Saturday, December 26, 2015

Wishing You Two Turtle Doves And A Partridge In A Pear Tree - An Update On Life In Cochiti Lake

Our Fireplace -
I've Never Lived in a Home With A Fireplace
NOTE: have not been posting as we won't be getting internet until Tuesday, if all goes well; and posting by iPhone is, well, I just don't often think of doing so.)

Don't envy us, we have winter here full throttle. It is 25 degrees out now (7:38pm). And the cold will be with us at least through the week. Yeah, you all are going to the beach in Connecticut.

Fortunately Cochiti Lake is in an area sheltered from the more severe weather around the state. We have a dusting of snow here and some fairly strong winds. This could all change by tomorrow morning, but we hope to avoid the worst of the storm and most of the snow. Roswell, considerably south of here, is getting the brunt of the storm and like 10 inches of snow.

Go figure. At least we don't have a 300 foot driveway.

The lights have flickered off for a second twice this evening, so I am wondering how the grid is here and whether we are dependent upon some power relay from Albuquerque where the storm is more severe. Oh, well.

We have been sprucing up the new homestead, pained the kitchen greens and the fireplace a yellow/gold. Bought a love seat that opens into a twin bed for guests. Much cleaning, cleaning, unpacking, arranging, finding a spot for everything...we got rid of so much STUFF back in Connecticut, but we still have stuff in the garage that we can't bring in.

We had six guests (Len and Sam, Wendy and Don, and Linda and Angie) over on Christmas Eve and went to a neighbor's for Christmas Day dinner where there were ten neighbors (including us) for dinner. Forgive me, I am not one to take photos of dinner guests. Suffice it to say a few have had most interesting lives and tales to tell.

We've been here four weeks and we know more people in our neighborhood here than we knew in fifteen years in Bristol. Living in a small town in close proximity to others will have it's good points and...a bit less privacy than we were used to.

Being 35 miles from anything means having to plan out trips to Santa Fe or Albuquerque. We have a gas station here and a convenience store. One doesn't mind paying $6.50 for half gallon of ice cream when one must. We also can't just run out for Chinese whenever we feel like it.

We took a nice long hike yesterday on the Dome Road (but we have yet to explore this road all the way to Los Alamos) and again this afternoon on the trail off of Koorani Street. The views change with the sun and the daylight.

We have to go get two more license plates and driver's licenses on Monday. By registering our vehicles we will get off the tax rolls in Bristol. There is no property tax on vehicles here.

But I will be paying some increased cost for Medicare, I believe; and Leon will be paying a bit more for health insurance too. Blue Cross assigned me a doctor in Los Alamos which the Blue Cross doesn't realize would take an hour longer to drive to than Santa Fe even though it is closer if I were a crow.

We have yet to see a bill for electricity and natural gas. Food prices are much higher here I think, though residents from other states like Alaska and Texas say food is cheaper. There is no Shop RIte or Ocean State Job Lot. There is a Big Lots and all of the major chain stores and a gazillion stores one has never heard of with more shopping than anywhere in Connecticut. (Imagine the Berlin Turnpike x 100 for Albuquerque and maybe x 30 for Santa Fe). Lots of restaurants too.

But not much in between, and Cochiti Lake is pretty much in between. In addition to the gas station and convenience store there is a PGA golf course with a pretty good restaurant and a very nice library. A writer's group will be meeting in January and there are a number of other interest groups that meet here also.

Believe it or not, I've only had a meal with green chili once in the month we've been in New Mexico. And I'm not complaining.
On the Dome Road
On the Dome Road from Cochiti Lake
Love the Color of the Lichen/Fungus on this Rock
Cochiti Lake
The 5-Mile Earth Dam - One of the Largest in the US
Holding Back the Rio Grand to Form Cochiti Lake
Benni with a Stick of Course

Junk in the Garage

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Transforming the New Homestead

We've been working like no tomorrow. Here is the house after a little paint - the hearth is now a nice golden color, but is the kitchen too green? And it is looking more comfortable after much cleaning, rearranging and organizing. Even though we got rid of a lot of stuff before moving, there is still too much for this little house. We even got the garage organized for the tenth time. Hung drapes to keep the house warm at night and had wood delivered for the fireplace.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Chasing Figs in Santa Fe

Our house in Connecticut was scheduled to close on November 20th but when that was not likely to happen, we decided to have our attorney do the closing in our absence, whenever it might occur, and we set off in our truck with all our worldly possessions in tow.

We arrived in Santa Fe, New Mexico on November 25th, 2015 and checked into Santa Fe Suites, a pleasant hotel that allows dogs. It was the day before Thanksgiving. Leon had done all of the driving, and although he didn’t say so, I knew it was because he didn’t trust my inexperience towing a big trailer.

I had acquired a nasty cold, probably back in Connecticut, though it didn’t manifest itself until the end of the first day of the uneventful four-day trip. Headache, congestion, all the miserable symptoms, but not incapacitating like the flu. A stop at the pharmacy to buy cough syrup and a decongestant was imperative.

We had been invited to have Thanksgiving dinner with two friends who had moved to Santa Fe from Brooklyn two years ago. It was nice to have an invitation for the holiday but I wasn’t feeling all that great on Thursday morning and thought I should not go and spread east coast germs in New Mexico. After warning our friends that I was likely infectious, they said I was nonetheless welcome, so we joined them and two of their other friends for a very nice Thanksgiving evening meal.

The delays in closing the deal in Connecticut were numerous. I’m not even sure what the reasons were, but it necessitated our extended stay in the hotel until I asked our realtor in Santa Fe if we could possibly rent the house we were buying until which time we could actually purchase it. That suggestion was approved within the day and we were able to move into the house in Cochiti Lake on Saturday, November 28th, as renters.

Despite my having a headache and producing phlegm profusely, I managed stoically to help Leon unload the huge trailer full of boxes and furniture. Somehow we unloaded the entire Connecticut house into the garage on Vooscane Avenue, set up our bed and a few necessities for sitting, eating and personal hygiene.

Cochiti Lake, a small, quiet community of fewer than 300 homes, is on land owned by the Cochiti Pueblo and was built, I assume, as an income venture through land leases to the homeowners. The original plan for 4,000 homes got waylaid soon after the first phase of building had been completed.

The town of Cochiti Lake, its spectacular views, its convenience store and gas station, its library, town hall and emergency services, its recreational reservoir on the Rio Grande and its campground and golf course constitute a small gem approximately half way between Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

We were first drawn to the town due to the lake, because I felt I needed to be near water, if not an ocean, then some body of water. Such lakes, natural or man-made, are rare in New Mexico. Then we discovered that homes in Cochiti Lake are actually affordable compared to Santa Fe which is beyond our means in so many ways.

Despite the beauty of the natural surroundings, our mantra that first day was, “What have we done?” I have to admit that we were both a bit fearful, anxious, worried, apprehensive about the decision we had made. The house we were committed to was purchased sight-unseen. It was the one home we never got to see back in August when our realtor showed us about ten homes in the town. For some reason the key did not work. We walked around it, peeked in the windows, but never walked through it.

“What have we done?” The question kept coming back to us. And, “What will Benni do?”

He’ll have a fenced in yard instead of acres of woods, he’ll have miles of hiking trails but no girlfriend Katija to walk with. And we sold his couch! Poor Benni!

The deal back in Connecticut was not lucrative. It cost us dearly in so many ways, great and small. We seemed to be hemorrhaging money there. And we believe that those who we entrusted with the legal and financial intricacies of the transactions were not fully looking out for our best interests.

The deal in New Mexico was a bit sweeter and definitely easier, but the cost of moving such a distance is not insignificant. As of some time late afternoon New Mexico time on Monday, December 7th we became owners of the house in Cochiti Lake. Finally. No longer paying rent, wondering if something might go drastically wrong.

The new home, while very pleasant seems smaller and in many respects is less polished. A bit rough around the edges, and the paint job in many places is amateurish. Every room will need painting and a gay touch. The kitchen is a bit of a disappointment: old, painted wooden cabinets and drawers that don’t, well, they don’t slide like fancy newer ones. 

And I brought so much stuff, kitchen stuff, pots and pans, utensils, blenders, bowls, pizza pans and cookie sheets and roasting pans and a crock pot and more pots and pans, and more and more. Where will it all go?

“What have we done?” we thought to ourselves, more than a few times a day for several days. Benni looked lost, confused and homesick.

But then there’s the flip side. New surroundings, views, culture, things to do and see.

The views are gorgeous. The landscape in Cochiti is more interesting I think, than in Santa Fe. More variety in terrain, vegetation, mountain views. There are hiking trails all around and once we discovered where to go we brought Benni out for a run. He seemed to take to the outdoors quite well.

Leon’s brother, his wife and their grandson arrived on Tuesday, December 1st with our van and the Honda Fit in tow. It was generous and kind of them to offer to drive our vehicles out for us. We of course paid for their gas and for two of the air fares back to South Carolina. And a few meals. Such are the “hidden expenses” of moving, or of moving a great distance.

Possessions can definitely be a burden. And we thought we had downsized. We are still looking for a place for everything. Leon scrubbed the walls, cleaned the bathrooms and cleaned and cleaned. We’ve organized and re-organized. We’ve hung some of the “art” - the picture from Aunt Mary’s dining room hangs in our dining area, dad’s paintings grace the walls and of course the art piece of Benni and Katija by Nicoletta Poli is in our foyer.

People are surprised that we’ve set up house so quickly, but we are a bit OCD about our living space. Maybe we just have built-in Fung Shui proclivities. But there is a sense of calm from having things in the environment in some kind of harmony, balance and pleasing to the eye.

We are living near Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks National Monument. A natural rock formation and a spectacular hike. We hadn’t planned to go to the top of the trail but only just to see “a little bit more” or “just around the next bend” until we finally decided to hike the whole trail to see the view from the highest point. We'd done the hike a year ago, but it still is amazing.

 I see what people post on Facebook: food, sayings, political articles, travels, hobbies. We’ve been posting mostly outdoor scenes of late as the scenery is so varied and ever changing and we are drawn to nature and the outdoors.

With Thanksgiving behind us, and Christmas approaching, we have turned some of our attention to decorating and cooking.

We brought a home-grown tree with us from our property in Connecticut - a Vermont evergreen tree that we gathered as a seedling and re-planted years ago on our hillside. It now sits in front of our new house all lit up like a Christmas tree.

I have a need to resist the New Mexico habit of covering everything edible with green or red chile or both or inserting such pepper concoctions into recipes like Christmas cookies - like the ones we bought at the Cochiti Pueblo Arts and Crafts Fair - cake-like cookies with powdered sugar on them and a kick. 

This has given me an overwhelming desire to make cuccidati, the Sicilian Christmas fig cookies that I learned from “Cooking with Clara” on You Tube.

The filling for cuccidati contains figs, raisins, dates, almonds and hazelnuts and walnuts and orange and spices and brandy and more. I was able to find almost all the ingredients in the local Smith's Supermarket but they didn’t have figs. 

The main ingredient of cuccidati is, of course, figs. I called the Italian market in Albuquerque (the one and only Italian market around as far as I can determine) only to learn that figs are on order and may arrive by next week.

I wanted to get started on these cookies sooner than later. Why I didn’t think to try Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s, I don’t know. Perhaps because I don’t have a Gold Credit Card. I experienced sticker shock at “ordinary” supermarkets here - Smith’s and Albertson’s - and can’t imagine how little my money can buy at the upscale markets. So, WF and TJ didn’t even enter my mind.

I called Albertson’s on Zafarano and asked if they sold dried figs. “Yes,” said the produce manager. We were closer to the one on Saint Francis, so stopped there. Of course they didn’t have figs. We drove across town to Zafarano and there, alas, I found dried Greek figs. Not the golden ones, but the white ones, but they will do. I paid a small fortune for them, but the result will hopefully be worth it.

I’m missing the candied citron and the one tangerine called for in the recipe, but I’m sure no one will notice their absence. Figs, on the other hand, are mostly necessary for Italian fig cookies.

I haven’t yet visited the Italian market in Albuquerque. I’m sure I will go there occasionally. Perhaps I’ll find a good quality ricotta cheese there - one without xanthin gum or carrageenan - for my Christmas manicotti. (Why do I feel like doing Christmas this year?)

As for green and red chile. It is everywhere! I’ve vowed that neither will be on my shopping list.

Here are some random photos of the house and landscapes.


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