Peacock Lane, All Lit Up

Dear Liza,

One of our favorite Portland signs of Christmas is the lighting of Peacock Lane.

This four block section of SE 40th Avenue between Stark and Belmont is, for most of the year, just a pleasant neighborhood. But come Christmas, the homeowners pull out all the stops and invite the city to visit.

The other night we joined hundreds of other folks out for a very chilly (37F) walk to enjoy the lights and being out in the community.

The decorations ranged from the homey and cottage-like to the Interstellar antics of Jedi Knights.

Some seemed odd, almost ironic, as if to say “What is Christmas, anyway?” But it was all pretty and entertaining.

It’s nice to be out in the world again, even when we need to bundle up.


Grandma Judy

Double Holidays

Dear Liza,

At our house, we celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas. And last week, we celebrated both in one day!

Friday was predicted to be our last dry day for a while, so we headed out to get our Christmas tree. Our favorite lot is down at Belmont and 48th. The prices have gone up because of the local growers losing so many trees to the fires the past two summers, but we paid anyway. We chose a lovely Nordman pine from a farm just down the road in Molalla. We named her Molly.

The nice man gave Molly a trim and tied her onto Miles and we headed home. And that’s where the next adventure started.

The last few years, we have wrestled our tree through the garage and up the stairs. Unfortunately, this leaves a sticky trail of pine needles in the carpet. This year, Auntie Bridgett suggested we pull it up over the balcony. It looked impossible, but with the three of us working together, it worked really well!

And in no time, Molly was up and ready for decorations. But they would have to wait until tomorrow, because we had to get ready for a Hannukah party.

I’ll tell you about that tomorrow!


Grandma Judy

Accidental Cat Games

Dear Liza,

I told you about our advent calendar, where we keep track of the days until Christmas. Auntie Bridgett made us these cute bags and we put candy, trivia questions, or puzzles inside.

Last night we got a ball toss game. Since I used what we have at home for the game, it had yogurt container targets and three sheets of tin foiled rolled up into balls. We three took turns aiming for the targets, with the closest one counting for one point and the furthest one counting for four. The stairs in our house made it even more interesting.

And of course, any time balls are getting tossed around, Mouse the cat gets very interested. She watched for quite a while and then decided that this was really a game for her.

She hunkered down, pounced around, and even batted balls away from the targets. She is a very good goalie. Finally she cornered one and held onto it, bringing the game to a giggly end.

Who needs reindeer games? We have cat games!

Grandma Judy

Portland’s Christmas Tree

Dear Liza,

This past Friday evening, a 75 foot Christmas tree erected in Pioneer Square, also known as Portland’s Living Room, was lit up beautifully as the whole city sang. This has happened the night after Thanksgiving every year for 36 years.

Thousands of our closest friends. downtown in 2019

Thomas Lauderdale, China Forbes, and the rest of Pink Martini played and sang Christmas Carols. Thousands of Portlanders sang along, led in the lyrics by a projected Christmas tree bouncing along the words. It was just like always!

Except that this year we were in our own living rooms and Pink Martini was on television, broadcast by local station KGW. We were sitting down and warm instead of standing up and freezing, we had our cat on our laps, and it was cozy.

But I still miss the crowds, the being together-ness, the palpable feeling of goodwill and community. Christmas isn’t just a time for family and friends, at least not in a big city. It is a time to make merry, eat, shop, walk, and sing with a whole bunch of strangers.

Auntie Christy, Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett with the tree last year

Thinking forward, we will be in for New Year’s, as well. Two years ago we went to Pink Martini’s show downtown, walking for hours between a fine dinner and the 10:00 show. It was cold, alright, but so beautiful. I took one of my favorite photos ever of the tree all lit up and the New Year’s moon.

Living Room tree and a New Year’s moon

This year will continue to be different, and I go back and forth on how I feel about it. Usually, my parents’ good natures win out and I know it will all turn out right if we all hunker down and do our best, but every now and then I get cranky and feel very put upon. That is when I try to have some alone time or take a nap, to keep from spreading the virus of my melancholy to the rest of the household.

Happiness, as Ruthie says, is a choice. So I will choose it.


Grandma Judy

Neighborhood Lights

Dear Liza,

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.

Between us and the park…

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.

Crazy fuschia in a tree
Our new friend Matthew’s homage to Snoopy and Woodstock

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!

Our cat Mousekin enjoying our lights!


Grandma Judy

Jasper Turns Ten!

Dear Liza,

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.

Christmas lights on the way to pizza…

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.

Lighting up dessert

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.


Grandma Judy

Winter Comes Dripping In

Dear Liza,

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.

We are ready for winter!


Grandma Judy

Perfectly Portland

Dear Liza,

Naked Tree

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!

Walking the tree to Sunnyside School

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.

Trees on the schoolyard

On the way home, we saw this fellow bringing his tree to the yard…on his skateboard! Perfectly Portland.

Keeping things 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.


Grandma Judy

Christmas Day

Dear Liza,

Decorating in fancy clothes

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.

Grandpa Nelson, enjoying the day

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.

Wands of Utile, Maple, and Walnut wood

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!

Soul Mates and Cousins

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.

The Park at dusk

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.

The gifts that make you laugh out loud

Merry Christmas!


Grandma Judy

Zoolights 2018

Dear Liza,

At Zoolights

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.

Portland’s Living Room

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.

Before the Rain

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.

The Zoo Train racing with dinosaurs

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.


Grandma Judy