Harmonious Holiday Happenings (with helpful hints)

Ciao Readers!  And happy and healthy holidays to you and yours!

Before we head off to Portugal to eat as much seafood as deprived desert-dwellers can (and I run the Lisbon holiday 10k – yay!), I thought I’d share some happy holiday happenings with a helpful hint or two.

It’s been an interesting month and from what I’ve experienced in the universe (and on the inter- webs) many people are suffering.  I try not to be preachy, so I will just share my experience – Headspace is a meditation app that is really all that and a bag of chips (and no, they didn’t pay me to say that).  It’s pretty much how I go to sleep every night, plus there are cool mini meditations (3 minutes) for everything from feeling “overwhelmed” to “frustrated” to fear of flying. If you’re finding yourself frazzled this time of year (or any), you can try it out for free.

So, now that that “public service announcement” is over, on to the festivities.

Almost every year we go to the River of Lights at our bipoapark – it is super sparkly and festive. I blogged about it, complete with tons of photos, two years ago here. Since you can see those photos, I’ll just add a few new ones and a helpful hint. They now sell tickets to what they call the “magic hour” – this means you get in at 5:00 instead of 6:00 when it usually opens.  Now, granted, it is more expensive, but if you can swing it this is the difference: on a normal night you wait in a line of cars to get into the parking lot for 1+ hours, you are then sent to the farthest reaches of a back parking lot located in another state, and then you trudge through the River of Lights like a sardine lined up end-to-end. Pay the few bucks more and you drive right into the parking lot and pretty much have the entire place to yourself – score!!!   It’s gotten so big they even went into part of the Japanese Garden this year:

Another thing I do pretty much every year, but did much differently this year, is attend the Festival of Trees. It’s an annual fundraiser for Carrie Tingley Hospital Foundation which works with kids with disabilities. The Albuquerque Convention Center is stuffed full of 100+ trees and 200+ wreaths, plus festivities, a mini village, kids crafts, etc. You can go for free or donate any amount you like. While it’s over for this year, next year you can volunteer to help decorate!  That’s what I did this year – I had no idea they had to start in September or what a precise science tree and wreath decorating were.  I was mostly a “helper elf*” – for example, I made all the bows in the tree behind me in the photo (and sourced the supplies for the Hanukkah tree pictured). (*Okay, full disclosure, I relegated myself to helper elf as I don’t seem to have the decorating touch – the cool (at least I thought so) travel/foodie wreath I sourced and made (first photo) was in the silent auction – and purchased by me, the only bidder!)  Steve and I even went to the opening night shindig.  Fun, festive, and for a good cause:

Finally, what Festivus would be complete without a festive holiday run and an indulgent ooh-laa-laa fancy-pants tea at St. James Tea Room:

Whatever you do or do not celebrate Dear Readers, I hope you find a nice warm peaceful space this holiday season.  Here’s to a bright 2020!!!

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

 

 

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):

 

Ode to Our “Old” Home (Albuquerque)

Since this blog is entitled “New Mexico to Italy,” I thought it was about time to give a shout-out to the place we’re leaving.  I also thought you readers from abroad would appreciate a view of this side of the pond (on a semi-related aside, my assignment for Italian class this week is to present this post in Italian – gasp!).   This is specifically about the place and not the people (you know who you are and that we’re gonna miss you!).  Here are just a few of the cool things about our current home we’re going to miss:

International Balloon Fiesta – this is the largest balloon festival in the world, with upwards of 800 balloons coming from all over the world each year (for 9 days in early in October).  In the morning they take off and in the evenings they stay tethered to the ground for a “balloon glow.”  Balloons are pretty common here (when the winds are calm I can always see at least few on my morning run) and we have been up in one a few times (the unwritten rule is that you “crew” – help man the balloon – to earn a flight).  I have no idea how we got on the topic of balloons in my school in Italy but everyone seemed amazed when I said they could come visit and go up in one – reminding me how truly special/unique the experience is!  Here are just a couple of the many hundreds of photos I have take over the years…


                                           

Sandia Mountain – this is the beautiful mountain that turns “sandia” (watermelon) colored in the evening.  It is great for hiking and skiing.  It is also the way I have not gotten lost for the past 18 years (you can see it from everywhere in town so you always know which way is East).  A couple of years ago I hiked up to the top (9 miles total, to over 10,000 ft.) and then took the tram down (the signs claim it is the world’s longest tram, but I have seen similar claims at other trams…).   (you can read more/see more photos here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sandia_Mountains).

The Fiery Food Show – this is the HUGE spicy food festival here that we have been attending for most of the past 17 years (first weekend of March).  There are hundreds of booths where you can taste-test the latest in spicy foods – some are so hot that you get a sticker or some-other trinket if you can actually stand to try them!  Here I am with my sister-in-law a few years ago (and here she is after tasting something VERY spicy!):

Run for the Zoo (and other runs) – I really love running in New Mexico.  Except for the middle of summer, it is almost always perfect weather here in the mornings for a run and there are so many cool organized runs.  I started off with 5k’s, then after many years worked up to 10k’s, then finally to half marathons.  The biggest and most fun is the “Run for the Zoo,”  where you actually run both for the zoo (it’s a fund-raiser) and through the back of the zoo (in how many 10k’s do you get to wave to elephants?!).  Just ran this year’s on May 6.

 

Huevos Rancheros (and all other Mexican, Tex-Mex and New Mexican food!) – It’s always about the food with me!  The best thing about food in New Mexico is the Hatch green chile.  Every year at the end of the summer, the chile is harvested in Hatch, NM, and brought to groceries and stands all over the state.  The tradition is you buy a huge sack full and then wait in line outside to have it roasted in a big roaster (you can pick from gringo mild to HOT – we like it HOT!).  You bring it home and peel it (an all day affair, and one which we learned the hard way our first year here requires wearing gloves!), then bag it up and freeze it to see you through the year of green chile stews, huevos rancheros, green-chile-cheese fries, and just about anything else you can to add green chile to.  YUM!

There are many more great things about Albuquerque – the nearly perpetual sunshine, rollerblading along the Bosque (nature area that runs along the Rio Grande), our very cool Zoo and BioPark, funky Nob Hill where you can stroll and shop and eat outside (closest thing we have to a European city center).  And, yes, there are also not-so-great things we won’t miss… hearing about yet another visitor having their vehicle/belongings stolen from a motel parking lot, the fact that police have shot and killed dozens of people in the past couple of years, Walmart (and the other Walmart, and the smaller, but no less annoying Walmart), the spring winds, and having to drive almost everywhere!  But, as with most things, I am sure we will look back with rose-colored glasses and miss the balloon-filled sky come October…

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