Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Sabbatical Recap V - Books I Read

I know it's the holidays, and I should be writing about wintertime glee (and I'll get to those posts), but I've saved several draft posts to savor and recap the short-lived seven weeks I had off earlier in the year (a.k.a., sabbatical). While I didn't physically travel much (save for a brief trip to California), I did manage to take a journey in reading, catching up on a book I've been meaning to read for years, as well as being introduced to a new author (to me), a new way of eating, and an education in art.

Books I Read on Sabbatical

Crossing to Safety by Wallace Stegner. Although I was an English major in college and read a good deal of modern American literature, I had never heard of Wallace Stegner, a legendary American short-story writer, historian, environmentalist, professor, and novelist. It's not a dramatic novel with lots of blood, sweat, sex, and tears, but a quiet novel about the subtelties in a lifelong friendship between two couples. One would think, with a topic like that, the book would have been a snoozer, but I couldn't put it down. Stegner writes descriptions as if you were in the novel yourself, witnessing the characters first-hand as they win their victories and make their mistakes, and living the story as it unfurls.

Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body's Natural Ability to Heal Itself by Dr. Alejandro Junger. Aside from my early education in the wisdom of the Bible, I've read a few books I can say have fundamentally changed my way of thinking about taking care of the everyday business of life, among them How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (don't knock it before you read it! Everyone should take a refresher on this book in the 21st century) and Die Broke by Stephan Pollan. Clean is another one of those books that reset my basic understanding of something we all typically do about three times a day (EAT!) and the effects of our modern lifestyles and environment on our bodies and overall well-being.

Clean prescribes a healthy three-week cleansing program to reset your body's rhythms while balancing physical, spiritual, mental, and emotional activities in a demanding lifestyle. And the best part about the cleanse: it's not just water and grapefruit--it involves real food everyday to uberboost your health. After the three-week program and continuing some of its principles in my everyday diet, I haven't felt or looked this healthy in years!

The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. I remember when this novel won the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 2001, and I've been wanting to read it ever since. Eight years later, I finally picked it up and embarked on the amazing 656-page journey myself. I took two months to finish the novel, but it was worth every page. There were a couple of slow parts in the journey, but I savored every minute of this story about two young Jewish cousins--one American, the other Czech--during WWII in New York City, the rise and fall of the superhero comic book era, and the dawn of the nuclear age. In some places, the novel reads like a comic book itself, and takes you on a colorful, forbidden escape. Most of the novel, though, is a metaphor for life, love, art, sexuality, innocence, and childhood, peppered with the perils of war and the power of hate on the stage of world history. Most authors would be taking on too much to tackle all of these topics in one novel, but Michael Chabon nails it in a single bound.

Smile of the Buddha by Jacquelynn Baas. This was required reading for one of my art classes during sabbatical, and it was a pleasure for me to learn about artists such as abstract expressionists Agnes Martin and Ad Reinhardt, and Romanian sculptor Constantin Brancusi. The book explores the influences of Asian thought (particularly Buddhism) on modern-era European and American artists, thus the title of the class I took, "Bridging the Gap". Each week, we read about one of these artists and how Eastern thought influenced their work. After discussing the chapter in class, we'd emulate the artist's work using their principles and techniques. Each week was a meditation and helped me slow down during the first few weeks of my sabbatical.

It's rare that I have the time to even read one book in a month so if nothing else, this sabbatical allowed me time to expand my library and stretch my thinking.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Sabbatical Recap IV - Adventures in Art

I spent a good deal of time in the art world during my sabbatical, and for that, I am grateful. Not only did I visit local museums to appreciate others' art, but I had the opportunity to enroll in a couple of art classes: another monotypes class at New Grounds Print Workshop in Albuquerque and a unique course called "Bridging the Gap", with celebrated local artist Deborah Gavel.

Deborah's class was about bridging the gap between Eastern and Western ideologies in art and thinking through using the five senses. For example, in one class, she had us work with encaustic (melted) beeswax to evoke our sense of smell. In another class we worked with precious metal clay to exercise our sense of touch. She had us work with subtle shifts in color to use our visual senses. Next week we'll be going to a video art installation in Santa Fe to engage our sense of hearing. We never figured out how to do taste, but we did talk about creating art with food. An intriguing idea....

We read the book Smile of the Buddha and talked about each chapter as a class once a week before getting into our work. Each class was a meditative exercise for me, and transported me to a calmer, more thoughtful place in my creativity than I had experienced before. I thank our friend Shelby for introducing me to the class and to Deborah, who was a fantastic guide through what I find to be complex terrain--the world of art.

The book introduced me to artists I may have heard of but knew nothing about: Jasper Johns, Agnes Martin, Ad Reinhardt, Constantin Brancusi, and others. While I didn't like all of their work on the printed page, I was particularly inspired by Agnes Martin. One evening, Deborah brought in a guest speaker to our class, Mary Lance, an award-winning film producer who had interviewed the elderly Agnes Martin in her Taos studio before she passed away a few years ago. Mary compiled the interviews into a movie called "With My Back to the World", which we had the unique pleasure of viewing in class that night. After watching Agnes paint and hearing her views on art and life ("I’m very careful not to have ideas, because they’re inaccurate" and "when we are born we are full of ambition and ego, but as we get older we begin to understand that we have to adjust"), something switched in me. The simplicity, honesty, and innocence of her work inspired me. This piece is my tribute to her gentle, thoughtful, lonesome soul:

My other piece from Bridging the Gap class may not show as meditative or calming, but the process of making it was. I'm calling this piece "Red Tornado" because it represents a recurring nighttime dream about tornadoes that I've had for decades, while also representing the turmoil of the daily struggle we all experience. This piece originally began as a grade-school collage project cut from old magazines and glued onto cardboard, but as we continued to work on the pieces, more and more layers of media, such as encaustic wax, string, fabric, and even precious metal clay pieces, fused into them. To me, it was the process that was the art, more than the finished piece itself, although I'm rather pleased with it and want to continue to work on it.

I also pulled out some old pieces to reminisce about classes I took in San Francisco, where I first learned to paint. Here's the first reductive charcoal piece I completed in Nina Wisniewski's "From Drawing to Painting" class, which started the evening after 9/11/2001. It was my very first painting class, and appropriately so, as I had been completely changed by the events of that dreadful day in human history. The class was an emotional haven for me during that time, and perhaps because of my heavy, contemplative heart, new channels of artistry opened up within me that I didn't even know I had. I'd like to do more of these reductive charcoals now that I'm looking at this really elementary piece again....

During my time off, I also enrolled in another beginning monotypes class. I didn't feel as inspired as I did in my last monotypes class. I felt more whimsical, and ended up producing a chain of nautical pieces, which goes with my longing to be near the ocean during this sabbatical:
I also relished the opportunity to visit local art museums and galleries: Bright Rain Gallery in Old Town Albuquerque with my mother, Albuquerque Art Museum with my mother-in-law during her visit (an artist in her own right), I even joined the Georgia O'Keefe museum in Santa Fe as a member after taking a long, languorous tour of the museum again for the first time since it's opening day more than 10 years ago, when I lived just off Canyon Road in The City Different. I also watched the made-for-cable-TV movie about Georgia O'Keefe, starring Joan Allen and Jeremy Irons. She had such an intriguing yet complicated and somewhat sad life. I suppose that's true of so many great artists. Perhaps that's why I can't seem to produce anything "great"--I'm too normal and happy. :-)

Thursday, November 26, 2009


We are so thankful, as always, for our families, our friends, our home, our pets, our livelihood, and our lives. What are you thankful for this Thanksgiving? Leave us a comment and let us know.

God Bless Us All!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Sabbatical Recap III - Solvang to Santa Barbara

I think the tiny California town of Solvang made a cameo appearance in the cult wine movie, "Sideways", but I otherwise didn't really know much about this charming, Disney dwarf-esque village.

Solvang lies among a trifecta of three famous California wine regions: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, and Santa Barbara wine country. Because of its location among world-class vineyards, sprawling farmlands, and abundant orchards, it's downtown is replete with wine tasting rooms, a regular farmer's market, and incredibly delicious restaurants, delis, patisseries, and ice cream shops.
The town's heritage is Danish, and the architecture is an amusing dwarfish and European. When we arrived in Solvang, the weather was perfect: sunny and balmy, in the high 70s, and barely a breeze. Everyone walking on the streets was laughing or smiling. The lush, green trees and landscaping were perfectly manicured. For a minute, we thought we might have driven through a black hole into somewhere like Stepford, Connecticut.

Solvang should be a food photographer's paradise. The colors of the fresh vegetables, fruit, and flowers were stunning. I hope to paint some of these photos someday....

We topped off our visit with a delicious ice cream cone from one of the local shops, before heading off to Santa Barbara, the last stop of our California stay.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sabbatical Recap II - Cambria, CA

During the first week of my 7-week sabbatical, we traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area to see friends and family. During the second half of that trip, we indulged my inexplicable craving to be near the ocean by driving solo down part of the California coast, and stayed in Cambria, "where the pines meet the sea", a super tiny, quaint beach town with a row of hotels and motels along the beach. This was the view from our hotel room for two nights:
Once we arrived, we were very excited to indulge in fresh, local seafood and fine wines from nearby Paso Robles wine country. While all the guidebooks said that the Sea Chest restaurant was the best seafood in town, we were disappointed by the menu when we stopped by to check it out (most of the seafood was Atlantic or imported vs. local!), so we ended up on the oceanside patio of the Moonstone Beach Bar & Grill both nights of our stay, and we weren't disappointed. The food was deliciously prepared and very fresh, and nothing could beat dining on the oceanside patio and listening to the waves roll in. It was a perfect paradise, and we hope to make it a habit to visit the area regularly.

The first night of our stay, we slept with the windows wide open to get the full experience of sleeping near the ocean. Funny enough, as exhausted as we both were, neither of us could sleep because of the sheer ENERGY bursting through our windows from the ocean. It was the strangest sensation: a delightful insomnia. I've read that the ocean emits a ton of positive-ionic energy, particularly along beaches where the waves crash in. I don't know about all that, but I know what I experienced that night, and it was pure, blissful, positive ENERGY. I don't know how else to describe it. We didn't sleep much that night, but the second night we drew the curtains over partially-opened windows, and we slept through the night like content kittens to the sound of gently rolling waves.

Cambria is an immediate neighbor to the town of San Simeon, the home of Hearst Castle, the ridiculously sprawling estate of the late newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. We didn't stop by the Castle on this visit as we have toured it before, but if you're ever planning a trip to the area, it's definitely a don't-miss attraction.

Cambria is also near a town called San Luis Obispo, at the heart of Paso Robles wine country. Paso Robles isn't as easy to get to as Sonoma or Napa, so it's not quite as popular, but the wines from the area are excellent.

Because it's much warmer than other California wine regions, the wines in Paso Robles are typically heavier, red Rhone-style wines (like Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah), but sophisticated winemakers in the region also turn out some great Bordeaux varietals and blends (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec). We took a day to visit several wineries and found that there are two halves to Paso Robles wine country: the west side and the east side. We found the wineries on the west side (closer to the ocean) to be more sophisticated and concerned with quality rather than just getting tasters drunk, as on the east side.

We visited Denner Vineyards, Tablas Creek, Justin Vineyards & Winery, and Tobin James, with a stop in San Luis Obispo for lunch and some olive oil tasting. Olives, artichokes, citrus fruit, and avocados grow rampant in the area, so farmers' markets and olive oil tasting are among the region's attractions. I've never tasted oils like wine (smelling aroma, tasting, and evaluating in a designated tasting room) and it was a pleasant surprise. My favorites were the high-quality extra virgin olive oils, and oils infused with local citrus oils, such as lemon and mandarin orange. Needless to say, we took home a bottle of local olive oil to enjoy on our salads and countless other dishes.

Cambria was among the most relaxing and enjoyable memories I'll entertain from this sabbatical. What a hidden gem!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Follow Me...

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On this blog, we write about our life here on a small New Mexico farm, our daily observations about moving from San Francisco two years ago to a tiny little rural town, Jon's farm projects and musings, Val's art projects and musings, trips we take, interesting (hopefully) or cool things we see or do, and much, much more!

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Saturday, October 17, 2009

Sabbatical Recap I - Burlingame to San Francisco

Meandering through the streets of our old neighborhood in Burlingame, California, enjoying the sweet, warm yellow light of an autumn afternoon, stopping at Weimax Wines & Spirits for a couple of fine wines to bring to Jon's sister's house for dinner later that evening, discussing with the wine shop staff how great New Mexico champagne is (and perhaps how they'll now carry it because they keep hearing about how wonderful and tasty it is!).

Afterward, driving into the mysterious, claw-like fogbank hanging over the hills approaching San Francisco, visiting the newly renovated California Academy of Sciences ($50 admission-ouch!) and marveling at the green rooftop, complete with grass, maritime skylights, weather detector...and plunging inside to float among luminous jellyfish, an albino alligator, and so many other undersea wonders. Felt a little guilty about eating sushi just afterward at Hotei on 9th Avenue, but also reveled in feelings of the past, when we shared dating bliss at many a sushi meal in that neighborhood just seven years ago....

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Report from Sabbatical, Day 28

It was my intention to chronicle each day of my 7-week sabbatical, but after Day 1, I found that I enjoyed being away from computers so much, that I couldn't even bear to update our blog! It's been just the break I needed, since I typically spend most of every waking day on a computer for work and social catch-up (and just general surfing around).

So now we're on Day 28, with three more weeks and some change to go. It's been a restful, relaxing, and reflective month off so far. Unlike some of my coworkers who understandably opt to travel to distant, exotic places, I've chosen the "stay-cation" variety of sabbatical, with the exception of an 8-day trip along the California coast that helped kick it off.

Jon has benefitted from my time off, too (when I'm not nagging him about house projects, working out, and eating right). We truly kicked off my sabbatical by harvesting and selling our produce at our local farmer's market, then enjoying the California trip, and most recently playing in a golf tournament for the Susan G. Komen Foundation to support breast cancer research.

On my own, I've taken two art classes (but haven't produced anything noteworthy...), completed some small home projects, and have had the distinct pleasure of reading a few books. One of those books is titled, Clean: The Revolutionary Program to Restore the Body's Natural Ability to Heal Itself. Not that I'm sick or anything, but I've felt "off-kilter" for years, having serious trouble sleeping, often feeling fatigued during the day, and just not feeling at the top of my game. But WOW--this book and its program really helped infuse new energy into me after just 7 days of the 3-week program. While I'm now completing week two of the program and haven't lost any weight, I feel like a million bucks. I've tried to follow the program to the letter (with a few inevitable "mishaps" along the way), which meant that I also engaged in some new physical activities and other behavior shifts as well.

For example, I found a nice little yoga studio in Albuquerque near the airport (not too far of a drive, about 20 minutes), so I've taken up yoga a few times a week to help me with my breathing, posture, strength, and overall sense of well-being. And with my Massage Envy membership (thanks for introducing me, Linda!), I've managed to use my banked up time to get a massage nearly every week in September. Aaaaaahhhhhhhh.

I haven't been completely wrapped up in myself, however. We've spent some time with family and friends as well: celebrating my dad's 76th birthday, having neighbors over for an Oktoberfest celebration in our backyard, sharing cherished meals with friends Jerry and Karen, and sipping beer at our haunt Chama River Brewing Co. while listening to the delightful details of our friends' Shelby and Ethan's European cruise.

Jon and I haven't done as much hiking and camping as we had intended, but we plan to do a hike this week before the weather gets too cold. Next weekend, we may camp near White Sands National Monument, as the Trinity Site will be open to the public for only one day, as is customary only twice a year. The following week, Jon's family is coming to visit The Farm for the first time, so we have much work to do to prepare for their visit.

Perhaps because of all the time on my hands, I've become very introspective during this sabbatical, pondering where I am at this time in my life and where I might want to be headed--with family, career, and spiritual, physical, and emotional well-being. I've made some good progress with all this time to ponder and engage in new activities, new behaviors; now the challenge is maintaining momentum once it's time to go back to work.

More to come on my sabbatical musings in future posts....

Monday, August 31, 2009

Sabbatical Day 1: Organization, Restoration, Rejunvenation

I have seven weeks off from work. Seven incredible, precious, fragile weeks. I say precious and fragile because I'm so achingly aware of how important every minute of each hour of every day of this "free time" is. It's hard to believe Day 1 is already over! But Jon and I accomplished much on this first day, mostly running errands and getting our house in order before taking off for the San Francisco Bay Area for time with family and friends.

After spending a few days in the Bay Area, we're driving down the California coast on our own to get away and reacquaint ourselves with one another, with a time we shared before work was so invasive and a mortgage introduced itself into our otherwise unburdened life. The time when we had adventures together--HOORAY! This will be our first unfettered trip together since we moved to "the farm". We're incredibly excited, but also eager to return home afterwards to wrap up harvest season, work on some long-overdue projects, and explore our own backyard--both literally (as in, the farm) and figuratively (e.g., the state of New Mexico).

There is at least one overnight camping trip in our near future, and one trip to Taos for a storytelling festival. Otherwise, I intend to regularly go to yoga and play golf, and I enrolled in art classes several months ago to keep me on track to completing some art projects I've been looking forward to for years. And I intend to catch up on sleep, eating healthier, and getting fit again. A tall order in seven weeks!

Now, the trick is continuing any new, healthy habits after returning to work in late October.... Any and all advice on how to do that is appreciated!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Harvest 2009

Production is looking up at the Ashe farm (still looking for an official farm name to start our "business" next summer, selling to farmer's markets, schools, etc. Stay tuned for a poll!). Last year we had less than half the planted area we have this year, and harvest time is at least twice as busy. Because we planted a bit late (June vs. May), our harvest is later than others in the neighborhood, but that's not such a bad thing--we missed any early frosts and hail and are now enjoying the abundance for missing those harsh conditions.

Here are pics of one day's harvest these days. August and September will be busy months!

In the photos: Japanese eggplant, yellow hot peppers, pickling cucumbers (which, by the way, make AWESOME half-ripe pickles, my favorite!), yellow sweet pear tomatoes, Chadwick cherry tomatoes, Lady Godiva squash, yellow bush zucchini, and monster radishes! You can also see the watermelon and honeydew melon patches ripening for market next week. We have about 40 melons on the vine so far, and we broke into one of the honeydews last night--a phenomenal experience, like nothing we've ever tasted from a store....

And the flowery, honey-like AROMA that emanated from that melon both before and after we cut into it--if we could bottle and sell that smell, we would be set for life!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Cat's Got Your Toe

Poor Watson had an accident on Friday and broke or dislocated a toe on his back paw, poor thing! I was interrupted by howling, blood-curdling screams during a conference call Friday, but couldn't immediately find where it was coming from. I thought Alma (our other cat) and Watson were in a bad fight, which they NEVER do, or that some wild animal snuck into our home and was attacking Watson. It was a horrible, distressful sound.
When I finally understood it was coming from the closet in our office, I was even more confused. I flung the door open, and there was Watson, frantically swinging by one back leg, his little claw stuck in one of the joining corners of our metal shelves.
Jon rushed in to help, and as we tried to grab Watson, he panicked even more, scratching and biting us so ferociously, I felt like he would break one of the bones in my hand. Jon finally managed to hold him while I tried to jimmy his bloody claw out of the shelf. I finally had to yank his foot free, which was not pleasant, and he screamed even more, flying out of Jon's arms and limping badly around the house, continuing to scream and bleed. It was just horrifying.

We also had visitors in town from California that day--our friends Laura and Paul--who were already waiting for me to finish my conference call when all of this happened so we could go out to lunch on this, their first day of their first visit ever to New Mexico.
So, Jon rushed Watson to the vet while I stayed behind to finish my conference call and to go out with Paul and Laura. I felt so guilty leaving Jon and Watson behind, but Jon is a great Kitty Dad and made sure Watson was well taken care of (poor Jon also experienced one of the worst storms we've ever had here in Bosque Farms while I was out galavanting around with Laura and Paul--he SO deserved a beer!).
I know it's sick that I'm smiling in the photo above, but Laura and Paul asked me to say "cheese" as they caught me comforting poor little Watson after he came home quite drugged from the vet. He's doing better now, nearly a week later, but he's still on sedatives and antibiotics since he started getting a fever over the weekend. Please say a prayer for our little guy, that he'll be able to walk (and terrorize Alma) normally again!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Spooky Sweet Savannah

I had a few days off in June and decided to spend them visiting my good friend Karen and her husband Danny in Savannah, Georgia. They've lived there for nearly two years now, so it was great to finally see how they're doing, after their move from Colorado Springs.

The architecture and lush green flora is so remarkable in Savannah, the result of an enterprising, colonial English general, James Oglethorpe, who founded the colony of Georgia and mandated that the city of Savannah situate itself into a grid organized by "town squares", each surrounded by a roundabout, each square with its own unique history and personality. The resulting town is one of America's most pleasurable to stroll.

I had never really known anything about Savannah except what I've seen in the movie Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil (and Forrest Gump, also filmed in Savannah), and that I really, really love the name, "Savannah". But when I arrived, I learned that Savannah is truly a magical place.

Karen and Danny actually live in a suburb of Savannah called Pooler, but Karen has the unique opportunity to work in downtown Savannah at the Telfair Museum of Art. We spent a lot of time downtown, but before our first foray from Pooler to Savannah, Karen and Danny made sure to stop at a local nature preserve, home to hundreds of huge alligators. The alligators weren't shy and were free to roam on the roads and paths we took through the preserve. It was unnerving, to say the least, but it was amazing to watch the locals fearlessly plop right into the water to fish in the same waters the alligators wade.

We visited the Mercer-Williams mansion, owned by the actual Jim Williams from the movie "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" (shown below), which was one of Mr. Williams' wildly successful renovation projects. Williams contributed a good deal to Savannah's regentrification in the 1960s-80s as a celebrated art and antiques collector and dealer.

Savannah is a haunted city, if not with souls, then with stories. We took one of the many walking ghost tours one evening, and enjoyed elaborate stories of colonial and turn-of-the century betrayal, scandal, piracy, and human trade that all ended badly. Our guide was probably even more animated than most as it was a pub crawl tour with drinks served at each stop. He didn't refuse any drinks himself....

Karen graciously took me to nearby Tybee Island Sunday afternoon for a leisurely stroll along the beach and a dip in Atlantic waters. We planned to dodge crowds of paparazzi who should have been there to ogle the set and crew of Miley Cyrus' upcoming new movie, but delightfully, we didn't see many people at the beach that day. Only small families like this one, burying their children in the sand (see body-less head, below).

Karen and Danny were amazing hosts and tour guides. They took me to every possible nook and cranny they knew, from the historic Bonaventure cemetery (final resting place to many famous writers, notable Southern families, and civil war heroes) to a 300+ year-old oak tree that is still growing and thriving, to a quaint neighborhood oyster bar called Pearl's in the heart of Savannah's marshes.

Touring Savannah was like devouring an enormous, Southern, pecan praline: the rich history of the place was nearly cloying, but I just couldn't get enough.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Friday, July 17, 2009

Wordless Wednesdayish

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Saturday, July 4, 2009


From time to time, we need a little help from our friends. We have a few poll questions we'll be asking you in coming months, and here's the first: we have an opportunity to travel in September/October this year for Val's sabbatical (Autodesk ROCKS!), but we're stuck on where to go. Yes, we fully acknowledge that this is a great problem to have. :-)

The sabbatical is six weeks, but due to the company closing the week of Labor Day weekend, we have an extra week off for a total of seven weeks! We'll be in the San Francisco Bay Area over Labor Day weekend for Jon's family reunion, and Jon's immediate family is coming to visit us on the farm during the final two weeks of the sabbatical, just in time for the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta in October.

So, that leaves us with a few weeks off to play with. We do plan to be home a couple of those weeks to tend to the farm and take painting classes, but we've been saving up for whatever trip we decide to take, and these are the options we've narrowed down within our budget range. Take a vote and help us decide which trip you'd most like to read about on our blog!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Progress Report from the Farm

Our vegetable garden is burgeoning this summer! Here's a look at the honeydew, watermelons, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and herbs sprouting around the farm:

Jon left a patch of weeds in the far southeast corner of our melon patch (upper left in the photo below) to remind us what the area used to look like before all his hard work. What is now our vegetable planting area used to be covered in 4-foot weeds like these!

And the sunflowers are now blooming in our flower garden in the front. The hollyhocks are petering out, but Alma still enjoys sunning her paws beneath the leaves....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

A few words on this, our first "Wordless Wednesday" post: I'm stealing this brilliant concept from our good friends the Luceros, so I beg their forgiveness and permission (and the same from whomever they may have borrowed "Wordless Wednesday" from--teehee).

Saturday, June 20, 2009

The Long, Strange Trip

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I set out to Denver to visit my brother and sister-in-law, Jean-Noel and Linda, in their cozy abode. I checked us in to our Southwest flight the day before, and we arrived at the airport two hours early, all set and ready to go, when I noticed the screen at the gate flashing that our flight had been delayed FIVE HOURS (Unfortunately, I had turned off my cell phone that morning as I took the day off work. Had it been on, I would have received the call from Southwest's automated flight status service...drats!).

I went to the gate agent to find out why we were delayed: extreme thunderstorms in Texas that shut down the Dallas airport, where our plane needed to land before coming to Albuquerque to pick us up. I joked that we could get to Denver sooner if we drove, and the agent looked at me frankly and said, "yes, you probably could". So, we did.

And the trouble only started at the airport...

We went back to my folks' house to borrow my dad's car for the trip. After a quick stop at Hasting's Entertainment in Albuquerque to purchase some sale CDs for the long road trip ahead (e.g., the Jerry MacGuire soundtrack, Willie Nelson B-sides, Miles Davis in Paris, Ella/Lena/Sarah/Billie, and yes, Dolly Parton), we headed north for what would become a 10-hour trip (it should have only been seven).

After passing through Santa Fe and Raton to cross the Colorado border, we made our first stop: Rino's Italian Restaurant in Trinidad, CO. You may remember from a previous Denver roadtrip post that Trinidad was once regaled as the sex change capital of the world.... Well, apparently it's home to eccentric restaurant owners, too. Once we returned home and I looked up this quaint little joint on TripAdvisor, I found an anonymous review that summed this place up perfectly: "I know it sounds schmaltzy, but the combination of good food at a reasonable price and singing waiters, mostly in Italian, made for a very enjoyable dinner." Couldn't have said it better myself.

Then there were the storms, a huge deluge on our approach into Westminster, the Denver suburb where Jean and Linda live, and a string of violent ones all along the drive home. At some points, we literally couldn't see a foot in front of us, and other cars were drifting into our lane, nearly driving us into a ravine. But, somehow, we survived....

We had a great time in Denver, visiting Jean-Noel and Linda, and enjoying their home, their garden, and their terrifying yet adorable dog, Lily (don't let the photo fool you--she's a whole lotta whoop-ass!).

We toured around 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver that Saturday, strolling by the D & F tower, once the next tallest building in the U.S. next to the Empire State Building in New York, according to one report I saw online. Earlier that day, Linda took me to the gym where she teaches weight training and aerobics so we could do two--count TWO--workout classes on Saturday morning. Needless to say, I was pooped by Saturday evening.

In our downtime, we watched a couple movies on their incredible 50" HD TV: Doubt and The Dark Knight, both so apparently real on that high-def TV, my dreams were especially vivid that night.

The weekend went by way too fast, and before we knew it, Mom and I were on the road again. This time, we only made one or two quick stops for food and gas. In Springer, quite a few miles south of the Colorado-New Mexico border, we stopped at Russells' Truck & Travel Stop, where we wolfed down a 6" Subway sandwich and then strolled through the unexpected 50s road trip museum, decked out with vintage cards, cardboard cutouts of 50s stars, and old gas pumps, gumball machines, and other memorabilia. It was a pleasant surprise before we drove into another overwhelming thunderstorm....