Saturday, August 27, 2011


We spent Tuesday, July 5th visiting my husband' sisters (I never thought of this before, but all of his three sisters (and one brother) live around Detroit, Michigan. The other two brothers moved to Colorado and South Carolina.) We went to Hockeytown store but I did not made any purchase since I already had all the Red Wings stuff I needed! After lunch with P&M (my husband's youngest sister) and their son, A, (they live in Rochester Hills) we made a quick stop at a Polish Art and Bookstores in Troy.

Wednesday, July 6th - We drove from Detroit to Grand Haven. It is about 3 hours driving time. It was a beautiful sunny day, just like the image in the postcard my husband sent me when he tried to "trick" me into marrying him and moving away from NYC in 1988!

We walked along the boardwalk, stopped by "Pronto" and had our usual corndogs.

Grand Haven holds special memories for us because it was where we began our married life and where my husband bought and renovated our little 100+ years old home. The pace is no longer as slow as when we used to live on Franklin Street. There have been many new developments and changes, both positive and we-are-not-too-thrill about! The town still has the charm that draw tourists (mostly during summer time) and people who just love the quiet living.

Thursday, August 25, 2011


(One more post about my road trip on Lincoln Highway last July). Monday, July 4th - We continued on US 33, still in Indiana, after Goshen onto Ligonier, Kimmell, Wolf Lake, Merriam, then stopped for gas in Churubusco (say it three times real fast), passed thru Fort Wayne, New Haven and an almost ghost town of Zulu before entered into Ohio on US 30.

Van Wert was the first town in Ohio after we crossed the state line from Indiana. We did not stop and walk around town in Delphos so we could not tell you whether the town which bills itself as "America's Friendliest City" lived up to its reputation. I am sure it is very friendly. We will make every effort to find out next time we are in Delphos, Ohio.

It was July 4th weekend and most of the fireworks tents had good business, judging from all the vehicles in the parking lot.

After taking a few photos at the Van-Del Drive-In Theater located between Van Wert and Delphos, we got on Interstate 75 heading north toward Detroit, Michigan. We spent the night at my brother-in-law's home in Royal Oaks. It was good seeing J and his wife, B. They were busy preparing for their 2nd daughter's wedding in mid-September. Just listening to all the plannings and the cost involved, we did not feel too bad that we were not blessed with children of our own. Even if we were able to have children, we probably would spend their inheritance anyway!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011


The above sculpture, part of the program called Heart4theArts, was on display near the Old Bag Factory in Goshen, Indiana. It is entitled, "Rooted From The Heart".

Enlarge to see the words on the sculpture. Sadly, most of these are characters we don't see much in this world. Politicians don't care to listen to the voters who put them in the office and entrust them to serve and protect the rights of the American people. Then there are people who only want others to tell them what they like to hear, not what they need to know to do the right things for the country.

HONESTY, TRUST, HONOR, SERVICE are words we only find in the dictionary, not in how people behave or treat each other.

Watch out everyone, TOTA has turned into a grumpier geezer and it is getting worse by the day :)

Sunday, August 21, 2011


I went into a corner drug store and thought I could quickly get just one item that I needed, pay for it and get on my way. Only two customers were ahead of me but the line was not moving. There seemed to be problems with the check that was written or the price of the merchandise. (I am surprised that there are people who still write checks to pay for purchases.) I decided to practice being patient and calmly waited for my turn. I looked around and saw the above card. It reads, "Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints on your heart. Eleanor Roosevelt".
I thought of my favorite reflection "Footprints in the Sand". It is about a person having a dream, in the dream he looked back at events in his life and how he thought God has abandoned him when he saw there was only one set of footprints in the sand during the lowest points in his life. Then God said, "You are my precious child. I never left you. The footprints you saw were mine, it was then that I carried you and protected you in my loving arms." As a person of faith, I am reminded of God's promise and that I should have complete trust in Him.

I thought of all the people who have been true friends, continued to walk with me, their kindness, encouragement and continued support, have given me the strength I needed during the difficult times in my life. I am grateful for my godmother, MC, whom I met in 1980 when I was a newly arrived refugee. I did not speak much English but we immediately bonded despite the language barrier. MC and her husband extended their love and assistance to my family without ever asking for anything in return.
I thought of RJS, my former employer in Holland, Michigan. RJS is a man of great character. He was the owner and president of the company. He was respected for treating employees fairly and bringing out the best in each person. I admired his strong leadership and down to earth manners. He once loaned $300 cash to a Flo-Coat operator to pay his rent. RJS told the employee to pay back $50 a week after he cashed his paycheck. Later RJS explained that he wanted to protect the dignity of the employee without anyone knew that he had to borrow the money. That was almost 16 years ago and that employee still works there. I don't think we would find another employer/boss like RJS.
We don't have enough men with character and leadership like RJS in business world. I have seen too many people in management that behaves with a complete lack of integrity, and refuse to hold themselves to higher standards. I have seen people who engaged in behaviors that are shameful and discriminatory, and those who looked the other way, just to prove that they have the power to make or break a person's life by taking away their employment.
Who are your true friends? How many people have left their footprints on your heart?

Friday, August 19, 2011


We stopped by an Estate Sales last weekend. It was in the Ladue area. Google it and you will find that Ladue was named one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in America. It was a big house and there were a lot of expensive items in all the rooms. I often wonder what happened to the people who used to live in the house. Did they pass away or move into a nursing home and had to leave everything behind? There were items from countries around the world that the owners collected from their travelling days or given to them as gifts. I bought two notebooks, both brand new. It was marked $1.00 for the "Thoughts and Memories" and $1.50 for the green cover Journal. I flipped thru the blank pages and wonder whether the person was given these items or the notebooks were bought with the intention to write down the thoughts and memories after loved one passed away but somehow were never written down.
The sticker on the upper right corner explains "Journal - A special place to capture memories, thoughts, and feelings about a loved one who has passed.". The pages inside were empty, was it too painful to put into words or the journal was misplaced and forgotten? Whenever I looked at the clutter around the house, I wonder what my family or strangers from the estate sales company think about me when they sort thru the earthly possession I had accumulated. Would they question who I was as a person or they just mechanically decided how much each item was worth and not the memories that was part of my life? How do I want to be remembered and what do I want to say right now to those I really care about? Thoughts and memories are just empty pages at an estate sales. Don't wait - Write down now by living and filling the pages in your life each day to the fullest.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


Last week at a business meeting, I met a person who recently moved to St. Louis from New Orleans. I told her about my visit in May to the Big Easy and how much I enjoyed the town. For someone who is usually considered a "stuffed shirt", I sure had a great time moving to the music while walking around the Quarter.
Perhaps deep-down I am really a wild party animal who loves to drink, dance all night having a great time with no responsibilities whatsoever! I wonder if I was a talented musician, would I dare to live a carefree life as a street performer? I watched the lovely young lady playing her violin performing a classical music note (it might be Tchaikovsky) with an upbeat tune. I smiled when I saw her roller skates, another symbol of being carefree, fly away wherever and whenever she wishes.

The tourists gathered around and most in the audience was impressed with the little boy (below photo) making all the right gestures as if he was really playing the horn. Someone commented that the little boy was part of the act and that he was not just a passerby. I did not stay around to find out and I did not care to know if it was just an act. I was on vacation with my sister, and having fun watching the kid "performing" was good enough for me.

When I first came back to St. Louis, I could not stop talking (and posting) about New Orleans. I am still excited when talking about the town. Maybe because when TOTA was in NOLA, there was a lot of HAHA :)

Monday, August 15, 2011


We were driving to Hermann, along the Missouri River when I saw what looked like a giant ruler hanging vertically on the tree. My husband was very accomodating when I asked if he would safely pull over so I could take a photo. There were markers on the ruler but we could not figure it out what the numbers was supposed to be. Surely if the river rose and reached the top of the ruler, it would be more than 3.4 feet high. Would anyone who is an expert be able to provide an answer? Then I thought even if the river got up to 3.2, we would all be under water and it would not matter beyond that. I also thought with all the wickedness in this world, I am surprised that God has not already wiped out mankind from the face of the earth with another Flood. Maybe I should look around for Noah to ask where the Ark was supposed to be, just to be ready!

The Missouri River looked so calm yet deceiving. The water might be flowing gently, then I saw how swift the current was when it carried a big tree branch as if it was a little stick.

Saturday, August 13, 2011


Good thing nobody depends on me to bring them the latest news of what is happening around the country and around the world. Even when it comes to football and hockey, my favorite sports, I usually write about games or events that already took place a long time ago.The St. Louis Rams made history on August 13th with a win 33-10 over the Indianapolis Colts. It is the Rams' first home game. (Ok, I might be a bit sarcastic here - it was pre-season and Peyton Manning "blended into the crowd on the sideline" allowing the Rams a chance to shine!)

That was a good day of "hard work" for Peyton who just got a $90 millions = 5 years contract. The Colts will pay Peyton $1,125.000 per game, $281,250 per quarter (that is 15 minutes), $18,740 per minute but only $312.50 per second :). If you were a 35 years old Peyton Manning, would you turn out this kind of offer? As of me, I am very happy that the NFL 2011-2012 season started. Life is good and everything seems to make sense again!!!!

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Beautiful white cloud in the blue sky made our drive to Hermann in the T-bird (with the top down) so pleasant. The temperature was in the mid 80s which made it very comfortable while letting our hair blowing in the wind.

We know we should enjoy the comfortable sunny weather before the extreme heat wave comes back. Autumn will soon follow and the long winter will soon arrive (it is always long when you are confined inside because of the snow and freezing temperature). The bright side is only 55 more days until the NHL 2011-2012 season begins - are you counting?

Tuesday, August 09, 2011


A special thanks to Qaptain Qwerty for letting me know that the title of my post on August 4th had a typo.

The typo was "TOTO TURNS FIVE" - it should be 'TOTA", not "TOTO"!

Just to prove that it is TOTA in St. Louis and not TOTO in Kansas, I am posting these photos of the Arch and the sculptures around City Garden in downtown St. Louis.

I am not telling a lie (no long nose on my chubby face) and TOTA definitely is not a blog about some cute dog riding in a basket of a bicycle!

Sunday, August 07, 2011


These photos were taken in May when my sister and I visited the Butterfly House. CH had a great time there, especially when we watched the emergence of the butterflies. In this large display box, there were a number of chrysalises that were soon to emerge.

CH was very excited when we spotted the above butterfly nectaring from the flowers. Others such as Morphos and Owls take their food from rotting fruits (bananas) instead of flowers.

CH put her hands out so the butterfly would land on her palms. We were not supposed to touch the butterfly. If they landed on us, we would have to shake our body to get it off. The butterfly is very fragile that even the most gentle touch might hurt them.

Could you identify the species of all the butterflies in this post? Sorry, this is not a contest and there are no prizes, just bragging rights!

Friday, August 05, 2011


A few weeks ago, I started to visit a parishioner at a skilled care nursing home. I brought Holy Communnion to Mr. K on Tuesday and Thursday. The nursing home was about a mile from the Butterfly House. After my visit, I decided to take advantage of the beautiful day and took these photos.

You could read more about the Butterfly House at I took family and friends here whenever they visit St. Louis. Both my Mom and sister enjoyed the butterflies but they could not stay inside the Conservatory long because it is 82 degrees (75% relative humidity) to accomodate these tropical butterflies. (QQ, I did not take you there because it was a short visit and I did not think you would care much for butterflies. It is sort-of girlie thing!)Most of the butterflies are imported from Ecuador, Suriname, Costa Rica, Malaysia and the Philippines. There are no butterflies (or potato chips) from Brazil - haa haa (In the Peanuts, Lucy pointed to something on the ground and told Linus that it was a butterfly from Brazil. Linus corrected Lucy that it was a potato chip, not the butterfly. Lucy being bossy, would not admit that she was wrong, continued her "know it all" attitude and said, "It must be a potato chip from Brazil.")

The above sculpture was one of the 56 butterflies on display throughout the city from October 2010 thru May 2011. To see other sculptures I previously posted in this blog, search the label "butterflies". Or visit for information about this citywide project and the artists who created the butterflies. The sculptures were funded by businesses and also were auctioned at a gala that raised a total of $1.3 million for Pediatric Hospice and Palliative Care.

Do you have a Butterfly House in your city? If not, then be sure to visit the Butterfly House when you come to St. Louis or to Branson, Missouri :)

Thursday, August 04, 2011


I started this blog TOTA on August 4, 2006. I was in New York visiting my family and thanks to the technical assistance and encouragement from Qaptain Qwerty, I took the first step into the world of Blogspot.
My writing at the beginning was on current events, expressing mostly my personal views and "humble opinion". I tried to impress the readers with "intelligent" comments, quotes and cited "reliable" sources.
Later, again with the encouragement from QQ, I started posting photos and it went downhill from there. (It was a bad idea!) TOTA became more like a journal about what happened in my boring little world. I posted cheesy photos when I had nothing to write about which happens a lot lately :)
I admire bloggers who write regularly, especially the bloggers who post every day, no cheese photos but with words that are meaningful, with convictions of issues that they believe in and evoke thoughtful discussions among the readers. I don't often leave comments but I do enjoy reading comments from other bloggers.
I thought these photos are sort-of appropriate for this post about my 5th Blogoversary (I could not believe that I was able to Google this word - who came up with it? Should it be "Blogiversary"?) Both of these artwork are on displayed at SLU campus. The top photo of the smiling Billiken is fitting because it is a celebration that I have been blogging (or wasting my time/life) for five years. The sculpture below of a child riding the bicycle symbolizes this boring blog not going anywhere, not becoming well-known and definitely not making me any money!
Thanks again, Qaptain Qwerty for all your help. To my adoring fans and faithful readers as well as visitors (whether you visited once and never come back again), please accept my sincere appreciation for reading my blog and for putting up with my ramblings. I hope you have been entertained or perhaps you found this boring blog was helpful to your insomnia - haa haa.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011


I don't remember if the above sculpture was installed when I was at SLU in the late 90s. It is on displayed on the north side of the Pius XII Library. Call me "old fashion" but you would never find me sitting outside in such position no matter how desperate I needed a healthy dose of sun!

I will always remember the first time I walked up to take a close up photo of the above sculpture in front of the Simon Recreation Center. I almost dropped my camera on the pavement. You could either enlarge the image (it might be blurry) or use your imagination to make an educated guess what made me almost dropped the camera! I did not make the same mistake last week. Besides, I would not post the close up image of the sculpture anyway!

I thought the above scuplture "Caduceus", a symbol of the medical profession would have been more appropriate to be on displayed at the medical building/campus.

I always like the above sculpture. I think it has been there for many years. Next time I need to find out who the artist is.

The above scuplture reminded me of Huckleberry Finn. It might be a new piece or perhaps I did not see it when I was on campus a few years ago. Maybe it was raining the last time I was there and I had to walk/run quickly back to the parking lot.

The above and below are new (to me) and I like both of them.

This piece reminds me of my sister and brothers of our trips to the library and because we all enjoy reading. It brings back fond memories when we were in Viet Nam and the times when I used to read and explain the funnies in the newspapers to the delight of my sister and brothers who not yet learned to read. Also, I would give them lessons before they were old enough for regular schooling.


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