The Bridge to Somewhere

Admiring Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library's Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

The Bridge to Somewhere (SB Public Library’s Adult Literacy Programs) was originally published in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

Pivoting, but still paving the way to knowledge, despite budget cuts and so many services shut down during the pandemic, the Santa Barbara Public Library’s Adult Education Programs have found creative ways to provide service during the past year. I recently joined the City Library Advisory Board and was impressed with all of the free programs they still offer, despite their physical doors being closed to the public.

Headed by Devon Cahill, an adult education librarian and former volunteer tutor, the Adult Literacy Program trains volunteers to work one-to-one with learners to help them achieve language literacy and other adult education goals. Prior to the pandemic, the tutor-learner pairs would meet up at the library to work on their language skills together. Since last spring, they’ve switched to 100 percent remote and have about 50 tutor-learner pairs
working together.

Though it’s challenging, Cahill said that pandemic learning has been a success. Grants provided funding for Chromebooks and Wi-Fi hotspots for those that needed them. “Our success rate normally is over 90 percent with learners reaching the literacy goals that they have set,” he said. “During the pandemic, we’re working with fewer learners and tutors, but our success rate has gone almost up to 100 percent—it was at 98 percent last quarter.”

Rachel Altman, a retired grant writer, has been a tutor for the past four years, working the entire time with Cecilia, a native Spanish speaker. Part of Cecilia’s motivation is that she works as a housecleaner and her employers want to be able to leave her written instructions. In addition, she is in her fifties and would like to be able to find less physically demanding work eventually, explained Altman, who was partially motivated to volunteer because her own parents were immigrants who learned English as a second language.

The two women meet for about an hour twice a week (one hour a week is the minimum requirement). They are currently meeting by phone, which is a bit more challenging than in person or on Zoom, but Cecilia is not computer savvy. Rather than read side-by-side, Altman mails materials to Cecilia from the variety of resources the library offers. “She’s very interested in history and current events,” Altman said.

While being apart isn’t ideal, there are some upsides. “I think the biggest advantage to the phone is we talk more … and she needs to practice more conversational English,” said Altman. “It seems like the phone allows for that a little more, rather than just going right to the book.”

Improving her conversational English was also one of the reasons Sebnem Vural joined the program about a year ago. “I have always struggled with my English pronunciation in the past, so I decided that it would be a good idea to obtain an environment where I could hear the language more often,” said the native Turkish speaker. “I’ve had tons of people supporting me and encouraging me all throughout my journey. I can’t explain how helpful
this program was.”

The tutors go through eight hours of initial training, with an emphasis on a learner-centered peer tutor approach, patience, cultural competency, and empathy. The nuts and bolts of how to help a learner achieve their goals depend on the person and what they want from the program. Learners’ goals run the gamut, Cahill explained, from being able to read a story to their children or help with homework to passing a citizenship test or getting a GED or driver’s license to shopping at a retail store, improving digital literacy, or being able to read and write in graduate school in a second language.

Being able to read to kids or talk to their teachers is a common goal, said Cahill. Malena Mackinlay, whose first language is Spanish, joined the program about four months ago. “I’ve always found motivation in wanting to be able to communicate in English, but my one-year-old granddaughter inspired me to continue learning,” she said. “My experience has been amazing. I got the best tutor, and I’m finally able to enjoy each of my lessons.”

Working remotely has been a plus in some cases, Cahill said. He’s been able to record his Zoom tutor trainings, so if someone isn’t able to attend, they can make it up later. In addition, “Sometimes that one hour a week that the tutor and learner meet is the only hour
that that learner has to work on their English because they’re so busy working multiple jobs or caring for kids,” he said. “This really frees up all that extra time it would take for the tutor or the learner to get back and forth to the library.”

He anticipates they will continue to offer a hybrid option for training and tutoring sessions when the pandemic is over.

Library technicians also run weekly English and Spanish conversation groups, which are open to all learners, with no registration required.

To learn more, call (805) 564-5619 (English) or (805) 962-7653 #3 (Spanish), email, or visit

Santa Barbara Independent Cover, March 18, 2021Click here to see this story as it originally appeared in the Santa Barbara Independent on March 18, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: A Green Building Pioneer’s Take on Heat Pumps

Dennis Allen talks about electric-powered homes on the CEC blog.

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

“The nice thing about electric equipment is that it just keeps getting more refined, more efficient, quieter and better,” said current CEC Partnership Council member and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen. He’s certainly an authority on the subject. In addition to building two different state-of-the-art eco-conscious homes for his own family, the founder of green building specialist Allen Construction has been bringing his passion for energy conservation and sustainability to his work building quality, healthy homes for neighbors in Santa Barbara for almost 40 years.

As the costs of heat pumps have gone down, their efficiency has continued to improve. When he was building the LEED platinum certified Victoria Garden Mews project in downtown Santa Barbara in 2011 (where he and his wife Jenny currently reside), “we didn’t even consider a heat pump,” said Dennis. “At that point they were pretty expensive. Now they are much more reasonably priced and they’re much more efficient with what they call the coefficient of performance — it can be up to four times what a forced air gas/heating system would be. All of these things are just coming on big time.”

With all of the new residential projects in California now required to have solar power, Dennis predicts that the demand for heat pumps will continue to rise. “Heat pumps are safer and healthier because you’re not burning natural gas and having the combustion fumes from the gas system, which are usually in the house. (This is why you have to have carbon monoxide detectors in homes to sense whether there is too much carbon monoxide being put out by the natural gas burning appliances.) Those are both safety and health issues. And more recent research is finding that the health issues are more serious than we were all led to believe even five years ago.”

Higher upfront costs are the primary stumbling blocks when it comes to installing electric heating and cooling systems, but, Dennis explained, “if you take into account the operational side, then it has a payback period – and from then on you’re saving money. The upfront costs are still a little bit more expensive, but that’s coming down all the time and pretty soon it’s going to be a no brainer to go all-electric. The ordinances and the state regulations are nudging people in that direction, and there are some incentive programs and so forth that help people go there. Once they go there it keeps helping to drive the cost down and it helps people save money and be healthier. So even with the slightly higher costs today it’s still worth doing.”

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

Flipping the Switch to Electric: CEC’s Board President is Pumped About Her Heat Pump

Barbara Lindemann on going electric with a new heat pump for

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

The desire to cool down her house, rather than heat it, was what inspired CEC Board President Barbara Lindemann to investigate switching to a heat pump.

The air conditioner in her home in the Santa Barbara foothills was on its last legs and the furnace was more than 30 years old. After getting a bid on replacing the gas-powered furnace, Barbara pondered the purchase. “I began to think, well why am I putting in another gas furnace?” she laughed. “Given my commitment to getting off of fossil fuels this doesn’t make any sense at all.”

She asked for advice from a few knowledgeable friends, including green builder and past CEC Board President Dennis Allen and architect Dennis Thompson, who had done a remodel for the Lindemann’s a few years ago. Both of the experts agreed that heat pumps were a good alternative to another gas furnace. “Dennis Thompson pointed out that it’s not going to be long before you’re not allowed to put more gas into homes and new homes won’t be allowed to be built with gas,” said Barbara. “He said it’s really become the new thing.”

In the meantime, Barbara had also been researching getting backup batteries for her 18-year-old solar panel system. Living in a high fire zone with frequent power outages, and knowing that her solar power system would soon need to be replaced, Barbara realized that installing a heat pump would make even more economic sense when she replaced the solar with a system that included storage batteries.

Getting the heat pump “is a matter of looking to the future and taking care of our current needs at the same time,” Barbara said. While the initial upfront cost of the heat pump was slightly more than a new furnace might have been, Barbara said her gas bill has gone down and her electricity use is only up a little, “so we’re already saving money on the heat pump, even though it was more expensive to put in — and I haven’t had a chance to give it a full test with air conditioning yet.”

When summer comes around, Barbara is looking forward to her new heat pump being able to cool her home just as effectively as a standard air conditioner would, but without relying on fossil fuels to keep her family comfortable.

This story was originally published on on February 10, 2021.

Striving for Mōr

Mor Doughnuts, originally appeared in 805 Living Magazine, March 2021.When Santa Barbara resident Tommy Chang was laid off from his job as a marketing project manager due to the pandemic, he began
experimenting with the traditional Korean rice cakes and mochi
that he had enjoyed as a child. He tweaked the recipes to develop
his own creations, Chang says, and his mom really liked his mochi
doughnuts. That was when he knew he was ready to go public.

“She’s a pretty picky eater,” Chang says, “so when she said,
‘Hey why don’t you sell these?’—well, for an Asian mom to say to
her oldest son, ‘you should make doughnuts’ is a big confidence

Chang launched Mōr Doughnuts ( last fall and now offers rotating weekly flavors like Matcha Berry Cheesecake, Black Sesame, and mango Tajín.
Chang hopes to open a storefront eventually, but for now, he sells his four-flavor boxed set for $12 online Friday through Saturday. Preorders can be placed starting each Thursday at noon for pickup at Jang’s Karate Center, his father’s business in downtown Santa Barbara.

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

Ecosmarts: Dressing for the Great Outdoors

Ecosmarts, originally published in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine.With time on her hands during the
pandemic stay-at-home orders, 12-year-old Santa Barbara tween Reese Large
launched Real Life (, a
clothing company devoted to spotlighting
nonprofit groups that support activities
she cares about.

“When choosing nonprofits, I thought about things that I missed doing during the coronavirus pandemic,” says Large. “A lot of that had to do with outdoor activities.”

Her line of sustainable, sweatshop-free hoodies, sweatshirts, and tees supports outdoor-oriented organizations such as the National Park Foundation; the American Eagle Foundation, which protects various birds of prey; and Project Aware, which is dedicated to shark conservation and the elimination of marine litter.

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

An Uncommonly Common Kitchen

An Uncommonly Common Kitchen originally was published in 805 Living Magazine in March 2021.The restaurant industry has become one of the latest to adopt the shared workspace concept, and a prime example is set to open in Santa Barbara later this year. Kitchen 530 (, a communal food-production facility, public market, and culinary incubator in the works at 530 State Street, is what Chris Chiarappa,
one of the project developers, describes as “a bit of a Swiss Army
knife for the food world.”

The brainchild of Chiarappa, a partner in Mesa Burger restaurants, and Diana H. Pereira, founder of Kiva Cowork shared workspace in downtown Santa Barbara, Kitchen 530 will have 10 hot-preparation facilities, 10 cold-preparation facilities, two baking stations, a show kitchen and event space, a retail market, and a public restaurant.
Diners will be able to enjoy food from multiple tenants but order in one place. A full bar and coffee shop are also planned along with special event space for tenant use.

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

Cheetos are Hot!

Cheetos are Hot! originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Photo by Gary Moss.

Cheetos are Hot! originally appeared in the March 2021 issue of 805 Living Magazine. Photo by Gary Moss.

An old snack food, Flamin’ Hot Cheetos, is having a new culinary moment, and local food pros are making good on the trend.

In Port Hueneme, Carnitas El Brother ( dishes up the Hot Cheetos Taco: a handmade Flamin’ Hot Cheetos tortilla filled with carnitas and melted cheese and topped with Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. “It has to be one of the most popular items on our menu,” says co-owner Maria Reyes.

In Santa Barbara and Goleta, Dave’s Dogs Grill ( uses the spicy crisps to enhance menu items like the Hot Cheetos & Cream Cheese hot dog.

Michoacanita Ice Cream Company ( in Oxnard crumbles Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to make a coating for cobs of corn and to top its Flamin’ Eloté, Mexican street corn made with fresh-off-the-cob corn, mayonnaise, melted butter, cheese, and spices.

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

Style Domicile

Purveyor of designer fashions Elyse Walker opens her newest store in Calabasas. Courtesy photo.

A new women’s fashion hub opens at The Commons at Calabasas this month. Set among luxe velvet furnishings with chandeliers and marble accents, the 2,343-square-foot ElyseWalker ( showroom features collections from iconic brands such as Celine, Chloé, Dior, and Givenchy as well as emerging designers like Anna QuanIsabel Marant Étoile, Moussy, Staud, and Ulla Johnson.

The establishment is the third location of the globally recognized brand, which also has stores in Pacific Palisades and Newport Beach.

Founder and CEO Elyse Walker says she has always loved the Calabasas neighborhood and is “excited to introduce the Elyse Walker point-of-view to the community.”


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

A Cut Above

Photo courtesy Messermeister. Originally published in 805 Living, March 2021.

Photo courtesy Messermeister. Originally published in 805 Living, March 2021.

Amid all of the recent cooking at home, upgraded kitchen equipment has become an especially welcome commodity, and no tool eases food preparation more than an exquisite knife. “A high-quality, handcrafted knife is razor sharp, balanced, comfortable to use, and easy to sharpen,” says Kirsten Dressler Wilson, vice president of the Ojai-based
Messermeister ( cutlery company. “It makes it so much easier to chop ingredients fast. The first time you use a great knife, you finally realize how bad your old knives really were.”

Wilson, who runs the family-owned business with her sister Chelcea Dressler-Crowley and their mother Debra Dressler, should know. Her father, a German native, brought his passion for the premium, hand-forged cutlery of his homeland to the U.S. in 1981 and established the Messermeister (translation: knife master) line in 1985. Four decades
later, the brand encompasses a wide array of professional-quality chef knives, kitchen cutlery, and cooking tools, all of which can be purchased online and at selected retailers.

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

Dishing It Out for Charity

Dishing it out for Charity, originally published in 805 Living Magazine, March 2021.In an astounding demonstration of generosity, local
restaurants stepped up to the plate for the fifth annual 805 Living Dishing It Out for Charity challenge in 2020, presented by Montecito Bank & Trust. Despite the pandemic’s
catastrophic impact on their industry, 23 restaurants participated in November and December by donating $2 per
designated dish to the charity of their choosing. Although, slightly fewer eateries participated than in 2019, those who did raised $17,182 for their charities — very nearly as much as 2019’s 27 participants, whose donations totaled $17,303. Special thanks to these community-minded eateries of 2020, who continued to give to others at a time when restaurants needed support more than ever:

BELL’S (, Los Alamos, for No Kid Hungry

BELMOND EL ENCANTO (, Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Bucket Brigade

BIBI JI (, Santa Barbara, for La Casa de la Raza

CELLO RISTORANTE & BAR (, Paso Robles, for Bailliage de Central Coast Confrérie de la Chaîne des Rôtisseurs

CHULO’S CAFE & CANTINA (, Templeton, for R.A.C.E.
Matters SLO

FINNEY’S CRAFTHOUSE & KITCHEN (, Westlake Village, Ventura, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo, for Support for the Kids

Dream Foundation

HELENA AVENUE BAKERY (, Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

THE LARK (, Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

LIDO RESTAURANT & LOUNGE (, Pismo Beach, for the Ocean Conservancy

LITTLE CALF CREAMERY & CAFE (, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village, for Special Olympics Ventura

LOQUITA (, Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

LOS AGAVES RESTAURANT (, Westlake Village, Oxnard, Goleta, and Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Zoo

LUCKY PENNY (, Santa Barbara, for Know Your Rights Camp

MILK & HONEY TAPAS (, Santa Barbara, for Organic Soup Kitchen

OKU RESTAURANT (, Santa Barbara, for CADA (Council on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse)

OLIO PIZZERIA (, Santa Barbara, for Teddy Bear
Cancer Foundation

OPAL RESTAURANT & BAR (, Santa Barbara, for the Arthritis Foundation

PICO RESTAURANT (, Los Alamos, for Save the
Waves Coalition

SANTO MEZCAL (, Santa Barbara, for the Santa Barbara Zoo


WATER’S EDGE RESTAURANT & BAR (, Ventura, for Make-A-Wish Tri-Counties

WOOD RANCH (, Agoura Hills, Moorpark, Camarillo, and Ventura, for the Happy Trails Children’s Foundation.

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