Solbit Makes Up a Riddle for You…It’s a Corker!

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

Hey, here’s a riddle for you:  what do wine bottle stoppers, purses, and women’s bracelets have in common (not to mention key fobs, baseball hats, belts, and watch bands)?

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Give up?  I’ll give you a hint:  common material.  Got it now? No?  Here’s another hint: plant material. Yeah, all of these are made of tree bark!  Cork, to be precise.

Did you know that cork comes from the bark of a tree, a Cork Oak tree?  I didn’t. Also, Portugal, the country where we are now, produces 34% of the world’s cork! How do I know all this?

By accident.  When we walked through that town I told you about, Guimarães, Nona saw a big piece of tree bark at a little shop.  Nona took me out of her pocket and said, “Solbit, I’ve got to take a picture of you on this tree bark.”  What? I’m just her prop for travel photos?  Well, here I am.

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I shouldn’t complain about Nona taking my photo all the time; I look pretty good there, don’t I? Oh, but that’s not the point of this photo.  What the picture shows you is the tree bark. Skilled workers called “extractors,” take out material that people call “cork” from the bark.  I guess you can make round things or flat things from tree bark, if it is cork.

Then, later, when we were walking around that archeological site I told you about, Citânia de Briteiros. We saw a lot of different trees, including those cork trees! So, Papa got out his iPhone and had me pose with these.

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These “fruits” or “nuts” were on branches of that cork tree.  We don’t know if those can be used for anything.  Any bright ideas? I bet you could find some cork in your house right now.

One more thing, when we got home, Nona researched cork. She found out weird and interesting things.  For example, she said that, way back in the 1600s, French wine makers used oiled rags, not cork, as wine bottle stoppers. Papa said, “Yuck!”  Now, of course, they use these.

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Did you know that pieces of cork can be put into concrete walls for insulation? Also, Nona found that the cork from those trees has been used in heat shields of space craft.  Amazing!  Papa said, “No way!”  Then he said, “Let me see that.” Next thing we know, he’s spending a lot of time reading about cork.

I guess that sometimes we discover the most interesting things by accident, huh?  We were just on a walk and looked at something leaning against a shop.  Now we know all these new things about cork. Some accidents are good, right?

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

*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 Wishes for Strange Things

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

You know what, I actually like strange things.  Papa said that can be a good thing.  So, I am going to wish for more strange things in my life.  Here’s something that looks a bit strange to me, but I like it.

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What do you think?  I like that someone collected onions. Tied them together, and hung them in a ring over the tile. Don’t you?  Also, the blue and gold have a calming effect on me.

So, I’m going to wish for wonderful tiles like these for my birthday!  Just look at them and enjoy them.

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Not all the tile patterns are the same.  Some have drawings in them.  We saw this one when we were in Madeira.  It has a drawing.

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Nona said to call a tile like this a “figurative” design, because it has a figure in it.  It figures that you would call it figurative, right?  We saw other figures or designs on sidewalks.

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Girl, somebody does a lot of hard labor to put down all those tiny stones in just the right places to make those designs.

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Still, don’t you think this looks a lot better than just plain concrete or asphalt, or even bricks?

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Going for a walk on these kind of sidewalks could cheer up your day, couldn’t it?  Nona says that these walkways can be a type of “public art,” and that public art makes my day better!  I think she’s right.  Hey, just imagine yourself walking or driving home and arriving at a driveway that looks like this one.

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If I ever have a home, I wish to put some strange things in it and around it.  For example, I’ll make a drive way like this one.  It’ll probably take me a long time, but that’s ok, because making it might be as much fun as walking on it.  Also, you could come by my place to look at it anytime, and it would be free. If that’s sounds strange, that’s OK, because, sometimes, strange can be good.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

  • 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 Visits an Iron Age Fortified City

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

We walked on that ancient rock paved pathway of this Iron Age city called Citânia de Briteiros! The site is beautiful.

Daytrip to Guimarares

Papa said that we can call an Iron Age fortified town an oppidum.  I can add that to the list of words that I know.  Now, you can too!

Daytrip to Guimarares

That’s me sitting on the sign showing where to see the rampart A rampart is a big wall to keep people inside the wall safe. (I’m learning so many new words on this trip!)

But, oh, girl, was I ever wrong.  At first, I stubbornly refused to go to this place.  Papa said, “Solbit, you just jumped to a wrong conclusion.”  See, when I heard them say that we would go to an “Iron Age city,”  of course, I knew right away what “iron” meant.  That’s when I jumped to my conclusion.

Even though I’m a young plastic Jurassic, I’ve seen plenty of irons.  You smooth the wrinkles out of clothing with irons, right? Everybody knows that.

So, I put my foot down, “I’ve seen all the irons I need to see.  I’m not going to some boring city with a bunch of irons.  Let’s do something fun, instead, please.”  Nona just put me in her pocket and said, “Solbit, you don’t have to look if you don’t want to, but you’re going with us.”

Well, when we got there, I did look.

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Beautiful isn’t it, and not an iron in sight!  Turns out “Iron Age” isn’t about smoothers-for-clothing.  It’s about a time when human beings made a lot of things out of a metal called “iron.”  I have to look up “Iron Age” to learn more about it. Our friend from Kentucky said that the Iron Age came after the Bronze Age.  I guess Bronze is another kind of metal?

This settlement of Citânia de Briteiros dates back to 600 BCE.  That’s long enough to let some weeds grow, right? Also, all the people have gone away to more modern places.  No one is here except us and the archeologists.  Archeologists — another new word — are scientists who study old places.

The people of Citânia de Briteiros made a nice wall with the iron tools they made for themselves.  Nona didn’t even notice me hiding in that crack in the wall.  Can you find me?

Daytrip to Guimarares

The description of this place said that town got to be pretty big for those times, at least 625 people but maybe as many as 1,500.  The people made stone houses — both circular and rectangular — that had wooden tops and thatched roofs.

Daytrip to Guimarares

I’d like to have a circular stone house.  Wouldn’t you?  One with walls like this around it would be nice.  I’d grow a garden outside.

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Some archeologists rebuilt one of the houses.  They thought it looked like this.

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I imagined myself living in that place and being able to walk through the village.  I even imagined being an member of the town council, so I walked down to their big council building.

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Town Council building. That’s our new friend checking it out.

It was pretty large and had a stone bench all the way around the inside for the town council members to sit.  So, I pretended to be one of them, and asked Nona to, please, take my picture.

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I’m so small that I kind of disappeared on that bench.  If a meeting had been happening then, someone would have sat on me for sure. They would have gotten a surprise!  A pinch on their butt and then, when they looked, “Oh, my! It’s an iguanodon!”  Do you think iguanodons were still roaming around in the Iron Age, or had we become extinct by then?  I don’t know.

I do know that you have never sat in an oppidum, because none are in the U.S.  Maybe you will come to Portugal or somewhere else in Europe one day and sit in one though.  Don’t be afraid; it doesn’t hurt.

Okay, gotta go.  Time for me to find out about the Iron Age and the Bronze Age.  Isn’t it fun to learn all these new things! Yippee!

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

P.S.  Nona and Papa have some more — and better — photos in their travel blog, and you might what to see those. I gotta warn you, they write for big people, so you might want to just skip over their sentences. S.

September 2014

  • 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 Hops on the Train in Portugal

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

What a day!  Seeing the Portuguese countryside on the train.

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Making a new friend. Taking a taxi ride.  (We almost never take a taxi.)

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It was a full day.  By the way, on an early morning walk to the train station, I saved someone’s life.  I screamed, “STOP!” just before Papa stepped on “Two Tone Tony,” our friendly neighborhood stink bug.  Tony paused and said to me in a squeaky, little voice, “Thanks, kid! You saved my life.” Of course, he squeaked it in Portuguese, but I could tell what he meant.

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We arrived at the station in Porto and hopped on a modern train.  The train wended (cool word, that Papa taught me) through beautiful country side, to a smaller town called Guimarães The sights along the way were so good that Papa didn’t even fall asleep this timeã

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We have a lot of photos of Papa sleeping when we’re riding planes, trains, buses, and even in automobiles.

Second, when I tell you this, you’re going to say, “That’s our Nona!”  Once we got to Guimarães, Nona didn’t want to pay the big price of a round trip taxi out to Citânia de Briteiros, an archeological site. That would have been 40 Euros (or about 52 US dollars), but she and Papa really wanted to go.

So, as soon as they got off the train, she walked right up to a perfect stranger at a taxi stand, and she asked him, “Are you going out to Citânia de Briteiros?”

Daytrip to Guimarares

In surprise, he stared at her a moment, and then nodded yes, yes that’s where he wanted to go.  “Want to share a taxi?” she asked excitedly.  I guess her excitement was catching, because, almost without thinking he said, “OK.” Nona had him and Papa in a taxi before they knew what was happening.  The taxi fare would now be split three ways.  I could tell that made her happy.

Oh, also, about that new friend.  That’s the guy Nona picked up for the taxi ride.  He turned out to be a really good companion for exploring the archeological site.  Guess where he is from!  Hint: somewhere in the U.S.  Another hint: well known song by Stephen Foster.  Yeah, Kentucky.

What are the chances of us running into a guy from Kentucky at a taxi stand in Guimaraes, Portugal?  Also, what are the chances that he’s going to the same place that we’re going?  Amazing.  He’s a professor at a university and was here to give a paper at an academic conference.  So, Nona’s strategy for saving money also worked well for finding a new friend.

Now, back to the ancient city.  … Oh, no! Nona says I have to send this now, because we have to leave on another walk.  Oh, well, I promise that my next email will be all about the Iron Age city walk that we did with our new friend from Kentucky.  Gotta go.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

P.S. To Be Continued with “Solbit Visits an Iron Age Fortified City”

September 2014

  • 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 Has Opinons! … on the Street Art & Graffiti of Porto

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

Have you caught up with us yet?  We’re still in Portugal, but not Madeira.  We’re in the old town of Porto.  Porto has already taught me something about myself, something I didn’t know: I have OPINIONS!

Nona and Papa took me for a walk to look at Street Art and Graffiti.  When I saw those red doors with the boats, I said, “Hey, I like that!”  Papa asked, “Are you sure?”  I said, “Yes, I know I like that one.”  He sort of squeezed his face together and said, “Well, that’s one person’s opinion.”   We walked on.

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“Now, that’s a nice piece of Street Art,” Papa said, and he pointed to this.

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I just stared at it, “A mouth gaping open with fingers sticking in it?  Yuck!” Nona jumped in, “Solbit, Papa has his opinion, and you have yours.  They don’t have to be the same.”  “Nona, did you say that I have an opinion?” I asked.  She explained that how I felt about a piece of Street Art is one kind of opinion, and I had one, an opinion, that is.  Wow!  “So, now that I have an opinion, where should I put it, Nona? Also, where is it?”  She advised me to just remember it, and, if I want, I can exchange it for a different opinion sometime later.  Also, she said I don’t have to pay anything for it, and I could have as many opinions as I liked!

So, then I went searching for Street Art and Graffiti to have opinions about them.  I got on a roll.  Look …

In my opinion, these cardboard figures — pretend people — in an empty building are amusing (funny).  I like them.  What’s your opinion?

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When I saw the graffiti scrawled on this art, I just got angry.  In my opinion, its not nice to scribble on someone else’s art.

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I like this art, but, again, why mess it up by scribbling underneath it?  I think someone has a problem, and it’s not the artist.

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Here’s something interesting to me.  Two people can share the same opinion!  Did you know that?  Papa and I shared the opinion that this metal face is appealing, and that the graffiti shouldn’t be put on it.  Hey, we shared two opinions!

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Nona cautioned me, “Solbit, you want to always feel comfortable to express your opinions, but you don’t want to become opinionated.  Don’t assume your opinions should be shared by everyone else.  Give others room to feel comfortable to express their opinions, too.  OK?”

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“OK, but I really, really wish those graffiti scribblers would stop messing up the art. Why can’t they just do their own scribbles someplace else?” I asked Nona.

She shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know, Solbit, but you should never scribble on other people’s walls or art.  OK?”  I easily agreed with Nona, but I wondered if it might be ok for me someday to paint art over someone else’s graffiti?  Like this.

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What’s your opinion?

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

September 2014

  • 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 Gets Hit with a Blue Blast! and look at those Shades!

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

Papa ran up to Nona and me.  He seemed excited.  “Give me about two minutes, and then follow me down that path and see if you can find me. I want to show you something! OK?”  We said, “OK.”  He took off.  We waited.  When we found him, we got a blast of blue …

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Blue Bam! And those mirrored glasses made a picture that we had to take.  I asked Papa, “What’s that big blue screen for? Is it a big flat screen monitor?  When’s the show start?”

Nona, ever the artist, explained to Papa  and me, “ No, that’s not a big flat screen TV, that’s a painting.  It’s in tribute to a famous 20th Century French artist, Yves Klein.”  The look on Papa’s face said just what I was thinking, “That’s a painting?”

Nona said that Yves Klein created that shade of blue, and it’s called International Klein Blue or just IKB.  Right away, that made me wonder how many shades of blue I can find in Funchal. I’m even wondering how many shades of blue there are. Do you know?

Later that day, we were walking to the Pingo Doce grocery store near our AirBnB.  I walked right into this red cow.  Bump.  She said, “Moo,” and I said, “Excuse me, please.”  Then I saw it, IKB on her head.

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Her eye glasses were International Klein Blue. No kidding! “Girl, I love your eyeglasses,” I said.  She replied, “Yeah, don’t they just go with my complexion, girl! Thank God for Yves Klein.  Right?”  I acted well informed, “Right!”

“What are the chances of me seeing IKB blue twice in one day, when I had never heard of it before today?” I asked Papa.  “Solbit, that only happens once in a blue moon.”  “That’s it!” I said, “Thanks, Papa.”  To see another shade of blue, all I had to do was find a moon.  I’m sure it won’t be IKB blue.

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I found a moon minutes later in a garden.  “Nona, put me in the moon.  I need to check if it’s a blue moon.”  She put me in the moon.  No matter how hard I looked, I just couldn’t see any blue color.  “I’m going to have to find another shade of blue somewhere else. This moon is no help at all,” I complained to Papa.

He told me to come with him, and he’d find some blue.  “The traditional tile here uses blue a lot, and it is different than the Klein blue, because this blue was made centuries ago.

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You know, I can always count on Papa to help me and on Nona to take the photo.  So, this is some kind of 18th century blue. It’s a kinder, gentler blue than IKB, don’t you think?  Yet, I also like the way the IKB pops in my eyes.  I guess I like them both, but for different reasons.

Oh, by the way, Papa googled “shades of blue” for me, and he found a couple sources that say 52 shades of blue have been identified.  I didn’t know until now that one color could come in some many different shades.  Did you?

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

August 2014

  • 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’s Sleepy Question, “Where have you taken me?”

*New reader? Get oriented below.

Dear Nicalai,

Have you ever been sound asleep to wake up in a strange place? Have you felt the little jolt of adrenalin go through your body the moment you realize, “Holy Mackerel, I don’t know where I am!”  Yeah, well, that didn’t happen to me, because I’m plastic and don’t have adrenalin.  Still,  when I awoke to take a peak out of Nona’s pocket, you could say “startled” described my feelings.

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We had landed in Funchal, Madeira, only yesterday, and, now, I woke up in China surrounded by ancient Chinese warriors. What?!  How did we get back to China? We haven’t been there since October!

“Where have you taken me?” I yelled out of Nona’s pocket.  Nona answered, “Shhh.  Not so loud. You’ll disturb people.  We just went for a little walk up the hill.”  I retorted (cool word, huh?), “A ‘little walk’ from Portugal all the way back to China?”

Papa and Nona laughed. “What’s so funny, you two?”  Papa explained, “Solbit, we’re still in Portugal on the island of Madeira, but you could say that we have walked back to China, because we’re in an oriental garden here in Monte Garden.”

Nona said, “See, they have set Chinese sculpture in these lovely garden settings.”  She took me out of her pocket, and I got to sit on some of them.  By then, I was wide awake, and I had fun pretending to be back in China.”

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This little boy gave me an idea, though.

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I said, “Nona, you’ve taken me to too many gardens.  Please put me back in your pocket. I’m going to take another nap. You can wake me when we get back to our apartment in Funchal.”

Girl, I had a long nap.  Those two can wander in a garden for hours, and, then, I heard one of them say, “What do you want to do now?”  The other one said, “Let’s go for a walk.”  They did, and I could tell that they were walking down steep hills, until I dozed off again and dreamed my way back to China.

I’m your friend.

Love,

Solbit

August 2014

  • 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.”