When Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas,” he painted a picture we still try to model today. Just look at any holiday weekend in the Sierra. Families from the Oakland hills and all around the Bay make the trek to Tahoe — to be in the snow.

So it’s no wonder my family and I threw our long undies into a duffle last weekend and headed up Interstate 80 to Crystal Bay. Pulling into the Cal Neva Resort, we found big juicy flakes of snow swirling in the nighttime sky. Here, they know how to set the mood, with a million twinkling lights pulling you in to the lakeside retreat that was once owned by Frank Sinatra.

The Cal Neva’s Indian Room is every bit as enchanting as the dining room at Yosemite’s Ahwahnee Hotel, with warm wood walls and a roaring fire in the huge stone hearth. You can see why Frank loved this place and brought the biggest names in Hollywood here to entertain.

But there were deep, dark secrets here too — secrets that only begin to surface as you look into the lore of this famed resort. There’s the tunnel between the main lodge, Sinatra’s chalet and the cottage where Marilyn Monroe overdosed on pills the week before she suspiciously died. There are walls of old photographs with Sammy and Dino and the boys, smoke curling from their Pall Malls and Lucky Strikes. There are tales of the regular visits from mob boss Sam Giancana and the Kennedys.

Here the holiday spirit combines with the spirit of another era — a time when Mr. Big ran this joint with a bevy of broads and booze. Under the twinkling lights of Cal Neva’s giant Christmas tree, I can almost hear Sinatra say, “I did it my way”.

Ballerina’s thoughts

With visions of the Nutcracker dancing through my head, my interest was piqued when I got this e-mail from Piedmont teen Cathy Trainor. A ballerina for seven years in the Berkeley Ballet Theater, she writes: “The time that dancers call ‘Nutcracker Season’ begins in late October, when we commit ourselves to long Saturday rehearsals, and staying extra hours at ballet class on school nights. We are all truly dedicated — we are doing something that we love to do.”

You can see the Berkeley Ballet Theater’s “Nutcracker” through this Sunday at the Julia Morgan Center for the Arts in Berkeley. For more information, call 510-843-4689.

Retread threads

With the price of designer clothing always going up, it’s nice to see a new high-end consignment shop in Montclair. Dragonfly Consignments is now just up the stairs from Crogan’s Restaurant on La Salle Avenue and already has a nice selection of name brand suits, coats and slacks — all “gently used,” as they say.

Face lift

Speaking of a new look in Montclair, have you been in McCaulou’s lately? The bright lights hit you as you walk in the door and see three large make-up counters where the shoe department used to be (it’s downstairs now).

Management has really pulled a Houdini to fit Lancome, Estee Lauder and Clinique displays in the already cozy store. But I’m thrilled. Now I don’t have to drive to Lafayette to get my free bonus gifts with every $30 purchase.

Sticker shock

You’ve gotta love this bumper sticker on a Toyota I saw returning from Tahoe: “When hell freezes over, I’ll snowboard there too!”



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