Pip’s Doughnuts and Other Happy Discoveries


Dear Liza,

Today we needed to go to IKEA for some house things and Costco for some food things. Grandpa Nelson knew that it would be a long day of walking and shopping, so he decided that we should start off with local happy.

Pip’s Original Doughnuts and Chai, on NE Fremont, was the perfect place. It is different from every other doughnut shop in several ways. First, there is no glass case with doughnuts to choose from, because every single doughnut is made when you order it and served hot. YUM!

Another difference is the size of the doughnuts. They are tiny! Each warm, perfect bundle of fried goodness would fit in the palm of your 4 year old hand. About three small bites, or one greedy mouthful.


Finally, there are not dozens of kinds of doughnuts. The day we were there, there were six. Grandpa Nelson had cinnamon and sugar. Very sweet and good. Auntie Bridgett had Nutella, which she pronounced “The best doughnut I’ve ever had in my life.” I had a wickedly sweet and savory mouthful called Candied Maple Bacon, the essence of which I would like to eat every day of my life.

Doing some doughnut math, we reckoned that a regular cake doughnut would equal the size of about three Pip’s. So you can mix and match and share with friends and get to taste more deliciousness without feeling like a doughnut hog. Well, feeling a bit less like a doughnut hog than usual, anyway.

After thoroughly enjoying the doughnuts, dog- and people-watching and warm hospitality of Pip’s, we got on with the business of the day. When we moved from Salinas, we tried to get rid of things we didn’t love. We had owned several really ugly lamps, and we left them behind. Wandering IKEA’s maze of showrooms, we came upon the perfect lamp. It would fit in well and gives a nice warm light. We also found an office chair for Grandpa Nelson that will help his back, and lots of small things to make the house work better.

After a small lunch at IKEA’s cafeteria, we headed for Costco. We found two giant shelf units to help organize the garage. Moving here, we collapsed three art areas and two offices into one space, so there are a lot of things that need storing…books, art, tools… and we want them to stay dry through Portland’s notoriously wet winters. Getting them up off the floor and into plastic bins seems a good idea. We also found cashews, walnuts, peanuts…you know, Grandpa Nelson food.

Back home, we assembled the lamp (which does, indeed, look perfect by the piano)  and moved one of the last boxes into a back closet so the lamp had a happy place to be in. Grandpa Nelson built his chair, we installed things in the kitchen, and crashed. Hours of shopping just wear me out!


Later in the day, I got an invitation from Auntie Katie to hear a storyteller at her book store, Books with Pictures. Gretchen Peterson told a really interesting story about her new super hero, Iris Eldinger. We talked about storytelling and teaching and how much the two are alike.

Auntie Bridgett and I walked home just as the sun was going down. We stopped several times to look west, over the bridges on the Willamette to the city shadowed in pink clouds. It was the perfect ending to a lovely, productive, delicious day.



Grandma Judy

Lone Fir Cemetery

Dear Liza,

Today was very hot in Portland! I went for a walk with Auntie Bridgett early in the morning, enjoying the quiet of Laurelhurst Park. Then we retired to the cool of the house, her and Grandpa Nelson working in their offices in the basement and me reading and unpacking upstairs.

By 8:00 in the evening, it had started to get a little cooler. The sun wasn’t going down until almost 9:00, so we had lots of time for a walk. We went to explore the Lone Fir Cemetery at Stark and 26th.

Lone Fir has been here a long, long time. It had its first burial in 1846, when the land was a family farm. The farmer, J.B. Stephens, had traveled west with his elderly father, who passed away and was buried on the property. A few years later,  the property was sold to Colburn Barrell, the owner of a steamboat called The Gazelle. That same year The Gazelle exploded, killing several people. The owner of the steamboat buried them near the site of J.B. Stephen’s father, and established a proper cemetery, calling it Mt. Crawford.

We walked through the cool cemetery with a familiar feeling of quiet curiosity. I enjoy “visiting the dead people”. My father often said that any day above ground was a good day. Visiting cemeteries reassures me that whatever I am wrestling with on a given day, it is, by my father’s definition, a good day. Knowing that generations of new transplants have come here and made it their home allows me to see my panic over lost kitchen items in perspective.

The name of the cemetery was changed to Lone Fir because when it was started, there was only one fir tree on the property. The place is now an arboretum, a tree garden, with hundreds of trees of all types giving wonderful shade.The cool breeze and peaceful shade were delicious after the bright heat of the day.

The most recent graves we found were from 2007, polished, black, beautiful headstones in Russian, printed with photos of the deceased, telling of a whole new wave of people coming from far away to start new lives here.

Lone Fir has small roads that lead among the graves. We saw people walking quietly along these roads, enjoying the evening, or sitting on benches by war memorials, reading. This is a place for living people as well a for remembering the dead.

Many of the older gravestones are impossible to read, the centuries of moss and rain having started to dissolve the stone. I love cemeteries partly because of the stories they tell. I am a little sad that these people’s stories can’t be read anymore. But I enjoy know ing they were here, anyway.


Grandma Judy


Up to Our Eyeballs

Dear Liza,

I am sorry I haven’t written for a few days, but we have been working so hard that by the time we are done, I am too tired to think. The moving truck with all our things came Saturday morning at 7:30. We were still in our jammies! Fortunately, we are fast dressers.

We each took a job: Auntie Bridgett directed where all the boxes would go to be stored in the basement, Grandpa Nelson checked off boxes as they came off the truck, and I made sure the fellows put the furniture in the right rooms upstairs. There was also a lot of lifting, sliding, shifting, and screwing things together. Did you know the legs could come off our piano bench? Neither did I.

After 5 hours of hard, hot work, the team of Francisco, Kenny and Rick finished up and packed up their truck. We walked to Babydoll Pizza on Stark for much-needed sustenance. Their arugula and goat cheese pizza and Thai basil soda gave us the will to go on.

Every day since then has been the frustrating job of opening a box, unwrapping it, piece by piece, to see if there is anything we need in the next year, and then re-wrapping most of it and putting it back in the box. This has been a lesson in the definition of the word “need”. How many coffee cups, really, do we need? How many wine glasses?

But we kept at it. Grandpa Nelson got the tv, internet and computers hooked up, Auntie Bridgett has her office almost the way she wants it, and I can cook in the kitchen and write in my office. We can find towels, toothpaste, and socks. Still no sewing set up, but that will come. My mosaics will probably have to happen in the basement, to save the new floors upstairs.

In between working like dogs, we have enjoyed walking around our Laurelhurst /Kerns neighborhood. Old Victorian and Craftsman style houses, huge trees, lovely little parks, friendly dogs, and great shops and restaurants are all over and make getting from here to there so much fun! We have had a delicious Bangkok bowl at Canteen on Stark Street, ice cream at Fifty Licks and Gelato Staccato, and beer and peanuts at Migration Pub. I have cooked fresh caught salmon with smoked goat cheese (!) and organic chicken with tons of garlic.

We have also discovered our local movie theater, the Laurelhurst, up on Burnside. For $5.00 a person ($2.50 for seniors like me), you can watch a movie while eating pizza and drinking wine, beer, or soda. There are about 6 screens, mostly second run movies, but very affordable, fun, and delicious.

When you come up to visit, I will show you all the fun things here. I miss you very much.


Grandma Judy


Going Downtown

thumbnail_IMG_1431Dear Liza,

On Friday, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I took the #20 bus down Burnside towards downtown Portland. We passed some useful shops that we will visit some other time, like Stitch in a Hurry alterations and the Whole Nine Yards fabric shop.

We got off at 10th and Burnside, right across the street from Powell’s City of Books, which I have told you about before. We walked down 10th Street, looking (and sniffing) for someplace good for lunch. About the same time I smelled pastrami, Auntie Bridgett remembered an old fashioned deli called Kenny & Zukes…and there it was!

The whole place seemed to be vibrating. Cooks rushing around the kitchen, waiters dashing around bringing food, and customers talking with their hands and playing with their children made everything move. The deli has a large chalkboard for take out menu things like smoked salmon, bagels, and bialies. Grandpa Nelson has given them the award for the Best Ever french fries and he also had a root beer float made with PDX Sodaworks Root Beer that he said was “heavenly”. Our pastrami sandwiches were also very good..nice and thick and juicy.

After lunch we walked some more and found our destination for the day: PAM, the Portland Art Museum. In the courtyard out front, near 30 foot tall statues of orchids, a bunch of people were setting up for a party. But more about that later.

We met a lady at the front desk named Tricia, and she helped up become members of the Museum, which means we can go in for free every day, if we want.

Now, here is where I have to make a confession. Whenever I go into an art museum, I have such good intentions of taking notes and studying each painting carefully. I take my journal and camera and… then don’t. I walk through the galleries, looking at each painting, but only stopping when something interests me. I may take a photo of a piece but totally forget the artist, or title, or what country it is from. Very often, I make up silly things for the people to say….I have fun and I enjoy the art. But I am not a very focused student in the museum. I am more like a kid in a candy store.

We wandered around until we were tired, when we had coffee and cookies at the museum snack shop, then wandered some more. When our eyes were full and we couldn’t see another painting, we had dinner at McMinamens, just down the street. Auntie Bridgett got a phone call and we arranged to meet some friends at the big party in front of the Art Museum. It was actually an art party! 30 artists sat at tables and drew or painted their own kind of pictures, and we got to watch them, and if we liked the picture, we could buy it. After an hour, those artists went to get dinner and 30 more came to paint and draw. Besides being fun and a chance to see and meet lots of local artists, the party raised money for kids’ activities at the museum.

By this time it was 8:30 and we had been out and about since 11. It was time to go home. We caught the # 15 bus home and walked to our new house from Belmont Street,  enjoying the cool of the evening and seeing all the people out walking and on bikes. I think this was the sort of day we hoped for when we moved to Portland.

I am glad we had a happy, fun day, because tomorrow, all our furniture will arrive from Salinas, and it will be a busy, hard-working day!


Grandma Judy



Feeling More at Home

Dear Liza,

Today our new house became our home for real, because we went to the airport to pick up Grandpa Nelson! He had been in Salinas making sure everything was safely on the moving truck, and managed to be the last person on a plane coming to Portland. I love the Portland Airport for many reasons. It is beautiful, bright, easy to navigate, has delicious food, and is easy to get to by train. I had never had to drive there. The passenger pick up and drop off is so congested, there was a man with white gloves and a loud whistle directing traffic. When you come, I will take the train up to meet you!

Auntie Bridgett was driving and got us home safe, after stopping at Killer Burgers on Sandy to get Grandpa Nelson dinner.  Even being tired, sleeping on an air mattress in a strange place is weird. We are all sleeping downstairs because it is cooler and has carpeting, so easier to sleep if the air mattress fails. But the kitchen and living room with better light are upstairs., so there is lots of up and down…a new thing for all of us.

It was a day of lots of small decisions. Our 1950’s era house has old electronics, so there is only one place the television can go. That dictates where the rest of the furniture can be….the three of us are good at discussing options and differences of opinions, but it can be exhausting.

Auntie Bridgett and I made a long list of things we needed for the house, and in a interesting hour at Fred Meyer, we found them all! We also found lots of friendly people…a flirty, dapper fellow with an ornate mustache, pink shirt and cowboy hat, an old man shopping with his even older mom for baby clothes, and helpful clerks who walked up and down aisles to find us what we needed.

The day was productive. The garage door got repaired, the internet got connected, and the kitchen got set up, laundry got done. We had dinner at home with some nice wine, a Goodfellow Pinot Noir from a local winery here in the Willamette Valley, bought at the wine shop down the block, Vino.

After dinner it started to cool down a bit, so we went for a walk though Laurelhurst Park and around the neighborhood. We looked at houses for sale, art galleries in tiny old store fronts, and trees, trees, trees.

These huge old trees are one of the main differences between Salinas and Portland. The climate here and the age of the city means there have been trees planted for more than a hundred years. Many of those trees are still here, as well as their younger, but huge, brothers and sisters. Maples, elms, birches, pines, oaks, all growing 50 feet and more, as well as rhododendrons 20 feet high and around, make Portland more a city in a garden than a city with gardens.  The shade they give cools down hot streets. The birds and squirrels have lots of places to live. The light shining through their leaves makes every treetop shimmer like church windows, a sacred, peaceful place.

I miss you but I am feeling more like I have a new home here.

Love, Grandma Judy





Waking up in Our New Home


Dear Liza,
This morning I woke up in Portland. I had slept on the carpet in the basement of our new house, because the truck our furniture is in will take a few days to get here.
Normally, falling asleep in a strange place is hard for me. Strange sounds and smells feel scary and I keep waking up.
But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I drove all the way from our old house Salinas to our new house in Portland…. it took 14 hours! We stopped at Granzella’s super nifty deli for sandwiches and to let Mouse the cat out of her carrier to use the cat box. She was surprisingly cooperative and we were able to continue up over Mount Shasta and across the border into Oregon.

We stopped for our first meal in Oregon: jam sandwiches, cheese, and carrots, eaten standing by the car at the Valley of the Rogue Rest Stop. The heat and sunshine, smell of the lodge pole  pines, and sound of kids and dogs playing nearby made it a lovely way to celebrate our new state.
Somewhere around the middle of the Willamette Valley, we realized this was indeed a very long drive. But we were determined to get home that night. As we approached Portland, we had google maps guide us in. We knew we could figure the house in a round about way, but we were tired and wanted a direct route. Coming down a steep hill on a section of the road called The Terwilliger Curves, we saw the city and river spread out like a sparkly blanket under the soft pinky grey sunset. We crossed the Marquam Bridge with Mt. Hood, all lovely and pink, ahead of us in the distance. We swooped north past the glass towers of the Convention Center and exited the freeway onto 33rd street, just north of our lovely, quiet neighborhood.
And there we were: Home! During the next hour, we unpacked the kitchen stuff we had brought, all the plants, moved Mouse and her toys into the downstairs bedroom, took a shower, and called Grandpa Nelson to let him know we were home and okay. I meant to write you, but I was so tired, I fell right asleep.
Today Auntie Bridgett and I have shopped for groceries at Whole Foods, gotten shelf paper and a small microwave oven at Fred Meyer to set up the kitchen, picked up postcards at Powell’s, and had lunch at McMinamen’s Baghdad Cafe. I am tired all over again! Grandpa Nelson is still in Salinas making sure all our furniture is loaded on the truck and then your daddy will drive him to the San Jose airport and fly up so he can be home, too.
This is the hardest part of moving, besides saying good-bye to you, your mommy and daddy: Moving my idea of home from one place to another. The last few weeks, while we have been packing, we have slowly been taking our special stuff out of our old home, making it more of ‘just a house’. And as we move those same special things into this new house, it will become more of our home. It won’t happen all at once, I know. But it will happen. People are very good at adapting to new places and new situations. Especially when we have such an interesting city to explore!


Grandma Judy

The New People

Dear Liza,

Today was our last day of packing. Our refrigerator is almost empty, our clothes are in suitcases, and even Mouse’s cat carrier is set up for her trip north with us Monday. We have filled up a dumpster with all sorts of bits of lumber, old art projects, broken machinery, and cabinets with no legs.

Today we also met the new people who will be buying our house! They are a very nice couple named Ryan and Kayla. They are a little younger than Grandpa Nelson and I were when we bought the house. They are expecting their first baby very soon.

I love the idea of a new baby and a new family growing up in this house. We have poured so much love and care into it, it can’t help but be a happy home. The flowers we transplanted from Great-Grandma Billie’s house are here. The lemon tree Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett planted still  gives great lemons. And all the roses I have pruned and loved are still making the world more beautiful.

I keep having a carousel of feelings. Excited for the trip, then sad to be leaving our home. Happy to see Jasper and Kestrel, then sad to be leaving you. Up and down, up and down, around and around. No wonder I am dizzy!

Love, Grandma Judy

Last Fourth in Salinas

Dear Liza,
The Fourth of July in Spreckels, California, is something special. It’s not big, loud, or fancy. The town itself is only about 8 blocks square. But going there for Independence Day morning is like walking through a warm, friendly hug.
The parade is mostly an antique car show, with a generous addition of kids on bikes and scooters. The people in the cars throw candy to the people in the front row, who then toss it back to the people who are too far away to get any. Everyone had so much fun!
Going there, I knew I was guaranteed to meet at least a dozen folks I know, and I was not disappointed. We ran into Alex Carrillo and his boys, a friend of yours from summer camp, parents of former students, and even Mr. Jim Ross Riley, talking to everyone from the roof through his microphone.

Who I will miss the most

Local baker Adrian Jimenez from Blue Aces had all sorts of goodies, and other booths selling Indian, Mexican, Filipino food and burgers and hot dogs lined the tiny, very crowded street and made sure everyone got lunch.
After a much needed rest for everyone, we all got back together at Rick’s and Kevin’s house for our last fireworks show together on their driveway. Your daddy and Grandpa Nelson helped Rick set off so many fireworks, my eyes and ears were full. When we finished the last sparkler, it was way past everyone’s bedtime and we all walked home.
I know we will have more Fourth of July celebrations together, in Salinas and up in Portland, but this was the last one for the Liza who has just turned four and the Grandma Judy who I am right now. And that makes me a little sad.

Love, Grandma Judy

Flying Back to Salinas

Dear Liza,

Today I woke up to a bright sunny day. I went upstairs and Jasper was playing his Marvel game, but I was hungry. Rather than make a mess and noise in the kitchen, I walked up to Palio for coffee and carrot bread.

Stephanie, the young lady who works at Palio, is very friendly and fun to talk to. She is trained as a preschool teacher but also works in the coffee shop. The music here is very interesting. Many popular American pop tunes sung in different languages, like Tom Jones’ “It’s not unusual” sung in Japanese. Easy to listen to, but sure not boring!

I brought biscotti back to Katie’s house, we read Zita the Space girl and Kestrel and Jasper explained all the details to me. They love these stories! When Uncle Dave got up he made everyone eggs and toast, and then we all sat at the table and wrote. Kestrel and Jasper started comics, I wrote a letter to Jasper, and Katie worked on a story she started the other day. Then Uncle drove me to the airport to fly home.

I have loved getting to spend time with family in my new city of Portland,  but I am not quite ready to be up here yet. There is still a whole house to move, a cat named Mouse to drive up, and a city full of friends to say good-bye to. I will see you on the Fourth of July!

Love, Grandma Judy


Meeting Lovely New People

Dear Liza,

Today started out cold and drizzly, very different from our hot sunshine of the past few days. I walked to Palio, a small coffee and pastry shop just a few blocks from Auntie Katie’s house. I was a little early and they weren’t open yet, so I sat on the bench outside and listened to the life around me. There are so many trees that the wind sounds like a crowded room. Crows, like in Salinas, chase each other around and complain if someone else has something they want. Grey squirrels run easily across streets, up trees and across power lines, looking like small grey rainbows as they go.

I spent some time making sure my measurements of the new house were correct, building fairy houses with Auntie Katie and Kestrel, and then rested up to have energy for a party!

Friends of Auntie Katie and Uncle Dave have a house that is 125 years old, so they had a party for it! The food was all old-fashioned and delicious….roast chicken, pickled carrots and radishes, and an applesauce nut cake with sparklers on it! Thanks, Heather Arndt- Anderson! At the party I met some chickens, a woman who used to do puppet shows but is now retired, and learned to play a game called Crokinole.

After that party, we went to ANOTHER one! There were more friendly people. I met Steve, a man who is a big fan of the Women’s Soccer team called the Thorns. There is so much to learn about this new, big city!

We got home very late and I slept like a walrus.

Love, Grandma Judy Continue reading “Meeting Lovely New People”