False Spring

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, December 30, 2017, was the warmest day we have had in a month. The blue sky was decorated with puffy clouds, and the temperature got up to 50 degrees! Auntie Bridgett and I went for a walk. We noticed some premature gladiolus flowers shooting up through the mud. The warm weather has them fooled, perhaps.

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Wells Fargo from east side

Our first stop was Triumph Coffee at SE 12th and Ash. A busy, friendly place, with comfortably mismatched furniture. it is what Linus Van Pelt would call sincere. Neighborhood folks were enjoying coffee and having conversations. I didn’t see a single laptop open. Bridgett testifies that the coffee is excellent, and I stand by their carrot zucchini muffins. We got our goodies to go, and continued on our way.

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Big Pink from east side

We walked on Ash until it ran into Sandy Boulevard, a major street that runs diagonally through east Portland. It makes some connections easier, of course, but also creates really interesting angled corners. Portland has a lot of these odd corners, like on the west side where Burnside hits every street at an odd angle, and in Ladd’s Addition, with its “x marks the spot” plotting.

From the obtuse corner of 10th and Ash, we could look west and see the two tallest buildings in Portland, “Big Pink” and the Wells Fargo Building. It is nice to be able to find landmarks and get a better picture of where you are in relation to other things.

We turned left and followed Sandy southwest until it became 7th Avenue, and followed that to Morrison. In that neighborhood are many old industrial buildings that have been re-purposed. The Troy Laundry, a brick building from 1913, is currently for sale. I am sure it has an interesting future.

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1913 Troy Laundry Building

Heading back towards home on Morrison, we found Auntie Bridgett’s new favorite place: The Grand Central Restaurant and Bowling Lounge at 808 SE Morrison. This two-story playground for grown-ups (and kids) is in the old Grand Central Public Market building, which was built in 1929. It has bowling, a restaurant, two bars, pinball, Pac-man, air hockey, shuffleboard, skee-ball, driving games, pool tables, and giant televisions. It looks like a great place to spend a long wintry afternoon, and is not far from our house! Hooray for accidental discoveries!

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Bowling on Morrison!!!

We left the bowling alley, smiling, knowing we would be back soon, and continued east on Morrison. We went through the Lone Fir Cemetery to say hello to the dead people, and got to chat with some squirrels and tourists, as well.

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Yes, a disco ball in a bowling alley…..

We said a special hello to little Genevieve Gray, who died in 1912 when she was only 3 months old and is buried under the tiniest headstone I have ever seen. It is about 7 inches by 10, and is tucked under huge trees at the far northeast corner of the cemetery. I know visiting the cemetery might seem morbid, but it gives me perspective. I always leave with a sense of hope and purpose.

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Little Genevieve Gray

Back home, we headed off for shopping and reading. See you soon, sweetie.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Peacock Lane

Dear Liza,

It gets dark really early here now, as we approach the longest night of the year, December 21st.  By 4:30 I need my lit-up coat to walk out safely. One lovely thing about the early darkness is that you have more time to go see everyone’s Christmas lights!

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History Lesson

Last night we walked east past Laurelhurst Park and Cesar Chavez Boulevard to a street called Peacock Lane. It used to be called Southeast 40th, but in 1929 the neighbors decided to give their street a special name and then live up to it.

Peacock Lane runs 2 blocks, from SE Stark to SE Alder, and every house is lit up like crazy. There are Santas, elves, Muppets, bears, deer, and even Star Wars characters, lit up and amazingly presented. It was like being at a parade, except the floats stayed still and the people did the moving.

And boy, the people!

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Hannukah Bear

The street was still open to traffic, so hundreds of folks had to fit on the sidewalk, and we all walked along slowly, taking pictures and enjoying the pretty lights. It was fun to watch kids’ faces light up as they recognized SpongeBob or C3PO.

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My Favorite!

 

 

There was a small booth where neighborhood kids sold hot chocolate, and they were doing a great business. That was the only commerce on the Lane, and the neighbors are determined to keep it that way. This is a neighborhood of folks who work together and want to keep their street special.

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R2D2 with antlers??

There was so much car traffic that we were once again grateful that we could just walk over. When our eyes were full we walked home, enjoying other house lights, then through the misty forest of Laurelhurst Park. A mist was rising off the lake and the street lights along the path were mysterious and wonderful.

Home to snuggle down.

 

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Mysterious path lights.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

Dawn Redwood

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Trees change at different times

Dear Liza,

Yesterday I got out for two walks, one in the morning with Grandpa Nelson, and one in the afternoon with Auntie Bridgett. It was cold and wet but not raining, and both walks went through our favorite, Laurelhurst Park.

Grandpa Nelson’s walk was quick. He was still “at work”, at his office downstairs, but he needed to stretch his legs and clear his head. We covered ground, enjoyed the thousands of leaves floating on the lake, and saw dogs running full speed just for the joy of doing it.

My walk with Auntie Bridgett was less hurried. We saw some fine mushrooms.

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Happy mushrooms!
 

We talked about how different kinds of trees are changing at different rates. Most of the maples are pretty bare, but other types of trees still have quite a few green leaves.

Looking up, she said, “For example, this one.” We stopped beside a tree we hadn’t really noticed before. It was some sort of conifer (there were small green cones under it) but had clearly changed color and was getting ready to lose its leaves. “This tree isn’t well,” was my assumption. When an evergreen goes yellow, it’s near the end.

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Mystery Tree

We took pictures of the tree and leaves, tucked the location into our memory banks, and continued our walk.

On the other side of the park is a ‘tree map’, showing what sorts of trees are growing where in the park. Once we got oriented, we saw that our mystery tree was listed as a Metasequoia glyptostroboides, also known as a Dawn Redwood. Dawn Redwoods are deciduous conifers, meaning they have cones like evergreens, but lose their leaves every fall. A rare thing, indeed.

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Close up of Dawn Redwood

Dawn Redwoods are really special trees for other reasons, too. They were alive 60 million years ago, when dinosaurs were around. Scientists have found their fossils in North America, China and Japan. A Japanese paleobotanist (person who studies extinct plants) named Shegeru Miki found fossils in Japan and called it “Metasequoia”, meaning it was sort of a grandmother to all other redwoods. He assumed the tree was extinct.

At about the same time in China, a forester named T. Kan found a living grove of the same kind of trees. Because this all happened in the middle of World War II, it took years before they learned about each other’s finds.

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Needles of Dawn Redwood

When the seeds and other parts of the plants were sent to botanists at Harvard University, the tree was called a “fossil tree” and a seed gathering expedition went to China. Thousands of seeds were sent to different places around the world, including the Hoyt Arboretum and Laurelhurst Park here in Portland. The next year, the tree in the Arboretum bore cones, the first tree of its kind to bear cones in North America in 60 million years, or so they all thought.

It turns out there were, and still are, Dawn Redwoods growing wild here, in forests, the Gorge, as well as parks. They weren’t extinct, we just hadn’t found any  as of 1941. Now we have. It seems there are always new things to discover!

I love what this story tells me about curiosity, problem solving, and serendipity. The same kind of trees grew in China, Japan, and North America, for millions of years. How did the seeds travel so far? Were the continents closer then? What if that scientist hadn’t send those particular seeds to that particular guy?

Thinking happy, curious thoughts,

Grandma Judy

Hail, Hail!

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Roses and rainbows

Dear Liza,

The weather here keeps surprising me! Yesterday Auntie Bridgett and I walked down to feed Auntie Katie’s cats, Pixel, Pietro and Wanda. Grandpa Nelson warned us that there was weather on the way, but we headed out anyway.

There were looming clouds but also bright sunshine. We fed the kitties, then walked back, taking pictures of leaves, roses, and rainbows and chatting with a lady jump roping on the sidewalk. We had stopped in Lone Fir Cemetery to collect some more chestnuts when the looming clouds moved right over us.

The sky shook and rumbled, and the rain started, hard, heavy raindrops racing each other to the ground. We realized that ‘under a tree’ was not a good place in case of lightning so we opened the umbrella and headed up the path. By the time we reached the gate, the rain had turned to hail about the size of bb shot. The sky was throwing pebbles at us!

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Lone Fir Cemetery in the hailstorm    Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

We stopped by the gate, amazed at the storm happening around us. A poor jogger came by, shook like a dog, caught his breath and headed off, and several other folks found trees to shelter under. When we started walking again, the sidewalk was covered in tiny balls of ice, making it both crunchy and slippery. It sounded like Cheerios but felt like ice!

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Hail collecting all over the place
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Tiny hailstones

By the time we got home there were piles of tiny hailstones everywhere. We shed our wet things and had some warm apple cider, glad to be home and safe and dry. 

This storm, like the beauty and people of this new place, reminded me how big and interesting the world is, and how much I have yet to experience.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Friday About Town

Dear Liza,

Friday was a day where nothing much was planned, but things just kept happening. In the morning, Auntie Bridgett and I took the giant pile of books we had borrowed and walked them back to the library. My research into Portland history has me visiting the library a lot. So we packed up my eight books and Auntie Bridgett’s three, and walked to the Belmont Library on Cesar Chavez and Taylor.

Cesar Chavez is a main north/south road, and very noisy, so we walked through the neighborhood. It was a good day for cats, bright new paint jobs on houses, and seed pods. A very satisfactory stroll.

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Auntie Bridgett and a Bowl

Library books returned, we headed south to the UPS Store and bank on Hawthorne. We were hungry, and headed further east on Hawthorne to The Whole Bowl. This little restaurant started as a food cart and made enough money to get a real building. They only serve one thing, in two sizes: a big bowl, and a bambino bowl. The bowl has two kinds of beans, cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado, and a garlicky lemony sauce . It is so wonderfully good you just keep eating! We shared a big bowl and a bottle of kombucha, a fermented tea drink, and we were ready to continue our walk.

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St. Patrick’s Church

As we walked back toward the library, we found St. Patrick’s Church, a big Catholic Church we hadn’t seen before. It was beautiful and bright on the outside, but seemed dark inside, either because the windows were too small, or our eyes were used to the bright. We didn’t stay, but we will remember where it is so we can tell Bridgett’s mom when she visits.

Back at the Belmont Library, I hunted for some books on World War I, because my story will have some things that happen in 1918. The story doesn’t happen IN the war, but DURING the war. So I need to know…what were kids doing to help? What foods were rationed? What did people use instead? I need details! So, I read. I checked out three new books and we headed home.

After Auntie Bridgett and I got home (after walking over 4 miles!), she went down to draw in The Art Bunker, as she calls our basement, and I read…and napped. I read some more, and then it was dinner time. We read some more until the NEXT thing.

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Moon and Sixpence Pub coaster

We had tickets for the Northwest Animation Festival at the Hollywood Theater up on Sandy. We stopped at the Moon and Sixpence Pub for a beer and cider before the show. There were people playing darts, but no noisy football games on TV, so we were happy.

 

The Hollywood Theater is a classic old movie theater from the 1940’s and is very elegant. It was really crowded, though, so I didn’t take pictures inside.

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The Hollywood Theater

The Animation film festival really happened in May, when a lot more films were shown. The ones we saw were voted the BEST. The films were short, from 2 to 16 minutes long, but were really interesting. Some, like “Life Inside ‘Islamic State'” were very sad. Others, like “Birdlime” and “Spring Jam”, were happy and sweet, about birds and the sounds they make. Others, like “Resistance”, which had giant bugs drinking champagne, were really creepy. The variety of styles of animation and countries they came from (The United States, Canada, England, Israel, Poland, France, New Zealand, and Germany) was delightful.

We got home really late (almost midnight!) and pretty much collapsed into bed, with our heads full of weird images from the festival.

Love,

Grandma Judyt

 

The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House

Dear Liza,

The other night we took a long walk after dinner. Auntie Bridgett had read about a restaurant called The Rimsky-Korsakoffee House that is about a mile from our house, at 12th Avenue and Alder. It was quirky, she said, and possibly haunted, and we should go there.

So we did. We walked due west, right into the setting sun, and by the time we got to the restaurant, we were sun-blind and exhausted.  From where we stood on the sidewalk, there was no sign that the building was a restaurant, or even occupied. The faded rose Victorian exterior looked like one of the hundreds of great houses in Portland that have gotten tired over the years. The lawn was weedy and the willow tree a bit overgrown. At 6:57, it was as if no one had been up the stairs in years. At 7:00, a small “Open” sign came on and people began walking up the street towards it.

We entered the cluttered, underlit foyer, our eyes and glasses still adjusting from the bright afternoon outside. “Take a menu” a sign said, so we did, and wandered into the living room. Small tables and chairs filled the space, where a piano sat in the corner and all sorts of knick-knacks perched on shelves.

The number 36 dangled from the ceiling and was spelled out in roman numerals made from yard sticks. Auntie Bridgett remembered that the restaurant had been started in 1980, so was 36 last year. It is as old as your daddy. The whole place was lit with fairy lights.

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Auntie Bridgett and “36”

We sat and listened to the Romantic piano music of Rimsky-Korsakoff lilting through the small rooms, reading the hand-written signs. “Warning to customers: This is the OUT door” said a sign on the door to the kitchen. “This table for 2 people only” was the sign on our table. We were three, but no one seemed to mind. Quirky, indeed.

Our waitress took our order and we shared the most delicious ginger cake I have ever had. The cinnamon coffee was rich and sweet, and Grandpa Nelson’s ice cream sundae was wonderfully cold and fluffy. Having enjoyed our dessert and coffee and recovered completely from our walk, we paid our bill and got up to leave.

We saw what we hadn’t before, the stairs up to the restroom, over which hung a swing of sorts. On the bottom (the side towards us) was another hand written sign: “Everyone Enjoy Engaging in Eating, Entertainment, Escape, Enlightenment, Euphony, Elsewise, Exit!” We had seen no signs of haunting, but it was early yet. Maybe the spirits wake up later.

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Orders from above

We had a conversation with the baker before we left, complimenting him on his ginger cake and getting the recipe, which he rattled off from memory. “But don’t quote me,” he said. “I make a lot of cakes.” I don’t remember it, but I will have fun trying to duplicate it, once the weather cools off enough to bake.

Love,

Grandma Judy

Visitors and Ramona’s Neighborhood

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               George and Mimi                                        Photo Credit: Bridgett Spicer

Dear Liza,

Yesterday our dear friends George and Mimi Niesen were in town delivering one of her paintings and they stopped by for brunch! We decided to walk, since there are so many wonderful places close by.

Their first choice, called Fried Egg I’m in Love, on Hawthorne at 34th, turned out to be a food truck. I’m sure their food was good, but their eating area right by the busy street was too noisy for conversation. We walked a few blocks east to Bread and Ink, a restaurant that has been here for 32 years!

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Bread and Ink

We had a very tasty brunch of waffles and berries, black bean cakes with mango chutney, potatoes and sausage, and eggs Benedict. Good coffee, good service, and interesting art on the walls made for a very pleasant morning.

We walked back through the neighborhood more slowly, stuffed with breakfast. We walked along Hawthorne seeing all the fun shops and met Ray, the man who owns Classic Collection, where we found Grandpa Nelson’s new summer hat the other day. Ray has a bigger store downtown, but he calls this one “my baby”.

We saw the Tov Bus, a coffee place made in a re-purposed double-decker London Bus. Turning into the quiet neighborhood, there was a sign in a garden explaining that there were important pollinators called mining bees living in their yard, so it didn’t get gardened much.

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Bee Protection Sign

We passed the ‘cow house’, which has, well, a large plastic cow on the roof. It just sort of sits there, being a cow. Very entertaining!

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You know, it’s a cow…on a house

We imagine it saying things…”Yeah, I’m a cow, what’s it to you?”….”Who took that ladder?”

After George and Mimi went on their way and we worked and had dinner, Auntie Bridgett, Grandpa Nelson and I went for a long walk up to the Grant Park neighborhood. This is where the author of the Ramona books, Beverly Cleary, grew up.

In Grant Park (named for President Grant, who was president from 1868-1877) there are three statues in a fun, splashy fountain. The statues are of Ramona Quimy, Henry Huggins, and Henry’s dog Ribsy. Ramona and Ribsy are actually part of the fountain because their statues help spray the water. Henry is watching from the side. The sculptor, Lee Hunt, captured the fun of playing in the water perfectly.

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Auntie Bridgett and Henry Huggins
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Ramona Fountain at Grant Park

We walked a long way through the Grant Park neighborhood, seeing the big high school and Beverly Cleary Elementary School, lots of nice houses for sale, and friendly cats.

 

 

 

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Ribsy helps out!

We were getting tired and thirsty, so we stopped at the Migration Brewery for cider, beer, and pretzels, then finished our walk and collapsed happily at home.

Auntie Bridgett’s mileage meter on her watch said she and I walked six and a half miles in all. No wonder our feet were tired! Another lovely, interesting, exhausting day.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Settling in

 

Dear Liza,

We have now been living in Portland for one month and two days. We have unpacked almost everything we need, except for the pillows for the guest room for when you and your Daddy come to visit. I will be hunting for them today.

We have started to find some favorite places and things here that I want to share with you.

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Rocking Frog Sign

So far, Grandpa Nelson’s favorite place to walk for coffee and doughnuts is the Rocking Frog, down on Belmont Street. This is an old house that has been turned into a coffee house, and it feels cozy and quiet. The kitchen has stayed the kitchen, where doughnuts are fried fresh on weekends, and orange juice is squeezed fresh when you order it. Their other pastries are delivered from the Fleur de Lis bakery, and are delicious.

The dining room has become the library, with small tables for eating and lots of books for browsing. The living room has squashy chairs, a fireplace and more books. The back ‘bedroom’ has small tables and a cupboard of games to play. There is a small table on the front porch and more tables on the back patio, which is shaded by bamboo and umbrellas.

Auntie Bridgett loves Powell’s City of Books, downtown. We take the number 20 bus to get there. It is a full city block, five stories high, full of books. The books are on all subjects in a dozen of languages, with new and used, soft cover and hardcover books shelved together so you can choose. The children’s book section is huge!

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Powell’s at Night Photo credit:blogtugo.com

Powell’s doesn’t just want you to come in and buy books. There is a cafe for snacks and tables to read, and lots of benches and chairs. They also invite authors to come talk about their books, and invite us to come listen! It is fun to hear the stories behind the stories and be able to ask questions.

For me, it is hard to say what my favorite place is. I really love walking… just seeing the beautiful old houses, trees, gardens and the interesting people.  But if I had to choose, my favorite place is Laurelhurst Park, just three blocks up Pine Street. The hundred year old trees and paved paths make it perfect for walking, biking and jogging. The hawks, owls, ducks, turtles, and squirrels are a reminder that humans aren’t the only creatures that live here.

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Laurelhurst Park

The ravine that the park is built on gives wonderful changes in levels….a brick staircase with 87 steps is a fine challenge for exercising, and kids enjoy zooming down grassy hills on their small bikes. Picnic tables welcome parties and conversations and horse shoe pits, basketball courts and climbing structures invite the kids in.

I look forward to showing you all these and more, and your cousins also want to show you the zoo!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

 

 

All Sorts of Remembering

Dear Liza,

Yesterday, Auntie Bridgett and I started off to send you a package and do some shopping.

The UPS Store is about a mile and a half away, down on Hawthorne. When we started walking, it was cool and breezy. We walked down new streets in the neighborhood, looking at flowers and houses.

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Day lilies smell so good

At the corner of 32nd and Taylor, there was a church that looked like something from a fairy tale. It was built from rough stone and had parapets on the corners that looked like there should be soldiers with bows and arrows up there, defending the castle.

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Redeemer Church, but looks more like a castle

As we walked around, admiring the architecture, a man called from a workshop behind, “You want to see inside?” It was Harry, the caretaker of this marvelous church, and he took time off from working on projects to show us around.

The church was originally built in 1909, but most of it was destroyed in a fire in 1910. It was rebuilt in 1911, and the stained glass windows mostly date from then.

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Stained glass at Redeemer Church

Harry works not only at keeping the heating and electrical system working, for people to be comfortable and the lights and music for the services, but he also builds whatever furniture is needed out of reclaimed wood and furniture. It is all shiny and lovely.

Harry shared some of his life story and the work he does helping people who are having a hard life. We took some pictures, thanked him,  and said our good-byes.

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Auntie Bridgett and Harry

After mailing your package, we went to the Buffalo Exchange, a used clothing store. It was big and crowded, but we found lots of good clothes. They didn’t all fit, but I got a pair of jeans and two shirts. Auntie Bridgett found a few things, too.

After all that, we were worn out and it was really time to head home, which was still a mile and a half away. We tried to stay on the shady side of the street, but as we got to a nice shady corner, I noticed a mosaic across the street, and I had to go look.

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It was a small, beautiful bench built into the wall decorated with tiles, glass, and bicycle parts. There was a sign nearby explaining that this was a shrine, a way of remembering a young man named Matthew Schekel who had been hit by a truck while riding his bicycle across this intersection. All his friends had collected the tiles and things and built this way to remember him, which has lasted for many years. He died in 1998, 19 years ago. Doing more reading, I have since discovered that there is also a scholarship in his name from the local high school. He was a very special, loving young man.

When we finally got home and I was resting, I thought about all the people and lives that have been in this neighborhood before us. The hundreds of people who built the Redeemer church, and the thousands who have gone there since 1909; Harry, who takes care of it all; and young Matthew, who lived such a good life that I remember him, even though I never knew him. This place has a deep history I am just beginning to appreciate.

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Walking and Talking

Dear Liza,

Yesterday morning I did a lot of reading. I am enjoying “Sacre Bleu”, a fantasy story by Christopher Moore. After lunch, I walked to Auntie Katie’s store and back. I wanted to return some things Jasper and Kestrel had forgotten from our trip to the zoo, and give everyone hugs. I also got to see their new acrobatic tricks and watch a local cartoonist teach some older kids how to draw.

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Inside Auntie Katie’s Store

Googlemaps says it is 1.7 miles to Books with Pictures from our house, so I walked 3.4 miles there and back. The weather was warm, but I walked in the shade when I could.

I enjoyed walking down streets I hadn’t been on before and seeing how people have decorated their big front porches and small yards. Many older houses, from the 1900s and 1920s, are along Salmon and Taylor between about 20th and 29th. People have porch swings or comfy chairs set out, to visit and chat with people walking by. Some have little twinkly lights hung from the rafters, so it always looks like Christmas, or a party. There are even bicycles, mosaics, sculptures, fountains, and pink flamingoes!

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Porches in Portland are very interesting!

After I got home and put my feet up for a while, Grandpa Nelson, Auntie Bridgett and I walked to Crema, our local coffee place, at the corner of Ankeny and 28th. We were meeting our new friends, Craig and his wife Sherry, who we first met on a walk around the neighborhood, when we saw Sherry trying to get a good photograph of the Joan of Arc statue in Coe Circle. We asked what they knew about the statue, and the conversation was so much fun we wanted it to continue, so we decided to meet for coffee.

That conversation lasted another 2 and a half hours! Like good friends do, we talked about everything…our lives, kids, troubles, people we had met, things we thought about. Not wanting so say goodbye but needing to head home and take care of business, we made plans to have dinner with them in a few weeks.

We got home and worked for a few hours, then had dinner. When it got cool enough, we took another walk, south toward Sewallcrest Park. It is about a mile from our house. There is a community garden, where people rent small plots of land to grow vegetables on. It was fun to see people and their dogs working and enjoying the evening.

Further along the park, we heard shouts and yelling. It was a kickball game! Two teams of adults, with their kids and dogs “helping”, were kicking and running and having a fine time. The game ended with a score of  7 to 1, but no one was sad…just smiling and happy and playing.

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Adult Kickball at Sewallcrest Park

We walked home, and I was finally tired. I had walked more than 5 miles during the day and was ready to be lazy. We snuggled on the couch and then went to bed.

Love,

Grandma Judy