Looking Back, Just a Bit More…

Dear Liza,

Portland does SPRING very well!

This past year saw some big adventures, too.

Three generations! Me, Auntie Katie and Cousin Kestrel

In March, for my birthday, you and your family came up to help me keep a long-overdue promise to MY parents, to put their ashes into the ocean. We all drove over the mountains to Seaside, made a sand castle, and placed them in it. High tide would take them where they wanted to be.

David and Katie built their grandparent’s castle

A perfect Florentine

I started baking with more skill, with new equipment and confidence.

The summer came, and fall…

Leaves in Laurelhurst Park

In September we took the train to Vancouver, BC, and Seattle, Washington, and enjoyed what those cities had to offer.

Vancouver, BC, by day

Seattle by night

Auntie Bridgett kept painting, working hard as a member of SideStreet Arts.

Auntie Bridgett and one of my favorite paintings, A Paris

This year also saw the young people growing into wonderful ‘older’ people. Cousins Kyle and Jasper got to know each other and became buddies, bonding over Dungeons and Dragons and video games.

Cousins Kyle and Jasper, being guys together

As for me, I am still working on my story. It has grown from being a story about a CITY to being a story about a girl living IN a city.

My had drawn map of Portland, 1903

I never knew writing a book was so complicated, but I am learning, and I think that as long as I take time and don’t give up, it has promise.

My (at least) twelfth outline, getting more complicated and person- centered

Last year, I kept my promise to my parents. Maybe this year, I can keep my promise to me.

Happy New Year!!


Grandma Judy

Treasure Hunting

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Donald being Donald

Having such a short time to visit friends and places here in California, yesterday I combined one of my favorite people, Donald, with my favorite place, THE BEACH. I wanted to explore a part of the Sand City beach that has interesting things, just off of Highway 1.

The View from the top

We parked on a little road that leads to an old sand and gravel company. The gate was open, so we walked right in. Walking past old equipment and broken chunks of concrete and asphalt felt like we had found the ruins of an ancient city. The high dune above the beach had been covered with poured concrete of different textures, and looked like a lava flow.

Weird concrete pours

We had fun taking pictures of the rocks, sand, and even a lizard who was very comfortable on his broken boulder. Nearby is a huge sand dune that was used by the city as a dump for many years. Because the sand and the stuff dumped in it are always shifting, you have to be careful and wear heavy shoes, because there are sharp and dangerous things. But it sure is interesting!

Climbing straight up a steep, soft sand dune, we found some old rusty chain, bits of beach glass and pottery, as well as new glass and bits of metal. Near the top we found a fellow sleeping in his tent, so we headed off and left him in peace.

On a bluff with a beautiful view, we found benches dedicated to people who had helped Sand City. Police chief Staples and Jerry Smith, men who worked hard to make the city successful, were people I had known when I lived in the area and worked on different committees. It was good to have a quiet visit in such a lovely place.

Donald and Jerry Smith

When we left the beach, Donald wanted to go by the Orchard Supply Hardware store. This country wide chain of really good stores has been around for 90 years, and they are all going to be closed by the end of this year! It makes me sad that 45,000 people will be out of a job, and that folks won’t have this store to help them fix up their houses.

Wonderful Store, Sad Closing

We got Donald’s buckets, hummingbird feeders, and wind chime, walked back to the car and he drove me to Salinas. I was exhausted, but I didn’t care. I felt full of joy, sunshine, and friendship. At Uncle David’s house, I looked at the treasures I had put in my pocket, but realized the real treasures were kept in my heart.

Enter a caption


Grandma Judy

The Coast with Grownups

Re-employed Country Bear running a shooting gallery

Dear Liza,

It has been so hot here in Portland, people are either staying inside air conditioned buildings or getting out of town to stay cool. On Sunday, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I headed for the coast. It was 100 degrees in Portland, and 70 in Seaside…so, good call.

We drove to Seaside, which is a pretty little touristy town on the beach. There are dozens of shops selling salt water taffy, tee shirts, and souvenirs, as well as bumper cars and a tilt-a-whirl. There is bad traffic and limited parking.

But there is also a beach, with long lovely dunes and beach grass, which is what you get to keep when you don’t plant your dunes with ice plant. The weather was sunny on the dunes, but just over the waves and coming onto the sand was this weird blowing fog…it made everything delightfully spooky. The tide was way out, so there was LOTS of beach. Not many sand castles, though.

Creeping beach fog

Lovely dune grass









The fog and sand were wonderful, but we here getting hungry, and headed into town for some lunch at Sam’s Seaside Cafe, a pleasant enough diner (though later I began to question their refrigeration). There is a little river that flows through town and rental boat that go along it. Rowboats and swan boats were for rent….both looked like too much work!

Swan Boat Fail and Rescue

We drove on up to Astoria, and it was a very different visit than I had with Katie and the cousins. We didn’t visit the wreck of the Peter Iredale, the Tower, or the Battery.

Wandering in the old downtown area, we looked at the cool 1924 architecture and contemporary art. The Riversea Gallery had really beautiful work, including some by Portland artists and friends Dawn Panttaja and Jesse Reno.

The John Jacob Astor Building

Walking along, we saw some young men and women wearing colorful clothes with bells on their legs… Morris Dancers! The Morris dance is a traditional Irish way of celebrating spring, with dancers, drinking and fun. In old Ireland, troops would travel around the country. July seemed late for celebrating spring, but this fellow said in America, they go a bit longer.

Morris Dancer









It seemed time to head back towards home, since we had an almost two hour drive. Auntie Bridgett’s stomach was feeling queasy (was it the Cole Slaw? We may never know) and Grandpa Nelson’s feet were tired. We drove along the Columbia, our California eyes amazed at all that water just running free.

The Columbia, just rollin’ on….

At Kalama Bay, where there used to be a ferry to take railroad cars across the river, the McMenamin Brothers have build a NEW resort…not a re-purposed old building, as they usually do. We enjoyed the bright fourth floor bar, but from the inside looking out…coming inland this far, the temperature was back up into the 90s.

Auntie Bridgett had a fizzy tonic to try and settle her stomach. Snacks and drinks and we were on our way home, to watch baseball and fall asleep early.

Always fun art at McMenamin’s

I hope the weather breaks soon! I am longing for my nice cool Portland.


Grandma Judy



Monterey Adventure

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

Yesterday, Cousin Liza and I got to go on another adventure. We walked to Sunshine Donuts on West Alisal for a treat and, more importantly, change for the bus. I haven’t figured out Monterey-Salinas Transit’s pre-paid system yet, so I am a slave to dollar bills and quarters. We found our bus stop and waited, not very long, in the strong morning sunlight.

Liza waiting shadow.jpg
Playing with Shadows

The number 20 bus took us through fields and across the Salinas River. This is a very odd river, as rivers go. It flows north, which not many rivers do, but is also an UNDERGROUND river most of the year. The rocks that form the bed of the river are porous and when there isn’t enough water, the water level drops below the rock level, and the river disappears! It is still flowing, though. Airplanes taking pictures show water flowing into the bay, even when the river looks dry!

We continued past Marina and the big shopping area at Seaside, catching my first look at the Monterey Bay since last July. It was so bright blue and beautiful, a perfect January-summer day. We got off the bus at The Window on the Bay, a wonderful park that Mayor Dan Albert of Monterey created years ago by having the city buy of the small businesses in this spot so people could play and sit here and see the Bay. When Mayor Albert retired, he said it was his greatest achievement as Mayor. I agree.

Walking through the flowers and volleyball courts, we got to the beach. We took off our shoes and got used to the feel of sand on our feet. Cousin Liza had fun deciding how wet to get…first just the bottom of her feet…then we rolled up her overalls a bit. Then just her ankles… and we rolled them up a bit more. Then she stopped being afraid and got wet clear up to her knees, and the overalls did too! But that’s part of the fun.

Liza and the bay.jpg
Wet Feet Liza

We built a princess’s sand castle that ended up having a face made of rose petals, seaweed and rocks. There was a smaller castle nearby, “for the prince”. No idea who he was….

There were a lot of people having fun on the beach! We saw a girl’s surfing club, a kayaking class, and people walking their dogs.

girls surfing.jpg
Surfing Class

silly liza csstle.jpg
Liza and the Princess Castle

For lunch, we said good-bye to the sand and walked to Sapporo, a wonderful Japanese Restaurant and sushi place by the Monterey Yacht Club, above The London Bridge Pub. We had a view of the harbor. We saw some young sailors bringing in their FJ sailboat. They reminded me of Liza’s Daddy David, years ago.

guys at yacht club.jpgWe did the kid’s maze and watched the waiter make “training chopsticks” for Cousin Liza with a rubber band and a roll of paper. We ate grilled shrimp, spicy tuna, and rice. So tasty!

liza sapporo.jpg
Delicious Lunch

By now it was really warm, and all our layers of clothes from the morning were stuffed into my bag. We headed to the Monterey Transit Center on Tyler. Liza climbed up a great concrete wall and we played Story Cubes until the bus came. After our long day in the sun, Liza had a little nap on the bus, but woke up just at the right time so we could walk to her house. Then we BOTH napped!

After dinner, Liza’s Daddy decided we should have a fire in the backyard and make s’mores, and then we went for a walk around the neighborhood. This was just about a perfect day!


Grandma Judy