Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Remember the time...

Michelle ~ Hey John! Remember that time....

John ~ That time at band camp.....

Michelle ~ NO!

That time we were in Mexico.......

......walking back to our van late at night and got stopped by the police and I thought I was going to never see you again?

Yeah, Michelle I do, they didn't even take our money.

That little scare induced some wildly vivid dreams.

I can still taste the little mini bananas that we ate on the beach in Sayulita, they were the best.

That was the same beach that we were camping at and someone ran off with your sandals during the night.

We also watched men climb trees to pluck coconuts on that beach.

We even got married on that beach, that was kind of a big deal in our little lives. We bought your wedding ring from a street vendor.

We swam all the time while we were next to the ocean. We even swam off the beaches of San Fransisco just north of Sayulita.... where no one else swam.... because it was scary as hell.

Untitled by LadyStiles
Sometimes I think about getting us a little cement house in San Fransisco to go to in the winters. We could widdle away wet spring months learning to surf and eating tropical fruit.

How about our puppy dog of a friend. Gustabo. Crazy Gus.  He took us to some great climbing spots.
We climbed everyday.

Remember this tieda? Yeah you guys forgot me here. No biggie....

Do you remember the evenings we spent climbing up to Memorial Ledge in Squamish, drinking a beer watching the sun go down then hike through boulder fields in the dark back to the van, skipping dinner because we were too tired?

All those new and unxplored mountain biking trails in Squamish. I am really excited to get back there with you.

And Bellingham... oh Bellingham.....

Remember when we climbed every night after work?

Well you climbed every night.

I just stand around in climbing shoes because they feel so comfortable....

Captain Stiles!

We made the best of those long Pacific Northwest days.

I was so stoked for you when this climb went down. Phew!

Do you know that there wasn't a climb that you would back away from? You are incredible.

How about hiking up to Shannon Falls after a full day of climbing and getting two more pitches in because they are just that good.

We put in some long days together.

I can still feel the tingle course through my body with the vivid memories of jumping in the Skykomish River because it was too hot to climb the granite of Index. It may have been in the triple digits according to the mercury but that river was still glacier cold.

Do you know how proud I was to walk up to Cunning Stunt and be able to cruise up it? How about when you encouraged me to swap leads on G-M/Heart of the Country, and I did it, you know I felt like a rock star? Then Thin Fingers, maybe the best climb around that I have done. Then Breakfast of Champions on my own, I couldn't wait to tell you all about it.

Skinny legs and all, we cover some ground.

This picture makes me smile, then a few dirty jokes start to invade my brain. Made it through that one alive....

.......the best part of the adventure is the unexpected.

But I really don't need to be stranded on a mountain pass in a van with three guys ever again.

Do you know what is even more incredible? There are just so many more adventures that are in our future.

I had a hard time sleeping the other night, all I could think about was the possibilities.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Basil Mojito

I bought like a ten pound bag of fresh basil. We have a hellofalotta basil in the apartment. The apartment smells slightly sweet. Sometimes I buy things in bulk pretending that there are more than two light eaters in the house. We will be eating drinking basil for a week solid. It is totally okay, the mercury has crept above 90 and we tend to make everything in liquid form. I probably should get ten pounds of lemons and limes....

I also bought a bottle of white rum. Why did I wait seven years to finally buy white rum? Rum and summer are best buddies, they mix well together.

I only bought one bottle of rum. I do not need ten pounds of rum in the house.

Fresh herbs are one of my favorite summer scores. So are creative cocktails, summer dresses, tan lines from bike shorts, white nail polish, time by the pool and J's master grilling abilities. I just like summer. Summer makes everything pop.

I don't like snakes that come out in summer, that is it.

There is a big open blue sky in the desert, I can walk around in a bikini and not get cold even in the shade, sage brush, dust, ice laden drinks, sunshine - all of which I can't get enough. Snakes have me running in fear.

Basil and booze, it is like basil and pasta, it just works if you like basil. It is like fireworks and sunshine, you have to like them in order to enjoy them. Don't pretend, just yes or no.

This concoction, without booze next to the pool in the afternoon, with a splash of rum next to the pool in the evening, will be around as we widdle away our time here in the desert.

I have to admit I am used to cold climates, you can tell by the fact that I rarely put ice in my drinks. I run on the chilly side making ice almost unbearable. A beverage here in the desert without ice is a bit unbearable. Times change. Habit kicked in when I made this batch, mixing the ingredients with ice to chill them then straining it into a favorite little glass. Next batch was poured into a pint glass that was full of ice cubes. I liked both variations, J liked it cold, loaded with ice cubes. 

Basil Mojito

Makes 1 cocktail

Double it, call a friend and sit in the sun. Enjoy the summer!
  • 10 basil leaves
  • 1/2 glass soda water
  • 1 tablespoon mint simple syrup
  • 3 lime slices
  • 2 shots white rum
  • soda water 

Place basil leaves, simple syrup and lime slices into a chilled shaker. Lightly muddle with a wooden spoon until the lime is juiced and the basil smell becomes intense. Add rum and a few ice cubes then shake shake shake! Fill a pint glass with ice strain the contents of the shaker over the ice and on top it with soda water. Garnish with a few basil leaves, sprigs of mint or lime wedges.


    Thursday, July 21, 2011

    I Love Lucy

    Just a pretty image for you that I put together for you - because I really like you.



    Tuesday, July 19, 2011

    Vegetables - Summer Salads


    I have salad on the brain.

    A friend asked me what to do with all the summer vegetables that can take over a kitchen if not careful? I usually roast them, that is when it is not 90 degrees and turning on the oven is a sane thing to do. It is hot as all get out here in the desert, firing up the oven turns our apartment into a sauna. No likey.

    Now, in the heat of summer I can eat raw vegetables and be totally satisfied. If I do heat up the oven it is for pizza which is also a great way to eat loads of produce. 

    With produce in full swing, get to chopping, tossing and dressing!

    I hope this helps spark some inspiration!


    Monday, July 18, 2011

    2011 Group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic

    I needed to remind myself that I can.

    I can do it.

    I can do anything.

    I can ride over 200 miles on a bike in less than 12 hours.

    I did it.

    I can do what ever I want to do.

    I can smile, laugh and tell random stories, pass people, stay calm and pedal on.

    All you need to know is that you can do it. Yes you can.

    Remember way back when, I was excited, I purchased a spot in Group Health's 2011 Seattle to Portland Ride? I hardly remember as well. I pretended that I didn't. But I did and there was no way around it.

    I was completely unsure about following through with the race. A month and a half before the July 8th ride date I had written the ride off. My riding petered out, I lost interest and was okay with focusing my energy else where. The days preceding the ride I started to get the feeling that intrigued me to sign up for the ride in the first place. Can I do it? Is it possible? Will I have saddle sores so bad that I won't want to ride a bike the rest of summer?

    I had so many doubts. Fears that were holding me back. I had rode my bike all winter, logging more miles than most of the men in the group I ride with, Chinook Cycling Club, I could keep up, I can pedal in circles with the best of them. It was not a matter of fitness, not inadequate gear, funding, fear of a long physically challenging day, it was a fear of failing that held me back from fully committing to the ride. Totally irrational fear.

    J was as supportive as he could be for a die hard mountain biker. He teased me about saddle sores and boredom. The day before the race, I needed a bit more advice. I turned to the most motivated racer I know. The only racer I know, Jen T. She is a rock star in more ways than I can even begin to tell you about. She was wisdom and experience that I needed, the push that helped me commit. She reminded me that the uncertainty is why we do rides like this. Not knowing if you can do it is the motivation.

    Logistically the ride is a pain. It requires contrived transportation and lots of resources. I had intended to wrangle a family member to meet me in Portland and whisk me home in a tired heap after I crossed the finish line. When that was not an option I decided THE NIGHT BEFORE the ride that started around 4am that if I could score a bus ticket that took me back to Seattle I would do the ride. If I could ride 200 miles in a day, I could do this on my own.

    I walked into a bustling Seattle REI Friday night. There was spandex, impulse buying, spraying and mad dogging. I strolled up to the  woman sitting behind a cash box with papers scattered in front of her. I asked if there was still transportation available from Portland back to Seattle. She said the was one ticket left for Sunday. She held up the coveted last pass for transportation for the two day ride, giving me the ear to ear smile like I was the lucky winner. Visibly nervous I said that won't be necessary, I will need a ride back to Seattle on Saturday because this will only take a day. She cocked her head sideways and said, really just a day? Was it the black cocktail dress that I still had on from the late night before? Was it the lack of testosterone that was emanating through the rest of the room? She didn't believe me that I was needing a ticket as a one day rider. The man behind me piped up claiming the last day two ride back. Still hesitating she asked me if I had done the ride before, no I haven't I replied, I haven't even been riding road bike for a year, now just give me the ticket. I had enough self doubt to talk myself out of this on my own I didn't need a stranger to doubt me more. I hadn't even rode a hundred miles yet.

    I purchased a ride home for Saturday night, I snagged a parking pass for just a day and felt a bit of pride that I was going to complete this ride without any personal support, just the support provided by the event itself. In the bustle of the noise of REI, I dialed J and told him that I would be getting up at 3am and going to participate in the day long 200 mile ride. I gave him details and he gave me a bit of encouragement and told me that I should have gone to bed 2 hours ago. I called a friend that lived in Seattle and made dinner plans and asked him if he would give my bike one final look over to ease my nerves about my bike falling apart under me.

    I was committed. In a few short hours I was going to throw my leg over the bike and take on the classic Seattle to Portland ride. How is that for procrastinating? Eight hours before the start of the ride I committed. Six hours before the ride I was drinking wine and eating seafood. I take this shit for real.

    My nerves were rattling, hands were shaking and I tried to settle the butterflies in my stomach so I could consume as many calories as possible to ensure that I had plenty of energy.

    The ride? I started early, 4:30am early, dark o'clock and rolled through the quaint roads Seattle. Before leaving Seattle I latched on to a group that I road with the first 50 miles. When I realized that I knew I could push harder than them with fewer stops I thanked them for their early morning support, tucked my head and rolled on. I tucked behind several different groups as the morning eased on and we traveled south. With over 10,000 riders there were plenty of different people to chat with and wheels to ride. I made a point to consume more food than I thought I needed knowing that my biggest hurdle is crashing from lack of nutrients (I eat twice as much as people around me which sometimes seems weird but when I feel like I never hit a wall I am glad that shove food in my face constantly). I made a point to stop at the major food stops and fill my pockets with food I know I could consume easily, bread and pb&j kept me fueled but do it as fast as possible to prevent the crippling lactic acid build up in my legs.

    A little past half way through the ride, as we rolled through beautiful farm land I was having trouble keeping up with the groups. More than 75% of the riders call it a day at 100 miles. I was expending a lot of energy trying to catch wheels and was feeling a little nervous, I know the I could not complete the race in time if I had to ride solo. After a couple of these big efforts I was passed by four jubilant Bicycle Adventures friends who were obviously having a good time with each other from . I summoned the juice deep within my legs and caught on to this group and did not let go. I asked them if I could ride with them the last 75 miles and they gladly let me in their little rotation. I am incredibly grateful for their generosity, energy and experience with the course. Thanks again Brad, George, Tim and Linda ya'll rock!

    At the last rest stop with a little over 30 miles to go I realized that I had averaged around 18 mph over the route so far and I was well ahead of the time I was expecting. The sheer joy of being so close, being one of the only woman in the field and keeping a rather hot pace I was jazzed to get to Portland. There was a renewed feeling in my legs and I was motivated.  Rolling into Portland I said goodbye to the Bicycle Adventure crew and tried to pass as many people as I could. I felt like a million dollars, I neared the end. The finish line was amazing and I pedaled in before 5 pm. I heard the announcer read my name and that I was just around the corner. As I rode into the finish chute I teared up as a I heard a spectator cheer "Nice work lady!" among the hundreds of other spectators.

    I did it! I did better than I ever imagined. I finished four hours earlier than what I had predicted. I felt wonderful. The finish area was a sea of people but I managed to bump into a few of the people I rode with, high fives were shared over a celebratory beer. I couldn't wipe a sill grin off my face as I wandered around, still shocked that I was done. I had two people come up and ask me if I actually rode the entire course, skeptical that a random woman on a cheap bike and miss matched clothing could finish this early.

    The rest of the week, I rode out the feeling of satisfaction and contentment.

    I done did it. Double century.

    My max speed was 58.6 mph. Holy !@#$.

    My average speed for over 200 miles was 18 mph.

    I did it.

    I pushed myself beyond my limits and incredibly grateful that I did.

    I owe it to my sweet J who inspires me to stay in shape, believes in me and provides support when I am unsure.

    Jen, thanks for taking the time to provide a newbie some encouragement.

    Tuesday, July 12, 2011

    A Country Girls' Metropolitan

    I am a city girl when I don't spend enough time in country.

    I can get sucked into eating out every meal, walking the streets, coffee, coktails, shoe shopping and all the sudden I find myself in heals and putting on eye shadow while spending all our money.

    Eye shadow makes my eyes water ferociously, car fumes make me cough.

    I try to spend as much time in the areas where I feel most comfortable, they tend not to be in metropolitan locations.

    There is no fooling a true friend. I can't really walk in high heels, I don't shave my legs and prefer not to do my hair. I get fashion advice from my husband. I do much better when I spend more time amongst trees than confined to big cities, crowds and congestion. 

    I can find my self being the biggest dirt bag conceivable. I can smear peanut butter on anything and call it a meal, washing it down with cheap beer wrapped in a brown paper bag that my husbands hands me and I will have a hard time wiping a big stupid grin off my face.

    I jump around elastically with plans of spending days in the woods, getting lost in the mountains, climbing, biking or whatever takes us to the less populated areas that draw few crowds. I feel alive and on the edge of life's seat when I am surrounded by fresh air.

    I spent the last few days in the bustling Emerald City and a few hours in Portland (more about these adventures later in the week). The big city makes my eyes big and leaves me feeling never as hip as I seem in my mind's eye. I enjoyed great food, I rode my bike successfully dodging people, cars, dogs, walked through convincing neighborhoods and got frustrated sitting in traffic. I loved my few days tucked beneth sky scrappers but eagerly loaded Natasha into the car and made a mad dash for our quiet lifestyle.

    Three hours outside of Seattle, the other side of the Cascades and 20 degrees warmer, I came home to  my sweet husband, a wonderful dinner and my own personal bartender for the evening.

    J made me the best grilled rosemary lamb chops imaginable, asparagus, yams, cornbread and a metropolitain. I like to go out to eat but I love my Texan's cooking even better. He makes a mean cocktail that does not cost more than a down payment on a car.

    Metropolis? Metropolitain? What? Manhattan's sweeter cousin.

    This is about as much of the metropolitan scene as I need, just enough to get me giddy, leaving me excited for the next time around.


    1 1/2 oz brandy
    1 oz sweet vermouth
    2 dashes Angostura bitters
    2 Maraschino cherries with a splash of liquid reserved

    Pour the brandy, sweet vermouth, dash of maraschino cherry juice and Angostura bitters into a cocktail shaker with ice cubes.

    Shake well.

    Strain into a chilled cocktail glass and sink the cherries to the bottom of the glass.

    Wednesday, July 06, 2011

    Dear Dog

    Dear Dog,


    Thank you for being man's best friend.

    Thank you for loving me unconditionally.

    I promise to always give you my scraps of meat and you can have the cheese off of my sandwiches. 

    I will make sure you always have water.

    You will get to go on lots of walks and I promise not to dress you up or keep you on a leash for too long.

    Thank you for for being patient with us humans. We are not worthy.

    Yours truely,


    Tuesday, July 05, 2011

    Grandma's Apple Pie

    Carol put together an album that is studded with adorable pictures of her as a child.

    Every Christmas dinner there were at least six pies that proudly stretched across the table as soon as the dinner was cleared from the table. There was a pot of coffee brewing as adults bellied up to the table and the kids ran through Grandma's house.  Carol, my grandma, my dad's mom was the most natural homemaker (yes, homemaker)  I have ever came across. Upwards of eight different pies and a cheese cake for dessert were guaranteed and seemed effortless. If someone had a favorite pie, she would make sure it was there Christmas day. It was what we did, it is what I miss.

    Pumpkin, apple, cherry, mince meat, sour cream raisin, pecan.

    Lemon, key lime, peanut butter.

    Each pie was picture perfect, homemade pie is like that, always pretty, welcoming, easy. Crust flaky from fat, filling sweet with love. 

    She had a way of puling a fresh pie out of the oven within an hour of me dropping in unexpectedly. Seriously, just baked a pie she chimed as she would whip cream to dollop on top and pour coffee to wash the mess down.  Years later as we grew closer and she grew sicker she would impart small words of wisdom to me. You can freeze a few unbaked pies and put them directly into the oven. She showed me how to make meringue while generally demystifying the kitchen. Putting a slice of bread in the cookie jar keeps the cookies moist. She was as strong as she was confident.

    If there was one place I could snap my fingers and go back to it would be her kitchen. The smell, the worn counter tops, the abundance of dessert, the love.

    I look at a pie and I am reminded of my Grandma. Warm thoughts fill me, I calmed and I carry on just as she would want.

    Several years have passed since I last sat down and shared a cup of coffee with my Grandma but a day does not pass that she does not cross my mind. Life is like that, she has left my life a little sweeter, I am grateful. These days her son, my dad, has baked enough pies that come fall in the Pacific Northwest apples get tossed with some sugar and cinnamon, tucked inside the same crust that carol used and an hour later he has a perfect apple pie effortlessly cooling on the counter.

    Grandma's Apple Pie

    Grandma put together several cookbooks, this recipe comes from Home Cooking is a Family Affair. When the house burns down I will have this cookbook clutched under my arm. My copy is cherished, slightly falling apart, stained with butter and dusty with flour. The recipes in this book are vague, understanding my Grandma's habits make sifting through the recipes easier. The pie crust recipe has just a few steps and doesn't specify what it yields. I know that Carol would have made enough crust for several pies to tuck into the freezer so of course this recipe for crust will have you prepared for the event that you need to bring a pie.

    Don't fret while making pie, it will be harder than it should be. It might bubble over, it might not be uniform, it didn't come from a machine.


    Enough for two pies with tops

    4 cups flour
    1 1/2 cups butter, cold sliced into small pieces
    1 1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 egg
    1 tablespoon white vinegar
    8 tablespoons cold water

    Cut butter into flour and salt in a large mixing bowl until it resembles a course meal. In a small bowl beat egg and add vinegar and water. Add liquids to flour mixture and mix until it evenly combined. Divide dough into four equal pieces and shape into disks. Roll out on floured board to fit into a deep dish 9" pie plate. Extra disks of dough keeps well in the fridge for a week or tightly wrapped in the freezer.


    6 cups apples, cored and sliced
    1 cup sugar
    3 tablespoons flour
    2 tablespoons butter
    1 teaspoon cinnamon
    1/8 teaspoon salt

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine all ingredients except butter, pour into an unbaked 9" pastry shell, dab with butter. Moisten edges and cover with top crust. Press and turn edges to seal. Slit top crust in several places. Brush top of pie with a little water and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 45 to 60 until crust is golden and apples are tender. Cool before slicing.