A former elementary-school teacher, Robin Brooke harnessed her experiences in the classroom to boot up Giggle-Bytes, a computer-learning program for youngsters. Determined to arm her students and her own four children with the necessary computer skills to use the Internet and instant message the Toys R Us giraffe, Brooke teamed up with Discovery Kids Puterbugs, a program produced by Imagine Tomorrow. The Imagine Tomorrow software is customizable for each lesson and academic level, so that kids who have never touched a computer can learn alongside techno whizzes. In both her traveling classes and her birthday parties, Brooke helps kids to build their social skills and cultivate teamwork while gleaning self-confidence, spatial skills, and the ability to navigate through the digital age.
At Roudon-Smith Winery, winemakers surrounded by unique murals create barrels of rich reds and refreshing white wines using high-quality grapes from the Santa Cruz Mountains and other regions of California. Whether crafting an elegant pinot noir or a richly colored zinfandel, the winemakers follow a philosophy of minimal intervention, seeking to preserve the essential qualities of the fruit.
Blue Water Ventures owner and naturalist Kim Powell and her trained staff of naturalists lead adventurous groups on tours of trails and waterways from the East Bay of California to San Jose's Elkhorn Slough, exploring caves, forests, and wildlife-rich areas on the way. On protected Elkhorn Slough, groups of up to 20 make their way on stable kayaks as their attentive tour guides give rich history of the area and point out wildlife including seals and sea otters. In Florida's Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge, groups snorkel and canoe to observe wild west indian manatees and their notorious poker habits.
The company also does specialty tours for school groups that include tide-pooling adventures and trekking through a redwood forest to see some of the country's oldest trees. Tours for women-only groups include private cruises where ladies can spy whales and a variety of seaborne wildlife, including fish, dolphins, and long-lost swim fins.
Situated atop the lapping waves of Monterey Bay, Paradise Beach Grille combines upscale island cuisine with stunning waterfront views of Soquel Creek and Capitola Beach. Local, seasonal vegetables abut flavorful entrees from Paradise’s menu, such as the sugar and spice salmon paired with champagne mustard burre blanc ($22) and the Haleakala lava flow prawns sauteed in pinot grigio ($26). An extensive wine list complements island-inspired taste notes, and Paradise’s on-the-water location and outdoor seating means you can watch the world float by on its spherical boogie board until a jellyfish swims too close or its fingerlakes start to prune.
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; the Beginning Digital Photography course teaches students to harness the intricacies of their instruments, and the Pro Academy offers inside tips on how to successfully snap wedding portraits, pose recent grads, or tease out candid emotions. 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.