Friday, May 30, 2008

Off I Go Again!

(Hard to see, but the yellow dot on the map is where we are heading)

The bags are packed, the batteries are charged, and the car is gassed up. All is left to do is drop off Pargo at my parents' and we will be ready to roll. We are driving 4 hours southeast to Chincoteague Island this morning. On the agenda: bit of hiking, bird-watching, biking, eating, and LOTS of relaxing. This is our last planned trip for the next couple of months, until we leave for Disney World in September. I will make sure to document every moment.

Chincoteague, here we come!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

St. Louis Sight: Honorable Mentions

For the most of my 3 full days in St. Louis, it rained off and on. When it wasn’t raining, the sky was overcast. The weather, however, did not dampen my spirits, especially when I was in good company. My friend Seana took extremely good care of me and I can’t thank her enough.

This is Lily, Seana’s 6-month old Boston terrier. Lily is very charming and cute…when she’s calm and asleep on your lap. She also fetches and chases (2 things that Pargo doesn’t do). Seana may come to visit later this summer and I am looking forward in having the kids meet.

The Gateway Arch rises 630 feet above the Mississippi River and is the symbol of St. Louis, much like the Golden Gate Bridge is of San Francisco. The Arch is located on a big grassy area and we took a few pictures here. We also went beneath the Arch to visit the Museum of Westward Expansion. We did not venture to the top though.

Bit and pieces of the arch because my camera couldn't capture it all.

I don't drink beers, but we went on the Anheuser-Busch brewery tour regardless. I can now add beer-making to my knowledge bank.

The tour was roughly an hour long and ended with free beer. Since I don’t drink, I used Seana’s as a prop for pictures. This tour is definitely worthwhile, especially since it is FREE. Speaking of free, except for the Missouri Botanical Garden, all the attractions we went to did not have an admission charge. St. Louis is great for families; all the museums are hands-on and interactive.

The Missouri Botanical Garden is too beautiful for words. It is among the top three public gardens in the world, full of elegant garden designs and amazing sculptures. If I lived in St. Louis, I would get a membership and go there every chance I get.

The focal point of the Missouri Botanical Garden is the Climatron, which houses the tropical rain forest.

The irises are knee-high.

Being artistic with the beautiful landscaping.

One of the highlights of the garden is the Japanese garden, which is the largest traditional Japanese garden in North America. It is much larger than the Japanese Tea Garden I went to in San Francisco. On a perfectly sunny day, I think I can walk around the pond for hours, but unluckily, just as we were walking this part of the garden, the rain came.

The rain stopped by the time we arrived at the Chinese Garden, which is also my favorite! I especially like the gazebo.

This picture is totally posed- I asked Seana to sit in and look far away. She was great!

Details of the Chinese garden included several ponds, a bridge, and other Chinese-y landscaping.

The Forest Park is a gigantic playground full of scenic boat lakes, fountains, and bike paths. Not to mention an outdoor theatre, picnic areas, and athletic fields. On TOP of that, it is home to these world-renowned, free cultural attractions: St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri History Museum, and St. Louis Science Center.

Here is the Emerson Grand Basin, which, in my opinion, is the prettiest location in the park. The building in the background is the St. Louis Art Museum.

The St. Louis Zoo is top-notch. It is hands down the best zoo I’ve ever visited. Come to think of it, I think the only other zoo I’ve visited is the one in DC… But regardless, the St. Louis zoo rocks! It is beautifully landscaped and well-labeled (I knew what animals I was looking at). I had as much fun walking around as taking pictures of the animals. There are lots of activities, such as hand-feeding parrots, riding the tram, and catching a 3-D movie.

Ready for some animal pictures galore?

Did you name them all?

The St. Louis Art Museum is not terribly big, with only a few collections, which suited me just fine since I am not an art museum person. The only piece I remember now is the Monet’s Water Lilies – which conveniently I also took a picture. Honestly though, my parents had this painting displayed at home years ago and I always liked it. As much as I like bold colors, I like soft pastel colors just the same!

The Missouri History Museum overflows with fascinating objects from three centuries of St. Louis lifestyles. Truly kids-friendly! Seana and I started the routine of taking our pictures whenever we walked pass by a mirror. Check out our collection. what did I learn from the history museum? That at one point St. Louis was the 3rd largest city. Yup.

The St. Louis Science Center offers a universe of hands-on discovery. A real kids’ paradise! There were kids running and screaming everywhere. It was worse than Disney. The place was filled with science-based fun. Unfortunately, the sight of all those kids wore us out and we left for home to hang out with Lily pretty quickly.

The next 2 pictures are grainy because the ISO setting was set on too high.

My friend Yi-Ju was just asking me how tall I am in centimeters yesterday. I told her 166cm. Ha! I guess I didn't pay much attention at the museum . =P

The best part of St. Louis isn’t the fantastic places I visited, it is that in the midst of visiting these fantastic places, Seana and I squeezed in good conversations, shared laughs, “trained” Lily, and named her beloved GPS (which I must have one now) Lucy. :)

My most fond memory of the trip is simply the time spent with Seana and Lily. Funny story: So Lily was being rowdier than usual and Seana decided to teach her “no” by spraying her with lemon water using a spray bottle. It turned out that the little bugger actually likes to be sprayed and we ended up giving her a squirt of lemon water for good behaviors. Seana and Lily – looking forward to your visit and I will have the lemon water ready!

Related Post: St. Louis Food: Honorable Mentions

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

How Well Do You Know Us?

I stumbled across this crossword puzzle maker today and decided to give it a try. I love it! This would make a great game for bridal or baby showers.

In a matter of minutes, I created this small puzzle (click to enlarge and play). Easy peasy japanesey.

Ready for the answers?

Hope you have fun with it!

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

St. Louis Food: Honorable Mentions

First and foremost, while St. Louis is not one of the most exciting places I've ever visited, the hospitality I received was wonderful to the extreme. Seana - thanks for everything!

At the risk of sounding trite, the best way to explore a new city really is through its local flavors. This is especially so for St. Louis, where it is known for a couple of delicious foods. I am happy to say that I tried them all. On top of the 5 pounds I haven't lost from those cupcakes, I am blowing up like a balloon.

St. Louis Style Pizza: After picking me up from the airport and stopping at home for a bit, Seana took me to Main Street St. Charles. We walked the street from beginning to end and at the end of the street is Talayna's. Talayna's is a pizza restaurant, with sparse decor. We sat in a cozy booth and shared a St. Louis style pizza. The crust of St. Louis style pizza is thinner than the New York style. It's almost cracker-like. It was so delicious (everything was just right - right amount of toppings, the right amount of cheese - cooked to perfection). At home, we don't usually have thin-crust pizzas (less bang for your buck, per Luke), but this particular pizza we had that night was ridiculously good.

Toasted Ravioli: Oh. My. God. Much better than the Chef Boyardee variety that I am used to. Seana and I trekked to The Hill (the Italian neighborhood of St. Louis) at Zia's for this popular appetizer. We tried both the plain and the fancier seafood version. The verdict? Stick with the plain! The plain toasted ravioli is breaded, fried, and served with marinara sauce and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. Deep frying makes everything taste 1000 times better. So true. The seafood version wasn't as delicious (not fried), but definitely made a good breakfast the next day.

We wanted to sit outside, but the party steps before us took the last table!

From L to R - toasted ravioli, toasted seafood ravioli, the filling

St. Louis Style BBQ: Smokin' Al's is definitely cheap eats. Our lunch together was less than $15 and we got 2 meals out of it. The meat on the ribs fell right off the bones - so tender. The St. Louis style bbq sauce is generally tomato-based, thinned with vinegar, sweet and spicy. The meat is served with a generous amount of sauce, on pieces of plain bread. Another yummy meal!

From L to R - pork steak (a staple of the St. Louis style bbq), 4-bone, Seana

Frozen Custard: I first learned about Ted Drewes on the Food Network. This was really the only food I knew I wanted to try before I went to St. Louis (I didn't learn about the others after I got there). I was expecting the custard to be extremely thick, but to my surprise, the consistency was very much like ice cream. The server did an upside-down test and not a drop fell out. It was a great treat, but after finishing the entire cup, I still think it's very similar to just plain ol' ice cream.

I got the Oreo "concrete".

The shop was busy at around 4pm in the afternoon. Luckily, the line moved fast. Seana got the M&M "concrete". I asked her to turn hers upside-down to so I can get a picture. :)

Gooey Butter Cake: I am not a sweets person, but when in St. Louis, gooey butter cake is a must! Taking the recommendation of the nice lady we chatted with at the visitor center, we found Lubeley's. I didn't like the cake much, mostly because cream cheese is one of the ingredients and I am not a fan. The consistency is thick - like brownies.

The gooey butter cake is on the bottom row, in the middle. I bought a square for $4.99. Seana and I had a little bit the next day for breakfast, but I took the rest home to Luke. He warmed it up and ate it with crushed pineapples.

If you happen to find yourself in St. Louis, I highly recommend these authentic tastes!

Crash diet starts...NOW.

[+/-] Extra Sugar!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

I'm Leaving On A Jet Plane

But I will be back next Monday. =D

I am catching a 4pm flight to St Louis for a mini-vacation. The weather is looking promising and I can't wait to spend a couple of days just kicking back with my friend. Wish everyone a safe and happy long weekend! Needless to say, I will share all the pictures when I return!

PS. I am leaving Biggie at home because Luke won't be there to help me carry it. I want to enjoy the sights rather than worrying about the camera.
PPS. Get WELL soon, ahbow! :-*

[+/-] Extra Sugar!