At times, the atmosphere at Waterbabies Swim School is almost ethereally idyllic; clouds drift overhead as wriggling youngsters dive through hula hoops and parents cradle their infants to embark on a first float. More than 20 years ago, Wendy Gallagher developed the model for this utopic swim academy—lauded by CBS Local as having some of the Best Swim Lessons in Orange County in 2011—in a backyard pool in Capistrano Beach. She noticed how the intimate setting helped children enjoy lessons and eased the anxieties of parents watching their offspring submerge and surface as fully-grown otters. Guided by that experience, she installed modern facilities on the grounds of a quaint, 1920s white-stucco bungalow. The changing rooms feature kid-sized bathroom fixtures and, out in the backyard, a saltwater pool remains heated year-round to a balmy 92 degrees for both swim lessons and parties, staying clean via an Ozone system that instantly kills bacteria.
In Gallagher's aquatic curriculum, water safety is paramount, followed by a loving approach and the conviction that parents of infants can teach their babies how to swim. As a certified Pilates therapist, she quickly sees and corrects improper alignment, and as a mother of four, she knows how games and songs can be used to make lessons more fun and more effective. Instructors are equally sensitive as a result of training with Gallagher and are all certified in infant swimming by the United Swim School Association, a continuing-education organization. To ensure safety and personal attention, lessons max out at three students, and there are never more than two lessons occurring simultaneously in the pool.
There's plenty for both kids and their parents to discover at Mac & Madi, a boutique graced with the presence of clothing, toys, and accessories for style-conscious children. When out hunting and gathering goods, the staff stresses quality over quantity. As a result, the shop isn't crammed with hundreds of options, it's stocked with an easy-to-browse assortment of apparel and gear chosen for being unique and reasonably priced. The shop’s wares cater to babies, boys up to age 7, and girls as old as 16—swaddles, onesies, and burpies come from brands such as Aden + Anais and Mystic Beach, both of which can help babies assert fashion supremacy in the playpen. Tutus embellished with flowers and sequins encourage girls to express their longing for fruit snacks through interpretive dance, and a rotating collection of shirts emblazoned with characters from Spider Man and Star Wars reassure boys as they nurture their own fledgling force. Recently, Mac & Madi opened a tween-girl room where clothing and accessories from brands such as Quiksilver, Roxy, and Flowers by Zoe let budding fashionistas flourish.
Mac & Madi also offers an array of award-winning toys and gear, such as stylish diaper bags. Volumes from the "100 Best Books of All Time" list such as Where is Baby's Belly Button? answer questions that have vexed biologists for generations.
A small flight of stairs leads guests down into a rustically decorated room, which evokes the ambiance of a subterranean wine cellar with its earthen arches, barrel-lined walls, and soft chandelier lighting. Designed by the artisans who created Disneyland's Pirates of the Caribbean, the dining room appeals to a similarly nostalgic whimsy. However, the cooks slightly modernize the menu's historic European roots by introducing unexpected ingredients.
The chefs elevate simple grilled-cheese sandwiches by slipping in braised short ribs, caramelized shallots, and horseradish cream alongside the gruyere and monterey jack cheeses, and a splash of cognac adds even more richness to the silken lobster bisque. Thai barbecue-glazed tofu and basmati rice also help to distinguish the menu by lending it a distinctly international flare.
Staying true to its name, The Cellar proudly features a 1,400-bottle wine list, which, according to the staff, helped to garner the restaurant Wine Spectator's exclusive Grand Award. The selection includes familiar staples, boutique producers, and rare vintages from virtually every major wine-producing region except the Marianas Trench.
Every salon claims that their tanning formula is one-of-a-kind. But at Unique Tan, it's actually true?owner Sherrie Lee Meredith developed it herself. Her signature spray-tanning blend, Unique Excellence, tints skin with a paraben-free solution of organic aloe vera, berry essences, and a firming serum to stave off the signs of aging. The formula also contains erythrulose, which can produce a longer-lasting bronze glow, and, because it's alcohol-free, helps keep skin moisturized and streak-free. The salon's Smart Tan?certified staff uses this in both automated booths and custom airbrushing sessions, which harness the steady hand of a tanning artist to ensure tans completely cover skin and finally even the score with haughty bronze statues.
The salon also offers traditional UV-tanning beds, which contain comfort-adding amenities such as air conditioning, aromatherapy, adjustable facial bulbs, and easy-to-follow voice instructions. Clients can enhance their tans with the salon's line of tan-accelerating products, which extend the life of each tan by keeping skin moisturized and healthy.
Kimberly Bondurant first embarked on her skin-nurturing career on the sunny outskirts of Jaco, Costa Rica. For five years, she worked alongside her mother?a licensed aesthetician and former salon owner?at her salon, gleaning her beauty knowledge and techniques. Today, Kimberly has become a licensed aesthetician and beautifies clients of her own.
At My Little Place Boutique, she draws on the training she received from Luscious Lashes as she applies waterproof lash extensions to lids one at a time. During her custom spray-tanning sessions, she darkens complexions with organic and cruelty-free solutions sans harmful UV rays. Inside her boutique, white walls and minimalistic decor let the clothing take center stage. The shelves overflow with jewelry and accessories by Sweet September and D. Ferrari Designs, in addition to skincare products by Ayur-Medic. Two wicker chairs with frilly cream-colored pillows nestle near a vase of flowers and beckon guests to rest and brainstorm new job-search options for the sun.
As Brenda Carbone’s arthritis became more and more severe, she had to make a choice: undergo surgery on her neck vertebrae or accept a life dependent on pain medications and sleeping pills. Luckily for Brenda, she discovered the whole-body vibration machine, capable of easing her pain—and helping her shed 30 pounds—without assistance from traditional medicine. Today, Brenda and her colleague, Kristy Carbone, help others find relief at her clinic, O2 Wellness.
O2 offers more than the whole-body vibration treatment, though. In the way of weight loss, they present solutions ranging from HCG, a belly-fat-burning peptite, to soothing sessions in the infrared sauna. They also render facial treatments to turn back the clock without the dire consequences of time travel, such as never meeting your ex-spouse. Beyond getting exteriors into shape, Brenda and staff also offer various options for pain relief.