Featured Restaurant: Backwoods Inn

| Santa Clarita Living | January 28, 2016

Anyone who has lived in Santa Clarita for more than a decade or two knows the quaint house-turned-restaurant that’s been serving the public for almost 50 years. Original owner, Jerry Woods, bought the house on Sierra Highway in the mid-1960s and opened its doors to a hungry public in 1966.

Two years later, Bob and Rose Ohler bought the Backwoods Inn, and it’s still in the able hands of Rose and daughter Carol Ohler. On top of the rare antiques, a feast for the eyes, including a vintage telephone booth and an entire wall from a drugstore, the Backwoods Inn is known for a number of signature food and drinks. The continental style menu choices include all cuts of steaks, prime rib, and surf choices, such as crab and lobster. The Canyon Country eatery is known for an unforgettable stuffed baked potato, which is an original recipe, and the restaurant’s mesquite charcoal broiled steaks, ranging from a 6-ounce petite filet mignon to a 20-ounce porterhouse. Customers routinely top off their ample servings with a Backwoods coffee (adults only, for that one).

There is a Backwoods bar with far more specialty drinks. Food is available in roomy booths and retro tables, both in the lounge and the restaurant, and folks are led to seats by friendly hosts across sawdust-covered floors. Reservations are suggested at Backwoods, as it draws from a customer base that’s miles away.

There’s a feeling you’ve gone back in time for a spell, for warm comfort food in an even warmer atmosphere. And locals know there are some things that never change – and that’s the appeal of this local landmark.

Backwoods Inn is open seven days a week during the following hours: Monday-Saturday 11:30-closing and Sunday 4 p.m.-closing.

The restaurant is located at 17846 Sierra Hwy in Canyon Country.
Call for reservations: (661) 252-5522.
Visit www.backwoodsinn.com.

Chili Cook-Off Charities Announced

| Santa Clarita Living | January 11, 2016

SCV nonprofits Single Mothers Outreach and the Santa Clarita Food Pantry have been selected to benefit from this year’s 4th Annual Charity Chili Cook-Off set for April 19, event officials announced Wednesday.

Headed by a committee of local professionals, the fourth annual event will feature 40 amateur chefs from throughout the SCV competing for the 2016 trophy for “Best Chili,” as well as a live and silent auction.

“Last year, Santa Clarita’s community members and business professionals came together to spice things up for three local SCV charities,” event officials said. “No one, especially the amateur chefs, expected such rave reviews for their crock-pot chili.”

The 4th Annual Charity Chili Cook-Off will be hosted by this year’s venue sponsor, Wolf Creek Brewery, which event officials said provides for added parking and allows for more creativity in the planning of the cook-off.

Whitening Lightning is set to return as this year’s title sponsor, and local businesses can still sign up to help sponsor the event, with sponsorship levels starting at $250 and going up to $10,000.

There is also still time for amateur chili cooks to enter their secret recipe to be served up to event attendees in April, according to event officials.

For more information about participation or sponsorship, go to www.scvcharitychilicookoff.com, or contact Nicole Stinson at 661-816-4234 or Phillis Stacy-Brooks at 818-268-1228.

Female Athlete of the Week: Kassi Massey

| Santa Clarita Living | July 16, 2015

Currently a member of the Santa Clarita Blue Heat women’s soccer team, Kassi Massey scored three goals in two games over the last two weeks, including the game-winner in a 2-1 win against the Arizona Strikers last weekend and two goals in a 7-0 shutout over the Strikers.

Massey is also an experienced soccer coach who spent several years assisting various age groups of youth soccer around the Bakersfield area. She has been coaching junior varsity girls soccer at Liberty High School and running fitness and soccer clinics with the L.A. Strikers.

She played soccer at California State University, Bakersfield for four years and played for the Fresno Sidekicks and the L.A. Strikers. She also played semi-pro soccer in Austin, Texas for one season and played overseas in the Czech Republic with a professional team called FC Slovacko. fem athl kassi2

Combat Radio Brings Christmas to Kids

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | November 17, 2014

combat radio cosplay and marinesSanta Clarita residents get to be involved in a special holiday event that has both celebrity sightings and a tremendous benefit to needy children. Combat Radio hosts an annual Christmas concert and toy drive for approximately 400 children and family members, who experience a “Polar Express” style bus ride to the event from Social Services and the Shelter for Domestic Violence.

Held at Salt Creek Grille in Valencia December 6, these children get a visit by SANTA along with some of Combat Radio’s celebrity guests, such as cast members of “Star Wars,” “The Avengers,” and almost 100 magicians and Cosplayers. Guests will have a complete brunch, a live music show and be a part of a live Combat Radio broadcast. Christmas trees and prizes are given away and EVERY child gets a present!

Donations and other proceeds assist with LSS/Social Services, including the purchase of Combat Radio’s two-disc Christmas CD featuring music and audio combat radio santa and childclips from previous guests, including the members of Oingo Boingo, Director TJ Scott (“Gotham,” and “Spartacus”) Disney Imagineer Bob Gurr, “Jaws” screenwriter Carl Gottlieb, Kat Dyson (guitarist for Prince and Shelia E), cast members from “Ben 10,” “Monster High,” “True Blood,” “Robotech” and many more. The CD set is available on iTunes when you donate to the cause at: http://www.gofundme.com/ACombatRadioChristmas.

Valencia is the venue for an earlier event on Saturday, November 22—the COMBAT RADIO/WESTFIELD CHRISTMAS CONCERT AND TOY DRIVE. The performance will feature many of the artists on the Combat Radio Christmas Album, also supporting its work with Social Services. The festivities will include the Oingo Boingo Dance Party, with some of the original members of the ‘80s alternative rock group and a Combat Radio concert broadcast from the stage (at “Combat Radio HQ” on YouTube) featuring some of their best celebrity regulars, and an epic “silent auction” included! Bring an unwrapped toy valued at approximately $10-$15 and receive a battery of raffle tickets. The action begins at 4 p.m. at Westfield Town Center, 24201 Valencia Blvd. in Valencia. You can tune in to Combat Radio at http://www.latalkradio.com/Combat.php and follow Combat Radio at twitter.com/combatradio.

combat radio santa Wall-E and kids

November is National Adoption Month

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | November 16, 2014


If you have ever considered the idea of foster parenting or adopting a child, an upcoming meeting can give you some specifics about the process. The Children’s Bureau invites individuals and couples to become Resource Families to care specifically for children during the reunification process with their parents. There are also children currently in foster care who are unable to return to their families of origin. Children’s Bureau encourages caring families to consider foster-adopting these children. Families who have the willingness, ability and resources to care for teenagers, older children and sibling sets are also invited. The monthly information meeting for those interested in learning more is on Saturday, November 22, 2014  from 10:00 a.m. – 11:30 a.m. at the Westfield Valencia Town Center Community Room (Level 1 by LOFT), 24201 W. Valencia Boulevard in Valencia.

Children’s Bureau encourages individuals (single or married), who are interested in helping children find the love, stability and support a family can provide, to contact Children’s Bureau. Qualifying families receive training, certification and support. For more information, call (661) 208-4212 or visit the website www.all4kids.org. An information packet or application may be requested by filling out a request form on the website, if desired. An application may also be printed directly from the website.

For 110 years, Children’s Bureau has been a nonprofit leader in the prevention and treatment of child abuse and neglect. More than 28,000 children and families are helped each year throughout Southern California with services that include school readiness, parenting classes, family resource centers, support groups, mental health counseling, foster care, foster-adoption and more.

A Renaissance in Riverside Mission Inn Hotel and Spa

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | November 15, 2014

by Marilyn Hackett

Mission Inn

Mission Inn

Riverside?  That’s not a city that immediately comes to mind as a get-away spot. If you leave around 11:00 a.m. you can manage it in 90 minutes. I was raised in Riverside. I go there to see my Uncle Wes and Cousin Wanda. When I return there I don’t search out my old schools and houses where I grew up. My parents have passed, so childhood milestones passed with them. But, there is one place I do search out while visiting family: The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa.

The Mission Inn has never been a mission. It started in 1876 as a 12-room adobe boarding house. The Inn grew

Spanish Patio

Spanish Patio

as orange crops once made Riverside the richest city in the United States. Mission revival architecture and lush landscaping transplant you immediately to Spain, Tuscany or the Yucatan. In the distance you can see the Mt. Rubidoux Cross, where the first sunrise service in the country took place in 1909. I used to hike up there at Easter with a blanket and a thermos of hot chocolate.

This National Historic Landmark and member of the Historic Hotels of America occupies an entire city block. Famous aviators, celebrities, Albert Einstein, Teddy Roosevelt and the U.S. Presidents of my generation (except Barack Obama) have stayed there. Book a tour and learn about the clock tower, music room, gardens, Tiffany stained glass windows in the chapel, bells from A.D.1247, a rotunda and spiral staircase, tavern, museum, art galleries, a Presidential lounge and the two macaw lovebirds. Enjoy shopping at the pedestrian mall—literally one step outside the hotel. Stop by the Fox Theater, where “Gone with the Wind” had its premiere.

There are four restaurants serving steaks, Italian, Mexican, and comfort meals. A modern style bar, 54 degrees, is a recipient of the Bacchus Award for the most outstanding wine selections. For steak, dine at the luxurious AAA 4-star rated “Duane’s.” Our server, Dave, brings back the days when you are served with charm, grace and dignity. The food is outstanding. You can keep busy two full days and nights at the Inn just eating and working out at the state-of-the-art fitness center. Do not miss the experience of Kelly’s Spa, ranked #10 in Conde Nast Traveler’s “Top 50 Hotel Spas in the United riversideSpa HallwayStates.” The eucalyptus steam and cold cucumber face towels are complimentary to each guest of the hotel. You can spend the entire afternoon at the pool, Jacuzzi, outdoor spa patios and in the tranquil sitting lounges. Carmen is a Swedish massage “ther-artist” (a therapist that elevates what she does to an art).You’ll levitate on the warmed table, massaged with hot fragrant oils by the glowing fireplace.

All the Staff at The Mission Inn have taken on the roles of guardians of the estate, welcoming you sincerely, with no false airs of pretentious sophistication. When I leave Riverside, I come away renewed from my visits with family and my old friend, The Mission Inn. Visit The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa during the Christmas Holiday, when it is lit up in a world famous display of lights.

For more information, contact The Mission Inn Hotel and Spa at WWW.MISSIONINN.COM.

Have You Got Sciatic Pain?

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | October 24, 2014

Pills or muscle relaxers can’t correct the nerve compression caused by a bulging disc or the pelvis.

Sciatica is a distracting pain that begins in the lower back/ pelvis and extends down one or both legs. It typically worsens with periods of sitting or standing.

The pelvis is most often involved and, at times, it also involves the discs. One important point is that a disc bulge and/or herniated disc on an MRI can be pain-free, while pain could come from an alignment condition. Most surgeons look only to to the disc bulge and not the alignment of the pelvis. Physical therapists will often focus on the muscles, therefore the sciatica can be misdiagnosed, which makes treatment unsuccessful.

Sciatica is the results of cumulative damage causing nearby nerve irritation and inflammation. The pain appears in the leg, but the culprit is often the lower back! This debilitating condition often gets worse with time and can cripple active people without treatment. So, before taking any harmful medication, having a dangerous surgery or doing physical therapy without results – ask yourself … is it worth the risk of getting increased pain that may worsen your condition? Why not try something less invasive.

Chiropractors have had concentrated and specialized training in this particular area. Fortunately, improving joint motion in the lower back with a program of chiropractic adjustments has produced results for many people. It all starts with a consultation and thorough examination. If we think we can help, we’ll tell you. And if we don’t think we can help, we’ll tell you that too and refer you to someone who we believe is able to give you satisfactory results.

For more information, contact Dr. Jessica M. Ekengren D.C. at Ekengren Chiropractic, 28212 Kelly Johnson Parkway. Ste. 120 in Valencia; (661) 254-9400/Fax (661) 254-9495.

Local Dentist: Inflammation Kills

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | October 22, 2014

Research shows there is a direct connection between oral pathogens and acute heart attacks and strokes, says Peter Elloway, DDS. The same pathologic bacteria found in diseased gum pockets are consistently found in the blood clots causing strokes and heart attacks. The gum pockets are the portal of entry to the rest of the body, a pathway to seriously affect vital organs.

According to research, says Dr. Elloway, increased systemic inflammation also is instrumental in the advancement of diabetes, chronic inflammatory diseases and increase in preterm birth rates.

Dr. Elloway is offering a free evaluation, which enables patients to learn more about his use of laser dentistry. To schedule an appointment, call 661-259-8755.

Earthquake – What About the Big One?!?!

| Santa Clarita Living | September 17, 2014

Every newsworthy California temblor also shakes up discussions at the water cooler. Nobody seems more vulnerable than store owners – especially those with lots of breakables.

“It reminds us where we live,” said Guy Lelarge, owner of Valencia Wine Co. in Santa Clarita. “Are we prepared? No. If a big one hits, I lose a lot of wine.”

Without the power to predict the magnitude, business owners often just roll with the punches and hope for the best.

“Most bottles are in racks, so it’d have to shake pretty hard to bring it down. It makes me drink more wine, as the owner,” joked Lelarge.

Fonzie Diaz from Bella Venezia Home & Decor in Santa Clarita is equally positive about the outcome of an earthquake in the future. “Truth be told, everything in here is so incredibly heavy and solid, I would really prefer to be here in an earthquake,” said Diaz.  “Probably the wall art I’d be worried about, because there are mirrors and what not.”

If you’re in the insurance business, you have likely already analyzed the possibilities.

“First you worry about the safety of the individuals and then you worry about the safety of your home,” said Richard Paul Aguilar of Richard Paul Aguilar Financial Services.

“When you buy a house in California you are offered earthquake insurance and have 30 days to accept. Most people do not buy earthquake insurance,” said Aguilar. “It’s costly, the deductibles are very high. Those who do are … concerned consumers. There’s a cost, but they understand the value.”

Insurance agent Greg Nutter remembers a time when the cost was actually a bargain.

“I’ve been in the insurance business for 25 years,” said Nutter. “An earthquake policy 25 years ago was $100 a year for $100,000. After the ‘94 quake, it became a State (of California) thing.”

Though it has its similarities to other forms of insurance, an earthquake policy has a unique target. “It’s not for the cracks and scratches, it’s catastrophic insurance,” said Aguilar.

The real question is — is the SCV ready for a big quake?

“I think Santa Clarita has a good action plan in force,” said Aguilar. “That’s the City. But the residents – no.”

The thought of “the big one” doesn’t rattle Nutter at all. “It is what it is,” he said. “The bottom line is, for someone buying a new house, if they’re putting the minimum down payment, don’t buy earthquake insurance.  If you own your house outright, I tell people you have to have earthquake insurance.”

“I’ve thought about it lots of times,” said Diaz. “A few small ones – not like what recently happened in Northern California. We’ve been very, very lucky.”

Caltech Earthquake Seminar
Caltech Administrator Margaret Vinci will hold a free presentation on the different magnitudes, threats & warning systems associated with natural disasters. Hosted by the City of Santa Clarita, no registration is required for the informational meeting, held on September 18 from 6:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m. at the Old Town Newhall Library,
25000 Main Street in Newhall.

Valencia Wine Co.: Valenciawine.com
Bella Venezia: Bellavenezia.biz
Richard Paul Aguilar: Richardpaulaguilar.com
Greg Nutter: Insurancesantaclarita.com

Halloween Pawsome Pet Tips

| Santa Clarita Living | September 16, 2014

A favorite holiday for people can be a doggone nightmare for our pets! The following tips will keep you and your kids safe for Howl-a-ween.

Trick-or-Treat candies are pawsitively toxic for pets. Chocolate — especially dark chocolate – can be lethal for dogs and cats. Symptoms of chocolate poisoning may include increased heart rate, diarrhea and vomiting. If your pet experiences any of these, see a vet — stat!
Keep pets confined inside and away from the door. Not only will your doorbell be constantly ringing and your door creaking open and closed on Halloween, but spooky strangers will be dressed in crazy costumes and screaming for their candy. Your furry friend is not a fan and will be especially territorial and stressed out.
Keep outdoor cats inside for several days before and after Halloween. Black cats are especially at risk from pranks or other cruelty-related incidents. In fact, many shelters do not release black cats for adoption during the month of October as a safety precaution.
Wear pet-friendly and approved Halloween costumes. If you do decide that Fido or Fifi needs a costume, make sure it isn’t annoying or unsafe. It should not constrict movement, hearing, vision or the ability to breathe, drink, eat, bark and meow. Do a Halloween dress rehearsal with the costumes to make sure pets are not in distress, allergic or show abnormal behavior. As an option, fun bandanas, bows and bling will work just fine for those “party poopers.”

Make sure that your pet IDs are ON THEM and the microchip information is up to date.

After all the howl-a-ween festivities, how about a pet spa day?

Hollywood Mobile Pet Grooming: (888) 665-7766 or visit www.gohollywoodgrooming.com.

Pet Sitting — Paradise or Perilous?

| Santa Clarita Living | September 15, 2014

Most of us have wondered, at one time or another, what animals say and do when humans aren’t around. There have been books, movies and plays written about it. Those who might know most about that scenario are the pet sitters, who normally have one or two strange-but-true stories to tell.

“The most unusual thing I ever pet sat was a frog and some fish,” said Trina MacDonald, a certified dog trainer and owner of All Four Paws Pet Care in Santa Clarita. “Normally, though, it’s cats and dogs.”

Like most pet sitters, MacDonald goes to the client’s home to feed, walk and care for the animals. “They’re much happier at their own homes,” she said.

Nikki Ledingham of Got Paws Pet Sitting and Dog Walking in Santa Clarita goes to the homes of clients with a free consultation, where she meets them, the pet(s) they’ll be caring for, and gets to know the routines and “lay of the land.” One of her four-footed clients was named “Spike.”

On her first pet sitting visit, the pet sitter took Spike for “a brisk walk around the neighborhood, and then returned home so I could feed him his dinner,” said Ledingham. “As I was walking toward the pantry to retrieve a can of dog food, I heard a voice croon from down the hallway, ‘What a pretty girl!’”

The house was supposed to be empty, except for Spike. “I was shocked to hear a voice,” said the pet sitter, “not to mention a bit afraid for my safety, because this person was trying to hit on me!”

Ledingham called out, “Hello?” and the voice responded with, “Hello!”

As it turned out, Spike’s owner had forgotten to mention her pet parrot, Molly, because she wouldn’t require any special attention during the short weekend that the owner would be away.  “A few heartbeats lost and a few grey hairs later – just another day as a pet sitter, a job that is certainly never boring!” she said.

Another Got Paws sitter encountered a rattlesnake in the backyard of a client’s home. “Brave and industrious, she killed the snake just as it was getting ready to strike the dog,” said Ledingham. “Death by decapitation – via a pooper scooper-wielding, eight-months-pregnant Got Paws pet sitter!”

Erik Ennabe of Doggy Duty US in Santa Clarita ran across the same troublesome reptile on a pet sitting job. “I walked into a backyard and I got wacked in the face by a rattlesnake. Not high on the list of things pet sitters encounter,” he said.

The snake had bitten his client’s pet — a weiner dog (dachshund) weighing only about 10-12 pounds.

“There were a couple of things in my favor,” Ennabe explained. “I have an extremely detailed pet sitting software … it had the vet history.  Before panic set in, I knew which vet to contact. Second was the emergency response, (which says) make sure the dog is stable, wrap it firmly to reduce blood circulation so venom doesn’t go through the body.  Then I secured the other pet in its crate.”

Also on top of the emergency process were the dog’s owners. They had a release on file with the vet for anti-venom treatment. While those owners thought of everything, Ennabe had one pet sitting scare, when he spent hours searching for the dog he was supposed to be caretaking. “It’s funny, in hindsight,” said Ennabe. “The dog would play with a chew toy behind the toilet. Silently.”

The dog owners didn’t tell Ennabe about their pet’s preference, and the bathroom was the last place he expected to find a hiding animal.

A miscommunication was also at the heart of a pet sitting situation experienced three years ago by Raul Castro of Santa Clarita Pet Nanny. “An old client of ours had just moved, so he left me a key to his new house in a hiding spot. The bad news was, the key did not fit the lock!” said Castro. “I tried calling him, but the call went directly to voicemail. I started looking for open doors – I went around to the backyard and the two dogs were there, but the sliding glass door was locked. I looked to the side … and noticed a doggie door. Luckily, one of the two dogs was large, so the door was just big enough for me to squeeze through, and I did.”

There are always built-in problems, partly due to the physical nature of the job, such as “the occasional phone that drops out of your pocket while on the job,” said Ledingham. “If you’re lucky, just the screen cracks. If you are unlucky, it plops into the poop you were leaning over to scoop up or, worse yet, flies out during a hearty game of fetch and into the deep end of the pool!”

Like most businesses, the biggest challenge may be marketing your services. “Building the pet sitting business from scratch,” said Ennabe, who left a job in Ventura and moved to Santa Clarita a year ago with his wife and baby. “But, pet sitting brought me back to my true love – I get to be a stay-at-home father.”

Nikki Ledingham Got Paws Pet Sitting and Dog Walking

Trina MacDonald All Four Paws Pet Care

Erik Ennabe Doggy Duty U.S.

Raul Castro Santa Clarita Pet Nanny

14th Annual Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair

| Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | September 15, 2014

Canine Stunt Show

Canine Stunt Show

Filling the park with pets and pet lovers for the 14th year, Bow-Wows & Meows will present its annual attractions, including The Extreme Canines Stunt Show and The Fun Dog Show, with competitions for “best vocalist,” “mystery mutt” and “pet-owner look-alike.”

Always emphasizing the importance of adoption, the Pet Fair, held in William S. Hart Park on Sunday, October 12 beginning at 11 a.m., will have more than 200 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens from all six Los Angeles County Animal Shelters. They will be discounted to $30 and ready to go home, all spayed or neutered, immunized and microchipped.

Sponsored by Natural Balance, Petcurean, Animal Medical Center and Santa Clarita Animal Hospital, the fair will feature:

Community education presentations on Spay & Neuter at 12:30 and 3:30 p.m.
Personalized ID tags and children’s bracelets
Huge “Super Raffle” at $1 per ticket
Food Truck Court with dining options                             (including vegan and vegetarian)
Shopping opportunities
Low-cost vaccines from TAGS
Free microchips from The Lucy Pet Foundation and               Free Rabies vaccines from TAGS
County pet license renewals

Aliyah_Baby_Liza“Adoption is not only cost-effective, it saves shelter animals and reduces the overpopulation problem created by irresponsible breeders and pet stores,” said Yvonne Allbee, founder of Bow-Wows & Meows, Inc. “Our goal is to give every homeless pet a second chance at a wonderful life at the fair and send the shelter trucks back empty.”

Leashed, well-behaved dogs of all breeds are welcome to attend the fair with their owners. Shuttled parking is available for people/pets by Hart Park for just $3 (main park entrance).

Since it began in 2001, the Valencia-based Bow-Wows & Meows, Inc., a 501(c)3 non-profit organization, has adopted out more than 1,500 shelter pets at its annual fairs.

“Last year, the community adopted over 170 pets at Bow-Wows & Meows. This year, we have a goal of hitting or exceeding the 200 mark. With the catfantastic $30 adoption fee and the wide selection of dogs, cats, puppies & kittens to choose from plus six additional rescue groups, we believe that’s totally possible,” Allbee said.

She encouraged pet lovers to get involved by spreading the word about Bow-Wows & Meows through social media via Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/BWMPetFair) or Twitter (@BowWowsPetFair).

“It’s so easy to make a difference for these pets. Tweeting or Facebooking alone can make a huge impact by bringing more adopters to the fair, helping us save as many lives as possible,” Allbee said. “We can also use volunteers to help pass out posters and flyers in the community prior to the fair. For more information, visit our website at www.BowWowsAndMeows.org.”

Fair1Bow-Wows & Meows Pet Fair, Sunday, October 12 at William S. Hart Park, 24151 Newhall Avenue, Newhall. 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Free. For more information, visit www.BowWowsAndMeows.org or call (661) 297-5961. Hart Park offers shuttled parking for people/pets for just $3 and free parking remains available in the surrounding community areas.

The Secret Life of Driving Instructors

| Santa Clarita Living | September 12, 2014

by Martha Michael

One teenaged student driver in Santa Clarita was behind the wheel when the instructor directed him to pull into a fast food drive-thru line. Another local driving instructor had his student pull into a convenience store so he could run in and get some food. On his way out of the car, the instructor joked to the 16-year-old about buying him beer. These are crazy recollections from driving students, but what could the instructors reveal, if truth be told?

One Instructor’s Conclusions
#1 – A large number of internationals take driving lessons.
Ernesto Casillas of Genesis Driving School has been an instructor for 22 years. He has taught students from India, Egypt, Thailand, The Philippines, Japan, China, Russia, Ukraine, Bangladesh and Turkey – and those are just the ones he can remember off the top of his head.
“I’ve taken people from different types of backgrounds. I’ve learned different types of languages,” said Casillas, who memorizes words in his students’ native tongues so they can communicate during lessons.

He recently trained a Korean woman who didn’t speak English. “I would tell her, ‘Slow down, slow down, slow down,’ and she would answer me in Korean. She didn’t know what I was saying,” said Casillas. “I had to write down how to say ‘right turn’ and ‘left.’”

One of Casillas’ first questions for internationals is to ask how long they have been driving. “Some people say they’re professional drivers in their country,” he said. “Then they look at the lines we have in the middle of the road and don’t know what to do.”

A typical problem for foreign-born clients is making left turns, said Casillas. “When we don’t have an arrow, they don’t move into the intersection. They start paying attention to the cars on the side instead of the cars in the oncoming traffic.”

With all of his experience teaching clients from around the world, Casillas is able to make some comparisons with driving in the United States. “I went to Egypt … they actually get in the way of cars on purpose. In countries like England, New Zealand – they have to drive for many months before they can get a driver’s license. There they spend thousands of dollars to get a driver’s license,” he said. “Some say to me, ‘If you can drive in my country, you can drive anywhere.’”

#2 – People who are battling age & issues with illness drive too.
An older woman signed up for training with Casillas. He said that she had gone to the Department of Motor Vehicles to take the written driving test for renewal, but because she was using a walker, the DMV required her to also do the behind-the-wheel driving test again.

“She knew she was going to have to stand a lot in line, so she took a walker,” said Casillas. “She was one of the nicest people I’ve ever met, even when I would correct her.”

Casillas got a reaction at the DMV when he brought a favorite student in to take her driving test. She had cerebral palsy.

“She was one of the best drivers I’ve ever had,” he said. “She was between 61 and 65 years old. She passed her driving test.”

She was previously a licensed driver, said Casillas, but her vehicle was hit from behind by a car and when police came and saw that she was drooling and couldn’t speak, they took away her license.

“Mute, Down Syndrome, cerebral palsy, with any of those types of cases, I have to adjust,” he said.

Casillas used a white board to communicate with his client who had cerebral palsy. He doesn’t take his job lightly and he sees their journeys through to the end.

“I take it personally, you’re investing money in me,” said Casillas. “I don’t bring anyone who isn’t ready. They’re putting their lives in my hands.”

#3- People in California are some of the safest drivers.
“In California we are very lenient,” said Casillas. “I find the people in Santa Clarita very willing to learn … I’d say around 97 percent of teens do practice with their parents and they do listen to the lesson plan I have for them.”

“Lillian” was one of Casillas’ students, a 61-year-old journalist with the New York Post. Lillian was a former resident of Staten Island.
“She told me, ‘In New York we could’ve done this already. You have a lot of respect for pedestrians,’” he reported that she said.

Surprising Facts
Because of the new law allowing all Californians to obtain a driver’s license, Kristine Bistline of High Desert Driving School has been getting an increasing number of calls inquiring about lessons. Other clients come from such scenarios as older adults that the DMV randomly tests, and those who call to do brush-up lessons.

“A lot of them wait until they fail,” said Bistline. “Then they get sent to Driver’s Safety.”

High Desert has a two-hour “evaluation class” at a rate of $60 per hour, where older drivers can preempt possible failure of the driving exam, and eliminate the hassles if a person has his/her license revoked. “They have to have their eyes checked, make sure they don’t have any dementia. They have to go to San Bernardino or Van Nuys to see a caseworker in driver’s safety,” said Bistline. “I’ve written letters for attorneys, because they want to take their licenses away.”

Bistline is a past president of the Driving School Association of California, the second female president since 1953. She also won the “Woman of the Year” award from the Driving School Association of America, which includes Great Britain, Japan and Guam.

With a background that extensive, Bistline is a good source for little known driving facts.

“Did you know you can drive barefooted?” asked Bistline, who has owned the driving school for 25 years.

High Desert offers a four-hour road trip course, where new or soon-to-be drivers can get extensive freeway experience. “A lot of kids don’t know you can stop on an onramp,” she said.

If massive trucks are blocking your entrance onto a freeway, for instance, you can legally stop your car completely.

“And the carpool lane – during certain hours of the day you can’t treat it as a regular lane,” explained Bistline. “And you can’t enter or exit unless the lines are broken. You’ll get two tickets for two violations – a double ticket.”

One of the most widely talked about rules and regulations, particularly among parents of teens, involves the “new driver” restrictions.
“On a permit, you must always have an adult 25 years old or older,” she said. “For one year you can’t transport other children under age 20. You can transport only your own siblings for school or specific immediate need, employment purposes or a medical purpose.”

When asked about notes from a fellow parent allowing a child to ride with a new driver, Bistline said, “There’s no such thing – a note can ONLY be used for a specific family member. And between 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. they can’t be on the road at all.”

Bistline used to be active in legislation. When the older Sen. Pete Knight was in office, she was responsible for getting the second brake put into driving instruction cars. “I would hear about these other driving schools and they’d be involved in serious crashes,” she said.

Safety just makes sense to Bistline. “I’m motivated. I share the road with these kids,” she said. “Parents would ask me if their child needs more lessons. I would say, ‘I’d put my baby in the back seat with them,’ or I’d say, ‘I wouldn’t let my daughter ride along with them – you need to consider an extra lesson or two.’”

Another key area to explore with driving instructors: the law beginning January 1 allowing all Californians to obtain driver’s licenses. That’s a topic for next time!

Neurosurgeon Addresses Back and Neck Pain

| Canyon Country Magazine, Santa Clarita Living | September 12, 2014

A board-certified neurosurgeon is bringing his voice to the fore in a world of medical infomercials and confusing information on the Internet. Dr. Anthony Virella aims to provide clarity about the facts of chronic back and neck pain at a free seminar.

For those who suffer from these ailments and are seeking accurate information regarding treatment, Dr. Virella, a neurosurgeon and spine expert with the practice Virella Neurosurgery in Valencia, is devoted to his mission to educate patients in an effort to assist them in making decisions for their individual conditions. Dr. Virella promotes the idea that there is no “one size fits all” treatment for spinal conditions and that they should not be misled by false promises. His goal is to educate patients about the cause of their back and neck pain as well and promote an understanding of what is and is not possible with regard to treatments.

A free educational seminar and free MRI review will be hosted by Dr. Virella for those with chronic spinal conditions in the Santa Clarita Valley. The event will be held at the Hyatt Regency in Santa Clarita on Thursday, October 9 at 7:00 p.m. Attendees are encouraged to bring their MRIs, CT scans or X-rays for review by Dr. Virella, who will also field questions about spinal conditions and dispel rumors and myths about treatments and “cures.”

The Hyatt Regency is located at 24500 Town Center Drive in Valencia.
Space is limited, therefore attendees are encouraged to reserve a spot by calling (805) 449-0088 or email VirellaNeurosurgery@gmail.com. Visit www.Dr-Virella.com.

About Dr. Anthony Virella
Dr. Virella is a board-certified, fellowship trained neurological spine surgeon with advanced training in the management of complex spinal disorders. He attended medical school at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) and a graduate of the UCLA Neurosurgery Residency Program under the direction of Neil A. Martin, M.D., F.A.C.S. Dr. Virella completed his complex spine in-folding resident fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and a second fellowship in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at the UCLA Comprehensive Spine Center with Larry T. Khoo, M.D.

Dr. Virella has authored numerous articles and lectured internationally in the field of complex and minimally invasive spine surgery. He evaluates and treats patients with a variety of spinal disorders, including herniated discs, spinal stenosis, sciatic pain, nerve root impingement, degenerative disc disease, sacroiliac joint dysfunction, spinal fractures and other associated spinal conditions.

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.

Baby Boutique

| Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | September 12, 2014

baby boutique logo picNew parents, expectant mothers and fathers, grandparents and anyone remotely interested in babies are welcome to attend the Santa Clarita Valley (SCV) Baby Boutique on Saturday, September 20, 2014. The event will provide shopping for visitors, including 30 vendors, raffles, gift bags and more. A portion of the proceeds will benefit the NICU at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital.

Event planners Valerie Bradford and Ayanna McLeod are launching this first-time event at the Hilton Garden Inn in Valencia for the public to enjoy from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

“My business partner and I are thrilled to be hosting the very first SCV Baby Boutique,” said Bradford. “This has been an amazing experience with amazing people every step of the way – from our initial contact with Maria Rodriguez at the Hilton Garden Inn, where our event will take place in four of their largest conference rooms, to our meeting with Officer Frank Vargas of the California Highway Patrol (CHP), who did not hesitate to join us and provide at least three stations in the parking lot during the event to do Child Safety Seat Inspections.”

Sponsored by Whitening Lightning, boutique vendors include a Mary Kay Cosmetics representative, Lasting Impressions, The Painted Shutter & Co., Enchanted Kids and dozens of artists from photographers to crafters who create handmade baby garments.

“Most importantly, we feel we have laid the groundwork for an amazing relationship with the Kim and Steven Ullman Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Henry Mayo Newhall Memorial Hospital, the benefactor of our event,” said Bradford. “Renee Leon, development associate & healthcare hero coordinator, has gone above and beyond to work with us and to get the word out about the boutique, and we are humbled by this opportunity to give back to our community.”

Enchanted Kids Baby BeginningsThe Hilton Garden Inn is located at 27710 The Old Road in Valencia. Contact Valerie at scvbabyboutique@yahoo.com or call (661) 312-7007 for information or for a Vendor/Sponsor Application.

Saugus High School Chinese Exchange

| Santa Clarita Living | September 11, 2014

by Martha Michael
For most people, a discussion about an “exchange with China” would imply a reference to commerce or the import/export business. But not for Patty Stephenson of Santa Clarita, who, together with Saugus High School Principal Bill Bolde, has coordinated an exchange of people, not products, for the last 10 years.

A former school superintendent’s firsthand visit to the Asian continent sparked a fire of passion for students in China. Once shared with Bolde and Stephenson, the duo began to research the possibilities. They traveled to China and visited the school that would reciprocate with them in a student exchange program.

“Saugus High is one of the few schools in the U.S. that does this kind of exchange. It’s an institutional exchange between schools,” said Stephenson.

Mark, Diane, Jason and Jon Hamburger talked with their Chinese son/brother “Adam” (Gao Shiheng), at the exchange holiday party in December of 2013.

Mark, Diane, Jason and Jon Hamburger talked with their Chinese son/brother “Adam” (Gao Shiheng), at the exchange holiday party in December of 2013.

Each fall semester exchange brings a group of six from China — one teacher and five students, all sophomores.

“The kids are incredible,” said Stephenson. “They take honors and AP classes and usually get a 4.0 (grade point average).”

The students attend school and stay with volunteer host families until the end of December, sharing their lives and participating in all family activities.

Harlan and Lisa Ratzky met with their Chinese son, “Ted” (Guo Taiding), and Ted’s parents upon the Ratzky’s arrival in Xi’an, China last April. The two families stayed together for one week. The Ratzkys have hosted four students in the fall and four in the summer. Both Harlan and Lisa are members of the SCIE board.

Harlan and Lisa Ratzky met with their Chinese son, “Ted” (Guo Taiding), and Ted’s parents upon the Ratzky’s arrival in Xi’an, China last April. The two families stayed together for one week. The Ratzkys have hosted four students in the fall and four in the summer. Both Harlan and Lisa are members of the SCIE board.

“Finding host families, good host families is the biggest challenge,” said Stephenson. “We’ve found some incredibly loving and caring people. Some families have hosted Chinese students as many as four times.

“They don’t all have kids at Saugus; they just have to be able to get the kids here. Just willing to open their homes and hearts to the kids,” Stephenson added. “The best part is meeting the host families; they become lifelong friends.

The program has proven to be more than just an exchange of teens. It is also an exchange of cultures. For instance, the Chinese students are chosen for the program for academic reasons, while Saugus students are chosen for a variety of reasons. Local teens selected are good students, have had at least one year of Chinese language classes, they need to speak at least some Chinese.

“We not only want a good student, but also someone who’s flexible, someone with good ideas and who can work as a team. We want them to be personable and interested,” Stephenson explained. “There have been a few kids who came who weren’t really interested in things besides it being a big honor to come.”

The Chinese make those kinds of decisions based primarily on scores. Anyone in China who wants to go to university has to take the same test and they simply choose the top test performers. But there have been some shifts.

“This year they instituted more stringent controls. They started to take a more holistic approach,” said Stephenson. “More like the U.S.”

Stephenson had a rich background that readied her to take on the project. She helped run an international program at California State University, Northridge. She worked in the chancellor’s office and taught French for more than 27 years also.

Stephenson herself has hosted eight teachers during the course of the program. “Bill asked me if I’d take this on and it’s been an adventure we shared. I would not want to do this without him — we work well together,” she said.

When they started the program, the William S. Hart School District school board gave them some funds to set up the program. Bolde and Stephenson are on their own now, cutting costs and raising funds when needed. During the course of the one-semester visit, the teens take trips to Disneyland and many other venues. “Bill drives the mini-bus and I’m the tour guide,” she said. “For some years, Bill and I and a couple of others were paying for the whole program.”

To solve the money issue, Stephenson and some former host parents, as well as people whose kids have traveled to China, started Santa Clarita International Exchange (S.C.I.E.). It is a non-profit group, where scholarship money can be raised to send kids to China. S.C.I.E. hosts immersion summer camps, which are paid for by Chinese students. The parents pay to send them to the summer camp – 25 kids and two teachers visit Santa Clarita for 19 days. One of the camp’s goals is to teach them culture, including how to play baseball, and expose them to American art, drama and bowling. The money that S.C.I.E. raises from summer camp, as well as through other fund-raisers, supports the Saugus Exchange Program.
Stephenson has witnessed firsthand the diplomatic gains from Saugus High’s exchange program, such as a favorite quote from a former participant in the program who said, “Americans are not what I thought.”

Host Family Remembers
In July of 2005, we received a phone call from Saugus High School asking for host families of new visiting Chinese students. Something inside of me said, “Call,” so I talked it over with my husband for about 10 minutes and then called Patty Stephenson, the Chinese exchange program director, to let her know that we were interested.

I didn’t know at the time how much my life would change, how much our lives would change, but we were gifted a beautiful experience with a 15-year-old girl and we are forever grateful. Her name is Jia Liu. She is one of the bravest and kindest girls I have ever met. As most children of her generation in China, she grew up as an only child, so being part of a larger family was going to be a whole new experience for her. Jia flew halfway across the world to join our family-of-five and immerse herself in the American culture for six months. During that time, we shared many memories, including her first Halloween, Christmas, and her Sweet 16th birthday. She became part of our family and remains an important part of it to this day. Jia even went home and taught English language and American culture to younger children, based on the experiences that she had here. She recently graduated from Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania with a master’s degree in robotics engineering.

Our family of five is not often afforded the luxury of world travel, so by hosting an exchange student, the world came to us. We hosted another student in 2011. This time it was a 15-year-old boy. He is now in his second year at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. We have had a few visits with the students since their high school graduations and, as luck would have it, we will be seeing Jia next week in Pittsburgh.

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.

The Rock Inn – Just a Stones Throw Away

| Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | July 15, 2014

Santa Clarita resident, Keith Michael at the front entrance

Santa Clarita resident, Keith Michael at the front entrance

By Martha Michael

While many in this community are marking the year that passed since the “Powerhouse Fire,” the focus on the foothills due north of Santa Clarita needs not stop there.

Just take a “Sunday drive” and wind north, either on Bouquet Canyon Road or San Francisquito Canyon, where you will eventually pass through Green Valley and reach an unincorporated community in the Sierra Pelona foothills. You may have been there for a round of golf, back when the Lake Elizabeth course was open.

Also referred to as Elizabeth Lake, the web site says the area is part of Lake Hughes. Regardless of the name, you will find yourself in a quaint,

One of the guest rooms

One of the guest rooms

little community where one of the most noticeable features of the town is an eye-catching, old, stone-covered building called The Rock Inn.

Built by Joel Hurd, Sr. in 1927 to 1929, according to www.historicrockinn.com,  the original building was a wood structure that burned down, and was later built of steel, concrete, and stone after fire destroyed the first attempt. It served
as an inn, store, post office, and gas station, in fact, it still has gas pumps as evidence of its long history of serving passersby.

Now, its dramatic doorway draws you into a casual restaurant, where locals show up frequently — both for the familiar comfort-food (hamburgers, flavorful pulled pork) and live music. A pool table takes center stage and the room is lined with booths and filled with tables. The bar/restaurant is very roomy and has unusual vintage fixtures and decor.

Bar Restaurant area

Bar Restaurant area

Guests who inquire are lucky enough to get a glimpse of the seven rooms above the restaurant, some with the luxury of balconies, even party areas. People are known to plan parties on the patio, renting the rooms for friends, so no one has to take the long, winding road home.

If it is just an afternoon lunch or a simple dinner, however, a Santa Clarita resident returns by the same route, choosing either San Francisquito Canyon or Bouquet Canyon Road back to suburbia.

For more about The Rock Inn, visit www.santaclaritalife.com and click “Tell Me More.”

The Granada

| Santa Clarita Living | July 12, 2014

by Marilyn Hackett

Granada lobby view to restaurant 1 Granadaexperiencebg 1 Granadafire-pit 1 Granadafireplace 1 GranadaLobby night 1 GranadaRestaurant interior 1









Most of us have had the opportunity to travel the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway up towards Big Sur. It’s a long drive. I am good for about two hours in a car before I have to stop for about two hours to stretch. (Traveling cross country takes a very, very long time.)

On the way north from Santa Clarita I have stayed in Pismo, Santa Ynez, Avila, Solvang, and Paso Robles. I travel every year to the peaceful landscape of Central California. But, for some unknown reason, I have never stayed in San Luis Obispo. This year I thought I’d investigate and find out why I continually pass by this destination.

Turns out, there is no reason. Turning off the 101 into SLO takes you through Historic Old Town, filled with the energy of a college town and lots of trendy shopping and art galleries. The architecture is from the 1800s. And, if you are on a mission to see all the California Missions, then don’t miss the Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa. For a California “fusion” lunch, cross the bridge to NOVO. It offers creek side dining in a historical building that once was a cigar factory.

You can take the Metro from Newhall to Union Station and get on the Amtrak to SLO. You will arrive at the 1894 Historic Railroad District. The 1942 Spanish Colonial Train Depot remains much the same. Take time to check in with the SLO Railroad Museum and pick up the walking tour map. After touring this area you’ll need rest from your rail journey.
Keep walking a few blocks to the Granada Hotel and Bistro, a quaint hotel built in the 1920s and completely redecorated with modern elements. The rooms are small, but they have the charm of the original exposed bricks and the suites have exterior patios. The amenities are classic of all the AAA four diamond awarded hotels. These rooms were once rented by the hour, long, long ago, when there was a vaudeville theater next door. Today’s clientele dine on the outdoor patio of the Granada Bistro celebrating business deals, weddings, and the graduation of a child from Cal Poly State University.

GRANADA means “pomegranate” in Spanish. I did not see those on the menu, but I can recommend the Granada Paella, which blends the flavors of five different fresh fish with organic chicken and house chorizo. After dinner I relaxed inside at the bar, indulging in homemade liquid nitrogen ice-cream until going to the Art Bar at the hotel. My friend thought an Art Bar is where you hang out with champagne and meet local artists. But, it is a place where YOU are the artist. First, you are given a cocktail to help you unleash your creativity, and then professional artists guide you through creating your own masterpiece. At the end of two hours I had painted a wine country landscape. Most of us decided to tour the gorgeous SLO Wine Country the next day to see how close we came to the original!

San Luis Obispo was named one of the “friendliest cities in America” as part of USA Today and Rand McNally’s “Best of Road” competition. I can’t imagine why I passed by it so many times.

Visit www.GRANADAHOTELANDBISTRO.COM or call 805-544-9100; also www.ARTBARSLO.COM.

The Magic of Soccer

| Santa Clarita Living, Spotlight News | July 7, 2014

by Martha Michael

Back (L-R):  Asst. Coach Francisco Perez, Mick Shaffery, Jose Pena, Jeysen Rodriguez, Niall Shaffery, Anthony Alfonso, Zack Nobles, Joshua Santana, John Linn, Head Coach Sergio Salvadori Front:  (L-R):  Arman Tagavi (may be joining team), Raul Veladez, David Hussey, Angel Acosta, Francisco Perez, Matthew Santana Not Shown:  Derek Waldeck, Blessing Stewart and Jake Chadbourne

Back (L-R):  Asst. Coach Francisco Perez, Mick Shaffery, Jose Pena, Jeysen Rodriguez, Niall Shaffery, Anthony Alfonso, Zack Nobles, Joshua Santana, John Linn, Head Coach Sergio Salvadori
Front:  (L-R):  Arman Tagavi (may be joining team), Raul Veladez, David Hussey, Angel Acosta, Francisco Perez, Matthew Santana
Not Shown:  Derek Waldeck, Blessing Stewart and Jake Chadbourne

While the World Cup may have enraptured a world of spectators, there are groups who are captivated by soccer year round, and are not satisfied with sitting on the sidelines.

That describes the SCV Magic. A youth soccer club made up of 26 teams this year, the Magic is a melting pot of talent, proven this year by the performance of the U17 team, which just finished competing in the National Cup competition. The team lost to last year’s national champions in the quarter finals.

The teams in the club compete in the Southern California Developmental Soccer League. If that sounds fundamental, it may be surprising to know that the U17 team is made up of high schoolers who are being sought by universities and Olympic training teams.

Mick (Michael Shaffery), a Hart High School junior, is the team’s goalkeeper, and tried out for the Olympic development program a few seasons ago. This summer he has a trip to Florida with Pro Sports Pathways, which is an invitation-only opportunity to play in front of English coaches who are recruiting for their youth program, which feeds into their professional programs.

Mick’s twin brother, Niall, is a mid-fielder, which means he spends most of his time on the field running. Niall plays both center-mid and outside-mid.

Proud mother of twins Mick and Niall, Joni Shaffery adds that several of the team’s members are in demand. “There is a lot of

Mick Shaffery

Mick Shaffery

talent on this team,” she says. “The players play for different high schools – they’re all standout players. Francisco Perez, as a freshman, was team captain at Golden Valley. He is being scouted by top Division I colleges.”

Most of the SCV Magic team players on this particular team have the chance to play at Division I or Division II schools, Joni Shaffery adds.

“The club is aggressively trying to get these players into good colleges, with good scholarships,” she says. “They’re all good students, many above 4.0 GPAs, with AP classes. They’re not trying to get into college just with athletic ability.”

Locally, a few play for the soccer teams at Valencia High School, one player is at Golden Valley, and a good majority play for Hart High School, the team that won the Foothill League championship this year.

Niall Shaffery, Zack Nobles, Francisco Perez

Niall Shaffery, Zack Nobles, Francisco Perez

“They’re such good friends, most have been together at least five or six seasons,” says Joni. “They compete hard in high school, but they hug afterwards.”

A few players on the Magic U17 travel from the San Fernando Valley, because of the success of the club and this team.

“Several of our club coaches are coaches for local high schools (many also have ‘day jobs’), most are very consumed by soccer. Several of the coaches are from European and Latin American countries,” says Joni. “Some of the powerhouse clubs are in Orange County and San Diego regions, but our club has definitely stepped up its reputation.”

Joni Shaffery has been a fairly permanent fixture in the league. She is on the board of directors for SCV Magic, and she is currently the director for sponsorship and fundraising. “It’s been fun to be a part of the club,” she says. “My kids have played seven seasons. I’ve been on the board for five. I enjoy my role in this club because it actively promotes the highest level of soccer and is committed

Raul Velasquez and Angel Acosta

Raul Velasquez and Angel Acosta

to giving the club experience to all youth who have the ability to compete at this level, regardless of financial ability.” The club gives

Anthony Salvadori

Anthony Salvadori

out 25 full scholarships to assist families who could not otherwise move up to the club level training. This training includes top level coaching, strength and conditioning and skills/goalkeeper sessions. These programs would not be possible without the club’s corporate sponsors, Poole & Shaffery, LLP and Stay Green Inc.

The SCV Magic is currently holding an ongoing fundraiser called a “Goal-A-Thon.” The players get pledges ($2 per goal, for instance). Those who pledge pay by the number of goals the player kicks. Money is being raised so the youth can travel throughout the Western Region to compete at higher levels. You may sponsor a player on the BU17 team through July 18, 2014.

The SCV Magic will also hold a Casino Night on September 13. Those funds help with the scholarship and training programs for all club players.
For contact information, visit www.scvmagic.com.

Keeping Our Eye on the Mall

| Santa Clarita Living, SC Women | July 5, 2014

mallFrom the mid-1900s into the 21st century, Americans became increasingly more avid shoppers. There developed a “mall culture,” where a real diversity of ages and stages frequented retail stores on a regular basis, not just to do the obvious (shop), but to socialize, date, eat, etc.

While old-timers in this valley joke about the days when Kmart was the only chain store for miles, by the time the City of Santa Clarita was founded there was a burgeoning retail presence to meet the needs of its booming population. As prosperity rose, retail sales rose, but what happened when the recession hit a few years ago? Business theory would predict a metamorphosis for malls, just as other companies have had to adjust.
Santa Clarita Living Magazine turned to Westfield Valencia Town Center Marketing Director Stacie C. House, to see what changes have been made for local residents.
SCL: With the struggling economy of the last few years, did Westfield Valencia businesses experience any slowing?
SCH: The downturn certainly had an impact on retail as with other industries. Despite the recession Westfield moved forward with development of the Patios, which we proudly opened in 2010. The addition of new premium retailers such as Sephora, Free People, mall IMApple, M. Fredric, BCBG MaxAzria and more, coupled with a beautiful outdoor lifestyle element serves as a centerpiece for the community and visitors to socially connect while exploring our diverse collection of stores, restaurants and entertainment options.
SCL: What have been the biggest changes over the last five years? Over the last year?
SCH: Retail as an industry is ever-changing. As shopper behaviors and accessibility to information evolves, providing a streamlined and dynamic guest experience across all consumer touch points is critical to our growth and success. Westfield strives to transform the

face of retail by offering the best shopping centers around the world while integrating fashion, food, leisure, entertainment and digital technology with the world’s leading retail brands. Where we’re going as a company and how we are influencing the industry is extraordinary.
SCL: Has “The Patios” had any unpredictable outcomes? (Has it gone in any different direction than intended?)
SCH: The Patios has leased up beautifully. The blend of a robust tenant mix and state-of-the-art lifestyle amenities, such as the outdoor children’s play space, have captured the essence of the Santa Clarita lifestyle as well as the attention of additional premium brands looking to join our retail family. We are excited to welcome new tenants on The Patios this year including LYFE Kitchen, Solita, and CA Fish Grill.
SCL: Which are the most popular/successful stores and sections of the mall?
SCH: The Center is undeniably multi-purpose in that it is commonly many things to one person. Situated in the heart of our community, the Center is the go-to place for mom when she needs to grab something for the kids, home to the latest fashion trends, a social hub to connect with friends, and serves as a destination to many travelers. Each fragment of Westfield Valencia Town Center contributes to our overarching goal of providing the best individual guest experience possible.

SCL: Why did the Santa Clarita Artists’ Association change locations?
SCH: It has been a treat having the Artists’ Association here on a temporary basis at Westfield Valencia Town Center. They have added an engaging energy to Town Center Drive. We worked in partnership with the Artists’ Association to relocate them in an effort to accommodate a new tenant joining us on Town Center Drive this fall.
What changes can we expect in the next year?
Go to www.santaclaritalife.com and click on the “Tell Me More” tab to see what Stacie House can tell us about changes at Westfield Valencia. There is one very popular clothing store arriving soon…
The Westfield Valencia Town Center is located at 24201 West Valencia Blvd. in Valencia.

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!”

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