Bridgett’s Birthday!

Dear Liza,

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Prezzies!

Monday was Auntie Bridgett’s birthday! The day started late, because Mouse the kitten actually let us sleep in. She usually starts dashing about like a maniac at 7:00, but this morning she was peacefully sitting on the bed until almost 8:30! Sweet kitty.

Our second lovely surprise was that it rained last night, our first measurable rain in 83 days! The clouds hung around for the rest of the day, spitting off and on. Very nice and Portland-Ish.

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The Open sign at the Cricket Cafe

Once we were all up and dressed, we walked to a place just a block away that we have been meaning to try, The Cricket Cafe. On weekends it is packed with brunchers, but Monday morning we had it all to ourselves. The biscuits and gravy were good and Auntie Bridgett loved her scrambled eggs, sausage, and fruit. The coffee was wonderfully rich and just the jolt we needed to get on with a big day. It is nice having so many delicious places so close by!

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Yummy!

We walked back home, where I made my first flan. Bridgett has been dealing with some sort of food allergy, so she is staying away from anything made with flour. Flan is just milk, cream, sugar and eggs! She also opened presents….earrings, sketchbooks, an IOU for our next trip to Europe from Grandpa Nelson, and an Annalee Birthday Mouse from Bridgett’s Grandma Bea. It is weirdly adorable.

Around 11 we caught the #15 downtown for shopping. As part of her present, Bridgett got some new clothes at the Gap. We had lunch at Kenny and Zuke’s delicatessen, which was very busy because today is Rosh Hashanna, the Jewish New Year. We ate, watched the passers by and recharged our batteries.

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Inside Dick Blick’s

A few blocks up the road we went into Dick Blick’s Art Supplies. New colored pencils for Bridgett, lots of fun looking at things for Grandpa Nelson and me. I really enjoy their wooden floor, which is made out of recycled basketball courts. Powell’s City of Books was next, where we had a fun time looking but didn’t buy anything except a shortbread cookie. Yummy, anyway.

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Cool skies!

Finally, under threatening skies, we headed back to catch the bus, got home, and rested our weary feet before starting dinner.

Dinner, as it turns out, was leftovers from yesterday’s potluck (baked beans with fruit salad) but the flan I made really turned out well. Creamy and not too sweet, I served it with berries and kiwis. And one candle, because Auntie Bridgett is ONE year older.

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Birthday Flan!

A walk through the park, a Scrabble game (not over yet) and a Facetime visit with  Bridgett’s sister Esther and the kids made the day complete!

Love,

Grandma Judy

 

Cat Out and About

Dear Liza,

It is cold again this morning, but clear and sunny. I have two things to report that I have seen while still in my pajamas.

First, we have our first Rhododendron ready to bloom. These are magnificent plants that grow as bushes in California, but become major trees up here in Oregon. Many in the parks are 30 or 40 feet tall, and become their own ecosystem of birds, bugs, and small animals.

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Blooming Rhododendron!
Ours has been kept trimmed to “only” come up to the second story landing. While all the other plants are kicking out seed pods and getting ready to retire for the winter, the Rhodies are budding up and looking good. Here it is. I will keep you posted on bloom progress.

Second, our cat, Mouse, has been out and about exploring since the weather got cooler. She had chased a squirrel up a telephone pole, met the dog next door, and watched people coming and going.

This morning she decided to explore the ledge right outside our window. It starts out being about 4 feet off the ground, and as it rounds the corner, the hill drops off, and it becomes about 20 feet off the ground.

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Kitten out and about
The ledge is too narrow to turn around on. Mouse walked forward as far as she could, lost her nerve, and stopped. Sniffing and thinking fast, she discovered reverse gear as Bridgett squirmed and covered her eyes.

The reason this is a happy story is that kitten figured it out, came back around the corner, and sat on the ledge. She and Auntie Bridgett both caught their breath and all is well.

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Oops! Can’t go that way…
Now off to feed the kittens and hens at Auntie Katie’s!

Love,

Grandma Judy

More Art, Squirrels, and The Slide Inn

Dear Liza,

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An even cooler mosaic!

It has definitely gotten colder here. If you go out without wool socks, at least three shirts and a wooly hat, it’s your own fault if you are miserable. The sun is coming up later and going down earlier…where we were walking in 10 P.M. dusk in July, it is now dusk at 6:30 and full on dark at 7. Yesterday afternoon was some rumbling thunder and rain, but no lightning we could see.

Cleverly, Auntie Katie and her family are in Maui, enjoying so warm weather and sunshine, whale watching and sunny beaches. I am enjoying getting to know her cats and hens. The hens gave us three eggs yesterday, which we enjoyed for lunch. The recent winds knocked down their lovely sukkah, but there were no casualties.

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Fallen Sukkah

Last night we wanted to try a new place for dinner, so we headed for The Slide Inn on Ankeny and SE 24th. We arrived too early, so we had a nice walk around the neighborhood. There are some nice houses for sale, but no parking areas, driveways or garages attached to them…street parking only, which makes car maintenance hard. But the squirrels are very handsome and cooperative. There was also a very Easter Island-ish sculpture that had been dressed in mosaic.

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Handsome Squirrel

On our second go-around, the place was open. It is decorated with mid-century home decor….my mom had a clock like one of these and the kids with the really big eyes are familiar to any baby boomer. The place is run by a man and wife team and a cook, and the food is good, if a bit over-cooked. Grandpa Nelson enjoyed the french fries, Auntie Bridgett the turkey burger sliders, and me, the spaetzel and speck (that’s German noodles and dried ham). A good dark German beer washed it down very satisfactorily. I wish I could remember the name of the beer, but it escapes me. (Maybe it was the second beer).

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The Slide Inn

As we ordered and ate, the Slide Inn filled up with families and friends. The happy hour prices are good (our whole spread of food and drinks was $40) and the people are friendly, but the service was a bit forgetful. We got an order of gnocchi we didn’t order, and waited quite a while for an order of yam fries.

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My Mom’s clocks!

After dinner, we headed off to feed Aunt Katie’s kittens, do the grocery shopping, and crash at home. Another day in PDX.

 

Love,

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

 

Greeks, Pastries, and Clouds

 

Dear Liza,

I am sorry I haven’t written to you this week. My story about the history of Portland is making my brain very full of this place, but at another time. June and July of 1888, to be exact. My character is a girl named Caroline and she is visiting Portland for the first time. In telling her story, I hope to show people (especially kids) what Portland was like in those days.

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Ominous clouds

But yesterday was day full of the present. The weather was very threatening…heavy clouds layered with happy cumulus, alternating with bright sunshine. But it was Saturday and the Greek Festival was being held just a few blocks away on Glisan Street, at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral. Curious about what we would see, he took hats, umbrellas, and boots, and off we went.

 

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Holy Trinity Church

We have walked past the church many time, a beautiful, imposing brick church with domes and ornate crosses. We walked past it again on our way into the festival area.  The organizers had wisely set up tents over almost the entire area, in case of rain. The first thing we saw was the dreaded “talents” (tickets) table.

Many festivals are using this system, because it allows money to be kept safer. But it also makes all customers wait in three different lines buy anything. One to buy the tickets, (in this case, the Greek themed “talents”), a second line to buy whatever you want, and then a third line if you need more or wanted to return extras. It takes a lot of the spontaneity out of shopping.

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Yummy honey filled pastries

We did break down and buy a tray of Greek pastries, and nibbled them. They have wonderfully complicated names. Kataifi look like shredded wheat biscuits but are butter, nuts and honey filled, very sweet and goopy. Koulourakia are butter cookies with sesame seeds on top. Grandpa Nelson held the box while Auntie Bridgett and I went to tour the church. Food isn’t allowed inside.

The church was lovely. High walls, ornate and imposing paintings, perfect mosaics and glowing stained glass windows. This church seems to be of the opinion that people are very small, God is very big, and without the priests, people have no chance of understanding the eternal being.

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Greek Orthodox Icon

I do not share this opinion, but I appreciate the beauty, anyway.

After we got home and ate a few more pastries, Auntie Bridgett and I walked through the park.

 

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Holy Trinity Church

 

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Giant leaves!

Squirrels are running everywhere, bounding like small grey rainbows, trying to remember where they have hidden acorns. More leaves are down, some enormous (notice Bridgett’s foot by this one), and the forest smell is almost overwhelming, it is so alive and sweet.

So, today we got to visit two magnificent places. Although the church was nice, I find God more in the forest.

No offense intended, Holy Trinity.

Love,

Grandma Judy