Fall Fundraisers

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | September 12, 2014

Sept 13
An Evening Under the Stars
The Michael Hoefflin Foundation is holding the Evening Under the Stars Gala and Charity Auction for the 21st year, but with a new twist. Not only is the event moved back to its original side of the SCV — Canyon Country — but also an aerial acrobatics troupe will provide the entertainment. Supporters of the non-profit, which was founded by Chris and Sue Hoefflin and their son, Michael, who lost his battle with cancer at the age of 10, will gather at Robinson Ranch Golf Club’s 18th hole for the event. There will be a catered dinner, drinks, silent and live auctions, as well as the unique show by Bella Circo. Tickets are $150 and can be purchased by calling (661) 250-4100 or by visiting www.mhf.org.

September 20
Santa Clarita Heart Walk

This annual 5K, held at Westfield Valencia Town Center, raises money for the fight against heart disease and stroke. Registration for the Santa Clarita Heart Walk will begin at 7:30 a.m., with the program at 8 a.m. and the walk beginning at 8:30 a.m. There will be a 5K Walk/Run, 1 Mile Survivor Route, Kids Fun Zone, Live Entertainment, Health Expo, Free Health Screenings and CPR Demonstrations, Sponsor Booths and giveaways. There is no fee to participate, however walkers are eligible to receive a free Heart Walk T-shirt when they raise $100 or more. For more information, visit www.HeartWalkLA.org, email alisha.castro@heart.org or call 213-291-7094.

Oct 4
Rubber Ducky Festival
For the 12th year, the Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers will host a family-oriented fundraiser open to the public. Held at Bridgeport Park in rubber-ducky1Valencia, crowds will gather from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. to watch rubber ducks “race” across the water to declare a winner. You can adopt a duck and contribute to the non-profit organization by visiting the website: www.duckrace.com/scv. Winners need not be present to win.

Proceeds benefit Samuel Dixon Family Health Centers, Inc. Duck adoption helps to support patient care for uninsured and underinsured residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. The Center’s mission is to enhance wellness to the residents of Santa Clarita Valley by providing quality outpatient health care services and programs, health education, community resources and referrals. If you are interested in becoming a sponsor, vendor, or volunteer for the 12th Annual Rubber Ducky Festival call (661) 257-2339, ext. 302.

Oct 11
Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes

Participants will gather at the Mann Biomedical Park, 25141 Rye Canyon Loop in Valencia, for the walk beginning at 8:00 a.m. for registration. It is a four-mile walk that includes a continental breakfast, a light lunch, music, a healthy living fair, raffle, silent auction and entertainment.

For more than 20 years the American Diabetes Association (ADA) has raised money for the cause with Step Out. Teams can be formed with family and friends, companies, clubs/organizations, schools, or residents are welcome to walk as individuals. In the weeks leading up to the event, participants ask friends and acquaintances for donations to support their efforts and help fund critical research for a cure and educational programs in the community.

Teams are given a web page with access to tools to help raise funds for the walk. They are able to customize the page with their reasons for walking, send emails to ask others to donate, and even download Facebook and smart phone apps. For more information, contact Lori Blumenthal at (888) 342-2383 ext. 7413 or visit http://stepout.diabetes.org.

October 26
L.A.R.C. Ranch Halloween Festival

All ages are welcome to attend the L.A.R.C. (Los Angeles Residential Community) fundraiser for an afternoon of food, games and music. Held on the L.A.R.C. Ranch property, 29890 Bouquet Canyon Road in Saugus, the luncheon, carnival games and dance begin at 1:00 p.m. D.J. Bino Bates is providing the music. All proceeds benefit the programs, services and facilities of LARC Ranch, which provides residential and day program services to developmentally disabled adults.

Tickets are $125 each for adults and $50 for children. Family packages are available for $325, which includes tickets for two adults and two children.

Because of the extreme drought, which caused hardship for the L.A.R.C. facility, due to a huge reduction in its well water supply, the fundraiser has a heightened importance. The organization has been trucking water in to its 100-plus residents for months.

For tickets and more information about the Halloween Festival, call 661-296-8636, ext. 219 or visit www.larcfoundation.org.

L.A.R.C. Ranch was founded in 1959 by a group of parents who envisioned a better life for their developmentally disabled children. The 65-acre L.A.R.C. Ranch provides homes, recreation and social activities, and day training activity centers for developmentally disabled adults.

November 8
Light the Night Walk

This annual event for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society raises hundreds of thousands of dollars each year, furthering the non-profit’s mission to cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and to improve the quality of life of patients and their families. The walk will take place at Bridgeport Park in Valencia at 7:00 p.m., following a Fall Festival with games and prizes for families.Participants carry illuminated lanterns to show support for cancer survivors and the loved ones lost to blood cancer.

For more information or to register, visit www.lightthenight.org/calso.
To learn more about the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, visit www.lls.org.

Litter Bugs – Limiting Animal Overpopulation Through Spaying/Neutering

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 6, 2014

By Martha Michael

There has always been a healthy campaign urging pet owners to have their animals spayed and neutered.

Canyon Country resident Kyle Harris, owner of Kyle’s Custom Critter Care, a local pet sitting business, is a part of that campaign.
“Absolutely necessary,” wrote Harris in an email. “The earlier the better! Pet overpopulation is a deadly problem!”

For 12 years Harris has been a volunteer at the Castaic Animal Shelter, where, she said, there will be a new clinic for spaying and neutering. Formally called the L.A. County Animal Care Center in Castaic, the shelter broke ground on its new clinic earlier this year.

Canyon Country is home to numerous animal rescue venues and non-profit animal advocacy groups. The Gentle Barn occupies land on Sierra Highway, the Brittany Foundation and New Leash on Life are located in Sand Canyon, in addition to individuals who spearhead the rescue of particular breeds.

Local resident Michelle Lewis is a tireless volunteer at Oak Creek Corral, a Sand Canyon horse ranch promoting equine care and riding, with a variety of animals in a petting zoo.

Michelle Lewis takes care of the animals at Oak Creek Corral, including goats, pigs, peacocks and an alpaca.

Michelle Lewis takes care of the animals at Oak Creek Corral, including goats, pigs, peacocks and an alpaca.

“Every one of my animals, male and female, is fixed,” she said. “Every male goat, horse, sheep on the ranch is fixed. The baby peacocks are the last babies, as we will now eat the eggs. I aim for zero population on the ranch. The baby lamb is a rescue lamb who was abandoned by its mom.”

Lewis has owned dozens of animals, mostly dogs, and expresses a slew of good reasons for the procedure.

“Your female pet will live a longer, healthier life,” said Lewis. “Your spayed female won’t go into heat. While cycles can vary, female felines usually go into heat four to five days every three weeks during breeding season. In an effort to advertise for mates, they’ll yowl and urinate more frequently—sometimes all over the house!”

Neutering has its strong points for the pet owner also. “Your male dog won’t want to roam away from home,” said Lewis. “An intact male will do just about anything to find a mate! That includes digging his way under the fence and making like Houdini to escape from the house. And once he’s free to roam, he risks injury in traffic and fights with other males. Neutering provides major health benefits for your male. Besides preventing unwanted litters, neutering your male companion prevents testicular cancer, if done before six months of age. Your neutered male will be much better behaved. Neutered cats and dogs focus their attention on their human families. On the other hand, unneutered dogs and cats may mark their territory by spraying strong-smelling urine all over the house. Many aggression problems can be avoided by early neutering.”

Money is, of course, a factor when it comes to choosing the procedure for one’s pet. Lewis thinks this is misunderstood.

“It is highly cost-effective,” she said. “The cost of your pet’s spay/neuter surgery is a lot less than the cost of having and caring for a litter. It also beats the cost of treatment when your unneutered tom escapes and gets into fights with the neighborhood stray!”

One of the mainstays in the campaign is the argument that spaying and neutering helps fight pet overpopulation. “Every year, millions of cats and dogs of all ages and breeds are euthanized or suffer as strays,” said Lewis. “These high numbers are the result of unplanned litters that could have been prevented by spaying or neutering.”

Young married couples sometimes get a pet before tackling the role of parents. And sometimes parents want to let their kids experience the family pet having “just one litter.”

“Your pet doesn’t need to have a litter for your children to learn about the miracle of birth,” said Lewis. “Letting your pet produce offspring you have no intention of keeping is not a good lesson for your children—especially when so many unwanted animals end up in shelters. There are tons of books and videos available to teach your children about birth in a more responsible way.”

Animal advocates believe spaying and neutering your pet is good for the community. “Stray animals pose a real problem in many parts of the country. They can prey on wildlife, cause car accidents, damage the local fauna and frighten children,” said Lewis. “Spaying and neutering packs a powerful punch in reducing the number of animals on the streets.”

Back-To-School Resolutions for Tweens and Teens

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | August 5, 2014

By Cary Quashen

August is back-to-school time. As a high risk teen counselor, I know that returning to school can be risky, especially for our tweens and teens, as they move from childhood to adolescence. And as your tweens make the transition from elementary school, I would encourage you, as a parent, to never fall victim to the myth that you can now stop parenting your kids when they reach 12, 13 and 14 years of age. Once a parent, always a parent!

It’s hard for parents and kids to get back into a workable routine when the school year rolls back around. Part of the difficulty arises from the lack of structure summertime brings, and the perception that we owe our teens more freedom – after all, it is summer! But it’s never too late to establish structure. And structure can be introduced at any time.

Here’s a strategy that can help with a smooth school transition. Just like we do at the New Year, when most of us set new goals and resolutions, back to school is a perfect time for parents, tweens and teens to do the same. It’s time to talk about what to strive for this year and what to avoid. How will this school year be different than the last? How will this school year affect their futures? And as your tweens and teens transition to a new school, what will that feel like? Knowing and understanding that tweens are moving from a one classroom setting with one teacher to a multiple classroom setting with multiple teachers is a helpful discussion and eases the back to school pressure that anxious tweens may be feeling. Make sure your discussions include conversations about your kids’ friends, classes and activities for the coming school year – and all of their concerns, founded or unfounded.

As for re-establishing structure, make sure you start a back-to-school routine now. Start a daily schedule of when to get up and when to go bed. Contrary to their belief, our teens still need 8-10 hours of sleep every night. And they need to be able to get up on time every day.

Set an expectation with regard to homework, such as what time it is expected to be done every day. Make sure that you review your kid’s homework. It’s unfortunate, but true, parents often set expectations, but are often too busy to follow up on the expectations they set. Homework can be especially daunting for tweens and teens as they move into a multiple classroom environment with multiple homework assignments.

Make time for dinner and dinnertime conversation with kids on a daily basis. Our kids are often with their friends 24 hours a day. That’s right, 24 hours a day. I say 24 hours a day, because electronic technology (cell phones and computers) provide constant contact. Numerous studies indicate that most parents spend fewer than 15 minutes a day talking to their tweens and teens. Dinner is the perfect way for all families to connect with their kids and have a variety of conversations.

Last, but not least, always keep an open communication with your kids. As they come home with problems, make sure that you empathize with them and let them come up with workable solutions. As parents, our tendency is to bubble wrap and insulate our kids from risk. They don’t learn anything that way.

Cary Quashen a nationally recognized high-risk teen expert who specializes in teen recovery issues working with mental health and substance abuse issues. He is the founder and president of the Action Family Foundation Parent and Teen Support Group Programs and Action Family Counseling. He can be reached at (661) 297-8693.

Sulphur Springs Sees Changing of the Guard

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 4, 2014

By Martha Michael

While the biggest change in decades for the Sulphur Springs School District has not yet occurred – the retirement of District Superintendent Dr. Robert Nolet – the SSSD will begin the year with the usual shifts in personnel. There are always routine changes – teachers moving to new school sites, administrators retiring, and movement within the classrooms.

“In the 15 years I have worked at Leona Cox Community School, there have been MANY changes – a major remodel, position changes, personally moving classrooms four times, and a new principal or assistant principal every few years or less,” said Janet Yslas, special needs aid at Leona Cox. “I have just learned to roll with the punches. Because I work mostly with special needs children, changes in teachers are difficult. However, we have a group of teachers who have been there for a number of years, as well as a core group of substitutes who know the importance of routine for the children.”

Heather Drew is moving to a new site after almost two decades on one campus. She has taught grades 1 through 5 at Sulphur Springs Community School and, prior to that, grades 3 and 4 at Valley View Community School. This year she will move to Mint Canyon Community School, where she will take on a 4/5 split class.

“Making the decision to move to Mint was a difficult one, considering I felt as if Sulphur was and had been my home for almost 18 years,” said Drew. “But, the reality was, the (Sulphur Springs) District is my home and I was ready to challenge myself with new experiences at another site in the District that was quite the opposite of Sulphur. I expect it to be quite different in the size of the staff and the students and the diversity of the students, but also know that there will still be similarities: students who are wanting to learn, are in need of a teacher who cares about seeing them succeed, a staff that enjoys collaborating and only has the best interests at heart for their students, and an administration that has student success at its core.”

Drew worked for years at the same site as Julie McBride, who is heading to Mitchell Community School as the new principal this year.

“Seeing the ‘aha’ when a student grasped a concept he or she had been working on was priceless!” said McBride. “I moved into administration last year as an assistant principal and worked a shared assignment between Sulphur Springs and Valley View Elementary schools. Teaching will always be my passion, but I really enjoyed supporting other teachers and working with students in a completely different capacity. The school and its staff and students became my new ‘classroom’ and that has been an amazing experience.”

Kathie Goodrich is an office assistant at Mitchell School. “As with any situation, change is scary, but also exciting,” said Goodrich. “Personnel change for me is an opportunity to see things from a new perspective and to share my ideas with those joining us. Beginning the transition with a positive attitude is the best way to address any change.”

“There is always a ‘honeymoon’ period, when everyone is trying to get used to a new principal,” said Yslas. “In my opinion, the majority of the time, what you see is what you get. Good leaders are just good leaders. I think change is good, however hard it may seem at the time.”

Decor and Design

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | August 3, 2014

The decor in your house should express personal style and depict your own idea of “home.” Balance and creativity are a must, along with theme, color scheme, cohesiveness and utility. Decor choices, whether minimalistic or dramatic and luxurious, are about making you feel good rather than to impress the neighbors, according to local experts.

bellaBella Venezia Home & Décor, located in Canyon Country on Soledad Canyon Road, is a go-to stop for residents looking for real wood furniture and old world style collections. Manager Fonzie Diz shared his observations.

“The style we have here is very old, Tuscan, old European, that’s our look,” said Diz.

Although the older look is not top choice for every household, real wood furniture is hard to come by. Diz said he has customers from around the state coming in to look at his furniture, because they are custom crafted, real wood items.

“Real wood is something that you don’t find anywhere else,” said Diz. “I get people from surrounding states coming in to look around and buy. People want it and nobody offers it.”

The look and feel of real wood goes a long way toward setting the right environment in your home. Wooden furniture brings a warm and homey vibe, as well as giving off the luxurious effect that plastic “wood” can never achieve.
The furniture sold at Bella Venezia includes television stands, dressers, dining tables and chairs, benches, mirrors, engraved bookcases, and much more. The store also carries custom furniture from around the world.

By contrast, other Canyon Country homes are looking to go in a modern direction, using muted colors and simple themes.

There is a new trend in kitchen counters, for instance. Instead of porous granite countertops, stone or other materials, homeowners can get a modern surface that can take on the appearance of stone, yet not age or develop a patina, because it is made of high-tech, heat sculpted plastics.

Along with being masterfully finished, non-porous surfaces prevent bacteria and molds from taking refuge among the cracks and crevices a normal tabletop would have. This plastic also leaves a sleek finish, which is perfect for anyone looking for a minimalistic, solid and clean look to their home furnishings.

Local, family-owned Surfaces USA managers, Jen and George of Canyon Country, believe that when it comes to remodeling there are some definite trends, and Canyon Country is a big market. “We’re a part of the community – it matters to us,” said Joe Salem from Surfaces’ sales and marketing department.

Locals are using porcelain tile for indoor and outdoor floors, also living room, dining room, hallway and kitchen floors, bathroom floors, shower walls. Many are using granite and marble for kitchen countertops, bathroom vanity tops, showers walls and shower benches.

Surfaces USA staff described the latest tiles and newest counter finishes. “We are seeing warm colors, rustic styles, as well as a lot of whites in bathrooms and kitchens!” said Salem. “Contrast is the key to appealing design.”


When it comes to home décor, the bedroom is a more personalized area for the homeowners and for anyone with a smaller room looking to make the most of it. Wallbeds are a great alternative to the traditional bed frame and mattress.

Stephanie Saunders, owner of Wallbeds “n” More in Pasadena, has sold these Murphy style beds to many communities outside of her store location, including Canyon Country and homes throughout the Santa Clarita Valley. “The one thing I noticed was that people would mention that, although the houses were relatively new, some of the rooms were small. And for any room that you don’t want to keep a dedicated bed in, a wall bed is perfect,” says Saunders.

A wallbed is a bed that is propped up and only brought down when in use. Otherwise, it is a completely functional desk, cabinet, storage area, or other furnishing. Wallbeds are completely customizable and Saunders says that it is completely up to the home style as to which wallbed would be of best use.

“We get a mix of people, we do contemporary homes and we do beds with railings and moldings for the more traditional look. This is the bed for anyone who wants any extra space in a room. These can be in an office, an exercise room, and for anyone who has a kid away in college or guests every once in a while, a fully functional office or craft room can be turned into the guest bedroom whenever they’re in town,” says Saunders.

Wallbeds are not only for guests, however. Saunders says that some clients will want to ensure extra space in their own room for activities, such as yoga or exercise, and so they sleep in a wallbed every night.

“It’s a real mattress,” she says. “It’s comfortable and it’s efficient.”

A wallbed enables homeowners to make the most of the rooms they have, using them as full functioning spaces and, when needed, have an extra bed for a guest room.

Wallbeds “n” More is located at 1382 N. Walnut Street in Pasadena.
Visit www.wallbedsnmore.com.

Beauty Minute – Top 5 Eyelash Products

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, SC Women | July 30, 2014

by Jennifer Gerard

Now that summer is coming to a close and we are all sporting our Autumn bronze glow, dramatic makeup looks are out. However, sweeping lashes are a secret beauty staple any time of year. I am always in search of great lash products, because I am just one of these people who can’t do false lashes. They feel heavy on me and sometimes they itch. They look amazing when they are perfectly placed, but who has all day to place them? Using the must-have products and techniques mentioned below, you can hang up your falsies for good and have lashes your friends will be envious of!

1. RapidLash XL Eyelash Enhancing Serum ~ I have to say I was skeptical when I first tried this product, but it truly does work wonders. I have used other lash enhancing serums costing up to $160, but none have worked as well as RapidLash, which runs about $30 on Amazon. Simply apply a thin layer along your lash line (just as you would liquid eyeliner) once a day. After 4-5 weeks you will be amazed by how much longer and thicker your lashes will be.

2. Chanel Eyelash Curler ~ I recently switched after many years of using the She Uemera lash curler, because I think this one grips all the lashes perfectly, especially those thinner lashes on top going toward the inner corner of the eye. It is a tad pricey ($36 at Chanel.com) compared to an eyelash curler you can get at Walmart for $4, but since eyelash curlers basically last forever, consider it an investment. Always curl your lashes before applying mascara or primer.

3. Lancôme CILS Booster XL Super Enhancing Mascara Base ($24.50 at Sephora).This is a white mascara that primes lashes. It thickens and lengthens without clumping, allowing mascara to go on effortlessly. I have probably used every mascara primer on the market at one time or another, but the Lancôme is the best by far. Make sure to wiggle the wand a little as you apply this product for even more dramatic results.

4. YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) Faux Effet Babydoll Mascara ~ I honestly can’t say enough great things about this mascara. It is, hands down, the best of the best when it comes to mascara. It has a precision wand that separates the lashes perfectly without clumping. Apply it over the primer and wiggle the wand as you pull it up along the lashes. It is far from the cheapest mascara on the market, at $30 (Sephora or any department store carries it) but it is the only mascara I will ever use.

5. YSL (Yves Saint Laurent) Faux Effet Shocking Mascara (also $30 at Sephora) ~ For special occasions only, I add a little of the Shocking mascara over the top of the Babydoll for the full dramatic false lash effect. There is also a waterproof version, which is great for those sentimental occasions.

Pets For Patriots Animal Kingdom Meets Human Hero

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | May 5, 2014

Patriotic Dog & Cat.jpgWhat the staff at Marty’s Flooring knows is that anything with whiskers or a wet nose can bring a world of good to a veteran. It is an ideal link between the animal kingdom and humankind: veterans adopt homeless dogs and cats, providing a furry friend to a man or woman in uniform, which also grants the animals a place to call home.

The non-profit organization Pets for Patriots creates unique opportunities for members of the military community to save a life by honorably adopting homeless adult dogs and cats. Patriot adoptions include adult shelter pets, large dogs and special needs animals – those most in need of a loving, forever home – from any of its member shelters.

Locally, Marty’s Flooring in Valencia has been supporting Pets for Patriots for approximately four years.

“The pets are adopted by soldiers as a way to help with their rehabilitation,” said Rhiannon Summers. “Lots of our loved ones have served our great country and it’s a great way for us to give back to show our thanks for all they do.”

The goal of Pets for Patriots is to make the benefits of shelter pet adoption a reality for military personnel, ensuring many years of friendship, companionship and joy with their honorably adopted dog or cat. To ease the financial costs associated with pet ownership, Pets for Patriots partners with veterinarians to deliver a minimum 10 percent discount for the life of the adopted pet’s care.

Marty’s Flooring has a “donation wall,” where staff members post donations made by customers and friends, which are then matched by Marty’s Flooring.

“When you donate through our store, 100 percent will go to Pets for Patriots to make a real difference in the lives of U.S. military personnel and pets in need,” Summers said. “You’ll be playing a meaningful part in improving the lives of these patriots, and giving last-chance shelter animals a second chance at life.”

For more about Pets for Patriots, visit www.sclivingmagazine.com and click on “TELL ME MORE!”

Boot Campaign

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | May 5, 2014

indexMaking heroes into homeowners is the aim of the Boot Campaign, a unique fundraising effort backed by Cherry Creek Mortgage Company in Valencia. Their efforts ensure that service members, veterans and their families have support and access to one of the most basic human needs – shelter. The Boot Campaign is helping to facilitate forever home ownership for wounded service members through mortgage-free home presentations alongside Military Warriors Support Foundation, a program partner of the Boot Campaign.

bootThe Boot Campaign is a national non-profit organization dedicated to cultivating awareness, promoting patriotism, and providing assistance to military personnel, past and present, and their families. Started in 2009 by five women from Texas, known as the Original Boot Girls, the Boot Campaign encourages Americans to “get their boots on” as an easy and tangible way to express one’s patriotism and gratitude for all who serve. Proceeds from all Boot Campaign combat boot sales, events, direct donations and corporate sponsorships fund the campaign’s five assistance initiatives: Jobs, Housing, Wellness, Urgent Assistance and Family Support.

Celebrations What’s Trending?

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | May 1, 2014

Wedding Cakes/Catering

10153145_694733120587056_1568259417_nFor today’s bride, there are new challenges in making cuisine choices on that special day. There are rising food sensitivities and information exposing the harms of consuming genetically modified organisms (GMOs), in addition to an abundance of artificial ingredients and animal products in foods.

Many brides will be seeking catering resources that are conscientious about health and safety –with gluten-free diets, allergy issues, dairy intolerance, etc. Solutions to these concerns are precisely the aim of Cup My Cakez, a small boutique bakery that specializes in vintage-inspired event cakes and treats that are all 100% gluten free, natural and vegan. Owner Caitlin Byrne will customize one’s menu to fit most other dietary needs as well, such as soy or corn free.

“I source seasonal and organic produce and make EVERYTHING from scratch,” says Byrne. “Seriously, from my whole grain flour blends to my rainbow sprinkles, I tackle all the small details commonly overlooked by bakeries that buy their ingredients pre-made and processed.

Cup My Cakez is currently a made-to-order delivery service, working mostly online, but Byrne plans to open a storefront and expand to be an eco/budget friendly, all encompassing event-planning service in the near future.

To contact Cup My Cakez, visit www.CupMyCakez.com or email Cupmycakez@gmail.com. You can also find her on Facebook and Twitter.

Party Paints
Pink Butterfly webFace painting is as popular as ever in the SCV. But, says one local artist, it’s not the same old hearts and stars.

It’s “full-blown artwork,” says Hayley Tassa of Dragonflylola in Santa Clarita. “I most enjoy painting whimsical designs, like fairies, flowers, and butterflies at children’s parties.”

The Canyon Country resident offers a range of services, including body painting, henna artwork, balloon twisting, glitter tattoos and airbrush tattoos. She offers what she calls face and body artistry to the Santa Clarita area.

“I started as a little girl painting,” says Tassa. “I studied fine art, graphic design and animation, then worked in animation. So, I would say I have 35+ years of knowledge and studies under my belt. I also keep working at my craft taking classes from master face and body artists from all over the world.”

Tiger ready to post webDragonflylola can be found at as many types of celebrations as a person can imagine, including school functions, festivals, Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, quinceaneras, grand openings, corporate celebrations, birthday parties, family gatherings and non-profit organizations. Tassa has also had a booth during the Sheriff’s Haunted Jailhouse event for three years, and hopes to return to the Chili Cook-off in Castaic again.

“I love giving back to the community as well, so I offer my services to local non-profits.” says Tassa. “I have been painting for the past three years in a row for Carousel Ranch for their holiday celebration with Santa, and next month I will be painting for the Domestic Violence Center at their Fairy Berry event at Robinson Ranch.”

To contact Dragonflylola, visit www.Dragonflylolaartistry.com or email Dragonflylola@gmail.com.

Invite by Evite
In keeping with the rate by which marriages are changing the meaning of “traditional,” weddings are being handled differently than our grandparents executed theirs. It hardly seems possible, but events that are even as formal as weddings have taken to the Internet.

Brides and grooms are opting for “e-invitations” instead of printed, embossed notecards with hand-written envelopes. A recent evite went out, and the RSVP called for guests to repondez s’il vous plait online. The instructions took the responder to the site designating where the wedding ceremony would be and the reception, complete with choice of entrée.

My, how times have changed.

The Triumph of Andrew Skinner

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | April 3, 2014

Kirsten and Andrew at one of Triumph's events

Kirsten and Andrew at one of Triumph’s events

It was a tragedy. A strong, athletic, virile young 25-year-old heads to the snow to do some snowboarding, but an accident brings

Kirsten and Andrew after his accident

Kirsten and Andrew after his accident

him home with life-changing disabilities. Andrew Skinner of Canyon Country was now quadriplegic.

“This injury kind of left me like a newborn,” said Skinner. “I had to learn how to do everything myself…then returning to the community and reintegrating into activities and sports and things. I had a lot of training and a lot of people who had gone through this before me.”
Skinner’s brother and his wife, Kirsten, urged him to use his new knowledge and understanding, in part to fill some of the gaps in care that people with spinal cord injuries were experiencing. In 2008 Triumph Foundation was born.

“When we first started I never dreamed it’d become the force it’s become now,” said Skinner. “I never dreamed I’d be a philanthropist.”

It began when they simply began visitations at a hospital in Northridge. “We’d meet people with different needs, and we’d try to solve them,” he said. “Then it was one more hospital and one more hospital, and now we’re going to a dozen different rehab centers and hospitals. Every year we grow.”

Financed  mostly through individual donors, Triumph’s biggest fundraiser each year is a “Casino Night” in July at the Hyatt Regency in Valencia.

“We wanted to do something fun and social,” said Skinner. “We’ve gone to a lot of other fundraisers and you sit at a table and eat dinner, but you don’t get to mingle and get to know people. We really get to meet some of  the people who have been impacted by our organization. It’s more of a family atmosphere. I’m not a big gambler, but its fun — it’s like playing games.”

Skinner quit his job two years ago as a “leap of faith” to work for the foundation full-time. He goes after more grants and other funding, also planning events and getting sponsors for them.

“It’s a labor of love,” he said. “We run about a dozen support groups all over Southern California – most once a month.  I also get lots of calls and emails from people needing mentorship, many who are newly injured. There is also a cycling clinic every month — we do sports every week.”

TRgroup photo webThere are close to 3,000 individuals in Triumph Foundation’s network. In addition to Skinner’s family members, who work tirelessly for the foundation and serve on the board of directors, there are approximately 20 core members who are “ambassadors,” who get involved with a major hospital outreach, for instance.

Meet Triumph’s Ambassadors at Tell Me More tab.

Kirsten, Andrew and Betty

Kirsten, Andrew and Betty

Andrew Skinner’s wife, Kirsten, gave up a promising corporate job after the accident. She quit to stay by Andrew’s side. Later, she got an early childhood development degree and started teaching at Kindercare. Kirsten is now the assistant director there.

“It puts things in perspective,” said Andrew, regarding Kirsten’s life and career direction. “She wanted to do something fulfilling, more purposeful than just punching a timecard.”

Meet the Skinner’s little girl, Betty, and learn more about Triumph click on Tell Me More.

Beauty Boot Camp

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | March 10, 2014

Local residents who like to stay on top of the newest products and procedures in beauty and skincare will march into Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Care for a “Beauty Boot Camp” March 27. Attendees will travel through “stations,” filling tote bags with free gifts from around the room and sampling new beauty and skincare treatments. The Valencia dermatology and cosmetic beauty office will offer guests a customized skin analysis and skincare regimen and discounts on all non-prescription products, as well as Botox, Juvederm, Thermage and other treatments.

Visitors will be offered complimentary wine and appetizers at the event, which runs from 5:30-8:30 p.m. The cost to attend is $45 and includes a free SPF 30 skin protection product. Advanced Dermatology & Cosmetic Care is located at 28212 Kelly Johnson Pkwy, Suite 245 in Valencia. To make a reservation for the event, call
(661) 254-3686.

Faith Communities Facilitate Drug Education and Treatment

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living | March 8, 2014

By Cary Quashen, CAS

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration in 2012, over 22.2 million persons aged 12 or older were classified with substance dependence or abuse. Overall, 17.7 million had alcohol dependence or abuse, and 7.3 million had illicit drug dependence or abuse.
Be it in our homes, our schools, our communities, or our faith communities, drug and alcohol abuse needs to be an open and ongoing conversation. We have done a good job in Santa Clarita addressing substance abuse on many different fronts. But, more and more we are learning that the faith community has an important role to play in prevention and addiction recovery.
Many people served by congregations suffer directly or indirectly from addiction. We know that addiction damages people in so many different ways, but especially affects their spirituality and relationship with God. Many faith communities are seeking help to support individuals and families with the needed prevention education, early intervention, referral assistance, recovery support and advocacy related to drug and alcohol problems.
Recently, Action Family Counseling has assisted several faith communities in the Santa Clarita Valley, developing programs to assist their congregational members in the understanding of addiction, addiction treatment and recovery.
Our goal has been to work closely with clergy to develop a plan for each congregation, fitting their individual needs and engaging church members in conversations about alcohol and other drug concerns. We actively teach prevention strategies and skills to thwart the earliest symptoms of addiction and work with individuals and small groups.
We also facilitate the sharing of recovery experiences with others in congregations to cultivate a climate of openness and understanding. And, last but not least, we create relationships between faith communities and community resources such as Twelve Step programs, intervention and treatment programs.
If you are interested in designing a program that helps individuals and families with prevention, early intervention, referral assistance, recovery support, as well as advocacy related to drug and alcohol problems, contact Action Family Counseling Program Director Bob Sharits at (661) 309-0094.
I know the faith community has an important role to play in prevention and addiction recovery support. I am proud of Santa Clarita faith communities who have connected to community resources and are in a better position to help the people they serve find the resources and services they need.
Cary Quashen is the founder and president of Action Parent & Teen Support Group Programs, The Action Family Foundation, and Action Family Counseling Drug and Alcohol Treatment Centers. Quashen may be reached at (661) 297-8691.

The Sanctuary

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, Tell Me More | March 7, 2014

sanctuary4“Now is the winter of our discontent.” This is the first line from Shakespeare’s “Richard the III.”  Steinbeck borrowed this phrase for his last novel, “The Winter of our Discontent.”

I was reading this book and thinking about the winter of 2013, the bone chill brought on by the year’s loss of family members, the holiday blues. There were the frantic celebrations with family and friends that put one year out of its misery and summoned the strength to begin another. W2s arrive in winter and the tax man cometh soon. All of these things independently jumped, unseasoned, into a pot and began swirling around together, so I began to, well… stew.

I’m not normally a person that stews about things or stirs up the pot. I like to put a sanctuary3spoonful of sugar and a dash of sunshine to my recipes. But, clearly there was need for more than a shopping spree at a crowded mall. I needed sanctuary. So, Steinbeck and I were off to the ocean.

It’s a 1 ½ hour drive north on the I-5 through the grapevine to the 46 West towards Paso Robles. Once on the 46, I stopped at a market to get a drink and some gas. James Dean made his last stop here before dying in a car crash on this road. Well, that wasn’t making me feel any better. I drove carefully for another 1 ½ hours past wineries, oil wells, groves and fields of produce. At Paso Robles you go north on the 101 for about one hour, past Carmel and Monterey, until you reach the Marina turn off. Then it’s a good 30 minutes across agricultural lands until you reach…The Sanctuary.

sanctuary6“The Sanctuary Beach Resort” is situated on the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary on the Monterey Peninsula. It is not the view of craggy cliffs and windswept trees normally associated with this region, but a view of endless soft, silky, soothing sand dunes. The view of the beach goes on for miles without a person or building in sight. It is the only time I have felt so alone with the ocean. At night the hotel lights a bonfire in the pit, where guests gather to spin their stories. My ocean view room was built on the sand surrounded by native plants. People from all of Monterey County come to the nearby park to watch the intense sunsets. Here windsurfers take flight, gliding with the seagulls over the ocean.

The Sanctuary, with its kid’s playground and pool, is great for families. Traveling with someone who requires a wheelchair, however, is difficult, due to all the sand.

sanctuary5Upon check-in you are assigned a golf cart and asked to park your car in the lots near the lobby. This is a nice touch for peace and quiet within the resort. This property leases certain rooms to “Windmark” for its “time share travelers.” But, there are no pitches or prizes given here. The Spa is simply a space to do massages, so don’t expect the full spa experience of saunas, indoor Jacuzzis, and steam rooms. The hotel rooms are either Deluxe or Junior Suite, and the Suites have additional square footage for a seating area. But all the amenities, including a refrigerator, coffee, robes, toiletries and fireplace, are the same.

Three days and nights I sat reading Steinbeck upon a sand dune, staring, as the waves rolled in and out. Heading back to the 101, I first stopped in Salinas. Steinbeck was born here, and at his home (now a National Landmark) I ordered lunch by the sanctuary1fireplace where he once put pen to paper. I finished my lunch and closed the chapter on this trip.

Once home in Santa Clarita, I opened a bottle of ale and Shakespeare’s Richard the III. What the ale! What Shakespeare actually says is, “Now is the winter of our discontent, made glorious summer by his son of York, all the clouds that low’rd upon our house in the deep bosom of the ocean buried.” SO, this is NOT the winter of our discontent. No need to simmer and stew over things. All our troubles have been buried in the ocean! The time for unhappiness is past!

The Sanctuary received the 2012 Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers Choice Award.
For more information about The Sanctuary visit www.thesanctuarybeachresort.com
sanctuary2Or call toll free: 877-944-3863


By Marilyn Hackett

New Health Program Takes Shape

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women, Spotlight News | March 6, 2014

Samantha Miles

Samantha Miles

The approach of spring (and with it, the distant footsteps of bikini weather) means that “heading back to the gym” and starting a weight loss program (again!) seems commonplace. Often times, however, a person enters the process alone, and the lack of support almost creates a rate of failure that seems inevitable.

Enter Samantha Miles, a certified health coach, whose job it is to be sure her clients are not on the journey alone.

“My role is to inspire, guide and support the client’s goals,” Miles explains. “I help clients all across the nation, and I do my business primarily over the phone. When we talk, we discuss the client’s goals and motivation to continue with the program.”

The program is called “Take Shape for Life,” which includes meal substitution with products from Medifast. But, beginning the dietary protocol is just the beginning. Men and women in the program also get Samantha Miles at no extra charge – a mentor for people who desire a way to make healthier choices.

“Take Shape for Life is not a diet!” Miles says. “It is an optimal health program designed to help people learn to create the habits of health in their life! I help my clients understand their current habits and show them how to develop the skills, discipline and knowledge they need to succeed.”
The Take Shape for Life website emphasizes its long-term support process.

“The program starts with a phone call between me and the potential client,” Miles explains. “I process a credit card order for them online and order them their food. The food takes five days to arrive. The night before the client starts, we have a phone conversation to go over the days on the program.”
Miles sees this program as a good fit for modern culture. “There is a crisis of obesity in America today,” she says. “In 2010, 36 percent, or 78 million, U.S. adults were obese. The problem isn’t that people aren’t trying to lose weight, the problem is that what they are doing isn’t working.”

Samatha before and after

Samatha before and after

It’s the success stories of both Samantha and her husband, Nathan Miles, that

Nathan before and after

Nathan before and after

fueled the couple’s desire to start Take Shape for Life. In fact, all of the company’s health coaches have had a similar experience. “Health coaches loved the program so much they are now paying it forward and sharing what they learned and experienced with others, and spreading the health that they have found!” says Samantha. “I became a health coach after watching my husband lose 90 pounds in about nine months on the program, and literally change his health and his life overnight!”

A mother-of-four, including an infant, Samantha began with the nursing mothers program and took off the 60+ pounds that she had gained. “I was successful and lost 60 pounds in six months on the program,” she says.

Read more about Nathan & Samantha’s weight loss experience at “Tell Me More” tab

Samantha became a health coach in May of 2012, and she has stayed in that role (and kept the weight off) for two years. She received her health coach certification from MacDonald Center for Obesity Prevention and Education at the College of Nursing at Villanova University. She had previously earned a bachelor›s degree in film and television at California State University, Northridge following two years at College of the Canyons.

The Miles Family

The Miles Family

Samantha and Nathan came to the Santa Clarita Valley to settle in Castaic 13 years ago. Three of their children attend Live Oak Elementary School in Castaic and they have a 2 1/2-year-old at home.

“I moved to Santa Clarita Valley in 2001 because I wanted to raise a family and I felt that this community had everything to offer for a family, and I have been correct,” she says. “I couldn’t think of a better place to live.”

Take Shape for Life has over 10,000 health coaches across the nation, and Samantha has personally helped more than 200 people get healthier.

“Clients beginning their journeys with Take Shape For Life will notice results quickly,” says Samantha. “Family, friends, even acquaintances will ask what you’re doing differently, and it’s natural to want to share your story with them.”

Read more about becoming a health coach at “Tell Me More” tab

Samantha has her sights set on broadening her customer base. “My goal is to expand my health coaching practice and develop more health coaches in my organization, so that I can widen my circle of influence and spread the health and happiness to more Americans!” she says. “I can help anyone who wants to get healthier, whether that means losing weight, learning to eat better, getting more quality sleep, learning health habits of motion, and creating a healthier mind and well being.”

For more information about Samantha Miles and Take Shape for Life, visit http://slimmiles.tsfl.com/explore or email Slimmiles@me.com.


No One Likes To Shiver – Room 22 Gives Back

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | February 13, 2014

By Angela Tiano

Room 22 with their blankets

“It’s good to give back, because then they will be your friend” (Elijah, age 10)

There is more happening than reading, writing and arithmetic in Mrs. Kayla Bastedo’s Room 22 at Sulphur Springs Community School. In addition to their daily academic standards, last semester Bastedo’s students began working on a “giving” project. The 14 boys and one girl in the 4th, 5th and 6th grade Special Day Class handcrafted more than 30 fleece blankets that have been donated to the Santa Clarita Valley Homeless Shelter and Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.
These soft and colorful blankets offered a lesson to the students, that helping others in need can be a rewarding experience to both the giver and the receiver. Elihu, 11, reflected on the project. “It took time, but we worked together to make the blankets. It made me feel happy and excited,” he said.

In the midst of a class discussion immediately following their project, Mrs. Bastedo and her students sparked a conversation that created a motto to help them remember their hands-on giving experience: “No one likes to shiver.”

With their new tagline in mind, Gavyn, age 10, suggested, “We should make pillows next year.” The recent holiday season was the start of a new tradition for Room 22, and was made possible with the enthusiasm of the students, their teacher, and their aides.

How Great The Arts

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | February 11, 2014

By Martha Michael

Darlene Marcos

How to Paint a Mural
Budding artist or not, you will either gain some painting pointers or just enjoy getting some insight into the mind of a talented local muralist at the next meeting of the Santa Clarita Artists’ Association (SCAA). The talent of artist Darlene Marcos will be front and center at this month’s art demo, entitled “How to Paint a Mural.”

“My sole source of income has been surrounded by art from the time I was 18 years of age,” said Marcos. “As a ‘fine artist,’ I have enjoyed creating canvases for shows and illustrating books for my ideas, likes and wants. As a ‘muralist/finisher,’ I have enjoyed creating for others from their ideas, likes and wants. Color plays a big factor in designing for homes and businesses. The murals and finishes must flow with the concept of their personal surroundings. Finishes are a tool for muralists to complete the walls encompassing the murals. Many faux finishes and decorative finishes are used inside and outside the mural – definitely a handshake between two worlds. I have now been a professional muralist for over 35 years.”

The SCAA’s meeting will be held on February 17 at 6:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Valencia, and it is free and open to the public. Arrive

One of Darlene’s Murals

early, as there is often standing room only. For information regarding SCAA, contact www.santaclaritaartists.org or call (661) 244-7689. Barnes & Noble is located at 23630 Valencia Boulevard in Valencia.

Arts Alliance Revival
Over the years, Santa Clarita has seen the Arts Alliance come and go. It’s baaaaaack!

The non-profit committee was formed in 1997, as a coalition of artists and arts organizations coming together to address arts needs in the community. The group was hosted by the City of Santa Clarita, and it accomplished some key pieces of history: the development of a Cultural Arts Master Plan, advocating for support for additional funding for the Performing Arts Center, advocating for an Arts Commission, and arts funding.

While the entity faded away for a time, it was recently given new life, and members are currently being sought to become involved. The group acts as a forum to discuss issues that face the local arts community: on-going arts funding, public art, local venues, development of an arts center, and further development of the Arts Commission. Its aim is to foster local jobs in the arts and strengthen the local arts economy.

“It was always the goal of the Arts Alliance to be independent of the City,” said David Stears, a founding member of the Arts Alliance. “Now is a great time to revive the Arts Alliance. The arts are on the verge of a renaissance in our community.”

Currently the Arts Alliance can be found on the following forms of social media: Facebook.com/ArtsAllianceSC, a twitter account called @ArtsAllianceSC, email ArtsAllianceSC@gmail.com, and a facebook group for artists: Facebook.com/groups/ArtsAllianceSCV. Anyone can sign-up for a monthly newsletter at the website: http://artsalliancesc.weebly.com.

The Arts Alliance is open to all artists, performers, arts organizations, and arts supporters in the entire Santa Clarita Valley. Currently there is no formal structure to the group, however there are plans for a future meeting. Anyone interested in participating, organizing, or hosting a physical meeting, send an email to ArtsAllianceSC@gmail.com.

Community Education Courses to Debut at Canyon Country Campus

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | February 9, 2014

Beginning this spring, the College of the Canyons Community Education department will offer a series of personal and professional development courses at the college’s Canyon Country campus.

The College of the Canyons Community Education department provides a wide breadth of valuable educational services designed to meet the needs and interests of all community members.

Community Education students range in both age and skill level, and include working professionals, business minded entrepreneurs, parents, traditional junior high, high school and college students, older adults and other community members seeking educational, vocational, and personal enrichment.
With classes offered at both the Valencia and Canyon Country campus, and online, students will find courses in subjects including art, computer skills, food preparation handling, driver’s education and traffic school, English as a Second Language (ESL) and a range of other subjects.
Community Education courses do not earn college credit, and are designed to provide students with a positive learning experience focused on the exchange of information and personal enjoyment.
Included among this semester’s selection of Community Education courses being offered at the Canyon Country campus are the following:

Introduction to Painting (Oil/Acrylics)
Four class meetings
Saturday’s from 9 a.m. to noon
Feb. 22 to March 15

Introduction to Computer Basics
Two class meetings
10 a.m. to noon
Feb. 22 & March 1
Introduction to MS Word 2010
Two class meetings
Saturday’s from 10 a.m. to noon
March 8 & March 15

Introduction to MS Excel 2010
Two class meetings
10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
March 22 & March 29

“Community Education courses provide wonderful opportunities for the residents of the Santa Clarita Valley to learn new skills, interact with students with similar interests and enrich their daily lives,” said Diane Stewart, Dean of Community Education at the college. “We are very excited to bring these learning opportunities to the Canyon Country campus.”

For more information about the College of the Canyons Community Education department or to register for an upcoming class please visit www.canyons.edu/communityed.

Canyon Country Campus Update
Enrollment at the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus continues to surge, with more class sections continually being added in order to meet demand.

During the fall 2013 semester nearly 5,400 students attended classes at the Canyon Country campus. Meanwhile, the 40 class sections offered at Canyon Country during the winter session represented the campus’ largest winter schedule since 2008.

In addition, an estimated 315 class sections will be offered at the Canyon Country campus during the spring 2014 semester — representing a high mark for spring.

To help put this all in perspective, the number of full-time equivalent students taking classes at the Canyon Country campus is on par with several of the state’s smaller community colleges!

For more information about the College of the Canyons Canyon Country campus please visit www.canyons.edu/CCC.

Where in the World is Wolitarsky?

| Articles, Tell Me More | February 8, 2014

Drew and Rex

When Drew Wolitarsky came home to Santa Clarita for his winter break from University of Minnesota, he ran across a lot of strangers and acquaintances, in addition to his friends. A lot of adults stopped him around town – most that he knew, and some he didn’t.

When Drew went out to eat with one of his good friends in Canyon Country, he was approached, as usual, by a couple of local residents. They asked about school, football, etc. Drew chatted with the visitors, who were  familiar and friendly, comfortably acquainted with him, but they were totally unfamiliar with Drew’s friend…who was their neighbor!

Where in the World is Wolitarsky?

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | February 8, 2014

It was winter break for “true freshman” Drew Wolitarsky, who is recognized across the Santa Clarita Valley, after record-breaking years on the Canyon High School Cowboys football team. He returned to the University of Minnesota in early January, where he began  his second semester, and back to football practice, though it is off-season now.

While the sport of football has often been compared to the art of war, there are other similarities that sometimes go unnoticed. It may be due to the seriousness with which football is treated by fans, coaches and athletes, but Wolitarsky has become acquainted with some of the sacrifices built into competing at the college level. Not only did John and Audrey Wolitarsky celebrate Christmas without the third of their four children this year (the University of Minnesota Gophers had a game two days later), but the family gathered without Drew to mourn the death of someone close to him. To read more about his loss visit www.santaclaritalife.com.

Though thousands of miles away from Santa Clarita, Drew Wolitarsky has developed a family atmosphere with teammates. In fact, after rooming in a dorm situation with fellow players, a group of them are moving into an apartment together this semester.

The living quarters are still on campus, said Wolitarsky, and when asked about food, he said, “Everything is provided, they take care of everything we need.”

What they need includes tutoring in multiple subjects, food, transportation and more for the players who, like Wolitarsky, attend U of M on full-ride scholarships. At Christmas the team resided in a hotel, offering as nice a holiday as possible while away from their homes. They all dispersed following their game against Syracuse University in the Texas Bowl on December 27.

For the couple of weeks that Wolitarsky was home in Canyon Country, he was stopped all over town, sometimes by adults he had never met. A lot of the conversations were the same, including, “What’s it like living in Michigan?” Wolitarsky would usually go on with the conversation, resisting the urge to offer a correction, such as, “I don’t know…I go to University of Minnesota.”

As for adapting to the obvious contrast in climate conditions, the college student said that when it is really cold, they simply stay indoors a lot more. He added that playing football in the extreme cold is less than ideal. “When it’s really cold, the ground feels like rocks,” he explained.

After covering the differences in weather, most people asked about school, whether he was happy with his choice of colleges, etc. His answer to that one, by the way, is “yes.”

A funny thing happened when Wolitarsky and his friend went out to a Canyon Country restaurant a couple of weeks ago. Read about it at www.santaclaritalife.com and click on “Tell Me More.”

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New Generation Sizzler Fast Casual Dining comes to the Plaza at Golden Valley

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine, Spotlight News | February 7, 2014

When Del and Helen Johnson opened the first “Sizzler Family Steak House” on January 27, 1958 in Culver City, they had $50 in the cash register. Families were filling the big, vinyl booths after ordering from massive signage menus behind the counter. Steak dinner was $1.19 and steak and lobster was $2.99. A children’s top sirloin was 60 cents.

Fast forward 56 years later, and on January 6, Santa Clarita became one of the newest of Sizzler’s 152 restaurants in the United States and Puerto Rico. For anyone who remembers the Sizzler from “way back when,” they can recall it was sort of known for serving what was mid-century trendy (what we now consider mostly bland, processed food reminiscent of the age of “TV dinners”). Now, the franchise is a new generation Sizzler.

“Everything is made from scratch, our meat comes in fresh and we cut them into steaks,” said a representative from the Sizzler corporate office. “The prep on our seafood – we cut it in house. There’s nothing here where we open the bag and pour it into the container.”

The restaurant is known for its steak and seafood, plus the endless salad bar, where its offerings, such as crisp Romaine lettuce, are fresh. Almost all of the salad dressings are also made from scratch, on site. In an interesting twist, the bleu cheese dressing is the same recipe used in the first days of Sizzler’s existence more than 50 years ago.

“We have a few things that are old school and a lot of new – now we have penne pasta, linguini, fettucini,” he added. “We used to do tri-tip, and now we’re back doing tri-tip in house again.”

Your eyes will also tell you there have been changes. “Years ago, we had peach and teal with brass. And in the ‘90s we had ‘mean green’ booths and lots of wood,” said the Sizzler rep. “Now it’s in the 21st century – LED TVs, nice décor, LED lighting. And the marketing has changed…signage is new, upbeat, farm fresh. It’s not low grade. It’s hand made.”

Sizzler is located at 19013 Golden Valley Road in Santa Clarita; (661) 250-7300 or visit www.sizzler.com.

The Changing Face of Business

| Articles, Canyon Country Magazine | February 6, 2014

By Martha Michael
Jeannie Sutton and I are not in Downton Abbey anymore.

Am I saying that one can no longer expect our vintage shop to sell 1920s-era merchandise, or find us sporting flapper dresses, cloche hats and pearls? Banish the thought! What it does mean is that we’ve moved from our abbey-sized storefront (okay, just 700 square feet) into a much smaller space next door.

Like most retail store owners, we’d rather be Downton-sized than down-sized. However, despite the feeling that one is moving backwards, the move to doing business through such devices as Facebook, Ebay, Amazon and Etsy can be a boon to business – not a detriment. While a storefront gets smaller, its Internet presence, or online store, increases.

“The growth of social media has been an incredible way for us to reach our guests,” says Matt Sprecher of Buffalo Wild Wings, a restaurant that just opened in Canyon Country. “Whether it be through our Buffalo Wild Wings insider email system, Buffalo Circle, which allows us to send special offers to our loyal guests, or local radio stations that are announcing events that will be held at our restaurants, social media has increased the number of avenues that we can communicate with the local communities that we reside in.”

For some businesses, it’s a matter of bringing the same level of service, the same products – just in a different venue or in a different time frame. In recent years, there has been a rise in “stores” that only operate seasonally, quarterly, or bi-annually. They often take over a warehouse or other edifice, and sometimes rent space to various vendors.

Some recent examples locally are SCV Kids Consignment Sale, Santa Clarita Ski Outlet and Extreme Factory Outlet, a two-day sale carrying a broad array of merchandise, such as purses, hair care, DVDs and gift items.

There is a unique service provided by AMS Fulfillment, a third-party warehousing company located in Valencia. In addition to its business-to-business and business-to-customer packing, product fulfillment and storage services, the enterprise also hosts huge warehouse sales. They are hosted for AMS clients, where customers can make purchases way below retail prices – often selling gently used returns or overstocked items. The firm’s biggest sale is for Toms Shoes, which often draws close to 7,500 shoppers, many camping out the night before. Read a full article about AMS Fulfillment at www.santaclaritalife.com and click on “Tell Me More!”

“We are also going to that format,” says Sutton, my partner at The Living Room Emporium. “We are planning to have a large off-site sale twice a year.”

Another Santa Clarita woman with a penchant for vintage wares has been planning to pull together vendors for semi-annual “flea markets” in the SCV. She is still in the process of shopping for a venue.

The biggest of business entities are making changes. To read about a large chain, which has four SCV stores, that will be closing the doors of two of them, go to www.santaclaritalife.com and click on “Tell Me More.”

New Years Resolution – Don’t ditch Your Money Makeover

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | January 24, 2014

by Martha Michael

As 2013 turned to 2014, many people turned to someone for help with their bottom line. When it comes to finance, it may have been a financial planner or a stock broker, but finding someone to help you is the easy part. It’s making it permanent that’s the problem.

“Budgeting is the discipline of limiting your immediate desires, wants, and even some needs, in order to ensure you can financially support yourself today while saving for the future,” says Tobias Anne Skelly of giTnoticed Marketing in Santa Clarita. “The important thing to remember is that you set limits, not to deprive yourself, but to ensure your future financial health. The key is to make sure you put the money you squirrel away…in an account you won’t be tempted to touch.”

Money is a common arena for change at the beginning of the year. But, much like weight loss, we all look for keys to keeping the new plan in place.

“Money doesn’t love you or hate you. It just is,” says Arif M. Halaby, C.E.O./President of Total Financial Solutions, Inc. “If you want to change your future, work on your habits. Most people don’t become broke or rich overnight. Start with the little changes and big results will follow.”

Everyone’s weak spot may be different. Finding individual solutions and staying with them will remain the biggest challenge for most.

Valentine’s Day Things to Do

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women, Spotlight News | January 20, 2014

Here are some-we will add more!

Love Train
Plan on a ride to remember if you choose the Fillmore & Western Railway as your Valentine’s Day destination. This is your chance to finally make it to one of the Murder Mystery Dinner Train events. The “Love Train” will stretch the “Love Boat” theme to extremes, with strangely familiar characters all in ‘70s style costumes, setting the mood with music, while dancing (or dying) to the Disco beat! You will enjoy a three-course meal and, with less-than-serious sleuthing, solve a murder, or just sit back and enjoy the entertainment.
The train departs at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are $89. Fillmore & Western Railway is located at 364 Main Street in Fillmore. Make reservations by calling
(805) 524-2546 or visit www.fwry.com.

Heart-Shaped Steak
Stay at home this year and throw something special on the grill – like heart-shaped steaks. Contact Bob’s Country Meats in advance to order yours. The shop is located at 19012 Soledad Canyon Road in Canyon Country; (661) 251-5995.

Le Chene
If it’s an exotic dish, such as ostrich or bison, or elaborate wine offerings you are looking for this year, head to this Zagat-rated venue. For Valentine’s Day, Le Chene French Cuisine is offering a special menu for dinner, seating from 5:30-10:00 p.m. Le Chene is located at 12625 Sierra Hwy in Santa Clarita, near the border of Agua Dulce. For reservations call (661) 251-4315.

Date Night Painting
Pinot’s Palette will host date night painting, where two canvases make up one painting (each member of the couple paints one side). The creative staff at Pinot’s is also offering a package which will include champagne and chocolates. This Valentine’s Day event will run from 7-10 p.m. Pinot’s Palette is located at 25850 McBean Pkwy in Valencia. For more information, visit www.pinotspalette.com/valencia.

Bee Sweet
Nothing could be sweeter than taking your honey honey tasting! If you’ve never been to Bennett’s Honey Farm in Fillmore, a romantic drive over the hill at this sweet time of year for some raw, gourmet honey sounds perfect. The honey tasting room and store are open seven days a week, Saturday-Sunday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Bennett’s Honey Farm is located at 3176 Honey Lane (Hwy 126) in Fillmore. Call 805-521-1375 or visit www.bennetthoney.com

And, the day after:

February 15

Santa Colorita 5K
Fun Run
Families will gather at Castaic Lake Recreational Area on Saturday morning, February 15 for an active event for all ages – the Santa Colorita 5K Fun Run. It is an un-timed, five-kilometer “race” where runners are doused with “colors” at the end of each kilometer. It’s friendly dousing, as family members and other supporters will splash non-toxic, non-rash inducing colored corn starch on runners, proclaiming their completion of each leg of the race.

At the finish line is a “Color Festival,” where brilliantly colored powder will be released onto the runners, and visitors will enjoy live music, food, games and more. For more details, call (661) 702-6977.

New Years Resolution – Keep Your Car Longer

| Articles, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | January 19, 2014

by Martha Michael

With the Great Recession, there are more and more drivers wanting to “love the one they’re with” instead of “trading it in for a younger model,” as far as vehicle ownership goes. A few years ago, the U.S. Department of Transportation released a report stating that the average car lasts about 13 years and 145,000 miles. How do we accomplish that?
Don’t Drive. That’s right, it’s the best way to make your car last, according to an article on the website Cars.com. As obvious as it sounds, there are sure to be times – maybe several a week – when you could walk, bike or ride the bus.

And, just to get more of the obvious out of the way: watch for warning lights, take it for regular servicing, change its vital fluids.

“It is very important to service your transmission, to keep it in good shape and prevent it from breaking, overheating or leaving you stranded on the side of the highway,” said Carlos Hernandez, owner of Competition Transmission in Santa Clarita. “Just like you service your engine, you must do the same with the transmission.”

There are other ideas we might not think of on a regular basis. Extra weight in the car is an added stressor, for instance. Any extra “stuff” in the back affects the aerodynamics and wears out its suspension, among other things.

Creating a good working relationship with your mechanic is always a good idea also. He/she can support your plan to hang onto your car as long as possible, as opposed to drivers who take out a new lease or trade in their cars every few years.

“The way you drive has an effect on how long your car — and your gas — will last. You not only save wear and tear by having good driving habits, but also fuel,” claims Juston from Superior Auto & Diesel Repair. “Taking off fast and coming to a stop quickly can be bad for a car and affect the engine, the brakes and other things.”

Ideally, we incorporate these – and more – tips to love our cars a little longer.

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