Saturday, May 14, 2011

Small town market rebuilds a community

A man yells to a group of women, the price of eggs dropped since last week and the parsley is going fast. ‘What are you taking for the honey?’ a stout man asks the slender woman behind a yellow covered table.
Second street’s air smells of fresh flora and dried herbs, every inch creating a new scent. The spices and sweetness melt into one as the warm spring sun heats up the Claremont Artisan Market.Held every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., the market is one of the city’s treasured and well known gems. Nestled in the center of the shops and well-loved restaurants, locals, college students, church strollers and weekend wanderers gather to take eating and living back to the basics.

In the consumerism world we live in, it is hard to escape technology’s spin on our dietary needs. It is places like local markets where a person can really reevaluate themselves and become equipped with the essentials of life. Numerous tents offer a variety of calming and beneficial items. From old books and local honey to fresh seafood and produce, any individual can find the right fit to the vacant slot in their soul.

“ It is the people that you meet that makes these markets special,” said Ida Rios from Aunt Willies Apiary. “ We take your life and see what you need to fill it, we help you to become happy, revived and full again.”

Petite children play between rows of basil and baskets of berries in their spring best of light flowered dresses and cool denim. Couples walk proudly back to their cars with strawberries as big as my palm and a bouquet of rustic turnips and radishes. The quaint downtown walkways have bloomed into an organic haven.

“My aunt has been selling her berries for over 30 years and the people
whose lives are affected by it are special,” said Sarah Cookson of Pudwill berry farms.

For many like Cookson, local markets are what save families.

“I have seen my family’s despair over bills and piled debt, but the individuals who buy our product to change their lives end up changing ours and that is what makes this worth while,” said Cookson.

To have a life of calmness and health, I have to take care of myself. Society brings us up to think of life as moments that must be met quick with demand and we forget to rel
ax and enjoy a well-grown and cooked meal. It is something as simple as food that can change a mood.

“When it is local you know it is good,” Rios said. “We cannot afford to put our lives in the hands of big industry food companies. We were meant to eat from what the earth provides and I think everyone is starting to see that.”

It is not only the organic products and fresh produce that draws people in to the market, but the way it holds up to competitors.

“Throughout the year we grow different vegetables and we ask around to see how our organics compare to restaurants and stores,” said Stephanie Massow of Weisar family farms selling root plants, potatoes and radishes, at the market. “When it comes down to, it organic always prevails.”

Many people forget that not all vegetables and fruits are grown year round
. At the grocery store, one can buy strawberries year round, imported from halfway around the world and pumped full of additives to keep it red and juicy. Buying produce seasonal is not only less expensive, it is safer, healthier and better for the environment. The gas used between airline and ground shipping is not aiding our carbon footprint. Local markets that utilize the regions farms can greatly reduce bio fumes, and help the earth that we eat from.

“We use natural vinegar when we grow our berries, it is safe and the fruit tastes better,” Cookson said. “Go and buy a carrot from a local store and then buy an organ one, there is a huge difference not only in size, but taste. Organic is how we are meant to live.”

Our bodies don’t thrive on high fructose corn syrup, or yearn for MSG to keep our skin staying soft. Yet, these are the things placed in our food to make it appear large, plump, and edible.

“Locally grown foods are just smart. A person not need medicine to rid allergies, pain, disease and much more, just the right food choices,” said Rios. “This market is a way for the community to help itself from within.”

Mix mud with steam and you get a concoction for wellness

Steam rises from the springs mineral baths making a hazy mist cover the grounds. Native Americans once frequented the mixture of cool and hot liquids which flowed from the Temescal Valley. For years, hundreds have flocked to these mineral and sulfurous waters that magically heal the sick and reverse the effects of time in the body. My body slowly sinks into the water. The heat, shocking at first, quickly makes my limbs go limp. My eyes close and I inhale.

Glen Ivy hot spring spa in Corona, Calif., takes relaxation to a higher level. Therapeutic mud baths rejuvenate the skin, making it glow with a healthy shine. With rooms outdoors in the wooden landscape, to grottos deep in underground caverns, there is a connection to nature that brings the body back to balance.

A recent Mayo Clinic study found that soaking in a hot bath can give a person many of the health benefits of exercising without the strain.

Hot water increases the heart rate while lowering blood pressure unlike exercise, which raises it. The heat also improves joint mobility, eliminates toxins in the body and improves sleep. The body has an overall positive response to heat, and with the combination of hot water with the bodies already internal thermal regulation, the benefits in mental and physical health is endless.

“I’m a single mom who has no time to really focus on me with my 7-year-old child and a full work schedule,” said Deanna Higgins of Alta Loma. “I went here for the first time over a year ago and now make it a routine stop.”

Higgins works full-time as a dental hygienist and volunteers frequently at her daughter’s school. The hot springs allows her to get away without missing anything in her family’s life. Because the spa is open from 7:30 a.m.- 6:00 p.m. she can get in a quick morning of rejuvenation and still pick up her daughter from school.

“The springs really bring me back to life, I am quick to neglect my own needs but I need to be in the best shape and health to take care of my home,” Higgins said.

As a college student I never really turned towards spas for relaxation or a way to heal my body. The aromatic smells waft through the different rooms, the atmosphere itself calm and still. Although the spa can get busy, it never feels overwhelming.

“I have noticed weekends get busy but it is the only time I can come, I still can get in a message and soak, that is all I need,” said Della Kuminkoski of Rancho Cucamonga.
Kuminkoski visits once a month with her daughter, both work full time and have found the spa to give them the energy back that they pour into the work week.

“ I am sure people ask, ‘how can a message really help you?’,” said Heather Kuminkoski. “ I tell them try it, and if you do not get your life back in order then I’ll pay you the difference. I have not spent a dime.”

I entered the spa early in the morning. The sun had just risen above the hills surrounding Corona, and my mind was teaming with projects and tasks to be completed at work. A few hours here and my mind is clear, and my body ready to tackle the week.

The spa offers more than just mud baths, saunas and massages: it is a central hub for numerous types of yoga, pilates and tai chi classes. The events create a balanced renewal from within and re-creates a healthy relationship with food and wellness. The spa does not only heal the body but it aids visitors in reconfiguring how to take care of themselves in all aspects of life.

“I used to be very active when I was younger but I have let life lead me for over a decade now, but I’m taking back the reigns,” Higgins said. “ Only I can take care of me, I’m just glad there is a local haven to relearn creative health and options.”

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Setting free your subconscious

A warm spring breeze picked up the dust covering the rocky creek bed. In the spring, Sapphire Trails is open for exploration with the aid of log bridges and the drama of solid rock faces. climbing here is a feat not accomplishable during the winter storms. One foot and then the next, my eyes travel to my group just ahead on the trail but it seems like miles between us. The worn log shifts and catches itself as I balance my weight accordingly. A leap for the sand and I am across. The quest up rugged terrain begins.

Located just above the quite foothill suburb of Alta Loma, this path provides locals and
travelers here a place to challenge themselves in nature. With rocky creek beds that lead into the San Gabriel Mountain Range, this hike is both a workout and a place to stop, breath, and wonder at the nature around. From the bottom to the top, one can overlook the gorgeous rounding hills as far down as Pasadena and glance at the city of Los Angeles on the horizon.

As a Southern California local, my choices for stress relievers are vast. A person can travel to crisp mountainous hills and relaxing beach within the same day. While basking in the warm sun and ocean breeze is an obvious reliving activity, hiking the mountain face can do exactly the same.

“When I am up there in the canyon, I feel like I am in a different wold,” said Aisha Gonzales of Glendora.

With a full work load and heavy college courses, Gonzales turns to nature and its challenging yet peaceful landscape to admonish her worries. As an intern for Arcadias
’ natural wildlife rangers, Gonzales finds herself frequently in the one place where she can relax.

“ The quiet actually helps me to clear my mind, I find myself hiking as far up as possible to get away from everything and just be,” said Gonzales.

The various sized of rock part beneath my feet as I scale the steep slope. From pebbles to boulders, every yard is teaming with obstacles to overcome. Hiking takes the mind from the world below; all that holds school, work, relationships, etc.The hike forces the hiker to focus on the path, determine the route, and overcome the obstacles.

“Living where I do, I find it almost hard not to throw everything aside
on a warm clear day and head to the trails,” said Victoria Castaneda of Upland. “ Being as busy as we are, I think it is refreshing to be able to look at life atop a hill and stream through my thoughts.”

Atop the hill it is as if life has taken a pause. Looking below on everything that I hold important, that I strive to succeed in and make work is nestled in the vast community beneath my feat. The breeze whips around me as I take a moment to just be. My muscles tighten and relax as I rest from maneuvering up the mountain. As a hiker, it is the air rushing in my lungs and around my body, the firmness in my muscles and the earth beside. It is like body and nature collide and in it is a release.

The Mayo Clinic runs numerous articles addressing the physical and mental benefits of hiking including a list of the top ten ways that hiking is healthy. A few of the main points were: weight loss increased stamina, strengthened heart and arteries, and increased longevity. The site stated that hiking has been proven to, “ ease the gloominess of depression and reduce the tension associated with anxiety and promote relaxation.”

“Nature is exercise for me, I can not help but want to go on a run or a hike when the day is bright. Hiking for me is life,” said Gonzalez.

Therapy through espresso

It provides just the perfect deep and comfortable chair for book reading. An atmosphere that contains dim lighting and smooth conversation, where exotic smells waft through the air and your pallet can travel from Ethiopia to Brazil and then finish in Italy.

In one small building, the arts of multitasking and culinary combinations take place all to the sounds of light music. It is these mini-museums of art and eclectic tastes that sprinkle the world with authentic eateries. A few local ones are Classing Coffee and Coffee Klatch, both bringing top notch service and delectable drinks.

Typically catering too “beatnicks” and students, coffee shops around the world have been stirring up remedies for every person for hundreds of years. Where Starbucks and other mainstream coffee shops provide people with a consistent on-the-go cup of coffee, it is the private cafes that are the real gems. Whether traveling or in an area of expertise, I always flock to these private beauties to satisfy my thirst for this cherished liquid.

Classic Coffee in Glendora, Calif., brings the art of coffee to community gatherings. Known for its open seating for college or bible study groups, this local favorite provides great service with a personal touch.

“The baristas here know how to handle the coffee more than just well,” said general manager Jonathan Lambert. “We cover weeks of training to make sure they know how to make each drink top notch, and they are great at connecting with every face that comes in.”

It began as a child, waking up to the sound of my fathers coffee pot popping and working to get every last drop out of the worn machine. The aroma filled the kitchen streaming with morning light. I would climb up to the wooden table to sit and read the Times with my father. A heritage riddled with deep European culture kept rich Italian espresso and exotic coffees around the house since birth, but it was the tradition that brought me true relaxation.

The quant building set in the heart of the downtown shops is decorated with cherry wood paneling set below olive and gold hues. The ambiance reminds me of a Seattle based coffee shop with industrial rafters and lighting above and bar seating along the large front window. While working behind the bar, the baristas engage in conversation over the European espresso machine. The bakery treats compliment the drinks perfectly; from fresh lemon bars to rich cheesecakes one cannot go wrong.

“We have this fun tea of the month to compliment our regular of the month and many other little things to keep customers excited to come in,” Lambert said.

The cafe is known for the many games that can be checked out and used at their official game nights and tournaments for families or students looking to break away from the books. Classics lattes and mix drinks are creamy and burst with flavor when one dips their straw into this delicious drink. But when it comes to coffee, a place that dips into traditional pour-over brews satisfies the connoisseur’s pallet.

To the east of this Glendora favorite, lies an old winery housing delectable dark roasts of its own. Coffee Klatch in Rancho Cucamonga has created a safe haven deriving from many artistic outlets to take its visitors in to a whole new world. The old winery features pour out of the coffee shop itself. From large wooden beams that craft the rafters above, to the original doors and historical architect throughout.

“It is a little piece of history here, people come to enjoy it as well as create their own living memories,” said Klatch manager Betsy Harlan.

Local artists feature their works across the walls, accenting the oranges and yellows that pull from the rooms decor. Writers gather to channel creative pieces in their journals as they sip on savory dark roasts. Harlan is always looking for poets and writers to showcase their work, as well as participate in weekly readings.

“I have a passion for writing and those who can cultivate that art-form, I people to know they can use that talent here as well, we are not just about music and bands,” said Harlan.

This hidden jewel is what the baristas say a coffee shop should give to people; art, comfortable chairs, a place to express themselves and music. The scene is always inviting, whether it is full to its brim on the nights and weekends to when it is calm in the early afternoons. The cafe screams realism and in that myself and others find relaxation.

“There are no frills here, we are down to earth; from our coffee to our musical and artistic values,” said Harlan.
A regular who goes by Joe says he passes up Starbucks across the street from his house daily to make it to Klatch. For him it is a piece of “home” where the drinks are real and the people are too.

“Klatch is the ‘third place’ for most of our regulars, if they are not at home or work they are with us,” said Harlan.

The smells of espresso hits my nose immediately after I heave open the door. A band plays to its fans who are huddled around the creatively decorated corner, showcasing art and photography from the city. The open bar is streaked with the grain from the wood and wear from regulars elbows as they lean and share their stories with the baristas.

The Klatch employees use the saying, “we do not serve just coffee, it is exceptional.” When coffee goers are looking for a traditional cup, wander off the beaten path and find a hole in the wall, if you can smell the sweet and strong smells of espresso you are off to a good start.

Local music you can afford

The music pounds behind heavy red wooden doors. A neon wristband clasps tight to my arm and the venue doors opens to let out waves of lyrical rhythms. People line the brick wall decorated with the works of local artists view of the world. An intimate room filled with over fifty fans and music enthusiasts surround the small stage. A grungy guitarist steps close the mic.

“Let’s hope we don’t disturb the neighbors,” he said with a smile. Signaling to the rest of his crew his hand flies down and the music starts again.

The Wire in Upland, Calif., houses performers from indie folk to metal rock. Bands from surrounding states and even those from afar make their appearance at this favorite local hot spot. The set is known for an intimate show at an affordable price, with only $10-15 a ticket it is no wonder the house is packed by the time of the headliner each night.

The scene is straight out of an underground New York City club. With the small stage being, bands have to be aware of how to precisely manage their set. If not careful, the stage can become overcrowded and hard for the performers to entertain a show.

“Unless you have some serious money to invest in the proper sound equipment, a small venue is where you can get the best performance for the right price for everyone,” said Beau Trembly of Temecula. Trembly and his band perform at the wire as often as they can, saying it is the old town feel and intimate set that keeps their fan base rising.

“Although the smaller stage tends to be cramped and the sound is far from what you would hear at the El Rey, it is the perfect way for a band to connect with their fans,” Trembly said.

Although wedged between downtown buildings, the Wire maintains a large crowd on performance nights, some regulars and others visiting from areas far from Upland.

“The Wire has a homey feel to it, like a coffee house, only no coffee,” said Staphon Arnold of Azusa. “We all come here for one thing, and that is to hear a band rock their hearts out. Everyone else is here to appreciate the music, not for a quick cup of joe.”

While this location is affordable, it also is a place for musicians to express their creativity and arrangements. Many of the larger bands in the media today got their big break visiting smaller sites to get their start. This is the driving force behind up and coming performers.

“As a composer I must be creative all the time, it is a reaction of emotions and I feel like I can express them and refine them in a smaller venue,” said Greg Johnson of Ontario.

In the digital world we live in today, it has become easier for musicians to hide behind talent through MP3’s and editing programs.

“The live show is he best way to test the quality of a performer, if they can pull it off in a small venue, they can pull it off anywhere,” said Trembly. “You cannot hide behind the production of auto-tune in a small space.”

Today, fans look for more than just music at an entertainment show. The smaller venues make it easier for people and bands to walk away with something more than just a few of their favorite songs. People want bands that are up close. They want to connect with the music they are hearing. The Wire can gives that to the crowds that flock there, it is not about a dollar sign, it is about the show and what people can take away.

“Music is not just about musicians playing and fans listening, it is about sharing an experience,” Trembly said. “It brings us all down to a more human level.”

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Serving up '60s diner hospitality

A cool spring breeze races across the covered patio with white wooden furniture. The San Gabriel mountain range is a scenic background of rolling green hills speckled with scattered mansions that look like toys from my seat. The waitress raises her voice as a speaker releases the sounds of the control tower signaling the pilot to land. The plane rushes on to the runway and a cup of steaming coffee is set on the table. It is time for breakfast and a show.

Norms diner located in La Verne’s Bracket Airport is a scene straight out of the early ’50s. A waitress in a checkered pink apron approaches the table with a friendly smile.

“OK my love bugs, how can I help you?” she says. The music of Motown fills the rafters of the airfields famous diner as the sounds of the kitchen and conversations of guests collide between the tables and booths. As each party walks in the waitress’ call them in by name, even new comers are secured with a warm welcome like scene out of the beloved show Cheers.

“People who know Norms know it is family owned, and they know that I always know my customers,” owner Cathy Touche said.

Everything on the menu might as well be grandma’s cooking; from pork chops and mashed potatoes to biscuits and gravy with a side of grits and eggs sunny side up, there is nothing but comfort to indulge on. Touche grew up loving the restaurant business. Her father owned Norms and provided the locals with a place to get away from home and have a homemade meal with a little entertainment from the airfield.

“I provide everyone with great food, a majestic view, half-fast service, and where else can you eat on a runway?” Touche said.

Touche can be seen scuttling about the restaurant badgering pilots as they come in for a coffee before flight, catching up with regulars, or sliding into new comers booths to welcome them and give them a taste of her hospitality.

It is places like Norms that make many people, including myself, relaxed and pleased with the little things in life. A good diner can do just that, it provides a friendly atmosphere where one is taken back in time to simpler days, when a cup of coffee, a homemade meal, and good conversation was the heart of life. The restaurants famous Special Breakfast sandwich is an open faced biscuit with a scrambled egg, bacon and gravy and it is under six dollars. Most of the menu runs under ten dollars, with a few of the sandwiches and dinner platers running a little higher.

“I love coming in here every day to work because I know I am giving people the break they need to catch their breath,” waitress Margo Wainwright said. “The runway and atmosphere makes me feel right out of an old movie, I think that is why people love it so much.”

The MayoClinic posted an article regarding the top environments to dine and de-stress in, one of which was home-style diners. It is evident that Norms leaves visitors with more than a full stomach. The waitress’s are often seen dishing out conversation with their guests, making sure that their life is going as good as the food.

“I love coming to eat here, it is like a therapy session with my best friend, Norms always gets my mind off of my stressful life,” La Verne resident Lisa Green said.

For me, eating fast food was never been something I made a habit of doing often. But, Norms is far from eating out, everything is made from scratch and tastes like something my mom would whip up for me. The food and atmosphere is the perfect pick me up to long week.

“I wasn’t raised on fast food so I don’t make it. All you will get here is good home cooking and someone who will listen. I think that is all we need during these hard times,” said Touche.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Scaling the walls of mental strength

The rope tightens and squeaks with the shift of weight. Below, shouts echo through his ringing ears. One more push and he is to the top. Chalk dust settles on his lip, trembling his limbs begin to give way to gravities unforgiving pull. With one swift lunge his fingers reach for the florescent knob and slips. A jolting fall and the rope snaps. For Michael Blair, this climb has come to an end.

Hangar 18 off of Stowell Street in Upland California is known for testing not only physical strength but mental strength as well. Set in a renovated airplane hangar south of the city’s downtown area, this old venue has been completely gutted and transformed into a rock climbers El Dorado.

Rock climbing is a sport in which participants climb up or across natural or artificial rock faces in order to reach the summit of the foundation. The mental and physical demand aids in teaching climber’s strength, endurance, agility and balance in the event. But for me, climbing is a mental release, it keeps my limbs and mind focused on the climb so that I may in my own way de-stress. With a day pass for adults only $16 and $11 for children, there is no excuse to neglect this engaging activity.

While many hear rock climbing and think of ropes, gear, and a few people scaling a mountain, there are numerous ways to tackle this intense sport.

“I got into rock climbing because one of my close friends was always raving about it. He finally convinced me to go one day even though I was skeptical and a little nervous,” said Michael Blair of Azusa California. “ But, after the first climb, I started really enjoying the challenge and I had to have more.”

The large echoing hangar is filled with the shouts and conversation of the climbers within. The walls are covered with multicolored trails and pathways that each climber may choose to take. Bouldering walls scale the north end, this is where climbers may climb short, low routes without the use of a safety rope. The true test of physical strength is evident when the climbers run at the rock face and scale it as if they are spiderman.

The south wall holds the aid and traditional climbing paths where climbers partner with gear and employee aid to scale the tough ascend. My weight shifts as I begin to climb the wall. My hands and feet trace the paths of the purple terrain, each knob a test of my inner strength. The rope tightens as the staff member pulls and applies weight to keep me suspended in the air. It is not a race to the top, decision and acute hand placement is keen. One foot and then the other. The top is near. My senses heighten, everything seems like it is in slow motion. I leap for the last purple piece and I catch it. I slap the top of the roof and begin ascending down.

Because rock climbing is a physical sport, jumping straight into advanced climbing is not recommended. Each path is geared to ease one into the climb and once you do the first, the thrill and addiction will keep you coming back. I find myself constantly thinking about a climb, how I might approach it differently, which I will do next. Each visit I apply my meditations and tackle the rock again.

“It is fun, challenging, and a different kind of sport. Anyone can do it and it’s great for just having a good time climbing or pushing yourself in a workout,” Nick Robles of Ontario said.

Robles has been climbing for more than five years. As a cancer survivor, he takes every opportunity to use his body in exercise and physical adventure.

“Rock climbing is a great workout because it pushes your body to overcome what it’s not used to,” Robles said. “ I find myself pushing my strength past what I think it can do, I find power in the climb.”

According to the Mayo Clinic, rock climbing is not only beneficial for weight control, cholesterol, and blood pressure, but can also relieve stress. The climb enhances muscular tension and builds strength and endurance while also enhancing problem solving and memory.

“Climbing helps me unwind after a long day and also keeps me in the best shape,” Blair said. “Even on the craziest of days, climbing helps me to take my mind off of my life.” or 909-931-5991

Sunday, April 3, 2011

European lifestyles offer relaxation

Swishing in a circle the burgundy liquid sends a dry and smoky aroma wafting out of the distinguished glass. The soft chatter of evening conversation blends with the acoustic guitar’s melodies around the stretched granite counter. Though every inch of the enclosed space is teaming with connoisseurs, the mood is calm. The Wine Tailor in Rancho Cucamonga is a local safe haven known for tasting and relaxation.

Many individuals throughout the globe rate wine based off of its qualities and properties of composition. They follow the “five S” steps; see, swirl, sniff, sip, and savor. But, for those like myself, wine is not only something that should be rated or practiced, but respected and used in enjoying everyday life.

Coming from a large European family, I have been surrounded by wine, or vino, since my early childhood. To me, it symbolizes reunion, something for celebration and communion within intimate circles. While in the states, many have come to view alcohol in general as a “release” something to liven up the occasion. In Europe, it is quite the opposite. Wine is a social drink, something the land prides over and hold with the highest regard. Wine to them is life.

The Wine Tailor captures the essence of European culture and winery. Warm rich colorings paint the walls and cherry wooden tables sit comfortably about the room. The south and east walls were converted into wine racks resembling an old cellar. Wine bottles from the winery itself as well as imports decorate the racks in deep earth toned hues.

“People often say that it is very comfortable when they visit us, I like that we can give that to the community,” said co-owner Angela Lineberger.

Lineberger is often seen taking customers on tours of the facilities fermenting rooms. The large stainless steel vessels can be seen through glass windows just behind the bar area. While next door, an aging room with dozens of wooden barrels sits nestled on custom racks containing the wineries house blends.

“Wine itself is very relaxing, it is something that has to be sipped and enjoyed, it helps us sit back and just breath,” said Lineberger.

For me, wine is about the experience and comfort I can get from adding it to anything; a good book, an outing with friend. or a nice dinner.

An elderly gentlemen sits in the leather chair just behind the guitarist contently reading a novel. Throughout the intimate venue, old friends converse by the bar while couples sip elegantly beside the fire. Unlike most bars, the Wine Tailor provides a relaxing atmosphere as oppose to loud clamor and music. It is a place to unwind after a long work day or have a peaceful weekend afternoon.

“I am a wine connoisseur and I love the atmosphere I can provide for others who enjoy the same as I do,” said bartender Shar Martin. “I enjoy being able to make people who come in here unhappy leave with a smile on their face.”

Martin whisks along the bar smiling in her wine decorated apron. As she entertains the five dollar tasting extravaganza, a list of the days featured wines from white to red on the chalk board act as a guide for the guests.

“I am a wine member here and the five dollar tastings is what really makes the outings so enjoyable,” said Mary Thomas of Upland. “ It is just the right amount of wine and it allows for new and exciting finds.”

There are thousands of different types, tastes, and colors of wine to discover. All one has to do is find a local winery and start your own adventure.

“Wine is a journey, once you find your blend it is time to find another.” said Lineberger. “Like a good book, it can take you back and away from your worries and struggles, it grounds the soul.”

Spinning for a healthier tomorrow

As Lance Armstrong cycles throughout numerous countries and hillsides for the fight against cancer, many Americans are also fighting the battle of the bulge through cycling, but with a few modifications.

When you enter the Pedal Spin studio in Rancho Cucamonga it appears to be a simple gym room: wooden floors, bright wall colors, mirrors throughout the room, and small cubbies. But, when the lights dim a whole different scene unfolds.

Cyndi Lauper’s familiar song, “Girl’s Just Want to Have Fun” takes over the sound system and multicolored lights begin to flash on the floor. I am on a bicycle but it feels more like a club. The instructor, a petite woman in a bright shirt with the word “spinaholic” across it faces the group of exercise enthusiasts. Some stragglers still enter the room, a little groggy in the early morning, to join the group of “professional” spinners and new comers. Many are dressed in cycle gear, others in everyday running outfits, but they are all here for the same reason, to get their hearts beating to the music.

Spin classes have become a craze throughout America. From large gyms in New York city lofts to a dozen bikes in a brick covered building in California, thousands are drawn to this form of exercise.

The Mayo Clinic confirms that regular high intensity cardio exercising like spinning will improve moods, sleep and manage chronic disease. Spin has joined yoga on the platform of stress relieving exercise. WebMD’s Health and Fitness Journal rated spin classes in the top twenty for stress relief and optimal health.

A mix of music keeps the ride upbeat.

When I spin, which I do two to three times a week, it is like I am not even working out at all. The song selection throughout the hour ride makes time fly by, I barely realize I have ridden over five miles at the end of each session. Each song is pared perfectly with the intensity of each resistance level, I feel like there is background music to my life as I ride. Many people spin because of the music selection, each instructor has their own mix to mask the intensity of the workout.

“ I can sum this up by just saying that it is healthy, smart and it keeps your heart pumpin’,” said spin instructor Cheryl Gordon of Rancho Cucamonga.

Gordon calls out each rider by name during her class, encouraging them through the class. Most of the attendees view her as more of a friend than an instructor. “Don’t touch that resistance, push through guys, come on,” yells Gordon whose passion is to make every person inspired, motivated and challenged through her workout.

My heart is beating through my chest as body heat consumes my whole self. I sing along to Freddie Mercury as my legs quicken to keep up with the pace of "Bohemian Rhapsody". To my right, a pregnant woman paces to the slow off beats while to my left, a man in spandex races to his finish line. There is no exact “type” of individual who spins. It is a place to commune together, and when you visit you will see everyone helps each other out. It is as if pedal spin is more of a therapeutic center than a workout room.

“ You always need to change up your routine for optimal health and fitness, I started to spin to do that for me,” said Denice Higgins of Alta Loma.

Higgins has suffered from a heart condition since her early 20s and has found it hard to really exercise in any medium without making the rhythms of her heart out of sync.

“After six months of spinning I now use it as my primary workout,” Higgins said. “My heart condition is a bit hard to work with at times but spin allows me to control my own intensity without loosing momentum. It is a great stress reliever, if you feel worried or frustrated just push it harder during a great song, I sing a lot of the time,” she added.

Many of the studios like pedal spin allow the first ride free to new comers. While also having many discounted packages for students and seniors, the studio is willing to work with any type of income to give people the workout they need.

I find myself smiling despite the burning feeling in my legs and the sweat on my brow. It is as if the songs bring back memories and make the workout more fun than most. It leaves me rejuvenated and fresh, ready to tackle the rest of my school year and the hardships that may lay ahead.

“ This is my fountain of youth,” Gordon said. “I eat right and exercise, this is what keeps me going. I am turning forty-one soon and I have never felt more alive.”

Friday, March 18, 2011

Slipping into jazz

A baby grand takes his place at the raven polished Steinway. Four men in mismatched suits grab their instruments of choice for the set. The worn brass reflects in the light as a collection of saxophone, trumpet and trombones raise up to begin. The singer, a short lass with curls grabs her mic and yells to the crowd. A lone drum beat, sturdy and loud starts up and the pianos syncopation chimes in. A five, six, seven, eight, and the evening’s festivities take over the room.

For me, jazz with its swinging notes and improvising, keeps my heart in the music. It is a type of outlet that can take any emotion and flip it around. The soul and funk of the rhythms is a perfect healing concoction, and what better way to ease out of the sour mood then through jazz.

The Hip Kitty jazz and fondue lounge in Claremont, Calif., is a hot spot where various music styles are welcomed. Nestled in the south-end of the village Packing House, this lounge is the cat’s meow when it comes to variety jazz and smooth night life. The dimly lit entrance and red satin drapes resemble an underground jazz lounge from the 1920s’.

Throughout the venue, smells of chocolates and wine waft in and out of the brightly covered tables. The waitress glides between parties as her flapper beads swish over her delicate dress. It is the small details that can really send someone back through time.

“ I come for this intricate ambiance, the upbeat live music, and the mood of the place as a whole,” Chad Easter of Upland said. “ It is a way to get away from the stress at the fire station, I like to be taken back every once in awhile, the Kitty does that for me.”

Many of the refugees who seek sanctuary at the lounge often remove themselves from the bustle of the inner quarters and move to the outside patio. Lights drape across vine-covered awnings and roman couches surround warm glass fire pits. Although outside, the sounds of the smooth and big-band swing can be heard still and resembles a party scene out of “The Great Gatsby.”

“I see this place as an upscale location, clientele, and atmosphere, not to mention the bar tenders know how to make a drink,” Robbie Rugg from La Verne said.

A swing band rolls on to the stage and the soft sounds of brass wield to the upbeat jams. Rugg grabs his partner and heads to the floor where they perform like two falling leaves, intertwining and swinging about. The raspy voices on the stage fill the room. A group of businessmen and women in suits raise their glasses, while a few college students in their worn jeans and band t-shirts huddle together and hum along with their ale. A table dedicated to a bachelorette party laugh as they mimic the lyrical tune and the table to the right houses a couple college professors who head to the bar to refill their amber glasses.

“ I need something like this to get away from grad school and my business, I have always used music for that and when it is live, it is more of a high,” Rugg said.

A worn wooden bar grounds the chaos of the music in the center of the eclectic room. My eyes are captured by the hand-blown glass lit up within the liquored shelves as multicolored lamps above surround the room. Abstract city paintings and earth tones cover the walls, while on stage, the musicians continue to play rhythms and lyrics that keep the crowd engaged. The bartender mixes drinks with ease, a glass flips right and the liquor goes left and in front of his eyes both collide into a sweetened mixture.

“ At the end of my work week I come here to listen to these musicians, I let them take my worries away with a tuned clarinet and a thick, booming stand up bass,” said Kyle Lawrence of Ontario.

With free admission anyone may come and listen to the music of the night. Another band is rolling in, members quickly set up to close out the evenings festivities. A swanky man in a suit runs in front of the mic.

“Check one, two, welcome, welcome,” he says. “We are here to take you fine ladies and gentlemen back, join us in the music.” The brass booms and they are off again.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Inhale an age old remedy

The glass door opens to a spacious room toned with hues of red and gold. The warm wooden floor reflects orbs of dim lights scattered about. Soft chatter fills the spaces of air as I kick off my shoes and add to the mountain already piled at the entrance. I step on to the smooth black mat, and breathing in it begins.

Yoga, it is an ancient art form known for meditation that dates back as early as 3300 BC. But for health nuts, especially in California, it is seen as a means of exercise. But, within this ceremony of breath and strained poses there is a sanctuary that many in these difficult times seek.

Yoga, for me, is a rebuilding of energy, finding that which is lost in the chaos of the workweek. As many health experts are beginning to notice, most individuals in this economic downturn are looking for the same. The Mayo Clinic posted an article stating that chronic stress can lead to a variety of health and emotional problems. The article suggests yoga as a way to lower this risk as well as boost overall health benefits; increased fitness and weight loss. While yoga brings together mental and physical disciplines, it is proven to leave the mind less riddled with problematic tension.

Kaiser Permanente has even backed behind the yoga industry claiming it aids in lowering high blood pressure, helps asthmatics breath easier and improves fatigue within individuals suffering from multiple sclerosis.

“People come to yoga to release stress, they rely on the practice as a form of escape,” said Rancho Cucamonga yoga and wellness nutritionist Doug Moss. “I know it is one of the major ways I am making it through this recession.”

Moss explained that the human body holds most of its tension in the lower back and jaw, and through yoga, one is forced to relax those areas.

“I remind my group about every few minutes to relax the jaw, you would be surprised at how much just doing that can help.” Moss said.

The room is darkened, and files with a quick warm air as the smell of faint spices waft through the room. I hear the instructions, “Urdhva Hastasana” and my arms raise upward and rest just in front of my heart. With slow rhythmic motions my body makes a dance across the now sturdy mat. Small beads of water form at my brow like a crown and I make a stance reflecting that of a poised ballerina. My hands rooted in the earth and my crown raised to the sky. It is through these motions that I find my grounding in the calamities of a full school and work load.

With many firm believers in yoga, the focus on breath is the craze that can get everyone hooked on this practice. “Exhale all of your worries and inhale all of your aspirations,” said Master instructor Gina Decker. “It is what gets me through the day.”

There are studios throughout each city, some almost blocks away. Many of them, like Green Tara Yoga in Upland have discounts for students. A special way that this particular studio aids the community is by actually setting up special package for those suffering during the times. On Sunday’s the studio holds a donation class where people pay what they can, even if it is only a few cents.

“We do not want anyone to miss out, we will try and make it anyway possible for people to come here and rejuvenate,” Moss said. “There are options for everyone.”

The diverse poses within the actual session is what makes the mind veer away from any stress related material. As the body heats up, the warmth is calming and can have a positive effect on the mind. When warmed up and at the peak of my practice, I find that my body begins to sway and take its own positions as to almost unwind itself.

“You have to be able to have a place to release and have solace for an hour,” said Moss.

Resting in child pose, my rushed breathes from the hours workout cool to a soft hum. My eyes open to the warm lights that begin to take back their place in the room. The journey is over for now, back to the work and stresses of the real world. But in returning, life is a new. The worries which entered an hour earlier now dwindle. The group and myself pack up for home, to return another day to this therapeutic workout.

“This place we come to, the space that we share is communal. It is how we can grow and heal in times of hardship,” said Moss.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Botanical Garden: more than flowers

The cool, brisk February morning accompanies a warm sun, hazed by wisps of clouds, the smell of the last rain still lingering in the air. A small child geared with hiking boots and a warm fleece sweater yells to his mother as he chases a brown bird. Around a tree, an elderly woman takes out her pencil and parchment to detail a familiar orange poppy, one of many that speckle the grounds. It is the perfect day for a hike.

Any type of weather calls residents and visitors to the Rancho Santa Ana Botanical Garden located in Claremont, Calif. Leslie Husa, the gardens admission casher, can be seen harvesting oak saplings just popped out of the acorn and placing them into a recycled coffee cups.

“Look at these little guys,” Husa said, as a child peers over her shoulder. “I am going to take them back to the nursery so they do not dry out in this sun. These saplings can quickly die if not moved into some shade.”

The Botanical Gardens, which are open from 9a.m.-5p.m. all but four days a year, act as many outlets and serve the community in various ways. Families can be seen skipping up to the trodden paths, scientists poke and prod at the local Californian vegetation, others are harnessed with a good book and some just strolling, taking in the sights of their first walkabout.

“We have large events that bring many people in here all the time, a lot of them do not realize what a treasure it is,” Husa said. “Many of our members come here daily, a lot use our facility as an after-work routine.”

The grounds are composed of the gardens, research facilities, a gift shop and a commercial nursery where you can purchase any of the plants you enjoy. The grounds are dedicated to California native plants and thrive off of the philosophy of biodiversity and the importance of conservation. It is a sanctuary for wildlife as well as the overworked who come to rejuvenate here.

The Garden’s spokeswoman Paulina Nash said she used to get away from the stresses of life by visiting with her family on the weekends. “There are so many facets to the garden, it can bring anyone here for any reason, or to just relax and enjoy life again,” Nash said.

But the garden brings more than just a sense of relaxation, it inspires wellness in many ways.

“Before I worked here, I’d enjoy the garden for what I saw, now I love it for what it is, conservation in water and energy,” Nash said. “I feel like I was a part of the help.”

The garden sits nestled just behind the Claremont School of Theology, at North College Ave. and Foothill Blvd.

“Being between the 210 and 10 freeways and just outside the craziness of Los Angeles, you would think this area would reflect the same, but it is exactly the opposite,” Nash said.

Many people visit the garden expecting the stereotypical flowers and meadows, but there is much more to this local treasure.

The fact that the garden is composed of all Californian plants helps individuals learn to cultivate some of their own.

“We are re-doing our front yard, we always knew this place was beautiful and a place to getaway, we want our house to be the same,” San Dimas resident Carol Barnick said during a recent visit.

“It is my first time here, but after a few hours I have discovered such a sense of peace, I am a fan,” said Paul Barnick, Carolshusband.

Californian vegetation goes beyond its boarders, into parts of Oregon and down past Baja.

“Plants do not know politics and boundary lines, they just grow,” Nash said.

The garden has numerous events throughout the week for families, students and even yoga enthusiasts. There are also yoga and tai-chi classes out here in the garden, you do not have to be a member to enjoy the relaxing workout said Nash.

The regular fee is $8 for adults, $6 for students and $4 for children. Memberships vary, but the garden offers the same events to all.

If you are looking to explore this local relaxation spot, its annual spring open allows free admission for March 19th and May 6th.

Whether you are looking for a bird walk, a place to get away, or an atmosphere that puts you in the middle of nature, then the 86-acre sanctuary is a wonderful escape.

“Once, I visited the nursery looking for a tree and found one I loved but could not think of a space for it. An old man looked at me and said ‘we all grow in the space we are given.’ I think that phrase sums up this place perfectly,” Nash said.