Célébration de L’Automne en Famille (celebration of fall with family)

Creating La Belle Vie

It is the beginning of autumn harvest season! This is our family’s favorite time of year. Our farm is aptly named Pumpkin Hollow Farm (we will have this new place looking like a farm in no time). So, when our children came for the weekend we wanted to do something really fun. We looked up local attractions but ended up at two nearby farms to pick apples, blackberries, and choose early pumpkins. Everyone had a wonderful time and it was the highlight of our weekend together.

Doug and I went around our village the night before the children arrived to scout out which farms we should go to. We ended up talking to one of the farmers for quite some time. The couple retired, they bought land here with apple trees on it, and a U-Pick farm was born.

The first farm we all ventured to looks to be a…

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Old Stuff (why buying used is the way to a sustainable homestead)

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Shielding our eyes, we stared up to the tops of the building facades stating 1885 or some odd old number in stone.  Buildings stretch along the street that would have once held the needs of a western town.  The train station held its ground- now a senior center- near the downtown streets.  I could just picture the comings and goings of buggies and hoop skirts, the sound of the train whistle on the wind.  The shops in Florence, Colorado are now filled with art and antiques, bygone eras of items still in good preserve.

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Oh, I’m no better than anyone else.  If we need something it is very easy to hop on Amazon and in two clicks have it shipped to the door for not a lot of cash.  Walmart is a back up.  Yikes, all that plastic.  All those things just doomed to break in record time forcing us to buy again!

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The three quart cast iron sauce pan shined and its wooden handle was sound.  I had never seen this sized pan.  Two quarts is oft too small, and a soup pot is a bit much at times, but three quarts…my goodness, that’s just right.  So was the price.  Its tiny match, a pot just big enough to heat up some barbecue sauce, came along for the ride back to our homestead as well.

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The bottom of a butter churner, a wooden pestle, and a large grain scoop that will never fail also joined our foray.  We sipped coffee over breakfast and enjoyed the views the town offered.

 

If you are in need of something new, be it measuring cups (I love my old battered aluminum ones), coffee pot (percolator anyone?), a dress, a whisk, a piece of furniture, Corningware,  dishes, a stock pot, an oil lamp, a new coat, a dutch oven, or a funky 1960’s glider, you can probably find it out there.  Try antique stores, garage sales, Ebay, or second hand stores.  There is usually not a thing wrong with old items, they have simply been traded in for a new, plastic ones.

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The benefits of buying things antique is that they have been around this long, they will last and last for you as well.  They are generally cheaper or comparable in price to their new fangled counterparts.  And they add charm to your homestead.  It’s the best recycling of all and includes an entertaining half day of “the thrill of the hunt.”  We love visiting new towns and the treasures they keep hidden behind 1800’s storefronts.  I love the feel of a good whisk in my hand that a great-grandmother likely used before me, whisking eggs from the chicken coop.

Visiting Small Towns (a fun day away just down the road)

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We meandered through jewelry and antique stores.  We stopped for a cup of coffee.  We walked through art galleries and stared in awe at the buildings.  We walked hand-in-hand idly down the sidewalks.  We stopped and talked to a grandmother who has lived in Trinidad her whole life and listened as she recalled memories.

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They don’t build like this anymore.  The intricate details of each cornerstone and inset lettering.  The grandness of a small town.

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One can learn a lot from the art and sculptures set throughout a place.  This was a town of coal miners and of ranchers.

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Can you hear the sound of the horses pulling carriages down the Main street?  The eruptions in the saloon?  The sound of a bustling small town on a Saturday night?  Ghosts of people and activity over the past hundred and fifty years swarms by in my imagination and the sense of place captures me.

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I wonder what the street looked like when people lined up at the grand Opera house.  Or what the lights looked like as kids lined up at the movie theater on a Friday night.  The roller rink must have been great fun at the time that I used to roller skate in the 70’s and 80’s.

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There are new cafes to visit and bookstores and side streets, but alas, we started our journey down Main street too late in the day and everyone is closing up shop.

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Just like the small museums I wrote about yesterday, there are probably small towns all around you, other cities, other places a half hour, an hour, maybe an hour and a half away that hold history, and art, and a different life.  There are books to look at and coffee to sip, and elders to engage in conversation with.  There are new parks to soak up the sun in, and places to see.  Perhaps this Saturday you will head out to a new town to explore, enjoy, and get inspired.  These little day trips are good for the spirit- a change of scenery and the exploration of something new.

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A Walk Through History (visiting your local museums)

My daughter, Shyanne and her boyfriend were recalling one evening to each other memories of the family vacations of their youth.  His family takes daring, exotic vacations that sound thrilling.  They took Shyanne with them to go zip-lining in Costa Rica and they went deep sea fishing in the Florida Keys.  Shyanne described to him the streets around the Plaza and the views across New Mexico.  And the museums.  Our kids went to museums on family vacations.  Art, history, children’s, aquatic, zoos, outdoor sculpture parks.  We love them.  We seek them out.  But you don’t have to go on vacation to go to museums.

In your town or a town near you there will be hidden a gem of history, of art, of culture.  An inexpensive place to explore.  To be enriched.  To be inspired.

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I was asked to speak at the Trinidad History Museum this last weekend on indigenous plants and remedies for the opening of their exhibit, Borderlands of Southern Colorado; Remedios, Medicine and Health.  Trinidad is an hour south of us and we enjoyed seeing a new place and a new museum.

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We adore old houses.  The architecture, the story, the ghosts that live within, the décor; it all speaks to us.  We learn the history of a place, the hopes and dreams of its settlers, the story behind sepia faces in old photographs.

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We get decorating ideas.  We imagine what life would be like back then.  We walk from room to room imagining life a hundred years or two hundred years ago.  The Bloom mansion was built in 1882.  It is a spectacular home and living exhibit.

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We walked through the gardens to the adobe building that houses the gift shop and the current exhibits.  The beautiful dancers from Folklorico spun and tapped and smiled as they entertained the crowd.

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Inside, we walked past faces from the past- miners and cattlemen, Native Americans and Scots.  Artifacts, tools, Catholicism, remedies, furniture all set up in a way to help us understand and imagine life in a small western town just north of the border.  How people lived.  How people survived.  How people thrived.

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Kit Carson’s intricately embroidered coat is on display.  Documents and historical pieces that bring to life old stories and articles.  That make these images tangible and teach us about human nature and about ourselves.

The Baca house was a real treat.  It is closed for restoration but we were able to walk through and get a glimpse.  This adobe house was built in 1873 by Felipe and Dolores Baca.  They traded 22,000 pounds of wool to have it built.  That is a lot of wool!

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The affluence of the family can be felt in the details.  There is a widow’s walk, Victorian and Greek architectural additions and furniture.  Felipe died rather young and Dolores dressed in black the rest of her days there.  A love story behind the intricate details a home with cracking mud walls.

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Museums like the Trinidad History Museum on the Historic Santa Fe Trail often offer children’s programs, community events, and learning opportunities.  You can find my books and many other wonderful literary works and children’s books in the gift shop, as well as unique gifts and art.

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So, perhaps this weekend, you might seek out a nearby museum.  Walk through its gardens, its gates, its doorways.  Listen to the whispers of another time and let it change you, influence you, inspire you, educate you.

Trinidad History Museum

312 East Main Trinidad, Trinidad, CO, 81082

719-846-7217

https://www.historycolorado.org/trinidad-history-museum

Two Days in Santa Fe

I am sitting in a coffee shop on the Plaza enjoying a delicious brew in a corner booth overlooking the frost covered buildings and the vast sky that promises warmer weather today.

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I read a study that compared the frequencies of people and places and how we thrive best when matched with our own similar frequency level regarding people and lands.  According to the study, if you were to close your eyes and someone placed a stone from a place that you love in one hand and a stone from a place you do not like, you would notice the difference.  This place matches my frequency.  Whether crossing the Santa Fe Plaza or eating red chile in Socorro or driving though farm land or artist towns, this is my place.  One day…

I adore the architecture and the history here.  The traditional adobe with straw sticking through its ancient walls.  The oldest house in the United States is here and was built in 1598.  Down a small street next to San Miguel church (circa 1636) is the house and free museum.  I loved seeing the tortilla press (not too different than mine) and the stone used for grinding corn into meal (a bit different than my Vitamix) and the other items of the era.

There is a distinctive look to New Mexico.  It is all about the details here.  Punched tin, kivas, adobe, bright trim, murals, and vigas create textures, history, and art in the architecture and design here.

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We brought our granddaughter’s stuffed animal with us and have been capturing moments with it to the delight of Maryjane.

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Now I have seen the fake stuffed animal heads mounted on boards.  They are cheeky and kind of funny from a vegetarian perspective.  In fact, I have long had a stuffed moose head we named Moosletoe hanging in our living room.  One is funny; more than that might be over the top.  However, when I saw this rooster head I started giggling so much that the cashier started giggling, than Doug joined in, and the contagious laughter prompted his coming home with me.  He is hilarious.  Perhaps he will inspire my rooster, Bob, to behave himself.

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Amazing how ten days flies when on vacation.  Thanks for coming along with me, we’ll see you back at the farm!

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A Visit to the Desert Botanical Garden in Arizona

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The Desert Botanical Garden was my favorite outing this week in Phoenix.  It was the only day my friends that we are staying with had off work.   At the Botanical Garden, I learned about the ecosystem and plant life here.

The long, meandering paths lead in circles around the living outdoor exhibits, so it was easy to traverse.  I found myself fascinated by the landscape and the warm sun felt great upon my skin as the four of us wandered around the expansive space enjoying each other’s company and watching exquisite birds.  Fluffy chipmunks darted to and fro and a large hawk hovered near.

We found great enjoyment watching the blackbirds dart full speed into holes in the Saguaro cacti, apartment buildings for the birds.  Hummingbirds happily drank nectar from cactus flowers and trees in full bloom.

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I have an enormous aloe plant in my house that flowers each year and it is always a topic of conversation the first time folks visit my home.  To see these beautiful specimens full of juice and flowering prolifically beneath the Arizona sun was wonderful.

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There is a medicinal herb that I use called Chaparral.  It holds the astounding properties within it to kill cancer cells, repair teeth and kill infections.  It is often hard for me to get.  Its other name is Creosote Bush and there it was, prolific across the desert.

The herb gardens were thick with rich aroma and life as bees darted from tip to tip.

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I wondered how the indigenous people of the land here could withstand the heat.  There were many examples of willow and ironwood structures for cooking, living, and communing.  Gardens and history were provided around the simulated village.

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My husband is a very good photographer and I was happy that he could capture the day for us.  If you find yourself in Phoenix, Arizona, head to the Desert Botanical Garden for a day of history, beauty, and desert magic.

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It has been a lovely six days in Arizona and now we bid a sad farewell to our dear friends and travel east to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Queen Creek Olive Mill Tour

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The day was dusty and blustery, actually cool.  We passed a screened in garden filled with Five Color Silverbeat Swiss Chard, already two feet tall and rows of kale and flowers.  We looked out on the expansive grassy area dotted with olive trees then ducked into the store to avoid the wind.  The shop is charming with everything beautiful.  Every item they sell has a lovely label.  Each shelf meticulously designed and each product mouthwateringly tempting.  A large café serves easy fare like paninis and appetizers.  The smells of the coffee shop waft about the shop mingling with the aromas of wood fired pizza and olive oil.

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Rows of fresh olive oil are available to sample, all made there on the property.  They infuse balsamic vinegars there as well and they line the shelves with arrays of colors. Before we sample anything, we get in line for the tour.  We pass a hedge of olive trees and an ancient stone mill.

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Our tour guide has a staccato German accent and a charming demeanor.  He tells us the health benefits and caloric content of olive oil and the many uses.  He debunks the myth about olive oil’s smoke point (I knew it!  Grandmas in Italy know it as well.)  You can roast veggies, sauté, and do all of your cooking with olive oil without fear of it becoming a carcinogen.  (With that I must add that deep frying anything in itself is a carcinogen!)  I was pleased that I knew most all of what he told the crowd and I had to bite my lip to not answer questions and remind myself that I was not the tour guide!  It was interesting hearing about the IOG and their rigorous standards for purity and taste.  One must always purchase extra virgin olive oil, or second best, virgin olive oil.  Anything beyond that is lamp oil.

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As we munched on a cheese platter of pickled veggies and a Chardonnay Herbed Mascarpone and sipped wine, I reviewed the story of the founders.  A family leaving Detroit with a dream to grow olives in Arizona, raising their children on land, building a company, and succeeding.  Queen Creek Olive Mill is the only olive oil company in Arizona.

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We sampled olive oil and filled a shopping basket.  (We have hardly purchased any souvenirs at all on this trip, but we now have two big bags of food stuffs to take home now!  Our souvenirs are always food orientated.  We meandered through a great Indian grocery yesterday too, filling a basket as we perused rows of delicious and ridiculously low priced teas and spices.)  We would have enjoyed walking the grounds but the weather was not cooperative, but if we go back we shall walk around the beer garden and converse with the trees and enjoy the fresh food and olive oil.

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Queen Creek Olive Mill, 25062 S. Meridian Rd, Queen Creek, Arizona

Japanese Friendship Garden

The gardens are beautiful here in Arizona.  Today we visited the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix.  These wild ducklings befriended me.

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This park is filled with ideas that I would love to incorporate into my own gardens.

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I love the rain chains.  They softly carry water down its rings into a place designated for water flow that carefully takes the water to designated gardens.  The sound is soft and tinkling as the water flows easily down the chain.

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The sound of water is so soothing and a simple solar powered fountain would really be nice near my greenhouse.

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A place to have tea near the water feature would be a lovely respite.

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Koi need to be able to drop below three feet in order not to freeze.  I don’t think it is warm enough in our area to have them, but I do love their gaping mouths and sparkling, colored scales.

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The stone lanterns were used to light meandering paths.

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Statues add something special to ordinary garden spaces.

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This is a lovely, small park with pine trees shaped like bonsai  and entertaining birds, koi, and water features.  Shaded spaces and benches to sit and contemplate round each corner.  They have public and private tea ceremonies.  If you are in the Phoenix area, it is only seven dollars to walk through the Japanese Friendship Garden.

The Inspiring Arizona Landscape and Paint

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Arizona is even more beautiful than I could have imagined.  The brightly colored flowers landscaped down the highways splash raspberry pink along the desert city.  Palm trees and giant Saguaro cacti intersperse.  I had never seen a Saguaro cactus.  I am inspired to paint.

 

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Just last week I was wondering what might have happened to my painting of Chimayo.  Who did I sell it to or who did I give it to?  I love my paintings and always miss them when they sell so I was so thrilled to see it hanging on the wall here.  We haven’t seen our friends in three in a half years and I am overjoyed to be with them.

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My children called them Uncle Monte and Uncle Erik growing up and they are very dear to us.  Monte is a collector of fine art.  Amongst his fabulous collection- still, after all these years- is a painting that my daughter, Emily, painted when she was about seven years old.

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We had fabulous vegan tacos at Mi Vegana Madre and enjoyed the warm spring day alfresco.

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I awoke to a portable easel that Doug had shipped here and was waiting for me for my birthday.  Every year I am overwhelmed with gratitude.  Grateful for birthdays.  Grateful for life.  Grateful for great friends.  For my family.  For travels.  For beauty, for nature, for adventures, for health, for a morning of bird song and sunrise in Arizona.

 

Gone Vintage and the El Rancho Hotel

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There is nothing like the excitement of going on holiday.  I love the lists of things to remember and dreaming of places to come.  My friend, Mindy gave me one of these suitcases and the other I inherited from my Grandma.  To me, they represent the golden era of travel with sleek, hard covers, ready to take on the world.  Since we are taking a road trip, the cases fit nicely in Fernando the Fiat.  The beautiful landscape of New Mexico flies by the window.  Clouds that seem painted on the flat, domed sky.  Red rocks and Creator-made walls of horizontal color schemes.  Breathtaking country.

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Just under ten hours into our trip, down the historic Route 66, we arrived at El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, New Mexico.  It was such a pleasant surprise.  You don’t always know what you are booking on the internet and this place is just too fun.  Dozens and dozens of old, autographed head shots and photographs from movies being filmed here line the walls.  Some of my favorites.  Some of the greats, Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Doris Day, Humphrey Bogart.

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The hotel is still like it was in 1936.  A historical beacon carefully crafted to impress the Hollywood set of the era.  The décor is rugged southwest.  Stone and Pendleton and wood.

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We waited in the elevator for the attendant.  The original elevator takes some skill to travel exactly to the correct floor.

 

Memorabilia of a bustling time remain set around the lobby.  A player piano, a place to get your shoes shined, a cigarette machine, and stamps at a fraction of the current rate.

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My vintage looking hat cocked to the side and my beloved old turquoise pleases me as I stand atop the curved wood staircase with red carpet or sit in the lobby with a cocktail imagining the comings and goings of the movie elite and the glamorous upper set with suitcases and sunglasses and perfect 1940’s hair.  A cigarette confidently smoking between fingers and laughter and parties.  I would have loved to have seen it.

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There is rich history in this state that I love and there is more where we are going.  Today we head off to Arizona.

(El Rancho Hotel and Motel, 1000 East Highway 66, Gallup, New Mexico)