Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Harry Potter Party - Potions Class

At our recent Harry Potter Party, the definite highlight for the children (and possibly some adults!)   was the Potions Class.

Professor Snape fortunately was unable to make the lesson so instead our very own Moaning Myrtle kindly took over on his behalf. 

Tiny Acorns Creativity Centre

We had a magical array of ingredients for our potions experiments, including Dragons Blood, Leech Juice and Floberworm Mucus!

Harry Potter Party Potions Class
Image Credit: Klik Photo Cy

Our first experiment  - Exploding Potion

Each 'student' was given a cauldron and took themselves 2 tablespoons of 'Bicorn Powder'  (baking powder) 

Next a squirt of 'Dragons Blood' (blood orange juice), a dash of 'Floberworm Mucus' (washing up liquid)  

Finally, some Exploding Fluid (40ml of white vinegar)

The kids, and the adults actually,  absolutely loved it!   The screams of joy and laughter were quite a surprise to me, but it went down so well!

It was really funny listening to the childrens reactions to all the ingredients, wondering if they were REALLY what we said they were and daring each other to taste the Dragon's Blood (whilst looking surreptitiously at us to see our reaction to the suggestion!) Best comment came from one who said 'Wow, Dragons Blood really tastes like orange juice!' 

Experiment No.2 created a magical colour changing potion

For this we used:
Aqua Vitae (Water)
Pumpkin Juice (Orange juice) 
Nagini Venom (Liquid Starch) 
Leech Juice (Iodine) 

Each 'student' started with some  water in a clear plastic cup. 
Using a pipette they were instructed to add a few drops of iodine which turned the water yellow. 

Followed by a few drops of Liquid Starch to turn the water black. 

The 'magic' part comes next as you gradually add the orange juice which makes the colour disappear!

Even I was impressed, and the kids were completely captivated by the magic.  Once again Sam excelled herself with her attention to detail and dedication to the children. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

A Cypriot Issue and a Universal Question

With recent events in Cyprus and the renewed enthusiasm of the possibility of reunification, or at least steps towards it, I have found myself seeking out more information on all things Cyprus related. Politics have never been of any interest to me in any way before, but I'm finding myself more and more interested in Cypriot news and recent history. 

I have been searching for more information on the country, the history and the troubles.  Of particular interest to me is the stories of the Cypriots themselves, not the politicans and the soldiers but the everyday lives and the impact of events on them.  I now hear of many stories of Greek and Turkish Cypriots living peacefully not only side by side but together as friends and until recently I was not aware that had happened.  I had been under the impression that they were always enemies, and it is encouraging to hear that many people see themselves as Cypriot first, Greek or Turkish second. 

I was therefore interested to 'meet' Alkin Emirali online, a Cypriot of Turkish descent and a screenwriter writing a 'Perfect Motion' production' telling a story of how neighbouring people can both be friends or enemies and how these feuds can be unnecessarily passed through generations. 

Our Cyprus is a short drama about friendship. It reveals a human perspective that cuts through the political terrain. Through the community-spirited Mehmet-Ali, the culture and kinship, which Greek and Turkish Cypriots once shared, is illuminated. He takes us back to a more innocent and beautifully ambiguous past when it was far harder to see where Greek Cypriots ended and Turkish Cypriots began.
Despite being about the Cypriot issue, this story could easily have played out between a Palestinian and an Israeli or a Protestant and Catholic in Northern Ireland. Sadly it explores an almost universal question...
How is it that neighbouring peoples throughout history have regarded their points of difference as infinitely more important than their great wealth of commonality, and taken up arms against one another?

Writer / Director Alkin Emirali explains why he wants to tell this story....

The stories of a divided Cyprus remain largely untold.
My grandparents left Cyprus for the UK in the early 50's, before the troubles that tore the island in two. They were economic migrants who were looking for a better life than the one afforded them as rural peasants from the village of Lurucina.
I grew up hearing my grandparents speaking primarily Greek Cypriot despite being Turkish Cypriots. I heard about my paternal Grandfather and his drinking buddy the Greek Orthodox priest. I learnt that both my Grandfathers (Turkish Cypriots) were baptised in the church as well as being circumcised as Muslims.  My Grandmother told me how she was trained as a seamstress by a Greek Cypriot neighbour. I learnt that Greek and Turkish Cypriots would celebrate each other's religious holidays. 
It seemed to me that these people were not just neighbours, but such close friends that it was hard to see where one ended and the other began. In a more innocent time it seems, Cypriots were one people sharing a culture and a cuisine which was more to do with their island home and each other than either mainland Greece or Turkey.
Our Cyprus is my attempt to reconcile my family's experience of a beautifully mixed and ambiguous Cyprus with the troubles that tore an island and a people in two
Cypriot story between Greek and Turkish Cypriots

You can help bring this film to life by contributing to the crowd fund campaign  to help bring the film to life. We are here to raise £7,750 in total, but you can get involved for as little as £5, that's less than the price of a cinema ticket! 
Visit the website to find out more about the Our Cyprus project and Indiegogo campaign

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Interview with a 6 year old

For the last three years, inspired by something  I saw on pinterest I have interviewed Leo just after his birthday.

After last years 'interview with a 5 year old' I decided to avoid Louka trying to steal the limelight and interview with less distractions!

You can't quite hear the first couple of answers which were blue as his favourite colour - a strange answer when everyone who knows him knows its ALWAYS red!

His favourite toy was something random but is his light saber, wand and time turner.

I'm also not sure why he answers them all in a funny voice!

I love the fact that at the last question he looks at Aaron who was sitting opposite him - I'd assumed he would say photographer (like Daddy)  but impressed he instead said 'Klik Photo CY' with great enthusiasm, he's learning the art of promotion already.

Ah, that's my boy!

Friday, 12 June 2015

Watching and waiting - Fire in Famagusta

Today was a strange day, today we watched as part of Varosha, (the abandoned city in Famagusta which is under control of the Turkish military) was engulfed in smoke as a large fire spread through the empty city.

I noticed the smoke around 3.30pm and rushed to the balcony surprised to see anything happening in the area which has been deserted for almost 41 years. The flames were fierce and the smoke was intense and we could see that it must have been covering a large area.

ghost town of Cyprus fire
Fire in Varosha - Image credit
Since the Turkish invasion of 1974 the area has been off limits to all but a few UN personnel and heavily monitored by soldiers.

Local newspapers reported that the fire was being dealt with by Turkish Cypriot firefighters, the Turkish Cypriot leader, Mustafa Akinci had given instructions for assistance to be sought from the United Nations, British bases and Greek Cypriot side if the TC crews were unable to cope.  Fire engines from the Republic of Cyprus (Southern Cyprus) were on standby waiting in Deryneia to assist if needed.  

Varosha fire
Varosha - Image credit 
The fire raged for several hours until eventually extinguished by helicopters dropping water from the sea across the area.

Around 7:30pm the fire was under control.   It seems that fields and wild vegetation burnt but also deserted homes and buildings in the controlled zone.

As far as I know there was no loss of life, I would expect there not to be being as no-one is allowed to enter the city.   No cause has been given for the start of the fire, the mayor of Famagusta Alexis Galanos said it was strange for a fire to break out where there is no electricity.

I've been reading the comments across various platforms with interest, so many are sad and heartbroken and hearing the news from where they have relocated all over the world, sitting watching facebook for updates.

Of course if a settlement is ever reached on Varosha there was always going to be a lot of work to do - it was always going to have to be completely torn down and rebuilt after falling way beyond repair over the years,  but to watch it burn was a very sad thing to see.

It must have been so hard for those whose houses it may have been and for the fire crews standing by in Deryneia watching their city but unable to do anything about it.

Now once again the area is quiet, we wait to hear more, and we wait to see if the recent developments will eventually bring about a solution for the city.

Here's hoping....

phoenix rising
Image credit


UPDATE: http://in-cyprus.com/varosha-fire-destroys-ghost-town-hotel
The Golden Sands Hotel and a large area of vegetation was destroyed in Friday’s fire in the fenced-off area of Varosha.
Situated within the ‘ghost town,’ the hotel had been inaccessible to anyone but Turkish troops since the 1974 invasion. It belongs to the Archbishopric.
The fire broke out in Ayios Memnonas area and reached down to the beach. There were also reports that Turkish military barracks had been in peril.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Sunrise - Famagusta, then and now

I have always been an avid reader and yet apart one a couple of instances of writing something in return for a copy of a book, I've never felt the urge to comment on one before.

That is until I read 'The Sunrise', a novel by Victoria Hislop set in Famagusta, Cyprus and centered around the Turkish invasion of 1974.

'The Sunrise' tells the story of three families in Famagusta from the sunny days of 1972 when tourism brings riches to Cyprus, to 1974 when a Greek coup forces the island into chaos. Greek Cypriots flee in one direction, Turkish Cypriots flee in the other, and the Turkish army invades under the pretext to protect the Turkish Cypriot minority. The city of Famagusta empties as people run for their lives. 

The story is based around three families, the Papacostas, the Ozkans, and the Georgious. as the Turkish army advances the inhabitants of Famagusta flee the city in fear of their lives but the Ozkans and Georgious are left behind, hiding in their own homes and struggling to survive.  

I've read most of Victoria's other novels,  the first being 'The Island' which I absolutely loved, followed by 'The Return' and then 'The Thread'.  While I enjoyed 'The Return'  it didn't hold the same appeal as the other two, and that's just because I feel more connected to the Greek settings. So when I first heard about the release of this latest book, I couldn't wait to read it myself.   

I first read the novel several months ago, and recently reread it once more. 

I loved the book, looking at it as a novel I enjoyed every second but of course to me it is much more than any old 'beach read'.   I live in Cyprus, and my home overlooks the area in which this book is set, the fictional Sunrise hotel from which the novel takes it name, would, it real be visible from my balcony. I knew I was going to love the book before I even opened the cover. 

Starting 2 years before the invasion, the story starts with the opening of the Sunrise hotel, Famagusta's newest and most upmarket building. In the late 60's and early 70s Famagusta was known as the 'jewel of the Mediterranean'  and the rich and famous flocked to its white sand beaches.   The story takes us from the opening up to 1974, through the different lives - the business man refusing to believe the worst, the tourists blissfully unaware of the troubles simmering all around them, and the families caught in the middle. 

Famagusta / Varosha in 1972 (Image credit: Victoria Hislop
It was interesting to see a glimpse of the different lives, the tourist 'bubble' and how they know (and neither care) about the troubles simmering around them, the workers, and the Greek and Turkish Cypriots who live and work together, some distrusting of the others but many being friends. 

ghost town of Cyprus
Varosha today
I was quite emotional reading it in parts. In one part, it mentions how they try to escape the city, cars lining the streets, people walking, carrying all the essentials they can manage or in many cases just holding the hands of their loved ones so as not to lose them, many would have been taking the same road which I use to drive the boys to school each day.  How terrible must it have been to do that same route to never return to their homes. 

Now, of course the author has never been inside the abandoned city herself, and no-one knows for sure all the events and stories of that time.  Whether all the events in the book could have happened or not, I have no idea, but that is where the term 'based on real life events' comes in surely?

After reading I was interested to read others reviews, especially those who lived it, or knew those who did.  I was surprised at many of the reviews, and disappointed at some but what was interesting and pleasing  to note was that it seemed that many who knew about the situation were those who rated it the highest, there were many good reviews from Cypriots. 

I think it was a brave decision to write this book - it was never going to be universally liked as it is such an emotionally and politically charged setting, and not only set in such recent times but something that still continues today.

I guess many people n the UK don't know about the situation or history, and to them it's just another 'beach book'.  I certainly had no idea before looking into moving here, and that must be the same for many of the other readers. one said "Victoria tries to engage us with a wider political tragedy and the fact that members of the main families go missing but to be honest we never really care" ...... that may well be the difference right there - I really do care. 

Derelict hotels in the foreground, and  tourists sunbathing in the distance. 
Last week I stood on Famagusta beach again, as  I showed it to Aaron for the first time.  It's just an unreal place and so very sad. It is just surreal that you can stand on the beach next to tourists sunbathing and swimming one side,you can walk past derelict hotels and right up to the barbed wire where you are only a few feet away from the crumbling ruins of what were the some of the best hotels in the Mediterranean.

Image credit: Victoria Hislop

Monday, 8 June 2015

Harry Potter Party Preparation - Owls, wands and the all important brick wall

As much as I love my parties, and the planning of them it usually all falls down around the actual creating of stuff - decorations, cakes, favours etc.

When I get a theme in mind I head straight to pinterest and get tons of cool ideas and then realise that have neither the patience or the creativity to actually produce them. 

This year however, for Leo's 'Harry Potter' Party it was different - inspired by my geeky love of Harry Potter and my friend Sam's creative encouragement we created a masterpiece!

I wrote about Leo's Harry Potter party already but I thought I'd share some of the preparation 

First up was the all important wands - as I'm sure you know its the wand that chooses the wizard and no wizard or witch will ever be without their wand!

Raiding my Dad's shed I came up with the wooden rods, but I've seen chopsticks used or even rolled up paper.   Then it was just a case of using a glue gun to create the texture at the ends, a couple of coats of brown paint,  a little bit of gold and silver sponged onto the end, and finally a coat of varnish.

I couldn't believe that I had actually made them - to be honest I was expecting a massive pinterest fail involving glue everywhere and bits of wood stuck together in a big mess, but I didn't even get stressed by it!
Harry Potter party homemade decoration

Fearing that my run of successful crafting could not possibly continue, I handed over to Sam to create the  brick wall to cover the entrance.

It was a simple but effective decoration - one old sheet, a sponge and some paint  equals one brick wall,  add to that a cut up the middle and all of a sudden you have magical entrance to platform 9 3/4.

My previous parties have only included the usual games to keep the kids amused - pass the parcel, pin the thing on the other thing (spider on the web, funnel on Thomas - you get the idea!) and likewise,  but as Tiny Acorns is most known for the brilliant and resourceful crafts I knew one had to be included somewhere.....

Of course Sam is always happy to rise to the challenge and she presented the kids with a special 'Care of Magical Creatures' class to fit in with the Hogwarts theme.

Brilliantly simple, but so effective - pine cone, cotton wool, pipe cleaners and some googly eyes!

The kids loved it and even the little 2 year olds made one with only a little assistance

All they had to do was to push small bits of cotton wool into the pine cone all the way around
Bend two small pieces of white pipe cleaner for the wings, yellow for the beak and then poke them into the pine cone.
Finish off with some googly eyes stuck on with a little glue and you have your very own magical pet!

There is of course, more to come, you just can't stop there with a theme so cool!

Saturday, 6 June 2015

The beach boys

As we approach the start of the summer holidays in less than 2 weeks and the start of nearly 3 months off school, it's time to start thinking once again of summer plans.   They need, as ever to be mainly low cost or preferably free so when it comes to leaving the house it pretty much means one thing - water!

This year I've decided it's all about the beaches,  we have been in Cyprus coming up 6 years now and have spent a shockingly small amount of time going to the beach.   For me babies and beaches do not go well together - buggies and sand are a back breaking slow going process, and trying to clean up sandy babies that are trying to eat the sand is just not my idea of fun. Add that to the stupid amount of stuff you seem to end up carrying and it's more of an ordeal than a fun afternoon out!

Previously we have stuck to swimming pools, we are lucky in that we have a communal pool at home but we often go out to others, as the boys have always had more fun when there is a baby pool to play in too. I always found it easier without the sand and being closer to toilets etc!

Leo and I have already been down to our pool several times but Louka was not impressed, we call him our Cypriot baby as he is always the first to be cold and the last wearing a coat as the temperature increases.  I was worried I'd put him off swimming completely when he jumped in the other day into my arms and almost shot straight out again crying 'noooo, too cold Mummy'

So, beach was the way forward, a chance for Leo to swim and Louka to play on the sand, and with a little of luck 5 minutes peace for me sat on the sand!

boys on the beach

Louka was not impressed at the water and ran away after just getting the tips of his toes wet. I thought I might have put him off from our winter beach trips when I'd wanted him not to get wet but despite watching and laughing at Leo who was rolling about in the water having a great time Louka wouldn't move any further away than the end of my towel.

Eventually, with plenty of encouragement and warnings to Leo not to splash him Louka tentatively waded ankle deep.   The water at the Golden Coast beach is lovely, smooth sand, shallow waters and no waves so the perfect play place for little ones finding their confidence in the water.

perfect sandy beach

It didn't take too long for Louka to realise it was ok and he was fascinated by the water and digging up the sand to make it go cloudy.  Soon he was sitting down and rolling around just like his big brother. 

It's at times like this that having two kids seems like it was actually a good idea, as they play together well (when we are out!) and help to keep each other entertained. It was quite amusing watching them build volcanoes (not sure what was wrong with castles but they only wanted volcanoes!)  and making up experiments with water and sand.

They were brilliant and it was a stress free afternoon, the fact that they both walked off the beach, all the way to the car and carried things for me, got their shorts and shoes back on without a fuss and accepted the fact that I wasn't going to buy an ice cream made it an outstanding achievement!

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 5 June 2015

A magical 6th Birthday Party

I'm not sure exactly when the current Harry Potter phase started in our house or exactly why it came about, but really I guess it began a long time ago when I first read the books, watched the films, read the books again (and again)  and fell in love with JK's magical wizarding world. For Leo (and by default also Loukas)  it began with the Lego Harry Potter game on the wii.

He had played and enjoyed Lego Batman, in fact that was why we had a Lego party last year.   The Lego games are brilliant, and such good fun that I often play with him so when I found the Harry Potter one I was really excited.

Yes, I did say I was really excited!  Leo having no idea who Harry was, was not initially sharing my excitement but of course it didn't take long for him to like it.

We worked our way through both games covering all 7 years / books and of course Leo was eager for more. Last year I tried to read him the first book but we barely made it past the first page before he got bored.  So we tried the film earlier this year with a little more success but still not quite capturing him, he wanted to like it but was just a bit too young and impatient to sit through it.

He was still eager for more Potter so a few months ago I tried the books again, this time with huge success.   It is quite hard going reading them aloud but he asks for it every day and we are now over halfway through the fourth book!

So, as you can imagine he was looking forward to his party, especially when he came home from school a few days before to find he had received some owl post...

As I said the other day, this year we were having his party at a local childrens craft centre in Deryneia so I got the chance to prepare it all without him seeing anything.

I collected him from school, got him changed into his robes and off we went...

homemade Harry Potter decorations

He'd asked me not to tell him anything about the party so he had no idea that him and all his friends would get a proper 'Ollivanders wand',  take part in a potions class, a Care of Magical Creatures craft class, and learn a 'spell' in Charms Class.

'Swish and Flick' - keeping the balloons in the air

He knew there would be sweets (its a party, there has to be sweets and cake - it's the law)   but he didn't know that they would be 'Honeydukes' sweets.

He knew we were taking the Kids Kiosk photo booth but he hadn't seen the template and backgrounds Aaron had designed.

by Klik Photo CY

He loved getting his photo taken with all his friends and choosing the different backgrounds and making silly faces and waving their wands at the camera. We gave all the kids their own pictures to take home as we would normally and printed another set for Leo to keep himself.

Making magic potions
He said it was the best party ever!

homemade birthday cake Harry Potter
Happy Birthday Leo!

For more info on the party preparation see 'Owls, wands and the all important brick wall' 

Monday, 1 June 2015

Party plans and preparation

Each year, sometime towards the end of January once Christmas becomes a distant memory the thought of the next event pops into my mind. For the last two years I've had the Famagusta Parents Network fun day to plan for but among that Leo's birthday ideas start to come to me.

His birthday is in May, but once the idea takes hold I can't resist a little peak at pinterest and then I can't help but quietly put a bit of a plan into action!

Over the years we have had a Thomas the Tank Engine party - Leo was too young to choose a theme but he was SO into Thomas it couldn't have been anything else. Then for his 3rd birthday we touched briefly on Mike the Knight, (my suggestion, he liked it for a bit but went off him very quickly), he then asked for Buzz Lightyear party, months in advance of his birthday but as we approached May, Spiderman was his favourite thing so Spiderman party it was.

Last year he had just discovered the Lego games on the wii, and inspired by pinterest again I gently steered him to he idea of a Lego party, it was a great theme to work with and I loved the preparation as much as he loved the party itself.

This year my first thought was Lego Star wars, mainly due to some cool homemade light sabers I'd seen, and the thought that I could reuse some things from last year, but over the last couple of months Leo's love of Harry Potter has developed giving me the best theme for a party yet!

Leo has played and completed the Lego Harry Potter game, and happily sat listening to me read the books every evening for months now. It's surprisingly hard going reading the books to him but still enjoyable as they are huge favourites of mine and he's appreciative of how much of a HP geek I am!

He has watched the first 3 films but got scared at the maze task in the Goblet Of Fire so we stopped there. We are halfway through reading that book so we will see if he wants to watch it after that.

After saying I'd never want to hold a party anywhere but at home, (mainly as it was cheaper and I get to decorate and be in control) this year I broke with tradition and hired the space at 'Tiny Acorns' which gave me more space to play with and more opportunity for an awesome party!  oh, and meant I didn't have to clean my house!

My friend, and owner of Tiny Acorns,  Sam is as crazy as me when it comes to parties so I knew she would be on board with my over excited plans.

Potions class, handmade wands, painted brick wall to pass through over the entrance, themed party food and a recreation of Honeydukes sweet shop to name a few.

I really enjoyed creating this years special day for Leo, especially the morning spent with Sam and my Mum the week before making the decorations and party favours.

I even got creative with a glue gun!

It's been a busy few weeks, work wise, and of course with all the party prep I insisted was 'essential' but I loved every second - look out for another couple of posts coming up with the details!

I'm not sure how I'm going to top this one next year!

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