Merry Christmas!

Christmas Tree at the Chateau de Chenonceau

It was a sweltering hot July afternoon in 1945 when famous jazz vocalist Mel Tormé showed up for a writing session at the Toluca Lake house of his lyric partner Bob Wells. Mel let himself in and walked over to the piano. There, on the music board, was a pad of paper with four lines of a verse:

Chestnuts roasting on an open fire

Jack Frost nipping at your nose

Yuletide carols being sung by a choir

And folks dressed up like Eskimos

When Wells walked in the room, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt, Tormé asked him about the little poem.

“It’s so damn hot today, I thought I’d write something to cool myself off,” Wells replied. “All I could think of was Christmas and cold weather.”

And that is “the rest of the story” behind one of America’s most loved contemporary Christmas hits, A Christmas Song. With this intro, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas and all of the best for 2018.

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A House in Sablet

(This post was originally published on February 11, 2017)


Our vacation house in Sablet*

Gourmets are thick on the ground in Provence, and pearls of wisdom have sometimes come from the most unlikely sources. We were getting used to the fact that the French are as passionate about food as other nationalities are about sport and politics, but even so it came as a surprise to hear Monsieur Bagnols, the floor cleaner, handicapping three-star restaurants” ― Peter Mayle, A Year in Provence.

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It’s Time for Some Comfort Food

“As you read this, the fires in wine country continue to burn. They’ll burn for a while yet. If you don’t live in Northern California, I’d guess you are hearing less and less about them on the news.” – Ron Washam, HMW – HoseMaster of Wine.

Sometimes the best way to work through a tragedy is to immerse yourself in a familiar routine. Personally, I need comfort food. So, today I am going to talk about one of my favorite restaurants and probably the best deal on the planet: Las Cuatros Milpas. For me, and many others, the front door of this restaurant is a time-warp portal. I walk through and step back in time. Whenever I am in San Diego, this is always one of my “go to” stops.

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Air tanker over Geyserville

By now, I guess that everyone has heard about the wildfires in Northern California, particularly Napa and Sonoma Counties.  The fires started Sunday night and will not be totally controlled for weeks. Since that is the only thing on my mind, I just can’t get my head into writing – somehow it just doesn’t seem appropriate to write about some great restaurant or trip when over 5700 of my neighbors have lost their homes or businesses and everything that they possessed. As of six p.m., Friday, thirty-eight people are dead and over 250 are still missing or unaccounted for.

Remains of Signorello Estate Winery off of the Silverado Trail in Napa.

Willi’s Wine Bar in Santa Rosa early Monday morning

Remains of Coffey Park neighborhood in Santa Rosa. Two of our friends lost their homes here.

Burned wine barrels at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa.

So far Karel and I are safe and our house is intact. We have power, water, gas, and internet service. We are very lucky. The air quality is the most unhealthy in recorded history so we keep our windows closed and wear masks when we go outside . We have packed some clothes, toiletries, my laptop, and some valuables. The bags are sitting next to our front door. Our cars are full of gas. If necessary, we can leave on a minute’s notice.

Even fire stations were not safe. Fire Station No. 5 in the Fountaingrove neighborhood of Santa Rosa.

I am humbled at the numbers of firefighters and first responders that have started to arrive in our community from all over California and the US – some from as far away as North and South Carolina. Most local firefighters have been working continuously since Sunday night and are only now getting a little relief.

Firefighter Nathan Goldie from Oxnard working outside the town of Sonoma.

Firefighters gather for the next onslaught as an air tanker drops retardant.

There is nothing more impressive than to see how everyone is pitching in to support our community in this time of need. Please keep sending the good thoughts and raise a glass tonight in support of Wine Country.

Remains of the tasting room at Paradise Ridge Winery in Santa Rosa.

Redwood Credit Union (RCU), in partnership with RCU Community Fund, The Press Democrat, and Senator Mike McGuire, is accepting financial donations to aid relief efforts and assist victims of the 2017 North Bay fires. 100% of your tax-deductible donations will go directly to support those affected by the fires. (Donate here)

Maybe next week.