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Dining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkLifestyle

LA is seeing Pink Dots again

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LA’s legendary Pink Dot rises again with craft cocktails and fresh fare on demand

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When I moved to LA nearly 19 years ago, my new bestie told me the joke of how she knew when her neighbor was on a bender.  The Pink Dot VW bug was basically on shuttle mode, appearing in his driveway multiple times a day. I learned Pink Dot was the LA-unique delivery service that would bring beer, munchies, whatever, to your door, within minutes.

For the partiers, workaholics, social-adverse, lazy, and other shut-ins, Pink Dot would bring them the goods to keep them going.  But after the original owner, entrepreneur Bill Toro, who launched the concept in 1987 and by 1999 had opened 12 locations, expanding too soon too fast, the darling of LA side streets was on the verge of bankruptcy.

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A new owner, Sol Yamini, took over in 2001 to revive the service that he had grown up on, keeping alive the flagship store on Sunset Boulevard, and adding upgraded items, like sandwiches made with Boar’s Head deli meats and Clark Street bread, and first-ever delivery options, such as a Cocktails on Demand kits.

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Pink Dot is hitting the streets of WeHo and LA again, with a vengeance. With a new logo to refresh their look, a new website to make ordering easy, and tons of new products available – from condoms to cupcakes, the polka-dotted bugs are back, zipping around the city from 9 am to 2 am, getting LA loafers what they want, when they want it, within 45 minutes.

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Eat & DrinkLifestyleRestaurantsThe Left CoastTravel

One fine San Diego

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A short list of best places to visit around the city called America’s finest

Before I moved to Southern California, I asked some natives advice on where to live. They told me pros and cons of the major cities, but no one had anything bad to say about San Diego. The more time I spend there, I see why.

There’s a lot to do in this quintessential coastal city, and plenty to recommend it, whether you are looking for a place to land for a short time, or forever. As an LA denizen, I have taken the approximate three-hour road trip to San Diego many times to explore this laid back metropolis that calls itself America’s Finest City, and here are some of my favorite places to stay and dine.

An Island of its Own

While Coronado is not within the city limits of San Diego, this quaint resort island, located across the San Diego Bay, is definitely worth a side trip. Coronado owes its enduring appeal to the forethought of its founders who zoned the shoreline to restrict commercial businesses, such as taco shops or souvenir stands. While there was debate among residents when the 1.5-mile bridge that connects San Diego to the island opened the city to tourism, the island remains carefully developed and has avoided the rampant commercialism of many other Southern California beach resorts.

The In-Del-ible Resort

One of the main attractions of Coronado is The Hotel Del Coronado, a grand Victoria hotel built in 1887 which has been designated a California Historical Landmark. Renowned for its iconic red-shingled spires and the charm of its original all-wooden construction, this elegant and old-school luxury hotel has hosted generations of families, who come back year after year to celebrate its family friendly traditions.

Its most famous attractions, besides its five-star restaurants, Olympic-sized pool and ocean front location, include an antique elevator with an operator in uniform, an enormous Christmas tree in the lobby during the winter holidays, along with an ice rink over the courtyard, and bonfires and s’mores on the beach year-round. The property was recently acquired by Hilton, but for purists who liked The Del just like its been for the last 130 years, everything has pretty much stayed the same, except for a few 2.0 upgrades, like the video wall behind the check-in desks and the swanky lounge music piped into the lobby.

Glorietta-Be!

 

Also on the island is the Glorietta Bay Inn, across the street from The Del and overlooking the marina on the back side of the island. This hidden-in-plain-site gem offers a similar historical mystique to its more famous neighbor and in fact once served as the residence of the Del’s owner, John Spreckels, an ambitious and inspiring mogul of steamboats, ocean liners and railways.

Spreckels left an indelible legacy with the masterpiece resort he built, and the Glorietta pays homage to him by preserving the original elegance of his home. The inn features a presidential suite, with its own elevator, that sits atop the original building with panoramic views of the bay, featuring a vista of swaying palm trees by day and the twinkling lights of the marina at night. While the historic touches are maintained, the rooms feature modern technology, such as a charging bank with multiple USB ports as well as an awesome hi-fi Wi-Fi Bluetooth speaker combo alarm clock.

While the ultra-luxurious beds and other amenities offer visitors the comforts of home, the Glorietta is set apart from its competition by its small-hotel hospitality, such as the refreshing lemonade offered at check-in, a complimentary breakfast each morning to be enjoyed in the sunny courtyard, a kids’ game room and other communal sitting rooms, along with warm cookies and milk served nightly.

 

Dining across San Diego

One thing there is no shortage of in San Diego is restaurants. Driving through the quarters of the city, there seems to be an endless collection of eateries of every persuasion. No matter what your tastes are, you can find a restaurant to suit your appetite.

Après Surf

If beach casual is your thing, the OB Surf Lodge, located on the corner of Santa Monica Avenue and Abbott Street in Ocean Beach, offers everything you’d expect from a casual beach bar and restaurant. For starters, there’s the spectacular view. The dining room features large open windows overlooking the beach across the street, so diners feel more like they on a patio than sitting indoors. Some nights, the restaurant becomes front row to a free street show of fire dancers and Cirque-du-Soleil-like AcroYoga performers.

Despite the primo real estate, the restaurant does not rely on the draw of the sunsets to bring in patrons but also features a terrific menu of plenty of strong drinks and good food.

They are famous for their Swell Times Mai Tai, topped with a froth of guava foam. The hanger steak and grilled romaine salad are also popular, and for a big finish, the Chef’s Bread Pudding ‘Du Jour” is a regularly changing recipe.

 

JSix Degrees of Delicious

Named for its location at the corner of J Street and Sixth streets in the East Village, JSix features California Cuisine with Filipino influences from Executive Chef Anthony Sinsay. The modern, lofty space with vaulted ceilings and original brick walls lend a cool yet relaxed vibe, with a bar where the drinks are hip, fun and flirty, like the Designated Drinker cocktail of Greenmark vodka, aperol, lemon, vanilla, berries, and mint.

Chef Sinsay has created a menu of many of his favorite personal dishes like Lumpia Shanghai, Filipino crispy spring rolls served with a garlic chili vinegar – served on a homey floral “grandma plate,” wrapped in aluminum foil, in the fashion of street vendors in the Philippines. The chef makes food into works of epicurean art, like the local melon and prosciutto, decorated with tiny edible floral garnishes and farmer’s market melons, with speck, burrata and espelette.

Sinsay says he is writing a book about his culinary arc, from first believing that his Filipino culinary heritage was not “good enough.” Luckily, Sinsay didn’t get discouraged and continued to hone his Filipino recipies, adding his flair and attitude, to create a dining experience one does not have to travel half the world to enjoy.

San Diego Attractions

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A major attraction of San Diego is its hospitable climate, making the city and its surrounding area ideal for all manner of outdoor recreation. Visitors who want to take full advantage of the year-round moderate temperatures and sunshine can enjoy a plethora of activities, including whale watching and sailing; bike, kayak and other adventure tours; yacht cruises; nearby theme parks including Knott’s Berry Farm in Buena Park, Disneyland in Anaheim, LEGOLAND California in Carlsbad, and SeaWorld (which I have forsworn because of the animal shows, but they do have some great rides); a hot new adrenaline park; pick-your-own strawberry fields; horse racing at the nearby Del Mar racetrack; museums and the San Diego Zoo Safari Park at Balboa Park; and shopping at Seaport Village. The city makes the best of its natural amenities, providing a fine way of life for those call it home and offering visitors many fine options for adventure, earning the city its deserved moniker as one of California’s (and one of the nation’s) finest.

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LifestyleOutdoorsThe Left CoastTravel

Camp Beverly Hills – Glamping SoCal Style

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Taking it easy while roughing it

Many of my fondest childhood memories are from summer camp — minus the time a huge hairy spider jumped onto my sleeping bag. That traumatizing incident aside, I loved camping as a kid; but as I have gotten older, and dare I say more delicate, my favorite thing about camping has been coming home and taking a real shower and sleeping in the clean sheets of my own bed.

Now that I have a child of my own, I didn’t want to deprive him of the wonders of camping, but just the thought of sleeping on the ground makes my back hurt. Thankfully, I learned about the compromise of communing with nature by day but slumbering comfortably in a cozy bed at night through an experience called “glamping.”

There’s no room service, though glamping resorts are designed for those who love nature but also crave creative comforts. If five-star accommodations under the stars sounds like your sort of outdoor adventure, here are some SoCal campsites to check out.

Ventura Ranch

At the recently revamped Ventura Ranch, the camping experience includes deluxe cabins featuring indoor bathrooms, kitchens, AC and heat, and other hotel-like amenities, all surrounded by Mother Nature. Guests can rise from their comfy accommodations, walk out onto their private deck and gaze upon a sunrise over a mountain range of greenery, and perhaps be greeted by one of the many colorful peacocks that roam the property.

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KOA’s Ventura Ranch’s glamour camping is the best of both worlds for the whole family.  While parents relax at the climate-controlled cabin, the kids have plenty to do, from swimming at the site’s new huge pool; ziplining across the camp; bouncing on an enormous trampoline-like Jumping Pillow; tie-dying T-shirts, painting planter pots, launching home-made rockets or otherwise getting creative at one of the camp’s organized crafting sessions; or just running wild or hanging out on the grounds and hiking trails.

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The camp and programs were designed with families in mind, with daily opportunities for kids and parents to participate together and have fun as a family, many of which are complementary, such as BYO-blanket outdoor movie nights and a flashlight-guided Big Foot tour.

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Though you may be off the grid in spirit, KOS features Wi-Fi at most campgrounds, and even an app that lets you find a campground easily filter by amenities and location and make reservations on-the-go.

 

El Capitan Canyon

The scenic El Capitan Canyon on Santa Barbara’s coast has sunsets to relish nature abounding all around. It’s the perfect setting to rock climb, hike, swim and enjoy a multitude of outdoor adventures; but for those who want to get dirty all day but clean up and retreat into their own comfy cabin at night, El Capitan Canyon has just the accommodations, from fully furnished yurts to luxurious cabins, with all the comforts of home.

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They may be called cabins, but most folks could live in the little cedar home structures at El Capitan Canyon. There are cabins to suit ever taste with features including front porches, vaulted ceilings, master bedrooms with a vanity and separate entry, full baths, ample closet space, luxury bed linens, kitchenettes with a microwave oven, mini-fridge, wet bar sink and coffeemaker. Some cabins offer upstairs lofts accessible by a ladder – where kids love to “camp in.”  Upgraded cabins feature a skylight, dual sinks, large indoor shower and access to a unique outdoor shower.

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Catering to the glamping crowd, El Capitan offers a number of packages to suit their clientele, with amenities such as cabins with an indoor gas fireplace, a large soaking bathtub. Their packages also include items such as marinated tri-tip delivered to your cabin for a DIY fireside dinner, paired with a bottle of Santa Barbara wine along with wine glasses, a bundle of firewood and a throw blanket, for enjoying a romantic night of stargazing.

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Other options include aromatherapy or hot stone massage with essential oils blended from the Canyon Spa Garden. For the kids, there are s’mores kits, mugs of hot chocolate and throw blankets to cuddle up by the campfire telling stories.

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And don’t worry, you don’t have to pack all the cookware and supplies that can make camping a hassle. With the fireside meal package, beverages, tableware, and the grilling tools and firewood needed to cook over the fire pit. Or if you prefer you can enjoy gourmet meals prepared at the Canyon Market and Deli.

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And unlike camping experiences where a good night’s sleep is something you have to return home to get, at El Capitan Canyon quiet time is enforced as of 10 pm each evening until 9 am, so you can turn in early and sleep in if you wish. It’s just like the Ritz, though you wake each morning to the sweet sound of birds singing.

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Shopping

Man Gifts for the Guy Who Has Everything

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He won’t have to fake that he loves it, when you give him one of these manly gifts

 

When you need a gift for the guy in your life, but you just don’t know what to get your boyfriend-husband-dad-brother-uncle-nephew-best man, etc, that he can really use, look no further than this list of things that guys love and probably don’t already have.

Do Blow It

Even if your guy has a shed full of power tools, he could have more, especially if its Canless Air ($149.95).  This powerful spray-can sized blower will blast the dust or sand out of crevices where no guy wants it – his keyboard, electronics, car vents – wherever tiny bits if stuff accumulates where it shouldn’t. Unlike those old-fashioned cans of compressed air, Canless Air utilizes green technology to blow over 260 mph of natural air, safely and cost-effectively, with one unit replacing 1,000 cans of traditional canned air. Check out the video  on how it works.

That Vat

The only thing a guy likes better than a cold frothy beer is a cold frothy beer poured from his very own vat, a la a GrowlerWerks uKeg. This pressurized mini-keg keeps draft beer fresh and carbonated for two weeks or more, and it can travel from the brewery to the BBQ, campfire, duck blind, fishing boat, or wherever he wants to take it, with a tap lock to prevent leakage and a durable insulated stainless-steel construction engineered to last. The uKeg features an easy-to-use regulator cap that provides a vacuum seal with the help of a C02 cartridge, and its stylish design is attractive enough that it can be seated at the dining room table.

Kick-A Boots

You know what they say about big boots?  Big feet! But no matter what the size of your man’s hooves, he will love sliding them into Timberland boots, like the classic Waterproof Chukka Boots ($135). These rugged work boots look great against backyard grass and asphalt sidewalks, and the soft leather lining of the footbed and shaft and breathable, moisture-wicking fabric of the toe box and forefoot will keep his feet comfy and dry in all kinds of weather.

Real Wearables

Most boys hate getting clothes as presents, but as men, they live for them, because that means they don’t have to go shopping themselves, and they will really love them if they are Mountain Khakis. This Jackson-Hole-mountain-town-inspired apparel brand makes clothes that men like to wear, in styles that travel from trail to tavern, like the Men’s Camber 107 pant ($74.95), the work horse stretch canvas pants that look sharp, feel good and perform like a champ; the Ranger Chamois shirt ($74.95), the velvety brushed chamois looks sharp and feels good to touch; or the Men’s Ranch Shearling Vest ($114.95), made with the same stretchy canvas as the Camber pants but with shearling pile to fend off pre-dawn chill, as he sits watching the sunrise, yellow dog at his side, black coffee in his hand.

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Travel

A vacation back in time at the Hotel Del Coronado

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Guests retreat to the historic The Del to visit an era of simple pleasures

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Visiting Hotel Del Coronado on Coronado Island is like a step back in time, with all the amenities of modern life, in surroundings that remind you that others came before you — epochs before — to enjoy this same, timeless fresh sea air.

The Del, as it known locally, has expanded and renovated over the years, since 1888 when it was first built, to a vast property of contemporary guest rooms, villas, restaurants and meeting spaces, but the original Victorian wooden building is the place to stay to experience the energy and aura of the true Hotel Del.

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The rooms smell old, in a nostalgic way, with a sea smell that harkens back to the days when families threw wide their shutters and opened their rooms to the ocean breeze for a shore vacation, to which they took a long arduous journey to arrive.

Yesterday meets the digital age

Throughout the hotel, the old meets the new, such as Toto toilets in bathrooms with 130-year-old 12-foot-tall floor-to-ceiling vented wooden doors, and a state-of-the-art gym featuring an aerobics and spin studio, which overlooks a bamboo garden and Japanese Zen fountain at the spa, just below a hand-laid red brick patio that is over a century old.

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At an outdoor restaurant by the beach, stylish white wicker chairs with a nod to midcentury design sit underneath a veranda across from an herb garden mixed with succulents. Hotel Del keeps pace with its discerning Southern Californian clientele and their demands for eco-conscious hospitality yet delivers an authentic feeling historical experience.

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The bright wide corridors, easily twice as wide and high as typical hotel halls, leads guests to bright white wooden doors to the rooms. Electronic key cards have replaced the old locksets, and furnishings that are fresh styled yet complementary of the architecture create a comfortable environment that respectfully appreciates the antique tongue-in-groove construction that surrounds them.

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IMG_5337While the interior of The Del, with its opulent chandeliers and glorious wood-paneled walls, is filled with discovery, the grounds around the hotel provide equal wonderment. Just in front of the hotel, before guests reach the sand, is an enormous grassy plaza that is one of the centerpieces of the hotel.  In summertime, the lawn is a place for children to run, or it is the setting of an enchanted wedding, gatherings of families, or corporate events — for business people lucky enough to hold conventions at the resort. In the winter, the hotel places an ice rink at the site, decorated with millions of holiday lights, transforming the hotel into a true winter wonderland by the sea.

A family tradition

Each time I have visited Hotel Del, it is a lively place, with families of all generations visiting together, many returning your after year, in some cases decade after decade, to this place that guests often describe as “magical.”

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For kids and adults alike, the intrigue and mystery of the turret at the top of the hotel adds to the mystique. Is it occupied? Could it be haunted even? Is it a place where only monarchs, Presidents or heads-of-state – who indeed are frequent visitors — are allowed to go?

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It is the place one never wants to leave. A place that feels like not just an escape from the nearby cities of San Diego or Los Angeles, but a departure from the stresses of modern life. It is a way to step out of time and into the 1900 House, but in this case a grand hotel, with fine dining, yoga on the beach, Wi-Fi and its own InDelible electronic magazine.

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For luxury seekers, the service is impeccable — the same as you would experience at any spanking-new five-star hotel, where the front desk personal and phone operators speak to you with a polished formality that makes you feel like royalty.

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Old-school history lesson

As a native of Virginia, I always chuckle at the joke: “How many Virginians does it take to change a light bulb?” Answer: “Five, one to change the bulb and four to talk about how good the old one was.” I see the same love of tradition in Hotel Del as in my home state of the Old Dominion. The Hotel Del appreciates the honor it has of preserving antiquity. It understands that the squeaks of the wood stairs, the unevenness of the floor boards, and the worn wood columns covered with thick paint from years of polishing up this gem by the sea are part of its glory.

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They say that the third time is a charm, and this third visit in my lifetime to Hotel Del, its history has never been as charming and appreciated by me. Maybe it is because I have ripened as a person, that I truly cherish the history with in its walls. Maybe in my own age of a half century, I have genuinely come to know, that some things do indeed get better with age.

 

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Dining in Los AngelesLifestyleRestaurantsThe Left CoastTravel

Five best little hotels in Los Angeles

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Small but grand hotels for travelers looking for a home-away-from-home in LA

Los Angeles is a vast city full of diversity, where visitors and denizens can get whatever they want, whenever they want it, including hotel amenities.  As a leisure or business traveler in LA, you can find lodging from the most over-the-top in extravagance to the adorably quaint, where you can rest your weary soul, as you like it. Here are a handful of the city’s top-rated boutique hotels with something to suit every type of traveler.

Hotel H – LAX

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“Airport hotel” does not usually call to mind visions of a luxury property, but Hotel H, residing just adjacent the famous colored silos of Los Angeles International Airport, is challenging that notion. This chic hotel offers an option for visitors to the city — or those just passing through — who want a good night sleep in an upscale environment.

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Featuring modern styling and furnishings, the well-appointed rooms have handy amenities for travelers like a 24-hour fitness center, a Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf in the lobby, an outdoor pool and an expansive 12th-floor rooftop patio boasting incredible views of the city and LAX.

There’s also little details, like doorbell buttons outside guest rooms that illuminate red when the deadbolt is locked — replacing those annoying do-not-disturb placards, individual reading lights on the bedsides, and multiple outlets with built in USB ports around the room.

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Throughout the hotel are aviation-themed art and sculptures, including vintage airline posters of perky stewardesses that would make Austin Powers purr.

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In true Jetson’s style, the hotel’s Waypoint Kitchen offers touch-screen ordering from your table, and room service featuring a robot that delivers to your door.

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Hotel Erwin

13_gallery_epic_view_king_room_balcony_viewGet local at the center of Venice Beach culture at Hotel Erwin, a retro-meets-surf-style boutique hotel with plenty of ocean-view rooms, a rooftop lounge, and a lobby decorated with surfboards. Host a beach party overlooking Venice’s colorful boardwalk in one of the enormous suites featuring fun house mirrors and an in-room bar.

34_gallery_red_bull_suite_champagne_barThe main suite area features a pull-out bed to accommodate additional overnight guests, and the bathroom is divided with a separate door for the shower, ideal for sharing with family or others; and for those who blend play with work, there’s an alcove with a desk for a workspace.

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The décor is a reflection of the hipster urban beach lifestyle of Venice, with bright and artsy nuevo mid-century décor, including a bedroom wall paper of traced hands in a variety of “expressive” gestures.

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The Erwin’s vibe may be laid back, but the service is uber professional and buttoned up, yet relaxed. The hotel’s Barlo Kitchen + Cocktails serves fresh SoCal fare and offers an outdoor seating option adjacent the lobby, overlooking the sidewalk and across the driveway, so you can enjoy drinks and the street life at once.

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Beverly Hills Marriott

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The Beverly Hills Marriott has gone through recent renovations taking it from a convenient, passable hotel to an affordable luxury property on the edge of Beverly Hills.

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IMG_8148It’s within walking distance of trendy restaurants — and for those who are sturdy walkers — to the famed shopping of Rodeo. It features all the modern amenities for business travels, such as a bedside alarm clock with duel USB ports and many outlets for devices, an extra-long lounger sofa for relaxing or working.

20170716_180156475_iOS20170716_180217922_iOSFor platinum guests there’s a club lounge off the lobby to grab a quick snack or hold an impromptu meeting. Like a true efficiency studio, there’s no closet, just coat hangers on pegs, and instead of a dresser there’s a couple drawers hidden away under a bench.

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For the eco-conscious, the hotel offers certified pure rooms. This means the room has undergone a seven-step process to sanitize the carpet and upholstery to reduce bacteria and mold, bedding consist of a hypo allergenic pillow and mattress encasements, and there is a in room air purifier with a tea tree oil cartridge designed to promote serene sleep.

Mosaic Hotel

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Mosaic Hotel Beverly Hills remodeled in July 2015 to become a tiny gem in the city, if you can find it. The entrance into the lobby has the feel of a side door, leading to an intimate reception area where you are immediately face-to-face with the front desk. The shiny white marble and polished chrome lobby is a preview of the rooms – bright, clean and elegantly appointed in modern style and decor, making the most of the compressed space.

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Studios are tight on walking room but not skimpy in luxury amenities, such as a 50”-screen television and a rainfall shower head in the marble shower, which to maximize space is separated from the toilet by a glass pane.

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IMG_8171Plantation shutters let in light while offering privacy, and some rooms open to their own semi-private patio. A small heated pool adjacent to the lobby lounge is welcoming, with cozy deep seating sitting areas and chaises, for relaxing after a dip in the water, or people watching.

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The Orlando Hotel

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If you love shopping and dining out, the Orlando Hotel is your place to stay in LA. This family-owned boutique is blocks away from The Grove shopping center and nearby to plenty of excellent eateries, including Joan’s on Third, Mercado, Son of Gun, The Little Door and Little Next Door. If you want to dine closer to home, the hotel’s own Cleo restaurant offers a modern Mediterranean cuisine and a social hour with tasty appetizers like lamb sliders and mushroom flatbread.

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The guest rooms feature comfortable contemporary furnishings and a mood-lit modern black-marbled bathroom with dual designer sinks and a tall stand-alone soaking tub.

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Known as one of the most reasonably priced hotels in the neighborhood, The Orlando offers several special packages, such as a Shopping Package and an American Girl experience for girls and their dolls which includes a $50 American Girl Store gift card and a doll-sized bath robe, slippers, bed and blanket to take home.

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Thought

Teaching children tolerance in an age of intolerance

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Why is the message of tolerance and inclusion an important message for children to hear today?

by Kevin Christofora

One of my favorite metaphors is that of the American ‘melting pot’: this idea that our country is made up of a whole host of ethnicities, religions, and viewpoints that all come together to create something beautiful and new. America is a place of diversity and therefore, a place for tolerance. Some people treat “tolerance” as a modern buzzword, but it’s a core value of America, and always has been.

As a little league coach and the author of The Hometown All Stars, I do my best to be a positive influence in the lives of players, readers, and parents, and aid in difficult conversations. Parents of my players will use me for leverage by saying to their little ones, “Remember, Coach said…” In my books as well as my coaching, I truly hope to share meaningful lessons of compassion and empathy.

That’s why I believe it’s our responsibility to teach children the importance of tolerance and inclusion, and to start doing so early. Studies show that children as young as six months old can recognize race, and that at as young as three years children can even express bias based on race. While a lot of this may just boil down to the way our brains try to simplify things and make them easier to understand, it does mean that it’s essential to teach young ones to embrace difference early. Truly, they’re never too young to learn about tolerance, inclusion, and how our differences are things to celebrate rather than fear.

The first way we teach children is by example. Notice the way you speak at home, especially about people of different backgrounds or philosophies. Your kids will pick up on what you say— and what you leave unsaid. Even implied negativity can influence the way young ones view the world, and the other people in it.

You can also talk to your kids about tolerance and inclusion by paying attention to opportunities that are already there. Did someone in your child’s class get teased about their religion or ethnicity? When your kids bring up stories like this, it’s because they want to talk about them. They already know, intuitively, that something is wrong and they’re looking to you to help them understand it. When you talk about the given issue or story with them, focus on empathy and getting them to put themselves in someone else’s shoes.

Finally, celebrate the people in your family’s life who are different from you: your neighbors, family friends, teachers, and community leaders. These people reflect the American melting pot: they likely are of different races, ethnicities, religions, and ideologies, but they aren’t so different from you and your family. Your kids will learn tolerance and inclusion just by living it; it will be normal for them, and they will grow into accepting and empathetic adults.

Talk to your kids about tolerance and inclusion early, and it will always be part of their lives. Teach them to be empathetic, accepting, and to celebrate the differences of others. Then, their actions will always be in line with the foundational value of the American melting pot, and will make the world a better place.

Kevin Christofora

Christofora, a father and little league coach, hopes his books will inspire children to play outside more often. A devotee of America’s pastime, he aims to teach young people about baseball and the habits of a healthy lifestyle in the form of a fun and educational bedtime story.
He has appeared on ABC News, ESPN Radio, 660 News Radio, Santa Fe – KVSF 101.5, and WDST-FM Woodstock, and has had articles featured in About Families OnlineKidzEdgeMom Blog Society, and several other publications.

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Lifestyle

Cool summer stuff you will be glad you’ve got when it’s hot outside

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Essentials for fun in the sun, entertaining and vacationing all summer long

Got Game

Hitting the road with kids for a long drive to your summer vacay spot can mean hours of, “Are we there yet?” Or, with the coolest of old-school electronics, Mini Arcade Games ($19.99, Walmart), like Rampage, the kids will be toppling buildings with George, Lizzie and Ralph and dodging helicopters, all from the backseat, without you having to say, “Let’s play I spy” once. Other games include Pac-Man, Space Invades, Q*Bert, Centipede, and Frogger, with all the sounds and retro-styling you remember, just smaller.

Bunch ‘o fun

All kids love to throw water balloons, but most kids hate to fill them up and tie them, as do their parents. Bunch O Balloons solved this age-old hassle with their ingenious design that allows you to fill up 100 balloons and seal them off at once, in 60 seconds. New to the Bunch O Balloons family is the Marvel Avengers branded balloons ($9.99), featuring character symbols printed on the balloons, such as Iron Man, Captain America and the Hulk, for a water balloon battle of superhero proportions. Add some zing to the water warfare with the Bunch O Balloons slingshot (SRP $19.99) that can launch balloons over one hundred feet! Available at toy retailers nationwide.

Soft Ball-ish

The irresistible Koosh ball is back. Easy to pick up, but hard to put down, this squishy rubber-haired ball is the original fidget toy that’s almost as fun to hold as it is to throw. Toss them indoors or outdoors, use them for games, stress relief or even grip therapy. These fist-quenching balls come in an assortment of bright color combinations, including new neon and black combinations. Ages 3+ SRP $3.99 each. Available at toy retailers nationwide.

Bubble Up

Talk about a win-win situation – when your opponent scores at Bubble Pong (SRP $19.99), you get blasted with bubbles! This fun-for-all-ages game (3 and up) is played with singles or teams who bounce ping-pong balls onto an opponent’s side to score points. When the game is over, turn on bubble machine mode for a nonstop bubble party! Ages 3+.

Sipp it

There’s nothing like a refreshing bubbly, fruity drink to satisfy your thirst on a hot summer day. Sipp organic sparkling beverages, infused with culinary extracts and lightly sweetened with agave, can be enjoyed straight up or mixed in a drink to craft a natural, fresh cocktail, with fun flavors including Zesty Orange, Ginger Blossom, Mojo Berry, Lemon Flower, Ruby Rose and Summer Pear.  Available in 12oz bottles and 10.5oz cans. Sold on Amazon and select retailers.

New hair day

When school’s out for summer, keep the kids busy and keep them out of trouble, or you can do both with a little Splat. Your little juvies can look like bad-apples, but in a fun way, with this comb-in, low-mess temporary hair color, in vibrant hues like Piercing Pink, Red Pop, Bolder Blue, Vivid Velvet, Mango Mash, and Eclectic Green. It’s out in one shampoo, and your little angels are back to their old selves, just in time for grandma’s visit. Splat kits are $6.99 at Walmart or SplatHairColor.com.

Hot shot

Get the hottest blaster for backyard battles on the block, the Thermal Hunter ($29.99), featuring a heat-seeking scope that detects a heat source up to 60 feet away. When a warm-blooded target is in the cross hairs, the scope will turn red to let you know when to pull the trigger, with blasting power of up to 100 feet. The 10-count dart clip allows you to hit multiple targets without having to stop and reload. Available at Target.

Drink up

Forget those sugary sodas and serve up some naturally and deliciously sweet drinks at your summer soiree with Zevia, the top-selling sparkling beverage brand that has zero calories, no sugar, no dyes, and just the right amount of sweet. Now with a multitude of flavors and drinks in a variety of categories, from sparkling waters to mixers and energy drinks, Zevia’s clear and clean formulas are a favorite at parties for all ages. Sold at Amazon, Whole Foods and other grocers nationwide.

Scent of summer

Luxuriate in the scents of summer, with the sweet aromas of a 100-percent soy wax Jaded Candles. This line of handmade, clean, refreshing candles contain no additives, chemicals or colors and are made from pure soy. Soothing scents for the season include Island Hibiscus, Green Tea Lemongrass, and White Tea Berries Candle.  $15 to $35.

Summer cleaning

Washing the car will be a chore you won’t mind doing, armed with the Brush Hero, as showcased on Shark Tank. This handy hose adapter turns an ordinary garden hose into a powerful weapon of cleaning, using water pressure to power its turbine and bust grime from cars, motorcycles, bikes, BBQs, lawn furniture or whatever else needs cleaning.  It does the spinning and scouring while you just adjust the water flow as needed to release its scrubbing power. Available on Amazon for $34.99.

After the sunning

Enjoy spending time outdoors in the summer sun, even if you suffer from dry skin or eczema, with dermatologist-awarded Theraplex ClearLotion ($18.50), a light, fast-penetrating emollient oil spray that seals in moisture when applied to just-showered skin. The formula of a special petrolatum fraction and natural jojoba oil helps to provide added protection against moisture loss and prevent dryness without irritation and leaves skin soft and smooth. For extra moisturizing day or night, Theraplex Eczema Therapy ($18) relieves dry skin with superior soothing that lasts for hours.

Walking and talking

Even if the kids are too young for their own smartphones, they will feel like the smartest kids at the pool, theme park, campground, or wherever they are using their Cobra ACXT360 Walkie Talkie Radios ($69.99). This three-pack of simple-to-use, two-way radios has a 23-mile range and loads of handy features, including hands-free operation, automatic severe weather alerts, 22 channels, and the ability to program up 221 privacy codes. They also have a keylock, to prevent accidental button pushing, a Roger beep after you finish talking, a battery level indicator, and a backlit LCD display for low-light conditions. If recharging them using the micro USB charging isn’t handy, they can be powered by regular AA alkaline batteries.

Tapped out

Nothing is worse than warm, flat beer when you are out in the hot summer sun, fishing, camping or hanging at a backyard party with friends. Keep the brew fresh and cold with a TrailKeg growler, a vacuum-insulated pressurized container that keeps beverages cold for 24 hours and perfectly carbonated until opened. TrailKeg’s gallon stainless steel bottle ($89.99) is suitable for any beverage and is the perfect vat to cart along to your favorite locally crafted beer brewery, to fill up with cold nitro brew to keep it satisfyingly chilled and fresh when you take it home.

Take it outside

There’s a million backpacks on the market, but if you’re looking for a tough one, then the Lizardskin brand name says it all. The rugged Cache Lifestyle Backpack by Lizardskin ($109.99) is one fine bag, where urban style meets durability. The roll top opening and magnetic clip provide an adjustable storage space to protect all your necessities, and a side zip pocket gives quick access to your electronic devices. It also features webbing for carabiners, an adjustable magnetic sternum strap, and lots of pocket and pouches for organizing all the stuff you carry along on a summer adventure.

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AdventureDining in Los AngelesEat & DrinkLifestyleOutdoorsRestaurantsThe Left CoastTravel

Marina del Rey: Beach-going made nice and easy

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LA Locals and visitors adore this low-key family friendly waterfront area that offers a little bit of everything

Marina del Rey is one of the mellowest beach communities in Los Angeles. With 600 acres of protected natural wetlands on its southern border, making its landscape unique and everlasting, it is quieter and more calm than its neighbors Venice and Santa Monica. For natives and tourists who discover it, Marina Beach is a sandy gem of a waterfront destination that combines nature, watersports, and family friendly venues, making it a welcome departure from the busier adjacent beaches.

Water Play

The Marina is known as the area’s center for boating and fishing excursions, but it is also popular as one of the best places for kayaking and stand-up paddle boarding around Los Angeles. On a typical day, the sandy cove at the end of the Marina is stripped with paddle boards and kayaks lined up by the shore, coming in from outings about the marina and awaiting someone new to rent them.

Paddleboard yoga, a sport which originated in Marina del Rey, created by the founder of YOGAqua, has also taken off as a favorite Marina activity, where sessions begin with a warm-up lap around the Marina and progress to a series of stretches and poses – on anchored boards, ending with the most-experienced participants in headstands on their boards.

The big boats in the Marina and their diminutive paddling brethren exist like sharks and the feeder fish that follow around them. Though occasionally a paddler or boater will get annoyed at the other for encroaching on their territory, mostly they exist symbiotically. Paddle boards and kayaks are available for rental by the hour or day at Marina del Rey Boat Rentals, Pro SUP Shop, and the UCLA Marina Aquatic Center.

Why families love it

At the popular Marina Beach, known locally as Mother’s Beach, children can play in the confines of a roped-in shallow swimming area, or families and parties can enjoy gatherings in the covered pavilion, where community barbeques and tables are available for reservations. If you don’t feel like packing along your picnic, you can get food to go at Beach Eats, and all-summer weekly food truck event with live music on Thursdays evenings.

If you do make a day of hanging at the beach, be warned that the bathroom facilities are not posh by any standards, but they are convenient, just a brief walk from the water’s edge, and there are outdoor shower stations for a quick rinse-off.

Beach cruising

The popularity of the Marina recreation area during peak season can mean scarce parking, with only one major lot by Marina Beach that costs $12 for all-day parking. Another option is to hop on the Free Ride shuttle, which operates noon to 9 pm and offers stops all around the waterfront area. For those who want to cruise at a slower speed, bike rentals are available in Fisherman’s Village, where cyclists can ride along the beach on the Marvin Braude coastal bike trail, all the way from Will Rogers State Beach to Torrance Beach.

Water ways

The Fisherman’s Village, a New-England style promenade by the docks, offers a variety of shops and restaurants with great views of the boats.  It is also the launch pad for boating experiences, from seasonal whale watching and hard-core deep fishing tours to gondola rides and pleasure yachting. For those who want a truly high-level look at the area, Marina Del Rey Parasailing offers tours of the Venice and Santa Monica beaches, gliding under a kite from 500- to 800-feet up. Other experiences departing from the Marina, such as private yachting cruises and fishing adventures, are available from private boat owners who loan out their sea vessels, with or without captains, through Airbnb off-shoot Boatsetter.

See food

Dining experiences around the Marina range from the causal to the classy. TonyP’s Dockside Grill, overlooking the Marina, serves up consistently good seafood – including legendary fish and chips, as well as steaks, sandwiches and salads in a friendly, family restaurant atmosphere that appeals to local and tourists alike.

El Torito at Fisherman’s Village offers one of the best views of the Marina, which is why the place is packed at sundown, full of boisterous diners who come for the sundown spectacle and some of the best tequila drinks in town, like the George Clooney strawberry margarita, best enjoyed with the restaurant’s signature table-side-prepared guacamole and fresh-made chips, along with the ultimate appetizer of bacon wrapped jumbo shrimp.

For causal family dining a bit more inland, Fresh Brothers at the Waterside Marina del Rey shopping plaza offers deep-dish, skinny, thin and cauliflower crust pizza and hearty meatball and chicken-parmesan sliders, as well as big bowl salads and delicious fresh garlic bread knots.

Hot dates

Night life is hopping at many of the local bars, but for a truly local experience, grab a cord of wood and some food to grill and head for the firepits on Dockweiler State Beach, where early-birds stake out one of 40 first-come-first-serve concrete pits early in the day for a DIY bonfire parties that go until late at night.

Besides the watersports and dining, Marina del Rey has many other entertainment options and special events, such as the new ARTsea Community Festival, and outdoor free movie nights at the Burton W. Chase Park.

Stay and play

If you are visiting from out of town, there are many accommodations from a variety of price points, including the Foghorn Harbor Inn, Jamaica Bay Inn, Hilton Garden Inn Marina Del Rey, Marina del Rey Hotel, and Marina del Rey Marriott. The premier luxury property in town is the marine-themed Ritz Carlton Marina del Rey, which features the world-class Sisley Paris Spa. Even if you don’t stay overnight, its worth getting a spa treatment, which entitles patrons to use the hotel pool all day.

The low-key vibe of Marina del Rey makes it one of LA’s most endearing waterfront areas, with many activities and experiences that are unique to the Marina, due to its boating and watersports culture and the city’s quaint size, relative to the vast city surrounding it. For beachcombers looking for a seaside destination that is scenic but not a scene, Marina is a the perfect port.

 

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Lifestyle

Our delectable, Jucy RV vacation

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We camped out in our Jucy van, and that’s alright with me


Traveling from across the country to Southern California, it would have been impossible or at least vastly expensive to haul all our camping gear with us for a beach camping excursion. Jucy Trailblazer RV was the solution. This tricked-out Dodge Caravan included everything we needed, or almost – for our weekend camping adventure in Malibu.

Despite its small size, this fully equipped camper mini-van amazingly sleeps four: two inside the van, and two “upstairs” in the penthouse. The collapsible tent on top is perhaps the most distinguishing characteristic of the Jucy RV. Kids love it because they get to climb a ladder to get in it. Inside it is a spacious sturdy tent, with a ceiling high enough that an average-size person, like myself at 5’5” can sit inside comfortably.

The upstairs pop-up room-with-a view features an amazingly comfortable wall-to-wall mat floor for sleeping on or hanging out, mesh flaps to cover the windows for ventilation and bug control, and canvas curtains that insulate from cold and also offer privacy and block out the sun for late sleepers. The interior also has a number of hanging wall pouches for items like flashlights, eyeglasses, cell phones, and anything else you want to keep nearby that you normally have on a bed stand.

Downstairs is where even more fun happens. The inside of the van has four seats, two upfront and two in the back, and a hidden compartment for storage that converts into a table. When it’s time to sleep, the table planks pull out to support the padded panels that become the bed. Jucy thought of a lot of details, such as window shades that affix to the glass with suction cups to block out the light.

The rear of the van opens up to a kitchenette, complete with two butane-powered stove tops, a cabinet for pots and pans, drawers for dishware and a surprisingly spacious refrigerator drawer. The top counter features a sink and food prep area with a cutting board.

The name of the game with Jucy is a turnkey camping adventure. Literally, you crank the ignition, get rolling and you’re on your way to fun. Though our camping outing was only a couple overnights, we ran into others who had been on the road with their Juicy RVs for over a month.

They were a bit more particular, since they practically lived in their van, and they noted small details that could have made their travels easier, such as dishware that compactly stacked together to save room and pans with shorter handles to save space.

While we were told there is air conditioning in the downstairs quarters, the only AC was the in-dash unit for the van, which did not blow strong unless the van was running. We were instructed that the solar panels fueled the van and that we needed to operate the vehicle at least 30 minutes a day to recharge, but we still found that the AC was not functional as we thought it would be.

Because of this we ended up opening the van windows, which did not have screens. Lucky for us in Southern California there are not that many insects, but for other camping locations, rolling down windows without screens would not be practical.

Other small touches that would improve the camper would include a hanger on the ceiling of the penthouse for a lantern.

But other than these rather nit-picking few things, we were very content with our van.  It was easy come, easy go from two sites in two days. We set up and broke down camp within 10 minutes. We were on the road before the RV park could say “late check-out fee,” and the mini-van base drove easily, like a regular car.

We did not even need to bring sleeping bags, because the RV came with optional bedding kits which included a super thick duvet comforter, blankets and two pillows, plus two bath towels. The linens were fresh, fluffy and very clean, in fact, they looked new.

Then comes the best part of all. After our adventure, we drove the van back to the leasing location, and that was that. No hanging out tents and tarps to air out, no deflating air mattresses and re-rolling sleeping bags, no trying to get cookware and gear back into storage boxes and no schlepping gear back on a plane.

It was an easy, breezy, laid-back camping trip, in our Chevy van. It made me recall a groovy Sammy Johns song from the 70s, as I imagine me and my hippy friends rocking and rolling down PCH, like easy riders, ready to park and camp whenever the moment moved us, and that’s alright with me.

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