Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

It’s always easy to tell a Bostonian. The accent, the big personality, the dry sense of humor can be amusing – even alarming – for we sensitive Southern Californians. But the Bostonian’s tendency to tell it like it is can be more than valuable in certain situations… say, for instance, when buying a car.

Paradise 2Meet John Paradise, a Boston transplant who eighteen years ago brought little more than his young family and his interest in cars to San Clemente, just to give life in the snowless part of the country a try. “A try” turned into “a home” when John started to fully appreciate the passion that Orange County residents felt for luxury automobiles. One car at a time, John found good deals and passed hassle-free savings on to a select clientele. Today, Paradise Automotive Group is a full-sized dealership, specializing in previously owned luxury vehicles and personalized, individual service.

“These days, clients are so well educated and aware of what is available for how much, we don’t get into the hassle of back-and-forth haggling over price,” says John, who far prefers the tell-it-like-it-is tack. “We price the car correctly and fairly, then focus on making it a good experience for our customer.”

It’s the Paradise Automotive service-first approach that inspires the trust that has kept clients coming back year after year, car after car. Many families are on their ninth and tenth cars purchased through Paradise Automotive, having met John years ago and deciding that they didn’t want to purchase anywhere else.

As an extension of their commitment to zero hassle, Paradise Automotive Group also provides full-service maintenance, detail and body shop repairs and paint needs on site, so customers can conceivably stay with one trusted entity for the life of their car. With ASE-certified technicians for all makes and models, Paradise’s unequivocal goal is to make you a customer for life.

Connect with John by calling (949) 347-2522, visit www.jparadise.com or check out the wide selection of affordably priced, quality pre-owned luxury vehicles at the Paradise Automotive dealership and showroom located at 32592 Valle Road in San Juan Capistrano.

In a day in age when most ten year-olds have their own cell phone, and are, at many schools, required to have their own laptop, the demand for true literacy is faltering; and therefore incredibly precious. So what are parents to do prior to age 10, when game apps and screen time take over, and many children’s love of books and reading falls by the wayside?

Tracey Pringle likes to think that instilling a love of literacy early on is the best way to develop lifelong achievers, and is betting her livelihood on it. With Club Literacy, Mrs. Pringle has turned a typical education center into a nurturing environment in which all children are encouraged and guided to reach their creative and academic potential. Dedicated to the development of lifelong readers, Club Literacy was born out of two Bachelors degrees, one in Speech Communication, one in Early Education - and eight successful years in the trenches of public school, teaching Kindergarten through Fourth grade.

“My proudest moments have been seeing my own children develop a strong love of literature,” says Tracey. “I’m a literacy advocate, through and through.”

Credentialed in both California and North Carolina, Tracey also travels internationally to research effective educational techniques. Offering both specialty summer classes and a full lineup for the fall, Club Literacy is gearing up for another reading year. “We start with the basics - we’ll meet those ABC’s any way we can!”

ABC Club, for ages 4-5 introduces to club members through fun and exciting books, fairy tales, fables, poems, and parodies. Students enjoy getting to build friendships with each other as they greet the world of letters. There is a special emphasis on multisensory activities in order to best match all students’ learning styles.

IMG 2296Specially designed for full and half-day kindergartners, Kindergarten Smart Start and Early Literacy both explore further the ideas and shapes of the ABC’s, building the foundation of reading readiness. Beyond simple recognition and sound links, students are provided with the opportunity to engage in cooking experiments, themed dress-ups, phonics games, creative dramatics, and even collaborate with the rest of the class to publish a class book. According to a 2013 study from the U.S. Department of Education, approximately 32 million adults in the United States can’t read. Stopping that trend before it starts, with tender, loving encouragement is a priceless gift, and Tracey and her team are proud to send students home with a wide variety of tools to succeed.

Kids progress through 123-ABC Math Journals and Book Bunch, where true-to-life mathematical situations are provided to explore and investigate. With reading, as with mathematics, the sooner a child can demonstrate their reasoning and illustrate their thinking, the stronger their confidence will be later on in school. “Many problems have multiple solutions, and by giving students the chance to work through them, we reinforce phonic skills, and basic word sight recognition. Simultaneously, writing skills are strengthened!”

As a mom whose elementary-aged daughter has attended Camp Literacy’s summer camps and reading classes, I can personally attest to the fact that while what Tracey provides is a focused learning experience, she does so in an environment of fun and creativity - my daughter absolutely LOVES everything about being a part of the Club Literacy “family,” from the camaraderie and encouragement to the educational activities.

IMG 1521Tracey, a 2010 recipient of the WomanSage Award for her work in Child Development, loves nothing more than getting buddies together and working towards success - and her Book Bunch is exactly that. “Their collective goal is to become great readers and writers, and by placing an emphasis on phonic skills and word recognition, students exploration of the worlds of pirates, mermaids, and sea monsters becomes an opportunity, not just a magic story hour.”

IMG 2833And before you know it - that child who would rather look at their smartphone will be saying the three little words every parent wants to hear (not “Mom, more dessert”). More. Books. Please.

Connect with Tracey by calling (949) 717-6624 or visit www.clubliteracy.com

I had been looking forward to the 2017-2018 school year for over a decade. It was the year that our son would be the 5th grade – the first year in which California students study American history. I had visions of showing him (and his 9-year-old sister) the places where all that crazy rebellion, revolution and nation-forming happened; places I had visited in the distant past and which I was eager to see again through the new lens of older eyes.

So we set about planning something more profound than a star-aligned school year: a fun-filled, educational family adventure that turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. It hit my husband and me the same way. We realized that we are in the midst of a very special window in time, wherein our children are old enough to really appreciate and understand what they see, and wherein they still think it’s pretty cool to hang out with their parents and, yes, wherein they are still subject to our schedule and our whim. That window is a narrow one. We are determined to make the most of it.

We believed the historic weight of Washington D.C.’s Constitutional establishment and Baltimore’s rich founding settlements would prove to be a real boon to our kids’ elementary education so at the start of their summer vacation in June, our family headed east. First stop: Baltimore.

Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Humanity is drawn to water. For survival, originally, then for industry and trade, and now, for leisure. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has been a haven for humanity since the city was founded in the 18th century. Named in 2009 as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world” by the Urban Land Institute, the Inner Harbor in Baltimore is an attraction itself. Not just attracting ships for trade any longer, the waterfront was adapted as a focal point for public spaces, tourism, and housing. Now a historic port, the Inner Harbor is home to the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the Port Discovery Children’s Museum and a short ride away, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore’s Druid Hill.

Boasting more than 16,000 animals, from sharks to sea turtles, the National Aquarium is a family favorite. Stunning exhibits attract guests from all over the world. A water taxi connects the harbor to attractions further off, including Fort McHenry and Fells Point. The renewal and transformation of the Harbor began in 1958, with the adoption and redevelopment of the 33 acre Charles Center by the City Council and Mayor Thomas D’Alessandro, and has continued since, directing the course of waterfront redevelopment with the successful additions of office buildings, hotels, and retail shops.

If the two-story dinosaur exhibits at the Science Center aren’t enough to keep the kiddos busy, and the pirate ships (ok, they’re really called tall ships) occasionally ported won’t suffice for the long days of summer, just head on over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and you’ll be talking about the world’s most interesting oddities for days.

Revolutionary Inklings

Founded in 1729 and 1790, respectively, the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. hold much interest in the line that extends from the British settlement, through the war for independence, up until the battle of 1812; when at the Battle of Baltimore, the valiant defense of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what would eventually be called “The Star Spangled Banner.”

Fort McHenry, BaltimoreFort McHenry, Baltimore

A decisive victory won by the colonists on September 13, 1814, the soldiers defending the Fort repulsed an attack from both land and sea following the burning of Washington D.C. by the redcoats. Named after James McHenry, a soldier and physician who served under Washington and Lafayette during the War for Independence, the Fort is star-shaped and red-roofed. Touring with one of the Fort’s rangers, we discovered what it was like to be soldiers during the Battle of Baltimore, witnessed a re-enactment, took in a twilight tattoo ceremony, and even saw the Fort McHenry Guard performing drill, musket and artillery demonstrations.

Open year round, and just a cannon’s trajectory away from historic locations such as Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Antietam National Battlefield, the USS Constellation Museum, and Gettysburg National Military Park.

Gettysburg National Military Park

The site of yet another turning point in the tide of American history, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania serves as a reminder of the devastation the Civil War brought to the front porches, fields and gardens of its residents. Every home turned into a hospital, and every farm a graveyard. Known as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion,” the National Military Park now remains as a marker to honor the lives given for freedom under the Union cause. President Abraham Lincoln commemorated the park with his famous eulogy, reminding those who listened to “renew their devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

artillery at Gettysburg NMPFor me, this stop ended up being one of the major highlights of our trip. The entire battlefield is now a national park. You can walk the grounds and see it as the soldiers saw it. There are monuments on site from just about every state, because sons of just about every state bled there on that field. I cannot express with enough enthusiasm the experience of letting an expert historian and tour guide drive us around the battlefield in our own car, unfolding for us as he drove the events of those three heartbreaking days (visit www.gettysburgfoundation.org). The museum at Gettysburg is one of the best I’ve ever visited, and that part of the country is unspeakably beautiful.Gettysburg National Military ParkGettysburg National Military Park

USS Constellation

The USS Constellation is actually the third in the line of American ships dubbed for the configuration of 15 stars found in the original flag of the United States. With its own proud and distinguished record, “Connie,” as her crew calls her affectionately, has almost 40 years of service - through the turbulent waters of the Arabian Gulf to Yankee Station on the coast of Vietnam.

The first Constellation was built by naval engineers Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox, 165 years before rivets were put to metal on the USS Constellation’s proud lines. Immediately put to the test, much like her predecessors, the USS Constellation sailed out of harbor straight into conflict, as the first U.S. airship to launch strikes against North Vietnamese vessels and bases in August of 1964.

For the eight years following, Constellation returned to the South China Sea seven times, conducting air strikes, engaging enemy aircraft, and naval targets alike. Sailing under the motto “Spirit of the Old, Pride of the New,” Connie was the second ship in the Kitty Hawk class of aircraft carriers, and has hosted various dignitaries over the years on her illustrious decks, including U.S. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Pronounced “America’s Flagship” by President Reagan in a watershed moment in the carrier’s history, the Constellation would go on to lead 21 successful deployments, with over 30 commanding officers, over 41 years of proud service to her country.

For centuries, sailors have navigated the vast waters of the world’s oceans by starlight, finding their way over the dark and dangerous seas. And for over 200 years, the Constellation and her legacy have guided seamen home to free shores, kept so because of its work abroad in unfamiliar waters; a guiding light of American freedom.

America’s Favorite Pastime

Now in its 25th season, Oriole Park at Camden Yards (www.mlb.com/orioles) is considered one of the best stadiums in baseball, with its throwback atmosphere, accessible location, and variety of concessions. We were lucky to experience America’s favorite pastime at the retro-style downtown ballpark that has inspired many other stadiums since and cheer for the Orioles against the St. Louis Cardinals.Oriole Park at Camden YardsOriole Park at Camden Yards

Capitol Wanderings

Not to be outdone, on the grand tour of America’s history stands the Washington Monument, just an hour south of Gettysburg, and though currently closed for renovations, the 555-foot obelisk stands as a record of one of our first American heroes: George Washington. Part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Monument is administered to by the National Park Service, receiving approximately 24 million visitors each year.

Depositphotos 32863353 originalIf you’re one of those 24 million, and you’d like a tour of the White House, make sure you’re thinking well in advance: tours are scheduled through one’s member of Congress and requests can be submitted up to three months and no sooner than three weeks in advance). Like most of the famous National Monument sites, the White House’s draw is both culturally and historically weighty, housing the President of the United States since 1800. The President’s Park and its surrounding 82 acres offer myriad opportunities to step back into another time.

We contacted Congressman Darryl Issa’s D.C. office a few weeks prior to our visit and were offered a tour of the U.S. Capitol by a member of his staff who walked us through the Capitol Building’s historic rooms, including the National Statuary Hall, the Old Senate Chamber, and the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

During our “capitol wanderings” over the course of our stay, we got a glimpse of researchers working at the (stunning) Library of Congress, walked by the World War II memorial, touched the Vietnam Wall, stood in awe of Lincoln’s much larger than life (in reality and in spirit) marble figure, visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, strolled the National Gallery of Art and encountered Picasso, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Dali and others through works we had no idea were housed there.

For the kids, walking around the Mall was hard work. There were steps to climb, fountains to attempt jumping into, and I’m certain the takeaways seemed almost too grandiose to comprehend. The legends of American history brought into sharp relief before our eyes: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. From historic battlefields and modern day attractions to an all-American pastime, we started out chasing history but ended up making memories. We were lucky enough to get both. It only required a week away, a bit of forward planning and a realization that the window is open now, but won’t always be.

Incomparable Accommodations

KIMPTON HOTEL MONACO, BALTIMORE – INNER HARBOR

It seems incongruous to describe a lobby characterized by soaring marbled staircases and crystal chandeliers as “playful” until you step across the carefully preserved threshold of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Baltimore (www.monaco-baltimore.com). The entire experience was akin to playing dress up in the most exquisite jewelry and ballgowns as a child, only to find out that all the gems were real, and the dress was an Alexander McQueen original. The hotel does relaxing and luxury without the pretension behind it, and as such, has created a restful haven near the Inner Harbor. Ideally situated, the hotel offers amenities such as in-room spa services, and every suite is outfitted with a yoga mat, making your stay feel like a wildly relaxing version of home.

Kimpton Hotel MonacoKimpton Hotel MonacoComplimentary morning coffee and tea service elevate the experience even more, starting your day off with the right lift to get you out the doors and onto one of the Kimpton’s perfectly appointed custom PUBLIC bikes to ride around town. Back to the historic Beaux-Arts building for a lunch or dinner sourced from local farmers and purveyors at B&O American Brasserie will give your palate the ride of a lifetime. Once the headquarters of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the restaurant serves only the freshest ingredients, and boasts a buzzing happy hour with a craft cocktail program that makes it one of the city’s favorite hangouts: for both locals and travelers alike.

Kimpton Hotel MonacoKimpton Hotel MonacoJust a short walk or ride to the city’s most famous attractions, and a short skip into its historic neighborhoods makes the Kimpton Hotel Monaco a perfect jumping off point for any social event, business meeting, or quick, luxurious and truly playful getaway.

KIMPTON GLOVER PARK, WASHINGTON D.C.

Sometimes, staying in the heart of the action is exactly where you want to be. But occasionally, a tree-lined street away from the sensory barrage of the city beckons with a Siren’s call. A quiet, boutique hotel nestled in Upper Georgetown, the Kimpton Glover Park (www.gloverparkhotel.com) offers beautifully appointed guest rooms above the canopy of Rock Creek Park. Easily accessible to the buzz and hum of Georgetown’s cobblestoned streets, the hotel finds a quiet confidence among the neighborhood, oozing relaxation after a hectic day of business meetings or sightseeing.

Kimpton Glover ParkKimpton Glover ParkWhether you just came from the Kennedy Center or Georgetown University’s stunning campus, life is good inside Casolare, a James Beard award-winning destination restaurant. Serving Chef Michael Schlow’s family favorites from Amalfi, Sardinia, Puglia, Cinque Terre, and Livorno, Casolare brings Italy to Glover Park. The eatery provides a vibrant selection of seafood, as well as wood-fired pizza and antipasti. Perfect for a large group of friends and family, or new colleagues eager for a taste of the city. Inspired by the neighborhood’s namesake, Charles Carroll Glover - a banker and philanthropist who famously helped reshape the nation’s capital with donations of almost 3,000 acres of parkland - the Kimpton Glover Park Hotel blends the urban edge with familial comfort and tranquility.

I had been looking forward to the 2017-2018 school year for over a decade. It was the year that our son would be the 5th grade – the first year in which California students study American history. I had visions of showing him (and his 9-year-old sister) the places where all that crazy rebellion, revolution and nation-forming happened; places I had visited in the distant past and which I was eager to see again through the new lens of older eyes.

So we set about planning something more profound than a star-aligned school year: a fun-filled, educational family adventure that turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. It hit my husband and me the same way. We realized that we are in the midst of a very special window in time, wherein our children are old enough to really appreciate and understand what they see, and wherein they still think it’s pretty cool to hang out with their parents and, yes, wherein they are still subject to our schedule and our whim. That window is a narrow one. We are determined to make the most of it.

We believed the historic weight of Washington D.C.’s Constitutional establishment and Baltimore’s rich founding settlements would prove to be a real boon to our kids’ elementary education so at the start of their summer vacation in June, our family headed east. First stop: Baltimore.

 

Starting a new tradition at Ricardo’s Place in San Juan Capistrano

When Ricardo’s Place invited us to learn how to make tamales, we couldn’t say no! While we didn’t learn the exact secret to their famous family recipe, we did see how to put it together.

Ricardo recommends using any of your favorite tamale recipes, and told us you can really make a tamale out of anything. He recommends using onions, garlic, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chicken. After combining those ingredients, pack them into pre-soften husks, with your choice of filling or in our case, corn mush and the chicken blend. Then, place the tamales into a foiled covered tamale pan over a stovetop for roughly an hour.

For our part, with so many wonderful options available at Ricardo’s Place, Tamale Thursdays is sure to be a hit - and one that is bound to be infinitely easier and decidedly more flavorful than trying to make tamales at home (you can order them for takeout to enjoy at home though). In addition to Ricardo’s traditional chicken, beef and pork tamales, the menu now includes a rajas and cheese tamal and the albóndiga (meatball) tamal - all covered with your choice of red, green or Rosa’s secret sauce.

Ricardo’s Place is located at 32082 Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. For more information, call (949) 493-4941 or visit www.ricardosplacesjc.com

Donna B’s Bakery is about to celebrate 24 years in business this summer and I can’t believe I only discovered it last year.

Named for its founder, Donna Bielke Billman, the Laguna Niguel-based operation turns out what is arguably among THE best gourmet cookies, cookie dough, custom cakes, wedding cakes and yummy desserts in South County.

I just brought an assortment of her cookies home a few days ago and it was all I could do to keep my kids (and my husband for that matter) from eating them all in one sitting.

They are so good, it’s not surprising to find out that Donna’s entire business model started with her dough. As a single mother in 1987, Donna sold her cookie dough once a month to fellow employees in order to earn extra money to pay the bills.

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Donna started out small, giving out samples at local nail and hair salons. Before long, she was so busy that she was forced to rent a space at a local bakery to fulfill orders. Not long after that, she bought the bakery and the rest as they say “is history.”
Donna’s business may have started with her signature cookie dough, but today, Donna B’s Bakery also turns out one-of-a-kind seasonal cakes, special occasion cakes, beautiful wedding cakes, “new home cookie boxes,” care packages and sweet treats for virtually every imaginable event.

Donna and her staff do cookie dough fundraising for local schools, churches, organizations and “anybody who has an entrepreneurial spirit who might need to make money.”
“I believe our business is different then other bakeries because I love to help fund raise our cookie dough and cookies,” says Donna. “I love to see people succeed by teaching them how they can raise money for their causes with our products. I believe what goes around comes around. When you give, it comes back to you tenfold. I don’t worry about being a millionaire on paper, but I would rather be a millionaire in my heart.”

In terms of growing a successful venture, Donna agrees that while having the extra money on hand would be nice, everything good comes in its own time.

“I think most businesses think that they should be making tons of money right away. I have tried to stay being a debt-free bakery. I try not to overspend and keep within my means,” she says. “I really want to expand to more cookie dough fundraising. I believe now after being in business as many years as I have, I could possibly franchise Donna B’s Bakery. I also think I am ready to go into the grocery stores and go nationwide into specialty stores.”

But for now, I have to say I’m pretty happy Donna B’s is so easily accessible for those of us lucky enough to live in South OC. Mention South County Magazine for the following specials: Buy Six Cookies, Get Three Free!; $5 Off a Tub of Cookie Dough; and 10% Off Any Cake Order.

Connect with Donna by visiting the bakery at 26022 Cape Drive, Suite B in Laguna Niguel, by calling 949.367.0100 or by visiting www.donnab.com.

Looks can definitely be deceiving. From the road, Backstreet Home Decor appears to be a small storefront, its windows displaying beautiful decorative items, jewelry, handbags and accessories. Step inside, however, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll discover that you could literally spend hours looking at all of owner Susan Smith’s wonderful offerings, which range in style from Old World to contemporary.

Each piece is reflective of Susan’s keen eye for color, quality, texture, design detail and style - a fact not lost on the scores of professional designers who regularly shop here to decorate their client’s homes.

Homeowners who have taken advantage of Susan’s in-home consultation rave that she was able to suggest just the right furniture, decor, florals and color palette to create the look they were dreaming of - a fact that I can personally - and happily - attest to.

When our family moved from San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano three years ago, Susie’s showroom the first and only stop I needed to make for the decorative items and accessories that would make our new house a “home.” Susie’s vision of color, texture, line, shape, natural proportion and balance resulted in the beautiful floral arrangements and wall hangings that adorn our home, along with just the right accent and “statement pieces” to visually tie everything together.

While everything in her store speaks of high quality, her prices are surprisingly affordable. Because of longstanding relationships with vendors from the top decor lines across the county, Susan is able to acquire furniture and accessories at substantial discounts - which she in turn passes along to her customers.

“We only LOOK expensive,” she says. “What sets us apart is that all of our florals are custom designed on the premises. We work with our clientele to create exactly what they want. We really try to come up with the unusual - unique items that you just won’t find in every single store.”

Connect with Susie by stopping by the showroom at 307 N. El Camino Real in San Clemente, by calling (949) 498-2210 or visit www.backstreethomedecor.com

If you’re anything like me, your knowledge base of investing in gold correlates directly to the 2003 crime thriller The Italian Job. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland, and Charlize Theron, the movie revolves around a Venetian heist-gone-wrong: and the currency being trafficked? Gold bricks. If you haven’t seen the film, I suggest checking it out. If you have, then I circle back to my original point. All I know about gold I learned from The Italian Job. The bricks are pretty, they seem to weigh a lot, they’re stamped with the image of a Balinese dancer. They’re worth a ton. 27 million, to be exact, by the time the team of thieves-gone-good catch up with the loot. Seems like a good investment option, right? About as well-researched as betting on a Triple Crown winner based on the color of the jockey’s silks. Don’t even get me started on horse racing. Seen Seabiscuit?

Yet, though we are no longer on a gold standard, gold is the standard upon which our entire system of currency is based. So what is the real story? Open up your wallet for me. Dig through until you find a one, or a five. See where it says “Federal Reserve Note”? It means that bill is a note of obligation. A promise from the Federal Reserve to pay its value out. In gold. Once upon a time, dollars couldn’t be printed without the actual, physical gold to back it. Now, our paper money is based on our country’s credit - the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. Government. Just like that plastic card in your wallet is based on the full faith of your bank account to back it up. So what happens when the full faith of the U.S. Government is placed in a failing system, looking towards the burst of yet another financial bubble like that which popped back in 2008?

Implemented quite often in recent times, the process and policy of quantitative easing targets the supply of money by buying, or selling government bonds. When the economy stalls and the central bank (read: Federal Reserve) wants to stimulate economic growth, it buys government bonds, lowering short-term interest and increasing the money supply. But when interest rates approach zero, like they did following the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, this strategy loses effectiveness, at which point banks have to implement other strategies to stimulate the economy. To a newbie investor like me, that sounds just fine. But what we’re seeing is that by flooding financial institutions with new money, or capital, what began as a promotion for increased lending and liquidity turned into a massive inflation in share prices.

Which brings us back to gold. Traditionally, we’re taught to play the market. Aggressively, at first, if you get into it in your youth. You have more time, so you can afford to take more risks. As your portfolio ages, risk taking slows, and you begin playing it safe. You’re buying into your 401k, the universal retirement account and general genius idea that drove right on by the more traditional retirement vehicle, (pension), and kept on trucking your investments through mutual funds all tied to the stock market. But here is where the two roads diverge - and where Ron Swanson of Parks and Rec starts to make a whole lot of sense. (“I don’t know how much money I have, but I know how many pounds of money I have.”) While the stock market has gone through a boom bust swing over the last 15 years, gold has gone up over 12- not only in the US dollar, but in every major currency in the world.

Enter Advantage Gold

Most financial companies I’d imagine would argue their case for protecting your financial assets. Advantage Gold is looking to take that one step further. “Not only is gold a tangible asset, it has no counter party or credit risk.” It sounds a little backwards to me, at first. Kinda like trusting my knowledge of gold to the credit of the filmmakers of The Italian Job. But gold has been a store of wealth for thousands of years, and is the only effective way of protecting your liquid assets against inflation and currency devaluation.

Voted the #1 Trusted Gold IRA company on the market by TrustLink, Advantage Gold is looking for clients who are invested in protecting their wealth. Focused on providing their clients with an in-depth education on the entire process of investing in gold, they’d like to draw you out of the national debt crisis cycle, and into a world where you don’t have to worry about your asset liquidity evaporating entirely.

An essential tool for saving for the future, an IRA has become synonymous with tax-free or tax-deferred savings, making it an easy choice when you’re looking at the golden years of retirement and hoping to actually be able to enjoy them. We all know there to be two different types of IRA - a traditional and a Roth. But there is a lesser known IRA out there that Advantage would like to suggest: precious metals.

“By adding physical precious metals to your retirement account, you lower your overall portfolio risk by diversifying your assets, says Adam Baratta, managing director.” Rolling over your existing account is a pretty straightforward process, and you have your choice of metals: silver, platinum, palladium - or if you’d rather go the way of Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron, bullion and bars, instead of coins. The categories of gold stock we’re accustomed to hearing about however, typically refer to stocks and mutual funds comprised of companies that produce, refine, and explore for gold. But investing in a mining stock doesn’t necessarily mean that the price of gold going up correlates with the value of your stock increasing.

“With mining stocks, you’re betting on the mining company’s ability to make profits regardless of the price of gold,” says Baratta. Though gold stocks have benefitted enormously since the turn of the 21st century, the meteoric rise in the pricing of precious metals stocks are simply not the same as an investment in physical metals. A gold backed IOU is still an IOU at the end of the day. The investors at Advantage believe we are robbing Peter to pay Paul, kicking the can down the road for the next generation to come up from underneath and stir the toxic cocktail we’ve made from overvalued assets, military conflict, and the uncertainty of a future beneath a national debt ceiling such as we have never seen before. “We specialize in working with investors, not coin collectors. We’re looking at gold as an asset class: and the average size of our investors accounts are larger than that of our competitors.”

image 218 3677581782 OSince the turn of the century, our country has needed to raise its debt ceiling regularly. Each and every year since 2002, the U.S. has needed to borrow more money to meet its obligations. And for every trillion dollars of debt, gold has risen $100 per ounce. Even if most of your financial decisions are based on more sound reasoning than the cinematic intelligence of a 2003 crime thriller, isn’t it about time to invest in something with a solid future?

What is a Gold IRA?

A Gold IRA is a self-directed individual retirement account that allows ownership of physical precious metals. All IRAs can give you tax advantages, but several types of IRAs offer different protections and assets. With a Gold IRA, not only can you hold paper assets like stocks and bonds, but you can also hold physical precious metals in the form of coins and bars. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which types of precious metals you want to be held in your account.

How does a Gold IRA work?

A precious metal IRA (or Gold IRA) works the same as a conventional IRA or 401(k) with all of the same rules especially as they pertain to contributions and tax treatment. The significant difference is that unlike a conventional IRA or 401(k) with a bank or brokerage firm that specializes in bank deposits, stocks, mutual funds, annuities, and other approved assets, you hold physical precious metal coins, bullion, and bars such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium in an IRA that are held in custody, by an IRS approved custodian, for the benefit of the Gold IRA account owner.

Gold and SilverTo hold physical precious metal coins, bullion, and bars such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium in an IRA, you need to open and set up a self-directed IRA (commonly referred to as a Gold IRA). You then fund the Gold IRA account with cash or you can roll over some or all of an existing 401k account into your new IRA account. Then you select a precious metal broker or dealer, as well as an IRS approved depository (custodian). By working with Advantage Gold, the entire process of setting up a Gold IRA is handled for you by one of our IRA specialists.

A Gold IRA is governed by the same tax rules as other IRAs. Your contributions into a self-directed IRA that holds gold and other precious metals can be deducted from your federal income taxes. The precious metals that you buy and hold in your Gold IRA cannot be withdrawn from the account until you reach the age of 59 1/2 years old without tax effects and a 10 percent penalty for the early withdrawal. Investors with a Gold IRA as part of their retirement portfolio must begin making mandatory minimum withdrawals at age 70 1/2 and pay taxes on those withdrawals.

If your Gold IRA is a Roth account, you will be able to make tax-free withdrawals because you were already taxed on the contributions. You also would not be compelled to start pulling money out at age 70 1/2.

Which Retirement Accounts are Eligible for Gold IRA Rollover?

– Traditional IRA
– Roth IRA
– SEP IRA
– Simple IRA
– TSP (Thrift Savings Plan)*
– 401(K)*
– 403(B)*
– 457 (B)*
– Pension plan*
– Tax-sheltered annuity

*To qualify, must be from a former employer or for an individual older than 59 ½.


For more information or to connect with Co-founders Adam Baratta and Kirill Zagalsky, call (888) 681-1596 or visit www.advantagegold.com


Advantage Gold is giving away a special edition of Jim Rickards’ latest book, The New Case for Gold  to all Community Publications Readers.

It’s simple, fast… and FREE! Just call (888) 681-1596 now and leave your name and address on our voicemail. We will then process your request and rush you your very Gold IRA Investment Kit with our special edition Jim Rickards’ book The New Case for Gold.

right background altLearn how to protect and secure your wealth with gold by calling (888) 681-1596 today!

*Must have a qualified retirement account to qualify.
Supplies are limited.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe that physical photos are a medium worth preserving. When I recently sat down to put together my daughter’s baby book, I thought of how printed images might at times seem like a thing of the past. But then I can’t imagine showing off my family photos by scrolling through all the images I posted to Facebook once upon a time.

Diana Schmitt of the San Juan Capistrano-based Accents Portraits by Diana understands the desire for individuals and families to preserve their most precious memories in more than merely a digital format. She has spent the better part of 30 years specializing in family portraits, wedding photos and capturing the most priceless of moments in all types of life celebrations.

With nearly 30 years of experience, Diana’s focus is families, and she always aims to deliver “extraordinary customer service.”

“Diana is amazing,” says Heidi Hitt. “She has taken so many special pictures over the years for me and my family. They all turn out so beautifully. I am so blessed to have someone I can trust to help me capture special moments in time. Everybody loves when we send out our Christmas cards; they can’t believe how beautiful the pictures are. Thank you Diana for all the beautiful memories.”

Accent Portraits by Diana and San Juan Photo and Digital is located at 32281 Camino Capistrano, Suite C-104 in SJC. They can be reached at (949) 661-6465 or online at www.accentportraitsbydiana.com

The last time we showcased Ortega Animal Care Center in South County Magazine, Dr. Fluent and Dr. Brehmer were excited to begin offering the highest quality veterinary care and scope of offerings to South Orange County’s animal residents.

“Our main focus was growing the hospital by expanding the hours and making ourselves available 7 days a week,” says Dr. Lynlee Fluent. “We’ve done quite a bit more than that in the past few years.”

DSC 8067In fact, since they opened three years ago, staff at the Ortega Animal Care Center has doubled, and not only are their in-house services available 7 days a week, they offer a 24-hour pet hotel staff, pick up, and delivery. Front to back administrative changes include digital dental radiography and a comprehensive in-house laboratory and full-service pet pharmacy. So why all the upgrades?

“We’re constantly looking for new ways to make pet care as convenient and accessible for pet owners as possible, while keeping our prices reasonable,” says Dr. Fluent. “With our main focus on providing the best care, we have to keep up with the ongoing demands of our clientele: your pets!” Starting with a complete revamp of their Play Group for dogs, Ortega Animal Care has significantly improved the safety, lighting, acoustics, and ventilation of their play rooms, in addition to adding an all new play set for the dogs to climb and explore.

As far as I can tell, no other center in South County provides grooming, socialization and veterinary care all under the same roof. They’ll even pick up your pet and safely deliver them home after their day of “fun, wellness care, and pampering.”

If your pup can’t play in a group setting? There is a Personal Play area - so each dog has his day. Offering 10-day, 30-day, and 90-day Play Group Passes at discounted rates, you can rest assured that while you’re away, your pup will get its exercise, medicine and groom on. Each visit is well rounded and optimized with a full line of prescription pet foods and treats.

DSC 8050A husband and wife team with a passion for veterinary medicine and the expertise to back it up, Dr. Brehmer and Dr. Fluent are sick of animal care centers that give customers the runaround or charge unnecessarily for testing or treatments. Combining their passions for animal care and small animal hospitals has turned a childhood growing up in 4H, and one spent in a small beach town into the premier veterinary center in Orange County.

“Most people don’t realize that we’re here 7 days a week, when most vet offices are closed on Sundays. And if you’re going out of town? We can provide a safe and fun place for your dogs to play while you’re away.”

Still, growing the business is a never-ending task, and not just a simple equation for Drs. Fluent and Brehmer.

“We want to engage with the community: the whole community. We’re strong supporters of rescued pets, and work closely with the Ark of San Juan Capistrano, and Doggie Bonez Dog Rescue to provide veterinary care, spay/neuter, and housing until they are paired with foster families or forever homes.”

So much can happen in a year - in fact, many pets can appear to reach full maturity in the span of 12 months, with dogs doubling or tripling their size and weight in that span again if they are a larger breed. The Ortega Animal Care Center would like the chance to take care of your pet as they hit each milestone, and are prepared to provide the utmost in convenience and accessibility for you, as you watch your furriest family member mature.

Ortega Animal Care Center (OACC) is located at 23741 Ortega Hwy. in San Juan Capistrano. For more information, call (949) 487-7600 or visit www.oaccpets.com

Normandin interiorNavigating the Orange County real estate landscape can be challenging for both buyers and sellers to track market trends, sift through all the numbers, and attempt to forecast what may or may not happen over years to come. I know I’d rather choose a new paint color or build my dream wraparound porch than pore tediously over industry statistics. And that’s where finding the right realtor comes into the picture regardless of what side of the transaction you’re on. The right marketing and hyper-reponsive customer service are mission critical when selling your home. For buyers, having an agent dedicated to helping you find the perfect property that addresses your specific needs and desires - regardless of how long it takes - can be the difference between buying a house and finding your dream home.

30041 Saddle ridge 2nd garageOften, determining the difference between one’s skill set and one’s passion leaves much to be desired: a rift not many of us have the luxury to cross over in our professional lives. For Sheri, seeing her skill set and passion collide in the real estate market has revolutionized hers. With over 25 years of executive level management and marketing in over 26 countries, Sheri’s transition to luxury property management was as smooth as can be. In fact, it doesn’t get much smoother than earning herself a top 2% spot in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Agents nationwide with a Chairman’s Circle award and being named among the top 50 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties agents in Orange County. Yet, unlike a great many OC brokers, Sheri doesn’t hail from Orange County. “I grew up on a farm,” she notes with a smile. “I’m interested in Orange County in the same way my buyers and sellers are interested: I came here to buy a house for myself, I dealt with the same process, the same negotiations; and I think that makes me uniquely suited to welcome folks to the area.”

33761 Robles, Dana Point - $899,00033761 Robles, Dana Point - $899,000With the increased global reach of real estate, understanding and appropriately providing services to meet the various needs out there are constantly added to the equation of buying or selling a home. Sheri services all of South Orange County, not just the city she resides in, and she is willing to go the extra mile to help her clients understand what it is they are really achieving with her at the helm of their housing project. “The needs of a buyer are vastly different than those of a seller,” she says. “We have seen a strong recovery over the past few years, but with low inventories, it continues to be a sellers market.” So what questions are you asking as either in the current market? You may have the perfect paint chip in hand, but what kind of wall would you like to decorate? You may be approaching retirement, and are looking to downsize. Do you have specific square footage in mind? Do you have a budgetary cap? Is there room for the family dog? A yard? “Floor plans and functionality of a home can vary greatly and rearranging the current use with minor changes can have a much bigger value to a buyer, if they can see it. Not all agents can provide that vision. I look for areas I can make the process easier for my clients and actively take things off their plate to reduce stress.”

33 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,000Because everyone’s motivations are different, a good realtor connects with clients and can manage the expectations on the table, while successfully maximizing results. Finding a broker that will offer more than a minimum level of service however, can be painstaking. With her background in marketing and negotiation, it is no wonder that Sheri has found such success - invaluable when navigating the market and its constant fluctuations. “When I’m looking for a prospective agent to sell my home, I’m asking if they do this as a full time job - I’m asking for reviews and references - I’m asking what sets them apart from other agents. Professional photography, quality marketing materials and online exposure are base requirements these days to provide great results for the seller. I go beyond what is expected, which changes with each client. I’ve planted flowers, moved couches. Selling or buying a home can be an emotional experience, and making it as positive as possible is my goal.”

33 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,00033 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,000For more information about Sheri Normandin of Berkshire Hathaway, please call 949-612-5884, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..