Taking a Break From Blogging

Dear Liza,

I have been writing this blog since before you could read it. I started at the beginning of July of 2017, and have written 1,330 little stories in all.

You, when I started writing to you

And now, I feel like I have run out of interesting things to say. My stories are feeling stale and I want to stop chronicling life for a while and just live it.

You now

I know I will get back to it, and you will see in your email inbox or on Facebook when I do.

I love you very much and we will chat later.


Grandma Judy

Garden Catch-Up

Dear Liza,

Our trip to Los Angeles was sad, wonderful, and busy. It also kept me away from my veggie garden for a whole week! Auntie Bridgett did a wonderful job keeping everything watered through some of our hottest weather, and boy, did the plants appreciate it!

Here was my pumpkin growing ladder set up just before I left. Healthy, right?

And here it is now, as tall as the ladder I have for it to climb on, and using its little tendrils out to anything available for support, including the nearby tomato plants. You can see the tiny yellow tomato blossoms trapped by the pumpkin tendrils. These plants mean business.

The zucchinis are growing too, and the cucumber even has a blossom on it. Since cucumbers aren’t squash, their blossoms are very different from zukes and pumpkins.

The tomatoes are now officially taller than me and ripening up nicely. We had a half dozen on our salad last night. Fresh veg!! Hooray!!

Going to be eating well this summer!


Grandma Judy

Snapshots from L.A.

Dear Liza,

Most of our time with Auntie June in Los Angeles was spent talking.

We talked about Uncle Michael (LOTS of funny stories), about June’s dogs Zeus and Luna, about politics in general and the upcoming elections in particular, and about family history. And while conversation is interesting, it doesn’t make for very good pictures. So here are some pictures about stuff we didn’t talk about.

Bea’s Bakery, on Clark Avenue in Tarzana, has been in my life since I met Grandpa Nelson. His Grandma Hannah used to live close by, and sent us to get pastries when we were visiting. But the bakery and its accompanying delicatessen have stood there since 1968, when Bea Litwak founded it and her husband Mort opened a deli next door.

This time, we got some tiny butter cookies with sprinkles, a giant chocolate chip cookie, and an even more stupendous mocha-filled Florentine, which I ate while sitting on the beach at Topanga Canyon.

And the sunsets were very nice, as well. This view over L.A. Fitness Gym was just too perfect.

It was a good trip, all in all. Good conversation, good advice, re-making family with who is left.


Grandma Judy

A Bit of History

I grew up in Southern California, not more than 30 miles from where we are staying here u Los Angeles. And yet, having been gone so long, the city feels weird and un-homey.

Portland is green, damp, hilly and closely packed. Century-old trees and tall Victorian houses make the views short. Los Angeles is tan, dry, flat and spread out. Historical anythings are hard to find and long, straight views are common, but not exactly inspiring.

And yet we found a nifty piece of history yesterday. Shadow Ranch Park is a wide open green space with lots of trees (for LA), cool play equipment, and a delightfully old house right in the middle.

This is Shadow Ranch, a historic house built from 1869-1872 from adobe and redwood lumber, on the original Workman Ranch. The ranch began as a dry-land wheat farm owned by a group of investors led by Isaac Lankershim and Isaac van Nuts. These fellows are very big names in Los Angeles history, and have towns and streets named after them.

Sometime after 1869 Albert Workman, an Australian immigrant, bought a 9,000-acre parcel of the ranch, which had a thousand head of cattle. He imported Australian eucalyptus tree seeds from his homeland and planted them on the ranch. Because the climates are similiar, the trees have done very well. Chinese ginkgo trees and California pepper trees also do well here, making some much appreciated shade.

The house has been owned, over the years, by ranchers, and later, folks who worked in the movie industry. Florence Ryerson, who co-wrote “The Wizard of Oz” screenplay lived here in the 1930s. “The Children’s Hour”, a very tense dramatic movie, was actually filmed in the house.

It was nice to find a piece of history in this sea of newness.


Grandma Judy

Feels Familiar

Dear Liza,

While we were in Los Angeles, there were some days when Auntie June had other things to do. Dogs had appointments, housekeepers came in, yard work got done.

To make a good use of the time, we rented a car and drove over the hills from the San Fernando Valley to the BEACH! The Topanga Canyon Road is twisty and turny, but if you go slow enough, it is okay. Still, I was glad Grandpa Nelson was driving.

And in about 20 minutes, we were on a sunny beach with kids, families, and dozens of surfers. This felt very familiar…. from about 50 years ago. I grew up in Manhattan Beach, and high-school-age Grandpa Nelson and I spent years talking about our future walking on beaches just like these.

It was homey and nostalgic and new, all at the same time.

We chatted with surfers, nibbled our goodies from Bea’s Bakery (more about that later) and drove on up the coast. Malibu and all the other beaches rolled by with their gift shops and beach access points. We didn’t need to stop, but were just happy to look and enjoy being there.

As we turned inland to return the car, we saw this impressive cloud forming over the low hills. It seemed to promise rain, but we knew better. Sure was pretty, though.

We stopped by Auntie June’s to say hi, and I had a visit with Zeus in Uncle Michael’s office. He is a very loving, friendly dog who just happens to weigh about half as much as me. Isn’t he massively cute?

We got the car back in time, had a light supper and a glass of wine, and fell asleep like logs.


Grandma Judy

Helping Out

Dear Liza,

I have some sad news. Grandpa Nelson’s sister June lost her husband this week. They were out walking their two big dogs, Zeus and Luna, and Uncle Michael had a heart attack and died, right there in the park by their house.

Michael was a very nice guy. He was a surfer, a football coach, a musician and music manager. And he loved Auntie June very much.

Grandpa Nelson and I have spare time since we are not working, so we came down to Los Angeles to help out. I must tell you, I wasn’t looking forward to LA traffic. But it turns out that there are now trains that will get you around town!

Once we landed at the Burbank airport, we walked few blocks and there was a train station named after Bob Hope, a comedian who worked in vaudeville (ask your dad) and then movies. We caught the train to Chatsworth, and walked a few blocks from the station to our hotel. Portland to hotel, door to door, in 5 hours, with no car. Pretty nifty.

We got to see June, Auntie Dorothy and Uncle Gary the first day. We talked non-stop for about 13 hours, only taking breaks to eat lunch and dinner.

And of course, we got to meet Zeus and Luna, who are missing their Daddy Michael very much.

We will be here for a week, helping Auntie June figure out what to do next. It’s always good to help.


Grandma Judy

Other People’s Photos

Dear Liza,

I have told you about Buy Nothing, an online organization for trading, sharing, and helping neighbors out. The huge network is divided by neighborhood, so the folks you are giving to (or getting from) are within walking distance.

This past winter we gave away coats, Mardi Gras beads, and car chains.

And last week I walked down the block a ways and got a giant envelope of old photographs. I have started using photos for some collages, and wanted some more to work with.

This package was really interesting. It had some family photos, but also some pictures of the James River, Virginia flood of 1940 and the old Grace de Havre Bridge in Normandy, France, taken in 1928. Some will be useful for collages, and some won’t be.

Some were professionally taken pictures by a photographer named Arthur G. Davis. He lived and worked in a little town called Beallsville, Maryland, but I can’t find out when he worked, lived, or if he is still alive.

There was also this fabulous picture of a distinguished looking man overcome with disbelief. He seems to be in a play of some sort, but there is no clue I can see.

I’m not sure what I will do with these pictures, because collage depends on finding all sorts of bits that go together to make an interesting picture. It can take a long time to find all the bits.

For example, here is my first successful use of an old photo in a collage. It includes an old photo of a cousin, a cat food ad, the top of a Kleenex box, a wallpaper sample, dabs of acrylic paint, and words cut from magazines.

This kind of art takes time, thought, and patience. But it sure is fun!


Grandma Judy

Chasing Summer

Dear Liza,

My veggie garden got a late start this year because of a cold, wet spring, including a snowfall on April 11. But now that it has gotten started, I am having trouble keeping up! This week’s heat wave has been upping the ante.

I planted my pumpkins by a ladder so they can climb up instead of spreading out and taking up a lot of space. They are now almost up to the second rung, and I have tied them to encourage their progress.

The oak leaf lettuce starts I planted in March have given us dozens of salads over the months, but are starting to bolt and go to seed in the hot weather. I pulled them up and managed to harvest several days worth of lettuce before tossing the stalks out. I even used some of it in a batch of pesto, since I was short on basil.

My five cherry tomato plants have gotten almost as tall as me, and have formed a lacy vertical screen that gives my garden some dappled afternoon shade during these hot days.

I have stopped watering the tomatoes, since there is a lot of fruit set, and today I was rewarded two tiny, perfect, ripening tomatoes! Stay tuned for lots more!

Auntie Bridgett’s sunflowers are short, as we planned, but are still making neat blooms! These are called Pompoms.

I have sewn a few more rows of peppery arugula lettuce and some Danvers carrots, making sure to go over every morning and give them water.

I will be chasing summer until fall. Should be a fun ride.


Grandma Judy

Yet Another McMenamin’s

Dear Liza,

Heading home from Long Beach, we stopped at a new-to-us McMenamin’s location. Like most of the McMenamin’s venues, it has an interesting history.

The original Gearhart Hotel opened in 1890, as a golf club and get away for well-to-do Portlanders. It was the first golf course west of the Mississippi River and was very popular.

A second hotel opened in 1910, but by 1915 both hotels had burned down.

The third hotel that was also connected to the golf club was constructed in the 1920s. This grand Oregon coast landmark was torn down and replaced by condos in the early 1970s. The current building was built in the same Cape Cod style in 2012. So the building is not historic, but that doesn’t stop McMenamin’s. They take a story and run with it!

Original paintings by McMenamins’ team of artists are typically colorful and quirky, and here, they mostly have themes of golf. This painting in the restaurant tells a fanciful story of St. Rule making a pilgrimage to take St. Andrew’s ashes to Scotland and this being the basis for the development of St. Andrew’s Golf course there.

As with all McMenamin’s properties, the food was good, the ambience delightful, and the service friendly.

Still, when lunch was over and we made the last leg of our trip, we were happy to be home. And Mousie was glad, too.


Grandma Judy

More from Long Beach

Dear Liza,

Long Beach, Washington has a population of about 1,500. It has one main street. By any definition, it is a small town. But in our short stay, we found a lot to see.

There is a half mile long boardwalk that lets you wander into the grassy sand dunes and feel the breeze, without scaring the birds.

There are statues of whales, turtles, and explorers.

There are sandcastles and kites.

And there is a delicious, silly restaurant called Lost Roo. This is where we had dinner, since the places that were still open at dinnertime were very loud and more bar-like than restaurants. Grandpa Nelson found this on the map and we got in the car and drove the mile or so. The parking lot was packed but their sign said, ”Lots of room inside!”, so we went in.

The silly started right away, with this towering kangaroo and joey keeping us company while we waited for our table.

The food was delicious and the service very friendly, and we left full, happy, and glad we had made the trip.

Eventually, when we had driven the country lanes, seen piles of oyster shells and bought some books on local history, it was time to head home. And that’s another story!


Grandma Judy