The First After-Dinner Walk

Dear Liza,

Spring is coming, which means warmer weather, and more daylight! Instead of waking up in darkness and eating dinner after sunset, we actually have daylight left after dinner for a walk around the neighborhood.

My dad, your great-grandpa Lowell, was a great fan of sunsets. He would pull over, if we were on the road, to stand and watch as the sky changed color and the day ebbed away. He would get quiet, saying thanks for another good day.


And Monday, we went out to see our first sunset of spring. We only needed sweaters, which was a nice surprise. Two weeks ago, we were shoveling snow.

Our hilly Sunnyside neighborhood is heavily wooded and built up, with thousands of deciduous trees planted over the last hundred years mixing with old Victorian homes and newer condominiums. This makes for delightful neighborhood walking, but hard to get a long view of … well, of anything. But the silhouettes are beautiful.

I am just happy to get out and about! Grandpa Nelson in on the vaccination list, and I will be soon. Then maybe we can make some travel plans.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bits of Happy

Dear Liza,

Happy March! The calendar tells us spring is just a few weeks away, although in Romania they celebrate the First of March as the beginning of spring. Even with cherry blossoms making some of our trees look like they are wearing lacy pink underwear, it is still chilly here.

Auntie Katie, belated birthday girl

But even with the chill, we have some things going on. On Sunday Grandpa Nelson and I finally got to celebrate Auntie Katie’s birthday with her, taking her a present and lunch, and eating in the gazebo at Abernethy School, just across the street from her Books with Pictures shop. We had a chat and a walk around the neighborhood.

In the parkway by the shop, Cousin Kestrel has installed a new fairy doorway and friends in one of the elm trees. Kestrel is always taking care of our local fairy folk, and their pony and ducky friends.

New fairy door….

There is also a yummy new place to eat! Covid has taken its toll on restaurants, and folks are having to get creative to stay in business. One of our favorite places to walk to was Monk’s Deli, which was a food truck parked just behind the Belmont Station Bottle Shop and Pub. We were sad when it closed last year, but it has now re-opened under a new name.

It turns out the former owners had wanted to retire and the people living literally next door had asked to get first dibs on the place. They did, re-opened, and now Monster Smash makes the best, biggest, juiciest burgers, with homemade pickles! AND, fabulous, crispy French fries! Yummy! We will definitely walk there when you get to visit.

Auntie Bridgett and I also discovered some new places down in Division Street. After a long walk and shop at Collage Art Supplies, we needed a snack. Pinolo Gelateria is right next door and sells just eight flavors, but they are stunning. We had Pistachio and Fior di Latte ( Milk Flower) flavors, which were rich, not too sweet, and just what needed.

Not our order! Photo credit, Pinolo Gelateria

As we sat in the chilly sun (properly wrapped up, of course) we noticed the Division Do It Best hardware store across the street, and were helped by their friendly staff in buying my new garden wagon! Hooray! Now I will be able to haul gardening stuff to and from our “allotment” in the Blair Community Garden.

So that’s what’s going on here. I hope you are well and staying happy. See you soon.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Neighborhood Favorite

Dear Liza,

We have lived in this neighborhood for a few years now. We go for walks in all weathers and all seasons, and have come to expect and enjoy some of the majestic, lovely, and quirky icons in folks’ gardens.

The Heron as the February snow is melting…

This wonderful heron, for example. Made of brass and perched in the front corner of a garden, he always looks like he could just turn his head and wink at us.

In winter he stands in the middle of chilly sticks, with the oddly decorated house next door clearly visible.

The same crane last May, with everything in bloom

Come spring, though, his location becomes more secretive, surrounded by leafy protection. Sometimes I have to look carefully just to find him!

I love that the seasons change so much of our neighborhood. Every few months, it’s a whole new place.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Signs of Spring

Dear Liza,

Yes, the snow is barely melted in the neighborhood, but the sun came out yesterday and showed us some signs of spring.

A mighty Laurelhurst tree, down in the storm

At Laurelhurst Park, the totally saturated ground and heavy ice from our last storm caused another great tree to fall. This is on the edge of what I call The Ravine, and has been in many of my photos of this part of the park. It was angular and leaning and beautiful.

It is sad to see such a fine specimen down. This cusp between winter and spring can be difficult to navigate safely.

The same tree a few winters ago….

But there are more gentle signs of spring. Tiny crocuses coming up beside napping angels.

Early blooming trees cheering us up and letting us know that winter doesn’t last forever.

The list of folks getting vaccinated grows every day, making us all safer. And when we get ours, life will get more mobile and more fun. Then I will get to come visit you. And that will be very sweet.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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