Tag Archives: my mom

“Are We Gonna Let the Elevator Bring Us Down?”

21 Apr
purple-rain
My mom’s from Minneapolis so while most kids were growing up on Disney tunes, I grew up on Prince’s “When Doves Cry” and “I Would Die 4 U.” Back in the early 80s when 1999 seemed impossibly far away, we would go crazy in the basement to “Purple Rain” while my mom vacuumed.

Years later, my sister and brother used to repeatedly quote the Dave Chapelle episode where Prince served pancakes.

“Why don’t you purify yourself in the waters of Lake Minnetonka?”

I’m saddened to hear the news of Prince‘s passing today. His songs were the soundtrack to my childhood (along with Lionel Richie and Stevie Wonder) and will live on.

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!

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Have a Slice of Espresso Cheese for National Coffee Day!

29 Sep

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Happy National Coffee Day!

…Just don’t post a photo of your coffee or you might anger Rant Chic. Although, apparently there are coffeehouses that “print” your selfies into your latte with edible brown powder. The latte selfie is real!

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I had my first pumpkin spice latte of the season on Sunday. Oh how I love my Barnes & Noble Cafe discount!!

What I really want to tell you about, though is that I discovered espresso cheese!! I road tripped out in Connecticut with two of my very dear friends whom I’ve known forever and ever, and we went out to Stew Leondard’s. Have you been there? It’s amazing. Maybe it’s all my city living, but grocery stores in suburbs amaze me with their wondrous wide aisle lit with bright lights showcasing jalapeño potato chips and refrigerated dog food. This one was one was particularly exceptional. They have cupcakes shaped like cheeseburgers and animatronic butter.

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The employees are all super nice too. One saw me pondering an espresso cheese. I was so curious, I immediately answered “yes” when he asked me if I’d like to try it, even though I normally bashfully say no because I don’t want to bother them or appear greedy. Let me tell you: I am so glad my eagerness betrayed me. Made by Sartori, Espresso Bellavitano is earthy and sweet, decadent, and complex. It’s the perfect cheese to impress guests. I’d pair it with red grapes, raisins, currants, and cherry chutney. A hearty red wine would go well with it.

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Here are a few of my past coffee-related posts to celebrate @NationalCoffeeDay:::

The Coffee Habit of Jack Kerouac

Kerouac Opened a Million Coffee Bars

Caffe Reggio is one of my favorite coffeehouses in all of New York City. I recommended their cup in my Beat gift guide.

Places to drink coffee in Grand Rapids

From the Ottoman Empire to Greenwich Village: Coffee Houses’ Literary History

What’s Your Coffee Personality? Get Greek-American author Dean Bakopoulos’ take

Not to be outdone by my Greek side… The Starving Artist Gulps Down Konditori’s Swedish Coffee

A habit I got from my mother.

Coffee not your drink of choice?

Stir up Kerouac’s Big Sur Manhattan

Or toast to Ernest Hemingway with a Daiquiri Recipe

Take a road trip to Monterey and visit Bargetto Winery for an apricot wine

Or hop on the subway and try the orange wine (not orange flavored!) at Brooklyn Winery

Go Greek with Pindar’s Pythagoras Wine

Speaking of lemonade… How ’bout some Champagne Pink Lemonade Punch?

Want something sans alcohol?

Hibiscus Nectarine Tea: A Trip to Hawai’i in a Glass

Holla for some Jalapeño-Infused Lemonade

Or if you’re a starving artist, Jazz Up Your Tap Water

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

23 Sep
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“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.  

A Swedish Children’s Author’s World War II Diaries May Make for an Enlightening Read

17 Aug
Pippi-Longstocking1024768Inger Nilsson in Pippi Longstocking 
I just found out that Pippi Longstocking author Astrid Lindgren’s World War II diaries are set to be published in English for the first time in autumn 2016. I had the opportunity to see the Swedish author’s ephemera at the Junibacken Museum devoted to her in Stockholm, which I wrote about for The Literary Traveler.
 
As the daughter of a Swedish-American mother, I grew up on Astrid Lindgren’s works. I watched the 1969 film adaptation starring Inger Nilsson repeatedly on VHS.
 
I’m also interested in these particular diaries because it happens to be the time period of literature that I study the most. After all, this was the era that gave rise to the Beat Generation, the era in which a young Jack Kerouac was roaming the seas. You can read more about Kerouac’s sea voyages in Burning Furiously Beautiful.

Should a New York Couple Follow the Husband’s Greek Tradition?

15 Apr

The other day a friend of mine posted an article on Facebook about how his friend, a New Yorker of Greek descent, has taken to the internet because his wife doesn’t doesn’t want their unborn baby to be named Spyridon. Here’s how the headline read for the Daily Mail article:

Couple launches online campaign to decide if their unborn baby should be called Michael or Spyridon – after failing to reach an agreement despite months of arguments

A couple basic facts:

  • The husband’s name is Nicholas. A common name. An easy to pronounce name.
  • The name Spyridon is Nicholas’ father’s name. In Greek culture, it’s common to name your first child after the husband’s side of the family. Though a familiar Greek name, Spyridon is not common even in the diverse city of New York … well, unless you go by its diminutive, Spyro. Nor is it obvious to nonGreeks how it should be pronounced.
  • The wife’s name is Kseniya, a name I’ve never heard of until reading this article. A name I’m not quite sure how to pronounce. Kseniya thinks the name Spyridon is too “archaic.” If it’s a boy, she wants to name it after her own father, Michael.

Some have posited that the husband has “the right” to name “his” son after his father. Here are a few questions to consider:

  • Should the New York couple follow Greek tradition?
  • Would it make a difference if they lived in Greece?
  • Why should the couple follow the husband’s tradition over the wife’s desires?
  • Does it matter that the child in question is a son*? Should a father’s opinion matter more for the name of a son?
  • What makes the child “his” son and not “their” son?
  • If the child is a daughter, would this be as big of an issue? Would you still say the child should be named after the father’s side of the family or if it’s a daughter would you side more with the mother?
  • Does Kseniya perhaps know better than her husband the frustration of growing up with a a difficult-to-pronounce first name?

*Here’s the kicker: they don’t even know yet if the baby is a boy or girl!

So yeahhhh this type of marital spat is kind of how I ended up with my name. In Greek culture it’s tradition to name the first child after the father’s parents so my father just assumed I would be named after his mother. My mother (a Midwesterner who is not Greek) didn’t want me to have two “weird” names. The result? The night I was born my father ended up storming out of the hospital when the nurse came around to ask for my name and my mother refused to name me after my father’s mother. While he was out in the midst of a New York City snowstorm, my mother named me. For the record, my mother compromised by naming me after my dad’s stepfather instead of his mother and gave me his mother’s name for my middle name.

As Shakespeare would say, “What’s in a name?”

Buzzfeed’s Take on Who Should Play My Mom and Dad in the Movie Version of My Life

20 Aug

quiz

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m just a liiiiittle obsessed with taking quizzes. I especially love the Buzzfeed ones. Don’t judge.

A while back I saw the Buzzfeed quiz “Who Would Play Your Mom In The Movie Version of Your Life?” Of course I had to take it. I’ve spent some time daydreaming what actors might play my family in a film adaptation of my memoir. I took the quiz and it revealed Sofia Vergara (from “Modern Family”) should play my mom! Well that made good sense to me. My mom is one hot mama!

So when I saw they now had a quiz called “Who Would Play Your Dad in the Movie Version of Your Life?” I took it immediately. I had always thought Kelsey Grammer (you know, Frasier) would be a good fit for my dad. Buzzfeed thought otherwise. They picked Samuel L. Jackson!

Pause just a moment to picture a family with Sofia Vergara as the mother and Samuel L. Jackson as the father. …Are you picturing it? Welcome to the family!

 

 

 

It’s All Karpouzi to Me

23 Jun

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That’s me as a kid eating karpouzi!

Last week I wrote about Feta burgers and how my family used to BBQ all summer long. Our BBQs weren’t complete without karpouzi—watermelon—at the end of the meal, so this week is all about watermelon!!

Now I may have grown up in a mono-lingual household, only speaking English, but there were a few words that for whatever reason (probably because my mom knew them) we always said in Greek—to the point that it felt more natural to say them in Greek than in English. “Karpouzi” was one of those words. Even when I went off to college, that’s the word I used, and my friends picked it up and used it too—just as I picked up words like “haole” and “okole” from my Hawai’ian friends and learned “hella” from my Bay Area friends. Funny how even when you live in one country your entire life, and even when your friends are American, regionalisms and ethnic identities can influence your language.

Tomorrow I’ll share one of my favorite recipes for karpouzi!

In the meantime, I’d be curious to know if any of you switch in and out between languages or if you’ve picked up words from a language that isn’t your own mother tongue?

 

 

Correcting My Joisey Accent

28 Jan

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image via Harvard Dialect Study

“You’re from Joisey!” all the West Coasters would exclaim when I moved out to Los Angeles for college and told them I had come from New Jersey. That’s what I said, “New Jersey.” Not “New Joisey.” Yet they hoisted the accent upon me anyway.

My finger nails may have been a tad too long and I may have grown up spending every Saturday at the Garden State Plaza, but I definitely didn’t speak like some chick who over Aqua-Net her hair. In fact, no one I knew spoke that way.

…Well, at least I thought we didn’t. No one I knew pronounced “hamburger” like “hamboiger” or anything as nails-to-the-chalkboard as that, but when I really listened to the way my friends talked, I noticed there was maybe a slight accent to a few words. Some of my friends pronounced “water” as “wooter.” I also noticed I had a certain way of crunching words. “Orange juice” became “ornch juice.” “Drawers” became “joors.”

I was always a little sensitive about the issue of accents. As an immigrant with a thick Greek accent, my father sometimes was misunderstood by waitresses at restaurants, which infuriated me because I could understand what he was saying perfectly and when others couldn’t I believed it to be deliberate xenophobia. But it wasn’t just my father who had an accent. My mother was from Minnesota, another state beleaguered by accent stereotypes. My mother did not talk like any of the characters in Fargo, but she did say “melk” for “milk” and “tall” for “towel.” That’s how my siblings and I grew up speaking, and I made a concerted effort to rectify my speech.

Actually, the school system made a concerted effort to rectify my accent: I was put in speech therapy in elementary school. It was humiliating. I was the shyest kid in my grade—and probably the entire state—and yet the few times I opened my mouth I was punished by being singled out and removed from my normal class to have a therapist teach me how to talk “correctly.” That was enough to keep me silent throughout most of elementary school. Now, I had a real reason to fear talking and stay quiet. I was afraid that if I were to speak up, no one would be able to understand me.

In the school’s defense, I really did need speech therapy. As this eHow article on How to Speak with a New Jersey Accent teaches, I dropped all my “r”s—to the point that certain words, like “art,” became incomprehensible. My accent wasn’t just the issue though. On top of having a foreigner for a father and, let’s face it, as a Midwesterner my mom was pretty much a foreigner too, I had pretty severe hearing issues, which had impacted my speech. I had to have surgery twice as a kid to have tubes put in my ears.

I’m not sure if this was related, but a lot of what I did hear, I took literally instead of as an accent. I remember my speech therapist asking me what type of shoes I wore, and I said, “tenner shoes.” I think I knew that meant “tennis shoes,” but I remember thinking in that moment that I had definitely answered “wrong.” I felt so stupid as she questioned me if I played tennis. From then on, I knew the correct label for my shoes was “sneakers.” How could I have been so stupid as to call them tenner shoes? I taunted myself afterwards. I’d never even picked up a tennis racket. I blamed my mom. She was the one who called them that.

Worse, in 6th grade, the music teacher gave us a pop quiz on the lyrics to “The Star Spangled Banner.” When I got my test, it was clear she thought I was a horrible speller. I was relieved because this meant I got a better grade than I should have. I was also shocked that she thought someone could spell that poorly. Suddenly, I realized how “dumb” some of my classmates really must be, if I’d been given that much credit for my botched lyrics. In reality, I’d been misunderstanding lyrics the entire time. I thought “dawn’s early light” was “donzerly light.” I wasn’t sure of the exact definition of “donzerly,” but I pictured it as hazy white fireworks, since that’s what often accompanied the national anthem and seemed to coincide with what “bombs bursting in air” would’ve looked like.

So when that New York Times dialect quiz, based on the linguistics project Harvard Dialect Study, spread like wildfire over Facebook, I took it figuring it would identify me as having some random accent. But nope, it identified me as being from Newark/Paterson, Jersey City, and—somewhat inexplicably since it’s in northern California—Fremont.

Once a Jersey girl, always a Jersey girl.

What accent did you get?

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The Longest Word in Literature Is, Of Course, Greek

10 Dec

Ari

I always take a deep breath before I spell out my name for someone, a nonverbal warning to the person asking for it to prepare themselves. “N as in ‘Nancy,’” I say, then pause. “I-K.” Another pause, just like I heard my mother spelling it out so many times to credit card companies over the phone when I was growing up. The spelling out proceeded like that for some time, til all twelve letters were given.

Most of our friends get used to our long last name over time, so when I recently had to spell out the address of where my parents live in Greece for a family friend, I warned her to make sure she had enough room on the paper. This place name was long even for us.

I was not at all surprised, therefore, to learn via The Huffington Post, run by a Greek woman, that literature’s longest word can be found in a Greek play. Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen, an ancient comedy about the upheaval that occurs when women insert themselves in politics (things like: men must sleep with an ugly women before they sleep with a beautiful woman), contains a word that is 171 letters.

From Oliver Tearle:

Since you’re doubtless itching to know what this word is, I’ll give Aristophanes the final word: Lopado­­temacho­­selacho­­galeo­­kranio­­leipsano­­drim­­hypo­­trimmato­­silphio­­parao­­melito­­katakechy­­meno­­kichl­­epi­­kossypho­­phatto­­perister­­alektryon­­opte­­kephallio­­kigklo­­peleio­­lagoio­­siraio­­baphe­­tragano­­pterygon.

And if you’re curious what that looks like in Greek, I found it on Wikipedia:

λοπαδοτεμαχοσελαχογαλεοκρανιολειψανοδριμυποτριμματοσιλφιοκαραβομελιτοκατακεχυμενοκιχλεπικοσσυφοφαττοπεριστεραλεκτρυονοπτοκεφα-λλιοκιγκλοπελειολαγῳοσιραιοβαφητραγανοπτερύγων.

It’s the name of a dish that has about that many ingredients in it (okay, maybe only 16 or so but that’s still too many ingredients, and it sounds disgusting).

 

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Burning Furiously Beautiful: The True Story of Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” is now available as an ebook and paperback!