Sunday, April 8, 2018

Greek Easter Summary/Reference (and Easter 2018)

Xristos Anesti!

Happy Easter! Last night was the most exciting night in all the Greek year; but we're in Bangkok.

This week, I've been looking back at my nearly-liveblog of Easter last year. I'd forgotten a lot of the events and symbolism. It was nice to have a reference. I've compiled it for you here, because I'm a kind person, who wants to be able to find this crap more easily next year.

Greek Easter Summary/Reference
(So I Can Find This Crap More Easily Next Year).
Holy Week Background
Thursday
Holy Thursday
Holy Thursday Update 1
Holy Thursday Update 2
Holy Thursday Update 3
Holy Thursday Update 4
Friday
Great Friday
Great Friday Update 1
Great Friday Update 2
Great Friday Update 3
Great Friday Update 4
Great Friday Update 5
Great Friday Update 6
Saturday
Great and Holy Saturday
Great and Holy Saturday Update 1
Great and Holy Saturday Update 2
Great and Holy Saturday Update 3
Great and Holy Saturday Update 4
Great and Holy Saturday Update 5
Great and Holy Saturday Update 6
Great and Holy Saturday Update 7
Sunday
Midnight Easter Sunday
Easter Sunday

Recipes
Tsoureki
Koulourakia

I appropriated some of Greece's things to celebrate Orthodox Easter in Thailand. I mostly did all right, for an American with no Greek heritage whose only ties to the country are a former two year residency as the wife of a foreign service officer, and a kid who isn't even an anchor baby, because Greece doesn't have jus soli citizenship the way some countries (USA) do.

Deep breath.

Here are our red eggs for the tsougrisma game. The Kid won this year. He's good at cracking other people's eggs. He's had a lot of practice.

Last year, I used a special packet of Greek dye for the eggs, because it was readily available, because I was in Greece. This year, I mixed 1tsp vinegar with 1/4c hot water, and a buuunch of red food coloring. I also used brown eggs, because that's what they sell. They turned out perfectly. Better than last year.

Here are our koulourakia cookies. I'd rather buy them from Eat Crete, but their online store is offline, and they weren't open when I was there in person. I'm very worried they might have gone out of business. It's kept me up at night.

I used THIS recipe, with the baking ammonia. These would be great with coffee. I don't like coffee.
I did not put enough orange zest in the dough. To compensate, I made a glaze from confectioners sugar and the zest/juice of an orange.

I was pleased with how store bought these looked in the takeaway containers. Almost like Eat Crete, if Eat Crete were open to give me cookies. I wash and hoard takeout containers for just such occasions. 

Here's the tsoureki. This is the second year I've made it, and the second time I've thought, "I really don't care for this." I keep thinking I'll just make challah next year, and call it good, but I convince myself that it has to be the real deal, mastic flavor and all. The Kid likes mastic. I posted an instagram about it the other day (good plug, right?). Mastic, or masticha, is tree sap. It's like eating a pine tree.

Year 2 of a botched tsoureki from THIS recipe. I make beautiful, six-strand braided challah loaves, but for some reason this three-strand thing is beyond my skill level. I blame the mastic. It's tree sap, for Pete's sake!

We added a little mainstream Easter to our morning. We missed it last week, due to E.coli, or whatever. The Kid got some cars from Aunt Kate, and just about died. He took them to nap with him. I could hear him in there saying, "How are you?!" to his cars, over and over again.

Bella on the egg trail.
It took The Kid a while to find the baskets. I thought they were pretty obvious, but the eggs turned out to be more of a red herring than anything. "Balls!" he yelled, and spent the next five minutes naming the colors. 

Here are my egg cutout cookies. Love them. That's a command, not a comment.
Phil's mom arrived late last night, just in time to celebrate with us today. Everyone is napping now, including the new cars. It's been a pretty nice Easter.

Right, Bella?

Χρόνια Πολλά!!

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Antibiotics and Lately

I think I started writing this post on Monday or Tuesday. I can't remember. This week is fog. Not foggy, just fog. It's not a bad fog, it's more like the fog over the ocean before sunrise, or the fog in a fairy forest. Good fog, but fog nonetheless. I'm rambling.

This ray gets it. 

Earlier this week:
I have to keep one eye on the timer while I type this. I'm making cupcakes.

Hi! How are you? We're doing fine now. Last week sucked. Two of us experienced bacterial gastroenteritis for the first time. I wouldn't recommend it. On the plus side, once the antibiotics kicked in, things improved rapidly. I don't know what I'll do if we reach global antibiotic resistance. Die, I guess.

During the course of our disease, I learned something new from the pediatrician. In the United States, approx. 90% of diarrhea cases are viral. In Thailand, 80% are bacterial. Most of those are caused by E.Coli. I've been reciting those statistics like scripture, because they're wild.

I suppose we should commend ourselves for avoiding bacti gastro in Thailand for seven months. But that's not why I made cupcakes today. I made cupcakes because we're celebrating antibiotics, and a belated mainstream Easter. Greek Easter is this coming Sunday, so we'll still have a chance to do a full Easter revel.

I did not keep an eye on the timer, and now my cupcakes are overdone. They're not burned, but I do blame you for making this happen. They taste fine, but the texture is weird. It's like eating a muffin. I wanted cupcakes. I spent the equivalent of $10 for a vanilla bean for cupcakes. I'm seething.

Cuffins. 


In no particular order, here is a list of things that have happened recently:

  • We went to a local beach. It was nice, but not "screensaver on my computer" nice.
  • We finally received our registration and license plates, so we are legal to drive. 
  • The CV joint on our car broke, so we can't drive.
  • The Kid independently said a full, clear sentence to Phil yesterday. It was, "No. The blue train goes like this." He's very particular about his vehicles. I'm asked to shampoo police truck every night.
  • Bella's become good friends with all of the ladies who work at the front desk. She frequently tries to go home with them.
  • One card--one--fell off the 2017 Christmas Card Challenge wall. All of the others, and the 2016 cards, are still clinging. The tape is actually getting stickier in the humidity. There's a chance they've become integral to the building's structure.
  • I started watching The Good Place, season 1.
  • I finished watching The Good Place, season 2.
  • There are a few more inexplicable black stains on our borrowed carpet. I know you think I'm naive for parenting a toddler, and referring to stains as inexplicable, but they are.
  • A fruit vendor almost shortchanged me 500 thb (about $15). Unclear whether it was intentional.
  • Terry and Kayla came to visit, because they love us better than any of our other friends.
  • I bought 3 orchids, 4 dangly green plants, one pink Dr. Seuss-looking thing, and however many bugs are living inside them.
  • Phil went to Laos for the first time. He ate at Church's Chicken.
  • The Kid and I used our aquarium pass twice. The octopus died while we were in Greece. The staff member never truly confirmed this, only nodded and smiled uncomfortably when confronted with suspicions about the "exhibit under reconstruction."
  • I finally installed the Windows 10 update. I've been "not now"ing since last year.
  • Our apartment is 85% put together. I expect to have it all done just before we pack up and move next year.

Since writing the above, one more card fell off the wall. This one was competing in the 2016 contest. It was so exciting. I was sitting right there when it happened. 

The rest of the week involved saying goodbye to Terry and Kayla, botching Greek Easter recipes, and getting ready for Phil's mom's arrival tonight. I'm going to take some photos of our Easter tomorrow, including the botched food, and show them to you. They will be shot in flattering lighting, from deceptive angles, and edited beautifully. You won't even know!

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Kui Buri National Park

Hello, and welcome back. I'm not writing that as if I'm saying it to you, I'm writing it as if you're saying it to me. Thank you. It's good to be home.

The jet lag didn't seem to be overwhelmingly terrible for me until last night, our fourth night at home. After hours of valiant attempt, I finally popped a Bendryl and slept for as long as I could. Phil and The Kid both had a banner night of sleep. Really excellent rest. Kudos to them.

When we last spoke, I told you briefly about our vacation last December. Here's more brevity on that subject. There are a few national parks near Sam Roi Yot district. This one, Kui Buri, is where you go if you want to see elephants in the wild.


People with a sense of adventure can hike and camp in the park. People with a toddler can pay to ride in the back of a truck through part of the park. It was an exciting drive, with stops at several elephant viewing areas.

There are elephants in that clearing. Can you see them?

There they are!

Closer, elephants! Closer!

To be perfectly candid, I'd hoped the elephants would be walking alongside the trucks, and forming deep and meaningful bonds with me. In hindsight, that sounds a little bit unreasonable. I guess it's a possibility (the proximity part, not the friendship), but maybe not a likely one.

It was still worth it. We saw a few elephants much closer than these, and we also saw a gaur, which is like a big, wild cow. Gaur are listed as a vulnerable species. They're native to this area, and are the tallest of the wild cattle species. Kui Buri is one of the best places to see them.

I didn't get a photo of the gaur. Here's one of the truck in front of us, instead.

I'm glad we got to see some animals, but I would have been happy with the trip, regardless. It was nice to be in big, beautiful, open space. Thailand has 127 national parks. I hope we get to see a lot of them.


Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Sam Roi Yot District

We took a vacation. We took the vacation in December. We took this vacation before we had a dog sitter, so Bella came with us. It was a full family affair.

Phil found an Airbnb beach house in the Sam Roi Yot district of Thailand. It's southwest of Bangkok, close to Myanmar, and on the Gulf of Thailand. We had a great time exploring the nearby national parks, but you have to wait to see those.

This is just the other stuff we saw in the area.

Beach!

Beach in December!


The road where we stayed. 

Dusk at the beach.  

Dog in the wind at the beach.

That bird hung out with that cow all day. It flew away as soon as I tried to document their friendship. 

Cool temple by the mountains.

Awful monkeys by the side of the road. These are macaques. They are native to Thailand. They are carriers of herpes B. Don't touch the awful monkeys.  

Another cool temple off the side of the road. 

This is how I pictured Thailand before I came. Isn't this how you picture it? Yes, Virginia, there is a Thailand that looks like this. 

When we returned to Bangkok, multiple different people told us that this is their favorite place in Thailand. We high-fived ourselves for nailing it on the first intra country vacation (though Phil gets all the credit). 

It's beautiful, and interesting. It has tourist infrastructure, but isn't overrun by visitors. It was delightful.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

What the Wat: Wat Arun and Wat Po

A while ago, we took a water taxi up the Chao Phraya river to see Wat Arun and Wat Po. These are two very famous Bangkok temples, and I'm almost certain you've heard of the former, and seen something of the latter.

We boarded our water taxi from one of the main piers. There are water taxis with blue flags, which specifically cater to tourists, and there are boats with orange flags, which cater to locals and cheap tourists. I've used both, and I preferred the kid glove treatment they gave us on the blue flag boat. We were also able to find a seat on the blue flag.

This was our orange flag water taxi. I had to edit the life out of this photo so you could see some of the water in the background. The low exposure gives it a claustrophobic feel, which is exactly what it felt like in real life. 

The first temple we toured was Wat Arun, or Temple of Dawn. Wat Arun is one of the most famous Buddhist temples in Thailand. It's been around in one form or another from at least the 1600s. Over the years, structures have been added, repainted, remodeled, and refinished.

The design of Wat Arun has a lot of Buddhist and Hindu symbolism which we won't delve into here, because I don't know it, and I'm writing from the inconvenience of a small phone's touchscreen keyboard. I will tell you that its name comes from the Hindu god Aruna, who, Wikipedia tells me, is personified by rays of a rising sun; and that one reason for that particular name may be that the temple is supposed to look especially gorgeous in the morning.

We were there during a cloudy forenoon, but it was still very pretty. 




It's a bit hard to see in photos, but the sides of the temple are decorated in bits of porcelain and pottery, some of which was apparently used back in the day as ballast for Chinese ships. 






Wat Arun is on the opposite bank of the river from the other main sights. Its pier is one of the regular routed stops for the water taxis, so that's how we reached it. Another way is to take the very inexpensive ferry from the opposite shore. It shuttles back and forth during the day, and deposits passengers right by the Grand Palace and Wat Po. We took this ferry to go see the Reclining Buddha.

The Buddha's pose represents his entry to Nirvana, so says my lackadaisical to the point of nonexistent research. 

The Reclining Buddha is the most famous resident of Wat Po, though the temple is home to over a thousand others. After the fall of Ayutthaya, King Rama I ordered the recovery of Buddha images that were left behind. They are on display at Wat Po, along with images from other places in Thailand.

The temple compound is large. Rama I built the temple on an existing site, and its been expanded since his reign. It was the first university in Thailand, and is considered the birthplace of Thai massage. Thai medicine and massage are still taught at Wat Po. Ashes of Rama I were interred here under one of the images of Buddha. There is a lot to see, but most people (including us) come for the Reclining Buddha.

You can purchase a cup full of coins, and deposit one in each of these...buckets...cauldrons...the word is escaping me. Doing so is supposed to bring you fortune, and it also helps fund the upkeep of the temple.

We wandered around a bit on the compound, but it was lunchtime, and we were all grouchy.






At the time, I thought this lion looked really similar to the one on Kea in Greece. Phil didn't think so. I double checked, and now I think he's right. See HERE.

Our whole trip took about three hours, door to door, which means I could probably be convinced to do it again if you come visit. Maybe.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Nai Lert Flower Show

The Kid and I are on holiday. Phil had to work. He's at a training outside of Thailand. We decided to fly with him, and visit some friends. Three guesses where we are now...

Before we left home, I quickly threw together a few draft posts with all of the things I've been wanting to tell you about since October. I didn't have time to finish and schedule them, so I'm playing catch up during our trip with my phone. There's a good chance the formatting will turn out wonky, but I think we're all mature enough to deal with it. 

One of the perks of living in a big city is that there's always something happening. There seems to be a festival or two every weekend. A lot of times, we stumble into these things on our way to something else. The Nai Lert Flower Show was a rare exception--I heard about it a day in advance from a friend.

I've never been to a flower show, so I can't speak with any authority, but I think this one was pretty much like every other flower show. Entrants competed in different design categories. They had plant-themed vendors (lots of soap), and floral-themed food (burgers?). They also had floral design classes that were pretty expensive, but looked wonderful.






I can't remember the specific names of the categories, so I'll make them up as I go. This next photo was an entrant in the "Garden" category. It didn't win, but it was my favorite. I waited my turn to take a photo, but these folks seized my opportunity. I decided to include them in the shot, not to shame them, but because I wasn't going to wait any longer. 


These next photos are from the "Wedding" category. A word of warning if you get creeped out by photos of holes (What's that called? T-something-phobia? I could Google it, but I'd have to tap open a whole new tab), there's a photo of lotus below.







This next photo is of a stilt walker. I liked the way they looked.


These designs were part of what we'll call the "Floral Sculpture" category.








We had a great time looking at all of the arrangements, and I just realized that this show is probably what prompted me to buy another hibiscus. I'm up to three now, and thinking about adding orchids. It's madness, especially since I abandoned my garden for a vacation in the midst of another hibiscus leaf die-off. A talented floral arranger, I am not. Maybe I should leave flowers to the professionals.