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

North in the Sunshine

Dear Liza,

The other day I knew I needed to get out of the house, but had no motivation. Grandpa Nelson suggested a walk, and promised me goodies somewhere along the way. I went.

We headed north through the Laurelhurst neighborhood, then kept going up to Kerns. About a mile and a half from home, we stopped at Oregon Park and watched two little girls learn that going down a slide doesn’t have to be a straight forward proposition. It was fun to see their inventiveness.

“Where next?” Grandpa asked.

“I’m not sure, but it seems I remember a bakery just over that way,” I said, pointing north west-ish. He checked his phone.


“Good call! Helen Bernhardt Bakery is just 1.2 miles away. Practically around the corner.” So off we went. In the neighborhood in between, we found all sorts of delights. These stone lions are very stylish and Covid-aware.


These vintage, hand-carved children’s rocking chairs sat outside a turn of the century home, as if waiting to be adopted.

Window art is wonderful along Broadway.


We got to Helen Bernhardt’s Bakery, which has good Covid procedures in place, and chatted with the lady behind the counter.

She said that this past Easter, a week ago, was the best Easter ever for the business. That’s since 1924! It’s nice to know that some businesses have been able to survive and even thrive in this weirdness, and that we will have this lovely bakery around for a long time.


Grandpa Nelson has been eaten by a camellia!

After sitting on a low wall outside the bakery, enjoying our donut, Florentine and coffee as we watched happy folks come and go from the bakery, it was time to “South” a little. That is, to head towards home. We found this incredible camellia bush that was huge outside and magical inside. The flowers under the ‘umbrella’ seemed to glow pink with the afternoon sun.


We walked back across the Banfield Freeway and were soon in our own neighborhood. We stopped to say Hi to Auntie Bridgett, who was working her shift at the SideStreet Arts Gallery, then got home to crash before dinner.

The Banfield….. an ugly scar of a road with good views

Another fine adventure!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Busy Easter

Dear Liza,

Easter Sunday wasn’t as warm or sunny as the day before had been, but it was still nice enough to get out for some fun.

After French practice and crosswords, Auntie Bridgett and I walked by our allotment to see how the seeds are doing. We have sprouts! The radishes and lettuces are sending up tiny green baby bits and I am so excited! I will come by tomorrow with the watering can to make sure they stay nice and moist.

We continued through the neighborhood, past pink drifts and blizzards of cherry blossoms, to the Pix-O-Matic on Burnside. Pix is a fancy French style patisserie. Due to Covid, they have installed high end vending machines to sell their pastries, but also Candy, toys, and odd bits of niftiness. We got a small collection of Easter candies and a pastry called a Shazam to have after dinner. Noticing that Kopi coffee was open, we stopped by and had interesting and delicious Ginger and cardamom coffees, and a blueberry scone. We sat at a tiny table on the sidewalk, watching and listening to all the humanity…..conversations, buses going by, car radios. It was nice to be OUT.

We got home and put the goodies away, did some art, and had lunch. Then Grandpa Nelson joined us and we walked way up into the Laurelhurst neighborhood, loving the spring flowers and blossoms on the hundred year old trees.

We got back in mid-afternoon and it was time to start dinner. I was cooking lamb shanks for the first time, and wanted to give myself time to do it right. Shanks tend to be tough, and need low and slow cooking. I used a recipe from The Spruce Eats online, and they turned out wonderfully! Tender, rich and yummy. I made mint sauce out of our mint from the garden, and it made the lamb even better! Hooray! I love learning how to make new delicious things!

Lamb shanks on the table, decorated with Pam Ferraschi’s ceramics

We remembered to save room for the Pix desserts, however. Shazam is an almond cake with caramel and mousse under a paper thin chocolate wrapping. Delicious!

And THEN it was time for my zoom visit with you, Liza. We chatted, giggled, and drew Easter eggs and bunnies. I showed you the collage I’ve been working on (more about that tomorrow) and visited with your mommy and daddy.

We finished off the busy day with “Escape from the Chateau” and working on a new jigsaw puzzle, and headed for bed.

Not bad for an ‘isolated’ Easter.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Sunny Day, Sweeping the Clouds Away….

Dear Liza,

It was so pretty out Saturday, we just had to get out in the sun!

Auntie Bridgett and Grandpa Nelson figured out what we should do. While they got dressed, I packed a picnic lunch, and we headed off across the Willamette and south toward Lake Oswego. Looking ahead on the map, Grandpa Nelson found a park we had never been to.

Fanno Creek and footbridge

We drove through a forested neighborhood with Tolkien-inspired street names like Rivendell and Arkenstone to the Durham City Park. The trees are still bare, but tiny green shoots are bulging and showing color. We found a picnic table above the soggy ground and enjoyed sandwiches and fruit in the nearly blinding sunshine. People walked by with dogs and kids, scooters and walking canes. It was a slow parade of humanity, all out enjoying the sunshine.

We crossed the footbridge over the Fanno River, enjoying the sounds of the rain-fattened stream. As we walked around the park we couldn’t get over the colors. Ruby red branches. Baby green leaves. Buttery yellow Oregon grape blossoms.

We walked until we were tired, chatting with people about their dogs. We got back in the car, and I thought we were heading back home. But life is full of surprises.

Love,

Grandma Judy

What a Day! Part 1

Dear Liza,

Friday was my 65th birthday, and I had made a short list of things I wanted to do. I got to do (very nearly) all of them!

I came down to breakfast to find my Hundred Acre Wood wishing me a Happy Birthday, and Auntie Bridgett and I did Duolingo french practice, like always. Grandpa Nelson came down and I got lots of birthday hugs. It was predicted to be a rainy, blowy day, but it wasn’t going to keep me locked in.

Auntie Bridgett and I walked the mile or so down to Pix Patisserie on Burnside. Along the way, we found a huge pile of tiles, apparently the leftovers from a going-out-business shop, neatly piled on the curb. On top were three that would be perfect stepping stones for our allotment! Auntie Bridgett hefted them into a strong canvas bag we had taken ‘just in case’ and we proceeded to the patisserie.

I have intended to try some of their pastry since we moved to Portland, but it has always felt too far away, or was too crowded. During Covid, they have installed two refrigerated, high-end vending machines that allow folks to shop for pastries or fancy canned goods with zero contact! Along the way I had a nice phone chat with my niece Lyn, who was born on my 11th birthday.

We enjoyed the adventure, being mindful of the guard-gnomes, of course. Inside the little automat doors were RBG masks, a canned survival kit (with waterproof matches, three yards of cord, and other useful things) and canned mussels in vinegar, to name a very few. But we were there for the pastries!

After reading the illustrated menu, I chose the Jane Avril almond cake with raspberries, and Auntie Bridgett got the Amelie, a chocolate and hazelnut delight. We placed these in a second bag and walked home, battling the rain and the gusty winds.

We dropped off the heavy stepping stones and ate grilled cheese and onion sandwiches for lunch. Then I opened my presents! A delightful Shakespearean insult mug from your family and a jigsaw puzzle made from one of Gia Whitlock’s wonderful paintings, from Auntie Bridgett.

After some rest, we had the second part of the day. I will tell you about that tomorrow!

Love,

Grandma Judy

A Neighborhood Favorite

Dear Liza,

We have lived in this neighborhood for a few years now. We go for walks in all weathers and all seasons, and have come to expect and enjoy some of the majestic, lovely, and quirky icons in folks’ gardens.

The Heron as the February snow is melting…

This wonderful heron, for example. Made of brass and perched in the front corner of a garden, he always looks like he could just turn his head and wink at us.

In winter he stands in the middle of chilly sticks, with the oddly decorated house next door clearly visible.

The same crane last May, with everything in bloom

Come spring, though, his location becomes more secretive, surrounded by leafy protection. Sometimes I have to look carefully just to find him!

I love that the seasons change so much of our neighborhood. Every few months, it’s a whole new place.

Love,

Grandma Judy

The Egyptian Brothers

Dear Liza,

After a few really rainy days, we had a cold, clear Friday. Fridays are the evenings we try and give some business to our local restaurants, as well as giving me the night off from cooking.

Sadly, some of our favorite places have closed, at least for the duration of the pandemic. The Hob Nob and the Belmont Inn just around the corner, and the Rocking Frog down the way, just weren’t able to make business work with only take out or delivery.

But in a city with thousands of people who love to eat out, there will always be something. Last night we ordered take out online from The Egyptian Brothers, a food truck at the food cart pod at 28th and Ash. On the walk over to pick it up, we enjoyed the sunset colored clouds and the patterns made by power lines, and the parade of folks walking their dogs to Laurelhurst Park and home again.

The Food Court has metal fire pits and some outdoor heaters set up in the middle of carts featuring Tobiko Bowl Japanese food, Wolf and Bear Lebanese, FOMO Chicken, and the Crepe place, make for a cheerful atmosphere. Quite a few folks were seated around the fire or at tables, socially distanced, but not very masked.

It was refreshing to see people talking and laughing, having some beer or wine with friends. It felt almost normal. But it didn’t feel like I wanted to stick around.

Our dinner was ready when we got there, smelling delicious. We headed home in the gathering dark, getting hungrier by the minute. Grandpa Nelson had opened a bottle of Columbia Crest Red Blend, and we enjoyed our lamb gyros with tzitziki sauce and wine before our Scrabble game.

Grandpa Nelson won handily, Auntie Bridgett came in second, but I think I had as much fun as anyone. Happy Friday! Welcome to your weekend!

Love,

Grandma Judy

Leaves and Seeds

Dear Liza,

Fall is the time for endings and beginnings. The trees teach us that, and here in our neighborhood I have lots of teachers!

It’s Conker season!

The huge oaks and chestnut trees are shedding their leaves, which have danced all summer long.

Sweet chestnuts and acorns

They are casting their collective futures to the wind as seeds come clonking to the ground. Acorns, chestnuts, fir cones, and tiny maple helicopters fall and fly and eventually pile up, hoping to find just the right place to take root.

Golden Rain tree with its maraca-seed pods

I think it is fitting that our human institutions are tied to this idea of endings and beginnings. Summer ends, school starts. Elections allow for new directions for our city and country.

Time for a change!

Happy Fall!

Love,

Grandma Judy