Great Places to Walk in the O.C.

The Orange County Register  ran a great article about the Best Places for Walking in Orange County. I love that the author distinguishes between a walk, and a hike. A hike, for me, is  on more rugged trails. More remote, less houses and restaurants, more hills, rocks and brush. I like both walks and hikes, most of the time, in the area where I live, a nice long walk is easier to do. So, how do they explain the difference?
-“What’s the difference between a walk and a hike? We pondered this question to help narrow our list of the county’s best walks. A walk, we realized, tends to be within or adjacent to civilization, as opposed to being in the wilderness. Walks often involve paved, or at least well-groomed, pathways. You won’t need a backpack or hiking boots for a walk, though a hat, sunscreen, and a bottle of water are a good idea. And keep an eye out for critters and snakes, even in urban settings. Walks are local by nature. People outside the immediate area don’t tend to know about them—which is why we’re sharing 10 of O.C.’s best with you.”

I think they had some great choices, but one of my favorite walks isn’t on the list! Here in South Orange County, from Laguna Beach, down towards San Clemente, there are several paved and semi-paved trails which lead from local neighborhoods, some go through golf courses, and they each end up down at a beach.

One of my favorite walking paths actually starts in the Marina Hills neighborhood of Laguna Niguel, and meanders on through Dana Point to end up at Salt Creek Beach. You can get on or off the walking trail at several different entrance points, or walk the entire path. I will warn you that it’s mostly down hill heading towards the beach, which also means it’s mostly UPHILL heading back. When you have already walked a few miles to get to the beach, taken off your shoes and walked in the ocean, that uphill trek back home can wear you out. So be careful to save some energy for the trip back home.

Check here for details on this route: DETAILS and to see more about local walking trails: – See more at:”

Enjoy your walk!!

Aileen BrazeauAileen At Del Mar Racetrack Opening Day 2012


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Fun at the Villas

Some people have the perception that living in a retirement community is boring. I don’t know about other communities, but at my San Clemente Villas, we have a good time.

There is always something going on. We hold Charity events, Chamber Mixers, celebrations and we even have Poker and Casino nights for our residents, and often times other members of our San Clemente Community and families of our residents attend our events.

We also take field trips to various landmarks around Southern California, and hold classes, exercise sessions and best of all, dances with good music. No one is required to attend, but all who live here are welcome, and most people love our events.

Aileen Brazeau

San Clemente Villas


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Fall Is Coming

fall wardrobe choices for Aileen Brazeau

from Pinterest


Our weather is still warm, and thank goodness we have finally had a few rain storms, but I am getting excited about putting some new fall outfits together. We don’t get much of a change of season here in South Orange County. But the leaves will turn, the evenings and early mornings will get cooler. The air smells fresher and more crisp. Fall is kind of the best of both worlds for me. Warm, breezy afternoons, cool evenings, and a chance to switch to warmer fall colors for a few months.

Of course Fall also means that another year has gone by all too quickly, and that part bothers me a bit. It seems each passing year goes by more quickly. I wish I could make things slow down just a little. The other side of Fall season means the Holidays are coming, and I love them. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years..the best time of the year.


Aileen Brazeau

Aileen At Del Mar Racetrack Opening Day 2012

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Today, A Poem

Today I only wish to share something which warms my heart. It is a poem by Shel Silverstein:

“Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein

There is a place where the sidewalk ends                                                       loving spring san c kwatson
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”

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The Lasting Joys of Close Kin

the importance of family

Momma & her Twin

By Karen Everett Watson

It seems the older I get, the more I enjoy thinking about my childhood experiences. Growing up as an only child, the ultimate for me was spending time with my cousins. Since my mother had six brothers and five sisters, I had a multitude of cousins to enjoy.

For many years my mother’s twin sister lived just a few miles from us and her daughter, my cousin Jeannie, was just two weeks younger than myself. Because we were so close in both age and proximity, my cousin was more like a sister to me than a cousin. And if you have a sister you know what sisters do? Yep, there were fights. As babies, we fought over everything. It usually involved a hairbrush. I haven’t the slightest idea why we fought over hair brushes. Neither one of us had any hair at the time.

Me and Jeannie Ann Carr

Karen & Jeannie Ann

While fighting was a big part of our activities, we still preferred to play together. Jeannie was adventuresome and she always had three or four ideas ready to go. At four she decided to be a hair stylist. First she trimmed my bangs then her baby brother’s hair. Last of all she trimmed her own. Needless to say, it wasn’t pretty. At five she decided to make her own sandwich which in and of itself is not big deal, but in her case, it involved climbing into the cabinets next to the stove. I was in the living room when she emerged triumphantly with her sandwich masterpiece held in one hand and flames were going up the back of her dress all the way above her head. Did I mention it was a gas stove? Her momma started chasing her and I tried to stay out of the way. She ended up rolled in the living room rug. Amazingly she was unharmed.

My summers were spent in the heart of Oklahoma. Both sets of grandparents lived there and it was the only vacation destination for all my childhood summers. My momma’s mother lived in a little cement block house on the edge of town. It had two bedrooms and one bathroom. It was tiny by anyone’s standards, but when summer came, it held over thirty of my relatives. All the cousins slept of the floor. Our pallets stretched from the front door to the kitchen door at the back of the house. Getting to the bathroom in the middle of the night involved careful placement of one’s feet. Somehow we all survived and couldn’t have been happier in a five star hotel. After all, there wasn’t a chef alive that could compete with my granny’s cooking!

I loved listening to my momma and her siblings talk about their years growing up. There was the time she finally convinced her twin sister to try the rope swing next to the creek. I think you can probably guess how that turned out. Then there was the story of the pet crow that liked shiny things, including matches. Those matches happened to be on top of granny’s sewing machine, along with all the material for her girls’ school dresses. The crow survived the neck wringing from granny. The material did not. Some of their stories almost hurt to listen to. My mother and her siblings never had a lunch to take with them, but Granny always had dinner waiting for them when they got off the bus.

Without my cousins, my aunts, my uncles and grannies, I would have been a very lonely child. They filled my life with fun, adventure, and memories I will never lose. They connected me to my roots. They taught me where I came from and more importantly who I was. As a teenager, my Aunt Glory made sure I could spend a portion of my summer lounging by her pool. Her daughter, my cousin Linda was grown by then. She’d take me wherever my heart desired. We window shopped on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. We visited Ports o’ Call and Disneyland and nearly every beach in Southern California. She taught me the fun of macramé and I carried the purse she taught me to make for years to come. She continues to be a gift of life – a gift of family.

I so appreciate the connection with all these “close kin.” They enriched my life beyond measure just by spending time with me. How long has it been since you called your brother, sister, or one of your cousins? Don’t lose touch – they’re treasure to cherish all through life. And ask your older loved ones about their close kin. It will lift both your hearts!

Aileen Brazeau



San Clemente CA, senior living, fundraising, charities, Dana Point, San Clemente, San Juan Capistrano






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Holiday Time Brings It’s Own Challenges

Don's 100th Birthday 2When you are getting ready to celebrate for the holidays, there are special considerations for dealing with elderly family members. If your loved ones are beginning to experience memory loss, if they have recently lost a loved one, the Holidays can be a challenge for them. It is something we face here at the Villas every year. We have found that it is best to not try too hard to cheer them up. Let them have their quiet moments, But it’s also important to gently nudge them into participating in at least some of the Christmas traditions and activities.

Sometimes the best thing for them is children. Or story telling. Instead of hustle and bustle, try to make time to just sit quietly and listen while they tell you about some of their favorite Christmases past. Bring out some special photos from the past and start a story, but if they can’t bring up a memory, don’t pressure them, that will simply make things worse.

I ran across this post in Seniors Living that mirrored many of my experiences dealing with seniors here at the villas, and in my own life. Be gentle, be considerate, and be thoughtful. Someday you are going to be their age if you get lucky to live long enough, treat them the way you would like to be treated. Take a look at this excerpt:

  1. Plan ahead. If older family members tire easily or are vulnerable to over-stimulation, limit the number of activities they are involved in or the length of time they are included. The noise and confusion of a large family gathering can lead to irritability or exhaustion, so schedule time for a nap, if necessary, and consider designating a “quiet room” where an older person can take a break. “Assign someone to be the day’s companion to the older person, to make sure the individual is comfortable,” says Daniel Sewell, M.D., director of the Senior Behavior Health Unit at the UCSD Medical Center, who adds that these guidelines work well for young children as well as adults with mental, emotional and physical health issues. 
  2. Eliminate obstacles. If a holiday get-together is held in the home of an older person with memory impairment or behavioral problems, don’t rearrange the furniture. This could be a source of confusion and anxiety. If the gathering is in a place unfamiliar to an older person, remove slippery throw rugs and other items that could present barriers to someone with balance problems or who has difficulty walking.”

This is all helpful information, and I invite you to head over to this site to read the rest of their post. But most of all simply remember this: Cherish the time you spend with your Mom, Dad, Grandma, Auntie, Grandpa or Uncle. Treat them with love and respect, and most of the time that will make a better holiday for all of you.

Merry Christmas..

Aileen Brazeau



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Everlasting Blooms

By Karen Everett Watson – Gerontologist


There are so many reasons to love flowers. Their beauty can be breath taking and their fragrance intoxicating.The smell of  lilacs or gardenias triggering a special memory. Yet I believe our love of flowers goes far beyond what we see and smell. For most of us, our love of flowers are often a connection to someone we have cherished.

In my own life, I have a lot of flower connections! Grandparents, Aunts, parents, each of them is linked to a special plant or flower. My childhood visits to Oklahoma always included time spent on the 160 acres homestead where my daddy grew up.  For me, in my childhood, this is where my earliest memories of plants and flowers begin. The tiger lilies that grew beside my Granny’s dining room window in Oklahoma were a vibrant orange with elongated black spots. It seemed to me there were hundreds of them and they were so perfect that they almost did not look real.

My Granddaddy was a very big man, he stood 6 ft. 5 inches tall and his girth seemed almost too big to come through my Granny Everett’s kitchen door. Their shot-gun style house had brick pillars holding up the front porch. On each side of the pillars were crepe myrtle trees that my Granny had planted for her husband. My Granddaddy died when I was around five, but I still remember him – his kindness, his humor, and his love for crepe myrtles.  After he passed away, Granny had to sell the home place.

Years later, I returned to show my children where their granddaddy, my father, grew up. My Grandparent’s farm had been abandoned. The house had been moved away, the windmill was broken and laying in the field. But crepe myrtles were still growing where the front porch once stood.

Going to Auntie Glory’s was always a treat during my childhood. Her Southern California home was modest compared to her gardens. My uncle had built her beautiful flower beds along the high cement walls on both sides of her house. Instead of bricks, he used shells and rocks, and smooth pieces of colored glass that he picked up at the beach. But the best thing in Auntie’s gardens was her fuchsias. Their bright purple and pink blooms looked like tiny Chinese lanterns. They don’t seem to grow well for me, still I try. Sometimes they only survive for me a season or two, but I don’t mind because when I look at them, I see more than just a plant with colorful blooms. I think of my Aunt who always was happy to see me, who took me anywhere I wanted to go, fed me anything I wanted to eat, and just enjoyed my company. It’s a magical thing for a young girl, to have someone make them feel special like that.

My mother’s garden changes every year, but one thing remains the same – morning glories grow everywhere. She just seems to have a knack for getting them to grow. They grow on fences, they grow in pots, and some even grow in the gravel driveway! So morning glories say “home” to me. No matter where I see them growing, I always think of my momma. She taught me so much about raising plants, but more importantly, she taught me about what’s important in life. I will always try to grow morning glories. Maybe someday, I’ll get good at it!

What fond memories do you have that are connected to flowers? Do you remember the first corsage you received? What is your older loved one’s favorite flower? I can safely bet there’s a great story behind the love of that flower. These are the flowers whose blooms do not fade – the flowers of our memories.

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Family Memories

Ever get curious about your past? Did you wait too long to try and find out about your personal heritage? Why do television programs like Lisa Kudrow’s Who do You think you are and the PBS program Finding Your Roots have such popularity these days.

America has always touted itself as a place where all types of people from around the world could come and make whatever kind of life they wished. Through hard work, smart investing and skill, you can go from a poor immigrant to a successful business person.

As I have watched shows like this, I find it amazing when contemporary people find out their ancestors had many of the traits they carry within themselves in these modern times. An actor or actress discovers an ancestry that carries strength and innovation. A black actor learns his family ancestry comes from freed slaves who went on to build a town, run businesses and own their farms. Irish ancestry that speaks of unbearable conditions that drove a father to send a young son to this strange country called America at only 11 years old.

It is good to remember that although in general most of us are second or third generation Americans, our ancestors arrived on these shores with much less than we have today. That is the blood that runs though our veins. We are from people who risked everything to come here. There is nothing weak or fainthearted in our genetic make up.

I wrote a blog post for the Patch San Clemente about this subject. I hope you take a moment to read it:

SC Patch Excerpt:


“ Talking about the past and remembering the good times is such a blessing. It doesn’t just bless the older person . . . it can bless you. Knowing the family stories and the obstacles that your loved one had to overcome to be successful in life are rich and worthy to be passed down to future generations. Talking about a person’s early life also helps us to understand them better. What great wisdom would be lost if we neglected to know how they became who they are!

My friend’s maternal grandmother raised 14 children and all reached adulthood, save one. Her husband was twice her age and long past where he could make a decent living. That grandmother is part of my friend, Karen. My grandmother is also what I am made of.

Whenever I feel discouraged or that I have too much on my plate, I remember that friend’s granny. All Karen’s granny had to do to raise those kids – feed them, cloth them, and without any help. That’s all. What work!

I remember sitting on that granny’s bed with Karen who asked her granny why she would marry a man twice her age. I asked my own granny about her childhood and her mother’s childhood. I wouldn’t trade those stories for anything in the world.

What stories do your loved ones still need to share? Do you know why they lived where they lived? Do you know what the happiest time in their life was? Do you know what they consider their greatest accomplishment? Do you know what lessons their parents taught them that are still the most important to them? These are all topics that could enrich your life while giving them the time to share on subjects they feel comfortable with.

Our society revels in those who are young, but do we give enough honors to those who have lived good lives and have wisdom to share? Will you be the memory keeper for your family?

Here are a few questions to ask your older relatives to get you started as the Memory Keeper for your family!

1. What occupations or roles have you had in life that has given you the greatest sense of accomplishment?
2. Why did these roles or occupations seem to be gratifying to you?
3. What single “seed of wisdom” do you hope to hand down to the next generation?
4. What did you want to be when you grew up?
5. What was it like when you were first married?
6. What did your family do for fun when you were young?
7. What was your first “date” like and who was it with?
8. When did you first learn to drive and who taught you?
9. What was the best present you ever received as a child?
10. What was your wedding day like? What did you wear and were there any catastrophes?

Note– Being “interested” and a little less “interesting” is how you connect with anyone!”

Aileen Brazeau


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