Alisa Murray’s Award-winning column | Living the Sweet Life : Two different yet very much alike… |



I’ve been traveling in my usual haunts and through the winding roads of the North Carolina mountains I ran across two houses that once were homes full of warmth and joy to it’s inhabitants. It’s always weird to me to pass through other people’s spaces since after all they were not just homes of sticks and mortar but represent the private spaces that once held families that made their loves and lives. The two homes could not be more vastly different but than to also be the very same.
The first home was that of the Brinegar Family. They were not famous or rich but they were important to the other families around them and their neighbors. In 1876 Martin purchased the 125 acre farm from Henderson Crouse, Caroline Joines’ uncle for $200. Two years later Martin and Caroline were married; he was 21 and she was just 16! When they arrived on the property which is off the Blue Ridge Parkway, they lived in a one room cabin. Three of their children were born there at that cabin and the cabin that stands there today Martin built as their family grew. Their baby son William was born in the new cabin and also died there as an infant. They lived their lives simply with no electricity or running water and no heat or a/c even after the time came that they could have installed both. They raised crops and animals and prepared firewood to keep themselves warm in the winter mountains. Martin made shoes, was a local Justice of the Peace, a notary and also the clerk for the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church. Caroline made clothing and gathered medicinal herbs to prepare and sell to the local drug merchants such as bloodroot, snakeroot and black cherry bark. Martin died on his way home from church while caught in a storm. He was 68 and in 1935 the State of North Carolina bought the land to incorporate it into the Blue Ridge Parkway. Caroline stayed there until tourists and traffic became too much for her and she died in her daughter’s home in 1943.
The second home was the Biltmore Estate. Tucked into the mountains of Asheville, NC it was completed in 1895 and was the country retreat vacation home to George Vanderbilt. By contrast the chateau has 250 rooms which include guest quarters, 25 dressing rooms to change into proper swimming clothing; a bowling alley and indoor swimming pool not to begin to mention the gardens and grounds. It is as vast as is it amazing and quite difficult to imagine what it must have been like to actually live there amongst so much wealth. The home is the largest undertaking in residential architecture with four plus acres of floor space, 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms and 65 fireplaces. In 1898 George married Edith Dresser and in 1900 Cornelia Vanderbilt was born in the Louis XV Room. She was their only child. George passed away in 1914 at the age of 51 and left behind a philanthropic dynasty. During the war special artwork was secretly stored in the home free of charge and Edith sold around 87,000 acres off the estate to dedicate to the United State Forestry Service for less than $5.00 per acre. Today their beautiful home is preserved to show what their lives were like living leisurely in the beautiful mountains with vista views and entertaining all sorts of guests.
Each of the homes held families together and built communities. Both were filled with family and gave to their neighbors and friends. While one was incomprehensibly wealthy and the other incomprehensibly poor both were indeed rich in generosity and grace. Both Martin Brinegar and George Vanderbilt gave to their community, both were talented men and enriched the communities that they both served. Each were fathers and husbands and men of their word. Most importantly for us today each of their homes have stood the test of time and offer us am opportunity to peek into each of their sweet lives.

Take Care of YOU!


Alisa Murray’s Award-winning columnist |Living the Sweet Life : Needles and Blades! August 2017



Have you looked in the mirror lately? That is the question that I asked you in the cover story with Renew Laser and Skin this month. I know that I personally go years without really paying attention and then Bam! I see something that has crept up on me and must be fixed! Sometimes seeing myself on TV makes this more evident and urgent! LOL Recently I was asked to be on KPRC2 every Friday… so you know where I am going with this slice of my sweet life.

While I was there on set they did a story of how so many young people and ahem… a little older ones are resorting to plastic surgeries and face fillers to fix those little imperfections that they see on social media and in their selfies. As I watched the girls at the desk cringe at seeing the needles I secretly smiled because those my friends are my secret weapons against aging! Needles and blades are in a large part responsible for how I maintain this youthful glow…these non-sagging cheeks…this vanished furrowed brows and of course the perfect brow lines! Come on, you didn’t really think this stuff stays like this naturally? Did you?!

Dr. Desai or “Nina” rather has been in charge of my aging mess for many years! She has been the one to decide what to do and when to do it so it looks like nothing has been done. I have had so much done though that when I went to a spa in Mexico earlier this year they wanted me to check off whether I had had fillers, sculpting, etc. and I told them all the above! They just laughed and was like “no way!” That’s where finding a doctor that knows when to do what and what’s what comes in very handy!

I am particularly intrigued with this latest technology in PRP ie. the “O” shot, Micro-needling and blading. In the past month I have had all three procedures done and as usual been very pleased with them all thanks to Nina and her team. With my shooting schedule and now TV appearances it’s critical for anything I do to not be invasive and all of this was done with zero downtime and zero side effects! Truthfully, if I had not been spilling to you here, you would never have even guessed I had anything done.

Micro-needling is a really cool process that uses collagen and vitamins to penetrate the surface of the face whereby creating a controlled injury that the body responds to by growing collagen and building a firmness and elasticity back to my 20’s woo hoo! I have done micro-needling with vitamins and collagen and later this year when, as Nina says I am done going out of the country and getting a tan, then she will do the Vampire Facelift that I described in the cover story with my own platelets. I’ll look “extra” young an marvelous for our family photos for the holidays! The Kybella procedure has taken at least a 1/4 inch off my pesky double chin and thanks to it being a permanent solution it’s a one and done procedure that I’d highly recommend. The needle is a bit larger that all the other procedures but it’s a small price to pay for the long term and happy results.

The PRP technology used in the “O” shot is life changing. You are going to have to just trust me…. everyone should have this one! I have been pleased…Brian has been pleased…. then there’s this cool idea of blading the eyebrows. It’s actually getting a tattoo (which I was so pleased to be able to say to everyone that I did not have until now) in the area where you have eyebrows. They slice tiny lines into the skin and place ink there that looks like your hair! I hate all the fake looking drawn on eyebrow trend and I asked the gals that was waxing mine to just stop because I preferred the “Brooke Shields effect.” This micro-blading though looks natural and makes the whole eyebrow thing go away from my already too busy routine…so yay!

My grandmothers both would cream themselves up each night and wear big hats and gloves to pick vegetables in the garden. Both of them aged gracefully and yes they had wrinkles that I loved. I’ve watched a few episodes of BOTCHED and always think “ Lordy! Don’t let me ever get that crazy about changing me.” Looking your best and feeling your best is something that is from the inside out and finding someone who is remarkably keen on what you have always looked like and keeping things that way is very different from trying to change stuff. Nina has done an amazing job of letting me age towards my 50’s without making me look like I have been remade. If it can be done naturally and in a way that no one would ever know; then why not use a few needles and blades to stop stuff even if it’s just for another decade or so?

Take Care of YOU!

Alisa Murray’ Award winning column | Living the Sweet Life| “Dear my forever best friend….| July 2017

Living The Sweet Life: Dear my Forever Best Friend…. July 2017


We all have friends. Some of them are always there whilst others tend to shrink into the backgrounds of our lives when things are going a bit rough. We all know who “those” friends are. It’s not often that you run across people that hold themselves and those around them to a higher standard. They make you better because you know them, and when you do find that type of friend you’d better hold on tight to them! They are rare gems and they make a difference with everyone they touch.

My former neighbors Jim and his wife Nita are such friends. They built their home when the children were little and soon were adopted on both sides as family. Almost everyday Victoria Ann would walk over and walk into their home to be greeted by her surrogate grandparents. Our relationship grew and it became obvious to me, if not to them; that with both my parents dead they would be filling that gaping hole in my life and the lives of both my children.

Through the years we have gone through life together. Nita has showed Victoria Ann how to drive, given her lessons each week and taught her responsibility to care for and show her beloved pugs. Back when I was doing Hope and Inspiration breast cancer calendars I was able to feature Nita and celebrate her cancer free diagnosis. We have survived two hurricane’s together with their pugs and our cats. Daddy lovingly would refer to my cats as “roadkill” just to rile me up and I would let him just a little! (I’m winking!) We would sit outside and enjoy a cigar and a bourbon and discuss the plight of the world. “Daddy”, a decorated Naval Veteran, had in his arsenal a library of stories of being at sea and of life. He is not a man you want to make mad and one, that like my own Father; commands respect in his sheer presence. Perhaps that’s why he got the title of “Daddy.” Not something I call to many men because they have to earn it. My standards are high too and both “Daddy” and I get each other. I consider him one of my forever best friends.

When the neighbors decided that shooting pictures wasn’t something they wanted me to do, it was Daddy that stepped up and had my back. He sat with me many a night and listened to me scared that I would have to leave my home and all that Brian and I had worked so hard to build. He assured me that was not going to happen and he stuck his neck out and stood up for us and made sure that indeed the issue was resolved without us moving. I do not know of any other person in my life that would have done that. That my friend’s is what a true friend does. It’s what a real man does and it is rare and it is special.
When we had hurricane Rita we all loaded up in the RV and trekked together with their pugs and our dogs and cats and went to San Antonio. We spent hours in that sea of traffic with so many other Houstonians evacuating and Daddy swore that if we ever had another storm we were not doing that again! He installed the biggest and baddest generator and I bought wood for both our houses and had it custom cut to fit all of our windows. When Ike struck we were hunkered down and ready with weeks worth of food from my kitchen and plenty of air conditioning and running water to tend to ourselves and other neighbors and friends.

With age came health issues and the need to move back to be closer to their biological family. We have stayed in touch though weekly and daily through the last two years even though we have not been able to see each other. “Mom” aka. Granny Nita was here last year for Victoria Ann’s wedding and early this year we found out that Daddy was not well. The kind of not well that everyone dreads really, but Daddy as we anticipated, and like the warrior he is; strapped on the big guns and put up with more than necessary in tests and treatments. It is always difficult seeing our loved ones die. I do not know why we don’t prepare ourselves better for it because we all know there is an end to this version of “us.” I am grateful to have been given many things in this life. For one, my friendship with Jim aka. “Daddy” and the opportunity to know and love a great man. He is a loyal friend with a true and kind and always joking spirit. He is that someone whom I am quite sure my own Father is waiting to meet and thank for taking care of his daughter and his grandchildren like a daddy and a grandfather since he never got to! I am comforted in the fact that my sweet Daddy is not going very far and will be near to me once again when I no longer need this casing for my spirit. And while I am going to miss his jokes and antics for a while, I am sure we will be together once again someday! I expect YOU Daddy to keep “the generators running” until I can get to you and we all hang out once again!
All my love in this life and the life thereafter!


Alisa Murrays Living the Sweet Life | June 2017

Living the Sweet Life:
I’m Hygee Hip and Trending, Are you?


Well there’s always something trending. No “fake news” there! It’s not surprising to hear that this or that is the new “it.” What is surprising is the idea that something so simple and so automatic could be re-labeled and re-branded and tossed to us as an actual new thing and that some of us will actually buy into it. Yes, you know who you are!
Hygee pronounced ‘hoo-gah’ is the latest trend coming out of Denmark. The country boasts proudly to be the happiest place in the world. The concept of “Hygee is the absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming.” Which oddly enough actually sounds like my home. The types of activities that go along with this mindset are also real familiar too. Like the people who are actively “practicing” this trend are said to light candles, check, yep I do that. They are said to drink tea and sit with their cats and watch t.v. with little to no remorse with themselves for having taken a break. Check, do that too! They are said to sleep in and drink wine and restrain from electronics while eating, and enjoying others company. Checkity check. I do all that already. So what is “new” about hygee? Why is it getting all this hype?
I’ll tell you why I think it’s suddenly the new “thing.” We as a society have become too informed. Each day we are without wanting given more and more information and we are on overload. The “idea” of having a safe space i.e. a home where no one can bombard us with annoying crap is quite appealing. The old ways of communicating face to face, and really listening and holding someone’s hand and watching a sunset are days to live for and when they come to cherish. A hygee lifestyle is about going back about 100 years and shutting out on purpose the world. It is about placing in our homes things that we cherish that remind us of trips we have taken and memories we have made. Our homes should always reflect who we are and be filled with things that make us cozy. But NOTHING about this is NEW!
At my house there’s a few cats that will at any moment requested cheerily climb in to your lap. There’s art in every room that either the children or I have created. The chairs are worn and torn and look like they came out of an old house and the kitchen smells like whatever I am cooking. When my friends come they usually ask what’s for lunch and then promptly take a nap! It used to surprise me that I would find them so comfortable in what they call “the country” i.e. my house that they would fall asleep! I suspected though that my house had it’s own hygee vibe. I just called it comfortable and home. With the pool dripping into the water, and the birds singing and the cat’s purring…what in the world would make anyone want to leave? Perhaps like Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz you will be pleasantly surprised to discover that you too are living a hygee lifestyle and that you are hip and trending too!
Take Care of YOU!

Living the Sweet Life: More from Melatonin than we ever thought before… May 2017

Move over Prozac…there’s yet another reason for you to add melatonin into your daily routine. You probably have heard of melatonin but never really knew all of the benefits taking the supplement could deliver to you. My first experience with it was while planning a trip to Paris back in 2007. I bought it and made sure that I took it after settling in on the plane to get me to sleep and to prevent the dreaded “jet lag.” I wanted to bounce off the plane and enjoy as much of the famous city as possible in the just five days that we were going to be there. It worked and it got tossed into the medicine cabinet never to really be thought of again… until now.

Ya’ll know I do a lot of reading and a few months ago I ran across an article about the benefits of melatonin and ear marked it as something that I needed to look further into. Turns out that not only does it induce sleep it also keeps the brain in order, it regulates estrogen and acts as a free radical scavenger making it a potent antioxidant, influences body temperature, antidepressant, protect the heart and may help diabetes! The list is indeed a long one.

Melatonin is released in the pineal gland and that is the center in the brain is where alertness and hormone production take place. When regulated properly it allows for better brain function and in studies melatonin has improved oxidative stresses. It act as a neuroprotectant, which reduces risk of brain damage from stroke and trauma. Melatonin levels drops when we get older as it everything else but by keeping the levels at a normal place even the elderly can be spared sleepless nights. Other brain disorders that tend to pop up such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases in older people may also find benefits from adding a melatonin supplement. Studies with such afflicted patients have shown that melatonin actually counters the neurotoxicity effects of amyloid beta and tau proteins which become too high in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. By adding a melatonin supplement some benefits have been achieved in slowing the progression of cognitive impairment.

As an antidepressant is probably the most exciting news since the mental health of our country is at risk with so many people falling into depression. Seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a form of depression that occurs with people in the winter months. I personally have not been diagnosed with this but am in fact quite sure that I do have it. This is why when daylight savings begins and the trees become green again I just “feel” better. Melatonin has proved to be effective at treating depression. Researchers are continuing to discover more and more benefits from melatonin, even that it may protect the heart. Insulin secretion is synchronized in our bodies with melatonin production meaning that there’s potential with this little pill to be able to help stave off diabetes too! I have added it to my daily routine and so should you, after talking to your very own doctor of course!
Take Care of YOU!

*Information Credit goes to Psychology Today Supplemental Science section April 2016 by Rachel Uda