…And Speaking of Portland Bliss

Dear Liza,

It has been three-plus years since my retirement and it seems that I am just now getting the hang of it. It took a while, certainly, and I still might not have it right. After 40-plus years of working, it has been hard to slow down.

I actually used to get depressed at the end of the school year. I was a teacher, after all. And what is a teacher who isn’t teaching? The idea that we ARE what we DO, that our essential being is defined by work, had gotten into my head.

So I tried to stay equally as busy after I retired. I spent every day at the Historical Society and set a goal of writing a historical children’s story. I loved the research but my results were ….. unsatisfactory.

Then Covid hit, and the rest of the world retired, too. The talk was all about finding peace in idleness, not living to work, and making small happinesses within yourself. It felt right.

Being given permission to be ”lazy”, to not have to change the world all at once, was a gift.

So I can take a whole morning to read Jane Eyre in the park. I can sit by my garden and enjoy the company of the bees. I can think good thoughts and not demand that they funnel into immediate ACTION. I can live just to live, for a while.

And so can you.


Grandma Judy

Sunday, Busy Sunday Part 2

Dear Liza,

We sorted through our garage sale treasures and then headed south to Division Street. The Richmond neighborhood is so pretty, with the household gardens in full late summer glory. Grapes, plums, apples and even Asian pears called to us.

A local knife sharpener named Sato was working his whetstone magic at Moore Coffee Company, one of our favorite places for an afternoon hang out. I had brought along my favorite knife, a gift from Auntie Katie 15 years ago.

We dropped the knife off with Sato and decided to try a new food truck for lunch. “Let’s Roll” offers bowls, burritos or wraps filled with poke, tempura, and other spicy delights. It was just what was needed!

When we were fed and happy, we walked by Carter and Rose to see their tiny planters with handmade ceramic snakes, and then back to Moore Coffee. Sato had finished my knife and had started his lunch!

We ordered iced coffee and tea and engaged in some serious Sunday loafing: Reading the Sunday Funnies, people watching, and enjoying the progress on the alley’s new mural.

Now in a state of total Portland bliss, we ambled home. It had gotten very warm, we had walked more than three miles, and I was pooped.

A long nap and a few chapters of Jane Eyre got me ready for the next event of the day.
And that’s a story for tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Sunday, Busy Sunday Part 1

Dear Liza,

What a Sunday! First there was LaBrie’s “Two artists clean out their basement” garage sale, where we found fabrics, watercolor palettes, fabric trims, some cool old clothes and vintage postcards. There were lots of folks and everyone found something they needed to take home.

Everyone was masked and very respectful of personal distancing, and we felt safe and happy while we shopped.

La Brie, our hostess…

We carried our goodies home and had a snack. I realized that these trims are going to find a place in this season’s work on my “Big Map of Portland.”

I put it away early this Spring, and it seems like time to bring it out and put some more layers on. These odd bits of color may be just what is needed. Of course, I see that I still need to embroider the Steel Bridge…. And put some lovely swirly bits in the Willamette River.

The Big Map as it is now….

On to further adventures!


Grandma Judy

First Autumn Chore

Dear Liza,

It is two weeks until the Fall equinox. We can see the end of summer from here.

In my garden, white powdery mildew has started taking a toll on my pumpkin plant, and because I didn’t recognize it early enough, it has spread to the zucchini. I have learned that watering too late in the day is a main cause of this, and will NOT be doing that again next year.

I did a big trimming the other day to try and minimize the damage.

I wore the rubberized gardening gloves your Mommy Olga gave me from her last visit to Russia, because they protect me from the zucchini plants, whose long, hollow stems have tiny hairs that give me an itchy rash.

I cut off leaves that had any mildew in them, so it wouldn’t continue to spread. Unfortunately, this meant cutting just about all the leaves off the pumpkin! I hope there are enough leaves to make food for the plant to let my second pumpkin finish growing!

The tub of leaves was so heavy I just barely got it home. I know there will be lots more to haul over the next few months, and I’m glad I have my trusty red wagon.

Meanwhile, I found this lovely handmade doll by a telephone pole in the neighborhood. I rescued her and perched her on my watering can, and she will be a protective spirit for my garden. I have named her Mlezi, which is the Swahili word for Guardian.


Grandma Judy

Pretty Pictures

Dear Liza,

Now that I am home from our trip south, I enjoy looking at all the pictures I took. Some don’t all fit into the story I was writing, or felt like too many photos. But I want to share them. So here they are, just pictures.

Santa Rosalia and the moon
Liza finding Grandpa Nelson
Sidewalk cleaner in morning sun
And all those masts….


Grandma Judy

A Day Out with Liza

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

We got to spend all of Sunday with Cousin Liza!

After a tasty breakfast at The Old Monterey Cafe, we fetched Liza from Salinas to begin our adventure.

As usual, the Monterey Bay started out overcast and chilly. Lover’s Point Beach had a fine crowd of visitors anyway because they knew the sun would come out soon.

I introduced Cousin Liza to my watercolor brush pen, and she had fun making a picture of a “C” monster, as well as “T” and “B” Monsters. She is developing a nice, careful painting technique.

We walked down past Lovers Point Park, finding great rocks to climb on and trees to climb. Liza posed with this wonderful statue by Dorothy Fowler. It is called “Yesterday’s Dream, Tomorrow’s Memory”, and always makes me think of the Robert Louis Stevenson poem called “To my Name Child.”

From “To My Name Child” by Robert Louis Stevenson


Some day soon this rhyming volume, if you learn with proper speed,
Little Louis Sanchez, will be given you to read.
Then you shall discover, that your name was printed down
By the English printers, long before, in London Town
. . . . . . . . . . . 

Now that you have spelt your lesson, lay it down and go and play,
Seeking shells and seaweed on the sands of Monterey,
Watching all the mighty whalebones, lying buried by the breeze,
Tiny sandpipers, and the huge Pacific seas.

And remember in your playing, as the sea-fog rolls to you,
Long ere you could read it, how I told you what to do;
And that while you thought of no one, nearly half the world away
Some one thought of Louis on the beach of Monterey!
“Someone thought of Liza on the beach of Monterey…”

We stopped for lunch at The Grill and watched an ocean water polo game out in Lover’s Point Cove. A local seagull made sure we didn’t waste any of our hot dogs.

We visited Dennis the Menace Park and Liza enjoyed the newest installation. It is an incredibly fast spinning thing! I wouldn’t go near it, but she sure had fun.

By this time, we were pretty pooped, so we headed back to our room at the Monterey Hotel for a rest. Grandpa Nelson read the first chapter of The Hobbit out loud and it was just about the best part of the day. I hope Cousin Liza continues her reading.

Once we were rested and brushed the sand off, we met Uncle David (the birthday boy) and Auntie Olga at The Forge in the Forest for dinner. Yummy wine and lasagne, a cozy fire and fun family… the only thing missing was you guys!

I sure loved our visit back to our old haunts. Seeing friends and the ocean filled a bit of an empty space in my heart, and saying goodbye to all of them to fly home Monday morning was hard.


Grandma Judy

Should Old Acquaintance…

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

On Saturday, I woke up to seagulls’ squawks and remembered I was in Monterey. The sun was up, and The Monterey Hotel looked very pretty in the morning light.

I had what the Hobbits call First Breakfast at Red’s doughnuts. This shop has been here for 76 years, and dear Evelyn has been serving goodies and pouring coffee for 26 of them! She is a sweet soul who always finds the good in people.

After a delightful custard filled maple bar and conversation, I wandered around a bit, listening as Garbage trucks, motorcycles, and gathering groups of tourists joined the seagulls in their racket.

I wandered to Rosine’s on Alvarado to meet my dear friend Donald. We met in French class in 2008 and have been teasing and encouraging each other ever since. We chatted about our current reading selections; Goethe for him, Charlotte Bronte for me.

Grandpa Nelson had his own turn at Red’s, then we headed to Salinas to see more friends. Fellow retired teacher Pat and her son John were lively company, as usual.

George and Mimi gave us a yummy tomato gallette and mimosas for brunch.

We stopped by Downtown Books to wish Trish Sullivan a happy birthday, and picked up a copy of The Hobbit for Cousin Liza.

Needless to say, after all this visiting, we needed a rest! We crashed at Uncle David’s place to recharge our social batteries.

Our final step was the Hughes’ household, where we enjoyed cake and both Japanese and French wines. A tour of Rick’s homemade tea house, complete with altar and incense, and a game of catch between Cousin Liza and Kevin, made for a lively evening.

When we were just at the end of our conversation, we hugged everyone goodbye and headed back to the hotel. The road between Salinas and Monterey is pretty, even at night… dark silhouettes of oaks against the soft grey overcast.

More about our adventure tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Heading South

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I usually write this blog to your cousin Liza, but I was with her this weekend, so I will tell you two all about it.

It was your Uncle David’s birthday, so Grandpa Nelson and I took a plane (for the first time in three years!) down to Monterey to help him celebrate. In these Covid times, it was a little scary getting into an enclosed space with so many strangers. But everyone kept their masks on, and the plane wasn’t even very full.

We had a lovely lunch at the Crazy Horse Golf and Country Club.

This very pretty place is owned by Uncle David’s boss Don Chapin and is a perfect place to eat, play with Grandpa Nelson’s hat, or to show how far you can jump.

We drove into town and spent the rest of the day playing catch, eating yummy cheese and crackers, and catching up on family stories with Uncle David and Auntie Olga. This is the sort of dinner visit we used to have every Wednesday evening, and I have missed them!

When the evening was over, we borrowed Uncle David’s car and drove to the Monterey Hotel on Alvarado Street. This place is over a hundred years old! For this evening, however, that didn’t matter. We had flown, driven, eaten and drank all we could, and it was time to sleep.

Whew! That was Friday, and a mighty full day it was. I will tell you about Saturday tomorrow!!


Grandma Judy

Seen on the Sidewalks

Dear Liza,

Portland is a big city, which I sometimes forget here in our little neighborhood. There about 650,000 people just in the city, and lots more in the surrounding area.

And as a big city, we see all sorts of odd, unexplainable things. Here are some of them.

…A sparkly mask outside the Electric Castle’s Wunderland, which is very popular for kids’ birthday parties.

A cartoon of a grumpy Dennis the Menace calling someone a “Nerd”.

And a sign showing that the city is making sure the local squirrels are safe.
Have a good weekend! See you soon!


Grandma Judy

Following Along

Dear Liza,

Since I have been learning about following where the art leads, I decided to do an experiment. Last week while I was playing with some orange acrylic, I had a big smear of paint left over on the tray. Rather than wash it away, I brushed some on to a textured meat tray and laid down a layer on an empty page.

I had no idea what it would be. I just put it down and went on to other things. The next day I looked, turned the pages in different directions, and looked some more. I saw this slight diagonal line where the two printings overlapped, and it reminded me of the brim of a smartly-worn top hat. So I took my nice fat micron pen and drew in a hat, then a face, and some hair. She reminded me a little of Josephine Baker.

I didn’t know what would come next. I made some more cookies, did a bunch of laundry, and went for a few walks around the neighborhood. I looked at the picture before I went to bed that night, and in the morning I knew how I wanted to go forward.

Collage of circles seemed a fine way to progress, but I wanted to be more precise this time, trimming the bits to fit. The top part of the hat, filled in with the patterns from inside security envelopes, took an hour, but I was happy with it.

I walked away, came back, and did the brim all in one piece, and then the hair, with the swirly pattern found on the inside of Yogi tea boxes. It is soft but curvy and just what I wanted.

I was just about done for the day. Dinner was calling. But from my collection box of papers shone a piece of foil that the Pittman and Davis Company uses to wrap their pears. Et voila. Hat done.

I let the piece sit for a few days, not sure what I wanted it to look like. I knew it should have a deep blue background, both to set off the orange and gold, and to look like night time. Straight blue acrylic paint out of the tube was exactly right. I put in just a bit of blue shading on the hat, and I am pretty happy with it.

It is weird, but that’s just about right. It just shows that you never know where the art will lead.


Grandma Judy