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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, September 22, 2010

Breakfast and Sea Stars

Living in a Southern California beach town you get accustomed to seeing the ocean everyday. It’s not that you don’t appreciate the beauty of the Pacific, but you get used to knowing that it is there…like that tree in your front yard…it bids you good day on your way to work and greets you hello on your return. It is always there. Then one day you decide to take a closer look to learn what this old friend, the Pacific Ocean, has hidden within her.

But, before we can get to that, let’s eat!

On any given early morning in Laguna Beach, you will find Zinc CafĂ© buzzing with activity and most likely a line out the door, but don’t fret, because the service is fast and the food is worth the short wait you might have to endure.

Above, The Quiche Breakfast plate with papaya salsa. This is a light quiche that was the perfect size to satisfy my hunger without making me feel like I had eaten half the eggs in the chicken coop. The papaya salsa added a spicy kick to the subtle onion and pepper flavors.

Above, the Breakfast Egg Burrito. Over-stuffed with eggs, onions, peppers, tomatoes and salsa was more than enough to fill the belly of my 25-year-old brother.

Above, a Millet Muffin. While my brother and I caught up, the kiddos enjoyed slathering butter on the millet muffin and drinking big gulps of fresh squeezed orange juice. They loved that our waiter told them that it was a “graham cracker” muffin and kept asking how it was possible the cook got the graham crackers into the muffin. I left them to ponder that one.

After our breakfast we quickly loaded the car to head down to the Treasure Island Beach’s tidepools, so we could make sure to arrive at the perfect time for low-tide. (Take Wesley Drive to the end and you come to public parking. The pay station takes credit cards or cash)

Treasure Island Beach is surrounded by one of Laguna’s most elegant resorts, The Montage. To get to the beach we walked through beautifully groomed flower beds, benches nestled at lookouts, and public art pieces by premier Laguna Beach artists. Once we reached the water I couldn’t help but notice that we were the first footsteps on the virgin morning sand. Eagerly the twins and their Uncle started playing “tag” with the waves.

After our game with the waves we reached the rocks where the tidepools lay. All at once, as if we were on a treasure hunt, we began searching for sea life that may be hiding in the shallow pools. Immediately, the twins spotted sea anemone’s and thousands of muscles. A Laguna Ocean Foundation docent, who volunteers their time at the tidepools to  help with any questions that a visitor may have about them. This is a free service offered by the Foundation and the docents spend on average 30 hours a week at Laguna Beach tidepool beaches. Jake, our docent, gave us a guide to exploring the tidepools. The pamphlet had pictures of sea life that were easy to identify in their habitat. We found coralline algae, sea lettuce, large clumps of rockweed, and hermit crabs. When Jake informed the twins that the barnacles beneath their feet were actually alive the kids exclaimed, “Wow, that is awesome!” They then took to looking VERY closely trying to discover the mysteries of the barnacle. Jake also pointed out “crabs cove” a small cove nestled among the rocks where crabs gathered to find food. Consulting our pamphlet we were able to find black turban snails, hermit crabs, and a few other creatures.  The highlight of our trip were the Sea Stars that we had seenin one of the outer pools. Jake took the twins and Uncle to a far off rock where he explained that Sea Stars feed on muscles. This is a primary source of their diet and is what attracts them to the tidepools. What an incredible sight to see. We explored for a while longer before making our way back to the car and back home.

After our time at the tidepools I couldn’t help but think of my old familiar friend, the Pacific Ocean, in a new light. The bounty she hides in her waters is fantastic. Whether a local of Southern California or a visitor, the tidepools of Laguna Beach is a sight that you will not want to miss!

You can experience the tidepools for yourself at the following Laguna Beach locations:

Treasure Island Beach
Picnic Beach
Woods Cove
Shaw’s Cove
Moss Point

Below is the Emmy award-winning video: Tidepool Scene

By Anne-Marie S.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Ocean Adventure

Eager anticipation is the only way to describe how we all felt loading up our things and getting ready to go on our first whale and dolphin watching cruise with Dana Wharf .  Based out of the Dana Point Harbor and offering a multitude of outdoor activities such as sport fishing, twilight fishing and opportunities for kids to experience firsthand what it means to responsibly fish in the Pacific Ocean, there is truly something for everyone.

We have been following the Dana Wharf’s twitter updates for the past month, ( where they have been describing all of the recent dolphin and whale sightings and we were exited to experience this for ourselves.  The kids had been asking a countless amount of questions about whales and dolphins in the weeks prior to the cruise. I answered as many of the questions as I could from my limited knowledge, but it was clear that I wouldn't be able to answer them all unless I had the help and expertise of the staff while on the cruise. Wanting to make this a family experience, we decided to bring the grandparents along as well in celebration of Grandparent’s Day.

Our tickets had been reserved and we patiently waited for the Captain and the crew to ready the catamaran for loading and departure. We fumbled with our jackets and hats, made sure that our digital camera was in working order, and made one last check of the backpack to make sure we had everything that we needed. Eventually, the engines roared with fervor, the gates swung open and we were allowed to board. The boat was spacious with plenty of benches to sit on, a covered salon area with a beverage and snack bar, and on top of that, a two level bow viewing area where we would be able to see everything. The kids were bouncing around the deck, excited to see the ocean in a new light.

When we left the harbor, we rounded the jetty out into the open Pacific Ocean and began our journey. The blue sky was filled with fluffy white clouds, the wind blew just slightly and sailboats could be seen dotting the horizon off in the distance. We had only gone about a half a mile from the jetty when a call came from our guide, Larry, that there was a pod of Common Dolphins swimming ahead. Within seconds we were completely surrounded by them. You could see them from all sides of the catamaran swimming and leaping in pairs and it was magnificent. Then another passenger shouted “A baby!” and all of us looked over and saw itty-bitty baby dolphins leaping out of the water in unison with their mothers riding alongside our boat.  Larry explained that we had come across a maternity pod, which was apparently quite rare. Common Dolphins only have one baby dolphin every 2 to 3 years so this was an exceptional find for all of us to witness. They usually travel in large pods or herds numbering in the hundreds or even thousands, and we were lucky to experience them firsthand. It was amazing to be surrounded by such elegant animals in their natural environment.

Among the dolphins was a young seal lion swimming, who seemed like he was trying to mimic the other dolphin's behavior. It was cute to see these two seemingly different animals interacting in the wild.

The seal lion wasn’t the only creature out that day, as we also saw a flock of pelicans diving into the water, fishing for their lunch. When we asked about it, Larry explained that the pod of dolphins were “driving bait” or herding fish so that they could eat. This is when they surround a school of fish tightening them into a ball to feed on. This is also beneficial to the Pelicans too because they can feast on what the dolphins miss or leave behind. I had heard about and have seen this occur only on the Discovery Channel before, but had never been able to see it with my own eyes. The experience was truly memorable and something that I was proud to have been able to share with my kiddos and their Grandparents.

Next we went searching for a Blue Whale that had been spotted further down the Laguna Beach coast, which Larry had heard about from another vessel. Our Captain looked for sometime to find this fellow, but unfortunately, he was nowhere to be found.

Even though we were not able to view a Blue Whale on this cruise, we were blessed with the sighting of something even more rare and something that our guide was even surprised to have come across.

Six juvenile Sunfish (Mola Mola, the scientific name) appeared on the surface of the water. This is so rare because Sunfish are usually only found alone, and in quite deep waters. Sunfish are the largest bony fish in the world and the adults can reach upwards of 4,000 lbs but these babies were much smaller, around 5 to 10lbs. They laid flat on the surface and with the sun high in the sky, the light glimmered on them making them appear silvery and metallic almost like a glowing UFO. Apparently, Sunfish are riddled with parasites and will surface in an effort to attract birds to pick the parasites off. ( The fish began to flap one fin in the air and back to the water, it appeared to be in an effort to tell the nearby birds they were ready for a cleaning. Then as suddenly as they appeared the Sunfish dove back to the depths from which they came.

As the Sunfish waived goodbye the Captain maneuvered us back around and set a course for the harbor. As the kids chattered away about all that they enjoyed I thought about the incredible memory he had made.  This was a Grandparents day to not soon be forgotten. That eager anticipation we felt at the beginning of our journey had morphed into a respect and appreciation for the great Pacific Ocean and all that it has to offer and teach us.

By Anne-Marie S.

Friday, September 3, 2010


I was not sure what to expect when I decided to try laughter yoga. I have done the run-of-the-mill-yoga but had NEVER heard or even tried laughter yoga. So there I was, at 8 am walking down Main Beach toward bird rock. At that time it was so quiet on Main Beach with runners zooming by, surfers paddling out, and even a treasure hunter digging in the sand for dropped change. Then off in the distance I saw a group of people skipping about, throwing hands in the air and heads back with mouths open wide in laughter. I knew I had found the spot for Laughter Yoga.

I had arrived in the middle of a laughter exercise so I stood, a bit uncomfortably, on the sidelines. It is not everyday that you see adults frolicking around on the beach laughing. Once they finished the exercise a slight man walked over and said “welcome!” He had a face that radiated joy…a smile from ear to ear, bright eyes, and a warm voice that put me at ease. He explained that laughter yoga is not based on telling jokes or laughing at another person, but is based on using laughing as a form exercise and finding the joy within each of us. The practice of laughing has been found to relieve stress, release endorphins similar to the feeling of a “runner’s high,” help with digestion, and can even tighten up weak abs.

My first exercise was called ‘walking the dog,’ where you pretend you have a dog on a leash that is pulling you about. All the while you laugh and interact with other people’s dogs. Immediately everyone jumped right into the action of their dogs…I noticed some got tangled in imaginary leashes, others had two dogs that were pulling them in opposite directions, and some were even down close to their dogs laughing at the animal and kissing their faces. Of course all of this was acted out and done while laughing. At first I found myself forcing a laugh to come out, hesitant about how to really conduct myself in this quirky group. The next laughter exercise was ‘lion laughter,’ where you pretend to be a lion playing with other lions. Once our leader said, “pounce,” and we all began growling, sticking tongues out in the cool beach air, pawing the air and sand, and jumping about like lion cubs. I seriously did not know what to think at this point…I just let go and did it! I let myself act out each exercise given and in the process found myself authentically laughing. Laughing not from my throat, but from my belly and from my heart.

After doing a few more exercises we laid down on a blanket to practice some breathing techniques. I found my mind settling and all the worry of the week began to disappear. I could see the beauty of where I was in that moment…the waves crashing in the background, the sun warming my arms and face, the sand cool on my toes, the crystal blue skies.

I left laughter yoga with a smile, ear to ear, a sense of peace, and a feeling of renewal. As the streets began to fill up with people and the store fronts began to open up, I felt optimistic. I thought that they all didn’t know what they had just missed out on. I felt as if I had found a secret…one that was goofy but oh so exciting and uplifting. So next time you are in Laguna Beach on an early morning don’t miss out on laughter yoga.

The Laguna Beach Laughter Yoga club has had over 18,000 unique visitors attend their yoga sessions. They have been featured on Oprah, Geraldo at Large, Sanjay Gupta on CNN, and Today in LA.

For more information visit the Laguna Beach Laughter Yoga Institute website:

By Anne-Marie S.