Adjusting to Change

Dear Liza,

So much is going on here in Portland! The rains have started for sure, with two and a half inches just this past weekend. As the leaves fall in Laurelhurst Park, what was the darkest part of the park is becoming the lightest, with a thin veil of yellow leaves creating a wonderful light.

The weather is getting colder, hovering about 48 degrees at night and 55 degrees during the day. All this means adjustments have to be made.

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Vacuuming the Lone Fir Cemetery
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Newly Light Forest

The city is keeping up with the leaves by using giant, ride-on lawn vacuums to clean the paths in our Laurelhurst Park, because all the leaves get slippery and really dangerous to walk on when they start to rot. This picture shows the difference between a clean path, and a not-clean path.

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Yes, there is a path there!

There is also a truck that drives through Lone Fir Cemetery and blows the leaves and chestnuts off the paths, and ride-on mowers that mow the grass and vacuum up the leaves off the graves.

At our house, we are getting ready for colder weather, too. We found some big saucers to put our potted geraniums on inside, because the freezing weather that is coming will be too cold for them to stay on the back stairs. These are Great Grandma Billie’s  geraniums, and I love them very much and want to protect them. We have also put matches, candles and flashlights on the counters, just in case we have a blackout from trees falling on power lines.

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Happy ferns

Plants and animals are adjusting, too. The old Labrador down the street is spending less time on her porch, ferns are growing out of the bark on almost every tree, and moss is blooming on stone walls,  sidewalk cracks, and tiny libraries. Mushrooms are springing up at the bases of trees.

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Mushrooms!

Oh, and remember the linden trees? They smelled so pretty and gave us shade? Well now, they are making berries for the birds. The petals, instead of falling off, have become thick and waxy, with beautiful blue berries in the center. Amazing!

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Linden Berries

All these changes are fun to watch, because I don’t know what’s coming next! But I will tell you about it, whatever it may be.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Laika in Portland

Dear Liza,

One of the very nice things about living in a big city like Portland is all the museums and places to learn new things. The Portland Art Museum, called PAM, is one of those places. Because Auntie Bridgett is an artist and we all love art, we became members of PAM and got to visit a special show that opened last weekend and goes until next May. It is all about Laika.

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Maquette of a Scene from Boxtrolls

Laika is a movie company that makes stop-motion animated films. Their four movies so far are Coraline, ParaNorman, Boxtrolls, and Kubo and the Two Strings. These movies are made, not by drawing the animation so that the pictures seem to move, but making puppets (called maquettes) with wire inside them, and filming them so THEY seem to move.

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Coraline

In stop-motion animation, every tiny gesture is made by hand, then photographed, then the next gesture. It can take days of work to get a minute of film done. Everything in every shot is created….the sets, the sky, the toys the kids play with, leaves and the wind that blows them.

In PAM, many of these sets and maquettes were on display, as well as tiny props (Coraline’s teddy bear, Kubo’s guitar), and they were all works of art. The teddy bears were the tiniest things, and a 20 foot tall robot monster from Kubo was the largest. It was incredible, scary, and beautiful.

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Twenty foot tall Robot

At a conversation about Laika, the presenter said that these movies are art not only because they are beautiful, but because they deal with humanity and the problems we face; isolation, belonging, friendship. The stories ask questions about who is human, what is family, and why we need each other.

Sometimes looking at art makes you see things differently. When we got home and I was making dinner, I cut an onion and saw a face! I played with it a bit, and got this funny thing. Then it all got chopped up and put in the pan.

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My own puppet

 

 

I hope you come visit sometime before the show is over so I can take you to see it!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Colors

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Moss on bark

Dear Liza,

 

It took me most of yesterday to get over the long day in San Francisco! I slept in, played with the cat, and in the evening we all rode the #20 downtown to Powell’s City of Books, the biggest independently owned bookstore in America.

Shopping, or even just browsing, the shelves at Powell’s is a treat. There is also a cafe in case you get hungry, and lots of chairs to sit in.

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Quince tree

But last night, we went to listen to Armistead Maupin talk about his new book, “A Logical Family”. It is about him growing up in the South. I haven’t read the book, but Mr. Maupin is funny, true, and delightful. His “Tales of the City” was made into a television series years ago and we enjoyed it very much.

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No idea, but pretty
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Ferns growing WAY up a maple tree

Today I spent the morning planning my Halloween costume. I will tell you about it soon.After lunch, Auntie Bridgett and I walked in the park and I took more pictures, because everything keeps changing! Rain is predicted to start this afternoon and rain for 5 solid days, so getting any outside time may be difficult….you need to get out while you can, as they say.

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Munchies for the Birds!
 

I hear you banged your head at school and got 5 stitches. Your Daddy says you were a very good sport about the whole adventure. Good for you! We all get a few bashes along the way, and you just need to smile, get stitched back up, and head off again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

To San Francisco

Dear Liza,

Yesterday Grandpa Nelson and I flew to San Francisco so he could have an appointment with a doctor. This was just a check up and all is well, but it was a full day.

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Sunrise over northern California

We all woke up at 3:30 in the morning (also known a 0 dark thirty) to get to the airport on time. We flew into San Francisco just as the sun was coming up and took the BART train into town. The trains in San Francisco are louder than ours in Portland, but they do the job and we didn’t have the nuisance and expense of renting (and parking) a car in the city.

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Handy dandy transit map!

After waiting and meeting with the doctor we got a Lyft car to Fisherman’s Wharf and played tourist. We took pictures, ate lunch at Ghirardelli Square, and visited Le Musee Mecanique, a building full of OLD arcade games.

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The oldest was a zeotrope (an old way of making pictures move, like cartoons) from 1927. We played skeeball and Grandpa Nelson played an old baseball game from 1936.

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Giant Crab

We saw public art (if giant crabs count) and more being created, a huge mural that is going to be Frida Kahlo being painted on a building. We enjoyed watching people swim in the lagoon, perform music on the sidewalk, and just be people, including a pair of Russian speaking grandparents in full conversation with their English speaking grand daughter. They all understood each other, but spoke in their first language. Amazing, and familiar.

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Big handsome something,  and a tree…

When we were pooped and brain dead (not enough sleep and too much out and about) we caught the BART train back to the airport and flew home. Auntie Bridgett picked us up and we finally went to bed at 9:30.

I will be staying home today and counting my blessings.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cat Out and About

Dear Liza,

It is cold again this morning, but clear and sunny. I have two things to report that I have seen while still in my pajamas.

First, we have our first Rhododendron ready to bloom. These are magnificent plants that grow as bushes in California, but become major trees up here in Oregon. Many in the parks are 30 or 40 feet tall, and become their own ecosystem of birds, bugs, and small animals.

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Blooming Rhododendron!
Ours has been kept trimmed to “only” come up to the second story landing. While all the other plants are kicking out seed pods and getting ready to retire for the winter, the Rhodies are budding up and looking good. Here it is. I will keep you posted on bloom progress.

Second, our cat, Mouse, has been out and about exploring since the weather got cooler. She had chased a squirrel up a telephone pole, met the dog next door, and watched people coming and going.

This morning she decided to explore the ledge right outside our window. It starts out being about 4 feet off the ground, and as it rounds the corner, the hill drops off, and it becomes about 20 feet off the ground.

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Kitten out and about
The ledge is too narrow to turn around on. Mouse walked forward as far as she could, lost her nerve, and stopped. Sniffing and thinking fast, she discovered reverse gear as Bridgett squirmed and covered her eyes.

The reason this is a happy story is that kitten figured it out, came back around the corner, and sat on the ledge. She and Auntie Bridgett both caught their breath and all is well.

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Oops! Can’t go that way…
Now off to feed the kittens and hens at Auntie Katie’s!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Art, Squirrels, and The Slide Inn

Dear Liza,

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An even cooler mosaic!

It has definitely gotten colder here. If you go out without wool socks, at least three shirts and a wooly hat, it’s your own fault if you are miserable. The sun is coming up later and going down earlier…where we were walking in 10 P.M. dusk in July, it is now dusk at 6:30 and full on dark at 7. Yesterday afternoon was some rumbling thunder and rain, but no lightning we could see.

Cleverly, Auntie Katie and her family are in Maui, enjoying so warm weather and sunshine, whale watching and sunny beaches. I am enjoying getting to know her cats and hens. The hens gave us three eggs yesterday, which we enjoyed for lunch. The recent winds knocked down their lovely sukkah, but there were no casualties.

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Fallen Sukkah

Last night we wanted to try a new place for dinner, so we headed for The Slide Inn on Ankeny and SE 24th. We arrived too early, so we had a nice walk around the neighborhood. There are some nice houses for sale, but no parking areas, driveways or garages attached to them…street parking only, which makes car maintenance hard. But the squirrels are very handsome and cooperative. There was also a very Easter Island-ish sculpture that had been dressed in mosaic.

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Handsome Squirrel

On our second go-around, the place was open. It is decorated with mid-century home decor….my mom had a clock like one of these and the kids with the really big eyes are familiar to any baby boomer. The place is run by a man and wife team and a cook, and the food is good, if a bit over-cooked. Grandpa Nelson enjoyed the french fries, Auntie Bridgett the turkey burger sliders, and me, the spaetzel and speck (that’s German noodles and dried ham). A good dark German beer washed it down very satisfactorily. I wish I could remember the name of the beer, but it escapes me. (Maybe it was the second beer).

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The Slide Inn

As we ordered and ate, the Slide Inn filled up with families and friends. The happy hour prices are good (our whole spread of food and drinks was $40) and the people are friendly, but the service was a bit forgetful. We got an order of gnocchi we didn’t order, and waited quite a while for an order of yam fries.

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My Mom’s clocks!

After dinner, we headed off to feed Aunt Katie’s kittens, do the grocery shopping, and crash at home. Another day in PDX.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hail, Hail!

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Roses and rainbows

Dear Liza,

The weather here keeps surprising me! Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to feed Auntie Katie’s cats, Pixel, Pietro and Wanda. Grandpa Nelson warned us that there was weather on the way, but we headed out anyway.

There were looming clouds but also bright sunshine. We fed the kitties, then walked back, taking pictures of leaves, roses, and rainbows and chatting with a lady jump roping on the sidewalk. We had stopped in Lone Fir Cemetery to collect some more chestnuts when the looming clouds moved right over us.

The sky shook and rumbled, and the rain started, hard, heavy raindrops racing each other to the ground. We realized that ‘under a tree’ was not a good place in case of lightning so we opened the umbrella and headed up the path. By the time we reached the gate, the rain had turned to hail about the size of bb shot. The sky was throwing pebbles at us!

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Lone Fir Cemetery in the hailstorm    Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

We stopped by the gate, amazed at the storm happening around us. A poor jogger came by, shook like a dog, caught his breath and headed off, and several other folks found trees to shelter under. When we started walking again, the sidewalk was covered in tiny balls of ice, making it both crunchy and slippery. It sounded like Cheerios but felt like ice!

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Hail collecting all over the place
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Tiny hailstones

By the time we got home there were piles of tiny hailstones everywhere. We shed our wet things and had some warm apple cider, glad to be home and safe and dry. 

This storm, like the beauty and people of this new place, reminded me how big and interesting the world is, and how much I have yet to experience.

Love,

Grandma Judy