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

 

Zoo Lights

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Happy Mouse

Dear Liza,

It is still very sunny here. Mouse enjoys sitting in the south facing glass and screen door, feeling the sun and watching the bird and dog action. Fortunately, the door keeps the cold out. The low has been 32 degrees, (freezing, actually freezing) and the high temperature only 44.

 

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Cousin Kestrel reading

Last night Grandpa Nelson and I picked up the Cousins at their school. Then we walked over to Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures, and we all took the bus and train up to the Oregon Zoo for Zoolights. The train and elevator were packed with families. This is something a lot of zoos do, but it was my first time.

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Waiting for the train downtown

At the zoo, since most of the animals are asleep or in dark corners away from the fences, the trees and lights become the attraction. All sorts of animals are outlined in lights.The trees become a fantastic forest of lights with the people just moving shadows underneath. It is eerie and wonderful.

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Glowing Ostriches
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Bremen Town Musicians in lights!

It was also cold! After about an hour, we were feeling chilly and empty. We stepped into the Africafe for corn dogs, hot cocoa and some warm conversation,  and soon were feeling cheerful again. More walking, including racing a lighted cheetah, and then we were done.

Auntie Katie and her dear friend Chelsea drove the tired cousins home, and Grandpa Nelson and I took the train and bus back. The newly painted train station was quiet and almost empty.

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Beautiful train station under Washington Park
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Sparkling Forest

We will take you next year, if you come up during winter. Bring your mittens!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Confused Plants

Dear Liza,

This afternoon Auntie Bridgett and I bundled up and went for a walk around the neighborhood. We saw the usual bare trees and brilliant blue sky, a few lonely piles of leaves no one had thought to rake, and a few folks out putting up Christmas lights.

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Winter-blooming Camillia
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Winter blooming Fuschia?

But what caught me eye were flowers! Real, blooming flowers, looking amazingly lovely but out of place.

It has been near freezing every night, and not much more than during the day. We haven’t had rain in a week.

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Shasta Daisy in December…

How are these growing here? They are not in fancy greenhouses, but rather tatty looking yards, looking sort of like they forget summer was over.

I have not a clue why, but I took pictures of them to prove they were indeed here. Just another surprise up here in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?
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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Early Morning Donuts!

Dear Liza,

It was really crisp and cold this morning, which is great if you are describing celery. But 37 degrees and crystal clear are new and a bit difficult for me. However, this morning was an up and out early day, because Grandpa Nelson was out of breakfast!

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Clear and cold!

A doughnut run was needed, and as long as we were in the car, we went up to Broadway and NE 17th, to Helen Bernhard Bakery, which has what Grandpa Nelson says are “the best doughnuts in the city…and maybe the world.” The bakery is a cute little cottage building on the busy street of Broadway, just six short blocks from our favorite Tiki Bar, Hale Pele.

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A lovely little building

The bakery has all sorts of things, not just doughnuts…wedding cakes, cookies, muffins, the full range of baked yumminess. I got a cinnamon roll for me and Grandpa picked out a Christmas Tree cookie for Auntie Bridgett. The ladies who run it are very pleasant and conversational.

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Grandpa Nelson and friendly ladies with doughnuts

On the way home we stopped for gas for Miles the Volkswagen, which is only the 2nd time we have filled the car in the more than 3 months we have owned him. We simply don’t drive much….this is such a walk-able city, and buses are easier than parking if we go downtown. I love it! I have been on a freeway ONCE here in town, since July! Such a miracle.

Another thing about filling up the car: Oregon is a NON-SELF SERVICE state. State law forbids you from getting out to pump your own gas….one of the few things we have in common with New Jersey. This feels odd for a California native like me, but on a cold day like today, or a dark rainy evening, it seems like a mighty good idea.

I hope your house is feeling like Christmas and you are having lots of fun with Baba Alla. I will see you in January!

Love, Grandma Judy