Understanding the Risks of Vaginal Cancer

Understanding the Risks of Vaginal Cancer

Many people have a natural reluctance to talk about gynecological issues, and that reticence can make those diseases even more dangerous and deadly. Vaginal cancer is a case in point. Many women are reluctant to discuss sensitive issues with their family doctors, and that can make the diagnosis and treatment of this serious illness that much more difficult.

Another thing that makes vaginal cancer so hard to diagnose is that it often causes no symptoms – at least in the early stages of the disease. As the tumors grow and spread, women may notice a variety of symptoms, and these signs should be brought to the attention of a doctor as soon as possible.

Some of the most common symptoms of vaginal cancer include unusual bleeding, particularly after sex or following the onset of menopause. Women may also notice a watery vaginal discharge or chronic pelvic pain. Other symptoms to watch out for include a lump or mass inside the vagina, constipation and painful urination. While these symptoms can be caused by a number of less serious conditions, they should always be brought to the attention of a medical professional.

While all women are at risk of vaginal cancer, advancing age and exposure to certain drugs can predispose certain women to the disease. Women over 60 are at higher risk for vaginal cancer, and those women should have regular pap smears and gynecological exams. Women who were exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol, or DES, in utero are also at increased risk. DES was used throughout the 1950s to prevent miscarriages. An unfortunate side effect of this commonly used drug was an increase in the risk of vaginal cancer among women exposed to the agent before birth.

Exposure to HPV infections is another risk factor for not only vaginal cancer but cervical cancer as well. That is why it is so important for all women to have regular pap tests to look for signs of an HPV infection. A past history of cervical cancer can also increase the risk of developing vaginal cancer, so survivors need to be especially vigilant about their follow-up care.

 Any woman who suspects she might have vaginal cancer should discuss those concerns with her doctor. An experienced doctor will be able to evaluate the symptoms and determine whether they are truly cause for concern. During that process, the doctor will perform a thorough physical exam and take a detailed medical history to help determine specific risk.

The doctor may also perform a thorough gynecological exam to look for lumps and other suspicious masses inside the vagina and throughout the lower abdomen. Women can also expect to undergo a pap test as part of the examination process. The doctor will then take the results of the pap test, along with the results of the physical exam, and use them to make a preliminary diagnosis. If cancer is suspected, the doctor may order a biopsy to confirm the diagnosis, followed by a course of treatment tailored to the stage of the disease and the individual patient.

Every woman is at risk from vaginal cancer, and it is up to every woman to look for signs and symptoms of this serious disease. If you suspect that you or someone you love may be suffering from vaginal cancer, the first step is to consult a doctor and undergo the examination that could save the life of you or your loved one.

Persimmon Matcha Crumble with Ginger Molasses

Persimmon Matcha Crumble with Ginger Molasses


1 1/2 cups almond flour

2 tbsp. arrowroot

3/4 cup coconut sugar

1 1/2 sticks of butter (3/4 cup) room temperature

1 tbs. matcha powder

1 1/4 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. psyllium husk, or xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. sea salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup fuyu persimmon puree, 2-3 ripe persimmons

3 eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup cashew milk, or other milk

1/4 cup chopped hazelnuts, optional

Ginger Molasses

1 tbs. molasses

1/2 tsp. fresh ginger, smashed into a paste, or powder

Blend together.

Drizzle around persimmon crumble before serving.

Preheat the oven to 350. Butter or oil inside of muffin trays. Dust with flour.

Whisk flours, baking powder, match powder, salt, psyllium husk in a medium bowl.

Set aside

Whisk milk and 1 cup of persimmon puree in a small bowl. Set aside.

For puree: peel and slice 2 ripe persimmons. Pulse slices in a small processor, or mash by hand. Save some slices of persimmon for garnish.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat the sugar and 3/4 cup butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy. About 4 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating to blend between additions and occasionally scraping down the sides with a spatula. Add vanilla and almond extract.

Reduce your speed to low and add dry ingredients in 3 additions. Alternate the persimmon & milk mixture with the dry mixture. Add dry ingredients last.

Beat until just combined. Fold in the hazelnuts if using.

Scrape the batter into prepared muffin trays, 3/4 full.

Bake the muffins, rotating half way through, until golden brown and a tester inserted comes out clean, 40-50 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool in pan for 20 minutes.

Carefully remove muffins from the pan and transfer to the plate of choice. Make a crumble with the muffins across the plate. Serve with the ginger molasses.

Sprinkle some matcha powder around the plate.

Buon Appetito

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

Planting New Roots

Planting New Roots

“My roots were first Planted in the Borough of Brooklyn, in a tight knit Italian family. It was a household that revolved around food.”

Throughout the diverse paths my walk of life have taken, there has always been a thread that tied me to the kitchen. Food is a sacred practice inherited from all my ancestors. My roots.

However, my calling as a teacher of seasonal cooking, and wellness coach took root later in life. It came when I had all the necessary tools to step into the role of educator, chef, and coach.

We never know where life will take us, which is both exhilarating and unsettling. Planting new roots in whatever direction the heart leads us requires nurturing, passion, and patience. As I have
experienced, not all things take hold, nor are they meant to. One must trust in the process.

Do something because you want to, not because you are expecting a payoff. 

I hold the belief that the universe will give it back to you, bearing all the fruits of your labor. The roots of education can be bitter, but the fruit is sweet.

My vocation as a teacher of seasonal cooking unfolded naturally, at just the right time. Now, I get to guide my clients in creating healthy delicious food that suits their needs and lifestyle.

Furthermore, we now have an understanding that food is about much more than deliciousness.

For example: getting the majority of ingredients at your local farmers market, which in turn promotes connection and support, giving strength to our tribe.

What better way to connect than with food, and an extra portion of love.

Even so, It’s not just about breaking bread together, but making bread together, and sharing our stories,
our roots, and laying down some new ones. 

What better place than around the table.

To your good health…

A seasonal healthy treat for the table ~   If you are a curious cook, join me on my Podcast  

 ~  A taste for All Seasons ~

It is a cooking, cultural, and inspirational way for us to explore the world of food. And… as always, l will  share a seasonal recipe, cooking tips, and kitchen essentials that will make your life easier in the kitchen. 

You can now listen to all the shows, @ laurierichardone.com/podcast or on Spotify, Apple Podcast, and Google Podcast.  

We talk to local farmers, where you can learn how to cook your way through the seasons. This Podcast is in conjunction with WPVM FM 103.7 in Asheville, NC.   

Laurie Richardone is a seasonal gluten free chef and certified health coach.  

To work with Laurie, visit LaurieRichardone.com

Women Making Music…Happen – Spotlight on Brewery Owner and Operator Kelly Hardin Cubbin

Women Making Music…Happen – Spotlight on Brewery Owner and Operator Kelly Hardin Cubbin

Happy 2022, everyone! As we rock n’ roll, swing, shuffle, waltz or 2-step our way into the New Year, I’d like to acknowledge the persevering heroes of the last 22 months: owners of bars, music halls and breweries. To musicians especially, this special breed of persistent, purposeful and focused professionals helps keep the music live.

One of the brightest and best examples of one such venue owner is Southern Appalachian Brewery’s Kelly Hardin Cubbin. Nearly all of us had to do some fancy footwork during these unexpected unprecedented times, but people like Kelly, women like Kelly did so, seemingly without missing a step. Her head- first approach to making sure her faithful and longtime patrons, employees and hired musicians would feel safe upon reopening proved to be a Triple Crown win.

As a longtime patron of the brewery, I’ve witnessed it’s evolution, a melting pot of families, singles, couples, groups and meet-up organizations of all creeds, political affiliations, generations and genders. Unmistakably, the inclusive vibe and culture is manifested by what comes naturally to Cubbin, along with her co-owner husband Andy and their welcoming staff.  

Not only is diversity of clientele embraced, the range of music genres she books reflects the various tastes of said clientele. During our recent phone conversation, I sensed this ease in Kelly; that the balance between her heart and business mind dance well together.

When conceptualizing the brewery as a brick and mortar, Mr. and Mrs. Cubbin knew they “definitely and absolutely” would introduce live music as part of their identity. “My husband and I moved here from Chicago and even though we could barely pay our rent back then, we’d go hear live music 3-4 nights a week. From these amazing in-the-moment live music experiences, we knew that if we had to be at our own venue every night, we wanted live music!”

The Cubbins have been brewing since 2006, starting out as a production space. “When there were seven breweries in Asheville in 2008, we actually questioned our sustainability there (now there’s like over 30), so we looked around at other towns to find a building and fell in love with Hendersonville.”

Hendersonville fell in love with them too. They were the first ever brewery in Henderson County and in the time leading up to their grand opening, they joyfully did their due diligence.  Their competency remains high and their continued philanthropy and community outreach is what makes them as popular now as they were that first evening in late April of 2011. 

Kelly is a benevolent boss with a warm and decisive personality. She aptly juggles the music calendar while an array of local and regional musicians like me, constantly vie for dates to play on the newly renovated courtyard stage, for their always appreciative patrons.

The notable female artists, whose careers have been enhanced and/or sustained by playing semi- to regularly there, are numerous. Niki Talley and Maggie Valley Band are just two female acts who played among the tanks and barrels in those early years and who have gone on to become nationally known. There were short-lived but popular female acts that Kelly fondly remembers like Carrie Morrison’s “The Naughty Pillows” and Laura Blackley’s girl group called “The Swayback Sisters.”

“Back then it was especially difficult to manage the incredible local talent, touring talent, because we were one of only 2 music venues in all of Hendersonville. Our focus back then was to spread the love around to include regional touring acts. During the pandemic though, our focus changed and we began to draw almost exclusively from the Hendersonville Music community; those whose livelihoods depend
on gig dates.”

“There are a fair amount of local musicians who play for the fun of it and have careers outside of their music aspirations. Those musicians encouraged me to book players they knew didn’t have anything else to fall back on during the pandemic. I was so impressed with that honesty and love. Being a fine art major in my past life, I know the struggles of living as an artist. Musicians have confided in me how cathartic it’s been to have a stage to take; a familiar place for them to emote and play their music again.”

As we philosophize over the growth of the area and our roles as conscious venue owner and full time musician, Kelly puts what we do and how much we do in perspective: “There’s a fine line between being so immersed in what we do and at the same time knowing there’s many things we could still be doing to help make positive change, it’s hard to balance what we should be involved in and when, that it sometimes feels like a full time job.”

All I can tell you is that each time I’m inspired to hold a fundraiser for this person or that non-profit, I know I can count on Kelly and Andy to tell me yes when I ask them to host it at SAB. “If inspiring and building community is something we can do, we’re always going to say yes. We may not always be able to contribute money to charities that solicit us, but we always have a space to hold a fundraiser or event and to me, that’s very cool.”

“We’re humbled to have been supporting live music for 10 years now and we look forward to getting back to better than normal. We’ve got big plans this year for live music so stay tuned!”

Kelly thinks in terms of making memories rather than a bottom line profit and as a result she cultivates and sustains both.

“We want families, neighbors and newcomers to leave their troubles at work or at home and just come in to have a great tasting and satisfying craft beer and listen to live homegrown music to unwind and feel better. It’s all about creating an atmosphere that lets our music community have their exposure, that in turn allows our customers to get away from their problems for a little while.”

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

Relax and Pamper Yourself with Lavender Essential Oil

Relax and Pamper Yourself with Lavender Essential Oil

Lavender is one of the most versatile essential oils. Besides its pleasant scent, it is beneficial for health and beauty. If a day at the spa is not in your schedule or your budget, pamper yourself at home with lavender essential oil. Here are a few ways to pamper yourself from head to toe. 


Treat your hair to deep conditioning with lavender essential oil. Add 6 to 8 drops of lavender essential oil to 2 teaspoons of carrier oil such as olive or coconut. Essential oils are concentrated and potent. It is important to dilute them with a carrier oil before use. Once you have the mixture, apply it to your hair and massage it into the scalp. You can comb it through to ensure even distribution. Leave it on for 30 minutes, then shampoo and condition as usual. Lavender oil can help repair damaged hair, leaving it soft, shiny, and pleasantly fragrant. It helps prevent dandruff too. You can also add a few drops of lavender essential oil to your shampoo and conditioner to make it part of your regular hair care routine. 

Cleanse and Tone Your Face

Lavender essential oil cleanses and tones, leaving skin feeling fresh. It locks in moisture, making it a good moisturizer for dry skin. Regular use of lavender oil reduces the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and scars. You can make a facial cleanser by applying 3 to 5 drops of lavender essential oil with a teaspoon of olive oil. Massage it into your face and neck for a minute or two. Use a warm washcloth to remove any excess. Pat your face dry with a towel. 

Soothe Your Feet  

Our hard-working feet often get neglected. However, they could use some pampering too. Not only can lavender essential oil soothe tired feet, but it also contains antifungal properties that can treat athletes’ feet and toenail fungus. All you need for a relaxing foot bath is a container big enough to soak your feet comfortably. Fill it with warm water, and add 6 to 8 drops of lavender essential oil. You can also add a 1/2 cup of Epsom salts to relieve sore, achy feet. Soak your feet for approximately 20 minutes. 

De-Stress Your Body and Mind

If you’ve had a hard day at work and your nerves are frazzled, wash away the anxiety with a lavender bath. It can help to relax stiff muscles and alleviate the pain of a tension headache. Lavender also helps relax your mind and body so that you can sleep more soundly. To prepare your lavender bath, fill the tub with warm water. Mix 8 to 10 drops of lavender essential oil with 1 ounce of coconut oil. Then add 8 to 10 drops of the mixture to your bath. Soak in your lavender bath until you feel relaxed. Now that you’ve pampered yourself from head to toe with lavender, you can sleep soundly and peacefully. 


Essential oils are potent extracts that can be potentially dangerous. Never take essential oils internally. Never apply essential oils directly to the skin since irritation may occur. Always dilute essential oils with a carrier oil before applying. Although lavender essential oil is considered safe, skin irritation may occur in people who are allergic. Lavender may interact with sedative medications since it can cause drowsiness. Always consult your physician before using essential oils. 

Women Making Music – A nod to the past year and a look ahead to 2022

Women Making Music – A nod to the past year and a look ahead to 2022

2021 has been another extraordinary year for Women Making Music in WNC. From my interview with soulful Rhythm and Blues singer/songwriter, Nicole lúnd back in January to catching up with the queen of her heathens, Ashley Heath in our November issue, it hasn’t escaped anybody in the past 22 months, just how incredibly fragile life can be. But more importantly, just how incredibly innovative, tenacious and inspiring the female and identifying female musicians in WNC are!

Funk, hip-hop and soul guitarist April Bennett experienced an opportunity of a lifetime this past summer when she was cast in a dual role to be a boat crew member and a rhythm guitarist in a 4 pc band on a new reality TV show called Yacht Stops. The Amazon Prime network show premiered in May of 2021 and is described as a combination between “Below Deck” and “The Voice.”  The premise of the series brings musicians together who’ve never played or lived or worked together before and gives viewers a chance to watch them navigate the high seas and the music business as they sail from port to port, rehearsing together and then playing shows for vacationers and locals up and down the eastern seaboard. You can see excerpts from several episodes on their facebook page here: facebook.com/YachtStops. April’s music page on facebook is here: facebook.com/ AprilBandTheCool 

Not only is Caitlin Krisko one of the most phenomenal vocalists among us, she’s also a third-generation tarot card reader who has, since April of 2020, amassed over 2000 clients and acquired over 42,000 followers on social media. Caitlin’s style of practice is “rooted in intuitive communication with spirit guides” through tarot. A Detroit native and WNC transplant by way of Manhattan, Krisko’s 6 piece original Rock and Blues band, The Broadcast is back to touring and releasing new music. To connect with Caitlin for a reading, visit candleinthecave.com and to keep up with her music go to thebroadcastmusic.com 

Caromia Humphrey unveiled 3 releases in 2020-21, 2 of them musical and one of them was just a few weeks ago when she gave birth to her beautiful baby daughter with Rock guitarist and songwriter, Ram Mandelkorn. D’Orsi Bosca Tula Lee is destined for a beautiful, harmonious life with these two tuneful minstrels as parents. Check out my interview with Caromia from June where we discuss her self-produced all original EP releases, “Green” and “Sunday Land.” These records are ethereal, rhythmic and healing. www.thesofiamagazine.com/spotlight-on-caromia-humphrey-and-her-beautiful-and-intimate-ep-releases-green-and-sunday-land/ 

Self-described “Singer of stories, massager of hearts, teller of the truth in all its jagged and sparkly forms and a rabble-rousin’, mountain songstress” Jane Kramer and her husband, Ashevegas editor and founder Jason Sandford gave birth to their first child, Marigold True Kramer-Sandford (aka, Goldie) this past August. We’ll circle back around to find out how motherhood and music are going for Jane in 2022! But in the meantime, I invite you to visit her website for upcoming performance dates: janekramermusic.com/ 

Winner of Best vocalist in Asheville, Classic Soul, Motown, R&B singer Rhoda Weaver has been entertaining locals and tourists for over a decade. I think of her as the Queen of the Pivot. From move to move and change to change, her grace, humor and candid demeanor helps us all stay motivated when navigating our own lives. Her facebook posts read like a modern day Ann Landers column. From administrative assistant to Uber and Uber eats driver to her own taxi business, Weaver’s tenacity and heart inspires everyone she meets. A wife, mother and grandmother she walks the talk, encouraging us to mirror her random acts of kindness. She’s one of our all around finest women making music. 

A true survivor is none other than Hendersonville’s sweetheart, Ellen Trnka. Before being diagnosed with stage four breast cancer in the autumn of 2019, Trnka feasted our ears with Blues, Jazz, Folk and Americana classics and originals on a more regular basis. Throughout the pandemic she’s faced her treatments with the kind of courage we all hope we could muster given such shocking news. Her fans will be delighted to learn that Ellen is currently preparing material for one-set gigs. Her post diagnosis debut showcase was this past October at Southern Appalachian Brewing. I was there and to hear her sing again with such power, panache and elegance was utterly inspiring.  If that sell-out crowd is any indication, her full-fledged comeback will be epic!

The trio I co-founded called Love Bubble released a debut record in July and we call it “Love Revolution.” The harmony driven group has a bubble gum psychedelic 60’s throwback sound and consists of Paula Hanke on vocals, flute, banjolele, and uke. Hank Bones, who plays nearly all the instruments on our debut, wrote 9 of the 13 songs on it, plays guitar and sings at our live shows. Yours truly on vocals, cajon, hand percussion and harmonica. Paula and Hank wrote a romantic poem set to the most beautiful melody called “Warm and Cozy” and Hank and I wrote a song we dedicate to everyone, titled “Beautiful Soul.” All the songs are uplifting with hook lines, verses and choruses guaranteed to turn any frown upside down. Links to all the platforms we’re on can be found here: lovebubblewnc.hearnow.com/love-revolution

One of our newest transplants, is one helluva songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Abby Bryant. Fresh from her sold out record release show at Asheville Music Hall in October, this powerhouse mama with a message graces stages all over the country with her fantastic outfit, The Echos. “Not Your Little Girl” is her first full length album that dropped last month. Link here spoti.fi/2ZzEyu0 to listen on Spotify and add to your favorite playlists. Visit the band’s online store to pre-order the double vinyl album coming in early 2022: abbybryantandtheechoes.com/store 

Abby is just one of the many phenomenal artists I aim to interview in 2022. Alex Krug is another gifted songwriter and it will be my pleasure to feature them as well as singer Marsha Morgan, the aforementioned rock guitar goddess, April Bennett, multi-instrumentalist Melissa Hyman, saxophonist Ashley Hammer Prichard and others TBA.

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