Oh the Noise, Noise, Noise Noise!

Dear Liza,

We knew the sewer work was coming, and now it is RIGHT in front of our house. Between now and Friday, if we will need the car during the day, we need to get it out of the driveway before 7 AM, and then can’t bring it back in until after 6 PM. This, in a neighborhood where street parking is already in short supply.

Temporary invasion

We were going to get the Christmas tree today, but don’t want to get up early, park our precious Miles on the street, or carry the tree for blocks, so we will wait until next week.

This weekend is busy with a Christmas Art Pop-up, where Auntie Bridgett is showing her work at her friend Nicole Curcio’s house. That will be fun! But there are cookies that need baking to feed the art-lookers. So I will be walking down to Safeway with my backpack to pick up butter, eggs, and such to make a double batch of Oatmeal Everything cookies.

Auntie Bridgett’s silly decorations!
More Christmas goodies for sale…

Inside the house, it is very noisy and shaking from 7 to 6 everyday. Fortunately, we still have Christmas decorations and our Mouse kitten to make us smile.

Mouse and Christmas Bear, hanging out…

But all the racket can make me grouchy, I will admit. I have even been channeling Dr. Seuss’s “How the Grinch Stole Christmas“:

They’ll come with the diggers, the rollers and flashers!

They’ll bring all their dump trucks and huge asphalt slashers!

I sat at the coffee table, with my tense fingers drumming,

“There must be a way to stop Construction from coming!”


Grandma Judy

Jasper Turns Ten!

Dear Liza,

Your oldest cousin Jasper, the fellow who started this whole Grandma Judy thing, turned ten last week. We celebrated this momentous anniversary at Blackbird Pizza, at the corner of SE 20th and Hawthorne. They have several things to recommend them.

Christmas lights on the way to pizza…

First, they are close by. Even on a near-freezing evening, Grandpa Nelson and I walked there. We took the umbrella to make sure it didn’t rain (you know how that goes) and had a chance to see the Christmas lights going up in the neighborhood.

Second, Blackbird makes really good pizza. Since there would be seven kids and five adults, we ordered two large pies, one plain cheese and one “Proctor Special” as the kids call it. This has pepperoni, olives, pineapple and basil. Weird, yes, but definitely good! We also got some yummy Malbec wine for the grownups.


Third, there are games, video games on the first floor and pinball on the mezzanine. The kids played with pocketfuls of quarters.

Uncle Dave brought cupcakes, candles and matches, and lit up the dessert. I was amazed at how pleasant this party was… no drama, no fussy eaters, no overly tired kids losing their cool. I guess everyone is growing up. It is a good step.

Lighting up dessert

When it was time to head home, we bundled up and headed back up the hill, warmed by love of family, a little wine, and woolen sweaters.


Grandma Judy

Lighting the Tree in Portland’s Living Room

Dear Liza,

Crescent moon hovering over the traffic downtown

Last Friday was an event we have missed the past two Christmases here in Portland, the lighting of the City’s Christmas tree. But this year, we went!

The 1876 Pioneer Courthouse, lit up for company

Pioneer Square, between 6th and Broadway and Morrison and Yamhill downtown, was the location of the elegant Portland Hotel from 1890 to 1951. President Theodore Roosevelt stayed there in 1903. It was the fanciest, tallest Hotel in town!

All the trees are dressed up!

But by 1951 the hotel had become outdated and it was torn down, leaving a vacant lot used for that urban black hole, a Parking Lot. The city of Portland decided to create a public space and in 1984 the stair-stepped, brick covered City block opened and was quickly dubbed Portland’s Living Room.

Summer view of Pioneer Square from the Cupola of the Pioneer Courthouse

It is home to food trucks, a Starbucks, and a tourist information office. But mostly it is where folks go to meet friends, people watch, have a cup of coffee or eat their lunch, or enjoy some free music.

For the ceremony Friday, we took the number 15 bus downtown. We had a quick, tasty dinner at Killer Burger before joining the flood of folks heading to Pioneer Square.

Looming dark tree

The still-dark tree, a 75 foot sustainably grown Douglas Fir, stood like a tall shadow in the middle of 25,000 of winter outfitted people. Spirits were high and we were packed in shoulder to shoulder.

Pink Martini, one of our favorite music groups, was on stage (which we could hear, but not see), leading the crowd in Christmas Carols.

Happy, illuminated Tree!

At about 6:15, the countdown began and we all ooohed and ahhhed as the white lights twinkled and then colorful and Christmas-y lights came on, signaling the beginning of the season and the end of the ceremony.

The river of people reversed course and began flooding toward bus and train stops, still in good spirits but also chilly and foot sore.

This is one of the things I love about being in a big city, the chance to be part of Big groups of people doing things I love. Now, it is full speed to Christmas!

Lights and crowds heading back to the bus stops


Grandma Judy

Thanksgiving Day!

Dear Liza,

I hope you had good food and family for your Thanksgiving. Up here in Portland, we had both.

Auntie Bridgett, all bundled up

The day started with watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. New York was having such high winds, they almost had to ground the big balloons! But the winds died down and the balloons flew.
Auntie Katie and the Cousins arrived, and we had before-dinner cheese and crackers on Great Grandpa Lowell’s coffee table, using my Winnie the Pooh tray and Auntie Olga’s little snack plates. Kestrel declared them SO cute, and she was right!

Classy snacks!

There were games of Phase Ten and a home made 3- D tic tac toe game. Auntie Katie and I played ukulele and guitar and sang together, and then it was time for dinner. So much food! We ate turkey (carved beautifully by Auntie Katie) horsed around, and had some wine to toast the holiday and each other.

After dinner, Aunties Katie and Bridgett did the heavy work of breaking down the turkey for leftovers and soup, and putting all the leftover food in the fridge, while I put the Turkey skin and bones into the slow cooker with some onions and celery for stock! It will cook for hours and get delicious.

After dinner work
Family photo (bomb)

I wanted to go for a walk before it got dark, but the Cousins and Grandpa Nelson decided to stay home and play. We grown up ladies bundled up (it was 42 F!) and enjoyed Laurelhurst Park’s trees, dogs and a large contingent of ducks rustling through the fallen leaves looking for bugs.

Laurelhurst ducks enjoying their own feast

Heading home, I showed Katie the “dinosaur infestation” at a house down on Morrison. The lady who lives there, Elaine, collects and places plastic dinosaurs in her heard and trees, and it is adorable! Auntie Katie thought so, too.

Auntie Katie documenting the dinosaur infestation

It was dark by the time we got back, and Auntie Katie got Grandpa Nelson to play some music. Then we had slices of three pies! My pumpkin, and and apple and pecan from Katie. Yummy!!

Making music

Cousin Kestrel made a miniature dinner table out of the Tic-tac-toe game, and she and I set it up for dinner with plates made of tin foil and napkins and food cut from Post-it notes. Auntie Bridgett invited two tiny stuffed crows over for dinner, and it was quite a party, right there on the floor!

Creative girls creating stuff
Inviting tiny friends over!

We all shared some music, on videos or guitar, ukulele or singing songs that Jasper is learning at school, and eventually it was time to get kids and us to bed.

A bunch of leftovers went home to feed the family, because Auntie Katie will be busy tomorrow, having a big Black Friday sale at Books with Pictures!


Grandma Judy

No Snow, but Cookies….

Dear Liza,

Getting the butter ready…

As I write this, it is Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving. I stayed up half the night waiting for it to snow, as the weather service said it would. Denver got a foot, Chicago may be getting a bomb cyclone, and the Macy’s Parade in New York May have to ground the balloons. It seems our beloved Pacific Northwest is the only section of the country with no snow.

Kneaded and ready to rise!

But tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and food is always good. I am softening butter to make Snickerdoodles, proving yeast for some Amish white bread for your picky-eater Cousins, and simmering cinnamon sticks for the cranberry sauce.

Simmering away…

It is amazing how excited I got about Thanksgiving once we decided to buy the turkey pre-roasted! I can enjoy making the food I know I can do well for people I love and still have energy to enjoy the day. I can’t believe it took me until I was 63 to realize that I can hate cooking turkey and still be a good woman. Oy. Old stereotypes run deep.

Bread, and the children who love it, are wealth.

I hope you and your Daddy David and Momma Olga have a wonderful Thanksgiving! I will send pictures from our celebration tomorrow!



Grandma Judy

Not Quite Rainy Day

Dear Liza,

Looking like Crow weather!

This week I got to spend a day with the Cousins. I had expected it to be pouring rain, so I thought we would to catch the number 70 bus to Lloyd Center to watch the ice skaters and play.

But it wasn’t raining, and we didn’t go. Friends of Auntie Katie had been hit by tragedy and needed help.

A house fire had burned up a whole family’s things, including every stitch of clothing, doll and stufftie. Auntie Katie had collected some clothes that would fit the children and Kestrel quickly pulled out some of her toys to donate, including a Cabbage Patch doll from many years past. “Cabby”, as we came to call her, had only one flaw: she was naked. It seemed rude to give a naked doll.

Kestrel and Cabby

Kestrel found a doll sized blouse in a box, along with
some red fabric. We decided to make pants for Cabby. Kestrel, who is eight, knows the theory of pattern making, but needed a little help. We worked for about an hour and finally produced a presentable pair of pants, got Cabby dressed, and put her in the bag to join the family.

After we took care of a few more chores, it was time for me to head home through the very cold, darkening afternoon. The leaves are just about gone now, and many trees are loaded with fruit that will keep birds fed during the winter.

For the birds!

This pyracanthus tree will keep a whole flock fed for a month!

There were other sights in gardens that made me smile and happy that I live in Portland.

Kindred spirits…


Grandma Judy

The Hot Sardines

View from The Art Bar

Dear Liza,

The other evening we got bundled up and took a Lyft car downtown. The rain was taking a break and the city lights were so pretty, reflecting on the Willamette River as we crossed.

We were headed to the Newmark Theater, a small theater in the same complex as the larger Arlene Schnitzer Theater, where we have seen concerts before. We stopped for dinner at The Art Bar downstairs. Affordable, comfy and delicious, we had quiche, pasta and fries, along with some Acrobat and Charles and Charles wines.

Sparkly staircase to …
a sparkly ceiling!

The Newmark is up a sparkling spiral staircase, and since we had balcony seats, we got to have good views. We were there to see The Hot Sardines.

Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson introduced me to this band last year, and when they told me the name, I thought they were kidding. We know and love a group called Pink Martini. Hot Sardines sounded like a parody, like they were making fun.

But the Sardines are real, and incredibly good. They play, sing and (yes!) tap dance to Jazz from the 1920s to 1940s. Sophie Tucker’s “Some of these Days” from 1926 was the earliest song they performed.

Elizabeth Bougerol signs autographs

The Hot Sardines performs with seven or eight folks, and the group is lead by vocalist Elizabeth Bougerol and Pianist Evan Pallazzo, backed by a trumpet, clarinet, trombone, guitar, bass, and drums.

Evan Pallazzo and the bass player (whose name I forgot!)
A. C. Lincoln gets Elizabeth some water

There is even a tap dancer, A. C. Lincoln, a percussion musician whose instruments are his feet. His skill and humor, including bits where it seemed his feet were getting away from him, added immensely to the fun of the show.

The musicianship and talent of the band is totally matched by the joy they clearly feel performing with each other. We clapped, snapped, and even sang along to “Your Feet’s Too Big”, “I Want to Be Like You”, in the style of Tito Puentes, (which was used in the animated version of The Jungle Book) and “Bei mir bist do shoen”.

In between songs, Elizabeth and Evan told stories and cracked jokes. After the show, the whole group went downstairs and signed autographs. Since I didn’t take pictures of the performance because that is rude, I took some candid pictures in the lobby.

It was a fine, fun, musical evening, and by the time we caught a Lyft home, we were humming, happy, and exhausted.


Grandma Judy