Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

When we moved into our home three years ago, 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.

photo2233A koi 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. 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.

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.

To connect with Glenn directly, call (949) 872-3833 or visit

Many local businesses boast great customer testimonials of recent transactions, but few can credit true “relationships” with clients dating back 60+ years.

Kevin and MaryGail Hentzen, owners of the Laguna Niguel-based Tuttle’s Carpet One Floor and Home, have had clients bring in their old invoices from carpet installations in the 1960s.

Today, Kevin and his wife Mary Gail bring more than 30 years of expertise to every job. Design consultant Nancy specializes in window coverings and with years of experience in their own right, staff design consultants Delis and Frank round out the Tuttle’s Carpet One team.

“Much of our business is from customers that I’ve known for years. It is more of a relationship with the client,” says Kevin. “People enjoy the personal experience that you won’t find in a big box store. It is very rewarding to beautify people’s homes. It’s a great feeling when the client calls to say how much they love their new floor.”

Tuttle’s Carpet One specializes in all types of carpet, hardwood flooring, tile, stone, area rugs, vinyl and window coverings. They carry top brands such as Karastan, Masland, Lees, Armstrong, and Hunter Douglas and offer the largest wool carpet selection in Orange County.

Because expert installation is so important, Kevin and Mary Gail only work with highly trained professionals who can install complex jobs and handle high-quality materials.

The company’s growth in more recent history can be traced to Kevin’s decision to move the operation to a more visible location Laguna Niguel in 1994. In addition to enjoying increased foot traffic, Kevin joined Carpet One two years later, which lent itself to capturing even more market share – for a variety of reasons.

Carpet One is a co-operative that has over 1,000 stores worldwide. Although all are independently owned and operated, because they are a co-op, Carpet One can negotiate the best prices and warranties as a large group. For example, Carpet One offers “the Beautiful Guaranty” which allows the customer up to 120 days from installation to have the carpet replaced for ANY reason (even if they decide they don’t like the color). The carpet and the labor are covered. No questions asked.

Another offer that only Carpet One offers is the “Healthy Living Installation.” This is a process that cleans the sub-floor with a HEPI-VAC and the installers then spray the subfloor with Healthinex anti bacterial spray. Then they use a special carpet cushion that minimizes symptoms from mold, mildew, allergens and pollens.

The bottom line is that Tuttle’s Carpet One Floor and Home offers the great advantage of the buying power as a group while still retaining the independence and specialty of a small store.

Connect with Kevin and Mary Gail by visiting the Tuttle’s Carpet One Floor and Home showroom at 27751 La Paz Rd. in Laguna Niguel or by calling (949) 831-1332.

Dec 26, 2016

Polo Cleaners

I have to admit, I had often pointed to the staggering volume of laundry our family of four seems to generate each week as an excuse for why my poor husband’s shirts were rarely without wrinkles. But truth be told, even before the arrival of our children, doing a good job of pressing his shirts (or my own for that matter) was a skill that simply eluded me. Ironing involved little more than a quick pass to make the clothes a bit more presentable.

But that was before I discovered the ease and convenience of having our better attire (and anything we’d prefer to wear without creases that weren’t meant to be there) professionally laundered. And for someone who doesn’t own a sewing machine but often buys pants or skirts that need to be hemmed or dresses that could be taken in (or let out), having easy (and affordable) access to alterations is invaluable.

For these reasons and more, it’s great to have a “go to” local professional like Polo Cleaners. Located in the Marbella Plaza in San Juan Capistrano, Polo Cleaners has been around since 1992 so they obviously know what they’re doing when it comes to handling their clients’ everyday drycleaning, laundry, household and alterations needs with an emphasis on couture items and specialty items that require special care.

All dry cleaning and laundry services are not the same. A fact not lost on San Juan Capistrano residents, who have bestowed upon Polo Cleaners its annual Golden Horseshoe Award for “Best Dry Cleaner” for the past seven consecutive years.

“We inspect each garment, clean them with the best care and solution possible, re-inspect them and mend any minor repairs and buttons for free and finally package them with tissue, by gender and type of article to make it easy on the customer when they get home,” says Owner Riaz Chauthani.

Connect with Riaz and the Polo Cleaners team by stopping by 31105 Rancho Viejo Road in San Juan Capistrano (in the Marbella Plaza), call (949) 496-7354 or visit

Anyone who has shopped for an engagement ring will tell you that it’s a little nerve-wracking to put your romantic fate in the hands of any old department store or the shop at the mall. The same holds true for finding the perfect piece to mark life’s most memorable of milestones – wedding anniversaries, graduation, birthdays (and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner).

For the most precious purchases of rare stones and metals, it’s best to be able to trust family – in this case, the family of Monaco Jewelers in San Juan Capistrano, widely regarded as one of South County’s leading independent jewelry dealers.

For our part, my husband and I also much prefer to patronize local, family owned and operated businesses rather than spending our money at the homogeneous chain department stores. This holds true for purchases big and small – everything ranging from clothing for our family to home appliances. So when we are in the market for a little bit of bling, we like to go where it feels more like we’re visiting friends than entering a high-pressure sales environment.

At Monaco Jewelers, there is the added bonus of having “friends” here who happen to have nearly four decades of experience in the Orange County jewelry industry. Owners Jason and Meray Gulvartian and the Monaco Jewelers “family,” (which includes Aram “Ron” Pashaian and son Jason Gulvartian, Jr.) offers new and antique jewelry for every budget from custom bridal sets and GIA/EGL-certified diamonds to necklaces, bracelets and earrings, as well as pre-owned and new fine watches from Cartier, Rolex, Breitling and more. For those pieces that are most important to you, Monaco also offers expert on-site repair services.

Thirty-six years in this business and having serviced over 30,000 satisfied customers certainly speaks to Gulvartians’ success in the industry.

Since expanding from his original location in Lake Forest into the South OC market with his current 2,400-square-foot showroom in San Juan Capistrano (located in the bustling center that is also home to Costco), Gulvartian has built his business by maintaining high standards for quality and customer service.

“Our goal is to ensure that our customers are happy with their overall experience,” says Gulvartian. “We have a large inventory for excellent selection, and if you can’t find what you are looking for, we will make it for you, exactly the way you picture the piece in your mind. We strive for maximum satisfaction for each individual – if our customer is not happy, we are not happy.”

Cash for gold

Gold values have reached record highs in recent years. We’ve all seen those ads on television calling for us to send in our old, broken or unused gold and platinum for a cash return. Monaco Jewelers has been offering their “Cash for Gold” service for years, except that they have strict standards in place to be sure that the jewelry they handle is being ethically bought, sold or recycled. It’s become increasingly clear that many of these TV companies offer people over 70% less than the value of their gold. In an era of big-box retail, warehouse shopping and distant online vendors, the mail-in cash-for-gold rip-off is a sparkling example of how getting away from our local business roots really comes back to bite us on the ring finger.

Monaco also offer help to people in need for quick cash by lending money on jewelry for a temporary period of time, with no questions asked about credit or the hassle of a lengthy loan application.

“Sometimes it’s hard to communicate to prospective customers the value of working with people you can trust, especially when it comes to decisions about precious gems and metals,” says Ron. “When you work with Monaco, you can rest easy knowing that we are going to be around and we’re going to stand by our work.”

Monaco Jewelers is bonded and licensed to sell, buy and pawn jewelry and is an A+ member of the Better Business Bureau.

Connect with Jason and the Monaco Jewelers’ family by stopping by 33955 Doheny Park Road in San Juan Capistrano, calling (949) 489-3510 or visit

They say those who can’t do, teach. But they also say that while we teach, we learn. In fact, Seneca said that. The Roman philosopher Seneca. (Not Seneca Crane from the recent Hunger Games films.)

So which is true? Stephanie Frisch hails from a family of teachers. And she would have to agree with Seneca. “I’m always learning. I want to know everything there is to know.” In the world of insurance, the demand is high for those who are dedicated to teaching the consumer, rather than taking them simply as a commission.

What do you really know about your insurance policies? Has anyone ever sat down and explained insurance to you in a way you really understood? Medicare. Prescription drug coverage. Covered California individual family plans. The chances are about as slim as Katniss escaping the Hunger Games alive. As the owner of Insurance 101, Stephanie is taking an industry norm and turning it on its head.

“I come from an all-teacher family. I learned a long time ago how to properly and thoroughly inform my clients. And I believe that a personalized, caring approach is what it takes to garner trust with folks who at a base level, have no idea what the terms are, or what the provisions of the plans mean.” Specializing in senior needs - such as Medicare plans and prescription drug plans for South County residents, Stephanie is faced with unique situations daily. “As the demand grows for this type of ser- vice, I find that my successes lie in earning the trust of my clients. The actual business is just one factor. Caring for the whole person is the key.”

Her old-school approach is unrivaled. Rarely does a broker find the time to spend one-on one with a client, let alone achieving any sort of true human interaction in the world of text messaging, multi-password online applications, and automated 800-number customer service recordings.

“I keep contact information and notes from past conversa- tions with all of my clients. When someone calls me, I see their name pop up on my phone and I greet them personally. I love helping people, and bringing a personal touch to the impersonal world of insurance is key. You can’t rush when you do what I do.” Having the knowledge and savvy to navigate the insurance world is one thing. Having the patience to wade through the headlines and get to the heart of the issues speaks to a deep desire to do right by her clients. “It’s my responsibility,” she notes.

Sifting through the sludge of government issues, printed articles, and healthcare propaganda is enough to drive any American toward feeling as if the premium they are really paying is in lifeblood, not dollars.

“What I provide is ‘value added’ to what customers pay in their insurance premium,” says Stephanie. “I don’t per- sonally charge for my consulting service. I’ve been told that my method of explaining insurance makes it easier to understand than any other way my clients have been told before. And I’m really trying to

help them, not sell them. I want to know everything about the products I offer to people and what is going on out there. 65 looks and acts a lot younger than it used to. They want the information that will help them be proactive about their lifestyle, and I help them find that.”

Be it working, traveling, parenting, surfing, running marathons, practicing yoga, or training for the next Hunger Games - you should be informed. If you’d like to understand your options and benefits better, Stephanie’s the one to call.

If you’re interested in learning more about what Stephanie can do for you, contact her at (949) 351-2443. If you need help with the next stage in your life or have any questions about insurance, you can count on her to point you in the right direction.

Each year in Hawaii as the winter temperatures drop to a lovely 81 degrees, the groundswell charges the shores of Oahu with monstrous waves, sometimes reaching 60 feet tall. For many, the spectacle is overwhelming - the only chance most of us have to see the terrifying immensity of nature up close. For others, it brings the chance to enter into the annals of history by riding down the face of one of those monsters on a three inch thick piece of fiberglassed extruded polystyrene (for those of you who don’t surf, glassed EPS equals one intense wave-riding surfboard).

USS ArizonaUSS ArizonaSome picture Oahu, and think only of Waikiki Beach and Waimea Bay. Some imagine the bustling metropolis of the Honolulu - all traffic and big business; island style, of course. A quick TripAdvisor search produces pages of information on museums, snorkeling excursions, beaches to stroll: helicopter and hot air balloon tours, aquariums, nightclubs and for the courageous, even a submarine adventure. Undeniably, any way you look at it, the waves and sunshine combine into one big beautiful postcard, airmailed straight from the tropics. But 45 minutes away from Waikiki, through the heart of the island via Interstate 2, past the Dole Plantation and Aloha Stadium, lies an entirely different picture postcard. The black and white kind - with a December 1941 stamp.

Beneath the Waves: Uncovering History on the Shore of Oahu

Since 2016 marks the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, I thought we’d begin our family’s exploration of Oahu with quiet reflection and a reminder of where World War II began in America. Part of the Pacific National Monument, spanning 9 distinct sites in California, Hawaii, and Alaska, the USS Arizona, USS Bowfin, USS Missouri and the Pacific Aviation Museum draw over 1.8 million guests to their doors each year. Operated by the National Park Service, the Monument has grown steadily - now covering a total of 17 acres. From start to finish, guests can immerse themselves in relics of American history: from the people and politics that brought the war to American shores, to the mighty battleship Missouri, where the Japanese finally surrendered.

10651The most popular visitor destination in Oahu, the USS Arizona memorial sees millions of guests from all over the world. Built atop the remains of the sunken battleship USS Arizona, the memorial looks over the final resting place for a great many of the 1,177 crewmen killed when their ship was bombed by the Japanese Naval Forces. Daily tours include a 23 minute film, and an unforgettable boat ride to the memorial itself.

Launched one year to the day after the events of December 7, 1941, the submarine USS Bowfin, dubbed the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” completed nine successful patrols before peacefully arriving home at its berth in Pearl Harbor. Like her namesake, the Bowfin was a scrapper with a voracious appetite. Sinking 44 enemy ships during the course of the war, the Submarine Museum boasts a 10,000 square foot interior featuring over 4,000 submarine-related artifacts. Not to be overlooked, the Pacific Aviation Museum offers a stroll through two hangars among authentic World War II-era planes, including a Japanese Zero, a Stearman N2S-3, and a flight simulator which leads visitors through an exhilarating dogfight in the skies over Guadalcanal.

If you haven’t purchased your tickets ahead of time, don’t worry: over 1,300 free walk-up tickets are available for the tours on a first come, first served basis. The National Park Services advises guests to set aside plenty of time - allowing you to immerse yourself in the visitor experience, and feel your way back to one of the most influential moments in American history. For more info, visit

Polished elegance and a primo location: Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort

Location, location, location. The Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach Resort ( proved to be the perfect place for our family to call home base. Located right on the beach in the heart of Waikiki, every destination on our traveler’s checklist - with the exception of the Polynesian Cultural Center, which was definitely worth the drive - was within easy driving distance (including Diamond Head, Sea Life Park and the Pearl Harbor Historic Sites).

Outrigger Reef Waikiki Beach ResortOutrigger Reef Waikiki Beach ResortAt the entrance of this full-service resort, the spirit of the sea is embodied in a gleaming koa canoe and masterworks of Polynesian voyaging art create a theme that carries through the entire property and immediately encourages visitors to reset to “island time.”

Our spacious guest room was wonderfully appointed and showcased a private balcony with breathtaking views of the panoramic Pacific Ocean and iconic Diamond Head Crater. The hotel offers an unrivaled array of indoor and outdoor amenity - from the sparkling pool and daily Hawaiian cultural activities, in-lobby shops and a trio of dining destinations. But arguably the property’s best feature is the fact that guests can walk out of the elevator and onto the sand. Hotel guests can rent chaise lounges and umbrellas, boogie boards and other water toys or just spread out a towel under a tall palm and while away the afternoon watching the kids frolic in the surf. Looking for a more active vacay? Go canoe surfing with certified instructors, arrange a sunset catamaran or Oahu circle island excursion at the Outrigger Activities Center. Prefer a more relaxing stay? Rejuvenate with a soothing lava-rock massage at the resort’s LaaKea Spa Hawaii.

Dolphin Encounter at Sea Life ParkDolphin Encounter at Sea Life ParkFor an additional fee, guests can upgrade to a Voyager 47 Club room or suite which allows access to a private lounge and large outdoor deck with locally inspired breakfast bites, early evening light pupu (appetizers), cocktails and Kona Brewing Company’s craft beers. There are weekly featured artisan tastings and signature cocktails from local liquor purveyors.

Judging by the crowds that fill the tables in the early evening, it’s easy to see why the resort’s Kani Ka Pila Grille is renowned as a popular gathering place for casual fare inspired by the flavors of the islands, including ahi poké, fresh fish, steaks, sandwiches and salads, craft cocktails and entertainment. Recognized as Honolulu’s top restaurant venue for Hawaiian music, Kani Ka Pila (which means “to make music”) Grille showcases beloved local musicians who perform contemporary and traditional Hawaiian music, including Oahu’s legendary slack-key guitar.

Hawaiian slack-key guitarHawaiian slack-key guitarOff property, we stumbled upon what might be one of Honolulu’s best-kept “local” secrets - Nico’s Pier 38 restaurant and fish market ( located off the beaten (tourist traveled) path. Started by a pair of local fisherman and a young French born/chef owner Nico Chaize, the popular eatery started out as a pioneering, tiny plate lunch place serving auction fresh fish and local island favorites. Today, the family-friendly restaurant has grown to more than four times its original size and serves up breakfast, lunch and dinner and live entertainment indoors or outside on a gorgeous covered lanai. Nico’s specializes in fresh line-caught fish caught by Hawaii’s local fleet, handpicked daily by Nico and their expert fish buyers. The resulting menu showcases an array of delicious dishes designed to please even the most discriminating seafood aficionado, including Poisson Cru (Tahitian style fresh raw fish, cherry tomatoes and cucumber tossed in coconut milk and lime), the signature fried Ahi belly bites served with lomi tomato and sriracha aioli. The Furikake Pan Seared Ahi was prepared to flavorful cooked-to-order perfection coated with Japanese seaweed and sesame seeds.

Polynesian Cultural Center

Why come all the way to Polynesia and then never truly experience it? Explore the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands by wandering through authentic villages from six Pacific cultures (Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii) as natives demonstrate their arts, music, history and games. With regard to the latter, guests can learn how to toss a spear to hit a coconut perched atop a tall pole 20 feet away or hop aboard a native-style outrigger canoe like the Islanders used centuries ago and paddle around a tropical lagoon that meanders through 42 acres of lush tropical vegetation. See, feel and smell the wonders of Hawaii in a stunning, big-screen immersive cinematic experience and at the end of the day … enjoy an award-winning royal feast fit for a king at the Ali’i Luau - renowned as the island’s “most popular” and “most authentic” way to celebrate special occasions with ohana (family) and friends.

Held in a covered outdoor venue against a backdrop of waterfalls and lush gardens, the Ali’i Luau features a Royal Court procession, presentation of the imbue (pork baked in an underground oven), delicious traditional food (steamed tropical fish, shoyu glazed chicken, teriyaki marinated strip loin, lomilomi salmon and poké) and lively Hawaiian entertainment.

The showstopper here is Ha: Breath of Life - a spectacular evening show (think Broadway. Then add flaming knives). The touching storyline follows the symbolic Pacific Isle saga (of birth and death, love and family, triumph and tragedy) of Mana and his beloved Lani. Punctuated by Polynesian dance, music and blazing fire knives, Ha: Breath of Life features a cast of over 100 Polynesian natives, stunning special effects, animation and surround sound. Pardon the pun, but this show will literally take your breath away!

Stairway to Heaven

If you’re looking for a memorable way to work in a bit of exercise on your trip, try hiking the Diamond Head Crater. I have to say, there’s something rather empowering about walking up the inside slop of an extinct volcano. More than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit, Diamond Head is a lasting remnant of a volcanic explosion that occurred about a half a million years ago. Ancient Hawaiians called it Laeahi, which translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name “Diamond Head” has more recent roots in the 1800s, when British sailors mistakenly believed that the glistening calcite crystals embedded in the lava rock were diamonds lodged in the lodged in the crater’s soil.

View from Diamond Head Crater View from Diamond Head Crater It takes 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, and half that time for the trip back down. The trail is a switchback with the mountain on one side and a railing on the other. After a lookout point that doubles as a rest stop, the trail takes a steep upward ascent through a series of stairs and tunnels carved into the mountain. The last set of stairs is a 99-step climb that my husband and kids clamored up with little effort while I took the slow and steady - and decidedly less “in shape” approach - that eventually ends at a World War II bunker. From there, you step out to one of the best panoramic views of the island. We lucked out with the weather during our four-day trip to the islands which meant that once we summited the crater, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Oahu’s entire leeward side (the side to which the wind is blowing). Entry into the state park is $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian.

Sea Life Park

Situated just 15 minutes from Waikiki along a scenic stretch of coast called Makapuu Point, Sea Life Park ( is a family-friendly marine-attraction that focuses on educational and interactive programs. Small enough to enjoy on foot, but diverse enough to spend the better part of a day, the park is home to dolphins, seals, stingrays and (small) sharks and features a 300,000 gallon reef aquarium, a breeding sanctuary for the state’s endangered sea turtles, habitats for Hawaiian monk seals and penguins, touch pools, an aviary and seabird sanctuary. The kids loved exploring the various exhibits, but the real highlight of our visit here was the unforgettable interactive Dolphin Encounter, where they could get up close and personal with these magnificent sea creatures (there are also Seal, Stingray and Shark Encounters). Our 9-year-old son and 8-year-old daughter thrilled at the opportunity to stand in waist-deep water while the dolphins performed high energy behaviors, play, kiss and even “dance” with guests.

Since shopfronts became shopfronts, there has been a need for signs: the need for signs begetting the craft of sign painting. Hand-lettering arose in America in the 1800’s as a means of distinguishing between products and companies when capitalism began to boom. Until the advent of vinyl lettering in the 80’s, hand-lettering and sign painting was thought of as a viable career path, instead of the niche hobby it has become in today’s market.

David Velasquez was painting panels on trucks and hand-lettering company logos on the truck doors in the 80’s, finding that his artistic talent was in much higher demand in the transportation market. Boats, hot rods, jet skis, and even planes. Pinstriping led to logo design, logo design to portraits, and soon enough David was sketching historical points of interest and lovely, yet long-forgotten buildings.

Born in the late 50’s in Ventura County, California, David grew up in El Rio. A small, unincorporated town once known as New Jerusalem, El Rio was founded in 1875 by the local postmaster, who also ran the General Store. David’s life took a similar trajectory, branching along two courses - marrying his high school sweetheart, and going to work in construction, now, well over twenty years.

An uncle first realized that David showed natural talent for drawing, and helped coach him from simply copying comic strips to drawing original art in 3D. For years however, David believed that he wasn’t good enough, and that his hobby was exactly that: just a hobby. When Six Flags Magic Mountain invited him to submit selections from his portfolio to a contest they were having, he balked: “I felt I was very unqualified - I had no intention of accepting the invitation.” 10 pieces were to be chosen by the team at Magic Mountain, to use on items for the gift shop. “I remember being very intimidated, but the sales rep strong-armed me, and they ended up picking all seven of the pieces I submitted. I was blown away.”

Giving him the confidence boost he needed, the contest blossomed into screen printing- and eventually a commission with the National Park Service. David “drew the historic buildings at Yosemite, the Grand Canyon, and Bryce Canyon National Parks. I also did pen and ink work, and the parks, and eventually Six Flags Magic Mountain all used my drawings for gift items sold at their gift shops.” Impressive, for a man who has no formal art education.

“Love all, trust a few, and do no wrong to anyone. With God’s help, you’ll live a great life’. I believe that, especially in relation to my art: it has been a great source of stress relief and inspiration over the years. Particularly when I come home from running my construction business.”

Most of David’s work is in single tones - black and white, just doodles. Those doodles are now being turned into a coffee table book.

“For years, I would just sketch: or doodle, and thought those pages were being tossed out when my wife was cleaning the house. Turns out, she saved them, and I was asked to include them in my new book.” Pencil sketches, graphics, and other artwork will go into David’s newest work- mediums which are still in high demand elsewhere.

“I am currently working on a logo for a radio station, family portraits, pen and inks of a motorcycle and hot rod, and pencil portraits of the ‘Kings of Cool’: Paul Newman, Steve McQueen, John Wayne, Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, and Robert DeNiro,” he says.

David has work on display at the Ventura County Art Museum, and the San Buenaventura Mission store. “I thank the good Lord for my family and friends who inspire me to do the right thing in life, and I want to keep doing what I love.” And his advice to young or aspiring artists out there? “Hone your skills, practice.

Do what you love, be it drawing, painting, sculpture, music, even teaching. Art can be found in so many things.”

To view more of David’s art, visit his FB page (David Velasquez) or Instagram (velasquezgraphics). To connect with David directly, call (805) 432-6082.

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 owner Susan Smith’s wonderful offerings, which range in style from Old World to contemporary.

Owner Susie SmithOwner Susie SmithEach 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 Back- street 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.

3BeachesPillowsonBlue copyWhen our family moved from San Clem- ente to San Juan Capistrano three years ago, Susie’s showroom the first and only stop I needed to make for the decorative items and accessories that would make our new house a “home.”

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.

While everything in her store speaks of high quality, her prices are surprisingly afford- able. 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 cus- tomers.

“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!”

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

Long before Neil Patrick Harris stepped onto the Broadway stage or became the skirt-chasing Barney Stinson in “How I Met Your Mother,” he was a young favorite of television audiences who followed his daily trials as Doogie Howser, M.D. - tackling the combined drama that accompanied being the country’s youngest surgeon and the typical issues of an American teenager. Though perhaps not a spot-on comparison, William Radcliffe surely felt some of the same pressures when he became one of California’s youngest attorneys to ever pass the bar exam. For the past 32 years, William has practiced law: at first alongside his father, John Radcliffe; and then, on his own. Hanging out a shingle as a young attorney takes guts and gumption, but William wasn’t long flying solo.

In 1986 he married his bride, Bonnie, and the two have been taking on the legal world ever since. Bonnie Radcliffe began her career as a legal secretary, working for an attorney in Ontario. Much like William, she soon made moves to start her own business, opening “Bonnie’s Paralegal” shortly after she and Bill tied the knot. Processing uncontested divorces and finding her aptitude in the business, her client base grew. She worked as Bill’s paralegal, and found her loyal customers helpful in maximizing his business - one of the first law firms that offered traditional attorney representation as well as giving clients the assistance and confidence to represent themselves.

With an office motto of “whatever it takes,” it is no surprise that the pair have grown a reputation for timely work and fair expenses. Lawyers, infamous in pop culture for exorbitant fees and overages, seem to relish their reputation: but Bill and Bonnie are swimming against the tide. “We understand that not everyone can afford a large legal retainer - no one wants to spend more than necessary.”

Challenging the status quo has always come second nature to the Radcliffes, and in 1990 they stepped out even further, moving first into the world of bankruptcies, and then wills and trusts. Finding their way to family law wasn’t a far reach, and soon they were taking on a multitude of cases for an enormous array of clients. For this legal team, working with clients in the US military is a particularly rewarding aspect of their practice as both William and Bonnie come from families with a strong military background: William’s father served as an officer in Military Intelligence post WWII and while Bonnie’s father was an officer of allied forces in the Dutch Army and a prisoner of war in Japan. William was a founding board member of Patriotic Hearts, a non-profit organization with a mission to help support US veterans and help them find employment. Additionally, William and Bonnie volunteer in the Children’s Ministry at Saddleback Church, San Clemente.

But can you expect the same caliber of work from an office functioning under a conscience? “Experience comes first. Put the area of your need first, and find someone who will offer you assistance, regardless if it comes in the form of expertise or traditional representation.” Move over Doogie - the Radcliffe’s are in the business of helping and they’re coming your way.

For a complimentary consultation or to connect with William and Bonnie, please call (949) 245-6162.

In 1519, a man named William Horma coined a phrase that many of us use in conversation still today. Horma, the headmaster of two colleges in England: Winchester, which was founded in 1382 by William of Wykeham, and Eton - educating boys 13 to 18, whose former pupils include 19 Prime Ministers, wrote the words “Mater artium necessitas”, in his book Vulgaria.

In 1545, a similar English version was used (convenient for those of us who don’t read Latin): “Necessitie, the inventor of all goodnesse.” We know it now as an English-language proverb: meaning roughly that the driving force behind all invention is a need. Any need. 

Three years ago, Charlie Lott traveled to Fresno to visit his mother; “she’d fallen, broken a hip, and had some other age-related issues. I wanted to make sure she was getting the care she needed.” Charlie found that his mother wasn’t really able to move around at all, and in fact, was so drugged up she could barely carry on a conversation. “I called my wife and told her I was bringing her home with me”. They took her to a Kaiser and weaned her from most of the medication she was on - finding the real sweet spot between managing her pain, and keeping her alert enough to get her moving again. 

But as quickly as she began achieving mobility, Charlie was realizing that their home was impossibly outfitted to accommodate someone with a walker. A licensed contractor since 1981, Lott found himself fortunately equipped to start taking the necessary steps to modify their house: removing doors from their hinges, installing grab bars in the shower, raising the toilet seat. “I just started guessing at what I thought would help her to get around. We did what was needed when she needed it.” Eventually, Charlie went so far as to install motion-sensor lighting in her bedroom, the hallway, and the bathroom. 

“She lived with us for nearly nine months before the illness and some other issues caught up to her, and it became necessary to place her in board care where they could keep an eye on her 24/7,” he says. “The real defining moment was when I came home and she was standing over the stove, with her robe caught in the burner about to catch flame. She didn’t even know the gas was on.” 

Those nine months were a game-changer for Charlie, who suddenly had a very clear picture of the struggles and frustration that senior family members must face when dealing with mobility and/or cognitive issues. 

“It also made me realize how great it felt to help someone make it through a difficult time,” says Charlie. “And how a few minor changes made a world of difference.” 

With his background in construction and realty, Charlie found he was set in an extremely unique place to make a difference for those struggling as his mother had. Researching what he could do to expand upon his 36 years experience in general contracting, Charlie found that an entire movement towards Aging in Place had already begun. Giving clients a Home Safety Assessment and providing them a written plan based off of their performance including detailed specifications, services and products based on their needs and budget became the final goal: and Charlie began checking boxes off on his list. 

“I went through the CAPS (Certified Aging in Place) training and became a SRES (Senior Real Estate Specialist) as well, to really set me apart from other contractors who dabble in Universal Design on the sidelines of their other business.” 

Additional certifications in hand, Charlie partnered up with Jane and Dan Zanini to found The Lott Group, LLC. A company that provides specialty plans for clients currently or potentially experiencing mobility issues who would rather age in place than move into an assisted living facility, the Lott Group determines exactly what products and services will best support their ability to carry out everyday activities safely, efficiently, and with dignity.

In 2000, there were 35 million Americans over the age of 65. By 2030, census estimates project that there will be over 71.5 million. The Lott Group is thrilled that they have found a place from which to help, as the number of seniors continues to increase, and folks face the enormous decision of staying in place or heading into a new chapter away from home. 

“When my mom passed away, I realized that the nine months that she spent with our family were priceless,” says Charlie. “She really was part of the tribe: and a huge addition to all of our activities. Dinners, discussions, time with our grown kids. It really was life-changing. And that’s what I want to bring to the table - this priceless gift of freedom to those from whom it has been taken away.”

Charlie LottCharlie LottTo connect with Charlie directly, please call (949) 541-1226. The Lott Group is located at 23811 Aliso Creek Rd., Ste. 181 in Laguna Niguel. BRE #01878857.