My first introduction to the city of Chicago was the 1995 film While You Were Sleeping. B-roll of the city’s skyline flashed through the movie, and the clickety-clack of the “L” ran through its soundtrack. A silver caterpillar cruising over bridges, past the Chicago River. Home to two and a half million people, the city boasts some of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Parks, hotels, river walks and cruises: enough to fill a day, a weekend, or even a couple weeks of fun filled romping around The Windy City.
Located in the heart of downtown Chicago, Millennium Park showcases world-class architecture, the most sophisticated outdoor concert venue of its kind: an award-winning center for art and music designed by Frank Gehry. Bordered by Michigan Avenue to the west, Columbus Drive to the east, Randolph Street to the North, and Monroe Street to the South: a virtual hotbed of activity any way you walk. Conceived as an outdoor space by then-mayor Richard M. Dayley, the plan evolved from a 16-acre park to the 24.5-acre triumph in the tradition of the city’s original founders.
Rising 1,353 above the streets of the Windy City, The Ledge is a transformative viewing experience. Not for the faint of heart, it’s glass boxes extend 4.3 feet beyond Willis Towers’ Skydeck on the 103rd floor, providing a rarely seen view of the city. The original Sears Tower architecture firm (Skidmore, Owings and Merrill) designed The Ledge so that the fully enclosed glass boxes retract into the building, allowing access for maintenance - and to keep the glass as crystalline as possible. Standing 110 stories tall, the tower itself is a world renowned feat of architecture. Being out on a glass ledge, over a thousand feet above the deck, you’ll never see Chicago with the same eyes again.
Ninety minutes isn’t that long. A typical Hollywood blockbuster runs exactly that - excluding credits and previews, of course. And yet, so much can happen in an hour and thirty minutes. Daily during the sailing season, discover the luxury of Chicago’s finest fleet, and hop aboard for 90 minutes of amazing. Choose Chicago Architecture Foundation River Cruise aboard Chicago’s First Lady Cruises to experience a river cruise from the Riverwalk, just three blocks north of Millennium Park. Complete with open-air decks and interior salon room, full bar service, and catering based on your group attendance, you can experience the city in a brand new way. Choose a private cruise for your company, wedding party or social engagement and travel beneath the city’s magnificent skyline alongside a CAF-certified volunteer docent providing stories of The Windy City’s original architects. Magic on the water, in just 90 minutes.
Many modern cities exist solely because their original inhabitants needed a place near the water to survive, a great many years ago. Chicago is no different, and in fact, the history of the city side by side its greatest river makes for some of the most fascinating reading out there. The Chicago Riverwalk offers an in-person look at the city from one of its most unique angles. Dining opportunities, public art exhibitions, local musicians and special events are hosted throughout the season. Tours of the bridges, birding walks with Audubon Great Lakes, and the McCormick Bridgehouse and River Museum offer up some of the city’s most incredible activities side-along its historic landmarks.
Experience the best of Chicago with CityPASS. You’ll get VIP admission to the most iconic attractions in the city, hand-picked and packaged into one convenient ticket booklet at a big savings (54% off on VIP admission to 5 of Chicago’s top attractions).
Field Museum of Chicago
SUE is the largest, most complete, and best-preserved Tyrannosaurus rex in the entire world (and the most iconic exhibit in the Field Museum). Like most boys his age, my 10-year-old (and his Daddy, for that matter) haven’t outgrown the fascination with all things dinosaur. From the tip of her snout to the tip of her tail, SUE measures 40.5 feet long. Though her skeleton greets you right when you walk in Stanley Field Hall, the skull atop the skeleton is a replica (the original 600-pound skull sits in a display on the Museum’s balcony, beneath a mural of what SUE might have looked like before she was a fossil). From dinosaurs (Evolving Planet) and mummies (Inside Ancient Egypt) to the Underground Adventure (where you shrink down to the size of a bug), you can easily while away an educational afternoon here.
Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Center
Be transported to the outer reaches of the Universe on a visit to Chicago’s Adler Planetarium and Astronomy Museum. Opened in 1930, Adler bears the distinction of being the first planetarium in the United States. On your self-guided tour you’ll visit the historic Atwood Experience identifying the positions of the brightest stars in the night sky and constellations they form. You’ll also visit Shoot for the Moon, highlighting the exciting stories of space exploration and America’s bold plans to travel to the Moon.
All they really had to say were the words “free evening wine hours,” and I was in. Not a wine drinker? How about being within walking distance to the Cadillac Place Theatre, or Millennium Park, or Willis Tower? Or the fact that its location, in the heart of Chicago’s Theatre District, is surrounded by the Loop’s foremost sights - including Grant Park and State Street’s shopping Mecca. Perhaps it’s the mere mention of 312 Chicago (for more info, see Chicago Eats/Dining Destinations) or Bar Allegro (voted one of the “Coolest Hotel Bars in Chicago” by Michigan Avenue Magazine), with its delicious small bites and cocktails. Each add up to just one thing: America’s Golden Era is alive and well at the Kimpton Hotel Allegro (www.allegrochicago.com).
The simple, yet sophisticated elegance of this historic boutique haven harkens back to an era of elegant hobnobbing and glamour (think mid-century moxie and old school glamour with a modern twist) - its accommodations are classically stylish, super comfy, amenity-rich (on-demand movies, designer toiletries, in room spa services or free in-room yoga accessories) with the added perks of a hosted social hour in the hotel’s lobby living room from 5 pm - 6 pm nightly, complimentary newspapers and morning coffee and tea service daily. The friendly, helpful staff are at the ready to show guests what Chicago is made of. And if you have a little wine on the side, so be it.
Looks can definitely be deceiving. From the road, Backstreet Home Decor 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.
Each piece is reflective of Susan’s keen eye for color, quality, texture, design detail and style - a fact not lost on the scores of professional designers who regularly shop here to decorate their client’s homes.
Homeowners who have taken advantage of Susan’s in-home consultation rave that she was able to suggest just the right furniture, decor, florals and color palette to create the look they were dreaming of - a fact that I can personally - and happily - attest to.
When our family moved from San Clemente to San Juan Capistrano 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.” Susie’s 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 affordable. Because of longstanding relationships with vendors from the top decor lines across the county, Susan is able to acquire furniture and accessories at substantial discounts - which she in turn passes along to her customers.
“We only LOOK expensive,” she says. “What sets us apart is that all of our florals are custom designed on the premises. We work with our clientele to create exactly what they want. We really try to come up with the unusual - unique items that you just won’t find in every single store.”
Connect with Susie by stopping by the showroom at 307 N. El Camino Real in San Clemente, by calling (949) 498-2210 or visit www.backstreethomedecor.com
When one contemplates the term “health crisis,” images from the 1995 medical disaster movie Outbreak come to mind. Hazmat suits and quarantined children in terrifying plastic rooms. But the term is so much more than just the Hollywood scare tactics that have been built up around it. Alycemates, a yearling business, is working on eradicating a different health crisis entirely: that of isolation. ALYCEMates began when Jessica Yum (co-founder of its parent company, ALYCECare) recognized early on that senior isolation and loneliness were reaching epidemic proportions, with increasing numbers living alone at home, instead of in a vibrant, thriving family community, or assisted living facility. She began to realize that the need for companionship was more than just a simple relationship with a caregiver, or a neighbor next door, and Alycemates was born.
There is not a single business that does what Alycemates does. Jessica and her team are excited to offer the community ALYCEMates has built to seniors in the program, “which has evolved greatly from ALYCECare, our home care agency. We bring seniors out of isolation through check-ins, exclusive social outings, and of course, the most important part: their ALYCEMate roomate.” They wanted to create a unique program to alleviate the dangers of isolation without having to throw money at the problem. Home care often costs as much as $25/hour, which, for most folks living on their own at a more advanced age, is a steep going rate. Many individuals didn’t need round the clock care, and wouldn’t pay for it, putting themselves at risk then of falling off the social wagon, only to put them at higher risk of dying earlier. 45% higher, in fact. A staggering statistic, given that according to a 2010 study, that’s 15% more at risk than from excessive drinking, and 25% higher than obesity. 40% higher than losing years from air pollution.
By matching college students, recent graduates, and young adults with seniors as roommates, they could in fact, solve two problems. Senior isolation, and the student debt and housing crisis facing our youth. Seniors would no longer have to live alone: they could be mentors and teachers. Share their stories and dispense wisdom. Students could alleviate the pressure on their pocketbooks, and help others to stay connected. But how exactly are students and seniors matched up?
“We visit a senior’s home and sit with them for an extended period of time to determine if they are a good fit,” says Jessica. “Participating seniors are typically in good health, have an extra room, live in a safe neighborhood, and are sociable. We then interview several candidates for ALYCEMates to determine which individual would be the best fit for the senior in terms of maturity, stability, personality, interests, etc. - a process which can take several weeks.”
Looking for candidates who also have a good sense of community, want to give back, and are comfortable with seniors is no small feat. If they pass the preliminary round of checks, ALYCEMates balances out the equation with a thorough background check, reference check, and credit check. Select candidates get to meet with the senior in person to ensure the chemistry is there. “We’re looking for big-hearted candidates who truly want to be part of the program, and it’s usually very obvious when a candidate is primarily interested in saving money on rent.”
With studies showing that seniors living communally add as many as 10-15 years to their lives, it’s no wonder that a business like Alycemates found its way into existence.
“If you are over 50 and have a spare bedroom, you can become a senior host. It’s as easy as that,” says Jessica. “Earn extra income, alleviate alone time, mentor a young person, make a life-long friend. The benefits are endless. Seniors can earn up to $500 a month through the program.” No hazmat suits, plastic-sheeted quarantine rooms, or reruns of Outbreak required.
Connect with Jessica and ALYCEMates by calling (949) 339-7150 or visit www.ALYCEMATES.com
Historically, great change has been associated with fire. A great crucible, reforming lives beneath the purifying heat of flame. The sea however, with its unfathomable depths, hold a great mystery to the effects of change over time. After all, the phrase “sea change” originated from the power of the ocean to alter landscapes. Thanks to Shakespeare: an idiom that can cool the fan of flame, and still signify our lives taking shape in ways they would never have before, as we are reformed under the great heat or weight of tragedy.
John “Tripp” H. Smith, III and his wife Loretta are no strangers to that indescribable pressure. When their son Michael took his own life on November 10, 2007, their lives were altered forever. Despite being a successful young man in his earlier life, Michael had “devolved” into an unrecognizable person as a result of his depression, and subsequent dependence on chemical substance to help self-medicate his problems. After his passing, bound to create something beautiful, Tripp and his close friend Dr. Richard Granese, MD, a well-respected Orange County psychiatrist joined together to found A Mission for Michael, Inc. to help remember Michael, and carry his legacy forward: helping others escape the ravages of drug and alcohol through a dual diagnosis treatment.
A Mission for Michael (AMFM) offers a structured answer to what can be a wildly volatile and fluid situation. After their 45-90 day treatment program, patients transition to Sober Living and Outpatient: getting them back on their feet, refining that which is detrimental to their continued health and success. Based in South Orange County, AMFM programs are designed to treat individuals with co-occurring disorders. Dr. Granese notes “substance use disorders and mood and anxiety disorders that develop independently of intoxication, dependence and withdrawal are the most prevalent psychiatric disorders in the United States.” Helping to rebuild those individuals from foundation up helps ensure they will not relapse, and can dramatically assist in stabilizing their mental health illness. Operating the only recovery facility owned by a psychiatrist, Dr. Granese is doubly dedicated to tackling the issues he has seen first hand, with more and more regularity.
When sources like Mental Health America state that the number of individuals affected by mental health illnesses outpaces the populations of both New York and Florida, lines are drawn in the sand. We can reach out and assist, or let more than 40 million Americans persist in their downward spiral, towards an outbreak of devastation that is greater than many of us would like to imagine. “AMFM is not a 12-step based program, but we believe the 12-steps are another relapse prevention tool. We have found that working them in conjunction with therapy, psychiatric care, family participation, and small group therapy sets the patient up for success.” Often, however, the roots that Dr. Granese and his team are trying to reach are buried in a mess of underlying psychological factors and trauma that drives physical and emotional addiction.
A unique way of approaching such trauma is the “step-down” feature offered through the program. The patient begins intensively - then steadily drops down to less intensive treatment as they progress. Continuing with their therapist and psychiatrist every week, in conjunction with a weekly family group helps keep the individual accountable, to themselves and those they love. “We want to reduce the incidence of triggers that signal relapse, and a return to the addiction spiral.” With a team of mental health professionals ranging from Clinical Psychologists, Marriage and Family Therapists, Licensed Clinical Social Workers, etc. - all Masters or PhD level cross-trained psychotherapists, patients are in the immense care of folks who recognize the changes necessary to alter mental perceptions and distortions. “The psychological restructuring starts the client on a path of growth moving beyond the confines and entanglements of addiction. This continuum of care can provide the strong foundation necessary to build a base of recovery.”
When facing down anything beyond one’s own capability, a great humility is necessary. Big wave surfers, emergency medical personnel, firefighters, even educators can attest to the power of collected thinking when facing down unknown situations with potentially extreme consequences. Addiction, similarly, attacks from all directions, with remarkable disregard and abandon. “It’s a family disease”, Dr. Granese states. But what does that mean? Tripp and Loretta learned volumes from their son’s addictions and helped build into the treatment program a family humility that speaks to the entire system failing when one member falls apart at the seams.
But isn’t the addict the one with the problem? “The addiction is not only destroying the addict, it’s likely destroying the family too. You’re all involved in the addiction. Parents and loved ones can’t function: they worry, their job suffers, they fight and argue amongst themselves. They can’t take care of the rest of the family and their physical, emotional, and spiritual health suffers.” The family becomes addicted to their loved one’s addiction. Chaos, codependency, and a lack of boundaries all compound the issues at hand.
While patients are certainly encouraged after they leave treatment to continue working with a sponsor and start step work within a Sober Living Outpatient Intensive, families are also encouraged to learn steps and tools to help get out of the toxic and repetitive cycles of abuse. Stepping outside the manipulations and co-dependencies that have been formed help the patient discover how it feels to escape isolation, fear, and anxiety, and practice healthy self-care. “Sometimes, what we think of as ‘helping’ the addict is not helping at all,” Dr. Granese notes. “You can actually do more harm than good.”
With the presence of an ever changing healthcare system and the uncertainty of being able to receive quality care, AMFM is furthering its vision to include a separate intensive outpatient Mental Health track. This patient-centered outpatient program specializes in working with those suffering from an array of mental health diagnosis. The need for mental health treatment is expanding in Orange County and it is our aim to fill this increased need and be a center that strives for a healthier community.
“Patients get to choose not only the times that work for their own schedule, but most of all, they get to decide which groups yield the best personal results.” While a base level of care may look the same for everyone, a key component at AMFM are non-standard time allotments for treatment. Most programs, via insurance companies, place restrictions on a patient’s treatment. Conversely, each person’s needs are continually evaluated to carefully negotiate their duration of care. “This means attendees can slowly transition out at a time they feel confident and are not limited by the coverage of their insurance plan. We allow for complete rehabilitation and optimal individual success.” Designed for both individuals who are coming into care for the first time, and those taking the step-down approach to their treatment, AMFM’s Outpatient Program has found it’s patient’s success rates easily outpace those in other programs.
“Many individuals are successful starting with and remaining in outpatient. For some, outpatient can be a great indicator that a higher level of care is needed.” Every individual coming to the program, whether from another facility, or transitioning from AMFM’s 45-90 day program sees a psychiatrist. Each therapist in the program is an employee, not a contractor. “They are therefore highly committed to working as a team, and have high standards of care to maintain.” The outpatient program is led by Terrence Kelleman, a Licensed, Advanced Drug and Alcohol Counselor. 30 years of experience to back his title, a remarkably outgoing personality, and direct leadership style allows him to facilitate the most effective group meetings possible.
While in the program, patients are held accountable with the help of drug testing, yet they have also discovered that by testing for a myriad of toxicities, both man-made and natural, therapists within AMFM can help diagnose disorders or dysfunctions based on underlying contributors, like amino acid or zinc deficiencies. “Most care facilities treat symptoms: we look at root cause.” A holistic approach to each patient helps care for the person, as well as the addiction. “We want to get our patients out of the isolation and stigma of addiction- not just out from underneath the day to day problems they might be experiencing.” Nutrition, exercise, and accountability work together to create a whole picture of wellness for each patient that comes needing care. Strongly recommending patients to stay within the boundaries of a Sober Living Outpatient aftercare program is essential for anyone serious about recovery. “Many patients stay in aftercare for one year or more, increasing their chance of long-term sobriety.”
Addiction isn’t discriminating. It doesn’t single out specific personality types, or only the wealthy. Only the poverty stricken, only males. It doesn’t care. Originally starting as a recovery center that specifically dealt with men, and the unique issues they deal with, A Mission for Michael has now expanded to include treatment for women. “When it comes to treatment, there are definitely differences in how drugs affect women and men, and thus the treatment methods must take into account the social and biological factors that must be used.” Hormones, for example, affect brain chemistry, altering long term thought and behavior patterns for women, especially from a young age. There are varying societal pressures that contribute to expectations of success, maintaining relationships, and careers. “Unique stresses create expectations ripe for fostering anxious mental states where substance abuse thrives.”
In addition to expanding to accept women for treatment and having an intensive outpatient program for Mental Health, A Mission For Michael has also implemented an Integrative Wellness division to enhance treatment protocols.
“This means our clients have more resources than ever before available to help them achieve and maintain sobriety as well as to identify and learn possible root causes related to their addiction and mental illness,” says Lori R. Kelly, Ph.D., Director of Integrative Wellness. “If we have a thorough picture then we can develop a deeper understanding of what led the client to our door.”
Dr. Kelly explains that integrative wellness is the utilization of conventional and complementary approaches to the treatment of addiction and mental illness in a coordinated way in order to achieve optimal results. Digestive health issues, nutritional deficiencies, metabolic dysfunction and toxic chemical exposure are all factors, which contribute to symptoms and illness within the body.
“These areas are among those screened through our integrative analysis now available to our clients,” she says. “This provides an individualized treatment regimen that is unparalleled and encompasses the uniqueness of each person. Any deficiency or abnormality is addressed by our team through the use of natural products such as food, vitamins, minerals and probiotics along with mind-body practices including yoga, meditation and Pilates.
“My goal is for every client to evolve from a passive recipient, at the beginning of treatment to an active participant in their achievement of a healthy recovery and lifelong wellness.”
For more information, call (800) 807-0631 or visit www.amfmtreatment.com
Many years ago, a manager I had said something to me that I’ve never forgotten: “That good customer service isn’t simply the absence of bad customer service.” In today’s retail environment, it sometimes seems a challenge to find businesses that consistently adhere to that adage. Perhaps the ever increasing reliance on technology is to blame; people come face to face less. Perhaps there is more traffic, or more days feel like Mondays, and the attitude of service gets shifted to one of self-reliance. Perhaps the customer has learned to expect outstanding customer service, so it’s just harder to please everyone who walks through the door.
Dennis Penman, owner of the San Juan Capistrano-based Sanctuary Home Furnishings by Renaissance thinks that good customer service is more than just making clients satisfied, he wants them happy. Dennis believes that happiness will translate into repeat customers and positive, word of mouth referrals.
The transformation from sales associate to partner, and partner to owner may have something to do with Dennis’ dedication to his clients. But simple ownership is never the full story.
“I have always been a people pleaser,” says Dennis. “Just ask my friends - I’m a guy they can turn to for help with whatever. All my jobs have been in a customer service field. I like the feeling when I know I have done the customer right, whether it’s guiding them on sizing, color and style to providing the lowest price.
“I found my way to Renaissance Home Furnishings in 2003 when the business was just two and a half years old. I fell in love with the business as each day presented new opportunity to help others and be creative. Nearly 15 years later, my favorite parts of the business are still creating new looks to keep up with the shifting trends of home décor and ensuring customers are happy.
Last spring, with the “immense assistance of my design and sales team,” Dennis completely redesigned his 11,000-square-foot showroom starting with a new name: Sanctuary Home Furnishings by Renaissance. “We started here in San Juan Capistrano, and now we’re back home - to help local home owners design their home to reflect their personality.”
Growing up in Mission Viejo, Lake Forest, Laguna Niguel and now residing in Capistrano Beach gives Dennis a unique perspective on local taste and expected quality. Renaissance Home Furnishings has long been known for their Mediterranean and Spanish Tuscan flair but as trends have shifted and Renaissance becomes Sanctuary Home Furnishings by Renaissance Sanctuary can now help the Spanish Tuscan homes bring in a cleaner Coastal Transitional feel without requiring a home remodel. “For all the new homes in Rancho Viejo our look is perfect- we can help their homes look like the models.”
Not ironic too, that the heart of the coastal transitional design trend is the word refuge; a perfect synonym for sanctuary. A safe place to rest one’s head.
“The showroom has an abundance of sofas, sectionals, accent chairs, media chests, accent pieces, bedroom suites, art, mirrors, area rugs and accessories,” says Dennis. “Most everything on the showroom floor can be delivered straight to the customer’s home.”
Having three local manufacturers at its disposal helps immensely. In two to three weeks, Sanctuary can customize, to the inch, a sofa, sectional, or chair to the scale and color palette of the client’s home.
“We can fit any room, in any scale and in any fabric color.”
Sanctuary tries to make the customers shopping and buying experience relaxing and not intimidating. At their store they allow clients to come in and peruse without being tracked throughout the store by a “suit with a clipboard.” They want you to take your time, “tush test the seating”, and know the designer is available yet not hovering. Sanctuary offers piece of mind shopping by allowing customers to memo out products they like but aren’t sure it will work in their home they can check out the item(s) to see them in their homes before purchasing.
Most stores would like to be known for low prices but they offer poor quality goods. Sanctuary wants to be known for quality furnishings at low prices. “I think what really sets us apart is our quality, pricing and the ability we have to work with our clients on every level, from design to customization to installation all at low pricing.” Often, Sanctuary Home Furnishings is lower priced than online but if not they will match the price you find.
Nowadays, that elusive “good customer service” typically goes hand in hand with a commissioned sales force. Motivated by the sale, associates will bend over backwards for their clients. Not necessarily bad for the customer, unless the customer isn’t ready to buy.
“We understand that sometimes it takes a little back and forth to make decisions about your home - you may have these furnishings for the next ten or fifteen or twenty years,” says Dennis. “We want to make the process as easy as if you had the choice to redesign every calendar year.” No pressure, with a non-commissioned sales force. Dennis wants every customer to be helped by any available person at anytime - before, during or after the purchase - an attribute to which our family can personally attest.
One of the perks of publishing South County Magazine is that I am provided a venue to share with our readership experiences of local business owners whose services I have utilized either personally or professionally. Our family introduced a furry new addition to our home last year - a beautiful and rambunctious yellow lab puppy named Bella who prompted wreaked havoc with the wooden legs of the barstools, the couch cushions and the coffee table. When she started to mellow out on the chewing phase a few months later, we surveyed the damage and determined that it might be time to redecorate. As luck would have it, we happen to know a local purveyor of fine furniture and home accents at affordable prices - yep, you guessed it … Dennis Penman and his team at Sanctuary Home Furnishings couldn’t have made the process any easier. Dennis made recommendations based on the colors scheme and general style I said I was looking for and I literally walked out in less than an hour with an delivery date on the calendar. When the pieces arrived, his crew set everything up, hauled the old items out to the garage and voila! … the room was back to being a beautiful space in spite of our pup’s best efforts.
That same manager I had years back told me one other thing that has stuck around all these years. That we were in the business where the word “no” didn’t exist. You can find that adage anywhere you look at Sanctuary Home Furnishings. As Dennis puts it: “Yes. That is all we try to say.”
Sanctuary Home Furnishings is located at 31896 Plaza Drive, Suite E-7 in San Juan Capistrano. Connect with Dennis and his team by calling (949) 248-9772 or visit www.sanctuaryhf.com
If you’ve lived in California for at least one full rotation around the sun, you’ve probably figured out that the best time of year to go to the beach is in the fall. All the summer tourists are gone: back home, or back to school. Uncrowded, pristine, and perfectly temperate beaches wait open for the couple of months the rest of the country calls autumn, while we bask in the sun (as I write this in mid-October, the temperature outside is in the high 70s). Even the water stays warm for those last few weeks drawing near to December; warm enough to play with the kiddos on a bodyboard or make sand castles while the afternoon sun wanes.
Truly, I suppose any day is a good day for the beach. Especially if you’re headed to The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel. One of Southern California’s best-kept secrets, the beach town boasts that perfect blend of laid-back surfer chill with upscale beachfront luxury. “Local” refers to both diners and dishes, and any time one can end an 18-hole game of golf with a quick surf session is a good day in my book. The Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel lives for those days. In fact, with autumn being the best time of year to hit the beaches anyway, they’d like to invite you back to the shore for a staycation you’ll never forget.
Most beachfront hotels will boast “spectacular views” and “breathtaking scenery,” but the stunning views from the bluffs of Laguna define those claims. Emerald lawns and rugged sandstone fall away from the doors of the resort, diving off into the deep blue Pacific. First floor ocean-view rooms have their own fire pits, and the list of other amenities on site are enough to send one into the throes of relaxation even before stepping foot on property. Egyptian cotton sheets, a salon and spa boutique, sauna, wellness classes and yoga.
If your idea of relaxing comes with a little sweat first, their tennis courts, nearby Monarch Beach golf course, or Eco Adventure Center are just what you need to get the rush of endorphins pumping through your sun-soaked body. Inspiring guests with Southern California’s unique ecosystems, the Eco-Adventure Center is dedicated to showing off some of the area’s most spectacular natural wonders. Adults and children alike learn from experience in the local surroundings, which turn the beaches and crystalline ocean into living laboratories. Offering everything from Garden Tours for the little ones to a exploration of the resort’s Creative Kitchen, there’s something to light a little spark in all ages. One of the most popular activities for kids 9 and up is the beach bonzai boarding at Salt Creek. Our son and daughter (ages 10 and 9) learned how waves are created, studied the effects of rip currents, and discovered longshore drift. Then, of course, (under the watchful eye of their Eco-Adventure Guide Julian who went right into the water with them), they played in the surf, caught a series of waves and generally had a blast bodyboarding.
When the whole family has worked up an appetite at the end of a long day of adventures, relax into some of the finest fare the coast has to offer. Already known for fresh, innovative cuisine, simply by merit of its California locale, the Ritz-Carlton has something for everyone. From small bites to cocktails, to fast-casual and poolside dining, you’ll find your fill for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
A taste of autumn may be all we get here in Southern California - a quick glimpse of the rare changing leaf here and there - the dewy mornings and cool evenings just enough to turn us from the beaches to warm sweaters and shoes instead of sandals. A taste of luxury is perhaps all we need to round the edges of summer and embrace a longer season of vacation - beachfront living by day, crisp evenings and the smell of firepits at night. All wait for you on the shores of Laguna Beach, at the Ritz-Carlton Laguna Niguel.
The Ritz-Carlton is located at 1 Ritz Carlton Drive in Laguna Niguel. For information, visit www.ritzcarlton.com
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
There may be nothing more frustrating than finally deciding to pull the trigger on a residential or commercial renovation project, only to be stalled by a contractor who is overcommitted on too many projects or simply doesn’t give their customers the care and compassion they deserve when embroiled in what may be the longest or most stressful weeks or months of their lives. The best help, sometimes, can simply be from neighbors willing to lend a helping hand. That’s how J & M General Contractors got their start. They’ve been treating their clients like neighbors since inception.
Owned and operated by Veterans who began by repairing things like Marine helicopters (James Scheinoha) and multi-million-dollar nuclear Navy submarines (Michael Zellmer) and now led by a Marine pilot (Theodore Martin). Once leaving active duty, their passion for construction evolved from honey-do lists and helping neighbors with home repair into a successful business model. Although J & M was incorporated in 2012, they have been in business in various forms since 1990. While J & M continues to focus on commercial construction projects, Vector Construction has developed into a burgeoning residential business model.
“Quality work, excellent customer service, attention to detail, and great value set us apart from our competitors,” says Theodore Martin. “That’s the core reason why J & M has survived and thrived the cycle of booms and busts in the economy and construction.”
Having one company handle everything from planning, design/engineering to execution and site management certainly doesn’t hurt either. You name it, J & M takes care of their clients - from inception to completion. Vector’s residential offerings include kitchen and bathroom remodel, room additions, patio covers, stucco walls, siding and driveway installation and repair. Even windows and doors. Electrical upgrades. Painting. As always, J & M can handle that electrical repair or power panel upgrade, and also design, reconfigure, or repair shared work spaces, offices, break rooms, and more. They’ll even grind or repair concrete inside or outside your commercial space, and take care of upgrading the paint when it’s seen one too many sunny California days.
My parents began a project on their house when I was a freshman in high school. Every meal I prepared myself that year was done under the cover of our back patio. Our kitchen was under construction for an entire school calendar cycle. When we finally moved back inside, we discovered the full gamut of problems; from cabinets that had been mismeasured, to the wrong glass showing up on their front porch to be installed in those same mismeasured cabinets. They remodeled their living room, and the family room too. By my freshman year in college, I came home on large holidays to the final picture frames going back up on the walls.
Those were different times and perhaps some of it may have been my parent’s slow negotiations - clearly, they knew what they wanted. But surely, the amount of hassle and headache could have been minimized by working with a more qualified contractor. A quality contractor.
Active in the National Independent Business owners and a Coldwell Banker Concierge member. J & M’s commitment to community and quality doesn’t stop at the front door of their projects, the support and are active member in Orange County Veterans, OC Team RWB, OC Veteran Business Network, Veterans Legal Institute and the American Legion Newport Harbor Post 291, the gentlemen at J & M are busy spreading neighborly care everywhere they go. Sounds like the fellows at J & M ascribe to the wisdom of one of the most famous neighbors of all time: Mr. Rogers. Finding quality in anything often comes from “treating our ‘neighbor’ at least as well as we treat ourselves and allowing that to inform everything that we produce.”
Connect with Ted or Mike and the J & M and Vector team for a no cost estimate by calling (866) 755-4001 or visit www.jm-general-contractors.com or www.itsvector.com
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. 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 Advantage plans, Medicare Supplements and Prescription Drug plans, Covered California, Individual and Family plans; chances are, mostly likely not. As the owner of Insurance 101 Services, Stephanie is taking an industry norm and turning it on it’s 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 for South County residents, Stephanie is faced with unique situations daily. “As the demand grows for this type of service, 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 conversations 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 personally 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 - you should be informed. If you’d like to understand your options and benefits better, Stephanie’s the one to call.
Q: You’ve been a one woman show for more than 11 years now, what prompted you to bring Carlos Aguilar on board to Stephanie Frisch Insurance 101 Services?
A: Carlos and I are fellow Rotarians in San Juan Capistrano. He’s exactly the same age now as I was when I started my career in insurance. The company he worked for relocated and he was looking to find something that allowed him to work closer to home and his young family and still stay involved in the community of San Juan Capistrano. Carlos was born and raised here in San Juan and when I found out he was fluent in Spanish a light bulb went off in my head! This is what I have been missing in my business; the ability to help the large Latino population not only in San Juan Capistrano, but also the surrounding communities. Because of the language barrier for many, they don’t understand or even know about their options when it comes to getting help from Covered California or Medicare Advantage plans. I haven’t been able to help them up to this point but now Carlos can. I have full confidence in Carlos’s ability, and he has been trained by me and has full access to me with any questions in order to help him take good care of his client’s needs.
Q: So Medicare open enrollment starts October 1st and ends on December 7th.
A: Well, first off, even though open enrollment begins on October 1st, applications can’t be taken until October 15th, I wish that wasn’t the case. But October 1st is generally when Medicare.gov releases all the updated plan information for the 2018 Medicare Advantage plans and Stand Alone Drug plans. The drug formularies are also updated to reflect any changes made to what prescriptions are covered, how much they cost, if prior authorization is now needed or if there are quantity limits.
Q: Do you feel like there are good plan options out there for those Medicare beneficiaries looking to make a change?
A: I sure do. Especially for those that are in the St. Joseph/Hoag Health healthcare system and still paying for a Medicare supplement and prescription drug plan. It’s been about 3 years now that St. Joseph/Hoag Health has now been a part of the Medicare Advantage plan scene. These plans have great benefits, include prescription drug coverage, have additional add-on benefits to enhance the value of the plan and have NO monthly premium. They still need to continue to have the Part B Medicare premium deducted from their Social Security check (or pay it to the government if they’re not yet taking SS) if they enroll in one of these plans, but it’s a huge monthly savings for people.
As the demand grows for this type of service, 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.
Q: Let’s talk about health insurance for those under 65. Is the open enrollment time period the same this year?
A: In many other states it’s much shorter this year, but California has a strong commitment to making sure that no one is left without coverage. Open enrollment starts November 1st this year and ends January 31st just like last year.
Q: I heard that Anthem Blue Cross will no longer be offering insurance in 2018 for Orange County, is that right?
A: Well first of all, this applies to the individual and family plans purchased directly from Anthem Blue Cross and from Covered California only. But yes, that’s right. Anthem’s decision to pull out of Orange County (and many other surrounding counties) will have no impact on coverage for the remainder of 2017. In the 2018 renewal and open-enrollment periods, consumers will have to select another insurance company and plan. Anthem was more expensive in 2017 than Blue Shield and lacked the flexibility of a PPO, so I had already moved many people off of their Anthem plan last fall. 84% of doctors contracted by Anthem are also available through another health plans too, but that can be a tricky and time consuming task to research.
Q: What should someone do if they do have an Anthem plan and need to select new insurance for 2018?
A: Those Anthem consumers who have their coverage through Covered California and don’t do anything will be renewed automatically into the lowest-cost plan offered by another carrier in their same metal tier. This could mean major headaches as they realize that they no longer have the same access to doctors and hospitals. For those that bought directly from Anthem or through an agent, if they do nothing they will lose their coverage and have no insurance for 2018. This could be catastrophic! The best thing for people to do if they currently aren’t working with an agent is to get into contact with me. Carlos and I can help them find the best coverage to meet their needs and their budget.
Q: Looking back on health coverage in 2017, did any changes happen that you think people should be aware of?
A: Yes! As us July 1st, under a new state law, if you visit an in-network facility - such as a hospital, lab or imaging center - you will be responsible only for your in-network share of the cost, even if you’re seen by an out-of-network provider. The law applies to non-emergency services. Also, at the beginning of the year starting January 1st, 2017, you can’t be billed out-of-network charges for both emergency room and physician services.
This does not cover the 5.7 million people who are on employer-sponsored insurance plans however.
If you’re interested in learning more about what Stephanie can do for you, contact her directly 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 Stephanie to point you in the right direction.
Who would have thought such a (relatively) small change could completely transform the look and curb appeal of a home? In just a few hours and for less than the price of a new entry door system, Norton and Vicki Canterbury, owners of The Beveled Edge, start with a homeowner’s existing door, cut out a portion and insert custom art beveled glass panels.
What was once a solid surface is now a stunning entry defined by light, beauty and instant curb appeal.
The San Juan Capistrano studio, showroom and manufacturing facility specializes in the aforementioned front door remodels, as well as interior doors and cabinet doors.
“Any door, whether wood, metal or fiberglass, can be transformed into a functional work of art,” says Norton. “The Beveled Edge also offers custom etched glass, architectural glass and heavy glass table tops.”
A former Marine, Norton has honed his craft for the past quarter century – starting with an apprenticeship at a stained glass studio in 1983, followed by the launch of his own business three years later in San Clemente and culminating in his current location complete with a showroom and manufacturing facilities.
What sets their business apart is the personal touch – both Norton and Vicki are “fully involved” in every job, working directly with each client to “make certain we create the vision they desire for their home.”
According to Norton, the collaborative design process includes the creation of full-scale templates for review by the client and glass selection, which may include just bevels and clear textured glass or full color. The privacy level that each customer desires in their leaded glass panels is discussed and implemented.
“It is this approach that we believe results in a large percentage of our sales come from repeat customers or are referrals from friends, neighbors, or relatives,” says Vicki. “Our business success can be attributed to honesty, hard work and providing uncompromising quality in each and every leaded or etched glass panel that is hand-crafted by our expert artisans. The workmanship is guaranteed for a lifetime. Our goal is to create custom art glass panels that will exceed your expectations in every way.”
To connect with Norton and Vicki, call (949) 582-1035, stop by the studio/showroom at 26131 Agenda Aeropuerto, Unit D in San Juan Capistrano or visit www.bevelededge.com