Solstice Morning

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the beginning of winter. It was 30 degrees at 8 in the morning. So of course I went for a walk.

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Freezing Fog

Two scarves, sweater, coat, fuzzy hat and gloves made the walking pleasant.

Our own tiny front yard has become soft and green with moss, and this morning it had a frosty white coating on it, so delicate it melted away when I breathed on it. There wasn’t enough water around to freeze puddles, except for a tiny bit near a lamp post.

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Frosty moss

By the time I walked around the neighborhood, the frost was fading.

I noticed this very happy, mossy stepping stone in a yard, not far from some tiny pansies which ares till blooming in spite of the cold. These flowers are tougher than they look.

mossy stepping stone.jpg

 

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sushi and Christmas Cookies

Dear Liza,

Yesterday evening I walked over to Auntie Katie’s house. I carried all the ingredients for sugar cookies, thinking the butter would soften on the way. Wrong! It was 45 degrees, about the same temperature as my refrigerator.

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Yama Sushi

Anyway, once I got there, we chatted and mixed the dough, then put it in the actual fridge to chill and be ready to roll. While it was chilling, we wrapped up and walked to Yama Sushi, at SE Clinton and 21st. It is a wide, bright space, decorated with sake barrels and whimsical bits of art and fabric.

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Whimsical decor

We at as much sushi, scallops, bacon-wrapped peppers and halibut collar as we could hold for $37! Such a deal, and a small glass of sake, as well.

When we got back to Katie’s house, the cookie dough was ready to roll. Katie has a wonderful collection of cookie cutters, some that belonged to your great-grandma Billie, that I remember using when I was a little girl. The dough was very cooperative and we rolled and cut quickly, baking as we went.

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Cookies (and future reading material)

Then we decorated! I have only ever done this when I was a child or when I had a child….either too young or too distracted to do very carefully. It was fun to decide what I wanted a cookie to look like and make it happen.

What a fun evening!

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Ninja bread men cookies!

Today is the first day of winter, called the Solstice. We woke up to a temperature of 30 degrees (that’s two below freezing!) and fog. I put on the regular coat and hat, with two scarves (one for my neck and another for my face) and walked out for a bit.

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As they say, there is not such thing as bad weather, just inappropriate clothing. I was grateful for the second scarf.

See you soon!

Love, Grandma Judy

Crows!

Dear Liza,

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Resting flock

The other day I was noticing the tiny birds who somehow make a living during this cold weather. They eat seeds from the thousands of trees and bushes in the neighborhood. The bigger birds make a living, too, eating pretty much anything they can find. Pizza boxes, unfortunate critters, and fruit still on the tree make up a fine diet for them.

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Lone Crow

This morning, I could not help but notice the crows! Living as we do between the forest of Laurelhurst Park and the Lone Fir Cemetery (which now has hundreds of trees, not just the one), we have more than our share of crows.

 

This morning, they were so loud I had a look out the window.

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Murder of Crows!

 

I don’t know if you know this, but there is a special word for a flock of crows: It is called a MURDER. That being the case, we had multiple murders on our street this morning.

Just another wonderful day in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Peacock Lane

Dear Liza,

It gets dark really early here now, as we approach the longest night of the year, December 21st.  By 4:30 I need my lit-up coat to walk out safely. One lovely thing about the early darkness is that you have more time to go see everyone’s Christmas lights!

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History Lesson

Last night we walked east past Laurelhurst Park and Cesar Chavez Boulevard to a street called Peacock Lane. It used to be called Southeast 40th, but in 1929 the neighbors decided to give their street a special name and then live up to it.

Peacock Lane runs 2 blocks, from SE Stark to SE Alder, and every house is lit up like crazy. There are Santas, elves, Muppets, bears, deer, and even Star Wars characters, lit up and amazingly presented. It was like being at a parade, except the floats stayed still and the people did the moving.

And boy, the people!

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Hannukah Bear

The street was still open to traffic, so hundreds of folks had to fit on the sidewalk, and we all walked along slowly, taking pictures and enjoying the pretty lights. It was fun to watch kids’ faces light up as they recognized SpongeBob or C3PO.

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My Favorite!

 

 

There was a small booth where neighborhood kids sold hot chocolate, and they were doing a great business. That was the only commerce on the Lane, and the neighbors are determined to keep it that way. This is a neighborhood of folks who work together and want to keep their street special.

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R2D2 with antlers??

There was so much car traffic that we were once again grateful that we could just walk over. When our eyes were full we walked home, enjoying other house lights, then through the misty forest of Laurelhurst Park. A mist was rising off the lake and the street lights along the path were mysterious and wonderful.

Home to snuggle down.

 

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Mysterious path lights.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Belmont Street

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we went for a long walk down to Hawthorne Street, looking at a house that is for sale and getting the feel of the neighborhood. Parts of the house were very nice, but there was a lot of work that needed doing….old damp carpet in the attic indicated possible roof problems, for example, and the basement had some weird plumbing going on.

On the walk home, we left Hawthorne and walked up to Belmont Street. It isn’t as full of shops and restaurants, but it feels more livable. There are lots of lovely houses in that area, as well, so we have made a note to keep our eyes peeled.

On Belmont there are also interesting businesses. The biggest is Movie Madness at Belmont and 44th. This isn’t just an old style video store, as I had thought. It rents video, and cds, to be sure, but it is also a museum! There are artifacts used in movies, costumes, and posters. The dress Julie Andrews wore while singing “DoRe Mi” was right there on a mannequin!

Besides the wonderful costumes and things from movies, there are thousands and thousands of movies to rent, both vhs and cd format. The “Horror” section alone is two long walls, and Christmas is the whole foyer. Many of these movies are old, rare movies that you can’t find anywhere else. This is a real resource for movie buffs in town.

A few months ago, Movie Madness was going broke, on the edge of going out of business. A local movie theater , The Hollywood,did a Kickstarter online fundraiser, which made enough money to keep Movie Madness in business.

We enjoyed our walk through Movie Madness and will go back again, I am sure.

The other business we visited was Never Coffee, at 43rd and Belmont. Their decor is colorful and their folks friendly, and the coffee is good. But what cheered us up on the chilly day after our long walk was their sweet treats! They have muffins and cookies, pastries and bars. We enjoyed some spicy ginger cookies and felt much better for our long walk home.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Gearing up for Christmas!

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Kitten showing proper respect for tree

Dear Liza,

We have the house all decorated. Most of the presents are wrapped. Cookie strategies are being worked out. Christmas is coming!

This week your Great Aunt Christy and Cousin Kyle are coming all the way from Torrance to visit us. I am looking forward to showing them our lovely Laurelhurst Park, taking a bus downtown, and maybe even going to the Lights up at The Grotto.

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Baaaad kitten

But first, there has been preparation. Our kitten Mouse has helped, of course….as kittens do. She left the main tree alone, but decided a smaller one was withing her grasp…and so she grasped it. Oh well, kitten, no harm done.

Last night we snuggled down with some Bargetto pinot noir gifted us by Auntie Bridgett’s Mom and watched my favorite Christmas movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol. It makes the often dark story very accessible, and I used it for years in my third grade classroom as a way of studying story outline. Besides that, Rizzo the rat cracks me up and Michael Caine is a fabulous Scrooge.

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Today we are going to walk down to Hawthorne Street and look at some houses that are on the market….we aren’t ready to BUY yet, but we sure can look! We are figuring out which neighborhoods we like. So far, Belmont, Sunnyside, Kerns, and Richmond are on our radar, so we keep getting to know them.

Looking forward to seeing you next month!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Pambiche

Last night is was very cold, about 39 degrees, and raining a bit….so naturally we walked out to dinner!

We bundled up in long underwear, jeans, coats, hats and scarves, and walked the eight blocks to Glisan Street and 28th, to a brightly painted fuchsia, yellow, and teal building with a laundromat on one side and a Cuban restaurant on the other.

We have walked past this building dozens of times, and in the summer, listened to music wafting past the outdoor seating. We decided to try it. The place is smaller than it looks from the outside, only seating about 30 people in very close quarters, but the colors inside of teal and fiery fuchsia are cozy and inviting, and the posters and paintings on the wall give a nice, chaotic ambiance that I associate with Cuba. There is a huge poster of Mary Pickford, a silent movie star, and a smaller photo of Earnest Hemingway, an American author who loved Cuba and owned property there.

There are no french fries for Grandpa Nelson there, and the fried cassava root didn’t appeal, so he just had a nice, but really cold, glass of sangria. I opted for a rum drink called Santo Remedio (Holy Remedy) that was warm and tasty and got the feeling back in my fingers in no time. Auntie Bridgett had a glass of hot tea.

We arrived in Happy Hour, or as they say in Cuba, “El Hora de Los Amigos”, so we ordered small plates to share. Both the chicken and spinach empanadas were tasty and the roasted beet salad very hearty. We enjoyed our time there, but when the time came for dessert and we looked at all the ornate pastries in the glass case, nothing appealed, so we bundled up and headed home.

It started raining! Just enough for Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett to get out their umbrellas but hardly got my kitty hat damp.

We actually have snow predicted in the next few weeks, so I am looking forward to that. This photo has nothing to do with Pambiche

except that the colors are bright and pretty, but it was too dark to take pictures last night!

Love,

Grandma Judy