Monthly Archives: February 2015

by -
0 473
Linda Ventura, center, holds up a picture of her son Thomas, who overdosed on heroine three years ago. She will be one of the many speakers at a Kings Park drug forum in March. File photo

By Jenni Culkin

A forum will be held at William T. Rogers Middle School, 97 Old Dock Road, Kings Park, on Wednesday, March 4, at 7 p.m., with the hope of keeping the next generation of Kings Park residents safe and informed, event organizers said.

The event is going to be geared toward middle school students and their parents, making a point to intervene while the middle school students of Kings Park are still young and impressionable.

“The best way to stop addiction is through prevention,” says Kimberly Revere, president of Kings Park In The kNOw.

Attendees can expect Kym Laube, the executive director for Human Understanding & Growth Services, to speak to the parents about understanding trends in addiction and other decisions that have potentially destructive outcomes. She will also be discussing the role that parents play in their teenagers’ attitudes and provide them with the tools and information that they need to navigate the challenges of their children’s teen years.

“Parents are still the number one influence on their teenagers,” Laube said.

There’s also going to be a speaker for the adolescent attendees. Linda Ventura, a mother who lost her son to an overdose. She will be sharing the journey that she and her family went through.

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) will also be speaking. All of the attendees will listen to a brief overview of laws like the Social Host Law and the 911 Good Samaritan Law that affect those who are involved with, or know somebody who is involved with, drugs and alcohol. Trotta is a retired Suffolk County police detective who was assigned to the FBI’s Violent Crime Task Force for over 10 years.

In The kNOw’s goal is for each of the communities in the state to take care of itself in order to take care of the overall problem.

Even those who have no substance abuse are still affected, and they are advised to attend to learn about what the community can do to prevent any possible damage.

“We are facing an opiate epidemic in this country,” Revere said. “Something has to be done.”

by -
0 308
Suffolk County Legislator Rob Trotta with his dog Buddy. Photo from Susan Eckert

By Jenni Culkin

Suffolk County Legislator Robert Trotta (R-Fort Salonga) will be holding a food drive for pet food in his office from now until Thursday, April 30.

Donations will be accepted during the normal business hours of 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the normal business days of Monday through Friday.

The drive is going to bring pet food to the Harry Chapin Food Bank so that those who are assisted by the food bank can feed their pets as well as themselves.

Trotta also said he believes that pets can be an extremely important part of people’s lives, especially when they’re down on their luck.

“Pets keep many people going, giving them comfort and a reason to survive in difficult times,” said Trotta.
Trotta himself has a dog named Buddy.

The office is currently accepting donations of canned and dry cat or dog food, dog treats, birdseed, fish food, kitty litter and small toys that are unused.

According to Long Island Cares, the organization that runs the food bank, dog and cat food are items with high demand because the costs of heating a home, buying medications, paying the bills, and putting food on the table prevent some people with financial hardships from properly caring for their pets without assistance.

Long Island Cares has been providing pet food for its clients since 2009. There is hope that the people of Suffolk County can continue the pet food donation trend well into this frigid winter over five years later.

Donations can be dropped off at 59 Landing Ave. in Smithtown throughout the duration of the drive, Trotta said.

by -
0 280

Looking through binoculars from the bleachers at a baseball game, at an eagle as it alights on a distant tree or at a constellation in a cloudless night are all much easier with a clear lens. A smudge, crack or even a hair on the lens can make that long-distance gazing considerably more challenging, as the images become blurry and our eyes struggle to interpret the difference between what’s out there and the defect in our binoculars.

The same holds true for radiation detectors. Constructed with bars of crystals, the detectors have applications in everything from medical imaging to see tumors to peering deep into the universe for signature radiation signals to detecting the movement of nuclear materials to help prevent an attack or accident.

A significant challenge with these detectors has been the defects that appear as the crystal grows. Scientists work on two fronts to deal with these imperfections: They improve the quality of the crystals, and they develop ways to compensate for the imperfections.

At Brookhaven National Laboratory, physicist Aleksey Bolotnikov has made significant contributions to improving detector performance despite the flaws in the crystal.

“We veto the interactions in the ‘bad’ regions of the crystals,” Bolotnikov explained.

Working with a team of scientists at BNL, including Giuseppe Camarda, Utpal Roy, Anwar Hossain and Ge Yang, Bolotnikov has been able to measure the coordinates of these defects with high accuracy. This allows the researchers to improve the detecting capability and reduce the cost by increasing the acceptance rates of the crystals.

Recently, Bolotnikov authored a paper in Applied Physics Letters in which he increased the size and thickness of the crystals. The thicker crystals are important in detecting weak sources.

Bolotnikov has “been able to establish new records for the thickness of semiconductor gamma-ray detectors operating at room temperature,” offered Ralph James, who heads Bolotnikov’s department and has collaborated with him ever since he arrived 20 years ago. “This is a critical step in the move to replace many traditional radiation-sensing instruments used today.”

The biggest market for these detectors with thicker crystals is in nuclear medical instruments for oncology and cardiology, James said.

Bolotnikov explained that the team at BNL combines researchers with expertise in a range of areas. Roy grows the crystals, while a group from the instrumentation division led by Gianluigi De Geronimo facilitates the work as a “top expert in readout electronics.” By tapping into his expertise in nuclear physics and nuclear engineering, Bolotnikov is  also able to design and develop new detectors.

James credits his colleague with significant advances in detector technology. “His new position-sensitive device design has rendered outstanding results that have approached the theoretical limits for energy resolution,” James said.

The work of Bolotnikov and the team has earned them national recognition. Bolotnikov was a part of three R&D Magazine’s R&D 100 Awards, in 2006, 2009 and 2014.

Last fall, he received the Room Temperature Semiconductor Detector Scientist Award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The award recognized a scientist who had done the most to impact room temperature semiconductor detectors and could be given either for a lifetime of work or for a single accomplishment.

The award is “well earned,” James said. Bolotnikov’s votes among the awards committee “surpassed others by far.”

Like other members of his team, James said Bolotnikov works most waking hours. “I can count on a quick response from him via emails during the evenings,” James said.

Born in a small city near Moscow, Bolotnikov first came to Long Island around 1991. He now lives in Setauket with his wife Mila, who is a teacher for North Shore Montessori. His daughter Dasha works at BlackRock, while his son Vassili works for a small management company affiliated with Stony Brook Hospital.

Bolotnikov, who said he enjoys his work, suggested that the effort to improve technology generates new ideas, which “creates the new background or basis for writing proposals for the next cycle of work.”

Bolotnikov continues to work on increasing the size of the crystals in the detectors. At some point, the larger sizes can become prohibitively expensive. An alternative, he suggested, is to use gamma-ray focusing optics, concentrating gamma rays coming from large areas toward a reasonably sized detector. “This, he said, “is a new horizon.”

by -
0 380
Emma, one of the Angela’s House children, rides a pony earlier this year. Photo from Bob Policastro

By Jenni Culkin

The Town of Smithtown will host a night of saying thanks to a group known for its generosity.

The Watermill Caterers of Smithtown is set to hold a special gala on Thursday, March 19, to honor two important contributors to the nonprofit group, Angela’s House.

Hundreds of children and their families reach out to Angela’s House each year to provide them with a safe and comfortable place to go to ease the pressure of caring for a child with specific medical needs: 24-hour nursing care, case management, family counseling and other beneficial programs sustain the caring and attentive environment of the organization.

The two honorees, Ron and Rob Brigati of White Post Farms, donate their time, effort and resources toward an annual summer party for the residents of Angela’s House and their families. Their actions provide a carefree summer day to relax and take a breather from their daily responsibilities.

“The smiles and joy that they see as a result makes it very special,” Ron Brigati said.

Now it was time for Angela’s House to return the favor, the organization said. At $100 per ticket, local residents can enjoy an evening at one of the area’s most distinguished wedding halls by socializing at a cocktail hour, a reception and a formal dinner. Guests will also have the opportunity to win prizes during auctions and raffles. The money raised from the event will go toward the children that Angela’s House assist on a daily basis.

by -
0 426
The iconic Smithtown statue, “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the township and is a symbol of the community’s long and storied past. File photo by Elana Glowatz

By Jenni Culkin

There is cause for celebration among Smithtown residents this year. The town was founded 350 years ago, and the Smithtown Historical Society is preparing to get its residents involved in festivities and immersion in the town’s proud history.

“This town has been inhabited for 350 years,” said Kiernan Lannon, executive director of the Smithtown Historical Society. “It’s self-evident that this is a milestone!”

Lannon said the Smithtown Historical Society’s mission is to “preserve and present the town’s history,” and in order to develop an itinerary for the 350th annual celebration, the town’s historical society developed the 350 Foundation — a group of volunteers comprised of representatives from various organizations in the town.

On March 3rd, 1665, Richard Smythe, the town’s founder, was granted the Nicholls Patent. The patent gave him the right to the territory that encompasses present-day Smithtown. Originally, it was believed that Smythe was told that he could have all of the territory that he could circumnavigate on the back of a bull.

The bull story is so important that it has become the icon that represents Smithtown. The bull statue, affectionately named “Whisper the Bull,” welcomes residents as they enter the town boundaries.

The story proved to be only a legend, but it still has a place in this year’s celebration of the town’s history.

The Bull Smythe Relay is proof that the bull story is still sentimental to the people of Smithtown. The relay is the first of the 350th anniversary events that the 350 Foundation is planning, scheduled for March 1, which will mimic the torch relays that are performed during the Olympics.

The relay will cover approximately 36 miles within the town, each mile sponsored by a different person, organization or family. The public is welcome to come and watch the Bull Smythe Relay and support the participants.

Town historian Bradley Harris helped spearhead the planning of this year’s 350th celebration after Town Supervisor Patrick Vecchio penned a letter to him asking him to help plan the events.

Only two days after the relay, on March 3, there will be a special town board meeting. A time capsule opening will follow the meeting. The capsule was buried in 1965, during the town’s 300th anniversary celebration.

Town Councilwoman Lynne Nowick says that she can remember attending the 300th anniversary and said the events were historically a great historical celebration for the Town of Smithtown.

“The 350 committee is doing a fabulous job,” she said.

The dedicated 350 Foundation has a tentative calendar of events stretching from late February to December of this year. Not all of these events are held by the historical society.

The Smithtown Performing Arts Center is also hosting a musical performance called “The Spirit of Smithtown,” which will be playing in late May and early June. The Smithtown Library is also formulating a schedule of events that is to be announced within the last few weeks of February. Even the public schools in Smithtown’s school districts are planning an art show and contest.

by -
0 255

This article was originally published in the January 23, 2014 issue of Arts and Lifestyles.
Gluten has been gaining in notoriety over the last several years. When we hear someone mention a gluten-free diet, several things tend to come to mind. One may be that this is a healthy diet. Along the same lines, we may think gluten is bad for us. However, gluten-free is not necessarily synonymous with healthy. There are many beneficial products containing gluten.
We might think that gluten-free diets are a fad, like low-fat or low-carb diets. Still, we keep hearing how more people feel better without gluten. Could this be a placebo effect? What is myth and what is reality in terms of gluten? In this article I will try to distill what we know about gluten and gluten-free diets, who may benefit and who may not.
But first, what is gluten? Most people I ask don’t know the answer, which is OK; it is part of the reason I am writing the article. Gluten is a plant protein found mainly in wheat, rye and barley.
Now to answer the question of whether going gluten-free is a fad. The answer is resounding “No,” since we know that patients who suffer from celiac disease, an autoimmune disease, benefit tremendously when gluten is removed.(1) In fact, it is the main treatment.
But what about people who don’t have celiac disease? There seems to be a spectrum of physiological reaction to gluten, from intolerance to gluten (sensitivity) to gluten tolerance (insensitivity). Obviously, celiac disease is the extreme of intolerance, but even these patients may be asymptomatic. Then, there is nonceliac gluten sensitivity, referring to those in the middle portion of the spectrum.(2) The prevalence of NCGS is half that of celiac disease, according to the NHANES data from 2009-2010.(3) However, many disagree with this assessment, indicating that it is much more prevalent and that its incidence is likely to rise.(4) The term was not even coined until 2011.
What is the difference between full-blown celiac disease and gluten sensitivity? They both may have intestinal symptoms, such as bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea, as well as extraintestinal (outside the gut) symptoms, including gait ataxia (gait disturbance), malaise, fatigue and attention deficit disorder.(5) Surprisingly, they both may have the same results with serological (blood) tests, which may be positive or negative. The first line of testing includes antigliadin antibodies and tissue transglutaminase. These measure a reaction to gluten; however, they don’t have to be positive to have reaction to gluten. HLA–DQ phenotype testing is the second line of testing and tends to be more specific for celiac disease.
What is unique to celiac disease is a histological change in the small intestine, with atrophy of the villi (small fingerlike projections) contributing to gut permeability, what might be called “leaky gut.” Biopsy of the small intestine is the most definitive way to diagnose celiac disease.
Though the research has mainly focused on celiac disease, there is some evidence that shows NCGS has potential validity, especially in irritable bowel syndrome.
Before we look at the studies, what does it mean when a food says it’s “gluten-free”? Well, the FDA has recently weighed in by passing regulation that requires all gluten-free foods to have no more than 20 parts per million of gluten.(6) The agency has given food manufacturers a year to comply with the new standards. Now, let’s look at the evidence.
Irritable bowel syndrome
Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a nebulous disease diagnosed through exclusion, and the treatments are not obvious. That is why the results from a randomized controlled trial, the gold standard of studies, showing that a gluten-free diet significantly improved symptoms in IBS patients, is so important.(7) Patients were given a muffin and bread on a daily basis.
Of course, one group was given gluten-free products and the other given products with gluten, though the texture and taste were identical. In six weeks, many of those who were gluten-free saw the pain associated with bloating and gas mostly resolve; significant improvement in stool composition, such that they were not suffering from diarrhea; and their fatigue diminished. In fact, in one week, those in the gluten group were in substantially more discomfort than those in the gluten-free group. There were 34 patients involved in this study.
As part of a well-written March 4, 2013 editorial in Medscape, by David Johnson, M.D., a professor of gastroenterology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, he questions whether this beneficial effect from the IBS trial was due to gluten withdrawal or to withdrawal of fermentable sugars because of the elimination of some grains, themselves.(8) In other words, gluten may be just one part of the picture. He believes that nonceliac gluten sensitivity is a valid concern.
Autism
Autism is a very difficult disease to quantify, diagnose and treat. Some have suggested gluten may play a role. Unfortunately, in a study with children who had autism spectrum disorder and who were undergoing intensive behavioral therapy, removing both gluten and casein, a protein found in dairy, had no positive impact on activity or sleep patterns.(9) These results were disappointing. However, this was a very small study involving 22 preschool children. Removing gluten may not be a panacea for all ailments.
Antibiotics
The microbiome in the gut may play a pivotal role as to whether a person develops celiac disease. In an observational study using data from the Swedish Prescribed Drug Register, results indicate that those who were given antibiotics within the last year had a 40 percent greater chance of developing celiac disease and a 90 percent greater risk of developing inflammation in the gut.(10) The researchers believe that this has to do with dysbyosis, a misbalance in the microbiota, or flora, of the gastrointestinal tract. It is interesting that celiac disease may be propagated by change in bacteria in the gut from the use of antibiotics.
Not everyone will benefit from a gluten-free diet. In fact, most of us will not. Ultimately, people who may benefit from this type of diet are those patients who have celiac disease and those who have symptomatic gluten sensitivity. Also patients who have positive serological tests, including tissue transglutaminase or antigliadin antibodies are good candidates for gluten-free diets.
There is a downside to a gluten-free diet: potential development of macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies. Therefore, it would be wise to ask your doctor before starting gluten withdrawal. The research in patients with gluten sensitivity is relatively recent, and most gluten research has to do with celiac disease. Hopefully, we will see intriguing studies in the near future, since gluten-free products have grown to a $4 billion industry that the FDA now has begun to regulate.

References:
(1) Am J Gastroenterol. 2013;108:656-676. (2) Gut 2013;62:43–52. (3) Scand J Gastroenterol. (4) Neurogastroenterol Motil. 2013 Nov;25(11):864-71. (5) medscape.com. (6) fda.gov. (7) Am J Gastroenterol. 2011; 106(3):508-14. (8) medscape.com. (9) 9th annual AIM for Autism Research 2010; abstract 140.007. (10) BMC Gastroenterol. 2013:13(109).

Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management. For further information, go to the website medicalcompassmd.com or consult your personal physician.

by -
0 251

If imitation is the highest form of flattery, there should be plenty of blushing moths. A group of scientists is working on a new way to create a structure similar to the moth eye, albeit with several important differences, to build a better solar cell.

Unlike human eyes, the compound moth’s eyes have a collection of miniature posts across their surface.

These posts allow the moth to absorb a wide range of light without reflecting it back. This prevents the “moth in the headlights” appearance, enabling the insect to blend in without sending a reflection predators might notice.

While Lord Rayleigh worked out the mathematics for why the moth eye geometry eliminates reflection in the 1800s, a team at Brookhaven National Laboratory has come up with a new approach to creating an anti-reflective silicon.

“Our advance is in coming up with a tricky new way” to make a silicon surface that absorbs instead of reflects light, said Chuck Black, a scientist and group leader at the Center for Functional Nanomaterials at BNL. “We think it has practical advantages in applying this” to things like solar cells or even, some day, anti-reflective windshields on cars or windows in buildings.

Companies have been using multilayer coatings to increase the ability of silicon solar cells to absorb light. By etching a nanoscale texture onto the material, researchers including Black and Atikur Rahman, a postdoctoral researcher, were able to create an anti-reflective surface that works as well as multilayer coatings, while outperforming single antireflective film by about 20 percent.

The researchers coated the top of a silicon solar cell with a substance Black has worked with for more than 15 years, called a block copolymer. The advantage to this substance is that it can self-organize into a surface pattern with dimensions of only about 10 nanometers. This pattern enabled the development of posts that are similar to those of a moth’s eyes, even though the features in their structures are much smaller than those in the insect eye.

The challenge in trying to reduce reflections is that sunlight has a wide range of colors at different wavelengths. Substances designed to absorb one color won’t be as effective at capturing a different one.

That’s where the moth enters the picture.

“Nature has learned how to create this anti-reflection,” by using spikes, Black said. “This promotes anti-reflection not just in one but in all wavelengths of light.”

The way this works is somewhat akin to the proverbial frog in a pot of water. In the frog story, a frog sitting in a pot of water that slowly heats up doesn’t jump out of the water even when it’s boiling because it’s adjusted to the changing temperature. Similarly, these spikes draw light of different wavelengths in because the distances between them are all smaller than the wavelength of light. The light effectively reacts to their average properties, Black explained.

When the light travels through these spikes, which are not cylindrical but, rather are thinner at the top and flair at the bottom, it reacts as if it hits something that is a combination of something small and insignificant and air. As the light travels towards the silicon surface, it interacts less with air and more with the spike, where it becomes absorbed by the thicker base before it can reflect back out.

“You’re softening this transition between air and whatever you’re trying to couple the light into,” Black said. Instead of a sharp boundary between the air the light is traveling through and the surface, the spikes ease that interaction, gradually capturing the light.

To demonstrate its effect, Black held a small photograph of his lab above a reflecting surface in which a small square is coated with the anti-reflective material. In the reflection, the square with the anti-reflective substance appears black.

Black and Rahman, who was the lead author on the study, published their results in Nature Communications. They don’t know whether this approach is more economical or efficient than the current multilayer coating for solar cells. They are working with external partners to understand the economic or performance advantages of this approach, he said.

Black and his wife Theresa Lu, who is a physician scientist at the Hospital for Special Surgery, live in Manhattan with their two primary school children, Marina and Charlotte.

As for his work, Black and Rahman filed a patent for this technology last year. “It’s something we’re very proud of,” he said.

East Northport man was also a firefighter and veteran

Elaine and Salvatore ‘Sam’ Macedonio Sr., on vacation in Italy last year. Photos from Mark Macedonio

By Julianne Cuba

East Northport firefighter, veteran and retired police officer Salvatore “Sam” Macedonio Sr., a former member of what was once the Town of Huntington Police Department, died from complications with lung cancer earlier this month. He was 87.

Macedonio, survived by his wife, Elaine, and his children, Gary Macedonio, Mark J. Macedonio, Lisa M. Macedonio Olofson and Salvatore Macedonio Jr., had served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II.

Following his military service, Macedonio joined the Town of Huntington Police Department as a patrolman in 1954. When the department merged into the Suffolk County Police Department in 1960, Macedonio was one of its first members.

Mark Macedonio said his father was loved very much and he will be sorely missed.

“He knew everybody in the Town of Huntington and everybody knew him,” he said. “He was a very well-known fellow. From his early days growing up in Huntington until the very end, he was a very approachable, kind, person. He was a great listener and peacemaker.”

Macedonio retired from the 2nd Precinct of the Suffolk County Police Department as a senior patrolman in 1973. Since his retirement from the police force, Macedonio had co-founded Vor-Mac Auto Collision Inc. in Greenlawn, which he co-owned with his wife for more than 20 years. During that time, he was also a volunteer firefighter at the East Northport Fire Department for more than 40 years; and he was active for more than 20 of those years.

Sam Macedonio in 2011, at the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo from Mark Macedonio
Sam Macedonio in 2011, at the national World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C. Photo from Mark Macedonio

Following in her father’s footsteps, Macedonio Olofson — along with her husband, Brian, and their two daughters, Katherine and Nicole — joined the East Northport Fire Department as volunteers.

Macedonio Olofson, an EMT and lieutenant of the rescue squad, is also a school nurse at the Norwood Avenue Elementary School in Northport.

“He always taught us to give back to the community and that’s what I’m doing,” she said. “I volunteer all my free time to give back to the community.”

As the middle child in a family of 13 children, family always came first to Macedonio, his daughter said.

Born in Locust Valley on March 11, 1927, Macedonio was forced to quit high school to work on his parent’s farm — Cedar Hill Farm in East Northport — in the midst of the Great Depression. Macedonio was able to receive his high school diploma following his military service.

Henry Johnson, an 86-year-old Huntington Station resident, had worked on the Town of Huntington Police Department the same years Macedonio did.

“I just about never worked with him, but he had a good reputation, he was a hard worker and he was a good police officer,” Johnson said.

As a patrolman, Macedonio led a very distinguished career, his daughter said; he had been issued many commendations, including for bravery, meritorious service and outstanding performance of duty, as well as two heroic life-saving events in the early 1960s, Olofson recalls.

“He was widely known to many Huntington Township residents as a result of his active life, service to the community, humility and great love of all people,” she said.

Former Suffolk County Police Commissioner Richard Dormer sang Macedonio’s praises in an email statement, calling the East Northport man “a special kind of person” who was a “master of verbal judo” and could defuse volatile situations.

“He had no ego issues and brought a steadying and calm influence to his police duties,” Dormer said. “He loved the police department and when we would run into each other over the years, he would always bring up his days serving the people of Huntington Township and Suffolk County. He was so proud to be a cop.”

by -
0 1036
Heart-shaped pancakes straight from the skillet.

​If you’ve ventured into the Valentine’s Day section of Target lately, you probably had to squeeze past other shoppers trying to acknowledge the holiday with sanity. A few heart-shaped cookies here, maybe some chocolates and, of course, cards for the kids to hand out at school. Though the aisle was probably full, there was not yet a sign of mania.

Nevertheless, there are some — and I used to be one of them — who still crumble under the pressure of having to produce an appropriately deep and meaningful display of affection for their sweeties. And in desperation, end up buying — forgettable, or not so forgettable — tchotchkes like heart-bedecked dress socks. But why all the pressure? We could blame the Victorians, who made the practice of sending a card to that special someone de rigeur. But really, there’s nothing wrong with a simple card.

The thing is, little is actually simple these says. And retailers like it that way.

If Valentine’s Day becomes another chance to have a little fun and celebrate our friends, or families, or sweethearts, there’s no reason for people to lose their minds. So, there’s no need to order that Vermont Teddy Bear Christian Grey, equipped with mask and handcuffs. (I kid you not — that bear, in all his three-piece-suit glory, exists. That’s just fifty shades of wrong!)

Instead, think of February 14 as an excuse to have pink-and-red and heart-shaped fun! Like heart-shaped pancakes for dinner. That’s fun, and you don’t even need a mold to make them — unless you want them to be absolutely unquestionable in their heart status, in which case, a trip to Bed Bath and Beyond may be in order. But really, it’s very easy to shape the batter into a heart once it starts to bubble and get a little bit of form on the bottom. And the result really does look more like a heart than not.

Pizza dough is also pretty easy to shape into a heart, and I’ve even seen some with the pepperoni cut into little hearts. Use a heart cookie cutter for sandwiches, and if you go online, you’ll see that people can turn just about any food into hearts. Cookies and Rice Krispy treats look downright pedestrian compared to heart-shaped cinnamon rolls, strawberries and cherry tomatoes.

You name it, there’s a how-to for it. There’s even heart-shaped salad — to offset the chocolates, of course. Or, since we’re all about being low-key, low-stress and fun, buy heart-shaped ravioli, and boom! — you’ve met your heart-shaped quota for the meal.

Homemade Valentines can be fun with stencils, doilies, glitter glue, stickers and construction paper. I admit we went the way of Frozen and Spider Man, but the grandparents, at least, will get something original. In fact, for something a little fancier, you can cut flowers out of tissue paper and stick a Dum Dum lollipop through the center to make an edible flower valentine. But you only have to do it, if you want to.

Are you overdue for a new mix of love songs? (I know it’s a playlist, but mix tapes bring back such good memories.) Besides, what’s more full of emotion than music? (Not a word from you, Kanye). You don’t have to be a fan of Lionel Richie, George Michael or Chicago to have a romantic list, though who can resist their deliciously cheesy ballads? There are so many ways to mix your music — with standards, Broadway duets, or all 60s or 80s or 90s fare. And who says it has to be romantic? With some C and C music factory, Paula Abdul, and Michael Jackson, you can make it a dance party!

There’s a certain sweetness to the way kids celebrate with corny candy heart expressions and cartoon characters cards. It’s the idea that love of every kind is worth celebrating, especially friendship and appreciation for those who make a difference in our lives.

Anyway, it doesn’t matter what you do or don’t do on the day marked with a huge heart on the calendar. All that matters is that you don’t wait for that day to arrive to show those around you that you care.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

The Ronjo magic shop is full of tricks and costumes. Photo by Jenni Culkin

By Jenni Culkin

Ronjo has a little something magical for everyone. The magic and costume shop has card tricks, coin tricks, novelty items, pranks, juggling props and swords, magicians, knife throwers, ventriloquists, jugglers, balloon artists and party planners. There are costumes, accessories, makeup, masks, wigs and so much more on display from the moment a customer walks through the doors.

“We specialize in entertainment,” said Ronald Diamond, owner of the shop on Route 112 in Port Jefferson Station. “We can do it all.”

Ronald Diamond performs a card trick at the Ronjo magic shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin
Ronald Diamond performs a card trick at the Ronjo magic shop. Photo by Jenni Culkin

Diamond is a professional magician and entertainer who has years of experience working with different age groups. He believes that magic is an art form that serves a purpose higher than just entertainment.

He attributes his success to good business practices, like customer service skills and product knowledge. He also gives credit to the current manager of the store, Peter Albertson.

Born in Flatbush, Diamond’s family moved to Suffolk County in 1966. The shop owner began his adventure at seven years old, when he was introduced to magic and took it up as a hobby. In May 1974, when he was 15, he began to take magic from hobby to profession.

“It made me feel confident,” Diamond said about performing magic. “It helps people with public speaking and it is used as a way to connect.”

Diamond, a husband and father of two girls, lives in the Town of Brookhaven, where he says he can relate to and understand the needs of his local customers. He believes he can spread his confidence and social skills by offering private magic lessons for adults and children and running a magic club during the first Friday of each month. During the nicer weather, Diamond runs a free magic show that accepts donations for designated charities.

According to the businessman, magic can boost even the most distinguished professionals, such as health professionals and lawyers, by helping them develop social connections with the people they work with.

In 1978, Diamond began expanding his store’s specialties to include costumes and other dress-up items, a transition that began when his performers started asking him if he could provide them with a mask or a costume to further entertain their audiences.

“We are not Halloween, we are Hollywood!” Diamond said, sharing his motto for Ronjo’s costumes.

People are impressed by the quality and selection of the store’s costumes, he said, especially when compared with chain stores that tend to carry only three sizes or one-size-fits-all costumes. Ronjo’s shelves have costumes for many seasons and holidays, including the Easter bunny, Santa Claus and some comical green St. Patrick’s Day outfits.

Ronjo also manufactures its own tricks — about 40 right now — and distributes them worldwide, and Diamond has published a couple of his own magic booklets.

In recent years, Ronjo has upped its game, becoming a “green” store that uses LED lighting and prints on both sides of the paper and cards they use.

“This is not a job,” Diamond said about his business. “It is a lifestyle for me.”

Social

4,769FansLike
5Subscribers+1
968FollowersFollow
19SubscribersSubscribe