About Martha Michael


A professional writer for decades and the editor of multiple products from Valley Publications, Martha is in a constant search for new challenges. While maintaining her editing post for more than eight years, she also opened an antiques business and authored her first book, “Canyon Country,” by Arcadia Publishing.

Martha manages two blogs—one for business and one that is more personal—and works to market and perfect her craft in every arena. Lack of energy is never a problem, and Martha is daily generating ideas, taking photos and talking to members of the community. She believes strongly that “everybody has a story.”

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Ranch Hand Recollections – Cowboy Festival Volunteers Doug & Judy Penman

| Community | March 15, 2018

From Melody Ranch to Main Street, there is one local couple who not only attend the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival every year; they’re in their 24th year as volunteer “ranch hands.”

It all began in 1994 after the earthquake, when the city manager asked Doug Penman if he would help clean up Melody Ranch to hold the Cowboy Festival there. The enthusiasm of his cleanup effort showed event leaders just how valuable his volunteerism would become. For years Doug and Judy Penman could be counted on to help make the Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival a successful event.

“It brings back memories – I was raised on a ranch in Colorado,” Doug Penman said. “I raised cattle back there in the snow country. I really connect with those folks. It’s a thrill to be able to do it every year.”

In the festival’s early years it was held at Melody Ranch in Newhall, a filming venue once owned by Gene Autry. That’s what made Judy Penman feel nostalgic.

“When I grew up I’d come home and do my homework and listen to Gene Autry from the Melody Ranch,” she said, referring to Autry’s radio show. “It’s one of our very favorite events and we look forward to it every year. It’s going back to the Old West. We leave our cell phones in our car. We can look at each other in the eye and just enjoy the day.”

The Penmans’ festival volunteerism has included working as stage hands, setting up and taking down chairs, helping with a children’s display, and ushering, among many other things.

“Wherever they needed help, we were always there to help set up,” Judy said. “You see all your friends in Santa Clarita, and they feel the same way. It’s like going back in time. … It’s such a wonderful event.”

Judy Penman vividly remembers what she believes was their first year serving as volunteers.

“What was so exciting was they would have a movie on Main Street and a movie filmed on Main Street in Melody Ranch.” she said, citing “High Noon” as the first “Movies on Main Street” feature she saw. “Here we were watching,” she said. “It was exciting. I literally sat there and I had tears running down my cheeks, it was so emotional.”

On top of just being helpful, the Penmans like contributing to keep the event alive and continue its run. “It’s the history that we can’t let our children and grandchildren miss,” Judy said. “I think it’s so important not to let history die.”

As if celebrating the charm of the cowboy lifestyle isn’t enough for the Penmans, there’s something else. The festival tends to coincide with the couple’s wedding anniversary.

On their 40th anniversary the couple renewed their vows on the California Stage at Melody Ranch. And last year, when the Penmans celebrated 45 years of marriage, Tess Simgen from the City of Santa Clarita awarded them a poster of the festival, while Judy’s friend Carol Rock publicly recognized the couple’s many years of volunteerism.

This year you can be sure that Doug and Judy Penman will be somewhere in Old Town Newhall on April 21 and 22, just a couple of ranch hands pitching in to make the festival a success. And regardless of their station this year – taking down chairs, greeting visitors, or crowd control – at some point you’ll find them celebrating their anniversary in the usual way – standing in line for peach cobbler.

Reaching Out for Ranch Hands
If you always wanted to bring out your inner cowhand, here’s your chance. The City of Santa Clarita is seeking volunteers for the 25th Annual Santa Clarita Cowboy Festival on Saturday, April 21-22, 2018. Men, women and children 10 years and older are invited to saddle up and volunteer at activities taking place at William S. Hart Park and venues in Old Town Newhall on Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22, 2018.

Volunteer registration is now open at SantaClaritaVolunteers.com. Volunteers are needed for a variety of positions, including Food Court runners, greeters, merchandise and activity helpers, ushers and more. All volunteers are encouraged to attend the Cowboy Volunteer Round-Up and Orientation taking place on April 11 at 7:00 p.m. at The Centre, located at 20880 Centre Pointe Parkway. Volunteers will have the opportunity to ask questions and get a behind-the-scenes look at the Cowboy Festival.

For more information about the Volunteer Round-Up, the Cowboy Festival and other volunteer opportunities with the city, visit SantaClaritaVolunteers.com or contact Volunteer Engagement Program Supervisor Tess Simgen at (661) 250-3726 or email volunteers@santa-clarita.com.

Little Leaguers Put On Their Rally Caps

| Canyon Country Magazine | March 13, 2018

Despite a rainy morning, Canyon Country Little League went forward with their Opening Day Ceremonies on Saturday, March 3, 2018. This year’s special guests were retired MLB icon Bill Russell, who threw out the first pitch, and local radio host Sean Valentine from “Valentine in the Morning” on KBIG. They were both troopers, who didn’t let a little rain keep them from supporting the local players.

The Canyon Country Little League Fundraising and Sponsorship Chair Kimberlee Castro posted on Facebook a big “thank you” to all the team members, parents and supporters:

“A lot of families stayed with us and had lunch and played some games. … I am eternally grateful to Mr. Bill Russell and Valentine for sticking with us. Our opening ceremony was intended to be longer but it was best for the kids to call it early. THANK YOU so much for sticking it out and helping us start the season.

Canyon Country Little League is already planning “Take 2” at the end of the month, which will include pictures, vendors, a BBQ and a bake sale “with no rain,” Castro posted. “Stay tuned for details! Let’s make this the season to remember.”

For more information, visit CCLL.org or find Canyon Country Little League on Facebook and Twitter.

Photos courtesy of Canyon Country Little League

Furniture Now! Opens in Kmart Space

| Community | March 9, 2018

When the longstanding Kmart Corporation closed its store on Bouquet Canyon and Valencia Blvd. recently, it opened the door for Dominick Garcia of Santa Clarita. Furniture Now! welcomed its first customers last Saturday into the store’s 80,000-square-foot showroom.

“We wanted to open up not just a furniture store, but a different concept,” said Garcia, the store manager. “We wanted to give the customer the option of buying it and getting it the same day. That’s why the name is Furniture Now!”

The aim is to provide an added convenience to shoppers, unlike stores and online purchases that have delivery lag times.

“Buy it today, take it today … we don’t want customers to have wait times,” Garcia said.

Residents can watch for the store’s grand opening, which Garcia plans to hold in the next couple of weeks. He plans to have attention-getting balloons and a “cookout” to draw the community to its special deals.

Complementing its size, the Furniture Now! showroom is open, with minimal walls and dividers.

“We have a large selection of sofas, dining room, living room, bedroom furniture – a little bit of everything,” he said. “We try to carry all styles, from traditional to modern.”

Most shoppers are looking for contemporary furniture, he said. Favorites include light gray couches and designs made from rustic, reclaimed wood.

Garcia spent most of his life in Santa Clarita, graduating from Canyon High School in 2005.

“I like how (we have) our own community,” he said. “A lot of people know each other here, and it’s somewhere you can raise your kids.”

Garcia also likes the location of his store, partly because he got to move into a landmark, of sorts.

“Kmart has been in the community for a long time,” he said. “The location was a great opportunity. A lot of people know where Kmart is.”

The business isn’t new to Garcia either. He has worked in the furniture industry for more than 15 years.

“I just love every aspect, from selling to customer service,” said Garcia, who has enough energy to spend time snowboarding and wake boarding when he’s not managing the store. “Customer service is a big part of the selling process.”

Furniture Now! has design packages, he explained. If you buy a set of furniture pieces, the store is likely to have matching lamps and tables to go with it.

“Since it’s such a large store we have a lot to look at,” he said. “Because we have a large selection at affordable prices, you should be able to find almost anything you’re looking for.”

Furniture Now! is located at 23222 Valencia Blvd.

Jim Messina at The Canyon

| Entertainment | March 8, 2018

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that Jim Messina’s career is a lot like watching a river run. From his first music experience as a teen, he has continually grown, evolved and altered course, but his creative output goes on and on.

If you aren’t familiar with Jim Messina’s solo career, you surely know him from his successful collaborations: Kenny Loggins, Poco, Richie Furay and Buffalo Springfield, to name just a few.

What the crowd gets on Friday, March 16 when Messina appears at The Canyon Santa Clarita is what most concertgoers want: to hear beloved music from the past and travel forward with the artist as he reminds you of the many songs he had a hand in creating.

When you interface with Jim Messina, you visualize the river once again, in his depth of thought which has been formed, in part, from time spent at Esalen, a renowned retreat center in Big Sur that focuses on personal transformation. He uses the word “gestalt” to describe his world view, which could also be used to describe his music experience – a lot of pieces forming a distinctly original whole.

Messina’s drive to be his own person, his own musician, was at times problematic.

“One of the problematic aspects of being a recording artist and a performing artist is that once you get into the major leagues, they try to figure out what you are and pigeonhole you,” he explained. “It happened with Poco. The evolution I saw myself going through, and Richey (Furay), who I collaborated with … we were coming up with something new and different. We were too rock for country and too country for rock music.”

Poco sold out every concert, Messina said, but didn’t sell enough records.

“It didn’t translate to radio, which was really important in those days,” he said.

In 1970, Messina met an unknown singer/songwriter named Kenny Loggins. As an independent producer with Columbia Records, Messina auditioned band members, rehearsed and recorded demos for Loggins, shared connections, and ended up adding his voice to Loggins’. The result was an album entitled “Sittin’ In” with such popular songs as “House at Pooh Corner” and “Danny’s Song.”

The duo later moved on to have successful solo careers, and when Messina is asked about the necessary change of partners in the business, he compares it to marriage.

“Even for couples in loving relationships, there’s an attraction, a like-mindedness, there’s fun, creativity, doing things together,” he explained. “Then there’s the effort involved in making it successful – making a household work, or with a group it’s making enough to sustain a tour, staying in hotels. … It’s awkward, because when it’s time to move on, when do you tell the person you don’t think this is happening? For me, it’s always been, ‘How do I make this choice and not leave in a mean spirit?’”

While Jim Messina’s musical style is almost too original to describe, it’s helpful to know what inspired him. It began when as a seventh-grader he heard the song “Tequila” recorded by The Champs.

“The sound of the drummer playing the bell, that feeling resonated with me so much,” he said.

Surf music was another influencer, such as surf-rock guitarist Dick Dale.

“His band was so good,” Messina said. “He had a great drummer, had a rhythm guitar player. … It was a magnificent sound. I was in awe of the guitar and amps. It was unbelievably inspiring.”

There is a strong Latin flavor to Messina’s music, perhaps from some of his childhood living in Texas. And holidays with his Italian uncles, who would play mandolin, adds an exotic flair to his style.

“It’s just something I breathe and like the scent of,” he said, “more so now, because I’m doing ‘Be Free,’ which has almost a Greek influence, and Arabic influence.”

When it comes to advice for young musicians, Messina keeps it simple. “Avoiding drugs, avoiding alcohol, avoiding hanging out just to hang out,” he said. “I took the opportunity to learn as much as I could. …
I think you have to be prepared for when opportunity knocks. Spend the time to be the best you can be.”

Jim Messina’s creativity continues to flow, even when not in a studio or onstage, though at times the river moves a bit slower. These days, Messina spends free time painting, and he has a wood shop and metal shop at home in Santa Barbara County.

“If I’m not making records, I’m fixing a gate or building a fence,” he said. “Even though music is a way of life, it’s not all of life.”

For tickets, visit wheremusicmeetsthesoul.com.

Canyon Theatre Guild Holds Over ‘Buddy Holly’ a Second Time

| Entertainment | March 1, 2018

Residents of Santa Clarita have a lucky break – especially if they like ‘50s music.

The latest show at the Canyon Theatre Guild was such a success it was held over for two weeks … and now it’s been extended again, to March 11. That gives show-goers two more weekends to catch the popular “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story,” a musical covering the rock & roll singer-songwriter’s life through his tragic death in an airplane crash in 1959. Other iconic characters in the local show include The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens, both of whom died in the crash with Buddy Holly.

After depicting Holly’s beginnings in the early days of rock & roll and a little of his personal life, such as his marriage to Maria Elena Santiago, “The Buddy Holly Story” ends with a sort of mini-concert. All three of the legendary singers perform songs that include “Chantilly Lace” by The Big Bopper and almost every Buddy Holly song you know. That’s where Josh Aran as the Bopper and Jacob Boscarino as Valens pull off the look and sound of the originals very well.

Needless to say, the lead actor/musician playing Buddy, Will Riddle, nailed it, or the show wouldn’t have been such a big success. He is hoping to go forward professionally, and it’s well-deserved. An audience member always wants the person in the role of an icon to sound like the original, but Riddle achieves something more. He is altogether believable. It’s a pretty high bar which, according to audience response, he’s been doing.
With the apparent talent of Jennifer Teague, she could probably put on a show in the barn. By herself. For “The Buddy Holly Story” she plays keyboards, has an acting role, is a member of the ensemble, and best of all – she plays an amazing violin.

Another noticeable aspect of this show is the enthusiasm of the whole cast. It may be because being in this show means you’re singing, dancing and physically engaged almost the whole time. Even after the curtain goes down, members of the cast go out front to greet people as they leave, beaming as much themselves as the individuals congratulating them.

The Canyon Theatre Guild is located at 24242 Main Street in Newhall. For tickets, call 661-799-2702 or visit Canyontheatre.org.

Mafia Memoirs – Local Man’s Bada-Bing

| News | March 1, 2018

If you have any interest in mafia culture, it may surprise you to know a Santa Clarita resident who sang like a canary isn’t currently sleeping with the fishes. And he’s not even in a witness protection program.

“Executive Hoodlum” is a new book written by John Costello of Newhall with his friend, radio talk show host Larry Elder, that brings readers into mob history with authenticity you can hang your hat on. Costello is an “outfit guy” from the inside. (“Outfit guys” are from Chicago, the author tells you in the third sentence of the book; using “wiseguy” is a dead giveaway you’re from New York.)

Urged by Elder to share his brave, audacious move to leave the “goodfellas” to pursue the life of a good fella, Costello treats it like a dare – he names names.

If you’re wondering how John Costello could snitch and get away with it, putting so much inside information in a book, he had to get some approvals along the way, including outfit guys from the highest echelons of the mob in Chicago, he said. And there are some names he didn’t feel were necessary to reveal.

“I know those guys really well,” Costello said. “I didn’t need to put down who they are. I know a lot about things I probably shouldn’t know.”

Nonetheless, he got the OK for the book from the mob bosses, and there were others; for instance, the author had to write a letter to a Reagan-appointed judge. And then there was his family.

“I kicked the hornet’s nest,” Costello said. “My aunts – I’ve seen them do violent things. But their kids are saying it’s about time somebody wrote it down. I talked to all my cousins and they know me very well and they know what I put in there was the truth.”

Though it angered his aunts, the author didn’t flinch.

“They didn’t want to take issue with me,” Costello said. “Number one, they know it’s true. And number two, they know I was a pretty defiant kid. And number three, they know I can be just as mean and angry as their brother, my father. And number four, I know people.”

The Early Years
The author’s father, John Costello Sr., a professional singer who used the stage name Mario Casini, was an outfit guy who “misappropriated funds” from other outfit guys. And it nearly got the young Costello “offed” in a big, red booth in his father’s restaurant, Mario’s. A description of his experience in the book reads like a crime novel, with appearances by Chicagoans with names like Joey Doves, Eddie Caruso, Joey the Clown Lombardo, Jack Cerrone, and an outfit guy known as “The Undertaker.”

“Executive Hoodlum” opens with this scene, in which the author puts his chance of survival at 50-50.

“They ended up having more respect for me than my father,” he said. “I became, kind of, their buddy. I was going to college. I pushed my way out of that world, showed them I could succeed without going into (the outfit).”

The Costello family relocated to Southern California when John Costello Jr. was still young. It was a big difference, especially life in the all-boys, Catholic Crespi High School.

“My Crespi friends I’ll probably have for life,” Costello said. “The teams I was on, it helped put me on an even keel. I knew the stuff happening in my house wasn’t right.”

The homes of his friends became a safe place for the young Costello.

“When things would go south with my old man, I had a place I could go,” he said. “The kids at Crespi, their parents were nice to me, super accepting.”
Earning a business degree from Loyola Marymount University where he also rode on the crew team, Costello became a competitive boxer. Not only was it an arena for his accomplishments, he also served underprivileged kids by training them to move forward in their lives. It was kind of parallel to the author’s life, himself a fighter, finding an escape from gang life through hard work and focus.

“I do believe in giving back to the community,” Costello said. “It’s gratifying to be a boxing volunteer and watch kids grow up and stay out of trouble.”

Now a vice president in the semiconductor industry, Costello cites his 50th birthday as a pretty good picture of his colliding worlds. He was roasted by guests like Dr. Bruce Henschel and his friend Scott Baio, while Hell’s Angels, college friends, prosecutors, police personnel and “bad guys” looked on.

Writing the Book
It started when Larry Elder took Costello to lunch.

“Larry said, ‘I want to write your book.’ And I said, ‘Are you crazy? You trying to get me killed?’” Costello recounted.

Elder began writing the book, but found it really needed authentic lingo and attitude he couldn’t accurately supply. So the job went to Costello, who had no desire to write a book and saw that it came with a lot of soul searching. He started writing on a business flight to Moscow or Germany – he can’t remember which – and found he was reevaluating the way he viewed his background.

“To me, my life was just like any kid’s from my neighborhood,” he said. “It pushed me back into that world. I thought, ‘I’m going to avoid it at all costs.’”

The process was emotional and therapeutic, the author said.

“I needed to do this because several people around me were saying it’s an inspirational story,” Costello said. “I made a point in my book not to preach. All I’m going to do is tell the story.”

Except for occasional funerals in Chicago, where he still has dinner with some of the outfit guys, Santa Clarita has been Costello’s home for more than 25 years. His wife, Janelle, owns Children’s Orchard, a consignment store in Santa Clarita, and they have two sets of twins: Gianna and Bella, 11, and Rocco and Carmela, turning 9 next month.

“I wanted my kids to understand where they came from and not to take for granted all the advantages in life they enjoy, to know the sacrifice needed in order to become successful,” John Costello said. “I want them to have an appreciation for where our family started and learn the hard lessons of failing and making bad decisions … never to give up, no matter how dark things may seem and to know at some point your character will be challenged. It is the decisions and actions you take at that time that will determine your success or failure.”

Cookies and Community – Devar Ward of D.W. Cookie Co.

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 11, 2018

Whether you talk to Devar Ward about his family, his business or his background, it always comes back to one thing: community. And for four years, his specialty shop, D.W. Cookie Co., has been a part of the Canyon Country community landscape.

DW Cookie Co.
As early as 10 a.m. on a weekday, the front door is like a turnstyle – the line of happy customers never completely disappearing. Loud hellos are exchanged, many engaging in hugs with Devar Ward, or with little Darian, his son, who turns 3 years old this month.

“I got that book you told me to get,” Ward says to one of his customers who walks in the door. “I took notes like you told me to.”

All this, while the shop owner passes his new baby, 2-month-old Dacey, to another regular, who asks to hold him.

Now, that’s community.

“It’s like my second home,” said Andi Madden of Canyon Country, who comes in frequently for her morning coffee and a cookie. “I love the cookies. I love the family atmosphere. Stacy and Devar have become like family. And I like supporting an independently-run business.”

Russell Benson and Samantha Sumampong said they come into DW Cookie “as often as we can.”

“I like the warm, homey feeling,” Benson said, “and the cookies are delicious and fresh and the flavors are so incredible. Every time we come here we leave smiling.”

Stacy behind the counter

Among Benson’s and Sumampong’s favorite flavors are DW’s white chocolate cranberry, cinnamon pecan crunch, and “Just Toffee” cookies. “(I like) the strong sense of community at the shop and the conversations we have,” Sumampong said. “We like supporting small businesses.”

Besides his oldest daughter, a pre-teen named Danielle, and his sons Darian and Dacey, Devar Ward has the support of his wife Stacy, who busily helps customers from behind the counter. But the influence of family started long ago in Brooklyn, New York.

“I used to cook with my Gramma,” Devar said. “Especially holidays – Christmas, Thanksgiving. And I’ve always liked sweets.”

When he was 12 or 13 years old, Devar moved to California to be with his father. “It was going to be a summer with my dad and I ended up staying,” he said with a grin.

He went to Reseda High School and eventually landed a job with Pacific Bell, working in customer service and billing. In the company’s original business model, when Pac Bell was limited to California, Devar said it was a wonderful place of employment. But as it got larger, first when Pac Bell merged with SBC Global and then when SBC Global bought AT&T, he said the business changed for the worse.

But while the corporate climate was disappointing, the atmosphere was ripe for something better.

“One week I wanted chocolate chip cookies, so I went to the store and bought some Pillsbury, but it was no good,” Devar said. “I went to the market and bought ingredients to make them from scratch and I brought them to work. Everyone said, ‘Make these some more.’ I started selling them and it kind of blossomed from there.”

The biggest boon, according to Devar Ward, came from his leap of faith, “Trusting God,” he said. “You’ve got to have faith. It’s important.”

Personally Speaking
Despite being an ethnic minority in the Santa Clarita Valley, Devar Ward sees little difference between his life and those of others. He moved his family to Canyon Country from the San Fernando Valley for the same reasons most residents do – the schools and lower home prices.

And, of course, there’s one of Ward’s favorite words again. “Here it’s more community-oriented,” he said. “Everybody’s been great, neighbors have all been friendly. Society’s changed, so everybody’s more accepting these days. I haven’t ever had any issues.”

Ward pointed out that in California his community has included a broader mix of individuals than it did in Brooklyn. But that doesn’t mean his family saw racism up close in New York, either.

“My grandma had a story, when she worked at A&S (Abraham & Straus department store) in the art department,” he said. “There were times when they struggled to pay for the mortgage or bills, and most of the people she worked around were white. Any time they heard she needed help, they helped.”

Ward admits that things would look different to his great-great grandparents, who would have described lives affected by slavery. But, he sees everyone’s journey as a separate experience.

“I understand how people look in the past,” he explained, “but everybody walks their path, and you meet people and you experience things. Everybody lives their struggle.”

And while Devar Ward is just like any other business owner, hoping to claim the American Dream, he has perspective.

It’s nice to want things and to have big goals,” he said. “But what counts more is who you are inside. It doesn’t matter what color you are.”

Not Your Grandmother’s Girl Scouts

| Canyon Country Magazine | February 10, 2018

When Girl Scouts of the USA was founded by Juliette Gordon Low in 1912, women had very limited career opportunities and they still couldn’t vote.

A couple of generations later, when Sharon McNally joined the ranks of the growing youth program in Somers Point, New Jersey, women were becoming a much stronger force in society. And by the end of the 20th century, Sharon McNally-Mobley’s daughters became Girl Scouts at a time when women were serving on the Supreme Court and flying in space.

And now that McNally-Mobley is the mother of three young women, she can vouch for the program’s growth since her days as a Brownie Girl Scout in New Jersey.

Sharon McNally-Mobley wore her Girl Scout uniform on picture day as a fourth-grader (2nd row, fourth from the right).

“With my older sister, also a Brownie, we walked to our troop leader’s home for weekly meetings,” she says. “Highlights from those early years were making things – and summer camp, where I learned swimming, canoeing, and camp songs.”

McNally moved up the ranks to Junior Girl Scouts, which was grades 4-6, in Long Island, New York. She helped her mother run her sister’s troop in the family’s den, and her best memories include cooking campfire stew, learning songs, making s’mores, earning badges and selling Girl Scout Cookies for 35 cents a box. “I was so happy when the price of cookies went up to 50 cents a box,” says McNally-Mobley. “So much easier to count out change!”

She completed Cadette Girl Scouts, which was grades 7-9, in Canoga Park, California. “Camping was my favorite, working in patrols … earning badges, and performing camp skits,” she says.

In 1997, Sharon McNally-Mobley was living in Canyon Country, the mother to three daughters, Bailey, Bree and Bo. She was inspired to return to Girl Scouts by “fun camp counselors and creative leaders,” and she says it was her “Green Knight” (husband Phil Mobley) who made it easy for her to get involved in Girl Scouting. She left a position as art director for the Disney Channel Magazine after the birth of her second child and brought creativity to her volunteerism, which included Girl Scouting.

Sharon McNally-Mobley got an early start in Girl Scouts, pictured here at Brownie camp in New Jersey (front row, at end on the left).

She spent 18 years as a Girl Scout leader in Santa Clarita, being trained by Joshua Tree Council in Bakersfield, Lancaster,

The Mobley girls (L to R): Bree, Bo and Bailey join Sharon at the Mother/Daughter Western Round-Up

Santa Clarita and her last year with Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles. When Girl Scouts of the USA turned 100 in 2012, she brought her troop of 12th grade Ambassadors to ‘Girltopia,’ an event drawing thousands of Girl Scouts to the LA Convention Center for activities promoting leadership, STEM, outdoor adventure, healthy living and more.

Bailey: Troop 506/278 from 1994-2006
After volunteering as “cookie mom” for three years, Sharon McNally-Mobley became one of the leaders in Canyon Country. “The troop would plan out their money-earning goals, besides selling cookies, calendars, magazines and then nuts,” Sharon explains. The girls also: completed community service projects, ran badge workshops for younger girls, sang at convalescent hospitals, worked in patrols, held ceremonies, worked on Rose Parade floats, camped, kayaked, surfed and snorkeled, and visited the capitol in Sacramento. Three of the girls earned their Silver Award, which is the highest award a Cadette Girl Scout can earn. It’s the prerequisite to become a Gold Award Girl Scout, the highest honor in Girl Scouting.

(Point of fact: Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles produces the highest number of Gold Award Girl Scouts in the nation every year.)

Bree: Troop 412/416 from 1996-2008
Sharon McNally-Mobley was a back-up leader when needed, learning from Bree’s Daisy and Brownie leader Linda Hamilton, as welll as junior and senior leaders Debbie Hall and Connie Scheffler. “And I borrowed many of their ideas!” Sharon says. “They flew to San Francisco to bridge with thousands of sister Girl Scouts, a bridging event that’s still going on today. The troop also camped, kayaked and snorkeled on Catalina Island. All of the girls completed their Silver Award by planning and running a Fairytale Fun Camporee on the beach – my younger daughter’s troop was there to participate.”

Bo: Troop 106 from 1999-2012
Sharon McNally-Mobley started and finished as the troop’s leader with a partner, Noel Ruffner. “This troop was so much fun – everything I learned from others was put to use,” Sharon says. “Bronze & Silver Awards were earned by all of the Girl Scouts in this troop, and five of the girls became Gold Award Girl Scouts. Each Gold Award Girl Scout spends one to two years on a sustainable and measurable project addressing a community need.”

Activities included flying to San Francisco, Rose Parade float decorating, surf camp in San Diego, winter camp in Big Bear and Wrightwood, Color Guard for City Hall, and a unique experience: visiting the first baby girl in need who was born on the birthday of Girl Scout founder Juliette Gordon Low. Some of the Gold Award girls went on GSGLA Destinations – a Girl Scout travel program. Two went to Europe, including Bo Mobley.

Changes in Scouting
“Girl Scouts has always been changing for the better,” McNally-Mobley says. “The entire experience builds year upon year, kindergarten through 12th grade. There is so much opportunity for girls in all levels of our program. Our council offers experiences and programs in STEM, entrepreneurship, outdoors, and life skills. We have high-adventure camping and robotics and rocketry teams – there’s even a club for Girl Scouts who love media and communications!”

You can see the programs by visiting girlscoutsla.org and girlscouts.org.

(L-R): Bree, Bo, Bailey and Sharon Mobley

Sharon McNally-Mobley is the retail manager of Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles for both the Palmdale & Santa Clarita Shops. There are seven centers within GSGLA, plus headquarters in Downtown L.A. There are teams at all locations to help with starting a troop, getting your daughter in a troop, volunteering, training, uniforms, badges, books, and support. For more information on joining GSGLA as a Girl Scout, as a volunteer or supporter, you may call 213-213-0123.


Sharon McNally-Mobley’s
Daughters Reflect

Bo, college student

Our troop was adventurous because our leaders were creative opportunists. With the encouragement of my mom, I was able to gather the funds and momentum to travel to Europe with Girl Scouts. My mom pushed us to do things we never thought we were capable of, and for that, I am forever grateful.

My mom’s creativity and optimism brought out the best in us. Many of us were inspired to travel across the country, become Gold Award Girl Scouts, and give back to our communities with hundreds of hours of service. My mom helped bring out the laughter, playfulness, and tenaciousness in all of us. And for that, I am very grateful!
Bree, RPI grad/civil engineer

My mom was heavily involved in my Girl Scout experience as a parent helper, although not my troop leader. She helped organize and inspire countless activities, crafts, workshops, and a lot of fun. She was always able to solve a last-minute problem or a seemingly impossible task by simply just asking. She had this ability to bring people together, to build a community around us – it was amazing, and solidified how valuable working together could be.

I remember my mom helped me paint a life-sized character cut-out backdrop for a weekend camporee my troop was planning. She taught me how to cut the image into squares and to translate each smaller square from the image onto corresponding larger squares on the wooden board. We worked all night in the garage putting it together. It was the coolest thing at the camporee by far! My mom put in so much care into each project she worked on, she really wanted it to be great.

Bailey, UCSD grad/social media mgr

My path to womanhood would have been colorless if it was not for being a Girl Scout. Girl Scouts is an organization, but it’s the leaders who create the #girlpower movement. Many don’t know that the foundation and fundamentals of the program is painted by those who lead.

The backbone of every troop is a fearless, dedicated and selfless leader. My mom volunteered countless hours inspiring, influencing and empowering young females within our community – many of whom I consider lifelong friends – to challenge themselves and strive to be the best version of themselves.

I am my mother’s daughter and will always remember to leave any place cleaner than I found it.

Veterinarian Brings Compassion to Practice

| Community | February 8, 2018

When Dr. Jessica Bones completed her veterinary degree last year, she didn’t waste any time getting to work. A week after graduating from Western University College of Veterinary Medicine she took a position at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital in Newhall. Now a full-time associate doctor for J.C. Burkhartsmeyer, DVM, Dr. Bones first became a registered veterinary technician in 2002 while living out of state.

“I lived in Portland, Oregon for four years and loved it,” said the Southern California native who is new to Santa Clarita. “I love how green Oregon is. I enjoy hiking in the forest of Oregon.”

The new veterinarian doesn’t yet have a board certification in any one specialty, but if she had to choose, she would prefer radiology or internal medicine.

“I like that as a general practitioner DVM I get to do a little bit of every specialty,” Dr. Bones said. “There are many things I enjoy about veterinary medicine – it’s hard to choose just one subject. My favorite is being able to see my patients go home happy, wagging their tails or purring, and seeing the smile on their pet parents’ faces. I’m glad to be part of a good team of doctors and veterinary nurses that strive for compassionate care.”

Having a soft heart is an important part of a veterinary practice, according to Dr. Bones.

“Sometimes I am told I care too much and I shouldn’t let it affect me emotionally, but I think once we stop feeling those emotions we stop caring as much. I don’t want that to ever happen,” she explained. “I enjoy going home every night to my two small children and hugging them knowing that I spent the day helping animals and relieving suffering.”

Dr. Bones’ daughter says she wants to follow in her mother’s footsteps, mostly because she sees how much she enjoys her work.

“It reminds me that what I’m doing is making a difference,” Dr. Bones said. “Because our job as veterinarians is one that involves emotions often related to life and death, we as veterinarians need that reassurance as often as we get can get it.”

Even vets have favorites.

“I do have a great passion for the feline species, large and small,” Dr. Bones said. “I have an incredible sweet spot in my heart for black cats.”

And since she started at Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, there’s one experience she has repeatedly, but she doesn’t mind.

“Every time I introduce myself in the exam room I get the question: ‘Is that really your name? It’s perfect!’” Dr. Bones said. “It makes me smile.”

Local Author Derek Rydall

| Community | February 8, 2018

It’s been said that no prophet is accepted in his hometown, but that doesn’t stop Derek Rydall, who has a following that some might compare to those of a religious teacher. The author of multiple books, including “Emergence: Seven Steps for Radical Life Change,” the Santa Clarita resident works as a life coach and speaker, sharing his form of “integrative therapy” and inspiration with A-list clients in Hollywood, leaders in business and many others.

“They are perennial principles for successful living,” Rydall explained. “When you peel away the story and the doctrine and the dogma … what are the underlying principles that seem to be true across all cultures, time, and areas of expertise?”

His studies are multi-disciplinary – part psychology and part spiritualism mixed with science while taking a lot of metaphors from nature.

“The oak is already in the acorn,” he explained. “The acorn doesn’t have to find an oak, become worthy of an oak, attract an oak. It just has to match the pattern.”

Rydall believes there’s a “seed pattern,” or purpose, within everyone.

“When you understand what that is in you, then you can bring yourself in integrity with it,” Rydall said. “That’s the foundational principle of emergence.”

His last book was about the law of emergence, operating with the premise that you already have everything inside you and explaining principles for finding purpose. His new book, “The Abundance Project: 40 Days to More Wealth, Health, Love, and Happiness,” is being released this month. It aims to take readers further on their journeys, with the keys to generating abundance in life, regardless of circumstances.

His Own Journey
A graduate of William S. Hart High School, Rydall got involved in a local parachurch program as a teen, but later began a more personal spiritual quest.

“More than I wanted to be right or agree with anybody else, I just wanted to know the truth directly, not just what was written,” he said. “So many years trying self-improvement drove me to be addicted to drugs and alcohol. I almost killed myself.”

A visit to the hospital emergency room didn’t improve Rydall’s choices or his lifestyle. The catalyst for change occurred when he was working in Jamaica.

“I almost drowned in a coral reef,” he explained. “No one knew I was there, and I couldn’t get out of there. … I knew I was going to drown; all that was left was surrender – a real ‘come to Jesus’ moment.”

Then it came to him in a flash.

“I found that the self – an amalgamation of parental fantasies … and societal conditioning – was a construct in my psyche,” Rydall said. “But behind him was the real me.”

Miraculously, Rydall ended up at a place in the coral where he could stand up.

“I still don’t quite know how I got out,” he said. “But something had unmistakably shifted in me. The guy that swam out was not the guy who swam in.”

Rydall tried life as a monk (literally), which didn’t work for him. Then he cloistered himself in his apartment for a few years. That’s when the principle of emergence came to him.

The Abundance Project
Life doesn’t happen to us, it happens through us, according to Rydall.

“We’re led to believe we’re empty shells,” he said. “We’ve been conditioned to believe we’re victims of circumstances.”

The author is urging readers to achieve their dreams by accessing the resources within themselves. As an example, he says that people he counsels who want more love in their life are often sad, withdrawn or resentful.

“You can start generating more love by being a great companion to everyone you meet that day, that week that year. You start being the person you would be if you were already in love,” Rydall said. “Love will claim more and more territory in your life.”

For individuals wanting more respect, Rydall suggests treating themselves with the kind of respect they’re seeking.

“We come to that realization and we ask the question, ‘How would I treat myself if I loved, valued and respected myself?’” he explained. “Start showing up as if you were already living your dream life.”

Leading Locally
As a teen, Rydall worked at Bob’s Big Boy at the intersection of Valencia Blvd. and Bouquet Canyon Road, often serving up food to people returning from local football games.

He moved back to Santa Clarita as a father-of-two and raised a daughter, now 19, and a son, now 22. In addition to living near family members, it was easier to purchase a home in Valencia than Studio City or Santa Monica, which were areas he also favored.

“It was so beautiful and idyllic, in terms of safety … we wanted to have a yard, and a place where they can ride bikes,” Rydall said. “We went riding bikes down the paseos every weekend.”

It was also here that Rydall’s career became focused and his message took shape.

“It gave me a sense of peace to allow me to finally have the space to get connected again,” he described. “When you live in city it’s easy to get so focused externally. The paseos, parks, my backyard on a cul-de-sac with the beautiful mountains around me helps me get in touch with my creativity.”

Some of his achievements include his writing – both screenplays and books.

“All my greatest work was done in a Starbucks in Santa Clarita,” Rydall joked.

Meanwhile, Derek Rydall continues to create and to cultivate authentic expressions of life in those around him. And contrary to conventional wisdom, he seems to be doing just fine in his hometown.

Santa Clarita Rocks Unites Art with Inspiration

| Community | February 1, 2018

For many Santa Clarita residents, the power of positive thinking is just a stone’s throw away. The Santa Clarita Rocks Facebook group has been placing hand-painted rocks around the valley to spread positive messages, simply to inspire members of the community who find them.

“We are painting rocks to hide around Santa Clarita to brighten people’s day,” says the description of the Facebook group.

Shelly Hammond of Valencia, administrator for the 185-member Santa Clarita Rocks, has been involved in the movement since July 2017. She hides three to five rocks per week.

“I do it because it brings joy to others, as well as for myself,” Hammond said. “It is also a kind of healing therapy for me. I may have had a difficult day or just have many things on my mind and this brings me into the moment and gets me out of myself, and gets me doing things for others. They are small acts of kindness, and my personal belief is you can’t keep it if you don’t give it away.”

Santa Clarita Rocks has a Facebook post offering the following directions for those who wish to participate: “On the back of your art work please write: ‘Santa Clarita Rocks’ with a Facebook symbol! You can also write ‘Re-hide me.’ If the rock screams at you, by all means keep it forever. The goal is to get lots of people painting. This page is very active; if it bothers you, adjust the settings and alerts. Have Fun!”

Residents of any town can create a “(city name) Rocks” page. The Santa Clarita Rocks” site suggests that they use the full names of cities and towns instead of abbreviations to reduce the chance that duplicate pages are created.

“Not everybody is an artist, per se, but in these groups that doesn’t matter,” said Kristine Bistline, owner of High Desert Driving School in Lancaster. “It’s what’s in your heart and soul and they ‘all’ do a beautiful job with their little gifts from the heart.”

It is assumed that messages reflect the opinions and attitudes of the individual artist, not those of the administration. Participants are asked to refrain from airing out personal issues. Also, the rocks are supposed to be painted with waterproof materials and they can be placed anywhere; however, national parks and private property are off-limits.

Bistline belongs to four Facebook groups: Antelope Valley Rocks, AV Rocks, Antelope Valley Painted Rocks, and she just joined Santa Clarita rocks.

“Each group has its own administrator on Facebook, each group has its own personality, but the message of the groups is inviting, friendly, inspiring, loving and encouraging,” she explained.

This week Bistline posted photos of rocks she planted with the message: “In celebration of the blue moon that brings positivity and transformation I will be hiding two rocks today. One a blue moon; on the side it says, ‘Love you to the moon and back,’ (and) the other is a butterfly for transformation. Have a great day.”

Visit the Santa Clarita Rocks Facebook site to see photos posted by participants.


Shoe Shop Shakeup Settles

| News | February 1, 2018

If you loaded up your pet for a grooming appointment at Donna’s Doggie Den or tried to drop off some boots at Joe’s Shoe Repair, you probably found the building was all but abandoned. With the March 1 deadline looming for the closure of two buildings on the 18300 block of Sierra Highway due to eminent domain, several of the businesses have moved on.

Donna Littlejohn of the Doggie Den moved out of the area, and Hair Wave will move around the corner to 18302 Sierra Hwy, #103, on the corner of Dolan Way in Canyon Country.

The businesses received letters from the City of Santa Clarita last April informing them that they needed to find a new location, because construction was set to begin on the new Canyon Country Community Center.

Amy Chavez said they are moving her father’s business, Joe’s Shoe Repair, to 17866 Sierra Hwy, #108, in the Mint Canyon Plaza next to the Church of Hope. The phone number will remain the same: 661-299-1628.

The Chavez family sweated out the possible scenarios last year while searching for affordable spaces in the same area, so they could keep their customers. Amy found that rent was higher practically everywhere they looked, partly because Joe’s Shoe Repair has been in the same space for 20-plus years. It totaled about 800 square feet and cost about $1,300 per month to rent.

They move in this weekend, so they can be open for business Monday, Jan. 5.

“We lined up the place about a month ago,” Amy Chavez said. “We went back and forth, because the places were all taken. “In December he let us know a guy was leaving, so we came in and just started to do everything. It was very convenient, because it’s only a half a mile. It’s much newer and very spacious. I’m just so glad that we got a place close by that was not too expensive.”

The owners of the building at 17866 Sierra Highway – Martha and Max – are longtime customers of Joe’s.

“A long time ago he told us about the place – when we weren’t looking,” Amy said. “The whole building was vacant back in the day.”

When they first heard from government employees that their shop would be closing due to eminent domain, the Chavez’s were not entirely pleased with the level of assistance they would be getting for the move and subsequent potential loss of business.

“They improved a little bit, but not what we were expecting,” Amy explained. “They finally told us about how the eminent domain was going to take place. At the end of the day, we knew we had to go get a place suitable for us.”

Business owners from the old building negotiated independently with agents from the City of Santa Clarita.

“They’re helping us move,” Amy said. “I’m very relived, only because the place is very close. My dad was afraid he was going to lose his clients, go to an expensive place and not be able to afford it. Everything’s better now, because the rent is pretty much the same as it was. I was going all over the place looking for spots for us. We’re finally there.”

Kim, the owner of Hair Wave, will move to her new location at the end of February. A few of her customers on Tuesday told the Gazette they were glad she was reopening nearby.

“She’s really nice and has such nice manners,” said one man as he climbed into his pickup truck after receiving a short, conservative cut. Her next customer, another man, said he’s been going to Kim for haircuts for about 10 years, mostly for her skill and speed.

Kim posted a sign in her window at Hair Wave that gives her new address and says: “Please! Please! I would like you to follow me. I need your support. Thanks a lot.”

Amy Chavez also has a message for Joe’s Shoe Repair customers.

“Follow us – we’re very close,” she said. “We’re going to be the same, we’re just up the street.”

Shoe Shop Shakeup Settles after Eminent Domain Controversy

| News | February 1, 2018

If you loaded up your pet for a grooming appointment at Donna’s Doggie Den or tried to drop off some boots at Joe’s Shoe Repair, you probably found the building was all but abandoned. With the March 1 deadline looming for the closure of two buildings on the 18300 block of Sierra Highway due to eminent domain, several of the businesses have moved on.

Donna Littlejohn of the Doggie Den moved out of the area, and Hair Wave will move around the corner to 18302 Sierra Hwy, #103, on the corner of Dolan Way in Canyon Country.

The businesses received letters from the City of Santa Clarita last April informing them that they needed to find a new location, because construction was set to begin on the new Canyon Country Community Center.

New Store Front for Joe’s

Amy Chavez said they are moving her father’s business, Joe’s Shoe Repair, to 17866 Sierra Hwy, #108, in the Mint Canyon Plaza next to the Church of Hope. The phone number will remain the same: 661-299-1628.

The Chavez family sweated out the possible scenarios last year while searching for affordable spaces in the same area, so they could keep their customers. Amy found that rent was higher practically everywhere they looked, partly because Joe’s Shoe Repair has been in the same space for 20-plus years. It totaled about 800 square feet and cost about $1,300 per month to rent.

They move in this weekend, so they can be open for business Monday, Jan. 5.

“We lined up the place about a month ago,” Amy Chavez said. “We went back and forth, because the places were all taken. “In December he let us know a guy was leaving, so we came in and just started to do everything. It was very convenient, because it’s only a half a mile. It’s much newer and very spacious. I’m just so glad that we got a place close by that was not too expensive.”

The owners of the building at 17866 Sierra Highway – Martha and Max – are longtime customers of Joe’s.

“A long time ago he told us about the place – when we weren’t looking,” Amy said. “The whole building was vacant back in the day.”

When they first heard from government employees that their shop would be closing due to eminent domain, the Chavez’s were not entirely pleased with the level of assistance they would be getting for the move and subsequent potential loss of business.

“They improved a little bit, but not what we were expecting,” Amy explained. “They finally told us about how the eminent domain was going to take place. At the end of the day, we knew we had to go get a place suitable for us.”

Business owners from the old building negotiated independently with agents from the City of Santa Clarita.

“They’re helping us move,” Amy said. “I’m very relived, only because the place is very close. My dad was afraid he was going to lose his clients, go to an expensive place and not be able to afford it. Everything’s better now, because the rent is pretty much the same as it was. I was going all over the place looking for spots for us. We’re finally there.”

Kim, the owner of Hair Wave, will move to her new location at the end of February. A few of her customers on Tuesday told the Gazette they were glad she was reopening nearby.

“She’s really nice and has such nice manners,” said one man as he climbed into his pickup truck after receiving a short, conservative cut. Her next customer, another man, said he’s been going to Kim for haircuts for about 10 years, mostly for her skill and speed.

Kim posted a sign in her window at Hair Wave that gives her new address and says: “Please! Please! I would like you to follow me. I need your support. Thanks a lot.”

Amy Chavez also has a message for Joe’s Shoe Repair customers.

“Follow us – we’re very close,” she said. “We’re going to be the same, we’re just up the street.”

New Business: Whimbys

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 29, 2018

For teens who like to buy resale clothes and other treasures, there’s a store opening in Canyon Country where the money they pay out will come back to them. Whimbys is bringing a consignment opportunity to the TJ Maxx shopping center, specifically aiming to support schools and youth programs.

“I’ve been working on this for three to four years, saving until I had enough money,” said Whimbys owner Tracey Moss, who has been in retail sales for 30-plus years and volunteered extensively for PTA and the Boy Scouts.

Non-profit organizations can sign up with Whimbys to receive earnings from donated goods.

“I know the funding in schools has gotten worse and worse and worse,” Moss said. “I like kids; it’s profitable; it’s year round. It’s kind of a no-brainer – for them.”

When a school signs up for a fundraiser through Whimbys, Moss will bring a truck to pick up and pay them for soft goods. Larger items are sold on consignment.

The store’s specialty includes women’s clothing and items for teenagers, from clothes to sporting goods. The 3,000-square-foot space will open Saturday, Jan. 13 pending approval from the L.A. Fire Department.

Located on the west side of TJ Maxx, Moss said she is on friendly terms with Hope of the Valley Thrift Store, also in the center. “I hope that we feed off of each other’s customers,” she said. “When stores are next to each other that are alike it gives people the opportunity to shop at both.”

Though Moss said she prepared the store mostly by herself, her sister-in-law created a baby section and Boy Scout families helped her haul items from her house and her storage unit.

Moss and her husband, Michael, have led Boy Scouts and their sons have been active in the organization. Colby is a student at Saugus High School; Matthew earned the Eagle Scout Award and is serving in the U.S. Marines.

Whimbys is located at 19371 Soledad Canyon in Canyon Country. It is open seven days a week, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.

Local Band Opens for The Tubes at The Canyon Santa Clarita

| Entertainment | January 25, 2018

Based in San Francisco, The Tubes broke into the music business in the 1970s with the hit single from their debut album, “White Punks on Dope,” which later anchored the band’s live finales. The rock band became legendary for their theatrics during live shows, and appearing on MTV in the early days.

The original band recorded eight albums, with two hits in “She’s A Beauty” and “Talk to Ya Later,” as well as FM classics like “What Do You Want From Life” and “Turn Me On.” They worked with some of the top producers in the business such as Al Kooper, Ken Scott, Todd Rundgren and David Foster, says an industry insider.

Today The Tubes still performs with four original members. There is singer Fee Waybill, guitarist Roger Steen, bassist Rick Anderson and drummer Prairie Prince, as well as newer bandmate Gary Medd who make up the group.

They are appearing Saturday, January 27 at the recently opened The Canyon Santa Clarita inside the Westfield Valencia Town Center Mall. Like the other clubs owned by Sterling Venue Ventures in the L.A. area, they book a diverse blend of musical and comedic acts, including many classic rock bands like The Tubes.

Local band Right Side Up will open for The Tubes on Saturday. Made up of three veteran musicians, the classic blues and rock band plays approximately twice a week at local venues such as Persia Lounge, Vincenzo’s, Sierra Saloon and Wolf Creek Brewery. It is a first for Right Side Up to play for any of the clubs associated with The Canyon.

“It’s kind of exciting for us,” said Peter Smith, drummer for Right Side Up. “It’s a major venue, with a major sound system. It should be a nice notch in our belt that we’ve played there.”

Drummer Snappy Smith moved to California from Boston in the ‘70s and appeared with bands in venues from Las Vegas showrooms to “The Tonight Show” stage.

Dan Kirkpatrick, guitarist and singer of the band, has written songs for several hit television shows, including “My Name is Earl” and “The Goodwin Games.” He is a seasoned musician, mostly performing in blues and rock groups.

Bass player Robert Heller has been playing since he was a teenager in South Africa. He moved to England in his early 20s and played in local pubs for a few years. Later, he moved to Canada and raised a family before arriving in Los Angeles.

Right Side Up will perform at The Rock Inn in Lake Hughes on February 10. For their full schedule visit RightSideUpMusic.com.

They will play classic blues and rock songs with their own kind of treatment at The Canyon Santa Clarita Saturday from 7:15-7:45 p.m. The club is located at 24201 Valencia Blvd. #1351 in Valencia. To buy tickets, visit WhereMusicMeetstheSoul.com.

The Romantic Look of Eugenia’s

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 24, 2018

She makes blushing brides beautiful and she’s the belle of the ball at every high school prom. A local dress designer for decades, Maria Eugenia Mendez has served women and teens in the community on countless special occasions through her business known as Eugenia’s Designs.

Originally from Bolivia, Eugenia and her husband, Ernesto, moved to Michigan in 1961 and Santa Clarita in 1971. When their four children went to school, so did Eugenia – she earned a degree in fashion design from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, or FIDM, in Los Angeles.

The first Eugenia’s store was opened in 1981. As she built her customer base, Eugenia needed a larger space, so she moved to a space in Newhall, then opened her boutique at Soledad Canyon and Camp Plenty roads in Canyon Country. Her last location was near TJ Maxx. About 10 years ago she closed her shop to work from her house.

She mostly designs for brides and for girls going to high school proms.

“The girls don’t want to have a dress they have at the mall,” Eugenia explained. “They like to be different, so that’s why they want to have a design or they combine two or three designs they see at the Oscars or something.”

In all the years Eugenia has been working, she’s seen it all, but she has her favorites.

“I’m pretty classic,” she said. “I feel that the classical stays. It’s versatile too — later you can turn it to this and that.”

When it comes to fabrics, Eugenia loves laces and chiffon. “There are so many now and so beautiful,” she said. “I enjoy going to downtown to my suppliers.”

Typically, her clients will bring pictures of the styles they want, and she creates drawings, offering her expertise in regard to their body types and which shapes offer the most flattering fits. She also caters to the customer’s budget. Some customers come to Eugenia for alterations or they order something online and want to make a few changes.

But what doesn’t change is Eugenia’s reputation for creating custom designs that are red carpet ready. So, even when she’s not in attendance, the work of Maria Eugenia Mendez is the talk of the town.

You can reach Eugenia by calling 661-298-2442 or visiting Eugeniasdesigns.com.

Don Takeda: A Man for All Seasons

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 24, 2018

For the most part, organisms have the best chance of growth and development if they have a strong foundation. Don Takeda of Canyon Country is a living, breathing example of that concept.

It was exactly 46 years between the day Takeda was hired as a biology and math instructor at College of the Canyons and his retirement, which came after teaching and chairing the biology department. He is the longest serving faculty member at the college.

A graduate of University of California, Berkeley, Takeda had just completed a master’s degree in botanical science at California State University, Los Angeles when he interviewed for the job. He thought it would just be “interview experience,” but he was swiftly hired at COC, which was only three years old at the time.

“It was completely shocking,” Takeda said. “It was so casual, so informal.”

He began working at COC’s Valencia campus on Jan. 1, 1972, when there were no permanent buildings. From a young, “green” instructor, Takeda’s career grew in tandem with the growth of the college – and the Santa Clarita Valley as a whole.

“It was really exciting,” he said. “The institution correlated with the development of the community.”

The science department saw changes too. The college was originally set up to educate individuals for transfer to other institutions of higher education. But that focus began to change, even within Takeda’s department.

“Not only has it expanded, but the content, the discipline has changed,” he said. “It tends to cycle. Back then it was environmental/ecology centered. … The science has changed dramatically, but we’ve come back to sustainability.”

Takeda also met his wife, Cindee Robinson, while working at COC. They settled in Canyon Country in 1976, where they reared two children, daughter Phoebe and son Cameron, both former College of the Canyons students. Phoebe is studying fashion design at Kent State University and Cameron graduated from University of California, Berkeley and is completing a master’s degree in philosophy at California State University, Los Angeles.

Takeda believes that living in this community gave his children a solid foundation, beginning with pre-school at St. Clare Catholic Church in Canyon Country. “Everything they needed to learn from life was from pre-school,” he said. “And the teachers at Mitchell – it’s a great school.”
The eastern side of the valley has some advantages, in Takeda’s mind. “There’s a diversity out here, which is so neat,” he explained. “And when I bought in 1976, there was a pocket of educators in Sierra Hills – that was a surprise too. … It was a small development and there were very few homes – nothing like it is today.”

The retired educator believes his children benefitted from life in Santa Clarita, not just during the formative years, but beyond.

“It might seem biased, but they had the experience to go to COC and get a solid foundation, to get that pedagogy under their belt,” Takeda said. “That’s the strength of community colleges.”

Like the seasons he watched come and go while growing up on a farm in Fresno, Takeda has witnessed a lot of changes in the community, including COC’s Valencia campus growing from modules to permanent buildings, and the same pattern at the Canyon Country campus.

“We had a lot of students from the Canyon Country area. It was a logical progression,” he said. “Its uniqueness resides in the fact that Canyon Country has a lot of individuality, which is a strength. … With the science building coming up, I can go back there now and say, as a community member, that’s an achievement that’s going to be of value to the community.”

An emphasis on STEM departments – science, technology, engineering and math – gives credibility to an institution of learning, according to Takeda. It correlates to jobs and research opportunities.

Though his retirement fell before the groundbreaking of the new science building on COC’s Canyon Country campus, which is later this month, Takeda does not plan to miss out.

“As an adjunct, I’ll be able to teach there, instead of ending cold turkey after 46 years,” he said.

It is the reverse order that most College of the Canyons faculty members take, who usually hold an adjunct position before becoming full-time. But it’s a move that makes sense for Don Takeda. After all, he is a man who repeatedly serves to support the continued growth and development of those around him, taking whatever route is necessary.

New Business: Medrano’s Mexican Restaurant

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 23, 2018

One of Canyon Country’s newest arrivals has a long, successful track record. The 20-year history of Medrano’s Mexican Restaurant is proof that you can accomplish a lot with family unity.

“That’s the key, that’s how we’ve succeeded,” said general manager Jose Medrano. “Being together, my mom and dad taught us, raised us in the right way, to stick together as a family.”

“Mom and Dad” are Reveca Alvarez and Ramiro Medrano, who brought their family from Guanajuato, Mexico, and pooled their money with their sons to open the first Medrano’s in Lancaster.
“We put in our savings. We started with $200 in the drawer (of the) cash register,” Jose Medrano said. “All my family has been working in restaurants our whole life – cooks, waiters, busboys, hostesses. That’s why we decided to open our own.”

The restaurant was successful from the start, and soon they opened more – one in Palmdale and another in Quartz Hill. Canyon Country is the fourth location.

“In order to succeed you have to be ‘on it’ all the time,” Jose Medrano said. “It’s a sacrifice – family, kids.”

With a family of five, including children ages 10-22, Jose is a busy man. “I’ve got a really sweet family,” he said. “I try to raise them in a good way. That’s my job as a parent.”

It’s clear that Jose Medrano is a people person, and he claims to never let business change him.

“This is all about my parents,” he underscored. “I’m very blessed to have parents like the ones I have. They put me in a position they believe I belong to. All my family believes in me. I’m really blessed with that.”

The Medranos have a March 1 target date to open in Canyon Country with everything their other restaurants offer, from football game nights and Sunday brunches to pick-up and catering services. The restaurant is located at 19319 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. For more information, visit Medranosmexicanfood.com.

Update on Developments

| Sand Canyon Journal | January 22, 2018

Vista Canyon Update
When Sand Canyon residents pass through the four-way stop, they can get a glimpse of the 185-acre site of Vista Canyon, but it isn’t easy to monitor progress from a distance. Canyon Country Magazine got an update from JSB Development at the beginning of the year.

Site Prep for Homes
Preparation should be completed this year for a developer to move forward with the construction and sale of 322 detached and attached homes. By the middle of the year, preliminary roadwork and installation of underground utilities should be completed.

Afterward, home parcels will be turned over to the homebuilder(s) and final designs – which are subject to city and master developer approval – permitting and lot preparation will be completed, followed by model home construction. According to JSB Development, the group of homes should be characteristic of those found in emerging walkable, transit-focused neighborhoods.

Construction of 3-Story Office Building
With expected use as a commercial/retail center, construction is underway on Santa Clarita’s newest office building – a cornerstone of Vista Canyon’s Lincoln Place. It will be three stories and 56,000 square feet, and designed by Gensler, architect behind Facebook’s corporate headquarters, KCET Studios, and the Abu Dhabi Financial Center.

The aim for the reinforced concrete building is to provide upscale office, retail and entertainment space for the east side of the Santa Clarita Valley. There are six three-story buildings planned for Vista Canyon’s town square, and this initial building is expected to open by the end of the year.

Builder Chosen for Apartments
Multi-family home developer JPI will build 480 luxury apartments in 13 acres of Vista Canyon’s centralized town square. Floor plans will be available in studio size, as well as those with one, two or three bedrooms. In the long-range plans for Vista Canyon, the developer’s selling point of the apartments includes “the convenience of a city center address located just steps from shops, coffeehouses, cafes, corporate offices, entertainment and transit.”

JPI Western Region is based in San Diego and has developed communities in Arizona and California, including Mission Bay and Jefferson Stadium Park.

Water Reclamation Plant
As planned, Vista Canyon is constructing a water reclamation facility to make more water available each year. It will be the only water plant in the state that is privately built and funded. It is designed to exceed state mandates and aims to achieve net zero water consumption levels to advance long-term sustainability in the community.

Once constructed, the plant will be a part of Castaic Lake Water Agency’s recycled water system and will be turned over to the City of Santa Clarita for operation. Construction of the facility should be completed by the end of 2018, followed by a several-month period of testing and certification. Target timeframe for turnover to the City of Santa Clarita is fourth quarter of 2019.

The recycled water facility will serve Vista Canyon and other “non potable water uses” such as irrigation for landscaping, parks and medians, in the surrounding area. The facility is part of Phase 2B of SCV Water Agency’s (formerly CLWA) Recycled Water Master plan. The water agency determines the specific areas that the excess water will service.

Site Prep for Second Bus Station
A part of the Vista Canyon site is being prepared for transportation purposes. When ready, the parcel will be handed over to the City of Santa Clarita to establish a second bus station. The only bus station currently is the McBean Regional Transit Center.
Sand Canyon Plaza
The corner opposite Vons on Sand Canyon and Soledad Canyon is starting to change. Mobile homes have disappeared and have been replaced by signs of construction. The new project, Sand Canyon Plaza, is underway since its approval last September, which followed five public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Santa Clarita City Council. Developer Tom Clark has permits in process for grading and construction of buildings, while clearing the site in preparation for breaking ground in the second quarter of this year.

Sand Canyon Plaza is a mixed-use project on approximately 87 acres planned as 580 dwelling units, which are comprised of single-family and attached multi-family units. There are 60,000 square feet of retail space in the plan – primarily restaurants situated around a water feature – and a 130-bed, 80,000-square-foot assisted living facility. The project will also include three private recreation areas, commercial plaza areas, private streets, driveways, parking and landscaped areas.

“We have made several changes to the project over the last two years based on input from the community, city staff and the Planning Commission,” Clark explained. “Recent changes have included increasing the size of the commercial square footage, the provision of additional parking, and the creation of a two-acre park, which will include a pool, jacuzzi, club house, barbecue, fireplace, basketball court, dog park and trails.”

It was rumored that Sand Canyon Plaza would receive water from Vista Canyon’s water reclamation plant, but Castaic Lake Water Agency plans to distribute the recycled water off-site into Fair Oaks Ranch instead. They are not proposing to utilize the water at this stage to properties east of Vista Canyon such as Sand Canyon Plaza.

“However, we will be incorporating all of the city’s green building requirements into the project, including the use of drought-tolerant landscaping, low-flow fixtures and other water conservation strategies,” Clark said.

Water for Sand Canyon Plaza will come from Santa Clarita Water Division and the project will connect to the existing public sewer system.

“We made a point early on to reach out to the surrounding community,” Clark said. “The feedback has been very positive. Additionally, the public outreach process has really resulted in the creation of a project that will be an asset to this part of town.”

Business Spotlight: Automotive Key

| Canyon Country Magazine | January 20, 2018

When you’re dealing with the frustration of a broken remote to unlock your car, or you’ve locked yours inside and can’t open the door, a car dealer is not the only one who holds the key. At least, not since Luis Vega opened Automotive Key.

Some of the most frequent jobs that come Vega’s way include clients whose remotes are cracked or drivers with only one set of car keys and need duplicates. He also has a mobile service for individuals who lock their keys inside their vehicles.

It was 22 years ago when Luis Vega left Mexico City

“I was tired of the corruption,” he said. “My father sacrificed all his money to give me an education. … I saw the American flag and I (thought) ‘I’ve got to go there,’ and I started from the bottom.”

Vega learned his trade from working for Valencia Lexus for 15 years. Four years ago he struck out on his own, and established Automotive Key at its current location.

“When I can’t get a car open l don’t give up,” Vega said. “We use a special computer to get a program we call advanced diagnostics.”

It typically takes 20-25 minutes for him to program a new key.

“The dealers charge too much; that’s one of the things people like about us,” he said.

Vega used all of his savings to start his business. And though it was hard at first, business is improving for him and his wife, Fatima. They have two sons, 19-year-old Jonathan, who went to Canyon Springs, Sierra Vista and Canyon High School, and will soon be leaving for a Mormon mission. Fourteen-year-old Hyram attended the same elementary school and junior high and is currently at Canyon.

“This area is so quiet and so secure – one of the reasons I try to do business here,” said Luis Vega. “People are so great, so helpful, so friendly.”

Automotive Key is open Monday-Saturday 10 a.m.-7 p.m. It is located at 18928 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country. For more information, call 661-313-0588 or visit Automotivekeysc.com.

Rob Paulsen Brings Animation to the Stage at Performing Arts Center

| News | January 11, 2018

He’s the voice in your head.

No, not that one. The other voice(s) you heard as a child: Raphael of “The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” (in the ‘80s); Pinky in “Animaniacs” and “Pinky and the Brain” (in the ‘90s) and many other animated characters from shows such as “The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest” and “The Fairly OddParents.”

He is Rob Paulsen and he is coming to the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center on Sat., January 20, 2018. He and fellow cast members are bringing a show of combined animation and live action to local audience members called “Animaniacs Live.”

“This is a unique circumstance. The people who wrote and originally performed the music doing it live,” Paulsen said. “It’s not only nostalgic, it’s incredibly entertaining.”

“Animaniacs” footage on a large screen will form a backdrop for music performances by Paulsen, Wakko Warner voice actor Jess Harnell and songwriter Randy Rogel, who mix slapstick humor, pop culture and witty lines onstage. It’s a chance for the public to revisit a favorite show from the past and get a night of fresh entertainment.

“You will ultimately leave from two hours of laughing and smiling,” Paulsen said. “It’s a unique experience not only for the audience, but us … and we always do a Q and A at the end of it – and they love it.”

Paulsen’s heroes as a child included masters of comedy and impersonation  Peter Sellers, Jonathan Winters and Carol Burnett. At an early age he started trying on voices and making people laugh.

“That doesn’t mean I thought I would make any money doing it,” Paulsen explained. “It wasn’t until my 20s that I thought, ‘I really love this, and I really can’t not do it.’”

With some music and theatre experience under his belt, Paulsen moved from Michigan to California in 1978.

“Fortunately, my parents instilled in me a sense of responsibility – they said, ‘You’re on your own,’ but they encouraged me to follow my passion, even though they preferred I finished college,” Paulsen said. “I just couldn’t see myself doing anything else. You’re driven to do something for this deep ‘jones’ of doing it.”

The aspiring actor worked on “GI Joe” and made connections that landed him the voice of “Hadji” on the new “Jonny Quest” series. And while snagging the Ninja Turtles part of Raphael was one of his biggest breaks, he was doubly delighted to play Donatello when the reboot was in production 25 years later.

By far, one of Paulsen’s lowest points was two years ago when he was diagnosed with stage 3 throat cancer, a terrible and ironic illness for a voice actor. His doctor found a lump in his neck where the cancer had spread to a lymph node. He completed radiation and chemotherapy by May 2016.

“I am a very, very fortunate individual,” Paulsen said. “Never did my wife and I have a moment of ‘why me?’ We are very fortunate … the treatment worked.”

The gratitude he exudes is likely one of the reasons cancer couldn’t hold Paulsen back.

“I could not have asked for a better career, and I have a great family and friends,” he said. “I’ve gotten to do this for 30 years. I’m beyond fortunate.”

In addition to touring with “Animaniacs Live,” creating and directing, Hulu picked up 26 more half-hour shows of “Pinky and the Brain.” Also, Steven Spielberg announced a plan for a reboot of the series, which could put even more on Paulsen’s plate.

“I’m a very driven individual,” he said. “It’s a new challenge. Most of my career I’ve been a hired gun. I show up, I do the job and I go home.  Now I’m pitching ideas, going on the road. I’m busier now than I’ve ever been in my life.”

After 30 years creating characters that gained traction with audiences of more than one generation, Paulsen’s work connects him to a growing fan base, which he says spans in age from 8 to 70 years old.

“People say, ‘I watched this and now my kids watch this,’” he said. “All it does is make everybody happy. I’m really enjoying the challenge.”

“Animaniacs Live” will be at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center on Sat., January 20 at 2 p.m. The PAC is located on the College of the Canyons campus located at 26455 Rockwell Canyon Road in Valencia. For tickets, call 661-362-5304 or visit http://www3.canyons.edu/Offices/PIO/CanyonsPAC/animaniacs.html.

Savannah Burrows Performs at BBQ to Honor First Responders

| Entertainment | January 11, 2018

When Santa Clarita thanks its first responders Saturday, there will be a number of individuals in the spotlight. Tickets are sold out for an event recognizing sheriff’s deputies, firefighters and others for bravery during the Thomas Fire, the weeks-long blaze that began Dec. 4, 2017 in Ventura County. The event will draw Santa Clarita City Council members, high-ranking law enforcement and many members of the community amid squad cars, fire engines and search lights. Rattler’s will provide a barbecue dinner.

One of the youngest stars taking the stage at the Canyon Theatre Guild will be Savannah Burrows and her band.

“We are honoring the first responders to the recent wildfires who put their lives on the line each and every day,” Burrows said. “I feel so fortunate to do my part in giving back by performing for (them) and their families.”

The Santa Clarita teen, who is gaining acclaim for her vocal skills and meaningful lyrics, composed new songs for the event. She will be showing her versatility by playing five different musical instruments with her six-piece band.

“I write and perform only my original music based on my life experiences and those I’ve observed in others,” she explained.

Savannah Burrows has been booked for performances throughout the Southland, including: Friday, Feb. 3 opening for Wilson Phillips at The Canyon Club in Agoura; Feb 22 opening for The Spinners at The Canyon in Valencia’s Westfield Town Center Mall; March 31 opening for The Fifth Dimension, also at The Canyon in Valencia; and June 30 opening for Diamond Rio at the Santa Clarita Performing Arts Center. For tickets, visit SavannahBurrowsmusic.com.

View of Metrolink from Both Sides of the Track

| News | January 11, 2018

For 25 years there’s been an agency transporting Southern Californians across seven counties, now carrying 40,000 passengers a day covering more than 400 million miles a year. In terms of route miles, it’s the third largest commuter rail agency in the United States.

If you live in Santa Clarita you’ve doubtless seen it pass by, but you may never have used its services. It’s the Metrolink rail service.

“The average Metrolink rider is a Monday through Friday type commuter,” said Christopher Gutierrez, spokesman for Metrolink. “We play a vital role in providing that transportation, a convenient way to get cars off the road and get people to school and work.”

Ken Chase of Canyon Country has been riding Metrolink to his workplace in Pasadena for two years. Two or three days a week he rides it 50 minutes to Union Station in Downtown L.A., then takes the Gold Line from there.

“I was putting a lot of miles on my car. It was expensive, and I was tired of the grind of traffic,” Chase explained. “It takes longer, but it’s relaxing. I can do work sometimes or personal stuff. On the way home I can take a nap.”

An accountant, Chase calculated the difference in cost when making his decision. He found that driving totals $28 per day, including gas and the wear-and-tear on his car, while riding the train costs about $10 a day.

About 5-6 years ago Chase started riding the Santa Clarita Commuter Bus. He met someone on the bus and they began carpooling until his fellow commuter changed jobs. That’s when he tried the train.

“I found the Metrolink was better than the Commuter Bus,” Chase said. “The train is a little more relaxing.”
For one Santa Clarita resident who’s been riding Metrolink for 25 years, it’s more than just a lift to work.

“I love riding the train, either commuting to work, heading out to dinner in Downtown L.A. on a Saturday night, or a bike ride on Sunday afternoon,” said Andrea Stuart, who works for a Los Angeles law firm. “And I’ve made lifelong friends with other commuters. We’d play cards on the evening ride home to pass the time.”

Stuart also recognizes that not everyone shares her enthusiasm for train transport.

“Seriously, I’m a big fan of public transportation, and in Southern California, you’d think you were asking them to get on a UFO,” she said. “It’s crazy.”

Data shows a slight uptick in college students riding the train, Gutierrez said. But more pronounced is Metrolink’s partnerships around the Southland which enabled the agency to expand its service destinations. For instance, the public transportation agency provides “football trains,” bringing riders to the L.A. Coliseum to see the Rams. And there are trains to see the Angels, plus the new downtown San Bernardino station has a minor league baseball stadium close by.

During the holidays, Metrolink took skaters to the ice rink in Pershing Square, and the city of Riverside contracted with the agency to bring visitors to the Riverside Festival of Lights. There were holiday shopping trains, including a free shuttle bus to the Citadel.

“We aren’t just here on weekdays for workers,” Gutierrez said. “It’s one of the most affordable things you can do.”

One of the most popular trains is Metrolink’s discounted rates to the L.A. County Fair in September.

“Metrolink offers special services to the fairgrounds, to the front gate of the fair for free,” Gutierrez said. “People avoid long lines and parking fees.”

To promote the rail service, last year passengers got to see baby farm animals in a petting zoo at Union Station.

For anyone making Metrolink ridership a part of their New Year’s resolutions, Union Station will likely become a familiar place.

“You can get anywhere from Union Station,” Stuart said. “Sure beats sitting in traffic!”

Non Profit of the Week – Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides

| Community | December 29, 2017

One of a parent’s worst nightmares involves a teen becoming inebriated and getting behind the wheel of a car. One local non-profit group is doing what it can to minimize situations just like that one — and there’s no better time to recognize the importance of these volunteers than the holidays.

Santa Clarita Valley Safe Rides is an organization enabling teens to help other teens by, literally, steering their peers from the dangers of drunk driving by offering them rides.

Volunteers stand by for free rides on Fridays and Saturdays from 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Use of the service remains confidential. SCV Safe Rides offers the following suggestions for those choosing to use the program: Call as early as possible, give good information about your location, and wait for a call back.

The idea for Safe Rides stemmed from the community of Darien, Connecticut when they lost seven teenagers in DUI traffic collisions in one year. The local chapter was formed in 1986 after Santa Clarita saw the tragic deaths of six teens in alcohol-related traffic collisions over approximately a year’s time.

On Friday and Saturday nights, teen volunteers and an adult supervisor meet in the Safe Rides headquarters, where teenagers act as dispatchers. Other teens are paired into coed driving teams—a driver and navigator—and give the caller a ride using their own family’s vehicle. Drivers are reimbursed for gas.

SCV Safe Rides is primarily student organized and operated. Adults simply support and supervise. Students in grades 9-12 who are at least 15 years old may volunteer for SCV Safe Rides. It requires a training session and attendance at monthly meetings. Trainings are held twice a year and include drug and alcohol awareness, plus navigation tools, as well as safe driving instruction.

Adult volunteers are an essential part of Safe Rides, as all activities must be supervised by trained adults. There are ways local adults can get involved in the program. There are fundraising efforts to support, an annual recognition banquet for drivers, and supervisors are needed in the office while teens are driving callers. According to the SCV Safe Rides website, to be an adult volunteer, you must be at least 25 years old, available one Friday or Saturday night every 4-6 weeks until 2 a.m., and you need to like teenagers. To become involved, email SafeRides@socal.rr.com.

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