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Valda signs book for Thu Fenno

Suzie Patterson and Shelia Huffman hosted a book launching and luncheon Friday afternoon for local author Valda Dracopoulos to celebrate her first novel, “Woven Web.”

Valda lives in North Texas with her husband, Gus, and their perfect little Bichon Friese rescue, Lulu. Since a child, Valda has loved writing stories and journaling them in notebooks.

“I spin stories in my head and make friends with my characters,” Valda said.

To her family and friends, she is a storyteller. 

“Woven Web,” is a murder mystery set in small-town Texas, as well as Dallas, and follows teenage Rebecca Wilds’ pursuit for the killer which leads her into a world of danger and intrigue.

Rebecca awakens on their family’s farm to find her parents dead.   Unable to understand why they were taken, and she was left, her search for the answer and the killer unearths a web of lies and deceit that threaten her future, her life, and her identity.

The book signing was held in the home of Wendell and Suzie Patterson with guests enjoying traditional tea sandwiches, salads, cakes from Nothing Bundt Cakes and a candy charcuterie of World-Famous Toffee and Texas Trash from Susie’s South Forty Confections.

Coming of age, murder, and mystery, “Woven Web,” has it all and you can enjoy the novel by purchasing a copy through Amazon books or by enjoying it on your e-reader.

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This is a story of love, of faith, of hope; the power of prayer and positive thinking. It is a story of never giving up and a lesson that cannot be emphasized enough—microchip, microchip, microchip!

Last Fourth of July Elissa De Maria Battista and her husband, Matt, along with their new baby and 2-year-old Boston terrier, named Fisher (aka Fishy Pup), were enjoying a long holiday weekend in Ocean City, Maryland when Fisher went missing. 

They believe that he had learned to open the screen door of the rental property and let himself out.  He was wearing a harness and a bandana, but no collar with an ID tag. However, Fisher was microchipped.

The family immediately began looking for him and extended their stay in Ocean City to search. They put up signs, notified the police, lifeguards, fire department and searched on foot, on bicycles and in cars. They hired a dog tracker and Fisher’s picture appeared on the city’s famous floating billboard, The Seaboard.

You name it, they did it! But eventually the family had to return home without Fisher. Elissa started a group Facebook page, “Find Fisher.” 

“We will never give up until we find him,” Elissa posted.

The posts went viral and thousands and thousand of people responded with well wishes and pictures of Boston terriers each time one was found. Unfortunately, for nine long months, 290 days, Elissa’s response was always the same, “Thank you for sharing, but it’s not Fisher.”

Until yesterday! Goose bumps and tears filled the internet when in response to the picture of a found dog, the post read, “I think it is Fisher.”

A male Boston terrier had been found roaming the streets of Baltimore.  He was picked up, scanned and confirmed to be Fisher.

Elissa made the five-hour drive from her Connecticut home to Maryland yesterday afternoon and through tears, laughter and repeated exclamations of “Oh, my god,” she and Fisher were re-united, making the family whole again.

Elissa commented this morning that she would like to turn the “Find Fisher” Facebook group page into a place to post all lost dogs in an attempt to get them back home with their family.

For those of us who followed the story and prayed for Fisher’s safe return, we are ecstatic about this happy ending and once again, encourage everyone to microchip their pets.

Shelia Huffman, former Dallas resident, contributes this story congratulating Fisher and the Battista family and in memory of her Boston Terrier, Wheels, (2008-2018).

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As the weather gets colder make sure your pets are inside. Also, if you are wanting to share with the less fortunate this Christmas season, think about donating to your local SPCA or one of the many animal rescues in your area. Homeless dogs and cats need our help.
If you are looking for a pet, consider adopting, but please don’t purchase from pet stores, online or from a flea market. Puppy mills are likely their source for obtaining dogs for resale and when you give them your money you are enabling and encouraging the atrocities that take place in puppy mills.
Heart set on having a purebred? And there is nothing wrong with that but do your homework and find a reputable breeder. Good breeders look out for where their litters are going. Although you can’t purchase a dog at a dog show, it is a fun way to see various breeds and meet reputable breeders.
One last thing on Christmas—The Christmas Puppy! Dogs are not toys to make someone ooh and aah Christmas morning only to be discarded when the newness wears off. They are a 14 to 15 year or better commitment that requires time, patience, love and money. Make sure you are ready to be a pet owner.
Merry Christmas to you and your furry family!
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As we continue to experience the pandemic more folks are borrowing traditions from the past to entertain themselves and their family. Evening walks through the neighborhood, lawn games and outdoor gatherings among family members are being enjoyed like we have not seen for some time.

What could be more symbolic of simple fun than an old timey picnic? Not grilling burgers or hot dogs on your fancy grill or cooking on your Big Green Egg, but just throwing a blanket under a shade tree and opening a basket of all-time favorite picnic foods.

Historically, fried chicken, cold salads and lemonade are listed as typical picnic fare. 

At some point in time I realized that I loved “cold fried chicken,” preferring it over the “hot from the pot version.” But I think I first became aware that it was a staple on its own, and not just a refrigerated left-over when I heard Miss Kitty tell a pensive Matt Dillon that tomorrow she would pack them a picnic lunch of “cold fried chicken.”

According to Fan Fiction writer Lady KRedzz, author of “Precious Moments, Forever Kitty and Matt” that cold fried chicken picnic may have played out something like this:

“It was a quite Sunday afternoon in May of 1893 and it found Matt and Kitty creek side, enjoying a picnic lunch.  Kitty had fried up some chicken, cooked some biscuits, made potato salad and a cherry pie, an indulgence that had won her a first- place ribbon at the county fair.” 

Following lunch, the conversation took on a romantic tone and Matt told Kitty that there had not been a day gone by since he met her that he hadn’t wanted a future with her, but that his badge had come first, and that she had her business at The Long Branch  to run. But now that the country was getting calmer and quieter, maybe they could finally give their relationship a chance.  

“Oh, Cowboy, I do love you so.  And, I will help you give us a chance," Miss Kitty replied.

Um’, cold fried chicken!

Why does cold friend chicken taste so good?  Usually cold fried foods are unappetizing to say the least.  Cold French fries, anyone?

Chef Jeffery Gardner says when fried chicken starts to cool down, the skin contracts and bonds itself to the meat. This process causes the top part of the skin to separate slightly from the crust, which prevents moisture absorption and sogginess, allowing the breading to maintain its satisfying chomp. Also, as the steam escapes the chicken, the moisture loss results in meat with greater density and a more pronounced “chicken-y” flavor. 

This discovery likely came about before refrigeration when chicken was fried and left on the counter- top.  When folks realized that the dish was not only edible, but also desirable, several hours after leaving the hot oil, fried chicken started to become a popular mainstay of picnics and church gathering throughout the South. 

However good the fried chicken, as time went by and we became more and more health conscious, it still got a bad rap. That is until the 1990’s when Oprah Winfrey proclaimed that her personal chef Rosie Daley’s “unfried chicken” could run a neck to neck race with real fried chicken sans the fat and calories.

Rosie marinated the chicken in yogurt, rolled it in seasoned breading and baked it in a high- temp oven, turning the chicken every twenty minutes while it browned.

Today the healthier version of fried chicken is easier than ever with the help of an Air Fryer. I know, I said put away the Green Egg, but there is room for both!

Just this week Guy Fieri “fried” up some breaded chicken tenders on TV with Rachel Ray using the popular appliance. Kids love fried chicken tenders.

Try this easy recipe using chicken drumettes.

A blanket, a shade tree and those you love are all you will need to enjoy an old-timey picnic during the pandemic.  And who knows! Maybe our country will become quieter and calmer.


1 package of chicken drumettes

For marinade:

1 pint of buttermilk

Brine from almost empty jar of pickles (any kind, I used home-made)

1 Tablespoon Worcestershire Sauce

For breading:

Combination of flour, corn meal and Panko Bread Crumbs and corn starch(enough to coat the chicken pieces) seasoned with salt, pepper, garlic powder (your choice of seasonings) in bowl or large plastic baggie

Non-stick spray such as Pam


Put buttermilk, pickle juice and Worcestershire in bowl.  Add drumettes and marinate in refrigerator for several hours.

Spray Air Fryer Basket with non-stick spray.

Pre-heat Air Fryer to 390 degrees and set to cook for 20 minutes. 

Dredge half of the drumettes in breading. Shake off excess. Place in air fryer basket in single layer not touching and spray generously with non-stick spray.

Turn chicken halfway through cooking time, spray generously with non-stick spray and continue cooking. Check for golden color after 8 additional minutes.

When browned, remove from basket to paper towel lined plate

Dredge and cook remaining drumettes.

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Mural in Deep Ellum

Practicing social distancing etiquette, a small group of women came together Monday in Lake Highlands for lunch, fellowship and prayer.

Having developed close friendships at their church years ago, the women have served together in numerous charitable and outreach endeavors over the years that included supporting Austin Street Center, Juliette Fowler Communities, Genesis Women’s Shelter, North Dallas Shared Ministries and more. As Dallas began reopening, following the pandemic lock down, plus the addition of last week’s sad events, it was a perfect time to gather for lunch and conversation. 

Valda Dracopoulos led the small group in a beautiful, tear-felt, prayer. Referencing Matthew 18:20, “when two or more have gathered in my name, I am in their midst” she asked that God hear our small number of voices and heal our world.

The lunch was co-hosted by Lake Highland’s resident Becky Riggins and former Dallas resident, Shelia Huffman who was visiting from Midland.  

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Disciples Women’s Ministry is celebrating their 145th birthday in 2019. This celebration marks October 21,1874 as the day that Caroline Neville Pearre organized the women of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) to address the mission and ministry that was then lacking in the church. The Christian Women’s Board of Missions (CWBM) was organized, and uncommon for the era, was to be managed exclusively by women.

The name may have changed through the years (today the organization is known as International Disciples Women’s Ministry), but the mission empowering women remains the same: to provide opportunities for spiritual growth, enrichment, education and creative ministries, enabling women to develop a sense of personal responsibility for the whole mission of the church.

In 1886, a group of women in St. Louis, led by Mattie Younkin, recognizing a need to assist poor and orphaned children began what is now the National Benevolent Association, the social services ministry of the church.

In 1895, Nancy E Atkinson, a founding member of the CWBM, and her husband received news of the death of a pastor who left behind a nearly blind widow and several children with no means of support. Establishing a fund to provide support for this family was the beginning of the Pension Fund for ministers in the Christian Church.

The list of achievements by women and often for women, continued through the years, encompassing many races and cultures.

This year, the Disciples Women of Central Christian Church kicked-off their September meeting (the group meets monthly September through May) exploring new charitable possibilities to expand their outreach.

At that meeting, five winners from The Ms. Texas Senior America pageant shared the charities of their passions with the group.  Their outreach included a broad list of community services that included helping the homeless, abused and neglected animals, children with special needs and more.

At the October meeting of Disciples Women of Central, it was decided that a “warm outer wear drive,” collecting coats, sweaters and jackets for the women and children who have found refuge in Genesis Women’s Shelter would be one of their Christmas projects.  

Since victims of domestic violence and abuse come in all ages and sizes, along with their children, donors will have the opportunity to purchase whatever piece of warm clothing they like for all size adult women and all age boys and girls. If you would like to contribute to the project, just drop your item by the church Monday thru Friday, asking for Laura, Scott or Jayne in the church office.

Genesis Women’s Shelter exists to provide safety, shelter and support for women who have experienced domestic violence, and to raise awareness regarding its cause, prevalence and impact.

You don’t have to be a member of Central, or any church for that matter, to be a part of the wonderful group of women who meet monthly to help make the world a better place. Call the church office for more information.

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Anne Pogson and Suzie Patterson

Plan to come to Disciples Women’s October Meeting.

Hands down, October for many is the best month of the year.  Not too hot and not too cold!  And by the end of the month, you can bring out coats and sweaters and you don’t even hate them yet.

There is also the splendor of the trees changing color, even in Texas, but without taking Claritin from sneezing and watery eyes that come when they bloom in the spring.

Football, The State Fair of Texas, an afternoon cup of tea and soup in the crock-pot— or these days, the Instant Pot. The exciting winter holidays are right around the corner, but far enough away that you don’t yet feel a total trudge.

There is no better time to gather and celebrate friendships than this Autumn month. Join the Disciples Women of Central, Tuesday morning, October 1 at 10:30 for another exciting meeting of learning and sharing.

During the program, you will hear the new bestseller, “Becoming,” by Michelle Obama reviewed by Anne Pogson.

Scholars rank Michelle Obama as one of the most influential first ladies in American history.  She took up many causes during her husband’s time as president tackling issues as diverse as childhood obesity, veterans’ wellness and education for young women.

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month and we will remember our loved ones, those who survived and those we lost. Also, celebrated in October is “National Make A Difference Day”—an annual community service event where millions of people have united in the common mission to improve the lives of others. That plays right in to Disciples Women's mission as celebrated in our September kick-off meeting.

We will collect sweaters, jackets, coats and hoodies for our Christmas project.  Please bring your ideas of where we might take these warm items for distribution to the October lunch.

Although the members of Disciples Women do enjoy lunching and socializing, the ministries are part of the movement for wholeness in a fragmented world by providing opportunities for spiritual growth, enrichment, education and charitable outreach to enable women to develop a sense of personal responsibility for the whole mission of the church and allow every woman to live her fullest potential.

You do not have to be a member of the hosting church, Central Christian Church, or any church for that matter to be a part of this wonderful organization. Email Shelia at or call the church office at 214-526-7291 if you would like to come see for yourself how enriching life can be for you and others through Disciples Women’s Ministries.

As always, lunch follows the program in fellowship hall.  Please RSVP so that we have an accurate head count for lunch.

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Organ Re-Dedication

The beautiful pipe organ located in the sanctuary of the Mid-Century Modern church building at 4711 Westside Dr. will be re-dedicated three-decades after the generous gift was presented to the church.

The re-dedication ceremony will be held on Sunday morning, October 13, at the 11:00 am service.   Faith Manning will be the guest organist.

Manning, a native of Dallas, began studying piano at the early age of seven years old. She began her career in music ministry at age ten and added the pipe organ to her instrumental accomplishments when she was 18 years old.

A graduate of Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Manning received a Bachelor of Music degree in Pipe Organ Performance from Fisk University in 2007 and a master’s degree in Education from Middle Tennessee State in 2012. She is the elementary music and middle school choir teacher at the International Leadership of Texas School in Lancaster Texas.

Manning currently serves as the minister of music at Faithful Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church, The Gathering: A Womanist Church, and New Hope Missionary Baptist Church. 

During the re-dedication ceremony Manning will perform a variety of pieces including classical, religious and secular music that highlight the beautiful instrument that was donated to the church by the late Maurice and Ebby Halliday Acers.

Dallas real estate icon, Ebby Halliday, was brought up a Baptist and later became an Episcopalian.

“But, it was Maurice who made me a ‘Christian,’” she often joked, referring to her husband, Maurice Acers and the church she joined and grew to love, Central Christian Church

Ebby Halliday Acers joined Central (Disciples of Christ) on December 19, 1965. 

Maurice Acers, as well as his mother, Effie Acers, had been a member of Central since 1915 when the church was still located in downtown Dallas at St. Paul and Patterson Streets. In 1953, the church moved to its current location at 4711 Westside Dr. It was there that Ebby Halliday married Maurice Acers on Easter Sunday, April 18, 1965. 

The couple were wed in a small and simple ceremony at 10 a.m. between Easter Sunday services by Central’s pastor at the time, the late Rev. Dr. E.C. Rowand. 

The pipe organ was installed by Dan Garland and the original dedication ceremony was held in October of 1992.

Current Music Director of Central Christian Church, Tim Caffee, has original documents and drawings of the organ and plans for installation from the church archives that will be displayed during the re-dedication ceremony.  

The public is invited to this special service.  A reception will follow in the church fellowship hall.

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Becky Riggins, Margaret Wilson and Katheryn Livengood

Katheryn Livengood of Dallas and Margaret Wilson of Garland were recognized for their years of community service in the Disciples Women’s Ministries, (DWM) —a service organization in the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ.) 

Both women have been long-time faithful members, giving their time and energy to helping others.

Kathryn Livengood began serving in DWM in the early 1980’s.  She has volunteered with the Visiting Nurses Association delivering Meals on Wheels to seniors, low-income and homebound for nearly 30 years.  She has overseen a monthly food drive, collecting canned goods, produce and groceries, loading them in her car and delivering to North Dallas Shared Ministries for distribution to those in need.

Margaret Wilson joined Katheryn on the monthly Meals on Wheels route about six years ago as the duo team of seniors helped make sure that low income and elderly in Northeast Dallas had a nutritious meal.

Both women have been long-time active participants in DWM and served in various offices and on various committees. Throughout the years, they have cheerfully filled requests for food preparation and service whenever they were asked.

Becky Riggins of Lake Highland presented the women with a thank you gift at a DWM meeting Tuesday, September 3. Thank you to these two seniors who have graciously reached out to the community to help make the world a better place.

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Community was the focus of the Vision and Planning Retreat held Saturday, September 7th at Central Christian Church in Dallas. Rev. Dr. Katie Hays, from Galileo Church in Ft. Worth, led the workshop that was attended by Central members and representatives from neighboring communities who partner with Central to experience God’s transforming love.

Opening the meeting, Rev. Hays posed four queries, based on Quakers use of the term “Query,”, referring to a question or series of questions used for reflection and in spiritual exercises. Quakers have used Queries as tools for offering spiritual challenges for self-examination to the community for much of their history.  The queries included:

          How goeth it with my soul?

          Where did you see God in the past week?

          What is your body saying to you?

          How are you father along today than this time last week?

She went on to talk about American’s “Epidemic of Loneliness” and suggested that everyone google “Loneliness Epidemic” it to see what an impact it is having on society. 

“Kids the age of mine, Generation Z, collage age, have admitted that they are lonesome and psychologists have suggested that parents keep in close touch with their children to avoid the dangers associated with this epidemic.” Rev. Hays said. 

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, over a quarter of the U.S. population now live by themselves. Nearly one out of three older Americans now live alone -- and the health effects are mounting, experts say. 

“One in three seniors lives in isolation, meaning they have no contact with friends and family on a regular basis, and the impact of that on their health is phenomenal,” Rev. Hays said. 

Medical studies have suggested that loneliness is as harmful as smoking 15 cigarettes a day. That gets the attention of all the smokers who have quit!

Central Christian Church is tackling these problems and more by connection to community and inclusion of all, with interactive training like Saturday’s workshop and vision retreat. 

Individuals shared their personal experiences and the goals they would like to see accomplished by partnering with their neighbors. 

Following a “sing-a-long” of the new single, “Crowded Table” by the Highwomen, a song promoting inclusion that Rev. Hays says will be sung often in her ministry, everyone enjoyed lunch before the afternoon session of the workshop.

“I want a house with a crowded table, And a place by the fire for everyone, Let us take on the world while we're young and able, And bring us back together when the day is done."~Chorus from Crowded Table

If you would like to know more about God’s transforming love, visit Central in the sanctuary for 11 a.m. Sunday worship, or Central Community Dog Park at 9 a.m. the first and third Sunday of the month for “bring your dog to church,” or Disciples Women’s Ministries in the parlor at 10:30 a.m. the first Tuesday of each month.

Contact the church office for more information at 214-526-7291.