Serenity Now

By Nancy D. Lackey Shaffer

Photo by Gaston Gal


h, the holidays. A magical time of year, filled with twinkling lights, sugar-plum dreams, festivity and merriment. Or, if you’re like many of us, ’tis the season for navigating the gridlock of the mall parking lot, planning an elaborate and time-consuming meal, spending way too much money and generally getting overwhelmed by the insistent and increasing demands to make everything just perfect.

Perfection, in my humble opinion, is vastly overrated.

What might truly make the season bright is a little less emphasis on doing and a little more time to just be. Be in the moment. Be with our loved ones. Be a part of the holidays without getting overrun by them. If some peace and tranquility is what you desire this season, then perhaps the stories featured in this issue will provide a little wish fulfillment. 

Our cover story this month is on winter feasts designed for high impact with minimal effort. We tasked the chefs from some of our favorite local restaurants to compose recipes that were sufficiently impressive for the holiday table, but simple enough to avoid slaving over a hot stove for hours. What these creative cooks came up with was surprising and inspiring — and undeniably delicious, filled with the flavors of the season and the region.

Looking to get away from it all? Ojai is an ideal local “escape,” with its day spas, excellent dining options and charming accommodations. But Ventura County’s own Shangri-La, with its pedestrian-friendly downtown and cluster of eclectic boutiques, also makes for a stress-free alternative to the strip malls, big box stores, and shopping centers thousands clamor to every weekend in December. Enjoy instead Ojai’s good food, beautiful surroundings and a mellow vibe (and possibly a massage or facial) — and if you happen to bring a holiday check list, you can cross it off at a leisurely pace.

If you’re set to travel this month sans furry, finned and feathered friends, no need to worry on their account. The new trend in pet resorts is pure paradise for dogs, cats, birds and other non-human companions. The local facilities in our “About Town” feature might make your own vacation plans look less lux by comparison.

And just because a little perspective is always healthy, we profile Ventura County’s own poet laureate, Phil Taggart. His words of wisdom about art, poetry, community and social justice make a beautiful antidote to the materialism and pressure that run amok this time of year, and serve as a reminder of what is truly important. An excellent coda as we wrap up 2016, and prepare to celebrate a new year.

Regardless of what you celebrate this December — or indeed, if you don’t celebrate anything at all — we at Ventana Monthly wish you and yours joy, peace and prosperity, now and in the months to come. 


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