Professional Coaches Highlights of Renewal Program

Thanks to a grant awarded in 2022 from the National Clergy Renewal Program funded by Lilly Endowment Inc., the First United Presbyterian Church, Las Vegas, planned an ambitious program of congregational renewal while its pastor, Rev. Katie Palmer took a three-month sabbatical for clergy renewal. And then the hills erupted in a fast-moving fire that consumed more than three hundred thousand acres of land, countless properties, and the livelihoods of many. Pastor Katie, as she is known by her congregation, knew immediately her place was with her church family and community, not going on sabbatical. The grantor organization agreed and allowed the church to reschedule the renewal plans and sabbatical to 2023. On May 6, FUPC will begin Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit in a period of renewal and exploration. At no cost to participants, the summer-long activities include –

• five professional coaches offering Saturday in-depth workshops and Sunday worship;

• three Saturdays of Try Something New Workshops led by practitioners in the arts of writing, journaling, poetry, music, drama, woodworking, glass painting, zentangle, and American sign language;

• and on Sundays not covered by professional coaches, lay leaders will provide alternative worship experiences that include movement, writing, Quaker practices, music, painting, drama, biology, and Taoist philosophy.

For a brochure and more information about Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit, go to Note there will be complimentary meals provided on the Sundays featuring professional coaches.

“Tracking the Word: Embodying the Spirit,” speaks to our desire to follow Christ’s tracks and to embody the Spirit not only in our work, but in the deepest part of our beings,” said Rev. Katie Palmer, FUPC pastor. “We never know where those tracks might lead, but we can commit to follow them faithfully.”

Activities begin on May 6 with the first professional coach workshop featuring John Stokes, and run through August.

Stokes, founder and director of The Tracking Project, Inc.,in Corrales, N. M., is a well-known musician, performer, writer, and teacher of tracking. Since 1980 he has worked and traveled extensively to bring awareness of the natural world and the integrity of indigenous peoples to interested people around the world. He will conduct two Saturday workshops. One on the riverwalk beginning at 1 p.m., and a second at the Presbyterian Church, 1000 Douglas Ave., beginning at 3 p.m.

In these workshops, Stokes will explore how The Tracking Project’s programs of natural and cultural awareness incorporate a wide range of skills—from traditional tracking and survival skills to music, storytelling, dance, peacemaking, and martial arts training. The name Arts of Life ® was chosen to describe these programs, which emphasize indigenous knowledge, the lessons of nature and the power of dreams and art.

Stokes will lead worship on May 7, and further expand on the topic of tracking and its spiritual applications. Call 505 425-7763 to make reservations for the meal following worship.

On Saturday, June 10, Jen Friedman, M.Div., will lead The Body’s Wisdom: The Art of Facing Change with Embodiment Practice beginning at 1 p.m., at Old Town Mission Community Center, 301 Socorro Street.Friedman, hospital chaplain and Leader of Dances of Universal Peace is an interfaith minister, chaplain and spiritual leader serving the growing community of seekers and practitioners identified as spiritual but not religious. She is known for sharing a deeply sacred presence and creates an authentic spiritual atmosphere to any ceremony or event she facilitates. She holds a Master of Divinity from The Iliff School of Theology and has a depth of spiritual understanding unique to her. Freidman has engaged rigorous study and practice in many faith traditions including Christianity, Islam, and Buddhism. She is the executive director for Dances of Universal Peace, North America.

For the workshop, Friedman asks that participants embody their commitment to justice, non-violence, and peace with meditation and body prayer practice that honors the beauty and truth immanent in all beings. The Dances of Universal Peace are meditative, joyous, multi-cultural circle dances using sacred phrases from the world’s spiritual traditions and beloved songs from the peace movement. These are joined with live music and movement, to create embodied prayers that allow participants to touch the spiritual essence within and recognize it in others. Worship on Sunday, June 11 will continue the theme of The Body’s Wisdom.

On Saturday, July 8 at 1 p.m., M. Roger Holland II will present a workshop on Negro Spirituals: Songs of Freedom and Songs of Justice and continue the topic during worship July 9. Holland is a teaching Assistant Professor in Music and Religion and Director of The Spirituals Project at the Lamont School of Music, University of Denver. A graduate of Union Theological Seminary in New York City where he received his Master of Divinity degree, Holland also served as Artist-in-Residence and director of the Union Gospel Choir for over 13 years. In 2015 Union awarded him the Trailblazers Distinguished Alumni Award, the first given to a graduate whose ministry is music, for his contributions to the legacy of African American music. He received a master’s degree in Piano Performance from the Manhattan School of Music, also in New York, and completed his undergraduate work at Westminster Choir College in Princeton, NJ, where he majored in Music Education with a concentration in piano and voice.

In the Saturday workshop, Holland will explore how the music and the history of Negro Spirituals served to sustain and inspire an enslaved community, and later become the bedrock of the Civil Rights Movement. Through a sociohistorical lens, not only will participants become acquainted with the history of slavery in America but will discover how Black Americans persevered and overcame oppression. Participants will discover how this historical music became the essence of the freedom songs that fueled a social justice movement and transformed a nation. 

Rev. Linda Loving’s Saturday July 29 workshop is designed to deepen understanding of biblical passages and breathe life and Spirit into readings of God’s word. Her sermon topic on July 30 will be For Such a Time at This. Loving has a BA in Theatre, University of Michigan, and Master of Divinity, McCormick Theological Seminary. In addition to serving many parishes around the country, she has also performed for more than 33 years JULIAN, a one-woman drama by J. Janda, which she has filmed in Julian’s cell in England. Loving has performed in professional theatre companies in the Midwest and Santa Fe and owns a business,

Loving said disciples and actors share a similar desire to embody truth and offer transformation to others. The workshop gives simple disciplines from a trained actor/preacher. “Delight in your own gifts – we all play ‘leading roles’ in God’s continually unfolding drama of Life and Love,” Loving said. Individual and choral readings as well as Reader’s Theatre will all be explored. “Some may choose to simply observe; all will find new ways to receive and love God’s word,” she said.

Rev. Seth Finch has been a pastoral leader at Covenant Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque since 2008. He received his Master’s of Divinity from McCormick Seminary and a Master’s of Interfaith Action from Claremont Lincoln University. In 2018 he did his sabbatical focused on storytelling. His travels took him to New York to learn storytelling at “The Moth” mainstage; to Scotland where he participated in events at the Scottish Storytelling Center, and did research into his family story; to Northern Ireland to work with Padraig O’Tuama and Corymeela on how storytelling can help us work for peace; and across the Southwest to look at the story of the area’s culture.

Finch says of his Saturday, Aug. 12 workshop, “One of the things that most deeply binds us together as people and as communities is our shared stories. Stories guide our lives, who we think we are, who we think we relate to, how we live as people of faith. Learning to share our story and receiving the stories of others is a skill that helps us to build beloved Christian community.” In this seminar Finch will talk about what makes for a good story, how we tell our story, and reflect a little on what our shared stories look like. His Sunday, Aug. 13 sermon is entitled The Stories we tell Ourselves.

The FUPC season of exploration workshops and activates are free and open to everyone. For more information go to

Dick’s patio open for business

Dick's back in the day
Dick’s in the early days

Dick’s has been around since 1940, managed and owned by the Dick Elias family. In 1974, the business was taken over by the Moore family and has, over 45 years since then, grown into a local favorite.

Owner Charlotte Moore, said Dick’s has evolved over the years from the liquor store, deli counter into a pub and restaurant.

“We have continued to reinvent Dick’s with the ever-changing times,” she said.

Dick’s has undergone several updates/remodels over the years. The three that created the most change happened in 1998. The owners built a two-story space over the parking lot as a two-level night club. The space is now the kitchen (bottom floor) and restaurant (top floor).

“In 2012 we acquired the Historic Serf Theatre adjacent to us, and in 2014 we restored it to house our special events venue, and finally in 2015 (five years ago), we transformed our liquor store/bar area from two areas to one room to house our pub/restaurant. The new pub area is cozy, brick walled reminiscent of an old historic building found in Chicago, New York, or Colorado,” Charlotte said.

Forward motion and innovative thinking could not overcome the unexpected reality of Covid-19.

“This has completely turned our business upside down, many new procedures are needed just to open daily,” she said. “Face masks are required as well as much disinfecting constantly, table condiments are eliminated, disposable menus are required. QR codes are used for menu access as well. Technology is the way of the future for sure!”

Food for thought
Food for thought

Just before the most recent closure to in-door dining, the Moore’s reupholstered many of their seating areas with virus-resistant fabric and increased to a higher level the percentage of disinfectant required in dishwashers, and running them at a higher temperature.

Now, the restaurant and pub customers are seated outside and served under a big tent placed on the sidewalk and parking spaces directly in front of Dick’s property. Social distancing is observed with tables spaced in keeping with health requirements. Masks are worn by patrons until they are seated for dining. Staff wears their masks all the time.

“We were only allowed 50 percent occupancy when we were serving inside. Our Venue (Historic Serf Theatre) is virtually non-existent since large gatherings are not allowed. This would have been one of our busiest years with weddings and graduation celebrations.

“Dining at Dick’s, for now, means being seated in our outdoor patio since indoor dining is prohibited under the current health restrictions. All tables/chairs have been strategically placed to assure social distancing. Condiments are available only in individual portions served on request. We have had difficulty getting crew to return. However, we have moved much of our venue crew to Dick’s to help with daily duties.”

Dick’s loyal patrons continue to accommodate to the changing rules at this popular eatery.

“We’d like our customers to be patient as we are conforming to special requirements. Many of us are running with a skeleton crew to provide our services. Things will be different for now and going into the future for the hospitality industry due to Covid-19,” she said.

“The most beneficial to me as a business person, is having such a great community to bounce ideas and advice on. Under Covid restrictions, daily tasks are a challenge.

“One great benefit is enjoying time in the kitchen – I call it ‘Back to Basics,’ which has given me control of so much – specifically recipes, labor and food costs. I have simplified my menu, which I hope will continue to bring my labor and inventory down as well as increasing our quality of food,” Charlotte said.

Her greatest concern moving forward is rebounding from closure for three months, becoming financially stable, and keeping staff and customers healthy.

“Throughout our 28 years here at Dick’s, we have had such a great crew working for us. They’ve become family/friends along the way, which has made Dick’s a special destination. We’d like to continue that tradition of providing a great place for celebrations of life. Cheers to many more years!”

Dick’s hours of operation are 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday – Saturday. For more about Dick’s, check out their website:

Sharon Vander Meer is an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow her at,, Amazon Author Central. Please like, share, or comment – or all three!


Tortillas, donuts and more, Oh My!

Charlie SandovalCharlie’s Spic and Span Bakery and Café is an established eatery owned by only three people during its more than 60-year history. Founded in the early 1950s, its primary offerings were chile and tamales. Carmen Fernandez expanded the bakery and added breakfast and lunch. In 1998 Charlie and Elizabeth Sandoval acquired the Spic & Span and have added fresh-made tortillas and increased the menu items. Its core reason for being is to serve customers Northern New Mexico cuisine and good old-fashioned comfort foods in a friendly atmosphere. Generous portions, fresh ingredients and friendly service are the standard.

COVID-19 brought everything to a screeching halt on March 15. Charlie’s, and many other businesses deemed non-essential, closed and their owners wondered what to do next, and what to do now that restrictions have been partially lifted.

Charlie, his trademark smile and optimism firmly in place despite what his business has been through, said, “I’m a lot slower, now. By 50 percent!”

That is somewhat a consequence of restrictions that limit restaurants to half their capacity, plus reluctance by some long-time customers to venture out.

Charlie’s was closed for two months, time spent on ongoing repair and maintenance and some sprucing up. He opted to start curbside pick-up service on May 15 and in-house dining on June 1.

Signs of the times
The sign on the left reads: STOP We wear our masks to protect you and your family. Please wear your mask to protect us and our families. Thank you, Charlie’s crew.

As a customer, you’re required to wear a mask to enter, sign in with your name and phone number, and wash your hands with a sanitizing solution. Of course, you can take off your mask once you sit down. Servers, however, must keep theirs on. If you’re ordering to-go, you’re asked to keep your mask on and observe social distancing (six feet apart).


Although Charlie’s Bakery and Café is now open for in-restaurant dining, the café is operating on reduced hours, from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. “It’s been a slow start. I guess a little revenue is better than nothing. I’m trying to make good business decisions to benefit my employees and my operation.”

Donuts and moreOne program that has been of great help to the restaurant is the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). “This program has really saved my business,” Charlie said.

“I want to thank my friends, customers and family for all their support and ask that they please bear with us on all these new changes. I have a lot of good customers and a lot of them are my good friends now. I hope one day we can be normal and operate freely like before, without so many restrictions.”

Charlie’s Bakery and Cafe continues to serve a full menu, has fresh tortillas daily, and dessert favorites like apple fritters, donuts, sugar cookies, biscochitos, cream puffs and more.

Charlie’s Bakery and Café
715 Douglas Ave.

NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email for more information.


Skillet Casting its Culinary Magic

From the Skillet website: Sometime in 2012, Isaac Sandoval was challenged to design and build the world’s largest cast iron skillet. The skillet itself didn’t break any world records but people loved the unique menus and crowd-pleasers cooked in the giant skillet. Thus, began the journey into food and pure wonderment of all things culinary. Isaac and Shawna set up shop in Vegas (NM) as a food truck, and two years ago went full brick and mortar in a historic building downtown. Skillet today is an immersive art, food, and drink experience.

How did they navigate the restrictions imposed by COVID-19? Below are Shawna’s responses to questions about the virus and its impact.

Artfully designed
The foodie entrepreneurs have not been idle during their down time. The Zen pool and new artwork are just some of the additions to the patio. That’s Shawna in the background.

“We were forced to close our doors March 15,” Shawna said. “Ourselves and our employees all went on unemployment directly after. Although the government left opportunity for restaurants to serve takeout, we made the decision that our efforts were best placed elsewhere.”

The fan-favorite foodie-friendly restaurant was closed for two and one-half months, reopening on June 1.

Shawna said the Skillet is reopened at 50 percent capacity because of mandates from health officials. “Our business hours are basically the same as before. We decided to cut our late-night menu for the time being, which so far gets us home earlier on the weekends.”

Looking to the future early on in the shutdown, the Sandovals set about making changes designed to add and enhance seating, and expand food options.

“We expanded our patio seating during the quarantine knowing that outdoor dining is considered substantially safer than indoor dining. Skillet has a large outdoor patio and our outdoor occupancy at 50 percent is 100 people. With the recent beautiful weather, Pizza anyonewe’ve been serving more customers outside, which was made possible because of the expansion. Our order-at-the-counter service is actually conducive to the “contactless” approach. We eliminated all duplicate menus and have just one menu for customers to see without touching, and our servers still bring all food and beverage to the customer. We have security staff for busy nights who remind people to sign our book at the door for the required contact tracing. Recently we’ve implemented digital temperature readings for all customers entering the restaurant. Employees that are in direct contact with the public are required to wear masks at all times.”

Like many businesses, the Skillet has taken advantage of stimulus programs geared toward small businesses.

“Through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), we are able to rehire and pay all our employees who went on unemployment for the quarantine. The grant portion of the loan will assist with our payroll while the business is getting back on its feet. This is particularly beneficial for restaurants such as ours as we employ around 20 people, a significant proportion of our operational costs.”

Operations day-to-day requires attention to detail and a willingness to work toward specific goals. Shawna and Isaac want to return to – and continue – the ambiance and atmosphere the Skillet has become known for. The young entrepreneurs are equally concerned about their business friends and neighbors.

Art Installation“In spite of uncertain times, we fully intend to provide the same fun and safe environment as we always have,” Shawna said.

“Please continue to spend money at local businesses in our community; our friends and neighbors have been more than gracious and we need to do everything in our power to make sure Las Vegas continues to thrive.”

Isaac and Shawna aren’t worried about the future so much as ready for new challenges. “As a relatively new business we are already accustomed to constantly evolving and changing things in our business per the market and trends. The COVID restrictions are just another hurdle to jump for us, although this is a difficult time for everyone, our newness works to our advantage.

“It’s one day at a time for now,” Shawna said. “This will most certainly change us and all restaurants in small ways forever, however, I remain optimistic with regards to the outcome.”

For more information about the Skillet, go to

Courtesy Photos: The Skillet

NOTE: I am featuring local businesses, nonprofits, and organizations in this series of articles about how COVID-19 has affected our community . If you would like to participate, email for more information.


Getting healthy

I hope…

Weight Loss

When I was young, I weighed 100 pounds soaking wet. And then I got married and rocketed up to 153. I took control of my weight and successfully used the Atkins diet, now referred to more commonly at the ketogenic diet. This high protein/low carb eating plan worked. Lots of meat, no potatoes.

Back in the day, Atkins was THE THING for serious dieters. I went from 153 to 120 over a three-month period, and kept the weight off for several years. It slowly crept back and nothing I did seemed to make a difference. I hovered around 140. Not the best weight for someone who is 5’1” (now 4’11”). Yes, I am shrinking vertically; horizontally, not so much.

I did try Weight Watchers, and I must say, it was helpful, but I hated going to all those meetings! Yeah, I know, you can do it online now, but there’s too much of a disconnect when it comes to accountability. What worked with the going-to-meetings thing was an element of competition. Every week I wanted to be the one who lost the most weight.

Anyway, my next major weight loss was the divorce diet. I don’t recommend it. Months of stress, not eating and generally feeling like shit. I went from 140 to 104 in four weeks. No lie. That weight I kept off for quite a while.

Life took a happy turn when I married a wonderful man. I sort of managed my weight without really trying until I quit working full time. And then it packed on. I have no interest in being svelte; I just want to be healthy. So, I thought I’d once again try the Atkins (ketogenic) approach. Turns out, I don’t really like meat all that much, no matter what form or what animal it comes from. I am now embarking on a mission to reduce carbs, eat healthy and avoid meat, especially red meat. Aging doesn’t help, of course. Losing weight in my mid-70s is proving to be more of a challenge than I anticipated.

I would like some helpful feedback from readers, and tasty recipes (which I will be happy to share with permission), on this blog. You can e-mail recipes directly to me at, or post in the comments below.

Here’s a favorite frittata recipe you might enjoy. Serves two.

Egg and Broccoli Frittata

Flash boil 1 cup of broccoli for 60 to 90 seconds. Drain and set aside
Beat four large eggs with a tablespoon of milk. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

¼ cup each, chopped red and green bell peppers, sautéed
Chop cooled broccoli and add to bell peppers and continue to sauté.
½ cup feta cheese
½ cup +/- cheddar cheese

Spray pie plate with salad oil. Sprinkle feta cheese over the bottom. Layer the broccoli/pepper mix evenly. Pour egg mixture over everything. Bake in 375-degree oven for 18 to 20 minutes. Remove from oven and sprinkle cheddar cheese on top. Cut like a pizza and serve. Note: you can substitute or add green chile. As a side, I marinate chopped tomatoes and avocado in a mixture of olive oil and lemon juice. Very tasty and it all fits into the ketogenic diet!

There are lots of resources online and I’m checking them out. My arbitrary restrictions are tofu, eggplant and Portobello mushrooms. Sorry, but the texture of those foods makes me want to retch up every cookie I ever ate.

I wish I was one of those people who post photos of themselves to show the “before” and “after” of a weight loss plan, but I’m not. So, I’ll simply say I am beginning today – Thursday, August 30, 2018, at 153.4 pounds – on a mostly vegetarian quest to lose sensibly with the intent of being healthy, not skinny. I left skinny in the dust decades ago.

Here are five healthy body affirmations to keep me motivated. If you have some you would like to share, send them to me!

  • Nothing tastes as good and being healthy feels.
  • Healthy body, healthy spirit.
  • Saying no to carbs means saying yes to the dress.
  • I will eat to live, not live to eat.
  • Being active strengthens body, soul, mind and spirit.

Why am I doing this and sharing it with readers? Health, pure and simple. I can’t walk a block without breathing hard. I can’t climb stairs easily. There’s more, but you have better things to do than listen to me whine. I’m making a personal contract to make this work. Goal? Good health!

Lift a little prayer for me to stick with it. If you feel like joining me on this quest, please let me know about your progress and your struggles. Perhaps we can encourage each other.

Please like, comment and share.



Throw all your anxiety onto him, because he cares about you. 1 Peter 5:7 (The Daily Life Bible)

AnxietyWhat makes you anxious? Try to concentrate on the thing that’s eating you up over which you have some degree of control. Forget the world condition; as angst-ridden as it may be, you probably can’t do anything to affect decisions made outside your direct influence.

Think instead about the thing, person or situation that has your heart racing or your head pounding. Right now, today – for me – it’s a dead rat just outside the garage. My husband killed it and tried to convince me the droppings I’d found in the garage were lizard leavings, but I knew better.

I have a rat and mouse phobia. It nearly renders me catatonic. I want and need to scour the garage and make sure no taint of that rat is still there, but I’m afraid I’ll stir up a rat cousin.

This is the anxiety I’m having a tough time overcoming right this minute. It helps me breathe to write about it, but it’s still there, a vise at the back on my head squeezing out rational thought.

So, I call on the God of all things, large and small, to relieve my anxiety and help me put this in perspective. I have two choices: believe this rat was the only one and go on with my day, or think there may be others but somehow overcome my fears and get on with my day. The washer and dryer are in the garage and its laundry day. I have no choice but to suck it up.

Thank you, Lord of all, for courage to overcome something that in the greater scheme of life is nothing. And, please, keep the critters in the great outdoors where they belong!

Photo by Kat Jayne on

Comfort Food Made Quick and Easy

FAMILY FEATURES – A steaming bowl of savory soup is the perfect comfort food when the wind is howling, rain is falling or the temperature is dropping. It’s a time to cozy up and enjoy the warmth of being inside while indulging in some of your favorite flavors.

Savory SoupThe rich, hearty tastes and textures of a soup result from the seasonings, spices and melding of different ingredients while it slowly simmers to perfection. When there’s no time for lots of prep and cooking, there are shortcuts that don’t sacrifice taste.

When time is short, a can of READ Southwestern Bean Salad gives you a head start. The robust mixture of black beans, corn, hominy and kidney beans in a slightly spicy, chili-lime accented tomato sauce is just right in recipes that boast Tex-Mex flavors like this Chicken Enchilada Soup. Just add a few pantry staples and some sauteed chicken for a warming pot of soup in about half an hour.

For more quick and easy recipes for the season, visit

Chicken Enchilada Soup
Recipe courtesy of Dinner, Dishes and Desserts on behalf of READ Salads
Servings: 6

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 pound chicken breast cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can (10 ounces) enchilada sauce
2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock
1 can (10 ounces) diced tomatoes with green chilis
2 cans (15 ounces each) READ Southwestern Bean Salad
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
Crispy tortilla strips (optional)
Shredded cheddar cheese (optional)
Diced avocado (optional)

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken and onion. Cook 5-6 minutes, or until chicken is browned and onions are soft, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute, until fragrant.

Stir in enchilada sauce, chicken stock, tomatoes and bean salad. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Serve with tortilla strips, cheese and avocado, if desired.



Making Lists: Life, one thing at a time

OrchidI have SO many things I want/need to do, if I’m not organized, at the end of the day all there is to show for my busyness is dither, squiggles and chaos… or nothing. Back in the day I was – really, this is true – excellent at multitasking. Once upon a time I could keep several metaphorical balls in the air without dropping a one.

No more

If what I want/need to do isn’t on a “to do” list, carefully hand written on my honest-to-goodness PAPER calendar, it doesn’t get done, or I don’t remember that I did it. Okay, joking (a little) about that last one.

Perhaps it’s a consequence of getting older (and wiser) that I feel the call to keep a diary of daily activities. I mean, think about it, if you can’t recall from one day to the next what you’ve been doing – or need to do – you find yourself sitting around playing Candy Crunch, Gummy Drop, or some other silly and addictive computer game for hours on end. Or am I the only one who does that? I should say used to do that. I’m a reformed computer game addict. Can I have a hallelujah!

Since this is still the first of the year, you might think this is about making a New Year’s resolution to be more organized, but that’s not it at all. I don’t make New Year’s resolutions. If I’m going to be about the business of improving my life, it can start any day of the year. That’s why I’m a List Maker. There is a certain satisfaction at the end of the day when I have ticked off all the items on The List.

A caution here, be wise in how many tasks you line up for yourself on any day. Remember, you really can only do one thing at a time no matter how good you are at multitasking. A lasting lesson from my time as a Mary Kay Consultant was her advice to, “Deal with it, file it, or throw it away.” She was talking about paper clutter and how to keep it to a minimum. You can also apply that to setting priorities (making lists 🙂 ). You declutter your life by prioritizing those tasks and activities you decide are important and meaningful.

In our home, we have a glassed-in patio where our greenery flourishes to the point I practically need a machete to get through it – when I forget to prune. Or I go in after a couple of weeks of forgetting to water, and find the plants gasping and shriveling. Since we rarely use the patio – especially in winter – if I don’t have weekly watering on my list, I forget. The consequence is more work or the death of a plant or two. Pruning doesn’t end up on the list simply because it’s evident when that’s gotten out of hand, but watering is on the list, every Saturday without fail… except when I forget. No, The List is not infallible. It is up to me, that one-thing-at-a-time reality.

OrchidOver the holidays, I missed watering for three weeks. I know, I know, why have The List if you don’t pay attention to it? One plant thrived under my neglect. The orchid. The darned thing loved not being watered to death! Fortunately, I didn’t lose any plants, although for a couple it was iffy for a while.

I note this incident to say, spontaneity and the unexpected are the salt of life. Lists are well and good for prioritizing, but sometimes straying from or forgetting The List leads to something beautiful. You can do only one thing at a time. Leave room in your life for that one thing to be joyful no matter what it is.

Please Follow, Like, Comment and Share this article. Your feedback is important to me. Thanks for reading One Roof Publishing Magazine. One Roof Publishing may be reached by e-mail at Publisher and primary writer, Sharon Vander Meer. Guest posts are welcome.



Guest Post

Pressure cooking saves time and tenderizes

by S.K. Ammerman

Susan AmmermanPressure cooking will never replace roasting, but it definitely has its uses.

I cooked a 5.85 pound whole chicken in the Instant Pot in two 15-minute ‘poultry’ sessions. If I’d been more ambitious I’d have added vegetables and continued on the ‘slow cook’ option. Two-thirds cup of water made ample steam.

If you’d like to know: The secret to safe pressure cooking is to limit or avoid the foods that can clog the vent: beans, rice, barley, other cereals and pasta. If the small particles rise high enough a blockage can occur. It’s good to have a healthy respect for the limits.

The instructions and recipes cover safe use of these foods, but generally never fill the cooker more than 1/2 full of foods that froth when expanding. And check the timing chart to avoid overcooking (and fragmenting) the cereals.

I’ve previously learned to cook grains in a smaller vessel set on a trivet inside the pressure cooker. This works quite well. Add measured water to the grains and more water to the cooker itself. The recipe book has charts giving measures and cooking times for each type of grain or bean.

The whole business becomes easier after a few runs. Most of the grains are safely used in soups. You can saute in the cooker, but not fry food. The gasket won’t like the oil. Non-frothy contents, such as soups and sauces, can fill the cooker up to 2/3.

Failure to seal is more of an inefficiency issue. Replace the gasket and plug if they seem to be aging, stiff and cracking. The parts, including the regulator, are sold at hardware and home stores. A supple plug is the part you want to blow in the unlikely case of a blocked vent. The cooker shouldn’t explode.

Pressure cooker safety tipes:

Stonefield SheepSusan Ammerman and her husband Bart Ellison moved to northern New Mexico from New Orleans in 1999 to retire and raise a few sheep. Ammerman set out to raise easy care sheep as a quieter alternative to power lawn equipment. The project evolved into preserving the Navajo-Churro sheep breed and raising flavorful meat lambs for the local market. Ammerman is a Houston, Texas, native who is a University of Houston journalism graduate. She studies sheep and chicken genetics, social cognition and horticulture.

Photos: Courtesy S.K. Ammerman

Please Follow, Like, Comment and Share this article. Your feedback is important to me. Thanks for reading One Roof Publishing Magazine. One Roof Publishing may be reached by e-mail at Publisher and primary writer, Sharon Vander Meer. Guest posts are welcome.

Before and after, with recipes

The before shot

Here sit my good intentions. In most years, by the first week in December, all of my baking and candy making has been done, wrapped and ready for delivery. Not this year. I kept thinking tomorrow, I’ll get to it tomorrow. Well, tomorrow is here, and I have the ingredients. Time to get to work.

Christmas time in my home growing up always involved lots of food prep. So I associate family and fun with food. Mom and my dad’s mom were amazing cooks. They had distinct favorites and passed them on to us. They also had weaknesses. My grandmother didn’t think it was fit to put on the table if it wasn’t fried. She more than gladly let Mom prepare Thanksgiving and Christmas turkeys. Mom didn’t like – or maybe didn’t know how to make – cranberry sauce. She purchased the canned jellied kind. Ugh. However, in all fairness, everyone in my family but me, loves the stuff!

Here are recipes from me to you, personal favorites I hope you enjoy.

(A Kraft recipe, commentary mine)

3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup margarine (It’s better with butter)
2/3 cup evaporated milk  (I prefer Carnation brand)
1 (12 ounce) package semisweet chocolate chips
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme (Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I prefer real vanilla)

Here is the result of a five-hour marathon of baking. You would think there’d be more product, wouldn’t you? Anyway, these are some of my favorites. Recipes follow.

  1. Butter a 9×13-inch pan.
  2. Mix sugar, margarine, and evaporated milk in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. (You want it to reach soft ball stage. Sometimes 5 minutes is not enough.)
  3. Remove from heat and stir in chocolate chips until melted and thoroughly combined. Beat in marshmallow creme, walnuts, and vanilla extract. Transfer fudge to the prepared pan and let cool before cutting into squares.

(A variation on Fantasy Fudge)

3 cups white sugar
3/4 cup butter
2/3 cup Carnation evaporated milk
1 (12 ounce) package white chocolate morsels (Nestle is good)
1 (7 ounce) jar marshmallow creme (Jet-Puffed Marshmallow Creme)
1 cup Craisins
1 teaspoon vanilla

  1. Butter a 9×13-inch pan.
  2. Mix sugar, margarine, and evaporated milk in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Bring mixture to a full boil for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. (You want it to reach soft ball stage. Sometime 5 minutes isn’t enough.)
  3. Remove from heat and stir in white chocolate morsels until melted and thoroughly combined. Beat in marshmallow creme, Craisins, and vanilla extract. Transfer fudge to the prepared pan and let cool before cutting into squares.


3/4 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup chopped dates
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 tablespoons Crisco shortening
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cups flour

  1. Mix walnuts, dates, soda and salt. Add shortening and applesauce. Let stand for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease 9″ loaf pan.
  3. Beat eggs and blend in vanilla, sugar and flour until combined.
  4. Mix with date mixture until well blended. Pour into pan and bake 2 hour 5 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
  5. Cool in pan for 10 minutes.
  6. Remove to wire rack to complete cooling.
  7. Wrap in foil and store in refrigerator overnight before slicing. (Freezes well)
  8. Serve plain or with cream cheese or butter.

Variation: Substitute dried candied fruit for the dates. Tasty at Christmas.

You can make mini-cakes with this recipe but be careful of the timing. It usually takes about 30 minutes baking time.

Apricot balls, Fantasy Fudge and Cranberry Fudge

(Betty Crocker Cookbook, 1978)

1 package (8 ounces) dried apricots ground finely or cut up
3 1/2 cups flaked coconut
3/4 cup Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
2/3 cups finely chopped nuts (you may need more)

  1. Mix apricots, coconut and evaporated milk.
  2. Shape mixture into 1-inch balls.
  3. Roll balls in chopped nuts.
  4. Let stand until firm. (About 2 hours.)

Variation: Mix nuts into apricot-coconut mixture then roll in powered sugar.

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I am an indie author of six books and two chap books of poetry. Check the BOOKS tab to find out more. Follow me at,, Amazon Author Central. I’m also a member of the Las Vegas Literary Salon, a group committed to sharing the work of local writers. Follow LVLS at Thanks for reading and sharing this post.