Takin’ it Downtown Part 1

Dear Liza,

We haven’t been to downtown Portland for a long time. The pandemic shut down, followed by the riots and the damage they caused, made it feel just too bleak, like a scene out of a “Last Man on Earth” movie.

But on Saturday, we all got on the number 15 bus and went. With so many people vaccinated and stores being repaired, it is bustling! There are still some boarded up or empty storefronts. It is not 100%, but it is so much better than I expected.

We walked from downtown a few blocks north to the Pearl District, finding interesting things along the way. The Doc Martins shoe store has closed, though their building is easily spotted by the giant shoe print. Their window is now being used as an ad for Sizzle Pie, a local pizza franchise. We walked through the pop-up Moon Market, finding delicious cookies at Butterbakes. Yum!

And then we found what we had come for. CULT! This is a quirky, artsy shop, selling toys, collectibles, art, and books. Our friend Jack Kent, who does a series of cartoons and books called “Sketchy People”, was there, signing and selling his latest work. It was good to see him and pick up a new book.

CULT has more weird and wonderful things than I can show you here, but let this incredibly realistic hand flower holder give you an idea. There were also models of old school “Visible Man” biology models, but with ‘aliens’, and kitchenware with a dark sense of humor.

It was a silly, odd and thought provoking feast for the eyes.

And there was drawing paper! Of course Auntie Bridgett stepped up and put a little Auntie Beeswax up for the world to enjoy.

As the afternoon progressed, the shop got really crowded (hooray for sales!) and we needed to step out. But we weren’t done yet. I’ll tell you what happened next, tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Auntie Beeswax Goes Public!

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett’s new comic, Auntie Beeswax, has just had its first publication in our local newspaper, Willamette Week! We are so excited, we ran out and got a dozen copies. It is just so wonderful to see her art in the paper.

This morning, Grandpa Nelson even showed us how people who don’t live in Portland can see the comic. This is how you do it.

Google “Willamette Week”. Once you get to the WW page, go to the bottom of the page, where it says “Print editions”. Click on THIS one.

Once you are at that issue, scoot the arrow to page 29, or just flip through the paper (using the arrows) until you get to the comics, which are at the back.

And in case you have trouble, here it is!!

There is a new edition every Wednesday, so just follow the same steps and click on the issue of that date and go to the back to find Bridgett Spicer’s Auntie Beeswax!

Beginnings are delicate, exciting times, and I have a feeling this is the beginning of something big for Auntie Bridgett.

Hooray!

Love,

Grandma Judy

After the Heatwave

Dear Liza,

Wednesday was the first day of human-level temperatures since our historic heat wave began. We woke up to cloud cover, cool air and even a bit of dampness. It felt wonderful.

Look! Clouds! Hooray!!!

I went to the garden early. My friend Tonya gave me one of her parsley plants, and I planted it between my radishes and lettuce. My garden is doing well, even though it isn’t as tall as the other ones. They have five foot tall trellises and arbors hanging with peas and beans. I have a magnificent beast of a zucchini.

And it makes food, too!

I walked around Laurelhurst Park for the first time in a week, enjoying the cool green, the ducks, and all the people out doing their people thing. Tai c’hi classes, guitar practice, dog parties….. it was life as normal, out on the grass.

After a morning of sewing, French lessons, crossword puzzles and cartooning, the three of us headed off to Grandpa Nelson’s favorite lunch spot, Zach’s Shack. Auntie Bridgett got to go because she isn’t working at the SideStreet Arts gallery anymore. Her new comic strip, Auntie Beeswax, allows her more flexibility with her time.

One of my favorite views….

We ate hot dogs and fries, and, since the sun had come out, appreciated the icy cold sodas.

Then came ping pong! Zach’s back patio has a table and enough hard surfaces that even if the ball misses the table, you can keep it in play. We get a little nuts sometimes, and it is fun!

We played until we were played out, then walked home by way of the Taylor Street chickens. The day had warmed up to 88 degrees and we were happy for the air conditioning.

This heat wave was bad. It send a lot of folks to the hospital. We need to figure out how to help our planet heal so we can all be well.

Portlanders ❤️ Chickens !

Love,

Grandma Judy

Auntie Beeswax

Dear Liza,

Did you know that your Auntie Bridgett Spicer was a cartoonist? From 2009 to 2012, her comic strip called Squid Row ran in the Monterey Herald newspaper. It was about an artist living in a touristy seaside town. Since Auntie Bridgett was an artist living in Seaside, California, it made perfect sense. The strip was really popular, too.

A sketch of Auntie Beeswax

After we moved to Portland, she took a few years off from cartooning to do painting. She joined the Sidestreet Arts Gallery and helped make it a better place for people to see and buy art. And now she has starting cartooning again!

The city of Roseport and some characters

Her new comic strip is called Auntie Beeswax, and will be in the Willamette Week newspaper here in Portland. Auntie Beeswax is an eccentric lady who lives in “Roseport”, a thinly disguised version of Portland. She keeps bees, cats and chickens, rides her bicycle everywhere, and is an organic gardener. In other words, she is a delightfully ordinary Portlander. But she always does things just a little differently.

Rough draft of a comic strip

The comic will be about her adventures, and will include a young niece who learns about life ‘outside the box’ from her Auntie Bee.

Bridgett Spicer herself

I am so happy to see Bridgett smiling and sketching, getting her stories all ready. I look forward to reading about Auntie Beeswax!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to the Nursery

Dear Liza,

Auntie Bridgett and I had a busy day on Friday, heading back to the Portland Nursery for more spring things. In just three short weeks, the place has gone from winter to spring! Bedding plants are out, with signs that say “Protect from frost”, because we can have frost as late as April. All sorts of plants are on display, enjoying the sunshine.

And it wasn’t just for my garden plot! Bridgett has become obsessed with houseplants. Her latest Art-O-Rama zine is all about them, and she is letting her own green thumb blossom. To see this zine and all her others, you can go to b.spicer.art@gmail.com. She got a potted coffee plant and twenty pounds of potting soil. We spent quite a bit of time looking at pots and indoor plants.

From Bridgett Spicer’s latest Art-O-Rama zine

We also got the last seeds and plants we will need for the allotment. Nasturtiums and marigolds will make the garden pretty and keep the bad bugs away and the bees happy. A “Thumbelina” English lavender will smell nice and stay small. Tomatoes and basil will be yummy, come July.

And, with my birthday coming up, I got presents! This process was emotional, choosing three trees to plant in my Hundred Acre Wood bonsai forest. The fires last summer put so much smoke in the air that the Wood lost its leaves and went into dormancy, only to ‘wake up’ mid-December, putting on new leaves that didn’t survive the winter. I have had this tiny forest since my first summer in Portland, and am sad that it has died away. But spring is all about renewal.

So Bridgett and I picked out a small bunchy cypress, and a wonky, leaning cotoneaster and an upright latch to re-forest my forest. This was my project for Saturday, gardening that is a little easier on the back.

Spring was always my Momma’s favorite time of year. New beginnings, helping the earth wake up and come to life after the cold winter is healing for all of us. I think I will get out Francis Hodgeson Burnett’s “The Secret Garden” for my reading this week.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Our Advent

Dear Liza,

Advent means when something important finally arrives, and Christmas Advent is the expectant time before Christmas. It is usually celebrated from the first of December to Christmas Day.

Our advent in Salinas

We start doing Christmas-y things like baking and holiday movies on December First, but our Advent Calendar only has 20 days ( it’s a long story) and it runs until Christmas Eve, so we start on the fourth. That’s today!

Auntie Bridgett made this pretty Advent Calendar a few years ago, from brown sacks and wonderful vintage Parisian Christmas pictures. In Salinas, it was suspended on a string by the fireplace. Here in Portland, it has found a home in a basket by the tree.

Inside each bag in a bit of fun Christmas trivia, a game to play, or a puzzle. There is also a candy treat and maybe a small gift. Each is held shut by a clothes pin with a curly number to keep things in order.

Bags in a basket!

And since today is December 5th, we will open the first bag this evening! Hooray for Christmas!


Love,

Grandma Judy

Bridgett’s Art Show!!!

Dear Liza,

Your Auntie Bridgett Spicer has her show at Sidestreet Art Gallery this month. It is a very big deal, taking months of work to prepare. I think it is wonderful.

The show is called “A Sketchbook(Ed) Life” and includes her sketchbooks and art created from them. Since she is on her 155th sketchbook, she has a lot to ‘draw’ from!

Bridgett Spicer, artist

I love watching Bridgett draw. She has so much skill and so many funny ideas that cartoons just jump out of her pencil. Her sketchbooks have told the story of quiet times at home, history and language lessons, and all our travels together.

This little monster….
Became THIS finished piece!

The main themes in her sketchbooks are coffee and the people who drink it, cats, and ghosts and monsters. The art for the show reflects this. But there are also sketches and art from her comic strip “Squid Row” and from her zines.

Sketches of Harold the stufftie And Randy Springlemeyer from Squid Row

To see her show online, you can go to SideStreetArts.com. The information for her First Friday ZOOM and her Sunday Art Talk will also be there. Come and join the fun!

Love,

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….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Helping the City, Helping Ourselves

Dear Liza,

On Thursday we got a chance to do good work for Portland. Grandpa Nelson got us signed up with a group called SolveOregon, who use volunteers to cleanup and repair around the state.

Our group downtown

We got up early and drove downtown to help with litter clean up. Except in the area just around the Federal Building, (where the protests and conflicts with police have been happening every night for three months), most of the storefronts are fine and businesses are open.

A whole bunch of people, patiently waiting to help!

Our check-in location was at the Mark Spencer Hotel, where ninety masked but friendly people waited in line to get directions and equipment. We collected our long handled grabbers, gloves, and plastic bags, and headed off.

It was slow going, because most of the litter we were picking up were small, like bottle caps or cigarette butts. It took us a while to get the hang of handling the grabbers. We walked along, heads down, focusing on the sidewalk. About every fifteen minutes we would look up and check in with each other and figure out where we were.

I am sorry for the lack of photos to tell this story, but it was difficult to use my phone while wearing gloves, a mask, and carrying a bag and grabbers. I made a choice to do the work well instead of photo-documenting.

As we walked along, we were pleasantly surprised by folks’s reactions. People would roll down the window of their cars and holler “Thank you!!”. A postal worker stopped us and told us how much he appreciated our help to make the city better. Auntie Bridgett made sure he knew that we appreciated his work, too.

Half of our neighborhood’s haul

After two hours, we had a satisfying amount of garbage in our bags, and were pretty much done in, and turned in our grabbers. We chatted with Sarah, our group leader, who let us know we could help in other ways, and directed us to the website to check it out.

Lunch!!

We had a wonderful, filling lunch at the Zeus Cafe, a McMeniman’s restaurant just a block from where we were working. I hadn’t realized how hungry or tired I was! By the time we got home, I could hardly walk up the stairs.

A nice thought for the day. And maybe, the year.

I am happy that we spent a few hours doing something to help our city. We have had recent problems, caused by the pandemic and social unrest, but we are also just a big city with millions of people smoking, doing business, and eating. It takes maintenance to keep it up.

And today I got to help.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Painting Islands…. On Fabric?

Dear Liza,

Since I retired from teaching, my brain is like a kid in kindergarten, always finding something new. I opened a cupboard and found things to write about, so I wrote… for months and months.

Writing and writing..

Then I opened another cupboard and there was fabric, so I sewed.

Sewing and sewing…..

And now I have found the paint cupboard. First gouache, then watercolors. And, like a kindergartener, I have friends with ideas that feed my ideas. “Come join my painting group,” said Ruthie. I did, and it has been wonderful. Art, silliness, and learning all come together in the magic proportions that teachers strive for.

Painting little crabby friends….

I posted the islands I was painting and dear Elaine said, “I’ll bet you could put those islands on fabric, and maybe even quilt them.” Well, it turns out that you can paint on fabric with regular acrylic paints if you add a bit of “gac” paint medium. Auntie Bridgett had some, because of course she did.

I spent a day looking at maps of all the islands I love. The Big Island of Hawaii. Tom Sawyer’s Island at Disneyland. Treasure Island from Robert Louis Stevenson. Tiny Gabriola Island in the Strait of Georgia. Neverland. Sketch, reconsider, sketch.

Pencils first….

And finally I started painting my first fabric island. After smooth gouache and watercolors, the acrylic and muslin felt heavy and clumsy, but I kept at it.

The Big Island of Hawaii, as I have it so far…

I am still not totally happy with it, but I will get better if I just keep practicing. It seems a bit flat. Hmmmmm… Maybe I can add embroidery or even some beads. Maybe my friends will give me some good ideas.

Love,

Grandma Judy