Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Donna B’s Bakery is about to celebrate 24 years in business this summer and I can’t believe I only discovered it last year.

Named for its founder, Donna Bielke Billman, the Laguna Niguel-based operation turns out what is arguably among THE best gourmet cookies, cookie dough, custom cakes, wedding cakes and yummy desserts in South County.

I just brought an assortment of her cookies home a few days ago and it was all I could do to keep my kids (and my husband for that matter) from eating them all in one sitting.

They are so good, it’s not surprising to find out that Donna’s entire business model started with her dough. As a single mother in 1987, Donna sold her cookie dough once a month to fellow employees in order to earn extra money to pay the bills.

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Donna started out small, giving out samples at local nail and hair salons. Before long, she was so busy that she was forced to rent a space at a local bakery to fulfill orders. Not long after that, she bought the bakery and the rest as they say “is history.”
Donna’s business may have started with her signature cookie dough, but today, Donna B’s Bakery also turns out one-of-a-kind seasonal cakes, special occasion cakes, beautiful wedding cakes, “new home cookie boxes,” care packages and sweet treats for virtually every imaginable event.

Donna and her staff do cookie dough fundraising for local schools, churches, organizations and “anybody who has an entrepreneurial spirit who might need to make money.”
“I believe our business is different then other bakeries because I love to help fund raise our cookie dough and cookies,” says Donna. “I love to see people succeed by teaching them how they can raise money for their causes with our products. I believe what goes around comes around. When you give, it comes back to you tenfold. I don’t worry about being a millionaire on paper, but I would rather be a millionaire in my heart.”

In terms of growing a successful venture, Donna agrees that while having the extra money on hand would be nice, everything good comes in its own time.

“I think most businesses think that they should be making tons of money right away. I have tried to stay being a debt-free bakery. I try not to overspend and keep within my means,” she says. “I really want to expand to more cookie dough fundraising. I believe now after being in business as many years as I have, I could possibly franchise Donna B’s Bakery. I also think I am ready to go into the grocery stores and go nationwide into specialty stores.”

But for now, I have to say I’m pretty happy Donna B’s is so easily accessible for those of us lucky enough to live in South OC. Mention South County Magazine for the following specials: Buy Six Cookies, Get Three Free!; $5 Off a Tub of Cookie Dough; and 10% Off Any Cake Order.

Connect with Donna by visiting the bakery at 26022 Cape Drive, Suite B in Laguna Niguel, by calling 949.367.0100 or by visiting www.donnab.com.

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

If you’re anything like me, your knowledge base of investing in gold correlates directly to the 2003 crime thriller The Italian Job. Starring Mark Wahlberg, Edward Norton, Donald Sutherland, and Charlize Theron, the movie revolves around a Venetian heist-gone-wrong: and the currency being trafficked? Gold bricks. If you haven’t seen the film, I suggest checking it out. If you have, then I circle back to my original point. All I know about gold I learned from The Italian Job. The bricks are pretty, they seem to weigh a lot, they’re stamped with the image of a Balinese dancer. They’re worth a ton. 27 million, to be exact, by the time the team of thieves-gone-good catch up with the loot. Seems like a good investment option, right? About as well-researched as betting on a Triple Crown winner based on the color of the jockey’s silks. Don’t even get me started on horse racing. Seen Seabiscuit?

Yet, though we are no longer on a gold standard, gold is the standard upon which our entire system of currency is based. So what is the real story? Open up your wallet for me. Dig through until you find a one, or a five. See where it says “Federal Reserve Note”? It means that bill is a note of obligation. A promise from the Federal Reserve to pay its value out. In gold. Once upon a time, dollars couldn’t be printed without the actual, physical gold to back it. Now, our paper money is based on our country’s credit - the “full faith and credit” of the U.S. Government. Just like that plastic card in your wallet is based on the full faith of your bank account to back it up. So what happens when the full faith of the U.S. Government is placed in a failing system, looking towards the burst of yet another financial bubble like that which popped back in 2008?

Implemented quite often in recent times, the process and policy of quantitative easing targets the supply of money by buying, or selling government bonds. When the economy stalls and the central bank (read: Federal Reserve) wants to stimulate economic growth, it buys government bonds, lowering short-term interest and increasing the money supply. But when interest rates approach zero, like they did following the global financial crisis in 2007-2008, this strategy loses effectiveness, at which point banks have to implement other strategies to stimulate the economy. To a newbie investor like me, that sounds just fine. But what we’re seeing is that by flooding financial institutions with new money, or capital, what began as a promotion for increased lending and liquidity turned into a massive inflation in share prices.

Which brings us back to gold. Traditionally, we’re taught to play the market. Aggressively, at first, if you get into it in your youth. You have more time, so you can afford to take more risks. As your portfolio ages, risk taking slows, and you begin playing it safe. You’re buying into your 401k, the universal retirement account and general genius idea that drove right on by the more traditional retirement vehicle, (pension), and kept on trucking your investments through mutual funds all tied to the stock market. But here is where the two roads diverge - and where Ron Swanson of Parks and Rec starts to make a whole lot of sense. (“I don’t know how much money I have, but I know how many pounds of money I have.”) While the stock market has gone through a boom bust swing over the last 15 years, gold has gone up over 12- not only in the US dollar, but in every major currency in the world.

Enter Advantage Gold

Most financial companies I’d imagine would argue their case for protecting your financial assets. Advantage Gold is looking to take that one step further. “Not only is gold a tangible asset, it has no counter party or credit risk.” It sounds a little backwards to me, at first. Kinda like trusting my knowledge of gold to the credit of the filmmakers of The Italian Job. But gold has been a store of wealth for thousands of years, and is the only effective way of protecting your liquid assets against inflation and currency devaluation.

Voted the #1 Trusted Gold IRA company on the market by TrustLink, Advantage Gold is looking for clients who are invested in protecting their wealth. Focused on providing their clients with an in-depth education on the entire process of investing in gold, they’d like to draw you out of the national debt crisis cycle, and into a world where you don’t have to worry about your asset liquidity evaporating entirely.

An essential tool for saving for the future, an IRA has become synonymous with tax-free or tax-deferred savings, making it an easy choice when you’re looking at the golden years of retirement and hoping to actually be able to enjoy them. We all know there to be two different types of IRA - a traditional and a Roth. But there is a lesser known IRA out there that Advantage would like to suggest: precious metals.

“By adding physical precious metals to your retirement account, you lower your overall portfolio risk by diversifying your assets, says Adam Baratta, managing director.” Rolling over your existing account is a pretty straightforward process, and you have your choice of metals: silver, platinum, palladium - or if you’d rather go the way of Mark Wahlberg and Charlize Theron, bullion and bars, instead of coins. The categories of gold stock we’re accustomed to hearing about however, typically refer to stocks and mutual funds comprised of companies that produce, refine, and explore for gold. But investing in a mining stock doesn’t necessarily mean that the price of gold going up correlates with the value of your stock increasing.

“With mining stocks, you’re betting on the mining company’s ability to make profits regardless of the price of gold,” says Baratta. Though gold stocks have benefitted enormously since the turn of the 21st century, the meteoric rise in the pricing of precious metals stocks are simply not the same as an investment in physical metals. A gold backed IOU is still an IOU at the end of the day. The investors at Advantage believe we are robbing Peter to pay Paul, kicking the can down the road for the next generation to come up from underneath and stir the toxic cocktail we’ve made from overvalued assets, military conflict, and the uncertainty of a future beneath a national debt ceiling such as we have never seen before. “We specialize in working with investors, not coin collectors. We’re looking at gold as an asset class: and the average size of our investors accounts are larger than that of our competitors.”

image 218 3677581782 OSince the turn of the century, our country has needed to raise its debt ceiling regularly. Each and every year since 2002, the U.S. has needed to borrow more money to meet its obligations. And for every trillion dollars of debt, gold has risen $100 per ounce. Even if most of your financial decisions are based on more sound reasoning than the cinematic intelligence of a 2003 crime thriller, isn’t it about time to invest in something with a solid future?

What is a Gold IRA?

A Gold IRA is a self-directed individual retirement account that allows ownership of physical precious metals. All IRAs can give you tax advantages, but several types of IRAs offer different protections and assets. With a Gold IRA, not only can you hold paper assets like stocks and bonds, but you can also hold physical precious metals in the form of coins and bars. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which types of precious metals you want to be held in your account.

How does a Gold IRA work?

A precious metal IRA (or Gold IRA) works the same as a conventional IRA or 401(k) with all of the same rules especially as they pertain to contributions and tax treatment. The significant difference is that unlike a conventional IRA or 401(k) with a bank or brokerage firm that specializes in bank deposits, stocks, mutual funds, annuities, and other approved assets, you hold physical precious metal coins, bullion, and bars such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium in an IRA that are held in custody, by an IRS approved custodian, for the benefit of the Gold IRA account owner.

Gold and SilverTo hold physical precious metal coins, bullion, and bars such as gold, silver, platinum, and palladium in an IRA, you need to open and set up a self-directed IRA (commonly referred to as a Gold IRA). You then fund the Gold IRA account with cash or you can roll over some or all of an existing 401k account into your new IRA account. Then you select a precious metal broker or dealer, as well as an IRS approved depository (custodian). By working with Advantage Gold, the entire process of setting up a Gold IRA is handled for you by one of our IRA specialists.

A Gold IRA is governed by the same tax rules as other IRAs. Your contributions into a self-directed IRA that holds gold and other precious metals can be deducted from your federal income taxes. The precious metals that you buy and hold in your Gold IRA cannot be withdrawn from the account until you reach the age of 59 1/2 years old without tax effects and a 10 percent penalty for the early withdrawal. Investors with a Gold IRA as part of their retirement portfolio must begin making mandatory minimum withdrawals at age 70 1/2 and pay taxes on those withdrawals.

If your Gold IRA is a Roth account, you will be able to make tax-free withdrawals because you were already taxed on the contributions. You also would not be compelled to start pulling money out at age 70 1/2.

Which Retirement Accounts are Eligible for Gold IRA Rollover?

– Traditional IRA
– Roth IRA
– SEP IRA
– Simple IRA
– TSP (Thrift Savings Plan)*
– 401(K)*
– 403(B)*
– 457 (B)*
– Pension plan*
– Tax-sheltered annuity

*To qualify, must be from a former employer or for an individual older than 59 ½.


For more information or to connect with Co-founders Adam Baratta and Kirill Zagalsky, call (888) 681-1596 or visit www.advantagegold.com


Advantage Gold is giving away a special edition of Jim Rickards’ latest book, The New Case for Gold  to all Community Publications Readers.

It’s simple, fast… and FREE! Just call (888) 681-1596 now and leave your name and address on our voicemail. We will then process your request and rush you your very Gold IRA Investment Kit with our special edition Jim Rickards’ book The New Case for Gold.

right background altLearn how to protect and secure your wealth with gold by calling (888) 681-1596 today!

*Must have a qualified retirement account to qualify.
Supplies are limited.

The last time we showcased Ortega Animal Care Center in South County Magazine, Dr. Fluent and Dr. Brehmer were excited to begin offering the highest quality veterinary care and scope of offerings to South Orange County’s animal residents.

“Our main focus was growing the hospital by expanding the hours and making ourselves available 7 days a week,” says Dr. Lynlee Fluent. “We’ve done quite a bit more than that in the past few years.”

DSC 8067In fact, since they opened three years ago, staff at the Ortega Animal Care Center has doubled, and not only are their in-house services available 7 days a week, they offer a 24-hour pet hotel staff, pick up, and delivery. Front to back administrative changes include digital dental radiography and a comprehensive in-house laboratory and full-service pet pharmacy. So why all the upgrades?

“We’re constantly looking for new ways to make pet care as convenient and accessible for pet owners as possible, while keeping our prices reasonable,” says Dr. Fluent. “With our main focus on providing the best care, we have to keep up with the ongoing demands of our clientele: your pets!” Starting with a complete revamp of their Play Group for dogs, Ortega Animal Care has significantly improved the safety, lighting, acoustics, and ventilation of their play rooms, in addition to adding an all new play set for the dogs to climb and explore.

As far as I can tell, no other center in South County provides grooming, socialization and veterinary care all under the same roof. They’ll even pick up your pet and safely deliver them home after their day of “fun, wellness care, and pampering.”

If your pup can’t play in a group setting? There is a Personal Play area - so each dog has his day. Offering 10-day, 30-day, and 90-day Play Group Passes at discounted rates, you can rest assured that while you’re away, your pup will get its exercise, medicine and groom on. Each visit is well rounded and optimized with a full line of prescription pet foods and treats.

DSC 8050A husband and wife team with a passion for veterinary medicine and the expertise to back it up, Dr. Brehmer and Dr. Fluent are sick of animal care centers that give customers the runaround or charge unnecessarily for testing or treatments. Combining their passions for animal care and small animal hospitals has turned a childhood growing up in 4H, and one spent in a small beach town into the premier veterinary center in Orange County.

“Most people don’t realize that we’re here 7 days a week, when most vet offices are closed on Sundays. And if you’re going out of town? We can provide a safe and fun place for your dogs to play while you’re away.”

Still, growing the business is a never-ending task, and not just a simple equation for Drs. Fluent and Brehmer.

“We want to engage with the community: the whole community. We’re strong supporters of rescued pets, and work closely with the Ark of San Juan Capistrano, and Doggie Bonez Dog Rescue to provide veterinary care, spay/neuter, and housing until they are paired with foster families or forever homes.”

So much can happen in a year - in fact, many pets can appear to reach full maturity in the span of 12 months, with dogs doubling or tripling their size and weight in that span again if they are a larger breed. The Ortega Animal Care Center would like the chance to take care of your pet as they hit each milestone, and are prepared to provide the utmost in convenience and accessibility for you, as you watch your furriest family member mature.

Ortega Animal Care Center (OACC) is located at 23741 Ortega Hwy. in San Juan Capistrano. For more information, call (949) 487-7600 or visit www.oaccpets.com

Normandin interiorNavigating the Orange County real estate landscape can be challenging for both buyers and sellers to track market trends, sift through all the numbers, and attempt to forecast what may or may not happen over years to come. I know I’d rather choose a new paint color or build my dream wraparound porch than pore tediously over industry statistics. And that’s where finding the right realtor comes into the picture regardless of what side of the transaction you’re on. The right marketing and hyper-reponsive customer service are mission critical when selling your home. For buyers, having an agent dedicated to helping you find the perfect property that addresses your specific needs and desires - regardless of how long it takes - can be the difference between buying a house and finding your dream home.

30041 Saddle ridge 2nd garageOften, determining the difference between one’s skill set and one’s passion leaves much to be desired: a rift not many of us have the luxury to cross over in our professional lives. For Sheri, seeing her skill set and passion collide in the real estate market has revolutionized hers. With over 25 years of executive level management and marketing in over 26 countries, Sheri’s transition to luxury property management was as smooth as can be. In fact, it doesn’t get much smoother than earning herself a top 2% spot in the Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Agents nationwide with a Chairman’s Circle award and being named among the top 50 Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices California Properties agents in Orange County. Yet, unlike a great many OC brokers, Sheri doesn’t hail from Orange County. “I grew up on a farm,” she notes with a smile. “I’m interested in Orange County in the same way my buyers and sellers are interested: I came here to buy a house for myself, I dealt with the same process, the same negotiations; and I think that makes me uniquely suited to welcome folks to the area.”

33761 Robles, Dana Point - $899,00033761 Robles, Dana Point - $899,000With the increased global reach of real estate, understanding and appropriately providing services to meet the various needs out there are constantly added to the equation of buying or selling a home. Sheri services all of South Orange County, not just the city she resides in, and she is willing to go the extra mile to help her clients understand what it is they are really achieving with her at the helm of their housing project. “The needs of a buyer are vastly different than those of a seller,” she says. “We have seen a strong recovery over the past few years, but with low inventories, it continues to be a sellers market.” So what questions are you asking as either in the current market? You may have the perfect paint chip in hand, but what kind of wall would you like to decorate? You may be approaching retirement, and are looking to downsize. Do you have specific square footage in mind? Do you have a budgetary cap? Is there room for the family dog? A yard? “Floor plans and functionality of a home can vary greatly and rearranging the current use with minor changes can have a much bigger value to a buyer, if they can see it. Not all agents can provide that vision. I look for areas I can make the process easier for my clients and actively take things off their plate to reduce stress.”

33 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,000Because everyone’s motivations are different, a good realtor connects with clients and can manage the expectations on the table, while successfully maximizing results. Finding a broker that will offer more than a minimum level of service however, can be painstaking. With her background in marketing and negotiation, it is no wonder that Sheri has found such success - invaluable when navigating the market and its constant fluctuations. “When I’m looking for a prospective agent to sell my home, I’m asking if they do this as a full time job - I’m asking for reviews and references - I’m asking what sets them apart from other agents. Professional photography, quality marketing materials and online exposure are base requirements these days to provide great results for the seller. I go beyond what is expected, which changes with each client. I’ve planted flowers, moved couches. Selling or buying a home can be an emotional experience, and making it as positive as possible is my goal.”

33 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,00033 Terrazza Del Mar, Dana Point - $1,850,000For more information about Sheri Normandin of Berkshire Hathaway, please call 949-612-5884, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Full service is a tough term to adequately define. The breadth and scope of it is so far reaching that in certain situations, it can be overwhelming to imagine all the possible combinations playing out: especially when it comes to travel. The variables involved in planning a family trip can often add up to an unbelievable amount of stress - all in order to find a safe haven far from your stresses. Picking a destination, drawing out a budget, deciding on points of interest, museum tours, airline tickets, travel visas, or railway passes, eating out or eating in, grocery shopping, souvenir shopping; hotels with pools or hotels with fitness centers? All before even getting your entire family on board. Each person adds new complexities - like building a rubber band ball that with each layer has an even greater chance of bouncing the wrong way and going through the nearest window.

Craig CarterCraig CarterCraig Carter is no stranger to the requirements of full service travel. Previously with American Airlines, Craig and his wife Amy were transferred to Orange County in 1997. Originally residents of Aliso Viejo, Craig and Amy moved to San Clemente in 2007, just one year before launching LUXE Travel Management. The result of a strong commitment among a handful of travel “pros”, LUXE was both an agreement and a vision: to provide their clients with the most comprehensive travel services available. Drawing from the shared experience of over one hundred travel agents and professionals from across the industry, the team at LUXE builds events, corporate retreats, meetings, group exercises and even worldwide leisure packages from the ground up.

Portofino Italy“Our cross section of the industry is very impressive. Everyone says ‘our people set us apart’, but this could not be more true at LUXE,” says Craig. Being an ex-exec himself, Craig knows the ins-and-outs of quality service, and brought together a core management team that hails from virtually every facet of the industry: airline executives, Fortune 500 travel directors, hotel representatives, and private agency owners.

“Yes, we have all of the state-of-the-art industry tools and technologies at our fingertips,” he says. “But we also have a group who chose to leave other positions to form LUXE - and our presence in the leisure travel world has reflected that dedication to excellence and detail by its tremendous growth.”

Scenic Amber Vitality Pool Budapest retouchCraig and his family have faced down the trials and tribulations of getting the whole family on board before. So LUXE’s leisure travel sits especially close to home. “Finding something that my two sons, daughter, and wife can all enjoy is a difficult enough task,” Craig notes, “and we love to travel together.”

Multi-generational travel comes with a special set of complications, like the rubber band ball - but LUXE controls the bounce, and can even direct the most varied of energies. “Cruising has become the go-to solution for family reunions and group travel. Everyone from grandparents to grandbabies can find something to fit their own unique needs.” Examples of itineraries LUXE can deliver include experiencing Europe at Christmastime (visiting charming villages and the Christmas markets on a Scenic River Cruise from Budapest to Amsterdam), indulging in an all-inclusive family reunion at Beaches, Turks & Caicos, forging an unforgettable family adventure to Steamboat Ski Resort in Colorado or partaking in a luxuriously pampering Paul Gauguin Cruise to Tahiti.

Rhine DARK SKY smallGroup fares help lower the overall cost, even when you factor in the actual expense covering breakfast, lunch, dinner - specialty dining for kids, age appropriate entertainment, scenic ports with individualized adventures, and on board perks like a carousel for the kids and spa treatments for Mom and Dad. With offices in Boca Raton and Clearwater, Florida, and headquarters in Irvine, California, LUXE offers coast to coast peace of mind for the group traveler.

Lessening the unknowns and leveraging leisure are just side effects of a full service experience. “We expect the unexpected, anticipate your needs, and exceed the expectations you have for your personal vacation. We’ve been where you want to go, and we can help you create a truly one-of-a-kind experience.”

Luxe Travel Club is located at 16450 Bake Parkway, Suite 100 in Irvine. Connect with Craig and his team of professionals by calling (949) 336-1000 or visit www.luxetm.com

My husband and I made the mistake of telling our kids we were planning an overnight stay and two days of fun at LEGOLAND® in Carlsbad two weeks prior to the planned visit last month. As you can imagine, we were on the countdown for the the next 13 days, peppered with questions about which attraction in the park we would experience first, if we could plan to be at the entrance “right when they open” so as to be among the first in line, whether two days was really enough time to enjoy the main park, the water park AND the aquarium?

SURFERSCOVE Draft10 flat 576x678RGBThe hotel was a dream come true for our kids and their parents - they loved everything about their stay - from collecting clues in a scavenger hunt that results in a code that unlocks a treasure chest in the room (which reveals a Lego set they could work on while mom and dad get the bags unpacked). Our accommodation is divided into an adult section with a king bed and a smaller, separate nook with bunk beds). The rooms are themed according to five popular lines of Lego toys: pirates, adventure, friends, kingdom and - as our son was ecstatic to discover … the new NINJAGO guest rooms which opened last March. For the latter, guests can choose from 18 rooms and two suites to spend a night with Kai, Jay, Cole, Zane, Lloyd, Nya and Master Wu.

driving school 300dpi 4X6Each room is filled with 11 LEGO® NINJAGO inspired models that include: Zane’s titanium falcon, Nya’s helmet, ninja throwing stars and a massive dragon egg all made out of LEGO bricks. Every child’s sleeping area is themed as a dragon’s cave where ninja dragons are waiting for battle and includes bunk and trundle beds. Plus, kids have their own TV, games, LEGO bricks and their treasure chest was hidden in what’s designed to be a bamboo passageway to the mountain temple! My husband and I slept in ninja style as the king-size bed’s headrest includes a shrine that holds all four elemental weapons.

Bricks restaurant features a buffet of foods that will appeal to everyone — soups, salads, easy-access entrees, and a bar at kids’ level so that they can serve themselves.

Breakfast, which is included with the room, has everything you can think of: eggs, an omelet station, pancakes, yogurt parfaits, pastries, fresh fruit and an array of hot and cold beverages.

aquazone 300dpi 4X6But the best benefit of staying in the hotel situated at the entrance to the park? Hotel guests enjoy early access - a full hour before the general public. And if you want to take a break to relax or refuel, get your hand stamped and you can come and go as you please (with free return entry into the park without waiting in line).

Summer is stacking up as a sure-fire adventure along the Pacific as LEGOLAND® launches its roster of new adventures including Surfer’s Cove, California’s newest beach themed expansion at LEGOLAND Water Park where you can enjoy an epic splash-ground at Wipeout Lagoon or rule Riptide Racers - a competitive water raceway designed for children to jump on a mat and race down one of six slides with family and friends for the fastest time! Each slide stands 17 feet high and is more than 100 feet in length.

www.LEGOLAND.COM
Reservations: 877.534.6526

180blu offers inventive dishes, hand-crafted cocktails and unparalleled, awe-inspiring views

RCLAGUN 00427Here in South Orange County, we’re pretty lucky to live so close to the coast and have an abundance of wonderful dining destinations to choose from. But for inventive cuisine coupled with awe-inspiring ocean views, there are few establishments that rival 180blu. Located in The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel - the aptly named 180blu boasts an outdoor lounge/deck situated 150 feet above Salt Creek Beach, defined by breathtaking 180 degrees of blue sky and clear blue ocean water.

180blu’s culinary offerings showcases Pan-Latin Coastal Cuisine prepared with sustainable seafood, local produce, natural and organic meat. Acclaimed Chef Richard Sandoval’s signature Latin flavors define the seasonal menu which draws inspiration from California and Asian cuisines.

RCLAGUN 00495The dining destinations at The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel have long been favorites for special occasions, date nights and girls’ night out - the service here is what you’d expect of The Ritz-Carlton and consistently so: Attentive yet unobtrusive, professional, yet casually friendly. And 180blu is THE perfect locale to find yourself at happy hour - for the food, the handcrafted cocktails and the spectacular sunsets.

RCLAGUN 00331The menu here is characterized by refreshing hand-crafted beverages (watch Mixologist Erin Snider demonstrate how to make Tequila Sangria, one of the specialty drinks served here), small plates (our favorite here is the Wild Mushroom Huarache - a variation on flatbread piled with wild mushroom, caramelized onion, black bean, goat cheese and truffle oil), sushi (on Friday and Saturday from 6 pm to 9 pm) and desserts. Bonus! Weather permitting, live music Thursday through Sunday from 6 pm - 9 pm.

Other popular small plates include the lobster tacos (enhanced by chile de arbol salsa) and baby kale salad tossed with date, Spanish manchego cheese, roasted beet, toasted almond and a sherry guajillo vinaigrette.

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

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.

5405 85003 Four Drawer Thin ConsoleDennis 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.

5206 85001 Console“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.

“This month, with the immense assistance of my design and sales team we have completely redesigned our 11,000-square-foot showroom starting with our new name Sanctuary Home Furnishings by Renaissance. “We started in San Juan Capistrano, and now we’re coming 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.”

50630648947 A81DDEEC 71C3 470E 8928 4121AAEA9962Not 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.

D4209 rect tbl buffetAs I shared earlier in this edition, one of the perks of publishing South County Magazine is that I am provided a venue to share with our readership personal experiences of local business owners whose services I have utilized either personally or professionally. Our 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.

uttermost leather chairsThat 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

Kristy Fleming, MD, FAAD  Changing the Face of Dermatology

It takes a trained eye to note the subtle shading needed to contour a surfboard. To taper the rails just so. To send the airbrush lightly over the fin box and trace the shape perfectly, symmetrically, precisely. It takes a trained eye to paint the female form, to counter shadow and shape until a living woman appears on the page. It takes a trained eye to dive below what William Asbury called the “large-scale manifestations of classical biology” to the molecular plane below. For Kristy Fleming, MD, each of those became immediately necessary and tangential to another when she discovered that skin cancer often occurs in cosmetically sensitive areas that take a nuanced hand to repair. “My specialty is repairing the defect left by the removal of cancer. Each one is unique, a puzzle to solve in order to give my patients the absolute best cosmetic outcome.”

A board-certified dermatologist and fellow of the American Society for Mohs Surgery, Dr. Fleming has been preparing for this task her entire life. An attendee of the University of San Francisco, Kristy graduated summa cum laude, moving on to the University of California, Irvine - where Alpha Omega Alpha elected her as part of their top tier graduate honor society. Not quite finished with her education, she moved to Houston, Texas for a residency in dermatology at Baylor College of Medicine.

“In my training at Baylor, and later as a faculty member at UCLA, I became accustomed to seeing very challenging cases,” says Dr. Fleming. Everything from minor skin concerns to life-threatening dermatologic disorders. Those are the cases that keep my days exciting and force me to stay current with emerging treatments.”

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Treatments which have gained Dr. Fleming a dedicated patient following- one that made her transition from Newport Beach to Laguna Hills difficult. “I’ve been slow to move out of the Newport office because I didn’t want my patients to feel abandoned. I know it sounds cliche, but patients really become part of our family. And I believe our dedication to them is really what sets us apart.” Kristy’s sister also works in the office; a talented hair stylist and brow expert. Unique in their ability to provide multiple services at once, it is not uncommon to see Kristy offering Botox or filler treatments to patients waiting for their hair to set. Though the Mohs micrographic surgery allows Kristy to treat her patient’s skin cancers, its efficacy can affect a cosmetic change, and however small, the team wants to fix it all. “All procedures are performed in-house, under my hand. We don’t have nurses or physicians assistants working on our patients. I want you to know you are personally being taken care of.”

On top of skin cancer removal and cosmetic dermatology, Dr. Fleming is personally invested in the physical health of her community.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with the Orangewood Foundation to provide laser tattoo removal to victims of human trafficking,” says Dr. Fleming. “The girls are branded with large tattoos across their necks, or chests. We’re out to change that.” Kristy and her team also began a program called Fresh Start, which provides basic skin and hair care products to women and children who fled from unsafe living conditions, and are currently residing in shelters for battered women.“

Now open 5 days a week at their location in Laguna Hills, Kristy and her team are excited to become a staple in the local community, and start changing the way patients view themselves. It doesn’t take a trained eye to see the good in that.

Fleming Dermatology & Aesthetic Center is located at 23141 Moulton Parkway, Suite 110 in Laguna Hills. For information, call (949) 916-5956 or visit www.coastalhillsdermandplastics.com