RFK, California 1968: Never Before Published Photographs by Jesse Alexander

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

Renowned photographer Jesse Alexander says he didn’t even have a press pass when he took a pilgrimage to Delano to see young Robert F. Kennedy on the campaign trail. “I was really a fan of RFK and was very aware of his interest in farm workers and his work with Cesar Chavez,” says Alexander. These never-before publically viewed images were taken on the campaign trail in San Francisco and the Central Valley in California a short time before Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles.

Alexander, a legendary motorsports photographer since the early 1950s when he covered the original Mexican Road Race, says that no matter what his subject, a passion for beauty and an interest in people consistently drive his work. “It doesn’t really matter what you’re shooting,” says the 88-year-old. “I’m just a happy snapper.”

Alexander will share these historic images for the first time in an exhibition from Aug. 19-Sept. 16 at Patricia Clarke Studio, 410 Palm Ave. A-18, Carpinteria. Fifty percent of all sale proceeds benefit The Fund for Santa Barbara. In addition, Alexander will give a free artist talk with Clarke at the studio on Sept. 9 from 4-5 p.m.

—Leslie Dinaberg

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

 

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

RFK, California 1968. Photograph by Jesse Alexander.

Originally published in the Fall 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

House of Clues is a Great Escape From the Ordinary

The Escape Room's Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The Escape Room’s Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

Escape room games are super popular and Santa Barbara finally has its own one-of-a-kind venue: the House of Clues, 629 N. Salsipuedes St., 805/229-9179, TheHouseofClues.net.

Co-owners Assel Abdrakhmanova and Oscar Zevalos (they also have a third partner, Whitman Heining) were designing props and sets for themed events and escape rooms for outside clients when they decided to create their own, custom, one-of-a-kind attraction.

“We knew we could do a better job and make it even better and more challenging,” says Zevalos.

Their goal is eventually to franchise their concepts, with Santa Barbara as the first location, and I think they’ve got a winner. Not only was our “Pirate Ghost Ship” game well designed and challenging, it truly was exciting and fun for our entire group—which included my college age niece and her boyfriend, as well as my husband and I, and my sister and brother-in-law.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The author and her family, having barely escaped the Pirate Ghost Ship, courtesy photo.

The “fun for all ages” claim seems truly legit as evidenced by the enthusiastic group of 13-year-old boys who went before us. This would also be a great team building activity for companies, students, group of friends, date nights and other group events.

The way that escape rooms work is they combine mental puzzles with physical challenges and a beat-the-clock element keeps things moving along quickly. With 45 minutes to escape from a given room (which is actually a series of rooms), you are under constant video and audio surveillance and can communicate with the game master at any time, as well as receive clues when needed. Every move counts, and nothing is as it seems. The game was much more challenging than any of us were expecting and we needed a few helpful tips from Assel to move us along in places.

In addition to the “Pirate Ghost Ship,” the House of Clues also has a “Psycho Dentist” game on the menu with another theme on the way soon.

Currently operating Mon.-Thurs. from 5-10 p.m., Fri. from noon- 11.30 p.m. and Sat.-Sun. from 10a.m.-11:30 p.m., the House of Clues is a great new addition to the local scene. Cost is $35 per person, children must be at least eight years old to play, and an adult must accompany those under age 15. For more information, visit TheHouseofClues.net.

Leslie Dinaberg                

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons on August 28, 2017.                                         

First Person: Sullivan Goss Gallery’s Nathan Vonk

 New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush.

New Sullivan Goss Gallery owner Nathan Vonk is flanked by his colleagues and fellow curators Jeremy Tessmer and Susan Bush. Courtesy photo.

Preserving the Legacy, Embracing the Future

By Leslie Dinaberg

The link between Burning Man’s annual bacchanal festivities and Sullivan Goss Gallery’s 30-plus-year legacy of celebrating important 19th-, 20th– and 21st-century American art may seem tenuous, but it was a visit to Burning Man that first sparked Nathan Vonk’s interest in art and the friends he made in the desert that first brought him to Santa Barbara.

Armed with a master’s degree in post-modern literature theory, Vonk taught night school at Ventura College and walked dogs during the day. He eventually bought out the owners of the dog business, ran it for a few years and then sold it for a profit, right before the market crashed in September of 2008.

Now fully enmeshed in the Santa Barbara scene, Vonk contemplated going back to school and getting a doctorate in art history or curatorial sciences and asked Sullivan Goss curator Jeremy Tessmer if he “could volunteer some hours at the gallery, so I could see if it was something that I wanted to do in graduate school.” Vonk laughs, “I came in and volunteered for the week, and on Friday, Frank [Goss] offered me a job. I never went back to school, and I’ve been there ever since.”

He continues, “I was the one guy in the whole country who got a new job in October of 2008. When everyone else was going on unemployment and Bear Stearns was crashing, I was one of the luckiest people in the country. I’ve been at Sullivan Goss ever since, and I couldn’t be happier.”

So happy, in fact, that when Goss told the team (which includes Tessmer and fellow curator Susan Bush) he planned to retire after 2016, Vonk bought the gallery because he wanted to make sure the legacy continued, with its staff intact.

If you think of arts in Santa Barbara as an ecosystem, the part that Sullivan Goss fulfills—if that goes away, the whole ecosystem suffers greatly and it’s not a part that someone is going to step in and fill that void. That was a large part of my motivation to take on the risk of running a commercial gallery,” says Vonk.

He and his wife, Erin Smith, have a son, Lowen, who, Vonk says, “has been to more art shows at age 2-1/2 than I think the average Santa Barbaran probably has.”

Part of what Vonk loves about Santa Barbara is its casual, egalitarian nature. “I think we all understand how lucky we are to work in a gallery like this, in a town like this. Shortly after working for Frank, I had the opportunity to go to New York and visit galleries…the whole vibe there is so different than it is in Santa Barbara. If you don’t look like you can afford it, they don’t give you the time of day.…It kind of left a bad taste in my mouth about the whole situation, and it made me all the more excited to come back and work for Frank, because we don’t operate that way. In part we can’t, because the man or woman who comes into our gallery in shorts and flip-flops could very easily be a billionaire, and I don’t know that. So I have to treat everyone like they are billionaires, and I like that.”

Vonk views part of his art-dealer role as acting like a sort of docent, saying, “What we sell are not just pretty pictures; they are pretty pictures that come with a history and a provenance and some other interesting part of them that, hopefully, people who are interested in buying them will understand that if they buy them, they are only going to be a small portion of that object’s history.”

He also clearly loves the work. “One of the great things about Sullivan Goss is that I was sort of an academic, and I loved studying and writing essays and we do all that.… We’ve written four or five books…all the things I wanted from going back to school I got. Plus I got to stay in Santa Barbara so it was even better.”

Originally published in the Summer 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

A Day Away: The Oaks at Ojai

Healthy spa cuisine at the Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Healthy spa cuisine at the Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Looking for a bit of spring cleaning for the mind, body and soul? The Oaks at Ojai (122 E. Ojai Ave.) is a great place to refresh and recharge your spirit any time of the year. I had a girlfriend getaway for a few days last fall and was pleasantly surprised and charmed at every turn.

Spring is an even better time to visit The Oaks, as April in Ojai brings special celebrations to honor the Pixie Tangerine, a special orange orb grown only in that area. In prior years, The Oaks’s guests have devoured more than 7,000 sweet, seedless Pixies during Pixie month. Expect to find special deals on tangerine tints and scents everywhere this time of year.

The Oaks at Ojai is a great spot for a getaway with friends, courtesy photo.

The Oaks at Ojai is a great spot for a getaway with friends, courtesy photo.

The Oaks is first and foremost a health spa, offering an all-inclusive healthy fitness and weight loss program with up to 15 optional fitness classes every day; hikes; three surprisingly tasty calorie-conscious meals per day, plus snacks and beverages; an on-site health advisor; evening activities and wellness lectures; and complete use of all resort facilities.

Fitness classes are a key component of the packages at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Fitness classes are a key component of the packages at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

Other than spa treatments (which are included with some of the package deals), you won’t have to open your wallet for anything additional at The Oaks. Everything is included, which makes it a perfect time to try out new types of fitness classes. In just a couple of days, I was able to take classes in yoga, aqua cardio, Qigong, stretching, Zumba, aqua tone,Pilates and world grooves dance. Hiking, cardio/sculpting, balance, ballet/barre, dance Beliu and ball & band toning are also offered, along with other classes. There’s also a pool and a nicely outfitted weight room, for those who can’t get enough fitness!

A complete menu of spa treatments is available at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

A complete menu of spa treatments is available at The Oaks at Ojai, courtesy photo.

The pampering side of the spa experience is also well done, with a nice steam room and sauna available, as well as any spa treatment your heart desires. I had an excellent Skin Authority Signature Facial, as well as a pedicure that lasted several weeks beyond my spa experience.

Fresh local ingredients are on the menu at The Oaks at Ojai, including Pixie Tangerines, which are only grown in the Ojai area. Courtesy photo.

Fresh local ingredients are on the menu at The Oaks at Ojai, including Pixie Tangerines, which are only grown in the Ojai area. Courtesy photo.

The food was also surprising tasty. Quinoa was once a dirty word in our house, but after trying Chef Christine Denney’s clever incarnations, I’m hooked and have tried several ideas from her Recipes From the Heart cookbook. All in all, the 1,200- 1,500-calorie-per-day menu was balanced and tasty, inspired by an abundance of fresh vegetables and fruits, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean protein featuring wild fish and poultry, all without a touch of additional salt or refined sugar used in the preparation. Sure, my friend and I brought in our own wine to reward ourselves at night after all of those exercise classes, but it wasn’t because we were actually hungry!

The Oaks at Ojai is located right on the main drag in Ojai, within walking distance of boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. Courtesy photo.

The Oaks at Ojai is located right on the main drag in Ojai, within walking distance of boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. Courtesy photo.

An active and inspiring presence at the resort is founder Sheila Cluff, an internationally known fitness expert who created cardiovascular dance in the 1950s, later known as “Aerobics,” and pioneered the concept of the modern destination spa in the 1970s. Now an 80-year-old mother of four and grandmother of seven, Cluff still leads some of the brisk morning walks and hikes at The Oaks and absolutely embodies the lifestyle she teaches.

Cluff has said that she created the retreat to fit the needs of women over 40, and we certainly make up the bulk of the clientele these days. That’s not to say that all ages (and men) are not welcome. The Oaks at Ojai is truly a great place for a girlfriend getaway, but the spa’s approach is casual and welcoming to all, as well as affordable and fun. Plus the charming 1920s Spanish Mission Revival-style hotel fits right in with the artsy laid-back vibe of the town and is right on the main drag of Ojai, within walking distance to boutiques, restaurants, galleries and more. It’s an excellent place to regenerate or spring clean your mind, body, and spirit.  

Leslie Dinaberg

The Oaks at Ojai, 122 E. Ojai Ave., Ojai, 800/753-OAKS (6257), oaksspa.com.

Originally published in the Spring 2017 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Angel Oak at the Bacara

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa's new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

The bar at Bacara Resort & Spa’s new fine dining restaurant, Angel Oak, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak, which recently opened at Bacara Resort & Spa, is a heavenly new addition to the local fine dining scene.

First of all, the restaurant is beautiful. The open-air design takes full advantage of the oceanfront views, with each of the 162 seats from the dining room and bar ensured a view of the Pacific Ocean. The dark wood and earth-toned accents of restaurant are dramatic and unique and include a hand-carved granite podium, exotic Chamcha wood table, hand-blown chandeliers, and an Amazonite bar that serves as a focal point and anchor in the dining room. And of course, the ocean view from the outdoor dining terrace can’t be beat.

Starters at Angel Oak include, clockwise from top left, American Wagyu Beef Tatki, Dungeness Crab Cake and Beef Tartare. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Starters at Angel Oak include, clockwise from top left, American Wagyu Beef Tatki, Dungeness Crab Cake and Beef Tartare. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The bar is also top notch. A List Mixologist Cassie Hesse spearheads the cocktail program, which includes hip takes on time-honored classics such as the Manhattan’s Angel with High West Rendevous Rye, Sweet Vermouth, and Bitters; Our Signature Daiquiri No 6 with Denizen, Lime, Sugar and Absinthe; and the very impressive Smoke on the Water, a cherry wood smoked spirit forward cocktail served tableside. 

Angel Oak’s wine and spirits program features a curated selection of Old and New World wines housed inside the restaurant’s 12,000-bottle cellar. The expansive cellar is climate controlled to ensure quality, doubling as an impressive event space for up to 40 seated guests. If you ever get invited to an event there, don’t miss it! 

Angel Oak's local fish ravioli, bouillabaisse broth, sardines and basil foam, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s local fish ravioli, bouillabaisse broth, sardines and basil foam, courtesy photo.

Then there’s the food, the absolutely mouthwatering food. Executive Chef Vincent Lesage says, “the inspiration behind the menu was to reimagine the ordinary, what you classically see in a steakhouse with a twist. We wanted to showcase the best of seasonal ingredients and preparing every single one of them with an element of surprise.”

He’s definitely succeeded. The Angel Oak menu celebrates the theme of duality, showcasing traditionally robust steakhouse offerings juxtaposed alongside refined seafood dishes, all crafted with Lesage’s classically-trained and deft hand.

Angel Oak's Dry Aged New York steak with shaved black truffle, brown butter. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Dry Aged New York steak with shaved black truffle, brown butter. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

We tried a variety of dishes, all delicious. Some of the highlights:

Market Seafood, poached Maine lobster, daily selection of oysters, split king crab legs, boiled jumbo shrimp, fresh lump crab ceviche, house cocktail sauce, signature mignonette, lemon caviar

Kobe Beef Tataki, soy-cured melon, yuzu, puffed rice

Angel Oak Dry Aged New York (12 oz.), shaved black truffle, brown butter

Dungeness Crab Cake, pan seared, local citrus sabayon, lobster claw

Beef Tartare, potato crisp, black garlic, egg yolk spinach

Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, brown butter puree, pickled cauliflower

For dessert, Pastry Chef Brooke Martin’s Warm Dark Chocolate Molten with malt ganache, almond nougatine, and a bailey’s milkshake; and Cinnamon Apple Cobbler with hazelnut feuilletine crunch and vanilla ice cream, were both amazing. 

Angel Oak's Warm Chocolate Molten, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Warm Chocolate Molten, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak is open for dinner from 5–10 p.m. seven days a week. For more information or to make reservations, visit angeloaksb.com

Angel Oak's Heirloom tomato salad from Elwood farm, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s Heirloom tomato salad from Elwood farm, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak's Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Pan Seared Jumbo Scallops, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak's Halibut Crudo, chili oil, nuoc nam, mint & cilantro, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak’s Halibut Crudo, chili oil, nuoc nam, mint & cilantro, courtesy photo.

Angel Oak's Cinnamon Apple Cobbler, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Angel Oak’s Cinnamon Apple Cobbler, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

—Leslie Dinaberg

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on October 3, 2016.

A Day Away: Palm Springs

The pool at the Hyatt Palm Springs, photo by Hayley Danner.

The pool at the Hyatt Palm Springs, photo by Hayley Danner.

By Leslie Dinaberg

A recent quest to experience “two sides of the desert” has convinced me that the Palm Springs area has something for just about everyone to enjoy.

I began my adventure in the heart of the city at Hyatt Palm Springs (285 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/322-9000, palmsprings.hyatt.com), where I stayed in a plush suite overlooking the golf course, within walking distance of many downtown hot spots. Actually, the Hyatt itself is a hot spot, with a lively and creative bar scene both inside at the SHARE Small Plate Bistro & Wine Lounge and outside at the Hoodoo Outdoor Cocktail Garden, which features live music and fabulous people watching.

Dinner our first evening was at the recently renovated Mr. Lyons (233 E. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/327-1551, mrlyonsps.com), a local institution for more than 70 years. Evoking the Hollywood glamour of yesteryear, this fine dining steakhouse features black and white marble, wood, brass, leather and velvet interiors, along with a menu that carnivores will adore.

Brunch the next day was at the charmingly eclectic Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge (849 N. Palm Canyon Dr., Palm Springs, 760/325-8490, eight4nine.com). Located in the vibrant Uptown Design District in what used to be the Palm Springs post office, the restaurant features loads of white with brilliant pops of color and whimsical decor. Every bite was delicious—we’ll definitely return next time for dinner and to sample the inventive cocktail menu.

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Golf Course, courtesy photo.

Hyatt Regency Indian Wells Golf Course, courtesy photo.

Our stomachs sated, it was time to head to the other side of the desert. Hyatt Regency Indian Wells (44600 Indian Wells Ln., Indian Wells, 760/776-1234, indianwells.regency.hyatt.com) is a mere 25-minute drive, but this luxurious resort is a world away from the bustling downtown area. Located on 45 acres of lush gardens, this beautiful property has seven pools, golf, tennis, a spa, a salon and much more. Our spacious room once again overlooked the golf course, a pleasing site, even for those of us who don’t play.

Instead, I visited the resort’s Agua Serena Spa. It’s a blissful place, and treatments include the use of a relaxation room, eucalyptus steam room, dry sauna, Jacuzzi and a reflection patio, where the sounds of dancing waters wash all of your worries away.

I could have happily stayed in the spa for several more hours, but, instead, I dressed for a fabulous private dinner that included a sampling of many dishes from the Hyatt’s romantic Lantana restaurant. Executive Chef Chris Mitchum talked us through an inspired spread that highlighted local ingredients from Coachella Valley.

Then it was on to Indian Wells Tennis Garden (78-200 Miles Ave., Indian Wells, 760/200-8400, iwtg.net) for an impressive behind-the-scenes tour that included a look inside two center court stadiums, the international pressroom and owner Larry Ellison’s private Nobu Restaurant, which is only open once a year during the annual BNP Paribas Open every spring. We also met vivacious singer Mindi Abair, who headlined that evening’s Desert Lexus Jazz Festival, along with Brian Culbertson and the Boneshakers. Not only is this a great venue for tennis, but it’s a wonderful spot to listen to music under the stars.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tram, courtesy photo.

The Palm Springs Aerial Tram, courtesy photo.

Although I had been to Palm Springs many times in the past, this trip was my first time on Palm Springs Aerial Tramway (1 Tram Way Rd., Palm Springs, 888/515-8726, pstramway.com). What an amazing, majestic capper to the desert experience! I can’t believe I had never done this. Ascending 2.5 miles up into the sky on the world’s largest rotating tramcar is almost an indescribably breathtaking experience as the tram journeys up the sheer cliffs of Chino Canyon. A 10-minute ride from 2,643 ft. at Valley Station up to 8,516 ft. at Mountain Station took us from desert heat into more than 50 miles of snow-covered hiking trails and beautiful terrain. The pristine wilderness of Mt. San Jacinto State Park offers a “third side” of the desert experience and was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

Whether you prefer your getaway action-packed, full of pampering or enjoying nature, there’s a desert destination designed just for you.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Cocktail Corner: Calivore Spirits

Aaron Bergh, the "President & Commander-in-Mischief" of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Aaron Bergh, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

A Spirited Toast to All Things Alcoholic! By Leslie Dinaberg 

I had the opportunity to sample some spirits with Aaron Bergh this week, the “President & Commander-in-Mischief” of Calivore Spirits, a new California born and bred business specializing in regionally made liquor.

Bergh started his venture just a few years ago as a Cal Poly San Luis Obispo student who basically made hooch in his dorm room. Studying agriculture, he started fermenting the fallen fruit from Cal Poly’s orchards and initially made fruit brandy, followed by rum, whiskey and assorted liqueurs. He quickly realized he might have a legitimate business in the making, and got help from a campus group for budding entrepreneurs. He soon won a “Shark Tank” style business plan competition and started working with a craft distillery to produce spirits from his recipes, teaming up with two friends (Raleigh Nejame and Luke Beaton) to help send the resulting Calivore Spirits brand out into the world this year.

So far they’ve got three products—Blonde Rum, Spiced Rum and Big Sur Gin—I sampled all three and this is not just a great young entrepreneurial story, they’re quite tasty.

Intermezzo's "Cali Mai Tai," made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

Intermezzo’s “Cali Mai Tai,” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. Photo by Leslie Dinaberg.

The Calivore Blonde Rum is fermented from US-grown raw sugar cane and rested in chardonnay barrels. The Calivore Spiced Rum is a delicious autumnal mix of orange peel, vanilla, clove, cinnamon, ginger and molasses, also mellowed in wine barrels. The Calivore Big Sur Gin is unusual in that it’s grape-based (a very California influence) with 12 different herbs including juniper, sage, yerba santa, bay, fennel, and elderberry—the idea is to bring you the experience of a Big Sur hike in a bottle.

Wine Cask and Intermezzo Bar & Cafe Beverage Director Matt Pickett whipped us up a wonderfully refreshing “Cali Mai Tai” made with Calivore Blonde and Spiced rums, pistachio orgeat, lime and grenadine. It’s on the specialty cocktail menu and well worth a try, especially with these hot autumn days we’ve been having.  Calivore Spirits are also on the menu at The Bobcat RoomChase Bar & GrillLa Arcada BistroThe Nugget Bar & Grill, Sama Sama KitchenScarlett Begonia and Viva Santa Barbara, with more outlets soon to follow. 

Calivore Spirits are also carried in Whole Foods, with additional distributors coming soon. For more information, go to calivorespirits.com.

Cheers! Click here for more cocktail corner columns.

Leslie Dinaberg

When she’s not busy working as the editor of Santa Barbara SEASONS, Cocktail Corner author Leslie Dinaberg writes magazine articles, newspaper columns and grocery lists. When it comes to cocktails, Leslie considers herself a “goal-oriented drinker.”

Originally published in Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine on September 30, 2016.

Welcome to Jennabunkport

Writer Jenna McCarthy shows off her She Shack, Jennabunkport. Photo by Jenna McCarthy.

Writer Jenna McCarthy shows off her She Shack, Jennabunkport. Photo by Jenna McCarthy.

Writer Jenna McCarthy’s she shack is 140 square feet of home office heaven.

By Leslie Dinaberg

Living—and working—in a 100-year-old farmhouse certainly has its charms, but as her children grew bigger and houseguests came and went, writer Jenna McCarthy (Everything’s Relative, The Parent Trip, Lola Knows a Lot) longed for, as Virginia Woolf once wrote,”a room of one’s own.”

“I longed for a space that was all mine, somewhere I could sneak away to and write in peace, somewhere my kids wouldn’t be barging in every four minutes asking me if I know where their sparkly pink headband is or wanting me to referee such life-or-death arguments as ‘whose turn is it to hold the remote control,'” says McCarthy.

Author Jenna McCarthy is right at home in Jennabunkport, her writer's cottage. Courtesy photo.

Author Jenna McCarthy is right at home in Jennabunkport, her writer’s cottage. Courtesy photo.

When her husband, Joe Coito, suggested she needed a writer’s cabin, McCarthy was online looking at sheds in a heartbeat. Both spouses know their way around a tool belt—they once flipped a house on the TV Show Property Ladderso when McCarthy couldn’t find the perfect ready-made shed, they bought plans online and built it themselves. “We were able to do things like buy a reclaimed door and modify the plans to make it fit. We copied the siding and trim of our house so it would look as if my little shed had been on the property all along.”

Her husband built her a desk, and her daughters helped with painting, sanding and hammering. “My mother’s day present this year was a coat of primer,” she laughs.

The inside is warm, cozy, bright and filled with things that bring joy and inspiration, like the six-foot giant octopus they made from a canvas curtain.

Author Jenna McCarthy's daughter Sasha, with Syd the giant octopus that graces Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

Author Jenna McCarthy’s daughter Sasha, with Syd the giant octopus that graces Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

“We christened her Syd, and she’s one of my favorite pieces in Jennabunkport, the name we chose for my shed, because, yes, we name everything,” says McCarthy.

“I’ve always considered myself fortunate that I get to do what I love to do all day with my familyís enthusiastic support. Now I get to do it in my own little paradise, one that is far more than an office; it’s a 140-square-foot reminder of how lucky and loved I am. And it’s all mine.”

Another view of the interior of Jenna McCarthy's office, Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

Another view of the interior of Jenna McCarthy’s office, Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

This inspirational message graces the wall of author Jenna McCarthy's she shack, Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

This inspirational message graces the wall of author Jenna McCarthy’s she shack, Jennabunkport. Courtesy photo.

This story was originally published in the Fall 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Local Lowdown: Let There Be Light!

LightWorks: Isla Vista Illuminates a Vibrant Community

By Leslie Dinaberg

20150523-191

Photo by Robert Bernstein, courtesy Kim Yasuda

The parks and streets of Isla Vista will pulse with artistic spirit on May 19-21, when LightWorks: Isla Vista comes to life. This exciting series of temporary installations and performances that transform the parks of Isla Vista into illuminated evening spaces, engaging existing underutilized spaces and animating them through visually compelling experiences that contribute to the safety, economic viability and quality of night life and sense of place.

Spearheaded by UCSB Art Professor, Kim Yasuda, an Isla Vista resident who is passionate about using the arts as a positive force for community engagement, LightWorks is part of a long-term community development partnership effort with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission, and other key partnerships that include UCSB Visual and Public Arts; Offices of the 3rd District Supervisor and County Sheriff; Isla Vista Recreation and Parks District; Isla Vista Community Network; UCSB Materials Research Laboratory; Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science, and Technology and the Santa Barbara Foundation.

“This multi-agency arts initiative is the first of its kind for Isla Vista and offers a way to engage the leadership of artists and designers in helping Isla Vista reimagine its future as a creative community,” says Yasuda, who worked hand-in-hand with Santa Barbara County Arts Commission to secure grant funding for the project.

Building on momentum from last spring’s Blunite Memorial Vigil, which lit the UCSB campus and adjacent Isla Vista area with thousands of blue LED lights, Yasuda says, “All of that was really the momentum of post-tragedy healing, artists kind of moving into those spaces and engaging them. Art is always kind of a way to make a space more beautiful. …So art is our catalyst. Artists and art are, to me, catalytic in beginning something beautiful and positive and that’s kind of how…I hope this will work.”

IllumPardallTunnelNovak_May2015

Photo by Marcos Novak, courtesy Kim Yasuda

She continues, “I was thinking about the lighting as being a key feature that artists could tackle. Rather than having enforcement lighting or surveillance lighting or security lighting, we would have engaged lighting in beautiful illuminated spaces.”

“While public lighting and clear sight lines are critical components for safety, we have identified the arts as an integral component to affect the permanent cultural change our community so desperately needs,” writes Alex Rodriguez, board chair of Isla Vista Recreation and Park District.

Initial funding for LightWorks: Isla Vista is based on temporary art installations, but Yasuda envisions this project as the beginning of developing a more permanent exhibit. “What I imagine is that the campus and IV community actually embark on a partnership to host this event annually, so essentially we would have a kind of contemporary art festival. That’s my dream. And also that we would start a collection, an illuminated public works collection of different projects…We would actually be one of the first campus communities that would have a public art collection comprised of light and technology.”

With support from UCSB Materials Research Laboratory—the lab of UCSB Professor Shuji Nakamura, who won a Nobel Prize in physics in 2014 for the invention of efficient blue light-emitting diodes (LED lights)—Isla Vista certainly seems ideally suited to bring the long-term vision of LightWorks to life.

This story originally appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of Santa Barbara Seasons Magazine.

Restoring Ranchito Bendito: An Edwards and Plunkett Classic

Ranchito Bendito artwork by Frank Serrano

Ranchito Bendito artwork by Frank Serrano

ranchito-bendito-montecito-magazine-article_fall-winter2010

This story was originally published in Montecito Magazine in Winter 2010.