Jody Robinson - Sorbet
Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Starting a new tradition at Ricardo’s Place in San Juan Capistrano

When Ricardo’s Place invited us to learn how to make tamales, we couldn’t say no! While we didn’t learn the exact secret to their famous family recipe, we did see how to put it together.

Ricardo recommends using any of your favorite tamale recipes, and told us you can really make a tamale out of anything. He recommends using onions, garlic, cumin, black pepper, salt, and chicken. After combining those ingredients, pack them into pre-soften husks, with your choice of filling or in our case, corn mush and the chicken blend. Then, place the tamales into a foiled covered tamale pan over a stovetop for roughly an hour.

For our part, with so many wonderful options available at Ricardo’s Place, Tamale Thursdays is sure to be a hit - and one that is bound to be infinitely easier and decidedly more flavorful than trying to make tamales at home (you can order them for takeout to enjoy at home though). In addition to Ricardo’s traditional chicken, beef and pork tamales, the menu now includes a rajas and cheese tamal and the albóndiga (meatball) tamal - all covered with your choice of red, green or Rosa’s secret sauce.

Ricardo’s Place is located at 32082 Camino Capistrano in San Juan Capistrano. For more information, call (949) 493-4941 or visit www.ricardosplacesjc.com

I had been looking forward to the 2017-2018 school year for over a decade. It was the year that our son would be the 5th grade – the first year in which California students study American history. I had visions of showing him (and his 9-year-old sister) the places where all that crazy rebellion, revolution and nation-forming happened; places I had visited in the distant past and which I was eager to see again through the new lens of older eyes.

So we set about planning something more profound than a star-aligned school year: a fun-filled, educational family adventure that turned out to be one of the most memorable experiences of our lives. It hit my husband and me the same way. We realized that we are in the midst of a very special window in time, wherein our children are old enough to really appreciate and understand what they see, and wherein they still think it’s pretty cool to hang out with their parents and, yes, wherein they are still subject to our schedule and our whim. That window is a narrow one. We are determined to make the most of it.

We believed the historic weight of Washington D.C.’s Constitutional establishment and Baltimore’s rich founding settlements would prove to be a real boon to our kids’ elementary education so at the start of their summer vacation in June, our family headed east. First stop: Baltimore.

Inner Harbor, Baltimore

Humanity is drawn to water. For survival, originally, then for industry and trade, and now, for leisure. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor has been a haven for humanity since the city was founded in the 18th century. Named in 2009 as “the model for post-industrial waterfront redevelopment around the world” by the Urban Land Institute, the Inner Harbor in Baltimore is an attraction itself. Not just attracting ships for trade any longer, the waterfront was adapted as a focal point for public spaces, tourism, and housing. Now a historic port, the Inner Harbor is home to the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center, the Port Discovery Children’s Museum and a short ride away, the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore’s Druid Hill.

Boasting more than 16,000 animals, from sharks to sea turtles, the National Aquarium is a family favorite. Stunning exhibits attract guests from all over the world. A water taxi connects the harbor to attractions further off, including Fort McHenry and Fells Point. The renewal and transformation of the Harbor began in 1958, with the adoption and redevelopment of the 33 acre Charles Center by the City Council and Mayor Thomas D’Alessandro, and has continued since, directing the course of waterfront redevelopment with the successful additions of office buildings, hotels, and retail shops.

If the two-story dinosaur exhibits at the Science Center aren’t enough to keep the kiddos busy, and the pirate ships (ok, they’re really called tall ships) occasionally ported won’t suffice for the long days of summer, just head on over to Ripley’s Believe It or Not, and you’ll be talking about the world’s most interesting oddities for days.

Revolutionary Inklings

Fort McHenry, BaltimoreFounded in 1729 and 1790, respectively, the cities of Baltimore and Washington, D.C. hold much interest in the line that extends from the British settlement, through the war for independence, up until the battle of 1812; when at the Battle of Baltimore, the valiant defense of Fort McHenry inspired Francis Scott Key to pen what would eventually be called “The Star Spangled Banner.”

A decisive victory won by the colonists on September 13, 1814, the soldiers defending the Fort repulsed an attack from both land and sea following the burning of Washington D.C. by the redcoats. Named after James McHenry, a soldier and physician who served under Washington and Lafayette during the War for Independence, the Fort is star-shaped and red-roofed. Touring with one of the Fort’s rangers, we discovered what it was like to be soldiers during the Battle of Baltimore, witnessed a re-enactment, took in a twilight tattoo ceremony, and even saw the Fort McHenry Guard performing drill, musket and artillery demonstrations.

Open year round, and just a cannon’s trajectory away from historic locations such as Harpers Ferry National Historical Park, Antietam National Battlefield, the USS Constellation Museum, and Gettysburg National Military Park.

Gettysburg National Military Park

The site of yet another turning point in the tide of American history, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania serves as a reminder of the devastation the Civil War brought to the front porches, fields and gardens of its residents. Every home turned into a hospital, and every farm a graveyard. Known as the “High Water Mark of the Rebellion,” the National Military Park now remains as a marker to honor the lives given for freedom under the Union cause. President Abraham Lincoln commemorated the park with his famous eulogy, reminding those who listened to “renew their devotion to the cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion.”

artillery at Gettysburg NMP

Gettysburg National Military Park

For me, this stop ended up being one of the major highlights of our trip. The entire battlefield is now a national park. You can walk the grounds and see it as the soldiers saw it. There are monuments on site from just about every state, because sons of just about every state bled there on that field. I cannot express with enough enthusiasm the experience of letting an expert historian and tour guide drive us around the battlefield in our own car, unfolding for us as he drove the events of those three heartbreaking days (visit www.gettysburgfoundation.org). The museum at Gettysburg is one of the best I’ve ever visited, and that part of the country is unspeakably beautiful.

USS Constellation

The USS Constellation is actually the third in the line of American ships dubbed for the configuration of 15 stars found in the original flag of the United States. With its own proud and distinguished record, “Connie,” as her crew calls her affectionately, has almost 40 years of service - through the turbulent waters of the Arabian Gulf to Yankee Station on the coast of Vietnam.

The first Constellation was built by naval engineers Joshua Humphreys and Josiah Fox, 165 years before rivets were put to metal on the USS Constellation’s proud lines. Immediately put to the test, much like her predecessors, the USS Constellation sailed out of harbor straight into conflict, as the first U.S. airship to launch strikes against North Vietnamese vessels and bases in August of 1964.

For the eight years following, Constellation returned to the South China Sea seven times, conducting air strikes, engaging enemy aircraft, and naval targets alike. Sailing under the motto “Spirit of the Old, Pride of the New,” Connie was the second ship in the Kitty Hawk class of aircraft carriers, and has hosted various dignitaries over the years on her illustrious decks, including U.S. Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Ronald Reagan. Pronounced “America’s Flagship” by President Reagan in a watershed moment in the carrier’s history, the Constellation would go on to lead 21 successful deployments, with over 30 commanding officers, over 41 years of proud service to her country.

For centuries, sailors have navigated the vast waters of the world’s oceans by starlight, finding their way over the dark and dangerous seas. And for over 200 years, the Constellation and her legacy have guided seamen home to free shores, kept so because of its work abroad in unfamiliar waters; a guiding light of American freedom.

America’s Favorite Pastime

Oriole Park at Camden YardsNow in its 25th season, Oriole Park at Camden Yards (www.mlb.com/orioles) is considered one of the best stadiums in baseball, with its throwback atmosphere, accessible location, and variety of concessions. We were lucky to experience America’s favorite pastime at the retro-style downtown ballpark that has inspired many other stadiums since and cheer for the Orioles against the St. Louis Cardinals.

Capitol Wanderings

Not to be outdone, on the grand tour of America’s history stands the Washington Monument, just an hour south of Gettysburg, and though currently closed for renovations, the 555-foot obelisk stands as a record of one of our first American heroes: George Washington. Part of the National Mall and Memorial Parks, the Monument is administered to by the National Park Service, receiving approximately 24 million visitors each year.

Depositphotos 32863353 originalIf you’re one of those 24 million, and you’d like a tour of the White House, make sure you’re thinking well in advance: tours are scheduled through one’s member of Congress and requests can be submitted up to three months and no sooner than three weeks in advance). Like most of the famous National Monument sites, the White House’s draw is both culturally and historically weighty, housing the President of the United States since 1800. The President’s Park and its surrounding 82 acres offer myriad opportunities to step back into another time.

We contacted Congressman Darryl Issa’s D.C. office a few weeks prior to our visit and were offered a tour of the U.S. Capitol by a member of his staff who walked us through the Capitol Building’s historic rooms, including the National Statuary Hall, the Old Senate Chamber, and the Old Supreme Court Chamber.

During our “capitol wanderings” over the course of our stay, we got a glimpse of researchers working at the (stunning) Library of Congress, walked by the World War II memorial, touched the Vietnam Wall, stood in awe of Lincoln’s much larger than life (in reality and in spirit) marble figure, visited the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, strolled the National Gallery of Art and encountered Picasso, van Gogh, Rembrandt, Dali and others through works we had no idea were housed there.

For the kids, walking around the Mall was hard work. There were steps to climb, fountains to attempt jumping into, and I’m certain the takeaways seemed almost too grandiose to comprehend. The legends of American history brought into sharp relief before our eyes: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, FDR and Martin Luther King, Jr. From historic battlefields and modern day attractions to an all-American pastime, we started out chasing history but ended up making memories. We were lucky enough to get both. It only required a week away, a bit of forward planning and a realization that the window is open now, but won’t always be.

Incomparable Accommodations

KIMPTON HOTEL MONACO, BALTIMORE – INNER HARBOR

Kimpton Hotel MonacoIt seems incongruous to describe a lobby characterized by soaring marbled staircases and crystal chandeliers as “playful” until you step across the carefully preserved threshold of the Kimpton Hotel Monaco in Baltimore (www.monaco-baltimore.com). The entire experience was akin to playing dress up in the most exquisite jewelry and ballgowns as a child, only to find out that all the gems were real, and the dress was an Alexander McQueen original. The hotel does relaxing and luxury without the pretension behind it, and as such, has created a restful haven near the Inner Harbor. Ideally situated, the hotel offers amenities such as in-room spa services, and every suite is outfitted with a yoga mat, making your stay feel like a wildly relaxing version of home.

Kimpton Glover ParkComplimentary morning coffee and tea service elevate the experience even more, starting your day off with the right lift to get you out the doors and onto one of the Kimpton’s perfectly appointed custom PUBLIC bikes to ride around town. Back to the historic Beaux-Arts building for a lunch or dinner sourced from local farmers and purveyors at B&O American Brasserie will give your palate the ride of a lifetime. Once the headquarters of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad, the restaurant serves only the freshest ingredients, and boasts a buzzing happy hour with a craft cocktail program that makes it one of the city’s favorite hangouts: for both locals and travelers alike.

Kimpton Hotel Monaco

Kimpton Glover Park

Just a short walk or ride to the city’s most famous attractions, and a short skip into its historic neighborhoods makes the Kimpton Hotel Monaco a perfect jumping off point for any social event, business meeting, or quick, luxurious and truly playful getaway.

KIMPTON GLOVER PARK, WASHINGTON D.C.

Sometimes, staying in the heart of the action is exactly where you want to be. But occasionally, a tree-lined street away from the sensory barrage of the city beckons with a Siren’s call. A quiet, boutique hotel nestled in Upper Georgetown, the Kimpton Glover Park (www.gloverparkhotel.com) offers beautifully appointed guest rooms above the canopy of Rock Creek Park. Easily accessible to the buzz and hum of Georgetown’s cobblestoned streets, the hotel finds a quiet confidence among the neighborhood, oozing relaxation after a hectic day of business meetings or sightseeing.

Whether you just came from the Kennedy Center or Georgetown University’s stunning campus, life is good inside Casolare, a James Beard award-winning destination restaurant. Serving Chef Michael Schlow’s family favorites from Amalfi, Sardinia, Puglia, Cinque Terre, and Livorno, Casolare brings Italy to Glover Park. The eatery provides a vibrant selection of seafood, as well as wood-fired pizza and antipasti. Perfect for a large group of friends and family, or new colleagues eager for a taste of the city. Inspired by the neighborhood’s namesake, Charles Carroll Glover - a banker and philanthropist who famously helped reshape the nation’s capital with donations of almost 3,000 acres of parkland - the Kimpton Glover Park Hotel blends the urban edge with familial comfort and tranquility.

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


right background altAdvantage 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.

Learn 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.

Call me old fashioned, but I believe that physical photos are a medium worth preserving. When I recently sat down to put together my daughter’s baby book, I thought of how printed images might at times seem like a thing of the past. But then I can’t imagine showing off my family photos by scrolling through all the images I posted to Facebook once upon a time.

Diana and Scott SchmittDiana Schmitt of the San Juan Capistrano-based Accents Portraits by Diana understands the desire for individuals and families to preserve their most precious memories in more than merely a digital format. She has spent the better part of 30 years specializing in family portraits, wedding photos and capturing the most priceless of moments in all types of life celebrations.

DSC 5604With nearly 30 years of experience, Diana’s focus is families, and she always aims to deliver “extraordinary customer service.”

DSC 5530

 

“Diana is amazing,” says Heidi Hitt. “She has taken so many special pictures over the years for me and my family. They all turn out so beautifully. I am so blessed to have someone I can trust to help me capture special moments in time. Everybody loves when we send out our Christmas cards; they can’t believe how beautiful the pictures are. Thank you Diana for all the beautiful memories.”

Accent Portraits by Diana and San Juan Photo and Digital is located at 32281 Camino Capistrano, Suite C-104 in SJC. They can be reached at (949) 661-6465 or online at www.accentportraitsbydiana.com

RosieRosie is a pretty Snowshoe cat now available for adoption. Recently relinquished to the shelter, Rosie is doing her best to get her bearings while patiently awaiting her forever home. At eight years old, Rosie is a low maintenance kitty who would thrive in a quiet home where she can settle in permanently.

 

 

 

 

NalaOne year old Nala is a happy little Boxer who just wants someone to love.  Whether she’s running around in the yard or simply relaxing, Nala is happiest by your side.  This friendly and fun-loving pup also enjoys outdoor activities and would do well in an active household.

 

 

 

 

TrentinoOnly 8 weeks old when he first arrived at the shelter in January 2011, Trentino has spent most of his life at the shelter.  Sadly, he recently also lost his sister rabbit and is now looking for another companion.  Trentino is a sweet and calm rabbit who is used to being handled. He has excellent litter box habits and would be a real joy to have around the house.

 

 

 

 

ChantillyChantilly is a sweet Miniature Pinscher ready and waiting for her new best friend.  Three years old and full of fun and lively energy, she enjoys playing in the yard with other dogs her size.  A lap dog at heart, Chantilly would make a great dog for almost any family.

 

 

 

If you would like to know more about the animals listed here, please call the San Clemente/Dana Point Animal Shelter at (949)492-1617, or visit with them at 221 Avenida Fabricante, San Clemente.

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.”

Photography by Diana Schmitt, Accent Portraits by DianaIn 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.”

DSC 8050If 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.

A 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

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 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.

“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.”

Portofino ItalyCraig 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.”

Scenic Amber Vitality Pool Budapest retouchMulti-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

Owning your own home is a huge part of the American dream – but it’s not just owning a home … it’s the pride of ownership that extends to the care you put into the way the property looks – inside and out.

The front lawn is one of the first things about your home that people see, and a tidy, lush-looking lawn not only adds to your home’s curb appeal, but also adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of your neighborhood. But “lush” might be quite a stretch to achieve when conserving water. That is, unless you call Gorilla Grass – providers of the highest quality synthetic lawn grass for both residential and commercial customers.

For our part, my husband and I were tired of looking at a barren patch of dirt in our backyard and I hesitate to call what was struggling to grow there “grass.” We decided to install a synthetic lawn and called on Gorilla Grass owner Denis Weber and his professional team to try to make the area look better and have it be a more useable space for the kids could play.

Serving Orange County since 1998, Denis has continually grown the company year after year – a testament to the quality of his product and service. Gorilla Grass provides two types of grass: Synthetic Lawngrass and Professional Putting Greens. Synthetic grass can help you cut down significantly on your water usage and judging by the results we achieved, you don’t have to sacrifice beauty for cost-savings.

“Synthetic or artificial lawn grass is so sophisticated today, that is very closely imitates real live grass,” says Denis. “In general, by switching to artificial lawn, the savings in water consumption amount to about 48 gallons per square foot, per year!”

When we spoke with Denis, it was immediately evident that he is extremely proud of his product, but we were equally impressed by personal testimonials of his many happy customers like Mike and Shannon Wells who raved “Denis has done an incredible job with an incredible product. The kids play constantly on the grass, and we will be adding a new family member (a puppy) without any worries. We cannot say enough about how happy we are with the product as well as with Denis and his team.”

Customer Dr. Dante Toriello agrees with the Wells’ assessment and adds that the work was so good, his lawn had become “uniform, maintenance free and beautiful.” His American dream had been fulfilled, and in Dante’s words, thanks to Gorilla Grass, his home had now become “the showplace in the neighborhood.”

According to Denis, the ways in which Gorilla Grass simulates real grass are numerous: “its weight (double the average at 143oz per square yard), its high density, its extra softness and plushness, its resiliency, its height (2”, whereas most lawns are 1 1/2” to 1 3/4”)”, and its special diamond-shaped fibers - which help make Gorilla Grass more resilient and more realistic. Gorilla Grass is just like real grass, only better.


Connect with Denis Weber and Gorilla Grass by calling (949) 370-4988 or visit www.gorillagrassandgreens.com

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

Here 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.

The 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.

The 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.

Dennis Penman, owner of the San Juan Capistrano-based Sanctuary Home Furnishings by Renaissance thinks that good customer service is more than just making clients satisfied, he wants them happy. Dennis believes that happiness will translate into repeat customers and positive, word of mouth referrals.
The transformation from sales associate to partner, and partner to owner may have something to do with Dennis’ dedication to his clients. But simple ownership is never the full story.

“I have always been a people pleaser,” says Dennis. “Just ask my friends - I’m a guy they can turn to for help with whatever. All my jobs have been in a customer service field. I like the feeling when I know I have done the customer right, whether it’s guiding them on sizing, color and style to providing the lowest price.

“I found my way to Renaissance Home Furnishings in 2003 when the business was just two and a half years old. I fell in love with the business as each day presented new opportunity to help others and be creative. Nearly 15 years later, my favorite parts of the business are still creating new looks to keep up with the shifting trends of home décor and ensuring customers are happy.

“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.”

Not ironic too, that the heart of the coastal transitional design trend is the word refuge; a perfect synonym for sanctuary. A safe place to rest one’s head.

“The showroom has an abundance of sofas, sectionals, accent chairs, media chests, accent pieces, bedroom suites, art, mirrors, area rugs and accessories,” says Dennis. “Most everything on the showroom floor can be delivered straight to the customer’s home.”

Having three local manufacturers at its disposal helps immensely. In two to three weeks, Sanctuary can customize, to the inch, a sofa, sectional, or chair to the scale and color palette of the client’s home.
“We can fit any room, in any scale and in any fabric color.”

Sanctuary tries to make the customers shopping and buying experience relaxing and not intimidating. At their store they allow clients to come in and peruse without being tracked throughout the store by a “suit with a clipboard.” They want you to take your time, “tush test the seating”, and know the designer is available yet not hovering. Sanctuary offers piece of mind shopping by allowing customers to memo out products they like but aren’t sure it will work in their home they can check out the item(s) to see them in their homes before purchasing.

Most stores would like to be known for low prices but they offer poor quality goods. Sanctuary wants to be known for quality furnishings at low prices. “I think what really sets us apart is our quality, pricing and the ability we have to work with our clients on every level, from design to customization to installation all at low pricing.” Often, Sanctuary Home Furnishings is lower priced than online but if not they will match the price you find.

Nowadays, that elusive “good customer service” typically goes hand in hand with a commissioned sales force. Motivated by the sale, associates will bend over backwards for their clients. Not necessarily bad for the customer, unless the customer isn’t ready to buy.

“We understand that sometimes it takes a little back and forth to make decisions about your home - you may have these furnishings for the next ten or fifteen or twenty years,” says Dennis. “We want to make the process as easy as if you had the choice to redesign every calendar year.” No pressure, with a non-commissioned sales force. Dennis wants every customer to be helped by any available person at anytime - before, during or after the purchase.

As 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.

That same manager I had years back told me one other thing that has stuck around all these years. That we were in the business where the word “no” didn’t exist. You can find that adage anywhere you look at Sanctuary Home Furnishings. As Dennis puts it: “Yes. That is all we try to say.”


Sanctuary Home Furnishings is located at 31896 Plaza Drive, Suite E-7 in San Juan Capistrano. Connect with Dennis and his team by calling (949) 248-9772 or visit www.sanctuaryhf.com

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