Front Porch Jazz is Back!

Dear Liza,

Spring is here, a particularly warm and sunny spring, and Front Porch Jazz has returned, as well.

Such a bright afternoon!

On Sunday afternoons, weather permitting, Gordon Lee and a very talented group of musicians perform on his front porch, just a few blocks from our house. The porch is at a quiet intersection with almost no traffic. So Gordon puts a sign out and folks bring chairs, wine and food, and sit on the sidewalks or right in the middle of the street. Large upturned buckets set up warn any drivers of what’s going on.

The Band……


The band has a keyboard, stand-up bass, drums, and alto sax. They play classics like Spring is Here and Cantaloupe Island (my favorite Herbie Hancock song) as well as Gordon’s original compositions like Pendulum Swings and Tobacco Monkey.

Our seats in the shade


The music is great, the camaraderie is amazing, and the vibe is most definitely Portland.


Good Portland. Positive Portland. Funky, happy, neighborly Portland.

And the decor was great.

Borrowed beauty….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Homegrown Catnip

Dear Liza,

We don’t really have a garden where we live. That’s why I love having our plot in the allotment. But we do have one sunny window.

And in that sunny window, a few months ago, we put a tiny catnip plant from the Portland Nursery. As winter faded and spring shone, it grew and grew, until it got tall enough that we needed to give it a trim.

So we trimmed it and got it ready for our kitty, Mouse. I cut the leaves off the stems and put them on some paper towels laid out on a cookie sheet.


This is where it got tricky, because I wanted to dehydrate the leaves but not cook them. I set the oven at its lowest, which is 170 degrees, and as soon as it got to that temperature, I turned it off for half an hour. I did this a few times, coasting the temperature up and down.

When the leaves were nice and crispy, I knew they were done. I put a spoonful into a little stuffed toy I had made for Mouse a while back. She loved it! She pounced and kicked and then got totally blissed out and fell asleep on Grandpa Nelson.


I let the rest cool down and put it into an old spice jar to save for later.

It’s nice to be able to grow something fun for Mouse for just about free.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Gardening For Real

Dear Liza,

We have had a solid week of sunshine and above freezing temperatures, and I have been busy in the allotment!

The carrots, radishes and lettuces had already begun to show their first baby leaves, so I put in cucumbers, zucchinis, and even pumpkins. It feels almost summer, with temperatures predicted to be in the high 70s today. I was able to garden in just my coveralls and a tee shirt, and even got my garden hat out of the closet.

A long-forgotten gift shop purchase from visits with Momma

Of course, the camellia bush next door continues to drop its lovely blooms on my plot, and the water for the garden hasn’t been turned on yet (it’s not ours to control… it belongs to the hospital whose land we are using). I will need to carry the big watering can up to the allotment twice a day until it is, to make sure my seedlings get what they need. So there are, you know, glitches.

But being able to dig and water and watch things grow is such a gift!

Camellia bush blessings

Love,

Grandma Judy

Trying Something New with Something Old

Dear Liza,

I always like trying something new.


I have been making Art Journals with Ruth Inman for a while, using cracker boxes and other leftovers for covers. But the other day when I found this really old, falling-apart literature book, I thought …. Why not use ITS cover as a cover?


First, I helped the book finish falling apart, trimming the cover and selected pages with an Exacto knife. I saved the very old 2nd place ribbon I found inside. The handwritten inventory numbers and check-out pocket touched my librarian’s heart, so I made sure they were safe. I found one of my favorite poems, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “The Rhodora”, among the anthologized works, and saved it, as well as old illustrations.


Lovely, historic insides

I grabbed a yellow printed fabric from my box, thinking the texture looked like old alligator skin. Once I had it glued onto the cover, however, it became clear that I had mis-judged. It was too light. I resisted the urge to tear it off and decided to highlight the texture and darken the effect with some acrylic paint. It was better.

Improving the spine fabric

Sewing the signatures in

I stiffened the spine with some card stock, then laid in the inside fabric. I made four ‘signatures’ (sets of pages) and pierced the spine carefully to sew the signatures in.

A new book from an old book!

Since the book was printed in 1932, I plan to use it as a journal for my research and ponderings on history. I have been researching English and French history, and am now looking into the many places where they intersect. I am also curious about how they interacted with the Holy Roman Empire and, further away, the many dynasties of the Chinese Empire.

This historic, hand-made journal will give me a place, and an inspiration, to collect these thoughts, as well and other brain bits that pop up.

The Inspiration….

“Tell them dear, that if eyes were made for seeing,

Then beauty is its own excuse for being.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

So Much Pretty

Dear Liza,

It was so pretty the other day, we three all walked to Zach’s Shack for hot dogs! We had the cool back patio all to ourselves, and we enjoyed our spicy Chicago dog, Dylan dog, and French fries. I even indulged in a pint of Guinness. Yum!

We were all feeling very full when we were done, and Grandpa Nelson suggested we take the long walk home.

There is always a lot to see in a new neighborhood. Spring has sprung with Forget Me Nots and flowers I can’t even name, growing from every planter, lawn, and crack in the sidewalk. It is glorious.

The dogwoods are all getting ready to bloom by our house. This one, about ten feet tall, has already popped.

And, on any walk, there is something you see that, well, you just didn’t expect to. This time, it was Bernie Sanders. Yep, a life sized standup of the Senator from Vermont, as he appeared at President Biden’s Inauguration, sitting comfortably on a front porch. We passed along our best wishes and waved goodbye.

And before we got home, we saw a dragon and covered almost four and a half miles.

Not bad for “ just an afternoon walk”.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bakery Quest

Dear Liza,

With the weather being warmer and our spirits rising with every vaccination, we are feeling inspired to get out for longer walks. My dad, your great grandpa Lowell, always said you should only walk until you were half tired, so you could turn around and walk back home. We have discovered that if there’s a bakery along the way, you can just keep going!

When we bought this house, one of the reasons we loved it was the proximity of restaurants and businesses…. Lebanese food around the corner, pizza across the way and a nice pinball tavern and pulled pork just down the block. But no bakery! This has probably, in the long run, been a blessing. Baked goods are less dangerous if they are at the end of a good long walk.

So, we walk. Helen Bernhard, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite, is two miles north of us through lovely neighborhoods. Their donuts are the best in town (Sorry, Voodoo Donuts) and they have Florentines rolled into tubes and filled with peanut butter cream. Need I say more?

Helen Bernhardt Bakery on NE Broadway

The Fleur de Lis, just off Broadway, at 1.7 miles. away. I haven’t walked to it yet, but Grandpa Nelson has! They have all sorts baked goods, including his favorite cinnamon rolls, as well as huge slices of quiche and sandwiches on fresh baked bread. They even had, before the Covid restrictions, live music on Sundays.

Caught red-handed with brunch at Fleur de Lis


And just yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I discovered yet another one!
Lauretta Jean’s, on Division, is just a mile south. They have been at their current location for ten years, but we have somehow missed them. During Covid they changed from a dine-in cafe to a walk up window, with a pretty awning and delightful signage. They even have a few small tables out front for on-site snacking.

We picked up a lemon bar, a piece of chocolate oatmeal pie, and a piece of birthday cake to take home for Friday’s dessert. The pie was a bit too sweet, but the cake and lemon bar were spot on wonderful. It’s nice to know that there are still fine baked goods to be discovered!

Birthday cake in the window, with reflection from across the street…

I don’t know if the search for local baked goods is Holy Grail worthy, but it sure is delicious!

Love,

Grandma Judy

North in the Sunshine

Dear Liza,

The other day I knew I needed to get out of the house, but had no motivation. Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk, and promised me goodies somewhere along the way. I went.

We headed north through the Laurelhurst neighborhood, then kept going up to Kerns. About a mile and a half from home, we stopped at Oregon Park and watched two little girls learn that going down a slide doesn’t have to be a straight forward proposition. It was fun to see their inventiveness.

“Where next?” Grandpa asked.

“I’m not sure, but it seems I remember a bakery just over that way,” I said, pointing north west-ish. He checked his phone.


“Good call! Helen Bernhardt Bakery is just 1.2 miles away. Practically around the corner.” So off we went. In the neighborhood in between, we found all sorts of delights. These stone lions are very stylish and Covid-aware.


These vintage, hand-carved children’s rocking chairs sat outside a turn of the century home, as if waiting to be adopted.

Window art is wonderful along Broadway.


We got to Helen Bernhardt’s Bakery, which has good Covid procedures in place, and chatted with the lady behind the counter.

She said that this past Easter, a week ago, was the best Easter ever for the business. That’s since 1924! It’s nice to know that some businesses have been able to survive and even thrive in this weirdness, and that we will have this lovely bakery around for a long time.


Grandpa Nelson has been eaten by a camellia!

After sitting on a low wall outside the bakery, enjoying our donut, Florentine and coffee as we watched happy folks come and go from the bakery, it was time to “South” a little. That is, to head towards home. We found this incredible camellia bush that was huge outside and magical inside. The flowers under the ‘umbrella’ seemed to glow pink with the afternoon sun.


We walked back across the Banfield Freeway and were soon in our own neighborhood. We stopped to say Hi to Auntie Bridgett, who was working her shift at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, then got home to crash before dinner.

The Banfield….. an ugly scar of a road with good views

Another fine adventure!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Walkin’ the Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

I love where we live! Sunnyside, in Southeast Portland, is the best!

Grandpa Nelson, chatting on the balcony

There are hundred year old houses, townhouses like ours, and brand new builds. Some of the trees were planted last year, and others have been here a long, long time. Heritage tree number 241, a Japanese maple, has probably been in the front yard of this house since it was built in the 1920s.

Because of how closely the trees and houses are spaced, winter, when the trees are bare, is the only time to get a picture of it.

Sunnyside was started in the 1890s as a trolley car neighborhood. Folks would live here, a few miles from the mud and stink of downtown, and be able to take the newly installed trolley cars to work.

From the 1900s…..

Back then, the houses and lots were bigger.

As the city became more crowded, newer houses were built in between the original ones. Each was built in its own style. These three very different houses stand within two blocks of each other.

1950s….


…. and 2020!

There are some industrial buildings that are being up-cycled, as well. Jacob’s Garage, which housed the trucks for the Belmont Dairy, is now a set of very cool condominiums, having kept its brick-Ish charm.

Every walkabout shows us new things! As flowers come up and trees leaf out, some of the hard lines are masked and softened, but the architecture of the turn of the century is still here if you know how to look.

Besides, where else can you find a tiny free library right next to a dinosaur-infested dogwood tree?

I can’t wait to share it with you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

First Picnic in the Allotment

Dear Liza,

It was so sunny and warm the other day, Auntie Bridgett and I took a picnic to our plot at the community garden. We have planted lettuce, radish, marigold and carrot seeds, which is all we can put in until it gets warmer and drier, and wanted to keep them company as they start sprouting.

Cheeses, fruit and haroset made a nice portable lunch. We each carried a camp chair to set up in the narrow space between our plot and our neighbor’s.

We got to meet Ruth, who is the manager for our garden. She showed us her plot, just across the pathway. She has a lot of flowers growing, and just a few vegetables. She headed off to work on a public plot at the top of the garden.

We set things out and the sun just kept getting warmer! I peeled off my jacket, then my sweater and hat…. down to my tee shirt outside, for the first time in about seven months. It felt fabulous, thank you very much.

We watched tiny birds eat bugs off the kale in the next plot, and heard the crows telling everybody something, very loudly. We noticed evryone’s tiny sprouts coming up and marveled at the beginnings of things.

When all the food was gone, I got up to pull some weeds (of course) and Bridgett got out her watercolors to make some pictures. As always, I enjoyed getting my hands in the dirt.

I harvested some mint that is sprouting up at the edge out our plot, enjoying the shade of the camellia bush. When it was time to go, I carried the weeds, since there isn’t a can for them at the garden. Auntie Bridgett put the mint in her backpack.

Back home, I worked on a watercolor of the camellias I pruned the other day. It’s spring again, and here I am, painting flowers. Funny how that works.

Camelias in my Nicole Curcio vase

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hopeful Collage

Dear Liza,

I have been having so much fun experimenting with mixed media! Putting watercolors, other paints, and collage together to tell about a feeling, or a day, just makes so much sense to me.

This piece is from Easter weekend. When I was out walking, I thought about how all springs are new beginnings. But THIS spring, with vaccines making us safer, we are being released from Covid captivity in addition to our cold winter isolation. This spring feels especially free-ing.

I collected some bits from my collage box, including candy wrappers and the little paper sleeve that was wrapped around my ice cream cone from the new Dairy Hill Creamery, down on Hawthorne.


I knew I wanted the ‘sad’ side on the left and the ‘happy’ side on the right, so I put some watercolors down for a first layer.

To show more clearly what made the sad side so sad, I stenciled and collaged some Covid-looking circles, and even spelled ‘Covid’ out in letters. Moving on from the sad, I laid down an ice cream cone wrapper bridge over a river made from a chocolate-wrapper bit of tinfoil.

I needed a happy side to be bright, so I stenciled a sun in a variety of yellows. The city is cut from an on-sale art paper from Collage art supplies. The bird was on a birthday card. The ‘JOY’ balloons are also from the ice cream wrapper.

To finish it off, I outlined the balloons and letters, and gave some detail to the sun. And to remember that this happened on Easter, I put some pretty eggs by the bridge.

Giving it a critical look, I realize that I made the water under the bridge wrong. But overall, I am pleased with the piece. It captures how I was feeling and incorporates bits of the day. I hope you have fun doing art this week!

Love,

Grandma Judy