Late Summer Magic

Dear Liza,

Welcome to August! I can’t believe this summer is racing past so quickly.

The heat wave here in Portland has sort of upended my usual way of doing things. Since it is so hot in the afternoon, I go to the vegetable plot early to water and harvest the zucchinis, and to check on the tomatoes and pumpkins.


Some days it feels like a race to harvest and eat as fast as they are growing. My gardener friend Tonya has clued us in on how to freeze zucchini to use later, when it isn’t too hot to bake.

Inside the house, Auntie Bridgett’s Sundew (which she bought to eat the fungus flies…. Don’t get me started) is blooming! The perfect, delicate spiral is so pretty!


At Laurelhurst Park, the local Faerie Folk have been out improving their summer homes.


Morning Glories are creating some accidental beauty on telephone poles. They follow the spiral growth model, climbing around and around.

And last but definitely not least, the sunflower that has made this dead chestnut tree its new home. The tree was fatally pruned to a height of about ten feet. I am glad it is having a useful afterlife.

We should all be so fortunate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Looking Back on the Fourth

Dear Liza,

Our maple tree outdoor Bistro

Our Fourth of July was very busy! It was a warm but not deadly-hot day, so we felt up to some solid walking.

We packed a small picnic lunch and headed south to Seawellcrest Park. This is the same park where we had Cousin Jasper’s fifth grade promotion celebration, but on the Fourth, it was practically deserted. A few folks played frisbee with their dogs, but mostly it was just us and the giant maple tree we were sitting under. We enjoyed a nice lunch of cold sausages and cheese and listened to birds and happy dogs. Very nice.

We walked around the Seawellcrest community garden and enjoyed seeing how other folks arrange their spaces. Ladders are good for trellises! I am learning a lot for next year.

We continued through the neighborhood, greeting folks out walking.

Once we got to Division Street, there was Auntie Bridgett’s favorite frozen treat shop: Eb and Bean Frozen Yogurt. These friendly folks make healthy and yummy flavors such as Triple Blueberry Chèvre and Caramel Praline… what’s not to like?

We enjoyed the goodies on a bench in the shade, watching people and traffic go by. A young fella set up a lemonade stand and Grandpa Nelson was his first customer! Other folks soon followed.

Auntie Bridgett suggested, since we were on Division Street, that we walk a little way further and go visit Auntie Katie. The day was getting warmer, but we had tummies full of ice cream and we were good at staying in the shade.

We visited with Katie’s assistant, Nick, and then took her off for a walk and a snack at Palio. I know it seems like we were eating a lot. Yes. Yes, we were. Yummy! We had a wonderful visit, sharing some rose wine and berry cake.

Katie needed more of a walk, she said, so she decided to walk us up the hill and home. The heat of the day had really kicked in and it was a bit of a slog the final mile, but we made it! The three of us had covered five and a half miles, and we were pretty pleased with ourselves. And tired. We all had ice water and a rest before Katie headed off on her way.

The rest of the day was quiet, with reading and, later, watching the humans beat the aliens in Independence Day.

Belated Happy Fourth! Happy to still have a country to celebrate in.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Summer Sundowns

Dear Liza,

In summer, the sun doesn’t go down until nearly 9:00. That means for me to be able to walk in the cool dusk, I need to go out walking later than Grandpa Nelson or Auntie Bridgett want to.

And that’s okay. Walking by myself is one of my favorite things. Being able to stop and stare at a leaf or a bit of moss, or talk to the cats or chickens, without making someone wait on me, is a delight.

Last evening, after we were all in pajamas, I caught a glimpse of the orange sky and put my clothes back on. I wanted to feel the change from day to night, to see the back-lit trees turn to silhouettes. So I went.


I headed to Laurelhurst Park, where hundreds of folks sat scattered through the 26 acres, on blankets or low chairs, chatting, eating, watching their kids and dogs play.


The setting sun lit up the treetops and cast long, cool shadows. Our street became a leafy tunnel leading to the last light. I was glad I had come out.

Love,

Grandma Judy

My (Heat Wave) Favorite Things

Dear Liza,

I don’t have any new adventures for you today because yesterday was spent inside, staying still and drinking ice water. Not terribly exciting! But I got inspired to make another parody (that means a funny song) of “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music.

My Heat Wave Favorite Things

Eating ice cream on the floor in the dark

Dreaming of walking in Laurelhurst Park

Finding the river and jumping right in

We do it when Portland’s One hundred and ten!


Director’s Park Fountain’s an island of cools,

Go there! ‘cause the city has closed all the pools,

Trolleys are melting and streets start to bend

This is what happens at One hundred and ten.



When the sun bakes, for your own sakes,

Stay in if you can

Come back out to Portland when things have cooled down

And then we will feeeeeeeeel so grand!

I hope you are staying happy and cool!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Summer Surprises

Dear Liza,

This weekend brought some lovely surprises. Even though the weather was really warm on Saturday, Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk. “Let’s head down to Division,” he said. “There’s ice cream, and gelato, and even frozen yogurt.” So we headed south.

The sun was hot, and the sidewalks got hotter as we walked. It was afternoon, but the shade wasn’t much help. “Maybe we find a pub a little closer?”Grandpa sighed. We agreed, and found the delightfully decorated McMenamin’s Bagdad Cafe and theater, down on Hawthorne. They had food and drinks, A/C and friendly folks.

Some pretzel fondue, tuna sliders and beverages later, we were refreshed and ready to head off. Grandpa Nelson was still feeling the heat, so he headed for home. Auntie Bridgett and I continued on to Laurelhurst Park. It can be full of surprises.

And it was. We found an impromptu violin concert along one end of the lake, and a reading of a play I’d never heard of at the other. Both had collected small but appreciative audiences. We listened for a bit and walked on.

I love walking in the park when it is buzzy! There were folks walking dogs, playing frisbee, and practicing circus tricks with hoops and slack ropes. Kids hollered and ukuleles were strummed. It is a like all the best of life, just out playing on the lawn.

When we left the park we were absolutely vibrating from all that human energy! And the surprises weren’t done yet. Growing on a telephone pole-supported grape vine were the beginnings of this year’s grapes.

Always something to see….

Love,

Grandma Judy

Full Speed Into Summer

Dear Liza,

This week, summer will hit full blast. Our weather will be in the 90s, with the sun coming up at 5 a.m. and not going down until almost 10 p.m.

Tiny baby carrots!!

Everyone’s gardens are beginning to bear fruits and vegetables. We have been eating our own lettuce for a few days, and even had some teeny tiny carrots with dinner.

Strawberries and cherries are growing, often right onto (or over) the sidewalk! The world is so full of sweetness it just can’t be contained.

And after a long silence, Laurelhurst Park is filling up with music again. I went walking last evening and got a free concert by a group called Johnny Franco, who was making music in two trumpets, a saxophone, drums, four different guitars and a vocalist.

It was a delightful blend of rock and reggae, and a crowd of about a hundred people was scattered around, enjoying the music and the weather. There were picnics, and kids and dogs ran all around. People danced, frisbees flew. It felt like LAST summer had finally come, fifteen months late.

Have a good weekend! Stay well, stay cool, and find ways to share your joy.

Love,

Grandma Judy

“Out” For Dinner

Dear Liza,

On Fridays we try and go out for dinner. When we lived in Salinas, we went to Patria, or to the many restaurants in Monterey. Here in Portland, between our bustling neighborhood and easy bus service, we had hundreds of places to choose from.

Dinner out, back in the day (last year!)

Had, I say. In the pandemic, with public transportation feeling like a disease vector on wheels and many places closed up or only doing take-out, our elegant end of the week tradition has been trimmed back.

Auntie Bridgett sketching away…

I like cooking and don’t mind eating my own food, so for me, the “going out for dinner” was mostly about the “out” part. A change of scene, watching folks and chatting with servers, being in the hustle and bustle. Watching Bridgett sketch interesting characters. Watching Grandpa Nelson wave at babies from across the room.


This past Friday, we packed peanuts and half a bottle of wine, bottles of water, and some picnic utensils into a bag and walked down to Sea Sweets, a poke place on Hawthorne. Auntie Bridgett and I got poke bowls, filled with spicy raw salmon, brown rice, seaweed salad, kimchi corn, and pickled ginger. We also got an ice cold ginger beer for Grandpa Nelson, because it was really hot.

Sea Sweets yummy poke bowls

We packed up these delights and continued south to Seawellcrest Park for the “dinner out” part of our evening. We found a socially distanced piece of shade, spread the blanket, and ate up. About thirty feet away, a fellow was exercising. Further off, two young men were playing basketball. And far across the park, happy dogs met and ran and sniffed each other.

Our dinner

It was a warm, pleasant, very un-elegant dinner out, and I enjoyed it very much. As we headed home to watch baseball, I thought about how we create the world by our attitudes.

With the country shut down, in conflict, and worried about our upcoming election, we can still find happiness and peace. And those are valuable resources.

”Table” for three
Bright and breezy decor at the new place…

I hope you are enjoying life to the best of your abilities, being kind to those around you, and staying well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Just Flowers

Dear Liza,

Sometimes, between the Covid-19 and the political situation, it’s nice to go out for a walk, and not think about anything. I mean, to just think about what is right in front of you.

Fortunately, in our neighborhood, there are lots of lovely flowers to look at. Sunnyside Elementary and Environmental School has delightful gardens, which are being tended by staff and families while the school is shut down.

Educated flowers…..

On a street down the hill a sunny patch is filled with Black-eyed Susans and zinnias.

Sunny flowers….

Our local community garden up by the Laurelhurst Care Center, sweet-peas and dahlias stand tall in the sun.

Tall flowers….

And between our house and Auntie Katie’s place in Ladd’s Addition, the four rose Gardens are home to hundreds of bushes, all tended by volunteers. This ‘Caroline Testout’ rose, a variety that was created in 1888, caught my eye on our last walk down that way.

And historic flowers!

Have a nice day, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

National Teddy Bear Picnic Day

Dear Liza,

During the shutdown, we are having to find new ways to keep busy and make the days fun. We are reading, painting, and learning. And sometimes, we go on a picnic!

Auntie Bridgett, setting up the picnic

Friday was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, believe it or not. It was also the first really warm day here in Portland. So we celebrated.

Two silly bear lovers!

Auntie Bridgett and I packed up easy picnic food like hard boiled eggs, tomatoes and celery, goat cheese and blueberries, and a few cookies. We also packed blankets and my guitar, and tiny dishes. And of course, the bears. Not ALL the bears, for sure, but four wonderful friends.

Pops, Patches, Esther Bear, and Bridgett Bear

We carried our provisions and our friends up to Laurelhurst Park. We have seen the park be very busy, and we wanted a quiet spot where we could be distanced. We found a high bank above the main walkway, where we could see but not be too close to anyone. We set up a big blanket and real food for us, and a tiny blanket and pretend food (well, mostly drink) for the bears.

Our supper

As we enjoyed our shady supper, a few folks came by and took notice. It was fun to make people smile at our silliness.

Bears getting tipsy just by sitting near the bottles!

When we had eaten, Auntie Bridgett and I tried singing The Teddy Bears Picnic song, written in 1907 by Irish Songwriter Jimmy Flannigan. It was the first time we’ve played and sung together in over a year, and we were rusty. But the bears didn’t complain and we got better before we quit, so that’s something.

Teddy Bear Music

“If you go down in the woods today,

You’re sure of a big surprise,

If you go down in the woods today,

You’d better go in disguise…”

We even had a bee visiter who enjoyed the clovers right by our feet!

Bees and Converse

It was actually starting to get a little cool by then, and the sun was thinking about going down, so we packed up and headed home.

Happy Teddy Bear Picnic Day!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sauvie Island, Masked

Dear Liza,

Wiiiiiiide open spaces

Yesterday we got to do something normal! That is, something we have done since we have lived in Portland. We drove out to pick blueberries on Sauvie Island. Sauvie Island is the largest island in the Columbia River, and is a big dollop of farms and wild area just minutes from downtown Portland.

The tiny Sauvie Island Bridge

To get there, we crossed to the west bank of the giant Willamette River, drove north a bit, and then crossed the tiny Multnomah Channel, and there we were. Pastoral paradise.

Ready to go!

Now, of course there were accommodations for Covid-19. We all wore masks, kept our distance, and used the farm’s boxes to keep from giving them any of our germs.

Staying distanced but still jigging along…

But the picking was the same. Pulling pounds of juicy berries off bushes, planning the dozens of cobblers and muffins, is very satisfying, in a hunter-gatherer sort of way.

Bounty!!

Among the bushes, we listened to parents chat with their kids and smiled at our first post-Covid babies. We watched dozens of swallows swoop low to get berries, only slightly discouraged by the broadcast hawk shrieks. We reveled in just being outdoors, being part of the world. As the box filled up, we picked slower, not wanting our time to end.

Auntie Bridgett, getting just a few more!

There is so much of Sauvie Island we haven’t seen yet. There is a nature preserve full of water birds. There are farms that specialize in Marionberries.

The house garden at Columbia Farms

But eventually, the call of lunch got too loud to tune out, and we needed to head off. Of course, this lead to another adventure! More tomorrow.

Love,

Grandma Judy