Winter Gardening

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I know it is raining and cold up in Portland where you live, but here in Salinas, it feels like summer! Today was 75 and very sunny.

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Liza with the Hoe

On Sunday, Liza and I took advantage of this lovely weather and started to do some work in the garden. When Auntie Olga and Uncle David bought this house before Cousin Liza was born, there were rose bushes in the back yard. With everyone working so hard and being busy, the roses have been ignored, and one even had a tree (and not a pretty tree, more of a ten foot tall weed) growing right up through it. My first job was to get the tree out, then prune the rose so it had a chance of growing back pretty.

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Weed Tree

Uncle David has some nice tools in his shed, including a fine, strong pair of long handled “loppers” which work great on thick branches. At the bottom, I finally needed to get out the pruning saw, but it was worth it to see the rose ready for spring.

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Pruned and Ready for Spring!

Cousin Liza was very helpful. There are tiny weeds and long bits of grass growing in the flowerbeds. I chopped them with the hoe, then Liza pulled them and threw them into the trash can, which is taller than she is.

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Tiny Liza, Big Trash Can

We made a good team, and by the time Auntie Olga and Uncle David made scrambled eggs and salad for brunch, we were hungry for it!

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Glorious Spring!

Then came the adventure. Our books were due at the Steinbeck Library, so we three girls packed snacks and headed off.

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New Books

It was such a warm day, we kept having to find shade to rest in. We drank all our water.

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Resting in the Shade
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Liza and I on the Panther at Hartnell

The library was nice and cool and we didn’t want to leave, but we managed to make it all the way home under our own power. Then, of course, was nap time.

I love my weekends. As John Steinbeck said, “There’s always something to do in Salinas.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

Monterey Adventure

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Yesterday, Cousin Liza and I got to go on another adventure. We walked to Sunshine Donuts on West Alisal for a treat and, more importantly, change for the bus. I haven’t figured out Monterey-Salinas Transit’s pre-paid system yet, so I am a slave to dollar bills and quarters. We found our bus stop and waited, not very long, in the strong morning sunlight.

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Playing with Shadows

The number 20 bus took us through fields and across the Salinas River. This is a very odd river, as rivers go. It flows north, which not many rivers do, but is also an UNDERGROUND river most of the year. The rocks that form the bed of the river are porous and when there isn’t enough water, the water level drops below the rock level, and the river disappears! It is still flowing, though. Airplanes taking pictures show water flowing into the bay, even when the river looks dry!

We continued past Marina and the big shopping area at Seaside, catching my first look at the Monterey Bay since last July. It was so bright blue and beautiful, a perfect January-summer day. We got off the bus at The Window on the Bay, a wonderful park that Mayor Dan Albert of Monterey created years ago by having the city buy of the small businesses in this spot so people could play and sit here and see the Bay. When Mayor Albert retired, he said it was his greatest achievement as Mayor. I agree.

Walking through the flowers and volleyball courts, we got to the beach. We took off our shoes and got used to the feel of sand on our feet. Cousin Liza had fun deciding how wet to get…first just the bottom of her feet…then we rolled up her overalls a bit. Then just her ankles… and we rolled them up a bit more. Then she stopped being afraid and got wet clear up to her knees, and the overalls did too! But that’s part of the fun.

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Wet Feet Liza

We built a princess’s sand castle that ended up having a face made of rose petals, seaweed and rocks. There was a smaller castle nearby, “for the prince”. No idea who he was….

There were a lot of people having fun on the beach! We saw a girl’s surfing club, a kayaking class, and people walking their dogs.

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Surfing Class
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Liza and the Princess Castle

For lunch, we said good-bye to the sand and walked to Sapporo, a wonderful Japanese Restaurant and sushi place by the Monterey Yacht Club, above The London Bridge Pub. We had a view of the harbor. We saw some young sailors bringing in their FJ sailboat. They reminded me of Liza’s Daddy David, years ago.

guys at yacht club.jpgWe did the kid’s maze and watched the waiter make “training chopsticks” for Cousin Liza with a rubber band and a roll of paper. We ate grilled shrimp, spicy tuna, and rice. So tasty!

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Delicious Lunch

By now it was really warm, and all our layers of clothes from the morning were stuffed into my bag. We headed to the Monterey Transit Center on Tyler. Liza climbed up a great concrete wall and we played Story Cubes until the bus came. After our long day in the sun, Liza had a little nap on the bus, but woke up just at the right time so we could walk to her house. Then we BOTH napped!

After dinner, Liza’s Daddy decided we should have a fire in the backyard and make s’mores, and then we went for a walk around the neighborhood. This was just about a perfect day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Adventure to Valentines

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

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Three Adventurers!

Sunday was another long walk and adventure, but this time your Mommy came with us! We packed salami, cheese, apples and crackers, along with plenty of water, and walked down West Acacia. We showed your mommy where the fairies live by the big rock and the nice benches at Mission Park School.

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Where the fairies live (notice their bells!)

We walked all the way to South Main Street, then turned right and walked to the MYO Frozen Yogurt shop, where we met our dear friends George and Mimi Niesen for treats and conversation. It is always good to talk to these lovely folks; they are busy doing such interesting things!

When we had finished our yogurt, we walked to George and Mimi’s house. In their front yard was the box of succulents Auntie Bridgett gave Mimi when we moved to Portland last year, and they are still growing well! Nice to see they are happy in their new home.

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Happy succulent

Then we went inside and made Valentine’s Day cards! Mimi had doilies, paper, and all sorts of pretty things to cut and paste, and we had lots of fun.

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Delightful George

But the time came, as it always does, where the energy is gone and nap time is calling. We phoned your Daddy who came and fetched us. We thanked our friends, went home, and had naps.

PS. I can’t show the Valentine’s cards…it would ruin the surprise!!

 

 

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Lovely Mimi

 

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Downtown Book and Sound

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Saturday was another walk to Old Town Salinas for brunch with a friend at First Awakenings. This time I met Terry Soria, who I started working with about 15 years ago. We understood each other and made each other laugh on difficult days. We worked together for a few years, then lost touch. Then, four years ago, I got to teach her grandson! I was so happy to get to talk about the joys and frustrations of teaching with her.

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Terry Soria, who understands

While I was downtown, I stopped in at Downtown Book and Sound, run by our old friends Trish Triumpho Sullivan and her husband, Dan Beck. Dan, who  is a musician and artist,  was working on a new tune on his guitar when I arrived. Trish is an artist and community activist and out of the shop at the time.

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Downtown Book and Sound

Downtown Book and Sound is part music shop, part bookstore, part art gallery, and part visitor’s center. There is always good art on the walls, good music playing, and someone interesting to talk to. The chartreuse window frames make it easy to spot at 222 South Main.

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Marilyn, by Trish Sullivan

Dan and I talked about life and family, then I scooted out.

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Dan Beck

In the past few years, the city of Salinas has started investing in more Steinbeck-themed art and activities. I found this giant boulder at the corner of Central and Homestead. It says, “I’ve seen a look in dogs’ eyes, a quickly vanishing look of amazed contempt, and I am convinced that dogs think humans are nuts.” John Steinbeck.

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Steinbeck rock at Central and Homestead

I also visited the beautiful new Tony Teresa Baseball Diamond at Hartnell College! There was an exciting game going on between the Hartnell Panthers and the College of the Siskiyous Eagles. It was tied 1 to 1 when I left. Hooray for baseball season!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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College Baseball!

Learning Russian

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Your house here in Salinas has two languages: English, which is your Daddy’s (and my) first language, and Russian, which is your mommy’s. Since I am spending so much time here, I am trying to learn some Russian! Your mommy is my teacher.

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My Russian Teacher, Olga

I like learning languages. I learned some Spanish in High School and continued so I could better talk to my students and their parents here in Salinas. Later, I learned French so I could travel in Europe and talk to the people I met.

In many ways, Spanish and French are easy to learn. Both share an alphabet with English, and the languages work the same in many ways. Much of English is handed down from the Romance Languages, like French, Spanish, and even Italian.

Russian is a Slavic language spoken by 260 million people, making it the 6th most used language in the world. It didn’t have a written alphabet until the year 863, when two monks from Greece created an alphabet for it, using Greek and Roman letters. Russian is a very complicated language in this written form, and is hard to learn to read.

Fortunately, I am learning like a baby does. Your Mommy holds up a slipper and says the word for slipper, I repeat it, and then I know the Russian word for slipper. I have not learned the proper Cyrillic alphabet, so I write everything as I think it would be written using the English alphabet.

Slippers, as I write them, are “tapitchki”. “Molowka” is milk. To say “Hello”, you say “pree-vyet,”, and good-bye is “paka”. One interesting and confusing thing is that you use the same word, “pajalsta” for please and you’re welcome. Thank you is “spaseeba”.

So if someone asks for some slippers, it goes like this:

“Tapitchki, pajalsta.” (Slippers, Please)

You give them the slippers. “Na.” (Here.)

“Spaseeba,” they say. (Thank you)

“Pajalsta”. (You’re welcome.)

So the conversation begins and ends with “pajalsta”. Kind of nice and balanced. I try and practice a little each day, with you or your Mommy, or even your Daddy, who didn’t learn any languages in school but has learned Russian from your Mommy.

I hope I can keep learning.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

History on Display in Salinas

Dear Liza,

Salinas is an old city, founded in 1872, and has some lovely old buildings. I will tell you about some of my favorites.

In the 1890s, four buildings were built at each of the corners at Gabilan and Main Street, and were deliberately built not to match. They each celebrate a different architectural style of the time. The buildings are now restaurants, offices and an antique store, and maintain much of their original charm. My favorite is the McDougall Building.

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The McDougall Building

The curving alley of Italian Stone Pines along West Alisal, College and Hartnell  Streets were planted many years ago to mark the edge of the campus of Hartnell College. These magnificent trees take considerable management, but their effect is one of grandeur and solidity.

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Italian Stone Pines

Originally built as the Jeffery Hotel at 269 Main Street in 1928, this building is now used by CHISPA, a housing assistance service. It is the tallest building in Salinas at six stories plus basements. The very modern remodeled lower section doesn’t match the original 1928 facade on the upper stories.

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The Jeffery Hotel, now the CHISPA Building

The Salinas Jail was built in 1931, and housed prisoners until the 1990s, including United Farm Workers leader Cesar Chavez in 1970. It is currently under rehabilitation after years of being used for storage and, for a few years, not being used at all.

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Historic Salinas Jail

 

 

 

 

 

I love wandering around town and seeing all the history.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

To the toy store…and beyond!

Dear Liza, (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Sunday started with breakfast with a teacher friend, Vickeye Welch. We met at First Awakenings at the corner of Main and Gabilan and chatted about friends and future plans.

Once I got home,  Liza and I set out on another adventure. She had asked for some beads to make necklaces out of, and with so many local stores closing, The Club House, which is a lovely store that used to be “Educational Stuff” was the only walk-able choice.

We set our sites, packed snacks, and headed off. Knowing it was going to be a long walk, we by-passed our closest park, Hartnell Park. We continued down West Acacia, stopping to rest on the shady benches at Mission Park School.

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Chillin’ at Mission Park

Arriving at The Club House, we shopped. It is a bright and very full store, with lots of wonderful things. It was hard to stay focused! We found a Melissa and Doug wooden bead set that was designed for Liza’s age, and got that. A snack of some cheese sticks and Hawaiian Rolls, and we were raring to go.

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The Club House

Realizing the library was …..sort of….. on our way home, we walked up Main Street in that direction.

Liza enjoyed getting to climb the wonderfully old California Pepper trees on the front lawn of Salinas High School. A jig-jog through the neighborhood, and we found the John Steinbeck Library.

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Liza and the pepper tree

This is the library I took my kids when they were small, and it is well maintained. There are computers for kids to work and play on, a toy area with kitchen and play food, and of course, books. We checked out Pete the Cat and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?,  then Liza made me a pretend snack of soup and a sandwich, and we headed off again.

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Full view of pepper tree!

Passing Hartnell College, Liza recognized the home of her new friend, the Panther! So we visited for a while, playing with the long afternoon shadows.

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Liza and John Steinbeck

As usual, the last leg of the journey was the hardest. The wind picked up and the sun went behind some clouds, and it got cold! We plowed on, stopping for a few minutes at Hartnell Park before trudging the last block home.

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Fun with shadows!

Being in the nice warm house took all our energy away, and we both were asleep very soon. The nap revived us in time for dinner… and I know I’m going to sleep well tonight!

Love,

Grandma Judy