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January 16, 2024

Comforts of Home

I get a lot of comments about my license plates. When New Mexico released its new Chile Capital of the World design years ago, it made me want to buy a new car just to get the new plates! The striking design features a black background, bold yellow contrasting letters, our beloved red and green chile peppers, and the proud statement “Chile Capital of the World”. (A side note, our license plates also have the clarification, “New Mexico, USA” just in case anyone gets confused as to whether or not our beautiful state is part of the United States of America…yep, it’s that giant land-mass right between Texas and Arizona; our currency is the dollar; and no, you don’t need a passport to visit…but that’s for another story!)

**not my actual license plate, but you get the gist! :)

Back to my license plates. If you’re new to my blogs, in brief I now live in Minnesota, but my business and at least ½ of my heart are still in New Mexico. The nice folks of Minnesota don’t get to see New Mexico license plates often. Believe it or not, it’s a bit uncommon for people to move from the land of 300+ days of sunshine to the land of 10,000 lakes and 6 months of hard-core winter. But my little family did, and we LOVE both our home states!

Fresh batch of my green chile sourdough bread.

Today, as I have 4 fresh loaves of homemade green chile sourdough bread cooling on my kitchen counter, it made me think about a few New Mexico things I can’t live without. In addition to my cool license plates, here’s my list:

1. Green Chile. Anyone who’s been to New Mexico will tell you, we put this stuff on EVERYTHING…and we never stop talking about it! Thank the good Lord, the 505 Chile company has a vast distribution, and I can get my supply locally in Minnesota. I do admit, when I learned my beloved Costco was discontinuing my Minnesota mainline to this vital resource, I became a hoarder and have a few cases stashed in my pantry. One of my green chile lovin’ MN friends has identified a new supplier at one of the local grocery stores…phew!!

2. Local Brews. I was never very fond of beer ‘till our friend and neighbor who started Marble Brewery in ’08 dropped a growler by our house. As we began to sample and appreciate the craft and talent of the many incredible breweries that have since sprung up from the Land of Enchantment, I make it a priority to bring some of our favorites back with us when returning home to MN. Among the must-haves in my beer fridge (located in the garage like a good Minnesotan!) are La Cumbre Elevated IPA, Marble Double White, Santa Fe Brewing Happy Camper IPA, and the Ex Novo Mass Ascension West Coast IPA (ok, I don’t actually have Ex Novo in there yet, but after my last visit to NM, I sure wish I did!!).

Me in MN being all excited about having one of my favorite NM Brews

3. Red Chile. Very different from green chile, yet just as vital, this smoky, spicy chile is made from dried red chiles that are ground into powder and often made into a silky red sauce. You may have seen the iconic “ristras” that are hung on the porches of traditional southwestern homes. Although they serve as beautiful decorations, ristras are actually the means of drying the chiles in the warm sun and dry climate.

Traditional New Mexico Ristras: Red Chiles drying in the NM Sun

Not to be confused with “enchilada” sauce that you might find on the grocery shelf or doused on the food at traditional Mexican restaurants, New Mexico Red Chile (especially from Chimayo, NM) is AH-MAZING and in a class of its own! There’s so much flavor, and when used to simmer pork into the delicacy we call Carne Adovada, eating it is like a hug from your Abuelita (grandma) that goes into your soul. Since we don’t have the frozen Bueno red chile available here in MN, I bring back Cervantes Red Chile in jars. Mmmmmm!

4. Friends. Love runs deep in the Land of Enchantment. The cultural diversity of New Mexico is a very special thing, and it is not at all uncommon for family circles to be drawn wide, embracing and adopting friends as though they are family. Our son grew up calling our friends “aunt” and “uncle”, and we have been loved and welcomed in so many realms. It doesn’t take long to feel connected to the kind and sincere hearts that reside in people of New Mexico. The family bonds are strong and once you’re embraced as part of the family, you’ll never be the same.

One of my NM besties and son's "Auntie"...definitely a keeper!

5. Vista Encantada Realtors. In my many moves over the past several years, I feel so blessed that I’ve been able to take my beloved Vista Encantada with me. This company that I am privileged to be a part of has become family to me. I feel so loved and appreciated by Kurstin and the incredible people she gathers around her. The level of professionalism is top-notch, and I can say with such confidence that these are some of the finest Realtors you’ll ever meet (just check our Google Reviews to see what others have to say about that!). What makes them the finest Realtors is who they are as people: deeply caring, sincere, loving, hard-working, fun, thoughtful, full of integrity, and genuinely kind-hearted people.

Family dinner at our Vista Encantada Christmas Retreat a few years back...

PLUS, my Vista Encantada Family is deeply connected everywhere I go because of our partnership with Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. The personal friendships I have with top relocation directors across the country are an incredible part of my life and work. I’m able to help friends, family, and customers by introducing them to friends who can help them with their real estate needs in locations all over the country and even across the world!

Time with my Vista Encantada and Leading RE Family at the annual conference in Vegas

So, I’ll keep sporting my guapo license plates as a tribute to this beautiful place and my heartfelt love and appreciation for New Mexico,USA. I hope to introduce more and more of my MN friends to New Mexico so they’ll get a first-hand taste of why I adore the place. Heck, if anyone you know wants to live where people are kind, the beer is top-notch, and everyone is hyped up on sunshine and endorphine-laden chile, I’m happy to introduce you to one of my “family members” who happens to be darn good with Real Estate, too! Here’s to my Vista Encantada (translated “Enchanted View”).

-Mandy, Marketing and Relocation Director

December 30, 2023

MN in NM Part 3-Fiesta Time!

Friday, October 13

Coffee was brewed and we were bundled up and well on our way before 4 am. Traffic was light and the event staff were well organized to direct the coming crowds. With our early start, we were parked within a reasonable walking distance to the entrance gate and the Balloon Fiesta Park was in sight!

4:30 AM and all smiles!

It was all smiles and contented chatter as we took a chilly stroll along the main thoroughfare where one could buy souvenirs, chat with vendors, and partake in all the favorite State Fair-esque foods. It was time to introduce my Minnesota friends to a New Mexico delicacy, Navajo Fry Bread. FRY BREAD…ahhhh, a perfect blend of sweet, chewy, crispy flat bread, freshly rolled and fried to perfection. It can either be topped with powdered sugar, drizzled with honey, or made into a savory “Navajo Taco” with beans, ground beef, cheese, lettuce and tomato garnish. We went for the simple sweet version in both plain and blue corn. Much like the biscochitos from the prior day, the blue corn version won out as the favorite.

Eating Fry Bread

As the crowd began to grow, we made our way in the dark onto the Balloon Fiesta field, where crews for hundreds of hot air balloons were getting ready for the morning’s liftoff. A handful of patriotic balloons were inflating to signal the start of the day’s mass ascension, their vibrant colors illuminating in the dark each time the propane flame ignited to fill the balloon with warm air. And right before the sun began to reveal the outline of the Sandia Mountains to the east, the 6 “Dawn Patrol” Balloons launched, followed by a fly-by from our local Air Force base.

Rows and rows of colorful balloons surrounded us. And by the time the sun peaked over the mountains, hundreds of balloons were launched into the air. You can’t help but get giddy and smile at the spectacle and wonder of it all. It is truly magical, and as expected, my friends were delighted. The varieties of balloons, especially during this “Special Shapes” event, kept us busy with our cameras for hours.

Jodi, me, and Special Shapes Balloons

There’s so much to do in addition to watching the balloons launch! Concerts and fun activities on the main stage, shopping, chainsaw carving contests, fun challenges and competitions for the balloon pilots, and plenty of space to just hang out among the locals and visitors from all over the world. There are evening events like the “Balloon Glows” where hundreds of tethered balloons light up all at once as spectators mill around and delight in the colorful array. And of course, it’s worth staying around for the awesome fireworks shows, too!

Melissa is all smiles!

Once we had our fill of the morning event, we trekked back to our car and went on a hunt for a good New Mexican breakfast. We landed at an Albuquerque gem, the Range Café, and had our fill of Bloody Mary’s and darn good New Mexico comfort food!

Bloody Mary's at The Range Cafe

Next up, we decided it would be fun to park back at the loft and walk to the downtown train station to catch the Rail Runner up to Santa Fe. This was a beautiful way to relax, rest, and enjoy some sights while someone else did the driving. Passing through the unique southwestern landscape, historic pueblos, and arriving at the beautiful Santa Fe train station, we were ready to explore.

With its historic square, landmark cathedrals, art galleries, shops, and great restaurants, we enjoyed being on foot and experiencing this world-renowned city just 60 miles north of Albuquerque. By the time we got back to our downtown digs, we were exhausted and had clocked over 21,000 steps! But what a day!!

Next up you'll find out how Santa Clause and a Sparkle Fairy made their way into our adventures!

December 4, 2023

MN in NM: Downtown & Old Town

Thursday, Oct. 12

My husband and I put the finishing touches on our loft in preparation for the Epic Girl’s Balloon Fiesta Retreat. It’s been a long-time dream for our little place to host guests for this event, and the day had finally come.

Our "Urban Cabin"

Four beautiful, smiley Minnesota gals landed at our quaint Albuquerque “Sunport” and piled their luggage in our truck. Upon arrival at our headquarters for the trip, I was so encouraged by their reactions and enthusiasm for our downtown neighborhood and digs.

Hungry and ready to kick things off with some local fare, we walked to the 505 Central Food Hall, a great place to enjoy a variety of food and drinks. Like an indoor food-truck smorgasbord, there’s everything from coffee & pastries, tacos, smash burgers, subs, pizza, ramen, chicken fingers, to a huge selection of local brews. Oh, and may I mention the BEST green chile cheese fries I’ve ever had!

Smash Burger from 505 Central Food Hall

After a good dose of comfort food and great beers, we enjoyed a nice walk on historic Route 66 along the downtown corridor. We popped into Sumner and Dean, which much to my sadness will be closing due to the retirement of its owner. This gallery features one of my all-time favorite local artists, Angus MacPherson, known for his unique renditions of our southwest landscapes. It’s a bucket list item to own one of his large paintings someday, but for now I got to bring home a couple of his books: “Landscapes” and “The Pecos-Center of the Universe”.

Next up, we drove over to Albuquerque’s iconic “Old Town” where Lomas, Central, and Rio Grande Boulevard come together in historic bliss. A hot spot for tourists, fun shops surround the charming square with its green grass and large gazebo. A mariachi band was setting up, and the lovely sound of Spanish music filled the air. The famous San Felipe de Neri church, built in 1793, stands along the north side of the square as reminder of the rich Spanish history found throughout our state. Native Navajo artists sit along the sidewalks, selling their silver and turquoise jewelry. As you duck into age-old courtyards with brick walkways, an old wishing well surrounded by southwest plants and flowers presents a magical sense of the past sharing in the present beauty of it all.

Albuquerque's Iconic Old Town

In addition to every imaginable souvenir, we enjoyed perusing the handmade soaps and lotions, art, unique greeting cards, and the great wine tasting room, Noisy Water Winery! My personal favorite was their specialty olive oils and balsamic vinegars that could be sampled from large vats. Watch out for the habanero infused olive oil! It starts off with wonderful flavor yet packs a punch as it goes down. I snagged some blood orange olive oil, coupled with pomegranate balsamic vinegar, which we enjoyed with fresh bread as a late-night snack.

San Felipe de Neri Church

Knowing we had a VERY early morning coming the next day, we made a quick stop by a local gem featured on Diners Dives and Drive Thru’s, Golden Crown Panaderia on Mountain Ave. They were already sold out on their scrumptious fruit empanadas, but we happily made it out of there with a variety of New Mexico’s signature cookies called biscochitos. These crumbly, cinnamon and sugar-coated cookies have a hint of anise seed and come in wide variety at the Golden Crown (including Gluten Free). In addition to sampling the traditional flavor, we tried the chocolate, blue corn, and cappuccino varieties. The consensus was that the blue corn is king!

Arriving back to our “camping” spot, a huge pot of homemade green chile stew was simmering, and we busted out Albuquerque Tortilla Company tortillas and all the fixin’s. Few things are more beloved to New Mexicans as this simple stew made with chunks of meat (I like it with pork), roasted green chile, potatoes, a few seasonings, tomatoes, and broth. Top it with anything from sour cream and cheese, to onions and cilantro, and you have soothing meal that feeds your soul.

As the fall weather was setting in with a nice little chill to the air, we bedded down early in preparation for the 4 am departure to the Balloon Fiesta! It was a lovely day filled with fun and anticipation.

November 3, 2023

MN in NM: A Fresh Perspective on the Land of Enchantment

As the sun slowly wakes up this morning, I’m cozied up with my hand-made ceramic mug, painted red on the inside and the perfect hue of turquoise outside. New Mexico’s iconic Zia symbol and a hot air balloon are skillfully rendered at its center, and the warmth of freshly brewed coffee permeates its perfectly shaped form to my chilly hands. This treasure lives with me where I now reside in Minnesota but it is a welcome reminder of the recent time spent in my other home, the Land of Enchantment: New Mexico.

Originally from the Mid-west, my husband and I lived in Albuquerque for over 20 years and still have work, family, and life-long friends there. Recently, I had the joy of hosting 4 of my Minnesota friends, who upon hearing me gush about the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, pulled the trigger and made plans to come. I knew we’d have a great time; I just didn’t realize the impact it would have on deepening my love and appreciation for Albuquerque.

Having never been to this part of the Southwest, I only had 4 days to show my Minnesota friends all the best of New Mexico. It was important to me that we narrow it down to things that are unique to this charming part of the world. So, my husband and I went to work making a list of all our favorites sites, places, restaurants,and breweries.

In the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing highlights of the places, food, experiences, and elements that comprised four days where the word “perfect” was often uttered. The weather…perfect. The food…perfect. The balloon fiesta…perfect. The tram ride and sunset on the Sandia mountain peak…perfect. Meeting a sparkle fairy and Santa Claus…perfect. Even being in the prime location for the once in a lifetime solar eclipse…perfect. It was like falling in love all over again with this place that I called home for decades. It may no longer be my primary home, but I’m proud to still belong in this unique and enchanting place.

The Special Shapes Rodeo at the International Balloon Fiesta

Be sure to follow our Vista Encantada Facebook and Instagram pages to hear more about My Vista Encantada (translated“Enchanted View”).

February 11, 2022

What, no dishwasher?!

My new house has no dishwasher…surprisingly, I’m kinda glad.

Our new little homestead in all its 1959 glory!

I was just reading that 30 minutes a day spent with a loved one has a profound effect on the health of the relationship. Sounds obvious,right!? Yet think about the last time you REGULARLY spent 30 minutes of uninterrupted time with a friend or loved one. No phones, no TV, no screens, no agenda, no rushing off to do something. Just one-on-one time to talk, connect, and relate. This could be a walk, it could be sitting at the table enjoying a meal, playing cards, grabbing a drink…or in our case it could be enjoying conversation over old-fashioned hand washing, drying, and putting away the dishes.

One of the first things we did when we moved into our new cozy little 1959 rambler was buy a Bosch dishwasher.  If you’ve never had the utter joy of having this brand of dishwasher, you are missing out! The contrasting experience I’ve had with other dishwashers has led me to vow I’ll never have anything but a Bosch. The things are miraculous…turning out what we call “autoclave” clean dishes. As is the case with most new appliances, we had to wait for delivery.

The problem is, in the time we were without a dishwasher, I found an odd joy in NOT having a dishwasher. I even suggested to my husband that we cancel the order! I discovered that I’d rather keep the newly treasured time together, enjoying conversation while taking in the gorgeous sunset view from our kitchen window; one person washing, one person drying, and both people connecting on a deeper level.

Our glorious view from the kitchen sink.

Ok, I admit, we’re an odd bunch. And yeah, if the house had come with a dishwasher, I certainly wouldn’t be removing it! Yet something I’ve learned to treasure about living in older homes is the appreciation for simpler times when the definition of “necessities” was quite different.

One might see our modest abode and think, I just couldn’t live with that!

Just enough room for rest

There are no walk-in closets, no gargantuan master suite with fancy oversized private bathroom, no huge open concept great room with an elaborate kitchen, and yes, NO dishwasher! Eeeek! Just a simple, well-built, peaceful, comfy little house.

Tiny yet functional!

Modern amenities are great! New homes that provide tons more space, open floor plans, or sleek new style are enviable. Bosch dishwashers still have my utmost adoration. Our lives can certainly be enhanced as we enjoy all these things. But whether you live in a beautiful new home, a charming older abode, or anything in between, let’s all be a little more cognizant of what really makes a house a home.

Peace. Contentment. Connection with our loved ones. A place to rest. A place to find shelter in the presence of loved ones.

Maybe hand washing, drying, and putting away the dishes together tonight will open your eyes as it has mine.  I need that time, and I need the connection a whole lot more than I need autoclave clean dishes awaiting my attention to be put away in the morning. Try it out sometime, and embrace the time it can afford.

October 14, 2020

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, but 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

September 22, 2020


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 Albuquerque 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

September 22, 2020

Megan England featured in Real Producer Magazine!

September 11, 2020

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

August 29, 2019

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


Aquarium Overnight

September 20-21


Japanese Fall Festival

September 22


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


Corrales Harvest Festival

September 28-29


Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

October 5-13


Grecian Festival

Oct 4th – 6th


Rio Grande Arts and Crafts Festivals

October 4-6 & 11-13


NM Brew Fest

October 12



October 26


Doggy Dash and Doddle

November 3


July 17, 2019

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!

December 13, 2018

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.

October 30, 2018

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

September 13, 2018

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

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.

By Kurstin Johnson

October 19, 2017

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 Band, 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:

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

October 5, 2017

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

September 18, 2017

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, “”.  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

September 5, 2017

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

September 1, 2017

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