Bearing the titles of Master of Photography and Photographic Craftsman from Professional Photographers of America, David and Ally McKay embody the keen vision and aesthetic prowess that separated good photographers from great ones. They share these skills during classes at McKay Photography Academy, where they train eyes, fingers, and imaginations to work in tandem as a snapshooting dream machine. Their classes help aspiring photographers progress from neophytes to seasoned pros. When not busy instructing the next generation of shutterbugs, David and Ally also devise photo safaris, which send small teams of photographers to capture shots of famed landmarks including San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge; the Lincoln Memorial of Washington, DC; or Yosemite's 60-foot statue of Yogi Bear.
Von Housen Mercedes-Benz's vehicular geniuses pamper the most mobile member of the family with an eight-hour inspection and detailing package. During the vehicular makeover (a $255 value), a thorough scrubdown sweeps grime and dust away before gentle wax seals out future interlopers to maintain the paint’s just-washed luster. Crumbs meet their match in the form of hungry vacuums, while car stylists hide wear and tear by shampooing frazzled carpets and giving comb-overs to balding floor mats. A rubber and vinyl protection guards non-metal parts of the exterior, and the tire shine waxes grubby wheels into lustrous spinners. Window washers remove evidence of splattered insects, while auto internists clean the engine compartment in preparation for the maintenance inspection.
While doting grandmother Kim Wells helped to plan her grandson's 10th birthday party in 2008, she was frustrated by the lack of kid-friendly options. That's when she began developing ideas for The Birthday Bash, a company dedicated solely to organizing happy celebrations for children. Mad Science parties with fascinating dry-ice presentations, Pop Star Diva parties with glittery makeovers, and Nintendo Wii parties are just a few of the themed events held in rooms with whimsical decorations and mural-adorned walls. The Birthday Bash team also can accommodate requests for snacks such as pizzas, birthday cakes, and sundae bars at which kids decorate ice cream with sprinkles, whipped cream, and T-bone steaks. If desired, photographers will capture shots of the festivities.
An anomaly among artists, a torcedor judges his worth by how many of his creations are burnt to ashes. The Nicaraguan torcedor?or cigar roller?at Art of Cigars has more than 20 years of practice watching his masterpieces go up in smoke. He hand-wraps shredded, fragrant tobacco into tight styles such as the Gunny, a torpedo cigar with a silky, mild taste, and the Tanker, whose notes of spiced rum evoke tropical scenery in the mind's eye. Owners Leslie and Eric sell these selections as a part of the Cigar Marine line, not only for their authentic preparation and quality, but also as a show of patriotic support?a portion of their profits goes to benefit the families of wounded Marines through the Semper Fi Fund.
Guests at Art of Cigars can puff on wares inside the lounge, where wine and draft beer pair with flavorful drags and light conversation. A welcoming staff caters to aficionados and non-smokers alike, stocking accessories that range from cutters and lighters to humidors. The shop's torcedor, whose rolling finesse has been featured on Good Day Sacramento, also provides demonstrations at special events such as weddings and corporate parties, teaching people how to craft their own cigars or best burn their shredded parking tickets.