Warming Up!

Dear Liza,

We are predicted to have a heat wave in all the western states this coming week, so I headed down to Portland Nursery to gear up! The whole place was very full of happy people. I hunted for a tiny Japanese maple for my bonsai Hundred Acre Wood, but the ones they had were way too big. They did have this extra-large bonsai, called a Penjing. But still no tiny maple for me.

I did find five cherry tomato plants and six lettuce starts, and walked them home. I put them on our balcony to be safe from the predicted thunderstorms.

By then it was noon, so Auntie Bridgett and I had the first-of-many lunches on the balcony, sharing our space with Mouse, the veggies, and whatever neighbors strolled by. When the storms were taken out of the forecast, I hauled the new plants to the Blair Community Garden and put them in.

It was a happy, sweaty, exhausting hour, for sure. But it was what I have been waiting for since March! Getting my hands in dirt is always so satisfying.

Now I need to rig some sort of sun shade to protect my baby lettuces from the upcoming 90 degree heat.

It’ll work out. It always does.

Grandma Judy

Danish Practice

Dear Liza,

Learning Danish is a real challenge! I have been working at it on Duolingo every day since you moved to Denmark in August, and I am still at “baby talk” level. I know you and your folks are working hard at it, too.

I started using art to help me learn vocabulary a few months ago.

You know I’ve been studying French for a few years now, and there are words that have been adopted into Danish from French! Words like ‘restaurant’, and ‘menu’ and ‘toilet’ are Danish, as well as English and French. So there are a few gimme’s, as they say.

But those only go so far, and Danish has another difficulty.

Danish has TWENTY vowel sounds, at least three which do not happen in English. They all seem to be a variety of ‘o’, ranging from a puckered ‘oooo’ in the front of your mouth to a broader sound that sounds like you are choking on a potato. The consonants tend to get left off, leaving a pudding of vowel sounds that is hard for me to differentiate.

Also, Danish doesn’t pronounce the ‘d’ in the middle or end of a word, but it is still there (sometimes doubled) in the spelling. So ‘bondegård’, which means ‘farm’, is pronounced ‘bonnygo’. See what I mean?

I know you will work hard at Danish and get the hang of it well before I do, since it is all around you. Maybe you can help me when I come visit.


Grandma Judy

First Picnic of 2023

Dear Liza,

Sunday was a not-quite-sunny, not-quite-warm day, but I went to the vegetable garden to pull weeds and pick up the endless piles of Camélia blooms that drop on my plot. By the time I got back to the house, I was all warmed up. So when Auntie Bridgett suggested a picnic, I was all for it!

We made some egg salad, grabbed apples, celery, crackers, and our picnic blanket. The neighborhood was very azalea-forward with almost neon colors.

We noticed that the ground was damp, so we chose a table on the high ground. We kept our jackets on.

Still, the park was pretty, green, and scented with four o’clocks and tulips. An excellent church choir was singing across the road at the Laurelhurst Club, which made everything special.

We enjoyed our simple lunch as the crows and squirrels came by.

As we ate, however, the clouds got cloudier and the breeze got breezier. We finished up with a square of chocolate, packed up our slim supplies, and took a turn around Firwood Lake on our way home. The fireplace felt good as we settled in to watch the Giants play the Brewers.


Grandma Judy

Free Comic Book Day!

Dear Liza,

Our lovely spring walk took us all the way down to Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books with Pictures! And since it was Free Comic Book Day, there were all sorts of things going on!

Auntie Katie met us, all dressed up this fabulous outfit.

Then I ran into Cousin Kestrel, who had done such a nice job painting her own knees, I asked to to put some abstract plants on my face.

I’d say that’s a real improvement!

We were there to visit, but most folks were there for comics! There were so many people there to shop and pick out their free comics, there was a line out the door. It was wonderful to see the shop so full!

We got snacks at the Underbite food truck, listened to Courage Music, and then headed home.

On our way down Clinton Street, we saw this adorable fairy village hiding in the garden of a tiny house. Portland always has such fun surprises!


Grandma Judy

Colors of Spring

Dear Liza,

We all went out for a walk Saturday, and since it is spring, we wore overcoats and boots and carried umbrellas…. Just in case.

But even though there were some massive clouds, we didn’t get a drop of rain! Just oodles and oodles of flowers. Wisteria has draped itself over arbors….

The cherry trees have dropped their pink snow drifts all over Ladd’s Addition…

Dogwoods are just too pretty to be believed…

And the lilacs were being lovely and smelling fabulous!

I’ll tell you about where we were headed…. Tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

National Cartoonist’s Day

Dear Liza,

Friday was National Cartoonist’s Day, and I celebrated it by reading my two favorite cartoonists. The first, Gary Trudeau, has written Doonesbury since 1968. I started reading it in our local newspaper when I was in high school, collecting the paperback collections as they came out.

The characters and stories in the strips were funny, intelligent takes on people very much like people I knew. Crazy Zonker Harris reminded me of one of my brothers, and Americanism zealot B.D. reminded me of the other one. The strips spoofed college sports, the anti-war movement, women’s liberation … all the hot-button topics of my teenage years.

The series of strips about Phred, the Vietcong terrorist, and his struggles during the war was enlightened and delightful.

Bridgett Spicer is my other favorite cartoonist, and your own Auntie Bridgett. She started writing her first comic strip, Squid Row, in 2002. It ran for in the Monterey Herald newspaper from 2009 to 2014.

It told stories about people I knew, too. Starving artists and their search for art supplies and folks with irrational fears of garden gnomes… people everyone could relate to. Like Gary Trudeau, Bridgett shows her characters’ flaws as well as their strengths.

Squid Row wasn’t nearly as political as Doonesbury, but every now and then Bridgett felt the need to make a comment on world affairs. When there was a controversy about cartoonists drawing the prophet Mohammed, she made this strip about a cab driver.

In 2015, she closed out Squid Row and started Randie and Ryan, showing her two main characters’ adventures as newlyweds. And when we moved to Portland, so did Randie and Ryan! That strip ran for four years.

After a few months , she started other projects and let the cartooning slide for a while. Then, in 2021, her friend Jack Kent, who does the comic Sketchy People and was working for our local Willamette Weekly, offered her a spot on their comics page. Who could turn that down?

Auntie Beeswax is a slightly eccentric lady who lives in Portland. She is always upbeat as she cares for bees, cats, chickens, and her melancholy niece, Mallory.

I love seeing our everyday life in the comic strip. A well-done comic takes real life and lets you see it differently.

PS. You can find all Bridgett’s works, including paintings, collages, and lots of comics, at bridgettspicerart.com


Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday, Nelson!

Dear Liza,

Your Grandpa Nelson had his 68th birthday Wednesday, and we had a wonderful time.

We drove south down the Willamette Valley to Salem, the capital of Oregon. It is much smaller than Portland, even smaller than where we used to live in Salinas! But it is a very pretty city.

First, we stopped for lunch at a McMenamin’s restaurant that we had never been to, the historic Boone’s Treasury, just north of Salem. It was charming and delicious, with a nice patio. We had a lovely ceiling of maple leaves just coming out in their spring colors.

After lunch we drove into town and to the Riverfront City Park, 23 acres of lawns, trees, statues, an amphitheater, a nature preserve, a bridge over the Willamette Slough, and miles of waking and biking trails.

The biggest surprise was this larger-than-life statue of Tom McCall, a former governor of Oregon who was ferocious about protecting Oregon’s natural resources. Two of Mr. McCall’s projects were keeping our beaches open to everyone and a bill to make recycling become law in Oregon. It makes sense that his statue would be in this lovely natural area, and that it shows him fishing.

This enormous mosaic covered globe caught my eye. It needs some repair, but it is beautiful.

We walked across the pedestrian bridge onto Minta Brown Island along with dozens of other folks out enjoying the day. Bikes, dogs, kids and folks even older than us were all out and about.

Our last stop in the park was the beautiful carousel, which was hand-carved and hand-painted by dozens of volunteers and craftsmen. It was a true labor of love.

We walked into town and had ice cream at Momma Dulce’s. Silly Bridgett had a lick of mine and we were much refreshed.

When we had seen all we could see, braved the highway traffic and gotten home, Grandpa opened his present from Bridgett’s Mom Donna, which was some bottles of tasty wine. We had a small glass each and settled into couch for a relaxing birthday evening.


Grandma Judy

Oscar Howe, Salmon Springs, and the Willamette

Dear Liza,

Last Friday was Member Appreciation Day at our Portland Art Museum, called PAM. Since we are members, we went and got appreciated! Besides getting free, we got tote bags, buttons, and an extra 10% discount at the shop.

Quite a few galleries were closed, as PAM is getting ready for a huge construction project that will join their Main Building to the lovely old Masonic Temple Building, which was acquired in 1992.

Still, we were delighted with the Oscar Howe exhibit, Dakota Modern. Oscar Howe was a Yanktonai Dakota artist, born on the Crow Creek Sioux Reservation in South Dakota in 1915. The main works shown at PAM were painted in the 1950s and 1960s, but felt very contemporary.

With great talent and study, he proved that Native American art was not just pictures of buffalo hunts. We spent a long time enjoying the swirls of blues and oranges and powerful lines of his work.

But snack time called! We left the air-conditioned comfort of PAM and walked the block to Umbria for coffee and pastries, and then decided to wander a bit.

Heading toward the river, we were rewarded with this view:

Traffic lights, chatting people, the enormous and engaging Salmon Springs Fountain, and Mount Hood looming over everything.

Portland, for sure.

And just past the fountain was our Willamette, turned into a playground by the sunny weather. Motorboats, jet skies, and kayaks zipped along on the first of many play days.

We walked a few blocks and caught the Magic Number 15 bus back home, grateful for Spring, sunshine, and living in Portland.


Grandma Judy

Belated Travel Journaling

Dear Liza,

Your Auntie Bridgett Spicer is an amazing artist. Not only can she create delightful comics like her “Auntie Beeswax” and wonderful paintings and collages, but she can draw and vacation at the same time. Here is a page from her sketchbook of our trip.

Her brain works like that.

Mine does not. I made a really cool cover for my travel journal for our last trip to Europe,

but am only now (three weeks after we got home) finishing up my account of our journey. Here is a page showing our train ride from Amsterdam to Utrecht.

I started with good intentions, but then it just got away from me.

I happily sacrificed journaling time for time spent with family in wondrous operas, delightful museums, and fabulous gardens.

So now I’m catching up, and I’m glad I waited. Not only is my Journal a more interesting synthesis of the journey, with my own sketches and all the sorts of paper you collect on a trip, but I am getting to re-live the whole experience!

It’s like watching my favorite movie all over again.


Grandma Judy

Walking Out for Dinner

Dear Liza,

One of the great joys of a Sunnyside Portland summer is walking out to find lovely places to eat. In any direction from our house, there are at least a dozen places within a mile.

You can walk west through Ladd’s Addition for Central American food at Teote House, north to Helen Bernhardt’s for bakery goods, or east to the Bipartisan Cafe for pie and sandwiches, just to name a few. There are also half a dozen food cart pods.

Last week, on a bright afternoon, we walked down to Division to try the newest, The Farmhouse Carts.

This arrangement of food trucks is in the former parking lot of Reverend Nat’s Hard Cider, a locally made yummy drink based on apples and other fruits. (There is some fermentation involved.)

But aside from being able to buy yummy cold drinks, there are trucks for Thai food, hamburgers and fries, Lebanese Saj, hand-held sushi rolls, and boba tea. There is also a large covered area with family sized tables, which will be much appreciated on our long, warm summer evenings.

We enjoyed the food and drinks, but mostly the theater of humanity that we have missed during the winter (and since the 2020 shutdown)…. Kids finding other kids to play with, moms chatting, dogs nosing around under tables.

It’s good to be out with our species!


Grandma Judy