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Grief, galvanized

I have been on the road that no parent ever wants to walk for a year and two months now. In the car today, Alex made a random remark that got me thinking and now, writing.

You have come a long way“, he said, not meaning it as a hurtful remark but as encouragement and praise.

Have I truly?

I suppose it all depends on the way one looks at things that molds one’s perception.

Yes, it does seem we have travelled a long way on the grief path. Our life, post Georgie, has taken turns I have never known to have existed, let alone desired or planned to take before I lost my boy.

If I were to put it simplistically and squeeze it all in two sentences, I guess I would say that:

1. grief has completely and utterly transformed me on the inside.

2. grief has(paradoxically and illogically to the non-bereaved) liberated me to see the world in a way I wouldn’t have been able to, had I not lost my son and experienced the devastating effects of having to relearn to live without part of my soul.

If I was asked to elaborate, I would start by simply saying that grief needs to be lived, once it happens to you, in all its devastation, when it hits you with gale force power or when it seeps you silently of joy and strength and desire to stay.

  It is only when you face it full on, confront it daily and learn to deal with it, when you learn to sleep with the enemy of your naivete, that you can say that you have survived grief.

In my case, I stand here, fourteen months after the loss of my baby boy and I look at my life and in my heart, I know I have made peace.

Not with death. Not with God. Nor with the devil. Not with the thousand questions that remain unanswered and forever will be, as how can the death of a baby can ever be explained, spiritualised, understood or made sense of?

I have made peace with my life, as it is now, and with the world, as I have come to see it, in all its pain and beauty and mess and everything in between.

What has helped this past year my bruised heart and is still helping?

Knowing that I am not judged and having my feelings validated.

I have had to let go of some people. And then, some more.

I have learned in time and, at great expense, that most people are simply not capable of shaking off their beliefs on account of love, acceptance and understanding.

Alex’s beloved uncle superbly encased it in a description for us, during one of the many conversations we had on the subject this summer. Many times, he wisely and lovingly said, people cannot allow even the smallest crack into the armour they have created around themselves. If the slightest doubting of the system of beliefs occurs, they intuitively know that the whole system(and their world, with it) may collapse.

I have come to genuinely appreciate the people who have chosen to remain in our lives, way past the farewell service, the anger, the numbness and the straying away that followed. Bravely, ever so bravely, these people are still standing by us, without any clever explanations at hand or spiritually elevated revelations. Simply being there to listen without offering solutions, validating our sorrow with their precious presence and healing our wounds with an outpouring of empathy.

Choosing to express my pain and grow through it.

It does go hand in hand with the above, in a way. Had I let people trample on my heart, tell me how to do grieving and keeping appearances for appearance sake, I believe I wouldn’t have become the person I am proud of being today.

By choosing to keep on talking about my dead son, about grief, about the failure of the church and of the society as a whole when it comes to acknowledging pain, I have re-emerged to myself and into the world as the fierce woman I have always known to be.

Knowing that my loss and pain “qualifies” me to offer assistance.

I am not afraid of death or talking about it. If you have lost a dear soul and are feeling lonely, I know exactly how inadequate you feel in a “normal” world. Please do get in touch, I will love to be your friend!

I do not get squeamish about your innermost secrets or hidden “shame.” Actually, the only things that make my moral temperature rise now are cruelty towards fellow humans, crass lack of compassion, bigotry and taking advantage of another person, in any way or form. I will not judge your sexual inclinations, your addictions, your shortfalls and for sure, I am not qualified to advise or point you in any direction, spiritually or medically. But I am here to listen and say to you, I care.

I know too well how pain feels,  I will not judge you for feeling overwhelmed. You can talk to me!

Galvanisation is known to be the process of applying a protective zinc coating to steel or iron, to prevent rusting. The most common method is hot-dip galvanization, in which parts are submerged in a bath of molten zinc. Galvanizing protects in two ways:

  • it forms a coating of corrosion-resistant zinc which prevents corrosive substances from reaching the more delicate part of the metal
  • the zinc serves as a sacrificial anode so that even if the coating is scratched, the exposed steel will still be protected by the remaining zinc.”

I have chosen not to encase myself in my pain but to let the horrible suffering of my son and the shattering of my heart to galvanise change, in the rawest of forms.

I choose to submerge myself in pain, mine and yours (if you let me!) again and again and again. Like in a galvanised coating, in the hope that every time my heart bleeds from our common pain, the scratching of the top layer will reveal the strength that lies in the communion of souls, in empathy and shared memories.

I will not let myself “rust” and become, once again, immune to the suffering of my fellow human beings. Never again. To me, it would mean my son died in vain and that I have wasted the opportunity I have been given to serve through shared suffering.

I plan on raising funds for the Syrian refugees that have been seeping through Greece and Macedonia in the weeks to come. Friends who are on the ground at this time of need speak of the horrors of a war who has displaced a nation and is giving us the opportunity to “galvanise” around these people as a protective coat and make their transition tolerable. I aim to help provide sanitary kits for 100 women (or more, if you help me!). I will come back with details tomorrow. Thank you.

 Sun

Metsovo – a fairytale land

I simply cannot believe our summer holidays are nearly over and that, most likely, my next blog post will be written from our cosy Norn Irish home.

I still have so much to write and tell you about Greece!  I had promised you another post on the Thessaloniki cuisine, I had planned a series on the four of the biggest cities in Greece(which we all visited this summer: Athens, Thessaloniki, Patra and Ioannina) and I am sorry I haven’t been able to find the time to write it all out.  I will keep some of the excitement and magic in safe keeping,  to be written at a later date.

I need to thank you all, friends, colleagues and blogging community members who have followed our Greek odyssey this summer on Instagram, cheering us on, leaving the lovelist of comments and liking our pictures. The things I could not include on the blog are there, all graphically and esthetically pleasing, do stop by and have a wee look!

414The last post, and probably the best in terms of travelling tips and gorgeous scenery had to be on Metsovo, a picturesque village tucked away in the Pindos mountains.

The three words that sprang to mind as I was trying to compress Metsovo into an all encompassing description for you are grounded, balanced and hospitable.

Both the stone structures and the people of the village, most likely influenced by the character of the gorgeous mountains that surround them and by the blessed temperate weather(this was the only place in Greece where my brain could think clearly and did not feel congested by the heat,lol!) present the qualities mentioned above.

We have had the pleasure to benefit from them first hand in our beautiful accommodation, the Arhontiko luxury boutique hotel, Metsovo.

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347As usual, we had booked our stay via Booking.com as the offers as a genius member are usually hard to beat. We paid for our family room with a four pillar bed(and extra bed for Emma), a hydromassage bath (which little miss put to good use and which  would came in very handy in the winter after a hard sky session in the resort nearby!) and its own fireplace 47 GBP per night. The price involves a beautiful breakfast which includes bread baked in the house(we fell asleep every night to the comforting aroma of village bread baked downstairs), local cheese and sausage, fresh eggs and a large variety of pies, jams and honey. The coffee machine makes some awesome cappucinos but if you are after a frappe, the lovely ladies in the kitchen will wisk it out for you in no time.

346Actually, the service and the owner’s relaxed and helpful presence make the place a home from home which we were reluctant to leave. So much so that we decided to extend out stay for another night!

We did visit a bit og the local area while we were here. We took a short car trip further up the mountain to see the lake of Aaos springs yesterday

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and we did visit the town of Ioannina at both dusk and dawn to enjoy its charming beauty and see the vestiges of its Ottoman past

405but we found ourselves craving the calm of the Metsovo village, its calm atmosphere and its coolless, so we return to it pronto.

As I write this post, sat into our hotel’s balcony, I can hear the chiming bells of the Agios Nikolaos monastery, the muffled sound of sheep bells on the mountain in front and I can smell the mountain air and the resin of the pine trees. And it does my soul good, to realise that the world still very much has its own equilibrium and continues to turn on its axis and it gives me hope.

Hope that one day, our shattered by loss lives will find their own equilibrium and balance again and will “smell” beauty and iradiate grounded calm.

I will leave you with the image to inspire you as I prepare to head out for a last night of feasting onsaganaki, melted local cheese and kokoretsi, grilled meat enveloped in sheep entrails, a local delicatessen!

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A bereaved parent’s perspective: one year on

downloadThis summer it has become obvious to me that our lives have been altered beyond recognition by the loss of our son.

Like with any trauma, the first few months after Georgie died were a living nightmare.We had no energy for anything, we argued a lot, we raged at the world and at God and clung desperately to the hope that one day the pain would not be suffocating and all encompassing, feeling terribly guilty at the same time for wanting to emerge from that cloud of memories, as that was the only place where our son was still “alive” to us.

Our first Christmas without Georgie, the Christmas of 2014 and the one we should have celebrated as a complete and perfectly balanced family of 4, was for me the closest I had come in my entire life to mental collapse. I could not see the sense of any of it. Not the sense in Christmas, as what is Christmas if not the ultimate opportunity to celebrate life, joy and enjoy your offspring and shower them with love and presents? Not the sense in life.

Out of despair, Alex bundled us all in the car and took us on a trip that proved to be life-changing. We realised that our pain subsides when counteracted with enjoyable distractions like traveling to new places and seeing new things.

Traveling became our mantra in the New Year. Traveling has been our escape and our rescue, in equal measure.

We have seen more of Ireland in the last six months than we had seen in the previous 7 years we had been married.

We have seen more of Greece in the past two months than most Greeks see in a lifetime.

Traveling allowed me the luxury of pondering, on ruminating, of revelations and changing perspectives.

Traveling does that to you, for unknown reasons.

It has allowed me the space and the time to realise and accept many truths that were bubbling under the surface.

And this is what I am and what I know now:

  1. although on the surface we may seem to have returned to “normality”, just like in the picture above, our lives run parallel to non-bereaved people’s lives. People do look into our lives and have the impression that they understand or try to sympathise. We, on the other hand, look into “normal” people’s lives wishfully, wanting we could return to the other edge of life, where death is only a concept and suffering a fear which hasn’t materialised.
  2. acceptance is the key to survival. I have come to accept God and people for what they are. I do not agree with everyone and I do not understand how God functions, thinks and can suffer all this pain without intervening, but I cannot change any of it.
  3. deep human connection is what we crave for now and we are grateful to each and every one of you who is still in our lives, after all these months. It takes guts to be able to watch suffering and not offer solutions. It takes courage to watch so much desolation and refrain from spiritualising, from trying to find answers or meaning to our loss. Thank you to you all who still mention our son to us, who still tear up or smile when his name comes up, who still hug and listen. You are the light that shines in the darkness for us.
  4. we carry on. Not because we are brave. Not because we have made it a mission to survive the tsunami of loss and pain.  Not because we want to give meaning to the most meaningless death there can be on earth, that of a beloved son and of a tiny infant in the cruelest of ways. We carry on simply because we have come to realise that there is still so much beauty in this world that needs discovered and revealed.

Ithaca- the rhythms of an island

“As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of adventure, full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
angry Poseidon—don’t be afraid of them:
you’ll never find things like that on your way
as long as you keep your thoughts raised high,
as long as a rare excitement
stirs your spirit and your body.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
wild Poseidon—you won’t encounter them
unless you bring them along inside your soul,
unless your soul sets them up in front of you.

C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems

We set out for Ithaca with only dreams of rest but what we received, during the not quite full two days we were there is much more.

We received a revelation.

Things looked bright when we set out for the island and sister and brother in law announced they will be travelling in the same direction and not only that, that we will be all staying in the same hotel!

We took the ferry from Patras, the harbour in which so many immigrants have arrived over the last years, full of hope for a better future and apprehension of the new.

Although we were doing the reverse trip, so to say, our hope has been this summer that we too will be able to build upon catastrophe, loss and pain and maybe we will see the new as something exciting, at some point in the future, although a very precious little soul of a boy will always be missed from our midst.

Our trip took two and a half hours to Kefalonia, from where we took a smaller boat to Ithaca.

We travelled without a car this time so the tickets were around 25 euro per person. Emma is still too young to pay, they do not charge for children younger than 6 in Greece for public transport.

We arrived on the island late afternoon and made our way to Vathy, the main village on the island. We stopped several times on our 20 minute journey to take pictures, as the island had cast its spell on us already with its breathtaking views.

124Ithaca is believed to be Odysseus’ island and the place to which he returned after the long Trojan war and the ten year long journey it took him to find his way back.

The imperfect simile was not lost to me.

Thinking of Odysseus I realised that the war trauma required most likely the time it took him to heal in order to function again as a member of society, a king and a husband.

It took him ten full years to return “home”.

 We have been travelers of sorts too now, for the past year.

We find temporarily relief in various things like good food and writing and working hard but at the end of the day, our search for “home” is only at its beginnings.

We need to give ourselves time too to get lost in our grief in order to be able to find our way home.

There is no other way to survive pain and if Odysseus needed so much time to heal for the horrors of the memories of war and make peace with them, we shouldn’t have unrealistic expectations of inner peace either…

We enjoyed the island, more than we had expected too.

What is not to love about azure blue seas, excellent sea food and loved ones’ company?

We needed this time away and the permission to move slowly, with the rhythm of the island.

Time which is measured here not in things ticked on a list but in home cooked food( do check out the Poseidon fish restaurant, in which Tina Turner took time to learn the secrets of slow lived life too!), in slow boats that drop you off a ladder(quite literally!) onto exotic looking beaches that can’t be reached otherwise and in ice cream shared way past midnight with the family in the village square.

193.ithaca

Price wise, the island is accessible even at the peak of the season. We had two meals out, in two different restaurants and both bills, for four grownups and a child, were 68 euro each. That is about 25 pounds per couple, per dinner, for fresh from the sea fish and delicious salads and starters.

The boats that take you to various beaches from the small port in Vathy are 10 euro per person, return. Once again, small children do not pay.

We stayed in the Mentor Hotel facing the port, which for a family room and breakfast at the top of tourist season charged us 170 euro(120 pounds) for two nights!

We returned with peace in our hearts after a two day stay in Ithaca.

Odysseus’ island offered us respite but most importantly, his story has offered us permission to take our time.

In our travels, in our grief, in our living.

To allow our hearts to heal at their own pace.

To live without rushing, in awe of the our love, our survival journey and our future.

Imperfect, as it is contouring to be.

But perfect in its fulness of experiences.

Back to school: simple lunch box ideas

The summer has been flying by and all too soon (or not, for us, parents!) the kids will be back to school.

I have been very busy here ordering things for Emma returning to school as a big P2: her school shoes, the name labels and loads of pretty stationery.

We will be heading to Tesco as soon as we arrive for new shirts, Emma loves their embroidered collar ones and her PE shoes. Their are all good quality and very good value for money, too.

One thing I will not be worrying about this year, compared to last year, when she was only starting school, are her packed lunches.

Last year, with a bit of creativity, a few cheap shape cutters and loads of seasonal props, we finally managed to overcome our fear of eating sandwiches and just in time for school.

These very simple changes were so very successful that her lunch box came home empty every day, without fail, and I never worried that my little girl would go hungry while in school!

Emma likes to have the same things every day in her lunch box: cheese, a ham or cheese sandwich, fruit and a little sweet.

Saying that, I did manage to keep her lunches varied by adding little touches which I will tell you all about it here.

Emma loves her ham to have a strong taste. We buy ours from either Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s, she simply adores their German ham sliced versions.

The secret for us has been to use pretty shape cutters we bought from EatsAmazing, which provide a small child with exactly the amount of food they need in a lunch sandwich while making them look all cute and easy to hold.

She likes to have cheese or yoghurt in her lunch box so I always give her a choice of Babybels, string cheese or “long cheese”, as we call it, and an easy to open yoghurt, as she likes to feel independent and not depend on her teacher for opening things.

Her school has been very good from the very start and has encouraged us to give children a healthy packed lunch. Fruit has been in Emma’s lunch box from the very beginning and then we started adding a small sweet treat, when we realised that her friends all had one and I didn’t want her to feel left out.

The emphasis is on small here, not only for the sake of her dental health but also, to give her time to finish her lunch without hurrying! The children are usually given 15 to 20 minutes to have their lunch and I know that a lot of chat happens once the lunch bell rings so I do not want Emma to feel pressured to munch in a hurry and then end up with a sore tummy.

All this being said, here are some ideas for you to spruce up your little one’s lunch box:

– add seasonal touches and fruit (Halloween, Valentine’s Day or spring can all be good excuses)

11018326_10152577053531512_8436844091030439959_n– use your planned holidays trips as an opportunity to talk about new countries and add a bit of colour to the lunch box as well(here is Emma’s lunch box when we returned from France, great conversation opener for the lunch break;-)!

11084656_1431416933821618_811558821_n– prepare special birthday themed lunch boxes too with the things left over from the birthday party( can you tell which one was ours this year :-)?

10547443_10152190212151512_9206415561086608409_n 1907986_10152353132966512_3103806707743051010_nHope this post will help mothers of small children about the start school relax about lunch boxes. Give me a wee shout if you have found this helpful!

Disclaimer: this post has been written in collaboration with Thirst Pockets and will feature in their September, back to school newsletter. We were honoured to be able to offer our expertise in the matter.

GlassesShop – A Review

This post is long overdue; I have some sunglasses from GlassesShop.com that I have been looking forward to write about since the end of June. They have done the tour of the world twice in order to reach you through this review and the pictures I have of them so do give them a minute, would you :-)!

11825208_10152932435981512_944909275598448232_nAt the end of June, the lovely people who represent the company which sells “online glasses at doctor quality”, contacted us and offered us these beautiful he and she sunglasses to try out and enjoy during our prolonged summer getaway. Unfortunately, the mail(and the glasses) arrived after we left for Greece and we only got our hands on them weeks later, when Alex went home to do a bit of work(and collect our parcels and mail, of course!).

The company prouds itself in providing beautiful, cheap glasses which nevertheless do not compromise on quality nor attractive design.

The two pairs we were sent, which you can see in the picture above, are light, of an elegant design and more importantly, offer excellent sun protection.

The company puts a huge emphasis on offering its clients a wide variety of prescription sunglasses which are durable, modern and also, safe for the wearer.

At the moment, they are running what has proved a very successful campaign called First Pair of Glasses Free, which provides all new customers with a first pair of free prescription glasses, shipping and handling fee not included.  The offer includes both prescription optical glasses and sunglasses on the website.

My mum will benefit from this offer, she has been wearing prescription glasses for absolute ages and I will make sure to send her to get her eyes checked and then order her a beautiful new pair.

I hope you will make use of this offer too and bring yourselves or a member of your family a bit of joy with a spanking new pair of glasses!

To make this offer even more appealing, we were offered a unique coupon code(GSHOT50) for our blog readers to use, which will offer 50% off on eyeglasses and sunglasses with free lenses (sale frames excluded).

Disclaimer: we were sent two pairs of sunglasses to review. The opinions expressed in the review are entirely our own and we did not receive any other form of financial remuneration in exchange for this post.

On Love: A Letter to God

I will always think of our relationship in terms of before and after.

Not in the “Christian” way of before and after I received you as my Lord and Saviour.

No, Siree!

But in the way of before and after my son died.

It is no surprise to you, this redefinition of relationship terms on my part.

I have never doubted that You had known from the very start what You had put in my womb.

You knew my baby was only being lent to me for a very short time.

You also knew me, as you had created me and You knew where his death would lead me.

You had made me  head strong.

You had given me the gift of questioning the givens.

And the gift of writing.

And the one of being loud about my upsets.

So You had known, from the word go, that I would not stand by and accept the pain of losing my son with “dignity.”

You had known that his death would transform me.

Profoundly and forever.

You had known that I would come through the experience more head strong, louder, with much more to ask and ponder on in my writing.

Before…

I had accepted you for what my life experience had shaped you into being.

A distant yet caring protector.

A god.

Which I had never seen performing miracles yet sort of believed would prove Himself to me, need be.

Someone I was afraid of in some ways, someone I knew partially and superficially, someone I hoped would let me into heaven when the time came.

After…

I have accepted you for the vast mystery that You are and will forever remain to me, until the day I cross the threshold of the flesh into eternity.

A presence. Unmistakable, unshakable, uncanny.

God, as in the One who is who He is. Who does not need to justify Himself to me. Or prove His point. Or His existence. Or His purposes.

Not once did you speak to me, in all these months. Not once.

There was nothing to say, I realised. In front of Death, You just stood still.

I only realised these days, a year and a month after my son died, that in your book, love is.

Love just is.

Love was never meant to heal.

Love was never meant to prove itself.

Love, in its thickest, in the darkest, in the most mundane is simply…presence.

I know that You have been present in all of it.

It does not make me feel any better, you know?

That is another thing we misunderstood about pure, plain, old-fashioned love.

Love is not there to make anything better.

Not my pain. Not my baby’s pain.

It was never meant to heal or extravagantly transform anything.

We have been watching too many movies.

Love does not have miraculous qualities.

Love simply is.

I have stopped expecting anything of You, you know?

Of course you do, silly me…

I have stopped expecting things to happen, prayers to be answered, miracles to take place.

I have come to accept You for what you are.

Simply You.

skyscraper view

Vivobarefoot – School Shoes With A Difference (A Review)

Emma has been lucky from the word “go” when it comes to good shoes.

Her Greek auntie took the task, as soon as toddler Emma was able to be fitted with shoes, to buy and send over the best shoes she could find on the market.

When I say good shoes, I do not mean only pretty.

I mean shoes which not only look good but fit well and more importantly, prevent long-term damage of tiny, delicate feet.

Once Emma started school last year, things got a bit more difficult when it comes to sourcing good shoes. My sister in law could not find black Mary Janes easily, the usual shape requested and accepted in most British public schools does not sell very well in Greek children’ shoe boutiques.

I took Emma for her first ever pair of school shoes to Clarks and got the best we could find: leather, half a size bigger for her foot to grow in and pretty but as soon as she started wearing them in school, she started complaining of sore and sweaty feet.

Things didn’t improve in time and now I know it was because the shoes were not anatomical and designed to allow her growing feet to move and breathe naturally(the lining of her leather shoe was polyester, where is the sense in that??).

This summer, I was delighted to learn about Vivobarefoot, their recent, innovative, fun but very important campaign to raise awareness of the damage “ill-fitting, tapered non-foot shaped shoes do to children’s feet.”

VIVOBAREFOOT_KIDSPROTEST_260615_JoeO-55Here are some of the scary facts we should all be aware of, as parents of school-aged children:

  • “With 200,000 nerve endings, 33 major muscles, 26 bones, 19 ligaments; the human foot is a natural feat of biomechanics, and is the most sensitive part of the body after the hands and mouth.
  • Cushioned shoes compromise vital feedback to the brain from the feet, and a tapered shape, which does not mirror the natural shape of the foot, prevents the foot from splaying when you step, limiting toe mobility and weakening the foot.
  • Up to the age of ten years old, the bones in a child’s foot are soft and can be easily misshapen by external forces like poor fitting shoes and in a matter of weeks a child’s foot development can be compromised.”

According to Galahad Clark, founder of Vivobarefoot, children’s feet “are being physically deformed by the shoes they wear and the situation has become now a public health issue.”

I am very happy to be able to join the company in its efforts to educate and empower parents to protect the feet of their children and put them on a path of healthy natural development.

Please do have a read of the Vivobarefoot campaign worrying facts and data and make a difference in your children’s lives by providing them with shoes that encourage natural movement and help their feet grow stronger, not weaker, by wearing the appropriate footwear!

I have my eye on their kids’ Trail Freak sports shoes now and will be purchasing a pair for Emma for weekends spent in the fresh air, exploring our beautiful part of the world!

100022-04_Kids_Trail-Freak_Silver-Pink_InsoleDisclosure: we were sent  a pair of Pally Black Kids for the purposes of this review. No other payment has been made in exchange of this review and the opinions expressed are our own.

A Gourmand’s Guide to Thessaloniki-Part 1

My love affair with Thessaloniki started a long time ago, in my late teens.

During my last summer holidays in secondary school I had the opportunity to spend a week in a youth camp near Thessaloniki. Funnily enough, the camp was close to Perea, the small town where Alex and I decided to set home years later!

That first time, I wasn’t exposed to the Greek culture much. The camp we were in was an international Christian camp and English was spoken more than Greek.

But at the end of the week, that Sunday, our small group was invited to a Greek Orthodox assembly and that is there I met for the first time what is described at typical Thessalonians, warm, genuine and very hospitable people who are still my friends, even after all these years!

The draw was so strong that when I was doing my master’s degree in Romania and was offered an Erasmus scholarship, I immediately decided to go for Thessaloniki.

I spent four and a half months then learning a bit of the language, finishing my American literature degree while being completely emerged in the Greek culture by staying with some of the same lovely people who opened their homes and hearts to us.

Years later, having been married to a Greek man who was missing his home land terribly, we decided to make the bold move and try and live in Greece for a year.

Our choice to live in Thessaloniki during that time was far from accidental.

I had love strings pulling me back here, you see.

That project didn’t work out, unfortunately, the living in Greece for a year.

We returned to Northern Ireland at the end of that summer but not before deciding to make Perea and Thessaloniki our summer home, as I explained in a previous post.

Now, Thessaloniki is our dreamy escape whenever we want a touch of magic and cosmopolitan atmosphere.

IMG_3376This year, Thessaloniki waterways has introduced very handy boat rides from Perea to the very heart of Thessaloniki and we have already enjoyed a couple of relaxed day trips in this way.

IMG_3368The trips are 2.70 euro each way, last about an hour and children under 6 go free.

The same company has routes connecting other neighbourhoods with a limani(small port), like Kalamaria, to the main port of Thessaloniki. You can find all the necessary information regarding the timetables(the boats run more or less hourly, but please do check before, as you don’t want to scorch in the hot sun waiting for the elusive boat!) and destinations, onto their Facebook page.

Thessaloniki has seen many cultural and culinary influences over the years. Smyrna(today’s Izmir) particularly comes to mind and you can read more on the dramatic political events of 1922 here. As with every political upheaval, migration followed in Smyrna’s case and with it came beautiful influences when it comes to food and especially what I call, the culture of sweets of Thessaloniki!

smirni3If you do Thessaloniki as a savvy traveler, it is a must that you do as many as your tummy allows you of their eateries(of which I will have to write at a later date, as they deserve their own proper space and mention!) and zaharoplasties( sweet shops) and try each of their own specialties they had preserved as staples of times long gone and everlasting influences!

There is Terkenlis‘ tsourekia, Konstantinidis‘ millefeuilles, Agapitos‘ armenovil ice cream and Elenidis‘ trigonakia, Ble‘s artisanal, pieces of art chocolate sweets and Hadzis‘ syrupy sweets(toulumba me kaimaki is still on the list, auntie Mimi!), to name just the crème de la crème !

Images original from and courtesy of the respective sweet shops’ websites.

Have I made you terribly hungry for amazing sweets?

Will you give Thessaloniki a try next time you visit Greece?

There is so much more to Greece than the beach and its resorts and I truly hope this post will inspire many of you to come and visit and eat, as we say often, “where the locals eat!”

I promise to come back with a different post on Thessaloniki’s amazing eateries at a later date, their food is worthy of a post of its own!

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My Nametags- A Review

Emma attends a lovely school in Northern Ireland which tends to be on the organised side.

So, as expected, as soon as she finished P1 we were presented with a list of things for Emma to bring along when she return to school at the end of August, as a big P2 :-).

11824940_10207316719740044_8249379392440578391_nA quick glance at the list and you would notice that the word “named” is recurrent at an alarming rate. This is a big school and name tags are the only way to keep track of everybody’s possessions and ensure the forgetful ones don’t go home missing cardigans or coats or school bags!

So I did feel overjoyed and very relieved when the very kind people at My Nametags approached me on Instagram and asked me if we would be interested in reviewing their new Hello Kitty name tag range!

10408578_10153546605614973_4906096464237568249_nThe PR girls kindly forwarded us the relevant link and let us choose our preferred Hello Kitty design. Emma went for the pink and white stripes, with a Hello Kitty ballerina on.

As we are in Greece at the moment, the tags were sent to Northern Ireland and we can’t wait to get home at the end of August and get everything labeled, from Emma’s uniform and cardigans, to her new PE shoes, pink Pritt Stick(to match the labels, of course!) and her new exercise books she will be receiving as soon as she starts school!

11705359_10153542469694973_6355635322268553842_nI trust the labels will be of great quality and lasting, as advertised on the website and as publicly acknowledged this year by Feefo, which awarded MyNametags with the Gold Trusted Merchant award!

11078241_10153356616814973_4260256154038169816_nAs a mum, I think that the Hello Kitty set of 56 tags, priced at £13.95 is a fair price and will provide us with plenty of stickers for the whole school year and probably more!

The website provides also colour, black and white stickers and iron-ons and gears for schools and care home bigger orders as well as families.

Disclaimer: we were promised a set of Hello Kitty tags in exchange of this review. The opinions expressed are entirely our own. We were thrilled to be able to work with My Nametags as we find it a very useful company for all mums of school aged children and we truly hope we will be able to review again next year!