Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas Advent Box

'Tis the season to be jolly.......

Have you got your advent calenders at the ready?   

Today I am officially excited about Christmas, I will now stop moaning about the songs being played or people putting up decorations (although ours will not go up for another week at least). 

Last year I started a collection of Christmas 'stuff'.  Christmas books, films, crafty bits etc for Leo with the idea that I would bring the same things out each year (probably adding to them along the way) as part of our family Christmas tradition.    As I've said before I LOVE Christmas but I only love it in December and because of that I don't want to be watching 'The Snowman' or reading 'Mr Christmas' in August. So it all goes away with the decorations. 

This year I decided I would bring it out with the advent calendar so Leo had plenty of time to enjoy watching all the films and reading the books. To make it a bit more exciting I thought I'd make a special box for Leo to open.

Using a shoebox, I covered it in brown paper and stuck some random Christmassy bits on it.  I was going to use Christmas wrapping paper but I haven't got round to getting any yet!

There are three books from last year, and a new one,   a Christmas colouring book and Magic painting book (sent by my lovely friend in the UK)  a couple of DVDs from last year, and some gift tags to colour in to go on the presents will be giving. There are two pictures from old Christmas cards made by my Mum which I've put up for the last couple of years as it's got a photo of Leo in a Santa hat on it so although the decorations will not go up yet we can stick those on his door again.  I'll also put his advent calender in there as well.

I'm not sure how many years the box will last but it will be easy to make a new one and next time as he will be older I can get him to decorate it. 

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Dear Leonidas

Happy 'half birthday'!   You are 3 and half years old today!

It's been a very strange 6 months for you since you turned three. Daddy has been at work for the whole summer so it was just you and me at home but then in August your baby brother Louka arrived, you've adjusted very well to our family's new addition and most of the time you are a very good helper.


You were a bit bemused at first that Louka didn't do anything but now he's three months old you love to make him smile and show him how to play with his toys.  You don't seem to notice as much when he is 'making a racket' either!

In the last six months you started school, first at your 'little school'  in June and more recently to your 'Big school' in September.  We are so proud of how well you are getting on at your new school and glad you like it so much more than the little school,  You have lots of friends and although you usually 'don't know' what you have done all morning when I collect you you tell me you do lots of colouring, playing and building things.

You are doing so well with learning Greek and every week you are teaching me something new.  You are starting to read now which is really clever, and have moved on from asking 'Why' every five minutes to asking how everything is spelt instead.

Your favourite thing is still Thomas the Tank Engine and you are an expert on all things Thomas related!  Now you can build good tracks 'all by my own' but its' still more fun to build them with someone else.



You are really growing up, and are a lovely little boy - although it would be very nice if you would listen to us!  You often have selective hearing when it comes to asking you to do (or more importantly NOT do) things.  You know how to be very polite and kind but sometimes have a tendency to forget to talk in a 'proper voice' and ask nicely for things, you are getting better though ;)


Recently you've discovered our Playstation and we've been having fun playing together, it's lovely being able to share things like this now and I love your developing sense of humour!

2012 has been a big year for all of us, but overall you've been brilliant and adapted to all the changes very well. Now, onwards and upwards to the next 6 months!

Lots of love and squeezy cuddles....  Mama  xxx

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Puppy Dog Eyes

When Aaron and I got our first house together it wasn't long before we got our first dog... I say first because one day hopefully we will live in a place big enough to have our second!

Ellie was a very timid dog when she arrived with us and quickly turned into a 'Daddy's girl' We never really knew how old she was but she was madder than a box of frogs and acted like she was still a pup , so much so that she became known as 'The puppy dog' all the time.  

Well, that and her gorgeous puppy dog eyes.....


When we decided to move to Cyprus we debated for ages whether to bring her with us but I think we really knew the answer straight away.  Living in a 1 bedroom 3rd floor apartment was not the best option for a dog and she never did well in the heat at the best of times.   She was still a little nervous at times and we were not sure she'd even make the flight. 

It was sad to see her go but she went to a good home with a friend of a friend.


Linking up to The Gallery, this weeks theme is 'Eyes'

Twinkl Learning Resources (Review)

As you probably know Leo recently started attending a local Cypriot school, despite my worries about how he would get on, he is doing really well and picking up the Greek language at an amazing pace. His teacher seems to be pleased with how he is understanding even though he's not speaking it yet (although he is speaking it a lot at home)  and I was very proud of him on the first couple of weeks when he was asked to copy over some dotted lines and he did it perfectly - she looked quite surprised and said 'He understands what to do??'   I explained we've done similar things at home.

I believe here in Cyprus that they don't start to teach the children English at school until the age of 8 (I could be wrong) and I would also expect to give Leo extra help if he is to be at the same standard as if he had been in England as it is obviously a second language in school.  It's brilliant that his Greek is coming along but sooner or later I guess his English will start to suffer.

From a very early age we've done lots of learning together, none of it particularly structured if at all and from that he now enjoys 'learning books' as he calls them.  (Activity, writing, reading, 'educational' sticker books etc) They are quite hard to find out here, unlike in the UK where you can pick them up all over the place and if you do find them here they are not cheap!

I was therefore really pleased to find Twinkl - a website with over 68,000 resources for primary teaching. It's used by teachers and home schoolers but has a huge amount that parents can use as well, and is especially handy if like us you are trying to make sure English does not accidentally become a second language.

The parents section is really easy to use, and has everything from craft ideas, worksheets, certificates to print, colouring pages and activities.

There is a  'School Preparation' pack, recipes and a brilliant Reading and Writing pack, which is the one we are using first as Leo is loving learning to read at the moment.

There are resources available on the site without a subscription but for £29.99 a year (just over £2.50 a month)  you can access the whole range of over 68,000 resources ad you can download them quickly and easily by using the 'resource pack feature' - very handy for me as I couldn't even decide what to download first!


I'm loving the site, and Leo is enjoying the activities. I am pleased to have come across Twinkl as its certainly solved one of our problems!


I was provided a premium suscription to Twinkl but the thoughts and opinions are all my own. 


Tuesday, 27 November 2012

The Christmas Tag

Signs of Christmas have just started appearing here in Cyprus so what a perfect time for the first Christmas blog post!
I saw this meme doing the rounds and had to join it, so was pleased to be tagged by my blogging twin Jenny -although there is a possibility my  answers are going to be pretty much the same as hers!



Q1. What's your favourite thing about Christmas?

My one favourite thing? I can't have just one!  I love it all, the whole build up, which is where Aaron and I differ - he says Christmas is one day, I say Christmas is a season! (It's what the song says!) I love the Christmas songs, putting the decorations up, cooking all the yummy food, etc.   In fact, there's my answer - my favourite thing is the weeks leading up to the day itself!

Q2. What's your favourite make up look for the festive season?

Um, I'll probably just get round to wearing some for a change!

Q3. Real or fake tree?

Fake, it may be a controversial view but I think they look better!   It also means they don't die, or make a mess. I love our Christmas tree even though it is FAR too big for our small apartment, so small in fact this year I think we are swapping with my parents but I can't get rid of it as one day hopefully we'll have the space!

Q4. Giving presents or receiving them?

I'd love to say receiving to be different but it's just not the same when you're all grown up is it,  so these days I love giving presents, especially now Leo is understanding more and gets so excited.  

Q5. Do you open your presents Christmas morning or evening?

What?  In the evening? Are you serious!  What kind of child (big or little) could wait that long! 

Q6. Handmade Christmas cards or bought?

Mainly brought but we will make some for a few people, depends on when Leo gets bored of making them as to how many!    

Q7. What's your favourite Christmas film?

I've never really been a big film fan but I loved The Snowman when I was little, I've now got a copy for Leo and am starting to get a nice little collection of Christmas DVDs to bring out each year. I think The Polar Express tops it though!
As much as I love everything Christmassy I refuse to have them out in any month other than December though! 

Q8. What's your favourite Christmas food?

Sorry, can't just pick one thing again! Christmas dinner is great but I now love Boxing Day dinner too since Aaron introduced me to his families traditional Boxing Day fayre - cold meats, pickles, cheeses and bubble & squeak


I'm tagging PippaSarah and Lisa but if you fancy doing it just join in and leave the link to your post (or answers) in the comments  :)

Monday, 26 November 2012

Three years and a baby later

Three years ago  Aaron, Leo and I left the county we used to call home with 3 suitcases, 3 bags, a buggy and  a car seat. We arrived in Cyprus on a sunny November afternoon after almost missing our flight   (Thanks to too much packing and repacking of suitcases and negotiating the M25 in the rain!) Most of our belongings had left the UK about 6 weeks before and we didn't know how long it would be before they arrived.

It turned out to be the following day which was handy as Leo was still on bottles and the Steriliser was in the shipping, along with his cot, all his toys and most of his clothes.

It also meant he only had to spend one night like this... (I've used this photo before but it's a great one!)


and it meant that our apartment only looked like this for less than 24 hours...


The early days were very strange, Leo was brilliant and for probably the only time in his life so far was very chilled out. The day the shipping arrived he slept, ate and laid happily on his own chatting away before going back to sleep again. He never did that before that day or afterwards!

We only knew one person in Cyprus, and at this point I hadn't even met her in person. We had only our UK mobiles which made calling the UK very expensive,  no TV, no landline and no internet. It was probably a good thing that at this point I had no idea it would take over 2 months to get online - I may have thrown myself straight over the balcony!

It's hard to imagine now the place looking that empty, or that clean!  If only I'd thought to put a throw on the sofa before it got covered in stuff!

I'm quite strange in the way that I actually like moving house, I've done it four times now that I can remember and I love it all. There were hardly any problems, I had worried about our things making it over in one piece but the only thing to be damaged was one small ramekin dish and a tealight holder, not bad when you consider the tv, fridge freezer, huge framed picture etc.

Those very early days were surreal, exhausting but fun. We didn't know much about the area and I loved driving about finding our way around and keep saying 'We are not on holiday!'

We made a conscious decision to stop referring to England as 'home and its one I'm glad we stuck to even though we mentioned the country a lot, it was always 'In England.....' rather than 'back home'  that most people would say. I thought we'd never feel at home here if we were still thinking of somewhere else and it really worked. When I went to England the following summer for 3 weeks I never said I was going home, well not until I was on my way back to Cyprus that is!

I've had friends from the UK surprised that it's been 3 years already, it had flown by but I also can hardly imagine being anywhere else now.  I've lost the overwhelming urge to be back there that I had so often during the first year although there's a few people I'd love to be able to see again. (and maybe a couple of shops to visit!)

It was a bit odd six months later when I suddenly realised that Leo had then spent more of his life in Cyprus that England. I didn't realise that 3 years later it would be even more strange to think that his baby brother has not even been there!



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Saturday, 24 November 2012

Our little bit of Cyprus

Can you point out Cyprus on a map?

Before we decided to live here I don't think I could have done!  Cyprus is the third largest island in the Mediterranean Sea  (after Sicily and Sardinia in case you were wondering!) and although part of Europe we are closer geographically to the Middle East.


Even if you know where Cyprus is, I'd be fairly certain you couldn't point out the village of Deryneia (Sometimes also spelt Dherynia or  Derynia but it's Δερύνεια in Greek) It is a fairly well know village though in Cyprus as it lies on the Green Line against the UN Buffer Zone. Since the Turkish invasion in 1974 75% of the village is under Turkish control.

There are a couple of places you can visit in the village to find out more about the invasion and borrow binoculars to look towards the abandoned city of Varosha. It's unbelievable and so sad that so many people have been cut off from their homes for so long.

Cultural Centre of Occupied Ammohostos (Famagusta)
It's slightly surreal being so close to the buffer zone and it really surprised me how the boundaries as sometimes so difficult to spot. Often all that stops you is a little bit of barbed wire and several roads lead to nowhere with just a small barrier at the end.

Varosha in the distance
A road to nowhere.
Note the Greek and Cypriot flags flying this side of the barrier, and the Turkish flags in the distance.
A popular attraction in the village is the Folkloric Museum, which I've written about previously,  a lovely 'non-touristy' way to spend an hour or so.

Deryneia is one of what are known as the 'Red Soil Villages'  (the Kokkinochoria) which are so called funnily enough because of the soil which is deep red in colour. It is this area that the famous Cyprus potatoes are grown before being exported all over the world.

We chose to live in Deryneia because it was not a typical expat destination, many places here become 'little Britain' where expat Brits retire to live as if it were England in the sun. That was not our intention so this is a perfect choice, living here are mainly Cypriots but other nationalities too, not just Brits. Considering how little time we had spent in Cyprus before making our choice we picked very well indeed!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Puddle Jumping fun

One of Leo's favourite books over the summer was 'a Winne the Pooh one  - Where does the rain puddle go'.  We read it every day for weeks and he kept asking to put his welly boots on and go jumping in the rain puddles.  He was quite disappointed that it wasn't going to rain for several months!

We've had a few odd days of rain now so he was very excited to finally get to do it.


We only went over to the bit of wasteland next to our apartment but he had a great time.  It was brilliant to see how much fun he was having as we'd never done it before!  He was a bit concerned by how deep it was in places, as when it rains here it rains a lot!


We were out for almost an hour while he stomped up and down through them all,  he was quite interested by the snails everywhere but the highlight seemed to be finding an orange had fallen off the tree to kick through the water!



Linking up to Country Kids
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 16 November 2012

Flashback Friday - Facebook photos

Over the years, even in the days before digital cameras I was always the one with the camera, I love photos and was one of the few people in my circle of friends who photos from every party or special event. I would rarely see photos from other people and its always a treat to suddenly see a photo someone else took a long time ago.

Of course back in the day, photos were not taken as frequently as they are now and they certainly were not as easy to share!  It's one of the reasons I love facebook so much and the other day while I was having a look back at photos I'd been tagged in I came across one I don't remember seeing before. 

Summer 2010
I was really pleased to find it so I kept scrolling down through the photos I'm tagged in, most of them were my own photos as I take so many I recognise them all but every now and again I found one that wasn't so familiar.  


It's like a little snapshot of a moment I'd forgotten, and nice to have some photos of myself with Leo as usually I'm behind the camera. Often the candid non-posed photos are the best

Summer 2011
Not forgetting Louka of course!






Linking up to Flashback Friday
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Thursday, 15 November 2012

Moving Abroad With Kids - Planning and Preparation (Guest Post)


We timed our move to Cyprus well, in that Leo was only 6 months old so he didn't have any concept of the fact we were going to live in a new country but I've often thought how hard it must be for children who are old enough to understand.  This guest post covers some of the things to bear in mind for those moving with older children. 

Moving Abroad With Kids - Planning and Preparation

Moving abroad can be a challenging experience in itself, but it becomes even more difficult when kids are involved. Careful planning and preparing your kids for moving abroad are two essential steps that will ensure a positive and rewarding experience for the entire family.

Kids feel safe at home, as this is the place where all their friends and family are. When breaking the news that the family will be moving abroad, you’re likely to get a range of responses. These generally depend on the age of your kids and they can vary from reluctance to excitement – and these might change over time. They might get excited about this new adventure, but at the same time they’re likely to get upset about leaving their friends behind. Parents need to prepare their children and be sympathetic to their feelings and needs.

In the majority of cases, children do not have an option when it comes to moving to another country. This can often result in feelings of helplessness that can even lead to resentment. In order to help your kids avoid these feelings, you should begin talking with them about the move from the decision-making phase. This way, the kids will feel included and the move will not come as a shock.

Moving abroad has an undeniable effect on your kids’ education. Cultural barriers and language issues might be educational obstacles for some kids, whereas other children may experience enhanced learning and thrive in a new environment. It is important to choose the right school for your kids when moving abroad. Options generally include attending local schools, international schools or even home schooling – talking to your kids about the best options for them will again help them feel included and like they have some measure of autonomy over the situation.

Kids may feel isolated and lonely immediately after changing the environment, so it is important to encourage them to keep in touch with friends at home and become engaged in sports and extracurricular activities. Losing social support beyond the family can lead to negative emotions and these are some of the best ways to avoid this problem.

The “expat child syndrome” is a term coined by psychologists in order to describe the psychological effects of moving abroad. Disruptive behaviour and isolation are the most common symptoms of this syndrome and they can be generally avoided by communicating honestly and open with the children and spending plenty of time with them. Assisting them to keep in touch with people back home – perhaps by starting a blog or Skyping close friends and family – will help them feel closer to those back home.

Vivienne Egan writes for Now Health who specialise in international healthinsurance.


Monday, 12 November 2012

Autumn in Cyprus

Following on from our Autumn wreath we made Leo and I have been talking more about the seasons and I've been telling him about the differences between Cyprus and England, having to resort to a google image search to find some 'proper autumn leaves'

I saw this lovely photo from 'The Boy and Me'


Seeing photos like this do make me want to jump on a plane but then I remember that I'm a miserable cow in the Autumn really and I'd probably be only moaning I was cold!

I'm loving our autumn though, it gives us the chance to get out and about more without worrying about getting too hot.  Going out in the height of summer anywhere other than the pool, beach or somewhere with air-conditioning is not fun.

Aaron has now finished work after his long summer and I've got plans to go a bit further afield and finally see a little bit more of Cyprus, both with him and the boys as well as a couple of child free days exploring places they would not enjoy.  

The bulk of the tourists have left and there is now a different feel to the place. Although Cyprus is marketed as a year round holiday destination quite a lot of places here on the East coast close for the winter. Agia Napa still has a bit of life to it, although its not quite the party town you find in the summer.

Protaras on the other hand becomes a ghost town almost overnight Driving down the 'strip' at the end of October it seems quieter but is still business as usual, take the same drive on the 1st November and there is no-one to be seen!

It's a shame that the tourist industry shuts down completely there, but it's a catch 22 situation - the business won't open when the tourists don't come, but they won't come because nothing is open!


Last weekend we took a walk down my favourite beach path and stopped at one of the restaurants for the last time this year. The owner said it was the last weekend of opening, he didn't want to close but it's just not worthwhile him opening without the passing trade.

Hopefully one day more businesses will continue to open and then people will come, it can only be a good thing really now everyone is struggling financially.   In the meantime though it's nice in some ways as we get 'our' island back!



Linking up to Country Kids
Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 9 November 2012

More than just a Mum

Everyone who I have met since moving to Cyprus knows me as Leo's Mum, or Aaron's wife, or maybe they don't really know me as either, just that slightly mad blogger who's all over facebook! They  don't know the 'me' that my friends from the UK know, the one that could stay up past 10pm without falling asleep mid conversation, the one who could dance to something other than the Hokey Cokey or the theme tune to Thomas, the one that could drink a lot more than a couple of vodkas before falling over.

I am more than just a Mum, in fact once upon a time I was a superhero!  (and a very slim one as well!)


Once upon a time I used to go out at least twice a week,
I used to love a good drink and could cope with the hangovers.
I loved nothing more than a good party and lived for the weekends.
I would dance until I could hardly walk, or stay up all night talking rubbish and playing silly games.
I ate kebabs on park benches and had random conversations with people at cab ranks.
I stayed overnight at a whole host of different friends houses slept on sofas camp beds or curled up on uncomfortable armchairs,
I ate many a McDonalds breakfast on the way home on a Sunday morning.
I saw the sun come up with a beer in my hand and then slept until dinner time.

I meet people now and they know only the 'mum' me, the one who mainly talks about children or nights out that happened years ago. I feel quite old and 'mumsy' when I go to the pub and have to repress the urge to tell everyone 'I used to be able to do this, I can be fun too'!   It probably doesn't help that our 'local', the pub where we know everyone (well, Aaron does as he plays pool there)  is in Agia Napa, one of Europe's biggest party towns,  but I do feel a bit out of place when I go there.

My friends here in Cyprus are mainly fellow Mum's as we have the most in common and once you have kids it's who you tend to meet.  But I am more than just a Mum and I reckon the party girl is still in there somewhere!




Linking up to Kate's 'More than just a Mum' meme  and Lauren and Jenny's Flashback Friday

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I am me

Thursday, 8 November 2012

Slimming World Weetabix Cake

I haven't done so well with regards to Slimming World this week, I knew I hadn't been following the plan 100% but I wasn't THAT bad and I hoped to get away with it. Unfortunately I put on 2lb, serves me right for picking at the goodies at the picnic we had in the park and the sneaky McDonalds I had the other day!

After sulking about it for a bit this morning I've attempted to get back on track today, big jacket potato for lunch and huge homemade chilli cooking for dinner as I write. I also made one of my old SW favourites today.... Weetabix Cake.


If you're a fan of fruity malt loaf, you'll love this terrific recipe

Serves: 12
Syns per serving: 3½ Syns ANY DAY

Ingredients

2 Weetabix
113g/4oz sultanas
142ml/5floz skimmed milk
142ml 5floz water
113g/4oz self-raising flour
1 teaspoon mixed spice
14g/½ oz artificial sweetener (optional)
1 egg, beaten



Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC, 350ºF or Gas Mark 4

2. Put the Weetabix and sultanas in a bowl. Pour the milk and water over the top and leave to soak up all the liquid.

3. Stir in the flour, mixed spice, sweetener and beaten egg.

4. Spoon the mixture into a 454g (1lb) lined/non-stick loaf tin and bake in the preheated oven for 1¼ hours until cooked.

5. Cool on a wire rack before serving then cut into 12 slices.


Super Busy Mum

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