According to the weather news, this winter is supposed to be drier and warmer than usual. In November we got 2 inches of rain instead of the usual 10, and it was a few degrees warmer most days.
Well, we aren’t seeing rain, but it sure has been cold! Crystal clear, cold skies with air that hurts a little to inhale. This means that we aren’t walking much after dark, and haven’t had a chance to see many lights.
But here’s what I have so far, from our Sunnyside Neighborhood and the Laurelhurst area just around the park.
Well lit, old fashioned houses make for such lovely shapes against the darkness. I am looking forward to showing all these beauties to Auntie Christy and Cousin Kyle when they come up to visit!
Your oldest cousin Jasper, the fellow who started this whole Grandma Judy thing, turned ten last week. We celebrated this momentous anniversary at Blackbird Pizza, at the corner of SE 20th and Hawthorne. They have several things to recommend them.
First, they are close by. Even on a near-freezing evening, Grandpa Nelson and I walked there. We took the umbrella to make sure it didn’t rain (you know how that goes) and had a chance to see the Christmas lights going up in the neighborhood.
Second, Blackbird makes really good pizza. Since there would be seven kids and five adults, we ordered two large pies, one plain cheese and one “Proctor Special” as the kids call it. This has pepperoni, olives, pineapple and basil. Weird, yes, but definitely good! We also got some yummy Malbec wine for the grownups.
Third, there are games, video games on the first floor and pinball on the mezzanine. The kids played with pocketfuls of quarters.
Uncle Dave brought cupcakes, candles and matches, and lit up the dessert. I was amazed at how pleasant this party was… no drama, no fussy eaters, no overly tired kids losing their cool. I guess everyone is growing up. It is a good step.
When it was time to head home, we bundled up and headed back up the hill, warmed by love of family, a little wine, and woolen sweaters.
I know winter doesn’t really start until December 21st, but it feels like it has already landed here in Portland.
The leaves have fallen from most of the maples. The ginkgoes are still blazing yellow, as if trying to hold off winter’s arrival. But it is cold. It is dark. And it is wet.
Inside where it is warm and dry, we are planning for Thanksgiving. The turkey will be bought pre-cooked from New Seasons Markets but the rest will be homemade…two potatoes, two breads, and maybe three pies, as Auntie Katie has offered two!! And cookies, of course.
Evenings are long now that it gets dark at five o’clock. I have gotten fabric out for another ‘Circles’ pillow. I’ve gotten some books from the library to read to help me with my Teacher Voice problem.
Scrabble games are a regular thing. Last night’s went wrong in a spectacular way….we managed to play ourselves into a corner and almost couldn’t finish!
And, although it seems a bit premature, Christmas movies are being listed, researched and pulled from their boxes. The Bishop’s Wife and Charlie Brown, We’re No Angels and way too many of the Christmas Carols. We have our priorities, after all.
I had hoped to have happy news to post…..and here it is!
On Saturday, we got to be a part of a perfectly Portland activity, recycling our pretty Christmas tree. It took Auntie Bridgett a whole evening to take the ornaments off and pack them up.
The next morning, we lifted, swept needles, and carefully coordinated our movements… and dropped the naked tree horizontally off the balcony! It landed very neatly on the patio. This was Auntie Bridgett’s plan to keep from stringing needles all down the stairs, and it worked beautifully.
Grandpa Nelson had looked into where we could take our tree, since we don’t have yard waste pickup at our condominium. It turns out, the answer was our favorite local school, Sunnyside Elementary, only two blocks away! Hooray!
Thanks to Grandpa Nelson for taking these pictures! I forgot my camera…
Instead of loading the tree onto our car, we just carried it between us. Along the way we saw evidence of other trees being delivered; car traffic, branches and bits of trees along the sidewalk, and happy shouts.
At the schoolyard, there were little kids holding signs, adults directing traffic and taking the five dollar donations, and bigger kids stacking the trees. It was a well oiled tree recycling extravaganza.
On the way home, we saw this fellow bringing his tree to the yard…on his skateboard! Perfectly Portland.
Later in the day as we were walking back from the library, Auntie Bridgett and I saw the trees going into the chipper. They will be turned into mulch which will be used in the gardens around Sunnyside School itself. Talk about keeping it local.
I love that the powers that be have managed to work past some of the obstacles for getting good things done. Not all, of course…there is progress to be made. But it’s very nice when it works.
We had a busy day on Christmas! I woke up at 6 in the morning to put the pork shoulder in the slow cooker and the cinnamon rolls in to rise. Coffee, cereal, and soon the rest of the family started trickled down the stairs. The cinnamon rolls came out of the oven in time for the second pot of coffee with Grandpa Nelson.
We opened presents and nibbled all the goodies that family had sent via Harry and David, Oh Nuts! and Pittman and Davis. Mouse enjoyed her new toy from a new shop, Mud Bay. I got Harry Potter things from Cousin Kyle, who works at a fun shop called Boxlunch.
When Auntie Katie and the cousins came, we opened more presents, including the ones from Auntie Christy…she had made us all magic wands in her wood shop. Maple, Utile, and Walnut woods are so beautiful, and will get even prettier as we use them to make good magic. We all had fun gathering magic from the air and sending it to our family across the room and around the world.
Auntie Katie also brought a gingerbread house they had made and decorated, so we could help make it better. Some of our candy gifts ended up on the house! Later in the evening, we took a heavy mallet and totally smashed it, eating the bits. It was very dramatic!
When we had put all the food away and made sense out of the mess in the kitchen, we walked around the park (which was getting darker every second) and found a new tree that Kestrel named Falfla. It is an old lady Sycamore, and seems to have a good soul.
We talked and read and played games until it was time for them to head home, and I went to bed early, feeling like the richest woman in the world.
Merry Christmas!! I hope you and your Mommy and Daddy have a fun day with Baba Alla and lots of presents and good food. I will be spending the day with Cousins Kyle, Jasper and Kestrel, and Auntie Christy and Bridgett, and Grandpa Nelson.
Last night we took Auntie Christy and cousin Kyle to Zoolights. We went with Katie and the cousins last year, but Katie still has a cold and it was going to be a wet night.
First, Christy and I went to the movies downtown to see “Welcome to Marwen”, a movie that looks really sad but is really very hopeful. Steve Carell, who does the voice of Gru in the Despicable Me movies, was the star and did a very good job of making us believe an unbelievable story.
When the movie was over, I showed Christy around our pretty downtown…the trees wrapped in lights, and Pioneer Square (which Portlanders call ‘The Living Room’) with its giant Christmas tree.
Grandpa Nelson, cousin Kyle and Auntie Bridgett met us there and we got on the train to the zoo. It was cold and damp, but not raining…..yet.
As we got into the zoo, it began, and kept raining all night. We had brought umbrellas and hats, gloves and coats, but I could feel my feet getting wetter and wetter as I enjoyed the lights and dealt with crowds.
We stopped for food at the Africafe, where we usually watch the birds darting around their aviary. But they were all asleep. It was odd, being at the zoo when all the animals were not active, sort of like sneaking into someone’s house when they are away. Along with a few hundred other folks.
When we had walked the route and gotten just about as wet as we could, we caught the train back downtown….and then the rain really kicked in! Fifth Street was a river that happened to have streetcar tracks in it. Thanks goodness for Portland’s covered bus stops, or we would have been miserable.
We were home around 7, but we were all exhausted. We changed into dry clothes, hung up the wet ones, and watched Graham Norton until we got sleepy, around 9:00. Falling asleep, I thought about how good it is to get wet and cold, get warm and dry again, and be with family.
We have the house all decorated. Most of the presents are wrapped. Cookie strategies are being worked out. Christmas is coming!
This week your Great Aunt Christy and Cousin Kyle are coming all the way from Torrance to visit us. I am looking forward to showing them our lovely Laurelhurst Park, taking a bus downtown, and maybe even going to the Lights up at The Grotto.
But first, there has been preparation. Our kitten Mouse has helped, of course….as kittens do. She left the main tree alone, but decided a smaller one was withing her grasp…and so she grasped it. Oh well, kitten, no harm done.
Last night we snuggled down with some Bargetto pinot noir gifted us by Auntie Bridgett’s Mom and watched my favorite Christmas movie, The Muppet Christmas Carol. It makes the often dark story very accessible, and I used it for years in my third grade classroom as a way of studying story outline. Besides that, Rizzo the rat cracks me up and Michael Caine is a fabulous Scrooge.
Today we are going to walk down to Hawthorne Street and look at some houses that are on the market….we aren’t ready to BUY yet, but we sure can look! We are figuring out which neighborhoods we like. So far, Belmont, Sunnyside, Kerns, and Richmond are on our radar, so we keep getting to know them.
I had a feeling-lousy day yesterday, maybe from walking around cold the previous evening at the zoo. I slept a lot, drank tons of tea and was generally useless. And today I am better!
Since I was on the couch most of the day, I was looking at the many pictures I have taken here in town and come to a major conclusion: Random beauty in a city this big usually doesn’t happen by accident. There are budgets, materials, design teams, artists, and the folks who install the art. This is a government decision to make art.
And I love it!
For instance, the home of one of Portland’s oldest newspapers, The Journal Building, has been standing by the Pioneer Square since 1912. The paper closed down in 1982, but the building is still used for offices and stores and is a beautiful part of the downtown skyline. At Christmas, it gets even prettier!
There are so many statues downtown it would take pages to just show and name them. One I just noticed the other day is called “Pile”, a statue showing a crow standing on a pigeon, sitting on some old books, standing on a pillow, sitting on a crate. I am sure it means something, but to me it was just random and wonderful.
Up in the Kenton neighborhood, we saw a series of benches that feature sculpture. Here is “Dog Bench”.
The last piece of art I will tell you about is one I noticed and photographed weeks ago during the wet weather. It is on one of the blocks of polished granite in Pioneer Square, and shows an architect’s blueprints, calculator and even coffee cup, all sculpted in bronze. It is so casual looking, as through the architect has just stepped away for a moment, it cracks me up.
I am looking forward to showing you all the lovely things I have found in Portland.
Hello from Portland! Fall keeps passing, with most of the trees completely bare now. The ginkgo in Laurelhurst Park is a rare exception, but is fading fast.
On Friday, Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to Hawthorne Street to have dinner at another McMenamin’s restaurant. This is The Baghdad Cafe and is delightfully quirky, with oriental rugs on the walls, paper lanterns hanging from the ceiling, and the signature McMenamin’s hand-painted murals decorating any bare spot. The food was very good! I had a Harvest Moon Salad, with roasted sweet potatoes, pecans, and goat cheese …mmmm…
After dinner we walked a whole 20 feet to the Baghdad Theater, where the new Pixar movie, Coco, is showing. The Baghdad Theater is also decorated in the whimsical style of the McMenamin brothers, and we enjoyed looking at the design details before the movie.
The movie itself was stunning. The animation is bright and colorful, and the story is real, human and beautiful. It also has is sad in spots, so take a tissue. We laughed out loud in parts, and cried like babies in others. The movie is about family and music and finding oneself.
After we recovered from the emotional roller coaster of Coco, we walked another 20 feet, past a small cigar bar (too stinky!) called Trump’s, to the Back Stage Bar. Still a part of the Baghdad property, this is a long, narrow room with a ceiling at least 50 feet high. It used to be the backstage of the theater, where all the giant canvas backdrops were stored. It is now weirdly wonderful, with some of the backdrops, old neon signs, pool tables and pinball, and a perfectly restored old cherry wood bar. Up to our earlobes in emotion, visual beauty and music, we walked home through a nice drizzle.
Saturday afternoon was Cousin Jasper’s eighth birthday party. I foolishly left my camera at home, so have no pictures of the boys playing video games or the cake Uncle Dave made with a game controller done in frosting on top. Auntie Katie, her friend Chelsea, cousin Kestrel and I escaped the video game nuttiness by reading comics in the other room.
On Saturday evening, Auntie Bridgett came home!!! She had stayed in San Diego with her sister for the week and we missed her like a tricycle misses its last wheel. She had caught a cold and we spend the rest of the evening keeping her warm and making sure she drank lots of tea.
Sunday was another big adventure: Getting the Christmas tree! After several wild goose chases, Grandpa Nelson remembered seeing a sign for a lot at 48th and Belmont….and there were trees! It just started drizzling when we found the perfect one and the nice young fellow loaded it up on Miles the Volkswagen (who we protected with a heavy packing blanket, of course). Our tree was so fresh it still had moss and leaves on it from the forest, and is just wonky enough to be charming.
We spent the rest of the afternoon and into the evening choosing the ornaments to go on it. Auntie Bridgett has so many ornaments, they don’t all fit, so we only put our favorite ones up….some are from your great grandma Billie, 50 years ago, and some are from our more recent travels. I love that every year we get to re-tell our story with the decorations.
It was so nice this morning to wake up to the tree, Auntie Bridgett back home, and a kitten sleeping on the rug.