Bright Fall Light

Dear Liza,

This season is mostly a grey one, but every now and the clouds blow away and we have bright, cold, sunshine. That was today.

We did chores during the morning and then headed off through the neighborhood to Zach’s Hot Dog Shack. The noon sun was almost blinding, and made the still-changing leaves magical.

We found some rhododendrons, being a bit early even for them, (or late, it’s hard to know which) popping blooms open just as the rest of the plants have called it quits for the year.

We enjoyed a chilly lunch on Zach’s patio, since the inside was pretty crowded with folks watching football. Grandpa Nelson and I played ping pong, which warmed us up a bit.

The walk home was lit with the warm afternoon light of Fall. This beautiful cat was just so fetching between the orange leaves.

We walked by St. Stephen’s Church, which has been on this corner in a mostly residential area since 1924. It is built of bricks and is very pretty.

It has a large front entrance with doors topped by Mary and Jesus chatting with monks, along with with these delightfully glazed ceramic faces.

And that was our outing for the day. It never really got above 45 degrees, and was just too chilly to be out for long. We came home, read, made art, and cooked.

Just another lovely Tuesday!


Grandma Judy

Welcome, New Kitties

Dear Liza,

Back in May I told you that Auntie Katie’s dear old cat, Pixel, had passed away. This week, two new cats have come to live with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel and Auntie Katie in their apartment above Books with Pictures.

“What’s going on out there?”

The females, one black and one gray, don’t have names yet. Auntie Katie has asked friends on Facebook to help out and give ideas. So far, the list includes Xena and Gabrielle, Thelma and Louise, and Magique and Shadowcat.

The new kitties have been staying in the bathroom in a cozy wool bed just big enough for the two of them. I am glad they have each other for company.

They are eating and drinking and using the litter box, and slowly getting used to their new space. The other day Auntie Katie went in to say ‘hi’, and got a careful greeting.

I am looking forward to getting to know these little ladies, once they are feeling safe and comfortable. I have even made some catnip stuffties for them.

What’s interesting is that they look very much like cats we had a while ago, Stoney and Sassy, a gray and a black. Here is a picture of our old friends.

Loving cats is one of my great joys in life.


Grandma Judy

Farewell to Sweet Pixel

Dear Liza,

I am sorry to say, Cousins Jasper and Kestrel have lost their dear cat Pixel. She was sixteen and a half years old and had cancer. She died on Monday. We are all very sad.

Pixel, as a kitten in 2005

Auntie Katie and Uncle Dave found Pixel at an animal shelter outside of Ithaca, New York in 2005. Pixel was so excited about her new owners that she climbed up their jeans! During her first summer, she learned to catch frogs and birds from their older cat, Kink.

She accompanied the family to Portland and over the years became Cousin Kestrel’s best friend.

She made the transition to bookshop cat this past year. At first she was nervous about it, but eventually would go down into the shop late at night to remind Auntie Katie to come upstairs and sleep.

Pixel last year

Pixel developed oral cancer this year. It became inoperable and would eventually kill Pixel by stopping her from eating and breathing. Not wanting to cause her dear kitten such suffering, Auntie Katie decided to have her put to sleep. Dr. Wilson, a very gentle veterinarian, came right to the house. She explained what would happen, and gave Pixel a shot to help her relax.

Auntie Katie held Pixel in her lap on the couch as the heavier sedative was given by IV. Over the next few minutes, Pixel stopped breathing and her heart stopped. Katie held her for a long time as I saw Doctor Wilson out.

My last picture of Pixel, as we waited for the doctor

When Katie was ready, we wrapped Pixel’s body in a pillow case and placed her in a box, putting her in the fridge until her funeral can be planned.

Auntie Katie and I walked around the small garden behind the shop and found a good spot to bury her dear friend. It is between two logs against the far fence. Easy to find, but private enough that one can have a quiet graveside visit. I hope the cousins can help make a nice ceremony to say goodbye. Maybe they will say this poem, by Sarah Henderson Hay.

To a Dead Kitten

Put the rubber mouse away,
Pick the spools up from the floor,
What was velvet shod, and gay,
Will not want them, any more.

What was warm, is strangely cold.
Whence dissolved the little breath?
How could this small body hold
So immense a thing as Death?

Missing our furry friend already.


Grandma Judy

Grandma Judy

Animal Complications

Dear Liza,

We have been extra busy this week, keeping up with the needs of our fellow critters.

Mouse, before her allergy problems kicked in…

Mouse, our cat, has skin allergies which make her itch. When she was an indoor-outdoor cat in Salinas, we saw the scratches in her face, but assumed she had been fighting with local cats. But now that she is exclusively indoors, it is clear the scratches are self-inflicted. The vet tells us that she is allergic…. to cats?

Slightly scruffier….

She is on medication that soothes the itch, but it’s hard on her liver, and can only be given in small doses. So, for a week, poor Mousie wore the collar of shame to try and let her damaged nose heal. She was not happy. She walked around like a depressed lampshade.

A sad, resentful kitten

Finally, her nose had healed enough we felt it was time to lose the collar. She is so much happier! Now, if we can just keep her from hurting herself.

Meanwhile, Cousin Kestrel has finally gotten her pet snake!

The happy face of a girl with her snake

Kestrel has always been very sympathetic to animals. When she learned about hog nosed snakes, she became fascinated. She did hours of research to learn how to care for one, and worked with Auntie Katie to develop a vivarium for it to live in.

Sir Isaac Snooten in situ

The vivarium has plants, insects, and sandy soil for snakey to tunnel into. It has a warming mat to protect against Portland’s chill and a humidity monitor to keep him comfy.

The snake’s name is Sir Issac Snooten. He passes his time underground, teaching celestial mechanics and gravitational laws to the isopods who eat his poop.

Ready for his close-up


Grandma Judy

Christmas Walks

Dear Liza,

Azaleas in December!

I know I will have lots of Christmas pictures to share with you, but they will come tomorrow. Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk to the market (who knew we didn’t have any tomato paste?) and saw some lovely things. A friendly cat came out to check our credentials.


We saw another cat in a window, looking very warm and cozy, while this hummingbird mocked her from the top of a very bare tree. There was also n early blooming azalea making the world pretty.

Hummingbird being still



We talked to a man about the tree by his door, which is blooming, in mid-winter. He said it is called a viburnum, and that he planted it precisely because in the cold dark, it would bloom and smell sweetly. There is also a Daphne bush, which we have by our front door! I look forward to all the lovely scents coming soon.







And by Sunnyside School, we found this posting of neighborhood friendliness. We just took one, because we already feel pretty full of love, with family, friends, home and hearth so close.


Grandma Judy

North to Alberta, Part 2

Dear Liza,IMG_0548.jpg

After I had explored old buildings and seen monuments, I found what I had originally headed north for, a fabric shop called Modern Domestic. It is bright and well laid out, and carries the variety of fabrics I have been looking for.

Martha, who is the ‘new kid’ at the store, and I had a wonderful conversation about the colors of Portland, and what I would need to do the city justice in my quilt. Greys, for the clouds, she said, and reds for the bricks. It was nice to talk to someone who understood what I was aiming at.


After moving bolts of fabric around, I found a perfect Easter Egg, a collection of Fat Quarters from Robert Kaufman in the colors and textures I had been looking for. I tucked it under my arm and continued looking, because the collection was lacking a forest green. Martha helped me find it, hiding in a corner across the shop. Everyone was so helpful, even letting me recharge my phone while I shopped.


Then I headed off in search of lunch! It is amazing how hungry I suddenly realized I was. I knew Martin Luther King Jr. was a main drag, so I just walked north, knowing something would turn up.

Tile decoration outside Aberus

And something did. Aberus Ethiopian Food was on the next corner, a small restaurant,  totally empty the whole time I was there, but the food was delicious. I told the lady (cook and waitress) that this was my first time eating Ethiopian food, but that I wasn’t afraid of spice. She recommended Doro Wat, a chicken and chili dish served on a large disc of spongy bread, a hard boiled egg, cheese, and salad. It was spicy, messy, and a wonderful experience. I left with leftovers.

Ethiopian Feast

Now sated and ready for home, I caught the number 6 south. Walking between Grand and MLK, I found a fellow leaning against a building who seemed to need the leftovers more than I did, so I  gave them to him. We chatted for a minute, then my bus came.

After I had rested, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. I keep finding new things! Did you know gingko trees have nuts? I didn’t! But now I do, and here is what they look like.

Gingko nuts!

Silly Mousekin

The rest of the evening was spent watching the Giants beat the Padres and playing with Mousekin.


Grandma Judy

Cat Art

Dear Liza,

Basking in the sunshine

I’ve told you that Portland is a city where dogs are very popular, but I still prefer cats. Our cat, Mouse (Miss Mousie Mouskin of the Mouseville Mousekins), is my favorite, of course.

Crazy Second floor ledge walking

She has the balance of a desire for adventure and a love of relaxation that I find copacetic.

But I’m not the only one here who loves cats. There are cats all over the neighborhood, happy, brave, silly and even weird.

There are cats in art here, as well. The McMenamin brothers’ chain of bars and hotels have a a picture of its “distillery cat”, along with Ruby the brewer witch and Hammerhead guy, who is painted in every one of their establishments.

Distillery Cat

While we were visiting Edgefield, which is a McMenamin’s location east of Portland, we saw this disgruntled cat on the back window of a car.

Window cat

Sunnyside Environmental School, in our neighborhood, has one painted on its doors, I guess to keep the free roaming chickens company.

Sunnyside School Cat


Auntie Bridget puts cats into her art all the time. My birthday card this year, which went all the way down to Salinas, featured her and Grandpa Nelson, as cats!

Auntie Bridgett’s cat card




That’s all I’ve got to say about cats in art, for now. But rest assured, there will be more…later.


Grandma Judy

A Song for Fun

Dear Liza,


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:

And artists

And baseball with Pickles

Beaches with grandchildren, giggles and tickles

Kittens in fl’wer pots

And wrecks by the sea

These are the things Portland’s given to me!

Second Verse:

Art found on sidewalks and up on a tower

Hearing the voices of love’s greatest power

Old friends and new friends


And pinball for fun

All of these just since the summer’s begun!


Ghosts and mystery!

Creepy History!

Yummy food and wine….

I’m up to my eyeballs in Portland, my friends,

And I want to say…

It’s fine!


Grandma Judy

Into Summer

Dear Liza,

Hollyhocks and day lilies, living together, mass hysteria!

Now that is is officially summer, our evening walks have moved from six o’clock to more like 7:30. It stays light until nine and it feels silly to waste all that lovely sunlight!

Yesterday evening Auntie Bridgett and I  walked around the neighborhood and noticed that the flowers are really exploding. Sweet peas, roses, day lilies and hollyhocks are shooting up out of the ground like the police are after them.

Sweet peas!

Even the sunflowers are getting tall and majestic. The bees all seem to be prosperous and busy.

Bee on a leaf

We met a new cat, a very friendly young lady with beautiful markings and a tag that declares her to be “The Princess.” She not just allowed, but demanded, that we pet her, squeaking in a very royal voice.

The Princess in all her glory

On the way home we passed The Belmont Inn, and stopped in for a few games of Monster Bash, our favorite pinball game. We played together for a few, then went head-to-head. My score of six million made me very proud until Auntie Bridgett whupped me with forty-four million!!! Holy smokes, I need more practice!

Bridgett’s score!!

Aw, shucks. More pinball….


Grandma Judy


Dear Jasper and Kestrel,


Auntie Bridgett and I took a long walk the other day. We started at The Bagel Bakery on West Alisal, for coffee…because Auntie Bridgett doesn’t go very far without coffee. Then we walked downtown. We visited our friend Adrian at her shop, The Blue Aces Bakery, and got tasty coated sugar-pecans and walked out to the market to get flowers for our brunch hosts.

Adrian at Blue Aces Bakery

We continued down Main Street and turned off at George and Mimi’s house. They were hosting us and our friend Dan Beck, who runs Salinas Book and Sound. He brought his guitar along and played some  music as we told stories and enjoyed George’s delicious waffles with all the trimmings.

George and Mimi host their brunches in their back yard, which they have recently turned into a patio “par excellence”. There is shade, space for a lovely table (made by George) with a large lazy Susan (made by George), two barbecues, and electrical outlets for the waffle irons! There is art on the walls, flowers all around, and cats!


Reddy the cat was my personal host for the morning. As soon as I sat down, he showered me with feline attention, which I recognized is a rare and beautiful thing. We hit it off and at the end of the morning, I was allowed to give him two tiny scraps of ham, which sealed our engagement, I think.

Before we left, George, Mimi, Bridgett and I stood in their living room and talked about everything under the sun. These lovely folks have been around a long time and have such great stories to tell….I wish I could write a book!


Grandma Judy

George and Mimi and Samuel Beckett by Dick Crispo.jpg
George and Mimi, and Samuel Beckett, printed by Crispo