Go Big Or Go Home: Gina & Sarah Di Leva – October 19, 2012 (Wedding)

photos by Jeff Loftin & John Mattera

Gino and Sarah (Brander) Di Leva never thought they would ever get married, especially to each other.

The couple met through mutual friends in 2003 and got to know each other well as they often enjoyed dinner and live music together with their close-knit group of friends.

“We started off with a quirky friendship,” describes Gino, son of Vince and Mary Di Leva. “We would tease each other and joke around about going out with each other until we eventually did.”

So the two headed to Rock Bottom in Long Beach for their first “date” without the rest of the gang. They said the experience was really nothing different from when they were with their friends, and they just enjoyed each other’s company.

But because of their independent spirits, Gino and Sarah were in no rush to commit.

“We saw our relationship as us doing our own thing while enjoying the other person’s company,” says Gino. “Neither one of us were in a real hurry, so we just took it one day at a time.”

Being very driven in his music career, those around him knew Gino for his infamous one-liner: “I’m opposed to commitment.” Sarah was very aware of this and even heard it from Gino himself that he never wanted to get married. Likewise, Sarah didn’t grow up ever wanting to get married, but knew that if she ever did, it would be to Gino.

“We were both very independent, but had huge admiration for each other,” explains Sarah, daughter of Elizabeth Meyer. “I knew that if I were to ever marry, it would be to him. But marriage was never on the forefront of my mind.”

Despite their views on marriage, the two finally committed to each other in 2010. Ironically, as soon as Gino committed, Sarah moved to Australia for a year.

“I love Australia, and learning and tending to animals, and had the opportunity to live in Australia and work on a farm and travel throughout the country,” says Sarah. “But I could only call home once a week – and that was tough for us.”

In December 2011, seven months into Sarah’s year in Australia, Gino visited for five weeks, a trip that would take their relationship to the next level.

“I knew I was going to marry Sarah when I committed to a relationship,” explains Gino. “So I thought what better place to propose than Australia? I knew I had to go big or go home.”

And go big he did. Gino and Sarah took a plane to Ayres Rock in the middle of the Outback, where they had the choice to climb up the rock or walk around it. The two chose to conquer the six-mile walk around the rock, encountering numerous waterholes along the way. About three-and-a-half miles into their walk, they came upon a beautiful waterhole lined with trees that formed a tunnel.

Gino didn’t want to propose with others around, so he waited for the area to clear out. Once it did, Sarah pulled out Santa hats and thought it would be a good idea to take their Christmas pictures while there. Gino obliged and then told her he had a little gift for her, which was a “cheesy” bracelet, as he would describe it. He then said, “I have one more gift.”

He pulled out the box with the ring in it and got down on one knee and proposed. Sarah said yes, and again Gino said, “I have one more gift!” He pulled out his iPod and put the earbuds in Sarah’s ears and held her close and danced with her as she listened to the song being played, which was titled “U,” written and performed by Gino.

As this was all going on, not one other person was in the same area. As soon as the song ended, however, a large group of people entered.

“It was just a beautiful moment,” explains Sarah. “Everything about the day was just beautiful, from our sunrise tour to our engagement, to the dinner at sunset. It was just perfect.”

Less than a year later, the two married on October 19, 2012. Their ceremony was a traditional Catholic one at All Hallows Catholic Church in La Jolla in front of 100 guests. During the ceremony, Sarah’s friend Christina, who owns a bed and breakfast in Australia with her husband John, did a scripture reading. The church’s children’s choir performed various hymns and psalms, while Gino’s brother-in-law John Morreale and nephew Matthew Morreale played and sang “The Prayer” by Andrea Bocelli. Additionally, Monsignor Pilato, a longtime family friend and distant relative of Gino’s, presided over the ceremony.

Standing next to Gino and Sarah were their wedding party: Matron of Honor Kasie Regnier; bridesmaids Tarren Austad and Jenny Carlson; flower girl Ava Austad; Best Man Domenico Pilato; and groomsmen John Mattera, Tony “Mo” Di Leva, Anthony Di Leva, and John Morreale.

The reception followed at Green Gables Estate in San Marcos. Gino and Sarah danced to the same song Sarah listened to during the proposal. Gino also mixed a variety of songs together for the cake cutting, garter toss, bouquet toss, and more. For a surprise, Sarah strapped toys to her garter for Gino to find when it was time to remove it.

Gino and Sarah kicked off their honeymoon with a two-night stay in San Diego with Christina and John from Australia, followed by a week in Palm Desert. The couple currently lives in San Pedro, Sarah works at a physical therapy office in Redondo Beach, and Gino works as a disc jockey for Michael Angelo Music; operates M3 Workshops, Inc., a non-profit organization; and plays for various bands including Dr. Iven, Identity Theft, and Rodeo Drive. spt

From Puppy Love To Soulmates

Photos by John Mattera Photography

It began as a schoolyard crush.

We all remember that feeling, that queasy stomach every time that person entered the classroom, the nervousness that came when you tried to talk to one another. The awkward glances. The overanalyzing of every word they said and move they made. It’s puppy love and it’s supposed to prepare us for the romantic experiences that would lie ahead in all our lives. For some, puppy love can lead to something much bigger. Such is the case for Petar and Magali (Martin) Blazevic, whose schoolyard crush turned into a lifetime commitment of happiness.

Petar and Magali met in the sixth grade at Miraleste Intermediate School in Rancho Palos Verdes. They entered into what Magali would call, “a middle school romance – the kind where you date for a few days and then move on.” Although their relationship fizzled, their friendship didn’t, and they continued to remain close all throughout middle school and into high school. They both dated other people their freshman year at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, but when their sophomore year came around, they thought they’d give romance another shot and began dating once more. The two have been together ever since.

In 2008, Petar and Magali took their relationship to the next level and the two moved in together. Three years (and two dogs) later, they bought a home in San Pedro.

Just months after purchasing their home, their relationship would take yet another big step. Magali had just completed the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at Mary Star of the Sea Catholic Church, and as a reward for finishing the program, Petar wanted to treat her to a day of whale watching on his friend’s yacht on Easter Sunday. While out on the water, the boat came to a stop in front of a lifeguard tower in Redondo Beach. But this was no ordinary lifeguard tower – this was the same lifeguard tower Petar asked Magali to be his girlfriend their sophomore year of high school. This time around, Petar asked Magali to be his wife, of course, she said yes.

The couple married on July 14, 2012, which was also their anniversary. More than 200 attendants watched Petar and Magali share their vows at Mary Star Church, a ceremony officiated by Father Brian Nunes, who also baptized Magali following her RCIA completion. The ceremony had many special moments, including Magali walking down the aisle with both of her parents. Magali also wore a necklace containing a diamond her grandfather gave to her mother before his passing. The ceremony also featured readings from Petar’s cousin, which was in Croatian, and Magali’s cousin, which was in French – both in celebration and honor of their heritages.

The bridal party was just as special, and consisted of numerous relatives and friends. On Magali’s side were maid-of-honors Lauren Johnson and Alyse Intagliata; and bridesmaids Janessa Reyes, Lisa Vidov, Kristen Boskovich, Kristin Montti, Stacie Ayala, and Katie Tamayo. On Petar’s side were best men Mark Blazevic and Michael Blazevic; and groomsmen Serge Martin, Peter Hazdovac, Drew Varela, Loren Blazevic, Brian Ayala, and Joe Vidov.

After the ceremony, Petar and Magali went to take photos with his grandmother at her home because she couldn’t make it to the ceremony, a moment that meant a lot to both Petar and his grandmother. Meanwhile, guests got to enjoy Croatian spirits during the cocktail hour.

The reception followed at Hotel Maya in Long Beach, where guests participated in lots of dancing, drinking, and of course, Croatian desserts and Kolo dancing (the popular Croatian folk dance). The reception also featured a blessing by Petar’s mother and a speech by Magali’s mother. Petar and Magali shared their first dance to Jason Mraz’s, “I Won’t Give Up.”

The newly married couple honeymooned in Hawaii, where they spent 10 days between the islands of Maui and Oahu. Their favorite part? Staying at the very private, exclusive Turtle Bay Resort in North Shore, Oahu.

Currently, Petar works as a railroad conductor for the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad Co., and Magali works as a tutor for Academics Etc. in Lunada Bay.

In regards to adjusting to married life, Magali says, “It’s really not that much different than before – besides the fact that I have to change my name on everything!” All joking aside, the two are excited to continue in their love through marriage, and are looking forward to someday starting a family. spt

Dressing To Impress Without The Stress

Chris and Alena Castillo with their two children, Tyler (right) and Krista (photo by John Mattera)

There’s a new spot in town where fashionistas can pick up designer threads and accessories for a steal: Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique.

Mannequins dressed to the nines line the shop windows on Western Avenue before Summerland, where owner Alena Castillo opened for business this July. In three months, she’s built an enthusiastic base of customers and consigners, followings on social media and has earned glowing reviews.

“I opened the store July 1 with 600 items, and now we have over 4,000,” says Castillo, a San Pedro native and casual longshoreman. After working her way up through management at Nordstrom and the Gap, the wife and mother of two realized her dream of opening a consignment shop in her hometown.

“I always knew I wanted to open up a store, and one day I was at a consignment store in Redondo Beach and I thought, ‘Gosh, San Pedro and Rancho Palos Verdes really needs something like this,” she says. “I really think this is something our town has needed for so long. I always had to drive out to the Galleria or Del Amo and now with gas prices, hopefully people can come here, and they’ll get a great deal too.”

With the business guidance from her uncle and help from her husband and high school sweetheart Chris, Castillo started planning, found a location, put out a call for items on Facebook, and made Finders Keepers a reality.

“It’s been so far, so good, every month it’s gotten better. It’s been all word of mouth,” Castillo says. “I already have regulars.”

Staying on top of trends gets expensive, and consigning offers a return on purchases that were investments, or nice items worn only once or twice. At Finders Keepers, consigners get 50 percent of the profit from their items, or 60 percent in store credit. Castillo says about half opt for store credit.

“We have over 150 consigners and every single item in the store is from somebody that lives in San Pedro or Rancho Palos Verdes,” she says. “So many people that used to consign at places in Redondo now come here because it’s more convenient and it’s closer.”

Castillo looks for quality, name brand and designer clothes, shoes and accessories that are new or gently used. The store carries mostly women and kids’ items, but does have a rolling rack of men’s clothes. She also has a plus size section.

“I would say we specialize in our denim and our dresses, the selection is killer,” Castillo says. If customers have specific requests, she’ll call them when one comes in.

For an idea of prices, designer jeans usually go for $50 or less. Recently, someone snagged a pair of brand-new Christian Louboutin shoes for $140. But if Alexander McQueens, Marc Jacobs handbags and True Religions aren’t your style, there’s an entire back room of items for $10 or less.

“I think people come here to find items that are somewhat trendy, but are a good basic,” Castillo says. Her selection offers versatility that works for all ages. When the store first opened, a 20-year-old came in and bought a jacket consigned by a 55-year-old woman.

“If you want something trendy you’ll go to Forever 21 and spend $10 on a top, but the items here are different because they’re name brand, so they’re better quality,” Castillo says. “Maybe they’re a brand or style someone wouldn’t usually buy, but because of the price, they’re more likely to try it on here.”

Once a month, Finders Keepers hosts an after-hours wine and cheese social usually coinciding with a sale. The store also carries handmade jewelry crafted by Lynn Links, a nearby resident battling cancer, for whom jewelry-making is cathartic. Her pieces, specializing in stone and shells, are very popular.

A first-time business owner herself, Castillo comes from a family of San Pedro retailers. Her grandparents owned the Kitchen Shop at Ports O’ Call Village in the ‘60s and ‘70s.

“If I was to say thank you to anybody, it would definitely be my husband. He’s made this happen and he’s been my biggest fan. My mom has been very supportive and I have some friends that helped me open,” Castillo says. “For being open for three months, a lot of positive things have happened so far and it can only get better, I’m very optimistic.” spt

Finders Keepers Consignment Boutique is located at 29619 S. Western Ave in Rancho Palos Verdes. For more information, call (310)521-1969.