Neighborhood Clearing

Dear Liza,

Every time I go out into the neighborhood, I see new things. The falling leaves are allowing more details to show.

For example, garden decorations that have been covered by overgrown trees and bushes are coming into view. This retaining wall for a house down by Hawthorne Street shows its decoration of old doorknobs, but only when the ferns die back in fall.

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Door knob decoration

This obelisk has been covered by one rosebush, which has now been cut back to just a few twigs for the winter, revealing the lovely sculpture.

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Garden Obelisk

Of course, leaf clearing and collection continues. This pile that was taller than you was waiting to be scooped up down by Laurelhurst Park. Inside the park, small trucks drive down the paved paths and blow the leaves onto the grass areas, where they are vacuumed up later. This is good, because the paths get really slippery and dangerous where the leaves sit and start to rot.

Also inside Laurelhurst, the workers are putting in net tubes filled with wood chips. These help keep the ground from washing away on hillsides. This series of tubes was put just below the off leash dog area, where there is a bit of a creek flowing during heavy rains.

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Erosion protection
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More leaves

The other day I saw my first sinkhole! A sinkhole is what happens when the ground underneath a street gets washed away, so the asphalt has nothing to sit on, and starts to collapse. This one was in the middle of the Washington Street and 27th intersection, marked by orange cones so no one would drive over or fall in!

Life just keeps getting more interesting up here.See you in January!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Sinkhole!!!

Busy Winter Weekend

Dear Liza,

Hello from Portland! Fall keeps passing, with most of the trees completely bare now. The ginkgo in Laurelhurst Park is a rare exception, but is fading fast.

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Last of the yellow ginkgo trees

On Friday, Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to Hawthorne Street to have dinner at another McMenamin’s restaurant. This is The Baghdad Cafe and is delightfully quirky, with oriental rugs on the walls, paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and the signature McMenamin’s hand-painted murals decorating any bare spot. The food was very good! I had a Harvest Moon Salad, with roasted sweet potatoes, pecans, and goat cheese …mmmm…

After dinner we walked a whole 20 feet to the Baghdad Theater, where the new Pixar movie, Coco, is showing. The Baghdad Theater is also decorated in the whimsical style of the McMenamin brothers, and we enjoyed looking at the design details before the movie.

The movie itself was stunning. The animation is bright and colorful, and the story is real, human and beautiful. It also has is sad in spots, so take a tissue. We laughed out loud in parts, and cried like babies in others. The movie is about family and music and finding oneself.

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Painted tapestry in Back Stage Bar

After we recovered from the emotional roller coaster of Coco, we walked another 20 feet, past a small cigar bar (too stinky!) called Trump’s, to the Back Stage Bar. Still a part of the Baghdad property, this is a long, narrow room with a ceiling at least 50 feet high. It used to be the backstage of the theater, where all the giant canvas backdrops were stored. It is now weirdly wonderful, with some of the backdrops, old neon signs, pool tables and pinball, and a perfectly restored old cherry wood bar. Up to our earlobes in emotion, visual beauty and music, we walked home through a nice drizzle.

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Weirdly beautiful Back Stage Bar

Saturday afternoon was Cousin Jasper’s eighth birthday party. I foolishly left my camera at home, so have no pictures of the boys playing video games or the cake Uncle Dave made with a game controller done in frosting on top. Auntie Katie, her friend Chelsea, cousin Kestrel and I escaped the video game nuttiness by reading comics in the other room.

On Saturday evening, Auntie Bridgett came home!!! She had stayed in San Diego with her sister for the week and we missed her like a tricycle misses its last wheel. She had caught a cold and we spend the rest of the evening keeping her warm and making sure she drank lots of tea.

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Naked Tree

Sunday was another big adventure: Getting the Christmas tree! After several wild goose chases, Grandpa Nelson remembered seeing a sign for a lot at 48th and Belmont….and there were trees! It just started drizzling when we found the perfect one and the nice young fellow loaded it up on Miles the Volkswagen (who we protected with a heavy packing blanket, of course). Our tree was so fresh it still had moss and leaves on it from the forest, and is just wonky enough to be charming.

We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening choosing the ornaments to go on it. Auntie Bridgett has so many ornaments, they don’t all fit, so we only put our favorite ones up….some are from your great grandma Billie, 50 years ago, and some are from our more recent travels. I love that every year we get to re-tell our story with the decorations.

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Fully dressed tree with kitten

It was so nice this morning to wake up to the tree, Auntie Bridgett back home, and a kitten sleeping on the rug.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunnyside School Visit

Dear Liza,

Today I walked over to Sunnyside Environmental School for a visit with their wonderful librarian, Gillian Grimm. Gillian had kindly agreed to share what she knows about the history of Sunnyside School and the neighborhood.

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Flamingo Nativity

It is cold and grey out today, but my walk was improved by the latest installation at the Flamingo house: A Nativity scene! The already cheerful pink flamingos were dressed in red. It was adorable.

At Sunnyside, I learned a lot about the school. Although the current building was built in 1925, there has been a school at the corner of Taylor and 34th since at least 1904, and most likely, much earlier. There are photos of students and their teachers posed on the front steps of the old school in 1904, but newspaper real estate advertisements from the 1890s that offer houses in the Sunnyside neighborhood with the inducement “close to good school”.

Gillian also shared with me some trophies that have been awarded to the school over the years. The oldest was from 1908, a tarnished but lovely trophy to Sunnyside School for their entry into the Rose Festival Children’s Parade.

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1904 Rose Parade Trophy

But back to the present: Gillian Grimm became librarian of Sunnyside in 2013. Before that, the position had been filled for ten years with library assistants and clerks, who checked out and maintained the books, but didn’t order new materials, cull old ones, or do any teaching. Gillian had plenty of work to bring the library up to speed and into the new century.

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Winnie the library dog

Gillian runs the library as a welcoming space, decorated by students and featuring squishy chairs for sitting and Winnie, an English Springer Spaniel who welcomes one and all. The students come in before school to check out books for silent reading as well as having regular visits with their classes.

Everything I saw at Sunnyside shows a school where the students are engaged, the teachers and staff excited about what they do, and the parents supportive. I almost wish I was 12 again so I could attend!

But not quite.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cloudy with a Chance of Legos

Dear Liza,

The grey has settled in pretty well today, a slow solid rain. Lucky for me, I have hot soup, fresh bread and music, and writing to you, to keep me company.

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Mossy cobblestones

Now that almost all of the leaves are down, I am noticing the houses more. In summer, it sometimes felt like the houses were being eaten by their landscaping! 100 year old trees, bushes, fruit trees and annual bulbs exploded and covered everything with a heavy swath of green.

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Noticing the houses

But with the leaves, even the brilliant yellow ones, gone, the houses are emerging to be appreciated in their own right. Lovely pointy Victorians, square and true Craftsmans, even mid-century bungalows are coming into their own. It allows me to see the yards and shape of the houses and wonder which type of yard and house we will move into!

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Bare naked Street Sign

After a nice walk out, Grandpa Nelson and I met Auntie Katie and cousins Jasper and Kestrel at The Lego Minifigs place I told you about during the summer. We were there to have the kids choose a bag of Legos each as their gifts for Jasper ‘s birthday.

Actually, we offered Jasper two bags and he said Kestrel should get one of his.

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Pixelated Lego Art

I love that boy!

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Lego dude made out of Legos

After an hour of hard choosing, including Auntie Katie finding a great book with design information and advice for the budding lego-engineer, we headed over to Blackbird Pizza for dinner and pinball. This nifty place is on the corner of 20th and Hawthorne, right next door to Dr. Locke’s House that I wrote about the other day, so Grandpa Nelson got to see the stepping stone.

Off to bed and dream of coming to see you!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunny Thanksgiving

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I spent Thanksgiving in San Diego! We got to meet so many new members of the family, and be with our friends and cousins again.

We flew from Portland to San Diego early Wednesday morning…it was cold and rainy here, but when we got off the plane it was bright and sunny! It always amazes me how just  a few hours on a plane can make such a difference.

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Park in Old Town San Diego

Auntie Bridgett’s Momma Donna picked us up and we started to work. We dusted Michael’s beautifully fancy dishes and glasses. We made bouquets of flowers for the tables. We played with babies, talked with cousins, and shopped for groceries.

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View from our window in San Diego

When the house was looking good, we headed for out hotel down by Mission Bay. What a view! In Portland, the colors are grey and yellow…cloudy skies brightened by changing leaves. In San Diego, the colors are BLUE sky and GREEN grass and trees. Of course, everyone there is on vacation, so there are lots of giggling children splashing in the pool.

Thanksgiving day was a celebration of everyone’s specialties. Cousins Isabella and Elizabeth brought origami name tags. Uncle Nick deep fried a turkey, and Uncle Matt smoked one. There was pistachio salad, corn casserole, ham, another great turkey, and two kinds of sweet potatoes, more than enough food for the 36 guests!

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Patio Thanksgiving Table

Since it was so warm, the dinner table stretched from inside he house right out onto the patio, so as the sun went down we had a beautiful view of the Bay and the sunset, then got to see the lights of the city come on.

By the end of the day we were full of good food, exhausted, and feeling very blessed to have been able to be with family.

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Sunset in San Diego

The next day we spent walking around Mission Bay, watching people and ducks playing in the water, and visiting Old Town San Diego. There is a long history there, just like in Portland, and there are markets and museums and even a house that they say is haunted. We didn’t see any ghosts, but met Steve, a docent who is a great story teller, who made the history of the Whaley House  come alive.

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Steve the docent at The Whaley House

 

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Hangar at Coronado

On our last day, Uncle Nick took us all out to Coronado and showed us the helicopters he works on. They are used for search and rescue and are much bigger than I imagined. The kids climbed in and around. It was the last amazing thing in a wonderful visit.

We finally got home after midnight Saturday, and I slept with Mouse the cat on my tummy. Auntie Katie had taken good care of her while we were away, but I think she missed us, anyway.

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Satisfied Cat

This morning we woke to rain and chilly weather, but I baked some bread and we walked out for coffee, having a good time, anyway.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Flamingo Thanksgiving

Dear Liza,

Happy Thanksgiving! I wanted to share some new things in the neighborhood with you today.

First, the Flamingos are back, but I have to wonder about them. It seems that for their Thanksgiving feast, they have roasted…a Flamingo? I hope when the holiday is over the one laying down gets up, brushes his feathers, and they all go out for brine shrimp. But you never know, with plastic lawn flamingos.

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Odd Flamingo Thanksgiving

Laurelhurst Park keeps changing. I went out in the rain and parts of the park that used to be quiet are now really loud, because the leaves are off the trees, where they provided shelter,  and on the ground, where they act like little drums and echo the rain.

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Laurelhurst Lake

The views are changing, too. You can now see from the top of the hill all the way down to the lake, because the leaves that blocked the view are gone. Dark has become light, green has become orange. I knew there would be changes in seasons, but I am still surprised.

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Tai Chi in Laurelhurst

The only people in the park today were a couple walking their dog and a tai chi class, who were all bundled up but undaunted in their energy and focus.

I am glad to have a nice warm house to come back to after a long cold walk.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Shakespeare and Nachos

Dear Liza,

Last night Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I got all bundled up and took the #20 further than we ever have, all the way to Northeast 17th and Burnside. Then we walked north to Glisan, where we found the Mission Theater, an Evangenical Mission Church that has been  renovated and turned into a restaurant and movie and live theater by McMenamin’s. This is the same company that has saved the Kennedy School, Edgefield Poor Farm, and many other beautiful old buildings here in Portland by turning them into venues that people want to visit.

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Foyer of Mission Theater

As a restaurant, the selection is limited but tasty: Nachos, hummus plates, and pizza. The wine, ale, and beer selections are good. The theater itself is well done, with curving balconies and old posters and programs on the wall, but the bathrooms are very dark. The stage isn’t big or fancy, since it is usually used for movies.

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Balcony

The performance of Shakespeare’s The Tempest was by OPS, The Original Practice Shakespeare Company. We saw them do Midsummer Night’s Dream and As You Like It in Laurelhurst Park this past summer. Each actor only learns their own part, and carries a scroll with them. Since every performance is about half improvisation, the performances are unpredictable.

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Shipwrecked Lords and Ladies

Last night was a mixed bag. The woman playing Prospero the Wizard was good and very gentle, which is unusual for that role. The woman playing Caliban was a very sympathetic monster. Some of the shipwrecked lords were quite screechy, but the story was well-told and pretty easy to understand.

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Caliban the monster leading the Lords into trouble

One thing I really like about OPS is the audience participation. When Prospero is describing how she was exiled to the island, the audience groaned in sympathy, and she looked out at us and said, “I know, lousy, right?” We got to boo and cheer and some folks even helped hold Miranda’s drawings up so the audience could see them. It is fun to be part of the show.

When Prosero had broken her staff and given up magic to return to Milan, we gathered our things and walked back down to the bus stop.What a lovely evening.

Love,

Grandma Judy