Jody Robinson - Sorbet
Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

I might be dating myself here, but I much prefer handwritten greetings to electronic missives. Whether it arrives in the mail or is hand-delivered, receiving a special occasion - or no occasion at all - card or gift is all the more meaningful because of the thought and time involved versus simply typing out a quick text and emoji.

EH 3My daughter loves to send cards to the people she loves, “to cheer them up,” “celebrate a special occasion,” “say thank you” or to just let someone know she’s thinking of them. If it’s obvious to a child that people need something thoughtful in their lives, it makes perfect sense why a place like Elam’s Hallmark would be such a staple in the community. Guy Elam and his wife Mary started the family-run business back in 1979 - and over the years joined by their daughters Christie and Joni and son Scott - have been putting more care into the world, one card at a time.

You’d be surprised at the variety of products Elam’s carries. Hallmark conjures up such a strong Christmas or Valentines association that it would be easy to make the mistake of assuming that’s all they have in stock. But their 11 stores in San Diego (and their newest location in Laguna Niguel) receive new merchandise weekly: gifts for literally any event. Baby showers, weddings, birthdays, anniversaries, and their fastest growing niche: Just Because.

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“It’s more than the cards,” says Scott. “It’s our neighbors and friends. We’re local, and we’re proud to serve the folks who want to shop local.”

Elam’s Hallmark
27230 Alicia Parkway, Ste. A
Laguna Niguel
(949) 448-9652

When someone says “festival season” to me, the one of the first things that comes to mind is Coachella. But long before the annual music and arts festival began in Palm Desert, another season entirely captured America’s imagination: that of Louisiana’s favorite French city. With over 100 festivals year round, New Orleans is the prime destination for any type of vacation - but is especially friendly for families in the summer months.

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From art and music to food and drink, seasonal celebrations, tours and an abundance of attraction, there is always something to do day or night on the banks of the lower Mississippi. Stroll the vibrant French Quarter or experience a free concert in Lafayette Square. Hop aboard a streetcar or play outside in the city’s 1300-acre City Park: complete with paddle boats, a Mother Goose-themed playground and an antique carousel. From Bourbon Street to beignets, no matter what time of year, fun is always in season in NOLA.

Higgins interior

Immediately after school let out for the summer in early June, our family boarded a flight to the Crescent City armed with an itinerary that encompasses Creole cooking, 18th century historic structures, jazz music, ghost tours and cultural attractions – all part of a gumbo (pun intended) that has been simmering here for three centuries.

While searching online for an ideal home base, two properties stood out above the rest: The Higgins Hotel and the Loews New Orleans.

Honoring History, Heroes and Heartfelt Hospitality

Opened just two years ago on The National WWII Museum’s campus in the Arts & Warehouse District, The Higgins Hotel ( harkens back to an earlier era. An Art Deco and period-inspired aesthetic and architectural influences are evident throughout the property – from its expansive lobby defined by a floor-to-ceiling mural looming over the reception area and a myriad of elegantly arranged WWII artifacts on display to each of its 230 spacious and well-appointed guest rooms and suites – all thoughtfully equipped with modern conveniences and special touches (think ultra-comfortable beds, stylish seating and pretty spectacular views of the cityscape).

Distinctive dining options here include Café Normandie for breakfast and lunch featuring sophisticated French-influenced fare and Rosie’s on the Roof – a local favorite for small plates, sandwiches and salads during the dinner hour. The latter paying homage to the new female American workforce of the WWII era. Rosie the Riveter is a cultural icon representing the women who worked in factories and shipyards during the war, producing munitions and war supplies.

The best part in my view? Its proximity to the neighboring National World War II Museum ( – where we could incorporate history, education and inspiration into our vacation for a particularly memorable afternoon with our teenagers in tow. Our experience was defined by immersive exhibits, soaring aircraft and personal stories from Home Front efforts to the combat encounters of the American soldier abroad. If you go, don’t miss “Beyond All Boundaries” - a moving 4D cinematic journey produced and narrated by Tom Hanks that gave us all a greater understanding and deeper appreciation of the epic and global scale of the war that changed the world.

The National WWII Museum Campaigns of Courage

Leaning into Luxury

A Four-Diamond luxury property, Loews New Orleans ( leans into the city’s love affair with art – starting at reception’s beautiful tiled mural and stained glass. Each of its 285 bright and spacious guest rooms and suites showcase original local artwork and iconic New Orleans images as accents.


As lovely as the views are in each accommodation, the vistas to behold beyond the wall-to-wall windows of this 22-story Big Easy high-rise are even more mesmerizing – nearby New Orleans neighborhoods ablaze in color, the city skyline sparkling at night and the magnificent Mississippi River, always a storied beauty to behold. Each of the generously sized rooms are finished in modern blues, grays and pops of bright color and characterized by thoughtful décor and Southern charm.


For our son who recently embarked on a regular fitness regime, 24/7 access to the fitness center’s state-of-the-art cardio and strength equipment was a huge bonus, while the indoor lap pool, whirlpool and sauna were more my speed for a little exercise and wind down at the end of the day.


Destination dining

Speaking of day’s end, Bar Peters at the Loews features Cajun-inspired entrees, light bites and hand-crafted cocktails influenced by the spirit of the city.

A friend recently turned me onto a super cool site ( for the “definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders,” which is where we discovered Muriel’s. New Orleans is no stranger to paranormal activity or classic Creole cuisine so we were anxious to sample both at Muriel’s Jackson Square (

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At this iconic French Quarter eatery, guests are said to dine amongst the patrons of the city’s past – there’s even a hidden séance room on the second floor where a special table is reserved each night for the spirit of the former owner (customers and employees have reported seeing objects moving around the room and voices emanating from the second floor when no one is there).

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It’s easy to see why this establishment is so popular – in addition to its prime location in the heart of the French Quarter, Muriel’s menu is filled with regional favorites – including seafood specialties which were right up this seafood aficionado’s alley. The New Orleans seafood gumbo, crawfish and goat cheese crepes, shrimp and grits were a delicious introduction to creole cooking.

For Cajun Southern Cooking, we experienced Cochon ( for authentic, traditional dishes custom crafted from locally sourced pork, fresh produce and seafood. Set in a rustic, yet contemporary interior of a renovated New Orleans warehouse, the menu is characterized by a bevy of unique starters and main courses that make a meal here a truly memorable experience for the senses.

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I’m particularly proud of our teens, both of whom have in recent years stretched their culinary palates. But none so much as on this trip where they had an opportunity to try crawfish pie, fried alligator with chili garlic mayonnaise, roasted pork belly with pepper jelly, bacon braised collard greens and fried catfish. My personal pick? The chicken and andouille gumbo – a hearty, rich, generously seasoned Creole stew.

And no trip to New Orleans would be complete without indulging in a few beignets at Café Du Monde ( – the famous fritters here are piping hot squares of doughy delight topped with confectioner’s sugar. Café Du Monde is not-to-be-missed – this French coffee stand is open 24 hours a day and has been in operation since 1862.

Cafe Du Monde

Sightseeing and Ghostly Sightings

The city’s only 360-degree observatory, Vue Orleans ( offers unparalleled views of this storied city in literally every direction you look – from the entire length of historic canal street to the way in which the Mighty Mississippi winds its way through NOLA. We ascended the 34 floors in less than 60 seconds – then had a ball challenging the kids to locate the landmarks from the previous days’ excursion.

If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping into a painting and are a fan of post-impressionism, don’t miss Van Gogh New Orleans: The Immersive Experience ( Ranked among the 12 best immersive experiences in the world by CNN, this touring exhibit is a 20,000-square-foot light and sound spectacular featuring two-story projections of the artist’s most compelling works. It is another singularly unique experience that is a both entertaining and educational family outing.


New Orleans is considered to be “the most haunted city in America” so no visit here would be complete without getting a little scare on. The Ghosts of New Orleans ( is the No. 1 tour for families and children, but is also great for history buffs and fans of the paranormal. This all-ages walking tour takes you to some of the most famous haunted locations in the French Quarter, including sites of grisly murders and crimes where the victims are said to haunt the living today and homes of famous residents whose ghosts still walk the halls of their past lives (it’s no coincidence that the tour starts right across the street from Muriel’s, whose previous owner committed suicide on the second floor (in the area that once served as the slave quarters and is now home to the historic structure’s Séance Lounges) after losing his beloved home in a game of cards in 1814.

Ralph Waldo Emerson famously said “who you are speaks so loudly I cannot hear what you’re saying.” Keeping this quote in mind has served me well over the years, particularly in choosing friends … and when seeking out the services of professionals. In my opinion, integrity isn’t a word heard often enough in the business world. Competitive, certainly.

But unfortunately phrases like “bottom-line oriented,” “unscrupulous,” even “cutthroat” have cropped up in the vernacular when hearing home improvement gone wrong stories from fellow homeowners. That’s why it was so refreshing to come across Jeff McCabe and his Orange County-based One Way Painting.

In business since 1976, Jeff and his team serve all of the OC and specialize in interior and exterior residential and commercial painting. They swear by the rules of professionalism: “no cutting corners. No cheap materials. We pay attention to every detail, and never call a job complete until the customer is completely satisfied.”

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Some might call it good Christian values. Others might say it’s simply good business. But for the last 42 years, working from the heart has earned One Way Painting such a respected reputation in the industry that the vast majority of their work comes through repeat customers or referrals from repeat customers. The company’s success isn’t merely rooted in customer service though. Boasting a superior knowledge of available product on the market and hiring the most professional crews in the business also goes a long way.

“Our reputation speaks for itself; but if it didn’t, we have 16 satisfied employees on our permanent payroll who would put a hand up in defense of the standards we set,” says Jeff. Standards which were born and bred through a commitment to ethical business practices and hard work. In 2001, Jeff teamed up with seasoned professional Ron Bartz as a journeyman, then took over the company when Ron retired, and has been growing it ever since.

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In 2009, Jeff took the pair of three-man crews and expanded the operation to encompass six crews, two office staff, and a project manager who oversees jobs, right alongside the man with the plan himself. “We currently have four trucks on the road and I’d like a full fleet someday. I’d like to leave a legacy for my daughters, and that means more than just cans of paint and a warehouse full of equipment and materials.” To Jeff, it means taking care of his employees, taking care of his family: taking care of business. The hope is that One Way Painting becomes a household name, for its quality of work and quality of values.

My husband and I can happily attest to both. When we moved into our home in San Juan Capistrano five years ago, we acquired quotes for exterior painting from several contractors, but were particularly impressed with Jeff and his crew. Prior to starting work at our home, Jeff came by in person to go over what the job would entail and answered all of our questions. His team showed up right on time the first day - and each subsequent day - and at the end of each day everything was cleaned up before they left.

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“We pride ourselves on working with a team of long-term employees - we do not hire off the street,” says Jeff. “We guarantee our work and do not require payment till the job is completed and the customer is completely pleased with our work.”

Jeff and his crew delivered on these promises and more than exceeded our expectations - the result was outstanding work, a job completed on time and on budget and defined by unparalleled customer service (Kelly in his office was hyper-responsive to our inquiries during the estimating process and followed up immediately upon completion of the job to ensure that we were satisfied with the results and our overall experience of working with One Way Painting).

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Their attention to detail is found from start to finish. For exterior projects, they begin by power washing to clean and remove any loose paint, mildew or mold. Then the patching: with stucco, trenching around the foundations and priming with an acrylic. They’ll treat your wood siding, eaves, fascia, windows. Main doors, garage doors, trim. Even wrought iron, or other specialty surfaces like patio covers and fences. Most work depends on the client’s preference: flat to semi-gloss, acrylic or oil finish. Inside walls see flat, matte, eggshell, satin, semi, or hi-gloss. If you have natural wood cabinets and they need refinishing, One Way’s crew will see to it that they look new again. Also licensed and bonded as commercial painters, Jeff’s crew has been making businesses and their buildings look new again for 42 years. With a free on-site estimate, your custom needs are sure to have a custom solution. No deposits required, and “no surprises along the way,” Jeff is quick to add.

“I think at the end of the day what sets us apart is taking our time with each and every customer that comes our way,” says Jeff. “We run a business like every person we interact with is family.” They may not be the cheapest out there, but then that wouldn’t fly in Emerson’s eyes, and not in Jeff’s either. “Our business is based on the Christian ethic of treating every customer with honesty and integrity. Every job is done ‘as unto the Lord.’ Does this mean we’re perfect? No. It does mean that we strive to do the best painting job possible.”

Connect with Jeff, Kelly and the One Way Painting team by calling (866) 986-9781, visit or YELP for reviews.

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).

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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.

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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

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