Playing Scrabble en Francais

Dear Liza,

You know Auntie Bridgett and I have been studying French for years now. We do an hour or so of Duolingo online every morning. We practice talking to each other in French when Grandpa Nelson isn’t around (because we don’t want to be rude). And now we have a new way to learn.

For her Christmas present, I made Bridgett a French Scrabble set. The ones you can buy in France are a little different from American sets, since French uses more vowels. The accents and other bits that are not letters (like the accent over the ’e’ in cafe) are not on the letter tiles.

I went online to make sure I had the right number of each letter and the right value on each tile, because some were different. Part of the gift, of course, was an official French Scrabble dictionary. We can play on our American board.

The other day, we had our first practice game. We know more than two thousand words, so we felt very confident. But it was a challenge!

Whatever seven letters you have on your rack are all you have to work with, and sometimes they are not very promising.

Still, we stuck it out, helping each other when we needed it. There was a lot of “fishing” in the dictionary, looking for words that used just those letters.

We have played a few games now, but still haven’t finished one. But practice, while possibly not leading to perfection, will certainly lead to improvement. And besides, it’s fun, these cold winter days, to have a new challenge.


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

Our family likes words. We make them up, rhyme them, put them in the ‘mouths’ of cats and hands, and play games with them. Scrabble, limericks and puns are sort of our family tradition.

The beginning….

Since the corona virus shutdown has been keeping us home more, we are finding new ways to play with words. Crosswords.

It started with the printed puzzles in the Willamette Weekly newspaper, but that’s only one puzzle a week! We needed more. Grandpa Nelson found online sites with daily puzzles, which grow in difficulty from Monday to Sunday. Monday’s can be done in under ten minutes., while Sunday’s can take more than an hour and require extra cups of coffee.

We also discovered that some puzzle creators are more fun than others. It’s not enough to ask for a river in Eastern Europe. We love puns. (Tiny sounds from the sheep pen? Bopeeps)

Merl Reagle, king of crosswords

Merl Reagle’s puzzles are our favorites. He was actually famous for his puzzles, which he created for The Washington Post, the New York Times, and other magazines and newspapers. He was even on an episode of The Simpson’s! Merl shared our silly love of words. He passed away in 2015, and I am grateful for the internet that we can still enjoy his good work.

I was enjoying the crosswords so much, I wanted to make my own. It’s harder than it looks! I found grids online, but couldn’t get the printer to enlarge them. So I drew one. Ten squares in each direction, each square being two centimeters, will just fit on an 8 1/2 by 11 inch piece of paper.

Rough draft

Once I had the grid, I wanted some clever words to be “the long ones”, the theme of the puzzle. Given the era we are in, I chose “viral video” and “corona beer”, and started making the words to connect.

This is where it got challenging. Words that fit one direction resulted in unworkable combinations of letters in the other. I found myself googling weird collections of letters to make it work. AOLA? Association of the Locksmiths of America. Solved!

My first puzzle…

Since my puzzle was only ten by ten, I was able to get it done in just an hour or so. Auntie Bridgett did the tidy numbers in the corners. Creating the puzzles takes longer than solving them.

And the clues….

Now, I get to give it to Grandpa Nelson and see if he can solve it.

Then, I will make another one, just for fun.


Grandma Judy

New Year’s Eve

Dear Liza,

It started with paper plates…

We had a fun New Year’s Eve at home this year. It was wonderful.

This one became a top hat!

During the day, Auntie Bridgett worked for a few hours at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, and I wrote a little and practiced French. Grandpa Nelson started researching what looks like our next European trip: Ireland and France!

This is one of the things I love about our trips, is the planning and discussing, the research and the antici…..pation.

But the most fun was the hats!

And this bunch of crumples…..
became my girly hat!
Silly Grandma Judy

Auntie Bridgett had a really good idea, to make funny New Year’s Eve hats out of the bags of used Christmas paper that were waiting to be thrown out. We started snipping and trying ideas, making it up as we went along.

While the glue was drying, Auntie Bridgett and I went out for some bowls from Laughing Planet to take home. We opened some Columbia Crest Merlot, which went very well with the spicy food.

The hats were so much fun! Auntie Bridgett’s stayed on her head better… mine needed a little rubber band strap. I think mine looked better on the bear, anyway.

Cute Auntie Bridgett

We played a game of Brain Spin, which plays with how we see things, and our favorite, Scrabble, which I won!! This is a rare thing and I enjoyed it very much.

Cute Bear

We nibbled and sipped and watched some Baking Show, then counted down to midnight, feeling sleepy but happy.
See you next year!


Grandma Judy

Art and Poke

Dear Liza,

Park Blocks

Sunday was predicted to be another hot day, getting up to 96 degrees. I had gotten some good ideas about my story and wanted a new place to write, and Auntie Bridgett was heading off to the Portland Art Museum on the number 15 bus for her monthly ‘Drink and Draw’ meet up. (On a Sunday morning, the ‘drink’ is coffee).  I invited myself along. Walking up the Park Blocks, we met Jake, a writer who Bridgett met last summer in  this same spot, who is working on a story called “Book of Miracles” about touring with the Grateful Dead. We talked about writer’s block and wished each other well.

Writing in the Art Museum is always good. I am surrounded by wonderful creations made straight out of someone’s head, giving me confidence that more wonderful creations can come out of my own.


Once in the museum, we split up. I found a comfy bench in front of the Proctor statue called Indian on Horseback, where it was very quiet and good for writing. My characters are coming to life and I am enjoying them so much! Whether it’s the art or just Writer’s Block disappearing, I am glad for it.

As people came in, kids started being just a bit too noisy for my taste, so I moved over to the Diebenkorn exhibit, where it was still quiet. I met Linda and Paula, two ladies who are in the Drink and Draw, and we chatted. When the drawing part was over, we all moved to the coffee shop, where the artists talked and I started looking up what children’s books were popular in 1903.


Proctor Statue

At lunchtime, we wanted to try something new. We wandered just a block down Park and went into Shigezo, a wonderful Japanese restaurant. We enjoyed poke (say po-kay), seaweed salad, delicious grilled pork belly, and some disappointing potatoes. But a small flask of sake (say sah-kay), smelling like bread and warming as it went down, made everything better.

Yummy Poke

After lunch, Bridgett wanted to head back to the museum to buy the exhibit book on Diebenkorn. The heat was kicking in, and it was 85 degrees, even in the shade. We caught the bus and were glad to be home. By dinnertime, it was 96 degrees, only dropping to 90 by 8:00. Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk in the park, seeing the new handrails by moonlight and a lot of folks who came out to enjoy the “Silent Disco” (using wifi headphones for music) and the relative cool of the evening.

Back at the house, we played Scrabble, and I was having a great game! I was ahead…right up until the end, when Grandpa Nelson caught me, passed me, and ate my lunch. Fun, anyway.


Grandma Judy