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What A Long Strange Trip It's Been
Thursday, 6 May 2010
Oh the games of youth
Mood:  chillin'
Topic: Ponderings

In my youth, before I was a teenager, summer fun at my Uncle Albert's house always included two outdoor games: Freeze Tag, and Flashlight Hide & Seek. My cousins lived in Culver City and at their house they had neighbors on either side and across the street who were always willing to join us. Between, my cousins, Tara, Sheri, Adam and Kelly, and the three or four neighbor children, and myself, we had a nice large group to play games.

The games were simple. Someone was always IT, and that person ran around trying to catch the others. In Freeze Tag, when IT caught you, you had to freeze exactly where you were and hope someone else who was still free could tag you and defrost you. This was the most difficult version, since IT had to then freeze everyone. There of course were variations of this, such as, if IT caught you and you were frozen, IT got to count to ten and if you weren't defrosted by ten, then both of you became IT, and set off together to get the others. That was one variation, another was if IT counted to ten and you weren't defrosted by someone else you were defrosted automatically and then became the new IT. Regardless of the version, Freeze Tag had a well defined area of play, the front yard of my cousins' house, including their drive and the connected driveway of the neighbors to the West, from the brick flower boxes that defined the front porch to the street. You couldn't go further than that or you lost and were automatically IT.

Now, Flashlight High & Seek did not have a boundary, and the person who was IT had to keep their flashlight on all the time during the game. When IT found a hidden person, that person joined with IT to become a team. The Team IT then sought out everyone else to find the rest of the hiders. Team IT would grow until there was only one person left, and the last person found won. The second to last person to be caught was the new IT. This meant there was strategy in hiding. You were not allowed to move hiding places once the game started, and Team IT didn't have to tell you how many people were apart of it. You had to assume if someone was walking around with their flashlight on, they were IT. Occasionally, Team IT would split up, and send out one person with the flashlight on to ‘flush out' the hiders, tricking them to reveal themselves. This usually happened when there were only two hiders left.

Let's say you were hiding and you saw the flashlight. You cannot necessarily see who was holding the flashlight. If they were alone, you might come out of hiding and join Team IT so you won't be the second to the last one found and become the new solo IT. But, if they were tricking you, with all of Team IT hiding out of sight, and the "fake solo IT" coming around the corner by themselves and you pop out so as to be found to join the team, you could potentially walk into their trap and become the new solo IT. Yes, it happened often to me. My cousins new the best hiding places: behind the camper, in the garage next to the old beat up piano, under the deck setting near the Jacuzzi; it was very hard to find them. Occasionally, they'd head across the street and hide at Laurie and Timmy's house. Flashlight High & Seek never lasted very long though. We'd get two perhaps three IT swaps into playing and my parents would come out and say it was time to go home. Still, I'll never forget grabbing my flashlight before leaving home as standard equipment for going to visit my cousins on occasional Saturday nights in summer. Wink

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 6:26 AM CDT
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Wednesday, 5 May 2010
Growing Up
Mood:  sad
Topic: Ponderings

Growing up is not all that it is cracked up to be by any means. Looking back to the years of my youth, I couldn’t wait to grow up and be an adult. I can remember being in elementary school and figuring out that I would be 28 when the year 2000 came and it seemed so far away. Plans were made for what kind of wedding I was going to have, how many children I would have, what their names would be, all that jazz! Little girls do that, daydream about all the things they think are adult and special – grown up.


It wasn’t a happy event when I realized I was growing up. It was death. The first friend of mine to die was Mia Vandenheuvel. She wasn’t a super close friend like Emily, but I did consider her a friend. We had classes together in high school. We’d partied together. She and Chrissy celebrated my 15th birthday with me. She was a good person, a sweet girl, and her death was sudden, and made a tremendous impact on me.


We’d been out of school all of six months. I had come home from England to the total mess that was my mother’s life at the time and was between semesters waiting for the time to move into the dorms at CSUN, and waiting for Jack who was still in the army and stationed in Germany. I remember exactly the moment I learned of Mia’s death. The phone rang. I ran to get it in my mother’s bedroom on her Princess phone. It was Emily. She told me that Mia had died in a car accident; Erika and Brian had survived thank goodness, but from all accounts, Mia died while she was asleep in the back of Brian’s VW van and never knew what hit her.


I cried for two whole days. I was in shock. Mia couldn’t be dead! How could such an alive and youthful young woman be gone? I went to the funeral and sat near Nigel, and held Robin’s hand. She was nearly hysterical – she had known Mia all her life. I sat there in the mortuary chapel just stunned and unable to think what to say to her parents. I could hardly speak myself I was crying and sniffling, filling tissue after tissue.


What does someone say to parents who have lost their only child? How do parents deal with such as loss? These were questions I was not equipped to handle at this moment in time. I couldn’t focus on anything but the overwhelming sense that a tremendous inequity had occurred. No matter what I did or said, nothing would change. No amount of condolences or soothing words would ever fix this situation. This wasn’t a boo boo this was a life that had been snuffed out, and an emptiness Mia’s parents would deal with the rest of their lives.


Her casket was purple, Mia’s favorite color, and her portrait was there, and she looked as beautiful as always. It hit me; I’d never see Mia again. Class reunions would come and go and she’d never be there. I’d have all my plans for my wedding, and my children. What about Mia’s plans? She’d never get married and have children, or go to college, or – anything. Her time was over, at a time when he adult life had just begun.


This was the moment I truly realized I was growing up. I realized that plans like I had made were really pointless because your life could change in a moment totally beyond your control. Being grown up was having to deal with these sudden changes, no matter how painful or life changing. I’ve been an adult since January 1991, when I truly lost my innocence attending the funeral of my friend who didn’t deserve to die.

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 6:26 AM CDT
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Tuesday, 4 May 2010
Did you ever have a fort...filled with Barbie dolls?
Mood:  cheeky
Now Playing: Hog Wild Pit BBQ Commerical - run away!
Topic: Ponderings

One of the great memories I have from childhood was playing with my Barbie dolls. I know it sounds strange, especially if you know me now, that I played with Barbie dolls, but I did. Most of my Barbie dolls were hand-me-downs from my cousin Stacee. She's four years older than I am and so grew out of her Barbie doll age just when I was really coming into mine. I had a few dolls which weren't from Stacee - Donny & Marie, and Cher were mine, as well as a new Barbie that came in her satin dark pink spaghetti strap dress with pink and silver boa. I also had three of my mother's dolls - an original Barbie from 1959, an original Ken (with the plastic brown crew cut and zipper pants), and an original Midge with the flip hairdo.

Playing with them was made all the more fun by not having a Barbie house. Yes, that's right, by NOT having a Barbie Dream Mansion. I had to use my imagination and create a house for Barbie. I had furniture, but I didn't have a house, so I created one, actually I created many. Some people build forts outside up in a tree or something - not me. I built a fort in the house using the couch cushions, my blanket (yes, like Linus), and our encyclopedias in our front living room of our house on Hargis Ave. It was pretty much the same fort I built every time. Five large bottom couch cushions of the scratchiest 70's plaid material ever! I can't remember a time we didn't have those couches, and I remember that we got rid of them when my parents divorced, and we had to sell the house on Campbell Drive and move in 1986, so those couches moved from Newbury Park and all over LA before they were gone, and I had plenty of time to make forts out of their cushions - and boy did I.

My forts also incorporated the couches themselves and our round coffee table and the two seven foot tall bookcases. The Encyclopedia Britannica and some other set of encyclopedias  were my primary building blocks as they were all the same size, heavy, and relatively sturdy standing up on end. It was like a couch cushion fort and house of cards all in one - cards replaced by encyclopedias. I had to have a big place for my Barbie dolls because I had so many hand-me-downs. All in all, I had over 15 dolls, upwards of 20 - not all of them the blond Barbie. Many of them were different versions of Barbie, like Malibu Barbie, and of course her friends Skipper and others. This one doll had the top of her head, her scalp, on a swivel. When you spun her scalp around, one side of it was long blond hair, and the other side was dark brown hair. It was pretty cool, and pretty creepy.

Of course, if you've owned a Barbie, you've probably broken a Barbie. I had two with missing arms. These were the first Barbie dolls that had swiveling arms and waists. Well, being enthusiastic about making Barbie wave, I snapped her arm off. Oh, well, now with a broken arm, she became Punk Barbie. I cut and dyed her hair (dye being permanent marker). I used hairspray and scissors and my broken arm Barbie had a Mohawk tout suite.  Nothing like broken arm cripple Barbie becoming a punk, safety pins included. This Barbie didn't want to live in the couch pillow fort though, she insisted that mansions, even if they were made of books and couch pillows were too Bourgeoisie, thus, punk Barbie had her own ‘pad' in my Dad's super large boot size shoe box. Which of course she vandalized all over the walls with punk-like sayings, and spurned the couch pillow fort and the spoiled Barbie dolls within who lounged in green & pink furniture luxury. Of course, Donny, Marie and Cher all got their own place together so they could sing and ice skate in peace without all the Barbie and Punk Barbie drama. They had their own pillow fort on my bed, and it was super groovy since I had a psychedelic patchwork quilt as a bedspread - well, Cher liked it anyway. Laughing

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 6:22 AM CDT
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Monday, 3 May 2010
The Purple Club
Mood:  chatty
Topic: Ponderings

If you know me well, you know that I love purple. The color purple has always been powerful for me and I've loved every shade of purple since I was very young. The moment I moved out of my mother's house, away from the pink nightmare that was my room, I made everything purple and black that I owned.


In the 5th grade, I was attending Walgrove Ave elementary school and had Ms. Scott as my teacher. I didn't have any super close friendships in elementary school which I chalk up to a few things.


  1. I started at the school in 2nd grade rather than starting in Kindergarten because I attended Montessori School
  2. I didn't live in the immediate area of the school. My grandmother did, and my mother used my grandmother's address so I could go there rather than attending Shenandoah Elementary. At the time we lived on Hargis St. off of Robertson right near Hamilton High School, but my mother wanted me to go to Walgrove. So, I didn't get to play with anybody after school in the neighborhood around my elementary, and thus knew none of the children in the neighborhood where I lived.
  3. When I finally did make close friendships, my mother moved me to another school. Alison Banks and I were close in 2 and 3rd grade, but then I moved in the middle of 3rd grade to Braddock Elementary (which I hated). I was only there for like two or three months and then my mother put me back at Walgrove.
  4. I was different because I had special reading classes to address my dyslexia.


Anyway, there were a few people I liked and got along with and shared common interests with in elementary school. One of those who I bonded with was Tyeshaia Donaldson. She loved purple as much as I did. So, we made "The Purple Club". She said something to me about purple when I wore it in fourth grade for our class picture. I wore a purple turtle neck which I just loved to pieces. It was one of the only purple pieces of clothing my mother let me have. I remember it clearly. We were playing foursquare and it was rather warm, and I was wearing the purple turtleneck. I was getting hot and sweaty, and she asked me why I wore the turtleneck on such a hot day. I told her it was the only purple thing I owned and my mother let me pick my own clothing for the first time for a class picture. I immediately had chosen the purple turtleneck without a second thought it was going to be 80 degrees or more. Tyeshia had laughed and said she understood and that she loved purple that much too.


Well, Tyeshia and I started "The Purple Club" and we wore purple every Thursday in 5th grade. It was really cool to bond with someone, and I am sure we would have become closer if my mother didn't remove me from Walgrove and send me to Westminster Academy in the 6th grade. My mother wanted me to back to private school and had found Westminster for my 6th and 7th grade years. She also didn't want me to go to Mark Twain Jr. High, but to Marina del Rey Jr. High. It made for very broken relationships in my early years jumping around to all those schools.


Montessori - Kindergarten & 1st grade

Walgrove Elementary - 2nd & part of 3rd

Braddock Elementary - part of 3rd

Walgrove Elementary - 4th & 5th grade

Westminster Academy - 6th & 7th

Marina del Rey Jr. High - 8th & 9th

Venice High - 10th- 12th


Due to all these jumps in schools, I met a wide array of people, and really didn't bond with friends until 8th grade. Kim, Emily, Stacy, Chrissy, Lisa - these were my first close friends I bonded with at Marina. Still, I'll never forget Tyeshia Donaldson and "The Purple Club" we started together back in 5th grade. She'll always have a special place in my heart.

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 6:27 AM CDT
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Sunday, 2 May 2010
Accidents I've Had
Mood:  bright
Now Playing: South Park Season 3

Here I am, getting older, and finally the scares on my knees from my horrific accident in the summer of 1986 have faded to the point they are hardly visible. It's only been twenty-four years!


It was summer of 1986 and we lived on Campbell Drive one block east of Centinella, two blocks south of Washington Blvd. I had decided to take a computer class at Venice High School (VHS) between my 8th and 9th grade years to learn something about these new gadgets. Hearing that VHS had an Apple iic computer lab, I thought it would be cool to get to play on computers. Computers were still new, and we, of course, couldn't afford one. One family we knew had a Commodore 64 (the Barco family) and they brought it to our house once and it seemed neat. So, when the summer school schedule came out for July 1986, I jumped on the opportunity to take the computer class.


To get to VHS, I had to ride my bike to the high school, which wasn't that far, but I had to cross several major intersections of traffic, right during morning rush hour traffic. I remember it was a particularly warm morning and I was wearing my blue Bermuda shorts to school. I hopped on my beach crusher and took off for school. At the intersection where Washington Blvd breaks into Washington Blvd and Washington Ave, I always had the most difficulty getting across the intersection before the light changed. Here at this corner was a hamburger stand called Gooey Louie's (yes, I named the hamburger at my fantasy restaurant after this place) and a large car wash. The curbs there are very high, and the sidewalks relatively narrow. At this point in time there was no way you could ride your bike on the sidewalk and make it off the curb to cross the street, so I had to ride in the street with the flow of traffic.


As the light turned green and I crossed Washington Ave to go down Zanja Ave towards VHS, I hear this voice yelling at me in Spanish. I didn't know what the voice was saying completely, I understood some of the words - mostly offensive ones, but it was calling to me in a taunting tone and was accompanied by whistles and an English word I understood, "Baby". Looking over my shoulder, I saw three Hispanic looking guys in a relatively beat up white pick-up truck. The truck was carrying gardening equipment, for I could clearly see a lawnmower, and a trimmer in the back of the pick-up. One of the guys was hanging out of the passenger window. He was the one yelling at me, whistling and making kissy noises at me. I tried to ignore the catcalls and continue riding on to school, but then I was grabbed.


Yep, the guy hanging out the window kind of grabbed/slapped at my butt and laughed. That threw me off balance and pushed me off my bike seat, my feet coming off the pedals. As I had a female's beach cruiser, there was no bar, and so I slipped off the seat and slammed my crotch down on the bar right above the pedals, my knees hit the asphalt and dragged a little. The pick-up then hit me on the front tire, and I flipped over.


The front tire of my bike was warped, and I was laying on the street, my bike still around me and bleeding. Did anyone stop? No. The guys in the truck took off and left me there bleeding. After a little bit, I picked myself up and dragged my bike and myself to school. By the time I made it to school, class had started and the campus was ‘empty' looking. I went to the office with my bike in tow and blood oozing down my knees. When I opened the office door and dragged myself and my bike into the office, the staff kind of freaked out. My mother was doing a daycare business out of our house at the time and couldn't leave to come get me. My dad was at work and couldn't be reached (way before cell phones). So, my mother called my uncle Albert who came and got me and my bike in his truck.


That was a scary situation but I got over it. It certainly made me very angry at catcalling, whistling guys, something I keep in me to this very day.


I've only ever been in one car accident in which I was driving. It was December 17, 1993 and I had stayed home from work because I was sick, yet it was a Friday, and thus a payday. Really needing the paycheck, I decided to go pick it up from the main office of Talent Tree Temp Services in Sherman Oaks. The sun was setting and I was on the way home cruising down Ventura Blvd. I turned onto White Oak, and then got into the left turn lane so I could turn left on to Burbank, all two blocks from my house. I was in the left turn lane and the light went from green to yellow, and then to red. As it turned to red, I turned left. I was stuck by a chick in a jeep that ran the red light. She was going over 50 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. Thank goodness I was driving a 1979 Volvo sedan and wearing my seatbelt. Volvo's back then were actually made of metal, and were super sturdy.  My car was totaled, but I was basically uninjured. I was sore from the accident where the seatbelt bruised me on my neck, shoulder and chest.


Her family tried to sue me, but when her father the lawyer called I told him that I was a poor college student with no car insurance, living paycheck to paycheck, making less than $700 a month. I told him to try and get blood from a stone! It was totally her fault, but because I was the one turning left, the police said it was my fault, even with witnesses right there telling them that the light was red. I sat there on the curb and listened to the witnesses telling the cops that I was turning and the light was red, and that the jeep totally ran the red. Oh, well. That was my first and last car accident.

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 12:18 PM CDT
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Monday, 26 April 2010
My fantasy restuarant
Mood:  chillin'
Topic: Recipes

My fantasy restaurant menu - breakfast and lunch served all day, dinner served after 5pm:

Breakfast / Brunch - all breakfasts served with seasonal fruit, and your choice of coffee, tea, or milk/soy milk.

Spinach, mushroom, and feta egg-white omelet with toasted Ezekiel bread

Canadian bacon and goat cheese egg-white omelet with toasted Ezekiel bread

Eggs Benedict

Huevos rancheros

Quiche Lorraine

Alison's Super Cinnamon Texas Toast with real maple syrup - powered sugar on request

Buckwheat Pancakes and fresh whole milk whipped butter with real maple syrup

Smoked salmon, capers, red onion, tomato and cream cheese on a freshly toasted onion, garlic or sesame bagel

Super Crunch Cereal - Mixture of Grape Nuts, Original Kashi GoLean, and California almonds, Crasins, fresh ground cinnamon & ginger, and fresh blueberries - choice of 2% milk or vanilla soy milk.

Lunch - all lunches served with seasonal fruit, and your choice of: Alison's Chunky Potato Salad, Baked Beans, or Tabouleh Salad

Alison's Sub Sandwich - 12" sourdough roll packed with hard salami, roast turkey, pastrami, yellow banana peppers, dill pickles, black olives, green leaf lettuce, sliced tomatoes, red onion, Colby/Jack Cheese, red bell peppers, alfalfa sprouts, mayo, mustard, extra virgin olive oil and crushed roast garlic.

Ortega Burger - ½ lb. Black Angus hamburger, Panela cheese, whole Ortega chili peppers, grilled onions with guacamole on toasted wheat bun

Gooey Louie Burger - 2 ½ lb. Black Angus patties smothered in grilled mushrooms, onions, and green peppers, topped with cheddar cheese, 2 pieces of bacon, lettuce, tomato, dill pickles, mustard, and horseradish mayo on a toasted Kaiser roll

Portobello Mushroom Sandwich - grilled marinated Portobello mushroom with Spanish goat cheese, and red wine sauce served on a toasted Cibatta roll, with savory mixed herbal greens

Foot long Polish Sausage with grilled onions and peppers on toasted sesame seed roll with spicy brown mustard

Chicken pita - freshly made pita stuffed with grilled seasoned chicken, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, kalamata olives, and feta cheese with red wine vinegar sauce

Alison's Spicy Tuna - albacore tuna mixed with Nam Prik Pao mayonnaise, cheddar cheese, green onions, and dill pickles, melted on dark rye bread

Comfort Food Combo - Grilled cheese on Texas Toast with Tomato Soup. Sliced Spam on grilled cheese upon request.


Wasabi Salmon Balls - steamed salmon, wasabi, and water chestnuts rolled in black sesame seeds, served with a soy & sesame seed oil green onion sauce

Sarma - rice and savory ground beef stuffed grape leaves served with tahini sauce

Baked feta stuffed grape tomatoes

Topig - vegetarian "meatballs" like falafel served with a variety of dipping sauces

Lemon & Leek Shrimp

Red wine marinated Portobello mushroom with Spanish goat cheese and apple slices on toasted pumpernickel rounds

Dinner - all dinners served with seasonal steamed vegetables, and your choice of: fresh garden salad, basmati rice pilaf, baby red garlic potatoes, or wheat berry & wild rice stuffing

Garlic & rosemary spit roasted Cornish game hen

Honey glazed stuffed pork chops

London broil - marinated for seven hours in the house specialty marinade of roasted garlic & various herbs and spices

Boereg - Armenian savory pastry filled with spinach, feta, and onions topped with tahini sauce

Baked stuffed eggplant - with pine nuts, tomatoes, red peppers, garlic, onions, and basil

Lamb kebabs - marinated lamb and assorted vegetables skewered and grilled

Phyllo wrapped artichoke stuffed chicken breast

Alison's Spaghetti Bolognese - hearty spaghetti served with thick Bolognese sauce made of ground Italian pork sausage, tomato paste, Cabernet Sauvignon and other secret family ingredients.

Lasagna LaPietro - vegetarian lasagna with sliced mushrooms, onions, red, yellow, & green peppers, olives, tomatoes, roasted garlic and zucchini in the LaPietro family's secret ingredient tomato sauce with five Italian cheeses: ricotta, parmesan, Romano, Asiago, and provolone.

Alison's Chicago Style Pizza - LaPietro family's secret ingredient tomato sauce, on Alison's own handmade pizza crust - your choice of toppings



Potato & Leek




Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 2:03 PM CDT
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Thursday, 11 March 2010
The blogger returns
Mood:  don't ask
Now Playing: "Shady's Back"
Topic: Reality

It's been veritable eons since I have sat down and really blogged. Why is that? Well, Facebook and DDO have been absorbing my time really. Honestly though, I wasn't blogging because I wasn't interested in sharing the reality of my life recently. So much has happened, where do I begin other than the fact that I have been trying to escape from it all into my fantasy world of Dungeons and Dragons online.

Mostly - things in my life are great. I have the most loving thoughtful husband in the world, and good people I call my friends who are standing by me through it all. Yet, what is this "all" I am talking about?

The economy has taken a tremendous toll on the Kansas State Revenue projections for 2010. I know that the economy is bad all the way around, but just today, Kansas City Schools announced that they are closing 28 of their schools to cut $50,000,000 from their budget and prevent their school district from going bankrupt. Things at Wichita Public Schools aren't so bad, but it isn't all sunshine, lollipops and rainbows.

USD259 is facing a $25,000,000 budget cut because the state can't afford to reimburse us what they are supposed to right now so they have lowered what they are going to reimburse us per child next year, which just so happens to start July 1, 2010. As I am a budget analyst working in the budget office, I am not only working on various issues related to this, but am working on the American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (ARRA) money that is helping plug the holes in the district budget caused by the State of Kansas' current revenue crisis. Stressful doesn't even begin to describe it.

Since September, the district has received nearly $25 million in State Stabilization Funds (SFSF) from the ARRA because Kansas State Department of Education (KSDE) could not afford to pay their portion of the district's General Fund and Supplemental General Fund (aka the Local Option Budget "LOB"). Just today I was working on a report that compiled just how much money the district received and how many full time employees (FTE) had their jobs retained due to this funding. It was shocking, but nearly $25M pays for over 400 people. If not for the ARRA funds for SFSF, 400+ people wouldn't have jobs right now.

Besides all that craziness at work trying to figure out all that needs to get done, Matt and I have been dealing with the prospect of unemployment insurance running out. Thankfully, he was hired on at TECT to do temporary work last week! That's only a four month guarantee. He's got feelers out there, and hopefully (fingers crossed) everything will go well with Spirit interviews/trainings/testing and he'll secure a full time job. Spirit is the parts supplier for Boeing Aircraft (used to be a part of Boeing or something) anyway, Spirit and Boeing work hand in hand on the Dreamliner and various other aircraft. For pretty much the last decade, we've (the greater Wichita area) have been waiting for Boeing to finally be picked for the new Air Force refueling tanker contract from the Pentagon. There was a huge scandal a few years back with Boeing and the Pentagon mucky mucks who award contracts, and then Airbus/Northrup Grumman was  awarded the contract which then Boeing challenged, and now FINALLY after what has seemed like forever, it looks like Boeing will get the contract. With that many planes to build, Spirit and Boeing have like 20 years of plane building on contract with the government. Enough time for Matt to work there a nice long time - we hope. Aircraft has been unstable for the last two decades, but was looking up in the late 90's. Then had a set back due to 9/11, and then started to rebound again...UNTIL...the recession AND THEN, the various comments made about CEOs and company planes by Washington DC people which then caused a HUGE crash in the private jet market. 12,000 people have been laid off in this area from the aircraft industry, and it is hurting.

Now, back in November 2008, I was pretty confident that we could live on my salary alone, and we have for the most part. We've put away more than 75% of what Matt made last year on unemployment and the few months of temporary work he did for TECT. I'm proud of our penny pinching. We now have a nest egg to fall back on should the need arise. Still, it has been UN-FUN to say the least, not knowing what the future might bring. I've watched houses in Wellington become vacant and go up for sale. The population of our town has shrunk by 500 in the last two years. The Apple Market grocery store closed two weeks ago. Taco Tico/Simple Simon closed months ago, as did Love's Gas Station. Now, Movie Gallery - the only video store in town - is closing its doors. Even the check cashing place has closed. Wellington has been dying a slow death since Wal-Mart moved in 20 years ago, but that only accelerated when the Super Wal-Mart opened two years ago Thanksgiving. The sad thing is that Wal-Mart is benefitting during this economy and all the small businesses in town are collapsing. It is depressing to drive by boarded up buildings in need of repair. I am wondering how long it is before Wellington looks like Flint, Michigan with vast stretches of vacant houses and store fronts.

What have I been doing lately though to try and keep out of this funk of the depressing economy? Well, I started knitting with ladies at work in 2009. I still haven't finished my first scarf yet, but that is more because I don't remember how to cast off and keep forgetting to take the scarf to work on Wednesday's for the knitting circle (aka Fiber Studies Class) we have at lunch.

I have also been cooking up a storm for friends and family. We have had three murder mystery dinners in the last year. I've posted two of them on my blog in the past, but just this February 13th we had a Roman Ruins Murder Mystery dinner. Everyone dressed in togas, except Matt who was in Roman armor. I researched ancient Roman cuisine for months and created as authentic a 36 BC meal I could create without actually marinating and fermenting sardines and mackeral in a clay jar for a month to recreate Roman garum. Yeah, we passed on that one at dinner! Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the food. Good news though, is I did take pictures of the friends in togas and such.

We hosted a "Welcome Home" party for a friend that was away on work related business for more than six weeks in late 2009, and I've started collecting copper tin lined jello molds for all the various salads, and neat baked things I make. I can't wait to try my mother-in-law Debbie's Tune Braid receipe modified to fit in the jumping fish mold I now own. Should be fun if I can perfect it in time for her and Ed's next visit - tuna braid shaped like a fish! I am also collecting more cooking and buffet / catering items for the future. I now have three full size chaffing dishes for a real wedding buffet kind of thing. Robin and Ronda (from whom I buy Pampered Chef items) have loved me dropping some dough at their parties the last few years - this past year being now exception. I opted for more Pampered Chef and no new clothing for myself.

I've really let the Christmas letter thing go the last two years. What was I going to say to people - Hi there, my mother's family is dropping like flies (Grandpa & Aunt Ardith in 2008 - Aunt Corrine & Uncle Harold in 2009) and oh yeah, my poor Grandmother is suffering from Alzheimer's? My father and step-mother's families are also dying off - my Aunt Adeline passed away, and my step-mother's brother died too in 2009. SIX relatives gone in two years!

Nobody really wants to hear about the real life of a blended family - do they? Kyle had a really rough 2008 when his mother got remarried to her high school sweetheart in August. He started acting out because he had no release for his anger. Is that Christmas letter worthy? He's better now, but we'll just have to wait and see how things go when his mother gives birth to his baby half-sister in June who will be 12 years his junior.  He's doing well with his percussion and loves video games and hard rock music - besides all that his voice is deepening, he's starting to grow a backbone and is sticking up for himself at school and has all A's except for one B in beginning band. Michelle seems to be taking all of this in stride, but she's quiet and keeps to herself. She's a straight A student with a charming whit and beloved by all - yeah, people don't want to hear that do they? She's an awesome young lady who plays the flute, knows the saxophone a little, loves to draw, is totally creative - she rocks. People read that kind of stuff in Christmas letters and they retch right?

My life isn't all doom and gloom though, seriously. My thyroid medication is doing its job and I've lost nearly 70 pounds since August 2009. Now if I can only get rid of intermittent Athelete's Foot! I do need new glasses. I've blogged a lot about my health towards the end of my last active session of blogging, but what's really been going on lately.

LIFE - the daily wear and tear of life. Paying State Income Taxes, watching my home filing pile up. Trying to figure out how to afford to have the house painted and buying a new car for Matt and for me! Wondering when the next email will arrive telling me my Great Aunt Mary Ann has passed away or when my Great Aunt Cecelia will go - both in their 90's and hanging on despite recent poor health. I'm getting older and I am watching it all happen, and I cling to Matt for reassurance, as the planner and rationalist in my hates uncertainty but knows that the future is always uncertain, and thus you plan for everything you can plan for just in case. I HATE to worry, but it seems like that is all I do anymore. Who is next to die, who will I need to take care of in the near future, who will need what from me when? Will Kyle need braces? What if Michelle decides she really doesn't want any - what will her partially straight teeth say about her in this society judges everyone by looks? Will she be excluded or looked over because her teeth aren't perfect - silly as it sounds, it has happened to people I work with, who have taken corrective measures to have their teeth fixed while in their 40's to advance their careers. I don't want that to be Michelle's fate, but what can I do - I have no voice on that matter.

See - these aren't things for an end of the year letter, and they sure as hell aren't things for a quick phone call shared between friends every few months. This is serious LIFE stuff that might see pointless even in this blog, but piled upon each other over months and months of other things even too sensative to mention here or on random Facebook status updates, it adds up to...reality...and it is pretty heavy. - Now - have I just lost my membership to the Secret Society of Happy People?





Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 9:49 PM CST
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Monday, 28 December 2009
Cocktail Party Success
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: Being Happy
Yesterday, my husband and I hosted a Welcome Home cocktail party for 19 people (10 adults and 9 children - although we had six no shows) for a friend who had been working in Seatle the last eight weeks. It was a huge success!

I worked my butt off yesterday. First thing in the morning, I went massive grocery shopping for all the fresh goods I needed including the flowers for the table and whatnot. Then I totted all of the groceries from the back of my car up the steps and into the house, put those away, and then cooked for no less than three hours straight. On my feet, running around like a chicken with her head cut off. I laid out a spread with a vast variety of food since I needed to cover ages 5 to 45! So kid friendly things abounded as well as decidedly adult yummies. Now, I admit, I purchased a great deal of things premade since I didn't not have the time or the help to make everything from scratch like I normally do, so Sam's Club was a tremendous boon for me. I'll post the pictures, but here was the cocktail party menu:

BBQ meatballs
Chipolte Little Smokies
Tequilla Lime chicken wings
Pigs in a Blanket
Mini CornDogs
Mini Quiche Florentine
Mini Quiche Lorraine
Three varieties of deli spirals / pinwheels
Bacon wrapped shrimp
Cheddar & bacon mini potato skins
Baked brie en croute
Bacon wrapped scallops
Mini chicken taquittos
Turkey pastrami wrapped around baby dill pickles with colby jack cheese
Hard salami wrapped around baby dill pickles with provolone cheese
A cheese board with a selection of four hard cheeses and a soft goat cheese
Fresh mozzarella balls marinated in olive oil with sundried tomatoes and basil
A vegetable tray with a bread bowl filled with sour cream ranch dip
Fresh strawberries and green & red grapes with creme fresh fruit dip
Roast garlic and various crackers
Roast garlic hummus and french bread
Hot buttered fresh popped - PopCorn
Cheddar goldfish crackers
Tang-pineapple punch (7up, Tang, Pineapple juice, lemon juice, and sugar)

Dessert table:
Triple chocolate carmel cake
Peach pie
Cherry pie
Pecan pie
Peanut butter cream pie
Rum cake
Cream puffs
Mini chocolate eclairs

The great thing about all of this was that I knew how many calories everything was since I was preparing it. So, when the time came to eat, I knew what I could eat based upon how much I worked my butt off earlier in the day. A minimum of three hours of cooking (my husband thinks four), breaking a good sweat, and all the walking I did paid off.

When I got up this morning, there was only a few ounces difference in my weight from yesterday morning pre-party weigh in! I did my best to not over indulge but I did eat a goodly amount of yummies - just not the ones I knew weren't worth eating for me that would slow my metabolism down. I drank at least six glasses of water over the course of food preparation and the party itself - that's low balling it - so all the sodium would flush out of me easily, and I didn't have one drop of the punch or alcohol.

I tracked everything I ate on My Daily Plate and MAN did I ever blow my calorie intake, fat intake - well of it except for carbs. YET, since I had such a work out with all the non-stop activity - I didn't include cleaning the house, setting up the table, dishes, etc - the Net Calories wasn't too bad.

So - what I am saying is I am proud of me! Still 65 pounds lost and none gained back! Life is good.

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 11:49 AM CST
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Thursday, 26 November 2009
Thanksgiving Menu at Chez Robbins
Mood:  celebratory
Topic: Recipes

Happy Thanksgiving everyone. Now I say that in the spirit of the holiday, not in the "Thanksgiving Myth" kind of way with all the fake crap about the Pilgrims and Indians that whitewashed history wants you to believe. Don't we all know the truth by now? Well, I am not going to rehash it today here on my blog.

Today I am going to share my lovely menu with you:

 De-bone whole roasted turkey with a thyme, rosemary & garlic butter rub

Stuffed inside that deboned bird will be a wheatberry stuffing made with whole organic wheatberries, long grain brown rice, and wild rice, along with celery, onions, carrots, and of course garlic. If you don't know what wheatberries are they are the grain that is harvested from wheat that are dried and pounded into flour. In this form they are super high in fiber and have a nutty taste and are extremely healthy for you.

Au Gratin Root Vegetable side dish - made from sweet potatoes, ruttabaga, turnips, parsnips, and butternut squash. I blend heavy cream and goat cheese for the gratin part. It also has various spices to it - I'll post the recipe with pictures later.

Lightly steamed green beans and yellow squash - no green bean mushy casserole or cream cheese corn for us this year! No kids - thus - healthy adult food. Matt actually sighed in some relief and said - "Please no green bean casserole" when I asked him if I should make it. So, lush green beans steamed and then tossed in a hot frying pan with a nip of olive oil and garlic before being served.

Of course we will be having my secret mashed potatoes and homemade giblet gravy. That's a given. Matt would eat nothing but mashed potatoes today if I let him Surprised Let him? Please! That's a laugh. Ten bucks says that IF there are left over mashed potatoes they don't last a single day in the refrigerator. They'll be eaten faster than I can blink!

Apricot and cranberry white wine sauce - this is not my typical sauce that I make, that's the red grape and cranberry sauce. No, this is dried apricots, dried cranberries, fresh ginger and sweet vermouth. After cooking on the stove top it comes out to be a nice chunky sauce that you actually put on the roasted turkey on your plate. This is not some chilled jelly that's more dessert than anything else. This is a celebration of apricots and cranberries and their lush flavor and general yumminess. So excuse me while I turn my nose up at that jelly stuff from the can cut into circles. Wink

 For dessert is my homemade tofu pumpkin pie - now don't turn your nose up on tofu pumpkin pie. You wouldn't even know if I didn't tell you, it tastes exactly the same. I've totally fooled people and converted many to this new classic. Here is my nutritional breakdown on my pie:

Calories Fat Cholesterol Sodium Carbs Sugar Fiber Protein
180 8g 5mg 196mg 19g 0g 2g 7g

The fat and cholesterol is because I am lazy and hate making pie crust and use a store bought dough from Pillsbury. But, if you compare my pie to Mrs. Smith's Pumpkin Pie, mine has 100 fewer calories, 5g less fat, 40mg less cholesterol, 190mg less sodium, half the carbs. 10g less sugar, and 2g more protien. So yes, my pumpkin pie tastes just as good if not better and is better for you nutritionally - so there to you Mrs. Smith's Tongue out

 I am also going to make stuffed portobello mushrooms as a snack to eat around two hours before dinner. Just cheese and onions stuffed into half dollar sized shrooms. Don't worry, I'll post lots of pictures.

Anyway, my pumpkin pie is in the oven right now, and I need to do some dishes before I take out my new mandoline and slice my root vegetables a perfect 1/8 an inch thick. I just love kitchen gizmos that save me work. Oh, and thanks Ed and Debbie for that microplane. It has saved me once again. I just love using it on my fresh ginger.

Happy Turkey Day to you all. I'd love to know what you are eating for Thanksgiving today.




Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 10:51 AM CST
Updated: Thursday, 26 November 2009 10:52 AM CST
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Saturday, 3 October 2009
It's a pound a day miracle for now!
Mood:  celebratory
Now Playing: Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison from The Concert for Bangladesh
Topic: Weight Loss
I weighed in this morning and lo and behold, I have now lost 32 pounds since starting my medication on August 28. The last couple of days my weight has been dropping at a pound a day. I'm thankful, but wondering if this is still water weight or what. How could I be losing weight so fast? I'm not questioning it in a bad way, I'm just wondering how this is happening. My husband is convinced it is my hormone replacement therapy, and I really am starting to believe it.

The South Beach diet is helping too, don't get me wrong. I am still following phase one pretty strickly even though I am past my first two weeks. I am really enjoying the food and tastes and don't miss anything - this was the way I always ate anyway - except the bread, rice, pasta and potatoes.

It was a challenging day yesterday. Our auditors threw a luncheon for us - Italian food. YET - no pasta in sight! It was chicken parmesan with either marinara sauce or cheese sauce, mixed veggies (potatoes, squash, green beans, cauliflower, broccoli), a tossed green salad (w/tomato, cucumber, red onion, red cabbage, shredded carrots) with Italian dressing. They of course had garlic bread and chocolate brownies, but those didn't even tempt me. So, I found the smallest breaded chicken breast I could (had to be about 4oz or less) smaller than the palm of my hand with the least amount of cheese on it and only a tablespoon of marinara (who knows what they put in that), so I felt that was okay. I picked all the potatoes out of the mixed veggies and didn't eat those. They served us on those paper plates with the three sections - so, I used the big section for my salad, one of the small sections for the chicken, and the other small section for a heaping pile of veggies. To drink was iced tea with either lemon or sweetner and I spoiled myself with half a packet of real C & H pure cane sugar *hums the little song from the commerical* "from Hawaii, sweetended by the sun". It was a very satisfying meal and I felt I met the challenge well.

So that's two 'restaurant' like meals in as many weeks that I have taken on and won! Yay me if I do say so myself!

Matt went grocery shopping yesterday as I still find it tremendously hard to go shopping even with skirting only the outside of the store. The bakery is the worst. It's not that I have bread cravings, I don't really, but the bakery at Dillons is next to the deli, and the artisan sourdough bread and rye bread call to me "Have a deli sandwich made, Ali - with lots of pepper jack cheese and pickles and mustard." Sandwiches are far and away my favorite food in the entire world. I am SOOOO like Joey from Friends. There are just so many kinds of sandwiches - Italian meatball, turkey club, good old ham and cheese - mmmm veggie sub with olive oil and feta! What can I say - that Subway diet by Jared looked amazing - but didn't work for me. LOL - who can only eat a dry six inch turkey sub? Please! Have to have mayo and mustard and olive oil and cheese and all that yummy delicious stuff - that or NOTHING.

So, I am going with the nothing!

Today, though, is going to be a delicious feast for the senses. Matt found two beautiful portobello mushroom caps the size of softballs at the store yesterday, and I have had them marinating in some Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon & chopped garlic since 6:30pm last night. Tonight when I cook them for dinner, I will be enjoying some very yummy mushrooms. I have some ground turkey left over and I am going to combine the wine, turkey, celery, onion, & carrots and some tomato paste for a Bolognese sauce that I am going to put over some spaghetti squash, and eat that with my grilled marinated mushrooms and some provolone cheese. I'm sooo looking forward to THAT!

Now I need to go get breakfast though, as I slept in for once, and it has been more than a half hour since I took my hormone pill. *Sings* "I'm so rumbly in my tumbly" - - la la la.

Posted by amiga/trippiehippie at 10:12 AM CDT
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