Saturday, May 31, 2008

License to Serve

I earned my New Mexico alcohol server's license today to cover myself should I continue with the wine tasting business. I had no idea this state's laws were so stringent. For example, if you serve someone alcohol for a paid event (such as a catered wedding, fundraiser, or other event) or on a licensed premise (such as a restaurant or bar) you MUST card EVERYONE. If you don't, and let's say a 65 year old man leaves drunk (which, by law, you are responsible for because you served him!), his license was revoked or expired so he uses a fake, he gets in a wreck, and the cops trace where he got his last drink. If they trace back to you, they can fine up to $500 or $1000! Worse, if he turns around at a wedding and gives the drink to a minor (under 21), and that minor leaves and gets in a wreck, you can get up to 18 months in jail PLUS a $1000 fine PLUS all your legal fees (at the very least $3000)!

All this seems to put undue responsibility on the server and dining/drinking establishments, but I suppose it helps deter bartenders and waitresses from serving drunk people and minors. I also learned that it can cost $300,000 - $500,000 plus an annual fee for an establishment to get a full liquor license! How do restaurants survive in New Mexico? It's probably why we have a dearth of fine dining establishments and decent bars around here....

Now that I'm licensed, I can do my wine educator thang in NM should I choose to but I have to admit, after that course I'm not chomping at the bit!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Memorial Day Weekend in New Orleans

Juleps at mid-day
And plantation manors,
Jazz bands on Bourbon
and warm Southern manners,
People named Cooter,
The St. Charles "ding!"--
These are a few of our favorite things....

We spent Memorial Day weekend in New Orleans, partly to celebrate our fourth wedding anniversary this week, but also so I (Val) could take the Certified Wine Educator (CWE) exam for kicks and giggles.

The CWE exam is a four-part, four-hour exam sponsored by the Society of Wine Educators (read: Wine Geeks R Us). The test comprises 85 multiple choice questions, an essay, a blind wine identification tasting, and a wine components tasting, where they add things like extra acid, alcohol, tannins, cork taint and other things to 8 glasses of wine, and I had to identify what they added to each glass. I passed that part fine (we saw results for the tastings after each part), but failed the blind tasting miserably. I wasn't alone. There were some serious wine geeks there who scored the same as me on the ID part. We won't know how we did on the multiple choice and essay until mid-July. Earning a CWE designation means I would get to put initials after my name and bug the hell out of the local community college or wine shops to let me put together wine education programs. That's the theory. Mostly, I just wanted to see if I could pass and spend some time with Jon in New Orleans.

We've been to New Orleans together before and have always loved this sultry, mysterious, boisterous town. This time, we took it easy in the Big Easy and just strolled around the French Quarter and along the Mississippi, uptown via the St. Charles streetcar.

Monday afternoon we ended up at Cooter Brown's at the end of the St. Charles line (well, it's the end of the line now. After Katrina, the city had to shut down the rest of the rail line along Carrollton Ave. for repairs). Some of you may know that after our first visit to New Orleans, we dubbed Jon "Cooter" because he likes to take life reeeeaaaal easy. So, Cooter Brown's was a fitting stop for us. Plus, I was starving after the exam and got to chow down a Philly cheesesteak and wash it down with a German double ale (over 100 beers on tap!). I passed on the "Coonass Special--so good you wanna slap yo mamma!", although I usually live by the When-in-Rome rule. It was a fine way to spend a sweltering afternoon, and to shelter ourselves from the thunderstorm outside.

As to be expected, we saw a lot of interesting things in New Orleans. You just can't escape 'em. Mannequins poised on French Quarter balconies (accompanied by a flying pig in a tutu), some leftover Katrina damage--or simply neglected, dilapidated houses and buildings--and, my favorite, a fully decked-out Hello Kitty bike, tire tread and all, which seemed to be following us around the French Quarter as we saw it outside a few stops on one of our afternoon pub crawls. I fell in love with it and had to Google it when we came home. I found it for sale on Amazon/eBay for $299 brand new.

The Incredibles

So far, our neighbors have been nothing but superheroes.

Example: Being clueless city folk, we really needed guidance on how to use our acequia system to flood our field. Not more than half a day into tinkering around in the ditch were two to three neighbors offering their past experience in how it's done. One neighbor, Rowena, stuck with us the entire day since we share a turnout with her, but she also shared lots of tips for how to make it easier (and lots of entertaining stories about her past 12 years in the Farms). Since that day, we've become good friends with Rowena and her family. They invited us over to enjoy their firepit last Friday night, which was like camping with a family of six plus eight dogs, two cats, and 3 horses. We sipped wine, told ghost stories, and shared probably unsolicited advice with their oldest daughter who's off to college.

Rowena's husband Michael is a Lt. Col. in the armed forces. He's often on assignment in the Middle East, and is currently home for a few weeks after spending several months in Afghanistan. Unfortunately, the Army is deploying him to Iraq June 8th, this time for an entire year with only one week to return home to visit family. We've had the chance to spend a little time with Michael while he's been back, and to witness the incredible love and generosity of his entire family. He especially shines to Jon (who doesn't?), and during the firepit evening, sequestered him to share stories of what it's like to be in the Middle East during this tempestuous time. Jon left that evening with a gift from Michael: a dogtag bearing the Army creed:

Selfless Service
Personal Courage

Not a bad list of values. We'll be attending his "coming and going" BBQ Saturday to see him off to his next assignment.

Then there's Lee, directly next door to us. Lee is out tilling our "back forty" right now on his enormous tractor, free of charge. Until a couple weeks ago, we were biting our nails at the cost of purchasing or renting a tractor/tiller and all the logistics involved in learning how to use one and getting it onto the property, etc. But Jon's first-time, over-the-fence meeting with Lee evolved into a conversation about our tilling needs, and he swooped in enthusiastically to save the day. Until then, we could barely get the man to wave at us.

Enter the dynamic duo, Jerry and Karen. While they live about 1/4 mile from us, we ran into them while they were toting their yoga mats and we were riding our bikes on the bike path. I screeched to a halt and nearly accosted them to ask where we could find the nearest yoga class. We got to talking, and learned that Karen is a freelance food writer and Asia correspondent for Gourmet magazine (and has published a few books), and Jerry is a freelance photographer, who accompanies Karen on their 6-month assignments in Asia. Not bad for a young Midwestern couple. They too just bought their home in the Farms about nine months ago. We have a lot in common, so we had them over for dinner and a wine tasting last week. Talk about some engaging conversation...if you're ever lacking, invite a globetrotting food writer and photographer over for dinner sometime. You won't regret it.

And last but not least: The sheep man, our neighbor Richard. Richard is quintessential Northern New Mexico. Probably in his late 50s or early 60s, Richard likes to refer to himself as "semi-retarded", pausing for effect to see how you react. Of course, he means "semi-retired", and then erupts into a contagious belly giggle at his own humor. He's an insurance salesman who likes to chew the fat. He may talk slowly, but he has a fast wit.

He, his wife and grown paraplegic son live on the lot north of us, with chickens, roosters, a dog, a cat, and...SHEEP. Fifteen wonderful sheep. He was the first neighbor we met upon arrival here and was our first bartering experience in the Farms. When he saw our field of waist-high weeds, he offered to lend us his sheep to mow down the weeds, which saved him money in return as he doesn't need to buy feed for them. It was a beautiful arrangement that has benefitted us a millionfold, as it once again saved us the money of having to buy or rent something to mow down an acre of tough weeds.

We hear stories from friends and family all the time about nightmare neighbors--some that encroach on property, some that are noisy and inconsiderate, some that are downright rude. We feel very fortunate that so far our neighbors have been nothing short of interesting, embracing, and generous. Now, we owe them all home-baked pies....

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Story of Stuff

Concerned about rising gas and food prices? Worried about your drinking water? Wondering how you'll be able to afford commuting to and from work when gas is $10 a gallon?

The video that spawned this web site is a bit lengthy (about 15 minutes?), but very much worth watching. It's the story of "stuff", how the Western world (especially America) got to be such a consumeristic society over the past 60-odd years, how it has changed the world for the worse, and what we can do now to hopefully right the ship.

The web site has great resources and ideas for how each of us can change the trend of materialism that has actually consumed us over the past decades. Upgrading our lightbulbs and using recycling bins simply isn't enough. We all have to make some uncomfortable and permanent lifestyle changes if we want future generations--even our own generation!--to be able to sustain themselves. Besides, many of these changes would be GREAT for us mentally, morally, physically, socially, and spirtually. Definitely a worthy video and web site to peruse, particularly if you're concerned at all about what lies ahead for today's kids, or even for those of us who will already have to deal with this big mess as time goes by.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lorrie's Pig Roast

No offense to any fine police officers (or vegans) out there: "pig roast" is just the moniker for a gathering we attended to celebrate our friend Lorrie's new adventure into the Albuquerque Police Department! After spending the first part of her career behind a camera for newspapers, weddings, films, and finally shooting fine catalog photos of jewelry making tools, findings, gemstones, and displays for Rio Grande jewelry supply catalogs at The Bell Group (where she and Val became friends and roommates, and have been close friends since), Lorrie decided to try something new and to live life to its fullest by serving with Albuquerque's finest.

We wish you all the best Lorrie, and make the doughnuts last!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Visitors from Atlanta

Last weekend, we hosted friends from Atlanta who haven't been to New Mexico in years, and had only visited for work. Val and Cathi work together, so it was a great opportunity to work in the same office for a day--before hitting the spa, shops, great food, and more!

We learned a lot from our Southern Belle visitors, and were even gifted with new Southern names: Cathi "Sue" and Amy "Jo" decided that our names are now Valerie Mae and Jon-Bob. Same for our cats: Alma Mae and Max-Bob. The weekend quickly began to sound like an episode of The Waltons....

We all had a great time, particularly Cathi and Amy, who enjoyed their first cranial sacral treatments at the Hyatt Tamaya Resort. If you haven't tried one and you plan to, be prepared to RELAX veeerrrrrry deeeeeeeeeply....

We spent a day in Santa Fe, just an hour north of Albuquerque, shopping and enjoying very pink margaritas at the legendary Pink Adobe Dragon Room (natural cactus flower juice added the pink hue). It was a gorgeous day, perfect for strolling and enjoying the oddities of The City Different.

While we entertained at home most mornings and at least one evening, we did get to enjoy some great meals out at The Range Cafe, Nob Hill Bar & Grill, and Casa de Benevides.

Thanks Cathi Sue and Amy Jo for visiting, and for sharing your Southern charm!