Bistro Agnes

Dear Liza,

Bistro Agnes, sparkly with Christmas lights

Just about a year ago, we three went to the delightful French restaurant, Bistro Agnes to celebrate our anniversaries. It is in downtown Portland at the corner of SW 12th Avenue and Alder Street. We enjoyed it so much, we went back again this year!

Bistro Agnes is the perfect place to celebrate special occasions. The food, from escargots to moules mariniere to creme brûlée, are classicly prepared and delicious. The wines choices are local, Californian and French, and all good.

My loving people

The service is friendly and expert. Our same waiter, Justin from last year, took care of us expertly.

A very happy Grandma Judy

When we ran into our friend Nicole celebrating her birthday, we sent Justin on a spy mission to find out what she was drinking so we could send her another as a birthday surprise. It was a happy conspiracy which got her absinthe frappe!

We enjoy the decor and mood of the place, which is very French and politely chatty, but not loud. Although we could hear the other people, no one’s conversation overpowered the place. This is the usual in France, but sadly, not always the case in the U.S.

Cognac for dessert!

We finished our meal with ice cream and coffee, and a cognac for Auntie Bridgett. We bundled up and were home by 7:30, full and cozy and happy to all be together.


Grandma Judy

New Year’s Eve

Dear Liza,

It started with paper plates…

We had a fun New Year’s Eve at home this year. It was wonderful.

This one became a top hat!

During the day, Auntie Bridgett worked for a few hours at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, and I wrote a little and practiced French. Grandpa Nelson started researching what looks like our next European trip: Ireland and France!

This is one of the things I love about our trips, is the planning and discussing, the research and the antici…..pation.

But the most fun was the hats!

And this bunch of crumples…..
became my girly hat!
Silly Grandma Judy

Auntie Bridgett had a really good idea, to make funny New Year’s Eve hats out of the bags of used Christmas paper that were waiting to be thrown out. We started snipping and trying ideas, making it up as we went along.

While the glue was drying, Auntie Bridgett and I went out for some bowls from Laughing Planet to take home. We opened some Columbia Crest Merlot, which went very well with the spicy food.

The hats were so much fun! Auntie Bridgett’s stayed on her head better… mine needed a little rubber band strap. I think mine looked better on the bear, anyway.

Cute Auntie Bridgett

We played a game of Brain Spin, which plays with how we see things, and our favorite, Scrabble, which I won!! This is a rare thing and I enjoyed it very much.

Cute Bear

We nibbled and sipped and watched some Baking Show, then counted down to midnight, feeling sleepy but happy.
See you next year!


Grandma Judy

Looking Back, Just a Bit More…

Dear Liza,

Portland does SPRING very well!

This past year saw some big adventures, too.

Three generations! Me, Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

In March, for my birthday, you and your family came up to help me keep a long-overdue promise to MY parents, to put their ashes into the ocean. We all drove over the mountains to Seaside, made a sand castle, and placed them in it. High tide would take them where they wanted to be.

David and Katie built their grandparent’s castle

A perfect Florentine

I started baking with more skill, with new equipment and confidence.

The summer came, and fall…

Leaves in Laurelhurst Park

In September we took the train to Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, Washington, and enjoyed what those cities had to offer.

Vancouver, BC, by day

Seattle by night

Auntie Bridgett kept painting, working hard as a member of SideStreet Arts.

Auntie Bridgett and one of my favorite paintings, A Paris

This year also saw the young people growing into wonderful ‘older’ people. Cousins Kyle and Jasper got to know each other and became buddies, bonding over Dungeons and Dragons and video games.

Cousins Kyle and Jasper, being guys together

As for me, I am still working on my story. It has grown from being a story about a CITY to being a story about a girl living IN a city.

My had drawn map of Portland, 1903

I never knew writing a book was so complicated, but I am learning, and I think that as long as I take time and don’t give up, it has promise.

My (at least) twelfth outline, getting more complicated and person- centered

Last year, I kept my promise to my parents. Maybe this year, I can keep my promise to me.

Happy New Year!!


Grandma Judy

Big Changes This Year

Dear Liza,

I have spent way too long looking at pictures from this year, and am using this letter to you to put things in perspective.

We started the year with snow.

Chilly Gnome

Auntie Katie, the Cousins and I walked to Slappy Cakes to celebrate her birthday, getting all bundled up against the February cold.

Birthday girl and Kestrel at Slappy Cakes

Just about a week later, we were celebrating Katie’s purchase of the building that would be the new home of Books With Pictures, her bookshop.

Meeting the new shop in February…
Less than 11 months later, in full retail mode for Christmas!

The building would also be the family’s new home, and they started off with celebrations, knowing there would be lots of work to do.

and the new home!

Before the summer was over, the Cousins were moved in and making the place into a home.

Cousin Kestrel’s art corner

Another change this year is in the health of my dear Aunt Bea. At Easter, we visited her in a hospital in Corvallis. She was recovering from a fall and feeling very… old.

Aunt Bea, a bit worn down

But by the time we visited her in September, she had moved to Bend and had been reunited with her dear Kitty Cat, and was feeling all spunky and fun again. Momma always said, “Bea doesn’t leave a party…she takes the party with her.”

Me and Bea, feeling like getting into mischief

I will tell you more about the year tomorrow, as I continue getting ready for the New Year!


Grandma Judy

Christmas Day in Retrospect

Dear Liza,

Starting the day with cinnamon rolls….

It is now the day after Christmas and I am still full to the brim from the feasting and family. Our Christmas celebration started around 10 in the morning when the rest of the family woke up (Auntie Bridgett and I are early risers), and went until after 9 that night when tired Grandkids headed home.

Christy gets a Nicole Curcio bowl…

First there were cinnamon rolls and coffee, and presents for and from Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle. We were all pleased with the Hogwarts’ goodies, so perfect for us and our chilly winters here in Portland.

Grandpa in his new Slytherin scarf.

Auntie Katie and the Cousins came later, bringing more gifts and a delicious ad- libbed cream pie.

Music, as always.

Kyle, being the Dungeon Master of the day, had prepared a Dungeons and Dragons adventure for Jasper and Kestrel, and the three of them developed characters and played while the older folks chatted, ate and drank, and played music.

Jasper, Kes and Kyle working in character development

Katie and I were the only ones who wanted a walk, so we headed off to Laurelhurst. I wore my new Hogwarts scarf, and met a fellow Hufflepuff! Her name is May. She is a delight and I hope we see each other again. We also did some serious bird-watching, Katie sharing her Great Grandma Billie’s love of feathered friends.

Watching the Bullock’s Orioles in the park

Katie is always good company. She and I talked about my story and she gave me some good advice on how to make it better as I go forward.

I met May, a local Hufflepuff!

We got home and had dinner, which was, as always, a team effort and delicious.

Then came more presents! Harry Potter and Wonder Woman and weird little Hands for Handy Hand to hang out with. What a day!

Teeny tiny hands!
Cool swag from Cousin Kyle

Then there was more music, with harmonies and extra verses. As everyone’s energy level started to sag, no one wanted the day to end!

More harmony and strumming…

Kyle and Jasper played a video game on the sofa while the rest of us watched The Grinch (the original, with Boris Karloff’s voice) and the White Christmas, with which we sang along.

Thank goodness for HIGH ceilings!!

Finally, we had a game of Kozo, then Dreidle, and then we had to just own up that it was time to go to bed.

Winding down….

I am so blessed to have this life full of loving people, safety and abundance, ideas, music and surprise.


Grandma Judy

Christmas Eve

Dear Liza,

Air Hockey at Central Bowl

I know this is out of order, and that Christmas is over. But on Christmas Eve and Christmas, I was having so much fun I didn’t write about it. So I will tell you about it now.

Christmas Eve, Auntie Bridgett and I had promised to take Cousin Kyle bowling at our wonderful Central Bowl down on Morrison. This fabulously disco and neon bowling alley is in the old Central Market which was built in the 1930s and it seemed the perfect place to spend a few hours on a chilly day.


Lots of other people thought so, too, and got there ahead of us. The lanes were all busy and booked until closing!


BUT the rest of the place was enough to entertain us for quite a while. We played air hockey (Bridgett won the championship!) , Pinball, and Giant PacMan, where I won the most games. It was a blast!

Sparkles by the Pioneer Courthouse

Then we took the magic 15 downtown to see all the decorations.

“Hello, Merry Christmas, throw my ball please.”

The ‘living room’ was full of folks and families, and we had fun with this friendly dog.

Family in the Living Room

We walked and window shopped and, of course, ended up at Powell’s City of Books. We split up and wandered, meeting up in the cafe when we were done. I found a used book that will help me write my story better. Kyle found the novel version of a graphic novel he loves. Christy bought FIVE books, and had trouble carrying them home!

We stopped by Straight Out of New York Pizza on our way home, to get dinner and then head for home. There is no joy like sitting around a table with family, eating and drinking and being silly.

Kyle looking philosophical

I put together the cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning breakfast while Kyle and Auntie Bridgett drew and chatted, and then we played Scrabble. Auntie Bridgett won! We finished the evening with A Charlie Brown Christmas and then off to bed.

One more sleep ‘til Christmas!


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

This Christmas, while Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle were visiting, we got to revive a holiday tradition from my family. We played Canasta!

Canasta is a card game that was very big at my parents’ house. I learned it as part of being the family, and any people serious about marrying into the family had to learn to play, as well. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Christy got really good!

Canasta is played with two decks of cards and has lots of rules. Red threes are worth 100 points, black threes are good for freezing the pile. You need 50 points to meld, until you have 1200 points, when you need 90. Learning this game as a child taught me to think ahead, pay attention to details, and count like crazy.

And last night we got to do it again. We played On Great Grandma Billie’s table with her double deck and reviewed the rules as we went along. We were surprised to find out how much we remembered… even down to my Mom’s expression, “Let’s go out now and catch ‘em with their pants down!”

Grandpa Nelson and Kyle whupped us the first game, but Auntie Christy and I came back and passed them to win the set. It was nice to win, but even more fun to be playing a game that was so much a part of every gathering in my family.

It is like making the family whole again, after losing Great Grandpa Lowell, Great Grandma Billie, and Uncle Jim. Like the characters in my story, we are learning that with the love and history we share, we are enough of a family to go forward.


Grandma Judy