Thursday, December 6, 2007

The farolitos of Christmas in New Mexico

I’ve never spent Christmas in New Mexico. That is one of my unfulfilled dreams that I hope will come true in 2008.

The symbol of the Christmas season in New Mexico is the luminaria, which is called farolito in northern New Mexico. Christian believers in New Mexico place farolitos outside their homes at Christmas to light the way of the Christ Child to their homes.

The most beautiful farolitos are the lighted candles in brown paper bags, which give off a soft peaceful glow in the December night. In recent years, electric luminaries have made their appearance, but they are nowhere near as beautiful to me.

I have been in New Mexico several times at Thanksgiving and in December In past years. It is probably the most wonderful time of the entire year there. My hope is that by Christmas 2008, I will not be a visitor, but a resident, and my new home in Santa Fe will be lined with glowing farolitos.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The Zia flag of New Mexico

When I moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1970, I was immediately captivated by the flag of New Mexico. It was just so different from any other state flag I had seen. It seemed to be the perfect banner for the Land of Enchantment.

The colors were so bright and cheery and I loved the symbol on the flag. Someone told me it was the Zia sun symbol. I wanted to know more about it. Back in those ancient days, you could not just hop on the internet and do a search. I had to go to the library and find an encyclopedia and read what little information I could find available.

Today you can research anything, and I have learned more about the flag of the State of New Mexico. The yellow and red colors come from the country of Spain; the first yellow and red Spanish flag was brought to New Mexico by the Spanish explorers in 1540.

After New Mexico was admitted to statehood in 1912, it was 8 years before a flag was designed for the state. Dr. Harry Mera of Santa Fe won a contest to design the flag, and he picked the sun symbol of the Zia Indians for the flag.

The symbol has four sets of four rays. The Zias believed their Great Spirit gave them good gifts in groups of four:

Four directions - north, east, south and west.
Four seasons - spring, summer, fall and winter.
The day - sunrise, noon, evening and night.
Life itself - childhood, youth, middle years and old age.

The circle in the center binds all the rays together. It represents life and love, without a beginning or end. I like that.

The North American Vexillological Association chose the New Mexico state flag as best state flag. I agree with their choice!

I have always considered the number four a lucky number for me (there are 3 fours in my birthdate) and perhaps I was drawn to the groups of four sun rays in the flag. Today I use the NM flag as my avatar on the political website I administrate, and that brilliant striking flag got some notice when I first chose it. You can spot my posts a mile away with that avatar!

When I move to NM, I shall get a large NM state flag to fly along with my American flag at my new home.

Flag of New Mexico, Wikipedia
New Mexico tops state flags survey


Saturday, November 17, 2007

Death Comes for the Archbishop

Death comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather is a classic novel about New Mexican history and religion. I have wanted to read it for years, and finally got around to it this past week. It is a neat book because it is based on true events and the work of Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe, who was sent by the Pope in 1850 to restore the Catholic Church in the American southwest.

In the novel, the fictional Father Jean Marie Latour (who is based on Archbishop Lamy) arrives in New Mexico in 1851 with his friend and fellow priest Father Joseph Vaillant. The novel is the story of their work to build the Church and the resistance they meet, as well as the deep friendship the two share. What I enjoyed was the various settings throughout early New Mexico, such as Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Taos, Mora, Pecos, Acoma. Father Vallant works in various places in the southwest (New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado) while Father Latour builds the church at Santa Fe, including the building of Saint Francis Cathedral.

There were some great quotes in the book which I liked:

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.”

“Elsewhere the sky is the roof of the world; but here the earth was the floor of the sky….the world one actually lived in, was the sky, the sky!”

“To fulfil the dreams of one’s youth; that is the best that can happen to a man.”


Saint Francis Cathedral is built in the Romanesque style that Archbishop Lamy brought from his native France. He began construction on the cathedral in 1869, using yellow limestone blocks quarried near the present site of Lamy. The cathedral was built around and over the old adobe church of La Parroquia. The cathedral was finished in 1884. All that remains of the old adobe church is the Conquistadora Chapel. Saint Francis Cathedral is the Mother Church of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, and was elevated to a basilica in 2005. The Romanesque style of the cathedral stands in stark contrast to the pueblo adobe architecture of the rest of the city.


Willa Cather was born in Virginia in 1873. In 1883 she moved with her family to Nebraska, and many of her novels depict pioneer life in that state. She graduated from the University of Nebraska, was a high school English teacher and wrote for several magazines prior to her career as a novelist. She was a Baptist but converted to Episcopalianism. She was politically conservative. She was noted for her friendships with women, and rumors persisted about her sexual orientation. She was a very private person who destroyed many of her old drafts, personal papers, and letters. She died in New York in 1947 and is buried in New Hampshire.

As far as I can tell, Death Comes for the Archbishop is her only novel set in New Mexico.


I am glad I read the book. It adds to my knowledge of New Mexico, but also to my intrigue about the spiritualism, the mystique, the enchantment of this land. The soul of New Mexico shines all through Death comes for the Archbishop.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Nambe is a small town in New Mexico north of Santa Fe. It is also the name of one of my favorite products from New Mexico: the metal alloy bowls and vases from Nambé Mills.

I think I got my first piece of Nambé from the store out on the highway to Española in the 1970s. Since then, every trip to New Mexico has meant an opportunity to check out the products at the Nambé store, which is now located on Paseo de Peralta in downtown Santa Fe.

Nambé Mills was founded in 1951 in the small town of Nambé north of Santa Fe, near Nambé Pueblo. Nambé metal products are cast from a metal alloy, and the pieces themselves have a beauty and simplicity that very much gives a New Mexico mystique to the metal ware.

Nambé is an eight-metal alloy, which is chiefly aluminum. It was created at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in the 1940s. The alloy is said to have the luster of silver but the strength of iron. It is safe for cooking and resists tarnishing. However, acidic foods can discolor it. The pieces of Nambé ware are often sandcasted and highly polished. It is also expensive, but I think of it as an investment, becuse it will last for years and years.

My small collection consists of several bowls, a covered casserole dish and a tall modern styled vase. We have also purchased Nambé for wedding and anniversary gifts for our children, who now have their own growing collections.

My dream? Acquire more pieces of Nambé for my future home in New Mexico.

The Nambé company calls their products “timeless, simple and elegant”. Indeed they are.


Much of the information for this post (as well as the photos) comes from the Nambé website at and also from

Friday, November 9, 2007

Georgia O'Keeffe and me

In 1949, at the age of 62, Georgia O’Keeffe moved to New Mexico. She had visited the state numerous times in the years prior to that permanent move.

In 2008, at the age of 62, if everything goes according to schedule, I will move to New Mexico. I have visited the state numerous times prior to this permanent move.

Because of the above coincidences, I have been feeling especially close to Georgia O’Keeffe lately…and finding that I have a curiosity about her.

Did she long to live in New Mexico for years before she moved there at the age of 62?

Did she feel a spiritual connection to the land, the vistas, the sky, the light in NM?

Did the warm sun and the low humidity give comfort to her bones as she aged?

I am sure I know the answer to this one: Did she sit for hours and hours just looking at the breathtaking scenery of Abiquiu around her….feeling a small part of it all?

Up until she was 62, she could be called a worldly person, a renowned painter of abstract art, living in New York City and Chicago. What touched her about the northern New Mexico atmosphere and surroundings to leave the big cities behind to live the simple isolated life she lived for her remaining 37 years?

I am interested in her art and her talent, I love her paintings of huge flowers, and her impressionist landscapes of Abiquiu. I want to buy some prints of her paintings for my new house in New Mexico.

But mostly, I am intrigued by Georgia O’Keeffe’s interesting life. I have become interested in her personally: her love for New Mexico and her life as an aging woman spending her days in the place she loved.

One of the things I will do is look for some books that will tell me more about her. I want to get to know her.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

El Santuario de Chimayo

I have many “favorite” places in New Mexico, but were I to choose my number one top of the list favorite place it would have to be El Santuario de Chimayo.

The little church sits in the scenic picturesque northern New Mexico town of Chimayo in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains; it is a perfect setting. But this place is so much more.

The story of the church is so compelling. As the legend goes, on Good Friday in 1810 a man named Don Bernardo Abeyta, a member of the Penitentes, was performing penance in the hills of El Potrero near Chimayo. Suddenly he saw a light coming from one of the slopes near the Santa Cruz River, and the light was originating in the ground. He began digging with his bare hands and found a crucifix, which he left in place, but told his friends about. A group of men went to notify the local priest, Father Sebastián Álvarez at Santa Cruz. The priest went to Chimayo, and when he arrived at the crucifix, he carried it back to the church in Santa Cruz, and placed in on the main altar.

The next morning the crucifix was gone … and it was found in the place in Chimayo where it was originally discovered. It was carried back to Santa Cruz, but disappeared again - to Chimayo. Three times the crucifix was taken to the church in Santa Cruz, and three times it disappeared and was found back in Chimayo. The people realized it was meant to stay there, and El Santuario de Chimayo was built between 1814 and 1816. It was a private chapel until 1929, when it was bought by some people from Santa Fe and turned over to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe. Today it is a National Historic Landmark.

Right from the beginning, stories arose of the cures pilgrims to the church were claiming to have experienced. It was said that dirt from the floor of the chapel had healing powers bestowed by God. Nearly two hundred years later, pilgrims - 300,000 a year - come to El Santuario de Chimayo for healing. In El Posito, the sand pit, adjacent to the sanctuary, people pray and gather a handful of dirt, and in the Prayer Room.they leave crutches, braces, walkers, icons, letters, pictures, prayer requests. In the fenced yard behind the church, pilgrims have left dozens of crosses on the fence…crosses of twigs, of paper, of ribbon, etc. The first time I saw all those crosses, I literally caught my breath, the array was so stunning.

Some people called El Santuario de Chimayo the “Lourdes of America.” They call it one of the holy places of America. (Called Tsimayo-pokwi by Native Americans, the entire valley was believed to be holy. ) I am not Catholic and I don’t know of such things. I just know that for me, El Santuario de Chimayo is a special place, a holy place, a place where I have personally felt the presence and peace of God in this tiny remote village north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I anticipate many visits to El Santuario de Chimayo in the coming years, and I fully expect I will feel the same thing I have always felt there - the spirit and the presence of God. It is a wonderful place of meditation and prayer and peace.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Blogging in the Land of Enchantment

While I am waiting to move to New Mexico, I can keep in touch with life in New Mexico through my favorite bloggers in the state:

The Zees Go West. clairz moved to Clovis, New Mexico from New England earlier this year, and her blog is full of information about the state ~ everything she is learning and researching. Every time she posts a new entry, there is more for me to learn!

Santa Fe Journal. The blogger of this journal lives in the area near Santa Fe that I will be moving, so her blog is of special interest to me, because she is just a wealth of information that will be so helpful to us when we move.

Exile in Portales. Buck, who blogs at this site, is a retired military guy; he blogs about New Mexico but also about military, cultural, and political stuff....and I agree with his political views about 99% of the time.

If The Creek Don't Rise. The blogger, Lin, and her husband are a couple living off the grid in Northern New Mexico...and her blog is fascinating. Reading their trials and tribulations, I am amazed and know I could never do what they are doing. Wonderful writer!

New Mexico bloggers have given me a lot of information and entertainment, and they help me to get the feel of life in New Mexico even though I cannot be there yet. And, maybe best of all, reading other blogs helps me, a newbie blogger, learn how to improve my entries.


Thursday, October 25, 2007

Majoring in New Mexico 101 this fall

It feels like we are in a holding pattern right now. We cannot move to Santa Fe until May 2008. We cannot put our house here up for sale until early spring. We cannot buy a house in Santa Fe until the same time.

So. We continue our work on our house, getting it readly to sell. We still can find things to donate or throw away. We still find things to pack up. But spring of next year sure seems a long way off.

Here in the midwest for the present time, I use my spare time to learn more about New Mexico. There is a rich array of New Mexico websites out there, as well as some excellent work by New Mexico bloggers.

My favorite New Mexico websites: - I love the New Mexico forum, and am learning so much from the members who post there. The City-Data site also has a wealth of statistics about the state.

Santa Fe New - The Santa Fe daily newspaper carries news from all over northern New Mexico. It is my lifeline to the latest community news from my future home. Lots of great features.

Kent Jones Eldorado Area Real Estate - Kent is our realtor in Santa Fe. He has a great website that has the latest information on available homes in the area. I check it often to see what is on the market, even though it will be months before we are out there to buy a house.

Santa -
Santa Fe Always Online -
These are my two favorite Santa Fe sites. A wealth of information about the city.

El - A really fun site about things to do in New Mexico.

New - Website of the New Mexico Department of Tourism

New Mexico Scenic Byways - Wonderful site for planning trips around the state.

New Mexico Magazine - We get the magazine in the mail, but the website provides a quick reference to features from the magazine.

Off the Road - Another great site for NM trip-planning.

Spanish Santa Fe - Highlighting the spanish culture of Santa Fe, NM.

Duke City Fix - Everything you need to know about the city of Albuquerque, NM

Gil's Thrilling Web Site - Gil has traveled all over the state reviewing restaurants. I love his insights and opinions, and I will never have time to eat at as many NM restaurants as he has!

This is just a sampling of my favorite web sites featuring New Mexico.

Next post: I'll list my favorite New Mexico blogs.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Good Eats in New Mexico

We did some mighty fine eating on our trip to New Mexico the first weekend in October:

Cedar Crest Grille, Cedar Crest, New Mexico. This is a small local place with a simple inexpensive menu. My husband had a chicken breast sandwich, and I had black bean tostadas. The highlights of the place: blackberry cobbler with ice cream on top (yum!) and a really nice hostess who really knew how to do her job well.

La Choza, Santa Fe, NM. I guess I would say La Choza is our favorite place for New Mexican cuisine in Santa Fe, and is the first place we head when we get to the city. It never disappoints! Our favorite menu item there? The posole that comes with all the entrees. And they have GREAT green chile. Inexpensive and casual.

Harry’s Roadhouse, Santa Fe, NM. A visit to Santa Fe is never complete without a trip to Harry’s Roadhouse. This year our realtor treated us to lunch there. Great food but one oddity: we got there a little before noon on a Saturday…and the waitress told us they do not serve lunch until 12:10, so we had to order from the breakfast menu. (Which was still good.)

Tortilla Flats, Santa Fe, NM. Had never been to this restaurant before, and glad we tried it. Decent New Mexican food …friendly service and we will go back there.

The Pantry, Santa Fe, NM. We have been hearing about this restaurant, so we tried it early on Sunday morning ahead of the crowd. Not fancy décor, but awesome food. I had a breakfast burrito that was just loaded with wonderful green chile.

Blake’s Lotaburger, Santa Fe, NM. What can I say? New Mexico institution. Can’t spend a weekend in NM and not stop at Blake’s. Green chile cheeseburger.. MMMMMM…..

Maria’s, Santa Fe, NM. Our trips to Maria’s date back for years; probably one of the very first restaurants we ever ate at in Santa Fe. The margaritas are the best in town, the décor is so cozy and fun, the servers are always nice. But it seems to me the quality of the food has declined in recent years. We still go back….but not what it used to be, in our opinion.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Eldorado at Santa Fe

The Eldorado subdivision was created in the 1970s as a solar community. I remember back at the beginning our cousin in Santa Fe believed that there was not enough water in the area to support the number of homes planned for the subdivision. His predictions never came to pass, but the solar concept did not last as other kinds of affordable energy became available. There are still accommodations made to draw in solar energy in most of the homes.

Eldorado is located off U.S. Highway 285 10 miles southeast of Santa Fe and 55 miles from Albuquerque. Small towns nearby are Lamy (4.6 miles), Galisteo (10 miles), and Glorieta (11.7 miles.) Interstate 25 is just a couple of miles to the northeast.

There are approximately 2700 homes in Eldorado; the population in 2000 was 5,799. The median age of residents is 44.2. Eldorado is predominately Anglo (82.6%) and Hispanic (13.5%). 98.6% of the residents have a high school education or higher, 62.2% bachelor’s degree or higher, and 32.4% a graduate or professional degree.

Eldorado is comprised of 1-2 acre homesites. Water comes from the public Eldorado Area Water and Sanitation District or by private or shared wells. Homes are served by septic systems. All utilities are underground. Most of the lots in the subdivision have been developed. The best feature of Eldorado for many residents is that nearly every home site has a view of the Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Ortiz or Sandia Mountains, as well as a dramatic view of the sunsets and the night sky.

The subdivision is supervised by the ECIA (Eldorado Community Improvement Association), which uses a covenant system, with the “express purposes of protecting the natural beauty and environment of the community of Eldorado at Santa Fe, providing an attractive rural setting for residential neighborhoods and home sites and preserving property values.” The covenant covers the architectural design required in homes (architectural styles of Santa Fe”); this is from the covenant statement:

…“characterized by stucco or adobe walls, flat or pitched roofs, red tile or metal roofs, earth colors, vigas, portals, verandas, courtyards, patios and walkways, occasionally incorporating design elements of metal, stone, brick, wood and stained glass. These design motifs are derived from the Spanish Pueblo.”

Some might consider the covenant to be strict, but to me it is a way to preserve the charm of Eldorado.

Property owners in Eldorado enjoy a community center with swimming pool, tennis courts, soccer fields, a dog park, hiking trails, horse stables and a 4,000 acre wilderness area for hiking and horseback riding. The subdivision has a fire department, an elementary school, a library, and a senior center, as well as a small shopping mall, The Agora, with a supermarket, several stores and restaurants. A new business park is being developed, with more restaurants, a video store, and a fitness center.

To me, there is a lot of energy in Eldorado: social and educational activities and community events, pride in the appearance of the homes, continuing improvement and development … and always the glory of the wonderful views.

It’s exciting looking forward to becoming a resident of Eldorado, a responsible homeowner and a good neighbor.


Information from:

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Considering the best option for us...

As I posted earlier, we spent the first weekend of October in New Mexico, looking at our options for the future.

On Friday, we entered New Mexico over Raton Pass from Colorado. In my own opinion, Raton Pass is one of the most scenic ways to enter the state; the beauty is breath-taking. Our route took us south past Raton, Springer, Wagon Mound, and Las Vegas. West of Las Vegas, we took state road NM3 from I-25 south to I-40. We had never been on this road before …what a wonderful scenic pretty trip; after we move we will take this road again and get pictures.

At I-40 we went west to Cedar Crest(in the mountains east of Albuquerque), where we had an appointment with the fourth builder we are considering. He took us to a home way up in the mountains, where he is doing a large addition. It was beautiful, BUT we were a little concerned when he told us this addition has been under construction for over a year and is still not finished. In talking with him at length, we got the impression that he is a perfectionist who works very slowly at his own pace. He looks at each job as a personal project, which is commendable but left us feeling he would be doing this for his satisfaction, and not to build us a good affordable home in a timely manner. The other consideration was that we asked for a bid weeks ago, and he seemed to not even be close to having one ready. Sadly, we crossed him off our list.

On Saturday, in Santa Fe, we met with a real estate agent, Kent Jones, who spent the entire day with us, taking us to see 14 available homes in Eldorado that met all of our criteria. We saw some really beautiful homes, including about 4 that appealed to us A LOT. Later on, running the numbers, we realized that we can purchase a much bigger and nicer home than anything we could build. All of these homes are move-in ready, and have some features it would take us a long time to get incorporated into a new home. Also, the sheer fact that buying a home would save us all the headaches and stress and hassle of building, is certainly appealing to us, especially living out of state as we do. Best of all, we were very pleased with what we saw that day.
I guess those two days really made up our mind for us. Although it means giving up our dream house that we have designed and selling our lot that we have owned for 15 years, buying an existing home is going to be the answer for us.

Our latest plan is this: return to Santa Fe in the early spring to look at the homes available at that time, and finally make our decision on a house to buy. Here in the Midwest, we will put our home up for sale around the same time, hoping it will sell quickly. That would make the target date for our move approximately May, 2008. Having some decisions made, especially the schedule, gives us a real goal to work towards.


Monday, October 15, 2007

My own environmental plan

I understand today is being recognized as a blogger environmental awareness day. Let me say I do not consider myself a greenie by any means. I think global warming is a lot of hooey. I don't worship the environment as a religion. I don't see much evidence of concern for the environment among most people that I know.

However, I DO feel a personal responsibility to be a good steward of things that I can do to make a difference.

We will be moving to Santa Fe, New Mexico in 2008...and I have been compiling a list of things I can do personally to help the fragile high desert environment where I will be living:

1. Save rainwater to water plants.
2. Recycle! (Plastic bags and containers, cans, glass, newspaper)
3. Library and second hand book stores instead of new books.
4. Eat leftovers; throw away less food.
5. Lights out when not in a room.
6. Purchase locally grown fresh products (farmer's markets, farms)
7. Vegetable/herb garden.
8. Use the concept of xeriscaping for gardening.
9. Put up some bird feeders to attract and feed the local bird population.
10. Make a bunch of reuable cloth dinner napkins.
11. Turn off water when showering, brushing teeth and washing dishes.
12. Soak dishes prior to washing; makes washing very quick. (I don't use a dishwasher!)
13. Low water washing machine.

I add to my list as I think of more things.

Nothing scientific for me; just common sense.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

We are heading to Santa Fe.

It's time for a trip to Santa Fe. We will be leaving in two days.

This is not a pleasure trip (although EVERY trip to New Mexcio is a pleasure). This trip is to determine our future plans.

We have appointments with a builder and a real estate agent. We will get information from the builder about how much he is bidding to build us a home on our property in Eldorado at Santa Fe.

And we will look at some homes for sale in Eldorado, to get some idea whether it might be more feasible for us to buy an existing home. We've been doing our homework, and have a folder of about 15 homes that are possiblities that will meet our needs...that we wish to look at.

Not much time for fun this trip .... BUT we will enjoy seeing the aspens in their fall color in the mountains above Santa Fe ... and EVERY trip to NM gives us an opportunity to eat great New Mexican food at our favorite Santa Fe restaurants.

Getting anxious to hit the road west ....

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Traveling New Mexico with Tony Hillerman and Michael McGarrity

My two favorite New Mexico authors are Tony Hillerman and Michael McGarrity.
I read the Hillerman books some years ago - following the adventures of Navajo tribal policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee as they solved crimes in northwestern New Mexico; the names Shiprock, Crownpoint, Farmington, Gallup, Bisti Badlands, etc. became familiar to me. Also, I learned a lot about Navajo culture from the Leaphorn series.

Just this past year, I began reading the series of police mystery novels written by Michael McGarrity, set in locations all over the state, following the cases worked on by fictional Santa police chief Kevin Kerney and his son Clayton Istee, a Mescalero Apache from southern NM.

I like the style of both writers, I like the tales of mystery they weave, I like the characters they bring to life … but maybe what I like best is the setting: New Mexico. Their books add to my education about the state.

I heartily recommend these two authors to anyone who loves New Mexico and has not discovered their work.

Friday, September 28, 2007

September waning...

September is nearly over. It was a busy month for us. The work work work work continues on our house here in Kansas. Two weeks ago we had carpeting installed throughout the house, and it does wonders to make the interior of our house look fresh and new; it will make selling it quicker and getting the best price for it much more possible. It looks like we can get the work on the house finished in time to put it on the market in the early spring 2008.

Our other focus during the month of September was the wedding of our son on September 22. Many relatives were in from out of town, and it was a busy and wonderful time. It was a nice break from all the work on the house and the move. And we have a wonderful new daughter in law!

NOW with September waning ….we can get back to working on the plans to move to New Mexico in the coming year. A decision between plan A and B will come early this fall, I would imagine.

We are going out to Santa Fe the first weekend in October! We will meet with a builder and interview him, get references from him, and hopefully a bid for building a home on our property. We will also look at some existing houses in Eldorado that are currently on the market. It’s strictly a business trip…but of course we will find time to have some great New Mexican dinners in our favorite Santa Fe restaurants…and enjoying some of the fall scenery with the golden aspens in the mountains…I can hardly wait!

Sunday, September 16, 2007

New Mexico - what it's not

I saw this on a T-shirt in a New Mexico magazine the other day:



Not really new and not really Mexico"


I like that.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Aspen dreaming

We took the above picture several years ago when we were in New Mexico in the fall. It's our favorite time of year to make our trips there, for several reasons: the green chile is in season and the smell of them roasting is so wonderful ... and the aspens in the higher elevations are turning color and it's glorious! We will be heading to northern New Mexico in several weeks, and one of the things I am looking forward to most is seeing the quaking aspens up in the Sangre de Cristo and Jemez Mountains. Hopefully in another year, New Mexico will be our home and we can enjoy every season there. I think the fall will still be my favorite time, though.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

New Mexico Magazine, what a great resource!

We have been subscribing to New Mexico Magazine for many many years. It has served as our connection to the state, a source for wonderful articles and excellent information. We have gotten much of our education through the monthly issues. The pictures are fantastic; I clip out recipes for great New Mexican cuisine; it gives us ideas for places we want to see some day, and we can follow all the events that are happening throughout New Mexico. Even the ads are cool!

For the many years that we have dreamed of moving to New Mexico, looking at New Mexico Magazine every month was like looking at home. It is just a superb resource for anyone outside of the state who has a special love for New Mexico.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Talking real estate lingo...

In the past year and a half, we have been renovating our house so that we can place it on the real estate market in the coming year. EVERYTHING needs to be done: the actual redo of the house as well as going through every single thing we own to decide what to get rid of. When we are finished, the house will look incredible and we will have downsized so much stuff that we won’t have to have clutter in our house in New Mexico.

We spend lots of time watching the remodeling/renovation shows on Home and Garden TV. We’ve learned all the vocabulary for this project of ours: curb appeal, staging, dated, shabby, clutter, priced to sell, overpriced for the market, maintenance deferred, defined space, etc.

And we have learned all kinds of real-estate-type-stuff that we had little knowledge of a year ago:

1. Keep the interior neutral. The key is to appeal to the largest number of buyers. Earth tones rule these days.
2. Kitchens and baths sell houses. Make sure they are completely remodeled.
3. People want hardwood floors.
4. They also want granite counters and stainless steel appliances.
5. They want fireplaces too.
6. Get all the personal items out of the house before you open it up to potential buyers. Buyers want to picture their belongings in the house, not yours.
7. Get rid of ALL clutter!
8. Make sure the house has good curb appeal; if it doesn’t look good from the street, people may come no further.
9. Make sure the house is spotless…completely clean and shiny and sparkling. Cleanliness sells houses.
10. Make sure everything in the house is in working order, so the house is move-in ready.

We spend a lot of time talking in these terms lately. We’ve become experts in the area of home-selling. When the time comes to put the house on the market, WE’LL BE READY!!!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Xeriscaping, the way to go in New Mexico

When we began to plan our move to New Mexico, a new word entered my vocabulary: Xeriscaping.

Xeriscaping is gardening and landscaping in ways that do not require supplemental irrigation. The word is a combination of the Greek “xeros” (for dry) and landscaping. It is the most ecologically sensible way to garden in a desert climate such as New Mexico has.

Xeriscaping is a way to garden naturally, with emphasis on desert plants that do not require a lot of water. Evaporation and runoff are avoided in providing as little water as possible to plants. In using local native plants, such as cactus, lavendar, chamisa, and sedum, etc. and other drought-tolerant plants, precious water is conserved.

I have much to learn. A couple of years ago my husband gave me two wonderful books written by Judith Phillips: Natural by Design, and New Mexico Gardener’s Guide. (Judith Phillips is a leading New Mexico landscaper; her wisdom is greatly respected in NM.) While I am still here in the Midwest, and months away from our move, I am taking the opportunity to study these books and learn all I can about xeriscaping and New Mexico gardening.

The great day will come when I can apply what I have learned and try my hand at xeriscape gardening in my own home in New Mexico.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

We're taking our appetites with us.

I love to eat in New Mexico! The restaurants in Santa Fe are known for great New Mexico cuisine. But in the years we have been going there, I have not become a Santa Fe dining expert.

Reason: When we go out there, it is usually only for a few days, and we have our favorite restaurants, so that is where we always choose to go:

1. La Choza, 905 Alarid St. ~ My favorite! Tucked away on a side street and a little hard to find, seems that there are more locals there than tourists. It’s cozy and completely unpretentious….and the food is spicy and GREAT. I LOVE their posole. Sometimes we laugh because we have had the same waiter there so many times; he is pierced all over but really nice and good at his job.

2. Maria’s New Mexican Kitchen, 555 West Cordova Road ~ We have been going to Maria’s longer than any other Santa Fe Restaurant. Their margaritas and their green chile stew are to die for. Good place to warm up on a cold day.

3. Harry’s Roadhouse, 96 Old Las Vegas Hwy ~ Funky and fun … and always crowded. Their menu has everything! I had my first breakfast burrito there years ago. And possibly the best plate of nachos I’ve ever had.

4. Blake’s Lotaburger ~ a New Mexico institution. They have numerous locations and a visit there for a green chile cheeseburger is a MUST.

Those are our four places. On our last trip in 2006, we also tried the Guadalupe Café, recommended by my daughter and son in law and it was GOOD, so we will probably go there again.

One of the cool things about moving to Santa Fe is that we will have time to leisurely try the other neat places in town. I’m keeping a list of restaurants that have gotten good reviews and recommendations. We are not interested in the foo-foo overpriced elitist places in the downtown area. We look for good food at affordable prices. Our must-visit list includes:

1. Bobcat Bite, 420 Old Las Vegas Hwy ~ not far from “home” in Eldorado. Reputed to have the BEST GREEN CHILE CHEESEBURGER in Santa Fe.

2. The Pantry, 1820 Cerrillos Rd. ~ Have heard only good things about this place; it is supposedly an institution in Santa Fe.

3. Mariscos la Playa, 537 W Cordova Rd ~ I’m not usually crazy about the idea of Mexican seafood, but this place gets so many raves, it much be something special.

That’s only a few of the places we MUST try when we get to Santa Fe.

I see many years of good eating ahead!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Pondering Lew Wallace..

In the early 1880’s Lew Wallace served as the Governor of New Mexico for 2 ½ years. New Mexico was still a territory and Wallace was appointed by the president to serve the term. He had just published a successful novel, "Ben Hur: A Tale of the Christ", which was getting worldwide attention, and Wallace couldn’t wait to get out of New Mexico.

On April 28, 1881, he sat in his office in Santa Fe, and wrote a letter to his wife Susan back in Indiana. "Let Gen. Sheldon come quickly is my constant wish,'' Wallace declared in the letter.

In the same paragraph he wrote this:

“All calculations based on our experiences elsewhere fail in New Mexico.''

I have thought many times about this quote since I first came across it years ago. For most students of New Mexico history, Wallace’s comment is seen as a condemnation of the territory where he didn’t want to serve and which he couldn’t wait to leave. Beset with local problems, he was expressing great frustration with New Mexico.

But to me, the quote means something entirely different …. It suggests the possibility that New Mexico is so unique, so truly different, that it defies being put into a box with the rest of the United States. To me, it means that New Mexico is a new experience, a different kind of lifestyle, a truly unparalleled place.

Thank you, Lew Wallace, for your words which inspire me.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The "Must-Have" List

As we begin our preliminary look at available existing houses, we have made our list of “must-haves” in the house we select.

1. We must have ceiling vigas, at least in one or two rooms. Not beams, but the round vigas.
2. We must have tiled floor in the living areas of the house. We prefer porcelain, ceramic or travertine. Brick floors are also acceptable to us. Carpeting in bedrooms is okay.
3. We must have lots of windows and views of the mountains.
4. We must have at least one kiva fireplace in the house.
5. We must have radiant heat.
6. We must have a large kitchen.
7. We must have storage, storage, storage.
8. We must have at least one portal and courtyard.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The plan and the other plan

We always had two plans.

Plan A was to buy some property, design our dream house, and when retirement approached, have the house built on our lot. We did everything right, I think. We bought one of the building lots in Eldorado with the best views. That land is all paid for, and the value has increased six- or sevenfold in the past 15 years.

With the direction of a wonderful architect in Albuquerque, we designed the house of our dreams, down to the very smallest detail. It was designed with our lot and the views in mind….and everything we agreed we wanted in a home. We did an awesome job, I believe!

Then came the ugly part: finding someone to build the house. We met several good builders in the fall/winter of 2006, and inspected many of the homes they were building. A third builder was recommended to us by a realtor in Santa Fe. We were impressed with him, too. The bids submitted by all three were WAY over the top of our budget that we are willing to pay. Discussions with all of them about finding ways to cut our costs proved to be unsuccessful.

So…we are left with a perfect lot, a perfect house plan, and no one to build the house within our budget. We are unwilling and unable to go over the price we can afford.

Plan B has been there all along: sell the lot we own, make a really nice profit on it, and give up the idea of the dream house. Then look for an existing house on the market within our price range, with the square feet and the features we want. We check the Santa Fe real estate websites regularly, and are finding a nice variety of homes in our range that we like and might be acceptable to us.

It is beginning to look more and more like Plan B is going to be it. It comes with a lot of disappointment about giving up our perfect lot and our perfect house plan, but we are finding it necessary to be realists about this.

Stay tuned…

Thursday, August 16, 2007

It's Chile Season in the Land of Enchantment!

I'm here in the midwest...getting our house ready to sell .. we are renovating, painting, repairing, sprucing up, downsizing, cleaning out closets and cupboards, packing, getting rid of the accumulation of "stuff", planning for our move ...

BUT.....out in New Mexico....THE CHILES ARE IN SEASON! They are chile roasters in parking lots all over the state...hanging in strings of colorful ristras outside of shops. The smell of roasting chiles fills the air with that wonderful aroma.

It's just about the best time of the year in New Mexico. And next year!....Next year we should be there to be a part of it! For us ... the anticipation is growing.

Monday, August 13, 2007

"God was in his prime when he painted this place"

I was searching for something today when I discovered this quote within a quote:

"I have figured out why New Mexico comforts me so. As my friend said, 'God was in his prime when he painted this place.' Nowhere have I felt more lighthearted and free, and nowhere more humbled."

Diana Nelson Jones (2001)

I think that is cool.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The City Different

Santa Fe. City of the Holy Faith. The City Different. Future home.

The city of Santa Fe sits at the base of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains at 7,000 feet elevation.

The population is approximately 72,000. 48% are Hispanic and 47% Anglo and 3% Native American.
Albuquerque is 60 miles away, Eldorado 9.5 miles, and Lamy 14 miles.

Santa Fe has a temperate climate…warm in the summer, cold in the winter. Humidity tends to be lower than the U.S. average. Santa Fe gets about 10 inches of snow a year and about 14 inches of rain per year.

Santa Fe has one major hospital, St. Vincent’s. The closest large airport is the Sunport in Albuquerque.

Those are the statistics. Here are the intangibles:

Many people consider Santa Fe to be very pricey, tourist-y, pretentious, artsy crafty. I don’t pay a lot of attention to that stuff.

I find the city to be completely charming. I love the adobe architecture, especially the Plaza/downtown area which is so delightful and alluring and so full of history. This is an ancient place … and the aura of uniqueness and blended cultures hangs in the air.

And maybe the best part of Santa Fe … the food! The New Mexican cuisine is at its very best here.

I have favorite places in Santa Fe: the Palace of the Governors, the Plaza, St. Francis Cathedral, the State Capitol Building (the Roundhouse), La Choza, Maria’s, and Jackalope.

The one thing I have learned through the years … I have not seen everything there is to see, so there is much much more to explore!

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Why New Mexico?

Several people in the past few weeks have asked me…”Why New Mexico?”
“Isn’t it terribly hot there?” "Isn’t it a barren place?” “Won’t it be hard being so far away from everyone?” “Won’t you feel isolated?”

Fair question. And it is a question for which I have known the answer for many years. Why New Mexico?

* It’s an immense, huge, breath-taking beautiful state. I am captivated by all of it….the mountains, the desert, the rivers, the mesas, Valle Grande, Acoma, Abiquiu. I cannot name my favorite place in New Mexico; that would be impossible. The beauty everywhere is so powerful that I cannot find the right words to describe it.

* The light. New Mexico is bathed in light; it is different than the light anywhere I have ever been. I suppose it has something to do with the thin air in the high elevations, but the scientific explanation does not matter to me. The light is magical; that’s all I know.

* The sky …. The endless sky that goes on forever. My family used to laugh when I said I loved the huge sky in New Mexico. But they knew exactly what I meant.

* The blend of native American, Latino and Anglo cultures. Indians have lived on the land in New Mexico for what? Thousands of years? Some Hispanic (Mexican and Spanish) families go back for generations. I love how Spanish mingles with English. I want to learn to speak Spanish there.

* The food! Oh the New Mexican cuisine! The only place where everyone knows what the question “Red or green” means. Green chile. Red chile. Posole. Navajo fried bread. Tortillas. Stacked not rolled enchiladas. Tamales and burritoes to die for. Margaritas.

* The energy. The alive, fresh, excitement in the air. Earlier New Mexicans, not knowing how to describe it, just called New Mexico “The Land of Enchantment” And so it is.

* I am enchanted. That’s the answer to the question, “Why New Mexico?” Why? Because that is the place I choose to live out the rest of my life. I am homeward bound.

Friday, August 10, 2007

The Dream

My husband and I are just about to start out on our grand adventure.

We fell in love with New Mexico many years ago when we were young, and now .... 38 years later, we are going to fulfill our dream and move to Santa Fe.

We've been planning this for a long time now. We bought our property in the Eldorado community near Santa Fe in 1992. We have made and revised our list of priorities, needs, wants, etc. for a house on the lot. We have visited the property many times, and walked over every bit of it, among the juniper trees and the prickly pear cactus and the chamisa. We have studied the mountain ranges to the north (Sangre de Cristo) and the west (Jemez) to decide where to place a house on the lot. We have gone to many open houses in Eldorado, and met several builders and looked at their work. We have worked with an architect to design our dream house.

Finally we are nearly ready. We are getting our house in the midwest ready to sell.

The dream is becoming real!