Saturday, 31 December 2011

2011 it's been nice knowing you!

It's the time of year when you can't help but reflect over the previous 12 months and wonder what the next 12 will bring. For those who have been following my blog for a while you will know that this year has been a mixed bag for us....

The highlight was my parents moving over to Cyprus in March, and the low point was Aaron losing his job in August.  It's been great to see a couple of old friends from the UK who managed to visit us this year but sad to say goodbye to two friends of mine who had to move back to the UK.  Among the worries though there have been many good points,  various birthday's, days at the beach and meet ups with friends.
I'm linking up to Michelle's Reason's to be Cheerful this week, I haven't joined in for ages due to the fact that I've been really scraping the bottom of the barrel to find some decent reasons each week, but looking back over the photos of my year I realise we've still had a ball!

It was a year full of simple things and could have been better but was not that bad - although I hope 2012 will bring some good changes for us..... and a lot of luck - I think we're gonna need it!

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Christmas 2011

We had a lovely Christmas, the first one spent with the three of us and my parents together, on the day Leo woke later than usual at about 6.30am, he came into our room as normal and said all excitedly 'it's got light Mummy!'   (He says this with great joy if he wakes up and it's not pitch black as he has less reason to go back to sleep!)   He asked me to get up and was very surprised when I said 'Ok then' and jumped out of bed.... this is not something that usually happens!  To add to his confusion Daddy was also getting up - this certainly never happens at this time of day when Mummy's up too!

I asked him if he remembered what day it was and despite the excitement of the previous days he didn't know. I reminded him that Santa may have been and he rushed into the hall, looked around and ran back to me saying 'No, he's not here'  I wondered out loud if he may have left something on Leo's bed for him so he ran back to his room, starred at the bed and somehow didn't see the red stocking stuffed with presents!
Once I pointed it out though he grabbed it and ran to Daddy to show him.

There was also a pile of presents in the front room with an inflatable Santa perched on top. He also managed not to notice these for a good 5 minutes whilst standing right by them. Eventually he turned round and did a double take, first seeing the Santa on the top and shouting 'YES, there he is!'

He hadn't really got the whole idea of opening presents, first trying to get us to do it for him, but eventually got into the swing of things. It took almost an hour to open his stocking presents but he picked up speed as we went eventually not wanting to look at what was in them preferring to go for the next one!

Leo loved the whole experience, even if he got a bit confused at times. He kept handing his presents to Daddy saying 'There you go, Daddy - Happy Birthday'  He then thought it was his birthday (we've been to several parties lately!) and then thought it was 'his' Christmas....I explained Christmas was for everyone but he disagreed - but I suppose he may have a point!

We spent the rest of the day at my parents with more presents and a lovely dinner cooked by my Mum.

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas of Yesteryear

This week brings us the last Gallery of 2011, and the prompt is Christmas of Yesteryear. I was quite excited when I saw this prompt last week as it would give me a great excuse to look at all the old Christmas pics, except then I went and forgot all about it!

It's lucky really that I knew exactly which photo I wanted to use...

This was taken in 1986, of my friend and I caught having a sneaky peak of the presents under the Christmas tree! Unfortunately I'm the one in the rather unpleasant pink trouser suit, I'd like to blame that on my Mum but I have a horrible feeling that I used to love that outfit!

I used to drive my Mum mad by constantly poking and prodding the presents under the tree, I used to spend ages trying to guess what they were but I actually never wanted to find out!  One year I had accidentally come across a present of mine hidden and after a second of being really pleased I was getting what I wanted felt quite disappointed that I knew before the day!

My presents from 'Father Christmas were placed into a pillow case and left at the end of my bed but in the run up to Christmas one or two from my parents were put under the tree along with those for the rest of the family.  This came about after the year I wondered why everyone else in the family had a present under the tree except for me!

Even when I realised where all the presents came from I insisted on most of them being kept hidden until the day - I knew I wouldn't be able to resist picking them up to have a feel and I didn't want to work out what they were.

I can remember very clearly laying under the tree with Catherine in the photo above - she was a much better guesser than me (she unwrapped her presents one year when her Mum was out and tried to re-wrap them!) but even she didn't know what it was that I was getting,  I don't remember what it was that particular year but they were always good, and made better by the fact they were surprises!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

What makes Christmas...

Everyone has their own Christmas traditions and favourite things about the season and I've been really enjoying reading all about them on the many different blogs I regularly read. Joining in with the festivities is Kate with this week's Listography as she asks us all What makes Christmas, Christmas for us

1. The Tree - You cannot have Christmas without a tree, it's the first thing you need! Even when I lived on my own and wasn't even indoors for the majority of the Christmas season I still had my own little tree that I decorated with the Christmas CD playing several vodkas and singing my head off to 'Lonely this Christmas' like a festive version of Bridget Jones!

2. The music - I LOVE Christmas music much to Aaron's disgust, it doesn't matter that is not necessarily 'good' music but it's got to be done!  The last two years I have got up and thrown open the balcony doors as wide as they go and played 'Fairytale of New York' at full volume whilst singing and dancing round the balcony, not entirely sure what the neighbours thought but who cares!

3. Food, food, food!   Christmas dinner of course but also the mince pies, cheese straws, chocolate (mmn especially Lindor - thanks to my friend Larisa for bringing some out to me!) Boxing Day dinner of cold meat, cheeses and pickles.

4. Presents - I know it's not (supposed to be) all about the presents but I love giving people presents, and although not so much this year it won't be long before that will be the main excitement for Leo. As a young child I did appreciate it wasn't ALL about the presents but it was still the best bit!   I can't wait to see him open his presents this year.

5. Family - Spending time with those you love, having fun, a bit too much to drink and playing board games!


Silent Sunday

Friday, 16 December 2011

Christmas Tree Craft

You may already know that craft activities are not something that comes naturally to me, add my complete lack of patience and a wilful toddler into the mix and it's not something that usually fills me with joy! However Leo does get very excited and I thought as it's Christmas it would give me something to blog about it would be a lovely thing to do :)

I really can't remember if I saw this idea on another blog - if I did and you know which one let me know and I'll credit it as it seems unlikely I would have come up with the idea all by myself!

What you need - toilet roll tubes, red paint, card (I used a cereal box), green paper, stickers and glitter glue.

Paint the tubes, and leave to dry.
Cut out Christmas tree shapes and stick to the card.
Stick the trees to the rolls and then decorate with stickers and glitter glue to look like baubles and tinsel - Done!

Leo was a bit bemused at first as the only painting we've done just involved splodging colours randomly on paper but he eventually got the idea. When they were dry I explained what to do and did one to show him, he understood what I said but then, as two year olds like to do completely ignored me and preferred to stick the decorations on the back of the tree!

With some encouragement from Daddy he got the hang of it in the end and we ended up with three cute looking Christmas trees. Leo has since been asking to do more every day!


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and link to my blog

And for more Festive posts and ideas head over to Thinly Spread where you can find Festive Friday
Thinly Spread

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

The Ultimate Christmas Meme!

Have I mentioned that I love Christmas? The blog world is going a bit Christmas crazy so it was only a mater of time before 'The Ultimate Christmas Meme' appeared, it was started by Mummy Alarm and I've been tagged by Jenny from Mummy Mishaps who loves Christmas as much as I do.  I love an excuse to get even more festive so here's my answers...

1.The Christmas song I can listen to even in June is...
As much as I love Christmas I wouldn't want to listen to any Christmas songs in June, it's weird enough often being sunny here in December let alone listening to Christmas songs in 40 odd degree heat!  I like to keep Christmas special so try not to do anything festive until December. That said if I had to choose one it would be the best Christmas song of all time - Fairytale of New York.

2.Hot Chocolate, Egg Nog or Mulled wine?
Seeing as I don't like the others it would have to be Hot Chocolate, preferably with a big slug of baileys in it.

3.When do you put your decorations up?
Not on Christmas Eve that's for sure!  Usually about 2 weeks before the day itself,  again - although I love Christmas I don't like it to start too early, I think there should be a law against putting them up in November!

4 What are you having for Christmas dinner?
Turkey and all the trimmings, I've already made and frozen Red Cabbage and Cauliflower Cheese, two recent additions to our Christmas dinner but in just a few years have become a very well loved part!

5.What is your favourite Christmas tradition?
Putting the decorations up I think, it's an exciting part as all the festivities are still to come and I enjoy having a drink and listening to the Christmas CD while doing so - the decorating is an event in itself!   Although come back to me in a year or two and I may have developed more traditions as Leo grows up which may change my answer!

6. Have you ever gone Carol singing?
Once many years ago with the Brownies, we didn't actually knock on doors but we stood in a big group at the top of my road by the shops, bus stop and pub! I seem to remember there being quite a crowd of us with Brownies and parents, siblings and anyone else who got roped in, and I think I really enjoyed it.

7. When did you learn the truth about Santa?
I don't know how old I was, but one year I woke up as my bedroom door opened and I saw my Mum putting my presents at the bottom of my bed. I asked what she was doing and after a slight hesitation she explained that Santa was very busy delivering all the presents so she had met him downstairs and was just helping him out. I don't remember if I totally bought the explanation but I think I may have done as I wanted to believe. Even as I got older I still insisted my Mum continue putting my presents in my bedroom - she drew the line when I was out to the pub and going to bed later than she was!

8. How do you decorate your Christmas tree?
Lights, then tinsel, then decorations... as Leo can now tell you!  (he was desperate to get the decorations out and we kept telling him to wait as that was the order so he started repeating it!)   Our tree is huge, its almost 8ft and very wide, it was big in our old 3 bedroom house but *may* be slight overkill in our apartment, I don't care - I love it!  
It's always been a 2 colour tree, only red and silver decorations. We put it up together with the Christmas music blaring away in the background to drown out Aaron's moaning ;)    and then he puts the lights on as I always end up getting really annoyed with them. He usually puts the tinsel on too as I 'don't do it right'  (I like to argue this point but it does look better when he does it - but ssssh don't tell him!)  then the rest is down to me, this year with Leo's assistance for the first time.

9. What's the best thing about Christmas? 
I love it all, food, drink, presents, cooking, get togethers, even present wrapping and card writing but this year the best thing will be Leo as it's the first year he will really start to appreciate what's happening.

10. All I want for Christmas is...
Apart from good health to my family and friends all I really ask for is for a job for Aaron, well, either that or a huge lottery win!  

You know the rules.... 'do the meme and tag some bloggers' but rules are meant to be broken! If you fancy joining in go for it and let me know, I'll give you a mention.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Meeting Father Christmas

Last weekend was Leo's first bit of Christmas excitement, as he got to meet Father Christmas twice. I took him to see him last year but he was a little underwhelmed to say the least back then, (I didn't even write a blog post about it!)  and although he didn't cry at all the whole experience pretty much went over his head!  This year he understands who he is meeting, even though he doesn't get the whole 'presents coming at Christmas thing  - I've deliberately not mentioned too much about that as if I tell him Father Christmas will bring him presents he will just want them RIGHT NOW.

The first meeting was at the school on the army base's Christmas Fayre. The excitement started when Father Christmas arrived waving to everyone from the top of a fire engine with sirens blaring, We then queued with his friend (who's five) and he saw him go first so that would have encouraged Leo to do the same.

Leo was a little unsure but walked in holding my hand and then randomly asked Father Christmas to give him a 'High five'  When asked what he wanted for Christmas he said he didn't know but he nodded when told he must be a really good boy and then he will get some presents on Christmas day.   He took his gift and said 'Fanks Cissmass'

He left the grotto clutching his gift  - a lego 'alike' toy for age 6 and above which I swapped with a colouring book won from the tombola when Leo wasn't looking, (may have been a small flaw in the sorting out of the gifts!)

The Farye was more enjoyable than the year before as last year he had not been walking long but also was not happy in a buggy, this year he was really happy to be given some money and pay the lady for a go on the games!

We had a good haul between us, although I lucked out a little... encouraged by my parents and Leo's run of luck on the tombola (biscuits, tinned hot dogs, Christmas pudding, chocolates, colouring book, pencils, more lego) I had a go and won a large tin of rather dubious looking green beans, although I did manage to do a swap with my Dad for his Oreo cookies!

Being on the army base it felt just like being in a UK primary school, although I'm thinking they wouldn't have had stalls outside!

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Toys of an 80s Childhood.

Everyone is talking toys at the moment as we approach Christmas and it got me thinking about the toys I loved as a child. Jenny from Mummy Mishaps looked back at some toys from her toddler hood (and I had a couple of those like many of us did in the early 80's, Fisher Price phone anyone?) so thought I'd look at my childhood toys.

I had a Cabbage Patch Baby all dressed in pink which I think was called Norma, not a name I really liked for my little doll but that's what it said on her birth certificate so I stuck with it!  I had a bigger 'real life baby' doll which I had for years and probably got played with more but I did love this one - do you remember they used to smell like Talculm powder!

Care Bear 80s toys
Image credit
Care bears....the love of my childhood life!  I was their biggest fan, I had 3 years of 'Care Bear parties - so 3 birthday cakes (that was must have been quite easy - same cake, different colour, different picture but I didn't think of that!), I even had a surprise on my 25th Birthday when Aaron got me a Care Bear cake made for my School Disco themed party!  I had a huge collection of bear gathered over the years, cuddly one, poseable ones and little ones,Professor Coldheart, the cloud car and a few Care Bear Cousins.

80s toys, My Little Pony
Image credit.
My Litte Pony - these were great and I can still remember the names of the ponies I had (Lickerty Split, Bow Tie, Minty and Peaches in case you wondered!)  I had the little blue stable and my friend who lived over the road had the Dream Castle so I used to take my things to hers and we'd play with it all together. There were many outfits you could buy for them but they were expensive so my brilliant Mum made loads of accessories for them instead.

All of these toys escaped each time we had a clear out and when I moved out the ended up in my parents loft where they stayed until they started sorting things out for the move to Cyprus.  As I wasn't pregnant (just!) and even when I was to be there would be no guarantee it would be a girl we decided we should get rid of them all   :(

There was much debate.... boot fairs and Ebay seemed too depressing as I'd probably only get pennies for such a huge collection and it would be a lot of effort, so I rang my best friend, one who played with them herself as we'd known each other since playgroup.  She had a 5 year old girl and I asked if she would like all the toys for her. Funnily enough she said yes!

I took them all down one weekend, my friend kept back the doll for Christmas and as to not overwhelm her but I gave her the rest. Her Mum and me then spent a very pleasant afternoon showing all the bits and telling her their names.  The funniest bit was when my friend Mum walked in and saw me and Nicola sitting on the floor brushing the ponies hair (with her daughter now watching TV instead!)  She looked a but stunned and said it was a sight she hadn't expected to see again!

I'm glad I didn't have a girl in the end as I would have been a bit sad that I'd given all 'her' toys away but I'm so pleased they went to Nicola and her daughter, it seems quite apt that they have come full circle!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Homemade Lemon Curd

I've been on a bit of a domestic goddess fad lately, making enough Mince pies to feed the village and Onion Marmalde but I took it to another level last week and made my own Lemon Curd, I'd even been saving jars to put it in! It was actually really easy to make, and a damn sight cheaper than buying it as I've not seen a jar for less than 4 euros here. I just need to find someone with a lemon tree and it would be cheaper still!

You will need...
Grated zest and juice of 4 large lemons
4 large eggs
350g golden castor sugar ( I didn't have any so used normal granulated, seem to still work!)
225g unsalted butter cut into small chunks
1 level desert spoon cornflour

Lightly whisk eggs in a medium size saucepan then add the rest of the ingredients over a medium heat. Whisk continuously until mixture thickens, should be about 7 - 8 minutes.
Then turn the heat to the lowest setting and continue to whisk for about another minute.
Remove from the heat and pour into hot sterilised jars as full to the top as possible, cover with wax discs, seal when hot and it will last in a cool place for several weeks.

The recipe makes three 1lb (350ml) capacity jars.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Let the Christmas baking commence!

One of the things I always enjoyed as a child in the run up to Christmas was doing the pre-Christmas baking with my Mum. Mince Pies, and Cheese Straws are the ones that stick in my mind, along with decorating the Christmas Cake with the ancient plastic Santa, holly and robins.

It's only in recent years that I've decided that I like mince pies but apart from a couple of years when I left home I've always made them, it just doesn't feel like Christmas until I've made them now. Fortunately now I like them too I can actually eat my own cooking!

Although I enjoy cooking, it's taking a while for me to enjoy cooking with Leo but he enjoys it and I want to involve him so I split my baking into two parts. He helped me make the pastry in the morning and I left it to chill until he had gone to bed before I made the pies.

You can tell I'm getting old as I had actually planned to go to the pub with Aaron the night I made these but turned down my parents babysitting offer to stay home and bake, what is the world coming to!

Once Leo had gone to bed I opened the wine and put the Christmas CD on - one reason why I did it when Aaron was at the pub as he tells me off for starting Christmas too early. When the first batch was in the oven I rang my parents and invited them to be offical tasters and join me in a glass (or 3) of wine.

I have no idea how many pies I made, I know it was 6 batches of pastry (I made 3 lots but I doubled the ingredients each time)  - It was a little bit like a production line, and we *may* have tried several on the way from the cooling rack to the storage box so I gave up trying to work out how many were cooked!

I've never made my own mincemeat so I used 3 jars in total, next year I think I'll try making my own.  I was going to post the pastry recipe but I'm not actually sure which one I used now, but it's not rocket science, just sweet pastry so I'm sure you could figure it out!  I also made some tarts with my home-made Lemon curd as I thought Leo would prefer those - and they are yummy!

So I now have a whole shelf in my freezer of mince pies but I won't be eating them all - it should keep my Dad happy till New Year at least. I'll just make sure I keep one back to leave out for Father Christmas.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Popular posts

As the year draws to a close it's natural to reflect on the year that has passed, and look back over the previous 12 months. This week BritMums are asking us bloggers to share the best of our blogs, favourite posts or most popular so I've been trawling through the archives to remind myself of what I've been up to.

This has been a great year in blogging terms, I've really enjoyed both writing mine and reading others, I've 'met' some great people who although I've not met...yet - I'm still keeping my fingers crossed and hoping I'll get to go to BritMums Live) I would consider to be good friends. I've had a chance to review my first products and I've really enjoyed joining in with  lots of link ups with other blogs.

I can hardly believe that I've written 243 posts so far this year and I've enjoyed every minute, it makes up for the fact that we have nothing to watch on TV!  I'd like to share the top 5 favourites with you in case you missed them!

1.The most viewed post by far is actually one of the most annoying, as in it I share my the Children's programs I find the most annoying, this post has had more views than any other post I've written added together!
2. The second most viewed post was the sad story of Alethea Ayres, an inspirational woman who battled with malignant melanoma and sadly lost her fight earlier this year.
3.Back in July Cyprus suffered its biggest disaster in years when the Evangelos Florakis Naval base was destroyed by a huge explosion - I wrote about how it affected us in 'No Tea & Teletubbies.
4. In September we finally finished Leo's bedroom and he had a 'proper' room for the first time, I shared before and after photos and and asked 'What makes a House a home?'
5. I'm really please that the fifth most popular post was actually written by my Mum, about how she copes with Menieres Disease. I hope that it may have helped someone in a similar position.

I don't even know where to start with my favourite posts, I enjoy the photo posts so along with all the Flashback Friday's and Silent Sunday's I've really enjoyed my 'Discovering Cyprus' posts as it's great to get out exploring and finding lovely places to photograph.

I've no idea what I'll be blogging about in the coming year but as ever I'm sure I'll think of things as we go....

Linked up to this weeks BritMums Blog prompts.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

The best Christmas songs in the world ever!

Love Christmas = Love Christmas music, it's the best way to get you in the festive spirit!

Growing up we had an LP (remember those? Big round black vinyl things? No, ok I'll continue) of Christmas Carols which was very nice but as I got a bit older I discovered the joy of the Christmas Song!

Every year at the end of the school term there would be charity events, and own clothes days and it would all be topped off with the Sixth Form Christmas show where all the teachers would make prats of themselves for our amusement. The best bit for me was at the end when they used to play all Christmas songs and everyone would be so over excited about the holidays and what was to come. That was the start of my love of the Christmas song, now much to the disgust of my hubby who thinks they should only be played on one day I can't wait to get the Christmas CD out each year.

It's a tough call but I've been trying to list my top five favourites...

Well, first of all there is no question what the best Christmas song of all time is, those opening notes make me smile every time...

Moving on, it gets a bit trickier as there many that I like, so in no particular order...

Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone - just makes me want to dance!
Wizzard - I wish it could be Christmas everyday,   - Let the bell's ring out for Christmas! I always used to get this and Slade's Merry Christmas Everyone mixed up, I love that too but I Wizzard just tops it.
Mariah Carey - All I want for Christmas, I really don't like Mariah generally but  love this song. I remember the year it came out, it was the first year I was out over the festive period and it was played constantly in the pub I was drinking in.
Wham - Last Christmas,  not the best song in the world but how can you not love it, and it's got a lovely video!

I'm trying to get Leo excited about the Christmas music but currently he's firmly on his Dad's side and is refusing to be interested.... going to have to call in reinforcements I think!

Linking up to Listography

Silent Sunday

Saturday, 3 December 2011

The first of the Christmas traditions

Every family has their own traditions and habits over Christmas and every year it makes a popular topic of conversation in the run up to Christmas, what you eat, where you go and what time you open presents are just a few of the many things discussed. I have been with Aaron many years now and mostly our Christmases were similar and they kind of merged into one but the Christmas after we got married we discovered a bit of a compatibility issue!

Just to set the scene (Sorry Aaron, you knew this blog post was coming didn't you!) Aaron hates Christmas.... well, he likes Christmas Day but he says that Christmas should be just that, one day. I on the other hand think of Christmas as a season!  I love the run up to Christmas as much, if not more than the day itself, I love shopping, cooking, wrapping presents, writing cards, carols... the whole thing and it drives him nuts. 

That year we had been having our annual conversation where I try and convert him and get annoyed when he doesn't get all excited and was debating when to put the tree up. He said he didn't care when it went up until we had kids but when we had a child it would be not going up  before Christmas Eve once they had gone to bed....... 

I was actually lost for words and that doesn't happen very often!  I may have even laughed at the very thought of it. The decorating of the tree was always an event in itself for me, and as a child marked the start of Christmas. I immediately came up with a whole list of reason why that was NOT going to happen, if for no other reason it would be the last thing I'd want to be doing on Christmas Eve, especially if I had kids!

His argument was that it is magical for kids to come down on Christmas morning to see the room transformed into a Christmas 'wonderland'  Growing up that is how his family did it, - Aaron and his brother and sister would go off the bed on Christmas Eve to wake up to a stocking on the bed and tree, decorations and a pile of presents downstairs.  I can see where that would be exciting, but to me surely the presents alone are exciting, I don't remember being anything other than excited on Christmas morning despite having had the tree up for a couple of weeks. I can understand that he would want to recreate what he had as a child but this is just wrong :)

He was adamant, but so was I. I told him there was no way that would ever happen, and because I wanted them first I told him they would get done when he was out and then he would have to explain to our child if he was going to take them all down again to put them up two weeks later :)

Since then, we tend to have the discussion every year, especially this year as he said Leo is at the age to really appreciate it Christmas morning, he was shot down in flames by my parents and I and once again (as he always will) has lost the battle.  My parents and friends will be putting their's up  before this time so wouldn't Leo think it a bit odd that we are the only people without any?

So, it has been decided (by my Dad and I, who declare ourselves in charge of such things) that next weekend is the time for them to go up. I'm being very good I think as I'm very excited about Christmas this year so could quite easily be persuaded to put them up now!  As much as I love it though I don't like them up too early, and I agree that we should have no decorations or anything Christmassy before 1st December (I may have sneakily played Fairytale Of New York last week but no-one was in so it doesn't count!)

I haven't edited that photo - he actually was wearing a black Santa hat with 'Bah Hunbug written on it!


Friday, 2 December 2011

Flashback Friday - a moment in time

As I'm sure you have gathered from reading my blog I LOVE photos, I can easy spend hours looking at old photos or faffing about with them. Over the years I've taken hundreds and have rarely been at an event (or non-event!) with having taken any, because of this its very unusual to suddenly see a photo some time after it was taken (or in this case uploaded to Facebook - I'm on there so much it's very unlikely that I would miss something!)

I came across this unimportant looking photo the other day posted on the facebook page of my old 'local' - the pool club we used to spend most of our time in.  It was a totally ordinary Thursday evening and we taking part in the monthly quiz night - hence the serious 'thinking' faces.

Apart from the fact I didn't know it had been taken and I've only just seen it 3 years later it jumped out at me for another couple of reasons....

It was weird to see my old pool club - I spent ages looking at the photo, imagining what the place looked like and who would have been there that night, then remembering all the various nights (and days) spent there.  Looking at the table I can see that Aaron is drinking whiskey and coke (no ice - we never had to specify all the bar staff knew without asking)  and I was probably drinking Red Bull and lemonade, my favourite 'driver's drink' at the time.

The main reason though is while we were sat at this table I believe I made some comment about my top being uncomfortably tight. Aaron looked at me and said 'Well I reckon you're pregnant'.  I remember not knowing what to say, I knew it was possible, and even quite likely but we'd been not NOT trying (if that makes sense?!) for so long that I'd kind of given up wondering each month.

He was convinced but I just shrugged it off and joined him for a cigarette (yeah - I know don't leave me comments telling me it's bad, I'll just move them into the spam folder!)   That cigarette was not at all enjoyable and I put it out, decided that the Red Bull was making me jittery and had a cup of tea instead.

The next day I brought a pregnancy test on the way home from work, (well that and a box of tampax - I was hedging my bets!)   and he was right.... little Leo was on his way!

ShowOff Showcase

Also linking up to BritMums blog prompts

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Getting back in the habit

Several weeks ago I completed a fitness assessment with MG Health and Fitness, I enjoyed finding out that apparently I'm fitter than I think I am, and survived the run up the hill, I was advised on the areas I need to focus on and how best to move forward not just for short term solutions but to work towards a long term fitness goal.

A few days later I was back for another class and I was all committed to my new plan, then the following day I picked up Leo awkwardly and put my back out - you may have seen me moaning about it on twitter / facebook! Although Claire from MG helped me out it meant I had to miss classes, I could hardly stand up let alone get to the studio!

It doesn't take much to get me out of an exercise routine, so I really had to force myself back there this week but I know that if I don't get stronger / fitter then the problems will continue.  As Claire is out the country Mike was taking the Legs Bums & Tums class. It's a good job I can't blog as I'm exercising as the words running threw my head were not printable!

Having only really exercised at home with DVDs or on my own at the gym, working out with an instructor is very new to me. Mike is a great trainer and a hard taskmaster!   I will very easily give up on a particular exercise when working on my own when I think I can't go on..... not something you can get away with there!

It is reassuring to know that working with a trained instructor I'm much less likely to do something that would be bad for my weak points (back, knees, shoulder....I could go on - and do quite often!) and as they are small classes it almost becomes a personal training session as he adapts it to suit, of course the downside to it is the fact it makes it a lot harder to hide in the crowd and have a sneaky rest!

So, Legs, Bums & Tums - I'll be back next week so it can't have been all bad. I really enjoyed it and now am just hoping I'll be able to walk in the morning :)

This is NOT a sponsored post, I am choosing to attend MG Health & Fitness Studio and recommending it to anyone in the local area - I have not been asked to write about it.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

It's still all Greek to me!

Regular readers of my blog will know that I'm in the process of learning Greek, I have been learning it on and off for several years now but have struggled to get into a regular pattern of studying.  When I received my Rosetta Stone TOTALe software back in July I was very excited (I really was, I believe I may have tried to put Leo to bed an hour early.... it didn't work!)  and threw myself straight into it, doing a little almost every night and scheduling Studio sessions whenever I could.

Included with the TOTALe package is 3 months subscription to the online services, and when this ran out I think my motivation left with it!  In the similar way to going to an actual Slimming World class helped me to lose weight the live sessions ensured I kept up with the lessons and didn't start to skip days. The thought that you have one booked and you are going to be having a 50 minute conversation in Greek makes me much more inclined to get on with it!

Rosetta Stone have kindly offered me further on-line access to the Studio Sessions and other on-line content so I've eagerly booked up my next two sessions, one tomorrow and one at the weekend..... I've gone back to basics and am choosing to re-do Level 1 and 2 rather than the Level 4 that I had got to as I've been slacking for so long I'm reinforcing my knowledge of the early stuff. 

I'm determined to stick with it this time, not only will I need to speak the language when Leo goes to school but now I'm working I'm dealing with locals on a daily basis and often making phone calls to people who don't speak English very well, or at all - in times like that I really need to be able to say more than 'I'd like 2 beers please'   (even though that's almost definitely what I'd be wanting!)


I'd also like to say how impressed I was with Rosetta Stone support, (and for not pointing out how stupid I was when it turned out I was typing the activation code in incorrectly  *bangs head on keyboard*)    When I couldn't find the answer to my problem on the website, I spoke to an on-line support guy for an hour who did some techy stuff and fixed the first problem.   Then the following day after discovering I had a problem with the new activation code, swearing at the laptop for a while and them giving up with the hump R.S called, remotely accessed my computer and sorted it all out in a few minutes.

I'm now all good to go again.....    

Thursday, 24 November 2011

2 years in Cyprus

Today is our 'Cyprus Anniversary', we have now been in Cyprus 2 years!   Last year I looked at the difference a year makes and how much it felt like home.  It wasn't the easiest of years and I had always been looking forward to this second year, actually in some ways this year has been even harder due to Aaron losing his job and money being somewhat tight but in terms of feeling like home this year has been an improvement.

My parents moved out in March and now it seems like they've always been here, it seems like I've known my friends here forever and now I've even got a job!  

Aaron is now on the committee for the Famagusta Eightball Pool Championships as Vice Chairman and is Captain of his team 'All the Kings Men' who play for the King's Sword Pub in Agia Napa.  Aaron has been playing pool for years but this is the first time he's been Captain!

I'm now writing for Daxi, a local magazine and also enjoy getting involved with the brilliant website Mums in Cyprus. I've just started working with MG Health & Fitness  and I'm (slowly) learning Greek, all of which is making me feel more like I belong here. 

It's really not as easy as it might sound though, especially at the moment while we are looking for work  Sorting out child / unemployment benefit (we are entitled to it as Aaron has worked and paid social insurance for two years here and we are still in the EU) is very difficult due to not only the language but the random way in which things usually seem to be done!  Even simple things like going to the doctors can be hard but it's obviously going to get easier as time goes on and we get used to it even more, and before you say it I know it was our choice.... if we don't like it then go home  (you were thinking it weren't you!)

I do sometimes wonder if we made the right decision, (sssh, don't tell anyone!) but only when things are a bit crap - and it's very easy to blame the fact we live in Cyprus for that and forget that we'd be sure to have various problems in the UK too. Aaron has no doubt whatsoever and he may well be right (but don't tell him so!) but then I've always been one to 'overthink' things.

Overall, it's bloody great and I think it's the best thing we've ever done. We've met great people and had some great times....

Things that make me happy

As part of my 101 list I decided I would make a list of 101 things that make me happy. I started making the list back in July last year and although most of it came to mind pretty easily I soon got stuck, I was determined that it wouldn't beat me though so I saved it and have been coming back to every now and again.   Of course, now I've finished it I'm sure a load more things will pop into my head that should have gone on the list!

I'm also cheating a little and linking this up to 'Reasons to be Cheerful' this week over at Bod For Tea as although I've not been the most cheerful person this list reminds me of many reasons to be!

  1. Being Mum to Leo
  2. Being married to Aaron
  3. Sunshine
  4. Good friends
  5. Losing excess pounds
  6. The view from my balcony
  7. Photos
  8. Good music
  9. My parents
  10. Dancing
  11. Making lists
  12. Floating on a lilo
  13. Leo laughing
  14. Not being in debt
  15. Tidy apartment
  16. Drinking with friends
  17. Weddings
  18. Sleeping in late
  19. Reading good books
  20. BBQs
  21. Talking
  22. Smoking!
  23. Meeting people at airport arrivals
  24. Sleeping snuggled under a duvet
  25. Playing with a dog
  26. Eating good food
  27. Having a plan
  28. Finding a bargain
  29. Watching a sleeping Leo
  30. Baking cakes
  31. Catching up on facebook gossip
  32. Organizing events
  33. Seeing Leo learn new things
  34. Going for random drives with AJ
  35. Completing a crossword
  36. Being just the “right” temperature!
  37. Getting my hair done
  38. Eating together as a family
  39. Being busy
  40. Blogging
  41. Watching a good program or film
  42. Sitting outside in the evening
  43. Watching the sunset
  44. Going to the pub (without Leo - like the old days!)
  45. Planning a party
  46. Being a stay at home mum
  47. Days out
  48. Drinking cocktails
  49. Meeting up with other Mum’s and babies
  50. Reminiscing 
  51. Having enough sleep
  52. Having a cupboard full of ironed clothes (by someone else!)
  53. Clean sheets
  54. Comments on my blog posts
  55. Swimming in the sea
  56. Jeans that fit perfectly
  57. Giving presents
  58. Tea and biscuits!
  59. Getting a parcel in the post
  60. Emails / phone calls from friends in UK
  61. Christmas dinner
  62. Watching Leo do something new
  63. Bath and bed time!
  64. Leo sleeping well at night
  65. People being on time for things
  66. Having a pile of magazines to read
  67. Being up so late that it gets light (assuming I can then sleep all day!)
  68. Playing/dancing/singing with Leo
  69. New clothes
  70. Paddling in the sea
  71. Building sandcastles/digging with Leo
  72. Standing out on the balcony at night
  73. Playing board games / Wii games with friends
  74. Watching Leo playing with his friends
  75. Hot baths in winter time
  76. Cool showers in summer!
  77. Getting a new toy (phone, camera, any kind of gadget!)
  78. Rearranging cupboards and getting rid of junk
  79. Hitting ‘publish’ on a great blog post
  80. Being organized
  81. Having my cupboards full of food
  82. My car
  83. Reading trashy magazines on the beach
  84. Playing ‘ipod roulette’
  85. Finding I’ve got new ‘blog followers’
  86. Cake and chocolate!
  87. Beating peoples high scores on stupid facebook games
  88. Jigsaw puzzles
  89. Choosing books in a library
  90. Finding money you didn’t realize you had
  91. Spa / massage treatments
  92. Dressing up
  93. Boot sales
  94. Learning new things
  95. The internet!
  96. Comments on my photos or facebook status
  97. Putting up the Christmas decorations
  98. The view of the sea as you drive round Cape Grecko
  99. Re-watching my wedding video
  100. Having something to look forward to
  101. Finally finishing a task I’ve been working on for ages!
I started my Day Zero project on July 29, 2010 so I've got 523 days left. I've completed 45 items off the list so it's not going too badly.  To see how I'm doing you can visit my 101 in 1001 page here.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Onion Marmalade - Creating Christmas

Last night, feeling particularly organised  I decided to start the first of my Christmas cooking, I love cooking and particularly enjoy preparing things for Christmas, as a child I always looked forward to making Cheese Straws and Mince pies with my Mum, always to the sound of carols so it's usually the start of the festive season for me. 

I decided it was a little too early to break out the Christmas CD so instead I opted for wine and Strictly Come Dancing on the TV in the background... obviously Aaron was out so I had control of the TV!

Some time ago I found a recipe for Onion Marmalde and thought it would be nice to go with cold meat and cheeses over Christmas. Aaron introduced me to the brilliant Boxing Day tradition of this meal and we always used to get some sort of onion relish.  You can buy it here in Cyprus but there is not a huge choice and it's not usually very cheap so I thought I'd give it a go.

Despite collecting jam jars for a while and ordering a pack of wax discs and jar covers from Ebay, once I started drinking wine cooking the marmalade I realised that I didn't actually have any idea what to do with them.... 

It's a really simple recipe.....

110g butter
900g Onions thinly sliced
2 tbsp granulated sugar
Salt and freshly ground pepper
75ml sherry or red wine vinegar
2 tbsp grenadine or creme de cassis
1/2 bottle of red wine or less (or more if you are anything like me!) to taste

Melt the butter in a medium pan and add the onions.  Add the sugar and seasoning, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the vinegar, red wine and grenadine, cook uncovered over a low heat stirring when necessary until the sauce thickens and bubbles slowly.

Then get a bit confused about what to do with the wax discs and the cellophane bits that came in the jam jar kit and tweet frantically to anyone who'd listen trying to find out. 

Feel relived when you notice The Boy and Me online and bombard her with silly questions until you kinda figure it out!

I sterilised the jars in the oven (after quick Google search to find that out - jars on tray at low heat for 20 mins)  and then spooned the hot mixture into the hot jars.   (and all over the worktop and down the sides but that wasn't part of the plan)

Wax discs onto the top then cover with the cellophane and seal with an elastic band - voila!

I would have taken more photos if I had remembered - spot the wine glass in the picture!

To see the other 'Creating Christmas' posts click the badge below


Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sponsorship Opportunity - BritMums Live

After reading so much about previous blogger events such as Cybermummy11 and the MAD blog awards and seeing the excitement created by them on twitter and on lots of blogs I follow I have been hoping I would one day get the chance to attend one. Since BritMums Live was announced I've been planning my trip!

BritMums Live is the biggest blogging event of the year, devoted entirely to parent bloggers, and run by the UK's largest parent blogging network of more than 3000 influential bloggers.

Now, as you should have gathered by now although I am a Brit, and a Mum, I actually live in Cyprus which means I could do with a little assistance in getting to the event!  Attending BritMums would be a fantastic opportunity for me but I would also like to use this opportunity to work with a company relevant to my family and our lives and the readers of my blog.

In case you are a new reader to 'A matter of choice'  let me introduce myself....

I'm Emma, a 34 year old expat Brit, wife and Mum to Leonidas our 2½ year old. We moved to Cyprus in 2009 because it seemed like a good idea at the time, and luckily it was!

I started this blog as a way of documenting our move and our 'new' life and keeping family and friends who may be interested updated in what we were up to. I didn't realise at first that I had joined an amazing community of  fellow parent bloggers and other expats all over the world.

Blogging has provided me with some great opportunities, and the chance to work with some great companies. I now write a monthly column for Daxi Magazine, and have my own section on Mums in and the global expat network Angloinfo.

I would love to attend BritMums Live to meet in 'real life' with many of my fellow bloggers, and find out more about this brilliant community, how it works and how I can further improve my little bit of cyberspace.

I am looking for a kind sponsor to help me out in being able to attend this fantastic event. 
In return I can offer you the following...

  • I will represent your company (and only your company) at the event itself. This includes wearing an item you may wish to provide promoting your brand..... by this I mean a t-shirt or badge, as much as I love fancy dress a giant chicken costume or similar is not the way I wish to meet my fellow bloggers.
  • I will place your company logo and link to your website in a prominent position on my blog for the whole of 2012.
  • I will write reviews of any product you would like me to try on my blog with text links and photos.
  • I will write an introductory post introducing you as my sponsor which will also include keywords and text links. 
  • I will mention your  company and sponsorship in any post, twitter / facebook and other social network sites when talking about my attendance of BritMums Live.
  • I will mention your company in a feature about the conference on and in local magazine - Daxi 
I am also happy to discuss any further requirements you may have.

So, what would I like in exchange for the above?

  • BritMums Live ticket £49.99
  • Travel expenses £190
  • One night hotel accommodation  £115 
I feel this is a great opportunity for any company wishing to raise their profile in Cyprus, the UK and across Europe. If you are interested in the above or would like any further information please contact me via email  or on twitter @Emsyjo 

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ladies who cake.

I love cake.... well who doesn't!

I love to bake cakes but I'm not even vaguely artistic and to make matters worse have zero patience so generally not very good at even trying!  So in our house when it come to making special occasion cakes it become a team effort, I bake it and Aaron decorates it. Between us I think we've done well, there was the pumpkin cake, the ghost cake, Mickey Mouse for Leo's birthday among others.

A couple of people said we should sell them but they as good as they are, they are not that good.... these however I think are brilliant...

They are the work of my lovely Sister-in-law and her business partner who have recently started 'Ladies Who Cake'  They are based in Kent working from home and since they started earlier this year have been inundated with requests.

You can find them on facebook at Ladies Who Cake

This is NOT a sponsored post, I have received no payment, not even any cake for writing this, I just wanted to share these brilliant creations with you. I will however be demanding samples when I'm next in the UK :)

Saturday, 19 November 2011

The week that went too fast

Last Sunday was an unusual day, I said 'see you later' to my friend Michelle and then went straight to the airport to meet my friend Larisa which was great timing as it cheered me up! I saw Larisa once last August when I was in the UK but Aaron hadn't seen her since we left almost 2 years ago and Leo wouldn't have remembered her. 

Leo loves to look at photos so in the week leading up to her arrival I showed him lots of photos so he knew who was coming. I think she was quite surprised he took to her straight away like he'd seen her every day of his life, even before she showered him with presents!

Regular readers (and fellow ex-pats) will know that one of my least favourite things about living in Cyprus is the lack of reasonably priced clothes (and toys, books, stickers among many other things) so Larisa had been gathering goodies for us for a while. I'd also been on ebay winning random items to be sent to her, I'm surprised she had any room left for her own clothes!

Before she booked Larisa said she was thinking of coming over in November or January, I suggested November as the weather would probably be better but unfortunately it rained for most of the time she was here. It meant we couldn't do most of the things we'd planned and there is not a lot to do in Cyprus when it rains. We managed to get out in the day a few times in the end but luckily she had come to see us rather than the sites as there was not much rain free time in the last week!

Leo absolutely loved Larisa and would not leave her alone for a second, it's a good job that with three nephews she is used to it and loves being 'Auntie 'risa'  All you heard all week was 'Come on 'risa I got an idea - come in my bedroom / sit on the floor / play Thomas / read this  and so on. Each morning he woke up and asked where she'd gone, to then get very excited when she appeared each day.

We tried to fit 2 years of gossip into her time here and I feel like I've been speaking for a week, chatting about all kinds of random rubbish is what we do best! It all seemed to go by too fast though and last night I had to take her back to the airport for her flight home. I don't do very well with 'goodbyes' so in my usual style I stopped at the drop of point and with a quick see you later was gone. I'm sure she won't be offended by that as it's pretty much what we said 2 years ago, and although it took a while is exactly what we did!

People come into your life and people go.
But it's comforting to know the ones you love are always in your heart, 
And if you're very lucky, a plane ride away.
Carrie Bradshaw,  Sex and The City.

Friday, 18 November 2011

Flashback Friday - Weekend in Paris

One of the best presents and biggest surprise I've received was from Aaron for our first Christmas as a married couple. We were at my parents house exchanging gifts (we used to save our and take them round so we all opened the presents together) and Aaron handed me two presents.  I opened the first one to reveal a guidebook for Paris. With a present like that after a moments confusion you start to wonder if it's a rather random choice of gift or a clue to an amazing one!

It was of course a clue, the next present I opened was a wallet containing travel documents and an itinerary of things that he had planned for us.  It was booked for the early January and Aaron had already cleared it with my work to have the time off!

I'd never been on a city break before and I although I was really looking forward to it, I didn't think it would be like a holiday as such.... weekends go very fast and I didn't think it would be particularly relaxing - the only ever foreign trips I'd taken being beach holidays which involved a lot of sitting in the sun doing nothing!

I was very wrong, It was an amazing weekend, although I may have been known to moan about the amount of walking we did! (in my defence I was a lot bigger and very unfit at the time!)  Aaron had really thought the whole weekend through and apart from the lack of use of the Metro it was perfect )

It's hard to pick a highlight but I could narrow it down to two. On the Saturday evening we had a lovely dinner followed by a show at the Moulin Rouge, I love big showy performances and you don't get much more so than this!

Aaron had also prebooked an evening dinner cruise on a Bateaux Mouches, this was amazing!  A five course meal with music whilst cruisng down the Seine  - that takes some beating!  The moment I will always remember was when we were stood outside, just as we happened to be passing the Eiffel Tower. It was freezing cold and as I was wearing a dress was suffering, Aaron gave me his jacket and just as he put it round my shoulders the lights on the Eiffel Tower sparkled (as they do for the first 10 minutes of every hour when the tower is lit up)   - how ridiculously romantic is that!

To see more great Flashbacks, head over to Cafe Bebe.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

The Gallery - 11/11/11

It may not rain very often in Cyprus but when it does it really chucks it down, since we have been here we have seen some huge storms and have spent many an evening staring out the patio doors watching the lightning illuminate the sky.

Never before though have we seen a sky lit up like this...

What made it all the more surreal is the fact that not only were we stood outside with no sign of rain anywhere, we could also hear no thunder at all.  The storm was way out to sea and went on for almost an hour with nearly constant lightning!

It was a fitting end to a day with a unusual date, and the perfect timing for this weeks Gallery post, the prompt was 11/11/11 and the task was to use a photo to mark whatever we were doing on that day.

Monday, 14 November 2011

It's not goodbye, just 'See you later'

One of the advantages of being an expat Mum in Cyprus is when you meet other British Mums with similar age children you immediately have at least two things in common. This can be very helpful when making new friends in a new country. Some people you just click with and it seems like you've known each other for years.

Of course, there is an equal disadvantage to making friends abroad, the fact that circumstances can arise which makes it necessary for them to leave. My friend Michelle leaves for England this week with her gorgeous little boy, Oliver who is one of Leo's best mates.

I met Michelle initially via Facebook and we met in real life early 2010, meeting up generally at least once a week at 'Jingle Jangle's' toddler music group.

The boys are 'usually' best of friends but go through stages of seeming to hate each other!  Both as bad as one another in different ways they often have their moments where all they do is wind each other up.... Oliver likes to get very close to Leo, usually accompanied by the cutest sounding 'alwight mate?, yeah Leo's alwight, he's just a bit crying'   to which Leo, will throw himself to the ground crying 'Owiwer pushed me'  when actually all he did was to stand a bit too close!

Although I'll see Michelle again before she goes, the boys have already said their goodbyes, not that they realised it. We met at the soft play place along with another friend of ours and her son and spent over an hour trying to get a nice photo of the three boys together.

They were being even more uncooperative than 2 year old boys usually were and in the end we gave up and enjoyed watching playing instead!

I'm glad they are too young to realise that Oliver is moving away as I would have been even sadder when we said goodbye as we left, as it is Leo's little wave and 'Bye Owiwer' as he got  in the car nearly made me cry!

I'm not good with 'goodbyes' so I refuse to say it, but hopefully they will be back soon :(

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Creating Christmas

I must apologise for bringing up the 'C word' so early.....Christmas is not actually that far away, but you probably knew that. I imagine that in the UK it's been everywhere you turn for weeks now? but here it's only the last week or so that I've seen or heard any mention of it.

I'll soon be reading all the usual stuff online about Christmas stress and shopping in tweets and facebook statuses and be thankful that I'm out of it, don't get me wrong I LOVE Christmas but can't stand all the faffing about presents...  who everyone is or isn't buying for, how much it's costing etc etc

I like to think that maybe people are going to worry less about it all with so many people now struggling for money but I'm probably being optimistic.

This year, for the first time I'm doing home-made stuff, it may not be brilliant but it's the thought that counts and it's that or nothing!  I only be doing things for a very small amount of  people as we are so far from everyone else and I know they will be happy with their gifts, but if I thought someone would be offended by a home-made gift then I'd probably decide they are very rude and not be inclined to give them a gift at all, after all it takes more thought and time to make something than to pick up some random gift in a shop which they quite possibly do not even want.

I'm really looking forward to getting into the kitchen to create lots of (hopefully) yummy Christmas treats, you can expect some blog posts along the way about it,  and I'm also planning to try and get over my reluctance to involve Leo in the kitchen and get him 'helping' along the way.  I loved the run up to Christmas as a child and I hope to create plenty of excitement and traditions for Leo over the years, helping to create gifts for others I feel is a very good start!

I'm not the most naturally creative of people and I'm always trawling the internet for ideas so I'm looking for inspiration,  I know there will be a million blog posts out there so if you have one I'd love you to share it with me...   if you have a Christmas craft, recipe or home-made gift idea then please join me and add your post to the linky below.

I'll be doing a 'Creating Christmas' post on Mondays between now and the day itself starting in a week or so, but the linky is open now so feel free to link up any posts you already have, to help me out - your ideas might just work their way into my Christmas plans. You can stop by each week to join in, or you can visit my Creating Christmas page by clicking on the link at the top of the page. Posts can be new or old as long as they are relevant, and feel free to add as many as you like!


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Friday, 11 November 2011

Lest we forget

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Laurence Binyon (1869 - 1943).
image credit 

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