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:::
Kalo Mina! Happy first day of May!! May this month be full of reading in the park, adventuring in foreign lands, and shedding layers, both literally and metaphorically.
Easter was a special time in my family when I was growing up. And by Easter, I of course mean Greek Orthodox Easter. Every year, we’d pile into the station wagon and drive down to Baltimore to spend the most important religious holiday for Greek Americans with my father’s side of the family. There would be a whole lamb out on the spit, a symbol of Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb, and we’d crack red Easter eggs, a symbol of the crucified Jesus breaking out of the tomb and overcoming death.
I’m all grown up now, and my family is spread out between three different countries. Holidays can be a tough time for singles — especially those in the city, who don’t have family in the area and can’t get to their family. Protestants and Greek Orthodox believers follow different liturgical calendars, and since this year our Easter celebrations didn’t align, I decided to reach out to my American friends in the city who might not have family in the area.
After inviting friends from all walks of life, none of whom were native to New York (two of whom are not even native to this country!), I started to plan the menu only to begin panicking about what to serve for an American Easter. I certainly wasn’t going to roast a lamb out on a souvla on the city sidewalk! In the end, I made egg salad, which one friend said was the best she’d ever had! Secret ingredient: LOTS of mayonnaise! I also made cold carrot ginger soup with goat cheese and carrot curls. My friends said I saved the best for last: cheesy hash browns!
I love New York City during the Christmas holidays. Everything just sparkles! I spent a lot of time walking around the city this winter, taking in all the shop windows. It’s just about time to tackle the new year, and I’m fully convinced 2015 will be a great one, but I couldn’t resist posting a few photographs from the holiday season.
Doesn’t James Joyce look dapper?!
James Joyce set his rambling modern novel Ulysses on June 16, and today literary lovers around the world celebrate the iconic Irish author with marathon readings (it is about 265,000 words long!) and pub crawls. The raucous literary holiday takes its name from the central character of the novel: Leopold Bloom. The title of Joyce’s book, on the other hand, comes from the Latin version of Odysseus. Apparently, this is because he discovered the story of The Odyssey through Charles Lamb’s children’s book adaptation, Adventures of Ulysses. Just like that cunning Greek Odysseus embarked on adventure that introduced him to a wide variety of characters, Leopold Bloom traversed Dublin and met characters that paralleled those found in The Odyssey.
I thought it would be fun to share a few beautiful and provocative quotes from James Joyce’s Ulysses:
- “Every life is in many days, day after day. We walk through ourselves, meeting robbers, ghosts, giants, old men, young men, wives, widows, brothers-in-love. But always meeting ourselves.”
- “People could put up with being bitten by a wolf but what properly riled them was a bite from a sheep.”
- “She would follow, her dream of love, the dictates of her heart that told her he was her all in all, the only man in all the world for her for love was the master guide. Come what might she would be wild, untrammelled, free.”
- “The heaventree of stars hung with humid nightblue fruit.”
- “A region where grey twilight ever descends, never falls on wide sagegreen pasturefields, shedding her dusk, scattering a perennial dew of stars.”
Those last two quotes remind me of one of my favorite lines from Jack Kerouac’s On the Road:
- “Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgandy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries.”
I’ve written about James Joyce’s influence on Jack Kerouac a few times before so today in celebration of Bloomsday, here are the links:
For Bloomsday activities around the globe, check out The James Joyce Centre Dublin. I want to highlight a few that I found particularly relevant to the themes I write about:
- In Athens, there will be a free screening of a poetical film based on Joyce’s Greek notebooks.
- In Manhattan, Symphony Space is putting on an event that features Malachy McCourt, Colum McCann, Cynthia Nixon and others.
- In Brooklyn, there will be a pub crawl.
- In St. Petersburg (the Florida city where Jack Kerouac died), there will be readings and performances.
Have you ever participated in a Bloomsday event? What is your favorite quote by James Joyce?
Happy Memorial Day weekend! Are you doing anything fun?? Grilling out on the patio? Reading The Haunted Life? Reading Burning Furiously Beautiful? Hitting the beach? Spending time with the family? Taking a road trip??
Whatever you do, I hope it’s just what you want it to be!
Here’s my Memorial Day post from last year, in which I asked if the Beat Generation writers were anti-American, and here’s the one from the year before in which I explore Jack Kerouac’s time in the Merchant Marines.
Happy Greek Independence Day!
Find out about Agia Lavra, the church where the revolution began, in my Church Hopping column on Burnside Writers Collective.
And read my previous post on the history of March 25 being Greek Independence Day here.
Go home and wash up.
Clean up your act.
Sweep your lives clean of your evildoings
so I don’t have to look at them any longer.
Say no to wrong.
Learn to do good.
Work for justice.
Help the down-and-out.
Stand up for the homeless.
Go to bat for the defenseless.
~Isaiah 1: 13-17
In the Greek Orthodox faith today is Καθαρά Δευτέρα — Clean Monday. Clean Monday is to Greek Orthodox believers what Ash Wednesday is to Catholic believers. It’s the start of Great Lent. Well, technically it begins at sunset the Sunday before.
Lent is thought of as a time of abstaining. We fast from meat and dairy. But it is more than that. It is also a time of taking on new, better habits. Today we not only wash ourselves from our past wrongdoings, but we work on behalf of those who need a helping hand.
This weekend is the big Carnival weekend in Greece. Don’t let New Orleans and Rio de Janeiro get all the glory. Patras is the number 3 for Carnival.
Usually you can make it to more than one Carnival because Greek Orthodox follow the Julian calendar, while Catholics use the new, Gregorian, calendar. However, this year our calendars coincide.
Carnival is basically a time to many go wild right before the seriousness of the 40-day fast of Great Lent leading up to the Crucifixion of Christ on Good Friday and His Resurrection on Easter Sunday. Though it’s certainly tied to Orthodox Christianity, practicing Orthodox believers don’t participate in its more reckless aspects that are tied to Dionysus. The parades and floats, though? Those are fun!
Mmm… smell that smoky aroma? It can only mean one thing! Today is that special Greek holiday known as Tsiknopempti. Literally, it’s Charred Meat Thursday.
Yes, that’s right. We have a whole holiday devoted eating meat. Tsiknopempti is the preamble to Great Lent. Basically, you eat a whole lot of meat now because you’re going to be fasting for a long time. Longer, in fact, than the 40 days of Great Lent, since the meat fast starts ten days before that.
Do you fast?
Previous posts on Tsiknopempti:
Hello, Carnival; Good-bye, Meat