Costanera Sur – again

Dear Nicalai,

October in South America means that spring has sprung!  I look forward to our walks to the ecological reserve — called “Costanera Sur.”  The bees are buzzing. The flowers, bushes, and trees are blooming, and the birds fly around with construction materials for their nests.

Uncle Josh saw our photo of this flower and told us the name, “passion flower.”  I enjoy its design, and so does that bee.

Uncle Josh saw our photo of this flower and told us the name, “passion flower.”  I enjoy its design, and so does that bee.

Papa explained that the bees help flowers (and other plants too) to reproduce.  He said that flowers try to attract bees by looking good.  The bees stop by the flower for a visit, pick up tiny grains of pollen on their fuzzy hairs, then fly to another flower and give that flower the pollen, and then, with the pollen, the flower can make new seeds.

What a miracle! Who figured that out?  Nona says that, if I want an answer to my question, then I need to learn about something called evolution and a guy named Darwin.  Gosh, there’s a lot to learn, isn’t there?  Don’t you feel like the more you learn, the more you want to learn?  I do.  Discovering all these new things just makes the whole world more wonderful to me.

Nona said in a loud whisper, “Solbit, look! There’s a ‘salt tatter.’”  I looked for a potato with salt on it, but I didn’t see any plates with potatoes or cartons with french fries . “All I see is that bird,” I replied.

Nona said in a loud whisper, “Solbit, look! There’s a ‘salt tatter.’”  I looked for a potato with salt on it, but I didn’t see any plates with potatoes or cartons with french fries . “All I see is that bird,” I replied.

Well, I misunderstood what Nona had said.  She said “Saltator.” That’s  a bird, a golden-billed saltator. I joked, “Saltator? Who comes up with these confusing bird names?” Nona, took me seriously.  She said, “Well, Solbit, if you want an answer to your question, you’ll have to go to the Audubon Society’s website to learn about how birds are named.”  I like learning, but I don’t know if I like it that much.  Why can’t she just tell me?

By the way, I should have said that I really liked seeing that bird with its golden-bill.  We see other animals too.  For example, I really liked seeing this one on the ground.

Nona told me the name of this cute little animal.  It has a cute name, too, the “pampas cavy.”

Nona told me the name of this cute little animal.  It has a cute name, too, the “pampas cavy.”

Hey, you’ve seen ladybugs, right?  They’re little round, domed bugs with a black face and an orange body with little black dots.  Talk about cute! Girl, lady bugs make me smile every time I see one.

This bug reminded me of a ladybug, but it’s the wrong color and just a bit too big.  The color reminds me of lemonade. If you know what this bug is, please don’t tell me to look it up. Just send me the name, ok?

This bug reminded me of a ladybug, but it’s the wrong color and just a bit too big.  The color reminds me of lemonade. If you know what this bug is, please don’t tell me to look it up. Just send me the name, ok?

Sometime ago, when we were traveling in the US and visiting Thomas and Nancy in Ann Arbor, Michigan, Papa told me about a cuckoo clock that they had on their wall.  He said a little wooden bird would come out of a little door on the clock each new hour and say “cuckoo-cuckoo.” So, I thought a cuckoo looked like that little wooden bird.

This is the real thing, a living, breathing Guira Cuckoo.  I just love its tail.  Never heard it say “cuckoo-cuckoo” though.

This is the real thing, a living, breathing Guira Cuckoo.  I just love its tail.  Never heard it say “cuckoo-cuckoo” though.

I think that, when your mom was very little and visiting there with Nona and Papa, she grabbed the clock’s chain, pulled, and the clock came crashing to the floor, broke into many pieces never to work again. I’ve noticed that little kids in diapers seem prone to those kinds of accidents, and I’m sure it was an accident. Right?  Anyway, this real cuckoo was in no danger from me.  I don’t wear diapers, and it wasn’t stuck in a clock.  I just liked looking at her. She isn’t really pretty like some other birds, but, still, she is attractive in some way. You don’t have to be pretty to be attractive and appealing, do you?

Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

October 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Our neighborhood in Buenos Aires

Dear Nicalai,

We’re going to live in the city of Buenos Aires for a month. I think “Buenos Aires” is Spanish for “Good Air.”  I think they must have named this place before the invention of diesel trucks and busses.  If they named it today, the city might be called “Diésel Aires”

Don’t get me wrong, though.  I really like Buenos Aires. We can walk everywhere from our apartment on Avenida Guido.

Imagine how good it feels to walk on our street under this archway of trees!

Imagine how good it feels to walk on our street under this archway of trees!

We can walk to a big park, Costanera Sur.  The park lies between the city and the wide river.  It is a safe place for birds to live, so a lot of different birds come here to live.

The eared dove is one of the most common residents here, but it’s not the most colorful. Its quiet, gray color makes me think of funerals.

Our eared dove nests on our porch, and she has two little chicks underneath her. Sometimes she lets me see them, when Nona and Papa aren’t around.  The eared dove is one of the most common residents here, but it’s not the most colorful. Its quiet, gray color makes me think of funerals rather than babies. 

Speaking of funerals, Buenos Aires must have a lot of funerals.  I know because we sometimes go for walks in a city that is built just for dead people, the Recoleta Cemetery.  Yeah, they make houses, even mansions, for people who died.  Whole families of dead people occupy the houses. Instead of clothes, the dead people are either put into urns or into wooden boxes called coffins.  That’s ok because they are not going anywhere, and they don’t breathe anymore.

I guess the dead people like to have us visitors walking around their little city, called a “necropolis.” A lot of people who are alive — like us — come here to look at these houses.

I guess the dead people like to have us visitors walking around their little city, called a “necropolis.” A lot of people who are alive — like us — come here to look at these houses.

We don’t just go to the cemetery.  Buenos Aires also has a very nice art museum in our neighborhood.  We like to walk over there to look at Argentinian art, as well as art from around the world .

Nona said that this woven “painting” is called a “tapestry.” It is amazing that someone could “paint” such a big and detailed picture on a weaving loom.

Nona said that this woven “painting” is called a “tapestry.” It is amazing that someone could “paint” such a big and detailed picture on a weaving loom.

Well, that’s not everything that I could tell you about our neighborhood in Buenos Aires, but I’ve covered the basics from good air to bad air to life in nature to death in a cemetery to art in a museum. So, you see, our neighborhood — it’s called Recoleta — has it all and more.

Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

October 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Wine in Mendoza – a Jurassic point of view

Dear Nicalai,

I take after Nona.  She doesn’t drink tea, coffee, beer, or wine, and neither do I.  Why?  Nona just doesn’t like the taste of those drinks.  I’m a plastic Jurassic, and I’m pretty sure that we Jurassics never did drink those things.  So I guess, in an odd way, we Jurassics and Nona have something in common, right? Of course, I’m not saying that Nona is an old fossil.

On the other hand, there’s Papa.  He likes tea and coffee, but coffee more and always black, no sugar.  He likes beer and wine.  In fact, he used to make his own beer, but he never tried making wine.  So, when Nona found a tour of vintners (that means wine-makers) here in Mendoza, Papa was all for it.

At our first Ampora Wine Tour stop, we saw old ponchos and new bottles of wine, symbols of two old traditions in Mendoza.

At our first Ampora Wine Tour stop, we saw old ponchos and new bottles of wine, symbols of two old traditions in Mendoza.

We walked into the Benegas Winery. The collection of old ponchos on the wall reminded us that this region was cattle country with gauchos (cowboys), and those gauchos used ponchos.

You can think of ponchos as sturdy blankets with a 1-foot slot in the middle.  The slot lets you put your head through it, and, guess what, the blanket is now a coat!  Take your head out of the slot, lay the poncho flat on the ground, and you can have a ground cloth or a blanket!  Nona taught me a new word. She said that these old ponchos were “versatile.” Versatile means adaptable or having different uses. (Caution: better check your dictionary to be sure I got that definition right.)

The collection of the different bottled wines told us that we were in a wine making region, too. I guess you could say the gauchos are becoming winemakers, or maybe winemakers are replacing gauchos, or maybe the region is big enough for production of both cattle and wine. It is a big region.

You should have seen the smile on Papa’s face when he saw all those bottles of wine. He probably expected to drink a lot of that wine.

Wooden barrels made from oak trees (those are the ones that make acorns for the squirrels to eat).  Why, I wondered, do they have barrels at this winemaking place?

Wooden barrels made from oak trees (those are the ones that make acorns for the squirrels to eat).  Why, I wondered, do they have barrels at this winemaking place?

Did you know that wine doesn’t start out in bottles?  I didn’t. I’ve only seen wine coming from bottles at home.  Of course, Nona and Papa knew.

Our really wonderful tour guide, Sabrina, explained that the wine starts out as grape juice.  The winemaker puts a lot of juice into a barrel along with yeast. Yeast is a tiny creature that makes bread rise and ferments grape juice into alcohol.  When I look at a spoonful of yeast, it just looks like powder.  I wonder how can it do all that work?  How does it know what to do? Amazing!

After adding yeast to the barrel full of juice, the winemaker closes the barrel.  The yeast actually does all the work of making the wine after that, but I don’t think it gets as much credit as the winemaker.  Not fair, huh? People talk about “working behind the scenes” but what about those who “work inside the barrel?”

Well, also, maybe the oak barrel should get some credit too, because our guide said that the oak wood helps to flavor the wine.  She also said something about a difference between American oak and French oak barrels, but I don’t remember about that.  I guess French is better for wine.

Grapes grow on these vines in a place called a vineyard — get it? — “vine - yard.”

Grapes grow on these vines in a place called a vineyard — get it? — “vine – yard.”

Speaking of getting credit for making the wine. Grapes deserve a lot of credit. Grapes provide the winemaker with the grape juice that is used to make the wine. Not just any grapes.  Winemakers use different grapes for different tasting wines.

Now about tasting wines on the tour that we took.  Everybody got to have a wine glass and something called a “spittoon.”  I learned that, when you taste wine, you don’t actually drink it.  No, instead, you follow the 3-S rule: See, Smell, Sip. Papa would look at the wine, smell the wine, and then take a small sip to taste it.  Then, he didn’t swallow the wine but spit it out into the spittoon – it looked like a little bucket!  I think it should be called the 4-S rule: See, Smell, Sip, and Spit! On the other hand, I noticed that several people who were on our tour with us did not use their spittoons.  I think maybe they were thirsty.

Our tour took us to 4 wineries in one day.  We had lunch at the last place.  That’s when Papa actually drank some wine.  Nona and I had tonic water, really good tonic water.

You don’t have to leave the town of Mendoza on a wine tour to taste wines. You can also go to a place like this in town.

You don’t have to leave the town of Mendoza on a wine tour to taste wines. You can also go to a place like this in town.

One evening, Nona, Papa, and I went to Wine Not to taste different wines. Well, Nona and I didn’t taste them.  Papa did that, but Nona and I could do the 2-S’s: See and Smell.  Even that was fun.

Bye!

I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

September 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Home is wherever we are, and Mendoza is where we are now

Dear Nicalai,

We moved to Mendoza, Argentina in mid-September. That’s where they make a wine called Malbec. That may be Papa’s favorite wine, and that may be why we came to Mendoza. I don’t know.  What do you think?

Anyway, Mendoza is home now, and I’m not complaining.  In fact, I’m very happy here.  Nona found us a very comfortable AirBnB apartment to live in while we’re here.

Doesn’t Nona and Papa’s bedroom look appealing?

Doesn’t Nona and Papa’s bedroom look appealing?

Our apartment is a very modern place, but it has a homey feel to it, with kitchen, a roof top terrace, and easy walking to the shopping district and parks.

Speaking of homes and parks, they are just loaded with birds, and one type of bird has a strange name. The hornero (that name means “oven”)  has one the nicest homes in the park. You’ll see why it’s called an “oven bird.”

Doesn’t this hornero bird nest look very modern but also very homey, all at the same time?  Also, doesn’t the nest look like a little wood oven?

Doesn’t this hornero bird nest look very modern but also very homey, all at the same time?  Also, doesn’t the nest look like a little wood oven?

It’s spring here, so birds were making their new nests.  The hornero makes its nest out of mud. We watched a couple of horneos bringing mud up into a tree one beak-full at a time to build one of these beautiful nests.  Imagine how much work that takes them.

Where you are in North America, the fall season has begun, but, here in South America the seasons are reversed.  So, when September comes, spring arrives here.  We saw evidence of spring all around, and we smelled it too.

The many flowering trees, bushes, and vines provide the park and the city with lovely fragrances . Papa says that “fresh air is always better than airfreshener.”

The many flowering trees, bushes, and vines provide the park and the city with lovely fragrances . Papa says that “fresh air is always better than airfreshener.”

I especially feel at home when we walk in our neighborhood. The trees create arches over our street, and I feel like I am walking in a living room with a vaulted ceiling.

Imagine getting to walk down this street everyday.  That’s what we do here at home in Mendoza!

Imagine getting to walk down this street everyday.  That’s what we do here at home in Mendoza!

Oh, hey, another thing that we do is to go out for breakfast sometimes.  We go to a special place not far from our apartment. It’s called Anna’s Bistro.

Anna’s Bistro serves french-type pastries in the morning. Mornings are when we like to go there, but they have good lunches and suppers too.

Anna’s Bistro serves french-type pastries in the morning. Mornings are when we like to go there, but they have good lunches and suppers too.

I like to pretend that we’re visiting our own Auntie Anna in California when we go to this bistro. It’s homey and has a pretty interior design, just like Auntie Anna would have.

So, now you know about our new home in Mendoza.  I wish you could come for a visit, because I know you would like it, and you could practice your Spanish too. Bye! I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

September 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit Finds “Big Water” A Fearsome Place

Dear Nicalai,

Hi, we changed countries again.  We’re still in South America, but it’s goodbye Peru and hello Argentina.  Argentina is a really long country, 2,268 miles long.  It runs from north to south along the east coast of South America along the Atlantic ocean, but it’s only 889 miles wide, from east to west.

Nona and Papa told me we were going to a place that was beautiful and “very scenic,” that means it has great views all around.  Well, I don’t think so!  Iguazu Falls just scared me and almost blew out my eardrums too.  Those waterfalls are really loud.

"Iguazu" is a word that is formed from 2 native words meaning "big" and "water." Iguazu Falls is Big Water, for sure.

“Iguazu” is a word that is formed from 2 native words meaning “big” and “water.” Iguazu Falls is Big Water, for sure.

The falls created what Nona called a “mist,”  as in, “Oh, Solbit, you’ll soon dry off. That was just a little mist.”  Oh, yeah, well, I’d call it a shower, and we weren’t even under the falls.  The falls just splash everywhere. I’m little.  I could have drowned.  I think Nona and Papa could be charged with “plastic jurassic endangerment,” but, don’t worry, I’m not going to press charges.

As if those falls weren’t fear inducing enough, after our walk out to the falls, they took me out to lunch in the park.  Sounds nice, right?  Well, it wasn’t.  All you have to do is take a seat on a park bench or a picnic table, put a little food in your hand (OK, I have paws, I guess) and you’ll soon look like a carpet trampled by these little monsters.

I don't know where the word "coati" comes from but it ought to be from 2 words that mean "big" and "nuisance," which is what they are.

I don’t know where the word “coati” comes from but it ought to be from 2 words that mean “big” and “nuisance,” which is what they are.

These coatis come in droves at the slightest hint of food, of scraps, or even a crumb. Nona, Papa, and I had to eat our sandwiches in the shelter of a little park food shop.  We had to find a space to sit on the floor with all the other humans trying to get away from the coatis and the monkeys too.  This is the kind of thing that Nona and Papa think is fun.  Maybe, if they were as little as I am, they would realize its just fearful.

Speaking of size.  Even the little things here are scary.  You know those “little” insects that you call “ants.”  Take a look.

Even the ants are big here at Iguazu Falls, and they have big pinchers to bite you!

Even the ants are big here at Iguazu Falls, and they have big pinchers to bite you!

This ant could take my head off with those pinchers, and I’m made of solid plastic.  Even Nona and Papa had to take care not to step where these ants gathered.  Some people get bitten, and they say that those ant bites really hurt.

.Nona kept telling me not to dwell on the negative. “Solbit, look on the bright side, take time to see the beautiful things too,” she advised me. She did have a point.  I have to admit that, if you can get past the wetness and the loudness of falls, they have an expansive beauty.  Also, some of the little things are harmless and pleasant to watch.

OK, Nona's right, some things at Iguazu Falls are both pretty and safe, like this butterfly on her camera.

OK, Nona’s right, some things at Iguazu Falls are both pretty and safe, like this butterfly on her camera.

Still, getting back to the pueblo (the town) and, as they say, “to civilization,” made me feel so much better.

I couldn’t wait to get through those doors and out of nature, the Great Outdoors. Give me some inside space.  Ah, the Great Indoors calmed me, and, even though I'm an iguanodon, I felt at home again.  Whew!

I couldn’t wait to get through those doors and out of nature, the Great Outdoors. Give me some inside space.  Ah, the Great Indoors calmed me, and, even though I’m an iguanodon, I felt at home again.  Whew!

That probably sounds strange coming from a Jurassic like me, but I guess I’m becoming more and more like you humans.  After all, I hang out with humans so much that they’ve become what’s normal to me.  Normal is good, right?  Bye!  I’m your friend.

Love,

signature

 

 

 

Solbit

August 2016

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”