You've heard of "The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants?" Here's the story of a traveling coat, which just happens to hang in my closet.

In 1958, when I was just a young Minnesotan, my mom started knitting a coat. With a red ball of yarn and a pattern she got from her neighbor, she stitched while my dad munched on beer nuts and watched "Gunsmoke." "I was determined to finish that coat," said my mom, "even though I'd never knit before."

Today, that warm Christmas coat is having a rebirth. It's been making the rounds at all the best holiday parties -- the envy of beautiful people everywhere. And since my mom gets great joy from seeing her wool coat "step out" -- I send her photos from every event.

"Your mom's coat is like 'Flat Stanley,'" one of my friends observed. Parents know about Stanley from grade school, where kids have to document the paper doll's travels. My mother's red coat doesn't have a name, but it does have a life. It even had tea at the Palace Hotel last week. (see a picture of mom's coat at ginnyprior.com.)

Dining scene: You know a chef means business if he has giant paella pans hanging in his restaurant. Venga Paella is one of Oakland's newest eateries -- located near Jack London Square at 229 Brush St. The large open space draws you in, and the aroma of spicy paella keeps you there. Making paella is an art, but it's also a labor of love. Chef and owner Eduardo Balaguer uses his grandmother's recipes to honor his family and treat his customers -- many of whom work at Lonely Planet and other companies in the emerging neighborhood. Hours and more are at www.vengapaella.com.

Email bag: Reader Brad Newsham shares a story that may give you new faith in humanity. He says a full house at Montclair's Mountain Yoga was deep into meditation when they overheard a dad and his little girl on the sidewalk below. "You get what you get -- and don't throw any fits," said the father. Apparently that "Buddha-like parenting wisdom" caused quite a stir in the otherwise silent meditation. "When the ensuing hysteria died down, one yogi quipped, "Well that's one kid who might turn out OK," Newsham writes.

Jingle Bells: Can't get enough of Burl Ives this season? Ann and Derek Garnier have set up an Internet Christmas music station with a collection of some 2,000 songs -- everything from Elvis to the Partridge Family and the Chipmunks. The website is http://megamegaultra.com and either click the Apple Music or Windows Music link to play the stream.

Animal Tales: The Montclair listserv has been buzzing lately with news of a mountain lion roaming the hills near Merriwood Drive. It's not that unusual. Animal experts say that wherever there are deer in the hills -- there are probably mountain lions. And they can leap 15 feet into a tree and climb over a 12-foot fence. You can learn more about mountain lions at http://mountainlion.org/FAQfrequentlyaskedquestions.asp.

Got news? You can reach Ginny Prior at 510-723-2525, by email at ginnyprior@hotmail.com or on the web at www.ginnyprior.com.