New Mexico true

Where can you sled year-round? White Sands National Monument

White Sands National Monument is not only the one place in New Mexico where you can safely sled year-round, but also the stark beauty of its rolling dunes paired with the blue New Mexico sky creates the illusion of walking underwater in the Caribbean. 

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280 million years ago this was a seabed of gypsum crystals and other minerals. Earth's moving tectonic plates created the mountains of the Southwestern United States. These mountains encircled the area where White Sands formed. About 12,000 years ago, as the last ice age was ending, runoff from the mountains carried gypsum down to settle in what was then Lake Otero, which then evaporated as temperatures warmed, leaving behind gypsum and selenite (the crystalline form of gypsum). Wind, rain and repeated freezing and thawing broke down the crystals into fine white gypsum sand, which is still being created by a smaller nearby lake. On the edge of the Monument, Lake Lucero fills like a puddle with rain and mountain snow run-off. There the water forms selenite crystals, then evaporates beneath the hot sun; wind and rain continue to break down and sweep the new gypsum sand over to White Sands National Monument. 

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Our recent visit to White Sands was on one of those rare rainy, dreary days. So rather than the normal intense blue dome, we found stormy skies and looming dark mountains around us in every direction. 

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That didn't stop us from hiking part of the Alkali trail (a 5-mile loop through the dunes) and sledding. Rain or shine, 32 degrees Fahrenheit or 110, bring a lot of water if you choose to walk through the dunes. Being in this sandy terrain made me thirsty. The entrance fee was five dollars and this National Park allows leashed dogs. While at the gate you receive a map of the walkable trails, it is incredibly easy to get lost in these vast dunes, so make sure you can see an orange trail marker at all times. 

There are expensive sleds for sale at the Park gift shop, but we picked up some cheap saucers before arriving, which worked fine to feed our sledding fix! White Sands is a fun and alien landscape to explore for the whole family.

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Our dog, Roxy, blends right in with the gypsum sand, except her dark snout. She had fun trying to sled too!

Our dog, Roxy, blends right in with the gypsum sand, except her dark snout. She had fun trying to sled too!

The Magical Waters of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico

Truth or Consequences, New Mexico is a little town in the high desert of southern New Mexico. A town where neon lights try their best to twinkle on and rusty model-T Fords parked on the side of the street beg to be restored to their former glory. However, T or C (as it's called for short) offers many hidden surprises. 

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Truth or Consequences has become a weekend retreat for me. It offers some of my favorite hot springs and waffles in the world. How can one beat waffles and hot springs!?

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It is a lot like the town of Radiator springs in the Pixar movie, CARS, with remnants of its former glory from the era of neon lights and cool '60s diners. The town's original name was "Hot Springs", but in 1950 a popular NBC radio quiz show announced, in honor of the show's 10th anniversary, that if a town changed its name to the title of the show, "Truth or Consequences", the host of the show, Ralph Edwards would visit the town. So, clearly, the citizens of "Hot Springs" thought the prize was worth it.

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The hot springs which T or C sits over truly feel magical. Some of the bath houses here are over 90 years old. I always stay at a place where the hot springs are free flowing, which means that the water is not piped in but comes up through the gravel in the floor of the tubs. This keeps the water naturally "structured". (Structured water has to do with how the molecules join together). I like a lot of the hot springs in New Mexico, but I love how these hot springs feel; the water bubbles against the skin and as long as I don't stay in too long, I get out feeling very much rejuvenated. 

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Now to the waffles... T or C has several good restaurants:  Los Arcos - a good steak house from the 80's, Lattitude 33 - a great Asian fusion restaurant, and The T or C Brewing Company, are all good options.  The place for which I will drive all the way from Albuquerque is Passion Pie Cafe. They have my favorite waffles. I always order the breakfast waffles, which come with bacon inside and eggs on top (I add cheese to the eggs to make them extra awesome). 

So there you have it, yummy breakfast food and bubbly hot springs... a lovely New Mexican weekend retreat!

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Red, Green, or Christmas?

Poinsettas- a plant indigenous to Mexico, but used as decoration all over New Mexico at Christmas time.

Poinsettas- a plant indigenous to Mexico, but used as decoration all over New Mexico at Christmas time.

The smell of pinon wood burning in kiva fireplaces fills the air, and luminarias line the streets in old parts of Santa Fe and Albuquerque, New Mexico. During this time of year my mouth waters for enchiladas, posole, and biscochitos, the delicious New Mexican specialties that mean the holidays are here. 

Old Town Albuquerque

Old Town Albuquerque

Many of us are sentimental about our holiday traditions, and I am no exception. However, it took living in another place, where I didn't have access to much spicy food, in order for me to fall in love with red and green chile. Year round in many restaurants in New Mexico, even non-New Mexican restaurants, the first question after ordering is, "Red, Green, or Christmas?" This refers to the chile that can add extra life and spice to all food, not just New Mexican dishes: stews, sandwiches, pizza, breakfast, and pasta, to name my favorites. New Mexican Chile is created from chile peppers grown only in New Mexico. Roasted green chile can be used in just about anything  (like all the foods I mentioned above), but commonly it is used to make a spicy sauce. Red Chile is the ripened and dried version of the green pepper, that is usually more mellow and smoky. It is also the main ingredient in its own sauce. Hence why the question in all New Mexican restaurants, "Red, Green, or Christmas (both)?" The colors of the chile dress every plate for Christmas!

The bags lining the top of the building are luminarias. (Albuquerque locals call them luminarias - "lights" in Spanish; Santa Fe locals call them farolitos - "lanterns" in Spanish). They are filled with some sand and a votive candle. When Chinese lanterns came to Santa Fe in the mid-18th century, locals liked how they looked, but they didn't hold up in the harsh winter weather, so they created luminaries as a sturdier option. Their night-time glow is a beautiful sight, but unfortunately doesn't photograph well. (We won't even discuss the fake electric ones!)

The bags lining the top of the building are luminarias. (Albuquerque locals call them luminarias - "lights" in Spanish; Santa Fe locals call them farolitos - "lanterns" in Spanish). They are filled with some sand and a votive candle. When Chinese lanterns came to Santa Fe in the mid-18th century, locals liked how they looked, but they didn't hold up in the harsh winter weather, so they created luminaries as a sturdier option. Their night-time glow is a beautiful sight, but unfortunately doesn't photograph well. (We won't even discuss the fake electric ones!)

Christmas tree with hot air balloon and chile Christmas lights.

Christmas tree with hot air balloon and chile Christmas lights.

 When visiting New Mexico during the holidays make sure to walk around Old Town in Albuquerque at dusk, when the luminarias are glowing and carolers are singing in the gazebo at the center of the plaza. Pick up some biscochitos and Mexican wedding cookies from the Golden Panaderia, a bakery that offers my favorite biscochitos in town (you get a free one just for walking in!). Drop by the Christmas Shop, with all the pottery ornaments and hot air balloon Christmas lights. Pick up some tea at the New Mexico Tea Company for a nice warm pick-me up to make on Christmas Day (my favorites are Sandia Spice, Lady Londonderry, and the Plum Oolong). On Christmas Eve join people from across New Mexico as they walk down farolito-lined Canyon Road in Santa Fe, enjoying mulled cider and fabulous art-filled galleries(farolitowalk.com).

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Iced Biscochito Recipe

The sugar and cinnamon dusted biscochitos on the right are from Golden Panaderia Bakery and the iced ones are made from the recipe that I love (below).

The sugar and cinnamon dusted biscochitos on the right are from Golden Panaderia Bakery and the iced ones are made from the recipe that I love (below).

I love to make biscochitos with a twist. Biscochitos are a lard-based sugar cookie flavored with anise and cinnamon, traditionally topped with a dusting of sugar and cinnamon. My  version is a marriage of biscochitos and iced Christmas cookies. I make two batches, one with less anise for family members who don't like it so much. I personally love what the anise adds to the iced sugar cookie, and so will put a little extra in my second batch. Take heed: working with the rather stiff dough broke two of my electric hand mixers. This recipe needs the strength of a standing mixer.

Cookie Ingredients: 

 2 & 1/3 cups of lard

1 & 1/2 cups of sugar

2 tsp. anise seed

2 eggs beaten

3tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

6 cups flour

1/2 cup Amaretto

Cream lard, sugar, and anise in a large mixing bowl. Then add the eggs and beat well. In a separate mixing bowl combine flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture and amaretto to the creamed mixture and beat or stir until a stiff dough has formed. Knead dough and roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut dough into desired shapes. Bake on a cookie sheet in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes or until cookies are slightly brown. 

Icing:

About 1/2 a bag of powdered sugar

3 tablespoons of corn syrup (more if you want to create a glaze instead of frosting)

1/4 tsp. almond extract

Mix ingredients until you have a smooth icing texture; divide into small bowls and add coloring for decorating cookies. Then decorate!!!

 

What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Let me know!

 

 

 

Photo Diary of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta 2017

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This year at the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta, I complained to a friend that I wish I had a better camera. The magic of the balloons was just so hard to capture with my phone camera. My wish was immediately answered as he pointed me towards to Canon tent. Canon loans out cameras for a couple hours, free of charge at the Balloon Fiesta! I spent the rest of the morning geeking out over balloons and the Canon EOS M10 that I borrowed. 

The sun about to peek over the Sandia Mountains.

The sun about to peek over the Sandia Mountains.

Just before sunrise, the balloons glow.

Just before sunrise, the balloons glow.

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The three penguins! (On my list of favorite balloons)

The three penguins! (On my list of favorite balloons)

The Armadillo Sheriff

The Armadillo Sheriff

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The birds.....

The birds.....

And the bees.

And the bees.

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The alligator that wants to be a flying dragon.

The alligator that wants to be a flying dragon.

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Both sides of the force battle for space in the skies.

Both sides of the force battle for space in the skies.

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