The Oregon Zoo

Dear Liza,

Today Grandpa Nelson and I went to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. We took the #4 bus from their house to Pioneer Square downtown, then the Blue Line Max train to Washington Park, where the zoo is. The zoo is on top of a hill, but the train doesn’t go up the hill…it goes through a tunnel underneath the hill, and when we got off the train, we took an elevator straight up to the top. The train station is 260 feet below the surface where the zoo is, so the elevator is as tall as a 28 story building! That is almost 5 times as tall as the tallest building in Salinas. The elevator went really fast and we were at the top in about 10 seconds.

We got became members of the zoo, like we did for the Art Museum, so we can go whenever we want. It is also a way of supporting the zoo, because wild animals are expensive to take care of.

The first animal we had to see was Lily the elephant. She was born at the zoo when your cousins were babies, and they have sort of grown up together. When we got to Lily’s enclosure, which is in the area of the zoo called Elephant Lands, she was far away and hard to see, but the kids shouted hello to her, anyway. We walked down a hill and found a big grassy field called the Amphitheater.

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Kestrel watching the flying birds

The people in the show, both young ladies named Bree, had wild birds fly from different parts of the field, right over our heads! There was Eagle Owl, which is the largest kind of owl. They live in Africa and hunt African Hedgehogs at night. Bree and Bree also showed us a Red-Tailed Hawk, which is an Oregon wild bird that has learned how to live here in the city. They nest in large trees on the hillsides and hunt rats and pigeons, so they actually help keep the city clean.

We learned that different animals have different names for their groups. Just like there are herds of cows and flocks of birds, there are dazzles of zebras and crushes of rhinos. I don’t know who makes up the names, but they sure are interesting.

We visited bears and penguins and got sprayed by a fountain, and then we found the  The Discovery Zone. There was a building with all sorts of activities and critters inside, like a place for kids to make up their own puppet shows, baby turtles being raised in big tubs, and games to learn about how animals live.

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Jasper making a puppet show

 

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Kestrel and Grandpa Nelson…Jasper in the background

There was also the insect zoo,  a room where there were glass boxes with really interesting bugs. There were two kinds of tarantulas, stick insects a foot long, and even a Madagascar Hissing Cockroach, as big and your daddy’s thumb, which I got to pet! Cousin Kestrel watched, but didn’t pet it. It felt smooth, like it was made of glass. There were more games and young people telling all about the insects.

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Madagascar Hissing Cockroach

By this time, we were hungry for lunch we walked to the Sankuru Trader, way out by the giraffes, and had hot dogs and pretzels, with a blue raspberry icee for dessert. We felt so much better after the rest and food!

We walked all the way to the other corner of the zoo to visit the Great Northwest area. It felt just like hiking in the forest! There were beautiful trees and waterfalls, with windows that let you watch the ducks paddling on top of the water and diving underneath, too. There was a model of an eagle’s nest, and Jasper, Kestrel and I pretended we were a Momma eagle and her babies learning to fly. It was so much fun.

There was even art at the zoo. There was a wooden carving showing bears and silly cats, and a mosaic showing the stages of a salmon’s life, and a statue of mountain goats that we got to climb on.

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Kestrel, Salmon mosaic, and Jasper
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Silly Cat Carving
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Grandma Judy, Kestrel and Jasper on the goat statue

When we had seen all we could see, we took the elevator back down to the Blue Line Max train, changed to the #4 bus, and took the cousins back to their house. It had been a fun, but exhausting day. We all took naps that afternoon before dinner.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

The Laurelhurst Neighborhood

Dear Liza,

Today, while Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett were working, I went for a walk around the Laurelhurst neighborhood. It is just next to our Kerns neighborhood and very shady and pretty.

There is Laurelhurst Park, which I have told you about, 31 acres of maple, fir, oak and elm trees with places for kids to play and dogs to run, as well as a small lake for ducks and turtles, picnic tables and toys to climb on. The Park was built in 1909,  and the trees were planted then, because this land had been a farm. So these giant trees are “only” one hundred years old.  The Park was made by a landscape architect named Emanuel Mische. The hills and valleys of the land helped him make it feel like a forest and not just flat land with trees. It is my favorite place in Portland.

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Lovely old tree in Laurelhurst Park

 

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Sunlight through leaves

Back when the park was new, boys and girls played very different games from each other and didn’t play together as much as you do now. The south side of the play area was “for boys”, and the north side was “for girls”. I will have to do some more reading and learn what games they played. Now, everyone plays together, however they like.

While the park was being planted, houses were being built on land that had been William Ladd’s Hazelfern Farm. Mr. Ladd had been a mayor of Portland, and when he died, his family sold the land to the Laurelhurst Company to develop a neighborhood. It was built right along the streetcar lines, so it was easy to get to from Downtown Portland. This was before many people had cars, so they rode horses, walked, or took streetcars to get around.

Before the building started, the Laurelhurst Company put up sandstone arches at the entrances to the neighborhood. These made the place feel very special, even when it was just hills and dirt.

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The houses people built were very different from the house you have in Salinas. There are Bungalow Style, Spanish Revival, a very pretty style called Fairy Tale, and many others. Some houses are a combination of styles, so it is hard to give them all names. Sort of like if one of your Little Ponies had a crown on her head, butterfly wings, and strawberries on her bottom!

 

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Bungalow Style

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The building started in 1910 and in six years, 500 houses had been built. In another ten years, there were only about 20 empty lots left to build on!

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Fairy Tale Style

This was a very popular place to live. It was far enough out of town to be quiet and peaceful, but the streetcar made it easy to get to.

Coe Circle was a grassy park in the middle of the Neighborhood, and the streets go in curvy lines around it, very different from the straight streets in most of the rest of Portland. The streetcar ran right to the Circle and turned around to go back into town. In 1925, Henry Waldo Coe, a doctor who lived in Portland, wanted to give a gift to the city. He bought a copy of a statue of Joan of Arc, a famous French heroine, and had it placed in Coe Circle. It wasn’t put in the middle of the circle, because the streetcar tracks were there! The streetcar line was removed in 1925, but the statue is still off-center.

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Joan of Arc Statue

I walked for about an hour, got tired and came home to read more about what I had seen, and make lunch.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Farmer’s Market in Hollywood

Dear Liza,

This morning we woke up to another very sunny day. I know that this winter it will be dark and rainy, so I am appreciating the sunshine. I just keep drinking nice cold water.

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I drove (it was only about 2 miles, but it was hot already and we would be carrying groceries back) north to a neighborhood called Hollywood. This is a very pretty area with older houses and beautiful, shady trees. There are funny shops like the “Do-it-Yourself Pet Laundry ” and “The Wet Spot–Your Place for Tropical Fish”.

We were there to buy fruits and vegetables at the Farmer’s Market, at NE 44th and Hancock, just off Sandy Street. In the land around Portland are farms that raise all sorts of fruits and vegetables. There are Farmer’s Markets in lots of neighborhoods on Saturdays.  Whatever is ready to eat, you can find it. The market was in the parking lot of a big supermarket, and the pavement was painted with crazy fruits and flowers.

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After walking all around the market we bought a little bit of lots of things: 10 fava beans, a small basket of blueberries, 6 tiny yellow squash, a rosemary plant in a pot (you know you need that for roasted vegetables) , some basil, and a small sausage.

There was also music by two people playing a drum and a cello, but it sounded different from any music I have ever heard. They called themselves Gaeasoul and I want to hear more of them!

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Some of what we bought

Then we realized we were hungry, so we walked down Sandy Street to Laughing Planet, a place for burritos, bowls, and sandwiches. It is delicious and fun, too. There are about 30 toy dinosaurs you can just pick up and play with, then put back when you are done. There is also a giant painting of Godzilla and Robbie the Robot on the wall.

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Inside
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Outside

 

As we were walking around the neighborhood we saw a shop called “Bricks & Minifigs”…. it is a shop where you can buy legos! Not in a kit or in a box, but

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Acres of Bricks!!!

just the pieces you want! It was amazing, like legos had escaped and were playing by themselves. There were also armies of Lego figures, all lined up. I will take you there and we will pick some interesting bricks.

By 1:00, it was time to drive Auntie Bridgett way east to Division Street and 84, to the Zine Symposium, a place where people who make small magazines get together to share and talk. She will take the #4 bus back when she is done. I hope the bus is air conditioned.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Going to the Circus!

Dear Liza,

Here in Portland, lots of people use their bicycles more than cars to get around town. Since the move, our bikes have been buried in the very-full garage, but yesterday, Grandpa Nelson and I unburied them, got the tires pumped up, and rode two miles to see Cousin Jasper and Cousin Kestrel be in a circus.

The ride was fun and not scary because we rode on the “bike throughway” on 29th, then turned onto Salmon. We only had to cross one busy street and most cars stopped when they saw us. I hadn’t ridden that far in years, but I was comfortable.

The circus was at an old church that has been turned into a public arts venue called Taborspace. There are lots of summer camps, classes and other activities there. It sits on the side of Mount Tabor, an extinct volcano right here in town, so the bike ride had some serious uphill the end, but when I got tired, I just got off and pushed my bike to the top.

The circus was the final day of Circus Cascadia summer camp. It is a not for profit group that teaches kids self-confidence, skills, cooperation and fun! Under a real circus tent out of the hot sun, we sat on bright red benches. There were about 12 kids in the camp, from six year old cousin Kestrel to thirteen year old Milo, who had been in the camp before and knew lots of skills.

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Cousin Jasper being a clown

Lots of parents, grandparents and friends came to see the show. The ringmaster was Paul, a very funny and patient man from England. He gave directions for what the performers should do next. We watched as they performed on Chinese stilts with ribbons, rings, and flower sticks, juggling, tossing, balancing and (sometimes) dropping things. The best thing I heard all day was Lizzy, one of Paul’s assistants, yell “Celebrate your drops! They are your friends!” The focus on the positive and improving as you went along was just wonderful to see.

They also did acrobatics, balancing on a big ball, and balancing on each other to make pyramids. At last there were clown acts, where the kids would do skits they had practiced. If they got it wrong, they didn’t give up but did it again, even a few more times, and we got to see them improve.

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Cousin Kestrel on a pyramid

At the end of the circus I got to visit with some of the folks and give cookies to Jasper and Kestrel. Then we rode home. It sure was easier coming down the mountain than going up!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Klickitat Street

Dear Liza,

The other day I told you about our busy day at Pip’s Doughnuts, IKEA and Costco. There was another exciting part of that day. We drove down Klickitat Street!

I know you haven’t read them yet, but there is a wonderful series of books by Beverly Cleary that all happen on Klickitat Street. Henry Huggins, his dog Ribsy and neighbors Beezus and Ramona Quimby have lots of adventures. For many years I didn’t know that it was a real street in a real place, but it sure is!

Beverly Cleary herself grew up in this northeast section of Portland, on 37th Street just down a bit. She was labeled a low reader in first grade, and as she said, “To be in the Blackbird group was to be disgraced.” Her own school librarian encouraged her and she had caught up by third grade, and was told by her sixth grade teacher that she should be an author. Mrs. Cleary grew up to be a children’s librarian who was frustrated because there weren’t enough books that really interested children. She began writing and published her first book, “Henry Huggins”, in 1950. That is six years before I was even born!

Beverly Cleary used her own childhood as a model for her stories, which deal with the everyday joys and dilemmas of childhood. They are funny for children and adults and feel very real in their approach to family life. She liked the name Klickitat because it reminded her of the sound of knitting needles.

Today, Klickitat Street is still in the middle of a pretty part of the city, a neighborhood called Roseway, far enough out from Downtown to be quiet but still very busy. The street is one of the most heavily used of the “Bicycle Throughways” in Portland, roads that are signed for bikes and where car traffic is discouraged. These throughways make biking much safer and more fun.

Today I have been writing letters to friends, reading one of my favorite books, Robert Heinlein’s “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and listening to the crows. This afternoon Grandpa Nelson and I will ride our bikes to see cousins Jasper and Kestrel be in a circus from their summer camp. I am sure enjoying life up here in Portland!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Pip’s Doughnuts and Other Happy Discoveries

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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.

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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!

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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.

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Love,

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.

Love,

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.

Love,

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!

Love,

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