Inventive dishes, award-winning cuisine and stellar service make this intimate OC steakhouse a standout
Whether your tastes run to dishes influenced by exotic culinary spices or dishes that tend toward simpler, seasoned fare, there is certainly no shortage of diverse dining destinations from which to choose here in South Orange County. But if you’re looking for inventive cuisine coupled with exemplary service in the spirit of a time-honored classic American steakhouse, there are but a handful worth writing home about.
The elegant enoSTEAK (located in the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel) harkens back to an earlier era - a time steeped in tradition and attention to detail in everything from its interior design and decor to its exquisite culinary offerings and expansive list of highly-rated California vintages (on impressive display as the centerpiece of the dining room is a floor-to-ceiling glass wine cellar). The restaurant’s interior is defined by rich wood, marble flooring, upholstered furnishings and accented by artwork by critically acclaimed painter Sandra Jones Campbell.
On a recent date night, my husband, Tim, and I reserved a table next to the crackling fireplace to indulge in a glass or two of fine wine and each course of beautifully presented, delicious dishes made from the highest quality ingredients … including what are arguably among the best steaks in Orange County featuring prime and grass-fed, pasture-raised beef. The organic produce is locally grown and harvested at the peak of the season. The majority of the herbs used to enhance each specialty appetizer and entree are gathered from the resort’s organic garden. The fish is sustainable and either farm raised or pole/troll caught. enoSTEAK also highlights artisanal cheeses, charcuterie and of course, the aforementioned selection of fine wines.
The menu changes are based on the essence of the season. enoSTEAK’s spring menu - which debuted the night we visited last month - features noteworthy starters, including the decadent crispy brie accompanied by a jalapeño bacon jam, strawberry and pistachio lightly drizzled with balsamic, the Cali onion soup was flavorfully rich with sherry, crouton, San Geronimo, Sonoma Jack cheese and topped with crispy shallots.
Our server Christian recommended that we sample with the chef’s signature spring pea salad. Now I fancy myself somewhat of a salad connoisseur and as such, was expecting it might fall short of expectation. But I have to say, Chef nailed it with what is now be my new favorite salad - which combines micro greens and fresh-from-the-garden peas with toasted almonds, feta and carrot atop an aromatic arugula pesto.
A meat-and-potatoes man, my husband chose the filet mignon and while I typically steer toward seafood selections, opted instead for the Wagyu NY steak prepared Oscar-style with dungeness crab, asparagus and bearnaise – again at Christian’s suggestion. Both of our steaks were grilled to perfection and literally melted in our mouths.
Showcased entrees range from a dry-aged prime ribeye chop, grass-fed filet and coffee-rubbed Wagyu NY Steak (a more marbled cut than the filet) to pan-seared sea bass and Mary’s farm fried half chicken. Accompanying the handcrafted meats and seafood are a selection of five signature compound butters including creamy horseradish, garden herb and garlic/truffle butter, cognac green peppercorn, béarnaise and enoSTK sauce. Enhancements to the entrees include sherry cream sauteed mushrooms, truffled white cheddar cavateli (the chef’s inspired spin on “mac and cheese), Yukon potato mash and creamed corn.
With enoSTEAK, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel has certainly raised the bar for destination dining in the region and for our part, we can’t wait to visit again and experience what will undoubtedly be an equally-inspired summer menu.
Open for dinner Tuesday through Saturday, enoSTEAK is located in The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel at One Ritz Carlton Drive in Dana Point. For more information or reservations, please call (949) 240-2000 or visit www.ritzcarlton.com/lagunaniguel
When I was a child, I remember my parents moving our family into a new house, with pristine, white carpets. Beautiful to look at, but completely impractical when you consider that two young children would soon be tromping about.
As expected, my brother and I managed to ruin a swath of the floor covering in spectacular fashion … and in relatively short order. Enough so that it was replaced with a more manageable shade. Had my parents discovered the benefits of professional carpet cleaning services like those offered by the Laguna Niguel-based Beacon Carpet Cleaning, they certainly would have been better able to keep their flooring, countertops and upholstery from looking like they’d survived the tornado of their kids.
Ken and Linda Rogers, who founded Beacon in 1988, originally intended to simply find something they could do side-by-side. Both having spent their careers in various customer service oriented businesses, and searching for an opportunity to branch out, they decided upon carpet cleaning. In the years since, the couple and their longtime staff “family” have set the standard in residential and commercial carpet cleaning across Orange County.
An IICRC, Wools of New Zealand and Carpet and Rug Institute certified firm, Beacon takes the process of education to the next level, ensuring their team of professionals are trained to an unprecedented degree of sharpness and quality. The Master and Journeyman Certifications, highest available in the carpet cleaning industry, ensure that Ken and Linda’s customers enjoy a necessary service given by a trustworthy crew.
Fast forward (a few) years and I’m now a grown-up with kids of my own. By pure happenstance, our family inherited the gorgeous off-white carpeting that came with the home we purchased a few years ago. Add the happy fact that our abode has been the scene of many an afternoon play date and the recent addition of a new puppy and you can probably imagine the toll the carpets have taken. But unlike my parents, I have long recognized the importance of calling in the experts - well before the point of no return.
When we called Beacon Carpet Cleaning, Ken personally came out to give us an estimate. In utilizing their services, I can confidently share that he, Linda and their crew - many of whom have been with the company for over a decade - are not only highly professional, but are among the nicest people in the business. They did a great job and given that our kids and pup are still young, we’ll very likely be calling on Beacon again in the not-to-distant future.
Maintaining one’s floors, showers, countertops, upholstery, rugs, mattresses, and other areas around the home can be overwhelming: with or without children running amok. Since its inception, Beacon evolved to encompass a complementary business - Marblelife Stone and Tile Restoration with the goal of engaging its clients on as many surfaces as possible. Beacon providing protectants and cleaning services for almost anything you can think of: your Grandmother’s antique Oriental rug to yacht and boat cleaning in the harbors of Orange County.
“Each of these surfaces work together to create a cherished expression of your identity, dreams, and values,” says Ken. “It’s a unique space to celebrate with friends, or just to enjoy time by yourself. We can meet you in that space and help you protect what you invested in, keeping it looking its best for as long as possible.”
Beacon Carpet Cleaning and Marblelife is located at 27665 Forbes Road in Laguna Niguel. To connect with Ken and Linda, call (949) 525-4742 or visit www.beaconcarpetcleaning.com or www.marblelife.com
They say it takes ten years to become an overnight success. Ten years of pounding the pavement, auditioning, making it happen. Ten years of hard work for what looks like instant accomplishment to the outside world. And then, voila! One day, everyone knows who you are. Co-founders of the Acting Academy for Kids, Stephen and Maggie Zygo have been on both sides of the industry. The struggle and the payoff. Since its inception in 2006, their once fledgling professional acting and film school has emerged as a leader in the performing arts community for kids and teens with over 10,000+ students having joined the ranks of talented performers who make up the AA4K family. But it is the couple’s personal story that reads as though scripted for the silver screen - equal parts happiness and heartache.
“While building AA4K, Maggie and I held off on starting a family: we wanted to ensure we were secure enough financially to provide for those new responsibilities,” says Stephen. And on November 28, 2014 - those responsibilities became a reality with the birth of Julian Adam Ke’Aloha Zygo “12 minutes after Thanksgiving, and the first step in the most massive shift our lives had taken yet.”
Six months after Julian was born, Maggie and Stephen were expecting again. The couple closed on a home to accommodate their growing family and were happily making plans for the move when they received word that after nearly a decade operating out of the Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano, the venue would soon be closing its doors - the fate of AA4K uncertain. That news was overshadowed by a devastating Stage 3 cancer diagnosis for Maggie on the very same day their second son was born. While their family has certainly faced some of the greatest challenges they’d ever imagined, Stephen and Maggie have emerged stronger than ever and even more deeply committed to their cause: personally and professionally.
How AA4K evolved
When Stephen and Maggie Zygo took a leap of faith and followed their passion to create Acting Academy for Kids (AA4K), they were simply following a dream.
The couple wanted to create an environment where kids were free to explore musical theater, acting, voice, dance, and instrumental music. Now, their summer camps, musical theater productions, a fully realized film program, voice lessons and private after-school acting classes give kids from all over Orange County the ability to follow their own dreams - without having to trek to LA in search of a like experience.
As Stephen and Maggie both hold Master’s Degrees in teaching (Stephen also holds a degree in Musical Theatre Performance), the couple not only bring a dedication to the craft of performance, but an unflinching drive to bring on the best teachers in town - a combination that attracts instructors who are both trained performing artists and credentialed educators. Live Scan screens, 1st Aid & CPR are also requirements to join the AA4K team.
Over the years Acting Academy has garnered accolades including “Best Children’s Live Theater” and “Best Theater School.” So one might think that they’ve earned a break from creating new, unique programs - but a break is not on anyone’s mind: let alone Stephen or Maggie.
“We are committed to continually strive to provide a premier experience in South Orange County through a variety of programs that will be distinguished by our focus on nurturing the young actor,” says Stephen. “It is our goal to challenge and help our students continually grow and achieve even greater success in whatever paths they choose.” And grow they do. Whether participants choose to pursue musical theater or focus on film, kids come away with the skills they need to be successful in the real world in an atmosphere of care and support parents have come to expect from AA4K.
The Acting Academy’s Musical Theater Series casts, produces, and performs a new popular Broadway musical every 12 weeks. Bringing a full-scale production to life on stage is no small feat, combining professional lighting, sets and sound. The Zygos are thrilled to have found their new “forever” home at a fantastic location in San Clemente inside the Holiday Inn Express (close to Avenida Pico and the 5 Freeway). The all-new “Z Playhouse” will be designed in grand 1920’s Hollywood style - the expansive space converted into a fully functional theater complete with a TV/film studio, recording studio, dressing rooms, costume shop, rehearsal rooms and a concession area.
“Once we knew we would have to find a new location, miracle after miracle rolled in,” says Stephen. “We approached the Community Roots Academy Foundation and are bringing our programs to their performing arts center. Then a local mom found another venue that was willing to work within our budgetary constraints, and we founded an incredible partnership with a performing arts school in Irvine that shares a building with the Pacific Symphony and OC Music and Dance. Three spaces where kids can come in shy and insecure and go off confident and poised.”
Being a part of the AA4K is more than just success, more than being known in the industry, more than developing public speaking skills or rounding out a child’s musical talent. It is a mentorship, and a community, and a family. What better place for a child to find their voice?
Giving each child a chance to raise that voice, the Academy also offers Performing Arts camps all summer long. Providing their signature immersion experience, campers can sign up for a single week, the entire summer, or any amount of time in between. If your child is at the top of bottom of the age range for Summer Camp, not to worry: ages are split into smaller groups of 4-7, 7-10, and 10-13 year olds (contingent upon enrollment). That being said, each program fosters open communication and teamwork among age groups, and the kids love it.
“This side of Heaven isn’t always jazz hands and the silver screen,” says Stephen. “You gotta just keep doing good in the community by making a difference where you can. For us, that’s the arts.”
To connect with Stephen, Maggie and the AA4K team, call (949) 427-0072 or visit www.ActingAcademyforKids.com
Modeling America’s Youth Through Boys & Girls Clubs of Capistrano Valley
It has been exactly 157 years since the first Boys Club was founded in Hartford, Connecticut. Elizabeth Hamersley and Sisters Mary and Alice Goodwin were first to share the vision of enabled, successful youth, eventually stoking the fire to inspire the likes of former US Presidents, Postmaster Generals, and even the director of the FBI to form the Boys Clubs of America in 1956. Since then, the Club has undergone a second redesignation, upgrading its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of America in 1990. In total there are now organizations in all fifty states - serving, by totals from 2010, as many as four million boys and girls.
James Littlejohn, Executive Director of the Boys & Girls Club of Capistrano Valley, has certainly followed in the illustrious footsteps of those who came before him. Providing stimulating and challenging programs in order to reach their potential as productive, responsible and caring citizens has never before been such a daunting or rewarding venture, and James is preparing the South County to be a vanguard for the next 157 years of Clubs.
The notion of a productive future is wildly subjective, but James views his mission through a similar lens to that of a creative designer, achieving perfection “not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away”, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery noted in his 1939 text, Terre des Hommes. This act of distillation has proven to impress upon its youth a sense of self-worth by minimizing the vast and oft overwhelming scope of moral principles to a simple development strategy: academic success, good character, citizenship, and healthy lifestyles. One could spend all his time debating the merits of each facet of social, educational, or vocational leadership.
To that effect, James and his team in the Capistrano Valley are attacking all of the above, with tailored development programs from which their full time staff is seeking results. So how much does it cost? A better question in James’ mind is how much is it worth?
“No child is ever turned away due to lack of ability to pay,” says James. “More than 88% of our membership qualifies for the free or reduced lunch program which grants them scholarship opportunities. And all of our services are provided to our members for a single $70 annual membership fee.”
While at the club, members have the opportunity to choose the programs they wish to participate in. The only mandatory activity is POWERhour homework time. “Allowing our members to make positive choices helps them to grow as a person and prepares them to become responsible citizens.”
The full time staff develop the Clubs’ programs, and are supplemented by volunteers; both part and one-time. Programs are geared towards the Formula for Impact. Like Saint-Exupery’s design strategy, the Clubs’ Formula is driven by select key positive youth development elements: High-Yield Learning activities and regular attendance. The outcome of Academic Success then, is graduated members leaving high school ready for college, trade school, military, or full-time employment. Registering to vote and engaging in the community with model character is a direct outcome of paring down the programs with Good Character and Citizenship in mind. Adopting a healthy diet goes hand in hand with the Clubs’ priority outcome area of Healthy Lifestyle - creating a lifelong commitment to fitness.
“Summer has a devastating effect on America’s kids, especially those who don’t participate in enriching summer activities,” says James. “Summer Brain Gain is hugely important to help keep kids on track in time outside the strict direction of schooling months. Youth aged 13-18 can explore a broad range of career areas, match their interest to development clusters, and identify the skills and education they need for their decided path. We work with the Club to recognize members for extraordinary achievements - standing as ambassadors for Boys & Girls Club youth in a Youth of the Year role.”
Kids can also join the Keystone and Torch Club - both of which offer opportunities for small group leadership and service, maturing younger adolescents at a critical stage in their health, education, community, and social development. Sports like wrestling, tennis, basketball and indoor soccer are on the table too - and participants are exposed to various activities designed to hone their decision-making and critical-thinking skills: learning how to successfully avoid and/or resist alcohol, tobacco, and premature sexual activity.
Want to help out, but not sure how to begin? “Any investment is a worthwhile investment”, James notes. “Expertise, financial, or just your time. Add your name to the list of mentors who have brought this program through the last 157 years.” Who knows? You might be that key piece in Saint-Exupery’s design koan: you add, the kids take away.
Connect with James and the Boys & Girls Club of Capistrano Valley by calling (949) 240-7898 or visit www.bgccapo.com
The legend begins with an apple. Perhaps the crux of all legends are apples: Adam and Eve, Snow White, Atalanta and Hippomenes. This apple, however, dropped from a height onto a specific gentleman’s head, thusly and in a flash confirming all of his ideas regarding gravity, inertia and, as he named it, the “drawing power in matter.” Most of my experience with apples does not include a flash of genius - and most of my experience with gravity just helps me explain away the feeling of my body growing heavier with age. Whatever the legend though, the truth of Newton’s laws of gravity ring true still today, and find special purchase in the fitness arena, when you consider that a body in motion (tends) to stay in motion. Cara Fraser and Nicole Howard at Align Pilates and Yoga in San Juan Capistrano couldn’t agree more, and have a method of to keeping their clients in motion through the connection of “Mind, Body and Spirit.”
As a practice, many cannot tell the difference between yoga and pilates. And if you were to compare them apples to apples, many facets of both disciplines come down to joint stability and alignment. Yoga takes you away from your center and opens up the entire body. However, pilates tends to bring you back to the core, with the added benefit of spring weighted resistance. Being California natives and dancers brought Cara and Nicole to CSULB in the early 2000’s, but being constantly in motion brought them to pilates. Dance, as a discipline relies heavily on muscle control, which depends on a combination of fast and slow twitch muscle responses. Training for flexibility, strength, and agility seemed a no-brainer. Enter the apple and its magic flash. “Pilates and yoga made so much sense to both of us from the outset,” says Nicole. “The higher quality your movement, the higher quality of life: and pilates trains for it all.” Back care, pain management, breathwork, scoliosis, special populations - even just your basic strength conditioning.
Emphasizing proper alignment and technique, the team that Nicole and Cara have built at Align includes a staff of highly educated and talented instructors who want to meet you on your level of movement. “We offer a full schedule of pilates mat classes and an array of yoga classes, which are very hard to find in one location,” says Cara. “We are also one of the only studios in the areas to offer aerial yoga classes utilizing a large supportive hammock to deepen and help one’s yoga practice; not to mention it makes things a little more fun.” As children, both Cara and Nicole spent a great many hours in the outdoors: hiking, camping, and skiing. So it’s no wonder that the study and application of movement has become their life’s work. “I recently took up 6 Man Outrigger Canoeing,” Nicole says with a smile. “I just can’t seem to stop trying new things, and each sport takes joint stability, core strength and long, agile muscles. Pilates brings a focus to my everyday practice that I can take with me anywhere I go.”
Both graduates of CSULB and recipients of Master level Pilates Certifications, Nicole and Cara have been teaching for the last ten years. “I started teaching in San Clemente after I graduated college,” says Cara. “Nicole moved to San Clemente in 2003 and starting teaching Pilates that same year at a physical therapy office in SJC. She has been teaching in the area ever since, and truly has found her home here.” Being local daughters of the community has helped them gain a unique perspective on their clients and the special demands of our Southern California lifestyle. “You want meditation? Take Pilates. You can’t get anything out of it if the effort is mindless and sloppy. You want to recover from a surfing injury? Everyone has some form of muscular imbalance from habitual patterns. Pilates helps to correct them.”
Perhaps just feeling like you’re a bit more apple or pear shaped that you’d like to be? Not only has Pilates been linked to mental and physical stress reduction, which lowers cortisol levels in the body, it can transform your physique as well. More and more studies are showing that an improved physical state can lead to increased stimulation and brain function - bringing the body back to its true balance. Overworking already tired and weak muscles leads to injury and strain. But choosing to mindfully engage weak or underdeveloped areas brings fresh blood flow to the body which contributes to healing joints, tissues and correcting postural deviations.
“Our yoga classes are non-heated, which means you warm up your body the natural way, and the concept of following breathing patterns isn’t just some transcendental B.S.,” says Nicole. “Breath is life, and fully using correct breathing patterns can actually increase your lung capacity, invigorating you, and releasing stress and tension in the body, even as you’re working hard.”
Most studios can get to feeling like you’re in an intro to Physics 101 class - lost in huge numbers of students trying to follow along with the textbook because the professor has already moved on. At Align Pilates and Yoga, they have instilled a deep commitment to specialization: and all their instructors have been trained by the top certifying programs in the world. Most have over 10 years of teaching experience, and want to get personal with each client, and each client’s condition. Suffering from any physical ailment can be crippling over a long enough period of time, and if we are to follow Newton’s theory - a body at rest tends to stay at rest. Of course, certain back or neck conditions, for instance, shouldn’t be moved in certain directions to maintain a safe exercise program. But when done correctly, pilates and yoga are a low impact, safe form of exercise. “It’s hugely important before you go into a class to inform the instructors of injuries or preexisting conditions to reduce the risk of further injury. But it shouldn’t exclude you from using your body to its utmost level of capability.”
Whether you’ve had a flash of genius or you’re just feeling the effects of gravity in a new way, there’s no time like the present to stop making excuses for your quality of life, and start making changes. Align Pilates and Yoga will mindfully keep you moving in the right direction for years to come.
Connect with the Align Pilates team by stopping by their new studio at 31986 Plaza Dr., Suite E6 in San Juan Capistrano, call (949) 481-3577 or visit www.alignpilatescenter.com
Call me old fashioned, but I believe that physical photos are a medium worth preserving. When I recently sat down to put together my daughter’s baby book, I thought of how printed images might at times seem like a thing of the past. But then I can’t imagine showing off my family photos by scrolling through all the images I posted to Facebook once upon a time.
Diana Schmitt of the San Juan Capistrano-based Accents Portraits by Diana understands the desire for individuals and families to preserve their most precious memories in more than merely a digital format. She has spent the better part of 30 years specializing in family portraits, wedding photos and capturing the most priceless of moments in all types of life celebrations.
With nearly 30 years of experience, Diana’s focus is families, and she always aims to deliver “extraordinary customer service.”
“Diana is amazing,” says Heidi Hitt. “She has taken so many special pictures over the years for me and my family. They all turn out so beautifully. I am so blessed to have someone I can trust to help me capture special moments in time. Everybody loves when we send out our Christmas cards; they can’t believe how beautiful the pictures are. Thank you Diana for all the beautiful memories.”
Accent Portraits by Diana and San Juan Photo and Digital is located at 32281 Camino Capistrano, Suite C-104 in SJC.
They can be reached at (949) 661-6465 or online at www.accentportraitsbydiana.com
It’s no wonder Carolyn Franks is always smiling ... as the owner and operator of ZOOMARS Petting Zoo, her days are defined by pony rides, hundreds of fluffy bunny rabbits and guinea pigs, creatures big and small and unforgettable children’s excursions punctuated by squeals of delight.
Located in the heart of San Juan Capistrano’s charming historic district, ZOOMARS Petting Zoo opened in the early 1980s as a “backyard barnyard” called the Jones Family Mini Farm. Its buildings date back to the 1800s and the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the 12 years since she originally envisioned the innocent, affordable family entertainment opportunities that would come to define this local landmark, Carolyn has continually grown its offerings - both in both in animal attractions and unique activities.
Today, ZOOMARS is home to many different kinds of animals, including goats, sheep, llamas, ponies, horses, alpaca and hundreds of bunnies and guinea pigs to feed, cuddle and love. Although activities currently include pony rides, train rides and gemstone mining, Carolyn has recently introduced new musical merchandise (a CD of children’s songs created especially for ZOOMARS by a local singer/songwriting parent of kiddos who have long enjoyed the zoo) and has other equally fun ideas in the works (think jewelry design using the semi-precious stones your little ones have “mined”).
Carolyn has been harboring a not-so-secret wish to bring a special guinea pig “mascot” to life on the pages of a children’s book. While she had a very “specific idea” of Gillie the Guinea Pig’s “story” and what he would look like, the artists and illustrators she enlisted over the years weren’t quite able to truly capture the character’s personality and “sparkle.” That is, until she met Michele Dodds , a local artist - and fan of ZOOMARS - who created a “spot on” rendition of Carolyn’s vision.
From the minute you arrive at the ticket counter, you are greeted with smiles and happiness that is found throughout the zoo. If you need a quick lesson to hold a guinea pig, an extra pair of hands to set up a party, or a fun-loving miner to help your little guy strike gold, there is sure to be a caring zookeeper at every turn.
“The things I hear every day from people who have been coming to this petting zoo for years are just inspiring beyond words,” says Carolyn. “Especially when I hear things like, ‘I used to take my kids here and now I take my grandkids here.’ Wow, that’s so amazing to me. Sometimes when I’m feeling overwhelmed or had a challenging day, I just GOOGLE ZOOMARS and watch the stream of endless pictures, blogs and videos from moms and dads who have posted their child’s first pony ride or a story about the wonderful time everyone had at their 4-year- old’s birthday party. Then I sit back in my swivel chair and say, Yep, this what I do. How blessed am I that I can create these milestone memories for people? That feeling makes it all worth it.”
Connect with Carolyn by visiting ZOOMARS at 31791 Los Rios Street in San Juan Capistrano, by calling (949) 831-6550 or visit www.zoomars.com
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.
A couple of years ago in 2015, automakers topped a 15 year peak, as the confluence of cheaper gas, higher employment, low interest rates and a stronger economy created the perfect storm for auto companies to sell a whopping 17.5 million cars and light trucks.
According to the Wall Street Journal, Americans spent roughly $570 million. Two years down the road on an average new car, and you’re looking at light maintenance: a few oil changes, wiper replacements, maybe a belt or some shiny new tires. But as the years tack on, each one of those 17.5 million cars will begin to wear down. Alternators break. Tie rod ends need replacing. (Let’s not even talk about the fact that I’ve been calling them tire rods this whole time.) So where to take your car for those repairs and routine maintenances?
Performance Haus is here to answer your questions. A mainstay of the Dana Point community since 1974, the Haus specializes in factory scheduled maintenance and repairs for Honda, Acura, Toyota, Lexus and Volkswagen. Proud of the reputation and history they have in the industry, Performance Haus has recently rolled up their service doors to welcome all domestic brands as well.
“Repair shops just don’t stay in a community as long as we do unless they have provided folks with outstanding service and pricing,” says Ray, service manager. “We don’t believe in making extra profits at the customer’s expense.”
As idyllic as it sounds, the Haus has the gumption and longstanding to back up its lofty promises. Using only original or OEM parts, rest assured knowing that your repairs were completed with the highest quality parts available at the highest level of workmanship on the market.
Offering everything from brake service to suspension and steering, the technicians at Performance Haus have been schooled in industry best practices, and perform all of its services and repairs per factory specifications.
“Quit being a number at your local dealership,” says Ray. “Wouldn’t you rather be treated with respect, courtesy, and loyalty? And our service doesn’t just stop at the door: we have a 12 month/12,000 mile warranty.” Be it tie rods or tire rods, the team at Performance Haus has a fix for you, and they’ll make you feel at home while they’re at it.
According to a recent LA Times article, “the Southern California housing market is red-hot again.” 2015 was the second-busiest year since the 2008 recession, and experts are calling for 2016 to be the year that the peak returns to Orange County. With so much hype in the forecast, it can be difficult for both buyers and sellers to track market trends, sift through all the numbers, and forecast what may or may not happen over years to come. I know I’d rather choose a new paint color or build my dream wraparound porch than pore tediously over CoreLogic statistics. And that’s where Sheri Normandin comes into the picture.
Often, determining the difference between one’s skill set and one’s passion leaves much to be desired: a rift not many of us have the luxury to cross over in our professional lives. For Sheri, seeing her skill set and passion collide in the real estate market has revolutionized hers. With over 25 years of executive level management and marketing in over 26 countries, Sheri’s transition to luxury property management was as smooth as can be. In fact, it doesn’t get much smoother than earning herself a top 4% spot in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Agents nationwide: and an entry in the 2014 and 2015 President’s Club. Yet, unlike a great many OC brokers, Sheri doesn’t hail from Orange County.
“I grew up on a farm,” she notes with a smile. “I’m interested in Orange County in the same way my buyers and sellers are interested: I came here to buy a house for myself, I dealt with the same process, the same negotiations; and I think that makes me uniquely suited to welcome folks to the area.”
With the increased global reach of real estate, understanding and appropriately providing services to meet the various needs out there are constantly added to the equation of buying or selling a home. Sheri services all of South Orange County, not just the city she resides in, and she is willing to go the extra mile to help her clients understand what it is they are really achieving with her at the helm of their housing project.
“The needs of a buyer are vastly different than those of a seller,” she says. “We have seen a strong recovery over the past few years, but with low inventories, it continues to be a sellers market.”
So what questions are you asking as either a buyer or seller in the current market? You may have the perfect paint chip in hand, but what kind of wall would you like to decorate? You may be approaching retirement, and are looking to downsize. Do you have specific square footage in mind? Do you have a budgetary cap? Is there room for the family dog? A yard?
“Floor plans and functionality of a home can vary greatly and rearranging the current use with minor changes can have a much bigger value to a buyer, if they can see it,” says Sheri. “Not all agents can provide that vision. I look for areas I can make the process easier for my clients and actively take things off their plate to reduce stress.”
Because everyone’s motivations are different, a good realtor connects with clients and can manage the expectations on the table, while successfully maximizing results. Finding a broker that will offer more than a minimum level of service however, can be painstaking. With her background in marketing and negotiation, it is no wonder that Sheri has found such success - invaluable when navigating the market and its constant fluctuations.
“When I’m looking for a prospective agent to sell my home, I’m asking if they do this as a full time job - I’m asking for reviews and references - I’m asking what sets them apart from other agents. Professional photography, quality marketing materials and online exposure are base requirements these days to provide great results for the seller. I go beyond what is expected, which changes with each client. I’ve planted flowers, moved couches. Selling or buying a home can be an emotional experience, and making it as positive as possible is my goal.”