Thunder, Lightning, and Tiny Critters

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning we were WOKEN UP by a wonderfully loud and flashy thunder-and-lightning storm. We had seen the clouds wafting in Friday evening as we sat on our balcony, and knew it was only a matter of time.

I love thunder storms. The power and energy give me a sense of perspective, an understanding of my tininess in the face of universal forces. I can picture myself as one of the mice huddling under bushes or birds snuggling in their nests.

Princess Zelda overlooking her realm

And speaking of tiny creatures, it is Spring, which means baby animals have been on my radar.

Terri expresses her opinion

My friends Amy and Angela have gotten kittens, named Terri and Princess Zelda, respectively, who are keeping them company during the shut down.

Skinny squirrel out and about

At Lone Fir, I followed one young squirrel in his exploration of the sunny headstones, and another, more ‘substantial’ fellow perching on a monument.

Chubby squirrel being immortalized

And then there are the ducks! Laurelhurst Park’s little Firwood Lake is home to a few dozen ducks, and this week, most of them are guarding little flotillas of fluffy ducklings. It is an eleven out of ten on the cuteness scale.

Fuzzy!!

This little guy got tired of swimming and followed Momma up onto shore for a rest.

Hanging out with Mom

And that is your dose of tiny animals for the day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hanukkah Evening

Dear Liza,

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Two kids, two menorahs…

We finally got to spend a Hanukkah evening with Auntie Katie, Jasper and Kestrel!

Last Thursday evening was the Winter Music Performance at Hosford-Abernethy School. The sun was just going down as we all walked from their house to the school, about two blocks. It was already very cold, but we were properly bundled up.

I love old school buildings! They have high ceilings, which at Abernethy, means beautiful soaring murals of kids doing art, geography, gardening, and music.

Abernethy’s murals

The program, put on by Ms Lannigan’s and Ms Logan’s Second Grade classes, was directed and partly written by the school’s music teacher, Mr. Hall. There were six songs, some of which, like “Frere Jacques”, “There’s a Hole in the Bucket” and ” Zum Gali Gali”, I sang when I was little!

Mr. Hall wrote “The World Greeting Song” and ” I Am We”. The first is a fun call and response song about ways of saying hello in different languages. The audience did a fine job repeating ‘hola’ and even ‘nihao’, but we got lost in some of the other greetings. “I am We” is about the different winter holidays and how many days each is celebrated.

Mr. Hall and his performers

After the show, we walked back to Auntie Katie’s house. It was very cold and dark, and not even 6:00 yet. We made latkes (Kestrel broke the eggs nearly perfectly) and enjoyed them with applesauce and chicken, lit candles and opened presents. Kestrel had made Katie a pretty coaster out of a tile. The silliest gift was the Marvel comics printed leggings I had found for Katie at a vintage shop!

After dinner, Grandpa Nelson played video games with Jasper while we ladies made cookies. The recipe is from Auntie Bridgett’s Momma, Donna Spicer, and worked very well.

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Cracking with Care

Since the evening was running late, we decided to used broken up chocolate gelt for decorations instead of frosting the cookies. There were squirrels and acorns, kestrels (the bird), owls and octopi. They were delicious!

We left before bedtime, full of latkes, cookies and the love of family.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Lovely Damp

Dear Liza,

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Fall Sunset

We are now getting into the part of Fall that is damp and grey. If it is isn’t raining at any given moment, it has recently stopped or will begin again soon. When we were thinking of moving to Portland, this is one thing I worried about….as a former Southern California beach girl and Salinas resident, how would I do in a fairly constant situation of damp?

So far, it suits me right down to the ground. Granted, I am not working, so I don’t have damp students or muddy shoes to deal with, and we have a cozy warm house that keeps the chill away.

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Mushrooms in Laurelhurst Park

But even outside, there is so much life and beauty that it’s hard to be too fussy about it. At Laurelhurst Park there are mushrooms that spring like fairy lamp posts from the mud, and leaves that sparkle on the dark paths.

We have even found a sweet chestnut tree! We have named it Leila, after my aunt who had eleven children, because she is so prolific. Yesterday evening, when it was nearly dark, we foraged about eight pounds of chestnuts.

Walking through Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie lives, is a joy, as well. The old trees and shady yards feel like a forest, with moss, ferns and earth that smells alive and happy. When the clouds part for a minute, the sunshine is so glorious that people stop and smile.

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Foresty front yard in Ladd’s Addition

Meanwhile, inside, there is quilting and reading, split pea soup with bacon and Halloween monster movies.

Love,

Grandma Judy

An Afternoon with Kestrel

Dear Liza,

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A place of tiny magical things

You are your Mom and Daddy’s only child, so you get a lot of alone time with them, and with me, when I’m around. Cousin Kestrel is Jasper’s little sister, and she doesn’t. Everything she does, including lunchtime at school, is with Jasper.

Jasper is a very nice brother, but we all need some time with our people when it is just US. Kestrel and I got that the other day.

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Someone made a Fairie House!

Auntie Katie made plans for her and Jasper, and I made plans for us. After I ‘kidnapped’ her from Books with Pictures, we walked past the giant banana painted on the wall at SE 12th and Division, past a fairy house in some one’s yard, all the way to Hawthorne Street, where we caught the number 14 bus.

At 32nd Avenue we got off and walked to The Hazel Room. This is a lovely little lunch place in a big house, and I have walked past it dozens of times. They don’t sell hamburgers or french fries, so Grandma Nelson wouldn’t like it. Inside it is pretty and old-fashioned, with old wooden floors and wallpaper. There are lots of elegant tea pots on the window sills. Kestrel is a very picky eater, so I read the menu to her and let her choose. She asked for french toast. When it came, it was so big that we shared it, but she said it was the best french toast she had ever had! Fat and sweet, it most more like toasted cake..yummmy!

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Brunch at The Hazel Room

When we had played reading games and finished our lunch, we headed down Hawthorne to our main destination: Fernie Brae. This is a shop that sells fairie things. Handmade fairie dolls, beds, houses, jewelry, paintings, costumes, wings and wands…if a fairie could want it, they have it.

Everything is so beautifully made, we spent an hour in the small shop, looking at every tiny thing.

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Admiring the lovely stones

I knew we had just a little while until my bus pass expired, so Kestrel picked out a tiny dragonfly treasure, a jasper stone for Jasper and a rose quartz heart shaped stone for herself, and we caught the bus back to Ladd’s Addition. Walking through the shade of the old trees, we made up stories about which fairies lived under the trees and in the bushes.

What a wonderful, magical day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Ladd’s Addition

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Confusing Street Signs

Dear Liza,

Even though Portland is a big city, there are lots of different neighborhoods, each with its own history and personality. Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie lives, is one of my favorites. It runs from Hawthorne on the north to Division on the south, and between 12th and 21st west and east.

Ladd’s Addition is named for William Ladd, who was mayor of Portland for a year back in the late 1800s. He was a merchant, which meant he bought and sold things. He was very successful. After he had made a lot of  money from his stores, he started buying property. He bought 126 acres of Eastside Portland and, in 1891, when the city of Portland annexed the Eastside, he divided his land into a neighborhood. At that time, there were already streets and houses on the Eastside.

But what makes Ladd’s Addition different was the shape of the neighborhood. Instead of streets that ran north/south and east/west, like the rest of the city, he copied Pierre L’Enfant’s pattern from Washington D.C., and made it more of an “X” shape. Go to googlemaps and look it up. It’ll give you a chuckle.

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Lovely old houses

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Tree swing? Of course!

I love Ladd’s Addition because of its quirkiness, its huge trees, its family friendliness, and its architecture. Many of the houses were built between 1900 and 1920 from kits that came on railroad cars from stores back east. Newer than the gingerbread-y Victorians of other parts of town, they are Craftsman style, Foursquare, and Federal styles. Some are lovely small bungalows, and others are practically mansions!

And I haven’t even mentioned the rose gardens. Where streets cross between Elliot and Ladd, there are four gardens, called East, West, North and South. These are maintained by volunteers (since the city has had budget issues) and are magnificent. Beds of older and newer varieties grow higher than my head and are obviously very, very happy.

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Really Happy “Strike it Rich”

Of course, the odd arrangement of streets makes Ladd’s hard to navigate. It is easy to get disoriented when going around the central circle, as there are no right angles and ten streets to choose from. But you get the hang of it after a while, and if you get lost, at least you are in a nice neighborhood!

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Tiffany

And I get the walk through this paradise whenever I visit Auntie Katie’s house or even her shop, which is just on the other side. Life is sweet in Portland.

Love,

Grandma Judy

False Spring

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, December 30, 2017, was the warmest day we have had in a month. The blue sky was decorated with puffy clouds, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We noticed some premature gladiolus flowers shooting up through the mud. The warm weather has them fooled, perhaps.

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Wells Fargo from east side

Our first stop was Triumph Coffee at SE 12th and Ash. A busy, friendly place, with comfortably mismatched furniture. it is what Linus Van Pelt would call sincere. Neighborhood folks were enjoying coffee and having conversations. I didn’t see a single laptop open. Bridgett testifies that the coffee is excellent, and I stand by their carrot zucchini muffins. We got our goodies to go, and continued on our way.

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Big Pink from east side

We walked on Ash until it ran into Sandy Boulevard, a major street that runs diagonally through east Portland. It makes some connections easier, of course, but also creates really interesting angled corners. Portland has a lot of these odd corners, like on the west side where Burnside hits every street at an odd angle, and in Ladd’s Addition, with its “x marks the spot” plotting.

From the obtuse corner of 10th and Ash, we could look west and see the two tallest buildings in Portland, “Big Pink” and the Wells Fargo Building. It is nice to be able to find landmarks and get a better picture of where you are in relation to other things.

We turned left and followed Sandy southwest until it became 7th Avenue, and followed that to Morrison. In that neighborhood are many old industrial buildings that have been re-purposed. The Troy Laundry, a brick building from 1913, is currently for sale. I am sure it has an interesting future.

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1913 Troy Laundry Building

Heading back towards home on Morrison, we found Auntie Bridgett’s new favorite place: The Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge at 808 SE Morrison. This two-story playground for grown-ups (and kids) is in the old Grand Central Public Market building, which was built in 1929. It has bowling, a restaurant, two bars, pinball, Pac-man, air hockey, shuffleboard, skee-ball, driving games, pool tables, and giant televisions. It looks like a great place to spend a long wintry afternoon, and is not far from our house! Hooray for accidental discoveries!

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Bowling on Morrison!!!

We left the bowling alley, smiling, knowing we would be back soon, and continued east on Morrison. We went through the Lone Fir Cemetery to say hello to the dead people, and got to chat with some squirrels and tourists, as well.

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Yes, a disco ball in a bowling alley…..

We said a special hello to little Genevieve Gray, who died in 1912 when she was only 3 months old and is buried under the tiniest headstone I have ever seen. It is about 7 inches by 10, and is tucked under huge trees at the far northeast corner of the cemetery. I know visiting the cemetery might seem morbid, but it gives me perspective. I always leave with a sense of hope and purpose.

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Little Genevieve Gray

Back home, we headed off for shopping and reading. See you soon, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy