Saturday, July 26, 2014

Albuquerque and the Turquoise Trail

In mid-January, Jon did a short TDY stint in Albuquerque and mid-way through, Conan and I joined him for a long weekend. I had visited Albuquerque and Santa Fe once before when I was a young girl and was so excited to return as an adult. I immediately fell in love with the desert vibe and adobe architecture with pops of turquoise and other bright colors. We immediately hit the ground running and explored the Old Town, which was our base of operations for the next three days, perusing the many shops, galleries and restaurants.

San Felipe de Neri

Old Town walkway

Our second full day, we started our morning by visiting the Rio Grande Nature Center Park. This was a vast area along the Rio Grande River with nature trails and an expansive bike/running path along the river. The weather could not have been more perfect with clear blue skies and mild temps.

Walking the trail along the Rio Grande

Rio Grande Nature Center Park

Afterward, we drove a bit out of the city to the Petroglyph National Monument. This area protects one of the largest petroglyph sites in North America, featuring designs and symbols carved onto volcanic rocks by Native Americans and Spanish settlers 400 to 700 years ago. In Boca Negra Canyon, we were able to view over 100 petroglyphs by walking 3 short trails. 

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument - Conan learning his dad's signature pose

Petroglyph National Monument

Petroglyph National Monument

After a morning of lots of walking and touring nature, we ate at Garcia's Kitchen near our hotel. Though I will always be a Tex-Mex girl first and foremost, I did enjoy my three days of New Mexican fare and the famous blue enchiladas and green sauce!

Lunch at Garcia's Kitchen along historic Route 66

That afternoon we visited the National History and Science Museum, which I had vivid memories of going to as a child, and walking around Old Town at night. Although it can feel a bit touristy during the day, at night it completely empties and is such a beautiful place.

An entrance to Old Town

An Old Town courtyard

San Felipe de Neri at night

We absolutely adored our accommodation in Albuquerque at Casas de Suenos, a beautiful historic inn in the Old Town. Once an artist commune, it is an adobe-walled cluster of casitas with lovely gardens in the interior. Not only was there plenty of character and an incredible breakfast each morning, but the location was perfect for exploring the Old Town. Though the city has so much to offer, it was nice to stay somewhere pedestrian-friendly so that we could explore a different part of the Old Town each day. 

We stayed in the Porter Casita and enjoyed soaking up the New Mexican sun and researching the city in the afternoons during Conan's nap. 

The ambiance of Casas de Suenos was so "New Mexican," so we couldn't resist a photo opportunity with Conan. At 8 months, he was the perfect little traveler!

Outside our Porter Casita

The highlight of the trip for me was touring the Turquoise Trail - 54 miles on state road 14 connecting Santa Fe and Albuquerque. We zipped up to Santa Fe along the Interstate that morning and spent a few hours exploring the old town and browsing the many shops. The first thing I noticed was how much colder it was in Santa Fe! You don't realize the increase in elevation, but it was such a big difference from the mild weather in Albuquerque. We stayed warm by popping in and out of the many shops around the Plaza. I visited here once before when I was young and remembered the numerous high-end shops and it still astounds me today how many there are. We did enjoy perusing the jewelry sold by local indian vendors lining the Governor's building facing the Santa Fe Plaza. They all adored Conan and his beaded moccasin shoes! Unfortunately, we hardly got any pictures of our touring around Santa Fe (probably due to the cold!). 

Interior of St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe

After a fabulous lunch at The Shed in Santa Fe, we embarked on our 54-mile long journey along state road 14 towards Albuquerque. This two-lane highway was sparsely populated and provided gorgeous scenery of the northern New Mexican landscape. We drove through tiny Golden and Madrid, which was once a miners community, but now is a hip artist colony. Eventually we made our way south to the Sandia Mountains that rise above the eastern side of Albuquerque. We ascended to the top of Sandia Peak with incredible views at 9,702 ft. above the city. Though the weather was quite mild in Albuquerque, at this height it was blistering cold and we had to traipse through snow in the parking lot to reach the observation point. It was all worth the commanding views that stretched in all directions. 

At the top of Sandia Peak

At the top of Sandia Peak

We walked along a trail for a few minutes to a gorgeous cliff-side setting for some more incredible views of Albuquerque below. Though Albuquerque is very desert-like with little vegetation, the mountains are filled with a dense forest and even a ski area. I kept thinking how lucky Albuquerquians are to be able to experience a beautiful desert climate with the mountains so close by for their vegetation-fix. The best of both worlds, for sure. This is my kinda climate!

Doing his Jon pose

Sandia Peak

Sandia Peak

Sandia Peak

This was such a memorable trip as it was our first as a family of three. Though we have traveled a great deal with Conan and visited lots of relatives, we haven't had the opportunity to only go on a trip with our little family, and we enjoyed every second. It's quite different from our previous travels, but I was pleasantly surprised we were still able to do so much. Conan has proved to be an amazing traveler, always ready for an adventure! One thing's for sure, I absolutely adore Albuquerque and hope we have the chance to visit again soon.

Friday, July 25, 2014

A Country Christmas at the Farm

Christmas in July continues at the farm! We couldn't wait for Conan's first visit to the farm and to meet his Uncle Mark, Aunt Karen and cousin, Sam. He absolutely loved his time here and it's no wonder why - with four cousins to dote on him, a new litter of kittens to play with and farm fun around every corner, he was in baby heaven.

The Clough Men

On Christmas Eve, we attended the Christmas Eve service at the adorable country church Jon's family has been attending for generations. We left before the play began as it was nearing Conan's bedtime, but we were able to sing a few Christmas carols and enjoyed visiting with extended family. 

Christmas Eve
On Christmas morning, we somehow managed to squeeze in the small living room to open presents together, which is similar to a free-for-all; paper flying like crazy, shrills of excitement and sometimes gift tags were completely disregarded. A little bit different from my family's "one at a time" gift opening strategy. 

The Clough Grandkids
After the presents were opened, the grandkids were told to go out to the "new building" to get their presents from Grandma and Grandad. They were so surprised to see that they each had their own desk and rug waiting for them. These aren't just any desk or rug, but beautiful wooden desks made by Uncle Ben (Beckie's brother) and rugs made by Beckie and her dad in the colors of each kid's room. They definitely made this Christmas so very memorable for each of these kids!

The grandkids receiving their gifts

Conan with his cherry wood desk and rug

Conan's rug

Sporting their gifts from Neil - always super practical

Conan's presents

Grandma and Grandad's present

We have been talking about a Clough Christmas at the farm where everyone could be together for over a year now. But, with two brothers in the military, plans always seem to go awry. Neil was deployed to Iraq over Christmas, but thanks to FaceTime, he was still able to take part in the festivities.

Uncle Neil made a photo!

Jon has been talking about wanting a shotgun for ages, and now that we're back in the States, I decided to surprise him at Christmas. Mark helped me out a great deal by doing some research and buying the gun for me so that Jon could have it over Christmas and use it at the farm.

That's one happy face!

Taking the shotgun out for a spin

Christmas Night, we drove across the sound to gather together with the Hobbs (Beckie's side of the family) for dinner. Conan was able to meet even more family and was especially fascinated with his Great Grandaddy Hobbs. 

Conan and Great-Grandaddy Hobbs

Clough Family Photo
The day after Christmas, the women embarked on a shopping trip to the Outer Banks. Surprisingly, this is the closest shopping area to the farm, a mere 45 minutes away. The guys met us there for lunch, and afterward Jon wanted to snap a photo of Conan on the beach. As he has already visited the Pacific Ocean, he wanted Conan to touch the Atlantic so that by his first year, he's touched both oceans. It was drizzling and cold out so I wasn't too enthusiastic about this, but now can see that it's a pretty cool thing to boast.

After an eventful and jam-packed couple of days, we were ready for some down-time at the farm. Conan had so much fun visiting all the farm animals, to include a goat, cows, ducks, kittens and Charlie, the dog. I feel so fortunate that Conan has not one, but two country settings to explore and enjoy during his childhood. A Texas ranch and a North Carolina farm. Lucky boy!

Riding Karen, the goat

Admiring Uncle Mark's ducks

Checking out the cows with Grandaddy

Touring around the farm with Aunt Karen

Conan's first tractor ride with Grandaddy

Petting cows with Dad

What an incredible Christmas vacation in both VA and NC seeing lots of family and making the most of all that the area has to offer. Conan's first Christmas will certainly be a memorable one!

A Colonial Christmas

Happy Christmas in July! Yes, I just realized the last time I posted was before the holidays. I wish I could blame my lack of posting on business, but really I have no excuse other than a lack of motivation. What started out as a travel blog/journal seven years ago, has now morphed into an avenue to document our family happenings. With social media growing in so many ways, I feel less and less motivated to keep the blog alive, other than for posterity purposes. My goal is to at least document through Conan's first year and after that, we'll see what occurs.  

During our time in Germany, the blog was titled "Newlyweds in Germany" with a domain of "thecaptainandfrauclough." Though the domain has remained the same, the name changed to "Cloughs in Clogs" when we moved to the Netherlands. It appears we are in desperate need of another name to reflect our new lives in the States, but a part of me is not ready to let go of this European-born outlet I so relied on to share my travel experiences and photos with family. It's been a year since our return to the States, and yet my heart still aches every day for my former home and partly, my former self. I find myself often looking back at my previous postings, reminiscing about the incredible adventures we've had over the years abroad. But now, I am looking back a mere six months past to the start of our wonderful Colonial Christmas trip to Virginia and North Carolina!

We spent our first few days at Jon's parents house in Northern VA and enjoyed going to downtown DC on two separate occasions. We spent an afternoon exploring the Air and Space Museum, Botanical Garden, views from the Old Postal Office Tower, a holiday market, and ended the evening viewing the national tree. For being late December, the weather was extremely mild and perfect for walking around the city and enjoying the many sites.

Air and Space Museum with Grandma and Grandaddy

Conan's (at 7 months) first visit to the Mall

Conan with Grandma

The Capitol at Christmas

Botanical Garden with Grandma and Grandad

View of Washington monument from Old Post Office Tower

View of Capitol from Old Post Office Tower

At the top of the tower

The National Tree

The National Tree

The National Tree and White House

The following morning, we returned downtown for a 'Dave Clough Monuments Tour.' After living on and off here for 35+ years, he's had quite his share of visitors and has gotten well-versed in the history of all the monuments. The only thing keeping him from doing this as a side-job is the speed with which he walks! The average person wouldn't be able to keep up! Luckily for me, I love a good cardio workout. We began at the Jefferson monument and continued around the lake to the impressive World War II monument and beyond. We ended at the Martin Luther King monument, which was unlike any other. I'm still not decided whether I like it or not, but it's definitely thought-provoking. 

Jefferson Monument

World War II Monument

Lincoln Monument

In addition to getting our history lessons in, we managed to attend a Christmas Party with lots of Jon's high school buddies at our friends' Tim and Becky's house. Unfortunately we have no pics from this occasion, but had so much fun hanging out with them and I always enjoy seeing Jon revert back to his high school self when around this dynamic group. 

I've always wanted to visit Colonial Williamsburg and have heard that at Christmas-time it is especially magnificent. So, on our way to North Carolina, David and Beckie were kind enough to take us on a short detour to spend a couple hours there one evening. We arrived just in time to see the Illumination of Historic Buildings, complete with music from fifes and drums to accompany the lighting of torches around the Governor's Palace Square.

It was such a beautiful place and though I'm sure it would have been amazing to see in the daytime, it was truly magical to see the historic inns, taverns and other buildings at night lit only with candles in windows and torches in the street. Though I hope to visit again when we have more time to tour the various buildings, I will always cherish this memorable night in Colonial Williamsburg!

Illumination Festivities

Illumination Festivities