Saturday, 28 November 2015

Trip to Paphos, Part One - A Day at The Zoo

After 6 years of 'never getting round to it'  this month we finally took the boys on a proper day out - a road trip which to them probably felt like we were driving to the end of the earth it was so far! Since Cyprus is a small island the boys have never really spent much time in the car for anything other than short journeys, anything over 15 minutes has them moaning and complaining, so going to Paphos (about two and a half  hours away) was not something we thought would go well!

But on a spur of the moment decision on another unexpected school holiday this month (unexpected for us, it was a Saints days I think) we decided to go to Paphos Zoo.  I was slightly apprehensive being that we had recently had some travel sickness issues even on short journeys, and when we decided to go it was not far off lunchtime already but against my instinct I agreed with Aaron and we were off....

And what a day we had!   It was brilliant from start to finish, the boys handled the journey with no problems, and a little nap.  Leo was amazed at the change of scenery as it becomes a lot more hilly as you travel west,  and he I was surprised to see how excited he was about going over bridges on the highway, not to mention his amazement as we went through the tunnel!

I didn't really know what to expect from the zoo itself, I generally have low expectations of any attraction here from previous experience but it was unjustified. The zoo is a god size, with a large selection of animals, including the 'big ones', elephants, giraffes, lions and tigers etc.  It's clean, and the animals look well cared for.

We arrived just after 1pm which turned out to be perfect, we managed to see everything, watch the bird show and let the boys play before it closed It gave us just enough time without rushing but not too long that they got over tired.

Armed with a map each the boys excitedly showed us where to go and had the time of their lives running around the paths and exploring. Louka was impatient to always 'go see some-at else' (as he says) as he was so excited he wanted to do it all at once!

Predictably the playground was calling them and despite our protests that we came to see animals the boys were not to be won over and we soon gave in, letting them play happily while we had a nice sit down in the sun!

Getting back on track we found the big animals - elephants for Louka and it was no surprise that Leo wanted to see a real live giraffe (having had his 'little orange raff' since birth). They also really enjoyed the big cats and we spent quite a while watching the tiger cubs while the Dad prowled around the edge of the enclosure protecting them,

It was a joy to watch the kids reactions whilst looking at the animals and I realised that they had never seen animals so big before (the closest being camels at the Camel Park last year).

The reptile house was another huge hit as we walked round playing 'spot the animal', we were in the for ages as they enjoyed trying to find the creatures hidden in their cages and they even enjoyed us reading out the information about them, especially how poisonous they were!

One of the highlights came as we looked at the snakes and came to the Burmese Python (the snake in the first Harry Potter film)  It was curled up and hiding under a rock so Leo tapped on the glass, at which point I told him not too, adding don't you remember what happened to Dudley in the film.  Leo then started talking 'parseltongue' to it and it instantly sat up and moved toward the glass!  We were in fits of laughter and Leo was very impressed!

The monkeys were brilliant as expected and had the boys laughing so much when several of them started fighting over a carrot. We watched them for ages until being distracted by another monkey showing us his bum!  - you can imagine how well this went down with two young boys which led to shouts of 'monkey bum' for the next 5 minutes!

We finished up the trip with the bird show which was really good as well.  Performing parrots and owls swooping over our heads amazed the boys and I loved it too, except maybe the point when I almost dived into Leo as the very large owl swooped right over my head!

All in all a fab day out, no crying, no moaning at all and enjoyed by all of us - I think that's a first!

Country Kids
from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Friday, 27 November 2015

Real life Tetris - AKA packing your home to emigrate!

This week is the anniversary of our move to Cyprus, 6 years ago we were in the process of saying our goodbyes in a endless stream of afternoon meetups with little Leo being dragged all over Kent, family lunches and leaving drinks.

We were packing and sorting and re homing many of our possessions, selling loved items or giving them away to new homes, we said goodbye to our lovely dog as she went to her new home. We played 'real life Tetris' as we called it when we constantly tried to fit things into and around other things to save on shipping space, suitcase filling or packing up the car for our trips around the country to far away friends for a final meet up. 

I remember filling our new fridge freezer with fragile items, wrapping the glass shelves with duvets and packing them into the Christmas tree box, and then fighting with cardboard, bubble wrap and packing tape in a small garage trying to wrap the fridge itself for shipping. 

For weeks our conservatory gradually filled with boxes upon boxes, and as you got nearer the edge of the stack the shapes got harder to stack together neatly, of course we had started on the easy things, books, board games and boxes of kitchen equipment. Leaving floor lamps, a four foot framed picture and dining chairs until inspiration stuck us. 

We debated for days over the merits of shipping certain items or selling them and re-buying when we arrived. Our king size memory foam mattress was a hot topic of conversation over many dinner table conversations, as was the car. 

In the end they both came with us, the car picked up from Aaron's Mums a couple of hours after we flew, we took the chance and shipped it with several items in the boot despite being advised not to.  Christmas lights, an Ikea wooden pull along train, lampshades and cushions made it to the other side!

It made packing to move house in the same country look like a walk in the park, shipping lists and cubic measurements, bubble wrap..... oh the endless bubble wrap and packing tape!

I was advised by a new friend I was yet to meet in 'real life' that nappies, wipes and formula were very expensive here, and I should bring as many as I possibly could, so that was another shipping carton full - I clearly remember buying an entire trolley full of formula in a last minute Tesco run.   It was good advice - the formula lasted almost 6 months and I was stunned when I eventually had to switch brands and buy it here.     It did cause some confusion at the doctors though as they had not heard of Cow & Gate and they were very alarmed to think I was giving him Cow milk when they asked me what type of milk I used!

I was terrified as I watched the van drive away with all our possessions, would they make it unscathed to the other end?   I was amazed to see that they nearly all did, we had only one casualty – a broken Ikea tea light candle holder!   The image of the van driving away has stayed in my head as if its a photograph, you can tell I wasn't a blogger back then or at least the owner of a smartphone or I'm sure I'd have captured the moment!

Wednesday, 18 November 2015

The Christmas List and the Argos Catalogue

As a child the most important part of the run up to Christmas was the writing of The List. It required a great deal of thought especially as I got older and realised it was not so much of a shopping list and rather a few ideas for Santa and Mum and Dad to select from.

The Argos catalogue played a large part in the compiling of the list, I would spend hours pouring over the 'book of dreams' and one year my Mum gave me an old copy to cut out pictures to make a Christmas collage of things that I liked (in what I now realise was a great way of passing the time and keeping me quiet!)   One year I presented my carefully constructed list to Mum - an list filling a whole A4 page, I'd basically copied out the book!  I think I'd listed every annual in there along with more toys than I could have fitted into my bedroom!    With amusement Mum asked me what my favourite things were, and if I could maybe narrow it down a little!

Then of course there were the adverts, amazing toys that you just HAD to have. They all looked so good and we didn't realised that they were never the same in real life.

Care Bears, My Little Pony, Popples, Sindy and Barbie, we fell for all the marketing and I wished for it all!

I recently found some vintage Argos catalogue pages online, they are an amazing snapshot of time gone by, the products, the pictures and fashions seem hard to believe now. I was also shocked at the prices, I would have assumed the toys would have been much cheaper in compassion to today's prices.
You can actually view the entire 1985 catalogue online  - Vintage Argos Catalogue

Argos catalogue 1980s

It's a little different for my boys, they don't see English adverts and we don't have an Argos book. They don't go to the shops and they are not bombarded with advertising.  They have only this year been to a toy shop (one which tends to mainly be full of over priced plastic tat rather than brands we know and love)  so they don't really know what there is to want!

This is generally refreshing, and it means that they are not continually demanding expensive toys but it does make buying presents more of a problem!  I spent hours online last night looking for inspiration, and usually being thwarted by stupidly high postage charges to Cyprus, or just them refusing to deliver at all, but in the end I eventually solved the problem with one big Amazon order (total postage £18 which was a result)  and a couple of ebay bargains, so in fact I think I may still be better off - no need to walk the high street and be tempted by Argos, Toys R Us etc.   Now I all have to do is maybe make a few subtle suggestions when they write their letters to Santa!

As for me, of course I don't write a list anymore,  I did for many years even after leaving home, I've always been a big kid at Christmas time and loved the surprise so I always wrote several things down for my Mum to choose from, ensuring I would still have a surprise.  Now I struggle to come up with even a few suggestions much to Mums frustration!

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Chasing shadows and Sunday afternoon fun.

Last Sunday, as Aaron was busy getting his latest tattoo I decided to take the boys out for a while. It was a lovely day as this time of year usually is, sunny and warm but without the intense heat of the summer so I decided to take us all down to the harbour in Agia Napa.

It's been a long time since I took both on my own to the harbour, in fact I only did it once and that day has stayed with me ever since. I had packed up some food and thought it would be nice to take 3 year old Leo and a baby Loukas for a late afternoon walk and a picnic dinner.   In fact it was a complete stressful waste of time with Louka screaming the whole time, Leo moaning and refusing to eat a thing and generally not fun for any of us.    I remember watching the Party Boat sailing out of the harbour packed full with music blaring and I imagined diving into to the water and swimming after it into the sunset!

But, we are several years on, without buggy and everyone can walk and while it was not entirely free of complaints they were only from Louka and one of those was a tired tantrum based on the fact that his shadow kept following him!   Leo had been racing around laughing and chasing his shadow and Louka got upset as he couldn't keep up, he then told me he didn't like his shadow and when I 'wouldn't' get rid of it he laid down on the floor and cried - what passers by must have thought of me I don't know as one child ran around like a crazy person and I couldn't help but laugh at the other who was screaming!

Nevertheless, it was a lovely afternoon, the harbour was peaceful now the summer season has come to an end but most of the bars and shops were still open.  The weather was glorious and I stopped to appreciate just how lucky we are to live here.

We had a lazy picnic of treats from the bakery (which of course there were no complaints about eating!) and a walk around looking at the boats and watching the fishes.

A walk never lasts long before the boys want to find somewhere to play because 'walking is boring' apparently.  So we stopped at the small play area where it didn't take long for Leo to start talking to girl and her little brother, it amused me as he first spoke to her in Greek only to be met with a blank stare ( I could have told him she was English as her and her parents were all wearing shorts and vest tops - very unlikely attire for a Cypriot in November when even I was wearing jeans and a cardie!)   he quickly changed back to English and they were soon playing happily together.

After a while the other children left and Leo came over and said 'ah friends come and go don't they' which I thought was sweet. He's getting used to the idea that many children that he meets in playgrounds or swimming pools don't actually live here and he won't see them again.

After a little walk around the shops on the look out as always for cool hats or funny things to use in the photo booth as props we stopped at Dolfins Luna Park where I let the boys have some tokens to use on the rides.  Even that went surprisingly well as Leo chose the karts which Louka was too small for, especially with a broken arm and he went on a ride without Leo for the first time.

They love the little train here, and so do I as it's great value when you have more than one child on it as it costs the same regardless. I'm sure soon there will be some arguments though as so far its never occured to Louka that he might like to sit in the drivers seat!

We had a game of table hockey and Leo was brilliant, letting Louka score a goal when he started to get upset that he was losing.  Unfortunately for Leo he then accidentally let a few in meaning it was actually quite tense as to who would win!  It the end it was 10 - 9 to Leo, and Louka cried, a lot at losing until Leo (who was on top form that day) distracted him with a statue of Sonic the Hedgehog!

All in all, it was a very successful and enjoyable afternoon. I realised that we'd not been down there for probably 6 months, not since the summer started. I enjoy it a lot more out of season when we get it back almost to ourselves!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

3 Days of Halloween... Part 2 - The Weekend!

After celebrating Halloween a day early with our party and trick or treating at home on Friday, we spent the weekend at what is probably the best family Halloween event in Cyprus.

Cyherbia has been running Halloween events now for several years, each with a different theme and attracts families from all over the island for the spooky fun and games. 

This year, they had Dr Frankinsect in her laboratory who needed the children to help her find the magic formula hidden in the maze to shrink all the creepy crawlies back to normal size. 

Dr Frankinsect AKA Tiny Acorns Creativity

For the older kids there was a CSI type game in the 'Freaky Forrest' where they could enjoy solving some unfortunate murders.  

There was also apple bobbing, broomstick racing, I-Spy in the Haunted Herb Garden, a lucky dip and face-painting and the Klik Photo Cy 'Kids Kiosk' Photo booth was also there with a spooky makeover offering keepsake photos of the day. 

Childrens photo booth Cyprus

As we were working with the photo booth, Mum and Dad took the boys on the Saturday, and Leo got to do it all over again on the Sunday with his friend.

Of course, they made a beeline for us and the booth, and enjoyed having a go as they don't usually get to see it in action even though they hear about it all the time. As we got busy though they were ushered off to the maze where they insisted on going round twice!

Being a big fan of experiments they made sure they were in time for one of Dr Frankinsect's demonstrations and also had a go at feeling some of the yucky things in the Lab.

I sneaked out of the photo booth to see one of the shows and it was really well done.  'Dr Frankinsect' was great with the kids and explained the story and what needed to be done to shrink the insects really well.  With her 'lab assistant' helping her and translating into Greek, everyone got the chance to understand what was happening. 

Back at the photo booth, we were having a great day,  I loved meeting loads of new people and seeing some of the fantastic costumes so many were wearing, it was great to see so many people had made the effort, not just children but adults as well. 

Of course, we had a selection of props for those who were not in costumes, or maybe wished to add to what they already had!  

We also had fun with the test prints too!

You can see all the photos from the weekend -on the Klik Photo CY facebook page.

It was a great weekend, for all involved,  and nice to be part of the team for the weekend!

For more info on Cyherbia Maze and Herb Gardens see their website -  and you can also find  Cyherbia on facebook

Dr Frankinsect AKA  Sam from Tiny Acorns  - check our their facebook page for loads of childrens craft ideas and as well as their party services available in the Famagusta / Larnaca region.

and for more info on photo booth hire for events across Cyprus you can find all you need to know from Klik Photo CY

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Three Days of Halloween... Day 1 - The Party

Halloween is now an official event in our family calendar, despite having never actually been to a Halloween party until 2010 its now something to be celebrated along with Christmas and Easter.  I love it, a chance to decorate and dress up and eat far too many sweets - what's not to enjoy!

Since the afternoon that accidentally turned into a party a couple of years ago, I have enjoyed planning a treat for the boys so once again this year we invited a couple of friends over for a mini Halloween party. Held a day early on the 30th as we were going to be working over the whole weekend it meant that the fun began for the boys as soon as they finished school.

Leo was very excited about it, and I was probably more excited than I should have been! As always, for me the part I actually enjoy the most is the lead up to the event, so I loved Friday morning, tidying up, decorating with Aaron and preparing some spooky food and treats.

Knowing the boys would be impatient for their friends to arrive I presented them with a scavenger hunt when they got home, an unplanned idea that occurred to me about 5 minutes beforehand!  On a bit of orange paper (see, keeping it to the colour scheme!)  I quickly jotted down a list of things to find among the decorations..

A hanging bat. 6 pumpkin faces, 2 glowing skeletons, 6 spiders and so on.

It was a surprising hit, and kept them both happy, and working together for ages. So much so that Leo played it again when his friends arrived, calling out the things to find for them.

With the spooky music in the background playing (gotta love a youtube playlist!) and the food laid out we all started to eat when everyone arrived, the kids are a great age and spend quite a lot of time off on the big balcony amusing themselves,  interrupted only occasionally by the little ones falling over or the big ones moaning about them!

We played a couple of games - Pin the Nose on the Pumpkin, and a favourite from last year - Hanging Doughnuts, which as it turns out is ridiculously difficult!

Of course the main event for the kids was the Trick or Treating, which I had planned with a few of the neighbours. I love the low key way we can do this here in Cyprus, and living in a small apartment complex, and we all trooped out to see what goodies we could find.

I had given each of them a Halloween bag, with some themed worksheets inside, an idea borrowed from Tiny Acorns as the kids love them so much. Colouring pages, wordsearch, a maze and word puzzles kept them all busy while they all sat and did them together amidst a pile of empty sweet wrappers!

Despite the huge amount of sugar they must have consumed, the excitement and worn them all out, and my boys were in bed almost as soon as everyone had left - full of excitement about the next day and Halloween part two!

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