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T h e H T N .c o m Photo by Ballerini Cooley Studios.


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Get ready for Best Of 7 Westchester “Super Mom� honoree, Amanda Fawcett-Swanlund, poses with her children at Ballerini Cooley Studios in Playa del Rey.

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Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

This Month Brings You A look inside your HTN Community Spotlight: Westchester mom hopes to make Super Pop a household name 04 Honoring our Super Moms! 11 In Pictures: Spring into Well-Being Celebration 18 2018 Teacher Eddy Honorees 22-23

HOMETOWN STAFF/CONTRIBUTORS Stephanie Davis, Publisher, Editor Jeff Blair, Contributing Writer Fay Craton, Contributing Writer

Rebecca Hill, Secret Recipes of the Inn Kirby Israelson, Graphic Design

Advertisers’ Directory

Airport Marina Counseling 20 Ballerini Cooley Studios 12 Body & Brain Yoga 09 California Yacht Club 06 Cantalini’s Salerno Beach 06 Cedars-Sinai 02 Drollinger Properties 09, 14, 15 Food Pantry, LAX 21 Jane St. John 19 Kevin and Kaz 05 Loyola Marymount 04 Marina del Rey Hospital 24

Neighborhood Council 16 Regatta Capital Group 07 RPM Mortgage 23 SoCal Sports and Fitness 21 Vergari and Napolitano 07 Visitation School 10 Westchester Farmers’ Market 20 Westchester Lutheran School 03, 08 Westchester Rotary Club 23 Westchester Town Center BID 03 Westside Pacific Village 21 Zacha Homes 17

About The HomeTown News (HTN)

The HomeTown News is a monthly community newspaper dedicated to providing information about the people, events and happenings of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Marina del Rey and Playa Vista. Look for the HomeTown News the first Thursday of the month at your home or at one of our drop-off locations.

Connect with the HTN:

Mailing Address: 8939 S. Sepulveda Blvd., Ste. 110 #745 Westchester, CA 90045 • Email: • Website: • Facebook: The deadline for submissions is the 22nd of each month.

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

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Community Spotlight: Westchester mom hopes to make Super Pop bars a household name Westchester mom, Melissa Wessely, is hoping to take the protein bar market by storm with her line of crispy, creamy Super Pop bars. Wessely always had a passion for healthy eating and nutrition, but when her oldest daughter was born, the desire to find healthy options that were easy to eat on the go went into overdrive. Frustrated after looking at label after label with artificial ingredients and sugars, Wessely became determined to create her own all-natural snacks that were not only tasty and portable, but would also appeal to adults and kids alike. Wessely spent nearly a year researching and experimenting with different recipes and ingredients. Coming home after a long day at the office, she would often spend her nights baking and having her husband, Jeremy, taste-test her latest batch of protein bars. After a promising recipe using popcorn didn’t quite work out as planned, Wessely struck gold when she came across a bag of puffy quinoa at a local health food store. The ingredient finally gave her recipe the consistency and taste she was looking for, and Super Pop bars were born. “I would spend all day at my full time job, and after putting my daughter to bed I would make the bars in my kitchen,” said Wessely. “I’ve always had

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Super Pop bars, featured here with founder Melissa Wessely, are available locally at Rainbow Acres Washington Blvd., Dales Jr. Market, Playa Vista’s Harvest Bar and online.

an entrepreneurial spirit, but didn’t find my passion until I began this.” In the early days, the business was a family affair with her daughter putting labels on the bars and helping at their booth at the Playa Vista Farmers’ Market. As the five-year-old business has grown, however, so has its operations, which have moved from her Westchester kitchen to a bigger facility that makes and packages the bars. Now that she doesn’t have to concentrate on baking, Wessely is focusing her energy

on new recipes, sales and expanding her business. Most importantly, however, the product’s move to the new facility has allowed Wessely to grow her family, and she and her husband welcomed their second daughter five months ago. “It’s been hard but inspiring,” said Wessely about juggling her business and family responsibilities. “Being a mom gives you special skills--I have great time management!” Super Pop bars are now available in

more than 50 markets, juice bars and cafes in California, New York, Florida and Texas, and Wessely has big plans for her company’s future. New flavors, Horchata and Mocha, are in the works (joining Peanut Butter Chocolate, Peanut Butter Honey, Almond Blueberry and Almond Chocolate), and she’s launching a Kickstarter campaign this summer to help raise funds for new packaging. The goal is to increase the shelf life of the bars in the hopes of distribution in the country’s largest health food stores. “I really want the business to grow,” says Wessely. “The dream is to make it a national brand and have people from all over try the bar.” She is also eager to teach her daughters the importance of hard work and following your dreams. “I hope they’ll both be proud of me and take over the business one day,” said Wessely, who these days, often juggles answering emails and phone calls while playing with her baby. “I hope it will teach my girls that if you put your mind to it and are passionate about something, you can make anything happen. Also, that it is possible to be a mom, wife and entrepreneur!” Visit for more info. Enter WESTCHESTER30 at checkout for a 30% discount in May in honor of Mother’s Day.

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

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Business & Nonprofit News

Photo courtesy

Marina del Rey restaurateur, Tony Palermo, owner of Tony P’s Dockside Grill, will receive a lifetime achievement honor from the California Restaurant Association at an awards dinner in June.

Marina del Rey restaurateur earns Lifetime Achievement Award. Westchester resident and Marina del Rey restaurateur, Tony Palermo, will receive the Elizabeth Burns Lifetime Achievement Award from the California Restaurant Association’s (CRA) Los Angeles Chapter on Friday, June 8. Palermo, along with business partner, Danny Ringwood, have owned and operated Tony P’s Dockside Grill since 1997. The annual honor is awarded to an outstanding restaurant operator who also gives back to their community and helps advance the goals of the CRA. “I cannot express how much it means to me to be honored with this award,” said Palermo. “Our restaurant is more than just a place to eat.

Our employees are part of our family. Our customers are part of that same family, and we believe helping those around us just solidifies that family feel.” The award is named after the first female president of the CRA, who was a pioneer in the restaurant industry, as well as a noted philanthropist. Past honorees include Russ Bendel of The Habit; Susan Feniger and Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill and the Porto family of Porto Bakery and Cafes. In addition to owning one of the Marina’s most popular restaurants, Palermo has given back hundreds of thousands of dollars to schools and nonprofits through his “Dockside Dollars” fundraisers, and he currently serves on the board of the Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

Community invited to Pacific Art Guild’s 60th anniversary show. The Pacific Art Guild will celebrate its 60th anniversary during its annual art show on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 from noon to 5 p.m. This year’s show will feature 35 artists displaying artwork with the theme “Blue.” The art will be judged by artist and Otis College of Art and Design instructor, Linda Jacobson, and will also be available for purchase. The show will be held at the Westchester United Methodist Church, located at 8065 Emerson Ave. in Westchester. The Pacific Art Guild was founded in Westchester in 1958 to serve the West Los Angeles area. The nonprofit serves to raise the level of local fine art and provide a forum of learning and encouragement for local artists.

Monthly meetings are held the first Wednesday of each month, September through June at 7 p.m. at the Westchester Community Center. For more info, please visit Jazz concert comes to Westchester. Jazz is back at Holy Nativity with the goal of “keeping jazz alive in Westchester.” Dwight Trible and his new band, “Cosmic Vibrations,” will be at the Westchester church to share their talent in their first jazz concert of the year on Sunday, May 6 at 6 p.m. Tickets are $15 at the door, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Holy Nativity is located at 6700 W. 83rd St. in Westchester. For more info, please visit Page 6 • May 2018

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Readers will have the chance to vote for their favorites in our 2018 Best Of Readers’ Poll starting on May 11. Westchester’s Cafe Solar (pictured here) was named “Best New Restaurant” on our 2017 list.

Get ready for Best Of voting time! Voting will open for the HomeTown News’ 7th Annual Best Of Readers’ Poll on Friday, May 11 at noon. Readers will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite local restaurants, businesses, organizations and places in more than 85 categories. The annual Best Of issue is a chance to highlight and recognize the best of the community of Westchester, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Marina del Rey and surrounding areas. Voting will end on Friday, June 29, and the winners will be revealed in our Thursday, August 2 issue. For more information and to vote, please visit our website at Join the Westchester Mental Health Guild for its annual meeting. Members of the community are invited to attend the Westchester Mental Health Guild’s annual meeting on Wednesday, May 16 at 11:30 a.m. Psychiatrist Ashley Covington is the guest speaker and will discuss “From Tragedy to Triumph.” The event will be held at Covenant Presbyterian Church, located at 6323 W. 80th St. in Westchester. Dr. Covington is currently training as a resident psychiatrist at UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. She has interests in holistic and integrative medicine and believes in approaching mental health treatment with a strong emphasis on the mind-body connection and interdisciplinary care coordination. A short question and answer period will follow her talk. A light lunch will be served during the meeting in the Westminster

Hall. There is no charge to attend the meeting, but reservations are required by May 9 and can be made by emailing info@westchestermhg. org. The Westchester Mental Health Guild is a nonprofit incorporated in 1962, to raise funds to support the Airport Marina Counseling Service and otherwise support good mental health. Last chance to turn in an application to participate in the Fourth of July Parade. Applications to participate as a float, entry, walking group or band in the LAX Coastal Chamber’s Fourth of July Parade are due by Friday, May 11. This year’s theme is “Cities Across America,” and potential participants are asked to pick a great American city and design their entry to pay tribute to its landmarks, famous people, ambiance and anything else that makes the city special. Each city will only be allowed to be represented once in the parade, so community groups are encouraged to turn in their applications as soon as possible. Cities that have been submitted so far include: Atlantic City, Chicago, Honolulu, Kitty Hawk, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New Orleans, New York and Philadelphia. Once the applications are in, 50 entries will be selected to participate in the Wednesday, July 4 event. For more information and to download the parade packet, please visit Sponsorship and volunteer opportunities are also available by calling (310) 645-5151. Opened a business? Celebrating an anniversary? We want to hear about your business or nonprofit! Email us at

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

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Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

School News

Photo by Michael Pierce.

The Westport Heights Elementary School Choir performs “Heal the World” at a joint talent show with Kentwood Elementary School last month.

Local schools partner for community talent show. Westport Heights and Kentwood Elementary schools shared the stage to put on their inaugural talent show in April. Kindergarten through fifth grade artists from both schools performed fearlessly to a community audience in the filled to capacity Westport Heights Auditorium. Students ran the show from beginning to end with never a dull moment. The show opened with pre-show classical pianists, and the masters of ceremony kept the pace moving as they delivered lively banter to the audience. Comedians provided funny distractions between acts. Performances included pianists, drummers, singers and dancers from a variety of genres like pop, hiphop, R&B, Bollywood, folk and Irish dance. For the finale, the two schools energized the room with a jazz club feel as the Kentwood Jazz Ensemble danced to Louie Armstrong, followed

by the Westport Heights Choir’s emotional and touching performance of “Heal The World.” This entertaining evening came together thanks to the efforts of Principal Jacqueline Hughes of Westport Heights, Principal Rasheed Khan of Kentwood Elementary and the dedicated parents and staff on the talent show team, including Trishtan Williams, Deedee Lody, Dorothy Armstrong, Stephanie Sharif, Aisha Harris and Michael Pierce. Besides showcasing talent, the goal of the event was to bring schools closer together and strengthen the community partnership centered around the schools’ students. According to Hughes, they’d like to see an even bigger community talent show next year with participation from all elementary schools from the Westchester/Playa area! Westchester Rotary hosts school safety themed luncheon. Los Angeles City Attorney, Mike Feuer, will be the featured speaker at the Rotary

Club of Westchester’s luncheon meeting on Wednesday, May 16. At the meeting, he will discuss “Initiatives in Improving School Safety and Gun Violence Prevention.” The luncheon meeting is held from 12:10 to 1:30 p.m. at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport Hotel, located at 5985 W. Century Blvd. in Westchester. Admission, which includes lunch, is $27 per person. A national leader in preventing gun violence, Feuer created the City Attorney’s Gun Violence Prevention Unit and has worked aggressively to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and children. In a groundbreaking national effort, Feuer joined with Manhattan District Attorney, Cyrus Vance, Jr., to cofound and chair Prosecutors Against Gun Violence--an independent, non-partisan coalition devoted to prosecutorial and policy solutions to the public health and safety crisis of gun violence. For more information or to reserve a seat at the luncheon, please contact

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Bob Smith at (310) 493-3835 or visit Visitation class hosts Family Dance Party. Local families are invited to a Family Dance Party on Friday, May 11 from 6 to 9 p.m. The event is a fundraiser hosted by parents of Visitation’s kindergarten class. The event will feature a DJ, dancing and games. Face painting, glow sticks and light refreshments will be available for purchase. There is also a cash bar for adults. The event will take place at the Westchester Elks Lodge, located at 8025 W. Manchester Ave. in Playa del Rey. Parking is free in the back of the lodge. Kids tickets are $10 at the door or $7 presale by contacting Visitation School. Parents are free. For more information, please call the Visitation School office at (310) 645-6620 or email

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Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

How many Super Moms do you know? We bet it’s a lot because our community is full of inspiring women that are skilled multi-taskers who juggle taking care of their families, successful careers, household responsibilities, carpools, sports team schedules and volunteer work with a finesse that only moms have. Every spring we ask our readers to nominate some of these extraordinary women that are making a difference in the community through their dedication to their families, careers, nonprofits and education, so we can highlight them in our pages in honor of Mother’s Day. We love reading the nominations that come in from husbands, children, friends, neighbors and coworkers describing the Super Moms in their lives, making it extremely difficult for our committee to select just a few to highlight each year. Below are our 2018 Super Moms with their original nominations and their “Super Mom” stats. While they were all selected for different reasons, they all embody what it means to be a Super Mom! A special thank you to Playa del Rey’s Ballerini Cooley Studios for partnering with us on our Super Moms issue and providing our honorees with a fabulous family photo shoot. We’d also like to thank the local businesses that provided gift cards to our Super Moms to help celebrate!

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our community’s awesome Super Moms! Meet Mary Ann: A Super Mom that balances family, real estate and volunteering, while being the glue that holds the family together. I would be beyond honored to nominate my awesome wife and Westchester resident, Mary Ann DiMaria, as a Super Mom!

*Nominated by husband Mick DiMaria.

All photos by Bill Ballerini and Kathy Cooley, Ballerini Cooley Studios

spreading Christmas cheer by caroling in the neighborhood and wrapping presents for underprivileged families at a wonderful holiday event by Sore Feet Saviors, at cotillion classes Above anything, Mary Ann puts her family first. at the local Elks lodge (even winning 1st place I feel extremely fortunate to be her husband, in the mother/son dance!), and as part of our and I know our sons, Jake (8) and Dylan (13), national community, flew to Washington DC to feel extremely fortunate to be her kids. To call participate in the Women’s March with thouMary Ann a Super Mom is an understatement. sands of other mothers and advocates from She is very involved in the lives of our boys around the country for equal rights. --Nominated by husband Mick DiMaria. from picking them up at school to picking up after them around the house, to helping them What is the best part about being a mom? with their copious amounts of homework. It is no surprise that Dylan is now on the honor roll My boys are extremely different from each other and I love that. I have one who loves anyat school, in part due to her efforts at home. thing adventurous/dangerous, the other is deOur kids are very busy in sports and “Mom’s cidedly cautious. One dresses up for anything Taxi” is always in service! Mary Ann is truly and everything, the other doesn’t even like to the glue that keeps our family together, and the kids and I love her more than she will ever wear a costume on Halloween. I love that they are different and between the two of them I know. get a little of everything! But, my favorite part about being their Mom is hearing them make Mary Ann is a stay-at-home mom, which is a career that is ten times harder than my hardest each other laugh... nobody can crack them up as much as they do each other! day at work. She not only manages our family, our finances and our residence in Westchester, she manages our other real estate investments. What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Find your And she has been doing this very successpeople. We’ve been in the community for fully for nearly 18 years. She has a knack for finding, buying, selling, beautifully remodeling nine years and it wasn’t until five or six years ago that I really found this for myself. Having and maintaining properties. support—whether it’s sharing struggles over coffee, celebrating good times and a glass of Mary Ann is also a very active parent in our wine, splitting up kids’ extracurricular shuttle children’s school, WISH Charter. She consisduties, having help when you need a last tently finds ways to help out by volunteering minute sitter, or even weekend getaways with whenever she can in the classroom, assisting other families—it makes a huge difference. teachers and chaperoning on field trips. She’s the go-to mom when it comes to designing tickets for school events, and it’s very common As a Super Mom, what do you consider your to find her contributing her creative, hand-pre- “super” power? I can’t think of a “super” powpared dishes for events like the “WISH Cafes” er. Truthfully, my first response, when my husband Mick told me I had been selected was, to earn money for our school. “What? you didn’t!” I know and recognize Mary Ann is not only a Super Mom and a super that there are so many “Super Moms” in our parent, she is also a super member of our com- community and many who do much more than me. But, the big picture is, I do what I can—and munity since 2009. Over the years, she’s lent if my husband and kids think that I’m a Super her heart and her time at local beach cleanMom, then that’s all that matters. ups, the Rock Roll & Run 5k for Education,

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

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*Nominated by husband Matthew Swanlund.

Meet Amanda: A Super Mom that inspires her family to pursue their passions, while supporting their school and making every day magic. instrumental in his love of music.

Amanda is a proverbial gumbo of different personalities––a sweet Southern belle, a passionate idealist, a dynamic force of nature and a critical perfectionist. All of these qualities combine to make her an incredible mother to our two incredible children, Stellan and Gable. There is one dominant element in all that she does: unequivocal love for her children and this community. I have had the privilege of parenting our kids with her and witnessing her tireless focus and relentless support of their development. She is undoubtedly a Super Mom.

She also spends countless hours driving Gable to auditions and acting jobs that are usually, and inconveniently, in Hollywood at 4 pm. Nevertheless, Amanda persists in pushing and supporting both of our children to achieve greatness on their own terms, and does it all with undeniable love. That love is also shown through her dedication to WISH Community School, where she has been an active force in building the school community since it opened its doors in 2010, acting as cheer coach, class parent and volunteering tirelessly and constantly. One of her proudest accomplishments is planning, organizing and producing the annual Teacher Appreciation Week activities for almost 100 teachers and staff, including providing such things as sound baths,

For the past several years she has ensured that Stellan diligently practices piano, and maintains a 4.0 GPA, which was recently validated with what we hope to be the first of many musical scholarship awards. The monthly Broadway musical she selects for him to study has no doubt been

donut walls, personalized coffee delivery and gourmet catered lunches. Another notable accomplishment is the “Fill the Fridge” campaign she started in 2012 that provides healthy snacks, vitamins and beverages as a welcome back to the teachers at the beginning of each school year. She gives so much of her time and heart to the teachers and administrators in order to help build the school community she envisions. I cannot think of a more deserving recipient of this Super Mom honor. --Nominated by husband Matthew Swanlund.

What is the best part about being a mom? Helping my kids find their passion. As they get older, you begin to enjoy the fruits of your labor and seeing them flourish into kind people with progressive ideals is immensely satisfying.

What’s your favorite way to spend Mother’s Day? My husband and kids create the most epic breakfast in bed tray complete with a stack of “trashy magazines.” What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Be a little selfish––have a facial, buy the expensive lipstick, go on the girl’s weekend. Indulge now and then; you deserve it! The best gift you can give your child is a mom who loves life. As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? My mom was particularly adept at making the mundane day to day stuff magic, and it’s something I aim to do for my kids. From “FlufferNutter Fridays” to monthly musicals, I want them to know you create your own joy in life. We celebrate every little thing in our household.

At Playa Del Rey’s Ballerini Cooley Studios, mother and son team Kathy Cooley and Bill Ballerini mix their mastery of image composition with a relaxed and ​ fun candor to bring out the best in their clients. Whether in their natural light PDR studio or on location at your home or business, you can count on BCS to help you conceive, compose and execute your vision.

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Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

*Nominated by son Jack Aguilera.

Meet Jackie: A Super Mom that always has time to support her kids’ sports teams and school, even while juggling a high-powered career. My mom is super because she can plunge a clogged toilet with a plunger in her hand and her briefcase in her other hand, even though she is late for her big presentation. When she was pregnant with me, she got “morning sick” all over her car, drove into the nearest car wash, and still made it on time to court. My mom can do conference calls during She has raised three boys in Westchester, our carpools, and she can do all kinds she volunteered a lot at Del Rey of work on emails in between my games (sometimes by making a quick stop at a American Little league, Beach Cities, Starbucks). and the YMCA (all teams I played on), and she spends a lot of time helping my school, St. Anastasia. She is also really funny and jokes with me all the time, and we have laugh attacks together. Most importantly, my She teaches mock trial at St. A’s for middle-schoolers, helps every year with mom never misses any chance to be the annual fundraisers by hosting parties with me. Every time I want to practice basketball, football or baseball with her, and sending out letters and goes on as many field trips with my class that she she drops everything she’s doing and can. says yes. If I want to play hide-n-seek or go out ding-dong ditching with my My mom, Jackie Aguilera, should win your “Super Mom” contest since she is the most super of all moms. My mom is a partner in one of the biggest law firms in the U.S. and clients call her every minute of the day. But that doesn’t stop her from being a Super Mom to me, my school and our community.

friends, she always plays with us. She never misses my games (and even goes to a lot of my practices), talent shows, plays, piano recitals or anything else I do. She may be there with her laptop and cell phone in her hands, but she is always there to see me. That is why my mom is a Super Mom. --Nominated by son Jack Aguilera.

What is the best part about being a mom? Finding my true calling and a purpose I never knew I wanted. Falling in love with each stage of their lives as they grow up, and loving the current stage as much as I loved the past stages. Being welcomed into a life-connected group of Westchester moms who are always there when I need them regardless of circumstance, without judgment and who truly “get it” when others don’t.

What’s your favorite way to spend Mother’s Day? Doing absolutely nothing (except for opening gifts)! What is the best tip you can share with other moms or local families? Enjoy every minute you can with your kids–-no matter what they are doing. You will remember every small or fleeting moment of your child’s life regardless of how long ago it happened, which is something you can’t say about your job or your career. Drop what you’re doing–it can wait–and go hang out with your kid. What’s your favorite place in the community to take your kids or family? Hacienda (Go DRALL!) and Kabuki. As a Super Mom, what do you consider your “super” power? Multi-tasking and dispute resolution.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of our community’s Super Moms! Thank you to the generous businesses that provided gift cards to this year’s Super Mom honorees.

2014 Becca Zambotti Courtney O'Donoghue Dr. Toya Jackson Erin Inatsugu

Julie Zaller Krstina Sebez Lory Sarlo Ragon Duffy

2015 Diane Lynch Dr. Lori Baudino Dr. Michele Cooley-Strickland Fiona Godschalk

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

2016 Betsy Sichi Kim Allard Abby Lagunoff Beverly Migliazzo

2017 Audrey LaPonza Grace Yao Christy Skura Joy Fehily May 2018 • Page 13

Daughters follow in mother’s culinary footsteps For years, Ayara has been a local favorite for Thai cuisine. No matter where the restaurant business has taken them, the Asapahu family of Ayara Thai Cuisine has stuck together, serving the community some of the most traditional and delicious Thai food in Southern California. Along with father, Andy, and brother, Peter, the women of the Asapahu family continue to prevail with the reopening of Ayara Thai after months of construction. In the time that Ayara Thai was being remodeled, eldest daughter, Vanda, led her siblings to open up a pop-up _ Thai eatery, Ayara Luk. The pop-up was extremely successful, serving up different styles of traditional Thai dishes, reminiscent of the original Ayara Thai menu. By building upon a menu originally constructed by their parents, Vanda, sister Cathy and brother Peter were able to create something new, and father Andy and mother Anna were there in the kitchen _ at Ayara Luk, helping their children. Anna Asapahu has had great influence on her two daughters, who have become remarkable chefs during their time exploring their own unique _ culinary abilities through Ayara Luk. “I am most proud of my daughters for being their authentic self, and their determination to keep learning,” said Anna. Their inspiration and success is

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Cathy Asapahu, Anna Asapahu and Vanda Asapahu of Ayara Thai Cuisine.

always credited to their parents, and Anna taught her daughters most of what they know about properly cooking Thai cuisine. The family also shares secret recipes, of course. “Our favorite secret family recipes are our sauces, like our Tigers Cry Sauce and Khao Man Gai Sauce, as

well as dishes from our paternalgrandmother like curries, Rad Na, HorMok (steamed fish custard) and fish cakes,” said Vanda. Anna and her daughters have been cooking for their entire family since they were young, and the women, along with Peter, started working at the restaurant at a young age as well. All

those years of hard work have paid off as ownership of the restaurant has now shifted to the children, with Vanda stepping up to the plate as head owner. Both daughters agree that whoever is running the kitchen will never measure up to the cooking skills of their mother. No matter if Anna is by their side in the kitchen or helping out up front, Cathy and Vanda love having her around for support and love. “I appreciate my mom’s generosity and authenticity. She doesn’t care about recognition or trying to impress anyone. She simply wants to nourish others. It’s an act of love, and I think about her selflessness every time I walk into the kitchen,” says Cathy. Vanda adds, “She’s very hardworking. She’s at the restaurant alongside the team 7-days a week, often all-day. She cooks with love, making food that comforts and hugs. She is also tough, resilient and kick ass.” Ayara Thai Cuisine, which reopened on May 1 after being closed for almost a year for renovations, is offering a special brunch menu in honor of Mother’s Day on Sunday, May 13. Special menu items will include Khao Tom Salmon with a poached egg, Lobster Pad Thai and Khao Soi Chicken Noodle. Ayara Thai is located at 6245 W. 87th St. in Westchester. For more info, visit

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Recipes from the Inn: Mother’s Day muffins

This week, a few of the Inn staff and I ran in to some of our friends and neighbors and talk turned to Mother’s Day. We all reminisced about the best (and, in some cases, the worst) advice our moms ever gave us. Jeff Kim of Playa del Rey said the best advice his mom gave him was, “Organize your room.” He said learning organizational skills as a kid helped him succeed as an adult in both his personal and business lives. He also told us the worst advice he received was, “Be careful.” “I know my mama said this with the best intentions (and I love her for it), but when we’re careful, we tend not to take chances,” said Kim. “Taking chances allows us to explore and could lead to opportunities that we never could have imagined!” Jeff is totally right! When Melissa Maddox was planning to move from Chicago to Los Angeles, all of her original plans fell through. Despite this, her mother said, “If you want to do something, don’t wait for all your ducks to be in a row. Sometimes you have to align your own ducks.” Melissa took this advice and moved cross-country to Mar Vista. She quickly became a dynamic innkeeper at the Inn at Playa del Rey and, after several years with us, she moved on to become the Office Coordinator for The Boston Consulting Group. This prestigious company consistently

Photo by Liz Hall.

By Rebecca Hill, Innkeeper

This Mother’s Day, try treating the special women in your life to homemade muffins.

ranks high in Fortune’s yearly “100 Best Companies to Work For” list. Talk about an opportunity Melissa never could have imagined! One of the Inn’s staff said, “My mother had advice that was the same, good and bad, and she would not deny that. If you squealed while plucking your eyebrows or squeezing into a tight undergarment she would say, ‘Remember, you have to suffer to be beautiful.’ That saying has helped me over the years with some beauty treatments, waxing my upper lip comes to mind, or watching what I eat to make sure I stay in good shape and feel good about myself. On the other hand, I am at an age when I would prefer almost to let it all go. So that’s the bad part; not being able to let go of her words and thereby let go of some vanity. But I can’t, not yet.”

Another innkeeper said her mother’s best advice was, “If you ever loan money to a friend, consider it a gift.” Or as Oprah’s financial guru, Suze Orman puts it, when you loan money to a friend you should think, “I hope to be repaid, but I’ll be okay if I am not.” Another co-worker shared, “I have 8 siblings so my mom only had time to give practical advice. She said, ‘Don’t break the skin.’” So, there you have it–keep organized, take chances, find pride in your appearance, understand financial giving, don’t break the skin and above all else–make sure you celebrate your mom this Mother’s Day! If you like to bake as much as we do, you might want to celebrate your mom by baking her these delicious Honey Vanilla Pecan Muffins! The recipe is

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

simple, but the outcome is divine! Honey Vanilla Pecan Muffins Ingredients: • 3 sticks of salted butter (1 & 1/2 cups) at room temperature • 2 cups sugar • 6 eggs • 3 Tbs. honey • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest • 2 Tbs. vanilla • 2 3/4 cups flour • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder • 1/2 cup pecans Directions for muffins: 1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. 2. Grease or spray a muffin pan. 3. Cream butter and sugar, then add eggs, honey, lemon zest and vanilla. 4. In another bowl, mix together dry ingredients. 5. Then fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. 6. Spoon mixture into muffin pan. (We use an ice cream scooper!). 7. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Enjoy! The Inn’s recipes have been lovingly collected over the past 20 years. Some are original recipes, others are wellknown recipes that have been adapted and some are recipes that have been handed down by our innkeepers’ mothers and grandmothers over the years. Rebecca Hill is an innkeeper at the Inn at Playa del Rey and a published writer. Her stories have appeared in Redbook magazine and in over a dozen Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies.

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April 19 at Los Angeles Airport Marriott

Photos by Venice Paparazzi.

Annual Spring into Well-Being Celebration

Westchester Mental Health Guild members pose for a photo.

Mandy Bell, Miki Payne, David Russell, Amy Frelinger, Karen Dial and Darlene Fukuji enjoy the event. Event honoree and Master of Ceremonies, Fritz Coleman, shows his love for AMCS.

The Inn at Playa del Rey’s Liz Hall and Rebecca Hill pose with SoCalGas’ Mike Harriel.

Jane St. John (left) is thanked for donating flowers for the event.

Christa Ramey shows her excitement after winning the wine raffle.

Playa Venice Sunrise Rotarians enjoy the Venice Paparazzi photo booth. AMCS founder, Mary Ellen Cassman, was surprised with a birthday serenade by the audience.

Community Builder and Champion of Mental Health honorees pose with their awards.

AMCS Board President, Erika Puzik.

Attendees answer the call for donations.

Volunteers Ariana Carrillo-Cortez, Magali Serrano, Yendy Padilla and Ivonne Ortega from Garfield High School JROTC help at the event.

AMCS CEO, Eden Garcia-Balis (center) poses with Nancy and John Edwards.

Jim and Andrea Drollinger enjoy the live auction excitement.

Westchester’s Airport Marina Counseling Service (AMCS) raised more than a quarter of a million dollars to support its mission of offering low-cost mental health services and training new therapists at its 14th annual Spring into WellBeing Celebration on April 19 at the Los Angeles Airport Marriott. Nearly 300 community and business leaders were in attendance, and thanks to the generosity of sponsors, those that answered the call for on-thespot donations and the silent/live Page 18 • May 2018

auctions, organizers surpassed their “We are so excited that the fundraising goal. Major sponsors of community recognizes the important the event included the Drollinger role AMCS plays in making sure Family Charitable Foundation, the everyone has access to mental health John and Nancy Edwards Family services,” said AMCS CEO Eden Foundation and Jane St. John. Garcia-Balis. “We were excited to The Spring into Well-Being honor Fritz and Stephanie for their Celebration honored NBC4 contributions, and we know that they Weathercaster and comedian, will both continue to shine a light on Fritz Coleman, with the Champion the ways in which AMCS helps.” of Mental Health Award, and AMCS serves the local and greater HomeTown News’ publisher, L.A. area, offering comprehensive Stephanie Davis, with the therapeutic services to individuals, Community Builder Award. children, families, couples and Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del

seniors--many of whom would otherwise have little access to counseling. Open seven days a week, AMCS provides services to hundreds of people a week, for an array of services including family counseling, group therapy and psychiatric services. The center also offers offsite counseling at local schools and recently opened a LGBTQIA Center. For more info on AMCS and its services, please visit their new website at Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

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May 2018 • Page 19

Random Notes/Opinion

Reconnect with the outdoors with three exercise strategies By Jeff Blair

The National Weight Control Registry tracks individuals with long-term, successful weight loss. The average registry member has lost 66 pounds and kept it off over 5 years. Walking is the most common form of exercise for these successful weight loss individuals. Remember that the next time someone tells you, “Walking doesn’t really do too much.” Studies also show walking can spark creativity. One Stanford study showed walking increased creativity by 60%! Walking is also incredibly convenient––just step out your door, put one foot in front of the other and your workout has started. No specialized instruction is needed. While almost any amount of walking will benefit you, the CDC recommends 150 minutes of weekly moderate activity. Walking 30 minutes MondayFriday gets you there. While it is fine to start out walking slowly, don’t feel like you have to stay there forever. Increase the challenge by speeding up for short intervals or include hills in your route. Increase distance or improve time to help keep motivation levels high. One final point about walking: physical issues such as knee pain are limitations for many. Walking minimizes those stresses while still

Opinion: The days are getting longer and the sun is shining later, so that means summer is right around the corner. Walking, experiencing nature and cycling are three great ways to add some variety to your fitness routine this summer. I am one of Los Angeles’ biggest fans, but sometimes the city can feel like a concrete jungle. Take the opportunity to reconnect with the outdoors this summer with three simple exercise strategies: Walk More. People often tell me “I don’t really exercise. I just walk.” While I encourage more intense forms of exercise as well (especially weightlifting), walking can be very good for you. You don’t have to take my word on it. Look at what the medical authorities say about walking. According to the Mayo Clinic, walking can help prevent heart disease and diabetes, elevate your mood and improve your balance and coordination. Walking can also help you lose weight or maintain a healthy weight. The Harvard Medical School says walking can help reduce the risk of breast cancer, improve immune function and help curb cravings for sweets.

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providing good benefits. Get out in nature. Can’t you just sense how walking in a forest or enjoying a vast green space is good for you? It seems to be an almost universal feeling. The Japanese even have a name for the effect of green spaces on our well-being. They call it “shinrin-yoku,” which means “forest bathing.” Japanese medical plans often prescribe forest bathing and even cover the costs in some cases! Forests can boost our immune system, lower blood pressure and improve mood. Anxiety, depression and fatigue levels are reduced when people visit forests. Mental focus can also improve after an afternoon spent looking at birds and plants as we give our thinking caps a rest. Vision improvements and reduced inflammation are also reported from some extra green time. Like walking, many nature trips are free or close to it. Learn more about local parks at or Ride a bike. Cycling is my third exercise recommendation for the warmer months. Cycling provides many of walking’s benefits and probably a few more. Cycling can increase blood flow to the brain,

improve immune function and enhance sleep quality. Cycling can also lower heart disease and cancer risks. Cycling provides variety, which can have psychological benefit. You can bike on the strand, mountain bike in the hills or even ride to work in some cases. Cycling can also provide a resistance training effect when you climb hills or ride in harder gears. That can help strengthen muscle and firm up lower body muscles, but make sure to wear a helmet and take appropriate safety steps while cycling. Whether you take a walk along the beach in Playa del Rey, hike through Griffith Park Sunday mornings or ride your bike through the Santa Monica Mountains one evening, your physical and emotional health are sure to benefit. Grab a friend and get started this weekend! Before you start any fitness routine, consult your doctor. Jeff Blair (MS, CSCS) has been featured in numerous fitness magazines and has worked as a personal trainer in Westchester for 15 years. He has won the Hometown News “Best Of” Personal Trainer five times. Reach him at jeff@ for story comments or questions.

Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Learning to increase your enjoyment in life By Fay Craton Opinion: It can be fun to read the stories from our collective past. Many stories are entrenched deeply into our awareness. It is natural for us to hold “story” within us. Stories can provide frames of reference for how to make meaning of life and help us figure out what is important. Historical folklore has provided generations of people with insight into healthy values, the importance of connecting with others, how to have a meaningful existence and the importance of interactions with nature. Stories and memories can help us make sense of the world around us. If you have personal stories and memories that include healthy connections, support, being heard and unconditional acceptance from important relationships, you likely have an internal frame of reference leading to good self-esteem and an ability to stay focused on your life intentions. You may also have the talent to have enjoyable conversations with a healthy exchange of thoughts and a general awareness of good things happening around you. Unfortunately, if you have bad or stressful experiences, the memories held within you might provide a personal frame of reference that leads you to dissatisfaction. Constant negative words designed to put you down, extreme stress, situations that exceed your ability to cope and trauma can break your natural connection to a healthy foundation. This can lead you to question your worth, be derailed from your healthy intentions and become angry when there is the appearance that someone does not agree with you. So, what would happen in your life if you instead lived and focused on today? You can start to do this by relaxing your mind. While unwinding, consider what you can be grateful for today. If you find

your reflections are focusing on past history, try to set aside the thoughts. The same applies to thoughts that keep returning to something uncomfortable or focus on things that have not occurred and might never actually happen. If you’re having trouble relaxing your mind, try changing something about your surroundings. Add in more sunlight or try shifting your mood by playing music or singing. Another possibility can be to direct your attention to how you can give your time and attention to someone else in need. As you become aware of your thoughts, you can start to consider whether or not the thoughts help you have the life you want. Consider reflecting on the thoughts detracting from what you want. This is taking self-accountability for your life. When you are around others, you can make a conscious decision to shift your thoughts and mood from resentful, angry and bored to selfaccepting, grateful and interested. Shifting what is happening within your body and mind does not mean you agree with your negative experiences. It simply means you are making a choice to form new and contented memories and live a life you choose, instead of being controlled by things that happened in your life that you can’t change. My wish is for you to live a life with good self-esteem and meaning. I want you to be able to be fully present in the moment and enjoy life. You are precious. The gifts you have within you to share with others are worthwhile. Fay Craton, M.A. is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (mfc40011), which is the psychology license specializing in relationships (with ourselves or with others), and she has an office in Westchester. For more info, visit or contact her at (310) 645-6762.


Emergency Food Distribution to those in need. Sponsored by the Westchester Clergy Association

Open Tuesday & Friday, 10am-12pm 355 Beach St., Inglewood

Bring donations of non-perishable food to Covenant Presbyterian Chuch. Volunteers and money donations also welcomed and encouraged!

For more information, please call (310) 677-5597 Ad donated by the Covenant Presbyterian Church

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Westchester • Playa del Rey • Marina del Rey • Playa Vista HomeTown News

Westchester/Playa HomeTown News May edition  

Please enjoy the May 2018 edition of the Westchester/Playa HomeTown News

Westchester/Playa HomeTown News May edition  

Please enjoy the May 2018 edition of the Westchester/Playa HomeTown News