Fetching Kestrel

Dear Liza,

When you and I lived in the same city many years ago, I would come pick you up after school and we would hang out together. We made bread, played in the garden, and just got to be silly. We even got to know a Panther at Hartnell College.

Now that Cousin Kestrel and I both live in Portland, I get to pick her up from her school, sometimes. She goes to da Vinci Arts Middle School, so she gets to take dance, textile art, and theater as well as math and social studies. It is a mile walk from my house to the school, so we both get some exercise.

And these bright chilly fall days, we get some sun!

There is a wonderfully weird cement dragon named Leo in the schoolyard, who makes a great place to sit and wait for the bell to ring.

He has benches along both sides, but I prefer to sit on his scaly tail.

I am so happy to be able to get to know both my Grandgirls.


Grandma Judy

The Other Parade

Dear Liza,

I have said before that one of my favorite things about living in a big city like Portland is watching the PEOPLE. The pandemic stole this from us for two years as we all stayed inside and avoided….. people.

Happily, our time at the Grand Floral Parade has begun to mend this gap with humanity. All sorts of wonderful folks were out enjoying the day.

Most of these were folks like us, visitors to the Parade. They made their own parade of kids, dogs, moms, and dads. We smiled at each other, chatted about the weather, petted the dogs and waved to the babies.

Just being able to watch kids play was good for my soul.

Other folks had a mission besides the parade. Several ladies were out circulating petitions to pass legislation to reduce gun violence. We signed, of course, and thanks them foe their work.

This fellow was out encouraging people to find peace in his way, politely handing out Bible verses.

All of them (even us!) were part of this other parade of humanity out and about. And I am glad for it.


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

Refurbishing Elephante Part 1

Dear Liza,

We sure were busy while you were in Portland! Our biggest job was refurbishing your big stuffed animal, Elephante. This is what he looked like before we started.

There wasn’t anything wrong with him, but his tummy fur was getting thin and we knew he was dirty from four years of being your favorite sleep buddy.

First, I used my seam ripper to open a hole big enough to pull out all of his old stuffing. Then we filled the bathtub with warm soapy water and let him soak for a while. We gave him several good rinses.

To get most of the water out, we rolled him up in a big towel, just like a sushi roll. Then he spent some time in the dryer. He was so fluffy when he came out!

I used the seam ripper again to remove the fur that made his tummy, and used that fabric to make a pattern for his NEW tummy. The nice flat grey we got at Cool Cottons will make a fine replacement.

I will tell you the rest of Elephante’s story tomorrow.


Grandma Judy

Letting Serendipity Steer

Dear Liza,

Saturday was predicted to be our last warm, dry day for a while, so we went out for a drive. We headed for Sauvie Island, where we always enjoy mazes, roasted corn, and lots of fun folks and farm animals.

As we headed north out of town, though, the traffic got very slow. Grandpa Nelson looked at the road directions on his phone and realized that all those cars were headed to the same place we were! No crowds for us, thanks.

We turned right around and headed back the way we had come, but we didn’t want to go home. Grandpa Nelson said “Well, we’ve never been on Germantown Road, let’s turn there.” And we did.

The Germantown Road goes right up into the west hills, twisting and turning and going up and up. We drove through shady forest with the afternoon sun lighting up the trees in the distance, looking just like the landscape paintings I have been learning to paint. It was so pretty!

From there, we navigated by Serendipity, which means randomly turning at various corners and seeing where we end up. We were driving through a very expensive neighborhood with fancy houses and big yards, called Oak Hills.

Then all of a sudden, we saw groups of kids with band uniforms, playing marching band music. Turns out, we had stumbled upon the 32nd Annual Sunset Classic, a band competition, being held at Sunset High School. Eight High School ‘show bands’ from Grants Pass, Tigard, and other schools near and far were performing their combinations of music, marching, flag work, dance, and stagecraft. After some parking snafus, we bought tickets and found seats in the sunny bleachers.

We sat there, totally impressed by the level of playing and choreography.
The first piece we saw all the way through was performed by local Century Marching Band, from Hillsborough. The title was “Per aspera ad astra”, or “Through Hardships to the Stars.” Besides really interesting dance moves and great, modulated playing, this number featured a giant inflatable moon!

The sun was beating down on us, (who thinks to bring sun hats in October?) but we were determined to see a few more. The next really memorable piece was performed by Kamiak High School of Mukilteo, Washington. They performed with backdrops of famous Banksy street paintings and their graphic design was really good.

I wish I could let you hear the music! The drum cadences were strong and fast, made more interesting by half a dozen marimbas, gongs, and other instruments you don’t usually see with a marching band.

After the last band played, there was an intermission before the evening’s awards and more performances, but the sun had done us in. We got back to the car and talked about music, dance, and High School all the way home!

Serendipity had done well for us today.


Grandma Judy

The Rose Queen of 1941

Dear Liza,

Walking around Portland, we always learn something new. This past Saturday, on our way to see a new pedestrian bridge get installed, we passed the DaVinci Middle School, in the old, classy Irvington/Kerns neighborhood. This school has been here since 1928, and used to be called the Girls Polytechnic High School. The name was changed to Madison High School, then to Da Vinci.

In front of the school is a giant magnolia tree and flower beds with an oval brass memorial. We stopped to see what it was about.

The words say “These rose beds and memorial tree are affectionately dedicated to the memory of Betty Jane Harding, 1923 to 1943, who as princess from Girls Polytechnic High School became Queen of the Rose Festival and so graciously reigned in the year nineteen hundred forty one.”

I was curious, and a little sad. Being elected Rose Queen, this young woman had obviously been smart, pretty, and active in her community. Why had she only lived twenty years?

I returned to my old friend, The Historic Oregonian newspaper, via the Multnomah County Library website. Looking in the newspapers from 1941, I found lots of articles about Betty Jane and her fellow Rose Princesses.

One girl was chosen from each of the 9 public high schools in town (at the time, there are 12 now), and one was chosen as Queen. I am not sure what the criteria were.

Miss Harding, as Rose Queen Betty Jane I, had all sorts of civic duties. She spoke with girls’ groups, posed with celebrities, and encouraged girls to always do their best. She traveled to meet other make-believe Royalty, like King Borealis of St. Paul, Minnesota, to smile for the cameras.

But all this publicity had a real benefit, as well. Betty Jane earned a full scholarship to The University of Oregon, down in Eugene. She pledged to the Pi Beta Phi Sorority and began studying Art.

Betty Jane became ill in 1943 and came back to Portland, where there was better medical care and to be closer to her family. She had surgery for her liver trouble, but sadly, did not recover.

Betty Jane is buried in the Lincoln Memorial Park, which is a few miles south of here. At her funeral, her fellow princesses walked as an honor guard and volunteer Rosarians acted as pallbearers. Everyone who had admired Betty Jane as Rose queen was saddened by her early death.

I guess if I insist on learning new things, some of them are going to be sad. But I am happy to know more about the folks who have lived, and died, in this city.


Grandma Judy

Seen on the Sidewalks

Dear Liza,

Portland is a big city, which I sometimes forget here in our little neighborhood. There about 650,000 people just in the city, and lots more in the surrounding area.

And as a big city, we see all sorts of odd, unexplainable things. Here are some of them.

…A sparkly mask outside the Electric Castle’s Wunderland, which is very popular for kids’ birthday parties.

A cartoon of a grumpy Dennis the Menace calling someone a “Nerd”.

And a sign showing that the city is making sure the local squirrels are safe.
Have a good weekend! See you soon!


Grandma Judy

Takin’ it Downtown Part 2

Dear Liza,

After we said good-bye to Jack at Cult, we headed off for a sit down and some refreshment. We knew where there was a good coffee place, so we headed a block up and a block over to Barista. Iced coffee and some A/C sure help on a hot day!

Grandpa Nelson felt better, but was wearing out quickly. He decided to get on the number 20 and head home. Auntie Bridgett and I still had a few places to visit, since we’d come all this way. Along the way, we passed this delightful doorway. Of course, they are a frame shop!!

We continued to Oblation, where they sell nifty cards and writing supplies, including selections from their International Pencil bar. I thought it was a joke, but Auntie loved it!

We also enjoyed looking at their collection of restored manual typewriters.

Our final stop of the day was Dick Blick, a good sized art supplies store. They have just about any pens, pencils, paints, brushes, paper, canvas, beads, plaster, or clay you could want.

They also have a very earth friendly up-cycled basketball court as their floor.

Well, downtown is coming back to life. There are some folks still living on the sidewalks and in the parks, which isn’t really good for them or the city. Some stores are closed and some are damaged. But I am crossing my fingers that the worst is behind us.

And with that happy note, I show you some of our lovely old skyline… trees, clouds, and the Benson Hotel, built in 1913.


Grandma Judy

Auntie Beeswax

Dear Liza,

Did you know that your Auntie Bridgett Spicer was a cartoonist? From 2009 to 2012, her comic strip called Squid Row ran in the Monterey Herald newspaper. It was about an artist living in a touristy seaside town. Since Auntie Bridgett was an artist living in Seaside, California, it made perfect sense. The strip was really popular, too.

A sketch of Auntie Beeswax

After we moved to Portland, she took a few years off from cartooning to do painting. She joined the Sidestreet Arts Gallery and helped make it a better place for people to see and buy art. And now she has starting cartooning again!

The city of Roseport and some characters

Her new comic strip is called Auntie Beeswax, and will be in the Willamette Week newspaper here in Portland. Auntie Beeswax is an eccentric lady who lives in “Roseport”, a thinly disguised version of Portland. She keeps bees, cats and chickens, rides her bicycle everywhere, and is an organic gardener. In other words, she is a delightfully ordinary Portlander. But she always does things just a little differently.

Rough draft of a comic strip

The comic will be about her adventures, and will include a young niece who learns about life ‘outside the box’ from her Auntie Bee.

Bridgett Spicer herself

I am so happy to see Bridgett smiling and sketching, getting her stories all ready. I look forward to reading about Auntie Beeswax!


Grandma Judy

Things You See in Portland

Dear Liza,

Portland, like any big city, has some problems. Too much traffic, people sometimes stealing cars and things, and sometimes, very loud motorcycles. But Portland is also a lot of fun.

Portland is famous as a bicycling city. We have greenways that have low car traffic and work like highways for bikes. We have bridges that are only for bicycles, people, and trains… no cars! But I’ve lived here almost four years and I’ve never seen this……

One answer to the parking problem!

This is a tiny old house just across the road from the entrance to our Lone Fir Cemetery. It has been fixed up by the young family that just moved in, and I’m guessing they let the kids choose the stickers on the new planter!

And, even as some businesses are closing because of the pandemic, some are opening!!

This is a new shop in Belmont, just down the block. It sells all sorts of ‘spooky’ things…. dolls with scary eyes, jewelry that looks like bats and skulls, and Ouija boards. There are posters of Vincent Price that Auntie Bridgett really likes, because of his spooky movies.

This is someone’s delightful outdoor shelter, down on Market Street. It has seating, a small fireplace and delightful shade, all made of cement, mosaic, tree branches, and old wine bottles. It is a work of art you can sit in! I love coming across these jewels. They are just part of what makes Portland special.

I can’t wait until you can come visit and see all our nifty things!


Grandma Judy