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6.30.2007 - 41 comments 

First, I want to wish all of my American blogger friends a very "Happy Fourth of July!" Having said that, many would more than likely wonder why I would use this post for a Fourth of July post. But, if you think about what America is all about, and that it is a country founded on FREEDOM. I thought about what kind of post would show what America freedom and as the melting pot of the "world's freedom seekers" signifies and, while finding out about the story of these beautiful gardens, I saw a connection. Let's see if you see it too.

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is the type of Japanese garden known as a wet walking garden, although it has a Zen garden, or dry garden area as well. The Japanese Tea Garden was first developed as the Japanese Village at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, or World's Fair, which was held in the area that is now the Music Concourse. Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.

In case you don’t know, Fortune Cookies are about as Asian as pizza or spaghetti is Italian. Apparently, the builders of this garden, (the Hagiwara family), first served them at this Japanese Tea Garden. You can still buy them at the Tea Shop. Which is where we sat and relaxed with a cup of tea and some Japanese crackers and then followed by the famous Fortune Cookies.

Hagiwara’s descendants maintained the Japanese Tea Garden until the start of the second world war. At the time, America went to war with Japan, and had begun sending anyone of Asian descent into temporary internment camps. Without the Hagiwara family, the Japanese Tea Garden was not kept and fell into ruin.

During this time, it was renamed the Oriental Tea Garden. It was eventually reinstated as the Japanese Tea Garden in 1952, with more exhibits, including a 9,000 pound Lantern of Peace. As you exit the Main Gate you may want to take a moment to view the large stone with bronze plaque designed and executed by Ruth Asawa. The plaque reads "To honor Makoto Hagiwara and his family who nurtured and shared this garden from 1895–1942."

In Japanese culture, a garden is considered to be one of the highest art forms, expressing in a limited space the essence of nature through the use of specially-selected plants and stones. Often rocks and shrubs are placed to express a traditional symbolic meaning.

The photo that I have included here is just one of many that I took in this fantastically beautiful garden. It is of a Buddhist pagoda or "treasure tower" which had been moved approximately sixty feet to replace Hagiwara's Shinto Shrine that had been in the garden prior to its removal.

The Japanese Tea Garden in Golden Gate Park is the type of Japanese garden known as a wet walking garden, although it has a Zen garden, or dry garden area as well. The Japanese Tea Garden was first developed as the Japanese Village at the 1894 California Midwinter International Exposition, or World's Fair, which was held in the area that is now the Music Concourse. Golden Gate Park's Japanese Tea Garden is the oldest public Japanese garden in the United States.

By the way, if you are ever there and decide to enjoy the restfulness of the Tea in their Tea Shop in the Japanese Tea Garden, let me caution you... please bring cash, because they don't accept Visa, MasterCard or even American Express. It is a "CASH ONLY" operation and they mean it! The cost of not bringing CASH?... PRICELESS!

"Nothing is so contagious as enthusiasm." - Edward Bulwer-Lytton, English novelist


6.24.2007 - 65 comments 

To those of you who remember my post about the Jelly Belly® tour in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin a couple of months back, this post should not be a surprise. I stated in that post about my love for Jelly Belly's® and my desire to visit the ACTUAL Factory someday to see how they are really made. It should also be no surprise that I was like a kid in a candy store going through this factory.

The only really downside for me on this tour was the fact that they won't let you take photos inside the factory. (So as a result) I don't have those to share with you. But I do have the information that I can remember. I found that several people (especially those of the shorter variety with their parents) were just in the tour for the FREE Jelly Bellys® at the end of the tour. Can you imagine that?!

We stood in line waiting for the next tour to start, for what seemed like hours, but I think it was more like 15 minutes or so. The tour was given by a kind of young (20-ish) kid who looked like he took his job very seriously and when he said "NO PICTURES INSIDE THE FACTORY" I was afraid that he might actually take my camera away from me if I even tried to sneak a shot of one of the big old vats full of VERY Cherry Jelly Bellys®.

Before we even got the "NO PICTURES" talk, we were given these little paper hats to put on as we went on the tour. I am sure this was really a ruse to make you aware of the hat and not aware of the camera you wanted to use instead of wearing their silly little hat. But in spite of that... I brought the hat home as a souvenir too.

As we walked along the tour he would ask questions about Jelly Bellys®, all of which I happen to know the answer to (but only whispered to the lovely Mrs. LZ) who knows of my Jelly Belly obsession first hand. Although the only question that I didn't answer correctly was the one about how long it takes to make a Jelly Belly. I told Mrs. LZ it was 14 days. Well, the tour guide said 7 - 21 days, so I assume that not all the Jelly Bellys® cure at the same rate. I got the one about 4 calories per jelly bean, they started with 8 only flavors and I got them all right. All of which are still the most popular ones (although) I think he mentioned that buttered popcorn may now be in the top 10 and rising higher each year.

We walked along and saw these polished stainless steel mixers that looked more like cement mixers than they did candy making devices.The whole factory seemed to be just as clean as a whistle (of course) I would not have expected anything less from my favorite candy maker.

As we moved from station to station, we learned the chronology of the beans and about all of the natural flavors that they use for those. A rather cynical thought crossed my mind as I though about some of those new Harry Potter flavors that they have come up with over the last couple of years. For those of you that are NOT aware of those... let it suffice to say, "I've tried them... but if they did away with them, my life would not miss a beat!" But I am sure that they are all the hit with the pre-pubescent boys these days.

After we got to the end of the tour, our guide passed out bags of Jelly Bellys® and a little bag of JB's® which are very M&M® like candies only with the outside hard coatings of different flavors of chocolate. After that we were let out into the shopping area where there was not only a lot of Jelly Bellys® for sales, but also they had a chocolate bakery (really? yes... really)! They had things that looked much like pastries, but were actually made from pure chocolate of different flavors.

Then there was the cafe which served burgers and pizzas in the shape of guess what? Yea... that's right!... Jelly Bellys®. Cute, but really not what I came for. I had something a little sweeter in mind. The two story high walls with pictures of Jelly Belly and candy corn and other candies on it was also very impressive (and cute too)! The motorcycle with the side car in the shape of... yea you guessed it... a Jelly Belly®, was also very cute.

But the one thing that caught my eye, was the area where they sell the famous belly-flops (as they are called). They are the beans that for one reason or another, were not perfect. Some were 3, 4 or even 5 beans of the same flavor all stuck together, but most were just a little bigger than the perfect Jelly Bellys®. Frankly, I saw many that looked just fine to me, and they all tasted great, even if I didn't always know what the particular flavors were. As I was stocking up on these things, I thought, "will I have enough room in my suitcase for all of these?"

I am not much for more than one photo on a post, but I wanted you to be able to see this motorcycle and both the inside and outside of this place which "to me" may rival that place in Anaheim, California (with the Mouse) for the title of the "Happiest Place on Earth!"

"I have so many favorites, but the Strawberry Daiquiri was my favorite as a kid. It was total foreshadowing of a boozy young adulthood! I'll never forget the time I asked the girl behind the counter for 100 grams of Strawberry Day-queer-ee. She rudely corrected me, but I ask you, what sort of proper 10 year old knows how to pronounce Daiquiri?" ~ RubyRed ~ from a post on a culinary website (of all things) posting about Jelly Bellys®





6.17.2007 - 39 comments 

Well, like they say... "there is no place like home" and even though it is great to get away and be able to travel to beautiful parts of the world, it still always feels good just to come home too. Our trip was quite remarkable and even though at times I would have preferred a little clearer skies and a little less traffic, but all in all, it was still an incredible trip.

As always, I took a lot of pictures that I hope to share over the next several posts or so. But, this first post is of one on the most recognizable bridges in the world, that being the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. I took this shot from an area close to where the world famous Cliff House is located on Highway 1. It was a very windy day and the water was choppy, but I still like the fact that I was to be able to see almost the whole expanse of the bridge.

As for the history of San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge was completed after more than four years of construction at a cost of $35 million. It is a visitor attraction recognized around the world. The GGB opened to vehicular traffic on May 28, 1937 at twelve o'clock noon, ahead of schedule and under budget, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt pressed a telegraph key in the White House announcing the event.

The Golden Gate Bridge's 4,200 foot long main suspension span was a world record that stood for 27 years. The bridge's two towers rise 746 feet making them 191 feet taller than the Washington Monument. The five lane bridge crosses Golden Gate Strait which is about 400 feet, or 130 meters, deep.

Construction of the bridge took four and one-half years and the work began on January 5, 1933. The resulting span has been much admired for its magnitude and its graceful beauty. At mid-span the bridge is 220 feet above the waters of the Golden Gate; it is about a mile across and there is only one pier in the water which, incidentally, was built under most discouraging circumstances, as Engineer Joseph Baerman Strauss the bridge's builder could testify.

This pier is only 1,125 feet from shore; the distance between the two towers that support the cables which, in turn, support the floor of the bridge, is 4,200 feet. These two cables are 361/2 inches in diameter, the largest bridge cables ever made. Each cable is 7,659 feet long and contains 27,572 parallel wires, enough to encircle the world more than three times at the equator. Fortunately, solid rock was found at each end of the Gate and huge pockets were excavated in this rock to form a setting for the concrete anchorage blocks, each of which contains 30,000 cubic yards of concrete.

Among the engineering problems that had to be faced in the building of the bridge were those that arose from the exposed nature of any such structure, for it has to withstand winds and gales coming from the often far from peaceful Pacific Ocean. It was so designed that, in the most unlikely event of a broadside wind coming at it with a speed of one hundred miles an hour, the bridge floor at mid span might swing as much as 27 feet.

The Brooklyn Bridge, (completed 54 years earlier in 1883) and designed by wire rope patent holder John A. Roebling, was the first famous suspension bridge. It helped to define and add fame to New York City in much the same way that the Golden Gate Bridge has for San Francisco.

Linking San Francisco with Marin County the Golden Gate Bridge is a 1.7 mile-long suspension bridge that can be crossed by car, on bicycles or on foot. The toll currently on the Golden Gate Bridge increased to $5.00/4.00 FasTrak on September 1, 2002. There are no carpool lanes on the Golden Gate Bridge. But when you leave the city you don't have to pay, it is only when you are coming back into the city that the take the $5.00 from you.

Joseph Baerman Strauss (1870-1938), a distinguished engineer with many bridges to his credit, had dreamed of raising a span across the Golden Gate. One who contemplates his many activities realizes that Strauss was much more than merely a competent structural engineer, although he certainly was that: he was also a poet, a seer, and a man of vision and it seems that all these qualities sustained him in the fulfillment of his dream; it is equally certain that he had to live with the skepticism of his peers who kept repeating that “Strauss will never build his bridge, no one can bridge the Golden Gate because of insurmountable difficulties which are apparent to all who give thought to the idea.” ~ Stauss's contemporaries

Though Strauss only lived a year beyond completion of construction he disproved the conventional wisdom of his time.