Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

As summer approaches and the final weeks of school wind down before the crazy chaos that defines “family vacation” days descend upon our household, my husband and I decided to coordinate a romantic weekend to celebrate (both of our birthdays are in the same month). We were looking for a locale no longer than about an hour away by plane, with plenty of outdoor activities and indoor recreation, a temperate climate and fine wine and dining. And ideally an all-inclusive experience so that once we checked in, we wouldn’t want (or need) to leave until it was time to head home.

The Ritz-Carlton, Half Moon Bay (1 Miramontes Point Road, Half Moon Bay) proved to be the perfect two-night stay at an idyllic retreat situated between forested hills and a stretch of coastline that is arguably among the most beautiful scenery in northern California.

A mere 23 miles from San Francisco International Airport, this secluded, luxury hotel feels worlds away from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Perched atop a cliff on a crescent-shaped stretch of California coast with panoramic views of the Pacific, this luxury five-star, six-story resort is more akin to a European castle than a California hotel property. Spread out across the main building with several adjacent guesthouses, the 261 rooms are defined by marble soaking tubs, Egyptian cotton linens and large picture windows. From the moment we stepped into the lobby to the time we checked out, our experience was an unforgettable escape to another time and place.

From dramatic lanterns greeting guests on the front drive and glass of local wine offered upon check-in to indoor fireplaces throughout the property and wine tasting in Cork Wine Bar (the resort’s custom-built wine room), fire and wine define the “theme” of the guest experience here. Curl up with a good book at the communal firepits against a backdrop of breathtaking views and relax to the sound of waves crashing on the beach below. Enjoy a glass of wine at sunset or roast s’mores (gourmet kit available for purchase).

Rich in amenity and thoughtful touches range from a luxurious 16,000 square-foot spa, a trio of dining experiences (more on that later) and the Cork Wine Bar featuring Vintner Series wine tastings, local cheeses, expert sommeliers and over 5,000 bottles of wine. But our most favorite feature was hands-down The Ritz-Carlton Club Level. Often referred to as a “hotel within a hotel,” guest rooms and suites on this concierge level (available for an additional fee) allows access to an elegant, sprawling lounge characterized by sweeping ocean views (think waves crashing on the sand below and the signature 18th hole of one of the resort’s two championship golf courses), wood-burning fireplace and complimentary beverages and exceptionally delicious culinary delights served throughout the day.

We loved being able to pop in pretty much anytime during the day for a quick bite during the food and beverage presentations (Club Breakfast, Light Snack, Hors d’ourvres, Evening Desserts) - showcasing regional specialties made with locally sourced ingredients, whole fruit and freshly baked cookies. The lounge was the perfect place to unwind at the end of the day with a glass of wine, champagne or made-to-order cocktails paired with artisan cheeses and cured meats and a farm-fresh casual menu.

Take a long hike following the Coastside Trail which follows the ocean bluffs between Pillar Point Harbor and Poplar Avenue. If you’d rather take to the water, California Canoe and Kayak and Half Moon Bay Kayak Company rent kayaks and offer lessons and tours. Sea Horse Ranch offers trail rides on the beach every day (except when it’s storming) and you don’t need a reservation. Just drop by (wearing long pants) and they’ll do the rest (there are horses of every temperament for the novice to the experienced rider).

Wine & Dine

Dining is also a special experience at the resort, the recently renovated upscale Navio Restaurant serves coastal-inspired California cuisine against a backdrop of panoramic views of the Pacific. Meaning “ship” in Portuguese, Navio’s wooden ceiling resembles a boat hull and its menu changes with the seasons - dishes here are true farm-to-table appetizers and entrees. The Brandt Farms Prime Grilled filet was cooked to perfection and the Fort Bragg Black Cod served with serrano ham, Half Moon Bay Artichoke, fava beans and spring onions was melt-in-your-mouth heavenly - and that’s high compliment from a girl who’s half-Japanese and knows her way around black cod (aka butterfish). Other popular picks included the Diver Scallops which arrived with English peas, pork belly and Little Gem lettuce and the Olive Oil Poached Halibut accompanied by heirloom carrots, puffed wild rice and snap peas.

Cork Wine Bar: Stop by the resort’s signature wine room for flights of wines, cheese and chocolate, as well as wines by the glass or bottle. Sommeliers specialize in introducing guests to interesting new wines and in providing education on every aspect of the wines.

Vintner Series: For the curious beginner to the seasoned wine connoisseur, the resort’s Vintner Series brings California wine country and wine educators to Cork Wine Bar every weekend. Each month, a different California winery is featured and representative from the winery is on property each weekend to educate guests about their wines and wine in general.

Monthly Vintner Dinner: On one Friday each month, the Chef de Cuisine of Navio creates a custom four-course dinner menu, meticulously paired with wines from the monthly vintner. Ingredients for the vintner dinner, including produce, meat and fish, come from producers in and around Half Moon Bay.

For more information, visit or call (650) 712-7000.

Brainwave Optimizationtm is a holistic non-invasive procedure using EEG-based technology that helps the brain relax to promote better performance.

When I sat down to chat with Mary McPherson, founder of the San Juan Capistrano-based Awoken Life, it was immediately evident that Mary’s true desire is to help people.

As I entered Awoken Life to the sound of a waterfall and a sweet fragrance in the air, it felt as if I had walked in to a sanctuary. Michelle Newell (office manager and brainwave optimization technologist) greeted me and asked if I would like some water or tea. “We want our clients to feel at home, relaxed and safe, this is a place welcoming those who are ready to get past the conditions of an imbalanced brain,” says Mary McPherson, a Certified Brainwave Optimization Specialist.

Awoken Life offers a variety of services but specializes in Brainwave Optimization (something you might have heard about on Oprah, read in the pages of People magazine or in science journals). “Brainwave Optimization is for people who would like to get back to living a happy and more balanced life with a natural, holistic approach. Brainwave Optimization is an eeg based technology consisting of a week long intensive program which leaves you centered, balanced, and recharged. “Some of the things we help people with are anxious feelings, lack of focus, addictions, anger, sadness, brain injuries, panic attacks, PTSD, obsessive thinking and sleep disorders.”

For my part, I am convinced the best testament to what Awoken Life is and the program’s ability to truly “awaken your brain’s limitless potential” is Mary herself. While interviewing Mary for this editorial feature, I discovered her to be an inspirational example of self-empowerment and what we as individuals are capable of achieving when we refuse to be defined by labels that others - and more often that we put on ourselves. I found Mary to truly be the modern face of a renaissance woman.

Mary, who holds a degree in Chemical Engineering, spent her early career as a very successful Materials Science Engineer working for world-leading companies like DuPont and Himont Advanced Materials. She has published several technical reports and holds patents for original research such as; changing of molecular structures of plastics and optical thin film production using gas plasma technology. It’s easy to see why someone might think of Mary as an “engineer.”

Clients who met Mary in another career incarnation as the owner of Elegant Wall Painting where Mary’s original art hung in galleries across the county and she provided fine wall finishes and murals (she ap-prenticed at the age of 15 with Master Mural Painter Ricardo Estrada), understandably think of Mary as an “artist.”

For the many clients she has helped overcome a variety of conditions ranging from anxious feelings, anger and addictions to sleep disorders, headaches and sadness, Mary is simply “amazing.” Through Awoken Life and Brain-wave Optimization, Mary is able to combine her edu-cation, skills, talent and training with a deep desire and passion for helping people live their best lives.

Some of the issues brainwave optimization helps with include Anxious feelings, lack of focus, addictions, sadness and sleep disorders.

If you ask Mary, she’ll tell you that all of these descriptors - and more - are accurate. Which is exactly the point - “when you are able to awaken your brain’s true potential, there is virtually no limit to what you can believe and achieve.”

“Your brain is the control system for your body,” says Mary. “Brain balance and harmony are essential to overall well-being and op-timal cognitive, emotional and physical performance,” says Mary. “Once the brain is balanced, the body follows. This condition of balance and harmony for the brain is known as homeostasis. Once you’ve achieved homeostasis, you’ll enjoy new states of self-regulation and relaxation, leading you to think more clearly, perform more successfully and experience a higher degree of hope and happiness.”

Brainwave Optimization is a unique highly scientific, yet holistic approach to brain balance. Over 100,000 people have successfully participated, and the number grows every day.”We start with an intensive scientific evaluation of your brainwaves, called an As-sessment using a very advanced computer program,” she says. “We determine where the imbalances and frequency levels are and from that we are able to tell if you’ve experienced trauma. We can ‘draw a picture’ of what you may be feeling or living through just by looking at the assessment results. For anyone interested in finding out more about why they feel the way they do, an assessment on its own can be very revealing and helpful.

“We can then create a plan customized to your specific needs. The five day process of Optimization is always centered on your goals and helping you achieve overall balance and harmony. You can relax in our zero-gravity chair while listening to audio feedback being created by your own brainwave frequencies and mirrored back through this advanced technology (this process can be viewed at, under “What is Brainwave Optimization?”).”

Brainwave Optimization is one of the many tools that Awoken Life utilizes in order to bring about a more fulfilled and enriched life for all of their clients. Its unique technology is like exercise for the brain. “We focus on the parts of the brain that may not be functioning at their peak because of traumas or injuries sustained throughout the course of ones’ life,” Mary explains. “When our brain is balanced, our bodies and our lives can achieve well-being and a higher degree of performance and happiness.”

Awoken Life is dedicated to helping people achieve their potential, through Brainwave Optimization, in addition they offer packages including guided visualization as part of the process. “Guided vi-sualization helps the client to consciously work through their chal-lenges, while Brainwave Optimization works on the subconscious and below subconscious levels.”

Awoken Life also offers a variety of services such as Life Coaching, Hypnotherapy and The BioMat - an infrared mat with NASA created technology used to improve circulation, relieve pain and more.

Scrolling through the many client testimonials on her website, it’s clear that Mary has found her true calling.

“I cannot put into words how much Awoken Life has changed my life,” says Vince, Dana Point. “Alcohol dependency, depression, spelling and even my fear of heights suddenly became manageable. I went in to this a total skeptic and was made in to a believer. Thank you for giving me a life I never thought possible.”

Another client, Penny from Mission Viejo echoes Vince’s sentiment and adds “Two longtime friends from separate parts of my life said ‘The old Penny is back!’ and our three adult children claim there is a ‘night and day difference’ and that I am “so much calmer, so centered.’ I’m thinking so much more clearly. What a blessing! The depression, anxiety, OCD and ADD are virtually gone.” (Note: Penny underwent two intensives to achieve these results).

“My goal is for my clients to walk away with a greater sense of self-empowerment and a clearer vision of themselves and the world around them,” says Mary.

Mary is also available for speaking engagements, workshops and private coaching sessions.

Brainwave Optimization with RTBTM is not intended to treat, cure, heal, or diagnose any disease, mental illness. Brainwave Optimization is intended to balance and harmo-nize brainwaves. Individual results may vary.


For a new approach to total brain wellness, call Awoken Life at (949) 661-6909 or visit
May 28, 2016

The Cutting Edge

Finding Personal Attention and Absolute Satisfaction at AesthetiCare

Last year, there were over 15.9 million aesthetic procedures performed in the United States. A 2% increase over 2014, and a staggering 115% increase since the year 2000. Liposuction, breast augmentation, facelift, tummy tuck: the list is seemingly endless. For the past 29 years, AesthetiCare has been performing cosmetic surgeries of the like- discovering, along the way, that cosmetics aren’t simply about looking your best.

“The face we present to the world affects our self esteem, and influences our personal and professional lives.” Though specializing in cosmetic and plastic surgery and medical spa services, AesthetiCare, in a rather stark contrast to other facilities that perform similar procedures, wants you to think carefully about your expectations. “Cosmetic surgery deals with improvement, not perfection. And it should be done to please yourself, not to meet someone else’s expectations. In fact, they’ve coined a phrase to that particular effect: “enhance your body, ease your mind.”

Ron Moser, M.D. likes to think that AesthetiCare’s favorite phrase is the key to their success- a deep rooted sense of service, and an attendance to the patient’s every need. “We do everything we can to make a positive change in patient’s lives. To help them regain the youthful image they had at a younger age, or to enhance their body or face. Customer service is the most important thing in this market. So many other physicians do not spend the time necessary to answer the patient’s questions and instill confidence in their services.”

Confidence is key in a practice such as this. Licensed surgery centers, surgeons named Diplomates of the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery and the American Board of Plastic Surgery, and a minimum of ten years experience in outpatient surgery for nursing staff is nothing to shake a stick at. With new procedures and devices at their highly capable fingertips, AesthetiCare has more than you need to shape a whole new outlook on life. TruSculpt, one of the newest modalities in use at AesthetiCare, uses heat sculpting technology to melt away fat and tighten loose skin.

“The TruSculpt treatment can be performed almost anywhere on the body,” says Dr. Moser. “No surgery is required and a full treatment of any one area can be performed in roughly 30-40 minutes.” A breakthrough radio frequency (or RF) technology, TruSculpt delivers deep tissue heating to melt the fat and provide a reduction in cellulite. The newest way to lose inches and remove stubborn fat, the procedure follows in the footsteps of other treatments AesthetiCare offers: Laser Genesis, LimeLight Facial Skin Therapy, CoolGlide Laser Vein and Hair Removal, and Titan Laser Skin Tightening. The true beauty of TruSculpt lies in its no downtime guarantee: putting you back on your feet and ready to hit the ground running in 40 minutes or less. In the following interview, Dr. Moser answers frequently asked questions.

Q: How can a prospective client determine if he or she is the right candidate for truSculpt?

A: Your doctor will determine if treatment is right for you during a one-on-one consultation. Typically patients have a BMI less than 30 and have slight bulges in certain areas of the body. TruSculpt is also not to be used as a weight loss product.

Q: Who cannot be treated with truSculpt?

A: Patients who cannot be treated with truSculpt include (but are not exclusively) those who are pregnant, people who have cardiac pacemakers or internal defibrillators, those with malignant or benign tumors in the target area or those with metallic implants of any kind in the target area, including joint replacements.

Q: Can truSculpt be used on all skin types?

A: Yes, truSculpt can be used on all skin types I-VI on the Fitzpatrick scale. Please always consult with your doctor beforehand.

Q: How long does a treatment last?

A: Typically a treatment lasts 1 hour or less. Your doctor will consult with you on which areas will be treated. Your doctor or a staff member will be with you administering the treatment the entire time.

Q: How many treatments will there be?

A: Your doctor will consult with you on the number of treatments to deliver based on the area(s) you wish to be treated and desired results you are looking for. Typically a patient will receive 1-2 treatments and each treatment will be about 2 months apart.

Q: When can I start seeing visible results?

A: TruSculpt delivers RF energy and uses the body’s natural system to break down cells in certain areas. This process takes anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months and a patient may begin to see results anytime during that period and beyond.

Q: How long will results last?

A: Long term studies have not yet been conducted on truSculpt to determine exactly how long results can last; however we expect results to be permanent, providing the patient does not gain additional weight due to lifestyle dietary and/or exercise changes.

Q: What do I need to do before a treatment?

A: You do not need to do any activities or prepare in any way for a treatment. Once you are at your doctor’s office, your doctor will do some brief pre-treatment activities such as cleaning your skin, removing any makeup or lotions, taking photos/measurements, and removing any jewelry or body piercings in the treatment area.

Q: What happens during the treatment?

A: Your doctor or operator will identify with you the specific areas of the body to be treated. After a brief pre-treatment preparation, your doctor will be applying the truSculpt handpiece to your skin which in turn will deliver a pulse of RF energy. Each pulse will last on average 4 minutes; upon completion, your doctor will move the handpiece to an adjacent area to begin a next pulse. The entire treatment will last for 1 hour or less.

Q: What does it feel like?

A: TruSculpt is specifically designed to be a very comfortable procedure for you. As the truSculpt handpiece delivers energy you will feel that specific area heat up. Due to its unique design, the heating of the area will be quite tolerable and your doctor can adjust the temperature depending on your comfort level. Typically no pain medication, topical anesthetics, gels, or active cooling will be used or administered to you.

Q: Can I return to normal activities after my treatment?

A: Yes you can. The procedure is a completely non-invasive technique, so typically you can return to normal activities immediately. Often times, patients return to work after the session is over.

Q: Do I need to take special supplements or follow a strict diet and exercise program?

A: No supplements or pills are required and you do not have to adopt new diet and exercise habits. However, many patients feel more motivated to take care of themselves after the truSculpt treatment and often use traditional diet and exercise as a complement to truSculpt.

Q: Is truSculpt safe? Is it painful? Are there side effects?

A: TruSculpt is uniquely designed to provide a very safe and comfortable procedure. Typically, there is no downtime after the treatment though patients may experience minor temporary pain or discomfort. Side effects can include redness, sweating, and mild tenderness in the areas that are treated. Usually this dissipates within a few hours. Your doctor can talk to you more about what to expect during and after treatment when you meet for your consultation.

Q: How much does truSculpt cost? How many treatments will I need?

A: The price for truSculpt varies, depending on your areas of concern, the number of treatments needed and your ultimate goals. Your doctor would need to consult with you in person to help estimate the cost.

Page 25 fthr2For more information or to connect with Dr. Moser directly, call (949) 661-1700 or visit

AesthetiCare Orange County is located at 30260 Rancho Viejo Road in San Juan Capistrano.

Hospitality has its origins in antiquity, with the first records of guest baths in Greek villages in early biblical times. Over the last two thousand years, the simple act of offering care for others has grown into a massive industry: from the first French and English rural inns and stables for travelers, to the splendor of the Plaza Hotel in New York.

Caring for others can be complicated, or it can be simple: and the San Clemente Villas are looking to keep it simple.

Aileen Brazeau and her husband Paul own and operate the Villas, and they’d like to think that hospitality is simply about listening. Listening to its residents, namely. “If we are successful at providing superior senior care and lodging, it is for that reason - we listen closely to what the residents tell us.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, seniors will represent 20 percent of the U.S. population by 2030. As demand for senior housing rises, the Villas are ready to meet it with their signature recipe for success: hospitality.

Villas’ residents enjoy a level of service and care often missing from senior communities. Care plans are specifically tailored to residents’ daily individual needs, and with 24-hour assistance every day of the year, the center fosters as much independence as possible while still maintaining the highest level of comprehensive care. The staff, including an Assisted Living Care manager, Licensed Nurse, and Executive Director are involved on a daily basis with the well-being of each resident, ensuring that the safety, health and comfort of each resident comes first. “The first thing that Paul, I, and our staff focused upon when we opened our doors was that each resident has a story to tell, as well as unique needs. We are interested in their stories, and we care about their needs.”

Walking into the “grand hall” of The Villas is like walking onto lido deck of a cruise ship - minus the cruise director and napkins folded to look like chimpanzees. Clearly, Paul and his wife know exactly what they’re doing, and are excelling at it, as there are smiling seniors everywhere you look: chatting amongst themselves, or with visiting relatives or staff. If it isn’t Happy Hour on Tuesday or Thursday, there is bound to be a Luau, or Karaoke Birthday Party. And if that wasn’t enough to keep you entertained, The Villas host an annual “Villas’ Got Talent” show.

Taking a peek into the kitchens is an experience in itself, where a team of chefs prepare several entrees, side dishes and desserts at breakfast, lunch and dinner. “Our residents look forward to every meal”, Aileen states, noting that it is not unusual to see a home baked pie or cobbler on the menu, following a fresh, home-style lunch or dinner. “Casual “cafe-style dining is available, as is formal. Residents can even reserve a private dining room for family visits”. But balance and moderation are keys to offering a tailored care experience, and so the Villas also boast an exercise gym and beauty salon, a library, and a game area.

Nightly movies are one of the most popular venues for the residents, showing on the “big screen” in a roomy theater setting.

Like any five star hotel, the Villas rely on the services that an on-site concierge offers. Through telephone and personal interactions, the Concierge provides exemplary customer service: allowing the residents to focus on the meaningful moments they have throughout their days, instead of stressing about what the day’s schedule looks like, worry about how to pick up a prescription off site, or how to challenge themselves to keep mind and body active. The “cruise ship that never sails” couldn’t be more accurate a way to describe the Villas. As cruise directors, Paul and Aileen operate the fully-staffed community. She, her Executive Director, Karen Milroy, along with long-time Marketing Director, Diana Sanchez, work magic in the Public Relations, Networking and Marketing arena, often hosting events at The Villas that are open to local businesses and the community.

On-site presence is what sets this community apart, and what keeps the ship afloat. Most senior residence communities operate through a parent corporation, run by hired representatives. Taking hospitality to the next level, Paul and Aileen have made it a point to keep their offices onsite at The Villas, and can be seen regularly participating in activities during the week. If you see them on-site, say hello, ask a question, and expect to be hosted like you are a part of the San Clemente Villas family.

To learn more about The Villas and its history, founding, beginnings or review a list of available services, be sure to visit the web site at

One of the perks of publishing South County Magazine is that I am provided a venue to share with our readership personal experiences with local business owners and professionals, the good works of not-for-profit organizations and in the case of this editorial feature, congratulations to Mrs. Catherine Wachtel in being named the 2016 Capistrano Unified School District (CUSD) “Teacher of the Year” at John Malcom Elementary School in Laguna Niguel.

Chosen by their peers, a “Teacher of the Year” from each school in the district was honored at an inspirational event held on April 28th at SOKA University.

“Mrs. Wachtel is an amazingly talented teacher,” says Principal Peggy Baerst, John Malcom Elementary School. “She inspires her scholars to love learning and to always be their personal best. Mrs. Wachtel is positive, encouraging, has very high expectations for her students and is a bundle of boundless energy! We love Mrs. Wachtel and are honored to have her represent our school as Malcom’s Teacher-of-the-Year!”

What I find most rewarding about teaching is reaching my scholars not only academically, but emotionally.

“I am humbled and honored with this nomination and selection,” says Mrs. Wachtel. “I feel extremely blessed to be at a school where peers are friends. We collaborate a great deal (throughout the grade levels) to meet the unique needs of our scholars. It truly takes a village!”

Full disclosure: I’m a mom of a second grade student in Mrs. Wachtel’s class and couldn’t be more thrilled at this opportunity to showcase such an exemplary instructor. Second to parents, among the most influential person in a child’s life is their teacher - particularly in their formative, elementary years.

Like all parents in the district, we learned who our daughter’s second grade teacher would be a few days prior to the start of the school year via an automated messaging system. I wasn’t familiar with Mrs. Wachtel at the time, but when I told my daughter who her teacher would be, she literally squealed in delight and jumped up and down. As we head toward summer vacation, I’ve enjoyed the opportunity to witness Mrs. Wachtel in action while volunteering in the classroom these past months and chat with other moms about the growth of each of our respective “scholars” and can unequivocally say that given what I know now, I would have squealed with delight and jumped up and down myself.

Currently in her 28th year of teaching, Mrs. Wachtel began her career as an intern through UC Irvine with Capistrano Unified School District. She has taught second, third, and fourth grades as well as twice a second/third combination class and has taught at Crown Valley Elementary School, George L. White Elementary

School and John S. Malcom Elementary School. Mrs. Wachtel holds a Bachelor’s Degree from the University of California, Irvine and a Master’s Degree from the United States International University, as well as Gifted and Talented Certificate and Reading Instruction Certificate.

A native of Huntington Beach, Mrs. Wachtel enjoys “traveling traveling to new places, going to concerts, hiking, reading biographies, and being around loved ones,” including her husband of 23 years, David Wachtel, and their 17-year-old daughter Whitney.

“What I find most rewarding about teaching is reaching my scholars not only academically, but emotionally.  Once this foundational bond is made, learning comes naturally,” she says. “I believe teaching is a calling. My inspirations are my mom, Pat Nagel, who taught for 36 1/2 years as well as my third grade teacher, Mrs. Carol Anderson.  I was thrilled as an undergraduate at UC Irvine serendipitously seeing Mrs. Anderson and being able to let her know my aspiration of becoming an elementary school teacher was being fulfilled as we spoke.  What brings tears of joy to me now is having former students share likewise.  I am extremely grateful knowing good teachers keep paying it forward!”

An Estate Planning Q & A with Martin J. Lombrano, AIF®, LPL Financial Advisor

Pence Wealth Management

I suspect I am not unlike most other people in that I prefer to do business with individuals who are not only highly qualified with a proven track record in their respective area of expertise, but also operate with integrity, personal attention and a straightforward “say what you mean, and mean what you say” approach.

These characteristics are all the more important when you are looking to a seasoned professional to help handle the finances of an estate and navigate the myriad of issues facing a surviving spouse upon the death of their loved one. That’s why it’s so refreshing to come across a financial advisor like Martin J. Lombrano who believes that success is all about being “others centered” – doing what is best for others, “having a strong moral compass, integrity, follow through, taking responsibility when something doesn’t go as planned, being clear with expectations, valuing relationships and taking the time to really know his clients and thoroughly understand their unique financial goals.

This philosophy has served Martin well in the 23 years since he initially became a financial advisor. Armed with a degree in Business Administration with a concentration on Finance, Martin has completed the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) curriculum at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), holds the Accredited Investment Fiduciary (AIF) designation and attends annual state and federal continuing education classes to keep all of his securities and insurance licenses in good standing.

In the following interview, we asked Martin to address some of the frequently asked questions facing a surviving spouse or family member upon the death of their loved one.

Question: Upon the passing of a loved one, whom do I need to notify?

Answer: Every situation is unique, however notifying the following agencies and individuals is a key step after a loved one has passed and each is very important: Social Security Administration, deceased person’s employer or former employers, insurance companies, credit bureaus, credit card companies, mortgage companies, post office, utility providers, creditors.

The Trust in particular is a detailed legal document that specifies every detail of the deceased loved one’s estate and how it should be handled, who should be in charge of handling the Trust, and how and to whom the Trust assets should be distributed.

Probate isn’t always necessary. If the deceased person owned assets in joint tenancy with someone else, or as community property with his or her spouse, or held their property in a Living Trust, those assets won’t need to go through probate.

Question: Do I have to file anything with the court?

Answer: After you have contacted the loved one’s attorney (if there is one) or at least spoken with an attorney or advisor experienced in estate or death administration, you should know which documents will be needed to be provided to the court if it is necessary for the decedent’s estate to go through probate court. Probate is a legal document and the legal process of administering the estate of a deceased person, resolving all claims and distributing the deceased person’s property under a will.

Question: Do I have to find the will right away?

Answer: Typically one of the first documents to find is the Will or Trust. The Trust in particular is a detailed legal document that specifies every detail of the deceased loved one’s estate and how it should be handled, who should be in charge of handling the Trust, and how and to whom the Trust assets should be distributed.

Question: What should I do with the Will or Trust when I find it?

Answer: Ideally, you will want to take the Will or Trust to the attorney who originally drew up the documents. But if that isn’t possible, then finding an attorney or advisor that specializes in estate administration is the best avenue to pursue. You will want a professional on your side that can help make this process as cost effective and timely as possible.

Question: Do I have to probate the Will? How long do I have to probate the Will?

Answer: Probate isn’t always necessary. If the deceased person owned assets in joint tenancy with someone else, or as community property with his or her spouse, or held their property in a Living Trust, those assets won’t need to go through probate. The same is true for assets held in a Revocable Living Trust and accounts for which a payable-on-death beneficiary has been named.

If probate is necessary, then it must be initiated by the executor of the Will.  It’s typically a time consuming process which can last 12-24 months or more and can be very costly in executor’s, court’s and attorney’s fees. In general, it is best to plan ahead and avoid probate.

Question: What important documents will the attorney want to see?

Answer: In general, you, your attorney or advisor will need: death certificates, Wills and Trusts, insurance policies, credit card statements, investment accounts, bank accounts, mortgage statements, last two years of tax returns, marriage and birth certificates, an up to date credit report of the deceased and family member’s contact information.

Question: What if my loved one did not have a will? What do I do to settle his/her estate?

Answer: You can settle the loved one’s estate without having to go to probate court depending on the total value of their estate, and their ownership and beneficiary designations. If a probate is needed and there is a Will, then the named executor will typically initiate the probate court proceedings.

Question: How long does it take to settle an estate?

Answer: With a Trust, the typical estate can often be settled within a few months. With a Will, it generally takes 12-24 months, and often longer. Typically in California, if you own a home, are married, or have children, then you and your loved ones can benefit from having a Revocable Living Trust. Some of the benefits of a Trust are the avoidance of probate, your estate remains non-public information, and a Trust may substantially reduce costs and time to settle the estate.

Question: My loved one has named me the beneficiary of his/her life insurance policy. How do I go about collecting the life insurance proceeds?

Answer: One of the most daunting tasks of a loved one dying is having to find all their accounts and financial documents and contact each company to see what they will require in order to pay a claim and/or transfer ownership of accounts to the named beneficiary or successor trustee.

Having an experienced advisor can help make this entire process simpler as he can reach out on your behalf to the financial institutions. This can save you time and aggravation in a time of mourning.

Question: What taxes might be due after someone dies?

Answer: The loved one’s estate may need to pay off creditors, pay back taxes to the state or Federal government and in some cases may need to pay death taxes if the estate assets were significantly valued.

Having an experienced advisor can help make this entire process simpler as he can reach out on your behalf to the financial institutions.

If you have an estate plan in place, it should be reviewed every 3 years or with every major life event like birth, divorce, death, etc…

Question: What actions can a person take now to make this entire process simpler and easier for those family or friends who will be guiding the estate administration?

Answer: Either on your own or with an advisor, begin by making a balance sheet, a list of all your assets (what you own) and all your liabilities (whatyou owe). Be as detailed as possible with names, accounts numbers, phone numbers etc… for each entry. Make sure to review your beneficiaries on each account or asset you own including bank, retirement, pension, investment, insurance policies, and real estate to name a few. Most of all, have an up to date estate plan to help make this process simpler. If you have an estate plan in place, it should be reviewed every 3 years or with every major life event like birth, divorce, death, etc…

This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

Accents and accessories to make a house your “home”

When writing a showcase on their respective businesses, it’s always nice to be able to get to know these individuals through the perspective of their clientele, but it’s even more fun when I can count myself among their customers.

Such is the case with this month’s cover feature subject: Susie Smith, owner of Backstreet Home Decor - the landmark San Clemente boutique on El Camino Real with a second high-profile storefront in the heart of downtown on Del Mar Street - a thriving business that evolved from a single mom’s desire to spend more time with her young children.

In 1978, Susie was working as a dental hygienist. But as rewarding as it was to have found success in the career path for which she had pursued her education and training, her full-time hours kept the young mother from being at home. For fun, Susie began making dried and silk floral arrangements for herself and her friends - her creations were met with such overwhelming response that she started selling arrangements out of her garage and as demand increased, she even began teaching classes in floral design.

“I was a mom, a single one and working full time,” she says. “I longed to be at home with my children and wondered if perhaps I could turn this hobby into a real business.”

With the encouragement of her friends, Sue “took a flying leap of faith” and opened Backstreet Home Decor and over the course of the following 35+ years grew from a 500-square-foot shop to the thriving business it is today. Between the two locations, Backstreet Home Decor and Backstreet on Del Mar encompass 5,000-square-feet of showroom space filled with fabulous fine furniture, lamps, mirrors, wall art and what is arguably the largest selection of the most stunningly realistic, gorgeous custom silk florals, trees and foliage.

Susie now has a staff of well-qualified associates that will provide in-home consultation specializing in full service, accent, accessorizing - as well as residential and commercial Christmas and holiday décor. This could involve “pulling together all the existing design elements in a home, or accenting a room with different picture frames, artwork, trees and florals, creating a new look or accent or designing a complete makeover.
“Client budget vary, of course,” says Susie. “Sometimes we do several rooms at a time, but for many clients, we just suggest that they start with a single room and then go from there. I like to start with the home’s foyer. When we get the right feeling for the entry, the rest of the process begins to flow from that direction.”

Looks can definitely be deceiving. From the road, the main location - located on El Camino Real - 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 Susan’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.

Beverly Stadler, past president of the Orange County Chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers, who has been buying Susie’s designs for her clients for nearly 30 years says “Susie is fabulous to work with. She has endless creativity and style. And her accessories and decor are fabulous ... and at incredible prices too! I recommend Backstreet to everyone - designers and clients.”

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 two 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.”
Friends and family have all complimented me on my “design style,” but I have to give credit where credit is due. Susie would be too humble to call herself an “artist,” so I’ll do it for her. Her 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.

“The ideas keep coming everyday from everywhere,” says Susan, when asked where she derives the inspiration for her designs. “Gardens, trees, flowers, photos, magazines and people. I have so many ideas and it’s such fun to work with my clients to make their thoughts and concepts into real pieces for their homes.’’ She credits her suppliers with providing the very best materials in the industry for her to work with, and is known by the design profession to have the best selection of silk florals and trees in the region.

The best testament to any business owner’s success are the comments that come directly from satisfied customers like Lloyd W. Glass of Coto De Caza who says “Susie is fantastic. She has done great work, with no problem, just great results since I met her years ago. She is the real deal.”

Cindy Caster of Dana Point echoes Lloyd’s sentiment and adds “Susie has a great eye for all styles and she is a joy to know and work with.”

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.”

Susie would like to thank all of her friends and clients for their business for over 35 years. “Because of your loyal support, my adrenaline is still pumping, my energy is flowing and I still LOVE designing! Thank you so much!”

If her gorgeous showroom and principled business practices weren’t enough to draw you in, Susie is one of the nicest people in town - genuinely passionate about what she does and more importantly, equally enthusiastic about building and developing long-term relationships with her clientele.

“The customer is most important, not what they are buying,” says Susie. “So many of my customers have become my good friends. I am blessed to have such wonderful people in my life.”

Connect with Susie by stopping by Backstreet Home Decor at 307 N. El Camino Real in San Clemente, calling (949) 498-2210 or
Mar 29, 2016

salon sauväge

Celebrating 25 Years in South County

Early in my writing career, I had the opportunity to interview many successful entrepreneurs for an OC-based regional business/lifestyle publication. While the scope of the featured businesses was diverse, the owner/operators all shared an unerring passion for their profession and a common belief that “if you love what you do, success will follow.”

In interviewing Wanda Kent, owner of the Laguna Niguel-based Salon Sauvage - Salon • Day Spa • Boutique, it’s evident that she is cut from the same entrepreneurial cloth.

I have to admit, I had a preconceived notion that artists aren’t typically expected to be good business people. Because they are so committed to the quality and originality of their ideas, I suspected artists might have a hard time switching gears between being creative and the pedantic requirements of owning and operating a business. Add to that the unique challenges of being in the business of beauty: an industry notorious for its drama and high turnover.

SalonSavauge 11I couldn’t have been more wrong: Since opening Salon Sauvage in 1991, Wanda has continually evolved her business by following a personal formula, whereby success would be the sum of working hard + staying on the leading edge of the industry + surrounding herself with talented team members + building a loyal base of “wonderful, supportive” people who are more “friends than clients.”

When Salon Sauvage first opened its doors, it encompassed a small, 1,300-square-foot, eight-station salon. In 2000, the business expanded to include skincare and offer the amenities of a day spa. Today, Salon Sauvage resides in a space three times its original size and offers services that cover the entire spectrum of hair, skin, health, wellness and fashion.

2016 0657I suggested that like most successful entrepreneurial endeavors, the longevity of Salon Sauvage might be attributed to the vision and direction of its ownership - a concept Wanda quickly dismissed. Instead, she credits all of the company’s milestones to “an amazing staff and incredible customers who have been with us through good times and bad.”

“I feel so blessed and appreciative of our loyal clients,” says Wanda. “They have been so supportive over the years - through our successes, through our growing pains and in the face of challenging economic times. We certainly wouldn’t be where we are today without them.”

This level of loyalty extends to all the members of the Salon Sauvage team as well. “Having Mireya Conroy as our salon manager to oversee the day-to-day operations has been invaluable to our success,” says Wanda. “I also can’t thank all of our staff enough for sharing their amazing talent in creating a company culture and atmosphere of ‘family’ that makes Salon Sauvage such a fun, awesome place to work.”

2016 0897 2As you step inside, you first enter the boutique: a marvelous glimpse of the magic the rest of the salon has to offer. Wanda’s brother Dennes hand picks their selection of the latest fashion trends for the boutique, including handbags, jewelry and clothing. Clients claim that Dennes has the “best taste of any man on the planet!”

Salon Sauvage consistently attracts the best stylists in the business who remain on the forefront of the newest and best techniques through ongoing education. Each stylist has a broad knowledge of industry trends in all facets of hair for men and women: styling, cuts, color, blending, straightening, smoothing techniques and extensions. Because each stylist also has expertise and experience in a specific aspect, there is someone on staff who will meet the needs of each individual guest - and every Salon Sauvage team member is committed to “working with our clients to create a look or style that suits them and their lifestyle because their isn’t anything worse than a haircut that is impossible to recreate at home.”

Before1181Salon Sauvage offers an array of traditional day spa services including facials, massages - including signature services like pregnancy massage and structural massage therapy for pain and discomfort, eyelash extensions and mani/pedis performed by award-winning nail techs whose skills have been sought after for the Emmys and Grammy awards ceremonies. Salon Sauvage also bears the distinction of being a true “med-spa” offering medical grade products and treatments.

Through Salon Sauvage’s skilled estheticians, guests are able to indulge in the most innovative face and body treatments in the industry, including radio frequency facials and body contouring, oxygen and hydrafacials. During a recent spa renovation, the salon added an infrared sauna, which has incredible health benefits ranging from lowering blood pressure to detoxification, pain relief and weight loss.

SalonSavauge 10As a member of the Salon Sauvage team for over 10 years, Dr. Michael Grossman is anti-aging rejuvenation specialist. Using breakthrough technology to reverse skin aging and to restore a younger appearance to the skin, he has garnered the reputation of “Artistry Excellence” in the Cosmetic Specialty Arena. Dr Grossman’s skill is to make you look naturally 10 years younger. Restylane, Juvaderm and Scuptra injectables, often used along with Profractional CO2, laser result in years of age reversal. For a natural looking mini non-surgical facelift “Bellafill” has long-term results with benefits lasting up to five years and “Kybella” permanently reduces under chin fullness without surgery.

2016 0852

Stay connected with Salon Sauvage through social media - “Like” them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram. Visit their online boutique at to purchase products and view and book monthly specials (services are automatically discounted when booked online).

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Salon Sauvage is located at 31271 Niguel Road, Suites F, G and H in Laguna Niguel (at the intersection of Niguel Road and Clubhouse Road). Connect with Salon Sauvage by calling (949) 661-2055 or visit
Mar 29, 2016


Delicious dishes, an extensive - and impressive - wine selection and impeccable service defines this signature restaurant at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel

The menu at this intimate, contemporary steakhouse highlights “sustainability-focused cuisine” - each grilled-to-perfection, mouthwatering steak comes from prime grass-fed, pasture-raised beef with no growth hormones or antibiotics. The organic produce used to create the inventive salads (think asparagus Ibérico salad with a poached egg and caviar crème fraîche) and side dishes (including the sauteed wild mushrooms and petite peas) is grown locally and harvested at the peak of the season, allowing for maximum flavor.

Everything is sourced from farms within 150 miles from the resort. The majority of the herbs are gathered from the resort’s organic garden.

Every meal starts with a complimentary pâté - on this night it was a chicken liver pâté accompanied by a multigrain ciabatta bread. Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of pâté, but apparently enoSTEAK serves this acquired taste with aplomb because the aficionados at the next table raved about the taste and texture. Having said that, I loved the presentation - the pâté arrived on a custom “conversation piece” crafted from recycled wine bottles created by Elizabeth Gurklys, a Southern California glass artist.

For starters, enoSTEAK showcases artisanal cheeses and charcuterie - a curated selected of cured meats that are perfectly paired with a glass of a classic California vintage. Did I mention the extensive wine selection? This is clearly a restaurant that caters to the wine connoisseur - there are over 40 varieties on the dinner menu, but the master list boasts nearly 200 wines to choose from - the impressive decorative glass “wine tower” that serves as the centerpiece of the dining room holds approximately 300 bottles.

Chicken and seafood options are on the menu - the chicken is Jidori™, which means “chicken of the earth” and all of the fish is sustainable and either farm raised or pole/troll caught. But make no mistake: the steak here is king. Each handcrafted cut, including the Grilled Prime Bone-in New York Steak, the Grilled Prime Rib Eye Stek and the Grass-Fed Beef Tenderloin is from Niman Ranch, a farm that is committed to raising the highest quality breeds and is dedicated to caring for its livestock traditionally.

Accompanying the handcrafted meats and seafood are a selection of five signature compound butters including black summer truffle, roasted heirloom tomato, garden herb and garlic, 30i enoSTEAK butter and tarragon béarnaise sauce.
As delicious as the dishes are and as warm and inviting as the ambiance is, great service makes the dining experience here all the more memorable - each member of the team, from the hostess to the waitstaff, was extremely personable, attentive, knowledgeable and unobtrusive.

enoSTEAK is located at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel, located at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For information or reservations, please call (949) 240-2000.

Feb 29, 2016

Shirley McDonnell

The Life Review of an Esteemed Educator, Mother, Grandmother … and Enthusiastic Dance Partner

Some say life review is like a movie screen in the back of our mind replaying pivotal scenes, points of conflict or glory or moments of regret. This article seeks to provide a snapshot into the life of Hospice Care of the West (HCOTW) patient

Shirley McDonnell as she shares meaningful moments, milestones she’s achieved and the people who matter most because “what is important at the end of it all is the people you love and who love you.”

Shirley 2A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Shirley originally came to California during World War II. Clutching her Phi Beta Key and armed with Bachelor and Master degrees in history from Occidental College and a Masters in Education from UCLA, Shirley began her teaching career at Herbert Hoover H.S. in Glendale, CA. There she developed an innovative program for gifted students in the 1960s. In 1968 she moved to Beloit, WI when she and her husband joined the staff at Beloit College. The program she had developed in Glendale caused the superintendent at a high school nearby to ask her to take on a similar task and to revamp the social studies department at Hononegah High School in Rockton, IL. Shirley stayed at Hononegah, where she developed interdisciplinary programs and courses in Advanced Placement History and Psychology, until her retirement in 1994.

After her own children went off to college, Shirley won a number of teaching awards. One of these took her to Princeton University where an experimental program was instituted to bring in top teachers from across the country to form a teaching team to instruct other teachers about better ways to teach history. Four teachers were selected for the first national team. Shirley was both the only woman and the only public school educator chosen.

Grandson Cole, age 12Grandson Cole, age 12For several summers the team traveled across the U.S. working with outstanding teachers to develop new curricula in subjects of national import: climate change, immigration, racial strife, women’s history, the use of primary documents among them. Shirley went on to become a Fulbright Fellow to the Netherlands and to become a scholar in residence at the National Humanities Center in North Carolina.

An educator for nearly 40 years, Shirley laughs as she recalls that growing up, both her son and daughter claimed they would never pursue teaching because it was a career path with too much work for too little pay. Nevertheless, both went on to follow in their parents’ footsteps. Son Brett is a law professor at the University of Minnesota and daughter Evelyn is a journalism professor at Loyola Marymount Univ. Both have received many academic honors and both use innovative teaching methods.

After her divorce in 1990 and retirement from teaching in 1994, Shirley decided to move back to Southern California where most of her extended family are located. In 1997, she moved into Laguna Woods. Within two months, at a clubhouse dance, she met fellow resident Gerald Pomeroy, also a retired history teacher. The two have been” inseparable every since.” Unlike her first husband, Jerry shares Shirley’s love of dance. Jerry is a ballroom dancer who particularly likes to tango. An avid reader, Shirley also counts aerobics, lengthy walks and yoga among her favorite pastimes.

Shirley & Jerry, Laguna Wood DanceShirley & Jerry, Laguna Wood Dance“I liked the small town feel of Beloit and it was a great place to raise my children,” says Shirley. “But I do not miss the five-month winters. “Laguna Woods has been a great place to retire.”
With daughter Evelyn and husband Bud living nearby, Shirley and Jerry are able to share quality time with grandson Cole. Jerry believes Cole is his best instructor in learning his I-pad. Both have birthdays rapidly approaching. Cole will be 13, Jerry will be 93!

An RN Case Manager for Hospice Care of the West, Gina Mendoza helps patients like Shirley manage the “comfort-related issues” that follow a patient’s decision not to pursue further curative medical treatment or when it is determined the further treatment is not an option.

“Shirley is an extremely intelligent, educated lady who possesses an awesome disposition and outlook on life,” says Gina.

“Gina also has such a great outlook that you can’t help but be cheerful around her,” says Shirley. “There were nurses who had told me that I shouldn’t wait to go into hospice and now I wish I had gone into this wonderful program sooner.

“Another wonderful aspect of having been in the teaching profession is that I have had the opportunity to have an impact – big and small – on so many individual’s lives,” says Shirley. “I have heard from so many people I have taught, many of whom have written such beautiful, moving letters, that it makes the end of a life easier to bear.

“Having made a difference in the lives of both your col- leagues and your students, being accepted in any community as a positive influence in the community, being asked by those in the community to serve in important, trusted positions and feeling highly valued – these things shine through in the letters I am receiving and it is making my son and daughter even more appreciative of their chosen careers because they know they are truly making a difference.”

For more information on Hospice Care of the West, call 800-405-1159 or visit