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PostHeaderIcon 7 Lessons Family Business Owners Need To Know

This post comes to us courtesy of Anisha Vikram Shah of Weber Shandwick, the global public relations firm. 

It's old news that small businesses are facing plenty of challenges, but imagine owning a small business and you need to discuss a problem employee ... and it's your little brother.

More than 70 percent of all U.S. businesses are family-owned, and their proprietors often say that success means being one part entrepreneur and one part family psychologist.  To gain deeper insight into what it takes to successfully manage a family-owned business, MassMutual has conducted a study, FamilyPreneurship: What Every Entrepreneur Should Know Before Starting a Business with a Family Member.  After speaking to over 500 family businesses around the country, MassMutual identified seven lessons that family business owners need to know:

It all starts with the intangibles.  Passion for the business and trust between family members and advisers were cited as the two most important critical success factors by current family business owners.  You have to be 100 percent confident your partners are going to be with you through thick and thin, and that your advisers are knowledgeable and steadfast.

Divorce-proof the business.  Regardless of whether the business is owned by a husband and wife team or not - a partner's divorce from a spouse uninvolved in the business can still have disastrous consequences.  Of the 15 percent of respondents whose business had experienced divorce, fully 44 percent had a negative experience.  More than a third have never given the possibility of divorce and its impact on the business a thought.

Who's next?  Most family business owners have inadequate or inflexible succession plans.  While most are worried about how a death would affect the business, and nearly half are worried about how a disability would affect it, many either have no succession plan in place or have one they consider inflexible.

Don't lose it all to Uncle Sam.  More than a third of respondents have no plan in place to deal with estate taxes, which can hurt a family's ability to continue the business and can also erode inheritances.

Communication is the key.  Respondents said that communication is one of the top elements to success because it helps maintain good relationships with family both in and out of the workplace and leads to more effective decision making.

Decide who's the boss and how to make decisions.  Clear definition of roles and responsibilities is critical, enabling the business to run efficiently and ensuring that it avoids paralysis due to confusion over leadership.  Each person has to do what they are best at.  Decision making and disagreement resolution process is also critical to avoid arguments that can stymie the business and hurt morale.  Some businesses adopt a majority rule process.  Others assign decision making responsibility for particular areas to each partner.  And others advocate for a negotiation process.

Strike a balance.  It's easy to get consumed by work demands and to let them invade family life.  Most family business owners discuss work at home and home issues at work, but most say they don't consider this to be a big problem.

These seven lessons are good to remember in this troubled economy.  With America's small businesses having created 65 percent of all new jobs in the last 15 years, the impact of the future of family owned business is more important than ever.

For more information on this and other surveys, contact Anisha Vikram Shah at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .


PostHeaderIcon Andrea Closing in on the 50-Pound Mark


This week I lost .5 pounds for a total of 45.9 pounds lost. Although .5 is not a huge amount to lose, I'm satisfied with it because I was on vacation all last week. During my last vacation, I gained some pounds that stayed with me for two months.

My family and I planned to camp, which I thought might present some food challenges. In the past I can recall wolfing down more than my share of s'mores and polishing off the leftover Hershey bars and graham crackers once I returned home. In my mind, s'mores are the consummate campfire snack and a delicious compliment to whatever camp meal I make.

This trip, I gave myself permission to have a s'more and looked forward to enjoying it. When I ate my s'more I thought, "what is all the fuss about?" I didn't enjoy it, despite my marshmallow being toasted to perfection. It was dry and the chocolate wasn't the good quality chocolate I would like to use my points on. So that was it for me and s'mores. There were a few restaurant meals during the week but I made good choices when we were out. That combined with the exercise camping requires made it possible for me to actually lose a small amount.

Meanwhile, I checked out the WW newsletter we received at this week's meeting. There are always inspirational articles and recipes in the publication so I make sure to read it from cover to cover. I eyed the "Grilled Veggie Pocket with Fresh Herb Pesto" recipe with interest and because of the huge amount of fresh basil that is growing on my back porch. I decided to give it a shot and it was delicious and filling. I tallied points for all the ingredients (despite my using only half the pesto and half the veggies) and this sandwich is only 3 points.

Here's the recipe:

Grilled Veggie Pocket with Fresh Herb Pesto

Cooking Spray

1 c. thinly sliced red onion

1 small zucchini, cut into thin strips

Pinch salt

Pinch pepper

1/4 c. packed fresh basil leaves

1/2 garlic clove

1 T. reduced-fat grated Parmesan cheese

2 T Weight Watchers Plain Yogurt (can substitute Dannon fat free)

1/4 t. lemon juice

2 t pine nuts

1 Weight Watchers 100% Whole Wheat Pita Pocket, toasted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with cooking spray. Arrange red onion and zucchini in a single layer across baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast until vegetables soften, about 25 minutes. Remove from heat promptly and set aside to cool slightly.

Meanwhile, to make the pesto, combine basil leaves, garlic, cheese, and yogurt in a food processor and pulse on medium-high speed until smooth and well blended. Transfer mixture to medium bowl and stir in lemon juice and pine nuts. Add vegetables and toss to coat. Spoon vegetable-pesto mixture into a pita pocket, wrap securely in foil, and take it with you. Yields one sandwich with 1 T pesto. Enjoy. See you next week. -AV


PostHeaderIcon Discover Affordable Maui

Maui has been the top island on Conde Nast Traveler's list of reader favorites 15 out of the last 16 years, and for good reason.  Maui is steeped in history, beauty and possesses the best beaches to be found anywhere.  Think you can't afford all this?  Think again.With new, well priced direct flights from the Bay Area and a little creative planning, you can have it all.  So give up the cheesy luaus, the packed tour buses and all the things that break the bank and experience the Maui of your dreams these ten ways:Rent a condoAfter staying in hotels for years all over the island, we rented a condo.  Our hosts, Leon and Gail own four units in Wailea and treat you like family.  At ours, "Treetop", we were greeted with an Aloha note on the door and were serenaded each morning by tropical birds.  It was bliss from there on out.  The condo not only supplied a kitchenette where we could enjoy our own breakfast and Kona coffee, but was stocked with beach chairs, umbrellas and a cooler.  Every day we packed a lunch with treats from a local farmers market and saved enough money to enjoy great dinners every night.www.waileaescape.comVisit UpcountryA trifecta of Upcountry towns, Makawao, Pukalani and Kula offer ocean breezes, unbelievable views and a feeling like being in Napa or Santa Barbara.  The main street in Makawao, once a cowboy town, is home to art galleries, restaurants and a bakery right out of the 1930s.  We watched a glass blower at work and strolled with home made lemonade.  Situated on the slopes of Haleakala, this area is the Maui of days gone by.Enjoy a cocktail at a Wailea resortWith all the money that could be saved by not having to pay for breakfast and lunch, put on your best Aloha shirt and splurge for a Mai Tai and appetizers at the Four Seasons or Grand Wailea Resort.  The service is top notch and for one evening you'll live like the other half lives.  There is nothing more romantic than sunset here.Go with Pacific Whale Foundation's Eco AdventuresThis organization's snorkel dives and whale watching are the best on the island.  Not your typical outing where you may see more flippers than fish, their environmental guides are knowledgeable and they can take you to locations off limits to other companies.  All profits are donated to local environmental groups, so not only do you have fun; you help preserve the underwater beauty for future generations.www.pacificwhale.orgFeel the manaTo Hawaiians, mana describes all manner of the supernatural or divine power.  Iao Valley is the place in Maui where this is most apparent.  Once a place of political importance and a site to honor the gods with sacrifices, the name means "supreme light" and is named in honor of the god Iao.  One of the most beautiful spots on the island, Iao Valley is four miles west of Wailuku.  Come very early or very late in the day as the light hitting the pinnacles at these hours give it an ethereal glow.Volunteer on vacationAn idea that's catching on worldwide, this is the most rewarding way to vacation.  It doesn't cost you a penny and you'll go home with great memories.  Volunteers may work with locals and visit off the beaten track locations.  Whether picking up trash on the beach or pulling invasive weeds, you'll see areas off limits to the general public.  A typical day consists of a one hour orientation and about three hours of work.  Call (808) 249-8811 (ext 1).Go stand up paddlingEasier and less taxing than surfing, stand up paddling has gained a huge following since it was invented about 60 years ago.  It's not complicated and in the early mornings when the wind is down, the sea is like glass.  Keep an eye out for sea turtles, colorful fish and the occasional monk seal while you enjoy this peaceful sport.  Instruction and rentals are available all over the island.Learn about MolokaiMaui is unique of all the Hawaiian Islands in that other islands are very close by and accessible.  A day trip to Molokai is an adventure you won't soon forget.  There are no stop lights and you can drive for miles without seeing a soul.  Take a mule ride to Kalaupapa National Historical Park, separated from the rest of the island by a 2,000 foot wall of green mountains.  In the late 1800s Father Damian treated victims of Hansen's disease (leprosy) here and in 2009 was canonized for his work.  The park contains over 300 historical buildings and 1000 grave markers.Head for a wineryTodeschi Winery is Maui's only vineyard and one of only two in the whole state.  Located 2,000 feet up the slopes of Haleakala, the main cottage dates from 1874.  There are wine tastings and you'll have the chance to bring home a very special Maui souvenir.Life's a beachWith over 80 beaches, Maui has one tailor made for you.  From sunning to sitting under a palm tree with a book, from snorkeling to body surfing, there is a beach that's just right.  Walk along the stretch of sand at Kaanapali or Big Beach, or climb over lava flows to a pristine hidden cove.  There are beaches for kids and sandcastles or secret areas that are clothing optional.  Just don't forget the sunscreen.For more great ideas on Maui:www.101thingstodo.comwww.visitmaui.comwww.maui-info.com-SEW

PostHeaderIcon Enjoy Small Plates At Nibblers

If you like to read, Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar is for you.  If you don't, just squint your way through the 50-plus dish menu.  It's definitely worth it.

This 5 year old Pleasant Hill eatery is centered on small plates, which means that the meal you may get at a sushi or Thai place in the same leafy shopping area may be one to three plates at Nibblers.

But, that's also where the fun comes in.

Go with friends.  Everybody orders something different, and you have a smorgasbord of small delights to get easily stuffed on.  It also helps that the staff is upfront about how to make your visit enjoyable and educational.

Oh no, there's reading and education again.  And you just want to eat?

If you don't know your cardoon. a stalky, asparagus like vegetable, served deep fried with aioli sauce ($6) from your langoustine, a type of lobster served in a ceviche with avocado and house made tortilla chips ($8), the staff of Nibblers will tell you.

The eatery doesn't want to be pretentious with big words.  It just prides itself on the relationships it has with farms and food artisans within driving distance of the East Bay that sell vegetables, poultry and cheese unavailable in your local grocery store.

The menu changes weekly, depending on what's available from these places.

On a recent visit, I started with the Spring Corn Flatbread with baby favas, sheep's milk feta an green garlic in the shape of a light pizza ($11) and that whet my appetite for the next plates.

The Maple Leaf Duck a L'orange ($12) was next, siting atop skinny roasted baby parsnips that had a sweet, almost marshmallowy taste to them.  When I told Trace Leighton, chef patissier and our server, that I had never seen parsnips so skinny before, she said she had the pleasure of bundling them in the bushels full at Heirloom Organic Gardens in Santa Cruz herself.

Another dish that I'd wish was endless was the Panko Fried Monterey Bay Calamari in a buttermilk shallot marinade and Indonesian tropical fruit sambal ($8).  A sambal is a dipping sauce made with boiled down seasonal fruit mixed with three different types of chiles.  It was thick, sweet and savory and gave the calamari a kick.  "We thought it was better than tartar sauce," said Leighton.

When the Four Mile River Pork Slider with chipotle barbaque sauce and house made pickles ($10) were sold out, we ordered the Grilled Meyer Natural Hangar Steak ($11), a tougher cut of meat.  But the mustard sauce tenderized it and made the meat succulent to sink our teeth into.

Nibblers also prides itself on wines, of which  there is an exhausting selection.

Once again, not to fear.

Nibblers makes things easy by suggesting food and wine pairings.  The couple next to us ordered Muscat, a type of sweet wine.  Upon getting their food order, Chef de Cuisine Daniel Clayton later sent Leighton out to see if they wanted their salad dressing made with a Muscat to complement their wine selection.  Now that's paying attention.

Desserts include their signature Cheesecake Fritters ($8), a lovely puffy fried dough with a cinnamon mouse oozing out.  There's also a selection of chocolates and sorbets ($8 to $12) to sample.

The outside patio is dog friendly, every Sunday there's music and if you arrive before 6 pm weekdays, and just want a place to take the edge off before heading home to that big meal, take advantage of Nibblers Sunset Special bar menu.

For late night eaters, Nibblers has a special summer menu from 9:30 to midnight Fridays and Saturdays.

For more info visit: www.nibblerseatery.com

(925) 944 0402, 1922 Oak Park Blvd. Pleasant Hill, CA in the Oak Park Center.

Nibblers Eatery & Wine Bar is open every day of the week for dinner 5 to 9:30 pm.

Leslie Mladinich is an East Bay freelance journalist. With a 5-year daily newspaper reporting background and a love of writing about everything from health care to fashion, her freelance writing has appeared in The San Francisco Chronicle's Pink Section, Diablo, Veterans of Foreign Wars magazine, EcoHome Magazine, and Bay Area Parent. She is combining her love of food and writing by completing Media Bistro's Food Writing Boot Camp, which is teaching her the art of writing about food with attitude. Find her clips soon at www.lesliemladinich.com.


PostHeaderIcon Are We A Flip Flop Nation?

I was on BART late Sunday afternoon coming home from San Francisco.  Too tired to read, I decided to observe the shoes people were wearing.

Of the approximately 80 people in my car, roughly seventy percent wore flip flops, and maybe forty percent of flip flop wearers had the cheap rubber ones.  I know it's hot, I know they are comfortable and everybody can afford a pair.  But what does this say about us?

America is already known as a dressed down, jeans and tee shirt society, so adding rubber flip flops just finishes the ensemble and confirms the stereotype.

In most developing countries, rubber flip flops are the cheapest footwear available, often costing less than one dollar.  Because of their low cost they are very widely used in these countries as typical footwear and not as a fashion statement.  Despite their disposable design, street vendors will repair worn sandals for a small fee.

However in many developed countries, such as The United States, flip flops are typically treated as seasonal, short lasting footwear, with a life expectancy of a year or less.  Most people in developed countries do not bother to repair flip flops and just throw them away and buy new ones.  We like disposable and yet we like to talk green, too.

What's with that?

If we treat flip flops as a shoe, what about the praise women chant of their love of shoes?  "They make me feel beautiful and confident."  "I like shoes because they complete my created image from morning to late night."  " I don't know why, but shoes just make me happy!"  "Shoes help me carry my mood through the whole day."

Now, try to replace the words "shoes" or "they" with "flip flop" and read the above sentences again.  How does it sound to you?

Pretty silly, right?

Complaining doesn't accomplish much, though, and I can't go out on a minor note without offering a solution.  I understand comfort and I love simple, but I'm itching to add a little bit of style.

What about considering very simple but fun leather thong sandals that are an upscale and more fashionable version of the flip flop?

Or, if you are OK with a more enclosed type of shoe, explore the wide range of wedges for women, or fashion sneakers and leather sandals for men.

Let's flap in flip flops to the beach and the pool, but let's also support designer creativity and good craftsmanship, as well as our tired dirty feet, so the shoe industry will thrive for good.

Happy feet and a stylish summer! - DP

As a freelance wardrobe consultant, Diana Placiakiene, AICI, MBA, works with men and women who are looking to advance their professional and personal image.  Most of her clients are professionals who want to take their business to the next level.  In her practice, Diana combines her business skiills, understanding of human psychology, natural visual talents and passion for fashion to help people have more ease, fun and success.

To contact Diana, e-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .  You can also find her through www.linkedin.com/in/dianaplaciakiene, www.facebook.com/pages/ispeakstyle/17026118958 or twitter.com/dianaPlaciak.


PostHeaderIcon Traditional or Modern Father Knows Best?

I recently read a blog on Parentdish.com that said today's fathers are more involved in the day to day care of their children, and not solely taking the role of breadwinner.  It went on to say that today's generation of fathers equate being a good father with "being there and being accessible" to their kids.

I've been racking my brain for weeks about what to write for a Father's Day story.  I have searched for an interesting story about my own dad, a funny situation, a remembrance of a childhood happening.  Should I write a loving tribute to my Dad or should I write of his influence in my life and what I have become?

After reading the Parentdish story, I was struck with the differences in how today's fathers must differ from what my own father's role and responsibilities were.

My parents had me before they were 20 years old.  I think I came along a bit too early, and although, like any parent, they were thrilled, they must have been scared and uncertain of what to do in this new situation.  It was the late 50's and the roles of parents were very much set in stone.  The father was the breadwinner and the mother was caregiver.  No options.

My dad worked hard to support our growing family.  He made sure we had a comfortable home and as the old saying goes "food on the table".  He often worked long hours, and I know that in my formative years, he was gone before I woke up in the morning and home long after I was in bed.

My own father was not a kissy/huggy/feeling kind of man.  He was very much a traditional father.  Although I have seen pictures of my brothers and I on his lap, I don't have much recall of being held and kissed by him.  By the time I was 12 or so, the affection we received was usually a handshake and a pat on the back.  He was a task master, we had to do our chores and we got hell if we talked back to our mother.  We played catch in the backyard and we had to sit up straight at the dinner table.

Needless to say, as a teenage and young man, I was distant from my father and didn't understand or appreciate his place in our family.  I thought him old fashioned, out of touch and hard to talk to.

It's only now, as I am older, that I truly get it.  His role in that era was not to spend so called "quality time" with us, but to support us and raise us as only he knew how.  He was a product of his own generation, just like today's fathers are a product of theirs.

He may not have made it to every school function, or talked to us about our day or shared his feelings, but we did get our father/son time in.  He may have never talked to me about my needs, but he taught me what it takes to be a good man.

With all the attention and equal parenting they will be getting, will today's kids grow up with a different feeling and understanding of their fathers?  Will children feel a better connection or will they still  grow up not getting their old man? 

Only time will tell.

But, as a child raised in the traditional home of the 60's and 70's, I do know that my brothers and I turned out just fine and it is comforting to know that old time concept of dad still got the job done and we appreciate him for that.

We may not have known it at the time, but he did what the dad did and he did it well.

Happy Father's Day to all dads, the traditional and the modern. - SEW

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