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Dianne’s Creature Feature

Rudolph the Reindeer’s red nose: not just a pigment of our imagination


Who knew that reindeer truly have red noses? It’s not just a fairy tale. 

We all know why W.C. Fields had a red nose, but that’s another story. 

In 1899, Clement C. Moore’s poem, “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” first introduced the world to Santa’s reindeer by featuring a sleigh pulled by eight reindeer: Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner, and Blitzen. 

But there was no mention of Rudolph, the most popular reindeer in present-day Christmas tradition.

The addition of Rudolph came much later, in 1939, when the Montgomery Ward Group of department stores in the US commissioned Advertising Executive Robert May to write a promotional story for the Christmas season, thus Rudolph, the Red-Nose Reindeer, was born. 

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Robert May wrote Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer in 1939

The booklet became an instant success with 2.5 million copies sold during the first year. The story, written as a poem, is about a young reindeer who was very different from the other reindeer in the herd to which he belonged, and who was teased by his peers because he had a shiny red nose.  

Apparently, bullying existed even in make-believe animal kingdoms.

But he prevailed, and Rudolph now has such a strong connection with Christmas, that we can hardly picture Santa and presents without thinking of Rudolph guiding the sleigh, his nose blazing the way.

And here comes the interesting part. 

The secret to Rudolph’s rose-colored schnozzle exists as a dense network of blood vessels in the noses of actual reindeer, scientists explained in a 2012 Live Science article. Reindeer live in harsh conditions during the winter. On the fells and mountains of mainland Norway, temperatures sometimes drop to 30-40 degrees Celsius below zero. 

To survive, reindeer, it seems, have 25 percent more capillaries carrying red, oxygen-rich blood in their nasal architecture than humans, said medical researchers in the Netherlands and the University of Rochester in New York. 

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Photo by Kia Krarup Hansen

Reddish color is from densely packed blood vessels near the nose’s surface

“In colder climates … the increase in blood flow in the nose will help keep the [nose’s] surface warm,” Dr. John Cullen of the University of Rochester said. “The dense network of blood vessels in reindeer noses is also essential for regulating the animal’s internal body temperature — like many mammals, reindeer don’t sweat.”

And reindeer noses do so much more: They are specially adapted to warm the air before it enters the lungs and to condense water in the air, which they then use to keep the mucous membranes moist. 

That’s some ingenious nasal engineering.

So often reality is stranger than fiction, or at least equal to it, and in this case, reindeer noses are as magic and brilliant as Rudolph’s nose, in more ways than one.

A nose is a nose is a nose. And a rosy one at that. 

Animals are such agreeable friends ― they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms. ― George Eliot

Reflecting on school days – and the lure of the beach

Photo by Scott Brashier

Click on photo for a larger image

As a former LBHS student noted upon seeing this shot of Scott’s: “How did they ever trust us to come back from open campus lunch?” (See the moon between the palms in the side mirror…)

Barbara’s Column

Monday’s Double Header at Tivoli Too


The Laguna Beach Seniors held their annual holiday luncheon on Monday and the Laguna Canyon Conservancy hosted their monthly dinner that night. City Manager John Pietig spoke at the dinner. Lots of cheer.

Marilyn Ditty, long-time chief executive officer of Age Well, which provides Meals on Wheels to housebound seniors, and revered adviser to Laguna’s seniors, was honored at the luncheon. 

“Marilyn is the mother of senior services in South Orange County,” said outgoing seniors’ President Chris Quilter, announcing her retirement.

The annual luncheon began with Bree Burgess’ soaring rendition of “O Holy Night.” 

Quilter served as emcee for the luncheon. His duties included introducing distinguished guests. Could have been everyone there, but he limited it to folks sitting at the city’s table, the seniors current and Emeritus board members, and  Kristine Thalman, incoming president.

“I’ve got some big shoes to fill,” said Thalman. 

The luncheon included entertainment by Tom Joliet, Patrick Quilter, (one of Chris’s three brothers) Tony Bisson and Dr. David Law.

Guests were greeted by volunteers, including Tineke Van Der Vliet, Beverly Holt and Carol Cadora. Jheri St. James sold opportunity prize tickets. Among the staff members on hand: Volunteer Coordinator Christine Brewer, Judy Baker, Jo Ann Ekblad, Martha Hernandez, John Fay and Executive Director Nadia Babayi. Also there: yet another Quilter, Patty (Matt’s wife and city Program Director stationed at the Susi Q, (nom de plume of the late Liz Quilter).

Big surprise: Ann and Charlie Quilter were among the guests at the luncheon.

The guest list also included Thalman’s mother, Lurene King, former City Manager Ken Frank, major Susi Q donor Bobbi Cox, Cody and Deborah Engle, Joe Hanauer, Ara and Sandy Hovanesian and Susan Velasquez

Seated at the city’s table: Mayor Toni Iseman, Mayor Pro Tem Kelly Boyd, Councilmen Rob Zur Schmiede, Steve Dicterow and Bob Whalen. Titles and seats on the dais changed at Tuesday’s meeting. 

“We are a lucky town to be led by this council,” said (Chris) Quilter. “We may disagree, but never about seniors.” 

Also at the city’s table; City Clerk Lisette Chel Walker, City Treasurer Laura Parisi, Director of Public Works Shohreh Dupuis and Pietig, who sandwiched in a few hours of city work between the luncheon and the Conservancy dinner.

Pietig powered though city accomplishments

Pietig’s Power Point presentation began with a subject dear to the hearts of conservancy members: environmental projects. He led off with the DeWitt property restoration. 

The $630,000 project was practically a gift, costing the city only $130,000. The rest of the funding came from a grant. 

Restoration of the De Witt house is in the hands of the Laguna Canyon Foundation and is expected to be completed in 2018. He gave a shout out to foundation Executive Director Hallie Jones, who attended the dinner.

Landscape architect Bob Borthwick also got a mention for his proposed project along Laguna Canyon Frontage Road. 

Long term environmental projects include the Laguna Ocean Foundation’s grant to clean up the Aliso Creek Estuary and the restoration of the Aliso Creek Main Stem Ecosystem.

Public Safety projects are at the top of the city’s To Do List, Pietig said. 

“Our primary goal is to expedite undergrounding,” he said. “We tried working with the utilities and it didn’t work. 

“The council said ‘Enough’. We have to do something ourselves.’”

The something is two ballot measures: a general obligation bond for undergrounding essential evacuation routes, funded by all property owners; and secondly, formation of a separate district to underground residential neighborhoods still served by overhead poles, funded only by residents of the neighborhoods.  

Both must be approved by the voters.

Work continues on the Downtown Specific Plan

Work continues on amendments to the Downtown Specific Plan, with assistance to consultants by a volunteer group composed of Village Laguna and Chamber of Commerce representatives. 

Volunteers Billy Fried and Ruben Flores also masterminded Park Plaza. 

“I encourage people to be willing to try new things,” said Pietig. 

There isn’t anything new about the notion of beautifying the area known as the Village Entrance. 

“This is in its 37th year, and we gotta make a decision,” said Pietig. 

Transportation is another thorn in Pietig’s side. 

“Usage is a fiscal concern,” said Pietig. “If ridership doesn’t improve, we may have to discontinue services.” 

He is banking on the Trolley Tracker app to boost ridership. The tracker gives real time information on where the trolley is on its route. 

A Q and A followed Pietig’s presentation: Ginger Osborne wanted to know how many hybrids are in the city’s fleet; Lorene Auger asked about Community Choice Aggregators, an alternate energy supply to customers in a defined city or area. She suggested Pietig should contact Tesla Motors founder Eon Musk whom she opined would be happy to help out Laguna with a CCA.

Johanna Felder asked about the format for the 18th meeting on the proposed amendments to the Historic Preservation Ordinance. It will be a workshop – no action will be taken. 

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

Baker celebrates three dozen years in business


Ron Reno celebrated 36 years as pastry baker, sandwich maker and collector of Bray pottery at Andree’s Patisserie in back of the Art Center.

The tiny shop tucked in the back of the Art Center is off the beaten track and can be overlooked by tourists, but local are Reno’s bread and butter. They often come to the shop via the alley between Pacific Coast Highway and Glenneyre Street. 

“We practically have beaten a path between our shop and Andree’s,” said Nanci Nielsen, a stylist at Thomas David Salon in the Hobbit Shops.

Andree’s seats five, on brightly cushioned stools next to an L-shaped counter along the window that parallels the walkway to the front door.    

The door was first opened for business by Andree Davis in 1962.  

Reno went to school to learn his craft that keeps customers coming back for more. After all these years, he knows what customers will order before they open their mouths. 

Photo by Diane Armitage

Ron Reno

 “Well, I’m in here every day,” said Melanie Gustaphson, who works at the nearby V Salon.

Andree’s is open Tuesday through Saturday, 7:45 a.m. until 3 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturdays. Among the most popular items in the bakery cases are almond croissants and bear claws, not to mention muffins and cheese danishes, Reno also makes sandwiches every day. 

Specialties include seasonal cookies.

“Right now it’s Halloween cookies; next month it will be turkeys and then comes Christmas,” Reno said. 

But what would a pastry be without a hot drink? Reno offers coffee---some say the best in town, espresso, cappuccino, latte, and steamers. Steamers?  

“It’s just flavored warm milk,” said Reno. “Could put you right to sleep.”  

Reno is happy to talk about his pottery collection that lines the shelf in back of the counter. He is particularly proud of the rare display tile created to market Brayton Pottery, which was located on a five-acre lot between South Coast Highway and Glenneyre Street, since divided. 

The buildings now house a restaurant and art galleries, as well as Andree’s.

Boy Scouts build “stairway to heaven” for Blue Bell cats to gaze at the Gardens from a height

Cats love to look down from dizzy heights, that’s a known fact. So while the felines at the Blue Bell Cat Retirement Sanctuary currently have great views of the new Gardens from their catios (patios), their pleasures – and their vantage points – have been heightened thanks to a staircase built by the Boy Scout Troop No. 636.

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Photo by Bimali

Stairway to heaven will enable Blue Bell cats to reach new heights of pleasure

The Scouts volunteered their time at Blue Bell by building a cat friendly staircase and wall for the lower house. The staircase allows the cats to come outdoors onto the screened-in patio through the window. 

They also have a great view of the white picket fence that was built onto the wall indoors, now painted with a fresh coat of blue paint, not to mention high-flying butterflies and low-flying birds. 

The project was Boy Scout Shevanka DeSilva’s Eagle Project so that he could become an Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank within the Boy Scouts. 

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Photo by staff member Joyce Buettner

Pagoda, a new arrival, loves the view from her new home

The nonprofit Blue Bell Foundation for Cats runs the cat sanctuary on Laguna Canyon Road, which houses up to 50 cats whose owners can no longer care for them. Blue Bell Gardens, nearing completion, surround the sanctuary and consist of 14 unique “pocket parks” complemented by beautiful fountains, melodic wind chimes and colorful garden art.

The Gardens are intended to create and sustain a rich, native habitat for birds, butterflies, bees and lizards, enhance the ecology and conserve water through intelligent use of natural resources.

And, of course, to entertain the 50 or so cats that are spending their retirement years in the spacious cottages bequeathed to them by Bertha Yergat.

For more information about Blue Bell, visit

Dennis’ Tidbits


December 8, 2017

Fire season: the other three seasons in S Cal are flood, earthquake and drought – so it is said

I can’t recall offhand who said it but it goes like this… “ Southern California has four seasons; fire, flood, earthquake, drought.” 

Today the sun will set at its earliest time of year at 4:42 pm. It will actually set at 4:48 p.m. on the Winter Solstice on December 21 when our shortest day will be at nine hours and 54 minutes with a sunrise at 6:54 a.m. and a sunset at 4:48 p.m. so we’re almost over the hump.

We’re on a pace for one of the driest Decembers, if not our driest. There have been two rainless Decembers, in 1989 and 1990. The offshore ridge of high pressure has expanded even more, from southern Baja all the way to Alaska and could stick around for the whole month and maybe beyond. Even the Pacific Northwest is on pace for possibly their driest December on record. Portland, Oregon averages 6.13 inches in December and their driest December on record was 1.38 inches back in 1967. So far, up to December 8 they’ve collected only 0.32 inches and long range models see no rain for at least the next two weeks with sunshine which is a most rare commodity up there in December.

It’s Wednesday, December 6 as I write this and 20 years ago today in 1997, Laguna was pounded with a record 24-hour total of 8.08 inches between midnight on the fifth and midnight on the sixth with 6.85 of that falling between 1 a.m. and 8 a.m. on Saturday the 6th. A record total for one hour, between 3 and 4 a.m. saw 2.65 inches fall. It was dubbed a 100 year event for the 24 hour total and a 500 year event for the one hour total. Rainfall for that December totaled nearly 10 inches at 9.89, all part of Laguna’s wettest season on record with 37.27 inches. At the rate we’re going, we’d be lucky to get even a tenth of that amount this season. 

Stay tuned, ALOHA!

Garden Elf invites residents to sing-along at S Lag Garden Park on Dec 10; elf will play wind instrument


The Garden Elf – a mysterious, wide-eyed creature that morphs into troll, frog, tomte or leprechaun, whatever the viewer chooses to see – lives a quiet life in the South Laguna Community Park for most of the year. 

But at Christmas time, the plant creature dons a Santa hat and hosts holiday festivities, including sing-alongs – though you won’t hear a sound from its mouth, mostly because it doesn’t have one; the creature communicates via the whisperings of the wind through its leafy cheeks, and it doesn’t speak English, either, or so I hear.

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Photo by Tom Joliet

Elf, troll, frog or leprechaun – you make the call – is ready for Christmas

Elf guests are asked to bring their singing voices along with treats and snacks to share.  Music direction will be by the Garden Band; songbooks and funny hats will be provided; as stated, songs will be accompanied by the Elf as wind instrument. 

There are many legends about the Elf, all of which are considered true if told by the children of Laguna.

In spring this year, the creature blushed quite pink, I’m told, not too long after Valentine’s Day. Coincidence that attractive new flowers bloom nearby at this time? I think not. 

But here’s a more practical explanation, according to ukulele master and S Laguna Community Garden Park fan Tom Joliet: “The ice plant covering the Elf’s face is full of pink flowers when in bloom, resulting in a rosy complexion during the spring.”

The Elf’s noggin is topped with spiky society garlic hair (to scare away vampires at Halloween, some say.)

And while the Elf (or troll or frog or leprechaun) lacks a mouth, the creature does have large eucalyptus tree trunk ears, eager to hear neighbors and visitors enjoying the garden park. 

“Being festive is Garden Elf’s favorite activity,” Joliet says. “The Elf thrives on happiness.”

Oh, and don’t forget to take a selfie with the Elfie…(or is he/she a sprite that sprouted? You get to make the call. That’s the magic of the creature). 

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Submitted photo

Last year’s festivities brought happiness to the Elf

Details: The holiday festivities at the South Laguna Community Garden Park take place this Sun, Dec 10 from 2-4 p.m. The Garden Park is located at Coast Highway and Eagle Rock Way. Bring the family. 

Note: The Garden Elf appeared in the South Laguna Community Garden Park Valentine’s Day, 2016. Legends are being collected every day.

LB Daughters of the American Revolution will place wreaths on veterans’ graves on Sat Dec 16 

Local Orange County chapters of the National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), including the Laguna Beach branch, ask friends, family, and business associates to donate wreaths to be placed on the more than 6,000 veterans’ graves at Pacific View Memorial Park.

Every volunteer who places a wreath on a veteran’s grave is encouraged to say that veteran’s name aloud and take a moment to thank them for their service to our country. It’s a small act that goes a long way toward keeping the memory of our veterans alive.

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Submitted Photo

Wreaths Across America provide wreaths for the holiday season and teach about respecting freedom 

Wreaths Across America pursues its mission with nationwide wreath-laying events amid the holiday season as well as year-round educational outreach inviting all Americans to appreciate our freedoms and the cost at which they are delivered. 

The event will take place on Sat, Dec 16, at 9 a.m., located at Pacific View Memorial Park at 3500 Pacific View Drive, Corona del Mar.

For more information about Wreaths Across America, visit

Super Heroes take over the Ocean Institute for

Boat Parade of Lights and Holiday Party on Dec 8

The 43rd Annual Boat Parade of Lights is gearing up to set Dana Point Harbor a-glow on Dec 8, and it’s going to be the ultimate holiday extravaganza. This year’s theme is “A Super Hero Holiday” and there will be all kinds of out-of-this-world family fun, with activities at Doheny State Beach, The Visitor’s Center, Ocean Institute, Baby Beach, and Island Way. 

Ocean Institute’s “Super Hero Holiday Party” is a spectacular holiday highlight, with educational demonstrations, eco-friendly maker crafts, and meet and greets with Spiderman and Wonder Woman. 

Kids and parents can dress up as their favorite Super Heroes and journey through Ocean Institute labs to defeat the villains that threaten our oceans and the health of our planet. If participants need extra fuel to defeat the villains, some of the area’s best food trucks will be on-hand including Phenomnom Truck, Burning Buns, & Sol Agave Truck. 

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Submitted photo

Holiday Parade of Lights Party

“Our annual Holiday Parade of Lights Party is a family tradition not to be missed. There is something for everyone, whether you want to take part in hands-on STEM activities, or simply sit back with a cup of cocoa around the fire,” says Alexandra Latona, director of public programs at Ocean Institute. 

Festivities begin at 6 p.m., so families can enjoy the action-packed party, then sip hot cocoa while taking in the lights of the Boat Parade, which begins at 7:30 p.m.  

General admission tickets are $20, with family 4-packs at $60.  Member prices are $12 for each adult and $8 for each child. 

Continue the fun on Sat, Dec 9, by setting out on the water with Ocean Institute’s “Holiday Parade of Lights Cruise,” where passengers get the ultimate view of the lights from the water. 

For more information and to reserve a spot for the Ocean Institute Holiday Party or Parade of Lights Cruise, go to: or call (949) 496-2274. 

The Ocean Institute is located at 24200 Dana Point Harbor, DP.

There’s a pale moon on the rise

Photos by Scott Brashier

By day, the moon is just a shadow of its former self

But at night, the moon comes into its own


Click on photos for larger images

Shaena Stabler is the Owner, Publisher & Editor.

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