I don’t normally do this but I think it’s great that my good friend MARISOL ESPINOZA has been nominated in an online poll for the Best Elected Official Staffer (in Los Angeles). You can vote for her even if you don’t live in L.A. The link is below.
Marisol is the sweetest, most friendly and genuine person I have ever met, and I have met a lot of different types of people in my world travels. She travelled with us around the Mediterranean earlier in the year. The picture is of us in Savona, Italy. Even if she doesn’t win it would be great to see a lot of votes under her name! She deserves it!
We’re on a cruise for the new year. We left miami yesterday and for the next few weeks will be touring the carribean and florida. When we set into port then I will post some of the photos that I have already taken.
The weather so far has been very good, warm and sunny. I can see why so many people were jealous that we were escaping the horrid winter weather.
I will try to update my blog during my trip.
There is a Christmas Fair being held at the Natural History Museum. This is accompanied by a temporary ice rink which you can book tickets for. There were lots of stalls selling christmas ornaments and food, lots of things to sample and it was all very festive.
The ice rink was sadly melting due to the unusually mild weather. This meant that we weren’t able to go skating. The ice rink was more like a pond.
Whilst we were visiting San Francisco, Teresa painted the window of the White Rabbit on Main Street in Martinez. The owner Anne hadn’t been planning to decorate the window, but Teresa with her artistic flair offered to help decorate the windows for the holiday season.
We knew that the San Francisco Chronicle were going to be writing an article about the unique stores on Main St., Martinez, but we didn’t know that the photographer would be passing whilst Teresa and Sarah were painting the window. They took this great picture of Teresa finishing the inside window.
We are on a 2 night visit to Paris. We came here earlier in the year, but this time we are staying nearby. The view from our room is absolutely amazing. At night the Eiffel Tower is lit up and looks tremendous. It twinkles every now and then. I am looking forward to tomorrow and exploring the city.
We went for lunch at Yo! Sushi today. I am not picky about the food that I eat. I will eat nearly anything. If you haven’t ever been to a sushi resturant then it is quite neat, the dishes travel around on a conveyor belt and you grab a dish as it goes by. The colour reflects the price of the dish. If you want something in particular then you can order it from the chef. I particularly like the desserts they serve. I am very adept at using chopsticks, although I am not very good at picking up round objects like a grape. 😛
If you want to get in contact with me then I have a myspace profile. I will reply to anyone who sends me a message. I am also always willing to add friends and welcome comments.
If you have ever been to Covent Garden in London then you will recognise the market hall which normally has tours outside. The lego version in Legoland didn’t have as many tourists outside, but it is still brilliant.
The Buckingham Palace at Legoland is great. It even has the people at the gates trying to catch a glimpse of the queen at the window. You wouldn’t believe that is thousands upon thousands of lego bricks.
The Guard Mounting, or the Changing of the Guard is a formal ceremony in which sentries proving ceremonial guard duties at the important institutions such as Buckingham Palace are relieved by other sentries. The Legoland Guard mounting ceremony is very accurate and the guards even move in formation.
The lego version of London is really impressive. The Millennium Eye towers over the modelled Thames river with the Millennium Bridge adjacent, St. Pauls Cathedral and the Houses of Parlament in the distance. It looks like the giant humans are about to stomp on the cathedral. I was really surprised that they were able to model the eye using lego.
The lego models at Legoland are superb. They have even built lego models which float on water and that pulled by a pulley under the water. The lego ships looked wonderful gliding through the water. The depth of detail in the models are brilliant.
The lego masterbuilders have gone to such detail in building the lego village, in the middle of the water is a island with an inn, Pilchard Inn. The details of all the buildings and bridges are amazing. If you ever get to visit Legoland and the lego village then it is worth taking your time admiring the models otherwise you might miss the small details.
The lego village at Legoland has modelled the world, everything from Great Britain to America. Amsterdam in Holland has been modelled in lego. The city is famous for its canals throughout the city and their unique bridges crossing the canals. The barges travel through the canals using an underwater pulley. It all adds to the realism.
The city of Amsterdam has been modelled in lego at Legoland. There is such an amazing amount of detail in the canal barges, the bridges, and the buildings. With the canal barges moving on the pulley system the diorama is always changing. If I were to add more detail then I would make the bridges move up and down.
The lego masterbuilders built a dragster race track in the lego village at Legoland. If you wait patiently then the dragsters race off at high speed before returning to the start. The detail of the ferris wheel and fair ground adjacent to the race track is superb.
They modelled the Houston Space Center in the lego village at Legoland. The center is known for hosting ground control for the NASA missions to outer-space. The detail is great and the model even includes NASA space craft Saturn V which now resides outside the space center in Houston, USA.
This model of Vallee Blanche in lego village at Legoland is very realistic. I couldn’t believe that it was made from lego bricks. It might be that I am not used to brown lego bricks, but it really does look like wood. If you are wondering the cable car actually goes up and down the mountain.
The model of the Houston Space Center was great, but adjacent to the center is a model of the launch pad. The space shuttle fires up every few minutes. I can picture lego spacemen preparing for launch.
I am going through updating my blog in reverse chronilogical order by date. It might take a while to finish writing them, but they will appear below as I write each blog entry.
The Prisoner was a 1967 UK television series, starring Patrick McGoohan. It was filmed in Portmeirion. Even though the show is nearly 40 years old it still has a very strong cult following. But I was really surprised when by accident I came across a clip where someone had done the title sequence with a teddy bear playing the lead.
I became the radioactive teddy bear known as Radioactive Man today. I went to the x-ray department where I had a standard x-ray. They couldn’t see much on the x-ray because I am only filled with stuffing. I was then taken to the nuclear medicine suite where they injected radio active isotopes into my paw and a short while later I got to lay in a machine whilst it rotated around me. It was futuristic and seemed very out of place in a hospital. I was worried about the scan, but it didn’t hurt and was quite neat.
I went to Luton and Dunstable Hospital today. I was rather scared before I arrived, but the nurses and doctors were very friendly. This reassured me that I was in good hands and they would take care of me. I was given an injection which hurt briefly.
I have go back to hospital tomorrow for another injection and to get a multitude of scans done in the x-ray department. It might be a much longer visit tomorrow, but I am comforted that they will take care of me.
Jackson Pollock (1912-1956) was an American painter and the commanding figure of the Abstract Expressionist movement. He is best known for his ‘drip and splash’ style where he poured and dripped his paint from a can onto the canvas. It is easy to replicate his style if you go to the website created by Miltos Manetas. I have created my own forgery. Try it yourself.
I couldn’t believe it, there was another notice on the highway. The drivers were expecting notices about the road works and the traffic ahead, but there was a message about my blog. 😉
I promise that there will be an update to my blog very shortly. We have spent hours upon hours going through all the photos which we have taken on our trip around the world. We are nearly ready.
We got to see a preview of Superman Returns today. We really enjoyed the movie and thought it encompassed the magic from the original Superman movie. Brandon Routh was great as Superman and is a superb replacement for Christopher Reeves. He has the charisma and persona which he needs for the Superman role. When he stands there with the cape flowing in the superhero stance he really looks the part. I hope that in any sequels that he returns to the role.
Kevin Spacey was magnificent as the arch villain Lex Luther. The character had an evil side and a real dark humour. Some have said that Gene Hackman was better in the role, but I think I prefer Kevin Spacey for being closer to the type of character you would expect for a megalomaniac and evil villain.
I was pleasantly surprised at how good Superman Returns was. I had heard all manner of bad rumours on the internet about the casting and the re-writes, but in the end Bryan Singer brought the magic which he had with the X-Men movies to Superman. I really hope that they make a sequel with Bryan Singer at the helm. I would like them to bring some of the other comic book villains to life such as General Zod, The Prankster or Doomsday.
I had my first concert tonight at the Oakland Arena in California. It was a sell out concert and it went down very well. I was surprised at the response. I am now planning my world tour with book signings and special appearances.
There was a small sparrow on our lawn eating ants, worms and insects, when from nowhere, a sparrow hawk flew down and attacked the defenseless bird. The sparrow hawk tore the bird apart and within a few minutes all that was left was a pile of feathers. The hawk mauled on the morsels of meat. It seems so unfair that this poor little bird which was the lowest on the food chain would get attacked by a sparrow hawk. The poor sparrow was probably expecting a small cat to attack it, but not something from above.
We had great fun with one of Craig’s birthday presents, a set of radio controlled Doctor Who Daleks. The set includes two Daleks and a model of Doctor Who. The Dalek who gets hit five times loses the game. Craig was a formidable opponent, the first nine times that he won, he was just lucky. We had the Daleks battling on top of the coffee table, so we also had to contend with avoiding falling off the edge.
Teresa created a wonderful cake. The cake had a toy theme with trains, lego and teddy bears. We couldn’t really face lighting the candles as the poor teddy bear wax candles would have disintegrated in front of us and that would have been really upsetting, so we left the candles intact and just admired the cake. 😀
As all the bears had bought Craig presents for his birthday, there was a large pile of presents. There was presents of various shapes and sizes with all manner of wrapping paper. I particularly liked the Thomas the Tank engine wrapping paper, although sadly the present inside wasn’t a train. There was a vast range of different presents. We had hours of fun playing with all of his presents.
To surprise Craig on his birthday we organised a party. We all got to wear silly hats and had noise makers. As you can see it was a tight squeeze onto the sofa, but we all got on there in the end. We saved up our donut money and all got presents for Craig, so we sat on the sofa quietly waiting for him.
A number of bears had been practicing playing instruments as a surprise for Craig. They still needed a little practice, but they were very good for only having a short practice session. Before you know it they’ll be playing sessions on Radio 1. 😉
I can drive. Whilst Teresa and Sarah were shopping I took the opportunity to drive around the parking lot. I don’t know what the problem is with driving. It seemed very easy to me. I had a little problem reaching the accelerator and the brake, but with the assistance of a stick and some tape I was able to control it. The car was an automatic which helped, if it had been a manual transmission then I may have had a problem. I would have had to climb down from the wheel, control the clutch and the adjust the gear stick. I don’t think I would have been able to handle that. I didn’t hit a single car, and returned the car back to the spot where they had parked. When they came out they hadn’t even noticed that the car had gone for a spin around the car park.
The Jelly Belly tour was great. We all enjoyed ourselves, bought far too much candy and came away knowing much more about the history of jelly belly, the company and the candy. I would recommend that if you live in the San Francisco bay area that it is certainly worth taking a drive to Fairfield for the tour.
The artwork and portraits made from Jelly Belly jellybeans are on display throughout the tour of the factory. The artwork was originally created by Peter Rochas and the work is now continued by his son. Each piece takes several months to create and uses thousands of jellybeans. I wonder if they are ever tempted to eat the jellybeans?
It was really interesting to find out how they make a jellybean. The first step happens at the “mogul station” where the slurry of the beans are molded from a recipe that includes cornstarch, corn syrup, fruit purees, and other flavourings. The centers are allowed to dry. I didn’t realise how long it takes to make a jellybean. Once they are dry they receive a “sugar shower”.
The next step involves dozens of machines, which look like small cement mixers, stood in long rows. The beans are tumbled in stainless steel barrels as confectioners add syrup and sugar in a two-hour process. I wondered how they know how much to add. After drying, the process is repeated six times. The last engrossing coats each bean with a shiny glaze. Several days later, the beans receive their official Jelly Belly mark, which is applied by a machine that does the job at a rate of 21,000 beans a minute. I don’t think I could even eat that many jelly beans. The jellybeans once ready are packaged by half a dozen multi-jointed robots.
If you ever wondered how all the jelly beans are so perfect, they have a machine which checks to see whether each jellybeans is the correct size. If they are too small, too large or stuck together then they are known as “Belly Flops” and are a packaged in large bags to be sold in the store in the foyer or at the factory outlet store.
When on the Jelly Belly tour you have to wear a hat; the principle reason is for health and safety. They don’t want any hair or fur going into the candy mix. I think it is also helps with identifying those who are on the tour and those who work at Jelly Belly. The hat was small enough so that I was able to wear one, although as I am covered in the fur I wasn’t too sure what I was meant to do for my paws and face.
Whilst in the foyer waiting to go on the tour around the Jelly Belly factory, I looked up and saw the biggest jellybeans that I have ever seen. I am only a small bear, so if I were to eat one of those then it would take me years. I did notice that one is a very dark green and resembles the colour of the jalapeño jelly bean, so that might explain why no one has eaten it already.
The Jelly Belly company is a large international company, so when it comes to advertising they sponsor everything from sporting events and teams, through to creating special promotional items. We got to see two motorbikes in the foyer of Jelly Belly promoting their new Sport Brand. We got to try some of the Jelly Belly Sport Brand later, they are designed for athletes as they have additional ingredients which give you a boost of vitamins and electrolytes. They did recommend not to give them to children.
The entrance of Jelly Belly is lined with portraits of presidents and famous people made entirely from jellybeans. In 1976 the first eight Jelly Belly flavours were created; very cherry, lemon, cream soda, tangerine, green apple, root beer, grape and licorice. They became the favourite candy of President Ronald Reagan who made them a staple in the Oval Office and on Air Force One. His passion for jelly beans inspired Blueberry flavour, which was cooked up so that he could served red, white and blue beans at inaugural parties. When it came to creating a portraits of famous people from jellybeans, the first one created was that of Ronald Reagan. Over the next few years many more have been created including one of the governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Jelly Belly hasn’t always been creating jellybeans. Since the early 1900s the Goelitz family has been making “buttercream” candies, including Candy Corn. These candies carried the family through the Great Depression and two world wars. Today, the great-grandsons of Gustav Goelitz, the fourth generation, are still carrying on the tradition of making candy. They not only make jellybeans and Candy Corn, but chocolate covered raisins, Harry Potter jelly beans, JBs, and gummy candy. They even make sugar free jellybeans. Whilst we were visiting, we were able to sample jelly beans for the movie “The Ant Bully” which included grass flavour. 😛
One of the best tours in the US is the tour of the Jelly Belly factory. The Jelly Belly factory is located in Fairfield, CA and not only produces jelly beans, but gummi bears, chocolate covered raisins and candy corn. The tour is also FREE and at the end you get to sample some of the amazing flavours that they produce.
This dog belongs to Sarah and his name is Caine. He is a Boston Terrier which is breed very similar to the French Bulldog in Europe. He is quite old, is the alpha dog and is very friendly. As he still has teeth he does like to chew on things, so when we gave him a chewy ball there was no way of getting it away from him. The only chance to get it away from him was his blind spot, if you sneaked up from behind then he wouldn’t notice you grabbing the ball. Sarah was able to eventually get the ball away from him.
In the over excitement of showing friends everything that she had got, our friend Heather locked our keys in the trunk of our rental car. Thankfully this wasn’t much of a problem as the car was a rental from Avis and we had full coverage for any emergency. We called the emergency telephone number and before not too long someone came to get the car open. We weren’t too sure how they would get the keys from the trunk, but he started to pry the driver window open with what looked like a small pump. When he had a sufficient gap he inserted a thin metal rod and attempted to prod the trunk release button, eventually he hit the button, the car alarm went off and the trunk released. We got the keys, turned the alarm off and Heather’s embarrassment subsided.
Have you ever wondered where spies like James Bond buy gadgets when they aren’t supplied by Q? Whilst we were going around the streets of San Francisco we spotted a spy shop. If you are international man or bear of mystery then you know where to go for the latest in spying technology.
This is a picture of one of the guard towers at Alcatraz. I can imagine with that many prisoners on the island that they would spend hours in the tower looking over the bay and at the prison which they over looked. The wind was very strong whilst we were visiting which took the temperature down several degrees. It would be very cold in the winter with the breeze through the bay.
I could not believe the number of seagulls that we saw on Alcatraz. I got to the point where I was looking at a pair and thought that they had to be plastic because they weren’t blinking and were standing perfectly still, and then without any notice they few off to the water. I suppose with Alcatraz being an island they are surrounded by water which must be plentiful with small fish.
The Alcatraz prison is high above the water on the island and there is a long winding path down to the water and the ferry. The island is now part of the Angel Island State park which you can see behind us in the distance.