Looking Back on the Fourth

Dear Liza,

Our maple tree outdoor Bistro

Our Fourth of July was very busy! It was a warm but not deadly-hot day, so we felt up to some solid walking.

We packed a small picnic lunch and headed south to Seawellcrest Park. This is the same park where we had Cousin Jasper’s fifth grade promotion celebration, but on the Fourth, it was practically deserted. A few folks played frisbee with their dogs, but mostly it was just us and the giant maple tree we were sitting under. We enjoyed a nice lunch of cold sausages and cheese and listened to birds and happy dogs. Very nice.

We walked around the Seawellcrest community garden and enjoyed seeing how other folks arrange their spaces. Ladders are good for trellises! I am learning a lot for next year.

We continued through the neighborhood, greeting folks out walking.

Once we got to Division Street, there was Auntie Bridgett’s favorite frozen treat shop: Eb and Bean Frozen Yogurt. These friendly folks make healthy and yummy flavors such as Triple Blueberry Chèvre and Caramel Praline… what’s not to like?

We enjoyed the goodies on a bench in the shade, watching people and traffic go by. A young fella set up a lemonade stand and Grandpa Nelson was his first customer! Other folks soon followed.

Auntie Bridgett suggested, since we were on Division Street, that we walk a little way further and go visit Auntie Katie. The day was getting warmer, but we had tummies full of ice cream and we were good at staying in the shade.

We visited with Katie’s assistant, Nick, and then took her off for a walk and a snack at Palio. I know it seems like we were eating a lot. Yes. Yes, we were. Yummy! We had a wonderful visit, sharing some rose wine and berry cake.

Katie needed more of a walk, she said, so she decided to walk us up the hill and home. The heat of the day had really kicked in and it was a bit of a slog the final mile, but we made it! The three of us had covered five and a half miles, and we were pretty pleased with ourselves. And tired. We all had ice water and a rest before Katie headed off on her way.

The rest of the day was quiet, with reading and, later, watching the humans beat the aliens in Independence Day.

Belated Happy Fourth! Happy to still have a country to celebrate in.


Grandma Judy

Life’s Surprises

Dear Liza,

We just got off a Zoom visit with you, your Mom, and your Daddy. Normally, this wouldn’t be a surprising thing. But as I thought about it after our chat, I became absolutely boggled at it.

Fifty years ago, high school-aged Grandpa Nelson and I fell in love and decided to make our life together. We could see far enough ahead to know that we would go to college and get married. We planned to have two children. That’s pretty much as far the expectations went.

What we definitely didn’t foresee was what those two children would choose to do with their lives.

Your Auntie Katie got married, had two really nifty kids, and has started a comic book business, Books with Pictures. I suppose, looking back, this could be seen as a natural outgrowth of my Momma’s being a librarian and Great-Aunt Bonnie’s running a shop, but I certainly didn’t see it coming!

Each step along the way was a risk, a step into new territory. And, as difficult as it has been, Auntie Katie has combined her love of books, business smarts and social consciousness into something that has flourished and become central to the comics community here in Portland.

Further afield, we just zoom-chatted with you and your Momma in Russia, where you are visiting your Grandpa Victor and Baba Alla. The Internet connection was choppy as you were walking to the pool, but I got to see your lovely faces and the resort where you are staying.

On the same Zoom was your Daddy, who is visiting a friend in Aarhus, Denmark. We got to see Andrei’s house and neighborhood, including the little stream that runs through his property.

Your parents’ meeting and starting a family was a step into the unknown. International relationships have their own set of difficulties, but each has been tackled and dealt with patiently and with good grace. And adding you to the family was a delightful surprise!

I think my high school-aged self would be surprised, and very pleased, with how the future has played out. My very own kids, with skills and confidence, venturing further into the world than I could have imagined, and shining along the way.

Once again, I am learning never to set limits, on myself or anyone else. I wonder where you will find yourself in fifty years?


Grandma Judy

Summer Sundowns

Dear Liza,

In summer, the sun doesn’t go down until nearly 9:00. That means for me to be able to walk in the cool dusk, I need to go out walking later than Grandpa Nelson or Auntie Bridgett want to.

And that’s okay. Walking by myself is one of my favorite things. Being able to stop and stare at a leaf or a bit of moss, or talk to the cats or chickens, without making someone wait on me, is a delight.

Last evening, after we were all in pajamas, I caught a glimpse of the orange sky and put my clothes back on. I wanted to feel the change from day to night, to see the back-lit trees turn to silhouettes. So I went.

I headed to Laurelhurst Park, where hundreds of folks sat scattered through the 26 acres, on blankets or low chairs, chatting, eating, watching their kids and dogs play.

The setting sun lit up the treetops and cast long, cool shadows. Our street became a leafy tunnel leading to the last light. I was glad I had come out.


Grandma Judy

Blueberry Adventure Part 2

Dear Liza,

We ate a delicious lunch at Topaz Farm. This property used to be Kruger’s, but was sold last year to a lady named Peggy, who happens to be a friend of Auntie Katie’s.

We ate cheeseburgers and visited with the chickens, and then Auntie Bridgett drove us home on a long winding path through lots of cool neighborhoods of north Portland.

Once we had rested, Auntie Bridgett and I got down to the business of saving all those blueberries!

We developed a good system last year, and improved on it this year. With her sharp eyesight, Bridgett is in charge of washing the fruit and picking out the under-ripe ones. It took several batches in the sink to get them all done.

As she rinsed the berries and put them in a colander to drain, I collected them. They rested on a towel-covered baking sheet for a minute to get the extra water off. (If you do this, make sure to use a towel you don’t care about, because it will get stained.)

When the berries were dry enough, I used a big cup to help hold the freezer bags open and put the berries in by handfuls until the bags were a little more than half full, and carefully sealed them up airtight.

I laid them in the freezer in a single layer, and once they are frozen solid, I will stack them like beautiful blue bricks! Yum!

But of course, we didn’t freeze ALL of them. We nibbled quite a few as we went, and I baked a cobbler from a recipe I found last year on the ‘net. I don’t know what it is called, because when I copied into my cookbook I called it “Better Blueberry Cobbler” to differentiate it from “Martha Stewart’s Blueberry Cobbler.”

Whatever it is called, it is delicious! Here is the recipe if you feel like cooking.

Better Blueberry Cobbler

The recipe calls for an 8 by 8 baking pan, but I use a 7 by 9 because that’s what I have. You will mix the topping in two different bowls.

In the pan, put 3 cups blueberries, 1/4 cup orange juice, and 3 tablespoons of sugar.

In a small bowl, mix 2/3 cup flour, 2/3 cup oatmeal, 1/2 teaspoon baking powder, and a pinch of salt.

In a bigger bowl, soften 1 cup of butter and beat in 1/2 cup sugar, 2 eggs, and 1 teaspoon vanilla until it is all light and fluffy. Then blend the flour mixture into the butter mixture and plop it all on top of the berries. Smooth the topping out with damp fingers to avoid doughy parts.

Bake at 375 F for 40 minutes, let cool a bit before serving. Great with any kind of cream!

Not all adventures end so deliciously!


Grandma Judy

Blueberry Adventure Part 1

Dear Liza,

Just north of Portland on the Columbia River is a 26,000 acre farming community called Sauvie Island. It is nothing like the rest of Portland, being mostly farms and woods. It is like being a million miles away from the theaters, traffic and pizza joints of the city.

On Saturday we went up for an adventure. First thing, once we crossed the bridge onto the island, was we drove down a road we’d never been down, and followed it until it ended. We saw houseboats along the narrow Multnomah Channel, lavender fields, and eagles’ nests perched on top of power poles.

When we got to where the road ended ( it sort of faded from paved road to gravel to dirt), we turned around and headed towards our favorite you-pick blueberry place, Columbia Farm. They were really crowded on this lovely holiday Saturday, and had opened their auxiliary parking lot. They let us use our boxes from last year, which made me happy. I hate throwing perfectly good boxes away.

We headed out to the fields and passed families with wagons heading back in…. With lots of berries! We had to look pretty closely to find enough to fill our eighteen small baskets, but we got them all full.

I love being in the fields and picking fruit. Maybe it is because my parents were farmers and I grew up valuing the folks who get our food to us, or maybe it’s just fun to be out in the sun and fresh air, hearing birds and other people’s conversations.

I even found a tiny, abandoned hummingbird’s nest, tucked safely in a bush. I left it so the birds could use it again next year.

We picked only blueberries because that’s what we like best, but many folks also picked raspberries and blackberries. A lady had a boxful that was so pretty, I asked to take its picture. She very sweetly said yes.

We filled our boxes and paid up (Fifty dollars for too many berries to carry) and put them in the car. We were hot and sweaty and…. Hungry!

And on to the next adventure!


Grandma Judy

Kawandi News

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago I told you about discovering the art of Kawandi quilting, and how the Siddi people of southwest Africa brought it to India hundreds of years ago. I posted about my first try, then my second quilt made with Ruth Andresen’s tie silk.

And then something wonderful happened! I got a message from Irmgard Jacob, a lady who who lives in Ontario, Canada, and we wrote back and forth about Kawandi. “Isn’t it nice we can connect and work together like this across so many miles?” She said. She has even visited India and has family there.

This is the second time my blog has led to connections with friendly, interesting strangers, and it is like opening another door to the world.

Six colors, cut in more regular shapes….

I took time off from Kawandi to do another project (which I will tell you about when the time is right) and then wanted to do another one. Auntie Bridgett found this old piece of Christmas decoration that she wasn’t happy with, and offered it as a backing for my next piece. Thanks, Bridgett!

Since I would rather use what I have than go buy something at a shop, I dug into my fabric box and came up with six colors that go together.

This time, instead of random squares and rectangles, I cut most of the pieces the same size, about a 2×4” rectangle. That allowed for easier overlapping and fewer stray corners. It also made for some very thick overlaps, so next time I will use thinner fabrics.

Since this was my third Kawandi, it went a lot faster. I had the hang of the long stitches and the more regular lines of color.

Almost done!

I got it done and am mostly happy with it. I don’t think I will do any more for a while, because I need to sit at the work table to do it and my back gets tired of being hunched over. I do enjoy playing with the colors and how quickly a piece comes together.

I think my next piece, whatever kind of needlework it is, will be of brighter colors. The rich reds and blacks of the Kawandi, and the dark greys and greens of my other project, are lovely. But I want to use some hot yellows and oranges, I think, to celebrate the summer.

And I’ ll show you that one when it happens!


Grandma Judy

After the Heatwave

Dear Liza,

Wednesday was the first day of human-level temperatures since our historic heat wave began. We woke up to cloud cover, cool air and even a bit of dampness. It felt wonderful.

Look! Clouds! Hooray!!!

I went to the garden early. My friend Tonya gave me one of her parsley plants, and I planted it between my radishes and lettuce. My garden is doing well, even though it isn’t as tall as the other ones. They have five foot tall trellises and arbors hanging with peas and beans. I have a magnificent beast of a zucchini.

And it makes food, too!

I walked around Laurelhurst Park for the first time in a week, enjoying the cool green, the ducks, and all the people out doing their people thing. Tai c’hi classes, guitar practice, dog parties….. it was life as normal, out on the grass.

After a morning of sewing, French lessons, crossword puzzles and cartooning, the three of us headed off to Grandpa Nelson’s favorite lunch spot, Zach’s Shack. Auntie Bridgett got to go because she isn’t working at the SideStreet Arts gallery anymore. Her new comic strip, Auntie Beeswax, allows her more flexibility with her time.

One of my favorite views….

We ate hot dogs and fries, and, since the sun had come out, appreciated the icy cold sodas.

Then came ping pong! Zach’s back patio has a table and enough hard surfaces that even if the ball misses the table, you can keep it in play. We get a little nuts sometimes, and it is fun!

We played until we were played out, then walked home by way of the Taylor Street chickens. The day had warmed up to 88 degrees and we were happy for the air conditioning.

This heat wave was bad. It send a lot of folks to the hospital. We need to figure out how to help our planet heal so we can all be well.

Portlanders ❤️ Chickens !


Grandma Judy

My (Heat Wave) Favorite Things

Dear Liza,

I don’t have any new adventures for you today because yesterday was spent inside, staying still and drinking ice water. Not terribly exciting! But I got inspired to make another parody (that means a funny song) of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

My Heat Wave Favorite Things

Eating ice cream on the floor in the dark

Dreaming of walking in Laurelhurst Park

Finding the river and jumping right in

We do it when Portland’s One hundred and ten!

Director’s Park Fountain’s an island of cools,

Go there! ‘cause the city has closed all the pools,

Trolleys are melting and streets start to bend

This is what happens at One hundred and ten.

When the sun bakes, for your own sakes,

Stay in if you can

Come back out to Portland when things have cooled down

And then we will feeeeeeeeel so grand!

I hope you are staying happy and cool!


Grandma Judy

Delightful Weirdness in Portland

Dear Liza,

It was hot in Portland this weekend. I know it was hot in Russia where you were, too. This summer is only a week old and already it is trying everyone’s patience and electrical grids. I hope you are staying safe and cool.

Rather than wander around outside in the heat, I stayed in and looked over lots of photos that I have taken this spring that didn’t fit into any story.

This is a plank of one of the patio tables at Zach’s Hot Dog Shack on SE Hawthorne. It looks exactly like a Chinese mountain painting!

I am not sure why someone felt the need to plane plastic forks with their nasturtiums, but I like the effect.

This creepy piece of wall art is at The Bare Bones Cafe, just down the block on Belmont. There are also several skeletons sitting around with baseball caps and masks. The Bare Bones makes a fine chicken quesadilla and has a nice assortment of really cold beers.

This car looked like it was heading for a wedding, but it was just parked under a chestnut tree that was done flowering. We saw it later, driving along, the flowers still stuck on by a passing shower.

I love looking for (and finding!) the unexpected.


Grandma Judy

Early Morning Walk

Dear Liza,

Our weather here in Portland has taken a dangerously hot turn. This weekend it got up past 105 degrees….. both days! We have been very careful about staying safe, hydrated, and comfortable.

We had the air conditioning repaired a few weeks ago, so our house stays nice and cool. We make sure and drink lots of water and stay inside during the heat of the day.

And my vegetables need to be watered even more than usual. We have been going out before 9 a.m., and on Saturday it was 80 degrees F by then. Still, gallons of water will let them live through the heat wave.

While we were out, and while it was ‘cool’, we walked a few blocks. So many flowers are blooming! I noticed that most of them had been very recently watered, so their people are doing right by them. These jasmines and clematis were climbing over a trellis and making a lovely sight.

Black-eyed Susans, of course, love the heat. My momma grew them in Oklahoma when she was little.

I hope you are staying cool on your visit to your Grandpa Victor and Baba Alla in Moscow.


Grandma Judy