I have lived in Seal Beach, California, since 1999. This small coastal town is located near the Queen Mary, between Long Beach and Huntington Beach (Surf City, USA).

You may not have heard of our sleepy little town until about 3 weeks ago, on October 12.

Sadly, you heard about Seal Beach because there was a senseless shooting spree at the Meritage Hair Salon in which eight people were killed.

That afternoon, I was on a plane to Atlanta, traveling to one of the produce industry’s biggest trade shows. When I landed and got to my hotel room, the text messages and phone calls started.

Had I heard there was a shooting spree near downtown Seal Beach? Over the next few days the information was a bit sporadic and it took a while to find out what happened. Of course I immediately called a few friends to check on them and it was on my mind the entire week I was gone.

You must know that Seal Beach is one of the quietest, quaintest towns in Southern California. We all joke about the crime report in the local paper. “Man seen lingering near the mail box on Main Street,” would be typical of the crime report. It is not unusual for my friends and neighbors to leave surfboards, luggage, golf clubs, etc on the front porch… It is such a safe community.

When I returned home after my trip, I looked through our local paper to find out the details, and did not recognize any of the victims’ names.

So, when I went to my weekend spinning (cycling) class, I was shocked to find out that one of the victims, Michelle Fast, was the 47-year-old sister of my spin instructor Rooney Daschbach.

I was devastated, as Rooney and his wife Claire are two of the nicest people I’ve ever known and we’ve become friends in the year or two I have been taking their classes each weekend. I knew they must be profoundly sad and in a state of shock. I didn’t know what to do. They were absent from the gym, so I finally emailed them a heartfelt note to express my condolences.

The weekend I returned from my trip, I went to the salon to pay my respects. There were beautiful flowers and memorials everywhere surrounding the building. Around the corner, some locals were selling T-shirts to benefit the victims’ families. The shirts had a big blue stylized heart.

Actually, the entire community of 24,000 people organized several fundraising events to raise money for the victims’ families: bake sales, silent auctions and a “Cut-a-Thon” where local hair stylists cut hair for free, in exchange for a donation. This entire weekend was devoted to the memory of the eight people who lost their lives and to their families.

It was interesting how it brought our entire community together.

A few days ago, I was told that Rooney and Claire were going to be at the gym this Sunday morning, and that there would be a spinning class in which we would ride to honor the memory of his sister.

Claire and Rooney

So, when I walked into my cycling class this Sunday morning, wearing the T-shirt I purchase last weekend, my breath was taken away. Every person in the room was wearing the same T-shirt. I saw Rooney and Claire and we hugged and cried together. And then the 20 of us cycled for an hour to music that reminded Rooney of his sister. Happy music. Sad music. Angelic music.

Our Cycling Class

After the class, Rooney and Claire and I talked. Michelle was the youngest of 6 kids and has 3 children of her own. It was lovely to hear how their family had organized themselves around supporting each other and Michelle’s kids.

Interestingly, Rooney told me that he was having trouble sleeping and was reading a book by a Jewish Rabbi, “When Bad Things Happen to Good People,” and it was helping him a lot. (Rooney is not Jewish.)

I have heard a lot about this book over the years and was so glad to hear that it was helping him.

Each of us will face the death of someone close to us in our life at some time. It may be after a long illness, or a sudden tragedy like the one that occurred in my sleepy little town. I don’t think there is any way to be prepared. And you will never know how you will react.

But what is important to know is that you will always have friends and family that are there to support you. And we all deal with these occurrences in our own way. And you never know when it will hit close to home.

So, let’s live each day as if it is the most special day in our life.


As I continue my travels around the United States visiting supermarkets, I’ve noticed how all the cooking ingredients that are used for the upcoming holidays are now located closer to the front of the store. And the displays are bigger.

Pumpkin pie filling in cans, baking ingredients, bigger displays of potatoes and onions.

All this has made me start to think about what I’m going to make for my family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

Every year, about 25 members of my family and close friends gather at my house. We have the traditional roasted turkey. And my longtime friends, the LeBayon’s (they’re from France) always bring steamed lobster. A variety of salads, side dishes, and vegetables round out the menu. It’s quite a feast.

But the big decision for me each year is what vegetables to prepare. Being the “vegetable lady” puts a little pressure on me to be somewhat innovative.

This year, I’ve decided to follow the advice that my company has been giving to our retail supermarket customers. We call it Try This, Not That(sm).

Instead of promoting regular russet potatoes for making mashed potatoes, we suggest featuring fingerling potatoes for roasting.

Instead of a regular bread and fresh herb flavored stuffing, we suggest using ingredients like pine nuts and dried cranberries.

And for dessert, instead of serving apple pie, we suggest Apple Pie Crepes (which are lighter and less caloric).

Here are my recipes, if you are interested!

It’s never too early to start planning your holiday meal. I hope you’ll experiment a little this year… If nothing else, maybe a new vegetable!


Imagine my surprise when I picked up The Wall Street Journal last Thursday, October 20th and found that the entire front page of the Personal Journal section had a drawing of the produce department.

Entitled “A Food Fight in the Produce Aisle,” the article quotes a few of our supermarket clients and talks about what a popular destination the produce department has become in American supermarkets.

I often write about my favorite fruits and vegetables and occasionally I write about important trends affecting our food choices. But, what was so interesting about this article is that because our nation has become more focused on fighting obesity (thank you, Mrs. First Lady Michelle Obama), it seems as if the produce department might have some new neighbors in your local supermarket.

Think about it. Have you noticed when you go into your local store, how different food items are now near the front of the store? Last week I was in St Louis visiting some Schnuck’s Markets (a family-owned, regional supermarket company), and noticed that the front wall of some of their stores have portable foods. You know, single serve salads, sandwiches, healthy beverages, milk, cut fruit and veggies. It sure was easy to grab my healthy lunch while I was there.

And in Southern California, I’ve noticed my local Albertson’s market has a whole section of “healthy and convenient” foods, plus fresh fruit juices, etc., right inside the door of the market.

That’s what this article talks about. Packaged food manufacturers who produce cheese, juices and other “non produce” items have realized that so many shoppers are spending more and more time shopping in the produce department, that they want their own products located nearby.

Well, obviously, the grocery stores cannot rearrange their entire store to have every department close by produce… Unless of course they make their store circular and put produce in the middle. (Actually several chains have tried this with mixed results.)

But, as you make your regular shopping trip to the market, look up from your cart. You’ll notice that the location of your favorite products may have changed. Supermarket executives know that time is the most important commodity to all their shoppers and they are trying to adjust the layout of their stores to be more “shopper friendly.” That’s why most markets have coolers filled with bottled water and other beverages nearby the checkouts.

Well, you might be asking yourself, “Why are the bananas usually at the back of the produce department?” That’s because supermarkets know that bananas are often the No. 1 most purchased fruit. They know most shoppers, if they have to walk through the entire produce department to get to the bananas, might find a few other produce items they want to purchase.

I encourage you to read the entire article here. It will give you some insight into the “behind the scenes” work that is always happening in the supermarket business.

Enjoy your next shopping experience!


Ever feel like you are on that hamster wheel of life? You know what I’m talking about. You get up in the morning and race around the house, grab a quick bite, and jump in your car. You speed to the office and begin your day by checking hundreds of emails, many of which are really spam, but you are forced to read anyway, and delete.

After all those emails, then you begin your real work of the day. But you are starving, and down a quick donut or cookie that someone left at the coffee machine. Your intentions were to eat healthy foods all day – but you are starving. You gave into temptation.

And then, at the end of the day, if you remembered to bring your gym clothes with you, you stop at the gym for a quick workout. By the time you get home you are starving, and instead of taking the time to prepare a healthy dinner, you stopped at your favorite Italian or Chinese restaurant and picked up some take-out to gobble down at home.

Just writing this is making my heart pound harder.

That schedule is pretty much what happens to me and my family on a daily basis. And I don’t think we are alone.

A few months ago, as I made my every-few-days food shopping trip to the grocery store, I began to eye those pre-cut fruits and vegetables that my local Ralphs has on display.

Since I don’t have time at 5:30 a.m. to cut up fruits and veggies for me and my daughter Sophia, I have started to buy some of our favorites, already prepared for me.

Clear plastic tubs filled with cut celery and carrots (with water to keep them fresh). Fresh Costa Rican pineapple, hand cut into chunks. Apples cut into slices and packaged in individual serving bags. Bananas at various stages of ripeness. Individual 1 oz. boxes of dried cranberries and raisins.

I have found that I can give my family healthy choices for their morning and afternoon snack times, and for their lunches, by spending a few extra dollars and getting them “cut and ready.”

I know that some consumers may prefer to save the money, and buy whole fruits and veggies to cut up when they get home, but for the time-deprived working moms and dads, I say that it’s worth it to buy pre-cuts.

What’s the trade off? I think our health is the trade off.

Since I asked my 17-year-old daughter what fruits and vegetables she wants packed in her lunch, and we searched the produce department together to find them already prepped for us, her diet (and mine) has changed completely. Each day, we both take a total of 5 servings of fruits and vegetables with us when we leave in the morning.

No more temptation from donuts, cookies and flavored drinks at the office or at the school. We are both eating healthier.

As you are trying to figure out how you can improve your eating habits, and balancing your concern for eating healthy, with the limited amount of time you have, consider spending a little extra and purchase pre-prepped fruits and veggies at your local store.

Oh, one more benefit. Since I buy almost all my produce pre-prepped, I find that I am throwing out far less. My refrigerator is no longer the rotting drawer.

Try it yourself!


Like many people, I work out at the gym multiple times a week. Two or three times a week, I work out with a personal trainer. I find that by having an appointment (that costs me money), I am much better at keeping that appointment and working out, than if I try to go it alone. The same applies when I have a workout buddy.

I have been working out with my trainer, Ikumi, for 8 months. With my heavy travel schedule, I sometimes feel like I take two steps forward and one step back, because I have a hard time maintaining a consistent workout schedule.

So, last Thursday, was no exception. I had gained a couple of pounds after 5 days out of town.

So, Ikumi decided we would do an intense “bootcamp” workout, instead of our normal weight training.

About halfway through my 60 minute workout, I was holding a 20 lb. weight in each hand, and having to do a rather challenging move. It was so hard.

And, I found myself saying out loud, “This is so hard. I can’t do it. This is so hard.” I actually was near tears.

And then Ikumi told me to change my self-talk. She told me that I was telling my body to react to my negative talk. She told me to say “I can do it. This is easy.”

Reluctantly, I did that. I said out loud, “I can do this”. I made myself smile. And the weirdest thing happened.

My workout got easier. It was not so hard. I was able to hold the intense moves for 10 to 15 seconds, where before I could not.

What changed? Only my thoughts and words.

As we start our week, I am reminded of that great lesson I learned during my workout last week.

We are what we think.

Simple words and thoughts can determine our success. So next time, if you are saying to yourself or out loud “This is hard. I cannot do it. This is a difficult goal.”

Instead, try saying: “This is easy. I can do it. This is a realistic goal.”

Have a great week! You can do it!


I’m sure it has happened to you. You have a project that you need completed. So you pass it off to a coworker and ask, “Can you take care of this for me?”

And, then they complete it and give it back to you. And it’s wrong. It’s not the way you wanted it. It’s not formatted the way you thought it would be. They went in the complete wrong direction.

So, whose fault is that?

Is it my fault, because I did not give clear expectations? I did not tell the person I delegated it to that I wanted it formatted a certain way. I wanted the font bigger. I needed more information included. No photos or graphs. My deadline was Tuesday at noon, because I needed to send it to a client that afternoon.

Or, was it her fault? She didn’t ask me clarifying questions. She didn’t ask me if I had certain expectations or how I was going to use it. She didn’t ask me for an example of a previous presentation or the format I liked. She did not ask me the purpose.

Well, I would say it was both our faults. Communication should always be two ways.

How often has that happened to you, whether it is in your personal life or at work? Probably more often that you would like. Makes you just want to do everything yourself, because it’s easier that way, and after all, no one can do it just the (perfect) way that you do.

The best way to be efficient and effective in your life is to decide what you are really great at, concentrate on those things, and find someone else to do the rest. Whether it is a coworker, an assistant, a spouse or helper, delegating can really make you more productive.

But, and this is a huge BUT, you have to take the time to give thorough instructions, allow the other person to ask clarifying questions, and test for understanding. Always agree on a deadline (ASAP is not a deadline). A deadline has a day and time attached to it.

Don’t get frustrated with the other person when they ask you questions. And remember, over time, most tasks and projects have some sort of similarity to them, so if you continue to work with the same person on your projects, they will learn your hot buttons, what your expectations are for deadlines, and they will get faster.

And then you can delegate more.

I’m sure you have a big day coming up… So what can you delegate?


This week, I am being an active citizen. I am in Washington, DC, along with about 500 of my produce industry colleagues at our industry’s annual Washington Public Policy Conference.

This afternoon, we will all converge “on the hill” visiting our own Senators and Congressmen to share our opinions on important issues to our industry.

One of my favorite parts of this 3 day event is when invited guests speak. This morning’s speaker was Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa. It was 10 years ago, at this very event, that Senator Harkin proposed a “wild and crazy” idea. He said:

“What if we develop a program that gives free fresh fruits and vegetables to school kids?” When he brought this up 10 years ago (in 2001), I kind of laughed. It sounded a little crazy to me and I really didn’t understand the implications.

Here is a photo of Senator Harkin with my friend Dan’l who introduced him.

This morning, Senator Harkin told us the genesis of this idea. His kids were attending a Montessori School and the teachers gave out fresh fruits and veggies as snacks to the kids around 9 am. The teachers reported that kids get hungry about that time of the day, which causes them to get grouchy and disruptive. When the teachers gave them healthy snacks (like fresh fruits and veggies) they calmed down, were more focused and had an easier time learning. Sugar-laden snacks like cookies did not have the same positive effect.

I was fortunate to be a spokesperson for our industry and the following year in 2002, I gave testimony to the U S Senate Agriculture Committee on the benefits of “The Fruit and Vegetable Snack Program” (we had given it a name). At that time, the program was a test in 4 states.

Well, fast forward to 2011 and the program receives more than $150 million dollars through the Farm Bill, and students in schools in all 50 states are now offered FREE fresh fruits and veggies on a regular basis.

And, now that I think about it, I do the same thing every day. Each morning, I pack myself baggies filled with cut up celery, carrots and cucumbers plus an apple. And each day, about 9 am I start munching on them. Even though there are not a lot of calories, I find that I feel full and satisfied with my fresh fruit and veggie snack. It holds me over until my lunch about noon.

Why don’t you try this yourself? Start packing cut up fruit and veggies and enjoying them during the morning. I bet you’ll be more productive, less grouchy and you’ll be doing your part to help change the way America eats fruits and vegetables.

And, for Senator Harkin – he is now the Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. Someone in our audience pointed out to him that by eating a diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables, we would actually make our nation healthier and reduce our healthcare costs. Senator Harkin paused for a moment and turned to his aid in the back of the room, and said, “That’s a great idea.” He thanked them for the idea and said he planned to use it.

Being an active citizen can be so gratifying sometimes.