Back to OMSI

Dear Liza,

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Steam engine running amuk

One way you can tell a really good Museum is when you can go several times in just a few months and keep seeing new things. Today I took cousins Jasper and Kestrel to OMSI, and I had so much fun! I picked the kids up at Books with Pictures and we hopped on the Orange Line train.

This huge locomotive was venting steam into the chilly air. The cloud was enormous! But what caught our eye was this fellow standing in the middle of the cloud of steam, apparently keeping an eye on things up there.

We got tickets for the regular Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the King Tut exhibit, too. I had seen King Tut at the museum’s Halloween gala, but it’s always fun seeing things with kidlets…you see things through their eyes, and everything looks different.

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Watching the reveal of the tomb

For example, cousin Jasper was very taken with how Mr. Carter must have felt when he discovered the undisturbed tomb, and how exciting it is to discover new things. He was also pleased to actually see things that he had only read about.

I know I have told you before how much Jasper doesn’t like posing for pictures, so you will forgive me for having mostly Kestrel photos. Both kids were fascinated, listening to the commentary on the audio guides and staring at the artifacts. Kestrel was intrigued by the sarcophagus but hurried by the replica of King Tut’s actual mummy, but I can’t blame her. He’s been dead over 3,500 years and doesn’t look very well.IMG_2252.jpeg

After we had looked, listened and read everything and were headed down for lunch, we saw a new thing which held our attention for another hour: The World of Animation. This well designed, hands on, kid friendly exhibit allows kids (and their lucky adults) to create stop motion animation, make sound effects for cartoons, and act in short movies of their own. It was wonderful!

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Concentration

By the time we were done, I was really ready for some lunch. I pried the kids away and we went downstairs to Theory, the museum’s cafe, for pizza on the terrace. It was chilly but not yet raining, and we had coats, so we enjoyed the fresh air. The terrace faces the Tilikum, Marquam, and Hawthorne Bridges as well as the beautiful Willamette, so we had a great view as we nibbled.

By then, it was two o’clock and we needed to leave by three, so I gave the kids one hour in the big Hall. There are so many hands on activities, I never want to leave. Kestrel launched a water rocket which flew straight up to the ceiling of the huge room and Jasper spent his time figuring out some Tangram style puzzles and playing with the orbit table.

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Making things happen

On our way out of the museum, we stopped by a room where some amazing gingerbread creations were on display. A talented group of artists had made funny gingerbread art, using the King Tut exhibit as inspiration. Some had Minions, some had mice, and they were all beautiful, silly, and edible!

Sphinx cat catching some mice

Finally, I had to pull the plug on the day so we could get home before we all melted down. We read comic books borrowed from Auntie Katie’s shop at the train stop and got back to Books with Pictures just as the rain started.

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Art at Books with Pictures

By the time I got myself home, it was raining for real and I was wet and cold, having forgotten my Indiana Jones hat at home. Oh well, hot tea and dinner put me right again.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Three Hundred!!

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Family

Dear Liza,

I started writing this blog as a way to stay in touch with you and my friends in Salinas after I moved up to Portland. I thought I would write a little, get bored, and quit….like I usually do.

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Fall
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Summer

But Portland is such an interesting place that I keep finding things to write about. Today, as a matter of fact, is my 300th post. Three hundred adventures. Three hundred stories.

Portland is a big city, and has big city problems, like anywhere. The housing costs are high and homeless people struggle to get by. Trash and noise can be a nuisance. And if you are driving, there will eventually be traffic that frustrates you.

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Spring

But there are also kind people and missions that help the homeless folks. Groups adopt neighborhoods to pick up trash. And transit is good enough that if you don’t want to drive, you don’t have to.

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Art

And the benefits of this lovely city are enormous. Art. Music. Parks. Art and music in parks! Food and drink and coffee and pastries.

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Winter

And the reason I can enjoy all of this is because I am not working. Working, besides being…well, work, takes up an enormous amount of time. Days and days of NOT getting to walk at random and stop when you feel like it. Evenings of being so tired you can’t even think of an adventure.

Being at liberty is such a joy and privilege that sometimes I feel like I’m cheating.

But maybe if I share it with you I can share some of the joy, and feel less selfish.

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You never know who you’ll meet at Lone Fir Cemetery

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

Return to the Children’s Museum

Dear Liza,

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Kestrel, the Alligator’s Dentist

As I had promised, the cousins and I went back up the hill to Washington Park yesterday to visit the Children’s Museum. Since Grandpa Nelson had to work and I hate driving, we took the number 4 bus and Red Line MAX train to get there.

The Children’s Museum is less of a museum and more of a giant, well designed play environment for kids. There are rooms with set-ups for water play, a farm to table grocery room, a pet hospital, engineering, toy cars, and a theater with costumes, lights and puppets.

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Running the Shop

Jasper loves the water room and Kestrel, the theater, and the rooms are close enough together that I can sort of wander between them and keep and eye on both kids. Jasper actually came and found us in the theater, making me very proud of his responsibility and navigation skills.

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Jasper the Hydraulics Engineer

After a few hours inside, we stepped out to the Zany Maze to eat the food I had brought. The Museum sells hot dogs and such, but I preferred a day with healthier snacks. Blueberries (from our Sauvie Island trip) and some of Grandpa Nelson’s peanuts and a big jug of water gave us energy for the afternoon.

Instead of going back inside the Museum, we explored the outside area, which has just been re-opened after a long period of development. It is wonderful!

The Outdoor Adventure, starts with The Spring, which has water play combined with sand, water management, buckets, and activities that encourage teamwork. Jasper and Kestrel played with several other kids, two of whom did not speak English at all, but they all understood and helped each other. It was wonderful to see.

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Teamwork!

We wandered down the trail past the creek, all the way down to The Amphitheater. There was a young lady helping the kids ‘fish’ in a small pool, and a mom teaching her little one about jumping rope. Jasper joined in and did 11 consecutive jumps! He was justifiably proud.

In our last 20 minutes, as energy was waning, we went back inside to see what The Treehouse Adventure room was. Turns out, it is designed for just the sort of activity we needed, a quiet winding down…. there is a tree house to go into and read, or just sit.

We got some going-home snacks, caught the Red Line train, then the Orange Line train, and were home by 3. We started reading Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher by Bruce Coville, and were on chapter 7 by the time Auntie Katie got home. It’s a great read!

Auntie Katie got home and Kestrel wanted some acrobatics time. Mother and daughter did some pretty nifty balance poses! These poses are ab workouts, mother-daughter time, and cooperation training, all at once. Real Ph.D level parenting, if you ask me.

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Acro pose

Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett came a brought me home, and we had dinner. What a lovely day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Lan Su

Dear Liza,

Thursday was the Summer Solstice, which means it was the longest day of the year. The sun stayed up here in Portland until 9:00. But most of the fun was much earlier.

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Kestrel, Lion, and Jasper at the gate to Lan Su

I walked to Auntie Katie’s house, and the cousins and I got on the number 4 bus to the Lan Su Chinese Garden on Northwest Everett Avenue. This is a whole city block with a wall around it, filled with trees, bushes, a big pond, pavilions, bridges, and even a tea house. It feels so magical and peaceful, you forget you are in the middle of a big city.

The garden was built in 2000, but feels much older. Many of the larger magnolia trees were transplanted full-grown from other gardens, and give the place a feeling of solidity. You can see the tall city buildings above the walls, but they seem very far away. It is easy to imagine fairies living in the crannies of the rocks, dipping their tiny cups into the pond.IMG_7367.jpg

There are so many things to see every step of the way. The pathways are all pebbles laid in lovely patterns, pleasantly bumpy underfoot. From the tiny mondo grass to the fragrant gardenias, there are a hundred delights for all the senses. Sitting in one place and looking, I mean really looking, at the pond, you see the reflections of the clouds and buildings on the surface, then the shadows, then the  water skippers, then the golden koi and pebbles underneath the surface.

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Looking at the Tea House across the pond

At the tea house, we enjoyed pot stickers, bao, edamame, baked tofu, and Kestrel even had a small pot of rose tea. We sat on the second floor by the window and had a lovely view of the garden below. Everything was so calm and quiet, even the smaller children remembered their manners.

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Chinese Tea House Snacks

After a few hours of exploring, nibbling and imagining, we headed out to the Tom McCall Waterfront Park. The kids climbed on rocks, played in fountains until they were drenched, then walked themselves mostly dry until we all caught an orange line train home. A few hours quiet time, making dinner and reading stories, got us ready for a nice evening.

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Kes in the fountains

I went back to my house and Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I had a nice walk around the park and neighborhood, happy to be here in Portland for whatever lies ahead.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Your Visit!

Dear Liza,

I haven’t written on this blog for a few days, and you know why…you were here in Portland! It was so good to see you and your daddy after these long months. You have gotten taller and smarter. Daddy is just as wonderful as always.

Of course, when you got here, there were snickerdoodle cookies to hold us until dinner. Grandpa Nelson had made reservations at a restaurant we had been saving for your daddy especially: The Laurelhurst Market, at NE 32nd and Burnside. Their specialty is meat: beef, steaks, pork, sausages…and they do it all very well. I had flank steak with chickory, which gave it a nice crunchy outside to go with the rich goodness inside.

After dinner we walked home through the neighborhood and talked about all the things we love about Portland. The tiny book-sharing libraries, the huge trees, the friendly people.

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The next day we got up early and took the bus/train/elevator to the ZOO at Washington Park! It was fun seeing things I had missed the last time, and showing you some of my favorite animals. Somehow, we missed the fruit bats, which I really like, but we’ll catch them next time.

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In The Discovery Zone
When we were too tired to smile, it was time to head down the hill and get lunch. Grandpa Nelson found The Picnic House, which is a beautiful old lobby of the Heathman Hotel, on Salmon at the South Park Blocks. The ceiling is at least 30 feet high, and there is a stuffed bear head wearing a hat and a monocle over the bar. The food was delicious and the slow pace gave us time to relax and rest from our long morning.

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Too tired to smile, even on a goat….
The bus trip home was very quiet. At home, you and I had naps, and Grandpa and Daddy sat and talked for hours. Then it was time for the SECOND big activity of the day: Picnic dinner with Auntie Katie, Uncle Dave, Cousin Jasper, and Cousin Kestrel! We packed dinner, wine, toys, and chairs, and headed off to Laurelhurst Park. The rest of the family came a little later, and we ate, played, talked, threw sticks and frisbees, and dug holes in the dirt.

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Making goop with Cousin Kestrel
It made me so happy to see everyone together and getting along so well. There aren’t a lot of cousins in this family, so we need to appreciate the ones we have. When it was too dark to see, we all came home and played Legos, while the Dads talked computers and airplanes downstairs. We ate the last of the cookies and sent everyone home to bed.

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Legos for everyone!
This morning, the cousins went to school and you and Daddy went to the airport. I was sad to see you go, but I know we’ll get together soon.

Love, Grandma Judy

Settling in

 

Dear Liza,

We have now been living in Portland for one month and two days. We have unpacked almost everything we need, except for the pillows for the guest room for when you and your Daddy come to visit. I will be hunting for them today.

We have started to find some favorite places and things here that I want to share with you.

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Rocking Frog Sign

So far, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite place to walk for coffee and doughnuts is the Rocking Frog, down on Belmont Street. This is an old house that has been turned into a coffee house, and it feels cozy and quiet. The kitchen has stayed the kitchen, where doughnuts are fried fresh on weekends, and orange juice is squeezed fresh when you order it. Their other pastries are delivered from the Fleur de Lis bakery, and are delicious.

The dining room has become the library, with small tables for eating and lots of books for browsing. The living room has squashy chairs, a fireplace and more books. The back ‘bedroom’ has small tables and a cupboard of games to play. There is a small table on the front porch and more tables on the back patio, which is shaded by bamboo and umbrellas.

Auntie Bridgett loves Powell’s City of Books, downtown. We take the number 20 bus to get there. It is a full city block, five stories high, full of books. The books are on all subjects in a dozen of languages, with new and used, soft cover and hardcover books shelved together so you can choose. The children’s book section is huge!

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Powell’s at Night Photo credit:blogtugo.com

Powell’s doesn’t just want you to come in and buy books. There is a cafe for snacks and tables to read, and lots of benches and chairs. They also invite authors to come talk about their books, and invite us to come listen! It is fun to hear the stories behind the stories and be able to ask questions.

For me, it is hard to say what my favorite place is. I really love walking… just seeing the beautiful old houses, trees, gardens and the interesting people.  But if I had to choose, my favorite place is Laurelhurst Park, just three blocks up Pine Street. The hundred year old trees and paved paths make it perfect for walking, biking and jogging. The hawks, owls, ducks, turtles, and squirrels are a reminder that humans aren’t the only creatures that live here.

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Laurelhurst Park

The ravine that the park is built on gives wonderful changes in levels….a brick staircase with 87 steps is a fine challenge for exercising, and kids enjoy zooming down grassy hills on their small bikes. Picnic tables welcome parties and conversations and horse shoe pits, basketball courts and climbing structures invite the kids in.

I look forward to showing you all these and more, and your cousins also want to show you the zoo!

Love,

Grandma Judy