Ann Laurence

Ann Laurence

Ask anyone what the most comforting foods are, and they’ll likely have Italian near the top of the list. With its hearty vegetables, homemade pastas, delicious meats, and breads, brings flavorful tradition home for dinner.

The Romeo family began their restaurants with a sole purpose: to being a vanguard for that tradition in Orange County. Linked with a healthy Mediterranean taste, Romeo Cucina hasn’t changed the way they operate in their 25 years of business - always keeping abreast of Italian food trends to update their menu with innovative dishes in an atmosphere of exceptional service.

Pescatora newShowing the ancient skills of Italian hospitality created a signature style that is hard to find elsewhere. Paired with an intergenerational love of good cooking, and blended with the artistry and creativity of the current era, it’s not to be beat. Tina, Ada and Michael personally greet guests into the Laguna Niguel restaurant with a genuine warmth that feels like coming home - right down to the open fireplace in the corner and the starched white table cloths.

Battuta CopyHave one of the variety of menu options, changing daily and seasonally depending on the freshest ingredients, or bring your whole party in for an evening that won’t soon be forgotten. Popular starters include the Bruschetta Caprese - Romeo grilled bread topped with mozzarella, tomato, basil and balsamic reduction and the Carpaccio di Manzo which flavorfully combines thin sliced raw beef filet with artichoke hearts, arugola (Italian aromatic lettuce), capers and Parmigiano cheese.

Entrees range from delicious homemade pasta and rich, creamy risotto dishes to chicken, veal, beef and seafood dishes and the always crowd-pleasing thin crust wood-fired pizzas. Love gnocchi? Try Romeo’s homemade potato pillows in your choice of pesto or fresh tomato sauce. The homemade Lasagnette Graziella arrives in a classic bolognese ground beef ragout with fresh tomato sauce, mozzarella, earthy vegetables and herbs while Cioppino is a seafood aficionado’s dream - chock full of fresh clams, mussels, shrimp, swordfish, calamari, scallops and crab in a delightful broth with vegetables and herbs.

salmone newMore of a meat eater? The Ossobuco Alla Romano is veal shank tender to the bone, slowly braised in a fresh vegetable-tomato sauce with a side of fettuccine pasta and the Tagliata di Manzo is a grilled to perfection sirloin steak served with cherry tomato, caramelized onion, arugula, Parmigiano and topped with a shallot sage butter.

scottata 2From wedding parties to happy hour - no party is too large or too small. Just follow your nose to the family kitchen, and join Romeo’s for mouthwatering tradition for years to come.


Romeo Cucina is located at 28241 Crown Valley Parkway in Laguna Niguel. For reservations, call (949) 831-4131 or visit romeocucina.com

My grandparents owned a beautiful three bedroom casita in Solana Beach. Just up the road from the train station, their home was built in the twenties, and renovated completely when I was in high school. When my grandfather passed away, I moved in with my grandma, doing chores around the house for her and helping to maintain the garden. One day, I was looking for my grandfather’s whetstone, to sharpen an old pair of shears, and I stumbled across his Colt Python 357 Magnum. I had to look it up - I thought it might be a relic from one of the movies he worked on in the 50’s, but according to my grandma, it was just “one of those things your grandpa just insisted on having.”

Jeff McCabe has gotten more of his fair share of calls from people like myself, who accidentally come across family firearms in their home and don’t have the first idea of what to do with them. The owner of California Gun Services, Jeff is in the business of safe gun storage, ownership and disposal. The first step? Following California gun laws. I had zero clue that by driving the Colt to the Army Navy to try and turn it in I’d be breaking a couple laws. According to Jeff there are laws restricting gifting or selling a gun, receiving a gun, borrowing a gun, transporting a gun, even storing guns. New laws come out every year, and it is almost impossible for anyone, even aficionados to keep up with them. Jeff and his team work closely with local law enforcement to ensure the process is easy and safe.

My grandma hadn’t touched the revolver in years, though my grandfather had made sure she shot it at some canned tomatoes on a desert trip when they were younger. “I’m afraid the grandkids might find it,” she told me that day. “I’d feel safer without it.” A sentiment shared by Jeff’s friends, family and fellow church parishioners - many of whom have sought his assistance over the years to ensure the proper storage or disposal of firearms they found themselves in possession of upon the passing of a loved one.

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE

What initially started as a favor for a friend has grown into a bonafide side business as word has spread about Jeff’s particular skill set and confidence in handling firearms. As the owner of the Orange-based One Way Painting, Jeff often encountered situations whereby he would come across a firearm when moving furniture around for a client prior to starting a painting project. “Many times, the firearm belonged to my client’s father, grandfather or late husband and she never touched it because she was afraid of guns, but didn’t know how to get rid of it safely. So many times these guns are loaded and just stuck in a nightstand or stored under the bed.”

Raised in a family that had firearms for hunting and sporting, Jeff was taught early on how to handle, be respectful and always be safe when handling firearms. I believe that we as Americans have a great privilege to be able to own a firearm, but with that comes an even greater responsibility to not only protect ourselves legally by complying with Federal and State laws, but to protect ourselves, our neighbors and most importantly, our children from all possible dangers associated with firearms.”

San Clemente resident Rhonda Murphy couldn’t agree more. “There are many things to deal with when a loved one dies. In 2010, when cleaning out my husband’s closet, I came across several of his guns. I didn’t want to keep them and was unsure of what to do with them. My daughters didn’t want the guns and I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of storing them as my grandkids are often at my house. A friend suggested I should call Jeff. He was very nice, easy to talk with, trustworthy and knowledgable. He came to my house, checked all the guns to make sure they were unloaded and removed them. Jeff also told me that one of the guns was a collector’s item and was able to sell it for me. One less thing to have to worry about. I can’t recommend Jeff enough.”

As part of their auditing procedures, California Gun Services gives clients the option of a Voluntary Registration Form (in the case where the weapon was inherited). Many of Jeff’s clients are like my grandma who just prefers that the gun is destroyed. Jeff holds a Federal Firearm License and as such, is able to take possession of firearms without a Gun Transfer. He can also inspect firearms to ensure they are still in working order, and even tell you if the gun, or guns, you have are California Compliant.

“Most people are unaware that firearms that were purchased legally from a gun shop just a year ago may now be illegal in California,” says Jeff. “If we find a firearm that is out of compliance with the law, you’ll receive solid advice on how to make it compliant, sell it out of state, or potentially dispose of it. Our process is approved and certified by local law enforcement, it’s legal, safe and adheres to all state and federal firearms laws.

“Since firearms last more than a lifetime, families often have small and large collections of guns in their home. Knowing what you have and what to do with those firearms is important. Whether it’s from a death in the family, inheritance, or just a need for clearing out some that you know you will never use, we can help.

Following California gun laws is essential. We come to you. It’s a safe, easy and professional process.”


Seal of the United States Department of JusticeCalifornia Gun Services’ processes are approved and certified by local law enforcement and adheres to all state and federal firearms laws for the following services:

GUN AUDIT
Jeff will come to you and inspect your firearms to make sure they are in proper working order and that they are California Compliant. If your firearm is not compliant with the California Law, you will receive solid advice on how to make it compliant or possibly dispose or sell it out of state.

GUN DISPOSAL
If a firearm is found to be unsafe to use, cannot be repaired and has no historical value. California Gun Services will permanently destroy it by torching the receiver or frame into three parts or cutting it with a saw into five parts. Jeff will document this with photos and log it for the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and email you the proof of destruction.

6474643 orangepolicedepartmentGUN TRANSFERS
Private Party Transfers happen between two individuals and will need to take place at a Federal Firearm Licensed Dealer. Since this needs to be done at a Gun Shop, Jeff cannot offer this as an in-home service. If you have inherited or legally obtain a firearm, he can provide you with a Voluntary Registration form or you can download it from the California Department of Justice which is NOT required to do at a gun shop. California Gun Services has a Federal Firearm License and can legally come to you and take possession of a firearm without a Gun Transfer.

GUN PURCHASES OF UNWANTED FIREARMS OR COLLECTIONS
California Gun Services will come to you and appraise a single gun or an entire collection of any size. You will receive an explanation of how guns are legally sold and transferred. California Gun Services can then make you a fair market value offer and/or explain how a gun can be put up for sale on consignment.

1200px US AlcoholTobaccoFirearmsAndExplosives SealAMMUNITION AUDIT
California Gun Services will make sure you are using the right ammunition for the firearms that you have and that it is legal in the State of California. Jeff will inspect the ammunition to make sure that it has been stored correctly, is in good condition and will ensure that the ammunition is being stored properly, using the right type of container and stored in the right location in your home.


057 One Way Painting057 One Way PaintingTo connect with Jeff directly, call (714) 639-9608 or for more information, visit CaliforniaGunServices.com

Stephen R. Covey, one of my favorite authors (nerd alert) famously wrote that “most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” I have met many of these people. I am sure you have as well. Lesser often though, are the ones you meet in the camp of understanding. Even with very few words spoken.

A great many things can come from a good listening ear: the least of which offers clearer communication and a sense of settlement for all parties involved. That feeling of settlement and contentedness cannot be overstated. Which was why when you meet Gina Lauren Hacken (who owns her own interior design studio in Tustin) and she turns out to be an avid listener above almost everything else, you will quickly realize that you’ve finally found the person who would help you get to the root of what you want to change about the functionality and unique style of your personal living space. Gina specializes in residential interior design, kitchen and bath design, furniture, flooring, accessorizing and window treatments.

2018 09 07 12.08My husband and I certainly could have used her help when moved into our “new” family home a few years ago. We struggled to come up with a cohesive plan for the interior: one especially that would match the tone and tenor of the exterior of the house. We wavered between casual and classic or a stunning, but incredibly-difficult-to-execute (for us) Tuscan countryside aesthetic. We’d poured over interior design books and my Pinterest board was littered with photos of the two, but somehow, the putting together of individual pieces just never gave us that contented feeling we were searching for. What we needed then was the assistance of an interior design professional like Gina who could help us articulate our vision.

“The foundation for each project I take on begins with listening to the client first,” says Gina. “I use this foundation for the design relationship, transforming the details of my client’s dreams into their everyday reality.” With services ranging from commercial to residential, and from simple tasks such as window treatments to full-fledged concept execution (down to artwork selection!) Gina Lauren Interiors is out to change the scope of design services. “I’ve worked for world-renowned companies, and done all the classes, but I wanted to see a wider range of clients: everyday people who may just need help with a color consultation, all the way to the full scope design renovations my background was in.”

It was in her early studies of Western and Near Eastern Art History that her passion for interior design evolved, eventually leading to a Bachelor’s in French + Art History, and a second in Interior Design. Taking inspiration from her travels all over the world, her business savvy, and the direction of several well-known interior design mentors, Gina cultivated relationships with both domestic and international clients. Applying her knowledge and visual talent to projects was a no-brainer, and working with those who came to her for advice quickly turned into space planning, furniture and accessory procurement, and final installation.

“We always start with a custom floor plan, ensuring the space of each room is designed to its fullest potential.”

Whether you have a specific color in mind, or are completely undecided, Gina can assist with choosing each motif and theme.

“Looking to switch out your sofa pillows, or interested in highlighting the new buffet in your dining room? We never overlook scale and proportion, and can address everything from a simple corner of the house to an entire space,” says Gina. “We believe good design should be accessible, no matter what the budget. Everyone should have a beautiful and comfortable home.” And it starts with listening. “We begin with your dreams and ideas, and then we let quality, passion, talent, connection, and knowledge fill in the rest.”

PastedGraphic 1236Gina can be reached directly by calling (858) 220-5264 or visit www.GinaLaurenInteriors.com

Everyone knows that you’re not supposed to pick favorites when it comes to family. But let’s be honest, we all have them. Don’t tell: my Aunt Paula is my favorite of my father’s siblings.

She’s fiery, like you might expect a redhead to be. Out of her many quirks, most of which result in her annoying my father and delighting us kids, her penchant for golf is the absolute quirkiest. Plan a family get-together, and she’ll probably have a golf game before, or after. Plan a vacation? She’ll be golfing.

My husband and I planned a trip to Alaska to visit her last year, and in preparation, we knew at some point we would have to brush up on our game. Prior to our trip, my husband’s golf knowledge came from watching movies like Happy Gilmore. That wasn’t going to cut it, since we were going to tee up with Paula. In retrospect, we wish we would have known about No Bogeys Golf in Laguna Niguel to brush up on my husband’s basic skills and get my equipment looked at. No Bogeys has been in operation for the last 25 years, and they’re absolutely the official word on instruction, equipment and performance.

DSC01000For amateurs and pro golfers alike, the two keys are smarts and shafts. No matter the game you’d like to play, without the right knowledge of the course, your swing, body mechanics, and the fit of the clubs, you’re not going to succeed. At No Bogeys, they pride themselves on maximizing golfing performance.

“Not only can we pick out the right shafts to maximize your game, our fitters can explain why we selected that particular shaft,” says Owner Kyle Cullum. “We understand the variables that need to be considered when selecting golf equipment.” Most places will set you up with an instructor and a virtual screen, and send you on your way a couple hours later. The staff at No Bogeys covers everything from your swing to ball data. “We use state-of-the-art technology like TrackMan to capture data, and have cameras to view your swing. We do everything in house like building custom golf clubs to gripping handles, to repairing broken shafts.”

Owner Kyle Cullum and his family.Owner Kyle Cullum and his family.Kyle has been a golfer for about as many years as my Aunt Paula. Now perhaps Paula could give him a run for his money when it comes to sass, but he’s worked in as many arenas as she’s got swift comebacks, and found his passion was in helping players improve their overall satisfaction in their game.

“I realized years ago that dialing in a player’s equipment was just as important as working on their swing, and when I put the two together, it revolutionized everyone’s performance,” he says. By assessing the client needs, No Bogeys takes its technology to whatever level you need it. MySwing 3-D graphs the full trajectory of any shot. TrackMan takes swing training to the next level. Once you feel comfortable, bring back your friends for a private party, or simply a day on the green outside.

Kyle is proud of the work No Bogeys takes care of off the green as well. Linking up with Wounded Warrior, Folds of Honor, The First Tee, CHP 1-99 Foundation, and more, No Bogeys supports the fundraising efforts of local nonprofit organizations all over South Orange County.

“It isn’t enough for us to just swing selfishly,” says Kyle. “We’re invested in the performance of our community as well.” Needless to say, with Kyle and his team in our corner, we won’t get our argyle handed to us by Aunt Paula out on the course the next time we visit. No bogeys to survive the sass. I’ll tee up for that anytime.


No Bogeys is located at 27601 Forbes Road in Laguna Niguel. To connect with Kyle directly, call (949) 595-4405 or visit www.nobogeysgolf.com

It doesn’t take a lot to impress me when I walk into a pharmacy. At this point, the large chains that scatter the map like Starbucks greet you with as much enthusiasm as you might expect someone walking into the dentist for a root canal. (No offense to dentists…) Really, I’d like a smile - maybe a simple “how’s your day going.”

Maybe just the acknowledgement that I’m a human, who doesn’t particularly want to stand in line, but needs whatever particular item I happen to be picking up at the time. Like me, Michael Parsi had also had enough. A graduate from the University of Central Oklahoma with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry in 1994, Parsi went onto Southwestern Oklahoma State University Pharmacy School in 1998. After working as a pharmacy manager for one of those large chains for 15 years, Michael decided he’d had enough.

“I needed to spend more time with my patients”, he notes, “they’re not just a number waiting in a long line. They deserve better.” Established in 2013, Seena Pharmacy is truly dedicated to providing superior service and care. One prescription, one customer at a time. Always greeting their customers with a smile and a sense of appreciation, the pharmacy instantly stands out in my book. Like I said, it doesn’t take a lot to impress me. Offering bubble wrap for assisted livings, free shipping and delivery, durable medical equipment, and vaccinations, the service doesn’t stop with a smile. “We try to take advantage of our niche market to take our business to a whole new level.”

Also offering some compounding, the pharmacy can create unique and formulated medication tailored to fit each specific individual’s needs. For some, it could be as simplistic as adding flavor to a solution to make it go down a bit easier - or perhaps transforming a pill to a solution. Or, it could be creating a complex mix containing multiple active ingredients designed to work in a specific combination. The perfect combinations are tough to control, but with a little love and a lot of practice and care, there can be freedom in the formula.

My intention was, and is to help people and bring a smile to their face: because I care.

More than just a simple retail store. More than just a pharmacy. Michael has a passion for people - a passion for his patients, and though they work with a small team of pharmacists, each is more dedicated than the next to providing the best care for each customer that walks in their door. “This is a part of our legacy. We have been supporting our communities by supporting schools and local charities. We have been involved with the Laguna Hills High School charity, Laguna Niguel Soccer Teams, the International Society for Children with Cancer, and more.”

Small businesses often raise the bar on service. With more dedicated, caring staff, and owners who actually care about what products are selling off their shelves, and to whom. Seena has one of the most incredible pharmaceutical reputations out there, with five-star reviews littering their Yelp page. Customers rave - “the most personal pharmacy in Orange County,” “no need to leave a message and wait for days, I recommend them highly!”. On and on they go. The last chain pharmacy I went to struggled for their three stars. Some, after coming home from experiencing more atrocious customer service, I find only two stars. Abysmal. Unnecessary, when you think about the ease with which the pharmacists serve their clients at Seena. “My intention was, and is to help people and bring a smile to their face: because I care”, Michael says with a smile. That’s plenty enough to impress even me.


Seena Pharmacy is located at 24731 Alicia Parkway, Suite B in Laguna Hills. For info, call (949) 462-9700.

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

Brios looks like halibutThis place isn’t the kind of establishment that has huge, bedazzled lights pointing to it with acrobatic sign holders out front. This restaurant respects itself in a quaint location at 24050 Camino Del Avion in Dana Point. If you didn’t know about it, you might miss it driving by. But after you read this, I guarantee you’ll make it a point to seek it out. 

For starters, the Antipasto Italiano Platter arrives with an array of flavorful favorites - Prosciutto di Parma, artisan salame, fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan olives, grilled artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and toasted ciabatta bread. Yum! A seafood aficionado? Try the Mare Platter which is made for sharing: Buttermilk battered calamari fritti, seared Ahi tuna and blue shrimp scampi.

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

For heartier appetites, I recommend the Filetto Toscano (USDA Premium choice filet mignon medallions pan roasted and served with a sweet red onion, shallots, Chianti reduction and melted fontina cheese, and favorites like the Rigatoni Casa Brio characterized by grilled chicken breast, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, baby spinach, cremini mushrooms, sweet baby peas and fresh basil topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella.

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

Solutions for a SMART Home … and Breaking Free from the Big Box for Your Perfect Home Theater System

When I was younger, my Mom loved to read me the book “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie.” The plot essentially revolves around an ever-growing list of to-do’s that had to be accomplished, all set into motion by the simple act of giving a mouse a cookie. This tale came back to me recently when I purchased a new television at Best Buy. What was a simple shopping trip ended up being an adult’s version of that circular tale. If you give a grownup a television, they’ll have to measure their wall. When they measure the wall, they’ll realize they may actually have room for a bigger television. When they buy the bigger television, they’ll find out they have no idea how to mount it to the wall. When they start mounting it to the wall, they’ll see that the power outlets are all in the wrong places. When they realize the outlets need to be moved, they’ll call an electrician. (This could go on forever.)

Luckily for me, and for so many others who have been on the receiving end of ReelTime Sight and Sound’s patient, intelligent, and personalized service, the rabbit hole of home automation didn’t swallow me entirely. With the help of their independent certified Control4 dealer, it was easy to update my home without upending my entire life. After all, the true luxury of an integrated entertainment system is really dependent on its ability to deliver seamless entertainment. By placing every control at your fingertips, the team at ReelTime helps homeowners manage everything from how brightly lit your family room is, to your streaming devices - all with a single remote. And best yet? You can control your whole home from the comfort of your couch- even seeing who is at the front door, without ever leaving your seat. Simple, clean, and uncluttered.

And on the home entertainment front … when you started planning for your ultimate home theater set-up and sound system, could you find the right media cabinetry for your particular space – cabinetry that wouldn’t catch on fire from the heat of the equipment, or that would simply look good in the room? Did you understand half of what the televisions, receivers and other devices could do, and did you have anyone to hold your hand to make sure you weren’t overspending for what you wanted?

Yeah, neither did I.

Big box retailers, the professed champions of value, are happy to sell you any home theater and sound equipment you think you might like, and send you off to figure it out at home. That’s what they do. And that’s all they do.

If you want the home theater system that you envision, seek the services of Skip Myers and his team of experienced professionals at ReelTime Sight & Sound to take you from start to finish for the home theater or sound system of your dreams.

“Usually there is a part of the job that you find you just can’t do by yourself,” says Skip, who has overseen the design and installation of thousands of home theater and sound systems over the course of 40-plus years in the business. “You get your brand new television home, you’re so excited, then you realize you need to move an outlet or none of the cabinets you can find will fit your space. We’re here to make sure you get the equipment that will give you what you want and the system that will work with that equipment, without leaving you to fend for yourself.”

Skip opened the doors at ReelTime Sight & Sound in 1983. Today, the technicians and designers that Skip assigns to clients are all ReelTime Sight & Sound employees, knowledgeable in all home theater and sound technologies. First, they work closely with you to determine what you’re looking for. Then they custom design every aspect of the project, from wiring to custom-built cabinets, frames, or built-in wall designs. Finally, licensed, in-house contractors install your entertainment system with care and precision.
There are a couple of things that people may not think about when they embark upon the road to their own home entertainment system.

“You need to think about your home theater goals,” says Skip. “You don’t have to do everything at once – you can do it bit by bit – but if you know where you’re going, you’ll save money and when it’s all said and done, you’ll have exactly what you want and what you will actually use. We’re here to help you determine your goals.”

Skip is also an advocate for getting what you’ll use, which is part of the design and planning process.

“You can buy everything you want to, but if you can’t operate it, what’s the point?” he says. “There’s the television, DVD and Blue-ray; there’s the receiver, there’s Apple TV… it’s all great, but how do you get them to work together? We’re big advocates of the universal remote. Not everyone knows how to get the most out of their systems with one powerful remote – they’re not expensive, but the best ones are computer-based. We’ll set that up for you so you’re getting the most out of your custom system.”

It’s easy to assume that personal service is expensive, but a conversation with Skip and the experts at ReelTime Sight & Sound is free. Ultimately, in planning your purchases for the right outcome, you’re likely to save money while avoiding chilling setbacks. The only chilling you want to be doing is in front of your fantasy home theater system.

Connect with Skip Myers and ReelTime Sight & Sound by calling (949) 240-0555, stop by the showroom at 26381 Via De Anza in San Juan Capistrano or visit www.reeltimesightandsound.com

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

Brios looks like halibutThis place isn’t the kind of establishment that has huge, bedazzled lights pointing to it with acrobatic sign holders out front. This restaurant respects itself in a quaint location at 24050 Camino Del Avion in Dana Point. If you didn’t know about it, you might miss it driving by. But after you read this, I guarantee you’ll make it a point to seek it out. 

For starters, the Antipasto Italiano Platter arrives with an array of flavorful favorites - Prosciutto di Parma, artisan salame, fresh buffalo mozzarella, Tuscan olives, grilled artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers and toasted ciabatta bread. Yum! A seafood aficionado? Try the Mare Platter which is made for sharing: Buttermilk battered calamari fritti, seared Ahi tuna and blue shrimp scampi.

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

For heartier appetites, I recommend the Filetto Toscano (USDA Premium choice filet mignon medallions pan roasted and served with a sweet red onion, shallots, Chianti reduction and melted fontina cheese, and favorites like the Rigatoni Casa Brio characterized by grilled chicken breast, caramelized onions, roasted garlic, baby spinach, cremini mushrooms, sweet baby peas and fresh basil topped with fresh buffalo mozzarella.

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

Certain things in life I am very grateful for. These things include chocolate, wine, soul music and places like the Doheny Clothing Exchange in Capistrano Beach. If you’ve been to a place like this, then I know you’re already giving me a mental “Hallelujah.” But if you haven’t, you are so missing out!

11165164 1016844968335670 4309496070208055218 nPicture this: racks and racks of men and women’s name brand or designer clothing and accessories, all gently used or sometimes new, at way, way less than the original price. And the beauty of it is I can bring in my own gently used clothing, and trade in for something trendier and better fitting. The owners, mother and daughter team Pamela and Caia take the time to truly inspect each item, so there’s never any mystery stains, rips or smells.

11017705 978343165519184 6827038975165818169 nBecause they get new merchandise every day, their store stays fresh and new. Personally, I love the fact that I can buy jeans here and I don’t have to spend the next few weeks trying to break them in. Plus, I can pick out a funky outfit and know it’s not something everyone is wearing. That fact alone makes this place fabulous. This place is awesome for guys, too. And the fact that they have a variety of sizes and styles for one stop shopping rocks.

Now, I’m sorry to have tortured you into reading this when you could be on the road, driving there to shop. So, to reward you, I’ll let you in on a little secret. Pamela and Caia will give you 20% off your entire purchase through the month of September if you mention this article. Don’t forget to follow them on Facebook, they are awesome about updating with pictures, sales and must-have items. Have fun!

Connect with Pamela and Caia by stopping by The Doheny Clothing Exchange at 34276 Doheny Park Road in Capistrano Beach or call (949) 240-4800. Follow Doheny Exchange on Instragram and Facebook.

Traveling as a family can not only be a wonderful learning experience, but a great way to reconnect with your kids by spending quality time together and even a quick trip to a nearby destination provides the opportunity for many memory making moments.

We recently planned a long weekend in San Diego (specifically Shelter Island and Point Loma, both a stone’s throw from downtown). It doesn’t get much easier than loading everyone into the minivan for a road trip that literally lasts less than an hour. Home to scores of museums and art galleries, restaurants, retail, world-class beaches, historic landmarks and world-renowned attractions, San Diego offers everything from an action-packed “stay-cation” to a leisurely take-each-day-at-your-own-pace respite from the workaday world.

With a 9 and 8-year-old in tow and only three days to pack in the fun, we decided to forgo arts and culture this time around and focus instead on relaxation, recreation and gain a little historical perspective so we were hoping it wasn’t too tall an order to arrange for accommodation that was on the water, amenity-rich with family-friendly recreational opportunities (bike rentals and a - preferably heated - swimming pool were on our wish list) and centrally located to the USS Midway (more on that later). We scored in finding Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites (www.halfmooninn.com), an intimate waterfront boutique hotel on secluded Shelter Island that offers up an ambiance and experience that feels as though you’re on a Hawaiian island vacation sans the five hour flight.

Cool ocean breezes, warm, friendly hospitality, sunny days, starlit nights, lush, manicured grounds, majestic palms swaying in the afternoon breeze, stylish event facilities, resort-style activities and stellar event facilities - these are among the things guests can expect of this property. Humphrey tropical vibe artfully blends the Aloha spirit whether you are staying in one of the hotel’s guest rooms, luxury Junior Suites (ideal for up to four guests), View Suites or Grand Marina Suites. We opted for a Junior Suite, which provided a spacious 450 square feet and featured a plush king-sized bed, sleeper sofa in a separate sleeping/living area, a mini refrigerator, microwave and private, furnished balcony (in our case, overlooking the sparkling marina lined with all manner of watercraft from small sailboats to luxury yachts).

A bit of history

More than three American football fields in length, the USS Midway bore the distinction of being the largest ship in the world for a decade. Today, it’s a remarkable, incomparable floating museum that offers a history lesson unlike any other.

The enormous USS Midway was the first of a new generation of carriers called “battle carriers.” She measures nearly 1,000 feet in length and from 1945 to 1955, she was the largest seagoing vessel in the world, a marvel of engineering in her day and one of the largest man-made moving objects.

After nearly 50 years of active service, including tours in Vietnam and Desert Storm, she was decommissioned in 1992 and is now the largest aircraft carrier in the world that you can tour. I’m a fan of the guided or self-guided tour and on the USS Midway, optional self-guided audio tour feeds you info at your leisure as you wander through all the open parts of the ship - and you’ll be surprised to find how much of the ship is open for exploration: multiple crew messes, kitchens, ready rooms, officers and enlisted quarters and more. A few dozen planes and helicopters are on display on the various decks and former aviators on the flight deck give visitors a glimpse into the complexities and unique required training and skill of pilots engaged of carrier takeoffs and landings.

After we spend the better part of the afternoon touring this historic ship, our family headed across the way to experience San Diego’s version of Central Park, The Waterfront Park in Little Italy (open daily from 6 a.m. - 10 p.m.). This expansive 12-acre park is just a stone’s throw from the bay and is offers a wonderful (and free) way to expend a little extra energy - complete with fountain jets, a splash pad, playground and expansive jungle gym equipment.

Then it was time to re-fuel. San Diego has a huge variety of restaurants to choose from: Thai, Lebanese, Indian, Mexican, and even Eritrean. For a funky rock n’ roll dining experience, the Corvette Diner (www.cohnrestaurants.com/corvettediner) was entirely too much fun – with a classic diner ambiance and servers resplendent in 1950s style, it felt like a true slice of Americana as we ate burgers and salads. The retro atmosphere and music is upbeat and energetic - the theme is carried over to their menu, with food items named after celebrity icons and pop culture from the 50s and 60s. It’s not just the theme that is fun, however: when we walked in the door we were greeted by an outgoing and welcoming server, and the staff really care about making the experience enjoyable for kids. And if there’s a wait for a table, not a problem. An adjacent arcade complete with from modern era touchscreen video games and classic favorites (pinball, skee ball) keep the kiddos (and their parents) plenty entertained.

A bit more history

Before heading back to Humphreys, we drove a short distance to the Cabrillo National Monument on the tip of Point Loma - the site that marks the point where Portuguese navigator Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo became the first European to set foot on California soil. He landed near Ballast Point in 1542 and claimed San Diego Bay for Spain.

At just 422 feet above the Pacific, the view eastward from Point Loma spans the San Diego Bay, the city skyline, and the low silhouette of the Laguna Mountains against a brilliant sky. To the west, the surf smashes against rocky cliffs and the blue ocean stretches as far as the eye can see. The top of the dramatic vista of the rugged peninsula is now home to the 144-acre Cabrillo National Monument - the site of what has been called “a park for all seasons,” characterized by tidal pools teeming with marine life, meandering hiking trails with unparalleled scenic views, historical and military museums bringing to life the bunkers and gun emplacements that protected the bay during WW((. With a lighthouse and Naval and Coast Guard stations, the Peninsula has long been an important landmark for navigation and the protection of the bay since San Diego became the state’s very first city in 1769 and is today home to Point Loma Naval Base and the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery with its rows upon rows of white headstones undulating across the rolling hills.

The rest of the evening was spent splashing around Humphrey’s expansive heated pool where the kids befriended other young travelers and launched into a seemingly endless game of Marco Polo (somewhat apropos given our recent sojourn) under the watchful eye of their parents, chatting up other (adult) hotel guests in the adjacent jacuzzi.

After checking out the next day, we made one more stop before heading home - for lunch at Soda & Swine (www.sodaandswine.com). Another unique Liberty Station eatery (Corvette Diner is also located here), Soda & Swine provided another fun-filled afternoon experience - complete with an extra long foosball table (spanning the length of four regular tables set end to end) to keep the kids entertained while we waited for our meals to arrive. Step up to the counter to start the ordering process: Choose your base “meatball”: The Swine is soaked port with Chipotle BBQ and pepper jack; The Hog arrives as Chorizo with Chipotle and mozzarella;; The Grain is quinoa with pesto and feta (there are several others, but these are the ones we sampled). Then move on to “Select Your Style” (how you’d like your meatball(s) to arrive): as a slider, on a submarine, as a “skillet of three” to sample multiple flavors sans bread; or atop spaghetti. Then you choose your sauce (marinara, mushroom, cream, Chipotle barbecue or pesto, select your cheese topping, add a side or two (our favorites were the roasted Brussel sprouts and mac and cheese) and enjoy!