Ciabatta Problems

Hello from a new Bee HQ – the Bees have moved west a couple of counties and we have emerged from under the packing boxes (some of us more successfully than others).

The Aga we have inherited is proving a challenge, both from a culinary point of view (no, there is no alternative oven) as well as a menopausal one. My kitchen is H.O.T. and I am sweltering.

Here is a picture showing the direct opposite of the look I am currently achieving.

Gorgeous Aga woman

My bestie told me once about “Ciabatta problems”. If you google those 2 words, you will find answers to actual ciabatta problems, courtesy of Jamie Oliver et al. I was given this alternative take:

Imagine a family of four around the kitchen table of an evening (Aga blasting away in the background perhaps – menopausal mother in her bikini) ~

Mother: “Your father and I have terribly bad news children.”

Father: “It is truly upsetting and you will need to brace yourselves. We are here to support you through this difficult time.”

Child One: “Is it Granny?”

Child Two (now crying): “Is it the guinea pig?”

Mother: “Much worse. We are out of ciabatta.”

Ciabatta problems can loom large to those in privileged situations; I found myself worrying this morning that my two chooks, Alabama and Georgia, who have had to remain in a chicken hotel for a few weeks while I had a new secure fence put up here for them, have become broody. They are happiest sitting idly in their nesting box, presumably dreaming about babies. They did not take kindly to me unceremoniously dumping them out on the garden and I received a nasty peck from Alabama as a thank you. But this is a ciabatta problem, as is the question of when to start digging out the parterre, or quite where one of the antique iron planters has been put by the removal men. The truth is, we have arrived in our dream house, in an exquisite part of the British countryside, with enough garden to have chooks, broody or not. The vast majority of life’s problems, including having an Aga (which I am calling The Kraken), are very small indeed.

In other news, the Bees are also going to have 2 new Maine Coon kittens to add to the family. Huck and Hero arrive here next week, aged about 3 months. They are brother and sister; no doubt getting them settled into their new home will not be without some challenges but they too will be ciabatta problems.

Annie Bee with Alabama

Have a super Monday

Annie Bee x

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Monday Morning: Let’s Hear It For Teenagers

God love ’em! Teenagers! In the last few weeks there have been some notable teenager stories in the news, reminding us all that kids come in all shapes and sizes, all with different strengths and talents.

First we had the (alleged) teenage hacker who rummaged around in Talk Talk’s drawers, causing a media storm and much angst. Teenage hackers have been round since the beginning of the internet, and school-aged computer whizzes have not been able to stop themselves from hacking the CIA, the Pentagon, the NHS, Scotland Yard, Interpol, Sony and Apple to name but a few. A number of them have gone on to be employed by some very impressed tech giants, and some have ended up behind bars. All of them have hopefully highlighted security gaps which the adults, arguably, should have been on top of in the first place. Teenage hacker

At the same time, some other teenagers came onto my radar, this time for designing an app to promote healthy living. In light of the massive amount of bad press given over to social media and the effects it has on our kids, a pharma company (Astellas) put out a call to all 14-16 years olds in the UK. The winners were a group of five 15-year-olds from St Paul’s Catholic College in Burgess Hill, Sussex – Sacha Botting, Dominique Froud, Jack Gumm, Gemma Kelly and Zuzia O’Donoghue – who drew on their own experiences of the pressures of school, friendships, home life and social media to come up with the idea. Essentially the app, which is called Memory Star (already available here), is a ‘virtual memory jar’ – a place where youngsters can keep their memories (photos, messages etc) but not share themAnd that is the kicker: whereas so much of their lives is now out there for anyone to see, this is completely private.

O’Donoghue said: “There’s so much pressure to present a very happy image on social media. There’s something very competitive about it. Who can get the most likes? Who has the nicest life? You have this sort of perfect persona that you’re putting forward of yourself, but you don’t always feel like that”.

I for one would not go back to being a teenager for anything. Being one is difficult. Having them is arguably worse, and, while in my day (the 1870s – just kidding) there was a great deal of pressure to be popular, pretty, clever and have the ‘right’ shoes, today those pressures are undoubtedly worse. The burden is two-fold (playground and social media) and the bullies find it easier to be nasty from behind a smart phone.

So let’s hear it for the young ~ and while being in your 50s has its troubles (the everlasting-menopause is pushing my sense of humour to its very limits), the vast majority of teenagers go on to be delightful adults.

The Memory Star app could be a lovely Christmas present for a teenager too. teenage quote

Nora Ephron

Have a good week

Annie Bee x

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Meat-Free Monday

Welcome to a new week

For a couple of years here at Bee HQ we have been observing Meat-free Monday. We are unapologetic carnivores, although we do eat quite a lot of fish, and generally eat very healthily; for many reasons it seemed like a good idea to devote at least one day to eating a plant-based diet. Some of the Bees found this easier than others, and I must admit we do sometimes eat fish on that day which may not be 100% in the spirit of the thing. I have found that interesting salads and soups work best for the evening meal.

meat free monday

So what does Wiki say about the background to what is now a fairly well-known concept?

The history is quite interesting and although restarted in 2003 as a public health awareness program, the idea of sticking to a meat-free day once a week goes back (in the US anyway) to WW1. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation calling for every Tuesday to be meatless and for one meatless meal to be observed every day, making a  total of nine meatless meals each week. The United States Food Administration  urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort. Conserving food would support U.S. troops as well as feed populations in Europe where food production and distribution had been disrupted by war.

And why Mondays? Well, Monday is typically the beginning of the work week, the day when individuals settle back into their weekly routine. Unhealthy habits that prevailed over the weekend can be forgotten and replaced by positive choices. Here in the UK it is as much an environmental campaign as a health initiative. Many western countries around the world have similar schemes, encouraging us all to eat veggie for at least one specified day per week. The McCartneys (Paul et al) are great exponents of this movement and their website is worth a visit if you want information and inspiration.

So what will I be eating today? I imagine a very simple avo smash on toast with a few cherry tomatoes and then tonight I will be cooking a new recipe (for me): pumpkin soup. I have found what looks like a good, easy, nutritious recipe at BBC Good Food which has excellent ratings (though with a few warnings to avoid buying a “halloween pumpkin” as they are not bred for their taste, so I am hoping to find a proper one at the supermarket).

Pumpkin soup

One of our favourite books we read to the Baby Bees when they were little was ‘Pumpkin Soup’ by Helen Cooper. A classic, beautifully illustrated tale for toddlers. Mr Bee and I can still quote from it, a decade and a half after it being a bedtime favourite. Perhaps that is what we will be doing this evening as we tuck in!

Children's book "Pumpkin Soup"

Have a super, maybe meat-free, Monday

Annie Bee x

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Monday Morning and My Nest Is Empty

Well it sure is quiet here at Bee HQ. Tumbleweed is drifting through the house, and the only noise is me typing. I am not quite sure what I feel just yet, as I am recovering from a slightly traumatic last 10 days.

I will say this though: it is proving awfully nice for us oldies not to be woken up by the younger Bees going to bed at 3am, and the kitchen is jolly tidy! The dishwasher won’t need to be put to go until late-October. I do feel bereft though – sort of churned up inside.

Morning coffee with a fellow empty nester beckons – she is bringing the tissues and I will put the kettle on.

Have a good Monday, and indeed a fruitful and happy week.

monday pic 1

Annie Bee x

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Hello Monday

coffee humour

I am not one for motivational quotes. I was recently in Australia where  blackboards outside most hip cafes and restaurants greeted me with some inane, ‘uplifting’ thought of the day. Not my scene, but I am guessing they do work from a marketing point of view. However, the funny ones might lift your spirits on this Monday morning.

chalkboard quotes

chalkboard 2

chalkboard humour

And some of these Monday Morning quotes might also chime:.

Or you can just look at this most beautiful Van Gogh, from his series of Almond Blossom paintings. Uplifting enough for me.

Van Gogh Almond Blossom (red)

Wishing you a good week.

Annie Bee x

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