Addiction: New Approaches to an Old Burden


Verlin Chalmers exudes trust, wisdom, and a kind of rock star coolness that you can’t help but be drawn to. His smile is at once knowing, innocent and impish. His eyes literally twinkle. Maybe it is because he is a guitar player and songwriter. There are people you meet along the road of life, who are just plain cool.

I first met Verlin over a cup of coffee as I was writing another article. He happened to notice that I was using a Mac, and promptly announced that I was sitting in the designated “Mac Section.” As we talked more about Apple and debated Steve Jobs and his “brilliance” and drooled over iPad rumors, I became more and more interested in this poster-child of the sixties—a trademark baby boomer.

I have always been drawn to, and frankly, jealous of, yet one more generation of American hero—those privileged to grow up and participate in the 1960’s. A prophetic time, witnessing, contemplating, and participating in what is the single most alternative cultural values experiment in the history of the world. Had the revolution worked completely, free healthcare, and solar powered flying cars would not seem as crazy as they apparently sound today.

Part of the sixties that is undeniable is the other experiment that is often more famous than the counter culture ideas; rampant drug and alcohol use spawned abuse, and it is safe to say, that is the other blade of the double edged sword of the sixties.

Today, almost everyone has a friend or relative that suffers from the ravaging effects of addiction. Although many of the drugs that were widely available in the sixties and seventies are not around today, addiction is at an all time forgive the pun, “high” in the US. Healthcare costs and the cost of lost productivity easily eclipse tens of billions of dollars. Drug-related deaths are up over 500% since 1980. The number of people taking prescription drugs illegally is up by 500% as well, just since 1990.

Clearly Nancy Reagan’s theories left much to be desired. The common traditional approach to treating addiction has been the emergence of the “Treatment Center.” But treating symptoms and taking stabs at modifying behavior is clearly only part of the solution.

Enter Verlin Chalmers, whose presence at this particular point and dimension in space and time, allows a lifetime of precisely caring focus to benefit those in desperate need of an answer. The benefit of knowledge gained passing through a time continuum. Or you could call it Karma.

Suffice it to say right here in our own backyard, whether working as a young man in a factory making soy milk for babies allergic to cow’s milk, or at age 24 as the youngest director of the St. Helena Drug and Alcohol treatment program, to starting a coffee house/free clinic in Georgetown in the seventies, life, it seems, has taught Chalmers what he needs to know. More importantly, what we need to know.

Chalmers has developed a unique method for addressing not treating addiction at its core. Known simply as “The Road,” symbolic of a not easy journey, at whose end will hopefully yield the true person, stripped of the heavy burden that addiction can weigh.

“To begin my training at St. Helena Hospital, they sent me to the Hazelden Treatment Program  where I spent 30 days going through exactly what the clients went through. This was my introduction to addiction and my first practical focus on behaviors that effect health,” says Chalmers.

He quickly became curious as to why we sometimes do things that we really don’t want to do but feel compelled to do them anyway. How is it that a person truly does not want to drink, use drugs, or over-eat, yet continues to do so, to excess? He began to study the research and approaches that worked and did not work. This led him to become curious about the workings of the brain and its effect on behavioral control. When Chalmers first began in the field of addiction, the now controversial shock treatment was being used.

“There were many theories. It’s a moral weakness. It’s a death wish. It’s a nutritional problem; oxygen deprivation at birth; genetic, symptomatic of underlying emotional problems; family systems problems; spiritual problems; a brain disease. The professional search for an answer raged on while people continued to try and fail,” Chalmers explained.

Clearly better research is needed. Today, roughly the same amount is spent on tooth decay as is spent on addiction research. And as expected, the percent of success, 25-35%, is far too small. Over half of all people in treatment today have been there before, requiring an average four or more tries before anything even close to stable recovery is achieved, with an average cost of between $15,000 and $30,000 for each 28-day program. The financial cost aside, the effect on family members, children, work, family finances, friends and society are unimaginable.

New methods such as harm reduction, aversive conditioning, hypnosis, IV drips, sauna programs, multiple forms of therapeutic or educational approaches are all trying to improve the rate of success. Each approach has some measure of success, but still, far too many ultimately fail, returning the addicted to the very same destructive patterns they desperately want to avoid.

Approximately one year ago Chalmers started The Road, a new treatment approach designed for alcoholics and addicts who have been through treatment before but who are still struggling. He took 36 years of treating addiction and all the research he could find and created a simple and effective approach that costs far less than what is available. Traditional treatment is far too short (28 days). This limits critical individual counseling sessions to four or five at most, and the educational material cycles around the 28-day period, and is not sequential. With half of all graduates failing in the first three months of returning to their home environment, Chalmers wanted to try to fix those limitations and see if success could be improved.

The Road is four months long, which is four times as long as most treatment programs. Next it is individualized and includes over 32 hours of individual therapy. The treatment process happens while the person is in their normal life, dealing with the real issues they face every day. As they move through their normal activities, they identify and target specific areas that are challenges—not in a group setting, but individually.

Tasks are specifically designed to help them address areas that are sabotaging their success. With individual one-on-one time, it is possible to carefully trouble-shoot exactly where therapeutic effort needs to be focused. Because time spent with others on the same path is critical, The Road includes staying in a clean and sober home.

Because the treatment components of The Road are designed around exactly what the individual needs, to begin The Road an individual must first go through a lengthy diagnostic and evaluation process to see both, if they are appropriate for this type of treatment, and to discover exactly what is sabotaging their success. The evaluation enables Chalmers to choose the right treatment components needed for success. This individualized plan is then blended into a plan (or “Road Map”), which includes core factors that research and Chalmers’ experience show contribute to long term success. Since hope and focus are the key elements in removing addiction from the grip it holds over a person’s life, The Road focuses on where the person is going, and builds a solid foundation for real hope.

Is The Road ideal? Can it work in every situation? Is it a replacement for traditional treatment? Absolutely not. However, Chalmers’ exciting brainchild is showing itself to be highly effective for individuals who have already received some of the benefits of traditional treatment but need something more to succeed.

Although it is too early to say how longer-term programs like The Road will compare to other approaches, so far, after the first year, for clients who have entered The Road with alcohol, methamphetamine, heroin, or a variety of other drugs, early indications are extremely positive.

Verlin Chalmers was born in Honolulu Hawaii in 1948. He spent his childhood with his family and father who was a preacher dedicated to a life of tent meetings and alter calls, following the “Sawdust Trail” across the South and North-Eastern US. He graduated from John F. Kennedy University with a major in Clinical Psychology, and became a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in 1983. He has trained in various forms of therapeutic approaches such as Gestalt, Cognitive Therapy, Rational Emotive Therapy, EMDR, Biofeedback and Addiction Training at St. Helena Hospital’s Hazelden Treatment program. He has worked with several rock bands and artists, always with an interest in helping individuals get unstuck and moving towards success.

Design Don’ts: Mistakes to Avoid When Working on Your Interior

Design Don'ts

With the advent of Home and Garden television, we have all seen shows on how to design the interior of our homes. In addition, there is an abundance of articles online and in magazines with names like “Design Tips,” “Design Trends,” and “Design 101.” It is, however, a little more difficult to learn what pitfalls to avoid before you even begin your design project. Below is a list of the top design pitfalls; a list of what NOT to do:

Don’t settle for blah if you love bold. Select colors that fit your personality and coordinate with things you love. Often, people “chicken out” and select too many neutrals because they are afraid they will get tired of the color. You are much more likely to get tired of blah neutrals than a color you love.

Don’t make your favorite color the main color. If you love aubergine, don’t paint the walls aubergine and purchase aubergine furniture. Instead, choose a more subtle color for the background and let your favorite color “pop” as a contrast.

Don’t paint first. Select your fabrics, upholstery, and area rugs first. There are thousands of paint colors to choose from and you can always have one custom mixed to go with your color scheme.

Don’t select the colors of paint, fabric, flooring, etc., in a store or design studio. Ask for samples and swatches of the items to take home and view in your home. You need to see how they look at different times of the day and in different lighting conditions. Many CFL light bulbs make colors look more green, while incandescent lighting tends to bring out the yellows.

Don’t push all the furniture up against the wall. You may think that a room will look larger if the middle of the floor is open, without furniture. But the opposite is true. Move the furniture into groupings in the center. Arrange a sofa with a table behind it. Move chairs out of the corners and you’ll have a more open, airy look in your room.

Don’t choose furniture that doesn’t fit. You wouldn’t wear clothes that are baggy or way too tight, so why would you try to make furniture that isn’t the right size work. Measure your space before you shop for furniture. You or your designer can draw the room to scale and include furniture that is the correct size and scale. Alternatively, you can tape the outline of furniture you are considering to see how it feels. Also, consider the ceiling height. If you have a ten foot ceiling you may not want a low back sofa. It will look silly in the room.

Don’t float a rug in the middle of the room. The elements in a room should not only be visually connected but also physically. The rug should be tucked under the front legs of sofas and chairs. This makes the room visually more attractive and also prevents a tripping hazard.

Design Don'ts

Don’t display every personal treasure. Select fewer, more important pieces. Although the temptation is to display all of the items you picked up on your many trips abroad, keep some of them in storage and swap them out from time to time. With less clutter each one will stand out more.

Don’t use too many patterns and prints. While you can use many patterns and prints in one room, it is important to balance large and or bold prints with solids, stripes, and smaller patterns.

Don’t invest heavily in trends. It’s okay to put one trendy piece in a room to give it a fresh, updated feel but too many trendy pieces will be expensive and painful considering the trends change all too often.

Don’t decorate with family heirlooms whether you like them or not. Your home should reflect who you are, not who your wealthy grandparents were. You may be able to work in a piece here or there but don’t feel obligated to keep a piece just because your parents or grandparents spent a lot of money on it when they purchased it.

Don’t forget the details. People often ask me why their room doesn’t look like the one in the picture. It is always the details that make the difference. Find interesting lamps, arrange books neatly, add decorative pillows to your furniture, and include candles and fresh flowers.

Don’t let someone make choices for you. Your home is your personal space and should be a reflection of your personal style. It is always good to get ideas, choices, and suggestions from friends, family and a professional interior designer but in the end, it is your home and you should feel comfortable there.

If you avoid these common mistakes you will have a home that you can be proud of and is a reflection of you and the way you live.

Cindi L. StephensonAbout the Author: Cindi L Stephenson is a Senior Interior Designer at J. Hettinger Interiors in Danville. Her education includes a B.A. in City Planning, an M.B.A. in Marketing and a B.A. in Interior Design. Throughout years of International travel and post graduate study, Cindi has developed an understanding of traditions, culture, and design. “When you experience different cultures and different points of view, it opens up your perspective. Design should have a link with authenticity. I often add new materials and textures to create a fresh approach to the classics.” You can see Cindi’s portfolio at P 925.963.2147

Are You Addicted to Sugar, Fat, and Salt?

Are you Addicted to Sugar, Salt, and Fat?
It’s in our face every time we turn around. Warnings that obesity is reaching epidemic proportions and is a known cause of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and stroke. A recent CNN Health article stated that more than 100,000 cases of cancer each year are caused by excess body fat. Do you ever wonder why a nation such as ours—filled with so many intelligent people—is continually giving in to extremely unhealthy food choices?

In his book, The End of Overeating—Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite, former U.S. Food and Drug Administrator David Kessler, M.D., sheds light on how the brain and body respond to rich, unhealthy foods. Dr. Kessler explains how foods high in sugar, fat, and salt alter the brain’s chemistry by creating a release of powerful chemicals, such as dopamine and natural pain-killing substances called opioids. Surprisingly, these are the very same chemicals that are released when people are addicted to alcohol, cigarette smoking, drugs, and gambling.

Addictive cycles can result due to “cue-urge-reward” patterns. And let’s face it; in our lives today there are no shortages of extremely seductive food “cues” that result in “urges” (aka: cravings). Most of us are bombarded with unhealthy food cues and temptations every day and evening—via the media or a well-intentioned family member or our work environments.

If we continue on the “cue-urge-reward” path and we succumb to the “urge,” then the so-called “reward” phase is when the dopamine and opioids are released…offering us a mood alter. For this reason, when our behavioral patterns become conditioned responses to cues (or stimuli)—such as foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—then the biological circuits of our brains are altered.

Meanwhile, countless prepared foods that are sold today are loaded or layered with this “tantalizing trio” of sugar, fat, and salt. For example, a leading food consultant (who did not want to be identified to protect his business) described to Dr. Kessler how the “layering” of fat and salt often occurs in the production of Potato Skins. Here’s what the food consultant shared:
“Typically the potato is hollowed out and the skin is fried, which provides a substantial surface area for what he calls ‘fat pickup.’ Then some combination of bacon bits, sour cream, and cheese is added. The result is fat on fat on fat on fat, much of it loaded with salt.”

Isn’t it disappointing to see how much of today’s food industry is cashing in on this disturbingly lucrative trend toward selling foods that are loaded or layered with high levels of sugar, fat, and salt? Unfortunately, many of us are ingesting these foods at the expense of our health…and our children’s health.

On the other hand, while small amounts of sugar, fat, and salt in our diets are necessary, high doses can trigger chronic emotional and compulsive eating. Since we now know that our brain circuitry is physically affected and altered by eating foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—it’s no wonder that many of us feel powerless when a food craving hits…and hopeless when it comes to losing weight.

Can you relate? If so…you’re certainly not alone. When I work with weight loss clients, I offer various mind-body tools that include educational, cognitive-behavioral exercises and self-hypnosis. Cognitive behavioral exercises teach my clients how to observe, measure, and modify their unhealthy behaviors. Whereas, self-hypnosis offers a relaxed, focused state where unhealthy conditioned responses can be addressed at a deep, unconscious level—below the surface.

And, here’s some GREAT NEWS: According to clinical studies, when self-hypnosis was added to a weight loss program that utilized cognitive behavioral exercises—the resulting weight loss more than doubled. These clinical studies also showed that the positive effects of self-hypnosis increased over time—which indicates that long-term maintenance of weight loss is strengthened by the use of self-hypnosis.

So, if you’re ready to interrupt your own “cue-urge-reward” patterns—that relate to foods high in sugar, fat, and salt—then take the first step onto a solid weight loss path…and contact me. I will teach you cutting-edge tools that will help to propel you toward your goals and transform hope-LESSness…into hope-FULLness.

Attend Trina’s Inspiring Workshop: Managing Emotional and Compulsive Eating for Women at John Muir Women’s Health Center: 1656 N. California Blvd., Suite 100, Walnut Creek, Thursday, Oct 21, 6:30-8:30 pm. Seats are limited—register today: (925) 941-7900 option 3.

For more info, go to & click on “Private Sessions & Workshops”

To receive my FREE newsletter “Trina’s Transformational Tips for Mindful Living,” sign-up on my website:

Trina Swerdlow, BFA, CCHT, is a certified clinical hypnotherapist, an artist, and the author of the 2-CD Set, Weight Loss: Powerful & Easy-to-Use Tools for Releasing Excess Weight. She is also the author of Stress Reduction Journal: Meditate and Journal Your Way to Better Health. Her CDs and her book are available from John Muir Women’s Health Center online store:
Trina has a private practice in downtown Danville. You can reach her at: (925) 285.5759, or To receive her free newsletter, “Trina’s Transformational Tips for Mindful Living,” sign-up at her site: (Certified Clinical Hypnotherapy services in California can be alternative or complementary to licensed healing arts, such as psychotherapy.)
Photo by Susan Wood,

Things I Just Don’t Get

Things I Just Don't Get
Despite my age (48) and relatively uneventful suburban lifestyle, I like to think I’m cool. I have a youthful taste in music (Timbaland and Timberlake, Katy Perry, and Ke$ha), my television viewing preferences are cutting edge (Friday Night Lights, Glee and Modern Family), and while I did enjoy Despicable Me slightly more than Inception, I thought Eclipse was better than both. Did I mention that I Facebook? I Facebook like crazy. I post, comment and game. However, whether it’s demographic, geographic or telegraphic (I needed a third graphic reference), there are a lot of things in this world that I just don’t get. There are a lot of fads, whims and trends that strike me as silly, dopey or lame. A lot of traditions seem dated, out of touch or ridiculous. Does that make me un-cool? I don’t think so! In my opinion it makes me relevant. The following is a list of pop culture things I just don’t get.

I don’t get every periodical having a BEST OF issue. It would seem that every magazine, newspaper and family blog has an annual BEST OF issue. The best sea food restaurant, the best drycleaners, the best free WIFI location within a book store or chain coffee shop or the best antibacterial suppository. If everything is voted The BEST is anything actually the best? Do loyal patrons of the establishments stuff the on-line ballot boxes? Does a retailer’s advertising contribution to the periodical have anything to do with their BEST OF rating? At last check, eleven different nail salons in the Tri-Valley have framed BEST OF awards hanging in their entrances. Being somewhat new to the pleasures of nail maintenance, how am I supposed to know the best place to get a mani/pedi if every place proclaims to be the best? My vote for the Best magazine that doesn’t have an annual BEST OF issue is ……ALIVE.

I don’t get the fascination with vampires. Those bloodsucking non-dead 20-something runway models in the Twilight saga, True Blood, the Vampire Chronicles or in the band Vampire Weekend all seem so dark and creepy. Not that I have anything against dead people, we preach acceptance at our house, it’s just that I find living people to be much more fun and spontaneous. The problem is dead people are cold, pale and they only want to hang out at night. I’m a warm blooded sun worshiper who tends to get tired around midnight. While I can’t really say that I’m a Team Jacob dad, those darn Vampires are everywhere. You can bet you’re O+ virgin neckline I won’t be vacationing in Forks, Washington anytime soon.

I don’t get Tweeting. Why do I want to know someone’s every mundane action? I don’t. I truly have no interest in knowing that you’re having coffee on the veranda, enjoying a book while at the dog park or that you’re in the process of inserting the best antibacterial suppository. I know I’m interesting and entertaining, but I don’t have some inflated self worth that leads me to believe anyone else will find me interesting or entertaining. Actually, I do, that’s why I write these magazine articles. Tweeting is a way to say everything you wouldn’t otherwise say, because secretly we truly know – NO ONE CARES! And yet, when people Tweet, they have the illusion that their 140 character bites are insightful, motivating or newsworthy. LOL. Granted, this text based social networking and microblogging service may be the future of communication, but I’m going Tweetless for now.

I don’t get Justin Bieber.
This marginally talented kid appears to be either part troll or part Muppet. I get that he was discovered by posting You Tube videos of himself singing and dancing, but come on, he’s all of 4’11”, he wears hip hop outfits from Old Navy and all three Jonas brothers can sing circles around him. For all you parents reading this, isn’t Justin just the modern day Keith Partridge? Except David Cassidy (aka Keith Partridge) could act and play guitar. Maybe Justin is the modern day Danny Partridge. Years from now, I could see Justin hosting some sad radio call-in show, making personal appearances at grocery store grand openings and appearing as a B-list celebrity on The Surreal Life or Celebrity Boot Camp.

I don’t get Back to School Shopping. Why shop for school clothes before school starts? Wouldn’t it make more sense to show up in last year’s clothes to see what’s hot and fly (that’s right, I used the word Fly) before you spend thousands of dollars on your academic wardrobe. Every school has a Fashionista clique who will set the tone for the next nine months, so why let your kids make their own decisions when you know it will end with them saying something like, “I need to buy all new clothes” by the middle of September.

I don’t get campaign spending. Why would you spend a gazillion dollars just to get elected to a crumby government job that pays maybe forty grand a year? Does the title of Senator, Governor of Congressman carry that much prestige and power? How good does it feel to spend all that money and not win the election? Here’s a thought, if you really want to make a difference in the community why not contribute some of that “throw away” money to a few of the local deserving charities. Chances are, if the check is big enough, organizations such as Children’s Hospital or Camp Arroyo might be willing to designate a title for you. The Earl of Donationville or Lord Big Donator sounds pretty important and swanky.

I don’t get JaMarcus Russell. He was the number 1 draft pick by the Oakland Raiders in the NFL a few years ago and now he’s chugging cough syrup in the basement of his mom’s house. Where is your pride man? If the statistic I heard is correct, only about 1% of the college football players are drafted into the NFL each year and this guy has the audacity to hold out as a rookie, finally taking millions of dollars from the hapless Raiders, and when it does come time to show up and play he’s overweight, out of shape and can’t learn the plays. Who did the advance scouting and personality profile on this prospect, Al Davis? Back in the day, I would’ve paid the NFL to let me play for any team in their league.

I also don’t get gouging fans on food prices and parking at professional sporting events. I really don’t get bi-partisans voting in the House and Senate. Does anyone get Mel Gibson, veganism, Polka music or Ultimate Frisbee? It would appear that there are a lot of things I just don’t get or understand. Maybe I am getting old and crotchety. What’s the old saying, “If the music’s too loud, you’re too old” or something like that? Come to think of it, I don’t get why kids play the music so loud in their cars. If the bass is pounding so violently that the fillings in your teeth are coming loose, you might want to turn down the volume. That’s not un-cool that’s just common sense.

Stamps In My Passport: The Coriolis Force

Stamps In My Passport
While suffering through a formal scientific education, I was exposed to a vast number of astonishing, explicit truths that almost always manifested themselves in some mathematical formulas. Naturally, I believed them because I was told to do so by a teacher, but some of them were harder to swallow than others. The one I really had trouble believing was that when you flushed your toilet in the southern hemisphere the water spun in the opposite direction than it did here at home or at school. It was in the ninth or tenth grade when they first tried to sell me on this principle. I spent the next several months watching the water every time I flushed or washed my hands to make sure that it circled in the same direction; surprisingly, it did. They named this phenomenon, “The Coriolis Force.” I’ve never forgotten it, but it took almost thirty years before I could finally put it to the supreme test.

I was beside myself with pleasure. Barb and I were finally going to East Africa, with so many new and exciting adventures in store for us. All of the magnificent animals, an actual safari, Mt. Kilimanjaro, the Ngorongoro Crater—the list was endless, and I was ready. Even more important, I had a life-long question that I hoped to find the answer to. Does “The Coriolis Force” really exist?

The first test was done at the Nairobi airport. We had left Cairo on an absolutely cloudless day and followed the Nile River due south. The flight tracked the river for hours before the terrain changed from arid desert to occasional trees, then finally to the Rift Valley of Kenya. We were in the air for almost eight hours and by the time we had touched down, gone through customs, and cleared immigration, I found myself eager to find a restroom and test the hypothesis. My trip to the washroom was a success, and the theory proved to be correct— the water spun clockwise!

Stamps In My Passport

Sign in Mt. Kenya Safari Club that shows 00o latitude where you can place one foot in the Northern Hemisphere and the other in the Southern Hemisphere.

The second test took place at the Mt. Kenya Safari Club where we were lucky enough to spend a couple of glorious days. The grounds are beautifully manicured, and the guest cottages are out-of-this-world. On our first evening there, we enjoyed a long, seven-course meal in the main lodge and returned to our cottage to find a roaring fire in the bedroom fireplace and a hot water bottle between the sheets for our sleeping comfort. But the most spectacular room of all was the bath. It contained a huge sunken tub nestled up to a floor-to-ceiling glass wall, outside of which grew a collection of exotic equatorial plants. An ideal setting for my test. While the main lodge itself was a few meters to the north of the equator, my huge tub was located 100 meters south. Not wanting to waste the water, I luxuriated in the bath for almost an hour and then eventually pulled the plug. To my absolute astonishment and amazement, the water once again rotated clockwise.

The final and by far the most detailed experiment occurred about a week later in the Kenyan village of Nanyuki. An elaborate demonstration was rigged to illustrate this hard-to-fathom phenomenon. A shallow pie pan with a pinhole in the center was filled with water. Several small sticks resembling toothpicks were floated on the surface, and the plug covering the hole was removed. This test was repeated three times over a twenty-meter distance. When one walked ten meters into the Northern Hemisphere, the sticks rotated counter-clockwise as the water drained from the pan. The reverse was true when one walked ten meters into the Southern Hemisphere. And, lo and behold, when performed on the monument, which designated the actual equatorial line, the water did not rotate at all—it merely drained out.

My faith in science has been restored. I leave any practical application of the principle to you.

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition

Its Diesel Quick!

Passing Lane

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition

When it comes to sports sedans you might think of high performance V8 gas-burning engines. Well, Volkswagen has put a twist on it; how would you like a blend of performance and handling while getting 42-miles-per-gallon to boot? There is a catch; the power actually comes from a diesel in the form of a 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Edition.

In 2008, Volkswagen created the Jetta TDI Cup racing series for the purpose of generating exposure of its new clean diesel engine. As the excitement grew for a race-inspired version, VW decided to create a TDI Cup Edition street version for the 2010 model year. It appears their racing series created a buzz, and I was surprised at how many folks knew about the TDI Cup series. To identify this special edition, a checkered flag and “TDI cup edition” graphic runs across the bottom of the doors.

VW is probably the most successful manufacturer selling diesel powered sedans in the United States. The foundation of the 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition is the proven Jetta TDI model. Modifications to create the Cup Edition include the same full body kit found on the TDI Cup race cars with an aerodynamic front bumper, side skirts, and rear valance. Also included are 18-inch “Charleston” wheels with high-performance tires, larger GLI brakes with red painted calipers, and the European-tuned sport suspension from the GLI.

The interior “Cup” highlights include Sport seats with Interlagos cloth, a leather-wrapped, multi-function steering wheel, and brushed aluminum door sills mark the interior. The 2010 Jetta is well equipped with standard equipment including: air conditioning, Bluetooth™ , Sirius Satellite Radio, AM/FM/CD stereo system with MP3 CD readability, eight speakers and an auxiliary input jack, cruise control, eight-way power front seats, and a three-spoke steering wheel with tilt and telescope. A touch screen located in the center of the dash operates the audio controls. Below the screen is an SD card slot as another way to play stored music.

Our test model also came with an optional rear wing spoiler ($499), power sunroof ($1,000), six-speed auto transmission with Tiptronic ($1,100), floor mat kit with trunk liner ($225), and a media device interface for IPod© integration ($100).

A quick run through of the rest of the 2010 Jetta sedan model lineup are: S, Limited Edition, SE, Wolfsburg Edition, TDI and SEL. The Jetta also is available as a station wagon: S, SE and TDI trims. TDI stands for Turbocharged Direct Injection and also indicates that the engine is a diesel.

Performance for the TDI Cup Edition comes from the same 2.0-liter TDI clean diesel engine used in the base TDI model. The 2.0L employs an electronically-controlled turbocharger and common rail-direct fuel injection to guarantee smooth acceleration and less tailpipe emissions. It generates 140 horsepower and 236 lbs.-ft. of torque, sent through either a six-speed manual, or an optional six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG®) transmission with Tiptronic® control. Tiptronic allows you to run an automatic transmission in manual mode and in this case shift gears using paddle shifters located on the steering wheel. The non-diesel versions come with a 5-cylinder 2.5-liter, 170 hp engine.

Room for Improvement:

  • The front spoiler sits pretty low causing it to easily get scraped in dips or steep driveways
  • No navigation system is available

Cool Features:

  • TDI Cup series body kit
  • Great fuel economy – 30 City and 42 Highway (can go up to 600 miles on a single tank of gas)

The 2010 Jetta TDI Cup Edition’s safety list is extensive. In the inside, the Jetta comes standard with front, thorax, and side curtain airbags for both the driver and front passenger, as well as side curtain airbags for the rear passengers. Other mechanical safety features include Anti-Lock Brakes (ABS), Electronic Differential Lock, Anti-Slip Regulation, Engine Braking Assist and Electronic Stability Program®.

In Summary – The 2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition starts at $24,990 with a manual transmission. Not a bad price for a sporty diesel. The body kit truly adds to the racing theme along with the side stripes, aluminum trim, and optional spoiler. Both the front and rear seats were comfortable and the handling was confident and tight. I found the TDI Cup Edition to add just enough character to make this Jetta stand out in a crowd. As I think the Jetta is fun to drive; you’ll be driven to find out for yourself.

For more information and a complete list of features and specification go to

Passing Lane

2010 Volkswagen Jetta TDI Cup Edition

  • Base price:  $24,990  as driven: $31,113 (including destination and optional equipment)
  • Engine:  2.0-Liter 4-cylinder diesel turbocharged
  • Horsepower: 140 @ 4000
  • Torque:  236 pound-feet @ 1750 rpm
  • Transmission:  6-speed manual (test car: six-speed Direct Shift Gearbox (DSG®)
    Drive: Front Wheel-Drive
    Seating: 5-passenger
    Turning circle:  35.8 feet
    Cargo space:  16 cubic feet
    Curb weight:  3230 pounds
    Fuel capacity:  14.5 gallons
    EPA mileage:   42 highway, 30 city
    Wheel Base: 101.5 inches
    Warranty: 3 years/36,000 miles
    Also consider:  Ford Focus, Honda Civic, Kia Forte, Mazda 3i (note: these models are all equipped with gas engines, no other comparable diesel engine vehicles are available)

Climate at The Rouge: Mild and Breezy Fall Styles with a Chance of Being Beautified and Updated

A new season is unfolding and it brings great ideas and inspiration for new styles in make-up and new colors to try. The transition from summer to fall should be simple, effortless and fun. With cooling temperatures Fleur Visage Fall Cosmetic Collection is perfect to the trends that will make an impact on the clothes we wear. While green and the military influence is everywhere this season in clothing, don’t do the mistake of applying green eye shadow to go with what you are wearing. It is just too much. Wear colors that will contrast; like peach eye shadow combinations or browns, a soft coral lip-color would be a great look too.
As you can see, I admire creativity immensely. Ideas inspire me. To challenge the status quo is to look from a different perspective and think with an open mind and outside of the box. I have always been fascinated by the way current trends evolve, causing fashion to change. It’s not what we wear or the make-up style we choose, but also how we live, what we read, the foods we eat, the websites and blogs we visit and the music we enjoy. Naturally I consider all elements of style from clothing to nail polish to see “what’s in fashion.” Make-up is so personal with everyone choosing their own style, it can be challenging. In every sense, make-up is all about the lifestyle we live and the influences around us. Most women know what they want but they just don’t know how to get it. So that is where I come in. I help you achieve what you want by knowing the trends and staying very close to what you really need and want.  
Modern Vintage Eyes
Eyes are dominant this season with a fresh new smooth look. Matte colors are everywhere, so your fashionista chic style this season, think 1920’s vintage but with a modern, fresh look. To start, choose a neutral tone in a light vanilla matte to make the eyes look brighter. For definition and to frame the eyes, add a lush matte taupe eye color in the crease. Follow by applying a small amount of black gel liner next to the base of the lashes to give depth. This look is effortless, gorgeous and simple.
Fresh and Cheeky
Enjoy fresh looking, glowy skin by using face shimmers on the cheeks. Face shimmers this season is a must have. It makes the skin look smooth, vibrant with a beautiful sheen. Apply a nice rosey blush over the shimmer for a sweet and dewy complexion.
Softly Sheer Lips
Sparklingly soft lips are just a click away with this fall’s newest innovations in lip-options. From lightly pigmented tint glosses, to naturally lovely moisturizing semi-sheers—it is all about being real, so pucker up gals and smooth on some new scrumptious soft lip colors.
Enjoy coming in to The Rouge to view our special Fleur Visage Fall Collection of beauty options. We offer beauty updates of new fashion styles, ideas and fresh perspectives. With tinted lip-glosses leading the charge this season of course there will always be things that don’t vary, we call them “Things We Still Love” and they include Glossy Luscious Lips and Black Mascara!


The Dirt Gardener: Thanks for Asking

Dirt Gardener
Q. What is the rule of thumb for planting bulbs? I never seem to find my bulb chart when I need it. In addition, when is the latest that spring flowering bulbs can be planted?

A. The planting season for spring flowering bulbs begins around mid October when the warm fall temperatures have concluded. It continues through the end of the year: although, most of the bulbs planted in the ground are done by Thanksgiving. Spring bulbs are best purchased early as the selection is limited by the end of October. Freesias, Anemones and Rannuculus can be planted into February. Tulips and Daffodils planted after the beginning of the year produce flowers on short stems. Bulbs can be stored in a cool location until the optimum planting time. Because they sweat, store them in paper or mess bags. If they’re in plastic, release the moisture by opening the tops of the bag(s). The general rule of thumb for the planting depth is three times the vertical height of the bulb itself. The planting area should be generously amended with organic matter such as homemade compost or soil conditioner. The water needs to drain away after each winter storm; otherwise, they will rot. You also need to add a teaspoon or tablespoon of Bulb Food under each bulb. The amount depends on the size of the bulb. A second application of fertilizer is made after blooming.

Planting bulbs in containers is very popular today. I’d guess that more bulbs are planted in pots than in the ground. Container bulbs are planted in any of the many commercial potting soils or planting mixes available at your favorite garden center. If you are reusing a clay or terra cotta pot, you should sterilize it first to eliminate any of the over-wintering fungus. This is easily done by washing the containers in a solution of one part household bleach to nine parts water. Since the household bleach is an irritant, it’s recommended that you wear gloves. The pots are then air dried at least over night before planting. Ideally, you should pick a container that will allow the bulbs the proper room for the root development. Many times, they end up at depths that do not meet the planting depth guidelines and that is okay. This is especially true if you’re piggybacking or layering different types of bulbs in the same container. The commercial produced spring flowering bulbs have the nose of the bulbs at the soil surface. The planting depth in containers is all over chart so I’d pick a depth that seems reasonable. You don’t have to wait until spring to enjoy these containers. By adding pansies, violas, primulas or any of the other seasonal color, they can be placed on the deck, patio or balcony today.

Note: For information on all types of spring and summer flower bulbs, is an ideal reference source. The bulb guides are very good on the specific bulbs.

In addition, the following website has bulb-planting chart for future reference

Buzz Bertolero is Executive Vice President of Navlet’s Garden Centers and a California Certified Nursery Professional. His web address is and you can send questions by email at or to 360 Civic Drive Ste. ‘D’, Pleasant Hill, Calif. 94523

Open House or Virtual Staging: Yea or Nay?

Q. Tom, I may be selling my home soon; what is the honest truth regarding the effectiveness of my agent ‘holding a Sunday open house from 1-4pm’? I hear conflicting stories regarding whether the activity works to my benefit.

I understand how you feel; there is a great deal of inaccurate information out there in the real estate world. To be forthright, the vast majority of homes would and do sell without ever being held open on Sunday. In fact, by most statistical accounts, less than 5% of all homes sold nationwide sell as a direct result of a weekend open house. If every agent would provide a candid response regarding the effectiveness of open houses as it pertains to sellers, the practice would probably disappear. Case in point: if you asked ten agents how many of their last ten listings sold as a direct result of a buyer walking into an open house (unattached to another agent) and buying it, I doubt it would account for more than one or two sales. So, it begs the question: why are Sunday open houses so prevalent on the weekends? It’s because many agents have over-promised for such a long time on the actual effectiveness of an open house, it has resulted in sellers coming to expect this activity as part of a valid marketing plan. Since agents see this “face-to-face time” with potential buyers and neighbors as an opportunity for future sales, the practice continues every weekend in most communities. The policy I advocate: tell sellers the truth and allow them to make the choice.

Q. What’s going on with real estate commissions in today’s market? Are they going up or down?

Let me first affirm that real estate commissions are negotiable by law – a statement printed on every front page of every California Association of Realtors residential listing agreement. And keep in mind that when a seller agrees to an overall fee with his or her listing agent, the fee for the buyer’s agent (sometimes called the selling agent) is also set at the same time. Now to your question… commissions eroded a fair amount back in the heyday of real estate when it seemed like every other person you knew had a real estate license and competition for business was feverish. In today’s market, depending on the business model of the real estate firm you choose to deal with, the total commission usually ranges from about 4% to 6% of the purchase price. Once again, it can be whatever percentage you choose to negotiate but my experience is that you get what you pay for. A professional Realtor’s experience, knowledge & skill can provide a tangible return on the seller’s (and buyer’s) investment in the way of improved pricing, better terms, lower stress, less risk and fewer problems before, during and after the sale.

Q. A couple months ago you addressed the pros & cons of “staging” a home prior to coming to market. I just recently heard of “virtual staging.” What is it?

Virtual staging is a controversial concept whereby the pictures used in the marketing of the home are ‘digitally’ altered to show the home as it could be instead of how it actually is. Imagine a family room in a home with hardwood flooring, beautiful windows and custom lighting, none of which are there in real life! Realtor trade associations are now working out the necessary disclosure requirements of virtual staging so that properties are fairly represented by agents and sellers to the consumer. After all, no buyer likes to be surprised or be subjected to reading the ‘fine print’ of potentially misleading electronic marketing. This is an evolving issue with more to come later.

Tom Hart

Tom Hart

Tom Hart is a practicing Real Estate Broker and a partner at Empire Realty Associates in Danville. He is a Certified Master Negotiator by the University of San Francisco and a Certified Master Strategist by HSM Harvard Program on Negotiation. He is past president of the Contra Costa Association of Realtors (2005) and past president of the Realtors’ Marketing Association of the San Ramon Valley. Tom is in high demand as a speaker & trainer inside & outside the real estate industry.

Market Fresh: Embracing Autumn

Market Fresh
Embracing Autumn

September at the Danville farmers’ market celebrates the best of both worlds. As early fall crops like apples and pears appear, we still have access to irresistible summer fruits like strawberries, figs, and melons. This is also an especially good time to load up on just-picked corn and vine-ripened tomatoes—sweeter than ever, with end-of-summer prices to please your pocketbook. It’s going to be a long, lonely winter without vine-ripened tomatoes, so I plan on getting my fill this month.

I am not one to graciously accept a gratuitous tomato slice in December (or during a lot of other months, for that matter). Spare me tomatoes grown in greenhouses or shipped from faraway lands. I cringe when I see them thrown into salads, tucked inside an otherwise respectable sandwich, or artfully arranged on a dinner plate “for color.” We’ve all endured those anemic orbs—tough on the outside and dry and grainy inside. Mystery produce trying to pass for the real thing. No thank you. I can wait.

The following dish is one way to capture the flavor of summer before it’s too late. Serve this as a side dish or light entrée, with plenty of good crusty bread to mop up the juices. Use the most flavorful tomatoes you can find—any color and any variety; they don’t need to be picture-perfect. And when possible, use a combination of green and yellow zucchini—the contrasting ribbons of color provide added visual interest.

Market Fresh

Zucchini Linguine with No-Cook Tomato Sauce
For the No-Cook Tomato Sauce:
1 to 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, crushed through a press
1 teaspoon salt
Pinch of crushed hot red pepper flakes
4 to 6 tablespoons California extra-virgin olive oil
2 pounds assorted vine-ripened tomatoes, cored and cut into 1/2-inch dice
about 1/3 cup coarsely torn or chopped fresh basil

For the Zucchini Linguine:
2 pounds small-to-medium zucchini or other summer squash, skin on
2 to 3 tablespoons California extra-virgin olive oil, as needed

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

  1. In a large serving bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon of the vinegar, the garlic, salt, and pepper flakes. Use a fork to blend in the 4 tablespoons of oil. Gently stir in the tomatoes and basil, to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature at least 15 minutes or as long as 2 hours to blend flavors. Taste, adding more vinegar, salt, pepper flakes, or oil if needed.
  2. Rinse the zucchini well with cold water and pat dry. Trim off and discard the ends. Using a julienne peeler* or mandoline, peel the zucchini lengthwise, evenly working your way all around the squash, and dropping the strips into a large bowl. Continue peeling the firm flesh until you reach the seed core; discard the core. Peel all the remaining zucchini in the same manner. Gently toss the strips to separate them.
  3. In a large skillet, warm the oil over medium heat. Working in batches if necessary, add the zucchini and season lightly with salt. Using tongs, toss the zucchini gently to coat with oil. Continue cooking, stirring and tossing, until the zucchini is warm and wilted, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a warm serving platter or shallow bowl.
  4. Pour the tomato sauce over the zucchini and toss again. Serve at once, and pass Parmesan cheese at the table. Serves 4 to 6.

* A julienne peeler is an inexpensive gadget to make matchstick-size strips of any length. You’ll find them in cookware shops and in the housewares department of many well-stocked supermarkets. Alternatively, use a potato/vegetable peeler to shave strips from the zucchini; then use a knife to cut each strip lengthwise into thin ribbons that resemble linguine.

This recipe adapts well to improvisation, so set your spirit free.

  • For variation, toss Zucchini Linguine with pesto instead of tomato sauce, perhaps adding a few toasted pine nuts or sliced almonds.
  • Serve Zucchini Linguine without the tomato sauce as a vegetable side dish, sautéed in olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. Finish it off with a little fresh Parmesan, finely grated lemon zest, or minced fresh herb if you like.
  • For a faster, heartier dish, combine No-Cook Tomato Sauce with 1 pound of freshly cooked pasta instead of zucchini.
  • Toss in about 4 ounces of room-temperature fresh whole milk mozzarella cheese, cut into 1/2-inch pieces; or tiny boccacini. The heat from the just-cooked zucchini (or pasta) will gently melt the cheese, adding gooey richness. If mozzarella doesn’t suit your mood, try another soft cheese like Italian Taleggio or goat cheese.
  • Vary the herb in the sauce according to whim: chopped fresh mint is zesty and refreshing; tarragon brings a decidedly French accent; cilantro makes me think Mexico—and prompts me to add a pinch of ground cumin, finely chopped jalapeño, and a handful of fresh corn kernels. And when you’re faced with picky eaters at your table, good ol’ reliable parsley adds color and subtle zip without causing them undue anxiety.
  • Onion lovers should seize this opportunity to add a bit of thinly sliced mild onion— or green onions—to the tomato sauce. Chopped sweet bell pepper is another tasty tidbit; ditto for pitted olives, capers, and anchovies.

Come to think of it, this might just be a good time to clean out your refrigerator.

The Danville Certified Farmers’ Market, located at Railroad and Prospect, is open every Saturday, rain or shine, from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. For specific crop information call the Pacific Coast Farmers’ Market Association at 1-800-949-FARM or visit their web site at