An Afternoon with Kestrel

Dear Liza,

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A place of tiny magical things

You are your Mom and Daddy’s only child, so you get a lot of alone time with them, and with me, when I’m around. Cousin Kestrel is Jasper’s little sister, and she doesn’t. Everything she does, including lunchtime at school, is with Jasper.

Jasper is a very nice brother, but we all need some time with our people when it is just US. Kestrel and I got that the other day.

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Someone made a Fairie House!

Auntie Katie made plans for her and Jasper, and I made plans for us. After I ‘kidnapped’ her from Books with Pictures, we walked past the giant banana painted on the wall at SE 12th and Division, past a fairy house in some one’s yard, all the way to Hawthorne Street, where we caught the number 14 bus.

At 32nd Avenue we got off and walked to The Hazel Room. This is a lovely little lunch place in a big house, and I have walked past it dozens of times. They don’t sell hamburgers or french fries, so Grandma Nelson wouldn’t like it. Inside it is pretty and old-fashioned, with old wooden floors and wallpaper. There are lots of elegant tea pots on the window sills. Kestrel is a very picky eater, so I read the menu to her and let her choose. She asked for french toast. When it came, it was so big that we shared it, but she said it was the best french toast she had ever had! Fat and sweet, it most more like toasted cake..yummmy!

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Brunch at The Hazel Room

When we had played reading games and finished our lunch, we headed down Hawthorne to our main destination: Fernie Brae. This is a shop that sells fairie things. Handmade fairie dolls, beds, houses, jewelry, paintings, costumes, wings and wands…if a fairie could want it, they have it.

Everything is so beautifully made, we spent an hour in the small shop, looking at every tiny thing.

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Admiring the lovely stones

I knew we had just a little while until my bus pass expired, so Kestrel picked out a tiny dragonfly treasure, a jasper stone for Jasper and a rose quartz heart shaped stone for herself, and we caught the bus back to Ladd’s Addition. Walking through the shade of the old trees, we made up stories about which fairies lived under the trees and in the bushes.

What a wonderful, magical day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Mosaics

Dear Liza,

As I walk around Portland, I see more beautiful mosaics. Maybe because the materials can be recycled things like broken dishes and tiles, or even bits of machinery, mosaics are a popular medium for public art. Also, these materials are strong enough to last outside, winter and summer, even through Portland’s wet and dry cycles.

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At The Children’s Museum

Some of them are group projects, like those outside the Buckman School or inside the Sunnyside School. These have an informal feeling and are very friendly. Looking at them, you can almost hear the kids and adults chatting and joking as they put the tiles in and get their hands goopy with grout.

At The Grotto

Other mosaics are extremely complex and delicate, showing real artistry in their design and execution. These beautiful works of art, out for everyone to enjoy, need to be respected and protected.

I give major credit to many of the local businesses and organizations for sponsoring the artists of these wonderful works. They make Portland not just weird, as the bumper sticker says, but more handmade, more personal, and more beautiful.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Recently repaired headstone at Lone Fir

Return to the Children’s Museum

Dear Liza,

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Kestrel, the Alligator’s Dentist

As I had promised, the cousins and I went back up the hill to Washington Park yesterday to visit the Children’s Museum. Since Grandpa Nelson had to work and I hate driving, we took the number 4 bus and Red Line MAX train to get there.

The Children’s Museum is less of a museum and more of a giant, well designed play environment for kids. There are rooms with set-ups for water play, a farm to table grocery room, a pet hospital, engineering, toy cars, and a theater with costumes, lights and puppets.

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Running the Shop

Jasper loves the water room and Kestrel, the theater, and the rooms are close enough together that I can sort of wander between them and keep and eye on both kids. Jasper actually came and found us in the theater, making me very proud of his responsibility and navigation skills.

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Jasper the Hydraulics Engineer

After a few hours inside, we stepped out to the Zany Maze to eat the food I had brought. The Museum sells hot dogs and such, but I preferred a day with healthier snacks. Blueberries (from our Sauvie Island trip) and some of Grandpa Nelson’s peanuts and a big jug of water gave us energy for the afternoon.

Instead of going back inside the Museum, we explored the outside area, which has just been re-opened after a long period of development. It is wonderful!

The Outdoor Adventure, starts with The Spring, which has water play combined with sand, water management, buckets, and activities that encourage teamwork. Jasper and Kestrel played with several other kids, two of whom did not speak English at all, but they all understood and helped each other. It was wonderful to see.

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Teamwork!

We wandered down the trail past the creek, all the way down to The Amphitheater. There was a young lady helping the kids ‘fish’ in a small pool, and a mom teaching her little one about jumping rope. Jasper joined in and did 11 consecutive jumps! He was justifiably proud.

In our last 20 minutes, as energy was waning, we went back inside to see what The Treehouse Adventure room was. Turns out, it is designed for just the sort of activity we needed, a quiet winding down…. there is a tree house to go into and read, or just sit.

We got some going-home snacks, caught the Red Line train, then the Orange Line train, and were home by 3. We started reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, and were on chapter 7 by the time Auntie Katie got home. It’s a great read!

Auntie Katie got home and Kestrel wanted some acrobatics time. Mother and daughter did some pretty nifty balance poses! These poses are ab workouts, mother-daughter time, and cooperation training, all at once. Real Ph.D level parenting, if you ask me.

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Acro pose

Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett came a brought me home, and we had dinner. What a lovely day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Good things happening at Lone Fir

Dear Liza,

Yes, you remember correctly, Lone Fir is out local cemetery. So what good things could be happening there?

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Vandalized Headstone

Well, to start with, a unique headstone that had been vandalized has been repaired. Paul G. Lind, a young man who died in 2005, was a computer programmer and Scrabble fanatic. His family and friends remembered him by creating a beautifully unique headstone, decorated as if it were a Scrabble board, with words to describe him. By the time I saw the headstone last year, however, all the lovely tiles had been chipped off and stolen away by vandals. But now, it has been repaired and looks even better than the original.

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Repaired Scrabble Headstone

I stopped to chat with a happy young couple standing by one of the arbors, surrounded by Mylar helium balloons of animals…raccoons, a tyrannosaurus, a hedgehog, and the like. I had to ask, “What’s up?”

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Proposal with woodland creatures

“She proposed!” The young man shouted, holding up his left hand with a lovely ring.

His bride -to-be explained. “He always said his perfect wedding would be in the forest with just the animals around, and no people. But I like these people,” she gestured to all the headstones. “They don’t tell you what to do.” I am guessing they may return to celebrate their wedding…or maybe choose a more formal cemetery, like River View, across the Willamette.

The last new headstone I visited memorialized Andrew Brian Loomis, who was a local musician. He played drums with a band called The Dead Moon for 28 years, dying at the age of 54 of cancer. His stone is carved with his name and dates, and he is remembered as a cherished son, brother, uncle, cousin and friend, and the motto, “Life is good ‘sept the parts that suck.” The name of a local music and dance club, Dante’s, is included.IMG_9500.jpg

The grave has been recently decorated with crow feathers, a wine bottle, a ceramic dog, Mardi Gras beads, and other items that seem to tell of a life lived for music and fun. I am happy to know that his friends and loved ones, and even fans, still celebrate him.

And that’s what’s happening with the dead people!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

Believe it or not…

Dear Liza,

I know it has been, and still is hot here, but fall is definitely on the way. This morning there is a slight chill in the air. Some leaves are starting to turn. Kids are shopping for school clothes.

And the chestnuts are getting big. Last year was my first year in chestnut country, so I was just fascinated by these armored, spiky, golf ball sized nuts. Bridgett and I marveled at them and, when they started falling, collected about 30 pounds of the smooth,  mahogany colored things. We loved their color, their impressive size, and their smooth surface, like polished wood. We had big plans.

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Part of last year’s lovely, but useless, chestnuts

We would enjoy their beauty, maybe even make ornaments out of them, then roast them and eat them! “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” would be ours!!! Bwahahaha!

So we researched the best way to roast them, not having an open fire at our disposal. Hmmm. Turns out, there are two kinds of chestnuts….horse chestnuts, which you CAN’T eat because they are poisonous, and sweet chestnuts, which you CAN. The leaves and tree shape are the same. How to tell the difference? The differences in the wooden looking nut are slight and I was never sure which was which. I wasn’t willing to bet my health on it.

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Green hulls of sweet chestnuts

But the differences between both the flower and the green hulls that grow outside the woody part are very clear. The sweet chestnuts have flowers that are spiky, and green hulls that look like Muppets. The horse chestnuts’ flowers are rounded, and their hulls more like a medieval spiked mace. So this summer, we have made note of where each are growing.

Oddly, the poisonous kind are much more common. Whether it is a difference in disease resistance or just accidental, the people in charge of planting them, probably 50 years ago, planted a bunch of ‘conkers’ you can’t use. The only sweet chestnut tree we have found is near the entrance to the Lone Fir Cemetery. I walked by today and admired them, promising I would return when they fell.

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Green hulls of horse chestnuts

We still don’t have an open fire, but we have a lovely gas oven. We will adjust. And Nat King Cole will be playing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Process is Progressing

Dear Liza,

As you know, I have been working on my children’s history story about Portland for a little over a year now. For the first six months I read about Portland history so I know how it became a city and what sort of interesting things happened here. The Oregon Historical Society and Belmont Library became my favorite hangouts.

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A Young Lady in 1903

I chose to put my story in the spring of 1903, when President Theodore Roosevelt came through Portland on a country-wide tour. There was a parade, a ceremony in what is now Washington Park, and a banquet. It was a very big deal and I think it would make a good backdrop for a mystery story. But as I told you, I don’t know much about mysteries.

So, I studied that, too. For a few weeks, I read Nancy Drew books and articles about mystery story plots, character development, and clues.

But as a teacher, I never really understand something until I need to teach it. So I pretended I was teaching someone about how to make a mystery story.  I cut shapes out of paper to show everything that happened in the story: action, characters, description, distractions.

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A new way of seeing a story

I practiced using these pieces to map out the first eight chapters of The Bungalow Mystery, #3 of the Nancy Drew books. I could see when action happened, when characters were introduced, how the chapters alternated between action and description, and how each chapter ended in a new mystery or dangerous situation.

This took some of the mystery out of writing my mystery! I am now working on my own story, using these paper pieces to  make the characters move to solve the riddles of the story and come to a happy ending. If I don’t like the way it is going, I just move the pieces around! I feel organized, less confused, but flexible enough to create and re-create the story until it is right.img_9480.jpg

Of course, once I have this visual outline done, I still have to write the actual words….but that’s the fun part! I am happy to have found a way of working that works for me.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to the Zoo

Dear Liza,

On Monday, Grandpa Nelson and I drove over to Auntie Katie’s house. School hasn’t started here in Portland yet, so we still have time for summer!!

First, there was some important business to take care of. Kestrel had lost one of her magic fairy keys (from a Birthday a few years ago at Fernie Brae here in town). It was, she said, tossed on the grass at the Ladd’s Addition Circle Park while she was making a magic spell, and lost in the grass. In the bright light of day, we figured we could find it.

Hands and knees for 30 minutes, asking at Palio Coffee and Pastries, and even enlisting friendly passing strangers, all to no avail. Whether the fairies decided they wanted the key back or we just looked in the wrong places, the key continues to be elsewhere.

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Jasper on the bronze goat

Then the next order of business, getting ready for the Zoo! Breakfast, shoes, and hats were found and dealt with, then we were on our way. Grandpa Nelson opted for the car so the trip home would be quicker when we were near the end. He’s a smart Grandpa!

It was a pleasant day…not hot, but sunny. Lots of people, but not crowded. We visited the Pacific Northwest Canyon (my favorite part of the zoo, because it is foresty and has lots of creeks and waterfalls) and acted out being coyotes and rabbits. We talked to the bears and saw river otters napping in their dens.

We had a sit down to refuel our good natures, with cookies, water, peanuts and a reading of Million of Cats by Wanda Ga’g.

At the petting zoo we visited with goats and saw a new “Catio” installation, with information about why keeping cats safe and happy is important for birds and other animals, as well as our sweet kitten friends. The kids also enjoyed the ice cream and merry-go-round. Because grandparents.

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Charge!!!

Then, off to see the elephants. They were coming out into the public area just as we got there, and Lily, the youngest, was positively prancing! She really seemed happy to be out with the people. Everyone was waving as she ran up and down, smiling a baby elephant smile.

The Free Flying Bird show was on, and we sat and watched eagles, parrots and even a North American Kestrel (the bird, not the cousin) fly from one perch to another. Oshi, the toucan, decided to re-write the script and flew from one perch, under the bushes, hung out for a while, to the top of the stage, and finally down to accept a bunch of blueberries. It was wonderful to hear the ladies ad lib the show during Oshi’s fly-cation, telling us about how they train the birds with positive reinforcement.

Lunch was next! Africafe fed us hot dogs and gave us a cool place to sit down. We watched people and drank so much water I thought we would pop, but zooing is thirsty work.

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Being Bears

On the way out of the zoo, we saw a sculpture group called “Lunch Break” by local artist Jim Gion, who died just a few weeks ago. We got to meet him this spring as he was sculpting outside his studio. He was a talented artist and a very nice man.

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Lunch Break, by Jim Gion

We had originally planned to also see the Children’s Museum, but we were done. We will come back Thursday for that. I was pleased to see how responsible the children were, wanting to see the museum but realizing it would be more fun another day. A quiet ride home, pizza for dinner, and a tired but happy Grandma delivered home.

More tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy