Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Gallery: Animals

This week on The Gallery, the subject is Animals.  So I searched through my photos, last week I took some photos of the first deer I had seen here in Portugal but they were not clear enough, crappy lens!  It was great to see and I would have loved to capture it.  A few days later I went to the same park and a deer was not 10 metres away but I didnt see it until it turned and ran, would have been a great picture, maybe next time!  Must be more ready next time.

Anyway, so I found these photos I took a few weeks ago.  Very common sights here in the Algarve, the traditional sheparding and a stork nesting on a post, or chimney or pylon or anthing high and a reasonably sized flat surface. 

Come over and see the others in The Gallery

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Why I love September!

Why do I love September?  September is the changing of times for many parents and other people.  It signifies the end of summer, through the end of holidays and the cooling of the days.  September, I would imagine when the job markets start to buzz after everyone has had their holidays.  September is a time for new things, new starts!  A time of change for parents with children starting school, getting used to a new routine of school hours and homework.

For me this September means several things, mostly when all the tourists leave (well the vast majority) and the beaches become quiet, restaurants not overly busy and the supermarket is accessible once again (without trolley-rage).  It also means the temperature becomes more comfortable, still hot but not stupidly hot, although this summer has been quite brezzy and not as hot as previous years, but I have still managed to get sunburnt.  The night become cool and you need to put a cardigan on if outside.

This year is particular significant, as my eldest daughter starts pre-school or what we call in England 'reception' year, to prepare for primary school next september, which is the start of 5 day schooling.  I am also putting my youngest into kindergarten three days a year and for two years we have been together every day!  That will be a wrench for both of us im sure.  To me those are big developments for both my children and one Im sure will bring new situations and worries.

But with them starting school brings me something new, a bit of a break from the constant childcaring and time to do something for myself.  I am going to start to teach english online, carry on with my Tots work and hopefully, start a small business with my husband.  So lots to do for everyone, hopefully a time of positive change and development for all!

September can be a funny time for many as the holidays end, some are pleased to have the kids back at school, but also feel a bit of loss at the family time gone and the long, dull winter ahead of them.  It is definately a time of change, for all parents, some good, some bad, but should be embraced. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Gallery: World Photography Day

This week's theme on the Gallery is World Photography Day, I love taking photos but dont do it as much as I should.  This week Tara asked us to take a photo from this weekend to celebrate World Photography Day. 

We had a pretty quiet weekend but one thing we did do was find a new park. One thing I really miss from england is the woodland parks, where you can walk and have picnics etc.  Here, in Portugal it can be quite difficult to find those kind of areas, and the beach can become abit samey, not to mention the sand in the sandwiches! But finally we found one, near my home there are signs for a 'parque de lazer' (leisure park) and I had tried to find it but couldnt, (signage is not always the best here), but I thought I would give it another try and we found it.  Where I grew up, we had lots of woods and I spent many a happy hour playing in the woods and fields, and its something I want my kids to have.

Its nice, with small pine and eucalyptus trees and paths to discover.  Lots of space for picnics and for little people to run and a play park.  What we also saw was a family of deer, (I did take a photo but my lens wasnt long enough), something familiar to me but not my children.  It is quite and peaceful, a nice place to spend time as a family and teach my children about nature.   And the views are great, you can see for miles.

Here they are with a quite random model of a cow, not so unusual in Portugal.

On a mission, in their stride

We are looking forward to many more hours spent discovering our newly found 'parque de lazer'.

Come over and see the other entries on The Gallery this week.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Guest posting: A matter of choice

Im not here today, but I am guest posting over at A matter of choice for Emma.  Emma is a fellow expat mum living in East Cyprus with her husband and little boy. 

Not having done many guest posts, I was really pleased when Emma asked me to do this.  My post is looking at the differences you find in expat friendships.  So come over and see what I've got to say, and let me know what you think. 

See you there.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Black & White: A family view

Having been inspired by The Gallery theme this week at Sticky Fingers, I wanted to share some more black & white prints of my family, great memories and nice views.  Hope you like it,

My baby, 3 days old, so peaceful, so innocent and beautiful

My baby, 2 years later!

My older baby, 5 and half years

Yeh, cowgirl!

From the interior of the Algarve, do you see the moon?

Friday, August 19, 2011

Blogging: 'Cyber Scrapbooking'?

A little while ago I read something that Tara Cain from Sticky Fingers wrote about why she blogged - she said one of the reasons she did it was to provide a record of her children's childhood, for herself but more for them.

And it got me thinking, does that make a blog, a kind of 'cyber scrapbook'?  Just like a scrapbook, most people keep pictures, with captions or short written pieces.  Each pages has a theme or subject.  But instead of putting it in a book, we put it into cyberspace to last forever. 

Is that not one of the reasons we make our blogs, for prosperity, I know I do.  Before computers and internet people would make scrapbooks and keep photo albums of everything.  Now we are more likely to photoshare with Flikr or Picassa or keep a blog or some kind of record, where we enter the information we want to keep.  And the great thing about this, is it (should) last forever and can be shared with people anywhere in the World.

What do you think?  Do you keep a blog as a kind of memory 'keepsake'?

Please note, I do not do scrapbooking (my stepmum does) but I am in no way saying it is outdated or not a great thing to do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Gallery: Black & White

This weeks theme at The Gallery on Sticky Fingers is Black & White.  

These pictures where taken on a wander around our part of the Algarve a few weeks ago.  This was taken from one of the old forts in a very small typical Algarvian village with small, whitewashed houses with blue shutters, and the views are great!     

A typical image in the sultry climate of the Algarve, never quite imagined I would live in a place with palm trees.

I love these pictures, but love them even more now I put them in Black & White, it gives a whole different look, and reminds me I should take more in Black & White.

Why not come and see what else is on The Gallery this week. 

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Interview with an Expat Mum

Today I thought I would do something a bit different for me anyway, and to follow on from the post I wrote for Tots to Travel on expat mums and give an insight into an Expat Mum's life. 

I interviewed Sara Kinge, 38, who has three children aged between 9 years and less than a year.  She lives with her family in  Benidoleig on the Costa Blanca in Spain

Why did you leave the Uk?

We left the UK to have a baby! I had two miscarriages before I fell pregnant the third time and put the miscarriages down to the stressful and busy lives we led, all work and no play! We were very fortunate enough to both be able to take a year out, move to Spain, reform our house and have a baby.

Thankfully we did as William was born prematurely on Christmas Day just a month after arriving in Spain. I am sure if I had stayed working in the UK I would have miscarried again. Since William, Megan and Freddie have arrived without any problems so I really do believe our lives in the UK were just way too stressful

How long have you been an expat?
We have lived here now for eight and a half years.

What is the best thing about being an expat?
Not having to live in the rat race where we were in the UK!

What is the most difficult thing?
There are a few things for me, firstly finding specialists for William (he is profoundly deaf but has the huge advantage of a cochlear implant) especially English speaking speech therapists! The other thing is the language barrier, learning a language as an adult I have found so much harder than when I was at school. And of course, leaving family and friends behind, although having said that we are really lucky that we have visitors almost every month!

Is expat life how you imagined it?
Expat life is great and we are so glad we escaped the rat race and stressful life in the UK. Having been coming to our family holiday home in Spain for over 25 years we knew the area well before we moved here which I think is really important otherwise you could be in for a real culture shock as expat life although great isn't the same as a holiday!

Would you ever consider to go back?
Even now there are times when "home" calls. Especially for me with William's profound deafness I often wonder if we should have returned to the UK. However having said that he has his cochlear implant something we were not guaranteed in the UK and he is happy, which to us is more important than anything.

How did you decide where you moved to?
My parents bought a parcel of land over 26 years ago and had the villa built, we have been coming here on holiday ever since. When my husband and I were here on holiday we never ever wanted to go home as Spain feels more home than the UK. We knew the area so the decision was easy.

How long did you plan the move before doing it, ie from the point of discussing it to making it a reality?
It didn't take us long at all. We had thought about it for years and when I suffered two miscarriages and found out I was pregnant for the third time that is when we knew we need to get out of the rat race. We put the house on the market, it sold within two weeks at full asking price. We moved out of ours in the March, found a property in Spain to reform which we completed on in the April and I left work in the June. We were backwards and forwards over the summer for various family events but permanently moved here in the November. So from start to finish about 9 months.

What advice would you give to others who are thinking of doing the 'expat' thing?
My advice would be to ensure you know where you are going and understand that living somewhere is definitely not the same as going on holiday there. Make sure that if you need employment you have a job lined up and its certainly not always cheaper living abroad.

Thanks Sara.

Next week: Interview with a 5 and a half year old!

Friday, August 12, 2011

What is the right time?

As I sit here writing this at 9.15pm, I can hear a baby crying, no sorry screaming, and its not the first time this week that I have heard the same child crying about this time of night.  And either the child is in pain or is just plain tired. 

Here in Portugal, they have the habit of keeping children up later, it's just the way they live.  But when I hear that at this time of night I cant help but think if it is a good thing for child or parent.  I know people who's youngest children are aged within weeks of ours and as ours goes to bed at 7/7.30, theirs goes to bed at 11, yes 11pm!! That's almost later than my bedtime.  I put my toddler to bed as she shows me she is tired, which is normally between 7 and 7.30pm.  But also apart from being better for the child, what parent wants to be up with their child until late, dont they want a break, a little peace in the evening, I sure do!

I feel sorry for these obviously tired children that either the parents cannot see or dont care or the child just adjusts to it. When both my children were in their first weeks, their bedtimes were later as they learnt their days from nights, but once they did, I learnt to see the pattern, especially with my second of when they were getting tired.  And they both formed good sleeping habits, going down around 7-8pm and sleeping a minimum of 12 hours, perfect for me!

Personally I have never understood how a child can keep what are to me, 'adult hours', I dont think you should drag a child out late at night just because it suits you.  Get a babysitter or dont go out.  But this is just my opinion, obviously some parents see no harm in it, but what happens when a child reaches school age and is still keeping the same hours or even later, as normally it goes that as a child grows their bedtime gets later?  So a child goes to bed at 11pm to get up for school at 7 - that's not enough sleep for a learning/growing child, barely even me.     

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Gallery: Water

This week's theme for The Gallery is Water.  This is my youngest daughter playing with the water on a hot day.  She hates having water on her face in the bath, but is more than happy to pour water on her own head and face - go figure!  I always love to see my children playing with water, its such a childhood thing I think.  

Pop over to Sticky Fingers and see more of The Gallery

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Is it ever justified: The London Riots

Although this should now be called the 'England Riots' as the problem like an epidemic spreads.  I know everyone is on this bandwagon, and maybe there isnt room for one more but I'll make it brief.  I didnt hear much about the sunday night trouble as we do not get much english news on portuguese Tv unless it is quite serious, so all my news has been coming from the internet, facebook and twitter.  I have watched some vidoes on youtube but honestly find it too sad.  My heart fills with sadness to see my home country turn into this chaos with cities and neighbourhoods being turned into warzones.  To me it's like something from a movie, something I could never imagine in such proportions happening in London or anywhere else.  Its like these people have become animals, with no humanity in them.  I hope now several of them have been locked up and hopefully some have woken to the shame of their disgusting behaviour, things will turn to some kind of control and normality.  How would they feel if one of their family was mindless beaten up by one of these gangs, or do they really not care.

Alot of people are somehow defending this disgusting behaviour by calling it 'disaffected youth' and the crumbling of society but I was watching a bit of news where Boris Johnson was talking and condemning the people using such phrases, and he's right (I think), ok so the youths are unhappy, they dont have jobs, want everything for nothing but is this the way to get it, no it is wanten criminality.

Even if the youth are 'disaffected' or any other defense people throw in, is there EVER justification for this brutal violent behaviour or to damage and steal other people's property - I dont think so EVER!

Its saddens me that these people are born with rights that people in other parts of the world fight for everyday and may never get.  And instead of realising how fortunate they really are, they behave like animals, destroying people's lives.  Good, law-abiding people are under immense financial pressure just trying to hold on, will now be ruined, not able to recover the losses they have suffered.

This is a sad day for England.  

If you feel like I do, show your support by following this facebook page

And if you know anyone involved, do the right thing, report them! 

Loved by Parents 'Fab Woman of Year' - Wendy Shand

Yesterday, Wendy Shand, founder of Tots to Travel was awarded the winner of Loved by Parents ' Fab Woman of the Year' award.  This is completely deserved, she is a mum of three, the youngest being just 2!!  She has built an award-winning business, also giving other mums the chance to run their own businesses with her support and training through her network of Lettings Experts, currently based in France, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Cyprus and expanding into other countries.

The business grow from a seedling idea after a near-miss with her oldest child while on holiday.

This is the interview from Loved by Parents website

Name: Wendy Shand

Age: 37

Family Members
Rob - husband,  Barnaby - son aged 9,   Maisy - daughter aged 7   Monty - son aged  2

Previous Career SAHM, primary school teacher

What is the Name and Nature of your Business?
Tots to Travel ( is an online holiday lettings company specialising in family friendly properties. We source, visit and vet self-catering holiday properties in multiple countries, ensuring that they are suitable for families with young children, specifically assessing safety and ensuring all the kit parents need is provided. We market these properties to parents and help them find the holiday that best suits their needs. In addition, we help holiday home owners extend their holiday season by niche marketing their properties to the young families market.

What Inspired You to Start It?
My inspiration for the business came after a family holiday in which my then 2 year old son fell into an unenclosed swimming pool, while staying at a gîte in France. I realised that there was a gap in the market to provide genuinely safe and family friendly holiday properties, which allowed parents to relax, instead of working even harder than usual. At the time, the options for parents were either very expensive hotels or resorts with kids clubs, camping or more-shabby-than-chic self-catering properties that seldom suited families with young children. There was nothing that addressed the very specific needs of this target segment. As a mother, I completely understood what parents needed, so I specifically decided to target parents with children under the age of five, ensuring that the properties provide everything that families with young children need. By targeting this sector which is not bound by school holidays, Tots to Travel is able to secure bookings for property owners outside of the peak holiday season, extending their season and boosting their income.

How Did you Get Everything Up and Running?

In 2005 I studied an online business course using Tots to Travel as a case study. I quickly realised that the idea was viable and approached Welsh Business Eye for pointers. Ffatri Fenter (The Enterprise Factory) gave me an initial £100 on the back of my business plan to ‘test’ the concept which I used to pay for the logo and to undertake some initial marketing. Ffatri Fenter also lent me £1000 as an interest free loan to get the business off the ground. Mentor Mon, (the business advice service in Anglesey) offered support and assistance with accessing local council funding. This resulted in the promise of 40% of my start up costs (IT, website development, marketing etc.) which subsequently fell through when my husband was posted at short notice to the south of England, posing one of my greatest challenges yet! Despite that early set back, I flew to France, lined up my first 9 properties and it grew from there. Within the space of five years, we’ve grown our annual turnover to £1 million pounds and we have over 300 properties on our books in France, Italy, Spain, Portugal, the UK, the Balearics and the Canary Islands, all of which have been personally visited and vetted by my team of marketing agents.

Continue reading

Well done Wendy, you deserve it!!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Facarte in Conceicao

I live in Conceicao which is a village about 3miles from Tavira. It is right on one of the main roads that go across the Algarve, it is a traditional kinda place where everyone knows everyone and have lived here all their lives.  It is a slow moving place and picks up in summer but is not a hugely popular place for tourists.  Its the kind of place where people smile and say hello in the street and compliment you on your beautiful children.  And although I dont really feel completely integrated, it is a nice place to live where people are familiar, friendly and helpful.

But this weekend is the 17th Facarte (Feira da Caça, Cultura e Artesanato) in Conceicao, which is the Fair of hunting, culture and arts which runs for 3 evenings.  This is the third year we have seen it and every year it gets a little bigger.  They have local producers displaying their arts and crafts, foods, sweets, pottery and have live entertainment (nothing much to do with hunting). It brings in thousands of people every year.  And I like it because it brings Conceicao alive, it takes a good two - three days for everything to be put up, the stages and stands and to see it at night full of people is lovely for our sleepy little corner of the world.  And of course, it is very beneficial to the local businesses.

Last night, I was watching some of the entertainment, we live right opposite the 'village square' if you like.  And although it is quite folksy and not my kind of music at all, people here like it, it was packed with families and large groups of friends.  People get up and dance, mothers with their children, friends with friends, husbands and wives etc, you get the idea.  But people are happy and having a good time on a warm summer night.

Tonight I will take my girls over to have a look and they have some stalls with sweets and candy floss etc and a couple of small kiddy rides and just enjoy the atmosphere and bustle of my sleepy village, Conceicao.

Please note, this has been written with an english computer and I dont have the appropriate accents, its not that I am not aware of how to write the proper names of places.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week

This week is World Breastfeeding Week and in recognition of that I wanted to share my experience. 

Firstly my two children were born in different countries and that contributed to a different birth experience.  Also I believe being prepared for my second child also gave me a different experience - a better one.

Sophie's birth was not easy, I started having contractions one afternoon but they stopped and started until by the evening they were 5 in 5 minutes so we went to the hospital, got sent home and a few hours later about midnight came back.  The labour was long, we tried everything, pethidine, water, gas, epidural, drugs to speed up labour, manually breaking the waters etc.  In the end she became distressed and they decided to do an emergency c-section, after almost 24 hours since we re-attended the hospital she was born.  All in all, it was not a positive experience and I was in a lot of pain afterwards as you would with a c-section.  I tried to breastfeed as I had planned to at least try, but it wouldnt work and was painful and I got to the point that I almost didnt want my child near me.  I dreaded the next attempt at feeding time.  After a few attempts I gave up, maybe I should have tried longer but Im sure after the difficult birth and the way I felt after, to continue would have been damaging to me and my baby.  So I began bottle feeding and was relieved and started to bond with my baby. But at the time I was a little worried that I would not be allowed to easily make my choice, I was always hearing about women being 'pressured' into breastfeeding by disapproving midwives, which at the time added some pressure to make my decision.

My second birth was very different, my water broke before we went to the hospital and things progressed much quicker.  But there werent any options, here in Portugal it seems they put you on a monitor and make you lie on a bed and give you an epidural if you want, no gas, no pethidine, its epidural or nothing!  But it all went and she was born naturally after 8 hours.  This time again I wanted to breastfeed and they gentily helped me, once I was out of the labour room and had had some time to adjust.  And I had learnt some things from my first attempts with Sophie and it worked.  And I loved it, it was a great thing to do, so easy, so convenient.  I breastfeed for 9 months, (exclusively for 6) and would definately do it again. 

Both my children are fine, happy.  Breast is probably best but I dont feel I lost anything by bottle feeding my first child, nowadays bottle formula is so advanced that there probably isnt much difference between the two, except of course things like antibodies etc. 

Breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to do but women shouldnt feel pressurised but they should have the help available - that is so important to its success.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Why is it so difficult to let our children growup?

On the one hand you have the big debate about children growing up too fast and being exposed to 'sexualisation' too early with fashions and media and on the other you have parents, especially mothers who seemingly have trouble seeing their children grow-up and develop onto the next stage of their life. 

At this time of year particularly, many parents struggle with that known feeling that your children are growing and changing and somehow you are losing something.  And in a way, we are but, this is a change that should be celebrated as a step of development and hopefully accomplishment for them.  But yet, most of us feel a moment of loss.

This week saw the end of Sophie's life in kindergarten, she has been there since we arrived in Portugal, 3 years ago and although her teachers have changed each year, this year she had some great and caring teachers who we will miss.  She will move onto pre-school, ready to start primary school next year.  It also marks the start of 5 day schooling, from the part-time of kindergarten.  And although this is a great step for her, it makes me sad, she is no longer my little girl somehow and also the flexibility of our time will be gone, reducing our time together to holidays and weekends. 

Today is my baby girl Grace's second birthday, marking another change, my baby is definately no longer a baby, she walks, she talks (kind of) and shows independence in choice.  I should be happy for her and her new found skills with age but it just makes me sad, that my baby is not my baby anymore and probably there will be no more babies for me.     

But life goes on and time passes, it is our job to make the most of that time we have we our precious gifts, that are our children and to help them grow into strong, responsible and successful people.  Unfortunately we cannot stop time, much as sometimes we would like and keep our children as they are, but we have to let them grow up.