Sacred space


When her daughter had cancer, author Abigail Thomas began teaching memoir writing to cancer patients at Benedictine Hospital in Kingston. Inspired by a visit to the oncology support program, Thomas offered to give a five-week writing workshop. Four years later, the workshop is still going strong.

Craig Mawhirt, one of the original students, felt isolated while recovering from cancer on his vocal cords. Joining the group helped him rejoin the world. “What saved me was writing and everything that goes with that,” he said. “You feel like you’re creating, you’re doing something, you’re important.” Now cancer-free, he continues to attend the workshop every week.

Continue reading “Sacred space”

Out with the gluten


Lauren Arcomano and Janet Villani Garratt. (Photo by Dion Ogust)
Lauren Arcomano and Janet Villani Garratt. (Photo by Dion Ogust)

When I was first out there eating gluten-free, I found a lot of companies were just swapping white-rice flour for wheat flour,” said Lauren Arcomano, who altered her diet in an effort to address symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. “I wanted to keep baking with whole grains but without gluten.”

This yen for healthful baked goods led Arcomano and her friend Janet Villani Garratt to start Bearsville Bakers, which supplies gluten-free brownies, biscotti, scones, cookies, coffee cake, and other goodies to local farmstands and health-food stores. The expanding year-old business is meeting the needs of people who find a gluten-free diet helpful in treating food allergies, wheat sensitivity and celiac disease. Arcomano said her rheumatoid arthritis symptoms are much improved by the diet.

Garratt, a graduate of the French Culinary Institute in New York, waxed enthusiastic about the creative process of adapting recipes to meet the chemistry of gluten-free baking. “I’ll look at a recipe and think, Okay, what might work here? What can I substitute? It usually takes two tries — occasionally three or four.”

Gluten is a binding material that maintains the texture of wheat-based products, and it’s tricky to find a substitute that has the same “gluey” properties. White-rice flour works, but its nutritional value is low, while brown-rice flour has a gritty quality.

Another option is certified gluten-free whole oats. “Oats don’t have gluten, but a lot of people can’t eat them because of cross-contamination from growing in fields where wheat was grown,” explained Arcomano. “They are often processed in facilities that also process wheat.” Arcomano and Garratt grind their oats in-house to avoid contamination.

They sometimes use more expensive ingredients such as hazelnut and almond meals, ground millet, or flaxseed. Egg makes a good binder, but they have to avoid it in their vegan products, which many customers request.

Brownies are a little easier. “Cocoa has a non-wheat starch, so chocolate has a binding property,” Garratt noted.

Some of their products contain white sugar, which is cheaper than sweeteners such as agave, xylitol or stevia, which they buy for their sugar-free creations. Other vegan treats are made with vegan white sugar.

True rollers


Photo by Violet Snow
Photo by Violet Snow

Want to buy a bowling alley?

The eight-lane Margaretville Bowl, located 45 miles west of Kingston on Route 28, is on the market for $289,000. Owner Michael Finberg says the 52-year-old business is still thriving. Across the industry, league bowling, once the mainstay of the alleys, is down, but he says the advent of Cosmic Bowling (also known as Rock ’n’ Bowl), featuring loud music, light shows, and glow-in-the-dark pins and balls, is bringing young people back to recreational bowling.

The appeal of bowling, says Finberg, is that it’s social, and you don’t have to be an expert to enjoy it. “Bowling is not an aerobic sport, but it requires balance and timing. You have to learn the markings, how to pick up the spares. Someone not as strong can have a lightweight ball, but with accuracy and practice, they can score well. This opens the sport to many more participants.”

Not having bowled in more decades than I care to estimate, I decided to bowl a game at HoeBowl-on-the-Hill in Kingston, just to refresh my memory. And the memories came back with a rush — the multi-colored shoes, the rumble of the balls on the lanes, the clatter of pins, hefting various balls to find one light enough for me, but with big enough finger holes — and especially the little fan at the ball return to dry the sweat off your fingers. All these details brought back rainy Saturday afternoons at the Mardi-Bob Lanes in Poughkeepsie, where as a child I threw many a gutter ball.

Of course, there have been technological changes since then. At the HoeBowl, the balls return in a few seconds, without that impatient wait to see your sphere spit out by the rotating machinery before you throw the second ball of each frame. Scoring no longer relies on pencil, paper and mental arithmetic. Scores appear automatically on screens overhead, calculated by a machine that detects how many pins have been left standing.

Profile of a psychic


(photo by Violet Snow)
(photo by Violet Snow)

“We are all psychic, even animals,” says Rose, a psychic, sitting in her storefront on Mill Hill Road in Woodstock. “We all have intuition, a sixth sense. Most women find it during their childrearing years, when the mothering instinct kicks in. If men would tune in to their psychic abilities more, it would be good for the world.”

Rose, a fifth-generation psychic, learned her craft from her mother on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. She has been practicing for 32 years, since the age of 15. In addition to her intuitive abilities, she uses a variety of tools, from crystals to tarot cards, to understand her clients’ problems and provide them with advice.

The number-one issue they want help with is love. Money is second, she says. Health is third, then family. “It freaks me out how people put money in front of blood relations.”

Rose reads auras, she says, seeing layers of colors around the client’s body and sensing the attendant energy. “From the aura, I learn about their insecurities, fears, challenges, strengths, weaknesses.”

She pauses, looking at me. “Your aura is very bright. You’re connected to your psychic abilities, and you’re very spiritual. But it’s a little darkened around the edges, as if your energy is being slightly drained.”

Rose can occasionally read minds, pick up names, dates, places, events that have unfolded in their lives. “I can channel, too,” she says. “Ancestors, people we’ve loved or who’ve loved us. The real loves come through.”

To help couples communicate, she does soulmate readings, in the manner of a therapist or marriage counselor. “Men and women are the same species, but they’re different mammals. They are born with different chemicals in their bodies.”

She hands me a long quartz crystal and tells me to warm it in my hands. When I give it back, she holds onto it and starts talking about me.

“You have two children?”


Lose weight, feel great?

Photo by David Plakke

Experts on intuitive eating, strengthening the brain, exercise for kids, and other health topics will be presenting at the twelfth annual Women’s Health and Fitness Expo this Saturday, May 19, from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Miller Middle School in Lake Katrine. The focus this year will be on weight loss and the lifestyle changes to maintain it. It will also focus on the impact a healthy lifestyle can have on preventing illnesses like diabetes and heart disease.

In addition to presentations by speakers on weight control, the main-stage speakers will address the benefits of maintaining an ideal weight for overall health. Two Harvard Medical School physicians, neurologist Marie Pasinski and cardiologist Malissa Wood, will discuss the importance of a healthy lifestyle, including weight control, on heart and brain health. Experts will be available to answer questions.

The annual event will offer more than 20 health screenings, over 75 speakers, workshops, fitness demos, chef demos, spa services, a healthy food court and some 125 exhibitors. Expo participants will receive complimentary bags filled with health and wellness products and information.

The expo is moving from TechCity to the nearby Miller School in Lake Katrine, where the sponsors say the increased space and layout are better suited to main-stage needs, cooking facilities, weight and fitness rooms, and the ever-growing number of participating professionals and exhibitors. Admission is $7, and tickets may be purchased in advance at

Dr. Debra Karnasciewicz is founder and director of the not-for-profit Women’s Health and Fitness Foundation, which sponsors the expo.

This year’s theme was developed with the nation’s alarming obesity rates in mind. The state health department’s most recent statistics indicate that 59.6 percent of Ulster County adults and 62.6 percent of Dutchess County adults are obese or overweight. Though excess weight is often accompanied by chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease, the lifestyle changes needed to lose weight and maintain weight loss can be challenging.

At any point in time, one in three women and one in five men in the United States are on some kind of diet, according to registered dietician and nutrition expert Mary Hartley, one of this year’s main-stage speakers. “These diets produce short-term weight loss, but two or three years later 95 percent of traditional dieters regain the weight,” she says. Hartley will discuss the concept of intuitive eating, a non-diet approach to weight loss that “shifts the paradigm from weight loss to wellness, from food fear to food pleasure, and from body dissatisfaction to body trust,” she states.

Neurologist and author Pasinski believes the key to changing our lives for the better involves improving the brain. She will present what she believes is a program for keeping the brain in peak condition, training it with the same intent as elite athletes train their bodies.

Jessica Smith, author of Thin in 10 and the person depicted on boxes of Special K cereal, will speak about her 10-minute exercise program, touting it as a way of improving health that fits into the modern lifestyle.

Other main-stage speakers include weight-loss blogger Diane Carbonell, kids’ exercise promoter and The Biggest Loser contestant Bernie Salazar, and Woodstock dentist Michael Tischler. A panel of speakers will be moderated by Liz Neporent, author and ABC News reporter who has covered diverse health topics including the psychology of barefoot running and obesity in fruit flies.

Eight workshops on a variety of topics will be offered during the day, including: Myths and Facts of the Supplement Industry, Living Well in Spite of Endometriosis, and You Have The Power to Heal Yourself. Eight fitness demonstrations will also take place, among them: Body Flow, Zumba and Zumba Gold for Seniors, Smart Bells, Dance Like No One is Watching, plus others in cooperation with the YMCA and Mac Fitness. More than half a dozen chefs will offer cooking demonstrations.