Welcome everyone Sandra in Spain - FlamencoI’m Sandra Piddock, and I’m a freelance writer, dividing my time between Spain and the UK. I’ll write about anything that interests and/or challenges me, and I like to focus on the lighter side of life whenever possible.. Read more
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Sandra Piddock

I'm 62, and I'm a freelance writer dividing my time between Algorfa on the Costa Blanca in Spain and Bigbury Bay in Devon. I write about anything that interests and/ or challenges me, but I'm happiest when writing about all things Spanish.

Book Review: The Guide to Buying Property in Spain by Joanna Styles

The Guide to Buying a Property in Spain

Can a property guide actually be interesting as well as informative? Especially when the strapline is ‘Literally Everything You Need to Know?’ The answer to that is a resounding Yes, because that’s what Joanna Styles has achieved in her comprehensive new book, The Guide to Buying Property in Spain. The book is well researched and well written, in an easy to read, original style that makes you want to read on, even through the sections that aren’t particularly relevant to you.

While Joanna’s love of her adopted homeland shines through every page, this is also an honest, warts-and-all read that pulls no punches. If you get carried away and end up buying a property that doesn’t tick all your boxes, then you clearly haven’t been paying attention. An important point that Joanna makes early in the book on page 14 is to consider who you are buying for. That might seem obvious – you’re buying yourself, aren’t you? However, if you intend to cover your costs by renting out your property, bear in mind that while you might enjoy a two or three hour scenic drive from the airport, holidaymakers want to get stuck in to sun time ASAP, so consider that when you choose your location.

Speaking of location, the book contains a comprehensive run down of every area of Spain, with pros and cons, population, transport links, weather, and even an average price per square metre. This small but vital detail helps take some of the confusion out of property pricing, and helps you to get the most bang for your buck – or rather your Euro!

While the Atlantic coast of Galicia might furnish you with a bargain bolthole and stunning scenery, connections out of season leave a lot to be desired, and Galicia is green because it gets a lot of rain. And if your dream is to buy on the party island of Ibiza, you’re going to need down-to-earth dosh for it, because property there averages out at more than €5,000 per square metre. If all this is making your brain cells hurt, Joanna has provided a map showing the best deals. The cheapest coastal properties are on the Murcian coast of the Mediterranean, if that’s what you want, but maybe thought was out of your range. And there are some real bargains inland away from the cities, as long as you’re not looking for a big expat population nearby.

The Guide to Buying a Property in Spain manages to be encouraging, optimistic and realistic at the same time. Armed with cold hard facts and thought-provoking suggestions based on Joanna’s more than 30 years of living and running businesses in Spain, you will be able to find exactly what you are looking for in your Spanish property. And if you’d rather build your own dream – literally – there’s a section on that too.

This book should be compulsory reading for anyone seriously considering buying property in Spain, for whatever reason. At just €7.95, it’s a real steal, and if you use the discount code WEB you’ll get 25% of this already remarkably low price if you buy as an e-book. The Guide to Buying a Property in Spain could turn out to be your most important investment in your Spanish property search.

About Joanna:

Joanna Styles has lived in Spain since 1989, with her Spanish husband, who is a lawyer specialising in conveyancing. Not only has she renovated and sold various properties over the years, she’s a freelance copywriter and author who has written extensively about property investment and life in Spain. Based on the Costa del Sol, her website Guide to Malaga has lots of information about all aspects of life in Spain.

Image credits: Joanna Styles @ Guide to Malaga

The freshest lemon curd ever!

As I child, I absolutely loved lemon curd in tarts, sponges and on toast, and I haven’t lost the taste for it, although my palate’s become a little jaded after years of shop bought stuff. In England, with the price of lemons, eggs and butter, it’s an expensive make, but here in Spain, I made 6 decent sized jars for around €2.50, plus a bit of elbow grease and electric.

The lemons came straight from my tree in the garden, and I predict there will also be marmalade and fresh lemonade, and maybe a second batch of lemon curd, judging by the interest from friends! Both the orange and the lemon trees have excelled themselves this year – possibly because I had quite a few trees removed when I had the garden revamped at the end of 2020. There’s not so much competition for the nutrients in the soil.

Making lemon curd is surprisingly easy, if a little time consuming in the preparation but it’s worth it. The recipe is one I adapted from the BBC Food site. I doubled up on quantities, as it only made 2 – 3 jars, and I had friends lining up as tasters! I used 250g jars, you’d probably get 5 x 350g jars from this quantity.  Don’t be tempted to use larger jars, because once it’s open, it soon begins to deteriorate, even when kept in the fridge.

I always sterilise the jars in the oven, then fill them while the lemon curd is still warm but not too hot.  Heat the oven to 160C/325F/ Gas mark 3 and place the jars on a tray in the oven for between 15 and 30 minutes.

You can make lemon curd in a large saucepan, or use a large bowl as a bain-marie. I prefer the latter, because there’s no risk of burning the mixture, there are no messy saucepans to clean, and you don’t leave any on the sides of the pan. If you don’t have a big bowl, do as I did and use the inner lining of a 3.5 litre crock pot or slow cooker standing in a large saucepan of water. A wok is ideal for this. Whether you’re using your own lemons or buying them from the market, pick or purchase them at the last minute – the fresher they are, the better your lemon curd will taste. Here’s the recipe:

  • 8 – 10 lemons, depending on size. Mine were big, so I used 8. Remove the zest and squeeze out the juice. If you don’t have a zester, use a fine grater or vegetable peeler to remove the peel before juicing the lemons. If the pieces of peel are too large, chop them with a vegetable shopper or a sharp knife. An electric juicer will extract more juice, and the lemons should be at ambient temperature, so don’t store them in the fridge.
  • 400g/ 14oz of caster sugar – granulated is also okay.
  • 200g/ 7oz butter cut into cubes. The recipe suggests unsalted butter, but I think regular salted butter gives a better flavour.
  • 6 large eggs + 2 extra egg yolks. Lidl or Mercadona are cheapest for large eggs. 24 large eggs from Lidl is €2.95 at the time of writing.
  • A glug of Limoncello (Optional, but it does add to the lemony flavour).

Combine all the ingredients except the eggs in a large bowl, and set it over a pan of simmering water. Stir the mixture until the butter is melted, then whisk the eggs and fold them into the other ingredients. I use a large bowl for the eggs to get plenty of air into them. It makes for a lighter curd that slides down easily. Allow the lemon curd to cook for approximately 15 – 20 minutes, stirring now and then. It’s ready as soon as the mixture is really thick and creamy and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Let it cool a little, then divide it between your jars.

It really is that easy! You can eat it as soon as it’s cool, but it will be even better if you can exercise a little patience and allow the flavours to develop for a couple of weeks. A word of warning though – once you’ve tasted fresh home-made lemon curd, you’ll never want to go back to the shop bought stuff.

Apart from the superior flavour, home made lemon curd is a completely natural food, with no additives or preservatives. Yes, it’s a bit high in calories and fat, and the vitamin value of the lemons is lost in the cooking, but as the flavour is so intense, you don’t need to use a lot. Worried about using the jar once it’s open? It freezes well, so you could freeze some in ice cube trays ready to thaw and use when required. Enjoy!

Spring Clean for the Soul: Chakra clearing

chakra clearing

Earlier this week, a lovely new client came to me for a chakra clearing and cleansing. Nothing surprising there – it’s one of the services I offer. What was strange was that this lady had never had a chakra clearing before, and had no idea what to expect. However, she just knew she needed it, and booked her session on the strength of that inner knowing. It made me realise that maybe I should explain what’s involved in the process, or at any rate, how I do it, because everyone who works with energy has their own ways, encouraged by Spirit and intuition.

Like everything else I do, I am guided by Spirit, but I do have a basic structure for chakra clearing. As you probably know if you’re reading this, chakras are invisible energy centres in the body, and they work best when they are clear, cleansed and aligned. Nobody ever died from a blocked chakra, but you’d be surprised the difference it makes when you receive chakra clearing. You feel lighter energetically, there’s more clarity of thought, and you feel less overwhelmed and more serene.

The real beauty of chakra clearing is that, although I guide you through it, you are getting to know your own energy – both physical and emotional – and you are an active participant in the process, so you are reclaiming your power over your mind and body. Once you know how the process works, you can clear and cleanse your own chakras, any time you like, although it’s a real treat to have someone else take you through it.

Cutting the energetic cords

Archangel Michael

Because I’m working with your energy as well as the energy of the Angels, I want to give the session the best chance of success, so I guide clients through a cord cutting visualisation with Archangel Michael. Again, this is something that, once you know the process, you can do at home whenever you need to. I have a simple process that was given to me by Spirit at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020, and that’s what I use with clients, simply because I feel it’s appropriate, being part of my own unique working relationship with Spirit and the Angels.

Often, the client also feels the presence of Archangel Michael during the cord cutting, and if they have never communicated with angels before, it’s a great demonstration of how anyone can work with angels. It’s just a matter of knowing how to approach them, and it’s surprisingly simple – just like talking to a trusted friend, and just as comforting and uplifting. Once this visualisation is complete, the client feels lighter and more relaxed, ready for the main event!

Crystals and the chakras

chakra clearing

As I explain to clients, the crystals I use during chakra cleansing aren’t essential – in a way, they are just props. However, they do help to raise the vibrations in the room, and give focus to the session. In addition to the crystals commonly associated with each of the chakras, I like to have Selenite and Black Tourmaline in the room while I work. Selenite helps the client to relax and strengthens the connection with the Angels, and Black Tourmaline is a protective, grounding stone which has the added benefit of keeping any negative thoughts at bay during the session.

I lay out the crystals alongside the chakra positions, using Black Tourmaline for the Root chakra, Carnelian for the Sacral, Citrine for the Solar Plexus, Rose Quartz and Green Quartz for the Heart, Sodalite for the Throat, Amethyst for the Third Eye and Clear Quartz for the Crown chakra. I’ll go into the crystals and Angels associated with the chakras in more depth in another article, but if you really want to know more now, there’s plenty of excellent information online.

Opening the chakras

There are various ways to visualise opening the chakras. For a quick clearing and cleansing for myself, or for a client during a reading, if I am guided to do so, I imagine the chakras as spinning wheels of different colours, building up from Base to Crown. To find out more, check the chakra clearing link above. For the deeper, more relaxed chakra clearing and cleansing session with clients, I guide them through a beautiful visualisation where the chakras are represented by flowers, opening from buds into the sun and wafting in a light, warm breeze. As I hover a hand over each chakra site, it’s magical to feel the energy shift, knowing that the client is truly working with myself and the Angels for their own benefit.

Bringing in the Angels   

          

Bringing in the Angels associated with each chakra to cleanse and heal is a wonderful experience, for myself and the client, especially if it’s their first encounter with angels. Different experts advocate different angelic associations for the chakras, and as the Angels can see the bigger picture and all are there to help us, that’s perfectly valid, so it’s down to personal choice. I like to invoke Archangel Uriel for the Root Chakra, Chamuel for the Sacral, Jophiel for the Solar Plexus, Raphael for the Heart, Michael for the Throat, Zadkiel for the Third Eye and Archangel Gabriel for the Crown Chakra.

I ask the client to imagine the top of their head opening like a sun roof to allow the angelic healing, cleansing rays to do their work. This part of the session can be very rewarding for the clients, as they may see various colours as the Angels work, and also have visions. For example, a client with a communication problem may feel extra activity around the Throat Chakra, while someone who is opening up to their psychic abilities may feel the Third Eye area fill with the purple rays of Archangel Zadkiel.

Everyone is different, and so is their energetic experience during the session, so I am careful to explain that, even if they don’t sense, see or feel anything happening, they should trust in the process. That said, every client I have worked with so far has received some evidence of angelic presence, so I am thrilled on their behalf, and it’s lovely to know they are experiencing such marvellous moments.

Once the Angels have done their work, I thank them on behalf of the client, and guide them through closing down the chakras. It’s common for emotions to rise to the surface, and for other clearing mechanisms such as coughing and sneezing to occur during chakra cleansing, so I always have a supply of tissues on hand, and some water, as most clients feel thirsty at the end of the process. Some feel the need to use the bathroom – it’s all part of releasing stuck energy so the life force can flow naturally through the body.

I hope this has cleared up some of the mysteries around chakra clearing and cleansing, and it will encourage you to either try it for yourself or contact a local practitioner to book a session. Think of it as a Spring Clean for the Soul, which will declutter your energy and allow you to release attachments to past traumas and move forward into your best life. Love and blessings.

Image credits: All images from Pixabay.com

Visualisation for opening the heart and forgiving those who hurt you

Archangel Jeremiel forgiveness
Archangel Jeremiel, the Angel of Forgiveness and Mercy

Forgiveness is a tricky thing to do, but it’s essential for your spiritual wellbeing. When we hold on to old hurts, we also retain the negative energies attached to the situation and the people that were involved, and negative energy stops us moving forward. It keeps us anchored in the past, when we should be living with joy in the present moment, and it also impacts our future, because we put barriers in place to protect ourselves from further suffering. We feel we’ve ‘Learned our lesson,’ and we won’t allow the same situation to arise again, yet the truth of the matter is very different.

For all we talk of different emotions – love, hate, envy, jealousy, happiness, bitterness, fear – there are only two things we need to concern ourselves with. All our choices, and the way these choices impact on our lives, originate from two positions, a place of fear or a place of love. What does this mean in practical terms though?

Fear

Fear is not just being scared of stuff, whether in our minds, in real life or in the movies. Fear is the term we use for all negative emotions, and it arises from the ego, the part of us that wants to stay in the comfort zone, protect us from danger and hurt, and keep out the bad stuff. There’s nothing wrong with looking out for ourselves, it’s the only responsible thing to do, but if you come from a place of fear, for example, refusing to forgive someone for real or perceived past hurts, all you are doing is creating more bitterness in your life. That’s because fear is a negative energy, and under the Law of Attraction, what we focus on is what we get more of. The Universe only knows that if you spend a lot of time and energy on bearing a grudge or putting up barriers around your heart, it must be important to you, so you attract more negative situations into your life. The good news is, you can change your focus and shift your energy, and the way to do that is to make your choices from love, not fear.

Love

Archangel Jeremiel forgiveness

Love isn’t just about the hearts and flowers stuff, fabulous as that may be. Love is the opposite of fear, it’s the positive energy that allows you to connect with your soul and make your choices for the right reasons. It’s about trusting that all will be well, whatever may be happening around you, because you know, deep down, that everything happens for a reason, and sometimes bad things need to be played out to make room for the blessings that are coming in. So, how do we work with the positive energy of love? It’s easier than you think, because we are born to love, but life teaches us to fear. It comes down to whether we react to what’s happening around us, or whether we respond. Love is the energy of response, because we accept that everything happens for a reason, and what we can’t change, we need to accept and learn from so we can move forward. Put simply, instead of wondering why something is happening to you, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation to improve your life. That’s working from love rather than fear. Focus on the love, and the Universe will bring more blessings into your life, because like attracts like.

Now we are clear on the perspectives of love and fear, how does this relate to forgiveness, and why does it matter to us? For a start, if you are replaying old hurts, whether real or perceived, it’s anchoring you in the past, and preventing you from fully enjoying the present. And since everything is energy, each time you think about or talk about the situation, you are reinforcing the energetic ties to a time, place and people that belong in your past. No matter how justified your feelings may be, they are not serving you, so you need to distance yourself so you can move forward, having learned the lesson. Everything, good or bad, carries a lesson for us, or for someone else involved in the situation. If we didn’t need to learn from it, it just wouldn’t happen. The Universe doesn’t send challenges because it has it in for us, in fact the opposite is true. Nothing happens ‘just because,’ if we are on the wrong path, or we need to acknowledge something about ourselves that we have been ignoring, then something will happen to bring about the necessary changes. So what is forgiveness really, and how do we extend it to those who have hurt us?

Forgiveness

Archangel Jeremiel forgiveness

Forgiveness is so much more than saying you’re okay with someone’s behaviour. In fact, you never need to say that, but you do need to connect with and feel forgiveness for the person and/or the situation in question. That doesn’t mean you condone or excuse their behaviour, and it doesn’t mean you need to have anything more to do with them if you prefer not to. Here’s the surprise – forgiveness is a gift, but it’s not a gift to the other person, it’s the most sacred gift you can give to yourself. Once you can truly forgive, you release yourself from all the negativity surrounding the situation. You can step back and see things more clearly, because you are now energetically detached from it. Once you forgive, you’ll be able to identify the lessons of the experience, and you may even realise the motivation behind it, although it doesn’t matter if you don’t. You are not responsible for the choices and actions of others, only your own thoughts, words and deeds.

So how do we truly forgive? We send love to the situation, and to those involved, and I am going to take you through a visualisation to help you do just that. It was given to me by Spirit, and it’s a beautiful exercise that will leave you feeling lighter and happier. We’re going to call in help from the Angelic Realm as well, in the shape of Archangel Jeremiel, the Angel of Forgiveness.

Archangel Jeremiel

Archangel Jeremiel forgiveness
Another representation of Archangel Jeremiel

Jeremiel is not one of the more widely known archangels, but he’s the go-to angel for help with forgiveness, whether you need to forgive yourself or others. Yes, you heard that right. Sometimes, we are our own worse critics, and we blame ourselves for stuff all the time. That impacts on how we see ourselves, and again, it can bring negative energy in its wake, so it’s important to acknowledge that we need to show forgiveness to ourselves as well as others.

Archangel Jeremiel’s name means ‘Mercy of God,’ and of course, to forgive, we must show mercy to others, and he can help us with that. As with any angel, you can invoke Jeremiel’s help simply by inviting him into your life. Remember we need to ask the angels for help, as we have free will. Jeremiel will help you let go of the past and acknowledge the lessons learned, so you can continue to learn and grow. He can help you understand how and why certain situations came about, and that understanding will help you avoid repeating patterns that don’t serve your highest good.

Jeremiel is also known as the Angel of Visions and Dreams, so the best time to invoke him is at night, when he can bring insights and wisdom as you sleep. However, this forgiveness visualization can be carried out whenever it suits you best, and Jeremiel will happily help you with it.

Sit comfortably, with your feet on the floor and your back straight. Rest your hands on your thighs, palms up, in the receiving position. Close your eyes, and take three deep, calming breaths. Breath in white, cleansing light for a count of three, hold for three, then exhale any stress and tensions to a count of three. If you want, you can call on Archangel Jeremiel to help with the process. Whether you feel his energy or not, know that he is there with you. Now you are ready to visualize open-hearted forgiveness.

Visualisation for opening the heart and forgiving those who hurt you

  • Place your hands over your heart, left hand below the right. Visualise a small pin prick of pink light under your hands, in your heart space. This is your soul’s unconditional love, and it’s always there for you to access and expand. You may feel a warm glow as the visualisation progresses.
  • See this pin prick grow until it fills your whole chest cavity, then see it expand outside your body and surround it. Think of the Ready Brek advert, where the kids are surrounded by warmth. This is you now. Enjoy the feeling of pure love this brings with it for a few moments.
  • Now see the person who needs your forgiveness in front of you, but not too close. Expand the soul’s love from your open heart until it also surrounds them. You are now connected by unconditional love. Feel it warming you.
  • Say the following words, or something similar of your own choosing: What’s done is done, I forgive, I move on. Repeat this three times, out loud or inwardly, and finish by saying the blessing, And so it is.
  • Now it’s time to bring back your soul love to where it belongs, at your heart centre. Visualise the glow around the other person returning to you, and then bring it back inside your body until you are back to the pin prick spark of soul love you started with. If you invoked Archangel Jeremiel, thank him for his help. Bring yourself back into the here and now and open your eyes. It is done.

This is a beautiful visualisation, which can also be used to send love to anyone, at any time. You may want to check out this visualisation, which is very similar. Forgiveness is a sacred and beautiful gift to yourself. Make sure you are generous with it, and release yourself from past experiences which do not serve you. Love and blessings.

Archangel Jeremiel forgiveness

Image credits: The images of Archangel Jeremiel are from my own card decks, Angel Prayers by Kyle Gray and Archangels by Diana Cooper. Other images Pixabay.

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal: Where it’s all about teamwork!

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal

There’s a new bar on the block at Urbanisation El Chapparal, just outside Torrevieja. Unity Bar opened in mid September, two months behind schedule due to issues with the utilities. This is Spain after all, where bureaucracy matters much more than thirsty customers!

The bar is the brainchild of business partners Paul and Kev, and while Paul previously owned the nearby Boz Bar, it’s a new life for Kev, who was a heating engineer by profession in the UK. Kev’s wife Sue’s career was in hospitality, although she’s not involved in the day to day running of Unity. However, she’s on hand to help when it’s needed, as it was at the jam-packed opening day.

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal
Paul (right) and Kev (left) owners and hosts at The Unity Bar

Most new businesses have a ‘soft’ opening before the official launch, so they can iron out any teething troubles, but as there was a surprise party booked for their second day of trading, this luxury wasn’t available to the Unity team – they just had to go for it. If there were problems, they were not in evidence, and a great time was had by all, helped along with the delicious chilli and nachos supplied to the bar’s first customers.

Before the opening, Paul, Kev and willing friends and family members brought about a magical transformation in the premises, which previously traded as Billy’s Bar. They completely remodelled the bar to provide customers with plenty of outdoor space and a light, spacious interior. It’s minimalist in concept, but the realization has a homely feel to it, with a cosy corner where people can sit for a quiet drink, a spacious spectator area for the sports lovers, and a large, airy terrace for outdoor dining and the regular live entertainment sessions.

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal

I asked how the name for the bar came about, and Kev explained:

Unity Bar is here for everyone and everything, and we feel the name reflects that. This isn’t just another British Bar. Here on El Chapparal, there are many different nationalities: Spanish, Dutch, German, Swedish, Russian, to name just a few. It’s an open community, and we’re an open-minded bar, catering for everyone, whatever their interests.

Unity is more than just a bar name though, it’s a living concept. So much more can be achieved by working together than working alone, and the team behind the birth of Unity have certainly come up with the goods. There’s an old but true saying that goes like this:

I can do things you can’t, you can do things I can’t, but together we can do so much

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal

Paul and Kev can’t thank their friends enough for their help. Without Andy – who was also conscripted to serve the chilli on the opening day – they would never have opened their  doors when they did. He pitched in with pretty much everything. Chef Gaynor’s husband Simon helped with the electrics, while Lynn, who runs the fitness studio where Kev’s wife Sue offers holistic therapies, did battle with the utility companies on their behalf.

Many other friends and family members also offered assistance, demonstrating teamwork at its best, and proving that, even in challenging circumstances, good things can be created. Remarkably, Unity Bar has been brought into being despite lockdown and Covid 19, and now the ban on live music and dancing has been lifted, El Chapparal is ready to party!

As new bar owners, Paul and Kev are still finding out exactly what their customers want to see at Unity, but there’s regular live music, and all the major sporting events are shown live. Check out their Facebook Page for upcoming events, and if you’d like to see something happening there, send a message or call in and chat to one of the team members. If they can accommodate your request, they certainly will.

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal

In the meantime, why not go along and sample what Unity Bar has to offer? The menu focuses on quality rather than quantity, offering classic meals prepared with the freshest ingredients and cooked to perfection. Their breakfasts are already attracting attention, with reviewers describing them as ‘The best in the area by a long way,’ and there’s a good selection of snacks and main meals to suit all tastes, all at competitive prices.

There’s a great variety of live music at least twice a week, and a Monday afternoon quiz has just been added to the mix. Unity is also a local base for Seagulls Over Spain, so you can go along and watch Brighton and Hove Albion play live, knowing you will be among friends. Maybe I’ll see you there soon!

The Unity Bar, El Chapparal

Contact details:

The Unity Bar, Calle Rembrandt 6, El Chapparal, 03184

Phone: 711 06 78 80

Email: bhafc1@hotmail.co.uk

Figs in Brandy

Figs in Brandy
Figs in brandy are so versatile

Back in 2009, some friends from England were visiting us here in Spain, and we took them to Almoradi market. They wanted to buy us something as a ‘thank you’ for our hospitality, and my husband decided he’d like a fig tree for the garden. 12 years on, the tree is both enormous and prolific, and also very messy, as the birds are just as keen on figs as I am, and the leaves are always falling.

Like many Mediterranean foods, figs are brimming with good things, and are very versatile. You can read more on the health benefits of figs here. Since writing this, I’ve learned some new things about figs – apart from not to eat too many in one sitting, that is!

Figs are not technically fruit, they are inverted flowers. The flesh is actually a flower inside the teardrop-shaped outer casing of the fig. And fig leaves can be used to make tea, cooked as a spinach substitute or used to wrap fish in for baking, to protect it from the heat and impart a subtle flavour similar to coconut with hints of vanilla. You can also add fig leaves to the water when you cook rice. Maybe I’ll try that – it’ll be a few less leaves to fall on the garden.

My fig tree in Spain

I obviously can’t eat all the figs I harvest, and some friends are a bit reluctant to try fresh figs, although they will happily eat dried ones. It’s a constant struggle to find new ways to use those figs that escape the best efforts of the birds. I have made fig jam in the past, but last week, I had about 20 figs that needed using, but not enough time to do anything much with them. I decided to poach them, and they turned out really well, so I’m sharing the recipe here.

If you don’t have a fig tree, head to your local market, where you can buy them for as little as €1 a kilo. Figs in Brandy takes about 20 minutes to prepare, and a week down the line, they are still good to go. I’m keeping mine in the fridge and using them every day in desserts or with yogurt for breakfast, but I will probably bottle some ready for Christmas. If you’re going to bottle yours, you will need some sterilised glass jars. If you don’t have any at home, you can get them for a few cents each from your local Chinese bazaar.

Poached Figs in Brandy

Halve the figs before poaching

The quantities here are for around 20 figs. You may need to adjust up or down for sugar and honey, depending on the size of your batch.

  • Wash the figs in cold water, then pat dry with kitchen paper. Halve them and place in a wide- based saucepan. Some recipes say cook them whole, and halve after poaching, but it’s easier to do this while they are still nice and firm.
  • Add enough water to the pan to just cover the figs. Then add a tablespoon of honey, 2 – 3 tablespoons of sugar and a small cinnamon stick. It will also work with a whole nutmeg.
  • Cover the pan with a well-fitting lid, bring to the boil, then lower the heat and allow the figs to poach for 5 – 10 minutes, depending on size. Don’t overcook, you want to keep them in one piece.
  • Using a slotted spoon, remove the cooked figs and place in a glass or ceramic bowl or pack into jars. Now is the time to remove the cinnamon stick or nutmeg. If you don’t have these in your kitchen, you can sprinkle a little ground cinnamon, nutmeg or allspice over the cooling figs if you wish.
  •  Leaving the lid off the pan, bring the fig syrup back to the boil, then cook on a rolling boil for 10 – 15 minutes to thicken and reduce the syrup. This isn’t time critical – when you think the consistency is right for you, it’s ready!
  • Remove the syrup from the heat and allow it to cool before pouring over the figs. If it’s too hot, the figs will carry on cooking. Once the syrup is cool, you can add around a tablespoon of brandy, amaretto or moscatell wine if you wish. This will help preserve the figs and add another dimension to the flavour. The finished figs will keep for a couple of weeks in the freezer, or several months if bottled in sterilised jars. You can also freeze them, but they may be rather mushy when you thaw them out.

Serving Figs in Brandy

Reducing the syruo

Figs in brandy are very versatile. They go well with sweet and savoury foods. I enjoyed a couple on a cheese sandwich instead of chutney yesterday, and they also go well with cold meats, and can be chopped up in salads. Serve as a simple dessert with yogurt or ice cream, or use to top cheesecakes or rice pudding. They are fabulous with the Spanish classic Arroz con Leche – that’s cold rice pudding with cinnamon for the uninitiated. Let me know how you use yours in the comments below. Buen provecho, amigos!

A List of 8 for Lion’s Gate

Lion's Gate 2021

Sunday 8 August 2021 marks a doubly auspicious time in the astrological calendar. It’s the recognized activation point of the Lion’s Gate energetic portal, and it’s also New Moon in Leo. You can read about it in this excellent article, but in this piece, I want to concentrate on how the prevailing energies are likely to affect you, and how to cope with it all. For empaths and lightworkers, and anybody in touch with their spiritual side and higher consciousness, Lion’s Gate is a quixotic, heady mix of celebration and wanting to crawl away until it’s all over and the energies settle again.

I’ve certainly felt this perfect storm of energies, and many of the online spiritual groups I belong to are full of posts about not feeling as positive as normal, feeling overwhelmed, emotional, fearful and anxious for no good reason, and generally having too many Bad Vibe Days. It’s a relief to know I’m not the only one experiencing this, but it doesn’t make it any easier to get through it, does it? Yesterday was one of those days where I felt like I’d been hit with the proverbial Ton of Bricks, and nothing much happened, creatively, practically or any other way. Today, I am back on top of my game again, and herein lies the main lesson of Lion’s Gate, and indeed, life itself:

It’s okay to not be okay!

We tell ourselves, and anyone who will listen, that an Attitude of Gratitude is vital for spiritual growth and abundance. When we feel like the Universe has it in for us – especially with no good reason – we beat ourselves up, and that makes us feel even worse. We tend to forget that we are human, with all the attendant mess of feelings and illogicalities that go with it, and like all humans, we are not perfect. It’s okay to have off days, and when we get them, we should nurture ourselves through them, not turn into some sort of Self-flagellating Spiritual Sergeant Major who expects the impossible from ourselves and others.

Instead of berating yourself for these feelings, celebrate them, because if you are feeling like this, it means you are sensitive to the prevailing energies. The fact that you are not carrying on regardless means you will benefit from them in the long term, even though you may be riding a rocky road at the moment. It’s normal to feel exhausted and overwhelmed when moving through such a powerful energy cycle, and the best way to come through it is to acknowledge that and rest and recharge, rather than trying to push yourself through the pain. ‘Feeling the Burn,’ whether physically or emotionally, just doesn’t work, and it never has.

Yesterday, I decided to allow my energetic field time to replenish itself. I made the conscious decision that everything could wait for another day. I did a few Samurai Sudoku puzzles, watched some quizzes and documentaries on TV, read, chatted to my friend and caught up on cuddles with my dog Luna. It may surprise you to know I didn’t even pull any oracle cards or meditate, and I more or less gave myself a day off from Facebook. The only ‘Non-Me’ thing I did was get in some shopping to tide us over the weekend, so I didn’t have to brave the hordes in Lidl today – Saturday. Even then, I made it into a Me Thing by just getting the essential stuff and collecting a takeaway on the way home, so I didn’t have to cook.

As a result, I feel truly refreshed, physically, emotionally and spiritually. The house hasn’t fallen down around me because I didn’t do any cleaning or washing, and the garden hasn’t suffered for not having the fig leaves and doggy doings cleared up like clockwork, If you’re wondering why I put the block on my usual spiritual practices for the day, well, sometimes that’s counterproductive when you’re feeling overwhelmed. If you don’t get right into the zone when you meditate, or immediately pick up on what the cards are telling you, it can intensify those feelings of disconnection. Self-care itself is a powerful spiritual practice, and you don’t need divination tools or a specific routine or ritual to do it. You just need to take notice of what your mind and body is telling you.

New Beginnings

Every day is a new beginning, and a new chance to learn and grow, but New Moon and Lion’s Gate are powerful opportunities to move forward, practically and emotionally. New Moon is a time for setting goals and intentions, and Lion’s Gate is all about new beginnings as well. Astrologically, it occurs when Sirius – also known as the ‘Spiritual Sun’ – is in alignment with Earth. As Sirius is connected to abundance and harvest, this time is like a Spiritual New Year, and the Ancients certainly saw it as such.

With the New Moon happening in Leo, the sign of confidence, bravery and strength, new ventures, whether professional or personal, have the best chance of bearing fruit. The lion (Leo) is after all King of the Jungle, and by harnessing these powerful energies to your advantage, you too can be King – or Queen – of Anything and Everything, but most importantly, Lion’s Gate energies can help you enormously on your path to enlightenment and self-mastery.

The key to all this is to move into Lion’s Gate with faith in yourself and the Universe, and the firm intention of embracing change and releasing those connections and thought patterns that no longer work for you, so you can make that new beginning in every sense. You may also need to let go of your expectations of how you believe your life should be, and allow the manifestation potentials of New Moon and Lion’s Gate to work with you to bring you your best life.

The Power of 8

In Numerology, 8 is the number of manifestation and abundance, and August 8 (8/8) is extra powerful, because there’s a double dose of 8s, which is recognised as a Good Thing. Sideways, the number 8 is the symbol for infinity, and its shape represents the flow and balance of life itself. It’s the number associated with karma, or the spiritual law that states  ‘What goes around, comes around.’  So it’s a strong, powerful number.

Seeing the number 8 is a reminder that you deserve abundance, but to benefit fully from its energies, remember that abundance isn’t just about the bank balance, it’s about life balance too. Remember to share your abundance with others, to bring even more of the same into your life.

Take some time to write down 8 things you would like to bring into your life, changes you would like to make, and ways to make life more abundant for others. Then call on Archangel Ariel, the Angel of Manifestation, to help you turn your list into your reality. Don’t worry about how these things will happen, know that when you have set your intention and shared it with the Universe, you can bring them into your life by feeling they are already here. Stuck for inspiration? I’ll share my list with you if you like!

Lion’s Gate List of 8: The things I want to manifest in my life right now

  1. Self-healing: I want to connect more with my mind and body, so it becomes clearer to me what I still need to release and heal from in order to move forward and grow. I need to treat myself with the same compassion I show to others, and nourish all aspects of my being.
  2. Increased intuition: Lion’s Gate is a time of activation for the Third Eye Chakra. I want to develop my intuition more, so I can better serve others, and also my own soul’s needs.
  3. Increased self-appreciation: Like most people, I am guilty of stringent self-criticism at times. I need to learn to love myself more, and cut myself some emotional slack. I’m not perfect, and I shouldn’t expect perfection in myself.
  4. A more disciplined approach to creativity: As a Gemini, I am easily distracted by the Next Shiny New Thing. As such, I have at least three books in my head that have yet to make it into print. I need to bring more structure into all aspects of my creative life – particularly my writing.
  5. Better communication all around: For me, this New Moon is in my Third House, which is all about communication. That also ties in with the previous point. After all, writing is communication too! I want to bring more clarity into all my communications, whether written, spoken or thought, so that I know where I am going and what’s important, and so does everyone I interact with.
  6. Working more with healing energy: I discovered I am a natural healer. That doesn’t make me special – everyone is! I’ve been working with my own energy, and learning more about how I can use it to help others. Now I am ready for more structured study, so one of my intentions for Lion’s Gate is to bring more discipline into this area of my spiritual life.
  7. Connect more with my Heart Centre: Leo is linked to the Heart Chakra, and all spiritual work stems from love, so we can never have too strong a connection to the Heart Centre. I want to work on this for myself, and also help others to do the same. All we ever need is within us, we just need to uncover it and connect with it, then we can manifest true abundance of spirit for ourselves and those we love.
  8. Don’t Worry, Be Happy: I thought long and hard about this one – it is, after all, Number 8, and we’ve already learned how powerful that can be! It therefore follows that this intention should bring together everything I want for myself, going forward. Happiness has to come from within – it’s not linked to a destination, a person or an achievement. I need to be 100% Happy to be Me, and release any worries about what might go wrong in this process. I always tell my lovely friends and clients that they alone are responsible for their own happiness. It doesn’t come from the dream home, the dream job, or the perfect partner – it comes from knowing that you deserve to be happy, and being happy now. It’s that Attitude of Gratitude again – count your blessings and you will have even more reasons to be thankful. Now I need to listen to my own excellent advice!

Your own Lion’s Gate and New Moon practices

How you articulate and celebrate your intentions is of course entirely up to you. If you don’t want to do anything specific, then don’t. Just thinking about your intentions brings them into reality, there doesn’t have to be a set routine or ritual, unless that’s what you want. I will just mention that setting down your intentions in writing does seem to add more manifesting power to the elbow of the Universe though! I would definitely recommend making a List of 8 for Lion’s Gate.

My own plan is to sit with my list at midnight, in my garden, with the trees around me. We may not be able to see the New Moon, but its energies are there for us to absorb. I will also have my selenite unicorn horn, as I read through my intentions and visualise how they will work for me. Then I will place the list under my pillow, and do what I do every night before I sleep – I’ll thank the Universe for the blessings of the day. Tonight, as every other night, I will go to sleep with a grateful heart. Love and blessings to you all.

Energetic cord cutting visualisation with Archangel Michael

Cutting energetic cords

Just over a year ago, I shared this visualisation after being given it by Spirit to help friends who were feeling anxious about the effect Covid-19 was having on their lives. We couldn’t have known then that we would still be under restrictions from the pandemic as I write this in May 2021, but the focus seems to have changed for many people. We are learning to live with Covid, but we are finding it difficult to cope with the uncertainties of our lives, and this is causing anxiety now, rather than any fear of catching the disease itself.

A recurrent theme for me in recent readings is that people are wondering what the future holds, and also blaming themselves for not coping well with the pandemic. We feel we should be more supportive of our loved ones, and we should be handling things better than we are. Wake up call time: if the world’s governments can’t get a real grip on the ongoing situation, with all the expert advice at their disposal, don’t you think it’s asking a lot of yourself to do better?

The truth is, there is no blueprint for handling this type of situation, where pretty much everything is out of our hands, and we can’t see how it can be resolved. And that sends us into a downward spiral of overthinking, which commandeers our thought processes to the extent that all we can focus on is our failure to deal with stuff. And it’s not confined to Covid either. When something triggers a memory from the past, we are reminded of our perceived failings there as well, so we beat ourselves up even more. And all of this is stealing our joy in the present moment – because despite the pandemic and the restrictions still in place which are keeping us apart from our loved ones, there is a lot to be thankful for.

When we talk about the Law of Attraction, we need to keep in mind that the idea of ‘What you put out is what you get back,’ while accurate, is also a little simplistic. The Universe is very good at picking up on what we give our focus to, but it’s not so hot on differentiating between what we want more of, and what we want less of. Because we give a lot of energy via thought waves to issues of concern, the Universe identifies that it’s important to us, and therefore it sends more for us to worry about, rather than helping us to navigate through our current concerns. This in turn muddles our thinking even more, so the answers seem ever more distant.

Cutting energetic cords brings a calmness to your mind that helps you to step back and get more clarity around the situation, thereby opening up the way for your intuition to help you resolve things in the best way possible for all concerned. I’ve now been given a new visualisation, which I often use before readings, as it helps my clients to be more receptive to guidance from Spirit and the Angels. I’m going to share it now with you, with love.

Cord cutting visualisation with Archangel Michael:

Sit or lie comfortably, somewhere free from distractions and interruptions. This just takes a few minutes, but you may wish to meditate on how you feel or just reflect on the visualisation afterwards, so allow yourself enough time.

  • Close your eyes and take three deep breaths, breathing in pure white love to a count of three through the nose, hold the breath for three, then exhale through the mouth for three, releasing all tensions, doubts and anxieties as you go. You may want to give the ‘out’ breath a colour, say red or dark blue, then see it lighten with each breath as you release stress. If you still don’t feel completely relaxed, repeat the process until you do. Breath work is never wasted!
  • Now imagine you have a ball of black modelling clay in your hands. It’s quite small, but as you roll it around, see yourself adding layers by transferring all your concerns to the ball, and seeing it grow larger. When you feel that everything that’s worrying you has now been added to the ball, make a final layer from any subconscious worries and triggers you can’t even bring to mind.
  • Attach a string to the ball. It doesn’t matter how long or short it is, or what it’s made from, it will be exactly the right length for your needs, so don’t worry about it – just know the string is there.
  • Now, take the end of the string between your thumb and forefinger, and cup the ball containing everything that no longer serves you in the palm of your hand. Fling it as hard and as far as you can, and watch it go out of sight.
  • Because you are still attached to the ball via the string, it comes bouncing back towards you, very fast, but not fast enough!
  • Now call on Archangel Michael to step forward with his Sword of Light and cut through the energetic cords represented by the string in your hand. See the sword – which is a bit like Darth Vader’s Lightsabre, only it’s used for good, rather than evil – slice through the cord with one blow.
  • Once again, watch the black ball go from your sight. Interestingly, now Archangel Michael has severed the energetic cords, it has no power or strength, and drifts aimlessly out of sight. And it doesn’t come back.
  • Thank Archangel Michael for his help. You may feel a comforting presence, like a hug, around your shoulders. If you don’t, don’t worry, just trust that he is there, because you called on him for help.
  • When you feel ready, bring yourself back to the here and now and open your eyes. If you want to take some time to meditate or reflect on your visualization, now is the best time, while it’s all fresh. to you
I like to visualise Archangel Michael’s Sword of Light like this – in fact I call this photo Sword of Light

Whenever I run through this with my clients, they look and feel happier, lighter and more relaxed, and you will too. How does this happen? It’s a mixture of intentionally shifting your energy focus, and the magical workings of Archangel Michael. Don’t overthink it – just enjoy those lovely feelings, and the clarity of thought that comes with it.

Cutting energetic cords is like peeling an onion, sometimes you need to go through more layers to get to the best bits, so do this exercise whenever you feel the need to. If you’re overwhelmed, or your thoughts are negative, do a cord cutting visualisation. There are always things to leave behind. This is particularly powerful at the time of the Full Moon, which is traditionally a good time to release anything that no longer serves you.

You may wish to record the visualisation, so you can listen to it playing back and give your energy your full attention. Or why not do it with a friend, taking turns to guide each other through the process? However you choose to cut cords, enjoy the experience, and let me know how you get on with it. Love and blessings.

Luna’s life of rhyme!

Luna has been with me for almost two years now, and finally, we’re starting to address the issues she has as a result of being abandoned three times in the 18 months before she came to live with me. She’s been beaten, used in fights and lived as a street dog, and although she’s the most loving dog, she’s also feisty, independent, and needs to learn some manners!

She started to finally settle with me when I brought her back to Spain in September 2020, after almost a year in England due to family matters and Covid. It’s like she suddenly thought, maybe I really HAVE come home now. Things moved further in the right direction when I was lucky enough to find Smart Dog Academy in Daya Vieja. Academy owner Teresa believes in making training fun and using positive reinforcement to build a bond of trust and co-operation between dogs and their guardians. She also runs private sessions for dogs like Luna, who have problems with distraction and trust, and she advised that this would be the best path to take initially.

Luna has clearly never been allowed to just be a puppy, due to her start in life, and she’s making up for it now. She sees everything as a game, and doesn’t think about respect for other people’s space or property. Like I said, she has no manners, and while she might be a female dog, she is nothing like a lady! Add snoring loudly and farts that could easily be adapted for Weapons of Mass Destruction, and you can see why I introduce her like this:

This is Luna, short for Luna-tic!

Several months of hard work and patience is finally paying off, and Luna’s behaviour has improved in ways I could never have dreamed of. However, despite her best intentions, she frequently goes off the rails. Luna being Luna, she doesn’t do things by halves either. She’s like the little girl in the nursery rhyme with the curl in the middle of her forehead. When she’s good, she’s very, very good, but when she’s bad, she’s horrid!

Luna came to me through an appeal of Facebook to take her in until a home could be found for her, and as such, she’s instantly recognisable in the area. Many of my Facebook friends follow her adventures, and one of them, Carolynn Barclay, wrote this lovely poem for her:

Luna

Luna and me, we got thrown together.

As soon as we met, I knew it was forever.

She’d issues galore, that I knew we’d to treat.

But I loved her so much, I wouldn’t be beat.

We headed to classes, training a must,

We struggled, we fought, we had to gain trust.

We’d to challenge the fact, she loved to chase bikes,

Skateboards and cars. Whatever moved! Yikes!

We give her a toy, and it’s destroyed right away.

But that’s no reason to tell her, she can no longer stay.

There’s none of us perfect, we all just need love.

I know that our Luna, was sent from above.

The joy that she gives me, and the love I get back,

More than makes up, for when she goes off the track.

We’ll get there I’m sure, as I never give up.

With the help of my Angels, I’ll have the best pup.

At the beginning of the first lockdown in March 2020, Carolynn started writing poems every day to pass the time and lift her own spirits, and those of her readers. A year and 600 rhymes later, Carolyn has published her first book, My Life of Rhyme.

Carolynn has a real talent for getting to the heart of the matter and making you smile, think, cry or all three with her verses. When, a few days later, I posted about Luna’s weekend off the rails, she wrote another one. The strain of being a Very Good Girl had clearly got too much for Luna to bear, so first of all she bisected the new hosepipe – which we’d had to buy because she chopped the previous one into three pieces. Then she decided as the weather was getting warmer, we needed open-toed slippers. Finally, she decided a bird who came into the house would be fun to play with, so she picked him up and took him down to the garden with her other toys. Unfortunately, although she was very gentle and never made a mark on the bird – she really did just want to play – it died of fright. It’s little body didn’t have a mark on it, but 25 kilos of Staffie cross charging round the garden was just too much for its heart to take. After giving the poor bird a blessing to speed him into the next life, I reported the weekend’s shenanigans, and quick as a flash, this came back:

Ok Luna, enuff’s enuff.

You’ve taken it all too far.

We’re working on the skateboard issue,

And even the chasing cars.

But, chewing a hose pipe?

Oh, come on. That really is not on.

Youve plenty toys to amuse yourself,

But no. My hose pipes gone.

Don’t get me started, on my footwear.

When the hospipe game was done,

You went and chewed on half a slipper,

Now I’ve only one!

But worst of all, was the poor wee bird,

Although, you only wished to play.

Unfortunately, he didn’t that memo get,

Now he won’t see another day.

R.I.P. poor wee bird.

Lunas energy, suddenly soared.

There’s nothing for it, Sandra, take a breath,

It’s back to the drawing board.

Yes, Luna’s a handful, but she’s also a beautiful, loving soul who has endured so much yet still holds love in her heart for everyone. She’s very much worth the effort to tame her hooligan streak. And when it all gets too much, I have friends like Carolynn to help me see the lighter side. I am truly blessed with my friends – and yes, with Luna too!

Visualisation to open up your Heart Centre

I find a recurring theme in my psychic readings at the moment is self blame. We’re all beating ourselves up for not coping with the ongoing situation around Covid-19. Why should we expect ourselves to master the challenges of being isolated, putting normal life on hold and processing grief, when even the so-called experts don’t have the answers? Well, we shouldn’t, but we do!

The sad thing is, we tend to build an emotional wall around our heart space to keep away the hurt, and all it does is to hurt us even more. The human heart is designed for unconditional love – we are born with wonder in our hearts, and the ability to live in the moment and appreciate everything around us. However, for most of us, this state of wonder doesn’t last. We’re either talked out of it by our parents, or we talk ourselves out of it. Instead of being open, trusting and loving, we go into defence mode, especially in challenging situations like the one we’re experiencing now.

Would it surprise you to learn that the best way to protect yourself is to allow yourself to be more vulnerable? Yes, it sounds mad, but it actually works. The defence mechanisms we construct around ourselves, physically and emotionally, stem from fear, and fear is a low vibrational energy. However, we are divine beings of creation, and we are designed to live naturally in the higher vibration of the soul.

How can we do this in challenging times? One simple yet effective way is to intentionally open your heart centre to love. Here’s a simple visualisation for you to try.

Visualisation to open up your heart centre and give and receive love more readily

Sit with your feet firmly on the floor in a comfortable chair. Close your eyes, and take in a deep breath through the nose. Imagine you are breathing in Archangel Chamuel’s pink ray of love. Hold the breath for a count of three, then exhale for three, releasing any tension in the body. Repeat this three times.

Place both hands over your heart centre, left hand closest to the body, right hand over it. Imagine that, beneath your hands, there is a warm pink glow. See its colour, feel its warmth. Know it is your soul connecting with your heart.

See this glow expand to fill your chest cavity, and then break out from your body and surround you in the glow of love. You may feel your hands moving at this point as your heart centre expands. Don’t resist it – go with what happens. It’s all good, and it’s all what you need, right now, so embrace it and enjoy it.

You can also connect with a loved one as you do this, either on the earth plane or in Spirit. Simply visualise them doing the same thing, and see the glow from your two heart centres meet and merge. Stay with this for as long as you need to or want to.

When you are ready, draw your pink glow of unconditional love back into your own body, and see it leave a glow all around you as it retracts. Think the Ready Brek advert, but in pink, and always there!

Thank Archangel Chamuel for his help in opening up your heart centre, open your eyes and take a drink of water. This helps to ground your energies back into the room after this powerful visualisation.

I use this visualisation during psychic readings when appropriate, and I love how it makes clients feel. They look visibly lighter and glowing, and it can be a profound emotional experience, particularly if they link heart centres with a loved one. It’s a great way to counteract the feelings of loss we are all experiencing while we can’t meet up at will with loved ones, and you will probably find that they feel the glow too, even though they may not realise what it is.

Look out for comments like, ‘I thought of you earlier, and I had the most fantastic feeling of warmth and happiness.’ That means your heart centres connected on a much deeper level than the purely physical. Why not share this visualisation with them? It’s a fabulous gift. Let me know how you get on with this – I’d love to hear your experiences. Love and blessings.

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