Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Brios and EnzoWinner of the Dana Point Times 2017 “Best of Dana Point” People’s Choice Award for “Best Happy Hour” and “Best Bartender” (GOLD) and “Best Overall Restaurant,” “Best Pizza,” “Best Bar” and “Best Take-Out Food!” (SILVER)

I have to admit - I’m pretty particular when it comes to deciding where to go for dinner on date night, out for a family meal or simply stepping out to enjoy a glass of fine wine and live entertainment after work. Lucky for me, I live in Dana Point and am only a stone’s throw from a popular eatery that dishes up all this and delicious Italian cuisine to boot: Brio Tuscany Grille.

A recently unveiled updated menu includes familiar favorites (the signature Crab and Lobster bisque and Brio’s famous Pork Chop), wood fired pizza and specialty pasta dishes. A meat-and-potatoes eater? The Flat Iron Bistecca Pesto starts with a USDA Prime Cut oven roasted, garlic and fresh Italian herbs and freshly made pesto sauce. Prefer poultry? Try the Pollo al Mattone “Chicken Under the Brick” which arrives as a boneless half chicken marinated with citrus, rosemary, sliced fresh garlic and a blend of Italian spices, drizzled with olive oil and lemon sauce - cooked under a brick in a wood-fired oven. All produce is locally grown and organic.

Brios something tartarFor starters, the Antipasto Italiano Platter arrives with an array of flavorful favorites - Prosciutto di Parma, artisan salame, fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan olives, grilled artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and toasted ciabatta bread. Yum! A seafood aficionado? The perfect complement is the piping hot oven baked baguette, baked fresh to order (think soft on the inside, perfectly crusty on the outside) and served with olive oil and balsamic vinaigrette.

I love the wood-fired pizzas here. They don’t make deep-dish-American-football-sweatpants pizza. No. They serve handmade, thin, crispy, flaky crust pizza. I had “Make Your Own Pizza” with prosciutto and arugula, complete with a soft flurry of mozzarella. You know, the kind of pie you sip wine with, reflecting on the old country while a hot steam of freshness rises poetically around you. Or, as others put it: one heck of a tasty pizza.

20 offBrio Tuscany Grille has an incredible selection of fine wines (and a full premium bar), great nightly specials and the kind of attentive-yet-unobtrusive service that makes any meal that much more enjoyable. Visit briotuscanygrill.com for their menu and catering options or call (949) 443-1476 for reservations. You won’t be disappointed!

Committed to Helping You Make Educated Choices for Your Loved One’s Care

My grandmother and I used to joke with each other about the subtle difference in meaning between the words ‘subscribe’ and ‘ascribe’ (now that I’m thinking about it, that joke doesn’t seem like a joke at all - at least not in the joking-as-comedy way. Ok, ok, we’re language nerds).

But I think the beauty in each one of those words’ individual meanings gives light to a great many situations I find myself in as an adult, dealing with each day’s new challenges and obstacles. Particularly, when I think on the task of helping to care for my grandmother as she aged. Ascribing to something means to think of it in the sense of belonging- giving a thing qualities, or characteristics. Subscribing, on the other hand, denotes membership: signing up, signing onto a mission, pledging something.

Depositphotos 19562987 originalAs adults moving through the world, we ascribe to, and subscribe to on a daily basis, typically with little thought to the consequences. Signing up for a newspaper? You get the daily news. Calling someone brave when they kill a spider in the house? They receive a compliment. Put your grandfather, father, mother into a senior home? What could possibly happen? Have you broken down that decision? I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts if you start joking around about ascribe/subscribe, you’ll come to the same conclusions I did: especially when you consider the depth and breadth of services provided by Alliance Eldercare.

Coming from a background of elder hospitality was the first step toward providing the best in senior assistance for Alliance founder Derek Mannion.

“In 1931 my grandmother, Sophie Mannion, opened the first board and care home in Kaimuki, Hawaii,” he says. “My father told me many stories of my grandmother taking seniors into their home and caring for them until they passed.”

Derek was able to witness his grandmother’s legacy in action, as well as the firsthand experience he garnered observing his father care for his aging grandmother in-home until she passed at the age of 91. For over a decade, Derek has been working in the healthcare industry, dedicating his life to helping families find care options for their loved ones that match up with the seniors’ needs.

“In 2014, I completed the Residential Care Facility for the Elderly certification in order to better serve seniors,” he says. “Now, I am blessed with having my father live with me, at the age of 83, and I am looking forward to caring for him to the best of my ability until he passes.”

Ascribing gentleness, kindness, and passion to Derek aren’t hard, and those are the first qualities you see when greeted by the staff at Alliance. Their mission: to find the best senior healthcare options available for your loved ones, is simple, and crystal clear. In its fifth year of operation, Alliance Eldercare is your one-stop source to help navigate the myriad of (oftentimes overwhelming) senior care options on the market - from independent senior living and board and care homes to memory care communities, long term, hospice, Parkinson’s, and more.

“I’ve seen every option out there from my grandmother’s boarding house to the in-home I provide for my father and everything in between,” says Derek. “At Alliance, we’re not just searching for an open bed for someone - we’re searching for the right care for your loved one.”

Alliance comes to you: to sit and talk face to face. Offering free guided tours of Assisted Living facilities and Board and Care Homes puts seniors and their families in the position to gain a true understanding of the options available to them, as opposed to trying to make a decision based on cold-calling or emailing a laundry list of homes.

“I prefer the personal touch,” he says. “That’s what sets us apart. Seniors need advocates, and we are happy to do our part.” The clincher? There is no obligation, and their service is completely free of charge. “When you do the right thing, word gets out.” Now that’s an idea I’ll subscribe to.


IMG 8524For a FREE Care Needs Assessment, Derek and the Alliance Eldercare team can be reached by calling (866) 936-4241 or visit www.AllianceEldercare.com

Compassionate Caregiving: Your Home Care, Inc.

Over the past decade, there have been an increasing number of studies examining the effects of stress on the human body - from the immune to metabolic systems, to cell division, diet, hormonal changes, heart rate and of course, cortisol levels. Cortisol, after all, is what floods the body in response to stress. Its main purpose is more far-reaching than was once believed. Systemic effects play a great many roles to maintain homeostasis in the body: which, at a basic level, looks like a greater span of stress-free years. Experts at UCLA, Harvard and the University of Maryland all posit that lowering stress levels leads to healthier mental and bodily functions across the board, which is great for everyone, but can be particularly meaningful for men and women of an advanced age.

DSC 7969 2Founded in 2002, the professionals at Your Home Care, Inc. are dedicated to ensuring the individual care they provide will lessen the stress of everyday life for your aging loved one and their families. Between the two divisions of this Laguna Woods-based family-owned and operated business, seniors have the option of in-home care or respite at the Senior Social Club and Stay Care Center (applications are currently being accepted for participation).

In-home care

With loving kindness, trained caregivers provide exceptional general care and assist with the basic necessities of daily living in the comfort and safety of a senior’s own home. In-home care encompasses services tailored to the senior’s specific needs and range from meal preparation, medication reminders, doctor visits, grocery shopping, laundry, light housekeeping, dressing and incontinence care to Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related care.

“We have observed that those who are able to stay in their homes are more likely to remain healthy and free from common communicable illnesses, such as influenza and pneumonia that are prevalent in nursing homes and assisted living centers due to the high volume of residents and close living quarters,” says Boyd Warner, founder of Your Home Care, Inc.

Understanding that the safety and security of your loved ones is of the utmost importance, the professional caregivers at Your Home Care undergo a rigorous interview process, from reference checks and background clearance to competency training. But that’s just the beginning … equally as important as each applicant’s credentials is their personal philosophy as Warner says “our caregivers want more than a job. They want to make a difference in the lives of those in their care. As a company, our job is to give caregivers the direction and tools they need to fulfill their personal mission of service, as well as our corporate mission of improving the lives of those we serve.”

Upon meeting the company’s strict selection criteria, caregivers are insured and bonded before completing a comprehensive orientation process to ingrain Your Home Care corporate policies and procedures followed by ongoing, specialized training on issues that help them develop as better overall caregivers, as well as deal with very specific situations. These issues include medication management and compliance, Alzheimer’s and dementia, osteoarthritis and mobility loss, hypertension/stroke recovery, diabetes, heart disease and cancer recovery.

“We believe that our focus on the individual and family is what sets us apart,” says Warner. “When you contact us, you will receive individualized care that will meet the needs of your family and your aging loved one. Whether you are in need of around the clock assistance, night relief or a short shift during the day to assist with ADL’s, you can rest easy knowing that we have your well-being and that of your loved one as our priority.”


Senior Social Club & Stay Care Center

While in-home care focuses on the one-on-one, allowing trust and friendship to flourish between caretaker and patient, the Adult Day facility follows a social model in a “beautiful, warm and inviting place for seniors to gather together and create new friendships and memories.” Different from many other day centers, the licensed caregivers at Your Home Care’s “Social Club & Stay Care” Center oversee all activities and are highly interactive with each visiting senior.

“In a typical day, our clients will arrive at the center, sign in, and enjoy leisure activities in the morning, such as enjoying our reading center, or watching a movie or playing a game with other participants and our caregivers,” says Warner. “We will also provide daily activities that will vary depending on the day, but you can expect to find on our schedule activities such as bingo, karaoke, and knitting caps for the newborns at local hospitals. We will also provide lunch at our facility.”

We will be your resource for respite care which will allow family members relief from the emotional and physical strains of being a full-time caregiver.”

Warner and his team encourage family members to stop by and tour the facility to see firsthand the advantages of participation.

Warner 11 2017zone57 P 25“Our service will greatly benefit those who find themselves living in multi-generational homes, whose primary caregiver is stretched thin,” says Warner. “We will be your resource for respite care which will allow family members relief from the emotional and physical strains of being a full-time caregiver. Our mission is to provide a fun, exciting place for your aging loved one to participate in activities that they love and maybe even try something new. Further, this facility allows those who may be isolated from the world an opportunity to open up and create new friendships.”

After interested seniors (or their loved ones) fill out an application for the program, they undergo a medical evaluation from their own doctor, and then a follow up visit with the program director at Your Home Care, Inc., to determine whether participation the adult day facility would be the best fit for their needs.

“We’re very serious about providing a compassionate caregiving service, preserving dignity, ensuring independence, and a higher quality of life,” says Boyd. “We want this to be as good a fit for you as it is for us.”

Taking stress off anyone’s plate is a loving act in itself. Yet, I can see how many selfless acts might feel like a double-edged sword. My mother is the primary caregiver for my 85-year-old stepfather who suffers from dementia. As a result, she has less time for activities she enjoys, spending time with her friends, going to the movies and the infinite other little things that seem to fill the cracks in a single day. When I emphasize the importance of also caring for herself, she brushes the thought away not wanting to be “selfish.”

“Taking advantage of a referred professional caregiver is not giving up on your loved one or being selfish,” says Warner. “On the contrary, you’re being selfless by bolstering your own love and support with professional, quality care while enabling you to spend more time enjoying their company.”

What could be more selfless (and scientific) than helping to lower cortisol levels (yours and your loved one’s)? Eliminating that unnecessary drain on energy can mean restored resiliency, greater access to memory, improved brain function. Selfish? Or selfless? Stress full? Or stress free? Through compassionate in-home care and its new adult day care center in Laguna Woods, Your Home Care is here to ensure that this choice is the easiest you’ve made in a long time.


Connect with Boyd and the professionals at Your Home Care, Inc. by calling (949) 215-0004 or visit www.yourhomecare.com.

The Senior Social Club & Stay Care Center is located at 24191

Paseo de Valencia, Suite B in Laguna Woods.

There has been a surge in popularity over the past decade in the field of home renovation. At first, it was simply Extreme Makeover: Home Edition that brought us all to tears each week as they went through a family home and overhauled it, granting years of wishes with each hammer blow and sparkling new backsplash. Now, you can’t log onto any social media platform without seeing mention of Magnolia Home, or Property Brothers, or Rehab Addict. It’s hip to fix things up. Some fixes are better than others, though. And that’s where Platinum Pacific comes in. Not just in the business for a quick flip, Platinum prioritizes quality over time.

The mantra for most flippers is “get in, fix up, get out” as fast as you can. Platinum co-founder Terry Alderson feels quite the opposite. “We never rush a house to the market if we don’t think it meets the Platinum Pacific standard.” Founded just over two years ago by partners Jerry Bridges, Pat Goldhammer, and Terry Alderson, Platinum is in the business of home renovations and residential redevelopment: what is now commonly referred to as “fix & flips”. “I’m the sales guy,” Terry notes - “Jerry has the construction knowledge dialed, and Pat can navigate the complicated legal and accounting aspects of the business like nobody else. We quickly realized that getting into real estate would be a no brainer.”

002platinium pacWorking under the constraints of quality instead of time frees the team at Platinum to only use top caliber materials. When customer satisfaction is at the top of the list, the work is allowed to speak for itself. As the team completes quality job after quality job, “we get quality referrals. And those have helped Platinum Pacific grow tremendously - quicker than we could have imagined!” Their goal is not only to have a positive effect on their clients, but they’d like the quality to radiate outwards, to family, friends, and each other. Dedicated to continuing education and professional growth helps the team stay abreast of burgeoning trends. “Our pledge is to treat our clients and team members with respect at all times. We believe there is always a way forward, and failure is not an option.”

Most renovation in the media focuses its attention on single family homes, or specialty projects, like Extreme Home Makeover. Platinum Pacific has developed a solid foundation of real estate knowledge, and has committed itself to full marketplace relevance. Not only the leader of retirement community remodels, the team is looking to satisfy the individual building needs of each buyer, investor, and realtor on the market. With each client’s unique goals in mind, Platinum Pacific will present specific opportunities that fit the criteria. Fair, firm, and friendly, across the board.
Securing funding, buying distressed homes, and encouraging home ownership are just a few ways Platinum works to renovate and revitalize their community, and those surrounding their business. They also make a monthly donation to the SOS Children’s Village, providing family support care centers, hospitals, and schools to over 150 impoverished countries. A greater scope for a greater return. The Platinum promise.


terryFor a complimentary quote or to connect with Terry, Jerry, Pat and the professionals at Platinum Pacific, call (949) 677-0450.

If you like wine, you’re my kind of person. If you like wine and you’ve seen the 2008 flick Bottle Shock, we’re well on our way to becoming best friends. Though the film certainly took artistic license in its explanation of the famed Paris Wine Tasting of 1976, the feat remains the same in history regardless. A vintage made in California became a winning symbol to the world of the premier scene that would emerge from the States’ golden coast shortly thereafter: wine. Since the seventies, the Napa region has undergone a remarkable transformation. From scrappy hippie to simply luxurious, the entire area is California’s boast to a romantic weekend done right. Sitting smack dab in the middle of two of the most recognizable names in the game, Carneros might just be the easiest little wine country getaway on the map.

Harvest Suite at Carneros Resort and SpaDriving north, just an hour outside San Francisco, you’ll stumble upon its crown jewel. The Carneros Resort and Spa. At this point in the American travel imagination, you likely have no problem conjuring up images of some rustic wine garden, floral arrangements resting atop barrels, maybe a stable somewhere. But between the Hudson Vineyards and Clos du Val lies a stunning escape even from the already quiet pace set on the back roads out of the Golden Gate City.

BFC Exterior 1Certainly, the hints of galvanized metal, outdoor showers and promise of on-site general store might give you the hint of a country vacation. But even a name like “FARM” can’t really disguise the dramatic lighting, cathedral ceilings, or elegant dining room fireplaces that greet you at just one of the three on-site dining options. One which sells picnic supplies, wine (of course), and don’t forget the boutique: COOP, where you can purchase luxury resort wear and accessories for your stay. Two pools with hot tubs for your apres vin adventures, one of which is adult-only. No offense kids, but sometimes being able to enjoy a drink or two away from all the ruckus is a necessity, not a luxury.

Cottage and Bikes 1Complimentary fitness classes on weekends and private training appointments available make it simple to keep trim even when indulging, and if outdoor activity is more your cup of tea, look no further than the Town Square, complete with bocce courts, or Carneros’ complimentary bicycles. Assuming by now that the resort sounds like everything you’ve ever wanted all wrapped up into one relaxing package with a hint of wine on the side, pause for a moment and consider the difficulty one might have just getting out of bed in the morning after a long day of tasting and exploring. Not to be outdone, the rooms at Carneros are just as spectacular as their list of amenities. In both the Harvest Suites and Cottages, fireside butlers are available for guests to fill your outdoor tubs and light firepits, and the elegantly appointed cottages feature 400 square feet of quintessential wine-country experience. Replete with sun-washed modern decor, each cottage offers large windows, French doors, and outdoor patios that can only be described as expansive. The resort’s two bedroom residences feature 1,200 square-feet of indoor living space and include living and dining areas, as well as an al fresco living room, complete with gas barbeque and in-ground spa.

Carneros June2017 0658B flatIf you do make it out of your cottage, suite, or house, don’t miss the spa. While the simple elegance of the resort may be enough to restore energy to your head, heart, and spirit, the spas’ body therapy treatments, facials, nail therapy and massage might also be just the thing to bring harmony and true wellness back to you. Rest and relaxation are never too far off: especially in wine country. Especially at Carneros, where time itself seems to stand still.

The Carneros Resort is located at 4048 Sonoma Highway in Napa. For information or reservations, call (888) 400-9000 or visit www.carnerosresort.com


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Eleven Eleven Wines

“Just like looking at the clock at precisely 11:11 and feeling something special, Eleven Eleven Wines is the expression and celebration of the idea that what is meant to be will be.” - Aurelien Roulin

If you are looking for an intimate, off the grid, small production first-class winery experience with a great back story and Instagram-worthy architectural style, you need venture no further than Eleven Eleven Wines. Nestled at the edge of Napa, the name of this modern, unconventional tasting room represents the “meant-to-be” moments in life that are worth celebrating. For our part, our group of eight all thoroughly enjoyed the selection of incredible French-style wines, the warm, welcoming ambiance and knowledgable, friendly staff.

1111 Library 0089Co-owners Ellie Anest and Aurelien Roulin met in circumstances that in hindsight seem fated: onboard an international flight. Their in-flight conversation sparked an immediate connection, highlighting a shared entrepreneurial spirit and aspirations. Over time and many more conversations about work, life, and dreams, a lifelong friendship grew. Not sure what or when, they were certain that they would create something special together.

When they first met, Aurelien and Ellie had no idea that they’d be in the wine business together. They decided to begin their working partnership with a real estate investment - and out of pure coincidence, the land they purchased happened to have a world-class vineyard on it. As if Eleven Eleven was always meant to be, Aurelien connected with his friend Kirk Venge, a coveted Napa winemaker who took the pair on as his eleventh consultancy.


Eleven Eleven is located at 620 Trances St. in Napa.

For information, visit elevenelevenwines.com

 

In a recent conversation with my mother, I discovered something. Something that was a cause for pause as I pondered all the possible ramifications. This thing I realized? My mother appears a bit more stubborn than she used to be. She laughed when I called it to her attention, but the more we thought about the fact that she was growing increasingly stubborn, it occurred to both of us that this trait could prove to be increasingly problematic as she got older.

She shared that she had always imagined herself to be a strong elder - a grey haired grandmother who had seen it all, survived it all, and was stronger for it. But the real truth was that as she remains set in her ways, the traits that she could get away with in her younger years (like wanting to do everything herself and refusing to ask for help when she needs it) would only be exacerbated by the slights of age. At 84, she sometimes forgets the simplest of day to day tasks. Like taking her vitamins and prescriptions - on time and in the right dosages.

In an article referenced on the web site for the National Center for Biotechnology Information, studies have shows that in the United States alone, non-adherence to medications causes 125,000 deaths annually and accounts for 10 to 25 percent of hospital and nursing home admissions. Further, the consequences of non-adherence are enormous. Patients who don’t take their prescribed medications run the risk of serious health issues, including hospitalization and death (ref: mhealthintelligence.com).

How prevalent is this problem? According to a recent Kaiser Permanente report, 72 California hospitals were fined in 2016 by the federal government for the disproportionate number of patients who returned within 30 days of hospital discharge. Ninety percent of these patients were readmitted due to health issues specifically arising from medication non-adherence.

“In spite of their difficulties and illnesses, many men and women prefer to remain independent and self-sufficient as they age,” says Andrew Harper, Co-Founder and Pharmacy Director of the Orange County-based AmeriPharma Specialty Care. “So many cases of patients who arrive at their doctor’s office with the same symptoms they were prescribed medication for, return still suffering, because they had not taken their medication as prescribed.” Or, as I could suddenly foresee happening with my mom, forgetting to take her medication at all.

A respected industry leader utilizing cutting-edge prescription packaging systems, AmeriPharma Specialty Care introduced the MedBox and helped set a new standard in medication management that has revolutionized the way for government-run healthcare programs, skilled nursing and assisted living facilities dispense medication. And now they are bringing the MedBox direct to consumers for use in the comfort of their own home.

medbox 04 copy

Working directly with your pharmacy, AmeriPharma arranges with your physician to manage, maintain, and dispense your medical prescriptions - delivering them right to your front door. Packaged by date and time to be consumed, the MedBox is out to change the way we take pills - for the better. Wrapped in customizable packaging, the doses are easily identified by the patient and/or their caregivers, and even easier to handle and open.

Non-adherence to medications causes 125,000 death annually and accounts for 10 - 25% of hospital and nursing home admissions

“Dosage times are marked, and the procedure of actually filling the packets is done directly under the care and supervision of the pharmacist - which eliminates the chance of you, as a patient, misidentifying a bottle or taking the wrong dosage,” says Harper. “This is especially useful for those patients who cannot manage their own medications as prescribed due to physical disabilities, mental infirmities, or a combination of other factors. Fifty-eight percent of all patients over 65 admit that they have missed taking at least one dose of their prescriptions at one time or another.”

There is no additional cost to using the customized MedBox - patients keep their current insurance and co-pay and won’t pay a penny more for this service (delivered directly to your door - monthly, bi-monthly or in an emergency, within four hours!).

With benefits that include convenience, no additional cost, ease of use, peace of mind AND safety? The MedBox sounds like something my mother and I can both stay stubborn about.


For more information, call (800) 270-7091 or visit medbox.ameripharma.us

Quality care and stellar customer service characterize this full-service koi pond maintenance company

When we moved into our new home last year, the property came with a very pretty pond stocked with colorful koi and goldfish. But for someone who can barely keep a potted plant alive, the prospect of being responsible for the livelihood and longevity of these beautiful fish was daunting – I don’t have a clue about the right ratio of additives in the water or the importance of algae or how to combat fish disease.

001wather in the gardenAkoi pond is clearly much more than a backyard water garden feature. It is a living, breathing eco-system which requires the expertise of a pond professional.

Thankfully, we also inherited the services of Glenn Cecil, owner of the South County-based Water in the Garden.

A koi pond is a living, breathing eco-system which requires the expertise of a pond professional.

He had maintained this particular pond for the previous homeowner for several years and it was clear from our first meeting that he was committed to quality care and customer service.

Serving Orange County since 1999, Glenn specializes in “total koi pond and water garden maintenance,” repair, construction, pond and filtration design and consultation.

Aside from feeding the fish, Glenn literally takes care of everything during his weekly visits, including removing excess debris and dead plant matter, inspecting the pond equipment for proper function and making adjustments as needed and inspecting the fish for signs of distress or disease. He also tests the water quality, back-flushes the filters and adds bacteria or other agents as needed and offers 24-hour emergency service. In short, he keeps our pond looking beautiful and our fish healthy and happy.

Aside from feeding the fish, Glenn literally takes care of everything during his weekly visits
To connect with Glenn directly, call (949) 872-3833 or visit www.waterinthegarden.net

The term “fast-casual” was apparently coined by Paul Barron in the late 1990’s. The creator of FastCasual.com, Mr. Barron’s claim to the phrase has been disputed, but the terminology certainly stuck. Restaurants have popped up all over the nation in the last twenty years that set claim to the phrase, and serve up a similar experience: moderately priced meals, self-service or limited service format, and made-to-order food with more flavors than your neighborhood McDonald’s or Taco Bell. With 33 stores in Colorado (and 3 under construction), six stores in Phoenix, three in Dallas/Ft. Worth and now three in California (Laguna Niguel, Riverside and Rancho Cucamonga), Tokyo Joe’s is no stranger to the craze of fast-casual. But they’re elevating the concept to an entirely new level.

TJ Salads

Their first location in the Golden State is just down the 73 in Laguna Niguel (just off the Greenfield exit in the center across the street from the Regency Director’s Cut theater) introduces a new type of health food: from starters to make-your-own sushi and poke bowls. Always made fresh-to-order, using the best ingredients possible, the crew at Tokyo Joe’s abstains from adding trans fats, MSG, and preservatives into your dishes. Clean, fast cuisine seems like an oxymoron. Surely, in the age of fried everything, when even a salad has some additive thrown in for good measure. Not Tokyo Joe’s.

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Offering vegan, non-GMO, and gluten free options, Tokyo Joe’s is on track to be one of the first fast-casual chains to offer real, healthy food at a really quick pace. Potstickers, chicken skewers with green onions and the house peanut sauce, or event the MoJOE Bowl: dark chicken sauteed with pineapple, egg, carrots, sweet onions, red pepper, in a sweet and spicy sauce, on a bed of steamed rice. At some of their locations they even offer Meal Plans, based off the advice of real trainers and coaches. Protein controlled meals for athletes (or anyone fitness minded) that offer balanced alternatives to the smoothies, supplements and shakes out there formulated with synthetic ingredients most everyone has trouble pronouncing. Kids meals arrive as a fun bento box with your little one’s choice of protein, rice, edamame or veggie mix, and mandarin oranges.

Had a quick fix at Tokyo Joe’s and can’t wait to go back for more? Receive a free starter just for registering for the Tokyo Joe’s Addict Club. A free entree on your half birthday, specials, and one point for every dollar you spend at the restaurant. Every 150 points gets you a free entree. And 150 points adds up fast, when Tokyo Joe’s becomes your favorite way to do fast-casual.


Tokyo Joe’s is located at 27981 Greenfield Drive in Laguna Niguel. For info, call (949) 427-4240 or visit www.tokyojoes.com

At elementary schools all over California, fourth graders have been making missions from craft supplies for years. My son constructed Mission San Diego Alcala (the first of 21 established in the state) last year, which made our visit all the more exciting and impactful. The city’s first downtown area and the true birthplace of California, San Diego is now famous for its pristine stretches of sandy shore and hip shopping and bar crawls through Pacific Beach. But once upon a time, San Diego was known for the historic sites, cultural lore, and the nearby Mission San Diego de Alcala.

The parks by themselves are enough to draw you into the heart of the city, where the local flora and fauna bloom year round, thanks to the balmy Mediterranean clime. Offering an escape to the botanist at heart or the happy camper, both Balboa Park and Anza Borrego State Park are Trip Advisor don’t-misses - welcome and waiting with a full lineup of bird watching tours, plant sales and workshops. With cruises docking year round, five star restaurants, theme parks, skating, kayaking, shopping, and more, there is something to satisfy the whole family. But on this particular stay-cation, we opted to explore the charm and ambience of Old Town San Diego and bonus! happened to book our stay during the lively, colorful Dia De Muertos (Day of the Dead) celebration (Oct 31 - Nov 2). Day of the Dead is a Mexican holiday of prayer and remembrance honoring the lives of friends and family members who have passed away. It is believed that the souls of the dead come back to visit their loved ones at this time. Contrary to popular belief, Dia De Muertas is not a sad time, but a time of happiness and celebration of life, which we discovered firsthand.

Best Western Plus Hacienda Hotel Old Town

Finding comfort, charm, and hospitality all in one place aren’t difficult when you’re staying in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Surrounded by colorful courtyards, patios, and gorgeous landscaping, a stay at San Diego’s Best Western Plus Hacienda Old Town proved to the perfect place from which to explore the area. Literally walking distance to entertainment, art galleries, family-friendly restaurants, and a locale adjacent to the historic Old Town Presidio: where California began.

BWPHaciendaHotel kingroom

This charming property boasts 200 spacious guest rooms appointed with handcrafted Santa Fe furnishings inspired by the simple elegance of the old Spanish missions which truly lent itself to the historic “theme”of our visit. Each guest accommodation includes a private balcony or shared courtyard with abundant seating areas to soak in the ambiance, access to a heated swimming pool and spa and on-site Old Town Tequila Factory Restaurant and Cantina.

Casa de Reyes Restaurant in Old Town State Historic Park

Everyone needs to eat, but not all meals were created equal. Whether it is breakfast, lunch, or dinner, drinks, or even a brunch you were after, Casa de Reyes is certainly the place to be. Serving up authentic Mexican fare, breakfast is served until noon, and all tortillas are handmade fresh daily. Platters to share, and all the classics ensure that dinner out with friends, coworkers, or family will never be dull. The stage in the middle of the Fiesta de Reyes plaza features free, live entertainment nightly. Every weekend Old Town’s favorite mariachi band and beautiful folklorico dancers make for an unforgettable dining experience.

Casa de Reyes entreeAmong the most popular dishes include the El Gran Fuego burrito stuffed with tender pork marinated in Mexican spices, chorizo, pineapple juice and guajillo pepper, pinto beans, chopped onion, cilantro and fresh habenero peppers. Seasonal specials range from the Agave Chipotle Chicken (a delicious bone-in, oven-baked half chicken rubbed with Mexican spices and topped with a chipotle agave salsa and served with Mexican-style quinoa and black beans) to the Salmon A La Diabla (salmon filet marinated in roasted salsa with chile cascabel).

Mission San Diego de Alcala

Of the 21 missions in California, San Diego de Alcala marks the birthplace of Christianity on the West Coast. Providing an important cultural and significant look at the start of Catholicism, the mission, which was founded in 1769 serves as an active community hub, parish church, and grandiose placeholder for the migration of faith from Spain to the United States. The California olive was first cultivated at the Mission in San Diego, and many thousands of children’s appreciation for California history.

Mission San Diego de Alcala Courtesy Joanne DiBona

Old Town San Diego State Historic Park

Presenting the best of California culture, San Diego’s Old Town State Historic Park gives visitors the opportunity to experience the history of its early connections to our storied present. Restored buildings from the interpretive period are complemented with early twentieth-century buildings designed in the same mode. Original adobe buildings are part of the park, which remains a favorite place for social gatherings and family-friendly historic activities, like the park’s working blacksmith shop.

Junipero Serra Museum

Operated by the San Diego History Center, the museum dedicated to Father Junipero Serra sits on the site of the very first European settlement: the very first permanent settlement in the state of California. Standing tall today, the site is one of the area’s most popular preferred wedding and event sites, with exhibits that present a time capsule of California’s most distinguished historical record: that of its original people, art, historical documents and more.

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Belmont Park

After an educational afternoon, we were off for to indulge in the entertainment of Belmont Park, the iconic beachfront amusement center with games, indoor children’s play center and rides including the Giant Dipper (a restored wooden roller coaster originally built in 1925) the Beach Blaster (I took a pass on this one, but I’m told this is one of the park’s most popular rides for adrenaline junkies - easy to see why as the ride swings passengers 60 feet in the air while spinning 120 degrees). Our family went with the decidedly “tamer” attractions - bumper cars, carousel, laser maze, rock climbing wall and zip line.

Developed originally by sugar magnate John Spreckels, Belmont Park opened its gates for the first time on July 4th, 1925. Though its moniker has changed over the years, from the Mission Beach Amusement Center to Belmont, it has always been an historic center for amusement in San Diego. Various cafes dot the park, from rooftops to taco stands, making Belmont Park the perfect spot for a day out in the idyllic San Diego sunshine.


Get Airborne! Family Fun Freefall at iFLY San Diego!

For an adventurous and exciting endeavor, our family decided to give indoor skydiving a try at iFLY San Diego in heart of Mission Valley. I say adventurous because this is as close to the real thing that I’m personally likely to experience (by choice anyway) and exciting because our 10-year-old son in particular could barely contain himself when he learned where we were headed.

iFly San Diego kid courtesy iFly San Diego

iFLY allows flyers from age 3 to 103 to experience free flight in a state-of-the-art 14-foot wind tunnel. After we checked in and watched a brief tutorial, we suited up and awaited our turn while watching an instructor spin, flip and perform fancy trips flying around inside the tunnel (suffice to say it’s a skill attempted only after multiple visits and ample training).

Flying in tunnels like this is part of a fast-growing sport called bodyflight. As a mom, I was pleased to learn that an instructor would be by my son’s side the entire time, making sure he understood what he needed to do in order to fly on his own. Then for the last portion of the (approximately) two minute flight, the instructor amped up the fun quotient by holding my son’s hands and spinning them both up toward the top of the tunnel.

So how much fun was the flight? We hadn’t even made it out of the building when our son asked if he and a friend could celebrate his 11th birthday at iFLY San Diego. I’d say that’s a resounding endorsement.

iFLY San Diego is located at 2385 Camino del Rio North in Mission Valley. For information, call (619) 736-3348 or visit www.iFLYworld.com

There is something powerful about true, deep calm. The spread of quiet. Perhaps the draw of it is why so many seek the peace of the woods, the white noise of the ocean, the exquisite contentment a great yoga class can bring. People are drawn to it, animals can’t get enough of it. Ryan Furlet is the possessor of a powerful calm. With the laid back aesthetic of a Bob Marley fan and the grace of a Zen master, Ryan is perhaps the gentlest soul I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. And what’s even more important than my first impression was that of our family dog Bella.

I have never seen anyone elicit such a serene demeanor out of our otherwise rambunctious labrador retriever pup than Ryan did when we signed on for a Life Center Evaluation, and then a Private Life Center Session. He truly is a K-9 guru. And he is looking for new pups to join the pack.

“Here at the Life Center, we understand that just as parents may differ in their method of directing their children,” Ryan notes, “so do our pet parents with their K-9 companions.” Their mission is to provide the healing and rehabilitative process needed to improve on the standing expectations between pets and their parents. What is actually reasonable to want from one’s pet? What can your pet expect from you? Ryan is a firm believer that creating better pet behaviors makes a happier home life. Now expanding his services to include nearly the entire South Orange County area, from Aliso Viejo to Laguna Beach, the K-9 guru is literally willing to go the extra mile to help you and your canine compadre reach the powerful center of true, deep calm.

Offering one or two hour private Life Center sessions, group classes, or two or three hour private sessions at your home, each pet and parent will “move forward from their own foundation, tap into a required understanding, and create positive energy”. Home sessions are built around the balance of communication between pet and parent, and maximizes the training experience by allowing the trainer the insight into the way parents nurture, and pets respond.

And boy, do pets respond. Not many people can take over 10 dogs to the park, off leash, and put just one into stay and walk away with the rest of the pack and have the dog patiently wait until called. Going out of town and want your pup to relax just as much as you are while on vacation? At the Life Center in San Clemente, Ryan will board and train your dog at the same time. Keeping Bella overnight the first time cemented our family’s belief in his methods - Bella came home a more well behaved, more calm canine. So much so, that we regularly leave Bella in Ryan’s care when our family travels.

From a wee pooch to those looking for more intermediate or advanced training options, no dog is too much for the deep well of calm that comes from someone as dedicated to their craft. With 5 rescue dogs of his own, it really is no wonder that Ryan has found himself as the guru of South Orange County when it comes to pups and their parents.


To connect with Ryan, call (949) 449-9618 or visit www.k-9guru.com