SLO LIFE Feb/Mar 2012















FEB/MAR 2012



do you


the SLO Life



Meet Ahmad Nooristani

medicine, Afghanistan and giving back

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 1

2 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

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Thanks Rizzoli’s !

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Dave and Melanie know that, if they take care of their

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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 5


As we pulled up to the Wonder Valley Ranch Resort in the foothills above

Fresno, my carpool mates and I admitted to feeling like we did when we

were kids heading off to summer camp. A little nervous, a bit excited and


This is how the three day Leadership SLO retreat began for Class XXI - the

same way it likely started off for the twenty year’s worth of alumni who have

gone through the program before us.

For those of you not familiar with Leadership SLO, it’s a year-long program

consisting of 36 San Luis Obispo County residents coming together from

diverse backgrounds, but with one goal in common: to strengthen our

community and make it a better place to live. The year kicks off with the retreat,

then follows-up with monthly day-long programs, each aimed at exploring

different facets of the area. And, during the course of the year, the group

of 36 is expected to collaborate on a project designed to make a tangible

contribution locally (for example, the development of the Johnson Ranch Trail

was spearheaded by a former Leadership class).

I will admit that my expectations going into the program where sky high because I have had so many of its graduates, people I really respect

and admire, consistently describe it as a life changing experience. It seems to me that when you go into something expecting something “life

changing” to happen, more often than not you are going to end up feeling pretty let down. I know that was true when I made my first trip to

Candlestick Park as a kid. I fully expected my life to change then. I mean, it was a great experience and all - I pretty much live and die with

the San Francisco Giants - but my teeth chattered and my lips turned all shades of blue as I struggled to hold my It’s-It Ice Cream through that

frigid, wind-whipped July afternoon. Plus my team was shut out, 8-0.

But, this case was different - cold weather and the Pittsburgh Pirates did not show up in Wonder Valley - and what transpired over the course

of that weekend was truly profound. But, before I get ahead of myself, the one thing that I learned about Leadership SLO is that there is

almost a cult-like adherence to the idea that everything that happens within the group is confidential. It reminded me of the movie Fight

Club. If you haven’t seen the film, there was one thing that the main character, played by Brad Pitt, ingrained in the members of the group:

“The first rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: You do not talk about Fight Club.”

So I do not run the risk of violating the first and second rules of Fight Club, er, Leadership SLO, I am going to stop jabbering about it now. I

will, however, strongly encourage you to check out the program website at and consider applying for ClassXXII this summer.

The program is open to everyone and a class consisting of people from widely varying backgrounds and careers enhances the experience

for all - our class ranges from doctors and lawyers to counselors and community volunteers with many sectors from art to law enforcement

represented. And, as my 35 new friends and I can attest, the experience will change your life.

I’d like to take this opportunity to say “thank you” to our advertisers, who make all of this possible.

Live the SLO Life!

Tom Franciskovich




SLOLIFEMAGAZINE.COM • (805) 553-8820 • (805) 456-1677 fax


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Meet Your Neighbor:

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The Way

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8 | Notes

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I just left a message asking to be contacted

about the article mentioning Meeka Rudd

(Not sure of my spelling)! I hate long

messages so what I didn’t say is that the

article on Bridget Ready and Jack’s house was

so inspiring I made a donation.

Keep up the good and interesting work.


Sammy Pineau

Thanks for your voicemail and email,

Sammy. And, we’re glad to hear that you

were inspired by Bridget Ready’s story as

much as we were.




In 2004 I was a newly practicing Emergency

Physician in SLO. Jack Ready was my patient

one night at Sierra Vista Regional Medical

Center; his feeding tube had come out and

required reinsertion. At that point Jack had

been through a great deal and I was acutely

aware of the discomfort I was causing him

during the procedure. In a moving reversal of

roles I’ll never forget, it was Bridget Ready who

comforted and reassured me. “It’s OK”, she

said, sensing my distress. Her absolute grace,

calm, and strength that night left a lasting

impression on me.

Four years later, when my daughter, Annika,

was diagnosed with achondroplasia (the most

common form of dwarfism), it was thanks to

Jack’s Helping Hand that she received OT and

PT in the fully-equipped CCS Medical Therapy

Unit in SLO. It was there that she took her

first steps!

Thank you for profiling such an extraordinary

individual (and family) and the invaluable

assistance provided to special needs children

in our community by Jack’s Helping Hand.


Brian Koch, MD



Your magazine is great!

I do not have a story to tell, but I was

wondering if you would do a profile on the

owners of the property located across the

trailer storage on Higuera St. next to Trader

Joe’s. I moved here in 1962 and have always

seen “Old Glory “ consistently flying high,

every day, except when it rains.

It would be interesting to know the

background of such honor and patriotism.

Simone M. Leroux

San Luis Obispo, Ca.

We appreciate your kind words, Simone. And,

since Old Glory is flying not too far from our

office here on South Higuera, we’ll be sure to

pay the owner a visit to see what his or her

story is all about! Thanks for thinking of us and

continue to let us know what else piques your

curiosity so we can be sure to follow-up.




Thank you for the excellent article you

published about PEAK in this month’s SLO

Life Magazine. It has generated significant

buzz for the program, not to mention given

us precisely the opportunity we had hoped

for: to answer questions about PEAK and

encourage people to become involved. Just

last night, for instance, I was at a dinner

party where a friend mentioned the article,

which led another man to ask me, “What’s

PEAK?” Today he dropped by my house

with a check for $150. That would not

have happened had we not appeared in

SLO Life Magazine.

We’re excited about the PEAK program

spreading to other schools in the district

because we strongly believe in giving local

children opportunities to pursue the things

they are most passionate about. In the long

run, the entire community benefits. You

have done us, and the children we help, a

great service by writing and publishing the

article, so a heartfelt thank you to you.

Best wishes for 2012,

Susan Westwood



I enjoyed reading “It Takes a Bakery” in your

recent issue of SLO Life. I would like to share

my carrot cake recipe, below, with Kendra

Williams to promote her success. Could you

please make sure she gets it? Feel free to

share it with anyone else, too. This recipe

has received rave reviews & requests!

Thank you,

Jeneale Nett

Ginger-Macadamia-Coconut-Carrot Cake

2 cups whole wheat flour

½ cup flaxseed meal

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

¾ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 cup pineapple juice

½ cup canola oil

¾ cup sugar

½ cup pure maple syrup

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cup macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

(I use walnuts)

1/4 cup crystallized ginger, chopped (best if

you can find small pieces specifically for baking)

1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

2 cups carrots, grated

Preheat oven to 350 F. Have ready two 8 inch

round springform cake pans, lightly greased.

Alternately, this could be made in a 9x13

inch baking pan and cut in half lengthwise

to create two layers or just as one layer. In

a large mixing bowl sift together the flour,

baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground

spices. In a separate large mixing bowl, mix

together the pineapple, oil, sugar, maple

syrup, and vanilla. Add the dry ingredients

to the wet in batches, and combine well

with a hand mixer or strong fork. Fold in the

macadamias, ginger, coconut, and carrots.

Divide the batter evenly between the two

round cake pans, or spread in the rectangular

pan, and bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool

in pans completely.

Once cooled completely, frost with a cream

cheese frosting. IMPORTANT: The crystallized

ginger, pineapple juice, and maple syrup

really make this carrot cake stand out from all

others. I don’t sift the dry ingredients.



If you decide you need fillers or whatever

maybe you can use my blurbs – all true stories

– add or delete, it’s ok. And, I don’t want

money – just want to make people HAPPY!

Thanks a million,

Aileen Lehto/Papiro

We so appreciate your sending us a wonderful

sampling of your “blurbs,” Aileen, and we’d like

to go ahead and publish one now, which we

have neither added to or deleted from…


“Chicago, My Kind of Town”

By Aileen Lehto/Papiro

Next to my special happiest little town of San

Luis Obispo, CA where I have resided for 17

years, my favorite town is Chicago. I entered

that big city at 17, fresh out of high school

(Washburn, Wisconsin), having passed a

government test and found myself embedded

at the Merchandise Mart (a city within itself),

doing keypunching. I was so elated when

promoted upstairs to the typewriters – yea!

I have loved typing ever since – graduated to

computers and even texting, now.

Do you remember the juke boxes of yore?

Well, Chicago had cute little ones attached to

the tables in the coffee shops, still, in the early

2000’s, when I made a nostalgic Am-Track run

to visit daughter and hubby at their 23rd floor

apartment in Chicago. It was close to downtown,

the Loop, and the “L” train - so handy! I loved

that friendly city of so many memories.

And, “kudos” to the honest people of the

world. When on a holiday visit to my home

in Wisconsin, I stupidly left my purse on the

platform while waiting for the train. No money

for the duration of my stay, but I wasn’t destitute

as I had family – just felt a bit helpless, being the

independent person that I thought I was.

Back in Chicago, I received an amazing surprise

from a lady saying she had my purse and

wanted to return it. Unbelievable! She even

refused a reward. Perhaps, it was the same

all over the USA during the WWII years, when

everyone pulled together unselfishly toward

the common goal – the war effort.

And, it was so heartwarming to see our service

people treated so kindly – everything free in

Chicago. It was so special, as were they. Also,

great fun for us farm gals to be transported by

train to the Great Lakes Naval Base to dance

with the sailors – hope they enjoyed it as

much as we did.

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5th Annual

Letters may be edited for content and clarity. To be considered for publication your letter must

include your name, city, state, phone number or email address (for confirmation purposes).

The Highway To Cure MS Goes

Through San Luis Obispo

on April 14 2012

More info at:



SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 9

| Q & A

Steve Gesell

He grew up in San Luis Obispo and left to study Justice Administration in Arizona. He worked in the Scottsdale

Police Department for 20 years, followed by a brief stint as acting chief in Atascadero. We dropped by for a visit

on the sixth day into his “dream job” as the new Chief of Police in San Luis Obispo. As he walked us down the

hallway to his office, he stopped to point out an old black and white framed photo that had been hanging for

many years just outside of his door…

What exactly are we looking at

here, Steve?

You see this guy on the

motorcycle? That’s the guy that

gave me my first ticket, Officer

Pete Hubbard. I absolutely

deserved it. It was the last day of

my senior year at San Luis High

School and I had a ‘70 Plymouth

Barracuda. My friends were

egging me on saying, “Come on,

Steve! Come on, Steve!” I floored

it and he caught me right away.

He was a really nice guy. Now,

I’ve got this reminder everyday

hanging outside my office.

Have you found any other

reminders from your youth?

I just drove past my old house

yesterday; there was some guy

there in a robe standing out front

so I didn’t bother to stop. It’s on

the corner of Broad and Upham.

Old Spanish style house, it’s got to

be 800 or 900 square feet. Pretty

small. When we came here that

was the house that my dad could

afford. It was really cool, I shared

a room with my brother. We were

real close to downtown. I always

remember walking to school – I

went to San Luis Junior High,

which doesn’t exist anymore. It’s

now the Adult School, I believe.

What brought your parents here

in the first place?

As newlyweds in 1959 my parents

were visiting this area, and as they

were driving from Morro Bay to

Los Osos on South Bay Boulevard

past the estuary there my mom

turned to my dad and said, “You

know, if there was ever any way

we could get here, and raise our

children here, this is where we

10 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

should be.” Lo and behold,

twenty years later my dad got

the job as the airport manager

here in town. So, we packed up

and moved across country before

I went into middle school.

What were you like in those days?

I was one of those kids - at least

this is how I saw myself back

then - I kind of filtered through all

of the cliques. I was friends with

a lot of different kinds of people,

a lot of different personalities.

And I think that’s been true

throughout my life. I try to

respect people for who they are.

I played a little football one year,

I wrestled one year. Soccer has

been my passion throughout my

life. They actually didn’t have a

team when I was there, but we

formed a group to bring it in. The

year after I graduated is when it

finally started there. I’ve been

involved with the Police Games

as the goalkeeper.

So, why did you ever leave?

My dad got a job teaching

Aeronautics at Arizona State.

He left a couple of months after

I graduated from San Luis High

School. I stayed here. I went to

Cuesta for a year. Poly didn’t have

a Justice major, so I followed my

dad to ASU where I was able

to go tuition-free since he was

an employee there. I crammed

everything I owned into my

1969 VW Bug. I barely made it

to Phoenix because I nearly ran

out of gas. I didn’t realize that gas

stations would be so few and far

between out in the desert. It was

one of those rare days when it was

pouring down rain and I remember

thinking to myself, “I should have

got gas waaaay back there.”

Take a minute to introduce us to

your family, if you would.

Sure – my wife is Nesa. Our oldest

is Lauren, she’s in third grade. And,

our twins, Nate and Lindsey, will

be turning five in April.

Was Nesa on board for all of this?

I had made the same comment

to her that my mom had made

to my dad in 1959: “You know,

if there is ever a way that we

can get out to San Luis Obispo,

I would jump on it. I would love

it. I want to raise our kids there.”

She really wasn’t interested

in moving. We had a good set

up in the Phoenix Metro area,

we both had great jobs, great

careers, great friends. But,

then we came back here for an

extended visit and after day two

or three – we had just come

back from Farmers’ Market. She

says to me, “Okay, I’m sold. Let’s

figure out how to do this.”

When did you really start

thinking seriously about making

the move?

I remember very clearly one day,

this was probably eight years

ago now, when I was waiting

for my friend, Doug, who was

my counterpart at the DEA to

show up at my office. We had

been working a case together.

Anyway, he was running a little

late so I decided to pull up the

San Luis Police Department

website. Doug finally arrives so

I spin around in my chair and

he says, “Hey, get back to work!

What are you looking at?” He

was sort of giving me a hard

time. And I said, “You know, I

was just kind of daydreaming,

I guess.” I told him it would be

my dream to end my career

as the chief of police in my

hometown. I’ve never seen it

line up this way. It’s bizarre. I

feel like I just happened to be a

character in a story. SLO LIFE


SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 11


Cayucos Pier

as you’ve never seen it before

“I was arguing with the helicopter pilot to go lower and stay out longer – the conditions were perfect, the afternoon light

just right,” recalls Joseph Dominguez, a professional photographer based in Cambria. The pilot, who barked back that

they were getting extremely low on fuel, told him he could take just one more shot and to make it count. Dominguez, who

despite his extensive experience in “self-taught” aerial photography says that being strapped halfway into a helicopter is

“sketchy for sure, but it’s exciting.” Dominguez leaned out with his camera, and, as is his routine, said to himself, “Don’t

fall, Joe, don’t fall,” then he focused, triggered the shutter, and captured the shot you see here. SLO LIFE

12 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

Do you have an amazing photo to share? Email it to

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 13


Meet Ahmad Nooristani

In this installment of our “Meet Your Neighbor” series, SLO LIFE Magazine sits down for a conversation with Ahmad

Nooristani. He was born and raised in Afghanistan, smuggled into Pakistan to escape the war, and immigrated to

the United States at 14-years-old where he worked full-time since the third day he arrived. Today, he is a physician

employed by area hospitals, and has spent his spare time over the past two-and-half years working to start a free

medical clinic, which recently opened in San Luis Obispo. Here is his story…

don’t realize what you don’t have. So, it was okay living there. I carried

my day the way I do here. It was not a big deal. Okay, it was a war zone,

people died, there were explosions left and right but that’s something

that you grow up to know and to accept. That kind of thing is part of your

life because there is nothing to compare with. So, now it’s a big shocker

when I look back.

How exactly did you get out of Afghanistan in the middle of a war?

We had to find a smuggler who we paid to take us to Pakistan. It was

actually a network of people, but we were hidden in trucks that drove

through some very treacherous and remote mountain roads. The

conditions were horrific. Looking back now, I’m amazed that we all

survived. It was me and my mom, my brother, my sister, and my grandma.

There were a lot of crazy stories from that time. Maybe we can talk about

it some other day?

Sure, let’s switch gears. Tell us about becoming a doctor. Did you always

want to get into medicine?

No, actually I always wanted to fly. That was always my passion. My uncle

was a fighter pilot in the military back in Afghanistan. He flew a Russian

MiG jet, I forget which model; it was similar to an F-14. When I came here

I wanted to become a pilot for the U.S. Air Force. My family did not want

me to get involved with the military. They were very unhappy about it and

persuaded me not to join.

Okay, Dr. Nooristani, let’s start from the beginning. Where you are from?

I was born in Afghanistan and came here in 1991. I was 14 at that time. I

have two brothers and a sister. My dad passed away when I was four. He

was in the military and my mom was a teacher. We left because of the

war. We lived in Kabul, the capital city. It was a little safer because that’s

where the majority of the Russian Army was based. But, living conditions

got to the point where it was just really hard to live. My uncles were here,

six or seven years before we got here. So we came to California and lived

in Simi Valley. It’s kind of quiet there.

What was life like in Afghanistan?

You know what is so surprising, when you don’t have anything to

compare to, you don’t know what’s good, until you have bad. You have

to have some comparison. So, when I was there, life… it is what it is. You

make the best of it, but you don’t know any better. So, when you come

to some other place and you look back, and you look at your life, you

are in awe and you think, “Really? Is that how I lived? I mean, that was

normal?” I thought it was okay to live that way. So, especially as a kid you

14 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

So, how do you go from airplanes to medicine?

Coming from a country whose health care system literally doesn’t exist

and seeing people suffering there, the idea was to become a physician so

I could help people and give something back. It’s one of those professions

that it doesn’t matter where you go. You have something that everyone

needs. But, once I decided I wasn’t going to be flying jets, I became very

focused on my path to become a physician. Go study, get your degree.

I went straight through school and my residency without a break. I

didn’t want to say, “I’m going to try this, I’m going to try that.” I was very

focused. I worked in hospitals in L.A., and Miami, and New York.

What was that experience like?

I was in New York City for two years, I lived in Queens. I rotated through

different hospitals there. I wanted to broaden my horizons and experience

different things and see how medicine was practiced in different places

and in different hospitals. It was crazy to see the differences. I did my

residency in Atlantic City at the Regional Hospital for Internal Medicine. I

was there for three years. Then I finished up, and here I am in my first job

here in SLO.

Whoa, let’s back up… it seems like you skipped over some stuff. How’d

you end up in SLO?

I wanted to come back to California for sure. I have family and friends

here. So, I had set up interviews up-and-down the state, from San

Francisco to Orange County. A recruiter called me and asked if I wanted

to interview in San Luis Obispo. I said, “Sure, it’s on my way from one

interview to another.” I was just about to accept a position in Vacaville.

continued on page 16

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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 15


But, I came here and fell in love with my group – now my partners – I

really liked the way things were set up. I liked the town, but felt it was

too small for me. I had been in New York, and Miami, and now here, and I

said, “Darn, it’s too small, it’s just not going to work out.” But, I just loved

the system of how they practiced medicine here. So, finally I decided, “I’ll

give it a shot, I have nothing to lose.” So, now, three years down the line

and here we are. So, slowly I’ve realized what beauty this place has and

anything you can think of, you can have it. Beautiful, amazing weather.

Outdoors are unbelievable. I mean you can do anything you want here.

But, you did give up some things by not being in a larger city, right?

Hey, I’m from Afghanistan! So I can’t complain, right? [laughter]

Fair point. Alright, let’s talk about the Noor Foundation clinic. Why did

you start it?

I’ve always wanted to do something, to give back. I’m a big believer in

giving back.

basement, we need an actual medical clinic, a place to practice medicine.

The idea kept evolving...

I said, “Let me create something that will not only be sustainable for the

community in the long-run, but be something that the community and

this county really need.” So that was the idea, and after that, it had this

snowball effect with others volunteering to help. Everyone was so excited

about it, they wanted to do things to help. That was two years ago, about

a year after I moved here, that I came up with the idea. I looked around

for guidance or someone’s footsteps I could follow, but I couldn’t find

anything. I really had to start from scratch.

... you see the beauty of what we do,

“and the sadness of what is missing...

And, why is that? Is there something about your upbringing or religious

background that led you down this path of service?

Part of it is religious. There is a strong tradition of giving back in the

Muslim faith. It’s a huge part of it. But part of it is just being human.

When I was growing up I really wasn’t in a position to give back, but now

that I have graduated, I’m a doctor, I have a great job and I can do it. My

initial thought was to create clinics internationally. I was looking at doing

something in Afghanistan and Kenya. My focus had been to do something

there. But, after living here and getting to know the area and seeing what

was going on in the county I realized that there was this tremendous

need locally. We have over 30% of our people uninsured, over 4,000

uninsured come to the hospital annually. There are a lot of uninsured

people using the ER as their only source of health care. In many cases

we’re talking about serious diseases, many of which could have been

avoided with proper care.

But, isn’t it true that so many of these ER visits are avoidable?

It’s not that they don’t take their medication or they don’t care, it’s that

they can’t see a physician for care because they can’t afford it. Some of

them don’t see physicians for years. Some had health insurance but they

lost their job and stop taking their medication. I remember a gentleman

coming into the ER, he was about 45-years-old with three kids. He had

lost his job. And when his health insurance ran out, he stopped going

to the doctor, stopped taking his medication, and he ended up having

a stroke. Not only is he unable to care for his children now, but the cost

of the initial care for his stroke is somewhere between $90,000 and

$100,000. Over his lifetime, including rehabilitation, it can go into the

millions. Who pays for that? We all do. So, seeing that, I knew it was

preventable. I’m a big believer in taking care of your neighbors first –

that’s a big part of the teachings of Islam, as well: “Care for your family;

care for your neighbors; care for your town, and then care, care and keep

expanding outward.” I grew up with that instilled in me, so I needed to

help my neighbors.

How did you plan to do that?

So, my idea was just to open a small place to see people when I wasn’t

working. Even if it was a church basement somewhere, I didn’t care. I

just planned to donate my free time to seeing patients locally. That was

my goal initially. But, then when I started talking to other physicians and

nursing staff about my plan, there was just a huge desire to be involved.

People would say to me, “I want to do this too, I want to be a part of this.

Tell me what you need me to do.” The number of people who wanted to

help became so big that I thought there is no way we can be in a church

16 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

How long did it take?

There are so many things to have to deal with. Just making sure it’s a

non-profit, for example, is a big process. Doing that alone took about 7 or

8 months to establish the status with the IRS. Just opening a place is easy.

But to do it as a non-profit, a free medical clinic, there were so many

hoops to jump through. I spent about 20 to 25 hours a week for nearly

two-and-a-half years just to get all of the paperwork completed and

all of the equipment and lease improvements we needed to be able to

open. We had rented the space during that time - about two years in all -

because you have to have a physical location as you are going through all

of the various applications for various licenses.


I also interviewed over 600 people, volunteers, during that time. And so

many people from all different areas of the community have helped get

it started. I still haven’t come across anybody that has said, “No.” That’s

fuel for me. Name a person in the community and chances are they have

done something to support this project. The question they ask is, “What

can I do to help?” And, that has just been the most amazing experience

for me. This community has just blown my mind, the amount of people

that care so much is incredible. The sense of pride and joy they have in

being a San Luis Obispan - is that a correct word? [laughter] - it’s just

amazing. We all really pride ourselves in being a part of this community,

so it doesn’t matter what we do, we’re going to give back. And, that

makes this a very special place. You know, this town, San Luis Obispo, has

the most non-profits of anywhere in the world. There are so many, like

hundreds of them. Everywhere you look there’s a not-for-profit, so that

shows that people do care, they want to be involved. They want to make

this place better and give back.

So, tell us about the clinic.

Everything that we generate goes back to patient care. We have a very

small amount of overhead, but all donations go directly to patient care. I

don’t get paid. Nobody gets paid. The only person who is paid is our clinic

manager because there are a lot of logistics involved, and we just hired

him this month. He volunteered for a long time before we hired him.

What was it like the first day you opened the doors?

At 10 o’ clock in the morning I received a call from one of the volunteers

that said, “There’s a patient here waiting for you.” We weren’t even

supposed to open until 1. So, I came in right away to see him and I was

checking on everything and making sure it was in order. Everybody was

kind of nervous because we didn’t know how it was going to run. We’ve

never done this. It was all new. And, so I walked out into the waiting

room and said, “Come on in!” I told him, “You will be my very first patient

here, you are, what do you call it?... uh… my guinea pig,” and we laughed

about it.


everything in this exam room has been donated

How did it go?

I saw him and he had some issues that we were able to deal with there

that day. It turned out that he was a priest. Really nice guy. When we

were done, he sat down with his bible and said, “I want to bless the

clinic.” So, we sat down together. He read some verses. And he blessed

the clinic. It was touching. It was really touching. You know, I just sat

back and thought to myself that everything I did for two years to get this

place going was worth it. And it goes on and on because everybody that

comes in here has a beautiful story. There’s not a day that goes by that

somebody doesn’t cry and break down. And you see the beauty of what

we do, and the sadness for what is missing out there. So, would I do it all

over again? Absolutely. Absolutely, without a doubt.

Can you describe a typical patient?

98% of the people we see at the clinic are middle class or working

class. The vast majority of our patients have a job, they are working, or

have businesses. We’ve seen maybe one homeless person so far. The

people who are very poor will qualify for government assistance, but for

everyone else that pays for their own insurance it is very expensive. That

is if they can qualify for it at all. The top and the bottom get whatever

they need. It’s this huge group of people in the middle that we see here.

And what about the volunteers?

I have never seen the physicians or the nurses more happy than

they are when they are working at the clinic. They come here to

have fun, to just practice medicine. It’s not your regular office. The

patient sees that joy and happiness, and they’re doing it for free and

I think that changes things. So it’s just a different environment, a very

happy environment. They come here to remember why they got into

medicine in the first place.

And, the name of the clinic, “Noor Foundation”… what exactly does

that mean?

Noor is the first part of my last name and it translates to “hope” or “light.”

My last name, Nooristani literally translates to “land of hope” or “land of

light.” I really wanted to call it something that signifies what we do.

Dr. Nooristani, we know you have a busy day ahead of you and need to

be getting back to work, but we’d like to close by saying thank you very

much for the work you are doing for our community.

Thank you – I love what I do and wouldn’t have it any other way.




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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 17




18 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


Georgiana Peterson likes to describe her home as

“a country-style house with French accents.” And,

it’s those accents - mostly eclectic French antiques

that were collected over a lifetime - that provided

the vision for its design long before construction

began in 2003. The home, which she shares with

her husband Dewey Peterson, a retired insurance

executive, is nestled among oak trees near the top

of Barron Canyon Ranch, a neighborhood quietly

tucked away in the hills at the far end of the Avila

Valley, east of Highway 101.

The couple, who lived in their neighbor’s guest

house during construction, was very “handson”

throughout the entire process. During her

career as both an interior and landscape designer,

Georgiana never lost sight of her vision for the

home during its design and construction. Today,

the home, which winds softly from room to room,

is adorned meticulously with heirloom furniture

pieces and includes a Flow Blue China collection,

as well as unique touches such as a valance box

that frames the guest bathroom shower perfectly.

When asked what two words best capture the

home, Geogiana pauses to reflect for a moment

then offers her assessment: “comfortable

elegance.” To be sure, the home, which takes

in sweeping views of the winding Edna Valley

vineyards beneath, does reflect an exquisite taste,

but melds it nicely with a warm and welcoming

style all its own.

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 19



Exposed beams and an oversized bay window with

sweeping views of Edna Valley vineyards combine to

create this oasis.


His and her wingback armchairs, a warm fire

and a good book work together to create the

perfect place to relax in comfort and in style.

20 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


The island serves as a focal point

and provides an extra work surface

with additional storage.


An apron-front sink contrasts

beautifully against bright aqua

cabinets in the laudry room.


Creative use of an antique

chest inspired the design of

this bathroom.


SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 21


by the numbers





cal poly








Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market

Total Homes Sold

Average Asking Price

Average Selling Price

Sales Price as a % of Asking Price

Average # of Days on the Market
































































































































SOURCE: San Luis Obispo Association of REALTORS


22 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


“Luckily for you, I am a Realtor that knows homes!

Having had a career in architecture, I’m the smart

choice as your central coast Realtor.”

Traci Ferguson, Realtor #01875751/ Eco Broker Certified/ LEED AP/ BA Architecture

444 Higuera Street, 3rd Floor, San Luis Obispo, Ca 93401

(805) 235-6396

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 23


How to Choose a

Neighborhood Much has been made of finding

the right house, but what about

the neighborhood?

The saying that real estate is about “location, location, location” is true, but for residential

real estate it may be more accurate to say “neighborhood, neighborhood, neighborhood.”

Fortunately, here on the Central Coast there are so many great areas to choose from, but

before you set out it is important to get clear on what it is you want in your neighborhood.

You can begin to narrow down your options and start to hone in on a few areas by

investigating the following criteria:

QUALITY OF SCHOOLS | There are many resources online for this, we recommend that you

start by visiting to get a rundown of recent test scores and trends. But, better

yet, visit nearby parks and ask local moms and dads what they think.

PROPERTY VALUES | If you are considering San Luis Obispo neighborhoods, carefully review

the chart on page 22 [By the Numbers] to see the trends over the past couple of years. For

other areas in the Central Coast, be sure to contact a Realtor.

TRAFFIC | Don’t just think about this in terms of quantity of traffic, but also consider quality.

Is it fast moving? Loud with lots of heavy trucks? What about traffic patterns? Late at night?

And how does it flow? Is it heavy when you would be leaving for work? Is it impossible or

dangerous to make a left-hand turn out of your would-be neighborhood?

CRIME RATE | This is all public information, and much of it can be found on various websites.

If you really want to do some detective work, go down to the police station and ask an officer!

FUTURE CONSTRUCTION | Check with the Planning Department, they’re the ones that keep

all of this information. Also, consider your local Board of Realtors as a resource as well as area

Chambers of Commerce.


ManageM ent


Risk Management | Estate Planning

Accumulation | Taxation | Business

Planning | Retirement Planning

David S. Nilsen

President & Chief Financial Advisor




Ca l l t o d ay t o

g e t s t a r t e d !

1301 Chorro Street, Suite A

San Luis Obispo, CA 93401


David Nilsen is a Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative with/

and offers securities and advisory services through Commonwealth Financial Network,

Member FINRA/SIPC, a Registered Investment Advisor, Insurance Lic. #0B50436. Fixed

Insurance products and services offered by Obispo Wealth Management are separate and

unrelated to Commonwealth.

24 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

LOCATION | What is the proximity to schools, employment, hospitals, shops, public

transportation, freeways, airports, beaches, parks, stadiums and cultural activities such as

museums, concerts and theaters. How does it fit with your needs and lifestyle?

Of course, financial realities will dictate some of your search, but if you are a first time-buyer

with limited financial resources, for example, you may want to find a home that meets your

needs in the best neighborhood that fits within your price range. And, keep in mind, that the

“best neighborhood” is not necessarily the most expensive or most exclusive.

You can maximize your home purchase location by adhering to some of these strategies

during your neighborhood search:

SPOT TRENDS | Look for up-and-coming communities that are likely to become “hot

neighborhoods” in the coming years. They can often be discovered on the periphery of the

most continuously desirable areas. Consider a home in a good neighborhood that is a bit

farther out of the city. If a longer commute is a concern, purchase a home that is close to

public transportation.

GET THE INSIDE SCOOP | Ask a Realtor whether multiple offers are being made, whether the

gap between the list price and sale price is decreasing, and whether there is active community

involvement. You can also drive around neighborhoods and do a spot check to get a feel for

how many “sale pending” and “sold” signs there are in a particular area.

BE CREATIVE | Consider purchasing a condominium or co-op, rather than a house, in a

desirable neighborhood. Using this strategy may allow you to purchase in a prime area that

you may not have otherwise been able to afford.


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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 25


Derek Senn

and the tale of two guitars


Senn tuning his guitar

26 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


go to and click on See our

Commercials to watch “I L-O-V-E the SLO Life”

which was written and performed by Derek Senn

San Luis Obispo-based musician, Derek Senn, asked his

parents for a guitar on his tenth birthday. They were

happy to support their son’s interest in music, so they

also purchased lessons with a teacher who was a classical

guitarist. He went once, it was a miserable experience - he

was told to grow his nails long, and he never went back.

The guitar collected dust for the next ten years and his nails

remained short.

Then, while bicycling through South America with a friend

during a year-long hiatus from college, he came across a

couple of $25 guitars at a local market. On a whim, he and

his travel companion, Chip, each bought one and headed

back to their hotel room in La Paz, Bolivia where they

played well into the night. “We hooked up with a couple of

Peruvian college students who taught us how to play some

Guns ‘n Roses songs - we stayed at that hotel for a month

doing nothing but learning to play,” remembers Senn, who

works as a broker with Anderson Commercial Real Estate.

That experience in the Bolivian hotel never left Senn and,

as he returned to San Luis Obispo to settle down for good,

he was inspired to write and record his own music. “I

bought an 8-track recorder and started off playing all the

instruments myself, doing the singing, editing, everything,”

explains Senn. At some point, he decided that he needed

a partner, so he persuaded his wife Melanie, who teaches

English at Cal Poly, to join the one-man band. “I taught her

how to play the drums. She had never played an instrument

before but she really took to it. She was actually pregnant

with our first son, Diego, when we played our first show

together - I think it was at Downtown Brew or the Frog and

Peach - I can’t remember.”

The first album that Senn produced was called the

“Wedding Industrial Complex” which is a play on

Eisenhower’s “military industrial complex” and it features

original music that is highly autobiographical in nature. The

song “My Degree,” for example, is a fun, bluesy, up-tempo,

impossible-to-not-tap-your-foot-with-the-beat, examination

of the usefulness of his wife’s college degree while she was

doing unfulfilling work early in her career (in her case taking

pictures and writing ad copy for Photo Ad to advertise cars).

Here’s a sampling of the lyrics: “Well, I started out in bio

/ then I moved on to pre-med / then I settled on a Latin

American studies degree instead / Now I’m taking pictures

of new and used cars / and I’m hustlin’ pool on ladies night

in Blind River bars / I hope this helps you see how I’m

implementing my degree.”

Today, Senn finds himself busy with family life - he and

Melanie now have a second son, Charles - but he still finds

some time to write and record. He has made all of his music

free to download on his website (

and performs selectively as the mood strikes. It would have

been hard to predict that one month in a Bolivian hotel would

have led to his lifelong love for making music. SLO LIFE

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 27


Choose Your


Rock Climbing Bishop’s Peak



28 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

For the past 6 years I have been scaling rocks from Yosemite to Joshua Tree. But even if you don’t have the time or interest

in traveling, there is good news for adventurous locals. A strong climbing community exists on the Central Coast along with a

smattering of rock faces and boulders available - the most densely populated of which are nestled throughout Bishop’s Peak.

As the primary climbing area and most popular local cragging spot in the county, Bishop’s Peak offers several dozen (mostly)

single-pitch routes. You’ll find bouldering, sport, traditional, mixed, you name it.

An extinct volcanic plug and the tallest of the Nine Sisters, also known as the Morros, Bishop’s Peak features a rock

formation with some crack, mostly face, and a lot of slab (Morro Rock, Black Hill, Cabrillo Peak, Hollister Peak, Cerro

Romauldo, Chumash Peak, Cerro San Luis and Islay Hill make up the other eight volcanic peaks and hills between Morro Bay

and San Luis Obispo). It is also home to Chlorissa, Pete, Potato and Hummingbird Boulders. These, along with a handful of

other boulders, provide locals access to some of the best bouldering along the Central Coast.

If you are a beginner, Bishop’s Peak offers a number of friendly climbs for those willing to face fears of heights. Cracked

Wall is home to a 70 foot route called 60 Seconds Over Soledad. Rumor has it that this beginner route and popular favorite

can be done in a minute flat. Other notable climbs are Camel, Only Way to Fly, and Western Airlines. There is also a classic

multi-pitch route on the face of the “P” painted wall that takes climbers up a series of pitches and a final thrilling scramble

up to the very highest summit boulders.

Rock climbing is exhilarating. No matter your level or expertise, tying into a rope, chalking up your hands, putting on highly

uncomfortable shoes and facing a towering, immovable rock fortress and mentally pep-talking yourself to succeed, is an

incredible experience. It is you versus the rock and It takes strength, technique and mental toughness to succeed. SLO LIFE

Directions to Bishop’s Peak: There are three trailheads. To reach the first from 101, head north on Santa Rosa

Street. Turn left on Foothill Boulevard. Turn into the parking area off of Foothill Boulevard on the right hand

side of the street at Bishop’s Peak. To reach the second from from 101, head north on Santa Rosa Street. Turn

left on Foothill Boulevard. Turn right on Patricia. The trailhead is on the left had side of the street about a mile

ahead. To reach the third from from 101, head north on Santa Rosa Street, turn left on Highland and follow it

until the dead-end at the trailhead.

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 29








The key to a good attitude is resiliency, especially in times of adversity. This means

remaining focused, flexible, and creative in bad times as well as good. So, how do we

become an eternal optimist? It is widely studied that only about 50 percent of optimism

and happiness is considered innate, 10 percent is derived from your circumstances, and

40 percent is determined by your actions. This leads us to believe that achieving an

optimistic outlook is distinctly possible.


Get plenty of rest, practice good

nutrition, exercise and get outside.

Sunlight lifts your mood, exercise

relieves stress, and eating well and

getting a good night’s sleep will

increase your energy.


Actual REV Client




Now Offering

Chiropractic Care and Massage




755 Alphonso Street

[off Broad Street]

San Luis Obispo, Ca 93401


30 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012



Adopt a pet, volunteer or join a club.

Having trusted people you can turn to for

encouragement and support will boost

your resilience during tough times.



At R&R Dental Care we offer

several options to get your

smile looking its best including

1 hour whitening,

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Meet us at the Health & Fitness Expo!

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Learn something new, enjoy the

beauty of nature and art, travel,

and practice self-discipline.

Investing yourself in enriching

activities will reduce your stress

and build self-esteem.


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San Luis Obispo

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We all need a reason to get out of bed

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Each bike custom assembled to your specs. Instead of selling you a bike in stock, we

help you assemble the bike that’s best for you at prices typically 40% below brand

names. Because we buy direct from the manufacturers and sell direct to you, we

save you lots of money while still offering the best products available. We sell only

quality carbon and alloy road and cross bikes and have a full line of wheels including

carbon and alloy tubular wheels. We service only what we sell allowing us to focus

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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 31


Herbal Immunity Builders

prevent the common cold with natural boosters

Much has been written about herbal cold remedies, but opinions vary so widely that it’s difficult to know how to begin tackling a cold with herbs.

We decided to consult some experts—not doctors and pharmacists but herbalists who are personally and professionally involved with the herbal

medicine industry—and asked them, What do you do when you have a cold?

We must have chosen the right group of people for this survey. None of them has been really sick for years, they say. In addition to using herbs

to alleviate the symptoms of a cold, they also use them daily to promote good general health. And this, they feel, prevents cold viruses from

taking hold in the first place.


yellow dock

Jeanne Rose, prominent herbalist, author,

and teacher in San Francisco, relies on a

trademarked formula she calls YEGG whenever

her chest tightens up and she’s coughing

more than usual. She combines yellow dock,

echinacea root, goldenseal, and ginseng in a

ratio of 1:2:2:1, puts it into capsules, and takes

three of them three times a day for ten days.

“And I eat lots of garlic soup,” she says.

“Why don’t I get colds? Because I know about

Echinacea,” says Portia Meares. An herbalist

living in Wolftown, Virginia, former editor

of The Business of Herbs Magazine, and a

founding member of the International Herb

Growers and Marketers Association, there’s

no doubt Meares knows about Echinacea.

Garlic and echinacea, used alone or

in combination, seem to relieve many

of the early symptoms of a cold. Our

respondents incorporate this pair into

the diet in small amounts with the

goal of maintaining a vigilant immune

system, increasing the dose to

supplement natural defenses if a cold

virus gains a foothold. Many times,

they observe, no other treatment is


Mark Blumenthal of Austin, Texas, executive director

of the American Botanical Council and editor of

HerbalGram, adopts the following regimen when he

feels a cold coming on: two to four tablets of garlic

daily, a whopping 3 to 4 grams of vitamin C daily, two

to three droppers of echinacea root extract every four

to six hours, two to three droppers of liquid astragalus

(an herb often used in Chinese medicine) every

four to six hours, and two 500-milligram capsules of

goldenseal root four times daily.

32 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


You don’t have to believe that

echinacea root supports the immune

system by stimulating circulation and

respiration or that garlic increases

blood flow to the extremities and

boosts the immune response directly.

For many people, it’s enough to know

that garlic and echinacea can make

you feel better.


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San Luis Obispo

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SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 33


Team In Training


Barbara Saia first became associated with the Leukemia

Lymphoma Society as a participant in the Maui Marathon

in honor of her two friends that lost their lives because

of blood related cancer. She quickly grew to realize that

the only way to find a cure for cancer was to raise money

for the research of the disease. And, as the the Senior

Campaign Manager for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society

Team in Training (TNT) of the Central Coast, Saia is running

strong towards finding a cure. Her fundraising efforts during

the past eleven years have included one full marathon,

and thirteen half marathons, in all of which she was also a


The TNT Central Coast has raised over five million dollars and

the TNT national account has raised over one billion dollars

for blood related cancer patients and their families. From

that money, the research programs supporting the cure for

blood related cancers have been successful in discovering

life-saving drugs such as Gleevec and Rituxan.

TNT offers walkers and runners the opportunity to take on

a challenge of a marathon or half-marathon while making

a positive difference in the lives of nearly one million

Americans living with blood cancer. The local chapter

comprises more than 100 participants, including students

from Cal Poly and Cuesta, middle-aged adults, and seniors.

Participants receive a personal training schedule, and meet

each Saturday with the team and coach. During the first eight

weeks, the members learn about everything from wearing

the right shoes to eating properly, so by the time the event

comes, the team is well prepared.

TEAM CAPTAIN Barbara Saia is the Senior Campaign

Manager for the Leukemia Lymphoma Society TNT

Joining the team for the Honolulu Marathon in 1998, the

Cenoz family has a personal connection to the passionate

fight against cancer. Jeniene and Jeff Cenoz’s son, Alex, was

diagnosed with Leukemia at just three years old. He received

treatment at Stanford Hospital and it was during their visits

that they learned about Team In Training. Both Jeniene and Jeff

instantly became eager to join. Since becoming involved, they

have raised nearly $85,000 and have run a total of twenty-six

races. Alex, who currently attends Arroyo Grande High School

as a senior and plays on the varsity basketball team, will run in

his first race at the 1st Annual SLO Half Marathon this year.

The environment of TNT, explains Saia is “very addicting! A

lot of people come back because they like the support of the

coaches, and the past participant mentors are awesome, and

so involved. You are getting healthy and doing something for

yourself, as well as supporting a great cause! We live in an

amazing area where this works really well because people

live healthy lifestyles, and they also want to give back and

do something for the community. So Team In Training is a

perfect fit for our area.” SLO LIFE

THRIVING Alex Cenoz has grown up with TNT

and will participate in his first race this year

34 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

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36 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

You know how it goes... a friend visits the

Central Coast for the first time, and it’s never

the last. Suddenly, they’re annual guests in

your home. That’s kind of how it goes with

a bunch of “beach bums” near San Simeon.

And, they’re really kind of hard to miss.

The Northern Elephant Seals have chosen this

little stretch of coastline to birth, breed, and

bathe in our Central Coast sunshine for the

last 20 years. And each year the crowd grows.

“Every year the population increases a bit.

They like it here, it’s protected, kind of,” guide

Bill Cook explains.

The latest estimates indicate that there are

somewhere between 16,000 and 18,000

Northern Elephant Seals along our coast. The

males can weigh as much as 5,000 pounds.

And, though they may not be pretty, they’re

pretty impressive to see up close.

You’ll see the most activity in January and

early February when it’s birthing and mating

season, but they’re pretty much hanging

around all year.

Right now, it’s the pups cuddling up, and

cussing at each other. They have reason to be

a little cranky. Their mothers fattened them

up, and then took off for the Pacific Northwest

already pregnant with future siblings.

“When they’re born they will weigh about

60 pounds. They will nurse about 28 days

and will be about 300 pounds in that 28

days,” says Cook.

So these pups are on their own until their

instinct takes over and they learn to swim

and find food.

They’ll return next month with adult

females to shed their winter coats. And

seeing a beach full of these blubbery bodies

may help you shed any inhibitions you

have about bearing your winter bod come


It’s always entertaining at this beach near

Piedras Blancas, and the only admission is

the time it takes to pull over and get out of

the car.

It’s one of the few places in the world

where elephant seals live. At most of those

places, you can’t get close enough to see

them. But you can here, and it’s right in our

own backyard. It’s more proof, that there’s

No Place Like Home. SLO LIFE

Jeanette Trompeter, KSBY News anchor and reporter,

hosts the “No Place Like Home” series every

Thursday evening at 6pm.

Come Hang Out!

Enjoy Song Time with Matt Cross

Every Thursday at 10:15am

Located Downtown SLO

863 Monterey Street • 805.540.7222

Store Hours

Tues.-Sat. 10am-6pm • Sun. 12-5pm

Closed Mondays

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 37




above NAPALI CLASSROOM students pack into a

crowded room for their lessons

right RESPONSIBILITY while some children are able to

attend school in Nepal, others, like the boy pictured

here, bear the burden of work

In a remote village in the highlands of Nepal, school-aged children

wake up at dawn each day and brave the chilly morning air to

fetch water from the community well. After a breakfast of tea and

roasted barley, the lucky ones go to school. The rest go to work.

An estimated 2.1 million Nepali children between 5 and 14 years

old are child laborers. They harvest crops in the fields, break rocks

in stone quarries, and forgo education in order to help support

their families.

Some of these children may soon be able to go to school, thanks to

the efforts of a New Zealand woman who turned her own personal

tragedy into an opportunity to help others—and to inspire children

around the world to do the same.

Emily Sanson-Rejouis, a former United Nations aid worker, lost

her husband and two of their three young daughters in the

devastating 7.1 Haiti earthquake of January 12, 2010. In honoring

their memory on her return to New Zealand she created Kenbe La

Foundation Charitable Trust (“Kenbe La” means “never give up” in

Haitian Creole), to provide educational opportunities for Hatian

children in need.

The Foundation has since established Purple Cake Day as a specific

day to celebrate, connect and support children around the world

and is meant to empower children to give to others in need.

The first Purple Cake Day was celebrated throughout New Zealand

on March 1, 2011. It has since spread worldwide, with participants

in Australia, Europe and North America—including San Luis Obispo.

Proceeds from this year’s event will fund scholarships for Nepali

teens, early childhood development centers in rural communities,

and a library with educational resources for students of all ages. A

portion will also support education projects in Haiti.

On March 1st, students in San Luis Obispo schools will learn

about life in Nepal. They will hear Nepali music and make Nepali

dumpings called momos, and they’ll wear purple clothing to school

in solidarity with other children worldwide. The SLO Children’s

Museum, the YMCA and other local groups will host Purple Cake

Day celebrations.

At a Farmer’s Market booth hosted by the Rotary Club of San Luis

Obispo Daybreak and the San Luis Obispo High School Interact

Club, volunteers will sell purple cupcakes and handicrafts like

reusable sandwich bags to raise funds for the foundation.

“It’s fantastic to hear about people in other countries who are

keen to get behind an initiative that I started locally,” says Sanson-

Rejouis. “It validates my belief that this is an issue that touches

and connects us globally.”

Local organizers Kim Lisagor and Dr. Natasha Raja brought Purple

Cake Day to San Luis Obispo this year with support from sponsors

Sierra Vista Regional Medical Center and Bravo Pediatrics.

“We saw this as a chance to teach our own children about the

importance of helping others,” says Lisagor, a travel writer and Cal

Poly lecturer. “Whatever they decide to be when they grow up, we

hope they’ll also become global citizens.”


38 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

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Night Without Limits

Come join Danny P. of 95.3fm The Beach

Dance to your favorite hits from the 70’s 80’s & 90’s

SLO Vets Hall • March 9th • 6:00pm - 11:00pm

Food, Beverages and a chance to win an iPad

For Ticket Information Call Kristine 805.543.2039

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 39

40 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012




Last year, Roberto Monge made an astonishing discovery in his backyard:

the soil was a near-exact match to the soil he had grown up with in his

native El Salvador.

Today, Monge is a software architect for Canadian-based TransGaming,

which enables him to work from his home office that backs into Madonna

Mountain. It was the flooding last year that soaked his kids’ playroom off

of the back of the house that led to the discovery. “When the rain finally

stopped and much of the topsoil was swept away, I reached down into

the exposed clay and sunk my hands into it. Immediately, I felt this strong,

emotional connection to my childhood and El Salvador,” remembers Monge.

Moved by the powerful experience, and encouraged by his wife, Valerie, a

physician assistant at the Cal Poly Health Center, Monge, who admits that,

while he works in high-tech, he’s really “much more attracted to low-tech”

set out to teach their young children, Liliana and Kai, how to use the clay to

build things. They started out making simple adobe bricks in the backyard

- the same type of brick that was used to build Monge’s childhood home.

Then, as Monge researched other uses for the clay, he found a “how-to”

book explaining the construction for an earthen oven. More memories came

flooding back.

Sadly, it was around this same time that Monge’s father had received a

terminal diagnosis. The cancer had spread. His father immediately moved

back to El Salvador for hospice care. A plan was quickly set in motion for

a family reunion to celebrate the elder Monge’s 67th birthday. And, it was

during this visit that Monge and his family were able to rediscover the lost

village of “Los Monges” which had been “bombed into oblivion” during the

war. It had been 35 years since the family had returned to the site, and it

took all day with heavy machete “bushwhacking” to carve a passable trail

through the jungle into the deserted village. The family elders were able to

point the way through the thick, tropical vegetation. Once they arrived, just

like he did a few month prior in San Luis Obispo, Monge sunk his hands into

the soil and confirmed his intuition: the soil was exactly the same as it was in

his yard back home.

For Monge, who fled a war-torn El Salvador when he was eight years old,

food had always helped him maintain a connection to his heritage and

culture but there was always something missing. He and his father shared

a love for a Salvadorean quesadilla, which is more like a cake than the

traditional Mexican quesadilla that has become so popular in the United

States. The problem was that, although his family had developed a great

recipe [see Local Food by Local People on page 44], it just wasn’t the same –

at least not how he remembered it in El Salvador. The missing component, as

it turns out, was the earthen oven.

So, Monge returned to San Luis Obispo with a new resolve to build a

full-sized, fully functioning “horno” (oven in Spanish). He found some books

on the subject, surfed the web, and asked around locally. His research

led him to a local company called N’Credible Edibles, which specializes in

developing edible gardens as well as constructing earthen ovens. Monge

continued on page 42

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 41


“ ”

There’s something very core

about it – the visual fire, being

outside with friends and family,

and the food just tastes better.

For a sample of recipes used

in the earthen oven, turn to

Local Food by Local People

on page 44.

contracted with the company, owned and operated by Jordan and Meleah Hosea, to help him build

the oven. For this purpose, the company employs a novel tactic, whereby they invite others to learn

how to build their own earthen oven in exchange for their labor - the process is very “hands on.”

So, over the next four weekends (a standard oven construction takes two weekends generally, but

Monge elected to build an adobe seating area, as well) the company, Monge, and a collection of

other local trainees dug into the clay and began molding the structure.

The entire process is surprisingly free-flowing and organic in how it all comes together. No hardand-fast

measurements are made, no blueprints are developed (although, in a nod to his high-tech

training, Monge did create a computer generated rendering to illustrate where the structure would

sit in the backyard). The building of the earthen oven is also a very communal experience, as it turns

out, probably similar to the early American tradition of “barn raising” where a group of families

come together to help a neighboring farmer erect a barn. In El Salvador, Monge estimates that

earthen ovens are built and shared by a collection of four or five neighboring households.

And, the mechanics of the earthen oven make it so that sharing makes much more sense from an

efficiency stand-point, which makes its use a social experience as well. First, a wood fire is built in the

oven. The coals then sit in the structure to allow it to fully heat. The way the earthen oven works is

that the clay absorbs and stores the heat. After about an hour the coals are removed from the oven,

which is now somewhere close to 900 degrees (depending on the length and intensity of the fire)

and is ready for cooking. According to Monge, everything cooks in less than half the time it would in

a conventional oven and is nearly impossible to burn or dry out. No matter the type of food, it tends

to retain more moisture despite the higher heat because it operates like a convection oven with very

little heat escaping and steam coming in from the wooden door, which is soaked in water before it is

sealed. The oven can cook for several hours once it starts and the residual heat is perfect for roasting

fruits and vegetables overnight.

Monge offers that their new earthen oven has not only brought him closer to his native El Salvador

and allowed him to finally replicate the quesadilla of his childhood, but it has also brought him

closer to his friends and neighbors. “It seems like people have a natural connection to it, especially

men; they immediately fall in love with it. There’s something very core about it – the visual fire,

being outside with friends and family, and the food just tastes better,” observes Monge. And, he has

noticed that when he begins to stoke the fire, neighbors start to show up and it invariably turns into

a communal activity, not unlike 35 years ago in the village of Los Monges. Only, now the village is

the neighborhood and the food, which is readily shared, consists of pizzas, breads, and casseroles

instead of masa and other corn-based staples.

The earthen oven, which was made entirely out of the clay found in Monge’s backyard, has brought

the native Salvadorean full-circle. And, he reports that his only regret with the project is that his dad

was not able to sample the quesadilla before he recently passed away. But, he did get to see a picture

of the final product and in one of thier last conversations he told his son, “I saw what you did, and I

think it is great that you built it with your kids. I’m very proud of you.” And, so the tradition continues.

42 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 43







The Salvadorean quesadilla is a bread that is

served after just about any meal. When you

visit someone’s house you’ll be offered a slice

of quesadilla and some coffee. Its consistency

is like a pound cake, but you have to try

it yourself to understand the salty,

sweet, cheesy goodness. Most people

aren’t sure what to think when they are first

offered a slice, but after tasting it, they always

reach out for a second.

Bringing Romance to the Table

Farm to Table Cuisine

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• Wedding and Rehearsal Dinners •



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1215 Avila Beach Drive

San Luis Obispo

44 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012


2 cups white rice flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon of salt

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened

2 cups of turbinado sugar

6 large eggs

1 cup whole goat or cow milk

1/2 cup whipped cream cheese

1/2 cup parmesan cheese

1/2 cup crumbled cotija cheese

1 teaspoon of cinnamon

3-4 drops of vanilla

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Whisk together the rice flour, baking powder, and salt.

3. Mix the sugar with the softened butter.

4. Cover the bowl tightly, and refrigerate for 6 hours.

5. Incorporate the flour mixture with the butter and sugar.

6. Drop in the eggs, one at a time, and pour in 1 cup of

whole milk until fully incorporated.

7. Beat in the whipped cream cheeese, parmesan cheese,

cotija cheese and rice flour mixture until a smooth

batter forms.

8. Butter two eight inch round pie pans and place batter

into pans.

9. Sprinkle the sesame seeds over the top.

10. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Make sure the top has a golden

color before removing from the oven.

Atol de Elote is a traditional warm

corn drink served in El Salvador. Its

roots are from Mayan cuisine and

it’s perfect on a cold day.


Fresh Picked & Locally Grown

Pesticide Free Produce

Direct Delivery to Your Home or Business

Weekly or Every Other Week Delivery

No Contract Required


4 ears of corn

1/2 cup cold water

1 gallon of milk

2 tablespoon of cornstarch

2 sticks of whole cinnamon

1 cup of turbinado sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

1/4 cup of sweetened condensed milk

(optional) Kahlua or Rum

1.Boil ears of corn until soft. Remove and let rest

until cool enough to handle. Cut corn from the cob.

Puree corn in blender with 1/2 cup of water.

2. Strain corn puree through sieve into a sauce pan.

Discard the solids.

3. Add milk, cinnamon, sugar, salt, and sweetened

condensed milk into sauce pan with corn puree

and bring almost to a slow boil, stirring often.

4. Mix cornstarch with cold water and add into

sauce pan.

5. Reduce heat and simmer for at least 5 minutes.

6. Once the mixture thickens serve in coffee cups.

Traditionally it’s served in small gourds and

sprinkled with a little bit of powdered cinnamon.

7. If you’re feeling festive, add Kahlua or Rum to

the drink.

Have a recipe to share? Go to to tell us about it.



San Luis Obispo | Avila | Los Osos

Five Cities | Nipomo


SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 45


My Generation

February 17th - March 25th

San Luis Obispo Little Theatre

In 1961, as our boys went to war in Vietnam,

the British Invasion swept through the nation

forever changing the direction and sound of

our culture. Join us for this original musical,

chronicling one young man’s journey from the

squeaky-clean 50’s to the Summer of Love.

Featuring an amazing live band, swingin’

singers, dynamic dancers, and the music which

fueled one of the most dramatic decades in

the history of our country.

Presenting the best

in professional

entertainment at the

Performing Arts Center!



March 2nd - 3rd

Alex Madonna Expo Center

Phyllis Madonna’s Musical Revue benefitting

the Women’s Shelter Program of San Luis

Obispo County is back for its 25th Annual

event. This promises to be an evening of fun,

fashion and music. Come see local performers

and other notable figures sing and dance

on stage while you enjoy local wine and a

delicious meal. Wrap up the evening with

music and dancing.

Hot Shaves • Cold Beer • ESPN • Quality Service

Monday - Saturday 10am-6pm • Sunday 11am-4pm

1351 Monterey Street . San Luis Obispo

(805)783-2887 .

46 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

SLO International Film Festival

March 7th - 11th

Variety is the spice of life, and the San Luis Obipo International Film Festival is proud

to embrace that philosophy in its programming. From cutting edge documentaries to

tried and true cinema classics, the SLOIFF celebrates film on the ‘big screen’ by offering

something for everyone.

More Classic Scenes

March 8th - 10th

Pavilion at the PAC

Opera San Luis Obispo and Cal Poly Student Opera present songs, arias, duets and

ensembles from opera and musical theater. The scenes will be cast with more than 25

Cal Poly voice students who will have the unique opportunity to be considered for roles

and chorus parts with the Opera San Luis Obispo Young Artist Program.

Suite Serenades

March 10th

Christopher Cohan Center

The San Luis Obispo Symphony presents Classical

Sketches featuring Schubert’s Symphony No.8,

“Unfinished,” Bartok’s Hungarian Sketches, and

the U.S. Premiere of Bacewicz’s Concerto No.3 for

Violin and Orchestra.

Butlerz Event Services

Let Us Make Your Indoor

Or Outdoor Event Amazing

805.878.4283 |

Dog Training • Premium Daycare • Boarding • Grooming


173 Buckley Road • San Luis Obispo

(805) 596-0112



Spaghetti Western

March 17th

San Luis Obispo Elks Lodge

The Rotary Club of San Luis Obispo will hold a Spaghetti Western Fun Family Fundraiser.

Spaghetti, top sirloin and goodies to the sweet tune of $25/adult and $5/child. They’ll

offer up games for lil’ buckaroos and their kin folk, spaghetti western films and a silent

auction to holler about. You can purchase your food to dine-in or carry out.


Lunch Buffet

Mon - Sat 11:30am - 3:00pm $8.99

Monday Dinner Buffet

5:00pm - 10:00pm $9.99

Sunday Brunch


2115 Broad Street, SlO

805.781.0766 |

SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012 | 47

The Payne Team

View This Home and More at

Our approach to real estate is about

much more than property... it’s about people.

The Payne Team

Jed Damschroder


Kate Hendrickson


Gavin Payne


962 Mill Street, San Luis Obispo, California 93401

48 | SLO LIFE Magazine feb/mar 2012

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