Thursday, December 20, 2012

Feliz Navidad in San Antonio

Hi Kids,
This is me on a bridge overlooking the San Antonio River
in San Antonio, Texas   The river goes right through
downtown and the city has created a lovely river walk
beside it.  The banks are lined with trees and there are lots of shops, hotels and restaurants on both sides.  Below you can see one of the restaurants through one of the many bridges which cross the river.

There are over 200 trees, many very old, along the walks.  At Christmas they are beautifully
 decorated with over 126,000 lights.  Barge rides on the river are very popular. 

 One night our group had dinner on a barge.  You can see a little of the ride in this video.  The food was great and the weather was wonderful.  Miss Elaine only had to wear a sweater -- and she's always complaining that she's cold.  Not this night.  And, of course, Emily and I had our own fur coats!

Another night, Emily and I took a helicopter ride over the city to see the lights.  Sometimes Emily takes my picture and sometimes I take hers.  We thought these little bears were cute in their flying outfits.  We didn't have to wear goggles, but we did have to wear headsets so we could hear the pilot talking to us.

The lights of the city were beautiful -- but the helicopter was jiggly so the photo isn't exactly in focus -- but you get the idea.


This is Miss Elaine and me after our ride.  The picture isn't great -- Emily needs to practice her photo skills!

 Texas was originally a part of Mexico and the 
Mexican heritage is still very strong here.  This is our favorite Mexican restaurant in San Antonio.  It's called Mi Tierra and it was really decorated for Christmas.  It's always colorful -- but it was even sparklier than usual this time!

Although tamales are eaten year 'round, they are a big part of a Mexican Christmas celebration.  It takes a long time to make tamales because you have to cook the beans or meat filling ahead of time and soak the corn husks that you wrap the tamales in so that they will be soft and won't split.  Then you have to mix the masa (cornmeal) to make a dough.  You spread the dough on the corn husk, add the filling, then roll the whole thing up.  After that you steam the tamales until they are done.  We got to take a cooking lesson in tamale making.  This is me mixing the dough.

                    And this is me getting ready to unwrap the corn husks and eat the tamales!

 Another Mexican tradition is the presentation of the play "Los Pastores," which means "The Shepherds.  This video shows the very beginning of the play.  It is done in Spanish, but we had an interpreter.  The play is very, very old.  It tells the story of the journey of the shepherds to Bethlehem.  It is a folk play, so it has some adventures that have been added to the traditional story make it more interesting.  There's even a sword fight!

 We ended our visit to San Antonio with a day at Six Flags Fiesta Texas.  We saw the Looney Tunes Christmas Show.  It even snowed!  Miss Elaine wound up with globs of "snow" on her head and even on her camera.  It wasn't real snow -- I think it was soapsuds!

 The park had lots of decorations and even Santa's Castle.  There were scenes of Santa's workshop inside -- something to look at while standing in line waiting to see Santa.

 We took Santa's picture with a little visitor.  Emily and I didn't get too close to Santa.  We were afraid he would think we were toys and would stuff us in his sack!  We had a great time.

 Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, kids!  Have a great vacation.    When you come back, we'll have another story for you about my visit to Fredericksburg, Texas.
Emily and Tiger

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Joe's Street

Hi Kids,
You may notice my picture looks a little different -- that's because I'm NOT Tiger!  I'm his big brother Bubba.  Miss Elaine let me come on this trip to St. Louis because the Cardinals were still in the play-offs when we arrived and I have a Cardinals uniform!  On the street where we stayed, there are stars of the sidewalks honoring famous people from St. Louis.  That's me sitting by Stan Musial's star.  "Stan the Man" is one of the best baseball players who ever lived.  During his career he hit 3630 base hits and 475 home runs.  Three times he was named National League Most Valuable Player.  He helped the Cardinals win three world championships.  He was named to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1969.  He is 92 years old now.  In addition to being a great baseball player, he is known as a kind and honorable gentleman.

We stayed on a part of Delmar Street known as the Delmar Loop.  This street was really run-down until a man named Joe Edwards began investing in the area.  First he opened a restaurant he calls Blueberry Hill.  He refurbished several old buildings on the street and built a brand-new hotel which he calls Moonrise. 

Joe has a lot of interests but two of his big ones are music and space.  He loves Chuck Berry who is a rock and roll legend -- Chuck had his 86th birthday while we were here.  This is a statue of Chuck Berry.  In his restaurant, Joe has lots of music memorabilia including one of Chuck's guitars.  Miss Elaine, Mr. Jack and I had dinner at Blueberry Hill and we can tell you that Joe's restaurant makes super-good hamburgers!

Now for Joe's other big interest -- space.  He wants everybody to learn more about it, so he's put signs on the street to help walkers to get an idea about our solar system.  In front of the Moonrise is a sign about the sun -- the center of our solar system.  As you walk west on the sidewalk, you will come to other signs about the planets and their distance from the sun.  Each sign offers more information about the planets.

On display in the hotel are artifacts from Joe's collection of space-related items including a cloth crew patch which was carried to the moon on July 20, 1969 -- when man first stepped onto the moon's surface.  The patch is autographed by all three of the Apollo 11 astronauts -- Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins.

This is me with a funny space robot in the hotel -- and the other picture is the hotel.  Do you love the moon on the roof?

P.S.  News Flash -- Tiger and I are getting another brother!  Or maybe sister.  We don't know yet.  Mrs. Beasley's second grade at Ida Freeman is adopting and naming him or her.  I'll let you know when I know more. 


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Ancient History

Hi Kids,
I've been in Rome, Italy, one of the world's greatest cities.  Our guide said the city was like lasagna -- layers and layers.  There's been a city on this site for almost 3000 years!  Of course, it started small -- probably just a collection of little huts -- but it grew into the greatest and most important city in the world around the time of Jesus.  In those years, Rome ruled most of the known world.  (This was long before North and South America and Australia were discovered!)

The building in these two pictures is the Pantheon.  The original structure was built between 25 and 27 A.D.  (Ask Miss Kysar what A.D. and B.C. mean!) but the building we see today was built between 118 and 125 A.D.  It was originally a temple to all the gods the Romans worshiped but later became a Christian church and now is a memorial to the kings of Italy.  There are no windows -- only a hole in the dome called an oculus (from Latin, the language the Romans spoke, meaning "eye."  The Pantheon is the oldest complete building in Rome -- but not the oldest structure.  There are ruins that are older.  What's cool is the old buildings are right next to newer ones.

The most famous old building -- and it's sort of a ruin -- is the Colosseum.    It was completed in 79 A.D. The beautiful marble stone that used to cover the building was ripped off centuries ago and used to build other buildings.  And war and earthquakes knocked some of it down.

The Colosseum was the early equivalent of a football stadium -- only they didn't play football.  They had public executions there and fights between gladiators and they also put prisoners there and turned wild animals loose on them.  It was pretty awful.  The Colosseum was so big that they could flood it and stage naval battles inside. 

This is me inside the Colosseum.  The floor is gone so all those walls you can see in the middle were under the florr where they kept the prisoners and the animals.  I'm glad they don't do that any more.

Italians don't speak Latin anymore -- they speak Italian.  Italian, French and Spanish all developed from Latin and they are called Romance languages -- not because they're in love but because they came from the Romans.  I'll bet you can speak some Italian, too!  Don't believe me?  How about saying "pizza," "spaghetti," or "macaroni?"  Those are all Italian words.  And here's another one I know - "ciao" (pronounced "chow"), that means "Good-bye"

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Up North in South Dakota

Hi Kids,
My name is ......  Well, I don't know what my name is.  You're going to have to pick a name for me.  I travel with Miss Elaine.  You'll meet us on Friday.  She travels and writes stories about her trips for magazines and newspapers.  We're going to share our travels with you.

Last week we were in South Dakota.  That's the third state north of Oklahoma.  We stayed in the town of Sioux Falls.  You can see the falls in the picture above.  The name of the river is Big Sioux.

While we were there, we visited the zoo.  I got to see some of the animals up VERY close as you can see.  Do you know what this one is?  Miss Kysar can tell you.  This animal is a marsupial, which means she carries her babies in a pouch -- like a kangaroo.  These animals live in Oklahoma, too.

Traveling with Miss Elaine sometimes gets scary but at least she didn't let me get near the biting end of this Burmese python!  I'm glad the keepers were holding this guy.  He's a constrictor -- that's a snake that wraps around its prey and squeezes really tight.

We traveled out from Sioux City.  You can see the land is pretty bare.  That little hill is called Spirit Mound.  The Indians used to tell people that the mound was the home of tiny people who would shoot trespassers with arrows.  Over 200 years ago, our country was very young and this part wasn't even part of the United States.  In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson bought a big piece of land from France.  This was called the Louisiana Purchase and covered an area which now encompasses the states of Louisiana, Arkansas, Oklahoma (except the panhandle), Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Nebraska and parts of Minnesota, Colorado and Wyoming. 

Then the President wanted to know more about the land he'd just bought.  He sent the explorers William Clark and Meriwether Lewis to check it out.  They traveled from St. Louis up the Missouri River.  When they got to this area, they heard about the mound.  They left their boats and walked several miles to find it.  They didn't find any little people but when they climbed on top of it, they could see a long way.  Here's how Captain Clark described what he saw, "from the top of this Mound we beheld a most beautiful landscape.  Numerous herds of buffalo were seen feeding in various directions."

This is the Spirit Mound.  I'm not taking a sun bath -- I just have a bit of trouble sitting up straight without help!

We traveled up the Missouri River, too.  Of course, when Lewis and  Clark were here, there were no dams on the river.  Now there are six dams on the Missouri.  They are used for flood control and for generating electricity.  To the left of me in the picture below is the hydroelectric (hydro means water) plant that uses the force of the river to make enough electricity for 30,000 homes.  We went down inside the dam and got to see all the equipment but we were not allowed to take pictures there.  The gates you can see in the picture are called spillways and machinery in the plant opens and closes the spillways to keep the water in or let it out.

Near the dam was a visitor's center with displays telling about the animals who live in and on the river. 

Do you see the funny thing I'm sitting on?  Those are tree roots.  You can see a steamboat in the picture behind me.  Steamboats delivered all sorts of things to people who settled along the river.  The boats were powered by steam made by burning wood to heat water.  It was a long trip up the river, so the boatmen would cut down trees on the shore.  As the river eroded the banks, the stumps would be washed out into the river.  These were called snags and they were very dangerous to boats -- often poking holes in the boats and causing them to sink.

Miss Elaine used to teach music -- she sometimes even substituted at Northern Hills -- so she really loved the National Music Museum in Vermillion.  It has the largest collection of musical instruments in the United States.  Do you know what this is?  I thought it was a cannon -- but it's not.  It's a drum!  It's so big -- it weights 1000 pounds -- that it has to be moved on its own cart!  It's from Thailand and is called a glawngae, which means goblet drum.  That's what I call it because I can't pronouce glawngae and neither can Miss Elaine.

Back in Sioux Falls we went to a place called the Outdoor Campus.  They have classes for kids and grown-ups on all sorts of things to do outdoors.  They also have wildlife displays.  This is me checking out a giant bass.  Don't worry, it's not real. 

This is Miss Elaine and me standing in the fish's mouth.  Now I know what a worm feels like!

We'll see you soon.  Please think of a good name for me!

Your BBFF (best bear friend forever),

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Teddy Does Texas Top to Bottom

Hi Kids,
I'm not going to write much because I'll be seeing you in person to tell you about my latest trip.  Look at the map and find Amarillo, Waco and McAllen -- because that's where I've been.  We started in Amarillo -- 

Then we headed for Waco where we visited a really cool zoo....

Our last stop was way down in south Texas at McAllen.  This is one of the best birding spots in the world.

It has been fun being your friend this year.  I'm staying with Ms. Kysar to help her with her next year's class.  Have a great summer.