Wednesday, November 21, 2007

So Much For That Idea

I don't have to worry about understanding physics. The gig is off. I won't be working for Beacon. It turns out their VPN (Virtual Private Network) software won't work with wireless internet connections -- only cable or DSL. They've tried it before and it didn't work and it still doesn't work. So I'll pack up all their equipment and send it back.

We're just a little too far from town (the telephone central office) to get DSL. Qwest has been promising for years that they'll install DSL (and the equipment necessary to get it) in this area "in the next few months" but it hasn't happened yet. There are plenty of homes in the area and plenty of people who really really want DSL. So what does Qwest do? They put DSL in tiny towns like Angel Fire and Penasco. It doesn't make sense.

Do I sound bitter? I am. I'm angry and frustrated.

So is Ron. He decided that next week he's going to file a complaint with the Public Regulatory Commission about Qwest's refusal to provide DSL service and how that's causing us loss of income. Of course he's filing the complaint as a Qwest customer, not a Qwest employee. Maybe if the PRC gets enough complaints, they can force Qwest do do something.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Someday I'll Start

I haven't started training with Beacon yet, but I've gotten to know two of the Tech Support guys, one by phone and one by email.

The first computer they sent me didn't have ports for the keyboard and mouse. After much emailing back and forth, the main Tech Support guy, Jarrod, apologized and said he should have sent me a USB keyboard and mouse instead of the OS2 ones he did send. So he sent me the USB keyboard and mouse via FedEx overnight. When they arrived, I plugged them in and started up the computer, but got an error message that Windows did not start successfully. It went downhill from there. I couldn't connect with the company's network. Jarrod called me on the phone and we tried various things. Finally he decided that the computer was beyond help and they would have to send me another one. Of course this was on Friday (November 9) afternoon, so they couldn't send it until Monday morning. He also told me that he would be gone the following week and Bill would help me. (This was an already-scheduled, already-planned vacation; no, I didn't drive him away.)

I got the new computer Tuesday afternoon and at least it started up successfully, but I still couldn't connect with the network. So much of Wednesday and Thursday was spent emailing back and forth with Bill trying different things, but I'm still not connected.

So I'll start again Monday morning with Jarrod.

Everyone has been very apologetic -- the recruiter, the HR person, and my boss, who assured me that, "It seems like getting connected is the hardest part, but once we get that ironed out, there are very few tech problems for remotes. Promise!"

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Another New Gig

I got another copy editing gig! This one is different. I won't be an independent contractor; I'll be a full-fledged (but part-time) employee. With benefits! Paid time off! Paid training (the first 6 weeks)! They'll even reimburse me for my Internet Service Provider charges. Not only that, they sent me a computer (just for use on their stuff, of course). They asked me to commit to at least 20 hours per week, but it could be more than that.

So who are these people, you're asking. BeaconPMG. According to the website, it's "a publishing services company that provides project management, editorial, composition, new media and related services to book and journal publishers."

I will be editing a physics journal. Yikes! The woman I've been talking to said it's one of their most prestigious journals. Double yikes! Between this physics journal and the algebra I've been editing, I'm learning a lot.

I officially start my training on Thursday. I'll post more then.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Balloon Rally

This weekend was the 25th annual Taos Mountain Balloon Rally. These photos are from this morning's Mass Ascension, about 8:00 a.m.

We didn't have to go into town to see the ballons; they came to us, one in particular.

It landed down the road from our house. I could hear the pilot firing up the burner (these balloons use propane burners, not helium), apparently trying to get the balloon to rise, but to no avial. It wasn't an ideal landing spot; it was very close to a semi-busy road, the one that our dirt road leads to. I think they landed on a patch of grass near the intersection. The "chase crew" arrived soon after to help deflate the balloon and haul away the balloon, gondola, and passengers.

The firing up of the burners makes a strange sound, kind of like the sound of Darth Vader exhaling. I heard other balloons fire up their burners, too, as they drifted nearby (none as near as that first one). It was the only sound on an otherwise quiet morning.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


The next dog to join the family was Brutus. He was our first Shelter Dog.

In May, 2003, Big was having more trouble with his rear legs and we were certain he had less than a year to live. We thought it would be a good idea to get a "replacement" that Big could train to be a guard dog while he was still able to.

So we went to the animal shelter "just to look around." Anyone who goes to an animal shelter just to look around and leaves empty-handed has very strong will power.

When we pulled up in front of the shelter, some of the dogs were in the outside pens. The first dog we noticed was Brutus. First, because he looked like a miniature Big (but with tiger stripes!) and second, because he looked so happy and friendly. We looked at the other dogs, but kept coming back to Brutus. Then we went inside and talked to the shelter people. Brutus (as they had named him) hadn't been there very long. He had been turned in by people who raised sheep; they told the shelter, "He's been hanging around the sheep corral trying to bite the sheep." He was probably just hungry. He wasn't aggressive or vicious at all. We took him for a "test drive" around the parking lot on a leash and he was just happy and friendly.

He was such a happy dog, everyone at the shelter loved him. One of the volunteers (who is also a vet tech at our vet's office) had been considering adopting him. She was off that day and they called her at home to see if was OK with her if we adopted him. She gave her consent and we filled out the paperwork and took him home.

Big and Wolfie didn't exactly welcome him with open paws. There was definitely a period of adjustment all around. Eventually the three of them became friends and everything has been smooth since then.

He's a boxer mixed with pit bull, but all his records at the shelter and now at are vet just say, "Boxer Mix" because of rampant pit bull prejudice.

Brutus weighs about 60 pounds. For most people, that's a normal-sized dog, but for us, it's small, so one of his nicknames is Little One (also Puppy Face). But he has a very deep bark that sounds like it's coming from a much bigger dog. Big has done a great job training Brutus how to be a guard dog.

And all these years later, Big is still hanging in there, but we don't know how much time he has left.

Meanwhile, Brutus knows how to enjoy life.

We've since replaced that 20-year-old couch with a new leather one and none of the animals are allowed on it, so he spends a lot of time on the bed.

Rough life for a shelter dog, isn't it?

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The Other Las Vegas, Part 2

Sunday morning was a lazy one, none of us eager to get an early start. The free continental breakfast at the motel was very sparse, but at least the coffee was good and strong. I had a danish pastry and that was enough to keep me going until lunchtime.

We started the day by heading back to the historic downtown district to drive around and look at the old houses. Las Vegas has more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. There are all kinds of interesting houses -- Victorian, Tudor, Georgian, Prairie, and others I didn't recognize. We had a great time driving up and down the streets ooh-ing and aah-ing.

Then we drove up to Fort Union, about half an hour north of town. Fort Union National Monument was established in 1851 to house the soldiers guarding the Santa Fe Trail. It was abandoned in 1892 after the railroad made the Santa Fe Trail more or less obsolete. There are ruins of the adobe and stone buildings surrounding the old parade grounds. I had been there before, but George and Beth hadn't. After going through the museum at the visitor center, we went outside to tour the ruins.

This place is pretty windy on a good day and Sunday was not a good day as far as the weather goes. A storm front was approaching and it was cold and windy. After being outside for about 10 minutes, George and I decided to go back inside. It was just too unpleasant out there; my face was cold. Beth wanted to tour the rest of the ruins, but she promised to be quick and she was.

We drove back to town and had a nice lunch together before going our separate ways.

I had to drive into the approaching storm and they had to drive away from it and try to outrun it.

As I drove on the first, flat part of the route, the wind became fierce and I had to keep both hands in a tight grip on the steering wheel. Then it started to snow. I drove through a swirling snowshower and started climbing up into the mountains. At least once I was in the mountains, I was protected from the winds and I only had to deal with the snow. Up and down, up and down, and around countless curves I drove, grateful for an SUV with four-wheel drive. The snow wasn't sticking to the road yet, but it was starting to stick on the bushes and trees on the sides of the road.

I made it to the other side of the mountain and back down to the flats. The snow tapered off to flurries and there was no wind, so I unpeeled my fingers from the steering wheel and drove the remaining 15 minutes home.

When I got home, the animals greeted me enthusiastically. I'd only been gone 32 hours, but they missed me. I'd only been gone 32 hours, but it was a great trip and I came back refreshed and renewed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Other Las Vegas, Part 1

Ron is in the middle of his trip to New Orleans/Baton Rouge (and various places in between here and there).

A couple of weeks ago, while he was planning the trip, we talked to our good friend George and his wife, Beth. They used to live here in New Mexico, but a few years ago they moved to Amarillo, Texas. As fervent liberals, they're definitely in the minority in Amarillo and they were ready for a weekend getaway. They thought I should have a weekend getaway with them while Ron was away and Ron agreed (and of course, so did I).

So we made plans to meet in Las Vegas, New Mexico. It's not really halfway in between -- I only had a 1 1/2-hour drive versus their 3 1/2-hour drive, but it's an interesting town (I suggested next time we meet closer to halfway, perhaps Tucumcari or Santa Rosa).

We met in Las Vegas a little after 10:00 on Saturday morning. It was too early to check into the motel, so after a light breakfast, we headed for the historic downtown district. Las Vegas was once a thriving railroad town (the railroad was built there in 1879), but as the railroad has declined, so has the town. There isn't any industry, but there is New Mexico Highlands University. The population of Las Vegas is about 18,000 and the enrollment at NMHU is 3,500.

The historic downtown district is an odd mix of dilapidated, empty buildings and thriving businesses. We found a great bookstore and spent more than an hour in there. George collects fountain pens and they had several for him to test before he decided on one. His wife Beth teaches third grade and she bought several children's books for her class. I have so many books on my "To Read" shelf, I didn't let myself buy anything.

The owner of the store was a friendly, outgoing woman. Her accent was very pronounced and familiar, but I couldn't place it. George asked her where she's from. Philadelphia. Then it all came back to me -- all those nuns from grade school and high school with their Philadelphia accents! I told George and Beth I was having flashbacks to those Philadelphia nuns. The bookstore woman was very nice, but Philadelphia accents are a bit "screechy" to me.

After wandering up and down the street for awhile longer, we drove back to the motel and checked into our rooms. Then we changed into swimsuits and drove to the hot springs. These are natural hot springs, just off the side of the road several miles outside of town. There are about a dozen different "hot tubs" lined with rock. They're different sizes and shapes and different temperatures. Just like Goldilocks and the three bears, the first one we tried was much too hot. I could only put one foot in and keep it there about 3 seconds. The next one was hot, but not quite hot enough. The third one was just right! There was a guy already in there, but it was the perfect size for four and he welcomed us. We stayed there for a long time, soaking, until our muscles were so relaxed they felt like they were melting.

We went back to the motel and cleaned up for dinner. We were so relaxed, we took the easy route and ate at the motel restaurant. The food and service were excellent. They had steaks, seafood, pasta, and New Mexican cuisine on the menu. I had the 8 oz. sirloin topped with port-sauteed mushrooms and a little bit of cheese (I'm not sure what kind), covered with dijon cream sauce. It was unbelievable, indescribably delicious.

After dinner, we went back to George and Beth's room and sat up talking for a good long while before I went next door to my own room. I turned on the TV to watch the end of the LSU game. Ron was somewhere in the crowd of 92,000-plus people. It was a close, exciting game and LSU won with a last-second touchdown. Ron called a few minutes later with a very loud, very excited crowd in the background.

We both had a great day Saturday.

Coming soon! Part 2. Sunday -- wind and snow!

Thursday, October 18, 2007


The next dog to join our family was Wolfie. He was a complete surprise to me, but Ron had been secretly planning and researching for quite awhile.

It was April, 2002. Around lunchtime, Ron called to say he was coming home for lunch and bringing a surprise. I was very surprised when he got home and I saw what was in the back of his work truck.

"Oh my God, you bought a coyote!"

"No, it's not a coyote; he's a wolf."

Actually he's half wolf and half German Shepherd, but he looks like he's all wolf, and wolf puppies look like coyotes. He was only 12 weeks old.

I didn't know it until then, but Ron had been researching wolfdogs for quite awhile. At the time, there was a man in Taos selling those wolfdogs out of the back of his truck in various parking lots. Although he took excellent care of his dogs and really loved them, The Powers That Be eventually ran him out of town (and even out of the state).

I'd like to say that Wolfie was no trouble at all from the very beginning, but I can't. He didn't know us and he missed his pack. The first two nights, Ron put him out in the front courtyard (he wasn't housebroken). He was safe there, but he was unhappy and he made sure everyone for miles around knew it. He howled all night long the first night and most of the second night.

For the third night, Ron tried something different. He cleared a space in the living room and put down the old futon mattress. Then he and Big and Wolfie snuggled up for the night and all three slept together. That did the trick. The three of them bonded and Wolfie knew he was part of the pack. They did the same thing the following night, just to reinforce things. After that, Ron was able to go back to sleeping in the bedroom and Wolfie and Big did just fine together.

As Wolfie grew older, he became (and stayed) very sweet and affectionate.

The only problem that remained was containment and that took a long time to solve. Containment is one of the main issues with wolfdogs and one of the leading reasons some wolfdogs don't work out for some people.

The walls of the rear courtyard were about five feet high at their lowest point. That quickly became much too low as Wolfie grew. And so began the process of building the wall higher. And higher. And higher. Every time we thought we had it high enough, he would leap over it. I became very frustrated, convinced we would never get it high enough to contain him. Finally we got it up to nine feet high and we dug a "trench" about a foot deep in front of the wall. That took away his momentum when he tried to jump. We finally had him contained!

At the same time we were building up the walls, he was finding other means of escape, mainly through the gate. We have a gate in the rear courtyard with one of those lift-and-slide latches. After watching us open the latch, he learned how to open it with his teeth! His nickname then changed from "Houdini" to "Too D*mn Smart." We couldn't figure out how he was getting out until I saw him actually opening it with his teeth. We quickly installed a second latch; it's higher up and must be opened at the same time as the first one. He's not that smart.

He has since been given a kinder, gentler nickname by my mother. When she visited us a couple of years ago, she was a little nervous of Wolfie at first. But he completely charmed her by being sweet and gentle, even putting his head in her lap. So now when I talk to her on the phone, she always asks about him in the same way, "How's my Dear Sweet Wolfie?"

Wolfie's fine -- healthy and happy and in the prime of his life. And now he's no trouble at all. And I'm so glad he's part of our family.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Great Visit and New Client

I had a brief but wonderful visit from my sister Marian last week. She arrived Wednesday evening in time for dinner and stayed until Friday afternoon, about lunchtime.

We had a nice relaxing time, mostly sitting around talking, drinking tea, enjoying the views, etc. We both "telecommute" and did some work Thursday for our respective jobs before going for a walk.

The weather was perfect and Marian was very tolerant of our sometimes overly-affectionate animals. All in all, it was a great visit, but too short.

In other news, I have a new client for my proofreading services -- the Horse Fly, the alternative newspaper in Taos. It's published once a month on the 15th, so we did the proofreading over the weekend, three hours each on Saturday and Sunday morning. There's another proofreader, Jane; on Saturday I proofed the first 16 pages and she proofed the other 16 pages. On Sunday we switched.

The Publisher and Editor is Bill Whaley, an interesting character. He always wears a fedora. He's much warmer in person than in print. In his newspaper, he takes a critical look at local politics and the local politicians, which is a good thing (although the politicians don't always agree). The paper is an interesting mix of that and the local cultural scene, especially art. There's plenty of that in Taos, but the Horse Fly puts more emphasis on it than the mainstream paper, The Taos News, a weekly paper.

It feels good to get out in the community -- meet more people and work with people face to face instead of just via email. I think it will inspire me to go to more community events and art galleries, too.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Winter Preparations

We did final preparations for winter on Sunday (we made the first step last weekend when we disconnected the swamp cooler).

First we winterized the RV, which entailed draining all the water out of the various tanks (fresh water, gray water, and holding) and the pipes, and putting anti-freeze down the drains and into the pipes. Then we removed everything liquid and semi-liquid from the fridge and the cabinets -- bottled water, sodas, ketchup, etc. Last year was our first year as RV owners and we left a few things in there that we shouldn't have -- mainly a bottle of liquid hand soap. We didn't realize that in the extreme cold, the plastic bottle would freeze and burst, spewing liquid hand soap all over the bathroom. What a mess! So this year we took out everything.

We watered the spruce trees and then unhooked the hose and drained that, so it wouldn't have water in it, which would then freeze and burst (we learned that lesson several years ago).

Last but definitely not least, we fired up the furnace -- lit the pilot light and tested the thermostats to make sure everything works.

It's a good thing we did all that because when we got up the next morning, the temperature was 19. Yes, nineteen! It hasn't been that cold since, and I don't think the furnace has had to run any since that night, but it's a good thing we hooked it up when we did.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

For All You Book Lovers

This post is going to sound like a paid endorsement, but I promise it isn't. I'm just enthusiastic about this website.

If your bookshelves are overflowing and you want to find good homes for some of those books, I have the answer. If you're always looking for something new to read, I have the answer. The same website is the answer to both situations -- Paperback Swap. Don't let the name fool you; you can swap paperbacks, hardbacks, and even audiobooks.

Here's how it works: you list the books you'd like to give away. The site makes it easy to list these. After you post the first 10 books you'd like to give away, you get 2 "startup" credits so you can start requesting books. After that, you earn credits by sending out books to people who request yours. You can order one book for one credit and you receive one credit for each book you mail. The only exception is audiobooks; they're two credits each. The only money that's involved is the postage you pay for when you mail a book; you can send it by Media Mail, which is usually cheaper than First Class. Sometimes with thin paperbacks, First Class is actually cheaper.

There's an easy "search" function to find a particular book you want to request. I've gotten some obscure books as well as popular ones. If a book you want isn't in the system right now, you can put it on your "Wish List" and you'll be notified when it's available.

After you've read a book, you can keep it or you can repost it and eventually send it to someone else. There are many, many books I've reposted and some I'm keeping forever.

I can't say enough about how great this site is! You should see the "To Read" shelf I have; it's full. I don't even "look" for books anymore. I keep getting books from my Wish List as I move up in line. I keep sending out a lot, too. Doris at the Post Office Express knows me quite well by now.

Start swapping those books; it's a lot of fun.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


In earlier posts, I shared the stories of our two cats, Winston and Princess. Now it's time for the dogs, in order of seniority (can you tell this is a Union household?).

So I start with Big. He's very special to me for two reasons. First, because he's my very first dog and second, because of the magical, mystical way he came to us.

It was February 2001. The house down the road had been broken into a couple of times. Ron was getting ready for a business trip to Chicago. He would be gone for a week and didn't like the idea of leaving me home alone. "It sure would be nice to have a big guard dog," he said. The very next day (it's true!) we saw a big dog running though our back courtyard, playing with our next door neighbors' dogs. "Where did that big dog come from?" we asked each other. Then we asked the next door neighbors, but they didn't know either. When I saw him chase their cat, I chased him off, even squirting him with water, but he kept coming back. He knew he belonged here, even if we didn't know it yet. He seemed to be saying, "I'm here about the guard dog position. I understand you have an opening."

We made one final effort and put an ad in the "Found" section of the newspaper. We got one response from someone who said the dog wasn't his, but if no one claimed him, he'd be interested in taking the do off our hands. Nope, by that time, we had decided to keep him.

First we named him Big Dog, but that was quickly shortened to Big. He's 120 pounds of solid muscle. He has a deep, ferocious bark that would scare off any burglar. He's been the perfect guard dog; no one has ever broken in, or even come close. As we added more dogs, Big trained them to be guard dogs, too.

Of course it hasn't been all sunshine and roses. He was only about a year old when he came to us. He was still in that "destructive puppy" stage, chewing anything and everything he could get his paws on, especially electric extension cords (still plugged in!) and a car seat belt. He finally outgrew that and now he's no trouble at all.

He is getting on in years (large dogs don't have as long a lifespan as smaller dogs do) and has degenerative joint disease in his rear legs. He's hanging in there with the help of a medicine called Rimadyl. We're just emjoying the time we have left with him and letting him enjoy the time he has left with us.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

More Fall Weather

I know I keep repeating myself, but I just love the fall weather. We're having highs in the 70s and lows in the 30s, a few times as low as 30 or 31. It's great sleeping weather. We're at that perfect time of year when we don't run the swamp cooler OR the furnace. In the mornings, I open the shades on the front windows to let the morning sunshine warm up the house (except yesterday, when it was cloudy gray all day).

I found a really great local website that's a webcam showing a live picture of Taos Mountain (also known as Pueblo Peak); it updates every 15 seconds, but of course it's shut down at night when it's too dark to see. The website is . I've added it to the list of links on the right, so you can look at it anytime. This is the same mountain I can see from the house, but at a slightly different angle. It's fascinating to see how it changes -- the light and shadows on the mountain and the clouds all around it, sometimes in front of it. Soon there will be snow on the upper part of the mountain, probably in a couple of weeks.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Finally Fall

Fall has arrived, right on schedule. Yesterday was the first day of fall and it was cool and cloudy. It even rained a little bit. Actually it rained in several little "spurts" throughout the day, giving us a grand total of 0.28 of an inch of rain (I love the weather station we have at our house; it's very accurate and very precise.). Today the sky is blue and the air is crisp.

Some of the trees in the arroyo across the road are starting to get spots of yellow among the green leaves. It's so beautiful when the aspens and cottonwoods are golden. When the sunlight hits them just right, they shine with an indescribable brilliance. But I do miss the red maples of back east. There are scrub oaks nearby, like oak trees, but miniaturized down to shrub size. They turn red, but it's a darker red, even at their best. There's nothing like the red maples in the neighborhood where I grew up.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Late Summer, Early Fall

Almost all the hummingbirds are gone now. There are still a few hangers-on, but I'm trying to wean them off the feeders and send them on their way. I took down the big one and the little one, leaving only the medium one. I filled it Saturday and there's still quite a bit left. I won't fill it anymore. I'm afraid the birds won't leave if there's an endless supply of food here and it's really time for them to head south. In just another week or two, we'll get our first frost. Every year we have a few who stay longer than the others, but they always leave in time.

I love September and October. It's definitely my favorite time of year. Clear, crisp days that are warm but not hot and nights that are refreshingly chilly.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Labor Day Weekend

Yes, I'm still alive. It's just been crazy-busy around here.

We spent the long Labor Day weekend out at Scott Valley Ranch. We went out there Friday evening. Ron went first, in the RV. I followed about 45 minutes later in the Jeep. By the time I got out there, he had the campsite almost completely set up. I helped with the finishing touches while Ron started the charcoal grill.

Then we sat back and relaxed, drinking wine and watching the sky change colors. It was so beautiful, one of the most beautiful sunsets we'd ever seen out there (and we've seen plenty of beautiful ones). The clouds were a color that's the perfect fusion of orange and pink. They slowly turned gray as the evening storm approached. We had a spectacular 360-degree view of the sky, mountains, and trees. One small vacant house is the only "man-made" thing in view. It's sheer heaven out there.

We ate outside, enjoying the grilled steaks, baked beans, and Greek salad in the fresh air. Ron also grilled a bunch of Bratwursts so we could eat them in the next couple of days.

As the sun sank lower in the sky, it grew so chilly I had to put on a sweatshirt. After such a long, hot summer, it felt wonderful to be so chilly I needed a sweatshirt!

Eventually we went inside the RV to settle in for the night. Soon afterward, it started to rain. There's nothing like being inside a small RV during a rainstorm. The pounding rain makes a thunderous noise. Of course, so does thunder, and we had that, too, but at least it wasn't very close.

Saturday and Sunday were wonderful, relaxed days. The mornings and evenings were pleasantly cool and the days were warm, but not hot. Both days we went home for a couple of hours, driving the Jeep and leaving the RV and campsite set up. It's about an hour's drive each way, but it's worth it to go home and take a shower (we've never fired up the RV's hot water) and feed the dogs and cats.

Sunday afternoon when we went back to the ranch, we took Wolfie and Brutus with us. They love to run free there and they've been vaccinated against rattlesnake bites. Snakes are everywhere out there; I wish they had a rattlesnake vaccine for humans. The dogs had a great time. Their very presence got the local coyotes riled up. When it got dark, we could hear the coyotes yipping on three sides of us, trying to entice the dogs to "come out and play." But we put Wolfie on a long tether and Brutus stayed close by, not wanting to leave Wolfie.

Monday in the late morning, we packed up and went home to enjoy the rest of the long weekend. It's so beautiful and peaceful out at Scott Valley Ranch, but it's also comfortable and relaxing at home.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Hummingbirds, Part 3

The hummingbirds are so intent on guzzling at the feeders, they don't mind my presence as much, so I was able to get some pictures of the swarm. They're drinking as much as the can, in preparation for their trip south. They'll be leaving soon, heading to Mexico. I keep reminding myself of that every time I buy another bag (or two) of sugar and every time I refill one of the feeders. Even with three feeders up, the smallest one needs to be refilled twice a day.

The weather lately reflects the reality about living in the desert: temperature extremes. On the same day the high temperature is 93, the low temperature is 44! Yesterday, the previous record high was 87, but we hit 90. This has definitely been a long, hot summer and I'm ready for it to end.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Thai Food

And now for something completely different.

If you love Thai food, but don't live near a Thai restaurant, or don't want to go out, or if you want to make some yourself but don't want to bother with a long list of ingredients, I have the perfect solution -- Trader Joe's Thai Red Curry Sauce.

This is NOT a paid endorsement (although if Trader Joe's want to pay me, I'll happily accept and amend this blog to note that); I'm just a very satisfied customer.

I cut up boneless chicken breast into bite-sized chunks and cut up mushrooms and onions because that's what I had in the crisper. Next time I'll probably add red bell pepper. Use whatever meat (or not) and veggies you like. Saute them in a very little bit of oil until done, then pour in the Red Curry Sauce and stir it around until heated through. Serve on rice. Enjoy! Yum!

The sauce is perfect balance of curry, chili, coconut, and whatever else is in there. It has a nice little bite, maybe "medium" on the hottness scale, so some people may want to add some more chili, but for me, it was perfect.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Country Morning

I love living in the country! Where else can you see the sight I just saw a few minutes ago? A boy, perhaps 12 years old, was riding an ATV on the dirt road in front of our house. He was holding a leash. Attached to the other end of the leash and trotting behind the ATV was a sheep!

I've seen this boy in previous years walking his sheep, on a leash, on the road, but this is the first time I've seen him using an ATV to walk his sheep.

This is the kind of thing you don't see in the city or the suburbs.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Late Summer Daze

These wildflowers are "volunteers" growing near our front gate. We didn't plant them, but they come up every year. I'm not even sure what kind they are. The wild sunflowers are starting to pop up on the sides of all the roads around here, especially Blueberry Hill.

Here in New Mexico, the wildflowers don't bloom in the spring; they bloom in the late summer and early fall. I'm glad to see them blooming for two reasons. First, they're so pretty and second, it means the end of summer is in sight. I decided yesterday that I'm really REALLY tired of summer and ready for fall. It hasn't been that beastly hot of a summer, but it's definitely been a humid one, more humid than usual. And we've been running the swamp cooler a lot. It keeps the house relatively cool, but it makes it more humid inside, too. Sometimes it just feels cool and clammy in here.

This morning was great. First thing in the morning, it was only 50 degrees. The air felt wonderfully cool. I took my mug of coffee out to the screen room to drink it and enjoy the coolness. It's like the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel. In only a couple of weeks, the air will be cool and crisp like that every morning and evening. I can't wait!

Monday, August 6, 2007

More Hummingbirds

I'm still trying to get a good picture of all these hummingbirds, but it seems to be impossible. Or at least it takes a lot more patience than I have to stand out there and let them get used to me so they'll come back to the feeders. There are three or four times as many as in the picture. Even with three feeders up, the small one will still be emptied in twelve hours or less. This morning, after filling the small one and the big one, I was completely out of sugar, so I went to the store and bought 2 four-pound bags. They'll both be gone in a couple of days, I'm sure.

This is the time of year we start referring to it as "an infestation of hummingbirds." The cats really enjoy watching them (through the windows, of course).

Wednesday, August 1, 2007


It's hard to get a good picture of the hummingbirds. They're very skittish and fly away when I go out into the yard. When they come back to the feeders, they fly around so fast, only stopping briefly to drink. At the height of the feeding frenzy, there's a hummingbird on each of the 16 perches with more birds hovering around impatiently, sometimes chasing the other birds away from the feeders.

We had to put up the third feeder, "the big one," on Sunday. Before that, even with two feeders, the small one would be emptied in 12 hours or less. We're going through a lot of sugar! We don't buy the commercial hummingbird nectar; we make our own. Fill the feeder one-third full with sugar, then fill with hot tap water, shake until the sugar is dissolved, then hang. The birds seem to really love it when it's fresh and hot. Kind of like Krispy Kreme doughnuts; they're best when they're freshly made and hot.

We get a swarm of hummingbirds like this every summer. It starts out in late April with one or two birds, then four or five, and by mid to late July, there are too many to count. It will be like this for two or three weeks, and then gradually, one by one, they'll head south. By the end of August or beginning of September, when the nights are chilly and almost down to freezing, there are one or two hangers-on, and eventually they'll leave, too. Then we take the feeders down, clean them out, and put them away until next April.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hanging Up on Dial-Up

We got high-speed wireless internet access installed today! We have endured dial-up for more than seven years. For the past five years, Qwest has been promising we'll have DSL "in a few months" but it still hasn't happened and I doubt it ever will.

We started with a small, locally-owned ISP, La Plaza. After a couple of years, they were struggling and were bought by another ISP which shall remain nameless. Everything was fine with them until a couple of weeks ago, when we began to have problems logging on. Sometimes it would take 10 or 15 (or more) tries before we would be connected. I finally called and talked to one of their tech support people. His main advice was, "Get DSL. Dial-up is obsolete." Umm, yeah. I would love to get DSL, but it's not available where I live. He ended up giving us a new username and that helped tremendously, but I was tired of dial-up and tired of nameless ISP.

That left wireless or satellite. After doing some research, we settled on wireless through Kit Carson Telecom. I called Thursday, they came out Friday to make sure we had line of sight, and came first thing this morning to install the equipment.

The young guy who did the installation (as well as the line of sight check) was great -- friendly and a fast but careful worker.

It's so great to have high-speed internet access! The web pages load so fast and files download so fast.

There have been some freelance editing jobs I wanted but couldn't even apply for because one of the requirements was high-speed internet. Now that door is open instead of closed.

Plus we can do fun stuff like watch some of those video news stories on and

We hooked up a router to one computer and have a wireless adapter plugged into one of the USB ports on the other computer. Now we can both be online at the same time if we want.

Good-bye, dial-up!

Friday, July 20, 2007

7 Random Things About Myself

Yikes, I've been tagged! I've been reading blogs for a couple of years, so i know about these memes. And now that I'm writing a blog, I've been tagged by Elle. It took awhile to thing of 7 Random Things about myself, and I don't have anyone to tag, but this has been fun.

1. I've recently become addicted to the HBO show Big Love. It's about polygamists. Some of them are good people, your typical next-door neighbor. Some of them are definitely bad and some are somewhere in between.

2. I love eating peanut butter straight from the jar with a spoon, but only if it's Jif Reduced Fat. I can't stand the regualr Jif anymore; it tastes like shortening.

3. When I was a kid, my best friend gave me two white mice to have as pets. I thought I could keep them a secret from my mom, but of course that didn't last long. She made me get rid of them, but that was O.K. They weren't especially affectionate and I hadn't bonded with them.

4. I collect recipes from magazines, cookbooks, and websites. I have more "new and untried" recipes than I could ever make in a lifetime (plus the old favorites I make repeatedly), but I keep collecting more.

5. I hate shopping. At the grocery store or Wal-Mart, I go in with a list, get what I need, and get out as fast as possible. I'm definitely not a recreational shopper, for clothes or anything else.

6. I takes me a long time to fall asleep at night. It always has. I just don't know how to turn my brain off.

7. I love milk. I drink it with everything, even spaghetti or pizza. I've worked my way down to 1% (even 2% tastes like cream now), but I can't do skim. It's just too watery.

This has been fun. Thanks again, Elle!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


Princess is the latest addition to our family. She joined us in October, right after Shadow died. I wanted to wait awhile after she died before we got another cat, but Winston had other ideas.

Poor Winston. He was miserable without Shadow. To make matters worse, the day after Shadow died, Ron and I went away for a long weekend with some friends. It had been scheduled for months. That left Winston all by himself (we put the dogs in a kennel). Poor Winston, I say again. He must have thought we'd taken Shadow with us. He was happy to see us return, but he obviously was looking for Shadow. He kept calling for her (step, step, meow, step, step, meow). He was pitiful.

The next day I went to our vet clinic to talk to one of the vet techs. She does cat rescue and cat fostering and I hoped she would know of a cat who needed a good home. She did! Princess had been brought to the vet clinic, rescued from an abusive home by a neighbor. The woman brought her in, but never came back and ignored repeated phone calls. Poor Princess. She had numerous injuries, including a broken pelvis. Most of her tail had to be amputated, too, leaving her with a little three-inch stump.

When I talked to M, Princess had fully recovered and was living at M's, but M was glad to see Princess go to a good home. A few days later, I brought her home. She's a beautiful cat with long reddish-gold fur, big reddish-gold eyes, and the longest whiskers I've ever seen on a cat. She's so sweet, too, very affectionate. The best part is that she and Winston are so happy together! They're both young and playful. They wrestle in a playful (not fighting) way. Their favorite game is chasing each other all through the house at top speed. There's nothing like the sound of galloping kitties! It's such a happy sound. It lessens the pain of missing Shadow and Panther.

Friday, July 13, 2007

A Brief Rant

I'm all in favor of the Food Stamps program, so that people can buy nutritious food, but I think there are a few bugs in the system. The woman in front of me at the grocery store this morning bought ice cream, soda, and candy (and nothing else) and paid for it with her food stamps card. I was a little ticked off at that and I think the cashier was, too. She didn't say anything, of course, but she rolled her eyes and gave me a look that spoke volumes after the woman left.

I didn't think food stamps paid for that kind of food, but I looked it up on the official website after I got home. Food stamps will pay for pretty much any kind of food, but not pet food, alcohol, or paper products.

I'm not saying that the food stamps program should only cover rice and beans, but I don't think it should cover foods with absolutely NO nutritional value like soda and candy. At least the ice cream has a little bit of nutritional value. A very little bit.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Desert Summer Days

You know you've been living in the desert for too long when 25 percent humidity feels muggy. I grew up near Washington, DC, where a typical summer day is 90 degrees (or more) and 90 percent humidity. The nights aren't much cooler. When I moved here almost eight years ago, I was amazed that the difference between the high and low temperature in one day could be 40 or 50 degrees. The night air feels so cool and crisp after the heat of the day! Getting used to single-digit humidity was definitely a big adjustment. It feels like the moisture is being sucked right out of my skin as soon as I walk outside.

For the past few days the temperature has been in the 80s, which is comfortable, but the humidity has been about 25 to 30 percent and that's starting to feel muggy. Maybe it's just perception. I've gotten so used to the clear blue skies the humidity produces. But for the past few days, the skies have been decidedly gray and hazy. This is only because of the smoke from the wildfires in Arizona and Utah, but it gives the perception of humidity-caused haziness.

I should go outside and close my eyes so I don't see the haziness. I'll just feel the moisture being sucked out of my skin.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Winston the Wise

I love this picture of our cat Winston. He has such a wise expression on his face.

Of all our animals, Winston is my favorite (except when he's whining because his food bowl is empty). We have a bond that I don't have with the other animals. I can talk to him about things and he looks at me with an expresson on his face that seems to say he understands.

He's a lap cat, with me at least, and has been from the very beginning.

He was rescued from the streets of Santa Fe. His owners were moving to Florida and couldn't take him along, so they just put him out on the streets to fend for himself. He wasn't very good at it and got in fights with other cats. A mutual friend took him in, but she couldn't keep him and was about to take him to the shelter. That would have been certain death for him, since people go to the shelter wanting cute little kittens, not an adult cat, even a one-year-old with huge green eyes.

So Ron brought him home, surprising me. We needed a second cat. Our beloved Panther had died a few months earlier and we wanted Shadow to have another cat to play with.

Ron came home from Santa Fe one evening and without any warning, plopped Winston into my lap. Completely delighted, I petted him and loved on him and welcomed him to the family. He settled down and made himself comfortable in my lap, curling up and going to sleep. He stayed like that for about two hours and would have stayed for longer, but finally I had to get up. That was a little more than three years ago and I'm still completely delighted to have him in our family.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Peace and Quiet

There hasn't been much to blog about lately, which can be a good thing. With all the madness going on in England and Scotland, I'm grateful to live here in Taos. It's nice and quiet and definitely not a target for terrorism.

The picture of the cactus is one I took a couple of weeks ago. We have literally hundreds of cactus plants in our yard. We only have an acre, but one day we started to count the cactus plants in our yard and by the time we got to 200 we'd only covered three quarters of the yard and were starting to lose count, so we stopped. Most of them are prickly pear cactus; there are a few barrel cactus and a few small pincushion cactus. Not all of them bloom, of course, and some years are better than others for flowers. We had a very wet spring, so we had a lot of blooms this year. Most are yellow, like this one, but some are magenta. Unfortunately, I didn't catch those in time; they faded away before I could get pictures.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Fire Update

On the news last night, they said the fire was now 400 acres and 30 percent contained. I hope they didn't have the 25 mile an hour winds near the fire like we had here last night. There was no storm, just tremendous winds for two or three hours. It's unusual to have strong winds like that at night.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The First Fire

The first local fire of the season started yesterday. I didn't get a picture of it, but there's a good one on a great local blog I just discovered, Farr Feed. I had been inside all afternoon (escaping the heat) and didn't know anything about it until about 5:30 when Ron got home. He called on his cell phone from the driveway asking about the fire. I ran outside to look and was shocked by the huge cloud of smoke to the northwest of us.

It looked like it was near Tres Piedras, which worried us a little, since we own 40 acres south of TP. We hopped in the car and drove up Blueberry Hill to get a better look. We drove partway up and saw that the fire wasn't quite to TP and wasn't endangering our property, so we turned around and drove home to watch the news and see if they would mention the fire.

It wasn't the top story, of course, but the did mention it. At 6:00, it was only 40 acres, but it continued to grow. They're calling it the Double D Fire, since it's near the Double D Ranch, which is east of Tres Piedras. They expect to have the fire fully contained later today.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Let There Be Light

We finally jumped on the compact fluorescent light bulb bandwagon.

There are 14 shrouded lights on the outside of our house. A couple of them are always on, a couple of them are rarely on, and most of them are on timers and are only on at night. The bulbs are only 25 watts, but with 14 of them, that still adds up. So we decided to try the compact fluorescent bulbs that we keep hearing are more energy efficient.

The only trouble was, the bulbs we'd been using weren't the regular clear kind, they were amber colored. Clear ones would be too harsh. And the compact fluorescent bulbs only come in clear. Ron had the idea of spray painting the bulbs orange. I was skeptical, but it worked! We started with one and after letting the paint dry overnight, plugged in the bulb. It put out a very pretty pinkish orange color. This was one of the bulbs on a timer and we waited a week to see if the paint would melt or flake off, but it remained intact, and we decided we liked the color even better than the amber bulbs.

So this past Saturday we painted all the bulbs we would need plus a few extras. Sunday we installed them all and we're very pleased with the results.

The compact fluorescent bulbs use only 10 watts each instead of the 25 watts we'd been using. They put out the equivalent of 40 watts of light, but the paint probably diminishes that a little. They're supposed to last 8 years if they're turned on an average of 4 hours per day, so if they last 5 years, we'll be happy. That's better than a month or two, which is how long the old ones lasted. Plus our electricity bill will go down; the bulbs will pay for themselves almost immediately.

Friday, June 22, 2007


I live west of Taos, New Mexico in a house I share with four dogs, two cats, and one husband. This blog will include various adventures involving the animals (and occasionally the husband).

I'm a freelance editor and a writer. I'm trying to improve my writing career and increase the number of my submissions, and those adventures will show up here, too.

I'll also write about events in the news -- world, national, state, and local -- and my take on them.

Enjoy the ride!