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

Thinking about Birds (2)

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Dear Liza,

Today the weather changed from sunny and cold to dark and cold…the sky was a flat grey, and all the bare trees were silhouettes against the sky. After a long morning of studying history, I went out walking, to see what I could see.

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Trees against the grey sky

 

 

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Rose Hips

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I heard dozens of tiny birds chirping, and saw them swooping low between the bushes. As soon as I stopped or got close, they would freeze and become invisible. I stood as still as I could, but they knew I was there. I was lucky to get one picture from the birds who flew by.

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Then I started wondering, what do these tiny birds eat in the winter? There is no more fruit on the trees, and the worms must all have gone into hibernation by now. As I looked more closely in the yard where they had been so busy, I saw them: seeds. Hundreds of tiny seeds on plants which become beautiful in a very different way this time of year. Most of the seeds were so small, they didn’t show up in pictures!

Abundant rose bushes, full of color and grace in summer in this City of Roses, have become stark sticks with bright orange rose hips. The seed pod of the rose, these are full of food for the wintering birds.

Thousands of cones from the Douglas Fir (Oregon’s State Tree) lay all over the neighborhood, and are swarmed over and pecked at by more tiny birds.

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Pink berries

As I walked and looked carefully, I saw that many of the bushes had tiny seeds still clinging to their branches. I guess it makes sense; the birds wouldn’t be here if there was nothing for them to eat.

I am glad I went out walking to see yet another part of this wonderful city!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Happy Hannukah!

Dear Liza, Yesterday we celebrated Hannukah with Auntie Katie, Cousin Jasper and Cousin Kestrel. I started early, making the dough for sufganiot, or hannukah doughnuts. It is a sweet, soft yeast dough and needed to rise for a while. I packed it up for the trip.

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My lit up coat!

I walked to Auntie Katie’s house as it was getting dark, and I wore my regular heavy coat with an addition: Remember the  tiny lights Auntie Katie sewed onto her cape?  I sewed a multi-colored version onto my coat, so I could walk after dark and BE SEEN by the drivers. I felt so bright and cheerful, like a Christmas tree out for a stroll. I got thumbs up and smiles from folks, and a lady actually rolled down her car window to ask “Where’d you get those lights?”

Once I was at Aunt Katie’s, we grated the potatoes for latkes, made applesauce, and went to fetch the cousins from school. They have such a nice after- school program at Hosford-Abernethy, they never want to leave! But we managed to bring them and Cousin Kestrels’ graham cracker gingerbread house home.

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Frying latkes                        Photo credit: Katie Proctor

The cousins helped shape the sufganiot into donought shapes, balls and sticks, and we let them rise while Auntie Katie fried the latkes. Then, while the latkes stayed hot in the oven, we fried the sufganiot! They got so brown and pretty, and when they were done I sprinkled them with cinnamon and sugar and let them cool down.

We ate latkes with sour cream and applesauce, then ate the sufganiot….so tasty! Even Grandpa Nelson had one, and you know how fussy he is.

 

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Tasty sufganiot!                  Photo credit: Katie Proctor
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Cousin Jasper and new hat

Then, of course, we opened presents. Jasper liked his Zelda hat so much we wore it while he played video games on the couch. Kestrel, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and Auntie Katie all had fun working on a picture using Kestrel’s new art supplies…fairy stamps, markers, and googly eyes.

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Art collaboration

When we were stuffed and the cousins were sleepy, we headed home. What a lovely evening!

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Fairies and their pet carrots, still in progress

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Random Beauty

Dear Liza,

I had a feeling-lousy day yesterday, maybe from walking around cold the previous evening at the zoo. I slept a lot, drank tons of tea and was generally useless. And today I am better!

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Christmas tree and Journal Building in the daylight

Since I was on the couch most of the day, I was looking at the many pictures I have taken here in town and come to a major conclusion: Random beauty in a city this big usually doesn’t happen by accident. There are budgets, materials, design teams, artists, and the folks who install the art. This is a government decision to make art.

And I love it!

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Journal Building at night

For instance, the home of one of Portland’s oldest newspapers, The Journal Building, has been standing by the Pioneer Square since 1912. The paper closed down in 1982, but the building is still used for offices and stores and is a beautiful part of the downtown skyline. At Christmas, it gets even prettier!

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Lit up Christmas Tree

There are so many statues downtown it would take pages to just show and name them. One I just noticed the other day is called “Pile”, a statue showing a crow standing on a pigeon, sitting on some old books, standing on a pillow, sitting on a crate. I am sure it means something, but to me it was just random and wonderful.

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“Pile”

Up in the Kenton neighborhood, we saw a series of benches that feature sculpture.    Here is “Dog Bench”.

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Dog Bench

The last piece of art I will tell you about is one I noticed and photographed weeks ago during the wet weather. It is on one of the blocks of polished granite in Pioneer Square, and shows an architect’s blueprints, calculator and even coffee cup, all sculpted in bronze. It is so casual looking, as through the architect has just stepped away for a moment, it cracks me up.

 

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Blueprints sculpture

I am looking forward to showing you all the lovely things I have found in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy