Tag Archives: Greece

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!





Feisty Blood Orange and Supergreens Salad

29 Mar

Nikolopoulos Blood Orange

Stephanie Blood Orange

red onions

supergreens blood orange salad

Years ago, when my mother still lived in the States, she used to purchase sparkling Italian blood orange juice. It was tangy and just a little bit spicy. I felt glamorous whenever I drank it.

The Arancia Rossa di Sicilia (Red Orange of Sicily) has protected geographical status in Europe, much like champagne can only be called such if it is actually from the Champagne region of France and how feta is a protected designation of origin (PDO) product of Greece. Needless to say, my father has just about every citrus fruit imaginable in his garden in Greece, he does not have the vibrant-colored blood orange.

It’s currently citrus season in New York, and when I saw blood oranges at the supermarket I scooped them up without hesitation. They bring such exoticism to the table. I decided to make a blood orange with super-greens salad, perfect for revitalizing energy.

Here’s the recipe:::

Wash your favorite greens or a mixture of favorites. I used Organic Girl’s Super Greens, which is a zesty mixture of five different greens:

tangy red & green chard, hearty bok choy, and spicy arugula accented with mild sweet spinach.

Peel as many firm blood oranges as your heart desires. (I used three blood oranges for one 5 ounce container of greens.) With the peel removed, leave the fruit in its ball shape. It’s okay to leave the white pith on it–in fact, it’s actually healthier to do so. Take a sharp knife and cut the blood orange ball into slices.

Next, peel a red onion and cut it into thin slices. Then, gently push the insides of each slice so that it separates into rings.

Toss the blood-slices and the red-onion rings into the super greens. Drizzle with blood-orange olive oil. I used The Filling Station’s Blood Orange Olive Oil, which a friend gave me as a housewarming gift. The oil is warm and soothing, a great complement to the tangy-er and zestier ingredients.

Enjoy! The blood oranges are a delicious source of vitamin C and the greens are excellent sources of vitamin K and vitamin A. The red onion is high in flavonoids. It’s a healthy salad with a beautiful presentation that is sure to impress guests. Invite a starving artist over for dinner!

You may also like:::






My Art Highlights of 2015

30 Jan
My life is so much richer because of art. I try to surround myself with it as much as possible. Although I recently read that having one large piece of work hanging in your home is the new gallery wall, I’m proud of the gallery wall I’ve curated. It’s filled with works that have meaning to me, and this year I had the opportunity to add a few new pieces to it that have great sentimental value. It’s one way at least that I feel better about not getting to visit as many galleries and museums as I’d like. For many years now, I’ve resolved to visit museums and galleries on more frequent basis. I suppose in comparison to many people, I am accomplished in this. But for someone who loves art, a monthly visit or so is never quite enough. There is just so much art out there in this vast beautiful world. And I want to experience it all. The Classical. The Abstract Expressionist. The photography. The unearthed treasures. It’s a way to experience cultures and travel though time. I may not have seen a lot this year, but I am proud of the range of work I saw. Here are a few highlights from my art going in 2015.
An Archeologist’s Eye: Drawing the Parthenon Sculptures, showing Dr. Katherine A. Schwab’s drawings (she’s a Scripps College graduate!), presented by the Association of Greek American Professional Women (A.G.A.P.W.) at the Consulate General of Greece.


Fred W. McDarrah: The Artist’s World at Steven Kasher Gallery. McDarrah took photographs of the Beat and Abstract Expressionist scene in New York City.

The Acropolis Museum. (Incidentally Kathy Schwab’s work, mentioned above, is there!)
Jeppe Hein’s Please Touch the Art in Brooklyn Bridge Art.
The Beach exhibit at the National Building Museum.
Alice: 150 Years of Wonderland at The Morgan Library & Museum.
Ice sculpting in the Christmas windows at Barney’s.
The Crusader Bible: A Gothic Masterpiece at the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin.

Experience Hellas Every Day of 2016

14 Dec


I took this photograph in May of this year while standing on the beach across from my parents’ house in Greece. The name of the beach is Lagouvardos, which is part of the Peloponnese. I’d stolen one last look at the beach before I traveled back up to Athens to catch a plane.

Like the tides, I have a come-and-go relationship with Greece. It seems like I no sooner arrive, and it’s time for me to leave again. Perhaps like so many children of immigrants, I struggle with the concept of home. I call New York my home. I love the skyscrapers and window-shops, the fast-paced energy. It’s difficult in the beginning for me to settle into the quieter lifestyle of Greece, and yet soon it feels as if I’ve been there all along. Indeed, I’ve known my family’s house in Greece many years longer than the apartment I now live in in New York. More than that, it’s family that makes a home. It’s heartbreaking every time I have to leave.

I created Hellas: A 2016 Calendar to capture the natural beauty of Lagouvardos and Filiatra. The photographs show the blue, blue waters my father grew up swimming in; wildflowers that signify Greek resilience; our blue-and-white flag flying victoriously; and mountains rising toward heaven.

Experience the beauty of Greece every day of the year with Hellas, a 2016 calendar. The natural landscape of the Mediterranean comes to life in rich, colorful photography of Greek beaches, wildflowers, and lush palm trees. As you record your daily appointments in the calendar, the stresses of life will recede like the tide of the ocean in these stunning photographs.

Purchase your own copy of Hellas here.

Consulate General of Greece in New York Proves That Current Greek Art Matters

26 Oct
The new art exhibion Colors of Greece at the Consulate General of Greece in New York is a phenomenal display of artistic diversity. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of subject matter and aesthetic style of Greece’s contemporary artists.
Contemporary Greek art—be it visual art, as it was in this case, or the literary arts—matters to me a lot. Now, more than ever.
As a Greek, I am proud of my country’s rich Classical history. Our ancient art and architecture is revered the world over, and for good reason. To this day, I still stand in awe every time I look up at the Parthenon. How could anyone not? And yet, as well-meaning individuals speak to me about Olympia and Homer and all the beautiful work of Greece’s centuries’ old history, a part of me feels frustrated that only the Greece of the past is recognized. It is as if the Greece of today is nonexistent in their eyes. I think most Americans would be hard-pressed to name any Greek artists living today.
This saddens me because Greeks and Greek Americans have done much to enliven the postmodern art world. As a scholar of the Beat Generation, I have often turned to the art of the 1940s and ’50s. Specifically, I have researched the abstract expressionists who hung out at the Cedar Tavern and mingled with the Beats. Several of the most famous abstract-expressionist artists were Greek American: Wiliam Baziotes, Theodore Stamos, and Peter Voukos. Another famous artist of that time period was neon-sculpturist Stephen Antonakos. Today, there are artists like Maria Fragoudakis, who continues the collage and pop-art work of that era. These artists have done exceptional work that does not hinge on their being Greek.
Colors of Greece, likewise, demonstrates the vast scope of Greek art in 38 works. The artists cast their eye far and wide, landing on people swimming in blue, blue bodies of water; dramatic flora; city streets; the human face. Their style is photorealistic, figurative and full of emotion, abstractions. In a small exhibit hall it may perhaps seem jarring to view dissimilar works, and yet that is what makes this exhibit so special. It only captures a small sliver of the variety of work Greek artists today are doing. 
At a time when contemporary Greece is looked at through a negative political and economic lense, drawing attention to contemporary Greek artists’ work is a political statement. The Consuate General of Greece in New York shows that there is more to Greece than what you see on the evening news and read in history textbooks. There is a Greece that is vibrant, full of life, energetic, and colorful. There is a Greece that sees beauty among the ruins. It is the artists who perhaps will raise Greece up, who will innovate, who will create a new Greek generation.
Colors of Greece runs until October 30, 2015. Free of charge, the exhibit is open to the public from 9:00am to 2:30pm at the Consulate General of Greece in New York, located at 69 East 79th Street.
IMG_3439 IMG_3435 IMG_3440 IMG_3441 IMG_3437
Also, I’m pleased to announce Hellas, a 2016 wall calendar that I created using photographs I took while in Greece this past summer. You can purchase it here.

How Is It Possible that Close to Half of College Graduates Don’t Read?

23 Sep
“I’m not as big of a reader as you,” my brother said to me over the phone.
Dismissive of his reading habits as he was, my brother is a reader. He was telling me about a book he by a woman he’d heard about on a podcast. Felicia Day‘s You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost). This wasn’t a once-in-a-blue-moon event. He’s not a prolific reader by any means, but he loves a good book. When I’d asked him the year before what he wanted for Christmas, he wanted a Malcolm Gladwell book. Back when he lived in Greece, he asked me to bring him books. He always wanted Dr. Pepper, but I couldn’t bring that on the plane.
These days I sent a lot of books to my mother since it’s difficult for her to get books in English where she lives in Greece. She reads them slowly, savoring them. My father, on the other hand, reads like I do: if he likes a book or thinks it’s important, he will sit and read it until he’s done. My sister, too, reads regularly. It’s a family trait. I come from a family of readers. A long line of readers, perhaps. My grandmother always had biographies laying about her home.
Last year a report came out that said that 42% of college students will never read another book after they graduate. Forty-two percent! I don’t know how that’s even humanly possible. I can certainly understand that there is a percentage of college graduates, depending on what they studied, who might not read literary fiction or nonfiction again. I can imagine some might read graphic novels or chick lit or Tom Clancy novels or self-help books, low-brow books.
The fact that close to half of college graduates don’t read books seems impossible to me. It seems like a deliberate, adamant choice not to read. It seems like they’re anti-book. Are they never, not even once, curious about a bestseller? Not even Harry Potter, Twilight, or Fifty Shades of Grey? Do they not feel the least bit embarrassed if they haven’t read classics like The Great Gatsby? Do they feel no shame in not being able to answer what the last book they read was? Or do their friends never mention books? Do these people never step inside bookstores? Do they never read a business book to advance their careers?
I just don’t get it.  

This May Improve Your Mood about Your Social Media Presence

12 Aug

WereAllKerouacy02 copy

This is me reading at Ronnie Norpel‘s fantastic reading series Tract 187 Culture Clatch at The West End —/ photo by author Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond

Over the years, I’ve blogged about everything from twitter to pinterest, in the effort to help fellow writers think about their social media presence. Why? Because every conference and expo I’ve attended has drilled the need for social media into my head. Swirling around my brain, I hear platform, platform, platform.

But platform is about so much more than social media.

According to Rob Eagar’s article “Stop Grading an Author’s Social Media Presence” on Digital Book World, publishers are “misguided” in how they look at an author’s social media presence. He suggests what authors and publishers should focus on is:

  1. Email list and performance
  2. Monthly website visitors
  3. Speaking schedule or webinar participants
  4. Previous sales history

I’d highly, highly suggest reading the full article. What he says makes a lot of sense.

Does this mean we abandon social media?

By no means! It means social media is simply one tool in our toolbox. Okay, toolbox metaphors aren’t quite my lingo—nor my “brand”—but the point is that publishers, agents, librarians, and readers value the fact that an author uses social media, so we should maintain our online presence, but we should also look to diversify. Give a reading. Engage with people who leave comments. Send out a newsletter. Host a webinar. Maintain your backlist. Participate in a panel.

That’s what I’m doing at least. Or at least trying to do.

You can find the facebook page Paul Maher Jr. and I run for Burning Furiously Beautiful here.
My Twitter handle is @stephanieniko.
I pin about Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and lit life and 1950s fashion and nighttime road trips and the Greek beauty and deer on Pinterest.
I write articles for other publications.
I am reading at Word Bookstore in Jersey City.
I am teaching a writing class at the Festival of Women Writers.
I am participating on a panel at BinderCon.
I am co-organizing the faith and writing conference called The Redeemed Writer: The Call and the Practice.

There’s so much more to writing than, well, writing. I enjoy it, though. It’s stretching me as a writer, as an entrepreneur, and as a person.

Happy Earth Day! …Unless You Like Greek Yogurt

22 Apr


Happy Earth Day! …Unless, like me, you love Greek yogurt.

I just found out it takes 90 GALLONS of water to produce one teeny tiny container of Greek yogurt.

But if you are looking for a few Greek yogurt recipes, try these delicious recipes I made:

Happy 99th Birthday, Robert Lax!

30 Nov


Robert Lax was born on this day in 1915 in Olean, in the Southern Tier region of New York.

Lax studied poetry with Mark Van Doren at Columbia University and graduated in 1938, right before Jack Kerouac arrived on campus. Similarly, they both took on a life of wandering. Lax worked for some prestigious magazines — The New Yorker and Time — and then joined the circus as a juggler.

Eventually, he found his way to the Greek island of Patmos. The island is known as a place of pilgrimage, as the apostle John had lived there. Lax himself went on to live here for more than thirty years, living the life of a hermit and writing beautiful poetry.

Kerouac indeed did end up getting in contact with his fellow alum. You can read his letter to him in Jack Kerouac: Selected Letters, 1940-1956.

Remembering Alan Ansen

12 Nov


On this day in 2006 we lost Alan Ansen.

Today we celebrate his life and work. Ansen, a graduate of Harvard, was secretary to none other than the great W. H. Auden, who had come to New York City in 1939. He hung out with Jack Kerouac, William S. Burroughs,  Allen Ginsberg, and Gregory Corso, and is even written into their works. By the 1960s, he had moved to Greece, where he lived on Alopekis Street in Athens, and hung out with other expatriate poets such as James Merrill (who went on to get the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 1977), Chester Kallman (one of Auden’s lovers), and Rachel Hadas (who went on to receive the Guggenheim Fellowship).

Ansen passed away in Athens at the age of eight-four, but leaves behind his poetry and prose. Check out:

I think reading someone’s work is one of the best way to celebrate their life. Do you have a favorite poem by Ansen?