Sunday, September 29, 2013

History Before My Eyes

When my mother passed away in 2005, she left a history in family photographs and memorabilia that was stored in two large crates (the large, 25 gallon size) and a copy paper box. Most of the photos were stored in the envelopes from the film developing companies.

The pressure was on me to review the contents of the crates before our pending move to New Mexico. I was also spurred on to sort the pictures, because the Groupon offer I purchased for transferring a thousand photos to a disc was about to expire.

So for the past 3 days, I have sorted hundreds of photos from the 1920's to 2005. My mother also kept a large stack of letters I had written to her on air mail paper on a weekly basis when I lived in Europe in the early '80's. The letters are a chronicle of events of daily life in a foreign land - travels, children's activities, coping with a foreign language, etc. (Do I see book in the offing here?) I also found a stack of Mother's Day cards I had sent to her over the years.

The thousand photos are now carefully packed in a 12x12x8 box ready to be shipped to California for scanning. Thanks for the all the wonderful memories, Mom




Friday, September 13, 2013

Coffee Tasting

I am not a big coffee drinker. In fact, 1 cup is my daily limit. I always thought I would be more of a coffee lover if I knew more about it. So I was intrigued by the announcement that our kitchen here at Los Poblanos Inn was having a coffee tasting this morning.

Eric and I sat at a small table and were given a score sheet and a "Tongue Flavor Map", a bookmark shaped piece of paper that had a drawing of a tongue indicating where you might find the tastes of bitter, sour, salty, and sweet. Then we were given two cups containing ground coffee, one light roast and one dark.

 Before the actual tasting began, we were given the following information by our instructors, two brothers who own a coffee plantation in Columbia. They grow and roast their own specialty coffee called "Villa Myriam".

-Specialty coffee grows at higher elevations, is shade grown and hand picked. It is only 10% of the world's coffee.

-Only the Arabica bean is use for specialty coffee.

-Before the coffee can be shipped out of Columbia,  the coffee must be graded as specialty coffee. There are only about 1,000 people world wide who are specialty coffee graders.

-One bad bean can spoil the whole 150 pound burlap bag of coffee beans and would therefor disqualify the batch as specialty coffee.

-The more oily your coffee beans are, the more likely they are to spoil. Dark roasts are used to hide defects.

-NEVER put coffee beans in your refrigerator or freezer. Coffee will absorb flavors of other foods in the fridge, and the humidity will degrade flavor.  Keep the beans in their original bag in a dark place.

-A good coffee is only as good as the brewing method. French Press is the best. The brothers prefer the Aeropress. I am so glad that Eric gave me one last Christmas!

So armed with all this information, we were now ready to smell and taste the light and dark roasted coffee. Our comments: light roast smelled like cocoa, carrots, and fish (!) Dark roast smelled like cigarette butts and petroleum. Infused with hot water, the light roast tasted like molasses and dark roast tasted like chocolate (yummy!).

Our instructor from Columbia

Tasting Paraphernalia

The Smell Test

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Trio of Unique and Talented Artists

We are nearing the end of our stay in Santa Fe and will soon be moving on to Los Poblanos near Albuquerque. I consider myself very fortunate to have been in the company of three amazing artists on this trip.

The first was Katherine Schilke with whom we stayed in her comfortable home and studio on South Saint Francis Street in Santa Fe. Kat rents a room with private bath through Airbnb for those who are interested.

I met Kat last March when I purchased her hand made one of a kind handbag. Kat has been so successful in selling her bags in all shapes and sizes that she is now reaching across the ocean to Paris, where she hopes to sell her "bohemian" design bag shown in the photo here.

I also was pleased to meet Roseta Santiago. She, Kat, Eric and I spent time together in Kat's garden one night sipping Kat's home made lemoncello. Roseta had just arrived from an art show at the Eiteljorg Museum in Indianapolis called "Quest for the West" where her oil painting "Forever Young" was featured. The beautiful figurative painting captures a moment in time where two Native American young girls are playing with dolls.

The third artist I met was Douglas Magnus. Not only does he own the Cerrillos Turquoise mine, but he crafts the blue beautiful colored stones into some of the most exquisite pieces of jewelry that I have seen in the Southwest.

Kat making a Bohemian Bag

Roseta Santiago

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Flea at the Downs

I couldn't wait to get back to the flea market we had visited last winter during our stay in Santa Fe. During the Spring and Summer months, the market moves to the Downs, an old horse racing track on the outskirts of the city.

Eric and I arrived at the market around 9:30 a.m. The first booth we saw was one that sells Native American jewelry. I am always on the look out for pieces of jewelry to add to my collection. My favorite pieces are Petit Point turquoise stone settings that are primarily crafted by the Zuni jewelers.

Sam manages this booth, and she told us the history of her collection. She and her Native American husband, who is now deceased, formed a cooperative of artisans on several reservations. The couple would bring jewelry to the flea markets and turn the money from sales back into the cooperative.

 There is a high prevalence of diabetes among Native Americans. Over the years, Sam has seen many of the artisans lose their eye sight as a result of the disease. Sam said that fewer young people are willing to learn the craft of jewelry making from their elders.

I chose a silver bracelet with coral stones in a beautiful, floral like setting. I am mindful of the fact that perhaps one day, this type of jewelry making will sadly become a lost art.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Conrad Hilton's Dream Becomes Green, Modern, Yet Traditional

After a long, weary day of traveling to NM from PA, we checked into the Hotel Andaluz in downtown Albuquerque. The hotel was the first hotel built by Conrad Hilton, a native New Mexican, in the 1930's. It is now a national historic landmark. It was the tallest building in NM, the first to be air conditioned and the first building to have an elevator. It has housed many presidents, famous scientists and movie stars.

Now in the 21st century, the Andaluz is becoming the most sustainable historic hotel in the nation. It is now "green by design" after undergoing a 35 million dollar renovation project. The hotel has an award winning energy management system. Seventy per cent of the electricity used in the hotel is renewable. The live plants in hotel are being watered with captured rain water. Most of the furniture is made of bamboo or rubber wood, both rapidly renewable resources. The carpet, carpet padding, paints, stains and adhesives in our room were chosen to make the room environment as healthy as possible.

As an art lover, I was pleased to learn that even the debris from the renovation project was carefully recycled. For example, the hotel's old cast iron tubs and sinks did not go to a landfill. They were donated to a local college where they were melted down and recast as works of art. We applaud the Andaluz for providing a peaceful, sustainable oasis in the middle of a busy city.