Tags Posts tagged with "Holidays"


Photo by Gerard Romano


Gerard Romano of Port Jefferson Station was out with his camera on Dec. 17 ‘looking for something appropriate for the season’ when he spied these pretty bells adorning the door of the Belle Terre Village Hall and took the perfect shot. Happy Holidays!

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Photo from Unsplash

With Christmas this weekend, families are looking to get together for some quality time.

Last Christmas, in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, people quarantined with just those in their households. It was lonely for some, but they stayed safe, away from contact with other people.

Then 2021 came around and with the vaccines we saw some hope — we began slowly peeling off our masks and traveling again. Families became reunited.

But unfortunately, that was premature and now Suffolk County is at a 14% positivity rate as of Tuesday, Dec. 21.

To put it in perspective, municipalities across New York state were shut down at 5% in the spring of 2020. We have doubled the seven-day average compared to where we were at that time and have not shut down.

And there are reasons for that. Luckily more than a year-and-a-half later we have the vaccines, we have boosters and we know that masks work — we just need to continue using them and continue using common sense.

It’s sad to think that this is the second Christmas where some families might not be able to see their loved ones out of fear. It’s sad that we as a country were doing well and now have fallen back into old habits of not taking care of ourselves and of others.

If we continue not to listen to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, our health care providers and the science,

Politicians insist we won’t go into lockdown, but what will happen if the infection rate goes to 20%? What will we do if the hospitals are overfilled again?

With the comfort we felt during this past summer, newly vaccinated with restrictions lifted, some might have forgotten what early 2020 looked like. Visits to grandparents were through a window. Restaurants were not allowed to have inside dining. Disinfectants and masks were impossible to find, while bodies were kept in outside trailers because the morgue was filled to capacity.

We don’t want to head back in that direction, especially with all of the resources now available to us. We have the vaccine, we have the booster, we have masks and we know how to combat this virus. We just need to collectively do it and not treat it lightly.

So, for this holiday season, and throughout the rest of the winter, please take care of yourself, take care of others and be cautious.

Pixabay photo

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

Dr. Matthew Kearns

This year I’ve transitioned to all artificial holiday decorations but I do reminisce about the days of live trees, etc. For those that decorate with live plants/trees be careful.  What looks good can be dangerous to dogs and cats. Below is a list of holiday plants that can be dangerous to pets.

Poinsettias: Poinsettias are beautiful and always remind me of the holidays. Luckily, they are not very toxic. They do contain a compound called diterpene esthers. This compound can cause vomiting, diarrhea, and tremors but only in large quantities. Try to keep your pets away from poinsettias but the risk of toxicity is low.

Live Christmas Trees: A live tree is beautiful and smells great but can also release resins, or oils that can irritate a pet’s mouth and digestive tract. These resins accumulate in the water used to keep the try hydrated and pets tend to drink it. This can lead to ulcers, or sores in a pet’s mouth, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can be quite serious causing dehydration and potentially leading to hospitalization for IV fluids and medications. The needles from the trees are sharp and can cause a mechanical irritation leading to the same symptoms.

Mistletoe: Pucker up buttercup if you’re around the mistletoe. Luckily, ingestion of mistletoe only causes mild gastrointestinal upset (vomiting, diarrhea) and rarely needs attention by a veterinarian. If you do catch your pet near the mistletoe, make sure to give them a smooch before chasing them away.

Holly: Known as the “prickly plant,” holly will only cause symptoms associated with gastrointestinal symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhea. This rarely needs treatment at the veterinarian’s office

Amaryllis: The amaryllis plant contains certain chemicals called alkaloids, and another specific chemical called galanthamine. The alkaloids cause irritation of the mouth, stomach and intestines which leads to drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. Galanthamine is a cholinesterase inhibitor. This chemical can lead to tremors and, in larger volumes, seizures. Luckily, both of these chemicals are in low concentrations in the leaves. The highest concentration is in the bulb which pets tend not to eat.

Lilies: Although lilies are not a flower that blooms around the holidays, they are commonly part of holiday bouquets. Not only can lilies cause irritation of the gastrointestinal tract, but also cause damage to the kidneys (cats are particularly sensitive to this). I would recommend being very careful in having lilies around during the holidays.

Most of the common plants described just cause an upset stomach so having live plants and trees is not extremely dangerous. However, I would caution using caution when bringing live plants in the household and restrict your pet’s access to them (as best you can).

I want to thank the readers of this column, as well as wish everyone a Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. I would like to also thank Heidi Sutton, editor of the Arts and Lifestyle section, as well as all the staff at Times Beacon Record News Media for another great year!

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. 

One Long Island kid is helping put smiles on the faces of patients at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital this holiday season. It all started when 9-year-old Sydney O’Sullivan of Holbrook was treated for kidney stones over three emergency room stays beginning in the Summer of 2021. While at the hospital, one of Stony Brook’s child life specialists paid her a visit with a toy in hand. Getting the toy helped take her mind off being in the hospital and that inspired Sydney to want to help others in the children’s hospital feel the same way.

“Some kids have to be in the hospital for Christmas, so I thought of a way I could spread some holiday cheer,” says Sydney.

Together with her mom Karen, Sydney made some chocolate reindeer lollipops to sell to raise money towards a toy donation. After posting on social media, Sydney was able to sell over 200 lollipops and raise $600 to purchase nearly 50 toys to bring to kids at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital.

“I am so proud of her,” says Karen O’Sullivan, Sydney’s mother. “She came up with this idea all on her own and is helping a lot of children.”

Sydney donated a stretcher filled with toys to the children’s hospital on December 17.

Photos courtesy of Stony Brook Medicine

Seiskaya Ballet principal Lara Caraiani and guest artist Blake Krapels will dazzle when they perform the elegant Sugar Plum Pas de Deux. 

The Seiskaya Ballet’s The Nutcracker, a perennial holiday favorite on Long Island, returns to Stony Brook University’s Staller Center for the Arts, 100 Nicolls Road, Stony Brook for a six-performance run from Dec. 16 to 19. This classical ballet rendition has earned praise from critics and audiences alike. 

Hailed as Long Island’s most lavish “Nutcracker,” the Seiskaya Ballet production of the classic holiday ballet is a truly international collaboration beginning with Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s most famous score. Sets and several costumes were designed by Poland’s Margaret Piotrowska whose highly respected work in Polish television and stage productions has garnered wide praise. 

Directed by founder Joseph Forbes, scenery was executed by Scenic Art Studios which has been credited with painting over 300 Broadway shows. The imaginative and unusual sculptures utilized in the Seiskaya Ballet’s production were the brainchild of creative artist Matt Targon. Choreographed by celebrated Russian-born Valia Seiskaya, this acclaimed production is imbued with bravura dancing, energy and endearing charisma.

The cast will be led by BalletX standout, guest artist, Blake Krapels (Cavalier) plus Seiskaya Ballet’s award winning Principal Dancers Lara Caraiani, Kyra Allgaier, Rachel Bland and Maya Butkevich.

Performances will be held on Thursday, Dec. 16 at 7 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 17 at 7 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 18 at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. and Sunday, Dec. 19 at 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. 

Tickets are $40 for adults, $34 children and seniors and $30 for groups of 20 or more at the Staller Center Box Office at 631-632-ARTS and at www.nutcrackerballet.com. (Attended box office hours are 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and two hours prior to all performances. Online seat selection is available for all shows.)



Photo courtesy of Pinelawn

Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum has created a special holiday program enabling families to have their loved one’s memorials adorned with environmentally-friendly holiday decorations, which are recycled and repurposed, at the end of the season, and turned into compost used to continue to nourish the various plantings throughout Pinelawn’s 500-acre property.

The decorations consist of a living evergreen base and are trimmed with assorted ornamental elements, and finished with a red velvet bow. Families have the option to select from a variety of decorative options for their loved ones’ final resting place, including blankets and sprays for plots, and evergreen wreaths, cones, and tree-shaped decorations for mausoleum locations. Families can purchase the evergreen decorations through Pinelawn, and have Pinelawn place them on their behalf. This program also helps families who wish to adorn their loved one’s memorials with vibrant holiday decorations when they are not able to place them themselves.

“We recognized that we were taking too much artificial material to the landfill at the end of each holiday season so we introduced this environmentally-friendly program in 2010,” said Justin Locke, Pinelawn’s President.  “This allowed us to reduce our carbon footprint and be more conscious of the environment.  At the end of the season, we remove any artificial components then chip and compost the decorations.  The compost is regularly turned over to facilitate the process and create mulch that is used to enrich flowering beds and newly planted trees.” 

“Following in the footsteps of our founders, we are always looking to be good stewards to the environment and help educate the community throughout the year,” continued Locke.  “Our families very much appreciate the holiday program which not only allows them to pay tribute to their loved ones during the holiday season but also helps the environment where their loved ones are laid to rest.”  

Pinelawn’s holiday program began the day after Thanksgiving and continues through mid-January.  Once the holiday season is over, Pinelawn’s team collects the holiday decorations, which are composted and spread throughout the 500-acre property both in the planting beds and also when planting or transplanting trees. 

For more information about Pinelawn’s environmentally-friendly holiday program, including regulations regarding placement, and to select and purchase decorations, visit www.pinelawn.com or this link.

Proceeds from the sale of Pinelawn’s holiday decorations go to the Pinelawn Maintenance Fund, which helps provide support in the care of Pinelawn’s magnificent 500-acre grounds and arboretum.  Recently awarded Level II status from the International Arboretum Accreditation Program, ArbNet, the Pinelawn Arboretum is maintained by a full-time gardening staff, including a certified arborist, to ensure spectacular park-like grounds.

Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum, located in Farmingdale, New York, is a non-sectarian cemetery prided on creating and maintaining a beautiful and serene environment where families can find tranquility and comfort.  Its open and expansive landscape features hundreds of acres of manicured grounds, unique architecture, flowing bronze fountains, and flower-lined walks.  Its beautiful memorial gardens offer all who visit, scenic beauty where they can reflect upon their loved ones in peace. For more information on Pinelawn Memorial Park and Arboretum, or to schedule a tour of the property, visit www.pinelawn.com or call 631-249-6100.

Matt Hoffman

Reviewed by Jeffrey Sanzel

Matt Hoffman’s debut album, The Start of Something Big, featured jazz and pop standards including “When You’re Smiling,” “What Are you Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” and the title song. He celebrates these favorites with his own terrific take. Hoffman has an effortless tenor that both soars and charms. Dropping in May 2019, it has since garnered over one million cumulative streams on Spotify, YouTube, and Apple Music.

Matt Hoffman

After receiving the Celebration Award from Michael Feinstein’s Songbook Academy Vocal Competition (held at the 3,500-seat Palladium Concert Hall), Hoffman performed with Feinstein at Manhattan’s 54 Below. He has sung at New York City’s Birdland, with The New York Voices’ Lauren Kinhan and Janis Siegel of the Manhattan Transfer. Hoffman made multiple appearances there for Jim Carouso’s “The Cast Party,” where the legendary Billy Stritch accompanied him. Additionally, he has been seen at New York’s Swing 46 as well as The Jazz Loft in Stony Brook.

Hoffman’s voice crosses many categories. His influences range from Harry Connick, Jr., to Frank Sinatra. Both contemporary and a throwback, he has a unique and vibrant sound. His blend of studio and theatre background splendidly colors his presentation, enhancing the beautiful vocals with a resonant emotional connection.

And now, Hoffman’s sophomore outing, Say It Ain’t Snow!, offers his personal flair on popular holiday fare. The seven tracks feature a wonderful range of material and boast a thrilling seventeen-piece Big Band with strings. The arrangements, by Trevor Motycka, are exceptional, perfectly matching Hoffman’s ability to shift from the grand to the witty to the heartfelt. There is the twinkle of holidays past—the spirit of the season of the great singers of television, vinyl, and CDs.

Say It Ain’t Snow! kicks off with an appealing, magnetic “This Christmas.” Hoffman’s knowing “It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas” winks to so many fireside holiday specials. The Christmas Classics medley—“Here Comes Santa Claus,” “Let It Snow,” “Winter Wonderland,” and “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town”—shows an exceptional variety with seamless segues and a particularly exciting rendition of “Let It Snow.” 

The sense of discovery in “The Christmas Song” is unique and surprisingly introspective. “Silver Bells” readily zings from a pastoral stroll in the snow to the lights of the city, showing off his jazz chops with masterful scatting. The simplicity and honest clarity of “O, Holy Night” is the perfect contrast to his letting loose with the final song, an exuberant, wry, “Run, Rudolph, Run.” In every number, Hoffman doesn’t just sing—he paints a vocal picture that is rich, evocative, and inviting.

Returning as album producer is Jackson Hoffman, who partnered with Hoffman on The Start of Something Big. Jackson Hoffman produced and co-wrote 2020 Voice winner Carter Rubin’s latest single. Here, he has assembled exceptional musicians to create the overall sonic landscape, coupling the Big Band sound with the neo-Swing era music arrangements.

There are not enough accolades for the band, which swings with bold brass playing magically against the lush strings. The ensemble creates the ideal backing for Hoffman. Hopefully, Hoffman and company will continue to offer seasonal treats as well as a wide range of jazz, classical, musical theatre, and standard catalogs.

No holiday season is complete without Christmas music. Whether you are a fan of traditional carols or lean towards the contemporary, music inspires holiday cheer. Hoffman’s Say It Ain’t Snow! has something for everyone, with its warmth, sense of wonder, and real joy. It is a gift for this, next, and all the Christmases to follow.

Say It Isn’t Snow! is available on music streaming platforms including Spotify, Apple Music, iTunes, Amazon Music and SoundCloud.

Pixabay photo

By Father Francis Pizzarelli

Father Frank Pizzarelli

A few weeks ago, the federal government announced over 100,000 people died from heroin/fentanyl.  In Suffolk County, the number of senseless deaths is beyond numbers and words.

The pandemic has strained mental health services; and comprehensive residential treatment beds are hard to find. Long-term residential treatment is almost nonexistent.

However, the County Executive’s office allegedly has millions of dollars to distribute that are being held hostage while they decide how to distribute it. Meanwhile, countless lives are being senselessly lost due to this inaction.

It seems pretty clear to many of us in the trenches that a request for proposals should be sent out. Those interested should submit evidence-based proposals that primarily focus on opioid treatment and relapse prevention.

A team of professionals in the field of addiction, County legislators and parents who have lost children to this health epidemic should be left with the task of deciding who gets what, but it must happen soon! Time is of the essence. Every day I get calls from at least two parents representing two different families asking me to pray for a son or daughter that has overdosed and died.

Insurance is useless. It is not shaped on wellness or positive outcomes; it is shaped on saving money, not lives. Outpatient treatment for chronic relapses does not work for most. It is really a death sentence. Look at the data. Too many insurance companies refuse to pay and do the right thing. They should be forced to pay and should have no say in determining the kind of treatment necessary for the patient. That should be left in the hands of trained professionals.

It is December; in the Christian community it is known as Advent — a season of hope. In the Jewish community, they celebrate Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights. Christians light advent candles, Jews light candles on the menorah. For both religious traditions, it is a time for renewed hope.

This holiday season is a powerful opportunity to celebrate the gift of hope — to transcend all the infectious negativity that is polarizing our nation. It is a time to celebrate the goodness that is all around us. The random acts of kindness in our community are inspirational. I continue to be amazed and inspired by our young people.

Christmas Magic, a local charity, collects thousands of gifts for children in our homeless shelters throughout Suffolk County. It engages hundreds of high school and college students who donate their time, collect and wrap gifts for poor children.

Christmas Magic was the creative idea of a dad more than 25 years ago who wanted to teach his children the real meaning of Christmas. That father is a man from our community who has done so much for so many never looking for anything in return. His power of example is extraordinary. He not only talks the talk but he walks the walk.

As we celebrate the Season of Hope and the Festival of Lights, let us make every effort to be beacons of hope and festivals of light for people who often hover in darkness.

May this season be a blessing for all of you — thanks for blessing me!

Father Francis Pizzarelli, SMM, LCSW-R, ACSW, DCSW, is the director of Hope House Ministries in Port Jefferson.

File photo by Steve Silverman

The best part of the holiday season can be celebrating with family members and friends. Often alcohol can be part of these events, and if a person doesn’t drink responsibly, their actions can lead to dangers on the road.

If drinking is part of the festivities or ingesting any other substances that can impair the senses, a plan of action is needed before the partying begins. There is no excuse for driving under the influence.

For decades, we have been familiar with sage advice such as having a designated driver, planning to sleep over at the home where the party takes place or calling a taxi. Of course, sometimes the designated driver decides to join in on the fun or it turns out there is no room to sleep at the house. In many areas, especially in our towns, there aren’t many taxi services. Just a few years ago, scenarios such as the ones mentioned could spell danger if a person under the influence decided to get into the driver’s seat because they just wanted to go home.

Nowadays, there is no excuse for driving under the influence of any substance with phone apps to order car services such as Uber or Lyft providing another way to stay safe on the roads.

According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, better known as MADD, there are more than 300,000 drinking and driving incidents a day in this country. According to the grassroots organization, in 2019 this reckless form of driving led to 10,142 deaths that year, which breaks down to almost 28 people killed a day. There are also 300,000 injuries a year due to drinking and driving, according to MADD.

All of these deaths and injuries could have been avoided if the drivers who caused them had a plan before drinking. And, let’s not forget, everyone can play a part in keeping impaired drivers off the road. When hosting a party, make arrangements for your guests who will be indulging themselves. Keep in mind the Suffolk County Social Host Law, which is primarily intended to deter underage drinking parties or gatherings where adults knowingly allow minors to drink alcohol or alcoholic beverages.

The holiday season is a time for celebrating the accomplishments of the past year and the promises of a new year. Let’s keep the roads in our communities safe to enjoy during the next few weeks and all year long.

METRO photo

Gingerbread cookies and houses are one of the many symbols of the holiday season, alongside Christmas trees and twinkling lights. In fact, few confections symbolize the holidays more so than gingerbread. Many a child (or a child at heart) has spent hours carefully trying to create decorative gingerbread houses.

Although gingerbread recipes span various cultures, gingerbread houses originated in 16th century Germany. The fairy tale “Hansel and Gretel” helped solidify the popularity of gingerbread, which became part of Christmas traditions.

Even though gingerbread houses can be fun to make, there’s no denying it can be exacting work — especially for those who strive for perfection. Prepackaged kits attempt to take some of the guesswork out of the equation, but those who are crafting from scratch can employ these tips as they build their gingerbread houses.

• Go for form and not flavor. Few gingerbread houses ever get eaten, so focus on finding a dough that will bake up rock hard as opposed to one that tastes good.

• Get the right icing texture. Pastry artist Catherine Beddall says royal icing is the preferred “glue” to adhere gingerbread pieces. Beddall says icing should be thick like peanut butter and not runny.

• Mind the dough. Do not roll out the gingerbread dough too thin or it may become brittle after being cooked. Always cut out shapes before the gingerbread is baked. Let the baked pieces sit overnight to cool completely before using them to build.

• Patience is key. Allow the icing to dry for at least a couple of hours after adhering each piece and before moving and handling the house, says Beddall. Work in stages so that individual items can be decorated and allowed to dry. Then the walls can be put together, followed by the roof pieces.

• Kids likely will need help. Children may not have the patience or steadiness to handle complete gingerbread construction. They can decorate the separate pieces of the house while the components are laying flat, which is easier for kids. Adults can do the main assembly later on.

• Utilize a template. Free-handing may not be easy. Cut out templates using cardboard or posterboard for various gingerbread pieces.

One of the most important tips is to have fun. Don’t take gingerbread house making too seriously as a novice. Rather, enjoy the experience and the centuries-old tradition.