The City Fair

Dear Liza,

Rose Festival season is here, and the city is so busy! Friday afternoon we took the bus downtown to see what was happening at the City Fair. This is the carnival part of the festival at Tom McCall Riverfront Park, and we haven’t gone since before the Covid shut down.

I know I am getting to be an old lady, because the rides looked terrifying! Even watching them made me fear for my life.

It was early afternoon, so there weren’t many people yet, which was fine. As much as I enjoy people watching, big crowds just make everything harder!

The production of the carnival was a bit … underwhelming. The rides were colorfully painted, but the juggler dropped everything and was clearly struggling.

The best thing to see was the Jim Neill Museum historical display about the American Rosie the Riveter Association, who celebrate the women like my momma who went to work in the aircraft Industry during World War II and saved the country. Here is an old picture of my Momma and her sister Hazel heading off to work in 1944.

The best thing to DO was, of course, play pinball! We found the Monopoly game, which had a lot going on and fun sound effects. We enjoyed our game until the machine kept our quarters, and then we said good-bye.

Grandpa Nelson found his carnival favorite, kettle corn, at a unicorn-decorated stand under the Morrison Bridge.

The best view of the day was Mt. Hood 90 miles to the east, looming over a new apartment building.

When we had seen all the things and eaten the snacks, we caught the magic 15 and headed for home. I was well and truly worn out, and happy for a bit of quiet time before the baseball game.


Grandma Judy

Mt. Tabor Art Walk Adventure

Dear Liza,

The summer activities continue! Sunday was the Mt. Tabor Art walk. We covered a lot of ground, met some lovely people, and saw a lot of art!

We decided to take the bus to get around, and mapped it out ahead of time with Trimet’s online maps. Auntie Bridgett also marked up a paper map so we knew where we were going.

We took snacks and water to avoid hungry-grumpiness and caught the number 14 to get to our first artsy neighborhood.

First on our tour was Georgina Ottavarino, who does collage and hand-made books. Her work is so precise and colorful, and she was so good at explaining things, I got inspired to do some more of both!

Georgina’s little studio is set in her backyard garden. Everything about her yard was peaceful and inspirational. I never wanted to leave.

Our next stop was a house where three artists were sharing space, and I visited with Tami Katz, who does beautiful fused glass. We talked about doing art with friends over Zoom and Skype during the pandemic shutdown, like I do with Ruthie Inman. I guess we all found ways to stay happy.

Bridgett and I ate our peanut butter and jam sandwiches sitting on a curb in the sun, enjoying the tree-lined neighborhood and the conversation of folks going by.

Our next group of artist studios were about a mile north, so we walked a block and caught the number 71 and then the 15 up the hill, to save our leg muscles. We found jeweler and artist Jo Brody’s art displayed in the front porch, and her husband Mark’s mosaics around back.

Jo does wonderful work, but I was there for the mosaics!

Mark’s work was inspirational. Large and small, quirky or not, comic or poignant, he does it all.

Mark told me about his work in progress, a giant cement toy jack, currently in his basement. When it is finished, it will be moved (not an easy task) to Lake Oswego for their Gallery Without Walls this summer.

We walked up the street and found Pat Stevens, who makes prints. I love her work, and how she uses bits she doesn’t like as quilty pieces! We talked about getting together with grand daughters who live far away. Her Elena is in Montana, much closer than you are in Denmark!

When our eyes were full, it was nearly 3:00 and time for the second part of our day. I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

George Rogers Park

Dear Liza,

I’ve told you about my new friend Amy who lives in Lake Oswego. She is sweet and funny and knows a lot of fun places to go, because she has lived in the area for more than 30 years!

The other day I took the #35 bus from downtown Portland to downtown Lake Oswego, and Amy picked me up for lunch.

She drove me down to George Rogers Park. I knew the name as a place for the booths of the summer Art Festival, but clever Amy drove past that part and headed down to the river, where we found this: A beautiful, restful window on the Willamette.

This was the location of the old iron foundry over a hundred years ago, and is now a quiet, beach-y place for folks to get right down to the river. Moms and kids were playing in the water and a young man was renting kayaks, canoes and paddle boards! That seemed like a really good idea…. for another time.

There are statues celebrating the indigenous people, who knew the value of this area before anyone else.

And as we walked down by the water, we saw a mermaid! Well, a young lady in a mermaid costume, anyway, and the fellow who was photographing her. I’m not sure what story they were telling, but it was a nice surprise, anyway.

I will make sure and come back to this lovely, quiet place. Maybe there will be mermaids, maybe kayaks. Who knows?


Grandma Judy

Poet’s Beach

Dear Liza,

On Saturday, I took Auntie Bridgett on a walk to one of my favorite places, Poet’s Beach, on the West Bank of the Willamette. It is a three mile walk from our house, but it is all a gentle downhill slope, so it doesn’t feel that far! And since it was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, we took Patches and Brown Bear along.

Walking through new neighborhoods is always fun, so I try to take streets I haven’t been down. This time, we discovered this new tiny free library. It has a chalkboard for messages, and the door opens UP, like a garage door. Very pretty and practical.

As we left the neighborhood and got down by the railroad tracks in the industrial area, shade was hard to find. We were grateful for our hats and the cool breeze from the river.

We found a beautiful new street mural in front of the Portland Opera. It is too big to show in one photo, but here is a fisheye lens picture that shows a keyboard producing music, which then swirls out into the world.

We got to the best bridge in town, the Tilikum Crossing. This bridge is only for pedestrians, busses, and trains. No cars! It is also the newest bridge and not a drawbridge, so it is quieter, without the bangity-bang of the older metal ones.

We picked up lunch at the Starbucks just on the other side, and carried it to our picnic spot by the river. Poet’s Beach!

This is a small area, just under the very loud Marquam Bridge. The river bank here is sandy and the bridge makes deep shade, which we really appreciated on the warm day. The reason this little area is called Poet’s Beach is that there are poems by school children etched into stones along the path down to the river.

We had our tasty lunch, harassed by a very bossy flock of geese who wanted some. They got a surprise, though, when a lady and her dog showed up, and the dog scared the geese right back into the river. We went on our way, too. We enjoyed watching folks play in the fountains and along the promenade of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

We walked back across the Willamette on the Morrison Bridge, and then figured out that we were pretty tired. We caught the magic number 15 bus home and rested while watching the Giants beat the Washington nationals.

Another day in Paradise, as they say.


Grandma Judy

Swinging Symphony

Dear Liza,

Ceiling of The Artbar

One of the many things I love about Portland is that theater and music are everywhere! Last night we took the number 15 to The Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall downtown and enjoyed “Swing is the Thing”.

The Schnitz

But first, dinner! The Artbar, a pretty restaurant in the same theater complex, fed us not-too-fancy quiches, fries, and nice local wines. As we entered the lobby of the theater, we heard applause coming from the balcony and went to investigate. Two pairs of dancers were jitterbugging to lively swing music, egged on by the well-dressed crowd. We could tell we were in for a good time.

“The Schnitz”, as it is sometimes called, was built in 1928 and has been restored to its historic voluptuousness. Ceiling decoration, lighting, and painted iron railings all let you know you are in a special place. The performance included the entire Oregon Symphony, directed by Jeff Tyzik and, at certain points, the theater took on the feeling of a opulent lecture hall, with Mr. Tyzik explaining the finer points of jazz and swing and how they morphed  into early rock and roll.

Mr. Tyzik and the Symphony were assisted by Julie Jo Hughes, a wonderful vocalist, and Dave Bennett, who plays clarinet and does vocals as well as a wicked Jerry Lee Lewis turn on the piano. Dancers Stephen Sayer, Chandrae Roettig, Hunter Krikac and Karine Hermes came on stage every now and then to stun us with gravity-defying moves and light footwork.

Dancers put on a show before the show!

The first half of the program was dedicated to swing music, starting with “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”, “Pennsylvania 6-5000” and “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore”. There was also an original piece called “Harlem Street Scene”, written by director Tyzik. It had a swingy, jazzy dissonance that was easy on the ears but definitely not boring.

The second half was rock and roll, and not nearly as good as the swing portion. If it were not for Dave Bennett’s crazy acrobatics on the piano, the music selections would have felt disappointingly like a mother-daughter dance.

No, I take that back. A song that was not even listed on the program, Julie Jo Hughes singing Peggy Lee’s “Fever”and taking a turn dancing with Mr. Tyzik as he was conducting, was knock down gorgeous.

When the show was over, we crossed the street to catch the bus back home, along with some other music lovers and a violinist. Another lovely night in Portland!

In the Mooooood at The Schnitz


Grandma Judy

An Afternoon with Kestrel

Dear Liza,

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.

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!

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.

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!


Grandma Judy

Art and Poke

Dear Liza,

Park Blocks

Sunday was predicted to be another hot day, getting up to 96 degrees. I had gotten some good ideas about my story and wanted a new place to write, and Auntie Bridgett was heading off to the Portland Art Museum on the number 15 bus for her monthly ‘Drink and Draw’ meet up. (On a Sunday morning, the ‘drink’ is coffee).  I invited myself along. Walking up the Park Blocks, we met Jake, a writer who Bridgett met last summer in  this same spot, who is working on a story called “Book of Miracles” about touring with the Grateful Dead. We talked about writer’s block and wished each other well.

Writing in the Art Museum is always good. I am surrounded by wonderful creations made straight out of someone’s head, giving me confidence that more wonderful creations can come out of my own.


Once in the museum, we split up. I found a comfy bench in front of the Proctor statue called Indian on Horseback, where it was very quiet and good for writing. My characters are coming to life and I am enjoying them so much! Whether it’s the art or just Writer’s Block disappearing, I am glad for it.

As people came in, kids started being just a bit too noisy for my taste, so I moved over to the Diebenkorn exhibit, where it was still quiet. I met Linda and Paula, two ladies who are in the Drink and Draw, and we chatted. When the drawing part was over, we all moved to the coffee shop, where the artists talked and I started looking up what children’s books were popular in 1903.


Proctor Statue

At lunchtime, we wanted to try something new. We wandered just a block down Park and went into Shigezo, a wonderful Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed poke (say po-kay), seaweed salad, delicious grilled pork belly, and some disappointing potatoes. But a small flask of sake (say sah-kay), smelling like bread and warming as it went down, made everything better.

Yummy Poke

After lunch, Bridgett wanted to head back to the museum to buy the exhibit book on Diebenkorn. The heat was kicking in, and it was 85 degrees, even in the shade. We caught the bus and were glad to be home. By dinnertime, it was 96 degrees, only dropping to 90 by 8:00. Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk in the park, seeing the new handrails by moonlight and a lot of folks who came out to enjoy the “Silent Disco” (using wifi headphones for music) and the relative cool of the evening.

Back at the house, we played Scrabble, and I was having a great game! I was ahead…right up until the end, when Grandpa Nelson caught me, passed me, and ate my lunch. Fun, anyway.


Grandma Judy

Goose Hollow and Beyond

Dear Liza,

Getting Around on MAX

My friend Terry Soria is in town! She is visiting her daughter and son-in-law, and she made time to have brunch with me. Her family lives way over on the northwest edge of Portland.

I knew it would be a long trip, so I started early. I caught the number 15 bus at 7:30 and rode up to Providence Park in Goose Hollow. Then I got onto the red line train (blue would have worked as well) and rode through the mountain, past the Washington Park station in the tunnel, to the Sunset transit center. This is where my plans hit a snag. I had planned my trip using the Weekday schedule, and I was traveling on Saturday. The commuter bus, the number 62, runs less often and was going to make me very late to meet Terry and her family.

Terry and the BEST Coffee!

Sweet people that they are, they came to the transit center and fetched me! We drove to Grand Central Bakery, on NW Cornell, and had a wonderful second breakfast of croissants, coffee, and sandwiches. We chatted about how our family’s are, how work is, and how fabulous Portland is. They told me of their visits to the Columbia locks, Multnomah Falls, and the Microbrewery festival. Yum!

And they had another full day planned, an exciting jet boat ride on the Willamette from Portland all the way upriver to Oregon City! So they drove me back to the transit center where I caught the train, along with a dozen happy Japanese tourists heading to the zoo.

Art at Lincoln High School

I have always wanted to see the area of town called Goose Hollow, so I got off the train there and walked. None of the shops were open yet, but I got to see the new construction at Providence Park. Situated just at the foot of the west Portland hills, this has been the main athletic field in town since the late 1800s. It was originally called Multnomah Field, and is where the Portland Timbers soccer team plays. I also enjoyed the mosaic and painted tile artwork along the walls of the Lincoln High School field.

This area is called Goose Hollow because, as the story goes, housewives in the 1800s would let their geese into the grassy area to eat and grow nice and fat before selling them. Apparently it would be quite a sight to see a few dozen geese strutting through field and road, stopping traffic when they pleased. These tall, proud geese are memorialized in a delightfully cocky bronze goose standing on the train platform.

Cool Goose, Dude

Ready to head home, I walked down to Salmon and caught the number 15, finally taking a picture of the salmon coming through the building. In the evening we got to have some more fun, but I will tell you about that tomorrow!



Grandma Judy

Giant Salmon in a Building

Return to Cascadia Circus

Dear Liza,

Carrot and Foxglove the Clowns

Since it is summer, you went horse camp and Cousins Jasper and Kestrel went to Circus Camp! Friday, I took the number 15 east to Taborspace to see their show under the “little” big top. This is the only tented circus in Oregon, and even though the tent is small-ish, it lends shade and a real special atmosphere to the show.

Like last year, the kids spent a week learning how to balance, walk on stilts, work as teams to do tricks, and be confident in front of an audience. They are older and more experienced, and I was more impressed than ever.

Ringmaster Paul

The Cascadia Circus is a non-profit group run by Paul, Ringmaster, jokester and independent operator. His British accent and clownish ways make everyone feel comfortable doing new things. Jasper made up his clown name of Carrot, and Kestrel was Foxglove.

Juggling scarves

They juggled scarves and rings, walked on tight ropes (18 inches off the ground while holding Paul’s hand), balanced on balls and did gymnastic poses. It was delightful! I hope they go to Circus Camp next year, so I can see another show!


Grandma Judy

Confident on stilts!

Rose Show Plus

Dear Liza,

Roses in a yard on the way to the Rose Show

This is a mostly happy post, but fair warning for the next paragraph. It is sad but true. Yesterday was my very first Portland Rose Show. I took the number 70 bus up Cesar Chavez Boulevard  and changed to the Red Line train to Lloyd Center. The whole trip took about 30 minutes.

At the train station, some artists were painting a memorial mural to two men who died at that station last year. Ricky Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche were killed after they defended two young women who were being verbally attacked by a man named Jeremy Christian. Mr. Christian stabbed and killed the men, and is now in jail waiting for his trial. The train station mural is bright and beautiful, with quotes from the young women and their defenders and expressions of solidarity.

Part of the Memorial Mural at Hollywood MAX Station


At Holladay Park I got off the train and enjoyed the shady trees, fountain and statues, then crossed the street into the Lloyd Center Mall. This is a bright, open space on three levels, with huge skylights and even a year-round  ice rink! This is where Tonya Harding practiced when she was getting ready for the 1994 Olympics.

Skater doing his thing

Inside the mall, it didn’t take long to find the Rose Show. It ran the length of the second level, on at least 60 long tables filed with single specimens in tall vases of huge floribundas, tiny miniatures, and mixed bouquets.

There were styles of display I had never seen, like “Floral Portrait” (a single perfect rose pinned to black velvet in a gold frame) and “Floral Palette” (a set of five roses displayed light to dark, left to right).

Floral Portrait

Kathy Kromm of The Portland Rose Society

There were a few creative arrangements, but the emphasis here is clearly on growing beautiful roses rather than decorating with them.

I asked Kathy Kromm of the Rose Society why I didn’t see any specimens of Mlle Caroline Testout, the rose that started it all back at the turn of the century? “It’s not much of a rose,” she answered sheepishly. “We can grow better roses now, with more disease resistance.”

Walking around the displays a third time, I noticed that there were many “old” roses, labeled Old Garden or Victorian roses. Most of them had small blooms but were intensely colored and had interesting foliage, like Moss Roses with their dark green, fuzzy-spiky sepals. I can see where Mlle Caroline Testout, which has a large round bloom in a bright pink, would have captured rose enthusiasts’ imaginations at the turn of the 20th century.

Crested Moss Rose, developed in 1827

But I know I can find Mlle Caroline Testout in the East Rose Garden in Ladd’s Addition, about two blocks from Auntie Katie’s house, so I didn’t worry.

When I had smelled and seen all I could, I caught the train and bus back home and had a rest before meeting Auntie Katie for snacks at the Nerd Out. I like being close enough for visits! I will enjoy having adventures with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel, and I will tell you all about them.

Hot Cocoa


Grandma Judy