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SUMMER RULES is a series where we ask people to share with us how they’re staying safe and sane during this very different summer season; from mask suggestions to soundtrack selections, we’ll take a peek into how others are making these challenging times work.

Today we’re touching base with Helene Theros, Co-Founder of Laiik – a DC-born and based footwear brand focused on thoughtfully designed, handcrafted leather sandals made in Greece. You can discover Laiik in-person this summer at the brand’s concept store located at 1900 Q Street NW; it’s a space designed to evoke the breezy feel of Aegean streets, and in addition to Laiik sandals, you’ll also find a collection of luxury goods from other young, up-and-coming designers and brands from Greece.

We’ll be speaking more with Theros about all of that soon, so stay tuned for the full scoop. In the meantime, check out her tips for staying grounded, including an incredible-sounding recipe for Greek stuffed tomatoes (and maybe a little ouzo for health):

How do you usually feel about summer, as a season overall, and how do you feel about THIS summer, by comparison?

I love all the seasons, but summer has always held a special place in my heart. It feels free, exciting and full of possibility. Growing up, my family and I would go to Greece every summer to see family and friends, and there really is nothing quite like a Greek summer – salty air, the sound of crickets, fresh food. Everything slows down and you really get to enjoy the simple things. The summers in Greece inspired me and my siblings to start our own footwear brand, called Laiik. Every trip to Greece began with the same ritual: buying leather sandals in Plaka, that would take us from the city to the beach and keep us going through the summer nights. We always carried a few pairs back as gifts for friends, who couldn’t get enough. And so, many, many years later, we decided to take the classic Greek sandal and reimagine it through our own eyes.

In contrast, this summer feels more surreal and a little less magical, if that makes sense. While it doesn’t feel as liberating, there is something nice about how people, even strangers, are more communicative and aware of each other’s existence! There seems to be more camaraderie in neighborhoods and other local settings.

What is your summer shaping up to look like?

So far, it’s been a bit of a blur, but I’m finally starting to settle into the season. March was the longest month in human history, but then April through June just flew by so. damn. fast. I do have high hopes for July! Usually we open our seasonal pop-up for the sandals in late March. Clearly, that was delayed this year, and we just opened up our store at the very end of June in Washington, D.C. Switching from lockdown to going into a shop every day has been quite a physical and psychological shift, but it’s been nice meeting and talking to new people, even if we all have our masks on and are standing six feet apart!

Is there anything in particular you’re actually looking forward to this summer?

Honestly, I’m looking forward to finally receiving our new sandal styles for the summer! They were supposed to arrive in April, but because the factories in Greece and the tanneries in Italy shut down at the end of February and early March, right in the middle of production, we are only just getting them next week. It’ll be a short season, but hopefully an exciting one!  Oh, and I REALLY need a pedicure.

What are some of your tips for staying safe and sane right now? 

It’s funny, I found it easier to stay safe AND sane at the beginning of lockdown. We all knew what to do, just stay home if we had the luxury to do so and only go out for essentials. Now that cities are opening up, we have to approach life assessing risk all the time. Is it safe to see my parents? Can I go meet friends outdoors? etc. In this new phase, we have to balance safety with sanity, and that can be tough! After reading many many articles on the subject, these are my tips for staying safe and sane: 

Take advantage of the warm weather, and see friends and family, but only do so outdoors. 

Don’t get caution fatigue! Remember to wear your mask and wash your hands. It’s the least we can do. 

Ride a bike. I don’t think I’ll be taking public transportation for a long time, so I’ve really gotten into bike riding. It’s a much more pleasant way to get around, and faster too. 

Keep your distance and avoid indoor activities. This is clearly nothing new, but it should always be said in case some forget. 

Go-to summer wellness practice advice? Any spots in particular that have been helping you on that front?

My go-to summer wellness practice? It’s been a mixture of connecting with people and staying physically active. Every Friday night, I’ve been playing poker on Zoom with my husband, sister and her family who are currently in London. And I try to do online yoga every other day, which is more ‘exercise’ than I did pre-Covid!

Where did you get your mask from? And what, aside from that, has been your more or less go-to summer uniform?

I’m still using surgical masks but am desperately trying to find a new mask that I like (who in 2019 thought this would ever be an accessory in 2020?!). There are a few I found that have cool Greek designs on them, like the evil eye or the classical Greek key. I just need to finally commit to buying them. Besides that, my summer uniform has been Laiik sandals (obviously), jeans which have recently morphed into jean shorts or a flowy skirt, and simple light tops. D.C. is hot and humid in the summer!

What (if anything) are you reading right now, and why do you recommend it? (Alternatively, just share a favorite book.)

A good friend of mine has read, I dunno, maybe 20 books so far during Covid. I’m trying to keep up, which means I’ve read two books so far and am looking for a third. I recently picked up The Castle by Franz Kafka, but I’m rethinking the timing of my choice 😉

Do you have a go-to summer hang-out recipe that still works for a socially distanced gathering? And/or just a favorite general summer recipe that’s still a go-to, even now?

So, the men in my family do most of the cooking. For this reason, I’m sharing my brother’s go-to summer recipe that I really love. We call it…

“Niko’s Amazing Greek Stuffed Tomatoes”

5 large tomatoes
1 lb ground meat (I prefer a 50-50 Beef and Pork Blend)
1 cup long-grain rice (rinse if not using parboiled rice)
1 medium onion finely diced.
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 cup white wine
Pinch of allspice (optional)
Pinch of oregano
1 Bay leaf
Salt & pepper
1 lemon
1 lb baking potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
1/2 cup of good olive oil

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Using a small paring knife, cut the tops of the tomato about 1/2 inch from the top, reserving the tops. With the same knife cut around the inside of the tomato, cutting the flesh away from the skin without breaking the skin. Using a spoon carefully spoon out the flesh out of the tomato, reserving the flesh for the blender / food processor.  Place the hollowed out tomatoes with their caps on a large baking dish. Transfer the tomato flesh to a blender and coarsely crush with the sugar and a generous pinch of salt and pepper.
  3.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat about 3 tbsp of olive oil and sauté onion until translucent, but not burning, about 5 minutes. Toss in the garlic, bay leaf, and allspice, and sauté for another two-three minutes until fragrant. Toss in ground beef to brown, breaking up large pieces with a wooden spoon, and stirring frequently, until no pink is visible. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Add tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock and white wine to the beef onion mixture, turning heat up to bring to a boil, about 3 minutes. Once at boil, turn down to medium low and add rice, stirring until well blended. Continue cooking for another 5-7 minutes until rice softens a little and half the liquid is reduced. The beef and rice mixture should be thick and silky when you take off the heat. Let cool for 5 minutes.
  5. Carefully spoon mixture into each of the 5 tomatoes, fill to the top. Pour 1 tsp olive oil into the top of each tomato and cover with tomato cap. Grease baking dish and place tomatoes in dish.
  6. Toss potato wedges with rest of olive oil, juice from lemon, oregano, salt and pepper. Place wedges in the spaces between the tomatoes on the baking dish.
  7. Place baking dish in oven and bake at 400 degrees for 60 minutes.  Check the tomatoes and potatoes after one hour. They should be soft and tender, with a fair amount of tomato water and oil pooled at the bottom.  If dry, add a little water to the bottom of dish, and bake for another 15 minutes.

Let cool 10 minutes and serve with your favorite side salad. Add good Greek or Bulgarian feta cheese for extra points.

What about a great summer cocktail or mocktail recipe?

Ouzo! It’s the Greek version of the anise-flavored liquor. My friend Devon, who isn’t Greek at all loves it…calls it a cocktail in a bottle. I take it with ice and a drop of water, which is anathema to my father who drinks it neat. Anyhow, it’s not much of a cocktail but it’s really refreshing in the summer, best drunk while eating Greek meze. 

What’s on your summer playlist this year, or are there three songs that are permanent summer favorites for you?

I’ve been listening to a lot of music this summer, especially while working from home. I would say my top three for this summer in particular are:

Stala by Greek singer Monika, makes you realise how beautiful the Greek language can be 🙂
Anna by Will Butler, perfect for bedroom dancing.
L’escalier by the Pirouettes, it just feels very summer-y.

Where do you wish you COULD GO this summer, if there were no restrictions or safety risks?

I would love to go back to Greece, preferably to this one tiny island in the Aegean Sea called Folegandros. It’s basically a rock in the middle of the Aegean with the most amazing martian-like landscape and a beautiful medieval town, and a small plateia in the centre where everybody gathers at night. It’s so small that you can rent a scooter or ATV and go around the island in less than an hour. But it has the most stunning vistas and so many hidden, secluded beaches.

And is there anywhere you’ve been safely going that you could recommend for people who live nearby? Any day trips or local spots worth mentioning, for example?

We’re pretty lucky in D.C. as we have a lot of greenery. Rock Creek Park is a favorite as it’s this massively wild park that snakes through the city with lots of different trails for running, biking, or hiking. You also have Great Falls nearby along the border of Virginia and Maryland. One of my favourites is the Billy Goat Trail – a 4.7-mile hiking trail that follows a path between the C&O Canal and the Potomac River near Great Falls in Montgomery County, Maryland. 

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The Dupont Concept Store is located at 1900 Q Street NW and is currently open from 11-4pm Tuesday to Friday, and 10-5pm on Saturdays and Sundays, with outdoor try-ons available when weather permits. You can also book a personal appointment by calling 202-660-1326, or emailing  [email protected]. See more at laiik.com and on Instagram at @lovelaiik.

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