Storytime at Books with Pictures

Dear Liza,

When I was teaching, my favorite part of any day was story time. I loved holding my students captive by reading wonderful books aloud, doing all the voices and re-creating the exciting stories.

And on Friday, I got to do it again! The lovely lady who usually does storytime at Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures took the day off, and Katie asked me to fill in. We met in the new garden, spreading out blankets to sit on. It was great fun.

There were four young children and their care people, dads or Moms or grandmas, and they were delightful. There were four pictures books about dragons, and my favorites were “Dough Knights and Dragons” and “Julia’s Hiuse for Lost Creatures.” The kids leaned in to see the pictures and were so focused on the characters, it was a joy to see. They offered opinions, talked to the characters, and explained why things happened.

The summer sun was getting fierce at just 10 in the morning, and I noticed the new plantings in the garden starting to wilt. So once everyone had packed up and headed for home, I got the watering can and made about a dozen trips to the faucet and back to give all the plants a deep drink.


After all, those lovely plants need water to thrive, and they aren’t used to all this sunshine. That’s okay. We’ll make sure they have enough water to get them to October, when the rain will take over. This garden is going to grow as surely as the kids!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Happy Pride!

Dear Liza,

On Sunday Grandpa Nelson and I went downtown for the Gay Pride Parade and celebration. The streets full of happy people!

We didn’t see the beginning of the parade, but got there in time to see the women’s rugby team, some proud parents, and support groups for kids and trans people, and lots of rainbows.

The weather was drippy, but spirits were light.

There was a long, long line to get into the part of the Fair where the booths were, but we got to chat with some nice folks and watch the parade go by.

The downside of all the drippy weather was the muddy ground . Two solid weeks of carnival events (first the Rose Festival, then Pride) on the same patch of grassy ground had lead to mud, mud, and more mud. It was epic. It was deep. And I managed, somehow, to not land on my face.

Finally, we found what we were looking for: Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures booth! She was doing an absolute ton of business and only had time for a quick Father’s Day hug, but it was worth it.

As we left, I caught this accidental shot of perfectly dressed folks passing the street sign at the corner of 1st Avenue and Harvey Milk Street. Harvey Milk was the first out, gay person elected to office in California and was shot in 1978, along with San Francisco Mayor George Moscone, by a fellow City Supervisor who didn’t like gay people. To help remember his sacrifice, a 13 block stretch of SW Stark here in Portland has been re-named for him.

What a beautifully rainbow day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Final Touches on Katie’s Garden

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago, Auntie Katie and her strong, clever friends got together and got the garden at Books with Pictures planted.

There were donated plants that people transplanted from their own property, as well as plants bought from local nurseries. They made sure to get plants that will grow un and do well without a lot of taking care of.





There are other things installed, as well. A small stage has been built for performances, and the beginning of a stout fence to make it feel more enclosed. There is also a cool slab cut from a big tree to use as a seat.

With such a great team, everything is coming together.

I look forward to spending some pleasant afternoons in this little piece of paradise.

Love,

Grandma Judy

All the Moms

Dear Liza,

I wanted to take today to acknowledge the Moms in the family.

This is my Momma. She lived for her family and her garden and had lots of adventures with my Dad; camping, traveling, helping people, and making friends. After Daddy passed, she continued her adventures for another 15 years.

Here is your Auntie Katie. She has had adventures in Europe, New York, at Burning Man, and here in Portland. She got to be a Momma herself and then opened her incredible book shop, Books with Pictures. She has built her life, and her community, as a place where everyone is welcome. She amazes me every day.

Here is your Momma, Olga. She started her adventures in Moscow, Russia, where she studied hard and became a doctor. She moved to the United States, then to California, and met your Daddy David. After tango-ing together they fell in love, got married, and had YOU. She continues her adventures as a fabulous teacher while getting ready for whatever-happens-next.

And then there is me. The oldest female in the family, Teddy Bear Picniker , and ready for the next adventure.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Next Steps in the Garden at Books with Pictures

Dear Liza,

The work has continued on the garden behind auntie Katie’s bookstore, Books with Pictures. I showed you before how the planting areas were filled with rich topsoil to create low berms and beds.

On a recent Saturday, eight women and girls aged 14 to 66 (and one helpful male teenager) worked for three hours creating the surfaces of the new garden just behind Books with Pictures. There were two tampers, which are heavy tools for flattening and compacting soil, and they were in constant use. First, the original soil was raked and tamped to make it solid and even. Plastic edging was laid in and staked down.

Then interlocking gravel was wheelbarrowed in to place, raked flat, and tamped down (twice) to make sure it was perfect.

Auntie Katie, who is injured and cannot work, was in charge of quality control and keeping us all fed. She did a fine job!

Finally, pea gravel, which will be pleasant to walk on, was wheeled and raked and tamped in place.

The walkway in the garden was extended beyond the space to the parkway, which makes for a nice entry from the street through the big wonky gateway.

And this weekend, the plants go in!

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Garden for Books with Pictures

Dear Liza,

Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books with Pictures, is getting a new garden! This triangular patch of land just behind the store has been overgrown for years and is now planned as a space for meetings, music, or just sitting.

Last summer, some designers came and built a wonderfully wonky and stout gateway for the space.

A few weeks ago, a friend with a backhoe came and tore all the overgrown plants out. He came back and scraped six inches of rocky topsoil off.

And Sunday, the new topsoil got put into place. This isn’t the sort of work for a backhoe, however. This is delicate, manual labor. Fortunately, Auntie Katie has a lot of strong friends.

Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I walked down and met up with Douglas, Marion and Moss, Ken and Hillary, Chelsea and Katie to put the soil where it belongs. It was exhausting and took a lot of shovels, but working together is always fun, and the garden-to-be is one step closer to being fabulous.

Auntie Katie has injured her shoulder and wisely supervised rather than shoveled. She and Hillary are great bosses!

The plants will be delivered in a few weeks and there will be another work party! Hooray!

Lots of heart in this picture!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Restoring the Mural

Dear Liza,

A few weeks ago, I told you about the mural at Auntie Katie’s comic shop, Books with Pictures. The mural, which was painted in 1997, had recently been tagged with ugly graffiti.

Fortunately, art is Auntie Bridgett’s super power. The first day it was warm enough to paint, she gathered her supplies, and we headed over.

She used a combination of Liquitex acrylics and house paint to mix just the right shades to cover the graffiti while keeping the picture looking great.

While Bridgett was mixing and painting, I went around the building to see local artist Alex Chiu working on a different mural on the new shed by where two new food trucks will be. He has finished the background, and will come back next week to add a painting of kids, comics and whimsical animals.

I visited Cousin Kestrel upstairs for a while, then went back down to see Bridgett’s progress.

I was amazed! In just a few hours, Bridgett had managed to cover most of the graffiti and the mural was looking almost back to its beautiful self.

But it was time to go home for today. We are expecting rain for the next few days, and we will go back to finish it up when the weather clears. I am so happy that Bridgett has been able to save this neighborhood landmark.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Visit to Books with Pictures

Dear Liza,

This weekend Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to Auntie Katie’s bookshop, Books with Pictures. Her shop was full of happy, comic-loving, mask-wearing people!


We got to find some books by artists and authors we knew and see the new decor.

We had gone to visit for her a reason, though.


The lovely mural on the side of her store got tagged with graffiti last weekend. Auntie Bridgett wanted to see if she could help repair it.

There are several reasons this is going to be difficult. The mural was painted way back in 1997, so the paint has faded and will be very hard to match. People in the neighborhood LOVE it, so you want to do a really good job. Also, the surface of the wall has cracked in a few places and needs to be mended. More immediately, our weather is predicted to be too wet and cold to paint for the next two weeks.


After Katie and Bridgett figured out what the next steps will be, we headed home. As we walked past the back of the shop, we noticed the new shed Katie has had installed to hold the supplies for the new food trucks, which are hopefully coming in spring.

It was a great visit, and we had a nice piece of carrot cake and cup of tea at Palio, right in the Ladd’s Addition, before catching the number 14 home.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hannukah Party!

Dear Liza,

After we rested from hauling the tree up over the balcony, Grandpa Nelson and I bundled up for the very cold evening and walked down to Auntie Katie’s house.

Since some streets are very dark, I wore my coat with lights in it. It makes me feel safe, and just a little bit like a neon billboard.

We enjoyed seeing the houses’ lights in the neighborhood. Some folks really go all out!

Once we got to Katie’s place, I chatted with her while she fried up a great bunch of latkes (and donuts!) and Grandpa Nelson played mini-cornhole with Jasper on the table.

We ate and talked and horsed around, and then Cousin Kestrel and Auntie Katie used her new mortar and pestle to pound dried lavender for sachets.

As we hugged everyone goodbye and headed for home, we noticed the wonderful new awnings on Books with Pictures. They will protect the books from too much sun, and keep the rain from battering the hundred year old windows.

We got home, after a very Christmas-y, Hanukah-ish day. We were pooped!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Halloween

Dear Liza,

Believe it or not, the party was only the night before Halloween! Halloween itself was even busier.

We woke up slowly Sunday after the party Saturday night, but we had things to do. Grandpa Nelson needed his booster Covid shot and I wanted to visit Auntie Katie and the Cousins. A bright fall walk through miles of leaves and spooky decorations was just the thing.

Kestrel as a mushroom fairy, in her element

It is always fun seeing what Jasper and Kestrel are up to. Sunday, of course, they were putting finishing touches in their costumes. I took some cookies down, as we had leftovers from the party and no one needs that many cookies (not all at once, anyway).

We headed out to have some fun and take pictures in the glorious sunshine. A Mushroom Fairy, top-hatted ghost and stylish Loki were very photogenic! Even Nick, Katie’s second-in-command at Books with Pictures, got into the spirit.

When we said goodbye, I headed for home, taking the number 14 bus to get me up the hill. A nice quiet afternoon on the couch was in order, then a dinner of leftover finger sandwiches and salad.

Then it was actually Halloween night! Time to go see some spooks. I love the spectacle of a street full of costumed kids running through the dark past lighted up porches. It takes me back to those evenings of my own childhood, where Magic was definitely in the air.

One house in particular went all-out, feeling more like a ride at Disneyland than a front yard! Skeletons, witches and werewolves howled and menaced passers-by. It was stunning.

By the time we had seen as much as we could see, it was time for my Sunday night art ZOOM with you, dear Liza. I had a good time, drew a fine banana split, and fell asleep pretty soon thereafter.

What a fabulous Halloween!

Love,

Grandma Judy