Escape To The Loft

This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Happiness is sipping hot tea on a cold day with warm people, and you can find such bliss at the Plain T-Loft in Southampton. Plain T is a handcrafted tea company founded and run by an entrepreneurial couple, Tathiana and Alessandro Teixeira, who travel the farthest stretches of the world to bring the finest blends home with them.

Situated in a tucked-away location behind a large, glass garage door lies the naturally lit oasis — a historic ice warehouse with lofted, 16-foot-high ceilings, housing the Teixeiras’ creations. When you enter, you are greeted by white brick walls and the blissful aroma of tea guiding you toward relaxation. The creative decor includes tea in teardrop-shaped hanging glass planters, a wall of blends, with a Ralph Lauren couch and a tasting bar alongside.

The T-Loft is the production facility for Plain-T but also a place to experience and escape. Envision bringing your entire family for a palatable day of worldly wellness education, or a group of friends that includes the health-conscious or non-alcoholic drinker. It’s an idyllic location for those seeking something untraditional, but still offers a cozy, inviting setting.

“Tea tasting is a simple, time-honored ritual, and one that we think you’ll enjoy! Experiment yourself, or invite your circle of friends for an evening tea-tasting party. After all, tea tasting is an art — not a science. Keep it simple!” Tathiana explained. “Whether you are a tea connoisseur or a first-time tea drinker, or your choice is based on flavor, aroma, country of origin, or caffeine content, Plain-T has a tea for you. Choose from orthodox, flavored, special blends, wellness & detox, herbal infusions, or matcha,” she added. Matcha powder, available for tastings and purchase, is powdered green tea leaves with health benefits.

Tea is the second most consumed beverage in the world, following water. Yet, it seems many are unfamiliar with the variety of flavors available to them. An incredibly unique drink is the Lychee nut flower, served in a wine glass. It starts off the size of a chestnut — green tea leaves tied together with a cotton thread — and as the hot water pours over the tea, it opens up like a flower within a minute’s time. It’s an experience for the eyes as much as the tastebuds. The bar has all its blends available for tastings, served in the finest teaware. Other notable flavors include chai, Ceylon mango decaf, apricot, and passion fruit.

Tathiana revealed, “Both Alex and I drink tea throughout the day. My favorite this time of the year is genmaicha (Japanese green tea with roasted and popped rice), and Alex’s is our detox white hibiscus (a Plain-T exclusive blend of white tea, hibiscus, and detox cistus incanus).”

Seeing With Our Hearts

My volunteer work with the Southampton Animal Shelter, while intrinsically rewarding, comes with a high risk. The risk of falling in love. Luckily, I’ve kept my emotional distance for the most part, primarily due to the line on my lease that states “no pets” (I had to leave my two “adoptables,” a German shepherd and black cat back with my family). But I confess, my heart was stolen in a way that has become eye opening.

Sophie is a five-month-old kitten that was rescued with a terrible infection in both of her eyes, rendering her permanently blind. When I first saw what I thought was a helpless, little fur ball in a cage, I looked away. Knowing I couldn’t help her, I assumed she was doomed to live a lesser life and therefore my instinctual reaction was to close my heart and walk by. As I was prepared to do just that, a paw reached out to me as if to say hello.

Well, there’s just no turning back from that! Over the course of two days, I spent a few hours with Sophie and learned she was anything but lesser. She adventurously climbed her cage, enthusiastically played with toys, easily navigated her way around a new room, and purred with affection against me to show love. She even tried to teach her stuffed animal to use her litter box.

Observing this kind-hearted creature awakened something deep within me. No, Sophie isn’t disabled at all. Like much of the rest of the world, she’s simply blind to what’s in front of her. How often do we go through life looking without ever truly seeing? If our hearts, intuition, and instincts could guide us ,rather than our sight, would we want the same things? Would we be the same person?

It was miraculous to watch as a five-month old being sensed it could trust me and felt my intentions without ever knowing what I looked like. I was judged based on my touch and my energy. She learned a room, its dimensions and contents, and, once understanding it was no longer a cage, appreciated its freedom. She didn’t look for toys; she was just happy to explore.

Imagine a world where we all listened more and reacted less? Without the use of her eyes, she listened to my voice, heard my every movement, and reacted based on those sounds rather than jumping to conclusions about a visual. Sophie is my lionheart.

Yes, my world has been turned upside down by a blind kitten, her innocence and her perseverance. Sophie doesn’t have a disability. In my eyes, she’s been given a gift. The gift of seeing with her heart.

Good news! Sophie has been adopted. But remember, there are many other dogs and cats at Southampton Animal Shelter in Hampton Bays. You can help them find a forever home by visiting


This article first appeared in The Independent Newspaper. Read more about #EverythingEastEnd here

Daily Fitness: A Practice For Everyone

(This article first appeared in the April 12, 2017 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


My typical response to participating in a yoga class is “Namaste out of it.” However, it’s hard to argue yoga’s multitude of benefits, such as increased flexibility, muscle strength, circulatory health, and injury protection (among many others) that come with the practice.

Introducing a ground-breaking program on the East End that offers yoga classes to those battling cancer.

Yoga, unlike some other physical activities, can be for everyone including cancer patients. Yoga geared for those touched by cancer aims to increase lymphatic flow in order to optimize the immune system.

A primary difference between the practice for those with the ailment and those of healthier bodies is that many breast cancer patients practicing yoga have undergone a mastectomy or biopsy. This causes scarring of the breast tissue, which can cause stress when doing yoga poses such as downward facing dog or headstands.

As bone density could be lower in cancer patients, these classes alleviate pressure on the neck by keeping the head up.

Eric Pettigrew has been teaching yoga for 20 years and is a master trainer for Y4C (yoga 4 cancer), a program created by Tari Prinster. In addition, Pettigrew participates in the integrative therapy program Urban Zen and collaborates with the non-profit, Fighting Chance.

Through The Ellen Hermanson Foundation he also holds yoga at Southampton Hospital free of charge every Wednesday at 10:15 AM in the wellness center.

“We gain a sense of self of the body, to reconnect with balance . . . the benefit is to be joined, to be in a group. To know that you’re not alone . . . that there’s other people like you. You can go out of your house, to move and to feel good about yourself,” Pettigrew affirmed.

The groups maintain a compassionate dynamic through the essential core commonality of the disease.

Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor offers a complimentary Therapeutic Yoga for Cancer class described as “yoga for hope, health, and healing.” Pettigrew and fellow instructor Hilary Chasin teach a class on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2:30 to 3:45 PM. All classes average 10 to 15 people during off-season with more during the warmer months. Through the energized movement of these yoga classes, the form is gentle but works to increase blood flow, with a restorative cool down.

On Sundays at 2:30 PM a class is offered at Ananda Wellness Yoga in Southampton. The class is sponsored by Fighting Chance and is with intructor Karen Meyer.

As with any fitness routine, and with any individual body, strength is achieved through practice. Being healthy is about mentality as well as capability, and through that we all have the ability to achieve goals.

Who knows, maybe the next time someone asks me to take a yoga class I’ll remember all of the inspiring patients taking the step to better their lives and roll out the mat.

To learn more about Eric Pettigrew visit or

Ellen’s Run: A Step in the Right Direction

(This article first appeared in the August 17, 2016 issue of The Independent Newspaper)


One step at a time is all it takes to change someone’s life or our own. At the twenty-first annual Ellen’s Run, held this Sunday at Parrish Memorial Hall at Southampton Hospital at 9 AM, hundreds will be running for a change.

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2015 close to 232,000 US women were newly diagnosed with invasive breast cancer and approximately 40,000 of those women will die from the disease. Statistics are now showing that one in eight women will be diagnosed with breast cancer over the course of her lifetime.

As these numbers become harder to ignore, the Ellen’s Run 5K race raises money to support the Ellen Hermanson Breast Center at Southampton Hospital. At this family event, runners of all levels and ages are encouraged to participate. A special prize is given to the first breast cancer survivor who crosses the finish line.

Julie Ratner is Chair of Ellen’s Run and the sister of the inspiration for it all, Ellen Hermanson. In catching up with Ratner the life of Ellen was revealed.

“She was an earth lover type, interested in everything around her. She was a voracious reader with a really present, sharp mind. The conversation was always interesting.”

Ratner, six years older than Ellen, described her sister as being “a great partner in crime” who would never rat her out. Ellen was the “perfect little sister” and acted as her little mascot, the younger, but wiser and smarter one, who she went to for advice.

An ambitious woman with big aspirations, Hermanson was a journalist who took a keen interest in the Middle East and Israel during the late 70s and early 80s. Her biggest dream came true with the birth of her daughter Leora.

Leora, a Hebrew name meaning “light onto me,” was only six months old when Hermanson was diagnosed with breast cancer at the young age of 35. Due to the sickness, Leora grew up rather independently, often playing on her own with Hermanson sick much of the time.

Now at twenty-seven years old, Leora recently took the bar exam in North Carolina and is “Ellen’s finest accomplishment,” though her mother is not around to see her today. Ratner reminisced, “I can still hear Ellen say to me, ‘Could you believe how great Leora is? Am I bragging too much?’ As sick as she was, she would always bring up her daughter in discussion . . . through the pain you could feel this light in her voice.”

Hermanson’s voice is the positive memory, keeping her alive. It’s still heard by Ratner, “I hear it in my ear, that stays with me.”

After seeing her sister’s deterioration from the beginning to Hermanson’s untimely end, Ratner talks with women in the community aiming to give them advice that is helpful based on what she’d recommend for herself or her own daughters.

“I recommend the 3D mammogram. It’s more radiation, but it’s more accurate . . . Always get a second opinion. Find and learn as much as you can about your disease. You want to be a partner with your doctor to work with yourself.”

Proper education and support are crucial to the process of any disease because in the beginning it’s hard to be sure what the exact disease may be. Staying positive is also important to personal wellbeing.

To the women who have reached the final lap in their course of the disease, Ratner describes the end stages as humbling. Most situations have the capability of change, but accepting loss is final. “Spend time, hold that space, listen. It’s about the person dying . . . Be present and be attentive.” She emphasized being aware in the moment and making the most of the time that’s left. In quoting her sister, “[Ellen said to me] as close as we are you don’t get it. You haven’t walked in these shoes.”

For the patients, caregivers, or loved ones seeking emotional support there is Ellen’s Well. Established in May of 2000, Ellen’s Well provides psychosocial support for breast cancer survivors on the East End. Edyle O’Brian, an oncological social worker for over twenty years, facilitates these support groups. O’Brian is both wise and caring; a conversation with her can be healing.

Ellen’s Run grows bigger every year, and this year’s attendance is expected to reach a thousand or more. Ratner notes that one woman recently stopped her and said “I have a t-shirt from every year at your race.” This was a heartfelt moment and reminder of how supportive the East End community is.

“It’s a great race with a lot of spirit and energy. We’re not just surviving but thriving,” she said.

The run is a fast course in the morning before the day’s heat kicks in. People often run for a good time. Plus, there’s no traffic!

Ellen’s Run is a way to honor and remember loved ones. Ratner encourages attendance. “We keep our money here. We believe in this community. We’re part of it and we are here to serve it.” Each step taken is a step in the right direction.