I know I’m not the only one who adores autumn. In fact, I heard somewhere the other day that there are actual, researched, scientific reasons that we love this season: new school clothes, cooler weather, a sense of anticipation for the holidays. But I live in Texas, and here, fall comes either very late, or sporadically, or not at all. Yesterday, I walked outside to a rare and genuine fall day. The air was crisp and cool, the sky clear and bright, not a drop of humidity in the air, and it evoked some strong childhood memories from my hometown, Albuquerque.
Fall in Albuquerque is simply perfection. The leaves actually change colors, fall off and crunch under your feet, nights are chilly enough to turn off ceiling fans and wear socks to bed, and there’s a certain smell, like a mixture of the coming of winter and wood-burning fires. We carve pumpkins, drink hot chai lattes, wear hoodies and boots on morning walks while watching the hot air balloons fill the sky. And while I love my life in Texas with my little family, this time of year makes me miss home. So I made a list of the noticeable differences between there and here, a post mostly motivated by some super yummy stew (recipe to follow!):
- My Complete Lack of Understanding of Football: To be fair, this one is not universal to all New Mexicans, and perhaps my small high school that didn’t have a football team contributed to this, but in Texas, football is a WHOLE. OTHER. LIFESTYLE. Entire small towns shut down on Friday nights for games, people who don’t even go to the high school or have any kids there show up for games. The stadiums are HUGE and packed all the time. In New Mexico, we don’t have a pro team, and (sorry Lobo fans), the university team doesn’t have a great record. So, football was never a huge part of my growing up, but it’s kind of inescapable here. And don’t even get me started on homecoming mums- I just can’t. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, consider yourself lucky.
- The Traffic: So in Albuquerque, there are two interstates. And they intersect exactly once. And “rush hour” adds like maybe 15 minutes to your commute. Meanwhile, in DFW, there are too many interstates to count and there are loops that go around in circles and they intersect everywhere and the lanes are poorly marked and if you get stuck in traffic, it’s probably going to get you home an hour later than expected and also, the road construction will be completed on the 5th of NEVER.
- The Seasons: Like I mentioned before, New Mexico actually has clear and defined seasons. Here, it can be 95 one day, 70 the next two, and 85 the day after that. I am never dressed appropriately because I never check the weather app and it’s very confusing. Sometimes I feel like Texas jumps straight from summer to ice storms, no in-between. I may be slightly dramatic, but fall seems to be super short. And spring just brings a fear of tornado-producing thunderstorms. But in all fairness, the beautiful days here are BEAUTIFUL and mostly make the rest worth getting through.
- The Mountains: The mountains visible from my parents’ balcony are aptly named the Sandias (Spanish for watermelon). At dusk, when the light hits them just right, they appear to have a pinkish/purplish hue. And they kind of sparkle. The mountains offer a sense of protection, tall and looming in the distance, the boundary between the city and everything else, the place where the twinkling lights come to an end on the horizon. I didn’t fully appreciate the mountains until I came to Texas and suddenly had no idea which direction was East.
- The Green Chile: New Mexican green chile, grown in a small town called Hatch, is an unmatched flavor. When we visit, we eat green chile for almost every single meal, in breakfast burritos from Blake’s Lotaburger, on pizza at Dion’s, in blue corn enchiladas at Sadie’s. During my first week at TCU, I wandered into the Einstein’s Bagels on campus and thought nothing of it when I ordered my standard green chile bagel with plain cream cheese. But the girl looked at me like I was a little crazy, and said, “You mean like jalapeño?” And it was then that I knew I had truly left New Mexico.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While I miss “home” sometimes, there are absolutely things I do not miss about New Mexico, like all the brown and the dust and the droughts. I have come to love the abundant trees here and the rolling hills, and Texas has some exceptionally beautiful sunsets. So while I am so grateful to have the opportunity to travel to Albuquerque to visit family and friends when we can, I am also completely content here in what has become my new home.
Speaking of green chile….Currently Cooking: Instant Pot Green Chile Stew
- 1 TBSP avocado oil (or olive)
- 3 boneless pork chops, cubed
- 1/2 onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1 package frozen sweet kernel corn
- 4-5 medium golden potatoes, cubed
- 1 jar 505 Roasted Green Chile (or similar amount of home-roasted green chile)
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Turn Instant Pot to Sauté and heat oil. Cook onions and garlic until onions start to soften. Then, throw in pork and salt and pepper until all sides of pork are browned.
- Unplug Instant Pot, dump in potatoes, corn, green chile, and chicken broth.
- Secure the lid and hit Meat/Stew for 35-40 minutes.
- Either let the pressure come down naturally or turn the valve to “venting” when time is up.
- Serve with warm tortillas and shredded cheese!
Book Review: The Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly. I wrote about this book last week, but I finished it and I really liked it. It follows the lives of three women during World War II: an American working for the French embassy in New York (based on a real person), a Polish teenager who ends up in a concentration camp and used for Nazi medical experiments, and a German doctor (again based on a real person) responsible for the medical care at the same camp. Hearing from these different women, written in first person in unique voices, was so intriguing to me. There are a lot of WWII novels out there and most that I have read tell the stories of the victims of Hilter’s evils, so the doctor’s perspective in this story was quite different than what I was used to. You can tell in the reading that this author has done thorough research and paints an accurate picture of the times and sentiments of these characters. I agree with the cover- if you loved The Nightingale and All the Light We Cannot See, you will really enjoy this one. Next on the list for me is another WWII book, although this time, nonfiction: In the Garden of Beasts by Erik Larson.
Thanks for reading and until next time, peace and love from my household to yours.