Greek Cuisine: What Traditional and Modern Foods Symbolize.

Story by: Catherine Keith

In Greece, a country where ancient history meets modernity, there is more to discover than just the views. Today we are seeing how a rich tapestry of flavors unfold and greet us with the symbols of Greek culture, serving as a way to mirror the country’s history, and it’s way of life.

One of the most known foods is the iconic Greek salad. This is a prime example of the country’s commitment to seem simple, yet so full of life. This traditional plate comes topped with tomatoes, cucumbers, feta cheese, and (of courses) olives. It embodies the term fresh, and it is a great symbol of the Mediterranean landscape.

Greek coffee is a huge symbol of the rush of life in Greece, and it symbolizes tradition, and the enduring hospitality. Made in a Briki, combined with grounds, water, and liquid sugar, this savory brew is an everyday staple for most working Greeks, and is surprisingly boiled instead of brewed.

The Greek gyro, one of the most popular Mediterranean handhelds, is a culinary marvel to those who enjoy the meat filled snacks. Gyros are a very common meal that can be now accessed everywhere due to its popularity. Each Gyro filled with meat, vegetables, and topped with tzatziki, this modernized food symbolizes continuity, and the people of Greece’s good spirits.

A great example of Greece’s ability to adapt to diversity is the moussaka. This is a dish that has been passed down through centuries. The moussaka casserole is mainly eggplant, with meat and bechamel sauce inside. It has many cultures that come together to influence its creation, including the Middle Eastern and Ottoman people. This casserole is a staple to Greek culture, for it represents the history of encounters, while also symbolizing the union of deliciousness.

If desserts are on the menu in any Greek event, it is sure to be starring Baklava. This sweet delicacy is very traditional in Greek households and are used as gifts to guests who visit. This pastry, layered with nuts and honey, is a great example of a dessert that symbolizes the warmth and generosity of Greek culture.

What is Christmas Fatigue

Story by: Kara Scarbrough 

For many small businesses around Jacksonville, Christmas trees and twinkle lights aren’t new additions to their space, and have already been up for months. Around this time of year, discourse around the length of the holiday season leads to the belief of “Christmas Fatigue.”  

Though the term “Christmas Fatigue” does not have a definite creator, the term has been used widely across social media platforms to explain the negative feeling customers get from being around holiday items and decor for an extended period of time. Over 80% of people believe stores put up their holiday decor too early, according to a survey by Coupon Birds.  

“There’s two holidays that happen before Christmas!” said David Green, a student at the University of North Florida who admits to having this fatigue. “As soon as I put down my knife down for Thanksgiving, it’s Christmas time. But not before then.” 

This period of time is widely considered to be too early when it comes significantly before Halloween. This year was no exception, with bigger chains displaying their holiday items during this time. For a boutique in Avondale, Christmas has been alive and well since the last week of October. 

“I think that we’re pushed because of large, big box stores who have [Christmas decor] out at the beginning of October,” said Chris Johnson, one of the owners of the boutique Design Additions. “You start feeling a little antsy that if you don’t get your product out there in front of the customer, that they’re going to buy it elsewhere.” 

Still, Johnson and his partner have stuck to their roots and waited to put out their holiday items.  

Though it’s likely big box stores and other businesses around Jacksonville are maximizing the time they can profit from the holiday season, customers themselves may be another reason for the increased season. For another student, Laura Filipov, the presence Christmas items in stores bring her joy.  

“I feel like it outweighs the other holidays,” said Filipov. “It brings me so much joy because Christmas is like the biggest holiday out of all of them.” 

From the perspective of those that feel this joy, Christmas goes up at just the right time. For families across the US, having Christmas decor up may have a deeper meaning as well.  

“If we can help that family that’s hosting bring a little joy and happiness for the Christmas season to their whole family, I think that’s a good thing,” said Johnson. “The world we live in right now is so chaotic and confusing that people are looking for some type of comfort or joy, and if the holidays bring that to them, then that’s why they’re putting Christmas up early.” 

Though the great debate on how early is too early for the holidays will continue, this holiday season is in full swing. 

The Education Dilemma

Story by: Carter Mudgett

It’s no secret that legislation moving against diversity, equity and inclusion is simultaneously reshaping students’ experience across Florida. 

But as it sends a chilling effect sweeping across higher education, laws and policies are also making some students rethink whether education is really their future career. 

A survey of more than 4,250 individuals by Florida’s largest faculty union, the United Faculty of Florida, found that 65% would not recommend their state as a desirable place to work. That mentality has also been translated to students. 

At the University of North Florida, enrollment in the College of Education has dropped in recent years, according to Dr. John White, an English Education professor. White told Inside Jacksonville that students in his courses constantly ask how to tackle situations arising in the classroom, but that he doesn’t always have an answer for them. 

“Do we prepare teachers for the realities of the classroom they’re going to go into today?” White asked. “Or, do we teach them what we know upon research are the best practices for students?”

That lack of sureness has been well documented in higher education as faculty ring alarm bells for academic freedom, but it’s less clear for PreK-12. In Duval County, teachers have less control over their teaching plans, White said, and they must follow a strict guide for how quickly they teach material to students. 

“As we recruit educators into the field, we are losing them just as rapidly,” said Rachel Tutwiler Fortune. Fortune is president of the Jacksonville Public Education Fund, a non-profit dedicated to closing the opportunity gap for low-income students and students of color by investing in “great leadership in our public schools,” according to their website. 

The district itself has focused on diversity as a strength in recent years, but it’s a term now frowned on by the state. About a third of educators in Duval reported historically marginalized racial backgrounds which suggests room for improvement, wrote JPEF in a blog post addressing how diversity benefits everyone.

Beneath the Waves of an Extreme Sport’s Emotions

Story by: Alexa Villegas

Surfing is often defined as an extreme sport that demands a lot of physical strength, power, agility and skill. In reality, there’s a lot more to it than that. 

Everyone has their own journey. Between different perspectives about what surfing is, the meaning of it to them and creating a personal connection with the waves, this water sport is very emotional. The journey of where the water will take them is one of the greatest experiences.  

When looking into professional surfing, many participants, acquire new families, and a new community, meeting new people, and exploring different waters to surf in becomes their life, and most importantly, they discover a new part of themselves, and learn mutually from each other.  

Surfer Kianna Miller said there is an undeniable rush of excitement and adrenaline as she ventures into the waves, and an incredible amount of fear when it comes to executing the perfect maneuver.  

Competitive surfing is a canvas for individuals to explore a myriad of emotions and each heat— a competitive period held in surfing—allows the surfers to create a new, unique chapter and narrative on their journey.  

Though challenging, the sheer thrill of riding the head is accompanied by an immense sense of happiness and joy, said Miller.  

Riding the waves for surfers is more than just a sport. It’s about making their journey a testament to their passion, ambitions and resilience. Most of all, it creates an inexplicable connection with the ocean.  


The Unsung Heroes of Wildlife Rehabilitation

Story by: Marshall Shive

Wildlife rehabilitation is something that’s losing public interest with the ever-expanding industrialization of America. Even in Jacksonville an increasing number of natural habitats are driving animals out of the forests and into more urbanized areas, causing injuries from cars, trappers and waste left behind from the construction sites.  

So, what happens after someone calls animal removal to escort wildlife out of their backyard? That’s where the Wildlife Rescue Coalition of Northeast Florida comes in. Many times, agencies such as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission bring injured animals that aren’t too critically injured to non-profits such as this one.

Here, Director of Operations Lisa Rowell and her team of volunteers rehabilitate all kinds of native Florida wildlife. This includes deer, raccoons, squirrels, opossums, foxes, turtles, snakes and more.  

“The Northeast Florida wildlife Rescue was founded in 2003… the reason for starting it was seeing how much the public needed a place to take injured animals in Jacksonville,” said Rowell. 

According to WFSU State News, 15% of Florida is already developed and, if the trends keep moving in the direction they’re going, they could jump to 18% in the next 17 years. That’s an additional million acres of natural habitat lost. The direction Florida is going with mass amounts of people moving in from other states the demand for more housing and infrastructure will be high. This will lead to more animals being forced into densely populated areas.  

Many of the animals on the campus of the wildlife rescue were sick from eating things toxic to them due to human pollution, hit by cars or injured from being captured in snare traps. As this becomes a more normal issue with the loss of their natural habitat, Jacksonville will need wildlife rescues like the Wildlife Rescue Conservation Coalition more than ever.  

The wildlife rescue can use all the help they can get as the need for them continues to rise. Necessities such as supplies for caging, food for the animals, and financial support are all welcome. For more information, visit their website here

Candy Canes: A Quick Rundown

Story by: Katrino Reyes

The candy cane is one of the most popular candies of all time, especially during the Christmas season. But how did it come about and how was it done over the years? Here is a quick rundown of the classic peppermint delight. 

Candy canes are believed to be dated all the way back to 1670 when a German choirmaster gave out bent sugar sticks to his choir singers to keep them quiet and well-behaved, according to  

Another fun fact about the candy cane is that it used to be just plain white, with the candy believed to first appear in the U.S. around 1847. The classic red and white stripes were theorized to be used as a secret code by German and English Christians in the 17th century.  

Another legend suggests that the cane was actually shaped into a “J” shape representing Jesus, with the white stripe representing his purity through birth and the red stripe representing his blood on the cross, according to Time Magazine. With these theories and legends at hand, it’s no wonder why candy canes are associated with Christmas.  

“It keeps the holiday season alive,” said Demetric Nathan, candy maker and kitchen manager for Sweet Pete’s Candy in Jacksonville. “To me, peppermint kind of perks you up and makes you feel happy.” 

In most cases, candy canes are made with the help of automated machines, but hand made candy canes still haven’t gone out of style. Sweet Pete’s Candy holds candy cane-making classes in November and December with Nathan as one of the instructors. The class showcases how to make the candy cane by hand, from putting up the recipe together to rolling, cutting, and shaping.  

“To see people come out and respect the old-school-fashioned way of making candy, it’s rewarding for me,” Nathan said.  

Although the origins of the candy cane are still disputed, it is certain that it is a part of the modern Christmas norm.  

Book Banning in Duval County

Story by: Mauricia Brown 

More than 100 books about race, gender and sexual identity have been banned in Duval County Public School this year, according to PEN America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to literature, free expression and human rights.  

The books were removed in accordance with HB 1467, which was signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. The law stated that “school principals are responsible for overseeing compliance with school library media center materials selection procedures at the school in which they are assigned.”   

904WARD, a Jacksonville nonprofit, partnered with Yellow House to install public bookcases called Little Free Diverse Libraries across the city. Those shelves are stocked with books for both students and adults and aim to highlight narratives, authors of color and other diversity-related topics.  

904WARD works to create racial healing and equity through deep conversations and learning, trusting relationships and collective actions.  Inside Jacksonville spoke with the nonprofit’s staff about their perspective on book banning. 

For a full list of banned books in Duval County, according to PEN America, visit here.  

Behind the Inspiration and Toys of Slice of Life International

Story by: Theresa Hardman

On November 1, 2022, the beautiful beachside gem Slice of Life International first opened its doors.This eclectic store offers a beautiful variety of runature, home decor and various clothes and knick nacks, but the star of the show is the expansive and unique toy collection inside.  

Owner Terri Cavoli is a long time lover of toys, and after a change in careers led her to teaching, she found herself collecting all sorts of toys to bring in to her classroom. Here she built beautiful words and stories with the kids and her toys and combined the importance of teaching with the joy of play.  

After a car accident left Cavoli unable to speak for long periods of time in the classroom, she was left with an abundance of toys in need of a purpose. This inspired her to put her collection on display at Slice of Life International. 

“I had all these toys for every kind of theme and topic, for the classroom, plus I had my own vintage toys, so I said you know what why don’t I open a toy store” said Cavoli.  

Steadily growing her collection over time, from a plethora of Barbie, Hotwheels, Littlest Pet Shops, Lego, a multitude of boardgames and more, she really has something for every age and interest.  

In addition to her storefront, Terri also posts her products on Facebook Marketplace, which draws in collectors of unique toys. Cavoli divulged how on multiple occasions she has had many people from out of town come to visit her shop for a specific piece in her collection.  

Cavoli has been able to combine her love for all these beautiful toys into a charming business, with the pleasure of watching kids and adults alike come into her store and found something that sparks joy. She keeps the joy of make believe and playing pretend alive and well as she sells nostalgia for all who visit.  

Find Slice of Life International at 1328 3rd Street North in Jacksonville Beach and on Facebook at Slice of Life International LLC. 

River City Pride lifts the rainbow flag amid Florida’s anti-LGBTQ+ legislative crackdown

Story by: Carter Mudgett

Amid a state-wide anti-LGBTQ+ in Florida legislation, Jacksonville’s River City Pride is working to push back against the hate and fight for the community. 

When Mayor Donna Deegan was elected and turned Jacksonville blue, it marked a major win not just for diversity initiatives in the city, but for the LGBTQ+ community too. Established as a nonprofit in 1989, River City Pride has been a long-standing champion of LGBTQ+ rights in not just Jacksonville, but the entirety of Florida. 

The organization celebrated their annual River City Pride Parade in early October, capping off week-long festivities. Mayor Deegan made clear her commitment to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity as grand marshal of the parade. 

Thousands of residents and many businesses marched in the parade itself, waved rainbow flags from the sidewalks and participated in week-long festivities. 

“The shift recently, especially with the election of Mayor Deacon, kind of shows that Jacksonville is no longer being that good ol’ boy hub and being controlled by the far right that has kind of made it feel unfriendly to [the LGBTQ+] community,” said River City Pride President Travis Guthrie. 

There were 725 anti-LGBTQ plus bills introduced across America this year, according to the Movement Advancement Project, a nonprofit think tank researching equality and opportunity.

In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has waged a war on diversity, equity and inclusion since January. DeSantis signed a record six expressly anti-LGBTQ+ bills into law this year, according to the Human Rights Campaign, more than the last seven years combined.

Yet, even in the face of legislative pushback, the mayor’s participation in Pride celebrations this year threw a spotlight on the river city, making it clear that diversity was something to be celebrated in Jacksonville, not ousted.

Dogtoberfest: How Dog Owners Come Together to Support a No-Kill Animal Shelter  

Story by: Kara Scarbrough

On a lively Friday night in downtown St. Augustine, a wide variety of dogs accompanied their owners dressed as anything but a dog. From pumpkins to alligators, these dogs were dressed to impressed.  

For the last four years, Colonial Oak Music Park hosts Dogtoberfest, a night filled with music, food, drinks and of course, dogs. Customers are encouraged to dress their dogs for a chance to win the costume contest.  

The real winner of Dogtoberfest is Ayla’s Acres No-Kill Animal Rescue.  

“We have about 50 animals in foster care,” said Fran Charlson, executive director of Ayla’s Acres. “We need to be able to get them vet care, food, and anything that they need.”  

The shelter consists of paid staff and volunteers who all work to take care of the animals in their sanctuary. Other than dogs, they have horses, cats, birds and more that have to be cared for daily. Dog owners in attendance that night appreciated the mission of this shelter.  

“Some of those dogs, just like humans, they know what a bad life is,” said Mathew Spyker, as he looked down Tyson, his well-behaved dog sitting nicely beneath him. “When they get a kind owner that can show them love, compassion and grace, you know that they’ll be affectionate and they’ll be dedicated to them for the rest of their lives.” 

From Dogtoberfest, the rescue benefits from a 50/50 raffle and a silent auction. Colonial Oaks also sells a “Rescue Drink,” from which Ayla’s Acres receives $2 from every sale.  

According to 8-year volunteer Sharon Kramer, Dogtoberfest is not the only event put on by Colonial Oaks in support of the rescue.  

“They have events all throughout the year and sometimes will benefit us,” said Kramer. “Sometimes they will benefit other organizations in Saint Augustine and Saint John’s County.” 

Most of the dogs in attendance were tuckered out before the end of the night, but the music kept the park’s energy up, along with the funds raised for the shelter.