To the toy store…and beyond!

Dear Liza, (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Sunday started with breakfast with a teacher friend, Vickeye Welch. We met at First Awakenings at the corner of Main and Gabilan and chatted about friends and future plans.

Once I got home,  Liza and I set out on another adventure. She had asked for some beads to make necklaces out of, and with so many local stores closing, The Club House, which is a lovely store that used to be “Educational Stuff” was the only walk-able choice.

We set our sites, packed snacks, and headed off. Knowing it was going to be a long walk, we by-passed our closest park, Hartnell Park. We continued down West Acacia, stopping to rest on the shady benches at Mission Park School.

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Chillin’ at Mission Park

Arriving at The Club House, we shopped. It is a bright and very full store, with lots of wonderful things. It was hard to stay focused! We found a Melissa and Doug wooden bead set that was designed for Liza’s age, and got that. A snack of some cheese sticks and Hawaiian Rolls, and we were raring to go.

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The Club House

Realizing the library was …..sort of….. on our way home, we walked up Main Street in that direction.

Liza enjoyed getting to climb the wonderfully old California Pepper trees on the front lawn of Salinas High School. A jig-jog through the neighborhood, and we found the John Steinbeck Library.

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Liza and the pepper tree

This is the library I took my kids when they were small, and it is well maintained. There are computers for kids to work and play on, a toy area with kitchen and play food, and of course, books. We checked out Pete the Cat and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?,  then Liza made me a pretend snack of soup and a sandwich, and we headed off again.

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Full view of pepper tree!

Passing Hartnell College, Liza recognized the home of her new friend, the Panther! So we visited for a while, playing with the long afternoon shadows.

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Liza and John Steinbeck

As usual, the last leg of the journey was the hardest. The wind picked up and the sun went behind some clouds, and it got cold! We plowed on, stopping for a few minutes at Hartnell Park before trudging the last block home.

Fun with shadows!

Being in the nice warm house took all our energy away, and we both were asleep very soon. The nap revived us in time for dinner… and I know I’m going to sleep well tonight!


Grandma Judy


Old Friends

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Liza and my hat

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),


The very best thing about being in Salinas is seeing my old dear friends. I sometimes find them randomly. The other day a former student, Jesus, was buying cookies at Blue Aces Bakery where another old friend, Katrina, is working. Out for a walk, I ran into Mr. Rossi and his wife.

Neighborhood Squirrel

But today it was planned. I had a lunch date  with Pat Van Noy, a teacher who had retired by the time I met her 15 years ago. It was cloudy as I walked down Acacia Street and Main Streets to Ellie’s All American Restaurant on South Main Street, not quite two miles away, but sunny and pretty warm by the time I got there.

Pat and I talked about her life, taking care of her son’s two chihuahuas,  playing bridge, and singing in her choir. We talked about mine, getting used to teaching again and how I am adjusting to living in Salinas. We have teaching in common, so we talked about students and classroom troubles and administrators.

Pat at a Christmas Party a while back…Photo credit: Bridgett Spicer

But it always came back to “You seem to be having such fun.” And I am. My dad always said that the world was pretty wonderful, and if you weren’t having a good time it was your own darn fault, and I feel very much the same way. I work hard…we all do. But that means we are being useful. Doing a hard job that I love keeps me mentally active and walking all over town keeps me strong.

I feel very fortunate to have had the chance to live in Salinas, then leave it, and then come back for a short stay. It gives me perspective and lets me visit the people I love.

Off for more adventures today!


Grandma Judy





Dear Liza, (and Jasper and Kestrel),

I have been a teacher for almost 30 years, and I love it because every day is different. Some days are more awful, some less. Today was one of the rare almost perfect days.

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How we fit it all in….

In my fourth grade class, we are starting to learn about geology and the changes that happen to the earth over long periods of time. While looking in a book at the library, I found an activity that I knew the kids would like and would help them understand how sedimentary rocks form. If only I could pull it off!

Supplies (we didn’t use the oil…)

First, I needed to get supplies. Because of the closing of Beverly’s Fabrics in Old Town Salinas, we needed to go to several different stores to find plaster of Paris. That and styrofoam cups where the purchased supplies. Jo-Ann’s crafts and fabric saved the day! For the objects to be fossilized in the sedimentary rocks, Liza and I made a hasty search in her backyard for small sticks, leaves, and flower petals. This morning, a nice fifth grader fetched sand from the play yard for me, and I found some beans in a math game I don’t use anymore.

Getting 25 kids to handle goopy plaster of Paris in a classroom without getting it all over is tricky…we had to take turns and stay out of the way of the folks working. There was an assembly, library time, and Fun Friday to work around, but we did it.

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Hands at work

By the end of the day every student had poured three separate layers of plaster of Paris into their cup, with something different fossilized between each layer. The cups will rest on the back table until Monday, when we will cut the cups and reveal the rocks! I have a feeling I should take some small hammers, for those who want to see the inside.

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Rocks resting for the weekend

This is my last few months teaching, and I am getting a little misty about leaving. I know there are other adventures to be had, but nothing that gets out there and changes lives as much as teaching.

I will miss it.


Grandma Judy


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Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

One thing that is different about Salinas from Portland is that it is warmer here. January in Portland is a stay-inside month, mostly. It tends to be very wet and cold. But here, your daddy set up the Solo fire pit in the backyard and we all spent an hour outside!

The little fire pit is made of metal and designed to let lots of air in to help the fire burn. It was so pretty watching it in the dark. We bundled up a little, but no umbrellas were required.

And of course, if there is fire, there must be … marshmallows! Bamboo sticks and marshmallows came out and we practiced roasting. Close enough, but not too close, or you get a burning wad of sticky charcoal.

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Roasting practice

Once we got the hang of that, your daddy brought out graham crackers and chocolate for S’mores! It is very tricky to hold a melty marshmallow, slice of chocolate and cracker altogether, but we will get better as we practice.

Mommy balancing a s’more

After we had enjoyed some s’mores, you and I practiced fencing with the sticky sticks. Cross, cross, touch…like slow motion Musketeers. Then you discovered you could put the sticks between the boards of the porch and make a marshmallow tree!

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Marshmallow tree

It is so much fun being here!


Grandma Judy

Steinbeck Adventure

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Monday was a holiday from school, so Liza and I went on an adventure. We started in the morning, when it was cold enough we needed our jackets. We stopped by Hartnell Park first, to play for a while. We met an old friend of Liza’s, Victor, who can speak a little Russian.

Off for our Adventure!

Our next stop was Hartnell College. We watched folks play tennis and found some interesting statues. We had fun with the Panther, who was carved in 1934! He has been here being adorable all these years. We found a girl walking with her mommy, and she and Liza played with the Panther for a while.







Friend and Panther



Once we got downtown, we found The National Steinbeck Center. It is a huge museum that tells all about John Steinbeck and the books he wrote. It has a red pony to ride and comb, and a house like one the people lived in in a story called “Sweet Thursday”.

Working with The Red Pony

We spent an hour at the Center, and got hungry! Farm Fresh deli got us back on track, and we went back into the Center. Liza wanted to celebrate a “Pretend Birthday” in the pipe house, so we did. What a great time!

Pipe House Birthday

Once we were just worn out, we headed home, stopping by Blue Aces Bakery to get a snack. We chatted with Adrian and her assistant, who happens to be a girl named Katrina that I knew when she was little.

We walked back by Hartnell College, when Liza had a nice rest on the Panther’s back. She didn’t want to leave the Panther behind, so she hooked it up to a pretend leash and it quietly followed us home.


A Girl and Her Panther

Then, nap time!!!


Grandma Judy

Putting a Leash on the Panther


Sunny Day in Monterey

Captain Portola

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Sunday was such a sunny day, Grandpa Nelson and I decided to go to the beach in Monterey. We parked by Jack’s Park baseball diamond and walked down Alvarado Street. We had a delightful chicken Cobb salad at The Melville Tavern, a woodsy place right by the East Village Inn Coffee and MY Children’s Museum.

In downtown Monterey we saw statues of Captain Portola and Doc Ricketts, famous people from the past. The Captain helped discover the city and Doc was a marine biologist and ecologist, and a good friend of the author, John Steinbeck.

Doc Ricketts, by the train tracks where he died

We headed down to the Recreation Trail and enjoyed seeing some new construction. The Monterey Bay Aquarium is expanding its educational branch and is building a large place to house them. The crane was enormous!

Santa Rosalia

We found more statues, of a pelican, of St. Rosalia (who protects fishermen) and even a statue of John Steinbeck and some friends. I liked this one, because there was a fine hawk perched right on Mr. Steinbeck’s head! Cracked me up.

John Steinbeck and hawk

As we got to Cannery Row, Grandpa Nelson wanted a chocolate milkshake from Ghirardelli. We sat on the balcony and watched folks playing in the sand below, and wanted to join them. Grandpa Nelson took his shoes off, but I left mine on. We walked and watched kids climb on rocks and waves crash. It was wonderful!

Once we got back to the car, I investigated how far we had walked: over 3 and a half miles! We drove home and I helped with laundry, had a nap, and had some left over pizza. Uncle David says we can use the fire pit and makes s’mores once Auntie Olga and Liza are back from their day out.

Grandpa Nelson’s happy bare feet



Oh, boy!


Grandma Judy

Old Friends

Dear Liza (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Down here in Salinas, we had more Christmas presents waiting for us. Auntie Olga’s Mom Alla got a new kippah for Grandpa Nelson, and it looks wonderful!

Handsome Grandpa Nelson

I am having fun getting to know Salinas again. Grandpa Nelson and I went walking and found some old friends, a Tiny Free Library and Squirrels, both just like we have in Portland.

Tiny Free Library

We have been eating at our favorite places, too. We had Mexican food at Michael’s in Old Town Salinas. I haven’t found Mexican food this good in Portland. Maybe I need to keep looking.

Uncle David and Liza

Last night we got dressed up and went to dinner at Patria, our favorite spot in Old Town. They have great food, friendly people, and their house wine is called Troublemaker and is delicious.


We also visited people friends. Rick showed us his model of Notre Dame Cathedral that he had made for Christmas. I told him and the family all about Portland and they caught me up on news here.



Rick his Cathedral

I am glad I will be here all spring!


Grandma Judy