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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Annie’s (Early) Annual Autumn Project

Often while I am away for my summer holidays, I hatch a plan for my annual autumn project. Somehow sitting on a sun-lounger, reading and relaxing takes my mind off to a place where I seek to improve things on my return home. They tend to be house or garden related and have included over the past few years the following, with a rating system out of 10:

1. Create a little sitting room area in the playroom where I can relax with my gardening books and a cuppa on cold winter afternoons: √√√√√√√√√

This turned out to be a winner – it looks pretty, is tidy and, when the kids aren’t in the room watching TV, it is a haven for me.

Sitting room

2. Make 3 raised vegetable beds at the very top of the garden: √√√√

Although beautifully built by my friend’s husband, Bradley, they have been rather useless due to their position (under a massive tree, so shaded and very dry – but it was the only place they could have gone). However, all is not necessarily lost as I subsequently learnt that raspberries might well thrive there with a bit of tender loving care. So far, so promising.

3. Tidy up and re-organise the study (where I am writing this): √√√√√√√√√

I bought cheap and cheerful stationery holders/organisers from Ikea, all in one colour, got rid of mountains of old paperwork that was not needed anymore ( e.g. bank statements from the last century ~ all shredded and added to my many compost heaps). This is now a lovely space in the house – quiet, well lit (thanks to a beautiful Anglepoise lamp bought by Granny Bee for my birthday) and perfect for getting on with writing and admin.

study pic for blog

4. Completely refurbish one of the Baby Bee’s bedrooms: √√√√√√√√√√

For this project I had a lengthy deadline of 4 months, so had a huge amount of fun buying junk/charity shop items, chalk paints and doing much of the work myself. It is now the nicest room in the house. When it is tidy………

bedroom refurbished

5. Get a greenhouse. √√√√√√√√√√

This meant coercing various members of the family over a period of months to come on board to make it a very special 50th birthday present for me. We built the concrete base ourselves (thanks to 2 of the Baby Bees who seemed to know what to do, despite the land being on a slight slope) and the ever-generous Mr Bee who persuaded me to get a bigger greenhouse than I originally thought I would need. Many a plant has been raised from seed since I got it, and it too is a retreat of peace and industriousness with the added benefit of divine, fresh tomatoes.

greenhouse base

April greenhouse 008

6. Buy an Eglu and have a few chickens. √√√√√√√√√√

One of the best autumn projects without a doubt. While the Eglu ( was quite pricey, it is a very solid piece of engineering, is easy to clean and I think, healthier for the chooks than a wooden alternative. My chickens  (~ over the years: Molly, Bidge, Gertrude, Emily, Florence, Edie, and my current pair, Alabama and Georgia) have come and gone. Illnesses, pecking and a fox have all been problems so we have had our ups and downs, but when they are producing fresh eggs and entertaining me, there is no better pet. Characterful, sweet, cheeky and great fun. The chooks are also an example of an autumn project idea (get a micro-pig) which was vetoed after some proper research.

garden and wet junior (27)

This year I took my summer holiday early, so my autumn project has already begun, despite it only still being mid-July. Of course, this might leave time for another one later in the year – I am looking at you, laundry room.

On my recent travels I visited some very good friends in NZ. They have an amazing eye for design, have built an award-winning house in one of the most beautiful spots of this earth and are the best hosts I have ever encountered. I had a sneaky look in their purpose-built pantry/utility room and realised my kitchen storage, such as it is, was due for some serious work and a very big tidy up. We have lived in this house for 15 years, and the kitchen cupboards were full to brimming with equipment, bakeware, utensils, not to mention food. Every item is in the process of being taken out, examined for its worthiness to stay (not been used in the past 18 months? ~ fare thee well)  cleaned and audited.

Before and after photos of the main food cupboard below:

kitchen cupboard before

kitchen cupboard after

Kilner jars ( are my new best friend, as is clear labelling and good cupboard storage solutions (Lakeland have some good products if you can avoid buying even more equipment to fill said cupboards while you are looking at their site Shoe boxes and old biscuit tins are also very useful.

Spring-cleaning has never been big with me, but autumn, with its feeling (in the UK at least where the new academic year commences) of new beginnings, is my time to find a worthwhile project and enjoy making small but significant improvements to my home and garden.

Let me know if you have similar projects, whether in spring or autumn, or just when you can make time.

There are some good pics and ideas here if you are looking for some kitchen inspiration:

Annie Bee x

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Patricia Arquette – A True Romance

If you have never seen the 1993 film, “True Romance”  you are missing out. Patricia Arquette (in the news this week for winning Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn in “Boyhood”) plays Alabama Whitman, the archetypal hooker-with-a-heart. She wears great outfits, amazing sunnies, and looks good enough to eat. This week, I have loved seeing pics of Ms A at the Oscars, with her “Yes, I am Over 50” and “No, I Have Not Had Any Work Done” (take note, Melanie Griffith) vibe,  her slightly wonky teeth and her luscious white arms. Utterly beautiful, but somehow more normal looking than all the other beauties of the film world.

Alabama - True Romance patricia_arquette_0scars

I wanted to call one of my Baby Bees Alabama but was scuppered when I produced a boy. However, one of my chickens is called Alabama: a blonde, slightly plump, eccentric hen. Even with her wings clipped she manages to climb up onto the fence where she does some alarming, but funny cartoonish moves before I tempt her down with dried worms.

It is nice to see Ms Arquette looking even slightly like the rest of us middle-aged women rather than the stick-thin, cosmetically enhanced actresses strutting the red carpet. Have a listen to her Oscar acceptance speech too and catch Meryl Streep showing her support. Slightly bonkers, but good fun.

green bee for signature copy

Annie Bee x