Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cooking for the holidays

I am not sure what inspired me but I was really excited to cook for Thanksgiving this year. As I have noted in my previous entry, I think it is in my blood. It is a piece of my Grandma that lives on. I got busy and searched for some new recipes to share with the family.

I started with the munchies, ones that reminded me of our few winters in El Potero Chico. We would go into the market once a week. It was a treat. We would load up our packs with all the fresh fruit, veggies and treats that we needed for the following week. We would always load up on the avocados. That was the best part of the day, climb all day and call it early to go eat guac and drink Mexican beer. Oh those were the days! Besides the beer and avocados, I picked up something to satisfy my sweet tooth. There were always these bars of a sugar reduction and nuts. I found the best munchie to pull out of the pack at the crag were these misterious mexican sweetes, I later found to be a variation of pralines.

As I looked though our cupboards I came across a couple of bags of pecans from Bill and Betsy. So, what better way to use the but make the best part of pecan pie, the top. I whipped up a yummy batch of pralines. I plan on freezing the leftovers to have as a topping for muffins and such.

John and can live on chips and salsa. It is our staple food. It never gets old. I found a great recipe for a cranberry, cilantro, orange salsa. I have to say this was my favorite part of the meal. I would recommend this recipe to anyone. It is amazing!
Cornbread stuffing. Need I say anything after the word stuffing? Oh I guess stuffing drenched in gravy....
I also made some fresh cranberry sauce to round out the spread. I managed to eat most of that and make myself really sick.... who would of seen that one coming!
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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving feast

For some reason I am getting all mushy with thoughts of the holidays. Usually I have had to work in some trivial retail job where I have had to work through most of the holidays, rushing through the few hours that I spent with family. Now I have a whee bit of time off and for some reason feel the urge to celebrate the holidays. For several weeks now, John and I have been scouring the Internet, trying to find decent tickets to the Lone Star State or to Tennessee. We even considered traveling to Colorado to barge in on Corrie's newly remodeled cabin and the family there. Low and behold, flights are just too pricey for the holidays so we are going to hold off on visiting the Stiles/Simpson's until after the holidays. We will save some money but also miss out on the gathering of all the family. We are going to stay local for the holidays and enjoy Thanksgiving day with my parents. This means that we will have three whole days to get out and play around here (epic rides and some yoga for me!). Bonus!

My how times have changed. I have very fond memories of holidays spent at my Grandma Cronk's house. What a feast! I remember the spreads like it was yesterday. She must have cooked for days. She would always be cooking all kinds of meats: roasts, turkey and hams were always on the list, homemade rolls (my favorite part of the meal), yams, brussel sprouts and huge piles of mashed potatoes and gravy. Her favorite part was dessert so there were always at least five pies and a cheese cake. Oh the fond memories. There is no doubt that she has left a substantial mark on my life. I hope when I get to the point of having holidays at my house, they would somehow be as wonderful as I remember hers.

As we are on our way to creating our own traditions, such as tamales on Christmas, I feel that our family holidays can take on their own meaning. Now that I have a bit of southern culture in my family, our traditions are going to be our very own. In our simple little Thanksgiving, Dad is going to BBQ a turkey (by the way it is the best turkey I have ever ate!), I am going to make a cranberry salsa, cornbread stuffing, biscuits, and pralines. None of this is traditional fare for the Cronk's but what the heck! I am so excited!
As I now am so lucky to have such an absolutely wonderful extended family, new traditions I am eager to reach out to my family, all of them.

So now that I have experienced holidays in Texas I would say that my favorite thing I have had was a smoked turkey from Greenberg’s of Tyler, Texas—hailed by many the aristocrat of turkeys. This is a tender, smoky and succulent bird, so exquisite and renowned that even Oprah lists it as one of her favorite things. I highly recommend it.
I am so curious to what your holiday traditions are? Please share!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Christmas in November

Christmas came a bit early for John and I. Over the weekend John and had an adventurous little trip up to the suburbs of Canada and bought a bike.... Yes that is right .... another bike. I think we are pretty well stacked in the bike department. We could easily be great Norco advertisements as well. We pretty much own the fleet. We picked a great 2005 Norco Shore. It has some minor problems but overall in wonderful shape. The moment we brought it home, John tore it down and I am stripping all the paint off of it. I think I am going to leave it raw aluminum. It is going to look great! (I will post some pictures as soon as I get done.... hopefully soon) I can't wait for the spring and summer to roll around now, snow..... can I please skip this season? I want to ride my bike(s)!

Friday, November 21, 2008


As the holiday season draws near, as we bundle up in our houses through the winter season, make plans to see family, coordinate with friends and I cannot help but reflect on all that we have and are thankful for. As I am reminded daily on the perils of our economy and the moral of the country, I have so much to be thankful for. I won't ramble off my list of everything that I am absolutely grateful for (I can't help myself, just a few: my wonderful husband, Natasha, my family, a house that we can afford, my health, and a job). Yes, I feel so lucky to be in the place that I am right now as I listen to the radio and hear the doom and gloom that seems to be covering the nation like a fog blanket rolling in off the sea. I hope that everyone can find some joy in this coming holiday season, with food on the table, which is surrounded by loved ones.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Night Rider (not to be confused with Knight Rider!)

Never in my right mind would I ever imagine that I would add riding bikes at night to the list of my favorite activities. Here I am telling everyone the absolute fun and thrill of riding trail at night. It is a totally different playing field at night, depth perception changes, field of vision changes and as I have yet to understand why trails change. The trails seem as if I have never ridden them before, and I have never ridden them at night. John has taken me out twice this week and it has been incredible. I bundle up, layer upon layer, still worrying about how cold I might get ( last night, halfway up Cleator Road I had to stop and she two is not that cold pedaling up hill!). The views are totally different, instead if the view of the foothills, Baker or Lake Whatcom, I was treated with the city scape at night, twinkling and glowing. The nights have been clear so the stars were pristine to see. What a treat!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Face book took me hostage!

I was introduced to this little culture of Face book last week and now the site has me hooked. It has been a blessing. I have found long lost friends, neighbors, classmates and such. I really feel like an Internet nerd. It is just this easy way to stay connected to people who often move frequently for various reasons. So, if you haven't been sucked into it, Face Book is worth a shot; if you have, look me up (Michelle stiles).

Keeping things real and using my free time doing things besides sitting at my computer chatting through a laptop, I have been practicing Bikram Yoga several times a week. I started a couple of weeks ago with a girlfriend in hopes of recovering from my knee injury. Wow, it has only bee two or three weeks and I have seen dramatic results. Not only has my yoga practice improved vastly, I went in there with about 35% flexibility in m,y knee and very minimal strength. With yoga I was able to slowly build strength and mobility. I feel that I am back to a solid 75%, I really don't think that I could be at this level without yoga. Yeah, here I am singing the praises of yoga!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Soul Food

As I strapped myself back to the computer for one more day until the sweet weekend, I found this image on one of my favorite blogs and it made me happy. I know that John has had the same sort of wham bam week. What is more comforting than some good home cooking? What heals the heart, soul, the body from the ravage that the office can sometimes inflict..... comfort. Comfort can come in many forms. For me, I am going to become human starting this afternoon with yoga, followed by a weekend of good food, friends, and maybe even family!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Getting the word out

Today is a big day here at work. The project I am working on ( I won't get into details you can find them online: Rural Element Update) is holding the first set of public meetings. This project is in the "visioning" stage. We are trying to educate people on the topic tonight. It should be exciting! It is a great way for me to get out in the county, meet different people from around the community and network.

I just finished putting a survey on-line. If you live in Whatcom County it is worth filling out (it will only take 2 minutes..... what a breeze!), every one's input is valuable!
Take a survey! Click here!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Black-eyed peas continued

As I said last week, I made a pot of Black eyed peas. Mmmmm, they were great! I found the recipe off the frequented: Homesick Texan

Big pot of black-eyed peas
1 pound dried black-eyed peas
4 cups water1/2 pound bacon, chopped
1/4 cup bacon drippings
1 large onion, chopped
14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, such as Rotel, drained
4 garlic cloves, minced
3 jalapenos (pickled or fresh), chopped
2 teaspoons chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
Wash and pick over peas. In a large pot, mix peas with water and bring to a boil.Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.Add all other ingredients and simmer, covered, 1 to 1-1/2 hours or until peas are tender.

Last night I made the following recipe. My new favorite way to eat black-eyed peas (or any bean for that matter). Please try, I guarantee you will enjoy it!

Texas caviar
4 cups of cooked black-eyed peas (or 2 16-oz cans), drained and rinsed of all juice
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
1 tablespoon fresh oregano
1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 bunch cilantro, chopped
3 canned or fresh jalapeƱo chiles, chopped
1 can Rotel tomatoes or 1 ripe, chopped tomato
3/4 cup olive oil
Juice from one lime
1 yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
Mix everything together, chill for four hours. Serve with tortilla or corn chips.

Susan B. Anthony

"Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel...the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
Susan B. Anthony, Women's Suffragist

No puppies, just bikes....

It seems as if everyone around me are getting puppies . Not us! We are getting more bikes! I think we are trying to stay as busy as possible, avoiding the subject for the time being. I am going to live vicariously through Heather, who is halfway through her pregnancy!

Seriously, bikes.

I got back on my mountain bike yesterday. MUD! Mud in the ears! MUD! (I will share some pictures tonight) Bryan Dorr got a new (to him) bike this weekend so we went out far a ride on Galbraith with him. Another person converted. I wonder how much climbing we will get done next season? I confirmed my love for the trails yesterday. Which leads too....

My big news.....

I am not going to run the Chuckanut 50 km this year.......
I haven't ran in ages and don't see it happening at that level any time soon. I would rather ride my bike! If all goes well, hopefully I will have another bike to ride in the near future, I won't let the cat out of the bag quit yet or get my hopes up too much......

No puppies, ponies, bunnies, babies, just bikes.....for now

Thursday, November 06, 2008


My favorite artist.... My favorite artist....
For all of you experiencing the rain here in our evergreen state, here is a bit of color.
Please don't let the rains wash away our house!
What sunshine is to flowers,
smiles are to humanity.
These are but trifles, to be sure;
but scattered along life's pathway,
the good they do is inconceivable.
Joesph Addison

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Change has Come"

"Rosa sat so Martin could walk. Martin walked so Barack could run. Barack is running so our children can fly."

We just made history.

How increadible!!!

And don't forget how we did it. We made history every single day during this campaign -- every day you knocked on doors, made a donation, or talked to your family, friends, and neighbors about why you believe it's time for change. Thanks to all of you who gave your time, talent, and passion to this campaign. Yet, we have a lot of work to do to get our country back on track. One thing is very clear... All of this happened because of us.
"Tears flowed, not only for Obama's historic achievement, but because many were happily discovering that perhaps they had underestimated possibility in America."
"Presidential elections often reveal something about the nation's character, its temperament and state of mind. Many who are wondering how it happened that Barack Obama was elected president this season are also wondering what else they may be missing in their cities and towns and neighborhoods. Transformation rarely announces itself with trumpets. It usually happens gradually, over time, and then -- clang!-- a singular moment chimes the news. From its founding, the United States has seen itself as a special place, an example to other nations, a "city on the hill.'' With the election of its first black president, it can now begin to erase one of the stains on that reputation, one that repeatedly shamed us in front of other countries. "

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

This just in: Gone Votin'

Election day is here. What a big day for the United States. I am proud to say that both John and I have cast our ballots. I have called all my family members this morning make sure that they had dropped off their ballots. My Dad has even voted. Way to go!

I was listening to NPR this morning and got my daily dose of news. I was reminded that this was the longest and most expensive election to date. What is even more impressive to me is the fact that this might be the largest turn out of voters ever. That is astounding in this day and age. So all you who have not voted, now is the hour. If you have voted, good for you, call your friends and family, remind them to vote...

Look at all the voters lined up already this morning!

I had to go to Whatcom County's Courthouse yesterday afternoon to post some fliers for our upcoming public meeting on the Rural Element (Hey look, free advertising! If you are interested PLEASE come!) and stood in amazement by the hoards of people dropping off their ballot at the assessor's office and the drop box outside. Way to go Whatcom County!
I am not that well versed in the tradition of having black eyed peas and collard greens on New Year's Day for good luck and prosperity in the coming year. Probably because I grew up in the Northwest (not a bad thing I must add). So John has introduced me to the tradition from his southern upbringing. Here is my little twist to bring good luck and prosperity for this big day. I soaked some black eyed peas, this morning I got them starting to cook with some jalapenos, onion, ham hocks, and garlic. I figure that the smell that is going to be wafting from my house when we get home will bring peace to John and myself, and maybe smell so good it will travel up into the atmosphere and spread all over and bring some good fortune on this fateful day. Hey, it is worth a try!

And just to bring a smile!