Cooking Up Collaboration

By STORY BY DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN; PHOTO BY JOHN GASTALDO | midnight March 2, 2016 | Updated, 8:05 a.m.
While some companies rely on brainstorming sessions or retreats to encourage cooperation in the office, Jodi Abel invites them to bring their employees into her kitchen.

The La Jolla resident drew on her experience as a former teacher and self-described “certified foodie” to develop menus, recipes and lesson plans that use cooking as a means of corporate team-building. (More at

Just as families gather in the kitchen to prepare and enjoy meals, the businesses she entertains build camaraderie and collaboration by cooking California cuisine under her supervision. The end result – a healthy gourmet meal – is the reward of their teamwork.

Abel, 58, hit upon the idea after participating in a similar class while traveling in Italy. Since then, she has added to her culinary repertoire by studying cooking in other places, including Spain, France and South Africa.

She blogs about her events as well, sharing recipes, kitchen tips and memories, and writes on her website: “Food has a magical way of bringing people together.”

Q: Please describe what you do.

A: I conduct unique and intimate team-building events; all participants play an active role in preparing their meal. We also host couples for special occasions and I offer private cooking classes. I write a monthly food blog and just published my first cookbook, titled “California Cuisine.”

Q: How did you become interested in teaching cooking?

A: I had an epiphany in Italy about nine years ago. My husband surprised me with my very first cooking class at a woman’s home in Umbria, Italy. I cooked with my host, Tia, for two days and was so inspired by what she did; welcoming people into her home and teaching them her family recipes. I thought to myself that I could do what Tia does in my Tuscan-inspired home in La Jolla. I spent five months researching everything I could on Californian cuisine and cooked up a storm. My husband helped design my website and I opened my doors in January of 2008.

Q: What is your experience in the culinary arts?

A: I am a self-taught chef. I take cooking classes around the world when I travel in an effort to stay current with the global food scene.

Q: What gave you the idea to use cooking classes as a corporate team-building exercise?

A: After I secured my first company for team building, it made good business sense to pursue corporate team building. There is obviously strength in numbers in my business. Economically speaking, my time in the kitchen, including shopping for the necessary ingredients, plus prep work is the same for two people as it is for 15 to 25. I also have a unique and intimate venue for corporations. My home sits on top of Mount Soledad and offers beautiful ocean views. It’s refreshing to be out of the office doing an event such as this; we are not another hotel room or restaurant. The companies love it!

Q: How does cooking together foster teamwork and collaboration?

A: Cooking at its core is essentially a team-building exercise. As a chef you’re collaborating; you’re relying on others in your kitchen – each plays a critical role that determines the outcome. We see the same collaboration play out when we divide up a company’s participants into groups. Each group wants to succeed. Each group recognizes that success is dependent upon teamwork. However, it’s teamwork in a fun environment and the result is a wonderful meal and there’s always wine and dessert.

Q: Please tell us about your approach to California cuisine, and how you develop your recipes.

A: I have developed four key ingredients that are my foundation for cooking: extra virgin olive oil, fresh garlic, citrus juice and sea salt. You can create an entire meal from these four ingredients: Salad dressing, vegetable sauté and marinade for protein. Then you build from there by bringing in other flavors. I have developed over 400 recipes and have featured my favorites in my recently published cookbook, “California Cuisine: Fresh, Simple and Delicious.” I also feature vegan and paleo alternatives to most of the recipes in the cookbook. So there are recipes for everyone.

Q: What are your tips on how to plan a menu for a family or business event?

A: Be organized and plan your weekly meals in advance. Get the family engaged for a day of cooking together. Shop and prep for your meals in advance so when you get home from work all you have to do is cook. Make extra portions to freeze for another day.

Q: What are any fundraisers or benefits you contribute to?

A: We have hosted and done fundraising for Volunteers of America, Jewish National Fund and others. I am also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier and part of its mission is to provide philanthropic support in the culinary arts.

Q: What is most rewarding about your work?

A: Meeting people from all over the world and sharing my passion for food and cooking. I love hearing their stories and learning from their cooking tips as well. Many of their stories are featured in my cookbook.

Q: What’s the best advice you ever received?

A: Plan ahead, be organized and always have plan A, B and C.

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I lived in Israel for two years between 1979 and 1981.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: Doing yoga, going to the beach and eating with my family.

[email protected]

What I love about La Jolla…

I love the beauty of La Jolla. I literally pinch myself every day that I am so fortunate to live in such a beautiful place. I also love my neighbors; we have a fabulous chill and kind street where we all really look out for one another.


Every Swipe Benefits Charity Give-Back Program Featured in SD Business Journal

By Stephanie Glidden Originally published February 11, 2016 at 12:42 p.m., updated February 11, 2016 at 12:42 p.m.

At the recent Pay it Forward Processing Christmas party held at the Rancho Bernardo Winery, the Arthritis Foundation, San Diego office, was presented with a check for $3,226 from nonprofit Every Swipe Benefits Charity give-back program. The ESBC is a program that allows businesses to benefit their business, customers and the community. Through Pay it Forward, a national credit card processing company, net proceeds are donated from each business account to a charitable organization, at no cost to the business. Since ESBC’s inception two years ago, the program has generated more than $100,000 in donations to a carefully vetted group of more than 25 local and national charities.

The Every Swipe Benefits Charity arose from the ashes of Witch Creek Fires in San Diego in 2007. Renee VanHeel, founder and president of Pay it Forward Processing, lost her home during this disaster. As a result, she, along with a number of other fire survivors, formed “Fired Up Sisters,” and raised $5 million to help fellow fire survivors. Five years later, VanHeel founded the Every Swipe Benefits Charity program with the idea that if so much good could result from tragedy, much more could be done in good times. To date, the two-year-old charity has given more than $100,000 to 25 nonprofits. Visit,

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By BY DEBORAH SULLIVAN BRENNAN ;Photo by Eduardo Contreras | midnight Feb. 6, 2016 | Updated, 8:07 a.m.


Photo by Eduardo Contreras

For busy brides and grooms-to-be, the wedding planning process can be a dizzying trip to caterers, florists and photo- graphers. Pamela Noxon tries to streamline that process by bringing all the wedding pros under one tent at her Wedding Party EXPO in San Diego.

There, engaged couples can sample cake, sip cocktails and meet some 75 experts who can help them celebrate their marriage in style. The next one is on Valentine’s Day. For all the attention to detail, however, Noxon believes that engaged couples should focus on their unique relationship and create a ceremony that reflects their family history and future life.

Noxon, 53, of South Carlsbad, became involved in the wedding business through her work as an officiator, presiding over unique weddings ranging from multicultural and mixed religious ceremonies to same-sex marriages.

From there, she branched out to throwing expos that pull together the many elements needed for the big day, and blogging about the process on her website In a culture focused on “me,” she views weddings as one of the few rites of passage that join two individuals as “we.”

Q: Please tell us about the Wedding Party Expo.

A: There is a process to effectively planning a wedding. You have to find and hire a wide range of wedding professionals and you have to interview them to make sure they are the right people to have actually creating and attending one of the biggest, most personal days of your life with your entire family and world. Personalities play a big role in hiring wedding pros. You need a really good fit. If you are the laid-back, chill beachy couple, you may not want a very rigid event coordinator at your event directing things, and if you are a very structured, corporate go-getter you will not do well with the super relaxed “hang back and grab some artsy photos” photographer. Like the beginning of any relationship, you need to feel the person out to see if you (and your family and group) will mesh well with them. I found that San Diego desperately needed a wedding planning event that brought all the amazing people and things people wanted together in one gorgeous, stylish and fun day.

Q: What are some of the unique weddings you have officiated?

A: One wedding I did brought together a large family comprised of Christians, Jews and Muslims. Clearly a challenge to create a ceremony that would be sacred, yet respect everyone. Not being affiliated with any religion, I always worked to show that we are all the same and love is all that matters. I used to say that I spoke many languages, all of them “love.” I created a ceremony for that couple that they felt really spoke to everyone present.

Q: How do you see the role of the wedding as a rite of passage in our culture?

A: In our Western culture, we live for a very long time as individuals. We celebrate the individual deeply and have amazing opportunities for becoming empowered persons in our own right. But marriage is a completely different way of operating compared to functioning as an individual. To marry is to partner with another human being – you live differently, you decide things differently, you end up using your brain differently because you change from “I” thinking to “We” thinking and that is a huge transition to make emotionally and psychically. A wedding is a ritual that takes your whole world into account and celebrates the transformation of two individuals becoming one partnership. Of course, in our culture many people partner without marrying. But there’s something deep and in our DNA that makes a wedding a little more.

Q: What are some of the trends you see in wedding styles, customs or ceremonies?

A: Organic catering and locally sourced foods for receptions. Philanthropic catering by companies like Kitchens for Good. Much less DIY (do it yourself) than a few years ago; people are hiring experts to create a wedding day, not spray-painting mason jars for vases like during the recessions! More luxurious “Bohemian Luxe” style. Color, color, color. Elaborate cakes and dessert bars. Antique and vintage lounge furniture. Signature cocktails and unique libations. A lot of things that speak to the guests and keep them entertained. And authentic ceremonies that are very personal.

Q: What are any benefits or fundraisers you participate in?

A: I like to incorporate philanthropy into everything I do. will donate to a local charity with every ad sold: everything from animal shelters to Rebuilding Together homes and foster kids.

Q: What are your tips for brides and grooms planning a wedding?

A: Stay calm and focus on the bigger picture. Don’t get too bogged down in stuff. Focus on adding elements to your wedding that will generate emotion or connectedness. I actually feel like the planning process, which may sound grueling, is an important step in the transition. A wedding honors the tradition of your and your people’s past, while it reflects the couple as individuals. A wedding inspires people who attend to remember why they love, and it transforms the whole group into something more connected than they were when they arrived; it creates a new tribe or family. That matters.

Q: What’s the best advice

you ever received?

A: “Fill your own cup up to the brim with love and joy, then when you have enough it will overflow to others.”

Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you?

A: I am one-sixteenth Native American.

Q: Please describe your ideal San Diego weekend.

A: Eating a nice lunch at one of the many great local restaurants with my friends or my mom, reading, relaxing, and going for a drive in the mountains.

What I love about South Carlsbad …

It’s so quiet and friendly – I have great neighbors. I love having a yard that backs up to a wild area so I can pretend I am in the country.




“The Romance Show” Themed Show Includes Couture Fashion Shows and a
Huge Selection of Top Local Wedding Services, Stylists and Professionals and More

(SAN DIEGO) — The upcoming Sunday, February 14 specially-themed “Romance Show” Wedding Party Bridal Show, Southern California’s largest elegant bridal show, is full to the brim with lots of wedding party fun including incredible couture fashion shows, a special engagement photo shootout contest, and tons of the finest wedding services. The setting for San Diego’s 37th Wedding Party Bridal Show is the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Resort, 1441 Quivira Road San Diego CA 92109, from 11 am to 3 pm.

There will be ongoing designer bridal gown fashion shows, from 1 to 3, and a special VIP only fashion show at 11:30 am featuring high-end gowns from renowned bridal gown designer Sarah Janks. A second fashion show in the Fashion Show Lounge will feature the latest fashions from Vow to Be Chic [the fabulous bridesmaids dress option seen on Shark Tank!].

The February 14, 2016 Valentine’s Day ‘Romance’ theme show will have a special San Diego Engagement Photo Shoot Prize featuring some of the areas top photographers capturing the love in a FREE engagement session right at the show.

Four lucky couples will get an engagement shoot right at the show. Each couple gets paired with a top area wedding photographer like the incredible Tim Otto Photography. Your photographic artist will spend a little time with you at the Hyatt Regency Mission Bay Resort get to know you a little and to see your unique beauty in person and then do a FREE engagement shoot in gorgeous pre-staged areas designed by Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals.

Each of the 4 winning couples gets all retouched engagement photos from the shoot plus an 11” x 14” print of their fave photo from the shoot and all images on flash drive — total value $500.

Enter the contest on show website:

And the fan favorite Chocolate University at the show will feature Swiss-trained executive pastry Chef Urs Huwler, of Euro Pastry, who will bring eight flavors of chocolate and over 20 dipping items, four different brownies, six types of chocolate Mousse, flourless cake, and chocolate covered strawberries for tastings. Attendees can top it all off with the latest trending wedding must have by hand crafted beverages from the San Diego mixologists at Snake Oil Cocktail Co.

To get two free General Admission tickets to the February 14 Show [a $40 value!], ‘like the Wedding Party EXPO Facebook page and watch for posts. [look for the signup button at top]

A Wedding Party Bridal Show VIP ticket option that offers front row access to the runway, a $150 swag bag and valet parking is available for $50 [$50 in advance] at

Each Wedding Party Bridal Show brings together engaged couples, coordinators, and professionals to one beautiful location for an amazing bridal show experience totally unlike large, impersonal bridal expos. Creative, stylish and fun, each show is held at one of San Diego’s most beautiful wedding locations. It allows engaged couples and event planners to enjoy cocktails, tasty hors d’ouevres, chocolates and cakes, a couture fashion show, mini-make overs in the Beauty Lounge, wedding design tips by a huge selection of local experts and resources like Classic Blooms Studio Studio: Floral Design, Classy Event Group, The Dress Theory, Classic Blooms Florals, San Diego Style Weddings Magazine, Tim Otto Photography, JennyWenny Cakes, Cakes to Celebrate, Nicole Miller, Rancho Bernardo Inn, RSVP Weddings, Cory Cakes, Lauren Sharon Vintage Rentals, Dahlia Bridal Salon and more.

This special Show will also feature a huge hand-picked selection of the area’s finest wedding services and products including: top designer gowns and vintage gowns, tuxedos, gift registry, fashion accessories, photographers, videographers, honeymoon destinations, musicians, florists, officiants, caterers, coordinators, jewelers, makeup and hair stylists, the absolute finest local ceremony and reception venues and more.

The Wedding Party Bridal Show’s behind-the-scenes show production continues its tradition of going green with an online show program, emailing event tickets, offering brides reusable bags and encouraging attendees to carpool. To register for discounted advance tickets, visit . Tickets are $20 each at the door. All tickets include hors d’oeuvres, wine tasting, fashion shows, contests and more. Children under 5 are free, 5-12 are half price day-of only. VIP tickets available online with a champagne greeting, VIP swag bag worth over $150 and front row on the runway.

About The Wedding Party Bridal Show:
Founded by Pamela Ann Noxon, a local wedding professional since 1996, and The Wedding Party Bridal Show were created in 1998 as a fresh new resource for helping brides and grooms plan their San Diego wedding event. From her experience in helping behind-the-scenes with more than 500 weddings, Ms. Noxon saw firsthand how vastly different wedding services and products were in terms of their integrity, style and professionalism. and The Wedding Party Bridal Show introduces couples to the right wedding services, products and vendors for their wedding. For more information on and The Wedding Party Bridal Show, consult the website at: or call 760-635-1120. ##

Arthritis Foundation Receives Donation from Pay it Forward’s “Every Swipe Benefits Charity”

(SAN DIEGO) (JANUARY 2016) – At the recent Pay it Forward Processing (PFP) Christmas party held at the Rancho Bernardo Winery, the Arthritis Foundation, San Diego office, was presented with a check for $3,226 from “Every Swipe Benefits Charity “ (ESBC) unique give-back program. On hand for the check presentation were: (L to R) David and Renee VanHeel, CFO and president, respectively, and founders of Pay it Forward Processing; Tina Lorimer, CFO of the Arthritis Foundation; and Debbie Mendoza, senior account manager for San Diego PFP.

The ESBC is an innovative give-back program that allows businesses with an opportunity to benefit their business, customers and community. Through PFP, a national credit card processing company, net proceeds are donated from each business account to a charitable organization, at no cost to the business.

Since ESBC’s inception two years ago, the program has generated more than $100,000 in donations to a carefully vetted group of more than 25 local and national charities.

About “Every Swipe Benefits Charity”
Every Swipe Benefits Charity came to be from the ashes of Witch Creek Fires in San Diego in 2007. Renee VanHeel, founder and president of Pay it Forward Processing, had her home destroyed during this disaster. As a result, she, along with a number of other fire survivors, formed Fired Up Sisters, and took on the task of raising $5 million in goods, services and money to help fellow fire survivors. Five years later, VanHeel founded ESBC based on the notion that if so much good could come as a result of tragedy, so much more could be done in good times. Today, hundreds of businesses across the country participate in Pay it Forward Processing’s “Every Swipe Benefits Charity” unique give-back program. To date, the two-year old charity has given more than $100,000 to 25+ carefully vetted charities. For more information on ESBC visit or call 858-771-0076. ###

Pay it Forward’s “Every Swipe Benefits Charity” Is a Win-Win for Business Owners

(SAN DIEGO) (DECEMBER 14, 2015) – The “Every Swipe Benefits Charity “ (ESBC) is an innovative give-back program that allows business owners an opportunity to benefit their business, customers and community. Through Pay it Forward Processing (PFP), a national credit card processing company, net proceeds are donated from each business account to a charitable organization, at no cost to the business.

“Many business owners want to help the greater good but don’t have the resources to make monetary donations,” explains Renee VanHeel, founder and president of PFP. “By choosing Pay it Forward Processing as your merchant services provider, the business and its customers will be supporting a charitable cause with the “Every Swipe Benefits Charity” program.”

Here is how the program works: Each business chooses from a list of carefully vetted “Every Swipe Benefits Charity” (ESBC is a separate non-profit 501c3 corporation) board-approved nonprofit organizations. The charities fall into categories such as animals, military, natural disasters, health issues or local community. PFP then donates the net proceeds to ESBC from the business’ account each year—at no cost to the business. ESBC then sends the funds to the business’ chosen charity. As an alternate, the business can nominate a favorite charity to be vetted and become a beneficiary.

“It’s a win-win situation—nonprofits gain valuable support and the business enhances its status as a socially responsible company,” says VanHeel. “As a business owner who wants to make a difference in the world, just ask yourself –why wouldn’t you participate in the ‘Every Swipe Benefits Charity’ program?”

PFP came to be from the ashes of Witch Creek Fires in San Diego in 2007 during which VanHeel’s home was destroyed. She, along with a number of other fire survivors, formed Fired Up Sisters which raised $5 million in goods, services and money to help fellow fire survivors. “I was struck by the thought that if so much good could come as a result of tragedy, what could be done in good times?” said VanHeel. “We believe there is no better definition of success than truly loving what you do, serving a purpose and filling a need in the world. If this resonates with a business owner, we invite them to join the PFP family.”

Partnering with PFP is simple and easy: every business is assigned a personal account manager who customizes a program to fit their needs. There is no contract, no minimum usage fees and PFP matches or reduces a business’ current credit card fees. Funding and deposits are made within 24 hours including American Express. PFP sends each business a comprehensive monthly report with a breakdown of fees and cost for services.

PFP works with a variety of businesses including those in auto repair, hotel/motel, retail, veterinary and banking, among others. The “Every Swipe Benefits Charity” program supports more than 25 local, regional and national non-profit organizations including Boys and Girls Clubs, American Institute for Cancer Research, Shelter to Solider, and the Arthritis Foundation.

PFP also helps each of its business partners stay connected to their customers by using their own social media outlets such a Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn to promote their business. For more information on PFP visit or call 858-771-0076.

About Pay It Forward Processing
Headquartered in San Diego, Pay it Forward Processing (PFP) is a nationwide merchant service provider that supplies state-of-the-art payment solutions to businesses by providing a full line of products that are Class A certified on their processing platform. PFP custom tailors its services for each business and offers 24/7 live technical and customer service support. For more information on PFP visit or call 858-771-0076. ###

Postal Connections Opens in Time to Pack and Ship for Holidays; Business Service Center Adds Convenience to Hazel Dell Area

(Vancouver, WA) (December 14, 2015) – Now open, the new, custom built Vancouver Postal Connections of America (PCA) brings easy and convenient access to packaging and shipping services for the holidays, along with an array of business services to 7720 NE Highway 99, Suite D. The PCA store offers convenient parking and personalized service and is the newest location in the nationwide franchise network.

Owned and operated by Tom and Cherie McNabb along with daughter Adrienne and son-in-law Seth Boynton, the PCA Vancouver store is offering holiday specials thru December 31 that include: 20 percent off all mailbox rentals for new customers, holiday gift wrapping, a Santa letter dropbox and free popcorn. In addition, the PCA store provides expert packaging and shipping — domestic and international—high quality printing, in-store or online, mailbox service, freight, copies, scanning and storage, notary and fax. Shipping services include all of the major carriers and USPS products.

“The scope of services we offer to the Vancouver, Hazel Dell North and South communities can only be found under one roof at our new Postal Connections store,” said Cherie McNabb. “We are excited to become part of the community and look forward to delivering exceptional customer service to the area’s small businesses and households. Plus, we offer a safe and convenient way for holiday packages to be delivered.”

“The McNabbs and Boyntons are a welcome addition to our family of franchisees,” said Fred Morache, PCA franchisor and owner. “This family team has worked hard to make this store a showcase and they are each accomplished business people with a clear eye for what excellent customer service is. Their Postal Connections is more than a pack and ship store – it is a place that allows people to save time and make their lives easier by providing a host of business service solutions at one location,” Morache said.

Tom is a cabinet maker and remodeler who spent considerable time and talent constructing the store with special flooring, lighting and wood paneling around the mailbox unit. Adrienne, parent to one-year-old identical twin sons, and Tom will run the day-to-day store operations. Cherie is a manufacturer’s rep for a high quality flooring company who also used her interior design background to add nuances to the store.

On Thursday, January 7 the community will be invited to a grand opening celebration for the new PCA store. The PCA store’s website is: Email: [email protected] Telephone: 360-546-2310. Store hours are: Monday – Friday 9 am – 6 pm, Saturday 9 am – 2 pm.

About Postal Connections
Founded in 1995, Postal Connections is reinventing the post office through their commitment to outstanding customer service with 41 stores in 15 states. A growing franchise chain of postal, shipping and business service stores, Postal Connections offers an attractive franchise opportunity with a proven business model for those looking for an affordable opportunity to own their own business.

To learn more about Postal Connection’s services, visit or call (619) 294-7550. For more information on Postal Connection franchise opportunities, visit or call 1-800-POSTALS (767-8257).###