Thursday, 18 July 2024


Heather Anderson and her dog, McGruff, were separated for more than two months when a chance visit to a fire station helped reunite them. Photo courtesy of Diana Anderson.



LAKE COUNTY – A young local woman who was severely injured in a June crash recently had a happy reunion with one of her best friends.

Heather Anderson and her little wired hair rat terrier McGruff were reunited last month after a crash that nearly killed her and which also resulted in him being lost and on his own for weeks.

The story began when Anderson, who is a member of the Robinson Rancheria Pomo, was involved in a serious vehicle collision near the Wilbur Springs Fire Station on June 15.

Scott Ross, a Middletown resident and a Cal Fire firefighter stationed on Wilbur Springs, said the crash happened on Highway 20 west of the Wilbur Springs station on Highway 16.

He said a vehicle went over the side of the road, with three injuries resulting – one major, one moderate and one minor.

Anderson, who was living in the county at the time, was in a car driven by a friend that day, and McGruff was with her. They were headed to Red Bluff at around 8:30 a.m. when the driver lost control of the vehicle, with the brakes locking up and the vehicle going off a cliff.

The crash resulted in Anderson being ejected through the car's back window, and McGruff with her.

“I don't remember any of that,” she said, noting that she didn't fully wake up until weeks later.

Ross and fellow firefighters responded to the crash scene, where they cared for Anderson, who was later transported to Santa Rosa for medical care.

Anderson was so badly injured, Ross noted, “None of us there expected her to live.”

Indeed, her injuries were severe.

Diana Anderson, Heather's mother, said her daughter – the youngest of five daughters who also has two brothers – suffered extensive injuries, and for the first three weeks after the crash, they weren't sure she would live.

The young woman was on life support, with a breathing tube placed through a tracheotomy. Diana Anderson said her daughter sustained a broken neck, as well as breaks to her scapula, ribs on both sides, cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, a broken pelvis in two places and a dislocated right hip. The contusions on her lungs had caused her to go into acute respiratory failure.

She also suffered a lacerated liver, kidney and spleen. Both bones in her lower left leg were broken – the tibia so badly that they inserted a metal rod from the knee to the ankle and screwed it in place to repair the fracture, Diana Anderson said.

The young woman's C4 vertebrae also was shattered in the front and had to be replaced with one from a cadaver, then her C3 through C5 vertebrae were fused together, with a titanium plate with screws in the front of her neck to hold the repair in place, Diana Anderson explained.

On top of that, the young woman also has suffered both short- and long-term memory loss, her mother said.

“There's a lot of stuff wrong with me,” Heather Anderson said.

Meanwhile, in the wake of the crash, little McGruff had gone missing.

Approximately two weeks after the crash, on the morning of June 29, a little dog in bad condition, his coat matted with stickers and a foxtail in his eye, showed up at the station. Ross said it took several hours before he would even approach the firefighters.

Later that day, the Rumsey Fire broke out, and Ross and his fellow firefighters responded.

Middletown's Cal Fire engine came over to cover their station, and when they returned the next day, the Middletown firefighters had bathed and groomed the little dog, removed his stickers and the fleas that were plaguing him, and even removed the foxtail from his eye.

The cover crew even took a sleeve off a shirt with a Cal fire logo, cut holes in it, and made the little dog a spiffy outfit.

“He was happy as a clam,” said Ross.

The Wilbur Springs firefighters kept the little dog – who they dubbed “Wilbur” – at the station with them for two weeks before their chief started dropping hints that maybe he should go to a new home.

Ross took the dog home to Middletown and tried to help him find the dog a new home for over a month. He had lots of interest in the cute little dog, but no one committed to take him home.

Anderson, who had been in the hospital for more than a month after the crash and was still unable to walk had, by that time, moved to Paradise to be with family while she recovered.

She was worried and upset about McGruff, who she hadn't seen since the crash. Her sisters had taken two trips to the area of the crash scene to look for him, but had been unsuccessful in finding any trace.

So she made flyers and on Aug. 18, with the approval of her mom, she and her sisters set off for a trip in her mom's car to Lake County to see if they could find the little dog.

The young women handed out flyers that day, but hadn't heard of a McGruff sighting.

With their last flyer in hand, they stopped at the Wilbur Springs Fire Station, where Anderson said her sisters stopped to ask if they could post the flyer.

Ross was at the firehouse when they drove up. One of the sisters explained to him the story, and Ross immediately realized that they were talking about the June 15 crash. Then, to his surprise, he saw Heather Anderson – who he thought might not make it – sitting in the car's front passenger seat, wearing a neck brace.

“We never find out if they're OK,” he said of the crash victims they help.

The next surprise Ross got was when he saw the flyer with the picture of the dog, who he instantly recognized as the dog that he'd known as Wilbur.

He told Anderson and her sisters that he knew where McGruff was. He gave them his home number and they called his wife from the nearest spot will cell reception to arrange to go and pick up the dog.

When Ross' wife got the call, she called McGruff by his real name, and he got so happy he started dancing in circles, Ross said.

The sisters went directly to Ross' home in Middletown. McGruff started barking when the family showed up. He went up to the sisters and then, when Heather Anderson – who was unable to get out of the car – called to McGruff, he jumped into the car and settled into her lap, where he stayed. When he went home, he got to take his goodies, including his Cal Fire shirt.

Since then, Anderson is back in Paradise with her family and McGruff, who turns 5 this November.

She's had McGruff since he was just a puppy, who her sisters found wandering as a stray in Chico.

Even though they were separated for a few months, they quickly got back to normal, Anderson said.

They go everywhere together, she said. “He's just like the old dog I left.”

She said she's also doing better, which her mother confirms.

Diana Anderson said her daughter is determined to be on her own as soon as she can, works hard in her therapy sessions and doesn't like to be a burden to anyone. She added that her youngest daughter has always been strong willed.

“Finding her dog McGruff has been the greatest healing for her,” she said.

Diana Anderson added that she's grateful to the “wonderful” firefighter who found her daughter and saved her life.

“Everyone who heard it just seems to think it's an amazing story,” said Ross.

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UPPER LAKE – The Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake passed another hurdle this week in its quest to build a new casino.

On Wednesday, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced that he had signed a gaming compact with the 210-member tribe, an important step in clearing the way for the new gaming facility, which will be located on Highway 20 next to the Upper Lake County Park.

“I am pleased we were able to reach an agreement with the Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake that benefits the members of the tribe as well as the local community and the state,” said Schwarzenegger.

Tribal Chair Sherry Treppa Bridges said the new casino will have 349 slot machines, six table games, sitdown and fast food restaurants, and a retail shop in a roughly 34,000-square-foot facility, with about 175 employees.

But if the tribe wants to break ground on its new $25 million casino this fall in time for a scheduled spring opening, they must still receive the Legislature's approval, Bridges said.

Bridges said the tribe believes it has a legislative sponsor who will work to get the matter before the Legislature before its last day of business for the session, which is Sept. 11.

After the tribe's land was received into federal trust last fall, the Habematolel immediately began the compact negotiation process, Bridges said.

The 112-page compact Schwarzenegger signed with the Habematolel this week – which has an additional 111-page appendix based on federal regulations for internal gaming controls – follows a blueprint similar to other recently negotiated compact, according to Schwarzenegger spokesman Jeff Macedo.

The compact will run through Dec. 21, 2030, and allows a maximum of 750 slot machines at one gaming facility. Under the compact's terms, the tribe will share 15 percent of annual net win revenues with the state.

Macedo said recent compacts have varied in how they've determined how much of the gaming proceeds will go to the state. The 2004 compacts varied between different options, including per-device fees and two-tier systems.

He said each compact is negotiated as a package. “Each one is negotiated on a tribe-by-tribe basis,” Macedo said.”

The Habematolel's compact provisions calls for binding arbitration before a retired judge for disputes over patron injuries and gambling; environmental protections including a requirement that the tribe prepare an environmental impact report and negotiate mitigation of any off-reservation impacts with the county; the right for employees to collectively bargain; the participation in the state's worker’s compensation system and unemployment insurance program, compliance with federal and state occupational health and safety standards, and enhanced employment discrimination provisions.

In addition, the tribe has agreed to comply with standards that meet or exceed the federal National Indian Gaming Commission standards, will meet or exceed the California Building Code and Public Safety Code and address issues of problem gambling through training, advertising and signage.

The tribe also has agreed to pay into the state's Revenue Sharing Trust Fund when it operates over 349 slot machines. That fund provides $1.1 million annually to each of the state's non-gaming tribes.

County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox credited the tribe for its proactive approach to working with local government. “The tribe went out of their way from day one,” Cox said.

He said the Habematolel and the county have worked out a memorandum of understanding that will help cover law enforcement, traffic, fire and emergency services and more. The agreement was entered into in July of 2006.

“We didn't want them to pay any more than they would have to pay if they were a private business,” said Cox.

The tribe won't be paying taxes, but instead has agreed to an in-lieu contribution that would be an amount equivalent to the property tax value of their 11-acre site, Cox said.

The Habematolel also have agreed to pay a small contribution to the county's marketing department until they build a lodging facility, at which time they would pay an amount equal to the 9-percent transient occupancy – or bed – tax paid by accommodations, he said.

In addition, the tribe has contributed $378,000 to the Lake County Sanitation District, as Lake County News has reported.

Cox said those funds were used for capacity expansion in the Upper Lake area, which was needed regardless of whether or not the casino is built.

Bridges said tribal leaders have been extremely busy in recent weeks, trying to facilitate the necessary work in the Legislature.

Thursday was the last day to get a bill gutted and insert the language approving the compact, and Bridges said it was going to take some maneuvering to get it quickly through committees and to the floor of the legislative houses.

On Monday, when they started discussing the need for the bill with legislators, Bridges said they weren't totally welcomed. However, she added, “We have made some major movement in at least getting through the process.”

The tribe has other work to do in a short amount of time, including completing a few more steps before finalizing its environmental impact report on the casino, said Bridges.

“We expect to open the doors next spring,” said Bridges. “We're targeting May. We've got a very aggressive schedule.”

The groundbreaking is expected this fall, and the building will be handled by the general contractor that did Twin Pine Casino's major expansion, Bridges said.

To view the compact and related appendix please visit and .

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LAKEPORT – Authorities have arrested two people following an alleged hit and run of a Kmart employee who was questioning them in the parking lot about a possible shoplifting incident.

Lakeport Police arrested Brian David Drawdy, 40, of Kelseyville and Gloria Jean Mendez, 46, of Cobb Thursday evening, according to Lt. Brad Rasmussen.

Mendez is being held on a misdemeanor traffic warrant out of Siskiyou County, while Drawdy is charged with felony second degree robbery and felony use of force with great bodily injury likely to result because he allegedly hit a female Kmart employee with his car.

“Our investigation reveals that he intentionally struck her with the vehicle,” Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said two Lakeport Police units were dispatched to the incident at around 3 p.m. The situation initially was reported as a hit and run of a pedestrian at Kmart on S. Main Street.

As officers were responding they received additional information that the pedestrian actually was a Kmart loss prevention employee and that she had been struck by the vehicle – a blue Toyota hatchback – as it fled the store's parking lot, Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said the store employee, whose name was not released, had been working alone in loss prevention on Thursday. She obtained surveillance evidence that Drawdy and Mendez allegedly had been concealing items in their clothing before leaving the store without paying for the merchandise, which was worth about $20 total.

The staffer followed Drawdy and Mendez out of the store and into the parking lot, where she contacted them at the vehicle and interviewed them about the merchandise, Rasmussen said.

Mendez and Drawdy gave the store employee conflicting statements about buying the materials. Rasmussen said Mendez got in the car's passenger side, stating she was looking for the receipt, while Drawdy stood outside of the vehicle's passenger side.

When the Kmart staffer walked around the rear of the car toward Drawdy, he jumped into the car and put it into reverse, traveling at a high rate of speed backwards toward the woman, Rasmussen said.

Rasmussen said the Kmart employee was thrown up onto the back of the vehicle, where she stayed while Drawdy kept the car in reverse for another 20 to 30 feet. He then changed direction to take off, and the woman was thrown off the back of the car.

He said the woman was uninjured after being hit by the car and then thrown to the ground.

Rasmussen said witnesses at the scene described the incident in detail, and one of them even followed the vehicle to Kelseyville, where they stopped to report the vehicle to the California Highway Patrol.

A CHP unit located the Toyota traveling up Bottle Rock Road toward Cobb, said Rasmussen. When the CHP officer got behind the car, Drawdy turned onto Harrington Flat Road and drove evasively for a short time before yielding.

Both Mendez and Drawdy remained in the Lake County Jail Thursday night. Bail for Mendez is set at $5,000, while Drawdy is being held on $25,000 bail.

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CLEAR LAKE RIVIERA – It's been a busy summer for mountain lion sightings, and another one reported this past week in the Clear Lake Riviera has residents there concerned.

Last Thursday night, a mountain lion was spotted taking a cat off off a porch on Edgewater Drive.

Resident Sid Donnell said shortly before 10 p.m. he heard a loud noise and went out of his door, where he saw the lion with the cat in his jaws going down the stairs of his porch.

“The cat, Oscar, has been around our neighborhood for years,” said Donnell. “He goes from house to house, plays with the local kids, and makes friends with everyone that comes around the area.”

Donnell said the mountain lion appeared smaller than one recently photographed at Wheeler Point.

He said he notified the sheriff's office dispatch immediately.

Several reports have been made around the summer about mountain lions in neighborhoods – with reports from Nice to Lakeport to Kelseyville. A large cat was also believed to have been roaming a Lucerne neighborhood in recent weeks.

Fish and Game Warden Loren Freeman, who couldn't be reached for comment on the situation, told Lake County News in an interview last month that he's been receiving more reports about mountain lions this summer.

He advised against leaving out food or water for pets, and reminded area residents that feeding deer – which is illegal – is the No. 1 reason mountain lions end up in neighborhoods, because they follow the prey there.

While mountain lions are known to be in Lake County, Donnell worried that the animals are actively hunting in peoples' yards and around their homes, which means they don't fear humans. He said he doesn't believe mountain lions have been frequent guests to the neighborhood until recently.

“I'm concerned that someone is going to get attacked,” he said.” We have a number of women that walk in this area in the early morning hours. Someone needs to alert the community that the cats aren't just hunting in the wildland, they are hunting in our front yards.”

California Fish & Game's “Keep Me Wild” Web site's page on mountain lions ( urges against hiking, biking or jogging alone in at dawn, dusk or nighttime in areas where mountain lions are active.

It's also critical to not leave small children and pets outside unattended, Fish & Game reported.

If a person does spot one of the lions, don't approach them, and don't run; instead, face them, make noise and try to look bigger by waving arms, or throwing rocks or other objects. Should an attack occur, fight back.

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COBB – A Friday fire destroyed a residence and burned an acre of wildland in the Cobb area.

Authorities also arrested at the scene 58-year-old Richard David Blount of Cobb, who appeared to be attempting to set a fire. However, Blount's actual role in the main fire hasn't yet been determined.

South Lake County Fire Protection Battalion Chief Rich Boehm said the fire was dispatched just minutes before noon. It was located in the area of Observation Road and Loch Lomond Road.

A total of about 45 firefighters from South Lake County and Cal fire, as well as inmate crews, responded and got to work quickly, said Boehm.

Several aircraft also had helped with the firefighting effort, Cal Fire reported.

There was a structure that a person was living in that “went real fast,” Boehm said. He estimated the amount of adjacent wildland that burned was about an acre in size.

Shortly after the fire was dispatched, the Lake County Sheriff's Office received a request for assistance from Cal Fire, which reported that two subjects were at the scene obstructing firefighters, according to sheriff's Capt. James Bauman.

Bauman said several patrol units responded to the fire. As deputies were on their way, Cal Fire further reported that the subjects were threatening the crews as they battled the blaze and one of the subjects was screaming that he “was the devil.”

When deputies arrived at the scene, Cal Fire personnel led deputies to an area of the fire line where the two subjects had apparently fled, Bauman said.

Bauman said deputies found Blount kneeling at the fire line trying to light matches. They confronted him and, following a brief struggle, took him into custody.

While he was being arrested Blount threatened to kill one of the deputies, said Bauman.

Blount was immediately transported from the scene of the fire and booked at the Lake County Jail on felony charges of arson and threatening a peace officer, as well as a misdemeanor charge of resisting arrest, said Bauman.

He said it's unknown who was the second subject who had been reported to be obstructing Cal Fire crews at the scene, as that individual left prior to the deputies’ arrival.

Boehm said Blount is known to locals as having “some problems,” and his part in the actual fire isn't certain. Officials are continuing to investigate the cause, said Boehm.

Firefighters were expected to have completed mop up on the fire area around 5 p.m. Friday, Boehm said.

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LAKE COUNTY – The state Department of Public Health said Thursday that it is assessing administrative penalties against 12 hospitals around the state – including Lake County's two hospital facilities – for noncompliance with licensure requirements.

The agency said that the noncompliance “has caused, or was likely to cause, serious injury or death to patients,” and in all cases constituted an “immediate jeopardy” for patients.

Sutter Lakeside Hospital in Lakeport and St. Helena Hospital Clearlake each received $25,000 penalties, the Department of Public Health reported. It was the first time such penalties were assessed to either facility, which reported the issues to the state.

The situations with the local hospitals both occurred last year, according to Department of Public Health documents.

Representatives from both of the local hospitals – which were notified of the assessments earlier this week – said they've taken action to address the situations that led to the penalties.

Other hospitals receiving penalties were Arrowhead Regional Medical Center, Colton; Children’s Hospital of Orange County, Orange; Enloe Medical Center, Chico; Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian, Newport Beach; Kaiser Foundation Hospital and Rehabilitation Center, Vallejo; Los Angeles County/University of Southern California, Los Angelesy; Mark Twain, St. Joseph Hospital, San Andreas; Mercy San Juan Medical Center, Carmichael; South Coast Medical Center, South Laguna; and Southwest Healthcare Systems, Riverside.

Facilities that are assessed the penalties must immediately implement a plan of correction to prevent future incidents, according to the state.

“It is imperative that hospitals promptly respond to the issues identified by the Department of Public Health,” said Kathleen J. Billingsley, RN, the deputy director or the Department of Public Health's Center for Health Care Quality.

This is the eighth time the Department of Public Health has issued groups of penalties against medical facilities under the auspices of recent state legislation that aims to improve medical procedure compliance, Billingsley said.

In all, they've assessed 98 penalties on 67 different hospitals, for a total amount of $2.45 million. Not all of the penalties have yet been paid, she noted.

Billingsley said after a violation is substantiated, it's required that the facility immediately fix it and create a corrective plan.

The goal, she said, is to improve health care and eliminate surgical and medical errors.

In eight of the 12 cases reported Thursday – including Sutter Lakeside and St. Helena Hospital Clearlake – penalties arose from failure to follow surgical policy and procedures, which resulted in foreign objects, such as surgical sponges or instruments, being left inside patients during surgery.

Other hospitals were cited for failing to safely administer medications or continuously monitor patients, not following procedures for fall prevention or not complying with minimum staffing requirements for nursing care.

Sutter Lakeside case identifies policy issues

In the case of Sutter Lakeside, a female patient was admitted for a paraesophageal hernia repair and graft surgery that took place on May 21, 2008.

Sponges and instruments were counted both before the procedure and prior to closing, but seven days later an imaging report revealed a mini laparotomy sponge had been left in the patient's left upper abdomen. The sponge was surgically removed without difficulty, the report noted.

A review of hospital procedures found that the situation resulted because the sponge count policy had not been properly performed.

Diane Pege, M.D., Sutter Lakeside's vice president of medical affairs, said the state visited the hospital in June of 2008 and issued a report his past March in which it cited Sutter Lakeside for the occurrence.

“Our greatest priority is, and always will be, patient safety,” Pege said. “As such, Sutter Lakeside took immediate and aggressive steps to prevent this from happening in the future. We did not wait for the anticipated state visit, but promptly reviewed and revised our current protocols and procedures.”

The hospital was placed on an “immediate jeopardy” standing which Pege said put into place is a regulatory process to assure that the problem was immediately corrected. She said that, due to the hospital's prompt response, immediate jeopardy was lifted a short time after it was implemented.

Pege noted that the California Department of Public Health, other health care regulatory agencies and hospitals across the United States are giving special attention to the issue of “retention of foreign objects,” which she said is an infrequent occurrence at hospitals such as Sutter Lakeside, but one that requires special protocols and procedures to minimize occurrences.

St. Helena-Clearlake issue also involved procedures, surgery

St. Helena Hospital-Clearlake's case involved leaving part of an instrument in a patient's intestine during surgery.

“St. Helena Hospital Clearlake follows meticulous standards to prevent medical errors,” said spokesman Jeff Davis. “Following this particular incident, which we self-reported to the California Department of Public Health, a thorough investigation was conducted by the hospital, and our findings could not determine if the error was caused by medical personnel or related to the specific surgical device used during the procedure.”

The surgery, which removed the lower part of a male patient's colon, was performed on Oct. 28, 2008, according to the state report.

The physician was using a disposable stapling instrument to join the edges of the remaining portion of colon with surgical staples. The instrument came in two parts – one was placed above the upper cut edge of the remaining colon and the other part was inserted through the anus and placed at the lower cut edge before the instrument was fired.

However, when the instrument was removed, the surgical team didn't notice that one of the parts of the instrument was missing.

Four days later, the patient had a bowel movement and passed the upper portion of the stapling device, but did not experience increased pain or suffer any injury.

The physician, who had performed 50 such procedures, said he had not noticed the instrument was not complete when he handed it off to the circulating nurse. The report found that the hospital had failed to follow surgical policies and procedures regarding the accounting of all surgical equipment.

Chief Medical Officer Marc Shapiro, MD, said the hospital has implemented guidelines developed by the World Health Organization to add an additional layer of safety to all surgical procedures performed at the hospital.

“We are keenly focused on improving patient safety through the use of system improvements, patient-safety checklists, safety-enhancing practices and information technology,” said Davis.

Davis said patient safety and quality care is the hospital's primary focus. “We sincerely regret that this error occurred and are thankful that no harm was caused to our patient.”

Penalties to be used for improving health care

Billingsley said the money from the assessments is kept in a fund to assist in improving health care quality. To use it, the Department of Public Health must have the Legislature's approval.

Recently, the agency met with the California Hospital Association to ask for suggestions on how to reduce adverse events or medical errors, said Billingsley.

The agency will use that information in formulating a quality improvement effort that it can then take to the Legislature for funding approval through the appropriations process, Billingsley said.

She said officials have seen a dramatic improvement as a result of the work they've done through evaluating and assessment facilities. “I am extremely proud of the positive outcome we have had with the administrative penalties,” he said.

Billingsley cautioned, however, “We can't change things overnight.”

The administrative penalties were issued under authority granted by Health and Safety Code section 1280.1 which took effect January 1, 2007.

Facilities that received the penalties currently are in a 10-day appeal period, the Department of Public Health said. If they don't appeal and pay the penalties, they are only required to pay 65 percent of the assessment, or $16,250.

Silva said Sutter Lakeside will not appeal the assessment. Davis did not indicate if St. Helena Hospital Clearlake would appeal.

Going forward, facilities will face a doubling of the current fine amounts.

Officials said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger last year legislation to significantly increase the fine for administrative penalties for violations or deficiencies constituting an immediate jeopardy to the health and safety of patients.

The new law, which took effect Jan. 1, increases fines from $25,000 to $50,000 for the first violation.

The cases reported Thursday are not subject to the new fine amounts because they occurred in 2007 and 2008, before the new law took effect, the Department of Public Health stated.

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My daughter doesn’t realize that I’m worth more alive than dead, because I’m sure she’s trying to kill me. She’s being very clever about it, though; she’s trying to make it look like a heart attack.

She has often expressed the wish to eat vegetarian, but she is systematically eliminating the vegetarian foods that I can cook with. She doesn’t like tofu, she is only just tolerant of falafel (I’m still trying to perfect a recipe that she might like), and she outright hates the pre-made meatless meatballs and “meat patties.” Even quinoa, as simple and innocuous as it is, sits on her plate uneaten.

How can I cook vegetarian if she is systematically eliminating all of the popular vegetarian dishes? That banging noise you hear is my head against the refrigerator; a few more good hits and I’ll be exposing brain.

However, she does like vegetarian lasagna, which, if you’ve ever made it you will know, is a labor-intensive dish (both vegetarian and meat-packed types). But it’s OK – I love my daughter and if she requests a vegetarian dish that she will actually enjoy, it’s my pleasure to put in the effort. Why not? I like a challenge!

The root word for lasagna is said to come from the Greek, either from “lasana” meaning a stand for a pot, or possibly “laganon” which is a sheet of pasta cut into strips. Either way, the Romans adopted the word into the Latin and it lived on into the Italian language.

There was a wild rumor that the British invented the dish since the recipe for “loseynes” (pronounced “lasan”) is found in Britain’s oldest cookbook, “The Forme of Cury.” I was going to write down the recipe as it is written in the book but old English is very difficult to read so it would have almost appeared as gibberish.

My best translation of what the cookbook says is, “make a dough and dry it, then make several layers with cheese and sauce, then cook.” That’s it, pretty simple, no other recipe needed, and I’m going to follow that example.

Oh, and did you notice? There’s no meat in this recipe. Lasagna was originally a vegetarian dish.

To give the English their due, “The Forme of Cury” is the oldest recipe for lasagna currently on record. The cookbook was compiled in the year 1390, and the discovery made quite a number of British hearts flutter with pride, but the fact that Britain was once a Roman province makes the idea of lasagna being an aboriginal British invention not quite believable. And while they smugly claim they invented lasagna, they have yet to explain why it has a Greek name.

However, also to the Brits' credit, they are a little truer to the original lasagna idea in that, to this day, they prefer it made with a white (béchamel) sauce as opposed to the tomato sauce that Italians and Americans favor. Tomatoes hadn’t even made their appearance in Europe when this first recipe was recorded, and wouldn’t be used popularly for another 400 years.

The traditional flat noodles with ruffled edges are a throwback to when the pasta was rolled out with simple rollers and then set out in the sun to dry, which resulted in a pasta similar to what we expect when we think of lasagna noodles. In Italy lasagna noodles are usually flat without the ruffle.

The original recipe for lasagna describes layers of dough with sauce between the layers, and baked into more of a flat cake. It eventually evolved into the casserole type dish that we recognize.

Since lasagna was a dish that was cooked in an oven and only the wealthiest homes possessed those, lasagna was considered a very special dish. Even as ovens became common in every home, the many steps and lengthy preparation involved relegated the dish into a rare treat.

Nowadays, with so many time-saving kitchen gadgets, prep time can be managed reasonably. You can even purchase no-boil noodles and put them in without cooking. Yes, please! Less work is better!

I use a mandolin to slice all of the vegetables, and wear a special protective glove so I can use it extra fast without having my fingertips become part of the finished dish (I purchased the glove at The Kitchen Gallery). The mandolin gives you perfect slices quickly and uniformly, much better than using a knife. Besides, you really don’t want to show off a large collection of razor sharp knives if your child is trying to kill you.

Before we get started with the recipe, something I highly recommend is to use a disposable aluminum pan. If you’ve ever washed a lasagna pan, you know what I’m talking about and will love the idea. If you are going to make lasagna you might as well make two at a time and freeze one for a later date.

The great thing about lasagna is that you don’t really need a recipe. You put a cup of pasta sauce on the bottom of a 9-inch by 12-inch baking dish, then a layer of the no-boil noodles, and then go to town any way you want.

I like to start with some ricotta and then just layer on ingredients as I go. Keep in mind that you don’t want to make the layers too thick or tightly packed. You want the cheese to have room to melt downward and the sauce have gaps to bubble upwards so the flavors can meld. Gaps in the layers are good.

When choosing what to put in the lasagna remember there are no rules about what the layers should be. Some suggestions would include zucchini, shiitake or portabella mushrooms, butternut squash, spinach leaves, diced tomatoes and onions or leeks, sliced garlic, eggplant, fresh basil, oregano and thyme.

I also recommend at least three types of cheese; I use mozzarella, Parmesan and ricotta. And let’s not forget, you’ll want your favorite tomato sauce intermingled throughout.

To be totally honest about my own recipe, I also add a layer of my own personal roasted bell pepper sauce in there which we’ll talk about it another day.

As you can tell, with all this pasta dough and cheese and sauce, this is not exactly health food. I didn’t say it wouldn’t be rich, I just said it doesn’t contain meat. You’ll have to excuse me for a moment, I have to make an appointment to change my will.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and put a cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan, spreading it out to cover the entire surface. Add a layer of no-boil lasagna noodles then (my preference) a layer of cheese, then lay a few layers of whatever you chose for veggies, followed by another cup of sauce, noodles, cheese, and then a couple more layers of your favorite ingredients. You don’t have to spread the ricotta too thin since the layers will compress it and the heat of the oven will cause it to flow.

When you’ve completed all of the layers, top it all with a nice layer of shredded mozzarella and Parmesan and a sprinkling of herbs, which will give it a nice color as it bakes.

Cover it with aluminum foil and bake for 35 minutes or until a knife can pierce the center easily.

Carefully remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes or until the cheese starts to get golden brown.

Remove from the oven and let rest for 15 minutes. This is a very important part of the process, as it gives the melted cheese an opportunity to reset and hold everything together when you cut it. Serve.

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. Follow him on Twitter, .

SACRAMENTO – The last holiday of summer 2009 is not the time to let your guard down while driving, the California Highway Patrol said this week.

Motorists need to make sure they do everything possible to ensure a safe and enjoyable weekend for themselves, their passengers, and everyone else on the road they share.”

The Labor Day weekend is a Maximum Enforcement Period (MEP) for the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

Beginning Friday, Sept. 4, at 6:01 p.m. through midnight on Monday, Sept. 7, every available officer will be on the road keeping a vigilant eye out for errant drivers. They will be on the lookout for violators of the three major causes of highway deaths: speeding, drinking and driving, and not wearing seat belts.

Last year 40 people died statewide on Labor Day weekend on California highways. Of those killed in CHP jurisdiction, more than half were not wearing seat belts.

“Make sure that you and your family safely wrap up a great summer. Observe all laws, drive defensively and buckle up your loved ones,” stated CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow.

According to the CHP, motorists can help assure their own safety by doing some very simple things when they get behind the wheel:

  • Buckle up, driver and all occupants, every time on every trip.

  • Observe all speed limits.

  • Never mix alcohol and driving. Choose a designated driver or be one for your passengers.

  • If you are making a long drive this weekend, leave early, make frequent rest stops to stay alert, and do not let delays change your driving behavior.

“We want everybody’s holiday to be filled with pleasant memories. Join the CHP in making that happen by driving safely throughout the Labor Day holiday,” said Commissioner Farrow.

Labor Day, 2009 is an Operation Combined Accident Reduction Effort (C.A.R.E.), which emphasizes added patrols on interstate highways such as I-5, I-15 and I-80.

LAKEPORT – An Aug. 29 fire destroyed a mobile home, according to local fire officials.

The Lakeport Fire Protection District reported that it responded to a reported structure fire on Mission Rancheria Road just after 10 p.m. last Sunday.

A report from firefighter/paramedic Brian Hajik explained that the agency sent one truck company, one engine company and one chief officer, with Kelseyville Fire Protection District providing one mutual aid engine company.

While units were responding, dispatch advised that an off-duty California Highway Patrol officer was on scene and advising of a fully involved mobile home with no occupants on site, according to Hajik.

The first arriving apparatus was Lakeport Fire Protection truck 5011, which found a 12-foot by 60-foot mobile home fully involved with an additional residence immediately threatened, and extension to the wildland, Hajik reported.

Captain Bob Holbrook assumed command as hose lines were stretched to protect an adjacent structure and begin defensive operations, said Hajik.

Hajik said Engine 5012 swiftly established a water supply for both apparatus and began additional suppression to both the involved structure and wildland fire.

The fire was contained in 12 minutes; however the home was deemed a total loss, Hajik said.

He reported that units remained on scene until 11:30 p.m. for salvage and overhaul.

Fire cause is currently under investigation and no injuries were reported, according to Hajik.

LUCERNE – District 3 Supervisor Denise Rushing is inviting the public to attend a Lucerne Community Town Hall Meeting this week.

The town hall will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 10, at the Lucerne Alpine Senior Center, on Country Club Drive between 9th and 10th streets.

County staff will provide updates on the Lake County Redevelopment Agency activities and other issues of interest including local enforcement activities.

The agenda includes an update from community organizations and the topic of how citizens can help the health of Clear Lake.

This is an opportunity to participate in an open forum discussing critical issues of concern to the Lucerne Community.

For more information, contact Rushing at 707-263-2368 or by email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Unmarried persons in a committed relationship often desire to provide for one another upon death and to allow each other control over financial and health care matters during periods of disability.

A discussion of unmarried couples must distinguish between two categories: persons who live

together (whether heterosexual or homosexual partners) and persons who are registered domestic partners (i.e., "RDPs").

Since 2005, under California law, RDPs have legal rights and responsibilities like married couples; but not so under federal law. Let's examine each category separately.

Unmarried persons who just live together – notwithstanding their confidential relationship – are "legal strangers" under the law. All property is each partner's separate property, even joint tenancy property.

Mutual contractual arrangements – such as cohabitation agreements and tenants in common agreements – govern each partner's rights and responsibilities to each other.

Reasonable and detrimental reliance by one partner on the other partner's promises, fair play under common law, often decide the outcome of any lawsuit for breach of contract.

Durable powers of attorney and health care directives must be in place to allow each partner control over the other partner's financial affairs and health care decisions during disability. Otherwise, avoidable legal battles (e.g., court conservatorships) over control may ensue between one partner's natural family and the other partner.

If real property is owned as tenants in common, a tenant's in common agreement is very advisable to

help manage their undivided property rights. Each partner may transfer their property rights into their own living trust. Joint tenancy may be used but it has significant drawbacks.

Next, RDPs, as of 2005, California RDPs have the same rights and Responsibilities to each together as married people. But the contrary remains true under federal law.

The Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA") still treats California RDPs as legal strangers. The federal/state disparity has created some interesting challenges.

For example, although RDPs now have community property ("CP") rights just like married persons – with each RDP entitled to equal control over the CP assets – nonetheless, under DOMA, it appears that the creation of community property between RDPs would be treated as gifts as between legal strangers, and so subject to the Gift Tax.

Accordingly, IRS gift tax returns are required when such annual gifting exceeds the federal annual gift tax exclusion amount (i.e., $13,000 in 2009).

Moreover, RDPs do not get the "double step-up in basis" on CP assets when the first RDP dies, and so the surviving RDP may have to pay capital gains on appreciated assets sold shortly after the first RDP dies (whereas heterosexual married persons might avoid this due to the double step up in basis).

Also, unlike living trusts created by heterosexual married couples, living trusts created by RDP's must have taxpayer identification numbers and file federal annual income tax returns (i.e., IRS Form 1041's). Married couples, however, simply report trust income on their annual tax return(s) using their social security numbers.

The foregoing difficulty can be solved if each RDP creates his/her own living trust to hold title to each RDPs own property rights. If CP assets are involved, the other RDP must still be co-trustee to ensure that each RDP has joint control over the CP assets as required by California law.

Furthermore, RDPs who are joint tenants must keep meticulous records of their contributions towards purchasing joint tenancy property. Whereas a surviving married spouse is presumed to have contributed half of the purchase costs of a jointly held asset, federal law presumes that the deceased RDP paid everything.

Lastly, there are some planning opportunities available to RDPs which are unavailable to married persons. Specifically, as RDPs are not married the IRS will not make RDPs prove that sale transactions between themselves are at fair prices.

Dennis A. Fordham, attorney (LL.M. tax studies), is a State Bar Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Probate and Trust Law. His office is at 55 1st St., Lakeport, California. Dennis can be reached by e-mail at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or by phone at 707-263-3235.

UKIAH – A 44-year-old woman has become the second Mendocino County person to die from the H1N1 virus.

The woman died Sept. 1, according to a Thursday statement from Mendocino County Public Health Officer Dr. Marvin Trotter.

Trotter said the H1N1 virus was confirmed when the woman was admitted to Ukiah Valley Medical Center 10 days prior to her death.

He said the woman had significant underlying medical issues, and was one of the county's 12 prior confirmed cases.

“Approximately half of the deaths with H1N1 have longstanding or significant underlying medical issues,” said Trotter. “The highest risk categories for death appear to be obesity and asthma.”

As of Sept. 1, there have been 144 H1N1 related deaths in California and 1,663 hospitalized cases, the California Department of Public Health reported.

Nationwide, there have been 8,843 hospitalized cases and 556 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's office issued a Wednesday statement noting that state public health and emergency response officials have been planning for the further escalation of the disease and the rollout of a vaccination program.

The Centers for Disease Control reported that the H1N1 vaccine is scheduled to be allocated in mid October.

Officials continue to urge basic precautions to prevent the spread of the flu, including covering your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; washing hands with soap or alcohol-based hand cleaners after sneezing; avoiding touching your eyes, nose or mouth, which can spread germs; avoiding close contact with sick people; and staying home if you are sick for seven days after your symptoms begin or until you have been symptom-free for 24 hours, whichever is longer, to keep from infecting others and spreading the virus further.

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