Category Archives: My world

My Review of Fortune’s Wheel – The First Meonbridge Chronicle by Carolyn Hughes

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I enjoy historical fiction novels but need there to be a good story, not just a telling of historical facts. This novel, by Carolyn Hughes, sets the scene beautifully, helping the reader relate to the characters.

It’s 1349. The Black Death has halved the population of Meonbridge so the ‘cast’ of this story are the family members left behind, forced to adapt to the broken world they now live in.

The village adjusts to the new order of things. Eleanor, in her late teens, without parents and her fourteen year old step brother her only surviving kin, decides to expand her sheep onto more of her land with the help of her shepherd. The cottars, tenants without land of their own, are getting wise to their worth, demanding more money to farm Sir Richard’s land while Alice, mourning the loss of her husband and eldest son is left to guide her youngest sons, while hoping her only daughter Agnes will return safely after disappearing before the plague made leaving the village ill advisable.

It’s a sad but gripping beginning to the book. There are a host of characters, the whole village it seems, but imagining them at the time in the setting described makes it easy to remember them. There are plenty of wise, strong women in this book, finding themselves in traditionally male roles, out of necessity.

I enjoyed this book, packed full of historical facts and set during a period in British history where a third of the population was lost to the plague. Having played the lead role in Isolation at Eyam at school, I knew a little of the history but I’ve enjoyed learning more through this novel.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Fortunes-Wheel-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles/dp/1781325820/ref

https://www.amazon.com/Fortunes-Wheel-Meonbridge-Chronicle-Chronicles/dp/1781325820/ref

 

 

 

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Phoenix without her Fire

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On January 21st 2018, I stopped smoking nicotine. I didn’t use patches or gum or vaping. I believed Allan Carr, that stopping smoking was easy, read the book, made a commitment and more than six weeks on, I’m able to look back and see how Phoenix coped without her fire. I want to say at this point, my partner stopped smoking at the same time but, if you want to know how it was for him, you’ll have to ask him.

So I put out my fire because the addictive poison was dulling my passion for life, my drive, my confidence and my belief in myself and the Universe. The good news is, I’m coming back, flames bursting through the kindling, ready to ignite the logs. The bad news is, it wasn’t and still isn’t, easy.

Without nicotine pumping through my veins, I was possessed not of body but mind. That’s where the nicotine monster was, shacked up all cosy, chain smoking and blowing it right in my face. He tried a plethora of tricks to thwart me but he didn’t succeed for one reason and one reason only…I made a promise to myself that I would no longer smoke nicotine. I’m hot on promises, they work for me.

Reading the book was useful. It confirmed the things I knew and wanted, banged home a few home truths I needed to hear and gave me the framework to give up; smoke while you read this book, follow the instructions, be certain, smoke your last cigarette and make your vow.  But once I stopped smoking, the book and the words in it no longer helped, in fact, they hindered. The ‘stop moping around and get on with your life’ way of thinking didn’t help me at all.

The support of family and friends played a huge part in me keeping my promise. Looking after two new members of our family helped too.

I danced lots and swore, screamed and cried.

After about three weeks, I calmed down. The first sparks were igniting. Freezing, icy, stormy weather focussed my mind on drinking water, wood for our burners and the safety of neighbours and away from smoking. Working hard to finish writing The Flowerpot Witch has been another point of focus. I’ve cooked and baked abundantly, cut back a lot of brambles and chopped a lot of logs

Every day, instead of poison, pure light fills my veins. I’m alive and intend to stay that way for a long time. This Phoenix is back on fire.

 

 

 

Plant Based Recipe of the Week – Week 4 – Aditi’s lentil daal and BONUS Vegetable Pakora!

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I hope you enjoyed your December festivities, have dodged the January germs and are ready for more new, fresh food ideas now Imbolc, the first day of Spring is here. Today’s recipe, Aditi’s lentil daal is one I use often, is easy to double up and freezes well.

When my youngest daughter was approaching her seventeenth birthday, I contacted Aditi. She advertised Indian cookery lessons in her home and we arranged a vegetarian morning with her as a birthday present. I learned to make this daal that day and have been cooking it ever since, more than seven years. Aditi and I have remained friends. She’s a beautiful lady inside and out and is always happy to share her natural beauty tips too. You can find her on Facebook here

https://www.facebook.com/groups/HealthyNaturalLiving/

 

Aditi’s Yellow Daal Tadka

Serves 4

1 cup yellow daal – split peas (I often use red lentils to save time)

3 cups of water to cook daal

 

4 tablespoons ghee (I use 3 tablespoons of oil)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

¾ tspoon turmeric

Salt to taste

1 tspoon cumin seeds

Whole red or green chilli

Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

 

Boil the daal in a pan/pressure cooker with 3 cups of water and open the lid carefully. Stir well to check consistency. (I simmer red lentils in a saucepan for about 10 minutes while making the seasoning. If using yellow split peas, soak overnight, discard the water, rinse, bring to boil and simmer for about 35-40 minutes. Stir often. NB: the first time I made this recipe I didn’t own anything to measure ‘a cup’ so I always used the same mug and it was always perfect. I’ve measured it since and it’s just under half a pint)

Heat the ghee/oil. Add cumin seeds and split chilli and let splutter in oil to bring out the flavour. When they change colour, add chopped onion and garlic and sauté until golden. Add turmeric and salt to taste.

Add this seasoning to the daal or the daal to the seasoning and simmer for 3-4 minutes.

Transfer to serving dish and garnish.

 

Daal is great on its own with bread or popadoms but we often have it with a dish packed with vegetables and something to dip in it like…

Vegetable Pakora

This is a Hari Ghotra recipe which you can find here

https://www.harighotra.co.uk/indian-recipes/courses/starters/vegetable-pakora

My tweeks are in brackets…

100g gram flour, sieved

1 medium onion (I used large)

3 medium potatoes

1 tspn of salt

2 tspn of garam masala

1 tspn of turmeric

2 chillies, finely chopped

1 tbspn ginger, grated, optional

Handful of coriander, chopped

2 tspn of dried fenugreek leaves (I didn’t have these so used 2 tspn Panch Puran that I discovered in a World supermarket in Swansea: cumin, fennel, nigella, black mustard and fenugreek seeds, delicious!)

1 tspn of cumin seeds (I still added this)

½ tspn of red chilli powder

Water

Oil for deep frying

 

Heat up the oil in a karahi or wok to a medium heat. (We use a large, ancient, thick bottomed aluminium  saucepan)

Slice the onion lengthways very thinly and place in a bowl.

Peel and grate (or very finely chop) the potatoes into the same bowl. (The first time, I grated and had to add extra flour. Second time, I did half and half and it was perfect) You can also use aubergines and cauliflower – chop into very small pieces.

Sprinkle all the dry spices and freshly chopped coriander, chillies and ginger into the bowl and then sieve in the gram flour – mix together using your hands.

Add a small amount of water a little at a time to create a thick batter that coats all the vegetables. Squeeze the mixture through your fingers to ensure all the spices mix through. Do not leave the batter and vegetable mixture for too long before cooking.

Test your oil is hot enough by dropping a little batter into the oil. If it browns and rises immediately then it is ready. Very carefully drop in spoonfuls of the mixture into the oil and fry until golden brown.

Using a slotted spoon move the pakora around, be careful not to overcrowd the karahi.

Once golden brown and crisp remove from the oil and set on some kitchen paper.

 

I hope you enjoy making these recipes and will visit again for more.

You can also join me on my YouTube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon, reading short stories and extracts from my novels, from my Welsh riverbank  https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA?view_as=subscriber

I’ll leave you with one of my new kittens discovering snowdrops for the first time…Bright Spring Blessings

 

 

 

The first signs of Spring

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While taking part in an online interview last week, talking about the progress of my Witchlit books and my writing life, I realised that now, the end of January, is the end of the calendar year for me this year  and this fills me with hope.

While there are good things to carry forward to a new exciting year, Awakened Bellydance™ , dancing with Tribal Unity Wales and the publication of two novels ‘The Naked Witch’ and ‘The Orphan Witch’, there has been one sadness I would have done anything to change.

The loss of my beautiful friend, Anna… I , the writer, have no words

But instead, today, on the eve of Imbolc, the beckoner of Spring, I begin a new year in memory of my friend. I carry her spirit, her passion, laughter, humour, song and dance, all of it. After the pain, sorrow and heartache, I am changed, renewed, refreshed.

I stopped smoking ten days ago. I am a non-smoker.

I will publish two more Lizzie Martin Witchlit novels this year.

Somehow, someway, I’ll share Awakened Bellydance™ , guiding women to their inner goddess and to the strength within themselves.

I will teach the dance I love, ATS® Bellydance, to my Tribal Unity Wales ladies and wherever we share the dance with the local community, we will be awesome.

I will be part of the Wheel of the Year, celebrating the seasons and tides.

 

Full moon blessings to you all.

Do subscribe to my YouTube channel for short stories and extracts from my novels, read to you from my Welsh riverbank

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCw3ee9CuNdek9ZC1Im8I_iA

 

 

 

Why Awakened Bellydance™?

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Sunlight glistened on the snow topped mountains. Eleven women embarked on a journey of a lifetime, guided and supported by Katie Holland.

We breathed, we feared but we trusted and within the safe, protected space of our room, we danced, allowing the music to shake up our bodies and free our minds. We let go and the layers began to peel away.

Every day, we learned, shared, discussed and laughed and then we danced again, fear, judgement, disempowerment and pain, relinquished from our bodies and minds, into the earth to be transmuted to the love we craved.

Together, we healed, allowing our minds to be free to think, to create and to manifest and to step closer to our bodies, to feel the emotions and energy rising through us.

Deeper we delved into the closed off parts of ourselves, removing all obstacles and reinstating the power of the goddess, the women we truly are.

We reached up, beyond ourselves, out into the universe, to the stars from whence we came.

Katie is woman, dancer, teacher and healer and I’m blessed to have been part of this unique, transformational experience, shared with a group of awesome women who I now call sisters and friends. With Katie’s guidance, I look forward to sharing with the beautiful women of the world, helping them to be free of the constraints that bind them and imbuing them with the power that is truly their own.

 

Join me for my course here in Wales https://www.facebook.com/events/384660835330530/ 

or for more information about Katie Holland and Awakened Bellydance™, go to the website https://www.awakenedbellydance.com/

 

Awakened Bellydance™ – 7 months on

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At the end of April this year, I embarked on a personal journey with eleven other women in Bulgaria, guided and supported by Katie Holland, dancing and learning to facilitate Awakened Bellydance™. I wrote this a few days after returning home…

‘We breathed, we feared but we trusted and within the safe, protected space of our room, we danced, allowing the music to shake up our bodies and free our minds. We let go and the layers began to peel away.

Every day, we learned, shared, discussed and laughed and then we danced again, fear, judgement, disempowerment and pain, relinquished from our bodies and minds, into the earth to be transmuted to the love we craved.

Together, we healed, allowing our minds to be free to think, to create and to manifest and to step closer to our bodies, to feel the emotions and energy rising through us.

Deeper we delved into the closed off parts of ourselves, removing all obstacles and reinstating the power of the goddess, the women we truly are.

We reached up, beyond ourselves, out into the universe, to the stars from whence we came.’

Awakened Bellydance™ changed my life… I was no longer afraid. Without fear, I chose music for Tribal Unity Wales to dance to, confident that I had chosen well and in every lesson I taught, I allowed my heart to guide me.

I published my second Witchlit novel ‘The Orphan Witch’, knowing it was the perfect magical sequel to The Naked Witch’ as Lizzie Martin, my main character, followed her heart. The third novel, ‘The Flowerpot Witch’, flowed from my pen.

I grew a few vegetables in a bath tub and a tractor tyre and cooked plant based food, gathering new recipes and sharing time cooking with my partner.

I sang in the car…and in a hot tub in Essex in front of other people!

And so much more! Everything I did was different…I was different. I shone with a sense of ‘me’ I’d never felt before. There was no ego, just a deep connection to myself, who and where I was and an understanding of where I fitted into the universe.

Life hasn’t been easy. I’ve had a lot to deal with but trusting from the heart, I could cope with anything.

One morning, a few weeks ago, I awoked to depression, anxiety and fear. I wanted to cry. I wanted to stay in bed and hide from the world forever. Why had the fear returned? How had the depression manifested when I was so much more in tune with my mind and body? What had I done to bring this on? What had I done wrong?

But I refused to revert back to the old stories. The past is gone, no longer my story to tell so, I chose to see this time as a different kind of chaos and Awakened Bellydance ™ had equipped me with tools I could use to live in it. If I cared one iota about myself, now was the time to use them. I grounded and protected myself every day, sometimes outside in my wellies and dressing gown in the frosty morning air, sometimes indoors. I danced every day to my favourite song at the moment, ‘Wild Things’ by Alessia Cara and allowed myself to laugh or cry, however the music moved me. I continued to write, sometimes choosing to research or write a short story rather than my novel. I taught my dance classes from the heart, allowing myself to be swept up in the music but always focussed on creating the best lesson possible for my ladies.

I facilitated Awakened Bellydance™ solar plexus chakra, guiding and supporting women to clear away the old stories where they lacked confidence and self esteem and where they sought impossible perfection. We opened our hearts to new opportunities, stories we could create of focus, achievement, perseverence and resilience. We stoked the fires, burned away the obstacles and rose like the phoenix from the ashes.

I’ve focussed on strengthening the connections to the things I care about. On my riverbank, beneath the magnificent full moon, I blessed my physical sacred tools and sang to the goddess of the moon with my singing bowl.

 

I’ve lived with depression since my teenage years and learned to cope in many ways but Awakened Bellydance™ provides the dancer with the ability to reconnect with herself and the universe. It’s not about coping but living in confidence and love. Not only are the old stories confronted but they’re dealt with and binned and new stories are created, ready to manifest and be the story of the life you want to live.

For more information about Awakened Bellydance™ and its creator, Katie Holland, visit https://www.awakenedbellydance.com/awakened-bellydance

Lift the veil and live your life as the person you really are.

 

 

Plant Based Recipe of the Week – Week 3 – Sweet Potato Chilli

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Welcome to plant based recipes, tried and tested by Wendy Woo!

Today’s recipe is Sweet Potato Chilli, adapted from Holly Wakeham’s chilli on YouTube.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ffeXbFIZBs

It’s versatile and delicious with jacket potatoes, rice or pitta bread.

Sweet Potato Chilli

 Ingredients

1 tablespoon of oil

1 pepper – chopped (I used red but you can use green or orange)

1 large onion – chopped

4 cloves of garlic – crushed

1 large red chilli – split and deseeded to remove – can use chilli flakes/dried chillis to taste

1 teaspoon mild chilli powder

1 heaped teaspoon cinnamon

1 heaped teaspoon cumin

4 sweet potatoes – peeled and cubed

500ml stock – I used vegetable bouillon but cubes are good

Mixed herbs – I used 1 heaped teaspoon of oregano and basil and ½ teaspoon of rosemary

2 tins of tomatoes

2 tins of kidney beans – washed

2 tablespoons of tomato purée

300g mushrooms – halved (more or less is fine)

Black pepper

Salt

Sweetener – I used agave nectar, can use coconut sugar or other

 

Instructions

Use a large pan with a lid.

 

You can sweat onions, pepper and garlic on a medium heat with no oil and a little water if you wish, but I don’t mind a little oil so I added split chilli and chilli powder, cinnamon and cumin at this point, preferring to cook my spices.

 

Add rest of the ingredients, stirring them in, except salt, pepper and sweetener.

 

Simmer for ten minutes with lid on. Second time I made this, potatoes weren’t quite soft so I left with lid on for five more minutes.

 

Simmer for ten more minutes with lid off to thicken. If using fresh chillis, remove at this point.

 

Add salt (I used ½ teaspoon), black pepper and sweetener (I used one tablespoon of agave nectar) to taste.

 

I hope you enjoy this winter warmer and will visit again for more Wendy Woo recipes from my little house in Wales. Do check out other features on my site including pages on my books, pixie coats, dance and magic.

 

 

 

Plant Based Recipe of the Week – Week 2 – Happy Birthday to me!

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Since becoming plant based, I’ve not tried many cake recipes (though I’m aiming to try my son’s recipe for brownies very soon!) so, instead of a birthday cake to celebrate my birthday, I went for my favourite dessert.

A few months ago, I was gifted the Ms Cupcake book ‘The Naughtiest Vegan Cakes in Town’ and went straight to the lemon curd slice recipe. I love a lemon dessert! Usually when cooking or baking something new, I stick to the exact recipe for the first time but this one said 550g sugar and I just couldn’t do it. I’m listing her recipe here with my changes in brackets so you can taste for yourself as to how sharp or sweet you want your lemon curd slice to be.

Lemon curd slice

For base:

200g plain flour (can be gluten free blend)

80g icing sugar

100g margarine/butter (can be dairy free)

80g shortening (I used 80g of dairy free spread, 180g dairy free spread in total)

Half teaspoon salt

Zest of one lemon

For topping:

500ml lemon juice (I used lemon from base + 3 lemons=50ml and topped up with water)

250ml water (I added this water too)

550g caster sugar (I used 150g and it was sharp but delicious)

130g cornflour

Zest of three lemons (juice as above) (adding another lemon will make it more tart but works- when our greengrocer has 10p lemons, I use 5)

130ml soya cream (approx. half the carton)

40g margarine/butter

 

Bake: oven: Gas 4/180ºC/350ºF

Grease or line with baking parchment a 13’ X 9’ tin

 

Makes 16-24 slices

 

Instructions

Preheat oven and line or grease tin.

In a bowl, mix together the flour, icing sugar, fat and lemon zest. (Like making pastry crumbs) Press into prepared tin and bake for about 10 minutes until lightly brown. (If using dairy free marg, it won’t go very brown but 10 mins should do the job) Remove and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, make the lemon curd. (Recipe says use a food processor or blender to blend lemon juice, water and caster sugar but I just stirred it in my large pan and it was fine) Put the cornflour into a separate, small bowl and add the lemon mixture to the cornflour a few tablespoons at a time, mixing together until you have a smooth thick paste with no lumps. Pour this paste back into the pan and stir to combine. Add salt and lemon zest.

On a medium heat, bring the lemon and cornflour mixture to the boil, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, takes about 5 minutes. As the mixture begins to boil, you’ll see it tuning a darker shade of yellow and become thick and glossy. Allow the curd to boil for about a minute, remove from heat. Add the soya cream and marg and mix together. Let the mixture sit for 3-4 minutes and then pour over the curd evenly on top of the cake in the tin.

Allow to sit at room temperatue for at least 30 minutes before placing in the fridge in its tin for at least 2 hours or until the curd has firmed up to a cut-able consistency.

Cut into squares and serve sprinkled with icing sugar if you wish. Store  covered in fridge for up to a week.

I’m sharing more of the birthday love so you can download my first Witchlit novel ‘The Naked Witch’, until 5th December for just 99p/99c and if you enjoy it, you can pay back the birthday love with a few lines of review to help others find my books.

and for my friends across the pond

Thank you for sharing my birthday with me and I hope you come again for more recipes, dance, magic and books. Bright blessings xx

 

Plant Based Recipe of the Week – Week 1

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Changing your diet to a plant based one isn’t about the foods you have to take out – it’s about the new flavours, fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices you add in.

I’ve been a vegetarian since I was twenty one years old and from a vegetarian start, my twenty six year old son was the first of my children to explore a plant based diet to help with his arthritis symptoms. He shares recipes, as does my eldest son and my daughter has been exploring gluten free baking, following my diagnosis of IBS, since her teens. I’m lucky to have had my children to guide me on the first steps to my partner and I enjoying a plant based diet.

Each week I’ll be sharing a plant based recipe, easily made gluten free, that I’ve tried and adapted to suit our palate. Where possible, I’ll share a link to the original source recipe.

Today’s recipe is ‘5 minute vegan burgers’, adapted from a recipe by Cheap Lazy Vegan, featuring The Happy Pear, on YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sLh_golyZm0&t=391s

Making them in five minutes isn’t compulsory!

Five minute vegan burgers

Burger

Oil – rapeseed or sunflower – 1½ tablespoons

½ red onion – I use a whole one – roughly chopped

2 cloves garlic – crushed or finely chopped (you can use garlic granules)

Mushrooms – any kind you like and lots of them! About 300g – roughly chop button, tear other

2½ tablespoons tamari – if you’re fine with wheat, you can use soya sauce

 

100 gms breadcrumbs

2½ tablespoons nutritional yeast*

1 tin kidney beans, rinsed well – a friend used mixed beans and said they worked just as well

 

*Nutritional yeast or Nooch adds a cheesy nutty flavour to many plant based recipes and is one source of complete protein and vitamins, in particular B-complex vitamins. It contains folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc.

To serve

Great in buns or pitta breads with sun dried tomato paste, hummus, mixed salad leaves, avocado, tomato….my partner enjoys his with mustard on bottom bun and hummus on the top. My favourite so far is with ketchup on the bottom and sweet pickle in the top with shredded romaine and grated beetroot. Also delicious with salad and sweet potato wedges.

 

 

Instructions

Heat 1 tablespoon oil on medium heat. Cook red onion until soft. Turn up heat. Add garlic.  Add mushrooms, coat well with onions and garlic and cook for 3 minutes on high heat. Add tamari and stir.

 

Add above wet ingredients to breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast and mashed up kidney beans in a bowl. Combine all ingredients. (If using home made gluten free breadcrumbs, you may need another 20g if mixture is very wet) Make into burgers and coat with rice flour.

 

Fry in remaining oil.

 

You could probably brush them in oil and bake in the oven if you wanted to, as they’re so tasty.

 

Five minutes is a bit of a push, as you’ll see from the video but I can get these on the table in 15!

 

Enjoy your mushroom burgers, share this post and help spread the word about plant based eating for a healthier planet and a happier, healthier you

 

 

The Music and the Magic

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Following a successful day at the Narberth Book Fair last week, where I gave my talk ‘Magic, Witchlit and a vote for women’s fiction’ for the first time, an idea for a short story arrived in my head.

Within hours, I had a beginning, a middle and an ending. The next day, I began to write.

This time of year, after the autumn equinox, wending our way to Samhain, it is time to look back and reflect on the year that has gone but also to be open to new ideas and change.

The story that emerged from my pen, The Music and the Magic, reflects these changes, not only in my protagonist’s life but in mine, yours, our local community and the world.

We live in an ever changing world, political decisions seeming beyond our remit to influence or change, but in our own way, in small important ways, we can make a difference. By supporting and being active to promote kindness and thoughtfulness, we can change our world for the better.

It wasn’t the story I’d intended to write but I allowed the story to unfold, trusting in the magic. I hope you enjoy it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnMcZbl4K2E

 

If you’d like to hear more stories, subscribe to my YouTube channel, Phoenix and the Dragon for Tales from Pan’s Grotto from my riverbank in Wales.