Jody Robinson

Jody Robinson

One of the perks of my job as a magazine editor is being able to interview entrepreneurs in a wide variety of industries - an opportunity for a bit of education on businesses I might not otherwise have had exposure to.

In today's market, I've read my share of articles about the importance of hedging against inflation, but it wasn't until I chatted with Ali Soltani, owner of the Dana Point-based Royal Gold Group that I learned about options and benefits in investing in gold and silver.

It doesn't hurt that Ali waxes poetic about all kinds of currency like he was Nicholas Cage’s National Treasure character talking about the George Washington campaign buttons. Before I met him, the concept of investing in coins and precious metals seemed as fantastic as someone attempting to steal the Declaration of Independence.

The more I learned though, its ties to true financial finesse are difficult to ignore.

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Following in his father's footsteps, Ali has been a personal collector of coins and currency since he was a child and it's clear that educating clients or the lay public in general about currency is absolutely a passion for him. Much more than a hobby, Ali makes it a specialty rather than a simple customer service transaction. For the last five years, Royal Gold Group has been operating in South Orange County. Part of the Dana Point Chamber of Commerce, Royal Gold originally started as a small shop in Old Town Tustin and has recently expanded to Dana Point in a much larger space. But why coins? Why currency?

“It isn’t about the formal business for us," says Ali. "I didn’t want to have just another old dirty coin shop. I enjoy the blend of customer service and sales in this specific arena - educating my customers and exchanging knowledge with seasoned collectors.”

Ali and his team at the Royal Gold Group cater to investors of all ages and abilities. If you are a novice investor, they can create an offering based on your specific goals. Are you looking to collect for pleasure, buy and sell for quick profit, or buy and sell for a long-term investment?

Offering private appointments for those clients who might need a little more time or privacy to look at products, “or go over valuable estate items they are looking to sell," jewelry repair, and coin appraisals mean less time out on the market, liquidating the responsibility for a single customer to travel distance for multiple appointments. Easily booked over the phone and offered free of charge, private appointments take the pressure off for clients who need extra time to catch up in a clean, well-organized, stress-free and accessible environment.

“Coins and bullion are not for just a specific type of collector or investor anymore," says Ali. "We see patrons ranging in age from 6 to 76 years old: parents with their kiddos, seasoned collectors who have been in the marketplace for a generation. We welcome all.”


Owner Ali SoltaniRoyal Gold Group
34291 Doheny Park Road
(next to the post office)
Dana Point
(949) 426-0901
RoyalGoldGroup.com

B11319A1 4B94 4DD7 8835 C4E18310511EMy 14-year-old daughter has long been obsessed with all things French - its food (crepes, baguettes, macarons), fashion and the idea of one day experiencing these “for real” in the City of Light. While we’ve traveled extensively within the borders of our own country endeavoring to visit all 50 states as a family by the time our now 15-year-old son graduates high school, we’ve ventured abroad too few times for her (or my) liking.

This summer we made a concerted effort to remedy that with an unforgettable family sojourn across the pond. While flying for upwards of ten straight hours with a pair of teens in tow might not sound like much fun, Paris is one of the most family friendly places to travel. Look beyond Disneyland (though that’s a great option, particularly for families with littles) - think scenic river cruises along the Seine, more gorgeous gardens and verdant green spaces than you can shake a stick at, picturesque outdoor cafes and crepe stands around every corner and rife with both iconic and little-known landmarks rich in history and reflective of Paris’ vibrant art and cultural influences - past and present.

The Highlight Tour

I’d been to Paris as a single woman in my late 20s and spent the better part of a week wandering the City of Light; known so for being the first city in Europe to light its streets with gas lamps; I must have averaged 12 miles on my feet per day. Absolutely torturing my toes to ensure I saw every square inch of every arrondissement, I promised myself if I ever went back, I’d try to be less intimidated by the metro system and even indulge in other modes of public transportation.

Paris

This time around, swimming around online to put together ideas for our itinerary, I happily discovered Big Bus Tours (bigbustours.com). Offered in cities all over Europe, Central Asia, America, and the Middle East, their hop-on, hop-off tours give you a front row view of the sights you want to see, for a fraction of the footsteps. We used our ticket for our first day of adventuring, which proved to the perfect way to get the lay of the land, learn a bit of history/background on each of the 10 “stops” along the route and determine which were “must-see” destinations for the coming days.

Choose between a classic ticket, which offers a single day with 10 top landmarks, pre-recorded commentary, and a flexible ticket, or upgrade to a Premium or Deluxe ticket - with all the basics plus an additional day of touring and option for a river cruise as well. Incredibly priced, you can choose to hop off at a particular sight to explore a bit more, or stay on the bus the entire time to snap crystal clear photos from the open top deck for the duration of the 2.5 hour ride. Whichever way you want, the Champs Elysees, Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and more are waiting for you. Save your feet for an easy stroll along the Seine at night.

Green River Cruises

Isak Dinesen was famously misquoted as a man for her line from “Seven Gothic Tales,” in which a seaman tells his son “the cure for anything is salt water - sweat, tears, or the sea.” Though the Seine, when it travels through Paris like a great wet artery, contains less salinity than the Atlantic, its ability to soothe is unmatched. Green River Cruises (greenriver-paris.fr) offers comfortable, luxurious private river tours for two to twelve guests per pontoon boat. Customizable boats provide a relaxing environment for a sunset aperitif, a romantic dinner for two, a fun team-building experience or in the case of our family, an unforgettable experience of the city “in a different light” as we leisurely cruised past several of the city’s most iconic landmarks while our “captain” shared a bit of history and inside info from a local’s perspective.

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With four electric boats in its fleet, Green River Cruises is dedicated to providing the most respectful experience for its guests and the planet alike. Sipping chardonnay as you tour one of the most enchanting cities in the world, you’ll see the evolution of Paris from its medieval heritage to the modern mecca it is today. Choose from a one, one-and-a-half, or a two-hour cruise and celebrate any special occasion or just a gorgeous day or evening on the water.

Hidden Paris Walking Tour

I have a personal rule when traveling abroad - no chain restaurants. Especially American ones. I stand by this for a couple of reasons - to experience the city and its newness, but also that as I’ve followed the advice of locals over the years, I’ve enjoyed better food, better wine, and better sightseeing experiences in general. After all, we know what we like where we live so the local perspective can make all the difference between vacationing like a tourist or experiencing the environs more akin to a native.

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Hidden Paris Tours (hidden-paris.com) exists solely to give its guests the most unique and intimate view of Paris there is. Our guide, company co-founder Delphine and her partners have already done all the legwork over the years ... roaming the city in search of delicious cuisine and incredible locales with which to share the colorful history and beauty of their fair city. Choose from a private, group or customized tour, whether your interest is in fine art, gourmet food or haute couture fashion.

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We chose to explore the neighborhood of Montmartre and indulged in stories only a local like Delphine knows to share. In addition to witnessing firsthand the postcard perfect landmarks we all associate with Paris, we discovered charming neighborhoods away from the typical tourist destinations, meandered down romantic side streets, viewed the studio spaces that were once home to some of the world’s most famous artists, painters, singers, dancers of years past. From Versailles, museums, and monuments, to the world’s most famous cemetery (Pere Lechaise), experience Paris as though you were born a local and grew up with curiosity as a companion.

Paris Catacombs

One doesn’t necessarily travel to another country hoping to hear about widespread public health problems, especially these days. But deep underground the romantic streets of Paris lie another tale to be told, one you don’t want to miss. In the late 18th century, Parisian officials began to worry about the impact above-ground cemeteries were having on the population of the city. Following the first evacuations of the Saints-Innocents cemetery, which had been in use for nearly ten centuries, the tombs, graves, and charnel house were emptied of their bones, and transported nearly five stories underground to abandoned quarry wells, and stacked high by workers through the night. Tours began in 1809, and have continued ever since.

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Welcoming nearly 550,000 visitors annually, the Paris Catacombs (catacombes.paris.fr) are an artistic contemplation on introspection, and a meditation on death itself. The ossuary was carefully organized by Inspector Hericart de Thury, and boast a monumental approach, much like that of the Egyptian pyramids and their masonry monuments. Tours last roughly an hour, and if you were worried about balancing a bit of exercise on your tour de cheese while in Paris, you’ll certainly work off the morning’s baguette with 131 steps into the depths, and 112 steps back up into the sun. Grab a timed ticket, your sweetheart or history-loving counterpart, and drop back a couple of centuries this vacation.

Cirque Bormann Moreno

Who doesn’t love a good circus? Cirque Bormann Moreno (cirquebormann.fr) is a lively throwback to an earlier era when circuses were held in a traditional big top and the performers loved interacting directly with the public. The current “A Journey Through Time” themed show - performed in French - travels from the prehistoric era to ancient Egypt, Africa, the roaring 20s and modern day Paris.

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It was such a treat to experience this cirque de la belle Epoque - this seven-generation family of performers work together to entertain audiences of all ages with three weekly shows (Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays) featuring acrobats, trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns and an array of impressively trained animals including a quartet of magnificent horses. Before each performance, there is free access to “initiation and animation” workshops where the visitors are afforded a “behind the scenes” experience - the younger attendees especially love this artist-supervised aspect.

After the past few years of waiting to again take to the skies, our family was thrilled to learn that France has lifted Covid restrictions for those flying into the country and lifted mask mandates for those who have their feet on the ground. While many moms like me find that their patience is better these days after having struggled through the past couple of years of a pandemic, I’m certain anything that makes life a little easier is a wonderful respite. One of those things is an easily bookable flight, where you don’t have to spend an arm and a leg for nonstop travel from Los Angeles to Paris with the family. French bee (Frenchbee.com) makes that possible.

Founded in 2016, the low-cost long-haul airline is revolutionizing international flights with a fleet of Airbus A350s wide-body aircraft optimized for long flights. One hundred percent flexible tickets (and rail options to make traveling in country that much easier) to tailor your fare and flight experience any way you want it. Basic, Smart or Premium, you pay only for what you’re interested in. Get the lowest price you want, add a few extras, or go for the full package for maximum comfort and amenity. When booking travel, I find there’s often a bit of translating to do: what exactly is a la carte (there are more than 20 add-on options)? What is economy, or premium? French bee defines it all.

French bee Premium Economy Cabin

If you’re looking for nonstop travel at the best possible rate, French bee offers two classes of economy (with one-way fares starting at only $326): Basic and Smart. Basic is the most economical option that comes with one 26-lb. carry-on included, while Smart includes the carry-on, one 50-lb checked bag and an in-flight meal. Either of these economy options come with leather seats, adjustable headrests, USB and electrical ports (to keep all your devices charged throughout the entire flight) and what French bee bills as “unlimited entertainment.” I personally found the latter to be true ... I have a hard time sleeping on flights so I thoroughly enjoyed binge-watching a series of movies - new releases and older favorites on the individual HD touchscreen outfitted for every traveler.

French bee Economy Seats

An upgrade to Premium (with one-way fares starting at $767) takes you a step further with even more leg room, larger seats, two premium meals, complimentary beverage service, priority boarding, line jump and priority baggage (one carry-on and two 50-lb. checked bags) to make your trip a dream. Choose from a Standard seat, Window, or Extra Leg Room. Customize, customize, customize. Down to the Michelin chef designed meal service, French Bee is there to ensure whatever it is that you need while aboard, they’ll ensure quality, custom service.

For our part, we literally experienced all three levels of service: my husband and I opted for Premium class on the outbound while the kids sat together in Smart Economy (our thought was that the little extras would make for a less-jetlagged and thereby less cranky crew at destination). My husband likes the extra leg room, so he traveled back in the Premium cabin while I sat with the kids in Basic economy. Having personally experienced both, either is a terrific option ... I’m only 5’3” so I was just as comfortable on the return and my daughter and I were able to watch shows together for a little extra quality time on the way home.

French bee Interior EcoBlue Cabin

Bonus! At Paris Orly Airport prior to boarding our return flight, we took full advantage of the Prime Class airport lounge - a spacious, relaxing space close to our departure gate overlooking the runways with complimentary Wi-Fi, French and international newspapers, self-service hot and cold beverages and light bites (including crepes).


Discover a New Travel Experience with Tailored Fares

BASIC
The lowest price for your greatest pleasure. Ideal to travel light and affordably, you travel with a carry-on only and add all the services you want. Pay for only what you are interested in.

SMART
French bee’s most popular ticket type fare - includes a 50-lb checked bag in addition to your carry-on plus a delicious in-flight meal (with a range of options including vegetarian and fish).

PREMIUM
Enjoy the same as above but with faster priority boarding and jump-the-line services at the airport, a larger seat, more leg room and priority baggage - you don’t need to wait for your luggage upon landing. Indulge your inner foodie with an additional in-flight meal and complimentary beverage service, plus an additional 50-lb. checked bag.

Highly Custom, Exceptional Quality

In Southern California, our backyards and patio are often viewed as an extension of our entertainment spaces - a place for hosting parties, lounging by the pool or in the case of one of our family’s favorite pastimes, dining al fresco.

Because so much time is spent outdoors, many folks I know invest as much on their patio furniture as they do in appointing their interiors.

The problem is that over time the weather can be particularly hard on the metal and fabrics with constant exposure to the sun, salt air and in the case of homes closer to the ocean, even sand. With four generations of patio furniture repair and refinishing experience, CFR Patio specializes in restoring existing furniture and updating colors/styles for a far more cost-effective alternative to purchasing an entirely new set.

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CFR’s services range from custom tailored outdoor cushions, sling fabric replacement, and vinyl strapping replacement and vinyl lacing/weaving replacement to powder coat refinishing and commercial repair and restoration. Clients can choose from a large selection of metal finishes, fabrics and color schemes, including hundreds of colors and fabrics for slings, straps and cushions for a coordinated, polished result.

“CFR Patio is an incredible company to work with from beginning to end,” says Libby, a recent happy customer. “Each person I spoke with was extremely knowledgeable and helpful. Their service was fantastic. Pick-up and delivery was on time, and the furniture was very carefully handled. Our chairs, lounges and tables look like new, and I am sure they will last for many years to come. I highly recommend them.”

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Another client, AJ agrees with Libby’s assessment and adds “I was so impressed with your prompt and professional service. I felt your pricing was very fair and actually surprising low. I highly recommend your store and staff. First class in every respect.”

Owners Brian Lee and his son Collin and their team offer pick up and delivery so the process couldn’t be more convenient.

Co-owners Collin (L) and Brian Lee

They’ll strip the old, dull finish by sandblasting and pre-treating your set in preparation for the powder coating application (available in an array of colors and finishes including high/low gloss, metallic, textured or clear), which is then baked in an industrial oven to cure to a beautiful, long-lasting final finish. New straps or sling materials are then installed and voila! A brand-new look/feel for a fraction of the cost and hassle of removing your old set and purchasing a new one.

“What sets us apart from others in the industry is our attention to detail and a true passion for the industry,” says Brian, a Dana Point resident. “If you’re interested in an estimate, it couldn’t be easier ... simply send photographs of your patio furniture via email or call us directly. Your furniture was intended to last for decades and so is our work. That’s why we offer a three-year real warranty on all of our services.”


CFR Logo K

CFR Patio
(888) 669-1211
CFRPatio.com

It’s a remarkable feeling when you can find someone to take your side. In relationships, sports: you name it. That one person who believes in you, makes you better, fights alongside you.

Michael Cefali matched with his person (his wife Courtney) long before law school - but their partnership extended through the long years studying for the bar and paid off in an even match that has stacked up in their favor many times over. Graduates of Chapman Law and California Western, respectively, they started the San Juan Capistrano-based Cefali & Cefali, APC in July of 2019 and have been fighting for the little guy ever since. From setting clients up with top-tier doctors and specialists, to negotiating stellar settlements, Cefali & Cefali, APC handles cases from start to finish with client health as their top priority.

Focusing on all aspects of personal injury, the Cefalis are what you might expect in such a ring: passionate, aggressive, and most importantly, honest - all traits that have contributed to the couple having recovered millions of dollars per year on behalf of their clients since opening their firm.

“The insurance companies would like you to think that they get to determine the value of your injuries, your suffering,” says Michael. “We’ll fight for every last penny because we know that you deserve it.” Clients appreciate the work that the Cefalis do. In fact, as of the date of this publication, you won’t find a single negative review of their firm anywhere on the internet.

Client Jamie shares, “I am so grateful for everything that Mike Cefali and his team did for me! Not only was he able to help me get what I was owed in my settlement and then some, but he was so responsive and kind and it was very apparent that he cared about me and my case! He and his team are so HONEST and FAIR and it was clear from start to finish that he had my best interest in mind! Not only is he a good lawyer but he is a good person which made a world of difference for me. I could not have asked for a better experience with a personal injury attorney! I have already recommended him to all of my friends and I will continue to recommended him to anyone looking for a good lawyer! Thank you so much Cefali and Cefali!”

Another client Carrie echoes Jamie’s sentiment, “My husband and I were rear-ended on the freeway. We felt bad thinking of contacting a lawyer, but after several months of continuous pain and medical treatments, a friend recommended Michael Cefali. From the beginning, he lived up to his core values of integrity, loyalty, and vigorous advocacy. Michael is a dedicated, friendly, and competent attorney who seamlessly represented our interests and ensured the outcome was in our favor. He treated us not like a client, but like family; he was there any time we needed him. He was empathetic to our situation and worked tirelessly with all parties to represent us. We don’t trust many people, but we trust Michael and his team and would highly recommend him to anyone seeking a professional, effective, and focused attorney.”

With five staff members to back up the stellar work Michael and Courtney produce, the couple remain incredibly hands on, based on a culture of empathy, integrity and advocacy.

“We craft each case personally, build each one for trial, and remain accessible to clients,” says Michael. “Personal injury attorneys get a bad rap when really we’re the good guys. I like to think of our firm as a pirate ship. Nimble, clever, and tenacious in spite of being outspent by the adversary, we pry money from greedy insurance companies and give it to our very deserving clients.”

Giving back is the spirit of the firm, and community work creates a direct link between Michael, Courtney, and their circle in San Juan Capistrano. The couple and their team proudly supports a number of local charitable and community organizations including: The Boys and Girls Club of Capistrano Valley (Courtney is on the Board of Directors), The San Juan Capistrano Friends of the Library (Courtney is also a board member), CREER, the Pacific Marine Mammal Foundation, and Project Coyote. Michael is a member of the San Juan Capistrano Rotary Club and has been recognized as a Paul Harris Fellow.

The Cefali team’s ethics, constant communication (every client is given Michael’s personal cell phone for easy accessibility), commitment to their clients and involvement in the community keeps everyone growing stronger and healthier together. Remarkable isn’t it, that feeling when someone takes your side?


Cefali & Cefali, APC
(877) 423-3254
CallCefali.com

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
www.ElamsHallmark.com

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.

Higgins exterior

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 (HigginsHotelNola.com) 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 (NationalWW2Museum.org) – 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 (LoewsHotels.com) 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.

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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.

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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.

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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 (AtlasObscura.com) 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 (Muriels.com).

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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).

Menus Muriels Jackson Square

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 (CochonRestaurant.com) 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 (CafeDuMonde.com) – 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 (VueOrleans.com) 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 (VanGoghExpo.com). 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.

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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 (GhostCityTours.com) 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 onewaypainting.com 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).

VesperaResort Somerset Grill dusk

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


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

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.

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 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.”

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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.

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