November 2011 Archives

The City of Ventura's Environmental Sustainability Division Engages Local Students

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Balboa Middle School WINNERS of the GREEN SCHOOL AWARD 2011, 

From Left to Right: Balboa Students: Aiyana Alvarado, Crystina Ahumada, 

Destiny Schwab, Karissa Baucom, Teri Gern (Balboa Principal), Christine Wied

(Environmental Specialist, Environmental Sustainability Division), 

Mayor Fulton, Steve Roth (Balboa Teacher) and Jose Duenas (Balboa Teacher).




This year's 2011 GREEN SCHOOL AWARD was presented to Balboa Middle School for their recycling and horticulture practices during a November 14 City Council Meeting in honor of America Recycles Day, (November 15).  Mayor Bill Fulton and Agromin Chief Executive Officer, Bill Camarillo, presented the honor to Balboa Principal Teri Gern, Teachers Steve Roth and Jose Duenas, and several of the Balboa students.  Balboa Middle School will also receive a $500 check, courtesy of Agromin.

Schools are judged for the Green School Awards by submitting applications that detail their sustainable practices, which are then reviewed by representatives of the City's Environmental Sustainability Division and Agromin. 

"Over the years, we've witnessed an increase in schools entering the competition," said Christine Wied, Environmental Specialist for the City.  "We look forward to continuing to make it a competition that schools are anxious to win because not only is it a positive step in the student's environmental education, it benefits our planet.

"Balboa was specifically chosen for their impeccable efforts in recycling paper, plastic bottles and cans," continued Wied.  "This types of hands on activity, which involves weighing and keeping a recyclables log, also gets students involved with critical-thinking and problem-solving skills that also makes them think about their impact on the environment."

The student's efforts also make the school about $700 a year, which gets recycled into special activities and projects.

Recycling activities began in 1997 at Balboa Middle School.  Since then the school has continued to grown their programs. Mr. Jose Duenas is the teacher that supervises the student body recycling efforts while Mr. Steve Roth teaches a 7th and 8th grade elected course on horticulture.   Last year, Roth and his students began a California native garden specifically to learn about xeriscaping, composting and growing flowers, vegetables and fruits. 

"We grow vegetables and fruits in boxes provided by Food Share, the non-profit organization that provides food and support to Ventura's hungry," said Roth. "We use some of the produce in school, but donate a majority of it to Food Share.   So not only are the children learning about how to care for and nurture the environment, they're learning how to grow produce and the importance of helping those in need."

This year special "Environmental Hero" recognition certificates were also presented to Ventura Charter School of Arts and Global Education for their environmental community action at the Earth Day Eco-Fest and Trash-a-thon fundraiser and to Buena High School for "Environmental Leadership" in recycling and other community environmental programs.  The "Eco-Hero" certificate was presented to Juananmaria Elementary for developing a culture of environmental awareness in their daily activities.

"It's vital that our youth learn how to care for our precious environment," recently said Mary Haffner, Board Member for the Ventura Unified School District. "Becoming 'environmentally engaged' at a young age engrains positive behaviors and attitudes in students that are so vital for the quality of their future -- and for their children's future."

Previous winners of The Green School Awards have been Portola Elementary School (2010), Lincoln Elementary (2009), Saticoy Elementary (2008) and Pierpont Elementary (2007).

In addition to presenting The Green School Award for environmental practices, the City of Ventura's Environmental Sustainability Divison teaches environmental education.  Throughout the year, City of Ventura-based schools and businesses can have a representative from the City come present a stand-alone presentation or talk.

"Curriculum used in the classroom presentations aligns with State curriculum guidelines for all grade levels," said Ray Olson, Manager, Environmental Sustainability Division.  "The City's program teaches concepts of recycling, composting, water conservation, and stormwater pollution prevention to more than 4,000 students per year.  In addition to working with the schools, we also offer FREE presentations and free business evaluations to local organizations and businesses to get and keep them on the sustainable track."

To find out more about the FREE environmental programs and how you can schedule a presentation, visit and/or call 805-652-4584.


-VC Style's Roving Eye and Sustainable Ventura by Maryann Ridini Spencer




It Takes A Village for The Jeffrey Foundation's Project 40

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The Jeffrey Foundation (, a non-profit Child Care/Resource Center offering educational services, childcare and counseling for special needs children, was founded by Alyce Morris Winston in 1972. 

Over the past 40 years, the Foundation, which strives to improve the quality of life for special needs children (ages 18 months through 18 years), serves children with such diseases as muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, Down's syndrome and autism.  Other children enrolled in their programs have a variety of physical impediments or are victims of abuse, neglect or in utero drug exposure.

At the Foundation, children and families are served through a variety of community-based therapeutic, recreational, educational and social programs including childcare, preschool, K-12 educational programming, speech therapy, occupational therapy, life skills, parenting education, after-school activities and social events. 

While the Foundation serves the greater Los Angeles area, Morris Winston is also involved in a national and international outreach program, Special Child USA.  Via Special Child, Morris Winston consults with other cities, states and even countries that are interested in developing similar childcare and resource centers.

"There are over 30,000 disabled youth in Los Angeles County that are in need of special interventions," said Morris Winston.  "Our Foundation is the only one of its kind in LA and we only have a capacity of only 124 children per day, and 40 families per month.  So the need is great -- not just in Los Angeles, but everywhere."

Morris Winston, whose adopted son Jeffrey, was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy when he was two, abandoned her career as a Max Factor model and began the Foundation after discovering that there was not enough appropriate child care, resources or support for families with special needs children.  What began in her living room is now housed in two professional buildings on West Washington Boulevard in Los Angeles.

"Most of The Jeffrey Foundation's students are referred by Child Protective Services or a Regional Center," said Morris Winston.  "Many of the families are headed by single mothers with multiple children.  In the Foundation's Parent Training program, over 85% of the children are in foster care and 10% are living with a parent who has lost custody at least once due to child abuse, neglect, maltreatment or abandonment."

The emphasis of the classes and programs, which are inclusive, aim to build core competencies such as cognitive skill building, language development, gross and fine motor skills and social and emotional development, as well as provide health and nutrition education. 

"We also strive to enrich our student's lives by giving them the opportunity to enjoy some recreation and special events.  We encourage them to learn and appreciate art, music and nature.  Our mission is to improve the quality of every aspect of their live as well as serve as a support for their families," said Morris Winston. 

The current economic climate, and cuts in federal and state funding, are severely impacting the Foundation's ability to keep some of their programs alive.  To offset some of the negative impact, Morris Winston recently came up with the creative idea of "Project 40" in honor of the Foundation's 40 years. 


Project 40 will be a series of 40 events and happenings to fight the economic turndown.  Last night, one of the Foundation's friends, Lladro Boutique on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, hosted a kickoff reception and launch of the YES! Network (Executives for Special Needs Children and their Families).   The YES! group will spearhead many of the Project 40 programs which will take place in Southern California as well as nationally.

Morris Winston hopes that through the YES! Network, different members of the business community will also become engaged to network, cross promote, as well as lend their expertise and support in developing new programs and fundraisers to sponsor and boost the Foundation's needed programs.

 "We support the community, and we need assistance from those in the community and beyond," said Morris Winston.  It does take a village and we want to be around for the next 40 years!"

To find out more about The Jeffrey Foundation, Project 40 and the YES! Network, visit:

Images from the YES! Network Launch Party at Lladro Boutique in Beverly Hills on November 17.  Photography by Maxine Picard Photography.


LtoR:  Agnes Nicole Winter, Elaine DuPont Bernard, Mara New, 
Alyce Morris Winston & Maryann Ridini Spencer (YES! Network


LtoR:  Singer and Evening's Entertainment, Laurie Marchese,
Preity Uupala (Miss India International) and Alyce Morris Winston


LtoR:  Alyce Morris Winston and Nancy Jordan
(YES! Network Chairperson)


Izabelle Gooch


LtoR:  Barbara Berg Adams (Author "Ring Shui" and
Evening's Entertainment), George Adams and Alyce
Morris Winston

VC Style's Roving Eye: Ventura County Star WOMEN TODAY EXPO Celebrates Women, 10am-5pm, November 11-12, 2011

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The second annual Women Today Expo returns to Ventura County 
to celebrate all aspects of a woman's life -- Career, Shopping, Cooking, 
Family, Health & more!  Presented by the Ventura County Star and 
taking place on the Ventura County Fairgrounds (Harbor Boulevard),
this year's event features over 100 exhibitor booths and such celebrity 
guests as Chef Fabio Viviani (Bravo's "Top Chef"), Master Chef Adrien 
Nieto (Fox's "Master Chef"), "Project Runway" Fashion Designer Santino 
Rice and Singer/Songwriter Casey Weston (NBC's "The Voice").

"The event celebrates every facet of a woman's life," said Su-lin Rubalcava, 
Ventura County Star marketing manager.  "'The Women Today Expo' inspires
and empowers women to live their best lives as well as follow their career 
passions.  Experts are available to share their information and knowledge on 
a variety of topics as well as demonstrate their products and network their 

In the video interview below, Su-lin shares some information about
the November 11-12 activities taking place from 10am-5pm at the 
Ventura County Fairgrounds in Ventura.  

This morning from 11:05am-Noon, Fabio Viviani's cooked up some simply delicious 
gnocchi in a demo on the Cooking School Stage.  

The gorgeous Cooking School Stage

Cooking School.jpg

The delicious gnocchi!

Other exciting Cooking School Stage demos included:  The Brothers of 
RedBrick Pizza presenting fresh and healthy gourmet pizza and salads, 
Bosch and Pacific Sales presenting holiday convection cooking,  
and Chef Adrien Nieto presenting fresh, homegrown dishes inspired
by ingredients from Maddy's Gourmet Market.

Glorious booths featuring an array of clothes, appliances, utensils, 
gift items and more lined the halls!


The "Passion with a Vision" panel (pictured above) which took place 
on the What Women Want Stage (presented by, from 
12:05-12:40pm today, featured an eclectic group of inspiring women 
ranging from chefs, business entrepreneurs to musicians and dance 
instructors.  Neil Palache ( served 
as Moderator to the panelists (Kate Dunbar/Owner of Petite Rêve
Cafe & Petite Reve Chocolates, Maria Durant, Owner/Dance 4 
Wellness,  Jodi Womack, Owner/No More Nylons, Dyna Valentine, 
Public Speaker, Lara St. John, Violinist and Sarah Ioannides, 
Conductor), who spoke about developing their passions into 
money-making endeavors.  

Other presentations on the What Women Want Stage featured:  Bergins
Automotive & ABC Autocare's talk on "Taking control and learning the basic 
skills of maintaining your car," Dressbarn's Fashion Showcase featured stylish 
designs on a budget, Jafra consultant Angelique Jackson demonstrated makeup 
and skin care products & tips to enhance a woman's natural beauty and Hair 
Therapist Kim Pagano talked about how toget the haircut that works for you.

This evening from 5:30-8:30pm, The Women's Wine Down, presented by 
Fashion Forms, features food, wine, networking,various presentations and
the musical talents of singer/songwriter Casey Weston.

Let's here it for the ladies!

For more information, visit:

-VC Style's Roving Eye, Maryann Ridini Spencer

Simply Delicious Living Holiday Table Setting Ideas!

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Holiday memories are made dining and entertaining with family and friends.  
Some would consider the presentation of the meal -- the table setting, 
the dishes and table decor,  and the ambiance -- the lighting, the music 
and the overall setting of the meal -- being almost important as the 
taste of the meal itself.

Throughout the Thanksgiving season, there are a number of fun, 
creative ways to set the table that will bring pleasure to your
dining experiences.

Decorate the table with autumn colors - vibrant red, burgundy, 
pumpkin, yellow, gold, green and other warm tones.


Fall vegetables (squash such as acorn, ambercup, carnival or other), 
make great centerpieces when placed in pretty wicker baskets adorned
with attractive ribbon.


Realistic, yet imitation Fall leaves (available at stores like Jo-Ann's and Michael's)
can be purchased for 99 cents a bag. These pretty table adornments look 
great mixed with miniature pumpkins.


A basket of pinecones with some delicious scented cinnamon potpourri 
combines the visual with some of the scents of the season.

Take a visit to your local arts & crafts store.  Children might enjoy 
decorating Fall vegetables as people, pets and favorite holiday
scenes with decorative stickers!  After all, remember how much 
fun it was to play with Mr. Potato Head ?


Get creative!  Make decorating the table a family project that you can 
do with your spouse and children.  

Create a memorable table that inspires conversation, good times
and that will be your personal masterpiece to share with family and friends.  


For more table setting ideas for all seasons, CLICK HERE!

Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Composting

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Recycling is essential in preserving and protecting our environment as well as our natural resources.  We recycle things like glass, tin, plastic and paper, to name only a few.  However, composting is also a great way to recycle.  While the green waste in Ventura is collected by E.J. Harrison and taken to Calwood/Agromin where it's ground into small pieces and used as mulch or burned for energy, the "green waste" (or biodegradable waste or organic materials), from our yards and parks such as grass clippings, flowers and hedge trimmings, make a fantastic compost.  When combined appropriately with certain food scraps from our kitchens, they are a nutrient-packed fertilizer and soil amendment.

What goes in a compost bin?

  • yard waste
  • lawn and hedge clippings
  • leaves
  • flowers
  • twigs
  • straw
Kitchen Waste
  • tea bags
  • coffee grounds
  • fruit and vegetable trimmings (including rinds and cores)
  • grains (rice, barley, etc -cooked or uncooked)
  • old spices (not with the bottle!)
  • egg shells (crushed)
  • corn cobs and husks

What doesn't go in the compost bin?

  • No cat and dog excrement
  • No meat and fish scraps or waste (bones, fat, gristle, skin, etc.)
  • No dairy products (cheese, butter, cottage cheese, yogurt)
  • No grease and oils of any kind
  • No diseased plant material
  • No perennial weeds
  • No plastic, tin, glass and other synthetic materials as they do not decompose!

The City of Ventura's Environmental Sustainability Division offers two free compost workshops a year  -- in the spring and fall. Recently, Educator Paul Vaksvik gave a "How To Compost" talk at Green Thumb Nursery.  This month on "Sustainable Ventura," seen locally on Caps-TV's VTV Channel 15, Thursdays, 8:30pm, the series takes a visit to Paul's compost workshop.  Find out more about Paul's great composting tips:

This month on the show, "Sustainable Ventura" also visits Calwood/Agromin and even a trip to the old West!  Watch the entire show:

Let's Do Lunch at The Grove Artisan Kitchen, Miramonte Resort & Spa

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Photography by Maryann Ridini Spencer
Miramonte Resort & Spa, Indian Wells, Ca

ON THE ROAD:   In Indian Wells, CA

Recently, Chris Kandziora, the Director of Sales & Marketing at The Miramote Resort & Spa (Indian Wells, Ca), invited me to lunch at the resort's Grove Artisan Kitchen to sample the culinary "farm to table" masterpieces prepared by Executive Chef Robert Nyerick.

Chef Robert (pictured above), comes to Miramonte from Spencer's Restaurant in Palm Springs.  Prior to that, he served as the Executive Sous Chef at the Four Seasons Beverly Wilshire Hotel.  Other establishments that have enjoyed his delectable food include: Swiss Hotel Boston, Bellevue Palace Hotel in Bern, Switzerland and Swiss Grand Hotel in Seoul, South Korea.

As for my visit, Chef Robert delivered!

First, an informative tour of the herb gardens (above) located adjacent to The Well Spa (below) and the Miramonte pool area. I was so happy that I brought my camera to photograph the beautiful surroundings and the fantastic dishes!

On the walk, a treat was served -- Organic Golden Tomato Gazpacho with Heirloom Tomato and Basil Relish! It was so light, cool and refreshing!

Gazpacho.jpgFor lunch, a table with a view!  Wow!

tablewithview.jpgParadise? I think so! Just look at those gorgeous Santa Rosa Mountains!

Once I was seated, Chef Robert presented a meal fit for a Queen!

For STARTERS - Ahi Tuna Tartare with Miramonte Preserved Lemon Aioli, Avocado and Mild Chile Oil


capresesalad.jpgand a Caprese Salad with Fresh Buffalo Mozzarella,  Heirloom Tomatoes, Baby Arugula and Balsamic Glaze.


Dungeness Crab Cake with Heirloom Tomato and Leek Fondue, Petite Rainbow Greens

The Dungeness Crab was simply amazing.  I ate the entire dish knowing there probably were many more dishes were to follow.  However, born and raised in the East, I'm a lover of crab cakes and scallops (below).

scallops.jpgPan Seared Jumbo Scallops with Oven Tomatoes, Baby Artichokes, Organic Frisee and Saffron Essence


risotto.jpgMushroom Risotto - Mama Mia! YUMMY!!!

Fattoush Salad.jpg

Fattoush Salad with Romaine Lettuce, Feta Cheese, Red Onions, Olives (from the olive tree in the Miramonte garden), Pear Tomatoes, Pita Chips and Lemon Oregano Vinaigrette - Just divine!

BeetSalad.jpgSome Beet Salad -- How's your appetite so far?

CobbSalad.jpgFollowed by a Grove Cobb Salad with Organic Baby Greens, Kalamata Olives, Chopped Eggs, Blue Cheese, Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Peppers, Crispy Maple Peppered Bacon and Grilled Free Range Breast of Chicken.

To complete the meal, I want you to know Chef Robert offered any dessert on the menu.  Of course, as with most women, anything chocolate is my passion.  However, the only thing I dared to put to my lips (after this scrumptious lunch presented with such artistic flair and great conversation - I dined with the restaurant manager, Jesse Baeza, Chris, and my good friend Barb), is this yummy, refreshing Ruby Grapefruit Brûlée.  The acid in grapefruit does delete/burn up all the other calories consumed at this lunch now, doesn't it?


Ruby Grapefruit Brûlée

InsideattheGrove.jpgInside at The Grove Artisan Kitchen, Miramonte Resort & Spa
45000 Indian Wells Lane
Indian Wells, Ca 92210

VC Style
Maryann Ridini-Spencer produces video stories about environmentally friendly and healthy living in Ventura County.

She co-hosts "Sustainable Ventura" with Ray Olson on CAPS-TV's VTV, Channel 15 as well as "Simply Delicious Living with Maryann" on Time Warner Cable ON DEMAND.