Friday, January 27, 2012

There are Trailers … and Then, There are “TRAILERS”!

The Rose and I decided to kick off our weekly adventure by getting together with a girlfriend who had invited us to see her new trailer in Laguna Beach. I use the word trailer here loosely, because the owner — a former gift and fashion boutique operator renowned for her decorating prowess — has transformed this particular manufactured home beyond recognition. From the stellar panoramic view that stretches from Palos Verdes to Dana Point, to the magnificent furnishings and décor (can you say Ralph Lauren chair covers and a Martha Stewart Living kitchen?), this home is worthy of a spread in any of the top home design magazines.

Fully green with envy following our trailer tour, The Rose and I grabbed up our girlfriend and took a short, 10-minute drive south to have lunch at Dana Point Harbor (, a portside community in Dana Point, Calif., that offers marinas, restaurants, shopping and more.
Once parked in one of the free lots, we made our way to Proud Mary’s Restaurant & Lounge ( and picked out a table in the spacious covered patio overlooking a harbor laden with boats, kayakers, paddle boarders and jet skiers enjoying an unusually warm and sunny January day. 

Full from the restaurant’s tasty fish ’n’ chips and burgers (a suggestion from a friend of The Peach), we stopped for a minute to talk to an employee and learned that Proud Mary’s has been around since 1977, but had to close briefly for a time to rebuild after the building it’s located in was destroyed by fire in late 2007. Once reopened after only eight months, though, the restaurant picked up right where it left off and still maintains its casual, down-home personality. The best thing about the renovation, according to one female employee, was getting rid of the unisex bathrooms! (You know how messy some of those men can be.)

We decided to walk off our lunch with a tour of the harbor. Having spotted people waiting to board a vessel to head out on a whale- and dolphin-watching cruise, we dropped by Dana Wharf Sportfishing & Whale Watching ( to find out the reasons behind the unusually large amount of whale sightings we’ve been hearing about this year. 

Donna with Dana Wharf told us that during January there have indeed been increased sightings of gray whales, along with more than 20 killer whales (which even attracted Good Morning America’s attention!). Although she couldn’t pinpoint the exact reason for this unusual influx of whales, she says it likely is due to the beautiful weather we’ve been having during a time that is typically known for rain and rough seas. It’s also been so cold in Alaska that the whales have come through our area sooner that usual on the way south to Mexico, she said.

Since we had Donna’s attention, we asked her when the best time would be to come out for a tour and were told definitely on Tuesdays, when everything is half-price (no coupons necessary). She also suggested the upcoming Valentine’s Sunset Whale Watching Cruise Feb. 14 from 4-6 p.m., including champagne and chocolates, for $32 per person.

And, you’ll want to head back to Dana Point the following month to celebrate the migration of the California gray whale and other species at the 41st annual Festival of Whales (, scheduled for March 3 and 4 and March 10 and 11 and featuring ocean-themed events and activities.
 Armed with a new wealth of whale knowledge, we followed the waterside walkway around the harbor to The Coffee Importers ( for delicious lattes at the Espresso Bar and some ice cream at the Scoop Deck. (This also is a great spot for breakfast, especially if you like bagels.)

 Just next door, at The Downstairs Store, a set of four marble Dana Point coasters ($48) and a Dana Point clock ($58) caught The Rose’s eye, while a fun American flag at Art Sea sparked The Peach’s attention for its creative use of starfish for stars.

 With a few minutes to spare before having to head our separate ways, The Peach and The Rose decided to pay homage to the town’s namesake — Richard Henry Dana Jr. — at the spectacular bronze memorial statue of him on a small island across the harbor bridge (accessible through a cute chipmunk community).

 Author of the classic novel “Two Years Before the Mast,” about his travels along the California Coast during the early 19th century, the cliffs around the harbor were said to be one of Dana's favorite spots. … After all, there are harbors … and then, there are “HARBORS!” Dana Point Harbor is definitely the latter.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Laguna Originals

The Rose and I had originally planned to explore Dana Point today, but once again we were drawn to Laguna Beach. We decided to save Dana Point for another day, so stay tuned.

We began our day together with an early lunch at Asada (my new favorite place and also one of The Rose’s chosen spots). We parked directly in back at the two-level parking structure on Glenneyre Street and walked right across the alley and into the back door of Adasa (, where we were immediately greeted with a smile and a “Welcome Back!” by Manager Scott McIntosh. 

We made our way to the open-air patio in front of the restaurant — complete with ocean view across Coast Highway — and were pleased to find it was enclosed with see-through plastic shades, since there was a bit of wind and a slight nip in the air in Laguna today. 

Our waiter arrived, and lo and behold, he was another Brit: Mark from Derby (pronounced Dar-bie, according to The Rose), England. While chatting with Mark, we received our heated salsa (different from the typical cold salsa served at most Mexican restaurants) and tortilla chips with a touch of seasoning. The Rose ordered hot green tea to warm up, I got my usual Diet Coke, and we proceeded to go over the extensive menu featuring not only Mexican specialties such as chicken taquitos and carne asada, but a variety of other cuisine as well — from salads to sandwiches (the burger is one of my favorites) to a New York strip and Baja lobster tail. The Rose even remarked on the kid’s section of the menu, noting there’s something on the menu for every taste.

Since I’ve been to Asada once before and The Rose has been there several times, we each decided to try something new. I ordered the roasted vegetable quesadilla with chicken (for $12), and she got the crispy smashed papas ($7) and spicy chicken tortilla soup ($6). While waiting on our order, Scott came over and asked if we’d like to try a shot of his favorite tequila from among the 30 or so varieties offered (including the 1800 Coleccion Anejo at $150 per shot). I declined (as I haven’t had a drink in 19-plus years), but I enjoyed watching The Rose try her taste of Gran Centenario Anejo, a smooth and silky tequila with a slight kick priced at $11 a shot.

The food arrived shortly afterward: the soup with huge chunks of white chicken, carrots, squash and zucchini, roasted poblano cream and tortilla strips on top (hands down the best The Rose says she’s ever eaten!); the papas, which loosely resemble potato pancakes; and the quesadillas, a man-sized portion loaded down with shredded chicken, vegetables of all kinds and a side of guacamole.

 So much food ... and not enough stomachs to hold it! We both asked for to-go boxes and went on our way.

With boxes safely ensconced in the car, we made our way down Glenneyre to Forest Avenue — our decided-upon destination for the day. Our first stop was LF Stores (, which is well known for its selection of one-of-a-kind styles created by designers from London, Paris and Italy (available in all sizes). I noticed The Rose was eying a pair of high-top leopard-skin tennis shoes, with purse and gloves to match. I bet she’ll be back!
 Next we were drawn to A Step Back in Time (thanks to shop mascot, Tango the dog), a Laguna gem that sells and fixes unusual timepieces.

Moving on, we stopped in at Ken’s Jewelry, located in Laguna’s oldest standing commercial building (circa 1916) at 326 Forest Ave. We were lucky enough to run into Ken, the owner, who told us how he and the shop’s other goldsmiths sell and create custom-designed gold and sterling-silver jewelry, including a fabulous Brazilian stone (Kunzite) and diamond pendant that sells for $3,600. Tell him a design you have in mind, and he’ll be happy to make it, he says.

 A few doors down, at the Lumberyard Plaza Shopping Center (384 Forest Ave.), The Laguna Colony Co. called our names with its distinctive home furnishings and gifts (“great for one-off presents,” says The Rose — that’s “unique” for you Peaches), including soaps, plaques, candles and even Magi cards. (By the way, the Magi cards showed our personality traits based on our birth dates, with The Rose known for her cooperation and communication and I for my determination). Store manager Sam Mosley says you’re sure to find something new each time you come into The Laguna Colony Co., which has been open since 2004.
  Next, since we didn’t eat and drink enough for lunch (big smile), we forced ourselves to partake in some lattes and baked goods at the Coffee Pub (also at the Lumberyard Center). This sister establishment of Café Heidelberg on Coast Highway offers coffee, loose teas, and baked treats such as scones (maple, blueberry, wholegrain); mini-cakes (try the lemondrop); saucer-sized cookies (from butterscotch to chocolate chip); and made-to-order sandwiches.
Once again full and happy, we checked out Tibet Handicrafts, with all goods made in Tibet — from prayer bowls (The Peach thought the Brit said prayer “balls,” mind you! The diction differences lead to quite a good laugh sometimes) to clothing and everything in between — and C.J. Rose, a women’s clothing store with economical prices to fit any budget (both next door to the Coffee Pub, and both original and worth visiting).

We headed back to the car (not before The Peach bought ANOTHER Laguna Beach T-shirt to add to her vast collection at her favorite T-shirt store Cotton Place (, once again realizing how unique and original Laguna Beach is and how much it has to offer everyone and anyone.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Feel Good Days

The English Rose and I decided to start off the week right by getting together early Monday morning and heading off to Laguna Beach for a couple of hours. We had an ulterior motive: Our first stop was to visit REUSE Jeans ( to pick up the jeans we both purchased last week (two pair for one for $95 … you just gotta do it!). 

Not only does this place help save the environment by recycling fabric remnants from the textile industry to make its clothing (including jeans, shorts, skirts and jackets), but the varied shapes and sizes ensure you’ll find a jean that will fit you and the complimentary tailoring offered with every pair of jeans purchased eliminates an extra visit to the alterations store. 

So, shopping here makes you feel good because you’re doing your part to help save the environment and because you’re also saving money (buying recycled jeans and not frittering away gas driving to an alterations store), and you feel like you’ve really lucked out at the end when they throw in their great jeans bag to hold your purchase. There also are some funky bags for sale, by the way. Our favorite was the striped purse with the peace sign on display in the front window.

  With new jeans (and jean bags) in hand, we headed off to see if we could find something healthy to eat after all of the crap we’ve been stuffing ourselves with during the holidays. We settled on Active Culture - Natural Foods Café + Yogurt (, just a few steps north of REUSE jeans, which offers tasty and healthy bowls (the woman next to me raved about the Whole Bowl, a mix of organic brown rice, organic black and red beans, cheddar cheese, cabbage, salsa, avocado, cilantro and OG sauce), along with salads, smoothies, shakes, wraps, bagels, soups and a really cool self-serve frozen yogurt station that takes up the entire back wall. This is another great non-expensive place to go and yet another spot that makes you feel good — about filling your body with healthy alternatives. The unobstructed view of the ocean from the front patio’s not bad, either!
Of special note: Both REUSE Jeans and Active Culture offer convenient, free parking out back.

Next, after dropping by The Great Exchange Consignment Co. (where the Rose coveted a Murano fruit dish and I longed for the stained-glass fire guard with a lovely ocean scene) and a quick look at another healthy food eatery, The Stand (think blueberry wheat-free waffles covered with fresh fruit sweetened with agave juice syrup), we topped off our feel-good morning with a rest at the Rose’s favorite hidden beach overlook at the end of one of the town’s streets. (Sorry, I promised her I’d keep the exact location a secret!) 

At this beautiful place to just slow down and relax for a moment (one of many throughout Laguna), we enjoyed the stellar view and sound of the crashing waves, watched the stand up paddlers and boogie boarders, and were graced with the presence of flying species of all kinds … from a hummingbird to a blimp!

We headed back to the car … and to the reality of work and family … satisfied with the belief that we had indeed done our part that morning to complete our feel-good mission. Until next time, thanks for joining us on our journey!