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“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am.” ~Michel Foucault

12 Oct

“I don’t feel that it is necessary to know exactly what I am. The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning. If you knew when you began a book what you would say at the end, do you think that you would have the courage to write it?
What is true for writing and for love relationships is true also for life. The game is worthwhile insofar as we don’t know where it will end.”

~Michel Foucault

Have a Slice of Espresso Cheese for National Coffee Day!

29 Sep


Happy National Coffee Day!

…Just don’t post a photo of your coffee or you might anger Rant Chic. Although, apparently there are coffeehouses that “print” your selfies into your latte with edible brown powder. The latte selfie is real!


I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on Sunday. Oh how I love my Barnes & Noble Cafe discount!!

What I really want to tell you about, though is that I discovered espresso cheese!! I road tripped out in Connecticut with two of my very dear friends whom I’ve known forever and ever, and we went out to Stew Leondard’s. Have you been there? It’s amazing. Maybe it’s all my city living, but grocery stores in suburbs amaze me with their wondrous wide aisle lit with bright lights showcasing jalapeño potato chips and refrigerated dog food. This one was one was particularly exceptional. They have cupcakes shaped like cheeseburgers and animatronic butter.

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The employees are all super nice too. One saw me pondering an espresso cheese. I was so curious, I immediately answered “yes” when he asked me if I’d like to try it, even though I normally bashfully say no because I don’t want to bother them or appear greedy. Let me tell you: I am so glad my eagerness betrayed me. Made by Sartori, Espresso Bellavitano is earthy and sweet, decadent, and complex. It’s the perfect cheese to impress guests. I’d pair it with red grapes, raisins, currants, and cherry chutney. A hearty red wine would go well with it.


Here are a few of my past coffee-related posts to celebrate @NationalCoffeeDay:::

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars

Caffe Reggio is one of my favorite coffeehouses in all of New York City. I recommended their cup in my Beat gift guide.

Places to drink coffee in Grand Rapids

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

What’s Your Coffee Personality? Get Greek-American author Dean Bakopoulos’ take

Not to be outdone by my Greek side… The Starving Artist Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

A habit I got from my mother.

Coffee not your drink of choice?

Stir up Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

Or toast to Ernest Hemingway with a Daiquiri Recipe

Take a road trip to Monterey and visit Bargetto Winery for an apricot wine

Or hop on the subway and try the orange wine (not orange flavored!) at Brooklyn Winery

Go Greek with Pindar’s Pythagoras Wine

Speaking of lemonade… How ’bout some Champagne Pink Lemonade Punch?

Want something sans alcohol?

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

Holla for some Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade

Or if you’re a starving artist, Jazz Up Your Tap Water

Road Trip: Under the Balls in Washington, DC

28 Sep
I road tripped out to DC for the weekend recently to see one of my dear friends from Scripps. She and her husband are both museum people so I always get to soak in a museum with them and learn fascinating history. It was fantastic seeing the greater DC area through their eyes, as most of my previous trips have been boringly touristy. I never realized how much I liked DC til this trip!
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 Crème Brule donuts @ Astro 
 The Beach exhibit @ the National Building Museum
Veggie tacos @ District Taco
Like the Beat Generation reader I am, I spotted Amiri Baraka’s book in the window @ Busboys and Poets (named after Langston Hughes!)
My friends were the perfect hosts! We talked about our mutual love of Dateline, accosted people with adorable dogs, and confided in one another about working in the arts.  
I can’t wait to go back to visit them.

Nerdy Travelers Rejoice: A Bucket List of Literary Museums for Literary Travelers

21 Aug
Bustle came out with a listicle entitled “9 Best Museum In The World for Book Lovers, Because There’s Nothing Like An Original Manuscript.” It has some fantastic recommendations that this nerdy traveler will undoubtedly be adding to her bucket list.
No list can ever be complete, so I’d like to add my recommendations:
The Beat Museum
It should come as no surprise that I’d recommend the Beat Museum in San Francisco. Not only can you see a huge collection of Beat Generation mementos, but there’s also a bookstore that sells first editions, signed copies, and other collectibles.
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historical Site and Interpretive Center
Walt Whitman Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center out on Long Island is the place for fans of the Good Gray Poet. What I love about this museum is that it gives a snoopy look into the private home life of the poet and also keeps his tradition alive through contemporary poets. There’s also a wall in the museum that makes me think Whitman inspired Kim Kardashian….
Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace
Speaking of birthplaces, the Theodore Roosevelt Birthplace is a must-see. (It’s currently closed but will reopen in a few months.) Oh, sure, he’s remembered today for being one of our presidents, but he was a prolific author, and his birthplace shows how he went from a sickly reader to a big-game hunter. I wrote about the museum in the introduction to his Hunting the Grisly.
Washington Irving’s Home
Washington Irving’s home, Sunnyside, in Sleepy Hollow, New York, is also a fun visit—particularly around Halloween! I went there a few years ago with a friend and to this day we still talk about it.
Junibacken Museum
I mentioned the Junibacken Museum, devoted to Astrid Lindgren’s works in Stockholm, Sweden, in a recent post. It’s particularly fun for children, but even adults may enjoy it.
The Writer’s Museum
I would also recommend The Writer’s Museum in Edinburgh, Scotland. My sister and I visited there quite a few years ago and saw the literary lives of Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott, and Robert Louis Stevenson come to life. My sister does a mean Robert Burns impersonation.
Some people go to the beach on their vacations. I visit museums and bookstores.

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

4 Aug

When I was attending college in LA I became friend with few ladies from Hawai’i. We were equally distant from home, each of us taking a six-hour flight to get to Scripps. More than just the physical distance, we felt culturally far from our origins. They were used to the slower and friendlier island life, where drivers rolled down their windows and signaled the shaka sign while saying “aloha” and everyone let them through. I was quickly pegged as a New Yorker thanks to my mostly black wardrobe, sarcasm, and the way I quickly walked through crowds, ignoring strangers who tried to engage me. I knew a hand gesture as well, but it was a lot less friendly.

One of my dear Hawai’ian friends had the corniest sense of humor. As we’d walk around campus, she would point to one of the beautiful blooms, and ask me, “Do you know what this was called?” She amazed me with the way she always seemed to know the name of every tree and budding flower, and I was glad to pass the test. “A hibiscus,” I answered. She pointed to another bloom just a little lower on the tree. “What is this one called?” I paused, confused. Was I missing something? This was surely the same flower. “A low-biscus,” she laughed. I groaned.

Summer calls for tropical drinks, and what’s more tropical than hibiscus? I decided to make a hibiscus iced tea infused with fresh fruit.

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea

This is not the sweetest of teas, so you may want to add sugar or honey.
Or, turn it into a festive summer punch by adding a splash of gin!
Brewing your own tea is a great money saver for the starving artist.
It’s also more healthy because it allows you to control the sugars and preservatives. Hibiscus is a natural source of vitamin C. It’s also believed to lower blood pressure. It’s like a trip to Hawai’i in a glass!

Please Touch the Art

3 Aug

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If there’s one art event to check out this summer, it’s Jeppe Hein’s Please Touch the Art. Brooklyn Bridge Park brings art outdoors, making it accessible and fun for children and hipsters alike. Please Touch the Art is an experience. It’s a scavenger hunt of touchable art.

From the Brooklyn Bridge Park website:

Danish artist Jeppe Hein’s parkwide installation, Please Touch the Art, presented by Public Art Fund, features 18 playful sculptures designed specifically for public interaction. Jeppe, now based in Berlin and Copenhagen, studied at the Royal Danish Academy of Art and the Stadelschule in Frankfurt. His works have appeared all over the world. This exhibition includes three distinct bodies of work: Appearing Rooms, a series of “rooms” formed out of jets of water that appear and disappear throughout the day; a large Mirror Labyrinth, featuring evenly-spaced vertical elements of varying heights made from mirror-polished stainless steel that multiply the surrounding landscape; and 16 Modified Social Benches that upend the idea of a traditional park bench with their unconventional angled, curved, twisted, and bent forms.

Such fun! Definitely one of the most memorable things I’ve done so far this summer.

Texting as a New Yorker

30 Jul
There’s a Kerouac aphorism that goes, “Don’t use the phone. People are never read to answer it. Use poetry.”
I love that. I always feel anxious making a telephone call. What if the person is in the middle of dinner? What if they’re out with somebody else? It would appear I’m not the only one who feels that way. Try to walk down sidewalk in New York City without having to weave around someone who has stopped in the middle of the pavement to answer a text or who is walking at a creeping pace because they’re trying to text and walk at the same time. So annoying.
I loved Thrillist’s “14 Texts Every Single New Yorker Has Received.” Meagan Drillinger nails it not just with the texts but with the reality behind the texts. It’s a bit of hyperbole. I certainly haven’t gotten all these texts. But then again, I’m not a millennial. Some, though, are just so New York:

“Where are you?” “Brooklyn.” [silence…]

Yeah, they’re not coming to meet you.

“Know anyone who needs a roommate?”

Whether you have a friend of a friend who is maybe possibly thinking about moving to New York, or your landlord just hiked your rent up a gajillion percent, someone is ALWAYS looking for an apartment. Usually this is a mass text.
Read them all here.
I think the text I most often get is: “Just got off the train.” It’s written to signal the person I’m meeting is on their way.

The Perfect Novel for My Personality … and Yours!

29 Jul
Obsessed with Buzzfeed quizzes, I of course find Myers-Briggs types fascinating. Perhaps as a memoirist I’m always on the quest to know myself better. Or maybe it’s because I’m Greek. Wasn’t it Socrates who said, “Know thyself”? At times, the Myers-Briggs test seems to know me better than I know myself. It narrows in on aspects of my personality that I haven’t thought about before even though they’re true.
Maybe that’s because I’m an ISTJ, and “The ISTJ is not naturally in tune with their own feelings.” ISTJ means Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, Judging, or “Introverted Sensing with Extraverted Thinking.” ISTJs are quiet, reserved, loyal, dependable, keep in line with the law, and like tradition. You can read the breakdown here.
When I came across Flavorwire recently published “A Classic Book for Every Myers-Briggs Personality Type,” I was curious what novel would be paired with my personality type. Would it be one of my favorites? Would it be something that resonated with me on a soul level?
Would it be Jack Kerouac’s On the Road?
Saul Bellow’s The Dangling Man?
Maybe Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way?
Perhaps Nikos Kazantzakis’ The Last Temptation of Christ?
According to Flavorwire, the novel that best suits me is…
ISTJ: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
With interest in traditions and loyalty, and an ability to make a huge impact despite being quiet, ISTJs will appreciate Wharton’s masterpiece of manners.
I actually do love Edit Wharton’s writing. I even have a Pinterest board devoted to a make-believe puppy I created named after one of her characters.
The part about my supposed “interest in traditions” is interesting though, particularly when it comes to my reading habits. I do like tradition. I was the kid in the family who always insisted we HAD to have Christmas at our house and do it a certain way because it was tradition. But, I think sometimes we read to escape ourselves, to stretch ourselves, to live out in our imaginations the parts of our personalities that we are too rule-abiding, too anxious, too conformist to live out in our actual lives.
What personality type are you? Do you find it to be an accurate portrayal of yourself? What book would you pick for your personality?

The Trumpet of the Swan

27 Jul
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“Safety is all well and good: I prefer freedom.” 
~ E. B. White, The Trumpet of the Swan
We took the train out to Prospect Park and watched the swans paddling around the lake outside the boathouse. We watched the cygnets with their precious little wings fall in line, one after the other. Both their parents, elegant and regal, kept watch over them. Sitting under a tree, we talked about E. B. White’s The Trumpet of the Swan.

The Starving Artist Jazzes Up Her Tap Water

21 Jul


I might be the only person on the planet who likes humidity. It reminds me of being a child. Growing up in New Jersey, instead of blasting air conditioning, we’d cool off by swimming at night. The sky would be so dark you could see the Big Dipper as you floated on your back in the pool. The lights in the pool would attract moths that would flutter and hover above the surface of the water, occasionally taking a dip of their own. I can still hear the sound of my father’s repetitive splash as he swam back and forth, back and forth.

These days I don’t have ready access to a swimming pool, and in New York City the lights of skyscrapers are so bright that seeing even a single star is rare. Still, muggy nights bring back all the memories of childhood summers for me. Instead of cooling off with the rattling air conditioner by my bed, I drink a beverage that brings me back to my roots.

Behind our pool ran a small brook, and alongside the brook grew wild mint. This refreshing herb is perfect for jazzing up one of earth’s most precious resources, water. It’s easy to grow, but you can also purchase it at almost any grocery store. Here are a few super simple variations:::

  • Simply wash the mint, put it in your glass of water (with or without ice), and enjoy immediately
  • Muddle the cleaned mint in your glass of water and enjoy
  • Store a large batch of water with fresh, washed mint in your fridge
  • Freeze the mint in ice cubes and plunk into your water whenever you want — as the ice melts the mint flavor will become stronger
  • Try pairing the mint with other flavors such as fresh squeezed lime

It’s so important to stay hydrated, but water sometimes gets boring. Infusing water with mint is a great way to drink more water.

Starving artist might enjoy these other summer food posts:::