Snow Day!

Dear Liza,

It was well below freezing last night, and we woke up this morning to about 2 inches of lovely fluffy snow! I was so excited, I layered on my warmest clothes and went walking.

The sun was not quite up yet, so at first everything was lit romantically, like a candle light dinner. Our little front patio, lit only by the walkway lights, looked spooky and beautiful.

Even though the school district had called a Snow Day, people still had to get to work, so there was some traffic out. The tires were so loud on the roads! Everything in the neighborhood looked special and magical, even the regular roads and hand rails on steps.

Of course I walked to Laurelhurst Park, to see what the snow had done to make this beautiful place even prettier. The long ravine, with its old fashioned street lamps and ancient trees, always looks like it is just half a block from Narnia.

Every single branch, twig and leaf was decorated with soft, light snow. I wanted to keep walking and looking, but two things happened at the same time. My phone’s batteries gave out, and I realized that my fingers were not just cold, but aching. After almost an hour in below freezing temperatures, my body and my electronics were complaining. I took the hint.

But on the way home, I saw something that stopped me and made me nudge my phone one more time: This brave rose, not only blooming, but supporting a half-cup of snow. Way to go, Rose.


Grandma Judy

More Almost-Spring Delights

Dear Liza,

Alternative energy?

Our neighborhood continues to surprise me. On a walk, I saw a Boston terrier out and about by himself in the park, carrying a well-chewed tennis ball. He seemed very capable, so I let him be. As I headed home I walked by a construction site, there was my little friend again, still carrying his ball.

Turns out, he belongs to the foreman of the construction job, and got bored and went in search of someone to throw his ball. Near the construction site was this bicycle pedal attached to a telephone pole, which I can only imagine is an attempt at power generation. Sort of.

We are predicted to have snow in the next week or so. I am so excited! Last year by February we had had two days of snow, and more below freezing…it has been oddly warm.


But I love this time of year, snow or no snow. Flowers are popping up, moss is everywhere, and I can walk out and see it all. These tiny lavender crocuses went from tiny green shoots, to buds, to full blown flowers in ten days.


On another street, there used to be a teeny tiny library in the shape of a British police box, like Dr. Who’s Tardis. Over the years it had sprung leaks and needed replacing. I am glad to report that the new construction has begun…a fine transparent box made of plexiglass, which just needs a door, some shelving and a few books to make it complete.

New Tiny Library!


Grandma Judy

Pumpkins and the New Toy

Super Freak, after the first cut

Dear Liza,

For Christmas, Grandpa Nelson got me (among other things) a food processor. You know, a big machine that chops, slices, shreds…a big kitchen toy. He got it for me after seeing how easily Auntie Katie made Latkes for Hanukkah… it usually takes me all evening and I’m dead at the end. So he got inspired. So I did, too.

Ready to Roast

My first thought was, “What am I going to do with this?” I have monkeyed a bit with it, but today it really earned its keep.

Way back in October, we went to Sauvie Island, just north of Portland, and bought two pumpkins as Halloween decorations. We didn’t carve them, and they have stayed whole and firm all this time. Last month I cut and roasted the smaller one. But the bigger one (called a Super Freak) was going to take some more work. I tackled it today.

One half at a time!

I cut it in half and roasted each half at 400 degrees for an hour. I let it cool, then cut it into slices and, as easy as cantaloupe, removed them from the rind.

Roasted and peeled

Then each slice got a rough chop and put into the food processor. A few noisy moments later, I had a bag of puree…then two, and finally six! That’s quite a few pies, or side dishes, or custards, just waiting in the freezer.

Chunks in the Toy

Thanks, Grandpa Nelson!

Ready for later!!

Plenty of Green

Dear Liza,

I was raised in Southern California, where it feels like summer most of the time. When my family went camping in the mountains above Idyllwild, my dad always told us that you could find NORTH by looking for the mossy side of the trees. Here in Portland, that won’t work very well.

Now that we are in the wettest, coolest season, moss is everywhere! There may be more on one side of the trees, but it’s pretty hard to differentiate. There is a lot of this fluffy green stuff.

In Laurelhurst Park, where the redwoods make year-round shade, moss extends from the trunks of trees, past their roots, right across the ground. The parts of the park where mostly deciduous trees (the ones that lose their leaves) live actually have more sun in the winter, so those areas have less moss.

Yesterday I wandered over to the Cesar Chavez Blvd. side of the park, where the “Wallosaurus” is, and found what Cousin Kestrel would say is evidence of a party in Fairyland… lovely green, mossy rocks, with tiny bits of glitter scattered about.

OH! I almost forgot. While I was walking around Laurelhurst, I passed this wonderful redwood, which I have walked past at least a hundred times, and saw this: the standard botanical marker, giving the common and Latin name of the tree. Except this one says BIG TREE. Yep, can’t argue with that.Today, the rain has taken a break, and it is 40 degrees and sunny. I will wander about more and see what I can see.

Love you very much!

Grandma Judy

Busy Saturday in the Trendy-Third

Paperwhites ready to grow!

Dear Liza,

This past Saturday morning started slowly, with coffee and reading and bringing Auntie Bridgett’s Paperwhite bulbs out of the garage. They had to be potted and then kept in the dark for two weeks, and now they are ready for sunshine so they will bloom! I am looking forward to their pretty flowers and sweet smell.

Auntie Bridgett had an errand to do in a neighborhood on the west side called the Trendy Third, on NW 23rd between Burnside and Lovejoy. Grandpa Nelson drove us over and we went walkabout.

First we found the chocolate shop she was looking for, Moonstruck Chocolates. They have asked Auntie Bridgett to hang her bright, lovely artwork on their walls! As we sat at a table, enjoying some coffee and the art that is there now, two men came in and were seriously looking at the art to buy it! That’s a good sign.

Some of Moonstruck’s inventory

We wandered down the street, going into shops that looked interesting. The Polish Pottery shop, in an old house, was delightful, full of vintage and contemporary pottery and collectables. This hand carved articulated wooden rabbit is going to find his way into my story… he is perfect.

Wise rabbit at The Polish Pottery Shop

Further along we found incidental delights…a trio of metal pigs (with piglets!) wallowing in front of an ice cream shop, and a modern take on old tiled doorways, this creative mosaic made of mismatched bits and pieces.

We walked by a shoe store called Ether, which was having a sale, 10$ and 20$ for shoes that usually cost 50$ or more. Auntie Bridgett has been wanting me to get boots that will keep my feet dry, and found a wonderful pair that fit, so I now have a new pair of boots! We’ll have to wait for the next rainstorm to see how they work.

Contemporary mosaic storefront
Random trio of pigs

Our last stop of the day was Pizzacatto, one of a chain of pizza shops here in town. We have been wanting to try one, so in we went. Four dollars a slice for some of the best pizza I’ve ever had, and a bright, comfy place to hang out, draw, and do crosswords, as well. Such a deal.

Our parking was about up and we were all walked out, so we headed home. Now Auntie Bridgett is at the SideStreet Art Gallery and we are being domestic and literary here at home.

Grandpa Nelson, pizza, and crosswords


Grandma Judy

The Shemanski Fountain

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, in a busy, crowded downtown, I walk past something many times before I actually stop to appreciate it. The Shemanski Fountain is one of these things. It sits at the north end of the South Park Blocks, and I pass it every time I walk from the Oregon Historical Society to the bus stop. Yesterday, I finally gave it some time.

Joseph Shemanski was a Jewish immigrant who arrived from Poland in 1888. Like many others, he came to town with little cash and lots of determination. He sold lace collars and wringer washers door to door in order to save up money to start his own business.

His first clothing shop was at Third and Taylor. He did two things that were unusual for the time; he hired new immigrants to work in the shop, and he let his customers use the installment plan, what we call ‘lay away’, to make their purchases. This allowed his working class customers to buy things over time. These two practices endeared him to his clients and made him incredibly successful.

By the 1930s he had 53 stores along the west coast, including an eight story building on Tenth Street. He had been President Of Temple Beth El Synagogue and was a philanthropist who donated money to causes and businesses that helped the Jewish community and the city grow.

When he got older, he asked Portland to allow him to make a gift to the city as a way of showing his gratitude for his successful, happy life. He had Carl Linde design the fountain, which has three levels. The top level drops water onto a statue called Rebecca at the Well. The second level creates drinking fountains for people, and the bottom level has drinking bowls for dogs.

The fountains are not currently working, maybe because they are broken, or maybe because it is winter and the city is trying to save the pipes. I will keep an eye on it in the Spring.

I am glad I took the time to learn more about this interesting man who made a difference in my new city.


Grandma Judy

New in the Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

As I’ve said many times, cities are always changing. In just the last month, one pub has opened, folded, and another one has opened in the same place. The Belmont Pub has become Char. The problem is, it doesn’t seem to be generating any more business than its predecessor. I wish it luck!

Meanwhile, up on Sandy at 26th, The Pie Spot has rebuilt after a kitchen fire closed it last fall. We went there the other day to celebrate National Pie Day! Auntie Bridgett had the brandy apple crumb, and I had the banana cream caramel. They were both delicious, and the personal pie size was just right. We felt satisfied, but not stuffed.

Grandpa Nelson, who does not care for pie, even found something he loved: Pie Crust Rolls! They are like cinnamon rolls, but made with a short pie crust dough instead of a yeast dough. Very tasty.

The people at the Pie Spot were very nice, and the music selection was mostly good ( there can be a stinker in every set, I suppose).

Also new in the neighborhood are these tiny purple crocus, coming up right by the sidewalk. They are about three inches tall and so soft they feel like cotton fabric.

I need to keep my eyes open around here!


Grandma Judy