One couple commands the hardwood dance floor, strutting under colored lights and glass chandeliers as well-wishers cheer them on from iron-wrought balcony railings, or wander across the foyer’s marble floors on their way to the intricately carved dark-wood bar. The Sofia ballroom, one of the many venues at Noor, host the reception hall’s memory-making parties, which range from weddings to performances by Pasadena Symphony pianists. The hall’s attentive staffers also oversee gatherings beneath the Ella ballroom’s crystal chandeliers or on the terrace patio, where a circle of white curtains and climbing ivy surrounds a starburst-shaped mosaic-tile fountain that gurgles compliments to passing glasses of champagne.
A resident culinary crew feeds the hall’s hungry revelers with Mediterranean-Californian fusion dishes. Noor's chefs devise many of their tapas-style dishes in the reservation-only Ella restaurant, and frequently feature seasonal, locally grown ingredients. Eclectic seating varies throughout Noor's rooms, from lounge sofas and armchairs to high-backed formal dinner chairs, blending modern and vintage aesthetics more smoothly than photos of Benjamin Franklin wearing a Members Only jacket.
All big movements start small, but many would be surprised to learn that Ten Thousand Villages—a nonprofit and retailer with 390 outlets nationwide—began out of a car trunk. In 1946, Edna Ruth Byler started the organization out of her car, taking a name from a quote by Mohandas Gandhi, who said, “India is not to be found in its few cities but in the 700,000 villages.” Her willpower and determination allowed her vision to grow into a nonprofit that today supports more than 130 artisans in 38 developing countries. These artisans' wares go on sale at the organization's nationwide retail outlets, which brim with items including jewelry, home decor, and refrigerator cozies.
Everything is made using environmentally friendly processes, and every artisan is paid a fair wage. The money raised from sales goes to supply the artisans—who might otherwise be unemployed or underemployed—with education, food, housing, and healthcare. The organization has risen to such stature that it won the People’s Choice Award for Green Business of the Year in 2005, and has acted as one of the founding members of the World Fair Trade Organization.
Magical Playground gathers play structures, toys, games, and kid-friendly activities within an indoor, socks-only facility. Tykes can bound about in the Magical castle bouncer, navigate their way through the jungle gym, ascend levels in challenging video games, or compete against their pals in rounds of air hockey or foosball. In between frolicking sessions, they can reenergize with healthy meals and snacks in the eating area. A separate baby-development center accommodates visiting toddlers with an age-appropriate bouncer and slide, as well as educational toys such as dolls that quote Nietzsche whenever you squeeze their toes.
Alongside regular open-play sessions, Magical Playground hosts weekly events including Tuesday arts and crafts, a complimentary Wednesday-afternoon story time, and free Spanish lessons every Friday. As their kids bounce between activities, parents can surf the web via free WiFi or leave their children at Magical Playground for supervised games, movie nights, and playtime between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. any night of the week.
The instructors of French Kiss Fitness model their group classes after the acts of performers such as Pink, the pop star who thrilled audiences at the 2010 Grammys with a dance routine derived from circus acrobatics. Like a dark room plastered with Lou Ferrigno posters, the studio's workout style both develops and shows off muscle. Fourteen poles support physiques as they execute moves that build core strength; off the pole, students learn floor- or chair-based routines to replicate at home. Aerial classes build center strength with the help of silk ropes, dangling hoops, and a trapeze. For more traditional workouts, students can attend core-strengthening Pilates classes or yoga classes to relax the mind and body.
Children naturally believe that life is all about having fun. This requires the instructors at My Gym Children's Fitness Center to perform two seemingly incompatible tasks: helping kids lay a strong physical, emotional, and cognitive foundation and letting them laugh and play to their hearts' content. The staff welcomes the challenge. Grouping kids by age into nearly a dozen different classes, the instructors teach students aged 6 weeks through 13 years the importance and fun of socializing, exercising, and eating broccoli without using their taste buds.
“Dry-clean only.” These words on a garment tag can make people pretty nervous, resulting in hundreds of neglected sweaters, slacks, and dresses. Around the Block Cleaners confronts this issue head-on by offering free after-hours pickup and delivery for its dry-cleaning, alteration, and laundry services. Without the hassle of working around narrow business hours, customers can also drop their garments off themselves, which is an ideal solution for people whose commutes take them by the family-owned shop or who have a debilitating fear of deliverymen.