Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Where the Magic Happens

First, a detour to examine the grinder situation of Taos.  No, they do not call them grinders (what a find that would have been!).  I think subs was the preferred nomenclature but at one establishment, just after the turn off for Arroyo Seco on Rte. 150, they call them Tunnels.  I had been warned? alerted? that these were the best in town.  

We sampled them as part of the confluence of our New Mexico tribe - Carol and her husband, Tom, drove up from Santa Fe for a visit and lunch with Martie and Ani.  I guess, technically, Tunnels are HOGs (Hot Oven Grinders), a separate story from our original investigations.

Love the Grateful Dead reference they managed to sneak in - this is Taos after all.

Everyone seemed very pleased with their Tunnels.  Personally, I object to the battered french fries.  Besides being a bitter shock to those who depend on french fries as a gluten-free option where none other may exist, it is just too much of a good thing.  Keep it simple is my watch word for the humble fry.
After a delicious lunch that can't be beat, Carol and Tom returned to Santa Fe and we went up the mountain to Martie's straw bale house.  It is definitely a four-wheel-drive experience to get there.  Well worth the effort. however.  The outside scenery is stunning (once again...New Mexico is definitely a Land of Enchantment) and the inside scenery is pretty fabulous too.

Ani at her wheel in Martie's fibre loft.

A stash to die for.

Martie about to give me and Lucy a demo on her large wheel with a quill attachment thingie.  
 After a bit of spinning on Martie's Jensen wheel (like buttah), Ani and I went down into her dyeing lair so I could see her stock of hand painted fibres.  Just looking, you understand.

A bin of Merino.

BFL and silk blend.
 Her bottles and jars.  Yes folks, this is where the Widdershin Woolworks magic happens.

Longtime readers of this blog may remember something about a vow to not buy any fibre until my current stash is used up.

In my next post I will reveal how that vow held up....it's a real nail biter!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Effing Awesome

Lucy, Martie, Ani and a dark stranger
If we meandered our way to New Mexico, we have been making a beeline straight back to New York on the return trip.  The first day of driving included several harrowing hours of driving through very high winds in Oklahoma and Kansas that resulted in a huge dust and tumbleweed storm.  At first we were amused by the tumbleweeds, which are just like cartoons of them.  They bounce along the road like chubby bunny rabbits.  When the chubby bunnies began crossing the road by the thousands (no exaggeration) it was less funny.  Some of those bunnies were the size of small sheep and I didn't fancy having them hit our car.  It isn't that Earth-friendly.  And the dust!  At times, it was so thick I could see only about ten feet ahead of me.  Yikes.  Give me snow.  Give me ice.  Give me heavy rain.  But please, leave your dust and tumbleweeds in Kansas.

Mercifully, the winds subsided slightly and we left the powerfully flat landscape for a slightly more forgiving one and we made it to El Dorado, Kansas.  Can't speak to whether it really lives up to its name since we collapsed into bed and left early the next day.  Yesterday was a 12-hour car ride through the rest of Kansas, Missouri (where we had lunch at a truck stop where they allowed smoking - poor Lucy was in tears at the horror of it), Illinois and into Indiana.  We had a field day when we came to signs alerting us that we were only miles from a town called Effingham.  Finn suggested their town motto should be:  Effingham is effing awesome!  What can I say?  We watch a lot of Jon Stewart and we were all a bit giddy from being in a car for hours and hours.

With Effingham behind us, we entered the red state of Indiana and even made it past Indianapolis - somewhere along there we entered Eastern Standard Time.  I guess it is part of Indiana's libertarian spirit to not put up an signs alerting you to that fact.  Tax payer money shouldn't be spent on signage about time zones!  Let people pull themselves up by their own bootstraps and figure it out for themselves!  The Founding Fathers didn't need time zone signage.  This isn't some kind of Nanny State!

Anyway, it wasn't so easy to find supper in Greenfield, Indiana, especially when it suddenly became 9:24 p.m. on Sunday, but we were treated very nicely at a local restaurant that was six minutes from locking their doors.  Hint to plant-eaters, however:  when you see the words "chili nachos" on a menu at a place called Montana Mike's Steak House, they don't mean the vegetarian kind.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How Dry I Am

Today is our last day in Arroyo Seco/Taos.  It is a jaw-droppingly beautiful place and I am told that this is the least attractive time of year.  One of the themes of this trip has been "you will have to come back in......when it is even more beautiful."  But, as I warned Martie, be careful what you say because we just might do that!

But they aren't kidding when they named it Arroyo Seco.  It is dry here!  I feel like I am beginning to crackle.  Moist, grey days do not exist here.  As a lover of moist, grey days, I have had moments when I wonder how they stand it but everyone I have asked says they love it.  So there you go.

Here is where we have been staying in Arroyo Seco.  Lucy and I sat out on the front porch and spun and read in the afternoon sunlight (they get about 300 days of sunshine/year here).  Pure bliss.

If you walk down the street a little, it looks like this:

Then, feeling like we were not taking advantage of all that was available to us, we took a late afternoon drive out to the Rio Grande Gorge.  There is a bridge over it that one can walk out across and really take in its amazing scale and profound beauty.  

A few miles beyond the bridge, there is a fairly large community of Earthships, which are off the grid houses made from old tires, cans and bottles and mud.  Old hippie culture is alive and well in and around Taos but some of these houses now sell for nearly half a million dollars.  You can tour one and watch a video about making them for $7.  Selling out to the man, man!  We declined to participate in that bit of free market economy.

Yesterday, we went with Martie and Ani to Rancho Taos for lunch and to visit the church that Georgia O'Keefe made so famous in her paintings.

The interior was lovely - huge beams across the ceiling and very beautiful painted altars.  There were some remnants of Ash Wednesday on view (it is still an active church in the community).  They don't allow photographs but I suspect part of the reason is so that you will buy postcards in the gift shop across the way.  Even the Catholics want your money!  Well, they got some of mine because I found an amazing painting by a local resident, Lydia Garcia, that I purchased.  

A fixer-upper?
ETA:  Here is Martie's post about our day yesterday.  She includes much more educational information about what we saw.

Tomorrow we will leave early and be back on the road.  No meandering on this leg of the journey - speed will be our watch word.  But today we will savour every last bit of New Mexico.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Heaven Right Here on Earth

The ride between Santa Fe and Taos deserves it own post.  We took the supposedly "less scenic" low road because the supposedly "more scenic" high road can be a bit iffy this time of year, especially for those traveling in Earth-friendly hybrid cars without four wheel drive.

Yeah, it was pretty tough to miss out on the scenery and choke down this instead:

Especially this moment as you get to the top of a plateau and round a corner...

...the Rio Grande Gorge.  Holy smokes!  Even Finnian was roused out of his nothing-will-ever-impress-me attitude and gave a gasp.  It is like a cartoon of a crack in the Earth made giant-sized.  And we felt appropriately puny in relation to it.  

Still, we took photos.

Oh my god, how did I end up with a mother like this?
Then we arrived in Taos, met up with Martie and her clan for a supper that was muy deliciosa, and headed to the little village of Arroyo Seco, where we are staying in what used to be Martie's yarn shop, Taos Sunflower.  

I am not sure what I expected exactly but it sure wasn't this.  I think I thought it would be one step up from a tent (which was totally fine with me).  Instead, it is a very comfortable space -with wifi - filled with fibre and yarn and equipment for working with said fibre and yarn.  I was speechless.

I call this The Wall of Happiness.

Skeins of yarn, mostly Malabrigo, to make me and Lucy swooning with joy, and a flat screen television that made Finn perk up.  He had been convinced that we were leaving civilization behind too, but with a lot less enthusiasm.

Martie and her husband, Roger, got us settled in and as she left, Martie said, "make some batts!"

We did.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Fun as Folks

The photos are coming fast and furious now!  

First and foremost, here is our lovely host and tour guide in Santa Fe, Carol (permission was granted!).  I met Carol through a mutual friend when I was working on The Knitted Mile.  She contributed a fair amount to that project and we have maintained a steady email correspondence since that time.  This was the first time I met someone who I have only known online.  It didn't feel strange - we just dove into our usual conversation.

We had a nice afternoon of knitting and talking while Finn and Lucy played on her iPad.  Everyone was happy.

After days in the car, it is very fun to be out and about using those jointed things we have that some call "legs".  We legged it over to the International Folk Art Museum in Santa Fe, where they have an amazing collection as well as changing exhibitions.

Here are some good luck charms from Italy.  I think my favourites are the lungs.  The entrance to the exhibition halls contained good luck charms from all over the world.  Surprisingly, the images were all very similar.  Or maybe not so surprisingly.

Dolls from Morroco.

A huge installation of ceramic pieces from Mexico.  This section of the museum is one couple's collection of folk art that they donated.  It is installed according to their request, much like the Barnes Collection in Pennsylvania.  The room is chock-a-block full of stuff from everywhere.  It was a little confusing to remember where I had been and what I had missed but I really like it when people don't install art according to some over-arching theme like chronology or geography.  It felt surprisingly personal.

There was a nice collection of samplers.  Unfortunately, they were difficult to photograph through the glass.  I loved this white on white one.

This one was made by a nine year-old girl.  Lucy said that she didn't think she could have done that at nine.  Errr...yeah...me neither.

This was a beauty too.

Loved the red on white.  This one is from Mexico.

One of the special exhibitions was of bridal wear from Macedonia.  These are wedding dresses.  Apparently the women wore this style of dress up until the 1950s.  As a woman aged and bore children, her clothes became increasingly less ornamental.  Less ornamental, that is, until she died and was buried in her wedding dress.  You can draw your own conclusions about what that says about women's value in society.

There were several examples of knit socks.  Again, the glass made them difficult to photograph but they were all stunning examples of colourwork.  I was trying to get a good shot of the heel - it isn't the usual one that I use.  Perhaps Helen can decipher my poor photograph and shed some light on the technique?

At the end of the exhibition, they had a jacket that was similar to the traditional ones on display that visitors could try on to get a sense of how it felt to wear such a costume on an everyday basis.  It weighed 12 lbs. and it was on an adjustable rack attached with springy chords.  Fun!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Santa Fe

We arrived in Santa Fe and it was cold.  So cold, in fact, that it starting snowing soon thereafter.  Somehow, in all my planning, I missed the part about New Mexico having a cold winter climate.  It is in the south, after all!  Ah...northern ignorance.  To be fair, both Carol and Martie sent me emails telling me that it would be cold but I just didn't believe them.

Santa Fe is almost painfully beautiful.  Everywhere you cast your eyes (almost) is lovely and picturesque. This makes it a wonderful place to visit but also makes it a place where lots and lots of people want to visit.  I remain fascinated by tourist culture, so it was both interesting and slightly repelling to be part of that in Santa Fe.
When we arrived at The Plaza - where everyone visiting Santa Fe MUST go - I couldn't leave quickly enough.  This photo is a view of us leaving The Plaza.  You probably have seen pictures of Native Americans selling their handcrafted wares in The Plaza and, despite the low temperatures, there were some there yesterday.  But I couldn't even go near them.  It just felt wrong.  Tourism is so complicated - its social structures and economy - it is hard to express the wave of feelings being in that plaza brought up.  I guess that is why I had to make a five year project about in Newfoundland.

We did visit one tourist site - the Loretto Chapel, home of the "miraculous staircase".  No nails!  No obvious forms of support!  A mysterious carpenter!  It actually was quite fascinating, as is the whole story surrounding it.  

Some remained skeptical. 

This is the view from Carol's house.  She asked me not to post a photo of her despite the fact that I have a really good one, so I will respect that request.  She has a lovely little house that she shares with her husband, Tom, and her sweet, crazy puppy, Toby.  

We took a walk in the evening light and soaked up the beauty of this amazing place.

Not Texas Anymore

When we left Amarillo, the landscape was flatter than flat.  Other than some very disturbing feed lots, where cows filled the horizon as far as the eye could see (please never eat beef if you don't know exactly where it comes from - as Lucy said, you eat the cow's suffering), things were rather empty.  

And then we turned a corner and went over a small rise and everything changed.

We entered New Mexico.  It is hard to explain but there was an immediate change, not just in landscape but in a general feeling.  It wasn't Texas anymore.

A young Johnny Depp, Lucy and I had lunch in Santa Rosa.  We didn't go to the Blue Hole.  We tried but road work made it impossible.  What is the Blue Hole?  I can't tell you because we didn't get there.  But there were signs with arrows.  If you saw signs with arrows pointing to something called the Blue Hole, wouldn't you go?

We did find this.

And this.

Then we turned north to Santa Fe.  A stunning landscape on all sides.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Everything's Bigger in Texas

Mississippi was but a stop-over on our way to one of the primary destinations of this vacation:  Irving, Texas.  Some people looked askance at me when I named Irving as a hot spot for us but what they didn't realize is that, besides being a Dallas suburb and home to Dallas Cowboy Stadium (which, btw, was demolished in 2010 - click here for a video of it being imploded), Irving is home to the Taj Chaat House.

Look!  It is still here!  We stumbled across it in 2008 when we came to Dallas to install The Knitted Mile. Our hotel was in Irving and we were looking for supper.  We took a chance.  Occasionally such chances are rewarded and this time it was so.  The Taj Chaat House offers up some of the best South Indian food outside of South India, and in a style that is so uniquely South Indian, meaning that you fill out paperwork (with carbon copies) to place your order.

It was just as good as we remembered.  We had only one night in Irving so we made an executive decision to make a late getaway the next day.  By delaying, we were able to go to Pink's Western World in the morning.

It is home to more boots and hats than you can imagine.  In 2008, Lucy got a pair of boots there that were so beautiful and amazing here that we still mourn the fact that her feet got bigger.

But she found another pair!  To top it off, we were able to have another meal that can't be beat at the TCH.  (Note:  see that woman in the background?  She is the dosa maker!  We bow at her feet!)  Stuffed to the gills with iddly, vada and dosa, we hit the road and headed still further west.  

I think West Texas should have this as a slogan:  West Texas - Flatter than Saskatchewan.  It is sure to bring in the visitors!

Also, they have snakes.