Monday, April 24, 2017

Thessaloniki and Mount Olympos

After an intensive Easter weekend, I had a lovely week-long vacation from blogging. Thank you for giving me time off. As a reward, here are long-promised photos from our trip to Thessaloniki.



We flew to Thessaloniki at the beginning of April, during the same weekend as the 12th International Marathon Alexander the Great. Almost everything was booked. We stayed in an Airbnb apartment fairly close to the waterfront. It was described as vintage, but it was actually just old with a few antiqued focal pieces in each room. The master bedroom showcased an old foot-powered sewing machine. It wasn't awful, but the walls were the thinnest of paper-thin. I'm sure the neighbors were as happy to get rid of us, as we were to be rid of them. 

Phil and I were sick with colds, and The Kid determined that he wasn't capable of sleeping in a room by himself. I didn't think we were going to survive. We did, and we mostly enjoyed our trip.

Thessaloniki has always been a strategically important city in Greece. Today, it ranks second only to Athens. It is the capital of Macedonia, the administrative region in northern Greece (not to be confused with Macedonia, the country, which we are all actually supposed to call "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia" or FYROM, for short). Macedonia was the old stomping grounds for King Philip II, and his son, Alexander. Consequently, the souvenirs heavily feature those dudes.

Statue of Alexander on the Thessaloniki waterfront.
Philip was born into royalty. When he took the throne, Greece was segmented into different states. Through diplomacy, and a whole bunch of war, he was able to create a federation and consolidate power in Macedonia. He had bigger designs, but was assassinated one night while walking into a theatre. 

Statue of Philippos, King of Macedon. 

At age 20, Philip's son, Alexander, became king. Alexander had a talent for brutality, and was a skilled military commander. As a kid, he was tutored by Aristotle. While his greatest talent may have been his skill as a military leader, his greatest asset was his genius for crafting public opinion. The guy was a PR master. Alexander created a god-like image for himself. Through his military prowess, he conquered an enormous stretch of land. He founded at least twenty cities, naming them after himself, including the city of Alexandria in Egypt. He died at age 32, having amassed an astounding empire, and a pretty cool moniker. Today, we all know him as Alexander the Great.



The Greeks like to say that Philip conquered Greece, and Alexander conquered the world. After Alexander's death, however, the empire began to splinter. His death created a power vacuum, which was filled by competing leaders who lacked Alexander's abilities. The Macedon federation fell apart, and Greece never regained the level of power it had during Alexander's reign. Despite that, both men are held in high regard. It's common to name a son after Alexander if his father's name is Philip.

Phil and I were able to visit King Philip's tomb near Vergina, about an hour-ish drive from Thessaloniki. It is opulent. Photography is prohibited inside the exhibit, which is a huge bummer. The museum topped Corinth as my favorite in Greece. It's well-designed, and frankly flooring to see the amount of wealth this family possessed, particularly when you consider that the huge piles of silver and gold in the museum were things they chucked into a burial tomb.

During this trip, Phil and I were also able to drive to Mount Olympos, the home of the Gods. I don't have much to say about this. Most of the time, I was hanging out the window, yelling, "WOW! PHIL!"






We ate lunch in a town near the base, then drove through the national park to one of the trailheads. We each took a turn exploring the trail for five minutes while the other stayed behind with the car and the sleeping baby.

This trail looks doable, but it's a lure and a lie.

I love this trail sign.

The point of this post was to write about Thessaloniki, so I guess I'd better do some of that. In looks, Thessaloniki easily tops Athens. The city is much cleaner, and much more walkable. The architecture is determinedly Greek, but the layout feels more similar to other places in Europe. It's a different vibe than Athens. 


The White Tower. A famous old thing on the waterfront.
Thessaloniki is part college-town, part tourist destination, part bougatsa mecca. Bougatsa is a pastry made with flaky filo dough, and stuffed with sweet or savory fillings. My favorite version has a rich, sweet, semolina custard filling.

Buying bougatsa.
I debated whether to show you this next photo, or not. It's a really ugly photo of food, and I almost think it's better to leave bougatsa to your imagination than to show you this. I'll let you decide for yourself.

Horrible photo of wonderful bougatsa with semolina custard filling, and cinnamon/powdered sugar sprinkled on top.


There are a lot of old Byzantine sites in Thessaloniki. We didn't hit many on this trip, because we were sick, and wanted to see gold and mountains instead. The sites aren't too far from the waterfront. Like I said before, if you were paying attention for once in your g...no, be calm, the city is really walkable.

One of my favorite things about Thessaloniki was the street art. A few years ago, I had to write a huge seminar paper about a very specific aspect of copyright law as it relates to art. I chose to focus on fair use and street art. I did a phenomenal job, and I can't remember any of it; but out of that experience, I developed a slightly-more-than-passing interest in street art. Thessaloniki is full of it.











I wasn't able to see everything there is to see in Thessaloniki, but that's going to end up being true for the majority of this incredible country. At least I ate the bougatsa. 



Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sunday

Wow. Well, let's go back to Great and Holy Saturday for a moment. I decided to run downstairs with my candle to watch the Holy Fire spread. 

The street was packed to my left and my right. Only that space on the stairs was clear. All of the lights in the church were shut off. The doors were closed so I couldn't see inside.

The lights were turned on, and people started trickling out with the Holy Fire. Here's the first person to come down the stairs with it:


It spread really quickly. I lit my candle from a candle held by the gentleman in front of me, then turned around and passed the flame to a gentleman behind me. It was really cool to share that with a bunch of strangers. 

The Holy Fire spread quickly. I took this photo about a minute and a half after that woman came down the steps.
I ran back inside to the balcony so I could capture the transition from Great and Holy Saturday to Easter Sunday. 




I look a little demonic here. It's the glasses, I hope.
The faithful moved back inside the church, while the tired and hungry went home to break their fast with a feast. During their feast, they'll play a game called tsougrisma, and eat slices of tsoureki. We're definitely picking and choosing our Greek Easter traditions. We did not fast, and we will not be staying up late to eat lamb entrail soup. We did decide to try the game and the bread.

Tsougrisma is the egg-cracking game. Those beautiful red eggs that I dyed on Thursday represent Christ's tomb. Cracking them is a symbol of Christ's resurrection, the "breaking of the tomb." The goal of the game is to crack your opponents' eggs without cracking yours. The winner is said to have good luck for the rest of the year. 




Tsoureki is that braided bread I made on Thursday, with orange, tree sap, and cherry seed flavoring. It probably tastes better when you've been fasting, but it surprisingly did not taste as bad as I'd anticipated.



I'm typing this from the kitchen table. My laptop is sitting between the flames from our Holy Fire. I can't believe I've just experienced my last Greek Easter for a while. There are so many things I love about this country. I never imagined I'd love it, and its people, the way that I do now. I'm dreading the moment that we'll board a plane and fly away from our friends and neighbors. As a Christian, what makes Christ's resurrection so important to me is that no goodbye is permanent.

He is Risen.
Happy Easter.

Χριστός ἀνέστη! Christ is Risen!

Ἀληθῶς ἀνέστη! Truly He is Risen!



Great and Holy Saturday Update 7

People are spilling out of the church. The oldies were there half an hour ago, and everyone else is showing up now. 


Great and Holy Saturday Update 6

It's starting! You can hear bells across the city calling people to church.


Great and Holy Saturday Update 5

Blurry creep shots.

In an hour, this will be crammed with people.

Here's the set up on the side of the church.

Great and Holy Saturday Update 4

Continuing my streak of being wrong about everything, tonight is NOT going to be a long night of church. I'd forgotten what happened last year. The church stayed open, and nothing happened for a long, long time, and then everyone arrived all at once. We're still in the nothing phase, though I did hear a raucous group of males in the park, and someone was playing the Dracula organ song. Maybe they were just enjoying some Bach.

This is like New Years. I'm so excited.

Great and Holy Saturday Update 3

I just took my dog outside to pee, and I saw some things. First, I noticed that the ribbons inside the church are red now, instead of purple. I also noticed that every door is open, and every light is on. Around the side of the church, just outside the altar room, is an elaborate set up on the stairs, with banners, purple flowers, gold staffs, and a podium with a gold eagle on it. I'm guessing that's where the priest announces Christ's resurrection. On the nearby basketball court, I could hear the dudes setting up the fireworks. Other than that, it's still very, very quiet. People haven't started arriving yet.

Great and Holy Saturday Update 2

One minute after I left the room, Phil came to tell me that they'd turned on the lights, and opened the church. Wheeeee.

Great and Holy Saturday Update 1

It has been quiet all afternoon. The church has been empty and closed since about 2pm. It's 8:30pm, and no signs of movement, except for the candle sellers on the street corners.

It was so nice to be outside this afternoon. Very few people were on the road, and we didn't run into anyone during our walk. The weather was fantastic. It was probably around 80° and sunny.

The Kid has been sick today. Phil had a headache earlier. Hope we can all hang in there until midnight. Actually, The Kid is going to bed now whether he likes it or not, so it's just the rest of us who have to hang in there.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Great and Holy Saturday

Good Morning-ish! Today's the big day. Well, technically tomorrow is the big day, but it started this morning in Jerusalem. The Patriarch emerged from Jesus' tomb with the Holy Fire, said to spontaneously ignite from the Holy Sepulchre. From his candles, other candles are lit, and the Holy Fire spreads. The flames are taken via airplane and helicopter to every part of Greece, where local Priests are on hand to return to their churches with the flame. Tonight, the Holy Fire will pass from these clergymen to their congregants. After Christ's resurrection is announced, people will take their candles home, and make the sign of the cross above the door in smoke.

View of the Ranunculus in my jug this morning.

It's a long church service tonight. [UPDATE: it wasn't that long after all.] It's exciting to see the Holy Fire spread, and to hear the priest yell, "Χριστός ἀνέστη!" As Christ's resurrection is announced, church bells peal, ship horns blast, and fireworks explode. It's noisy, and cool. 

This morning, people attended a service at church. It was nothing close to the crowd that attended last night, and most attendees were older. This afternoon, the church is mostly empty. There are a few people popping in and out. The priests and the church mom are busy getting things ready.


It's quiet now..,

I have to apologize again for spreading misinformation. I thought I was told that everything would be closed this weekend, but that's just not true. We saw multiple grocery stores, bakeries, and coffee shops open for business. The archaeological sites are open, too, though with shorter hours. We just returned from the Byzantine and Christian Museum, which was pretty dead apart from a handful of tourists. We stopped for bougatsa, and a potato pastry. 



This is a view of Aristotle's Lyceum, which we have still never seen from the other side of the fence. We got closer today. We finally found the entrance. We also found out that a standalone ticket for this place is 4 euros during the summer season, which started on April 1. I have a hard time believing it's worth it. 



This tree looked Seussian. It looked and felt like pom poms. This is the garden outside the Byzantine and Christian Museum. It's a really pretty spot. 

On the streets, the locals are doling out "Kalo Pascha" greetings like candy. They're also doling out candy like candy, though that only happened because we stopped to talk with a yiayia who loved The Kid, and happened to have a few candies in her bag. 

I'm still trying to learn the symbolism of the door knocking last night. The woman at the museum said it represents the death of Christ. I think there's probably more detail than that, but I'm not sure if she was able to translate it into English. It was another instance where I wished I could understand Greek. 

We'll sort of be taking it easy this afternoon. As always, I'll let you know if I see anything, or make any more mistakes.

Great Friday Update 5

The end of the procession was noteworthy, I'm just not sure exactly what it was. If one of you know what the symbolism is, I'd love to hear from you.

It took about an hour for the procession to return to the church. I don't know their full route, and I kind of wish I had stuck it out so I could tell you. I am really glad I was able to watch the end of it from our balcony.

Here's what happened (recorded below):

This first video shows the cross being carried up the stairs, followed by the bier. The church's sound system was malfunctioning a bit, but you could easily hear what the guys carrying the bier were saying. I can't translate for you, but it's probably similar to what people everywhere say when they're carrying something large, heavy, and precious as a group.



This second video was started about a minute after the first ended. The bier is at the top of the stairs in front of the church doors. The outside lights were shut off, so the whole church was in darkness. This is the part of the service that I can't explain to you yet. One of the priests was yelling, and another was responding. Then, as the first priest was yelling, he started pounding on the door. They went back and forth for a bit, then the doors were flung open, and the lights turned on. I'm having a hard time finding the symbolism behind the knocking and opening of the doors. I could conjecture, but I'd probably be wrong. I'll do more research tomorrow, but, again, if you know and can tell me, please do.



After the doors were flung open, the people walked into the front doors of the church underneath the bier, and then exited through the side door. I know the symbolism of this--it represents entering the tomb with Christ. Everything is quiet now. The bier is inside the church again, in the same place as this morning. Only a few people are still milling around.

Tomorrow will be less eventful during the day. Phil and I have to attend a function for our actual church, but will be home in time for the big celebration. I'll be sure to keep you updated.

Until tomorrow.

Great Friday Update 4


The procession is still going on. I only walked partway, so I could come home and try to catch it from above. I bought my candle from one of the street vendors because I wanted to save our other ones for tomorrow. I lit my candle with the flame from a little girl's candle. I don't know if that's how you're supposed to do it--politely shoving your candle into someone else's--but that's what I did. We walked down the middle of the road, which had been strewn with rose petals.

I can hear fireworks going off in the distance. I guess people couldn't wait until tomorrow.

The bells are still mourning.

It was hard to take photos in the dark without being obvious. Other people were using flash, but they can speak Greek, understand local customs, and are actually Greek Orthodox. You're stuck with my grainy creep shots.

That thing just right of center is the cross. 

That thing coming down the stairs in the middle is the decorated bier. 
This wasn't a significantly moving experience for me. It was cool to do, but it felt more like a family gathering for people I've never seen in my life. It was a much more jubilant affair than I'd been led to believe. People kept running into friends, and greeting them expressively. Walking in the procession itself also wasn't life-changing. A few people were smoking, and a lot were talking on their cell phones. I was pretty far back in the group. Maybe if you're closer to the priests it's more reverent.

The church is dark now, except for the outside lights. I'm watching for the procession to return to see what happens. If it's anything noteworthy, I'll let you know.

Great Friday Update 4

The bells changed around 7pm, calling people to church. Services are going on now. They are singing hymns, which I'm 100% sure has happened before, but it's the first time I've noticed. People are cramming their way into the church. The older folks arrived earlier, on time, probably. Just waiting for the procession, now.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Great Friday Update 3

Phil, Bella, The Kid, and I just returned from the mountains, where we took a short hike, and saw five tortoises. On our way back, we passed two major grocery stores that were open, so I feel like someone lied to me.






Right after we got home, I popped over to the church to see what was going on there. The ribbons are still purple. The internet said they would be black. I don't know what to believe anymore. The Christ icon has been taken from the cross, and a huge bier is now sitting in the front of the church. It's decorated beautifully with flowers, none of which are fake. I don't think any were stuck there by visitors. 

It was quiet when I went. Only three other people were inside the church with me, one of whom was the caretaker. I don't know what her exact role within the church is, but she is there constantly--cleaning, decorating, organizing, etc. In my head, she's the church mom, but I'd love to know who she actually is.  

The bells are still mourning, as people trickle in and out to pay their respects. The street vendors are setting up around the block. They'll sell candles for the procession tonight. I need to charge my camera, and figure out what we're having for dinner.

Great Friday Update 2

The mourning bells at the church across the street started about fifteen minutes ago. One minute ago, the priest stopped speaking, and now it's silent except for the bells. 


Great Friday Update 1

This is what it's like to be outside this morning:


Here's a pretty poppy from our walk:



As an aside from the Easter stuff, it is really warm outside. It's in the upper 70s (°F) for sure, but I wonder if we'll hit 80° today. I just learned how to type the degree symbol, and am really pleased with myself. I told Phil, and he said, unimpressed, "Yeah. Unicode." I didn't get enough STEM in school. 

Good/Great Friday

Good Morning! We all slept well, and we're ready for Day 2 of blogging Greece Easter.

Overnight, my dad emailed to correct my fairly massive mistake from yesterday. In my excitement for tree sap, I forgot a few critical parts of the Easter story, namely: the Last Supper, the washing of the feet, the agony in the garden, and the betrayal of Jesus. Major, major plot points.

Yesterday was actually an observance of those four things, rather than Christ's crucifixion and death, which will occur during this morning's liturgy. I'll go back in time with my editor tool, and correct yesterday's posts.

The church last night. If you look inside the door, you can see the Christ icon's golden halo in the upper left. 

Today is Good Friday, or Great Friday, if you're Greek. Today is a day of mourning in Greece. An account of Christ's crucifixion will be read in the morning, some of which was read last night. Later in the day, the icon of Christ will be taken off the cross. Tonight will be his funeral procession.

Those purple ribbons that decorated the church last night will be replaced with black ribbons. The priest will wear black instead of purple, as will a lot of the congregants. Those mourning bells that we heard last night will start up again in a few hours when Jesus dies.

The thing about the Easter celebrations here is that it feels really participatory. It's almost like you're experiencing that week yourself, rather than just reading about it. As a Christian, it's moving.

On a secular note, I'm in two minds about whether Easter is a good time to visit Greece as a tourist, or not. On the one hand, this is Greece's holiday. It's huge, and it's countrywide, and it highlights a lot of the culture in Greece. On the other hand, a lot of things are closed. The islands are crowded, and it's hard to know what's going on if you aren't navigating the country like a local. If you have time, and a good guide, then Easter is a really beautiful time to be in Greece. [UPDATE: More things are open that I thought, though on reduced hours. This might actually be a great time to come to Greece.]

The Kid is awake. The day has begun.

Holy Thursday Update 4

I just got back from church. Phil was teasing me about how in the two years I've lived across the street from it, I've never been inside, and that goaded me into action. Why do I only do things when dared? Let's analyze that later.

The interior design of the church is relatively simple, compared to other Orthodox churches I've visited. Most of the walls, and the inner part of the domes (which Google tells me are called intrados), are plain white. The iconostasis, which screens the altar, is big and gold, and so are the icons. There were royal purple ribbons draped around the church, in honor of Lent, and the Christ effigy was at the very front. I couldn't tell if people were already leaving flowers with it. My hunch is that they were, but I was in the back, and I'm short, so I have no visual confirmation of this.

The effigy was a wooden cross with gold embellishments. At the top of the cross were the letters "INRI." These letters stand for the latin phrase that was written over Jesus: "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews." I am leaning heavily on Google tonight.

An icon of Christ hung on the cross. There were two big, lit candles affixed at the extreme of each arm of the cross. I arrived in the middle of a full-blown liturgy. I didn't understand any of it, but it was nice to be there. There were chairs set up to accommodate a good number of people, but there were a lot of us standing, too. Occasionally, the people in the chairs would stand up for a part of the service. At one point, everyone stood, and the father was clearly reading a prayer. When he finished, I decided to leave. As of fifteen minutes ago, when I started writing this post, the liturgy was still going.

I'm heading to bed now. I have a cold, and the smell of tree sap, stuck in my head. Tomorrow, I'll try to go back to church before they hold the Good Friday liturgy, and see the effigy covered in flowers. If there are other fake ones, maybe I'll leave our wreath.

Goodnight.


Holy Thursday Update 3

The lights in the church were turned off, and the mourning bells have begun. They'll ring for a while tonight, but not all night thankfully, and start up again tomorrow morning.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Holy Thursday Update 2

The tsoureki is out of the oven.


I've decided to call this "Jesus is risen..." bread, which is short for, "Jesus is risen...an hour earlier than the recipe said so this behemoth is a result of letting the bread rise too much" bread.

Seriously, look at this thing. The two loaves melded to form one giant thing.

The egg is for scale. I didn't stick it in the braid when I shaped the bread because it's a decorative thing, and I wanted to save my eggs.
As you can see, I took a big gash from the loaf on the right to make sure it was done on the inside. Somehow, despite the size, it was. Preliminary tests suggest that this bread tastes like tree sap, and orange zest.

Between this update, and the last, Phil returned from a work trip. He's watching The Kid, which is a relief because it means I'm free to work on my stories. That's the term Phil uses to describe the shows I watch on Netflix.

I'm keeping an eye on the church. If I can stay awake, I'll check out the interior later tonight.

Holy Thursday Update 1

The church bells are ringing. People are starting to arrive. The bells this week are unique from every other time of year. I wanted to record them for you, but it happened too fast. It was like, bum BAM bum bum bum BAM bum bum bum BAM bum BAM bum BAM bum bum.

I'm about to brush the tsoureki loaves with the glaze, and stick them in the oven. My child just pulled a bulletin board off the wall, and threw up. Things are happening.

Holy Thursday

Today is Holy Thursday in Greece. All week, people have been going to nightly church, but tonight is the first big church night. Holy Thursday is a commemoration of the Last Supper, the washing of the feet, the agony in the garden, and the betrayal by Judas. Many of you are familiar with the story, but for you horrifying atheists (I'm kidding, be what you want to be), I'll summarize.

Jesus Christ is regarded by Christians as the literal son of God. He was sent to Earth to live and die like the rest of us. His death was an atonement for the sins of man, which would allow them to be pure enough to return to God's presence. Easter is a recognition of his sacrifice, and a celebration of his resurrection.

In historical record, Jesus Christ was born into a Jewish family, attained a large religious following, established his own church, and irritated local officials to the point that they found cause to execute him by crucifixion.

According to Christian theology, after Christ had been dead and buried for three days, he rose from the dead and was resurrected, providing mankind the opportunity to do the same. The story of Christ's resurrection is the foundation for the Christian belief of life after death, eternal life, heaven, and all of those related concepts.

At Orthodox churches across the country, effigies of Christ will be hung on crucifixes this evening. Worshippers will attend a solemn service, with this as a focal point. The service will include readings from scriptural accounts of Christ's institution of Eucharist, or Sacrament, during the Last Supper. It will also cover the washing of the disciples' feet, which Jesus performed as a type of humility and service. The mournfulness of the evening comes from the accounts of Christ's agony in the garden, during which he was said to have taken upon the sins of all mankind, and his betrayal by Judas to the local authorities. The service is long. After the service, and throughout the night, the churches will be open for people to pay homage and decorate the crucifixes with flowers.

On the homefront, today is the last day the stores will be open. Starting tomorrow, everything will be closed. In tourist areas, there will be a few, scattered tavernas that will be open, but most locals will be attending church, and celebrating with their families. [UPDATE: This has turned out not to be true. Most of the major grocery stores are open, possibly on reduced hours. Some bakeries and coffee shops are open, too. Archaeological sites and museums are open with shorter hours.]

Accordingly, I went nuts shopping this week. I hit the grocery store on Tuesday morning, and bought more milk than humanly possible to drink in four days. I ordered a bunch of meat, and today I went to laiki.

My fruit guy gave The Kid his weekly free banana, and also threw in a pineapple for me. He was very excited today to tell me, in broken English mixed with Greek, that his kids are coming home tomorrow to celebrate Easter in Greece. God bless that man. I hope he and his family have a beautiful Easter. 

I've also been buying supplies to help us observe Greek Easter.

Candles for the Good Friday procession, and for the Holy Fire on Saturday night; eggs and dye for today, mastic and mahleb for today, and a wreath either for the crucifix effigy, or for our door. I'm not sure which. I did see boxes of real flowers arrive at the church, so maybe these fake ones won't be welcome. 

Holy Thursday is the traditional day for dying those blindingly red Greek Easter eggs you've undoubtedly seen at some point in your life. The red dye represents the blood of Christ. The eggs are hard boiled and dyed today, then saved for a game during the feast on Easter Sunday. More on that game later.


This whole time that I've been typing, I've also been dying eggs. I was pretty nervous that they weren't going to turn out, but guess what:


I stained my hands. 

The mastic and mahleb that I bought are ingredients for an Easter bread, called tsoureki (τσουρέκι), that is traditionally made on Holy Thursday. [UPDATE: Or is it? Some references are telling me that Friday is the big baking day.] It's a fluffy, braided bread, weighed down by symbolism. The three strands that form the braid represent the trinity. The red egg stuck in the end represents the blood of Christ. The shine from the egg wash represents the light of Christ.

Ground mahleb (on the left), and mastic.
I was still debating whether I'd try to make the bread this year, when I ran across a local at the Embassy who suggested that it might be beyond my skill. The bread is currently in its final rise on the counter behind me. I'm curious to see whether I like it, or not. Mastic is made from tree sap, and it tastes like it. Mahleb is made from the seeds of cherries. The other main flavor comes from orange zest. It smells amazing, but we'll see.

It's hard to pass up the opportunity to try a local dish when I can get the ingredients so easily. Most of the recipes I read were written for non-Greece-dwelling audiences, and suggested online retailers for obtaining the spices. I walked to the regular grocery store down the street, and found exactly what I needed. I hope I hate the bread, then I won't have to worry about hunting down ingredients in the future. Or maybe I should lay in a supply now.

This is the mastic up close. I had to grind it for the recipe. It smells exactly like sap, because it is sap.

In case the tsoureki doesn't turn out, I went to the bakery and got some backup carbs.



I'll update you later, when the bread is done, and when I know what's happening at church. In the meantime, here's a bird's egg I found on the ground this morning. I picked it up to show it to my kid, then realized that he doesn't care. You probably don't either, but here it is anyway.