Monday, August 27, 2012


I did not see any dog in the car so I could not tell whether the plate was meant for the animal or the owner of the vehicle as a fan of the Bulldogs-the football team of University of Georgia!  There are many intepretations - "One Ugly Dog", "One University of Georgia Alumni Dog", or "One University Guard Dog".  (Admit it, you probably thought, "TOTA, you are so vain", when you first read the title - I am not ugly, I am beautiful - did you?) 
If you want to talk about being vain - this little dog sure had a big attitude.  When we first walked into the store (one of the many gift/souvenir shops along the boardwalk in Georgetown, South Carolina), the dog was "posing" with its cute face, big dark eyes looking straight at us.  As soon as I held up my camera to take its picture, the dog turned away. 
I thought the dog was being shy, but it turned its head again when I walked over to the other side.  I pretended to look at the items around the store while keeping an eye on "Mr. Fabulous".  As soon as I caught him in a "look at me, I am so cute" pose, I rushed over but I was not quick enough.  You could see from the photo below that he just lowed his head like as if he was searching for something on the floor.  As we walked out of the store, I turned around and saw that it went back to posing again!  

Sunday, August 26, 2012


Benjamin is back by popular demand from "millions" of comments and a strong campaign organized by Qaptain Qwerty.  It was truly a touching gesture to show Benjamin that he was not forgotten or tossed aside like an old toy!  Above is Benjamin at Stone Mountain Park in Georgia. 
Here is Benjamin (a bit dark/tanned from being out in the sun) before boarding the Great Smoky Mountain train ride.
Safer in number - Mitchell, Benjamin and JoJo "riding" along in the Mayberry patrol car.
 Last Friday (August 17th) I had another vertigo episode.  The first time I experienced this strange feeling of "spinning" was a little over 2+ years ago and the second time was early last year.  This time, the incident happened after a busy week with many meetings at work and also a few evening activities.  I was feeling fine up to around 3:15 p.m.  We had a 1:00 p.m. meeting and when the meeting was over, I got up from the chair and almost fell over.  No one saw or even if they did, they probably thought I was just being clumsy.  I managed to walk back to my office, but the dizziness combined with nausea and stomach pains continued.  I decided to inform my supervisor and then call my husband to come and pick me up.  Good thing CP was off that afternoon and just came home from a round of golf.  We called my family doctor on the way home and went straight to Doc, expecting the worst.  Of course, I felt so silly after the exam, Doc told me that it was just another episode of vertigo.  I kept apologizing for keeping Doc and his assistant working past 5pm on Friday.  When we got home, I was able to got rid of "lunch" or whatever that did not agree with my stomach and immediately felt better.  After a few hours of rest, the dizziness went away.  I took it easy the whole weekend, cancelled most of the plans and only attended the company picnic. 
I am pleased to report that we won a prize from the picnic.  It was a Cuisinart Countertop Cooking Slow Cooker.  The Crock-pot comes with a 6.5 quart oval ceremic pot, glass lid, cooking rack, stainless steel housing with cooking time display, timer control, indicator lights for cooking and warming settings.  A cookbook was also included.  I am ready to do some serious cooking - haa haa!

Sunday, August 19, 2012


Saturday, August 17th - After the "food fight" at the picnic, we went to 4:00 p.m. Mass.  I was surprised to see that the church was almost full.  We don't go to Saturday evening Masses often.  I especially don't like the 5:30 p.m. Mass.  I know we come to church to worship and I am not supposed to judge others on how they dress.  But I have seen some people who came to Mass looking as if they just woke up from an afternoon nap or came in from working in the yard all day, and some did not even bother combing their hair.  I am from the old school when it comes to traditional Sunday morning Mass.  I always feel less "holy" when we attend Saturday and Sunday evenings Mass.  Don't get me started on the summer dresses (those that are supposed to be worn only at the beach) or really short shorts worn by some middle-age women!  My rules of thumb is if such clothing is considered inappropriate at the office, then it should not be worn to the Lord's house. 
This is one of the many monumental rock formations at Rock City.  The brochure only mentions about the Grand Corridor but we "squeeze" thru a few narrow paths to get up to the observation point.  I wonder if anyone ever got stuck there.  Moving the rocks would not be an easy options.  The other options would be to leave the person there without food, only enough drinking water and after a few days, the person might slim down and able to wiggle out of the tight spot.  What would you recommend?  
Note to QQ - You have asked "What's with house of worship and double parking?  Ever heard of parking a few blocks away and walk from there."  I wholeheartedly agree with you that able bodies should park a few blocks away and walk because (a) it is a good exercise and (b) leave the nearby spots for those with physical difficulties.  I personally always try to park far away but not isolated area and walk to the buildings.  However, I know that most of the people who go to church are old people.  Whenever we go to 8:30 a.m. Mass or when I used to attend daily Mass, I was among the few "young" people there.  About double parking, I thought that is just everywhere in NYC, not just house of worship.  Let's hear it from other NewYorkers or those in big and crowded cities.  Here in STL, we never had such problems, especially where I live, always plenty of parking spaces.  So QQ, move out here and you never had to encounter double parking ever again!     

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Well, it wasn't Pat Benatar concert but Rock City, Chattanooga was an interesting place to visit.  I highly recommend it.  It was a "geological and botanical wonder" according to the brochure.  The ancient rock formations looked like a playground for a giant family to be jumping around, playing hide and seek among these large rocks/boulders.  The name Rock City was a bit misrepresenting because there were also plenty of plants, sky-high trees and colorful flowers.  Even though it was a hot day, as soon as we were in the shade with the gentle breeze, we felt 20 degrees cooler compared to being in the sun.
Today (August 18th) we went to a company picnic hosted by my husband's employer.  It was a typical event (started around noon) that included typical picnic food (hotdogs, hamburgers, chicken, BBQ pork and potato salad), attendance prizes (we did not win anything), games for the adults (washers tournament, bingo), 100ft races for the kids and the dessert contest.  My husband made his world famous apple pie but the chocolate cherry pie took the prize.

Last month when my husband told me about the picnic, we both thought, "who was the "smart" person that picked such a date for an outdoor event?".  If you've ever been to or lived in St. Louis, you would know the hot and humid temperature we have in August, especially mid-August.  With the heat wave we had since early June, we both expected a miserable day at the picnic.  We were wrong!  It was a perfect day today, sunny, mid 70s, low humidity.  All 300+ "associates" and immediate family members had a great time.  We left around 3:15 after my husband registered a complaint with the judges for their failure to recognize "greatness" of his apple pie! 

Thursday, August 16, 2012


We got a good amount of rain today.  Around 3:00 p.m., I could hear the wind was howling and looking out the parking lot to see the sky got darker each minute.  Then the rain started pouring down, pounding on the windows.  It was a good hour of heavy rain.  It stopped around 4:45 p.m. before quitting time.  Traffic on my way home was not too bad.  It has been pretty comfortable the last two weeks.  After the stretch of hot temperature and then thunderstorms almost every weekend, we have been enjoying comfortable weather in the mid 70s.  I started to go to the park during lunch hour to resume walking routine. 
These photos are from Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  We were there on Sartuday, June 30th.  From the high point of 2,389 ft,  we were supposed to be able to see seven states, Tennessee (of course, we ARE in Tennessee), Kentucky, Virginia, South Carolina, North Carolina, George and Alabama.  Seriously, I would like to know how anyone could tell where the state lines were and where exactly each state was supposed to be!
It was a very hot day but once we got up to the observation point, the views made it all worthwhile.  It would have been so nice if we could soak our feet in the water.  Or taking a bath under the waterfall :) 

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Everybody recognizes the giant panda, with its round shape, black and white fur, and black patches around its eyes.  Its image appears on signs and labels that identify many endangered species, both plants and animals, and it is itself a protected species.  This bear is native to central-western and southwestern China, and the Sichuan Giant Panda Sanctuaries, located in the southwest Sichuan province, are one of the few natural habitats to be protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
This is Lantern #11 entitled Panda's Paradise.  You could tell which bamboo is real and which is part of the display of the lantern.  I saw the real panda at the Bronx Zoo when my godmother took me there during a visit to her home on Pelham Parkway.  That was almost 25 years when I lived in NYC.  The 2nd time I saw the panda was last November (2011) when I visited my sister in Atlanta.  My husband never saw a panda.  When we went to Memphis last May (2011), we planned to go to Memphis Zoo (they have panda there) but could not fit into our schedule.  On our recent trip, it was too hot so we did not feel like going to Atlanta Zoo.  Seeing the lantern would be the closest my husband ever come to see the real panda!  Do you have panda at the zoo in your town?
Just a reminder again that the last day of the Lantern Festival is this Sunday, August 19th.  All the exhibits will be taken down and sent back to China.  However, the dragon at the front entrance will be on display until the Japanese Festival on Labor Day Weekend.

Sunday, August 12, 2012


Sunday, July 8th - It was a beautiful day and we decided to sit back and enjoyed this performance of folk music.  We even joined in when the audience was asked to create lyrics from their favorite colors and together everyone sang.  According to the brochure, some of today's music maintains a similarity to the 19th century styles dominated by fiddle and banjo, with a blend from varied influences.  The music was brought to the mountains from the early settlers and over the years evolved into distinct styles from diverse ethnic groups of European and African identities.  
Peaks of Otter community began in 1766.  There were 20 families in the mid 1880s.  Visitors came to see the abundant wildlife (we did not see any), the high mountains, and as hunting destinations.  For hikers, the area offers extensive trail system and three peaks - Sharp Top at 3,875 elevation, Flat Top at 4,004 and Harkening Hill at 3,364, for conquering.  The visitor center was closed so we did not get to see the exhibit of early life in the mountains and the development of the Appalachian trail.    
Saturday, June 30th - After Ruby Falls, we went to Rock City and slowly "hike" up to the top of Lookout Mountain.  The view from the Observation Point was spectacular.  With the help of the plaque at the base of the See Seven States Flag Court, we could only see where the States were just in general directions.  It was time for lunch so we sat down on the Cliff Terrace patio listening to the music, enjoying BBQ pork sandwiches and cold lemonade.  These are the New Binkley Brothers playing one of the songs on their CD, "Old Chattanooga" or was it "Ragged but Right"?  For a second there I got so excited that we were being entertained by ZZ Top but when I saw they were not sharp dressed men, I knew they could not be from the same band!

Saturday, August 11, 2012


Sunday, July 8th - We attended 8:30 Mass at Holy Angels Church in Mt. Airy, North Carolina.  It was Father "Zyandrewski" last day as he was being transfered to another parish.  We jokingly said to him after Mass that we could have made some pierogies for him if we did not rush to get back to STL.  Upon hearing about our road trip, a nice lady told us to be sure to stop by Mabry Mill at milepost 176 to see the restored mill and exhibits on rural life in Appalachia.  The Mill is one of the most popular gathering places anywhere on the parkway.  
The Blue Ridge Parkway Travel Planner stated that this century old gristmill is the most picturesque spot on the entire parkway.  Mitchell agreed. 
Ed and Lizzy Mabry built this mill and ground corn for their neighbors for three decades.  In addition to the mill, visitors could also see a wheelright shop, sawmill and blacksmith shop.  It was pretty crowded when we were there, so we did not try to watch the blacksmith demonstration and the ladies spinning or making baskets.

Tuesday, August 07, 2012


This lantern is about China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang.  I was suprised that the night photos came out rather good.  They were actually much better than those taken during the day.

Just a reminder that the Lantern Festival will end the weekend of August 18-19.  The last day to see the lanterns is Sunday, August 19th.

The First Emperor, Qin Shi Huang, unified China, enacted many economic and politial reforms, such as standardizing the currency and systems of measurement.  He also built an early version of the Great Wall of China, the Terracotta Army and the mausoleum they "guard", and an enormous road system.  But he was also superstitious, and as he grew older, he began to fear death, and sought a magic elixir that would offer him immortality.  For all his efforts and promises from those who took advantage of his human weakness, the emperor died at the age of 49!

Monday, August 06, 2012


Please say hello to "Mitchell" a latest edition to the TOTA family.  We found him all alone in the jungle (well, more like among all the other beanie babies in the gift shop) and Benjamin needed a little brother to play with.  Mitchell came along for the drive on the Blue Ridge Parkway and he told us he has always wanted to go up to the Top of the Arch - haa haa.  Mount Mitchell State Park is located some 33 miles northeast on the parkway and 5 miles north on NC 128.  Mount Mitchell is the highest point in the eastern U.S. standing at 6,684 feet. 

It was Saturday afternoon (July 7th) when we stopped for a break at Mount Mitchell State Park.  There was an observation lodge that houses a restaurant, a museum and small gift shop.  After 8 days of driving, sleeping in different beds every night, I was so tired that I just wanted a bowl of soup and a cup of coffee.  After lunch, we spent a few minutes sitting out in the observation deck wishing we had more time to really enjoy the breathtaking views.

Sunday, August 05, 2012


In previous post when writing about the "Four Corners of Law" in Charleston where tourists would find sweetgrass baskets for sale, I neglected to explain what the four corners of law was about. 
At this intersection of Broad and Meeting Streets stood buildings that represent God's law, City, State and Federal laws.  Thus, the term Four Corners of Law which was given by Robert Ripley, the creator of Ripley's Believe it or Not! show.
Top photo is St. Michael's Episcopal Church, God's law, at the southeast corner.  The church was built between 1752-1761.  Representing local law is Charleston City Hall, built between 1800-1804, at the northeast corner.  Charleston County Courthouse, at northwest corner, built in 1753 as South Carolina provincial capital, later rebuilt as the courthouse in 1796, representes State law.  The post office and federal courthouse at the southwest corner, representing federal law, was completed in 1896.  There you have it, the Four Corners of Law.
Note to QQ - As promised I got back to blogging this weekend.  (I wonder if the saying "absence makes the heart grow fonder" applied here with my adoring fans!)  I hope you appreciate all the "useless" information and cheesy photos from my recent Southbound adventure - haa haa.


Tuesday, July 3rd - It was a sunny morning in Charleston, South Carolina.  We decided to spend a few more dollars staying at a nice hotel that included full hot breakfast instead of the low budget motels that provide stale pastry.  It was comfortable when we ate breakfast in the courtyard.  Then the temperature started to warm up so we got on a sightseeing air-conditioned bus for a 90-minute historic tour instead of the self-guided walking tour.  The bus took us around downtown as the driver/tour guide pointed out beautiful mansions, famous homes, the Old Citadel, historic churches, and a stop at the Battery to view Fort Sumter.  The tour was fine but the tour guide kept making not-so-funny jokes and then when he laughed, he would make sounds as if he was spitting - yuk!   After the Trolley Tour, we went back to the Four Corners of Law (Broad and Meeting Streets) where the sweetgrass basket stands were set up along the side of the courthouse.
According to the brochure, the art of making the coiled sweetgrass basket was transported across the Atlantic by enslaved African people from the Windward or Rice Coast of West Africa.  When first appeared in South Carolina during the late 17th century, the first known baskets in the Lowcountry were fanner baskets used for winnowing rice.  The baskets were also used in the planting and harvesting of cotton and other crops.  Over the years, the sweetgrass baskets evolved from agricultural implements to household items, practical daily use to the current status of show pieces.  In 2006, the State of South Carolina named Sweetgrass Baskets the official state handcraft.
This is Sheila Taylor, the artist who created and signed the basket we just bought for $35.
Roadside basket stands began in 1930s and today, most of the roadside stands are found along Highway 17, just north of Mount Pleasant, or at the  Four Corners of Law and at the City Market in Charleston.  Important note:  When we first approached the stands, I was told that I could only take photos after I made a purchase.  I "obeyed" the rules but kept walking to the next stand where Ms. Taylor greeted me with a sweet smile.  I selected a basket, paid for it and took the photo of Ms. Taylor signing my very own sweetgrass basket.  One more important note: the large basket on the top row has the price tag of $150 or more.


Since I could not be in London for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, posting these photos from the Centennial Olympic Park which was the location of the 1996 Games in Atlanta would be the next best thing; well, maybe not.  I will admit that I did not plan my schedule around the Games.  I watched a few events and only pay attention to swimming and gymnastic.  One of my co-workers really "obsesses" that she watched the competition on her iPhone during lunch.  She would be "announcing" the winners throughout the day from her cubicle. 
We had severe thunderstorms, strong wind and heavy rain last night.  I was a bit scared of the lightning, especially when it rattled the windows.  After the storm was over, a stomachache kept me up all night.  There was no pain in the lower right side, nausea/vomitting nor fever, so it was not appendicitis.  My trusted hot-water bottle and a few cups of herbal tea helped.  I felt much better this morning.  It must be a 24-hour virus or just exhaustion (not sure what caused the exhaustion since I have little responsibilities at the new job, no kids, no pets and I don't even do any cooking at home - haa haa).  It is sunny and a cool 70's here in STL.  Have a good weekend ya'll :)


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