Making it a Home

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Slowly, the new house on 33rd Avenue is becoming our home. The kitchen is set up, and I have made a few lunches there….reheating chicken soup and bread and a few burritos. I’ve mixed some dough baked chocolate chip cookies, although they weren’t as good as usual (because my recipe book with all the improvements is in Salinas) I was able to make some bread in the little bird style Liza and I were looking at, and it turned out really well. Auntie Bridgett and I even chopped a bunch of apples, raisins and walnuts to make haroset, a favorite Passover food. Lots of cinnamon makes it spicy, and a splash of red wine makes it all meld together. Yummy!

Grandpa Nelson wants the house to be as “new” as possible when we move in, so he arranged to have the air conditioning, heater, vacuum system, and carpets professionally cleaned. No old leftover dust for us! We get to make our own dust!

We have moved over the yard decorations, like the geraniums in pots and Grandma Billie’s “Welcome to my Garden” sign and a few gnomes, except one which has been secretly placed in the flamingos’ yard, as a way of saying thanks for all the joy those silly birds have given us while we lived in this part of the neighborhood.

Today I plan to re-pot our Norfolk pine, named Tiny Tim (because he did NOT die) into the pot our Japanese Maple, named Marley, after the Jamaican singer, has just vacated. Poor Marley didn’t survive the heat of last summer and his larger pot will allow Tiny Tim to carry on more successfully.

It makes sense, literarily speaking…. In Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s partner Jacob Marley dies and his ghost coms back to tell Scrooge he must change his greedy ways or he will suffer after death. This change allows Scrooge to help the Cratchit family, so Tiny Tim doesn’t die. So Marley dying the save Tiny Tim is poetic.

I only have a few more days here in Portland before I go back to Salinas to finish the school year. When I return in June, my home will be set up and lived in, and the cat will be happily enjoying sunny afternoons in the balcony. and then another adventure begins.


Grandma Judy

Illustrated Poetry

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Even though the moving people don’t come to move the furniture until next Wednesday, we are making countless trips with boxes for the new house. Since the kitchen is “my domain”, as Grandpa Nelson says, I need to get it set up so I can find things when I move back up in June. I think he is afraid of lost baking equipment delaying cookie production, but I am happy to get it organized.

In addition, yesterday I made four trips back and fourth on foot, new house to old house and back again. The walk is only about 10 minutes and the spring color is worth every step. I have decided to use one if my favorite poems, and my own photographs, to express my joy in the season. I apologize ahead of time for any errors in spacing. This is special poetry.

INJUST by e.e. Cummings

In Just-

Spring when the world is mud-

Lucious the little lame

Balloon man

Whistles far and wee

And eddieandbill come

running from marbles and piracies and



When the world is puddle- wonderful

The queer

old balloon man


far and wee

and bettyandisbell come dancing

From hopscotch and jump-rope and





goat footed

balloon man whistles


and wee


Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

My adult years have been a long and changing relationship with stuff.

In 1974, when I moved out of my parent’s house to live in a tiny apartment near California Sate University at Long Beach, I took a twin bed, a box of hand-me-down kitchen utensils, the stereo I had gotten for my sixteenth birthday, a box of books and some records, and a small suitcase of clothes. No stuffties. No ceramic figurines. No high school sentimentality. I was over all that.

Within the year I had married my high school sweetheart and we moved to a new apartment. It was bigger. It felt settled.

It felt empty. During a visit to Momma, I asked about….. my stuff. The stuffties. The ceramics. The sentimentality. Sure, she said. They’re right here, in this box. I figured you’d want them someday. God bless Momma!

Over the years I collected more stuff. Books, records, dishes, electronics, records, 8 tracks, DVD’s. Valuables. Imagined wealth. Stuff. And since we were doing well financially, we usually moved into a bigger place, with more room for our more stuff, so it wasn’t an issue. If there wasn’t a shelf or place for something, it just stayed in its box in the garage. My imagined wealth was being stored in the warehouse with the Holy Grail at the end of Indiana Jones.

Over the course of the years, I ran the Temple Rummage Sale, handling tons of really nice stuff. Friends moved away and I was in charge of getting rid of their stuff. Momma passed and your mommy Katie curated her stuff. Auntie Bridgett moved in and brought her stuff. We culled some duplicates, switched new clothes for old, but mostly just kept getting more. Every Christmas brought ten new books into the house. Mother’s Day brought new vases from lovely flower arrangements. Art projects became tables and chairs.

And then we decided to move to Portland. Our original intention was to by a lovely old Victorian and spread out in it, but the money from our Salinas home wouldn’t stretch that far. We looked at bigger houses further out of town, but I had lived in the suburbs for most of my life and wanted to be closer to the heart of the city. We signed on a smaller condominium within five blocks of many of our favorite places, and near the bus line to a dozen more. It has many wonderful features. A cute kitchen, hardwood floors, high ceilings.

Tiny garage. No more Indiana Jones warehouse. We are making hard choices about stuff. I am feeling like 1974 again. But this time I am remembering the sentimental stuff. I guess it’s all about balancing who I was with who I am. And maybe, who I want to be.


Grandma Judy

To the Coast …and back again!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

As you can see, I am posting even without my big computer! Clever Auntie Bridgett taught me how to upload photos with my iPad! What would I do without my wonderful people?

After sightseeing to the north of Tillamook on Saturday, on Sunday we headed south! First we all had breakfast in our tiny house at Sheltered Nook, took Bridgett to the “Ice Hangar” at the Tillamook Air Museum, and headed towards Lincoln City.

The day was much sunnier than the day before, but still cold enough that we needed coats and hats. The views from the cliffs were spectacular, and it seemed we were living inside every postcard of the Oregon Coast. Since highway 101 also runs a bit inland, we got to see the forest as it was waking up from winter. Huge meadows had become daffodil farms and were blooming in yellow and white stripes. Bare birch trees arching over the road promised a green tunnel when they leaf of in a week or so.

food today was a mixed bag. The pastries at My Petite Sweet in Lincoln City were wonderful, but at The Dory, just north of town, we got burnt, limp french fries and and over-sized, over dressed “chicken wrap” that was almost inedible.

When it was time to leave to ocean, we stood for a while and just stared. The lacy skirts of the Pacific Ocean ruffled along the beaches, as though the grand lady Pacifica were gently perched on the Hawaiian Islands, her majestic blue skirts flowing around her.

Back in Tillamook, Nelson decided he wanted some decent food. We stopped at the Dutch Mill Diner, which was a 50’s style diner in all the best ways. The black and white checkered floor tiles and red leather bar stools were visually satisfying. The music of my childhood sang out about how hard it was to be a teenager in love. And the whole place was run by extended family members. Youngest cousin Elijah made the wonderful milkshakes and his mentor cousin, whose name I didn’t catch, was our waitress. It was a delightful stop before we went to fetch Bridgett from the Comic Con and head back to Portland.

Back at our rental home, we had a simple dinner (I got to cook!) and slept. Tomorrow we work!!

And we did. We started pulling kitchen stuff from the many unpacked boxes so I could set up the kitchen like I want it before I head back to Salinas. It is a smaller kitchen so we are needing to be more selective. I think maybe our fourth and fifth cutting boards and five pounds of plastic containers may have to go by the wayside….but it is a small price to pay for such a nice place IN such a nice place. We made a lot of trips up and down all. Those. Stairs.

After dinner, we realized we were done for the day. We left boxes half packed and got into pajamas, and watched a documentary on people who raise chickens for shows. These were delightfully odd folks who dedicate their lives to breeding, raising, endlessly washing and showing their fancy breed chickens, such as silver lace Wyandottes and feather-leg Brahmas.

A wonderfully irrelevant way to drift off to sleep.


Grandma Judy

To the Coast

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I am back in Portland! I flew in Friday after Uncle David fed me a tasty dinner at Nemea Greek restaurant in San Jose and dropped me at the airport. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett hugged me as soon as I got off the plane and didn’t stop until we got to our NEW house! It was my first time in it, but it felt like home. It has three floors, with the garage and an office on the bottom, living, dining, kitchen and a bathroom on the second, and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The painters have come and gone, making major improvements and one mistake, which Auntie Bridgett will tell them about today. (Oops. Sorry painters, she’s gonna go all artsy on ya.)

Back in our rental, which has been home for eight months, we slept soundly and woke up early to head for the Oregon Coast Comic Con in Tillamook. We met Jack Kent and his wife Verity at Coco’s Doughnuts on the west side and then caravanned over the hills to the coast. At 2,000 feet, there was snow!!! Real snow, piled up by the road, carpeting the forest, decorating the trees, looking more like a Christmas card than Easter week. It even snowed on us, a bit.

Once we were out of the mountains, the snow turned to rain and the rich dairyland of Tillamook spread out green and wet all around us. We drove to the Tillamook Air Museum, which is in a blimp hangar from World War II, the largest wooden structure in the United States. Impressive from the outside, it was cavernous, dark and COLD inside. Artists were setting up their tables still bundled up for the 39 degree outside temperature. Grandpa Nelson and I helped Auntie Bridgett set up, then headed off to see what we could see.

Tucked into our nice warm car (with heated seats!) we drove up the Oregon Coast on Highway 101. Wonderfully wet views of the forest and the ocean ruled the day. I got out for a few short excursions, but 35 degree rain isn’t conducive to strolling along the beach. I had my third breakfast (I have Hobbit ancestry, I believe) at The Pirate’s Cove in Garibaldi. Breaded and fried Clams and eggs, made with local clams AND local eggs! Yummy!

We reached lovely Cannon Beach, bundled up, and walked along the main drag. It is cute and, in Summer, full of families having summer fun with ice cream, beach toys and sun screen. Today, everyone was after fleece jackets and hot tea. We stopped at Tom’s Classic burgers to get Grandpa Nelson some french fries. We will return another time to browse the shops selling recycled driftwood and other flotsam, shops with names like “Washed Ashore” and “Found”, with the “U” made from a rusty horse shoe.

Driving back south, we found our reserved lodging for the night, one of a collection of tiny houses called Sheltered Cove. We had reserved one for us, and Jack and Verity had one for themselves across the way. Our hosts, Hank and Dee, checked us in along with their friendly and protective standard poodles, Mook and Red. The house was adorable! Not more than 500 square feet, it had a living, kitchen, bathroom and queen sized bed downstairs, and two queen sized beds in a loft upstairs. It felt light and airy, not cramped at all, and had plenty of room for us and our stuff.

When the Comic Con closed for the day at 5:00, a nearly frozen Bridgett hitched a ride home with Jack and Verity, and we got her tea and warm socks until it was time to go to the Pacific Restaurant. The food was great but the service a bit slow, and our view was of the heavy equipment involved in major street repair downtown. But Jack and Verity always make for lively conversation!

Back in our sheltered no, we slept like rocks. More adventures tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

Heading North

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

trees with green fuzz.jpg
Tiny green fuzz on the trees

Friday is my last day of teaching school before spring vacation, and I am heading north to Portland. I will see Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett, our new home, and YOU GUYS!

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Tulip in the morning

Uncle David will drive me to the airport. I hope there are no silly storms to delay my flight.

It has been very Spring weather here…flurries of rain, gusts of wind to carry away a small child, and cool sunshine coming from behind blindingly white cumulus clouds.

open tulip.jpg
Tulip in the afternoon

Buds are budding, trees are blooming, bulbs are sprouting. It is lovely. I look forward to seeing what Spring looks like in our neighborhood in Portland!

I probably won’t be writing for the time I am in Portland. My computer, which I use to write and insert the pictures, is too expensive to ship for the short stay, so I will be without.

I hope I can see you soon and tell you all about my adventures in Salinas! Or, since you are clever children, you can read them for yourselves.


Grandma Judy


Spring Field Trip

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Spring has sprung, but it is also dripping, blooming, and blowing! But we are not letting that stop us. Today was the fourth grade’s walking field trip to Hartnell College to watch the children’s theater show, The Princess who Lost her Hair.

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Daffodils peeking

The weather was windy and cool, but 75  kids, 8 parents, and three teachers headed off from University Park School. We walked through the neighborhood to stay off Central, where the sidewalks are still being reconstructed after the trees were removed, and off West Alisal, a very busy street. Once we got to the Theater Arts building we went right in. We were the only class coming, so we had the whole theater to ourselves. We got the first through 6th rows…great seats! Every student got their own program, and most read about the actors and story before the play started.

A line of fourth graders

The play was performed by 6 performers, 5 of whom were kids. It was an African folktale about a sad but vain princess who believes that her long, beautiful hair is her only source of strength. When a bird asks for a few strands for its nest, she rudely refuses and sends the bird away. The bird, being magical, causes a terrible drought in the land.

In the audience!

A kind beggar woman goes to find the bird and help resolve the problem, having her own adventure along the way. In the end, the Princess and the beggar woman become friends and rule the country together. It is a lovely story of the consequences of vanity and pride, and the need to be kind and respectful to everyone.There was enough music, theatrical magic and silliness in the play to be very entertaining.

As a fan of the theater, I could enjoy the play because the students were behaving so well. As a teacher, I enjoyed the fact that my students could pay respectful attention to live theater.

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The Set of the Princess Who Lost Her Hair

We got back to school without getting wet, and enjoyed the rest of the day writing about the trip and doing our mosaics.

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Kylie’s Garden

During my afternoon, I realized that it was 5 years this week that my Momma passed away. It was that same day that I lost a dear student, Kylie Casada, to brain cancer. Momma’s memorial is her family and the flowers we grow from her garden. Kylie’s memorial is a garden at University Park, which has just this week started blooming. Heather, daffodils and a cherry tree are opening up to remind us that life is beautiful, and that it goes on.

Spring is a time of new beginnings.


Grandma Judy