Happy Birthday, Nelson!

Dear Liza,

Your Grandpa Nelson had his 68th birthday Wednesday, and we had a wonderful time.

We drove south down the Willamette Valley to Salem, the capital of Oregon. It is much smaller than Portland, even smaller than where we used to live in Salinas! But it is a very pretty city.

First, we stopped for lunch at a McMenamin’s restaurant that we had never been to, the historic Boone’s Treasury, just north of Salem. It was charming and delicious, with a nice patio. We had a lovely ceiling of maple leaves just coming out in their spring colors.

After lunch we drove into town and to the Riverfront City Park, 23 acres of lawns, trees, statues, an amphitheater, a nature preserve, a bridge over the Willamette Slough, and miles of waking and biking trails.

The biggest surprise was this larger-than-life statue of Tom McCall, a former governor of Oregon who was ferocious about protecting Oregon’s natural resources. Two of Mr. McCall’s projects were keeping our beaches open to everyone and a bill to make recycling become law in Oregon. It makes sense that his statue would be in this lovely natural area, and that it shows him fishing.

This enormous mosaic covered globe caught my eye. It needs some repair, but it is beautiful.

We walked across the pedestrian bridge onto Minta Brown Island along with dozens of other folks out enjoying the day. Bikes, dogs, kids and folks even older than us were all out and about.

Our last stop in the park was the beautiful carousel, which was hand-carved and hand-painted by dozens of volunteers and craftsmen. It was a true labor of love.

We walked into town and had ice cream at Momma Dulce’s. Silly Bridgett had a lick of mine and we were much refreshed.

When we had seen all we could see, braved the highway traffic and gotten home, Grandpa opened his present from Bridgett’s Mom Donna, which was some bottles of tasty wine. We had a small glass each and settled into couch for a relaxing birthday evening.


Grandma Judy

A Birthday Lunch in Lake Oswego

Dear Liza,

This past Monday was our friend Amy’s birthday! We headed down to Lake Oswego to have lunch with her to celebrate.

Amy lives in the hills above the lake, and there are inspiring views of Mount Hood as you make the turn to head east. Bridgett pulled over so I could get this nice picture.

It was our hottest day so far, predicted to get to 96 degrees. We knew we would be looking for shade and cold drinks. Amy lead us to Holy Tacos, where we got a table in the shade, yummy cold horchata to drink and spicy tacos for lunch. It was delicious and delightful.

There are lots of sculptures around the Plaza by the lake.

I love how they work with the landscape and buildings when you look at them from different angles.

Lake Oswego was smooth like glass, with not a single boat on it. It was awful pretty, though. Perfect for posing!

We hadn’t walked very far in the sun before it was time to cool down. We stopped at St. Honore Bakery for some iced tea and shade. Auntie Bridgett took this opportunity to help Amy learn about her birthday present, a brand new Apple watch. There are so many applications, it takes a while to know what it can do!

We chatted and laughed and just enjoyed each other’s company, like friends do. What a fine day! Happy birthday, Amy!


Grandma Judy

Dear PeeVee

Dear Liza,

Today I am writing about our dear friend Pat van Noy, whom we call Peevee. It is her birthday!

I met Peevee about 20 years ago when she came to University Park Elementary School as a reading coach. She had taught in her own classroom for years, and, one last day of school, she decided to quit. She took a few years off, discovered she missed the kids, and came back to work part time.

We got to be friends and had so much fun together we just kept getting together. I met her son John, who has a different last name, working for a service group in town.

“You teach at University Park?” He asked. “You must know my Mom!”

“Who’s that?” I asked.

“Pat van Noy.” He answered.

I was so pleased. “She’s my favorite old broad!”

“Mine, too.” He said, and we got to be friends, as well.

She came to parties at our house and got to know Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson, and, of course, Harold the Stufftie. When we traveled to France and sent emails to friends, Peevee printed them all out and put them in a three ring binder for us to keep. It was so thoughtful! Because of her, we can re-visit our first impressions of Europe way back in 2008.

And Liza, when you got born and were big enough to visit, she got to know you, too.

Happy birthday, Peeves! I wish I could celebrate with you.


Grandma Judy

A Fun, Delicious Birthday

Dear Liza,

I turned 66 on Saturday and had a fine time doing it. I woke up early and did my French lesson as usual, then Auntie Bridgett and I took the red wagon and walked to The Portland Nursery. I was looking for tomato plants, but was told that it was too early to put them in the ground and I should come back in April or early May.

Oh, well. Patience is a virtue. And we did find lots of potting soil, herb plants and other things we could use now.

Back home, I opened presents. Auntie Bridgett’s Momma Donna sent me a beautiful and useful bag for my gardening tools. I will be the gardening Queen!

Auntie Bridgett had found an adorable Amelia Opie painting called Therapy Cats at SideStreet Arts Gallery, and we got it hung on the wall. I felt like the richest woman in the world, but the day wasn’t over yet.

That evening, we headed down to La Moule for a delicious French dinner. Duck Confit, Tuna ceviche, absinthe, red wine from Bordeaux and a chocolate mousse absolutely topped off the day.

And after dinner, we walked a ways through the neighborhood to enjoy the magic of lights in darkness. I am now older, richer, and a little heavier. And very, very happy.


Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday Jasper!

Dear Liza,

Cousin Jasper turned 12 last Saturday!

Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave and the Cousins all met us down at Pastini Pastoria on Division Street. Our waiter, Austin, took good care of us. He took our picture. He made sure we had wine and pasta. He made sure we had a knife for the birthday cake I made and brought in. He was funny and efficient and made Auntie Bridgett a tasty Lemondrop cocktail.

We chatted and laughed, playing with words and being silly, like we always do.

Since all of us, including the kids, are vaccinated and boosted, we felt comfortable enough to be in a room that was pretty full of folks. Then this morning, I read that a new virus variant may cause more lockdowns. Well, poop.

So, life is unpredictable. We knew this. The greatest intelligence, said Darwin, is the ability to adapt. So we will adapt and see you at the other end of whatever is coming up.
Stay happy!


Grandma Judy

Pasta and Goblincore

Dear Liza,

Last Thursday, Cousin Kestrel turned ten years old, and we had a family party at Pastini Pastaria, down on Division.

A few weeks before her birthday, I had asked Auntie Katie what sort of things Kestrel was interested in now, so I could make her something nice. Tastes change quickly at her age. A few years ago it was Princess Kittens.

Kestrel, her crown, and her cake

But now, Kestrel is interested in Goblincore. This is an interesting style and philosophy, combining a love of nature and magic with a darker understanding of death and decay. Think fairies, but with ravens, slugs, and bones. It is as interesting a contradiction as Kestrel herself.

Auntie Katie worked with friend Chelsea and Kestrel to make the magnificent cake. It was chocolate with macha filling, and was decorated to look like the forest floor. Fondant roots wound around merengue mushrooms and a fondant frog. Cracked bark made from milk chocolate covered the edge.

Keeping with the theme, I made Kes a bag to carry her Goblincore stuff in, for when she goes foraging for herbs or crystals. The body of the bag is a hood from an old coat of my Momma Billie. I embroidered it with plants, water, and a moon, to reflect the darker aesthetic of Goblincore.

Inside, I put some of my own collected treasures. Small bags hold shells, moss, lavender, and shiny stones. Lemon verbena and rosemary bundles are handy for use and crow feathers are tied to the outside.

And to complete the picture, Auntie Bridgett made a card with birthday snails! It was adorable.

Seeing my grandchildren grow and become such delightful people is one of the best things about getting old, and makes it all worthwhile. I hope I can see you on your next birthday, too!


Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday to Me!

Dear Liza,

Hey, it’s my birthday! I am a very happy 65 years old today!
I have had a very happy life. It started with fun parents….

A delightful husband….

And two very awesome kids, with a side order of grandkids and a delightful daughter in law.

Less expected but very necessary was an amazing partner in crime (and art and nonsense)….

And much beloved friends….

I’ve gotten back in touch with long ago friends…

I’ve gotten to do the job I loved for thirty years, and then retire to do a bunch of other stuff!

And I’ve gotten to travel, meeting childhood icons…. and seeing the wonders of Europe.

Every day isn’t perfect, and the world isn’t perfect (yet). But I am sure enjoying the ride!


Grandma Judy

A Smokey Birthday

Dear Liza,

All our birthdays this year have been affected by the corona virus shutdown. But Auntie Bridgett’s had the added Barbecue flavor of the horrendous fires that are raging in California, Oregon, and Washington.

Bears say Happy Birthday!!

Because of the smoke, Portland is experiencing Hazardous air. Yep. Lately, it hasn’t been safe to go into a restaurant, or store, without a mask. Now, it’s not safe to go out, period. Our regular masks won’t help.

New technology holder…

So Auntie Bridgett’s birthday was a stay-inside affair. Presents were opened, including a giant book of everything from the Picasso museum in Paris, a fabulous bag, and a new doo-hickey to help her film her how-to videos.

Giant Picasso Book!

French Cooking radio played as we had a two woman painting party, inspired by “Ball Players on the Beach” by Picasso. We have such different styles, but we sure had fun!

The inspiration….


My take…
Auntie Bridgett’s take…

A quiet afternoon gave way to dinner plans. Since Paris was on our minds, we put it on the menu by ordering delivery from La Moule, a French place down on Clinton. A giant bowl of mussels in white wine, crusty baguettes, pate, and a nice red wine made for a filling, French-feeling meal.

French dinner….

A game of Scrabble, a Giants loss, and a Baking show, and it was time to say goodnight to this weirdest (so far) birthday.

Bears and cats make it all okay….


Grandma Judy

Weather or Not, We’re Going!!

Dear Liza,

Monterey, when it’s cold,

Every year, for my birthday, I go to the beach. In Southern California, where I grew up, it was always, always sunny. When we lived in Salinas, the beach at Monterey was often cloudy or even rainy and cold in March. I didn’t care. I went and walked in the wind and rain, loving the ocean. I’m sure it loved me right back, too.

And when it shines!

This year we were shut down for my birthday, and Grandpa Nelson’s, too. We were both missing the ocean a lot, but all the Oregon coastal beaches have been closed to keep people from congregating and risk spreading the virus. Even when the beach towns like Cannon Beach opened, they asked people from Portland NOT to come, because Portland still had too many cases.

Portland during the shutdown…

But now, our county and city are opening up! Restaurants are washing windows and setting up tables. And since our city is healthy, we don’t feel as though we are endangering the places we visit the lovely Oregon Coast.

The only problem is that we are now in the middle of our “second winter”. We had bright skies and warm sunshine weeks ago, custom made for long walks and taking pictures. Now, we have had three days of rain and cooler temperatures.

Storm clouds coming!

I don’t care! Tomorrow, we pack up Miles, our midnight blue Volkswagen Golf, with coats, umbrellas and boots, and head off for the beach!



Grandma Judy

Jasper Turns Ten!

Dear Liza,

Your oldest cousin Jasper, the fellow who started this whole Grandma Judy thing, turned ten last week. We celebrated this momentous anniversary at Blackbird Pizza, at the corner of SE 20th and Hawthorne. They have several things to recommend them.

Christmas lights on the way to pizza…

First, they are close by. Even on a near-freezing evening, Grandpa Nelson and I walked there. We took the umbrella to make sure it didn’t rain (you know how that goes) and had a chance to see the Christmas lights going up in the neighborhood.

Second, Blackbird makes really good pizza. Since there would be seven kids and five adults, we ordered two large pies, one plain cheese and one “Proctor Special” as the kids call it. This has pepperoni, olives, pineapple and basil. Weird, yes, but definitely good! We also got some yummy Malbec wine for the grownups.


Third, there are games, video games on the first floor and pinball on the mezzanine. The kids played with pocketfuls of quarters.

Uncle Dave brought cupcakes, candles and matches, and lit up the dessert. I was amazed at how pleasant this party was… no drama, no fussy eaters, no overly tired kids losing their cool. I guess everyone is growing up. It is a good step.

Lighting up dessert

When it was time to head home, we bundled up and headed back up the hill, warmed by love of family, a little wine, and woolen sweaters.


Grandma Judy