Adulting at the Zoo

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett worked all day at the SideStreet Gallery today, so Grandpa Nelson and I went to the Portland Zoo, taking the number 15 bus and Red Line train. Of course, we have been to the zoo with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, but going with just grown ups is a whole different experience. We were like our own island of calm in a sea of chatting, fussing, small people.

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Masai Giraffe

It was a perfectly Portland fall day, cool and cloudy but not raining. The animals were mostly up and about and, since I had no children to keep track of, I could really enjoy the critters.

On our way to the giraffes, which are Grandpa Nelson’s favorites, we stopped at the Columbus monkey enclosure. There was quite a crowd watching the new baby, sitting on a branch with his mom and learning to handle branches. His balance was precarious and every time the branch shifted, the crowd gasped. After a few minutes the father came over, and the baby became much less adventurous, seeming to keep Momma between himself and Big Dad.

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Baby Colobus monkey keeps an eye on Dad

The giraffes were delightful, walking elegantly around their enclosure, or leaning gracefully down for a drink. Grandpa Nelson says he likes them because they are quiet.

Having no children to keep track of, I got to watch everyone else’s. This was a zoo-going experience, too, watching this species of small human interact. I loved seeing the kids play with Jim Gion’s bronze sculpture group called Lunch Break, especially this little guy trying to be a cub.

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Cubs

It was also fun to see older siblings explain things to little brothers and sisters. “See this snake? See how you are red? He can tell you’re not a rock, so he can eat you!” And, on cue, the little brother squeals.

Heat sensing snake

Something I had never seen was an elephant enjoying a swim in the big pool. A keeper was fielding questions and telling us all about elephants, while we watched this giant animal duck and squirt in the water like you do in your bathtub. I imagine it’s about has hard to get him out, too, when it is time!

We noticed that the zoo is already getting ready for Zoo Lights, a wonderful night event held in December where the zoo is open very late and all the trees are lit up, and animals made of neon tubes glow and move. It takes weeks to take the lights down after the holidays, more time to refurbish them, and then another few months to put them all back up. But it is a delightful, if chilly, outing that we will certainly do again this year.

Getting ready for Zoo Lights

By the afternoon we were worn out and got back home for snacks and naps, because we had a date for the evening, as well. Auntie Katie’s book store, Books with Pictures, was sponsoring a showing of the 1984 movie, “Supergirl”, at the Hollywood Theater. I had never seen it, since in 1984 I was up to my eyeballs raising your Daddy David and Auntie Katie.

It was exciting to see Katie in her element, sharing her love of comics with a theater full of people. The movie wasn’t fabulous, but it did feature three strong female characters: Supergirl, Lucy Lane (Lois’s younger sister) and the villain, Selena, played by Faye Dunaway in all her evil glory. We enjoyed the silly camp and headed home, totally worn out.

Auntie Katie presenting SuperGirl

For being retired, I am certainly not bored! As my dad always said, “If you’re not having fun, it’s your own darn fault.”

Love,

Grandma Judy

South to Clinton

Dear Liza,img_0387.jpg

With cooler weather coming on (although it is sunny today) I decided it is time to start thinking about how I’m going to keep busy when it gets too cold to go for long walks. I have started knitting, but what I really love is making quilts. So I need to find some fabric.

Hunting online for fabric shops, I found the ones I already know about, The Whole Nine Yards, which only carries upholstery and drapery fabrics, and Cool Cottons, which carries only cotton/polyester blends. I want a store where I can find heavier and lighter fabrics, cottons and blends, corduroy and sheers, all in one place. I want to be able to see all the fabrics before I buy any of them.img_0393.jpg

A bit further away I found Josephine’s Dry Goods, about a mile and a half south on Clinton Street. I dropped Auntie Bridgett at Luke’s Frame Shop and headed off.

Along the way, I saw some lovely things and made some discoveries. These beautiful red balls that I have been seeing are actually dogwood tree seeds, and there is another sweet chestnut tree at 26th and Division.

Just past the sweet chestnut tree, I smelled something delicious and realized it was lunch time, so I stopped at La Panza Cafe, It is a small New Mexican place that doesn’t look like much from the outside. I was made to feel at home by the young waiter, whose name I carelessly forgot to ask.

From their lunch menu (though you can get breakfast all day) I ordered chili verde stew with meatballs and a cold, creamy horchata to drink. Maybe it was the long walk and the warm day, but both were incredibly delicious. Jose, the chef, knows his flavors.img_0404.jpg

After that delicious meal, I continued south to Clinton Street. I found a theater, a video store, art gallery, and comic shop, but finally, Josephine’s Dry Goods, my fabric store of the day.  Josephine’s has a beautiful selection, but again, a narrow focus. They carry natural fabrics, the sort used in high-end dressmaking: silks, wools, cottons, linens. Beautiful, but not what I can use for a quilt. I drooled over the silks for a while, thanked the lady, and headed off. Cloud Comics, next door, was clean and bright, but not as nice as Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures.img_0413.jpg

The Clinton neighborhood is very pretty, filled with Victorian homes from the turn of the century and old, well tended trees. The street signs highlight the fact that Clinton Street is a Bicycle Throughway, a road that has very little car traffic. Indeed, you can ride down Clinton Street to the river and cross the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. I want to do that bike ride!img_0422.jpg

 

I continued up past Sewallcrest Park (which, according to the map, is actually Hazeltine Park) and then home. A three mile walk, a fine lunch, and new things to see…I am a happy Grandma.

But pooped!

Love,

Grandma Judy

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An Afternoon with Kestrel

Dear Liza,

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A place of tiny magical things

You are your Mom and Daddy’s only child, so you get a lot of alone time with them, and with me, when I’m around. Cousin Kestrel is Jasper’s little sister, and she doesn’t. Everything she does, including lunchtime at school, is with Jasper.

Jasper is a very nice brother, but we all need some time with our people when it is just US. Kestrel and I got that the other day.

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Someone made a Fairie House!

Auntie Katie made plans for her and Jasper, and I made plans for us. After I ‘kidnapped’ her from Books with Pictures, we walked past the giant banana painted on the wall at SE 12th and Division, past a fairy house in some one’s yard, all the way to Hawthorne Street, where we caught the number 14 bus.

At 32nd Avenue we got off and walked to The Hazel Room. This is a lovely little lunch place in a big house, and I have walked past it dozens of times. They don’t sell hamburgers or french fries, so Grandma Nelson wouldn’t like it. Inside it is pretty and old-fashioned, with old wooden floors and wallpaper. There are lots of elegant tea pots on the window sills. Kestrel is a very picky eater, so I read the menu to her and let her choose. She asked for french toast. When it came, it was so big that we shared it, but she said it was the best french toast she had ever had! Fat and sweet, it most more like toasted cake..yummmy!

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Brunch at The Hazel Room

When we had played reading games and finished our lunch, we headed down Hawthorne to our main destination: Fernie Brae. This is a shop that sells fairie things. Handmade fairie dolls, beds, houses, jewelry, paintings, costumes, wings and wands…if a fairie could want it, they have it.

Everything is so beautifully made, we spent an hour in the small shop, looking at every tiny thing.

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Admiring the lovely stones

I knew we had just a little while until my bus pass expired, so Kestrel picked out a tiny dragonfly treasure, a jasper stone for Jasper and a rose quartz heart shaped stone for herself, and we caught the bus back to Ladd’s Addition. Walking through the shade of the old trees, we made up stories about which fairies lived under the trees and in the bushes.

What a wonderful, magical day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

The DoubleClicks

Dear Liza,

Last night Grandpa Nelson and I drove down to Auntie Katie’s bookshop to watch a show. I know we usually walk, but it was 96 degrees, which is too hot to walk a mile.

First, we all went to dinner at The Smokehouse Tavern on Morrison. The pulled pork sandwich was smokey and tasty, with cold, refreshing cocktails for the hot day.

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Bridgett, Hand, and me (in the reflection)

The show was a pair of sisters, Angela and Aubrey Webber, who go by the group name “Doubleclicks”. They play guitar, ukulele, and electric cello, and even a cat keyboard that “meows” when you play the keys. But mostly, they write and sing very sweet, funny songs about being different, even a little weird, and being okay with that.

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Katie introducing the Doubleclicks

The Doubleclicks are very popular here in Portland, especially with people who like comic books, so they were a good match for Books with Pictures. By the time the show started, all forty chairs were full and there were probably thirty more people standing in the back. The audience was mostly people in their thirties and forties, but some much younger (8 or 9) and some much older (like us!)

The first song they sang was called “Cats at Parties”. It is about being awkward in large groups of people and seeking out pets to hang out with instead. I do this, sometimes. They had me.

Other songs paid homage to Wonder Woman, Dimetrodons, and board games. There was lots of funny conversation between the sisters, and with the audience. Auntie Katie asked them to dedicate a song to Grandpa Nelson, called “I have Nothing to Prove.” It was very sweet, about being happy with yourself and your accomplishments.

During the break, I got to visit with Chelsea Wright, Auntie Katie’s dear friend, and other folks in the audience. A lady named Kathleen, who sat right in front of us, was signing the lyrics as the Sisters were singing. I told her how much I enjoyed watching her and we had a nice conversation.

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Kathleen and her fella

When the show was over, we all hung up our chairs and headed off. As we got in the car, the train gates came down, and we. Were. Stuck. For thirty minutes while the train got rearranged and ready to head north. The main train tracks crossing a main road is a drawback of driving in this neighborhood. But, small price to pay.

We got home, wide awake, and watched the Giants win their ballgame, then went to bed.

More adventures tomorrow, I’m sure.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

A Song for Fun

Dear Liza,

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Sunsets

Your Mommy or Daddy can teach you the tune for this silly re-write. The Song is called “My Favorite Things.”

(Read the captions!)

First Verse:

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And artists
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And baseball with Pickles
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Beaches with grandchildren, giggles and tickles
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Kittens in fl’wer pots
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And wrecks by the sea

These are the things Portland’s given to me!

Second Verse:

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Art found on sidewalks and up on a tower
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Hearing the voices of love’s greatest power
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Old friends and new friends

e

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And pinball for fun

All of these just since the summer’s begun!

Bridge:

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Ghosts and mystery!
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Creepy History!
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Yummy food and wine….
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I’m up to my eyeballs in Portland, my friends,
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And I want to say…
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It’s fine!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Friends, Pizza, and Art

Dear Liza,

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View of the Lan Su Chinese Garden from across the street

My projects continue to keep me busy. I am finishing Cousin Kestrel’s princess kitten birthday present and had to change my story a bit. Did you know that in America in early 1900s, classes in the U.S. didn’t go on field trips? At that time,  they were not considered valuable. So I needed to remove a field trip from my 1903 story. Sigh.

Yesterday I also had a nice surprise. A former student and his wonderful family came to visit! First they visited famous Powell’s City of Books, and then came to see me at Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures. They had fun and bought tons of books! Then they invited me to have lunch with them at Old Town Pizza, a “haunted” pizza parlor downtown.

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Lovely friends!

Of course, I said YES! Pizza, friends, ghosts? I’m there!

The pizza was good and the air conditioning most welcome, as it has been hot here. (Hot for US, like 80 degrees. I understand many places are really suffering.) I didn’t notice any ghosts. After Kyle, his sister Gillian, Mom Heidi and Dad Paul headed off to the Creo chocolate tour, I caught the Orange train back to Auntie Katie’s shop and rode my bike home.

Since it was First Friday, we walked up to Ankeny Tap and Table for street tacos, grilled Brussels sprouts, beer, cider, and french fries. Yum! We walked over to the Sidestreet Gallery to see Auntie Bridget’s new art, as well as all the other new things. I got to meet Dawn Panttaja, Erin’s aunt, creator of lovely, odd sculptures. This one is called “Miss Fortune”, with a skirt made of old prophesies. Creepy and beautiful.img_78521.jpg

Auntie Bridgett was going to stay and talk to folks, but Grandpa Nelson and I walked to the Laurelhurst Theater to watch “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”img_7854.jpg, which was a fun roller coaster ride with an ending that surprised me.

Walking home, we swung by the flamingo house, where the birds are apparently enjoying the World Cup Soccer games.

Happy July!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

OMSI

Dear Liza,

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We’re Here!

Yesterday Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and I went to OMSI, The Oregon Museum of Science and Industry. It is only one train stop from their house and we spent the whole day there! At the train stop, we met a nice lady named Maria and her son Josue. They mostly spoke Spanish, so I got to practice speaking Spanish for a while. They met some friends and off they went.

The Museum moved from Washington Park, where the Zoo and Rose Test Garden are, to the current site on the east bank of the Willamette River, in 1992. It has a Planetarium, space capsule, a hall for changing exhibits, and a large hands-on room called Turbine Hall.

We started with a visit to the temporary exhibit on The Robot Revolution. The first floor was very informative, and we read a lot about how robots are built, how they ‘learn’ new information, and how they move. There was a small soccer filed sort of area where two robots were trying to score goals while another robot tried to block them. We could even make robots move, like this big spider walking one, or a robot about 10 inches tall who was programmed to do different moves, like push-ups, headstands, or wave.

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Big Spider Robot
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Learning by Watching, then Doing

Upstairs, the exhibits were much more hands-on. Kestrel played tic tac toe against a robot, and mostly played to a tie. She used “grippers”, what robots use for hands, and had to do a lot of figuring out to make them work. It was great to watch her brain work!

While Kestrel was doing these things, Jasper was building robots with Cubelets. These are, as you might guess, cubes that you put together to make robots. Each cube has a different job: battery, mover, light, rotator. By putting the different cubes together in different order, you can make robots that move, light up, or other things. Jasper worked on these for almost an hour, finally creating a robot different from anyone else’s, that walked in a weird wobbly fashion while lighting up.

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Jasper’s Robot

We bought lunch in the cafeteria, pizza and fruit juices, and ate on the patio that looks out over the river between the Tilikum Crossing Bridge and the Marquam Bridge. It was a very pretty day, so there were lots of bicyclists, joggers, and boats to watch, as well as cars and trucks on the Marquam and trains on the Tillikum, which is only for mass transit, walkers and bikes.

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Tillikum Crossing

After lunch we visited another part of the museum, Turbine Hall. This is a room almost as big as a football field, full of hands-on activities to study air pressure, gravity, wind, sound,water and engineering. The exhibits are so well designed that if a child can reach it, they can be successful at some level at it. Kestrel enjoyed exploring the wind and water areas, while Jasper enjoyed working with other kids to build an arch or make a machine play Score Four. There aren’t any pictures of Jasper because he hates having his picture taken.

We stayed at the Museum until almost 5 o’clock, and there wasn’t a cross word or bored moment. I highly recommend it to anyone visiting Portland with children!

We left in time to make dinner and feed the cousins and Auntie Katie when she got home from Books with Pictures.

What a wonderful day!

Love,

Grandma Judy