Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye 2007 . . .

We're well on our way to recovery, and do I ever hope none of you get this particular bug, it's a whopper! While I don't have a whole lot to write about, I just wanted to close out the year with a short entry.

2007 has been an incredible journey for us, so for all the adventures, all the friends we have, both old and new and for all the adventures we all have to look forward to in 2008, I am truly thankful.

Below is a photo I took as the sun was rising this morning.

Life is Good and I wish that for all of you.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Reasons I Love Being Sick

NONE, dang it!

I have now been sick for the last twelve days, and I'm sick of being sick! That said, I am recovering, and starting to feel like there's a light at the end of the tunnel.

Yesterday I even went to the grocery store (out of necessity, NOT a fun trip).

And now Terry, my sweet Hunny Bunny is into day six of the same malady, so he will be out of commission for probably another week. What a drag.

But this post isn't just to moan and groan (well, maybe it is a little bit . . .)

Being sick (and starting to feel better) makes me think about a lot of things I generally take for granted.

At the top of this list is the gift of good health that we generally enjoy.

Also I'm so thankful that I am no longer working.

For years I would get something like this and have to deal with the whole question of whether I should call in sick or stay home. This was always a horrible dilemma. If you call in sick, you put an extra burden on those you work with, and risk them thinking you're faking it. On the other hand, if you go in, you risk infecting everyone and that's not a good thing either.

Now that I'm retired, when I get sick like this, I can just lie back and feel crappy till I get well.

This may not seem like a huge deal, but for thirty seven years I worked in a small office. I can't begin to tell you what a relief it is to just be allowed to be sick with no mental hassles about work.

Another thing I am thankful for is living in such a small space. You know what a mess you make when you're sick? Meds, kleenex, magazines and whatever all over the place, it doesn't take long for your space to turn into a complete sty. In Cholula, no matter how bad it gets, we can always make it habitable in just a few minutes.

And this might be a good time to mention my new kitchen towels! After two years of using various "cute" kitchen towels, I finally broke down and bought some plain white flour sack type kitchen towels. No wonder these things have been around forever! They are THE most absorbent, cheap, lightweight towels I've ever used. They are just a pleasure to use. They make cleaning up the dishes a snap. Not really being sick related, but they do make my life easier, and I'm trying to be positive here!

So this is my sick post. Although it's been a drag, I still have things to be thankful for!

Life is good (and will be even better when we're both well and can get back to taking pictures . . .)

Thursday, December 27, 2007


Most mornings I am awake before sunrise, and it's become a habit to get up and experience the dawn.

It's been quite cold at night here, so I rarely go outside to enjoy the morning view, but by opening all the blinds, I am greeted every morning with a special gift.

Off to the west lie the Magdalena Mountains. From where I sit they're not exceptionally high but provide a distinct horizon. Often the higher peaks have snow and if there are clouds in the sky they are usually in this direction.

The light on these mounds changes constantly. Did I ever know there were so many hues of blue before New Mexico?

Some mornings I am greeted by the moon still hanging above these cliffs while the sun is preparing to rise in the opposite direction.

To the east lie a ridge of low mesas, apparently flat but on closer viewing alive with detail. At first, the sun still below the horizon, they take on a sharp silhouette, ebony against the dark blue of the emerging daybreak. Slowly the blue brightens up and then the sun quietly rises, changing the landscape to reveal a new vision every day.

When I see the early rising cranes and geese, it is always against this tableau and it never fails to move me.

As the sun continues its ascent, the vista opens up and I often try to imagine what life must have been like here along the Rio Grande in days gone by.

This land has taken a true hold on me, I feel at peace and at home.

Life is good.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Happy Holidays!

Happy Holidays to all of you!

I have several posts that I've been working on, but unfortunately, I've contracted the cold/sore throat from Hell and have been pretty much out of commission for the last week or so.

That said, while we don't make a huge deal of the Holidays, I do like to make a special meal. This last Thanksgiving we had just arrived at Bosque del Apache and shared a lovely meal with fellow Laze Dazers Art and Barbara Bergreen. Barbara cooked a small turkey and I made a turkey roulade that I had seen on the Food Channel. While it was OK, I know it can be improved on, so that's my mission for Christmas dinner.

To start with, you need a boneless turkey breast. For Thanksgiving, I got my turkey already boned at Costco, but right now Costco is just too far away, so I went to the Smiths Market in Socorro (a lovely market) and found a regular turkey breast with the bone still in it. A few nice words with the butcher and I had boned turkey breast (yeah, yeah, I could have done it my self, but the butcher does such a neat and tidy job!).

Before you start on this project, you have to prepare and cool your stuffing. Now there are millions of stuffing recipes out there, so use the one you like the best. For Thanksgiving, I used a wild rice and mushroom stuffing but found it kind of blah, so for Christmas, I'm going a more traditional route. I'll use bread, chicken stock, spices, cooked bacon, onion, carrots, celery, Brazil nuts, and pecans (because I love that crunch you get from nuts). I also like to put in a whole package of fresh sage, chopped really fine. It just seems that the fresh sage adds a nice flavor not achieved with dried, but again, that's a personal preference.

Whatever stuffing you make, it must be prepared and chilled before you begin this project.

Now, on to the turkey breast. You should have good size turkey breast, all boned and skinned. The one we bought was just over four pounds prior to boning and skinning. Use a nice sharp knife to cut it into a somewhat even piece so you can flatten the whole thing. Try not to cut all the way through as this will make it harder to roll out.

Next, put it in between two separate pieces of plastic wrap (one on the top, one on the bottom) and pound away, taking out all those shopping frustrations on this poor bird. The object here is to have a large piece of turkey that you can stuff and roll, kind of like a jelly roll.

Since I've relinquished so many of my kitchen tools for life on the road, I had to improvise. Scrounging through the pantry, I found a full bottle of olive oil and discovered that it makes a pretty good substitute for my meat tenderizer. Need I mention that it was olive oil in a plastic bottle? When you're done pounding, the meat should be about one half to three quarters of an inch thick.

Now you want to take the plastic wrap off of one side only, salt and pepper liberally, then pread a nice even layer of dressing on top of the turkey. Try to stay away from the edges as it will kind of mush out as you roll it up. Use the plastic wrap on the bottom to help you roll the whole thing up, keeping it as tight as possible and set it aside for a few minutes.

Take a nice sized piece of cooking parchment paper, large enough to roll the whole thing in, with a bit left over. Take uncooked bacon and lay it out so that when you roll the turkey in the parchment, bacon will completely surround the roll. I like to do the bacon in a lattice design, since it keeps the whole thing together better but that's not absolutely necessary. It's more important that the bacon surround the roll so it will be nice and moist

When the bacon is arranged, lift the turkey roll onto the parchment. This can be kind of tricky but just take your time. You want to lay the roll on the bacon and tightly roll the whole thing up. There should be paper left over on the ends, which you will crimp as tight as you can. Now, take the roll (which at this point should resemble one of the New Years' Eve poppers) and place it into tin foil and wrap the whole thing up again, all snug in its' tin foil blanket.

I like to prepare this the day before and keep it in the fridge, which I just did on this Christmas Eve.

Tomorrow, I'll let it sit out for a few minutes to come to room temperature, then pop it into a 350 degree oven about ninety minutes. I like to use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. While all the books say that a turkey should be 165 degrees, I like to let it rest a bit before slicing, so I usually take it out at 150 degrees. It will continue to cook in the foil and in about twenty minutes, it should be up to temperature and ready to slice.

When you remove it from the the parchment, the bacon will be limp and pretty much cooked out, so you can discard it along with the parchment.

I just love the presentation this makes, and the bacon keeps the turkey all juicy with just a bit of the smoky bacon flavor.

I'll serve this with more dressing, some mashed potatoes and the old standby green bean casserole. A lot for just the two of us, but I just can't let Christmas go without celebrating a bit.

If you were here, I'd certainly invite you to join us!

And now I'm off to watch Christmas movies and try to continue recuperating from this cold.

Even feeling kind of punk, the weather is bright (but very cold at nights), the birds are still impressive and life is good.

Merry Christmas to you all.

As an added note . . .

I woke up this morning and looked out the window and saw this beautiful site.

Did you know that for just a couple of days, the moon is at its closest point to the earth in years? I guess that accounts for this shot (not as good as I would like, but it's what I got). Taken at 6:00am I was just thrilled at the look of the moon over the mountains while the sun was rising on the opposite horizon.

Once again, Merry Christmas

Life is good

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Babylon 5

We are pretty heavy fantasy/science fiction fans. We particularly like watching a whole series on dvd, no interruptions, no commercials.

Our favorite series include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly (can you tell we like Joss Whedon?) and more recently we really liked the 4400, Battlestar Galactica, Dark Angel, Stargate SG1 and Farscape, an Aussie series which really blew us away.

In talking with different people, when they hear we have enjoyed all these series, they all say we HAVE to watch Babylon 5.

Written as a novel for television, it lasted for five season and has a pretty loyal following. Taking all this into account, when we found the series for a reasonable price, we picked it up and have started watching it.

And as of now (Season 1, the seventh episode) we are completely flummoxed.

Can someone tell us when this series picks up? I realize that some of these long term series take a while to gel, but this one is really bad.

Not only are the characters pretty uninteresting but we both agree, the acting is really atrocious, wooden and flat

Can any of my readers help me here? We are about to give up!

Just thought I'd ask!

Monday, December 17, 2007

Hanging Around at Bosque del Apache

I'll start this entry with a few photos we took between where we're camped and the Bosque.

The cranes are everywhere around here, which in no way diminishes my delight with them. Generally, they travel in pairs or trios (do you know that Sandhill Cranes mate for life?) when they aren't with a larger flock.

These shots were taken in a pasture we drive past almost every day. This trio seems to live here, at least every time we've been by, they (or maybe their close relatives) have been here.

Here's a close up of the pair.

If you look carefully at this next shot you can see all three of them in the center of this pasture. Isn't this landscape glorious?

We've been spending some time at the Visitors center at Bosque del Apache, a most interesting place!

Inside, every day, they post the number of birds at the Refuge. This is calculated using sightings, amounts of feed, and some magical numbers that they seem to pull out of the air.

For instance, on this day, they stated no Bald Eagles, but we saw them, so we know they were there. I guess this isn't an exact science.

It is nice that they even try to count these thousands of birds.

Outside of the Visitors Center is a lovely garden, full of desert plants, sculptures and recreated structures from this areas rich past. This is one of several places where you can have lunch.

The day I was shooting these, the sun was rapidly descending, so the light was pretty interesting. I really liked the way the backlighting on these cactus spines.

For some reason, this shot came out really warm. Since it was in the 40s, it made me feel really good, so I'm including it here.

Another case of interesting backlighting. All these cactus are so intertwined, it's hard to tell where one starts and another leaves off.

With all the cranes and other large birds, we sometimes forget the thousands of small birds, but they add just as much to the magic of this place as their larger relatives.

I caught this just as the sun was going down.


Life is very good.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Yard Sales and Used Goodies

My whole life I have been a collector, with a particular knack for finding great deals. While this has brought me much pleasure, it's a facet of my personality I've had to examine living in the motorhome.

For the first year or so, I wouldn't allow myself to go to a flea market or yard sale, for fear of over cluttering the rig. But that wasn't to last for long, the lure of the used deal calls to me, even as we travel.

I believe I've finally worked it out to where I can have the best of both worlds (sort of) There are a lot of things in Cholula Red that are semi permanent, such as rugs, dishes, towels, etc. Now when I go to a yard sale or flea market and find something truly special, I make sure that there is a use for it in the rig While this often means getting rid of something already in the rig, it's working out fine for us. It makes me feel fine to get something new and be able to pass on whatever it's replacing to someone else.

Today was a perfect example. Our living room rug has been looking really shabby, definitely on its way out, so that's been in the back of my mind.

On our way to do some grocery shopping, we saw a sign for a yard sale and off we went. I strolled around outside and started talking with a gent who seemed to be in charge. It turns out that a lady is moving and he says there's lots more in the house. As soon as I got inside, I noticed a beautiful red Chinese carpet. It looked just perfect, with a delicate design of symbols and birds. I checked it out carefully and found it to be in fine condition, lightly soiled (not a problem) but tight and heavy, a perfect choice for Cholula Red. I asked the lady how much it was and she went into a long explanation of what a great carpet it was and how she would include the special Oriental carpet pad that she had bought specially for it (she said the pad cost almost as much as the rug). I was getting ready for an exorbitant price, when she said "Do you think $25.00 is fair?" I agreed that it was more than fair and loaded it in the car.

Here's a photo, but for some reason, it makes the rug look all mottled, which it isn't. But I wanted to show you our new rug, it certainly brightens the place up!

I continued looking around and noticed that there were lots of birding books. Ever since we spent last summer communing with the hummingbirds at Manzano, we've found ourselves more and more fascinated by birds of all kinds. Of course, being here at the bosque has only added to our interest. I started looking through the books and found six hummingbird books and about a dozen other books on birds. Since these are usually $10.00 to $20.00 apiece, I asked the price and was thrilled to find them only fifty cents each! While we wont be able to keep them all, we'll take a look and then pass them off to others who are also interested in birds. That shouldn't be too hard, here at the bosque!

All in all, a great day at the local yard sale.

We've decided to stay here at Birdwatchers RV till January 7, so we can celebrate Christmas with the cranes. Hopefully. before we leave I'll be able to get some good pictures to share with you.

Life is really good.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Around Socorro

Just a quick post today.

I thought I'd mention a few of the great things there are to do in this area.

Of course the Bosque del Apache is a huge draw, but there's a lot of other things to do.

We're about 25 miles from the lovely little town of Magdalena, which sits in the foothills above Socorro. A true old west town, it now boasts a rustic feel, full of old buildings, lots of atmosphere and a great collection of art galleries.

It sits on the road that leads to the Very Large Array (VLA).

The VLA is a true wonder of the modern world, a Radio Astronomy Telescope consisting of twenty seven giant dishes. Each dish has a diameter of eighty two feet and weighs a whopping two hundred and thirty tons. They are all connected via a set of rails which allows one or all of them to be moved into different configurations.

This array is a site to behold (I would love to see them in motion!) and something you should definitely visit if you are ever in this area. If you've ever seen the film Contact with Jodie Foster, then you've had a taste of this place, but no film can capture the surreal beauty of this place.

It made me feel like I had landed on another planet.

The El Camino Real International Heritage Center is located some 25 miles south of Socorro.

It's a relatively new museum chronicling the history of the El Camino Real. This road began in Mexico City and stretched all the way to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It follows a route that was used by the ancients, then the native Americans, then the Spaniards, and now the current residents of North America. Believed to be the oldest highway in the United States, the original path of the El Camino Real has been somewhat forgotten, but this heritage center hopes to remedy that situation.

Located out in the middle of nowhere (literally, it stands out in the desert, solitary and beautiful) this facility rises from the geography like some ancient edifice. You just can't prepare yourself for the experience of this place, both the museum itself and the outside grounds.

I've included just one photo of the rear area that sits above the Rio Grand River.

I realize I haven't covered these places very thoroughly but I find I get all caught up in the writing details, then I never post.

Figuring it was better to give you a small taste of the area, I'll just post these bits and pieces and hopefully whet your appetite for this wonderful area.

Life is good.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

the New Mexico Skies

We took a trip into Albuquerque today and once again, I was agog at the skies in this area.

Neither Terry or I seem to get bored with these enormous vistas. The light here is superb and the sheer enormity of the sky a constant wonder.

In the short course of an hour, I took these shots as the panorama continued to unfold, They were all taken from the car, about 70mph and through our less than pristine windshield, so I'm aware they're less than perfect.

That said, this will just be one of those blog entries that serve to help me remember a glorious afternoon and remind me how good life can be.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The Salinas Pueblos

Regular readers know that I've been pretty lax in keeping up with this blog, but that doesn't mean I haven't been thinking about it and taking lots of pictures to eventually post.

So now it's time to try to catch up a bit here.

Let me say right off that this is a very photo intensive entry, so it may take a while to load. As always, you can click on any picture for a larger version

We left Alamogordo last May and headed up to Manzano Mountains State Park. Our original plan had been to go over to Datil Wells to see the Very Large Array, but a kind ranger at Oliver Lee told us about the Salinas Pueblos and assured us it was something we needed to see.

This is just another aspect of what we love about this lifestyle, the freedom to change our minds and go where the wind blows, so it was off to Manzano we went.

And what a revelation these pueblos have proved to be, I don't know where to begin. We had never heard of the Salinas Pueblos, but, let me tell you, this area has opened up new vistas for both of us and proved educational in ways which we both appreciate.

The Salinas Pueblos are three ancient pueblos/villages, situated in the Estancia Basin. Native Americans have lived here since around 700 AD (and probably earlier) and there are ruins all over the area, but the "official" Salinas Pueblos are Gran Quivera, Quarai and Abo. Each is an individual city, but all are located within approximately thirty miles of each other.

During our time in Manzano, we visited the pueblos various times and these pictures are representative of the summer of 2007.

The Tour Begins

Gran Quivera

This shot is an overview of Gran Quivera, taken from the bottom of the hill.
This day was really magical with the clouds and the sun,
I LOVE the light in New Mexico.

There are numerous kivas scattered throughout Gran Quivera. Interesting that for a number of years the native religions flourished right along side of the Catholic Church. When the church decided to try to ban the native religions, the result was the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, which resulted in the Spaniards being ejected from this are for approximately twelve years.

I was really taken with the lavender flowers growing in the bottom of this kiva.

This shot shows two kivas and an excavated room. Only about 10% of the Pueblo has been excavated. There are many questions as to the actual purpose of a lot of these rooms

Most of the rooms measure around six to eight feet square, certainly small compared to modern homes, but not too terrible to those of us who spend a lot of times in motorhomes!

Gran Quivera is the largest of the three pueblos in the Estancia Basin.

A wider shot of the outbuilding shown above.

This area is the remains of the Catholic Church that was
built by the Native Americans under the supervision of the Catholic Church.

I just couldn't get enough of the designs created by these walls.

More walls.
Have I mentioned that we were the only ones visiting Gran Quivera that day?
It certainly added to the magic that we had the place to ourselves.

Another shot I'm including just because I like it.
The cholla were in bloom all over the plains.

The holes in the walls held the timbers that once supported the roof.

I liked the contrast of this tower against the clouds.

A shot from inside the chapel looking out over the plains.

The Pueblos were built on top of older ruins,
which can be seen in this excavated room.

They would build the new rooms at an angle
over the existing walls for structural integrity.
It isn't known how far down these ruins actually extend.

A shot taken from the top of the ruins looking over the plains.

I took this shot as we were walking down from the ruins.
If you looks really close, you can see a Ranger up on the mound.
These folks do a wonderful job keeping the grounds clear.
This shot gives you some idea of how far the Pueblo at Gran Quivera extends.

I took this last shot at the Visitor Center at Gran Quivera.
I really liked the way the clouds looked through the patio roof.

Now we're moving to Quarai.
This is my favorite of the three Pueblos.
It's also the closest to Manzano Mountains State Park,
where we were camp hosting this summer.

This shows the inside of the chapel at Quarai.

Another angle from inside the chapel.
The acoustics in here are so great that several times a year,
a capella groups perform at Quarai.

From inside the main ruins, this shows the orchards of Quarai.

I liked this little bird who has taken up residence in the chapel.

The towers at Quarai are some of the highest
still remaining at any of the three Pueblos.

Another shot of the ruins.
This day was quite lovely, blue skies, 70 degrees and just the hint of a breeze.
Once again, we had the place all to ourselves.

A wide shot of the main buildings at Quarai.

Quarai has the most water of all three Pueblos.
Since the water here is more readily available,
this Pueblo still has remnants of the original orchards and fields.

A lovely path winds around the grounds, surrounded by wild roses.

And daisies.

The rangers have built this bridge and cleared this spot
so you may picnic at Quarai if you like.

And now on to Abo, the third of the Pueblos.

Each Pueblo is similar, but each has it's own feeling.

I liked this shot,
taken from inside of the Pueblo and looking out at the grounds.

A final shot of Abo.

Aren't these Pueblos a wonder of our American history? They have been collectively designated as a National Monument and should get more visitors than they do.

If you're in the area, make sure not to miss these National Treasures.

Our Life is Good.