ITHACA EATS: Niles Gourmet

There are wilder adventures than this one, like trekking with gorillas in Uganda, shopping the underground malls in Beijing, or staying overnight in a tepee in the Armagosa Canyon. Mind you, a trip to Niles Gourmet isn’t as risqué, but it’s equally appealing for those searching for something more than just a meal.


Tips for your off-the-beaten path adventure. 1. If it’s your first time, plan on a 45-minute drive, not 30 like the website says. 2. Winds howl and the roads are surrounded by shadowy forests; too scary to run out of gas on, so equip your car with a spare tire and don’t leave home without your cell phone. 3. Starve yourself by day (unless you make it there for lunch) so that by night you can eat as much of their food as possible – you won’t be sorry. 4. Bring your camera because if you’re lucky you’ll catch Alec Baldwin dining there solo after visiting his mother in Syracuse. 5. Bundle up because it gets colder as you drive deep into the woods.


This is by far the trendiest, and I mean modernly authentic, log cabin I’ve ever stepped foot in. Once inside, you’ll immediately gravitate to two places: First, the cushy brown leather couch strategically placed in front of the grand du jour chalkboard menu, and second, the roaring wood-burning stove (always stocked) with crackling flames; perfect for sidling up to your date on Valentine’s Day.


Don’t kid yourself about reservations. When they say reservations, they mean reservations. Snag one of only four tables in this den-like atmosphere that has a wine and cheese section, a store that sells specialty snacks and foods (the kind you’d find at Dean and Deluca in NYC), and a rustic-chic kitchen you can spy a peak into after using the woodsy bathroom (I assure you indoor).


Some chefs have a natural knack for the preparation of food and this chef has it. You’ll order the Garden Squash Soup and it won’t taste like any garden squash soup you’ve ever spooned into your mouth. The Sweet Potato Gnocchi? A theatrical experience that has me believing this chef interned with Mario Batali and studied experimentation with Lady Gaga’s fashion stylist. I’ll explain…most gnocchi are round, chewy, starch-heavy. These were like bite-size patties, more sweet potato than potato, more brown butter sauce than olive oil, more flavor than Ben & Jerry’s painfully good Baked Alaska.


A journal of wines, unusual beers. Herring in Dill Sauce, Trout Fillets with Salad, Rabbit Ragu with Mushrooms, Duck and Escarole with Pasta Soup, Moussaka Eggplant, Salad Oranges and Plums, Grand Mariner and Cranberry Chevre cheeses over bread baked in their impressive outdoor brick oven. If you cover all courses, including beer or a glass of wine, expect to spend $75 per person.


By this point in your three-hour evening you’ll wish they had rooms so you could ehem…polish off more of their masterful food in the morning. Alas, you’ll end the night with killer desserts like Sea Salt Caramel Gelato, Sweet Potato Cheesecake (hey, gotta put it to use), and Frozen Vanilla Bean and Papaya Berry Yogurt. The Clementine and Almond Tart with whipped cream, hazelnut chocolate ice cream, and chunks of hazelnut chocolate provided 10 bites of bliss.

ITHACA EATS: Mia Restaurant


Soft shades of gold dimly illuminate a museum of Pan-Asian artwork hung along the delicate hues of an exposed brick wall. An array of fuchsia chairs offset royal blue napkins and flickering candles. Swirling aromas of lemongrass soup, Indian curries, and wakame miso cause a chain reaction to sit and eat. Filling every nook is the sound of South America’s rumba rhythm married to flamenco guitars and the soft clapping of las palmas. Intentional splashes of bold colors gives you an idea of what you’re in for, variiiiiiety! And, it’s clear, by the looks of utter bemusement on foodies faces that innovative Pan-Asian cuisine has been elevated to a level that Ithacans are lucky to have at their finger tips.


This Pan-Asian food is mainly the fusion of Thai and Indian food. Start by cleaning your palate with Tom Kha Gai, a Thai coconut and galangal soup with chicken. For more uncharted territory, order a mix of $7 to $12 appetizers to get that jolt of exotic savoriness. We opted for: Crab meat, pork, and Chinese sweet sausage filled crepe, pan seared tandoori quail with cilantro mint raita, and a warm tofu salad with watercress, arugula, and peanut dressing. They were all phenomenal, particularly the quail, a carnivorous feast with so many subtle flavors that even Anthony Bourdain might have a hard time discerning.


Sitting at the bar feels like sitting in front of the most fascinating aquarium ever; albeit the eels, sharks, and sting rays you’re scoping in the open sea exhibit is the intimate, aqua illuminated bar itself. Moments after any one of Mia’s drinks you will become one with the bar as if you were an easygoing whale gracefully enjoying plankton. You’ll glide along with their swanky $10 Sake Sangria and smooth Cilantro Martini (my hats go off to the bartenders who know how to slyly knock you off your ass). Wine connoisseurs will appreciate the eclectic wine list and haiku lovers will adore the poetic descriptions for sake: living jewel, wandering poet, heaven’s door, and blossom of peace.


First, the pan seared sea bass, with yuzu-soy butter sauce, was so fresh and tender that the white meat tasted like a caramelly crème brûlée. Second, the lamb kofta: large, fragile balls of minced lamb coated with a light Kashmiri spinach sauce, tasted like the lamb I was eating had a blissful life eating organic wheatgrass. Third, the Indian sweet and sour ratatouille was, according to everyone at my table who sounded as if they were having the best massages of their life, terrifyingly extraordinary. Other dishes that stood out were the roasted half duck with Asian greens and shitake mushrooms in a five-spice duck demi-glace and the Thai spicy seafood bouillabaisse with prawns, scallops, red snapper, clams, and mussels. Entrées range from $15 to $28.


I’m speechless they were that good.


There is something to be said about dining in the Napa Valley of upstate New York; fanfare like this is like taking a trip abroad. So, get ready for the Heuriger experience – a Viennese drinking and eating journey.


Welcome to opulence with a capital O. The exterior of the contemporary bold structure begins with a spectacular, grand wood door which opens into an airy bohemian space similar to a museum you might find in Vienna; there’s plenty of room to waltz. High ceilings like those of a London palace; marble flooring swirling with a rusty hue; charming light fixtures like spaceship engines overhead; beach sand walls border abstract paintings; high and low windows fold open to interact with nature; piano notes dangle capricious melodies guiding customer’s toward day dreams; and heeding every whim on expansive dining tables are the dainty pleasures of foxglove, sweet pea, and lupine flowers.


I recommend you start by splurging on their gourmet spreads. My favorites were the rich liptauer (Austrian cheese spread), the creamy pumpkin seed oil, and the juicy artichoke lemon. Pair these scoops, over fresh baguette slices, with a glass of Lamoreaux Landing 2006 dry Riesling, and you’ll be as giddy as a tourist running with the bulls in Spain. Three for $7.95 or one for $3.


There’s plenty of soul-stirring salads to feed your hungry eyes on: Lentil, Viennese cabbage, salsify (also known as oyster plant due to its oyster-like flavor), cucumber, celery root remoulade, Viennese potato, or horseradish beet. I ordered the later: a copious amount arrived on an oval serving platter. Piquant horseradish widened my eyes and tickled my tongue. Slices of beets, like large grains of rice, were mixed with an undisclosed seed to give it a crunch that made me drool.


This chef was once a professional ballet dancer in Vienna, so you better believe that your options will be brimming with soubresauts, frappés, and grand jetés. Charcuterie: House Paté, bockwurst (veal sausage), bratwurst (pork sausage), knockwurst (seasoned sausage), and a smoked Hungarian sausage. Fish: Herring salad, smoked trout, or the heuriger fish du jour. There’s also Heuriger Meats and side dishes adding to the excitement: spatzle (noodles), knodel (dumplings), and braised sauerkraut with bacon.


Of course I wanted the sacher, mohn and linzer tortes, but kugelhopf was my l’amour. Part bread, part cake, chocolate sauce, and a ladle portion of whipped cream and cooked cherries on the side. Their juice stained the top half of the thick slice of deliciousness. I downed that with an artisanal cup of Viennese coffee (rum intermingles with coffee, cinnamon, and brown sugar) which accompanied my stroll on the properties lavish grassy knoll overlooking Seneca Lake.

INSTANT MESSAGE: Jermaine Campbell, 24

I’m from Jamaica and there’s violence from where I’m from. Say someone got shot on the street and someone saw it, in Jamaica you can’t tell anyone because it’s not safe. If you tell then someone will find out and kill you.

I’ve seen two people get shot. You don’t get use to it, but it’s part of the culture. One time, when I was eight I was going to the store in the afternoon and there was a guy sitting on the edge of a gulley; he had just gotten out of prison. I was walking and I heard someone scream at him. I turned around and they opened fire on the guy and emptied a machine gun on him. Once the first shot went off, I was so scared I ran past my aunt’s house to my grandmothers. I just remember seeing the dude pointing a gun at him. You don’t stop to think you just run.

The second time I was out playing soccer with my friends at night and one of my friends’ father was involved with the wrong people. Some guy came up to my friends’ dad and shot him in the head in front of everybody. We ran at the time, but when we went back to check on the body, the killer walked through the crowd, picked up the shell of the gun, and everybody watched him walk away. Nobody said a word.

This is just how things are in Jamaica. If you are carrying a gun chances are you’ll die. If you’re in the game, you’re fair game. They don’t kill women or children, but the young men are always killing each other off.

I don’t like guns. I don’t think it’s worth it for someone to lose a son, a wife, a brother, and I feel like a lot of kids these days don’t understand that once you pull the trigger, somebody’s not coming back. And what happened in Colorado…I don’t think it’s just one thing. I feel like what happened there – there’s no place for it. It’s not right. It’s not fair.

At the same time, there are always going to be people looking to do that and one just follows the next trying to upstage the other. I don’t have all the answers, but whenever there are large crowds gathering for some special occasion, no matter where, there should be security. If it can save lives, why not have it?

I left Jamaica when I was twelve. Sometimes the barbaric life left me emotionless. We used to hear gun shots and me and my friends would say, “What type of gun did you think that was?” It’s disturbing to think that’s what we would talk about.

Today, I’m the only person alive from my group of friends in Jamaica. Most of them chose the path of the gun. I feel like I’m here for a bigger purpose. My family was fortunate enough to come to America and get out of that place. I remember my grandmother talking to me about the barbaric way of Jamaica and she told me, “If you didn’t do it here, don’t do it in America.”

I’ve always had people around me who care about me. A lot of young people don’t even have one person in their life who cares. If I can do that for kids and young men like myself, then I am returning the favor.


My senior year of high school I took on way too many responsibilities. I also became completely obsessed with my health and started taking things out of my diet. I took out processed foods, then fried foods, cheeses, milk, then I was only eating a vegan diet, and then I wasn’t eating any fats.

At first, when I was losing weight, I got all this positive feedback from my parents and peers. But then it eventually got to the point where people weren’t saying anything anymore because I was getting too thin.

When I got to Ithaca College I avoided going to meals with people. I was so thin I couldn’t sleep because I didn’t have enough body fat to cushion me. I also suffered from hypothermia a couple of times because my body couldn’t regulate my temperature. My skin was untreatably dry, I suffered from headaches, and my hair thinned.

One day I decided to do something about a canker sore that had been bothering me for weeks. A nurse at the health clinic suggested I take this high calorie supplement. She also told me to gain weight. I didn’t know it then, but the canker sore had to do with a vitamin deficiency.

I tried to be a normal college student with lots of responsibilities, but I got to the point where I couldn’t function.

I knew something was off when I went to a dance with my friends and tried to figure out how long I needed to dance to counteract the calories from a dinner I ate.

The turning point was when I went on a date with this guy. That’s when realized my life was filled with obsessions. I couldn’t relax. My life was all worry. After our date I walked all the way from Cornell Cinema back to my dorm – the top of South Hill. If you’re 97 pounds and haven’t eaten much it’s a terrible walk.

The next day, after my first class, I went to the counseling center. I cried for two hours. Then I saw a doctor and met with my advisor. They assured me that I needed to take a semester off.

While I was in the hospital, doctors wouldn’t let me out of bed. I had a terrifying experience – I passed out. My body shut down and I almost died. Then I was forced to eat these huge hospital meals. I had to eat nine consecutive meals, two snacks in between. That was one of the hardest things I had ever done in my life. I remember going into hysterics over having to eat half a bun.

That semester tore my family apart, but then unified it beyond belief. I volunteered in an elementary school – amazing therapy. I met with a therapist, a nutritionist, and I went to a support group – that really got me through.

If you have an eating disorder it feels like a terrible monster, not you, takes over. Many people think that because it’s not an actual medical illness you don’t need time off; this makes it harder to treat.

For anyone going through this know that there is hope, there is help, and recovery is real. I really found happiness and strength by giving back and serving in the community. Today I’m involved with Active Minds, a mental health organization at Ithaca College. Recovery hasn’t been easy, but things have gotten much better.

INSTANT MESSAGE: Brian Frisbie, 19

When I was about sixteen, I started going through some hard times in life and I started using drugs as a way to cope with depression. I used marijuana all day long every day and alcohol all day long every day. I would sneak a drink and take a few hits of pot while I was at school. I did ‘shrooms as well, once in the morning and once at night, and then I did acid and coke later on in my addiction.

The marijuana, the ‘shrooms, and the alcohol were gateway drugs; they led me into heavier drugs. I used them to cope. I had problems at home, problems with a girlfriend, problems in school because I’m not the kind of person who likes to talk to people, so I tried to solve my problems with drugs. Then I had friends who did it so it wasn’t hard for me to get into it.

One time my mom and I got into a fight and it was so bad that I left the house and went down the street to my friend’s house where I snorted some cocaine and drank some whiskey. I was very high and intoxicated and then I walked home and got into another argument with my mother. That’s when she kicked me out of the house.

Then I went back down to my friend’s house and took at least 16 muscle relaxers. I wasn’t trying to kill myself, I was just pissed off and wanted to get a better high. My mom called the police and told them where I was and then they came to my friend’s house and checked me out and took me to the hospital. Later that night I passed out and when I woke up the next morning the doctors told me that I had almost died.

Getting high made me feel like my head was clear and there was nothing to worry about. I liked that feeling – just sitting there and being able to relax. And I liked to get the better high from narcotics. Sometimes I have cravings, but I’m married and I have a daughter, and I realize that I’m happier where I am now in my life than I was with the drugs.

I’ve been sober now for one year. I used until I was eighteen. I started when I was sixteen. Drugs made me quit high school, get kicked out of my parents’ house, and I overdosed several times and almost died. When I was on drugs I lost my family and I had nowhere to go. I lived in the American Red Cross shelter. I made friends so it wasn’t that lonely, but staying in a shelter was not a good feeling.

A year ago I checked myself into rehab at CARS, and because of their support and the support of my new friends I stayed clean and sober. Being sober has gained me the trust of my family and has actually gained me a life.

If you want to do drugs, think about what you could lose. I know the feeling is euphoric, but losing your family and the life you know of, or possibly dying just to get high, is not worth it.

Revolutionary Scanner Changes Face of Anatomy

Mark Riccio, Director of Cornell University’s Multiscale Computed Tomography Facility, couldn’t be more excited playing with his new grown-up toy, an $800,000 brand new, state of the art VersaXRM-500 CT scanner. Riccio refers to the capabilities of this instrument as “virtual dissection.” This means that it allows researchers to non-invasively see inside an object without actually cutting into it.

How it works? According to Bruce Johnson, product manager with Xradia, the company which created this scanner, an object is placed in the chamber and X-rays flow through the object, some of which are absorbed. On the far side of the object, from the X-ray, there is a detector. In the case of the Versa XRM-500 CT scanner, there is a two-stage detector: There is a scintillator which converts the X-rays into visible light, magnified by an optical microscope objective, and then a detector which measures the light producing the first image. Then the object is rotated by a tenth of a degree so that another image can be taken.

Said Johnson, “By the time the sample has been rotated 360 degrees there are hundreds to thousands of high resolution images which provide the full 3D internal representation of the image on the computer. And, images appear on the computer screen quickly; it all depends on the resolution, what one is trying to see, and the number of scans.”

Due to the popular outcome of this new technology, Riccio scans objects not only for professors and students at Cornell ($100 an hour), but for individuals and organizations outside of Cornell ($160 an hour). “I’ve scanned feathers from birds, coral from the University of Hawaii, chicken hearts from Turkey, 300-million-year-old fossils, drugs (for drug design), insects, bones, biological tissue,” said Riccio, adding that lately he’s been scanning objects for researchers at the Smithsonian Museum.

In 2011, Cornell University was the first to receive this new machine from Xradia, purchased by the Cornell Institute for Biotechnology and Life Science Technologies. Today, there is at least one, and in some cases, several on the six major continents, and according to Riccio, there are only eight currently used in academia.

“We evaluated many other high-resolution CT systems and found this one to be the most flexible and capable,” said Riccio. “Two unique aspects of this machine which made it a clear winner are: we can scan large objects while maintaining high-resolution and it can acquire important data from low-density specimens.”

The traditional protocol for an anatomist would be to spend several months generating histological sections of a thin slice of tissue, study those sections one at a time with a microscope, and reconstruct the image mentally before graphic reconstruction. However, using this new technology, Willy Bemis, Professor of Ecology and Revolutionary Biology at Cornell; Josh Moyer, a Cornell graduate student; and Riccio have been conducting a study for the past year called, “Comparative Anatomy of White Shark and Mako Shark Denticians.”

The team has been able to quickly virtually dissect and examine the internal structures of 20 white shark specimens and four mako shark specimens (teeth, jaws, and heads). They have also examined borrowed specimens from various locations such as the Museum of Comparative Zoology, at Harvard University, and the National Marine Fisheries Service, in Maryland. What they are finding is that there are differences that appear to be useful for linking certain groups of fossils with living sharks.

“We have this new method that will change how everyone will think about anatomy; it’s revolutionary,” said Bemis. “This new technology helps us answer old questions that have been bugging us for a long time: How do these teeth develop? What is their internal anatomy like? How do these teeth differ from one another? And, how do these teeth actually function?”

Additionally, this new technology allows the team to examine patterns of tissues and the arrangement of blood vessels which can help them understand why sharks have been successful throughout their history and evolution, possibly shedding light on the evolution of other species as well.

The VersaXRM-500 CT just won the 2012 R&D 100 Award (this marks their 50th year recognizing the top 100 technologies). According to Johnson, this machine is now used by the majority of top 10 semiconductor industries in the world; Life Science, agriculture, and medical research (particularly bone research); and for nanotoxicity where researchers are looking at different organisms to understand how much toxin might be in a water way, for example. This machine is not used in hospitals and is not for humans, however, it can look at tissue, hair, and samples that have been extracted from the human body.

Today, Bemis and his team are able to produce answers very quickly in comparison to 60 years ago, the last time anyone looked at the detailed anatomy of shark teeth. “What’s unique about this machine,” said Johnson, “is that it bridges the resolution gap between low resolution and destructive imaging techniques providing high-resolution images in a nondestructive way. This gives researches detailed images while preserving samples for further analysis. Other technologies on the market can provide high-resolution images, yet their process involves destroying the samples.”

Said Moyer, “If you are starting a career as a biologist like I am, you have no excuse to say, ‘I’m bored,’ because you will see questions wherever you look and this new technology makes it easier, much easier to answer those questions.”

Tompkins Weekly, August 27, 2012

Net & Bolt Technique Weighed by Village of Cayuga Heights

James LaVeck, one of the co-founders of, recently obtained information, through a Freedom of Information Law request, revealing that “Cayuga Heights Deputy Mayor Bea Szekely and her colleagues in the Supron administration are exploring the mass slaughter of deer using the controversial netting and bolting technique.” Said LaVeck, “This method of killing deer is currently illegal in New York State (NYS), and is considered ‘cruel and inhuman’ by many in the veterinary field.” LaVeck also stated that it appears that the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) may permit this “barbaric activity to take place.”

The Village of Cayuga Heights (VCH) recently completed a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) pertaining to proposed actions to engage in deer population control by sterilizing approximately 20 to 60 does, followed by culling of deer living within the 1.84 square mile village boundary. The village’s Board of Trustees has accepted the DEIS. Proposed options for culling include: no action, sterilization but no culling, culling but no sterilization, and sterilization in combination with culling and trapping.

When referring to the latter option, in other words, netting and bolting, the DEISacknowledges “at the present time, trapping and killing deer is not permitted under the wildlife regulations of NYS. However, if relief could be secured from that provision via the deer management permit, an alternative to using firearms to cull deer would be to trap deer and use a captive bolt gun. This device instantly kills the animal and is an acceptable form of euthanasia as per the American Veterinary Medical Association. A captive bolt gun has a steel bolt that is powered by either compressed air or a blank cartridge. The bolt is driven into the animal’s brain. It has the same effect on the animal as a firearm with a live bullet. A captive bolt gun is safer than a firearm.”

According to a statement made by Terry Clark, President of the New Jersey SPCA, and backed by Dr. Temple Grandin, one of the nation’s foremost experts in designing systems to reduce the stress and suffering of animals before and during slaughter, “The New Jersey Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (NJSPCA) has carefully reviewed the practice of netting and bolting deer as a method of deer population management…The Board of Directors of the NJSPCA has concluded that the net and bolt method of deer management is in fact cruel and not an acceptable form of euthanasia. The NJSPCA believes this technique inflicts substantial pain, stress, and suffering during both the netting and bolting phases of the operation.”

The statement also indicates that captive bolt guns were specifically designed for use on restrained domestic animals in highly structured and controlled environments. “These bolt guns do not cause a quick or clean kill when the animal’s head is not immobilized – a difficult if not impossible task given a deer’s reaction to drop netting.”

Although Gordon Batcheller, Chief Wildlife Biologist for the DEC, did not provide a comment regarding the netting and bolting technique he suggested to the VCH (as stated by Deputy Mayor Beatrice Szekely in a September 16 email to Tom Boyce and the VCH Board of Trustees), Batcheller has stated, “We work individually with each situation, municipality, city, and see what kinds of solutions make sense. In 2011 we will work with the VCH to see what’s appropriate. Our job is not to stand in the way of a community solution that makes sense. We’ll be involved at the point when they are ready for us to be involved.”

LaVeck responded by stating, “While DEC representatives present themselves as neutral players in this situation, they have their own political and economic agenda. It’s clear they are attempting to change or circumvent the net and bolt law for New York State.”

Mayor Kate Supron explained that the DEC is willing to give the VCH use of net and bolt. “They’ve told us that it is an option we could consider,” she said. She also reiterated that the VCH has done exhaustive research on this technique. “Seventy to seventy-five percent of those living in VCH are in favor of managing the deer population and believe that culling deer is a great idea. It’s not like we’re high-fiving each other and saying, ‘Let’s kill the deer!’” said Supron. According to the DEC, the long-term target is to reduce the deer herd to something in the range of 20 to 60 deer total in the village, “versus the 200-plus as of spring 2009.”

LaVeck commented that no one truly knows how many deer actually live in the VCH. “This divisive, million–dollar, backyard slaughter program is being carried out with no scientific study of the deer population, no scientific data specific to biodiversity in Cayuga Heights, and no acknowledgement of what everyone in the community knows to be true: that this issue is not about Lyme disease, or car accidents, or biodiversity, it is about frustrated gardeners in Cayuga Heights, where, unlike neighboring municipalities, residents are forbidden from putting up effective deer fencing.”

Yet there are reasons why deer choose to stay in the VCH. Paul Curtis, Ph.D., Associate Professor and Extension Wildlife Specialist with the Department of Natural Resources at Cornell University, explained that 80 to 90 percent of the female deer stay within the community to set up their home range adjacent to their mothers. “They stay fixed on the landscape,” he said. “It’s the young male deer that disperse. About ninety percent of the males we tagged dispersed.”

Still, Supron believes that the controversy over deer fencing “skirts around the issue of managing a growing deer population.” LaVeck noted that the DEIS did not include deer fencing, or even installing wildlife roadway warning reflectors, as obvious proven alternatives to save the tax payers a huge amount of money.

Netting and bolting was not the technique used to manage a core group of deer on Cornell University’s campus in the early 2000s. Curtis stated that over 90 percent of the female deer on the core of the Cornell campus have been sterilized. “After three years we have essentially stabilized the herd,” he said.

Despite the “net and bolt” option offered to Supron by the DEC, Supron said she doesn’t favor this action. “I thought using professional sharpshooters with a rifle was the safest way to go, however, I remain committed to sterilizing the core group of deer, and then having the others netted and killed.”

LaVeck stated that Supron is reluctant to use the term “net and bolt,” but he believes that is what she is referring to. “I’ve never heard of any situation where animals are netted and then shot with a firearm. A captive bolt pistol is a pistol-shaped device that forces a four-inch metal rod into the animal’s skull. In practice, because the animals are terrified, it’s very common that the aiming of this device is poor and does not result in instantaneous death.”

Jack J. Schrier, a member of the NJ Fish & Game council from 2000 to 2005, stated that as a council member he consistently voted against the use of net and bolt. “Too often the bolt misses the target, followed by second and third attempts before getting the bolt into the deer. Even then, the head often is missed entirely. Certain, it is not. Swift, it is not. Humane, it surely is not.”

Tompkins Weekly, November 22, 2010

Dalai Lama Monastery Half Way There

The construction of Namgyal’s new, second monastery, Du Khor Choe Ling (DKCL), or, Land of Kalachakra Study and Practice, continues on Tibet Drive, three miles south of their first Ithaca monastery on South Aurora Street. To finish the two existing buildings (there will be five in all when the project is completed) they need an additional $680,000. The Board of Directors—3 Tibetan monks, 5 Americans, and a representative from the Tibet Association—used an anonymous donation of half a million dollars they received in 2004 to purchase the 28 acres for DKCL. At the time, they, along with the rest of the world, certainly weren’t expecting a financial crisis to stall their fundraising and building efforts years later.

Even a project directly connected to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, one of the most influential political and spiritual leaders in the world, faces hardships when attempting to raise funds for projects directly linked to him. Sue Crowley, Namgyal board president for the past two years, stated that the Dalai Lama’s visit to Ithaca in 2007 garnered a lot of attention for the new monastery, and that donations were up quite a bit in 2008. “But since the market crash, donations have flattened,” said Crowley.

Crowley explained that what people don’t realize is that the Dalai Lama’s organization in India is not a wealthy institution. “They need to support themselves and they, in fact, depend on us to help them do that,” she said. Crowley explained that when the Dalai Lama travels around the world giving lectures there are enormous expenses organizers incur to fund his visits.

“When the Dalai Lama visited Ithaca in the fall of 2007, his expenses were paid for out of proceeds from ticket sales, which is why his lectures weren’t free,” said Crowley. “Any additional proceeds from his lectures are then given to causes that the Dalai Lama wants to support. He himself does not make money from these trips.”

Sidney Piburn, Namgyal founder and a teacher there, first met the Dalai Lama in 1974 in India. “The Dalai Lama used to fly coach class. He was traveling in Canada and there was a Tibetan teacher sitting in first class. The Dalai Lama smiled and passed him on his way to the back of the plane.” Piburn also recalled when he visited with the Dalai Lama at his monastery in Dharmasala, India ten years ago. “His monastery is as basic as you can get; it’s a plain and simple concrete building; the accommodations for the monks are like little dormitory rooms. And there’s no heat in the winter, so you can actually see your breath when you’re sitting inside.”

Ngawang Dhondup, Namgyal administrator, who lives with the four Tibetan monks at their Aurora Street monastery, said, “The Dalai Lama is a simple Buddhist monk. He always works for the people. He has such an open heart for others, and he is very interested in the environment, in democracy, and non-violence.” Namgyal’s survival is entirely dependent on public donations and sponsors, and Dhondup said that since DKCL has not been completed they have to pay other locations for their retreats. This summer their retreat was at Light on the Hill, with participants who traveled to Ithaca from Israel, Canada, New Zealand, and California. Dhondup went on to say, “When we complete our second monastery, then we’ll be able to have our retreats at that location.”

In 2004, Diana Drucker, a local real estate agent and one of eight members of the newly-formed fundraising committee, spotted a vacant lot that belonged to Clara Leonardo and her family. Namgyal purchased the property for $210,000, and has invested an extra $200,000 in developing it. “His Holiness gave his permission and blessing for this project, but he said that we, locally, would have to do the fundraising, and today we are stalling, and it breaks my heart,” says Drucker.

Drucker’s main concern is that the two buildings that have been started: the commons building (32 feet by 96 feet) and the shrine hall (32 feet by 32 feet with alcoves that make it bigger) are sitting vacant and unheated. “This isn’t good for the building materials,” she said, adding, “I am afraid that some of what’s been built won’t survive through another winter. I’ve seen projects stop and then I come back to them and see mold.”

Crowley is certain that the two buildings will definitely survive another Ithaca winter. Lane Chambliss, board member and architect for DKCL, agreed. “The building is stable and enclosed, and the interiors are protected,” he said, clarifying that the building has its final roof, final exterior finish, and the final windows and door in place. “There is the potential for minor damages, some insulation will have to be replaced, but it’s not inherently destructive to the project.”

So far the fundraising committee has approached many of the “usual sources” when it comes to funders supporting Tibetan- and Buddhist-related causes, but they haven’t had the luck they were expecting, and they don’t have the means right now to pay for a professional fundraiser. “There are a lot of organizations that we’ve approached, but we run into the issue of receiving funds for programs versus building and construction,” said Crowley. The Richard Gere Foundation turned down a Namgyal grant proposal for the building and construction of DKCL, yet the foundation stated that they would consider funding Namgyal’s programs once the building is completed.

Piburn lives so close to the new monastery that he can see it half constructed, with dozens of colorful prayer flags, from one of his windows. “It only takes one person, or a few people, to make this work,” he said. “There just needs to be a greater effort in spreading awareness of the value of this project and how little is actually needed to make it happen.”

Despite the financial obstacles, everyone involved remains hopeful. “When people give to Namgyal monastery,” said Dhondup, “what they are giving, and to the world, is compassion, love, and understanding. This is quite relevant today. And it is not important that a person be a Buddhist in order to give. Your mother religion is very important for you–this the Dalai Lama always says.”

Tompkins Weekly, August 30, 2010

Beauty and the Bees

When it comes to beauty, women know that honey is a natural humectant making skin look radiant. But, beauty begins beneath the skin, and thanks to busy honey bees they provide us with an array of products that keep us beautiful and healthy, from the inside out.

Keep this in mind, starting with honey…Bill Merritt, a beekeeper, since 1972, of Merritt Apiaries, located right outside of Tallahassee, Florida, said “The key to receiving honey’s benefits is using raw, not processed honey. When honey is processed, it’s heated and filtered and you lose all of the honey’s enzymes and pollen,” he said. “Raw honey gives you all its nutrients.”


Honey bees transform nectar into honey by a process of regurgitation and store it as a food source in wax honeycombs inside their beehive. Since bees visit mostly one kind of flower as they gather nectar, the honey they produce has a unique taste, aroma, and color from that particular flower. However, as there are many flowers, there are many types of honey.

The most medicinal honey being touted today is manuka honey, from the hives of bees that collect nectar from manuka and jelly bushes in Australia and New Zealand. Derma Sciences Inc., a New Jersey company, has fallen in love with this honey, and produced a product called Medihoney. This dark honey, saturated with a highly absorbent seaweed-based material, kills germs, and acts as an antibiotic. To purchase manuka honey:


Beeswax is a lipoid granular substance made by the worker honey bees. Glands on the underside of the abdomen of the worker bees produce wax droplets which harden into flakes when exposed to air. Freshly built honeycombs contain 86-100% of this wax. Anti-inflammatory and wound healing properties of beeswax makes it a great natural remedy for skin conditions and for wound healing.

Becky Hogg, co-owner of Full Moon Farm and Apiary, located 23 miles east of Tallahassee, makes lip balms and moisturizing bars with beeswax. She cleans the wax by running water through it, allowing it to cool, and then scraping the wax clean with a hive tool. “I repeat three to five times depending on how dirty the wax is,” said Hogg. “Then the clean wax is melted in a pot without water and then poured into styrofoam cubs creating blocks of beeswax. Once they’re dried we store them and melt the blocks when I use it to make my products.” To purchase Hogg’s products:


The honeycomb is a mass of tightly-packed hexagon cells built by honey bees in their nests which is where they store their honey and pollen. The honeycomb itself is made of beeswax.

Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture, author of several beekeeping books such as, The Backyard Beekeeper, said that when it comes to health benefits, honeycombs themselves don’t have any, other than providing you with honey in its most natural state – a wonder for your taste buds.

“A bite of the honeycomb with honey in it gives you all of honey’s enzymes and flavors as it truly is,” said Flottum who suggests you take a spoon of the room temperature honeycomb with honey, place it on warm toast to melt the wax, and bite down into it to squeeze the honey out of the honeycomb cells for your epiphany. As for the wax? “Most people chew it and swallow it,” said Flottum, “Some people spit it out.” For local honey in its honeycomb: T’s Honey in Tallahassee. Call beekeeper Gerald Thursby at 850.575.8898.

Bee Venom Therapy

Did you know that one of the most highly controversial treatments for multiple sclerosis (MS) is bee sting therapy, also known as apitherapy? According to the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation in Florida, many MS patients taking bee sting therapy say the stings increase peripheral circulation and cause MS remission, but conventional doctors are skeptical.

Erika Bolin, an ambassador for the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation in the US, from Aiken, South Carolina, currently has MS. Once she made sure she was not allergic to bees, she began receiving bee venom therapy from a local beekeeper in Aiken every three weeks for three years. She pays three dollars per bee sting. “Before the bee stings, I’m paralyzed on the entire left side of my hand, including three of my fingers,” said Bolin. “And then after five bee stings up my arm to my shoulder, my fingers are so agile that I can play the piano again. The effect lasts for three weeks.” For information call the Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, in Florida: 1-888-MSFOCUS (673-6287).

Tallahassee Democrat, October 2012

After the Lump

If you feel a lump in your breast, a. don’t despair, and b. don’t ignore it. “Not all lumps are bad lumps and many times they can be benign,” says Dr. Marie Amanze, a hematologist and oncologist at Hematology Oncology Solutions of Tallahassee. “There are different points in your cycle when estrogen levels rise and many times cysts form in the breast as a result.”

However, red flags should wave if your lump persists after your menstrual cycle. Call your primary care physician and ask him or her to take a look. After that? Here are steps you may have to take…


A radiological technologist will ask you questions about your lump and with a marker will “mark” your breast where the lump is. Next, the technologist will position and compress the breast in order to take images of it. The radiologist analyzes the X-rays and if a lump is found, an ultrasound is conducted for further investigation.

Says Dr. Maribel Lockwood, of Women’s Imaging Center at Radiology Associates, in Tallahassee, “The technologist will take the patient to another room for the ultrasound, a non radiation exam that uses sound waves to makes images of the tissues inside the breast. This defines whether the lump is a solid tumor or a cyst.”

The radiologist interprets the ultrasound and if he sees that it’s rather solid and not benign-looking, then he will recommend step two.


Two common types of biopsy’s are: ultrasound and mammotome. Both involve local anesthesia and a needle. According to Lockwood, an ultrasound biopsy (a 15-minute procedure) is more comfortable for the patient and is quicker than a mammotome biopsy (a 30-minute procedure).

In both cases, a hollow needle is inserted into the breast which cuts a small piece of tissue from the lump. A pathologist exams the tissue under a microscope to determine if the lump is benign, precancerous, or cancerous. At Lockwood’s office, patients are contacted with results 24 hours following their biopsy.

Keep in mind, if the lump is benign, a phone conversation follows. If the lump is cancerous, you’ll be asked to visit with your general surgeon or radiologist (often depending on who conducted your biopsy).

Step Three, MRI

Lockwood stated that she always recommends an MRI as a next step for patients diagnosed with breast cancer. “An MRI helps a patient get as much information as they can before making any decisions,” she says.

But not all doctors suggest the MRI route. Says Dr. Roy Schwartz, a general surgeon with Capital Regional Medical Center and Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, “If the pathology report is relatively straight forward, I don’t suggest an MRI for the patient unless there were more complex issues with that patient such as: mammograms that suggest other areas are questionable, or there is a strong family history of breast cancer.

Steps Four and/or Five

Even more debatable than the MRI, is whether or not a patient should see a surgeon next or an oncologist. The simple fact of the matter is, patients can meet with an oncologist and a surgeon in order to help them make an informed decision that is going to work for them.


Schwartz put it simply stating that tailored with a multidisciplinary approach, if a patient is leaning towards breast preservation, he sends them to a radiation oncologist. If a patient is leaning towards a mastectomy with the consideration of reconstruction, he sends them to a plastic surgeon.

Dr. Crooms, a general surgeon at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, added that if someone has a large lump, five sonometers or greater, many times she is offered pre-operative chemotherapy to shrink the lump. “If it’s less than five sonometers, the option of a lumpectomy with a sentinel lymph node biopsy is followed by radiation therapy,” he says.


An oncologist like Amanze feels strongly about meeting with patients directly after they’ve been diagnosed with breast cancer. “Too often I provide patients with chemotherapy eight months following surgery. That’s too long a wait,” she says. “Surgery can happen within two weeks following chemotherapy and/or radiation.”

Amanze will conduct a thorough physical and a sentinel lymph node biopsy before determining options. She will recommend chemotherapy before surgery if a patient has a number of positive lymph nodes, or if the tumor is large along with positive lymph nodes.

Following chemotherapy is six weeks of radiation, if needed. “First we do systemic treatment then we do localized treatment,” says Amanze who also offers patients hormonal therapy such as letrozole, anastrozole, and tamoxifen to help block the growth of estrogen in the body.


Judy Welch has been a breast cancer navigator at Tallahassee Memorial Healthcare since 2004. As soon as she’s aware of a patient diagnosed with breast cancer she begins a dialogue with them.

“When people are first diagnosed they want to do something about it immediately,” she says. “What patients need to know is that there are different avenues to take that are all right answers.” With input from surgeons and oncologists, Breast Cancer Navigators, like Welch, let patients know all their options.

Here are three common scenarios Welch has seen women take: Women who don’t want to worry typically choose a mastectomy (removal of the entire breast); women who love their breasts often opt for a lumpectomy (removing the lump from the breast) followed by chemotherapy and radiation, if necessary; and some women with large tumors choose to have chemotherapy to shrink the tumor so surgery is less invasive.

Gannett Pacific Publications, September 2012

New Migraine Fix Its

Desperate times, like getting another incapacitating migraine, calls for drastic measures! Many migraine sufferers, fed-up with the long, drawn-out routine of waiting out their throbbing migraine in a dark room with a cold compress, are willing to try any of these new breakthrough technologies that, for some, have been proven to prevent the onset of migraines and rapidly relieve the symptoms they cause. Any one of these just may be the migraine miracle you’ve been praying for…

Preventative Measures… BOTOX

Last year the FDA granted permission for botox to be used to prevent chronic migraines. During a 15-to-30-minute session, up to 40 injections of the anti-wrinkle drug are given, every 12 weeks, around the head, back of the neck, and shoulders. Researchers are still figuring out just how botox helps migraines, but it’s believed that it temporarily block chemicals from sending pain signals through nerve cells in the scalp to the brain.

At the New York Headache Center, Dr. Alexander Mauskop has been treating 100 migraine sufferers a month. “There are very few and usually mild negative side affects if the injections are done by a trained physician,” he said. Out of pocket patients pay $1,350 for their botox shots, but now that this appealing drug is FDA approved, your insurance just might cover it.


According to Fereidoon Behin, M.D., some migraines are triggered, or exacerbated, by opposite surfaces within the sinuses or nasal cavities pressing against each other. “The brain is confused into interpreting the stimulation as a migraine headache,” he says. This is why he performs the two-hour nasal surgery (costing $3,000) with results that last a life-time. During surgery Behin, with two offices in New Jersey, removes those nasal contact points which stops the release of chemicals that may act as migraine triggers.

Relieving Symptoms… MEDICAL MARIJUANA

Proposition 215 Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and State Bill 420, passed in 2003, allows for physicians in California to legally recommend medical marijuana to qualified patients. Dr. Sean Breen of Medical Cannabis of Southern California says medical marijuana helps the 10 % of his patients who complain of migraines. “I have patients who have gone from weekly migraines to only having one or two over the past twelve months since they started using cannabis,” said Breen.

Breen explained that cannabis has proven to be effective for nausea which many migraine patients experience. “It also works as an excellent sedative which allows patients in the middle of a migraine to fall asleep,” he said. Have questions for Dr. Breen? Contact him via


Here’s a new, non-drug treatment, patented in the United States in 2003 under the name Petadolex™. This natural, plant-based treatment works by maintaining proper muscle tone in cerebral blood vessels and by stopping spasms. It is recommended to be taken at the onset of migraine symptoms, and when taken regularly it has been proven to prevent migraine attacks.

“But keep in mind that certain migraine triggers require different remedies,” says Carly Feigan, trained clinical nutritionist and a migraine sufferer herself who, at the onset of her hormonally-triggered migraines used to use feverfew. Now Feigan takes Ibuprofen or Aleve. “The best approach to hormonally-triggered migraines are anti-inflammatory, over-the-counter drugs,” she says. “It’s not optimal, but they work.” or

Manage Your Migraine Triggers

Migraine triggers vary from person to person, but understanding your migraine triggers will help you reach for the best remedy to relieve it. Examples of triggers include changes in weather or air-pressure, bright sunlight, fluorescent lights, chemical fumes, menstrual cycles, hormonal shifts, alcohol, caffeine, missing a meal, too much or too little sleep, and MSG. The next time you get a migraine, write down what you did prior to it so that you can identify the migraine’s trigger. In the meantime, pass on perfumes, use soft incandescent light bulbs, learn biofeedback, and reduce stress by exercising, eating healthy, and treating yourself to a massage on a regular basis.

On the Horizon… NASAL POWDER

OptiNose nasal powder has entered Phase 111 trials this year and a 10 mg dose of sumatriptan into each nostril, at the onset of a migraine, will help alleviate migraine symptoms within 60 minutes. The V-shaped, breath-activated device consists of a mouthpiece and a sealing nozzle. Peter Miller, OptiNose CEO says, “Blowing into the device causes the soft palate to close, isolating the nasal cavity. As the patient continues to blow, the device is triggered, releasing sumatriptan into the air flow and carrying it deep into the nasal cavity.” Dependent on the FDA, this product should be available in two to three years.


A study was published last year in Neurology indicating that the intravenous administration of one gram of aspirin is a safe and effective way to treat patients suffering from migraines. Professor Peter Goadsby, M.D. and PhD, was the lead investigator of the study and is the director of the University of California Headache Center.

He says one gram of liquid aspirin works by blocking the production of enzymes important for the release of prostaglandins, the hormone that sends pain signals to the brain. He hopes this inexpensive therapy will be available to patients all over the world seeking treatment for acute migraines. For now this non-toxic option is only available for “named patients” living in the UK.


A new device, not approved by the FDA yet, allows migraine sufferers to take treatment into their own hands. It’s called transcranial magnetic stimulation device or TMS. Studies have been conducted at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. One push of a button on this hand-held device, held at the back of the head, sends two, brief magnetic field pulses into the brain. Scientists believe this short-circuits the “aura,” or changes in vision, that occurs just before a patient suffers a migraine. Results from trials? Patients were pain-free two-hours after zapping their symptoms away.

Gannett Pacific Publications, January 2011

My Pashley and Me

I was on assignment in England. Oxford to be precise. I was to capture the people, their faces, their expressions against Oxford’s lush green gardens and crowded watering holes. I thought about hiring a driver for the day, perhaps hopping into a cabby, but I decided I would be boldly adventurous. After all, I was in England, it was summer time, and I was alone, sans boss, sans the office, sans my Blackberry which I intentionally left on my living room ottoman before leaving my SoHo apartment in Manhattan.

I decided I would make a special inquiry where I was staying, Pickwicks, a bed & breakfast on London Road. At breakfast in the café, I asked a gentleman seated next to me, piling marmite on his warm and flaky croissant, if he knew if Pickwicks rented bicycles. “Oh yes, of course they do! I rented one yesterday,” he said, “I went as far as Kinglington in fact.”

Kinglington, I thought. Kinglington was another town away and this gentleman was rather portly, yet from where I was seated I could view his legs past his baggy shorts. They were sturdy and strong, obviously well-exercised when he wasn’t indulging his culinary senses.
I ordered two poached eggs, and another portion of Nutella for my toast. I considered the hash browns, but figured I would stop somewhere later that afternoon to fill up on energy.

“Have a jolly time!” shouted the gentleman as he sipped his tea and waved goodbye to me. Jolly time indeed. Yes, I would.

I went around back, past the rose garden, and found several bicycles lined up in succession, one after the other, as if they were horses ready to be taken down the trodden path of England’s damp and dewy soil. There was a small sign that read “Five Pounds.”

But since no one was around, and of course I looked in every direction to make sure, I took one of the traditional Pashley bicycles with an ivory-colored frame and charming woven basket, and walked it to the front of Pickwicks. The concierge waved and said something about riding on the left side of the road.

There was hardly any traffic, and I hadn’t a map on me, but of course I had my Canon over my shoulder and my Pashley bicycle leading the way. I got on and headed downtown passing young collegiate types drinking pints of bitter, parks where nannies tended to flocks of children chasing quacking ducks, and boisterous soccer players dribbling a soccer ball to and fro. After noticing my perspiration, I pulled off the side of the road, and was taken by the sight of a narrow path along a quiet canal filled with empty rowboats.

I got off my Pashley and walked with it until I found a patch of dry grass. I laid the Pashley onto its side and lay down next to it. As I began to drift off I heard a man’s voice which startled me at first.
“Excuse me. Where did you get that Pashley?”

I opened my eyes, and at first couldn’t see the face of the man gazing at me because of the sun’s bright glare.

He continued, while admiring my Pashley, “It’s quite dashing. I had one just like it when I was about fifteen years old.”

Before he finished his sentence I realized it was Jeremy Irons, the actor, or at least I thought so. If he wasn’t, he certainly was the spitting image of the English icon. “May I ride it?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said. “Just don’t steal it. It belongs to my bed & breakfast.” He chuckled, and with that he got on my Pashley and circled around me. “I’d forgotten how much I love bicycles like these,” he said, a cigarette dangling from his lips.

I couldn’t resist asking. I had to. “Are you the actor, Jeremy Irons?”
But he ignored me completely. He was in his own little world. “In fact, my brother and sister had bikes like this too,” he said.
I got dizzy as I watched “Jeremy” continue to circle me, and it was then that he did the unthinkable.
“Do you mind if I take it down this path?” he asked.

“No,” I said rather hesitantly.

I watched him and my Pashley get smaller and smaller before they quickly disappeared. I felt like I was in a Fellini film. In the middle of nowhere, with no one to be seen, while some man who may have been Jeremy Irons had taken my Pashley, well, Pickwicks’ Pashley.

I waited. I stood there and waited at least twenty minutes. “Sir Jeremy” never returned.

published in, 2009

Wood and Soul

Leah Houghtaling’s new, self-made, 400-square-foot woodshop, of rough cut pine and barn wood, in Trumansburg, New York, is now the starting and finishing point for her high-quality commissioned pieces. Even though the shed is only 30 feet high, it appears grandiose and is reminiscent of a solitary barn where artists have broken the ice and developed memorable and provocative art. An artist that comes to mind is in fact a favorite of Houghtaling’s, Jackson Pollack, who turned his wooden barn on Long Island into an art studio where his masterpieces came to life.

With a serious appreciation for architecture and anything visual, this self-taught wood worker left Massachussetts, where she grew up, and moved to New York in 2000, right around the time she was picking up every woodworking book she could get her hands on. As the daughter of blue collar parents, who admits to being a bit of a loner and very independent, Houghtaling found great solace as a young girl hiding in trees. Naturally. Yet to this day she still can’t believe the tree trunks she climbed would be material nourishing her creative spirit for as long as it has.

Many of Houghtaling’s clients are interested in something other than what upstate New Yorkers are exposed to: thick and clunky cedar decor, often referred to as Adirondack furniture. Houghtaling’s custom pieces, made with American Walnut, Sycamore, highly figured Cherry, Birdseye Maple, Butternut, Ash, or Hackberry, innately capture a design that’s somewhat modern Danish in style. The look amounts to clean and simple lines that defy anything too ornate while simultaneously retaining the natural hues of wood surfaced with a glossy or satin finish made from mineral spirits.

Today, at age 42, Houghtaling not only loves spending her spare time outdoors watching birds, and playing a wooden-top banjo (one she made from Maple, Walnut, and Rosewood), but she’s also the owner of a popular lounge in Ithaca, Felicia’s Atomic Lounge, where she originates specialty drinks using unusual flavors such as figs, lychees, onions, and garlic. She even experiments with coffee beans and beets, not only in her cocktails, but also to color the wood she works with. “I’m all about using and reusing, and when you think about food, so many foods have beautiful colors that look gorgeous on wood,” she says, like a true believer in sustainability.

While keeping the pace of a lounge owner, Houghtaling gets called to work on voluminous furniture projects. She has a waiting list of two months for her one-of-a-kind pieces that range anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand. Nevertheless, upstate New Yorkers in cities such as Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester, and even Manhattanittes, are willing to wait for their dining room table, their desk, bathroom cabinets, benches with storage space, or bed frames. Whatever someone wants, Houghtaling tackles.

Adamant about using local wood, Houghtaling makes regular trips to Danby Hardwoods in Ithaca; she also makes regular calls to tree surgeons in the Finger Lakes region to see what might be available from the distressed trees they often cut down. “I’m drawn to the imperfection of wood. Wood with cracks and holes is its true nature. That’s what I love to work with. I’m always asking myself, ‘How can I make this more beautiful than it already is?’” One tree surgeon Houghtaling called invited her to take 15 pieces of maple, each 20 feet long. “It’s an amazing part of the process for me to see exactly where my wood is coming from – it’s like going to the butcher and back in one day,” she said.

Face-to-face is an approach that Houghtaling prefers with her clients, even if she has to fly across country. “There’s too much room for error if I don’t have a chance to talk to people and see where they want their piece,” she says. “And there’s a lot of trust that has to get built up between me and a client.” It’s when Houghtaling is in someone’s home, taking pictures and measurements, drawing sketches and making notes, that she knows if she’ll be able to turn out exactly what’s envisioned in someone else’s mind.

But before Houghtaling cuts into wood and wraps her hands around her favorite tools, the chisel and hand plane, she looks for the most prominent wood she’ll be working with. Once that’s established she sits with it and spends time starring at its arabesque patterns, waves, and curves. She arranges different pieces of wood next to one another, and then, similar to Pollock’s drip-painting approach, she dives in and allows some other part of her brain to take over, transforming pieces of wood that many might reject into captivatingly fresh figures for someone’s room.

Good Life Magazine, April 2010

Entering the Relaxed State of Hypnosis

Dr. Richard Schissel sits across from his clients in his office on West Seneca Street and asks them to count backwards. He tells them how every number is going to help them become more relaxed.

“You will begin to feel your arms relax,” he says, while swinging a pendulum or pocket watch to focus their attention. “Your eyes will feel heavier.”

Once their eyes close, his clients enter into what Schissel and other hypnotists call a trance. With his client in a trance, Schissel keeps their conscious mind busy with a visualization of being at a beach, or on a ride in a hot-air balloon, so that he can artfully persuade their subconscious mind to change.

He might suggest: “Every time you eat a doughnut it’s going to taste like Crisco.” Or: “You will find that a small plate with half portions is enough.”

At its base, hypnosis is a state of focused attention. “Much like we experience while being absorbed in a really good book,” said Schissel, adding that the whole point is to move the critical, conscious mind out of the way to free the less picky subconscious mind.

Schissel moved to Ithaca in 1985, and opened his private practice in 1998. He specializes in pain and stress management, and occasionally on smoking cessation. “But they have to want to quit,” he said. “It won’t work otherwise.” Schissel quit smoking in 2004 with the aid of self-hypnosis. “I even created a hypnosis CD which was played during my lung cancer surgery.”

Brian Apatoff, a neurologist in NYC, explained hypnotism as a deep state of relaxation. “It’s akin to a meditative state,” said Apatoff, noting that hypnosis does alter brain wave activities.

For Schissel, who received his hypnosis certification from the National Guild of Hypnotists in New Hampshire, meditation was the catalyst that impelled his study of hypnosis. “That’s when I saw the added value of positive suggestions during deep states of relaxation,” said the 63-year-old.

Ellen Peterson is a hypnotherapist in Ithaca. She uses hypnosis for psychotherapeutic purposes. Her favorite guided visualization to put her clients in a trance is to take them on a walk down ten levels of a hillside.

“Ninety percent of the mind is subconscious and ten percent is conscious,” said Peterson. “We only operate from ten percent of our mind. When we’re hypnotized, or even when we meditate, all of that changes.”

The Ithaca Journal, July 2011

Contemplations: Your Powers of Resilience

Another theme from last week’s reading from Christina Feldman’s book Compassion has to do with the Chinese proverb, If you keep a green bough in your heart, the singing bird will come. Feldman writes that “the green bough in your heart is like the willow branch that can bend in the most fierce storms of life, yet always springs back upright.”

In order to understand your own powers of resilience, and your ability to spring back upright, Feldman guides us to look at sadness. I have never known anyone to write so eloquently on the subject of sadness and our ability to meet unbearable suffering. Feldman writes, “Meeting unbearable suffering brings great sadness, but sadness is not unbearable. Sadness is the ground in which love and compassion grow.”

This is incredibly empowering because it allows you to feel sadness without allowing sadness to pull you into despair. Look at sadness with fresh eyes. When you feel sad and when you allow yourself to feel the depth of that sadness, you may discover more than just compassion and love, but a power of resilience you did not know was there. “You may feel that your sadness is too much to bear, yet it is in the midst of pain that you discover your powers of resilience,” writes Feldman.

Take the tragedy of Syria for example. By feeling sadness you grow compassion for all those people who are suffering. By taking in the homeless man, woman, or child on the street you grow compassion for them. By feeling your own sorrow you cultivate compassion for yourself.

The next time you feel sadness, allow yourself to be with that for a little while. What do you learn from the sadness you feel in that moment? Are you crushed by the sadness you feel? Or, are you able to nurture your sadness and transform it into love and compassion? What steps do you feel you need to take in your everyday life so that you can begin to do this when sadness arises?


“Through your willingness to meet sadness in your own heart, you can learn to find room for all the possible sadness and pain in the world.” Christina Feldman

Contemplations: There Is Always Your Response

There was a time in my life that I told myself that the more I meditated the more I would get to a place in my life where I could go through an entire week where I didn’t have issues to deal with. I played this game with myself because I noticed that each week there was always something that came up, something unexpected, and every time those unexpected moments arose I reacted and lost my serenity.

Like many people, I was in the habit of gambling with the events of my life, as if I had control over the uncontrollable. But, what I pretty soon discovered is that there are always things that come up and not just for me, but for everyone. To expect something different may be viewed as naive.

It’s inevitable that there will always be moments of disappointment or hardship during any given week: a muscle gets pulled in your neck, your child is sick, your parents need your help, you have too many demands at work. We will always have moments where we don’t get what we want.
Then came the big “ah-ha moment.” I realized that I don’t have to lose my serenity just because things arise which are challenging, disappointing, or difficult. It’s how we choose to respond to these inevitable events and emotions that is key to maintaining serenity.

I, we, our society, will go to any length “to try to distance ourselves from discomfort,” but there is no way to drown discomfort, there is no way to escape from the ingredients that come with life. In fact, attempts to escape these hardships often creates more hardship. As Christina Feldman, author of Compassion, writes, “There is not always a solution to suffering, but there is always a possible response.”


Pick a week to notice all of your responses to the more challenging moments that life presents you with. Make a point to write down what came up and how you responded. Reflect on the things that arose for you that week. Were they in your control? What feelings arose when you felt out of control? How did you respond? Was it easy or difficult to respond the way you did? If you found yourself reacting more than responding, why do you think that was? Ask yourself. You, and only you, have the answer.

Contemplations: Transforming Wisdom Within Hopelessness

In the next section we are discussing from Christina Feldman’s book, Compassion, she speaks about the transforming wisdom within hopelessness. “Letting go of hope does not mean yielding to depression or paralysis. Hope is the hook that keeps you waiting for the next moment to arrive rather than embracing the moment you are in,” she writes.

How often do we hear this perspective? Generally the message we are given is to keep hope alive, but the deeper understanding behind hope is that is keeps you wanting “to be somewhere and be someone better than where you are and who you are.”

Of course we all hope that when someone is ill they get better, if someone we know is lonely will feel intimacy, or if there is war then there is peace. What Feldman is expressing is that “too often hope subtly turns into an insistence that life be different than it is.” In other words, giving up hope, which may be disguised as resistance and demand, is what allows you to relax with where you are and how things are in this moment.

Some people spend their entire lives hoping, hoping, hoping for something better than what they have. If you do this then you may be robbing yourself of the joys of what’s right in front of you.


Do you wish things were different in your life right now? What can you do to allow yourself to relax with what is without losing a sense of achieving your goals and maintaining an unwavering commitment to what you are doing? Do you wish you had a better job, better pay check, better home? Do you compare yourself to others and spend much of your present moment time wishing for something better than what’s right here right now?


“Giving up hope doesn’t disable our resolve; it focuses that resolve on the moment you are in rather than a moment that doesn’t exist.” Christina Feldman