A Simple Syrup Passion takes Flight

By Amy Nicole Tangel

When times get tough it is what people make of the road ahead that determines the outcome; revealing their spirit within.  For one woman, whose career as a bartender has been put on hold, her life took an unexpected turn when she recently took her passion for mixing cocktails behind the bar, to her kitchen, as a way to pass the time, creating an emerging new line of homemade simple syrups.

Christine Eifert, is a Long Island bartender who has been crafting her knowledge of mixing drinks for 27 years.  She has worked at bars and restaurants throughout the island and venues such as The Paramount, in Huntington, N.Y., and is currently on staff at Gunther’s Tap Room in Northport, N.Y., but for now she is spending her time at home with her family and waiting for the day she can return to work by making a dream become a reality with the creation of her simple syrups for cocktails, sauces and marinades, fittingly named Blondie’s Not So Simple Syrup.

Her inspiration for the syrups originally came to her last summer when she said she took a trip upstate with her boyfriend and tried a honey lemon syrup sample at a whiskey wagon type establishment, and instantly thought of all the different drinks she could make at work with the flavor.  In the time following this, she said she kept saying to herself she wanted to do this, she knew she could do this and would think about it all the time; however, the 47-year-old mom of two teenage boys said working 6-7 days a week left her no time to fulfill her passion for creating her own syrups until now.

When everything shut down, she said she had to do something to help keep her spirits up.  Christine said she went from living a life where her career was dependent upon being social and talking to people constantly to nothing.  She said it left her feeling worried and not knowing what to do like everyone else who is home during this time and out of work, so she just started making the syrups, and leaving samples for people she knew on their doorsteps in mason jars and people just kept asking and asking.

“People just keep asking for them, and I was not expecting this at all,” she said.

Blondie’s Not So Simple Syrup is made up of flavors such as strawberry-lemon and orange peel-vanilla for those who like sweets and three different jalapeno flavors for those who are all about spicy, but the list doesn’t stop there, and it continues to grow.  Christine said she is constantly experimenting with new flavors, like her most recent, a blackberry mint syrup and is making them available as soon as she has perfected them.  She said people are now marinating their meat for barbeques or making sauces with syrups, which is something she didn’t even think of when she started making them, but she is so excited to see what everyone is doing and for things to come.

“All you need is like two ounces of the syrup.  You can get a couple or a few drinks out of each jar for whatever you are using, of course.  Mojitos is a big one.  All of my bourbon drinkers are using the orange vanilla; just a tiny bit in their bourbon,” she said.

An entrepreneur at heart, Christine said it was on a whim when she asked a friend to create a logo for her that reflected her “Blondie” nickname and who she was.  Within just a week, a seemingly identical cartoon character of her was created with blonde pig tails, tattoos and a beaming smile.  She keeps stock in the mason jars she uses between ordering online and a local hardware store, and she buys all of her ingredients at her local Meat Farms.  A website is in the works, but through social media the word has spread like fire.  With years of working in the restaurant and bar industry, she has been putting those resources to work delivering samples to restaurants and taking orders locally.  She has even mailed orders as far away as Florida, and in only two months, Blondie’s Not So Simple Syrup has become a sign of new beginnings.

In the kitchen, Christine said she was spending hours in the beginning, because she was working with little pots, but with all the different flavors and the amounts of the large quantities she has been making, she now has graduated to larger pots and has been able to create a more efficient system.  From making to jarring, sealing, labeling and storing, the process she joked, has left her walking in circles some days in the kitchen when she first started out, but she has been excited and surprised every step of the way of the response to her syrups.

“I am so excited.  I think I just don’t believe it right now.  Little by little I am inching away at this,” she said.

Christine is currently exploring Farmer’s Markets to sell for this upcoming season and is taking orders online.  People who live locally can pick-up, or delivery options are available.  If you live outside of the local area or prefer mail delivery, the syrups can be shipped to you.

To place an order, you can find a list of syrups available along with direct contact information in the image below and you can visit, Blondie’s Not So Simple Syrup Page on Facebook.

A Hero Remembered

By Amy Nicole Tangel

With Memorial Day ahead of us, we remember those who fought for our country and have gone before us as we honor their service. I recently revisited my own ancestry in hopes of learning more about my great grandfather who served and died in World War II.

Ever since I was old enough to know the story of my great grandfather, I have always been drawn to it.  From my perspective as a child, and until more recently, learning about what happened to him from the time he left home until after his death was somewhat of a mystery to me.  His death was a tragedy that turned the course of my grandmother’s life at a very young age.  It left her with scars she rarely spoke of, and I never had the courage to dig deep with her to find answers to my family history.  I didn’t want to upset her, and I always thought, ‘one day’.  One day never came, and she passed away in 2016 before I ever had the chance, but her passing was the last of a generation and it fueled my fire even more.   I have slowly been able to put some pieces together over the years, but a recent trip down memory lane with my aunt brought me new understanding and revealed a heart-stopping tale I had never been told.

His name was Pvt Roland Douglas and he served in the U.S. Army.  He was born in 1911 in Owls Head, N.Y., and graduated from Lake Placid High School and barber school before marrying my great grandmother, Elizabeth Cline, in Saranac Lake, N.Y., on May 23, 1934.  When he was called to service in 1943, he left behind a wife and three daughters, Helen (my grandmother), Betty and Alice in Lake Placid, N.Y., where he once ran a local barbershop, worked as a chauffeur and was a volunteer firefighter.

In a genealogy document written by his daughter, my late, great aunt Betty Douglas Coats, she tells how her father was a barber by trade, but when the depression hit in the 1930’s he had to go to work as a chauffeur.  In December of 1943, he was drafted into the Army, completed basic training in Camp Wolter, TX, and was shipped off to France in 1944.  Records have indicated he fought numerous battles for approximately four months until his death on, September 23, 1944.

Under the leadership of General George S. Patton Jr., Great Grandfather Douglas was serving in Company I, 137th Infantry Regiment of the 35th Infantry Division at the time of his death and was killed in action in the Foret de Gremacy area of France.  I have often imagined the past and wondered what it was like for my great grandmother to have the worry of her husband fighting a war and suddenly becoming the only parent raising three daughters in such economically troubled times. 

It is said through family lore he told his family he knew he wasn’t coming home, and I often wondered, given the times, if he was ever able to write letters home or if there were any specific moments left behind.  So, I asked my aunt, Teresa Wells of Barre, VT, great grandfather’s granddaughter, if she knew of any letters and if she could share with me any stories she knew.

“I do know that Grandpa was in France and was shot out of a tree by a sniper.  His watch stopped at his time of death when he hit the ground,” she said.

I had never heard the story of his watch before and hearing of it for the first time made my heart skip a beat.  She said as far as she knew, the watch had never been reset, but that my uncle had the watch and he had the exact time.  It was like the watch was connected to the heartbeat of my great-grandfather’s life, and when his heart stopped, so did the tick of his watch; forever symbolizing the moment during battle when he took his last breath.  I reached out to my uncle, Bob Macey of Stillwater, N.Y., great grandfather’s grandson, and owner of the watch to see if he could share with me what he knew about its history.  While we spoke on the phone, he held the watch in his hands and checked the time for me.  9:34 is the time, and although it is not known from the watch whether it is morning or evening, it remains as it was received. 

During WWII many soldiers were buried in Europe and later flown home.  It was a double-edged sword for families who lost their loved ones in this war.  Not only did they have to grieve, but many times they had to grieve without a body and try to carry on, only to reopen the wounds years later and grieve all over again when the bodies returned home.

In the notes written by his daughter Betty, she tells about the location where my great grandfather’s remains were interred in Andilly, Lorraine, France in a what was then a U.S. Military Cemetery, and describes the timeline of his return home to Lake Placid years later. 

“Pvt Douglas’ remains were shipped home, arriving at 6:30 p.m. on November 29, 1948 at the train station in Lake Placid, N.Y.  A funeral was held November 30at 2:30 p.m.,” she wrote. 

He was buried in North Elba Cemetery in Lake Placid following his funeral and on December 14, 1948, Great grandfather, Pvt Roland Douglas, was posthumously awarded the Purple Heart. 

My grandmother, Helen, was the oldest of her siblings, but she was only a 7-year-old when her father passed away, so memories were hard to come by, but collectively through stories passed down, his legacy remains alive.  The time may have stopped the day Pvt Douglas died, but for his family, the honor of his service will always be remembered.

Carrying on a Family Legacy

Amy Nicole Tangel

In March of 1946, The Colony Shop opened its doors under the ownership of businesswoman Eloise Staudinger and 74 years later, the children’s store continues to be a fixture in the Village of Patchogue, N.Y., but now, like countless other small businesses across Long Island, the doors are temporarily closed and her granddaughter, Lori Belmonte is holding tight to her family legacy and making plans for a new future.

Lori has been co-owner of The Colony Shop alongside her aunt for the past 10 years since her grandmother passed away in 2010, but she has spent her lifetime learning from and following in her grandmother’s footsteps.  At 63 years old, she has spent much of her life dedicated to serving her customers and being an active member of the community serving as Committee Chair with the Business Promotion Committee for the Greater Patchogue Chamber of Commerce and as First Vice President of the Business Improvement District.  Now, Lori has been working diligently from home to prepare for the day to re-open and carefully going over all the necessary changes to come for her customers to safely social distance in the shop. 

Like many other small locally-owned businesses who have been around for a long time, The Colony Shop runs a simple business serving their customers, and the only way to get what you need is to go to the store.  Lori, her aunt and dedicated staff are known locally for the personal and high-end experience they provide to their customers.  One of their specialties is providing a one-stop-shop for children’s First Communion needs, with fitting rooms on premise, and along with that comes Lori’s expertise in helping children find the perfect dress, suit or accessories.

The week before the NY Pause, The Colony Shop was in the midst of their prime shopping season for the occasion and now First Communions have been canceled with re-schedule dates yet to be announced, and Lori is hoping for an opportunity to bounce back.

“I have lost my communion business.  I lost my Easter business, and now I am starting to lose my spring-summer business.  My store is full of merchandise, and it’s just sitting there,” she said.

The past couple of weeks Lori has been receiving calls for items and has been trying to accommodate through local delivery or pick-up.  Calls from the shop are being forwarded to her cell phone and Lori said requests have been primarily for birthdays and births.

The shutdown of business has been the biggest hit The Colony Shop has ever taken, but Lori has drawn strength from a story her grandmother Eloise used to tell her when she was a child about her experience living through the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic.  Growing up and until recently, Lori said she always thought, like most kids would, that her grandmother was exaggerating the story, but she was not.  Her grandmother was a survivor of unimaginable circumstances.

“When my grandmother was 10 years old, she lost her father and her step-mother.  Her mother died when she was three.  She lost her father and her stepmother in 1918.  She would tell me, ‘You don’t know, people were dying left and right,’ and who would have thought 100 years later here we go,” she said.

Moving forward, some fittings are going to have to be by appointment only and only one of the two fitting rooms will be used at a time.  After every fitting, the rooms will be thoroughly sanitized and whatever customers have tried on will be steamed out and sanitized before it goes back on the rack.  Lori said even though it is going to be extra work for them, they have to keep going.  She said, their first priority is to put their customers’ safety first while they shop, and The Colony Shop will do whatever is needed to carry on. 

“It’s going to be hard in my store.  Sometimes when they shop, for say, a baby’s christening outfit, it’s the baby in the stroller, and it’s mommy and the godmother and two grandmas.  I am going to have to limit that,” she said.

The Colony Shop is in Phase 2 of the reopening plan for NY State, and Lori said she is hoping she can re-open in the coming weeks.

“I am available.  If somebody needs something, all they have to do is call me,” she said.

For more information on how you can shop through social distancing at The Colony Shop you can visit, www.thecolonyshop.net or call 631-605-7278.

Healer offers free virtual Reiki meditations

Amy Nicole Tangel

Life as we know it right now can seem filled with unknowns and worries, leaving us feeling overwhelmed, out of balance, and seeking ways to deal with our emotions. Sharing her passion and gift of healing through meditation one woman is helping those in need by offering free weekly virtual sessions of Reiki meditation.

Reiki and Feng Shui Master Laura Cerrano, owner of Feng Shui Manhattan, grew up with Feng Shui as a way of life.  The former Farmingdale, NY, resident learned early from her mother who was a Feng Shui Master and, organically, the seeds were planted in Laura through living what her mother taught her as she grew up.  While in college studying to be an art teacher at SUNY New Paltz, Laura said Feng Shui was ever present in her life as she traveled back and forth on breaks to study the practice and help with her mother’s Feng Shui client consultations. 

When her mother became ill and Laura began struggling to find teaching jobs after she returned home from graduation, she realized this was her destiny.  After her mother passed away in 2010, Laura said she then knew in her heart, she wanted to make it her life to help others and take all she had learned from her mother to continue to serve others.

“I was seeing what was happening with people’s lives and even my life. I said this is really important.  This not something to ignore, and I didn’t want to,” she said.

Although 36-year-old Laura grew up on Long Island, she was born in an orphanage in Bogotá, Colombia, in 1984 during a time when the country was suffering from economic despair and surrounded by violence as a result of the reign of terror by drug lord, Pablo Emilio “Escobar” Gaviria.  Her birth mother gave her up for adoption when she was born, because she could not afford to keep her, and to Laura’s saving grace, when she was about six months old, she was adopted and flown to her new family in the U.S.  It was not safe for her adoptive parents to travel to Colombia due to the ongoing violence, so Laura was flown to JFK from Bogotá essentially alone, but the future ahead of her was paved with hope.

Laura’s adoptive mother, Feng Shui Master Carole Provenzale, studied Feng Shui at the Metropolitan Institute of Interior Design, originally in Plainview, N.Y., and based today in Syosset, N.Y.  She was among the first accredited graduate school class in country to be recognized as a certified Feng Shui consultant, and her mother who graduated in 1997, was blessed by His Holiness Grandmaster Professor Lin Yun.

“She just started feeding me information growing up from 1997 and onward, so my training essentially started there even though it wasn’t in the traditional sense of here’s a booklet. You just lived it and honestly, that is how Feng Shui is traditionally passed down,” she said.

Following her mother’s passing, Laura said she decided to extend her practices from Feng Shui and began studying Reiki with the intention of finding an outlet to help with her grief.  She said before her mother had passed, she had told Laura to start thinking about Reiki and to trust it would come to her in her own way, so Laura sought out, Reiki Master from the Center for Inner Wisdom, Lily Rubinstein.  Under Rubinstein’s mentorship and teachings, Laura was certified in Reiki with the foundational levels in 2014 became a Master in 2018.  From these teachings, Laura has created her own practice and lifestyle to help others heal.

“It is a necessity at this point, and I know it will be a necessity once things are settled, because I am seeing and I am getting the reading of people who are going to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); They are already having it, especially the essential workers in the hospitals,” she said.

Throughout the pandemic, living in New York during a time when there is so much fear, Laura said she has been taking her years of practice to focus on the blessings to help herself and others stay strong through her new virtual weekly Reiki classes. She said she started thinking about what people needed right now, and she said she felt free remote Reiki healing circles offer a method that could be an immediate benefit.

“The idea is to basically give people, even though we are pausing, an opportunity to just pause from the anxiety and depression, and I have been trying to reach out to medical and other essential workers to just listen to the meditation or receive the Reiki,” she said.

Feng Shui Manhattan has offices in New York, Long Island and Los Angeles, CA, and Laura is currently under quarantine in Long Island while her husband is holding things down in California until they can safely travel again.  Laura travels the country offering clients a list of holistic and practical approaches to Feng Shui, Master Reiki Treatments, and sound healing, just to name a few of the services to help people with physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth. 

Laura said she is working hard to focus on the anatomy of the body even more than ever, and is studying different chakras in the body to nail down what people are going through.  She practices what she teaches and takes her own meditation classes to keep herself in the right place for her own peace and to continue to help others.  For Laura, who has been combining her own practice of meditation along with various exercise regimes like riding her bike and lifting heavy items, the practice is essential.  Art is her personal outlet, and she often explores different mediums as part of her key to balance.

“When I look at this pandemic, I know a lot has made an exchange on the surface level, but when you really start to peel back the layers, depending on your perspective, this pandemic has blessed me with a lot,” she said.

Throughout the month of May and possibly June, depending on how long the pandemic continues, Laura’s virtual Reiki sessions will be held through Zoom, Thursdays at 7 p.m. Eastern time.  People who want to take the class can go directly to the link on her website to register, www.fengshuimanhattan.com or they can visit The Feng Shui Manhattan School on Facebook.