Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A New Mexico Cat

Sadie Lovebug is so named because she is a lover, not a fighter, unless of course there is a feather toy at hand!

Sadie is a tortoise shell kitty, which is a cross between a Siamese and a tiger cat. She has a beautiful coat which in places resembles that of a wild animal rather than a house dweller. She most definitely has the Siamese trait of being a talker, though she is starting to quiet down a bit at age 12. She is a cat with many hobbies, including bird watching, arranging any papers, fabrics or other art supplies I might have on my work table, and watching television while cuddling late at night.

Sadie is also a supervisor. She keeps watch on my work all day from her perch on a trunk by my desk. She also keeps an eye on any sewing or needlework of any kind that I might need to do, and she is the Executive Chef in our kitchen. She makes sure everything is prepared just so.

On the other hand, she does of course have a pet peeve or two, the most notable being the camera flash. She patiently sits for me while I take pictures of her, but it’s clear she doesn’t understand why I would want to torture her in that way. This results in a slightly sad look on her face in just about every photo I have ever taken of her. The only other thing which appears to make her unhappy is when I am too busy for her to get enough cuddle time at night. But that I can certainly agree with!

Sadie has one little habit which I find unique. When she sleeps on her side, she tends to curl her tail around one of her legs, like a furry ankle bracelet. One of these days, I’ll have to get a photo of it. ~Aimee

View Sadie Lovebug's photo album on Taos Unlimited

Monday, March 28, 2011

Juniper Trees... and Allergies

Juniper is a coniferous plant of the cypress family, with more than 50 varieties ranging all the way from the arctic to tropical Africa. This 25- to 50-foot tree is common in the Southwest, where it causes severe allergic reactions in much of the population during late winter and early spring when it is in flower. Juniper berries are actually a modified pine cone, with fleshy scales that merge together to form an outer skin over the seed, giving it a berry-like appearance. The berries start out green, ripening into a blue, purple or nearly black color in 10 to 18 months, depending on the variety. Single trees will typically contain berries at all stages of the ripening process.

While highly toxic, juniper berries are used for medicinal purposes, in cooking, and for other flavorings. Perhaps the best known use of these highly aromatic berries is the use of green berries in the flavoring of gin, which explains the particularly bad hangover that overindulgence in gin produces.

Juniper berries have diuretic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties, and are used medicinally to treat a wide range of ailments, including asthma, arthritis, rheumatism, and to hasten childbirth. A folk tale reported in Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs mentions more esoteric uses for juniper: “The plant’s pungent aroma has long recommended it for driving away evil spirits and disease. Legend has it that juniper planted beside the front door will keep out witches; the only way for a witch to get past the plant was by correctly counting its needles.”

Several species of butterfly larvae feed exclusively on juniper, including the Juniper Carpet, Juniper Pug and Pine Beauty, though this is little comfort to those who suffer greatly from allergies! ~Aimee

Read about Trans-resveratrol (a potent source of antioxidants, which has recently been found to help reduce, or completely cure the symptoms of juniper allergies).

Visit the Taos Unlimited Plants & Wildlife section to read more about Juniper

Friday, March 25, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Alpaca

The alpaca is a long-haired mammal related to the llama. Indigenous to the high Andean Plateau, alpacas played a central role in the Incan culture. Alpacas produce one of the world's finest and most luxurious natural fibers. It is clipped from the animal without causing it any type of injury. Alpaca fiber is as soft as cashmere, and warmer, lighter and stronger than wool. And as an extra bonus, alpaca fiber comes in more colors than any other fiber-producing animal (approximately 22 basic colors with many variations and blends). This cashmere-like fleece, once reserved only for Incan royalty, is now enjoyed by spinners and weavers around the world. First imported to the United States in 1984, alpacas are now being successfully raised as farm animals throughout the country. They are quite popular in Northern New Mexico, where they are also enjoyed and admired for their gentle nature. ~Aimee

Read more about Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico on Taos A to Z

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Green Chile Stew


3 tbsp. olive oil
2 lbs. cubed pork stew meat
1-1/2 large yellow onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
3 cups chopped, roasted green chiles
1 can diced tomatoes with juice (14-1/2 ounces)
2 yellow squash, cut in 1-inch cubes
1 cup fresh steamed, or frozen corn kernels
1 can pinto beans, drained (16 ounces)
1 cup tomatillo salsa
6 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground clove
salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Season the pork with salt, pepper, paprika and chile powder, and add to pot. Cook until well-browned on all sides.

Remove browned pork and set aside. Lower heat to medium, and stir in the onion, garlic and squash. Cook and stir until the onion is soft and clear.

Return the pork to the pot, and stir in the green chiles, corn, diced tomatoes with juice, tomatillo salsa, and chicken broth. Add oregano and ground clove.

Raise heat to medium-high, and quickly bring a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, spoon off 2 cups of the soup, making certain it contains NO pork pieces, and pour into a blender.

Hold down the lid of the blender with a folded kitchen towel, and carefully start the blender, using a few quick pulses to get the soup moving before leaving it on to puree. Puree until smooth, then pour back into the cooking pot.

This is a good way to thicken the stew and eliminate some of the chunkier pieces.

Continue to simmer at least 30 minutes to one hour more, stirring occasionally, until the pork is very tender.

Serve with rice, beans and corn tortillas.


Buy authentic New Mexico Green and Red Chile, Chile Sauces, and Salsas

Monday, March 21, 2011

Yesterday was... The First Day of Spring

Even though we do get the four seasons of the year in Northern New Mexico, they aren’t defined in a crystal clear fashion. Spring in Taos has seemed to become more and more muddled; the winter months have days with spring-like skies and temperatures, yet on the actual first day of Spring, we are usually stuck with leaf-less trees and brown ground...and it can still snow up to the end of April! But, all the natives know this and everything is still great. So...

Come visit us in Taos and the other Northern New Mexico towns and cities. It’s always a good time to be here! ~Jean

Friday, March 18, 2011

High Desert Plants & Wildlife: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 1

Two types of cacti are most prevalent in Northern New Mexico: Prickly Pear and Cholla. We will begin with the Prickly Pear.

Prickly Pear cacti represent about a dozen species of the Opuntia genus (Family Cactaceae) in the North American deserts. All have flat, fleshy pads that look like large leaves. The pads are actually modified branches or stems that serve several functions: water storage, photosynthesis and flower production.

The fruits of most Prickly Pear cactus are edible and sold in stores under the name "Tuna." Prickly Pear branches (the pads) are also cooked and eaten as a vegetable. They, too, are sold in stores under the name "Nopalito." Because of the glochids, great care is required when harvesting or preparing Prickly Pear cactus. Prickly Pear nectar is made with the juice and pulp of the fruits.

Most Prickly Pear cactus have yellow, red or purple flowers, even among the same species. They vary in height from less than a foot to 6 or 7 feet. Pads can vary in width, length, shape and color.

Prickly Pears are usually fast-growing, take little care, and many are very hardy. These beautiful cacti are famous for their distinct character and are standouts as specimens. Some Opuntias are miniatures that span only inches, and are essentially ground covers, while others are arborescent tree forms ranging up to 20 feet in height.

Like other cacti, most Prickly Pears have large spines (actually modified leaves) growing from tubercles (small, wart-like projections) on their stems. But members of the Opuntia genus are unique because of their clusters of fine, tiny, barbed spines called glochids. Found just above the cluster of regular spines, glochids are yellow or red in color and detach easily from the pads. Glochids are often difficult to see and more difficult to remove, once lodged in the skin.

There has been medical interest in the Prickly Pear plant. Some studies have shown that the pectin contained in the Prickly Pear pulp lowers levels of "bad" cholesterol while leaving "good" cholesterol levels unchanged. Another study found that the fibrous pectin in the fruit may lowers a diabetic’s need for insulin. Both fruits and pads of the Prickly Pear cactus are rich in slowly absorbed soluble fibers that help keep blood sugar stable. There are on going studies and at this point there are no proven results on humans.

Many types of Prickly Pear cactus can grow into dense, tangled structures. They are the most cold-tolerant of the cacti, extending into northern Canada.

Read more about Northern New Mexico Cactus on Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Tomorrow is... St. Patrick's Day

On the surface, it would appear that New Mexico has very little in common with Ireland. For one, the Emerald Isle is just that, an island. It's green and lush and surrounded by the ocean. It rains a LOT. While soda bread and cabbage and Colcannon are yummy, they are the antithesis of spicy... as unlike traditional New Mexican fare as could possibly be. The question which brings New Mexicans to the table is Red or Green (chile), while the question in Ireland is Green or Orange (Catholic or Protestant), and has had a very divisive effect on the populace for centuries.

Common knowledge has it that the Irish came to America because of a potato famine. And that is true, but it is only a part of the truth. Ireland was an early colony of Great Britain. And while the country was rich in seafood, produce and livestock, the British rulers confiscated it all to be exported to England, leaving the Irish with a few fish, potatoes and kelp. And so when the potato famine hit, Ireland's native population was decimated. Many made their way to England to work, and many braved the ocean crossing to come to America.

Irish immigrants in America soon became the backbone of society, filling the ranks of the fire department and constabulary in many U.S. cities, bringing with them a rich culture of stories and music, an easy laugh, and a willingness to do the hard jobs.

But in a very unusual way Ireland was always blessed. It is one of only four countries on earth which has no snakes. For that, the Irish everywhere honor St. Patrick, who, according to legend, drove the snakes into the sea sometime during the fifth century, banishing them from Ireland forever.

Here again on the surface, it would appear we New Mexicans have nothing in common with Ireland, for we certainly have our share of snakes. But we do have a little guy we revere, who does his best to keep the snake population down. And that’s our state bird, the roadrunner, whose diet consists largely of lizards and snakes.

So on March 17th this year, as New Mexicans sit down to their green chile (which I understand is great with corned beef!) or celebrate the day in their favorite tavern, let’s all remember to raise a glass to our little roadrunner, the closest thing we have to St. Patrick. ~Aimee

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at One of Taos’ Favorite Watering Holes

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Quiet Time of the Year

Although winter has never been my favorite season, there is something to say about this phase of winter in Northern New Mexico: it’s quiet, especially in the rural areas just outside Taos.

Sometimes the days are crispy cold with a glorious clear blue sky, some days are almost spring-like in temperature, and sometimes we get one of those really gray days that makes you think it’ll never be anything but winter again.

Even on a gray day, when all the grass is taupe-y colored and dead looking, the peaceful quietness of it all makes up for any potential gloom that’s lurking around the corner (if too many of these monotone days come one after another). There’s a feeling of cozy safeness that comes with the “quiet.”

It’s nice to come outside, even if only briefly, and hear: quiet. Nobody’s out and about or making house repairs, and even the sound of children playing somewhere in the distance is missing from the aural landscape.

Taos’ rural areas really do go into hibernation, allowing us all to take it a little easier for awhile, so we’ll be ready for a more active spring and summer and the multitude of energetic sounds those seasons will bring. ~Jean

Friday, March 11, 2011

Upcoming Section on Taos Unlimited

We’ve got some great upcoming features that we’ll be debuting this year on the Taos Unlimited website. It's definitely going to be an exciting year of expansion!

One feature that I am working on right now is “Movie Locations of the Great Southwest!” It’s a whole new feature in The Wild West section that will provide information about dozens of scenic areas in the Southwest where movies were filmed from the 1950s through the 2000s. I hope to launch this very large project sometime this summer. ~Jean

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Kiva Fireplace

 A dome or beehive shaped fireplace made of adobe bricks covered with plaster. The kiva fireplace has an arched opening, and is often built into the corner of a living room, bedroom, or kitchen. They are also found on some outdoor patios. This style of fireplace is commonly found in the authentic adobe-style homes in Taos and Santa Fe, New Mexico. ~Aimee

Find a lot more Taos Style on Taos A to Z

Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Break in the Taos, New Mexico Area

With the ski season winding down, it's not common knowledge that March is the best snow fall month in New Mexico. And there are many great activities happening at Northern New Mexico's ski resort towns during February and March. For snow sports enthusiasts, it is the Spring Break destination of choice. But that doesn't mean you have to miss out on Mardi Gras or the beach!

Those seeking world class skiing are sure to find their niche at Taos Ski Valley, and there is no better ski destination for families and those who want a more relaxed ski vacation experience than Red River or Angel Fire. Each of these resorts sponsors Spring Break related events, ending their seasons with the traditional Pond Skimming. So bring your suits, tubes and pool toys...and don't forget your skis or snowboards!

Read more about Spring Break Events in Northern New Mexico

Friday, March 4, 2011

What Is Turquoise?: Part 1 in a Series

Turquoise is one of the most recognized symbols of the American Southwest and the people who have inhabited this region for many centuries. Most indigenous peoples around the world have referred to turquoise as the “sky-stone,” believing that the blue rock they discovered on earth had fallen from the heavens of the gods above.

Today, mineralogists say that the blue and green turquoise colors are determined by how much copper (blue) and iron (green) content are within the turquoise formation.

Turquoise is the official gem stone for both New Mexico and Arizona and is the birthstone for December.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mardi Gras in the Mountains: Red River, New Mexico

No one knows for sure how Mardi Gras came to the Mountains. One myth has it that a gold prospector from Louisiana made his way to the Red River Valley just before the turn of the 20th century. Unaccustomed to being confined to the indoors for the winter, the miner found some much needed relief from cabin fever by introducing Mardi Gras to his fellow miners. Legend has it that the dance halls of Red River City were soon jumping with the sounds of squeezebox and Cajun fiddle. At least that's the way one story goes. But for sure...

Mardi Gras is such a big event in Louisiana, that schools are closed for the week, giving Louisiana families a late winter or early spring vacation. Over the years, more and more Louisiana folks have chosen to spend the week before Mardi Gras enjoying a ski holiday in Red River. In 1992, Red River decided to honor their visitors from Louisiana by throwing them their own Mardi Gras-Away-From-Home. And those folks from the Delta couldn't have picked a better mountain town to throw them a Mardi Gras celebration, because Red River is a town that knows how to party!

Today, Red River’s "Mardi Gras in the Mountains" is a six-day celebration with over 50 events inspired by the Louisiana Cajun traditions, ending on the official day of Mardi Gras. It’s a fun time for locals and visitors alike. Often, Spring Break will overlap Mardi Gras as well, making for an extra special vacation for all...but it’s cold in Red River, and there are lots of small fry about, so there’s a nix on begging for beads while topless. Luckily, there’s plenty of the shiny treasures to go around.

Read More about Mardi Gras in the Mountains