few clouds


Laguna Beach


Moonstruck city

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Photo by Scott Brashier

A city bathed in moonglow

Congressman Harley Rouda and wife Kaira visit PMMC

Congressman Harley Rouda and wife Kaira, along with members of the Rouda team, visited with Pacific Marine Mammal Center on Thursday, Aug 15. 

After touring the facility and visiting with PMMC patients, staff, and volunteers, Congressman Rouda presented the PMMC team with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition, which read:

In recognition of your dedication to Pacific marine life and perseverance in the mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and release.”

Pacific Marine group

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Submitted photo

Harley Rouda along with his wife Kaira and members from his team visit PMMC

Congressman Rouda is a committed voice for combatting climate change and animal welfare. That was clearly expressed during his visit. His support was genuine as was his enthusiasm for our mission and programs. It was a memorable and uplifting experience to have him here with us,” stated PMMC CEO Peter Chang. 

Pacific Marine Mammal Center was the first marine mammal rehabilitation facility in California. PMMC is the only marine mammal rescue facility in Orange County and is responsible for 52 miles of coastline. 

Pacific Marine feeding

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Submitted photo

Harley and Kaira Rouda feed seals at PMMC

PMMC rescues, rehabilitates, and releases marine mammals and inspires ocean stewardship through research, education, and collaboration. PMMC is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization. For more information, visit

PMMC is located at 20612 Laguna Canyon Rd.

Boys & Girls Club of LB partners with OCCF to host Greatness Amplified giving day on Aug 21

On Wednesday, Aug 21, the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach will partner with the Orange County Community Foundation (OCCF) and 14 fellow Orange County Boys & Girls Clubs to host the second annual Greatness Amplified, a Giving Day for Boys & Girls Clubs in Orange County. Greatness Amplified is a 24-hour online fundraising effort that aims to raise $200,000.

Greatness Amplified is part of a bold initiative by OCCF to boost the capacity of local nonprofits through a series of Collaborative Giving Days. Nonprofits with shared missions are invited to come together to boost collective giving for their causes. 

OCCF will power the Greatness Amplified campaign with seed funding to support the marketing assets, campaign resources, and collaborative partnerships. 

“We are grateful for the opportunity to work with the Orange County Community Foundation and other Orange County Boys & Girls Clubs to raise funds for our kids,” states Pam Estes, CEO of the Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach.

Boys & Girls sign

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Submitted photo

Club Member Axl holding a Greatness Amplified sign

The 15 organizations participating in Greatness Amplified include Boys & Girls Clubs in Anaheim, Brea-Placentia-Yorba Linda, Buena Park, Capistrano Valley, Central Orange Coast, Cypress, Fullerton, Garden Grove, Huntington Valley, Laguna Beach, La Habra, South Coast Area, Stanton, Tustin, and Westminster.

OCCF first challenged Orange County residents to “give where their heart lives” during the inaugural iheartoc Giving Day in 2015, raising more than $1.8 million through gifts to 347 participating nonprofits in just 30 hours. 

OCCF nearly doubled those results in 2016 during the second annual iheartoc Giving Day, receiving contributions totaling $3.2 million for 418 participating nonprofits. 

In 2017, OCCF re-envisioned iheartoc as an expanded opportunity for nonprofits to connect with one another in support of their shared missions. The seven Giving Days held throughout 2018 raised a total of $1.4 million for local organizations.

“Last year, our generous community went above and beyond to make Greatness Amplified a success,” said Shelley Hoss, president, OCCF. “We are proud to continue encouraging collaboration among local organizations as they help Orange County children unlock their full potentials.”

To give online, visit Additional collaborative Giving Days will be announced throughout the year. For more information, visit

For over 65 years, The Boys & Girls Club strives to support the youth of Laguna Beach through out of school recreation that celebrates the whole child. 

For more information about The Boys & Girls Club of Laguna Beach, visit or call (949) 494-2535.

OC Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett and Supervisor Andrew Do spearhead program to boost local small businesses

Starting September 1, Orange County-based small businesses will be first in line as they compete for hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts issued by the county government.

“We are always striving to make Orange County a great place to live, work, and play,” said Chairwoman Bartlett. “This addition to our procurement process will give our local and small businesses more opportunities to work directly with the County by providing services and products that further enhance the Orange County economy, producing local jobs and adding to our quality of life.”

OC Supervisor Andrew Do and Chairwoman Lisa Bartlett updated the county’s procurement process to engage local small businesses and expand opportunities for minority and women-owned businesses. County supervisors unanimously approved the first-ever “Local Small Business Preference Program” at its August 13 board meeting.

OC Chairwoman bookstore

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Photo by Stacia Stabler

Laguna Beach Books and many more local businesses are part of the unique HIP District 

“We’re making it easier for small businesses to do business with the county,” said OC Supervisor Andrew Do, a former small business owner. “This policy keeps Orange County tax dollars in Orange County. Our goal is to create an open and accessible process that delivers the best value for taxpayers.”

Orange County joins numerous other governments in adopting a preference policy for procurements – Los Angeles, San Diego, Riverside, San Bernardino, Sacramento, and Imperial Counties are some of the many that offer preference programs in their procurement policies. Orange County oversees a $6 billion budget covering public safety, parks, homeless services, mental health programs, child protective services, and many more areas.

“By working with OC small businesses, we’re reinvesting our tax dollars back into our community, creating more job opportunities, and continued economic prosperity for Orange County,” said Supervisor Do. 

According to a report from the U.S. Small Business Administration released last year, 3.9 million small business in California created jobs for over 7 million employees. As the third largest populated county in California, and the sixth largest in the country, by 2011, Orange County had 86,473 small businesses registered. 

For more information, contact Supervisor Andrew Do’s office at (714) 834-3110, or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint planned for this weekend

Laguna Beach Police Department will be conducting a DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint on Saturday, Aug 17 between the hours of 9 p.m. to 2:30 a.m.   

DUI Checkpoints like this one are placed in locations based on collision statistics and frequency of DUI arrests. Officers will be looking for signs of alcohol and/or drug impairment, with officers checking drivers for proper licensing.

LBPD reminds drivers that “DUI Doesn’t Just Mean Booze.” If you take prescription drugs, particularly those with a driving or operating machinery warning on the label, you might be impaired enough to get a DUI. Marijuana can also be impairing, especially in combination with alcohol or other drugs, and can result in a DUI.

DUI Drivers License car

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Courtesy of LBPD

LBPD will conduct a DUI/Drivers License Checkpoint on Saturday 

In 2017, 1,120 people were killed in alcohol-involved crashes on California roads. 

Laguna Beach Police Department offers these reminders to ensure you have a safe night of fun that doesn’t involve a DUI:

--Always use a designated sober driver – a friend who is not drinking, ride-share, cab, or public transportation – to get home.

--See someone who is clearly impaired try and drive? Take the keys and help them make other arrangements to find a sober way home.

--Report drunk drivers – Call 911.

--Hosting a party? Offer nonalcoholic drinks. Monitor who’s drinking and how they are getting home. 

Getting home safely is cheap, but getting a DUI is not! Drivers caught driving impaired and charged with DUI can expect the impact of a DUI arrest to be upwards of $13,500. 

Funding for this DUI operation is provided to the Laguna Beach Police Department by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

For further information, contact Lieutenant Tim Kleiser at (949) 464-6655 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Guest Column

Keys to releasing negative emotional patterns for good (and why yoga isn’t always enough)

Dr. Vidya Reddy

Hello and welcome to the happiness corner, this week all about ridding ourselves of negative states of being.   

Like so many people in the world of yoga, natural healing, and meditation, my initial draw to these arts was rooted in a deep-seated desire to become “happy.” 

“Surely if I find a guru, all my problems will be solved.” 

“If I do yoga every day, I will become emotionally balanced.” 

“If I eat right, everything else will fall into place.” 

These are all routes I’ve traveled down with varying degrees of success. While the aforementioned activities have been wonderful for my overall health, it often felt like the results were short-lived. I would teach or go to a yoga class, feel great, then find myself wandering back into the same dark places of negativity and self-criticism I struggled with for many years. I was beyond frustrated and didn’t know what to do to create the emotional peace I was so desperately seeking. 

The truth is that I was falling back into physical and mental patterns without even realizing it, and one activity alone was not enough to change this.

Then one day, it happened. I finally pieced together the four keys to long-lasting happiness and mastery over our emotional state. Our happiness need not be a prisoner to the circumstances that life is offering and should be ushered back into the realms of our control and responsibility, stat. Nothing is more frustrating than feeling hopeless about our negative emotional patterns, and that’s why I’d like to share these concepts – because we all deserve to shine.

Please note, these tips are not magical pills we can take to solve all our problems. They are tools that serve to guide us on the path to getting and staying awesome, healthy, and happy – that is, if we so choose. The power is in our hands. If you would like more information, techniques and meditation on happiness, please refer to my podcast: 

So here they are – the four keys to releasing our negative emotional patterns: Prakruti, Perception, Posture, Progress.


Prakruti is a Sanskrit word used to describe your constitution at birth. Each mind-body type of vata, pitta, and kapha has different requirements to achieve balance, and come with emotional markers to let us know what is in and out of balance. 


Healthy: free flowing, spontaneous, unattached, the creative 

Unhealthy: anxious, fearful, unable to make choices, constant waffling 


Healthy: committed, focused, inquisitive, the team leader 

Unhealthy: critical, angry, fanatical, bullheaded


Healthy: generous, loving, compassionate, the caregiver 

Unhealthy: lethargic, attached, greedy, unyielding

Correct understanding of your constitutional needs is like having the manual to your car – with it, everything is obvious, so you don’t make silly mistakes like pouring coolant into the wrong tank. But trying to figure out even simple things, without the manual can be beyond frustrating, like “where is my fuse box?” or “what does that light on my dashboard mean?!”

To save ourselves some stress and confusion, learn about these concepts and apply them to your diet and lifestyle to help you achieve balance.

The takeaway: Never underestimate the power of diet and lifestyle to seriously mess you up.

Keys to doctor

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Photo by Johnny Antezana

Dr. Vidya Reddy


Our experience of the world has little to do with what is actually happening, and everything to do with how we interpret it. What does that mean practically, and how can we use that to our advantage?

The only thing we can control in life is our response – period.

We can’t control the wind or rain or snow or sun, but we can control whether we moan and complain about it or revel in its wild glory. We can’t control if someone cuts us off in rush hour traffic, but we can control whether we start cursing and honking, or simply shrug it off and continue in a peaceful state.

So how can we learn to harness this and use it to feel better? First of all, it is critical to understand why we perceive things the way we do. Everyone has an emotional home, and we manipulate our perception of the world to help us go there.

It might be time to change your address.

What does that mean? It means that every person has an emotional state they return to frequently because it is familiar and fulfills a need. That emotional home directly colors our perception so that we can easily get back to where we feel “comfortable.” The way we perceive things is directly connected to where our mind wants to go to feel safe. It might sound crazy and strange, but by golly, it’s the truth.

Mine used to be fear, and then it became anger. There was a time of my life where I spent the majority of my waking hours in a constant state of anxiety. “What if” was the dominant precursor to all of my thoughts, and my brain became quite good at sending me into extreme states of distress by focusing on all the bad things that could possibly happen. This was further propelled by my incessant intake of unhealthy food and a lack of sleep that led me into a state of being Kapha deranged and mentally and to a certain extent, physically depleted.

What happened next was I started to become angry. Fear is an emotion of uncertainty, and anger is extremely certain, so I used anger to manage my fear. I was tired of being scared and uncertain, and at some point, my brain figured that anger was an effective way to overcome uncertainty. So, I got pissed.

How did I get here? Through my perception.

It was not a good pattern and certainly not one I recommend to anyone. But the truth is this: I unwittingly chose to interpret events in a way that would lead me back to an emotional home that was fulfilling a need that wasn’t being met. We do it all the time and paying attention to the way we interpret events can provide powerful insight into what our emotional needs really are. It is also an opportunity to tease fact from fiction.

Every emotion we generate is our brain’s attempt to meet a need, and we must learn to untangle habits from helpful, reaction from reasoning, and perception from reality.

Keys to angel wings

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Photo by Pieter Baetens

The only thing we can control in life is our response 

We have two choices: change our perception or change our response. I am not telling you to ignore your perception, because we need this to help us make good choices. What I am saying is we must learn to discriminate bad patterns from real warning signs.

Is your partner consistently letting you down? You have to figure out if it’s because they are not the one for you, or if it’s because you are putting unreasonable expectations on them. Does them not returning your call mean they don’t care about you? Or does it mean that they are stressed out because their workload is overwhelming? That is for you to determine and decide and understanding how your perception colors your judgment is a powerful tool for making decisions from a place of clarity rather than confusion.


Can I let you in on a secret? Posture plays a tremendous role in how we feel. This is a major reason why regular exercise is critical to a healthy emotional state, as it gives us the muscle tone to have the upright, open posture of confidence we so greatly desire.

Posture is a powerful tool for putting us into emotional states, negative or positive.

Here’s what I mean: if I asked you to mimic a depressed person, what would you do? Slump your shoulders. Angry person? Wide eyes, tense jaw, open chest, clenched fists. Happy person? Smiling face, relaxed shoulders, receptive posture. Do we smile because we are happy, or are we happy because we smile? While this might feel like a chicken/egg question, research has shown that we can trigger emotional states through actions like smiling or frowning.

If you find yourself struggling with repeated emotional patterning, it’s likely you are struggling with physical patterning as well.

Our posture is intimately connected to our emotional state, and that’s awesome. Why? Because we can use posture to help achieve the emotional state we want. Start paying attention to the posture you choose when going into a negative spiral, and radically change it. Feeling angry? Shake it like a Polaroid picture and let that tension go! Feeling sad? Put the biggest, most ridiculous grin on your face and force yourself to laugh.

Sound and look crazy? Who cares! What’s even crazier is living your life in a state of misery when you could be living in bliss.


To really feel happy in life, we don’t need perfection – what we really need is progress.

If achieving one goal was enough to feel happy, we’d all still be walking around with huge grins because of that “Spelling Bee Champion” award we got in the third grade. Achieving a goal is never the end destination; it is the progress along the way that provides us with fulfillment and lasting satisfaction.

It’s okay to make mistakes. In fact, if we’re not making mistakes, we’re living life way too cautiously and in a tight-knit bubble. Mistakes are our greatest teachers, so don’t avoid them, seek them out and immerse yourself in their teachings. This is where the juiciest lessons in life live. Slumps and dumps come from feeling stagnant and less so from being wrong. So set some goals, learn something new, and keep going. You got this!

So, please keep doing yoga – it won’t solve all of your problems, but it will help your body and mind relax so you can achieve positive mental states. Which is what we’re all after, isn’t it? 

In Peace, Love and Gratitude. 

‘Til next time. 

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

Laguna Beach Police Department Leadership Academy provides foundation for future leaders


Photos by Mary Hurlbut

During the past week, 15 Orange County teens took part in an intensive five-day 

Laguna Beach Police Department (LBPD) Teen Leadership Academy (TLA), culminating with a commencement ceremony. The first annual TLA was held from Monday, Aug 5 through Friday, Aug 9 at Laguna Beach High School. Led by LBPD Cpl. Cornelius Ashton, teens entering 9th through 12th grade were invited to attend this free class. Laguna Beach residency was not required.

Cpl. Ashton said, “The mission of the Teen Leadership Academy was to provide a well-rounded foundation of education for future leaders. Through a variety of classes, interaction and guest speakers, students were introduced to fundamental leadership principles designed to enable them to become effective teenage leaders and eventual adult leaders in their communities. This was not a class for students to learn how to become police officers, although there was an opportunity to learn about some law enforcement topics. 

“We were looking for teens interested in making a difference in their community and who are seeking personal growth. Some hours of the Teen Leadership Academy may satisfy community service hours for high school graduation.”

Laguna Beach Ashton

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Cpl. Ashton instructs the class on the Run, Hide, Fight Protocol

Inspiration for TLA

Through the inspiration of Cpl. Ashton and the joint effort of the LBPD team and several outside resources, the TLA came to fruition.

Cpl. Ashton continues, “The LBPD Teen Leadership Academy came to me as vision inspired by the personal struggles I endured growing up as a child, the adversity I faced as a teen, coupled with what I currently see teens struggle with in today’s climate. Most police organizations have a teen academy that focuses on law enforcement functions; however, I felt having a teen academy that focuses on leadership and building a strong internal foundation for teens through empowerment, education, and self-reflection would be more beneficial. I met with Cpt. Jeffrey Calvert who was open to the idea. Through collaborative input from our LBPD team, we felt it would be beneficial to help teens with understanding leadership traits, life skills, and what it means to serve others and why. Community Service Officer Natasha Hernandez played a major role in organizing the TLA and bringing in different organizations to support it. LBPD non-sworn personnel Mona Roberts and Chris Shin worked diligently with CSO Hernandez and me as support staff over the five-day period.” 

Laguna Beach run hide

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Teens running to hide

Intensity continues 

“Our goal was to have leaders not only give presentations to teens on various topics but also share their story on what struggles they endured and sacrifices they had to make to find success in their lives and the lessons learned. 

“The academy was very intense because it involved continuous projects, collaboration with one another, team-building exercises, and self-reflection. As the days progressed, the teens began to see many similarities in the presenters’ stories and began to develop an understanding of not only what leadership is but what being a leader entails. We noticed the teens began to develop a camaraderie that is seen in high-functioning teams. They worked together in unison, offered individual input, and supported one another during various tasks.” 

Lessons learned 

There was a wide variety of valuable input from internal and outside sources:

--Teens learned presentation techniques, interviewing skills, and resume building from Youth Employment Services (YES). 

--Teens learned about financial literacy from Wells Fargo Bank personnel and received mental health awareness training from LBUSD Counselor Ms. Alex Aronson. 

--The TLA learned about implicit bias from Dr. Peter Levi from the Anti-Defamation League. 

Laguna Beach two policemen

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(L-R) Cpl. Gensemer and Detective Ocampo speak to class

--Cpl. Farris presented to the TLA on homelessness in Laguna Beach and how he uses empathy and compassion to help our homeless. 

--The Academy visited the OC Food Bank and packed over 280 boxes of food for families in need. 

--Teens took part in team-building exercises, learning kayaking in Laguna Beach with La Vida Laguna and, through a visit to the LA Chargers training facility, they worked through obstacle courses and met pro football players. 

--LBFD and LB Lifeguards met with TLA and taught them curbside CPR. Teens participated in a beach cleanup with the Laguna Ocean Foundation.

--The TLA visited the Museum of Tolerance and learned about the importance of accepting others from all walks of life, being kind, and accepting towards others. 

--They learned about personal safety, destructive decisions, and received a presentation from Mothers Against Drunk Drivers (MADD). 

--Teens learned Run, Hide, Fight protocol – Run: evacuate if possible. Hide: hide silently in a safe place. Fight: take action to disrupt the shooter only if there are no alternative responses and your life is in imminent danger. Teens were provided with classroom instruction and a mock lockdown drill scenario.

--LBPD personnel continuously checked in with TLA throughout the five days and offered ongoing support to the teens. 

TLA changed lives

What was the takeaway from this extraordinary and diverse experience? 

Cpl. Ashton said, “Teens were tasked with presenting on what they learned from the TLA to LBPD staff and parents during a graduation ceremony. The theme most teens stated during their presentation was that the TLA changed their lives and they feel more confident in who they are, and that they now understand why building relationships are important. They understood that fear, stress, anxiety, hardships, and uncertainty is normal and now they feel empowered as if they could and accomplish anything in life.” 

Laguna Beach shirt

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Further instruction by LBPD Staff 

“They spoke about leadership traits and that it is about serving others, asking for support when needed, setting differences aside, and being an example of how you want others to be through compassion, empathy, and positivity. Chief Farinella and LBPD personnel surprised teens with a pancake breakfast, and she shared with teens her journey through life and lessons she learned to understand leadership and find success.”

Cpl. Aston admits that it took a tremendous amount of help from the LBPD and the community to offer this training for teens.

“Special thanks to LBUSD leadership for supporting the TLA and providing a classroom and supplies. This undertaking could not be possible without the support of progressive thinking leaders in our community. And more special thanks to the following personnel for volunteering their time at this event: Chief Farinella, Captains Calvert, Kravetz and Rocchi, Sergeants Cota, Ramos, McGill and White, Corporals Farris and Gensemer, Detectives Ocampo and Butterfield, Officers Milot, Short, Michaud, Bitonti and Yeilding, Emergency Manager Jordan Villwock, volunteer Mona Roberts, and Cadet Shin.

“This year, we had 15 teens attend and they were very excited and expressed on numerous occasions that the TLA had a positive impact on their lives. Some teens were Laguna Beach residents and others were from Irvine, Tustin, and Mission Viejo. Due to the positive feedback from teens and parents, the LBPD TLA will return to Laguna Beach. The dates are soon to be determined,” says Cpl. Ashton. 

A Manhattan legacy comes to life in SoLag’s “The Drake”

By Diane Armitage

When he was a teenager, Alec Glasser spent three summers working at the Drake Hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Because his family didn’t want him traveling back and forth to their home in Queens, they negotiated a sweet deal: He was allowed to live at the hotel.

It was three summers more than 40 years ago, but the Drake left a lasting impression on the teenager, even after it was demolished in 1987. 

“When you walked in the Drake lobby, there was a dining room on one side with wonderful blues piano players, and on the other side, a club called Shepheard’s that was always rocking with blues and R&B,” says Glasser. 

“I grew up in that hotel. It was the essence of hospitality, a collaboration of great food and great music,” he adds. 

Fast forward to August 2019, and we find Glasser working to bring the Drake Hotel experience back to life in the old Tabu Grill space. He and his team are just weeks away from opening their new restaurant, The Drake Laguna Beach.

A Manhattan concrete

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Photo by Diane Armitage

With “only furnishings to go,” The Drake team hopes to open by the end of August

Fast work to be done in three weeks

While the space is beginning to take shape, there is still a great deal of work to be done. We walk on concrete floors, stepping around leaning ladders and piles of lumber, but Glasser doesn’t mind. In his eyes, he’s already looking at the immaculate finished product. He couldn’t be more buoyant.

When she’s completed, The Drake will be nothing short of “swank.”

A Manhattan inside

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Courtesy of Drake Laguna Beach

A rendering of the future Drake dining room. Between lounge, dining room, and patio, The Drake will seat up to 89 patrons.

Music seven nights a week

After a three-year approval and permitting process, The Drake expanded into the building’s end unit, which was a separate retail space next to the Tabu restaurant. From the outside, it doesn’t look like much of a gain. On the inside, however, it has added a surprisingly roomy bar/lounge that will – in three weeks – house a grand piano. 

The dining room is stamped in the original Tabu footprint, including the L-shaped bar that will, again, allow patrons to engage with the chefs as they complete and plate their dishes. The dining room will feature a stage for live music as well. 

The Drake plans to offer live music seven nights a week. It will start in the lounge and, at about 9 p.m., move to the dining room.

From Austria to SoLag

I ask about meeting the chefs. 

Director of Operations Matthew Timmes points to two men scrubbing away at the newly installed windows. 

“We’re doing whatever it takes to get open,” says Chef Paul Gstrein. “We’re ready to cook!”

Small wonder at his impatience – Chef Paul has been on board since May 10th and thinking about The Drake’s menu ever since. 

Most recently the chef of Bayside in Promontory Point, Chef Paul first arrived in Orange County in 1988 to helm the expansion of Bistango. 

Orange County is quite a distance from Chef’s original culinary roots in Austria. After growing up in a family-owned hotel and restaurant business, he finished culinary school in Innsbruck and made a beeline for the States at the age of 21.

He worked in several renowned chefs’ kitchens, eventually landing at Bistango in Los Angeles in 1985, the restaurant that would eventually lead to Chef Paul’s new kitchen in South Laguna Beach.

Food shared, music shared

To co-helm The Drake, Chef Paul turned to the chef he trusted most – his son, Nick Gstrein. As the family’s ancestral line goes, Nick also grew up in his father’s kitchen in the L.A.-based Bistango. 

A Manhattan guys

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Photo by Diane Armitage

The Drake Team: (L-R) Sous Chef Nick Gstrein, Executive Chef Paul Gstrein, Director of Operations Matthew Timmes, Principal Owner Alec Glasser

The two give me a 20-second tour of the tiny kitchen and, then, we get to the meat of the matter: the menu. 

“We’re primarily going with smaller dishes so that people can order a few and share. Then, we have a few larger items that are designed for sharing, too,” says Chef Nick.

He gives me 20 seconds to look at The Drake menu on his iPhone and snatches it away with a grin. 

It’s a fun, inviting menu with small plate items such as Hamachi Tartare and Short Rib Ragu giving way to three large shareables that include a 32-ounce Bone-in Ribeye.

“Our menu isn’t a formal affair,” says Chef Paul.

“We designed these dishes to partner with the energy and flow of the live music. It really is about the collaboration of the two.”

For more information, visit or follow the restaurant on Facebook at

The best-selling author and blogger on The Best of Laguna Beach, Diane Armitage is on an endless quest for the most imaginative adventures in Laguna’s restaurants, events and lifestyle. Check out more details on The Drake, as well as other stories and favorite events, at

La Playa Center seeks volunteers and students to help bridge cultural gap in community


La Playa Center has been around for 24 years, and even though La Playa students, children, and teachers march in the Patriots Day Parade, some residents may not be aware of what they have to offer. La Playa Center is a free ESL school operating in the Boys & Girls Club on Laguna Canyon Road. The center operates during the regular school year Monday through Thursday from 9:30 a.m. until 11 a.m., offering three levels – beginning, intermediate, and advanced – of English instruction taught by volunteer teachers. As an extra incentive and wonderful bonus, free childcare and free textbooks are provided to students. The new school year starts on September 16.

South County Crosscultural Council

La Playa Center is part of the South County Crosscultural Council, which is dedicated to helping neighbors bridge their cultural differences in order to benefit the entire community. It’s a two-prong organization – the other component is the Laguna Day Worker Center. 

This week, I met with the Chairman of the Board of Directors and co-founder of the South County Crosscultural Council and Friendship Shelter, David Peck, who has been a resident of Laguna Beach since 1978; La Playa Co-Director Bonnie Teder, a retired music educator, music therapist, and volunteer ESL instructor; La Playa Co-Director Janet Waters, a retired English teacher and district coordinator for English Learner programs and volunteer ESL instructor; and Joana McFarland, a Peace Corps volunteer for two years in the Dominican Republic, and one year with NGO in Guatemala working with women’s craft cooperatives. She has been an ESL teacher at La Playa since its inception.

La Playa coffee

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Submitted photo

Gathering for coffee 

In 1996 La Playa’s volunteer teachers began instructing students in the Sunday school space at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and eventually moved to the current location at the Boys & Girls Club. Beyond offering literacy classes, La Playa also collaborates with the Boys & Girls Club preschool on workshops dealing with child development and family health issues. Some of their students are parents of those who attend pre-school there – younger children are watched during class time by two paid childcare attendants. This is a major factor for ESL students, as some have no one to watch their children during class. 

During the school year, there is open enrollment and students may come and go as required by job or home situations and moving from one level to another is self-determined.

Both Waters and Teder explain that the classrooms, which are kept small with five to six students, become a community through conversations about children and networking. Smaller classes put less pressure on both teachers and students.

Many different languages

Peck says, “This last year, we had eight different languages including Hungarian, Russian, Japanese, and Taiwanese.”

“All of the classes are taught in English and there is a wide range of abilities,” says Teder. “Sometimes students begin with the alphabet, and students help other students.”

(During the school year, at an event held at Laguna Presbyterian Church, students read pieces they’ve written.)

The textbooks (English in Action) are purchased with grants since the program is free. However, each year the students give back by making tamales to sell at the Presbyterian Church during Hospitality Night the first Friday in December, and the proceeds go toward the textbooks. The church offers their kitchen, and it takes the students three mornings to assemble the tamales. 

Peck says, “There’s always a line to buy them on Hospitality Night.” 

La Playa graduation

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Submitted photo

(L-R) Fatema Fakhreddine, Cal State Fullerton student intern; Iris Tsal, La Playa Intermediate student; Fritz Werner, La Playa ESL teacher; Ian McErlane, La Playa ESL teacher; Joana McFarland, La Playa ESL teacher

Other than the two childcare workers, the only other paid employees are the co-directors; all of the teaching is done by volunteers. As a result, La Playa is continually seeking volunteers, which only involves around two hours per week. Volunteers can pick any day from Monday - Thursday and any of the three levels to teach. There are currently 12 volunteers, and La Playa is seeking more – including as substitutes when the regular volunteers go on vacation. There are no requirements for volunteers.

Just last year, La Playa had two unpaid interns from the TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) program at Fullerton College.

Waters says, “We need volunteers, but we also need students. Some are reluctant to come out and attend classes.”

Although the South County Crosscultural Council was founded to integrate newer residents into Laguna Beach, over the years, there have been fewer from Laguna and now La Playa Center pulls from other communities. 

Success stories

MacFarland relates one of the success stories during her long teaching career at La Playa: “One of my students is now Maître D at The White House restaurant in town and lives in Laguna.”

These classes also prove to be an important part of obtaining U.S. citizenship since all the questions are in English. 

Irma Ronses, who is now a U.S. citizen, was an advanced ESL student and childcare assistant and is currently Job Coordinator for the Laguna Day Worker Center. 

Christina, a Hungarian sign language interpreter, was a student and now works at the Sawdust Festival and Pageant of the Masters and got her U.S. citizenship last year. 

As stated on South County Crosscultural Council’s website, “The strength of our community comes from our cultural diversity.” Yet, the demographics are changing and with that, fewer students are coming from the community.

One of the biggest challenges La Playa faces is getting the word out about the free classes. Although flyers are left in restaurants in town and, hopefully, the information spreads by word of mouth, La Playa is always seeking both students and volunteers. Both are needed in order to help bridge the cultural gap.

For more information, to sign up as a volunteer, register for a class, or donate, go to

Dennis’ Tidbits


August 13, 2019

The summer that wasn’t? 

Dennis 5For the most part, air and water temps have been running three to five degrees below normal as we approach the middle of August, usually the warmest time of year for both. The skies have been slate gray during most mornings with only a handful of days with blue skies at sunrise. The surf has been mediocre at best as well. The yellow and red flags are stashed away and collecting dust. 

I’m giving the weather and surf a D+ so far with only a little over five weeks left. Will it end up being the summer that wasn’t? Last year at this time, there were 24 days with temps at 80 or above. Here in 2019, there have been only three. Last summer there were already 35 days with ocean temps at 70 or higher. This year we’ve seen only four. The normal ocean temp for this date (August 11) is 70.5 degrees. Our average since June 21st this year is 67.4, way down from last year’s 73.7 up to this date. Our normal maximum temp for the date is 78.6. This year it’s 74.2.

It’s not our worst summer so far, but it’s not one of our better ones either, far from it. What we have here is simply the system of checks and balances. At least the water’s not in the mid 50s like it was in a better part of August 2010 or only four clear days between July 1st and September 1st of 1973. 1991 wasn’t much better with a total of only six sunny days all summer with ocean temps averaging a burly 64.5 degrees with not even one day with 70-degree water.

Now that it’s nearly mid-August, the zone has greatly expanded for development of strong tropical systems in the Atlantic. Whereas earlier in the season when tropical system development is mostly restricted to the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, now we have waves of energy coming from the coast of west Africa in the TCZ (Tropical Convergence Zone). Every three days or so, a huge plume of thunderstorms moves west from inland Africa and pops out near the Cape Verde Islands off the west coast of Africa. 

If conditions are ideal for development, meaning minimal upper-level shear winds and super warm ocean surface temps well into the 80s, then it’s a more compatible environment for the formation of tropical storms than hurricanes. These systems begin their long 2,500-mile westward journey across the Atlantic, and if they hold together long enough they have plenty of vulnerable targets to choose from with the Lesser Antilles their first target, then on to the Virgin Islands, then on to places like Puerto Rico. 

Then they eventually set their sights on the U.S. Mainland or Cuba, Jamaica, or the Gulf of Mexico where the target can be anywhere from Tampico, Mexico to the west coast of Florida. The entire Eastern Seaboard is on alert from the tip of Florida all the way up to Maine or Nova Scotia and even Newfoundland. It all depends on the steering mechanisms in the form of position of various lows and highs along the way. A lot of these storms off Africa explode into violent Category 4 and 5 monsters by the time they make their long trek across the super warm Atlantic tropical waters.

The historical storm that made landfall near San Pedro, Calif. on Sunday, Sept 25, 1939, traveled all the way from its birthplace off Africa’s west coast. On September 7, 1939 the system became a tropical storm as it began its journey westward. For the next week the system plowed straight to the west at latitude 14 degrees north, never deviating from its westerly course. Funny thing is, the whole time it traveled across the Atlantic, it never intensified, remaining a low-end tropical storm with winds of only 40-45 mph as it encountered a rather hostile environment for further strengthening. 

There was a very strong El Nino that year, so Atlantic waters were much cooler than normal at 78-80 degrees where they normally should have been in the mid 80s, plus there was a nearly constant upper-level shear wind which was stunting further growth into even a Category 1 hurricane. Somehow this little punk system held it together enough to make it all the way to Panama where it crossed that narrow strip of land and popped out on the Pacific side on September 15th. 

Suddenly the storm found itself in hot El Nino-fueled waters reaching 90 degrees with non-existent upper-level shear winds. So bang, it blew up into a Category 5 monster in just 48 hours! Somehow the giant spinner found its way all the way up to Southern California waters ten days later, holding its own as a high-end tropical storm as it bullied its way into land near San Pedro on September 25th. The waters were 80 degrees that day, so the door was open. That storm traveled nearly 5,000 miles in 18 days. Wish I had been around for that event! 

See y’all on Friday, ALOHA!

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

Dianne Russell is our Associate Editor & Writer.

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Alexis Amaradio, Barbara Diamond, Dennis McTighe, Diane Armitage, Lynette Brasfield, Marrie Stone, Maggi Henrikson, Samantha Washer, and Suzie Harrison are our writers and/or columnists.

Mary Hurlbut and Scott Brashier are our photographers.

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