Wednesday, November 9, 2011

It's Spring!

Kia Ora, Kids,
That's the Maori greeting meaning "Good Health." Everybody says it here in New Zealand. Look at your world map to see where I am. I'm in the southern hemisphere so the seasons are the opposite of the northern hemisphere where we live. It is the beginning of summer here but it is still chilly -- they had a surprise snowstorm a few days ago! It's also a day later -- it's Thursday noon where I am but it's only Wednesday where you are -- and it's either 5 in the morning or 5 in the afternoon -- this is so confusing!!!! And when water runs down the sink drain here, it goes in the opposite direction to the way it goes down in Edmond.
This country is beautiful with all sorts of landscapes. Right now we're in Wellington on the coast of the north island. Earlier we were on the south island in an area called the Southern Alps -- gorgeous high mountains.
Back before people settled here, there was only one kind of mammal (two species) -- bats. Because there were no predators, birds forgot how to fly! I hope you got the post card with the kiwi -- it's the national bird. They are almost extinct because with the arrival of people, other animals arrived and they liked to eat kiwi!
People here are very friendly. There are three official languages -- English, Maori and sign language for hearing impaired people. New Zealanders are very friendly -- the call themselves "kiwis."
There are several other bears here and we are having a great time.

Friday, October 28, 2011

On the Route of Don Quixote

Hi Kids,

Spain is so beautiful -- even in the rain. I sprinkled off and on yesterday but seemed to stop when Miss Elaine wanted to take pictures. This morning we went to a 500-year old inn, like the ones Don Quixote would have visited on his travels. Then we saw more windmills -- and another castle. Wow!
This is the time in La Mancha -- this particular region of Spain -- when they harvest the saffron fields. Saffron is a very expensive spice -- it´s the a part of the crocus flower. We got to watch some people picking the flowers. Then they throw away the pretty purple petals and keep the little yellow part at the end of the stamens. Miss Elaine bought some saffron from the people who had just been harvesting it. She´s never cooked with it because it is so expensive but she says she will try it now. (It doesn´t cost as much here.)
Then we went to Toledo -- a very beautiful, very old city. We saw many famous paintings including lots by El Greco (His real name was Domenico Theotokopolis) but the Spaniards just called him "The Greek." The cathedral was very elaborate.
We spend a lot of time eating. Miss Elaine says we will have to exercise a lot when we get home!
We leave tomorrow to come back to the U.S. I am bringing you some little treats.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Castles in Spain

Hi Kids,
Yesterday I had lunch in a castle! Spain is so beautiful and surprising. There are acres of olive trees and grapevines and beautiful scenery. The highlight of the day was seeing windmills -- not the kind we have in Oklahoma but old-fashioned ones. In the story of Don Quixote, he thinks they are giants and he charges them with his lance. Poor Don Quixote! The food here is super -- I think I told you about the chocolate on the breakfast buffet. They also have pate, which is ground-up, seasoned liver. Miss Elaine LOVES it. Sorry this is so short -- but Miss Elaine is telling me I have to go. One of the writers is doing a video show on elephants -- he´s from India. Not exactly on the Spanish program -- but it should be interesting.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Ola from Espana

Hi Kids,
I´m in Alcala de Henares, a city close to Madrid, Spain. I can´t show you pictures until I get home but I wanted to tell you a bit about my trip. Miss Elaine and I are following the route of Don Quixote (pronounced Don Kee-oh-tee). He is a character in a book written 400 years ago -- maybe the most famous book in Spain. It was written by a man named Cervantes (Sir-vahn-tays) and I will go see his house later today. It is a funny book -- but very long. Cervantes was making fun of the popular reading material of his time -- stories about brave knights going on dangerous missions and saving damsels in distress. That´s an old-fashioned way of saying ´´ ladies in peril.´´ Don Quixote read too many of those books and he began to imagine that he was a brave knight going on missions. He wore a cardboard helmet that he made and got a bony, old horse and thought it was a strong, young war horse. He imagined many dangers on his trips -- I´ll tell you more later.
Miss Elaine and I are staying in a parador -- this is a hotel owned by the Spanish government. They take historic buildings and turn them into really cool places to stay. Centuries ago, this was a convent. Now it is a modern hotel -- so modern that we don´t have a room key. We just hold a card to a spot on the door and it opens. When we get in the room, we put the card in a slot and all the lights go on automatically. When we wanted to take a nap, Miss Elaine pressed a button and curtains came out of the ceiling and made the room dark. Wow! I love this place. Miss Elaine is taking lots of pictures. Maybe we can do a show when we get back.รง

Monday, October 17, 2011

Batman at the Beach

Hi Kids,

Miss Elaine and I just got back from Apalachicola, Florida. If you look at a map, you'll find it at the bottom of the big bump on the Florida panhandle. (Pronounce it: app-uh-latch-uh-cola) It's a beautiful little town with lots of friendly people. Miss Elaine said they are very dog-friendly there -- and now she knows they are bear-friendly, too.

The town is on Apalachicola Bay, which is an estuary. An estuary is a very important biological area where fresh waters (in this case from the Apalachicola River) mix with ocean water. St. George Island, which is a barrier island off-shore, helps hold water in the bay so that the water isn't completely fresh and isn't completely salty. Lots of species use this area as a nursery so there are many, many kinds of animals and plants found here. They have a very good visitors' center at the Apalachicola Estuarine Reasearch Reserve -- I learned a lot. As usual, Miss Elaine wanted me to get a good view of everything. Here, she is holding a corn snake -- a colorful, harmless snake, which is found here. It crawled on my face and around Miss Elaine's neck! Everyone thought we were very brave but it was fun. The snake was smooth and cool and not slimy at all.

Saturday we got up early to go fishing. This is Justin McMillan of Journeys of St. George Island. He has a lovely, big boat.

I didn't get to fish. Bears fish with their paws and claws -- and somebody forgot to give me any claws! Miss Elaine had to use a fishing pole. Fingernails don't work as well as claws! She caught lots of fish but we threw them all back so they would be okay. This is a Spanish mackerel she caught -- it was really pretty but it had sharp teeth so we were careful not to get close to those!

There were dolphins swimming close to the boat. When we got ready to go home, Captain Justin speeded up and the dolphins swam in so they could surf in the wake. Isn't this neat?



Sunday, October 9, 2011

Taking the Train to Hit the Trail

Hi Kids,

Week before last Miss Elaine, Mr. Jack and I took a train trip to Fort Worth, Texas. I LOVE the train -- the seats are roomy and comfortable, the scenery is great and there's even a snack car! In the picture at the top, you can see part of the Oklahoma City train station through the train window. This is me in my comfy seat.

We saw lots of museums in Fort Worth. My favorite was the Cowgirl Museum. It's not as big as the Cowboy Museum here in Oklahoma City, but it's still really good. I got to pose for a picture on this little pony. Miss Elaine and I made a video of us riding a bucking horse -- but she can't download it. It wasn't a real horse anyway -- more like a rocking horse -- but it was fun.

We got to see real horses and cattle when we visited the Stockyards. Cowboys used to drive their cattle up the Chisholm Trail -- this is me by a Chisholm Trail marker.

Every day, cowboys do a mini-cattle drive. This is one of the cowboys and he let me ride on his horse.
I really liked seeing the longhorn cattle -- but those horns were scary!


Batman Bear

Monday, September 26, 2011

Cherokee Heritage -- Part I

Hi Kids,
As you know from the postcards I've been sending, Miss Elaine and I have been on a trip to learn about Oklahoma Indians -- particularly the Cherokees. We started our trip in Tulsa at Gilcrease Museum. It's a great museum with lots of paintings, sculptures and artifacts. You can even touch some of them. I tried on these mocassins -- these are special Indian shoes made of deerskin and decorated with beads. These are done in a typical Southern Plains style.

This is an Indian doll -- really old. It's sort of like G.I Joe -- it's a warrior doll. Maybe it is G.I. Geronimo!

Some of the members of the Cherokee Nation brought us a gift. This tiny basket was woven by basketweaver Rachel Dew, who is considered a Cherokee National Treasure. It's a double-wall basket made of reeds. Isn't it neat?

After Gilcrease we drove to Oolagah and the Dog Iron Ranch where Will Rogers was born. He was a member of the Cherokee Nation. Will Rogers is one of the most famous Oklahomans -- he was a writer, a stage star, movie star, radio star and one of the best-loved people in America. He was also an adventurer. He was a cowboy in South America and starred in Wild West shows. He is buried on the grounds of the Will Rogers Memorial and Museum in nearby Claremore.

This is me with a man playing Will Rogers. He sort of looks like Will. He told us stories about Will's life. You should visit the museum. Every Oklahoman needs to know about Will Rogers. Even more important than being famous, he was a very good man. He was humble and full of good, common sense.

This is a statue of Will Rogers. There's one just like it in the Capitol in Washington, D.C. Every state got to choose two people to honor. Oklahoma chose Sequoyah and Will Rogers -- both Cherokees!

This is a close-up of me sitting on the base of the statue. See how shiny the toes of Will's shoes are? Almost every visitor rubs the toe of one of the shoes. Some people think it will bring them luck. Other people do it just to feel closer to this great Oklahoman. I rubbed a shoe, too. But I got to get closer to Will because I could sit at the feet of his statue. Big people can't do that!


Batman Bear

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Czech It Out

Hi Kids,

As I told you in my post card Miss Elaine, Mr. Jack, Roxie the dog and I went to Ennis, Texas. It's about 30 miles southeast of Dallas. Back in the 1870s, lots of people from the area of Europe that we now call the Czech Republic moved to this area. Many of them were farmers and the soil here, known as Blackland Prairie for the rich, dark earth, was excellent for growing crops.

They brought their food, customs and costumes with them. Even today, many of their descendants remember their Czech heritage. They don't wear their beautiful costumes everyday but when they have festivals, like the Czech Music Festival and the National Polka Festival, they wear them.

This is me with a costumed mannequin at the Visitor Center.

We also got to taste some wonderful Czech food. Kolaches are rolls with fruit or cream cheese fillings -- or sometimes the dough is wrapped around Czech sausages called klobase (pronounced KLO-bah-see). Miss Elaine also had sauerkraut -- sort of pickled, cooked cabbage. She really liked it.

We went to a couple of little museums that had dolls wearing Czech costumes. Each little area of the old country had its own interpretation of the basic costume. A costume is called a kroj (pronounced kroy). Colors have special meanings -- red means healthy blood; blue is a sad color and gold means a good harvest. Kroj are trimmed with lace and embroidery. Popular motifs include hearts, birds and flowers.

Ennis is a very nice town and I met some very nice people. I'll bet you'd like it, too.


Batman Bear

Saturday, September 10, 2011

King of the Castle

Hi Kids,

This is Sandcastle Dave on South Padre Island. He teaches lessons in how to make sand sculptures. He starts with really big buckets of very wet sand.

He starts with a big pile of sand that he scoops out with his hands. He says you always start with a big pyramid shape and a lot more sand than you think you'll need. When he puts a scoop on, he "wiggles" the sand with his hands to squeeze out the extra water. It makes the sand stick together so well that he can make tunnels by piling it on his hand, then pulling his hand out.

We didn't have a lot of time, so Sandcastle Dave just made a small castle for us.

Once he got the basic shape prepared, he began carving with a small spatula. He only needs three things: the spatula, a pencil and a straw. Once he starts to carve -- and he always starts at the very top -- he never touches the sand with his hands again.

See how he can slice the extra sand off?

Pretty neat, huh? Then Miss Elaine tried to make a sandbear. She had a lot of help!

I think I look pretty good -- better than the sandbear! If you go to South Padre Island, you can take a sandcastle lesson, too.

Anonymous Bear

(Please tell me my name!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fluffy Goes Cajun

Hi Kids,

View Larger Map

I just got back from Louisiana -- and I'm still so mad at Miss Elaine I could just growl! You know how she's always taking my picture getting stuffed in some animal's mouth? Well, this time it was a REAL animal! Can you believe she let that alligator crawl on my lap? I couldn't either. One of these days, I'm going to bite her!

We were at an Acadian village in Lafayette. The Acadians were French people who were living in Canada in the early 1800s. The French and the English fought over the territory and the English won. They kicked the French Acadians out of Canada -- kind of like the Indian Trail of Tears. They had to leave everything they had behind and often families were split up.

Many of the Acadians wound up in Louisiana because they heard there were French people here. Over the years, the name Acadian got shortened to 'Cadian then Cajun. They still speak French and they play old-timey music in Cajun style.

I got to hear lots of Cajun music on this trip and even met some of the musicians.

I hope you have a good summer! I'll miss you but I will have another class to tell about my travels next year!



Sunday, May 15, 2011

Fluffy Visits the Capitol

Hi Kids,

Last week I visited the capitol in the capital. Do you know the difference in these two words? The capitol is a cool building. Out in front you can see a statue called "As Long As the Waters Run" and on top of the building is "The Guardian." Both of these sculptures were made by Indian artists.

I got to meet Governor Fallin. I thought she was very pretty. And I think she thought I was cute!

There are lots of neat things to see in the capitol. I love looking up at the dome. Miss Elaine laid down on her back so she could take this shot. Sometimes she embarrasses me!

This is the fourth floor rotunda. You can see part of the dome and some of the paintings around it. Below is one of my favorites. It shows Oklahoma's five Indian ballerinas. The artist is an Indian, too.

There are lots of paintings in the building and in the basement, there's an art gallery with more paintings, pottery and sculpture. Maybe this summer you can visit the capitol, too.



Thursday, April 28, 2011

Fluffy Goes to L.A.

Hi Kids,

My last trip was to L.A. Did you think I meant Los Angeles? Wrong! In this part of the world, it means Lower Alabama. Look at a map. Do you see that little chunk of the state that crowds in between Florida and Mississippi on the Gulf coast? That's where I was.

This is a picture of me on the bed in our bedroom at the Grand Hotel and Resort on Mobile Bay. We could look out our window and see the boats in the marina. As you can tell from the picture at the top, the grounds were beautiful.

Mobile Bay spills into the Gulf of Mexico. We saw lots of pelicans -- I think they look like pterodactyls! Miss Elaine knows a poem that starts "A wonderful bird is the pelican. It's beak can hold more than its belly can!"

We visited several little towns in the area. I found a friend in Fairhope.

In Foley we went to a railroad museum where they had a really neat room with model trains. Besides trains, there were a lot of cool things there. At the little tiny fire station, you could see through the windows at firemen sliding down the pole. Then the garage door went up and the little fire truck came out and drove down the street to a building on fire. There was also a little drive-in restaurant where a tiny car pulled up to the window to order! If you look carefully in the middle of the picture, you can see a man -- that will help you see how big this train set-up was!
We rode through the Foley rose gardens in another train -- a little bigger than the ones in the model. Dave Ramey drove the train and posed with me for this picture.

In the town of Magnolia Springs, we went down by the Magnolia River. People who live on the river have their mail delivered by boat.

Later we went with a naturalist to see these interesting plants. They are carnivorous. Do you know what that means? In this picture you can see that the plants have several parts. The flowers are those pretty dark red and green things. The green and white cone-shaped things are actually leaves. They are specially designed to trap insects.

There was a stuffed alligator in the Nature Center. Miss Elaine thought it would be funny if it looked like the alligator was eating me. I didn't think it was very funny and I refused to speak to her for several minutes.

To be continued......