The Last Adventure (for now)

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

This past Sunday was my last in Salinas for a long time, because I will be flying back up to Portland this coming Saturday. I have already written about how much I miss my people, my new city, and my new home. I have also written about how odd it will be to live THERE and not HERE.

Meeting an Old Friend

But now I will tell you about today. We couldn’t let this last Sunday slide without an adventure, so Cousin Liza and I packed snacks and extra coats (just in case) and headed off. As she ran down the front walk Liza sang, “Hello, World!” My thoughts exactly.

Swimmer’s Tent City

We walked to Hartnell College to visit the Panther, and saw tents set up. There was a swim meet, with kids from as far away as Marin County competing. The tents give the swimmers and their families a quiet place to rest and change between races.

We took a different route today, crossing the Hartnell campus to Central Avenue to visit Central Park. Some of the play equipment is very old, dating from the 1960s, and some has been updated. There used to be an old locomotive that kids could climb on. It was declared unsafe at some point, and the local Railroad History Museum adopted it. They moved it over by the Amtrak Station and First Mayor’s House, and it is now part of the educational center there.

Enjoying the Old Stuff

We walked down Central Avenue and talked about the old houses there and what Salinas was like back in the 1890s… dirt streets, fewer people, more horses. Liza remembered that Mr. Steinbeck had a pony he and his sister kept at the local stable and rode in the hills.

And then, there we were, at the National Steinbeck Center again. Liza loves it. The nice lady checking us in decided that we had been in so many times that we had paid for a membership by now, and let us in for free!


Every time we visit, Liza says hello to the paintings of children in the “Grapes of Wrath” exhibit. The paintings depict migrant farm worker children in their shabby hut, and she feels badly for them. In previous visits, she has invited them to pretend birthday parties in the “pipe house” from Sweet Thursday. Today she decided they should go live in the nice camper, called Rocinante, that Mr. Steinbeck drove around the country while writing “Travels with Charley”. It seemed the perfect solution to a problem that has bothered her for months.

We ate the last of our snacks, said good-bye to Mr. Steinbeck’s museum, and headed for his library! We were both getting tired, but we needed to return books that were due. When the time came to head home, we missed the bus, watching it sail past just across the street. We called Uncle David and he came to fetch us. Naptime!


Grandma Judy

Back in Salinas for May

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,


It was so much fun visiting you in Portland! Grandpa Nelson enjoyed spending his birthday with you, and we got lots of work done on our new house. But I have 19 more teaching days to do, so I am back in Salinas. Yesterday, Uncle David picked me up at the airport and took me to the Club at Crazy Horse for dinner. Good company, very tasty food, and lovely scenery!

Today started out with Liza enjoying her new comics from Auntie Katie’s shop, Books with Pictures.IMG_0340.jpg

After breakfast, it was time for a nice adventure. The weather was warm and sunny, so Liza and I packed some snacks and our overdue library books and headed downtown. We had snacks with the Hartnell Panther, who then followed us downtown. Liza says he can sense where we are, so he doesn’t need a leash.


We continued to the Steinbeck Center, and  visited the Red Pony, Tom Joad and the Pipe House, as well as fishing for sardines off a small boat. It was a fun imaginary trip.


We were hungry for a snack, but Blue Aces was closed! Liza was so disappointed, but we decided to try Portobello’s…no ice cream. The Cafe and Deli? Closed. Finally, we stopped in at the Monterey Coast Brewing Company and THEY had ice cream! Hooray! And even a lemon tart for me. No beer, though. I’m on duty.

Refreshed, we headed to the Steinbeck Library, played, and got some new books. It was getting windy and cold, and I was grateful for the jackets Auntie Olga had insisted we take along. We had to run for the bus, but we caught it and were home at 2:00…just in time for a nice long nap.



Grandma Judy

Adventures in Transit

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Auntie Olga, ready to roll!

Today was another adventure. Auntie Olga, Cousin Liza and I went to the John Steinbeck library, but this time, we took the bus! We figured with the bus ride replacing the mile walk, we could enjoy more time at our destination. Since both the number 20 and the number 25 bus run between our house and downtown Salinas, even on a Sunday we don’t wait more than a half hour for a bus, and much less if you plan right.

We left the house earlier than usual, and Auntie Olga still had her coffee cup. Liza found some lemon grass and noticed that the leaves look like hearts! Somewhere along the way, Liza found part of a pencil sharpener and started creating tiny bouquets in it…blades of grass, a tiny belladonna daisy, and some small magnolia seed pods.

Chatting with John

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Liza explaining her bouquet

She was explaining all the bits of loveliness in her creation when we noticed that Rick’s brother Kevin was riding up on his bike! We had hugs all around before the bus came and took us to the Steinbeck library. We turned in books, got new ones, and Liza made us a fabulous pretend lunch from the library’s toy kitchen. We realized that we weren’t just pretend hungry, we were really hungry!

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Liza’s food truck

Auntie Liza suggested lunch downtown, so we walked to Portobello’s new location on Main. They were closing in 15 minutes, so we took our seats at a table outside to enjoy our burgers and quiches. The food was very good, and I introduced Auntie Olga to Messiah Beer. The weather was cool, but we had coats and were very comfortable.

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Driving Auntie Olga

In the Steinbeck Center, Liza had fun showing her mommy all her favorite things…the red pony, the model A car, the children in the migrant field camp, and Doc Ricketts’ boat. And as she looked at the exhibits, Auntie Olga’s mind was racing…how could she use this museum as a teaching resource for her class at Central Coast High School? John Steinbeck’s work encompasses history, literature, and science. The museum itself is a graphic artist’s dream. I got the business card of the director so Auntie Olga could contact her about curriculum.

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“I nearly always write…just as I nearly always breathe.”

When we were done at the museum, we walked just across Salinas Street to the transit center and caught a bus within a few minutes. We walked the few blocks home and nodded off into napland.


Grandma Judy

Return to the Library

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

If it’s Sunday, there’s an adventure. Today Auntie Olga, Cousin Liza and I had our walk to the Steinbeck Library, to return our due books and get some new ones. Cousin Liza had read through “No, No, Word Bird!” and was ready for a new story with words she could read (mostly) on her own.

We packed cheese, fruit, and granola bars for our snacks along the way. It was warm and sunny after being chilly in the morning, so I just took my light jacket. Auntie Olga loaded her backpack with fleeces and hats I was sure we wouldn’t need.

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Off to Adventure!!

We were just a few blocks from home when Cousin Liza stopped and stared at a flower in the parkway. “Let’s leave the flower here, Liza,” her mommy said. “It will grow and stay for everyone to enjoy.” Liza just stared at the flower. Olga and I walked away, and Liza picked the flower! I was upset and Liza could see it on my face. I held out my hand, she gave me the flower, and I set it down on a nearby tree stump.

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Liza staring at the flower

We had a talk about being on the same team and needing to cooperate to get where we wanted to go. I gave her the option of going back home with her mommy, but she decided to continue on the adventure, and was fine after that. On our way, we saw our friend Wiley Reeves, a teacher who retired this past year. He has been enjoying traveling.

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Just keep swinging, just keep swinging…

We walked east on Acacia and turned to walk on Clay street and found the tiny but pleasant Clay Street Park. It has a bench in the sun and a wonderful play structure that matched Liza’s coat colors of pink, purple and teal. Liza practiced swinging and pumped by herself! It will take lots of practice, but she will learn.  Once we had a snack and rested, we continued to the John Steinbeck Library!

On the east side of the library was another of the big boulders with a quote from John Steinbeck. It said, “Books are the best friends you can have, they inform you and entertain you, and don’t talk back.” Very fitting for the lawn of the library, I think.Liza and boulder.jpg

After some playtime with another little girl, we found the books for this week. Happy Birthday, Word Bird!, a few Eric Carle books, and a Russian Folktale book that Auntie Olga wanted, and a science book about water. We saw Mark Vinas, a teacher who retired the year your mommy was 10 years old. He is still charming and just a bit old fashioned, since he is 87 years old! We  chatted for a while and headed home.


The Salinas wind had come up and it got cold! I was now grateful for Auntie Olga and all her extra jackets. She loaned me a fleece to wear under my jacket and she found an extra hat to put under her hood. We zipped up Liza’s puffy jacket and pushed through the wind all the way home, and happily took naps.

After dinner Liza and I used some fabric I had, a decoration (made by Auntie Bridgett)  from a favorite tee shirt from Grandpa Nelson’s sail boat, and made a pillow for her dolls! It was a quick, fun project. Off to bed now.

Love, pillow1.jpgGrandma Judy





Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

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Liza figuring things out

One of my favorite things to do here at Uncle David’s house is read books with Liza. She loves “If you give a Mouse a Cookie” and anything about dinosaurs. Lately she has been reading more to me!

She is learning letters and sounds at her school, and a few months ago she noticed OPEN signs on stores we could go in. Then she saw the same sign on the Steinbeck Library! We checked out books in the Word Bird Series, and she is enjoying recognizing some words and figuring others out.

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She is starting to read everything! The other day she wanted more light in the kitchen so she found the remote control Uncle David made and read  “…k…kitch…kitchen!” She pressed that button and turned the light on. She was so excited! I am sure she will be reading before she goes to school, just like your Mommy did.

Remote Control for Lights

In Uncle David’s house there are also books in Russian, which are gifts from Auntie Olga’s Mommy, Baba Alla. There are bright and colorful, but I can’t read them! I only know four letters in Russian, the four that spell “Liza”.

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Beautiful Russian Book

I don’t know if I will be able to learn to read Russian, but I am practicing speaking it.

“Liza, kudah tapitchki?” (Liza, where are your slippers?)

“Ya niz naito.” (I don’t know.)

“Na.” (Here)

There is sure a lot of learning going on here in Salinas!


Grandma Judy

Winter Gardening

Dear Jasper and Kestrel,

I know it is raining and cold up in Portland where you live, but here in Salinas, it feels like summer! Today was 75 and very sunny.

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Liza with the Hoe

On Sunday, Liza and I took advantage of this lovely weather and started to do some work in the garden. When Auntie Olga and Uncle David bought this house before Cousin Liza was born, there were rose bushes in the back yard. With everyone working so hard and being busy, the roses have been ignored, and one even had a tree (and not a pretty tree, more of a ten foot tall weed) growing right up through it. My first job was to get the tree out, then prune the rose so it had a chance of growing back pretty.

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Weed Tree

Uncle David has some nice tools in his shed, including a fine, strong pair of long handled “loppers” which work great on thick branches. At the bottom, I finally needed to get out the pruning saw, but it was worth it to see the rose ready for spring.

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Pruned and Ready for Spring!

Cousin Liza was very helpful. There are tiny weeds and long bits of grass growing in the flowerbeds. I chopped them with the hoe, then Liza pulled them and threw them into the trash can, which is taller than she is.

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Tiny Liza, Big Trash Can

We made a good team, and by the time Auntie Olga and Uncle David made scrambled eggs and salad for brunch, we were hungry for it!

Glorious Spring!

Then came the adventure. Our books were due at the Steinbeck Library, so we three girls packed snacks and headed off.

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New Books

It was such a warm day, we kept having to find shade to rest in. We drank all our water.

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Resting in the Shade

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Liza and I on the Panther at Hartnell

The library was nice and cool and we didn’t want to leave, but we managed to make it all the way home under our own power. Then, of course, was nap time.

I love my weekends. As John Steinbeck said, “There’s always something to do in Salinas.”


Grandma Judy

To the toy store…and beyond!

Dear Liza, (and Jasper and Kestrel),

Sunday started with breakfast with a teacher friend, Vickeye Welch. We met at First Awakenings at the corner of Main and Gabilan and chatted about friends and future plans.

Once I got home,  Liza and I set out on another adventure. She had asked for some beads to make necklaces out of, and with so many local stores closing, The Club House, which is a lovely store that used to be “Educational Stuff” was the only walk-able choice.

We set our sites, packed snacks, and headed off. Knowing it was going to be a long walk, we by-passed our closest park, Hartnell Park. We continued down West Acacia, stopping to rest on the shady benches at Mission Park School.

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Chillin’ at Mission Park

Arriving at The Club House, we shopped. It is a bright and very full store, with lots of wonderful things. It was hard to stay focused! We found a Melissa and Doug wooden bead set that was designed for Liza’s age, and got that. A snack of some cheese sticks and Hawaiian Rolls, and we were raring to go.

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The Club House

Realizing the library was …..sort of….. on our way home, we walked up Main Street in that direction.

Liza enjoyed getting to climb the wonderfully old California Pepper trees on the front lawn of Salinas High School. A jig-jog through the neighborhood, and we found the John Steinbeck Library.

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Liza and the pepper tree

This is the library I took my kids when they were small, and it is well maintained. There are computers for kids to work and play on, a toy area with kitchen and play food, and of course, books. We checked out Pete the Cat and Polar Bear, Polar Bear, What do you hear?,  then Liza made me a pretend snack of soup and a sandwich, and we headed off again.

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Full view of pepper tree!

Passing Hartnell College, Liza recognized the home of her new friend, the Panther! So we visited for a while, playing with the long afternoon shadows.

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Liza and John Steinbeck

As usual, the last leg of the journey was the hardest. The wind picked up and the sun went behind some clouds, and it got cold! We plowed on, stopping for a few minutes at Hartnell Park before trudging the last block home.

Fun with shadows!

Being in the nice warm house took all our energy away, and we both were asleep very soon. The nap revived us in time for dinner… and I know I’m going to sleep well tonight!


Grandma Judy