Friday, November 30, 2012


I am not as smart and talented, (let's not forget tall, dark and handsome) as the Qaptain, so I will not try to write a Haiku poem about the above personalized plate.  I will stick to idioms, popular sayings, everyday expressions which I am most interested inFor those who are not car guy/gal, "Pony" is the nickname for Ford Mustang.
Don't look a gift horse in the mouth = Don't find faults or be picky when getting something for free.  But I thought there is no such thing as free lunch.   
We were driving along, saw this beautiful horse and had to pull over to look at it.  The horse was so friendly that it came right up to the fence, perhaps it is so used to people stopping to admire its beauty.  It looked like it was following us when we started to drive away (below photo).

Don't put the cart before the horse = don't do things in the wrong order.  Politicians are doing a lot of this kind of foolishness and it does not look like they are going to make things better anytime soon.   
Don't change horses in midstream.  But if the horse keeps going backward, then I say it is time to let it go!
If you beat a dead horse, is it illegal?
Everyone time when I hear someone uses the expression "straight from the horse's mouth", I wonder if he is referring to Mr. Ed or another talking horse. 
How do you get off a "charley horse"?  Does anyone get "a chuck horse"?
Does the saying "Hold your horses" apply to you if you are holding the burros?
In Viet Nam, a woman who is promiscuous would be called "a horse" (dan ba ngua), an equivalent of being called "a slut"Why horse?  Perhaps because a wild woman is like an untamed horse.  I wonder if the horse was offended being used to compared to "a slut"!  

Thursday, November 29, 2012


Martha Stewart I am not, but lacking talents to be an expert in interior design did not stop me from trying to make the house festive by putting scented pine cones into a decorative bowl and placing it next to a ceramic pumpkin.  I bought another bag with larger cones and place them all around the house, near the fireplace, and under the artificial Christmas tree.  The cinnamon scent in the pine cones brings back fond memories of my grandfather's Chinese herbal store.  The traditional medicine consists of different parts of plants such as barks, roots, stems, and flowers.  These ingredients are put together based on the recommendation of the practitioner.  The herbs would be cooked in water to form a decoction.  To ease the bitterness in the medicine, a stick of cinnamon is added when cooking the herbal.  We also sell dried fruits coated in brown sugar to help lessen the bitter taste.  (In future post, I will share the story about my "entrepreneur spirit" by taking items from my grandfather store and selling them on the street, right in front of his business.)
Last Saturday, my husband spent the whole afternoon putting the ornaments on the tree in the family room.  We have enough ornaments for a smaller tree which we began to put up in the basement.  I wonder if QQ still has the Christmas tree from our visit in 2008 and whether he would decorate it for the holiday.

Yesterday we finally finished up the apple pie.  We still have about three slices of the pumpkin pie.  I will try to get extra exercise and more walking before the week of Christmas when we will once again succumb to all the indulging of eating (pierogies, pies, snacks), napping, and sitting around watching football games.  Then again, it is the season of joy - coffee and pie and the sweet fragrance of cinnamon scented pine cones is all I need to be happy!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012



On our returning trip from Santa Monica, we travelled eastbound on Route 66 from Golden Shores, California to get to Oatman, Arizona(At the beginning of the trip, we drove half of Route 66 and part highway westward and saved interesting attractions for the eastbound trip knowing the drive home would be long after almost a week on the road.) Along the way, we saw mining remnants of "once upon the time" prosperous times from the Arizona Gold Rush. The road to Oatman from Kingman is very narrow with several sharp hairpin curves.  No vehicles over forty feet in length are allowed on this road.  (I still have nightmare from our drive up Pikes Peak, Colorado, in the T-bird, seeing an RV coming toward us around the narrow curve!)  The elevation is only at 2,710 feet (830 m) but from these photos you could see that the long and twisty roads through the Black Mountains of Mohave County is a bit scary.  I don't know how many times I had to get out of the car, waited patiently while my husband took thousands of pictures of his precious Mustang because the scenery was so "magnificent" at every turn around the curves. 

Unlike Colorado, I did not see any "Falling Rock" sign as the road twists back and forth down the Black Mountains.  Oatman is definitely the most desolate yet thrilling stretches of the old Mother Road.

The old road on a breathtaking 2,100 foot change in elevation, steep switchbacks and 15-mph hairpin turns around the angular Black Mountains was a very short eight miles but at that time it felt like eternity, especially when looking down at "is that really the road" stretch between a large boulder and a steep cliff.
Since we are on the subject of cliff, I am sort-of paying attention to the discussion of the "fiscal cliff".  I don't have a total understanding on this subject matter.  Besides, it is too much of double-talk and "fuzzy math" depending on who is doing the talking or what "side" the person is onI did learn a new word "sequestration" from reading about the fiscal cliff.  Sequestration, according to an online article, "is a budget cut across the board on spending reductions for the entire federal government" includes cutting defense budget which some argues would put national security into jeopardyIt sure sounds like driving on that narrow twisted road looking at a large boulder and a steep cliff of the Black Mountains!

Monday, November 26, 2012


Looking over the images from our Route 66 adventure in July 2010 when we drove 4,437 miles of the Mother Road from Joplin, Missouri thru Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona (a side trip to Hoover Dam and Las Vegas in Nevada) and finally reached pier Santa Monica, California, makes me want to start packing to get "on the road again"!
This morning, it was in the low 40s when I left the house for an appointment with a career and employment counselor.  After the meeting, I walked over to the library and then to class to get ready for the presentation.  My classmate almost did not recognize me when we walked into the building together because I had the fleece hood and scarf wrapped around my face trying to keep warm.  It is supposed to get colder this evening and we might even get a few flurries.  The temperature was 116 when we were in Oatman, Arizona.  Perhaps looking at these photos will help keep me warm and less depressed!   
Oatman, Arizona is an old rough and tumble mining camp from 1915 to 1941It is hard to believe that back in its glory days, the town had two banks, seven hotels, twenty saloons and over 40,000 residents.  Since 1960s, the town became a Living Ghost Town with wild burros roaming and begging for food from tourists.  We noticed that most of the burros just stood in front of the shop and wait for visitors to feed them.  We did not see any re-enactment of "Wildwest" gunfights.  The current population is less than 100 people, mostly owners of shops that catering to tourists.
Back in 1939, this Oatman Hotel was a grand palace that was good enough for Clark Gable (Rhett Butler) and Carole Lombard (not Scarlett O'Hara) to make it a honeymoon stop after their wedding in Kingman.  Of all the hotels from those hay days, this is the only place still in operation.  There are about 40 gift, antique, souvenirs and native American craft shops, restaurants, saloons, and old time photo shops, lining both sides of the streetsOf all the towns on Route 66, I must say that Oatman is most interesting.  We will be sure to stop by again on our next road trip and stay a day or two instead of just passing thru. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012


Whenever I feel sort-of blue (disgusted, disappointed, discouraged, depressed, repulsed, sickened etc.) I try to take my mind off the situation by looking at images from our road trips.  It usually cheers me up thinking of the wonderful time we had.  Of course, as the saying goes, "you can't just bury your head in the sand", so I was forced to get back to reality!  It has not been easy since "The Day After" knowing the direction of our country will most likely be - steep grades and sharp curves ahead.  The worst thing is having an incompetent driver speeding down the cliff while the cheering continues from the blindfolded passengers.  The rest of us tried but unable to get off the bus.  There is no pleasure after the crash in saying, "We told you so" when we are at the bottom of the cliff! 
As a person of faith, I am comforted knowing that I must "keep on working to complete your salvation with fear and trembling because God is working in you to help you want to do and be able to do what pleases Him.  You are living with crooked and mean people all around you, among whom you shine like stars in the dark world" Philippians 2:11-15.
"Do not gloat over me!  Though I have fallen, I will rise.  Though I sit in darkness, the Lord will be my light."  Micah 7:8
Hold on tight for the next 4 miles of steep grades and downhill.  And don't blame me, I selected another driver!
(Photos from taken on I-70 in Colorado)  

Saturday, November 24, 2012


After almost two days in the house, I was ready to get out into the cold weather.  Since the shopping madness of Black Thursday/Friday sort-of ended, I thought it would be safe to run a few errands.  Traffic flows smoothly along the main streets and there is plenty of space in the parking lots.  I usually park in a safe spot, visible and under the light, far away from the front door.  I walked around the stores, not really looking for anything in particular.  I went to the library and was happy checking out a few books for pleasant reading.  Since started the certificate program, reading textbook and doing research for the weekly assignment took up most of my "free" time.  The class meets once a week on campus but class discussion/exercise requires additional research not only from reading required textbook (2-3 chapters each week).  It is an 8-week fast-tracked program.  Participation in group discussion and individual presentation is 20% of the grade, so forget about sitting in the back of the classroom or the excuse of being shy.  "TOTA, this is not high school or college undergraduate", you probably are saying.  My response to that is, "I prefer to have straight A even it is only a certificate program".           
It was sunny but chilly (in the high 40s).  After breakfast, CP was in the backyard working on repainting and a few touch-up on Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar.  It did not take him long to complete the tasks and we proudly display the Nativity in front of our house, a family tradition since 2007.  A few people from the neighborhood have complimented about our display and we noticed that cars driving by slowly to see our Nativity as part of the Christmas lightings tour.   
After the library and the grocery store (to get milk and a fresh load of bread), I went to a craft store to get a bag of scented pine cones.  Most of the people in the store was women, one or two men, but mostly there to either follow the wives around, carry the shopping basket or to keep an eye on the kids while the ladies systematically select the necessary items.  I am pleased to report that there was no fighting in the store over who put their hand on the important items first or shooting in the parking lots over a parking space.  The rest of the day I was in my cozy pajamas, eating, taking a nap and watching top-ranked and undefeated Notre Dame beat USC 22-13.  The Irish earned a spot in the 2013 Bowl Championship Series national-title game.  It was a good game and ND sure plays like a champion!   


(Above - Colo Motel/Niland's Cafe on Lincoln Highway, Iowa)  I saw the news about NYC ending gas rationing, nearly a month after hurricane Sandy visited.  The rationing system was implemented using the odd-even license plate numbers to cope with fuel shortages after the storm.  According to a reliable source from Bath Beach, as of last week, there was no long lines at gas stations and things were sort-of back to normal.  (Below - Mobilgas sign on Lincoln Highway in Nebraska.)
(Above and below - Newsberry Springs on Route 66 in California)  Ever since gasoline went above $3 a gallon, I usually fill up when my car has less than half a tank.  I read that Tuesday thru Thursday are good days to purchase gas as the prices would go up before the weekend when consumers do the most driving whether shopping or just going places.  Psychologically, I trick myself into believing that I did not pay too much for gas when looking at the total for half a tank of gas compared to "an arm and a leg" if I waited and pay for a full tank.  Furthermore, having a full tank of gas gives me a peace of mind should a major breakdown of supply from countries that produced oil or some disasters that prevented oil from being transported.
Watching the news about the long lines of people with gasoline containers waiting at the gas stations after the hurricane, I thought of how easy to have the simple things we take for granted all taken away in a blink of an eye!  I will remember not to complain about eating the left over turkey for the next two weeks, or the cold weather or even the gray hair and the wrinkle and definitely I will not complain about the NHL cancelled the 2013 All Stars Game!  At least football is still on ;-)  

Friday, November 23, 2012


I hope you have had a wonderful Thanksgiving with family and friends.  Did you see me among the "Black Thursday" shoppers standing outside in the rain waiting for the store to open?  Of course not!  I was comfortable in my Patriots pajamas watching Thanksgiving Day Football starting with the Lions v. Texans at noon, took a nap (nothing against the teams but I skipped the Cowboys v. Redskins game) and would not miss the Patriots v. Jets game for all the bargains in the world!  I woke up to the sweet aroma of apple and pumpkin pies on Thanksgiving morning.  CP was up at his normal schedule which is at 0500 hours to make the pies.
It was good to see church was almost full for the 9 o'clock Mass, especially it was not a Holy Day of Obligation.  It was optional and the people who attended Mass wanted to be there.  We know that we have so much to be thankful and we are grateful for God's blessings.  Everyone brought non-perishable foods (monetary also was accepted) to be donated to the food pantry.  
CP did all the cooking and once again did a great job with the turkey, green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, and gravy.  I was in charge of making the salad and cutting up the bread to put in the serving basket ;>)
We took these photos last month on our Sunday Drive to Hermann, Missouri.  A little church with the red doors in the country surrounded by harvested fields made perfect backdrop for the T-bird.

Saturday, November 10, 2012


I thought the above exhibit was a very special tribune to the American Soldiers, especially it was a Mustang! 


It is always a treat to find personalized license plates that are interesting, cleverly worded and as a bonus, the owners are either active or retired military personnel.  To these and all other servicemen and women, please accept our appreciation for your service.  Thank you and God Bless You and Your Family.

Saturday, November 03, 2012


He looks around, turns to me and asks, "Have you seen the remote?".  I said no and went back to my reading.  "I am so sick and tired of all the coverage of the hurricane," he continues.  By then I realized he wanted to watch something else and not the channel that was showing the aftermath of Sandy destruction.  There was no one else in the waiting area and even though I let him know that I was not interested in "chit-chat", he would not stop talking.  "Eastcoast people are snobs, especially New York," he comments.  I thought it was such an idiotic statement considering the region is suffering from one of the worst disasters.  It was not even a week since the hurricane went thru and this man already felt that the damaged area should be brushed off as if it was just a minor problem!  
I looked up to see who this heartless "bast@#&" was.  He looks to be in the mid 60s, casually dressed and probably is on his way to work.  The service department at the car dealership opens at 800, so people usually get their oil change, wait for it and then head into the office.  We made eye contact and that opens the door to more unsolicitated comments from the man (let's call him JA = Jack-Ass).
JA - "I always thought people from New York are rude and don't know how to speak properly."
TOTA - "Did you have bad experience while visiting New York?"
JA -  "No, I've never been to New York, just heard from other people.  I just think people in the Midwest are nicer and not crazy like those in the Eastcoast and the Westcoast too.  I lived here all my life and I would not move anywhere else." 
(I am actually glad to hear that.) 
Having lived in NYC for 10 years, I know it's true that NYers seemed to be in a rush to keep up with the city's frantic pace, the taxi cabs in the craziness of traffic and all the noise that makes normal conversation impossible.  But for this "JA" to make a blanket statement about NY without having been there and believe that people from the Midwest are all wonderful was simply the lowest level of ignorance.  I did not want to waste my time telling "JA" about all the rude and stupid people I have met since moving to St. Louis or in my travel in the Midwest.  There was no need to educate this "JA" that there are good/bad, rude/polite, honest/dishonest, etc. in any state/region/country.  I decided to go back to my studying for my midterm exam next week.
A woman walks in and the "JA" starts again, "Would you believe that they are still talking about the hurricane?"  The woman said, "It was so sad.  Those people need lot of help and prayers."
I took the opportunity and looked at the "JA", "My family is in New York and thank God everyone is ok."  The "JA" realized he has made an "@&&" of himself, mumbling, "I am glad your family is ok."
The technician came in to let me know that the oil change was done.  The woman said, "Have a good day" as I was walking out.  The "JA" was still busy looking for the remote to change the channel. 
(These photos were taken in 2011 during the Wings-in-the-City event,  The sculpture was named Born in the USA, on display at Plaze Frontenac.)    


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