and puréed. I found an all-butter recipe for pie crust, because I don’t like shortening. There will be pie crust cookies with the leftover dough, of course.

Katie’s pies last year… so good!

And on Thanksgiving, of course, the Turkey drumsticks and thighs go into the crockpot early and cook all day. Auntie Bridgett will make sweet potatoes with goat cheese, Grandpa Nelson will open a bottle of wine, and all will be well.

AND…. Auntie Bridgett roasted chestnuts!

Auntie Bridgett’s chestnuts

Happy Thanksgiving! We all have so much to be grateful for.

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Sign of the New Year

Dear Liza,

The big election is (finally) over, and that means 2021 is on the way. We are holding off getting a Christmas tree until the day AFTER Thanksgiving, but we already have one necessity for next year.

This page will be for next November

A New Calendar, from Ruth Inman, my artist friend Illinois. To see her wonderful artwork, you can go to http://www.ruthinmanart.com/.

August….

When I was teaching, how my calendar looked was not important. It could be plain as a mud fence, but it needed giant squares to write down the countless meetings and deadlines, units to be taught and parents to be met with. It wasn’t so much a decoration as external storage for my over-filled brain.

January…..

But now, between being both retired and quarantined, the look of my calendar can set the mood of my day. After Auntie Bridgett’s face, it is usually the first thing I see in the morning, and it’s nice to start off with something pretty.

May….

Ruth’s calendar has twelve beautiful, bright alcohol ink prints. The colors are amazing and the paper they are printed on is heavy enough to frame (once their month has passed, that is). It is nice to know we are starting 2021 on a cheerful, colorful note.

Take care, make art, and be happy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Family Food Weirdness

Dear Liza,

Thinking about Thanksgiving makes me think first about family, of course…..and then food. I guess every family has its own food peculiarities.

Left to right: The Picky Eater, me, and the Walking Vacuum

For example, my brothers had very different tastes. Your great-uncle Jim was such a fussy eater that he just about lived on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for a long time. For whatever reason, nothing else tasted good to him. The doctor assured Momma he wouldn’t starve, though, so she let it go… and eventually, he started eating regular food again.

Ladies of leisure at Coyote Creek

Elder brother Tim was the opposite. He ate everything, usually piled all together with gravy on top. When he went into the Marines they thought he was too scrawny, so he got double rations until he bulked up. He sure loved that!
Later, when he was stationed in South Korea, he taught a survival course showing fellows what they could live on in the woods.

My Dad loved mostly plain farm food, like roast beef and potatoes, but somewhere in his background he had fallen in love with bratwurst and sauerkraut. I hated the stuff! When I would come home from school and make that ‘eeew, sauerkraut’ face, Momma would shrug her shoulders and say, “You know where the peanut butter is.”

Great Grandpa Lowell and Tim bring home dinner

My Dad, your great grandpa Lowell, usually didn’t cook. In the fifties, that was definitely wifey work. But long before I came along, when he had convinced Momma to spend her weekends camping in various wildernesses, Dad had agreed to be the outdoor chef. He used the cast iron pots (that I still use) to make fried eggs and hash browns for breakfast and all sorts of yummy things for dinner… Dutch oven chili, fried fish, pork chops and mashed potatoes, and even desserts like baked apples or blackberry cobbler. He was a genius.

His one failing was his curried eggs. Made from cardboard-tasting freeze-dried eggs, these led us all right back to the peanut butter jar. Except Tim. He loved them.

Enjoy your holiday food and family. See you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Small Thanksgiving

Dear Liza,

Like everyone else in the country, we are having a small Thanksgiving this year. It is just safer, in these contagious times, to be around just us three in the household. I miss seeing you and your folks so much, and visiting the cousins and Auntie Katie. So this year will be….. smaller.

Just us three

Since we are only feeding us, and Grandpa Nelson is a vegetarian, we bought two Turkey drumsticks and a thigh rather than a big old turkey. We prefer dark meat, anyway, and the smaller chunks are easier to cook and process. They are delicious and have lots of bones for soup, too!

We got just two sweet potatoes, and will be making them with goat cheese instead of tons of brown sugar. It’s something we both enjoy, but not the rest of the family.

Our cranberry sauce will have lots of orange peel and cloves, and is made (of course) from whole berries grown on the Columbia River just about 20 miles away.

We’ll have just a pumpkin pie from our last Halloween pumpkin, unlike last year, when Auntie Katie brought three pies and we made one! That was (just maybe possibly) too much pie. The other holiday baking we will do are cookies for the neighbors. Since most of them are staying home, too, it will be nice to share, via ring and run delivery.

Ready for roasting!


I hope you have a fabulous, delicious, grateful Thanksgiving, and we will see you next year.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Art Crows

Dear Liza,

We have a lot of birds in Portland, but our most visible and noisy feathered friends are the crows. They are comfortable around people and don’t mind sharing our snacks or their opinions.

Waiting for the Queen….

There is a healthy flock (called a ‘murder’, in crow jargon) in our Lone Fir Cemetery, and a lady who comes to feed them every afternoon. She says she doesn’t know if she is their queen or their slave.

Quickened Towards all Celestial Things, by Julianna Paradisi

All this avian beauty is inspiring! I have photographed dozens of crows, and other artists have honored them, as well. Julianna Paradisi, a Portland artist, created the wonderful “Quickened Towards all Celestial Things” in 2018. That same year, I photographed it at the Artbar downtown.

Browsing old photos for inspiration yesterday, I found it again and hoped to reimagine it as a collage. I must admit, in my “I’m not an artist” days, I had assumed that artists just picked up a brush or pair of scissors and ‘whoosh!’ Art happened. But during my ‘quarantine art education’, I have learned there is a lot of making mistakes, starting over, and just keeping at something until it looks right.


This crow took many sketches and lots of staring and trimming before I was happy with it. Cut out of black card stock, it joined magazine clippings, the remainder of a few envelopes, and just enough paint to make it interesting.

Crow and its prototype
My own Paradisi Crow

Thanks, Julianna Paradisi! Thanks, crows!

Love,

Grandma Judy

This Week’s Media Mix-up

Dear Liza,

My friend Ruth Inman gave us an odd list of things for our mixed media challenge this week. Threads pulled from fabric. Large envelopes. And a ‘page extender’, a flap or a fold-out section to make the page bigger.

As usual, I read the list before bed, so my brain could be working on it while I was asleep. I have a very self-motivated. brain, I guess, because when I woke up I knew just what to do.

Since I have been obsessed with trees lately, that’s where I headed. I drew a hillside with watercolor pencils and pulled some threads from some grey and brown fabric and slowly built a winter tree trunk and bare branches. This was tricky, because after a while the thread wanted to stick to my glue-y fingers instead of the paper, but I slowed down and got it all where I wanted it. I love how it looks and feels. Very nubbly and bark-Ish.

Wintry tree with Fall flap just showing

Next, I taped down a flap that would be the Fall part of the tree, and started putting on the orange and brown leaves. I used crumpled pages from magazines and an old Manila envelope.

Wintry tree with Fall flap

I realized that my tree was going to be pretty stumpy on top, so I taped yet another flap on and kept adding leaves until I was happy with the height. I needed to leave a slight gap so the page could fold.

Fall tree gets an extension

Of course, a taller tree needed taller branches, so more threads got added to the Wintry tree. This sort of unexpected drift of a project can be frustrating, but is also exciting and fun, adjusting to what is needed.

This project ended up taking longer than I thought, because I had to wait for layers of glue and paint to dry, and having two flaps instead of one! Here is a picture to show how it is put together.

This website won’t post videos, but I have put one on my Judy Drueding Facebook page to show how the flaps open up. Go take a look! And if you don’t do Facebook, write me a comment and I’ll send it to you.

Have fun making art!

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Beauty of Letting Go

Dear Liza,

With the Corona virus having another spike here in Oregon, Governor Kate Brown has called for a ‘pause’. We are not going out to restaurants, even for take out. Our big weekly adventure is grocery shopping. But we do go out for a walk every day, and the leaves have been absolutely inspirational.
So I am playing with poetry again.

Red, like sunset, piled on the sidewalk

Red, like flowers, blowing down the street

Red, like candy, drifting in the gullies

Dancing along to the world’s heart beat

And some haiku:

Leaves on the sidewalk

Colors jumbled like confetti

After summer’s last fling

Arches of color

Bright gothic cathedrals

Welcome us home from the rain

Orange against blue

Making both brighter

Color theory come to life

I hope you like playing with words, too!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Moving Forward

Dear Liza,

For thirty years as a teacher, my focus was clear: to be the best teacher I could be. Since I have been retired, I have been figuring out what comes next, what my next focus should be. Two weeks ago today our country made its decision, and we are ready to move forward. And I have decided to help.

Many of our fellow Americans have fallen prey to the notion that it is a dog-eat-dog world, that only the loud and armed have rights, that bullies win. I do not believe this. I believe in the overwhelming power of kindness to heal. The Jewish term for this is “tikkun olam,” repairing the world.

So here are my intentions.

I will help my neighbors. I will donate to food banks, help the homeless, and offer kind words to strangers.

I will help my neighborhood by shopping in local stores and businesses as much as possible, instead of sending money to the bottomless pit that is Jeff Bezos’ pocket.

Grandpa Nelson at the wonderful Helen Bernhardt Bakery

I will help my neighborhood by picking up litter and encouraging others to do so. This weekend while we were our doing our ‘Sunday Service’ we ran into a little girl and her dad. In the course of our conversation, I said, “When you see trash on the ground, you think ‘Someone should clean that up.’” And her dad, without missing a beat, said, “And then you think ‘I could be someone.’” The little girl nodded seriously.


I will offer beauty instead of ugliness, forgiveness instead of anger, gratitude instead of greed. As Gandhi advised, I will be the change I want to see.

My Momma once scolded my dad for spending a whole day of a camping trip picking up trash along a mountain road. “You can’t clean up the whole world, Lowell!”

“I’m not trying to,” he said. “Just this bit.”

So I will just do this bit. Maybe you can do your bit, too?

Love,

Grandma Judy

Funk’s Franks

Dear Liza,

Last week when I was walking Auntie Bridgett to the SideStreet Arts for her shift of gallery watching, we ran into a new, delicious place to get lunch!

Charlie Funk and his hot dog cart!

Young entrepreneur Charlie Funk, originally from Chicago, has opened his brand-new hot dog cart at the corner of SE Stark and 28th. He and Funk’s Franks are pleasant and Covid-friendly, and his hot dogs are very tasty!

I bought a Chicago dog, sliding its tinfoil-wrapped goodness into my shopping bag of so I could enjoy it at home. The pickle was spicy, the neon relish crispy, and the tomato fresh and sweet.

Charlie told me that he and his partner have come out from Chicago and will spend the next few weeks in Portland. At the end of the month they will re-locate near our old stomping grounds, in Santa Cruz, California. They should do well there, in the land of warm dry winters and lots of foot traffic.

I wish them well!

Love,

Grandma Judy