Lifestyle Magazine

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By Lisa Steuer

When the holidays are finally over and January rolls around once again, it’s a time that can be overwhelming for many people. Most likely, the holidays were filled with indulgences, a lack of exercise, pounds gained and more. Plus, a new year inspires many people to make resolutions. But all too often, those resolutions are forgotten by February.

The good news is that if you really want to make a change this year, you do possess the tools to do so — no matter what your goal may be. Adam Gonzalez, Ph.D., is the founding director of the Mind-Body Clinical Research Center and assistant professor in the psychiatry department at Stony Brook University School of Medicine. In his role as a clinical psychologist, Gonzalez provides clinical services to the community and to patients at the hospital, with a focus on a holistic way of providing care to heal the mind and body. Gonzalez and his colleagues have conducted research to support the mind-body connection and help people work on stress management skills, improve their health and set and meet behavioral goals.

So exactly why is it so difficult for so many people to actually stick to their New Year’s resolutions and make a big change? Gonzalez pointed out three main reasons: setting unrealistic goals, getting distracted or losing focus, and finally, not knowing where to start. If you want to make a big change in your life, a good way to begin is to monitor your current behavior, notice where the behavior is occurring, your thoughts and beliefs about the behavior, as well as some of the thoughts you are having while the behavior is occurring, said Gonzalez.

“If I start thinking, ‘I’m a failure, I’ll never make this change, I can’t keep up with this,’ I’m likely not to keep up with it.” — Adam Gonzalez, Ph.D.

“All of our thoughts, behaviors and emotions interact, so if you work on your thinking style or work on managing behaviors, that can affect emotions and also the behavioral outcomes,” said Gonzalez.

For instance, if someone wants to make changes in their sleep, Gonzalez would have them monitor how much sleep they are currently getting, what their current bed time is, what time they wake up, etc. If a person wants to make changes to their eating habits, that person might want to think about who these behaviors are occurring with ­— who are the friends he or she is going out to eat with and where, and think about whether anyone else is helping to drive that behavior.

“You want to get supportive people around you who actually can be there to help foster the behavior change that you’re looking for,” said Gonzalez. “If the people that are around you aren’t supportive, I would suggest addressing it head on: letting the individuals know what, specifically, you need from them, whether it’s something you need them to do or not do.”

One pitfall that many people fall into when trying to make a change is getting discouraged when a lapse in the behavior change occurs — examples include slipping on your diet, having a cigarette if you’re trying to quit, etc.

“The way you interpret the hiccup or lapse will have a profound effect on your next step. So don’t get discouraged or beat yourself up too hard when you have a lapse in the behavior that you’re trying to change,” said Gonzalez.

Another instance where many people get discouraged is when they make a goal to get to the gym a certain amount of times a week and then fail to meet that goal one week, Gonzalez noted.

“If I start thinking, ‘I’m a failure, I’ll never make this change, I can’t keep up with this,’ I’m likely not to keep up with it,” said Gonzalez. “First is recognizing it for what it is — that you missed two days this week and next week you’re going to be going to the gym the four days you wanted … or, it’s re-evaluating the goal and your plans. Maybe four times a week … [with] your schedule is a little too intense. So maybe it’s scaling back your goals and making it something that’s more attainable.”

And once you reach your goal, how do you stay motivated? Many people, after losing weight for instance, may find it difficult to stay on the path and instead go back to old habits.

juggling-w“It’s important to consistently remind yourself of why the goal is important,” said Gonzalez. “So it’s building up motivation in your mind, and sometimes we will recommend that people put Post-its around that might have motivational statements on it or something that’s very personal or relevant to them to remind them of why this goal is important.”

 

SMART goal-setting

Gonzalez shared the SMART goal-setting technique, which is used in programs at Stony Brook’s Mind-Body Clinical Research Center:

Specific: Make sure your goals are straightforward, specific, and emphasize what you want to happen. “So you don’t want to just say, ‘I want to lose weight.’ It’s good to be specific and say, ‘I want to lose 10 pounds,’” said Gonzalez.

Measurable: Make a goal that you can make measurable progress on so that you can see the change occurring, and set time frames so that you can see if you’re reaching your goal or not.

Attainable: Identify goals that are most important to you and aren’t too far out of reach. “Losing 50 pounds in three months is probably a stretch, so you want to make sure it’s something attainable,” said Gonzalez.

Relevant: The goal should be something that you’re really willing to put effort in and work toward.

Time-based: Setting a time frame can be very helpful in achieving goals. Plus, setting long- and short-term goals can help you achieve them. For instance, set a short-term goal of losing five pounds. Once you meet that goal, it can motivate you to keep making progress toward a larger weight-loss goal.

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Medical experts offer ways to stay on top of mental health

By Lisa Steuer

While the holidays are typically viewed as a happy time, the season can also bring many challenges and stresses that aren’t as common during the rest of the year.

When it comes to the holidays, the combined influence of lack of sunlight as well as the stresses of the holiday season can result in poor mental and emotional health, said Dr. Laura Kunkel, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

“The media makes it seem like a very happy time … and then people wind up feeling guilty if they’re not happy,” said Kunkel.

One stress that people face during the holidays is getting together with family members with whom they may be estranged from or not get along.

“It’s important for people to be mindful of when they’re going overboard to please others, and the holidays particularly puts people at risk for this if they have a pattern of wanting to please others,” said Kunkel. “People should kind of step back and be mindful to their own physical needs and take care of their health during this time and recognize when they might be giving too much.”

A particular challenge that some people may face during the holidays is how to deal with family members with addiction. “Sometimes I recommend that people go to a public place to have a holiday dinner, rather than in someone’s home, and obviously make sure that the person with addiction has transportation.”

When it comes to the holidays, the combined influence of lack of sunlight as well as the stresses of the holiday season can result in poor mental and emotional health. — Dr. Laura Kunkel, clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University School of Medicine

People who have lost a relative or someone close to them can find the holidays particularly painful.

“One way to kind of let the grieving process go quickly is to talk about the person and to talk about the memories, and even though it may bring up tears, it’s part of the healing process,” said Kunkel.

For someone who has lost a child, however, it can be quite different. “Old customs may be too painful, and there might need to be some changes,” said Kunkel, adding that some people suffering such a loss choose to travel during the holidays, for instance.

And in the age of social media, try to focus on the moment at hand instead of constantly checking your phone and looking at what everyone else is doing.  “Put the media down and enjoy with the people who are there,” said Kunkel.

In addition, after the hubbub of the holidays, people tend to feel empty and bored in January, Kunkel added. “January is a good time to make sure your social calendar has things set up.”

Seasonal Affective Disorder

It is estimated that 10 million Americans are affected with seasonal affective disorder (SAD) and that another 10 to 20 percent may have a mild case of SAD, which is a type of depression that is related to the change in seasons and lack of light. Anyone can be affected — those with a history of depression and even those without. Here are five tips from Ramin Parsey M.D., Ph.D., chair, Department of Psychiatry at Stony Brook University School of Medicine.

  1. Get plenty of exercise.  Exercise and other types of physical activity help relieve stress and anxiety, both of which can increase SAD symptoms. Being more fit can make you feel better about yourself, too, which can lift your mood.
  2. Keep up with social activities. When you’re feeling down, it can be hard to be social, but making an effort to connect with people that you enjoy being around can give you a boost. Staying connected to friends and loved ones can offer support and give you something else to think about other than the weather.
  3. Keep on the bright lights. Light therapy is often used to treat SAD, and those lights mimic the natural outdoor light, which appears to cause a change in brain chemicals linked to mood. Also think about opening the blinds or sitting closer to bright windows while at home or in the office.
  4. Try to keep a regular sleep schedule. Melatonin, a hormone that controls the natural cycle of sleeping and waking hours, could fluctuate during the shorter winter days, causing disruptions to sleep patterns and mood.
  5. Speak to your health care provider. Your doctor can make the proper assessment and give you an accurate diagnosis. He or she can also recommend the right form of treatment.

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Your guide to a healthy winter

By Lisa Steuer

It’s easy to become sedentary and gain a little extra weight during the winter. After all, the frigid temperatures tend to keep us indoors, there are holiday parties with goodies that tempt us and an extra weight gain can simply be hidden under a few more layers of clothing.

But if you take a few steps toward your health and fitness this winter, you can lose or maintain your weight and then be prepared to be in your best shape when the warmer months hit yet again. Here are some tips to keep you on track this winter.

Plan it out
Each Sunday, take the time to look at what you’re doing the week ahead. Plan out what days you’ll work out and what the workout will be. Scheduling them in like appointments may just become habit and make you less likely to miss them. Plus, prepare your healthy meals for the week on Sunday to save time and make it easier to stay on track during the week. For a simple guide to food prep, visit www.fitnessrxwomen.com and search for the article “10 Tips for a Quicker and Easier Food Prep.”

Work out — no excuses
Living a fit lifestyle doesn’t mean you have to miss out on sweet treats at holiday parties and other gatherings. If you know you’re going to be indulging in a few extra calories one day, be absolutely sure to get in a workout that morning so you don’t feel too guilty about it.

Eat beforehand
Before a party or gathering, have a satisfying but healthy snack like a protein shake or fruit like a banana so that you don’t attend the party starving and end up making poor food choices due to being so hungry.

Fill up on veggies
When you go to a party, go right to the veggie tray and fill up.

Stay away from eggnog and other high-calorie drinks
If having alcohol at a party, try a glass of dry red wine or vodka with cranberry. Liquid calories can add up extremely fast. If you do drink alcohol, make sure you’re also drinking plenty of water.

Experiment with healthy baking and cooking
A lot of times, with a few simple substitutions, it’s easy to cook and bake healthier without sacrificing taste. For example, you probably won’t be able to tell the difference if you use Greek yogurt in place of sour cream on lean chicken tacos. Visit www.fitnessrxwomen.com for tons of healthy, easy and delicious meals and desserts that won’t leave you feeling like you’re missing out on your favorite foods.

Fitness classes
Taking fitness classes can help keep you motivated, and you may even meet new friends who can help inspire you to get to class. The instructor running the class can help, too. Let him or her know your fitness goals for the winter, and they can probably help give you that extra push and also offer suggestions to help you meet those goals.

Work out at home
When it’s cold and snowy, you may be more likely to make excuses to stay home and avoid the gym. Instead, invest in a few simple items that don’t take up a lot of space but allow you to get a good workout in right in your living room — dumbbells, a medicine ball, exercise bands, etc. Try fitness DVDs and free on-demand fitness videos (if you have cable, go to the on-demand menu, select Free On Demand, then Sports then Exercise Sportskool).

Have an incentive
Check out www.dietbet.com and the app, which has games where players bet as little as $30 to meet a specific weight loss or fitness challenge within a specific time frame, and the winners split the pot. You can even start your own game and challenge your friends.

Sign up for a 5K
This will force you to get up and moving! Plus, meeting a challenge you never thought you could do is an indescribable feeling.

Don’t be so hard on yourself
If you overindulge a little bit over the holidays, don’t beat yourself up too much. The good news about getting fit and healthy is that you can always get back on track. Put it behind you, recommit yourself, have a goal and then get to work getting it done.

Lisa Steuer is the managing editor of FitnessRx for Women and FitnessRx for Men magazines. For more fitness tips, recipes, training videos and print-and-go workouts that you can take with you to the gym, visit www.fitnessrxformen.com and www.fitnessrxwomen.com.

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By Emma Kobolakis

Winter dinners are inherently cozy. The air is colder, so the food is heartier. Some of us close our eyes and imagine a beautifully browned bird with bountiful sides of stuffing and sauce, a la Thanksgiving dinner. Others salivate at the thought of glazed ham or roast vegetables. That’s the grand thing: Our preferences are unique to each of us, and those preferences are built on shared experiences. The nostalgia felt when revisiting those experiences builds our anticipation to indulge, year after year, with friends and family.

That’s the grand thing: Our preferences are unique to each of us, and those preferences are built on shared experiences.

What’s your fondest holiday memory? Perhaps it was the time that you snuck handfuls of marshmallows and ate them in front of the TV while mom was making sweet potato casserole. Or the time that you and your friends decided to buck tradition and host a potluck, where you had a bite of everything and collapsed, moaning, on the couch. Or that one year when you decided you were the second coming of Martha Stewart and resolved to cook the entire feast, yourself — only to be saved from certain disaster when guests arrived to help. Or perhaps you carried it all off with a flourish.

If you’re a nervous home cook, it isn’t easy to devise a winter-worthy side or main course, which is why many of us do tend to play it safe and stick with the tried and true. However, there’s much to be said about taking something basic and adding some new flavor to it. The idea is to cook seasonally, with an eye on what’s readily available, as that usually has the best flavor. And it’s just as important to highlight those flavors in a harmonious way. Try to think outside the box of root veg and roasted meat; you might be pleasantly surprised.

In order to riff successfully on a classic, start with the basics and change one or two elements. Stuffing is fine and dandy, but what about stuffing a squash with a heady mixture of pork, sage and bread crumbs? And it wouldn’t be right to disregard those of us who don’t eat meat at all. Try a steak — a cauliflower steak, caramelized and served with a hearty relish. Or if you’re tired of the typical protein-heavy main courses, how about pastitsio, a Greek meat and pasta pie that will induce the same itis in your guests. They’re designed to serve at least four and are easily doubled (or tripled) to feed a crowd.

—Holiday dinner recipes—

Butternut squash stuffed with pork, sage and bread crumbs — Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes — Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS: 2 tablespoons butter; 1 teaspon olive oil; 2 stalks celery, diced; 2 shallots, sliced; 2 cloves garlic, sliced; 1 pound sweet pork sausage, casings removed; 1 small bunch sage (chiffonade); 1/2 cup bread crumbs; 2 medium-sized butternut squash, sliced in half lengthwise and seeded; 1/2 stick butter, melted; salt

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Melt 2 tablespoons butter and a glug of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sauté the celery, shallots and garlic until translucent.
3. Add the sausage, breaking up with a spatula into small pieces.
4. Once browned, add sage. Salt to taste.
5. Remove from saucepan, place in bowl. Add bread crumbs until desired consistency is reached.
6. Brush butternut squash with melted butter and sprinkle with salt.
7. Mound stuffing into squash hollows and sprinkle with more bread crumbs and melted butter.
8. Roast until the squash is soft when poked with a knife, about 45 minutes.

Pastitsio  Serves 8
Active Time: 1 hour — Total Time: 2 hours

INGREDIENTS: olive oil for frying; 1 large onion, chopped; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 2 pounds ground beef; 1 teaspoon cinnamon; 1 teaspoon oregano; 1 teaspoon thyme; 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes; salt; bread crumbs, for garnish; 1 pound ziti; 1/2 stick butter, unsalted; 1/4 cup flour; 2-1/2 cups whole milk; 1 cup Parmesan (+ 1/2 cup for topping); nutmeg

In order to riff successfully on a classic, start with the basics and change one or two elements.

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Prepare meat sauce: heat olive oil in heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 2 minutes. Add beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add cinnamon, oregano and thyme. Add crushed tomatoes. Salt to taste, and let simmer for 45 minutes.
3. Prepare béchamel: Melt butter. Add flour and cook until golden-brown and nutty. Stream milk in slowly while whisking. Whisk every so often until béchamel is thick. Salt to taste. Grate nutmeg into it, about 1 teaspoon’s worth.
4. Prepare pasta: Boil pasta until al dente; it’ll be baked again. Combine pasta with meat sauce.
5. Pour pasta and sauce mixture in 13- by 9-inch buttered baking dish, topping with béchamel. Sprinkle with bread crumbs and extra 1/2 cup Parmesan. Bake for 1 hour, until golden brown and bubbling. Serve hot.

Curry cauliflower steak with roasted red pepper relish — Serves 4
Active Time: 30 minutes — Total Time: 1 hour

INGREDIENTS: 1 head cauliflower; olive oil; 2 tablespoons curry powder; 2 roasted red peppers; 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped; red wine vinegar; honey; salt; 1/4 cup chopped peanuts

DIRECTIONS:
1. Preheat oven to 400 F.
2. Slice cauliflower head into 1/2-inch thick “steaks.” Rub with oil and dust with curry powder.
3. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in cast iron (or ovenproof) skillet. Fry on both sides until browned, then move to the oven for 15 minutes, or until tender.
4. Meanwhile, prepare the relish. Chop red peppers and parsley.
5. Whisk red wine vinegar, honey and salt in a bowl. Stream in olive oil until emulsified.
6. Add peanuts and salt to taste.
7. Serve steaks with relish on top.

Emma Kobolakis is a professional cook, food writer and recipe developer based in New York. Her work has appeared in Serious Eats and on the tables of diners in Brooklyn.

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Convenient, cost-efficient medical care offers today’s patients flexibility

It’s midnight and you wake up with a stabbing earache. Or you’re suffering an indescribable stomach pain. It’s not so bad that you need to see a doctor now, but you’re still worried about it.

Twenty years ago, the next logical step would have been to trek out to the local emergency room —a feat both time-consuming and costly. Today’s patient, though, is likely turn to an urgent care center for medical attention.

A convenient middle ground between the ER and scheduling a visit with your primary doctor — where wait times for an appointment only seem to grow — more and more people are frequenting urgent care centers, where patients can be treated for anything ranging from sore throats to minor lacerations requiring stitches. And on Long Island, business is booming.

“There has definitely been an increase in the number of urgent care centers that have been opening up around the area,” said Dr. Gerard Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital.

North Shore-LIJ Health System, of which Huntington Hospital is a member, has jumped into the business of urgent care centers themselves. The system announced last November that it was opening 50 GoHealth Urgent Care centers in the New York-metropolitan area over the next three years.

The centers, which are open on nights and weekends, serve as a “portal of entry” into the health system’s 18 hospitals and more than 400 outpatient physician practices throughout New York City, Long Island and Westchester County, according to a news release announcing the initiative last year.

“People are busy. They really don’t want to wait a long time to be seen and cared for. As long as the care is of high quality — whether it’s in urgent care centers or the ER fast track — it really doesn’t matter, as long as they’re getting the right care at the right time and it’s part of a coordinated comprehensive primary care program.” — Dr. Gerard Brogan, executive director of Huntington Hospital

Brogan said the rise of urgent care is a “recent phenomena” on Long Island, as much of the country has already seen this boom. At Huntington Hospital, the facility’s “fast track” area in the ER serves as an urgent care center, offering the same convenient hours centers do, but with the backup of an entire hospital. The hospital added this service to its medical repertoire about seven years ago, he said.

“The patients want that,” Brogan said. “People are busy. They really don’t want to wait a long time to be seen and cared for. As long as the care is of high quality — whether it’s in urgent care centers or the ER fast track — it really doesn’t matter, as long as they’re getting the right care at the right time and it’s part of a coordinated comprehensive primary care program.”

Convenience and an increased need in the marketplace is why urgent care centers have grown nationally, according to Dr. William Gluckman, of FastER Urgent Care in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Urgent care isn’t a new thing, though — the concept has been around for 20 years, and many of these facilities are mom-and-pop operated. “I would say we’ve certainly seen a large boom in growth nationally and locally in the northeast over the last five years,” he said.

A downside Brogan said he could see with the proliferation of urgent care centers is when patients use them in lieu of primary care, missing out on important health screenings, for example, “that would be very important to maintaining high quality, cost effective care,” Brogan said.

At GoHealth, patients of the North Shore-LIJ Health System stay within their network, meaning the various hospitals and doctors all communicate with one another, no matter where the patient goes for service, Brogan said.

Urgent care centers aren’t looking to be the next primary doctor, though. Calvin Hwang, of CityMD, which operates 16 urgent care centers on Long Island, said the company would be at 54 locations by this year, which include the five boroughs and New Jersey. Hwang, who is the first non-physician executive of CityMD, said the urgent care company urges patients to find a “medical home” in a primary care physician.

“We’re not trying to take over primary care groups,” he said. “They do feel that we’re taking their patients away and they’re threatened by us. We’re actually trying to make them more efficient. And the same thing with ERs. We’re trying to make them more efficient. We believe that urgent care has a role in the overall medical care system.”

Urgent care isn’t going away anytime soon — the market is growing, especially on Long Island, he said. CityMD will see more than one million patients this year, he said.

Asked how he sees urgent care transforming in the future, Hwang said he felt even the word “urgent” would get redefined, conforming to the needs of the customer. It could mean video chatting via cell phone with a doctor to see if something’s okay.

“The way the millenials [are] consuming health care is completely changing,” he said. “It’s going to evolve.”

SkyZone photo from Kevin Ryan O’Connor

By Carolann Ryan

As the temperatures drop and days shorten, many of us find ourselves stuck inside at home, glued to our couches and televisions, during the long, cold winter months.  This year, tell yourself it’s time for a change of pace. Long Island offers a wide array of fun children and family-friendly programs, events and activities all winter long. Whether your little ones enjoy sports, arts and crafts, reading or just playing with others, there is a place for it. This list of Long Island winter activities will get you and your kids out of the house exploring in no time.

Long Island Aquarium, Riverhead
If you and your children are animal lovers, check out the Long Island Aquarium in Riverhead. Daily events such as shows and “talk and feeds” with various animals like piranhas, sea lions, stingrays, African penguins and sharks provide educational and interactive fun. On holidays and weekends, you can even take a “selfie” with one of the lovable sea lions or be a shark keeper for the day. There are also various indoor exhibits, a touch tank, an exciting shark dive and a submarine simulator. The aquarium will also be holding a special Santa brunch on Sunday, Dec. 13, where you can explore the aquarium for the day and meet Santa. For more information on the Long Island Aquarium and its events, you can call 631-208-9200, or visit www.longislandaquarium.com

The Rinx — Skating on the Harbor, Port Jefferson
Visit the Port Jefferson Village Center for the ultimate winter activity — ice skating!  The Rinx has an ice skating school that offers programs for children as young as 3½ years.  Classes are offered in two series, each of which is six weeks long for $125.  Each of the series includes one 30-minute lesson per week on your preferred day and time, admission weekly to a public skating session and a membership in USFS Basic Skills Program, as well as a USFS Basic Skills record book and stickers and USFS badges upon mastering of each level.  With an experienced and qualified staff of professionals, your kids will learn the fundamentals of ice skating with a major emphasis on fun.  Series 1 will begin on Nov. 29 and registration is open now!  For more information on The Rinx and its ice skating school, call 631-403-4357 or visit www.therinx.com/pjrinx.

Sky Zone Trampoline Park, Mount Sinai
When your kids are stuck inside during the cold winter months, they need a way to get out that pent up energy, and Sky Zone Trampoline Park is the perfect place to jump it out. The park has numerous activities inside to choose from, including free jump sessions, a foam pit for freestyle jumping, ultimate dodge ball, basketball hoops and more. All ages are welcome, and with jump times starting every 15 to 30 minutes, there is no shortage of fun, so jump in. For reservations, pricing and information call 631-938-1420 or visit www.skyzone.com/mountsinai.

YMCA Huntington
For everyday activities that promote healthy, fun lifestyles, spend your winter at the YMCA in Huntington. With exclusive winter memberships available, the Y features two heated indoor pools for recreational swimming as well as lessons and a separate building complete with gymnasium and studio classes. The Huntington YMCA also includes a new children’s center that features 13 modern classrooms for early childhood programs and before and after school care.  To get more information and membership pricing on the YMCA of Huntington, visit www.ymcali.org/huntington or call 631-421-4242.

Port Jefferson Free Library
The Port Jefferson Free Library offers many free programs for children all winter long. Activities offered include toddler and preschool story times and playtimes, robotics camp, a Mad Hatter Tea Party, movie screenings, game nights, Habitat for Humanity programs and classes for activities such as dance, chess, science and winter-themed arts and crafts. The library will also be hosting a family holiday bus trip to New York City on Saturday, Dec. 12.  You must be a Port Jefferson Free Library cardholder to register for programs. For more on this event and other programs, please call the Port Jefferson Free Library at 631-473-0022, or visit www.portjefflibrary.org.

Take the kids out to play this winter at various spots across Long Island. Above left, scenes of fun at the Port Jefferson Free Library. Center and right, kids have a blast at a Sky Zone Trampoline Park.

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By Carolann Ryan

It’s almost that time of year again. Winter is right around the corner for those of us on Long Island, and if it is anything like the last, a fun winter getaway is definitely a necessity. Whether you crave hitting that fresh powder on the slopes or slipping down water slides at an indoor water park, there are plenty of mini-vacation destinations for you. Ditch the winter blues, jump in the car and check out some great winter weekend trips.

Greek Peak Mountain Resort — Cortland, NY
Greek Peak Mountain Resort is located in the beautiful Finger Lakes region of upstate New York, with something for every member of the family. The mountain offers 33 trails of varied terrain, for everyone from beginners to experts and every level in between. Ski and snowboarding lessons are available for all ages and levels. If the slopes are not for you, activities such as cross-country skiing and snow tubing are available. Indoor amenities include a 41,000-square-foot water park, as well as a spa. When it comes to lodging at Greek Peak, there are two luxurious options, Hope Lake Lodge and Arcadia Village properties. For more information, visit www.greekpeak.net.

Whether you plan to spend your winter shredding the slopes or slipping down a 1,000-ft water slide, there is something for everyone right in the tri-state area. So what are you waiting for? Start planning your winter getaway today.

Aquatopia Indoor Water Park at Camelback Lodge — Tannersville, PA
Aquatopia at Camelback Lodge, located in the beautiful Pocono Mountains, is a 125,000-square-foot, multilevel indoor water park that defies seasonal weather constraints with 84-degree water play year-round. Between the exciting slides and rides, seven swimming pools of varied depths and sizes and private cabanas, there is fun for every member of the family to dive into. Admittance to Aquatopia is included with your stay at Camelback Lodge and is exclusively for lodge guests. For more information, visit www.camelbackresort.com/water parks/aquatopia.

CoCo Key Water Resort — Waterbury, CT/Mt. Laurel, NJ
For those looking to escape the cold and snow this winter, it is always 84 degrees and sunny at CoCo Key Water Resort, with two locations in the tri-state area. Both resorts include more than 50,000-square-feet of indoor fun, including attractions and activities for kids, teens and adults. Whip and wind on over 1,000 feet of water slides, relax in the lazy river or melt your stress away at the spa. Stay close to home this winter and enjoy a Key West-style vacation. If you are headed to the Waterbury location, you can find accommodations at the CoCo Key Water Resort Hotel and Convention Center. For more information visit www.cocokeywaterbury.com.  The Hotel ML offers comfortable and luxurious accommodations for those visiting the Mt. Laurel location. Visit www.mtlaurelcocokey.com for reservations, pricing and further information.

Great Wolf Lodge Poconos — Scotrun, PA
Located conveniently in the famous Pocono Mountains, Great Wolf Lodge is perfect for slipping and splashing around on dozens of attractions at its gigantic indoor water park, as well as exploring some dryer indoor amenities such as glow-in-the-dark mini-golf, miniature bowling, a 4D movie theater and interactive activities, games and shows for children of all ages. It is impossible to be bored when visiting Great Wolf Lodge, with a wide variety of suite sizes and designs available. For pricing, information and reservations, visit www.greatwolf.com/poconos.

Rocking Horse Ranch Resort — Highland, NY
The winter snow park offers many classic outdoor activities, such as skiing, snowboarding, snow tubing and ice-skating. If you are an animal lover, enjoy horse-drawn sleigh rides as well as trail rides. If you want to feel like it’s an 85 degree day in January, hit up the Big Splash Indoor Water Park.  
Other indoor activities include character lunches, BB gun shooting gallery, archery range, a video arcade, Ping-Pong and pool tables, scavenger hunts, Bingo and popular board games, as well as activities directors for children, teens and adults. For further information visit www.rockinghorseranch.com.

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By Talia Amorosano

It’s fall, and you know what that means: Winter is around the corner. And we all know what that means is near — that biting cold that makes you want to wrap yourself up in a warm blanket and enjoy a cup of steaming hot-something in front of a cozy fireplace. 

There’s only one problem: You don’t have a fireplace. Or you do, but it doesn’t meet your specific needs. With so many different kinds of fuel, functions and forms, it can be difficult to know which fireplace is the right fit. So if you haven’t already warmed up to the idea of installing a new fireplace in your home, read on to see what each type has to offer.

FUEL OPTIONS

Wood: If you’re into that cozy rustic vibe, a wood-burning fireplace is best at creating the classic woodsy ambiance associated with log cabins and homemade pies.  It gives off that “burning wood” smell (sometimes of hickory or maple) literally, and the sound of crackling logs is the perfect accompaniment to a night of board games with friends around the living room table or a quiet evening alone with a book. On the down side, this kind of fireplace takes lots of work to clean, can clog the chimney and create smoke if not maintained correctly, and while it provides heat in a small space, it sucks the warmth out of other areas of the house.

Gas: According to the Hearth, Patio and Barbeque Association, the popularity of gas fireplaces is on the rise, probably because of the balance of ease and efficiency that they strike. Gas fireplaces offer more use options than wood fireplaces do, often featuring blowers, timers and fans, which give the user more complete control. On the other hand, while many gas fireplaces feature realistic-looking logs and embers, they don’t replicate the smoky smell or crackling of a real fire, and the option of using fallen trees as free fuel is lost.

Electric: Like wood fireplaces, electric fireplaces function well as space heaters. However, they don’t emit harmful fumes (such as carbon dioxide from wood and carbon monoxide from gas) into the home. They are easy to use, requiring nothing more than a simple plug-in and switch-on to function and aren’t easily corroded; but they will also lose power if your home does, and if used often, can be costly components of an energy bill. If you don’t have time for something high maintenance but like the aesthetic value that a fireplace brings, an electrically powered fireplace might just be for you. 

INSTALLMENT OPTIONS

Wall mounted: These kinds of fireplaces must be attached to a chimney and require major construction if a chimney is not already present. While this can be expensive, it can also add value to a home. They are built into a wall and usually lend themselves to the burning of real wood or gas fuel but can also accommodate electric.

Free standing: Depending on the fuel type, these fireplaces can be attached to a ceiling or completely free standing and can require a vent pipe to act as a chimney.  They usually don’t require much construction and have the appearance of large cabinets.

Portable: Perfect for a home built without space for a huge fireplace, portable fireplaces are small, decorative and typically much less expensive than built-in or free-standing fireplaces.  However, these fireplaces are more aesthetic than functional, typically not able to heat a large area or space.

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By Bob Lipinski

I am absolutely the best holiday shopper and everyone loves my gifts. My secret? I do all my shopping in a liquor store — wine shop, if you prefer — and it takes less than one hour. Forget those long lines, crowded malls and roads that resemble parking lots. I have never had a gift returned because it doesn’t “fit,” it’s the wrong color or size, it’s out of style, or “I already have one of these.”

There are countless holiday gift packs of wine and distilled spirits, some even contain glasses to enjoy the beverage. From cardboard boxes, tins, ribbons, bows and wooden boxes, each is colorfully decorated and makes a great gift. If you’re uncomfortable making a selection or really don’t know that much about wines and spirits, simply ask one of the store’s employees for assistance.

Some of my suggested wines and spirits for the holidays that won’t break your pocketbook are:

Bubbly
Cavicchioli Lambrusco “Vigna del Cristo” (Emilia-Romagna, Italy)
Roederer Estate “Brut” (Anderson Valley, California)

Wines
Ferrari-Carano “Fumé Blanc” (Sonoma, California), white
Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel (Lodi, California), red
Sella & Mosca “Cannonau Riserva” (Sardinia, Italy), red
Nino Negri “Quadrio” (Lombardy, Italy), red

Spirits
Jim Beam “Black Label” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Old Forester Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
The Famous Grouse “Blended Scotch Whisky” (Scotland)
Black & White Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
New Amsterdam Vodka (USA)
Svedka Vodka (Sweden)

Now, if you want to go all-out and impress, here are a some more suggestions:

Bubbly
Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill “Brut” (Champagne, France)
Besserat “Blanc de Blancs” (Champagne, France)

Wines
Gundlach-Bundschu “Chardonnay” (Sonoma, California), white
Olivier Leflaive “Puligny-Montrachet” (Burgundy, France), white
Clos du Val “Cabernet Sauvignon” (Napa, California), red
Domaine Alain Burguet “Chambolle-Musigny” (Burgundy, France), red
Zuccardi “Reserva Malbec” (Mendoza, Argentina), red

Spirits
Chivas Regal 18-Year Old Blended Scotch Whisky (Scotland)
Booker’s Straight “Small Batch” Bourbon Whiskey (Kentucky)
Diplomatico Reserva 8-Year old Rum (Venezuela)
Prunier XO Cognac (France)

Now, what do I want as a holiday gift? A bottle of Baker’s, 107 proof, 7-Year-Old Bourbon, and a long straw to keep me happy on a cold winter night.

Also, recently, I had the opportunity to taste a simply delicious rosé wine from Provence, France, which will certainly be part of my holiday celebration. Maison Belle Claire Rosé is salmon-colored, with a luscious bouquet and taste of fresh fruits, cherries, peaches, strawberries, and orange. It is light, dry and refreshing, with plenty of fruit. Serve it chilled as part of your holiday brunch celebration.

In the words of the late Clifton Fadiman, an American writer, editor and book reviewer for The New Yorker, “Wine is alive, and when you offer it to your fellow man you are offering him life. That is why there are few better gifts to send than a case or two — or a bottle or two — of wine. It is not that when drinking it, they will recall the donor — if you crave such vulgar satisfactions, it is more efficient to send them a chair with a pair of spurs set in the upholstery. It is that, when drinking it, they will become more conscious of themselves, of their own capacity for joy.”

Bob Lipinski, a local author, has written nine books, including “101: Everything You Need To Know About Whiskey” and “Italian Wine & Cheese Made Simple” (available on Amazon.com). He conducts training seminars on wine, spirits, and food; and is available for speaking engagements. He can be reached at www.boblipinski.com or boblipinski2009@hotmail.com.

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By Melissa Arnold

Imagine this: You’re out with friends at a barbecue and wake up the next day with an unusual rash. On top of that, you’re just not feeling well.

Most people would head to a nearby urgent care center, emergency department or doctor’s office to get checked out. In all of these situations, though, you’re probably in for a wait of several hours. And in the case of a doctor’s office, you might have to wait a few days or even longer to be seen.

But what if you could take a picture of that rash with your cellphone and text it to a doctor, who responds right away with advice before calling in a prescription? Even better, what if you could do that at any time, seven days a week?

Such direct access to a doctor isn’t just a fantasy anymore. It’s a type of care called concierge medicine, and it’s spreading rapidly across the country.

Concierge practices come in several different forms, but in all cases, patients pay an annual or semi-annual fee to their physician, even if they don’t visit the office. In exchange, patients are guaranteed shorter wait times, longer, unrushed appointments and 24/7 access if a problem arises.

The fee varies widely depending on the location of the practice and the services they offer. Some physicians will also charge based on a patient’s age or medical status.

Dr. Bruce Feldman works independently, traveling throughout Long Island and occasionally elsewhere to meet his patients at their workplace, home or another location.

“My preferred population is an executive or professional who is too busy to go to the doctor. I go directly to them,” said Feldman, who also has offices in Melville and Port Washington. “If a guy is making a fair living, the idea of driving to the doctor and having to spend time waiting usually doesn’t sit well. And yet they want to be successful at their jobs and function at an optimal level.”

Feldman does have patients come in for an initial physical, but as he gets to know them, care becomes less about face-to-face contact and more about communicating by phone or email as needed.

The biggest difference between concierge and traditional medical care, Feldman said, is the focus on preventing future health issues instead of attempting to resolve existing problems.

Both Feldman and Dr. Vasilios Kalonaros of Northport agreed that preventative care is lacking in traditional medicine, and patients are suffering for it.

“When you’re only given 15 minutes with a patient, it’s like putting your finger in a dam — you can’t always take the time to treat every issue,” Kalonaros says.

Small practices are a hallmark in concierge medicine. Most doctors limit themselves to a few hundred patients, allowing for longer visits.

Before Kalonaros made the switch to concierge medicine eight years ago, he was seeing up to 40 patients a day. Now, it varies between eight and 12. Feldman sees about four patients each day, with only 60 patients total.

And statistics show that a doctor with time to spare makes a difference for patients. According to MDVIP, a private network of physicians that includes Kalonaros, concierge patients are hospitalized 72 percent less than those seeing a traditional doctor. In addition, the American Journal of Managed Care reports that concierge medicine ultimately saves the health care system more than $300 million in Medicare expenses.

Its popularity appears to be growing, too. There are now hundreds of concierge doctors throughout the country, and more than 20 on Long Island alone.

Before choosing a concierge doctor, it’s best to determine exactly what you want. Are you looking for a doctor who takes your insurance, does house calls or has inexpensive fees? Answering these questions will help narrow the field.

Then, ask for a consultation. Use that time to get to know them, learn about their services and determine if he or she is a good fit for your needs.

Fees vary widely in the concierge world, from under $2,000 annually to more than $20,000.

Concierge medicine is familiar to some, thanks to the USA Network’s medical drama series “Royal Pains.” The show follows a cardiac surgeon who becomes a private physician for the wealthiest residents of the Hamptons.

While some of the show’s themes are accurate, its sole focus on upper-class patients is just a stereotype.

“Most of my patients are not wealthy — they are middle and lower-middle class,” Kalonaros said. He added that a concierge doctor can be a great option for those with minimal or no insurance, because his $1,650 fee guarantees access to him at any time.

And Feldman argues that when you don’t get sick in the first place, this model will save you money that would be otherwise spent on medication or more extensive treatment.

But both doctors are quick to admit it’s not the best option for everyone.

“If you have a good relationship with your existing doctor, you don’t need a concierge doctor. But if you’re frustrated or not getting the care you need and are willing to pay more, a concierge doctor might be for you,” Feldman says. “It’s about having a partner in your wellness.”

For those interested, contact Dr. Bruce Feldman at (646) 801-7541, www.mypersonaldocny.com, and contact Dr. Vasilios Kalonaros at (631) 239-1677. Or visit www.mdvip.com to learn more about concierge medicine on Long Island.