Greece: First Things First

welcome to Greece

This has been a hard post for us to write.

Allison and I have actually put more energy into discussing it than is probably necessary for something as inconsequential as a blog post. But we returned from Greece back in June, and it’s now August. As you continue reading, I think it’ll be come more clear why we’ve been dragging our feet, and why it’s been so hard to know where to start.

We have both felt like writing only about the fun, wonderful, beautiful experiences we had there, and we’ve been excited to show off the glamour shots from adventures – to dish out a healthy helping of wanderlust and fool you into thinking we live a life of luxury and excitement. It would be more comfortable to just skip over the variety of difficult, unpleasant, and frustrating experiences that we had, and leave out those things that left a bad taste in our mouth. But that wouldn’t be very genuine. Our time spent living in Greece was certainly bittersweet, and our story wouldn’t be complete without mentioning those things that often dampened our experience.

In the coming posts, we’re eager to share some photos and stories that we think are pretty great. Before getting to all the good stuff, it feels like maybe we should get some of this out of the way.



While Allison and I agree on most of this, I shouldn’t speak for Allison. For me, I can say that Greece was two things – two very different things – both simultaneously true. Maybe “magical and disappointing.” Maybe “inspiring and discouraging.” It’s hard to articulate. It might best be summarized:

•  I’m so grateful that we got to live there for a short time.
•  I can’t imagine ever wanting to go back.

In other words, it was wonderfully shabby. And that’s the hard part. I would never complain about having gone there. What an incredible privilege! For much of my life, I’ve been intrigued with Greece, its mythology, its warriors, and its place in history. Seeing places like Corinth, Sparta, and even a serendipitous highway detour past the “Hot Gates” of Thermopylae . . . my warrior-worshiping inner-geek was thrilled. The island of Skiathos and the mountains and vistas in the Peloponnese peninsula were spectacular. I’m so glad we were able to go – and not just as tourists for a week or two, but to experience life there for just over two months. I’ll be forever grateful for the way opportunities and generosity all came together with the timing of a complex series of metaphysical gears and cogs, all moving into place and presenting us with a 3-month window of time to take this adventure when we did.



It seemed that even the things we loved most were often out of balance, the positives being offset by somewhat heavier negatives . . . .

The Aegean Sea was crystal clear, calm, and incredibly blue; and the beaches were rocky, polluted by trash and noise, the pigeons were relentless, and the jellyfish-inhabited waters were frigid.

The gyros and roasted lamb were delicious and pleasantly superior to their U.S. versions; and the rest of the traditional food we were exposed to was so overwhelmingly heavy on oil and cinnamon that we had to avoid nearly all of it.

The ancient ruins were truly awesome and so rich with history; and they were overgrown with weeds, littered with trash, and – in places – tagged with graffiti.

The quaint neighborhoods and narrow streets were lined with orange trees; and with few exceptions, there was graffiti on nearly every surface within arm’s reach.

The people were quite a mix. There were a small handful of people so incredibly generous and kind that we’ll always remember them; and just about everyone we encountered seemed entitled, dramatic, and quite passive aggressive. The work ethic there seemed abysmal, and without fail, everyone we encountered who spoke to us about the economic crisis was angry that their government wasn’t providing them with more; more retirement money, more social programs, more jobs. More more more. From my point of view, that’s exactly the mentality that resulted in the crisis they were experiencing, so it was pretty disappointing to witness first hand.

Whether it was the graffiti, the run down buildings, the posters promoting riots and violent revolution, or the dress code of sloppy sweatpants (everywhere!), Athens gave off a shoulder-shrugging vibe of a city having completely given up.




There. The hard part is over. Hopefully I haven’t dwelt too much on the negatives. My goal with this post was to share some of our honest observations – and, yes, disappointments – in an effort to illustrate some of the great contrast we experienced there. Hopefully the photos we’re about to put up in the next few posts will have more meaning, now.

I’m so grateful that we got to go experience living in such an amazing part of the world. To see the things we saw. To learn what we did. I think Allison and I had pretty lofty expectations about it, going in, and we had to reset those expectations in order to enjoy our time there. Greece – warts and all – was an amazing place to live, even if for a short time. The memories, lessons, and experience we gained there will be with us forever, and we’re really eager to share some of the photos and stories from those adventures.



Find more of my stuff on VAGABONDORIGINAL.COM or find me:      

Freebie : LDS Priesthood Preview Invitation

It’s been a year since I first posted my original design for a Priesthood Preview invitation. Since then, it’s become the biggest contributor to new views and likes on Facebook, Pinterest, and here on the blog.

For it’s one year anniversary, I decided to give it a bit of a face lift as well as converting the design to multiple editable formats. That means if you don’t have Photoshop, no worries. Just download the PDF version and edit the information for your ward in Adobe Reader.

Priesthood Preview

Choose your download: 

PDF file for Adobe Reader

PSD file for Photoshop

What do you think? Do you prefer the original design or this new version better?

This invite is free for personal use. If you do use this invitation for your ward, we’d love to hear how it worked for you. Leave us a comment below or on our Facebook page.



For more help with fliers, event invites, and other DIY resources, visit our online studio:

vagabond(home) (blk)

An Orthodox Easter + Freebie Easter Printable

This past weekend we celebrated Easter with our Greek Orthodox hosts. (The Greek Orthodox Church calculates its feast days by the old Julian calendar, a calendar that was replaced by our now standard Gregorian calendar that saw the addition of leap days. Because of this, Orthodox celebrations typically fall on different dates than the rest of the Christian world.)

In the States, the celebration of Easter seems rather low-key compared to how the Greeks observe it. Weeks of fasting, daily services, a national day of mourning, and hours-long feasts are just some of the differences.

For 5 days, the region of nearly 4 million seemed practically deserted as Athenians traveled to their family’s villages.

For Jeff and I, that meant it was a great time to see some more of the neighborhoods and coastline without the usual crowds. (More to come on that, but in the meantime, here’s a sneak peek photo.)


It was also a great to spend time with our lovely hosts and to take part in their celebrations. Cookies were made and hard-boiled eggs were dyed red, symbolizing the Atonement.


The Easter Sunday lunch was very traditional with roasted lamb with garlic and lemon, potatoes, cabbage and carrot salad, and the hard-boiled eggs and cookies.

It was very delicious and a wonderful way to spend the Sabbath. To show our gratitude, we got chocolate covered almonds and I made this hand-lettered card.


I realize it’s now after the Easter season, but luckily celebrating Christ’s sacrifice and Resurrection can be done year round, so I thought I would share this free printable with all of you. Mail it to a loved one, take it with you on your Visiting Teaching outings, or just save it for next year. Enjoy!

Printable Freebies:

He Is Risen 4.25 x 5.5 Cards

He Is Risen 5 x 7 Print




Freebie: Christmas Card Printable

I recently told my sister of my utter disdain for the font, Papyrus, and then basically threatened her to never, never, ever use it. She emailed me today about an invitation she needed to make for a church Christmas activity and was afraid she might succumb to using Papyrus, so would I be interested in helping. Since I obviously feel very strongly about typography and ridding the world of ugly, overused, terrible fonts, I agreed.

(For font recommendations and links to download, check out the handsome font collections I put together here.) 

I liked the design I made for her so much that I decided to turn it into a Christmas card printable for you to use this season (but only if you promise never to use atrocious fonts). It’s perfectly sized for a 5 x 7 card. Click here to download the file. Enjoy!

Merry Christmas


Words to Live By: Stars


This quote is often incorrectly attributed to Galileo. It was, in fact, written by English poet, Sarah Williams in the mid-nineteenth century as a part of her most famous work “The Old Astronomer.”

“Though my soul may set in darkness, it will rise in perfect light;
I have loved the stars too fondly to be fearful of the night.”

Ever since I was little, I remember my father continually instilling in me awe, wonder, and curiosity about the universe. He would tell me about the times when he would skip school in order to watch the shuttle launches on TV, and I did the same in the 8th grade when John Glenn made his return to space. Some of my favorite memories with him are of watching movies and documentaries about the space race, moon landings, and early astronomers.

In recent days, Jeff and I have been watching the series, Cosmos, and I have been surprised that with the upbringing I did, how little I really understood about galaxies, super novas, nebulae, and so many other things too old or gigantic to fully comprehend.

But instead of feeling overwhelmed by it all, it just increases my curiosity and desire to learn more. We’ve made special trips to star gaze near a mountain lake, see the recent Blood Moons, and spent hours waiting for a rare glimpse of the aurora borealis that never showed quite this far south.

I made this design as a gift for my father and thought I would share it with you as well. Feel free to save it for use as a desktop background. Enjoy!


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