Saturday, December 31, 2011


This is the last post of 2011 (I know I have been "cheating" with publishing posts that were "back-dated" but this is my blog and I "cheat" if I want to - hee hee). Since I ended the year in high note with photos from the Grand Teton, I thought images from Old Faithful would be sort-of like the "old man" fitting for the outgoing year.

A nice feature about admission fee ($25 per vehicle) at the Yellowstone was that it was good for seven days for access to both Yellowstone and Grand Teton. From the North Entrance, the first attraction was Mammoth Hot Springs. We briefly stopped to look at the Terrace but did not walk around and up all the stairs since it looked like it required a lot of energy. We did not even go into the Visitor Center there. We thought we should save our strengh for other points of interests. We continued to follow the directions to Sheapeater Cliff, Indian Creek, Roaring Mountain, Norris Geyer Basin, Steamboat Geyer and could not pull ourselves away from Gibbon Falls. Following Firehole Canyon, Fountain Paint Pots, Lower Geyer Basin, Biscuit Basin, Black Sand Basin and finally arrived at Old Faithful. We simply followed the path leading to where the crowd was. We could hear the hot, hissing steam rises from the ground when we got closer. Since you could see the steam from miles away, there was no point in fighting the crowd to get any closer.

There it was, the one and only Old Faithful, famous for its regularity and awesome power of "blowing" steam approximately 130 to 180 feet high, very 90+ minutes or so. (We did not try to set our watch based on Old Faithful eruptions. Not that we doubted its accuracy.) From any angle surrounding the geyer would be impressive views, so there was no need to be right in front, except if you are unable to stand, then there are benches you could sit down. You could also view the geyser activties from comfortable rocking chairs on the deck of the Old Faithful Inn.

Let's hope that Old Faithful will be as "faithful" in blowing steams for many more generations to come.

Friday, December 30, 2011


After the whole day (Wednesday, September 7th) at Yellowstone National Park, we again entered thru the North Entrance from Gardiner, Montana to get to the Grand Teton National Park. We were overwhelmed by the manificient jagged mountains rising 7,000 feet with the chiseled peaks touching the blue sky. It was postcard perfect views all around us.

The unparalleled majestic mountains, the limitless blue sky, wide open spaces, we were awestrucked by the views around. Even though all the guidebooks and brochures listed abundant wildlife that fill the wilderness, most of the wildlife we saw, from very far away, were large herd of bissons, a few antelopes, a couple of deer, but no bighorn sheep, elk or moose. We did not mind not running into any grizzlies or black bear.

There was a young man (late 30s) from Finland who told us that he travelled by himself. "Johan" picked up a rental car from California and was on a month long trip across America. He approached us asking if we could take his picture. He then returned the favor and took our picture. Then as my husband spent time taking photos of his precious Pony, Johan took off ahead of us. Moving on to the next observation point, we again took photo for Johan and he took photo for us. When we saw Johan standing next to his car at the next stop, I realized he was waiting for us to repeate the "ritual". I had to laugh after the third time, Johan handed his camera to us as soon as we got out of our car and without saying a word, my husband took a photo for Johan. Then we handed our camera to Johan and switched the spot where he stood so he could take our photo. After a few more times, we waved good bye and wished Johan a safe trip when he finally took off for good!

Not that I would ever do it but I thought it would be a once in a life-time experience to witness what would be beyond words to describe the view of the moon over the jagged peaks of the Grand Teton. Since this is the last "Friday Sky" post of 2011, I thought featuring the Grand Teton would end the year with a high note - haa haa

Thursday, December 29, 2011


The year was coming to an end. I thought I should write about all the great times in 2011. Sure, there were bad (the worst and the really ugly) times but I would rather remember all the good instead. Let's start with the 31st anniversary of my family coming to America (we arrived JFK International Airport in New York City late evening on January 10, 1980). We've sure came a long way since then. I was a 19-year old refugee with hopes and dreams of saving the world. This year, I turned 50 in February, with hopes and dreams of seeing all the Original Six home games! In April, Da Qaptain came to St. Louis to run the Marathon. The visit was short, but we had a great time (Qap was disappointed with the Marathon being cut to only half because of the warm temperature but let's remember only the good thing, eh?) The following month (May), my sister and I spent a few days drinking and dancing on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans - haa haa. My husband and I celebrated our 22nd Wedding Anniversary in June. He still tells everyone that I "dragged" my feet on the way to the altar and the floor still shows the "skid" marks from my shoes. He also says that it was actually my parents' idea (not mine) to walk me down the aisle because they wanted to make sure I would not change my mind. My parents could not wait to marry me, their 28-year old daughter off!

In July, we began driving a portion of Lincoln Highway from St. Louis to Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio with a detour to Michigan. Last year (2010) we completed Route 66 Adventure with a road trip that totalling 4,437 miles, all the way to Santa Monica Pier in California.
August/September were busy months with three weddings, all from my husband side of the family. A wedding in Houston, Texas in August and two weddings in September, one in Michigan and the other in Colorado. When attending weddings, since most people take photos of the bride/groom, the wedding party (the adults), I enjoyed capturing images of the kids, especially the flower girls (above). It was pure beauty as I watched the girls playing around, unaware of the ceremony and all the "fussing" the adults were creating.

In September, we continued our Lincoln Highway Adventure, driving from St. Louis to Iowa, Nebraska, South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah and to Colorado for the wedding in Vail. We drove a total of 3,838 miles. I was happy when we finally got home after almost 10 days on the road. But after a few days of rest, I was ready to be "on the road again"!

The above is the North Entrance into the Yellowstone National Park from Gardiner, Montana. We spent one full day at Yellowstone and another day driving thru the Grand Teton. We did not rush thru but there was so much to see that I wished we could have a whole week just driving around the parks. These were great times in 2011 and plannings are already in place for our 2012 road trips.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011


At a recent game, I noticed that as soon as there was announcement of the singing of the National Anthem, a man (about 60+ of age) sitting directly in front of us, got up quickly from his seat and walked out. I thought, "well, when you got to go, you got to go". Then at the beginning of the 2nd period, a serviceman who was on leave and his family were being acknowledged on the jumbotron. We stood up and applauded to show our appreciation to Sgt. Scott and to all the men and women for their service to our country. I looked around and saw that everyone stood up except the man in the front row. I thought, "well, maybe he has physical problems and could not stand up". The Blues finally scored to tie the game 1-1. The man, who walked out during the singing of the National Anthem and would not stand up to show respect and appreciation to a soldier, yet this man jumped up, clapped and shouted from the top of his lung. Five minutes into the 3rd period, there was a fight and this man again stood up, pumping his fists, yelling as if he was ready to jump onto the ice. I thought, "well, this man really has a mental problem". I leaned forward and spoke loud enough for him and maybe others around me to hear, "You don't get freedom and liberty from hockey players. Show respect and appreciation to our servicemen and women." The man turned his head half way toward my direction, then straighten up, turned back to the ice. I was ready to explain to that man about my comments that it is our servicemen and women who sacrificed their lives serving our country so he could enjoy the hockey games. It is the soldiers who deserved the respect and appreciation, not the hockey players. Perhaps this man should be sent to a country where he has to bow and pay homage frequently to the great leader, living in fear, only then he would appreciate the real heroes who provide freedom and liberty.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


I took these photos from Zoo Atlanta and even though the theme was supposed to be Tuesday Two, I thought images of these prairie dogs would go together nicely for this post. That was me (above) standing, with a grouchy face, anxiously waiting and expecting something to happen, dreaming about "the big break", talking about all the big plans but never put forward the efforts to make the big dream happen. Only talk, no actions.

That was me, still standing and waiting for the big break. Laying in the sand would be my husband, happy-go-lucky, easy-going person. No desire to be part of the rat race or climbing high up the corporate ladder. CP admitted that he was not an ambitious man and would never sell his soul to the devil to get that corner office. He said he already got everything he needs to enjoy life, a loving supportive family, friends who care about him and faith that sustains him thru difficult times in life. Every day is a vacation day, CP said. I wish I could be more like CP, learning to relax and laying in the sand, watching the world go by!

These prairie dogs must have a secret about being happy, not a care in the world and definitely know how to enjoy life. A group of tourists pointing and laughing and nothing would disturb these guys. I realized that everything I need to know how to be happy and to enjoy life is from these prairie dogs!


Sunday, December 25th - Since we attended Midnight Mass and did not get to bed until almost 2:30 am, we felt entitled to sleep in until almost 10:00 on Christmas morning. It was too late for a full breakfast and too early for lunch, so egg sandwiches would have to be. We stayed inside all day and rotated between meals, a short nap, snacks, and another nap. It was a good and quiet Christmas day, just the two of us in our own cozy little world!

Monday, December 26th - We went out to lunch with "Jack and Jill". After lunch, we invited them over to our house for cake and coffee. We needed help to finish the birthday cake (half a sheet) I ordered for my husband. We know J-J for over 15 years and they are in their 80s. I first met Jill when we sat next to each other at the same table during the fashion show sponsored by the Ladies' Club from our parish. J-J are more like our parents than friends. Jack was in the Navy during the Korean War. Jill was originally from Texas and she still has the "drawl". We got along real fine, J-J tell us about their grandkids and we share stories about our road trips.
It started to rain and then turned into light snow on Monday evening. At around 3:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a loud noise woke us up and everything went dark. (I thought these photos from Wildlights at the Zoo fit with this post.) It sounded like a tire was blown up. My husband went to kitchen window to look out the direction where the noise came from. The ground was completely covered with snow. He came back and told me that it looked like fireworks with sparks shooting up the sky from the power lines. He called up the power company to report the outage. We went back to bed, under two extra heavy blankets. The power came back around 6:15 a.m. (We rejoiced, just like the penguins in photo above and the kids in below photo, jumping for joy.) We got a message from AmerenUE telling us that the snow caused a tree to fall over a power line. I was happy that I would not be deprived of coffee and hot breakfast. Life without electricity would not be fun!

Sunday, December 25, 2011


It has been our tradition, the last 7 years or so, to attend Midnight Mass at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis (on Lindell in Central West End). We usually arrived around 10:45 p.m. to find "good seats". The Choral Program starts at 11:00 p.m. followed by Midnight Mass. The church was almost full but we were able to find two available seats. There was an old man who kept walking around looking for a family member. We chuckled when we heard the man whispering, calling out for "Mary, Mary". The usher finally approached the man and helped me find his "Mary".
The above and below images are part of the cakes I ordered for my husband's 53rd birthday. I ordered two cakes, one was delivered to his office the week before Christmas and the 2nd cake was picked up on the 24th, just in time for his birthday on Christmas Day :)

Both cakes had Happy Birthday, Christmas tree and decorations from the photos of my husband's pride and joy - the T-bird from our Route 66 adventure and the Mustang from our recent Lincoln Highway roadtrip.

*** Christmas Eve (Saturday, December 24th) was a busy day with making perogies. This year, we tried making a batch of cheese (sweet dry curd) filling instead of the regular mashed potatoes. We also made a batch of the traditional sauerkraut with mushroom. We decided to make only one pumpkin pie since we already had an apple pie the previous week when we invited Sister Roberta Anne and Brother Danny Matthew to the house for lunch.

We took a long afternoon nap in preparation for the Midnight Mass. Last year, it was almost 2:00 am when we got home after Mass. We enjoyed a nice and quiet dinner around 7:30 p.m. and opened our presents (another family tradition from my husband' side of the family) after dinner. My husband was disappointed that we did not have a white Christmas. The temperature was in the mid 40s and very dry. Personally, I don't miss the snow so a "brown" Christmas was just fine for me!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


Wishing you and your family a Merry & Blessed Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2011


Hearing all the reports about the snow covering the Southern Plains, part of New Mexico (Tucumcari), Arizona (Flagstaff) and Texas, made me think of our Route 66 adventure in July 2010. It was a wonderful road trip and we had beautiful sunny blue sky almost the entire 10-day, 4,437 miles from St. Louis, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona (with a side trip to Hoover Dam in Nevada) to Santa Monica, California and back to St. Louis. Looking at these photos, I am so ready for another road trip!

Santa Fe is filled with Old World charm and historical buildings. Above is the manificient Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. Construction of this Romanesque church with French architechs and Italian stonemasons, began in 1869 and continued until 1887. The Cathedral was elevated to a Basilica by Pope Benedict VXI in 2005.

A classic multi-story abode-style architecture, La Fonda Hotel (above) on E. San Francisco (off the Plaza) was called "The Inn at the End of the Trail". The current La Fonda was built in 1922. Trappers, gold seekers, soldiers, gamblers were regular guests at the hotel during the 19th century.

Because of tight schedule, we did not spend more time in Santa Fe. I wish we could stay the whole day/night and definitely attending Mass at Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. The whole city, compacted with layout of a mini-village, filled with gift/antiques shops, outlets catering mostly to women (i.e. assocceries and jewelries), and galleries.

We watched and gave a thumb up to the driver of the above firetruck as he skillfully maneuvered the vehicle around the tight street corner on the busy, crowded and narrow roads. I also noticed that all the three firemen were very good-looking. Not sure if physical appearance was part of the requirement/qualification to be selected by the Santa Fe Fire Department or the men were on the way to be featured on a TV commercial for the visitors and tourism bureau!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


I took these photos when we were in NYC last year (2010) at Thanksgiving. The workers were putting the final touch on the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. All the lights were strung around the tree, just waiting for the Lighting Ceremony which was scheduled after Thanksgiving. If we were still in town, we would have gone there to be at the ceremony but then again it would have been too crowded and we were too old to stand around for hours waiting, in freezing weather and after the ceremony trying to get thru the sea of bodies.
My husband still talks about how much he appreciated all the plannings I put together for his 50th birthday in 2008. I made all the arrangements from the flights to NYC (we got to the airport early and were able to upgrade to first class seats for only $100 each), to overnight accomdation at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel on Christmas Eve. After dinner at Oscar's, we walked to Radio City for the Christmas Spectacular Show. After the show, we walked to Rockefeller Center and then back to the Waldorf. The next day we attended Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral and then breakfast again at Oscar's. Good thing I made reservation months before the trip because the line was a mile long. People gave us the dirty look when we passed them, walked straight to the hostess, mentioned our name and were seated promptly. It sure was nice to have a little taste of how the people on the "right" side of the tracks live!
The above display was in front of an office building directly across from Radio City. I don't know if the lights would be turned on after dark.

I noticed that my posts detailing about our wonderful celebration of Christmas in New York in 2008 brought a large number of people from around the world to my little boring blog. There are visitors from places that I never heard of (due to my limited traveling and knowledge of world geography). Interesting places such as Sarmede, Veneto (Italy); Tirana, Tirane (Albania); and Brussels, Brussels Hoofdstedelijk, Gewest (a long name for a city in Belgium). I don't know what exactly trigger these posts to be included in the search engine. Could it be the excellent photos or my impressive writing? Well, whatever the reasons, thank you for visiting.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011


These photos were from last year when we attended a Chicago Blackhawks v. Detroit Red Wings game on December 17th at United Center in Chicago. The Red Wings lost 1-4. The tickets were an early Christmas present from my husband. A year later, I still have not accomplished my goals to attend the Boston Bruins, the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Montreal Canadiens homegames. (I have been to the other three of the Original Six - New York Rangers, Detroit Red Wings and Chicago Blackhawks.) There have been major setbacks and my piggybank is currently empty, so I just have to try again in 2012. Hopefully the sky won't come crashing down anytime soon!

Most of the Blackhawks fans in our section were rowdy but typical behaviors of being hockey fanatics. (Please note that I am not saying that all Blackhawks nor hockey fans were bad people.) It just happened that two individuals in the row behind us were spilling out "really stinky vocabulary". After 5 minutes of listening to the loud, almost screaming foul language, my husband turned around and said, "I am asking you to tone down your language. Maybe you are not aware that there are a couple of kids in the row in front of us. So please watch your language." What shocked me was a female voice and her comment, "This is hockey - the kids need to learn real life lessons." Only then, the father of the kids, a boy and a girl about 8-10 years old, turned around and tell these rowdy fans, "Shut your mouth or I will call security." The father then turned and thanked my husband. I questioned why the father waited until my husband, a stranger, stepped up before he being the father should have spoken up first being that those were his kids. The rowdy people quiet down and either they were removed by security or whatever happened, they never came back when the 2nd peirod started. The arena was loud and lived up to its name "the Mad House" but we had a great time, except a victory by the Wings!

Monday, December 19, 2011


"If we learned anything from Week 15, it's that anything can happen on any given Sunday or Thursday, or Monday", was the comment that was spoken by almost all the football analysts or the wannabe sport commentators like me. It was a mad, mad world in football last weekend and I will tell you what happened. The Colts (1-13) beat the Titans (7-7); the Eagles (6-8) ran the Jets (8-6) off the field with the final score 45-19 but the biggest surprise of all was the Chiefs (6-8) made history by handing the Packers (13-1) their first lost. Up until Sunday night, the Packers were undefeated, almost perfect season!

On Monday night (December 19th), the Steelers (10-4) lost badly 3-20 against the 49ers (11-3). Big Ben threw two interceptions in the 1st quarter and could not overcome his ankle injury. Of course, my beloved New England Patriots (11-3) won big (41-23) against the Broncos (8-6). I was torn between Brady and Tebow because I liked them both. I would not feel bad if the Broncos won - that would shut up all the anti-Tebow crowds!

On Thursday night (December 22nd), the IN Colts will face the Houston Texans. I don't know why they even bother playing since the Colts (1-13) definitely will miss the playoffs. (This entire season, they only won one game against the Titans). The Texans (10-4) already clinched the AFC South Division, so why take the risk that guys might be hurt. I am happy that the Lions (9-5), much improved this season, still have a chance getting into the playoffs being a Wild Card. Don't even get me started on the St. Louis Rams (2-12)!

(The photos above were taken at the October 30th game when the Rams got a surprise win against the Saints. The half time performance was from a local school band. The kids played well but I don't remember from which school.)


A Christmas card from my former neighbor in Michigan arrived today. Becky wrote that she has ended her marriage to Jeff. They got married the year before we moved to St. Louis, so that was 18 years ago. Becky did not provide the details and I am not sure if I would ask or wish to know. She wrote it was sad, painful but necessary. I plan to call her after the holidays since Becky went to visit her daughter in upstate New York. Just to get away, she said. Becky was born in Syracuse, New York. She moved to Michigan with her first husband and decided to stay after the divorce. I started this post a long time ago. After I posted these images, I could not find a good story to fit these signs, Road Ends, Road Closed, Road Closed Ahead. I often wonder it would have been nice if there were signs like these to let us know so we could turn around before running into dead end in our marriage, employment or relationships. We could avoid the heart breaks if we could see down the road that the marriage will not last or to avoid the potholes on the uneven paving when making major decisions. It would have been nice to know that a new supervisor from hell would be taking over the department after we accepted what we thought was an ideal job. Looking back, we all encountered these "road closed" signs. We have no choice but to turn around and find another open road. And that was good because at least there was an option. The end of 2011 is almost here, and another year is ahead. So if you face these road ends, road closed, in your life, just turn around and consider the new year as the open road for new adventure and opportunities.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


We drove around downtown St. Louis wanting to see all the Christmas lightings but were disappointed that the decorations were not what we expected. The above Christmas tree was nice but did not draw a large crowd. In fact there were no tourists around the plaza, only homeless people. Don't get me wrong, I am not putting down St. Louis. (My husband said that in a few years, I will be living in St. Louis longer than being in Viet Nam. Would I be more St. Louisian than Vietnamese? Could I still say that I am a NewYorker/Yankee? How about telling people that I am from Detroit when it comes to the Red Wings?) I will admit that I always compare any tree to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Is that why they say you could take a NewYorker out of New York but you can't take New York out of a NewYorker? What are the Christmas decorations in your town?

Friday, December 16, 2011


We have not been to historic downtown St. Charles since last August. Actually, we just drove around trying to find a parking spot so we could attend the festival, I think it was Festival of the Little Hills or something like that. After driving around for about 5 minutes and scanning all the parking lots without seeing one empty space, we decided that we were too old to put up with the hassle of looking for parking spot or taking the courtesy shuttle or we could walk from wherever we parked. So technically, the last time we were in St. Charles was in April when we were with Qaptain Qwerty prior to the St. Louis Marathon. These photos were taken from last Christmas (December 2010). I especially like the way the house (photo below) is decorated, festive and elegant.

We invited Sister Roberta Anne and Brother Danny Matthew to our house for lunch after Mass on Sunday. I have been busy making our house presentable (by now you should know that not only TOTA is a cooking-challenge person but also house-keeping and very domestic-challenge individual). I tried cleaning the sitting/family rooms by putting (hiding) the clutter in the basement storage space. I got out the fine china to set up the dining table. Planning was going well until my husband suggested that we should ask if the guests would like to stay and watch the Patriots v. Broncos game. I was not too thrilled about this. Why you may ask - have you ever watch a football game with a nun and a Franciscan monk sitting next to you? What am I suppose to say when Brady threw an interception, "Oh too bad" and not the big "S%$@"? Do I just say "Oh no" when Tebow got sacked and not "D&#!"? More about what happened in the next post ........

Thursday, December 15, 2011


I made a big mistake by going to the local grocery store that has a $5 off on any purchase of $50 or more. It is a saving offered on the third Thursday of the month. To make it worse, it is the 3rd Thursday before Christmas. Everyone was there not only for the monthly savings but also to get as many items as they think they might need for Christmas dinners. Of course, everyone also wanted to get the closest parking spot and when one driver pulling out, three vehicles were waiting to take his space. That caused traffice jam which prompted one person to press her horn and then another and then another. Finally, someone who looked like he was an off-duty police officer told everyone to calm down, directed the cars and got traffic moving again!
After the grocery store (all I wanted was creamer - got to have them flavored creamer for my morning coffee), I drove to the post office to drop off a few more Christmas cards. Good thing I was already slowing down after pulling into the parking lot because a van almost hit me head-on. I had enough room to quickly moved over. The driver of the van realized that she was going the wrong way when the person behind me rolled down his window, yelled out while pointing at the sign "Enter Only". She tried to back up but could not. So we all moved over to let her out - the wrong way! I want to tell everyone to calm down, stay away from the stores if you could and after you get home safely, have a large glass of eggnog!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


Last Sunday, we went to see How the Grinch stole Christmas! It was our first time at the Peabody Opera House since the grand re-opening this past October. Opened in 1934, the building was originally named Kiel Opera House. It closed in 1991 and after 20 years of abandonment, the House was restored to its glory with a price tag of $79 million!

When my husband first suggested getting tickets to see The Grinch, I was not too thrilled about being surrounded by 6-year old kids, or the back of my seat being kicked at or being terrorized by a group of 10-year old girls who sang along the entire show. Silly me - none of that happened. I am pleased to report that the kids, and there were many of them, were well-behaved. No one cried, no one talked and no kicking the back of my seat!

Inside was what I expected to see, the sleek Art Deco, crimson velvet curtain, bronze fixtures, elegant chandeliers and the marble flooring. According to the website, the theater has 3,100 seatings but I could not image that many people in one place. The seating is all new and wider to accomodate the current (increasing) body size of the audience. In addition to concerts and theatrical shows, the Opera House is available for corporate events, conferences, weddings and private events.

Entering the building, we noticed the distinctive overhead lighting, the gleaming marble on the walls and columns and the two grand staircases with ornate metal railings. Even the ticket windows look plendid with special ordornments. We enjoyed the show and definitely will be back for more as well as going on a backstage tour.


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