Shopping for your dog or cat can sometimes be a bit perplexing. Our pets are like our children, we constantly strive to provide them with healthy nutritious meals, but how can we be sure what is good for them? What with all the pet food recalls a couple of years ago, reading labels on pet food is not as easy as it used to be. How do we know the ingredients listed are providing our pets with the proper nutrition? 

The answer to canine and feline nutrition can be found at a wonderful pet store in Santa Monica called Healthy Spot. No longer does shopping for pet food have to be a chore. At Healthy Spot, which first opened in 2008, the employees are of the same breed as those you would find in a high-end jewelry store. They are extremely knowledgeable of each and every one of the products sold in the store, and are exceedingly helpful in finding the best food for your dog or cat. You can also rest assured that most of their pet food is all-natural, organic, or raw to ensure quality nutrition. My shih tzu, Jade’s favorite food is the ZiwiPeak Premium Dog Food from New Zealand and is the equivalent to a true raw diet.

(Miss Jade!)

Not only does Healthy Spot provide the most top notch pet food in town, but they also provide grooming services. They offer spa packages, teeth cleaning, pet massage therapy, obedience courses, doggy daycare, and even portraits! Their core values involve providing high quality and assistance to every pet that trots through their doors, exceptional service, and authentic customer and pet recognition. We put so much effort into optimizing our own physical health why not for our loving pets too?

Healthy Spot

1110 Wilshire Boulevard

Santa Monica, CA 90401

(310) 458-2004 Tel

(310) 458-2109 Fax

References:
http://www.healthyspotonline.com/index.html

Los Angeles is ever the hub of activity, and we are all guilty of letting a little peace and relaxation escape us. When it is your time to drive to a scenic environment and just relax, I am sure you often think of places on the outskirts of the big city, like the beach or a quite place with open fields. Little do you know though, that a wonderfully serene place to meditate and relax can be found right off of Sunset Boulevard in Pacific Palisades called the Self Realization Fellowship Center.

The Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF) is an internationally recognized, non-profit spiritual organization headquartered right here in Los Angeles. It was founded by Paramahansa Yogananda, a world teacher from India who was one of the first great masters of Kriya Yoga meditation in the West. The SRF was founded in 1920 in order to carry on his spiritual legacy, and where he has since impacted millions of lives through his teachings on the art of balancing health and well-being in the body and soul, and religious unity.

The SRF Center is built on gorgeous grounds bordering Lake Shrine, a huge lake with beautiful swans and turtles. It is so peaceful from the moment you step on the grounds you do not even feel like you in Los Angeles anymore. People flock there to meditate, participate in inspirational sermons, attend special meditative events and classes, relax, and even marry. You can even bring the children! The SRF is non-denominational and welcomes faiths of all creeds. The best part about it is its location—just two blocks from PCH in Pacific Palisades, which means after you visit SRF, you can take a long walk on the beach and hang out with the surfers!

References:

http://www.yogananda-srf.org/Default.aspx

The Natural History Museum (NHM) is an absolute gem in my book of places to visit. Museums are not for everyone, but the Natural History Museum is just too great of a place to pass up. I used to take my son there regularly when he was younger, and each time I go it is a brand new experience.

With the world’s second largest collection of marine mammals fossils, the Natural History Museum offers wonderful displays of our grand history. Its goal is to inspire wonder and discovery to all its visitors, and it certainly lives up to its standards. From their Spider Pavilion to their Ancient Latin American Art, the NHM is a glorious hub of culture and history. They have extraordinary representations of animals like the Fin Whale, the second largest whale next to the blue whale, and dinosaur remains dating back nearly 250 million years ago. Also, their revamped Dinosaur Hall is set to re-open this summer with expanded galleries twice the size of what it was!

On top of it all, they have one of the most intriguing gem and mineral exhibits in the world. The NHM’s Gem and Mineral Hall contains two galleries filled with natural stones from all over the globe, totaling 150,000 specimens, each with its own unique energy and frequency. Truly a treasure to view, I would highly recommend visiting the NHM soon—all tickets are under $10, and children under 4 are free!

The Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
Phone: (213) 763-DINO

References:
http://www.nhm.org/site/plan-your-visit

Located off the tip of the southern Baja peninsula on the Pacific Ocean side is a charming little Mexican town called Todos Santos. About an hour away from La Paz, my favorite place to vacation in Mexico, Todos Santos is a beach town well known for its thriving artist community. It is also only forty-five miles north of Cabo San Lucas, so if you are in the mood for a day trip while vacationing there, Todos Santos would be an ideal little place to incorporate into your itinerary!

I suggest visiting Todos Santos this time of year is because of the wonderfully warm weather and the great galleries all around town. It would be a great vacation to take if you are weary of the cold weather here in Los Angeles. The beaches are incredible! Playa Los Cerritos is the best beach for surfing, in my opinion, which has a beach bar and restaurant you can lounge around all day, and Playa Las Palmas, is picture perfect and one of the best beaches for swimming in Southern Baja. If you do decide to hit the surf, however, be sure not to leave your valuables in the car—break-ins in that area are not uncommon!

If you end up venturing towards Todos Santos in the near future, a great place to stay for the night or weekend is the Todos Santos Inn, run by my good friend John Stoltzfus. John has owned the inn for at least five years after the he swapped his 9 to 5 job selling dental hygiene products for inn keeping. It is the perfect, cozy place to stay if you head to Todos Santos any soon—satisfaction guaranteed!

References:
http://www.todossantosinn.com/advocate.html
http://www.todossantos.cc/index.asp

It is that wonderful time of year again, when filmmakers and movie stars alike attend one of the biggest cinematic events to hit Park City, Utah—the Sundance Film Festival. Spanning from January 20-30th, the 2011 festival comprises ten straight days of emerging independent films that could potentially see the same success as the Blaire Witch Project or Memento, two movies made famous by the popular festival in the past. The best part about it is the lodging—at Robert Redford’s very own Sundance resort!

Before Redford took ownership of the property in 1969, the resort was called Timphaven. Nestled at the bottom of Mount Timpanogos, Redford envisioned the resort as a place where nature and humanity could co-exist in a balanced, synergistic environment. Despite suggestions from New York investors who urged him to build a lucrative promenade with hotels and condominiums, Redford chose the artistic, environmental route, and to this day the resort remains a hub of natural scenery and creativity.

The entire Sundance resort is eco-friendly, and has had longstanding green policies since its inception. Their cleaning products are non-toxic, the soaps in the rooms are made organically from the resort’s Art Shack, and all glass products are turned into decorative pieces of art. Activities available at Sundance range from guided hiking tours, to spas and winter sports activities like snowboarding and skiing. You can even purchase a season pass on their site to enjoy the festivities all year long. If you are headed to the Sundance Film Festival, this would definitely be the ideal lodging spot—what a wonderful way to start the year!

References:

http://www.sundance.org/festival/

If you are planning on hitting the slopes this holiday season, one of the best year-round mountain resorts to visit is Northstar-at-Tahoe. This is one of the most ideal places to visit in the winter because unlike many of the surrounding resorts, Northstar is less crowded, giving you and the family ample opportunity to take part in all of the great winter sport activities it has to offer!

If you are not a big fan of winter sports however, the Northstar resort is still your best bet for holiday travel. There are plenty of fun and festive activities to partake in. First and foremost, they have over 30 unique shops and restaurants to visit, which are, in my opinion, both chic and hip. Secondly, their skating rink clocks in at 9,000 square feet, which gives plenty of elbow room for beginning skaters. It is a hub of activity this time of year because of their tubing, skiing and snowboarding lessons, adventure parks, mountain tours, and panoramic sightseeing tours. For lodging guests, there is also a pool, spa, and fitness center, so your workouts do not fall to the wayside!

Northstar Resort is also very environmentally responsible, admirably so for a four season destination. They strive to enhance natural resources by espousing a Habitat Management Plan that balances land use with aquatic and rural habitats. Their seral (ancient) forests contain unique wildlife like the California Spotted Owl and Pileated Woodpecker, which are survived by restricting access from visitors during critical nesting seasons.

Northstar-at-Tahoe was ranked the fifteenth top resort in North America, which further cements my reason for visiting year after year. The absence of huge crowds has added so much value to my experience there, and the slopes are just too good to pass up! You will definitely find me on the mountain snow boarding during New Year’s weekend, would love to see you there too!

References:

http://www.northstarattahoe.com/

Every year from October to February some 50,000 to 70,000 Monarch butterflies flock to the Pacific Grove Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary to overwinter. The Monarch butterfly is incapable of withstanding temperatures colder than 55 degrees. The butterflies migrate to safer climates like Pacific Grove, where the shrouded pine forests keep them safe from wind and colder temperatures with proper shade and humidity. The butterflies’ migration is so unique; inhabitants of Pacific Grove have even coined their town as “Butterfly Town, U.S.A”.

The scientific name for the monarch butterfly is Danaus plexippus. It is a tropical insect that can fly as high as 10,000 feet, and has far as 2,000 miles at 100 miles a day. Who knew such a little insect could cover so much ground in one day? The difference between these migrating insects and other migrating animals like whales and birds is that most of the butterflies have never been to their warmer destinations. The female Monarch butterfly for instance lives anywhere from six weeks to eight months, depending on the climate in which she is born. Monarch butterflies born in late summer and fall tend to live longer as there is less daylight, which delays their sexual maturity. Regardless, several generations of Monarchs will pass before it is time to migrate again to a warmer climate.

Pacific Grove has been a butterfly community for years and has always fought to keep the Monarchs protected. The Monarch sanctuary is free to visit and an absolutely brilliant sight to see on a warm weekend afternoon. It is open year round, but the best time to go is when they are overwintering from October to February, as I mentioned earlier. Although I wouldn’t suggest trying to touch or capture the butterflies -the fine is $1000!

References:

http://www.ci.pg.ca.us/monarchs/default.htm

http://www.seemonterey.com/pacific-grove-california/monarchgrovesanctuary

On the windward side of Oahu lies a sprawling beach named Kailua, my favorite on all of the Hawaiian Islands. Twenty minutes from downtown Honolulu, Kailua is the perfect spot to vacation with the family, with its turquoise blue water, miles of clean white sand, numerous reef formations and three off shore islands offer a place of beauty, abundant wildlife and gorgeous scenery.

Home to recreational activities like swimming, stand up paddling, kayaking, and snorkeling, Kailua is also known as a world-class location for wind surfing, an aquatic sport that combines surfing and sailing. The beach is recognized for its steady winds, gentle surf, and dazzling tropical backdrop. You can find a number of rental facilities with gear for both wind surfing and all other types of aquatic activities in Kailua’s surrounding town, which houses shops, small eateries, and everything you need to make your trip as active and fun-filled as possible. The town acts as a middle ground between sprawling urban areas and more secluded sections of the beach.

Directly offshore, about 700 meters, from Kailua Beach is Popoia Island (“Flat Island” to the locals), a bird sanctuary. Flat Island hasnumerous holes in which sea birds make their nests and it’s not uncommon to come across seabirds nesting in these holes on the ground as you walk around the island. Kayaking or stand up paddling is a perfect way to get out to this sweet bird sanctuary.

Approximately one kilometer off shore, the Mokulua Twin Islands, are also wonderful destinations for kayaking and picnicking. The waters around are rich with coral formations, and are excellent spots for snorkeling and diving. Beginner kayakers’ stick to Flat Island, to get to Mokulua it will take some physical strength and endurance.

As always, when frequenting any beach, pay close attention to weather conditions that may affect the surf. Beware of any posted signs that warn of stinging limu (seaweed), and thePortugese Man-of-War jellyfish, which are rampant from June to September. While I cannot attest to the dangers of these marine creatures, I can tell you the recreational activities in Kailua far surpass any sea-creature phobia you might have. It is a great time for the whole family, so grab your gear and test out the waters!

Dr. Bennett Must Do’s: Stop off at the Kalapawai Market on your way out, it is 200 feet from the Kailua Beach parking area and is well known for their gourmet Hawaiian coffee and fresh yummy food!

References:

http://www.hawaiiweb.com/oahu/beaches/kailua_beach_park.htm

http://www.honolulu.gov/parks/programs/beach/kailua.htm

http://www.kalapawaimarket.com/

There are many great beaches to visit along the California coastline from Marina Del Rey to Long Beach, and even more so in Los Angeles, where the sun is almost always shining. Granted that it is nearing winter, however, a beach visit may not be the first outdoor outing on your to-do list. Before you completely scratch off the beach from your itinerary this weekend though, remember that the winter months provide more than just Christmas carols—it is the migration period (December to April) for the Pacific gray whale!

By far the best beach in Los Angeles to spot the Pacific gray whale annual migration from the Bering Sea in Alaska to Baja California Sur, Mexico is at Point Dume. A beautiful, vast beach at the northern tip of the Santa Monica Bay, Point Dume has an ascending trail that leads you right up to the top of an ancient sand dune where you can span the entire breathtaking vista of the Santa Monica Bay.  This is a great place to spot migrating whales, along with dolphins and sometimes seals. Below the coastal summit is a boardwalk that leads to a viewing platform where you can catch starfish-filled tide-pools, and travel to a more isolated beach area.

Point Dume is a California State Preserve located 18 miles west of Pacific Coast Highway, along Cliffside Drive. Operated by Los Angeles County, it is overseen by the lifeguard branch of the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and was named after Padre Francisco Dumetz of Mission San Buenaventura by George Vancouver in 1793. The beach was officially named “Dume” after the misspelling of Dumetz’s name on an 18th century map was never corrected!

A gorgeous backdrop to films like Iron Man and Planet of the Apes, Point Dume is a hot spot for surfers, fishers, rock climbers, hikers, and scuba divers alike, looking to make the most of their winter weekends.  Since most people steer clear of the beach during the winter, you will have ample opportunity to beat the crowd. Do not forget to bring your binoculars and snacks!

Address:

7103 Westward Road

Malibu, CA 90265Road, Malibu

References:

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=623

Your week is over, and now it is time to scoop up the kids and have a little fun. While it is often hard to find venues that are both inexpensive and adventurous, the Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific is a perfect place to visit, filled with nature and discovery that the whole family can enjoy!

Including nineteen major habitats and thirty-two exhibits, the Aquarium takes you on a journey through the floor of the Pacific Ocean with close-ups of some of its most feared aquatic predators. The Tropical Reef Habitat in particular features great close-ups of colorful fish, sea turtles, zebra sharks, and best of all, my favorite- the weedy sea dragons and seahorses. Other exhibits include the sea otter habitat, the shark lagoon, and an outdoor aviary, where you can touch and even feed some of the animals.

Teeming with over ten thousand species of marine life from scattered regions of the Pacific Ocean, the Aquarium of the Pacific is the fourth largest in the nation. A non-profit organization founded in 1998, the Aquarium is highly educational, offering hands-on activities, programs, and lectures by leading scientists for people of all ages regarding the sustainability of our oceans and our planet as a whole. As one of the first aquariums to initiate greenhouse gases and practices, the Aquarium is more than just a zoological location. It is dedicated to celebrating the interactions between people, animals, and nature. Adjacent to the beautiful shores of Long Beach, take the whole family and make a day of it!

References:

http://www.aquariumofpacific.org/