Overarching Principals

From 805 Living Magazine's Pulse section, winter 2021.

From 805 Living Magazine’s Pulse section, winter 2021.

The global pandemic may have made it difficult to hang out with neighbors, but Spotify has made it easy to plug in and connect.

The new Archewell Audio podcast series (sptfy.com/5nto) from Montecito residents Prince Harry and his wife Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, launched in December with a holiday gathering of inspiring guests from around the world.

Joining the royals to reflect on the challenges of the past year and offer hopeful toasts to 2021 were former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, World Central Kitchen founder José Andrés, University of Houston research professor and best-selling author Brené Brown, self-help guru Deepak Chopra, CBS’s The Late Late Show host James
Corden, music icon Elton John, three-time tennis Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka, and entertainment mogul Tyler Perry, among others. The series continues this year.

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Going With the Flow

From 805 Living Magazine's Pulse section, winter 2021.

From 805 Living Magazine’s Pulse section, winter 2021.

Firestone Walker Brewing Company (firestonebeer.com) ventures into new territory with Flow State, a monthly video series (youtu.be/Invvcsi2P24) hosted by adventurer Dylan Efron, who grew up on the Central Coast and honed his thirst for pushing the limits as a professional triathlete before becoming a producer and star of the Netflix show Down To Earth and launching the Off the Grid YouTube series with his brother, actor Zac Efron.

Flow State challenges world-class athletes and performers with outdoor exploits that are unfamiliar to them. For example, in one episode Brazilian professional skateboarder Leticia Bufoni learns to rock climb despite her fear of heights, and, in another, beach volleyball
superstar brothers Riley and Maddison McKibbin go off-roading.

“Outdoor adventure is a way of life around here, and it’s something we’re passionate about,” says Firestone Walker cofounder David Walker. “The Central Coast has been our home for 25 years, and as a local, Dylan is the perfect friend and partner to help us tell these stories.”

Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Winter 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Dancing With Myself

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

Dancing with Myself, originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent Self-Care issue, January 7, 2021.

A combination of yoga, martial arts, and dance, Nia was introduced to me by my friend Meg Miller, who’s been an instructor at the Montecito YMCA for more than a decade. When the pandemic torpedoed indoor classes,
Miller started an online “Nia Together-Apart” group, sending videos for people to dance from home “with her” every Saturday at 11:15 a.m., her normal class time.

As Queen of the Procrastinators, I left the link in my inbox, red flagged and scolding me for a week before I finally decided to try Nia. I intended to do it at 11:15 a.m., but it was more like 5:15 p.m., when rolled-back clocks made it too dark for my regular walk.

“In Nia everything is based on 52 moves,” explained Miller. “In addition to what is generally known — that moving to music is
good for us — Nia uses findings from neuroscience to create a holistic experience
through dance. I know this sounds a little woo-woo, but plenty of people do Nia purely as a physical fitness experience.”

I cranked up the video in the privacy of my bedroom, figuring I’d come for the cardio and slip in some metaphysics if the spirit moved
me. The last time I danced was in the early COVID days: a TikTok challenge from my son and his girlfriend. After a bit, I started to let loose. Rather than following the leader,
the idea is to listen to your body and enjoy every movement. So I freestyled instead of doing the floor-play, which looked too much
like pushups for my taste.

Although Nia is meant to be danced communally, my freestyle was definitely more “free” in my bedroom than it would have been at the YMCA. Even Miller, who loves the community aspect of Nia, said, “I’ve found a lot more freedom and self-expression doing it without
an audience of any kind.”

My heart rate was definitely elevated, and my spirit did get a little lift. I’ll try Nia again, maybe even next Saturday at 11:15 a.m.

For more information, visit nianow.com.
Santa Barbara Independent Cover, Self-Care, January 7, 2021.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on January 7, 2021. To see this story as it appeared in print, please click here.

Climb on a Clydesdale

Climb on a Clydesdale, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

Climb on a Clydesdale, originally published in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

If you’ve ever dreamed of riding one of the majestic and mighty horses made famous in the Budweiser commercials, now’s your chance. Tour the family-owned Covell Ranch
(covellsclydesdaleranch.com) in the charming coastal community of Cambria on the back
of one of the gentle Scottish draught horses known as Clydesdales.

“We’ve been breeding Clydesdales for over 40 years,” says Tara Covell. Her father, horse
breeder Ralph Covell, owns the 2,000 acre ranch and offers tours and trail rides through
the property, where stands of Monterey Pines grow along rolling hills with ocean views.

Cover of 805 Living December 2020 Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

S.B. Middle School Pedals Through the Pandemic, originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020.

Riviera Campus Finds Creative Challenges to Keep Kids Active

Getting teens and tweens outside and active is particularly challenging during the days of COVID, so Santa Barbara Middle School (SBMS) — well known for embarking on pedal-powered learning adventures — challenged students to ride at least 26 miles during the month of September, while they were still learning from home. (They returned to in-person
classes in October.)

The 26-mile marker is approximately the same distance students normally ride for their two-day orientation bike ride, explained Communications Manager Merritt Bauer. Since the pandemic restrictions shut down that activity, they decided to use the Strava app to
challenge students and families to ride at least 26 miles.

“Families were very into it,” said Bauer. Providing even further incentive, they had the kids vote on what the prize would be if they hit their total goal of 5,000 miles of activity within the month. “Prizes were everything from a dunk tank to having our headmaster dress up in a pink gorilla suit for a week, which is exactly what ended up being the winning choice,” she laughed.

The challenge — which allowed other physical activities such as surfing, hiking, walking,
and even golf to be logged — ended up exceeding their goal by almost 800 miles. “We had all of our families participate in over 800 individual activities, which I think is pretty incredible,” said Bauer.

As a celebration when the Strava challenge was complete, and with strict and complicated
health and safety mandates firmly in place, staff and students were able to do some bike rides in small groups. “We actually ended up driving through Goleta on our bikes and seeing a lot of SBMS alums and families who know our school and were screaming as we biked past, ‘We’re so happy to see you guys back on the road,’ ” said Bauer. “It was definitely positive feedback all around just seeing people in the community and our families who had just been dying to get our kids back together.”

When they ended their rides at Goleta Beach, as promised, Head of School Brian McWilliams was there to greet them in a pink gorilla suit, jumping hairy feet first into the
ocean with the kids on the final day.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

SB Independent Cover, Schools of Thought, November 19, 2020.

Originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on November 19, 2020. To read the section as it appeared in print, please click here.


Gym Handy

Originally published in the November 2020 issue of 805 Living Magazine.

There’s no need to miss a workout since DreamQuest Fitness (dreamquestfitness.com) launched its mobile gym experience.

The brainchild of fitness trainers Jose and Tiffany Fernandez, the fold-out trailer housing all the necessary equipment in a hygienic workout space comes to exercisers’ homes and offices in the Conejo Valley, Moorpark, Simi Valley, and Calabasas.

“It wasn’t until the pandemic struck that we both realized the necessity for a mobile gym,” says Tiffany. “We believe there are a vast number of people, like us, who are fitness-minded and feel uncomfortable with our new normal.”

Book a fitness assessment, a one-one-one or group personal training package, or open workout sessions (from $12 per hour) for up to 12 participants (face coverings required) via the website.

Cover of 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. This story originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, November 2020. Click here to see the section as it originally appeared in print.

2020 Best of Santa Barbara

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

From Santa Barbara Independent, Best Of Issue cover, October 15, 2020.

I had the honor of writing the Santa Barbara Independent‘s Best of Santa Barbara winners once again this year. It was a huge, fun project, and a little easier the second time around.  Even (or maybe especially) in this weird year, people were so happy to hear from me and so excited to have won! You can read the whole thing by clicking here, or on the PDFs below.

Introduction + Eating 770 10-15-20_Part1

Eating 770 10-15-20_Part2

Eating, Drink, Out & About + Romance 770 10-15-20_Part3

Romance 770 10-15-20_Part4

Romance, Looking Good, Living Well, Sporting Life, Little Creatures, Housing + Driving 770 10-15-20_Part5

Driving + Media 770 10-15-20_Part6

Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington

Sip Trip: Tri-Cities, Washington, originally published in Touring & Tasting, spring/summer 2020.

Explore the Heart of Washington Wine Country

A sojourn to the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Pasco, Richland and West Richland) is an excellent way to savor the heart of Washington Wine Country and experience a winning combination of sun, water and wine. Whether you want to tour wine country, play outdoors, feast on the local culinary bounty or enjoy a wide variety of cultural pursuits, the Tri-Cities has it all!


10 a.m. Start in Benton City with Washington’s hottest AVA, Red Mountain. Encompassing about 4,000 acres of vineyards, Red Mountain provides grapes to over 175 wineries throughout the Pacific Northwest, consistently earning critical acclaim. With 11 on-mountain wineries and tasting rooms to choose from, you’ll enjoy meeting with vintners during this hands-on experience. For an even more intimate exploration of the Red Mountain Trails, ride from winery to winery on horseback or take a horse-drawn  wagon ride. Redmountainava.com | redmountaintrails.com


9 a.m. Get outside and breathe some fresh air along the sparkling Columbia River. There are fun, outdoor recreation activities for everyone, with stand up paddle board yoga, bike rentals, kayaking and more available. greenielife.comnorthwestpaddleboarding.com

11 a.m. Visit Columbia Gardens Wine and Artisan Village in historic downtown Kennewick for an urban tasting experience at their boutique tasting rooms and wine production facilities.

12:30 p.m. Choose from one of the three charming wineries on Tulip Lane in Richland —J. Bookwalter, Barnard Griffin and Tagaris — for cuisine that’s expertly paired with their wines. bookwalterwines.combarnardgriffin.com | tagariswines.com

3:30 p.m. Indulge in a bit more tasting, with a number of excellent wineries to choose from in Richland and Kennewick, including Goose Ridge Estate Vineyard & Winery, Longship Cellars, Badger Mountain Vineyard & Powers Winery, Kitzke Cellars, Farmhand Winery and Market Vineyards. gooseridge.com | longshipcellars.combadgermtnvineyard.comkitzkecellars.com | farmhandwinery.commarketvineyards.com

6 p.m. Revel in a stunning sunset and a gourmet dinner, as well as all of the luxuries of a 96-foot yacht, on a Water2Wine Cruise along the Columbia River. water2winecruises.com


10 a.m. Enjoy the short drive from the urban Tri-Cities to the small, agricultural community of Prosser. Often recognized as the “Birthplace of Washington Wine,” Prosser has a variety of wineries to visit at the Prosser Wine & Food Park. Vintner’s Village has over 12 wineries, as well as the Winemaker’s Loft, a winery incubator that houses a half-dozen wineries and tasting rooms. gotastewine.com/prosservintners-village.php

2 p.m. Don’t miss the Walter Clore Wine and Culinary Center. Named after Washington wine pioneer Dr. Walter Clore, the Clore Center is a unique wine tasting and education destination that showcases Washington wine’s quality and diversity by offering an in-depth taste of each wine region. theclorecenter.org

There are always loads of special events going on in the Tri-Cities, with entertainment for all ages and interests. May’s Cinco de Mayo celebration is a true cultural experience with traditional music, amazing Mexican cuisine, horse dancing and more. June’s Cool Desert Nights takes car-lovers throughout the Tri-Cities. Every July brings the three-day Tri-City Water Follies boat racing tournament. Labor Day weekend is the Tumbleweed Music Festival, with more than 100 talented performers participating in three days of amazing concerts and events, many of which are free. Check out visittri-cities.com/events to stay up-to-date on all of the local happenings.


Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

Sonoma’s Field of Dreams

Sonoma’s Field of Dreams originally published in Touring & Tasting spring/summer 2020.

Come by Balletto Vineyards winery on any given Sunday in the spring and summer, and you’ll hear the happy sounds of bats cracking, children laughing and the occasional cheers. Nestled among the winery’s 700 acres of Russian River Valley AVA estate vineyards is a four-acre regulation-sized baseball field.

How did this real life field of dreams come to be? “John Balletto’s hardworking vineyard staff approached him and asked if he would sponsor their league baseball team,” says brand ambassador Nick Frey. “In true John Balletto fashion, he went above and beyond. The Balletto family set four acres of land aside and donated the materials while the vineyard crew donated the labor, so everyone feels a sense of ownership and pride.”

Employees now use the regulation-size field to play in a league with teams from the Bay Area, says Frey. The Balletto team includes vineyard operations manager Manuel Vallejo, a 32-year employee who first approached the boss about building the field in 2002 and still plays with Los Uveros (The Grapers).

Surrounded by vineyards and nestled below a winemaking production area, the field is not directly viewable from the tasting room, but offers a great view for the Balletto staff. The winery does offer a walking tour that takes you around the vineyard and stops right at the field. ballettovineyards.com

Originally published in the spring/summer 2020 issue of Touring & Tasting. Click here to read this story and more! TT-SP20.digital

StarCycle Puts Indoor Cycling in the Spotlight

StarCycle is one of Santa Barbara’s hottest new fitness studios. Courtesy photo.

“It’s a dance party on a bike, like when you’re at a wedding and your jam comes on and you don’t care what anybody thinks — you just get up there and move your body.” That’s how co-owner Dani Stone describes the workout at StarCycle. The La Cumbre Plaza fitness center is part of a new breed of indoor cycling studios that use music and choreography for a physical and mental approach to cycling.

At StarCycle, the lights go off before the 45-minute full-body workout begins.

“The most appealing part to me has been that we work out in the dark, which allows you to really focus on yourself and just ‘do you,’ — modifying as needed,” said Julie Sorenson, who joined the gym on an introductory membership in March 2019 (StarCycle opened on February 28) and recently completed her 170th ride.

“The community there is incredible, and the instructors are super motivating,” she said. “It’s empowering. I can feel the positive energy in the room when I ride. The full-body workout (with weights) has also helped me heal from a shoulder injury.”

Another big appeal for members is that childcare is always available. Moms are the target demographic for the studio, explained co-owner Kayla Johnson-Neal, a personal trainer and fitness professional who’s been working in the industry for 24 years. “With young kids, they are maybe at a phase in life where they aren’t that challenged, so the challenge of doing this workout is like they’ve climbed Mount Everest. It is so fun to watch.”

Themed music rides, ranging from holiday specials to boy bands, Coachella, Stagecoach, and special “naughty rides with explicit lyrics” are also part of the attraction, as is the warm, welcoming atmosphere, where clients are greeted with smiles and hugs.

“I’ve never seen results like this in all of my years of experience. And we’re only a year in now. People have melted,” Johnson-Neal said. “But you know what I love? Weight loss is not what they talk about. Somebody came up to me yesterday and hugged me and started crying and saying, ‘I’m a better wife and a better mom because of StarCycle.’ She’s lost weight, but that’s not where the focus is, and that’s what I think is so cool.”

Tips from Kayla:

  • Find something that you love. “Love” might be an extreme word, but find something that you don’t hate. I’m always telling clients that you need to find a workout that’s going to make you a little bit excited to show up.
  • You don’t have to go all or nothing. It’s just consistency. Maybe it’s kickboxing; maybe it’s Zumba. Just be consistent in that movement.

For more information, visit starcycleride.com/studios/santa-barbara.

Originally published in Santa Barbara Independent on January 21, 2020.

StarCycle co-owner Kayla Johnson-Neal, right, has been in the fitness industry for 24 years, courtesy photo.