Monday, February 28, 2011

On Living in the (Northern New Mexico) Country

I have lived in one of the world’s largest cities, in the suburbs, the country, and now in Northern New Mexico, which I sometimes describe as the “official middle of nowhere.” Of course if there was an official middle of nowhere, this would probably not be it. I use that description when I am talking to people from other places who just can’t grasp the concept that there are still areas in this country where there is no home delivery of the mail. It’s rural. You get my point.

I know there are many people who just can’t understand why anyone would choose to live in such a rural area. And I'm glad they feel that way. If everyone wanted to live in the country, there’d be damn little of it left. I was never one of those people. Even when I lived in New York, I yearned to be in the country. I was there because I needed to be there for my chosen profession. But it didn’t take. I was always a blue jeans girl. I brought my dog with me everywhere I went. Luckily, I could do that, but what I couldn't do was go home to the pleasures of the cool evening air rustling the leaves of the trees, a huge canopy of stars over my head, and the soft sounds of owls in the distance.

We have a section on Taos Unlimited called the Taos Home Companion, with a subtitle of “Life in the Slow Lane.” I love that. It really exemplifies what I love about living in the country. It’s a joy just to sit in your yard and listen to the birds and the wind in the orchard grass. To watch the hummingbirds investigate the flowers and the wind chimes and sculptures hanging from the portal. To experience the abundance of life which surrounds you. And to let your thoughts go where they will. To be in the now, and at the same time to remember other sweet moments of your life. I have been creative all my life, and I have found over the years that it is this quiet contemplation which has inspired my favorite visual art and my favorite writing. That says something to me. And now that I live in this fantastic place where I see mountains out every one of my windows, I won't be leaving. This is home. ~Aimee

Today I awoke to one of those beautiful clear, sunny winter days; the kind of day that makes you feel optimistic about the future and everything in it. There’s something about that particular sunlight here in Taos that is world famous. It has attracted artists, writers, musicians and many other creative types to the area since who knows when. I’m one of those types. I’m just not happy unless I’m doing something creative.

I had a roundabout way of landing here in Northern New Mexico. Born and raised in America’s heartland, that way of life wasn’t enough for me, so I headed to California: first living in Los Angeles for a time, then moving on to San Francisco. What was I seeking? An unlimited outlet for my creative desires and the exciting lifestyle that you can only find in the “fast lane.” I met a lot of famous people, worked in the fringe of the entertainment community, and had the kind of experiences that most people never even get a glimpse of. That’s the place I chose to spend my youth, but I really didn’t fulfill my dreams there.

When I first left for California, on that fateful drive, while in Albuquerque, I said to my best friend (who was on that journey with me), “If things don’t work out, I’ll come back here to New Mexico, and that will be where I will stay for the rest of my life.”

Things didn’t work out on the West Coast, and I kept that promise to myself, even though it took 21 years and a miracle to get here. At this point in my life, maturity has taught me that nothing is perfect. But I love this place. I’m staying. ~Jean

Friday, February 25, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Duster

The original dusters were full-length, light-colored canvas or linen coats worn by horsemen to protect their clothing from trail dust. These dusters were typically slit up the back to hip level for ease of wear on horseback. At the turn of the 20th century, both men and women wore dusters to protect their clothes when riding in open motorcars on dirt roads. Western horsemen's dusters gained renewed popularity in the late 20th century, primarily through the J. Peterman catalog, and are now a standard item of Western wear. They figured little in Western films, until Sergio Leone reintroduced them in his movies “The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly” and “Once Upon a Time in the West.” The duster was also worn by some of the characters in the movie “Silverado” and the TV mini-series “Lonesome Dove.” ~Jean

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Green Chile Cornbread


* 1 cup plus 2 tbsp. cornmeal
* 1 cup all purpose flour
* 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 tbsp. baking powder
* 1/4 cup sugar
* 1/2 cup (1 stick) softened unsalted butter
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 2 eggs
* 1-3/4 cups milk
* 2 cups of chopped, roasted green chiles or 2 7-oz. cans of chopped green chiles
* 1 cup corn


For an especially savory bread, add 3 slices bacon crumbled and 1 cup grated cheddar cheese.

Cooking Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Grease an 8 x 12 inch baking dish or a 10” to 12" cast iron skillet.

In a large bowl mix the cornmeal, flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda.

In a separate bowl, beat the softened butter and sugar. Beat the sour cream and eggs into the butter-sugar mixture. Add the milk and the dry ingredients 1/3 at a time, alternating wet/dry. Fold in the green chiles, corn, and shredded cheese. Do not over-mix. Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.

Bake for 35 minutes, until top is browned, the center springs back when pressed down, and a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool almost completely before serving.


Monday, February 21, 2011

President's Day = Skiing in Taos!

Many of us are familiar with the parable of the six blind men and the elephant:

Once upon a time, there lived in one village six blind men. One day some neighbors told them there was an elephant in the village. They had no idea what an elephant was, so they decided to go "see" it. The men surrounded the elephant, each of them touching a different part of the animal.

"Hey, the elephant is a pillar," said the first man who touched his leg.

"Oh, no! It is like a rope," said the second man who touched the tail.

"Oh, no! It is like a thick branch of a tree," said the third man who touched the trunk of the elephant.

"It is like a big hand fan," said the fourth man who touched the ear of the elephant.

"It is like a huge wall," said the fifth man who touched the belly of the elephant.

"It is like a solid pipe," said the sixth man who touched the tusk of the elephant.

When I was a kid, we celebrated Lincoln's Birthday on February 12th, and Washington's Birthday on February 22nd. In 1968, Congress decided all federal holidays should fall on a Monday, at which point they proceeded to discombobulate most everyone's ability to remember when national holidays took place, and in many cases, what they were. To top it off, they couldn't actually decide what the official name of the third Monday in February should be, so after much hemming and hawing that it should probably be Washington's Birthday, they never actually named the day. This left the naming and the celebrating of the day up to the individual states, causing it to be called Washington's Birthday in some states, and Presidents Day in others.

So if we imagine the six blind men could "see" this day from different places and different perspectives, here is what they might say:

"Hey, this day is George Washington Day, honoring the first president of the United States," said the first man, who was in Virginia.

"Oh, no! It is Washington's Birthday, commemorating the birth of the first president of the United States," said the second man, who was in Massachusetts.

"Oh, no! It is Washington and Jefferson Day, honoring the two founding fathers," said the third man who was in Alabama.

"It is Presidents Day, as well as a combination of Washington and Lincoln's Birthday," said the fourth man who had spoken with a number of average Americans in several states.

"It is Presidents Day, and is meant to honor all Presidents," said the fifth man who had spoken with another group of Americans in a different state.

"It is a holiday created by merchants so they can hold big sales every year," said the sixth man who had read a number of newspapers in braille.

Here in Taos, I don't think too many people pay much attention to what the actual name of the day is. Many people here, and those who make there way here for the third week in February have one thing, and one thing only, in mind. They are grateful to whichever Presidents may be responsible for a special long weekend of skiing! ~Aimee

* * * * * * 

I found Aimee’s story to be funny, yet sad, when I think about some of the changes that have come about in our culture in regard to preserving history for future generations. This morning, I was glad to see that the History channel has devoted its whole day of programming to President-related shows. I’ll be spending the day recording some of those programs, but again, I find it funny that they chose a special on Thomas Jefferson, instead of airing programs about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the two Presidents whose birthdays are being remembered on this day.

But, hey, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m glad the channel had the decency to honor the day at all! (I also noticed that the Bing search engine has a beautiful photo of the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument on its main page, while Google didn’t change its logo at all for this special day.)

And last, but not least, to those who came to visit Taos over this holiday weekend ... Happy Skiing! And to everyone ... Happy President's Day! ~Jean

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Museums of Taos, New Mexico: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 1

This will be the first of a series of blog entries about the museums in Taos and the surrounding area.

Kit Carson Home and Museum

In 1826, Christopher "Kit" Carson (1809-1868) arrived in Taos. Kit had run away from an apprenticeship in Missouri to join a wagon train heading west on the Santa Fe Trail. Thus began one of the most exciting careers in the American West.

Because of his remarkable facility for languages, Carson became a translator for a wagon train to Chihuahua. Shortly thereafter, he became a trapper and mountain man, traveling extensively throughout the West.

His real fame grew through serving as scout for the scientific and mapping expeditions of John C. Fremont. From 1854 until 1861, Carson served as an Indian Agent. He then began the final stage of his career as a military officer, first in the Civil War and later in the army campaigns of the Indian Wars.

The Kit Carson Home and Museum (which contains part of the original house Kit Carson bought in 1843 for his bride, Maria Josefa Jaramillo) is filled with frontier artifacts and exhibits illustrating Carson's life, as well as other items representing the Native American and Hispanic cultures in Northern New Mexico. It the house remained the couple’s permanent home until their deaths in 1868.

Visit the Taos, New Mexico Museums section on Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Taos Inn Celebrates 75 Years

Since 1936, The Historic Taos Inn has welcomed famous folks like Greta Garbo, D. H. Lawrence, and Pawnee Bill. More recently, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, and Julia Roberts have been spotted sipping margaritas in the lobby.

2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the Taos Inn as a place of entertainment, dining, and respite for weary travelers. But the site and buildings which encompass this Taos institution have a long and colorful history dating back to the Old West.

Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin and his wife Helen came to Taos in the 1890s, purchasing the largest of several adobe houses which at that time surrounded a small plaza with a community well in its center. As a rugged individualist, Doc's concern for the town he had adopted made him a popular and well respected man, and one of a very few of that time who was not touched by one scandal or another. Doc could often be seen traveling the county to treat his patients, first in his horse and buggy (and later in his tin lizzie) covering miles of mud and snow to set bones, break fevers, and deliver babies.

Doc's wife Helen, was a gifted batik artist, and the sister-in-law of artist Bert Phillips, who would become one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists. It was in the Martin's dining room that Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists in 1912, and where many early meetings of The Founders were held.

Over time, Doc and Helen bought the other buildings on the small plaza, which they rented to artists and writers. When the only hotel in Taos burned down the same year that Doc died, Helen bought the Tarleton house, which was the last remaining property on the plaza (and now the site of the Adobe Bar). The Tarleton house has a history of its own, having been purchased by Thomas Tarleton for his mother ,Minnie, in 1926. His father, Wallace, had worked for Buffalo Bill's show in England and New York.

With the aid of Doc's former patients, Helen enclosed the plaza and opened the Hotel Martin with a big fanfare and a host of dignitaries. Among those present for the opening was Gordon William Lillie, better known as Pawnee Bill. Helen had invited the showman, who often spent summers in Taos, to join her and her other guests for the June 7, 1936, celebration. Indians from Taos Pueblo entertained her guests by performing songs and dances.

Through the years, the Hotel Martin was the hub of Taos' social, intellectual, and artistic activity. Later owners renamed it the Taos Inn, adding the popular neon thunderbird sign in 1952, which has since become an icon on Taos' main thoroughfare. In 1982, the Inn was placed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The plaza's community well, now a fountain, is part of the Inn's stunning two-and-a-half story lobby, with hand-hewn vertical vigas rising the entire height to a stained glass cupola. And last but not least, the Martin's original home is now Doc Martin's Restaurant.

More about the Taos Inn

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine’s Day: The Two Loves of Georgia O’Keeffe

Georgia O'Keeffe had two loves in her life, her husband, modernist photographer Alfred Stieglitz, and the high desert and Rocky Mountains of Northern New Mexico. Sadly for O'Keeffe, Stieglitz did not care for the hot, dry climate in New Mexico, preferring the green canopied Adirondack Mountains in upstate New York, where he had a summer home at Lake George.

In the early years of their courtship and marriage, O'Keeffe spent summers in Lake George with Stieglitz, but a visit to D.H. Lawrence at his ranch near Taos, NM in 1930 would change that forever. Before meeting her husband, O'Keeffe spent several years teaching in the Texas panhandle, discovering a love for the desert and canyons of the area. 

During that time she wrote quite a bit about her walks and hikes in the region, later finding the experiences a real inspiration for her painting. Her visit to New Mexico rekindled that passion, and from the time of her visit with Lawrence, O'Keeffe spent most of her summers in Taos, and then Abiquiu, where she purchased a home she named Ghost Ranch. She spent her winters in New York City with her husband until his death in 1946, at which time she moved to New Mexico permanently.

More about the unique marriage of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz

More about Ghost Ranch: the home Georgia O'Keeffe

Friday, February 11, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Long Johns

Definition: “underwear with closely fitted legs that extend to the wearer's ankles, often with a long-sleeved top.” Long underwear, often called “long johns,” is a newer style of two-piece underwear with long legs and long sleeves that is normally worn during cold weather. It offers an advantage over the more old-fashioned version of long johns or “union suit,” in that the wearer can choose to use either the top, bottom, or both parts depending on how cold it is. The one-piece long johns, traditionally made of red flannel was buttoned all the way up the front and had a button-up rear “access hatch” so the wearer could eliminate bodily waste without undressing.

Depending on the size of the suit, some have the maximum of 11 buttons on the front, to be fastened through buttonholes from the neck down to the groin area. This warm and practical garment remained in common use in North America into the 20th century. As its popularity waned, it became chiefly working men’s wear. In the mid-1900s, it was not uncommon for rural men to wear the same long johns continuously all week, or even all winter. Normally, no other type of underwear was worn with it. One of the major events of the spring was when the union suits were removed, washed, and put away for the summer. In films and television, wearing long johns was a sign that the character was completely out of touch with the modern world. For example, a funny scene in “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” has the six brothers refusing to take off their long johns for their older brother’s new bride to wash. ~Jean

A Bit of Personal Long Johns Trivia: With our inclusion of the term “long johns” in our Taos A to Z directory, let it not be confused with the delicious donut-like dessert called by the same name. When I was a young girl, one of our favorite treats was the “long john” (donut dough bar) with chocolate or maple icing. My mother would get them from the bakery of a local discount market called “Big Giant.” And occasionally, my aunt would treat my cousin and I to a chocolate long john and a Grapette (in an icy-cold, tall glass bottle) when we would run errands in El Reno, Oklahoma. Although they taste exactly like donuts, the preference for a long john over a donut had to do with the fact that a long john was more substantial, and therefore, more satisfying than the average, somewhat puny donut. ~Jean

See the complete glossary of terms, definitions and descriptions of everything Taos at Taos A to Z

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Taos A to Z ... and Tiles

For those of you who have emailed me commenting on the beautiful index page in our Taos A to Z section, the A to Z feature was designed and built by Jean, using graphics of Mexican tiles for its alphabetical index. She spent hours upon hours taking the original tile images and giving them the special digital artistic twist they needed for the A to Z headings. I love to look through it just to enjoy the graphics. And writing the actual entries has been a lot of fun for both of us, since we so love to share everything we know about Taos, Santa Fe, and the Great Southwest. There are some amazing and amusing stories to be found in Taos A to Z. And we will be adding to this feature periodically for years to come.

The beautiful patterned tiles Jean used in Taos A to Z are Talavera tiles. Handmade in Mexico, Talavera tiles have all the character, charm and imperfections of handcrafted pieces. They are not all completely flat, square, or exactly the same size or thickness. They have color and shade variations even within the same tile. Their glaze has crazing, which can be brought out by using a dark grout. This is all part of their appeal.

The imperfections of these special tiles complement rustic and Southwestern decor. Not just used in the kitchen and bathroom, Talavera tiles are embedded in adobe walls, cover stair risers, and are even used as coasters. As in all geometric patterned tiles, the corner designs on Talavera tiles form a second pattern when combined.

Beside the geometric patterns, Talavera tile designs include birds and other animals, flowers, numbers, and letters. A variety of beautiful solid colors are also available, providing a wealth of opportunities for the home improvement enthusiast or muralist to get really creative!

Border tiles are also available to finish off Talavera tile projects. Often these tiles are made in such small runs that a particular unusual design will be available only once, so when shopping for Talavera tiles, you might want to make sure you purchase enough to finish your project, and perhaps a few spare tiles to replace cracked or chipped tiles down the road. ~Aimee

For more information on Mexican tile, border tiles, knobs and hand painted sinks, visit one of our local Taos merchants, Vargas Tile.

Taos Says Thanks to Gas Lighting Workers

This photo nicely illustrates the kind of folks who make Taos their home. It's one man's "thank you" to the many workers who came from around the country to help us in our time of need...working around the clock in freezing weather and snow flurries, getting our natural gas back in our homes. ~Jean

The two signs in the photo read: "Gas Lighters, Taos Thanks You" and "Please Forgive Our Odd Ways."

Photo by Lisa Joyce, signs by Jeff Northrup (Click on the photo for a larger version)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Our Taos Gas Outage Report

Aimee and I want to extend an awe-inspired thank you to the massive group of workers who have been and are still "relighting" Taos at the time of this entry.

Our gas was restored Monday afternoon by a worker from Colorado. Five-and-one-half days without heat in sub-zero temperatures was a challege for us, but all in all, we consider ourselves extremely lucky.

My modem was fried by one of the earliest electrical outages and my DSL line has been damaged. I didn't have internet access until late Monday, when I got a dialup connection from Kit Carson. My dogs were clearly sad by the loss of our heating: they missed their warm spots by the gas heater and the lack of sun for at least two days left them without sunny napping spots on the floor. Somehow we all managed to stay "reasonably" warm.

We hope and pray that our fellow Taos residents and those throughout New Mexico affected by this state of emergency will come through it as well as we have.

Our best to all.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Red River Torchlight Procession

Red River is one of Northern New Mexico's only resort towns which was not originally built as a resort. The area was a gold mining camp high up in the Sangre de Cristos, and was founded as Red River City in 1895. The rugged character of the people who once populated the mining camp is evidenced today by the heart and attitude of this little town.

Red River is a tiny town that does everything in a BIG way. The whole town comes out to celebrate every holiday they can think of, and when they're done with those, they create even more! A July 4th parade and annual Blues Festival? Ah ... that's typical. How about an annual biker's rally, a six day Mardi Gras celebration with over 50 events, and a snowman building competition? Or perhaps you'd like to try your luck fishing for a tagged trout worth $10,000 in the Fishing Derby, or enter the Chile Cook-Off? And that's only the beginning. Just about any time you visit Red River, you'll find the town happily preparing for or participating in one of their fun events.

An ongoing winter event in Red River is the Torchlight Parade, which is held most Saturdays at nightfall throughout the ski season. Locals and visitors alike gather at the base of the mountain to watch the ski patrol snake down the slopes, torches in hand. Fireworks punctuate the mountain dance, with "Oohs" and "Ahhs" as accompaniment.

In this video, you can watch as a small point of light on the mountain becomes a graceful snaking dance:

See the Red River Torchlight Parade Video

The crowd is so enthusiastic, you might need to turn the volume down!

Prior to the Torchlight Parade is the Saturday Night Rail Jam. Skiers and snowboarders show off the latest tricks and stunts. Everyone is invited to participate in this freestyle show, and this is something the kids will definitely want to check out. The fun begins Saturday evenings at approximately 5:30 p.m. at the bottom of the Platinum Chair at the Red River Ski Area.

And remember, in Red River, no matter the weather, there's always snow on the slopes!

Click here for more on events at the Red River Ski Area

Vintage Western Tin Litho Toys: Part 1 in a Series

The Vintage Western toys featured in our Western Funhouse photo albums are from the 1930s, 1940s, 1950s, and (in some cases) beyond. During the early- to mid-20th century, several generations of American kids loved playing with these amazing creations. We've corralled some fine examples of these toys from days gone by for your viewing pleasure. Perhaps they will bring back some fond memories or simply entertain you with their good old-fashioned style.

So have some fun looking through our collection of Vintage Western Toys in the Western Funhouse section of the Taos Unlimited website. We'll start with the tin litho toys.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Snow Man Cometh

In the mountains north of Taos, NM, locals and visitors alike keep watch for snow. This has been an annual occupation for many years in Red River, where most locals ski, and skiers, boarders and bladers come for family vacations, weekend getaways and spring break. But this year, there's a new purpose in their keen observance ... it's the first ever (and annual) Cover Red River with Snowmen competition, sponsored by Resort Realty and Red River Vacation Rentals.

This is a winter-long event, and being the first, there may not be many snowmen wearing top hats ... perhaps resulting in more snowmen in 10 gallon hats and a greater population of “snow women” this year! In the future, locals will have time to lay in supplies. But Diane Smith, of Red River Vacation Rentals, has been providing visitors with a basket of the basics, including said top hat, carrots and charcoal, as well as “snow people” building instructions.

It's a La NiƱa year, meaning less snow and more beautiful sunny days. But we have recently been blessed with a big snow storm and a large population of "snow folk" may suddenly appear. As with other fun events in Red River, “Covering Red River in Snowmen” will probably become a much anticipated winter activity. And just think of what fun it will be to take a drive through Red River to go "snow folk" spotting!

Click here for more about Red River Vacation Rentals

Welcome to the Taos Unlimited Blog!

Taos Unlimited is a large portal website devoted to any and all things related to Taos, New Mexico and the surrounding area. Launched in August 2006, we (Aimee and Jean, the Team at Taos Unlimited) have expanded the website on a ongoing basis, and this, our new Blog, is the latest of our offerings.

On this Blog, we will make regular posts about events and happenings in the Taos area, original articles about Taos and the Southwest, personal stories and anecdotes with "local color," and excerpts from existing Taos Unlimited features.

We plan to keep the Blog fresh, by adding new entries several times a week. So join us in our “unlimited” celebration of all things Taos!