Monday, November 20, 2017

The Airport

It's almost Thanksgiving, and nights are cold. We've had temperatures in the 20s, the garden hoses froze, and going out to get the morning paper on the sidewalk is a nippy affair.

But at this altitude and this southerly latitude, the New Mexico sun is quite strong in late November. If the air is still, I have my coffee on the deck, facing the low southeast sun.

Brisk air and hot sun are in exquisite balance and it is delightfully comfortable. Nap inducing, even, although I just got up.

I watch the contrails in the blue sky over the garage. While I sat and had my coffee yesterday I saw eight contrails going east to west and west to east. At times there were two in the sky at the same time chasing each other. They cross the southern sky at high altitude, so the planes are going from L.A. to Dallas or Houston I think.

One of the "plus" considerations for moving here was the local Santa Fe airport, just 6 miles from our house, and serving both L.A. and Denver with short direct flights. Perfect for visiting my sons more often.

But before we even moved here the L.A. flight was canceled. Now, to get a direct flight for Thanksgiving, we have to drive to Albuquerque, fly to LAX, and then drive up to Westlake. It's easy and doable, but it would have been so much more convenient to fly out of Santa Fe Regional. (At least the direct flight to Denver still flies, and that makes a quick 50 minute trip up there.)

The Santa Fe airport has big plans, though. Expansions, more commercial flights, renovations of the terminal, etc.

Right now you drive up the access road (which is by the town's wastewater treatment plant, not a great sight coming and going), and you park in a dirt lot right across from the terminal. The terminal is quaint, looking like an old fashioned bus depot.

The interior is tiny, with beautiful tiles and dark wood paneling. There is one TSA checkpoint, two ticket counters, and the rental car desk is next to ticketing. There is a small cafe with a few tables. There are wooden benches and a half dozen wooden chairs for seating in the waiting area.

You walk out on the tarmac to board. On nice days the big doors at the end of the building are left open and fresh air fills the terminal. Air traffic control is just a few steps above the terminal building.

I absolutely love the old time charm of this little airport and had looked forward to using it and making it our hub for coming and going on trips, with just a 10 minute car ride home. But it does us no good if flights are not convenient (direct), or if they are pricey (often much more than flying from ABQ).

Like most regional airports serving small cities, Santa Fe Regional caters to corporate jets and private pilots. Only 15% of the flights it handles are commercial.

It may be time for me to renew my private pilot's license and get myself a used Cessna. But if I do, there goes my Tesla.

Neither one is ever going to happen, not a plane, not the Tesla . . . but it's what I dream of slumped in my red chair in cool sunshine while jets streak overhead on November mornings.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Out of the Closet

The master bedroom has not had any blinds or curtains since we moved in. Our back courtyard is private -- although we abut neighbors' homes with only feet separating us, no one's window looks into the back of our house, and fences make it all private.

But on a late fall evening, it's a bit of a lighted fishbowl looking in when I stand on my back deck. It's very exposed. From the inside looking out it feels exposed too.

In summer the Virginia Creeper vine covering the fence was full and leafy, and it hid the neighbor's entrance very well. The white aspen tree trunks behind the fence are where they come and go from their front door to their garage side door.

With the vines brown and dormant for winter, there are strips of light visible through the fence now. The neighbors don't stand there and peek through, and I don't either, but it feels funny to have bits of movement easily seen on either side and our whole room open to the view. I started dressing in the closet once the leaves were down.

Finally, after all this time, we now have a full blind across the sliding glass door. It's a Hunter Douglas vertiglide shade, which is a honeycomb fabric that slides from left to right. We left the transom uncovered, so there will still be moonlight at night and a bit of dawn coming into the room in the mornings.

It gives us privacy for the first time, much needed in winter with bare trees and vines. I love the wide open look through the glass doors out into the yard, but I like the softer light the shade provides too.

The look is clean and spare. Draperies would soften everything, but that's such a large door -- eight feet wide -- and the window to the side is nine feet tall. It's hard to tell from this angle, but the narrow window over the chair is taller than the sliding glass door, and I think hanging drapery panels to soften that tall window would look unbalanced at such different heights.

As much as I'd like to make the bedroom softer with fabric panels at the window or even across the big doors, it's going to be too much expense and probably too much fabric.

I like it the way it is, and I'm out of the closet now, at least when I get dressed.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Uninhabited but not Abandoned

Last weekend we went to Bandelier National Monument. It was Veteran's Day and admission was free. Like the ruins at Chaco, ancient people lived here at the bottom of a river-cut canyon, and built multistory stone apartment complexes. After living here for hundreds of years, they left.

They also carved dwellings in the porous cave-riddled canyon walls, and you can climb the ladders and go inside several of the cave homes.

This was smaller than Chaco, just a village really, of maybe 500 people at its height. It was built and populated later than Chaco -- from about 1200 to 1550, as people migrated from drier areas down toward the Rio Grande over many centuries.

It's also a narrower canyon than at Chaco. The walls are steep and the area at the bottom is small. The river at the bottom was just a trickle of a stream the day we visited, barely a foot wide, but clear and sparkling.

But when floods raged through the canyon in 2011 and 2013, the result of devastation from massive forest fires up above that stripped trees from the watershed, the flooding was catastrophic.

For a small village of 400 or 500 in ancient times, this narrow canyon had everything they needed. They built an enclosed plaza and communal apartment complex that housed several hundred, and this is what it probably looked like in 1400 (artist's rendering). The three round circles with ladders angled out of them were the underground kivas, or ceremonial rooms. One has been opened and excavated now.

(The village is called Tyuonyi -- Adolph Bandelier was the name of the Swiss archeologist who excavated it and brought the ruins to the attention of the public in the late 1800s. And the name of the canyon is Frijoles Canyon, which means "Beans" Canyon in Spanish. Place names fascinate me.)

The ancients also built hundreds of dwellings in a long row along the face of the canyon cliffs and climbed up to them on ladders. The holes in the rock face show where the wood beams were inserted to support several floors -- now the wood is gone and the rooms are gone, but you can imagine the apartment style buildings that fronted the rock face.

Unlike Chaco, where the sheer size of the place meant you had to drive from ruin to ruin and it was 9 miles around the canyon floor, at Bandelier you walk a short route that skirts the communal house and then you climb steps up to the cliff houses.

Easier said than accomplished! Oy. The route was only a couple miles, but with Jim's bad back and all the narrow, steep steps, it was a challenge for us. He had his cane, and we went very, very slowly, but he's paying the price this week for climbing all those narrow, treacherous stairs.

My legs hurt from going up and going down all those difficult steps too, especially the big quadricep muscles in my thighs, which actually cramped up. I thought it was because of elevation -- I am acclimated now for breathing, but it felt like using big muscles at this altitude really stresses the body's oxygen intake, and it hurt.

But in reality I think I'm just old and alarmingly out of shape.

Physical trials aside, we had a great time on a beautiful fall day. This is an intimate, alive, easily imagined place, easy to visit, and set up for walking and picnicking. The Pueblo Indians who descend from the ancients who lived here insist that although this village has not been inhabited for 450 years, it is not abandoned. The ancestors still live here.

I could feel it.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

My Bargain Bench

Our front entry is recessed under a deep portico, with solid paneled double doors. It's kind of a square empty space with a plain concrete floor, dominated by the doors. It needed something to make it more welcoming, so "decor" has been added. It might be a bit much now, though. You judge.

First, the hanging ristras -- those are the strings of dried red chiles that every entry of every building in Santa Fe has. They were already here, as was the red clay urn that the former owners left us. Very New Mexican.

And built into the wall on the left of the entry is this tile plaque under the terra cotta wall sconce. It's also very New Mexican and way too religious for Jim, so he tries not to use the front entry. Who knows what could happen as he passes.

The opposite side wall of the entry was bare stucco, but a screw had already been set midway up, so I hung my little painted whimsy plaque there. We're covered -- Saint Monica, mother of St. Augustine and patron saint of wives and abuse victims on the left wall, and Flying Kate, protector of kite flyers on the other wall.

Too much? Ristras and pottery urns and religious plaques and whimsical wall hangings, rounded beams in the roof above, pillars in front with scroll corbels. That's a lot going on. There is a bracket for inserting a flagpole on the front pillar too, but that really did seem too much.

Still, the space felt empty. Something else was called for to fill it. And I found just the item -- a rustic painted wooden bench with a turquoise rail and a red rough-sawed top.

I put it under the window along the side of the entry and it's perfect there -- the right height, a little color, and a functional bit of furniture.

I bought it at a furniture warehouse near us, and like so much in this city, the price was completely negotiable. I admired the bench, the owner said 'how much off do you want?", I said I'll buy it if you take $25 off, and he did.

When I bought a vintage watch at a jewelry store downtown, I tried on the watch, but then put it back, ready to leave. The salesgirl said I'll take $40 off, I countered with another $10 off that, and it was sold.

At the Mexican furnishings / gift / garden decor shop in town, all prices are marked, but everything can be had for 50% off that. Like shopping in most other parts of the world, Santa Fe pricing is only a vague suggestion, usually about 30% or 40% or sometimes 50% more than what you'll pay.

I think it's because this is a tourist town everything is way overpriced but you are expected to find a reasonable price by negotiating. It's an art, and I'm sure I'm still overpaying.

But I'm happy with the bench I got for $25 off. I love the colors, it's rustic without being shabby, it's sturdy, and it fills an empty space.

If I don't answer the door right away, you can sit on the bench in the entry alcove while you wait and admire all the decor.

Thursday, November 9, 2017


We don't often have overcast days here, but recently we had a damp day with gray skies. It wasn't that cold -- about 50 degrees, but I got a chill in the afternoon and with evening falling so soon now that daylight saving time is over, it seemed a good idea to have a cozy fire before dinner.

We did not have a fireplace in our house in Connecticut, so I was looking forward to a glass of wine sitting on the raised hearth in front of our two-way dining / living room fireplace. Jim had pork adovada simmering in the crockpot, the house was fragrant with it, and I was ready to relax and warm up.

I don't know if I just didn't prime the flue well enough with a lighted newspaper. I don't know if the damper was fully open -- it seemed so, I even checked it with a flashlight. I don't know what went wrong, but within minutes we were engulfed in smoke and the smoke alarm was screeching.

It screeched forever, while we threw up every window, opened the sliding doors, turned on every fan and tried to pull cold damp air into the house and draw smoky air out.

With windows and doors open and smoke alarm blaring, a neighbor who was passing by stopped in to see if we were okay and did we need the fire department. Ack.

You can't stop an alarm during a smoke event. If we could even reach it (it's at the top of a twelve foot tall wall), it just goes off again after a re-set if there is still smoke. And there was still smoke.

Eventually the air cleared enough for the alarm to stop (it was on about 15 minutes), and the fire seemed to stay more contained in the small firebox, although puffs still wafted out if the glass doors were open.

By the time I could sit in a quiet house and drink my wine, the temperature inside was almost down to 50 degrees -- doors and windows were still open and the fans did a good job. The fire was nice, briefly, but of course it smells smoky in here, my clothes and hair smell like smoke and the whole thing was a disaster.

This is for Pam: enjoy your new gas fireplace insert!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Living in Santa Fe - 3 Month Assessment

We've been here three months now. Things I really like here compared to where we came from:

The house. This home just suits us -- the layout, the access to patios and back yard, the size and decor feel much more "us" than what we came from.

We had a lovely home in Connecticut and it was new-built and totally ours and I did love it. But the layout was tricky (front door all the way to the side, limited back entry, no side door, laundry room in the garage entry hall, awkward kitchen, narrow porch, master bath that opened to the living room, huge windows on the north side, carpeting that got worn, etc.) I struggled with those issues and more, but I did like the look of our home and we were very happy there for a long time.

This house seems to solve for all of those inconveniences. It works much better for us. I marvel as I wander easily in and out to the back courtyard through the big glass doors. The kitchen is brighter and bigger. The dining room is central. The laundry is right by the bedrooms. Floors are all easy care tile.

The geographic compactness. We are at the edge of a small city that has everything we need except for an Apple store. Everything is a mile or two away from us. The dentist is 1.5 miles from our house (I used to drive 15 miles, including highway, to get to the dentist.) Our new doctors and the urgent care center are 1.9 miles away (I used to drive to Newington, and Jim to Manchester -- long, inconvenient drives.) My hairdresser is 2 miles from the house -- I used to drive 8 miles back into West Hartford for a haircut. Living in a quiet suburb in New England, we just weren't near anything.

Here Lowe's and the mall and the post office and the UPS store are all a mile away. It used to be a much longer drive to get to those places. Nothing is very far away here.

Restaurants. So many great choices, all close by. Not to mention farmer's markets, street fairs, art galleries, and shopping.

Scenery, Sky and Landscape. So beautiful. Open sky, endless blue, brisk cool air and warm sun, mountains ringing the city. I can't believe I live here when I see what is around us. No humidity.

Gardening. There are challenges here, but no deer, no voles, no ticks. Yes, we have pests, and it's searingly dry, but . . . let me repeat: No deer. No voles. No ticks.

Neighborhood. We are in a city and it's busy with people coming and going, a school up the street, cluster housing with neighbors only feet away. I like the activity -- walkers on the path by our driveway, cars up and down the street, kids biking home from school, dogs barking in the distance, and yet it's peaceful and comfortable. In Connecticut we were at the end of a cul de sac and, despite having good friends for neighbors, it felt isolated.

Okay, there are a few things I've found I don't like after 3 months.

The dust. It gets into the house and it's the price paid for living in a dry climate. Windows need washing as soon as they are cleaned. It's very dusty here. There is a new housing development going in nearby, and we went to a neighborhood meeting to discuss issues with the builders -- primarily the dust kicked up by construction. They try to mitigate it, but.

Sense of Security. The cluster mailbox stand on our street was broken into, twisted open and had to be replaced, as some others around town have been. (The post office quickly replaced it.) There have been reports of stolen cars in other neighborhoods, although not here. We have a security system and we arm it at night and when away. And yet, in Connecticut we were broken into and the house was ransacked, and so I'm not sure if this is any different. I'm more aware of it here.

The master bath. I love the layout and efficiency of this house, but the master bath is the one room I don't like. It's painted swine pink (which we could change), it has ridiculously tall windows that don't function, and it's too hot in summer and too chilly in cold weather despite fiddling with the heat register. There's not enough lighting, and the shower stall is cramped. The bath tub has no slope, so it's hard to recline (although I take limited baths here -- I'm so conscious of water use). I like the tiles, but not much else about the master bath.

At this early stage of our move, we really like it here and the pros far outweigh any other impressions. Neighbors have been friendly, and I've met two master gardeners in the neighborhood who offered me help and advice and their time right away.

Tradespeople, clerks, servers and contractors have been unfailingly polite, friendly, and open with us. Even Motor Vehicles. Even the post office. All pleasant.

I think we'll stay.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Late Season Patio

Finally the patio is furnished. The vigas are installed, and new furniture has arrived, and it's all very pleasant, if only for a short time before winter comes.

Good patio furniture is incredibly expensive. This set of two chairs and a table is a knock off of nicer wood sets; it's much cheaper, but still costly. It's teak, and I'll let it weather to silver gray. It's not the most comfortable cushion set, and white is a tricky color in such a dusty climate, but it was on sale at the end of the season. I like it.

The rest of the patio furniture is what we already had -- the red metal side table was our Lowe's purchase when we had to camp in the house for 10 days before the moving van arrived and we needed something to eat on.

The glider came from my gravel garden in Connecticut, but it did not survive the move very well. Side pieces broke off and it's a little twisty and loose now as it glides, but it'll do. I bought turquoise cushions so that makes it a Santa Fe glider now. The stump table is a cut end from one of the vigas that the crew left me.

We moved things around in the back courtyard, so the table and umbrella set is now at the lower end of the patio.

Do you think we have enough places to relax and enjoy life? The umbrella table and chairs for meals, the patio set under the vigas for conversation, and the two red Mayan chairs on the open deck for napping in the sun in the morning. Choose where you want to sit.

I'm pleased with it all. My back yard in Connecticut had some sitting areas, but it was mostly a place to look at and to walk in. This little stone courtyard is a place to sit. Not much else. But I'm getting really good at that, and with some coffee or some wine and snacks, I can elevate sitting to a major activity of my daily life.

I even like the way it looks from inside the living room, looking out the sliding glass door into the back yard.

It's getting late in the season though, and the cushions will have to go in the garage soon. We have winter to go through yet, and it will be a while before I can really hang out on my patio.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Halloween and Aspens

We overbought. We had a couple dozen trick or treaters for Halloween, all of them cute and little. Our neighbor told us she usually got "a lot" of kids, but that there were many activities planned around the city for older kids, and as the evening wore on it was clear we bought Too Much Candy.

All the door ringers were polite with the thank yous, even the bewildered youngest ones. Two pre-teen girls handed me candy instead of taking any. It was a quiet night and over early.

As October ends, the aspens are each doing their own thing now, some coloring yellow, some dropping leaves, and some hanging tight.

Side by side aspen clumps in our back yard.
One still full and leafy, barely turning yellow, the other completely bare.

The neighbor's aspen trees in back of us.
My view from the bedroom sliding glass doors.
Leaves are almost all down now.

The aspen outside our dining room window. still in leaf.
Beautifully yellow, it glints in the morning sun.

Hello, November.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Mountain Time

We watch TV in the evenings, and the shows we watch are not on at the right time. Santa Fe is on Mountain time, which is two hours behind Eastern, so it seemed logical that shows would air two hours earlier -- so 60 Minutes, which comes on at 7 east coast, would come on here at 5 p.m. on Sundays. Not so.

Sometimes shows are one hour behind the east coast airtime (60 Minutes comes on at 6 p.m. here, and Masterpiece Theater airs at 8 here, an hour behind its 9 p.m. showing in the east.)

But other shows are two hours behind. New episodes of my Scottish soap opera, Outlander, debut at 6 p.m. here, while it's showing at 8 Eastern.

The NBC national news comes on every evening at 5 p.m., an hour and a half different than the 6:30 east coast air time.

So shows appear anywhere from an hour, to an hour and a half, to two hours behind their east coast broadcast.

You often hear a TV promo say a show will be on "8/7 Central" but no mention of show times in western states. You have to figure out the schedule here and it's not consistent.

That's because there are two broadcast feeds in the US -- Eastern and Western. The east coast gets the Eastern feed, and if you live in the Central time zone, you always get shows from the Eastern feed, delayed one hour. If you live in the Pacific time zone, you get the Western feed, 3 hours behind. Stations in the Pacific time zone then hold their shows until prime time so they aren't showing adult dramas at 6 p.m.

In the Mountain time zone, we get both broadcast feeds. Stations can pick either one -- they can choose the Eastern broadcast delayed one hour, or the Pacific broadcast advanced one hour. That accounts for some shows coming on one hour behind the East coast (the Eastern feed delayed an hour), or some shows airing two hours behind (one hour advance from the Western feed.)

I don't know about the hour and a half delay for the national news. I can't bear to watch it anyhow.

Greg has lived in Denver on Mountain time for years, but never mentioned the scheduling thing because he doesn't watch TV. For years, in fact, he didn't own a TV. But we watch a lot, and it was tricky to figure out how to find our shows at the right time.

Okay, I have to go now -- I need to finish my wine and take an early supper so I can catch my Sunday night Outlander viewing at 6 p.m.  It makes for a very early evening. But sooo worth it.

Och, Sassenach.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Gray Gravel

I'm so sore. I've been hauling gravel.

The construction crew did a wonderful job installing our vigas over the patio -- I'm really pleased with their work. And, using pickaxes and big shovels, they took out and hauled away eight shrubs that I could not have managed to remove. That was a huge improvement.

But we miscommunicated on refreshing the gravel all around the house and I'm not happy with how it came out.

The old gravel can be seen next to the house. It's small, multi-sized pea stones in browns and tans and earth colors. What they installed is light, all gray, and it's bigger stone  -- it's the looser area to the right of the river rock drainage path.

I had asked Luis to refresh areas where landscape fabric or dirt was showing, and add height where dips had formed and fill in where the former owners' dog had dug. He said he'd bring 4 yards -- two to spread around the back and sides, one for the front, and then a yard of stones to leave in a pile in the driveway for me to use for filling as needed around plants.

I thought that meant he would match the same color and size to what was there, and would "fill" and "refresh" and "add to areas as needed". Not blanket the whole space with another color and type of stone.

When the truck came I could tell right away he got a different type of gravel. I commented to him and he said "it's what they had" --- all the projects were underway at once, there was a lot going on, and I really do like and trust Luis --- he's been great to work with. So the gravel was unloaded and his crew went to work.

Instead of refreshing and filling areas, the crew used almost all the gravel to completely cover the back courtyard several inches deep. Yes, it filled the bare areas, but it also covered everything in a deep layer, very loose to walk on, and piled up in some places.

The big Spanish broom is now sitting in a hole, and the lower part of the stone patio now sits below the level of the mounded gravel.

After spreading such a thick layer of gravel in back and at the sides, there wasn't enough to do the front or even to leave a small pile for me to use around plants.

It's just all very odd looking. Too much. Too deep. Too gray. Too different from the areas that still have the old gravel.

I paid Luis, thanked him for all the hard work (the crew really did work hard on all the projects) and decided I could live with it. I figured my eye would get used to it in time and it would settle. But it really isn't what I wanted.

So I am digging out where it's too deep, hauling it by hand in my trug and moving it elsewhere. It's a lot of rocks for an old lady to tote. It's heavy. I'm raking it out to even things, and taking away what is too much, and trying to get a more cohesive look blended with the older gravel.

I maybe could get some darker, brown, small pea gravel (in bags that I can handle, hopefully, at Home Depot) and sprinkle that over the gray rocks to add a little color contrast. That might help.

I thought a lawn was a lot of work, and was happy we had gravel landscaping that needed so little care. Oof. Boy, am I sore. . . and there's still a lot of gravel to move.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Construction Projects

A lot of banging and whacking and noise here lately.

We have rounded trunk vigas over the patio now. They are basically telephone poles laid across a beam, but it makes such a difference in the authentic look and enclosed feel of the open patio. They even provide large bands of shade to mitigate the strong south sun coming in the living room.

The original design of the back of the house had these viga beams but they had been removed at some point. The ends of the original beams had been left in the wall and stucco'ed over, so the guys had to ream them out and chip them away with what sounded like jackhammers. It took hours.

I love the look of the semi-covered patio now. What to do for patio furniture for this lovely space?

The garage side door is now replaced, and is painted Santa Fe turquoise. The paint around the frame where new stucco had to be added is still a little off, just a bit too light colored. Luis is coming back Monday and we'll decide if another coat of something a smidge darker is needed.

I do love how the turquoise pops against all the sand colored walls and stone, especially looking down the yard from a distance.

The Spanish broom shrubs along the wall have been removed, and the box raised bed in the middle of the yard is gone now. Raoul also took out the declining currants by my potting bench and more plants by the kitchen door too, leaving me new empty areas to plant next spring.

Four yards of fresh gravel was laid. It is gray instead of the earthier mixed color that was there. I don't like the gray color, but it needed to be done, as the old pea gravel had worn away so that landscape fabric and bare dirt showed in places. It needed refreshing,  I just wish it wasn't so gray.

By the time I add some perennials along the strip of stone by the house, and freshen up some other areas with plantings, the gray won't be so distracting.

The warped kitchen door was replaced too, and stained a nice red brown just like the vigas. Luis left me two of the cut ends of the vigas, and I'll stain them and use them for tables, probably not right at the kitchen door, but somewhere.

Sliding glass doors were replaced also. Pella sent the wrong door, it was the incorrect dimension and didn't have the grilles or locks we ordered, and the whole project ground to a halt while the installers tried to figure out how to fill the six foot wide open gap in our back wall where the old door had been with a door that wouldn't fit. Ay, Dios.

They spent all day putting in the smaller door, patched up what they could around the open gaps with foam, and ordered a new one. They'll come back in mid November, take out the misfit door they just installed (no small project) and put in the right one. Total debacle. Pella is "very sorry about the inconvenience".

Between the Pella installers and Luis and his crew, it's been noisy and dusty here for days and days, with crews of men in and out and rapid-fire Spanish punctuating the bang and whack of it all. All the contractors, even the hapless Pella installers, have been courteous, clean, hard working, really nice guys.

We knew we would have to get these things done when we bought the house. There is still touch up and finishing to do this coming week, and I have lots of plans for next spring for plantings and rearranging some of the gravel more to my liking, but it feels so good to have the big stuff underway or done.