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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.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The Greeter!

When you are driving into Laguna Beach on PCH you may notice a statue of a man where Park Avenue and Forest Avenue intersect with PCH.  Another statue welcomes you at The Old Pottery Place on PCH. Locals know him as ‘The Greeter’ and you may be surprised to learn that there is a real man and a story behind the statue.

The man is Eiler Larsen born March 27, 1890, in Denmark. In the mid thirties Eiler migrated from the East coast to San Francisco. It was there that he heard about Laguna Beach’s Pageant of the Masters. His friends thought he would be a perfect fit for the production, and he was. He was cast for ‘The Last Supper’ scene, by Leonardo da Vinci. After, Larsen made Laguna Beach his permanent home.

Although, Larsen didn’t make much money, he found pleasure in buying gifts for his friends and candy for children. He also took to welcoming weary travelers into the city with a wave and a big shout, “h-e-l-l-o!” It was in 1963, the City of Laguna Beach made Larsen’s gratitude a manner of public record and he was ceremoniously proclaimed the Official Greeter of Laguna Beach. 

When you are downtown in Laguna Beach be sure to take a minute and grab a picture with The Greeter, Eiler Larsen. Then pop over to C’est La Vie Restaurant  for French cuisine.  Laguna Beach has nearly every cuisine from around the world, and who can pass up crepes, quiche or champagne? Not me!

If it’s a warm summer day, be sure to ask to be seated on their patio and you’ll be able to take in views of Main Beach. What C’est La Vie is known for, aretheir baked goods and desserts. You can choose from what seems like an endless array of delicate and scrumptious creations…Layer cake, tiramisu, cheesecake, fruit tarts, cream Brule, and ├ęclairs.  On your way out stop by the bakery counter and take some cookies to-go to enjoy while you stroll through the downtown shops. 

By Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Friday Night Out

Summer nights in Laguna are magical. Grab a couple of girlfriends or your significant other, or even a first date, and hit these spectacular spots. I promise you are going to go home with a smile on!

Ascending the narrow staircase at Hotel La Casa del Camino you find yourself walking out onto an expansive rooftop bar. The sky is sweeping blue and the ocean crystal clear. The sound of waves hum in the background.  You are at The Rooftop Bar and Lounge. The view up here cannot be better explained with any word other than magnificent. The views are unobstructed and spectacular! The vibe is quintessential SoCal, the casual elegance of the laid-back beach town. Everyone was happily talking, singing, toasting one another…really, we were full of smiles. 

In the warm sun we settled into a corner table with our drinks. I had a perfectly mulled Mixed Berry Mojito that was a yummy balance between mint and berry, garnished with sugar cane stalks. The Rooftop Lounge is known for their Mojito’s and I recommend you try one, especially on a warm summer day.

For appetizers we opted for a new menu item, The Lobster Caesar Dip. It is a wonderful lobster dip that you can fill romaine lettuce leaves with or a great topping for their pesto crouton breads. It was that perfect light appetizer before dinner. The portions were generous for the $16 price point and it tasted delightful.

After drinks and appetizers, we headed to House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer, a new establishment in Laguna (opened March 2010) but already it is off to a great start. The rustic casual atmosphere lends itself to the kind of easy-walk-in-off-the-street-dining. We had a table in the wraparound covered patio with another great view…out over PCH towards the beach as well as back into the hills of Laguna on the opposite side.

The one thing I had heard about House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer before coming was, “they know their beer,” and they did. There was no way I could pick from the over 40 beers listed on the menu. Our waiter was extremely helpful in helping us find the perfect beer to pair with our dinner. My girlfriend is on a strict gluten free diet and there was even a gluten free beer she could have, Greens Gluten-Free Amber Ale. That might scare one or two of you beer lovers out there, but actually it was a smooth amber ale that I would have NEVER known was gluten free unless I was told. Since she is on a strict diet she was worried about what to order, but she found the perfect dish, a Garden Salad (tomato, cucumber, onion, white balsamic vinaigrette, hold the croutons). It was fresh and tasty!

Now for my main course! I went for one of the house specials, Caramelized Salmon with rice and vegetables and soy mirin. The veggies included cauliflower (one of my favs) and carrots. The Salmon had a tasty and sweet outer layer that opened up to a perfectly cooked piece of salmon. Our waiter paired my Salmon with the Italian beer, Fisher Amber Swing Top. A huge beer, 650ml, and it went down easy and tasted great with my Salmon. 

Our waiter also insisted we try the Sea Dog Blueberry Beer that they have at House of Big Fish. It was so unusual sounding we decided to indulge. It was incredibly good. It’s hard to describe the taste…light, fresh, sweet, smooth, refreshing. I highly recommend taking a swig of this bottled delight next time you are at House of Big Fish and Ice Cold Beer.

With our bellies full, we walked over to The Laguna Playhouse to take in the current award winning musical, Life Could Be a Dream. And what a dream this production was! Immediately you are taken back to 1960 and all the charm that era’s music had to offer. The story is about two young men who decide to form a duet and enter into a talent competition. Quickly they become a group of three. Three young men wanting to find fame, still unsure of who they are and where they fit in. Trying to be men, but still holding onto the boyish ideas of love, and the quirky games of youth. Until they meet Skip (Doug Carpenter.) Skip is wise to the world and from the ‘wrong side of the tracks’ trying to make a better life for himself. He is tall, they are short; he is muscular, they are not; he has the cut jaw and face of a man, the others still have the innocent face of boys. This contrast is highlighted in the wonderful doo-wop song “The Wanderer.” Of course Skip sang the lead…and he did more than girlfriend and I practically leapt out of our chairs with his Elvis gyrations and his stripped down look in a “wife beater”. Insert *swoon* here.

Skip joins them and they become a quartet. Under the direction of the porcelain skinned Lois (Jessica Keenan Wynn) the group learns about love, music and life. You get to hear other wonderful songs like ’I Only Have Eyes For You,’ ‘A Sunday Kind of Love,’ and ‘Unchained Melody.’ The entire show we found ourselves singing along, clapping, tapping our toes and smiling. This is one musical you are not going to want to miss! So hurry up, it’s only here until August 29th. With the Laguna Playhouse Celebrating it's 90th year there are going to be many more shows to look forward to.

Friday night was a magical night in Laguna Beach that sent me home with a big smile on my face that lasted long into Saturday.

By Anne-Marie S.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sawdust Art Festival

Walking into the Sawdust Art Festival you are transported into another world, one that can be explained in one word…community. Every time I have visited the festival over the last six years or so, I have the same whimsical feeling that I always had as a child growing up in a small town, that feeling of being surrounded by friends.  That is what Sawdust is, a place for friends to meet and to share in the beauty that both life and creativity have to offer.

A few of the bright spots my family and I found this year:

The Ceramic Center is what stirred that old comforting feeling of community and creativity.  On a first come, first serve basis, you can throw your own pot on a potter’s wheel. You have the opportunity to make something for free taking home your project that day, or pay $15 to have your creation fired and glazed and then mailed to you. What a great hands on experience of art!

Just about everyday you can count on live music at Sawdust in three different venues. The Main Deck is nestled high among the eucalyptus trees that provides a shady and cool getaway to kick back and listen to the music rise.

Every Wednesday is ‘Walkabout Wednesdays,’ which is a self-guided tour to observe artist performing their craft. We saw Nita Skaggs painting and my children were captivated! They had seen a “real, live artist” painting and they couldn’t seem to get close enough to her.

I couldn’t pass up on an all-time favorite spot…Patches Cunningham’s toe ring booth. These rings, which you can get in gold or sterling silver, are perfectly fitted to your toes. Each year the booth is cleverly named after a popular film, this year it is AVATOE!

Can you spot the toe rings?

All in all there is something for everyone at Sawdust Art Festival. The staff is helpful, the artist are there to speak with and are more than happy to answer questions, and of course you may find something unique and inspiring to purchase. For all the happenings at the Sawdust Art Festival visit:

By Anne-Marie S.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Youth Arts Education

During July and August the Festival of Arts offers art education workshops for children. It is a creative and fun way to get kids interested in variety of different art mediums. This year some of the workshops have included ceramics, fish kites & mobiles, corn husk art, and jewelry design.

I was able to take my five-year-old twins to the jewelry design class. We were all excited to see what was waiting for us just beyond the arched entrance at the Festival. The class was set up in the center of the Festival grounds, which meant we were surrounded by the artist exhibit booths. Long tables were lined with what seemed like endless bowls of beads and charms. The kids were eager to begin their project and find what treasures the bowls of beads held.

All of the students were meticulously stringing beads to create spectacular necklaces and bracelets. My twins focused on their favorite colors, some boys took painstaking time using alphabet beads to form their names repeatedly on the strand and several girls made patterned colored necklaces.

We had three artists assisting at this workshop: Barbara Hendricks , and Roberto Brun, both jewelry designers and goldsmiths, and Marcus Thesing, hand blown art glass artist. They all patiently helped the students tie off their necklaces and fit bracelets. They dolled out lots of compliments to these budding artists that brought out some proud smiles. Roberto Burn even made each student a wire ring to wear home.

After finishing up their jewelry designs the twins and I took advantage of being on the Festival grounds and looked at many of the exhibit booths. (I grabbed a cup of joe at Gina’s Alfresco to enjoy while we walked.)

What a great way to start the day...creating, working with our hands, making jewelry…all while surrounded by beautiful art.

Youth Arts Education Days  take place every Tuesday and Wednesday in July and August. $10 material fee per session and reservations are required. For ages 5 to12. for more information.

By Anne-Marie S.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

5 Star Water Quality

Living in Southern California when I think of Summer, I instantly envision my kids running along the beach giggling and smiling…building sand castles…digging for sand crabs…looking for seashells…and of course splashing in the cool waters of the Pacific. But like all Moms I get concerned about what might be in that water my kids are playing in.

Then this week I read a wonderful story informing me of just how clean one of our great Southern California beaches is…Laguna Beach. The water quality for Laguna Beach was given a five star rating by the Natural Resources Defense Council. Did I mention that this was out of 5 possible stars? Yes, Laguna Beach received the highest water quality rating.

So fear not Moms, Dads, surfers, and all lovers of the Pacific, the waters of Laguna Beach are rated the cleanest in The OC by those in the know. You and your loved ones can wiggle your toes, dig for sand crabs, catch a wave, or swim to your heart’s content. So take advantage of this sunny weather and bring your family down to Laguna Beach!

By Anne-Marie S.


The perfect Laguna weather for an afternoon out with the was 75 degrees, crystal clear blue skies and a light breeze. Dropping down into the canyon we pulled in at the Pacific Marine Mammal Center. It’s an unpretentious facility, but don’t let that fool you. This operation can house upwards of 90 animals at a time (currently there are 42). The Center mainly treats Sea Lions, Harbor Seals, and Elephant Seals with the occasional Otter, Dolphin or small Whale. On this visit we got a special treat when we saw a very rare species, the Guadalupe Fur Seal. Little is known about this seal since it was hunted to near extinction in the 1800s, but the center found themselves rescuing one of these precious animals and is now nursing him back to health. This is the kind of amazing work you can see at the center everyday. Although admission to the center is free, donations are welcomed! The center is ran primarily by a huge team of volunteers, nearly 80 in all. Pacific Marine Mammal Center has a program that allows you to provide food for a rescued Seal or Sea Lion for one day for only $15.00! You are provided with a certificate that you can sign and pin on the gates of the center showing your support. If you are in Laguna Beach, the Pacific Marine Mammal Center is certainly one of those places you will not want to miss. Open daily 10am to 4pm. 

Sea Lion pup

After watching all the Sea Lions and Seals getting fed, our bellies started growling so we headed through town and south on PCH to Ruby’s Diner. This SoCal staple is perfect when you have kids in tow and you are looking for a good ol’ burger, fries and a shake. With its 50s d├ęcor you can’t escape the fun atmosphere that Ruby’s provides. The kids were given paper cut out classic cars that they could build and then customize with stickers. Right away we all ordered milkshakes, the old fashioned kind which came in tall glasses topped with a generous amount of whipped cream and a cherry. The menu provides choices the whole family can be happy about, including Kobe burgers! The Laguna Beach location even has an upstairs patio with a beautiful view of the ocean.

What a great afternoon we had! Whether you are local or visiting our beautiful town you’re going to want to add a visit to the Pacific Marine Mammal Center and a milkshake at Ruby’s Diner to your 'to do' list.

by Anne-Marie S.