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Friday, 27 November 2020

Unveiling the new Auntie Bulgaria site

Finally (finally!), the new Auntie Bulgaria website is ready, and I’m so happy to share it with you.

Please do head over there and tell me what you think of the new look. Don’t forget to update your bookmarks/favourites – or add the new site to your bookmarks/favourites – as that’s where all the fun will be happening from now on.

For those few who were still getting email updates, the new site won’t send out emails. To make sure you never miss a post, do check in with the new site once a week or so (I generally post every week or two). You can also follow me on Instagram (@auntie_bulgaria), where I’ll be announcing each new post and sharing other delights from life in Bulgaria.

Once again, here’s the link to the new site: https://auntiebulgaria.com/


Thursday, 3 September 2020

A change of scenery (and some news)

Back in bleak old January, we booked a little something to look forward to for August – a week in a small guesthouse in Sinemorets. By March, when we went into lockdown, we were already resigning ourselves to the fact that we probably wouldn’t go. By June, much as we love our home and garden, we were beginning to crave a change of scenery. By August, we were absolutely desperate for one.

So we went. And it was great. We took our own food to the beach every day and only ate out in the evenings (all the restaurants have outdoor dining anyway). Everyone was being very good and wearing their masks (properly) in the (few) shops. So it felt pretty safe and relaxed.

I will say the resort was busier than normal, which we kind of expected seeing as more Bulgarians are holidaying in Bulgaria this summer. (Sinemorets generally doesn’t attract much in the way of Brit tourists, who rarely venture further south than Sunny Beach or, at a push, Sozopol.) But our usual spot on the Veleka Beach (or North Beach), overlooking the river and nature reserve, was as peaceful as ever.

So that was it really. We went to the beach, lolloped around, swam in the river, read our books, had a beach picnic (complete with bottle of wine), and ate the same few vegan-friendly dinners. Every. Day. It was delightfully boring and restful.

And now it’s September, which, even as a child-free 40-year-old, always feels like the start of a new school year. A fresh start. Much more so than January. A milestone in every year that never fails to induce a mild sense of panic, excitement, nerves and mad list-writing of the what-am-I-going-to-do-with-my-life variety.

Speaking of which, I’m taking a break from the blog for a month or so. Auntie Bulgaria has not changed since 2010 (the site, that is, not me. I’ve developed several new chin hairs and aches and pains since 2010), and it’s long overdue a revamp. So I’m taking some time to give this joint a fresh face – a little nip and tuck to celebrate 10 years together. Much like an ageing tycoon might buy his beauty queen wife a new set of tits for their 10-year anniversary. Romantic, like.

Then we can kick off the next 10 years of blogging in style. Or however many years there are left in this thing. Christ, by 2030, we’ll probably all be permanently plugged into a virtual reality universe while the real world burns around us.

On that cheery note, bye for now.

Claire x

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

Let's see...

Hello! Yes, I’m still here and haven’t been carried away by COVID, yet. I know I’ve been neglecting the blog in favour of work and gardening (mostly work). But it’s not like there are lots of exciting new life experiences to write about. Every week consists of us not really going out and not really seeing people. How much of that can you tolerate, reader?

But, wait, something did happen. I had a birthday. A significant one. One that starts with a 4 and ends with a 0. It’s wonderful to finally have my age catch up to my pre-existing middle-aged lady sensibilities. I mean, I’ve been wearing crocs and ankle wellies and listening to Radio 2 for about a decade, but now I can truly justify it. Other fun things I’m embracing now that I’m 40 include:

  • Grey hairs (I keep finding them in my fringe).
  • No longer having any sort of ‘hairstyle’. Just one length all over is fine, right?
  • Leggings.
  • A strong urge to splash out on a really good hoover.

Let’s see, what other recent highlights do I have to report?  

  • We went to Magazin Mania for the first time in almost six months and it felt so normal to be rummaging around for second-hand clothes. I bought a mad dress. Naturally.
  • I had a dream where Arnold Schwarzenegger began identifying as a black man. Which was weird for everyone.
  • Er, that’s about it. 

So let’s turn to the veg garden, where – thank Christ – things are happening all the time.

Our new squash patch, located where the compost heap used to be. Looks like the squash is
loving the nutritious soil there.

I also grow some squash plants up a trellis, where I can prune them regularly
(to ensure the plants put all their energy into growing big fruits, rather than long vines).
Look at the size of this bad boy!

The rest of the veg garden is looking well, too.

Meanwhile, the flower garden has reached its big, shaggy phase…

And the rustic greenhouse finally has a roof. It’s polycarbonate (because we can’t afford proper toughened glass for the roof), but the front and sides will be made out of lovely old windows and stone. It looks a bit conspicuous right now, but it’ll blend more once the windows are in. Rob is also going to grow some grape vines along the front.

That really is about it. Not that I’m complaining. I’ve absolutely loved indulging my secret introvert fantasies and ignoring the world for months. But, as I enter my fifth decade (fifth! Jesus!), here’s hoping there are some *slightly* more adventurous times ahead.

Friday, 24 July 2020


Because, sometimes you just have to get in the washing machine and hide away from everyone.

Is it me or is the world particularly deranged this month? I mean, more than usual for 2020. You know shit’s not right when you see the actual president of the United States utter the words, ‘Show me the deaths chart,’ in a TV interview. Like it’s a totally normal thing to say, too. Show. Me. The deaths chart.

Meanwhile, Bulgaria’s embroiled in yet another corruption scandal. And the bag-of-grey-skin-and-red-hot-narcissism that serves as the UK’s prime minister says the country’s response to coronavirus shows off the ‘sheer might’ of the UK. Sheer might? SHEER MIGHT? To paraphrase that scene in When Harry Met Sally, I’ll have what he’s having.

And why, for the love of God, can’t anyone in Bulgaria wear a mask properly. It’s not a chin strap. I get it, masks are uncomfortable, especially in the heat. But when you wear it around your chin you literally have all the discomfort of strapping something to your face in hot weather with NONE OF THE FUCKING BENEFITS.

Anyway, this is why I’m staying indoors for the next, oh I don’t know, forever, and making chutney. Last weekend was mango chutney (mangoes being a rare find in the shops, and mango chutney even rarer). This weekend, I’ll be making a beetroot, apple and onion chutney with our first beetroot harvest of the summer.

OOOh, and we harvested the first of our spuds. We haven’t bothered growing spuds for years, but I can’t think why. It’s so fun squirreling around in the earth and coming up with big spuddy nuggets – like panning for gold, only with more starch. Today we’ll be throwing some spuds on the barbecue, along with veggie sausages, and generally congratulating ourselves on living in the middle of nowhere away from all the batshit craziness.

But if this madness continues, I might have to further isolate myself and get in the washing machine with Iggy. He may be our dumbest cat, but he’s got the right idea there.

Friday, 10 July 2020

Out in the garden – a photo essay

‘Photo essay’ being a grandiose way of me just inserting a load of pictures instead of crafting a logical collection of words. (It’s Friday. It’s sunny. We’re barbecuing. Who wants to be inside typing?)

Here goes…

In the veg garden

Pepper sizing up the garden.

The veg garden is beautifully full this year, with lots of flowers as well as edibles.

Gladioli (for cut flowers) and calendula among this year's stonking beetroot.

Exciting new crops for this year: sweet potatoes (which we've not grown for years); our first kaffir limes;
a wild-and-woolly-looking potato patch (spuds not being something we normally grow);
and our first attempt at green beans.

Plus a few old favourites: purple sprouting broccoli; tomatoes; grapes; this year's garlic harvest;
the first butternut squash on the vines; and monster courgette.

In the flower garden
And to think we never gave a toss about flowers until a few years ago…

Meanwhile, the rustic greenhouse project continues
I mean, what can I say, it’s huge. And it’s so far behind schedule, Rob’s had to plant the tomatoes and build around them!