It is rare to find someone who knew their path early - by divine intervention, fate or luck. Someone whom, through circumstances beyond their control, walked into their calling and have found great success. Providence. Serendipity. Whatever you might call it, Daniel Lara is one of those lucky few. A native Southern Californian, out for the day with some friends on the Huntington Beach Pier, Lara was a recent high school graduate when he struck up a conversation with “an interesting character” - a chance encounter that would change the trajectory of his life forever.
The Hollywood stunt man Lara met that day happened to have a side job as a real estate and mortgage broker. He shared with Lara how he’d recently sold an apartment complex for $8,000,000 to a connection he’d made through a movie he'd worked on. This initial meeting led to a fledgling friendship during which the then 19-year-old's initiative and ambition so impressed his friend that he offered Lara his first job in real estate. By 23, Daniel was leading a team of loan originators. By 30, he ran a mortgage company. “Unbelievable opportunity and a ton of really hard, honest work” ensured that his experience grew exponentially in a very short time.
Lara took a small mom-and-pop brokerage in Huntington Beach and "put them on the national stage by merging with an FDIC Mortgage Bank. Most companies dream of such an opportunity - in a few years I was able to make that happen for them.” Three years ago Lara opened his own company, Regal American Mortgage in Laguna Hills, a newly developed division that he and his team have expanded to five states thus far. "Our ambition is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all things are right. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true."
I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today …
Having a dream come to fruition at such a young age, having the right person come into your life at the most opportune of times – Lara was blessed with both. While in his early twenties, he found himself uniquely positioned and eager to learn all he could from experiences with every type of lending institution - banks, lenders, brokers. Experiences and expertise that would not only serve as the underpinnings to his operational philosophy and enable his company to truly help homeowners, but would prove instrumental in Lara’s own professional success.
Having independently produced $97 million in closed transactions in 2016, Lara earned the distinction of being named to the upper echelon in his industry – among the top 200 loan agents in the nation or … 1% of the 1%. His personal production is currently approaching $1 billion, Lara specializes in VA loans, the total of which account for 60% of his closings.
“Our ethos is ‘finance your legacy’ and I say that with extreme seriousness,” he says. "We’re not just making sure we are giving clients the best rates and lowest fees: that’s standard. We’re listening. We’re preparing our clients for a structure that they can build a life off of.”
Balancing his business on the pillars of honesty, integrity and American family values hasn’t been easy, especially in a rapidly changing environment fraught with an unforeseen pandemic and global financial crisis. “If we can set the stage for your finances to leave a legacy behind and help take care of your family, we’ve done our jobs, no matter the time it takes, or the state the world is in.” The opportunity to learn from all walks of life has given Lara and his team the ability to stay nimble, agile, especially in these trying times.
Having an old fashioned eye for customer service and hospitality helps as well. Lara can rely on his team to service their clients, and therefore, their community’s needs because he has surrounded himself with a core group of like-minded, proactive professionals. These individuals, who bring a wealth of experience to the organization - some with only three years and others 35 years’ with MS degrees in finance - “have a tremendous amount of enthusiasm for their work, and that has helped to develop momentum and unique programming over the last few years."
Lara adds that his administrative staff is "like none other I have ever worked with - because they are incredibly efficient and organized they help our clients navigate the hurdles to get a loan, very very quickly. We’re on pace to break all records I’ve set in the past as a top 1% producing agent in the nation.”
One of company’s more unique offerings assists seniors who may fear that they will not be able to age in place. Financing a new home purchase or refinancing your current loan is a common product Regal American is very familiar and extremely capable in handling, negotiating a reverse mortgage (HECM loan) is entirely another type of financing for elderly clients. “I want to be creative about the solutions we are able to offer our clients, and surprise folks with an opportunity that may have previously been viewed in a negative light.” Living Legacy loans, as they are referred to in the Regal American offices, allows clients to pursue their ideal lifestyle even if retirement income may not have kept up with costs of living. Allowing homeowners to turn a portion of their home equity into cash, and forego a monthly house payment takes the pressure off of individuals, and allows seniors to write their own legacy.
“There are so many nuances in every client’s financial life, and it takes a seasoned professional to navigate waters muddied by years of suspect business practices and preconceived notions.”
There are tens of thousands of mortgage companies in the US, and competition is no less fierce in Southern California. The impact of COVID-19 has stricken many, and shifted the way we look at global and local commerce, financing our goals, causing droves to scramble to maintain a standard of living to which we were accustomed just a few short months ago. In spite of those changes, Lara believes that Orange County has a unique ecosystem, and current predictions show only a small hiccup in housing trends before the market stabilizes. Fortunate: that the pride of homeownership, median income, and overall longevity of the OC all contribute to consistently positive growth. As homeowners are quick to take advantage of low rates and qualify for the mortgages they are receiving, we should step through these trying types relatively quickly.”
“It is quite simply a perfect environment in our real estate economy,” says Dan. “Right now, we are experiencing the highest home values paired with the lowest rates in American history. Once things begin to normalize, rates will increase and lenders will very likely tighten loan restrictions. All of which makes this the ideal time to finance or refinance (whether you want to take cash out to keep on hand for a rainy day, pay off credit card debt, install solar or make other desired home improvements). Don’t sit on the sidelines while the opportunity passes. I never thought I would see rates at historic lows like they are today."
How many other companies are marching toward incoming changes instead of simply riding out the tide? With the patience to teach and the skills to execute, Regal American is a veteran at helping first-time home buyers, knowledgable refinancers or savvy investors. “When there is an opportunity to refinance and claim a better rate, we’re doing the hard work, staying ahead of the curve, and notifying our clients of market changes."
It could have been cloudy that fateful day, his friends deciding to stay indoors instead of venturing to the Pier. Lara could have still been living down the road in the city of his birth: San Clemente. But for whatever reason, that one move, one meeting, one conversation, changed Lara's trajectory by 1%, and eventually he found himself walking down a completely different path than on which he began. Regal American’s goal is to create a national brand that exemplifies the pride a homeowner feels when all cylinders are firing, when things are right, and as they should be. Finances play a huge role in making that American Dream come true. Perhaps Regal is that one move, one meeting, one conversation for you.
23022 La Cadena Dr., Suite 206
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.
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 are only receiving a 1.6 percent increase in 2020. Hospital bills are rising. We need to make a decisive move. - Col. Gregory G. Raths
“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).
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.”
His 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 45th Congressional District.
A SENIOR FOR SENIORS
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 45th Congressional District.”
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.
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 45th 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 www.gregraths.com, 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.
It isn’t often that a series of decisions made over a cup of coffee end up working out for the best: or becoming one of the easiest and most affordable ways to work out indoors.
I’d venture to say that the majority of folks who initiate a workout program aren’t going into it looking to get hurt. Most of us just want to slim down, improve heart health, and get some cardio in before or after a busy day at work. Users of Body Flex Sports’ StepTrac BST800 can push through a full body workout in just 12 minutes.
Having 27 years of fitness experience under their belts, the team at Body Flex launched into the world of health in the 90’s. Now, with over ten utility patents and four brands, “we’re on a mission to improve the strength, stamina, and soundness of our customer’s health.” A family-held American company, Body Flex is sold internationally, bridging value, efficiency, and wellness with maximum results.
So what’s the original magic that came from that cup of joe so long ago? The founder of Body Flex Sports notes that it’s “the dispersion of force into a couple different directions,” which reduces impact and stress on the body down to almost zero.
“Combining two movements into one, and offering eight levels of resistance control, the machine flows through a silent, smooth magnetic flywheel.” An LCD monitor keeps track of distance speed, time, and calories. Incredibly portable and compact, its “functional and aesthetic design keeps it the best in class, down to the foam-covered handlebars for comfortable gripping.”
Ultra-smooth, the technology overcomes what engineers call a “dead spot”: that pressure point on a bike, or traditional elliptical machine. With its patented Curve-Crank Technology, the machine reduces joint stress, promoting a true biomechanical flow.And, as every exercise enthusiast knows, when you’re working with your body instead of against it, you’ll find more strength and stamina to be had. Young or old, already fit or looking to get back into a scalable routine, the limits are up to the user.
Building a reliable, sustainable, stable, and consistent reputation depends on building the same type of product. Body Flex uses their resources for good, building with intelligence, and a heart to develop products that are “accessible to everyone.”
“We wanted to improve human health based on the philosophy that by improving people’s health, it would improve the world,” says Yvonne Hsiung, VP of Business and Development. “The ripple effect is very powerful.” Her father’s Master’s in Material Science and an inventor’s mind turned out to be the perfect platform to create meaningful change.
Providing the fitness industry with its most popular and effective weight benches, elliptical machines, exercise bikes, (and more!) just wasn’t enough.
“We need to do our part as a business and organization to contribute to our world beyond profit.” Using strength to imbue strength is a core value, one that pushes the team to give back to their community. Supporting multiple local charities, including Samaritan’s Purse, they’ve made it clear that not all strength is built in the gym.
What could you do with your day if your workout only took 12 minutes? Donate or volunteer for charity, hang out with grandparents, or grandchildren, send a few extra emails, watch that show you’ve been wanting to, without the guilt of a workout hanging over your head. Grab a cup of coffee with a friend. After all, flexing your newfound muscle is more fun when you’ve got someone to share the success with.
For more information, call (888) 266-6789 or visit www.bodyflexsports.com
There is much to be said for feeling divine. The informal definition there of course is lovely, exquisite, excellent, delightful.
I made the mistake of Googling “self-care” a couple weeks ago, after a particularly long week at work, and went down a decidedly un-divine rabbit hole of wellness treatments, essential oils, skin care, massage techniques, fitness tips, beauty regimens, and more. By the end, it was nine pm and I was more stressed out from the search than I’d been from my schedule.
As I was relaying the story to a friend the next day, I learned of Surf City’s newest wellness spa - Bare Bunny Aesthetics. Orange County is filled with busy working professionals and parents on the go - a concept with which Owner Rebecca “Becca” Pate is completely familiar. As an entrepreneurial mom of four boys, she understands firsthand the important of self-care and taking care of your overall health. While the OC is undoubtedly filled with medspas, estheticians, wellness centers and spas servicing aesthetics, there are precious few that view your body as an integrated long-term solution. That’s the mission of Bare Bunny Aesthetics at its newest spa in downtown Huntington Beach.
Becca and her team of professionals’ primary goal is to “take a look at your entire lifestyle, diet and skincare routine and create a custom plan to obtain maximum results.” Offering both Endermologie and EmSculpt (more on that in a minute), skin treatments and hydrafacials, wraps, hair scans and advanced, state-of-the-art med spa treatments (performed by Donna Richardson, M.D. and her experienced medical staff), Becca wants more women to make their body their priority.
Not a short-term goal either, the team at Bare Bunny is dedicated to long-term health, beauty, and happiness. Studies have shown that our intentional energies directed toward positive outcomes increases happiness, which in turn, can extend our life span. So starting from the first layer and working our way in makes sense to me. If all you’re looking for is a little glow now and then, a HydraFacial might be the thing for you. Proven to smooth fine lines and wrinkles, attack congested and enlarged pores, redness, irritation, and even skin texture, it will get you on your feet ready for another week.
The idea of putting my fresh face forward got me thinking about the areas of my body that have been stubborn for years. Delighting in her appearance and more importantly, the difference in how she feels, client Lauryn C. shares her personal Bare Bunny experience saying “I made my ten sessions a priority and everything followed suit. Everyone noticed the difference and I felt like I was a better wife, mother and woman for it. Making the time and putting myself first didn’t just help my exterior, but really allowed me to take inventory inside and out. I wish I had started sooner.”
“Lauryn was referred to us by a long-term client,”says Becca. “Like most mothers, she prioritized taking care of everyone, putting herself last. She felt stuck and in a rut. You can immediately tell she’s feeling and looking like she’s on top of her game. We love when we get mothers feeling good and looking even better.”
Shooting for the same look as you’d get after exercising for six months (or six years), Emsculpt is obviously not intended on taking the place of a healthy diet or exercise regimen, but its existence is certainly a marker on the new yardstick measuring results. And it’s technology is making quite the splash. No downtime, no pain. Non-invasive. Using high intensity electromagnetic energy to stimulate the body’s musculature, you’ll walk away with the results of having done 20,000 sit-ups, without the pain, frustration or recovery.
Fat cells still sticking around? Endermologie stimulates them through beta receptors to trigger their release. Smoothing the appearance of cellulite and increasing fluid storage keeps your skin looking young, and vibrant. Aesthetics are great, but even more importantly, Endermologie offers a host of health benefits, including increased circulation, lymphatic draining, pain management and inflammation reduction. More energy, a healthier appearance, less fat: all reasons to live a well rounded lifestyle. Even more reason to invest in the Internet’s favorite phrase on Google. Caring for my body will make it easier to care for my work, my family. And the idea of that feels divine, indeed.
Bare Bunny Aesthetics
307 3rd Street, Suite 101 & 202, Huntington Beach
Each year in Hawaii as the winter temperatures drop to a lovely 81 degrees, the groundswell charges the shores of Oahu with monstrous waves, sometimes reaching 60 feet tall. For many, the spectacle is overwhelming - the only chance most of us have to see the terrifying immensity of nature up close. For others, it brings the chance to enter into the annals of history by riding down the face of one of those monsters on a three inch thick piece of fiberglassed extruded polystyrene (for those of you who don’t surf, glassed EPS equals one intense wave-riding surfboard).
Some picture Oahu, and think only of Waikiki Beach and Waimea Bay. Some imagine the bustling metropolis of the Honolulu - all traffic and big business; island style, of course. A quick TripAdvisor search produces pages of information on museums, snorkeling excursions, beaches to stroll: helicopter and hot air balloon tours, aquariums, nightclubs and for the courageous, even a submarine adventure. Undeniably, any way you look at it, the waves and sunshine combine into one big beautiful postcard, airmailed straight from the tropics.
Diamond Head Luau - Hawaii’s only Farm to Table Luau
Why come all the way to Polynesia and then never truly experience it? Explore the rich heritage of the Pacific Islands and cultures (Samoa, Tonga, Aotearoa, Fiji, Tahiti and Hawaii) as natives demonstrate their arts, music, history and games at Waikiki’s only oceanfront farm-to-table luau.
Crafting an authentic Hawaiian and Polynesian experience on the islands can be a tough mark to hit. At Diamond Head Luau however, the craft is interactive and engrained. Basing their teachings on the shared experiences of Hawaiian and Polynesian culture, activities like hula, lei making, weaving and more combine into the ultimate evening. Top it all off with the only farm-to-table buffet dining experience in Hawaii, and the excitement leans over the tipping point. Diamond Head Luau believes in Malama ‘ka ‘Aina (caring for the land), and as such, only serves local ingredients: from the root to your plate. The appetizer station showcases lychee wood-smoked local marlin dip and kalo (taro) hummus served with freshly made uala chips (local sweet potato). There is literally something for every palette - from a variety of salads to poi shooter with Lomi Lomi salmon, fresh poke (my fave), kalbi short ribs, Huli Huli rotisserie chicken, vegetarian dishes, kalua pork and Hawaiian-inspired desserts. An exciting show with fire performances and traditional hula cap off the night, and round out even the finest Hawaiian vacation.
Atlantis Adventures Premium Submarine Tour
There is really little in the world more magical than the pristine, clear waters off the Hawaiian island chain. Full of attractions for the whole family, days spent swimming, snorkeling, and soaking up the sun await on every stretch of sand. But if you’re looking for something to up the ante, Atlantis Adventures has just the thing: a premium submarine tour. Dive below the surface for an hour and forty-five minutes of fascinating views, fantastic fish, and even a sunken ship or two. The 64-seat sub hosts its guests in an incredibly comfortable environment, with more viewing space per seat than any other tour through its large ports, and individual seats complete with seat backs to take the burden from your body and set you at ease in the sea. Now, when you book online, get a child’s ticket free with every adult purchase, and $10 off to boot. Not too shabby for an adventure 100 feet below the salty surface.
Atlantis Adventures Island Style Sunset Buffet Cruise
Food, fun, and the open water ahead of you. What more could you ask for on Atlantis Adventures’ newest cruise? With the addition of SEAKEEPER technology, the Majestic offers the latest in boat stability, making each sunset buffet cruise as sleek and seamless as it sounds. Round trip transportation from select Waikiki hotels will deposit you at the doorstep of luxury, and upon boarding you’ll be met with a complimentary welcome drink. As you set sail, large panoramic windows enable Oahu’s breathtaking coastal scenery to take center stage. Entree options include garlic shiitake teriyaki chicken, Pacific catch of the day and Hawaiian rock salt-crusted pork with gravy accompanied by garden vegetable medley, fresh fruit, white rice and Hawaiian sweet rolls.
Return under the cover of Hawaii’s gentle dusk after Atlantis’ Friday Night Fireworks Cruise, the lights still bright in your mind’s eye. Any way you look at it, the sunset cruise might just be the best two hours you’ve ever spent on the water.
Stairway to Heaven
If you’re looking for a memorable way to work in a bit of exercise on your trip, try hiking the Diamond Head Crater. I have to say, there’s something rather empowering about walking up the inside slop of an extinct volcano. More than 3,500 feet in diameter with a 760-foot summit, Diamond Head is a lasting remnant of a volcanic explosion that occurred about a half a million years ago. Ancient Hawaiians called it Laeahi, which translates to “brow of the tuna.” The name “Diamond Head” has more recent roots in the 1800s, when British sailors mistakenly believed that the glistening calcite crystals embedded in the lava rock were diamonds lodged in the lodged in the crater’s soil.
It takes 45 minutes to an hour to reach the summit, and half that time for the trip back down. The trail is a switchback with the mountain on one side and a railing on the other. After a lookout point that doubles as a rest stop, the trail takes a steep upward ascent through a series of stairs and tunnels carved into the mountain. The last set of stairs is a 99-step climb that my husband and kids clamored up with little effort while I took the slow and steady - and decidedly less “in shape” approach - that eventually ends at a World War II bunker. From there, you step out to one of the best panoramic views of the island. We lucked out with the weather during our four-day trip to the islands which meant that once we summited the crater, we were rewarded with a spectacular view of Oahu’s entire leeward side (the side to which the wind is blowing). Entry into the state park is $5 per vehicle or $1 per pedestrian.
My entire experience with North Carolina up until a few months ago consisted of a vague knowledge of the sports teams the state boasts: Carolina Panthers, Charlotte Hornets, Charlotte Checkers, the Hounds, the NASCAR Cup races, and its Hall of Fame. That all changed when our family fell head over heels for Charlotte on a recent trip to cross the North Carolina off our “50 States List.” Headquarters to Wells Fargo, the city is the third-largest financial center in the United States. And to be sure, the city is chock full of bankable moments.
Nicknamed the Queen City, the city of Charlotte was honored with the moniker of the German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, who was head consort of Great Britain (and therefore Ireland); those among the first to establish a township in the region after the Catawba Native Americans population diminished. Nationally recognized for their interactive youth-centric activities, the Children’s Theatre and the Great Wolf Lodge are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the long list of “to-do’s” for long family-friendly weekend vacay. The Concord Aquarium, Sky Zone, ImaginOn, and Discovery Place (Science and Nature!) follow with a set of their own kid-friendly adventures.
The field guide to fast casual started in Charlotte, with a long and delicious list of southern barbeque options for everyone. From pimento cheese to biscuits and backyard smoked soul food, to staples like jalapeno-cheddar cornbread and fried chicken just like Mama used to make it. Kids down for the night? Hit up any number of eateries serving up craft beers and southern starters. Within a day’s drive are gorgeous wineries serving up the region’s most delectable vintages, but if you’re not keen on leaving the Queen City’s limits, the oldest rum distillery in the state lies within the city boundaries, serving up history along the banks of the Catawba River.
Relaxing with a craft cocktail 19 floors above greater Charlotte might sound too good to be true, but the buzz of the city melds with the sleek elegance of its history within the four walls of the Kimpton Tryon Park Hotel (tryonparkhotel.com). An uptown Charlotte institution brimming with hospitality, and featuring a soothing blue and gray palette, the hotel takes seriously its place in a city fit for a queen. Each of its 217 guest rooms and suites are elegantly furnished, appointed with Italian marble, mahogany, crystal, and feature views of Romare Bearden Park and BB+T Ballpark or the sprawl of Uptown Charlotte.
Craft extends beyond cocktails at its rooftop Merchant & Trade bar - from music, punch, and tableside bar snacks to mixology and bottle service. Rent the space for your own event or just enjoy the indoor-outdoor flow, complete with lawn, terrace, fire pits, modern furniture, and lush foliage. Head downstairs to Angeline’s for straightforward Italian-American cuisine that greets each ready tastebud.
Seasonal southern ingredients are prepared with traditional Italian techniques, and every meal is the chance to reconnect with friends, family, and colleagues. Our family broke bread over a multi-course feast, full of antipasti, wood-fired pizza, and a post-dinner limoncello digestiva (for the grownups). The kids and I rose early for flaky European style pastries, and I brought an espresso to my deliriously comfortable husband in bed, before we ventured out for another day in the city.
Situated in the heart of what was once the mill town of North Charlotte (known today as NoDa), Haberdish (haberdish.com) is a pre-Prohibition era-focused eatery with a distinctive apothecary feel. This restaurant - popular with tourists and locals alike - elegantly melds history with nostalgia in everything from its ambiance to its menu of chef-driven family-style Southern comfort food (meats, vegetables and sides here are served on a jumble of plates). Think of it as a family potluck, but one where the spread is comprised of only your favorite foods. Inspired by the dishes served in the region during the late 1800s and early 1900s, the eats here revolve around what might very likely be “the best fried chicken in town” (brined, battered and fried), sides and snacks (think house pickles, pimento cheese ball rolled in spiced pecans, mac & cheese and my personal fave - kale grits) and seriously impressive, innovative craft cocktail creations (like a smoked mint julep that I can’t say I’ve ever seen on a menu anywhere else).
The hometown spirit is alive and well in North Carolina, beginning with the renegade nature of NASCAR, brought to life at the Hall of Fame (nascarhall.com). Celebrating the spirit of America’s favorite race, the Hall features exhibits ranging from the suits our favorite drivers have worn to the exact tilt and sprawl of each fabled track: from 0 to nearly 33 degrees banked. Realistic racing simulators and Race Week simulators help recreate the sport from all angles: pit to to driver’s seat. Watch a movie that traces NASCAR’s historic roots from the sandy beaches of Daytona to present day on a 64-foot wide projection screen in the 278-seat High Octane Theater.
Feeling the need for speed after exploring the Hall of Fame? Explore the 1,300 acres of the world’s largest man-made whitewater river at the U.S. National Whitewater Center (usnwc.org). Our littlest adventurer’s eyes lit up when she saw the zip lines, ropes courses, and of course, outdoor climbing walls. Home of Olympic hopefuls and whitewater enthusiasts alike, the 30 miles of walking trails, stand-up paddleboarding, single or tandem kayaking, and guided rafting ensures a day full of outdoor excitement.
Opting for a more active weekend away over a more sedate experience, the all-access Activity passes at the Whitewater Center gave our family plenty of opportunity to play and experience the great outdoors. You can choose from 30+ activities to try something new, perfect a hobby or hop between activities to try your hand at several adventures for all ages and skill levels. Play on land with ropes courses, mountain biking and rock climbing, in the water rafting down rapids, flatwater kayaking or standup paddle boarding or in the air with ziplines.
For those looking to kick back, live music and outdoor festivals create a unique atmosphere of relaxation and community. The River Jam concert series takes place every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening throughout the summer months, in addition to nine distinct festivals throughout the year. The River’s Edge, Pump House Biergarten, Adventure Dining opportunities ensures no shortage of food and fuel throughout the day. Based on our kids’ excitement in regaling the tale of our day of adventure at the U.S. National Whitewater Center, we wouldn’t be surprised if this world-class outdoor recreation destination rises to the top of all of our friends and family’s “must experience” list when in Queen City.
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.”
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.
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 three vans 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.
“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). We were so pleased with the work that when we decided to update our kitchen by painting our cabinets and adding hardware (the job is scheduled to start two weeks from the date of this writing so look for a future testimonial feature), we were confident that One Way Painting would be the one and only call we would need to make.
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: semi-gloss, hi-gloss enamel, 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 onewaypainting.com or YELP for reviews.
I remember when one of my college friends was appointed Payroll Specialist for a large company in Pasadena. When we were talking about the job, he noted that all he could think of was that scene in A Christmas Carol, Scrooge watching Bob Cratchit balance his books on Christmas Eve, too scared to ask for the following day off. Obviously, his daily tasks turned out to be nothing like the Dickens novel, but it is worth noting the stigma that he associated his bookkeeping business with. Nadia Milner is no stranger to the association. She’d like to point out however, that while she specializes in bookkeeping, she’s much much less Ebenezer Scrooge, and more Jennifer Lopez from The Wedding Planner: on top of everything you need far before you ever thought you needed it.
Having spent the last 15 years as a bookkeeper and executive assistant, Nadia handles all aspects of the job description: A/P, A/R, Bank Deposits, Bank Reconciliations, Payroll and more. But she prides herself in the level of service made available to her clients beyond the books: making bank deposits at their behest, and even creating travel arrangements for executives.
“I truly believe that what sets me apart is my loyalty,” says Nadia. "Anyone can be single-minded, and stay task oriented for one job or one client. The dedication I show is treating each client as if they were the one and only.”
Responding to clients emailed requests within one hour is no easy feat, but Nadia would prefer to be available, efficient, and accurate to the highest level, ensuring client satisfaction. “I can come by the office with only a single days notice if a client needs me to handle something right away that cannot be done remotely.”
One of Scrooge’s major shortcomings of course, other than his lack of compassion, was a quality of short sightedness: something Nadia counters in spades.
“It is my primary focus to get clients taken care of on a a daily basis. In the long run, eliminating the stress of finances for my clients enables them to stride confidently forward in their own business, knowing their books are in order from start to finish.”
Organization is an obvious game changer. Look no further than the million copies sold of Marie Kondo’s international bestseller, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. Putting her clients minds and books in order, she undoubtedly had made clients for life. “I’ve had clients who, before hiring me, never knew where they stood financially. They just hand me all their papers and I set them up from scratch. Now their peace of mind is something they can’t live without."
Nadia’s drive and dedication are apparently family traits, too. Her eldest just graduated from San Clemente High School as a valedictorian and has had the same job for two years. Her youngest, 15, ended the year with straight A’s and also volunteers at the Shea Center, something that “opens us to making a long term impact in our community.”
Currently Nadia is involved with the Orphan Care Initiative and Wells of Life which brings running clean water to villages in Africa. In the past, she has also prepped food for the homeless and served lunches to Wounded Warriors at The Food Pantry in San Clemente, and been a greeter or receptionist at various American Red Cross locations across the OC. “Sure, I love going to the beach and spending time with friends and family, but giving back is one of the most important things in my life."
There isn’t much that Nadia can’t accomplish in the bookkeeping world, with her keenly developed sense of anticipation and broad sense of loyalty to her clients. That combined with the work she puts in outside the office too, she might as well be the signifier of Dickens’ conscious ghostly guide, “Mankind my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence,” making clients for life, and easing the burden of stress on us all.
Nadia Milner is CEO & Owner of the San Clemente-based Top Notch Services. She can be reached by calling (949) 303-3211 or visit tnsandcompany.com
Early in my writing career, I had the opportunity to interview many successful entrepreneurs for an OC-based regional business/lifestyle publication. While the scope of the featured businesses was diverse, the owner/operators all shared an unerring passion for their profession and a common belief that “if you love what you do, the money will follow.”
It didn’t take long after meeting Denice and Stephen Merrill for me to discover this energetic, enthusiastic couple were obviously cut from the same entrepreneurial cloth. As specialists in the complex and often confusing Medicare insurance industry, they help educate seniors on the ever-changing nuances of Medicare and the myriad of Medicare Insurance plans available.
For the past fifteen years, Denice has been working in the insurance industry, first as an independent agent, and then as an incorporated business owner, as Merrill Insurance Services Inc. entered the market in 2009. Like any other field, there are the requisite hoops to jump through on the way to owning one’s own insurance business, and Denice has leapt through them all. State board exams, licensing, ongoing certifications. “Even with all the classes, there is nothing that can beat years and years of practice,” she says. “Especially in a specific field: in my case, Medicare insurance benefits.”
In 2005, Denice began shifting her attention to the senior market in her field of Insurance . Helping to enroll and guide them in an area which is so confusing to most was an exciting new challenge. She asked herself “how could I stay in touch, be relatable with this demographic exclusively, when most were dropping off the radar due to the confusion around these benefits or not wanting to dig in and specialize ?” As an independent agent, broker and business owner, Denice found that there was not just one approach to the process of “guiding people, organization and staying in touch. “Keeping myself open, selfless and available started setting Merrill Insurance Services apart from others in the industry, and I’ve always tried to operate in a way that I appreciate in any given market - to never approach anyone as a salesperson.” Find what you might have in common. Enjoy people. It’s easy - Today’s seniors are so diverse and active!
It’s also important to Know your product and services inside and out. Don’t try to be the jack of all trades! Lots of agents try to do it all, and end up knowing very little about the products they are recommending.
Even with all the classes, there is nothing that can beat years and years of practice. Especially in a specific field: in my case, Medicare insurance benefits.
Clients began flooding in. In the ensuing years, Denice and her husband Stephen (who joined the agency in 2012 have focused their efforts to exclusively supporting the senior market. “We have both found incredible contentment and passion in our day to day lives and helping seniors. Education and taking the time to explain the details is what makes us different.” We always look at what makes the best financial sense for the client, even if it means suggesting they hold off on activating their Medicare and not enroll with us for a period of time.... (sometimes staying with an employer plan can be the most prudent).
Toward that end, Denice is a regular editorial contributor to Sorbet - a SoCal Senior publication and is the sole presenter at a series of free educational seminars on Medicare each month at Mission Hospital. Standing in the spotlight is certainly outside her comfort zone and she found the idea of speaking to a large group unnerving. But she talks to the audience like she does to each and every one of her clients: as individuals, with families, and history, and legitimate concerns about their future. “By offering or showing all options, we can help everyone that is 65 and over. There is just never one plan that fits all.” At these seminars, Denice explains Medicare Basics and the Full Benefits of Medicare in a side-by-side comparison model and finds that “everyone benefits because it is so interactive and lots of questions get asked.” Questions like “How will MY personal prescriptions be covered?”
“This is what might make one plan a better fit for you than another,” she says. “Honestly, I can simplify and help you to understand your options of a Medi-Gap Supplemental policy or a Medicare Advantage plan and they all offer amazing coverages, but its the everyday or every month usages of medications that can really break the bank!” I want to protect people and have the skills to help them.
When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work. My success has come from being honest and just being human and down to earth. I’ve always felt blessed to have found this business, actually out of a time in my life that was difficult financially.
Being self-employed has given Denice the opportunity to grow without limitations. “My agency now guides other agents and we are helping them replicate what has worked so well for us.”
Staying true to her core values has helped everything fall gracefully into place, one hour at a time. “I truly enjoy people and hearing their stories,” says Denice, and these stories are what make her days. “Today, many businesses are so hands-off, so computerized. I am told daily that clients appreciate when they call me, I actually answer the phone: it’s unheard of!” You must really love something to practice at it, deliberately, for minutes, hours, months, years. Denice’s husband, Stephen, is a product of the theory too. And he’s taken his hours and turned them into relatability, Denice says.
“When you love what you do, it doesn’t seem like work,” says Denice. “My success has come from being honest and just being human and down to earth. I’ve always felt blessed to have found this business, actually out of a time in my life that was difficult financially. It took a few years and finding my stride before I was able to convince my husband to leave his engineering and sales background to join the company. Now the only thing he can say is that he wishes he’d done it sooner. We tend to draw people in that we can relate to, and Stephen found his success with folks who share similar interests like being outdoors, golfing, fishing, etc. We try and keep it fun. Like with this cover, showing what the face of Today’s 65+ Year Olds look like - very sports-oriented and active. Certainly not what we used to think of when turning 65! We love our clients and hope that is what comes through.”
Connect with Denice directly by calling (949) 584-2646. CA Lic.# 0H08139.
You can also connect with Stephen Merrill by calling (949) 584-2634.
A Q & A with Derek Mannion, founder of Alliance Eldercare
You think it might be time to consider options for your aging loved one’s future care and quality of life. Easier said than done when the mere thought of navigating the myriad of options - from independent senior living and board and care homes to memory care communities, long-term, hospice Parkinson’s and more - seems a Herculean task.
That’s where a senior placement specialist can prove to be a tremendous resource … and available at no cost to you. Having said that though, you’ll want to make sure the professional you are working with has your family’s best interests at heart, is experienced with key relationships in the senior industry and will advocate for your loved one to find the best fit for his or her needs.
In the following interview Derek Mannion, founder of Alliance Eldercare, addresses frequently asked questions concerning options, the process and finding the right senior placement specialist to work with your family.
Question: How do I know when placement is needed? What are the signs that my loved one may benefit from placement?
Answer: There any many signs that someone may benefit from being placed in an assisted living environment. Some of the big ones for me are fall risk and fall prevention. Is your loved one safe to be left alone? Does he leave the stove on with an empty pot or pan? Wander and get lost? Is there a need for incontinence care or help with general cleanliness and personal hygiene? Are medications taken as prescribed or does she take a second dose, having forgotten that she already took her medication? These are all signs that someone could benefit for an Assisted Living environment.
Q: How do we determine the best setting for my loved one - what are the differences (assisted living, memory care, board and care, skilled nursing)?
A: To find the best care options for your loved one, we must first complete a Care Needs Assessment to determine the personal needs of an individual. We must evaluate the ability to perform Activities of Daily Living (ADL’s), as well as the individual’s mental status. We also need to discuss what a viable monthly budget would be to work within the individual or family’s financial means. We can also look into Veterans Benefits and discuss any Long Term Care policies that the individual may have. Once we narrow down the options that work best for your loved one’s needs and budget, I personally tour the family. Sometimes there isn’t an exact fit for an individual’s needs. This is when we tour the options so your loved one and family members can see for themselves the differences between the types of facilities and options available and what each has to offer.
Q: What should I look for when working with a senior placement company?
A: Not all Senior Placement or Referral Agencies are the same. There are things that families should be aware of and want to have in place. Stay away from online agencies that want personal information in exchange for a list of Assisted Living Comminities. Work with companies that offer Free Guided Tours rather than companies that just want to give you a list of places. If the company offers personal tours, they are likely in the communities regularly. Ask how familiar they are with the specific communities that they are referring you to consider. Ask about their experience, training and relationships in the industry. Are they a licensed RCFE administrator? Ask if they will share your contact information or keep your information confidential. They should never share your information without obtaining your permission.
Q: Do senior placement companies find the best fit for my loved one or do they typically place individuals with the ones at which they have contracts?
A: Finding the best long-term solution is always my goal at Alliance Eldercare Senior Placement Service and should be the goal of any reputable senior placement company. For me, it’s about building a relationship with the community and getting to know the people who run and/or own the facilities. This gives me a better understanding as to what they can and can’t do (or sometimes won’t do). This allows me to better place someone in a Community that fits the individuals likes and needs. It’s not about contracts, it’s about care.
Q: Can a senior placement service work with our family if our family disagrees on the best care for mom or if our loved one has behavioral problems?
A: You can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your family. Sometimes families don’t agree on things. This is why in our industry we recommend having one POA or decision maker if the loved one is incapable of making decisions for themselves. This is a decision that the senior needs to make while they have capacity. If the loved one has behavioral problems, I would connect them with a neurologist if they don’t have one already and work with the doctor to get the behaviors under control. Getting the behaviors under control can open up more options for care. We can discuss this further during the Care Needs Assessment at Alliance Eldercare.
For a FREE Care Needs Assessment, Derek and the Alliance Eldercare team can be reached by calling (866) 936-4241 or visit www.AllianceEldercare.com