Back to Top

Meet Pet of the Week Benji

Benji is currently taking the title of Pet of the Week. He is a seven-year-old little terrier mix with potentially some yorkie in him. He comes from a situation where he was not taken good care of, and he lost a lot of teeth in the process. He is full of endless love and is looking for a new home to be taken to. Benji is hoping to find a new friend for life. Nancy Goodwin, shelter director, hopes to see Benji adopted as soon as possible. 

Pet of the Week 2 12 19

Click on the photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Benji has lots of love to share with someone

The Laguna Beach Animal Shelter adoption procedures are designed to make sure that both the potential family and the animal adopted are in the very best situation possible. Due to their approach to adoption, the shelter’s return rate is five percent as compared to the national return rate of 50 percent.

The LB Animal Shelter is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd. For information on adoption procedures, call (949) 497-3552 or go to

Love was in the air – sort of – during the performance of My Ridiculous Valentine at No Square Theatre 

Story and photos by DIANNE RUSSELL

Of course, any play celebrating Valentine’s Day must include songs like “Love is in the Air,” but how often do you see a grown man dressed up as cupid? Only at No Square Theatre, I suspect.

Friday night’s performance of My Ridiculous Valentine was hilarious from the opening song, “Love is in the Air,” performed by Joe Lauderdale in full cupid regalia, to the last note of the finale. The play is described as “A ridiculous cabaret. Because

not every romance is pretty. Some are pretty funny.” The brilliant cast proved that to be true. 

Love was cupid

Click on photo for a larger image

Joe Lauderdale as Cupid

My Ridiculous Valentine was created and directed by Bree Burgess Rosen and Roxanna Ward (who had a delightful repartee with the audience while at the piano), and included a deliciously talented cast – Eric Anderson, Rebecca Butkivich, Claire Day (McClug), Kelly Goldstein, Gary Greene, Rob Harryman, Pat Kollenda, Joe Lauderdale, Marc Marger, Kristen Matson, Steven McIntosh, and Ella Wyatt – who gave the audience both the traditional and the flip side of love.

Love was Pat

Click on photo for a larger image

Pat Kollenda reprises “I’m Tired” from the movie Blazing Saddles

Fellow writer from Stu News, Marrie Stone, said, “No Square Theatre is Laguna’s hidden gem. How have I lived here 20 years without knowing much about it?! And My Ridiculous Valentine was the perfect way to discover it. The humor and talent of the cast had me laughing all night. And the intimacy of the venue made me feel part of the action.” 

Love was Bree

Click on photo for a larger image

Bree Rosen sings “Making Love Alone”

Marrie continues, “From the moment Roxanna Ward walked on stage, I rarely stopped laughing. Pat Kollenda’s ‘I’m Tire’” is still on autoplay in my head, and – three days later – continues to make me smile. There’s nothing better than laughing over love, sex, and romance. From stalking to masochism to ‘self-love,’ no topic was off the table, and each one was funnier than the last. Rated IM – for the most immature of mature audiences.”

Love was group

Click on photo for a larger image

Cast during finale and bows

Gail Landau, founder of Catmosphere Laguna, said of the performance, “Bree Rosen and her troupe are so talented and such a delight to watch, as well as hear. The show is as much visual as it is musical”.

My Ridiculous Valentine was a ruckus – irreverently unromantic – and ridiculously entertaining. 

No Square Theatre is located at 384 Legion, (949) 715-0333.

The next production is Lagunatots, which will run from March 15-24.

For more information, visit

DeMarco-Barrett’s writers wow the crowd at Laguna Beach Books for ninth consecutive year

By Lynette Brasfield

Barbara DeMarco-Barrett, author of Los Angeles Times bestseller Pen on Fire, is well-known locally for her private writing workshops, which have produced several published authors and inspired dozens of writers over the years.

And for the ninth consecutive year, members of two of her writing groups, Literary Posse and Writers’ Block Party, read excerpts from their work at Laguna Beach Books.

Danielle Bauter of LBB says, “As an independent bookstore, we are always happy to host Barbara’s writing workshops and other local writing groups such as Third Street Writers. We love supporting local writers, especially those who are also our devoted customers. It has been a pleasure seeing the same faces over the years and listening to their stories. We thrive on being a community gathering place here in Laguna.”

demarco barrett crowd

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Writers wowed the crowd at Laguna Beach Books on Sunday evening

Literary Posse member Jennifer Irani read an inspirational and moving piece about a bird named Homer (a homing pigeon, naturally) that helped her cope with her mother’s death. 

And Marla J Noel’s sad, sweet essay about her mother’s struggle with Alzheimer’s brought the audience to tears.

Hilarity was also the order of the day: Rosalia Mattern’s awesome essay on her sister’s propensity to utter “complisults” – comments that at first seem to offer compliments, but also contain a sting – was a funny yet loving look at, as Rosalia noted, “my sister’s bad habits and what they have done to me.”

Two of her sister’s “greatest hits”: “Your picture was beautiful. It doesn’t look like you at all” and “I’m glad you’re working out. I knew you’d look better if you lost a little weight.”

demarco barrett mike

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Mike Conlon reads from his novel-in-progress, Tracks

Wry humor was beautifully deployed in Larissa Chiari-Keith’s meditation on being married, as a white woman, to one of the very few black men in Orange County. Titled Searching for a Multicultural Santa, the piece was alive with anecdotes that gave insight into her family’s experience – and how they are still sometimes regarded as curiosities.

One example: “Sometimes people pet my (mixed-race) children as if they are sheep,” she said.

An insightful piece indeed.

demarco barrett larissa

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Larissa provided rare insights for a rapt audience

And Stu News’ own Dianne Russell, a published short story writer, read her beautifully written contemplation on the power of words – and how we might choose each of them so much more carefully if we knew we had only a limited quota in our lifetimes. 

“The other day,” she said, “I thought I had finally run out of words.” (Which is not good for a writer as talented as Dianne – fortunately for her readers, she hadn’t.) “That’s what inspired this piece.”

“My students work hard and have been getting published in magazines and journals. They get book deals. At some point they will be required to do a reading and there’s no time like the present to practice,” DeMarco-Barrett noted. 

"Readings are also a great way to bring family and friends into your writing world."

Laguna Craft Guild Art Show rescheduled for this Sunday at Main Beach

This Sunday, Feb 10, from 9 a.m. - sundown, the Laguna Craft Guild will hold an Art Show at Main Beach featuring local artists. There are always many treasures to be found at the show, you really never know what you’ll find. 

Laguna Craft table

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Stop by the Main Beach cobblestones on Sunday for local handmade goods

Laguna Craft Guild is a small group of local Laguna Beach artists that sell their handmade goods on the cobblestones at Main Beach one to two times a month. Many of them are also Sawdust Festival artists.

The show is very special and a fun way to spend a Sunday strolling along the boardwalk with friends, family, and pets while gazing at the ocean. The Art Show is kind of like looking for that perfect seashell along the shoreline. 

For more information, visit or follow on Instagram at @lagunacraftguild.

Saint Valentine’s Day: What’s in a name?


Thursday we celebrate a holiday that prompts Americans to spend 30 million dollars in the name of love. How did this homage to romance begin, I wondered, so, of course, I Googled it, and found that most of its apparent origins have little to do with chocolates, flowers, or love. 

The possible roots of the tradition are varied. The name could have originated from three third-century priests, all named Valentine and all martyred on the same date, February 14. Beheadings and Hallmark cards in the same sentence? Bet no one saw that coming.

The second explanation is darker and much more disturbing (I guess). It was based on a Roman fertility festival, The Feast of Lupercalia, held during the month of February. During the festivities, men sacrificed a goat and a dog, then made strips of the hides and dipped them in blood before beating the women. 

Saint Valentines Shakespeare

Click on photo for a larger image

Chaucer and Shakespeare both mention St. Valentine in their works: here Shakespeare toasts Valentine’s Day

Maybe that’s why we associate the color red with Valentine’s Day? As the finale, the women’s names were put in an urn to be drawn as companions for the men during the celebration. A love lottery? Highly unlikely, I imagine.

Some experts claim that our modern-day Valentine’s Day traditions started in fourteenth-century France and England with the belief that birds began to mate on February 14. A much more palatable explanation.

Whatever the true origin of this day, celebrations can be traditional or nontraditional, a lavish dinner at one of our local restaurants, a packet of Have’a Chips maybe, or a simple picnic in Heisler Park among the flowers. 

I choose to believe that Valentine’s Day didn’t start with beheadings or a pagan festival, but with the birds. And maybe the bees.

Rumari’s Amoré lasts through February with special menu


Photos by Diane Armitage and Ristorante Rumari

Heading into my dining review last week, I circled the block a couple times before I realized there was a spot right there in front of the restaurant. I whipped into the space, put the car in park and gathered my camera, notebook, purse and key to make my exit.

At the sound of a man’s raised voice, I glanced up to see a waiter from the restaurant standing outside my car, raising his voice at me

“What are ya doing?” he said, flapping his arms a bit. “This is an alley way. You can’t park here.” Finishing with a larger sweep of his arms and an exasperated shrug he turned back into the restaurant.

Although mortified at my rather blonde move, I had to chuckle. I was, indeed, at the front door of our town’s clearly authentic Italian landmark, Ristorante Rumari. I know I’ve found my way home. 

Authentic, From the Food to the Love

Ristorante Rumari is as Italian as they come because…well…they’re Italian. Fabulously Italian at that. 

Rumari Amore Vince

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Mehri Photography

Ristorante Rumari’s Proprietor Vince Crivello

For more than 30 years, Chef Proprietor Vince Crivello has doled out consistently great food, friendly family-like service, and rational advice and perspective that has endeared him to Laguna locals and repeat visitors. 

Here, the faces rarely change.

Here, there’s a good chance you’re still going to find your favorite menu item, even if you haven’t made it back for a year. 

One of my good friends, Don, splits his time between Vail and Laguna Beach, having spent his boyhood summers here with family. For about 20 years, he has only ordered Rumari’s Linguine Nere Del Mare, a black linguine pasta baked in foil with clams, shrimp, tomato sauce, and brandy. Asking him to try another menu option is akin to asking him to switch political party lines. 

Fortunately, the renowned dish is always there on the menu, and it always tastes as good as he remembers. 

To be quite honest, I find myself repeatedly ordering Rumari’s Rack of Lamb special for the same reason. As long as they continue to cook up that amazing dish, I’ll be returning for yet another 20 years to order it. 

A Special Menu Through February

Last Thursday night, though, I was on a different mission. 

For the entire month of February, on Sundays through Thursdays, Rumari’s is offering a “That’s Amoré” Prix Fixe menu with a glass of house wine or Prosecco for $45/person. 

This particular menu is not being offered on Valentine’s Day (this Thursday, Feb 14), but it’s certainly worth the visit otherwise.

The prix fixe menu is a generous one, allowing you to choose from four popular appetizers, four entrées and three desserts. And – maybe the best part of all – their homemade focaccia bread is served with the meal, too. Vince’s father, Antonio (“Nino”), is the creator of the famed focaccia, and carefully taught Vince its secrets to success before Vince, in turn, passed the vaunted recipe to Executive Chef Jaime Ocampo. 

From Crisp Appetizer to Decadent Dessert

Rumari Amore Caprese

Click on photo for a larger image

Rumari’s Mozzarella Caprese

It’s a busy Thursday evening, so I stick to the basics of the prix fixe options, starting with the Mozzarella Caprese. It’s a big dish with 4 thick-cut tomato slices piled with fresh mozzarella, slivers of basil, and a tidy crown of sun-dried tomatoes. It’s fresh and sublime, the sun-dried addition adding a bit of salty chew to the mix. 

Three protein-oriented entrée options range from spaghetti in meat sauce with veal meatballs (Spaghetti Al Ragu Con Polpetine), a boneless chicken breast basted in tomato sauce and topped with roasted peppers, onions and black olives (Pollo Siciliana), and Penne Pasta with salmon and mushrooms in a tomato-cream sauce. 

A fourth vegetarian option offers house made ravioli pillows filled with ricotta and spinach.

Rumari Amore Raviolini

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Rachelle Cano

Rumari’s Raviolini 

I tell my server, Scott, to choose his favorite from the entrée options and am delighted when he returns with the Ravioloni. Again, this is a hefty dish with sizable ravioli pouches stuffed to the brim and ladled in Rumari’s awesome tomato vodka sauce. I’m able to finish exactly one ravioli – it’s that big.

Rumari Amore Tiramisu

Click on photo for a larger image

Rumari’s Tiramisu

For my third course, Scott chooses (wisely) again for me, arriving with the house made Tiramisu. I’m already full, but Tiramisu cannot be denied. It’s fluffy-light and rich all at once, and I manage all of three bites before I regretfully push it away.

Why Stop the Love at Valentine’s Day?

The “Amoré” menu is a fun delight that’s worth trying more than once. Again, it’s available Sunday through Thursday evenings; it’s not available on Valentine’s Day. (You can, however, purchase one dessert during Valentine’s Day dining and receive a second dessert as a gift from Vince and the “family” at Rumari’s.)

Ristorante Rumari is located at 1826 S Coast Hwy.

Call for reservations, (949) 494-0400 or go to 

Diane Armitage is the best-selling author of the book, The Best of Laguna Beach, and offers a cornucopia of Laguna based reviews, finds and upcoming events at her blog,

Laguna Board of REALTORS® (LBOR) recognizes Rick Balzer and Swift Torrance

The Laguna Board of REALTORS® (LBOR) recognizes Rick Balzer and Swift Torrance for submission to receive National Association of REALTORS® (N.A.R.) Emeritus Status. 

Laguna Board men

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Rick Balzer with President Board, Dave Csira 

Rick Balzer became a REALTOR® in 1967 and in 1968 was awarded for most sales by LBOR. Rick served on LBOR Board of Directors and handled the sale of their first location, and purchase of the current location, pro-bono. Rick was 1972 REALTOR® of the Year. 

He co-created Chateau Company Realty, co-partnered acquiring the Laguna Beach RE/MAX franchise in 1986. Rick, a major producer, was recognized in 1998 as a top ten agent for sales volume and production at Prudential California Realty. 

He also was director of Laguna Art Museum, Laguna Beach Community Foundation, and Boys and Girls Club. He loves diving, skiing, golf, time with family, and quiet time reading any good book. 

Laguna Board Swift

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Swift Torrance with Csira 

E. Swift Torrance IV became a REALTOR® in 1975. By 1979 he became Salesman of The Year, and again in 1981, 1984, 1991, and 1993. In 1995, he was LBOR REALTOR® of the Year. Swift led in production and transactions, closing sales on many waterfront and gated community properties. 

On June 28, 1999, he reached the top of Mt. Whitney (14,495 feet). That same day, he was named Top REALTOR® in the US. Swift enjoys camping, golfing, skiing, surfing, biking, orchid cultivation, and family time with wife Shirley. 

Laguna Board House

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Laguna Board of Realtors was chartered in 1924 

A REALTOR® who’s held membership in N.A.R. as a REALTOR®, REALTOR-Associate® or both for an accumulative period of 40 years and one year of service at the local, state or National Association level is eligible for REALTOR® Emeritus status. Agents receive lifetime paid dues (N.A.R) and exemption from future Code of Ethics training.

The Laguna Board of REALTORS® recognizes the following agents for California Association of REALTORS® Honorary Member-For-Life status. Those serving the Association for 25 years or more, and 75 years of age are eligible. Privileges include paid lifetime dues in C.A.R. (must maintain local and national memberships). 

LBOR® also extends their Honorary-For-Life status to the same members with paid for life dues. Members (years served) include Rick Balzer (50), Gordon Haney (45), Marie Thomas (43), Swift Torrance (42), and Noel Johnson (40).

LB Girl Scouts participate in Bink-a-thon, annual service project providing blankets to those in need

In January, Laguna Beach Girl Scout troops gathered together for a Bink-a-thon, an annual community service project, which provides blankets to those in need. Since 2006, LB Girl Scouts have distributed over 500 blankets to children in pediatric hospitals, homeless shelters, and The Council on Aging.

LB Girl sign

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

(L-R) Sisters Kelsey (Troop 4433) and Makenzie (Troop 7551) Dearing

This year, Laguna Beach Junior Troop 4433 organized and ran the event, mentoring other Girl Scouts from Laguna Beach and surrounding areas on how to make these no-sew blankets. At the event, the Girl Scouts also crafted greeting cards for U.S. military personnel stationed overseas and at Camp Pendleton.

LB Girl with blanket

Click on photo for a larger image

Submitted photo

Kelsey and Makenzie Dearing

The Girl Scouts of America is a leading leadership development organization for girls. Founded in 1912, Girl Scouts take the potential of girls, combines it with robust skill-building programming, and adds caring adult mentors and strong female role models “to develop girls of courage, confidence, and character who make the world a better place.”

Contact Stephanie Andrews at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for information on Girl and Adult membership in Laguna Beach.

Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest opens Feb 15

The 8th Annual Laguna Bluebelt Photo Contest capturing the unique images of Laguna’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) will begin accepting entries on Friday, Feb 15 for one month and will be followed by an online Facebook vote for the “Best of the Rest.”   

The intent of the popular contest is to raise awareness of Laguna’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and encourage public support and cooperation for the restoration of local marine life. 

Laguna Bluebelt seal

Click on photo for a larger image

Photo by Alex Cowdell 

2018 Photo Contest Winner, “Henry the Harbor Seal” by Alex Cowdell

Photos can be taken of the beach, underwater or of any subject that is within Laguna’s MPAs that stretch from Abalone Point in North Laguna to Table Rock in South Laguna. It can include a family enjoying the beach, the tidepools or ocean, the birds or marine life that depend on it – just any part of this special place.

The support by Laguna’s business community is outstanding. This year’s Grand Prizes include two nights and dinner at The Ranch Laguna and one night at the Surf and Sand Resort with dinner at Splashes Restaurant.

Residents, visitors, ocean swimmers, divers, and surfers are encouraged to grab their cameras and capture the remarkable, diverse beauty of Laguna’s iconic coast and sea creatures. 

Photos must have been taken in the last year beginning February 15, 2018 through the end of the contest on March 15, 2019. There are two contest categories:  Professional and Amateur. 

Contest organizer Jinger Wallace notes that ocean landscape photos typically compete with underwater images depicting the magical and invisible world under the sea surrounding the community.

Winning photographs will be exhibited at The Ranch Laguna for two weeks following the contest.

Photo entries can be uploaded to the contest website at

Bounties of blessed rain

Photos by Mary Hurlbut

Bounties of waterfall

Click on photo for a larger image

Rimrock Waterfall

Bounties of flowers

Click on photo for a larger image

Sunday rain

Bounties of hills

Click on photo for a larger image

Glorious green

Page 2 of 611