Why Sharing Stories Have Measurable Health Benefits

Why Sharing Stories Have Measurable Health Benefits

Hello friends,

write about food… You might pose the question?, what does story sharing and the health benefits that go with it have to

do with food?

For over a half million years food and the search for it have influenced both human and historical development.

Food has meaning for each of us. It evokes nostalgia for days gone by, and those memories can be as nourishing to our spirits as a warm cup of hot cocoa on a winter night.

Food is an imperative element of human survival, and feeds our very soul. As such, anecdotes have taken their rightful place in our kitchens. We all have a memory, a story, that’s connected to food that brings a warm smile. In turn, makes us feel happy…

A memory that comes to mind is making ricotta pies at Easter with my grandmother. Rolling out the sweet

stretchy dough that hangs over each pie pan, pouring in the sweetened creamy ricotta, then dropping in maraschino cherries, before gently folding over the dough.

This brings me back to happy days. I can still smell the perfumed bubbling of pies in the oven, as the crust turns into a light golden hue.

It brings a feeling of connection, calm, and great pleasure.

Where is that happy place in time for you? We know from decades of studies, that centenarians live a long healthy life because happiness, and eating well, are at the core. If you are lucky enough to have a wise elder in your life, you know they love sharing their stories…

I like to call this narrative medicine, food for the soul.

To your good health…

For scheduled Cooking Classes in Asheville, Visit: LaurieRichardone.com

Women Making Music – Spotlight on Mary Kay Williams

Women Making Music – Spotlight on Mary Kay Williams

Mary Kay Williams is one motivated woman! She’s living her life so loud, that for many days after our interview, I was inspired to get some stuff done myself! Born and raised in the part of upstate New York “where they pronounce their ‘r’s’ ” she grew up in a house of technical engineers and science- minded family members in Rochester.  She credits her mom, Maureen, and her side of the family for passing down the creative gene.

One of the longest interviews I’ve ever conducted, we discovered we have a few things in common. She warned me up front that she is fancifully erratic; preferring to jump around and joyfully succumb to her A.D.D. We both love to talk about ourselves, and boy did we do just that!

From our respective zoom call rooms, the first thing I noticed was her headwear; A darling black chapeau with gold buttons.  Turns out, she made it using material that was originally meant for another item she decided to scrap and reconstruct. Not one to waste fabric, this college educated fashion illustrator repurposed herself a modern take on the kicky bucket hat! I knew I was in for an amusing sit-down!

A large chunk of her Mary Kay Arts business was formed to promote her artistry as a retail caricaturist. She manages a successful career within the festival, amusement park and cruise ship circuit.  With a bubbly exuberant vivacious personality, it’s no wonder her lines are notoriously the longest.

But, all this happened in what she refers to as “the before times.” Like most of us, she’s shifted and pivoted and realigned strategies to find her virtual sweet spot, taking on custom orders and the like, making her way around the financial constraints the pandemic has caused.

Fortunately, her brain provides a ceaseless supply of ideas and keeps her bucket list continuously full. There’s a steady pen-stroke of items crossed out and accomplished on that list besides! Her zealous re-imagining, re-inventing and repurposing all things art, manifests through awareness and alignments with like-minded collaborators and colleagues. She has spearheaded consortiums with other artists and formed lasting partnerships.

“Here’s my list, in order of how much I love doing them: Singing! Lindy Hop Dancing! Art of all kinds! Writing! Acting! I’m the sort of person who is able to see patterns; I bubble around things. I’ve created a lifestyle and a path that is multifaceted to honor all my interests and talents. As it turns out, I attract and look for people who have attention deficit! I’ve met transplant surgeons who are piano virtuosos for instance. Multi-talented people are everywhere!”

Now that she’s matured into her late fifties, she feels this pull to harness and focus her “goddess powers” toward inspiring and guiding others. Creative people, people who don’t think they’re creative, are the people she aspires to attract and bring together for a creative workshop weekend event. She’s proven time and time again during her self-made cosmopolitan existence, that she can do whatever she sets her mind to!

As we swing around to the subject of music, I learn that she played Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz in 5th grade. She slayed the part and she slayed THE song! I discovered that the stops and starts with music were for her, deliberate and necessary.  Still, she can’t believe there ever was a time in her adult life that she didn’t sing.

In her 30’s she began to pursue music in earnest. Her Uncle Billy is a Blues singer and after they performed together at a family reunion, he encouraged her to start going to Blues and Jazz jams around Rochester.  The domino effect that committing to these weekly sit-ins realized was a female music group she and her late sister, Terry, formed called “Twisted Covers.” She also met a guitarist and singer whom she would perform with as a duo for two- plus years. She found great pleasure and was darn good at arranging harmonies and what a thrill it was to perform them at coffee houses and small café’s.

The Barley’s Jazz Jam is where Mary Kay and I first met in early 2020. Her reputation for having all the right vocal chops preceded her, and boy did she not disappoint! With a full house on a chilly night, the warmth from her lighthearted and goofy demeanor brought us together in laughter and sway. As she seduced us with her pitch perfect ballad, the lushness of her voice made me and everyone present respond in kind with lauding applause and whistles. I took out my phone and set a reminder to contact her for an interview.

“For at least a decade now, my absolute number one love has been music.” So now, as the pandemic gives her new time (because she doesn’t lack energy, believe me!) she is making music the centerpiece. This feature, I dare say, is just what the Minstrel Doctor ordered! 

Whether it’s singing or speaking or acting in front of an audience, Mary Kay is fearless and brilliant. “The feeling of singing, in and of itself, makes me yearn to do more of it.”

Though there’s not much out there in TV or computer land to evidence her creamy, ample and expressive song renderings, take it from me; she’ll be producing, arranging and recording at least an LP, just in time to release in the after times!

“I have a mission in life to blaze a trail and do everything! I can’t imagine that I was given this much talent if my purpose is not to use all that I was given.”


Peggy Ratusz is a vocalist, vocal coach, writer and booking manager



Ways to Look Flawless in Photos

While it is increasingly easy to edit your own photographs to make sure you look your best, there’s not much you can do to stop someone else taking an unflattering picture (short of screaming “No!” at the top of your lungs). Here are ten quick and smart tips that will help you to look gorgeous and polished in photos, saving you a lot of time you might otherwise have spent airbrushing or cringing in embarrassment.

 To make sure you don’t end up with a double chin in photos, drop your shoulders to elongate your neck and try to lean your face forward by approximately half an inch. This change won’t make your posture look odd in photographs, but it will make sure your face looks slimmer.

 Always be aware of nearby light sources when you’re being photographed indoors. Standing below a light will cast uneven shadows on your skin, while standing in front of a bright lamp can make you look washed out. You’ll look your best in shots where you are facing a window that provides soft natural light.

 Leave your nude lip glosses and dark red lipsticks behind if you know you’re going to be in a lot of pictures. Bright lipsticks will make your mouth look perkier and create a youthful look, while darker colors artificially age you by shrinking the lips.

 It can be difficult to look happy without looking crazed when you are asked to grin on command, but there is an art to creating a perfect smile. Placing your tongue directly behind the teeth helps to create a natural, friendly grin.

 When it comes to other makeup, focus on your eyes. Curled eyelashes, dramatic eyeliner and effective mascara will give you a captivating and seductive look.

 If one of your main issues is blinking in photographs, practice briefly closing your eyes for a second just prior to the photograph. If you slowly open your eyes just as the picture is being taken, you should be able to circumvent the blinking curse.

 Make sure that the person taking the photo is shooting you from above. Photos taken from below create double chins and place the focus on cavernous nostrils, while images snapped from above tend to make the subject look slimmer and more elegant.

 For a more slender body shape in photos, place your hand on your hip and angle your body so that you are slightly turned to one side. As a bonus, this pose typically provides a flattering angle on the face as well.

 To combat red eye, take a quick look at a bright light before a photograph is taken. Your pupils will shrink, dramatically reducing your chances of looking demonic in the image.

 Finally, try to get used to being photographed and work to build your self-confidence. A huge part of looking good in pictures is being natural, happy and proud of how you look.

Women Making Music– Spotlight on Nicole lund

Women Making Music– Spotlight on Nicole lund

By Peggy Ratusz

My song-sister, Ellen Trnka was the person who helped me get started and who made my move to the area easier as I worked to make a name for myself around here some 17 years ago. Because of Ellen’s openness, I now pay it forward in her honor. Fielding calls from newly transplanted artists makes me happy and has become part of my reputation.

One such transplant who emailed me on my birthday in 2016 was Nicole lúnd. She’d just moved here from New York City & was researching Asheville’s blues music happenings. That email led to our working together on a holiday variety show & my helping her with a couple of bookings.

With an education in Music Industry Studies from Appalachian State, singer songwriter lÚnd (artist’s moniker), holds down a full time job while still managing to create and produce her own music. And now, she is about to release her highly anticipated and remarkable debut record “Right This Time.”

A logistics person in her day job, she handles distribution of anesthesia machines and ventilators for a medical device company. The demands of that position did not deter her from recording the album during this pandemic. Paramount in her decision to forge ahead was the fact that scheduling the players was easier, especially since they are all notable instrumentalists and singers, who normally would have had regular, robust touring schedules.

To discover where this energy and know-how began, I ask her about her background and childhood growing up in Charlotte, NC. “My father was an architect and artist and my mom worked from home keeping his books and tending to our needs.” With an older sister and younger brother, lúnd says she’s “proud to represent as ‘middle child’.”

“I sang along with Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Bonnie Raitt when I was young. I consider them my voice teachers.”

So at 9 years, she decided to audition for the Charlotte Children’s Choir and got in. From grades 6-12, she attended a magnet school for the arts where she majored in voice and photography.

With her father’s encouragement and support, she interned for and headed up the street team for Derek Truck’s band when she was a teen.

At 17 she moved to Boone, NC to attend Appalachian State majoring in the aforementioned Music Industry Studies. She spent 2 years in Atlanta “observing the music scene” and the next 10 dabbling in a variety of music-related activities in The Big Apple.

“I struggled with stage fright for a very long time. I still don’t feel 100% comfortable on stage. For one of my first college performances, I held my eyes closed throughout the performance. So it’s been a slow process for me.”

Getting into that college jazz ensemble made dealing with her fears a little easier; primarily because the director “saw something in me and gave me a chance. I just had to work to achieve my goals and he gave me the opportunity to do that work.”

The ripple effect these leadership roles created, manifested partner and mentorships with notable players and songwriters; namely guitarist Paul Olson from the band Scrapomatic. Scrapomatic’s lead singer is Tedeschi-Trucks Band’s lead backing vocalist, Mike Mattison. Along with Mark Rivers, also a TTB backing vocalist, both appear on several tracks on Nicole’s upcoming release.

She met and became friends with Atlanta based and acclaimed drummer Yonrico Scott, (Royal Southern Brotherhood, Earl Klugh, Derek Trucks Band) who mentored her until his sad and untimely death just over a year ago.

I took notes while listening to the tracks she emailed me ahead of our interview, and I wrote down the words: “mood album.” It was cool that she referred to them in the interview without my prompting, as a collection of ‘moods.’ Her lyrics are sparse and yet full of meaning. The melodies, style and rhythm come together effectively to tell a story between the lines. Listeners will identify; they’ll fill in the spaces with their own reflections.

The easy rolling rock-feel title track, “Right This Time” evokes Tedeschi but its lÚnd’s honey drenched phrasing that makes it her own. “Here I am babe, here for the taking. Don’t let me down; be the man I need now; arms wide open. But please, don’t let me be wrong ‘bout you… I wanna be right this time.”

The straight 8’s feel of, “Don’t You Leave Me” has a thumping Amy Winehouse throwback sound as the backing vocals take it an octave higher on the hook. Nicole’s vocal trills are a thrill. It’s a beckoning-ultimatum-song. It’s a “hey get back here, we’re not done yet” vibe that empowers as it pleads. 

“Not Comin Home” is a haunting finger-picking dirge that confirms the end of a relationship that even after a long period, had not developed enough to make her want to stay or even explain. “I’m not comin’ home. No use lookin’ I’m out of sight, too far for you to fly. When the day breaks I’ll be gone. And you never thought I’d be the one to move on.”

I was honored to hear these tracks before the mixing and mastering process. If they sound this good now, we’re all in for a gratifying listening experience when they all drop later this year.

Each track is treated with a unique and refined melody; well-placed harmonies, and certainly musicianship of the highest quality.

With clarity and reflection, and toward the end of our interview, lÚnd articulates: “I’ve been such an active observer that it’s taken me a while to come into my own.”

Right This Time is produced by Tyler “Falcon” Greenwell (Susan Tedeschi, Colonel Bruce Hampton, The Wood Brothers); Engineered by Jim Georgeson and Dowell Gandy from Echo Mountain Studio. The extraordinary players include local teacher and sessions guitarist, Brandon Townsend; guitarist Dave Yoke (Susan Tedeschi, Dr. John, Scrapomatic); on bass is Brandon Boone (Tedeschi-Trucks Band); and New Orleans-based drummer, Isaac Eady. Along with Mike Mattison and Mark Rivers from Tedeschi Trucks band, Gabe Dixon rounds out her backing vocalists.

I enthusiastically recommend you to follow lÚnd on Instagram: instagram.com/lund.music/

And to visit her newly minted website: lund-music.com

Peggy Ratusz is a vocal coach, song interpreter, and songwriter. For vocal coaching email her at peggymarie43@gmail.com


The Ancient Art of Cupping

The Ancient Art of Cupping

By Natasha Kubis

When Olympic Gold Medalist, Michael Phelps, appeared in photographs sporting red circular marks all over his body, people questioned if he had been in an altercation with an octopus. In recent years, celebrities and athletes alike have brought the ancient art of cupping therapy to the public eye, making it more mainstream than ever before.

Cupping may be trending at the moment but it is in fact a universal therapy practiced by many cultures around the world. It can be traced back to ancient Egyptian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern times, and as early as 1550 BC. It was prescribed for various ailments in the records of Herodotus, Hippocrates, Celsus, and Aretaeus. Its roots can be found in the ancient healing systems of Tibetan, Oriental, and Ayurvedic medicine (traditional Indian medicine), as well as Unani (a South Asian and Middle Eastern folk medicine).

As ancient and widely used as this technique is, it is widely misunderstood in our modern culture and the marks that it leaves on the skin can make people quite apprehensive, understandably so. Having some knowledge about the technique may help transform it into a viable option to treat your aches and pains.

What is cupping used for?

Cupping is effective for relieving pain, relaxing muscle spasms, increasing local blood circulation, and detoxifying local tissues. It can increase range of motion in the joints, and promote flexibility in the ligaments, tendons, and in-between muscle layers. It is most effective for neck, back, knee, and elbow pain, as well as for conditions like tendonitis, sciatica, tension headaches, migraines, fibromyalgia, and arthritis. It can be used for bronchial congestion caused by allergies, asthma, and the common cold.

How does it work?

There are several cupping methods. A traditional technique used by practitioners of Chinese Medicine is called Glass Jar Fire Cupping. The practitioner will light a cotton ball on fire and use it as a heat source to warm the glass cup and to remove the oxygen from inside of it. The cup is then placed on the skin and as the air inside of it cools, a vacuum effect causes the blood vessels to expand and the skin begins to rise.

More modern versions of cupping methods used by massage therapists, physical therapists, chiropractors, or for home use do not use fire, but instead, create the vacuum effect with glass, bamboo, earthenware, or silicon cups that are moved across the skin, or remain stationary.

Is it similar to massage?

Cupping has a similar effect on the body as massage except that cupping uses suction or negative pressure rather than the tissue compression used in massage techniques. The suction stretches the tissues up from the underlying structures, thereby releasing muscle tension and loosening areas of restriction. This creates an expansion of the tissues while increasing blood flow, promoting better functioning of sweat and sebaceous glands, flushing capillary beds, and dispelling stagnation and congestion.

How does it affect the skin?

The suction of the cups often leaves temporary marks on the skin. The marks resemble bruising, but are not painful. They are the result of bringing blood and toxins to the skin’s surface. The color of the marks can range from light pink to dark purple, depending on your condition. The marks can last from about 3 to 10 days. To help reduce this duration, it is recommended to drink plenty of water after your treatment.

Does it hurt?

No, it does not hurt. Most people find it relaxing and feel a warm suction, as though their skin is being lifted.

How many treatments will you need?

The effects of cupping are cumulative and the treatment should be repeated until the ailment is resolved. The severity of the marks will usually diminish with each follow up treatment, indicating that the stagnation in the tissues has decreased.

Are there any risks associated with the technique?

It is important to see a licensed acupuncturist, Doctor of Chinese Medicine, licensed massage therapist, physical therapist, or chiropractor who has been adequately trained in the technique. Do not be shy about asking about their training before booking a session. The risks of cupping are very low with a trained professional who has adequate experience. There are cupping sets available for home use, but it is important to have proper knowledge of safe cupping practices before trying it on yourself or others.

Cupping is contraindicated for those with blood clotting disorders (like deep vein thrombosis or history of stroke), bleeding disorders (such as hemophilia), or those who take blood thinners (such as warfarin). It is not recommended for skin conditions such as allergic dermatitis, psoriasis, or eczema. Cupping is contraindicated in cases of severe diseases such as cardiac failure, renal failure, ascites due to hepato-cirrhosis, and severe edema. Cupping should not be applied over broken bones, dislocations, hernias, and should not be used on the low back or abdomen during pregnancy.

The Takeaway

Cupping is a wonderful option to help ease pain and inflammation, increase blood flow, promote relaxation and well-being by calming the nervous system, aid in detox, and provide a deep-tissue massage. The cupping marks also make for a good story when wearing a bathing suit or a strapless dress!

Natasha Kubis is a licensed acupuncturist and certified yoga teacher.
For more
information, visit acuwellhealth.com