Too Early for Halloween?

Dear Liza,

Once Fall has fallen and October comes, ya know what’s next? Halloween!! The grocery stores have had candy and Jack-o-lanterns, skeletons and light- up ghosts on display for two weeks already! The air is cooler and it is getting dark earlier….just right for spooooky decorations.

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Spooooky comes early to Taylor Street

Yesterday, however, started with a more ordinary quest: Printer ink. The closest place that carries it is Office Depot down at MLK Jr. Avenue and Stark, about mile and a half away….so I walked. I passed one of my favorite places, the Lone Fir Cemetery, where crows and squirrels are enjoying the glut of acorns, chestnuts and walnuts. The clever crows even use the headstones to crack open their treats. Thanks, dead people.

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Sweet Chestnuts opened up

Closer to the river were industrial sorts of places, warehouses and art-making shops with delightfully quirky murals, as well as urban breweries and wine makers.

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Murals along Stark Street

After I made the very quick stop at Office Depot and bought the ink, I strolled the aisles of Sheridan Fruit Company, a family business founded in 1916, enjoying the smells and sights. Besides a dizzying variety of bulk goods and exotic sausages, they have a lively deli section which was crowded with people buying lunch to go…which reminded me of how hungry I was. I caught the bus home for lunch.

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Bulk goods at Sheridan Fruit Company

After an afternoon of reading and art, we had something new for dinner! I tried making pulled pork in the slow cooker and it was delicious! It is nice to know I can make Auntie Bridgett something she loves right here at home.

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Pulled Pork started!

We walked through the neighborhood and saw the beginnings of Halloween decorations. Big and small, inflated and illuminated, they all make us giggly-happy.

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More decorations

So of course, once we got home, we moved the car, dragged the ladder, and pulled down the boxes of our own Halloween decorations!

Let the spooky silly begin!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Evening Walk in Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

In case you missed me and my blog over the weekend, I have decided that I will only be posting on weekdays, and taking weekends off. I am feeling like I’m so busy writing about life, I’m not having time to DO life. But for now…

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Firwood Lake reflections

We are at the part of Fall where it can be warm during the day, cool in the evening, but still light enough to walk after dinner. If I am quick to get out and careful, I can take some nice photos.

In the neighborhood around Laurelhurst Park, there are signs of Fall everywhere. Leaves changing, seed pods doing amazing things, squash and pumpkins swelling and getting fat for Halloween, crows scavenging.

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Seed pod magic

Sitting by Firwood Lake, the pond inside the park, I kept seeing reflections and shadows, trying to channel my inner Monet.

Dahlias, one of Auntie Bridgett’s favorite flowers, are still blooming, catching the lower light in their dense petals.IMG_0583.jpg

And, of course, chestnuts! The scary-muppet looking ones that you can eat, and the studded-motorcycle-jacket ones that you can’t are both falling like rocks from trees all over the neighborhood. Keep your hats on!

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CAN eat…sweet chestnut!

And, as Edith Ann used to say, that’s all I have to say about that.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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CAN’T eat…horse chestnut!

Believe it or not…

Dear Liza,

I know it has been, and still is hot here, but fall is definitely on the way. This morning there is a slight chill in the air. Some leaves are starting to turn. Kids are shopping for school clothes.

And the chestnuts are getting big. Last year was my first year in chestnut country, so I was just fascinated by these armored, spiky, golf ball sized nuts. Bridgett and I marveled at them and, when they started falling, collected about 30 pounds of the smooth,  mahogany colored things. We loved their color, their impressive size, and their smooth surface, like polished wood. We had big plans.

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Part of last year’s lovely, but useless, chestnuts

We would enjoy their beauty, maybe even make ornaments out of them, then roast them and eat them! “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire” would be ours!!! Bwahahaha!

So we researched the best way to roast them, not having an open fire at our disposal. Hmmm. Turns out, there are two kinds of chestnuts….horse chestnuts, which you CAN’T eat because they are poisonous, and sweet chestnuts, which you CAN. The leaves and tree shape are the same. How to tell the difference? The differences in the wooden looking nut are slight and I was never sure which was which. I wasn’t willing to bet my health on it.

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Green hulls of sweet chestnuts

But the differences between both the flower and the green hulls that grow outside the woody part are very clear. The sweet chestnuts have flowers that are spiky, and green hulls that look like Muppets. The horse chestnuts’ flowers are rounded, and their hulls more like a medieval spiked mace. So this summer, we have made note of where each are growing.

Oddly, the poisonous kind are much more common. Whether it is a difference in disease resistance or just accidental, the people in charge of planting them, probably 50 years ago, planted a bunch of ‘conkers’ you can’t use. The only sweet chestnut tree we have found is near the entrance to the Lone Fir Cemetery. I walked by today and admired them, promising I would return when they fell.

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Green hulls of horse chestnuts

We still don’t have an open fire, but we have a lovely gas oven. We will adjust. And Nat King Cole will be playing.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Squirreling

Dear Liza,

Fall is falling in a delightful way here in Portland. The trees are blazing into yellows and reds, planting beds and paths are upholstered with leaves, the fog is setting in, and the squirrels are getting even busier.

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First fog

The little furry guys run along the power lines to get from pole to pole and tree to tree without bothering about traffic or cats, but they don’t seem nervous about people.  If one of them is digging or hiding, he pretty much doesn’t notice us. He will occasionally dash up a tree and call us names, however. Just to let us know whose park it really is.

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Whose forest is this, anyway?

There is something else up here that is new to me. Chestnuts! Big, fat, spreading chestnut trees dropping bushels of chestnuts. When they fall, the nuts are encased in a green prickly shell, like a studded leather jacket, but the squirrels are very good at peeling those off, leaving the shiny, deep brown shells showing.

 

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Chestnut just breaking out of its jacket
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Squirreling away for Christmas!

Yesterday on the way to the Belmont Library, Auntie Bridgett and I decided to collect some chestnuts, as well.

What is good for the squirrels is good for the squirrelly, right?

Once we found a few trees, our pockets and Bridgett’s backpack were full in minutes! The only hazard is that the chestnuts are about the size and weight of a golf ball and HARD, so when they come down, they hit cars and sidewalks (and the hats of gatherers) with a resounding THUNK. Quite the adventure in foraging.

I look forward to roasting these little nuggets of Dickensian love and munching during a particularly ferocious storm. Welcome, winter!

The cooler weather has us hunting up scarves and heavier coats, making the first soup of the season (turkey/ sweet potato) and inventing new hot cider combinations. Looking forward with joy.

 

Love,

Grandma Judy