Saturday, 28 February 2015

Winter time fun at Fig Tree Bay

Scrolling down my facebook feed last night I spotted a photo of local beach, Fig Tree Bay being prepared for the summer season,  huge piles of sand ready for distribution across the beach.


Well that's just asking to be climbed on isn't it!


I collected the boys from school and we drove straight there. It was the first time this year that we all kicked off our shoes and felt the sand between our toes.  

Louka managed to climb the 'mountains' very well and was so proud of himself when he got to the top of them all. 

Leo jumped around and rolled down everyone, backwards, sideways and every way possible!


Of course I had to join them,  you know to erm check it was safe, and to get the photos,   I managed not to roll down any however but did fall over several times when running up them.



It was a really enjoyable time, only cut short once the lure of the water had become too much for them and the inevitable happened. 

I rolled up Leo's trousers as they paddled in a channel running to the sea,  predicting that Louka wouldn't stay upright I took his off and sent him running in his jumper and nappy. 

Of course, Leo's trousers soon become soaked as the splashing in the channel turned into running away from the waves, which then progressed a little deeper until they didn't manage to run quick enough. 

As I went to suggest we left the water, Louka fell face first and stood up soaked to the skin and covered head to toe in sand.  I had a towel, but it was in the car so I persuaded Leo to give up his jumper as he was dry and warm and Louka (the colder of the two - my 'Cyprus' baby ) was already shivering. 

We took that as time to leave with Leo wrapped in a towel, and Louka wearing a 5 year olds jumper, but with a plan to return on another sunny day armed this time with a change of clothes!



Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Tsiknopempti, Carnival and Green Monday - Spring is coming!

I love this time of year in Cyprus, Carnival time, Tsiknopempti and Green Monday and the signs of spring!

Although our temperatures are generally higher than in the UK our winters can feel surprisingly cold, and it they feel worse the longer you live here as you get more used to the summers!  It's hard to explain to someone with snow or frost on the ground but living with central heating, fitted carpets and insulated houses just how cold our houses get in winter,  so the start of spring is very welcome.

As Easter is a big celebration here it follows that the lead up is equally important, and it starts with Tsiknopempti, which this year was the 12th February.   Tskinopempti or 'Smelly Thursday' as it is sometimes known (literally translates to 'the scent of cooking meat' Thursday) marks the last week of eating meat until Easter for strict Orthodox followers and the start of Carnival celebrations across the island.

At Leo's school they invited the parents in for the morning to join them in a morning of games - much like the sports days I remember from primary school but with added souvla and salad!  It was the first time I'd been there for it and Leo was so happy to see my Mum and I watch him playing the games.  I always love to see him in that environment and it never fails to amaze me to watch him talking and understanding everything in a language that I cannot speak very well at all.


The following week is known as 'Cheese Week' and this is the last week of eating dairy products before Lent, and this ends with the big Carnival parades all over Cyprus before the fasting and the solemn time of Lent begins.

We are not Greek Orthodox and I can imagine the boys not being too impressed if they thought they would have to wait 40 days before having any dairy products but that doesn't mean we don't LOVE carnival...

We first watched the Carnival parade in 2012  but for the last two years Leo and I have taken part in the parade, having blatantly invited ourselves to join people - Performers Academy last year and a local school that my friend was walking with the year before that!

This year we got to be honorary members of the Dinotours team for the day as we joined Diego and Loops to walk in the parade.

Image credit: Dinotours Childrens Parties
Leo was a bit unsure as we arrived at the meeting point. I think a bit nervous of the crowds and the loud music but as soon as the girls and the Dino's arrived he had a brilliant time.  As you would expect the parade was late starting and we had to wait over an hour to get moving but he was surprisingly good about it, largely helped by the fact he had the Dino's to play with all to himself!

The drawback of course to being in the parade is that you don't get to see it, especially as we were almost the last float so by the time we reached the end everyone had dispersed into the crowd but I don't think Leo would have had the patience to stand and wait to see them all go past anyway. 

We saw them all waiting to go though, and my facebook feed has been full of them ever since so I think we got the best of both worlds!

Image Credit: What's On Cyprus


We were lucky with the weather after a very cold and windy few days beforehand and escaped with just a few drops of rain,  I had been expecting to freeze but at one point I ended up in a short sleeve t-shirt for the first time this year, and Leo and I shared our first ice cream!


After the crazy day of Carnival the long bank holiday weekend is nicely rounded off with Green Monday, a day when the locals take to the fields for bbq's (no meat of course, just fish) and kite flying.   We joined some friends and had a lovely afternoon with the kids playing in the fields and a BBQ in the street but with an English slant on the proceedings - meat on the BBQ and refusing to go undercover when it started to rain!


Today was a lovely warm day, and even now it's dark it's nowhere near as cold as it has been. No heaters on tonight and I'm only say here wearing two layers so Spring must be almost here!


Friday, 20 February 2015

Inkly Cards Review

I'm sorry to say that over the years I am becoming increasingly bad at sending greetings cards at any time other than Christmas (I never have a problem with Christmas, they are usually in the post by the 1st Dec!)  I could blame 'baby brain' or the slow postage from Cyprus or facebook for enticing me to send a message as a lazy way out but really its me being just a bit rubbish.

I have ordered cards online before and it makes sense, especially living in Cyprus and sending cards to the UK but I do miss the ability to write in a card as it seems to make it a bit impersonal when printed even if you have chosen the words.

So when I was invited to try Inky Cards I jumped at the chance to see what they had to offer.


Inkly Cards enable you to send a card via their downloadable app with the option to put your own handwriting inside.

I downloaded to app via google play and it was so easy to use.

There are 1000s of cards to choose from and you have the option to upload your own photos, apply filters and even put photos inside the card too if you wish.

If you wish to add your own handwriting as I did, its very easy - just write your message on a blank piece of white paper, take a photo and upload it.  The app then magically removes the paper and prints the message inside your card.


I decided to send my card to Karin as part of the #Embracehappy  'Happy Mail' challenge, using a combination of my favourite quote and the whole idea behind #Embracehappy - just in case you thought I'd not bothered to rewrite it after making a mistake!

It was so easy to add the hand writing, and if you use an ipad you can even have a handwritten envelope.

Another great aspect to the app is the ability to not only store the birthdays and events for future use but if you wish you can connect to facebook and receive birthday reminders with sugested cards based on age, gender and their relationship to you.

The cards are well priced, and generally cost less than it would to buy a card here and post it to the UK - of course you get the added bonus in that they are printed in the UK so you don't have to try and guess how long it will take to arrive.

I will certainly be using Inkly Cards again - now I'm just off to connect to facebook to remind me!

For more information, and to download the free app, visit www.inkly.com 

I was provided with an offer code to order a free card for the purpose of review but the opinions are all my own .

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Happy Birthday Famagusta Parents Network!

Just over five years ago, several months after moving to Cyprus we finally got an internet connection and I eagerly jumped online to to find out more about everything - places to go, things to do, people to meet, etc and even google let me down.  Time and time again I found, if anything at all old and out of date information, half finished website and broken links,  and it was frustrating to say the least.

I often wondered why there couldn't just be a website which had useful information on it, upcoming events and links to relevant sites.  In time I found some good sites, Mums in Cyprus and the Larnaca Parents Network being two of them, but they were both focused on other areas more so than the one I live in. 

After setting up a small facebook group and spending more time than was probably healthy on facebook and the internet, and of course this blog I gradually found out more about what was going on around me, people would sometimes ask me what was happening in the area or if I knew how to claim child benefit or something similar.  

In January 2014 I met with the founder of the Larnaca Network and bemoaned the lack of internet presence for the Famagusta region,

After our chat, I left inspired and encouraged and I went home and started making notes and gathering info.

2 weeks later the Famagusta Parents Network was born and we went live on 14th February!


My idea was simple - to create a website with detailed information on places to go for all the family, things to do other than visit the beach, sections for residents of all ages with facts on how to apply for medical cards, enroll at school, learn Greek, and so on but mainly focused on the free Famagusta / East Coast area, a district of Cyprus which often seems to be sadly forgotten. 

I had help with designing the look of the site from Manfred K.com Internet Services but apart from that I put the site and the content together myself, of course it meant that my original 'baby' this blog took a back seat as like all new arrivals the FPN took up more time but I enjoyed (and still do) every second of it. 


Just 6 weeks after the website launch I hosted the first Famagusta Parents Network Family Fun Day, created in order to provide a fun day out for all, to promote the network and to raise money for local charity whilst supporting local businesses. 

It went amazingly well, and I'm still amazed at what we achieved in such a short space of time. (Aaron was a huge  part of the success, as well as other helpers along the way).

Today the FPN is one year old with almost 600 members in our facebook group, over 300 'likes' on our page,  and nearly 200 posts on the main website,  there is so much more I want to do with it but of course I am limited by money and time, well mainly money and a toddler more so than time but I do drive Aaron mad with my ever growing list of places I 'need' to visit in the name of research and review!

Currently I am in full planning mode, and as usual loving it, as I sort out the next Fun Day for Sunday 26th April, it's looking like it should be even bigger and better than last year too!

Here's a few highlights from 2014....






Like many proud parents say when looking back over the first year -  I can't believe my 'baby' is one already!


Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/groups/cyprusmum
Pinterest - http://www.pinterest.com/famagustapn/
Twitter - https://twitter.com/famagustapn
Youtube - https://www.youtube.com/channel

Friday, 13 February 2015

Two boys, a beach and some sticks. #EmbraceHappy

I am trying to make an effort this year to get out and about,  I really am even, though the thought doesn't always seem appealing!

Although I had a lovely morning with just Leo the other week, it becomes a whole different outing with both of the boys, even simple every day things can be hard work - today for example it took me 20 minutes to get from school to the car as Loukas refused to co-operate and eventually ended up with me having to stick him under my arm and march him to the car and fight him into his car seat!

But I know it's better to get out, and I know the more we do it, the easier it becomes. Already we are better off than last year now we rarely use the buggy as that really limited where we could go, so last week on a whim we jumped in the car and headed for a walk along the beach path.



Within 2 minutes of getting out the car Loukas asked to be carried, sitting down in protest on the floor as I tried to get him to walk - hmmm, not such a good start!

However, once distracted by a passing cat, and then the small play area on the Protaras beach path he soon livened up and went running after Leo.


Previously when walking the beach path we have always avoided actually going onto the beach like the mean parents we are, but as I am trying to be more 'fun' and not over think everything I let them decide.

We stopped for a while at the play area and the boys went to explore and look at the water from the decking overhanging then sea.


As much as I need a kick up the backside to get out, it is nice when we're there and its nice to be out without being too hot.  My reluctance to go on the beach is usually due to the fact I don't want wet kids when we have no towels or change of clothes but beach trips are considerably easier without bagfuls of stuff!

It must be quite obvious that I'm not a winter beach fan by the surprise they showed when I said it was fine to go on the sand, and when Leo asked for his beach toys he was not impressed that we had none.   It didn't take long for us to find some sticks, and an empty water bottle though and they were well away, drawing in the sand, using them as light sabers and magic wands.


It didn't take long for Loukas to notice the sea despite our best efforts to keep him away but he reluctantly enjoyed throwing stones and sticks into it and we avoided getting wet, the last thing I fancied was carrying a tired sandy wet toddler back to the car!



Getting Loukas off the beach was quite a mission, involving lots of persuasion from Leo and I, but Leo was a great help and we managed it with no tears and few tantrums.  Poor little legs started to get tired on the way back to the car and I did have to carry Loukas for a large amount of it but we got there in one piece and overall a good time was had by all!


For a while now I have been following, and often joining in with #EmbraceHappy and it has really helped me to focus on the little things and make more of an effort to look for the good things in every day, so this photo sums up the trip for me - and makes me smile when I think of how hard it was to capture, kids running all over the letters, not being at all co-operative but it had us all in fits of laughter - a definite 'Embrace Happy' moment!


Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

Let's move to Cyprus {Part Three}


I first visited Cyprus in August 2007, just after we decided that it would be a good idea to move here! You can read Part One of our story here,  and Part Two here, if you missed them.

I had the strangest feeling walking to the the old Larnaca airport for the first time. I can picture it now as clearly as if I was looking at a photo.  I strongly felt like I had been there before and had the feeling you get when you approach passport control off an inbound flight to Gatwick and I could clearly imagine 'coming home'  to it in the future. 

We were met at the airport and driven to our accommodation with an apology about the standard of apartment we were to be staying in, along with an explanation that it was the only place left vacant on the biggest bank holiday of the summer.   We wondered if maybe they were not actually taking us seriously as potential buyers as it wasn't the best of first impressions. 

As we opened the door to our dump of an apartment we were nearly taken off our feet by the wall of heat that hit us, we looked at our badly lit, sparsely furnished room and non-working air conditioning unit and looked at each other and laughed.... 'Welcome to Cyprus'!

Deryneia Village - we didn't know it then but it was going to be our new home.
We were collected early next morning and as we chatted about our (lack of) plans he drove us around the area telling us about the different towns and Cyprus life in general. 

The thing with the property trips is that they are not a chance to grab a mini holiday (although I loved nearly every second of it so it kinda felt like one)   the sales rep is with you from morning to night, taking you to lunch and only leaving you for an hour or so early evening to get ready for dinner before taking you out again, finally leaving you around 11pm to be ready to do it all again the following day. 

He took us on the scenic drive - the one we now take our visitors on.  Agia Napa to Cape Greko, through Protaras, Pernera, on to Agia Triada, through Kapparis and into the centre of Paralimni. 

We told him that we were probably looking for two properties, one for us and one for my parents. We then changed our minds and started looking at the possibility of getting one large property together, then maybe a small villa, and back to apartments again, all in the space of a few hours.  He then realised that we had no real idea of what we were doing!

Paralimni town centre.

Although we had no idea what we were doing, and we had come far too early in the scheme of things, having no money and our house not yet up for sale, we were serious buyers, or we were going to be!

It was a full on trip with almost no time to ourselves, except a couple of hours on the last day, when our brilliant rep realised we weren't getting anywhere and we came to the mutual decision that he was going to watch the football and give us some time to ourselves.

There was only one thing to do - SWIM!!!

I don't think anyone has actually moved as fast as I did on that day, Aaron had hardly made it through the door by the time I had got changed, I remember the look of disbelief on his face as he said he wouldn't be long and I replied with 'Ok, see you there!' as I ran out clutching a towel! I think it was something like 5 minutes between getting back and getting wet!

The last night sticks in my mind as well, just the two of us, sat at the bar by the pool debating the pros and cons of moving. It was very surreal, probably more so for me than him as I don't think it was a hard decision for him at all.

I tried to imagine being here, all the time, forever and leaving the country I'd spent all my life in behind for what?  I really didn't know,  and as stupid as it seemed I felt like it would actually happen.

But really??? Move to Cyprus? We've only been here 2 days, we know nothing, and no-one and what about my friends?

A song came on - 'Big Girls Don't Cry' (Fergie)  and the line 'I'm going to miss you like a child misses a blanket but I gotta move on with my life, It's time to be a big girl now, and big girls don't cry' stopped me in my tracks

I realised I was thinking about how much I was going to miss my friends, and I realised that I had made the decision already.




Coming up in part four - Breaking the news and putting the plan into action!


Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The one where it's just The Boy and Me

Last Friday was a school holiday here in Cyprus - the Three Saints of Education and the kids all got the day off, all execpt the nursery schools that is!

Knowing that Louka wouldn't really notice I decided to send him anyway as he is just starting to get into the routine and instead I'd take Leo out for the morning.


Quite often Leo needs a little persuasion when it comes to getting out of bed (on school days that is, not so much at the weekend!) so I asked him if he wanted to come in the car to take Louka to school, he was more than happy too and understood that it wasn't a good idea to dance around saying 'Leo's not at school today!'

As we always drop Louka first it was quite normal for him and the same routine as usual.  What Leo hadn't noticed however was the fact that I'd quietly put a bag with our wellies in the car.   He thought we were just going home again and only when I drove past the top of the road did he think something was different!

He rather helpfully pointed out that I had gone the wrong way and told me it wasn't the way home, I said it could be (there are several routes you could take but I always go the same way)  and then jut confused him until we were a few streets away!

I hadn't actually decided where we were going, and I was debating as we drove along. The sky was looking a bit unimpressive and I was starting to regret the idea but a little voice made me keep going. (In fact it was two little voices, one called Karin telling me to #embracehappy and one nick named TBAM telling me there is no such thing as bad weather)


We reached Cape Greko just after 8am  (yes schools start very early here!)  and parked on the winding hill down to one of my favourite beaches.  Rather than driving all the way to the bottom I thought it would now be possible to explore a little bit of the parts inaccessible for buggies or toddling two year olds.


Without intending to we headed to the beach, mainly in a vague hope that the toilets would be open!  (which surprisingly they were at the beach restaurant seemed like it was about to open too)

There was a lot of work going on by the restaurant, bigger and better plans for the summer I assume so we left them to it and I was reminded of my reluctance to go on beaches unless we're in swimwear and flip flops as Leo stood uncertainly at the edge of the sand with a questioning look at me.

Once assured it was indeed fine, especially as without Louka I could (hopefully) keep him out of the cold sea, he raced onto the sand and found himself a mountain.

With a rare bit of imagination he declared that there was a line of baddies at the top but I need not worry. Declaring himself a 'Changing Hero' he set off to defeat them all.

*I'm not sure if he made this up or watched it somewhere but for the slightly less informed among you, a Changing Hero is a super hero who can change into anything they say, so they can be a car, or a volcano or a dinosaur, or a tree. Although I'm not sure how being a tree would help much, but he usually has an answer for everything.


We spent just over an hour on the beach, which must be some sort of record for us,  we've not often managed longer when equipped with snacks, toys and towels!.

There was a little wave jumping and I was pleased that Leo managed not to get soaked.


There was also plenty of playing without me, which is something we work really hard at encouraging as Leo wants to be told exactly what to play with and what to do at all times, rather like I did as a child as opposed to Aaron who would amuse himself for hours making up games with whatever he could find.


After finding a stick Leo took to writing plans in the sand and this went on a while, with him drawing stick figures to represent us and what we were going to do.  I decided it would be a good way to surprise him with the next part of my plan...


The random squiggles were my drawings showing us, the sea, the rock were were next to and the long windy hill we were going to walk up, followed by the car and the road we would drive along to....  a great big M

There was much dancing and jumping about at this point when he realised that the M signified the good ol' Golden Arches and we were off to McDonalds, and not only that but the one with the play area!

We had a lovely morning, and a nice little chat in Mcdonalds whilst waiting for the play place to open. He said (with reference to Louka being 'the baby') "we've had a lovely morning, just the boy and Mummy haven't we"



Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall



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