The Witch Lit Podcast

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Not content with my own YouTube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, you can now find me chatting writing and magic on the brand new ‘The Witch Lit Podcast’ by Witches-Who-Write, with the fabulous Sheena Cundy.

Sheena is from Essex, though we never met when I lived there, but have since become friends, supporting each other with our writing online. Sheena not only writes Witch Lit, but songs for her band, Morrigan’s Path.

In the first episode, we share our writing inspiration and our writing lives, as well as a little of our magical background.

If you’re looking for a relaxing, fun podcast, why not tune in? There’s Behind the Broom Cupboard, where we let you into our world of magic, keeping you up to date with our writing and magical work and Witchanory, readings from our magical work and much, much more!

Follow this link for our introductory podcast and subscribe for more https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHtAJO5uh6c9TSai1lhwF7g

We’d love to hear your feedback. Bright blessings xx

 

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Plant based recipes 2019 #1 Mexican Beans

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I found this recipe on The Happy Pear. I love their enthusiasm and love of food! Subscribe to their channel here https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=happy+pear

This is the first recipe I’ve tried where I’ve taken out the oil and I can’t tell the difference. Enjoy!

Easy Mexican Beans

2 tablespoons oil (I used water)

2 tins beans (they suggest buying cheap baked beans and washing off the juice, but any beans will do)

1 red onion, chopped (white works fine)

2 gloves garlic, crushed (I used four cloves)

1 red pepper, chopped (any colour is fine)

1 green chilli, finely chopped (any chilli you have works well)

1 tin sweetcorn

2tspns cumin

black pepper

1/2 tspoon paprika

1 tspoon salt

2 tins chopped tomatoes

4 tablespoons tomato puree

11/2 tablespoons maple syrup

Juice 1 lime

Fresh coriander

Method

Rinse and drain your beans.

Heat pan and add onion, garlic, pepper and chilli. Add a splash of water to the hot pan and cook until veg begins to soften.

Add cumin, black pepper, paprika, salt and sweetcorn. (I left out the salt at this point.) Coat all the veg and cook for a minute.

Add tomatoes, puree and beans and stir.

Add your choice of sweetener – I used 1 tblspoon agave syrup (I’m using up before buying date syrup/sugar that’s even better for you!) Because I added less sweetener, I only used the juice of half a lime.

Add fresh coriander and cook for five minutes.

We found this recipe was still quite sharp to taste….I think it depends on the quality of the tomatoes. I added 1/2 tablespoon of tomato ketchup and it made all the difference!

I love making this recipe for dinner for the two of us because it leaves enough for lunch the next day too, perfect with salad and pitta bread. Enjoy!

 

 

1 year without nicotine – how was it for you, darling?

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If you’ve been following my posts you’ll know I haven’t found stopping smoking easy. One of the reasons was I didn’t feel any better or healthier, in fact, for a number of months, I felt dreadful. I’d made so many changes already. Why didn’t I feel any better?

More than twenty years ago, the terrible, scary pain in my side was diagnosed as IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), and I spent the next four years coming to terms with a massive change in diet and trying to find a work/exercise/eating balance that worked for me.

For a couple of years I ate very little because the less I ate, the less pain I was in, but gradually, I built up my eating (I was already vegetarian) and rebuilt my body with bellydance.

I believed I was strong, slim and fit due to my diet and dancing, but what I didn’t realise was that the nicotine was playing a part in this equation. Taking it out of my life, my hormones were like socks in a tumble dryer; all over the place. My IBS returned with a vengeance for a couple of months, as did violent menopausal symptoms, and on top of all this, I’d sleep for two hours and then lie awake for the rest of the night. Mood swings were violent. I experienced chronic anxiety on top of depression…

But this didn’t last! Yes, I felt terrible, but now I’m finally feeling some benefit for giving up my addiction. I’m no expert, but here are a few things I wish someone had told me….

Firstly, make sure you’re giving up for the right reasons. The Alan Carr book is really good, challenging you, making you face what you really know but don’t want to believe. Stop smoking nicotine because it is best for YOU. YOU are worth it! YOU deserve to live a healthy life.

Secondly, they say (whoever they are!) you don’t need to replace smoking with another habit, and maybe that works for some people, but I needed something else. The day I chose to begin my day walking, was the day I began to feel better. I chose walking instead of choosing that first cigarette, and that really helped me in a number of ways:

I changed my routine

I set myself a new challenge

I quickly found I wasn’t as fit as I thought I was!

Walking is the BEST exercise

Thirdly, make sure you’re supported by friends and family. I’m so glad my partner and I stopped together, and support and encouragement from my tribe kept me going at the hardest times.

My final piece of advice I can tell you, but you might not believe me….you don’t have to feel as rubbish as you do. Your joints don’t have to ache. You can feel SO MUCH BETTER than you do now.

Why did I find life so difficult without nicotine? One reason was because I put on two stone which appeared on my body like a weighty, solid belt, and undermined all my confidence. All my old hang ups about my weight and appearance returned. I felt old, heavy and weighed down and I didn’t look or feel like I was the same person. Unable to show my ladies dance moves was devastating.  

The doctor was kind. I’m back on a very low dose HRT and I sleep better now, but as far as the fat orbiting my stomach is concerned, I’m told it is my lot, middle age spread I’ll have to put up with….

NO WAY!

I’m making even more changes for 2019! If I’m going to be a different person, I’m going to be the person I want to be. I am now committed to a wholefoods, plant based diet and to exercising for a fitter, healthier me. There will be changes on my blog too…

I’ll be encouraging you to watch videos, read books and check out the data about plant based eating as the best diet for you, your family and the planet.

I’ll be trying and testing new plant based recipes and sharing them with you.

Dance will always be my favourite exercise, but I’m going to be trying out other exercise which I’ll share with you.

No longer will I ‘fit in’ those aspects of my life that make me happy….I’m going to begin with them and work my life around them.

I’m looking forward to a busy, exercise packed, fun filled, exciting 2019! Come and join me xx

 

NB: even if life throws a curved ball, don’t give up. Check out my latest video from Phoenix and the Dragon and see what I mean…https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dz7O480_fws

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Now!

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For the first time, since I was eighteen, my Christmas dinner was cooked for me this festive season. We were away at our eldest son’s house, joined by our other children and partners. I shall remember it as one of my favourite Christmas times ever.

We walked and talked, catching up on life and sharing our thoughts and ideas for the future. After four glorious days, I made some decisions….

Now! Is the time to spend days and weekends with family and friends, the ones that make my heart sing.

Now! Is the time to embrace the fitness challenge with both hands, and see what I can achieve in 2019.

Now! Is the time to commit to plant based eating and to spreading the word by sharing recipes and ideas.

Now! Is the time to get the groundwork in place for our potting shed/greenhouse and new raised beds, so we can grow lots of veg.

Now! Is the time to finish my Lizzie Martin Witchlit series, inspiring women to embrace magic in their lives.

Now! Is the time to work magic every day, be it a lighted candle of thanks to the goddess or a chosen tarot guide to seek guidance or assurance.

Now! Is the time to push all our plans on our house and land forward, creating the warm, cosy home we seek.

 

Life’s too short not to do it now! ‘It’ doesn’t have to be big, but whatever ‘it’ is, don’t put it off until tomorrow.

Bright blessings, peace, health and happiness for the coming year xx

 

Name that tingle

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There’s all kinds of happy….happy with family

 

Happy with pets Happy with my books Happy with the work we’ve achieved in Wales  

and happy with my fabulous man

But what’s that tingle called, the one that begins a bout of bliss? I noticed it the other day while cleaning. The wooden shelf was clean and shining with lavender polish and I placed three items on it….and there was the tingle. My shelf looked right and felt right. Calm fell on my shoulders like a familiar cardigan.

I’ve experienced the tingle at the beginning of a dance set, half way through the puja. We dance improvised, so every dance is different but sometimes, the tingle begins. My ears ring, my heartbeat quickens, even if it’s a slow dance. Warmth, calm and contentment envelop me. I don’t remember the rest of the dance; my mind and body take over.

What about the tingle when you’ve been battling with a tricky scene in the novel you’re writing and a picture or word jog your mind in a certain direction, and the perfect scene emerges from your rapidly tapping fingers?

You probably have your own word for the tingle. I call it magic.

 

 

Are you ready to Save the Cat!?

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I belong to a fabulous group on Facebook called Witch Lit, for readers and magical creators, who enjoy poetry, songs, short stories, novels, in fact all things magical. I was recommended this book by Laura Perry, one of the other admins on the group, which arrived two weeks ago and hasn’t left my side for more than twenty four hours! Here’s my review and then you’ll know why…

The best ever self help book about writing a novel!”

‘Save the cat! Writes a Novel’ is the best self help book about writing I’ve ever read. As soon as you begin to read, there’s a feeling of excitement as this tried and trusted recipe for successful novel writing is explained by Jessica Brody. Originally an idea by the late Blake Snyder, a Hollywood screenwriter, Jessica, one of his pupils who had used and succeeded with the original method, has created a concise, straight forward, easy to use guide to creating a great novel.

With very little pre-amble, the book dives straight in, asking you questions about your book idea or the WIP you’ve started (or completed.) One of the beauties of this book is that it suits plotters or pantsers. If you want to organise and plot with precision, you can use this book from the word go, or if, like me, you’d already written the book, but wanted it to be the best it could be (or wanted to see how close to the perfect book you’ve managed to get yourself), then you can use it at this point to.

Having already studied another novel writing book, I managed to get the majority of the points mentioned in the book, but not necessarily in the right order or to the degree I needed to press the points home. With my newly fashioned ‘Beat Sheet’, I’m working my way through my book, crafting and sculpting to make it flow better and keep the reader hooked with every turn of the page.

This book will not write your story for you. You need a good story to start with, but be assured, if you follow this ‘Beat Sheet’, you’ll have the best possible structure for your book.

The book guides the writer through Beat Sheets and Story Genres, and you think ‘Wow, this is so simple when you read it like this.’ While you’re basking in the sunshine of knowing you’re onto a winner, Ms Brody gives you more! ‘Pitch it to me!’ gives you all the info you need to create fabulous, unforgettable loglines and concise, exciting synopses. …And then there’s even more! ‘Save the Author!’ is all of her FAQs, beautifully answered to give you the most detailed yet manageable ‘big picture’ you’ll ever need.

I paid £11.99 for the paperback of this book, and in only two weeks, I’ve more than had my money’s worth. I recommend anyone writing their first novel to read this book…in fact, every story teller should read it!

You can purchase Save the Cat! here…

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Save-Cat-Writes-Novel-Writing/dp/0399579745/ref

https://www.amazon.com/Save-Cat-Writes-Novel-Writing/dp/0399579745/ref

If you’re interested in magical reading or writing, come and join our Witch Lit group for books and more https://www.facebook.com/groups/1055104057875422/

Press the newsletter link on this blog for monthly updates about books, dance, plant based food and all things magical. Bright Blessings xx

 

10 months on – The daily fight

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Ten months on from stopping smoking, I don’t feel any fitter or healthier. My body has been through hell, ridding the nicotine and I never want to have to go through it again. Keeping cheerful has been difficult. We get to the coast as much as we can. This is me with my feet in the North Sea two weeks ago.

 

At the beginning, the constant gnawing and craving preoccupied me, but as my hormones began to party without the nicotine hanging on for a ride, my weight gain has become my focus.

That’s me in the purple and black in October 2017, and here’s me in March 2018

If one more slim, yogatastic, enlightened 30 something tells me to embrace this new part of being a woman and be excited about my crone phase, I’ll punch them in the face…not really, but you can hear my frustration. I didn’t ask for this. I thought stopping smoking would make me feel better…I’ve never felt so depressed and anxious.

Smoking held back some, but not all my menopausal symptoms. Everything has been heightened since stopping putting nicotine into my body, so my IBS has been chronic too. I feel like my body is returning to factory reset, shaking everything up along the way, but rather than settling, everything feels off kilter.

I had to stop running, my knees couldn’t cope, partly because I’m running on the road and there isn’t a single flat section anywhere near me, and probably because I already have knee damage and I’m heavier than I should be.

I am not alone. Thousands of women are waking up one morning to find their once taut bodies have softened. I haven’t been this fleshy since I was pregnant and the irony of that is like a stab to the heart…you’re no longer capable of conceiving a child, but your body looks like you’re carrying one. Wicked.

It isn’t all bad news… I’ve stuck to my walking every morning as soon as I get up, and my new morning best is 5.2k steps. I always do at least 2k, and often do 4k. Having said that, I do walk some lunchtimes too, but now the evenings are dark, I’m not walking in the evening. I’m guessing I put on two stone at the beginning of the year with eating a bit more and the change in hormones and have now lost one of those, but I still can’t get my clothes on. In fact, last week I bought bigger jeans. Gutting.

I am a fighter. Every morning when I walk, Dr Dain’s affirmation rings in my ears ‘All of life comes to me with ease and joy and glory’. Life is amazing. I have a wonderful partner. My friends and family are dear to me. I live in an amazing house in a fabulous part of the world, with a roof over my head. I’ve started doing a little yoga after my walk, just a few balances and stretches…the plan is to build up to more, making sure my thighs don’t get too bulky with all the extra walking. Loki likes to be carried around on my walks…He is a fidget though

There is other good news. I’ve gone back on my original HRT. I now sleep through most nights. I sweat less during those nights. The day time sweats are occasional.

But every day is a battle, making my steps count and attempting to balance my body. As you may know, my diet is already plant based and I cook most meals from scratch, so how I lose this lump orbiting my middle, I’m not sure. Food and I have battled for most of my life and I’m gutted I’m being forced to re-evaluate again, when I thought I was doing the right thing becoming plant based.

Women need to stand up and say, ‘This isn’t just hormones! Have you any idea how life changing their fluctuation can be?’

I’m re-inventing myself. I may have had to buy bigger jeans but I also bought the cutest pinafore dress, and I’ve booked in for a new tattoo. Support the women around you while they deal with this life changing transformation. No more jokes about menopausal women being grumpy!

 

Day out for Diwali

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On Sunday we visited St Fagans National Museum of History, where the event for the day was Diwali Mela. Hundreds of families from Cardiff came together to share their special day, the dances they had practised and the food they had cooked.

We were greeted in the foyer of the museum by music, colour, dance and laughter. Music and dance from all over India was showcased from Indian Classical dance to Bollywood, dances from the Punjab and from Indonesia. Foot tapping tunes were followed by exquisite, complicated slow dances where the dancers used every part of their bodies, including their eyes, to tell the story of their dance. Some styles I recognised, others were new, but no less delightful to watch.

After an hour of so, we set off around the museum. Most of the buildings at St Fagans have been dismantled from their original location, and rebuilt in this beautiful area, surrounded by woodland. It’s billed as ‘A walk around Wales – from Celtic times to the present day’, and that’s exactly what the museum is about, preserving the history of the past for all of us today. They almost took our house to be part of the museum, so we were fascinated to discover all we could about the houses they had taken.

From simple miners’ cottages to highly decorated Tudor halls, we walked in and out of the exhibits in glorious sunshine. The houses of stone and clom, similar to ours, were of special interest, and the woven thatch was stunning, completely opposite to our straight, raggedy thatch.

Furnishing the houses brings them to life and I especially loved the row of cottages, Rhyd-y-car Iron Terrace from Merthyr Tydfil, set up to show the typical life of those living in the small community from 1805 to 1985.

The iron age roundhouse is special too. A long walk through glorious golden woodland leads you to the roundhouse. I danced in one in Essex, and felt the urge again here!

There’s a castle with the most stunning grounds and gardens, all of which we didn’t get around. There’s access to the kitchen, always fascinating and luxurious panelled drawing rooms and study.

Oakdale Workmen’s Institute is another fascinating building. Opened in its original location near Caerphilly in 1917, this library and institute served as a focus for social and cultural life within this mining community in south east Wales, financed by a substantial loan from the Tredegar Iron and Coal Company, which was repaid in 1945. This was a place to learn to read and write, as well as come together, and the building was reopened in St Fagans in 1995.

Back in the foyer of the museum, we ate biryani and onion bhajis, while enjoying more music and dance.

I enjoyed my day of history and culture, and though I can’t promise indian dancers for your visit, you can be assured of a warm welcome at St Fagans.

There are a number of cafes and restaurants, and the toilet facilities were adequate. You can take dogs into the museum.

You pay £5 to park your car, but entrance to the museum is free, though a donation is requested. For more about what’s on at St Fagans, visit their website. https://museum.wales/stfagans/

 

 

Book Review: Ghostbird by Carol Lovekin

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Chatting with Carol Lovekin on my blog in September, I discovered her first novel ‘Ghostbird’, downloaded it and added it to my TBR list. I finished the book on Saturday!

You can read our interview here https://wendysteele.com/2018/09/17/carol-lovekin-author-feminist-and-flaneuse/

Carol is published by Honno Press in Aberystwyth, a women’s press showcasing women’s writing in Wales.

Ghostbird

The story is set in a Welsh village. Fourteen year old Cadi and her mother, Violet, live next door to Violet’s sister-in-law, Lili, Lilwen Hopkins. The Hopkins family have a long history in the village, while Violet is, and always has been, an outsider.

Secrets and lies haunt the lives of the three women. Cadi wants the truth about her father’s death and the loss of her sister, Dora, but neither Lili nor her mother will tell her.

When Owen Pendry arrives in the village, Violet is shaken. Old memories awaken to haunt her. Lili asks him to leave, but he wants to speak to Violet.

All the while, Cadi is visited by the ghost of her four year old sister who is confused and scared. Cadi is frustrated by the secrets being kept from her.

Let’s get my gripes out of the way first…the middle of the book lacked pace for me and I found myself skimming to get to the action, but I’m an impatient reader, and that’s why some of the repeated references led me to more skimming. My only other niggle was the speed of Violet’s change of heart. It was a bit sudden for me.

However, the characters are well formed and their background unfolds throughout the story. The story is an interesting one, inviting the reader into the small, intense world of a village community. The characters grow throughout the book, believable and rounded, enabling the reader to have opinions and form attachments or dislikes to them.

But the best bit is, Ghostbird resounds with whispers of ghosts and tales of the past, mixed with Welsh myth and set against the backdrop of the Welsh countryside, so how could it be anything but magical?

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin-ebook/dp/B01AOMVP2U/ref

and for our friends across the pond https://www.amazon.com/Ghostbird-Carol-Lovekin-ebook/dp/B01AOMVP2U/ref

 

 

 

Pagan Pages – Perception of Reality

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Last month I interviewed the fabulous author and herbalist, Mabh Savage. You can read it here https://wendysteele.com/2018/10/17/meet-mabh-savage-pagan-author-and-herbalist/

Here’s the other half of our blog swap, posted in Pagan Pages this week, where Mabh asks the questions. Find out more about the genre Witchlit that’s increasing in popularity by the day and one of my most magical experiences. Enjoy! http://paganpages.org/content/2018/11/interview-with-wendy-steele-perception-of-reality/