“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

Last Fair of the Summer

Dear Liza,

The Belmont Street Fair is always scheduled as the close of the summer street fair season. It is also the one closest to us, just a block down the street.

We got over early, because overcast skies are cooler to walk around under. We found Stitch guarding the west end of the fair, chatting with a person from Dick’s Kitchen. They had a bunch of tables set out on the street, which were empty.

Delightful recycled jewelry

Further along were jewelers, poets, second hand clothing booths.

Then came political parties and alternative energy companies, massage therapists and tarot readers.

Finally, the food!! Two Wahine’s Shave Ice is always a favorite of Grandpa Nelson, I had a dish that I am sure is NOT called an Ethiopian Taco (but was delicious, anyway). And Auntie Bridgett had a burrito from Laughing Planet.

One issue politics

Of course, what I really love to watch are the folks to come to see the fair. Young families enjoying chalk art in the middle of the street and out of town grandparents taking the kids out for a spin in their rented bikes make it all very Portland.

Art in the city
Brave Grandparents!
Shopping for the perfect helium pet…

By this time, Dick’s Kitchen’s tables were bustling and Stitch had moved on. The sun had come out and it was getting too warm. I found myself longing for the predicted rain, and we headed home.

Love,

Grandma Judy

On the Cusp

Dear Liza,

It is still a week until Fall, but the weather is starting to change. The awful heat seemed to have passed, though I expect there will be one last Indian Summer heat wave before we kiss summer completely goodbye.

The summer flowers are still blooming…. wisteria, roses, and dahlias.

Summer fruits are reaching their peak… apples, tomatoes, and grapes.

And yet, we are getting rain, lots of rain, cooler temperatures, and it’s dark by seven o’clock. Fall is on its way.

Pumpkins are ripening in the Sunnyside School garden, reminding me that we need to use up the frozen pumpkin purée from LAST fall so we can go get more pumpkins!!

When I grew up in Southern California, all my relatives there lamented the lack of “seasons”. A friend from Oregon once said the bright blue skies of Salinas were “obscene” in January. I had no idea what she was talking about.

Now I do. The seasons changing are like breathing out after breathing in, or hearing the splash after you throw the rock into the pond.

They are what comes next.

And now I understand that.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Busy Sunday!

Dear Liza,

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Wearing the new fairy bands!

Sunday was another full day. As Summer comes to an end, it feels like we are all trying to fit as much sunshine time in before Autumn chases the big events indoors.

Auntie Bridgett was busy most of the day, helping host Mimosa Sunday at the SideStreet Gallery. Grandpa Nelson and I walked down to the Hawthorne Street Fair to see what was going on there. The weather was cool enough that I actually wore my jacket and hat!

The booths were a lively mix of local artisans, people with political agendas, and established businesses hoping to pull in some new clients. The more interesting of the first was a lady (whose name I neglected to get) whose company, Deja, makes lamps from old 33 mm film strips. Each lamp has film from a particular movie…my favorite was “ParaNorman”. The strips of film are hand-crocheted together to make lampshades. The lamps aren’t very bright, but are delightfully moody and I love the re-use of materials.

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Re-used film lamp shade

Another a creative example of re-use was this dress made entirely out of beer bottle caps. at The House of Resource booth. Each bottle cap was hammered flat, pierced, and strung to its fellows with a slightly stretchy rubber strip. I imagine it would need an undergarment and would be very heavy, but it was wonderfully creative.

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Beer bottle cap dress

A booth with a very unusual political agenda was the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement. This is a group of folks who see humanity as a real blight on the Earth, the one species that seems to be making it harder for all the others, as well as ourselves. They say that fewer humans would make a healthier planet and advocate that humans stop reproducing, or, if we have already, don’t pressure our children to. The members of the movement that I met are very positive, cheerful people, who just want to make sure people understand that, when it comes to population, sometimes less is more.

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Tee shirt for Human Extinction

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Millie and her friends

Pets and their people are always a big part of Portland events. We met Millie, a dog who must weigh over 100 pounds, and Hollandaise, a hen who looked very well cared for.

Grandpa Nelson and I got tired and went back home, and then Auntie Bridgett got done at the SideStreet Gallery. She and I walked to the library to return some books and then went back to the fair! I was totally worn out by the time we got home for dinner. We had planned to go to Laurelhurst Park for another symphony concert, but we were done in.

I am sad to say that there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, and we sure had it yesterday. We slept like rocks and today are enjoying the sounds of men pressure-washing the building prior to re-painting.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Soap Box Derby

Dear Liza,

I know I have told you that one of the things I like most about Portland is that the grown ups here like to be silly and have fun, just like kids. Today we went to see the Adult Soap Box Derby up on Mt. Tabor, where a lot of really smart people get together to design push cars…just for fun.

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Babe the Blue Ox of the Lagers (Loggers)

Auntie Bridgett didn’t go, because she was not feeling well, but Grandpa Nelson and I drove up to Tabor Bread for breakfast. This is the bakery with the wood fired oven I told you about last week. Their quiche and rye doughnuts are just as yummy as their breakfast cookies!

We continued east and parked just at the base of Mt. Tabor. Thousands of people go to see the Derby, so parking is pretty tight. And of course, it’s all uphill to walk there. We followed the crowds up trails, cross country, and along roads, up and up.

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Teletubbies on the Road!

 

At exactly 11:00, we heard the shouts as the first group of cars headed down the road. Each race has three cars in it, and they are timed. After a few races, the slower cars are eliminated, with races and eliminations continuing until there is a winner.

Some cars are built for speed, low to the ground with smooth turning wheels and careful engineering. The Tabor Accounting Group had the fastest car I saw, though I don’t know the final winner yet, and I didn’t get a picture because it was moving so fast!

Others are built just for fun, like the big rainbow slice of birthday cake and Wall-e. One, called The Rainmaker, had a water cannon and sprayed the squealing crowd as it went by!img_9617.jpg

The event was very typically Portland. Lots of kids, dogs, happy people, food and beer. The rules are few and even those are loosely enforced. Some people brought picnics and blankets, spread out on patches of dried grass (still no rain!) and got comfy. Others, like us, walked to the top to see a few starts and all the cars, then made their way down to the finish line, enjoying the mountain and the crowds, the scenery, and being outdoors.

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Wall-e

It is fun to see what mechanically clever people can do when they decide to get together and have fun. I am sure many fine engineers and scientists may get their start designing a better, faster, slice of cake for the Derby.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Dog Drama

Dear Liza,

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As you know, I used to be afraid of big dogs. I only had to get within a block of a strange big dog, and I got panicky. This was a leftover from many years ago when I was badly scared by a dog, and it took me a long time to get over it.

In this respect, as in many. others, Portland has been good for me. Most of the dogs here are friendly, well-behaved, and just mellow critters.  One of my favorite things about Laurelhurst Park is watching the dogs play in the off-leash area. Early yesterday morning I went for a walk around Laurelhurst, trying to work out some details of the story. The weather has been dry, so the park’s sprinklers had run most of the night, trying to keep the grass green. This made some good sized puddles, which the dogs were enjoying.

One woman with twins toddlers in a stroller and I were chatting. “See that dog that keeps going all the way down into the puddle?” She smiled. “That’s mine.”IMG_9149.jpg

Then this evening, we decided that since it was finally cool enough that we would walk over to Sunnyside Park and play badminton. This was our second time playing this summer, and we were so much better! We had fun whacking the birdie around, flailing less and hitting it more.

Across the park were some fellows who sleep in the park most on nights when the weather is good. They and their dogs were hanging out. For a while it was fine, but then they let the dogs all the leashes and it started to get uncomfortable.

While we were sitting on the grass to rest, the dogs came over to see what we were doing. They weren’t mean, but got very close and were not following directions, from us or their owners. I got nervous  around dogs for the first time since I’ve lived here.img_9152.jpg

When we had rested, we thought about playing some more, but the idea of the dogs chasing us spoiled the fun. Sadly, we packed up and headed home

I know that no place is perfect, and one short bit of discomfort won’t ruin a day, but I am sad that for just a few minutes, I had that panicky feeling about dogs again. I will go visit Laurelhurst today and chase the bad away with some good.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunnyside in Summer

Dear Liza,

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Shasta Daisies

Our neighborhood is so pretty!

So far, I have gotten to be here in the spring (for just a week), and the summer (for two months) and the trees and bushes keep changing and growing.

In the spring it was very wet and cool, with only the blooms of azaleas and rhododendrons making big wads of color amid the dark and damp. It seemed like the wet dirt was napping, just waiting for sunshine.

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Laurelhurst in March

And it’s a good thing the ground was so damp, because we haven’t had rain for two months, except for a short, dramatic thunderstorm. The larger trees are doing well without help, but we see a lot of people out watering their gardens to make sure the plants stay healthy.  Summers weren’t always this dry, but because of climate change we are seeing more drought conditions here.

Over at Sunnyside Environmental School, there are watering crews that come in once a week. They have even made signs which crack me up!

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This part of town also has lots of food growing. There are apple trees weighted down with fruit and even grapes hanging on fences.

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Baby Grapes

I love sharing my new city with you. I hope your new year at school goes well.

Love,

Grandma Judy

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Lettuce Turnip the Beet!