Friday, October 27, 2006

Winter is a Comin' In

NOTE: This photo was taken several hours post-post from the Trader Joe's parking lot. Six inches in Taos, a bit less in the Santa Fe Ski Basin (which is where you see the snow in this photo).

Yesterday, in contrast to all the rest of the days so far this fall--where it's hit at least 60 degrees every day, the temperature did not rise above 50, and the wind was blowing. Even a short walk across campus felt cold! As I write this, it's a little after 8 in the morning, and the temperature has just hit 32. But tomorrow it's supposed to be back in the 60s again for a few days.

The last couple of days the mountain peaks were shrouded in dark clouds--I look forward to my drive to work later today where I can see how much snow fell in the mountain tops--it's wonderful to see the snow from a distance!!

When it's sunny (as it is today), the house absorbs quite a lot of heat. The windows in the dining room and office especially (two huge 7x7 sections of a mix of fixed and movable glass) are on a side of the house that's both sheltered and sunny, and when I open the blinds in the morning the sun is almost blinding--it feels great!

I have a window seat in the master bedroom below another large window installation. The window seat is about 9 feet wide, and windows rise from the seat top all the way to the high ceilings. I read all these books as a child where little girls curled up on window seats to think deep thoughts and gaze into their futures, and now that I have a window seat, I think it will be a wondeful place to snuggle up with the morning paper and a cup of coffee and bake in the sun (especially when it's cold outside). I am eagerly awaiting the delivery of a window seat cushion to facilitate this idyllic experience!

It has taken me some time to get used to a forced hot air heating system. It makes the house very dry (note to self, get a humidifier!), and when the fan kicks on it seems very loud to me (though my plumber/heating guy says it's working fine). I have very high ceilings in the public rooms, so they don't warm up as fast as the low-ceilinged rooms. The bathrooms get quite cozy quickly! I think I still need to spend some time opening and closing various vents to get the temperature right.

I had my chimney cleaned last week, so theoretically I can have fires in the fireplace. I am a little nervous about fires--it's been a long time since I've had a fireplace, and I was never really responsible for fire maintenance before, though I'm sure my early GIrl Scout training will kick in!! I do have split logs waiting (but, note to self, take a nice walk along the trails to gather some kindling).

That's the weather report for today!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Letters to the Editor

Well this is what we semi-retired people do--we write letters to the editor. (Who else has time?!?) So here is my first letter to the editor in a long time--a letter on marathon running to the Santa Fean magazine. Unfortunately they don't allow online links to the letters section (at least not that I could find), but here is the text which appeared in the October issue on p. 16.

the long run

I enjoyed your profile of Frank Shorter ["Enduring Athlete," July]. However, there was one error. The author states that Shorter's victory in the 1972 Olympic marathon was the "first and last for an American marathoner since 1908." It should actually read "first and last for an American male marathoner." American runner Joan Benoit won the inaugural women's marathon at the Los Angeles Olympics 12 years later, in 1984.

I actually had more in my original letter about seeing Shorter and Benoit {Samuelson) run in the Boston marathon, but that seems to have been edited out. So it's a good thing I didn't elaborate on more of my marathon viewing history!

Monday, October 16, 2006

Cross Country Eats

When my sister and I drove from Boston to Santa Fe at the end of July, we had to average 500 miles a day, and didn't have much time to see the local sights. But we vowed that we would not stop for lunch at fast food/chain restaurants, and that we would take the time to get off the highway and eat at a "local" place. It has seemed to me for some time that the whole country is so homogenized that you could be dropped down in the suburbs of any part of the continental US, and you would have very few clues as to where you were. Everybody's got McDonalds and Burger King and the other fast food joints, the same big box stores (Walmart, Target, Home Depot), the same department stores (Sears, JC Penney), the same clothing stores (Gap, TJ Maxx, Chico's, Victoria's Secret), etc. Like the author and his readers in The Accidental Tourist , many Americans wouldn't have it any other way.

NOTE: I had the experience of living in Germany from 1961-1962, and we met several American military families who had never shopped anywhere other than the PX, and were totally missing out on the fabulous experiences of German food in particular.

I happen to love finding those little regional differences when you go out to spend money in a part of the country you're not intimately familar with. So here are a few regional treats from our trip.

Utica, New York: "chicken riggies". The restaurant we ate at claimed that their chicken riggies were truly top-notch (compared to all the obviously inferior chicken riggies in other restaurants in Utica). Apparently there is a big "chicken riggies" festival every year where the restaurants compete against each other for the best chicken riggies performance. The waitress was quick to tell us that while they hadn't won best of show in the most recent festival, they had won other times and they were really excellent. Chicken riggies turn out to be a dish with chicken, rigatoni, olives, and other ingredients and when we showed up later than evening in. . .

Buffalo, New York: "roast beef on weck". . . . the waitress had never heard of "chicken riggies" but informed us that "weck" (the longer name is "kummelweck" which I pronounced as if it were German, which made it incomprehensible to the native Buffalonians) is a local rye bread, and "roast beef on weck" a local treat. (I wouldn't stoop so low as to use "Buffalo chicken wings" as my example here--WAAYYY too obvious...)

Milan, Ohio: "fried bologna". This entry shows up here because I haven't seen fried bologna on the menu since high school, where it was one of the few hot food choices available. While I didn't order it in Milan, I became immediately nostalgic for a fried bologna sandwich with lots of mustard. We found fried bologna at the Invention Restaurant in Milan, with a nod to Thomas Edison (invention--get it?) who was born there. It was a fabulous local spot like something out of an old movie or TV show. Everyone eating there--at the counter or at a booth--appeared local except for us, and included tradespeople, real estate agents, insurance agents, etc. Everybody knew everybody else and spent time inquiring about the health or occupations of various family members. The waitress knew everyone's name, and said sure it was fine if Bill paid for his lunch next time he was in since he forgot his wallet.

Davenport, Iowa: "vanilla phosphate", "egg cream", and liverwurst sandwiches. We stopped in Davenport because our grandmother grew up there, and we ate at Lagomarcino's in East Davenport--a restaurant that had been there for 75 years or so. It was basically an old ice cream parlor, serving homemade ice creams and candies, but also with a lunch menu. They had all the old soda fountain treats, and the aforementioned liverwurst sandwiches--another processed meat I have a childhood-remembered weakness for.

Walnut, Iowa: gizzards and "Dorothy Lynch salad dressing". Not served together, actually, but the first time I think I've ever seen gizzards on a menu. We didn't ask about "Dorothy Lynch salad dressing"--assumed Dorothy was a local lady (maybe the owner or the cook?). But the next day in. . .

Cozad, Nebraska: . . . we stopped at a truck stop for gas and ate in the restaurant there where Dorothy Lynch made another appearance. We had to ask this time, and it turns out this is a brand introduced in Nebraska in the later 1940s. As the website tells the story:

"Yes, there really and truly was a Dorothy Lynch. In the late 1940s, Dorothy Lynch and her husband ran the restaurant at the local Legion Club in St. Paul, Nebraska. This is where the original recipe for Dorothy Lynch Home Style Dressing was born. As the Legion Club members were introduced to this delicious recipe the legend of Dorothy Lynch began to grow and the dressing fast became a "must-have" favorite. Stories of local people bringing their own bottle or jug to town to have it filled with "that delicious Dorothy Lynch salad dressing" were quite common.

In 1964, Tasty-Toppings, Inc. purchased the recipe and rights to Dorothy Lynch and built a production facility in Columbus, Nebraska. The company later expanded its production capacity with a modern 64,000 square foot plant in Duncan, Nebraska. This is where every bottle of Dorothy Lynch Home Style is produced today."

They actually sell it at the Albertson's in Santa Fe--it's available in about half the country--everywhere to the west of Ohio and Louisiana. Who knew?

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Doña Concha

Photograph by Robert H. Martin

For those of you with an interest in women's history, I want to share a story I read about last week. A woman named Maria Concepción Ortiz y Pino de Kleven died on September 30 at the age of 96, and her life really told the story of the 20th century. She was born in what is now New Mexico before it became a state. Her family had been here for nine generations--her (however many greats that is)-grandfather had come from Spain as a member of the army that reconquered New Mexico after the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. In 1811, her great-great-grandfather served as the representative of New Mexico to the Cortes, Spain's highest governing body.

But it's Doña Concha's own story that I find most interesting. At the age of 22, she traveled with the 1932 Roosevelt Caravan across New Mexico, and was elected to the state legislature in 1936, 1938, and 1940 (as New Mexico's third female legislator). In 1941--young, unmarried, and Hispanic--she became Democratic majority whip--the first woman in the US to hold such a position in state government. Her causes were causes which remain important today--women's rights, school funding, bilingual education, the rights of the disabled, and the preservation of native culture. She lobbied for the rights of women to serve on juries, worked to equalize funding for urban and rural schools, and promoted mandatory Spanish instruction for junior high school students in the state. During the Depression she helped to set up workshops to preserve the traditional arts, crafts, and folklore of New Mexico.

She also helped pass legislation to establish the School of Inter-American Affairs at the University of New Mexico. She enrolled at the school in 1942 at the age of 32 and became its first graduate.

On a lighter note, Clark Gable once sent her a handwritten note suggesting she come to Hollywood to take a screen test, and she was officially named Albuquerque's best-dressed woman.

She married late for the era (at the age of 33)--her husband for the next 13 years until his death was Victor Kleven, a Rhodes Scholar who helped establish the League of Nations. He was a professor at the University of Mexico, and she taught etiquette (!) there during the 1940s.

In 1951 she became "boss lady" of Agua Verde, her family's 100,000 acre ranch, when her father became too infirm to continue its management. In the five years she ran the ranch, it went from near bankruptcy to prosperity. She introduced electricity, plumbing, and telephones to the ranch, and bought a TV which she invited the ranch hands into the house each night to watch. (Doesn't Barbara Stanwyck in Big Valley or Mercedes McCambridge playing Luz Benedict in Giant come to mind?)

When her husband died in 1956, she returned to Albuquerque and dedicated the rest of her life to political, social, and cultural causes, serving as a Board Member of more than 60 organizations during the next 50 years. She had no children, but her cousin, state Senator Jerry Ortiz y Pino, says that she "used all her maternal energies to be absolutely maternal to lots of people, especially the poor."

Five US presidents (Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford, and Carter) named her to national boards such as the NIH, the National Commission on Architectural Barriers, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

She was inducted into the New Mexico Women's Hall of Fame, and named "Latina of the Century" in 1999 by Vista Magazine. In 2004, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson named a state building in Santa Fe in her honor. “Doña Concha is a true New Mexican treasure,” said Governor Richardson. “Her pioneering work as a legislator, advocate for her fellow women, educator, and community activist has improved the lives of countless New Mexicans, and has forever changed New Mexico for the better.”

She remained involved in politics until the end of her life, attending a fundraiser for Patricia Madrid, candidate for Congress from New Mexico, the month before her death.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

The 1st of October

So that you get some feeling for the seasons in Santa Fe, I'm going to dedicate a post on the first of each month to some seasonal photos and observations. Today I took a drive to the Santa Fe Ski Basin (about 13 miles out of town). Beautiful views of the fall foliage en route and at the mountain. The ski lift is open during this period for what the folks in New England call "leaf peeping", and while it didn't have the glorious mix of colors one might observe in the East, a full yellow aspen grove is really something to see. The leaves when yellow appear to be shinier than leaves like maple and oak are when they turn color, so a group of aspens appears to have a special light or sparkle--the trees truly glow. So I rode the quad chair to slightly over 11,000 feet in altitude, and then walked back down to 10,000. Because the straight shot down was quite steep-I did a lot of traversing--which I'm used to doing on skis but not while walking. But I took a logging trail down and took my time--it was beautiful--sunny, warm, and peaceful.

Below is a shot of the lift going up (with the incredible blue skies that you get here in Santa Fe).

Following that is a grove of aspens similar to ones I saw on the trail down. (In the interest of journalistic integrity, this is actually a picture I took by the side of the road after I drove away from the basin--but it was a better picture so there you go...)

The third photograph is a look backwards at part of the trail I have just come down. (A year ago, when I was just starting to walk without a cane, I couldn't have imagined I would be able to do this!)

So what's different from a similar hike in let's say Vermont on October 1? Basically, it's a lot higher up and a lot warmer! I was between 11,250 and 10,350 feet in altitude during the hike, wearing a long-sleeve T-shirt and jeans, and was really too warm. Also, I have, without noticing it, gotten used to living at 7,000 feet--I wasn't at all out of breath.

When I got home, I took a shot of my rose bush--still new buds blooming--that's different from New England too!

And last, but not least, I had half a cord of split piñon wood for the fireplace delivered this morning--below is one of the beautiful stacks that César created for me. Piñon fires have a well-deserved reputation in Santa Fe--the smoke is supposed to be intoxicating. We'll see! I feel like such a pioneer with my wood all laid in for the winter (only I didn't have to chop it!!)