I Like Trains

Dear Liza,

The train platforms, with Fremont Bridge behind

Yesterday we set off on our big trip north. We got Mouse and the house ready to be without us for a while by hiring Garrett the cat sitter and moving plants to a kitchen counter for him to water. The laundry and dishes were done.

We ate all the perishables and packed our own equivalent of “sandwiches for the train”.

At 1:30 we got a Lyft car to the Union Depot. This beautiful, historic train station was built in 1896 and I used it in my story of 1903! I am excited to be able to travel from this piece of history.

After finding our seats and loading our luggage, we got settled and experienced “Train Peace”. This is an expression I coined years ago while we were traveling in Europe. It is that feeling when you know you can relax once you are on the train, because now it is up someone else to get you where you are going.

St. John’s Bridge from below!!

We pulled out of Portland and headed north, crossing first the Willamette, where we got to see the St. John’s Bridge from a whole different angle. It was wonderful.

Rolling along with the Columbia

Then we crossed the mighty Columbia!! It is wide, sparkly and full of industrial shipping for a while, then we traveled with the river on one side and open fields, lumber yards, back yard sheds, and cows on the other, usually seen through the trees planted as a screen between the landscape and the train.

Since the train ran at ground level, we went under as many bridges as we went over, and as the sun went down and the light changed, we lived for the occasional flicker of a city or reflections on the Puget Sound.

Running late, our train got us into Vancouver well past midnight. We stayed awake through customs, getting a cab to the 7-11 where we picked up our key, then walked to the airbandb.

It is a modern apartment on the tenth floor or a nice, but rather noisy, building. Earplugs for sure tonight!

We have views of a freeway bridge, all sorts of old and new buildings, cyclists, bendy busses, and four high-rise buildings under construction.

I will tell you more tomorrow!!


Grandma Judy

Heading Off Again

Dear Liza,

Today we leave for our first big trip away from our new home in Portland. We are taking an Amtrak train called The Cascades all the way to Vancouver, Canada, with a stop or two in between.

Newton at the British Library

Since we haven’t left yet, I can’t tell you about it, but I can remember other trips we’ve been on.

Grandpa Nelson first took me to London in 2004. It was our first time “overseas”, as they say, and it took some getting used to. Traffic, foods, ways of getting around…they were all different. But we learned and had a ball!

Punting on the Cam River

Our next trip was in 2006, when we started out in London but branched off to Stratford on Avon (to see Shakespeare’s home town) and then Cambridge, just because.

Grandpa Nelson’s surprise for me was that we then had a three day, experimental trip to Paris!!! This was BIG. I didn’t know any French at the time, and it was a real challenge to even travel or order food. But again, we learned.

My Charlie Chaplin man

In 2008, we got to take Auntie Bridgett to Europe. Our world got bigger as we went back to Paris and on to Calais, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Tournay. We got better at figuring things out as we went along, and less scared about new places.

Best. Photo. Ever.

As we kept traveling back to Europe, we saw Christmas Faires in Strasbourg got rattled by New Year’s fireworks in Amsterdam, sat by the ocean in La Rochelle and celebrated comics in Angouleme.

Seeing the Burghers of Calais, in Calais!!

This trip To Canada should be less culture shock, because the main language is English. Still, none of us have been to Vancouver. I am so excited to see new things!

Building-sized comics in Angouleme


Grandma Judy

Hanging with the Fam

Dear Liza,

Checking the options

Last night, we went out to dinner with Auntie Katie and the Cousins! We met up at Pastini, a nice Italian place on SE Division. Since Grandpa Nelson wanted to have some wine, we took a Lyft car through the rain.

Perfectly plain pasta For Kestrel

Pastini is an informal, family sort of place, with really friendly wait staff. They offer fun Children’s Menus and will make changes to dishes as needed for picky eaters, and make sure you have boxes for your leftovers of their generous servings.

The Children’s Menu, in our case, served as blank pages for drawing on. Jasper and his Mom drew a Pokemon scenario and Kestrel and I decorated spirals.


Being a certified picky eater, Kestrel got Perfectly Plain Pasta. I love that such a thing is even an option. I enjoyed half my lasagna (the rest will be lunch today) and Auntie Bridgett brought home half of her giant chicken artichoke salad.

Huge Salad

After dinner, Jasper navigated us through the neighborhood (he is good at that, at almost ten years old!) to Fifty Licks, an ice cream parlor with unusual, subtle flavors. Auntie Bridget and I shared a horchata cone, Grandpa Nelson had a chocolate milkshake (he had skipped dinner, not being a fan of Italian food).

Reading the writing on the wall…

We enjoyed the sweets and conversation as the kids read the wall, which is covered by hundreds of Tintin comics.

Decorations hung over the street!

By eight o’clock, the rain had stopped and we all hugged and walked to our own homes. It’s a little more than a mile from Division Street to our place, but after such a yummy evening, we had lots of energy.


Grandma Judy

Just life, you know….

Dear Liza,

The new sign, getting its final coat

We are well and happy here, enjoying the change from summer into fall.

Raindrops on roses…

Auntie Bridgett has painted a new sandwich board to help bring folks into The SideStreet Arts Gallery where she is a member. It is so cute!

Walking in the park yesterday, we noticed that the huge maple tree that lost a big branch last summer has dropped another one. This time it did a surprising amount of damage to a stainless steel structure and sign. We wondered if this happened during our big rain storm the other night, or just in the clear blue skies of mid-day, like the last time.


Leaves are starting to change, but it feels odd. The ground is littered with “leaf slime” but the trees above are still green and full. It’s like these leaves have come from somewhere else. Weird.

Broken branch

We are looking forward to our upcoming adventure, which I will tell you about as it happens.

Leaf slime


Grandma Judy

Last Fair of the Summer

Dear Liza,

The Belmont Street Fair is always scheduled as the close of the summer street fair season. It is also the one closest to us, just a block down the street.

We got over early, because overcast skies are cooler to walk around under. We found Stitch guarding the west end of the fair, chatting with a person from Dick’s Kitchen. They had a bunch of tables set out on the street, which were empty.

Delightful recycled jewelry

Further along were jewelers, poets, second hand clothing booths.

Then came political parties and alternative energy companies, massage therapists and tarot readers.

Finally, the food!! Two Wahine’s Shave Ice is always a favorite of Grandpa Nelson, I had a dish that I am sure is NOT called an Ethiopian Taco (but was delicious, anyway). And Auntie Bridgett had a burrito from Laughing Planet.

One issue politics

Of course, what I really love to watch are the folks to come to see the fair. Young families enjoying chalk art in the middle of the street and out of town grandparents taking the kids out for a spin in their rented bikes make it all very Portland.

Art in the city
Brave Grandparents!
Shopping for the perfect helium pet…

By this time, Dick’s Kitchen’s tables were bustling and Stitch had moved on. The sun had come out and it was getting too warm. I found myself longing for the predicted rain, and we headed home.


Grandma Judy

Just Circles

Dear Liza,

Logo for Bend, Oregon

I don’t have anything to write about today. I have been busy, but it’s the in-my-head, working-on-the-story kind of busy that doesn’t make for an interesting blog post.

Clock in a downtown diner

My characters are getting more complicated and intense, which is good, but I am constantly amazed at how long it is taking me to see really obvious flaws. My second story, if I live to write it, has got to be easier.

Jasper getting the hang of things at the Echo Theater

But enough of that for now. On a more visual level, I have realized that I really like circles. They are complete, powerful, calming symbols for me, and I find that I take a lot of pictures of them.

Symbolic sculpture at Providence Park Stadium

Here are some of my favorites. More news next week!

Decoration on 1900s warehouse


Plate of appetizers

Grandma Judy

Auntie Bridgett’s Birthday!

Dear Liza,

Waiting for the number 20

This week we got to celebrate Auntie Bridgett’s Birthday, and it was fun! It was also the first really rainy day of the Fall.

We unwrapped presents at the house after breakfast, and Mouse helped. Gift cards for Dick Blick art supplies, a big box of very stylish postcards, and a book on color started the day right.

Mouse helps unwrap

Then she and I headed toward downtown. We stopped at two shops in the Fairhaired Dumbell, a very unusual, oddly placed building on Burnside by the river. It is built on a small lot in the middle of traffic, so you need to step quickly to get there without getting run over.

The Fairhaired Dumbell

The shops are 11:11, a high end stationary, office supplies and organizational shop. Next door was Crema, a small coffee shop, where we enjoyed a pain au chocolat to hold us until lunch.


We walked across the Burnside Bridge and caught the bus to Scrap, a second-hand art supply store that is an artist’s, mom’s, and teacher’s dream come true!

I’m going in!!!

So many wonderful, recycled materials like Scrabble letters, old piano keys and tiles, and fabrics, could make for some fabulous, and very affordable, art projects.

So many tiny things…

Science would be easier, and cheaper, to teach with new, donated vials, tweezers, and microscope slides. For just a moment I wished I was still teaching….

So many projects!!

Grandpa Nelson met us and we headed for lunch at a new place just across the street from Scrap, the Boise Fry Company, who specialize in Grandpa Nelson’s favorite food! Ironically, their turkey burger and Fun-Guy Burger (70% beef, 30% mushroom) were delicious, but their French Fries were soggy and disappointing. We met a nice server, though. Nice folks make things better.

They are serious about fries!! Just not very good at them….

We watched the pouring rain outside the shop form wide puddles around the equipment that is there to re-do the drainage system, and imagined someone saying, “I told you guys we shoulda got this done in August!”

First flooding

When the rain slowed, we took the bus home for a rest before our next adventure….Dinner at La Moule. We got dressed up and took a Lyft car south to the Clinton neighborhood. We enjoyed some nice local wines, absinthe (of course) , mussels, halibut and some REALLY good fries for Grandpa Nelson.

Auntie Bridgett with Debbie Harry and David Bowie

Sadly, Auntie Bridgett realized she had left her umbrella in the Lyft, but we will find her a new one soon.

We got home after watching a great sunset, watched baseball (Yay, Giants!) and fell asleep. What a day!!


Grandma Judy