Archive by Author

One Swallow Does Not Make a Summer

22 Aug

AristotleNicomacheanEthics

“One swallow does not make a summer,
neither does one fine day;
similarly one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.”

~Aristotle in The Nicomachean Ethics

Find my other posts on Aristotle here.

Lit Life: Labor of Love & I Kissed Dating Goodbye

17 Aug

LaborOfLove

As I mentioned yesterday in my Citrus Coconut Drinks post, my alumnae book club recently discussed Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating. I’ve been a member of the book club for many years now, and I love the intellectual banter that arises for the wide variety of books we choose. We’ve read classics like J. D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye (see my book club theme party pics here) and we’ve read feminist texts such as Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In

As graduates of a women’s college — Scripps College in Claremont, California — we enjoy discussing womanhood, gender, and feminism. We talk a lot about our lives. We talk about what’s going on at campus. And we talk about politics. Through the course of a recent catch-up session, we began talking about dating, marriage, and motherhood. Our members span a thirty or forty year age range, with some people in their twenties and others retired. Some got married right out of college and juggle career and babies. Others have not gotten married and wonder about fertility and whether they will quit their jobs — their careers — if they have children.

There had recently been an article about Moira Weigel’s book in The New Yorker that discussed the complexities of dating. It addressed dating not as a self-help book might but in terms of its history and through a feminist lens. We decided to read it and see what we thought.

Through the course of our book club discussion, we discussed: Who pays? Is “going steady” and serial monogamy ruining chances for marriage? Why did some generations go out with a different person every weekend and think of dating more casually while today’s generation is more likely to be in committed relationships? Does this have to do with premarital sex? Slut shaming? Why is the biological clock something only women have to worry about? What happens to men’s sperm as they age? Is marriage warped by consumerism the same as dating is?

Here’s an excerpt from Weigel’s Labor of Love:

At a time of dramatic social and economic change, the ways the biological clock was talked about reinforced old ideas about gender difference. Indeed, it exaggerated them, creating a sense that male and female partners were even more different than traditionalists of the 1950s had imagined. More and more women were breaking into the previously male world of well paid work. Nonetheless, conversations about the biological clock suggested that reproduction was an exclusively female concern.

Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and our discussion of it was fascinating and eye opening. In explaining dating’s history, Weigel talks about how men and women met and married through social events in a family home. There were no flowers. No emoji eggplants. No candlelit dinners at fancy restaurants. It was courtship. Dating began when people moved outside the home. The gender wage gap meant that women couldn’t afford their own meals out, so they had to rely on dates to pay for them. Women were sometimes accused by police of being prostitutes just because they accepted free meals from men! This then set up a power dynamic in that women had to rely on men if they wanted to go out and men were never sure if women liked them or just wanted a free meal. Not much has changed today. Women typically can pay their own way now, but there’s a lot of confusion about what chivalry is, what a date should consist of, what one should look for in their partner, and how to go from a monogamous relationship to a married relationship while still young enough to have children — if one so desires.

What’s interesting is that about the same time that Weigel’s book came out talking about how dating put women at a disadvantage, Joshua Harris has been in the news for taking a step back from his influential 1997 book, I Kissed Dating Goodbye. Harris, a conservative Evangelical Christian, preached that instead of contemporary dating, singles should practice “courtship.” You might be familiar with that term from the Duggars, of 19 Kids and Counting fame, who are known for their strict rules against even hand-holding. Harris recently told NPR:

But I think one of the things that I’m changing in my own thinking is I just think people – myself included – it’s so easy to latch on to a formula. You know, you do these things and you’ll be great. You’ll be safe and you’ll be protected and you’ll be whatever.

And I just don’t think that’s the way life works. I don’t think that’s the way the life of faith works. And so when we try to overly control our own lives or overly control other people’s lives, I think we end up harming people. And I’m – I think that that’s part of the problem with my book.

It was interesting listening to discussions of both Moira Weigel’s book Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating and Joshua Harris’ book I Kissed Dating Goodbye: A New Attitude Toward Romance and Relationships around the same time. Their perspectives come from such vastly different vantage points, and yet both are critiquing the contemporary dating scene and discussing the idea of courtship. It seems that in the end, when it comes to dating today, men and women need to be upfront about their expectations and desires. Maybe this will scare some people off, but maybe it’s better to know that upfront anyway. Maybe there’s no formula for how relationships work. Maybe each person and each couple has to actually communicate and find out what works best for them.

Citrus Coconut Drink Two Ways: Virgin and with Malibu

16 Aug

Yamas

My alumnae book club was coming over the other day to talk about Moira Weigel‘s Labor of Love: The Invention of Dating, and my apartment was as hot as a sweatbox. I decided to whip up a variation of Kellie Van’s Le Zoe Musing’s Citrus Coconut Soda, which I’d found on Pinterest, to keep everyone cool and refreshed. It looked so pretty and sounded so tasty! There are quite a number of women in the book club who are pregnant or who just had children or who don’t drink, so I thought it would be better than offering soda or regular H2O. Plus, it occurred to me I could alter the recipe for version with alcohol in it for those who wanted a stronger drink.

A note on the coconut soda

Now, here’s where things got a little interesting. I had never heard of coconut soda, and the Le Zoe Musing recipe didn’t specify a brand or where to find it. I went to Whole Foods and considered purchasing coconut water and lime seltzer. If you can’t find coconut soda, I think that would be a great solution. Lo and behold, though, I discovered that LaCroix makes coconut soda!

I first tried LaCroix when I visited my friends in DC last summer. It’s so delightfully summery with its sparkling bubbles. It’s all natural and comes in a variety of traditional and unique flavors like peach pear and melon pomelo (cantaloupe + grapefruit). It’s also inexpensive so great to keep stocked in the fridge for whenever guests pop by. No, this is not a sponsored post. I just am excited by this new discovery!

 

Virgin Citrus Coconut Soda

  1. Wash various citrus fruits. The Le Zoe Musing recipe called for grapefruit, orange, lemon, and lime. I love grapefruit but I was worried it wouldn’t fit too easily in the cups I own, so I just used orange, lemon, and lime.
  2. Slice the citrus into circles. The Leo Zoe Musing recipe put all the ingredients in a pitcher. I think this is a great way to allow the flavors to really permeate the drink. However, I was worried that the drink would lose its bubbles so I put the citrus on a plate and made each drink individually. When you’re ready to make the drink, place the citrus into the cups. I suggest one of each citrus circle. This is important to do first so that there’s less splashing and less mess.
  3.  Pour the coconut soda over the citrus slices in the cup.
  4. Feel free to muddle a bit or serve without muddling the citrus. Yamas! (That’s Greek for “To your health!”)

 

Malibu Citrus Soda

  1. Follow steps 1 through 3.
  2. Add a dash of splash of Malibu Rum. My proportions were about 1/4 Malibu and 1/4 coconut soda.
  3. Cheers! Yamas!

 

The beverages were a hit!

CitrusCoconutSoda

 

August and Everything After

10 Aug

CountingCrowsAugustandEverythingAfter

It’s August. How did that happen? This summer seems to have flown by. What do I have to show for it? A faded sunburn. An outdoor theatre experience. A few trips out to the boroughs, where it’s much more pleasant to dine al fresco. A writing intensive that resulted in a couple more chapters of my memoir written. But have I lived a life worthy of a new memoir?

Have I seized the day? Have I made it to the Met to see the rooftop installation? Have I stuck my toes into the cold waters of the Atlantic? Have I rode the Wonder Wheel? Have I packed my bags and jetted off to an exotic location? No. It feels like most days I have been bogged down with freelance work. Bogged down with obligations. Bogged down with emotions. Bogged down with rain.

It’s so easy to lose track of time. The older I get, the faster time flies.

In 1993 Counting Crows put out August and Everything After. The album is perhaps the most influential album on my life. My friend lent me the album, and I played it on my walkman over and over and over and over. I remember sitting in the car while my family shopped at a gardening store and just listening to the album on repeat. The melancholy lyrics spoke to my teenaged self. The album got me into the literature of Saul Bellow, who became one of my favorite authors. Years later, a friend in college and I bonded over our adoration of the album. Sometime later, another friend and I went to see the Counting Crows in concert with the Goo Goo Dolls. Years after that, a boyfriend put one of the songs on a mixtape for me. Then years after that, another boyfriend also liked Counting Crows. The years pile up. More memories get made.

And now it’s August and I’m wondering what the “Everything After” is….

 

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

9 Aug

StephanieNikolopoulos2

“There is no mistaking a real book when one meets it. It’s like falling in love.” ~ Christopher Morley

Happy National Book Lovers Day!

I don’t read as much as I used to these days. Or, maybe I read more. It’s hard to tell. As an editor, I read all day at my job. But it’s a different type of reading. It’s more like a spot-the-difference puzzle, where I’m on the lookout for Briticisms and double punctuation marks. It’s not reading for pleasure, though it is pleasurable.

I am a book lover.

Much of my life is what it is because of books. My mother used to bribe me with books when I was a child. Books opened up a world to me. Reading became not just an activity but a refuge, and not just a refuge but a part of my identity. When I went away to camp, I took a sign language class. We were told to use the letter from our first name and the sign for an activity we enjoyed to create a unique name for ourselves. My name was an “S” opening a book.

Later, in high school, I dropped math class and took an extra English class in addition to my AP English class. My first or second semester of college, I took three English classes at the same time. It was wonderful! It felt so me. I felt like I was living out my true self. On spring break, I went to City Lights in San Francisco and dragged my best friend around the city, reading her Lawrence Ferlinghetti‘s poems.

I absorbed myself in the pages of books for hours at a time, discovering not just kindred spirits and captivating lands but turns of phrases and how punctuation influenced a reading. When I learned to read, I also began to learn to write. Reading and writing were two sides of the same coin for me. One inspired the other. I am at my best, I feel my most authentic, when I am involved in both.

A few years ago, while working full time in book publishing and going to grad school full time for creative writing, I co-authored Burning Furiously Beautiful. It was a wild, intense time. I would wake up early before work and edit, a habit this non-morning person is not a natural at. I turned down plans with friends. I surrounded myself with books. And you know what? I miss it.

I miss the intensity of reading and writing and breathing words. I miss being assigned books that challenge me. I miss being exposed to new ideas. I miss the deadlines. I miss the workshops. I miss the camaraderie. I miss the solitude. The quiet nights. The passionate flurry of ideas.

I recently did a writing intensive with some friends. We tried to push out twenty pages a week. That’s more than I was required to do in grad school. It felt good. It wasn’t necessarily sustainable, but it got me back into the habit. As well, I’m doing the Goodreads reading challenge and trying to read a book a week. I’m woefully behind. Woefully. But it has gotten me back into the habit of reading for pleasure. I ask people to recommend books to me, so I still am being exposed to things I wouldn’t normally select for myself. Sometimes my friends read the same books; sometimes I read the book for my book club; sometimes I read the book for Bible study; and sometimes I get around to reading the books I excitedly bought but remained on my bookshelves. I read on the subway. I read in bed. I read in the bathtub. I read on NJ Transit.

And I’m about to read right now before bed! I’m finally getting around to reading Vivian Gornick‘s The Odd Woman and the City.

 

Charles Dickens Quote on August

8 Aug

SNikolopouloswebsite

“There is no month in the whole year in which nature wears a more beautiful appearance than in the month of August.”

~Charles Dickens in The Pickwick Papers

 

You may also be interested in how Jack Kerouac’s hometown inspired Dickens.

 

The Olympics: Invented by the Greeks

5 Aug

Ancient Olympics Nikolopoulos

We Greeks like to claim we invented just about everything.

The most famous? We invented democracy.

If you’ve watched My Big Fat Greek Wedding — 1 or 2 — you know that Greeks invented any word you can think of. This is not an exaggeration. I grew up hearing my father explain to me the Greek root to English words all … the … time.

We even invented cheesecake.

And, we invented the Olympics.

You’re welcome, by the way.

Today is opening ceremonies for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It’s always an exciting event, with a lot of intense political and social history.

I had the amazing experience of attending the Summer Olympics when they were in Athens, Greece! You can see a few photos from that trip here.

I’ve also been several time to the site of the Ancient Olympics. The first Olympics were held in Olympia, Greece. This happens to be on the Peloponnese peninsula where my father grew up, so I grew up visiting there and then as an adult brought my own friends there. You can see my Ancient Greek Olympics photographs from over the years here.

The Greeks invented the Olympics in the 8th century BC to celebrate the mythological Greek god Zeus. Consequently, they were not just about athletics but were highly religious: there were two temples and an altar built. During Antiquity, the games were held every four years. The Olympic games were opened up to all citizens of the Roman Empire during the Roman rule. The games were held until Theodosius I, a Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, banned the pagan rituals of the Olympic games in the 4th century AD. After him, Theodosius II had the temple to Zeus destroyed. For details on the Ancient Greek Olympics, read up here.

For the official modern-day Olympics, visit the Olympics website.

 

Sometimes it’s fun to think of what Olympic games I’d invent if I were in charge of the games today. Here are my picks:

 

  • Olive wreath crown-making
  • Subway turnstile hurdling
  • Best personal essay about gym class
  • Speed typing
  • Freestyle walking

Go, team, go!

 

 

 

 

The Starving Artist: Savory Nectarine Salad

3 Aug
SavoryNectarineSalad 
I am so mad! It was raining on Sunday, and I desperately wanted to avoid having to lug my grocery bags home in the rain. Ah, the perils of a fabulous Manhattan lifestyle! So, the starving artist, though trying to be better about pinching pennies, caved and bought lunch out on Monday. (Dos Toros, if you want to know.) So, I wrap up work later than intended (it’s ALWAYS later than intended), walked across town (my exercise plan), and went to the grocery store.
My neighbor, E, had left fresh basil on my doorknob so I knew I wanted to make something with that. But what? I remembered seeing a peach caprese appetizer on Pinterest (the recipe was from Say Yes and re-blogged on Bloglovin’), and it occurred to me I could riff off that. I decide, what if I make something like that but with nectarines instead and turn it into a more savory and filling salad by adding tomatoes?
So, I get all the ingredients, go home, wash everything, and make the salad. I’m feeling very proud of myself for adulting so successfully—brown-bagging it instead of eating out? Check! Salad instead of pasta? Check! Adding a new recipe to my repertoire? Check! Tuesday morning arrives, and I take the pre-made salad out of the fridge and place it in my bag … and then I get distracted, AND LEAVE THE SALAD BEHIND. I of course don’t realize this til I’ve already gotten on the train. There’s not enough time on my lunch break to go back for it, I won’t be home til late in the evening, and my apartment is a summer sweatbox so I don’t trust eating anything left out of the fridge for twelve+ hours. I ended up at Pret and will have to throw out the salad I put all that time and money and effort into. Sigh.
 
My saving grace is that I had enough to make two salads! So guess what I’ll be eating tomorrow? The salad—unless, of course, I forget it too. In that case, I might need to have my brain checked out.
 
Here is a salad recipe for those of us who hate lettuce.
Savory Nectarine Salad
 
  • Wash nectarines and cut into slices
  • Wash Campari tomatoes and cut into slices
  • Cut fresh mozzarella into slices
  • Wash the basil and use only the leaves
  • Toss all the ingredients together in a bowl and enjoy!
 
I know, I know, for all my moaning about the work that went into it, it’s super easy to make! 
 
I’ve thought up some alternatives:
 
  • Add some slices of red onion
  • Add a light vinaigrette or flavored olive oil
  • Try peaches instead of nectarines
  • Try haloumi cheese instead of mozzarella 
  • Try grilling the tomatoes and the nectarines
  • Put the ingredients between a baguette and enjoy as a sandwich 
 
I’m getting hungry just thinking about all the possibilities!
Want more possibilities? Check out my other recipes:
 
 

Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie and a Summer Peach Parfait

19 Jul

Every summer when I was growing up in New Jersey, my parents would take my sister and brother and me on a road trip down to Maryland to see our cousins. We loved spending time with our cousins in Baltimore! They were the only cousins we grew up seeing regularly, and we were all fairly close in age. Spending time with my cousins was typically the highlight of my summer. Oftentimes, they’d come back with us and spend some time at our house too.

My cousin who is three years older than me was the coolest! I idolized her. She knew about makeup and hair and french kissing. I wasn’t as into Barbies as my sister was — I was more of a homemaker Cabbage Kids type than sexy Barbie type — but we both were obsessed with our cousin’s Peaches ‘n Cream Barbie. I loved the diaphanous peach dress she wore with the white sparkly top. It was pastel perfection. We spent hours in my basement playing with the Peaches ‘N Cream Barbie. She was the best out of all the Barbies — reigning over even Mika, the beautiful Hawai’ian Barbie, after my little sister had chopped Mika’s bangs off!

PeachesNCreamBarbie

Pinterest proves I’m not the only one who associates this Barbie with childhood

This summer I’ve been eating a delightful peach parfait for breakfast that is so super creamy and delicious!

It’s easy to make too!

IMG_5507

1. Scoop a bit of your favorite vanilla yogurt into a bowl. My favorite is the Brown Cow cream top vanilla.

2. Wash and slice fresh peaches. Leave the skin on. The skin is packed with nutrients:::

Peach skin is full of nutrients and contains both vitamin C and A. Some people think that the skin can irritate the GI track because of the fuzzy/hairy texture of the skin, but this is not true. Peach skin has antioxidants and it is anti-inflammatory. But as mentioned above, avoid the pit as it contains trace amounts of cyanide.

Also, I think it probably is good for your fiber intake.

3. Top with your favorite granola. This will add some crunch and keep you full longer. I’m partial to the Purely Elizabeth and Bear Naked brands.

Voilà! A peach parfait perfect for lazy summer mornings but also quick enough to make if you’re no longer playing Barbies but scrambling to get to work.

IMG_5531

If you like this, you might want to try my other delicious yogurt recipes:::

 

10 Books of Beat Generation Letters

14 Jul

The other day I wrote about viewing Neal Cassady’s infamous “lost” Joan Anderson letter at Christie’s Auction House.. Letters are a great way to get to know and understand the writers of the Beat Generation. The novelists and poets were prodigious letter writers. Here are ten books of collected letters by the poets and writers of the Beat Generation.

1.

CassadyLetters

 Neal Cassady: Collected Letters, 1944-1967

2.

KerouacLetters

Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956

3.

Carolyn

Jack Kerouac’s Dear Carolyn: Letters to Carolyn Cassady

4.

KerouacGinsberg

Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg: The Letters

5.

YageLetters

William S. Burroughs’ and Allen Ginsberg’s The Yage Letters Redux

6.

GinsbergSnyder

The Selected Letter of Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder

7.

GinsbergDad

Allen Ginsberg and his father’s Family Business: Selected Letters between a Father and Son

8.

HettieJonesLoveH

Love, H: The Letters of Helene Dorn and Hettie Jones

9.

DistantNeighbors

Distant Neighbors: The Selected Letters of Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder

10.

CorsoBiography

An Accident Autobiography: The Selected Letters of Gregory Corso