Archive | December, 2011

Clip: Coffee and Portraiture and the Associations We Make

27 Dec

Associations are revealing.  This morning, as I was drinking a cup of horrid office coffee, my brain leapt from the specific brand and flavor of coffee my mom drank when I was growing up to a seemingly unrelated bit of biographical information about a photographer I’d researched while working on a blog post on his efforts to Save the Whales.  The photographer is Louie Psihoyos, the film director of The Cove, the Oscar Award-winning feature documentary that uncovers the horrifying mass slaughter of dolphins.  Psihoyos is from the Midwest, as is my mom (he was born in Iowa, my mom in Minnesota), and his immigrant parent came from the Peloponnesus, the same region of Greece my dad grew up in and where both of my parents now live.  That wasn’t the association I made this morning, though.  Instead, I was recalling that I myself had recently taken a photograph of my coffeemaker and a bag of hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee, while photographing some other food in my kitchen, and that I always associate hazelnut Eight O’Clock Coffee with my mom.  From there, I remembered I’d recently read about a photographer who’d photographed people with their possessions.  At first I didn’t even remember that the photographer was Psihoyos.  As I started to write the blog post about how I associate coffee with my mom, I kept thinking about the significance of Psihoyos photographing people with their possessions and what the objects we’re associated with impart about our identity.

Read the rest of the article on Burnside Writers Collective.

Military Tanks

22 Dec

It’s late in the morning, and I’m drinking a cup of black coffee that has turned cold because of how slowly I’ve been drinking it.  I’m sitting Indian style on my chair and editing a book on military tanks.

Normally, a weaponry book would get on my nerves.  I’d wonder what choices I’d made in my career that got me to the point that I’m editing books so far from my own gushy interests of literature and birds and art.

Today, though, I’m reminded of another morning.  I remember riding the bus into Manhattan with my dad, passing the Teaneck Armory, and my dad telling me about his days serving in the Greek army.  My dad’s rather private, a trait that runs deep in the family, and I had never really heard him talk about being in the army.  Even though it’s required of all Greek males to serve in the Greek army, the detail that my father served in the army never really cliqued in my mind.  It made me realize how some details in our lives slip away, forgotten until triggered by a source outside us.

Some stories we share over and over again, til the point our friends roll their eyes from having to hear it again.  Other stories we burrow away.  Maybe because they’re painful to remember.  Or maybe because they just seem insignificant.

Gift Guide: For the Swede or Lover of Swedish Culture

21 Dec

With Santa living in the Lapland (the Finnish side), give a gift from Scandinavia is a wonderful way to make Christmas festive!  Here are a couple ideas from Sweden or inspired by Sweden.  If anyone knows any authentic Sami vendors, please add them in the comments section.


 For the person who loves Swedish crime literature:::


The Millennium Trilogy Series (starting with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo) by Stieg Larsson






The Inspector Van Veeteren Series (starting with The Mind’s Eye) by Hakan Nesser






The Kurt Wallander Series (starting with Faceless Killers) by Henning Mankell






The Princess of Burundi by Kjell Eriksson







Box 21 by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom






Red Wolf by Liza Marklund





Bonus tip! — If you can afford it, give the whole set!  If you’re not sure the person will like the book, you may want to give one of the books plus a gift card to their favorite bookstore.  You can also accompany the book with a coffee mug and Swedish coffee, a book lamp, or a cozy blanket from Swedish chain IKEA.


Gift ideas for the Swedish food lover:::


Swedish Breads and Pastries by Jan Hedh










Sweet and Savory Swedish Baking by Leila Lindholm











Hash by Torgny Lindgren









Swedish coffee basket by Anderson Butik

Coffee and sweets gift box by Anderson Butik

Swedish pancake basket by Anderson Butik

Bonus tip! — Select a coffee and food product that naturally go together and give them as a pair.  The gift baskets make shopping and wrapping easier!

Gifts for the Swedish home:::

Swedish table prayer tile

Iron candle holder with hearts

Iron candle holder with wild horses

Swedish blessing

Algfamilj tea towel

Bonus tip! — A gift card to IKEA would go nicely with any of these.  A lovely handwritten message or something that is personal and has sentimental value is also nice to give with gifts for the home.


Gifts for people on the go:::

Carrie Swedish lace bicycle basket

A Volvo

Bonus tip! — A nice key chain would go well with either of these.


God Jul! Merry Christmas!

Gift Guide: For the Hellenophile

20 Dec

Whether you’re giving a Greek American a taste of their homeland when they can’t make it back for the holidays or satiating a Hellenophile’s interest in Greek culture, there are countless foods, books, beauty products, and jewelry that will suit your needs.  Plus, select a gift made in Greece and you’ll also be supporting the struggling Greek economy.  Here’s just a small selection of Greek gift ideas, some made in the States, some in Greece, and others elsewhere, but all unique and lovely.

Gifts for the Greek food lover:::


Kokkari: Contemporary Greek Flavors by Janet Fletcher







How to Roast a Lamb: New Greek Classic Cooking by Michael Psilakis





A selection of delicious dressings and marinades from Sophia’s Gourmet Foods

A selection of three different flavors of honey from Odysea Shop

Traditional Greek preserves (rose petal and pergamot) by Monastiri

Kalamata olive oil

Ouzo candies

Pavlidis Dark Chocolate

Pastelli with honey

Bonus tip! – Gifts appear so much nicer when they come as a set.  You may want to give a cookbook with some Greek spices.  A duo or trio of a certain type of product (such as honey or olive oil) is a great way for the recipient to try out a few flavors.  Or, you may want to give a gift basket of assorted Greek candies.


Gifts for someone who loves Greek literature:::


The Greek Poets: Homer to Present by Peter Constantine










The Odyssey: A Pop-up Book by Sam Ita









Greek classics

Subscription to Greek America Magazine

Bonus tip! – Trying pairing the book with a book light, a notebook and pen, a bookmark with a quote by a Greek philosopher, or a coffee mug (maybe even with a bag of Greek coffee).


Gifts to make someone feel like a beautiful and pampered Greek goddess:::

Beauty products from Korres

Olive oil body lotion by Olivia

Jewelry by Konstantino

Bonus tip! – Include a lovely handwritten letter.  A bottle of Greek wine or some fine Greek chocolates would also make someone feel loved and pampered.


As the Greek proverb says, “A gift, though small, is welcome.”

Gift Guide: Gifts for Writers

19 Dec

Everyone’s doing the mad dash to get gifts right now so I thought I’d offer a few last-minute gift ideas for writers.  Keep in mind this is just a general list and each writer is different, but at least this will give you a starting point if you’re stumped on what to get for your writer friend.

  • Trader Joe’s Gift Card:::  Banish the term “starving artist” from your writer friend’s bio with a gift card to Whole Foods, Starbucks, Chipotle—any chain* that’s easily accessible and open late.  I picked Trader Joe’s because they offer delicious, quick-to-prepare foods on the cheap.  (*Better than a chain is your writer’s favorite neighborhood haunt, but if you don’t know what that is and you suspect your writer friend is too busy and/or nervous – writers like stability – to go traipsing off to some unknown gem, stick to someplace obvious.)
  • Coffee and Tea:::  Stereotypes of the drunken writers prevail, but many writers prefer caffeine.  Jack Kerouac wrote On the Road fueled by coffee (and split pea soup … oh yeah and Benzedrine).  A hot cup of coffee or tea is especially welcome in the cold winter months that writers burrow away and get most of their writing done.  Bonus: add a travel mug that boasts a quote from their favorite author or some specialty chocolate.
  • Nail Polish::: Our fingers might as well look pretty as they clak clak clak against the keyboard.  Obviouls
  • Stationery:::  Even if nowadays we like the convenience of email, we still know the power of the written word.  Agents, editors, performance space hosts, and other authors are all deserving of handwritten thank you notes.  Throw in some stamps and you’re golden.
  • Mix Tape:::  Make a mix CD of instrumental music based along a theme or that is personal to you and the writer.
  • Tickets:::  Tickets to a play, an opera, the symphony, or passes to an art museum will inspire us not just to get out of our pajamas but to embrace different forms of the arts.  Sometimes seeing a beautiful production shakes up our senses and gives us new insight into our work.  Tickets to the movies also work.
  • Class:::  Writers have interests other than writing.  It gets pretty boring to just write about writing.  If you know your writer friend has an outside passion in cooking, yoga, art history, or something else, pay for a class.  One day courses are usually ideal because they’re low commitment.
  • Candles:::  Help set the mood for a night of writing.

Gifts Not to Buy Writers::: Other books—especially how-to-write books–exception: first editions; fancy pens; bookmarks; office supplies (we can write a lot of this off on our tax returns as a business expense).

Writers, what’s the best gift you ever received?

Writing Wednesday: A Blurb Job

14 Dec

When Joan Williams asks William Faulkner to blurb her book, it takes an ugly turn.  In telling the story of their affair (a story also told by Lisa C. Hickman in William Faulkner and Joan Williams: The Romance of Two Writers), Glen David Gold makes a compelling argument for not sleeping with writers in “On Not Rolling the Log,” in The Los Angeles Review of Books.

Gold goes on to say:

How confusing it is to entangle acclaim and love. How much of a balancing act to determine your real value to another person. When you cultivate a literary friendship, it’s good to remember — and hard to prove — that it’s the work which is a commodity, not you.

An editor was telling me recently that Ken Kesey asked Jack Kerouac to blurb one of his books and he refused.  He was very protective of his name, his brand.

Some writers whore out their name.  Others keep it under lock and key.  The book business is a small and incestuous one, and a blurb from the right author can propel sales.  But at what cost?

Tasty Tuesday: Chew on These Greek Crisis Cooking Tips

13 Dec


My yiayia (grandma) never threw anything out.  She repurposed plastic bottles and sewed up the runs in cheap, drugstore pantyhose.

When she made chicken, the leftover bones got thrown into soups.

Raising her family in Greece during World War II, she had to stretch the drachma as far as it could go.  Now, with the economic crisis in Greece, Greeks are having to return to the thrifty ways of their yiayias.

The Associated Press takes a look at Eleni Nikolaidou’s book “Starvation Recipes,” a collection of recipes and “survival tips” based in Nazi-occupied Greece, and chef F. T. Bletsas’ budget-minded cooking tips in his Greek tv show “Mama’s Cooking” and English-language website

One tip from the article: You’ll feel like you’re eating more if you chew your food veeeeerrrrrrrryyyyyy sssssllllloooowwwwlllllyyyyy.

A Very Nerdy Birthday

13 Dec

When I was a little girl, I always wanted my birthday party at the American Museum of Natural History.  (Well, that or The Rink — the roller rink in Bergenfield — where I’d feed quarters into the vending machines for neon friendship bracelets.)  I figured it was about time to bring the tradition back so the museum’s where I headed for my birthday earlier this month.




After the museum, I headed over to Momufuku’s Milk Bar.  What better birthday cake than crack pie and candybar pie??




And then it was on to The Dead Poet, where I got to drink for free because I share a birthday with Leo Tolstoy.  I ordered the Jack Kerouac, naturally.



So thankful to all the family and friends who made my birthday special!


Captain America and Harry Potter Will Kill Your Darlings

12 Dec

I can picture Captain America as Jack Kerouac.  On the Road pretty much defines the phrase “great American novel” so we might as well call Kerouac Captain America.  And there’s also the matter that Kerouac was a rugged athlete type.

I’m not sure what to make of Harry Potter as Allen Ginsberg, though.  I mean, I kind of get the similarity between the two in the sense that of the nerdy boy with the glasses and books.  And maybe there’s some sort of correlation between Harry Potter’s incantations and Allen Ginsberg’s manic howling.

It’s just that James Franco did such an amazing job as Allen Ginsberg in Howl.  He completely exceeded my expectations.  And Daniel Radcliffe just seems so … young.  But he does like The Hold Steady, who’ve been known to quote Kerouac.  Maybe he can pull it off.

In case you haven’t figured it out by now, Chris Evans was cast as Jack Kerouac and Daniel Radcliffe was cast as Allen Ginsberg in Kill Your Darlings.

Writing Wednesday: I Don’t Own a Book

7 Dec

Image via 24Symbols' Facebook page


“I don’t own a tv,” is the hipster’s constant refrain.  They’re too busy reading Luc Sante, holding smug conversations about sustainable design over Stellas in dive bars, contemplating getting owl tattoos, and arguing over which Radiohead song is the best, right?  Maybe sometimes.  But a lot of the time they’re watching tv; they’re just watching in on the Internet.  As in, they’re rewatching the entire season of Arrested Development on Hulu for the sixteenth time now that the series is coming back.

Meet the Hulu Plus of books: 24symbols.

For a paid subscription you can read as many books.  Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords, reported about it in the article “A Bright Future for Scandinavian Digital Publishing” on Publishing Perspectives:

At present, users of 24Symbols can read books online for free, and 24Symbols splits the ad revenue with the publisher. Currently, according to Hidalgo, the service is mostly offering public domain content, with about 50% of the content Spanish language. The service has already attracted 50,000 registered users, a number which he expects to reach 100,000 within the next few months. In 2012, the service will launch the paid subscription portion, where customers will purchase paid monthly subscriptions to gain increased access to premium content from mainstream publishers. Hidalgo acknowledges the business isn’t profitable for participating publishers yet, but he expects this to change in 2012 as he scales the reach and participation of paid customers.

Sounds like it still has a way to go, as public domain content is pretty pervasive, but the concept is intriguing especially if you’re a voracious reader or a writer looking for inspiration.  I’d subscribe to 24Symbols if they had the books I’ve been wanting to read available.