Dear Amazon, please think about the outside of the box.

Dear Amazon,

Thank you for creating Prime and fast home delivery. I love how I can get such a huge variety of healthful products from a single source, pay fast, and have it delivered to my front door! Plus, I love your easy return policy. I keep about 99% of the things I order, but every now and then I do return something.

A few days ago, I received this box. Today I’d like to do a virtual box return. It didn’t quite work out for me for a few different reasons. First, I don’t like “fights” in or around my home. Another thing is that it’s ok to ask me to be aware of something pertaining to Amazon, such as an upcoming sale or something that represents your corporate values. But please send only good things and good news to my home.

Amazon Goes Gold because kids can't fight cancer alone.

After the Whole Foods buyout, will Amazon stand up for the longterm health of its customers?

Should I ever get in the mood for bad news, I know I can turn on the daily news, pick up a newspaper, or do a hashtag search any number of bad news topics related to death, disease and discontent.

The reason I’d like to return this cancer box to you is that I’m much more interested in solutions instead of problems. You recently bought out Whole Foods, so this is a great opportunity to create awareness on how food has a huge impact on kids’ health. I’d much rather you put a message on a box that tells me about the benefits of eating carrots instead of burdening me with negative thoughts about diseases that come as a result of the toxins in children’s foods and environments.

“Go Gold” sounds like a status ranking of a credit card or frequent flyer program. But after doing a quick search on it, I discovered that it’s nothing more than an extension of the misleading #Pinktober campaign. Why not tell people The Truth About Cancer?

If you send messages out like #GoGold or #FightLikeAGirl, you’re perpetuating the problem instead of the solution.

Don’t count on pink to save your hOOters from cancer.

Wearing a pink or gold ribbon, or creating awareness about disease does nothing, in itself, to solve a problem. Instead, why not inspire your customers with preventive measures, contributions to remedies, and stories of people who have overcome disease by making healthful changes in their lifestyles?

It’s hard to find campaigns that promote good health, in part, because it’s harder to get collective funds to brand carrots or apples sold by scattered farmers. But it makes good business for Mars to put out money to sell colorful and deceitful M&M’s that come off their own synthetic production lines.

Cancer can be killed.

Google offers an enticing and colorful new message almost daily, plus they offer Doodle4Google contests where kids can create, inspire, and win scholarships. Here’s one cute example made by middle schooler, Alyssa Anderson, to help create awareness about animals that are at risk of extinction.

When I see a cute design like this, it makes me curious to know more and to look at the positive solution-side of an issue. Look how cute these creatures are. Of course I want them to stick around with me on the planet! Is there anything I can do to help?

Doodle for Google competition winner logo extinct animals

Alyssa Anderson, a 7th grade student at Wright Middle School is one of the 53 state winners of the “Doodle 4 Google” competition.

One of the things I like most about Amazon is that I can buy a bunch of healthful products in one shopping cart, hit the Buy Now button and have these things show up at my front door within a few days:

Why not tell your customers about the good things you offer instead of sending a mixed message with words like gold, awareness and cancer? My first impression when I saw your box was a reminder that big corporations and the pharma industry profit from disease. As Burzynski points out, Cancer is Serious Business. Many corporations, hospitals, and pharmaceutical companies earn their gold by promoting synthetic “foods,” drugs, and procedures that both cause and exacerbate symptoms and disease.

A Cure for Cancer? Eating A Plant-Based Diet

As far as I can tell, Walmart has never put much effort into helping its customers improve or maintain good health. Their stores are well stocked with oversize bottles of sodas, oversize bags of chips, clothing sizes for people who are obese, and a pharmacy where people can pick up drugs that exacerbate their waning conditions. Yes, they offer some items that are organic or more healthful than others, but it’s certainly not their focus.

Do you realize that, with your influence, you have an opportunity to lead people to good news, life-changing information and better health faster than they ever thought possible?

Minions and Amazon plot to take over the world. Will they succeed?

Minions and Amazon plot to take over the world. Will they succeed?

Your boxes are dropped on porches and end up in homes and businesses all over the place. Cats climb in them, people use them as moving boxes and kids build forts with them. You have a powerful opportunity to send out all sorts of good news to the Minions about what Amazon has to offer to improve lives. Do you want to lead with: A) sickness and fear, or B) health and prosperity?

HINT: B is the correct answer because your customers will live longer, buy more stuff from you and be more loyal.

If kids were to build a fort with Amazon boxes, what message would you want them to see? Would you like to tell them that they need to fight cancer? Or would you like to let them know about the good news from books they can buy at Amazon such as:

I’m excited about Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods. I wait with anticipation to see how you might make it easier to get tasty organic fruits and vegetables into the hands and stomachs of your customers. Instead of promoting fighting and diseases, please stand up for your customers and support natural solution-oriented organizations such as:

Thank you for taking the time to hear me out. I normally take my Amazon boxes to my local U-haul store where customers can take a box, leave a box. Even though you partner with Give Back Box to return unwanted boxes by filling them up with items for charities, I’m going to toss this toxic cancer box into a recycle bin with hopes that it will be recycled into better news.

To anyone else who’s reading this, please feel free to leave a comment if you have another healthful message or resource you’d like to print on Amazon boxes and beyond.

Peace ✌️ and Love ❤️,

Does this glass bookcase spark joy?

A few months ago I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. This book proposes a radical concept: touch every item you own, one by one, and ask yourself, “does this spark joy?” This is rule #1 in the KonMari method, a term Marie Kondo coined by combining parts of her first and last name.

Her book sparks joy for me. And it delivers on the promise in her title. It offers “life-changing magic.” It motivated me to start going through different categories of things in my home to find and keep only the things that spark joy. Kondo’s book inspired me to tidy up my clothes which were stuffed in a closet in my bedroom. Plus my office closet was full of dozens of jackets and coats, including many I hadn’t worn for years.

By the time I was done tidying up my clothes and jackets, all my favorite items fit into the bedroom closet. And it freed up a bunch of space in my office closet. I was now able to use this closet to store work-related things that spark joy.

In addition to tidying up my clothes, I also found the KonMari method useful in other categories of things I owned. I was so pleased with the results that I decided to tidy up our furniture. We had a number of pieces that were tolerable, but now I had this acute awareness that many of the pieces did not spark joy.

Because I enjoyed her first book so much, I bought her second book, Spark Joy, when I saw it at Recycle Bookstore in San Jose. I love buying books from them. Not only do they have great prices and selection, I love to visit with the resident cat.

Recycle Bookstore is a great place to buy and sell both used and new books

Recycle Bookstore is a great place to buy and sell both used and new books

As I started looking at all the furniture pieces in our home, I realized that some of them sparked joy, while others clearly did not. Kondo recommends going through things by category. So if you have a lot of books, which I do, you go around your home and collect all the books you have from every room and stack them up all in one place. And then you quickly go through them one by one keeping only those that spark joy.

I need to be honest here and let you know I cheated. I didn’t go around our house and collect all our furniture pieces and put them in one room. My husband is generally cooperative when I ask him to move heavy stuff, but this would have pushed him over the edge.

I did, however, take photos of a lot of our main pieces and put them in a Google photos folder where I could see the images all together. This also made it a lot easier when I was out shopping and wanted to visualize what something might look like in a particular location.

Does your furniture spark joy?

After taking a closer look at all the furniture throughout our home, I realized that we’d have a more joyful home if I made some changes.

Some of the pieces had to go, but some of them just needed a paint job or a new location within our home. I had a glass bookcase in our dining room, for example, that served as a nice display case for cookbooks and glassware, but I knew this space was underutilized.

What this dining room wall really needed was a buffet/hutch. It would make the entire room much more functional.

But this glass bookcase sparked joy for me and I didn’t want to get rid of it.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo

this glass bookcase sparks joy for me, but the location does not

As I was taking stock of all our furniture, I started a wish list of what I wanted to get to make our home more comfortable. I decided which pieces sparked joy and would stay. And for all the pieces that didn’t spark joy, I thanked them for the purpose they served in my life, as Kondo recommends, and then I listed them on OfferUp and Craigslist.

One of the pieces on my wish list was a storage cabinet for the bedroom. I wanted something that was about 5 or 6′ tall, about 3′ wide, and no more than 12″ deep. I wanted a piece that could provide more storage for clothes in the bedroom. And I was hoping to find something white.

Ironically, I went to thrift shops, estate sales and used furniture shops, including Not Too Shabby, before realizing I already had the perfect piece! It was the glass bookcase in my dining room.

It turns out that this case was just the right shape and size. It fit all the requirements on my wish list for this piece, but I didn’t see it right away because I was so used to seeing it in my dining room.

chalk paint restoration illumination tami shabby chic spark joy

chalk paint is a great way to transform a piece of furniture

Another thing that clouded my vision from seeing this piece in our bedroom was the dark stain. I wanted something tranquil that would fade into the white walls. I wanted it to feel light, clean, serene.

Tami Shidawara-Vasquez is a talented artist and owner of Restoration Illumination. I met her after purchasing one of her pieces at Not Too Shabby. She enjoys projects like this where she can do her magic with Annie Sloan chalk paint and wax. She specializes in giving pieces a new look, and sometimes an entirely new purpose.

9 Ideas to Repurpose Junk Into Treasure

spark joy glass bookcase konmari marie kondo

Since reading Kondo’s books, I handle clothes differently. Now when I come across a clothing item I know I won’t wear again, I immediately set it aside to sell or donate. I typically try to sell things at Crossroads Trading first, and then donate the rest to Goodwill.

When I first read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, I couldn’t put the book down. It kept me up half the night. And the same thing happened when I read Spark Joy: An Illustrated Master Class on the Art of Organizing and Tidying Up.

Does it spark joy? It’s such a good question. What’s the point of hanging on to things you don’t love?

Because this bookcase has glass on the front and sides, it turned out to be a beautiful display case for sweaters. Not only does it provide extra storage for clothes, I can see many things in one glance. This makes it easier to get dressed. And because I already tidied up, now I’m searching for what style I want among items that spark joy. I’m no longer wasting time slipping in and out of things I wouldn’t wear anyway.

Finally, the glass on the sides allow the light from the window to shine through into the hallway. It seems that this piece was custom made for this spot, but accidentally got put in the wrong room when we moved in several months ago. When we take the time to slow down and appreciate everything and everyone in our lives, one by one, something magical happens. It’s enlightening.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo shabby chic

glass bookcase repurposed into shabby chic clothing display case

Speaking of light, the curtains are still a work in progress. I hung blackout drapes so that my husband and I can sleep in the dark, but haven’t gotten around to tidying up the window treatments yet.

Tami suggested swapping out the hardware for glass knobs. This coordinates well with the existing glass knobs in the house, plus it adds a bit more character to the glass bookcase.

spark joy glass bookcase KonMari method Marie Kondo shabby chic restoration illumination

glass bookcase repurposed into clothing display case

The clothes add color to our bedroom while maintaining the peaceful feeling I want in this space. The clothes are much more comfortable in their new space. I’m so happy with how this piece turned out. The entire project, both inside and out, sparks joy for me! And my husband likes the improvement as well.

Although Kondo recommends folding most clothes into rectangular shapes and storing them upright, these bulky sweaters work well in this case since they’re in short stacks.

I’m so happy this lovely lady came into my life. Kondo’s tidying up methodology awakened me to a magical power from within.

People around the world are obsessed with the KonMari household decluttering method.

People around the world are obsessed with the KonMari household decluttering method.

Think for a moment about all the things you’re surrounded with in your daily life. Does this spark joy for you?

Kids’ laundry piling up? Wash clothes with love and logic.

Have you ever felt overwhelmed by laundry or other household chores?


Me too.

In 2000, I married my soulmate, a widower with five children between the ages of 8 and 16. My newlywed and I went on a two-week honeymoon.

Family and friends stayed with the kids as they went on about their daily routine of going to school, playing soccer, doing homework, taking baths and showers, and doing all the normal things that kids do to turn clean clothes into laundry.

When we returned, I remember seeing laundry everywhere. Tops and bottoms were garnishing the edges of the bedroom floors. Clothes and shoes were tangled on the floors in closets. Towels, socks and underwear were on the floor in the bathrooms. Jackets were draped over couches and chairs. Socks were stuffed between couch cushions.

A day or two later, I asked the three youngest kids (who were home at the time) to go around the house and collect all the clothes, socks, underwear, and towels and bring them to the family room. I’ll never forget that scene. With all the stuff collected from around the house, plus the laundry my newlywed and I accumulated before and during our trip, I was faced with the biggest pile of laundry I’d ever encountered.

The pile was several feet wide and several feet deep. I had never seen anything like it. I was sure that this equated to many hours of washing, drying, sorting, folding and distributing everything back to the right closets and drawers.

most-memorable-days-dirtiest-clothesMy husband didn’t know how to operate a washer or dryer. At that moment, I had a glimpse of what I had gotten myself into. I didn’t panic. I went into problem-solving mode.

I had several years of teaching experience so my teacher gears were spinning. I also had experience with construction project management, so I felt confident I could handle this lightweight crew.

Step 1: Get everyone excited and engaged. As I expected, they were open to playing along.

Step 2: Get everyone to help divide and conquer: jeans pile, dark pile, white pile, and so on.

They threw clothes at each other, sometimes aiming at the right piles. They made faces and said things like, “eww, stinky” while displaying a pair of underwear or socks. It was totally fun and entertaining. I fell in love with the kids. It was the beginning of the parenting honeymoon. From this moment on, our lives were never the same.

Step 3: Teach everyone how to add detergent and choose the right water temperature based on the colors.

Step 4: Patiently wait for wash load #1 to do its thing.

Step 5: Teach everyone how to use the dryer.

Step 6: Do it again and again and again and again . . .

This, as it turned out, would be just one of the many initiations I faced as I dove into the deep end of the parenting pool.

Some moms prefer to do their kids’ laundry for many years, into their teens and beyond. Others lean more toward empowering kids with know-how.

These opposing styles represent two sides of a broad and colorful parenting spectrum. One end fosters dependence and control while the other cultivates independence and freedom.

A simple chore, like how you handle laundry in your household, reveals a lot about your personality and values.

Although I hadn’t yet read their books, I would soon learn that my parenting style was in line with the principles taught by the Love and Logic Institute. I’m so thankful for Dr. Foster Cline and Jim Fay. Their words would later calm my nerves at times when I felt tested.

Years later, I can now look back and smile knowing that all the kids know how to do laundry and much, much more.

Laundry study shows Americans have few hangups

charity: water

charity: water


Why the Western diet is killing us and 10 ways to stop it

Fed up with all the mixed messages about what to eat? If so, you’ll appreciate this solid advice from a doctor who’s passionate about dishing out advice on eating right. Don’t make changes to your diet based on some “cockamamie Internet meme,” Dr. Michael Fenster warns. “The biggest threat to the US isn’t some foreign power; it is the Standard American Diet.”

It’s rare to come across a doctor who wants to spend less time cutting into bodies and more time cutting up food, but that’s exactly what this cardiologist and culinary chef wants to do. “There are a number of medical professionals and people in health-related fields who know a lot about their respective specialties but know nothing about food,” Dr. Mike says. “A number of them can’t boil water.”


Dr. Mike on his “Cookin’ With Doc” show.

Stay away from advice from “fadsters” and “celebrity super-star spokespeople,” Dr. Mike warns. “These programs put you on the hook paying out a lot of your hard-earned money each month for some processed, powdered, and wretched-tasting slop out of a box.”

Dr. Mike is one of the few brave doctors willing to give us a shout out about how the modern Western diet is killing us and what we can do to stop it. This book is stock full of evidence to back up his recommendations on what to eat and what not to eat. But then again, how much more evidence do we really need to figure out that the modern Western diet and all-you-can-eat buffets are connected to the disabilities and diseases of modern civilization? It’s ironic that we’ve become so accustomed to shopping in grocery stores stocked with packages that we need to produce evidence to show that real food doesn’t come in a box.

The eating “program” Dr. Mike prescribes is a tasty and nutritious solution that anyone can adhere to. He recommends adding more fresh juice, organic fruits and vegetables, probiotics, prebiotics and spice to our diet while subtracting modern wheat, high fructose corn syrup and artificial sweeteners. “No junk food or fast food,” this doc advises. This savory book is peppered with great tips and jammed with sweet suggestions. I’ve already gone back to read several of the sections a number of times. Each time through I pick up on a new flavor or scent.

CLICK ON IMAGE to buy The Fallacy of the Calorie

Sick and tired from the Western diet? Dr. Mike offers a delicious and nutritious 10-step solution to foodies who battle the bulge:

Step 1A: Begin with a juice detox for 3 days.

Juice is nature’s energy drink. If possible, buy seasonal produce from a farmers market or local organic market. Use a variety of colors of fruits and vegetables such as: carrots, apples, celery, beets, cabbage, ginger, oranges, limes, lemons, berries and leafy greens. Find a juicer that works well for you, preferably one that extracts the pulp. If you work full-time, he recommends starting the detox on a Friday and ending on a Sunday.

Step 1B: Chase the rainbow.

Eat lots of dark leafy greens such as: kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, watercress, mustard and other greens. They’re rich in vitamins A, C, E, and K. They also provide a good source of B-complex vitamins. Add a rainbow of different colored fruits and vegetables. This helps to maintain healthy gut microbiome.

Step 2: Incorporate probiotics into your diet.

“What you eat combines with your gut microbiota to fuel your personal bioreactor. This bioreactor aids your digestion, provides nutrients, and not only helps for the basis of the immune system, but helps regulate it,” says Dr. Mike. “The key here is to repopulate your gut microbiome with the right balance.” Check out his book for more details on which probiotics might work best for you.

Step 3: Feed the probiotics.

“It does no good to keep taking probiotics if you don’t feed them,” says Dr. Mike. “Naturally occuring synbiotic combinations such as bananas with live-culture yogurt, or vegetables stir-fried with miso, cost less than supplements and have the added benefit of being delicious.” Prebiotics are found in many foods such as: bananas, honey, garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, artichokes, soybeans, chicory, dandelion greens and burdock. Eat at least 2-4 servings of prebiotic-rich foods a day.


Step 4: Give up modern wheat.

“Modern wheat will kill you,” says Dr. Mike. “But you don’t have to be gluten-free, just be free of modern wheat. Avoid prepackaged breads, cookies, cakes and other modern wheat-containing foods and snacks.”

Beans and lentils provide a good source of flavorful starches. Corn, oats, barley, quinoa, buckwheat and kaniwa are all good non-wheat options. If you buy pasta from Italy, you can be sure it’s made from the ancient grain, semolina durum wheat.

CLICK ON IMAGE to buy Eating Well, Living Better: A Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great food

Step 5: Use sugar sparingly.

Use raw forms of sugar and honey whenever possible. Don’t eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or anything that contains it. Don’t ever eat or drink anything with artificial sweeteners.

Steps 6-8: Become a Grassroots Gourmet.

Avoid the call of junk food. It’s addictive. Don’t go to fast food joints, pizza shops or convenience stores. “After 30 days of eating the Grassroots Gourmet way, you’ll likely find that eating there will make you ill,” says Dr. Mike. “When you’re shopping try to avoid putting the processed, prepackaged, pre-prepared, and artificially preserved items in your cart.” Buy from your local farmers market and cook from scratch. Eat at home as often as possible.

Begin your meals with a small salad or appetizer and wait about 15 minutes before you eat the main course. If you want to have dessert, wait at least 15-20 minutes after you finish your main dish. These are just some of the core principles of becoming a Grassroots Gourmet. These principles are covered much more extensively in Eating Well, Living Better: A Grassroots Gourmet Guide to Good Health and Great Food.

Step 9: Make a conscious effort to evaluate the quality of the food you eat.

Because chicken is no longer just chicken, and a burger is no longer just a burger, and bread is not even just bread, examination of where the food was sourced, how it was produced and the degree of processing must now become our normal procedure.” says Dr Mike. Food safety is not equivalent to a healthful diet.

Step 10: Spice up your life.

Herbs and spices restore taste and texture to food. “An herb refers to the fresh or dried leaves of a plant. Spices are generally regarded as the flowers, buds, seeds, bark or roots of plants.” says Dr. Mike. When food pleases us, we savor it. When you put this vitality back into foods, it helps you break the addictive and manipulative commercial use of sugar, salt and fat.

Garlic, onion, allspice and oregano inhibit or kill bacterium. Using them in combination yields even greater efficacy. The piperine found in black pepper is effective against botulism. Turmeric has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powers. Circumin has been shown to inhibit the growth of skin cancers. Hot chili peppers are rich in vitamin C and contain antimicrobial and antiviral properties.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON IMAGE to gain the mental power to achieve your fitness goals. This is how you can begin living the life you've always wanted to live.

Sick and tired of dieting? CLICK ON THIS IMAGE to learn how you can gain the mental power you need to achieve your fitness goals. You can begin living the life you’ve always wanted to live.

Looking for a way to entice someone to read this book? Breakfast in bed might be desirable, but Dr. Fenster offers up an aphrodisiac for dessert near the end of the book. He hints at exotic ways to spice up your afternoon or evening in bed.

Dr. Mike has weighed his options. He’s stepping outside the operating room to tell us how we can avoid the scalpel. It’s time to share your reservations. Would you like to meet your doctor for supper or surgery?

Dr. Mike affirms the slow foods movement. Be patient. I have a gut feeling this doc is going to help tens of thousands of people live happier and healthier lives.

Dr. Michael Fenster during a Health & Wellness Channel filming

Dr. Michael Fenster during a Health & Wellness Channel filming


Michael Fenster, MD, is a Board Certified Interventional Cardiologist. He has taught students, interns, residents and fellows. He has also served as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the North East Ohio Medical University. In addition to addressing audiences from the lay public, he also speaks to peers at the American Heart Association, the American College of Cardiology and elsewhere.


Dr. Michael Fenster

Dr. Mike co-managed an award-winning restaurant. He received his culinary degree in gourmet cooking and catering from Ashworth College where he graduated with honors. He was their alumni of the year in 2013.

He has written columns for numerous culinary magazines, websites, The Tampa Tribune and is a monthly contributor for Luxuria Lifestyle.

He is a medical and culinary consultant and regular guest speaker on the Josh Tolley Show, a nationally syndicated radio program. He is also a regular on the One Life Radio.

He has been a regular on The Daily Buzz show as well as Daytime TV, entertaining and informing during cooking segments. He has hosted his own local cable TV cooking show, “What’s Cookin’ with Doc.” He also co-hosted “Cooking From the Heart,” with Fitness Hall of Fame Instructor Forbes Riley. He also headlined the Annual Florida Blueberry Festival where five live shows, “Just What the Doctor Ordered-Live from the Florida Blueberry Festival.” This was simulcast worldwide via web by the Health & Wellness Channel.

To book Dr. Mike at your next event, contact his agent Kristin Haggar.

How one urban farmer is foraging for her dream

“My mom was a forager. When we drove around, we were always looking around and trying to point out things we might want. It could be almonds, sour cherries, quince, pomegranate, or anything else that was edible. We would ask people if they could pick the food off their trees. Most people were more than happy to allow us to do it because otherwise it turns out to be a big mess in their yard and they have to clean it up or pay someone to clean it up,” Nasim Hashemi said.

“My parents grew up Iran, but raised my brother and me in Carmel, California. My mom couldn’t find the foods she wanted in stores, but she started finding them out in the neighborhoods. I felt like the only foreigner in town. We celebrated each season and its foods according to Persian culture. Little did I know at the time that this was planting seeds that would later blossom into Freshness Farms.”

Do you wake up each day excited about getting to work?

“Absolutely, but it wasn’t always like that,” Nasim said.

Nasim went to Monterey Peninsula College and then went on to UC Davis and got a degree in mechanical engineering. “It didn’t feel like me, but I did it because I had to do something. I picked it out of the air. But I didn’t know me at the time. I never felt excited or happy about it. I felt disconnected with it. I worked, but I wasn’t even really connected with my work. I was just doing it,” Nasim said.

“In the fall of 2008 I was sitting on a porch at Janet Hedley’s house with a few other moms talking about how sad it was that the state didn’t have enough money for schools. We started talking about all the different fund raisers the schools pushed on our kids. They wanted our kids to sell magazines, gift wrap or cookie dough. The gift wrap is expensive and it can’t be reused or recycled. The cookie dough leads to obesity,” Nasim said.

“Janet had a lot of fruit trees in her yard. She has a garden where she grows lettuce and other things. As we were sitting on her porch and looking around, we talked about the importance of teaching our kids to eat healthy foods. Several of us already belonged to a CSA and we came up with the idea of introducing this as a fund-raiser to the school. It was the ambiance of sitting in Janet’s yard where the idea was born,” Nasim said.

“I took the idea to the principal and the school district. The school agreed to give it a try. My dad knew some farmers in Watsonville so I went down there and talked to some farmers. Many of them were looking for ways to sell their foods. It’s hard for the small farms to be sustainable and compete with factory farms,” Nasim said. “We called our fund-raising venture Local Organic Vegetable Boxes, or LOV Boxes. And that’s how it all got started.”

Is there something from your childhood you’d like to bring back into your life?

“Food is one of our greatest assets in California. We’re paving over our own productive land and outsourcing our food to other countries. Food is something we need for survival. This is copying the trends of technology, but outsourcing our food is much more serious. It’s also messing up our eco-system. This really scares me,” Nasim said. “But I get so excited when I teach kids about food. It was a lot of hard work to get to this point. It was difficult, but I did it. I didn’t realize how much my upbringing was a part of me until I started teaching my own kids.”

“I was just a mom and housewife and all I wanted to do was remodel my home, but the universe didn’t cooperate with me. But being at school and with the kids, the universe has taken me down this road. I’ve come to a point where I go with the flow,” Nasim said.

“We were just doing this with the schools, but I realized that there was so much food in the area. We realized how much land was available. Lots of people had big yards and wanted to do something meaningful with it,” Nasim said.

What do you love to do so much that you could do it every day even if you weren’t paid?

“I love to help people become healthier and more connected to the earth. LOV boxes was a lot of hard work with no return, so people lost interest. After it ended, I thought that I should just let it go, but every time I tried to quit, something just kept pulling me to continue. It was a realization that came to me. I was meant to continue, so I started Freshness Farms. I never thought about being an urban farmer. I always loved fresh food and going out to the garden and picking my own food, but I never thought I’d be running a CSA and doing field trips for kids, and education for companies. I feel very blessed because I feel like I’m following my calling.”

“I encourage Freshness Farms members to think about what they’re eating. I ask them:

  • Are you eating earth food or packaged food?
  • How many hands did it go through before it got to you?

“I also encourage them to pay attention to whether or not the produce is packaged,” Nasim said.


Today, Freshness Farms has five employees including Nasim. “We’re not just harvesting food and using it. Everyone is paid to do the picking and sorting. We don’t have any volunteers. There’s a tremendous amount of effort and cost to develop the processes to collect, organize and distribute the food,” Nasim said. “We pick produce on trees in people’s yards and we trade this for other food they need. A lot of times when people have trees full of fruit, they can’t eat all to on their own or they get tired of it. We’re sustainable because people want the farm shares.”

“Everything has happened naturally through word of mouth. This has been good because it has allowed us to work out all our kinks. Besides, we don’t have any money for marketing. It’s healthier when things grow at the rate they’re supposed to according to nature. When plants grow too fast artificially through the use of fertilizers, then the food loses nutrients. Factory farms don’t take the time to let the dirt rest either,” Nasim said. “Both dirt and plants need time to soak in minerals.”

“The focus of Freshness Farms to connecting people to foods and their seasons. When you’re connected with the earth, you don’t crave melons or strawberries in the winter. It’s natural to crave these things in the summer when they’re in season,” Nasim said.

Five Years of Freshness

“We’ve made a lot of mistakes at Freshness Farms, but we learn and we move on. Our systems have continued to improve over time. Most of our customers are individuals, but now some departments of Apple, Intuit and other companies are buying from us for their employees,” Nasim said. “I don’t believe in artificial growth. It brings people to their knees at the end of the day if they aren’t prepared.”

Would you like to learn to cook without using recipes?

“Freshness Farms isn’t for everyone. Some people need a system or a recipe to create. They have their mind set on particular ingredients. The people who enjoy the farm shares are more flexible and creative. They’re ok with a leafy green. It doesn’t matter if it’s spinach, chard or kale on any particular day. They’re open to substituting ingredients,” Nasim said. Eating in-season foods teaches us to respect the laws of nature. “In life you can plan and plan, but sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you planned. If you’re flexible you can come up with new great combinations,” Nasim said.

“One of the classes I give is cooking without recipes. You can roast or make a stew or a stir fry or rice with vegetables, so you can use any number of things. It does’t matter if it’s a beet or carrot,” Nasim said.

“How much of the earth is made out of water?” Nasim asks her students. “We need to be eating about 70-80% fruits and vegetables. And about 8 out of 10 things we eat should be coming from the earth.”

She also encourages kids to think about their breathing. She teaches them to consciously take in enough oxygen throughout the day. “Many kids are never taught to think about their breathing or how much water they drink,” Nasim said.

“It would be great to replicate urban farming education in other parts of the Valley. Urban farming produces its own eco-system. We really need the sun to be growing our food. Growing indoors is not whole,” Nasim said.

In 2004, Alrie Middlebrook pounded through an asphalt parking lot on Race Street in San Jose and created what is now the Middlebrook Center’s ELSEE Gardens, home to the California Native Garden Foundation. Nasim has a shared vision with Alrie Middlebrook. Both would like to see the community eating what it produces. They envision a raw food local restaurant in cooperation with Middlebrook Center.

In 2011, Nasim Hashemi was voted Silicon Valley Entrepreneur of the Year. “It was a very nice surprise,” Nasim said. “I was in the midst of dealing with all the details of managing a small business. Doing all the picking and working with the kids is very time-consuming, so I never get around to marketing.”

To this day, Nasim still hasn’t remodeled her home. But she still has a monthly girls night out with the core group of friends who started LOV Boxes. Janet Hedley works for the Living Classroom in Los Altos. She helps to build gardens at schools. Two others are teachers. Marina Paraguano is a teacher at Harker High School. Pearl Hall is a teacher at McCall Middle School. Ann Smith started a blog for cooking together with Freshness Farms (five years link). Michelle Westlaken is a Feldenkrais practitioner. She helps people discover ease in movement. The common core among all these women is their love of facilitating learning for children.

“My ultimate dream is to bring wellness to more people by teaching them through food how to maintain better physical and mental well-being,” Nasim says.

CLICK HERE to get back on track. You can live your dream life!


Read the label before you buy organic pet food

Are you the type of person who walks to the farmers market to buy organic tomatoes and other veggies from a local farmer? Just as you’re concerned about what goes into your own body, you need to be equally concerned about what your furry friends are ingesting.


Imagine that you were planning to install an electronic dog fence and wanted to know your four-legged friend would be safe in your absence. Wouldn’t you read invisible dog fence reviews before buying and installing it? Why not do the same for pet food which can affect the health of your best friend?

CartoonDogEatingMagnetsYou may be nodding thinking, I buy top of the line organic pet food. In fact, it even has organic in the name. But this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s natural.

As a good pet parent, you want to make sure you don’t have any poisonous plants in the home. It’s equally important to evaluating the ingredients in pet food. As a smart consumer, you have to read the ingredients on the label. Things to watch out for specifically include:

  • names of unrecognizable products
  • anything listed as a byproduct
  • chemical names that are not typically in food
  • inorganic flavoring or dyes

The Association of American Feed Control Officials (AAFCO) regulates the ingredients in pet food distributed in the US. AAFCO allows ‘organic’ food to contain additives or processing aids that are part of the manufacturing process, as long as these substances are unavoidable. These substance amounts aren’t defined or strongly regulated. This is a problem for those who feel organic pet food should be totally organic.

Another thing to consider is that many of the products that end up in pet food are shipped in from other countries. Though these countries may say the food is organic, it’s not as strongly regulated as food for human consumption. There’s no guarantee that the ingredients noted as organic are truly organic if they’re from an unregulated country. It’s unfortunate that the regulations on pet foods are not as stringent as for human food, but this is the sad fact.


Although this shouldn’t stop you from buying organic food for your furry friends, you just need to be wary of the ingredients and the company standing behind the product. Choosing pet food is not as simple as choosing an electronic dog fence. If you become an avid label reader and put in a little research time, you may help your pet live a longer and healthier life.

How to stop a dog from begging at the table

Your pet doesn’t get to choose what they eat each day, nor are they able to read labels. Do your pet a favor and find the best so that they may stick around for many years to come.




Acupuncture helps man with ankle pain to avoid 3rd surgery

A man limped into Dr. Lily Wu’s office with a history of two prior ankle surgeries . . .

“When he came to see me the first time, he told me he had two prior surgeries on his left ankle. He had metal screws in his ankle. He was feeling good for a couple of years, but the pain came back,” Dr. Wu said. “Eventually, he was in pain again every day. The pain was affecting his daily life so much that he was considering a third surgery. He said he only noticed when he wasn’t hurting because he was in pain most of the time.”


“After the first acupuncture treatment, he was able to go dancing that same night without being bothered much at all by the pain. The next time he came to see me, he was so excited with how much the treatment helped him,” Dr. Wu said.

“In about 6 treatments, he only noticed when he did have pain. This was the opposite of how he felt before he started treatment when he was in pain most of the time. After about 10 treatments, he went on a long bike ride and had no ankle pain,” Dr. Wu said.

This 53-year old man had an active lifestyle. After he started the treatments, he remained active in all kinds of sports such as skiing, hiking, playing basketball, beach volleyball, soccer, and more.

“He was typically coming in weekly unless he was out of town,” Dr. Wu said. “He was totally recovered after about 30 treatments over a period of 8 months.”

“During this time I also treated him for back pain. He used to have back spasms, but after a number of treatments, the back pain stopped as well,” she said.

Dr. Lily Wu

Dr. Lily Wu


Dr. Wu earned her Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine. She’s a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctors’ referral list of qualified acupuncturists.

She practices in San Jose, CA. For more information, visit her website at Lily Wu Acupuncture. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.


Chinese Medicine doctor halts man’s chronic stomach problems 

Experience the gourmet farm-to-table lifestyle in Maui

If you’re headed to Maui and you want to try some of the best local foods, you’ve come to the right place. Following are several ways you can experience the farm-to-table lifestyle on the island. A few dedicated people have grown a family of several small companies that successfully thrive on living local. On a recent trip to Maui, I had the opportunity to interview Robert Comstock, the General Manager of Pacific’O Restaurant. Here’s what I learned:

“We have such a cool company,” Robert said. “We’re a lifestyle company. We keep everything contained to our passions. There are a lot of aspects. In Hawaii it’s called Ohana. It means family. We enjoy working together and spending our holidays together.”

Pacific'O restaurant on the beach

Pacific’O restaurant on the beach

Native Hawaiians had a sustainable system where the farmers traded with the fishermen so that they could all have a complete diet. It’s called Ahupua`a. It’s a Hawaiian word that means a self-sustaining unit from mountain to sea. We strive to live by this principle and we give people a number of ways to experience it:

Entertain the family at the Feast at LeLe

It’s hard to think about traveling to Hawaii without going to at least one luau. The Feast at LeLe is a sit-down dinner featuring five courses from the Pacific island nations of Aotearoa, Tahiti, Samoa and Hawai’i. This farm-to-table dinner includes a sunset show spotlighting music and dance from these four Pacific islands. At this table-service feast you get to eat authentic food from each different region.

Sunset Feast at LeLe in Lahaina, Maui

Sunset Feast at LeLe in Lahaina, Maui

Every table is intimate and offers a panoramic view of the West Maui sunsets. LeLe is the ancient name for Lahaina. This is the beach where the royal family of Maui would feast and entertain.

Splurge at Pacific’O fine dining restaurant in Lahaina

When you ask questions at Pacific’O, you’ll be happy with the answers you get.

Ask about their view. If you’re looking for beachfront or sunset dining in Maui, this is as good as it gets. “The location has been a big part of our success,” Robert said. “Other local restaurants such as Lahaina Grill are also rated highly, but they don’t have our view.”

Pacific'O on the beach

Pacific’O on the beach

Ask about the competition. “Pacific’O is the first privately owned restaurant to own its own farm in Hawaii. Today there are only a handful of farm-to-table restaurants in all of Hawaii,” Robert said. If you want to eat at a quality restaurant, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Ask about their menu. Chef Anton moved to Maui shortly after graduating from the prestigious Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in San Francisco. Prior to joining the Pacific’O team, he spent ten years honing his craft in some of Maui’s highest ranked restaurants: the Sheraton Maui Resort, Gerard’s, Kimo’s and Star NoodleExecutive Chef Anton Haines has established himself as one of Maui’s rising star chefs by creating delectable menus based on in-season locally sourced foods.

Pacific'O Executive Chef Anton Haines

Pacific’O Executive Chef Anton Haines

Ask about their fish. “We are the top purchaser of fresh fish on Lahaina,” Robert said. “Giving cash back to the economy has several benefits. The money goes straight back into the fisherman’s pockets. Because the fish are caught and eaten locally, the distribution has very little impact on the environment.”


Local fish, such as Onaga, are caught one day and delivered first thing the next morning to Pacific’O.

“The main benefit for you is that you get fish that’s been out of the water for only a day. The fish served here is about 85% local. The difference is that you see fresh clear translucent cuts, not the cloudy fish you see that’s older. When you taste the local fish here in HI, it’s lighter.  The government’s version of fresh fish is 20 days. You typically see fish wrapped in foam and you have to just trust what the labels say,” Robert said.

StahlerFreshGroundPepperCartoon“Once the fish comes in, it hangs for about 20 hours to give the chef some working time with the fish, and then it goes to your plate. Not only does it support the local people, once the fish are filleted and broke down, the rest of it is composted back into the compost tea at their farm. Nothing is wasted.”

Ask about their ingredients. Pacific’O has set the standard for farm-to-table cuisine on Maui. Local fruits and vegetables supplied by their own 8-acre farm in Kula, and free range eggs come from The Neighborhood Farm in Launiopoko. At any given time, about 30-70% of the produce comes from their own O’o farm. There’s nothing else quite like it on the island. The rest is locally sourced as much as possible. But in order to provide a full menu, they apply their own 70-mile rule, because they do get some foods from the big island.

Ask about their farms. If you want to learn more about where their food comes from, you can visit the O’o Farm and The Neighborhood Farm.

Enjoy a farm-to-table gourmet lunch outdoors at the O’o Farm

Enjoy a truly unique island experience at the O’o Farm in Upcountry Maui. Explore the gardens, learn the ways of all natural growing and sit down for a gourmet lunch prepared in your presence. The vegetables are harvested with you and then prepared in an outdoor kitchen.  It’s a pure expression of Hawaiian cuisine benefitting your body and soul. It’s as fresh as fresh can be! This is a guided tour of the farm where you can learn about sustainable growing practices. Even if you don’t have your own farm or backyard garden, you’ll appreciate this tour.

O'o Farm Tour Lunch Upcountry Maui Hawaii

Forage and feast at O’o Farm in the misty forest of Waipoli in Upcountry Maui

In 2000, surfing buddies turned successful restauranteurs, Louis Coulombe and Stephan Bel-Robert purchased over 8 acres of near-virginal upcountry land to grow natural produce for the Lahaina restaurant, Pacific’O. Louis, who’s passionate about flying, first noticed the property when he was paragliding. The property which had been a hippy commune years before, but it wasn’t maintained. It was overgrown with wattle trees.


O’o Farm in Upcountry Maui, Hawaii

Louis and Stephan made a plan to set up natural growing practices and started executing the plan to clear the property and to plant exciting products for the plate. At first the diversified farm was largely experimental with a citrus and stone fruit orchard and a few coffee trees. Since then, they’ve diversified quite a bit. Today they focus on growing the things that are expensive to purchase and things that grow well in the Kula environment at 3200 feet.

Their goal is to provide vegetables locally sourced from Maui water, dirt and sun. It takes top dollar to even grow the plants, but it was especially challenging in the beginning since this place wasn’t set up for agriculture. They only have one hose for 8.5 acres, for example. The water comes from a water shed. It rains up there hundreds of inches a year. The farm is located in a place called the misty forest where mist drips off the trees.”

The chefs here don’t just see interesting pictures in a culinary magazine and decide to ship in ingredients from all over the world. When they want to add something to the menu, they first have to grow the crop, and know they can sustain it before they release the dish.

Get a caffeine buzz at the O’o Farm Seed to Cup Tour

Since roasting coffee was part of Louis’ weekend relaxation anyway, he decided to try roasting coffee beans for their own operations. Stephan is French and enjoys his coffee too. That’s how Aina Gourmet Coffee began. In 2009, Stephan, Louis and their chef partner James McDonald opened Aina Gourmet Market, a local foods marketplace with a full coffee bar serving 100% Maui grown and O’o Farm roasted coffee. They created a relationship with Ka’anapali Coffee Farms to grow five varietals on about 250 acres. O’o Farms purchases the beans and roasts them on their farm.


Aina Gourmet Coffee Tour at O’o Farm

They built a world class coffee tasting room with an amazing view. Now they have a Seed to Cup tour on the O’o farm. You can walk through their tree groves and see the different stages of coffee trees. You can pick berries and then move up into the tasting room where you observe a live roast. It only takes about 15 minutes. And then you get to taste the coffee. The beans are single varietal, like a single varietal wine. They don’t over roast.

CLICK HERE to buy Aina Gourmet Coffee

CLICK HERE to buy Aina Gourmet Coffee

Wake up to Aina Gourmet Coffee in a luxurious resort

Coffee connoisseurs enjoy their morning brew as much as wine enthusiasts enjoy an evening glass of red. They describe their sips in terms of body, acidity, flavor and finish . . . ranging from mild to wild. Aina roasters focus on creating the perfect conditions to attain the right balance of flavors. All Aina Gourmet Coffee is 100% Maui grown and 100% O’o Farm roasted.

“Aina Gourmet Coffee is our brand of coffee. It’s grown on Ka’anapali Hillside by Ka’anapali Coffee Farms. We take their beans to our farm and roast them up there. We also grown our own coffee at O’o Farm but only enough to sustain the farm guests,” Robert said.

Aina Gourmet Coffee  is served at at Aina Gourmet Market in the Honua Kai Resort & Spa at Ka’anapali Beach, and also at the Ritz-Carlton Kapalu Resort. Both markets are very busy and have a big following. We also make our coffee in a French press at Pacific’O and we sell it whole or ground in half-pound and one-pound bags at every venue we have. From ground to roast is about 2-3 days. With this turn-around time, you don’t lose any essence of the coffee itself,” Robert said.

Get to know some local chicks at The Neighborhood Farm

Participate in the Egg Farm & Gourmet Lunch tour at The Neighborhood Farm in the scenic West Maui Mountains. This is a free-range chicken farm in Launiopoko. It sits on 15 acres of agriculture land at the top of the hill. This educational chicken tour is for both locals and tourists interested in learning about how to farm chickens.

Free Range Chickens

During the first part of the tour, you enjoy spectacular ocean and mountain views, learn about the history of the area and meet local chicks. These beautiful free-range hens are kept outdoors so they can enjoy fresh grass and bountiful bugs every day. The 750-1000 birds enjoy coops with million-dollar views. They’re contained by soft electric fences to help keep the predators out. This is a concept of how you can raise eggs locally, without large-scale commercial farming. The farm provides eggs for local restaurants and grocery stores.

The second part of the tour is followed by a meal served in the seaside ambiance of the Pacific’O restaurant in Lahaina. It’s about 10 minutes from The Neighborhood Farm. This gourmet meal features dishes from freshly gathered eggs. Contact Pacific’O to make reservations for this lunch tour.

Harvest produce at the O’o Farm volunteer program

If you’re interested in volunteering at the farm, you can pair up with a farmer to do some real harvesting. You get lunch and you get to spend the day working with Head Farmer Richard Clark and Orchard Manager Ancil Clancy.

Which of these experiences suits your taste?

These interdependent sister companies make up one small lifestyle company that has grown from the ground up, literally. If you cherish your health and the well-being of our planet, support farm-to-table businesses like these. Because of the popularity of their food and tours, it’s a good idea to make reservations at least several days in advance.

Tools like Yelp, UrbanSpoon and TripAdvisor give local businesses the opportunity to thrive among big and impersonal, but well-known franchises. Yelp and UrbanSpoon even allow you to search for “farm-to-table” restaurants by location no matter where you are in the world.

ValleyIsleKombuchaIf you’re willing to take the time to read through customer review rants and raves, you’ll often find that local businesses do a better job overall of providing personalized service. And you have the opportunity to experience the local culture as well as support people in pursuit of the dreams and passions. How many people have the opportunity to do this when they work for a franchise?

“We know who not to purchase from,” Robert said. “We only buy from people we know really well. We have Valley Isle Kombucha on tap here at Pacific’O to support a local producer.” When you choose to support lifestyle companies, everyone benefits.

“We’re all fisherman, all the owners and management. Stephan has a sailboat in the harbor. We go spear fishing on the back side of Lanai. It’s nice when you can park your boat in front of your restaurant,” Robert said.

Franchises are basically branded distribution systems. In most cases, their main focus is on maintaining the consistent taste and feel of their brand. Most are more concerned about their profit than your health. Why eat mediocre food from afar at a franchise when you can eat wholesome locally grown fresh food at a farm-to-table restaurant?




Happy birthday tip: Plan something spectacular every month

Think about how many obligatory trinket and gadget gifts you’ve received over the years . . . the ones you forget about within a few weeks. Most are a waste of money, right?

What if there was something you could give yourself that would change the course of your life? Too good to be true? Not so. You don’t have to spend any money, but you have to do something that’s even more difficult for most. You have to invest a little time thinking about your future. One of the best gifts you can receive on your birthday is one you give to yourself.

“It’s my wife’s birthday tomorrow,” my friend told me. “So last week I asked her what she wanted as a present. ‘Oh, I don’t know ,’ she said. ‘Just give me something with diamonds.’ That’s why I’m giving her a pack of playing cards. Jokes4Us

When was the last time you got your car aligned? It was probably more recently than the last time to aligned your activities, habits and lifestyle with your passion, dreams and deepest desires. The more your daily activities align with these, the more likely you are to be happy, productive, likable, and in the long run, more successful. This can be the happiest year of your life.

Lots of people wait until New Year’s Eve to make a resolution or set new goals. But consider this: your birthday is your own personal New Year’s Day. This is an ideal time to reflect on the prior year of your life. What went well? What do you want to increase in your life? What do you want to decrease or eliminate?

How to get happy now via habits, goals and resolutions

If you create a clear vision and top it off with strong desire, you can have an amazing year. Begin with what you want your life to be this time next year. Can you really change your life in a year?

Think big. A woman (with a little help from a man) can create a new life in nine months. As an intelligent adult who knows you better than anyone else, you should certainly be able to make a few adjustments in your life’s direction in the next 9-12 months, right?

In the next nine months, you could move to a new location, get a new job, or turn your hobby into a business. You can improve a relationship or get yourself out of a bad one. You can save up to travel to that place you’ve been wanting to go. What do you want to do? It’s your life and it’s your new year. Why not make it a good one?

It’s helpful to set monthly milestones that get you closer to where you want to be. If you’re unhappy with your long work commute, for example, there are many ways to solve the issue:

  • find a new job
  • work with your employer to work from home some of the time, or all of the time
  • find a new place to live
  • turn your favorite hobby into a business with a plan to quit your jobl
  • learn a new skill so you can work toward a promotion or new occupation
  • use public transportation or a carpool to get to work so you can make better use of your commute time

Any one of these could be a monthly milestone to help you reach your goal.

This CAR game will drive you crazy

It’s easy to look at an issue, such as a long commute, and feel stuck. If you feel stuck in a job, home or relationship, think about this. Assuming you make it to your next birthday, you’re going to be busy living life each and every day. You’re going to have some happy days and some stressful days. Life is a roller coaster. So why not spend your up and down days taking action to build a happier future for you and the people around you?


The Roller Coaster by Angela L Walker

Lots of people choose to mask their dissatisfactions with nonproductive pastimes such as:

  • drinking too much
  • overeating
  • zoning out on video games, movies or TV
  • following rabbit trails on social media
  • watching spectator sports

Perhaps some of your closest friends or family members attempt to indulge and subdue you with similar junk on your birthday: pizza, cake, ice cream, sodas, alcohol, gag gifts and so on.

If you cycle deeper into these escapes year after year, it’s easy to let an entire year go by without changing anything. You will have all the same problems next year that you have now, and possibly even more. Would you like to put your head down in the sand or up in the sky?

What goes up and never comes down?

Your age. Jokes4Us

There’s no such thing as bad habits

Your life is like a garden. Weeds are always growing. Life weeds are the issues that inevitably come up in relationships, work, health, or finances, for example. You have to continue to weed your life garden in order to refresh your mind, body and soul.

If you decide to concentrate on your most pressing issues one-by-one, in search of solutions, you can eventually find ways to resolve them. Choose to pull the weeds out of your life. If you do, you can look forward to this time next year with excitement and anticipation. Everyone gets one day older every day, but few continue to grow and mature into their full potential day after day. Do you want to be average or above average?


As you plan your most important milestones for each of the upcoming twelve months, have a vision in mind. Close your eyes and picture yourself one year from now. What would you like to be, do or have? How is it different from now? What bridges do you need to build to get there?

As you consider the changes you need to make, it helps to set milestones for the upcoming twelve months. Be reasonable. Don’t underestimate or overestimate what you can do in the next 30, 60 or 90 days. The most important thing is that you get started and create movement in the direction you want to go.

How to have a very happy birthday

Once you begin taking actions to create change, momentum builds and propels you forward, helping you find the ways and means to skip steps and accomplish goals faster than you originally anticipated. The more you engage others in your vision and the more activities you take toward it, the luckier you become.

This can be your happiest birthday ever. Now that you have the gift, it’s up to you to decide what to do with it.

This is your life. Are you who you want to be? Is it everything you dreamed that it would be? Switchfoot

CLICK ON IMAGE TO SUBSCRIBE NOW to Rascal Radio. This is the world’s first online personal development radio service. By putting the right thoughts into your mind every day, you can start living the life you’ve always wanted to live. You only have one life. You’re worth it.


7 Tips on drugs from a personal medication consultant

Are you busy taking care of your elderly parents? You may not understand everything that’s going on with their medications and the potential errors that might be happening. Do you want to help keep your parents as healthy as possible, but you feel confused with all the information and don’t have enough time or expertise to find all the answers?


More than half of Americans 65 and older take five or more prescription medications at any given time APhA. If you, or someone you know, is taking multiple prescriptions, you’ll want to read on. Getting advice from a personal medication consultant could help you reduce your risk of adverse drug interactions or possibly even save your life!

Dr. Carrie Fu is a personal medication consultant who has a passion for senior medication wellness and healthcare management.

“I help people set goals to manage their health and embrace life without being dependent on drugs. I also help people avoid risks that result from medication errors and oversights.” Dr. Fu said.

Here are some general guidelines from Dr. Fu:

1. Stick with one pharmacy.

This way, all your drug information is based in one place. When you go to multiple drug stores, they don’t have your complete medication history so they can’t check for drug interactions.

2. Keep a list of all your medications.

Each person should have a personalized medication list, not only their current medication, but also their past meds. You can type up a document or just write it down. You should give your medication list to all your providers, including your pharmacist, dentist, acupuncturist, primary care physician, or anyone who is providing your health care. Dr. Fu recommends that you check the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists website for an online form to record your medicine list.


3. Get a consultation every time you pick up a prescription.

Ask for a pharmacist consultation before you take your prescription. Find out how to best take it. It’s always a good idea to ask the pharmacist if there’s anything in particular you need to watch out for.

  • Are there any side effects?
  • How long do I need to take this?
  • Should I take it with or without food?

4. Take into consideration over-the-counter drugs and vitamins.

A lot of people don’t realize that vitamins are like medicine. If you take too many vitamins you could get a kidney stone, for example. Or if you’re taking a thyroid medication you need to know that you shouldn’t take calcium supplements within four hours.

5. Don’t abruptly stop medications for chronic conditions.

If you want to taper off or discontinue your medication, it’s critical that you consult with your doctor, pharmacist or a specialist. If you abruptly stop taking your blood pressure medication, for example, you increase your risk of having a stroke.

6. Have one medical professional who has access to all your medication history.

Medication errors can happen when a patient moves from one location to another. Problems often arise when patients change care between a hospital and a retirement home.

7. Know your rights, resources and benefits.

It’s important to get more involved with your own healthcare. You can start by going to AHRQ for suggestions on how to ask questions and talk to your clinicians. It’s also important to understand your drug prescription benefits under Medicare Part D.

Dr. Carrie Fu

Dr. Carrie Fu

Dr. Carrie Fu is a consulting pharmacist who specializes in personal medicine and Medication Therapy Management (MTM). As a medication consultant, she helps her clients understand their medication and feel well.

Even if you have a chronic condition, you can still be well. She helps people to be as healthy as possible from a medication perspective. She wants to help her patients be in the best health by taking the least amount of medications. Whether you have diabetes, high blood pressure or another chronic condition, Dr. Fu can help improve your medication regimen.

Health is your #1 asset. She helps people to embrace life without being dependent on medications. There’s no magic bullet, but there are always options. She’s a health coach who focuses not on your illness, but on creating more wellness in your life. She is also on the provider panel at Doctor Quickly. To set up your own personalized medication consultation, contact Dr. Carrie Fu.

Chinese Medicine doctor halts man’s chronic stomach problems

Dr. Lily Wu met a young man at a store when she was returning a purse that she had purchased. When he noticed on her account that she was a doctor, he asked what kind of doctor she was.

After she told him that she was a Chinese Medicine doctor, he proceeded to tell her about his severe stomach problems that he had been having for the past five years. He had no appetite and didn’t want to eat at all.

“Can you help me?” he asked. “I’ve tried everything, but nothing worked. But I haven’t tried Chinese medicine.”

“What are your symptoms?” she asked.

He told her that he woke up every morning feeling nauseous. He had no appetite and couldn’t eat breakfast. Sometimes he couldn’t even drink water because he felt like his stomach was closed up. His also mentioned that his mother had similar chronic stomach problems.


He was about 5’10 and only 140 pounds. He usually couldn’t eat until around lunch time when he felt he had to force himself to eat even though he didn’t feel like it. Sometimes at lunch he would eat and then have stomach pain afterward.

Because he was a 23-year old business student, his digestive issues also had a negative affect on his social life. He couldn’t go out to eat with friends. And he couldn’t take vacations because his symptoms would get worse.

Dr. Wu told him to come to her clinic. There, they talked more. She diagnosed that it was a liver and spleen energy imbalance issue. After diagnosis, she gave him a treatment and prescribed an herbal supplement for him to take.

In the first week he didn’t have any improvement because he had a hard time swallowing the pills. He didn’t take the full dose as she recommended. But after about 10 days he started feeling some improvement. He woke up with an appetite and wanted to eat. He used to have constipation and night sweats, but now he doesn’t.

Before he saw her he had been to many doctors and he also tried meditation. But nothing worked.

“You saved my life!” he told her.

“It makes me feel so good when I can help my patients like this,” Dr. Wu said. “When people have chronic conditions like this, the symptoms can go back and forth. It’s important to know how to take good care of your stomach.”

All you can eat

The main causes of stomach aches are poor eating habits and stress. Here are some tips from Dr. Wu on how to avoid stomach issues:

Dr. Lily Wu

Dr. Lily Wu

  • Eat warm foods. Ice cold drinks and foods put extra stress on the stomach.
  • Drink plenty of water (warm water is best). Sometimes when the body is dehydrated, people mistake it for hunger and end up overeating.
  • Eat smaller meals more frequently.
  • Avoid overly sweet, salty, oily or spicy foods.
  • Stop eating when you feel about 70% full.
  • Wait 30-60 minutes after meals before doing any strenuous exercise. It is helpful, however, to take a walk after a meal.
  • Don’t eat about two or three hours prior to going to bed.

Dr. Wu earned her Doctorate of Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine from the University of East-West Medicine. She’s a licensed acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist. She is on the Palo Alto Medical Foundation doctors’ referral list of qualified acupuncturists.

She practices in San Jose, CA. For more information, visit her website at Lily Wu Acupuncture. She is fluent in both English and Mandarin Chinese.

Acupuncture helps man with ankle pain to avoid 3rd surgery

Food biz coach offers 9-step process for edible startups

“Most food entrepreneurs suck at marketing and sales . . . and most don’t know how to launch their business,” says Mari-Lyn Harris, a food entrepreneur coach based in Silicon Valley. But if you get help from an expert, you increase your odds of succeeding. Here’s her 9-step recipe for success to help you launch your tasty idea:

1. Start where you are.

So you’ve decided to start a food business? Maybe someone inspired you. Mari-Lyn wanted to start a pie business as a vehicle for social change. She explored the idea, but had to figure out how to get the product into the marketplace. Her neighbor was going to have a garage sale every weekend for a month, so she set up a little table at the garage sale. She got people to sample her pies.

PieChartCartoonStarting where you are means that you have to get people to sample your product. By starting where you are, you begin by figuring out how to get your product into the hands of customers. Find ways to get your product to more people so they can try it. Mari-Lyn calls it “the five-minute bite.” You can do home parties. Just like when you go to Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market, you sample the food. They know if you like it, you’re more likely to buy it.

Mari-Lyn empowers food entrepreneurs to move forward. Your inner voice may be telling you that you can’t do it or you can’t afford it. But you have to challenge yourself.

“You may not know where to go or how to get started. You may not know where the money will come from, but if you have a great family recipe or great food idea, reach out for help. Don’t give up until the means and resources show up,” says Mari-Lyn.

2. Create your vision.

It’s important that you create a vision for yourself and your business. It gives clarity, direction and buy-in from other people. If you don’t begin with your vision, all your good intentions will be scattered and nonproductive.

A vision statement is more important than your mission. You need to know where you want to go with your idea. Make your vision statement the business you want to grow into. It’s the dream you’re going after. What does it look like? Can you clearly describe it to others?

Cultured Gourmet's Kraut Source

Cultured Gourmet’s Kraut Source

3. Test your product.

Give people free samples and ask for their feedback. Get feedback from people outside your friends and family. If you have a product for weddings, for example, you can offer samples to people who are getting married and caterers to see if they like your product. If not, don’t be offended. Just ask them why. It’s useful feedback.

To test your product, you have to find a way to do it underground. Reach out to professionals to give you a review of your product, such as food bloggers or people who write about food products. Then you can know if your product may be well received.

Engage your customers. You have to deliver for them what they want. Let your customers be your advocates.

To get into a farmer’s market, food truck or market, you have to be licensed. You don’t want to do that right away until you know your product will be viable.

4. Have an audience.

You may have a great idea, but it doesn’t mean it will work. You need to keep testing your product and get feedback from potential customers. Narrow in on your “tribe.”

A lot of food entrepreneurs think that everyone is their audience, but it’s not so. Mari-Lyn discovered that men like pies more than women, but women are the ones who buy pies for the men in their lives. Your research helps you discover who will buy your product. “This is your tribe.”

5. Set up a sales and marketing strategy.

Marketing and sales are two different things. Marketing is the promotion and buzz of your product. Sales is when you actually sell a product or service.

Sales is not a negative or dirty word. It’s about developing relationships with people to get sales. A sale won’t happen until you speak to people. Technology can’t do this for you. You may have great pictures and descriptions on your website, but this isn’t enough. You can use technology, but you also need to have someplace where they can buy and then taste it. It’s all about relationships and getting to know your customers.

Marketing is the key component in any business. Mari-Lyn recalls working with a client who put together a flyer, but it didn’t say how to get in touch with him. And when she checked his website, there was no email or way to contact him.

He had an ineffective marketing materials. When you don’t have a thought-out marketing plan, it’s easy to forget simple things like this.

A sales and marketing strategy will help you execute. The strategy is the layout of action steps you’re going to take to get the marketing done that drives your sales.

6. Build a marketing map.

You have to know your audience before you build your marketing map. This is a plan. Find some customers and build your plan at the same time. Your marketing map can be simple. It’s your hub.

From your hub, you have different tactics or action steps to reach out to your tribe. You write out how you’re going to do it. You develop content to help deliver the message about your product. You don’t need a business plan unless you’re going after funding.


Let’s take, for example, a personal chef. You may not know how to get your services out in the market place, but the marketing map helps you to develop your business easily. You may want to blog, for example. The blog helps you educate your future customers on how to prepare food or get to know you better.

5 Essential appliances for easy healthy meals

You can blog about how you help your customers. For example, one chef discovered that his client was lacking in magnesium so he prepared foods with more magnesium which helped her feel better. If you decide to blog, here are some things you need to consider:

  • Who will participate in writing content?
  • How will you get new content on a regular basis?
  • How will you share the information?

Many people feel overwhelmed and don’t know where to go. The marketing map gives you clarity in knowing your next step and how to effectively use your time.

7. Get sales.

Put your sales strategy to work. When someone eats your food, you want them to have a great experience when they taste it. You want it to be memorable. You want people to say, “this is incredible,” or “I love this!” The sales part happens when people buy that taste and experience.

TrustYourHeartKindleeBookMari-LynHarrisOnce you have a small tribe, you can develop partners who can help you get more sales. As a startup you may not have a large budget, so the quickest way is to develop collaborative partnerships.

Building relationships with people will help you get sales. Mari-Lyn worked with Marnie Pherson and 23 other business builders. Each wrote a chapter in the book about leveraging relationships. It reached the Amazon Best Sellers list in March 2012.

Have you ever though about writing a cookbook? Books help give you authority. When you collaborate with others toward a common goal, you often get there much faster than going solo.

Mari-Lyn offers workshops on “someone you ought to meet.” She helps her clients develop partnerships who can help them get sales.

8. Get help if you need it.

If you don’t have the resources or people in your community, then join other groups for support. If you live in the Silicon Valley area, you can join the Food Entrepreneur networking group hosted by Food 4 Social Change, which is a cluster of food professionals such as manufacturers, chefs, suppliers and vendors. Everyone can help each other.

9. Execute your strategy.

Executing your marketing strategy is picking something that’s a tool. Who will do what. How will I execute it? It’s all about the who, what, when, where why, how. It’s usually a series of tactics to get things done. Whether it’s your marketing or sales strategy, the execution is all about the who, what when, where why how.

Wally Amos, the legend behind Famous Amos Cookies and founder of the Cookie Kahuna, was featured in the August 2014 issue of Costco Connection magazine. His and his partner came to a point where they had different ideas about how to execute their business plan. He decided to stick with his original plan and grow his company organically.

Mari-Lyn Harris, Food Entrepreneur Coach at Food 4 Social Change

Mari-Lyn Harris, Food Entrepreneur Coach at Food 4 Social Change

To him, focus means that you need to follow one course until you’re successful.

Whether you’re a caterer, a food-truck owner, a specialty food maker, or even Wally “Famous Amos,” most food entrepreneurs lack the sales and marketing skills they need to succeed. But Mari-Lyn can help.

Mari-Lyn Harris is a business consultant who has been coaching entrepreneurs since 1996. She coaches food startups to build out customized plans for their future. Mari-Lyn is also the Founder and CEO of Food 4 Social Change. The vision is to create jobs by assisting food entrepreneurs to fulfill their dreams of a bold and vibrant business community. One of the things Food 4 Social Change offers is a business networking group to help create a vibrant food community.

Call Mari-Lyn at 510-564-7880 to help you develop your customized marketing map.