City Crows

Dear Liza,

For such a big city, Portland has a large animal population.

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Bubbler Crow

We see this when the ‘dog parade’ heads from the neighborhoods to Laurelhurst Park for their evening walk. Cats greet us from sunny porches as we pass, and chickens talk amongst themselves when we go by Sunnyside School.

The squirrels, of course, have the best commutes ever, up trees and across power lines, chittering at everyone who will listen, but freezing on tree trunks to become invisible.

But by far the most vocal and numerous animals are the crows. Unlike their more reclusive cousins the ravens, crows thrive in close proximity with humans, and some even enjoy our company. And it’s not just people in general; studies show that crows remember certain humans, reacting positively to those who feed them and negatively to those they see as a threat.

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Queen of the Crows?

There is a lady who walks every day in Lone Fir Cemetery, bringing a large bag of dry cat food, just to feed the crows. She loves their attentions, and they love her, too! She is like the crow’s queen.

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Crow in the Artbar

The art in Portland reflects this affection (some might even say a fixation) with crows. This painting greeted us last week at The Artbar downtown.

And Laurelhurst hosts a fair few of the feathered fellows, as well.

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Laurelhurst Crow

I like having all these living critters in the neighborhood. Since I have fewer small people to talk with, crows and cats can be good conversation. Also, learning how critters get by and help the area (eating all that fallen fruit, for example) lets me see the neighborhood as an ecosystem rather than just a bunch of houses.

Love, Grandma Judy

Architecture, History, and Beer

Dear Liza,

Last week I took the good old number 14 downtown to the Oregon Historical Society. The weather was a cold but clear, and everything looked so pretty!

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NOT A.E. Doyle

As I get to know more about the architecture of Portland, I recognize certain styles of decoration. One of my favorite architects of Portland is A. E. Doyle. He designed the Central Library and the Bank of California building, as well as dozens of others, working in Portland from 1907 to his death in 1928.

Mr. Doyle used fired ceramic details to give his buildings a lovely artistic look, delicate against the dark stone or brick. It has stayed bright because of the glaze and reflects even the smallest bit of sunlight.

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A.E. Doyle

After admiring old and new buildings, I looked for more details for my story about 1903. How many synagogues were there? (Three). Was Jiggs Parrot’s father’s music store still open? (Sadly, no.) was there mail service between Brownsville and Portland? (Yes, and telegraph service…but no phone lines until 1908). The more I write my story, the more I need to know.

When I needed a snack, I went down to the lobby to eat. No sticky fingers in the library! The current exhibit on the first floor is called……. and is all about the history of brewing in Oregon.

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At OHS

This isn’t really surprising. Portland is famous for all our different beers, and we have learned that the McMinamen Brothers helped change liquor laws here so that small brewers could be in business.

The exhibit had all sorts of things… buckets for bringing “suds” (beer) home from the tavern, old Blitz Weinhard bottles, and a video explaining the devastating effects seventeen years of Prohibition had on the beer industry. It turns out, some brewers, like Henry Weinhard, were able to stay in business making root beer and other soft drinks (this was actually the beginning of the soft drink industry).img_1516.jpeg

There was a interactive display of the brewing process and recognition of Mr. Eckhardt, who taught the McMenamins all they know about beer. The displays were interesting and amusing, with the lights being large hop flowers.

The last exhibit was about the future of the brewing industry: Women! The Pink Boots Society works for education and inclusivity for women in the industry.img_1520-2.jpeg

When it was almost 2 and I couldn’t put off lunch any more, I headed for the bus stop and home.

I spent a few hours putting the new information into the story, and found more things that are needed.

This whole writing process may take a while…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

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The cupola

It is hot again here in Portland, so I made sure my Monday with Jasper and Kestrel included lots of air conditioning and water.

We took the number 4 bus downtown to the Pioneer Courthouse. This nifty building was built in 1875, and is still being used. It has a wonderfully old elevator that feels like a birdcage, and lovely steps, as well. We enjoyed both as we headed for the main attraction, the cupola!

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Cool old elevator

A cupola is a little tower with windows that sticks out the top of a building. The courthouse cupola was built because this was where customs officers could come and see what ships were in the port of Portland. In those days, this was the tallest building around, so you could see the river from here. Not anymore, I’m afraid.

But we enjoyed the old bubbly glass, the views, and knowing that we were in a special place. Looking down, we saw Pioneer Square, which is called Portland’s Living Room because of all the public events there. Once we climbed down from the cupola, we crossed the street and had snacks there while listening to bluegrass music.

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Pretty carpeted stairs

But it was getting hot. So we headed up to the Oregon Historical Society, which is air conditioned and free, since I am member. Their main exhibit was about Oregon State University (OSU, Go Beavers!) and many of the famous and influential people who graduated from there. There was information about Linus Pauling, The McMenamin brothers, people who invented whale tracking technology, the fellow who invented the computer mouse,  and much more. There was also a soft comfy couch for Grandmas.

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Tracking whales

Having filled our heads with history and science, we walked to Director’s Park, where there is a fountain designed for playing in. The kids got wet, splashed other kids, and generally had a good time. We ate a cobbled together picnic in the shade, played a big game of Connect Four until tempers started to fray,  and then we headed home.

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Kids and water

I had brought storybooks to read, and Kestrel had lots more. Jasper practiced Spanish on his Duolingo program. We made dinner, Auntie Katie came home, and Grandpa Nelson came to fetch me. I was one pooped Grandma Judy!

When it “cooled down” to 88 degrees at 9 o’clock, Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. The moon was almost full and the park was beautiful, but it was still too warm to be comfortable. Tomorrow will be a quiet inside day, I think.

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Moonshine

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunday Parkways

Dear Liza,

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Grandpa Nelson and me on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge

Bicycles are very popular here in Portland. Not just to play with, but for people to get to work and school. The city makes this easier by designating some streets as greenways in the neighborhoods, where bikes are the main traffic and cars are discouraged.

But riding downtown or along busy streets like Division is still hard because there are just so many cars. So since 2007, the city and local businesses and hospitals have organized a fun way to enjoy riding in different parts of town. It is called Sunday Parkways.

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Just the place for third breakfast!

For the five warmest months of the year, one Sunday a month, in one section of the city, streets are closed to car traffic in a loop from 7 to 10 miles long. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett got to ride in our Sunnyside/Belmont neighborhood in May. Grandpa Nelson and I rode through the industrial and downtown area this past Sunday.

We started with coffee and pastries at Trifecta on 6th street, because every good day starts with third breakfast. I got to chat with a delivery person for B Line, a company that delivers Trifecta’s baked goods to restaurants and stores by bike! He said he liked being “in the middle of the future.”

When we saw other cyclists passing by (dozens of them, right in the middle of street!) we knew it was time, and off we went. The path for us was marked with signs and helpful folks willing to provide shade, water, directions and advice.

We rode up to the Moda Center, an indoor sports arena, where a bike fair was happening. There were booths for registering your bike, music, food, and a huge event with the Portland Trailblazers basketball team. It was so crowded, we had to get off and walk our bikes through the people.

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Traffic downtown

When we were past that, we continued ACROSS THE STEEL BRIDGE. It couldn’t be closed to traffic, since it is so busy, but we got one lane to share for the bikes going in both directions. Downtown it was crowded again, with booths and so many people. Think of it like when you go for a Sunday drive and everyone else in town does, too.

But the joy of riding with thousands of other people on a warm sunny day is no small thing. Last year, over 74,000 people rode on some part of the Sunday Parkways. That is about half the population of all of Salinas!

In an unexpected historical moment, we passed the Simon Benson House. Mr. Benson was a lumberman from the 1800s and 1900s whose good works have lived after him. He donated money for Benson Polytechnic high school, the land where Multnomah Falls is, and the wonderful always-running water fountains called bubblers. One of them in right in front of his house!

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Simon Benson House

Coming home, we rode over the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. This is the newest bridge in the city and is just for trains, buses, pedestrians and bikes. NO CARS, ever. We stopped to enjoy the view and chatted with some folks riding with three generations of family, and took each other’s pictures.

Back on the east side of the river we rode on the Vera Katz Esplanade, created by a former mayor and named for her. There was a band on a barge playing music, more treats and happy people.

The last part of the ride (as it often is) is coming back up the hill to our house. You understand that rivers are always at the lowest part of the land, and that we are 33 streets up from that. It adds up to about 150 feet of elevation change, which feels like an awful lot at the end of an 8 mile ride!

Finally home, we drank lots of water and enjoyed the wonderful cool rest of knowing we had done something very special, and very Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Back to Downtown

Dear Liza,

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Plaza outside Student Services Building

Well, since I wasn’t able to find what I needed  Downtown Tuesday, I needed another trip. But that is absolutely okay with me, because I love it! The day was sunny and breezy. There were people out walking their dogs, summer camps on walking trips, and even a small farmer’s market on the Park Blocks.

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Farmer’s Market in the shade

First, I visited the Oregon Historical Society Research Library. I have a part in my story where the school children are walking on a field trip, and I wanted to know what they would be walking past. I found the City Directory for 1903 to see what was there. As it turns out, the neighborhood I am interested in, the northwest,  was mostly houses, with about ten churches, at the time. Businesses and city services were closer to downtown.

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City Planning Maps!!

One of the fun things about research is that you do a lot of looking at other things before you find the ones you are really looking for. I found a book of detailed maps of downtown Portland from the big re-development in 1985. Loving maps like I do, I fell into that one for quite a while.

Then it was time to return to the City Archives. Walking down towards Portland State University is always interesting. There are young people, music, fountains, and always something new to see. This fellow, washing windows 5 stories up on a 14 story building, looked very at ease in his work.

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Confident window washer

Since thousands of students come to the University everyday, there is great public transit to this area. Street cars, light rail, and buses are all over the place.

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Portland Street Car

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I found interesting information on the parade that the city of Portland had to honor President Theodore Roosevelt on his visit in 1903, and then it was time to head home. Walking back, I noticed that The Portland Building is under a huge construction project. The giant statue “Portlandia” is still attached to the front of the building, but completely draped to protect her from the work. I miss her.

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Draped Portlandia

After dinner, we all walked up the The Laurelhurst Theater to see “Ocean’s Eight”. It was a fun movie and the walk home, under the lovely pink sunset, was the highlight of a very good day.

img_7577.jpgLove,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

 

 

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Portlandia Undraped

245 Tubas

Dear Liza,

Yesterday we had a long, cold, sunny day downtown. Our first stop was Pioneer Square, sometimes called “Portland’s Living Room”. This is a beautifully paved and decorated open square that is used for big concerts, markets, and just hanging out in.

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Statue of a Cat lady and her … dog?
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Two of the 245 tuba players

Yesterday was the Tuba Christmas Concert, which features 245 people playing Christmas songs (and other lovely tunes) on tubas, baritone horns, and sousaphones. We got there early but all the seats were taken, so we stood way back and could hear, but not see, the performance. The deep peaceful music floated in the freezing cold air, and contrasted nicely with the giggling of children and chatting of families. Everyone was enjoying the day, but not silently.

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Tuba Christmas Hat!

I enjoyed watching the people in the crowd. Since it was cold, most folks were wearing hats. As the day went along, I tried to take pictures of some of the more interesting hats without scaring anyone.

 

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Minion hat

After the music, we walked around town, enjoying the window decorations. We stopped at Dick Blick’s Art Supplies and Powell’s City of Books, to see what would make nice presents for folks. Auntie Bridgett wanted to do some secret shopping, so we split up and agreed to meet at Kenny and Zuke’s Deli in an hour.

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Bright hat

 

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Auntie Bridgett hat

We enjoyed a veggie Reuben Sandwich, french fries and chicken soup and then headed home to do the grocery shopping. The bus home was full of people all bundled up and carrying packages, just like us! When that was done, we finally got into jammies and crashed. I fell asleep during The Charlie Brown Christmas, and will need to watch it again.

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Grandpa Nelson matching a stranger

Hanging out inside this morning, watching a 34 degree wind blow past our window. It’s weird, because with no leaves left to blow along the street, you just see bare branches swaying in the wind. Sometimes your hear the wind more than you see it…..spooky, but nice.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

Downtown Delights

Dear Liza,

On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I took the #20 bus downtown. We admired the architecture while hunting for a place to eat. The problem is, Portland is a very Sunday Brunch-oriented city. If there is a restaurant open, they are packed. We tried Cheryl’s on 12th: a mob. We looked at Tasty n Alder: packed. Finally, we went to our old stand by, Kenny and Zuke’s Deli, at 11th and Stark. They had only a 10 minute wait, and we enjoyed reading the newspapers and magazines they had out.

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Kenny and Zuke’s looking out
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Church and leaves

After a filling and delicious meal of roasted veggies, eggs and rye toast with lots of butter, we headed off. Since we weren’t in a hurry, we got to notice all sorts of things. The leaves keep changing and are beautiful at every turn.

Odd things, like a dog fountain guarded by a brass bulldog named Zelda wearing a top hat, standing in front of the Hilton Hotel, just cracked us up.

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Zelda the water fountain guardian

At Pioneer Square, we saw the 45 foot Christmas tree being put up. The lower branches had been removed to make it easier (something I had never seen) and some workmen were busy re-attaching the branches onto the tree while other men were running electric cables down the tree for when they light it up next week. Down below, a fellow was stringing lights on smaller trees to make everything cheerful.

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Christmas tree going up!

We kept walking and got to The Oregon Historical Society. A group of talented musicians and historians were putting on a show about The Art of the Protest Song, a history that runs from before I was born to today; people using music to tell other people how they feel about what’s going on in the world, and to let people know they aren’t alone in their concerns. We heard some Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Phil Ochs, and several original songs by the musicians. It was wonderful, and very well attended. There were 100 chairs up when we got there, and almost 100 more were added before the show started.

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Quilted logo of the show

After the show, Grandpa Nelson suggested we try walking home. We were surprised, but willing. It wasn’t very cold, and there was even some blue skies coming between the clouds. And there was always a bus close by if we got tired.

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Light on the River

 

 

 

We walked down to the river, then north along the Tom McCall Riverfront, to the Morrison Bridge. A curvy on ramp took us up to the bridge, and we walked across the Willamette River. It was beautiful. The trees, seen from above, spread out and drop their leaves onto the roadway. The sidewalk is separated from the big traffic by a bike lane and fence, so we felt safe. The sky had gotten grey so the river was, too.

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Trees seen from above

On the east side, we walked past warehouses and car repair places, up Morrison Street, through the Lone Fir Cemetery, and home for dinner. Auntie Bridgett’s Fitbit said we had walked almost 5 miles! Hooray for walking!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Downtown again

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Old newspaper building

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I went downtown to do some more research at the Oregon Historical Society Library. The ladies there were very helpful and I learned about the horse pulled and electric trolley car lines of 1880’s Portland.

Because the streets were so muddy before the days of storm drains and paving, street cars made getting around easier. They let the city grow and have room for more people. The lines ran north and south from downtown and east across the Willamette River, opening up East Portland for housing and businesses. I am glad they did, because that’s where we are living now. Except we take buses to get downtown.

There was rain this morning, but it cleared up and then didn’t rain again until afternoon. I enjoyed having some time to look around downtown. I like how the lovely old stone buildings and the shiny new ones seem to get along.

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Shiny new bank building

I also enjoyed a nice cool drink of water from one of the Benson Bubblers.There are 20 of these lovely drinking fountains in downtown Portland, and they run all day and all night, year round. There is no water shortage here in the rainy northwest like there is in California, so this isn’t a problem.

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Benson Bubbler

The bubblers were a gift to the city from Simon Benson, a man who came to Portland with nothing and ended up being very rich. He chopped trees, built buildings, and eventually owned a lot of land and even some banks. Being so successful, he wanted to give something nice to the city.

One thing he noticed was that, except for saloons and bars, there was no where to go to get a drink of water. This bothered him because once a man was in a saloon, he tended to order a beer or two, and wasn’t much use for the afternoon. He had the bubblers installed in downtown and people have been enjoying them ever since. People still drink beer, though. Sorry, Mr. Benson.

Mr. Benson did a lot of other good things with his money. He said that no rich man should die without giving some of his money away, and he wanted to give it away when he was still around to enjoy seeing the results. He donated $100,000 for a high school, now called Benson High School, on the east side of Portland. He donated some property in the Columbia Gorge, called Wakeenah Falls, to the city as a park.

Portland has many people who have been successful and donated nice things to the city. I will tell you about them as I come across their stories.

Love,

Grandma Judy

My First Day in Portland

Dear Liza,

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Salmon Springs Fountain

Today I got up really early and Grandpa Nelson drove me all the way to San Jose.     I caught my flight and landed in Portland, in a warm, sunny day. I got the Red line Max train and got off around 1st street and Washington, where the buildings were tall and beautiful and I could smell good restaurants making lunch.

I walked to a restaurant called the Rock Bottom Brewery and had southwest eggrolls…not really egg rolls, but tasty and filling. I sat at a table on the sidewalk, enjoying the sunny day and all the people and traffic going by. I listened to bits of conversation, watched workmen load and unload trucks, and just enjoyed being in a vibrant, busy city.

I knew I wanted to see the big Willamette River, so I walked downhill to the Tom McCall Riverfront Park. It is a wide walkway with trees, benches, grass, and a big, changing fountain, at Naito Parkway and Salmon, for everyone, kids, grown ups and dogs, to play in. One fellow was trying to get his big dog into the fountain to cool off, but the dog was having none of it. When the man finally carried the dog in, the poor wet dog looked so embarrassed! But I bet he was more comfortable. I chatted with John, an older gentleman from Adena,Texas. We swapped stories about the places we’d been and what we learned about them.

I continued wandering north, heading for the best bookstore in the world!

POWELL’S!! A whole city block, at Burnside and 10th, four floors high, and all books. New, used, kids books, atlases, french, German, Arabic, comic books….you name it, it’s here. There are so many you can’t even see every room in one visit. It is like a national park of books.  The coffee shop, with pastries, makes sure you have sustenance to continue. Sitting in the foyer resting up from my travels, I watched my species interact. A group of teenagers were having an existential crisis. Parents were bribing their kids to leave the bookstore (!!) by promising them ice cream.

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Shannon the Poet

Then  I heard the unmistakable sound of an old fashioned typewriter. Click clack, music to my ears. It turns out that Shannon, a young poet, was sitting on the sidewalk just outside Powell’s, writing poems on any topic you requested for whatever you felt like paying. She said she was incredibly grateful to be able to do this for a living. What a joy. She wrote me a poem, but it is sort of personal. I may share it with you sometime.

Having rested my feet and rejuvenated my spirit with books, snacks, and good conversation, I headed to the Lan Su Chinese garden at 2nd and Everett. It is just a city block, but the walls seem to hold the noise and heat of the city out and the peace and cool of the garden in. The tiny lake has koi and water lilies, and is viewed from pagodas, bridges, benches, and even a tea house. The pavings were mosaics of pebbles and intricate stonework.

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At Lan Su

I realized, coming back out into the city, that I was done in. Walking down 2nd street, checking the bus stop signs, I found the stop for the number 4 bus that would take me to Auntie Katie’s house.

And here I am and here I’ll stay until morning.

Love, Grandma Judy

 

 

Ready to Leave Salinas

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What I’m leaving Behind…

Dear Liza,

     Tomorrow I start my new life in Portland. Leaving Salinas for such a big city will be exciting and a little bit scary, I think.

     I will fly into PDX airport and take the Red Line Max train to downtown. This train is part of Trimet, the name for all the trains, busses, and streetcars in the city. There is an app I can load onto my phone that lets the phone be a ticket for all of Trimet. That will make getting around easier.

     By the time I get downtown, I will be hungry. I know there are lots of interesting places to have lunch there. I will walk until something looks (and smells) good. I will tell you all about it.

     After lunch I will walk around and look at the city. There are statues, fountains, tall buildings, and even little parks all over the place. There is also the Willamette, a big river that divides the city into two parts, west and east, and there are ten bridges that cross from side to side. Each bridge is different!

     After I have explored downtown, I will get on the number 4 bus and cross the Willamette on the Tilikum Crossing Bridge. It is the newest bridge and is only for busses, trains, bicycles, and walking…no cars! I can get off the bus and walk past Auntie Katie’s bookstore and then to her house. I know where the key is, so I can get in and cuddle with her cats, Wanda and Pietro, and have a nice quiet evening.

     I will tell you all about my day tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy