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Avalon at 100: Catalina Island

One of my favorite places is celebrating a very important birthday.

The City of Avalon on Catalina Island is turning 100 this year, and residents are marking the occasion with a summer full of travel specials and festivities.

OC Day Tripper Avalon at 100


The picturesque village of Avalon is one of Southern California’s most popular destinations with over one million visitors each year. But the Avalon of 1913 was also a resort town.

The Banning Brothers of Wilmington owned the island and had established a resort retreat for mainland vacationers. Since they operated the steamships that carried passengers across the channel, it was a perfect fit.


It was also the perfect time. When Avalon was born, travel for pleasure was a relatively new concept. The Bannings built a vacation destination for mainlanders seeking an escape from summer heat.

Catalina provided the natural beauty of a Mediterranean island only 26 miles off the California coastline. By 1913, business was booming.

Their fortunes turned two years later when, on November 29th 1915, a fire destroyed half of the buildings in town. The Bannings vowed to rebuild and made a great effort to restore the city, but mounting debt and falling tourism during World War I forced them to sell.

Enter William Wrigley, Jr., Chicago chewing gum millionaire.

In 1919, Wrigley’s real estate broker showed him a postcard of an island in the Pacific that was currently for sale. Wrigley bought the island, sight unseen.

Two weeks later, he and his wife Ada visited their new acquisition for the first time. Wrigley later recounted his first morning on Catalina.

“Mrs. Wrigley walked to the window and after a moment called excitedly, ‘I should like to live here.’ I joined her at the window. The sun was just coming up and I had never seen a more beautiful spot. Right then and there I determined the island would never pass out of my hands


Thus began a close relationship between the Wrigley family and Catalina Island that has continued to the present day. William Wrigley descendants still guide the future of the island, recently investing millions in renovation and civic improvements.

Newly remodeled hotels and gourmet restaurants have joined the iconic Casino and green Pleasure Pier. This summer, Newport Beach based Bluewater Grill will open a new restaurant in the renovated Ferry Building, where steamer ships brought passengers years ago.

So, if you haven’t been to Avalon in awhile, this summer is the perfect time to make a return visit. Or if you’ve never met her before, it’s been 100 years; what are you waiting for? 

A week long celebration is scheduled leading up to the official birthday of June 26th

-June 20: Centennial Festival/Fair on Crescent Street

-June 21: Community Fish Fry on Crescent Street

-June 22: Musical Concert

-June 23: Catalina Movie Night on the Beach

-June 24: Community Picnic at Joe Machado Field

-June 25: Local Band Night

-June 26: Community Gala Dinner at the Casino, featuring fireworks, dignitaries and celebrations

For details, go to Avalon Centennial



Irvine Ranch Historic Park: Finding the City’s Roots

Long before it was a bustling master planned community, Irvine was an agricultural ranch.

It was owned by generations of the Irvine Family, who managed operations from the agricultural headquarters on the north-western border of their ranch.

The site was chosen in 1876, because it was close to the stagecoach station in Tustin City. James Irvine authorized the construction of the house that would become the home of his descendants for decades.

The house was the central point of the agricultural headquarters that surrounded it. There was a small office off the front hall and workers would eat meals on the screened porch.

Soon, buildings were added as ranch operations expanded. A Mess Hall, Bunkhouse, Blacksmith Shop and Carriage Barn all sprang up at the intersection of Irvine Blvd and Myford Road. For years, this was the nerve center of an agricultural powerhouse.



Today, a visit to the Irvine Ranch Historic Park takes you back to the city’s roots; when the primary crops were lima beans and citrus and not  residential villages and business towers.


Located on the corner of Jamboree and Irvine Blvd, The Irvine Ranch Historic Park features a collection of original strructures from simpler days.






The Mess Hall is still there, where Irvine Company employees heard the chuck wagon bell before lunch. It was also the place where James H. Irvine hosted annual Christmas Dinners for his veteran employees.

The Bunkhouse still stands, near a row of Foremen Houses. The paint on the red Carriage Barn has worn a bit over the years, giving it a vintage charm.

And James H. Irvine’s simple office sits quietly behind the “new office building” that was constructed against his will in 1929. Irvine felt the larger office was extravagant and unnecessary.

The second office building is home to the OC Parks, the organization that cares for the park today.

The jewel of the Irvine Ranch Historic Park is The Katie Wheeler Library. This beautiful white mansion is an exact replica of the original Irvine Family Home. Design architects consulted original blueprints and took great care to ensure that that new building matched the former home.

The large, Georgian country home witnessed many of the joys and tragedies of the Irvine Family.

It was in this home that James H. Irvine’s first grandchild, a girl named Katie, was born in 1920. Four days later, Katie’s mother Kathryn became ill with pneumonia and died.

Over the years, the home was the setting for decades of holiday celebrations and family dinners.

It was also the place where Myford Irvine, the sole surviving child of James H. Irvine, died tragically in his basement office. His suspicious death, due to multiple gunshot wounds, was ruled a suicide.

In 1965, the iconic home was severely damaged by fire.Three years later, it was demolished. The Katie Wheeler Library was built on the former home site and opened to the public in 2008.

Visitors to the Katie Wheeler Library are treated to a trip back in time, where they can  imagine the members of the Irvine Family seated by the fireplace or walking up the main staircase. Portraits and personal photos are on display and there is a self-guided tour available for those who want to learn more about the Irvine Family.

If you visit on Tuesday mornings, there is a Farmer’s Market on Old Irvine Blvd. It seems fitting to stroll among booths of fresh fruits and vegetables in the heart of the former agricultural ranch. After all, it’s only a few steps from the home of James Irvine, who considered himself a farmer first, landowner second.


Irvine Ranch Historic Park

13042 Old Myford Rd.
Irvine, CA 92602
Irvine Farmers Market – Tuesdays

9am – 1pm  (rain or shine)

John Wayne Airport: Art is in the Air


Travel isn’t only about reaching your destination, it’s about the lovely things you see along the way.

Ever since it opened its doors to the public in 1990, The John Wayne Airport has worked to create an enriching travel experience.

“For 20 years, John Wayne Airport has professionally presented world-class art exhibitions that have engaged and entertained millions of visitors,” said airport spokesperson Jenny Wedge. “Art brings an unexpected sense of peace and calm to passengers traveling through this hub of activity.”

OC Day Tripper Art at John Wayne Airport

Security measures keep many of the exhibits behind TSA lines where only ticketed passengers can enjoy them. Currently, a collection of original work by award winning illustrator’s of children’s books are on display in the Vi Smith Concourse Gallery.





This exhibit from the Chemer’s Gallery in Tustin, features the work of artists such as Mary GrandPre of the Harry Potter books and Robin Preiss Glasser, creator of the Fancy Nancy series.

This collection will be on display until June 17, 2013.





There are also art exhibits throughout the airport that are accessible to the public without an airplane ticket.

In fact, enjoying art at John Wayne can be as simple as looking up.

“Flight of Ideas” is the name of the large, sculptural art piece above the baggage carousel in Terminal C. The sculpture hovers over the terminal like a flock of 21 aluminum birds with Plexiglas wings made of colorful aeronautical charts.

Since John Wayne Airport welcomes travelers to Orange County, it is the perfect place to highlight local artwork. In 2011, the airport opened a new exhibition space titled: ORANGE COUNTY: Destination Art and Culture.

Now the millions of passengers who travel through the airport each year can get a glimpse of Orange County’s art and cultural organizations like the Bowers Museum of Santa Ana or the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton.

Currently, John Wayne Airport is issuing a call to local artists to be part of next year’s Community Focus Exhibits. These solo-style exhibits will feature Orange County-related visual artists and will be viewable by the general public, before the security checkpoints.

Artist Applications must be received no later than May 15, 2013 and instructions can be found on the John Wayne Airport Website.




California Winter: Crystal Cove

This is why we live here.

For most of the year, we deal with a ridiculously high cost of living, merciless freeway traffic, earthquake fears and wildfire danger.

But days like these, 80 degrees on a February afternoon, make it all worth it.

There’s no better place to celebrate the riches of a California Winter day than to visit Crystal Cove State Park,  the perfect blend of So Cal’s present lifestyle mixed with the flavor of its past.


Once on board The Beachcomber shuttle bus, the lilting music of Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters takes you back in time to Crystal Cove’s Golden Age as a perennial summer vacation spot.


After a short ride to the beach, the transition is complete and you feel like you’ve travelled back to a simpler days.

Beginning in the 1920’s, people travelled the new Pacific Coast Highway to visit Crystal Cove beach. It soon became a popular destination to pitch tents or rent cottages. By the late 1930’s, The Irvine Company, which owed the land, limited the development in the area to the existing 46 cottages.

Summers at Crystal Cove were legendary, and generations of families enjoyed the little beach community.

The winter months are the perfect time to visit Crystal Cove. It’s a quieter time; the wait is shorter at The Beachcomber restaurant, the beach is free of crowds, and the sunsets are epic.

Just the perfect cell phone picture to send to your jealous friends back East.


Ellen Bell writes the “OC Day Tripper: Your OC Travel Guide to the Past and Present”







Totally Haute’ Cuisine for Valentine’s Day

It happens every year.

February 14th rolls around and you find yourself scrambling for dinner reservations, only to be crammed into a crowded restaurant on the busiest night of the year.

What if you could have a romantic dinner for two, in a cozy little place that makes you feel right at home?

Totally Haute’ Cuisine of Orange County is ready to make your Valentine’s Dreams come true, with a gourmet meal made from scratch and delivered to your door.

This isn’t your typical take out in a box.

Totally Haute’ meals are made with fresh organic produce, the finest cuts of meat, chicken and fish, and homemade sauces and soups. All arriving in adorable little white boxes…

You don’t have to be a gourmet chef to bring this dinner to your table.

Each meal comes with easy to follow, detailed instructions that take you from soup to dessert.

I know what your thinking….. “I go out to dinner to get away from the kitchen..”

But this is fun cooking. The kind you do with a nice glass of cabernet nearby.

All of the difficult prep work has been done and you get to pretend that you’re a star on The Food Network.

Eat your heart out Ina Garten…

The result is a fabulous meal, made  together and served at the best table in the house..

…your own!

Call early to order your  four-course Valentine’s Special.



Irvine Restaurant Week: Jan 11 – 17

It’s Friday. The weekend spreads out before you with all of it’s culinary possibilities. But instead of crossing something off your local dining Bucket List, you return to the same tried and true favorites…over and over again…

Irvine Restaurant Week, sponsored by Destination Irvine, gives you a chance to change all that.


Squash Blossoms at CUCINAenoteca

Between January 11- 17, local diners can choose from over 35 participating restaurants, all offering special menus at special prices.

The Irvine dining scene is an eclectic mix; the ethnic diversity of the community creates a collection of restaurants to match.

Short Ribs at LUCCA Cafe

All week you can sample sashimi from the sushi conveyor at Gatten Sushi or dip strawberries into molten chocolate fondue at The Melting Pot.Enjoy a perfectly prepared filet in sizzling butter at Mastro’s Steakhouse or taste organic,  vegan delights at Mother’s Market.

Gatten Sushi


Whatever you crave, there’s an Irvine Restaurant Week option ready for you.




Nixon Centennial Celebration: Yorba Linda

I love history. I’m quite obsessed actually.

My father was a history teacher and instilled in me a passion for the past  through long family vacations and lively dinner conversations.

I grew up believing that the only way to truly understand the world we live in is to learn about how we got here.

So it’s surprising that it has taken me so long to make the journey to Yorba Linda to visit the Richard Nixon Presidential Library. The reason for my trip? President Nixon’s birthday is on January 9th.

He would have been 100 years old.

Richard Nixon was the president of my childhood; the first Commander in Chief that I can remember seeing in black and white on the TV in our living room.


To a child of the 1970’s, Richard Nixon represented a confusing mix of images: The strong father figure, The stern and stoic diplomat, and finally, The broken, fallen hero. It was a tumultuous time. In between episodes of The Brady Bunch and Love American Style, we saw Vietnam footage and Watergate trials.


My generation experienced the first wave of reality media seeping into our own homes and Richard Nixon was at the center of it all.

Walking  through the exhibit galleries at the Nixon Library is like taking a trip back in time, to sounds and images that I didn’t quite understand as a child.

The museum pulls no punches; it represents the downfall of Nixon’s career as honestly as his achievements. 40 years later, I was able to revisit history with a new perspective and gain a well-rounded glimpse into the Nixon Era; the proud achievements as well as the lessons to be learned.

Outside the Library, away from the  controvertial history of  Nixon’s presidency, is the little ranch house that his father built in 1912. It was in this  small white house that Richard Nixon was born 100 years ago. Today he is buried a mere 60 feet away. It is this “full-circle” journey of Richard Nixon that I find the most compelling; the story of Nixon the man, who rose from the humblest of beginnings on a southern California citrus ranch to the highest office in the world.


On Sunday, January 6th, The Library will kick off the Nixon Centennial Celebration at 11am. Tricia Nixon Cox, the President’s eldest daughter, will lay a ceremonial wreath to start the proceedings. This will begin a year-long remembrance of the 37th President, including a new exhibit: “RN; Patriot. President. Peacemaker,” that will open on February 13.









The Richard Nixon Library and Birthplace

18001 Yorba Linda Boulevard

Yorba Linda, CA 92886

(714) 993-3393





Making Peace with New Year’s Eve

I have a confession to make: I have always dreaded New Year’s Eve.

It’s not that I don’t love a good party. I enjoy an old fashioned, joyful holiday celebration as much as the next guy. It’s just that this particular holiday is burdened with a magnum full of high expectations. No other night of the year carries more pressure to come through with the perfect blend of fun, frolic and festive merriment than the 31st of December.

In my opinion: New Year’s Eve is overrated.

When you’re young and single, the pressure begins to build right after Christmas. Like the old song, everyone wants to know “What Are You Doing New Year’s Eve?” But when the big night comes, the mega-parties never quite live up to their billing, leaving a residual, post-party hangover of vague disappointment.

After our kids were born, my husband and I tricked New Year’s Eve altogether by celebrating with friends on the 30th of December; New Year’s Eve… Eve. No problem finding babysitters or making reservations on that night. On the official holiday, we watched old movies safe at home in our PJs, avoiding the party crowd.

As the kids grew, we took ski trips to Mammoth over the New Year’s holiday. One year, we secretly turned all of the clocks in our condo ahead three hours and celebrated at 9pm, telling the kids we were observing “mountain time.” An hour later the kids were sound asleep as we toasted to the New Year by the fire.

Now our “kids” have their own New Year’s Eve plans and they certainly don’t involve hanging out with their parents. We enjoy dinner with old friends at Antonello, ring in the New Year at a neighborhood party, and then walk around the block back to our house.

I’ve made peace with New Year’s Eve.

I put on my cone-shaped party hat, pop poppers, and bang pots and pans with gusto. I’ve learned to adopt a more realistic attitude. It’s one night of the year: a night to enjoy friends and family, to reflect on the blessings of the year that has passed and to hope for the year to come. It doesn’t require mirror balls, jumbo shrimp cocktails or too much champagne. (Although I personally find nothing wrong with any of these things)

A good meal. Some entertaining music with friends. A Monopoly Marathon. A safe drive home.

However you choose to observe it, the advent of a new year is certainly a cause for celebration. Whether your night is simple or sparkly, domestic or dazzling, spent in sequins or in a sweater,

I wish you and those you love, a very Happy New Year.

They’re Here…

The Holidays are upon us. After a month of merry anticipation, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the spirit of the season. With the kids out of school and business schedules slowing, there are still plenty of  special holiday events happening this weekend.


Friday, December 21
The Christmas Train – Irvine Park Railroad – Orange

Daily until Sunday, December 23

Irvine Regional Park –  1 Irvine Park Road, Orange

It’s never too late to make a visit to the white bearded man in the red suit and the Irvine Park Railroad will give you a ride. Irvine Regional Park is a wonderful place to visit any time of year, but during the holidays, it is transformed into a twinkling North Pole wonderland. Trains operate through December 23, and it’s a good idea to buy tickets online before you go.


Saturday, December 22
Los Posadas at the Bowers Museum – Santa Ana


2002 N. Main Street, Santa Ana

Bowers Museum will be hosting a traditional Mexican Christmas celebration re-enacting Mary and Joseph’s journey as they seek shelter in Bethlehem. There will be traditional music, dance, food and entertainment by Rhytmo Incorporated’s Mariachi Kids and Los Sonadores Foklorico Dance Troupe. Top the evening off with traditional Mexican hot chocolate and pan dulce (sweet bread). The procession begins in the north parking lot at 5 PM and is free to the public.


Sunday, December 23
The Muckenthaler Holiday Festival – Fullerton

12:00pm – 5:00pm

1201 West Malvern Avenue

Built in 1924, this 18 room, hilltop villa was once the home of Walter and Adella Muckenthaler. In 1965, the home was donated to the city of Fullerton to be used as a center for the arts. On Sunday, take a trip back in time as the Muckenthaler Cultural Center hosts an Open House, with tours, performances and art workshops.


Monday, December 24

“It’s A Wonderful Life” at The Lido Theater – Newport Beach

Showing December 21 – 24

3459 Via Lido, Newport Beach

Want to try something a little different this Christmas Eve? Experience the days of old Hollywood and enjoy this Christmas classic at the vintage Lido Theater. Make sure to try the popcorn, it’s freshly popped and drizzled with real butter.




It’s go time. 10 days before Christmas and the stress level is building.

Last minute gifts to buy, cards to mail, and holiday parties to navigate. This is the time of  year when deep cleansing breaths are necessary.

So this week, why not take a time out? A holiday from the holidays, if you will. Try one of these stress reducing suggestions so you can actually enjoy the celebrations that you’ve worked so hard to create.


Friday, December 14
Chill at the Queen Mary – Long Beach

10am – 9pm Daily through Sunday, January 6

Feeling frazzled from hectic holidays? Chill out at the Queen Mary’s giant ice sculpture extravaganza. This unique attraction features 2 tons of ice sculpted and shaped into a winter wonderland. Castles, slides and even a frozen version of the Queen Mary. Combo admission tickets include the Ice Kingdom, skating, and access to the historic ship.


Saturday, December 15th
Troutman Sanders Renegade Santa Run 5K – Irvine

6 am Registration – Hicks Canyon Elementary School

Since exercise is the best stress reducer, the Annual Santa Run 5K is the perfect solution. The mainly flat course winds through the scenic Peters Canyon Trail. Don’t worry if you’re not a seasoned runner; walkers are welcome! And everyone who crosses the finish line gets a souvenir ornament. Prizes will be given for the participant in the best holiday costume.


Sunday, December 16
The Science of Gingerbread: Discovery Center – Santa Ana

Open Daily at 10am

Learn something new about an old favorite at the 7th Annual Science of Gingerbread Exhibit and Competition. Over 100 artisan gingerbread creations will be on display showing off the sweet side of science.


Monday, December 17
Sunset Gondola Cruise – Huntington Harbor

Sunset Gondola Cruises  16730 Pacific Coast Highway, Huntington Beach

The most romantic way to unwind during the holidays is a gondola cruise of Huntington Harbor. The stars are out and the water is calm as you glide by the twinkling lights of decorated houses. Bundle up and bring a bottle of wine to toast to the season. Tours vary from 40 minutes to 2 hours.


Tuesday, December 18
“A Christmas Carol” South Coast Repertory – Costa Mesa

7:30pm Show   655 Town Center Drive

A perennial classic, Hal Landon Jr.’s portrayal of Ebeneezer Scrooge will teach you the true meaning of the holidays. This year, SCR celebrates 30 years of The Christmas Carol. Most shows are sold out, but there is still availability of Tuesday, December 18 and Wednesday December 19. Call the Box Office at ( 714) 708 – 5555


Wednesday, December 19
Dare to Dream Hair Cutting to Benefit Wigs for Kids – Anaheim

4 – 5pm Honda Center

The best way to change a sour mood to sweet is to give to others at the holidays. Disney On Ice is partnering with Toni & Guy Salon and Wigs for Kids to make Dreams Come True. Donate at least 12 inches of hair to make a life-changing difference to a child suffering from hair loss. The first 25 donors will receive a pair of tickets and a VIP Princess Meet and Greet that night to “Disney On Ice presents Dare to Dream,” playing at the Honda Center, December 19-23. Hair collected will be donated to Wigs for Kids to create Hair Pieces and wigs for children at no cost to their families.


Thursday, December 20
Christmas Boat Parade – Newport Beach

Parades Begin at 6:30pm  Dec. 19 – 23

The Grandaddy of them all, The Newport Beach Christmas Boat Parade has been entertaining locals for nearly 100 years. Parades begin on Wednesday, December 19 and end Sunday, December 23. The parade starts off Bay Island at 6:30 pm and finishes at the same site at approximately 9:00 pm each evening. Great views can be seen from all over Newport Harbor, but my favorite spot is watching from Balboa Island where you can enjoy lights  from the parade as well as the beautifully decorated homes.