Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Our tween and teen are always clamoring for theme park experiences with friends. Rather than carnival rides, I was hoping for a more active experience that would not only allow for a bit of independence, but also a good deal of exercise and warm weather fun outdoors. I ticked all the boxes off on a recent trip to Aquatica San Diego - open now for its last season ever - through Labor Day weekend. And bonus! Aquatica delivers all day fun at a fraction of the cost of a traditional SoCal theme park ticket.

Walkabout Waters Family 2 130708I loaded up the minivan with my 14-year-old son, 13-year-old daughter and their friends to spend a full day at this whimsical water park where the kids literally ran amuck between the
extreme water slides like the Whanau Way where they whooshed down one of six 60-foot paths to a splash-filled destination and WooHoo Falls where thrill seekers choose from three different slides, including one in the dark. For my part, I braved Walhalla Wave with the girls aboard a family-sized raft to splash down a 78-foot ride before spending the subsequent 30 minutes floating serenely along the 1,250-foot lazy river.

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A favorite for my son and his friends was the Taumata Racer - a high-speed water slide where they must have raced each other no less than 10 times that day, while the girls loved Tassie’s Twister - a four-person cloverleaf ride. There’s even an entire area perfect for the littles - Walkabout Waters is loads of hands-on fun with slides, hoses, jets, geysers and more, while Slippity Dippity offers the younger set a children’s slide and waterfall.

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Guests can treat themselves to a private cabana rental or rent a shaded “wave lounger” in a semi-private area to serve as “home base” while the kids explore all the rides and slides in the waterpark.

Once the waterpark closes after Labor Day, construction will begin its transformation into Sesame Place, a family-friendly waterpark featuring the beloved characters from Sesame Street. Until the summer season ends, California residents enjoy tickets starting at $35.99 with required reservations made online.

Aquatica San Diego
2052 Entertainment Circle
San Diego

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?


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.

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.

“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.

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“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 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 by calling (949) 240-0555, stop by their beautiful new showroom at 26381 Via De Anza in San Juan Capistrano or visit

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.

Vista Collina Premier King 2My husband and I are lucky to have family who live in the region so pre-Covid weekend getaways were super easy and required little excuse or forward planning. About an hour from the Sacramento Airport, early summer is an ideal time to visit when 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.

Owner/Chef Jude Wilmoth  and his wife MeaghanOwner/Chef Jude Wilmoth and his wife Meaghan

To celebrate my husband’s mid-May birthday, we dropped the kids with family and indulged in an adults-only weekend away that combined unforgettable accommodations and amenity, unsurpassed destination dining and of course, copious consumption of outstanding vintages.

Meritage Resort and Spa & Villa Collina Resort

In 1988, the word “Meritage” was born. Blended together from the words “merit” and “heritage,” it was meant to umbrella one-of-a-kind California varietals that didn’t quite hit the Bordeaux-style checklist. So a new list was invented. One that bred a generation of classic vintages. It’s no wonder that the Meritage Collection crafted a Napa resort installment reflective of the local sunshine-soaked vines with a uniquely laid-back approach to luxury.

Trinitas CellarsTrinitas Cellars

Each property in the collection offers an exceptional experience with an iconic locale, perhaps none more stunning than the Meritage Resort and Spa and Napa’s newest lifestyle resort Vista Collina ( sister plots tucked into acres of rolling sun-soaked hillside vineyards. Undoubtedly, just dangling the idea of effortless bliss like a dewy grape would be enough reason to escape the traffic-clogged streets of LA. But pair it with lavish accommodations, spa treatments in an underground Estate Cave, delicious cuisine at Olive + Hay, nine tasting rooms, artisan grocer and culinary center and you suddenly have a full package set before you, like a decadent charcuterie plate.

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Since its opening, Vista Collina Resort has further elevated the Napa Valley experience with its gorgeous Tuscan-styled architecture, spacious accommodations and a luxurious pool flanked by private cabanas. With a focus on culinary and tasting experiences, perhaps the property’s most unique feature - separate tasting rooms encircling a beautiful community lawn representing nine distinct wineries. We selected Trinitas Cellars (, widely considered one of the region’s benchmark wineries. The experience here more than delivered on the winemaker’s stated mission to craft varietals that are “so compellingly delicious, that the joy it brings creates a window in time where worries are melted away, virtues are celebrated, and life is savored.”

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The two resorts’ indulgent amenities list is daunting at first glance, but there is much to be said for a full day on the vineyard followed by a relaxing solo fitness session or room service to your suite. Try Trinitas Cellars’ tasting room or even a virtual experience en suite. Either way: Meritage and Vista Collina deliver a deliciously aged, one-of-a-kind vintage you won’t soon forget.

Destination dining

St. Helena is home to some of the most storied wineries in Napa Valley, which translates to being considered a destination of choice for serious oenophiles. But St. Helena is about much more than its world-class producers. When traveling, we always attempt to seek out the restaurants popular with locals - a practice that hasn’t yet disappointed. This trip, we discovered Cook St. Helena ( - a petite eatery defined by Chef/Owner Jude Wilmoth’s delicious locally sourced Italian cuisine, excellent service and an elegant atmosphere.

Bottega Napa

For starters, the burrata, toast, extra virgin olive oil, castelvetrano olive tapenade was a flavorful flavor combination as were the mussels, housemade sausage, spicy sausage broth and grilled bread. There’s something for everyone on the menu - from housemade pasta dishes, sandwiches, salads and a daily soup to heartier entrees such as the roasted chicken chop (with vegetables from their own garden), petrale sole picatta paired with whipped potatoes and garden green beans and a tender, falling-off-the-bone braised shortrib accompanied by a soft parmesan polenta, mushroom and cipollini jus. Did I mention housemade pasta? There simply is nothing better to serve as the base for a variety of succulent preparations like the cavatelli all’arrabbiata enhanced with housemade sausage, sliced garlic, tomato and basil. And the gnocchi here was simply divine - richly enhanced with gorgonzola and cracked pepper.

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My husband and I love, love, love Italian cuisine so we kept the weekend theme going by joining local friends for the bold flavors and fine dining experience of Chef and Owner Michael Chiarello’s Bottega ( in Yountville - another Napa Valley region recognized for its highly sought-after culinary offerings. Housed in a building that was originally a winery, the ambiance juxtaposes its architectural origins of rustic brick walls and timber beam ceiling with refined design elements (think Murano glass chandeliers and rich upholstered furnishings), but the true star of the show is in its inventive menu offerings such as the Monterey squid crusted with crispy arborio rice or the wood-grilled octopus over smoky paprika braised potatoes with salsa verde arugula and red onions.

Our friend claims she’s not generally a fan of gnocchi, but adores Bottega’s rendition of ricotta “pillows” with old hen tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano where there was nary a pillow left on her plate at meal’s end. The herb-crusted Branzino (a European sea bass) was amazing, flavored with brown butter, preserved lemon and capers while the Pollo alla Diavola was also a big hit - Calabrian marinated chicken with roasted cippolini onions, cherry tomatoes and peppers in chicken jus.

Bottega Owner Chef Michael ChiarelloBottega Owner Chef Michael Chiarello

You simply can’t go wrong dining out in Napa Valley - this foodie haven features Michelin-starred dining, celebrity chef establishments and beloved farm-to-table eateries and this pair of destination restaurants are high on our list for a repeat visit the next time we trek to wine country.

My husband and I went to Italy on our honeymoon. We tried to meet as many locals as possible, especially in a few of the smaller towns we visited, because they could give us the best recommendations.

We’ve found that same experience to be somewhat rare back in the States, though we have our own favorites in South OC. Brio Tuscany Grille is one of those. Enzo Scognamiglio and Peppe Rivera have operated the absolutely iconic Dana Point restaurant for over twenty years. Somehow, they have managed to keep the family-run business fresh for its patrons, even after all this time, and now, they’re stepping into the next chapter and extending the family tree over the restaurant a little bit more.

Welcoming Marco Scognamiglio to the team solidifies Brio Tuscany Grille in South Orange County’s cadre of family run businesses. Catering to locals and caring for the internal team is about as clear a mission as one can pursue in the restaurant industry, and Marco couldn’t be more excited to follow in his father’s footsteps.

Marco as a young boy with his father and Peppe.Marco as a young boy with his father and Peppe.

“It’s been my home away from home," he says. “I grew up with the restaurant, the granite bar, smell of the wood fired oven. I even learned how to ride a motorcycle in the alley out back.” It’s a part of my heritage, he notes later on: and the partnership couldn’t have come at a better time. “We’re open, we’re ready to serve the public and welcome our beloved customers into this newfound synergy.”

No small feat, driving energy into a longstanding business. “Some of the team have been with us for 25 years or more, watching me grow up.” Keeping the classics classics, and innovating around everything else has become synonymous with Brio. Craft cocktails and live entertainment round out a generational approach to the business, “and if we’re lucky, we’ll be serving pasta, insalata and zuppe for 25 more years.” Turns out you don’t have to go all the way to Italy for a small town taste with big flavor.

Brio Tuscany Grille
24050 Camino del Avion
Dana Point
(949) 443-1476

The last 12 months have been some of the most taxing in recent memory. Nearly a year of intermittent lockdown, skyrocketing unemployment rates, global pandemic.

Not necessarily the right time to start a business, when so many need assistance. Unless, of course, the business you start is the business of helping others out. Amidst one of the more nutty summers on record, the Irvine-based Ola-Help! got its start. Looking to assist people with fast and efficient services and delivery for personal shopping, buying, sending gifts, or even scheduling rides for appointments for residents in South OC, there isn’t a challenge too large for the team.

Specifically targeted at those most compromised by the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ola-Help! looks for ways to meet the demands of a world driven by technology and connection when so many were driven into isolation, separated from the ones they love who helped them stay relevant through computers, tablets, and the seemingly endless scroll of smart phone apps. My Mom turned 88 in September, and we haven’t seen her in months. As such, we’ve taken to screens as much as we can to help walk her through paying some of her bills online, downloading podcasts from the cloud, or getting her set up on a shared photo feed so she can see incoming images of the grandkids.

But not everyone has the bandwidth to support what sometimes feels like a part time job keeping their loved ones afloat, especially during such trying times.

“We believe in humans helping humans," says Owner Prashna Raniga, Ph.D. "Assisting those that are the most vulnerable part of the community is our priority.” When you call Ola-Help!, you speak with a person, and not an automated message system asking you to repeat your command until you’re blue in the face.

A recent 5-Start Yelp review by client Mariam A. of Irvine speaks to the level of customer service you can expect: “Ola-Help! is an amazing service! I was looking for a someone to deliver some perishable items to someone locally and Ola-Help! was the PERFECT SOLUTION to my problem! I will definitely use this service again!”

Ola-Help! serves as your “one-stop, personal assistant” to navigate the myriad of online resources - whether you are looking for someone to run errands, seniors who need help with online purchases, scheduling transportation to a doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping or food delivery.

“We’re a tele-concierge service that understands the difficulties of living in a predominantly online community platform,” says Dr. Raniga. “It can be tough to know who to trust, or which app to open.” My Mom used to say how nice it would be if she had an- other set of hands to get everything done, and now you do: just call up Ola-Help!

(833) 927-3782

On average, California gets 284 days of sunshine per year. To an outsider, that might mean endless days on the beach. (To be clear, it could mean that exact thing.) For Jeremy Griffin, founder of South Coast Window Tinting, sunshine was the perfect niche product on the market.

What one might not consider when it comes to 284 days of sunshine a year, however, are the overall costs that run up because of the persistent solar radiation. A Southern California native, Jeremy grew up in Redondo Beach, and was exposed early to the tinting industry, getting his start in commercial window film with Blue Sky Window Tinting. During his tenure there, he learned how to manage large projects, and eventually let his experience and the persistent call of opportunity lead him to calling to Oahu, Hawaii home for a decade. There, he crafted Aloha Glass Tinting, providing excellence for his customers on the island, and reaping the benefits out surfing big waves.

20191119 134552Building relationships with property managers, building engineers, small business owners, and now individuals with tinting needs has been Jeremy’s work life for the last 20+ years. But he’ll be the first to say that his appreciation for quality, timely work wouldn’t exist without a healthy understanding of the sunshine that delivers demand for his products. As such, playing hard outdoors comes just as naturally for the crew of South Coast Window Tinting, and informs each decision made inside to reduce energy costs, ensure your heat or A/C runs less frequently, and shrink your carbon footprint.

Established in San Clemente, tinting has brought Jeremy and his family back to the California coast, where they look forward to building a reputation atop the core values of honesty, integrity, excellence and quality: from pricing to product.

“We used South Coast Window Tinting to tint some windows in our house,” says Ryan H. on Yelp. “Jeremy was a true pro from the start. The measurements, estimates and installation were all very quick and easy. Very fair price and excellent service. Would highly recommend and definitely use again.”

As the exclusive Orange County 3M authorized window tinging installer, Jeremy and his team cover all residential, commercial and automotive projects. Protect your skin from harmful UV rays, your shop front from graffiti, and boost your optical clarity on the road. Operating with values at the center of the business is no easy feat, but South Coast Window Tinting will only recommend a solution that is specific to their client’s problem at the best possible price on the market.

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Contractor Lic. 1045003
30081 Crown Valley Parkway, Bay C
Laguna Niguel
(949) 422-5486

Being a teenager is hard. There isn’t really another way to say it. Having some distance from those years and looking back, I realize now just how harrowing it can be.

My friend’s younger brother struggled with underage drinking and drug use, both coping mechanisms for his ongoing depression. She shared the struggles he and their family underwent as he battled his addictions.

For Derek Walsh, co-founder and COO of OC Revive, that struggle is all too familiar. Throughout high school and college, he struggled with peer pressure, learning challenges and substance abuse. On October 15, 2012, Derek overcame his own substance abuse problem and dedicated himself to helping others work through their own addiction - starting his career in recovery the following year. Over the course of the ensuing decade, Derek worked his way through numerous roles at top rated treatment centers and began to see a pattern that those struggling individuals would have benefited immensely from receiving help earlier in life.

Determined to be a part of the solution in finding a way to address those issues at an earlier age with interventions before adulthood, Derek and Tyler Michaelis decided to start OC Revive - to make sure teens get the help they need to find a purpose that leads them to a life of happiness and success. Tyler, whose story mirrors that of Derek's in many ways, shares the same passion and purpose - dedicating their life's work to helping teens and their families.

OC Revive started because a team of like-minded professionals wanted to bring change and hope to their community. Offering services that are rarely found in the area, OC Revive (OCR) will be celebrating its second anniversary this spring. Derek, Tyler and their team of psychologists, family therapists, addictions counselors, tutors and direct care staff are proud of what they have built, focusing on the younger population.

“We’re not a large corporation, so we can relate personally to clients.” With primary mental health and secondary substance abuse services, their licensed clinical staff utilizes comprehensive treatment modalities that are tailored to individual needs, incorporating "evidence-based care for each client's personalized treatment plan."

Working alongside myriad community organizations such as California Youth Services, Waymakers, CHOC, UCI Medical and Irvine Unified School District helps to get the word out, and ensure they are able to help the widest range of adolescents possible.

“Early intervention is the key," says Derek. "If we can break the cycle, these teens and young adults won’t struggle like I did. That’s all I can ask for.”

OC Revive
24432 Muirlands Blvd., Suite 221
Lake Forest
24/7 Admissions: (866) 628-4672
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

There has long been an unfortunate stigma attached to men getting manicures or pedicures. The “salon” is for women. Seemingly, all dudes need is a quick buzz cut or a close shave.

Of course, proper pampering isn’t gendered. And surprise, you aren’t any less of a ‘real man’ if you don’t constantly have sawdust or motor oil under your fingernails.

Mike & Beverly Shepherd, Owners of the first Hammer & Nails Franchise in Orange County, premier full-service grooming shop for men couldn’t agree more. But of course, that doesn’t mean your next MANicure has to be in a petunia-scented, white-walled, home-shopping network-watching salon. No. What Mike is offering is ... quite bit more.

“We’ve built a man cave, and it has everything you’d expect," he says. "Each client gets their own TV and remote, top-of-the line noise cancelling headphones, a complimentary beverage (of the frosty kind).” Lounge away 45 or 90 minutes in an overstuffed leather chair or a buttery soft all-black classic barber throne while the staff at Hammer gets your haircut, shave, MANicure or Pedicure on point.

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Open since November 2018, Mike’s team offers straight-razor shaves, facial waxing, and even quick beard or neck trimming for those in-between times. Upping the service ante even further right now during Covid-19, the crew are prepared for anything, practicing elevated cleaning and sanitizing routines to ensure every patron’s safety.

“We’re 100% focused on you. That’s why we’re here.” He and his wife Beverly first came across the concept of Hammer & Nails on Shark Tank, TV’s hit entrepreneurial reality show. “We wanted to start something that we could both be passionate about that would allow us to work together,” so the pair purchased three franchise licenses for Orange County and the dream was born. “Now, be it during a pandemic or not, your most difficult decision when you come hang out with us is what cable program to watch or which premium beverage to enjoy.”

“Hammer & Nails is a haven for men who are looking to combine the absolute necessity of a haircut or beard trim with what Mike calls ‘man-cave nirvana’”

Relax without all the astringent smell you find at a normal salon, and add in instead the natural musk of Macallen®, cedar, leather, and steel. An incredibly cool custom ‘57-Chevy lighted door panel greets every client, and the warm reception beyond makes even one’s very first grooming experience a welcome one. Hammer & Nails is a haven for men who are looking to combine the absolute necessity of a haircut or beard trim with what Mike calls “man-cave nirvana”; all at a surprisingly low cost for such a luxury experience.

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“Best one word description for Hammer & Nails would be.... EXPERIENCE,” says client Angelo T. of Aliso Viejo. “From my wife’s gift card purchase experience to the check-out experience with Mike where I signed up for the monthly grooming club membership, and everything in between were world class. Upon arrival, I was greeted and escorted to the man cave by Bev while waiting for my head shave, Van did my head shave and it was a relaxing experience and I was impressed by Vans’ attention to detail, then I opted for the Milk & Honey Experience which is a signature manicure and pedicure. I thoroughly enjoyed this treatment along with my Jack/Diet. Thank you Hammer and Nails and I can’t wait to come back!”

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Another happy client John C. from San Clemente adds “I have finally found a place to get my haircut and also provide other services, the staff at Hammer and Nails consistently provides top-notch service. LuLu in particular, has been very consistent and listens to exactly what I want. The atmosphere is very comfortable, you’re offered a multitude of beverages while watching TVs if you wish. I look forward to my next visit - thanks again Mike and crew!”

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Our ultimate cutting experience
This cut includes extra time for complex styles and finishing details. You’ll be pampered with our straight razor outlines, warm foam, and aftershave massage. Following a shampoo, conditioning scalp massage, and a lavender-infused hot towel, you will love the way you look and fee

A rejuvenating skin treatment and shave
An epic combination of cleansing, exfoliation, and hydration is delivered with warm foam and a straight razor for your face or head. Our charcoal mask, facial massage, and essential oil-infused towels will put you in a trance.

A revitalizing shaping and facial massage
We’ll revive your beard with a rich oil massage, reconstruct its shape with crisp razor lines, and make your skin say “ahhh”. This exfoliating cleanse uses a charcoal mask to draw out impurities and ends with a hydrating lavender facial massage.


Refresh & relax with our most popular hand & foot experience
This clarifying lemon and peppermint-infused Premium Manicure and Pedicure combination includes a warm soak, callus resurfacing, sugar scrub, massage, nail care (clip, file, nip, and buff), warm paraffin, and our hot towel wrap.

Beer-lover’s bliss
This Premium Manicure and Pedicure combination will have you walking on clouds. This service includes stout beer and cedarwood oil-infused soak, callus resurfacing, sugar scrub, massage, nail care (clip, file, nip, and buff), warm paraffin, and our hot towel wrap.

Mike Beverly Shepherd3Hammer & Nails
32411 Golden Lantern, Unit H
(Located in the
Ocean Ranch Village)
Laguna Niguel
(949) 340-3559

The most recent season of Netflix’s revolutionary bio-drama The Crown follows Britain’s royal family to the Queen’s Scottish estate house, Balmoral. Views of verdant, rolling hills, and moody, dark skies await its guests. As a fan of the show and an avid traveler, I’d been dreaming about a family getaway. I couldn’t have been more excited when my husband and I planned a weekend retreat to La Jolla’s atmospheric the Lodge at Torrey Pines. I’d only seen photos of the sprawling expanse, and on the drive in felt utterly transported - just to the north of the property the Torrey Pines State Natural Reserve showcases 1,750 sprawling acres of unspoiled land that protects its namesake - one of America’s rarest pine trees. By the time we pulled in under the Lodge’s porte-cochere and were greeted by doormen attired in traditional Scottish kilted dress, we knew we were in for an experience unlike any other.

Palisade Room Balcony 3rd FloorWith warmer, Craftsman detailing than you might find at the Queen’s residence, the AAA 5 Diamond rated resort boasts expansive public rooms with fireplaces, marble mantles, leather chairs, and unbeatable views of the Torrey Pines Golf Course. Beyond, you’ll find you’re looking at the Pacific, not the cool Atlantic - but to be honest, I knew I’d be hard-pressed to be pulled away from the cozy poolside cabana. The heated pool, especially during California’s winter months, was just what we all needed to unwind and relax.

Understandably, travel looks decidedly different these days and as a family with two middle-school aged children, safety is a top priority. Transparent in its commitment to ensure the well-being of resort guests, The Lodge’s Clean & Care Commitment protocols have earned the property a Clean + Safe Certification from the California Hotel & Lodging Association (see website for details).

Accommodation + Amenities

It’s easy to see why Sunset Magazine rated The Lodge as the #1 Hotel in the West and described it as “one of the most beautiful hotels anywhere.” Our stunning guest accommodation featured the most luxurious Egyptian cotton linens, gorgeous oversized soaking bath, a cozy fireplace, spacious living quarters and breathtaking views of the world-renowned Torrey Pines Golf Course overlooking the California coastline.

We chatted with a couple who raved about the 36-hole facility owned by the City of San Diego, originally designed by William F. Bell. The South Course was redesigned in 2001 by Rees Jones in preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open and is now 7,698 yards with a par of 72. The North Course is 7,258 yards in length with a par of 72.

Grill fireplace rockingchairThe Lodge features a full-service spa and state-of-the-art fitness center. Although these may be closed due to state guidelines at the time of your visit, there’s no shortage of open-air recreational opportunities - from outdoor yoga and croquet to golf, guided hikes and of course, the gorgeous heated pool.

The Lodge’s signature restaurant, A.R. Valentien, highlights seasonal cuisine crafted from locally sourced ingredients - delicious dishes we enjoyed “outdoors” in an elegant, open air, timbered dining room. The metal-strap post-and-beam structure, hand-crafted wood framed windows and stained-glass lanterns all a nod to its Southern California heritage and Craftsman architecture and further enhanced by the panoramic views overlooking the 18th hole of the Torrey Pines Golf Course.

Lodge Aerial CopyFor starters, we sampled wonderfully fragrant and flavorful artisanal cheeses paired with spiced nuts and jam followed by a delectable crispy skin sablefish butternut squash tortellini, lobster consommé, pomegranate and preserved orange relish.

During our stay, we also indulged in room service with wood-fired favorites (think chimney roasted chicken and wood-grilled tri-tip). My daughter and I are completely addicted to the charcoal bread avocado toast topped with smashed avocado, fennel, pickled and fresh vegetables, watercress and Everything seasoning and the wood roasted vegetable quinoa (our attempts to replicate the recipes at home came up a little short so she’s already angling for a return trip). My son would eat the Grill’s “Drugstore Hamburger” at every meal if you let him and my strictly meat-and-potatoes husband thoroughly enjoyed the cooked-to-perfection New York Strip paired with a glass of regional wine.

Thorsen Suite ExteriorAn offshoot of the early 1900s Arts and Crafts Movement, the Lodge boasts one of the loveliest examples of California Craftsman you can find. Clean lines, warm, open spaces, and naturally rough raw materials, like stone, wood, and plenty of natural light give beautiful complement to the deliberate and exceptional care the staff take to ensure each guest’s stay is comfortable and memorable. You’d think we were titled guests of the estate with the unprecedented service we received. The best part? You don’t have to claim a royal lineage to stay.

ARV Deck View 2top

The Lodge at Torrey Pines
11480 North Torrey Pines Road
La Jolla
(858) 453-4420

Creating Outdoor Living that Complement Your Family’s Lifestyle & Home’s Personality

If you’re anything like the rest of us, you may have spent an unexpectedly large amount of time at home this year. Maybe you even spent time in your backyard dreaming up new ideas for your space. And if you’ve ever considered building a swimming pool, now might be a great time to take the plunge! Let’s talk about reasons to install a new pool or update a tired and outdated backyard. I don’t just mean how incredible swimming pools are for increasing the value of your home or in the case of updating your pool, for energy and cost savings … I’m talking about a certain kind of admiration from your kids, grandkids and loved ones. I’m talking about a vanity-free, personalized outdoor entertainment space everyone will enjoy. Think of the unlimited possibilities – all because you make the decision to turn your own backyard into the kind of relaxing resort that you may have only dreamed of.

The fantasy is easy enough - but where do you begin? How do you know where to start?

image002 1That’s where Rich Tonti, owner and founder of Pacific Paradise Pools, comes in. He’s been transforming people’s lives and backyards for over 35 years, right here in Orange County. His team does every pool style: clean-lines mid-century, formal elegant designs, tropical rockscapes and any other at-home resort. It almost makes you want to charge admission for your own family and friends to take a dip.

“Our mission is to help homeowners enjoy their pools, maximize their fun in their backyard and create memories for a lifetime all while staying at home,” says Rich. “I am very proud that we have been able to continue to provide safe and serene spaces for homeowners in the midst of a year that brought many new challenges. I also feel tremendously lucky that we have some of the most professional, talented, experienced and polite staff in the pool and spa industry.”

If you’ve got an existing swimming pool that has been neglected as much as our beach bodies seem to get, don’t worry, they also do major pool and spa renovations. Rich and the Pacific Paradise Pools Team strive very hard to go above and beyond to ensure their customers are satisfied at every turn. They have an in-house staff of designers and work with Interior Designers, Landscape Architects and other Trade Professionals to ensure you get the full HGTV effect.

“We aim to please and make sure that we develop an outdoor living space that will complement your family’s lifestyle and home’s personality as well as provide years of outdoor enjoyment,” says Rich. They’re not the bragging type, but the truth is this Huntington Beach-founded business is an award - winning company and has been honored on numerous occasions from industry associations and a variety of professional trade platforms. Pacific Paradise Pools won one of only four Pinnacle Awards from Luxury Pools and many other industry awards from their peers for design excellence.

Our mission is to help homeowners enjoy their pools, maximize their fun and create memories for a lifetime, while staying at home."

While they appreciate the accolades and feel the awards “validate our hard work and business strategy,” their team is even more grateful for “the referrals from loyal, happy customers that truly prove our clients endorse what we do.” The fact of the matter is, these projects don’t just provide you with beautiful backyard entertainment, they give you endless relaxing weekends and evenings after a long day at the office or after the kids and grandkids sports games.

Alta Panorama ShrunkRich and their team may not be there to serve you drinks poolside, but then again, with their 5-star customer service, maybe you just need to ask (although, rumor has it they help you christen your pool with a bottle of Tonti Family Wine!). And, if you’re looking to sell soon, backyard entertainment areas are rated among the top requested home upgrades you can showcase.

Pacific Paradise Pools works its magic quickly, safely and efficiently when executing a project, just let their team know how they can help you during this exciting process.

We’d hate to make him blush, but we’ve got to get the word out about what Rich does when he isn’t creating backyard memories for his clients. Currently he volunteers an average of 10 or more hours a week on projects and spends a couple weeks every year volunteering overseas. Since 1994, he has been a part of “Men and Women of Action,” a volunteer construction and disaster relief organization. Traveling all over the world, he’s helped re-build homes, build schools, churches, orphanages and medical clinics on five of the seven continents. Hurricane relief in the South East, to Zambia, Brazil, Romania, Honduras, Nepal, Bulgaria, Ecuador, the

st ChoicePhilippines, schools in Mozambique and homes in Mexico. Rich’s last project was in “The Bush,” outside Mozambique’s capitol city where his team partnered with locals to expand their community with small homes, school classrooms and an afterschool mentor and feeding program, which ministers to 350 kids, 5 days a week.

“This gives life meaning, and couples my skills as a builder and my passion to assist those in need of a helping hand,” says Rich, who also often completes projects a little closer to home. These have included a multiple school building roof project in Fresno, a church hall in Bakersfield, a drywall project, in Simi Valley, for a senior citizen and a dozen homes in Tijuana, Mexico, with a Santa Ana based group named Corazon. There, the recipients of the homes are worthy candida­tes who have perfor­med hundreds of hours of community service and are nominated by their neighbors to receive, their first home, using funds generated through donations here in the states.

AI2I9207 HDR“Raised right here in Huntington Beach and a graduate from HBHS, it’s always especially nice when we have the opportunity to give back in our own community as well.”

Learn more about Men and Women of Action by visiting or Corazon at

IMG 0382Interested in their Pool Design and Construction Services? Read unedited testimonials and experience their unparalleled customer service by visiting:
Or call Rich directly at
(714) 437-POOL (7665)
(949) 756-8442