Friday, 9 December 2016

The blogs of Christmas Past

Looking back over the last few years, some of my favourite blog posts have been Christmas themed. I mentioned one in my recent 'Top 5 Blog posts' but thought I'd do do a festive version.

In no particular order I give you....

Leo's Thoughts On Christmas - this was written back in 2012 when he was 3 years old.  I was surprised at his answers and I wondered how different they would have been if we weren't in Cyprus.

Christmas Memories - This one wasn't even written by me but is is one of my favourites. My Mum shares her Christmas memories. it

Our Cyprus Christmases  - Written in 2013 and looking back over the 4 years we'd been in Cyprus and how it had changed for me at that point.

Home for Christmas - this one is about how I always want to be at home for Christmas.

Christmas Eve or Christmas Day? - Which do you prefer?

Christmas Eve Snuggle Sack -  I include this one as this was the first year I did  the Snuggle Sack and I'm so glad I did,  the boys love it and it's a nice and simple way to make the evening special.

I'm glad that my blog gives me a chance to look back over the years and remind me of more than photos on their own would do.  


Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Christmas Countdown

It's December already and that means my countdown to Christmas can begin.   I love Christmas and I do always say that it is a 'season' not just a day (it's not just me - it says so in the song!) but I think it should generally be confined to December.

Decoration Day   (it has capital letters because it is an actual event, one that is planned with mince pies,  Christmas music and plenty of baileys,   planned to ensure no-one has to drive anywhere afterwards!) has always been a point of 'discussion'  in our house,   you may remember my previous post on this - The First of the Christmas Traditions.   So it has to be not too early and not too late,  our compromise is usually the weekend somewhere around the 12th.    Well, I say compromise,  Aaron doesn't really get a say in it - I just announce it!

I love to be organised, but I rarely write Christmas cards before December, I like to sit with a festive film or music on whilst I write them so it can't be too early.    Presents can be brought any time as and when I see them or can get them sent over as long as its not accompanied by a smug facebook status.

I am a big kid when it comes to Christmas, but big enough that I can wait until the right month when it comes to festive fun at home, no songs or films or books before the 1st if not later.    Well apart from the year I was happily making a  Christmas youtube playlist in November without realising it was autoposting every song direct to facebook.

It's just not as magical otherwise and I'm over it before the mince pies have even been left for Santa. Even the kids get bored of it as I noticed a couple of years ago when I got a bit carried away with almost daily Christmas related activities.

It never used to be like this and I wonder if our generation just hasn't grown up like our parents had? I see many people saying they 'have' to put their tree up because the kids are badgering them when really I think they mean they want to and the kids are are good excuse.     I always say I can't stop mine from playing too many video games but if I'm being honest I don't really mind,  I just feel like I should.

Of course at work you have to plan for Christmas much earlier - that is fine and I have no problems with that.   It's the busiest time of the year for many companies and the chance for promotions and marketing and therefore needs to be planned ahead of time.   But I do wish some companies would tone it down a bit before December - the main reason that Aaron dislikes Christmas songs (other than the fact they are way too cheesy)  is due to him working in retail for many years where they started playing them in October.

It's a bit different in the UK to here,  although over the last seven years we've seen big changes and it get a lot more commercial. In 2009 we arrived on 24th November leaving a winter world of Christmas decorations and a country deep in preparations, it was like travelling back in time a couple of months for us to the height of an English summer without a festive thought in sight.

This year I went out on the 1st November and was genuinely surprised to see fully decorated Christmas trees sparkling away in a shop window,  and Jumbo had their things out in the middle of October when I was trying to find Halloween stuff!

Anyway,   it's the 1st December today,  so we're good to go.... advent calendars are out,  let the season commence!

I also reserve the right to break my own rules  before Aaron points out I may have been 'accidentally' humming Chrismas songs before the 1st and wearing a Santa hat to annoy him.

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Painting Autumn Trees

A few weeks ago Louka and I were unusually home alone as Leo had gone to play with a school friend, unused to being without his brother he was a bit sad about not being able to go too so I decided to cheer him up by getting the paints out and giving him something to create.

I remembered that Leo and I had created Autumn trees several years ago so I decided to recycle the same idea!

Louka was very impressed to be told we would be painting our arms and hands to use as the tree,  of course he wanted me to do it as well and I think his favourite part of the activity was painting me!

For the leaves I gave him the choice of cotton buds as well as paint brushes, and I showed him how to make a bigger selection of autumn colours by mixing the paint that we had.

I only took one photo which is rare for me but we both enjoyed the fact I put the camera down and got stuck into the paints!

He carried on for quite a while, asking for several more bits of paper and happily mixing colours.  He kept going longer than I think he would normally do if Leo was joining in too.    It was nice just having some time with Louka and I realised its a very rare occurance. 

The following day Leo's autumn tree came up in timehop from 4 years ago!

Monday, 28 November 2016

Reasons to be Cheerful - A lovely Sunday and Motivated Monday

A month or so ago I was full of good intentions regarding my blog,  I'd published several posts,   14 in fact over October and November which I hadn't come close to since early 2015.    I was on such a roll that I'd even had several more ready to go and saved in my drafts folder!

I don't even know what happened but it's a bit like juggling,  as soon as you take your eye of the ball you drop it and have to start again.    I find it hard to focus equally on all the different things I do and tend to fall into an 'all or nothing' approach.  

So here I am,   feeling cheerful and trying to stay motivated on all aspects at the same time!

Yesterday was a great day and one where everything just seemed to go well.   I had planned to cook a roast dinner for the first time this year (too hot in the summer to consider it, and the boys usually refuse to eat them so I tend not to bother very often even in winter).   I was woken up early by the boys and rather than trying to go back to sleep I thought I might as well get up and do something useful for a change - they play nicely in the mornings now so I tend to make the most of the first lie-ins I've been able to have for the best part of seven years.

I was pottering around quite happily while the boys played in their room,  and by 9am had managed to do 2 loads of washing,  sweep, mop, clean the bathroom and prepare bits for dinner that evening.   Not bad going before breakfast!

I had promised the boys I would take them to the local toy shop, as they wanted to use their pocket money to buy themselves some Hot Wheels cars.  I hadn't told them it was the official shop opening day (even though it has been open for months) and to celebrate there was also a bouncy castle,   train ride and food and drink with stilt walkers,  mascots and music.

We spent a few hours up there sat outside in the sunshine and met up with a friend and her girls.   The children played happily and we had a beer and some food whilst enjoying the sunshine.   It was a great afternoon,  and it was all free - the food,  drinks and even the train.    A real surprise, as I've been to many events that have been much worse and we've paid for them!

My friend and the girls came back for a cuppa which meant the kids were quite happy to leave and they played some more, which meant when they left my boys were happy to sit quietly (ish)  and watch television while I got dinner underway. 

We then went on to eat dinner, at the table - all at the same time like normal people for once!    Louka refused to eat anything except sweetcorn, but Leo impressed me and cleared his plate for the first time ever when eating a roast dinner. 

Boys were then bathed, and had a story in bed.    I cleared up, and even put the clothes out ready for Monday morning.

I realise this is all fairly normal stuff,  or should be probably for most people but it's really not that common in this house.   I rarely rush around and we are never late for school but it NEVER all goes that smoothly.     I feel like I achieved some sort of new parenting level yesterday  (ok,   only one child ate dinner properly but you can't have everything!)   - where can I collect my medal?

Monday morning sunrise

This morning saw an easy stress free school run (maybe my mood had rubbed off on the boys!?)  and I went off to my Zumba class - a great way to start the week!

If it makes you feel better though,   just when I was worried that I had actually turned into my Mother, I realised that I'd left my wet towels on the floor after my shower so I've still got a way to go!

R2BC at Mummy from the Heart

Monday, 14 November 2016

Our Ochi Day

October 28th is a national holiday in Cyprus, known as 'Ochi Day'

A little bit of history for you... (thanks to Fatcatz Mobilty)
The word ‘Ochi’ simply means ‘No’. It is the word Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas used in 1940 to Mussolini’s spokesperson when asked if Axis forces could use Greek territory to gain access to areas of Europe not already occupied by Hitler and Mussolini. Metaxas stalwartly said ‘No!’
Prime Minister Metaxas had deliberately done his best to keep Greece neutral in the early months of World War II, but the ultimatum tipped any chance of allegiance and Greece became allied with Great Britain.
Prior to this, Metaxas may have decided to go either way. Personally, he had links with Germany based on his early education. He had also resisted Greece becoming involved with World War I and had refused to support the Allies in the Dardanelles Campaign.
The ultimatum changed everything and Greece turned out to be a strong force against the Germans and Italians, facilitating the Allies’ regaining of Albania.
Cities and towns across Cyprus and Greece celebrate Ochi Day with military parades that close down most centres. In Nicosia, Cyprus, school students and veterans march in a parade and carry banners and the flags of Cyprus and Greece. Political speeches are made and the day is focused on celebrating the heroes of the nation.
Cyprus particularly considers the day as one to not only remember the bravery of the people who walked in the past, but to focus on the future and to believe that their people can have strong and independent freedom and prosperity.

As the schools are closed on the day itself they hold their celebrations the day before.  As usual I had no idea what was being said in the school play,  but Leo really enjoys taking part in them and it means a lot to him when he sees us in the audience.

On the day itself I took the boys to see the parade in our local village for the first time,  despite being here for 7 years (and hearing them practise for weeks every year!) for various reasons we'd never got round to going to watch it.

As the boys celebrate each year in school with plays and making Greek flags it was nice for them to see the parade too,  also being as it is a fairly small village they got to see plenty of people they knew, either marching or watching them go by.

 (Video courtesy of 'My Journal on Cyprus') 

The weather was still nice so I thought we'd make the most of the holiday day and head down to the beach for a while, as the summer season was about to come to an end we took the last opportunity to visit the tourist shops in Protaras and the boys spent their pocket money on some random plastic noisy toys. (angry birds spinning tops to be precise - rubbish but they loved them!) 

The beach was quiet but there were several people in the sea,  my boys were wave jumping but it was too cold for them to want to go in properly,   I must admit I was laughing my head off at Leo's screams when I threw multiple buckets of water over him to wash off the sand after we'd buried him! 

Even getting off the beach went well,  as we ducked into a nearby hotel and rinsed the sand off in the shower by the pool. The boys were also amazed to see the hotels fish and we stood watching them for ages.

When we all started to get hungry I decided that as the day was going so well I'd treat us to lunch at our favourite restaurant. I'd never normally bother take them on my own, without Aaron or friends but I was feeling optimistic! 

It was a good call,  the restaurant was rammed with people but we got a seat and I spent a good hour or so catching up with work on my phone while the boys played on the huge bouncy castle.   The food arrived, and they cleared their plates while we actually had an enjoyable conversation rather than a mealtime battle!

It went so well that we even ended up with ice cream before we left,  to come home for baths, pyjamas and a family film.  A slightly unexpected but pretty much a perfect day, it doesn't happen very often but as they are getting older it's starting to get easier to have days like this.    I told them both as they went to bed how pleased I was that they had been so good,    Leo told me it was the best 'Ochi day' ever and he couldn't wait for next year! 

Ironically I hardly had to say 'No' all day!

Sunday, 13 November 2016

My Sunday Photo - 13th November

Ayia Napa Cyprus beach

This is Glyki Nero beach in Agia Napa,  taken on Friday at about 8am.  

Not bad for a November morning!

I had taken the boys to school and I was on my way to my first Zumba class.  As Leo starts school at 7;45am  and zumba starts at 8:30am  it wasn't worth going home so I took the scenic route down to Agia Napa.   I saw the turning for this beach,  and having never been to it before I swung the car down for a quick look.

I love this time of year, the beach was almost empty,  just a few people walking, a couple of people doing yoga and a few (possibly crazy) people swimming.  

And if you were wondering,  I loved zumba and I'm going back tomorrow!

Monday, 7 November 2016

Listography - My top 5 blog posts

Back in the 'good old days' of blogging one of my favourite 'linky's' was Listography over at 'Kate Takes 5',   so I was excited to see that Kate has brought it back for a one off to celebrate her 6 year blog anniversary.

It's a real blast from the past in more ways than one as we are sharing our top five blog posts of all time.  The first one was easy for me as it's always been my favourite post,  it's only a short one as it was from the real early days, and as you can tell if you read it, the days when I was at home all day with a baby!

One day.... 
I've often thought about updating this,  to reflect the fact that one day I won't be saying 'please stop fighting,  please put your pants on,  get off your brothers head and so on,    maybe I will if I get to stop asking the boys the same question repeatedly long enough to write it!

The other four posts didn't come to me as easily but it did give me a lot of enjoyment looking back over old posts to find them and reminded me why I loved blogging so much.

A blog of Christmas Past....
My favourite posts are generally the flashback style ones,  I love that through my blog I've been able to document not just the current events of our life but to go back and find old photos and share the memories attached to them.    This post was all about my childhood Christmases and it's one I tend to share every year since!

A letter to my 16 year old self...
A different kind of flashback but one where I think back to the 16 year old me and what I would tell her if I could.

The best weekends in the world...
Another 'flashback' post but a reminder of the best weekends we ever had,   good friends, bucket loads of booze, dancing and memorable moments.   It's a short post as I decided not to share all the moments that made it so good (public viewing and all that!)  but Aaron and I often retell the stories after a couple of drinks!

Me and my boy....
Another very short post (I was surprised at how short most of my posts were, maybe that was why I wrote so many!)  but another heartfelt one.  I wrote this the night before I went into hospital to be induced with Louka. It had just hit me how there was suddenly going to be a 'new' person around who I didn't know and how it was going to change things.  

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