Friday, March 30, 2012

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!

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

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Village

Definition: “A group of houses and associated buildings, larger than a hamlet and smaller than a town, situated in a rural area; a self-contained district or community within a town or city, regarded as having features characteristic of village life.”

Villages do exist in Northern New Mexico, due to the popularity of rural living throughout the area. Usually, the role of the village is to offer minimal, yet vital, services to those living in the immediate area, such as a post office, a general store, a gas station, etc. One of the most popular villages in the Taos, New Mexico, area is Arroyo Seco (pictured above), known for its quaint, authentic Northern New Mexico atmosphere. ~Jean

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Aimee’s Haiku for March

spring winds blowing hard
weeds-a-tumble cross the yard
ahh...New Mexico!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Recipe of the Month: New Mexican Pinto Bean Soup


1-1/2 cups dry pinto beans, rinsed and soaked overnight
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
2 cups onions, coarsely chopped
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1-1/2 to 2 cups of fresh or well drained canned corn
1-1/2 teaspoon of dried Mexican oregano
1 dried chipotle pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into small pieces
4 cups of boiling water or stock

2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 to 2 tbsp. of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 ripe avocado, diced or sliced
1 teaspoon of salt
Pepper to taste


Drain and rinse the beans. Heat the oil in a pressure cooker and add the cumin seed. Give them a quick stir and add the garlic and let it brown.

Add the onion and bell pepper and saute for 1 minute. Add the beans, corn, oregano, chipotle, and water or stock.

Lock the lid and bring the pressure cooker to high. When high pressure is reached, lower the heat enough to maintain the pressure and cook for 8 minutes.

Release the pressure and remove the lid, pointing the lid away to release any excess steam. With a slotted spoon transfer 1 cup of the beans to a blender and puree with the tomato paste. Add back to the soup. Add cilantro, lime juice, avocado, salt, and pepper.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

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

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

St. Patrick’s Day... is Coming Soon

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.

Celebrate St. Patrick’s Day at one of Taos’ favorite watering holes

Monday, March 12, 2012

Taos: My Favorite Things (2 in a Series)

Enjoying the Wind Sculptures
It’s almost spring in the Land of Enchantment. And while this place may not hold the kind of magic that makes pigs fly, your lawn furniture just might. Depending on what part of the expansive Taos mesa you might live on, the winds can be pretty intense at times. And with the exception of mid-summer, there is almost always a good breeze on our part of the mesa.

So it’s not surprising that wind sculptures are very common here. On the way into (or out of) Taos there is a group of shops and galleries in the shadow of Taos Mountain, with a large group of wind sculptures sharing a meadow with some cattle. Often when I drive by there isn’t much activity, but this time of the year, the wind sculptures are usually singing along with the breezes. At times when the wind is strong enough, it can be quite a sight! I always look for them on my way back out of town, when I can have a better and longer look at them. Often in the spring, I am well rewarded with a big smile and a song in my heart. ~Aimee

Come visit Taos this spring!

Friday, March 9, 2012

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

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Highfalutin

Definition: “Pompous or pretentious speech, writing, or ideas.” Origin: “mid-19th century, during the period of the populating of the Old West.” ~Jean

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

Monday, March 5, 2012

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest: Part 2 in a Series

Hud (1963)

This movie is a must-see for those interested in the Great Southwest (Texas in particular) during the mid-twentieth-century. It was such a special time in America: the old was making way for the new at breakneck speed and it was like being in a whirlwind to those who were living it. The story told in Hud clearly illustrates that particular time in history.

My thoughts on the movie:
This is without a doubt my favorite movie of all time (tied with another Paul Newman flick, Paris Blues) and Paul Newman is my all-time favorite actor. No Doubt About It. End Of Story. So There. But, seriously... this film is simply hypnotic, with its sad, mundane reality so out in the open for everyone to see. These people think this is the way life is, and I guess for them, that’s true. I had some somewhat distant relatives (who lived in small Oklahoma towns) who were sort of like these folks, and maybe that’s why it touches me the way it does: a strange chill mixed with a warm, cozy feeling about something that does, indeed, seem oddly familiar.

As for the lead character of “Hud,” played to perfection by Newman, all anyone can say is: what a cad! But, what a charming, handsome, and completely swaggeringly seductive cad. I’d like to know who could resist him... oh, wait a minute: in real life I’d get as far away from this monster as possible, no fooling. But, God, what movie magic this whole mess makes. This is definitely a film where they got it completely right, including the ending. What a triumph! Paul Newman is “Hud!” ~Jean

Movie Synopsis:
A classic character study of Hud Bannon, a ruthless young rancher without a heart, who abuses and eventually alienates everyone in his “big fish in a little pond” Texas Panhandle world.

Location Site: Claude, Texas
Most of Hud was filmed in and around the tiny town of Claude. The sleepy Texas Panhandle town was the perfect backdrop in which to tell the common, yet tragic, story of the Bannon family. This movie, which was beautfully filmed in black and white, perfectly captured the banality of the humdrum, dead-end feeling of a small Texas town and the personal dramas of its inhabitants in the early 1960s. More...

See the entire feature about Hud in Movie Locations of the Great Southwest on Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The Lone Ranger Shooting in New Mexico

An exciting new remake of The Lone Ranger will film exteriors and studio work in New Mexico, followed by locations in Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Armie Hammer stars as the Lone Ranger and Johnny Depp is his faithful sidekick, Tonto, in Gore Verbinski’s feature-film adaptation of the iconic tale of Old West vigilantism.

The film reunites the filmmaking team of the first three Pirates of the Caribbean blockbusters, producer Jerry Bruckheimer and director Gore Verbinski, with Johnny Depp, who created Captain Jack Sparrow in his iconic, Oscar-nominated performance and contributed the voice of the title character of Verbinski’s Academy Award-winning Rango.

Depp and Hammer are joined by a prestigious international cast which includes Tom Wilkinson, William Fichtner, Barry Pepper, James Badge Dale, Ruth Wilson, and Helena Bonham Carter.

According to a recent press release, The Lone Ranger is a thrilling adventure infused with action and humor, in which the famed masked hero is brought to life through new eyes. Native American spirit warrior, Tonto, recounts the untold tales that transformed John Reid, a man of the law, into a legend of justice, taking the audience on a runaway train of epic surprises and humorous friction, as the two unlikely heroes must learn to work together and fight against greed and corruption.”

The Lone Ranger is scheduled to be released on May 31, 2013.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Horno

Horno is Spanish for “oven.” In the Southwest, a horno generally refers to a wood-fired oven made of adobe mud, often in the shape of a beehive. Native Americans still use the outdoor horno to cook a special delicacy called “fry bread.” Recently, dog houses have been made in the igloo shape of a horno, for those Santa Fe and Taos residents who want their pooches to enjoy New Mexico style. ~Aimee

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

Friday, February 24, 2012

National Tortilla Chip Day

My goodness, if you live in the Southwest, or anywhere in America for that matter, tortilla chips are a crunchy, delicious treat that should be on everybody’s favorite snack list.

Tortilla chips are made from corn tortillas cut into wedges and then fried to perfection. Light, crunchy and just salty enough, they consist of simple ingredients: corn, vegetable oil, salt, and water.

These delectable chips are the result of an unexpected, but brilliant, innovation by Rebecca Webb Carranza. During the 1940s, she and her husband ran a Mexican delicatessen and the El Zarape Tortilla Factory in Los Angeles. They were among the first to automate the production of tortillas. The machine often produced misshapen tortillas and Carranza decided to try and use them instead of throwing them away. She took the less-than-perfect tortillas, cut them into triangles and fried them up, selling them for a dime a bag. Carranza received a Golden Tortilla Award for her contribution to the Mexican food industry in 1994.

For decades, tortilla chips have been a nationwide sensation, served alongside salsa, chili, guacamole, and a variety of other appetizers. In fact, Nachos, which are tortilla chips topped with a variation of shredded cheese, salsa, sour cream, etc. (said to have been created by Ignacia Anaya in 1943) account for 30% of all tortilla chips used in American restaurants.

The Doritos brand was the first toasted tortilla chip launched nationally in the U.S. in 1966. There are, however, many local brands, especially in the Southwest, that are considered to be “more authentic” and therefore more desirable for salsa and guacamole dipping.

Grab some of those delicious, crunchy tortillas and celebrate the day!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Chile Cheese Bread


3 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tbsp. oil
1/2 to 1 teaspoon red chile flakes, to taste
10 oz. flat beer
4 oz. grated sharp cheddar cheese
4 oz. grated Monterey Jack cheese


Warm beer over low heat to 110° to 115° F. Transfer to large mixing bowl, add sugar and yeast. Cover bowl and place bowl in oven over pilot light to keep warm.

Proof the yeast: Let stand approximately 10 minutes. Foam should appear on top of the mixture. If any yeast granules are still present, return to the oven for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Once yeast is proofed, add the oil to the mixture. Gradually stir in flour and salt, mixing until dough becomes firm enough to knead. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Start adding cheese and red chile flakes, working them evenly into the dough as you knead.

When the cheese and red chile flakes have been incorporated into the dough, knead another 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Add small amounts of flour to the surface of the dough if it begins to stick. Note: Depending on the humidity and your altitude, you may need to use a little more flour.

Form the dough into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with moist towel and set in a moderately cool place to rise slowly.

Note: Setting dough to rise in a warm place causes the dough to rise too quickly. This produces a bread with uneven, open texture and undeveloped flavor. I prefer to let dough rise in a cool place for several hours. This produces an evenly textured, deliciously flavored bread. The difference is remarkable!

Let rise for 2 hours or more, until the dough has doubled in size and does not spring back when pressed. Turn the dough out and knead briefly. Set aside to rise again. When dough has doubled in size again, turn it out, knead briefly and form into a round or oblong loaf. (You can also bake this bread in a cloche, which gives your bread the flavor and texture of having been baked in a brick oven.)

Place on a baking sheet or baking stone. Slash the top of the loaf. Bake at 350° for approximately 50 minutes until loaf is nicely browned and hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom. Remove loaf to cooling rack. Let cool almost completely before slicing, and completely before storing.


For Authentic New Mexico Chile visit the Taos Unlimited Food Section

Monday, February 20, 2012

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 17, 2012

Random Acts of Kindness Day

Not much is known about the origin of this recognized day or who came up with it. But it is a nice idea and can help swing people’s throughts from the negative pole to the positive. The world can certainly use all the kindness it can get!

There is an interactive website called The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation. People go there to share their stories of the giving and receiving of kindness in one form or another from their fellow human beings.

Please feel free to leave your own personal stories about “Random Acts of Kindness” in the comments section of this post.

Let’s think “kindness” today and everyday! ~ Jean and Aimee

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

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

Monday, February 13, 2012

Tomorrow is... 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 of Georgia O’Keeffe

Friday, February 10, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Ghost Ranch

Located in Abiquiu, New Mexico, Ghost Ranch was the home of artist Georgia O'Keeffe from 1949 until her death in 1986. Located in an area known for its breathtaking red rock formations, it is now a retreat and popular tourist attraction in Northern New Mexico, an easy day trip from either Taos or Santa Fe. ~Aimee

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

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Aimee’s Haiku for February

chill evening stillness
moonrise over the mountains
lone coyote song

Friday, February 3, 2012

Yesterday was... The Second Annversary of Our Taos Unlimited Blog!

We are happy to be celebrating our second great year of blogging on our Taos Unlimited Blog. We had so much fun bringing our readers valuable and entertaining information on Taos, Santa Fe, and Northern New Mexico in 2011, that we can’t wait to start blogging in 2012! Visit us often, as we will be adding new posts on a regular basis, just like last year. ~ Jean and Aimee

Please visit our portal websites: Taos Unlimited and Santa Fe Unlimited

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

National Wild Bird-Feeding Month

Congressman John Porter (R-IL) read a resolution into the Congressional Record on February 23, 1994, proclaiming February as National Bird-Feeding Month. The formal resolution was as follows:   

“Mr. Speaker, I would like to recognize February, one of the most difficult months in the United States for wild birds, as National Bird-Feeding Month. During this month, individuals are encouraged to provide food, water and shelter to help wild birds survive. This assistance benefits the environment by supplementing wild bird’s natural diet of weed seeds and insects. Currently, one third of the U.S. adult population feeds wild birds in their backyards.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, backyard bird feeding is an entertaining, educational, and inexpensive pastime enjoyed by children and adults. Bird feeding provides a needed break from today’s frantic lifestyles. Adults enjoy the relaxation and peacefulness afforded by watching birds: nature serves to relieve the stress and can get one’s day going on a tranquil note.

Young children are naturally drawn to the activities involved in feeding wild birds, which can serve as excellent educational tools. Children can identify different species of birds with a field guide and can learn about the birds’ feeding and living habits. These observations can then provide excellent research opportunities for school projects and reports.

Feeding wild birds in the backyard is an easy hobby to start and need not overtax the family budget. It can be as simple as mounting a single feeder outside a window and filling it with bird seed mix. For many people, the hobby progresses from there. They discover the relationship between the type and location of feeders and the seeds offered in them, and the number and varieties of birds attracted. Parents can challenge an inquisitive child’s mind as they explore together these factors in trying to encourage visits by their favorite birds.”

So, let’s go... feed the birds!

Monday, January 30, 2012

National Corn Chip Day

Let’s Celebrate Fritos and Frito Pie!

There’s no doubt that Fritos are the quintessential American corn chip. There is simply nothing quite like the tasty snack. In 1932, Elmer Doolin was so taken with the bag of corn chips served with his lunch in San Antonio, Texas, that he paid $100 for the recipe and started the Frito Corporation. His company refined the chips, mechanized the process, and then moved the company to Dallas to market the product. The new company was named the Frito Company and in 1961 it merged with the H. W. Lay Company to form the snack king corporation called Frito-Lay, Inc. Although there are many brands and types of chips, no one has been able to copy the distinctive taste, texture and crispness of Fritos. And so, when a recipe calls for Fritos, nothing else will do.

Original Fritos ingredients are limited to whole corn, corn oil and salt. Fritos are now made in the following varieties: Original, Barbecue, Chili Cheese, Flamin' Hot, Tangy Roasted Corn, Sabrositas (lime & chile), Scoops (wider chips intended for dipping), Pinch of Salt, Dirty Mexican Chicken, and Ranch Style.

The classic Frito pie is this: a single-serving bag of Fritos, opened lengthwise and topped with chili or chili beans, Velveeta cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. For the hearty, green chiles and/or jalapenos are added.

As to its true origin, some say Frito pie actually did get its start at the Woolworth’s on the Santa Fe Plaza in the 1960s, as a dish created by lunch counter worker, Teresa Hernandez. Corporate lore at Frito-Lay, however, claims that Daisy Dean Doolin, mother of the man who first bought the rights to market Fritos in 1932, not only perfected her son’s product, but also created the Frito pie recipe as a way to help market the corn chips. Regardless, this dish is extremely popular throughout the Southwest, especially Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. ~Jean

Friday, January 27, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Tamale

A tamale (in Spanish, “tamal”) is a traditional Mexican dish consisting of steam-cooked corn dough (masa) with or without a filling. The most common filling is pork, but chicken is also used, in either red or green salsa or mole. Tamales can also be filled with cheese, sliced chiles, or other ingredients. The tamale is wrapped in a corn husk before cooking. Tamales are a favorite dish in Mexico that take several hours to prepare and cook. In Northern New Mexican cities and towns, many locals market homemade tamales in shopping areas and supermarket parking lots. For those who love tamales, but don’t have the time or skill to prepare them, this is an easy way for them to enjoy the classic Mexican treat. ~Jean

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

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Aimee’s Haiku for January

snowing blowing through
upsy daisy limbs askew
when the year is new

Monday, January 23, 2012

Recipe of the Month: Roast Pork with Sweet and Sour Chile Cilantro Sauce


Pork Roast
1/3 cup coriander seeds
1-1/2 cups fine dry bread crumbs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 lb. center-cut boneless pork loin roast, butterflied

Chile Cilantro Sauce
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 cup caribe (crushed New Mexico red chile flakes)
1 cup honey
1/2 cup fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


Pork Loin
Preheat oven to 400°F. Coarsely crush coriander seeds with a mortar and pestle or an electric coffee/spice grinder, then stir together with bread crumbs, oil, pepper, and salt in a small bowl.

Turn pork so a long side is closest to you and season with salt and pepper. Pat one third of seasoned crumbs onto pork, leaving a 2-inch border along top edge. Starting with side nearest you, roll meat into a cylinder and tie securely with kitchen string. Coat pork with remaining crumbs.

Roast pork on a rack in a roasting pan in middle of oven 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 325°F and roast until an instant-read thermometer diagonally inserted at least 2 inches into meat registers 155°F (approximately 1 to 1-1/4 hours more). Let pork stand, loosely covered for 10 minutes.

Make sauce while pork roasts:
Simmer bell pepper, caribe, honey, lime juice, and salt in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until sauce is slightly thickened or about 30 minutes. Cool sauce to warm or room temperature, then stir in cilantro just before serving.

Slice pork and serve with sauce.

Note: Sauce (without cilantro) may be made two days ahead and chilled, covered. Heat over low heat until warm and stir in cilantro.


For Authentic New Mexico Chile visit the Taos Unlimited Food Section

Friday, January 20, 2012

High Desert Plants & Wildlife, The Wild Burro, Part 6 in a Series

A “wild burro” is an unbranded, unclaimed, free-roaming burro found on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or U.S. Forest Service (USFS), administered rangelands. The greatest number of wild burros live within the arid deserts of the Southwest. Wild burros are descendants of pack animals that wandered off, or were released by prospectors and miners.

The wild burro was first introduced into the Desert Southwest by Spaniards in the 1500s. Wild burros have long ears, a short mane and reach a height of up to five feet at the shoulders. They vary in color from black to brown to gray. Wild burros can survive in a wide variety of desert habitats as long as they are within 10 miles of drinking water.

Originally from Africa (where they were called the Wild Ass), these pack animals were prized for their hardiness in arid country. They are sure-footed, can locate food in barren terrain and can carry heavy burdens for days through hot, dry environments.

Early prospectors relied heavily on burros as they trekked long distances across the deserts in search of gold and silver. Many of these burros survived, even though their owners perished under the harsh desert conditions. Many more burros escaped or were released during the settlement of the West. Because of their hardiness, wild burros have thrived throughout the North American deserts, and their numbers have increased to perhaps 20,000.

Federal protection and a lack of natural predators resulted in thriving wild burros that grow in number each year. BLM monitors rangelands and wild burro populations to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, the land can support. Each year BLM gathers excess wild burros from areas where vegetation and water could be negatively impacted by over use.

These excess animals are offered for adoption to qualified people through BLM’s Adopt-a-Horse or-Burro Program. From 1973 through 1999, BLM has used this popular program to place more than 25,000 Wild Burros into private care.

Learn more about Wild Burros in the Plants & Wildlife section of Taos Unlimited

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Movie Locations of the Great Southwest: Part 1 in a Series

The Last Picture Show (1971)

This movie is perfect for January discussion and viewing. It’s set in such a bleak, dead-of-winter reality, you can almost feel the chill as you watch it. That’s why I chose The Last Picture Show as the first in our series of excerpts from Movie Locations of the Great Southwest.

My thoughts on the movie:
Since the first time I saw this movie (in the theater, like you had to back then), it has been one of my all-time favorites. With the brillance found in all Larry McMurtry stories, it captures the isolated, small Texas town of the 1950s to a T. And the cast is unbelievable! Just to see the first on-screen and almost-first on-screen performances of Cybill Shephard and Jeff Bridges is worth the price of admission, but here we have so much more! The stories of the characters are sad, funny, pathetic, charming, and depressing... and it makes for a really good movie experience. Today, some people may not get the depth of this film and the reason it is so amazingly good, but at the time, the critics and industry folk got it and awarded it accordingly.

I almost drove down to Archer City to witness some of the filming of The Last Picture Show, but decided to use my gas money for another road trip. I’ve regretted that decision for a long, long time. I think it could have been one of the best experiences of my life, but I was young (only 20 years old) at the time, and other adventures were calling me. But, oh, to have seen Archer City! ~Jean

Movie Synopsis:
A group of 1950s high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that has been slowly dying, both economically and culturally, along with its older generation of cynical, hardened, and hopeless townsfolk.

Location Site: Royal Theater, Archer City, Texas
The Royal Theater is the iconic image most connected to The Last Picture Show. It is located at 116 S. Sycamore Street in Archer City. When filming began, the theater itself had already fallen into great disrepair, and only the outside facade was used in the movie. The production crews for The Last Picture Show (and its sequel, Texasville) spent considerable money and effort to prop the building up for filming purposes. But, ironically, the inside shots that were supposed to be the Royal Theater were filmed at a then still-active theater in nearby Olney, Texas. More...

See the entire feature about The Last Picture Show in Movie Locations of the Great Southwest on Taos Unlimited

Monday, January 16, 2012

National Hat Day... was Yesterday

We honor National Hat Day with the celebration of the Cowboy Hat!

The Cowboy Hat has become so iconic that it can be worn virtually anywhere in the world and receive immediate recognition. Before the invention of the cowboy hat by John B. Stetson, cowpunchers of the plains states wore hats leftover from previous occupations. Top hats, derbies and Civil War caps, as well as tams and sailor caps were all worn in the early days of the western frontier. The first cowboy hat was designed in 1865. As the story goes, John B. Stetson (and some of his companions) went west to seek the benefits of a drier climate. During a hunting trip, Stetson amused his friends by showing them how he could make cloth out of fur without weaving.

After creating his fur flannel, Stetson continued the joke by making an oversized hat with an enormous brim. But he, and his company, noticed that the hat would be useful in protecting the wearer from rain and sun. Stetson decided to wear the hat on his hunting trip. He was so happy with the outcome, that he continued wearing it on his travels throughout the West. In 1865, he began producing the first line of his oversized hats, and before long, his "joke" became known as the cowboy hat. The original Stetson hat sold for five dollars. Today, the cowboy hat is a link to the Old West, lending its wearer an air of rugged individuality and playful enjoyment that still rings of Stetson’s humorous invention. ~Aimee

A Bit of Cowboy Hat Movie Trivia: In the 1960s Doris Day movie, “Pillow Talk,” Rock Hudson’s fake Texan persona is named “Rex Stetson,” although he never wears a cowboy hat in the film’s New York City setting. Hudson did, however, succeed extremely well in impersonating a Texas oilman, making the sex-farce comedy one of the top box office hits of the year. In one piece of dialogue he tells Day that being with her is "like sitting around a pot-bellied stove on a cold, winter mornin'." Now, that's a real down-home compliment, if I ever heard one! ~Jean

Friday, January 13, 2012

Three Cultures of Good Luck


The Milagro
Literally meaning “miracle,” a milagro is a charm or talisman, sometimes offered to a particular saint, and made in their image. Milagros are also made to represent animals, an affected part of the body, or an object. Often connected with specific prayers, these charms originated with the ancient Iberians who inhabited Spain. Milagros have been used extensively in Spain and the Americas for centuries, and are made from many different materials, depending on local customs. They can be flat or fully dimensional, and fabricated from gold, silver, tin, lead, wood, bone, or wax. They are often made as a charm, to be pinned to, or nearby the statue of a saint.

In New Mexico, the majority of milagros take the form of small metal charms, and can be found adorning shrines and devotional niches. In recent times, milagros have evolved into charms used in jewelry which can be worn on the person, as an amulet, or purely as decoration.

The Ristra
Each year after the harvest, chiles, garlic and other produce are hung out to dry to save for later consumption. They may be made into a wreath, or tied at various heights on string, a form which is known as a ristra. Chile ristras can be found throughout New Mexico, conspicuously hanging from portals by the front door to welcome visitors and bring good fortune to the home.

Traditionally, chiles were also used as amulets to ward off malaria, the plague, the evil eye (mal de ojo), bad luck, and bewitchment. Thus, another part of the belief that chile ristras bring goodness or good luck in general. Originating in Mexico, this practice has spread throughout the Southwestern United States.

Native American

The Fetish
Zuni fetishes depict animals and icons integral to their culture and mythology. According to Zuni tradition, there were animals associated with each of the six directions which were carved for ceremonial use, as well as others with ceremonial meaning. Additionally, fetishes might be a power animal for the carver, embodying the spirit of the animal as protection and to lend strength to its bearer.

Other Zuni fetish carvings depict animals and reptiles such as the frog, turtle, buffalo, deer, ram, otter, and others. There are many more subjects of contemporary carvers, including dinosaurs, for example, which would be considered non-traditional. In addition, there are numerous insect and reptile fetishes which are integral to Zuni mythology and folklore, petroglyphs, and patterns of design in pottery: for example, dragonflies, butterflies, water spiders, and lizards.

Fetishes were carved from stone indigenous to the region, or procured by trade, the most important of which was turquoise, which is considered by the Zuni as the sacred stone. Jet, animal shell and coral were also frequently used. Other materials used include jasper, pipestone, marble, and organic items such as bone and deer or elk antler. There are some Zuni carvers who will not carve fetishes from bone or antler, considering the practice to be dangerous.

The Kachina
Kachinas are depictions of spirits, often in the form of a doll, traditionally made for ceremonial uses. There are virtually hundreds of Kachinas, some with meaning to one or several related tribes, while others appear almost universally in tribal legends.

Perhaps the most well known Kachina is the Kokopelli. Found also in the mythology of the Zuni, Kokopelli is a Hopi fertility god, also known as a prankster, hunter, healer, musician, dancer and storyteller. As a fertility spirit, many Kokopellis found as petroglyphs were depicted with an erect phallus, but contemporary Kokopellis tend to be more modest, wearing a long loincloth or tunic which covers the genital area. While many believe that Kokopelli was humpbacked, tradition has it that he carried a trader’s bag on his back.

In some Hopi tales, Kokopelli’s bag contains gifts that he uses to attract women. In others, he carries a baby on his back and leaves it with a young woman. As a trickster, he appears in the folktales and mythology of many different peoples. Kokopelli’s flute is similar to the flutes used in Native American religious rituals. As a hunter, Kokopelli may play the flute to attract the mountain sheep he is hunting. The Zuni call him a rain priest and connect him and his music with the gift of rain. According to the Hopi, Kokopelli warmed the land and the winds by playing his flute as he led them to their homeland. And lastly, some legends suggest that Kokopelli was a real ancient Toltec trader who played the flute and traveled routes between Mexico, the West Coast, and the Southwest.


The Horseshoe
When kept as a talisman, a horseshoe is said to bring good luck. The most common belief is that hanging it with the ends pointing upwards is good luck. Some feel this is because the horseshoe itself is good luck, and this keeps the luck in. Others believe that the horseshoe acts as a container which catches any good luck that happens to be drifting by. Many believers hold that to hang the horseshoe with the ends pointing down allows the good luck to fall out. There are others, however, who believe that the shoe should be hung with its ends pointing down, as it will then release its luck to the people around it.

Horseshoes were considered lucky in part because they were made by blacksmiths, which was considered to be a very powerful and lucky trade. Blacksmiths were thought to have special powers because they worked with elemental fire and iron. Iron was considered magical because of its superior strength and ability to withstand fire. Centuries ago, iron was used as a charm to ward off evil spirits.

Another aspect of the horseshoe that added to its good luck was the fact that it was commonly held in place by seven iron nails; seven being thought of as the luckiest number since ancient times. Life was thought to be divided into seven ages; a rainbow has seven colors; astrology once held that seven planets made up the universe; a seventh child was thought to have special powers; there are seven days in a week; the moon changes from one phase to another every seven days; and the body is completely remade every seven years.

The Wishbone
Sometimes called the “merrythought” in Great Britain, the wishbone is the collarbone of fowl, especially the chicken and the turkey. It is the custom to save this bone intact when carving the bird at dinner and to dry it over the stove or by the fire (or sometimes, to dry it for three days in the air, three being a fortuitous magical number) until it is brittle.

Once the merrythought is dry, it is given to two people (usually children), who pull it by the pinkie fingers until it cracks and breaks, each one making a wish while doing so. The person who gets the “long half” of the wishbone will have his or her wish come true. This wish must never be spoken out loud and must remain secret to the wisher or it will never come true. If the wishbone breaks evenly, both parties get their wishes.

The term “wishbone” is believed to have come from the ancient Italians who read the future in the bird’s entrails. It is believed that people also started thinking the wishbone was lucky because they were sure that hens and cocks were fortune tellers at soul, as proven in their ability to foretell the break of the day.

As an amulet the wishbone represents wish fulfillment and is sometimes artistically represented in gold or silver pendants or brooches. The term “getting a lucky break” originated from the wishbone ritual, referring to having received abundance or winning a prize. The wishbone has also been used as a fertility charm. Maidens would hang wishbones over the doorway in their homes to attract a suitor to their hearth.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Taos A to Z Excerpt: Adobe

Definition: “A kind of clay used as a building material, typically in the form of sun-dried bricks; a brick of such a type or a building constructed from such material.” Origin: “mid-18th century: from Spanish, adobar meaning ‘to plaster.’”

Adobe has long been the traditional building material of the Southwest. Structures made from it are undulating and sculptural in nature, yet their mass gives them a sense of permanence and timelessness. The word adobe originated in the Arabic language and was brought to America by Spanish colonists at the end of the 15th century. It is used to refer to the earth from which structures are built, the structures themselves, and the unbaked clay bricks made from the earth.

In New Mexico, archaeologists have discovered remnants of adobe walls built by Pueblo Indians that date back to 1200 AD, 400 years before the arrival of the Spanish. From that time, through the 15th century, there is evidence of two types of earthen walls. One was coarse adobe, which started with a stiff mixture of mud and was blended with anything from stones to pot shards. The mud was applied by the handful, layer on top of layer, until the desired wall height had been reached. A more sophisticated method made use of hand-formed, unbaked clay bricks. When the bricks were dry, mud mortar was used to hold the bricks in place on the wall.

Believe me, nothing can take the place of the feeling you get when you enter an old, well-maintained adobe structure. In the summer, it’s akin to walking into a cool, refreshing cave; and in the winter, there is nothing more delightfully cozy than sitting in front of an authentic kiva fireplace. Ultimately, it’s a big part of the process of truly being in touch with the wondrous and sacred land that is America’s Great Southwest. ~Jean

See our special feature about Adobe on Taos Unlimited

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

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Tomorrow is... National Bird Day

Why National Bird Day?

• The beauty, songs, and flight of birds have long been sources of human inspiration.
• Today, nearly 12 percent of the world’s 9,800 bird species may face extinction within the next century, including nearly one-third of the world’s 330 parrot species.
• Birds are sentinel species whose plight serves as barometer of ecosystem health and alert system for detecting global environmental ills.
• Many of the world’s parrots and songbirds are threatened with extinction due to pressures from the illegal pet trade, disease and habitat loss.
• Public awareness and education about the physical and behavioral needs of birds can go far in improving the welfare of the millions of birds kept in captivity.
• The survival and well-being of the world’s birds depends upon public education and support for conservation.

To find out more visit the National Bird Day website

Monday, January 2, 2012