For Mother’s Day this year, we took Brian’s mother, Sue, on a hot air balloon ride in Albuquerque, NM. The balloon dipped down within feet of the Rio Grande River, then soared up to 3,200 feet. The weather was perfect, the view was amazing, and only the landing was a little rough, though not a “crash” landing according to the FAA-certified pilot. All in all, an excellent trip. Happy Mother’s Day, Sue!


















Last week, we went to Keystone, Colorado for a week of skiing! We were invited by a couple of friends to stay in a cabin on-site, and were able to walk to the lifts at Keystone. We skied and went ice skating at Keystone, skied at Vail, went tubing at Copper Mountain, and saw the snow sculptures at Breckenridge where participants compete to carve a 10x10x12, 20+ ton block of snow. All in all, an AWESOME vacation, complete with exercise, fresh air, and no injuries!!!

AWESOME view from Vail Mountain. Did I mention that we are building RIGHT HERE (once we become gajillionairres, of course)!!?!?!?!

Us getting ready to speed down Keystone Mountain!

Skiing at Vail.

Tubing at Copper Mountain with Shawn and Victoria.

Ice skating at Keystone.

It was only 5* – Amanda’s face is stuck like this.

Snow sculpture at Breckenridge.

Below are some pictures of Ciara and Miles out on our walks. Miles can’t quite keep up with Ciara yet, but by looking at the size of his feet, it’s only a matter of time before he leaves her in the dust!!





To finish out the old year and ring in the new, we went skiing on December 31, 2009. The weather was great (16* and sunny), the ski hills had snow (most of any ski resort in NM), and, miraculously, neither of us got hurt! Below is a picture of one of the ski hills, and two pictures of Brian cruising down the mountain at top speed!!!




Brian’s mom, Sue, found an adorable, though severely starved, weak, and frost-bitten, puppy on December 12 (coincidentally, Brian and Amanda’s 7 year wedding anniversary) far removed from houses and Silver City. Sue took great care of him for about 2 weeks, but found that she was unable to care for him for he was wearing her out! So, as a Christmas present to all of us, Brian and Amanda adopted this cute lab/pit bull puppy to keep Ciara (their lab/pit bull) company. We named him “Miles” as he was miles from nowhere, and miles from “home”. He is 6-8 weeks old, male, mostly black with some white on his chest like Ciara, and was 7 pounds on December 12. He is gaining weight, and the hair on his tail and ears is growing back – it had all fallen out due to frostbite. Below are some pictures.

Miles on December 12, newly rescued and extremely hungry. Sadly, you can see his backbone, ribs, and hip bones due to his lack of food.

Miles at Brian and Amanda’s house.

Miles at Brian and Amanda’s house, tackling a rawhide almost as big as he is.

Miles and Ciara running through the house.

Amanda went to Montana for 1 week prior to Christmas to see the family and the snow, take care of her sister, Kassy, after a procedure, see Nicole’s (Amanda’s niece) school play, go to Kassy’s work’s holiday party, and deliver and gather Christmas presents. Montana, to include Missoula and West Yellowstone, and the 5 hours of driving each way, was remarkably un-cold and un-snowy! Not the Montana winters Amanda remembers, but great to be home for the (pre) holidays! Below are some pictures from the visit.

Amanda, Amanda’s mom, Nicole, and Kassy.

Kassy’s family: Tim, Kassy, and Nicole.

Amanda and Nicole.

Kassy kicking Amanda’s a** at Tri-opoly (3-layer Monopoly). Yes, she won, of course.

Snow as seen from porch. As a reference, when Amanda was growing up, you could not see where the road went from afar for the snowbanks, much less the weeds and sagebrush. Now, there is less than 1 foot of snow, compared to 5-10 feet in Decembers past!!

Finally – a little taste of winter! Up until this week, the temperatures have been in the mid 60s. We got a touch of snow on the mountains at the beginning of the week, then got an actual snow storm yesterday. Winter wonderland in Las Cruces!

Organ Mountains – first “real” snow!

Same mountains, different shot.

The yucca (NM State Flower) in the foreground.

The same yuccas as the previous picture!

Ciara loving whatever happened to the lawn!

Ciara giddy with excitement!

While we were in Silver City, we went on several nature hikes. The weather was very comfortable for November and the air was so fresh! Below are some pictures from our walks.

Brian, Amanda, and Ciara

Sue, Brian’s mom

Brian and Ciara

A Stellar Jay

Sadly, Brian’s grandmother – Udania, “Dannie”– passed away November 6, 2009. Brian and his grandmother were very close, as Brian lived with and was cared for by his grandmother for many years. Dannie was in poor health for the past 8 months, following a broken hip, then kidney dysfunction. We are thankful that she is no longer suffering, but we will all miss her immensely. Below are the pictures used to exemplify her life at her service. May she rest in peace.

Dannie’s Collage (Big file 27.1 MB)
Dannie with her roses
Pictures contained in the collage (VERY large file: 162 MB)

Amanda went to Washington, D.C. last week to begin her new job with Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology – CPST ( After a long week of work, Amanda went to Fort Belvoir, VA to visit her sister and niece and nephews. They went shopping, played games, and went to the National Zoo, which, by the way, has 3 pandas! All in all, a GREAT trip!

Laura and the kids (Luke, 3; Natasha, 5; Brad, 8 )

Baby gorilla!

An orangutan crossing the high wires above where we were having lunch! Natasha calls them “Tang-or-Rangs” – CUTE!!!

Amanda and the kids in front of the Orang Crossing sign. No, we were not the orangutans they were referring to.

Beautiful fall colors!

The 11th Annual Red Ribbon Bash for Camino de Vida Center for HIV Services (where Amanda works) was on September 26, 2009. Below is a picture of Brian and Amanda all dressed up, headed to the big party. Unfortunately, this will be the last year Camino de Vida sponsors the Bash due to the agency closing its doors. In fact Camino’s last day was yesterday, September 30, 2009. At the time of closure, Camino de Vida was serving 187 HIV-positive clients, had performed close to 400 HIV tests, and provided HIV materials to over 2,000 people. The agency was providing a valuable service to the community and will be sorely missed.



For Labor Day, we went to Land of Fire and Ice outside Grants, NM, then up to Los Alamos, NM. At the Land of Fire and Ice, we hiked to a volcano and the ice cave. To learn more about this natural phenomena, go to In Los Alamos, we hiked in the forest, and to a waterfall. The weather was perfect and the air was very fresh. The temperature got down to 49* while we were driving around, and we encountered some rain and hail, but the majority of the time it was sunny and low 60’s*.

Brian and Amanda, with the volcano in the background.

The ice cave. The cave stays 31* year round, and the ice is growing approximately 2 inches per year.

Amanda at the trail head on Pajarito Ski Area above Los Alamos.

Brian at an overlook on Pajarito Ski trail.

Waterfall in the Jemez Mountains above Los Alamos.

Amanda had to go to a training in South Carolina in August. Amanda’s sister, Laura, and Laura’s three kids – Brad, Natasha, and Luke – met Amanda there. Amanda was in training during the day, so Laura and the kids went to museums and parks and toured the city. Below are some pictures of Columbia, SC.

Amanda, Natasha, Laura, Luke, Brad

Brad, Natasha, Luke

Natasha, Luke, and Brad in front of a monument.

Brad, Natasha, and Luke in front of a statue.

Natasha, with Luke in the background

1% to the arts – a huge fire hydrant, with a “No dog peeing” sign. 🙂

Amanda traded in her clunker for a brand-new 2009 Ford Escape!!! Amanda’s 1997 Explorer had 149,997 miles on it when we traded it in (we figure it was going to go kaput at 150K, so it was perfect timing), the air conditioning hadn’t worked in years, and there was a spontaneous, though persistent, engine knock. The trade-up is Sport Blue, has SYNC (can speak on the cell phones over the car’s speakers), Sirius Satellite Radio, a Cargo Package to include roof rack and wet trunk (to carry wet boots), running boards to better access the roof rack, key-less entry, 2 sunglasses holders, 4 cup holders, AIR CONDITIONING, power seats, and a CD player. When we drove it off the lot in El Paso, TX, it had 106 miles on it. This vehicle will be much safer, as well as more reliable and comfortable, than the Explorer. See picture below!


Amanda, Kassy (Amanda’s little sister), and Nicole (Amanda’s 6-year-old niece), went to visit their Grandpa in Phoenix last week. We went in July, which is the hottest time to go, and the temperature hit 115 degrees! Whilst we were there, we went swimming, played cards, fed the birds, played at the park, and went to a Children’s Museum and an art gallery. On the trip home, we stopped at the Rooster Cogburn Ostrich Ranch between Phoenix and Tucson and fed the ostriches, donkeys, deer, and lorakeets. All in all, a great get-away to spend with our 94-year-old grandfather, and it was Kassy’s 26th birthday to boot!

Kassy, Grandpa Mel, Nicole, and Amanda.

Nicole, Amanda, and Grandpa Mel, playing Uno. Nicole won.

Kassy and Nicole driving a car at the park.

Nicole, Kassy, and Amanda at the swimming pool. Nicole is a FANTASTIC swimmer!

Kassy and Amanda at the Ostrich Ranch, feeding the lorakeets.

Nicole and Amanda at the Ostrich Ranch, feeding the lorakeets.

Happy 4th of July 2009!!! This year, we were once again in Silver City, enjoying the fireworks show from Sue’s (Brian’s mom) backyard. The camera, however, is new as of this year and the pictures below attest to the improvement. Some of the pictures look more like paintings than photographs, and all are simply amazing.










This weekend, Ciara, Amanda, Brian, and Brian’s mom, Sue, went to Bear Canyon Dam above Silver City for a peaceful morning and fun in the water. Ciara, of course, was so excited to play in the water. Below are pictures of the lake and surrounding areas, and Ciara splashing about.

Brian, Sue, and Ciara, with the mountains surrounding the lake in the background.


Sue, Amanda, and Ciara, after a long hour of running and playing tirelessly (Ciara, not Amanda and Sue, though throwing sticks can get tiring!).


Sue on the trail around the lake.


Ciara splashing into the water, full speed ahead, to capture a run-away stick.


Ciara, chasing another stick, slapping at the water! (We could do this all day!)


She got it. Whew – that was a close one!

Brian and Amanda had a nice get-away weekend in Albuquerque! The weekend included a sunrise hot air balloon ride, then a relaxing day at a Hyatt Resort outside of Albuquerque. The balloon ride was excellent, and we were even rewarded with a “Survivor’s Pin” once we landed. The weather was perfect for all of our activities, and we had an exhilarating, yet relaxing, weekend away. Until the next time…

This is us in our hot air balloon! There were nine of us altogether – 8 passengers and the pilot (the guy in red, pulling on the valves shooting up flames). The pilot has to be a certified pilot to fly a hot air balloon (don’t worry, we checked!).


Our hot air balloon, which stands 8 feet tall when fully inflated. And, the balloon fabric (nylon) weighs 500 pounds, not to mention the basket and bottles of propane!


The balloon is filled with a fan blowing cold air at first, then a burner heats up the air to make the balloon float. The temperature inside the balloon when flying is a whopping 175 degrees!


This is a picture of a fellow balloon. Four balloons went up at the same time we did, with the same company – Rainbow Ryders. The balloons go the direction the wind blows, and we got to go right over the Rio Grande!


Whatever you do, DON’T LOOK DOWN!! The balloons fly several thousand feet above the ground, which can make your stomach roll over if you look down too long!


Brian and Amanda, with the Tamaya Resort in the background. It had a golf course, a resident horse, and a nice 1-mile trail to the Rio Grande River.

On Saturday we had some thunderstorms pass just North of Las Cruces. Brian was able to snap some neat shots of the lightning. We especially like how the lightning illuminated the mountains.

OMG!!! First a belly button ring, now a tattoo!! Amanda has really gone off the deep end now! Well, luckily it’s not that serious, but a surprise nonetheless, right?!? The tattoo is shown below, a small panda on her right ankle.
Amanda's tattoo

Amanda's tattoo

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