The Laughing Lady leans back and guffaws, her huge, smiling body rocking. Meanwhile, the boy above her sticks his tongue out, then slowly draws it back in. The nutcracker wiggles back and forth eagerly, while blackbirds desperately try to get out of the pie. But it’s just getting started. The kittens search for their lost mittens, while Giannini from the Bank of Italy in San Francisco looks on impassively. The Fonz, the Man From U. N. C. L. E, and Atom Ant all make an appearance, as does Fozzie Bear. It’s just another afternoon at the Lunchbox Museum in Nice, where Deb Clarke showcases her massive collection of retro Americana.
During a time when everything has been uncertain, a group of students at Minnie Cannon Elementary School have managed to hold on to a little bit of normalcy. In January of 2020 Sharon Huggins, the fifth grade teacher and the 2019-2020 Minnie Cannon Teacher of the Year, decided she wanted to start a book club to share her love of reading with some of her students. She chose The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy even though it was above grade level because it “appealed to her sense of humor, love of science, and goofy nature.”
Spring’s in the air, and it’s a great time to get out and support some of our local wineries and businesses. And what better way to do it than by getting a Winery Passport? It’s got complimentary tasting at eighteen Lake County wineries, plus a host of other perks. Pick up a free appetizer at the Saw Shop Public House when you purchase an entry, enjoy a complimentary kayak rental from Clearlake Campground, or get a discount on a room at one of several places, such as the Tallman Hotel or The Lodge at Blue Lakes. You’ll pay $66.95 per passport, and once you go to a couple of wineries, you’ll have paid for it already. For more information about the program and to purchase, head to the Lake County Winery Association Website.
“We’re creating healthy alternatives for people,” Josh says, finishing up the smoothie while Margie rings up the customer. “When I discovered this, I worked at the post office, and Margie was at CVS. Hang on.” He pulls out his phone and scrolls through it. “Here it is.” He flips the screen our way, showing a picture of him with a neck brace. “I had to go through neck and spine surgery and felt terrible. But I lost 100 pounds in ten months, and feel great. Margie lost 50 pounds.” He’s bouncing around the shop, full of energy.
Margie’s just as excited as Josh. “It’s a healthy café,” she adds. “We have protein waffles, protein donuts, vegan options, and a fitness and recovery menu. “We are making a healthy, active lifestyle hub. It’s more than coming in and getting shakes.”
Hidden Valley Lake is located in the southern part of Lake County where residents can enjoy more than a dozen amenities in and around the 102-acre lake including a semi-private 18-hole championship golf course and modern camping facilities. The Hidden Valley Lake Association supports more than 100 jobs in hospitality, private security, landscape maintenance, finance and other industries.
While unloading disposable surgical masks and hand sanitizers for Middletown area small businesses and nonprofits recently, we asked Chanele Hellwege why she started her shipping, packing and vehicle registration business on Hwy 175 in Middletown, she responded, “See a need, fill a need.” And that is how Middletown Mail and More got started.
The Bloom seeks quality restaurant and winery reviews. If you love Lake County’s food and wine and have the ability to tell a story, get in touch with us. We’re looking for storytellers, not reporters, and consider the ability to communicate an experience of vital importance. For more information, check out our submission guidelines.
Over the years, our family has enjoyed some Christmas reading. We’ve read through The Little Match Girl, The Elves and the Shoemaker, A Christmas Carol, Sherlock Holmes and The Adventures of the Blue Carbuncle, and many other great stories. But one of our favorites is poet Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales, which we read every Christmas Eve. It’s a beautiful story that shares Christmas memories from over one hundred years ago. If you’re looking for an enjoyable short read, here’s a link to a public domain version:http://gutenberg.net.au/ebooks07/0701261h.html
It’s the holidays in Lake County. The pale winter sun reflects in spots and flashes off Clear Lake. A few bass boats putt along the shoreline, their owners flicking their lures into nooks and crevices, then winding them slowly in. At the nearby park, a couple sits at a picnic bench, eating lunch. And hidden off to the side, tucked like a treasure to the left of the boat launch, sits Lakeside Arts and Gifts.
Kyle’s owned The Game Hub for ten years now, and he’s gotten to know his customers. “I wanted to be a teacher,” he says, “but went a different direction. I fell in love with running a business. But it’s cool to see people grow up and keep coming in.”
As he chats, his daughter pulls white sticker off a label sheet and puts it on his hoodie.
“What you doing?” he says kindly. “Are you putting stickers on my back?”
“No, she replies, then waits for him to turn around before putting another one on.
Entering the courtyard’s just the beginning of the journey when you head in to meet the Two Sisters. A couple Radio Flyer wagons and a bubbling fountain filled with fish first greet you, followed by metal buckets, washbasins, and statues, the appropriate overflow of any good antique store. Then you’ll make your way up the stairs and meet them. Tina and Robin Kingsley stand in the middle of their store, looking at all the things they have collected over the years. They’re surrounded by embroidery, ceramics, galvanized tubs, candles, figurines, games, and various other good finds.
We’ve got a little bit of everything,” Robin says, a smile in her words.
“A lot of everything!” Tina interjects.
Bob Phillips stands in front of one of his photos, his feet spread slightly wider than shoulder-width, a facemask hiding his bearded face. Under his opened flannel shirt, a ‘D’Art Frog logo shows, half-hidden. “I consider myself a landscape photographer,” he says, thinking for a second. “I’m really an old school photographer.” On the walls around him hang his photographs. Sure, there’s a spectacular photo of Mt. Konocti shaded in the purples and blues of sunset on one wall, but near it, an image filled with holiday revelers hangs. Close-ups of radial airplane engines and painterly photographs of downtown Lakeport fill the walls next to them, showing that Bob’s more than just a landscape photographer. When I mention it, he smiles. “When the gallery was just my work,” he says, “I would have people come in, look at my photos, and ask, ‘How many photographers do you have?’” he laughs.
The stage is set at the Soper Reese Theater in Lakeport. Four Christmas trees frame the presentation screen, two to the left and two to the right. A grand piano and podium balance the front of the stage; it’s the first time the piano’s been out since March. Maryann Schmid and Olga Martin Steele, cofounders of the 1 Team, 1 Dream competition, bustle back and forth from the auditorium to the lobby, checking on the innumerable details involved in coordinating both a physical and virtual competition. The theater’s sparsely filled; everyone’s distanced and masked.
Three judges sit at their tables on the floor, spaced in thirds across the stage: Pat Scully, Laurie Dohring, and Ernesto Padilla all wait eagerly to hear the contestants.
Olga wipes down the microphones with disinfectant wipes, then steps to the podium and double-checks that the Facebook feed is up and running.
“Welcome to the first-ever business competition in Lake County,” she begins.
“It all started when we went to a craft fair,” James begins. “We bought some soap, and I said, ‘We could make soap better than this!’”
Tiffany laughs as she remembers the conversation. “But you know, he went home and did it! We’ve been making soaps ever since.” A drying rack sits a few feet behind Tiffany with an array of different colored soaps arcing like a rainbow on it. Shelves line the walls, filled with essential oils. Their converted bus looks and smells like soap-lovers heaven on wheels.
Oak Boutique in Kelseyville feels more like walking into a friend’s home that also happens to have clothes for sale. Just inside, owner Caitlin Andrus warmly invites you into her world. A welcoming sitting area in front of the store encourages you to slow down and stay awhile, another gentle reminder that this isn’t going to be an everyday shopping experience. It’s no wonder Oak is loved by locals and visitors alike.
Sebrina Andrus, owner of maker. in Kelseyville, reaches far above her head and pulls hard on the window shades, swinging the blinds high up the large windows of what at one time was Kelseyville’s Farmers’ Savings Bank. Winter light shines through them, illuminating the hand-crafted products of maker.
Did you know that a turkey’s snood can change color depending upon their emotions? I didn’t either until I read local Lake County author Lori Armstrong’s children’s book Bubbly Jock and the Thanksgiving Fallacy. It’s the story of Bubbly Jock Jack, a turkey living on an organic farm complete with corn mazes and goat yoga. There Jack spends his days following the farmer on his rounds, playing with the farmer’s children, and pecking grain from the visiting kids’ hands. He leads an idyllic life until he overhears something that makes him question everything.
Reuben and Kassie Koontz moved back to Lake County in 2015 after living in Santa Rosa for years. There, Reuben did high-end autobody work and made great money. But they wanted a different, more rural lifestyle. So Kassie moved back home to Middletown, where her family has lived for four generations. There, she and Reuben created Koontz Mercantile, an eclectic shop filled with all kinds of cool stuff.
And ‘cool’ is the right word. The place has an aura of hipness. A surfboard serves as a shelf in the outdoor room, while a bicycle turned into a side table sits underneath rows of aprons filled with different sayings. “Shut up Liver, You’re Fine,” one reads.
If you’re looking for some great wine to pair with your holiday feasts, look no further. Lake County has an abundance of high-quality wines. It’s all because of our unique volcanic terroir, the secret that makes every Lake County wine unique. Here are eight recommendations to make any meal better.
Soon after setting up the lodge for Loch Lomond, Lilburn and Ruth Prather Moody opened a campground, had the land subdivided, and began selling lots. At this time in America’s history, a working-class family could own a vacation home. And the Loch Lomond Resort was no exception: If someone wandered into the bar on a Saturday afternoon, they could have a chat with Ruth, and she’d write up a deed of sale on the placemat. For $500, a person could buy a lot and build a cabin.
It’s seven o’clock in Middletown, California. The sun has just set, leaving its last beams to stretch across the rugged Mayacamas Mountains. As the last glimmer of purple eases from the ridges of Mount St. Helena, the lights around Twin Pine Casino begin to glimmer.
Located approximately thirty minutes north of Calistoga and just south of Middletown, a rural town with an incredible art gallery and spectacular Thai food, Twin Pine has been a part of the Middletown community for decades. It hosts free Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, supports the local community, and serves as an evacuation center during fires.
And, like everyone else, Twin Pine has had to adapt. Following the COVID shut down in March, Twin Pine made some large adjustments to ensure that the guests were safe when they visited.
Danny Prather bears a striking resemblance to his great-grandfather, William Robert. Broad-shouldered and solid-footed from years of felling trees, he hunches over the steering wheel, winding among dirt roads that zigzag across the mountainside. A controlled burn heads into the distance off to the left, eating away at the greenbrown leaves and needles and leaving behind a smoldering haze.
I first met Danny at The Roadhouse, Loch Lomond’s long-time, and now closed, bar, where he and his brothers would regularly play music together.
He peers through the dusty windshield as we climb a steep hill. “Some people call this Siegler Mountain,” I say. The woods around spread in a patchwork of pine, fir, cedar, and oak trees, all groomed and free of undergrowth.
“Yeah, and some people call it Prather mountain,” Danny quickly replies. “It’s been in our family longer than anybody else’s. Siegler was there only a few years.” He cranes his neck to look up the road. “It looks like Gary’s doing some burning,” he says, slowing down. “There he is!” He pulls over and begins walking up towards the burn line.
To understand Loch Lomond, you need to get to know Ruth Springston (Prather) Moody. You met her last week; she’s the one who named the place, helped build it, and maintained it for years.
Ruth was there from the beginning. She cleaned rooms, checked guests in and out, filled in at the restaurant, ran the bar, and did everything else in between. After her divorce from Lilburn Prather, Ruth took over the resort and ran it for several years, influencing many. Her strong opinions and tough-mindedness still can be seen in her grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
I began thinking about life’s polarities: night and day, rest and work, questions and answers, friends and enemies. We have an endless amount of opposing ideas to juggle. But where do the blacks and whites blur into grays? Why or when does this occur?
“Do you think we’re going the right way”? I ask, brushing a leaning corn stalk from my face. The Fall sun filters through the maze around us as we turn down a trail cut through the never-ending cornfield. I hear chatter and voices of other visitors coming from somewhere just out of sight.
“I have no idea. I’m not the one leading the way,” David chuckles as we shuffle along behind our kids.
“It’s a dead-end,” announces our son. We all turn to retrace our steps. We’re about a third of the way in the maze, and our goal at this point is to get to the snack shack provided Wildhurst Vineyard. Walking through the fourteen-foot tall corn, it seems that the maze is bigger this year. More invisible shouts and giggles draw closer, then fade away again as others continue to get lost.