Archive for June, 2008

Peanut Noodles to Cure a Hangover

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Holy lazy blogger Batman! Many apologies for taking too long between posts. I’ve had an exhausting two weeks and every time I try to sit down to blog my sleepiness takes over and next thing I know I’m crawling into bed. Let’s hope I get over that and get back into a routine of blogging. Ok-let’s go!

Last Saturday (not this past weekend, the weekend before) was my friend Hanne’s batchelorette party. It was a wild one, to say the least, ending the night in a private room at a Karaoke Bar in Koreatown with a bottle of vodka, 5 beers and a fruit plate (not all for me-I feel like it came across as I drank all that. I didn’t). That, along with a few drinks at dinner and crawling into bed at 4am, I was feeling less than perfect Sunday morning. And my wallet was feeling mighty empty. But not that it wasn’t worth it, cause it was a blast and fun to party with Hanne and Co. (Congrats, you crazy kids, by the way.) Waking up Sunday was not very much fun. All I wanted to do was stay in bed all day and not spend a penny. Pull down the shades, curl up in a ball, watch a America’s Next Top Model marathon-you know what I’m talking about. I was hungover, to say the least. But, unfortunately, I had things to do, people to see, laundry to be washed. Lying in bed, wallowing in my less than steller state was not an option. I met a friend for brunch (at 10am mind you-remember that I got home at 4am the night before), got three loads of laundry done, had an awesome workout, did some studying for the GREs, and did some grocery shopping. However, when I got home from all that jazz at 5:30 or so, I was still tired, still nauseous and still broke. Normally, on evenings like these, I would change into my pjs, make some tea and soup and go to bed early. But, that was not a possibility that night.

One of my best friends, Barbara, was in town and we were having dinner that night. I was so excited to see her and catch up but not excited to eat restaurant food and pay inflated prices for that restaurant food. Oh, and I was not in the mood look presentable for being in a restaurant. I wasn’t looking my best and might be rejected based on appearance from any neighborhood fine-dining establishment, like Dunkin’ Donuts. So, I came up with a plan-I texted her midway through the day offering to cook her dinner at my apartment and we could enjoy a leisurely dinner on the couch, me still in my workout clothes and still not showered. She was totally up for it (I knew she would be) and I got cracking. I had 4 sets of criteria that needed to be met with this meal: cheap, yummy, fast, sensitive to my iffy stomach. I had had an idea for a peanut noodle salad floating around in my head for quite some time, since I spotted really cheap packages of soba and udon noodles at Whole Foods. It was hot-this would be cold-it was a recipe to tackle that day.

I had no real recipe in mind, but I had some ideas. While doing my grocery shopping, I picked up whatever I thought would make a nice dressing and which veggies would work well in the dish. I had some delicious and fresh carrots from the farmers market I had bought the day before and purchased a cucumber and scallions to round out the veggie quota. Looking back, I think sugar snap peas would have worked great too but didn’t think about it at the time. For the dressing, I bought some tamari and rice wine vinager and was good to go. I had other stuff that I could use in my pantry at home so I was keeping new purchases to a minimum. Those, along with my package of dried soba noodles, off to the kitchen I was!

While the noodles were boiling (I used about half the package which ended up giving me 3 servings), I threw together the dressing using whatever my tried and cloudy brain felt like. I started with about 2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter (super key-if you don’t have crunchy, add in chopped peanuts) which I mixed with equal part hot water to get it all melted. I then added some of the vinager and tamari along with a generous squeeze of Sriacha. After adding some salt and pepper, I tasted it and added a little more of all the ingredients, as well as some crushed red pepper flakes, until it was the balance I wanted, not to vinagery, not too spicy and not so peanuty that it overwhelmed the other flavors. I also kept it pretty watery because I knew the peanut butter in the sauce would thicken significantly once I put it in the fridge. Once the noodles were done, I threw them in the sauce along with some chopped scallions, yummy market carrots and an entire seedless cucumber mixed it all together and stuck it in the fridge while I waited for Barbara to come/slept my hangover off.

Once she arrived, we settled on the couch with our bowls and chopsticks and dug in. I can’t speak for Barbara, but I surely enjoyed this meal. It was pretty delicious and I thought the flavors in the dressing worked really well. We both agreed it was a little too spicy, but it was a nice balance with the cool veggies. We had a lovely evening on that couch chit-chatting about this and that for a long time as my hangover faded (although my wallet didn’t magically refill). After snagging some delicious coconut gelato, I had to kick her out so I could get my much needed beauty sleep, and was it ever more needed than that night, I don’t think so. I went to bed that night with a happy tummy and filled with a fun weekend full of friends. Cheesy. Sorry.

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Peanut Noodle Salad

1/2 package of soba noodles
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 seedless cucumber, sliced into thin half moons
2-3 green onions, sliced
2-3 tablespoons crunchy natural peanut butter
2-3 tablespoons hot water
3 tablespoons rice wine vinager
1 tablespoon tamari
drizzle of Sriacha
salt & pepper to taste
crushed red pepper flakes to taste

Cook the noodles according to the package (about 8 minutes-DO NOT OVERCOOK). Combine the peanut butter and hot water in a large bowl to melt the peanut butter. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the vegetables and noodles in the bowl. Taste the balance of the dressing to make sure it is to your liking-you should taste all the ingredients seperately but neither the peanut butter nor the vinager should overwhelm. Also, the dressing should be in the watery side. Once the dressing is to your liking, add the noodles and veggies, stir well to coat the noodles and veggies with the dressing. Store the salad in the fridge and enjoy cold. Tastes best while nursing a hangover

This would also taste really good topped with fresh cilantro, which I also forgot about. Whoops.

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Cool Salad for a HOT Day

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Last week was too goddamn hot. Like over 100 degrees for a couple of days hot. Like you could fry an egg on the street hot. Well, maybe not. But maybe…

For most of last week I was just sweltering and schvitzing all day long-on the way to work, at work, home from work, at the gym (with air conditioning that was half working), eating dinner, sleeping. That’s a lot of sweltering and schvitzing. And it’s only the beginning of June! It’s not like this is Texas where it seems to be a billion degrees every day of the year. This is New York-a land of four seasons! June is supposed to be a lovely temperate month-in the 70s and rarely much higher. Instead, for some reason this year (global warming????), Mother Nature decided to curse us with a ridiculous heat wave making me hot all day long.

Can you tell I’m not really a heat/summer person? Right-so I did not enjoy this heat wave. But honestly-did anyone? Even if most people didn’t enjoy it, I feel like I didn’t enjoy it even more. It drained me of energy and gave me motivation to do nothing. All I wanted to do was eat ice cream while blasting the air conditioning that causes my electric bill to skyrocket while someone rubs ice cubes all over my body. Was that a little too much information? Moving on… Anyway, I hate the heat and cooking was the last thing I wanted to do everyday, especially considering we don’t have air conditioning in my kitchen (although one would think considering how fricking small my apartment is the cool air from my bedroom would reach my kitchen without a problem). Adding from the stove/microwave/oven to my apartment would turn it into a literal sauna (I could probably charge people to sauna at my apartment-yup. that hot), was NOT an option. Also not an option: making something different every night. The heat was draining me so much on every level that I couldn’t even fathom making different meals or putting in the energy to think of different things. To come home, open the fridge and having something all ready to chow down sounded like perfection to me. Pure, why-the-frick-is-it-so-hot-but-this-will-cool-me-down perfection.

I remembered that my mom used to make black bean and corn salads over the summer all the time, especially for picnics, and we would eat it for days cause of all the leftovers. A bean salad sounded perfectly refreshing for me. I was trying to think of flavor combos to use, and in my “I’m melting” state of stupor, I came up with something because I had two requirements. 1st: I had a huge bunch of cilantro that I had bought at the Farmer’s Market the day before and I wanted to use. Cilantro is a flavor that reminds me of summer and hot days so it was perfect. 2nd: Lime. I had it set in my head that I wanted to use lime, which screams refreshing (and Margaritas-but that’s for another time) and would keep me cool. Using those two flavors to start with, I built it up adding red onions, cherry tomatoes, a tiny bit of chili powder, salt, pepper and lots (and lots) of cumin. Oh, and of course black beans. I threw this together on that Sunday afternoon-day 2 of extreme heat wave-in about 7 minutes and stored it in an old peanut butter jar in the fridge (a big one). 7 minutes-just enough time that I wasn’t ridiculouly sweating while being out of the air conditioning. I thinking cooking (even without using any heat!) would have been too much for me, so this was perfect.

Each night for the heat wave I ate about a cup of this salad for dinner. Mmm mmm mm good. and Mmm mmm cool. Every night coming home from work/the gym (especially the one evening when my train was 2 hours late and I had to wait in the heat for that long outside in the direct sun) there was nothing more I wanted to do that screw open that peanut butter jar, scoop some salad into a bowl, run into my bedroom with the air conditioner blasting, and eat it slowly while watching Jon & Kate Plus 8. It was a little spicy (but not too much that it woudl cause excessive sweating), a little crunchy and oh so refreshing. As the days went on the flavors meddled even more and the lime juice broke everything down a bit making it more and more tasty. It was truely the perfect meal for a scorcher. On Wednesday, the heat finally broke and I still had about a serving left. Would it still be yummy even though my brain wasn’t sweating? Yes. Still yummy. Still satisfying. Still perfect.

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Lime & Cumin Black Bean Salad

1 large can of black beans
1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small or medium (your choice) red onion
2 limes
2 teaspoons of cumin
sprinkle of chili powder
salt & pepper
cilantro

Combine the vegetables and beans in a large bowl. Add the spices and lime juice bit by bit until you reach a flavor level you like. I used all the juice from both limes, but some might prefer less. I also added some lime zest to take it up just a notch. I suggest that too. Stir it all together, top individual portions with chopped cilantro and eat it on a hot day while you can’t think of doing anything else.

The New Mexico Detox

I ate a lot of food while I was on my trip. A LOT. Three meals out every day for a week adds up. And dessert at dinner! I love love love ordering dessert at restaurants (it’s my favorite part-duh) so I had to order it every night. But that’s a lot of dessert. And lots of chips and guac. And waffles. And pancakes. And a few fries one day. I tried to be mindful of what I was eating but sometimes I just forget and enjoy whatever I want. And on a vacation like this, I think it’s a good time to go a little crazy with food. My favorite meal by far were these amazing blue corn-pinyon nut pancakes that I got at a little breakfast place in Taos after the hot air balloon ride (I’m sure my Dad is very pleased to hear that of all the ridiculously expensive meals he paid for at very nice restaurants, my favorite meal was pancakes at a diner that he didn’t pay for.  Sorry Dad.)  and I ate every single one of those pancakes.  C’mon…it’s vacation!  You gotta live a little. 

Although I do have to rant a little about the vegetarian options in Santa Fe (not Taos.  Just Santa Fe.)  Every nice restaurant we ate at for dinner had a vegetarian option which I was very very pleased to see.  However, every single one incorporated mushrooms heavily, many using them as their prime ingredient.  You might remember that I HATE mushrooms-detest their taste, smell, texture, look.  Every single thing about them.  All my life I haven’t been able to stomach them.  I would eat a piece of meat before I ate a mushroom.  No. joke.  Well, only 1 restaurant was willing to replace the mushrooms with something else (lots and lots and lots of asparagus) which wasn’t even that great and 1 night I even resorted to eating 2 appetizer salads for dinner.  Oh yeah-both with asparagus.  I think I ate my body weight in asparagus on the trip.  It got really frusturating though opening up menu after menu and seeing “mushroom wrapped in phyllo” and “chile relleno stuffed with mushrooms” (pre-stuffed, I asked) and mushroom this and mushroom that.  Thankfully, we ate at our fair share of Mexican restaurants for lunches, which is always an easy and delish venue for a veggie meal sans mushrooms.  Taos, on the other hand, was quite the success, culminating in a mango and tempeh enchilada our last night.  That was really really really good.  And mushroom free.  Score! RANT OVER

As much as I did indulge, I tried to work out everyday to create a bit of a balance, even if it was quite lopsided towards the food side.  The hotel in Santa Fe had a gym and I was there bright and early every morning.  Although a little skimpy (umm-1 treadmill, 1 elliptical and 2 bikes do not make a gym), it did the job.  And when we were in Taos, I kept myself active with the double hike and an impromptu pilates session on a towel on our B&B floor which caused me to be surprisingly sore for the next several days.  However, as much as I was able to get my body moving every day, I still came back to New York feeling bloated and pretty disgusting.  I needed a detox.  But not the nasty cayenne pepper-lemon juice-maple syrup detox.  Ew.  I just needed some good hard exercise and clean, healthy food.  All I wanted was a salad.  But not just a salad.  The best, freshest salad I could throw together.  So, although I couldn’t go to the farmers market to get the really fresh stuff, I made to to Whole Foods Monday night, sweaty from an intense workout and exhausted from my flight the day before and a strenuous day at work.  I bought whatever I thought looked fresh and reasonabley priced.  And here’s what I came up with:

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I swear just looking at it loads up your body with vitamins and makes you feel better.

Lots of spinach as a base, carrots (a natural for me), probably 1/3rd of a HUGE fennel bulb (again, a duh), cherry tomatoes on sale, my fav summer veg: sugar snap peas, some grapefruit-also on sale, topped with some toasted pine nuts. I always have a bag of pine nuts in my freezer (so they don’t go rancid), so they’re every easy to toast up and toss on anything I want. I dressed it with whatever I could find in the cabinet: barely a tablespoon of balsalmic vinager that I had left in a bottle, a very small splash of olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, salt & pepper. Shaken in an old jam bottle and drizzled on top of it all. All together: yummmmm. The highlight was the grapefruit, especially when paired with the crunch of the pine nuts. Just so refreshing and tart, I have to remember to put it in my salad more often. But all in all, the entire salad worked together so well and was exactly what my body was crying out for. I ate this salad for 4 nights in a row. 4 nights. I finally broke the routine with dinner out with Kate and Arielle (yummy and a blast by the way!) I could feel the chips and pancakes and corresponding fat just leaving my body with every bite. And now my body feels right back into tip top shape. Oh, except for the one too many Ginger-Os I ate last night. Shoot. Crazy salad detox again? Maybe…

New Mexico: Lots of Pics (UPDATED with NOTES!)

New Mexico was amazing. So beautiful and open. All that space…amazing!!!!! Desert and canyons and mountains Oh My!!!

I was there with my family (parents, 2 sisters and my sister’s husband) for a week-4 days in Santa Fe and 3 days in Taos.  I’m an incredibly outdoorsy person so I was looking forward to this trip like no other.  Also, my senior year of college I took a seminar called Ecology and Geology of the Southwest and have since been itching to get to the Southwest.  On both of these levels, New Mexico did not disappoint.  It has such a unique environment-it’s a high desert (7000 ft elevation-HIGH!!) so it has a lot more vegetation than, say, Arizona or Nevada, but is still quite barren compared to any place I’ve been and have spent significant time outdoors (Ohio, New York, Connecticut, Ontario).  Also, the Rockies end just north of Santa Fe which is pretty fascinating, but they were in full force in Taos.  And the Rio Grande flows all through New Mexico, ending up in Texas and forming the border between Texas and Mexico.  In New Mexico, it is deep in a gorge, like a canyon and is almost hidden in the plains unless you’re up close.  Really really cool. 

Oh, and the sun was brighter and the sky was bluer than any other place I’ve ever been.  Let’s move on to the pics!

Our first full day we spent in Bandolier National Monument about an hour west of Santa Fe.  This is a beautiful park where you are surrounded by different rock formations, trees you don’t see in the east (Ponderosa and Pinyon Pines) and old Native American ruins.  The rocks are actually very soft (well, in rock terms) and made from volcanic ash that transformed the region billions of years ago.  Very poreous up-close.    And yes-the sky really was this blue.

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You can kind of see in the pic below  the location of a where a Native American long house was-the holes on the side of the ridge and the stones on the ground to the right of the path.  I don’t remember the number but huge number of people used to live there.

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There were also cave dwellings that Native Americans lived in scattered throughout the park.  This one was the biggest (HUGE!) and we had to climb 4 scary log ladders to get there.  Totally worth it though.  This is me with my dad-the birthday boy (side note-the trip was for his birthday, but his birthday was back in April.  April Fools Day to be exact.  We used to have a lot of fun with that when we were kids.)

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Oo-forgot I put this in.  A MUCH better pic of the long house.

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On the second day (I guess technically the third, but this was the second full day), I went with my Dad and younger sister Maggie to Los Alamos, where the Atomic Bomb was developed in the 40s (pretty cool museum there) and tested and to this amazing overlook.  Here you can see all the different geological structures we encountered-mesas, plains, canyons, mountains (high mountains-with snow).  And the colors!!! oh the colors.  You don’t get that in New York.  We were there for about 30 minutes and I told my Dad that I could probably have just sat there all day. 

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Same overlook, just turning to the right-the Rio Grande.  The gorge was a lot more dramatic by Taos.

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More beautifulness.

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Me being squinty with my sister (brightest sun EVER!).  The three of us raved about it so much that night that we convinced the other three (mom, other sister and her hub) to go back.  To bad a huge crazy storm hit when the got there the next day.

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I realized I took no pics of the actual town of Santa Fe so I snapped this the morning we left to go to Taos.  Santa Fe was such a neat town-very laid back and relaxed.  And talk about sticking to a motif!! Everything (and I mean EVERYTHING!) was adobe. 

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We took a non-highway route from Santa Fe to Taos in order to catch as much scenary as possible.  Here is a pic I took during one of the many (too many??-Geez Mom we do NOT need to see another church) times we stopped.  Abrubtly.  I was riding with my older sister (Meredith) and her husband (Bob) and my Dad, Mom and Maggie were in front and my Dad kept pulling over quickly without any notice or blinker which led to lots of swearing from my sister and lots of almost accidents. 

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Me and my three sis’s during a stop in Chimayo, the Chimayo River about 6 inches from our backs, but you can’t see.  I was trying to snap a pic of us with the horse with the cow behind us but you can’t see him.  😦  My head looks a lot bigger than theirs-it’s not really.

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This is during our first full day in Taos (Friday).  As a present for my Dad, my sisters and I wanted to do something special for just the four of us.  After lots of back and forth emails (horseback riding, white water rafting-which got a quick no from Maggie) we decided to go on a hot air balloon ride.  Albuquerque is the center of the universe for hot air balloons and they were incredibly popular all over New Mexico.  The morning of it, they picked us up at 5:15 when the sun wasn’t close to being up and it was 30 degrees.  Temps really go up and down in New Mexico in the high altitude.  After a 30 minutes drive we got to our launch site.  This is a view of the plains and mountains from the launch site-you can see the sun just coming over the mountains. 

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Come closer sun-I’m so cold!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!  Although watching the sun crawl across the plain was pretty gosh-darn cool.

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The balloons being set up.  There were two balloons going up that day.  The other one was prettier but that’s okay.  The set up was really fun to watch.  And took quite a while.

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And we’re up!! And right back down.  Right from the launch site we went right down into the Rio Grande Gorge. It was not to wide down there.  And at one point we were about 6 inches from the water.  It was so beautiful down there though. 

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Me in the balloon coming out of the gorge (we would go in and out, up and down).

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After that we went up over the plains to find a landing site.  I like this pic because you can see the other balloon with their shadow and our shadow.  It was just so beautiful.  And so peaceful.  I barely said a word the entire time, just in awe over this amazing and majestic landscape.

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Me and Mag.  A little warmer now but still cold.  Although the flame kept the top of our heads warm!! (you can see other people in this pic-there were about 10 people, kinda smushed, in the balloon).

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After about an hour and a half in the air we landed (this is right before we landed) on a field of sagebrush.  When basket full of lots of people smashed the sage, this wonderful scent was released into the air.  Yum!

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This might be my favorite pic from the entire trip.  Our driver(?-can you call him a driver?) Ed took a pic right before we went out of the balloon of the 4 of us.  We look so happy! Cause we were!!  That was such a fun adventure and I’m glad I got to share it with my Dad and sisters.  I highly suggest taking a balloon ride if you’re given the opportunity.  You won’t regert it!  And it’s not scary AT ALL and I’m kinda afraid of heights.

After we landed, were met by the chase vehicles, packed up the balloon we drove to the bottom of the gorge and had champagne.  And served my 19 year old sister with no questions asked!! It was quite a blast. As two glasses of champagne on a completely empty stomach..woooo!

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That afternoon we visted the Taos Pueblo which is just outside of Taos, which is fully inhabited and has been so for a VERY long time.  My mind is blanking on more history about it, so you can google it.  It was very interesting to see and chat with the tribe members who lived there.  The building you see in the pic was over 600 years old and still going strong!  A fascinating part of our trip.

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The last full day of the trip (Saturday) I did 2 hikes.  The first was with my sisters, Bob, and my Dad up into the Rockies.  Once again, I just love being outdoors so doing this was totally my cup of tea.  And it offered sweeping view of the mountains and the valley and plains.  Maggie and I had a blast on this one-lots of singing and riddles and me yelling at her that her riddles didn’t make sense.  Maggie-they didn’t!!!!  Kinda.

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The second hike was that afternoon about an hour away from Taos into the Rio Grande Gorge with my parents.  The others decided to rest-there was NO WAY I was going to stay inside.  I had to spend the entire next day inside on a plane.  So, although my quads were pretty shot from a long downhill earlier in the day, I went with them.  And it was worth it!  Totally different that the earlier hike.  Tons of cool rock formations from top to bottom.  At the bottom was a roaring Rio Grande, although we were on a strict time limit and had no time to stop and enjoy the scenary.

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My mom had a tough time with the really intense uphill-even I had a hard time with it.  It was STEEP!  But she did GREAT!!!  And made it to the top with barely enough time to drive fast back to Taos for a quick shower to make our dinner reservations.  I sure was smelly before I got into that shower! Overall an awesome last day.  And a restaurant that evening with Vegetarian Tempeh Enchiladas to boot!!!

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The morning we left. 😦 This is the view of the Rockies from the backyard of the B&B in Taos.  Can’t beat it. 

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All in all, an amazing and truely memorable trip.  Thanks Mom & Dad and Happy (Belated) Birthday Dad!!