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 Volume 11, Issue 24  |  March 22, 2019                                  


Police Files

Woman arrested on suspicion of DUI in injury crash

On Tuesday, March 19, at 2:14 a.m., LBPD and LBFD personnel responded to the Big Bend area of Laguna Canyon Road in reference to an injury traffic collision. 

“Officers contacted the driver, Cypress resident Marie Markarian, who hit an Edison pole on her way back to Cypress after dropping off a friend,” LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said. “Markarian’s front right passenger…needed to be transported to Mission Hospital Mission Viejo for her injuries.”

According to Sgt Cota, the passenger suffered a laceration to her forehead and left ear due to the collision. The vehicle was towed from the scene and Edison was contacted regarding the damage to the pole.

Samantha Marie Markarian, 24, Cypress, was arrested for felony DUI. 

Bail was set at $100,000.

Traffic stop sends Oceanside man to jail for myriad offenses

On Sunday, March 17, at 11:08 a.m., an LBPD officer initiated a vehicle stop on North Coast Highway at Emerald Bay. 

“The driver handed the officer a fake driver’s license. The driver was later arrested for presenting the false identification to the officer,” Sgt Cota said. “The driver was booked for a felony because the driver’s license number came back to a real person.”

Jose Alfonso Gomezresendiz, 41, Oceanside, was arrested for false impersonation, driving without a valid license, driving without a valid license, and possession of controlled substance paraphernalia.

Bail was set at $21,500.

 Guest leaves firearm behind at Montage, LBPD reports

On Monday, March 18, at 1:23 p.m., at the Montage Resort, at the 30800 block of S Coast Highway, security called to report that a guest had checked out of a room and left a firearm behind. The weapon was found by housekeeping. 

LBPD Spokesperson PIO Sgt Jim Cota said, “An officer responded and took custody of the handgun. The firearm was booked in at the police department for safekeeping.”

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Taking flight, Michele Taylor leaves an eternal legacy of beauty, love and splendor, art and eloquence

By Suzie Harrison

Michele Taylor was much like the painted lady butterflies that migrated through Laguna Beach on Tuesday, March 12, the day she passed. Aptly, millions of colorful butterflies mesmerized the skies, much like Michele did in life. 

Like these special butterflies, she was strong, and able to go the distance with courage, determination, and elegance – nothing could get in her way. She traveled this life with grace and beauty, bringing into the world a legacy of love in everything she did.

Michele had an ability to profoundly touch each person to their core, ignite passions to dream big, and believe that all things are possible.

Michele birthday Aquarium

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Courtesy of Michele Taylor

Michele on her birthday on January 25, 2017 at the Aquarium of the Pacific

Michele never said I can’t. Instead she lived with a passionate pursuit of loving life, art, friends, family, nature, animals, and spirituality. She stood for what she believed in and was true to her loving spirit and core. 

Michele lived her life with incredible depth and meaning, much like the life she breathed into her art.

What she so prophetically said about her first public art piece, Laguna Tortoise, was actually a true reflection of herself.

“It is my hope that the tortoise will inspire viewers to maintain focus, humility and perseverance regardless of the perceived impossibility of a situation,” Taylor said.

Michele had an awareness and higher purpose on this earth, transforming the lives of all she touched. It’s my belief she took flight with an even greater purpose to fulfill. Her beauty and legacy of love will remain eternal…love never ends…it has no boundaries.

Michele’s mother, Barbara Taylor, talked about Michele’s affinity for butterflies and special gift of making the world a more beautiful place.

 The day Michele passed the millions of butterflies came through Laguna Beach. She always loved butterflies and her gardens were always so beautiful. You’d walk though, with her pond, the koi fish, and the beautiful glass pieces in it. It was just stunning. 

She’d find larva on the milkweed, saving them from the birds. She would go put them into a large screen cage and waited for them to become the chrysalis. And then one day, we watched the butterfly open its wings slowly, the transformation bringing us to tears. And she said, “Now you see mom, this is why I rescue the larva.” 

She did with many butterflies like that and they all lived. When she would go out in the yard they were always just flying in her hair. And she said with a smile, “Yes, they’re always in my hair.”

Maybe they came back to see her. Most people knew she loved butterflies, but not very many people knew she raised them. It was so beautiful. Whenever she set them free, she was always so happy to set them free. She loved them.

Siân Poeschl, Cultural Arts Manager and close friend of Michele’s, poignantly spoke about her iconic public art works.

Michele Taylor Tortoise

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Courtesy of Sian Poeschl

Michele talking with Art Commissioners and art enthusiasts about, perhaps Laguna’s most iconic art piece, “Laguna Tortoise”

Michele was able to translate her work from a personal realm to the public with a number of iconic installations. Her works were always thoughtful, meaningful, and delicate of spirit, fanciful of imagination and caring in her interpretations.

Aesop’s fable, The Tortoise and the Hare, was inspiration for Michele’s first City installation at Bluebird Park. The moral of the story can be interpreted as perseverance prevailing or taking on a bully. The tactile experience for children feeling its glass eyes is as affectionate as Michele was as a person. Every child who has looked into those eyes is taken on a journey of the imagination and the thrill to be with the tortoise on its winning steps across the finish line.

Her collaboration with artist Gerard Stripling won them both an award as artists of the year betrothed by the Laguna Beach Alliance for the Arts. It was a unique partnership of materials and aesthetics, both better artists for the experience. “Eternal Legacy,” a memorial for fallen Police Officers Gordon French and Jon Coutchie, is a complex and multileveled experience of materials, textures, and emotions. 

The main sculpture of bronze and glass embraces those lost and those who have lost. Written into the sculpture, the words “You will never reach your dreams without honoring others along the way” and “It is easy to be brave from a distance” speak universally to our understanding of the human spirit.

Eternal Legacy

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Corutesy of Sian Poeschl

Michele and Gerard won Artists of the Year for the piece “Eternal Legacy,” a gorgeous sculpture, in the works, in dedication of the lives of fallen LBPD officers

“Moving Forward” was designed for the Community and Susi Q Center with shoes representing all walks of life, neatly paired below the stone seat. One pair of shoes are Michele’s fathers, forever frozen in time in bronze. Every piece created by those artist hands have revealed the love, passion, humanity, and compassion Michele shared with our community.

MicheleTaylor Glss ByMikeTauber

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Courtesy of Mike Tauber

Michele loved creating beautiful pieces big and small

We have lost a loving spirit, who touched all she came to know, partnered in her work with some greats, and left behind a legacy one can only dream of. We are left wondering what more she could have achieved, but forever grateful for what she left behind. 

Michele inspired me, she showed me friendship and mostly she exhibited perseverance in the face of any adversity to seduce and mesmerize the imagination.

Michele’s mother continued generously sharing loving memories of her beloved daughter:

Michele was born on January 25, 1970, at 3:33 p.m. in the afternoon, on a Sunday in San Diego. She grew up in La Jolla and Encinitas, both known for their beautiful beaches and art.

When she was a child, she was very, very creative from the beginning. She was into art right away. She was always very artistic, whether she was making an hors d’oeuvres tray or arranging flowers. When she was just 6 and 7 years old, I would do a flower arrangement and she would come and make it even better. She’d say mommy do you want me to do this and she’d make it so beautiful. Ever since she was a young girl, as long as I can remember. 

Her maternal grandfather and grandmother who were both artists in their own righ loved to create and to share their crafts with Michele.

We always thought she was artistic and when she went up to school at Berkeley she just flowered. She did all kinds of beautiful costumes for different dances. She loved costume design. She majored in Art with a secondary in Women’s Studies, of course.

AOS Michele Taylor

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Courtesy of Sian Poeschl

Creating beautiful works at Artist Open Studios

Michele had an amazing love of animals. Before she could talk, she was holding all her puppies, carrying them around. From when she was two, she collected all kinds of animals and brought them home. 

When we lived in La Jolla, we were at the beach all the time. Her friends and she would go down. We had a little VW convertible. We’d each grab our beach chairs, throw them in the back, and go lay in the sun. We did that all the time. It was her favorite thing, go to the beach. She loved the water. We’d come home with little shells and all kinds of things and she’d make the most beautiful pieces.

She always had style. Her own style, really. Whatever she liked she wore. She put it on and she didn’t care what anyone else wore. 

Being an only child we would go to dinner and she would sit there like a grown-up. Just the most beautiful manners. She was always a very mature kid.

She was a wonderful entertainer, cook, and always a gracious host. She had the most sincere generosity of spirit. But she wouldn’t put up with any BS. 

She was always sensitive to anyone’s heart, no matter who it was. She was always a warm person, very sensitive, and somewhat of a counselor. She was always so kind and objective, but also gave strong giving.

Michele was always very strong, especially for others in need. She would just get right in there. As far as people approaching her, she was just always beautifully generous and made everyone feel comfortable. She always stayed back to help the one left behind and brought them up to where they wanted to be. She faced everything head on.

She wanted to make everything beautiful, every place, whatever it was.

She was really a force. As tender and generous and everything she was, she was also a force. And everyone says that about her strength. They’ve never seen such a strong and determined woman.

She could do eight projects at a time get them all done and serve dinner with her glass slippers on.

Collaborating artist and friend Gerard Basil Stripling shared:

“Michele was an amazing artist and great friend. Her kindness and spirit will be deeply missed. When we collaborated, we always knew that we would be able to come up with something so much better than we could alone. The process and journey sharing our creativity with the community has been extremely fulfilling for both of us. It’s nice to know that she has left a legacy of work that we will be able to enjoy it for years to come.”

Artist Mike Tauber and Michele, who were close friends, also worked together on paint and ceramic tile murals, sculptures, and reliefs starting in 2003. Their most visible piece is the Canyon Preserve landscape mural, fronting the Laguna Beach County Water District building, at Loma Place.

Mike said, “Michele was great to work with and always made it fun. She named our collaboration ‘TNT; and would say, ‘Our art is explosive,’ and bust out laughing. She knew no obstacle and would fearlessly jump on a scissor-lift and push it to 30 feet in the air. She was a technical genius, obsessed with crystalline ceramic glazes, and loved making test strips in each and every color of the rainbow.

MIchle in Studio H20 District

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Courtesy of LBCWD

Working, working, working, in her studio, what Michele loved to do

“We were super detailed in planning our mural for the water district. We’d sit at the Cedar Creek Inn and stare at the wall. She said, ‘Let’s make this really great – we will have to still like it when we’re in our 90s and passing by in our wheelchairs.’

“I guess that day will come - but in spirit form. Collectors are lucky to have Michele’s work, we’re all lucky to have her public art, and I am lucky to call her a great collaborator and friend.”

Christopher Regan, Laguna Beach County Water District Assistant General Manager, said,The District was saddened to hear of the passing of our dear friend Michele Taylor. Taylor will be forever linked to the District’s history as the artist of the mural ‘Canyon Preserve,’ located on the north facing exterior wall of the District’s headquarters.

“Commissioned in 2006, Taylor’s tile mural refers to Laguna Canyon, which reflects the Districts past, as the canyon was important both as an access route.

and as a source of water for early Laguna Beach residents.”

The image is a timeless view of a creek among sycamore trees and distant foothills. “We are so fortunate to have such a significant piece of Michele’s work as a permanent part of our historic headquarters,” said Renae Hinchey, Laguna Beach Water District General Manager. “Like Michele, the mural reminds us of the enduring beauty that is Laguna.”

Michele in Spain

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Courtesy of Michele Taylor

Michele visiting her favorite place in Spain, October 6, 2017

Longtime close friend and neighbor Becky Barber shared, “I just felt like whenever we’re together we’re magic. Magic like we could do anything. It was just fun and in the good times and the hard times we came together. You know, she was just special to everybody. When you were with her, she made you feel like a special person. It takes a wonderful person to do that and make every individual feel so, so good. I don’t know…I’m going to miss my friend. I just really going to really miss my dear, dear friend. There’s just too much to say.”

Gregory Lincoln, Sawdust artist and close friend who had a booth near Michele a couple of years during the time she showed at the Sawdust (2003 to 2014), said:

“I met Michele in 2007. She was really kind, giving, forgiving, and generous. She had a wonderful, giving, outreaching spirit. She was a real brilliant artist, the most original and imaginative artist that I’ve ever known. Mainly because she was Michele Taylor. She didn’t follow anybody and she thought fearlessly for herself. 

“I’ve never known anybody like her before. You couldn’t help but be affected by Michele in a positive way. Once you met her and spent time with her you knew you were with someone really special. She would always give, give, give you her time. 

“There wasn’t anybody who if she thought they needed help or needed encouragement, she wouldn’t be there for. She would go out of her way to do that for someone.” 

Friend, former Sawdust artist, roommate, and teaching collaborator Joan Corman and her daughter Jessica Bloch have many fond memories of Michele.

“If there’s one thing I know for certain about Michelle, it’s that she lived with every cell in her body. Using her vibrant energy, she spent her lifetime creating. Many people will remember her for her impressively beautiful pieces of art around Laguna, her tangible creations, but what I will remember her for is her creation of love. Her love for her family, friends, Laguna, and the ocean. 

 Beautiful Michele

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Courtesy of Barbara Taylor

A precious memory of Michele celebrating out with her mother

“Michelle’s life was cut short, this we all know, but we must also know how fully she lived. How fully she loved. We will miss you always...and think of you fondly while we dance around your tortoise at Music in the Park; when we lay our eyes on one of the many pieces of your art that we are lucky enough to have adorning our homes, and we will always think of her every time we swim at Diver’s Cove.

“Until we meet again...”

Michele’s best friend Tracy Baker, a longtime friend from her Berkeley days, and dear friend Danny Satterlee, were always there for Michele and by her side. They’ve been integral to Michele and her life and were like family.

Michele is survived by her mother, Barbara, three uncles, her 100-year-old maternal grandmother, Bunny, and 94-year-old paternal grandfather, her sister Holly and brother Wade from her father, and 18 close cousins.

A celebration of Michele’s life will be held at the Sawdust Art Festival, 935 Laguna Canyon Rd, on Saturday, March 30, at 1 p.m. Loved ones, friends, and community members are welcome to attend and share the love, light, and stories of our dearest Michele. She will forever remain in our hearts.

Jason Walker takes his job with the City’s Waste Water Division seriously for the sake of Laguna

Some days Jason Walker is so into his job for the City’s Waste Water Division, he’s literally waist-deep in it.

“When the failure of Bluebird SOCWA Lift Station happened, we had to stop the station from flooding,” Walker said. “A colleague and I had to wade in waist-deep waste water to cover the exposed pipe causing the flooding.”

Walker is the Senior Operations Supervisor for the City’s Waste Water Division. He’s worked for the City for 16 years – 14 of them in the trenches of the City’s waste water system. 

“Before I came to the City I did maintenance on high-rise buildings,” Walker said.  “I never thought I’d go from being on rooftops all day to maintaining our waste water systems three stories underground.”

Laguna’s complex sanitary sewer system keeps Walker on his toes. The City system serves 22,700 people in an 8.7 square mile service area, and consists of 85.71 miles of gravity sewers and 25 lift stations. 

Jason Walker with car

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Submitted photo

Jason Walker has worked for the City’s Waste Water Division for 14 years

“Laguna is unique because we also have 25 urban runoff diversions,” said David Shissler, Laguna Beach Director of Water Quality. “The diversions stop polluted runoff water from going to the beach and redirect the polluted flow into the sewer system to be treated and recycled. The City benefited from having some foresight early on and installed these, even when the Regional Board wasn’t supportive. Now they are being mandated, and we have led by example.”

Sixteen of the City’s urban runoff diversions are large underground structures that function like water “washing machines” located at points along the coast in the City under runoff drains in the streets. They essentially spin-cycle dirty runoff water as it is captured to filter out pollutants, trash, and street sediment. The debris is then captured in the bottom of the diversion; the water passing through the filter is sent the waste water treatment plant. The diversion system keeps polluted runoff water from streets, sidewalks, and Coast Highway from ever reaching the ocean. 

“We remove about eight tons of debris and sediment annually from the City’s urban water diversions,” Shissler said. “When you think of that amount, it’s equivalent to eight full-size vehicles. Our diversion program underlines the City’s commitment to keeping our ocean waters clean from runoff pollution.”

Jason Walker buttons

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Submitted photo

Walker looking forward to odor control project at the “Glenneyre Dip”

Shissler and his team are also working to keep sanitary sewer system odors from escaping from points in the system. On December 11, 2018, the Laguna Beach City Council authorized the purchase of a Biological Odor Control System to control odors at the Bluebird SOCWA Lift Station (located at the “Glenneyre Dip”). The equipment is part of an upcoming project to eliminate the sewer odors at the site that have lingered there for years.

“These odorous compounds accumulate in the sewers and release out of the manhole covers,” said Shissler. “The purchase and installation of the Biological Odor Control System will finally help us prevent the odors from accumulating and releasing out into the neighborhood.”

For Walker, the upcoming odor control project at the “Glenneyre Dip” is one project he’s looking forward to.

“I’m most excited about the odor control system that will be installed this year to mitigate the odors at the dip on Glenneyre (at Calliope). We currently have one installed at the Lumberyard Parking Lot and it has worked with amazing results,” Walker said.   “There have been times when residents will write a letter commending the staff on helping them. That’s what keeps me going – knowing we are making a difference for our residents, their quality of life and the health of our ocean.”


Where’s Maggi?

Can you guess where Maggi was here? If you’ve been there, would you admit to it? That’s a hint, in jest…

Send your answers in to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

The location will be revealed in Tuesday’s edition, and we’ll let you know who got it right.

Wheres Maggi 3 22 19

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Hide and Seek: Temporary art comes to Laguna Beach

Illustrator David Zinn will be brightening the streets of Laguna Beach with temporary installations throughout downtown and Heisler Park from March 26 - 30. Zinn’s work is inspired by objects, street fixtures, and cracks in the sidewalks to create his creatures and monsters into trompe I’oeil illustrations.

Hide and Sidewalk

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Courtesy of

David Zinn will brighten the streets of Laguna with his creative art installation

Zinn’s temporary street drawings are composed entirely of chalk and charcoal and are always improvised on location. Some favored characters are Sluggo (a bright green monster) and Philomena (a flying pig) but the menagerie of characters is only limited by the size of the sidewalk. So where will you be able to see them? You will have to seek them out!

Audiences of all ages are invited to join Zinn on Saturday, March 30 at the Heisler Park Amphitheatre at 11 a.m. to participate in a free workshop or watch the process unfold. All ages are welcome. 

If you are an illustration street art aficionado, a seeker of whimsy or humor, or young (both age and heart) then this is the temporary art illustration for you. Zinn says of his work, “Since the installations are so fleeting, the experience of seeing one in real life is more surprising and more exceptional.

Hide and mouse

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Courtesy of

Zinn’s temporary street drawings are composed entirely of chalk and charcoal

Adam Schwerner, Chair of the Temporary Art Sub-Committee of the Laguna Beach Arts Commission, explains, “We want to explore every genre of temporary, and you can’t get more temporary and fleeting than chalk art. It’s a thrill to invite David to Laguna Beach and have programming that younger members of our community can embrace and enjoy.” Arts Commission Chair Michael Ervin added, “As we develop this temporary program, residents are going to enjoy broad variety of work that will be diverse in content, artist and location.”

This is a program of the City of Laguna Beach and has been funded by the Lodging Establishment and City of Laguna Beach.

For more information, visit

Green patchwork

Green patchwork canyon

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

An abundance of green on the first day of spring, looking down into Aliso Canyon and up to Top of the World (backside of Laguna Beach)

Barbara’s Column

Hear Us Roar 


The Laguna Beach branch of the American Association of University Women hosted the 32nd Annual Literary Luncheon on Saturday at the Surf & Sand.

Authors Sejal Badani, Jane Fitch and Anita Hughes shared their stories with an appreciative, sometimes amused, but always admiring audience at the branch’s major fundraiser. Proceeds from the luncheon, still being counted, fund programs that advance the cause of equality for women.

“Today we are here to celebrate the art of writing and the joys or reading,” said Karen Dennis, branch president. “But first, I want us to acknowledge Jean Brotherton as the co-founder of the Literary Luncheon. 

“The luncheons have enabled [us] to fund many important projects over the years.”

Dennis listed the top four accomplishments:

--Tutored and mentored more than 385 El Morro students through the Learning Club. 

--Awarded close to $100,000 in financial aid and leadership scholarships to Laguna Beach High School and returning students. 

--Sent more than 120 Thurston Middle School to science and tech camps via Tech Trek.

--Helped about 250 students from Orange Coast College and Laguna College of Art & Design negotiate fair salaries through Start Smart.

The American Association of University Women of Laguna Beach was founded in 1967.

Hear Us Dennis

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Courtesy of AAUW

Branch President of AAUW Karen Dennis

“We have come a long way, Baby, as the saying goes,” said Dennis, in her welcome to the audience at the luncheon.

 “In 1877, Dr. Charles H. Clarke, a Harvard professor, asserted that women should not be allowed to attend college. If young women studied too much, they would divert blood away from their uterus to the brain, rendering themselves irritable and infertile. (Surely women were more irritable about being denied to reach their full potential than studying would cause infertility.) 

Not to be denied, a group of female college graduates formed the Association of Collegiate Alumnae in the early 1880s and later morphed into the AAUW.

More than 700 female graduates were surveyed about their health before, during and after college. No significant changes were reported. Case closed.

However, the recent death of former Senator Birch Bayh reminds us of how long it took for advocates like him and tennis legend Billie Jean King to equalize financial support for men’s and women’s college sports. The civil rights law known as Title IX passed in 1972, almost 100 years after the formation of the Association of Collegiate Alumnae.

But AAUW keeps plugging away and growing stronger. Laguna Beach members include residents of Laguna Beach and surrounding communities, spanning a wide range of ages and professions that are part of a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that has more than 170,000 members and supporters across the United States. 

Hear Us Hughes

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Courtesy of AAUW

Anita Hughes

AAUW’s members continue to examine and take positions on the fundamental issues of the day – educational, social, economic and political. Fellowships and grants have helped scholars and activists overcome barriers to education and advancement since the beginning. 

Membership in the local branch is open to holders of associate degrees or equivalent, baccalaureate or higher degrees from a qualified educational institution or a foreign degree acceptable to a post grad program at a qualified American university.

Laguna’s branch is a dynamic growing organization with interest groups, opportunities to get involved in the community and many exciting programs, one of which was Saturday’s luncheon. 

The event included the opportunity to meet the featured authors and buy their books, a silent auction chaired by Joyce Bartlett, and to hear the authors’ stories in their own words. 

“All three speakers were amazing,” said Leah Vasquez, acting AAUW Membership Chair. “Janet Fitch was the funniest, but Anita Hughes was the one who resonated the most with me. She expressed herself so beautifully.

“I was seated with new and potential members and we all stood and applauded her.”

Hear Us Fitch

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Courtesy of AAUW

Janet Fitch

Australian born, but now a resident of Dana Point, Hughes won her first writing prize at eight.

 “That was like turning on the tap,” Hughes told Katie Slattery, who interviewed the three authors for their introductions by Event Co-Chairs Joan Stratt and Farie Momayez, who were themselves honored for their accomplishments in advancing equality for women. 

Hughes’ novels deal with women’s issues: friendship, mother/daughter relationships and always romance, according to Slattery. She averages two books a year and recently added a Christmas novel to her schedule. 

Fitch’s first novel, White Oleander, was an Oprah Book Club selection and a movie starring Michelle Pfeiffer. Fitch has spent the last 10 years working on her recently released epic, The Revolution of Marina M, along with essays, short stories and another novel, Paint it Black.

 Like other Fitch characters, Marina M. uses art to express difficult feelings, in this case, poetry.

“I wrote the first 13 chapters in verse,” Fitch told Slattery. 

Details were written in prose, but Fitch switched back to poetry when dealing with difficult themes. 

Hear Us Badani

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Courtesy of AAUW

Sejal Badani

Like Hughes, Badani knew from an early age that she was going to be a writer. 

She studied law, which she claims made her a better writer, but she gave up the profession to write full time. 

Her first novel, Trail of Broken Wings, was a story of domestic violence that made the Amazon Bestseller List. Her latest book, The Storyteller’s Secret, features the stories of a modern woman and her grandmother 

She is currently working on a book written in conjunction with her three children under the pseudonym Sage Sask and a novel, The Last Dream

But wait – there’s more. You will find advance notice of all the fun and interesting stuff for visitors or residents to do in Laguna by reading Contributions are welcomed.

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Last night’s moon

Last nights moon

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Photo by Scott Brashier

Last night’s moon, captured brilliantly by Scott Brashier

Laguna Auto Service Center celebrates 30 years of customer service and community commitment


Mo Bonakdar, owner of Laguna Auto Service Center, has much to celebrate. In February, he reached a milestone of 30 years in business, and during those three decades has accumulated a faithful fan base of customers who not only praise his service but his business ethic as well. 

As a result, he honors his clients’ allegiance by giving back to Laguna. He is firmly ensconced in the community and dedicated to its well-being. 

On Wednesday, to commemorate the anniversary, he delivered a check for $2,000 to the Boys and Girls Club. “I’m celebrating my 30th year in Laguna Beach by supporting Boys and Girls Club, they are the future of our world.”

Laguna Auto close up

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Mo Bonakdar, owner of Laguna Auto Service Center

Bonakdar arrived in Laguna after a former family business endeavor in Santa Ana. 

“We had a Chevron station in Santa Ana where I started to work at the age of 14. In 1986, Chevron remodeled the station and converted the mechanic shop into a convenience store. My father and I were looking for a location in 1988. We met Clark Smith at Realatrends who also has been in Laguna for over 30 years. He found this wonderful place for us. In December of that year, after some renovations, the shop was opened in February of 1989.”

Laguna Auto historic 1956

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Circa 1956, building which would be future site of Laguna Auto Service Center

In this difficult age of maintaining a business, much less thriving, Bonakdar explains his success, “It’s very difficult to stay in business for 30 years. I don’t want to sound so cliché, but hard work, transparency in every situation, discipline and love for what we do are the foundations our business is built on. Every day I look forward to coming to work. I have clients for whom I have serviced their vehicles for three generations. I love this close-knit community and care a lot about it. The same goes for my team as well. I don’t find it difficult at all. The universe has a special way of doing things, you just need to let it happen and go with the flow.” 

Laguna Auto staff

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

(L-R) Mo, Tate, Ryan, Andrew, Eric, Rip, Kai, and Andrew

No doubt his customers’ experience at the service center is enhanced by the longevity of his employees. Everyone likes to see familiar faces over the years, no matter what the business. Bonakdar says, “My Shop Foreman, Rip, has been with me for 17 years. Eric, who is my Service Manager, has been with me for 12 years.” 

He has three sisters Gitty, Moji and Kathy. “Moji and Kathy used to work with me but not anymore.”

Laguna Auto exterior

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

Some customers date back 30 years

Bob Jackman has been a customer of Laguna Auto Service since it opened 30 years ago. He has plenty of accolades for Bonakdar and not just about the quality of the service. “I can’t tell you how straight forward and good guy he is. We have had a lot of work done there in all those years. He does great work and does not overcharge. I have no complaints. He’s a good family man, citizen, and person. He does it right. Just recently, I bought a set of tires for my wife’s car, and they were pulling a bit. Mo changed out the whole set.”

A recent first time visitor to the shop mentioned, “The service bay is pristine, unbelievably so.” 

Laguna Auto historic 1925

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Historic building houses the shop

His customers come from near and far, “I have clients who come from Arizona and Las Vegas to have us work on their cars.”

In 30 years of business, one assumes there must have been highs as well as lows. 

Bonakdar says, “Every day is a high moment for me and various challenges throughout the day excite me. Some of the celebrity clients are just the icing on the cake. There have been very few low moments, one was to see the community in distress over the Laguna Beach Fires in 1993 and the other was a personal low when I lost both of my parents (father Hossien and mother Fakhri) to cancer in 1995.” 

Laguna Auto night

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Closed for the night

Congratulations on the 30th anniversary of Laguna Auto Service Center. It’s obvious every aspect of the business – the service, staff, ethics, and welcoming atmosphere – has paid off in a big way. The community has certainly benefited from your longevity and commitment to service, both to clients and the city.

Laguna Auto Service Center is located at 1779 S Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to or call (949) 234-8162.

City to host “Open for Construction” workshop: vulnerable building types and recommended solutions 

The City of Laguna Beach and the Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will host the next “Open for Construction” workshop on Friday, April 5, from 1 - 3 p.m. at the City Council Chambers.

The public is invited to attend the workshop and learn how to protect their building from earthquakes through retrofitting. Older residential homes that are not securely connected to their foundation and multi-story wood buildings with a soft or weak first story (typically a ground-level garage or storefront with residential units on the floors above) are particularly susceptible to damage from earthquake forces. Representatives will discuss potential retrofit schemes and product solutions to help residents get started on improving their building’s earthquake performance.

City to historic

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Residents can learn how to protect their buildings from earthquakes

Jerry Myers, Director of the Laguna Beach Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), an organized and trained group of volunteers ready to assist in case of disaster, will be presenting how residents can be prepared for the next big earthquake.

A Simpson Strong-Tie representative will be presenting prescriptive residential retrofitting systems that are available to brace and secure structures to their foundations, and an Interwest Consulting Group structural engineer representative will be presenting why Soft Story structures have been getting a lot of attention, their vulnerabilities and how other municipalities have developed programs to address them.

Architects, designers, contractors, real estate professionals, residents, property and business owners are invited to attend. Visit and click on the Events tab to locate and register for the event or contact Paula Hornbuckle-Arnold, Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director, at (949) 494-1018 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

For more information on the content of the workshop, contact Maria Ring, Sr. Permit Technician, Building Division at (949) 497-0798 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Ten Boys Who Care Next Gen Mega Yard Sale takes place at No Square Theatre on Saturday, March 30

It’s coming! Want some great clothing, equipment, household items and more?

The Ten Boys Who Care Next Gen, a group of Thurston 8th grade students, are planning their 6th Annual Mega Yard Sale on Saturday, March 30 at No Square Theatre. The sale starts at 8 a.m. and ends at 12 p.m.

Ten Boys group

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(L-R) Front Row: Joseph Rosenberg, Jake Lund, Oliver Rounaghi, Taylor Towe, and Noah Liao; Middle Row: Luke Meisberger, Shea Blanchard, Will Goodwin, Griffin Naess, and Ben Neufeld; Back Row: Blake Pivaroff, Sam Reynolds, and Kent Cebreros

This next generation of Ten Boys Who Care have a goal of raising $2,500 for two scholarships to be presented at LBHS Convocation. The Mega Yard sale will help attain their goal.

If residents have something to donate (including local companies looking to clear out inventory), items can be dropped off (no electronics please) on Friday, March 29 between 4 - 6 p.m. at No Square Theatre, 384 Legion St.

Guest Column

Happy Dance

By Vidya Reddy

Welcome to the Happiness corner. The phrase “do the happy dance!” might come across as a little crazy to some people, but today I’m going to explore the actual scientific reasons why this is a healthy habit to include in your life.

Dancing does more than spread joy, it also improves your health. 

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t love to dance. I was so drawn to it that my mother enrolled me in dance classes where I was able to learn any style that I wanted. Ballet, jazz, tap, Indian Classical; you name it and I loved them all!

It makes a lot of sense, because dancing is one of the earliest things you do as a child. The first thing we do before we stand up, as babies, is move to the music. It’s almost an innate thing.    

The propensity for pirouetting begins with your first hesitant steps and should last a lifetime. In my case, I believe I have never missed a chance to hit a dance floor, whether it’s at a wedding, a concert, or a fundraising event. 

There are some songs where I just have to stop whatever I’m doing and break into dancing, I just cannot resist. But on the other side of the spectrum, a lot of people get more self-conscious when they grow older, and will hold themselves from enjoying a good dance, even when they know it’s going to be a lot of fun. It just doesn’t make sense.

Happy Dance close up

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Photo by Pieter Baetens

Vidya Reddy

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

For me, cutting a rug is a way to lower stress, celebrate life’s small victories, and get a healthy dose of happiness running through my body.

I just want to expend the energy of the joy the music gives me whenever a song comes on. It is definitely one of life’s free, simple pleasures.   

As it turns out, what you experience when dancing is more than a simple pleasure, it’s a physical and psychological lift. 

Researchers have discovered that dancing delivers an immediate mood boost and helps increase feelings of relaxation. What’s more, those effects continue even after you’ve left the dance floor. In fact, a study conducted by the University of New England in Australia found that dancing the tango was as effective in staving off depression as mindfulness meditation, and was actually more effective than meditation in relieving anxiety.   

So why does it make us feel so good? 

First, it gets us moving. Dancing requires you to get up and move your feet, unless you’re busting a move in your car or your office chair. It gets your heart and lungs working, which is a great antidote to today’s desk- and couch-bound lifestyles. And there’s evidence that all movement is not created equal; researchers have found that indulging in a few minutes of boogie fever does more for you than taking a vigorous walk around the block. 

Happy Dance dancing

Courtesy of Pieter Baetens

Shake Your Groove Thing

In multiple studies from different countries, researchers have compared the effects of different types of dancing to physical activities ranging from running to bicycling to treadmill training and walking. While any sort of physical activity has a positive effect on your mental state and releases brain-pleasing endorphins, dancing amplifies that effect. 

Our brains are hard-wired to respond positively to music, resulting in positive outcomes such as lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system. While music is setting the stage for a happier brain, movement helps release those feel-good hormones to pack a healthy one-two punch.

Here’s my playlist to inspire your greatest happy dance yet!

--“1999” – Prince

--“Gonna Make You Sweat (Everybody Dance Now)” – C&C Music Factory

--“I Wanna Dance With Somebody” – Whitney Houston

--“Dancing Queen” – ABBA

--“Celebration” – Kool & The Gang

--“I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor

--“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper

--“Uptown Funk” – Bruno Mars

--“Livin’ La Vida Loca” – Ricky Martin

--“Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go” – Wham

Not Just in Your Head

If you’re excited to think that all that gyration leads to joy, the news just keeps getting better. Movement is doing more than just making you happy in the moment, it’s also helping you build a better brain. 

Psychologist Peter Lovatt, founder of the Dance Psychology Lab at University of Hertfordshire, has studied how dancing changes the brain’s neural processing. His experiments have shown progress in using dance to improve thinking skills among patients with Parkinson’s disease, while a study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease cited dancing as one of the activities that can cut the risk of Alzheimer’s in half. 

And, the bottom line is, whether you’re doing it for your mental health or your physical well-being, dancing is something that is fun and doesn’t require you to be an expert to enjoy the benefits. So create your own happy dance or follow along in a class; either way, you’ll reap the benefits.

In Peace, Love and Gratitude

‘Til next time

Dr.Vidya Reddy, ND, AMS, DAC, CLC

Supporters “take over” KX 93.5 airwaves for annual fund drive next week

KX 93.5, Laguna’s only FM radio station, invites local leaders and legends to take over its airwaves March 25 through 29. Guest hosts will DJ their own hour live on the air, with their own handpicked music and content, to raise money for our beloved community radio station.

“KX Takeover is such a special fundraiser for us because it shows us every year that our station thrives when our community bands together to support it,” said KX 93.5 General Manager Tyler Russell. “It means so much to us that Lagunans will take time out of their schedules to create passionate radio and fundraise on our behalf.” 

KX 93.5 is a throwback to classic days of radio, when DJs actually picked their own music and listeners expected a human connection and community involvement from their local station. To honor that, KX Takeover guest DJs will craft their own playlist and hour of storytelling, as they talk about how music and radio has impacted their lives. 

KX Takeover is a friendly-but-stiff competition where the guest DJ that raises the most money receives the coveted “Silver Tongue Award.” Past winners include Larry Nokes, Rick Riess, Bobbi Cox, Clay Berryhill, and Awakening Code Radio hosts. 

Supporters Sgt Cota

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Photo by Mary Hurlbut

LBPD PIO Sgt Jim Cota will host a 2-hour radio show with Stu News’ Shaena Stabler on Tuesday, March 26 from 12 to 2 p.m.

Some of this year’s participants include City Council members Toni Iseman, Peter Blake, Sue Kempf, and Bob Whalen, LBPD PIO Sgt Jim Cota and Stu News’ Shaena Stabler, musician Dylan Rouda, IMAX filmmaker Greg MacGillivray, surfer/entrepreneur Brandy Faber, local Brenden Hexberg, and designer/contractor Julie Laughton. 

Pledges can range from $20 to $20,000, and 100% of the proceeds generated during the fundraiser will assist the general operating budget of the station. By pledging $65 or more, listeners can become members of the radio station to receive annual benefits to ensure KX 93.5’s sustainability. When you make a donation online, you’ll be able to select which guest host you want it to count toward. 

If you value Laguna’s own radio station, as an alternative to corporate media, a source of independent views and thoughtfully crafted music shows, as a resource to be cherished and cared for, as a microphone into the very soul of Laguna, then please help keep us live on the air. Listen in and pledge during KX Takeover from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. March 25 - 29. 

Find the full schedule of shows and make your donation at

For more information, contact Monica Silva-McCusker at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Lovely Lake Elsinore poppies 

Photos by James Vaughan

Lovely Lake all orange

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Monday’s plethora of poppies

Lovely Lake close up

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Close up charm

Lovely Lake hilltop

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A hilltop of spectacular blooms

St. Catherine initiates innovative flexible seating for select classrooms: students and parents love it


Wipe out that memory of rigid rows of elementary school desks with one seat assigned for the entire year. It appears as if something new (and better) has come along. In select Saint Catherine of Siena Parish School’s classrooms, traditional desks have been ousted (for the most part) and replaced by optional and more comfortable seating. Students and parents are giving the redesign rave reviews.

In order to provide the optimum learning environment for her second grade students, Erin Watson says, “Yes, all of the desks are gone! Except six. They make up my small group table. Some of the tables came from middle school and other items came from a grant I received through my ABLE Fellowship. The idea behind flexible seating is to allow students to be successful in their best learning environment.” 

St. Catherine Board Member and Marketing Chair Megan Meihaus says, “A few other classrooms have made similar adjustments but hers is definitely the most innovative and comprehensive.”

St Catherine classroom

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New flexible seating in Mrs. Watson’s second grade classroom

Luz Malbran, Saint Catherine’s parent and Laguna Beach resident, says, “My daughter, Ellie, loves her new second grade classroom with flexible seating that her teacher, Mrs. Watson, has recently implemented. She is allowed to choose where and with whom to sit in class. Whether it’s on a yoga ball, high stool, pillow, or camping chair, she gets to have a choice over her learning environment, which keeps her more engaged, focused and productive. She is not limited to sitting at a desk all year. She expressed to me today that her favorite spot to sit is on the yoga ball because it is so comfortable and helps her ‘get her wiggles out,’ too.  As a parent, I am so happy about this new flexible seating arrangement, which is already proving to be a success. The kids all seem to really love it! A big thank you to Mrs. Watson!” 

St Catherine table

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Work station

Mrs. Watson says, “Not every child works well sitting at a desk. It’s like Starbucks. Starbucks doesn’t have a bunch of desks in their cafes, yet people go and work there all of the time. They work there because they are comfortable and have everything they need to be successful. I want students to have everything they need to be successful. They can sit on balls, low stools, high stools, pillows, bean bags, on their bellies and in camping chairs. We work on recognizing whether a seating option is best for our bodies. I have found that students are more engaged because they are able to find a place that works for their body and mind. They LOVE it and I do too!”

As evidence of this, her students offer their opinions:

“I like sitting next to whoever I want. I also like that when you have desks you are right next to someone, but in flexible seating, I have more space to work.”

“I like flexible seating because you don’t have to sit at a desk and a normal chair, you can lay down if you want. It’s just fun!” 

“I like that you can sit anywhere you want. Sitting in one spot is boring and distracting.”

St Catherine books

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Comfortable reading area

Saint Catherine’s parent and Laguna Beach resident Christian Prietto says, “What a strange scene to peek inside my son’s second grade class and see not desks but giant pillows, tall chairs and kids bouncing on balls. Even more bizarre, they are all working well, together, like a peaceful family room. What a pleasurable working environment Mrs. Watson and the second graders have created.” 

St. Catherine’s School is located at 30526 S Coast Hwy.

For more information, go to or call (949) 494-7339.

Jazz Wednesdays is sold out, tickets available for exciting spring concerts

Next week’s Jazz Wednesdays concert, the final one of the season, is officially sold out, however Laguna Beach Live! invites the community to join for two unique and entertaining concerts coming this April and May. The concerts benefit the award-winning Live! Music & Kids program and will be held at [seven-degrees].

The program gives students the opportunity to connect to the joy and creativity of music, critical to their academic, social, and emotional growth. 

Laguna Beach Live! presents outreach programs, at no charge, to Laguna Boys & Girls Club and Laguna public schools. 

Jazz Wednesdays M PACT

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M-PACT will take the stage on April 17

On April 17, M-PACT, hailed as “one of the best pop-jazz vocal groups in the world” by the San Francisco Chronicle, will take the stage. Imagine the smooth soul of Sam Smith, the percussive power of Stomp, the funk and groove of Bruno Mars, the sophisticated harmonies of Take 6, and the brass bite of the Michael Bublé Big Band…all created by the human voice alone.

Jazz Wednesdays Blues

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Blues is a Woman plays on May 15

On May 15, Blues is a Woman takes the stage. This ensemble of six talented musicians blurs the boundaries between concert and theater, using storytelling and music to bring to life the colorful history of the bold and singular women who wrote and popularized the blues. The voices of these women are vibrant, challenging, inspirational, and dynamic. 

Concerts are from 6 - 8 p.m. A full bar and buffet menu is available for purchase starting at 5 p.m. when doors open for dinner and social hour. Tickets are $25 in advance and $30 at the door. VIP tickets are $100 and include preferred seating, Meet & Greet with artists, and a signed CD. 

Reservations can be made at or by phone calling (800) 595-4849. 

[seven-degrees] is located at 891 Laguna Canyon Rd.

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Laguna Plein Air Painters Association’s “15th Annual Best of Plein Air” announces winners

LPAPA at Forest & Ocean Gallery hosted the opening reception for the “15th Annual Best of Plein Air” juried art show on Saturday, March 16. Guests sipped wine and enjoyed nibbling on a beautiful array of artisan cheeses, fruits, and sweets as they anxiously awaited the announcement of the six award-winning artists.

LPAPA’s Best of Plein Air is a special juried exhibition of original works of art created by Signature and Artist Members of the Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA). 286 entries were received for this prestigious show with jurors Daniel Marshall (Signature Member of LPAPA), Rosemary Swimm (LPAPA Executive Director), and Ludo Leideritz (Forest & Ocean Gallery Owner) choosing over 60 original framed paintings created by LPAPA Signature and Artist Members for the show’s coveted spots.

Laguna Plein lighthouse

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1st Place was awarded to LPAPA Artist Member Keiko Tanabe for “Hook Lighthouse, Ireland”

In addition to the usual awards, 1st, 2nd, 3rd and Honorable Mention, a new Peoples’ Choice award was introduced through a LPAPA Facebook Social Medium Campaign where individuals were given the opportunity to vote for their favorite painting.

All paintings are on exhibit at LPAPA In Residence located at the Forest & Ocean Gallery in Laguna Beach until March 24 or viewed online through LPAPA’s Best of Plein Air expanded online gallery at

Laguna Plein cove

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2nd Place was awarded to LPAPA Signature Member Anthony Salvo for  “Crystal Cove Shadow”

Laguna Plein glow

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3rd Place was awarded to LPAPA Signature Member Michael Obermeyer for “After Glow”

Laguna Plein towers

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Honorable Mention Award given to LPAPA Artist Member Bob Upton for “Waldorf Towers”

Laguna Plein Pasadena

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Peoples’ Choice Award given to LPAPA Signature Member Durree Waseem for “A Warm Day in Pasadena”

LPAPA was founded in 1996 with a mission to preserve Laguna Beach’s rich artistic legacy founded by early plein air artists and promote the tradition of plein air painting in our community, across the nation, and around the world. 

LPAPA is one of the best recognized and most respected plein air art associations in the world with a growing roster of more than 600 local, national and international artist members. In addition to providing opportunities for established and emerging artists to show their work, LPAPA has a strong commitment to education utilizing their Plein Air Project to benefit young and emerging artists and the greater community.

For show details, visit

LPAPA in Residence is at Forest & Ocean Gallery, 480 Ocean Ave. Hours are Tuesday through Friday and Sunday from 11 a.m. - 5 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. The gallery is closed on Mondays. 

Global Cinema at Susi Q returns April 2 with focus on conflicted communities

Global Cinema returns April 2 at 12:30 p.m. at Susi Q, offering mostly recent foreign films followed by discussion. Instructor Kathryn Kramer emphasizes selections with a compelling narrative structure based on character-driven plots.

The spring schedule aims to include:

--April 2: Worlds Apart, 2015, Greece, 113 min. Three stories unfold, each with another generation of Greeks involved with a foreigner (J. K. Simmons, for one).

Global Cinema book

--April 9: Dans la maison, 2012, France, 105 min. Francois Ozon adapts Juan Mayorga’s play about a student’s intrusion into a classmate’s life. Fabrice Luchini, Kristen Scott Thomas, and Emmanuelle Seigner play the adults.

--April 16: Ajami 2009, Israel, 124 min. Five stories about everyday life in Tel Aviv. The film won 15 awards.

--April 23: No, 2012, Chile, 2 hrs. In 1988, an ad man brings fresh marketing techniques to a referendum even his closest friends consider doomed. Stars Gael Garcia Bernal.

--April 30: Broken Embraces, 2010, Spain, 127 min. Wr/dir Almodovar; stars Penelope Cruz.

--May 7: Even the Rain, 2010, Bolivia, 103 min. Gael Garcia Bernal stars in this film that will transport you as it blends a fictional film crew with a real-life battle over water. 

Global Cinema Helicopter

--May 14: Elling, 2001, Norway, 89 min. A sheltered orphan must move to a state institution.

--May 21: A Woman in Berlin, 2008, Germany, 131 min. The Russians close in as the remaining inhabitants cope. Stars Nina Hoss.

--May 28: Winter in Wartime, 2008, Holland, 143 min. A quiet village gets involved with the Resistance.

--June 4: Hamlet 2, 2008, USA, 92 min. Comedian Steve Coogan plays a failed actor turned high school drama instructor who resurrects Hamlet as a Christ-figure in a politically-incorrect musical.

--June 11: The Whistleblower, 2010 Canada/Germany, 112 min. Biography of a peacekeeper in post-war Bosnia who uncovers corruption. Star Rachel Weisz.

Global Cinema scarf

--June 18: Diva, 1981, France, 117 min. Directed by Jean-Jacques Beneix, expect style over substance: “cinéma du look” is characterized by non-naturalistic, self-conscious aesthetics, notably intense colors and lighting effects. The loft is drenched in vivid blues, chase scenes a pink hue, the Diva’s rooms high-contrast, Kubrickian white.

Warning: Several films listed above contain violent scenes. 

The cost is $40 per person for 12 weeks; drop-in single classes are $5. Register at the front desk at Susi Q. Use the City of Laguna Beach registration forms with checks payable to the “City of Laguna Beach.”

Susi Q is located at 380 Third St. 

Laguna Beach Books presents author Ann Mah on April 7

On Sunday, April 7 at 4 p.m., Laguna Beach Books is pleased to welcome author Ann Mah. Ann will be discussing her most recent novel, The Lost Vintage. All are welcome and invited to join the discussion. 

To become one of only a few hundred certified wine experts in the world, Kate must pass the notoriously difficult Master of Wine examination. She’s failed twice before; her third attempt will be her last chance. 

When she suddenly finds herself without a job and with the test a few months away, she travels to Burgundy to spend the fall at the vineyard estate that has belonged to her family for generations. There she can bolster her shaky knowledge of Burgundian vintages and reconnect with her cousin Nico and his wife, Heather, who now oversee day-to-day management of the grapes. The one person Kate hopes to avoid is Jean-Luc, a talented young winemaker and her first love.

Laguna Beach Ann

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Ann Mah will discuss her most recent novel, “The Lost Vintage,” on April 7 at Laguna Beach Books

At the vineyard house, Kate is happy to help her cousin clean out the enormous basement that is filled with generations of discarded and forgotten belongings. Deep inside the cellar, behind a large armoire, she discovers a hidden room containing a cot, some Resistance pamphlets, and an enormous cache of valuable wine. 

Piqued by the secret space, Kate begins to dig into her family’s history – a search that takes her back to the dark days of World War II and introduces her to a relative she never knew existed, a great–half aunt who was a teenager during the Nazi occupation.

As she learns more about her family, the line between resistance and collaboration blurs, driving Kate to find the answers to two crucial questions: who, exactly, did her family aid during the difficult years of the war? And what happened to six valuable bottles of wine that seem to be missing from the cellar’s collection?

Ann Mah is a food and travel writer based in Paris and Washington DC. She is the author of the food memoir Mastering the Art of French Eating, and a novel, Kitchen Chinese. She regularly contributes to the New York Times’ Travel section and she has written for Condé Nast Traveler,,, Washingtonian magazine, and other media outlets.

For more information, call (949) 494-4779 or visit

Laguna Beach Books is located at 1200 South Coast Hwy.

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A vision of the tropics

A vision clouds

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Photo by Tom Berndt

Crystal blue clarity

CAP & LPAPA exhibit “Unexpected Places” through May 29

By M Charlie Ferrazzi 

“Unexpected Places” is an exhibit of juried works by Signature and Artist Members of Laguna Plein Air Painters Association (LPAPA). 

LPAPA Artists Val Carson, Toni Danchik, and Brandon Gonzales participated in the Artists’ Conversation that was recently held at The CAP Gallery. CAP President Laura Mayo was the moderator. The title is the general theme of the works. The works are the personal glimpses of the artists and what has caught their eye. It’s on exhibit through May 29.

When asked to explain “the process” each Artist used in creating their work, it was interesting to note some of the common elements. For all it was the initial impact and response to the site: the light, colour, shapes, and atmosphere. Being able to capture that and present it to the viewer was a driving force for each.

Sketches done on site, whether pencil lines or color samples, were key to the start of the process. Line sketches are good for placement and composition of the scenes and elements of the scene. Colour sketches become colour keys, or reference, for the colours seen at the particular time the Artists are at the site. These sketches can be completed works for later sale or can become part of a reference library, similar to an Artist’s sketchbook, and never be offered for sale or viewing.

CAP and LPAPA artist conveersation

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(L-R) Laura Mayo (President of CAP), Toni Danchik, Val Carson, Brandon Gonzales (LPAPA Artists), and Rosemary Swimm (Executive Director of LPAPA)

The “Conversation” was then opened up to the audience for a lively and informative question and answer session. Here are some of the questions and responses.

Do you stand or sit when you are painting?

All three Artists answered “stand.” The reason being that when working in impressionistic style, stepping back from the work allows the Artist to see the overall work and see if it is coming together compositionally and making sense. Working up close only makes the details obvious to the eye.

Carson’s reply revealed that she did more to this ‘easel exercise routine’ by keeping her turpentine on the floor so as not to knock it off the easel. This meant she also did quite a bit of the up and down along with the back and forth!

Do you take the painting home to touch up or finish in the studio?

Carson answered “sometimes” for touch-up. If the painting is a sketch for a larger piece or to block in the scene, then it is a reference piece.

Danchik answered no, since she uses the original small sketches for reference for pieces done in the studio. She frequently will have a small value sketch in an upper corner as a reminder of any detail that is important to the piece.

Gonzales said that it depended on whether it is a competition piece, which means no. Otherwise he will revisit the site if he feels the need for more information for the finished piece.

Do you take photographs of the site?

All three artists stated they do as a form of reference of what was at the scene and the placement of the elements. They don’t use the photos for the creation of their works. Since pretty much everyone carries a cell phone, it is handy to snap a quick pic for reference.

Is there any beauty of the mountains that drives you to head up there and paint, away from the local beauty of Laguna Beach and surrounds?

Carson has painted in the mountains and spent quite a bit of time there in the 1980s at the family’s Mammoth cabin, but not any longer. The views are tempting but when the temperature is below 39 degrees it is a no.

Danchik calls herself a “fair weather painter” and has never tried.

Gonzales loves the mountains and has been doing quite a bit of it lately. He has a special pair of gloves he has cut the fingertips off of so that he “can feel the brush against the canvas” while painting.

What do you feel about working with kids and painting?

Danchik replied it was “Amazing. It’s wonderful to see plein air Artists working with children. It is interesting to see the different personalities of the kids come out from the exposure. Kids learn so quickly!”

Carson got her teaching credentials after her Art degree and has taught for 20+ years. She “loves working with kids. They learn so fast and are decisive of what they want to do. They aren’t scared to try.” Her students range from 3 to 73-years-old.

Gonzales currently teaches at LCAD. He has created a plein air curriculum for the Game Art division students. To introduce them to working in the open air and outdoors: completely different from the digital world they are studying.

What Artists do you look up to?

For Danchik it is the early California painters.

Carson was “raised on Mozart and Manet and later learned about the California Impressionists when she moved to California from Arizona. John Asaro is another, but I am in awe of Art and Artists.”

Gonzales chooses “Richard Schmidt and Sargent, but also others as he discovers them, their Art and approach.”

A last question: For inspiration while creating, do you listen to music or something else?

Gonzales listens to music in the studio, but outdoors it is the smells, breeze, light and atmosphere: the desire to absorb all the sensory elements of the site.

Carson is similar to Gonzales. On the rare occasion she will play classical music in the studio.

Danchik prefers being alert to her surroundings outdoors. She tells of the time she was out painting alone at Niguel Lake, listening to music and having a great time. Suddenly she realized it was dark! She packed her car to leave and found she had a dead battery. She only had enough cell battery to call her husband and Auto Club. All turned out well, but it was a lesson learned.

The “Unexpected Placesexhibit runs through May 29 at The CAP Gallery at 260 Ocean Ave, Second floor, Wells Fargo Bank. The free event is open to the public.

For more information, visit

Laguna’s hidden gem Hortense Miller Garden hosts open house on March 30

On Saturday, March 30 from 10 a.m. - 4 p.m., Hortense Miller Garden will host an open house. This hidden gem features a 2.5-acre garden with over a dozen unique trails and a pristine Mid-Century Modern home built by Knowlton Fernald in 1958 on the slope of Boat Canyon. 

Tucked under towering Torrey Pines, planted from one-gallon saplings in 1959, there are over 600 plant species in the garden of which about 150 are California natives. The wondrous variety of plantings gives the garden color and texture during every season. 

Laguna's hidden outside

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Garden tours will be offered during the free open house on March 30

The walls of glass of this home offer breathtaking ocean views. The original furnishings give the home a rare authenticity, fitting of a true Laguna artist. The Aviary Gallery features an exhibit of the original renderings of the home drawn by the architect in 1958. 

Continuous shuttle bus service and parking will be available from First Church of Christ Scientist at 635 High Dr starting at 10 a.m. The last bus departs for the garden at 3:20 p.m. There will be a free art workshop for children. Sack lunches are permitted and walking shoes are recommended. 

Lagunas hidden inside

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The house offers breathtaking ocean views and original furnishings 

Garden tours will be offered every hour and books on Hortense Miller, container gardens, and garden art will be available for sale.

No reservations are necessary for the open house and admission is free. Donations are gratefully accepted. 

For more information, visit or call (949) 244-2010.

Must see, FOA Fresh Faces 2019 exhibit runs
through May 24 

Summer is just around the corner and the Festival of Arts is excited to announce its newest exhibit, Fresh Faces 2019. Presenting the works of the 23 newly juried Festival artists, the exhibit showcases a wide range of mediums including painting, sculpture, photography, mixed media and more. 

Fresh Faces 2019 runs through May 24 at the Festival of Arts Third Floor Gallery at Wells Fargo Bank. The opening artist reception was a big hit for art enthusiasts last Saturday, March 9.

“We’re welcoming a larger number of first year exhibitors than in recent years and their exceptional work, along with our longtime exhibitors, will help create one of the most exciting years the Festival has ever seen,” Festival of Arts Marketing Director Sharbie Higuchi said.

Must see FOA Carrie Zeller

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Carrie Zeller is a new artist and is posing next to one of her pieces of work titled “Girl on Bus”

Fresh Faces 2019 showcases a fascinating look into the world of the innovative and fresh new artwork of 23 prestigious artists from Orange County. The artists and mediums being presented are Duncan Asper (Mixed Media), Echo Baker (Oils), Peggy Chang (Oils), Monica Edwards (Oils), Victor Fisher (Sculpture), Hugh Foster (Photography), Alice Gamez (Oils), JP Greenwood (Photography), Carol Heiman-Greene (Oils), Ricky Hill (Sculpture), Lyn Hiner (Acrylics), Baruch Kaufman (Jewelry), Lisa Kijak (Fiber Arts), Peter Levshin (Photography), Dana Lewis (Oils), Gemma Park (Jewelry), Bree Poort (Mixed Media), Janine Salzman (Mixed Media), Pegah Samaie (Oils), Christopher Paul Scardino (Mixed Media), Ken Sugimoto (Sculpture), Chifumi Uehara (Sculpture), and Carrie Zeller (Photography).

Must see FOA Group Photo

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(L-R) Phyllis Fisher, Scott Albert, Dana Lewis, Pegah Samaie, Carol Heiman-Green, Shakiba Hashemi, Christopher Scardino, and Victor Fisher

 “It is so very rewarding to witness the new artists, docents, long time exhibiting artists, Festival Board members, and the general public enthusiastically involved in a variety of discussions, a testament to the camaraderie that can develop in the local art culture,” said Pat Sparkuhl, Art Collection Specialist/Curator for Festival of Arts.

These exhibitors were recently juried into the Festival of Arts by a panel of six knowledgeable artists and/or art experts which included Scott Albert, watercolorist; Cathy Cobb, Art Director for Automobile Club of Southern California - Texas Journey and New Mexico Journey magazines; Jordan Dimitrov, sculptor; Mark Jacobucci, painter (alternate); Sarah Jesse, Deputy Director for Orange County Museum of Art; and Evan Senn, Gallery Curator at Golden West College and Art/Art History Instructor at Cal State University Fullerton, Golden West College, and Laguna College of Art and Design.

Must see FOA onlookers

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Onlookers enjoying a first glance at the FOA’s new artists show Fresh Faces

Fresh Faces 2019 is on exhibit through May 24 is at the Festival of Arts Third Floor Gallery at Wells Fargo Bank located at 260 Ocean Ave. It is part of an ongoing series of shows that the Festival of Arts will be holding at Wells Fargo. The building is open to the public Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. - 6 p.m. and Saturday from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Admission is free. 

The Festival of Arts is a nonprofit organization whose proceeds support the arts in and about Laguna Beach. For more information call (949) 494-1145 or visit

Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach Spring Social Skills Program starts on April 10

Do you want your child to have an edge socially going into the next school year? How about wanting to help your child or teen make and keep friends? Do you have a child who is shy or doesn’t quite understand social cues?

Led by Certified PEERS Facilitator and Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach Director of Social Emotional Development Jennifer MacDonell, M.A. Psychology, the Club presents its Program for the Education and Enrichment of Relational Skills (PEERS) to help children navigate and improve social skills and awareness.

The 8-week Peers Program begins on Wednesdays, April 10 and runs through May 8 at the Laguna Canyon Branch. The program is designed for children in second through six grades and their parent/caregiver and is $100. Scholarships are available. 

Boys and Girls MacDonnell

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Jennifer MacDonnel

PEERS is an 8-week evidence-based, social skills intervention for motivated pre-middle and middle school youth who are interested in learning ways to help them make and keep friends. During each group session youth are taught important social skills and are given the opportunity to practice these skills in session during socialization activities (e.g. playing sports, board games, etc.).

An additional benefit is that children/teens enrolled obtain a short-term membership to the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach Canyon Branch during the 8-week duration of the program and can attend any time during club operating hours.

To register: 

--First, call the Boys & Girls Club at (949) 715-7786 or email Jennifer MacDonell at

This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. to express your interest in PEERS for your child.

--Partake in a 15-minute intake call with Jennifer MacDonell to determine if our program is appropriate for you and your child/teen. 

--Receive a phone call within 48 hours and email verifying acceptance into program.

--Obtain paperwork for program enrollment sent out via email or pick up at 1085 Laguna Canyon Rd. Note: all paperwork must be completed prior to the start of the program. 

--Enrollment and payment (in full) deadline: two days prior to start of program on April 8 at 6 p.m.

Group times are from: 

--3 - 3:50 p.m. 2nd & 3rd grade

--4 - 4:50 p.m. 4th, 5th & 6th grade

--5 - 5:45 p.m. Parent/Guardian Group for all parents (one parent/guardian per child)

--5:45 - 6 p.m. Reunification with all parents and children (group game)

Note: participants may be placed in a group based on developmental abilities and group dynamics regardless of grade in school. Group instruction is provided in English. 

Guidelines are as following: 

--Limited to one child/teen and one parent/guardian per group for the 8 weeks. Note: if an additional parent would like to sit in a group, they can fill in for the parent enrolled for one or two sessions maximum. 

--Only one parent/guardian is allowed to attend per session, as it is not a couples/co-parenting group and the group leader is focused on the material for social skills to support the youth.

--Regular attendance is required! A parent/guardian is required to attend all sessions. If parent/youth misses more than one session, both are un-enrolled for the rest of the program series and there will be a no refund due to dismissal from the program.

--Classes are on Wednesdays between 3 - 6 p.m. depending on grade noted above.

Boys and Girls kids

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Kids enjoying a day in the life at the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach

Pre and post-tests will be given to youth and parents for outcome measures to ensure the quality of the program. Also, group placement is determined at intake appointment and based on group dynamics.

Peer Program goals include:

--How to make and keep friends!

--Entering conversations: How to start, enter, and exit conversations between peers. 

--Trading information: How to use appropriate conversational skills.

--How to handle rejection, teasing, rumors/gossip, and cyber conversations. 

The following book is highly recommended to purchase, but not required for participation: The Science of Making Friends: Helping Socially Challenged Teens and Young Adults (w/DVD) by Elizabeth Laugeson.

Enrollment is limited. For more information, contact Jennifer MacDonell at (949) 715-7786 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. as soon as possible.

Boys & Girls Club Laguna Canyon Branch is located at 1085 Laguna Canyon Rd. 

LBUMC presents “Messy Church” on Sunday

“Build labyrinths and prepare to be ‘A-maze-D,” says Barbara Crowley, as she invites people of all ages to attend Messy Church at Laguna Beach United Methodist Church. The monthly event will be held between 4 and 6 p.m. on Sunday, March 24. 

Crowley continues, “Lent is a time for personal journeys. Where have you been? Where are you going? What signs and milestones have you recognized or overlooked? Do you need a compass?  Explore paths less traveled to Messy Church and experience joyful worship for all ages.”

LBUMC presents sign

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Courtesy of Facebook

The community is invited to LBUMC for “Messy Church” on Sunday

Messy Church welcomes individuals and families who are not comfortable in a conventional church setting. In addition to the “a-maze-ing” activities, a meal will be served. 

A RSVP is appreciated, but not required. To RSVP or for more information, contact the church at (949) 499-3088 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 LBUMC is located at 21632 Wesley Dr, up the hill from Gelson’s Shopping Center.

City Manager’s Updates

Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce to Host Annual State of the City Luncheon – The Laguna Beach Chamber of Commerce will host its annual “State of the City” luncheon on Thursday, May 2, from 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m. at the Montage Laguna Beach, 30801 South Coast Hwy.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen and city officials will present the State of the City address. The luncheon is sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce and provides attendees a great opportunity to get an up-close look at city activities, recent highlights from the past 12 months, and city goals for the near future. 

To reserve tickets or for more information, call (949) 494-1018 or visit

City Managers Bob

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Mayor Bob Whalen and City officials will present State of the City address

Public Invited to Take Community Development Department Questionnaire – If you have recently interacted with the City of Laguna Beach Community Development Department, you are invited to take a new customer service questionnaire about your experience. This questionnaire is a tool to help the city enhance customer service, streamline development approval procedures, enhance training, and target staffing to improve project turnaround times as part of the new Community Development Department action plan. 

Take the survey here. 

Job Opportunity – The Community Services Department seeks enthusiastic individuals interested in working on a seasonal part-time basis as a Summer Pool Lifeguard/Swim Instructor or Community Services Leader (Summer Pool Cashier). Applications will be accepted online until April 5. Qualified candidates for the Lifeguard/Swim Instructor position must be 15 years of age and in possession of a certification from the American Red Cross in Lifeguarding by May 27, 2019. Applicants under the age of 18 will need a valid work permit from their school upon hire.

Applications are available at

For more information, contact Tierney Doran, Aquatics Coordinator, at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.or (949) 497-0788.

Community Assistance Grants – The Community Assistance Grant program is available to nonprofit organizations that provide special services to residents of Laguna Beach. The objective of this program is to assist local organizations in funding new projects and/or expanded services within our community. Additional information can be found on the City’s website at To be considered for a grant, applications must be submitted electronically by Friday, March 22, at 4:30 p.m. 

Contact Adam Gufarotti, Senior Recreation Supervisor, at (949) 497-0304 for more information.

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