Sneak Peak of the Penguins at the ABQ Zoo!

Ciao Readers!  (and HELLO new readers who found me through the zoo’s twitter!)

Two blog posts in one week – I know! And both with us dudded up in black-and-white* to go to some fancy schmancy shindig!

Tonight we had the unique privilege of getting to go to the “sneak peak” event of the soon-to-open Penguin Chill exhibit at the ABQ Zoo.  Let me tell you, it is SUPER COOL!!!!! (bad pun intended). The exhibit itself is amazing – a multi-level sub-antarctic environment with various viewing areas (even underwater!), complete with interactive activities including Skyping with Antarctic scientists!  But of course the main attraction is the penguins (31 penguins, 3 different species – you can read all the info on the link, above). They are just getting used to being in Albuquerque and while they are trying to keep them on their usual wake/sleep cycle (and warned us they would be asleep), they were all fully awake and diving and swimming tonight – it was a site to see! You can’t use a flash and it was nighttime, so the one photo I got was dark (sorry) – but check out all the penguins in it!  (there are some good videos on the zoo’s twitter @abqbiopark)

On top of the cool penguins, there were h’orderves, sushi, drinks and catching up with old acquaintances. And, one really neat thing that made me smile (you’ll have to figure it out from the photos)…..Enjoy!

*see if you can spot all our penguin-themed attire

 

 

Quirky & Cultured: The Santa Fe Opera

Ciao Readers!  Happy back-from-the-long-weekend!!!

Boy, it has been a while, huh?  I’ve missed you (almost as much as I’ve missed doing things I thought were “blog-worthy”).  I think this past weekend’s excursion counts, so….

For the very first time in our lives we went to the opera! Specifically, La bohème, at the Santa Fe Opera. Now, in full disclosure – the two biggest reasons we went were for 1) the quirky and cool tradition of fancy tailgating before hand, and 2) the amazing scenery at the venue (which I had seen years before when I went there to see an Indigo Girls concert).

So, as to the tailgating – this is a major tradition (you can read more about here) – everyone dressed in their finery gets to the venue a few hours early and sets up for dinner (anywhere from a cooler to an all out banquet table) – there is champagne, h’orderves, fancy food, etc. (you can also order dinner from the venue, as we did). It is a unique site for sure. We went semi-all out and brought a little table, fake flowers and some fake (i.e. dollar store plastic) “crystal.” Steve even brought a lawn-looking rug and an umbrella (which we needed as it started raining shortly after the picture, below, was taken). Here’s also some other folks (picture from the opera’s website):

In the background (when you are tailgating, but also inside the open-air venue) are both the Jemez Mountains and the Sangre De Cristo’s (since you can’t really get the full effect from my photos as it was raining, I’ve also included a youtube video):

 

So, fun fancy food, beautiful scenery and…..then the opera. Ack, this is the part where I have to admit, that despite desperately wanting to feel cultured and all (and really appreciating that my friend Julie’s daughter is an opera singer) – I’m just not that into opera. I can appreciate the singing and the costumes and all of it, but for some reason it just doesn’t hold my attention like a broadway show or a concert. And, while I could use the excuse that it was raining and COLD (in the 50’s) for summer and late by the time intermission rolled around and that’s why we left…I realized on the drive home that if it had been a Green Day concert it could have been hailing and 2:00 a.m. and I would have toughed it out.  But – we have been talking about going back – specifically for the tailgating (is that weird?) – we are pretty sure there were some other folks doing that as they packed up and drove off after the tailgate part (or it could have been the rain). In any case, a unique experience well worth it, even if I had to discover I am uncultured in the process!

Balloons of Joy

Hello Readers!

So, these have been somewhat heavy times for me and maybe for many of us.  However, this is not that kind of blog (if you’re interested in the heavier stuff, follow me on twitter); it’s a blog to share exciting adventures, delicious food and cool pics.  There could not have been a better day for taking and sharing some AMAZING photos from the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta than this morning.  All of these were taken either on my cheap phone or my real camera and I have done nothing to them (not even cropping), so you can share this morning’s beauty as it was.  Have a wonderful day!!!

 

River of Lights!!!

Ciao Readers! Happy Festivus!

So, while I have one more Italy blog in me (“Siena’s 500+ year-old Palio: violent horse race or community therapy?”), it’s going to take some research and be a little heady, and after the melancholy note on which I left my last post, I thought I’d share some holiday cheer….

Tonight we went to the River of Lights, a ginormous light display throughout the Albuquerque Botanical Gardens.  The display has over 500 sculptures and millions of bulbs, requiring workers to start setting it up in early October (using over 90,000 zip-ties)! Next to the Balloon Fiesta, I think it’s my most favorite (non-edible) thing about Albuquerque.  So, instead of blather on about it, I’ll share it as best I can (notice one of the quirky new additions, a UFO over the corn field):

 

The Shake Shack Saga Continues (do-it-yourself version)

Ciao Readers!

So, that last post really exacerbated my longing for a Shake Shack burger (and I am glad I amused at least one of you who knows I was a long-time vegetarian).  I confess that I am one of those people who, once they get an idea in their head, can’t let it go until they make it come to fruition.  Which brings me to my current quest to replicate the illusive magical burger at home.

Fortunately for me, a writer for Epicurious already did the hard part – deciphering exactly how and what goes into making the perfect faux Shake Shack burger.  Now, all that was left for me to do was to track down the exact ingredients and replicate the process.  Okay, let’s take a time-out here – do you think I’m nuts at this point? Do rationale people go through all of this over food?  Have I been permanently psychologically damaged by watching too much Food Network?  In any case…

I think it’s the buns that make the burger, and fortunately, Shake Shack buys buns that anyone (anyone who lives on the East Coast) can buy at their grocery, Martin’s Potato Rolls.  For those of us in New Mexico, the internet does the trick (as I write this I am tracking my buns’ trip from Pennsylvania).  The rest of the ingredients are things you can find at most groceries (though be sure to buy really good quality, thick, fresh, crispy pickles; the ones I found at Sprouts are pictured below).  I did have to get the butcher to grind the meat for me as you need 3/4 to 1/4 sirloin to brisket (am I sounding nuts again?) but other than that, really no sweat. (The butcher did ask me why in the world would I need ground brisket, and no, he had no clue what Shake Shack is.)

So, as soon as those buns get here, we’ll conduct the experiment, take pictures and report…. (for those of you who know I have to get my gallbladder out and that I shouldn’t be eating fatty foods, rest assured I am only going to try a bite, just to sate my taste for now; after that I’ll just watch Steve enjoy his).

[Two days later]  Yay! The mail lady just delivered the buns!!!  Hmmmm……..seems I accidentally ordered mini slider-sized ones (pictured below), so I guess our burgers won’t be 100% spot on, but serendipitously bite-sized – and boy do these buns feel soft!  Only 2 days till the weekend and our test run.  Stay tuned…

[Two more days later] Okay, today’s the day!  So, I made the secret Shack sauce, Steve mixed the meats I had previously ground by the butcher, I opened the jar of pickles and got the fresh veggies ready.  Then, we properly smashed and grilled the burgers, buttered and browned only the insides of the buns and lastly added cheese to Steve’s……..and………drumroll please………..voila!!!!!  Do they taste like my dreams you ask?

……Almost.  They were without a doubt the best homemade burgers we’ve ever made.  The buns were oh so soft, the meat nice and caramelized on the outside, the pickles fresh and crisp and the secret sauce yummy.   But something from my dreams was missing – the fact that the last two times we had these burgers we were on fabluous vacations and someone else made them for us!!!   So, if you are asking is it worth the effort to make these burgers, the answer is an unequivocal “YES.”   But, if you ever have the chance to go on a fabulous trip AND eat a Shake Shack burger – even better!

Here’s how we did it (notice my improving photo-staging techniques):











Balloon Fiesta Fun!

Hola Readers!

It’s been quite a while!  As you know, we’re back here in the Land of Enchantment…and one of the most enchanting things about New Mexico (and Albuquerque in particular) is the International Balloon Fiesta!  This morning the weather was perfect and there were hundreds of balloons aloft, so I had to share some photos.

For those of you unfamiliar with the festival, hundreds of hot air balloons (many in “special shapes”) from around the world take off every morning from the festival grounds throughout the 9 day event (always the first 2 weekends of October), and then in the evenings stay tethered to the ground while lighting their burners for the “Balloon Glow.”   Since the balloons take off at about 7:00 a.m., you have to leave your house very early (we got a late start today – 5:45) and then sit in traffic to park – but once you’re there, there are balloons, food and merriment galore!  (I love hearing the excitement in the voices of first-timers – sometimes, like this morning, in several foreign languages.) And, in honor of the gluttonous pleasure of American festivals, yes, that is me eating a giant turkey leg at 9:30 a.m. (YUM)!  Enjoy…

 

“The Puppetinos Leave New Mexico” (The Prequel)

Ciao Readers!  And Happy (early) Birthday Sachi!!!

Back by popular demand, today I again present “The Puppetinos,” starring in their very own prequel.  In this episode, we go back across the pond and see how it all began (thanks for seeding the NM idea, Tuscan Traveler!) (and thanks to my sis-in-law for the photo of Hurricane’s “Disaster Burrito”).  And yes, I know, I currently have too much time on my hands…

So, dear Readers, I will leave you with this video for now.  As Steve has time off from work coming up and we have a fabulous train trip through three countries planned, I am going to sign off for a couple weeks and come back when I have new and interesting things to say (you’ll get to find out which countries then….).  (Hopefully my toe will be healed enough in time for our trip!)

Feel free to send an old-fashioned e-mail in the meantime (wow – is e-mail already passé?).  Ciao for now!

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