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Laguna Beach is Southern California's premier seaside destination, midway between Los Angeles and San Diego. A year-round retreat for art lovers, nature enthusiasts and beach goers, Laguna Beach features seven miles of soft sand and surf.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Back to Business as Usual

Laguna Beach Storm Clean-Up (12-23-10)

Laguna Beach Open for Business (12-27-10)

After torrential, record-setting rains, most Laguna Beach businesses that were affected are back and open for business. To encourage visitors to return to Laguna Beach, the City is offering FREE parking in the downtown area, now through January 2, 2011.*

Public Works crews worked diligently, around-the-clock, since early last Wednesday to ensure that streets and roads in the Laguna Beach downtown area, the hardest hit, were open for traffic to minimize challenges for visitors and residents alike.

“On behalf of the City Council, I am pleased to announce that the City of Laguna Beach is Open for Business,” said John Pietig, Laguna Beach City Manager.

Coast Highway is completely open as is El Toro Road and Laguna Canyon Road (Highway 133.)

For more information, contact the Laguna Beach Visitors & Conference Bureau at 949.497.9229 or visit

*Parking is free in the downtown area defined as: Legion to Broadway Street and Coast Highway to Forest Avenue. Meter time limits apply.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

In the Right Light

In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary.” -Aaron Rose

I realized how true this quote was when I met Judy Kelly. After the tragic loss of her son, Judy went on a journey that ended in the creation of a sacred place where one can find light and peace. That place is Pure Light Laguna.

Walking into the store, you are immediately overcome with a calming feeling. Small wind chimes quietly sing in the doorway, soft hues of gold and blue greet you inside, dark old wooden tables and shelves hold treasures from around the world, and a mixture of spicy and floral scents envelop you. This is a place of rest, and one for creation.

Judy’s vision is to provide a way in which we can all find the talents and gifts that lie within each of us and it is found through the making of candles. The process is simple: choose your form, your colors, your scent, and finally your embellishments. The end result leaves you with a truly unique and beautiful creation.

While I made my candle, I thought of who I was going to give this light to…it is going to be given to a dear friend of mine who means so much to me. She has always been a pillar of strength, beauty and a confidant. She loves the pureness of the ocean and gentle colors it gives us. So I chose a theme that would capture all that she means to me.

Pure Light has over 30 forms that you can shape your candle into. The form I chose is called ‘toaster.’ You can even custom make your form if you can’t seem to find just the right shape.

With more than 40 colors to choose from, I had a bit more of a challenge. I wanted to stay with an ocean-inspired color scheme, so I went with four colors: a sandy rust color, a dark green, a light blue-green and yellow.

Wax Colors
The scent wall was a delight for my nose. But I had to stay focused and I knew exactly what I was looking for. In fact, there was a scent aptly named ‘ocean mist’… perfect!

Scent Wall
The next step is picking your embellishments. Pure Light has an array of items you can add to your candle. There are charms, rocks, shells, beads, miniature wick candles, prayer tiles, quotes, and much, much more. Honestly, you will be able to find any embellishment for the theme you have chosen for your candle. You may also bring in a special token of yours to include in the candle.

Pre-shaped wax
Since I had chosen an ocean theme and the colors I found were exactly what I wanted. I decided on several shells, a starfish, sea glass, and a small pewter shell trinket.

Once you have all of your supplies gathered, the creating process begins. First, the wax needs to be cut and stacked into the mold. Then the embellishments are added, followed by hot paraffin wax, and finally, your embellishments.

Cut wax
Layering wax in mold
Adding final wax pieces and embellishments
Pouring hot paraffin wax into mold
Placing the final embellishments

Then the candle needs to set and cool before the mold can be lifted and your final creation revealed. When Judy lifted my mold and presented my candle, I gasped with joy! I LOVED it and I knew my friend was going to love it even more. I knew that this candle would light her home and bring her joy like she had given to me so many times before. Making this candle was such a special way for me to say ‘thank you,’ to a truly extraordinary person in my life.

Find your light and inspiration at Pure Light in Laguna Beach. Walk-ins are welcome, or if you don’t have the time to stay and make your candle, you can choose your embellishments and have a candle artist make it for you. You can also book a candle making party for children or adults.

More Pure Light Deals:
Mondays are Pure Color Days, when you select your candle, the pour is the same color for a solid finish.
Thursdays are Ladies Day with 20% off their entire creation.
Fridays are for Couples with 20% off each of their candle creations.
Sundays are Kid’s Days (age 4-17) with 20% off their creations.

By Anne-Marie S.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Kiss the Cook

Did you know that Laguna Beach has its very own culinary school? That’s right Laguna Culinary Arts  is a multi-faceted school, offering classes for the casual cook to the professional chef. I fall into the category of VERY casual cook, not doing much cooking myself, I tend to rely on my microwave quite a bit! So when I was offered a chance to take a cooking class on ‘Spanish Tapas,’ I was a bit nervous with excitement. I have a Spanish heritage, but have not ever been able to learn the family recipes since my grandmother passed away years ago. So I looked at this as my chance to learn some cooking techniques, as well as some recipes I can pass down to my children.

Our instructor was Alex Morales, ( a recent graduate of the Culinary Professional Chef School,) took a casual approach to the class. We each had a work station outfitted with a set of knives, cutting board and apron. We worked in teams of three in the preparation of our tapas and I was paired with two wonderful ladies who were true ‘foodies.’ In our class, we also had a young lady who was treating her mom to a birthday gift, two close friends for a ladies day out, and a wonderful local couple. Although we had a full class, were all able to work in the spacious kitchen. We started by preparing Chorizo cornbread and agave butter.

Then we moved on to ceviche, which was made with halibut, papaya, mango and cilantro. This turned out to be my favorite taste of the day, and a recipe that was surprisingly easy and will become a staple when I’m hosting parties  at my home.

For me, the two most difficult tapas we prepared, were fried goat cheese fritters and sautéed shrimp in sherry cream sauce. Admittedly, I have never deep-fried a thing in my life and as I watched those cheese fritters cook in the pot of oil, it was pretty amazing. The shrimp dish involved pan-searing the shrimp and then flambéing. It was spectacular!

The menu was rounded out with fried plantains and black beans.

While each group prepared their dishes, Alex mingled thru the kitchen answering questions and offering tips. He taught me a great technique for cutting parsley and cilantro that will change my cooking life. I will now be able to cut those leafy herbs twice as fast.

Once all the tapas were complete, we plated the food and carried it into the Culinary Arts Cafe where we sat at a banquet table and enjoyed our food together. What a feeling of satisfaction after the 2-hour class and now we get to enjoy what we made. When I got home and shared these tapas with the family. I received much praise and lots of kisses of gratitude. Maybe cooking has its benefits?

Laguna Culinary Arts has a long list of unique classes to choose from. There are a series of classes for the beginner to the advanced chef, wine lovers courses, cheese classes, International culinary tours, cake decorating, and much, much more. In addition to the array of classes, you can also enjoy food in their Café, wine and cheese tasting from an array of options, and wine tasting happy hour Monday through Friday.

If you are looking for a unique gift for a special someone in your life, give them the gift of food, a Laguna Culinary Arts gift certificate. You can even order them online.

By Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Caught in the Web of ‘Daddy Long Legs’

This year has been a time of celebration for The Laguna Playhouse, as it is their 90th Anniversary. They have brought in some fantastic shows and are closing out this milestone year with the heartwarming musical, ‘Daddy Long Legs.’ The musical is adapted from the novel, ‘Daddy Long Legs,’ by Jean Webster.

The story is about a teen orphan, Jerusha Abbot, who is given the chance at a college education by a wealthy benefactor. He gives her several stipulations that she must follow; that she writes monthly correspondence to him about her education, that she is not to ask questions of him and additionally he makes it clear that he will never respond to her letters. What he did not count on was a curious, forthright and witty young woman that would find her way into his heart.

The majority of the musical is sung through letters, those written by Jerusha Abbott (played by Megan McGinnis) to her benefactor, Jarvis Pendleton (played by Robert Adelman Hancock.) I initially thought that a two-actor musical might become mundane and repetitive, but quite the contrary! I quickly became so absorbed in the story of this young woman and her relationship with Jarvis that I completely forgot that there were only two actors in the play.

Jerusha learns of her benefactor through a letter, while residing at an orphanage, she does not see the man whom has taken an interest in her and  only catches a glimpse of his shadow, dominated by long ’spidery‘ legs.  This is how she comes to call him ’Daddy Long Legs.’ McGinnis does a tremendous job at portraying a young, innocent girl experiencing the world for the first time. Her voice is pure and sweet never missing a beat or a note. She is the kind of actor that has a way of settling in next to you, putting her arm around your shoulders and welcoming you into her story. When she sings with Hancock, the melodies fill the theater and the duo pulls you deeper into their story.

As I watched and listened to Jerusha find herself, I was reminded of my own days in college, my early twenties, and my personal coming of age story. We all have one, a story of how we came to know about this world and what is of importance in it. ‘Daddy Long Legs’ plays on those themes in a way we can all relate to. By the end of the show, I could feel my heart swelling and cheering for Jerusha and Jarvis. I glanced around the theater and saw others doing the same, some even wiping away a fallen tear or two.

‘Daddy Long Legs’ was a heart warming musical that reminded me of something so easily forgotten and what Jerusha found to be the secret to happiness:  life is about getting through the petty hazards of the day with a laugh, that’s what takes real courage.

Now playing  thru December 26th. Click here for ticket information.

When you purchase your tickets to the show and are planning your night in Laguna, don’t forget to plan dinner beforehand. Nirvana Grille is the ideal place to dine when going to the theater. Only steps away from The Laguna Playhouse, you will have a hassle-free night and plenty of time to eat before the show.

Nirvana Grille has a chic vibe and Chef Lindsay Smith Rosales has created an unexpected menu combining American, French and Asian influences.

Asian Influence
Chicken Wontons with chicken, pine nuts, corn, cilantro and Manchego Cheese fried in wonton wrappers and served with a chipotle cream sauce.

French Influence
Soup of the day: a creamy, tomato bisque.

These appetizers were a wonderful way to start our meal on a cool Laguna night.  After enjoying them and some good conversation, my girlfriend and I decided to try two house specials for our main courses.

Pistachio and Dijon Crusted Chilean Sea Bass
The Chilean Sea Bass was light and melted in my mouth. It was served with caramelized leek mashed Yukon gold potatoes and tender asparagus in lemon-infused olive oil.

Roasted Bone-In Prime Pork Loin
Cooked to perfection, and paired with a tomato citrus compote and caramelized leek mashed potatoes and glazed carrots, this dish was awesome! I love having a balanced meal of protein, a vegetable and a starch. All of the flavors blended wonderfully together and were completely satisfying.

When our waiter brought out the dessert menu and recommended the house specialty, we could not pass up the opportunity to try this unique dessert. It was a Grand Mariner glazed seasonal fruit (we had strawberries) served over homemade goat cheese maple ice cream. What a sweet ending to our meal! It is difficult to explain how the flavors fused together in every bite and made my mouth sing!  

Nirvana Grille lives up to their name of perfect peace; us girls enjoyed our food and wine in a calming and quiet environment. We had wonderful service and savored our meals and dessert to the very last bite.  For reservations call: (949) 497-0027

By Anne-Marie S.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sapphire Laguna Dinner

When dining in Laguna Beach there are over 70 amazing restaurants to choose from, but there is one in particular that my husband and I have been dying to try, Sapphire Laguna. Part of the renovation of The Old Pottery Place and located in The HIP District, the restaurant looks inviting, warm and somewhere that could easily become one of your favorites. With ‘The Greeter’ out in front welcoming visitors to come in and take a look around, how can you pass up the invitation?

At Last, we were finally able to fit a date night into our hectic schedules for some quiet, alone time.  After being welcomed and seated, we surveyed the menu like giddy school girls.  Sapphire’s Chef, Azmin Ghahreman carefully chooses each season’s menu by using only the freshest and highest quality food available. Looking over each selection, it was difficult to make just one choice for each course.

While we were deciding on our appetizers, we enjoyed warm, right-out-of-the-oven rosemary parmesan rolls. YUM! I started with the Roasted Butternut Squash Bisque and Mr. S, my husband, chose the Hong Kong Style Salt and Pepper Shrimp. (The great thing about dining with a loved one is that you can share!)

The creamy bisque is topped with Crispy Goat Cheese and Chive Crème Fraîche.

Deciding on our main courses proved to be a bit more of a challenge. I was fluctuating between the surf and turf choice of Pan-Seared Beef Tenderloin and Lobster Ravioli, or the Baked Kurobuta Pork Shank. In the end, I asked our waiter’s opinion, and he suggested the well-liked surf and turf.

Served with Creamed Spinach, Wild Mushroom Ragout and Chervil Butter.

Mr. S settled quickly and decisively on the Crisp Alaskan Halibut Piccata.

Served with sautéed Pea Shoots and Cured Tomato Risotto.
There are not many times that I am at a loss for words, but while enjoying my dinner, I was. To be eating an amazing meal that was filled with such worldly flavors and enjoying it with my husband in such a lovely setting was…priceless. Sapphire Laguna is warm, with a modern rustic feel and a hint of the past…quiet reminders of the Pottery Place. Much of the lighting inside is done by Laguna’s very own artist, glass blower John Barber. The amber and subtle blue hues inside made us feel like we had found the romantic escape we were hoping for.

When the dessert menu came I knew that I would choose chocolate, because I always do and I love it! However, another selection caught my eye, the Australian Passion Fruit Pavlova.

Served with fresh berries and mango coulis
Wow! All I can say is WOW! This dessert is like eating a cloud sent straight from heaven. It melted in my mouth and practically brought me to tears with how exquisite it tasted. It had no chocolate and I didn’t care because I was eating the most fantastic dessert I have ever tasted. (This is no exaggeration!)

Mr. S selected the White Peach Melba Crème Brulée. I am pretty sure that he is becoming a connoisseur of the Crème Brulée because without fail it is the only dessert he orders. His one word to describe Sapphire’s was…phenomenal!

Sapphire Laguna was the perfect setting for us to have a romantic date night, it is definitely a new favorite of ours.

By Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Cultural Resource Hike

When you live in the OC (Orange County, CA) like I do, and are constantly driving on freeways looking at miles of concrete, you sometimes forget that there are amazing areas of preserved wilderness right in your backyard . South Coast Wilderness Park consists of 20,000 acres or 31 square miles of preserved land.  And right here in Laguna Beach, we have The Laguna Coast Wilderness Park (6,800 acres), which is part of the South Coast Wilderness Park system.

On a bright and brisk Sunday morning some friends and I visited the Laguna Coast Wilderness Park for a hike about Native Culture Resources. Our guides on the hike were a husband and wife team, Adele and David Heuer, both extremely knowledgeable on plant life, geological markings, and the culture of the Native American tribes of the area, the Apachimine. The Apachimine were a migratory tribe that occupied land from Long Beach down to Northern San Diego and as far East as Lake Elsinore. 

David and Adele explained to us how this area of Southern California is considered a Mediterranean climate, with the spring currently happening (November).

Flowering Coyote Bush

The Apachimine were adapters to their environment and were efficient in how they used the resources around them. They were also known as a coastal sagebrush community. With three varieties of sage growing in the area, it tended to be a large part of what they forged and used.

California Sage
All the sage varieties give off a strong scent, the California Sage, White Sage, and Black Sage. The Apachimine used them in purifying ceremonies and also for medicinal and practical purposes. They were ground into teas for all kinds of ailments and the seeds added to soup and the leaves used for flavoring. They would line their baskets with sage to repel pests. Later the cowboys used sage in their bedding for the same reasons, a repellent, and were rumored to have rubbed the leaves on their bodies as a deodorant when going into “town.”

Live Oak Acorn
Nearly 45% of the Apachimine diet consisted of acorns. The acorns were collected from the oak trees, with families taking ownership of specific trees in order to collect its bounty. Although the acorn is very tannic, the Apachimine would leach water through them to get all the tannins out. They accomplished this by using baskets or digging sand bowls on the coast. The meal left over was then stored for the winter and later cooked and made into puddings, cereals and soups. When storing the acorns and the other seeds, silos were built out of brush and grasses.

Cactus needles were used in tattooing, an important part of the Apachimine culture. Red tips have a fruit that is sweet with a gelatins mass substance. There is also a red fungus that grows on the cacti that was used as a dye (later the fungus was used as a dye in lipsticks.)

Throughout the entire hike both Adele and David had pointed out interesting tidbits and facts about the plant life, the animals in the area and geological markings. One interesting point was about how much of the soil is sand-based, since the entire Los Angeles basin was once underwater. The Santa Ana Mountains were a result of volcanic eruptions and are actually considered young mountains when speaking in geological terms.

Above is a picture of a Topanga formation showing the various layers of the flood plane.


Another fun fact our guides shared, was about the Toyon plant. When settlers came to the area from the Midwest they saw this beautiful plant with red berries and thought it looked much like their holly berry plants back home. They began to harvest the berries to use as ornamental decorations during the holidays. The plant was abundant in a particular hill area that they nicknamed “The Hollywood Hills.”

After a 400-foot elevation climb we reached the top of the hill…and we had a 360 degree view! We could see out to the Santa Ana Mountains and Santiago Peak, over into Aliso Viejo and Laguna Beach. Then out to Long Beach, Los Angeles, and the Hollywood sign. The day was so incredibly clear and bright that we could make out the Hollywood sign with our naked eye. One hiker had binoculars so we could all read the sign. Turning a bit more we could see the snow capped San Gabriel Mountains with a few clouds gathered around its peaks.

View out over central Orange County, Los Angeles and the San Gabriel Mountains.

The hike was wonderful and we all learned so much about this unique and amazing area we live in. In particular, how resourceful the Apachimine tribe was in utilizing the plant life in the area.  Thank you to Adele and David who are volunteers with the Laguna Canyon Foundation. The Foundation is committed to preserving, protecting and enhancing the park. They offer hikes regularly and you can find the schedule here.

As we exited the park, I caught a glimpse of this fitting quote….

Those who traveled before you have connected with this land in varied ways. What relationship will you forge with this land?”

Parking is $3 and a donation of $2 is requested for each hike. – this differs depending on activity

By Anne-Marie S.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Laguna Cliffs Inn

Situated just north of Main Beach on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH), Laguna Cliffs Inn  is in an ideal location for enjoying Laguna Beach’s scenery, shopping and attractions. Laguna Cliffs Inn is across the street from art galleries such as Sandstone Art Gallery, Studio 7, Lu Martin, Marion Meyer Contemporary Art Gallery and Essence. It is neighbors with Laguna Art Museum, one of the first art museums in California, world-famous Las Brisas and is only a short walk from Main Beach, and downtown boutique shopping.

The Laguna Cliffs Inn’s moderately priced rooms help to give you the feel and convenience of your own home. Select rooms have mini-refrigerators and microwaves for your use. Others have balconies, and all room amenities include hardwood floors, flat screen tv’s, a coffee maker and a sitting area.

The 36 rooms at the Inn all open up to a courtyard with a heated pool as its center. (The kids are going to LOVE it!)

The Inn provides other conveniences for their guests; Wi-Fi connection, pet-friendly rooms, a sauna, covered parking, and friendly concierge to help you with any needs you may have during your stay. 

When considering where to stay in Laguna Beach consider the convenience and ease of the Laguna Cliffs Inn. Book your stay with Travelocity online at

By Anne-Marie S.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Shop and Stroll

The holiday season is upon us and the rush to find gifts has begun. I personally steer clear of chain stores and am in favor of boutique stores and shopping local.  Like you I have a few loved ones on my list that are a true challenge to buy for, but this year, instead of spending weeks in search of the perfect gift, I found them all in one day. Where and how did I do this you ask? I went to Laguna Beach!

Sawdust Winter Fantasy
Mr. S, my husband, and I started at the Sawdust Art Festival Winter Fantasy, similar to the summer festival, but with a jolly twist of holiday cheer.

Santa's Chair

While strolling through the aisles lined with 170 artists’ booths, we enjoyed some hot cocoa and chai tea.  Holiday carolers provided the motivating theme music we needed to find those gifts we were searching for. An artist that I fell in love with was Lisa Toland. She makes beautiful jewelry and accessories all crocheted out of metal. Her work looks like delicate Victorian lace.

Scott Sporleder’s captivating photography caught the eye of Mr. S. Much of Sporleder’s photos are taken while he is in the ocean swimming or on his surfboard, allowing him to capture a totally unique perspective that is  unbelievably beautiful.

Next Mr. S and I meandered downtown to Forest Avenue, in the heart of the Laguna Beach village.

Stephen Frank Garden & Home
Stephen Frank Table & Pantry

Once on Forest Avenue, we were lured into Stephen Frank Garden & Home by the aroma that was wafting out of their doors. The wonderful smell was coming from Agraria 100% oil diffusers, a great gift for those tough to please relatives on your list.  Also inside, we discovered an oasis of unexpected home goods. Exquisite Julia Knight bowls in hues that would bring a sparkle to any table.

Local artist Theresa Seidel’s decorative bottles.

And countless other items perfect for the inside and outside of your home.

Across Forest Avenue at Stephen Frank’s sister store, we discovered the perfect place for the culinary lover on your holiday list. All Clad cookware, Le Jacquard Francais table linens, and walls lined with dressings, spices, olive oils and balsamic vinegars.

Also featured in the store, are chocolates by local chocolatier, Christopher Michael,as well as imported and hard-to-find beers and wines.

Be sure to drop in on December 4th from 5-9pm for a reception, featuring artist Theresa Seidel.

Fawn Memories

Since 1974, Fawn Memories has been a fixture on Forest Avenue. They carry tropical gifts, resort ware, and souvenirs.

Mr. S and I enjoyed wandering around the store, finding treasures for our children and out of town family and friends. I especially loved the wide selection of hats to choose from.

Laguna Colony Company

Only a few doors down Mr. S and I went to Laguna Colony Company. This eclectic store had cases of interesting hand-made jewelry (some by local artists’), racks of beautiful greeting cards, and a great children’s toy and book section.

Among their décor items, we came across 100% recycled homewares by Mariposa. The pieces were simple, yet very elegant.

Green Cube

We ended our shopping stroll on Forest Avenue at Green Cube. This bold store is not your traditional retail space. Upon walking in, you might think that you are in an art gallery rather than a retail store. Each item in the store is made from sustainable materials, recycled, or is repurposed. Decorative items for the home, artwork for your walls, and even fashion. The clothing is free-trade and made from organic and sustainable materials.

What a great way to give two fold; once to the receiver with a truly unique present, and once to the environment.
Drop in on December 2nd from 6pm to 9pm for the Tag Bag trunk show. Tag Bags are made from recycled South African license plates and inner tubes.

Mr. S and I found the gift buying experience in Laguna Beach to be unparalleled to anywhere else in Southern California. Right in our backyard, we were able to support local business and artists’. So this season, when you’re heading out into the hustle and bustle to find the ideal gift on your list, don’t forget about Laguna Beach!

Signed Anne-Marie S.