Clean the Windows

Eyes are the window to our soul…

Nonnie and sweet baby boy

I love clean windows.  We were once on a drive with my husband’s beautiful, witty, totally classy grandmother, Nonnie.  She loved going for drives, so as a surprise we picked her up from her apartment in Milwaukee and drove down to Oak Park, IL for a trip down memory lane. She had been so busy playing with and entertaining our baby next to her in the backseat, that she had no idea where we were until we were parked in front of the home where she and her late husband had once lived.  It was magical to see her light up.

We slowly drove through the neighborhood, taking in the gorgeous Chicago style bungalows where Frank Lloyd Wright had made a name for himself.  At one point, we stopped to gaze at a magnificent historic estate, and I heard Nonnie say, “Would you look at how clean those windows are!?”  I can’t say I really noticed a home’s clean windows until then, buy my goodness, she was on to something.  It truly made the homes even more spectacular.  From then on, I would make a better effort to keep my windows clean.

My son’s favorite spot in our downtown historic home

Our home in the heart of downtown Albuquerque has awesome windows…the kind that are so old, they are wavy and cast the most gorgeous patterns when sunlight hits them at dawn and dusk. And our loft that we’ve been working on for the past decade has the most gorgeous 180 degree sunset views from its 2nd story bank of windows.  I’m a fanatic for having open windows and I’m most content when my windows are clear of any obstruction to the outside world.

Sunset from our loft

 

You can ask my husband what is one of Mandy’s favorite and happiest days, and he’ll tell you it’s the day my windows are washed.  Just this weekend, my incredible husband blessed me with such a day as he grabbed his bucket and squeegees and took to the windows at our home here in Colorado.  Whether looking out at the giant age-old mulberry and elm trees from our 2nd story in Albuquerque, or my current view of grand evergreens and fields of grass, gazing out of clean windows makes everything look better inside and out.

 

Me when the windows to my soul are clean

It is said that our eyes are the windows to our soul.  There have been times in the recent months when my “windows” needed a good cleaning.  Perspective is hard when a window is clouded over. When it comes to my eyes, the troubled times and challenges from recent social, relational, and situational hardship have put dirt and spots all over my view.  With more isolation and required distance from each other, my view, both figuratively and literally, has needed to be cleaned…regularly cleaned.  And whereas a bucket and some squeegees will suffice for my home’s windows, the windows to my soul require reminding myself who I am (joyful, content, fun, social, quick with a smile, and gracious) and resisting who I do not want to be (critical, sad, lonely, irritated, even judgmental).

I’d like to issue a challenge; for the sake of our homes and those who travel by…for the sake of our relationships and our souls.  Open our windows, wipe them clean, allow for improvement on our perspectives, and make it easier to take in the beauty of our surroundings, situations, and fellow human beings.  It will never be a once and for all exercise, but don’t let the cloudiness and dirt accumulate for too long.  Let us choose to do what it takes to keep our windows clean.

This is my Vista Encantada

-Mandy Herzog, Marketing and Relocation Director

Color

One summer I had been traveling for a few weeks.   While I was gone, it rained every afternoon as is common in my favorite season, our fifth season, Monsoon Season.   Upon my return, I was showing homes to a lady from Georgia.    As we drove around town, I kept commenting on how green everything looked due the rain over the last few weeks.   The medians were green, the open space was green with wild flowers popping up in between the grass and even the distant mesas had a green sheen.   The lady from Georgia didn’t really engage in my green comments.   Finally, at the end of the day and after one more exclamation from me about how green everything looked, she turned to me and said, “Honey, you and I don’t see green the same!”

We laughed and talked about how everything comes down to your reference point.    Admittedly, the green I was seeing everywhere was celery green, which as compared to brown, looked green!   She was used to the verdant Kelly green of the humid climates of the south, so celery green did not seem remarkable to her.

What WAS remarkable to her however, was how far she could see into the distance.   Due to the lack of humidity and the mountainous terrain, she could see those “green” mesas that are more than 20 miles away!   She could see the distant blue mountains of Santa Fe and the Jemez Mountains which are 60 miles away!   Though I see those things every day too, they are part of my normal.  We enjoy clear air, blue skies and vast vistas almost every day of our lives here.

People new to the area often say about our landscape, “it is so BROWN”!   I always think to myself, well, it depends on where you look.   As I mentioned above, when the reference point is brown due to the desert landscape, New Mexicans see color in subtle hues sometimes, or color captured in unexpected moments depending on how our amazing sunshine spotlights a pop of color.   That sunlight we enjoy 330 days of the year is what drew artists like Georgia O’Keefe to New Mexico to capture those amazing moments of color and light on their canvases.

Starting with vivid sunrises, my days take me all over ABQ and the surrounding area and I delight in the special discoveries of color and light.  I see distant views and close up landscape vignettes tucked into courtyards and corners, and I know we are so lucky.

Brown – yes, it is brown here, but only as the neutral background- the canvas you could call it – for the dramatic beauty of the High Desert.

Each and every day closes with the finale, the most amazing gift we are given –  our sunsets.

I love it here – this is my Vista Encantada-Kurstin Johnson

Joyous New Mexico Morning!

Sunrise pushes up behind the big blue mountains pulling us up with it into the cool high desert air.   Hummingbirds zip around squabbling and fussing –  much ado about keeping each other away from the feeder …… and then finally bellying up to the bar to guzzle sweet nectar side by side after some peace treaty has been reached.

Morning bike ride downhill weeeeeee! Meeting Burquenos blearily getting their morning steps in or early birds walking with a bounce in their step and happy happy dogs with tails wagging leading the way.  COVID morning greetings range from a “Mornin”, a wave, downcast averted eyes, and judgmental frowns to backs turned as you pass…. Ah well.  Everyone doing their best to make it through.

A rock garden of hope messages along the path – maybe since our mouths are masked we share our words of encouragements on rocks.   The positive finding its way out.

Pandora on shuffle in my ears with Dave Brubek’s clarinet winding around the thoughts in my head, then Jack Johnson and Latin Jazz.  A road runner swishes his tail to the Latin beat as another looks on with a cocked head…..  SAMBA!

Golden mesas in the distance basking in the morning sun with hot air balloons dotting the sky.

Smell fresh cut grass as I cruise past the golf course with the sound of mask muffled chit chat and thwack of a good hit.

Uphill now because what goes down must come go up– ugh-  huff puff huff puff – Zak Brown’s banjo in my ear and the mountain, our beautiful blue mountain, always pulls me home.

A morning, a moment  – with me and My Vista Encantada.

I love it here.

-Kurstin Johnson

These are a few of my favorite things

As New Mexico’s most beloved season approaches, I can’t help but hear Julie Andrews singing, “These are a few of my favorite things…”.  Our wonderful Associate Broker, Lori Roybal, had this great idea of compiling a list of favorite things to do in NM in the Fall.  We are happy to provide this interactive guide to savoring the next few magical months in the Land of Enchantment!

NM State Fair:

September 5-15

Website

Aquarium Overnight

September 20-21

Website

Japanese Fall Festival

September 22

Website

Fall leaf changing

Mid-September through Mid-October – (Lori’s Favorite spot is Fireworks Canyon)

Website: Fall Colors

Website: Find Beautiful Fall Colors

Somos Albuquerque

September 28

Website

Corrales Harvest Festival

September 28-29

Website

Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

October 5-13

Website

Grecian Festival

Oct 4th – 6th

Website

Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festivals

October 4-6 & 11-13

Website

NM Brew Fest

October 12

Website

ZooBoo

October 26

Website

Doggy Dash and Doddle

November 3

Website

Can’t Touch This.

I recently noticed my social media feeds blowing up with hilarious memes about our sacred New Mexico green chile. 

Apparently, the governor of Colorado had a Facebook post where he made a claim that Colorado green chile is superior to New Mexico.  ‘Round here, them are fightin’ words!

KRQE News Link

I became highly entertained by the humorous ways people lashed out, and it made my heart pitter patter over the intense love and pride that my New Mexico has in the things we claim as uniquely ours.

Chile is definitely #1.  The common slogan heard only within the borders of New Mexico is, “Red or Green?”.  Upon your first experience ordering a breakfast burrito, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, carne adovada, or any other signature New Mexican dish, guaranteed you’ll be asked that question.  It refers to the choice of having the plate gloriously smothered in either red chile sauce, green chile, or my personal favorite: “Christmas” (BOTH!).  You can always spot a newbie by the look of confusion when asked “Red or Green?” the first time.  But, it only takes one bite to fall in love and realize this whole chile thing is pretty special.  It’s like you can taste the love of a grandmita going straight to your soul. It’s beyond taste; in fact, I’d venture to say it may be one of the most powerful comfort foods I’ve ever experienced.

#2: Hot Air Balloons.  I’ve had people from other states tell me nonchalantly, “Oh, we have a balloon fiesta!”  Unless you’ve been up at 5:00 am the first Saturday of October, breakfast burrito and a steaming cup of coffee in hand, sitting in a line of traffic streaming toward the Balloon Fiesta Park, Honey, you ain’t seen nothing yet!  Get a taste here.  For 9 days, 650 hot air balloon pilots from around the world with hundreds and hundreds of balloons in all shapes and sizes turn our town into one of the most magical places I’ve ever been (yes, I’ve been to Disney…doesn’t hold a candle!).  Over 886,000 people came to see this brilliant spectacle in 2018, and it grows every year.  Whether you are right there on the field during an early morning mass ascension, witnessing a delightful “Balloon Glow” and fireworks show in the evening, or just happen to be witnessing the sky brightly dotted with hundreds of balloons as you drive to work…it NEVER gets old.  Turns me into a giddy little girl every time!

And to wrap up my top 3: Vistas.  We dwell in an expanse so huge, so brilliant with sunsets, with forever blue skies, rain that falls in curtains across the desert land, and majestic mountains that turn the color of watermelons just about every night (hence, the name “Sandia (Watermelon) Mountains”).  At first, many people feel impacted by the barren landscape of our high desert.  But stick around for sunset, and you’ll find your jaw dropping and your breath catching at the sight.  Watch the sky literally fall when the storms roll in. (See this blog post ) Revel in the beauty of the lush Bosque that marks the path of our beloved Rio Grande river.

Bosque view from our listing at 3600 Vista Grande NW, MLS# 928957 More Info

There really is nothing like it, and you’ll understand pretty quick why we’re called The Land of Enchantment.

So, circling back to #1: Colorado…you’ve got so much going for you!  You don’t need to try to stake a claim on green chile.  Think of it like New Mexico suddenly claiming we have the best Rocky Mountains.  Sure, New Mexico has mountains.  But you have MOUNTAINS!  You may have green chile as an option on a few of your menus, but we have a little thing called HATCH, NM  (aka the Chile Capital of the World).  It’s a little tiny spot on the map, but it is a force to be reckoned with!

Be Your Own Guest!

In my husband’s upbringing, there was an unspoken rule that the downstairs guest room was off-limits and set apart as a special place, always prepared to receive guests.  This priority of setting aside our best for guests has been carried into our household.  At first, I didn’t take to it all that well.  For as a young bride I wanted the pretty new bedroom furniture for myself!  After a little coaxing and reevaluation, the front guest bedroom of our quaint 1920’s bungalow won out.  Our finest furnishings and linens waited prim and poised, ready to receive guests at a moment’s notice.

Our Guest Room

As we’ve moved, our guest accommodations have remained a priority in each of our homes.  Recently, due to some renovation projects, my husband and I got to be the guests and stay in our downstairs guest room.  I’m not going to lie, it felt kind of special and almost an indulgence!  What I noticed though, is that while the accommodations are quite nice, there’s a few ways I can make the space even more comfortable.

For instance, over time the closet became an extra storage space, leaving little room for guests to hang their clothes or tuck away a suitcase.  The extra furnishings like the antique rocking chair and tall dresser look nice, but take up space that otherwise could accommodate a stand for a suitcase.

The Charming Guest Bath

Then there’s the guest bath, incredibly charming with a claw-foot tub and pedestal sink.  But I noticed it leaves a little to be desired when it comes to having enough space to put toiletries and getting ready in the morning. A small bathroom cabinet and maybe a dressing table with a mirror in the guest room would be a great improvement!

With the holidays upon us, you may find yourself welcoming overnight guests into your home.  I would encourage you, take a trial run and be your own guest!  Sleep in the bed, get ready in the guest bath.  Notice what little improvements you can make that would cause your guest space to be all the more comfortable and accommodating.

Curtains of the Sky

I love curtains.  Especially sheer curtains that dress a window without blocking my view to the outside world.  It adds the most elegant touch, even from the outside.

On a recent drive home through Northern New Mexico, I was mesmerized by the sage-green landscapes, spotted with hearty grazing cattle and wild antelope.  Clusters of ridiculously happy little sunflowers waved continuously to us from the edges of the road, as if begging for our attention.  How can you not smile at the sight of all those little displays of sunshine dancing in the breeze?!

And the storms!  You haven’t lived till you’ve witnessed how the sky falls here.  It’s as if the storm clouds suddenly decide it’s time to share, refreshing the desert terrain below.  They pick a defined strip of land and gracefully descend, flowing like sheer curtains from dramatic valances of thunderclouds.

To the East, rainbows peeked in and out of distant clouds, and flashes of lightening competed for attention in all directions.  If you happen to be heading straight into one of those curtains, a terrifying experience awaits as heavy sheets of blinding rain envelope you.  It takes only a few minutes before you emerge on the other side into a shockingly calm, bright, and colorful new realm.

My great-aunt says it best…the storms here have personality.  They are welcomed, longed for, and often rejoiced in, painting for us the most gorgeous, ever-changing vistas.

-Mandy, Vista Encantada Realtors Marketing Director

Morning Walk and the Great Divide

Still kind of drowsy with eyes closed, I can feel the pull of the sun as it rises up from behind our beautiful Sandia Mountain –  drawing me up out of bed with it as it gains momentum getting higher in our big pink sky.   Great things await!  Simple things.

Beep beep beep.   The coffee is done.   (Auto timed coffee makers one of the best inventions ever!).

A hummingbird greets me on the patio hovering in that pink light, wanting some breakfast, like he too thinks it is the best meal of the day.

Awake now I set off for my morning walk in the cool air.  It is soft and sweet.   This is a time for the mind to be free, not yet cluttered with the debris of the day to come and able to absorb the simple beauty that presents itself daily here, if you take time to look or your mind has space to let it in.

John B. Robert Dam

The path behind my house runs alongside Bear Canyon arroyo leading down to Arroyo del Oso Golf course or uphill to the John B. Robert Dam.    I always go up hill first to get the hard part over early.    The jing jing of a bike bell lets me know a bike is coming up behind me.   “Morning!” we say.    Each person I pass has a greeting.   Through the rest of the day rarely do I get such greetings.   Maybe we are not yet overwhelmed by the responsibilities of the day and still willing to offer common grace.

Happy little sunflowers
Ballerina

Along the way the sunflowers growing in the arroyo smile into the sun.   I see wild purple Morning Glory flowers, yellow and white blooms from wild gourds and I spy a tiny silhouette of a ballerina painted on a cinder block wall, a hidden treasure whose story makes me wonder.    Simple things.   Simple beauties.   Simple gifts.

Morning Glories

Eventually I arrive at my turn around spot.   Standing on top of John B. Robert Dam (also seen in Terminator Salvation movie!) , the great cement divide between city to the west and open space ending in that big blue mountain to the east, with one foot in each world,  I can see forever here – Mount Taylor, the Jemez, the day ahead.

I revel in the simple beauty of our Albuquerque.

IMG_2304

By Kurstin Johnson

A Sunny Side of our Public Schools

My son forgot his lunch today, and I’m so glad he did.

With mid-school and the growing independence of my 12-year-old, I don’t get to experience much beyond the drop-off circle.  But today, with the excuse of delivering said forgotten lunch, I got venture inside.  I must admit, darkening the door of a mid-school still makes me break out in a cold sweat.  But, strolling past kids enjoying a beautiful, sunny, morning PE class on the grassy field, I followed the signs to the office, and boldly entered the hallways of Jefferson Middle School. 

A few adorable young ladies graced me with smiles as they were hanging up anti-bullying posters.  The sound of teachers’ voices, raised not in frustration, but in enthusiastic interaction, could be heard through the doors.  The sound of students milling about and chattering arose out of the next room.  Rounding the corner, I arrived at the office, where a few polite students were hanging out as the office staff humorously recounted their morning breakfast burrito mishap.  Everyone was not only nice and helpful, but I walked out the door feeling downright happy and uplifted.  And that wasn’t all.

The same PE class I saw in the field was now returning to the building, students respectfully walking in little groups of friends, followed by the smiling PE teacher, who gave me yet another happy greeting.  Then the icing on the cake: upon my return to the visitor parking lot, the sound of the acclaimed Rock and Rhythm BandTM, with live rock music blaring through the walls of the new music building.  How cool is that!?  (Check out this program and the incredible teacher, Robb Janov, that leads it: http://www.midschoolrock.com/rock_and_rhythm_band/Home.html).

This is the untold story of our public schools here in Albuquerque.  The part of the story that makes me proud and grateful that I get to raise my child here.  The picture of an environment that is filled with really great people doing really great things for our younger generations.  I’m not blind to the issues and challenges, but I’m certainly not going to turn a blind eye to great glimpse of hope I got today.

So, here’s to all the unsung heroes who spend their days at school with our kids…not just at Jefferson Middle School, but throughout our public, charter, and private schools.  Thanks for sticking with it!  And thanks for helping make this yet another reason I love it here.

-Mandy Herzog, Marketing | Vista Encantada Realtors, LLC

Coming Home

It took me a long time to refer to NM as home.  Growing up in the Chicago area, and adoring big cities, Albuquerque has always felt like a decent place to live, with its incredible climate, reasonable cost of living, nice people, and just enough of everything you hope to find in a city.  Only thing is, I still had not gotten over being a big city girl, and I found I needed to get out of here every now and then and travel about to get my fix.

But something shifted over the years.  I still love to travel, except now when I pass that “Welcome to New Mexico” sign – bright yellow with red and green chili peppers – my heart skips a beat…I’m home.  I’m excited.  I feel contentment wash over me, and I’m so happy to be back home to my New Mexico.

I recently spent a beautiful day hanging out with my dad, driving a stretch of Rt. 66 from Gallup, NM to the Arizona boarder in search of treasure.

I not only found treasure in the form of a few fun photos, but also in the time talking with my dad, reminiscing, taking in beautiful vistas, meeting some great people (people are SO friendly here!), and even bringing home one of those old weathered Rt. 66 signs to put on display.

This city girl has been bit by the Land of Enchantment bug.  The landscapes I used to find barren now look alive, the colors so vibrant, and places so nostalgic.  The long-range views are now my solstice…you just feel yourself breathing deeper, relaxing, and settling in to a more laid-back way.

How could I not love it here.

-Mandy Herzog

Different Perspective

Esparza building at Copper and 5th Ave

On a morning walk through downtown this past Saturday, I saw this wall that said “We believe every obstacle is an opportunity” (see picture above).  It is located behind an iron gate, and belongs to a business called Esparza.  The logo emblazoned in yellow across the front of their building says, “letsmakeascene.com”.  This advertising company’s presence on the corner of Copper and 5th makes me happy.  And their incredibly creative use of a dumpster to make a point impresses the heck out of me!

My Great-Aunt, Joan, and son enjoying ice cream in Nob Hill

I like to think of myself as a no-holds-barred optimist.  Seeing the good in things is a discipline I try to practice continuously.  My beloved great-aunt Joan is a great example to me in this endeavor.  She’ll say from time to time, “Mandy, I had a good talk with myself…” That statement always ends with a declaration of her will to see a situation differently, and to choose a more positive perspective.  What a difference that has made in her living a full and content life.

Roasting Chile at Downtown Farmers’ Market

I think New Mexico is a pretty darn great place to encourage positive perspectives!  Here in this quirky realm, we see rain, and immediately want to go outside to experience it.  We wake up to a good chill in the air, and we get giddy with excitement over the BEST and most beloved season in our beautiful spot on earth…FRESH ROASTED GREEN CHILE SEASON!  We see a yard comprised of various rocks, gravel, and pavers, and think, “Wow, nice landscaping!”.  We see a line ¼ mile long, backing up traffic as you approach a Golden Pride, and we think, “Ahhhh it’s Friday morning breakfast burrito time!”.

I’m impressed by so much here…the kind people who look you in the eye, smile, and say hi when you pass by; the incredible entrepreneurial spirit fostered here; the celebrations we have of our rich history and unique past; the beautiful blend of so many endearing cultures; the slow and steady progress of becoming a place on the map that people from all over WANT to come visit (many times staying!).

View from the end of my block of ART construction

So, when I walk to the end of my block and see lots of orange and white stripes, old pavement dug up, new pavement being laid down, and cautious drivers trying to navigate the ever-changing temporary lanes of traffic…I choose to smile as I see the obstacle as an opportunity for progress.  I revel in seeing this place I’ve grown proud to call home become a more and more exciting place to be.

For today…this is MY Vista Encantada!

-Mandy Herzog

Skies so big, even mountains look small…

Our David Gilmore here at Vista Encantada shared this photo he captured on his phone. 

Those beloved Sandia Mountains emerge over 10,000 feet into the fresh skies above.  Yet in this incredible sunset panoramic taken from the Rio Grande Bosque, the majesty of the mountain is almost usurped by that incredible wide open sky.  It’s so beautiful!  Yet, had someone painted this scene, you would almost think the artist took a bit too much liberty with the colors, the setting, the perfectly placed clouds illuminated in pastel hues against the cobalt sky.

This image captures the type of vista encantada (enchanted view) one would feel privileged to see once in a lifetime.  Yet anyone who lives here will tell you, “No really, this is the kind of thing we get to see on a regular basis here.”

How honored we are for this privilege – to live in a place surrounded by such beauty, and to have as my Vista Encantada.

-Mandy Herzog, Marketing

Summer Nights

I love summer nights in Albuquerque.  They are the gifts given so freely that we might come to take them for granted. But I don’t.

I revel in them.  The air is so soft you can’t feel it, but you know it is there, as little cool breezes pop up now and then to stir a leaf or your bangs, and disappear out into the darkness.   Perfect!

I end each day on the patio in a blanket of that soft air with the dense darkness of our ever present mountain showing me it’s there by the lights of the restaurant on top shining like some kind of lighthouse in an ocean of Albuquerque darkness.

I hear crickets and cicadas and then much later, coyotes yipping their coyote songs.  I imagine them sitting around a campfire deep in the grounds of the Academy telling coyote stories.

If we are lucky, our fifth season monsoons roll in and add thunder to the song the night sings.

Not long ago my brother was visiting from California.  We were sitting out on a glorious night telling people stories when suddenly Kurt exclaimed, “Listen to that!! It is beautiful!”.  I thought I was losing my hearing because I couldn’t hear anything at all!  I was kind of alarmed when I said “What?? Hear what??!”.  “ Silence, he said!  And crickets!”   Though he was raised here he has been away for 25 years.  And then he said, “And I can see the stars!!  I haven’t see the stars in years!”.

I worry about my brother living in California for many reasons, but this added a new one to my list.  How can it be that a cricket is a foreign sound and you haven’t seen the stars in years???  Who lives in a place like that?  (They also tax your garbage by the way).

I heard a saying that has stayed with me.  “That which goes uncelebrated will exit your life.”

I write this as a celebration of the night.  Of the simple beauty of soft air and crickets.    I write this as a celebration of the simple things.  Simple things that are miraculous when you think of it, and complex if you think of creation.  With a world in chaos, I find peace in knowing that each day will end and with that end comes the night.  The beautiful Albuquerque summer night.

By Kurstin Johnson, Owner of Vista Encantada Realtors, LLC