Passover Easter Moving Craziness

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,After a week of moving box after box of dishes, pots and pans to the new house, some nice strong fellows from West Coast Piano Movers came and carried our heaviest and oldest belonging down eight steps, into their truck, then up two flights of stairs to our new living room. They were very good sports about it, but man, is that thing heavy! It was a wedding present to Grandpa Nelson and me forty four years ago and has been following us around ever since. It was nice to sit down and bang out some Carole King in the new place.

On Saturday, our newly ordered dishes came in, but were not nearly the quality we wanted and one even had a chip. So a trip to the most depressing mall in Portland, called Mall 205, was in order to return them without paying a shipping fee. Finding nothing even close to what we wanted, we found ourselves on a wild goose chase to the Washington Square Mall in the south west. Washington Square is all posh, all glitz. There is a Tesla dealership with cars gleaming like jewelry. There are Williams Sonoma, Macy’s, AND Pottery Barn. There are at least two stores that just sell make up. It was retail overload.

And because it was nearly noon and I was hungry, I freaked out a bit. I have only had a few anxiety attacks in my life, but malls are a definite trigger. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett knew I needed to eat, so we went to the nearest restaurant, the Cheesecake Factory. In my hungry, panicky state it looked like Cesar’s Palace, a den of noisy overindulgence. But there was food and water and I felt better. We went back to Willams Sonoma, picked up the dishes, and headed home. Exhausted but victorious, we had a well deserved sit down.The object of our quest

Of course, this was also Easter and Passover weekend. We celebrated Passover Saturday night with leftovers from the Cheesecake Factory and a bottle of Don Chapin’s wine that we have been holding onto. Grandpa Nelson had his first taste of matzoh for the year and a blissful look settled into his face. We lit a mismatched pair of candles and blessed everything in sight.

And Sunday was Easter! I woke up early, cleared packing stuff off the table, and snipped some camellias from the bush outside. Auntie Bridgett, who usually does such a lovely job decorating, was not able to this year, but that’s no reason it shouldn’t be pretty. After a nice morning spent feeling blessed and happy, Auntie Bridgett listened to a live streaming of the church service from Twin Lakes Church in Aptos instead of going to a new church here. She will find a local church, I am sure…but not right now.

And of course, the flamingos celebrated in their yard. I head back to Salinas today and will miss Portland until June. See you then, kidlets.


Grandma Judy

To the Coast …and back again!

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

As you can see, I am posting even without my big computer! Clever Auntie Bridgett taught me how to upload photos with my iPad! What would I do without my wonderful people?

After sightseeing to the north of Tillamook on Saturday, on Sunday we headed south! First we all had breakfast in our tiny house at Sheltered Nook, took Bridgett to the “Ice Hangar” at the Tillamook Air Museum, and headed towards Lincoln City.

The day was much sunnier than the day before, but still cold enough that we needed coats and hats. The views from the cliffs were spectacular, and it seemed we were living inside every postcard of the Oregon Coast. Since highway 101 also runs a bit inland, we got to see the forest as it was waking up from winter. Huge meadows had become daffodil farms and were blooming in yellow and white stripes. Bare birch trees arching over the road promised a green tunnel when they leaf of in a week or so.

food today was a mixed bag. The pastries at My Petite Sweet in Lincoln City were wonderful, but at The Dory, just north of town, we got burnt, limp french fries and and over-sized, over dressed “chicken wrap” that was almost inedible.

When it was time to leave to ocean, we stood for a while and just stared. The lacy skirts of the Pacific Ocean ruffled along the beaches, as though the grand lady Pacifica were gently perched on the Hawaiian Islands, her majestic blue skirts flowing around her.

Back in Tillamook, Nelson decided he wanted some decent food. We stopped at the Dutch Mill Diner, which was a 50’s style diner in all the best ways. The black and white checkered floor tiles and red leather bar stools were visually satisfying. The music of my childhood sang out about how hard it was to be a teenager in love. And the whole place was run by extended family members. Youngest cousin Elijah made the wonderful milkshakes and his mentor cousin, whose name I didn’t catch, was our waitress. It was a delightful stop before we went to fetch Bridgett from the Comic Con and head back to Portland.

Back at our rental home, we had a simple dinner (I got to cook!) and slept. Tomorrow we work!!

And we did. We started pulling kitchen stuff from the many unpacked boxes so I could set up the kitchen like I want it before I head back to Salinas. It is a smaller kitchen so we are needing to be more selective. I think maybe our fourth and fifth cutting boards and five pounds of plastic containers may have to go by the wayside….but it is a small price to pay for such a nice place IN such a nice place. We made a lot of trips up and down all. Those. Stairs.

After dinner, we realized we were done for the day. We left boxes half packed and got into pajamas, and watched a documentary on people who raise chickens for shows. These were delightfully odd folks who dedicate their lives to breeding, raising, endlessly washing and showing their fancy breed chickens, such as silver lace Wyandottes and feather-leg Brahmas.

A wonderfully irrelevant way to drift off to sleep.


Grandma Judy

To the Coast

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I am back in Portland! I flew in Friday after Uncle David fed me a tasty dinner at Nemea Greek restaurant in San Jose and dropped me at the airport. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett hugged me as soon as I got off the plane and didn’t stop until we got to our NEW house! It was my first time in it, but it felt like home. It has three floors, with the garage and an office on the bottom, living, dining, kitchen and a bathroom on the second, and two bedrooms and a bath upstairs. The painters have come and gone, making major improvements and one mistake, which Auntie Bridgett will tell them about today. (Oops. Sorry painters, she’s gonna go all artsy on ya.)

Back in our rental, which has been home for eight months, we slept soundly and woke up early to head for the Oregon Coast Comic Con in Tillamook. We met Jack Kent and his wife Verity at Coco’s Doughnuts on the west side and then caravanned over the hills to the coast. At 2,000 feet, there was snow!!! Real snow, piled up by the road, carpeting the forest, decorating the trees, looking more like a Christmas card than Easter week. It even snowed on us, a bit.

Once we were out of the mountains, the snow turned to rain and the rich dairyland of Tillamook spread out green and wet all around us. We drove to the Tillamook Air Museum, which is in a blimp hangar from World War II, the largest wooden structure in the United States. Impressive from the outside, it was cavernous, dark and COLD inside. Artists were setting up their tables still bundled up for the 39 degree outside temperature. Grandpa Nelson and I helped Auntie Bridgett set up, then headed off to see what we could see.

Tucked into our nice warm car (with heated seats!) we drove up the Oregon Coast on Highway 101. Wonderfully wet views of the forest and the ocean ruled the day. I got out for a few short excursions, but 35 degree rain isn’t conducive to strolling along the beach. I had my third breakfast (I have Hobbit ancestry, I believe) at The Pirate’s Cove in Garibaldi. Breaded and fried Clams and eggs, made with local clams AND local eggs! Yummy!

We reached lovely Cannon Beach, bundled up, and walked along the main drag. It is cute and, in Summer, full of families having summer fun with ice cream, beach toys and sun screen. Today, everyone was after fleece jackets and hot tea. We stopped at Tom’s Classic burgers to get Grandpa Nelson some french fries. We will return another time to browse the shops selling recycled driftwood and other flotsam, shops with names like “Washed Ashore” and “Found”, with the “U” made from a rusty horse shoe.

Driving back south, we found our reserved lodging for the night, one of a collection of tiny houses called Sheltered Cove. We had reserved one for us, and Jack and Verity had one for themselves across the way. Our hosts, Hank and Dee, checked us in along with their friendly and protective standard poodles, Mook and Red. The house was adorable! Not more than 500 square feet, it had a living, kitchen, bathroom and queen sized bed downstairs, and two queen sized beds in a loft upstairs. It felt light and airy, not cramped at all, and had plenty of room for us and our stuff.

When the Comic Con closed for the day at 5:00, a nearly frozen Bridgett hitched a ride home with Jack and Verity, and we got her tea and warm socks until it was time to go to the Pacific Restaurant. The food was great but the service a bit slow, and our view was of the heavy equipment involved in major street repair downtown. But Jack and Verity always make for lively conversation!

Back in our sheltered no, we slept like rocks. More adventures tomorrow!

Love, Grandma Judy

Getting Ready!

Dear Liza,

Well, we are almost there. Grandpa Nelson and I fly down to see you and our old neighborhood in Salinas TOMORROW! The day after that I meet my new students and have a staff meeting, just like a real teacher. Oh, my.

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My stuff

But first things first. I spent yesterday packing up all the stuff I will need in my six months with you. Clothes, books, everything. It seems like a lot! And of course, my teaching hat.

Auntie Katie and Grandpa Nelson

We spent yesterday evening with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We had so much fun! We cooked and ate, talked about music (I didn’t know Dave Bowie did duets with Freddie Mercury) and danced.

Of course, there was considerable silliness, as well.

Teaching Jasper…something silly, no doubt


We helped Auntie Katie move a big, heavy couch down her long, skinny stairs, which was like putting roller skates on a whale, but it all worked out, with only a few bruises.

See you tomorrow!


Grandma Judy


Looking Back


Dear Liza,

It is a new year, and I am looking forward to some more big changes. I will be coming to Salinas to stay with you for a few months while I teach, and my life here in Portland will be put on hold. Grandpa Nelson and Auntie Bridgett will stay here and take care of Mouse the kitten, the houseplants, and their jobs…but we won’t be together. This will be weird, and sometimes sad.

Before looking forward, though, I want to look back on the crazy trip that got me here and what I love about Portland.

Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

During the hot Summer, we learned about getting around on air-conditioned buses and trains. We got to visit our new favorite Laurelhurst Park with Auntie Katie and the cousins. We even walked to the Willamette River and put our feet in!

View from under the Hawthorne Bridge

It was fun getting to show you all the things in our new city, like the zoo.

Being a Squirrel


The biggest thing that we learned about is the weather. It rains a lot here, and we are getting used to asking Google if we should take an umbrella. It even snows! This takes getting used to, but is such a nice change from highs of 70 and lows of 50 that I don’t mind.

Snow on the back steps


I have fallen in love with the theater and art here in Portland. Theaters are made from old churches, warehouses, and even set up in parks. Art and music are everywhere.

Young violinist on SW Salmon and Park

People playing music, reciting and writing poetry on street corners just isn’t something we saw in Salinas, and it is a real treat.

And of course, the history! I have been studying about Portland’s past…it’s buildings, trolley cars, and people. It is just about as old as Salinas, but since it is a bigger city, it has more stories.

I am still trying to find out who this young lady was

There is so much I love about Portland. I will miss it, and then return in June to re-discover my new city all over again.



Grandma Judy

Goodbye Mimosa

Dear Liza,

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The mimosas before the trim    began                                     Photo credit: Bridgett Spicer

There are so many beautiful, huge, really old trees in our neighborhood. Today, there is one less.

Down the block, between us and Babydoll Pizza, a giant mimosa tree has stood for, I would guess, 50 years, probably planted when the house we are living in was new.

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Urban Arborist

Yesterday we saw the cherry picker drive up, along with a trailer,  grinder, and compost truck. I didn’t get a chance to talk to the fellows doing the work…they were busy doing loud, hazardous work, and it was really cold. So I took photos from our window and thought about change.

I loved the trees because they were majestic and spoke of history and caring for one’s urban environment. They were part of this city that is so completely different from whence I came. I longed for change, and found it here. I found a new status quo.

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More change! Camellias blooming!

And now they are gone, and that new status quo is different. I am still figuring out how I feel about that.

One change we love and count on is the flamingo drama down the street. They have now been celebrating New Year’s Eve for several days and looks like they had a marvelous time!

Love, Grandma Judy

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Happy Flamingo New Year!

New Year’s Eve

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Old Courthouse all lit up

Dear Liza,


Last night was New Year’s Eve and we celebrated in downtown Portland. The weather was very cold, but delightfully dry…no rain, and just a few clouds, so getting around was easy and everything looked bright and festive.

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Full Moon over Pioneer Square

We walked around downtown for a while, looking at shop windows and people walking by. We visited Powell’s City of Books and the Apple Store. Around 5, we got hungry so we stopped off at Case Study Coffee, at SW 10th and Yamhill  for snacks. They closed at 6, so we wandered some more, finding the lobby of the Hilton a welcoming place with comfy sofas and friendly people.

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Sign at Raven and Rose

By 7 o’clock we were ready for dinner, so we walked over to the Raven and Rose. Located at SE Columbia and Broadway, it is in what used to be the carriage House ( a combination of garage and barn, built in 1883) of William S. Ladd, one of the real movers and shakers of old Portland. The big estate and mansion have been torn down and built over, but this wonderfully restored barn, built in what they call the “Stick” style, has a restaurant downstairs and the Rookery Bar upstairs. It is one hundred and thirty year old, sits in the midst of modern brick and glass towers, and stands out as a jewel from another age.

Our dinner of beet salad, shrimp gnocchi, swede fondant, treacle tart, french fries and ice cream went well with the Pinot Noir and apple cider, and we felt indulged and sated. We chatted about our resolutions for the New Year and our hopes and plans for buying a house in Portland.

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Mr. William S. Ladd

Wandering around some more, we stopped in at the ArtBar of the Antoinette Hatfield Hall and looked at a wonderful Steampunk art show. Steampunk art is a style that uses old industrial things like machinery and combines it in new ways with plants and animals. It is weird and spooky and delightful. After some tea and coffee, we headed across the street to the Arlene Schnitzer Theater at SW Park and Salmon for our main event, a concert by Pink Martini and the Portland Symphony.

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Exterior of The Arlene Schnitzer Theater

“The Schnitz”, as it is called by those who love it, was built as the Paramount vaudeville theater in 1924. It must have been the most elaborate thing in Portland in those days, because it still dazzles the eye. The lobby is enormous and ornate, and every inch of stair banister, ceiling, and wall has been carved, painted, or plastered. We spent 20 minutes just walking around the place!

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Ceiling of the lobby of “The Schnitz”

Once the show started, the fun really began. Pink Martini is a talented four person group that plays a delightful international salad of music. Backed by a hundred member choir and symphony, the vocalists sang dance hall tunes in French, popular American tunes in English, Opera arias in Italian, and frenetic rock songs in Japanese. The audience, which had kids as young as 10 and folks well past their 80s, clapped and sang and, when invited, many women joined the band onstage to sing Helen Reddy’s “I Am Woman”.

At midnight we all stood and sang “Auld Lang Syne”, but the show wasn’t over yet.

Full choir, Symphony, jazz band and four operatic soloists joined forces to perform Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony in German. It was powerful and wonderful. But it was after midnight, and during some of the quieter moments, I think I might have…dozed off. Just for a moment.

Once the show was over and thousands of happy people filed out of the theater, we caught our Lyft ride home and I was asleep in two minutes.

Happy New Year!


Grandma Judy