An Easy Way to Look and Feel Better On Zoom

I started taking a late-night comedy writing class in September. That means I’m learning how to write monologue jokes based on real news headlines à la Stephen Colbert or Conan. How about this one,

Microsoft pulled its underwater data center out of the Scottish sea, which means the Loch Ness Monster has lost its favorite chew toy.

This class is offered through The Second City, where many of today’s comedy greats have honed their craft. Normally, I would have had to be in Hollywood to take the class, but under the current circumstances, I’ve been able to Zoom to class and have classmates from across the U.S. and even one in Canada. Connecting through Zoom is a great thing, but I started to feel self-conscious about letting all these talented people look directly into the inner workings of my apartment living room.


They could see overstuffed bookshelves and my husband walking around behind me as he unwinds after his workday. Since the start of the pandemic, I have been participating in Zoom meetings, and I did realize people could see all the stuff behind me. I think I was holding out hope that this video meeting thing was going to be short term. I thought to myself, We should be at a local restaurant right now having a lunch meeting–not connecting over a computer screen.

I was resentful of having to change how I do things, so I did little to figure out a new arrangement, and as a result, people could see all the stuff behind me. It took experiencing a little embarrassment to get me motivated. After the first comedy writing class session, where things out of my control happened behind me, I decided to do something about how I presented myself.

I bought a woven rattan room divider off Wayfair. I had it set up behind my chair at the next class session. The teacher called me out on it saying, “I remember seeing a room behind you and someone walking around. That panel is so smart!” Other than me being slightly allergic to the rattan, which smells like a cornfield, the panel works. I do feel better knowing that whatever’s going on behind me is blocked from myself–which helps with my concentration during video calls—and the people I’m on the call with don’t have to choose where to put their attention when I’m speaking.

So my message is if you’ve been waiting to make a change or investment in your business that could help you professionally consider going ahead with that change—as long as it makes sense to you, of course. It could be a small change that makes you feel more comfortable, and that will be enough to make a noticeable difference in your life.

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#2 Where on the Peninsula is This?

Make your guess before reading on!

Tucked away behind the Electronic Arts, aka EA office building in Redwood Shores is this labyrinth. Meant to help office workers destress during their breaks, the gravel path weaves in, out and around itself. If you make it to the middle before its time to go back to work, you are rewarded with a snail statue greeting right in the center of it all. This green space between office buildings is a great place to stretch your legs, get some fresh air, and the labyrinth is a fun way to coax you into exercise.


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#1 Where on the Peninsula is This?

Guess where this photo was taken before reading further. Ready to find out if you are right? Read on!

Several years ago, before I knew the Peninsula very well, I had a temp job in Redwood Shores that I drove to from the East Bay. While I manned the front desk of a web photo product company, I wondered where the trails along the shoreline went. I remember a few employees biked the trails to and from work or took a jog during their lunch break. Now that I’ve been living on this side of the Peninsula for so many years, I decided a few weeks ago to relocate the shore access and try the trail myself.

We took Marine Parkway and a left onto Bridge Parkway to follow the Belmont Slough and picked up a section of the Bay Trail to explore. Marsh grasses, salt ponds with shorebirds, crunchy gravel paths, and bay water lapping against muddy embankments reinvigorate visitors seeking to connect with nature.

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Finding My Tribe: Tips for Collaborating On Your Business Journey

Photo by Nick Morrison on Unsplash 

It can feel lonely when I think about ways to market my writing and editing services. In the beginning, I sent out “cold emails” (emailing businesses I’ve never met) to introduce myself. A few people answered back but didn’t need my help at the time. Cold emailing, like any marketing method, is a numbers game, but it left me feeling chilly. It took me forever to figure out who to contact at each business and personalize my emails so they’d be taken seriously. It felt like I was wasting too much time sending emails into a cyberspace black hole.

So, I began in-person networking. It’s been a great way to get to know local business people, and they have helped me grow my business by employing me to do some work for them or referring me to businesses they know.

I’ve always been envious of the “power partner” relationships that grow out of networking. For example, a realtor, mortgage broker and estate attorney will team up and endlessly refer clients to each other. These professionals are on the same wavelength. They know each other’s skills, abilities and specialties and can send the right potential clients to each other.

I wanted that level of collaboration for myself. While my business was humming along the end of last year, I reached out to a graphic designer friend who was interested in creating a power partner group with me. When the pandemic disrupted how business was conducted and reshaped the needs of many, I decided it was time to get serious and form a specialized creative services team.

I want to share a few reasons why you should consider establishing your own power partner team.

Support Group

The businesses represented in your power partner team should be related to what you do. In my case, a graphic designer knows quality writing is a key factor for a website. Since we are familiar with the expertise that goes into creative projects and what it’s like to obtain new clients, we have an understanding of how to support each other.

Specialized Networking Group

When I’m working on a client project, it often includes a design, web or video component. Being in constant contact with my power partners who are specialized in those areas makes it super easy for me to refer work to them. I’m confident that they will do a great job for my contacts.

Automatic Team

There’s a high probability that I will have the opportunity to work on client projects with my power partners. Since our skills are often needed in tandem, it only makes sense that we offer our combined services to businesses making the process of finding creative experts easy.

Create a power partner team in your field. You’ll be there for each other on your shared journeys and never feel alone again.

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Mail A Little Love & Cheer

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence.

Growing up, I loved getting mail. I still do – as long as it’s not a bill! I was a prolific pen pal with writing contacts in other states and even other countries. Sometimes it was difficult to come up with something to say in my letters to someone who hardly knew me. It was good training for becoming a professional writer because I had to fill the page with something. I’d pick out a slice of my life that was amusing in some way, get it down on cotton candy-colored Lisa Frank stationary, seal the envelope with a few stickers and clip the letter to the mailbox. I can’t say for sure that my pen pals cared about what I shared, but they wrote back. The drive behind all this effort was getting a letter in return.

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience.

Eva Barrows

Receiving mail is magical. Think about what has to happen for that letter, card, or postcard to get into your hands. The paper, the pens, the stickers (yes, must have stickers), choice of stamp, to include glitter or a recent photo? When the letter is out of the sender’s hands, it goes through the postal service, onto a truck, an airplane, it gets sorted and brought around to the recipient’s mailbox.

Then you wait.

Wait for a response.

And one day, when you’ve started to think about other things, a pink envelope peeks out from the day’s stack of ads and bills.

The surprise of something coming in the mail intended just for you is a joyful experience. Savor the moment. Don’t open your letter or card along with all the junk mail. Wait for a moment when you can sit down and really take in the correspondence. Sometimes the design of a card is so special, or the message inside so touching, I find myself holding onto it for years. If simply sending a card, note or letter in the mail could be this cherished by the receiver, why aren’t we sending more cards?

Over the years, I’ve collected a variety of blank cards for their designs. I have quite a few with chickens on them! Because I love to receive mail so much, I realize others must take a similar delight in it, so I am diving into my collection to send out cheer to my friends and family. I think this is a good time to disseminate my stash and spread the joy of receiving mail.

I encourage you to send good wishes to your loved ones through the mail and put a smile on their face!

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Wrapped in Holiday Magic at Filoli Mansion Woodside, CA

This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.

Filoli has been a daytime getaway for me over the past decade. I was delighted when I discovered that the 1917 home and garden was open to the public and just a ten-minute jaunt away in Woodside, CA. I’ve visited the wooded country estate with family, friends and even stopped by on my own to sit in the sunny garden. I’ve watched the afternoon ocean fog cascade over the coastal mountain tops and have enjoyed a refreshing walk in the garden in the crisp early morning.

This year I was treated to a completely new perspective of the mansion at night. My husband and I attended the media preview of Holidays at Filoli, where the mansion and gardens are all aglitter with festive holiday lights. Golden lights accentuate the simple elegance of the home’s front entrance.

Inside, each room has its own holiday theme, décor and historical stories of the people who lived and worked in the home. Docents gather up visitors in different areas of the house, like the main stairway to talk about changing trends in holiday decorations over the years, and in the kitchen where staff prepared holiday delicacies.

After touring the home, we made our way outside to the patio where oversized golden ball ornaments dangled from tree branches. Conversation fireplaces offered warmth for visitors to get cozy and chat over a hot beverage. Recharged, we walked the English Renaissance gardens transformed by holiday cheer.

Hedges, topiaries, and lawn ornaments are all aglow in red, blue, green and gold lights. Holiday music followed us as we walked around the sunken garden, swimming pool, and out to the rose and herb gardens. It felt intense to walk between the bright rows of golden hedges decorated in lights from the ground to head height. Once clear of the hedges, the holiday lights danced around our feet covering low lying plants.

On our way out, we stopped at the Clock Tower Shop where estate made gifts like hard apple-pear cider, teas and spices can be purchased. Historical and Filoli inspired items are for sale, and other unique items. Plant lovers coming to enjoy the garden can take a new plant friend home with them!

Holidays at Filoli is not just lights and decorations but also special events like evenings with Santa and chocolate decadence nights with See’s Candies wine and chocolate pairings. Visit for event information and to buy tickets.

Holidays at Filoli is on now through December 30th.

Open daily 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Plus Thursday – Sundays 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

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Photo-Ready and Social Worthy in Hollywood, CA

OUE Skyspace Live Wall

We ripped off our jackets and tossed our hair back like supermodels as we stepped off the Southwest airplane we had boarded in overcast San Francisco, to arrive in Burbank’s summer heat at the start of our Hollywood weekend. As Editor-in-Chief of FitNFabs Magazine, I was invited by its publisher, Rosalidia Dubon to tag along with her as she prepared for the summer issue release pool party. Rosalidia got behind the wheel of an over-sized sedan and whisked us off to our Airbnb accommodations at the La Belle apartments neighboring the famed Hollywood Tower.

Killer Selfies

Stop number one on our itinerary was lunch at Dream Hollywood Hotel’s rooftop poolside restaurant. I wore a blue shirt dress with flip-flops, and my companion went with a form-hugging burgundy dress. Our table for two looked out on the city streets below and onto the rooftop pool deck across the street. Aromatic planter boxes overflowing with lavender plants lined the low concrete barrier and protective glass panel walls.

As we waited for our lunch order to arrive, Rosalidia said, “Let’s take a selfie!”

Dream Hotel Rooftop Restaurant

Phone at arm-length we took a few pics. In one of them, my smile was too goofy, and in the other I had a low-key bemused look which was good enough to go social. Rosalidia got to work adding virtual eyebrow darkener and lipstick to my face with an Instagram app. I nodded consent when she was done touching us up and out it went onto Instagram and Facebook.

Still not completely comfortable with taking selfies, I had the chance to watch Rosalidia in action as she took selfies after getting her makeup done by a professional makeup artist the next day. Snapping pictures in a booth with perfect front lighting, she kept the phone high above her head and to the side. I’m thinking this helps slim the face and eliminates double-chins and wrinkles.

OUE Skyspace Photo Booth

Social Photo Ops

That night we rocketed to the 71st floor of the US Bank Tower in downtown Los Angeles. OUE Skyspace occupies the building’s top floors and offers 360 panoramic views of the LA skyline. A clear slide attached to the outside of the building descends two stories at the height of 1,000 feet. The slide attracts tourists during the day, and a new ultra-lounge with unbeatable views draws adults at night. We were invited to check out the unique digs by a past FitNFabs cover model, singer Ranella Ferrer.

When we arrived and were looking for the lounge, we passed several photo opportunities. There was a recording booth with hanging mic, LA sports memorabilia and an odd psychedelic decorated mailbox to nowhere. Rosalidia struck a Mariah Carey pose in the booth, while I pretended to put a letter in the mailbox commemorated by a super silly Boomerang video.

OUE Skyspace Fairy Wings

We found our way to a staircase that took us down a level to the lounge. A DJ played mid-90s hip-hop/R&B the same stuff that was blasted at my high school dances. Two outdoor viewing decks looked out on the sparkling hillsides and streets below. From our vantage point, we were looking down on nearby skyscrapers. A glass deck panel had a set of decorative fairy wings decaled on it. Rosalidia took my picture in front of the wings and city below. I feel pretty good about the picture, although it’s dark!

Back inside, two touchscreen photo stations were set up so that visitors could take pictures against different fun backgrounds. It was difficult to figure out where the camera was within the screen and made for many disconnected and awkward shots. Finally, one came out where we were both looking in the right direction.

FitNFabs Pool Party Photo Booth

Many Ways to Social Share

The next day, FitNFabs pool party was held at Sunset & Vine Apartments, with the Hollywood Walk of Fame as the sidewalk. Apartment residents and FitNFabs fans from LA and the San Francisco Bay Area joined in the tropical pool-side fun. Another DJ played hip-hop while swimsuit-clad 20 and 30-somethings cooled off, socialized and drank up around the pool.

Sunset & Vine Apartments, FitNFabs Pool Party

A mix of selfies, live-streaming to social media and photo booth collaborations documented the release party. The FitNFabs sponsored photo booth offered outlandish hats and funny disguises for attendees to play with. A camera took automatic shots of the crazy poses, either printing them out or delivered them via email.

At the party, I exercised my new found selfie-taking skill and took part in a few photo booth shoots. Thanks to my trip to Hollywood, I got enough practice to feel confident in whipping out my cell phone to take great-looking selfies!

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Chalking It Up At Courthouse Square, Redwood City, CA

I appreciate a well-executed artistic composition and can cobble together a decent looking craft project or two. But I’m no artist. So when my artist husband hinted he wanted me to help him create a chalk sidewalk painting, I thought I’d be more of a hindrance. The chalk painting started at 7 a.m. on the 4th of July at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square. There was no way I’d be getting up that early to apply chalk to cement. If John wanted to go, fine but I’d be in bed for another few hours. However, John was tired from his work week and was ready to go to the festival at noon. I was up by then so I tagged along toting water bottles and a roll of paper towels.

When we arrived at the festivities, the parade crowds were just breaking up. We were definitely getting a late start. After finding parking, we booked it over to the chalk art sign in. I spotted our “canvas” right away, a blank 12’x 12’ space for Art Bias wedged between already completed chalk paintings. Art Bias is the San Carlos art community, where John rents his art studio. Many artists had left or were putting finishing touches on their large scale chalk art. Upon check-in we received two boxes of pastel chalk starter kits with basic colors and were pointed toward poster paint we could use to even out the cement surface.

Laying out design in black chalk

Woefully behind from the moment we arrived, I wondered where John’s art compatriots were because we could have used a few more hands. I had come to support John because I knew this was something he wanted to do after watching other artists work with chalk at festivals. I didn’t realize we’d be staring down an outdoor shed-sized space, with festival goers walking past and wondering why they were seeing a huge blank cement square.

With no option but to get started, John jumped sketched out where his portrait of Uncle Sam would lay within the square. Next, he painted white poster paint on the ground where Sam was to go. I filled in the remaining background with gray paint we mixed from our two options, black and white. Once we got our foundation down, we put the paint rollers away and stopped to get lunch while it dried.

Prepping the "Canvas"

Before we left our square, I heard a passerby say something like “This one’s weird,” after she looked at our sea of gray with white splotch in the middle. “It’s not done,” I called after her. She seemed to turn and look at me like maybe she didn’t realize I could interact with her, since I was inside the cordoned off area. “It’s not done yet,” I said again with my hands on my hips. I was taking ownership of our burgeoning creation.

After lunch, I let John go back to the square on his own. His heart must have sunk when he went back to conquering the huge task on his own. I walked around other parts of the festival and found there was a chalk art alley on the street divided into smaller squares. The size wasn’t as impressive as the one we were dealing with but a lot more manageable.

Between completed chalk paintings

I went back over to where John was hard at work. He had drawn in Uncle Sam with black chalk. I pulled up a knee pad and asked him how I could help. “Oh good, you’re going to help me with this?” He seemed relieved. “If not me, who?” I asked, or at least thought. I started with Sam’s hat filling in patriotic blue around the hat’s white stars, then filled in red vertical stripes. I caked the chalk on. I had tried to mix the chalk into the painted surface, only to pull the chalk dust up with the paper towel I was using as a mixing tool.

Filling in with color

John worked on Sam’s face blending red, peach, white, and black to get his features to stand out, nose, lips, eyes, beard. John blew on an area of extra chalk dust only to create a dust bowl sized cloud which carried across the courtyard on a gust of wind. At one point, John went to ask one of the experienced chalk artists how they got their chalk to adhere to the ground. What they did differently was bring their own high-quality chalk in an array of color shades, and they methodically applied the chalk to the ground. These guys got to their spot early and stayed late getting all the details down. Since good chalk and loads of time were not an option for us, we continued to cake on the dust to simulate vibrant color.

John filling in areas

We kept at it. I filled in Sam’s white hair, trying to “draw” in the boundaries of his hair only to be vetoed by the artist. I had to laugh at John for wanting to be precise within the context of how far behind we were. But I didn’t let his exactness stop me; I knew he needed my help. So I caked blue chalk on Sam’s jacket, added a light layer of yellow to his shirt and blending it with white for a creamy appearance. After all the colors were down, John re-drew the definition in black chalk and created Uncle Sam’s iconic finger pointing at the viewer.

As the event organizer packed up for the day, we finished our piece. Festival-goers interested in how our square turned out swung back around our aisle. A few let us know they were glad to see we got it done, and a few people took pictures of it.

Our creation was not the best, but it was patriotic in celebration of the 4th of July. We did our best for first-timers who didn’t fully realize what they were getting into. John’s drawing talent shown through especially at the end where he quickly and expertly added the definition that gave shape and life to the chalk painting. After taking pictures with Uncle Sam, we left Courthouse Square and tried not to think of the city workers who’d soon be by with power hoses to wash it all away.


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8 Reasons Why Your Business Needs to Send e-Newsletters

Sample e-newsletter layout

If you have a business, you should be sending an e-newsletter. Newsletters are a consistent form of marketing that if done right, provide value to your readers. In other words, the people you send your newsletter to once a month, want to open your email. Why do they want to open it and not toss it in the “trash” folder? Because they know, from reading your previous emails, you aren’t selling something, but giving something they want to read.


The following reasons will give you an idea of how having your own newsletter will bring value to your business and potential clients.

Reason to Stay in Touch

Once a month, twice for the ambitious, you get to say, “hello” to your newsletter readers. If you’re doing it right, only emailing people who want to hear from your business, you will quickly build an anxious audience awaiting your next email.

Prove Your Expertise

In every email, you get a chance to educate, inspire and challenge your readers. Place the heavy stuff up front. If you’re going to talk about the merits of sending newsletters, do that first, before you get to the fluff.

Show Your Products and Services in Action

Highlighting a client success story is a great way to show your product or service solving a problem. Like I can talk about helping a personal trainer plan, edit and launch her e-newsletter!

Increase Your Blog and Website Clicks

Include links to new blog posts in your newsletter. People won’t know about your posts if you don’t tell them to take a look.

Shine With Your Business Branding

Recently, I was asked, what’s the best way to share a blog post with clients, without using a plain email with embedded link? Sending an e-Newsletter was my first thought, because you can, and should, personalize the newsletter template with your business branding. A professional look is easy to achieve through an e-newsletter service like Constant Contact or mailchimp.

Invite People to Events

Want to publicize your next open studio, gallery opening, workshop or class, presentation, or client appreciation party? Include an invite in your upcoming newsletter.

Share Business Updates and Milestones

As you build your newsletter mailing list, a core group of people interested in what you or your business is up to will develop. So, tell them about your new product or service launch, anniversary celebration, or new hire. They really do want to stay in-the-know about these things.

Make Special Offers

Reward your dedicated following with “only for newsletter readers” coupons and discounts. Make it something good for you and for them.
Are you starting a newsletter from scratch and don’t know where to begin? I can help you strategize what to include in your newsletter and who to send it to. Already have a newsletter but need editing support? I do that too! Email me to start a conversation about how I can help you with your e-newsletter.


Now go write your newsletter, your audience awaits!
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The Ocean Side of Devil’s Slide Trail – Montara to Pacifica, CA

Pacifica to Montara on Devil’s Slide Trail

“We can park on either side of the tunnels,” I say to my husband as we drive north on HWY 1 to Devil’s Slide Trail.

“But I want to park on the ocean side,” he says.

“Yeah,” I say, “either side will do.” I glance over at him, he grips the steering wheel at ten and two. There’s a contemplative stare behind his sunglasses. Still, I see, he’s not picturing it.

Devil’s Slide is the link between Pacifica, CA at the north and Montara, CA at the south of San Pedro Mountain. Highway 1 used to snake around the mountain ledge with rocky ocean surging below and loose rocks sluffing down the hillside above. As of 2013, motorists now drive through the mountain via the Tom Lantros Tunnels, circumventing coastal erosion related hazards. The old highway was transformed into Devil’s Slide Trail for pedestrians and bike riders to enjoy.

Tom Lantros Tunnels from Montara

I look out for roadside signs to guide us as we rapidly approach the mountain from Montara. Fortunately, a traffic light was installed at the Devil’s Slide Trail parking area, making it easy to get across the opposite lane of traffic without holding cars up behind us. We are definitely on the ocean side. The mountain and tunnel entrance sight lines give way to coastal bluffs overlooking the seemingly indefinite Pacific.

We drive around two small connected lots a few times waiting for someone to leave. I mention again there’s a parking lot on the Pacifica side, but my husband ignores the suggestion. I know he feels he’s holding out for the ocean view – even though both sides are on the same trail. We successfully stalk a family, wait for them to pack up their SUV, and swoop into their vacated parking spot.

The first thing we do after winning our parking spot is take in the unobstructed ocean view. A cooling wind hits our skin; the sun warms us from overhead; the ocean water bobs below. We walk to the trailhead leaving the cars blasting their horns in the tunnels behind.

Cliff Side Tree

I think my husband is amazed he can walk on the road his family used to drive when he was growing up in Pacifica. You can pick up so much more detail walking the 1.3 miles than you would zooming by in a car. Yes, the rocks are still sliding down the mountain. Fencing restrains the rubble, but it’s a good idea to keep some distance. A tenacious tree grows within a cliff-side crevice resulting in a lone pine wedged into a rock. Colorful wildflowers and grasses brighten the earthy hillsides. The smell of old, salty, fish waft up to the trail. I assume birds toss their catch onto the cliffs, trying to split open shells against the rocks.

The trail’s easy to moderate incline begins about a third to halfway in. I am glad to tackle the climb first so that our return is easier. We stop at a lookout area with plenty of bench seating. The ocean and sky are blue; the sun is still out. Back on the trail, we make it to the Pacifica side parking lot. True we did take a turn away from the ocean through brown dirt-exposed hillsides for a few yards. My husband and I take a turn around the Pacifica parking lot. He shoots photos of the horse ranch below.

“So, this is the other parking lot,” I say. We turn around to start back on our ocean side walk.

What’s your favorite coast side trail, and what makes it special?

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