Sunny Rain, Rainbows, and Teddy

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Fall roses!

Dear Liza,

Today was a busy day. I was reading old newspapers online from the Oregon Historical Society, trying to find any story about Mrs. Pittock and her rose party. (So far, nothing…)

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Lovely fall colors

I got a call from Uncle Dave to see if I could come over and get instructions on how to feed their cats, Pietro and Wanda, while they are all in Hawaii for a few days, so I jogged the mile or so to their house, noticing the beautiful leaves, nuts, roses, and such, but in a hurry. So on the way home, I slowed down and got some pictures.

Even in fall, with the cold and rain, tomatoes are still ripening and roses are still blooming. The ground smells so sweet it is intoxicating. I collected another giant pocketful of chestnuts! We saw a wonderful rainbow and met some neighbors, Sarah and Elizabeth, who live up the block.

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Rainbow in the neighborhood

Back home, it was time for our big adventure for the evening. We walked up to Burnside and caught the #20 into town. Getting off at Powell’s City of Books, we were in the middle of the biggest downpour I’ve ever walked through, but we slogged a block up to Kenny and Zukes for dinner. Knishes, hot dogs, and french fries, all delicious. For something different, Auntie Bridgett had a ginger beer with horseradish infused vodka! Totally nuts, but so good!

The rain completely stopped as we ate, which was good, because we needed to walk up to The First Congregational Church on Park to enjoy An Evening with Teddy Roosevelt. This is a one man show by Jim Wiegand, a performer and historian who seems not just to DO Teddy, but to BE Teddy.

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Interior of the First Congregational Church

Mr. Wiegand was funny and true, historically correct but also delightfully current in his comments. He told of his life before, during and after his presidency, his travels, war experiences, and personal tragedies. His main message is that it is not enough to read the Word, and hear the Word, but you must ACT on the Word. Get off your duff and DO something to make the world better.

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Program for the show

He finished his show by asking the audience to all stand and sing “Good Bless America”. We all did, and we all felt better for it; for just a few minutes, we forgot the nonsense in our government and remembered that we love our country.

The bus ride home was dry but cold, and we were happy to be home.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Rain, Friendly History, and Pizza

Dear Liza,

Yesterday was another busy day. Auntie Bridgett and I took the #15 downtown just as the rain started, and walked up the hill to the Oregon Historical Society. This was her first time in the Research Library, and after she had signed in and our stuff was put away in a locker, we did our separate research.

I was hunting for pictures of Mrs. Pittock’s house on the corner of SW Park and Washington, and for information about a big party she had there in 1889. Bridgett was looking for information about a very funny KGW radio program called “The Hoot Owls”, which started in 1923. Librarian Scott Daniels helped me with boxes on photographs and folders full of newspaper clippings, and white glove to wear so I didn’t damage the old, delicate paper.

We were both fairly successful. I was able to see and sketch photos of Mrs. Pittock’s house and figure out what other buildings were on the property, but found absolutely nothing about the party. This puzzles me: Every story about the Rose Festival starts with a mention of Mrs. Pittock’s Rose Party…but no one seems to know when it happened, who was there, or what anything looked like. Did this party really happen? I will keep digging!

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A Burl

Bridgett found booklets of the silly songs “The Hoot Owls” sang on their radio show, and had a good time reading them. The producers of the show would publish the booklets and sell them, raising money to give to charity, like Comic Relief raises money today.

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Credit where due

By four o’clock, we were hungry for a snack and ready to head home. We walked up to catch the #20 home, walking down 6th Avenue, which was a new street for us. We saw some new statues and an old bank building with the letters F-A-R-G-O in huge letters across the top. Guess which bank built that?

We got home just in time for dinner, but didn’t want to cook, so after Grandpa Nelson had some dinner, we all walked down to Babydoll Pizza and enjoyed a slice and some cider, and a game of “Ghostbusters” pinball. A very satisfactory end to a lovely day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Another bit of Burls

Gearing up for Halloween!

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Swingin’ skeletons

Dear Liza,

I am sure you have been figuring out what your costume should be for Halloween. We are, too. Maybe we should be minions, Lucy and Gru? Or our very own Superheros? But while we are figuring that out, remembering some of our costumes in years past cracks me up, too!

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That year we visited Neverland

 

Many of the houses in Portland have wonderfully large porches, which turn into stages for decorating! There are spider webs with bits of leftovers, ghouls and witches, all hanging around in relative safety from whatever rains come our way.

So, while we are out getting to know more streets and houses, looking for the perfect one to buy (once things get settled) we are noticing all the decorations.

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Ghosty guests

But I also have some sad news. Remember the flock of flamingos who are always up to something? They watched the solar eclipse with special flamingo sized glasses and helped the Cassinni space probe crash into Saturn. As it turns out, they are also big into baseball,  are fans of the come-back Chicago Cubs, and someone doesn’t like it. One evening the flock was out celebrating the Cubs’ victory, and the next evening, two flamingos were gone. Who would do such a terrible thing? Rabid National fans? Or are they just out for the fabulous flamingo fortune?

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Help! Kidnapped  flamingo!

I hope to have better news soon.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

Squirreling

Dear Liza,

Fall is falling in a delightful way here in Portland. The trees are blazing into yellows and reds, planting beds and paths are upholstered with leaves, the fog is setting in, and the squirrels are getting even busier.

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First fog

The little furry guys run along the power lines to get from pole to pole and tree to tree without bothering about traffic or cats, but they don’t seem nervous about people.  If one of them is digging or hiding, he pretty much doesn’t notice us. He will occasionally dash up a tree and call us names, however. Just to let us know whose park it really is.

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Whose forest is this, anyway?

There is something else up here that is new to me. Chestnuts! Big, fat, spreading chestnut trees dropping bushels of chestnuts. When they fall, the nuts are encased in a green prickly shell, like a studded leather jacket, but the squirrels are very good at peeling those off, leaving the shiny, deep brown shells showing.

 

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Chestnut just breaking out of its jacket
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Squirreling away for Christmas!

Yesterday on the way to the Belmont Library, Auntie Bridgett and I decided to collect some chestnuts, as well.

What is good for the squirrels is good for the squirrelly, right?

Once we found a few trees, our pockets and Bridgett’s backpack were full in minutes! The only hazard is that the chestnuts are about the size and weight of a golf ball and HARD, so when they come down, they hit cars and sidewalks (and the hats of gatherers) with a resounding THUNK. Quite the adventure in foraging.

I look forward to roasting these little nuggets of Dickensian love and munching during a particularly ferocious storm. Welcome, winter!

The cooler weather has us hunting up scarves and heavier coats, making the first soup of the season (turkey/ sweet potato) and inventing new hot cider combinations. Looking forward with joy.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy

Greeks, Pastries, and Clouds

 

Dear Liza,

I am sorry I haven’t written to you this week. My story about the history of Portland is making my brain very full of this place, but at another time. June and July of 1888, to be exact. My character is a girl named Caroline and she is visiting Portland for the first time. In telling her story, I hope to show people (especially kids) what Portland was like in those days.

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Ominous clouds

But yesterday was day full of the present. The weather was very threatening…heavy clouds layered with happy cumulus, alternating with bright sunshine. But it was Saturday and the Greek Festival was being held just a few blocks away on Glisan Street, at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Curious about what we would see, he took hats, umbrellas, and boots, and off we went.

 

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Holy Trinity Church

We have walked past the church many time, a beautiful, imposing brick church with domes and ornate crosses. We walked past it again on our way into the festival area.  The organizers had wisely set up tents over almost the entire area, in case of rain. The first thing we saw was the dreaded “talents” (tickets) table.

Many festivals are using this system, because it allows money to be kept safer. But it also makes all customers wait in three different lines buy anything. One to buy the tickets, (in this case, the Greek themed “talents”), a second line to buy whatever you want, and then a third line if you need more or wanted to return extras. It takes a lot of the spontaneity out of shopping.

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Yummy honey filled pastries

We did break down and buy a tray of Greek pastries, and nibbled them. They have wonderfully complicated names. Kataifi look like shredded wheat biscuits but are butter, nuts and honey filled, very sweet and goopy. Koulourakia are butter cookies with sesame seeds on top. Grandpa Nelson held the box while Auntie Bridgett and I went to tour the church. Food isn’t allowed inside.

The church was lovely. High walls, ornate and imposing paintings, perfect mosaics and glowing stained glass windows. This church seems to be of the opinion that people are very small, God is very big, and without the priests, people have no chance of understanding the eternal being.

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Greek Orthodox Icon

I do not share this opinion, but I appreciate the beauty, anyway.

After we got home and ate a few more pastries, Auntie Bridgett and I walked through the park.

 

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Holy Trinity Church

 

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Giant leaves!

Squirrels are running everywhere, bounding like small grey rainbows, trying to remember where they have hidden acorns. More leaves are down, some enormous (notice Bridgett’s foot by this one), and the forest smell is almost overwhelming, it is so alive and sweet.

So, today we got to visit two magnificent places. Although the church was nice, I find God more in the forest.

No offense intended, Holy Trinity.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Busy Sunday

Dear Liza,

Sunday was a fun, busy , slightly rainy day. Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to Hawthorne Street to visit some new shops. There is a fabric store called Cool Cottons, run by a nice lady named Marie. The shop is in an old house that Marie has turned into a bright, friendly shop with a rainbow of lightweight cotton blends, perfect for quilting! I will be getting lots of fabrics here.

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For Kestrel’s pants

But today I was shopping for fabric to make clothes for Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, and I found some of that, too. A bright yellow for Jasper’s Triforce Zelda pants, and a huge rose print for Cousin Kestrel’s. I will start sewing them today.

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Inside Cool Cottons

Auntie Bridgett was across the street in Excaliber Comics, where she met some nice people and bought “Too Much Coffee Man”. In this story, he is having trouble writing a story, so he writes about having trouble, and pretty soon has written a story. Silly but true.

 

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Inside Vintage Pink

Not really needing anything but curious, we walked into Vintage Pink, right across the street from Excaliber. There are wonderful furniture, dishes, records, clothes, and pictures from the 1950s to the 1970s, all in great condition and arranged beautifully. It didn’t have that dusty ‘attic’ smell that so many vintage shops have. It was more like visiting a very cool aunt’s apartment in 1963. I found a pair of grey pants that fit!!! They came home with us.

We enjoyed a cup at Coava Coffee and then headed home. The rainy day turned sunny and we sat and watched the Giants win their last game of the season with a walk-off home run by Pablo Sandoval, a nice way to end a very dismal season.

By the afternoon Grandpa Nelson was ready to get out of the house, so he and I walked around Laurelhurst Park, enjoying the dogs and the wonderful forest smell of the wet trees and ground. Turtles and ducks were out, enjoying worms and bugs.

Finally, there was a book signing at Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, at 11th and Division. We drove down and listened to the author, Lacy Davis, and illustrator, Jim Kettner, talk about the process of writing their new graphic novel, Ink in Water. It is funny and sad and true, well written and drawn with a flair that feels easy. We bought a copy of the book and a Hilda and the Trolls Doll, who was half price and needed to come home with Auntie Bridgett.

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Lacy Davis and Jeff Kettner
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Auntie Bridgett and our new things

What a wonderful, busy, walk-y sort of day. Tomorrow, sewing, writing and cooking!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Music!

Dear Liza,

A few days ago, Grandpa Nelson sent away for a new record turntable. This is a very old-fashioned way to play music, but we enjoy it very much. Our old, old one was given away when we moved.

Needless to say, most of our records went away, as well….you’d think so. No turntable, no records. BUT. Some records are like old friends, and we kept them. Beatles. Smothers Brothers. The important ones.

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Just like being 15 again!

So yesterday, between chores and rain storms, we walked to Music Millennium, a BIG record, cd, and dvd shop just across Burnside from The Laurelhurst Market, where we had dinner when you and your daddy were visiting. They have new and used, rock, pop, jazz, blues, hiphop, movie soundtracks (no Bull Durham or Blues Brothers, but I’ll keep looking) and classical. There were even comedy records, including a “Happy Birthday, Oregon” record by Stan Freberg.

We left that one there, for now.

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From Auntie Katie’s High School days!

We did find some lovely old friends and brought them home.

And, in between dinner, shopping, and some exploratory pinball down at the Goodfoote Lounge, we listened. Aunt Bridgett is new to the Smothers Brothers, so we had fun listening with her like it was the first time all over again.

I am pretty new to Manhattan Transfer, so that was new fun for me, as well.

Now humming to myself as we walk down to Cool Cottons, a fabric shop on Hawthorne, to get some fabric for new projects.

Love,

Grandma Judy