Tuesday, 23 July 2024


Wine Alliance Board members and Ginny Craven (front, center) at the check presentation on Tuesday in Kelseyville. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

KELSEYVILLE – The Lake County Wine Alliance on Tuesday spread some holiday cheer and handed out some large checks to several local groups who work to make Lake County a better place.

The proceeds from the alliance's ninth annual Lake County Wine Auction – held in September at Buckingham Golf and Country Club – were distributed at a festive pre-Christmas gathering at Marie Beery's Saw Shop Gallery Bistro Tuesday afternoon.

In all, 16 community nonprofits shared $91,500.

“We had an incredible year,” said Wine Alliance Treasurer Rob Roumiguiere.

Since it began in 2000, the Lake County Wine Auction has contributed approximately $713,002 to community organizations, alliance board members reported. The group's charter directs it to foster the arts, benefit health services and support the community while, at the same time, promoting Lake County as a wine-growing region.




Rob Roumiguiere speaks about the Wine Auction effort as fellow Wine Alliance Board members Marie Beery and Wilda Shock look on Tuesday. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


Joining Roumiguiere in making the check presentations were fellow Wine Alliance Board of Directors members including President Margaret Walker-Stimmel, Vice President Marie Beery, Secretary Pamela Shine-Duncan; and directors Judy Luchsinger, Wilda Shock and Janet Thompson. Jim Fetzer, another director, didn't attend.

This year, the Wine Alliance took its signature event in a different direction, adding new facets to it – such as a cooking presentation with noted chef John Ash, Roumiguiere said.

“This event really has become the premier event for Lake County,” he said, adding that about 400 people attended this year.

Recipients were categorized into three major groups – arts, health and community – each of which divided up $30,000. An additional $1,500 went to the Buckingham Junior Golf Program to fund Lake County Junior Golf Council activities.




Brad Onorato, district representative for Congressman Mike Thoompson, with representatives of the Lake County Literacy Coalition. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



In the arts, $5,000 went to Kids 4 Broadway, which provides tuition scholarships for children ages 6 through 14 to participate in theater productions, plus $5,000 each to the fine arts programs at Clear Lake High School, Kelseyville High School, Lower Lake High School, Middletown High School and Upper Lake High School.

Health-related groups included Lake County Special Olympics, $2,500, for sports equipment, uniforms, training supplies and transportation costs; Wiloth Equine Therapy and Riding Center, $2,500, for equine-assisted therapy programs for special needs youth; Adult Day Care/Respite of Clearlake, $12,500, providing a caring, accepting environment for dementia-impaired adults; and Hospice Services of Lake County, $12,500, offering high-quality, end-of-life services to county residents.

Susie Wiloth said her therapy and riding center, located between Lower Lake and Middletown, will use the $2,500 it received to sponsor children who are students of the school. She said the school will provide matching funds to provide more therapeutic riding opportunities for the students.

In the community category, the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team received $2,500, as did Church Women United. Operation Tango Mike was awarded $5,000, while the Lake Family Resource Center and the Lake County Literacy Coalition each received $10,000.




Rich Feiro and Frank Parker of the United Veterans Council Military Funeral Honors Team and Wine Alliance Board member Wilda Shock. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.


The $2,500 that went to the Military Funeral Honors Team will go toward uniforms and team operations, said team member and United Veterans Council President Frank Parker. The funds also will help cover a recent engine overhaul for the group's bus, which carries team members to veterans' funerals and military-related events.

“We operate strictly on donations,” said Parker.

Ginny Craven, founder of Operation Tango Mike – which sends care packages to local troops overseas – said the $5,000 her group received will help ensure several more months of supplies to members of the military.

To send between 80 and 100 packages a month averages about $1,000 in shipping costs each time the packages go out, Craven said, adding that shipping costs will go up after the start of the new year.

Church Women United will use their funds to provide shoes and socks for school-age children in need and the Lake Family Resource Center will operate separate summer camps for young men and women ages 12 through 17. The Literacy Coalition plans to train more tutors to serve adults needing help reading and writing English.




Susie Wiloth (third from left) and Wine Alliance Board members. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



Despite the tough economy, Roumiguiere said this year's distribution was the same as last year's. “It's pretty incredible,” he said.

The auction's administrative costs are covered by ticket sales and sponsors, which allows them to put more of the proceeds back into the local groups that they select as beneficiaries this year.

Roumiguiere hopes to see the event grow even larger next year.

“The bigger we can make this event the more we can give away,” he said.

The Wine Alliance is now taking applications from nonprofits that wish to be considered as recipients of the 2009 Wine Auction proceeds. The deadline for applications is March 1, 2009.

For more information, contact Judy Luchsinger, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 263-3280. The Lake County Wine Alliance may be contacted at 866-279-WINE or by mail at P.O. Box 530, Kelseyville, CA 95451.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


CLEARLAKE – Wal-Mart is looking to expand its Lake County presence.

Wal-Mart officials met with city of Clearlake staff on Dec. 5, at which time they submitted an application to expand their current store on Dam Road, said City Administrator Dale Neiman.

Kevin Loscotoff, a Wal-Mart spokesman, confirmed the plans.

He said the Clearlake Wal-Mart was built in 1994 and is 109,000 square feet, an “average-sized” store for the time in which it was built.

Loscotoff told Lake County News that the corporation wants to expand the store to about 148,000 square feet. The expanded store isn't being called a supercenter.

Stores are designed specifically for the communities they're meant to serve, said Loscotoff.

The reason Wal-Mart is moving forward with its expansion is that the demand from the community has grown so significantly that “it's actually surpassed the intended original customer demand,” Loscotoff said.

As part of the expansion, Loscotoff said the store's exterior and interior will be updated, with new fixtures and design, and wider aisles to make shopping more comfortable and convenient. The exterior will feature updated but no new signage.

“It is intended to be a store of the community,” he said, noting that the corporation is very excited about the expansion.

Perhaps the most notable changes will be that the tire and lube express services will be replaced by new general merchandise and a full service grocery, according to Loscotoff.

He said Wal-Mart has been expanding its grocery services at stores all over the country due to demand.

Wal-Mart is reported to be the world's largest retailer, with grocery sales also on the rise. The corporation owns a chain called Neighborhood Markets, which are groceries only, said Loscotoff.

Despite the recession, Wal-Mart has continued to show rising profits. Its November sales report shows a 6.5-percent growth rate for its US stores that the corporation said exceeded expectations, and was punctuated by a strong Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving.

Loscotoff said they don't have a timeline for the expansion at this point, which he said will be dictated by the city's administrative process.

Neiman also, couldn't specifically outline a timeframe for the expansion.

“What we told them was that they were going to have to do an EIR (environmental impact report),” said Neiman. “They already knew that.”

Neiman said an EIR was completed on the prior project, which city staff is currently reviewing to see if it is applicable here and how much remains valid. Once city staff is done with the review, they'll discuss with Wal-Mart what they've found.

He said he suspects there are a lot of issues from the prior EIR that won't need to be addressed this time. However, Neiman added that he expect Wal-Mart will have to conduct a drainage study and build a retention basin for the site. He believes that the building's current facilities have been sized for full development.

Neiman confirmed that Wal-Mart officials didn't bring up the “supercenter” designation, which he said usually covers much larger stores closer to 200,000 square feet or above.

In the city's review, they also will look at potential square footage limitations. Neiman said that, based on the city's zoning ordinance, there are three factors that affect building size – landscaping, parking and current building size.

“Typically it's those three factors in relation to lot size that tell you what you can do or can't do,” he said.

Loscotoff said the expansion will result in new job opportunities for the community, but he didn't have a projected number of jobs that will be created at this time.

Wal-Mart is carrying on several other store expansions around Northern California at this time, said Loscotoff. “We continue to see strong demand from the customers,” he said.

As one example, the company reported that it is expanding its Willows store to a supercenter.

“We're proud of our ability to be able to allow our customers to save money so they can live better,” Loscotoff said.

Other local businesses were concerned at the news of the Clearlake Wal-Mart's proposed expansion into the grocery business.

Dennis Darling, president of Foods Etc., anticipates the expansion will make it difficult for other area grocers.

The city already has several grocery stores – Foods Etc., Ray's Food Place and Safeway, said Darling.

“Clearlake doesn't need another 50,000 square feet of grocery, I can tell you that,” said Darling.

Darling likened Wal-Mart to the Borg Collective from the “Star Trek: The Next Generation” television series. The collective is made up of cyborgs that go around assimilating everything in its path.

“They're not good for local communities,” Darling of Wal-Mart.

He added that the idea that Wal-Mart will generate more money for the community has been proved wrong time and again. Rather, he said they cannibalize current businesses.

Ray's Food Place, located next door to the Clearlake Wal-Mart on Dam Road, could be affected the most.

Dan Cepeda, director of marketing for C&K Market Inc. of Brookings, Ore., which owns 60 Ray's Food Place and Shop Smart stores in California and Oregon, said they've been affected by Wal-Mart expansions in other markets.

“Wal-Mart definitely impacts local business whenever they bring their stores to a town, either new builds or expansions such as a supercenter,” Cepeda said.

He added, “We definitely would expect to be impacted by that move of theirs,” at the Clearlake store.

Cepeda said Ray's Food Place will continue focusing on its strengths – customer service, clean stores and fully stocked merchandise. Bigger retailers can't quite match them on that level, he said.

Ray's Food Place has six stores in the greater Grants Pass, Ore. area, said Cepeda. In the same area, Wal-Mart expanded a store to a supercenter. “Our stores fared very well,” he said. “Sales continue to be strong.”

Initially, there is always a drop off in sales, and then it begins to pick up again, he said.

Customers usually come back, said Cepeda. “Once the thrill of a new retailer is gone, they decide what it is they really want most.”

Neiman said Wal-Mart's proposed expansion is one of several commercial projects currently before the city, including a proposed Walgreens and Starbucks, a new Rite Aid, a Calvary Chapel project and the ongoing negotiations for the city's airport property.

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LAKE COUNTY – A local effort to raise funds to build a new domestic violence shelter has received a major donation of $100,000.

The effort to build Freedom House, spearheaded by Lake Family Resource Center, received the $100,000 check from the Lake County Foundation in October, said the center's executive director, Gloria Flaherty.

She called the donation “a dream come true.”

Lake County Foundation Board members Dr. Bob Gardner, Randy Djernes, Katherine Williams and Darlene Hamm facilitated the donation, which came from the Northfield, Illinois-based Fred B. Snite Foundation, said Flaherty.

Earlier this year, the Lake County Foundation had reported receiving a $25,000 donation from the Snite Foundation for their work in the community, as Lake County News has reported.

The funds are meant to support the operations of the domestic violence shelter program and assist with the construction or purchase of a new shelter facility, Flaherty explained.

Lake County Foundation Executive Director Randy Djernes said the Snite Foundation donated the money to them because they were planning to build a local domestic violence shelter.

“As it turned out, $100,000 wasn't enough,” said Djernes.

So the Lake County Foundation decided to partner with the Lake Family Resource Center, whose effort already was under way.

The donation to Freedom House is among the larger ones offered by the Snite Foundation in recent years, based on its reports to the Internal Revenue Services, obtained by Lake County News. Many of their donations are in the $10,000 and $25,000 range. The Snite Foundation's 2007 tax documents indicated an investment portfolio valued at more than $19.1 million and total assets of $15.7 million.

Flaherty said Lake Family Resource Center has raised $1.3 million of the $2.6 million needed to construct Freedom House, a 14- to 25- bed facility which the center plans to build on 1.4 acres on the corner of Live Oak Drive and Highway 29 in Kelseyville.

Of that $1.3 million, $175,000 has come from the county, $100,000 from the Lake County Foundation and the rest from private donations.

The largest portion of the money, $1 million, is a 10-year forgivable loan that the California Department of Housing and Community Development, through the Emergency Housing Assistance Program, awarded to Lake Family Resource Center this past May, as Lake County News has reported.

Unfortunately, that $1 million could now be in jeopardy, since the Emergency Housing Assistance Program is among those impacted by the state's recent halt of projects due to cash flow issues, said Flaherty.

The timeline for raising the rest of the money to construct the shelter depends on the economy and what the state does, Flaherty added.

The economic downturn is offering other opportunities, which Flaherty, said includes exploring the purchase of a current facility for less than it would cost to build a new one.

Whether they end up buying an existing building and renovating it or building something new, it will be good for the local economy, said Flaherty.

Lake Family Resource Center's temporary shelter currently is full, she said.

At one point, the occupancy was down to five residents, but now they're expecting eight to nine people over the holidays.

The end-of-year holidays usually see fewer people at the shelters, because people try to hang on for the children, said Flaherty. Afterward, the local shelter usually sees an upsurge.

She said it's too early to attribute current occupancy rates to the strains the economy puts on families, but she added that historically hard economic times like this one have seen increases in the number of people at domestic violence shelters.

“We have certainly seen an upturn in the number of people we're providing services to over the last year,” she said.

The next fundraiser event for Freedom House will be the Wine and Chocolate event on Feb. 14, 2009, said Flaherty. This year they'll add olive oil tasting to the event. “We're kind of excited to add that to our repertoire.”

For more information about how you can help the Freedom House shelter effort, call the Lake Family Resource Center at 262-1611 or visit them online at www.lakefrc.org/frame_Shelter.html.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


The California Highway Patrol will have extra patrols on the highways during Christmas and New Year's. Courtesy photo.



LAKE COUNTY – If you chose to drink and drive this holiday season, those flashing red lights in your rear-view mirror won’t belong to a red-nosed reindeer, but to a California Highway Patrol (CHP) officer’s vehicle.

In an effort to keep California’s roads safe, every available CHP officer will be out on the road during the upcoming Christmas Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) which begins Wednesday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Dec. 28.

“Consider this a warning,” said Clear Lake Area CHP Lieutenant Mark Loveless. “We will be out there taking a zero tolerance approach and will arrest you if you are drinking and driving.”

CHP officers arrested 1,661 motorists statewide for driving under the influence (DUI) during last year’s Christmas MEP.

During that same time period, 43 people died in the 4,613 collisions that occurred in California. Among those killed, 18 lost their lives in alcohol-related crashes.

“Remember to designate a non-drinking driver before the celebrating begins, watch your speed and always wear your seatbelt,” Loveless added.

Along with the increased enforcement effort, the CHP is asking motorists to help keep the state’s roadways safe by calling 911 to report a suspected drunk driver. Callers should be prepared to provide dispatchers a description of the vehicle, its location and direction of travel.

“The holiday season is a time for family, friends, and celebrations; unfortunately it is also a time when we see too many alcohol-related highway fatalities,” said CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Even if we save just one life by getting the message out, that is one life that has been spared.”

The CHP will conduct a similar maximum enforcement effort over the New Year’s holiday weekend which begins Wednesday, Dec. 31, at 6 p.m. and continues through midnight, Sunday, Jan. 4, 2009.


COBB – Dozens of earthquakes have hit areas of Cobb Mountain and The Geysers since Sunday, with one of them measuring 3.0 in magnitude.

The quakes began after 1 a.m. Sunday morning, culminating in a 3.0-magnitude quake that occurred at 4:36 p.m. Sunday, according to the US Geological Survey.

Recorded at a depth of eight-tenths of a mile, the 3.0 quake was centered one mile from The Geysers, four miles west southwest of Cobb and six miles west northwest of Anderson Springs.

Over the following hour, a series of smaller quakes – some as large as 2.4 in magnitude – followed in The Geysers and Anderson Springs areas.

In all, 25 quakes hit Anderson Springs, Cobb and The Geysers on Sunday, the US Geological Service reported.

Cobb resident Roger Kinney, who regularly updates Lake County News on happenings in his area, reported that the earthquake activity had seemed to spike about 5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Kinney said the earthquakes usually calm down a bit in winter, but they've continued coming this year.

The quakes continued into Monday. Kinney said he felt a quake shortly after 10 a.m. that he described as “more of a rolling motion than the usual, BANG-SHAKE type of quakes.”

A 2.9-magnitude quake that occurred shortly before 6 a.m. woke up Anderson Springs resident Joan Clay.

Clay said she immediately called Calpine's hotline to report the quake.

She said the severity of the quakes depends on where a person lives in Anderson Springs.

Clay added that the quakes seem to occur when it's raining.

“We have them all the time,” she said.

The last time an earthquake measuring 3.0 in magnitude or above hit that area was on Dec. 14, when a 3.1 was recorded near The Geysers.

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SACRAMENTO – With a new year on the horizon, the California Highway Patrol (CHP) wants to remind motorists of a handful of new laws, passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, that go into effect in 2009.

"The overall safety of the motoring public is our primary concern," says CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow. “Not only will these new laws enhance a motorist’s safety, many of them are a step toward ridding the roadways of drunk drivers and the tragedy they cause.”

Below are the major changes to driving regulations and vehicle equipment.

Texting while driving (SB 28, Simitian). This new law makes it an infraction to write, send or read text-based communication on an electronic wireless communications device, such as a cell phone, while driving a motor vehicle. Previously this was only illegal for individuals under 18 years of age, but now has been expanded to all drivers.

Driving under the influence (DUI) zero tolerance (AB 1165, Maze). This new law prohibits a convicted DUI offender from operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAC) of .01 percent or greater while on probation for DUI. The law requires the driver to submit to a Preliminary Alcohol Screening (PAS) test, a portable breath test to determine the presence of alcohol. If the driver refuses, or if the driver submits and has a BAC of .01 or greater, a citation will be issued, the driver’s license will be taken and driving privileges will be suspended. In addition, the vehicle will be impounded.

Ignition interlock devices (IID) (SB 1190, Oropeza). This new law reduces the BAC from .20 percent to .15 percent or more at the time of arrest to trigger a requirement for the court to give heightened consideration for the installation of an IID for a first-time offender convicted of DUI of an alcoholic beverage.

Ignition interlock devices (SB 1388, Torlakson). Effective July 2009, this new law transfers authority for the administration of mandatory IID programs from the state courts to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). This law also authorizes the DMV to require any driver convicted of driving with a suspended license due to a prior conviction for DUI to install an IID in any vehicle that the offender owns or operates.

Alcohol-related reckless driving (AB 2802, Houston). This new law requires the court to order a person convicted of alcohol-related reckless driving to participate in a licensed DUI program for at least nine months, if that person has a prior conviction for alcohol-related reckless driving or DUI within ten years. Additionally, the court is required to revoke the person’s probation for the failure to enroll in, participate in, or complete a licensed DUI program.

Global positioning systems (GPS) (SB 1567, Oropeza). This new law allows a portable GPS device to be mounted in a 7-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield on the passenger side of the vehicle, or in a 5-inch square in the lower corner of the windshield on the driver’s side. These are the only two locations on a windshield where a GPS device can be mounted. The GPS device can only be used for navigational purposes while the motor vehicle is being operated, and it is required to be mounted outside of an airbag deployment zone.

Motorcycles (AB 2272, Fuentes). This new law changes the definition of a motorcycle by deleting the weight limitation and deleting the separate definition for electrically powered motorcycles. The law will now allow fully enclosed, three-wheeled vehicles to have access to high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes regardless of occupancy.

Clean air stickers: Misuse and penalties (SB 1720, Lowenthal). This new law makes it an infraction for anyone who forges, counterfeits, falsifies, passes, or attempts to pass, acquire possess, sell, or offer for sale a genuine or counterfeit “Clean Air Sticker.”

911 telephone system abuse (AB 1976, Benoit). This new law increases the penalties for any person who knowingly uses, or allows the use of, the 911 telephone system for any reason other than an emergency. Those who misuse, or allow the misuse of, the 911 telephone system are guilty of an infraction, and subject to either a written warning or a fine.

Special license plates (AB 190, Bass). This new law, when approved by local authorities, allows veterans whose vehicles display plates honoring Pearl Harbor Survivors, Legion of Valor recipients, former American Prisoners of War, Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, or Purple Heart recipients to park their vehicles that weigh not more than 6,000 pounds gross weight, without charge, in any metered parking space.

Studded pneumatic tires (AB 1971, Portantino). This new law allows the use of pneumatic tires with retractable metal-type studs, year round, as long as the studs are retracted between May 1 through October 31.  However, the law prohibits a tire with retractable metal-type studs on a vehicle from being worn to a point that the metal-type studs protrude beyond the tire tread when retracted.

Spilling cargo loads (AB 2714, Keene). This new law eases restrictions on cargo loads of straw or hay to allow individual pieces that do not pose a threat to life or property, to escape from bales of straw or hay that are being transported by a vehicle upon a highway, so long as those bales are loaded and secured according to federal regulations.

Assault on highway workers (SB 1509, Lowenthal). This new law provides an increased penalty for assault and battery crimes committed against Caltrans highway workers who are engaged in the performance of their duties.


LAKE COUNTY – A head-on traffic collision on Highway 20 Tuesday evening resulted in minor injuries.

The collision occurred on westbound Highway 20 about 15 miles west of Highway 16, according to the California Highway Patrol.

The vehicles involved were said to be a silver Honda Civic and a pickup truck. One of the vehicles was off the roadway, according to the CHP.

The CHP and the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported to the scene, where the roadway was reported to be partially blocked.

At least one person was transported to St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake, but CHP did not release information about the names of the crash victims.

The roadway was reported to be open shortly before 8:30 p.m.

Information also was not available Tuesday on a crash that occurred Monday evening on Highway 53 near Clearlake.

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LAKE COUNTY – Lake County's unemployment rate continued to climb in November, hitting the highest level in 11 years.

The state Employment Development Department reported that Lake County's unemployment hit 12.4 percent in November, up from 11.2 percent in October and well above the 8.9 percent unemployment Lake County experienced in November 2007.

California's unemployment rate was 8.4 percent, up from October's 8.2 percent rate, with 32,000 more people unemployed, and the total number of people out of work across the state now rising to 1,562,000. In November 2007, California's unemployment rate was at 5.7 percent.

Likewise, the United State's unemployment rates climbed in November, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, rising from 6.5 percent in October to 6.7 percent in November. Approximately 37 states and the District of Columbia reported their rates rising from October, and 49 noting higher unemployment this year than last. The state of Wyoming reported growing employment and a surging economy, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported.

Lake County's November rate is the highest unemployment level the county has seen since March of 1997, according to historical data compiled by the Employment Development Department.

Approximately 3,220 people were out of work in Lake County in November – approximately 980 more than were out of work in November 2007 – a number that hasn't been surpassed locally since March of 1994, when 3,250 people were out of work and unemployment was 14.7 percent.

The county's November unemployment rate ranked it at No. 49 among the state's 58 counties.

Marin County has the lowest unemployment rate in the state, with 5 percent unemployment. Next in the top five were San Mateo, 5.5 percent; Orange and San Francisco, tied for third with 6.1 percent; and Santa Barbara came in at No. 5 with 6.3. percent, the Employment Development Department reported.

Imperial County had the highest unemployment in the state, with 23.4 percent.

Lake's neighboring counties recorded the following rates: Napa, 6.5 percent, No. 6 statewide for employment ranking; Sonoma, tied with Napa for sixth place with 6.5 percent; Yolo, 9 percent, No. 28 statewide; Glenn, 10.8 percent, No. 39 statewide; and and Colusa, 18 percent, No. 58 statewide.

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A young Charles Dickens in a portrait painted by American artist Francis Alexander in 1842, the year before "A Christmas Carol" was written. Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.



LAKEPORT – One of the world's great Christmas stories will be offered in a special Saturday production at Lakeport's Soper-Reese Community Theater.

Charles Dickens' “A Christmas Carol” will be performed at the Soper-Reese and also broadcast live on Lake County Community Radio, 88.1 FM beginning at 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 20.

The theater, located at 275 S. Main. St. in Lakeport, welcomes people to attend the performance for free.

The performance, based on Tony Palermo's radio adaptation of the story, will have a cast of 12 directed by Soper-Reese Artistic Director Bert Hutt. Before the production begins, the audience will be shown a demonstration on the sound effects' production and given background on radio dramas.

Dickens' story of redemption and love was published on Dec. 19, 1843, making it 165 years old this year.

“A Christmas Carol in Prose, Being a Ghost Story of Christmas” was written in only about two months, at the same time as he was working on his novel, “Martin Chuzzlewit.”

The 31-year-old Dickens sat down to write his “ghostly little book” in October of 1843 at his home at 9 Osnaburgh Terrace, London. By that time, he already was a well-known writer, thanks to “The Pickwick Papers,” “Oliver Twist,” “Nicholas Nickleby” and “The Old Curiosity Shop.”

But despite begin well-known, Dickens had financial pressures. He and his wife, Catherine Hogarth, already had four children with a fifth on the way.

A 1905 version compilation of Dickens' Christmas books, which included commentary by his son, Charles, said that the author was hoping to make a thousand pounds with the book, although it made several hundred pounds less, despite being a great literary success.

The first version of the book included 6,000 copies, was 166 pages in length and cost five shillings. It quickly sold out and was followed by second and third editions. It had sold 15,000 copies by the end of 1844.

Within a few months of the book's publication, it reportedly was the subject of stage adaptations.




Ebenezer Scrooge and Tiny Tim in an 1899 illustration by George T. Tobin.



Like “Oliver Twist” before it, “A Christmas Carol” brings into sharp focus Dickens' concerns about social injustice, a theme that would follow him throughout his life, thanks to his own childhood travails. His father was sent to the Marshalsea debtors' prison and Dickens, as a 12-year-old boy, had to go to work in a blacking factory to help his family make ends meet.

Dickens wrote to a friend about his first Christmas book, noting, “Its success is most prodigious.” His son also reported that Dickens received letters from readers describing how they kept the book “about their homes and hearths.”

He noted in another letter that he “wept, and laughed, and wept again, and excited himself in a most extraordinary manner in the composition.”

In all, Dickens would write five Christmas books, including “A Christmas Carol.” The other four were “Chimes,” “The Cricket on the Hearth,” “The Battle of Life” and “The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain.”

But it was “A Christmas Carol” that, for many, signaled a change in the way Christmas was celebrated in England and, later the rest of the world.

It was about that time that the holiday was getting a new emphasis. Just a few years before, in 1841, Queen Victoria's husband Prince Albert set up the first Christmas tree at Windsor Castle, a custom the prince consort brought with him from his native Germany.

Dickens' main character in “A Christmas Carol,” Ebenezer Scrooge, undergoes not just a change in how he celebrates Christmas, but how he relates to others and, ultimately, how he sees himself in the world.

The book addresses the themes of basic human connection, the importance of relationships with others, the power of love and kindness, and the ability to redeem oneself and one's sense of hope.

Lord Jeffrey wrote to Dickens about the book, noting, “You should be happy yourself, for you may be sure you have done more good by this little publication, fostered more kind feelings, and prompted more positive acts of beneficence, than can be traced to all the pulpits and confessionals in Christendom since Christmas, 1842.”

“A Christmas Carol,” more than a century and a half later, still has much to tell us. And in these times when the haves and have nots seem as far apart as they were in the early days of Victorian England, Dickens' story of hope has a special relevance.

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The Ghost of Christmas Present, illustrated by George T. Tobin in 1899.



SACRAMENTO – Attorney General Jerry Brown on Tuesday made public a report outlining the revenues generated by the 730 commercial fundraisers registered with the California Department of Justice in 2007 and describing what percentage of the donations ended up in charitable coffers.

“The report reveals that some fundraising campaigns are wildly successful and others are profound disappointments,” Attorney General Brown said. “In some cases, commercial fundraisers have stunning successes, generating millions for good causes. In others, the overhead costs outpace the dollars raised, and the charities have to foot the bill.”

The Attorney General’s Charitable Solicitation Report found that in 2007, commercial fundraisers collected $370.33 million from Californians in donations.

In total, just $161.6 million – or 43.6 percent of the donations raised actually made it to the charities. The remainder went to commercial fundraisers who receive a percentage from each donation or a flat fee as payment.

These figures, however, are averages and do not provide the full picture.

There are some cases where the vast majority of funds make it to the charity. For instance:

  • A commercial company raised $15.9 million for the March of Dimes Foundation, which received $11 million, or more than 70 percent.

  • A commercial company raised $1.2 million for the Alzheimer’s Association, which received $873,606, or 72 percent.

But other cases are not so successful, where the charity can find itself tens of thousands of dollars in the red.

The California Legislature passed a law in 1989 requiring commercial fundraisers to file these financial reports with the Attorney General. This is the 16th year that the Attorney General has published this annual report.

The report also describes and provides statistics for automobile donations and thrift store operations.

The Attorney General also publishes the Guide to Charitable Giving for Donors that provides advice, guidelines and information to help donors in making giving decisions. The guide suggests that donors:

  • Ask the solicitor how a donation will be distributed.

  • Ask what percentage of donations pays for fundraising expenses.

  • Learn about the charitable organization, its activities and its fundraising practices. Research charities by going to the Attorney General’s Web site. Check with the Wise Giving Alliance (www.give.org), Council of Better Business Bureaus (www.bbb.org) and the American Institute of Philanthropy ( www.charitywatch.org).

  • Ask if the solicitor works for a commercial fundraiser and is being paid to solicit.

  • Avoid cash donations.

  • Avoid giving credit card information to a telephone solicitor or in response to a telephone solicitation.

The guide is available on the Attorney General’s Web site at http://ag.ca.gov/charities/ or a copy can be requested by writing to the Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts, P.O. Box 903447, Sacramento, CA 94203-4470.





The holiday season is here and that means holiday parties, and I want to let the hosts of these parties to think about: A) Serving crab; and B) inviting me to have some.

Crab in the American culture is considered a luxury item while most Asian cultures consider it a staple. That is why crab purchased in grocery stores is sold at a premium price, but crab sold in Asian markets is much more economically priced, many times as a loss leader.

The flavors, textures, sizes and intimidation factor of crabs vary greatly so there are many choices to consider when thinking about what kind of crab to serve. I hope the information I give here will help you in your selection. The important thing to remember about any type of crab is to thaw your crab as slowly as possible, because quick thawing causes the meat to lose liquid.

King crab

Harvested in the Arctic waters of the Bering Sea, the king crab can grow to be 6 feet from end to end. SCUBA diving clubs in Alaska have “King Crab Rodeos” where a diver will try to grab a king crab and wrestle with it to the surface; the loser naturally gets eaten by the winner.

There are several subspecies that get sold under the king crab name, but it’s like comparing Cornish game hens to capon, they all taste like chicken. The large legs are sold at a higher price than the smaller legs so it can be more economical to by smaller ones and shell them ahead of time so no one knows.

The “merus” section of the leg, the leg closest to the body, is the most prized among seafood connoisseurs. The merus can best be compared to or thought of as the thigh portion of each leg. Personally I agree that the closer to the body the better the meat, with the meat out of the “toe” having a definite waxy texture and taste.

The commercial king crab fishing season is only three months long (mid-October to mid-January), so if you want the freshest crab possible ask to see the shipping tag. Grocery stores are required by law to keep these tags on hand a full 90 days after all of the crab is sold. The tag will tell you when the crab was caught and shipped. They are caught at sea, taken to processors where they are immediately cooked, cut into manageable sizes and then frozen for shipping.

The flavor of king crab is very rich, sweet and salty, with a nice firm texture. The flavor holds up in a variety of recipes, but bear in mind that the crab is already cooked so you don’t want to overdo it.

Prices vary from season to season but you can expect to pay between $10 and $20 dollars a pound at the grocery store, and more if you buy online. But be reassured that the meat to shell ratio is about 40/60 depending on the size of the legs.

This is my favorite type of crab.

Dungeness crab

The favorite and local crab of the West Coast, Dungeness crabs are a staple at Thanksgiving to many California families (my in-laws included). Caught in the cold waters of Northern California all of the way up to Alaska, the Dungeness season starts in November and continues on to June, so crab being sold in October on special has been frozen for a considerable time and is being “dumped” to make way for the new season. It is usually cooked at the seafood processors before being sent to market, although live crabs are available on occasion at some stores.

Only the males are harvested, while the females are returned to the water so they can continue to breed. The meat is moderately flavored, unique and there is plenty of it. Most grocery stores will clean the major parts of the crab at your request, which essentially entails taking apart the crab and presenting you with the leg clusters.

The yellow liquid inside the body is referred to as crab brains, but if the crab had that much brains it wouldn’t have wound up in the grocery store. It actually is made up mostly of the crab’s liver and other organs. This chunky fluid is considered a delicacy in many cultures throughout the world. Some like to spread it on bread like butter, while others stir it into sauces or seafood stews.

When purchasing Dungeness crabs I look for ones with barnacles on them. The presence of barnacles lets you know that crab hasn’t shed for some time ensuring plenty of “filling.” Crabs sold upside down will be moister since the back of the crab acts like a bowl holding moisture inside the crab instead of allowing it to leak out.

When “picking” or cleaning the meat out of a whole Dungeness crab, look forward to getting about 25 percent of the crab’s weight in meat. You can expect to pay between $3 and $8 per pound.

This is my favorite type of crab.

Blue crab

This is the East Coast’s favorite crab. They are an aggressive crab that will actually lunge at anything it thinks is a threat (maybe that’s an East Coast thing). The population of Blue crabs on the American East Coast can no longer meet the demand, and so the majority of Blue crabs are now from Asian fisheries.

The meat is milder flavored than most other crabs and the claw meat has a mild bitterness to it while the body meat is much sweeter. Claims of males being meatier than females aren’t very impressive since only 15 percent of the body is edible meat. But when the crabs shed their old shell and before their new shell hardens, they are caught and sold as soft-shelled crab and are almost 100 percent edible, after only a couple of adjustments.

The soft-shelled crab is what is used in sushi bars “Spider rolls.” The internal organs of these crabs are also considered a delicacy and are called “mustard” on the East Coast.

Blue crabs are available on the East Coast live, and to the rest of the nation are sold frozen or as shelled “picked meat” in buckets/plastic containers. They are usually cooked whole and shelled at the table, or the picked meat is made into crab cakes. Southeastern U.S. has a fondness for “She-crab soup,” which, as the name implies, is made from female crabs.

The price for whole blue crabs varies by size, and the picked crabmeat varies in price based on where on the crab the meat came from (backfin, lump and claw are the three main areas). For whole crabs expect to pay $5 to $10 each, and $7 to $20 per pound of picked meat.

This is my favorite type of crab.

Snow crab

Snow crab is just a marketing term for several species of similar-looking crabs. Like the several species of King crabs, they look and taste alike. They are found in the icy waters of the Arctic region of both the Atlantic and Pacific, are caught and then immediately cooked at the processors.

At the height of their popularity they were caught almost to the point of irreversible damage to their survival, but quick regulations and harvest limits saved the species. Only males are harvested while the caught females are released.

Snow crab season runs from mid-October through the end of May. The crab being alive at the time of cooking is a vital factor in the processing; if a crab is dead when it is cooked the meat will stick to the shell and make extraction difficult. They are then cut into sections, frozen, and shipped to buyers.

The meat is sweet, full-flavored and easy to extract and eat. The usable meat per cluster is typically around 30 to 40 percent.

This is my favorite type of crab.

Stone crabs

These are the only “renewable” resource of crabs. Only one claw of each stone crab is allowed to be harvested. The crab is trapped, retrieved and, making sure that it still has another claw to defend itself, one claw is removed. In about 18 months the removed claw grows back and the other claw can be removed. This can be done numerous times over the lifetime of the crab.

The claw shell is so hard that ordinary shell crackers won’t work easily on them, so processors now saw several slices into the claw after cooking to make it easier to consume. They are caught in the waters from the Carolinas down to Mexico, with the primary catch coming from Florida.

Stone crab season is from mid-October to mid-May. They have firm, sweet flesh that can sometimes have a bitter or iodine-like hint to them. You’ll need about a pound and a half per person.

Avoid purchasing any Stone crab claws called “lights” as they have less meat in them. I have not seen them in the stores locally, but online you should expect to pay $12 to $50 per pound, depending on size.

This is my favorite type of crab.

The bad news

All of the world’s crab fisheries are dangerously overfished. Agencies around the world are enacting self-imposed limitations in order to save the species. The most recent statistics show that demand for crab is so great that they are hovering just above the endangered species list, but hopefully not crossing onto it.

Since king, snow, and Dungeness crabs live several hundred to several thousand feet down on the ocean floor we really have no way of actually taking an accurate population count. We can only guess at their numbers by gaging how many we catch.

There’s also the added factor that though they release females and undersized crabs back into the ocean, there is no proof that they make it back to the safety of the bottom alive. They may very well die of decompression or be eaten by predators on the way down.

The world’s record king crab was/is 25 pounds ‒ currently 18 pounds is considered giant and average size is 10 pounds showing that we are harvesting younger and younger ones all the time just to meet the demand.

I haven’t included the nutritional information today like I usually do, because with crab that can be pretty depressing. It’s true that crab is high in sodium and has more cholesterol than my doctor would like, but I’m not advocating crab as a daily meal.

But I am recommending it as a party and holiday treat, like eggnog! Speaking of eggnog, I love that too, and since you now know my favorite type of crab I’ll be expecting those invitations to start pouring in.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.


NICE – Lake County Sheriff's deputies arrested a Lucerne man on Monday after they found him to be in possession of homemade explosive devices.

Eric Vonrenegar, 59, was arrested Monday night at Robinson Rancheria Resort and Casino, according to Capt. James Bauman of the Lake County Sheriff's Office.

Bauman said that the deputy assigned to the Northshore area responded to Robinson Rancheria's casino parking lot shortly before 9 p.m. on a report of an intoxicated subject attempting to leave in his vehicle.

When the deputy arrived he found Vonrenegar seated in his idling pickup truck in the parking lot of the casino, said Bauman.

After several attempts to get Vonrenegar to exit his truck, Bauman said he eventually complied and while he was being detained the deputy learned he was a convicted felon on active parole.

Bauman said the deputy conducted a search of Vonrenegar’s truck pursuant to the terms of his parole and in the glove box, he found two suspicious devices wrapped in tape. One of the devices had what appeared to be a fuse attached to it and on further inspection, the deputy determined both devices were packed with smokeless black powder and appeared to be home made explosive devices.

Vonrenegar told the deputy that the devices had been left in his truck by another subject months prior and that he had just been holding on to them until he could find the subject to return them, Bauman said.

Vonrenegar was not determined to be intoxicated as initially reported. However, he was arrested and later booked at the Lake County Jail for felony possession of a destructive device and felony violation of parole. Bauman said he is being held without bail pursuant to the violation of his parole.


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