There’s a real sweet spot when it comes to dinner. Full and fed, of course. More than that however: a parent’s dream exists somewhere in the time it takes to get the kids to calm down and actually eat the meal you spent time precious time preparing for them. 15 years in the making, Dream Dinners has been helping people solve the “what’s for dinner” question.
Easy, family friendly meals put you at the table sooner. Sandy Ransom (who co-owns Dream Dinners in Lake Forest with her husband Richard) and her team know their customers by name.
“We take pride in making our business a place that is comfortable and inviting to use.” Not a buffet, or a meal in a box that shows up on your doorstep, Dream Dinners is an easy meal assembly “store.” Coming from over 30 years in the food service industry, Sandy wanted something different, “something purposeful.” Since 2002, Dream Dinners has helped American families sit down to 100 million meals. For a busy mom, it can be a lifesaver. I know firsthand.
Between work, school pickup and drop offs, homework and shuttling two kiddos to their respective after school activities, it’s often a challenge to figure out what to make for dinner, never mind finding the time (or energy) to prep the meal in advance each day - all in an oftentimes futile effort to cut down on time spent cooking and more time actually enjoying the dish as a family. Add to that a desire for healthy, home cooked meals vs. pizza delivery, takeout, fast food on the run or the standby chicken nuggets that I cringe to admit are too often a staple. But that was before I discovered Dream Dinners.
The entire process simply couldn’t be easier or frankly, more fun. My 11-year-old daughter accompanied me on my first foray into the Dream Dinners experience last month. I viewed the monthly menu online, picked the entrees and selected my session time. My daughter thoroughly enjoyed everything about the process - following the easy directions to assemble a month of meals for our family. Simply keep the meals you want to eat the next few days in the fridge and put the rest in the freezer. Cook as directed and enjoy. Easy peasy.
As a huge bonus, we are able to enjoy flavors and recipes that I wouldn’t otherwise have any exposure too. Or rather, as a result of my less-than-inventive recipe repertoire, my family would still be rotating through my limited culinary offerings. This particular month, we dined on delicious dishes including Chateau Chicken with Almond Butter Sauce, Fully Loaded Chicken and Potato Soup with breadsticks, Garlic and Balsamic Marinated Flank Steak, Chicken Yakitori over Jasmine Rice and the kids’ new favorite - Pizza Burger Sliders on Pretzel Buns.
I’m going to change lives with my newfound knowledge. Well, at the very least, I’m going to share my culinary discovery of Dream Dinners with my mom friends. It isn’t even that we collectively mind the time in the kitchen. But the time in the kitchen is time away from our kids, time away from playing games, or helping with homework. Time spent in disconnect. As Sandy says … “We’re looking to grow, looking to reconnect and build strong relationships. Where else can you do that but over the dinner table?” A sweet spot indeed.
Dream Dinners is located at 22369 El Toro Road in Lake Forest. To connect with Sandy directly, call (949) 583-2800.
Just across the big blue bay from Southern California’s most laid back city, Coronado Island is San Diego’s best kept secret. Fun for family outings, or a mid-week escape from busy Los Angeles or Orange Counties, the island boasts a rich, romantic history and charming small town atmosphere that I’m certain proves to be a particularly welcome respite for those looking for a relaxing retreat from their work-a-day worlds. Such was the case for my husband and I on a recent weekend getaway, but that isn’t to imply there is any shortage of activities. We brought the kids along and discovered that there is truly something for everyone, at every speed.
Although locals refer to it as “the island,” Coronado is really a peninsula connected to the mainland by a finger of land called the Silver Strand. With wide leafy streets lined with Victorian homes and Southern California beach bungalows, the island is small enough to walk almost anywhere (it’s only a mile from the San Diego Bay side of the peninsula to the Pacific Ocean). Once we parked the car at our “home base” upon arrival at the ideally situated and idyllic Glorietta Bay Inn (more on that in a minute), we literally left it in the lot the entire stay and tooled around town on foot or on two wheels.
Our weekend away was defined by unparalleled accommodation, scenic splendor, family bonding and even a bit of history. A visit to the Coronado Museum offers a glimpse into the life on the island dating back to the 1880s. For an active afternoon endeavor, there are plenty of places to rent a kayak or paddleboard to cruise under the bay bridge. For our part, we opted to take a two-wheeled tour to explore the environs at a leisurely pace.
We rented bicycles from Wheel Fun Rentals (wheelfunrentals.com) and started off along Coronado Beach before spending the better part of the afternoon tooling around town, along the Bayshore Bikeway, past Glorietta Bay and the Coronado Golf Course and under the Coronado Bridge (if you continue following the well-marked bike path, you’ll end up at the Coronado Ferry Landing, where a ten-minute ride would bring you to downtown San Diego.) Fans of author L. Frank Baum’s iconic classic “The Wizard of Oz” will enjoy pedaling past the quaint yellow Cape Cod-style home (located right across from Star Park) that he rented during his stays and the place where he penned three of the books in the Oz series.
When we travel with the kids, we always try to incorporate an activity or educational opportunity to learn something “remarkable” or interesting about each locale. Sometimes we happen to stumble upon a unique aspect of the area and other times, it’s an endeavor best left in the hands of the professionals - in this case, local knowledge in the form of Nancy Cobb, Coronado Island resident and owner of the Coronado Walking Tour (coronadowalkingtour.com). The 90-minute guided stroll starts in the Music Room of the The Glorietta Bay Inn and offers walk-bys of castles and cottages, along with a legendary tale or two about movie stars who’ve spent time basking and relaxing on the eternally sunny Coronado Island. I have to say, our family learned everything we now know about the Spreckels Mansion and Coronado Island from Nancy, who provided a thorough and entertaining accounting of the island’s history and famous (and infamous) highlights.
If all you want to do is sit back and let someone else play tour guide, the Old Town Trolley is just the fit. Looking for an even more tranquil experience? Sit back and take in the surf, sand and spectacular sunsets at any of Coronado’s five gorgeous, rarely crowded white sand beaches. At dusk both days during our weekend stay, my husband and I strolled the picturesque stretch of sand and surf that meanders for over a mile along Ocean Boulevard in front of historic and glamorous houses. Voted among the top 10 beaches in the USA by the Travel Channel, this long and wide coastline is great for walks, runs, beach volleyball or sandcastle building. If you’re traveling with a furry friend, there’s even a leash-free dog zone at the far end of the beach where pups can frolic in the waves.
Situated across the street from Coronado Beach, the Glorietta Bay Inn (gloriettabayinn.com) leans into the legendary reputation of island relaxation.
Originally built as the private residence of sugar baron John D. Spreckels, this beautiful boutique hotel features 11 mansion rooms (in the original building circa 1908) and 89 contemporary rooms and suites added in later years. Easy strolling distance from an array restaurants and retail shops, this landmark attraction famous for its grandeur architecture combines Old World charm with incredible California comfort. The Inn showcases a scenic outdoor verandah, a storied music room complete with a baby grand piano and a sun-warmed lobby that once served as the grand foyer to Spreckels’ home.
The structure was originally designed with the simple, classic lines of Italian Renaissance to showcase its six bedrooms, three baths, a parlor, dining room and library. At that time, Spreckels’ Mansion featured a brass cage elevator, a marble staircase with leather-padded handrails, skylights, marble floors and some of the Island’s most spectacular gardens. The home was built with reinforced steel and concrete, an earthquake precaution Spreckels insisted upon after living through the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.
In 1913, Spreckels, a dedicated musician and pipe organist, added a spectacular 800-square-foot Music Room with an enormous 41-rank Aeolian Pipe Organ. The horseshoe-shaped Music Room, which can be enjoyed today with its player piano and as the starting point of the aforementioned historic tour of Coronado, boasts nine French doors which lead out to the breakfast patio overlooking Glorietta Bay and the Hotel del Coronado.
Each of the historic mansion rooms are uniquely styled: the Sugar Baron Room, originally the private bedroom of Mrs. Spreckels, features a king-bedded room with a large balcony and a spectacular view of Glorietta Bay; the Spreckels Suite (once the private bedroom of John D. Spreckels), this beautiful room has a living room area with a convenient kitchenette, and a separate bedroom with a king size bed. French doors off the living room open up to a spacious balcony with an equally gorgeous view of Glorietta Bay. Amenities for all accommodations include access to a heated pool, complimentary continental breakfast and daily afternoon refreshments. And bonus! Glorietta Bay Inn offers its guests complimentary beach chairs, towels, and toys - so there’s no excuse not to stake out your own spot to soak up the sun. And with year round Vitamin D, you’ll never run out of reasons to visit.
Beauty has certainly changed a lot over the years. At the risk of dating myself, I’ve lived through trends like mini-buns, barrettes, chunky highlights in non-traditional hair colors. Blue eyeshadow. Half-hair up with cornrows. Thankfully, I’ve moved on (even though I was sadly unable to ever achieve “the Rachel”). I’m grateful for cutting-edge salons (pun intended) like Salon Capistrano where seasoned professionals keep up with the rapidly evolving trends to deliver world-class service to their customers.
Voted “Best of San Juan Capistrano” seven years in a row, Salon Capistrano is a full service salon that offers hair services, facials, chemical peels, waxing, nails and makeup/airbrush application. Since the salon opened its doors in 2012, Owner Paula Guerena and her team have strived to ensure that each of their clients “shine.”
“We want to make the special events of your lives even better - from weddings and proms to class reunions, galas and teens/ladies/men’s night out,” says Paula, whose personal area of expertise since 1994 has been in anti-aging facials and chemical peels to help keep her clients’ skin youthful and healthy.
Paula and her team pride themselves on keeping up with the latest techniques and products in the industry through continuing education classes, and never let their standard of service falter. “Our clients continue to tell us how warmly received they feel the moment they walk in the door, and that the salon has a ‘great vibe.’” A fact that can surely be directly attributed to the kind and considerate group of independent contractors who truly work together here in harmony as a team.
“We all come from different backgrounds, but our passion for making people look and feel their best is what led each of us to the beauty and customer service industry,” says Paula. No egos ... just exceptional service.
Connect with Paula directly by calling (949) 212-6262. Salon Capistrano is located at 32241 Camino Capistrano, Suite A103 in San Juan Capistrano.
If you’re in the mood for delicious, authentic Italian fare served in a romantic atmosphere where the owners and staff make you feel like a personal guest in their homes, look no further than Casanova Ristorante in Dana Point.
I can happily attest that literally everything my husband and I have tried on the menu here has been nothing short of superb. The service is alway excellent – attentive and unobtrusive – the ambiance is warm and friendly and its popular cocktail lounge featuring specially selected wine list (and full bar) has a loyal following among locals and visitors alike.
Start with the Mozzarella Caprese, which arrives with slices of fresh tomato topped with creamy buffalo mozzarella cheese and basil and served with virgin olive oil. Another popular pick is the antipasto misto made up of a selection of cured meats and complementary cheeses and my personal fave: the Carpaccio al Salmone defined by crisp romaine, capers, radicchio topped with smoked salmon, lemon and olive oil.
For the main course, Tim’s favorite dishes include the “Pink Lady Fettuccine” made with chicken and sundried tomatoes tossed in a creamy Alfredo sauce and a flavorful Rigatoni Mamma Rosa with Italian sausage and mushrooms in a tomato sauce with a touch of cream. My favorites include the Lasagne al Forno which arrives with layers of perfectly al dente pasta, ricotta cheese and meat sauce baked with mozzarella cheese.
A seafood aficionado? Options abound – ranging from the Linguini Vongole Veraci (long, flat pasta with baby Manila clams sautéed in a white wine sauce) and Farfalle al Salmone (bowtie pasta with smoked salmon tossed in a cream and tomato sauce with a touch of vodka) to the Linguini alla Pescatora (long, flat pasta with fresh fish of the day, shrimp, calamari, mussels and clams in a light tomato sauce.
Portions are generous, but if you’ve saved room for a little something sweet … try the crème brulee with its perfectly carmelized top or the homemade tiramisu, a traditional favorite or an equally delicious warm chocolate cake accompanied by vanilla ice cream, whipped cream and drizzled with a rich chocolate sauce.
Casanova Ristorante is located at 33585 Del Obispo St. in Dana Point (at the corner of Stonehill).
For information or reservations, call 949.496.0992 or visit www.casanovaristorante.com
I was at a bookstore the other day, best sellers dotting the front shelves. In the back, over by the kids books were a series of board games, dolls, and puzzles. A surprising number of the puzzles depicted scenes from California: cities and beaches, redwoods and wineries. A great many I recognized were from Napa Valley, famous for its picturesque wineries (grand scale, boutique and everything in between) and renowned varietals, and yet equally famous for its dramatic views, world-class resorts and restaurants.
My husband and I are lucky to have family who live in the region so weekend getaways are super easy and require little excuse or forward planning. About an hour from the Sacramento Airport, the end of August and into September is a ideal time to visit - when the summer heat tapers into fall, and the sun’s latitude slants just so across the rolling hills of fertile soil. Like many visitors and locals alike, we love to explore the offerings of both well-established and up-and-coming wineries; some to drink, some just to stroll the grounds. Understated and unbelievable, Napa Valley a must-experience destination for any and all.
If you’re looking for a way back to a simpler and more elegant frame of mind while on vacation, step onto the platform of the Napa Valley Wine Train, and come aboard for a trip to the past, through the present’s most “expensive and famous farm real estate in the country.” Built in 1864 to take travelers to Calistoga, the Napa Valley Wine Train (winetrain.com) is a three-hour tour from downtown Napa to St. Helena and back traveling along 36 miles of track to roll by 26 different wineries at about 10 miles an hour.
Traveling through nothing but incredible scenery, the train features a Gourmet Express multi-course meal on board, with car service in either the lounge or dining car. Meals are served at tables laid out with white linen, beautiful china and silverware. Our culinary adventure began with a selection of artisan cheeses and finely cut meats, followed by a choice of grilled and roasted beef tenderloin and the Chef’s fresh selection of seafood. Departing mid-morning or early evening, the trail rocks and rails from Oak Knoll to Rutherford. Four kitchens and local produce combine to a decadent conclusion. Every dish is made to order; and the ambience is certainly served up with each course.
My mom used to tell me “God made dirt, and dirt don’t hurt.” I’m sure it was within the context of some scrape or road rash I had as a kid, but as an adult, finding that the most intriguing part of my wine habit is the soil that the grapes came from definitely reminds me of my mother. At Italics Wine Growers (italics winegrowers.com), they’re approaching grapes from the ground up. “Soil is what it is, and there’s not a lot you can do about it. Here in Coombsville, the soils are a result of volcanic eruptions that occurred some three to five million years ago.” And we’re drinking to that today!
A lot of factors influence the taste and body of that lovely libation, but the parent material is all the minerals, plants, and microorganisms you walk on. Those who walk the walk at Italics came down a long road to get here - all the way from the American Southeast. Texas to be exact. Taylor Martin, his wife, their 2 year-old, (and one to come soon!) live on the property and along with their carefully cultivated team of fellow oenophiles, and can’t get enough of the winery where Taylor will be the first to tell guests that “a tasting room is a place to sip and swirl, meet new people and make new friends, but there’s no reason it has to be a room. Not when you can walk among the vines … to learn firsthand about vine spacing, trellising and pruning - things that affect vigor, yield and quality. Or if you prefer, you can take a “behind-the-scenes” tour of the 16,000 square-foot cave. Nothing illuminates a winegrower’s art more than a cave tour and tasting where our party savored current releases and library wines accompanied with seasonal pairings of local cheese and charcuterie.
Taylor and his team have extended their enthusiasm to everyone who has experienced Italics since its inception in 2014. It may be one of the newer wineries on the map in Napa, but the flavor delivers about a million years of history, down to the last drop.
When I picture a rest stop, I imagine 18-wheel trucks, a grimy bathroom, and the last of a bag of road-trip snacks. Not the rolling hills of Paso Robles. Green like Ireland in the spring, and tawny golden in the summer months, the pass of the oaks, as it was named by natives who settled the area before the Spanish ever set foot upon the Camino Real, offered rest for travelers of the historic trail. Franciscan priests from the neighboring mission in San Miguel were responsible for the first mineral baths in the area, and so it became a lush respite on a dusty trail.
Located on the Salinas River north of San Luis Obispo, Paso Robles hosts the California Mid-State Fair, and is known widely for its ranches, vineyards, and orchards. Today, it produces some of the finest wines and olive oils in the state and is home to more than 200 wineries and fine restaurants making it an exciting destination for any oenophile. Just over three hours from Los Angeles, and three more to San Francisco, there’s very little reason to stay away. From hop-on-hop-off wine tasting tours to Hearst Castle to the Studios on the Park gift shops and more. Beautiful city parks (and waterparks!) await if you’re visiting with the whole family. If it’s a quiet weekend away that you’re looking for, search no further than the Allegretto Vineyard Resort (allegrettovineyardresort.com).
A drone is the only way to capture the full scope of this pristine gem, tucked into the heart of wine country on 20 sprawling acres of vineyards and olive and fruit orchards on Paso Robles’ idyllic east side. From the ground, walk through a peaceful sanctuary inspired by Mediterranean architecture and the Italian “dolce vita.” Drawing from wine country’s original heritage in the rolling splendor of Tuscany and the south of France, the resort feels like a sweet plunge into refreshing waters. Lovely gardens, a gorgeous Tuscan-style courtyard, beautifully appointed rooms, relaxing cabanas at sparkling outdoor pools, a French-inspired Abbey and labyrinth sound garden are among the many amenities designed to give each guest a luxury experience they’ll never forget.
Relax in the Spa as you rejuvenate body and mind, take a walk around the vineyard and celebrate in the event spaces; including but not limited to the Veneto Ballroom. If you’re a foodie, walk through the organic gardens with Chef Justin, or simply indulge at Cello Ristorante and Bar. The local bounty lands fresh upon your table in a celebration of every farmer, rancher, chef, and server that makes each dish possible. Combining both domestic and international flavors, Chef Picard marries only the freshest ingredients with artisan cookery. Hop on a tandem bike and ride off into the sunset: at a rest stop you’re not likely going to want to leave behind.
My husband and I initially discovered DAOU wine when a friend brought over a bottle for a gathering at our home several months ago. Over the years, this friend has introduced us to several pretty spectacular varietals and DAOU’s 2016 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon was no exception. So when we realized that DAOU Vineyards and Winery (daouvineyards.com) was located in Paso Robles, we were excited to indulge in its offerings firsthand.
Standing alone at an elevation of 2,200 feet in the heart of the breathtaking Adelaide District (10 minutes from downtown), DAOU’s Wine Tasting experience more than delivered. The reserve and estate-tier vintages (our favorite was the 2017 DAOU Unbound, which the web site describes as “Petite SIrah, Tannat and Tempranillo Blend shows an inky, violet, aubergine color with a warm, rich nose of blueberry pie, boysenberry jam and crushed mulberries. Cedar shavings with graphite and dried flowers are accentuated by vanilla creme highlights and a subtle hint of mint.” As a novice aficionado, I just know it was lovely and further enhanced by the beautiful mountain overlook terrace, cozy fireside, European-inspired furnishings and impeccable grounds with sweeping panoramic vineyard views.
We tend to be a bit spoiled when it comes to weather in California, especially the southern residents. Year-round, it typically doesn’t drop below 50, hovering even in December in the high 60’s or low 70’s.
Which means we can do more outside when we aren’t stuck in the snow. Which means we’re more fun. Objectively. Harrah’s has just taken it one step further. Already the home of a world-class resort and casino, the #1 spot to indulge is Funner than ever. Officially.
California’s most exciting new city, Funner (visitfunner.com), is on the map and ready to greet you with its award winning selection of restaurants, the first swim-up bar in SoCal, and even a 400-foot lazy river. Funner even has a mayor: Hollywood’s recently inaugurated Rob Riggle. Now, fun literally is a destination, and it isn’t that far off. Tucked between San Diego and Los Angeles, you can indulge onsite or head out for adventure. Only 4 miles from Hill Top Winery and just down the road from La Jolla Zip Zoom, you can get from pampered to Palomar Mountain in a jiffy.
There’s only one hotel in this quirky concept destination and it’s a doozy. Harrah’s Resort SoCal boasts 1,087 luxury rooms, 22 wellness rooms and suites, eight restaurants, a trio of pools (and 23 poolside cabanas), eight hot tubs, the aforementioned 400-foot lazy river, fully equipped fitness center AND 1,700 slot machines and 60 table games. Seriously, this resort means it when it advertises that it "isn’t your ordinary escape” whether its guests prefer to pull up a lounge chair, a bar stool or an inner tube - there’s literally something for everyone.
What’s your idea of a poolside paradise? I think it just might look like a trifecta of crystal clear pools, lazy river that “plays on repeat,” a range of sunning options and SoCal’s first swim-up bar - replete with live entertainment poolside nightly Thursdays - Sundays.
A foodie? Grab-and-go delicacies or the delightful elegance of linen tablecloths - with bountiful options designed to please event the pickiest eaters. For the former - Earl of Sandwich, Robeks Fresh Juices & Smoothies, Smash Burger and Starbucks - and for the latter Fiore Steak + Seafood (winner of Wine Spectator’s “Award of Excellence” 10 years running) and everything in between. KJ Chinese Restaurant, ‘ritas cantina brings Baja to you “one bite at a time,” Cafe serves up casual fare and Buffet is spelled like it sounds: a world tour for your taste buds.
The bar scene is not to be trifled with - Spiked’s mixologists blend classic recipes with a signature twist and Corked offer a craft beer list ensured to impress any hop head. Did I mention live entertainment? Aside from poolside pursuits, Harrah’s Resort SoCal showcases a monthly event calendar packed with comedy and concerts that will surely pack the house. Upcoming performances include The Wallflowers, Experience Hendrix, Chicago, Don’t Look Back (Boston Tribute) and the Eddie B: I’m Already Professionally Developed Tour.
Add to all this the newly renovated Spa at Harrah’s, on-site barber shop, and SR76 Beerworks, home of the original Native American owned brewery that offers a little history with every taste. Named after the original trail the tribe migrated on, the beers cultivated within showcase the history and agriculture of the region. What could be funner? Come see for yourself.
Numbers 11 and 17 on the Periodic Table of Elements are pretty important to Amy Boriack. They have been for a long time now. Not separately, of course. Together. Representing a 1:1 ratio of sodium and chloride ions, sodium chloride is Amy’s bread and butter. Or, more approximately: her table salt.
Introduced to the concept of halotherapy by a friend, Amy and her daughter sought out the treatment a few years back to help kick a lingering cold. “Sure enough, a couple of sessions sent it down the road, and since then with regular use, we’ve managed to avoid many bugs altogether.” Amy was sold. Avoiding the more unnatural over-the-counter remedies and finding the therapy interesting was all it took. In business now for a few months, Amy opened the doors to Coastal Salt with high hopes of minimizing her client’s stress, opening up their airways, and clearing out bacteria and inflammation from their skin.
“Salt has incredible healing properties”, says Amy. “It brings moisture to your top dermal layer, stimulates microcirculation, impacts oxygen levels, and boosts cellular activity.” It sounds too good to be true, honestly. Breathing salt-infused air deeply into the lungs enhances cellular activity in the smallest tubules in your respiratory system, boosting oxygen levels and settling gently on your lips and skin. Impossible to see or smell, your time in the cabin is free of anxiety, “and you’re welcome to read, meditate, or simply relax.”
“The salt is heated and ground by a halogenerator,” says Amy. “The microparticulate is absorbed or respirated and opens the airways, loosens any latent mucus, removes any airborne pathogens, like pollen, and preps the body for more rapid healing. What was I the most surprised by? Breathing deeply with “The salt on my skin helped me clear up my acne.”
Pharmaceutical grade salt - not Himalayan (more for eating than breathing) - seems like an April fool’s joke. But Amy’s grand opening this past spring was no prank, and she’s loved seeing skeptics become believers. “Some of my clients suffer from terrible allergies or asthma, and have found such relief. It’s affordable and convenient, and it’s great for all ages so the whole family can use it together.”
Family is first for Amy, and when she started doing salt therapy with her daughter, it just wasn’t convenient to the location of their home. “As far as I could tell, there weren’t resources for this type of healing in South Orange County.” After more research, she decided it would be an incredible experience bringing halotherapy to the community. Backed by more than 50 years of scientific research, halotherapy originated in Europe. Well documented in clinical trials in St. Petersburg, Russia, and most recently the New England Journal of Medicine, halotherapy has been long hailed as the leading aid in the naturopathic treatment of cystic fibrosis.
In fact, long term salt treatments reduce respiratory edema and pulmonary exacerbations without negative side effects. Coastal Salt is bringing the science out of the salt caves. Hard to find these days: a means to a cure without combining a scary amount of squares on the periodic table. “Halotherapy is a drug-free, natural therapy used to promote better breathing, healthier skin, decreased stress, sounder sleep, improved physical fitness and endurance and overall wellness. All with two of the simplest elements known to mankind: NaCl.”
To connect with Amy directly, call (949) 449-4449 or visit www.Coastal-Salt.com
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 clients who have been on the receiving end of ReelTime’s patient, intelligent, and personalized service, the rabbit hole of home automation doesn’t have to swallow you entirely. With the help of their independent certified Control4 dealer, it’s easy to update your home without upending your 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?
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.
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 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 in 1983. Today, the technicians and designers that Skip assigns to clients are all ReelTime 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.
Connect with Skip Myers and ReelTime by calling (949) 240-0555, stop by their beautiful new showroom at 26381 Via De Anza in San Juan Capistrano or visit www.reeltimeav.com
I don’t know that I’ve ever uttered the phrase “it all started with a guinea pig.” Certainly, this is the first time I have ever personally written the phrase. But I’m more than tickled by the notion that a whirlwind of events which has started the former owner of ZOOMARS iconic San Juan Capistrano petting zoo down the path of adventure was with, you guessed it: a guinea pig. Not just any guinea pig. Gillie Guinea Pig. Carolyn Franks, couldn’t stop smiling before. Now, I’m betting it would take an incredible feat to curb her enthusiasm.
Former owner, you ask? The success of Carolyn’s first book has opened the door to an unimaginable adventure - one that has been 15 years in the making since she first envisioned an innocent, affordable family entertainment opportunity. A petting zoo named ZOOMARS in the historic Los Rios District of San Juan Capistrano resulted, and is the stuff of history now. A “backyard barnyard” from the start, the zoo buildings date back to the 1800’s, and its property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Home to a vast number of creatures and critters alike, the llamas, ponies, goats, sheep, bunnies and of course, guinea pigs will soon be in the caring hands of local developer Dan Almquist whose own children and wife Lindsey are longtime friends and fans of the beloved zoo. And, most importantly, who wish to keep it, enrich it, and bolster its already sterling reputation for years to come.
Almquist will be one of only a handful of owners of the property in two centuries. The land was once part of the Mission, then a Mexican ranch owned by the Rios family, then the Nieblas family (both relatives of the native inhabitants, the Acjachemen), then granted to Delfina Olivares, the town matriarch. In 1980, Gil and Millie Jones bought the parcel and opened the Jones Family Mini Farm. Gil served as a two-term mayor. They sold the property to Carolyn when they retired in 2005.
“Like me,” Carolyn notes, “the original Jones Family would only sell the petting zoo to someone who would promise to keep it a zoo. I believe that after 15 years, I have taken ZOOMARS as far as I can on my own. I see how much Dan Almquist and his company Frontier Development, truly care about historic restoration and preservation in San Juan and they have the investors and the construction know-how to revitalize old buildings. It’s great to showcase these 1800s structures for all to enjoy, but no one realizes the enormous amount of money it takes to preserve and continuously repair them. Dan’s projects in town inspire growth and yet are in keeping with our old town charm. There is no one I trust more than Dan to pass the torch to.”
As a former San Juan Mayor, Gil Jones also supports Dan’s vision for growth in town and his approval was also important to Carolyn. “I wanted to make sure I had Gil and Millie’s blessing before selling and called to ask them for it before I approached Dan. I told them I knew he would keep their ‘farm’ alive and that it would be in good hands. The property was never listed for sale as I only approached Dan privately.”
The property holds four listings on the National Register of Historic Places - the Olivares House, the Owner’s Cottage, the San Juan Springs Bathhouse and River Street, which Dan purchased 50% of when he bought the Ito Nursery next door a few years ago.
“Dan has a proposed project on the nursery site (pending City Council approval on July 2nd), which was another reason I felt he was the ideal person to approach,” says Carolyn. “Should the River Street Marketplace be voted in, the petting zoo would be incorporated into their plan, constructed in a California craftsman design.” The project can be viewed at riverstreetsjc.com.
Carolyn, in the meantime, will be taking Gillie straight to Hollywood. For as it turns out, her literary agent loved Gillie and his friends so much, she suggested an animated series for television, which Carolyn is in the process of writing now. With preliminary interest from a few studios already, due to its uniqueness, the show would be based on many of Carolyn’s real-life stories at ZOOMARS intertwined with an imaginary place called GUINEAPIGVILLE. It would also incorporate two original soundtracks Carolyn produced, “We Are Not Hamsters,” and “Ponies Don’t Surf.”
“I lost everything I owned to keep the zoo afloat after the economic crash in 2008, and a divorce in 2009. Thankfully, a local San Juanian and close friend lent me an inordinate amount of money to keep things going and I struggled for every dollar to pay her back. My bookkeeper would run to the bank at 4:45 to ensure every check would clear. Through years of tough times, using creative ideas to promote business, countless Groupon deals, free pop-up petting zoos, a summer camp, and even a disastrous dino extinction; the stars aligned.” A mom who’d taken her daughter to ZOOMARS had illustrated a kid’s book, and wanted Carolyn to see it. “I couldn’t type fast enough: ‘Can you draw a guinea pig?’” The rest is a 32-page masterpiece. All 5,000 books sold within a few months, Gillie won a prestigious award, and after 15 years, Carolyn feels like passing the ZOOMARS torch is the best possible gift to her community.
Gillie, meanwhile, is getting ready to load into a vintage Airstream Motorhome, which Carolyn always dreamed of owning and recently just purchased, and start doing shows locally. The series, called “Go Gillie Go!” is set to follow Gillie and his friends (the ones he met in the book at Mr. Parker’s Pet Shop) as they do pop-up shows around the country benefiting animals in need. “I can’t tell you all the juicy details about Gillie’s Roadshow, or Sheriff Gillie will arrest me, but I can tell you that his Airstream holds a ‘secret’ that takes him and his friends on some wild rides,” Carolyn says with a smile. “And maybe … we’ll even meet Juan the Dinosaur again.”
“My heart will always be here with my animals. I’m staying on before, during and after the sale to serve as a consultant, cheerleader and guinea-pig petter. It’s in the contract! Dan and I both want the transition to be seamless for our ZOOMARS community. Those familiar staff faces, like Nina, Gerald and Angel the emu, who have been with me from the beginning, will still be here.” And all the allure of ZOOMARS will continue to come with parties, pony rides, bunnies, goats, sheep, bunnies and chickens. And of course, their signature 100 guinea pigs! And to think, it began with one. As Carolyn likes to say “Anything’s possible with love and a carrot stick.”