New Mexico is well known for its art and creative spirit. Most notably, there’s Native American pottery, beautiful landscape paintings and drawings, hand blown glass, and turquoise and silver jewelry. Fiber art, less well known to me, also has a long history, which has continued as a rich tradition here in New Mexico. So, when I saw a postcard advertisement for a fiber arts tour near my house, I decided to take my daughter (who loves to knit) along with me to check it out. After all, it was a blustery winter day, a perfect day to explore fiber arts and maybe find some scarves or sweaters to add to our closets.
Dagmar, who is from Germany, is a fiber artist. She was hosting her annual Fiber Arts Tour out of her house. This was part of the larger High Desert Studio Tour. As we walked in the door, Dagmar greeted us with a very big smile on her face while she spun colorful fiber on one of her spinning wheels.
Dressed in one of her knitted creations and adorned with lots of turquoise jewelry, her colorful outfit matched her colorful (and very personable) personality. She showed us around and explained that she buys her fibers from local farms, dyes the fiber and spins it- check out her website for details. We also got a peek at her studio, filled with lots of yarn, rovings, and other art projects.
Both the living and dining rooms were filled with a colorful assortment of knitted items. In addition to wintery items like sweaters, scarves and fingerless gloves, there were also little girls’ summery dresses made with a knitted top attached to a colorful fabric skirt- very cute! She also had spun fiber for sale. With so many choices available it was hard for my daughter to decide but she finally chose a very soft gray angora, which will be perfect for a cowl.
There were also items available from other artists- printed linens, felted wool shoes and soaps, eyeglass cases and lanyards, money pouches and purses. I was lucky to find a painted silk scarf for my mother. All of these handmade pieces of art make wonderful gifts for family and friends.
Dagmar also told us that the Bosque Farms Fiber Fest is next weekend. She’ll be there along with many other artists and fiber animals breeders. That should be fun for anyone looking to learn more about this New Mexican tradition and a chance to get some handmade fiber art products just in time for the holiday season!
One of the great things about my son’s 7th grade curriculum is that there are assignments which require the students to go out and explore their community. One such assignment is Quest New Mexico. This is a history assignment in which students must journey with their families to a significant historical site in New Mexico and then provide an oral presentation to the class summarizing what they learned. We did this same exercise with our daughter when she was in 7th grade visiting the Coronado State Monument in Bernalillo and the Petroglyph National Monument here in Albuquerque.
Since it was a long weekend, we decided on the Kit Carson Home & Museum in Taos. Even though Taos is a 2 ½ hour drive north, we didn’t mind because it’s such a beautiful drive up. The highway follows the Rio Grande River and goes through farming communities like Velarde surrounded by picturesque landforms, and before reaching Taos, one encounters the beginning of the Rio Grand Gorge (aka the Box, where river enthusiasts go for whitewater rafting).
Kit Carson’s home is located on Kit Carson Road just east of the center of town. It’s a very simple and unassuming building nestled between art galleries. There’s a nice courtyard with the museum/home on the left and a store on the right. The museum itself is small with 5 rooms. In one room, we watched a History Channel video on the early life of Kit Carson and looked at an exact replica of Kit Carson’s famous Hawken rifle. It was very interesting to learn about Carson’s 3 wives and many children. The Carson family lived in this Taos home for over 20 years during the very important career years of Kit’s life when he was involved with the Mexican-American War, the Navajo Campaign, and Civil War. I didn’t know that Kit Carson was a Mason and that the Masons had a large role in preserving and restoring the home making it the oldest museum in Taos.
We decided to complete the journey by visiting Kit Carson’s grave site. It’s located about 2/10 of a mile east, a short walk from the home and museum, in the Kit Carson Memorial State Park. Here in the small but intimate cemetery, many other famous New Mexicans are buried alongside Carson and his 3rd wife, Josefa.
It was a hot afternoon, so before heading on, we decided to stop and cool off at Caffe Tazza near the state park. This cozy café serves ice cream and light fare in addition to hot and cold beverages. The walls are decorated with colorful crazy dreamlike (some were more nightmarish) paintings. My husband and I ordered blackberry and chocolate chocolate chip ice cream scoops and coffee. The ice cream was very good and at the time we did not know the ice cream was from the famous Taos Cow (which would explain why it was so good). My son was hungry so he went for the grilled swiss and ham sandwich. This is a good place to stop for a quick bite without venturing into the busier section of town.
Thanks to 7th grade history curriculum, we had an enjoyable visit to Taos. Learning about New Mexican history can be a fun family activity! Don’t wait for a school assignment, I encourage you to take your family to one of the many historical sites located in and around your community!
It took us about an hour or so to visit the Kit Carson Home & Museum.
There’s a free parking lot about 2/10 of mile east of the museum on the south side of Kit Carson Road.
Caffe Tazza does not take credit cards.
Between Santa Fe and Taos, you can stop off at Pilar for a good view of the Rio Grande; it’s also a rafting entry point.
Velarde and other small farming communities along the highway had fruits stands where many travelers stopped to buy fruits and chile ristras.
The New Mexico Wine Trail is also on this route between Santa Fe and Taos.
While you are in Taos, don’t forget to visit the famous St. Francis de Asis Church made famous by Georgia O’Keefe.
Summer is officially over this weekend, so I wanted to share our last summertime activity because it may inspire you to think about including this event in your family outings for next summer.
I followed the forecast all week and hoped Mother Nature would be cooperative, but dark clouds loomed overhead and to the north in the direction of Santa Fe. It was Family Night at the Santa Fe Opera so we did not want rain. This was our first time to the opera and we were so looking forward to the open-air venue with a beautiful sunset in the background. More importantly, we were excited to see my son’s three schoolmates perform in the opera, Tosca.We crossed our fingers and headed towards Santa Fe because the show would go on even in the rain.
Many opera patrons tailgate before the performance but we chose to dine at a restaurant called Gabriel’s. It’s friend recommended and highly rated by the locals. Plus, it’s conveniently located 5 minutes away from the opera (on Hwy 285/84) away from city center. Dining in downtown Santa Fe would have been an option any other weekend, but the Indian Market was that weekend and the Plaza would be very crowded.
Gabriel’s serves Mexican and Southwest cuisine. It’s well known for its guacamole experience and outdoor dining (it was a good thing I had reserved a table indoors because the dark clouds were getting darker). On the patio, people dined under sun umbrellas among the beautiful flowers. It was also very festive indoors. There was a large family seated right near us and they were having a great time laughing and sipping their margaritas. Colorful paintings of animals and Native Americans decorated the walls, and pottery filled niches.
We put our order in for the Guacamole Especial! We were ready for the culinary performance- guacamole made fresh for us right at the table side. A woman appeared with a large cart topped with a large black bowl surrounded by avocados and all the fixings for a great guacamole. We chose onions, tomatoes, garlic and some cilantro (jalapenos are also available). She scooped out 2.5 avocados, juiced ½ a lime, added the extras plus salt, mashed, whisked, and in about 2 minutes we had our guacamole especial on the table. Now that I’ve seen it, it’ll be fun to do this when we have guests over!
The guacamole especial is a fairly large appetizer for four so we were half full by the time our entrees came. My son, who is not a fan of Mexican, ordered the Lone Star ribs but the rest of us order Mexican. My hubby, who is always eats healthier than I, ordered the mesquite grilled half chicken, while I ordered the Taos platter which consisted of a blue corn beef taco and a blue corn beef enchilada covered with green chile. My daughter decided to try the crab enchiladas (chicken or pork would have been better).
While we dined, it rained. Luckily, there was a break in the precipitation while we traveled between the restaurant and the opera house. It started back up just as we arrived in the parking lot; the tailgaters quickly guzzled their wine, wrapped up their portable tables and chairs and headed towards cover. The rained poured and the wind whipped for about 25 minutes pushing the rain under the cover of the roof. Ten minutes before show time, the rain stopped, the skies cleared, and the opera staff worked quickly to sweep the water away from the seats. To our surprise our seats were dry by the time we found them.
The opera venue is amazing. There are two levels and the stage is set against the western sky allowing for beautiful sunset colors to filter through. Even though our seats were close to the outer edges of the venue, we still had a decent view of the action. The acoustics were outstanding and we really liked how each of us had our own personal translator so we could understand the dialogue. Our kids enjoyed every minute of the opera and didn’t even ask to leave early.
Despite the rain, we had a wonderful night. The 2012 season is over now. However, the lineup for 2013 is already available on-line and tickets are available for purchase. We look forward to the 2013 season. It’ll be a hard decision- will it be Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro or Verdi’s La Traviata? Maybe we’ll even give tailgating a try!
Make reservations if you plan to dine at Gabriel’s otherwise you will be waiting in a very long line even if you get there before 5:30pm.
We recommend the traditional Mexican entrees at Gabriel’s.
Family Night at the Santa Fe Opera is a really good deal! Purchase your tickets well in advance since there are limited seats. Usually by the end of May, you can find the family night schedule on-line. Tickets for full-price seating are available now for the 2013 season.
Don’t forget to bring binoculars to the opera.
Bring a light jacket or shawl because the Santa Fe nights can be cool especially after a summer rain.
Avoid drinking anything alcoholic two hours before you head home because you may encounter a sobriety checkpoint like we did on Hwy 599.
My family celebrated National Farmers’ Market Week (August 6-12) by visiting the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market. The explosion of organic produce and the slow food movement have spurred the growth of farmers’ market everywhere. According the USDA, the number of markets has doubled over the past decade to reach about 7800 markets around the U.S.! Cities like San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia and Chicago have large markets that make the top 10 list. I had no idea that the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market was on that list before our trip that Saturday. Having been to the Dane County Farmers’ Market in Madison, Wisconsin (a top 10), I definitely agree that Santa Fe Farmers’ Market is one of the best.
One of the features of a good market is that it offers a wide variety of fresh and local products and produce. We were able to find all of our dinner ingredients and more that day. Tomato vendors offered San Marzanos, Better Boys, heirloom tomatoes, plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes- too many different varieties to remember. We also found delicious white and yellow peaches, nectarines, and dark reddish purple elephant heart plums. For the first time in my life, I saw Shushito peppers (from several producers in New Mexico). I read that these small, bright green, Japanese chile peppers make a tasty snack when quickly sautéed with olive oil and salt. I was also able to find a great head of butter lettuce and a nice flower arrangement.
Location is also key to a good market. The market is located in the Railyard among art galleries and small shops away from the Plaza (the plaza is crowded enough with hardly any parking). Because we were early (we arrived at 8am), we were lucky to find curbside parking. According to the website, there are public parking lots available. The grounds were also very clean with vendors arranged in a flowing layout with enough room for strollers and wheelchairs in addition to everyone else. Finally, one can’t beat the weather/climate of Santa Fe- comfortable temperatures, dry and sunny.
One of the best things about my Santa Fe Farmers Market experience was the interaction I had with other visitors and the vendors. As I ate my breakfast pastry and drank my coffee, I had a nice chat with a Santa Fean and her visitor from Lubbock, Texas. Next to them was a German couple munching on cheese curds. They were enjoying their curds so much they strongly recommended that we go get some. My kids and I had an interesting conversation with the elephant heart plum farmer who had lived on the Big Island, Hawaii and hopes someday to return there or go to Sumatra. He is passionate about sustainable agriculture and shared his vision for an improved agricultural cooperative here in New Mexico for seed sharing. To my surprise, I was even able to have a conversation in Chinese with a farmer from Talon de Gato. He told me (in Chinese) that he started speaking about 4 years ago and that he was glad for the opportunity to practice Chinese with me.
Our whole family had a wonderful time that morning. Great food + great people + great location make for a top-rated farmers’ market experience!
Go early, the market is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 7am-12noon
Curbside meter parking is available, bring quarters, beware of the meter patrol
Don’t forget to bring your own shopping bags
The artisan’s market is on Sunday in the same location