Monday, 28 September 2015

A disappointing day out at the Cyprus Chocolate festival

In my ongoing quest to explore Cyprus and find new and interesting places to go I was excited to see that Platres Chocolate Workshop was holding a chocolate festival at the weekend.

The advert said...

The biggest chocolate festival anywhere around the Mediterranean. Two days of fun filled chocolate events and games. You can visit the Chocolate Experience Museum, take part in chocolate painting, have your portrait painted in chocolate, have your fortune told using hot chocolate, chocolate cake competition, watch chocolate being made by Master Chocolatiers, make chocolate soap, try limbo dancing with a chocolate pole, chocolate face painting and lots more games for both children and adults. Don't forget there will also be lots of lovely yummy chocolate things to eat.

Platres is a long way from us, about 1.5 hours drive, which is a very long way for our boys to drive and not something they are at all used to living on our very small island but I thought it would be a nice day out and about time we traveled further afield. 

We arranged to meet friends there and arrived at 1pm as the event was running from midday to 6pm. It was very busy with cars and people walking around the narrow roads approaching the hotel, possibly one of the busiest events I've seen here. 

Entry was 3 euros each,  for adults, children and even babies, we paid although it was a little chaotic and many people walked straight past the desk and entered without payment. 

The kids (and I) were very excited about the day, and anticipating lots of yummy treats to try and buy but we soon realised that was not the case. 

We started to explore after a drink and a 20 minute toilet queue (there was only one toilet)  and headed first to the Delikate stand (situated in an empty, quite dirty childrens swimming pool)  where children were decorating chocolate cakes only to find that they had run out and were packing up. 

Stalls all packed up by lunchtime

Trying to distract our disappointed children we headed to the other stalls, many had already closed and the others too crowded with people, one I think was about making chocolate soap but the boys by this point had no desire to go and see.  They were tired and at this point were not going to be impressed by anything other than having chocolate to eat!

We found a stall that seemed to be giving away samples,  there was a lovely display of chocolate gifts,  including beautiful chocolate jigsaw puzzles, and various shaped and coloured statues.  Behind the table was a few trays with broken bits on which people were fighting for, pushing and shoving each other to get to. 
Handmade Cyprus Chocolate before it all got eaten
We managed to get a small piece each, and a handful for the three boys to share, but sadly that was our entire chocolate consumption for the day. 

Leo holding the chocolate for the 7 of us!
I steered the boys away from the display, assuming it wasn't for eating but as we left someone picked up one of the pieces of puzzle and popped it in their mouth,  this immediately caused a free for all and within minutes the entire display had been eaten.   There was no one manning the tent, so no-one to stop it or any information about buying it or ordering the products. 

Eating the scraps of chocolate
You could have your portrait painted in chocolate for €10, or queue for the chocolate face painting (which I didn't get to see the price of)  but everything had an additional charge and was almost packed up anyway.  I didn't see the promised fortune telling, or the chocolate making demonstration, although there was a marquee with a display and someone giving a talk every hour, we didn't get in due to volume of people inside and on talking to those exiting were told not to bother tying to. 

Pictures of the Chocolate Experience 'Museum' 

We stayed for a couple of hours as the boys cheered up a little when playing on a slide in the hotels small playground but apart from that there was really nothing else to do.  

Looking over the festival.
I am quite used to disappointing events but even I was surprised at this, and embarrassed to have promoted it on the Famagusta Parents Network website as well as attending with my friends.  There have been many posts on the facebook page for the event from disappointed and even angry visitors most of whom traveled a long distance to attended due to the remote location of it. 

I do feel for the organiser in some way as its not an easy undertaking to arrange a large event and I really don't want to knock those who try to do something for tourism, and businesses,but if they are planning on holding a second festival next year they will have to go a very long way to make it a success.   

The workshop offers chocolate making workshops all year round and I would be very interested in attending one as I'm sure the festival bears no relation to what looks like a enjoyable experience.  I'll let you know if I get to visit one day!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Aged 6, Leo loves...

As we celebrated Loukas 3rd birthday last month and I started to write the my traditional 'Now you are....' post my thoughts turned to the slightly more recent tradition of 'Leo / Louka loves...' post, where I add text to a photo of each of them with their current favourite things.

It was then that I realised I had although I'd written Leo's 'Now you are 6' and made the 'Interview with a 6 year old'  I'd not made a 'Leo loves..'


So, better late than never, and he's still 6 so it's all good!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Three websites and a family - who needs tv!

When I started this blog I had the vague idea that it would be a kind of diary of my move to Cyprus, capturing my first thoughts and experiences of a new beginning and life in a new country. That didn't really happen due to being here for over 3 months before we managed to get out internet connected. When we finally got online it seemed silly to backtrack as I felt there was far too much to catch up on and I felt the moment had passed.

I blundered on regardless, not really knowing why but just because I fancied doing it. We had no decent TV, having only Arabic satellite which had few English channels and nothing I ever fancied watching, Leo slept well (early evening at least) and Aaron was often out playing pool.

I rarely wrote about Cyprus as I didn't get out much to anywhere that was interesting enough and I didn't write about settling in as I had once planned to, it was not as perfect as people often imagine and although I was ok I didn't want my friends knowing I wasn't 100% and thinking that I'd made the wrong decision in moving here.

The focus of the blog naturally fell to baby Leo and I wrote about him and the things we did, I started to read a few other blogs and join in with the odd link up from them for inspiration and gradually 'met' a few other Mums, some of which I actually class as good friends now! Surprisingly, or perhaps not given that they are active on social media, I have more contact with them now than most of my 'real life' UK friends!

When I fell pregnant with Louka my thoughts turned to the prospect of giving birth in a new country and so my focus shifted as I tried to find out information about it .  I enjoyed seeking out the info and eventually made it into a series of posts - Birth in Cyprus

In the early days as a family of four I did surprisingly well at keeping up to date on the blog, but as the naps got fewer and the sleepless nights took their toll (and there were A LOT of those) the blog eventually began to suffer.

In 2014 I launched the Famagusta Parents Network and in the process nearly abandoned 'A Matter of Choice' completely.  It was like the new baby that needed the attention, while the toddler could stand on its own two feet a little more.  I was determined not to give it up though and I limped through the year with even less posts than in 2013.

So far, in 2015 I've struggled to write here, I've even neglected the FPN a little too,  of course we are now working and have a third website to run. (an even more important one as it's the first one that actually earns us a living!)  Our photo booth business is one of the best jobs I could have hoped for and as well as the actual evenings with the Booth,  I thoroughly enjoy all the admin and web based work that goes with it too.

Like any family with a new addition, it takes time to adjust and work out how it all slots together, 2 kids, 3 websites and I'm still getting there,   it's a good job I'm not having any more children!

I am aware that writing about the boys is getting a little harder and therefore the focus of this blog will probably start to change again eventually. Now that Leo can read, and will often ask me what I am writing about I'm sure he will start to have more of an opinion when it concerns him!

September is a good month, possibly my favourite month here in Cyprus. It's back to school after the seemingly never ending holidays, new beginnings, a drop in temperature (hopefully!) and a chance to reboot.

A time for a new notebook, new lists and time to balance it all,   wish me luck!

Sirena Bay, a perfect place in the right circumstances!

I can't remember when I first heard of Sirena Bay, a beach often referred to as an unspoiled paradise, and loved by several people I know, but I have been talking about going there for at least 4 years now!

Here's what the Daxi Holiday Guide to Cyprus says about it....
A place of natural beauty with a calm, tranquil almost spiritual atmosphere, where you can swim, sunbathe or sit in the beautiful surroundings overlooking the Mediterranean whilst drinking your favourite cocktail or frappe.

Yeah,  so I was probably right when I thought maybe not somewhere I would enjoy with the boys!

I had kind of been before, twice in fact, once very briefly out of season when the beach bar was closed, and once with my friend and two unhappy toddlers plus buggies that would have been too hard to maneuver through the bar - we didn't even bother getting out the car!

We've almost made it many times but for various reasons never actually got round to it.  I nearly went on a rare child free day with a friend who was over for a few days but at the last minute decided to go to Konnos as I knew it was nice and wanted to share it with her!

But last week we did it, boys as well and it was a lovely, although not perfect afternoon.  We arrived and went straight through the bar onto the small but gorgeously picturesque beach.  I was right in thinking I needed to have both kids walking properly before I took them as to get onto the beach you need to go down rocky steps, of course this adds to the charm but carrying bags, towels and supporting small people covered in sand is never fun!

View from the Sirena Bay beach bar.
Being August the beach was busy but not unpleasantly so,  it was mainly Cypriots so didn't feel touristy and it was still quiet, maybe something to do with the drink of choice being frappes rather than beers!

The boys were not impressed though, which I had seen coming due to the fact that the beach is quite stony. They couldn't really go in the water as it was too uncomfortable on their feet, and even I struggled getting into the water due to the large rocks I had to walk over. I would have loved to have explored a little along the beach and swam further out to sea but they would not have been impressed about that.

We spent an enjoyable enough time on the beach though, Leo collecting 'interesting' stones, and Louka wandering around happily doing whatever it is he does.

I think we got about an hour out of them until they could resist the promised ice cream I'd mentioned in exchange for having to go to 'my' beach (it's a hard life isn't it!)  and we packed up our things and went back up to the bar.

Image credit JE9 Design
The boys were happy when we sat them down with ice cream, which apparently was the BEST ICE CREAM IN THE WORLD EVER, which made me smile as it was the same brand you see virtually everywhere here.

I had a beer (Aaron was driving, I was celebrating finally getting to Sirena Bay) and enjoyed the scenery...

Leo and Louka finished their ice creams and amused themselves for a while wandering around and watching the cats but soon enough they were asking to go home.

I'm thinking that maybe I need to return one morning once the boys are back at school, you know just for further research purposes.....

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Loukas turns three, and the party where he's a 'big boy'

Ever since Leo's birthday back in May there has not been a week go past without Louka asking if it was his birthday yet. The question, said in an ever hopeful voice 'Now my birthday??'  was heard again and again, especially as other birthdays came and went in that time. 

He was full of excitement the day I turned the calendar from July to August, 
'NOW its my birthday???'   
'Almost Louka mou, but its at the end of the month' was the frequent reply. 

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may know that I love to plan parties. It's been said that I go a little over the top but I do what I enjoy and that generally just happens. It turns out that the weather and time of year may have a bearing however on my level of party excitement, as I really struggled to get into it this time round. 

I think the problem was the lack of a theme that captured me and the following enthusiasm that usually follows.  Leo's first proper themed party was an obvious choice being that he was 100% into Thomas the Tank Engine,  Spiderman and Lego and Harry Potter parties followed on in the next few years without much decision on my part. 

At first I was mildly concerned,  was there a bit of second child syndrome going on?  but after the event I realised that just like on each of Leo's birthdays, I created the 'best party ever' for the birthday boy at that time. 

The pose and the smile says it all, He's a big boy now and 'he's bigger cos he's three' 

He woke in the morning to Leo calling him to look in the front room, I heard Louka gasp as he saw his cards and presents laid out and he realised that it really was his very own birthday finally. 

Aaron and I got up and I put the standard ipod playlist on with the birthday songs as we made tea and sat down to watch the grand opening.  Leo was a little over enthusiastic about helping and had to be reined in a few times as he tried to 'help' a little too much. 

Leo was a little sad, telling me quietly that he felt left out as it was all about Louka .He told me that he didn't realise that Louka would get such good presents, he thought they would be baby toys.  I was impressed at how he dealt with it and we had a little chat in his bedroom about how it was Loukas special day. I decided to let him use my camera (a small digital camera that I rarely use as I'm always using my phone) to take some special pictures of the day,  but only he was allowed to use it as he is 6, that did the trick and he happily snapped away. 

Nana and Grandad arrived with more presents,  and the boys played well together as we waited for party time. 

Due to the heat, and the success of last year's birthday, I decided once again to make the main focus of the party playtime in the pool. A cool box filled with water. beers and cokes meant everyone was happy!

Back up to ours after the pool for party food, music, pass the parcel and of course plenty of cake!

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Now you are three {Loukas}

Dear Loukas,

Happy birthday!!
Yes, today is your birthday, finally after such a long long wait for you. I think you have asked us everyday since Leo's birthday back in May and got more frustrated as Nana's, Grandads and Daddy's birthdays came and went,    now it's your turn though and I hope you enjoy it!

This year you started school, and although you didn't always want to go it has helped you and your confidence so much, not to mention teaching you your first bits of Greek.  You took part in your school Olympics and did so well, running with your friends and joining in with all the activities while we cheered you on from the side,  Leo was particularly proud of his little brother.

You ended your short time at nursery by taking part in the school play where you played a little Chinese boy.  We had no idea how it would go as you always seemed so shy at school and I didn't know if you would take part or refuse to join in.  You were of course brilliant, looking a little unsure at first but eventually spotting us in the audience and giving us one of your lovely little smiles.

I am pleased that you are FINALLY sleeping at night time now,  almost 3 years of night time battles have not been fun little man but we seem to have pretty much cracked it.  You can deal with late nights much better than Leo could at your age, and are good at going to sleep without a fuss when we are out, once you have thoroughly tired yourself out of course!

You love 'playing on the tele' either on the Wii or the playstation and are now really good at so many of the games. You also love watching Leo play on his tablet and over the moon when he occasionally lets you touch it!

Not so long ago doing jigsaw puzzles was your favourite thing, and I couldn't even tell you how many times a day we used to do the Winnie the Pooh puzzles, but now you have gone off that and prefer to play chess with Leo and I.  It won't be long until you can play all by yourself, but you don't quite get that you can't only move the 'horsey',  it's very funny to hear you tell Leo that you are going to 'take all his pieces and check him' though.

It's not long until you start your next school now and I hope you are as happy there as Leo was, I know you are very excited about playing with the toys that you have seen so many times when we picked your brother up. I'm sure you will make lots of new friends very soon, and maybe you will meet up with 'Yiannis, Angelos and Georgios' very soon.

Of course, out of school your best friend is Jaxon, or Jacsac as you call him, you are are the terrible twosome although you generally play better than you did just a couple of months ago when all you could hear was the chorus of  'mine, mine mine' as you fought over the same toys.

Photo by KlikPhotoCY
I wish you a very happy 3rd birthday Louka mou.  and lots of big squeezy hugs and kisses,  now you CAN do kisses!

Love Mummy xxx

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Our #SwimFin Summer so far...

Living in Cyprus, and spending as much time in the water as we do it was obviously very important for us to get our boys swimming as early as possible.

When Leo was small I went through many different options and swimming aids - armbands, flotation vests, swim rings, you name it we tried it! Well, nearly all of it!

Leo hated every single one and refused to wear any so I spent the entire time holding him in the water and being envious of the other Mums who weren't quite so nervous about their little ones happily wearing armbands and being too close to the edge.

Although it was not fun at the time it did have the ultimate advantage of getting him swimming unaided quicker than many of his arm band wearing friends.  Wanting to get out of my arms was a great motivator!

Despite this I was dreading the same happening with Louka, at least until he understood not to walk too close to the edge but he loved his armbands and would happily wear them even when playing at the side of the pool.  It did make my life a little easier but I was aware that it might hold him back, I think that they are restricting as they don't hold the child at the right angle for swimming properly, and they give a false sense of security.

So, when we were offered the opportunity to try out a Swim Fin, I jumped at the chance!

Here's what they say about this unique swimming aid.....

SwimFin is multi-stroke functional. It leaves the arms completely free to move and so can be used to learn front-crawl, back-stroke, breast-stroke and butterfly. SwimFin works for all ages and abilities: from toddlers taking to the water for the first time, all the way through improved learners to advanced swimmers who want to develop stroke technique.

But as well as the benefits and assistance it give in learning to swim, it also makes the child into a shark!!!

We took our fin to a local hotel pool to try and caused quite a stir...

swimfin on 6 year old

Leo loved all the comments and spent the afternoon in character, even creating a story around his new persona of 'Sharky' 

Louka was reluctant to try the SwimFin at first but Leo was more than happy to demonstrate, in fact even several weeks later its still hard for poor Louka to get a look in on it!

I wouldn't have considered getting a SwimFin for Leo, who is 6 and can swim very well unaided but I was surprised that it has still been a benefit to him. I have tried to get him to float or swim on his back many times but he has always refused to try, not even letting me hold him on his back before.

I was therefore surprised to see him suddenly start swimming on his back without any prompting, not only that but he has continued to do it since without wearing the fin!

Leo spends most of his time in the pool swimming under water and one of the huge advantages of the SwimFin over other swimming aids is that he can still do that as at that angle the fin is almost completely out of the water.

With Louka the SwimFin is more submerged and therefore supports him more in the water,  however you know the old saying......You can lead a two year old to water but you can't make him wear a SwimFin...

Louka has not wanted to even try the fin for more than a few seconds so far with complete disregard to the fact I am trying to write about his experience of using it! Over the last week though he has suddenly started swimming around rather than just floating about so I think it may be time to give it another try.

I will keep you updated on how we get on....

You can find our more about SwimFin on their website   
Pop over to their social media accounts for swimming tips, and more, you can find them facebook, twitter, Instagram,  and even Youtube. 

We have been provided with a SwimFin for the purpose of review. 

Monday, 27 July 2015

Relaxation at the Spa, a holiday in just one morning!

I've heard it said that once you have kids, a trip to the supermarket alone feels like a treat and I have been known to agree with that on many occasions!

Working on that theory, what does a morning at a Spa feel like? Especially one which looks like this....

If a supermarket trip feels like a day on a tropical beach, my morning at the spa was a full on summer holiday!

Last week I was treated to a morning at Malama Spa & Wellness Centre in nearby Kapparis, and what a treat it was!  Once upon a time, a long time ago I used to regularly use a spa in my local gym, back in the days where I had more free time than I even began to appreciate, when a visit to the gym after work and a quick spa session didn't feel like a treat as such.

The spa itself is amazing, set in a cave with a sunken pool, and seating areas all around in little nooks in the 'rocks'.  It has a mosaic tilled jacuzzi, where I got to enjoy a glass of chilled rose - at 10am in the morning..... I told you I thought I was on holiday!

I was never quite able to decide on my favourite between the sauna and steam, but I think the sauna wins by a fraction.  I prefer the dry heat and the lovely wooden 'sauna smell' plus the fact it's a lot easier to see whats happening!

Stepping into the sauna was a bit like stepping back in time for me, the smell took me right back to the carefree days,  and also showed me how much more used to heat I am!  Where I once struggled to sit in one for more than 5 minutes before running for a cool shower I happily sat watching the sand run through the timer without a problem contemplating how it was nothing like getting in my car after it's been sat in the sun!

The treatments followed the spa, and it was fantastic,  I had the full works,  the 'Malama Bliss' package which included a back and neck aromatherapy massage, foot and leg massage, a thalgo hydra marine facial and a hand massage. 

I was impressed that I didn't actually fall asleep, which is always a worry after getting up at 6am and then having a glass of wine at 10am and I didn't want to waste of second of the experience, but I honestly cannot remember a time when I felt as relaxed as I did laying in the treatment room. 

It stayed with me for most of the day, even when I returned home to a potty training toddler!

For more info on the spa, and my morning visit my local information website:

I was provided with a complimentary treatment for the purpose of this review but the opinons are all my own, and it really did feel like a holiday!

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