National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Disconnected Silliness

Dear Liza,

Most days, I like to have a story to tell you, a connected set of images that move from beginning to end and make some sort of sense. But not all the pictures I take fit into the stories.

So today, you get the random bits that didn’t connect with anything else.

This tiny shelf has been attached to the telephone pole for months, but has just recently been “closed”. I love our silly neighborhood.

These messages of friendship written all over the sidewalks let us know our friends are thinking of us.

A little love from the sidewalk….

And, of course, flowers blooming and blooming!

The combination of old houses and new blossoms just knocks me out….

And Laurelhurst is still one of the prettiest places in town.

Sigh.

That’s all for now. Maybe I’ll have a story for you tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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

Small Business Woes

Dear Liza,

One of the reasons we bought the house we did, here in the Southeast part of Portland, is because of the neighborhood. It is a nice mix of Victorian style homes and newer houses, full of big trees and rhododendron bushes, and just a few blocks away from fabulous Laurelhurst Park.

It is also close to dozens of bars, restaurants, and cool shops, and even a Korean grocery store. We love being able to walk less than a block for milk or eggs at H Mart.

But it is the little restaurants and the people who run them that make our Friday nights special. Pulled pork, shrimp with grits, a glass of wine while hanging with David at at the Hobnob. Watching scifi movies and having dessert with Mitch at The Nerd Out. Street tacos and chatting with Gilly at Ankeny Tap and Table. Making our own birthday pancakes at SlappyCakes. You know, the good times.

And it is exactly these small restaurants that are suffering during the shut down mandated by the corona virus. Keeping everyone safe and distant means the dining rooms have to close, and there just isn’t enough take-out business.

The only businesses close by that are doing well are H Mart and the smaller convenience stores like Plaid Pantry and Belmont Market, and pizza places like Baby Doll and Straight From New York Pizza, who are doing take out and even free delivery.

I am worried about a lot of things, lately. Staying healthy, and keeping Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson well. What this virus’s stay in our country will cost in jobs and retirement investments. Whether our Federal government, which doesn’t seem to have a good grasp on things, is going to make things better instead of worse.

But I am also worried about the survival of the small businesses that make our neighborhood special.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Happy Birthday to Me

Dear Liza,

In house decorations

I turned 64 last week, just a week or so after the self-quarantine-ing became a big thing. We three walked to Whole Foods, on Burnside, who are limiting the number of people in the store at one time to reduce crowding. We got birthday dinner fixings, and then stopped by Vino for a wonderful French red to keep us company.

My florist…

Auntie Bridgett even got flowers, and we walked home to read, write, do art, practice French, and wait for dinner.

We prettied things up, of course, because, you know, BIRTHDAY! It was fun getting out serving pieces that were gifts from family and friends, and thinking about the folks who weren’t with us.

My grocery delivery guy….

After dinner we walked through Laurelhurst Park, very aware that any day now, Mayor Wheeler and Governor Brown are going to put out the shelter-in-place order. We enjoyed the frisbee dogs, rhododendron blooms, and ducks. We even got a Unipiper ride by! He was playing The Superman Theme Song…very heroic.

The miraculous Unipiper

I’m sure I will find things to write about in the coming weeks, as the city shuts down. My brain has always been my best friend and has lots of interesting things to say.

Love,

Grandma Judy

And then, Snow!

Dear Liza,

Saturday morning, we woke up to snow. It was just a dusting, and we went back to sleep. A few hours later, it was STILL snowing, and Grandpa Nelson decided it was time for a proper snow adventure, so we bundled up and headed off.

Grandpa Nelson, out and about

First, we saw our walkway, decorated with snow. The gnomes were wondering who put out the lights, apparently.

Gnomes, just chillin’

Then we noticed some tulips that had not seen the snow coming. I hope they can spring back!

Very surprised tulips

Laurelhurst Park itself is lovely in any weather, but is a Narnia sort of beautiful in the snow. The Ravine always looks like Mr. Tumnis is going to show up any moment.

The edge of Narnia

As we walked around, we saw dozens of families enjoying the snow. There were snowmen, snowball fights, dogs dashing around. It was a winter wonderland… in March. I will show you the snowmen tomorrow.

Firwood Lake and snowy Boomarang Island

The lake was very pretty through the trees, as the snow came down and sat on the surface for just a minute before melting.

After our walk, we came in and hung our wet clothes up in front of the fire, and spent the rest of the day alternately watching TV and snow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Grey Skies

Dear Liza,

Jonquils, jumping the gun

January is always a hard month here in Portland. The bright, food-and family filled holidays are past, but spring is months away, and it can feel like a very long road.

Bergenias love the rain and cold

We had a thumping rain storm the other night. It actually woke me up! But come morning the rain had stopped. Since I am mostly over my cold, I got bundled up and went to the park.

Camellia, having a peek

I wasn’t alone! There were dozens of folks walking around….some with their big fluffy dogs, some with kids on tiny bikes or babies in strollers, some tossing handfuls of frozen peas to the ducks. Everyone was chatty and seemed to be celebrating being OUT among their fellow humans. January can feel a bit like a jail sentence to be waited out.

The fellows who seemed to be enjoying the day most were these two, working on their j’ai alai moves. The older fellow stood pretty still, flinging the ball in all directions, while the younger played the part of a Labrador retriever, dashing and catching. It seemed the perfect cure for the January blues.

I spent an hour at the park, looking for bits of color. I found a few of these signs of the coming spring, but I am not fooled. It will be a long, wet, chilly haul. We will have to make our own sunshine.

Forsythia, I think…

Love,

Grandma Judy

Chilly Laurelhurst

Dear Liza,

You knew I couldn’t stay inside forever, didn’t you?

View down the Ravine

Yesterday afternoon, after two days baking, writing, sewing and listening to music in the house, I went out for a walk. It wasn’t even four o’clock yet, but it was very much going-on-dark.

I carried the umbrella, because it was raining, but it mostly got in the way of me looking up at the trees. I folded it up.

Reflections

The park wasn’t empty. There were couples and singles, out walking. Mostly without dogs, which is unusual, and no joggers at all. Maybe the ground was too slick for them.

Poetic not-quite-solitude

I like walking by myself sometimes, because I can think my own thoughts and not worry about trying anyone’s patience as I take six pictures of the same tree. Dark, rainy afternoons are especially good for this.

Branches forming a halo

On the way home I enjoyed watching the traffic signals reflecting on the wet road. What a pretty planet we live on!

Even the traffic signals are pretty!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Thanksgiving Day!

Dear Liza,

I hope you had good food and family for your Thanksgiving. Up here in Portland, we had both.

Auntie Bridgett, all bundled up

The day started with watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. New York was having such high winds, they almost had to ground the big balloons! But the winds died down and the balloons flew.
Auntie Katie and the Cousins arrived, and we had before-dinner cheese and crackers on Great Grandpa Lowell’s coffee table, using my Winnie the Pooh tray and Auntie Olga’s little snack plates. Kestrel declared them SO cute, and she was right!

Classy snacks!

There were games of Phase Ten and a home made 3- D tic tac toe game. Auntie Katie and I played ukulele and guitar and sang together, and then it was time for dinner. So much food! We ate turkey (carved beautifully by Auntie Katie) horsed around, and had some wine to toast the holiday and each other.

After dinner, Aunties Katie and Bridgett did the heavy work of breaking down the turkey for leftovers and soup, and putting all the leftover food in the fridge, while I put the Turkey skin and bones into the slow cooker with some onions and celery for stock! It will cook for hours and get delicious.

After dinner work
Family photo (bomb)

I wanted to go for a walk before it got dark, but the Cousins and Grandpa Nelson decided to stay home and play. We grown up ladies bundled up (it was 42 F!) and enjoyed Laurelhurst Park’s trees, dogs and a large contingent of ducks rustling through the fallen leaves looking for bugs.

Laurelhurst ducks enjoying their own feast

Heading home, I showed Katie the “dinosaur infestation” at a house down on Morrison. The lady who lives there, Elaine, collects and places plastic dinosaurs in her heard and trees, and it is adorable! Auntie Katie thought so, too.

Auntie Katie documenting the dinosaur infestation

It was dark by the time we got back, and Auntie Katie got Grandpa Nelson to play some music. Then we had slices of three pies! My pumpkin, and and apple and pecan from Katie. Yummy!!

Making music

Cousin Kestrel made a miniature dinner table out of the Tic-tac-toe game, and she and I set it up for dinner with plates made of tin foil and napkins and food cut from Post-it notes. Auntie Bridgett invited two tiny stuffed crows over for dinner, and it was quite a party, right there on the floor!

Creative girls creating stuff
Inviting tiny friends over!

We all shared some music, on videos or guitar, ukulele or singing songs that Jasper is learning at school, and eventually it was time to get kids and us to bed.

A bunch of leftovers went home to feed the family, because Auntie Katie will be busy tomorrow, having a big Black Friday sale at Books with Pictures!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just a Quiet Sunday (Part 2)

Dear Liza,

Once Auntie Bridgett and I finished our long walk home from Eb and Bean, she checked her fitness watch. We had walked four and a half miles! We had big glasses of water and were reading on the balcony when we got a text from Grandpa Nelson, who had gone out for a short walk around the park.

“Music at the park!” He said. We were up in a minute, packing salami and cheese, water and peanuts and grabbing the folding chairs. As we walked, we got another text. “Finishing up. May have missed it.”

Well, heck. But we decided that we might as well go and enjoy some snacks in the park, anyway. Another text. “New band setting up!”

Hooray! We found Grandpa Nelson, set up the chairs, and watched people, dogs and kids hang around as the next band set up. Fellows with saxophone cases wandered in, then trombones and trumpets. A keyboard was set up. Then a lady in a wonderfully flowy, showy flowered dress walked toward the stage.

A Jazz band! Indeed, the Jumptown Jazz Band, with their vocalist, Claudia Knauer. What a treat!

They started with “I’ve Got a Lot of Living to Do” from Bye Bye Birdie, and continued for an hour and a half through Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Johnny Hodges, and Peggy Lee’s “I Love Being Here with You.” (“East is east and west is west, north and south, they’re both the best. But I’ll only visit them as a guest, ’cause I love being here with you.”)

The band was crisp and harmonious, and Claudia belted out the tunes with love and gusto.

We enjoyed the music and the impromptu dancing of kids, men and ladies in the audience. Dogs came and went, fetching sticks. Kids collected sticks that the dogs left behind. It was top notch Laurelhurst magic. But the music had to end sometime. And when it did, it was time to leave.

Before we headed home, I wanted to get a good photo of the wonderful Claudia. She was chatting with some friends and I got brave and just walked up. They were taking about a National group called “Women On the Fly”, a sort of Girl Scouts for grown women. They specialize in camping, encouraging women to enjoy themselves like they did (or didn’t get a chance to) when they were younger. Their motto is “Making Girls Out of Women.”

I joined the conversation and found out that Claudia is as nice and welcoming as she is talented. She laughed and posed and we had a lovely time. I plan to look into “Women on the Fly” and maybe even go camping! Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett don’t enjoy it, but I did when I was younger, and may enjoy it again.

I got home and realized that for just a quiet Sunday, we sure were busy!

Love,

Grandma Judy