Friday, July 29, 2011

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest!

I have always loved the movies. I was raised up on the local Saturday double feature and late night TV classics. Movies are simply a part of my life. And that begins to explain this Special Feature: Movie Locations of the Great Southwest. But it goes much deeper than that.

In the early 1990s, “Movie Locations” began as a book project, but my agent and I could never seem to get if off the ground. I brought the manuscript with me when I moved to Santa Fe, because I was still working on it, but not too long after that my agent retired, and I got caught up in a myriad of other things. So, into the trusty file cabinet it went.

Last winter, I talked with Aimee about putting the project online... and here it is! Movie Locations of the Great Southwest: An Online Book by Jean. Bigger and better than it ever could, or would, have been as a printed book, this Special Feature now available on the Taos Unlimited and Santa Fe Unlimited websites, will eventually encompass over 150 movies (from the 1950s through the 2000s) and their unique Southwestern locations.

I consider myself somewhat of an expert on the movies of the 1950s and 1960s, and I have a massive amount of film info in my brain about films of the 1970s and 1980s, as well. I called upon Aimee to assist me with the later decades (1990s and 2000s), because that is her major area of expertise in regard to film. When Aimee has provided information on a particular movie/location, she will be credited for her contribution.

Well, I guess that’s it. Movie Locations of the Great Southwest has truly been a labor of love. I hope you enjoy exploring it as much as I did creating it. Now... on the to movies! ~Jean

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Lizard

A large, widespread group of reptiles with nearly 5,000 species, lizards range across all continents except Antarctica. Lizards typically have four limbs, external ears, and a long tail. Many species of lizards can detach their tails for the purpose of escaping from predators. Lizards are very common in the Southwest, often spotted climbing New Mexico’s exterior adobe walls... and as decor, they can be found on interior adobe walls as well. ~Aimee

A Bit of Lizard Rock Trivia: Rock icon, Jim Morrison (lead singer of the 1960s rock group, The Doors), was known as the “Lizard King.” Jim Morrison’s deep connection to shamanism often took form as iconography in his writing. In his lyrics for the epic performance/song Celebration of the Lizard, he would speak, “I am the lizard king. I can do anything.” This is the origin of the “Lizard King” moniker. Although several attempts were made to record “Celebration of the Lizard,” only one small section of it was released as “Not to Touch the Earth” on The Doors’ third album, “Waiting for the Sun.” ~Aimee

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

Friday, July 22, 2011

Recipe of the Month: Chilled Avocado Soup


3 tbsp. and 1 tbsp. olive oil (used separately in preparation)
1 cup diced white onion
1 serrano chile, stemmed, seeded, and diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
Salt, for seasoning, plus 1 teaspoon
4 firm ripe avocados, halved, pitted, peeled and mashed
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
2 cups water
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup Mexican sour cream or creme fraiche, whisked to soften*
1 cup canned corn kernels, well drained
1/4 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
1 thinly sliced cucumber
1 shaved green onion


Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, chile and garlic, and cook until slightly soft, about 2 minutes.

Season with salt, to taste. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Put the avocados in a large bowl. Add the chicken broth, lemon juice, cilantro, onion mixture, and water. Add, in batches, to a blender and puree until smooth, straining each batch of puree into a large bowl. Stir in the 1 teaspoon of salt and the 1 teaspoon of pepper, then cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 3 hours.

In a small skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the corn kernels, paprika, and 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook until fragrant and golden brown, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the heat and garnish each serving of soup with cucumber slices, sour cream, pan-roasted corn, and shaved green onions.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Fiestas de Taos

Fiestas de Taos is a community celebration honoring the two patron saints of Taos: Santa Ana and Santiago. The annual event, popularly referred to as “The Taos Fiestas,” invites the local population to put aside their labor for two days and bask in the leisure of the holy days.

The first day is dedicated to Santiago, who is the patron saint of Spain. Santiago is a contraction of Saint Yago, the Spanish words for St. James, and in his lifetime, Santiago was known as James. On the first fiesta day, men used to ride on horseback through the plaza in their finest livery, “encatrinados,” as they were called in their fancy attire.

James and his brother, John, were mending their nets one day on the shores of Lake Genesaret, when they were called by Jesus of Nazareth to be fishers of men. The Acts of the Apostles says that he was the first of the apostles to suffer a martyr’s death for his faith. Popular tradition holds that James had preached in northwestern Spain when the area was still known as Galicia. It was to this area that the body of the Apostle of Spain was returned by two of the nine converts he had made in the area, Theodorus and Athanasius.

Later, a vision of Santiago was seen in battle between the Spanish and the Moors, who had occupied Spain for hundreds of years. The cry of “Santiago Matamoros!” (St. James Slayer of Moors!) was to be heard in Spain for centuries afterwards.

Santa Ana, or St. Anne, was the mother of The Virgin Mary, and the grandmother of Jesus Christ. She was born to wealthy parents, who gave a third of their yearly income to the temple, a third to charity, and lived off the last third. Even in so doing, their flocks and holdings continued to multiply at their beautiful country estate in Sephoris, near Nazareth. St. Anne is considered a model of virtue. The Angel Gabriel himself brought St. Anne together with her husband, Joaquim, a pious middle-aged bachelor who was seeking divine help in finding a wife.

The couple had endured much suffering for 20 years as they remained childless, when the Angel Gabriel came to Anne again to declare that God had chosen to give them time to prepare for a child who was much more than they asked for: and now the time had come for them to bring forth a daughter to be named Mary. Anne was told that Mary was destined to be the mother of the Messiah, and to keep that a much-guarded secret.

The second day of The Taos Fiestas is always dedicated to St. Anne. On this day women historically rode in horse-drawn carriages. Mothers and older sisters hold tightly to the hands of the children and everybody marvels at the mystery of St. Anne, who is the perfect example of motherhood.

So, Viva Fiestas de Taos!

Monday, July 18, 2011

High Desert Plants & Wildlife: A Taos Unlimited Blog Series, Part 3

Cactus of the Northern New Mexico High Desert
We will complete this series on cactus with some general facts about the species.

All cacti are succulents, but not all succulents are cacti. What separates a cactus from a succulent is the organs that produce the spines, and some other characteristics specific to fruit formation.

Many of the smaller cactus that live in a desert environment are situated under bushes or in behind rocks and do not receive constant, intense sunlight. The native habitat of many other cacti is often at a higher altitude (where the light is strong but the temperatures are far cooler than on the desert floor), or in tropical jungle-like environments. Many cactus dwell at higher altitudes and underneath pine trees, where they receive very little direct sun.

This vintage postcard illustrates the colorful variety of cacti (cactus) that abound in Northern New Mexico and the entire Southwest. The cacti are quite fascinating plants that grow in all shapes and sizes, with flower blossoms of many kinds and colors.

All cacti need a rapidly draining, porous soil mix. If kept fairly dry, most cactus can tolerate without difficulty night-time temperatures which are consistently as low as 32 degrees.

Cacti have a thick, hard-walled, succulent stem. When it rains, water is stored in the stem. The stems are photosynthetic, green, and fleshy. The inside of the stem is either spongy or hollow (depending on the cactus). A thick, waxy coating keeps the water inside the cactus from evaporating.

Many cactus can also be grown from broken-off parts of the plant, but the new plant will be genetically identical to the original plant.

Read more about Northern New Mexico Cactus on Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mountain Biking in Northern New Mexico

Biking enthusiasts find nearly every level and type of off-road cycling in and around Taos, New Mexico, from steep, rocky mountain trails and rolling meadows of wildflowers to rides along mesas with wide-open vistas, and the sheer cliffs of the Rio Grande Gorge.

It is important to keep in mind that this is high elevation, wilderness mountain biking; often trails are not marked. Orientation skills are important to prevent getting lost in unfamiliar territory, and wilderness skills are essential. Many single-track biking trails can climb to well over 10,000 feet, so be prepared for rain, snow, and hail even in the summer. Always carry lots of water, food, and clothing for changes in the weather.

The Taos area also has some of the most beautiful and challenging road rides in New Mexico, or indeed, anywhere. Currently, there are no bike paths, and many Taos area roads are narrow with little or no shoulder, but this shouldn’t discourage any cyclist from enjoying the spectacular high desert, Rocky Mountain scenery, and world class climbing. And there are some routes with bike lanes or large shoulders.

Most local riders tend to begin their road rides in the morning to avoid possible afternoon wind and showers, especially during “monsoon season” from mid-July through August. Roads here are rough, so it is advisable to bring plenty of spare tubes and a patch kit, and be well versed in roadside repair skills.

The Taos area offers rides ranging from short town loops to several century, and even double century options and beyond. Temperatures can climb in the summer, but are moderate in spring and fall. Again, be prepared for changing weather by carrying a windbreaker or lightweight rain jacket, as weather in the mountains is unpredictable.

More information on mountain bike trails and Taos area road rides

Monday, July 11, 2011

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Fry Bread

An extremely popular Native American food, found throughout the United States, fry bread is a flat dough pan- or deep-fried in oil, shortening, or lard. The dough is generally leavened by yeast or baking powder. Topped with additions such as beans, ground beef, or shredded cheese, fry bread is then served as “Indian tacos” or “Navajo tacos.” Fry bread is also served sweet, with powdered sugar on top.

Some say that fry bread came from the time when about 8,000 of the Navajo people were imprisoned at Fort Sumner, New Mexico, during the 19th century. It is said that the Navajos were just given wheat flour and lard to eat, two commodities that were quite foreign to their bean and corn-based diets. Others say that the Navajo and folk of other tribes made the bread because they didn’t know what else to do with the government-granted wheat and fat they were provided on the reservations. Regardless, once you’ve tasted fry bread in any of its forms, you’ll want to come back for more! ~Jean

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

Friday, July 8, 2011

High Altitude in Northern New Mexico

What is High Altitude?
Altitude is defined on the following scale: High 8,000-12,000 feet; Very High 12,000-18,000 feet; and Extremely High 18,000+ feet. As altitude increases, atmospheric pressure decreases, which affects humans by reducing the partial pressure of oxygen. The human body can adapt to high altitude by breathing faster, having a higher heart rate, and adjusting its blood chemistry. Extremely high altitude cannot be permanently tolerated by humans.

High Altitude Sickness
It can take days or weeks to adapt to high altitude. There are no specific factors such as age, sex, or physical condition that correlate with susceptibility to altitude sickness. Some people get it and some people don’t, and some people are more susceptible than others. Most people can go up to 8,000 feet with minimal effect. If you haven’t been to high altitude location before, it’s important to be cautious. If you have been at that altitude before with no problem, you can probably return to that altitude trouble free, as long as you are properly acclimatized. The major cause of altitude sickness is going too high too fast. Given time, your body can adapt to the decrease in oxygen molecules at a specific altitude. This process is known as acclimatization and generally takes 1-3 days at any particular altitude.

Drink Water!
Before your trip to Taos or Santa Fe (and while you are here), drinking plenty of water is the number one way to help your body adjust easily to the higher altitude of these communities. The low humidity in Northern New Mexico keeps the air dry (afterall it is the desert), so you need about twice as much water here as you would drink at home.

Monitor Your Alcohol Intake
In Taos’ rarified air, golf balls go ten percent farther... and so do cocktails. Alcoholic drinks pack more of a wallop than at sea level. It is recommended that you go easy on the alcohol in the mountains and in Taos and Santa Fe, as its effects will feel stronger there.

Eat Foods High in Potassium
Foods such as broccoli, bananas, avocado, cantaloupe, celery, greens, bran, chocolate, granola, dates, dried fruit, potatoes, and tomatoes will help you replenish electrolytes by balancing salt intake. And all those wonderful foods are good for you to consume anytime!

Watch Your Physical Activity
The effects of exercise are more intense in the high desert. If you normally run 10 miles a day at home, you might try 6 miles in Taos or Santa Fe.

Pack for Sun
With less water vapor in the air at this altitude, the sky really is bluer in Taos. But there’s 25% less protection from the sun, so sunscreen is a must. Bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm... even in winter.

Dress in Layers
Two days before your trip to Taos or Santa Fe, check the weather and use that information to pack appropriately. Because Taos is closer to the sun, it can feel much warmer than the actual temperature during the daytime, but then become very chilly after sundown, particularly in the Spring and Fall. It is best to layer your clothing.

Take It Easy and Have Fun!
Don’t let anything you hear about the high altitude in Northern New Mexico scare you. The air is just thinner and dryer. In fact, many people with respiratory problems move to Taos for the benefits of the dry air. Just follow these simple tips and you will very likely not even notice the difference.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Turquoise: Part 3 in a Series

Types of Turquoise
There are five types of turquoise, as described by law. All turquoise for sale worldwide will fall into one of the following categories:

Natural Turquoise
This is that is so hard and beautiful that is able to be mined, cut, polished and set into a piece of jewelry without any kind of treatment. Less than 3% of all the turquoise on the market worldwide is classified as “natural.”

Stabilized Turquoise
This is a soft, chalky turquoise that has been injected with a clear epoxy resin. The resin, under pressure, is absorbed into the rock, permanently hardening it and deepening the color. The colors in stabilized turquoise are permanent and will not deepen over time, like natural turquoise. Most of the turquoise on the market today is the stabilized type. It is quite beautiful and is usually a very good value.

Treated Turquoise
This type of turquoise is soft and has been stabilized, but the epoxy resin has also been dyed. Colors in treated turquoise can sometimes look artificial. Prices for this kind of turquoise should be much less than the natural and stabilized varieties.

Reconstituted Turquoise
This turquoise is very low grade. It has been ground into powder, saturated with epoxy resin, dyed, and compressed into blocks and/or cakes. It is then cut into shapes for jewelry making. This is the least expensive type of turquoise.

Imitation Turquoise
This is not real turquoise, but is made from resin or plastic. Sometimes it hard to tell the difference visually, so it’s always best to ask before you buy.

More about Turquoise on Taos Unlimited

Monday, July 4, 2011

4th of July: Independence Day!

Celebrating Independence Day is a time-honored tradition, even in the smallest of American towns. We don’t watch the biggest and fanciest parade on television on July 4th. We line the streets of our own hometowns and watch our neighbors as we celebrate the anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. On this day we honor the years of hard work, sacrifice and tremendous risks taken by our Founding Fathers to create the document which signaled a new country, a new hope, and a grand experiment in governing.

In Northern New Mexico, there are two tiny towns which preserve this tradition in their own unique way. Their hometown Independence Day parades are well-loved, and participated in by nearly as many who watch the festivities.

Arroyo Seco
Arroyo Seco, New Mexico, is located seven miles north of Taos. It is home to approximately 1,500 residents. As you are about to enter the village of Arroyo Seco, a road sign announces an upcoming ”congested area.” And on July 4th, a truer statement cannot be made. This usually sleepy village, filled with wonderful little galleries, shops and eateries, is transformed on the 4th of July. It starts early in the day, when lines of cars, pedestrians with dogs, and people on horseback can be seen making their way to Arroyo Seco. To us locals, this is as much a part of the 4th of July as the parade itself.

And the parade! Colorful floats, banners, unique costumes, more people on horseback, burros pulling carts, and a variety of other animals are as likely to be a part of the parade as the local fire department.

Red River
Set high in Northern New Mexico’s Sangre de Cristo Range of the southern Rocky Mountains, Red River was a booming mining camp in 1895, with strikes of gold, silver, and copper swelling its population to an estimated 3,000. A few years later, the mines went bust, and the majority of the camp residents moved on.
But the inhabitants of this gem of the Enchanted Circle are a hardy breed, and so Red River began its new identity as a resort town in ernest some 80 years ago.

Today, with a full-time population hovering around 500, the residents of Red River see long, cold winters, and more than their share of the “great indoors.” This has prompted the good people of this little town to celebrate everything there is to celebrate, and when they’re done celebrating, they find more things to celebrate! And in that spirit, an Independence Day parade has marched through the town of Red River for more than 70 years.

The parade does the folks of Red River justice, being a creative combination of good old-fashioned Old West mining town spirit and a kick-up-your-heels good time. It’s colorful and real “hometown,” with kids and dogs participating the same as floats and fire trucks. And when it’s over... it’s not over yet! Red River is a little town that does everything in a BIG way. After the parade, viewers stroll down to Brandenburg Park, where there is are games at the Community House, live music, delicious food, refreshing beverages, and good old fashioned family fun!

So if you find yourself in Northern New Mexico on the 4th of July, make a day of it in Arroyo Seco or Red River.

More on the 4th of July in Arroyo Seco and Red River

Arroyo Seco 4th of July Parade

Friday, July 1, 2011

Summer Is Upon Us

Well, summer is certainly upon us in Northern New Mexico! It’s been quite hot for a while now, but that is what is expected in the area, by locals and tourists alike. It’s one of the most active times of the year in Taos and Santa Fe, and if you are planning to visit us during the summer season, there’s always plenty of exciting events going on, and numerous recreational opportunities all across the state. So come and have some high desert fun! ~Jean