Thursday, 25 August 2016

Now you are four... {Loukas}

Dear Louka, 

Now you are four!!   Happy Birthday little man!

The day has come, today is your birthday!   You have waited such a long time for your special day haven't you, asking so many times when it would be your turn but we are finally here, you are now four years old!

I loved it when you said last week with such awe and wonder ' I just can't believe it when it will be my birthday'  like you could never imagine that it would finally come.  You don't remember your birthday last year so it must be so much more exciting for you after seeing Leo's and everyone elses come and go over the last year. 

You have changed so much in the last year,  your vocabulary and general knowledge have increased dramatically.   You have done brilliantly with your swimming, being able to swim a short distance without your arm bands, and even swimming underwater to pick up toys!

The skill you have at playing the wii astounds me,  not only the days of me helping you have gone but now you can even beat me!

You can be very chilled out, I love to see you floating around the pool on your back in your own little world, and you can be quite and thoughtful (but only when you want to be)

Of course you can be very argumentative and incredibly impatient but you are also very very cute and get away with it far more than you should. 

Leo is your hero,  your big brother and usually your very best friend, whatever he does you want to do, whatever he says you repeat and you can be so brilliant together, of course this doesn't always go smoothly and there are daily arguments and fights along the way.  Within minutes they are forgotten though and all is well with you both again. 

You seem to have grown up so fast, like I blinked and missed it. Suddenly you are one of us, talking about anything and everything, opinionated and funny,   a real little character and your own person. 

Louka mou,   I hope you have your best birthday ever, and it is everything you hoped it would be and more!

Love you more than chocolate cake...... Mummy xxx

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

The Five Year Meme - Update

I was browsing through some old blog posts this evening in an attempt to find some good 'uns to share over on facebook in the absence of me actually having the chance to write some new stuff, and I came across a post from July 2010 called 'The Five Year Meme'.  In it I answered a few questions about what my life was like and where I wanted to be in five years time so I thought it would be a good time to update it (albeit a year late!)

Us five years ago. 

Where were you five years ago?
Five years ago I had lived in Cyprus for less than a year, I had a 14 month old baby,  and knew very few people in Cyprus. We were living in the same apartment as we are now, but had no plans to have a second baby.  Aaron was working 6 days a week in Limassol for a Kitchen company, with one and a half days of a week, early mornings and late nights.

I was happy but not yet settled, I loved Cyprus but hadn't found my feet and I was desperately looking forward to a 3 week trip to the UK in the August.  I was not working but I was blogging frequently and loving my new hobby.

I had met my best (Cyprus) buddy and we were living in each others pockets, seeing each other every couple of days and slowly with her help I started to put down some roots and feel like it was my home.

Where do you want  to be in five years time?
Five years ago I said I would love to be living in a villa now, although realistically I knew that wasn't going to happen in that time frame. I said that our apartment would be too small as Leo grew up and that was before I realised we would become a family of four!

In five years time I will be Mum to a 12 year old and a 9 year old and my goal is to be in a bigger property within the next five years. 

I also hope Aaron and I continue working well together and achieve our business goals. 

What are five things on your to-do list today?
Only five???
Sweep the floor/ feed my ever hungry children / check emails / out the washing in, out and away! / write this blog post!

What are five snacks you enjoy?

Again,  only five??
OK,  pringles, chocolate,  cereal, cake, and if I'm being healthy (which isn't very often!)   then cucumber sticks and homemade red pepper houmous. 

What would you do if you were a billionaire?
Like I said 5 years ago,  I'd be totally confused with that much money and wouldn't even know where to start!   But the same answer still applies,  pay off any debts, help close family and friends etc.

I'd expand our company - I certainly wouldn't give it up as I love it too much but I'd employ staff to help and achieve all the things we would love to do. 

I would renew our wedding vows and have the most amazing party to celebrate - without worrying about a budget and keeping guest numbers down. 

I would get private healthcare and never have to go to the General hospital and wait for hours ever again. 

I would have a huge villa built for us, and pay for all my friends to visit whenever they want to, I'd  go on holidays to show the boys different places, I'd  hire a personal trainer to motivate me into getting fit, but most of all I'd just like to not have to think about money,  how much there is and where it has to be spent,  what 'luxuries' to spend it on and what to go without.    I don't care about designer wardrobes and big flashy cars but I'd love to be able to go to the hairdressers or pop online and just buy clothes, gadgets, toys or anything without thinking about how much they cost!

Us now (we have NO photos of the two of us not taken in our photo booth!) 

Sunday, 21 August 2016

Aged 7, Leo loves.....

Another yearly tradition which started when Leo was 3,  in addition to the 'Interview'  is the Leo / Loukas loves...' post.

All these years have passed and still 'Raff' is on there,  with the addition these days of 'Bunny'  his two best 'friends' as he calls them and bed time toys. 

New additions for this year are taekwon-do and geocaching, and he is increasingly enjoying photography 'like Daddy'  mainly using his Nintendo DS and playing with the filters and special effects making some great creations. 

Of course his main love and most common way to spend his time is attached to a device (much like his mother!)  so video games are high on the list, but swimming always comes up tops!

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Childhood summers

I had a sudden memory pop into my head today from a childhood summer and realised one of the ways in which my childhood was very different to the boys.

It was always an exciting treat to have a paddling pool out in the garden or the chance to play in the sprinkler as it watered the grass, I had a slide in the garden that was also sometimes put into the pool which was even better!

The actual memory which surfaced however was how cold the water was, I suddenly had a flashback to a lovely hot summer's day, but icy cold water going to the pool.  I remember the pool being in the bit of the garden that got the most sun, and my Mum filling the pool in the morning so it would be warm with the heat of the sun for the afternoon.  I think she even used to add hot water to get it warmer for me to play in!

I loved playing in the sprinkler and remember screaming with laughter as the cold water hit me, playing in it until the grass got too muddy and it was turned off.  Kids seem to have a certain immunity when it comes to water temperature, distracted by playing they will happily be in much colder water than an adult would be so the fact that I remember it as cold must tell you something.

slide into paddling pool

You may be wondering why exactly this memory popped into my head today, well I'm sitting writing this on the balcony while Louka plays in his paddling pool.

As I started to fill the pool for him I told him he could get in if he held the hose on the ground and kept it under the water as it filled up.  I turned around to move the chair cushions out of the way and suddenly got soaked, with a shout I moved to see the hose out of the pool and snaking all over the balcony spraying everything!

I asked (ok, I may have shouted!) what he was doing and his reply..... 'Mummy the water is too hot!'

It was a fair comment (it made me recoil as it hit me!)  and he was ever so cute and apologetic saying 'Sorry Mummy for making you wet'  after all he had no idea what would happen when he put it down.   I told him it wasn't a problem and it had just made me jump!

He got back in to wait for it to fill and said 'But Mummy,  I want the water to be refreshing'.   I was hoping the water would cool  the longer it ran but I was being a little optimistic.   After a while it did stop being TOO hot to sit in but never really got to a temperature that could be classed as 'refreshing'.

I would never have imagined that cold water would be so hard to come by at this time of year.  Actual cold water is a distant memory for us during the summer in Cyprus. To have a shower you get approximately 5 seconds of cold water before it becomes to hot to stand under,  you then move the tap to 'Hot' where you get another few seconds of actual cold before moving it back to cold to continue your shower in very warm water!   Cleaning your teeth in warm water is also a very strange and slightly annoying experience.

A few years ago we were at a friends house about to get in her above ground pool.  She took the cover off only to discover it was far too hot for even the adults to get into!

A slight bit of difference to my childhood days!

I wonder what my boys would make of an English summer?

If you can't get cold water from the tap - have an outside bath!

Country Kids
from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 22 July 2016

Cyprus Land Medieval Theme Park

Earlier this year I started to see adverts for a new family attraction opening in Limassol - Cyprus Land Medieval Theme Park.  I was very interested in what they had to offer and of course just had to go and take the boys for a day out there.

Now,  having lived in Cyprus for almost seven years I wouldn't say that I was overly optimistic about what the place would be like.  I knew straight away that 'Theme Park' does not mean theme park in the way you would expect having heard of Thorpe Park, Alton Towers and such like.  I was certain that by thinking along the lines of 'themed park'  I would be closer to the mark.

Not that I was going to let that put me off, I will happily travel the whole island to visit something that sounds worthwhile and I knew that my boys would love the knights and enjoy the trip regardless.

Castle entrance

We arrived at 11:30am,  the park was quiet apart from a group of children who were left by the time we'd completed the first activity so it was great to have the space almost to ourselves.  The staff were welcoming and took time to explain that our tickets would entitle us to a second visit free of charge and the boys were very happy to be given maps and a sweet.

Archery in Cyprus

The park is fairly small, with various activities dotted around a main arena area.

First up is the Shooting Range - Leo was really happy to try it out and the guide explained carefully how the hold the bow and fire the arrow.

Leo did very well,  getting most of the arrows into the target. Louka was being his usual shy shelf and didn't want to try so Aaron had a go (straight in the bulls eye!)   followed by me.

It's a lot harder than it looks!  After shooting them mainly into the floor I did manage to get one on the board, nowhere near the middle though!

We wandered around the park having a look at the various stands which were not manned at first so it wasn't really clear what they were offering, but the Armoury was a big draw for the boys so we went there first and they enjoyed looking at the armour, trying on a gauntlet and being very surprised at the weight of a gauntlet  and playing with the toy swords.

Full suit of amour

sword fighting

After a while a member of staff came over and asked the boys if they would like to do some Knights training.   I was happy that they both wanted to join in and they loved being shown how to defeat a dragon, improve their balance and dodge enemies around the training course.

obstacle course for knights training

Knights in training

They were then told that as they had passed their basic training it was time to put their skills to the tes and fight a real knight.  Louka surprisingly asked to go first and jumped straight into the arena.   His opponent was good and made it hard enough to challenge him but not too hard that a 3 year old would give up or get hurt. Leo was in next and enjoyed the challenge and of course they both managed to defeat their enemy in the end after which they were presented with certificates to prove they were now brave knights.

sword fighting

The main focus of Cyprus Land is the scale model of the whole island of Cyprus, the largest 3d model in Europe according to their website.

Each of us were given an audio guide to talk us round the huge model,  numbers on the floor at points of interest round Cyprus corresponded to the relevant audio track.  It was a lot of information for the boys to take in but they enjoyed it (it's amazing what a gadget will do,  it was the first time they have ever used headphones and they loved the novelty of it!)

The model is impressive and we spent quite a while looking round it and listening to the very varied and interesting history of Cyprus. The photos below really don't do it justice!

Largest 3d model island

There was more to see,  the Pottery stand, Embroidery, Glass Blowing and Joiners Shop but not all were in use unfortunately.  There is a creative corner where the kids can paint, write with a quill or play with the toy knights and castles.   For the bigger kids a giant chess set is also available.

toy castle

The highlight of the park for the boys was the live show,  which takes place twice a day at 11am and 5pm.  Unfortunately we arrived just after the first show but after doing everything there was to do we decided to leave for a few hours in the Mall and returned to see the second one, (as did the other guests who were there in the morning)

I had been expecting a 'show performance' with lots of clashing swords but the knights didn't hold back,  you can see the start from the video but they got more into it after I stopped filming, throwing each other to the ground and really putting some effort into it!

It was a great family day out, as we combined the park with a trip to the Mall, and dinner on the way home.   I enjoyed the Cyprus Land experience but there is no way you could make it a full day out by itself.  For Cyprus it is a good attraction and there is a lot of potential there but at the moment I do feel it is a bit over priced when you compare it to other attractions here..(€14 for adults,  €8 for 6-12 ages,  free for under 6 years) For us it was money well spent though as the boys loved it, but had they not thrown themselves into the activities, tried everything and spent so long playing chess and sword fighting between themselves I would have felt a bit disappointed for a couple of hours there.

The fact that you can have a second day free entry is good,  but it would not hold the same magic to them if we went again again soon.   I feel they would be better reducing the cost  and getting more people through the door perhaps?

You can see more photos from our day over on my blog facebook page - A Matter Of Choice

This was not a sponsored post or review - we paid full entry price to Cyprus Land's and my opinions are my own. For more info on the park visit their website -

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

Joining a Guinness World Record Attempt

You may know that I do like a challenge every now and again and so it may be no surprise to you that Aaron and I decided that Klik Photo CY as a company would get our end of the island involved in a brilliant World Record attempt and a charity fundraiser that started off over on the west side of the island.

Back in 2006 Cyprus had the Guinness World Record for the longest chain of bras and Aphrodite's Bra Chain are hoping to reclaim the title again in 2017 by collecting over 200,000 bras.   The attempt is being supported by the Guinness World Records and will also raise much needed funds for the Archangel Michael Hospice in Paphos in the process. After the event all the bras will be donated to charities which will repair or recycle them for women in developing countries.

I loved the idea and am excited to give people on my end on the island an easy way to be involved, regular readers will know how much I hate the east of the island to be forgotten!

Photo Credit: James Walton Photography & Media

So far I have set up the following collection points in Famagusta:

There are also collection points in the UK (and we are looking for more, so PLEASE let us know if you can help!) 

So far we are collecting in Woking, Chalfonts (Bucks) Leicestershire, Staffordshire and Manchester, you can also send your bras to us - contactAphrodite's Bra Chain page and the details of where to send them to.

We are asking for donations of bras along with a 'golden coin' - a euro or a pound to go to the hospice. 

I hope everyone will have a good old rummage through their drawers and donate all their old bras to us. Surely EVERYONE has at least a couple of bras they never wear,  or are old and grey but they haven't got round to throwing out?    The condition of the donations doesn't matter - we just NEED YOUR BRAS!

Even if you are not in Cyprus you can still help us out,  we are hoping to get an easy (free!) way of sending bras to us from the UK (and elsewhere if necessary)   but in the mean time if you are generous enough to send some over please contact me for details on how to get them to me.

I will keep you updated on our progress, we also have some exciting events planned over the next year to promote the attempt and hopefully SMASH the record!

Longest Bra chain world record

Monday, 18 July 2016

Interview with a 7 year old

I am predictably late with Leo's interview for this year, I did manage to record it reasonably close to his birthday which was back in May but I've had it saved on my phone for a few weeks without getting it up on the blog.

It was not the best recording and I had it in mind to redo it but the star of the video was not so enthusiastic about a rerun so I thought we'd stick with the original!

Just in case you couldn't hear all the answers.....

1. What is your favourite colour? Silver (not what I was expecting, it's usually blue!) 

2. What is your favourite toy?    He hasn't got one, but when pushed he said Rhino  (a small plastic toy he got from school) 

3. What is your favorite fruit?  Pear (another unexpected answer, I was expecting grapes)

4. What is your favourite tv show? Teen Titans  (No surprises there, including the fact that he sang it!) 

5. What is your favourite thing to eat for lunch?  It was some kind of mash up between ham and / or cheese sandwiches with salad cream / ketchup or bbq sauce!

6. What is your favorite outfit?   Power Ranger suit!

7. What is your favourite game?  Draco  (wooden dragon in pieces that you have to knock down by spinning a disc) 

8. What is your favorite snack?  Doughnuts (random - he never has doughnuts but will sell his soul for a tube of Pringles!) 

9. What is your favourite animal?  A bunny rabbit!

10. What is your favourite song?  The Teen Titans theme tune!

11. What is your favourite book?  This surprised me, for the boy who used to love reading so much that he didn't come up with a favourite, prompting me to ask if he could even name one he owned!   (which backfired as he started to list every single one!)

12. Who is your best friend?  He can't narrow it down to one,  taking out the family he listed it would be Kyle, Leiarna, Jaxon and Louka. 

13. What is your favourite dinner? Carbonara (or carbonnana as it's known in our house) 

14. What is your favorite thing to do outside?  Another long list which included going to Play4All (soft play place) going on bouncy castles, and especially going to WOW ( which is another soft play place but further away so we don't go there as often)

15. What is your favourite drink?    Juice in a box  (any carton of drink!) 

16. What is your favourite place to go?  This got covered in the 'outside' question - I think its WOW!

17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? Bunny, Raff, Care Bear, Chewbacca, Red bird and Yellow bird!   

18. What is your favourite thing to eat for breakfast?  Yoghurt

19. What was the best thing about your birthday?  Another long list including turning 7, getting Chewbacca, a new book,  basically everything!

20. What do you want to be when you grow up?   A Taekwondo teacher and a photo booth 'operationer'   (I love this new word - I think we now have new job titles!) 

7th birthday
My 7 year old.

Friday, 24 June 2016

What the EU referendum means to me.

So the UK is now set to leave the EU, almost half the country voted to stay but the majority of voters wanted the hell out of it and now they will hit a long period of uncertainty, and debate and an endless stream of tripe in the news constantly.

I very rarely talk about or even think about politics and I've certainly never considered writing about them but as an expat blogging Brit living in Cyprus I felt I should at least say something about the biggest political event in my lifetime so far.

I've always avoided politics, having never really understood most of it and always thought it to be a load of old waffle.  (much like this blog but I'm not trying to change the world!) I did vote once, just so I could say I'd done it but I can't remember when or even be 100% sure who for.  (It may have been Lib Dem on the assumption that Tory and Labour were both talking bull and they seemed a safer vote but I couldn't be sure now)

I assume that if I still lived in the UK I'd have had more of an opinion as the majority of my friends seemed to have voted yesterday, despite not having and political preferences as far as I know before. Many people I know were sharing news and opinions (with a smattering of complete rubbish here and there) on the run up too so I guess I would have had a definite opinion and done too.  None of my friends here have spoken about it at all as far as I know, and I don't know of anyone who voted. (of course they just might not have mentioned it!)

In all honesty,  I was only vaguely aware of the upcoming referendum over the last few months.  Of course I knew about it but I don't generally watch the news or read papers - I get the gist of most stuff via facebook / twitter (but I do actually read articles rather than the headlines!) and just tend to pop over to the BBC news site if something sounds interesting.

I did go to a meeting back in March which was open to all Brits in the Famagusta area, with Ric Todd, the British High Commissioner of Cyprus.  Of course the referendum was brought up and he explained that no-one could accurately predict what would happen in the event of a vote to leave, but also that it would take a minimum of two years for any changes to come into effect. People understandably worried about the changes that may affect their pensions, and healthcare etc and many spoke passionately about the Winter fuel allowance (that's a whole other story - don't get me started on that!)  He explained that Cyprus has always had reciprocal agreements with the UK and of course people from the UK lived and worked here before Cyprus joined the EU in 2004.

It was interesting to a degree, I was, I think, the youngest there but mainly it didn't feel relevant to me.  I don't think of the UK as my home, and haven't done for a long time now.  I live in Cyprus,  I have a Cypriot residence permit and a medical card.  What happens with the NHS, schools etc sometimes feels about as relevant as what happens in any other country to me.

I couldn't tell you 100% whether I thought it best for the UK to remain or leave.  It has been assumed that I would have wanted them to remain being as that I live in another EU country, but I can't say I'm worried about what will happen to us anymore than I was this time last year.

I didn't think for a second they would actually leave but what will be will be. What has surprised me more than anything is the split I've seen between my friends and family in the UK - such opposing views and such passion.   That has upset me more than anything else, the thought that there are families and friends so divided on the issue and the thought that many people will have voted on misinformation and scaremongering rather than actual facts.

There are some amazingly stupid questions going around, along with jokes, memes and everything else. Some are funny some are annoying but ultimately no-one really has any idea what will happen when they leave, or what would have happened had they stayed.  I have seen many people today say they are sad / scared / worried for their future, or dancing with joy that they will 'get their country back'.  Seeing as it will be at least two years before the UK officially leave  I would like to respectfully suggest that everyone has a cuppa, arranges their stiff upper lip and forms an orderly queue to put their best foot forward, keep calm and see what happens.

One of the most sensible quotes I have seen on facebook today from a friend...

Ok, a decision has been made and will not be changed no matter how much the 'remainers' whinge and moan. If times are harder we'll manage it, if they are better we'll enjoy it. It's that easy. And if everyone can stop f*****g asking each other how they voted there'll be a lot less agro between ourselves

and another I saw online

The country is full of people who don't know what's going on asking people who don't understand, a question that no-one knows the answer to!

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