Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

Pismo Beach has long been a coastal playground. Its rich history includes Chumash villages and early California explorers including Don Gaspar de Portola. Legends surround the area and the many hands the land has passed through. Wharf businesses, tar collection, hotels, cattle and outdoor recreation still abound in varying degrees, but the stunning beach hasn’t changed one bit.

One of the best and most comprehensively family friendly destinations in all of California, Pismo truly has something to offer all ages. From families playing in the surf at Shell Beach to wine tastings and outdoor activities, there isn’t much mystery to the area anymore: it’s stunning, safe, sensational, and stimulating. Trails with ocean views, caves and monarch butterflies, playgrounds and wetlands. Rest. Relaxation.

VesperaResort 3rd Floor Balcony Sunset

Located along this historical stretch of sand lies one of our favorite places to rejuvenate: Vespera Resort. Part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, the property celebrates the best of California’s beach culture with stylish accommodations amidst a casual coastal aesthetic that blends adventure and excitement seamlessly. Each accommodation feels like your own private Pismo vacation home, and being just steps from the sand with direct boardwalk access means you never have to go far to find some family fun.

VesperaResort Guestroom King Living Area

Most of the guest rooms and spacious suites have private balconies overlooking the ocean with oversized bathrooms with floor-to-ceiling showers and freestanding tubs, mini-fridges and partial kitchens (in the suites). With a fully equipped fitness center, sparkling heated pool, whirlpool and signature restaurant on site, there’s no need to venture far from the property.

VesperaResort Lobby

If you’d like to get out and about, the property’s locale is literally in the heart of the action - within easy walking distance to downtown and serves as the ideal “home base” whether your goal is a relaxing weekend away or an active, adventure-filled vacation (think kayaking tours, whale watching, bike rides, hiking or your choice of a mild or wild Humvee tour of the famous Oceano Dunes).

VesperaResort Somerset Grill dusk

Given that Somerset Grill serves up delicious upscale coastal cuisine set against a panoramic waters-edge backdrop with live music every Saturday from 4 pm - 7 pm, I would imagine that this ranks among the most popular of dining destinations for both hotel guests and locals alike. The menu is characterized by market fresh “coastal heritage-inspired” dishes served all day from an open, exhibition kitchen. Our family’s favorites? Mine - the Baby Gem salad with shaved onion, pepitas, cojita and a creamy cilantro anaheim dressing with grilled salmon while my husband’s 6 oz. filet atop a creamy potato puree was super delish. The kids loved the signature Vespera Burger followed by a decadent blueberry lemon tart - a sweet ending to a leisurely al fresco culinary experience and gorgeous weekend away.

Vespera Resort
147 Stimson Avenue
Pismo Beach
(805) 773-1011

Colonel Gregory G. Raths Reports for Congressional Duty

McDonnell’s “masterpiece fighting jet,” the F-4 Phantom, rolled off the production line in December 1960, as a fleet defender built to intercept nuclear foes. Delivered to Miramar Naval Air Station, the jet was eventually bound for nearly four decades of service in the U.S. military.

For a rookie pilot, the F-4 could be a little hard to handle, its two-seater capacity requiring a little more of a team effort than fighter pilots were used to; and a nose that rose notoriously slowly off the deck of an aircraft carrier. For those of us who know nothing about planes, let alone what Mach 1 or 2 mean, a slow-going-nose doesn’t sound like much. But for Colonel Gregory G. Raths, USMC (RET) it was as much of a trial as any: with a bit of speed, that slow nose could over rotate to a stall. A rather rude initiation to the Marine Corps, if you ask me.

Luckily, meeting Col. Raths is nothing like stalling out over the deck of a 45,000 ton aircraft carrier, even though his sights are currently set on becoming a U.S. Congressman this year - perhaps a task equal to lifting off the deck in a multi-million dollar war machine.

A charming, well-spoken man, the Colonel speaks lovingly of his parents, and the four brothers and three sisters he grew up with in Phoenix, Arizona. The fifth of eight children, Col. Raths had an early view into the life of a serviceman. His father served in the Army Air Corps from 1941-1945, as a bomber pilot during WWII, and flew combat in the European theatre in the A-20, a night fighter and adaptable light bomber mostly used by the Allied forces in World War II. His mother stayed home full time with the family, keeping the household running.

“As a kid, I mowed lawns, delivered handbills, went door to door selling anything from light bulbs to Christmas lights,” he says. Each step around the neighborhood was a step towards a life of service: to his community first as an Eagle Scout, class president, and multi-sport athlete, and eventually to his country - joining the Marine Corps Officer Candidate Program in 1972 after his freshman year at Arizona State University (ASU).

“Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple … We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Congress members even now are receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients only received a 1.6 percent increase in 2020. Hospital bills are rising. We need to make a decisive move.” - Col. Gregory G. Raths

Enduring summer training at Quantico during the summers of 1973 and 1974, Col. Raths also received his Bachelor’s Degree in Business in 1975. By the time he graduated flight school in Pensacola, FL, “Vietnam was over, and the military began drawing down its forces, and reducing its budgets. My first assignment was in Orange County, CA - at El Toro Marine Corps Air Station.”

Closed now, El Toro was long part of the vision of a developing community - a vision that Col. Raths would like to see brought back to American towns. Dwight Whiting, Boston-born founder of the town of El Toro, helped establish the first church, negotiated the arrival of the Santa Fe railroad through the valley, and saw the future of the community in its gentleman farmers: working hard and living off the wealth and proceeds of their walnut and apricot groves. Replaced now by shopping malls and a new town moniker, the vision Whiting and Col. Raths share for the country is fading, and Col. Raths believes it is time for a change.

“The American people have had enough,” he says. “We have been deceived, betrayed by our elected officials. We need new leaders with honesty and integrity” - two traits Col. Raths learned en force through his tours aboard the USS Midway, and later as squadron commander off the carrier USS Abraham Lincoln. “Washington D.C. has proven its ineptitude, and we must not allow this dreadful sequence to continue.”

 5738His new assignment is a personal one: One he believes must be based on solutions, not politics as usual. Courage, rather than the opinion of a special interest group, or the hope of reelection.

Col. Raths has no aspirations to become a career politician - he’s already completed a 30 year military career and spent the past fifteen years in the private sector as a commercial airline pilot, president of an automobile parts distribution firm, and is currently an author and publisher. He is the current Mayor of Mission Viejo and volunteers within his community as a member of the Elks Lodge, president of the Mission Viejo Rotary Club, American Legion, VFW, St. Kilian Knights of Columbus and Vice-Chairman of the OC Board of Supervisors Veterans Advisory Council.

He is running for office because he simply believes that “a drastically new course for this nation must be drafted” and is committed to leading that charge on behalf of his friends, neighbors and fellow citizens in California’s 40th Congressional District.


When asked what types of current policy he sees as going in the wrong direction that he would correct if elected to office, Col. Raths points to the “fiscal mismanagement of programs such as Medicare and Social Security.”

“Why are members of Congress receiving pay raises and huge benefits when Social Security recipients are only receiving a 1.6 percent cost-of-living adjustment in 2020?” he asks. “Medicare co-payments, prescriptions and hospital bills are skyrocketing. I will focus on our seniors and see that they are taken care of.

“Why am I running for Congress? The answer is quite simple. We have a Congress with a 6% approval rating from the American people. Six percent. We need new leaders who are not worried about the next election or pleasing special interests groups. We can’t count on the same politicians who got us into this mess to get us out.

There is only one special interest group I am interested in serving: the people of the 40th Congressional District.”

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Col. Raths brings a unique experience and perspective to negotiating Washington’s political scene. Previously having served as Chief of Staff of the White House Military Office taught Raths much about how career politicians function, and he’d like to be a force that changes those functions.

At Mach speeds, most modern aircraft must compromise in order to maintain handling ability. Supersonic speeds create shock waves, and the stronger the shock wave is, the greater the pressure difference, which causes a sonic boom. While those outside the cockpit are witness to the boom, those inside the aircraft cannot hear it.

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America is at the edge of Mach speed right now, cruising into the path of governmental dependence and the “damaging impact of complacency and apathy.” Col. Raths would like to take back the controls.

Overseeing military support from the White House is no small task, especially after serving in the military at such a volatile and unpopular time, and Raths is all too familiar with the stresses and victories surrounding military legislation coming from Congress. He would like to make it clear that his next battle is back in Washington, fighting for the people of the 40th Congressional District where he’d like to “fix the mess that has been created by politicians invested in maintaining their power, rather than doing what they know is right based on the principles that made this nation great to begin with.”


For our future and that of our children and grandchildren: the time to survey the scene has passed. Start those engines, ladies and gentlemen.

For more information on Col. Gregory Raths’ campaign or to contact him directly, visit, call (949) 292-2468 or write to: Col. Gregory G. Raths, 26551 Maside , Mission Viejo, CA. 92692.
Content approved by Supporters for Gregory G. Raths for Congress.

There’s a popular Christmas carol recorded by Andy Williams, back in 1963, called “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” Now, the holiday season may have drawn to a close, but in many places (especially in the Southwest) the most wonderful time of the year is here. Temperate weather and a rather robust list of seasonal offerings make Taos, New Mexico the place to be as colder months give way to spring. In March, outdoor activities like skiing, snowshoeing or relaxing in a local hot springs continue to top the charts. But for families visiting the area, outdoor recreation is just the tip of the iceberg. Ballooning, golf, tennis - landmark sites, destination dining, shopping and art galleries - even guided tours on horseback are all accessible from Taos’ historical downtown.

Put the family up in award-winning accommodations while you explore the mystical wonders of the region’s favorite artisan escapes. Situated in the mountains of Northern New Mexico, El Monte Sagrado ( offers a serene setting surrounded by waterfalls, ponds and towering cottonwood trees. The guest experience at this culturally distinctive, minority-owned local resort is chock full of the Southwest’s Native American, Mexican, Spanish and American Western cultural and historical influences. For our part, our family loved its locale - the perfectly manicured grounds and luxury accommodations made the El Monte Sagrado feel like a true mountain oasis, but walk only a few blocks from the property and you’re right in the heart of Tao’s historic plaza.


Once a Spanish fortified walled plaza and settled over 400 years ago by Spanish colonists, a stroll through the streets today reveals a popular tourist destination defined by unique boutiques, cafes and art galleries and plays host to many cultural events, farmers markets and live music. The plaza itself is hemmed in by scores of superb Spanish Colonial-style structures and Mission Revival homes harkening back to its roots in the late 18th century.

Accommodation of distinction

Any one of El Monte Sagrado’s 48 Mountain rooms, 18 Native American suites, 6 historic Casitas, or 12 Premiere suites provide seamless service and luxury appointments. From en suite hot tubs to private patios or balconies with lovely garden views, the resort serves as an unforgettable “home base” whether you are in town to explore the historic environs like our family or experience world class skiing a mere 20 miles away at Taos Ski Valley. Our Taos Mountain Room was the ideal retreat replete with thoughtful features including a cozy fireplace and large soaking tub. On-property amenities include a full-service fitness center (peloton bike, treadmills, elliptical trainers, free weights), an indoor saltwater pool and spa and The Living Spa, an eco-conscious, world class rejuvenation center showcasing a variety of signature healing treatments and massage therapy).

The Anaconda Bar

Dine in at De La Tierra for a delicious blend of regional and seasonal dishes created by Executive Chef Cristina Martinez (a popular starter that was distinctly different and highly recommended - the New Mexico green Chile and fresh mozzarella flatbread). In the early evening, my husband and I headed to the Anaconda Bar for a post-adventure aperitif - its libations and custom craft cocktails made a quick date night possible even with the kids in tow. Aptly named for the giant sculpture winding its way through the venue, the upscale lounge offers live entertainment, seasonal patio seating and a lovely light refreshment menu (the Green Chile Smash Burger on brioche was perfect for sharing - yes, you are sensing a theme - Green chile appears to be a uniquely New Mexico menu ingredient).


While in town for a long weekend, we also took to the road a bit - stretching all the way from Santa Fe, the “High Road to Taos” winds its way through the scenic Sangre de Cristo Mountains - with scores of interesting historic sites (think Spanish colonial towns and Pueblo Indian villages) and vistas along the way - passing through vast valleys, verdant forests and high deserts. Nestled just to the northwest of town is the otherworldly-looking Earthships - a community of 70-odd sustainable homes made entirely from recycled materials.


A particular highlight of the trip was the “pedestrian thrills” atop the steel-deck Rio Grande Gorge Bridge - an absolutely phenomenal feat of engineering with epic views of the yawning chasm and wild waters. I am terribly afraid of heights - so suffice to say it was quite outside my comfort zone to walk along the “sidewalk” designed with tourists in mind and step out onto the little “porches” that jut out over the void with only a chest-high guardrail between me and the Rio Grande 650 feet below.

De La Tierra

Take the kids to a leisurely brunch at De La Tierra and give everyone the chance to sleep in a bit - or opt for a tasty grab + go breakfast so you can hit first chair on the mountain or embark on an early walking tour. Whatever you choose to do - listen to Andy Williams, and take advantage of the most wonderful time of the year in Taos.

Necessity is the mother of invention - or from the original Republic: “our need will be the real creator.” Plato wasn’t wrong, and in the case of Because Market Co-founders Alexi Suvacioglu and Luca Gualco, frustration may have been an even more pressing incentive. Coming from two closely-knit families that each cared for their grandparents, the journey to find the right incontinence products was a lengthy one. Thus, Because.

“Going from store to store wasn’t going to work anymore, and e-commerce didn’t offer enough customer service. It was overwhelming - there were just too many options that didn’t work.” In 2017, the frustration boiled over, and Alexi and Luca started their own company. After partnering with design and engineering experts and talking to urologists about fit and absorbency, their mission became a reality.

“We just wanted to make life easier for adults living with incontinence by providing high quality, discreet products directly to customers’ doors.” Today, Because is able to boast a leading online destination for personal care and wellness products: all tailored for older adults.

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There are nearly 120 million adults in the US aged 45 or older, from California to Rhode Island and back again. Not all struggle with incontinence, but the number Because Market have helped is still staggering.

“Earning 5-star reviews along the way is a great marker of our success, sure, Alexi notes, “but it’s the 200,000 plus adults who have been able to help live vibrant, independent lives that really sends us home with a smile at the end of the day.” California to Texas to New York, all adults getting back a modicum of freedom, and being able to stay comfortable while living out their lives.

The oft-overlooked demographic has a lot of buying power still, but as they begin to ease out of the workforce and into retirement, their voice fades into the background. “We help customers find the right products and fit for their specific needs with free samples to guarantee satisfaction,” says Alexi. “And then we’ll send monthly orders so they can receive the products conveniently without ever running out.”

Adult protective wear isn’t just a large diaper, its actually underwear and absorbs more than 35% beyond the leading brands out there. “Up to 6 cups of liquid - which is 3 times more than the human bladder.” How does one ensure the fit? Buying items online can be intensely frustrating when the quality or sizing doesn’t line up with what was advertised. “We offer a quick and easy online ‘Fit Quiz’ to direct customers to the exact product they need with free samples to guarantee satisfaction. And then comes the full box commitment.

Alexi and Luca work with manufacturers minus the middleman to ensure their customers are receiving the best product possible, and one you likely won’t find in stores. Specially formulated and exclusive to Because, their offerings include wipes, skincare and CBD creams, gummies and tinctures. Don’t like what you received, or want to follow up on an order? “We encourage people to reach out to us so they can tell us first-hand about their expectations and experience with the brand, and have a litany of ways they can reach out: text, phone, email, chat, or regular mail.”

Customer service that’s always accessible, especially when served on top of a product that saves its buyers up to 25% off of retail pricing with an easy subscription plan. Receive free shipping and included monthly special offers that are discreetly packaged and delivered to your door. Why? Well, Because.


There is architecture, and then there is design. One accounts for the specifics of building - specs, features. The other drags your feelings into the picture. Any good resort combines the best of both, introducing its guests to a luxury of mind and spirit: an escape for the entire being. One of the very few hotels I’ve ever found to boast such a wedding of the two also called for the union of past and present, history and modernization.

Grande Colonial Colonial Queen QueenThe only Four Diamond Hotel in the Village of La Jolla, The Grande Colonial Hotel has been welcoming guests to a gorgeous coastal respite for over a century. One of San Diego’s oldest original seaside hotels, the property has been completely modernized, yet remains faithful to the timeless elegance of its storied past - the sophisticated decor infused with a classic European ambiance and aesthetic. This intimate, iconic property is ideally situated amidst the pristine beaches and regal bluffs of one of Southern California’s most picturesque coastal towns.

Grande Colonial Bike RentalsChoose from luxurious ocean, garden, or village view rooms, sumptuous suites, vacation rental studios and indulge in an escape to the past, with all the modern amenities you might ever need right at your fingertips. Each accommodation captures the quintessential California coastal lifestyle. Our family’s Ocean Grande Double Queen room was super spacious and defined by loads of natural light and spectacular views of the Pacific, which is literally steps away. On the weekend, it’s a short stroll from the hotel to the water’s edge and the enormous grassy area (Ellen Browning Scripps Park) adjacent to the La Jolla Cove where you can peruse the handcrafted wares (jewelry, photography, paintings, textiles and woodwork) of local artisans.

NINE-TEN Restaurant & BarMy daughter and I strolled down to the La Jolla Cove each morning to watch the sealions and their pups frolic in the waves and in the evenings, our entire family trekked on foot all through the village, window shopping the scores of art galleries and boutique shops.

Sea lions at La Jolla CoveThe emphasis on local artisanry carries through to the casually elegant farm-to-table dining experience at The Grande Colonial’s NINE-TEN Restaurant & Bar. Award-winning Chef Jason Knibb creates a unique seasonal menu dictated by the local harvest. Our family enjoyed brunch, people watching on the sidewalk patio while noshing on fresh from the oven house-made sourdough bread slathered with salted butter. Both kids indulged in fluffy blueberry lemon buttermilk pancakes that were every bit as delicious as they sound. The cuisine was excellent, the service attentive, yet unobtrusive ... the perfect way to while away a late morning.

Stay in and relax, or take a drive through La Jolla Cove to the Shores. Whatever you do, lean into the artistry of a well-designed vacation, with gracious personalized service every step of the way.

Grande Colonial Hotel
910 Prospect Street
La Jolla
(888) 828-5498

thumbnail Attachment 1Diane Silverstein had never heard of the show “Absolutely Fabulous” when she named her aptly-titled gifts and décor boutique in central Huntington Beach. But the fun-loving, irreverent, blonde, champagne-promoting show does give a glimpse into what makes Absolutely Fabulous such a treasure. Absolutely Fabulous is not your run-of-the-mill, Hallmark-style gift shop; they are as fun and irreverent as the show they share a name with.

 MG 9655The variety and uniqueness of products at Absolutely Fabulous is astounding: hand-made jewelry, Miche Bag purses (the ones where you just drop the “insides” of your purse into a new shell, rather than having to dump all of your stuff out!), $10 silk scarves, old-school shaving kits for men, a “Daddy’s Tool Bag” that includes diaper changing equipment, and instructional DVD, face mask and other funny items, rare paintings by successful artists, large crystal chandeliers, crystal perfume bottles, stuffed animal baby bottle covers, piggy banks for kids, “dorm survival kits” for new students, wedding party gifts, rare Disney art and collectibles and decorations and decorative items for every holiday.

thumbnail Attachment 1 1Connect with Diane and the crew at Absolutely Fabulous located at 6026 Warner Avenue in Huntington Beach, call (714) 842-1608 or visit

There aren’t many places in Southern California that remain undeveloped, pristine. Set in a lush canyon next to a flowing stream,The Ranch at Laguna Beach is one of those places. Dating back to 1871, the original 152-acre parcel and one-room shack evolved over the years to its most recent incarnation.

Retaining its original village charm is vital to the success of the secluded private luxury resort that resides there today. The Ranch at Laguna Beach is tucked into Aliso and Wood Canyons - its rustic, simple signage along Coast Highway directs visitors onto a nondescript driveway that winds its way along a quarter mile stretch from the panoramic Pacific Ocean past verdant vegetation and dramatic rock walls that climb as high as 600 feet to the oasis within.


Ranked among the top 10 California resort hotels, this AAA Four Diamond-rated property is no longer the region’s “best kept secret” - today, travelers the world over seek to get caught up in the “coastal cool” world of the Laguna local that’s off the beaten path in every sense.

Grafted into the Laguna culture and notched into the perfect convergence of land and sea, a stay at The Ranch LB is a microcosm of the best of Laguna in one organic, refined place. This laid-back luxury hotel speaks to the Laguna mindset - its staff offering an insider’s take on hidden surf spots, shops and specialty galleries. The property showcases spacious rooms and suites, beach access, a luxurious spa, state-of-the-art fitness center, outdoor saline pool and hot tub and a 9-hole golf course characterized by an ultra-private playing experience with stunning views.

Garden Tours

Loosely scattered about the park-like grounds, within the incomparable setting of Mother Nature’s own magnum opus, the property’s spacious guest rooms and suites enjoy a “seamless dance between casual elegance and the breathtaking 360-degree vistas.” Unlike any resort in Orange County, The Ranch at Laguna Beach features 20 two-level, two-bedroom cottages. With 1,125 square feet and over 300 square feet of outdoor space, the Cottages offer a half bath downstairs with full bath upstairs, upstairs bedrooms with a king bed and queen bed, first-floor patio and upstairs balcony - a sublime space for a family weekend retreat or a multi-generational getaway.

Destination dining

My husband and I fancy ourselves fledging foodies and oenophiles so we were particularly excited to sample the fare at the resort’s signature restaurant Harvest. We were told to expect the menu to reflect the chefs’ “masterfully creative and intensely local” take on California comfort food designed with food-lovers in mind. The menu changes with each season, integrating fresh herbs, fruits and vegetables grown and gathered on property (more on that in a minute).

Cottage Two Bedroom Bed

For starters, the cheese and charcuterie are worth a special mention - a rotating selection of gourmet cheese and cured meats, served with pickled vegetables, spreads and artisan breads. The Crispy Brussels Sprouts arrived with a unique presentation of toasted pecans, pears, radicchio and sweet chili.

For the main course, there are abundant options for even the most discriminating palate. My meat-and-potatoes husband enjoyed the cooked-to-perfection Double ‘R’ Ranch Filet accompanied by Boursin whipped potatoes, garlic roasted broccolini, carmelized shallots and red-wine demi-glazed. I, on the other hand, am our family’s resident seafood aficionado and a huge fan of pan roasted black cod, so I was thrilled to discover the dish on the menu. Harvest’s rendition didn’t disappoint - the melt-in-your-mouth miso-saki marinated cod was perfectly paired with a toasted sesame risotto, sunchokes, lemongrass, braised bok choy and ginger soy. For our teenage son and daughter, the Dry Aged Burger was a hit enhanced with Neuske smoked bacon, double sharp cheddar and all the fixings on toasted brioche.

Cottage Two Bedroom Two Bedroom Living Room

For the historian and the foodie alike, there is a special treat on site. At the edge of the property, Harvest Garden is a sustainable half-acre parcel, producing the freshest flowers and produce. As an homage to the original homesteaders, its ingredients are found in the fresh-made food and drink that are a focus throughout the dining experience here. The garden is open for tours on Sunday mornings and just a hairsbreadth away from the remarkable boundlessness of Mother Nature herself.

Harvest Dining Room

I would be remiss in not calling out one of the highlights of our stay and a unique amenity of The Ranch - the Grill N’ Glow Firepit rental and specialty s’mores roasting kits. We whiled away a late afternoon upon arrival, savoring a quintessential California sunset and indulging in a little dessert before dinner - exactly as you are supposed to do when on vacation, according to our kids.

Bringing together the history of organic farming on the property and its modern take on delectable coastal fare coupled with luxury accommodations and amenities, you’ll long to see it kept as owner Mark Christy does: “genuinely magical and timeless” for years to come.

The Ranch at Laguna Beach
31106 S. Coast Hwy.
Laguna Beach
(888) 316-0959

There’s an Emily Dickinson poem that cites a certain slant of light, which when it comes, “the Landscape listens -/ Shadows -/hold their breath.” Many say that the poem is about a certain quality of anxiety: but I can assure you that though you’ll find a certain slant of light in Santa Barbara, anxiety will be far from it. One of the most stunning and relaxing locales I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting, the seaside escape has what seems like an endless list of activities for even the most determined weekend warrior, and just as long a list for a stress-free family weekend away.

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Located just an hour and a half north of Los Angeles, the city is sandwiched smack dab between the mountains and miles of sun-drenched coastline. Between a sandy day at the beach or an afternoon of local hiking, you’ll find gardens to explore, quaint shops to peruse and restaurants for every taste. Stroll the Urban Wine Trail for a sample of local and nearby vintages (the Kunin Wines Tasting was a particularly lovely stop), and cap off the weekend with a historic stroll through downtown on the Red Tile Walking Tour.

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We couldn’t have picked a better “home base” than the charming La Playa Inn ( Opened in mid-March 2020, this dreamy Spanish Colonial Revival-style 38-room boutique hotel is located just blocks away from the Santa Barbara waterfront. Showcasing red tile roofs, adobe walls, painted tiles set in stairways, the picturesque property is designed in modern coastal blue and sand-colored accents. Between the free private parking and being ideally situated within easy walking distance to literally everything on our family’s itinerary, there was no need to get behind the wheel again after arrival untl it was time to head home. One of our favorite perks? The La Playa Inn features a lovely courtyard with ample seating in which to enjoy its complimentary continental breakfast. We also made use of the space to break out a late afternoon board game.

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One of the highlights of our trip was our family’s first time ever taking to the sky for an exhilarating parasail flight with incredible views of the scenic Santa Barbara coastline and Channel Islands. Located at the end of the historic Stearns Wharf, it’s easy to see why Santa Barbara Parasail ( is the city’s #1 attraction - for our part, my husband, son and daughter were thrilled with every aspect of the thrilling tandem experience, soaring over the water tethered to a 1,000-foot line. For me, it was a growth experience ... I’m afraid of heights and I’ll admit, a somewhat irrational fear of sharks. Needless to say, I was a bit anxious, but it was all for naught. California’s top-rated parasail operator, Santa Barbara Parasail’s expert captains are all licensed by the US Coast Guard and endeavor to offer its guests the “safest” and most unforgettable experience.

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We kept the ocean-faring theme going coupled with the opportunity to weave in a bit of education on a self-guided stroll through the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum ( Discover 13,000 years of human interaction with the Santa Barbara Channel inside the doors of this hidden gem, overlooking the scenic Santa Barbara Harbor. Highlights include a handmade Chumash plank canoe, the rare Point Conception Lighthouse lens, a working periscope, interactive sport fishing and tattoo exhibits, and artifacts that tell stories of nearby shipwrecks, the growth of surfing and hardhat diving, the impact of commercial fisheries, and how a local oil spill in the 1960s helped spur the environmental movement.

Destination dining

There is certainly no shortage of restaurants in this picturesque seaside city - family-friendly eateries, fine dining establishments and places popular with the locals and tourists alike. This trip, we opted to experience a little of each - a bustling neighborhood cafe located at 702 Anacapa St., La Paloma ( serves oak-grilled meats, seasonal produce and Mexican/Spanish/Chumash-inspired dishes that harken back to “the old way of California cooking and hospitality.”

For starters, try the flavorful crispy brussels quick fried with syrah-porcini mushroom reduction, pomegranate and smoked cojita cheese. The Santa Maria-style Snake River Farm Wagyu Tri-Tip was delicious paired with rancho salsa, creamy horseradish and bbq pinquito beans while the Santa Barbara Mission Chicken is enhanced with lemon peel, rosemary and apple pink peppercorn sauce.

La Paloma Cafe

Santa Barbara’s “best scratch bakery,” Helena Avenue Bakery’s ( menu is made up of rustic, organic freshly baked breads, handmade seasonal pastries made from scratch, picnic fare, gourmet sandwiches and salads. Clearly another local fave, the line was out the door ... and it was evident why when the order arrived at our outdoor patio seating. Carb lovers rejoice! The Challah French Toast was an inspired take on a traditional take on a weekend brunch staple with vanilla chai spiced custard, brown butter Fuji apples, pecans and maple syrup. The Breakfast Sandwich on brioche was a hearty dish piled high with baked farm egg, smoked cheddar, black pepper bacon and scallion butter.

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At the risk of sounding as though all we did was eat our way through our Santa Barbara stay, I would be simply remiss if I didn’t mention our outstanding experience at Opal Restaurant and Bar ( at 1325 State Street. Located in the Historic Art District, Opal is the “go to” for globally influenced, eclectic California cuisine (think dishes inspired by the colorful multi-cultural heritage of America, often with an Asian flair), perfectly paired wines and creative craft cocktails - all in a comfortable ambiance with excellent, yet unbotrusive service.

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My kids are huge fans of calamari - they’ve ordered it at every Italian restaurant we’ve ever visited. But Opal’s Asian Glazed Crispy Calamari was certainly something to write home about - a delicious starter paired with baby arugula and crispy asian rice noodles - so good that my daughter was tempted to order another as her entree. My husband and son’s herb grilled filet mignon was cooked to perfection and arrived with whipped truffle butter Yukon potatoes, sauteed broccoli and green beans and a port-wine marsala and wild mushroom cream sauce. I’m the seafood aficionado of the family - my lemon grass crusted fresh salmon is called out as a “local’s favorite” on the menu with good reason: this delicious dish is enhanced with a Thai curry sauce, sauteed julienne vegetables, carmelized apple and orange zest basmati rice.

Helena Avenue Bakery

With California’s signature golden light a guarantee, there’s no better time to plan your escape to Santa Barbara - “The American Riviera.”

Did you know that 15 minutes could save you 15% or more on your car insurance?

There are very few things that throw people off balance more easily than an accident. Be it at home, in the car, or on the water, an accident can ruin a day, a week, or even a year for the uninsured. For the last 85 years, your safety and that of your family has been GEICO’s ultimate priority, and for Agency Owner Jonathan Bayani and his team of licensed agents at the GEICO local office in Laguna Niguel, carrying that mission on is about much more than offering competitive rates.

Bayani and his team strive to serve South OC residents with elite and tailored customer service curated over the last twenty years in the auto and insurance industries. Customers can purchase car insurance, as well as coverage for renters, condos, RV’s, boats, and commercial vehicles. Identity protection, jewelry, and homeowners are also among the list of offerings GEICO boasts: a far cry from the original single policy auto coverage GEICO founders Leo and Lillian Goodwin offered clients in 1936 when they first opened their doors.

“As the father of three children, looking after the wellbeing of my family is top priority,’ says Bayani. “Insurance is integral to every industry and after serving the San Diego Padres and seeing how closely knit the players and their families are to their individual coverage, I wanted to bring what I learned to everyday folks in my own community.”

A bilingual team of agents, the office in Laguna Niguel will look to bring savings to each client that walks through their doors. “We have special association and alumni discounts for graduates of UCLA, SDSU, UCI, CUSF, CSULB, USC and other local schools.” Active duty military serving at Camp Pendleton may also qualify for GEICO’s military discount.

Accidents or incidents can derail even the best laid plans, but they don’t have to. GEICO has been proving that for 85 years, and Jonathan and his team are here to back you up for those to come.

Local Office
Laguna Niguel
27261 La Paz Road, Suite J
Laguna Niguel
(949) 268-6740

The Premier SoCal Destination for Multi-Generational Fun

There are a few places in the world that I’ve truly relaxed outside my own home. Believe me, it is a very short list. But let me tell you - topping the charts is JW Marriott’s Desert Springs Resort & Spa. And coming into the absolutely blissful fall weather in California - well - you couldn’t pick a better time to load up the entire family for a quick jaunt out to Palm Desert get one last adventure in before the rush and bustle of the holidays hit.

JW CTDCA 3 2021 JW Entertainment Zone Patio

As a mom of two, I understand how rare the feeling of relaxation really is, and (congratulate me) successfully talked my husband into booking our family a stay at the resort for a weekend respite from carpooling, afterschool activities, worrying about what to make for dinner. Just looking at images online showcasing the result of the property’s recent multi-million dollar renovation was enough for him to ask how soon we could book a weekend away and it snowballed from there.

JW CTDCA 8 2019 Pool Cabana

We shared our plans with close family friends who have similarly aged children - they booked the same weekend to meet up for what turned out to be an unforgettable, all-inclusive experience - from luxury accommodations and abundant amenity to fine dining, indoor/outdoor recreation and entertainment.

The property features an enhanced arrival experience, a reimagined spa and 884 luxuriously redesigned modern guest rooms and suites. Think hardwood floors, indulgent bathrooms, workspaces with intelligently placed USB ports, and entertaining spaces with views of the pool or lake on-site make the choice between going out and staying in a real no-brainer. Both: take a dip in the outdoor pools or test out your golf swing on the links. Play a set or a full match on the tennis courts. Get pampered at the day spa, savor innovative cuisine.

JW CTDCA 10 2018 RockwoodGrill Charcuterie 1245

Even heading out to a meal here is an adventure ... the property provides gondola rides to and from many of its restaurants via an elaborate system of Venetian-like waterways which run throughout the resort’s immaculately landscaped grounds. Dining destinations include Rockwood Grill (upscale American fare showcasing locally sourced ingredients), Mikado Japanese Steakhouse (authentic Japanese cuisine) and Blue Star Lounge (California cuisine in a lively indoor lounge or charming outdoor patio with firepits).

JW CTDCA 10 2018 Chef Scott Mikado b

The icing on the cake for kids of all ages? JW Marriott’s newly unveiled Entertainment Zone Arcade (EZ) and Family Passport Program. The “EZ” is a 12,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art arcade (the largest in the state, no less) where the kids - and their parents - ran amok - challenging each other to timeless classics like PacMan, Skee Ball and Air Hockey and new favorites including high-tech simulators, motocross racing games, four lanes of duckpin bowling and more.

JW CTDCA 8 2019 Presidential View PickUp 1

The JW Family Passport expands the resort’s offerings for the younger set. With an emphasis on creativity, culinary, and active lifestyle, the resort provides an innovative outlet of fun-filled adventures thoughtfully curated for families and guests of all ages. From nature walks, family yoga and educational flamingo feedings to ice cream socials, scavenger hunts, trivia nights and more. Guests have their “passport” stamped after participating in a wide array of activities and redeem prizes from the resort’s treasure chest. Bonus! Book your passport online to receive complimentary breakfast for kids under 12 during your stay.

JW CTDCA 1 2020 CHRM Chairman Suit Bedroom

Some getaways are for exploring the envions. Others, like our recent weekend away to the Desert Springs Resort and Spa are for taking full advantage of the recreation, dining, amenity and entertainment without ever having to leave the resort grounds.

JW Marriott Desert Springs

Resort & Spa
74-855 Country Club Drive
Palm Desert
(760) 341-2211

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