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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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.

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)

 

 

Birthday Travels Through the Southwest (and the year of learning and adventure)

As adults we don’t seem to celebrate birthdays with the same festivity as when we were children, but I think all birthdays are incredibly special.  Having lost many friends at a young age, I know that each birthday is a great time to reevaluate, reground, regroup, and to be filled with gratitude.  Each lesson leading into another great discovery and memories fill the spaces in our days and lives with those we love and experiences to treasure.

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Last year was my year of bravery.  I shaved off all of my hair for my birthday.  It was freeing and light and was like the world’s burdens had been lifted off of my shoulders.  Now of course I am trying to grow out with some semblance of normalcy!

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My birthday is Sunday.  This year is my year of adventure and learning.  My farm is ready to really increase food production with experiments, new gardens, and my greenhouse.  I am registered for school in the fall.  But before everything gets really amped up, we are going on a ten day trip through New Mexico and Arizona.

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We will be staying with our dear, dear friends, Monte and Erik, whom we haven’t seen since they moved away over three years ago.  My friend from high school (26 years since I have seen her) is down there, as is one of Doug’s (30 years), and my wonderful Great-Aunt Lila.  I have never been to Arizona and I am excited to see the land and the people.  There are restaurants, parks, and museums to discover!  Sun to soak up!  Glasses of wine to clink with dear ones.  The overnights to and from Arizona in New Mexico I look forward to and always savor.  Chimayo is calling me.  So, for the next ten days I will be reporting to you from the fabulous Southwest with inspirations, ideas, and life.

 

 

 

Have Dog, Will Travel

20171209_105230We spent the weekend in Taos with this fine fellow, who at three and a half months of age looks to be a small polar bear.  He was very popular.  Gandalf particularly loved it the last day we were there after we realized the shops were all dog friendly and he didn’t need his vest.  If he doesn’t have his vest on he gets a lot more cuddling.  That is what Gandalf does best.

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To register your pup as an emotion support dog simply go to a site like ESAregistration.org and sign them up, pay for the vest, and you can then bring your trusted friend around with you.  There are no requirements, no questions; simply upload a photo of your dog and who the handler is.  No one has ever questioned us and by law they can’t keep us from entering an establishment.  Gandalf may not be a seeing eye dog but he has his own work, spreading happiness to all he meets!

Taos was in all its holiday glory with the lights and bonfires in place.  The shops were dressed festive and the luminarias were lined across the rooftops and along the paths.  There is just something about New Mexico for me.  I cross the state line (now only two hours away) and I am in my own place of inspiration and peace.  As if the vibration of the rocks and trees and sagebrush match the frequency of my blood.  One day I will be there to stay.  But I am where I am supposed to be right now and a weekend away was good for the soul.

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It was a great opportunity to train Gandalf and he was worn out by the end of our trip.  He was a really good boy, except once!  I let him off the leash because we were about to play ball so he usually keeps his eye on the bright orange tennis ball but then something else caught his eye.  A giant tarp.  That covered the out of season swimming pool!  He ran onto it, like a giant trampoline he raced from one end to the other, his ears back, a big goofy smile on his face, until finally, two heart attacks later, Doug was able to yank him off the side.  No harm done, and hilarious to recall, but not so funny as I stopped breathing praying the tarp would hold that giant puppy!

Here are a few tips for traveling with your dog.

Get an emotional support dog registration or wait until summer when patios are open at restaurants.

Even with the vest, try to find a hotel that already accepts dogs.  (I highly recommend Blue Sky Resort if you are heading to Taos.)

We drove our mini-van so we could lay his bed out, food and water, and toys.  It was much easier to drive around with him!

Carry a baby bag with a bag of food, a quart of water, some treats, a toy, a few washrags, and a few plastic bowls.

Purchase a harness. When training my granddog (a crazy border collie/heeler) and now with my Great Pyrenees, a harness is a life saver!  They can’t pull, you have the leverage, and they know they have to be good kids once you put it on them!

Reward sitting, laying down, and any other good behavior with small treats.

Don’t get stressed out.  Just have fun with your companion!

20171208_131142Even small dogs can be Emotional Support Dogs.  Some dogs were not meant to hang out at home all the time.  Without company and things to do behavior problems arise.  And if you are going to have a puppy, may as well make him a friend and travel companion.  I am glad we decided to get dog!

Note: I must say that I am surprised at the number of nasty remarks I receive about this post (and mind you they will never see the light of day).  I want to make it quite clear that I still stand behind this post.  Did you know that a fully trained, recognized service dog will run between $25,000-$50,000?  There are many people that I know, from wheelchair bound to post-war PTSD, that need a service dog.  Having an emotional support dog is very valuable to many people.  My puppy is now over a year old, over a hundred pounds, and barks all the time, so he isn’t going with me anywhere more than the bank or dog park.  But he really helped me deal with fear and anxiety and if someone needs a support dog, then they should have one.  End of story.   

Happy Birthday HotRod!

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For those that are long time readers, the people that are mentioned in my blog are almost characters in a book.  It’s fun to see folks that read the blog meet my friends for the first time.  It’s almost as if they know them!  Rodney is one of those characters.  He and his wife, Pat, have been our best friends for twelve years now.  I have never had friends for that long.  We have traveled together, celebrated together, watched our kids grow up, mourned together (especially when Rodney’s mom, Kat, died last July.  I called her my mom too), and laughed together.  When we were losing everything and about to lose our minds, they threw us in their backseat and took us to Utah for four days to play.  We go to New Mexico together and plan our respective homesteads.  They are moving to Pueblo this year along with Rodney’s dad, Rod.  These are my people.

Today Rodney turns fifty.  I think that is a monumental success and reason to celebrate.  We have all lost friends that did not make it to fifty.  This is a gift, a blessing, and I am blessed to still call this man my friend.  We have a lot in common spiritually, and our families have really melded into one.  My granddaughter, Maryjane, calls them Aunt and Uncle, and their son is her best friend (he is 16…that is the sweetest kid) and cousin.  We are their grandchildren’s godparents.

So today I just wanted to share this celebration with all of you out there.  Happy Birthday to my best friend, travel partner, confidant, and trouble maker.  May you get every wish come true!  Wishing you health, happiness, love, and peace.  And a home by us!

Here’s to friends (clink!) and here’s to Rodney (double clink!)….Raise your coffee cups!  Cheers.  Happy Birthday, HotRod!

The Art of the Mini-Vacation

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Vacations are expensive.  They take a lot of planning, a week off of work, savings, and can be exhausting.  We have found that the best vacations are often weekends.  We call them mini-vacations.  We got our friends hooked on them too.  We find specials on hotel rooms and stay one night, maybe two somewhere new.  A dip in the pool, a soak in the hot tub, free breakfast, a comfy bed sans cats, and a hot shower is often just the ticket to reset for the week.  We like to try new restaurants, see the sights, visit museums, or walk around the city.  It doesn’t cost much and it really is fun.

If you have been reading my blog long you know Pat and Rodney via my stories.  We have traveled with them to Utah, to New Mexico, and across the front range, from Wyoming to Fort Collins, to Colorado Springs.

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Last weekend we took Pat and Rodney down to Pueblo to show them around.  We met up with my friend, Alvin, who just moved down there.  We went to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, Nachos.  A family owned place that serves up the best Mexican food I have had in a long while.  We walked the Riverwalk and oohed and ahhed at the lights.  We planned, dreamed.  Pat and I walked arm and arm singing and yelling, “Merry Christmas” to the boats that went by all alight with Santa in tow.

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The next day we took them to see our new house.  We drove around town and walked the Main street with its quaint blocks of all locally owned shops.

This week we are driving down there just for the day to accompany Rodney and Pat while they house hunt.  Wouldn’t that be something?  Our best friends moving down the way?  This is getting too fun….

Setting Yourself Free (Part 5- Letting Go and Dreaming New)

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I have written many times about how to manifest your dreams.  Write them down, set a goal list, talk about them, and watch them turn into reality!  It is a science.  It works.  What I haven’t written about is what happens when that dream comes true then gets taken away?  How do you restart?  How do you manifest a new existence when the circumstances are being laid out for you.

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Someone responded on my blog post Sunday that they hope I find what I am looking for.  That bothered me all day because I did find what I was looking for!  I am living on my homestead!  I had trouble putting the hand clothes washer for sale.  What if I need it?  Folks, I haven’t used it in two years!  BUT, what if I get my off grid homestead and don’t have a washer?!  Things to think about, people.  I put it up for sale anyway.  I know we have nesting instincts and want to be prepared and all, but I am starting to look around and realize I am prepared to have a dinner party for seventy-five people! I have three tables, cupboards of dishes, closets of clothes when we only wear a few outfits, and things we just do not use.

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We went walking in Castlewood Canyon yesterday.  A miraculously beautiful and peaceful place, it balms the soul and brings calm with its breathtaking features.

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Doug and I talked and then fell into silence.  We would bring up ideas, then fall into silence.  For an hour we walked, sat, dreamed, talked.  This homestead isn’t really what we wanted after all.  If we are going to live thirty feet from someone on a homestead they need to be likeminded folks.  We also talked about how the most devastating part is behind us.  The loss of our animals was difficult and the death of our dream was too.  But now as each thing leaves the house, as we sell off one more piece of furniture, fill one more bag for charity, sell one more pile of things, we are beginning to feel something we really have never felt, liberated.  We are daring to dream of another existence.

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Perhaps I can speak at herb conferences.  Perhaps we can be so light on possessions that it is nothing to pick up and head around the country writing about farms.  Or visiting friends.  We are free.  We need to get a backpack.

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For the next 18 months or so I am going to step back from my ego.  Seek out teachers for herbalism and Permaculture and whatever else the wide world thinks I ought to learn.  Guitar lessons, continue my wine classes, who knows?  Improve my art and maybe get my things in a gallery?  Or just enjoy homesteading with my co-homesteading compatriots.  I want to be more quiet, more helpful, more creative.  There are wine bars, and restaurants, and ice cream shops all down the strip near our new home that beckons to be tried out.  Each and every one.

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I will be with my husband.  My closest friend.  I could walk with him forever.  What do we need with all these possessions?

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A lot of folks right now have had major transitions or on the brink of them.  Maybe take a little time today to write down what you would like to do (or not do) in the next year.  Then gather up a bag for charity and let some things go.  Let us let ourselves go.

A Field Trip to the Hot Springs

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The mountains were alight with the glow that only comes from thick blankets of snow.  An illuminant feel to the air, light and free, while whipping through the valleys of highways to get to our destination.  We had escaped.

We didn’t get as much snow as everyone else and we figured if we could get through the drift on the driveway and if the dirt road had been plowed it would smooth sailing up the roads to the mountains.  The two hour drive was beautiful, the glistening snow fresh and the roads were not treacherous as we had feared.  We were on our way to the Indian Hot Springs in Idaho Springs, Colorado.

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So often folks think of Glenwood Springs as the hot springs of the mountains but this beautiful respite is often overlooked.  The priest at my parish when I was a child, Father Weibel, would take my siblings and I to the hot springs for fun.  It was always exciting and we would end the outings with a stop at the A&W, now a Barbeque joint.  We have taken our children to the hot springs since they were small and have enjoyed many a stay here for birthdays and anniversaries.

You would have to live in an old homestead to think it the Ritz, but the quaintness and the rusticity of the place is endearing and a lovely, peaceful getaway.  We stayed in a room in the main building.  The ones across the street are complete with full baths and such but they remind me of a motel and I rather enjoy the idea of staying in ancient rooms with push lights, windows with views up the mountains and wood paneling.  Presidents likely stayed in these rooms.  They have half baths but if you are swimming in the lovely hot springs the whole time, who needs their own shower?

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Thanks to the snow storm, many guests had cancelled so we had the pool to ourselves twice during our visit.  The temperature was so cold outdoors that under the greenhouse canopy of tropical plants steam rose up from the lagoon-like pool creating a feel of stranded island and romance.  It was heavenly and warm, the hot mineral springs loosening my aching shoulders from too many hours of typing.  In passionate embrace we took in the smells of soil, the large palm trees tucked under the corrugated roof with condensation dripping lightly into the warm water.  The only sound was from the gush of searing hot water coming from one end and the light wading of water from our fingertips.

After nearly thirty years of going to this beautiful holiday spot, I recommend that you go on weekdays and avoid weekends and holidays as it gets very crowded.  A random Tuesday or snowy Sunday night will find you mostly alone.  There are caves and clothing optional, gender specific areas, which we haven’t ventured to yet only because we like swimming together.  They have a package for $109 for the night Sundays through Thursdays which includes unlimited access to the pool and caves, an overnight room, and a $25 gift certificate to a choice of four restaurants for dinner.  A wonderful price for a wonderful place for escape!

http://indianhotsprings.com