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

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 justĀ  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 HouseĀ  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