A Stroll Through Albuquerque’s OlOld Town Churchd Town

 

Quintessential New Mexico, the shaded plaza, adobe church, shops, galleries, restaurants, music, arts and crafts keep visitors returning to Old Town. Most Albuquerque tourists who spend time in Old Town circle the Plaza, admire jewelry spread on blankets, and pop into stores for souvenirs. Those who follow winding, brick walkways into quiet courtyards discover the essence of the Southwest – a slower pace, a musical duo, shaded patio cafes and one-of-a-kind shops.

Kaleidoscopes Colorful magic fills two rooms at La Casita de Kaleidoscopes. The gregarious owner encourages “try them all” as we gawk at the variety – miniature scopes on necklaces to massive floor models. Eighty artists from around the country handcraft these optical wonders. Descriptive names – Marble Scope, Passport to Paris, Dreamdrops, Eye on the Ball – entice us to pause for calming views.

 

Old Town Tour Guided walking tours sponsored by the Albuquerque Museum offer a historical and informative insiders view of Old Town. Museum docents lead the seasonal tours, mid-March through mid- December, pointing out details we’d miss own our own. A self-guided walking tour brochure is available at the museum for those whose visit doesn’t coincide with a guided tour.

So Near – Yet A World Away

One of our favorite Albuquerque area destinations is the nearby village of Corrales. Although suburbia quickly approaches, Corrales maintains its 300-year-old rural ambiance along the banks of the Rio Grande River. In the fall roadside stands San Ysidro Church - Corralesoffer pumpkins, apples, pears, and jugs of cider.

Photographers and artists gravitate to the Old San Ysidro Church. The picturesque restored adobe now serves as a community center. A stroll through the annual fine arts exhibit that coincides with Balloon Fiesta enriches a leisurely afternoon.

The village supports a number of unique galleries and shops. We always like to stop into the artist-owned Corrales Bosque Gallery. Among the original works from jewelry to visual arts in a variety of media there’s always something that captures my imagination. Hanselmann Pottery sells their wares on the honor system. I’m not a quilter but love to walk through the colorful fabrics at Quilts Ole.

Casa San Ysidro - Interior Behind adobe walls, Casa San Ysidro holds a treasure trove of early New Mexico. The replicated rancho was home to Alan and Shirley Minge from 1953-1997. Today the rambling house, furnishings, and extensive historic and artistic collections are an extension of the Albuquerque Museum. From the kitchen’s wood-burning cookstove to the altar in the capilla, or chapel, tours (by reservation) relate the fascinating stories behind artifacts and architectural details.

Locally owned restaurants, wineries and bed and breakfasts ensure creature comforts while we savor the rural New Mexico ambiance.

Pottery Purchases on the Honor System

While visiting the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, we often drive to Corrales for lunch and shopping.

Peering in the window at Hanselmann Pottery we spotted shapes and glazes much to our likingCinnamon Pottery. A bulletin board with purchasing instructions stands near the entrance. To our amazement, this unattended shop works on the honor system.

The Allen brothers, Tim and Fritz, have conducted business with this unique method since 1970. They stay busy in the on-site studio creating pottery dinnerware and accessories. The self-serve gallery keeps prices near wholesale cost.

A pattern named Cinnamon appeals to me with its earthtones and teal. I believe someone on my Christmas list would prefer Lavender Sky. What a fun way to shop for holiday gifts! Hanselmann Pie Plate

Instructions cover procedures for payment by cash, check and charge. We completed a sales form with pot ID# and price, added the total – tax is included in the price – sealed form and check in envelope, and deposited it into the designated slot. Packaging materials and a worktable are available for wrapping purchases. We left with our arms filled with pots and hearts warmed by the trusting, honor system way of doing business.

Hanselmann Pottery located at 4908 Corrales Road, approximately 12 miles northwest of downtown Albuquerque is  open 24/7 year round. We can also purchase from home 24/7 via their website.

Photos from Hanselmann Pottery.

History, Gardens and Noodle BGrant Houseowls

We each had a couple of things we really wanted to do with our one day in Portland, to complete a full list we would need a week. Bob wanted a mushroom cheesesteak sandwich at Philadelphia’s and a noodle bowl at Pho Van’s. Nancy wanted to re-visit Fort Vancouver National Historic Reserve and one of Portland’s beautiful gardens. Both agreed on a shopping trip to Trader Joe’s being a Furs - Fort Vancouvernecessity; and, to forego the Pride Day Parade and the Naked Bike Ride.

  •  Officers Row in the Vancouver National Historic Reserve transports us back to a more genteel time. Stately old trees shade the former homes of officers overlooking the parade grounds. The restored structures now house businesses, Hudson Bay Blanketscommunity groups, a restaurant and private residences.
  •  Fort Vancouver National Historic Site was the 19th-century Hudson Bay Company outpost for trade with fur trappers, Native Americans and settlers. Knowledgeable guides unfold the history in the Chief Factor’s Residence, Fur Warehouse and Indian Trade House.
  •  Philadelphia’s Steaks & Hoagies in the Sellwood Neighborhood (S.E. Milwaukie Ave.) was our lunch Rose Arbor - Fort Vancouverdestination. The mushroom cheesesteak was exactly as Bob remembered and longed for.
  • The Columbia Outlet Store in Lake Oswego has always offered good buys on Columbia sportswear. We have a closet full of rainwear, parkas and fleece but wanted to check for current bargains.
  • The Washington Park area west of Blue Flowers = Fort Vancouverdowntown is filled with options; on this June Sunday they were all busy with curious families. We planned to visit the Japanese and International Rose Test Gardens but gave up when we saw the crowds and parking situation.  Other options include the Oregon Zoo, Portland Children’s Museum, Hoyt Arboretum and the World Forestry Center Discovery Museum.
  • Driving around the city to our varied destinations Pink Flower - Fort Vancouvergave time for reminiscing  about our numerous trips when we had family living in Portland. We love the big trees, lush greenery and urban parks.
  • Trader Joe’s has yet to come to Colorado so we  need to stock up on nuts and gingersnaps whenever we can. Just seeing the sign causes a rush of excitement. Steven tells us we will love the new Thai spice and lime cashews.
  • Pho Van Vietnamese Restaurant on 82nd Avenue creates Bob’s favorite noodle bowl. We Pho Van Noodle Bowlboth finish every bite of Bún Thit Cha Giò (honey, lemongrass, pork and crispy rolls). I can’t seem to enjoy a noodle bowl without slurp spots on my shirt – tonight was no exception.

Happy birthday to good friend Vicki, and may more!

I’ve Never Seen Anything Like It

Angel Trumpet

An afternoon walk through the Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach elicits a constant comment of, "I’ve never seen anything like this before." Featuring more than 2,000 tropical and subtropical plants from six continents the gardens hold many mysteries for two ladies from the Rocky Mountains.

Scents of OleanderDriving down Military Trail, it’s easy to miss the entrance to the garden. The 14-acre botanical oasis is nearly hidden among strip malls, parking lots and the local driver’s license office. Once inside the gate that busy world is left behind as the sweet smell of oleander catches our attention.

The garden has a feature I haven’t come across before, the Oncell System allows you to phone a designated number from your cell phone for a brief introduction to the garden. As you proceed, if you see an area of interest with a numbered post, you may redial the phone number and then the post number for information on that garden section. A new take on self-guided/guided tours.

Red Pineapple - 72Palms sway overhead as we wander through rose, herb, palm and tropical foliage gardens. We search for small labels identifying angel trumpet, ponytail palm, and rainbow eucalyptus. Some plants are unusual variations of the familiar; a huge prickly pear variety demonstrates what happens when a cactus grows in a humid climate with lots of rain. Orchids trail from the crook of a tree and complex delicate blossoms adorn the tips of ugly twisted, thorny stems. We assign descriptive names to unique unidentified foliage – wilted cabbage, Jurassic Park platter, and torpedo palm.

Two White Flowers - 72Red Thorny Stem Flower - 72 Orchids - 72

We were the last two to leave the garden at closing, I’m sure we’ll be back in a different season and will once again utter, "I’ve never seen anything like it."

Palm Cone - 72When You Go: Mounts Botanical Garden is located at 559 North Military Trail (between Belvedere Rd. and Southern Blvd.), West Pam Beach, 561-233-1757. Admission is free, a $5 per person donation is suggested. The Gardens are open Monday through Saturday 8am – 4pm and on Sunday noon – 4pm. Closed on holidays recognized by Palm Beach County.

Mounts Botanical Garden - West Palm Beach, Florida
Mounts Botanical Garden – West Palm Beach, Florida

Going Nuts

Perfectly spaced rows of pruned pecan trees border the rural road on our way to Stahmann’s Country Store. I have one purpose in mind – PECANS. Located a few miles south of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Stahmann’s estate grown pecans is in its 77th year as a family stahmanns-orchardowned business. “Estate grown” means Stahmann’s grow all of their own pecans, never buying from other sources. Acres and acres of orchards receive irrigation from the Rio Grande. From tree to packaging each step is carefully controlled. For instance, Stahmann Farms stopped using chemical insecticides in the late 1980s. Instead, thousands of ladybugs, lacewing flies and natural predators control the harmful green and black aphids.

stahmanns-storeOn our last trip through Las Cruces I discovered the Stahmann store on the historic plaza of Old Mesilla. A couple of tins of cinnamon spice pecans went home with us. Bob swears he doesn’t remember any of this, he’s sure I devoured them all myself? This time we purchase a half-dozen tins, roasted & salted, cinnamon spice and mild chile dusted. We resist the temptation of pralines, pecan brittle, white chocolate pecans and a dozen more tantalizing treats. I do make sure we tuck a catalog into the bag, making a mental note of their gift packages and assortments the next time I need special presents.

stahmanns-pecansBefore leaving we treat ourselves to the richest, creamiest pecan praline ice cream cone I’ve ever enjoyed. And, I’ve tried quite a few in my years. There’s something totally decadent with indulging in such a treat at 10:15 in the morning.

I want to go back sometime from May through August when tours are conducted every Wednesday morning and green leaves shade the orchard floor.

When You Go: Stahmann’s Country Store, on Hwy 28 south of Las Cruces, and Stahmann’s on the Plaze in Mesilla are open seven days a week. Stahmann’s accepts phone and online orders.

Sad Note: When our car was broken into in Phoenix one of the things that came up missing was our sack of Stahmann’s pecans. Bob moaned, “We hadn’t even gotten into them yet.” I tried to explain to everyone that these weren’t ordinary pecans, these were gourmet pecans. Next time we’ll eat our way out of the Stahmann’s parking lot.

Spice It Up

santa-cruz-signI’ve read about the quality chili and spices from Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company for years but had never had the opportunity to stop and shop. Today we made it; and, we weren’t the only ones. A constant flow of shoppers arrived and departed with sacks of  chili pastes, salsas, herbs and spices from around the world.

In business for 60 years, Santa Cruz is famous for the distinctive flavors of red chili peppers grown in the region made into a handy, easy-to-use chili paste.  A round table in the ranch museum room is set up with chips and a dozen of the Santa Cruz products are available for tasting – paste to jam. Try them, you may find something new. Bob did – jalapeno orange marmalade.

santa-cruz-tastingWant a fajita spice mix, taco meat seasoning, habenero powder? You’ll find them and dozens more. In the market for paprika? There’s Peruvian, Hungarian, Hungarian half-hot, smoked, sweet, and Spanish. Who knew? Sample jars let you sprinkle a taste in your hand to try before you buy. Chili powders are rated for degree of hotness.

In addition to their own products there’s an extensive collection of regional flavors from other companies – hot sauces, salsas, jellies, syrups, mustards, etc.

santa-cruz-shoppersNot sure how best to use some of the spices? Purchase a copy of the Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Co. Cookbook, a collection of favorite recipes from traditional Mexican dishes to new and healthy ways to cook with their products. The book is spiced with family stories of life in the Southwest and history of the company. This is a perfect place for souvenir shopping for cooks on your list; a bonus is the extremely fair and affordable prices. Gourmets will have a real spicy spree.

When You Go: Santa Cruz Chili & Spice Company is located on the I-19 frontage road, exit 29, just south of the Tumacacori National Monument. Three miles south of  Tubac. Open Monday – Saturday 8am – 5pm, closed Sundays.

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