. . . I've been told that I write novels for email messages. Perhaps this is the way to go. I'll try to make each entry, or Gemstone, a "precious" one. On mediocre days, all I might be able to produce is a "semi-precious" entry. In any case, an entry might be a "neat" Gemstone--something that is uniquely mine.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Petroglyph National Monument

I've lived in northern New Mexico for almost 10 years and finally went to see the petroglyphs at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque. We (my boys and I) didn't have the time to explore all of the different canyons or the volcanoes since we had to get back up the hill to pick up our dog from the boarder and to take the boys to their dentist appointments today. So we picked one area that was advertised as being kid-friendly, having a partially paved trail, and having abundant petroglyphs, called Boca Negra Canyon.

The whole national monument is an area formed when the Albuquerque Volcanoes (photo at bottom of entry) erupted about 150,000 years ago. The cinder cones are dormant now, but do show up as peaks along the western side of the monument. Basalt rock formed a cap rock from the lava flows and over the years, has been undercut by the softer sandy soils underneath, causing basalt boulders to tumble down to create the escarpment edge. The boulders have been exposed to sun, wind, rain, heat, and even microorganisms that created a thin layer of something called "desert varnish" (see above right) on the boulders that could be chipped off by the Ancestral Puebloan people with a rock or chisel stone to form a lighter picture underneath.

Along the Boca Negra Canyon trails, Ancestral Puebloans carved many different petroglyphs that date from between the 1300's to 1600's in what is called the Rio Grande style. We saw kokopellis, dancers, masks, animals, snakes, birds, human hands, stars, and spirals. Can you find these petroglyphs in the rocks below? We especially like the two dancers, one woman and one man, with the man dancing on what looks to be a chicken. We did see so many more great pictures; it was exciting to walk the trails and see each new image.

Something else that I thought was neat was basalt boulders that had these stripes in them. I read the plaque next to it that said that they formed when the rock cracked and later filled back in with new lava. It made me think of columnar jointing that occurs in basalts and wondered if it was related.

The views from the top of the mesa were really great. We were a mile above sea level overlooking the whole town of Albuquerque and Sandia Peak. The skies were a bit hazy, though, so things weren't too clear. At 10 am it was already 80 degrees. After our hike along the trails, we decided to do a little bit of geocaching and found 3 out of the 4 caches just north of the national monument, near the volcanoes. These are the three largest ones (right to left): Vulcan Volcano, Black Volcano, and JA Volcano. I hope to take another trip to explore them soon.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Pretty Garden

My front yard flower garden is in a new stage of bloom right now. The daffodils, lilacs, and irises have already bloomed and gone. The lilies, coreopsis, and the penstemon haven't bloomed yet, but the yarrow, orange Agastache, Jupiter's Beard, and blue salvia make for striking colors.
One thing I love about this time of year are my roses blooming. The ones in my front yard are especially gorgeous because they receive the most sun. Here's my favorite, right after a rain. You can see water drops on the red petals.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Almost Summer but Already Vacationing

I've been practicing hard for those lazy days of summer and by the time June 21st comes around, I'll have it down pat. I've been out to dinner with my friends, up to Denver with my sister, camping by my favorite river, sleeping in whenever possible, and at the pool with my boys. The only blip in my summer relaxation plan has been the occasional drives to Santa Fe to drop oldest son and friend off at computer camp (an hour drive each way), but the carpools will end this week.

As I said above, we went camping last weekend along the Conejos River in southern Colorado. Our campsite was right next to the river and everything was beautiful. The river was extra high and at night, would lull me to sleep. On Saturday, we drove up the road to a little lake to fish. The weather and lake were great, but we never caught any fish. Luckily, we brought stuff to make cheeseburgers that night instead of getting our fish dinner.

I was able to take a hike along the river and loved exploring the trail and listening to the water. The rocks were really great as well, with some volcanic breccias, gneisses, and serpentines along the way. It started to rain on my hike back and continued for another hour. Luckily, it cleared up so that we could have a campfire and s'mores for dessert.

We made breakfast burritos for breakfast on Sunday morning and after packing up, we went back to the lake only to get stumped again. It was Papa Murphy's Pizza for dinner instead of grilled trout. :-(

All in all, a great weekend. Next weekend is Father's Day weekend and we'll be going to Albuquerque to hit the Natural History Museum and Explora! Science Center.


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Sister's Weekend in Colorado

I just got back from a most awesome weekend with my sister. We planned a while ago to get away together, just the two of us, to spend a weekend enjoying each other's company. We also planned to do things that we normally wouldn't be able to do with our families in tow.

I drove up on Friday, listening to an Audiobook called "Sex, Murder, and a Double Latte" by Kyra Davis. I downloaded it from iTunes with my 6 hour drive in mind, choosing something that sounded kind of fun, lighthearted, and frivolous. I was not disappointed. It was a murder mystery that takes place in San Francisco and was humorous as well as suspenseful. I listened to most of the book on the drive up and finished it by Pueblo on the way back home. At that point I started the second Audiobook that I chose and downloaded from iTunes based on the same reasons as the book above, but also because a friend recommended it as a good, fun summer read. I'm only a few hours into the book, am enjoying it, and look forward to listening to the rest of it as I do my miscellaneous chores this week. It is called "The Undomestic Goddess" by Sophie Kinsella and is about a workaholic lawyer who suddenly finds herself without a job.

Anyway, I got to my sister's house with about an hour to spare before we had to leave for our appointment at the salon for our pedicures. We spent some time visiting and then got totally pampered at the salon with a drink, foot and leg massage, exfoliation and buffing, paraffin wax, and of course, polish on our toes. All of the spa materials smelled so good and felt decadent. The massaging chair was quite a nice treat as well.

After our salon treatments, we went out to dinner at a restaurant called "3 Margaritas." We did enjoy a couple of their margaritas each as well as yummy red chicken enchiladas for me and spinach burritos for my sister. We got a lot of good conversation in and left just as it was getting dark out.

In the morning, we headed out toward Denver but made a stop at a local bead and jewelry shop where we found some really pretty necklaces and earrings. The great thing about this shop is that all of their pieces are made from people with developmental disabilities. The shopkeeper told me that the people come in to work and at the same time are able to express themselves by creating beautiful pieces of jewelry. They have a website: Carmel Community Living Corporation.

The ride to Denver was uneventful and it was nice to watch the changing landscapes and talk. We found our hotel with very little effort, thanks to my sister's directions printed out from Mapquest. We stayed at the Courtyard Marriott on the 16th Street Pedestrian Mall, a wonderful location for tourists such as ourselves. We checked in and after putting our bags away, we set off to find some lunch. We ate at this place called "Mad Greens," which was a sandwich/salad place, and watched people as they walked past.

We walked down 16th Street, to Broadway, and toward the Denver Art Museum and ended up in the middle of a street faire in between the state capital and the Civic Center Park. We weaved our way through the people and booths, stopping when something caught our eyes (such as the ankle bracelet booth), and finally ending up at the art museum. We lucked out since admission is free on the first Saturday of the month. We went through the museum and looked at everything we had time to see. 

Here are some works that especially caught my eye:
(A painting by Andy Warhol, pottery by Maria Martinez, a painting of two sisters, one of Monet's Water Lilies, an egyptian coffin, and an Indian Vishnu sandstone  carving)

After the art museum, we walked back along the route of the street faire, looking at all of the vendors. We couldn't help but think that it reminded us a lot of the Whole Earth Festival that was held in the spring at our alma mater, UC Davis. Lots of jewelry, music, tie dye, and art for sale.

We walked back down the pedestrian mall and scoped out dinner possibilities and finally settled on an Indian restaurant called "India House" in the Lo-Do district (Lower Downtown). If you're ever in the area (at 16th Street and Blythe), I recommend the food wholeheartedly. I ordered a delicious chicken and potato dish that came in a spicy red sauce. I have no idea what it was called, but it was great served with rice and flat bread (that I learned was called "nan"). I also tried some of my sister's cheese and garbanzo bean dishes, which were also delicious. Again, I don't know what they were called.

We spent the evening drinking wine and talking about the kinds of things that sisters talk about and finally went to bed after midnight. When we woke in the morning we decided that we really needed another day in downtown Denver. We found a bakery and had sweet baked goods and hot coffees while sitting out on the patio. The weather was perfect during our whole stay, two of those "300 days of sunshine a year" that Denver boasts having. I usually am wary of large downtown districts in cities, but downtown Denver where we were was clean and very pedestrian and tourist friendly. I can't wait to go back for another visit.

I'm glad my sister and I decided to get away for a couple of days. Too many years went by with her and me living too many states away. Now that we're within a 6 hour drive of each other, I've been spoiled with our visits together. We're already planning for Thanksgiving and hope that our parents can come also so that the whole gang is together again. It's been too many years since that has happened.

"A sister is a gift to the heart, a friend to the spirit, a golden thread to the meaning of life."
~Isadora James

P.S. 6/11/09:  I just found out that my receipt from the India House Restaurant had the name of my chicken dish on it.  It was called "Chicken Vindaloo."  Yum.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009


One thing you have to learn to live with when you live in the mountains of northern New Mexico is that beginning in May and lasting through the summer, we get afternoon thunderstorms. People in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains to the north of us also have to deal with this (right, sis?). 

Anyway, after almost 10 years, I've learned to do any outdoors-y type of stuff such as walk, jog, hike, or go to the pool fairly early in the morning. The problem I face is that I am not a morning person! In any case, yesterday we did not make it to the pool before the rain came but today we did--only to be tossed out of the pool at around 11:30 this morning (earlier than usual). The thunderstorms usually pass over after a couple of hours and so by evening the skies tend to be fairly clear again.

To pass the time today while listening to the racket outside the window of crashing thunder and heavy rain drops, I started thinking about songs that were written with a "rain" theme. The first one to come to mind was "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," by Burt Bacharach (was he the original composer/singer?). Then there is the song, "Raindrops" from the Bambi movie and "Purple Rain" from Prince. Madonna sang a song called "Rain" a number of years ago. Peter Gabriel sang "Red Rain." Blind Melon sang a song, "No Rain." The hard rock band, Guns 'n Roses sang "November Rain." And there's the classic songs "Fool in the Rain" by Led Zeppelin and "Have You Ever Seen the Rain" by Creedence Clearwater Revival. And who could forget Bing Crosby with "Singing in the Rain?"

Those are the ones I thought of today (it rained for a couple of hours!) as I was mucking around the house and driving to town for bagels. Can you think of any other songs with the rain theme? 

I need to buy some umbrellas.