Tag Archives: holidays

Clip: Green Wedding Shoes

7 May



The lovely editors at Resource Magazine asked me to cover a story on indie, DIY weddings for their Spring 2013 issue. I got to interview Jen Campbell of the blog Green Wedding Shoes, who is so sweet and creative.

You can pick up a print copy at your local Barnes & Noble or keep sitting where you are right now and get the digital edition.


Friday Fun Fact: You Will See Lots of Candles This Weekend

3 May


You might think Easter already happened back in March, but if you’re Greek you know it’s this weekend. And with Greek Orthodox Easter comes the sight of men who don’t grow mustaches ironically and women who still believe in using lots of Aquanet carrying candles with little red wax-catching cups.

If you missed it last year, here’s my story about this tradition and wondering how to get a lit candle home if I can’t take an open flame on the subway.

“On the Road” Review

18 Dec



On Friday, December 14, I attended a special sneak preview of On the Road at IFC Center in Greenwich Village. It was history in the making. At long last, Jack Kerouac’s seminal road novel had made its way to the silver screen. Kerouac himself wrote a lot about going to the movies, and he wanted his novel turned into a film. In fact, he even wrote to Marlon Brando, asking him to buy it and star in it.

Francis Ford Coppola bought the film rights decades ago. I have a friend who wrote a screenplay that he showed to Coppola, and there have been numerous actors associated with the film adaptation, but the project always seemed to stall. Finally, Walter Salles came on as director and Jose Rivera as screenwriter, and soon after an impressive cast lined up, and the film looked like it would finally take off. And it did! It debuted at Cannes Film Festival in May 2012. Throughout the summer and into the fall, the film showed at theatres across Europe and South America. Those of us in the States read reviews, watched clips, argued about whether the novel could be adapted for film in a successful way, and debated the choices for the cast while we waited for the quintessential American story to come to us. At long last, when it was announced that a sneak preview of On the Road was taking place in the neighborhood Kerouac used to hang out in, people lined up on the Avenue of Americas for a chance to see it. As my good friend Elizabeth and I waited in line, an older man offered us $50 for our movie tickets. Considering we were so excited we were taking photos to commemorate the event, we probably weren’t the best people to try to scalp from. Needless to say, I watched the film, and, for whatever it’s worth, I can now give you my review of On the Road, which opens in New York and LA on December 21 and the rest of the country in January.

Let me start with a caveat: I am perhaps a bit too close to the subject matter to review On the Road objectively. After all, I am writing a book about the true story of On the Road. I have also heard and read reviews by a few other Beat scholars and fans and watched many Youtube clips from the film. I came in with lots of preconceived notions, and I watched the film more as a critic than as your average moviegoer. That said, I did not go into it as a literary snob wanting it to fail. I came into it wanting to see Kerouac’s work done justice.


On the Road is wonderfully nuanced. And to me, it’s the nuances in the acting, directing, and screenwriting that make On the Road a worthwhile adaptation of the novel. Everyone involved in the film understood that Kerouac’s novel is not just about some crazy kids driving at high speeds across the country, getting high, and getting laid. They understood that depicting this wild behavior — the film does not censor anything — was necessary not for shock value but because it underscores the complexity of the characters. In particular, the film does justice to the theme of the loss of fathers. Burning Furiously Beautiful, the book I’m coauthoring, delves into the personal life stories of the real-life people the characters are based on, giving further insight into their behavior and lifestyle. Understanding the characters’ back story elucidates their desires and actions, and the film adaptation neither glorifies nor critiques the characters. It gives them space to reveal themselves to the viewer.

Interestingly, the character that fell flat to me was the character of Sal Paradise, based on Jack Kerouac and played by Sam Riley. The actor, screenwriter, and director did a great job showing him to be an observer, which was true to Kerouac’s nature. However, the film itself was not seen through Sal’s eyes. He seemed like just another character. The landscape, the jazz shows, the parties were depicted through a neutral perspective. Not only did this make it difficult to understand Sal’s motivations and character — this is most evident in the scene with Terry (“the Mexican girl”), which isn’t developed enough for us to understand why it’s included — it meant we lost his voice. While critics over the years have focused on the road trip antics, for me, the strength of the novel was its insanely beautiful poetry. The film adaptation was more about the story and less about the literature.

Overall, though, the dialogue for the characters and the acting was phenomenal. Viggo Mortensen needs to star in a biopic on William S. Burroughs. Amy Adams took on the persona of Jane. Kristen Stewart brought a depth to Marylou that Kerouac himself didn’t. Kirsten Dunst showed great emotion in her scenes. Tom Sturridge played Carlo Marx with intensity but also surprising humor; his dialogue was quintessential Ginsberg: dramatic and over the top. Elisabeth Moss’ Galatea was a nice contrast to the other characters, while Danny Morgan’s Ed was a bit too goofy; these two characters are the reason the characters end up at Old Bull Lee and Janes’s place, but if it weren’t for that they could’ve been edited out for the film. Garrett Hedlund was charismatic. He lit up the screen.

My most pressing criticism of the film is that it felt a bit too much like a period piece for my personal preference.  I was impressed that the film was historically accurate, and yet I found myself distracted by those details. For example, when the focus was on the exterior of the Hudson, it made the story feel removed instead of vibrant; yet the shots within the car or from the viewpoint of the passenger were beautiful. Likewise, there were times when the wallpaper in a room jumped out at me more than it probably should have. I’m by no means suggesting the story should have been modernized, but the setting and props should not overpower the story. There were also scenes like the one at the jazz club which felt staged, almost cartoonish. I would’ve liked something a bit more raw, a bit grittier or impressionist.

In contrast, the New Year’s Eve party was sheer brilliance. Here were fast cuts and disorienting angles. Here were sweat and thrashing limbs. Here was jazz you wanted to dance to. Here was the energy that made you want to shout go, go, go! There were also beautiful quiet moments laced throughout the film. Poetic landscape. Honest heart-to-hearts. Subtle glances. Almost any time the characters were on the road, the dialogue, the filmography, and the acting were spot on.

The film adaptation of On the Road may enlighten some people’s perception of Jack Kerouac.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

17 Mar

Everyone’s Irish on Saint Patrick’s Day!  Actually, my mom and I often get mistaken for Irish.  It must be our fair Swedish skin and eyes.  I even once got a letter addressed to Nik O’Lopoulos.  Yep.

Here’s a couple of St. Patrick’s Day-related links for you:::

  • On my last trip to Ireland, I got to visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin.  Fun facts: Benjamin Guinness — yes, of beer fame — funded the reconstruction of the cathedral and Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) was dean here.  Find out more in my Church Hopping article.
  • Then, this summer I took a group Church Hopping to St. Patrick’s Cathedral here in New York City.  You can read about that fun experience here.
  • One of my colleagues at Burnside, wrote this interesting article about the meaning of hair when Sinéad O’Connor tweeted that she hated Ireland.
  • Here’s a review of Irish author Colum McCann’s Dancer, also from a colleague on Burnside.
  • You know how four-leaf clovers are supposed to be lucky?  Well, someone in Japan found a 56-leaf clover.
  • This is a pretty four-leaf clover necklace.
  • Have you ever heard this Irish blessing?  It’s so beautiful, and it always reminds me of the Rebecca St. James song “Abba Father.”
  • Going back to Guinness, the beer company is aiming to set a record for the world’s biggest St. Patrick’s Day party. Sounds fun!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone!!

New Year’s Resolutions

2 Jan

Last January, I posted these two articles I wrote for Burnside:::

Does God Laugh at Our Resolutions?

Christian New Year’s Resolutions

Reading them a year later, I wish that I had done so sooner and refocused myself.  I really love these two resolutions:::

Resolution:  Walk humbly with God.

Resolution:  Love others.

The notion of walking humbly with God is just so beautiful and peaceful.  When I visited my family over the holidays, we took a few walks together.  There was no agenda.  We simply walked leisurely around the neighborhood, taking in the bright pinks of the flowering trees and the azure sky as we chatted.  The walks were short — under half an hour — but that time we spent meandering cul-de-sacs and admiring palm trees made an impression on me.  It felt meaningful even though our conversations weren’t necessarily any more meaningful than any other conversations we had during our time together.  In New York City, I walk a lot, but I’m usually walking with an agenda — with a predetermined place to go and time to be there by — and am walking on my own against a crowd of strangers.  Walking with someone just to enjoy their company is a much different feeling.

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: 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?

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!


Oxi Day

28 Oct



Happy Oxi Day!  No matter if you spell it “oxi,” “ohi,” or “ochi,” it is the Greek word for “no.”  On October 28, Greeks celebrate the day they stood up and said “no” to the Italian ultimatum in 1940.

At dawn on October 28, 1940, Emanuele Grazzi, the Italian ambassador in Greece, on orders from dictator Benito Mussolini, demanded that the Greek prime minister Ioannis Metaxas grant Axis forces access to “strategic locations” in Greece.

Metaxas’ response?


The citizens of Greece flocked to the streets, yelling “Oxi!”  It didn’t matter their political affiliation.  They stood united to protect their country.

At 5:30 that morning, the Italian troops stationed in Albania attacked the border of Greece.

And with that, Greece had entered World War II.




Today, Greeks are back in the streets.  Never fully recovered from World War II, Greece continues to face economic hardship.  The citizens of Greece are fighting back, they’re saying “no,” to the austerity measures.




Sometimes you need to take a stand.  Sometimes you need to say no.

What do you need to say no to today?

Do you need to say no to big business?  No to credit card debt?  No to working overtime … again?  No to another social event?  No to another night in?  No to junk food?  No to Uggs?

Saying no doesn’t make you a bad person.  It’s important to say no to some things so you can say yes to others.

What do you want to say yes to today?


15 Aug

Today, August 15, is Dekapentavgoustos, the Assumption of Mary or the Dormition of the Theotokos.  Most Protestants don’t celebrate it, but this is the third most important religious holiday, after Easter and Christmas, in Greek Orthodoxy.  It celebrates the day the Panagia — the Virgin Mary, the mother of Jesus — was bodily taken up to heaven.  According to Greek Orthodox beliefs, Mary died a natural death and her soul was received by Christ when she passed away.  Three days after her bodily death, her body was resurrected and taken up to heaven.

To commemorate this, Greek Orthodox believers fast for the two weeks leading up to August 15.  This is called the Dormition Fast.  The first day of the fast, August 1, is called Procession of the Cross.