Arts & Entertainment

The white petals of Large-Cupped N. 'Roulette' are a perfect foil for the orange and yellow frilled corona.

By Kyrnan Harvey

No need to panic, there’s plenty of time to order bulbs. True, some varieties might be sold out, but the importers ship through December and bulbs can be planted as long as the ground isn’t frozen. I have, in the past, gotten away with planting after New Year’s.

Above, fragrant Narcissus ‘Kedron’ (jonquilla class) naturalized with other daffodils and myrtle

 

I once had a garden with soil on the sandy side, enriched in the early years with wood-chip mulch, which eventually decomposes into humus. Here many kinds of tulips were naturalized. They need good drainage, and no excessive irrigation, in the summer months when they are dormant, or else they will rot. If I had planted five of one variety in 1998, by 2008 bulbs had increased with offsets that were flowering size. Tulips growing informally through forget-me-nots and among many other spring flowers and shrubs — as opposed to a stiffly formal throwaway mass display planting — are incomparably charming. But they are said to be caviar to deer.

Daffodils though are 100 percent deer proof. Nor do squirrels dig for them as they do for tulips. I like to plant them in a similar style: many different varieties, each segregated from other varieties. I don’t like daffodil “mixes” — five or 10 bulbs, spaced a few inches apart, randomly arranged (meaning asymmetrically, nongeometrically). In two or three years these bulbs will have a dozen or more flowers. Daffodils increase and naturalize far more reliably than tulips.

There are many more varieties of Narcissus than will be seen at Home Depot or a garden center. Thirty years ago, when I was employed as a gardener at Mrs. Whitney’s Manhasset estate, we participated in a flower show at Macy’s Herald Square. The head gardener, my boss, presented an instructional display with examples from each of the 13 divisions of daffodils, as established by the Royal Horticultural Society: trumpets, large-cupped and small-cupped N. triandrus, N. jonquilla, N. poeticus and so on.

Above, the charming Narcissus jonquilla ‘Kokopelli’

You can find, via numerous stateside bulb importers (Brent & Becky’s, John Scheepers, White Flower Farm), splendid cultivars from any and all of these classes. Moreover, within each division, there are many variations of form and diversity of color: white perianth (the petals) with yellow or orange or pink corona (the cup, or trumpet); yellow perianth/orange cup; white perianth/white cup. The rims of the cups can have different colors too and the cups and petals can have various forms.

It is easy to fill your garden with many different long-lived daffodils, each of which has its own distinctive charm and all of which, when viewed collectively in the vernal garden, harmonize with their compadres. You can do better than merely more ‘Mount Hood’ and ‘King Alfred.’ Many are delightfully scented, which is not, by the way, the cloying odor of the florists’ tender paperwhite narcissus. If you plant a dozen varieties this year, in five years you will be able to fill vases with bountiful, perfumed bouquets.

Daffodils tolerate full sun and part shade. The pink-cupped ones prefer the latter because it preserves their color. Deep shade and water-logged soil must be avoided. Cut the spent flowers but the leaves must be left uncut, unbent, and unbraided for weeks after flowering is finished. Finding companion perennials that disguise this unsightly phase of the growth cycle — and that won’t be chowed by deer! — is a finer aspect of horticulture best left to another day.

Kyrnan Harvey is a horticulturist and garden designer residing in East Setauket. For more information, visit www.boskygarden.com.

All photos by Kyrnan Harvey

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

By Barbara Beltrami

Mark Twain, that delightful old curmudgeon, called cauliflower “a cabbage with a college education,” a proclamation that today would probably be found politically incorrect in some way by someone. I prefer to call cauliflower a vegetable with autumn in its soul — especially here on Long Island where cauliflower farms still exist out on the East End. For me, no autumn is officially ushered in until I have made a pilgrimage to the North Fork, until I have bought too many enormous heads of cauliflower for a couple of dollars a piece at most from some roadside flatbed truck.

Heading home with the late afternoon sun slanting against the windshield, there will also be baskets and sacks of late season tomatoes, cucumbers, apples, Brussels sprouts and peppers, of Seckel pears and cider and gourds and weird shaped pumpkins all wedged into the car’s trunk.

But it will be the cauliflowers I covet most as I watch the russet leaves drift roadward. It will be the cauliflower I single out for that night’s dinner as I stuff the refrigerator’s vegetable drawers with my afternoon’s harvest. For dinner there will very likely be a pasta with cauliflower and sausage. Another night there will be a savory cauliflower salad or hearty cauliflower mashed potatoes. The following weekend I will get out my canning equipment and put up jars of chow-chow with many more little cauliflower florets than the recipe calls for. And my husband, who is also a big cauliflower fan, will nevertheless be relieved that my annual cauliflower fest is over.

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

 

Pasta with Cauliflower and Sausage

YIELD: Makes 4 to 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 pound pasta, preferably ziti or shells

3 sweet Italian sausages

1 medium cauliflower broken into small florets

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

1½ pounds fresh Italian plum tomatoes, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves or 1 teaspoon dried

Salt and crushed red pepper flakes, to taste

¾ cup freshly grated pecorino or romano cheese

DIRECTIONS: Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil for the pasta and cook according to package directions. Meanwhile in a medium skillet, cook the sausages over medium heat until browned on all sides; remove and set aside to keep warm. When they are cool enough to handle, cut them into bite-size pieces. Steam the cauliflower until it is al dente (slightly resistant to the bite), about 3 to 5 minutes. Set aside.

In same skillet used to cook sausages, heat half the olive oil over medium heat: add tomatoes, half the garlic and the thyme. Season and cook, stirring occasionally, over medium heat until most of the liquid is evaporated. In another medium skillet, heat the remaining oil, add the remaining garlic and steamed cauliflower and sauté until cauliflower is slightly golden. Add the sliced sausages to the cauliflower and continue cooking until sausages are reheated.

Pour cooked pasta into a large bowl, top with tomato mixture, then sausages and cauliflower. Adjust seasoning, then sprinkle with grated cheese. Mix at the table and serve with fried peppers, crusty bread and a crunchy green salad.

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

YIELD: Makes 8 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium head cauliflower, in pieces

6 potatoes, pared and coarsely chopped

½ stick butter

¹/3 cup milk or cream

2 eggs

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

¼ cup golden raisins

¼ cup pignoli nuts

DIRECTIONS: Steam the cauliflower and potatoes until they are very soft, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F. Grease a large soufflé dish or casserole. Mash cauliflower and potatoes by hand to break up pieces. Transfer to large bowl of electric mixer. Add butter, milk or cream, eggs and salt and pepper. Beat slowly at first, then increase mixer speed gradually until mixture is smooth. Stir in raisins. Transfer to prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle top with pignoli nuts. Bake until mixture is hot and pignoli nuts are golden, about 30 to 40 minutes. Serve with meat or poultry and a mixed salad. This is a revision of an article written by the author and published in this newspaper in 1989.

Cauliflower Salad

YIELD: Makes 6 servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 medium head cauliflower, broken into bite-size florets

1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and drained

4 flat anchovy fillets, minced

½ cup oil-cured black olives

¼ pound feta cheese, diced

¹/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 to 3 tablespoons wine vinegar

Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced, separated into rings, then chopped

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped

DIRECTIONS: Steam the cauliflower until just tender, about 5 minutes; let cool to room temperature. In a small bowl combine the capers, anchovies, olives and feta cheese with the oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Combine with cauliflower. Cover and let the cauliflower marinate at room temperature at least an hour. Just before serving, add the onion, tomatoes and dill. Serve with meat or poultry, pasta or eggplant.

By Melissa Arnold

Most people have something they dislike about their appearance at one time or another. Diane Melidosian is no exception, struggling with a stubborn cowlick for her entire life. In the spring, she released her first book for children, “Cornelius & the Cowlick,” which recounts a young boy’s efforts to tame his unruly hair. In the end, kindness from his friends and classmates allow Cornelius to embrace the things that make him unique and special.

Tell me a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up?

I grew up in East Northport, but I’ve lived in Stony Brook for more than 30 years. I went to college in Michigan but returned to Long Island when I got married in 1974. I studied special ed, and when I was in undergrad, Eastern Michigan was one of the few schools in the country to offer that program, so off I went. My husband and I were both special ed teachers, but later on I became a reading specialist. We’re both retired now.

Did you always want to be a writer?

I didn’t really want to be a writer when I was a kid — I just had a very active imagination.

What inspired you to write this book?

Above, the cover of Diane Melidosian’s first children’s book

I have a cowlick myself, and it’s always been a problem. All the things that Cornelius does to try to deal with it are things I’ve tried myself. Nothing works! To this day I struggle to keep my hair down, so that’s really where the inspiration came from — having lots of bad hair days. Somewhere along the line I decided to write a story about it.

How did you go about getting the book published?

I did self-publishing through Amazon. One day, I visited the Ward Melville Heritage Organization’s Educational & Cultural Center in Stony Brook, and there was a woman there doing publicity for a book she had written. I don’t remember her name now, but I spoke to her and she told me about publishing through CreateSpace, which is a part of Amazon. I went online and it looked like something I could handle. It was pretty user-friendly, too.

What made you choose the name Cornelius for the main character?

I thought it was a good fit because of the alliteration with the word “cowlick.”

What do you want kids to take away from reading your book?

You know, it’s meant to be a silly book, but my cowlick was something that always troubled me. I figured there’s a kid out there that struggles with hair issues and they might be able to relate and get a laugh out of it. Having his friend and the other kids rally around him helps him to accept himself more. The message I would want them to walk away with is that nothing is insurmountable and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Who did the illustrations for the book? Were you involved in the process?

After I wrote the story, it sat in a drawer for 10 years because finding an illustrator was a big obstacle for me. I don’t have any artistic talent. But then a friend of mine suggested her niece, Kyra Slawski, who ended up doing it for me. She had just graduated from college with an art degree, but she had never done anything like this before. She was very hesitant at first, but I said, “Look, anything you do is going to be fine.” She did a wonderful job. We met a few times in person but did most of our work through the computer. She would send some illustrations to me and I would send them back with comments — sometimes Cornelius’ cowlick wasn’t in the right spot, or I had a different idea. We’d go back and forth until both of us were satisfied.

What was it like seeing Cornelius come to life?

It was so surprising. You can write the story and have an image in your head, but seeing it is different. I can’t say he was exactly as I pictured him — I had pictured a boy a bit more like Dennis the Menace — but when Kyra first sent me her illustrations, I was all for it.

What advice would you give someone who wants to write a book?

Don’t put you book in a drawer for 10 years! Work on it bit by bit and set a time for it to be completed.

“Cornelius & the Cowlick,” recommended for ages 3 to 8, is available on www.Amazon.com for $9.50. The book can also be found in the Local Authors Collection at the Emma S. Clark Memorial Library, 120 Main Street in Setauket.

by -
0 514
Roody

MEET ROODY! Roody was rescued from Puerto Rico in an area where there was no electric power or water for the humans let alone dogs. Now safe at Kent Animal Shelter, he is a little shy because of his ordeal but will make a great pet once he gets familiarized with his new home. Roody comes neutered, microchipped and up to date on vaccines. Why not drop by and say hello? Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. For more information on Roody and other adoptable pets at Kent, please call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

The legacy of those women and men 100 years ago is democracy at work for all.

By Lisa Scott

On Election Day next week, you may be offered a blue sticker that says “I Voted.” If you take a closer look, you might wonder why it has a quaint and old-fashioned image with the words “Honoring 100 Years of a Woman’s Right to Vote.” For every one of us that struggle, the victory and the legacy made a tremendous difference in our lives, rights and American democracy today.

The sticker’s image, chosen by public vote across New York State, is Long Island’s Rosalie Gardiner Jones (yes, that Gardiner’s Island and that Jones Beach!). Far from being a grandmotherly, stern face in a photograph, Jones was a flamboyant young socialite from the Oyster Bay-Cold Spring Harbor area who, much to the dismay of her anti-suffragist mother, preferred campaigning for women’s suffrage over the performance of her social duties.

Always with an eye for publicity, in 1912 she joined fellow suffragette Elisabeth Freeman in a trek across Long Island in a horse-drawn carriage to distribute suffrage pamphlets and literature, and in December of that year received much publicity for leading a 170-mile, 13-day march in the midst of winter from the Bronx to Albany to deliver petitions to the governor, demanding a woman’s suffrage amendment in the NYS Constitution.

Jones believed that the movement should exhibit a more military stance and discipline and thus began calling herself “The General.” She carried the suffrage message into small towns and villages with a personal attention that was both impassioned and provocative. After suffrage was achieved, she continued to campaign for equal rights and social reform until she died in 1978.

New Yorkers have long led the struggle for women’s rights; a fight with diverse people and disparate ideas (people disagreed vehemently for years about goals, partners and methods to further the cause). Seneca Falls is considered the birthplace of the women’s rights movement, and some of its greatest leaders, from Susan B. Anthony to Matilda Joslyn Gage and Elizabeth Cady Stanton (who summered in Shoreham with her suffragist daughter and family), did their pioneering work in the Empire State. In passing women’s suffrage in 1917, New York fueled the momentum for the entire nation to follow suit three years later.

Women vote today because of the women’s suffrage movement, a courageous and persistent political campaign that lasted over 72 years, involved tens of thousands of women and men and resulted in enfranchising one-half of the citizens of the United States. Inspired by idealism and grounded in sacrifice, the suffrage campaign is of enormous political and social significance, yet it is virtually unacknowledged in the chronicles of American history.

For women won the vote. They were not given it, granted it or anything else. They won it as truly as any political campaign is ultimately won or lost. And they won it, repeatedly, by the slimmest of margins, which only underscores the difficulty and magnitude of their victories. It was a movement of female organizers, leaders, politicians, journalists, visionaries, rabble rousers and warriors. It was an active, controversial, multifaceted, challenging, passionate movement of the best and brightest women in America, from all backgrounds, who, in modern parlance, boldly went where no woman had ever gone before.

The suffrage movement holds a particular relevance now as it has helped lead us as a country and a people to where we are today. It celebrates rights won and honors those who helped win them. It puts women into our national history as participants. It reminds us of the necessity of progressive leaders, organizers and visionaries in every local community. The legacy of those women and men 100 years ago is democracy at work for all: civil rights, gender diversity, equality and civic engagement.

For more about our local suffragists, read Antonia Petrash’s book, “Long Island and the Woman Suffrage Movement.” For thought-provoking insights on the suffrage movement and its legacy, read Robert Cooney’s essay, “Taking a New Look — The Enduring Significance of the American Woman Suffrage Movement,” and his comprehensive book, “Winning the Vote: The Triumph of the American Woman Suffrage Movement.”

Lisa Scott is the president of the League of Women Voters of Suffolk County, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that encourages the informed and active participation of citizens in government and influences public policy through education and advocacy. For more information, visit www.lwv-suffolkcounty.org, email [email protected] or call 631-862-6860.

The greater bamboo lemur will struggle to survive amid a shorter rainy season. Photo by Jukka Jernvall

By Daniel Dunaief

An elusive primate is living on a shrinking island within an island. The greater bamboo lemur, which is one of the world’s most endangered primates, now inhabits a small section of Madagascar, where it can find the type of food it needs to survive.

The greater bamboo lemur, which was one of numerous lemurs featured in the 2014 iMax movie, “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar,” is finding that the time when it can eat the most nutritious types of bamboo is narrowing each year amid a longer dry season.

Patricia Wright has dedicated her life to helping lemurs in Madagascar. File photo from SBU

In a publication last week in the journal Current Biology, Patricia Wright, the founder of Centro ValBio research campus, driving force behind the creation of Ranofamana National Park and a distinguished professor of anthropology at Stony Brook University, along with several other researchers, including Jukka Jernvall from the University of Helsinki and Alistair Evans from Monash University, showed that the population of lemurs is threatened by a changing climate. The bamboo that sustains the greater bamboo lemurs depends on water to produce shoots that are higher in nutrition.

Indeed, when the rains come, the new bamboo shoots are “filled with protein,” said Wright. Jernvall, however, predicted that the driest season will get longer by a day each year. By 2070, rains necessary for bamboo growth and greater bamboo lemur survival will be delayed by as much as two months.

This is problematic not only for the current generation of greater bamboo lemurs but also for the more vulnerable younger generations, who need their lactating mothers to eat more nutritious bamboo to help them grow. Bamboo shoots typically come up from the ground about two weeks after the rains begin, in the middle of November. Bamboo lemurs, whose annual clocks are set to the rhythm of an island off the southeast coast of Africa that is the size of California, are born around the time of these bamboo-shoot-producing rains.

“Any village elder will tell you that the rains used to come at about Nov. 15 and continue until March 15,” Wright said. “That’s the way the world was, even in the 1980s and 1990s and probably many years before that. Suddenly, we started to get some evidence of climate changes and periods of a longer dry season.”

Above, a mother greater bamboo lemur holds her infant, which weighs about half a pound at birth. Photo by Jukka Jernvall

Wright is currently in Madagascar, where she says there is a drought right now. “No water for our research station means no electricity since we are near a hydroelectric power plant,” she explained by email. In fact, in some years, the rains start as late as January, which reduces the food offerings for the mother lemur, who weighs about 6.5 pounds, and her offspring, who need considerable nutrition to grow from birth weights Wright estimates are less than half a pound. The lemur mother “has to have nutritious shoots to feed her baby milk,” Wright said. “She can survive on leaves and trashy stuff in the culm, but she can’t raise her babies” on it.

Wright and Jernvall worked together in 2005 on a study of climate and another type of lemur called sifakas, whose name comes from the alarm sound it makes. In their earlier work, Wright and Jernvall found that aging sifakas with worn teeth could still produce offspring, but that their infants typically died if the weather was dry during the lactation season, Jernvall explained in an email.

“This alerted us about the potential impact of climate change,” he continued. “The bamboo lemur were an obvious concern because they are critically endangered and because they eat the very tough bamboo.”

Jernvall said the work on bamboo lemurs combines Wright’s efforts in Madagascar with climate modeling he performed with Jussi Eronen at the University of Helsinki and an analysis of dental features conducted by Evans and Sarah Zohdy, who is currently at Auburn University. Stacey Tecot, who is on sabbatical from the University of Arizona, also contributed to the research.

Wright believes some efforts can help bring these bamboo lemurs, who survive despite consuming large amounts of cyanide in their bamboo diet, back from the brink. Creating a bamboo corridor might improve the outlook.

Growing bamboo would not only benefit the lemurs, who depend on it for their survival, but would also provide raw materials for the Malagasy people, who use it to construct their homes, to build fences and to cover their waterways.

Bamboo corridors could be a “win-win situation,” where scientists and local communities grew and then harvested these hearty grasses, Wright continued. She has started a bamboo pilot study near one of the small populations of lemurs and hopes the lemurs can expand their range.

The greater bamboo lemur will struggle to survive amid a shorter rainy season. Photo by Jukka Jernvall

Like other animals with unusual lifestyles, the greater bamboo lemurs offer a potential window into an unusual adaptation. Through their typical diet, lemurs consume a high concentration of cyanide, which is stored in the bamboo. Understanding the bamboo lemur could provide evidence of how one species manages to remain unaffected by a toxin often associated with spies and murder mysteries.

As a part of her efforts to improve the chances of survival for this lemur, Wright is considering moving some lemurs to a protected area. She needs permission from Madagascar officials before taking any such actions and recently met with Madagascar National Park official to discuss such remediation efforts.

In Madagascar, Wright said observing the bamboo lemur is challenging because it is such a “cryptic animal.” She has sat beneath a tree where a lemur is hiding for seven hours waiting for it to emerge, watching as a lemur brought in its legs and curled up its body to hide from the scientist’s inquisitive eyes. “I’d get really hungry, so they would win and I would leave,” Wright recalled.

She suggests that the data in the Current Biology article demonstrates the urgency to take action to protect these primates. “We are trying our best to help the bamboo lemur not go extinct,” she said. “Bamboo corridors should help, but we may have to irrigate the bamboo during November to January.”

'Light Spilling Down the Street' by Shain Bard

By Heidi Sutton

‘Grace Safe Inside’ by Margaret Minardi

As the days get shorter and cooler air settles in on Long Island, a perennial favorite, the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Member Artist Showcase, returns to the Mill Pond House Gallery in St. James. Featuring original artwork by 64 STAC member artists, the juried exhibit will be on display throughout the first floor of the historic 1838 Greek Revival mansion through Dec. 10. Many of the works at the showcase will be available for purchase.

“I love this show,” gushed STAC director Allison Cruz during a recent guided tour. “There are so many artists and such diverse artwork. Every year it is so different.” Indeed, there are many different kinds of medium represented this year including digital photography, pen and ink, acrylic, pencil, watercolor, oil, pastel, sculpture and mixed-media.

While typically a juror or curator selects works for an exhibit, the Member Artist Showcase is unique in that it allows the artists to choose what piece they would like to exhibit in the show. “I give them the opportunity to show maybe something new they are working on or something they wouldn’t be able to show somewhere else,” said Cruz.

“We have a lot of artists from different communities across Long Island [in the exhibit],” as well as North Carolina, Florida, Alaska and New York City, Cruz said.

This year’s show was juried by artist Pam Brown. A resident of Stony Brook, Brown taught sculpture and was the director and curator of The Anthony Giordano Gallery at Dowling College in Oakdale for 16 years. She currently maintains a studio and works as a freelance art consultant and curator.

“I was very impressed with the overall level of professionalism and diversity of the artwork submitted for the Members Exhibition,” said Brown. “The exhibition as a whole is engaging because the artwork is conceptually interesting with a variety of forms and styles that are unique and in some cases exquisitely executed.”

‘Awakening’ by Rosemary Wilson Sloggatt

While finding the task difficult “because art is subjective,” Brown eventually selected four equal winners — Margaret Minardi’s “Grace Safe Inside” (colored pencil and acrylic collage); Robert Roehrig’s oil painting, “Fossil Town”; Shain Bard’s autumn scene, “Light Spilling Down the Street” (oil); and Rosemary Wilson Sloggatt for her acrylic painting, “Awakening.”

“Those members get an opportunity to participate in our upcoming Winners Showcase exhibit along with our juried winners,” said Cruz. “It’s a very nice opportunity; they get to show a couple of pieces,” she added.

“Each artist that I selected demonstrated a high level of skill and insight to their area of concentration,” said Brown. “Rosemary Wilson Sloggatt’s large black and white painting of a woman gazing into her refrigerator is striking. To me the painting is about yearning, her arms and hands are reaching into the light, her face is illuminated and she is seeking in the middle of the night for something more.”

She continued, “Margaret Minardi’s ‘Grace Safe Inside’ is incredibly detailed and beautifully rendered. The patterns and colors are complex and meticulously painted. Robert Roehrig’s painting of ‘Fossil Town’ is a unique and precisely painted landscape of an industrial site, which has a small-town wistful feeling. Shain Bard’s painting of early morning on a tree-lined street with parked cars is alluring and is defined by the light that is pouring into the backdrop with muted colors and freely painted forms.”

Pamela Waldroup’s digital pigment print, “Leather Man” and Jeanette Martone’s “Mercado,” pencil and ink on paper received Honorable Mentions. “I liked their story, as well I was struck by their individuality and personal style of making art,” said Brown.

To Cruz, that is music to her ears. “To me this is an important show. We are here to support creativity among people. It’s an important part of what we are.”

Participating artists include: Aldo Arena, Ross Barbera, Shain Bard, Renee Blank, Kyle Blumenthal, Chevalier Daniel C. Boyer, Joyce Bressler, Suzanne R. Brodsky, Renee Caine, Jim Capone, Cheryl Cass-Zampiva, Carol Ceraso, Teresa Cromwell, Julie Doczi, Granville Fairchild, Essie Freilach, Donna Gabusi, Vivian Gattuso, Maureen Ginipro, Justin Greenwald, Donna Grossman, Jan Guarino, Diann Haist, Diane Henderson, Katherine Hiscox, Lori Horowitz, David Jaycox Jr., Anne Katz, Lynn Kinsella, John Koch, Susan Kozodoy-Silkowitz, Rasma Kupers Dos, Patricia Lind-Gonzalez, Linda Louis, Kathryn Lynn, Steven Macanka, Jane Manning, Jeanette Martone, Bobbi Mastrangelo, Terence McManus, Anne Miller, Margaret Minardi, Rebecca Molinari, Karen George Mortimore, Diane Oliva, Alicia R. Peterson, Kara Lee Reyes, Joan Rockwell, Robert Roehrig, Irene Ruddock, Michael Sauer, Lori Scarlatos, Gisela Skoglund, Rosemary Wilson Sloggatt, Sílvia Soares Boyer, Gunter Stern, Hui Hui Su-Kennedy, Nicholas Valentino, Mary Ann Vetter, Pamela Waldroup, Shirley Weiner, Constance Sloggatt Wolf and Patty Yantz.

The Mills Pond House Gallery, located at 660 Route 25A, St. James, will present the Smithtown Township Arts Council’s Member Artist Showcase through Dec. 10. The gallery is open Wednesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information, call 631-862-6575 or visit www.millspondgallery.org.

Exercise significantly reduces breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women

By David Dunaief, M.D.

Dr. David Dunaief

Pink is everywhere this month, as we make a fashion statement to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness Month. This awareness is critical. The incidence of invasive breast cancer in 2017 in the U.S. is estimated to be over 250,000 new cases, with approximately 40,000 patients dying from this disease each year (1). The good news is that from 2003 to 2012 there was decreased mortality in the U.S. across all racial and ethnic populations (2).

We can all agree that screening has merit. Television commercials tout that women in their 30s and early 40s have discovered breast cancer with a mammogram, usually after a lump was detected. Does this mean we should be screening earlier? Screening guidelines are based on the general population that is considered “healthy,” meaning no lumps were found nor is there a personal or family history of breast cancer.

All guidelines hinge on the belief that mammograms are important, but at what age? Here is where divergence occurs; experts can’t agree on age and frequency. The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force recommends mammograms starting at 50 years old, after which time they should be done every other year through age 74 (3). The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends consideration of annual mammograms starting at 40 years old and continuing until age 75. They encourage a process of shared decision-making between patient and physician (4).

The best way to treat breast cancer — and just as important as screening — is prevention, whether it is primary, preventing the disease from occurring, or secondary, preventing recurrence. We are always looking for ways to minimize risk. What are some potential ways of doing this? These may include lifestyle modifications, such as diet, exercise, obesity treatment and normalizing cholesterol levels. Additionally, although results are mixed, it seems that bisphosphonates do not reduce the risk of breast cancer nor its recurrence. Let’s look at the evidence.

Bisphosphonates

October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Bisphosphonates include Fosamax (alendronate), Zometa (zoledronic acid) and Boniva (ibandronate) used to treat osteoporosis. Do they have a role in breast cancer prevention? It depends on the population, and it depends on study quality.

In a meta-analysis involving two randomized controlled trials, results showed there was no benefit from the use of bisphosphonates in reducing breast cancer risk (5). The population used in this study involved postmenopausal women who had osteoporosis, but who did not have a personal history of breast cancer. In other words, the bisphosphonates were being used for primary prevention.

The study was prompted by previous studies that have shown antitumor effects with this class of drugs. This analysis involved over 14,000 women ranging in age from 55 to 89. The two trials were FIT and HORIZON-PFT, with durations of 3.8 and 2.8 years, respectively. The FIT study involved alendronate and the HORIZON-PFT study involved zoledronic acid, with these drugs compared to placebo. The researchers concluded that the data were not evident for the use of bisphosphonates in primary prevention of invasive breast cancer.

In a previous meta-analysis of two observational studies from the Women’s Health Initiative, results showed that bisphosphonates did indeed reduce the risk of invasive breast cancer in patients by as much as 32 percent (6). These results were statistically significant. However, there was an increase in risk of ductal carcinoma in situ (precancer cases) that was not explainable. These studies included over 150,000 patients with no breast cancer history. The patient type was similar to that used in the more current trial mentioned above. According to the authors, this suggested that bisphosphonates may have an antitumor effect. But not so fast!

The disparity in the above two bisphosphonate studies has to do with trial type. Randomized controlled trials are better designed than observational trials. Therefore, it is more likely that bisphosphonates do not work in reducing breast cancer risk in patients without a history of breast cancer or, in other words, in primary prevention.

In a third study, a meta-analysis (group of 36 post-hoc analyses — after trials were previously concluded) using bisphosphonates, results showed that zoledronic acid significantly reduced mortality risk, by as much as 17 percent, in those patients with early breast cancer (7). This benefit was seen in postmenopausal women but not in premenopausal women. The difference between this study and the previous study was the population. This was a trial for secondary prevention, where patients had a personal history of cancer.

However, in a RCT, the results showed that those with early breast cancer did not benefit overall from zoledronic acid in conjunction with standard treatments for this disease (8). The moral of the story: RCTs are needed to confirm results, and they don’t always coincide with other studies.

Exercise

We know exercise is important in diseases and breast cancer is no exception. In an observational trial, exercise reduced breast cancer risk in postmenopausal women significantly (9). These women exercised moderately; they walked four hours a week. The researchers stressed that it is never too late to exercise, since the effect was seen over four years. If they exercised previously, but not recently, for instance, five to nine years ago, no benefit was seen.

To make matters worse, only about one-third of women get the recommended level of exercise every week: 30 minutes for five days a week. Once diagnosed with breast cancer, women tend to exercise less, not more. We need to expend as much energy and resources emphasizing exercise as a prevention method as we do screenings.

Soy intake

Contrary to popular belief, soy may be beneficial in reducing breast cancer risk. In a meta-analysis (a group of eight observational studies), those who consumed more soy saw a significant reduction in breast cancer compared to those who consumed less (10). There was a dose-response curve among three groups: high intake of >20 mg per day, moderate intake of 10 mg and low intake of <5 mg.

Those in the highest group had a 29 percent reduced risk, and those in the moderate group had a 12 percent reduced risk, when compared to those who consumed the least. Why have we not seen this in U.S. trials? The level of soy used in U.S. trials is a fraction of what is used in Asian trials. The benefit from soy is thought to come from isoflavones, plant-rich nutrients.

Western vs. Mediterranean diets

A Mediterranean diet may decrease the risk of breast cancer significantly.

In an observational study, results showed that, while the Western diet increases breast cancer risk by 46 percent, the Spanish Mediterranean diet has the inverse effect, decreasing risk by 44 percent (11). The effect of the Mediterranean diet was even more powerful in triple-negative tumors, which tend to be difficult to treat. The authors concluded that diets rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts and oily fish were potentially beneficial.

Hooray for Breast Cancer Awareness Month stressing the importance of mammography and breast self-exams. However, we need to give significantly more attention to prevention of breast cancer and its recurrence. Through potentially more soy intake, as well as a Mediterranean diet and modest exercise, we may be able to accelerate the trend toward a lower breast cancer incidence.

References: (1) breastcancer.org. (2) cdc.gov. (3) Ann Intern Med. 2009;151:716-726. (4) acog.org. (5) JAMA Inter Med online. 2014 Aug. 11. (6) J Clin Oncol. 2010;28:3582-3590. (7) 2013 SABCS: Abstract S4-07. (8) Lancet Oncol. 2014;15:997-1006. (9) Cancer Epidemiol Biomarkers Prev online. 2014 Aug. 11. (10) Br J Cancer. 2008;98:9-14. (11) Br J Cancer. 2014;111:1454-1462. Dr. Dunaief is a speaker, author and local lifestyle medicine physician focusing on the integration of medicine, nutrition, fitness and stress management.

A scene from 'Dracula' 1931

By Kevin Redding

I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t enamored with Halloween and, by default, horror in general. It could be argued that my birthday falling in late October has something to do with an obsession with the macabre, but I can’t help but think it goes way beyond that.

When I was very young, I became infatuated with a couple important things — one, the work of Tim Burton (specifically “Batman” and “Beetlejuice”), so much so that the only guaranteed remedy to silence this curly-haired toddler’s wails was putting one of his movies in the VCR. I’d sniffle my last cry and watch with attentive giddiness at the Gothic sets, whimsical dark humor and cast of weird characters. The other early influence in my life was Charles Addams — the longtime Westhampton Beach resident, renowned cartoonist for The New Yorker and, most importantly, creator of “The Addams Family.”

Around age 4 or 5, one of my uncles gifted me with a large book called “The World of Charles Addams,” a sprawling tome that contained hundreds of pages of the cartoonist’s famously humorous, creepy artwork and comic strips centered around the grotesque, the misfitted, the spooky, and altogether ooky.

For years my eyes were glued to that book, and I have just about memorized each and every one of its black-and-white and full-cover drawings at this point. It was the first time I remember being truly swept up by art and storytelling — his spooky settings, characters and sensibilities captured my imagination like nothing else before — and it inspired me to put pen to paper and create my own characters and stories, tapping into an artistic, creative side that has followed me into my mid-20s.

The Burton films and “The Addams Family” movies I devoured at this time served as great gateways to the more hard-core horror titles I discovered a few years later. One summer, as I was relaxing before the big move to fourth grade, my cousins and I, joined by my aunt and uncle, gathered around the TV in their living room and watched the original “House on Haunted Hill,” that hokey and wonderful Vincent Price classic.

It would be the start of a weekend tradition, dubbed Saturday Scary Movie Night, wherein we watched scary movies from a bygone era, namely the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. Up until this point, I don’t think I was really exposed to old horror (I loved all the classic monsters but really only knew them as toys, lunch boxes and cartoons … I didn’t exactly know where they came from).

A scene from ‘Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein’

I remember watching “Frankenstein,” “The Wolfman,” “The Invisible Man,” “The Creature from the Black Lagoon,” “Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein,” “Nosferatu,” “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “The Birds.” I loved them all, and they gave me a real appreciation and adoration of old movies and the art of filmmaking in general. After these viewings, I always seemed to go to sleep unscathed, at least until we watched “Dracula” starring Bela Lugosi, which haunted me and led to my first and only sleepwalking escapade. I was scared by it, but also mesmerized by it. From then on, I was hooked. If a movie was scary or had monsters in it, I had to watch it.

And horror is what really got me interested in reading. Entranced by the freaky covers of “Goosebumps” by R.L. Stine, I consumed any of those books available to me, either from the school or public library. As I got a little bit older, I gravitated toward Stephen King, whose books I ate up — especially “The Dead Zone,” “Firestarter” and “Four Past Midnight” — and served as incredible textbooks on how to craft tension, drama and likeable fictional characters. It would be his memoir/advice manual for budding writers, “On Writing,” that sealed the deal for me for what I wanted to do with my life.

So, naturally, Halloween has always meant so much to me. I mean, as a kid, I already walked around in a vampire’s cape and that was in the middle of April, so to have an entire day/month wherein that fashion choice is socially acceptable and encouraged? Sign me up.

Me as Fester

As a kid, I was definitely an oddball and not exactly brimming with confidence. I didn’t have a torturous childhood, but I was certainly on the outskirts of my peers. In the first grade, I had curly hair and I was missing my front teeth, which paved the way for lots of jokes. I was also quiet and painfully shy and never quite knew what to talk about with others, and so, I looked to fictional characters like the Addams family for an escape. I even went as Uncle Fester for Halloween one year, in a really great handmade costume (Thanks mom!), complete with light bulb in mouth. It was a beautiful thing, and I point to horror as being what helped me come out of my shell and feel okay with who I was. For those of us who have ever wanted to hide or escape or be someone else for a day, Halloween is the day that encourages that.

It’s the one day a year when the weird, creative and imaginative parts of ourselves can be unleashed without any hesitation; it’s a celebration of human fear, of community and the art of pretending. And seriously, in this world we’re living in, couldn’t we all use a day of pretending?