Vroman’s Live

Bookstore boasts stellar lineup for November

By Arroyo Staff

The renowned bookstore Vroman’s is hosting more top-notch virtual programs throughout November. 

The “Vroman’s Live” events are held virtually through Crowdcast. Register through vromansbookstore.com.

All “Vroman’s Presents” events are ticketed and will be held in-person off-site and will have COVID-19 event safety guidelines that need to be followed attend. 

Anyone with questions is asked to contact email@

Vroman’s presents

Blair Imani, in conversation with Andre Henry, discusses “Read This to Get Smarter: About Race, Class, Gender, Disability & More”

7 p.m. Monday, November 1

An approachable guide to being an informed, compassionate and socially conscious person today — from discussions of race, gender and sexual orientation to disability, class and beyond — from critically acclaimed historian, educator and author Blair Imani. Accessible to learners of all levels — from those just getting started on the journey to those already versed in social justice — “Read This to Get Smarter” covers a range of topics, including race, gender, class, disability, relationships, family, power dynamics, oppression and beyond. 

This ticketed event will take place at All Saints Church located at 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena. Ticket includes one entry plus one copy of “Read This to Get Smarter.”

Father Gregory Boyle discusses
“The Whole Language: The Power
of Extravagant Tenderness”

7 p.m. Thursday, November 4

Over the past 30 years, Gregory Boyle has transformed thousands of lives through his work as the founder of Homeboy Industries, the largest and most successful gang-intervention program in the world. In a community struggling to overcome systemic poverty and violence, “The Whole Language” shows how those at Homeboy Industries fight despair and remain generous, hopeful and tender. Boyle’s moving stories challenge our ideas about God and about people, providing a window into a world filled with fellowship, compassion and fewer barriers. 

This ticketed event will take place at All Saints Church located at 132 N. Euclid Avenue, Pasadena. Ticket includes one entry plus one copy of “The Whole Language.”

Christina Diaz Gonzalez, in
conversation with James Ponti,
discusses “Concealed”

6 p.m. Friday, November 5

Katrina doesn’t know any of the details about her past, but she does know that she and her parents are part of the Witness Protection Program. Whenever her parents say they have to move on and start over, she takes on a new identity — until their location leaks and her parents disappear. Forced to embark on a dangerous rescue mission, Katrina and her new friend Parker set out to save her parents — and find out the truth about her secret past and the people that want her family dead.

But every new discovery reveals that Katrina’s entire life has been built around secrets covered up with lies and that her parents were actually the ones keeping the biggest secret of all. Katrina must now decide if learning the whole truth is worth the price of losing everything she has ever believed about herself and her family.

Editor Saraciea Fennell, with
contributors Mark Oshiro, Lilliam
Rivera and Ingrid Rojas
Contreras, discusses “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora”

5 p.m. Monday, November 8

Edited by “The Bronx Is Reading” founder Saraciea J. Fennell and featuring an all-star cast of Latino contributors, “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed” is a groundbreaking anthology that will spark dialogue and inspire hope.

In “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed,” bestselling and award-winning authors, as well as up-and-coming voices, interrogate the different myths and stereotypes about the Latinx diaspora. These 15 original pieces delve into everything from ghost stories and superheroes to memories in the kitchen and travels around the world, to addiction and grief, to identity and anti-Blackness, to finding love and speaking your truth. 

Wil Haygood, in conversation with Peter Gethers, discusses “Colorization: One Hundred Years of Black Films in a White World”

6 p.m. Tuesday, November 9

This unprecedented history of Black cinema examines 100 years of Black movies — from “Gone with the Wind” to “Blaxploitation” films to “Black Panther” — using the struggles and triumphs of the artists, and the films themselves, as a prism to explore Black culture, civil rights, and racism in America.

Beginning in 1915 with D.W. Griffith’s “The Birth of a Nation,” Wil Haygood gives an incisive, fascinating, little-known history, spanning more than a century, of Black artists in the film business, on-screen and behind the scenes. He makes clear the effects of changing social realities and events on the business of making movies and on what was represented on the screen: from Jim Crow and segregation to white flight and interracial relationships, from the assassination of Malcolm X to the O.J. Simpson trial, to the Black Lives Matter movement.

Patti Davis, in conversation with Max Boot, discusses “Floating in the Deep End: How Caregivers Can See Beyond Alzheimer’s”

6 p.m. Wednesday, November 10

When Patti Davis’ father, the 40th president of the United States, announced his Alzheimer’s diagnosis in an address to the American public in 1994, the world had not yet begun speaking about this cruel, mysterious disease. Yet overnight, Ronald Reagan and his immediate family became the face of Alzheimer’s, and Davis, once content to keep her family at arm’s length, quickly moved across the country to be present during “the journey that would take (him) into the sunset of (his) life.”

In “Floating in the Deep End,” Davis draws on a welter of experiences to provide a singular account of battling Alzheimer’s. 

She shares how her own fractured family came together. She offers tender moments in which her father, a fabled movie star whom she always longed to know better, revealed his true self — always kind, even when he couldn’t recognize his own daughter.

Jung Yun, in conversation with
Elizabeth McKenzie, discusses
“O Beautiful”

6 p.m. Thursday, November 18

Elinor Hanson, a 40-something former model, is struggling to reinvent herself as a freelance writer when her mentor from grad school offers her a chance to write for a prestigious magazine about the Bakken oil boom in North Dakota. Elinor grew up near the Bakken, raised by an overbearing father and a distant Korean mother who met and married when he was stationed overseas.

After decades away from home, Elinor returns to a landscape she hardly recognizes, overrun by tens of thousands of newcomers.

Elinor experiences a profound sense of alienation and grief. She rages at the unrelenting male gaze, the locals who still see her as a foreigner and the memories of her family’s estrangement after her mother decided to escape her unhappy marriage, leaving Elinor and her sister behind. The longer she pursues this potentially career-altering assignment, the more her past intertwines with the story she’s trying to tell, revealing disturbing new realities that will forever change her and the way she looks at the world.

Andrew Lawler discusses “Under
Jerusalem: The Buried History of
the World’s Most Contested City”

6 p.m. Monday, November 22

In 1863, a French senator arrived in Jerusalem hoping to unearth relics dating to biblical times. Digging deep underground, he discovered an ancient grave that, he claimed, belonged to an Old Testament queen. News of his find ricocheted around the world, evoking awe and envy alike, and inspiring others to explore Jerusalem’s storied past.

In the century and a half since the Frenchman broke ground, Jerusalem has drawn a global cast of fortune seekers and missionaries, archaeologists and zealots. Their efforts have had profound effects, not only on our understanding of Jerusalem’s history but on its hotly disputed present. The quest to retrieve ancient Jewish heritage has sparked bloody riots and thwarted international peace agreements. It has served as a cudgel, a way to stake a claim to the most contested city on the planet. Today, the earth below Jerusalem remains a battleground in the struggle to control the city above.

Dera White & Joe Bennett
present “I Will Not Die Alone

6 p.m. Tuesday, November 30”

Dera White’s “I Will Not Die Alone” is a hilarious, feel-good story about the end of the world. Featuring illustrations by Joe Bennett, it is a story full of realistic self-love affirmations for those who are just trying to get by, until we die.

It’s funny, it’s dark and there’s a lion wearing pants. If you only read one more book before the world ends, make it this one. “I Will Not Die Alone” is a sweet yet sad, heartwarming yet heartbreaking read.

Putting the Artist First

Photo submitted

Indie Lauretta Records has major-label power
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Katrina Frye feels like an outsider in the music business. She’s trying to change that with Pasadena-based Lauretta Records. 

“There are not a lot of Black women who own record labels,” Frye says. 

“This category, independent music, has finally gotten the legitimacy and the power that majors have. A lot of people see the value of indie music more than ever.”

She is hosting Lauretta Records & Friends in partnership with Los Angeles Performance Practice at Frankie: Mission Road Studio from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, November 7, with Marieme, Davie, Meaghan Maples, Kesha Shantrell, Jordan Frye, Revel Day and Sascha Andres. 

Frye has been in the music business for a decade. In her short time, she says she’s had to explain to family or friends, investors or colleagues, what is sustainable and what money can be made. 

YouTube and TikTok have proven that. 

“I’ve never seen so much money invested in music,” Frye says. “I’m trying to ride that wave. The Black Lives Matter movement is finding a lot of legitimacy. I thought I couldn’t talk about it anymore unless I’m doing it.”

The talent pool is wide, but there are so many gatekeepers, she says. Music executives are unwilling to sit down and talk to artists, which is “atrocious and disgusting,” she says. 

“I hope I’m empowering my artists,” she says. “If they don’t stay with me forever, I hope they stay on the course of advocating for themselves.”

A music professor at night at California Baptist University, Frye is a Black Independent Music Accelerator Fellow.

“Lauretta Records is my ode to the artist, “Frye says. “I wanted to create a label that was reflective of what artists need — transparency, accountability, without exclusive commitment.” 

The label is focused on bringing artists’ work to life through television and film licensing. The current roster of artists spans across genres like the soulfulness of Revel Day with his latest single release “Get Up,” the dark synth pop of Lavendel with her debut single releasing later this fall, and the R&B lyrical charm of Kesha Shantrell’s recent EP “Phase.”

“Revel Day is a phenomenal artist,” she says. “His parents are LA musicians. His family has been in the music scene for a while. He was doing really well as a background singer. Now was the time for his own artist project. I feel honored to have met him at this exact time in his life.”

Day adds, “Having a team that sees me, sees my goals and says yes, we want to align with that and help you get there — that’s the dream. Being able to find it in a place like this that I trust, it just excites me what the future can be. I think my dreams are coming true and Lauretta is a big part of that.”

Shantrell sang background for several artists in LA and around the world. Like Day, she led church services around town. 

“They’re the call you get when the A-lister wants to arrange a choir and a background vocalist and layer them quickly. She’s doing what a lot of Black women haven’t figured out in the music industry — just to be herself and explore outside of the genre. 

“Right now, the music industry is a new place for Black women to be. I’m happy to have a label that can house a range of complexities no matter what the background, race or ethnicity. The talent should hold and speak for itself. I’m really proud of her as well. She’s the typical ‘20 Feet from Stardom’ story.”

“20 Feet from Stardom” is a 2013 documentary about the lives of background singers. 

On signing to Lauretta Records, Shantrell says, “My eyes have been open to just a whole other part of myself. I never thought I could write this kind of music and be who I am and be able to dream and set up a future for myself. Lauretta has already set my future up by encouraging me and pushing me to continue doing this.”

With Costa Rican and Mississippi roots and years of background singing for artists like Leona Lewis, Andy Grammer and Kanye West, Shantrell’s vocal range shows in songs like “Fire” and “Brand New” from “Phase.” 

Lauretta Records gives her energy in other ways. The feeling of being the only woman in boardrooms — the only woman of color or person of color in the room — is joyful. 

“I cheer myself on in those moments and channel all the great people who have come before me and my mentors,” she says. “It shows that yes, I’m qualified, and I know what I’m talking about.”

Lauretta Records & Friends in Partnership with Los Angeles Performance Practice w/Marieme, Davie, Meaghan Maples, Kesha Shantrell, Jordan Frye, Revel Day and Sascha Andres 

WHEN: 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday, November 7

WHERE: Frankie: Mission Road Studio,
300 S. Mission Road, Los Angeles

COST: Various tiers

INFO: laurettarecords.com

‘Head Over Heels’

Photo by Tina Turnbow

Lea DeLaria is mad about her latest project 

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Lea DeLaria just left rehearsals for the Pasadena Playhouse’s production of “Head Over Heels.” The “Orange is the New Black” star is giddy and oozing of energy.

“It’s our second day of rehearsals, and we’re having a ball,” DeLaria says enthusiastically. “I’m excited.”

“Head Over Heels” is a musical comedy set to the tunes of the Go-Go’s, like “Our Lips are Sealed” and “Vacation,” as well as singer Belinda Carlisle’s hits “Heaven is a Place on Earth” and “Mad About You.”

The dance party musical follows a royal family in search of a purpose, lovers in search of each other, and a whole kingdom in search of a beat. 

In it, DeLaria plays King Basilius to drag performer Alaska 5000’s Queen Gynecia. 

“I like that they asked me to play the king,” she says. “It is a drag musical. I’m playing a male role, which is really fun. Having Alaska in it is really what drew me to it. It’s just a great show. I’m in between projects right now. I had these two months off. It’s like the universe was saying, ‘Do this musical.’”

Award winner

DeLaria is best known for her three-time, SAG Award-winning role as Carrie “Big Boo” Black in the Netflix hit series “Orange is the New Black.” However, DeLaria’s multifaceted career as a comedian, actress and jazz musician has, in fact, spanned decades.

DeLaria is the first openly gay comic on American television, which led to countless television and film roles. She received Obie & Theater World Awards, and a Drama Desk nomination for her portrayal of “Hildy” in the Public Theater’s revival of “On the Town,” and played “Eddie” and “Dr. Scott” in the gender-bending Broadway musical “The Rocky Horror Show.”

She was the featured vocalist at the 50th anniversary of the Newport Jazz Festival and has performed in prestigious houses like Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, the Chicago Symphony, Hollywood Bowl, the Royal Albert Hall and the Sydney Opera House.

DeLaria has five records on the Warner Jazz and Classics label, and her book “Lea’s Book of Rules for the World” is in its third printing at Bantam Doubleday and Dell. Her sixth record, “House of David delaria+bowie=jazz,” was released in the summer of 2015 to critical acclaim.

After “Head Over Heels,” DeLaria will work on recording her next album in New York. She chuckles when she’s called a multihyphenate entertainer. 

“When you look like me and you say what you think like me and make no apologies, it’s a good idea to do a lot of things in show business,” she says. 

“Oh, honey, believe me, I know it’s true. I’ve never been afraid of it. Obviously, I’m looking to do more than just make a living and entertain. Obviously, trying to change the world is very important to me. I can back my mouth up with all these things, and I do all this well.”

Stellar cast

At Pasadena Playhouse, DeLaria and Alaska 5000 will be joined by Urel Echezarreta (Steven Spielberg’s “West Side Story”), Tiffany Mann (“Be More Chill”), George Salazar (“Little Shop of Horrors”), Emily Skeggs (“Fun Home”) and Shanice Williams (NBC’s “The Wiz Live!”).

The musical kicks off Pasadena Playhouse’s 2021-22 season. The venue will be fully transformed for the production, creating an experience with traditional reserved theater seats and a general admission dance floor. 

“It’s going to be done environmentally and in the round at the Playhouse,” DeLaria says.

“The audience is a major part of the production. It was conceived as a dance musical on Broadway. Everybody in the cast is known for being a really big singer. There’s plenty of dancing in it. It’s wicked fun.”

DeLaria says the plot is comedic with Shakespearian themes. It blends “As You Like It,” “The Winter’s Tale,” “The Comedy of Errors” and “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“It’s such a nice break to be back on the boards,” she says. “I love doing film and TV. Don’t get me wrong. I have a great time doing it. I love being downstage belting at B sharp.”

Clocking in at 90 minutes with no intermission, “Head Over Heels” has proven to be challenging for the 63-year-old actor. She says she must be mindful of her vocal cords and, as a physical comedian, she is careful about running and jumping around the stage. 

“It’s going to be really funny when people see the juxtaposition of me and Alaska together,” DeLaria says. “She’s lovely, so dry and so funny, not to mention she’s way taller than me. The sight gag is going to be funny. My king is a big goofball. It’s really entertaining. The cast is raring to go and chomping at the bit to start.”

“Head Over Heels”

WHEN: Tuesday, November 9, to Sunday, December 12: 8 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays; and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays

WHERE: Pasadena Playhouse, 39 S. El Molina Avenue, Pasadena

COST: Tickets start at $30

INFO: 626-356-7529, pasadenaplayhouse.org

Suzy’s Sweets Boutique

Photo by Chris Mortenson

Refined goodies are kept close to the vest

By Frier McCollister

In Suzan “Suzy” Ohanian’s small townhouse kitchen, the chef has made a remarkable impact on an otherwise sleepy neighborhood in east Pasadena. 

With the help of her daughter, Hermine, her husband, Hovig, and her mother, Mary Joubalian, she has created some of the most finely crafted and truly delicious Levantine pastries in the Arroyo. With the burgeoning generational Armenian community in Pasadena and Glendale, that’s saying something.

Baklava, maamoul, kunafa and lokum are the usual suspects, but Suzy’s marzipan cakes and French macarons have induced swoons locally as well. 

Hermine is her chief assistant, spokesperson and translator for a Sunday afternoon conversation in the family dining room, where the pastries are packaged for pickup for her growing throng of customers.

It seems an unlikely story. In 2011, the Ohanians decamped from Aleppo, Syria, to Pasadena to visit relatives and ostensibly vacation, when the first disturbances erupted in Syria in the wake of the Arab Spring protests. 

“In 2011, during the war, we flew to the United States for vacation until everything settled down and got back to normal in Syria,” Hermine explains. 

“We stayed here for three months, and we realized we cannot go back. I started working. (Suzy) had never worked in her life. She was only making food and sweets for us in Syria. She learned from her mother. She kept baking, baking, baking until her friend asked her to make that kunafa for me please. It tastes so good. That’s the first tray that she wanted to give to someone. Apparently, she sold it. That’s how it all started.

“The first time, when my friend wanted (the kunafe), I was very upset. I never worked in my life. One week later, I started to think, ‘Why am I not working?’ I wanted to try to work because everybody was working. In my country, women don’t usually work. But I decided to work.”

After that first tray of kunafa went out the door, Suzy began experimenting in the kitchen and selling her pastries at local cultural events.

“She started participating in shows in our community,” Hermine says. 

“People have a small stand and sell their products. The shows were in Armenian communities in big halls, where you go and prepare your sweets and you get a table and you start selling. Everybody started loving it, because when she makes something, she makes it as if she is making it for us, for her family. For example, when I’m helping her, if it doesn’t look OK, she doesn’t give it to her customers, she eats it herself — or we eat it. The perfect pieces go to the customer. Friends and friends of friends started asking her to make sweets. That’s how she came to this point now.”

Suzy adds, “I decided to work.” 

Competent baking requires at least a modicum of precision, but Suzy’s self-taught approach is of another order. 

Her cakes, cookies and pastries resulted from years of painstaking trials and experiments with techniques and ingredients. “She works so hard to make her recipes perfect and perfect and perfect. It took her three or four years to say, ‘OK, this is it. I’m not changing it anymore.’ It’s four years of exploration and tasting and getting feedback and making it perfect and changing,” Hermine says.

“She’s very precise with the (measurements), with the cleanliness, with the materials, the ingredients, always using the best. So, people actually appreciated that. When they taste, they can tell it’s much different than what they’re buying in the stores, prepackaged. Everything that she makes is fresh.”

If anything, one secret may be in Suzy’s refined and exacting palate. 

“When I tried the same sweets that I am making, when I buy it here, made by somebody else, they don’t know how it really tastes. No, I will make the same sweets, the way they’re supposed to taste. With the right ingredients, with the clean ingredients, with pure ingredients, not just buy pistachio powder and create a maamoul,” Suzy explains.

“When you try one of those, you will feel that. She was always saying that the sweets here are very, very sweet, lots of sugar. She makes sure to reduce the sugar so that you get the real flavor of every single ingredient,” Hermine interjects.

Suzy adds, “Some sweets you have to boil the butter, take the milk out of it and use the real pure butter without the milk, clarified butter. Some sweets require regular butter. I don’t compromise on anything.”

Hermine presented a jar of walnuts. “This is the main ingredient for most of her baklavas, whole walnuts. If they need to be cracked, she cracks it. If it needs to be ground, she grinds it. She always starts with the whole walnut, the whole pistachio, the whole almond. That’s how you make sure you’re getting fresh product,” she says.

Suppliers send boxes of samples to her to make sure it’s fresh, Suzy said. “They depend on me.”  

For the newly initiated, regular customer favorites are clear. “The classic marzipan, the chocolate walnut marzipan,” Suzy says. The customers called it “incredible,” Hermine adds.

“Maamoul pistachio and then baklava swaret el set,” adds Suzy, noting the other two favorite contenders. Here, Hermine presented a tray of baklava shaped in fat coins of delicate filo, each with a bright green glitter of pistachio over the walnut filling at the center.

“This is called the swaret el set. In Arabic this means ‘bracelet of a woman,’” Hermine explains. 

“It has an interesting story. It’s a very old sweet. It’s called ‘bracelet of a woman’ because of its shape. It’s the bracelet of a beautiful, sweet woman.”

Suzy makes five styles of baklava, including antep-style pistachio squares.

Finely crafted and popular French macarons are also on the menu. Suzy created them at the request of friends, who suggested that they might be more appealing to the younger generation than traditional cookies. 

It took her three months to painstakingly perfect the macaron recipe. 

“Every milligram makes a difference in her macarons. It is like a science,” Hermine confirms.

Customers place their orders via email through the website — which Hermine built and designed — or directly by phone. Directions for pickup are given when the order is confirmed. Allow proper lead time, depending on the order. 

“They can order online, but they pick it up from the house,” Hermine says. “Her customers — who know her already — they know they have to order three to four days in advance. For cakes, it’s 10 days in advance, because she can only make a limited number of cakes. It takes lots of time. It’s not just any simple cake. We package them on the dining table here.” 

Suzy also supplies her sweets on wholesale order to two local restaurants. 

“Tarmeh (Mediterranean Grill) in Glendale. The other one we cannot disclose,” Hermine allows. Notably, the other bit of nondisclosure are Suzy’s recipes. Despite a barrage of unseemly cajoling, she remained firmly opposed to sharing any of her secrets. “She definitely doesn’t want to give out recipes,” Hermine confirmed.

“As long as I’m working, I don’t,” Suzy affirmed, with a modest proviso. She is considering teaching eventually.

“She has a plan later on to teach. Have students and teach them to make these types of sweets in a perfect way. She really doesn’t want to give away recipes. She can share ingredients, of course,” Hermine offers.

The sources may be surprising.

The best butter? “Kirkland brand, from Costco.” 

Eggs? “It took her three to four years to find the best eggs for her macarons. You cannot really go and buy eggs from anywhere to use for macarons. It took her a very long time to find that this is the only place to buy eggs,” Hermine says.

“Restaurant Depot, medium size,” Suzy reveals. Vanilla? “Mideast brand from Good Food” she says about the neighborhood Armenian market on Washington Boulevard. By the way, Suzy’s dutiful husband Hovig does all the shopping (and returns).

In 10 short years, Suzy has found her place in the world. East Pasadena. “This area here, we love it. It feels like home for us.”

Suzy’s Sweets Boutique




The Strength Shoppe

Photo submitted

Staff pushes clients in nontraditional exercise form

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Melinda Hughes suffered from scoliosis as well as knee pain, until she discovered SuperSlow strength training 13 years ago. 

After experiencing more energy during the day and a more restful sleep each night, the then-27-year-old noticed her knee pain disappeared and her back was stronger. Her scoliosis wasn’t as pronounced because she safely corrected muscular imbalances.

“I thought it was too good to be true,” she says. “Something about the science that made sense to me. I went out on a limb and tried the workout with her. Right away, I would tell the difference. In only a few months, my knee pain was completely gone. It was just a matter of strengthening the muscles.”

In 2011, wanting to share SuperSlow, she stepped out on her own and opened The Strength Shoppe to bring the benefits of high-intensity strength training to Pasadena. The move has proven to be successful. Six years later, she expanded to DTLA/Echo Park.

Hughes says the technique is quite different, calling it “slow-motion, high-intensity strength training.”

“You’re lifting the weight slowly and lowering it slowly,” she adds.

“You’re not using momentum to lift the weight. You work very intensely. We never lock out our joints, and we never set the weight down. From the beginning to the end of the exercise, muscles are working to a point of muscle failure. If you’re lifting to the point of muscle failure, you’re not allowing the muscle to rest.”

Hughes says at one point, the weight can’t be lifted. At that point, Hughes or her staff encourage the person to try to move the weight for 10 seconds. 

“The key element to this is because you’re working the muscles that intensely it’s a more effective workout.

The body must be pushed a little bit more to get it to respond, she says. This form of exercise was developed for osteoporosis patients in their 80s and is safe enough for 90-year-old osteoporotic women. 

“Weight training has long been known to be the only nonmedication way of halting progress of osteoporosis and reversing it,” she says. 

Her studio members with osteoporosis were using traditional strength training, which made them susceptible to bone fractures. SuperSlow produces results quicker and more significantly, too, she explains. It just takes 20 minutes once a week.

Her clients range in age from 12 to 91. The younger ones are children of members who want their kids to understand how to take care of their body and feel good about it, she explains.

“I had a client come in walking with a cane,” says Hughes, who adds SuperSlow is based on scientific research. “She said her doctor wanted her to try strength training before knee replacement surgery. 

“The healing after the knee replacement surgery goes better if you’re stronger. The aftercare is easier. After only about two to three months, she had no pain and was walking without the cane. She still hasn’t had knee replacements.”

Hughes says without allowing the body to recover, those who use traditional exercise are more susceptible to cold, flu, sickness and injury. 

Still, according to the Mayo Clinic, research hasn’t shown SuperSlow strength training to be superior to other forms of strength training. 

Hughes says SuperSlow is perfect for those who want to exercise and get the maximum benefit in a minimal amount of time. Armed with a Master of Science in holistic nutrition, Hughes sees many clients who are busy parents or those who work long days.

The exercise form works, she says, because SuperSlow causes little tears to the muscle fiber. The muscle, which is attached to bone, tugs at the bone, causing trauma to the bone tissue. 

“Growth hormones are released, osteoblasts are released, and the body recovers from the workout. 

“It’s like your skin,” she explains. “If you scrape your knee, your skin is going to repair itself pretty quickly. In a day or two it’s done. If you cut your skin to the bone, it’s going to require more days for the body to repair the skin tissue and heal that wound.”

The Studio City resident says working out at The Strength Shoppe is appropriate in this pandemic-riddled world. 

“This is still a raging virus,” Hughes says. “It’s nice to be able to come in and have your trainer wear a mask. You’re the only one in there. You don’t have to worry about bigger gyms with a bunch of people. 

“COVID-19 hit the fitness industry really hard. However, people are not looking for big classes with lots of people. That’s not what the people are looking for right now. They’re looking for something that makes them healthier and keeps them strong. We have an air purifier system, and we clean the machines after workouts. All it takes is 20 minutes each week.”

The Strength Shoppe

350 S. Lake Avenue, Suite 105, Pasadena

305 Glendale Boulevard, Los Angeles


Family Ties

Photo submitted

Pasadena Humane strives to keep animals with their pet parents

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Whether it’s meowing for water in the middle of the night or urinating outside of a litterbox, pet parents sometimes need a little guidance with their fur babies.

Pasadena Humane has the answer for that. It offers a robust in-person and over-the-phone support with the Animal Resource Center’s six animal behavior specialists. Owners can make an appointment with one via the free behavior helpline. 

The helpline provides guidance for common problem behaviors such as potty training/litter box issues, barking, leash manners and scratching furniture. It can also provide advice for new puppy, kitten and critter adopters. 

“If someone is having behavior issues like a litter box with cats or reactive dog issues, we can connect them with our free behavior helpline to resolve that problematic behavior,” says Dia DuVernet, Pasadena Humane’s president and chief executive officer.

The center is devoted to helping pet owners whenever possible. 

“For example, if there’s a pet owner in financial hardship, we can connect them with a food bank, or if someone temporarily does not have a place to live, we will provide temporary boarding for the animals until (their owners) get back on their feet.”

Pasadena Humane’s support includes assistance for people who have lost or found pets, need to rehome their pet, or are seeking advice on any pet-related issue. Since the pandemic started, Pasadena Humane has increased its efforts to return lost animals with identification to their owners in the field, rather than having the pets come into the shelter. 

Sick or injured wildlife are cared for as well. DuVernet says Pasadena Humane sees many varieties of birds, squirrels, possums and skunks. Injured or orphaned baby hummingbirds are brought to Pasadena Humane occasionally.

“Any wild animals we might have in our community can be brought to us,” she explains. 

“We don’t have jurisdiction over larger predatory wildlife like bears, which are under the jurisdiction of the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. We see all sorts of little critters.”

DuVernet says the goal is to rehab the animals and release them back into the wild. For example, if a baby bird falls out of its nest, wildlife experts can tell residents how to reunite the bird with its mom. If that works, there is no need to bring in the bird.

Animals that are brought into Pasadena Humane are nursed with incubators and fed with their proper diet. 

“The goal is to have as little human interaction as possible to keep them wild,” she says. “We keep them until they’re healthy or old enough to take them out and release them.”

Resources go beyond Pasadena Humane’s walls. It provides animal control in Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Glendale, La Cañada-Flintridge, La Crescenta-Montrose, Monrovia, Pasadena (city and unincorporated), San Marino, Sierra Madre and South Pasadena. The communities contract with Pasadena Humane for animal control.

Animal control handles animal cruelty investigations, stray animal assistance, owner relinquishment, nuisance complaints, law enforcement and citations, pet licensing, wildlife and community education. 

“During the pandemic, we equipped all animal control officers with microchip reader and computer so when an animal control officer picks up a stray animal in the community, they can contact the owner and take the animal directly home, rather than take it to the shelter.

“We just want to keep animals in their homes.”

Pasadena Humane

361 S. Raymond Avenue, Pasadena

626-792-7151, pasadenahumane.org

Pasadena Humane Animal Behavior Hotline


Wildlife helpline

626-344-1129 (text is preferred) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. 

A Carefully Cultivated Craft

Photo submitted

Dan Santat worked through love and loss with art
By Lynda Lin Grigsby

Dan Santat’s best work as a storyteller comes when he taps into his experiences to fill the pages of children’s books. He pours himself into his work or uses a muse as a spirit animal to draw out emotions, guide the lines of his illustrations and the narrative arc of his stories. 

It is a carefully cultivated craft that Santat, 45, weaves in all his work as a children’s book writer and illustrator. 

His 2014 Caldecott Award-winning book “The Adventures of Beekle: The Unimaginary Friend” is a metaphor about the birth of his oldest son. Similarly, Santat channeled his youngest son’s side-swept hairstyle and impatience to grow up in his 2016 book “Are We There Yet?” And his heartwarming story of how Humpty Dumpty overcomes the trauma of falling off the wall in his 2017 book “After the Fall” is a love letter to wife, who battled anxiety since she was kid. 

For Santat, the time since “After the Fall” has been marked with contradictory presence of writer’s block and productivity. Anyone who knows Santat knows about his prolific work ethic. When not writing his own stories, he collaborates to illustrate children’s books and graphic novels. His expansive body of work — 12 books he authored and illustrated and over 120 picture and chapter books he illustrated in collaboration with other authors — can make anyone in his field shrink in his shadows. 

“It wouldn’t hurt for him to slow every now and then to stop making the rest of us look so lazy,” jokes Minh Lê, a writer and frequent collaborator including on the forthcoming book “The Blur.”

School-age children most likely have a Santat book on their bookshelf with a profile picture of the artist bespectacled behind a shock of eyebrows. The Art Center-educated artist lives by the mantra “Be undeniably good,” a quote from actor Steve Martin. His momentum seemed unstoppable with collaborations with well-loved authors like Mo Willems, Dav Pilkey and Brad Meltzer.

Then the pandemic upended the publishing world. Cue the screeching brakes sound effect. During the lockdown, buying children’s books was not top of mind for consumers, Santat says. But what the pandemic takes away, it gives back in time. The pandemic forced the world to slow down enough for the artist to finish a long-simmering personal project. 

Santat’s forthcoming book “Aquanauts” marks his return to the driver’s seat as his own storyteller. It is some of his most introspective work born out of the depths of the pandemic, an unexpected move from his longtime home and the loss of his dad. 

In March, Scholastic will release “Aquanauts,” a fantastical middle school graphic novel that Santat has been working on for 10 years. The story is about sea creatures that repurpose a diving suit into a land-walking device. 

“It was something that wasn’t originally personal but has now become very personal,” Santat says. 

The “Aquanauts” story also centers on loss and the ripples after someone passes away. He dedicated the book to his father, Adam Udom Santat, who died of liver cancer in April at 78. 

“It’s the only one I can really think of honoring my father,” Santat says. 

It’s almost been six months since his dad’s death, but he says it feels like so long ago. It makes him wonder if it is yet another effect of the pandemic bending the perception of time or if it’s the appropriate time to mourn.

In June, the Santat family moved from their longtime home in Alhambra to San Marino. Yes, the self-proclaimed Fresh Prince of Pasadena, according to the tagline on his Twitter account, is just an alliterative satire. Although both of his teenage sons attend Pasadena’s Waverly School. 

The Fresh Prince of San Marino just hits differently. 

The artist and his family moved to a bigger home to fulfill his dad’s dying wish to care for his mom, Nancy Santat, 76, who has yet to decide if she wants to leave her home in Camarillo. 

Between finishing the book, moving to a new house and settling his dad’s estate, Santat has not had time to feel sad, but the universe has a way of breaking him open in unexpected ways. 

One day, Santat wandered to the backyard of his new house and found the body of a lifeless crow. Crows are among the few animals that show a social response to a dead member. In his yard, crows cawed mournfully and swooped through the air for their fallen friend. Santat inadvertently interrupted their funeral. You could almost hear him shaking his head through the phone.

“That was just like the thing that just triggered me, and I just felt very sad,” he says. “You know, just crying in front of all these birds in the backyard.”

Santat is the son of a doctor groomed to follow in his dad’s footsteps. It was a preordained path he abruptly ended after he earned a degree in microbiology at the University of California, San Diego. He chose art school over dental school. 

At UC San Diego, he met his future wife Leah (Tager) Santat, who knew the artist would never be happy as a dentist.   

“In science classes at UCSD, he would doodle in all of his notes,” says Leah Santat, 46, a lab manager and technician at Cal Tech. “Drawing and telling stories was always his calling.”

A late September Vroman’s Bookstore virtual forum promoted the new book “Bear is a Bear,” illustrated by Santat. Author Jonathan Stutzman called him the Michael Jordan of children’s books. Then, on second thought, knowing that Santat is a Lakers’ fan, Stutzman changed the reference to Magic Johnson.

“I am always in awe of the magic he’s able to create on a page and the fact that he created magic to go along with words I wrote,” says Stutzman, 34.

Santat is also working on a graphic novel memoir about his coming-of-age adventures in Europe in the summer of 1989 before the start of high school. He had his first kiss, tasted beer for the first time, and watched the men’s semifinals at Wimbledon between John McEnroe and Stefan Edberg. 

“It’s just this crazy story about not worrying about the past and just kind of embracing the present,” Santat says. “It’s a book for young Dan from grown up Dan.”

He’s crafting this memoir for his sons, Alek, 15, and Kyle, 12.

“I want them to understand why I am the way I am, because I never really got to know my father that well,” Santat says.

Despite the challenges of the last year and a half, Santat has perspective on his career as a children’s book artist.

“I think about what I do and how fortunate I am to get paid very well to sit in front of computer and draw pictures for kids and not break a sweat. And actually, to do something that I don’t even consider work,” Santat says. “I don’t take that lightly.”

That’s just undeniably good.

Shields Up

Photo submitted

Post Alarm continues reputation for safety with Night Shield

By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Family-owned Post Alarm has a reputation for being innovative. With Night Shield, co-owners Robert Post and his sister, Gina Post-Franco, are taking it a step further. 

Night Shield is a relatively new product unlike any others in the market. With 360-degree protection, smart security cameras send alerts directly to the monitoring center when suspicious activity is detected. Patrol is dispatched and crime deterred. The team adheres to the company’s mantra of detect, respond and deter.

“Alerts are great when you’re awake, but at night, you don’t see it,” Post says. 

“With Night Shield, when the alarm system is armed, we monitor between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. If a person comes on your property, our central monitoring station and patrol officers see that video and dispatch patrol.”

Post himself has witnessed the efficiency of the product. Before the pandemic, Post Alarm woke Post to tell him patrol was en route and there was someone in his driveway. 

“I got a call on the landline at my house saying, ‘This is Post Alarm. Patrol is on the way,’” Post says. 

“There were people in the front yard. They caught three of four guys who were breaking into cars and mailboxes around the neighborhood.”

The passion for protection runs in the family’s veins. Post Alarm was founded by Post’s grandfather, Sam, in 1956 as a patrol company. In the 1970s, Post and Post-Franco’s father, Bill, built up the alarm side of the business — commercial and residential. 

“My grandpa was a chief of police in Colorado. He came out here to take a chief job, but when he got here, the job was taken,” Post says. “At the time, there was a big need for patrol companies with integrity and someone who did it right.”

Post, who took over the business with his sister eight years ago, plans on keeping Post Alarm in the family. Post Alarm could be called a one-stop shop for protection. 

“We are a full-service company,” Post says. “We do everything in-house — installation and service. We really do care about our customers and protecting them. We are one of the most innovative companies.”

The company offers month-to-month contracts in lieu of multiyear agreements required by other organizations. Service is provided from Ventura County south to just north of San Diego County.

Post Alarm boasts a UL five-diamond central station. UL means it can monitor banks and jewelry stores, for example. Post Alarm is one of only a handful in the nation. The five-diamond status reflects its stellar customer service. 

“We are proud of our service,” Post says. “Night Shield offers this additional layer of comfort and protection overnight,” he says. “Before they get to your house or try to break in, somebody’s watching out for you. It’s a cool, whole new layer of protection.”

Post Alarm


Rare Find

Photo submitted

Terraces at Ambassador Gardens combines modern luxury with historic charm

By Kamala Kirk

Having a beautiful and comfortable home is more important now than ever. A home serves as the ultimate personal sanctuary, offering a place of comfort, refuge and a direct connection to one’s well-being. For those in search of the perfect place to call home in Pasadena, Terraces at Ambassador Gardens features a limited collection of premium luxury residences by Etco Homes in a prime location just steps away from Old Town Pasadena. Residents of Terraces enjoy unlimited access to world-class shopping, dining and entertainment, including Ambassador Auditorium — home of the Pasadena Symphony — which is a two-minute walk from Terraces.

“Pasadena is rich with history and home to world-renowned arts and entertainment venues like Norton Simon Museum, which is right across the street from us,” says Bree Long, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Etco Homes. 

“We’re very close to The Huntington Library and Descanso Gardens as well. Terraces at Ambassador Gardens sits amidst a historical neighborhood, and the world-famous Rose Parade goes down our street every year. We are literally a stone’s throw from Old Pasadena and Colorado Boulevard, which has so many beautiful retail shops and restaurants. Because of our close proximity to the 134 and 210 Freeway corridors, our residents can easily access other neighborhoods and cities.”

One of the most unique features is Ambassador Gardens, the picturesque 34-acre garden setting that serves as the backdrop at Terraces. Located on the former Ambassador College campus, the grounds are home to a range of stunning plants and rare trees including native oaks, giant cedars and jasmine. Residents can enjoy a peaceful stroll across the expansive lawns surrounded by beautiful scenery such as koi ponds, stone-lined streams and a reflecting pool.

“The historic Ambassador Gardens are over a century old and protected by the city of Pasadena and Historic Society,” Long says. “It has rare species of trees that were originally brought over as status symbols for the original owners of the historic mansions that are located along the side of Ambassador Gardens. The trees have been beautifully preserved and are a focal point of the community.”

Built in 2018, the brand-new and sophisticated residences at Terraces range from 2,616 to 4,430 square feet and include single-level condos, tri-level townhomes and penthouses. The ultra-spacious condos include an open-concept great room and floor-to-ceiling walls of glass that fold open to a private patio or terrace. 

Each townhome has a private elevator, a great room that opens to a terrace, and a third level that offers a wet bar and media room with glass doors that lead to a private or roof terrace. In addition to expansive roof terraces with views of the surrounding gardens, the penthouses offer soaring ceilings and light-filled great rooms with stairs that lead to an airy mezzanine.

The modernized units are outfitted with state-of-the-art amenities and design features that include Sub-Zero appliances, walk-in closets, open-concept chef’s kitchens with islands, bi-fold glass doors and en-suite bathrooms. Every home at Terraces is appointed with the finest materials and finishes that have been hand-selected by renowned designers.

“One of the things that Etco Homes is known for is customization, especially in kitchens and bathrooms,” Long says. “There is a lot of customized tile work and individualized details that vary between each home, and there are many different features and color palettes that homebuyers can select from our remaining units. These homes really lend themselves for entertaining with folding glass doors that create a seamless indoor-outdoor living experience. Living in Pasadena, we have such a special opportunity to enjoy a great climate year-round and our penthouse units with rooftop living rooms are a luxury that our homeowners really appreciate.”

Residents at Terraces also enjoy a multitude of exclusive on-site amenities ranging from a resort-style community pool and free one-year Equinox gym membership to top-of-the-line security features and a lifestyle concierge that caters to every need, whether it’s booking dog walking services or reserving a personal chef.

Terraces is the last new construction development to be built on Ambassador Gardens grounds, and there are only 20 remaining units left for homebuyers to purchase.

“We had a really great response in the early days of our sales process with people really embracing the community and convenience of the lifestyle that Terraces offers,” Long points out. “Our homeowners have been really happy here and enjoy being part of this community. They love the ease of being able to get around, walk their pets in the gardens and engage with their neighbors. Many of them love the convenience of being able to lock their homes up whenever they want to travel and knowing it’ll be safe, secure and cared for while they’re away. Terraces offers the comfort of a single-family home without the burden of owning one.”

Long says Terraces attracts a wide range of homebuyers, from young professionals to retirees, but the common thread that ties their community’s owners together is a shared love of all the great things that the location and surrounding area has to offer in terms of its rich history and access to culture and entertainment.

“While we only have 20 units remaining, there is still an opportunity for homebuyers to select the best of what we have available,” Long says. “We’d love to invite anyone who is interested to come down so that we can give them a peek at what life at Terraces and in the heart of Pasadena looks like.” 

For more information, visit pasadenaperfected.com.

Entre Nous

Photo by Luis Chavez

Jean-Christophe Febbrari and Mathias Wakrat’s savoir vivre
By Frier McCollister

Jean-Christophe Febbrari and Mathias Wakrat opened their small, elegant French bistro Entre Nous on a shady stretch of Green Street in Pasadena in October 2018. 

It marked a new turn for the duo that was preceded by an impressive 15-year run in Eagle Rock with their popular restaurant Café Beaujolais on Colorado Boulevard. 

They cultivated a loyal following in Eagle Rock, and that helped launch the new Pasadena venue. Nevertheless, former enthusiasts of Café Beaujolais remain unaware of Entre Nous as the spawn of Febbrari and Wakrat. (A drummer, Wakrat is also the mastermind behind his eponymous alt-punk band with bassist Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine and guitarist Laurent Grangeon.)

“It’s a funny thing. Even today, almost every day (someone says), ‘You guys are here?’” Febbrari says about the restaurant.

The following from their run in Eagle Rock is extended and generational.

“We’ve known people who have followed us for years,” Febbrari says. “They are friends. From their first date at Beaujolais to their wedding, and now their kids are driving around. It’s a beautiful journey.”

Entre Nous evokes the ambiance of a classic bistro in its food and service. That said, there is a decided culinary nod to Provence and the south of France, where the two partners were born and raised.

Though the pair are natives of the same region in France, they met in the kitchen of Café Beaujolais in 2002, when they were employees working for the original owner. 

“I was a dishwasher. I had just arrived in 2002. We met there in the kitchen,” Febbrari confirms. 

“We both grew up on the Riviera. Mathias is from Saint-Tropez and Aix. I’m from Sanary, a small fishing town. We know the same spots (in France), but we met here. It’s a funny thing. It’s a journey. We didn’t have a restaurant background. We met here.”

The two budding restaurateurs bonded quickly. By 2004, they had hatched a plan with a silent partner investor and took over the ownership and operations at Café Beaujolais. Under the attention and guidance of Febbrari and Wakrat, the bistro soon became a local institution for reliably excellent and authentic French cuisine. 

The decision to decamp from Café Beaujolais and jump start the operation at Entre Nous in Pasadena came somewhat impulsively, when the lovely and storied location on Green Street became available. 

“We saw this place and we fell in love. Everything was beautiful. It was pure instinct,” Febbrari recalls.

With their staff intact — many of whom were nearly 20-year veterans at Beaujolais — the intrepid restaurateurs transformed the space from scratch. 

“If you build it, they will come,” he says. “It was a bit of that magic. Everything we did ourselves: the menu, the artwork. We’re hard workers. And we’re here. We’re a very small family. We understand each other without saying anything.”

Previously the location was occupied by Racion, the popular Catalan tapas bar engineered by Teresa Montano, who moved on to open the critically acclaimed Otono in Highland Park. 

Before that, the Venetian trattoria Tre Venezie filled the building. Febbrari describes the presence of Entre Nous as “a tribute” to its predecessors, each of whom also melded traditional regional cuisines with a sense of freshness, originality and refined technique.

“We closed Beaujolais on Sunday the 21st of October and we opened Entre Nous the next day on the 22nd. We were open for seven nights a week for seven months straight to meet and greet and understand the clientele,” Febbrari notes. “We are just like our customers. We eat here every night.”

Unlike the fine dining trend, Entre Nous has never been “chef driven.” Its reputation rests on the consistent quality of the experience. Entre Nous’ executive chef, Paul Carrier, joined the team during the pandemic.

“It’s interesting we have a chef with a French name, but he’s from Philadelphia,” Febbrari says. 

“He came along, and his philosophy and passion impressed us. He had a very healthy approach and knew his craft.”

The menu at Entre Nous hits all the classical notes, often with a Provençal accent. There are charcuterie ($30) and cheese boards ($19/$27), featuring rotating hand-selected curations from the chef. 

Appetizers include stalwarts like soupe a l’oignon gratinee or French onion soup ($17) and escargots de bourgogne ($19), snails served in their shells with garlic butter and pastis.

Brandade de morue au gratin de pommes de terre ($20) is a Provençal specialty with whipped salt cod and potatoes served with rosemary flatbread. 

Recently added to the menu is another classic, tartare de filet de boeuf or steak tartare ($25), macerated with fresh beets and bone marrow.

Notable menu entrees at Entre Nous include filet mignon a la Bordelaise ($44) with wild mushrooms and asparagus and a red wine and shallot reduction; la daube Provençale ($36), braised short rib with potato gnocchi and carrot puree; moules Provençale ($30), steamed in white wine, garlic and tomatoes; and poulet Basquaise ($34), Basque-style chicken, complemented with housemade pork sausage, green apple and espelette peppers. 

Another recent addition is the 24-ounce ribeye steak for two people ($105), served with potato gratin, garden vegetables, braised pearl onions and a compound butter of herbes de Provence.

Reliable side dishes like ratatouille ($10), grilled eggplant with tapenade ($8), potato gratin ($10) and, of course, pommes frites ($7) round out the dinner fare.  

There are six dessert options all priced at $15, including the favorites tarte tatin, cherry clafoutis and profiteroles.

Kir aperitifs and four champagnes grace the beverage and wine list. There is a small but diverse selection of reds and whites from France and California. Most are accessibly priced, and all are available by the glass or bottle.

Except for the frites, it’s difficult to imagine any of the menu items served in a Styrofoam takeout box. Without any easy pivot to takeout service, fine dining restaurants were hit particularly hard at the onset of the pandemic.

“We cried first and then we prayed, and I sold one of my kids,” Febbrari jokes. “We closed until June. Our food does not go out well. We had some great customers really supporting us.”

They experimented with meal kits and wine delivery, while engaging in community action. 

“We did some donation food. We delivered food to ERs. That was a beautiful thing,” Febbrari recalls.

When outdoor dining was allowed, Entre Nous had few obvious options. They started with a couple of tables on the sidewalk. The escrow company next door offered the use of the adjacent parking lot. 

“Ask for forgiveness, not for permission,” Febbrari quips. Outdoor lights were strung and heaters were installed to create a strikingly lovely dining patio.

“We realized Green Street is the most beautiful street in Pasadena,” he adds.

Slowly a sense of normalcy is returning to Entre Nous. Wakrat and Febbrari remain as survivors and stakeholders. 

“We never lost faith,” Febbrari says. “Matt has a daughter, and I have two young sons. We’re family men. We were resilient and hoped for the best. We feel privileged. We’re grateful. We never took anything for granted. We did everything we could. We did our part. We are part of the community. We are alive because people took risks to come out and support us. It’s been a humbling experience. We just want to thank the community.”

As a token of that gratitude, Entre Nous extends a traditional recipe from Provence to the Arroyo community.