Ever changing plans…….

Hello, the winter sun warming your face is such a wonderful feeling and a great way to remember to live in the moment. The girls are playing on the rocks at one end of the beach with Isabella who is having a sleepover.


Emilio is waving around some of his treasure that he has found on the beach (that boy is a treasure magnet!). Toby is at a soccer game in a nearby town called Neapoli and Sandy is at a Greek lesson with her incredible teacher Georgia! All in all a lovely and ‘quiet’ Sunday morning. Isabella and her brother Alex and other friend Manolaki have become such good friends with our kids and they want to spend as much time as possible together – all our kids just adore them and will miss them terribly when we leave Crete.

Soon I will be picked up by another lovely friend Irini (met through Couchsurfing) and we will visit her family village, Kritsa, 10 kms up the hills. I love Sundays like this.

Later in the day…..

A lovely afternoon in Kritsa – first we walked through the very hilly town taking lots of photos of the empty old homes that dot the village now – it is the case with many villages in Greece – they have literally halved in population because the young people generally want to move to the towns and cities in search of work. Agricultural existence is seriously on the decline. Kritsa, a mere 10 kms from Agios Nikolaos is so hilly and picturesque with incredible views.

imageWhat better way to end a great walk than with some good wholesome home cooking at Irini’s parents house. Home made cabbage dolmades, cheese pies and green pies. Yum yum – ate far too much!

The other day we bought our tickets out of Crete in June (after the end of the school year) and I got very reflective and sad. I couldn’t even press the confirm button on the website – so Yasi technically bought them. The next day I was sitting at my favourite cafe Ano Kato and I couldn’t get my eyes off the view. Tears were welling up. Yes it is an amazing view, though much more than that it symbolizes the life that we have enjoyed here, the wonderful friends we have made, the language we have learnt, the special family moments we have shared, the family routines we have created, being able to live without a car and walk everywhere.

imageCrete has been so much more than we ever expected, we have bonded as a family in ways that are very difficult with a 9-5 job lifestyle, we have met friends that will be life long friends and I suspect it will always feel like home. June is still a long time away, though I’ll be very sad to leave this behind. If our family and children were at different stages we would definitely consider staying longer – it is much easier with school and language for the younger kids, though much harder for Toby and Yasi who were landed in grade 4 when they hadn’t learnt the grammatical basics of a pretty difficult language. I’m so proud of all they have achieved though they do crave for Whitfield Primary. They do want to have their final primary school year there in 2015. Unfortunately the Greek school system doesn’t have the resources to provide Greek as a 2nd language special classes as there would be for non-English speakers in Australian schools. So much of the learning depends on individual teachers who are sometimes inspiring and hard working and then sometimes not. It doesn’t help that their salary has been halved in the last few years and is pretty much on the poverty line if that’s their only income. It makes you so so appreciative of amazing teachers at Whitfield who give so much. Luckily Toby, Yas and Kalika have a fabulous Greek teacher who comes to our house 3 afternoons per week. She’s been a god send. Furthermore, in the last few weeks Toby and Yasi have started switching school on Mondays and Thursdays to attend Sandy’s council run adult language classes – which means they are learning the basics of grammatical structure and they seem so much happier about it all. So, the school system for the older kids is obviously a big reason of why we wouldn’t stay longer. Another pretty significant reason is the army. Greeks still have to do national service (I think there are only two European countries who still have compulsory service). I have an army exemption form which I got through the Greek consulate in Melbourne when I was 18 yrs old. Technically however, I am allowed to live in Greece for 6 months per calendar year………and you are apparently eligible for army duty until 45 years of age (I’m 44!), so I don’t want to push the boundaries and I definitely ain’t joining anyone’s army, so we’ll be out by end of June.

imageAbout a month ago while we were hiking, we started to think more seriously about what we would do when we left Greece. The only time commitment we had made was that we promised the kids we would be home in Australia for Christmas. Flying to Sth America for 6 months was going to be costly as we were having trouble finding frequent flyer tickets home from there on Virgin Velocity or one of their partners. South America was still one of the dreams but there were about 10 other crazy options we came up with ranging from:
Finding a cheap car and driving through Europe to London and then Sth America
Flying home via Iran
Flying to India and spending a few months there and then overland through Burma and Thailand.
Flying to Botswana and Sth Africa then home via Perth
Train to Vladivostok then fly home via Japan
Train through Central Asia and then China
Just go straight to Sth America then home

Then one day we were reading some emails and came across a course that Sandy was recommended for and was very interested in – Kids Coaching Connection – which is about ‘soul/personal development and emotional mentoring for kids’ – She would be so good at it of course.

The course however is monthly in Canada which is geographically impossible from Australia or Europe. However, they were offering a summer intensive this year in July and August. It just felt so right. Sandy’s gut was telling her she wanted to do it and I really wanted to support her in making it possible and within an afternoon really – our 2nd half of 2014 was kind of nutted out.
Now we had a time commitment so we leave Europe on July 9 to Toronto where I have some lovely relatives. We fly out of Brussels so we still get to see our friends Werner and Corina and their fabulous kids in Holland which we are so excited about. We also get to spend time with my brother and Sally in London and see Paris for a few days which has been Yasi and Kalika’s dream ever since their wonderful friends Charlotte and Pippa went there.
imageNot sure what the kids and I will do while Sandy is at her course but if anyone has ever been camping around Ontario, Canada and has some recommendations – I would much appreciate them. I have always wanted to head north to Hudson Bay. I could go over the border into America though I really don’t fancy trying to get through American customs with 5 kids on my own and having to explain the whole story. I might save that till the first half of the course is done and then Sandy is back with us.

Toby and I were ultra excited to have spent a few hours on the net and booked our tickets home to Australia solely using frequent flyer points on V Australia from LAX. We get back to Melbourne at the beginning of November. Again, many options in the few North American months – probably a month road trip around Eastern States where we have many friends to visit ending in Chicago, which is like my American home since I studied in Illinois for a year (many moons ago now). Then probably some time in Central America and/or Peru-Bolivia and back to the west coast where we want to do another ‘visiting friends road trip’ before home.
Though as you’ve probably guessed – plans are fairly organic at this stage and who knows what will pop up. I like planning though I’m finding I am enjoying going with the flow.

imageNow back to our wonderful life in Crete. I’m so glad we decided to do all four seasons in the one place. Winter in Crete is fairly mild and there is still much opportunity for beach fun – though it is so nice and quiet without the hordes of tourists that are likely to start when April arrives. That season can be thrilling too.

Have an awesome day.



Our village in winter

imageIn our village the first thing we did was get off the bus at 4.30am and we met my dad’s aunt who lives in Florina – Tasoula who picked us up and we stayed in her house. We slept again – in the morning we picked up my aunty Jenny at the train station and we drove to the village where we went to church because it was a special day where they throw the cross in the water.


image imageI think it’s Jesus’ baptism or something like that. Even in the middle of winter the young men jump in the water to get the cross. Whoever gets it first it brings them good luck for the whole year.

image imageThen we went to visit our relatives at their houses. For lunch we went to aunty Seve (my Giagia’s sister) for a delicious lunch. We had burgers, potatoes, pitas, tzatziki, dips and salads. It was really yummy.









by Yasi


When we left our village (Kato Ydrousa, 9 kms from the town of Florina – from hereafter called ‘the village’) back in August to move to Crete, we didn’t think we would be back till Easter time. Our house in the village is very big and comfortable though it has no heating. Since they have freezing temperatures and snow for approximately three months you simply can’t do without 24 hour heating. To get heating installed and the energy needed in wood or petrol would be prohibitively expensive so that is the main reason we didn’t consider living in our village for a year. Crete was the perfect choice for so many reasons.

imageWhen we found out that aunty Gigga Jenny was going to the village for a few days we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to join her. The kids so wanted to see the village in the winter time. A beautiful winter wonderland that I remember from my childhood. However – despite the freezing cold there was just no snow. We missed the huge cold snap in Northern Europe by a week or so. So we had to settle for a few wonderful days visiting our relatives.

That always means going from house to house, having coffees and cake or chocolate, or a whole meal – you simply can’t leave without having something – that would be rude. You either end up feeling full or have a pocketful of chocolate. Or both.

On the 6th of January we arrived just in time for the end of the church service.

imageIt is a big day being Epiphany and everyone goes to church, then there’s a procession down to the river for the throwing of the cross.






imageThe small river was not so small when I was a young kid. It flowed strongly and maybe I had rose coloured glasses, but there wasn’t as much rubbish strewn along its banks. People take lots of pride in their homes but not so their village environment. This is a trend we see all over Greece – if it’s not in your backyard…….it doesn’t matter.



imageAnyway, back to the river, the priest does his appropriate blessings of the gold plated cross that he will throw into the water symbolizing Christ’s baptism. The village folk get into their best positions so they can cheer and watch.




The young teen or 20 something men get ready to jump into the freezing water with their eyes on the prize. All very dramatic and then over like a flash…….and everyone disperses and heads to the cafeteria (aka the cafe in other cultures) for celebratory drinks and nibbles.

image imageIt felt good to be back there in my hometown. Hometown – that’s an interesting word and yes I do feel a sense of homecoming when I arrive in my village…….but Crete has fast become my Greek hometown too. I feel a sense of home coming when I go back to Chicago and Tokyo where I spent a year each. Can home be many places? Sure, why not!




image imageOur last day in Florina was very sad as we had to say goodbye to aunty Jenny – we had so so much fun travelling with her for almost a month – it was very flowing and easy – definitely a good travel buddy and of course the kids adore her which helps.










imageThen the next day it was our turn to go – a train, a bus, a plane and a taxi ride later we reached our beautiful town of Agios Nikolaos in Crete and breathed a sigh of relief.



imageGood to be home.

Have a wonderful day
Baba Christos


My Venetian time

imageWe went to Venice on our Christmas holidays. I really wanted to go to Venice because I have researched it lots at school in Australia and I wanted to see the canals. The pasta was really tasty, especially the pesto pasta, I had it about 4 times.



We went to a show in English about Venice, it was all about the history, the fighting, the clothes making and the masks. It was a little bit scary, even someone’s head (the drodges’) was chopped off because people didn’t like him and wanted a new leader.



image image
We often had pizza at lunchtime and gosh, they were giant- as big as an iPad or more. It wasn’t very easy finding our way around, the signage was not very good.








image imageThe canals and pathways are all over the place. We got lost once, we walked about 40 minutes longer than we planned.


Venice was different to what I thought it would be like- I imagined gondolas everywhere and there were hardly any because it was raining and cold all the time.

By Yas




Toby’s English assignment

imageThis is an exercise Toby did in English class in the first few weeks of school back in September. We came across it a while ago when cleaning out his papers! It was a very interesting read about his perception of why we came here and also the stark difference of being at a ‘concrete’ school where there wasn’t much time in the few 10-15 mins breaks in between classes let alone any sports equipment to be able to borrow. Despite being thrown in the deep end I was so proud of how the kids embraced school in the beginning weeks.


‘My family moved here because my dad wanted us to speak Greek. One more (reason) was because it was too cold in the winter where he lived once upon a time (Florina) and a friend from here told him about here. It is a very nice place.

No. 3 School is very nice. Lots of people are nice. At my school in Australia it had lots of play space and you could get any sport stuff. I like it here, but I would love to go back home! And all my friends and family.

We were going to go to No. 1 School but it was full up so we came here to No. 3 School.’

By Tobes



imageToday I kicked my second goal of the season. I used to play near the goals last year and then I got changed to defense. Now for the last two games I have been playing on the right wing and have done some crosses that have impressed the players and my coach. I don’t think I’ve done a cross without the ball going to one of my team mates for the last two games. One against another team in the league and one just as a practice game.

I had about half an hour to 45 mins on the pitch today – I got taken on and off the field three times. On my third time I had about 15 mins and in that 15 minutes I got about 3 crosses and one goal. An opposition player kicked the ball towards the goalie but got it in the wrong direction and I intersected it and got a goal near the left post. I got lots of high fives and the feeling was awesome. Can’t wait till next time.
By Toby


Viva Italia

imageI just love love love Italia! Back in 2012 when we first started talking about our trip we made a big vision board and the whole family got to draw pictures of things they wanted to do and where they wanted to visit. Well Yasi’s two places were Italy and France! Italy because she had studied Italian at school and did a big project about Venice. France because she wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and I think she was impressed by the stories of her good friend Pippa who visited there.
Anyway – my response was “Let’s put it down on the poster darling but I think you should not count on both those places cause we are on a tight budget and they are the two most expensive countries in Europe.” Well vision boards obviously have great power…….
When we ended up in Spain for our family Christmas and ventured over the sea to Morocco, the cheapest way to get back to Greece was through Italy! I was so excited when I found A$90 fares from Casablanca to Milan. Then €33 fares from Rome – Athens. It does pay to spend a chunk of a day researching on the Internet (while drinking yummy frappes in a suitably trendy cafe of course) and booking super early. Yasi was so excited when I told her.

So that’s where our 4 days holiday to Italy started to lay its seed. Whilst Milan is a pretty city if you’re into fashion – we basically high tailed it out on a train to Venice and by that Eve were sitting in a very simple but extravagantly yummy Restraunt eating incredible pasta. Such a delight!
Here are some of the stories:
By Baba Christos

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In Rome we met Zia Angela who is really naughty and bought us Fanta – we saw her at the Rome train station with her friend from Australia and we had a cuppa together. It was fun. (My baba met her in Japan more than 20 years ago when he called a wrong number)

Baba said no to Fanta at first, but In the cafe when Angela was ordering us Fanta and I wanted to buy some orange juices, she said ‘I’m allowed to spoil you’. She said ‘3 fantas per favore’ to the lady and baba said ‘no just 2 fantas – they can share’ and 3 juices, and then baba went away and then she changed it to 3 fantas and 2 juices anyway. I learnt the numbers with baba on the train – they are uno, due, tre, quatro, cinque, sei, sette, otto, move, dieci, indici, dodici, tredici, quattordici, quindici, sedici, diciasette, diciotto, diciannove and venti.

imageThe Colosseum – in the colosseum was a big building and it had a maze where they used to release lions and other animals like that.



imageThe Romans got to run around with a shield and a sword and if they bumped into each other they had to fight each other till one of them was dead. They found lots of different bones in the Colosseum and I was surprised to see a horse’s head and big cat’s leg bones and other weird things.



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The pasta in Italy was the best – well I didn’t really try all the pastas because I just stuck to pesto pasta because it was just the best, man! I did have a bit of other’s pasta because sometimes we had to share because man that stuff was expensive.









The pizzas were huge – like if you wanted to buy a piece in a shop it’s like two normal pieces stuck together. Man don’t get me started on that stuff. Enough about food.



Anyway – I loved the double decker buses (except for the rain). You get lots of fresh air – I could write 5000 pages about the buses so don’t get me started. You got earphones and they told you bits about things that you passed. Kids didn’t have to pay at all on the bus!





The first time we went on the bus we got off at a cool fountain called the Trevi fountain. And we got an ice-cream but it wasn’t any ordinary ice-cream – it was a triple decker ice-cream, but I can’t remember my flavours now. We sat at the fountain and ate it while we watched lots of people throw money and pray.


People throw money into the fountain to pray that they will come back. The fountain was the coolest ever.

Thanks guys love from Kikibelle.







My favourite things about Rome were the red double decker buses, the colosseum and the triple decker gelati. By Yas







My favourite thing about Rome was the big rainstorm on the last day – I’ve always wanted to be under shelter in a storm when there is all quiet, sudden rumbles and then quick rain.



The double decker buses were cool and the Vatican City was a great place to take photos of where the pope lives.






imageWe met Zia Angela and her friend Fiona at the Rome train station cafe and I loved getting updates from her about the Labor Party, because Fiona was a labor candidate.
The brekkies were just awesome – well the hot chocolate was great, so was the juice and so were the croissants. The lasagne was also too good for words at dinner time. By Tobes
PS The lasagne in Italy (where it was invented) was the best in the world.



My favourite thing in Italy was the triple decker ice cream. The man at breakfast invited me to go dancing with him but I think he was joking. We had chocolate croissants and hot chocolate for breakfast. By Zoiimage










imageMy favourite thing about Italy was the pesto pasta and the pizza and the gnocchi stuff. Good bye! Love Moochie





My favourite thing about Italy – was knowing that food time will always be easy with pasta and pizza on the menu.

I was fascinated by the Colosseum, an incredible building, unfathomable how they recreated such a structure so long ago, but hadn’t realised what gory uses it had been put to.

imageI could not believe how every street you wandered, every corner you turned was a building or statue worthy of multiple photographs and wonder.



In Venice, I loved meandering through the streets and canals, but I found them quite unsettling getting lost cause I though I had an great sense of direction.
imageTo tell you the truth one of my favourite things was sharing that time with Gigga, she was great to travel with, I don’t know what else to say. It was good to share the moments with her…


Ooh and the pasta and wine we had on our first night in Venice. I have a gorgeous photo of my hubby sipping wine as we sat huddled around heaters outside while the the kids ran wild, it was freezing, and celebratory.
Ciao, Sandy