Tag Archives: New Jersey

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!


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!


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.


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


Peach Picking

5 Jul

Every summer when I was a child, my family would spend time with my cousins in Baltimore. Usually on the way to Baltimore or from Baltimore, my family would stop and go peach picking. My father would reach high into the trees to get the best, untouched fruit. We’d bring home barrels and barrels of fuzzy, squishy peaches. The fruit was so fresh and so juicy! I can remember the juices dripping down my chin and down the length of my arm toward my elbow. I remember the sticky feeling of peach juice clinging to my fingers. The peaches we picked tasted better than any fruit we bought in the sterile grocery store. But we had to eat it fast! The peaches went bad quickly, and our eyes had been bigger than our stomachs as we picked a million peaches.

Peaches are one of the fruits I most connect to summertime. These precious memories of peach picking with my family float through my head when I pick fresh produce in the grocery store as an adult and sometimes I even have the chance to go peach picking with friends.

I try to eat a lot of peaches in the summer. It’s fun to eat seasonally. I know a lot of people do it for health reasons and for the environment and because of the costs, but there’s also something special about knowing that there’s only a limited time you can enjoy something. It makes you savor it all the more.

Last summer I went peach picking at Alstede Farms in the adorable town of Chester, New Jersey, and I recently went back to the farm just to get pie and visit with the adorable farm animals. Here are some pictures from Alstede Farm. I highly recommend picking your own fruit this summer! It’s a great inspiration for eating healthier foods.



Friday Links::: Beat Generation News

20 May

William Burroughs, writer, New York, July 9, 1975


Happy Friday! Here are a few Beat Generation-related links for your weekend reading:::

Drive, He Wrote: What the Beats Were About” (The New Yorker)

“The Outlaw: The Extraordinary Life of William S. Burroughs” (The New Yorker)

To Catch a Beat” (The New Yorker)

The Last Living Bohemian in Chelsea” (The New Yorker)

Find out which book by Jack Kerouac changed poet and novelist Naomi Shihab Nye’s life. (Hint: it’s not On the Road) (Shelf Awareness)

Behind Bars: Mike Heslop at Kafe Kerouac” (Columbus Alive)

“Palisades Park Library Cards Feature a Local Designer and a Touch of Controversy” (NorthJersey.com)


As always, you can purchase the Jack Kerouac biography I coauthored with Paul Maher Jr.:::


And, you can connect with us:::


Happy reading!


Does Where You Live Determine Your Education?

22 Feb

Doesn’t it seem sometimes like life imitates art? That the same issues that were being written about — class, education, nationality — in the books of previous centuries can still be written about today?
Does where you grow up determine your education? Does it depend on coming from the “right” type of family who signed you up for extracurricular coursework? Or, is education self-determined? Can you embrace the autodidact tendencies of Massachusetts-raised Jack Kerouac, who skipped school to read voraciously in library?
Education was paramount in my family. My father especially believed that getting a good education was my job. It was his job to have a job, to have a career in which he could earn money to provide for his family. This would allow him to put me through the best and most expensive college so that one day I could have a reputable, well-paying job. Consequently, as a teenager, I could babysit occasionally, but I was not allowed to hold a regular after-school job when instead I should be studying. From what I observed growing up, that was common among the class of immigrant families in my hometown. Parents who had pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps worked tirelessly so that they could provide their children with a good education that would enable us to live better, easier, more fruitful lives.
Yahoo Real Estate recently came out with its annual list of most educated states in America. It didn’t surprise me at all to see my home states of New Jersey and New York on the list. I attended a Blue Ribbon high school in Bergen County, New Jersey, and my classmates and I went on to attend some of the highest-ranked colleges in the country. Not only that, almost every single friend from my childhood that I’ve kept in touch with went on to grad school as well—and that includes people that were in honors and AP classes and people who were never really into academics.
I mention friends first because I didn’t grow up with extended family nearby. My cousins—those from my father’s side, first generation; those from my mother’s side, here just a few generations longer—were in Maryland, Massachusetts, and Minnesota. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these states as well were all in the top ten most educated states in America!
That’s not to claim that my family is the most well-educated or that we use our education to further traditional, high-paying careers. Some of us have master’s degrees, others of us just graduated high school. Some of us have careers, others of us are homemakers. Some of us read for pleasure, some of us play video games. Still, we have the foundations and the options to choose what we want to do. I’m reminded of the eighteenth-century British novels I read about women of a certain class, who were well educated even though they were never going to use their education outside the home. They would surely study French and Latin and learn to play the piano and paint frescos because it made them more interesting, more desirable, more well-rounded. They enjoyed learning for the sake of learning.
I think there’s something to be said for living in a state that values education. Even if one prefers to work with her hands or to be a stay-at-home father, both of which are noble, being well educated provides options and allows one to enjoy a rich interior life. One of my friends lived in a state that did not value education. Rather, when her daughter raised her hand to answer questions in class, her classmates mocked her for being interested in school. The girl began to shut down, to stop raising her hand, to stop caring about school. Fortunately, my friend recognized what was going on and was able to get her out of that situation. Now her daughter reads and writes even outside the classroom.
I go through phases where I get lazy and watch a lot of Netflix. Right now, though, I’ve been reading and writing a lot again—and it feels so good! I can’t believe I ever got so distracted and lazy to stop doing what I love. Suddenly my life feels richer. I feel like I’m doing what I’m called to do. And part of me has been thinking about furthering my education again. I’ve been missing the structure and challenge of academia. I’ve been wanting to be exposed to new ideas, to be challenged by books I’d never think to read on my own. I wonder if it’s worth it to get my PhD. University costs are so outrageously expensive, and when you work in the arts, where little money is the norm, it’s hard to justify going into debt. That’s why I’m glad I live in New York. New York is a university unto itself. There are so many great readings, lectures, and panels I can attend—and often for free. I can go to the library and check out books at random or I can do a little digging and find recommended reading lists like Allen Ginsberg’s Celestial Homework.
In descending order, the most educated states in America are:
  1. Minnesota
  2. New York
  3. Vermont
  4. New Hampshire
  5. Virginia
  6. New Jersey
  7. Connecticut
  8. Maryland
  9. Colorado
  10. Massachusetts
No matter where you’re from in America, though, you can educate yourself by seeking out mentors and reading good books. Even if one is illiterate, a lot of libraries and churches offer volunteers who can help.
You might also be interested in:::

How Do You Like Them Apples?

20 Oct

IMG_3483 IMG_3485 IMG_3497 IMG_3500 IMG_3503 IMG_3509 IMG_3512 IMG_3532 IMG_3549

Every year my friend organizes an autumn apple-picking trip. It’s a nice break from fighting long lines in tiny aisles at grocery stores in New York City. Also, it always makes me think of helping my dad out on the garden in Greece. I took the bus out to Fort Lee, New Jersey, to meet my fellow apple-picking friends, and then we drove two hours or so out to Highland, New York. My friend is the definite “mom” of the group — she brought me an extra jacket because it was spectacularly cold out that day, which I wore on top of my lighter coat.

The farm we went to was called Dubois Farms U-Pick (209 Perkinsville Rd., Highland, NY), which we determined was pronounced like author W. E. B. Du Bois. We were immediately greeted by the smell of grilling burgers and apple cider donuts. The employees there were also super friendly, going out of their way to help us on our apple-picking mission. We were on the hunt for Fuji apples. Or, I should say, my Japanese American friend was on the hunt for that specific apple type. Hmm… does she perhaps have a bias when it comes to apple selection? I also got some Gala apples, which I picked up because they sounded fancy. The type of apples that would know how to throw a swanky party.

What I particularly liked about Dubois Farms is that you don’t have to pay an entry fee. Some farms make you pay to pick. So basically you’re paying to do the labor yourself on top of paying by the pound. At Dubois, though, you only pay by the pound — and the pound is cheaper than what a city dweller pays for apples. It’s a win-win for a starving artist. You can have your fun, and eat your apples too!

I have to admit, though, one of my favorite parts had nothing to do with the apples. I loved all the farm animals, especially that silly goat, who kept trying to my attention. Plus, it was my first time seeing an alpaca in real life!! Remember this scene in Napoleon Dynamite?!

The Starving Artist Jazzes Up Her Tap Water

21 Jul


I might be the only person on the planet who likes humidity. It reminds me of being a child. Growing up in New Jersey, instead of blasting air conditioning, we’d cool off by swimming at night. The sky would be so dark you could see the Big Dipper as you floated on your back in the pool. The lights in the pool would attract moths that would flutter and hover above the surface of the water, occasionally taking a dip of their own. I can still hear the sound of my father’s repetitive splash as he swam back and forth, back and forth.

These days I don’t have ready access to a swimming pool, and in New York City the lights of skyscrapers are so bright that seeing even a single star is rare. Still, muggy nights bring back all the memories of childhood summers for me. Instead of cooling off with the rattling air conditioner by my bed, I drink a beverage that brings me back to my roots.

Behind our pool ran a small brook, and alongside the brook grew wild mint. This refreshing herb is perfect for jazzing up one of earth’s most precious resources, water. It’s easy to grow, but you can also purchase it at almost any grocery store. Here are a few super simple variations:::

  • Simply wash the mint, put it in your glass of water (with or without ice), and enjoy immediately
  • Muddle the cleaned mint in your glass of water and enjoy
  • Store a large batch of water with fresh, washed mint in your fridge
  • Freeze the mint in ice cubes and plunk into your water whenever you want — as the ice melts the mint flavor will become stronger
  • Try pairing the mint with other flavors such as fresh squeezed lime

It’s so important to stay hydrated, but water sometimes gets boring. Infusing water with mint is a great way to drink more water.

Starving artist might enjoy these other summer food posts:::

Video from David Amram & Co.’s Inspiring Show at Cornelia Street Cafe

15 Jun
Every time I go to hear David Amram & Co. perform, I am blown away and walk away inspired to be more creative and to live life more fully. This month with no different.
On Monday, June 1, I brought my friend who was visiting from Brazil to Cornelia Street Café to hear David Amram perform with Kevin Twigg (drum, glockenspiel), Rene Hart (bass), Elliot Peper (bongos), and special guest Robbie Winterhawk on congas. They played all the literary-inspired classics, from Arthur Miller’s After the Fall to Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, and Neal Cassady’s Pull My Daisy.
Between songs, David Amram told stories of how he came to learn to play the hulusi, a Chinese flute made of bamboo pipes that pass through a gourd wind chest; how he met Woody Guthrie (“There was Woody sitting in this little kitchen….” in an apartment between Avenue C and D in New York City); to the fact that Pull My Daisy was written in an exquisite-corpse fashion (“People would come into town and add lines”). The stories behind the songs are themselves sweet melody to a life of passion, dedication, and originality.
David Amram uses his platform to inspire people both on and off the stage. He encourages the crowd with words of wisdom:
“Every day is an experience. Every day is an adventure.”
“Pay attention to anybody and everybody, and you’ll be amazed at what you can learn.”
He invites people up to the stage to perform him. 
People like Frank Messina, who is known as “the Mets poet.” He told a story about playing baseball with some of the legends of baseball while growing up in Norwood, New Jersey. It was so fun to hear because I grew up a few towns over from him and lived across the street from a Yankees player! Messina’s handwritten journal of 9/11 poetry is in the permanent collection of the National September 11 Memorial & Museum.
And people like Mike Shannon, an actor, who read Kerouac’s “Children of the Bop Night.”
I happened to have incidentally sat down next to one of the performers, Connie Diamandis. She turned out to be a Greek American from Lowell and that we knew some of the same people! A singer, she did an amazing rendition of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” She also told a story about Jack Kerouac and friends coming back to Lowell and hearing the Beatles and the new music of the era and pronouncing it good “but nothing like the classics.”
You can find out where David Amram will next be performing here.

It’s Walt Whitman’s 196th Birthday! …Or a Post that Includes References to President Lincoln and Bon Jovi

31 May


Here I am in 2013 standing outside Walt Whitman’s Birthplace State Historic Site and Interpretive Center in Long Island.

Walt Whitman was born on May 31, 1819, in Huntington, Long Island. He’s best known for Leaves of Grass. American schoolchildren are probably most familiar with the poem “O Captain! My Captain!” from the poetry collection. Written in 1865 and not included in Leaves of Grass until the fourth edition, the poem is about the death of President Abraham Lincoln.

There’s so much more to Whitman than that, though.

Walt Whitman is a complex and endlessly fascinating figure of the American poetry scene. He is regarded as the father of free verse poetry. He was also a reporter. He wrote a temperance novel: Franklin Evans (1842). He didn’t believe that all the works attributed to Shakespeare were actually Shakespeare’s. (Hm… what would Miguel Algarin say?) He at first called for the abolition of slavery … and then later thought the movement was a threat to democracy. He’s been inducted into the Legacy Walk, which celebrates LGBT history and people. He passed away in Camden, and the Garden State claimed him in the New Jersey Hall of Fame; that same year (2009), fellow literary luminaries William Carlos Williams and F. Scott Fitzgerald were inducted in the category of “general” while Whitman was inducted in the category of “historical.” (Jon Bon Jovi was one of the inductees honored in the category “arts and entertainment.) Andrew Carnegie said Whitman was “the great poet of America so far.”

“So far.”

Has any other “great poet of America” come along who has taken Whtiman’s place? It’s difficult to say, but this week we’ll be honoring the Good Gray Poet and talking about the poets that have been inspired by him.

Yep! You guessed it. The Beats.

Friday Links: Helping Others Is More than Wishful Thinking

17 Apr


Make a Wish matches!

It’s been forever since I did a link roundup! I’ve been trying to focus more on my memoir writing these days, but I’ve run across so many great news stories and websites lately that I wanted to share with you:

  • My friend Gregory Andrus has been taking these stunning photographs of the Jersey Shore. The other day he posted this article about NJ musician Jon Bon Jovi opening JBJ Soul Kitchen in Toms Kitchen, where there are “no menu prices, to help the fiscally challenged, and the restaurants try to serve organic produce whenever possible.”
  • My friend David Sung, the pastor of the Upper East Side-based Christ Resurrection Church, told me about this New York Times article about how Dan Price, who attended the Christian college Seattle Pacific University (which, by the way, offers a creative writing MFA), slashed his $1-million salary to give his lowest-paid workers a raise. The minimum wage at the company he founded, Gravity Payments, is now $70,000/year.
  • Meanwhile, this article reveals that 25% of “part-time college faculty” (and their families) receive public assistance. You know who this includes? Professors. Many colleges rely on adjunct professors, who get paid per class instead of being salaried.
  • My editor Jordan Green is obsessed with Clickhole. Obsessed. I particularly enjoyed the satirical buzzfeed-style listicle “How Much of a Grammar Nerd Are You?” he posted. My favorite line: “I got a tattoo of a comma splice and then had it removed.”
  • Via Pure Wow I discovered the loveliest named jewelry company: Wanderlust + Co. These gold arrow earrings are super cute. Arrows are so hipster.
  • Another company I discovered recently is Moorea Seal. I love the fact that sales from their goods benefit charities and that you can shop by cause. I also love these Make a Wish matches!

Happy weekend!!

It’s All Karpouzi to Me

23 Jun



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?