Poet’s Beach

Dear Liza,

On Saturday, I took Auntie Bridgett on a walk to one of my favorite places, Poet’s Beach, on the West Bank of the Willamette. It is a three mile walk from our house, but it is all a gentle downhill slope, so it doesn’t feel that far! And since it was National Teddy Bear Picnic Day, we took Patches and Brown Bear along.

Walking through new neighborhoods is always fun, so I try to take streets I haven’t been down. This time, we discovered this new tiny free library. It has a chalkboard for messages, and the door opens UP, like a garage door. Very pretty and practical.

As we left the neighborhood and got down by the railroad tracks in the industrial area, shade was hard to find. We were grateful for our hats and the cool breeze from the river.

We found a beautiful new street mural in front of the Portland Opera. It is too big to show in one photo, but here is a fisheye lens picture that shows a keyboard producing music, which then swirls out into the world.

We got to the best bridge in town, the Tilikum Crossing. This bridge is only for pedestrians, busses, and trains. No cars! It is also the newest bridge and not a drawbridge, so it is quieter, without the bangity-bang of the older metal ones.

We picked up lunch at the Starbucks just on the other side, and carried it to our picnic spot by the river. Poet’s Beach!

This is a small area, just under the very loud Marquam Bridge. The river bank here is sandy and the bridge makes deep shade, which we really appreciated on the warm day. The reason this little area is called Poet’s Beach is that there are poems by school children etched into stones along the path down to the river.

We had our tasty lunch, harassed by a very bossy flock of geese who wanted some. They got a surprise, though, when a lady and her dog showed up, and the dog scared the geese right back into the river. We went on our way, too. We enjoyed watching folks play in the fountains and along the promenade of the Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

We walked back across the Willamette on the Morrison Bridge, and then figured out that we were pretty tired. We caught the magic number 15 bus home and rested while watching the Giants beat the Washington nationals.

Another day in Paradise, as they say.

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 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

In the Heights

Dear Liza,

Oregon is opening up as our vaccination rates climb, and people who have been masked and alone for months are coming outside and showing their faces. This new level of confidence, along with our recent warm weather, is making for busy streets!

Mosaic on the threshold of Stammtisch

The Laurelhurst Theater’s showing of Lin Manuel-Miranda’s musical, In the Heights, made this very clear. The theater has limited capacity for all these people, and seats were impossible to get on a Friday night. So Grandpa Nelson ordered tickets online for Wednesday and printed them out. Presto!

But before the movie, we would need dinner. We wanted something delicious and close enough to the Laurelhurst movie theater to make a comfortable walk. We chose Stammtisch, a German restaurant about a mile away.

Something for everyone!

We walked though the bright evening sunshine and chose a table under leafy trees. We were cared for by the staff, who brought us drinks, food, and good cheer. My Geshmort Hasen (Braised rabbit with potatoes) was rich and delicious, and just enough to finish without feeling stuffed. Then we headed to the movie!

Sorry, bunny. You were delicious.

There is always something magical about a movie, anytime. But going into a dark place to share an emotional experience with a bunch of strangers after months of relative solitude was a powerful thing. I got shivers.

And the movie delivered a powerful emotional experience, all right. The story of a nurturing Latino community in Washington Heights, told to the rhythms of hip hop and salsa music, was funny, sad, and human. Grandpa Nelson and I cried and laughed for two solid hours. It was marvelous!

When the closing credits were running, a lady across the aisle yelled “Viva Puerto Rico!” and I cheered.

We walked home through the warm night, with the moon stepping in and out between the trees.

It was just about a perfect evening out. Life is good, and getting better.

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Lovely Saturday

Dear Liza,

After a week of really warm weather, last Saturday was actually a little chilly. I worked in the garden a bit, planting seeds for some replacement radishes and six sunflowers. I have lost all the cucumber seedlings to some tiny slugs that eat the stems, but I have replacements growing in the sunny window and will buy some organic “Sluggo” repellent next time I am at the nursery.


My carrots are getting taller, and the zucchini plants are spreading out. While I was sitting in the garden, the sky got grey, the wind started to blow, and I got drizzled on for a while.

The smell of fresh rain in a garden is one of the best smells in the world, and I sat there, very happy, thinking how blessed I am.


Once I had the seeds in and watered, I cut some of the lovely lettuce to have later. Then I went home for lunch, which was leftover pulled pork sandwiches from The Portland Ciderhouse. Yum!

After some quiet time of reading, art and French lessons, Grandpa Nelson headed out for a walk, and I joined him! The clouds had mostly blown away but it was still cool. We walked the mile south to Division Street, to Salt and Straw Ice Cream. I ordered a flavor I didn’t even know existed, Pear and Blue Cheese. I know it sounds weird, but the sweetness of the pears and vanilla ice cream made a nice balance with the strong flavor of the blue cheese, and it was wonderful.

We sat by the sidewalk and watched dozens of other folks walking down the street to get their ice cream. There were more people than I’ve seen in one place for over a year. It was delightful, bright, and very human. Folks wore masks when they got into the crowd, which let everyone feel safe.

We headed for home up 32nd Street, which is lined with lovely old houses and beautiful gardens. The azaleas are fading but the roses are really coming into their own.

We spent the rest of the day reading, doing crosswords, and watching the Giants beat the Chicago Cubs. A very pleasant day, all around.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Feeling Safe, Heading Out

Dear Liza,

With me being totally vaccinated along with so many folks here in Portland, I felt safe enough Friday to do the long walk down to Auntie Katie’s Books with Pictures to take her new kitties some catnip toys.

I always love the walk to and through the Ladd’s Addition neighborhood. Gardens, trees, and lovely Craftsman style homes are so welcoming and friendly. And at this time of year, they really show the love.

On the way, I stopped by Palio coffee house to pick up lunch for Auntie Katie, because she works hard and doesn’t always get time out to eat. A sausage quiche, salad, and blueberry muffin should hold her until dinner. While we chatted, she told me that her new kitties, now named Maggie and Hopey, had gone missing. They were probably still in the apartment, but still, some worried faces here.

Since the shop was busy and Auntie Katie needed to take care of her customers, I dropped off the lunch, got a hug, and headed for home. Passing by Palio, I remembered how yummy Katie’s lunch looked and stopped and got one for myself. A Roast Beef Reuben sandwich with horseradish was so yummy! Along with chips and an almond Italian soda, I was filled to bursting.

I continued home and had a long quiet afternoon…. listening to music, working on art and thinking about history. A very pleasant time. But Friday evening is our night out. So at five o’clock, out we went!

We thought of Bread and Ink, an old favorite down on Hawthorne. Their website said they were open, but it turns out they meant ‘for take out only’. I totally understand that folks are not all vaccinated and don’t all feel safe, so we moved on. What WAS open?

St. Anthony Bourdain

Turns out, the Portland Ciderhouse is! Their food menu was short and sweet… fat pretzels for Grandpa Nelson, pulled pork sandwiches for Auntie Bridgett and me, and tater tots. The cider menu was more extensive, and we all found something we liked. Mine was a ‘Runcible Hoot’ which I got for the name. It was dry and wonderful. Once we were seated, we could remove our masks, and enjoyed being inside a restaurant. We looked at art, including a nice portrait of the late Anthony Bourdain, labeled ‘St. Anthony’, and watching other folks. We ate and drank and felt very blessed to be safe. Our walk home was sunlit and lovely.

And, once we got home, I heard from Katie. The kitties were found! Cousin Jasper spotted them in their new cuddle cave behind the clothes dryer.
All is well!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Hot Dogs and Rain

Dear Liza,

When Auntie Bridgett and I started jogging this past weekend, I decided to start eating better. More veggies, less junk food. We bought frozen edamame and lots of vegetables to cut up for afternoon snacks. And I have been enjoying it!

But, by golly, when Grandpa Nelson says, “I’m going to Zach’s, want to come?”, I say “Yes!” It has been odd, spring-y weather the last day or so, with clouds blowing by between sunshine, so, obviously, we knew we might get wet.

We headed off in chilly sunshine in just tee shirts and jeans. Grandpa Nelson at least wore a hat! But not me. Nope. Caution to the wind Judy, that’s what they call me. We walked past wonderful flowers and the Morrison Street chickens, enjoying lovely rhododendrons. But I couldn’t help noticing…..the clouds….

At Zach’s Hot Dog Shack, we took up our usual table on the patio, and Hunter brought our French fries and Chicago dog. It was cool but out of the wind. Then, within minutes, it got dark and the temperature dropped. The rain hit like buckets!

We watched for a few minutes until the cold chased us inside. Thoughtful Hunter even turned on the heater at my back, and we continued our lunch amid the friendly, dive-y decor. We watched the rain come down through the open front door as we talked about whatever came to mind, waiting for a chance to get home without being washed away. “This will be over in fifteen minutes,” Grandpa assured me.

And it was, mostly. When we saw some sunshine, we waved goodbye to Hunter and headed out, opting for the shortest route home. There were still drops, but the storm had passed. The flowers were lovely again. We got home, warmed up, and had a good rest.

Never pass up a chance for fun food, an adventure, and good company. That’s my advice.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Cake Walk

Dear Liza,

Our spring has been alternating between rain and sun, so when the weather is nice, we get out in it! Grandpa Nelson and I headed out in Friday, with not much idea of where to go.

All sorts of flowers are blooming! The tulips are starting to fade, but azaleas and irises are going berserk. The colors are eye-smashing.

We continued south west, sort of in the direction of Ladd’s Addition, where Auntie Katie’s book shop, “Books with Pictures” is. The rose gardens had a few early bloomers looking good, with dozens more in bud, just biding their time.

Palio, a delightfully tasty and pleasant bakery/coffee shop on the Ladd’s Circle Park, has set tables and chairs out on the sidewalk. We ordered some delicious lemon custard cake and texted Katie with an offer. “Yes, please!”

Auntie Katie just her second vaccine just the day before and is on her way to being able to run her shop more easily. The business is doing well, mostly because she works hard to make sure she gets books to her customers. She has been driving to deliver all over the city for more than a year now. Exhausting, yes, but that’s what it took.

After a lovely chat and snacks, Grandpa Nelson and I headed back home through the Richmond neighborhood. It is full of craftsman style houses from the turn of the 20th century and hundreds of majestic trees and flowers bushes.

Portland is a cakewalk!

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Sunny Afternoon Out

Dear Liza,

The other day, Grandpa Nelson offered us lunch out at Monster Smash. It is a pleasant mile’s walk away and has yummy burgers and fries.
Belmont Station, the tavern just in front of the food truck, sells good beers and ciders. They also have a bright breezy patio with windows that open all the way up, making for a pleasant airy environment, more eating outside than inside!

The breezy patio at Belmont Station

We enjoyed the yummy burgers and such, and Grandpa Nelson had an English Reveille’s Cider, which is actually made in Astoria, Oregon, just about 90 miles from here.

When we had eaten ourselves silly, we headed down Belmont towards home, and along the way we found a new food truck pod, The Bite on Belmont. Auntie Bridgett found the coffee she was needing from Kind Coffee. It was tasty and the service was very friendly.

We made a quick stop for a six pack of Guinness at the Belmont Market and a to order a book at Belmont Books, and headed for home. We put our feet up and rested up for the Giants ball game later this evening.

I love that we manage to keep each other entertained!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Bakery Quest

Dear Liza,

With the weather being warmer and our spirits rising with every vaccination, we are feeling inspired to get out for longer walks. My dad, your great grandpa Lowell, always said you should only walk until you were half tired, so you could turn around and walk back home. We have discovered that if there’s a bakery along the way, you can just keep going!

When we bought this house, one of the reasons we loved it was the proximity of restaurants and businesses…. Lebanese food around the corner, pizza across the way and a nice pinball tavern and pulled pork just down the block. But no bakery! This has probably, in the long run, been a blessing. Baked goods are less dangerous if they are at the end of a good long walk.

So, we walk. Helen Bernhard, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite, is two miles north of us through lovely neighborhoods. Their donuts are the best in town (Sorry, Voodoo Donuts) and they have Florentines rolled into tubes and filled with peanut butter cream. Need I say more?

Helen Bernhardt Bakery on NE Broadway

The Fleur de Lis, just off Broadway, at 1.7 miles. away. I haven’t walked to it yet, but Grandpa Nelson has! They have all sorts baked goods, including his favorite cinnamon rolls, as well as huge slices of quiche and sandwiches on fresh baked bread. They even had, before the Covid restrictions, live music on Sundays.

Caught red-handed with brunch at Fleur de Lis


And just yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I discovered yet another one!
Lauretta Jean’s, on Division, is just a mile south. They have been at their current location for ten years, but we have somehow missed them. During Covid they changed from a dine-in cafe to a walk up window, with a pretty awning and delightful signage. They even have a few small tables out front for on-site snacking.

We picked up a lemon bar, a piece of chocolate oatmeal pie, and a piece of birthday cake to take home for Friday’s dessert. The pie was a bit too sweet, but the cake and lemon bar were spot on wonderful. It’s nice to know that there are still fine baked goods to be discovered!

Birthday cake in the window, with reflection from across the street…

I don’t know if the search for local baked goods is Holy Grail worthy, but it sure is delicious!

Love,

Grandma Judy