Sandoval Signpost

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Watermelon Mountain Ranch 
Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center

WMR dog Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center is filled to capacity. They can’t take in any more animals until they find homes for the ones already there. 

A home for the holidays

—Margaret M. Nava, Signpost

Robert Allen tugged on everyone’s heartstrings when he and Al Stillman wrote the song “Home for the Holidays“ in 1954. This year, their words, “When you pine for the sunshine of a friendly face, for the holidays you can’t beat home, sweet home,” are even more poignant.

For the past several months, we have been hearing stories about the tough economic times we are all experiencing. People are losing their jobs and homes and having to change the way they live. Everyone seems to be affected in one way or another, even the family pets. In fact, the term “foreclosure pets” has been used to describe the numbers of animals being left homeless because the families that cared for them are themselves becoming homeless. Unfortunately, as demand for services for homeless animals has increased, the numbers of families looking to add a new family pet has decreased.

In 1997, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy sent surveys to 3,500 animal shelters operating in the United States. Of the thousand replies they received, the following statistics were compiled:

In the thousand shelters surveyed, 4.3 million animals were handled in 1997.

Of that number, fifteen percent of the dogs and two percent of the cats were reunited with their owners, while twenty-five percent of the dogs and twenty-four percent of the cats were adopted.

Fifty-six percent of the dogs and seventy-one percent of the cats (approximately 2.4 million animals) were euthanized. Nationwide, it is widely accepted that 9.6 million animals are “put down” annually in the United States.

When most people think of animal shelters, they think of dark, dirty, and depressing places where animals are crammed into dark cages and, for the most part, forgotten. But while that might be true in some cases, at Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center in rural Rio Rancho, it couldn’t be further from the truth.

Located on ten acres in northern Rio Rancho, Watermelon Mountain Ranch is a no-kill animal shelter dedicated to providing food, housing, medical care, and love to approximately 150 animals that were lost, strayed, abandoned, or surrendered. Instead of cages, the dogs, cats, bunnies, and pot-bellied pigs that call this place home—at least temporarily—live in a series of cottages designed to replicate the home environment.

Michael Howland-Davis, Development and Communications Director at the Ranch stated, “One of the goals we have here at the ranch is to make sure the animals that come here have a better life than where they came from. We want our animals to be used to a home environment, to be socialized and played with, so that once they are adopted, the transition to their new home will be easier.”

Watermelon Mountain Ranch saves the lives of more than five thousand animals every year. However, saving those lives is costly, and as a private, non-profit 501(c)3 charitable organization, they rely on the generosity of private supporters. Aside from monetary contributions, donors can “adopt-a-kennel” for as little as $10 a month or provide an incoming dog or cat with medical care and sterilization for $100. Supplies such as beds, food, litter, bleach, paper towels, and grooming equipment are always welcome, but donating toys is discouraged. Jim Putnam, office manager at Watermelon Ranch stated, “People have been so generous that we have plenty of toys.”

In order to raise money for additional cottages and an expanded veterinary clinic, the Ranch recently collaborated with DGM Solutions Management to raffle off a beautifully remodeled, 1,720 square-foot four-bedroom, two-bath home on a one-third acre lot in Rio Rancho. The backyard of the home features RV access, a potting shed, and a charming detached studio that could function as either a home office or a hobby house. Raffle tickets may be purchased for $100 and since only 2,500 are being sold, the odds are excellent. The winning ticket will be randomly drawn at the PetSmart store on Coors Bypass at 12:00 noon on Sunday, December 14.

Other ways to help the animals are by donating working vehicles; naming Watermelon Mountain Ranch as a beneficiary of a life insurance policy; becoming a foster parent; volunteering an hour or two a week to help clean the cottages, work at the adoption clinics, or help out in the office; or by adopting one of the animals at the annual “Home 4 the Holidays“ event being held December 12 through December 14 at the Ranch on Westphalia Boulevard and its several mobile adoption locations. For more information, call 980-9073.

Right now, Watermelon Mountain Ranch Animal Center is filled to capacity. They can’t take in any more animals until they find homes for the ones already there. Wouldn’t it be nice to give a furry friend a home? After all, they deserve a home for the holidays, too… don’t they?

An unknown author once wrote:

‘Tis the night before Christmas and all through the town, every shelter is full—we are lost but not found. Our numbers are hung on our kennels so bare, we hope every minute that someone will care. They’ll come to adopt us and give us the call, “Come here, Max and Sparkie—come fetch your new ball!”

We count on your kindness each day of the year can you give more than hope to everyone here?

2008 Bernalillo Nighttime Christmas Parade

The Town of Bernalillo boasts the oldest continuous nighttime parade in New Mexico.

This year’s parade theme is “A Storybook Christmas.”

The parade will be held on Saturday, December 6, 2008 at 6:00 p.m. The parade route will be along Camino del Pueblo south from Calle Escuela to

Avenida Bernalillo. At Avenida Bernalillo, the parade will turn north onto Calle San Lorenzo and end at Rotary Park. There, the Town will host a bonfire with bizcochitos and cider for all.

Ribbons will be awarded to the best entries in the categories of Youth, Commercial, Non-Commercial, and Vehicle. The entry fee is a $25.00 donation to the “Children’s Christmas Fund”. The deadline to enter a float in the parade is December 5. Float applications are now available on the Town website,, at Town Hall, or by contacting Carla Salazar at 505.771.7114.

Don’t miss out on these local holiday events

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost
As New Mexico holiday happenings go, you can’t beat Albuquerque for festivity or Santa Fe for atmospheric charm—but there’s something to be said for quieter celebrations close to home, too. Sandoval County is blessed with seven Indian pueblos, nearly all of which hold dances open to the public at this time of year—a truly American celebration that is outside the box. Of special note is the Matachines dance, held Christmas Eve and Day, a Christian import from medieval Spain that is basically a morality play of good triumphing over evil, which each tribe interprets in its own way.

We are also home to two state monuments and two national monuments, not to mention two national forests and a national preserve. So when your visiting relatives start drawing unfavorable comparisons between Albuquerque and New York, or Santa Fe and San Francisco, take them for an afternoon walk at Tent Rocks, or snowshoeing at Valles Caldera, for an experience that is without comparison.

Below are some other highlights available locally during this season:

December 5-7
Jolly Holidays in Corrales. All events free.

20th Annual Fine Craft Show at Old San Ysidro Church, 966 Old Church Road, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Friday; 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Saturday; 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Sunday.

Casa San Ysidro Holiday Open House, 5-8 p.m. on Saturday. Bring the kids for ornament making and singing carols around an open bonfire at this historic home decorated with farolitos and holiday greens.

Starlight Parade, 6-8 p.m. on Saturday, Corrales Road, followed by bonfire at the Corrales Recreation Center.

December 6
24th Annual Bernalillo Nighttime Christmas Parade, 6 p.m. on Calle Escuela. Bonfire to follow at Rotary Park.

Winterfest Parade & Luminaria Tour, Rio Rancho, 5:15 p.m., starting at Golf Course Road and Southern Boulevard, traveling east to NM 528. More than twelve thousand luminarias will be arranged along walking paths starting at Haynes Park (2006 Grande Boulevard, across from Intel) until 9 p.m. Call 891-5015 for information.

December 7
Six-time Native American Music Award nominee Ronald Roybal plays Native American flute and classical Spanish guitar at Las Placitas Presbyterian Church, 3 p.m. $18 advance; $15 seniors/students. Tickets available at La Bonne Vie Salon in Placitas, Ah! Capelli Salon in Rio Rancho, or online at

December 12
Guadalupe Feast Day, with Matachines dances at Jemez Pueblo. Call (575) 834-7235 for information.

December 18
Las Posadas, a re-enactment of the Holy Family’s quest for lodging in Bethlehem, at Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales, 7-9 p.m.

December 20
“Polyphony: Voices of New Mexico!“ at Old San Ysidro Church, Corrales, 7:30-9 p.m. New Mexico’s newest professional choir made up of women living in the state and selected by audition will perform a cappella Christmas music from past to present. $22 advance; $25 at the door.

December 24
Dances before and after Midnight Mass at San Felipe, Santa Ana, and Santo Domingo pueblos. Contact individual pueblos for information: or 867-3381; or 771-6700; 465-2214 for Santo Domingo.

December 25
Matachines and other dances at Santo Domingo and Zia pueblos.

December 26 - January 4, weekends
Cross-country skiing and snowshoeing at Valles Caldera National Preserve. Day use permits are available 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. at the staging area two miles from the main road. $10 adults; $8 seniors; $5 youth (ages six to fifteen); free for ages five and younger. For information, visit or email

December 26 -28 and January 1
Christmas corn dances at Santo Domingo pueblo. For information, call 465-2214.

January 6
Most pueblos hold Kings Day celebrations (El Día de los Reyes, or Epiphany), with deer, antelope, and buffalo dances, open to the public.

Cut your holiday gift costs

—Jason Alderman

One interesting—albeit non-scientific—way to gauge someone’s comfort level with the state of the economy is to ask how much they plan to spend on holiday gifts. In good times, people tend to spend more generously; during rough periods, they scale back.

Those trends were borne out in a recent consumer survey conducted by Visa, Inc., which found that shoppers plan to spend an average of $934 on gifts this holiday season, down about eleven percent from last year’s $1,051 average. That jibes with bleak industry forecasts for the upcoming shopping season.

If you’re among those looking for ways to manage your holiday spending while still finding meaningful gifts for your loved ones, read on:

First, consider your overall finances. Before spending a dime on gifts, step back and calculate how much you can afford as a portion of your overall budget. Consider questions such as:

Are your savings sufficient to cover expenses for a few months if you or your spouse should get laid off or have unexpected medical expenses?

Would you be able to pay off all gifts within a couple of months?

Are you already struggling to pay your monthly bills?

Would you need to suspend retirement savings contributions in order to buy gifts?

If you answered “no” to either of the first two questions or “yes” to the others, this probably isn’t a good year for extravagant spending.

Make a list. Once you decide how much you can comfortably afford to spend on gifts overall, list all the people you need to shop for, including a few gift alternatives—and their costs—for each person. I call these ‘micro budgets.’ Remember, if you overspend on one present, you’ll need to make up for it somewhere else to balance out.

Comparison shop. Retailers are likely to offer deep discounts to lure wary shoppers, so check newspaper ads and store websites frequently for sales and coupons. Comparison shopping websites like,, and are also good resources—plus, they may provide good gift ideas for hard-to-shop-for individuals.

Use online coupons. When shopping online, look for the “coupon code” box at checkout. Numerous shopping websites post coupon codes (as well as printable hard-copy coupons) for hundreds of online and in-store retailers. By quickly searching a few such sites (including,,, and, you might find significant discounts on items you’re about to buy.

Cash in frequent flyer miles. One good way to use up your airline miles before they expire is to redeem them for cash or merchandise. Check out your airline’s miles program website for details—you might just find an appropriate gift for someone on your list.

Use credit card rewards. Similarly, if you’re amassing reward points through your credit card, check out its online merchandise catalog or consider cashing out the points for cash or gift certificates.

Finally, have heart-to-heart discussions with family and friends. They’re probably just as concerned about overspending. In fact, maybe this is a good year to exchange charitable contributions in each others’ behalf to show how thankful you are for what you’ve got.

Jason Alderman directs Visa’s financial education programs. To sign up for a free monthly personal finance e-newsletter, visit

Official Tree Lighting—Town of Bernalillo

Mayor Patricia A. Chávez reminds residents and businesses of the official Annual Christmas Tree Lighting at 6:00 p.m., Friday, December 5, 2008, in front of Town Hall.

Come out and enjoy mingling with friends and neighbors as we listen to carols sung by our youth from local school choirs. This event serves to formally launch the holiday season in Bernalillo. Bizcochitos and hot cider will be served.

Cibola National Forest Christmas tree permits available

Note: There is NO Christmas tree cutting on the Sandia Ranger District.

Permits for cutting Christmas trees will be available over-the-counter at Cibola National Forest offices November 24 through December 24 at a cost of $10 per permit. Each household is limited to one permit, but up to four additional permits can be purchased for family or friends. Names and addresses are required for each permit.

Timber Management Officer Tom Marks stated, “Our Christmas tree cutting program remains very popular and is a great way to spend a day in your national forest with friends and family. With the recent fire disasters, it is important to note that cutting Christmas trees helps thin overcrowded timber stands on National Forests.”

Christmas tree maps and permit purchase information can be downloaded at

In Albuquerque, permits can be purchased at the Cibola National Forest Supervisor’s Office, 2113 Osuna Road NE in Albuquerque (346-3900). The office is open Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. Permits are also available at the Mount Taylor Ranger District in Grants ((505)-287-8833); Ft. Wingate Office, Saturday only, ((505) 488-5441); Magdalena Ranger District in Magdalena, ((575) 854-2281); and Mountainair Ranger District in Mountainair, ((505) 847-2990). Please call for days and times of operation.

For full information on tree cutting, call the Cibola National Forest Supervisor’s Office at 346-3900 or visit Individuals interested in tree cutting on the Santa Fe National Forest (Jemez, Pecos, Cuba, and Las Vegas Ranger Districts) should contact the Santa Fe National Forest at (505) 438-7840.

Blades Bistro  

The team behind the new Blade's Bistro, to open in January: brothers Kevin and Michael Bladergroen, and Kevin's wife Anja Bladergroen.

Restaurant pros to serve ‘honest food’ in Placitas

—Keiko Ohnuma, Signpost

It’s a no-brainer that Placitas could use a sit-down restaurant. Its 4,500 population with high household incomes should embrace any option from a waffle house to a wine bar that saves a trip down the hill. Still, it took a team of veteran restaurateurs to test the conventional wisdom.

Husband-and-wife team Kevin and Anja Bladergroen have joined with Kevin’s brother Michael to open a bar and bistro next to the Merc in the Homestead Village Shopping Center that should start serving dinner six nights a week in early January.

The couple, who helped Matt Gregory start up the original Range Café in Bernalillo and the Standard Diner on Nob Hill, are no strangers to the local restaurant scene. They had been thinking for years about opening their own place, and their visits to Michael, who has lived in Placitas for twenty years, pointed to an untapped market.

Part of the problem was the lack of a suitable location. The vacant storefront that now has a sign for Blade’s Bistro (named for the three Bladergroens) had been a bar and a restaurant in the past, but was too small to be profitable. It is now being expanded to seat sixty people inside and forty on a patio outside. “From the beginning, the landlords were very supportive” of their proposal to knock down walls, Kevin said. “They were looking for something like this to complete that center.”

Blade’s proposes to be “a neighborhood restaurant where you can get fresh, honest food at reasonable prices,” says Kevin, who will be the executive chef. Think of the Indigo Crow in Corrales—a step more formal than The Range or Standard Diner, but not so much that you can’t stop in to meet a friend over a glass of wine and fried calamari.

Basing the menu on his thirty years’ experience cooking in the U.S. and Europe (Anja is from the Netherlands, where they have run restaurants together), the chef plans “down-to-earth food” using fresh local ingredients in European style—a true bistro, in other words, a neighborhood gathering spot. You can get loin of lamb, a grilled rib-eye, or coq au vin, or go lighter with seafood linguine, a grilled salmon salad, or just chicken wings and a beer.

“No tablecloths,” says Anja. The emphasis will be on “casual elegance,” Michael adds, rather than fine dining.

Anja admits that the nation’s financial crisis gave all of them separate cause for worry in recent months. But with financing secured in August from the Small Business Administration and First Community Bank in Placitas, there was no looking back.

“We can only go forward,” she says. “Our business plan is to succeed—we pretty much don’t expect anything else.” They point to the supporting evidence: Not only demand in Placitas itself, but growth in downtown Bernalillo that attracted the newest Flying Star (“those are people who do their research,” Anja notes), along with a longstanding New Mexico tendency to gather over restaurant meals.

Fate has supported their plans since they were conceived a year ago, Kevin adds. “Everything lined up—everyone was comfortable with the location and timing.” And after cooking for other people for thirty years, “this is my chance,” he says. “We didn’t want to do this halfway.”

For most of their careers, the couple has worked as a restaurant team—he in the kitchen, she in the front of the house—so “it’s a combination we’re very comfortable with,” Kevin says of the joint ownership model. At Standard Diner, for example, he was the executive chef; she was general manager. Add to that his brother’s local roots and supporting role as assistant manager, and you have a family business, Kevin says, that is committed to the local community. “Anja and I are ready to settle down here and give it one hundred percent.”

The brothers’ roots in Albuquerque go back to the 1960s, when their father was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base. Kevin’s first restaurant job was at Casa Vieja in Corrales in 1975, then a fine-dining Italian restaurant—and he was dismayed to learn that the current owner just closed the business on November 14.

In 1978, he went to Paris to study cooking at La Varenne, and has since lived a life of culinary adventure with Anja, whom he met in 1979. They crossed the U.S. in a motor home in the early 2000s, working in restaurants from Maine to Pebble Beach, and also teamed up to run restaurants in the Netherlands before returning to Albuquerque in 2006.

Anja, who is trained in wine and serving, will take charge of the wine list and full bar at Blade’s. She hopes to introduce wine or beer dinners eventually, along with catering and possibly cooking classes. They plan to start off slowly, however, to gauge whether there’s demand for lunch or brunch. Kevin believes they can beat the new-restaurant odds by remaining flexible and offering higher value than the competition—more béarnaise for the buck—even in the current economic climate.

“We’re going to support them,” he vows of Placitas diners, “and they’re going to support us.”






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