The World Forestry Center

Dear Liza,

Last Thursday I got to spend the day with Cousins Jasper and Kestrel. We haven’t gotten into warm summer weather, so outside activities were not calling to me. Also, Kestrel asked for a place “with activities”.

We caught the number 2 bus, then the Red line train, got on the super-fast elevator, and were right there in Washington Park. This park is huge, with 410 acres including the Oregon Zoo, the Hoyt Arboretum, a Vietnam War memorial, a Holocaust Memorial, Japanese and Rose Gardens, archery range, and nifty playground.

But the kids had asked for the Forestry Center, newly opened after Covid, so that’s where we were headed. It did not start well. “This isn’t where I thought we were going,” Kestrel said, sounding disappointed. “It’s not a forest.”

Not being the sort of Grandma to argue, I shrugged, “Well, we’ll go in, and if you hate it, we’ll leave.”

But as soon as we were inside, both kids found fun things to do. In an ’underground’ display, we found niches with puppets of skunks, rabbits, snails, and weasels. I sat on the stairs and enjoyed the show as almost 11 year old Kes and almost 13 year old Jasper played like little kids.

There were displays of the uses of forestry products and lumbering methods, but in each case, the kids made their own games. At the display showing how to plant young trees for reforestation, they made a game of passing the plastic soil back and forth. At the story-time corner, a tree-slab pillow fight broke out.

The most unexpected room was “Rethinking Fire” an installation exhibit of Bryan David Griffith’s artwork interpreting fire’s effect on the forest.

It was beautiful and delicate, bold and interactive, and really caught our attention.

When we had seen everything inside the Center, we headed off to look at the park map and see where to go next. Standing still for the first time in two hours, we realized that we were just not up for another adventure at that moment, filed the Rose Garden play area and Japanese Garden for another day, and caught the return transit home.

I love being able to see things with new eyes.


Grandma Judy

Creative Culture!

Dear Liza,

This past weekend, Auntie Bridgett and I walked up to another new business in town. It is a delightful, bright place called Creative Culture. This is a unique place, a Do It Yourself Craft studio. It is owned and run by Dellan, a delightful young lady who comes to Portland from Oklahoma by way of Kansas City.

Dellan, in her happy place

They have available, for a variety of reasonable fees, ceramics to paint, wreaths to make, flower pots to paint and plant, macrame to tie, wood plaques to burn and decorate, and all sorts of wooden shapes to paint.

And there are lots of choices! Shelves and shelves of ceramic vases, banks, and figures to paint. Once you get it painted, the staff will glaze and fire it, and you pick it up when it is done.

Olivia, showing folks all the options

Dellan showed us the food menu, which consisted of eight magnificent, gigantic milk shakes. We wandered the shop, watching other folks crafting, sipping their milkshakes, and chatting. Dellan’s assistant, Olivia, helped us choose our wooden shapes and paints for our projects. We decided to exercise self-control and not order a milk shake.

Auntie Bridgett chose a hexagonal wall hanging, which looks like a cell in a beehive. I chose a small round box with a hinged lid.

Olivia pumped our paint choices into little cups, we chose a few brushes, and settled in for the fun.

I had the idea of a forest-y sort of picture as a gift for Cousin Kestrel, and I took a long time getting it right. I enjoyed creating the picture and listening to the soft, happy hubbub of people making things.

Auntie Bridgett worked on her project, making it pretty and yellow with her beloved bees buzzing around.

By the time we got our projects the way we wanted, we had been in Creative Culture TWO HOURS! The time had flown by and had been so much fun, I am sure I will be taking you and the Cousins there for some fun afternoons.

Once we were finished, we were very hungry (maybe we should have had that milk shake), tucked our projects carefully into our sack and walked down to the City State Diner for a delicious lunch. A Cuban sandwich for me and a Monte Cristo for Bridgett, and we were well fed and heading home.


Grandma Judy

The Microforest

Dear Liza,

While you were visiting, you found an old wall covered with wonderfully thick moss. Before I could say anything, you had pulled a chunk off the wall.

“What are you going to do with that?” I asked. You thought fast.

“We could plant it and keep it and you could write a blog about it,” you answered. So here it is.

As soon as we got home, we put the moss into a plastic box with damp soil. While I went online to find out what else we could do for it, you added some bits of the forest to keep it company…. pebbles, sticks, a fir cone. Somehow, the tiny pagoda from my bonsai forest found its way in.

Since the moss had been growing in the north side of a tall house, I knew it would need complete shade to be healthy. We have a spot in the master bathroom that is perfect, but small. The moss would also need slightly acidic soil (all moss does, according to a website) and constant, gentle moisture.

My first instinct was to use a container we already have rather than buying something. I have a big terrarium jar that would be fine, but is too big to fit.

Auntie Bridgett found this wonderful glass container in her studio, about five inches high and round like a ball. The project was on!

We laid some pebbles in the bottom, then firmly packed some soil from my veggie plot. We put in the pagoda, then the moss, then the pebbles and a tiny stick to be a fallen log.

I am very happy with our new tiny forest. It sits right by my sink and I can have that wondrous feeling of walking in the woods every time I brush my teeth!

Thanks, Liza, for adding this tiny, peaceful place to my life.


Grandma Judy

Bowling, Pancakes, Dead People, and Family

Dear Liza,

We managed to find a lot of fun things to do while you were here, like walking to Slappycakes for breakfast.

We love this place! You get to make your own pancakes right at the table. There is a gluten-free batter, a chocolate and delicious lemon-vanilla, as well as regular buttermilk. We had fun designing, flipping, and eating our creations.

The next day, we took a long walk through the Lone Fir Cemetery. I love this old cemetery that has been in use since the 1840s. You liked it, too, and wanted to help keep it in good repair.

You got very good at rubbing the headstones to gently remove the moss and dirt. You even helped clean out the letters with a soft stick.

We also went to the Central Bowl down on Morrison. This combination restaurant, bar, bowling alley and arcade is amazing! There are TV screens and crazy lights everywhere. Auntie Bridgett coached you, we bowled a few games and had sushi and tacos for dinner.

I lost at Air Hockey AND bowling, and had such a good time! When the grownups were pooped, we headed home.

One evening, Auntie Katie and Marion came by to visit. It was loud and funny and went way late.

There were a lot of snuggles and giggles.

What a full week!


Grandma Judy

Giddy Grandma Judy

Dear Liza,

You are coming to visit! I am so excited!
It has been years since you were in Portland, and some things haven’t changed.
Slappycakes is still here, and we will be heading there for breakfast.

We can still go to the zoo, although you might not fit inside this log anymore!

But in the four years since you’ve been here, lots has changed. The riots of 2020 and the pandemic have effected the politics, and economy, of Portland.

This statue of Harvey Scott, up on Mt. Tabor, was taken down by people who disagreed with his being “put up on a pedestal”, literally. Mr. Scott was a rich, important man in the history of Portland, but his beliefs about women’s and other groups’ civil rights have not aged well. Other statues, like Teddy Roosevelt and even Abraham Lincoln, have been put away until decisions are made about where they should be.

And since it is now early spring instead of late summer, there will be more tulips than black-eyed Susans.

Cities are living things, with millions of people creating them everyday. They grow and change just like you and I do. But we take what comes and do what we can to make it better.

See you soon, sweetie!


Grandma Judy

Back to PAM

Dear Liza,

It has been too long since we’ve visited the Portland Art Museum. Covid restrictions made it difficult to get reservations and it was almost frightening to be in the enclosed space with folks for a while. But yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I masked up, took the Magic Number 15, and went!

The museum is currently setting up two new shows, one about Queen Nefritari of Ancient Egypt and another on the Nabis, a group of French artists. This means that a lot of the museum was closed, but there was still a lot to see. The visit was a combination of visiting old friends and meeting new ‘faces.’

This tall, narrow painting, called ”Le Petit Patissier”, was painted by Chaim Soutine in 1921 and is one of my favorites in the whole museum. The title means ”The Little Baker.” Isn’t he cute?

Another favorite is an Alexander Calder mobile called “The Gong is a Moon”, which hangs above a collection of neon words that encourage action and engagement. Auntie Bridgett couldn’t stop looking at them. Me, either!

A new piece (to me) is ”Trois Enfants en Blue” by van Rysselberghe, painted in 1901. It is a pointillist piece, in that demanding style of tiny brush strokes of different colors that was made popular by Serrault. It is a portrait of three bored little girls and seems to shimmer.

The last piece I’m going to tell you about is another new one. These ”Penny Loafers” (yes, loafers made out of pennies!!) were made by Sonya Clark in 2010.

It’s not very often you get to see puns in an art museum.

And that’s all for now!


Grandma Judy

Garden Adventure with the Cousins

Dear Liza,

It has been a long time since I’ve been able to have an adventure with young people. You live far away in Salinas and the shutdown has kept Cousins Jasper and Kestrel inside for almost a year and a half.

Reading on the bus

So Friday, we headed off. We put on our masks, hopped on the number 2 Trimet bus, and rode clear through downtown to the Lan Su Chinese Garden. This garden was built 30 years ago on a full city block in what has always been the Chinatown section of the city. Skilled workmen came from China with beautiful rocks, tiles and timbers, and built this oasis of beauty and tranquility .

We took off our shoes, the better to feel the variety of stones that pave the paths and bridges of the garden.

Bare footed and ready to go!

It was a hot sunny day, and we appreciated the curvy roofs over the pavilions. The shade made the stones underfoot cool and even allowed some soft moss to flourish. It was wonderful. We were happy to see that the Tea House was open, for take out only, of course. Little tables and stools set right out by the lake made for a gorgeous view as we nibbled steamed buns and moon cakes made with sweet red beans.

Our lunchtime view

When we were fed, we walked around Zither Lake to the bridge. Dozens of koi came up to us, thinking we were going to feed them.

Hello Down there….

We had learned that the huge yellow-gold colored one is called Cob, (as in Corn-on-the), and Kestrel called the big silver one Luna. We stood on the bridge for a long time, appreciating the colors and movements of the koi as they moved between the sun and the shade. A lady who walked by told Jasper, “They must like your energy.”

Cob, the big yellow koi, back by the rock

Before we left the garden, I asked Jasper to choose a place for he and Kestrel to sit for a photo. He chose this nicely shaped doorway. Here are your handsome cousins!


Grandma Judy

A Day Out with Family

Dear Liza,

On Friday we got to visit Cousin Kestrel, Cousin Jasper and Auntie Katie and give Kestrel some birthday presents.

Walking through Ladd’s Addition is always pretty

Grandpa Nelson and I decided to make a day of it, so we walked the two plus miles down to Books with Pictures. We stopped at Palio to get some pastries and met the family across the street from their shop and house.

We enjoyed the croissants and little apple pies, had a nice visit and got to say hi to our friend Misha Moon when she came by on her way to My Vinyl Underground, the record store in Auntie Katie’s basement.

Books with Pictures, as seen from the field of Hosford Abernethy School

After a while Grandpa Nelson suggested we play some games. This started with a race, which Auntie Katie won. Then Kestrel taught us a game called Gargoyle. In this game, the person who is the Gargoyle sits with their eyes covered (today, we used our face masks!) and guards an object. The other players try to sneak up on the Gargoyle and steal the object.

… And they’re off!

The Gargoyle needed to be able to hear the other players’ footsteps and call them out, and because of the street noise on Division Street, this was really hard! But it was fun to be sneaking and having to stifle our giggles. Jasper won that one.

Exhausted hugs

After some other games and chalk art, we headed over for some ice cream from Zeds, the ice cream truck parked in the parking lot of Books with Pictures.

Princess Leia and Auntie Katie

It was moving past lunchtime when we headed for home. Pastries and stolen ice cream licks just aren’t real food, so we stopped at McMenamin ‘s Barley Mill up on Hawthorne. On their very thinly populated open porch, we had cider, a wonderful oatmeal stout, and a veggie burger. Their fries were a letdown, but everything else was delicious.

Hammerhead and Ruby the Witch are role models

By this time we were over-sunned, over-fed and over-walked, and we were still a mile from home. We found the shady side of the street and just kept at it, covering almost six miles by the time we crashed.

Whew! Getting out and about is exhausting!


Grandma Judy

Reading the Signs

Dear Liza,

There is an expression,”It’s a sign of the times.” This usually means something is a clear, visual example of what is happening. Today I decided to share some of my signs of different times with you.

When I first started traveling to Europe, I was struck by signs and posters that would not have existed in the U.S.

In Cambridge……

This 300 year old sign for Jesus Lane is on the campus of Jesus College at Cambridge University in England. In our country, religion has become so politicized and I doubt this sign would survive vandalism.

In London…..

On the other side of the coin, this poster for theater tickets would probably be considered too weird for the American market. It’s ironic that in a country that touts Free Speech there is such a “you can’t say/show/ wear that” reaction.

Man wrestling with an umbrella

This street construction warning sign makes me laugh, because of its original nickname in England, “Man wrestling with umbrella.” Also, if you look closely at the smaller sign, horrible things are happening.

In Paris…..

Other signs make me smile because of where they are. Seeing this wonderful sign showing an entrance to the Paris metro would mean I am in that magical city.


And not far from that sign is this one, for the narrowest street still existing in the ancient part of Paris. The name means “The Street of the Cat Who Fishes.”

Back in California, this sign touches my heart and feeds all my senses. Crows and cypress trees grow in my happy place at Asilomar, and looking at this parking sign, I can smell the fog and feel the sand between my toes. Oh, and taste the good food at The Fishwife, just up the hill a bit.

Missing Asilomar…

And in my new home, there are signs, too. This one, at The Enchanted Forest south of Portland, is greatly improved by Jasper showing his high score on the “Return to Mordor” ride.

Being with kidlets….

And these signs at a protest for the Trump administration’s policy of separating and imprisoning immigrant families touched my heart and let me know I was in good company.

Finding kindred spirits…

What are your signs of the times? What visuals make you smile, or travel to another time or place?


Grandma Judy

Back to OMSI

Dear Liza,

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.

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!


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.

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.

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.


Grandma Judy