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.

A tale of two Easters …

Easter
My fabulous family – I miss them so much, but we’ve made some great memories, and we will again.

So, once more Easter is here. And just like last year the Gods – or rather the sun – has smiled on us. That’s about the only similarity though. Like many people, all over the world, it’s a very solitary Easter for most of us. The message from religious leaders, and the Queen (God bless her) is that Easter is a time of hope. After darkness comes light, after death comes rebirth, after the barrenness of winter comes the fertility of spring.

Never before has this message been one we can connect with on so many levels, across all faiths, and belief systems. Ironically, at a time all the churches and other religious meeting places are closed due to the lock-down, there are probably more people fixing on the spiritual meaning of Easter this year than ever before.

Personally, the commercial aspects of Easter have never really appealed to me. It was always a time for the family to get together, and when I was a child, that was usually at my paternal grandmother’s caravan in Blackpool. Once I had my own family, we always made sure there was time spent with other family members, and that trend has pretty much continued through my life.

Easter
With Harrison at his Christening – Easter Sunday 2015

Five years ago, my middle grandson was christened on Easter Sunday, because he was fast outgrowing the family christening gown. Again, it was a lovely family weekend. So many precious Easter memories of good times with the family!

In Spain, although I was a long way from the family, we always spent time with friends and supported one of the local fund raising events. Last year, I was in England for Easter, due to family circumstances, and it coincided with one of the best Easters ever, weather wise.

On Good Friday, my daughter and I took my two granddaughters for a girly day out to Saltram House, where we did a tour of the house, dressed up in period costume and picnicked and took part in an Easter egg hunt in the grounds. I introduced my elder granddaughter, Chloe, to the fabulous energy of trees, and we enjoyed being in Nature.

Easter
Chloe and Lauren – Young ladies of quality at Saltram House, Good Friday 2019

On the next day, again we took to the Great Outdoors, with a picnic in Central Park, Plymouth followed by a trip around the fair. On Easter Sunday, I spent the day with Glenys and her daughter and grandson at Lanhydrock House. Guess who had treated herself to membership of the National Trust for Easter!

I also purchased membership for my granddaughters, rather than getting them Easter eggs. It would have cost £8 each to take them into Saltram House, but for just an extra £2, they could have a year of entry into National Trust properties. As their aunt and uncle in Cornwall are also members, the girls have certainly had their money’s worth, as have I, and I’m extending it for all of us, although obviously at the moment, we can’t use it.

So, how has this Easter been so far? Well, we’ve spent some time outdoors, as it’s been so nice, and we’ve watched a few films, although there’s not much else of any interest on TV to be honest. We’ve caught up on some reading, I’ve tidied up the website a bit, and caught up with friends via the phone and video calls.

Easter
Easter Saturday 2019 in Central Park, Plymouth with my daughter and granddaughters.

My elder son is lucky to be locked down with his new fiance – they got engaged on Mothering Sunday – in Shropshire. Their rural setting means they can enjoy walks close to home without breaching government instructions. Thankfully, his fiance managed to leave London before lock-down – I feel happier that they are in the countryside, rather than in the nation’s hotspot of Covid-19.

My daughter is an ambulance care assistant, and she is happy. Finally there are enough masks, gloves and goggles for the team, and Derriford Hospital is as prepared as they can be for the expected influx of patients as the outbreak heads to its peak. Luckily, here in the South West, the NHS are not so challenged as in other parts of the country. We have so much to be thankful for.

My younger son is a single parent to four children, and they all went into lockdown almost a week before the rest of the country, as the youngest showed symptoms of Covid-19. Thankfully, it was a false alarm, and the family are happy and healthy, and he hasn’t lost his sense of humour – or maybe he’s descended into insanity?

Earlier today, he posted on Facebook that the Easter Bunny had been awarded Key Worker status, as long as he abided by government instructions and practiced social distancing. Adam proudly displayed an ‘official letter’ from 10, Downing Street. It was clearly authentic, as it was signed by Dominic Raab, who is deputising for Boris Johnson as he recovers from his own brush with Covid-19! I admired Adam’s attention to detail, even as I questioned his sanity.

Easter treats made from marzipan, Easter Monday in Portugal, 2016.

There’s a serious point here though – yes, we’re in a serious situation, and we can’t see an end to it right now. However, as I have pointed out all through this rambling, we have so much to be thankful for, and we are blessed with hope and humour. It’s what the British do best. It’s seen us through so much, personally and as a nation, and it will continue to do so.

So, on this rather surreal Easter Sunday, I am concentrating on what I have, not on what I am missing at the moment. I am looking back at happy Easter memories from years gone by, and looking forward to big hugs from my loved ones when all this is finally over. And I am grateful – truly grateful – to be right here, right now, experiencing life and learning lessons, so that I can be the best version of myself possible.

Stay safe and well, and remember, we will be okay. It will be okay. Have the happiest Easter you can under the circumstances, and I look forward to a few fiestas in the not too distant future.

Cutting energetic cords with Archangel Michael: A visualisation for Covid-19

Archangel Michael
Cutting the energetic cord to Covid-19, as visualised in the meditation.

There is no doubt we are living through an unprecedented situation unknown in peace time. And no matter how positive you try to be, there are always going to be times when you are anxious – for yourself, for your loved ones, and for the general situation as a whole. This is where cutting energetic cords, with Archangel Michael, can come in useful.

I was given this visualisation by Spirit for Covid-19, but it works for any situation where someone or something is draining your energy and making you feel anxious. And today, with lockdown having lasted for three months now, it’s still as effective as ever.

Basically, cutting energetic cords can help if there is something playing on your mind, whether it’s in the present, like the Covid-19 outbreak, or in the past, but still affecting your life now. Focusing on past or present worries robs you of the joy of now, and if there’s nothing you can do to alter the situation, it’s pointless wasting energy on it. Negative energy, in thought, word or deed, has a habit of reproducing and attracting even more negativity into your life, so it’s something that needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Why Archangel Michael?

Archangel Michael is the go-to angel for cord cutting, and this visualisation will help you to do just that. When you cut the energetic cords to a person or situation, it doesn’t mean you no longer care, and it doesn’t airbrush anything out of your life. What it does do is allow you to detach from the energy around the situation, and see it for what it really is – something you couldn’t change or control, which doesn’t have an important place in your life right now.

When you cut energetic cords, you feel a lightness and clarity of thought that wasn’t there before. That’s because you set the intention to detach from it. You can’t control or change what’s happens, but you can control and adapt your response. Once you realise that you can’t do anything, no matter how much you want to, whatever you are detaching from loses its power to impact on your life in a negative way.

As someone classed as vulnerable because of an auto-immune system condition, I can’t do what I want to do, and get out and volunteer my services to those who need them. However, I can use my psychic and healing skills to help people cope emotionally and spiritually with isolation and worry.

A friend who was weighed down with anxiety because she was caring for an elderly relative, and her daughter was facing danger every day as a key worker, asked me to help. I wasn’t sure where our session was going, but I did feel that a cord cutting exercise was needed. As we talked, I was given this visualisation by Spirit. It is specifically to cut the energetic cords of the Covid-19 situation, but it can be adapted to anything that is causing you concern.

So, let’s work through this together. You may want to record this, so you can play it back and focus all your attention on the visualisation. Or you could copy it out, read through it a couple of times, and then try it for yourself. However you do it, it’s a very powerful visualisation. Are you sitting comofrtably? Then we’ll begin!

Cutting the energetic cords of Covid-19

Begin by closing your eyes and taking a few deep breaths in through the nose to the count of three, hold for three, then exhale through the mouth to another count of three. Imagine breathing in love and healing, and breathing out tension.

Now invite Archangel Michael to come into your presence and wrap his protective wings around you. You may feel a different sensation to alert you to his presence, like warmth, or the pressure of a hug, or even a sense of peace and calm. Don’t worry if you feel nothing – you can be sure he is with you, because when you ask the Angels to come forward to help, they are obliged to do so.

See before you a small black dot in the distance, something like a full stop, which as it comes closer quickly develops into a large black ball, about the size of a football. You notice that there is a thick string attached to the ball, and although you can’t touch it, you know it is really strong. You also notice flecks of red in the ball, and you feel a threat from it.

As the ball stops, a few feet away from you, level with your heart, you recognise it as Covid-19, waiting to overwhelm you with worry and fear.

Now ask Archangel Michael to cut the literal cord attached to this situation of fear and isolation with his Sword of Light. Look steadily at the black ball, and inwardly tell it you will not allow it into your mind or your life. Watch as Archangel Michael severs the connection with one blow of the Sword of Light.

Feel your spirits lift and your soul strengthen as the black ball floats slowly and harmlessly into the distance. It may have rushed towards you, but know that as it floats away, it has lost its power to rob you of your peace of mind.

Thank Archangel Michael for his help, and bid him farewell for now. Enjoy the new feeling of lightness and happiness as you bring your awareness back to the here and now.

If you are feeling really overwhelmed, you may need to do this more than once to clear your mind and heart. And of course, it’s still vital to practice caution by following expert advice on minimising the risks to yourself and others.

If you see something other than a ball, that’s okay. It’s your visualisation, and it’s the cord cutting itself that matters. And the lighter feeling you get as a result.

What else you can do

Another step you can take to distance yourself from the energy of Covid-19 is to draw it, as I have, in a way that makes it less threatening. I’m the first to admit I am no artist, but I deliberately set out to do a child-like representation of the visualisation. That again robs it of its power to cause anxiety, by making it look ridiculous while treating it with respect.

Let me know in the comments how you get on with the visualisation, and remember, the Angels are always there, waiting to help. Love and blessings to everyone at this challenging time. Stay safe and well, and be kind to yourself and others. This will pass, and we will all be stronger for it.

Happiness is a job, and here’s how to upgrade your career status

There’s a song called Happiness, made famous by Liverpool comedian Ken Dodd way back in 1964. The first line describes happiness as ‘The greatest gift that I possess.’ While I love the song, I take issue with the sentiment. Happiness is within us, whenever we want it, so it’s not a gift, it’s as essential to a healthy life as your heart or your kidneys.

However, while the organs work automatically for our benefit, happiness isn’t something that can run in the background. You need training to use it, so I see happiness as a job for life, with a pension that you are able to draw on from the minute you tap into your own happiness.

In his comedy routines, Ken Dodd talked about ‘exercising your chuckle muscles,’ but happiness isn’t a physical state, it’s a state of mind. so you don’t need to head off to pump iron at the gym in order to be happy. You do have to recognise that you, and only you, are responsible for your happiness though.

You won’t be happy when the Neighbour from Hell moves 100 miles away, or when your child graduates from university with a First, or even when you meet the love of your life. You see happiness does not depend on the presence or absence of people or things – it depends on your state of mind, and your ability or otherwise to live in the now. If you are constantly looking back to perceived better times, or forward to a future of happiness and hope, you are missing out on the things that would make you happy right now, in this moment, if only you brought your attention to them.

See happiness as a vocation – something you will be doing for the rest of your life, because it’s something you love to do, and something you would do, even if you weren’t paid for it. Of course, if your performance doesn’t come up to scratch, you are either sidelined for promotion, or you are sacked. So work at being happy – not by forcing it, but including it in your routine until it becomes as natural as breathing.

Employees at the top of their game are an inspiration to others, and this brings job satisfaction in its wake. So there’s a feelgood factor about being the reason that someone else is happy. Look on it as a productivity bonus – although there is no salary for the job of being happy. Other than a lifetime of positivity, of course – which is beyond price.

So, look on being happy as an astute career move, when all the work you put in is acknowledged rewarded, and the working conditions get better and better as you move up the ladder. When you find yourself having a problem maintaining happiness, examine your options. Check in on your inner Human Resources, and find help and inspiration. You are entitled to happiness – it’s your job to be happy. Remember that.

happiness

International Women’s Day: The inspiring women in my family

The inspiring women in my family
The inspiring women in my family – Me with my daughter and granddaughters

International Women’s Day has been around since 1911, and in 1975 it was recognised by the United Nations as a Big Thing. It’s a day to celebrate the women who inspire you, for me he inspiring women in my family, and to reflect on what you have personally achieved, as someone who happens to be a woman.

I don’t want equality for women – I want equality and respect for everyone, everywhere. We are all born equal, but inevitably, life intervenes, and equality gets pushed way down the ‘To Do’ list. Along the way, we deal with challenges, get through them and keep going. How do we do it? With the help of the Strength of the Weaker Sex, of course!

This Bellamy Brothers song says it all for women everywhere!

Why women are wonderful

Women everywhere, all through time, have tended to solve problems with compassionate emotional strength, rather than engaging in physical conflict on what is inevitably an unequal playing field. There have, of course, been notable exceptions, such as the Amazons – the female warriors, not the online selling site – Boudicca and Joan of Arc. Generally, though, women get through life on tough love tempered with tenderness, whatever the situation.

Thinking about writing this post, and the women who have inspired me through my almost three score years and ten, there way are too many to mention. I’ve been inspired by writers such as Jane Austen, J. K. Rowling and Sylvia Plath, and actresses including those fabulous Dames, Judi Dench, Helen Mirren and Maggie Smith. I admire the singing of Cilla Black, Patsy Cline and Annie Lennox, and the dancing of Jennifer Grey (Dirty Dancing), Darcey Bussell and Ginger Rogers. And there are countless women whose intelligence, strength of character, courage and innovation skills have helped fashion the modern world and its values.

However, every single one of the women I’ve mentioned has one thing in common – their first influences, for good or otherwise, came from the family. And I realise I am fortunate to have had the most wonderful women in my life, from the day I was born. So this International Women’s Day article is dedicated to the ladies I love the most – my mother, my grandmother, my daughter and my granddaughters. It’s also for those who are still to come, so they can look back and see just how much they are loved and nurtured.

Start with yourself

I’m going to start with myself. Why? Because I am so proud of what I have dealt with in my life, and I am even more proud of who I am now. I am more compassionate, more caring, more in tune with my inner knowing, and a stronger person. This is not in spite of what’s happened in my life, but because of the lessons I’ve learned from the challenges I’ve faced.

The inspiring women in my family
Enjoying lunch with my daughter

I’ve had two unhappy marriages – my first husband died, and this one won’t! There’s a serious point to this joke – which I first heard from Jethro, the brilliant Cornish comedian. I’m not a victim, who blames outside forces for the bad things in my life. I know that I am not responsible for the thoughts, words and actions of other people – only my own. Personally I can’t control them, but I can control my responses to their behaviour, and therein lies my power and my strength.

What I can do is choose to forgive them for what they did, whether intentionally or otherwise, and to forgive myself for putting myself in a position where I enabled people to hurt me. It won’t happen again. As a writer, my style is to find a lighter touch in the most serious of subjects, so the articles are balanced but not disrespectful to the readers or the subjects I write about. My little joke is my indication that I can put things in perspective and move on.

Yes, my two marriages ended before death did us part, but there were so many good times before things changed, in both cases. I didn’t fail as a wife because I didn’t stay with them when things went wrong. I succeeded as a person because I recognised that we could never put things right, and refused to live a life lacking in authenticity and happiness.

My female role models

The inspiring women in my family include my maternal grandmother, who was a major influence in my life until she passed when I was 27 and expecting my younger son, was also a strong yet compassionate lady. She married my grandfather when he was a widower with four children, one of whom was always having health problems and passed away as a young man.

That was heartbreaking enough, but she also lost three of her own children. Identical twins Gwendoline and Marjorie passed at six months old from scarlet fever, and my mother’s twin, Michael, was stillborn.

As a family, they were always short of money, but would share anything they had with anyone who needed it. I asked how they could do that, and Nanny Jones, as I called her, replied, ‘When you are able to share what you have, there will always be someone who will share what they have when you need it most. It’s the way life works, sweetheart.’

I didn’t realise it at the time, and nor did she, but Nanny Jones was living the Law of Attraction long before it became a Big Thing. Even in her 70s, she would still do anything for anyone, and when Grandad Jones passed, she spent a lot of time with us. Rather than sit with her knitting or read stories to my brother and me, she’d work away, cleaning and cooking, to make life easier for my Mum.

I’m still learning from her even now, as well – 40 years after she passed to Spirit. She’s come through at a couple of psychic nights for me, to say she realised when I was a young child that one day I would be working with Spirit myself. She did something she never did in life too. She told the medium – Ricky Whitemore, who has since become a good friend – that it was about time I started using my psychic powers, as she was fed up with waiting. So I had a telling off from beyond the veil from someone who never criticised me in life!

The inspiring women in my family also include my mother, who was very different to Nanny Jones in her approach to life. She was more direct, and she wasn’t particularly spiritual. Tellings off were common, because we were very much alike in nature, and if I wanted to do something and couldn’t, I expected a reason. For me, ‘Because I said so’ was not a reason.

Nan would try to explain why she was getting a telling off when Mum was being rebellious, but had to resort to ‘Because I said so’ in the end. Mum, unlike her siblings, was stubborn, and she passed that on to me. My daughter is now the official torchbearer for stubbornness in the family, because she would never take a telling either and still doesn’t!

Mum had to be strong and think outside the box, and she’s passed that down too. She was just 20 when she married Dad, who was 10 years older, and had come from a family of tradespeople. They were going into business themselves, and had to bring the wedding forward by six months. This was because the person they were going to rent a fish and chip shop from when he retired passed away suddenly.

They didn’t want to lose the premises, as it came with living accommodation and was well situated for both passing trade and regular customers. Back in 1949, they couldn’t just move in together before marriage, because nobody would have supported a business where the owners were ‘living in sin.’

As it was, there was lots of gossip that Mum ‘had’ to get married, so I must have disappointed a few of the local busybodies by turning up almost three years after the wedding. Mum had the last word though. When the worst offender gushed over me in my pram and said, ‘What did you have then?’ Mum replied, ‘An elephant, obviously, since you told half the street I was pregnant when I got married.’ That must be where I get my sarcasm from!

Fast forward 17 years, and I too was pregnant. Maybe Mum was still a bit of a rebel, because she told me not to get married just because there was a baby on the way. Even in 1969, that was pretty radical, and Mum was 40 years old and already a widow, so life was hard enough for her as it was. I did get married, because I was in love, and I went on to have three wonderful children.

I don’t do regrets, but I am sad that Mum never saw her youngest grandson. By the time he was born, she was blind, as a result of dangerous hypertension. Even that didn’t stop her from knitting, although I had to sew the garments up and pick up the stitches so Mum could knit the necklines.

The inspiring women in my family
My children David, Elizabeth and baby Adam. Mum never saw Adam, as she went blind before he was born.

When my daughter Elizabeth was a toddler, I mentioned to Mum that I’d been looking for a nice dress and matching cardigan, with a lovely chevron pattern that was very popular at the time. Mum said she knew what I meant, and if I got the wool, she’d see what she could do. ‘What she could do’ was to knit a beautiful dress with a matching little jacket, without a pattern – since she couldn’t read one. She worked with two colours, and an intricate pattern, and never made a single mistake. What’s more, it was exactly the right size for Elizabeth.

Mum never let anything stop her doing what she wanted, whatever was happening around her or to her. She must have worked some of that perseverance and determination into the stitches of that beautiful dress and jacket, because Elizabeth is exactly the same. It’s infuriating at times for those of us closest to her, but it’s been a lifesaver – literally!

I’ve written before about the devastating brain stem stroke, which almost killed her in 2013. It’s just about the worst stroke you can have, with a very low survival rate, and only a slightly better recovery rate. It’s a long process – or rather it is for most people. But then, my daughter isn’t most people!

For two weeks, her life hung in the balance. She couldn’t move or speak, and she had locked in syndrome. It was six weeks before she took her first steps and managed to eat something normally, but just two weeks after that she was discharged from hospital.

Elizabeth enters the Wimbledon ticket ballot every year. She’s not always successful, but in 2013, she had tickets for Number One Court on the middle Saturday of the tournament. We were going to send her tickets back, as she was still in hospital in mid June, but she insisted on going – and she did! She was in a wheelchair, but she went, and by December she was back at work as an ambulance care assistant.

She has been left with a few tiresome but not life-changing problems as a result of the stroke. Some time ago, she asked her consultant if her condition would ever improve. He confessed he had no idea, because in 30 years in medicine, he had never known anyone to make such a good recovery from a brain stem stroke!

The next generations

Coming bang up to date, the next generation of the inspiring women in my family are making their mark, and already showing signs that they, too will grow up into exceptional young women. At 13, Chloe is academically bright, popular among her school friends, and also wise beyond her years. She’s shown incredible understanding and maturity as my son copes with being a single parent to four children following the recent breakdown of his marriage.

Lauren is 9, and is usually away with the fairies and unicorns, in the nicest possible way. She’s not afraid to be exactly what she wants to be, and sees no need to explain her choices to others. She’s a free spirit who has already realised the importance of self care and self confidence. She will go far, and she will be happy, whatever she decides to do with her life.

I’m bursting with pride as I read through this before posting, and I realise I have so much to be grateful for. The women in my family have come through everything life has sent their way with strength, dignity and focus. Their experiences have not hardened them to the suffering of others. They have learned to show kindness and respect to those who need it most, because they have been in that position themselves.

This is for each of you and all of you, with love from me. Thank you for your guidance and inspiration, which has helped me to become the kind of person I would want for a friend. We are true soul sisters.

Making the Mediterranean Diet easy on yourself

You’ve probably heard of the Mediterranean Diet, but you may not be clear on how it works, and why.  Here in Spain, where olive oil is king and fresh fruit and vegetables are plentiful, cheap and in season, following this healthy eating plan is easy and economical.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

It’s a traditional way of eating, and it’s been a nutritional model for hundreds of years in Southern Europe. Mediterranean-style eating will increase your health and fitness, help to combat chronic disease, and help you lose weight.Globally, medical professionals and nutritionists consider the Mediterranean Diet to be one of the healthiest eating plans around.  And it also happens to be filling and flavourful.

The Mediterranean Diet is a bit of a misnomer, because it isn’t really a diet at all – it’s more like a permanent lifestyle turnaround in attitudes to cooking and eating. At its core are lots fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, whole grains and healthy fats. There is no room for processed foods or deep fried stuff in the Mediterranean Diet.

Health benefits

The many advantages of adopting the Mediterranean Diet were acknowledged a couple of generations ago. Researchers in the late 1940s found that the natives of Crete were blessed with healthier than average cardiovascular systems, after managing for years on a restricted diet due to wartime food shortages.  This was put down to eating mainly fresh, seasonal produce. Meat was in short supply, and processed foods pretty much non-existent

More recently, it’s been demonstrated that people eating the Mediterranean way live longer, more active, healthier lives. They also have less chance of developing chronic conditions likes heart disease, diabetes and cancer. At 82.5 years, Spain now enjoys the longest average life expectancy in the whole of Europe.

The Mediterranean Diet can help you to live a  longer, healthier life. It’s rich in antioxidants, which serve to inhibit oxidative stress, thereby halving the risk of developing  Parkinson’s Disease.

A pivotal requirement of Mediterranean-style eating is regular servings of fish. The Omega-3 oils in tuna and sardines boost brain health, so the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s Disease in later life is also reduced.

The Mediterranean Diet is high in fibre, thanks to the fresh fruit and vegetables, and fibreevens out the body’s blood sugar levels and boosts insulin sensitivity.  This ‘two for one’  health benefit minimises the chance of diabetes. Refined carbohydrates and red meat only figure on the menu occasionally, so saturated fat content is automatically restricted. This, in turn, makes for a healthy heart.

The Mediterranean Diet in action

Mediterranean menus are built around plant foods. Fruits and vegetables are headliners, and so are chick peas, lentils and beans. Nuts and seeds are supporting actors, with whole grains, rice and pasta making up the chorus and filling in the gaps in the action.

The good folks who call the Mediterranean home region always eat seasonal fruit and vegetables, so the vitamin content is at its peak, delivering a full antioxidant hit. In many cases, salad comes before the main course. This takes the edge off the appetite, so you’re more likely to take smaller portions of the main meal, and also eat more slowly.

There’s not much space for red meat in Mediterranean eating. The main protein sources are poultry, fish and eggs, with the occasional steak. Beans and pulses supply plant protein, with many Spanish recipes including chickpeas or alubias (white, kidney-shaped beans). Fish is  grilled, poached, baked, or shallow fried in light batter.

Some Mediterranean nationalities – notably the Spanish and the Italians –really enjoy cured hams and sausages. These products are naturally cured, and contain no chemicals. Therefore they can’t really be considered processed foods.

Herbs and spices, rather than are salt, are the main flavourings for Mediterranean recipes, and butter is only used occasionally. Mediterranean people prefer their bread served with olive oil, garlic mayonnaise, or tomato paste. These are all healthier than butter, with no saturated fat and fewer calories per serving.

On the Mediterranean Diet, wine is fine in moderation. Spirits are an occasional treat – wine and beer goes down better with the lighter way of eating. Alcohol is automatically restricted, as it’s customary to drink with food,, rather than just for the sake of drinking.

The Mediterranean lifestyle 

It’s not just the food that makes the Mediterranean Diet healthy – lifestyle is another factor. Life is for living outdoors, with no stress and no rushing around.  It’s too hot for that, and Mediterranean people are more laid back than their Northern European counterparts. 

When Mediterranean people go home after work, they dine on fresh food, cooked from scratch. They’re happy to spend two hours or more seated at table, savouring the food and chatting between courses. This leisurely approach to eating naturally reduces the intake of food.

It’s roughly 20 minutes until the brain gets the signal that the stomach is full. This is the down to the actions of the hormonal system in which neurotransmitters also play a part. If you bolt down food or eat on the hoof, these signals won’t kick in to curb your appetite. Mediterranean of eating allows plenty of time for the brain to register the ‘full’ feeling.  

The Mediterranean Diet is one of the healthiest eating plans in the world. It’s built around high consumption of plant foods, low fat proteins from fish, eggs and poultry, and smaller servings of saturated fats and processed foods. Eating this way minimises the risks of contracting various lifestyle diseases. If you need to lose weight, it’s low in calories and fat, and high in fibre and filling power.

The Mediterranean way of eating is varied, wholesome and healthy. Combined with a low stress lifestyle and a good dose of vitamin D from the sun, it’s no wonder health professionals consider the Mediterranean Diet one of the healthiest eating plans ever.

You should try my Estofado de garbanzos y patatas recipe for a delicious winter warmer.

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas (chickpea and potato stew)

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas is a tasty Spanish stew which is quick, easy and economical to prepare. There’s a powerful plant protein hit, courtesy of the chickpeas, so you don’t need to add meat. However, if you prefer your stews to have at least some meat, try adding some smoked bacon lardons (taquitos in Spanish) with the onions and garlic. Or you can add meatballs or sliced chorizo sausage at the same point.

Before you get cooking, here’s a bit of insider information to help you create a stunning chickpea and potato stew that belies its humble origins. This filling, warming dish was originally developed for manual workers who needed filling power and fuel at an affordable price.

The thick gravy and unique flavour of this stew is due in part to extra starch being released from the potatoes during the cooking time. Once the potatoes are peeled and ready for slicing, cut halfway through the slices with a large, sharp knife, then just break them off. The resulting uneven surfaces allow the potatoes to release more starches into the cooking liquid than straight cuts.

The recipe also calls for grated tomato. This is a Spanish culinary technique which ensures that there are no irritating slivers of skin in the finished dish, and as a bonus, it helps to thicken the sauce and subtly enhance the overall flavour.  Don’t even consider chopping the tomato to save time!

Ingredients for 4 – 6 servings

  • 4 medium potatoes plus 1 small one
  • 1 large ripe tomato, grated
  • A large onion, chopped
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic
  • A 540g jar of cooked chickpeas (garbanzos)
  • Olive oil
  • Small knob of butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh or freeze dried parsley
  • A little fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 level teaspoons of paprika – smoked paprika gives a very different flavour. Try both versions, and see which suits your preference.
  • Small glass of red wine (optional)
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree or tomato frito. (This is similar to tomato puree)
  • Optional extra vegetables: anything you fancy or have available from the following: red or green peppers, courgettes, celery, green beans, peas, sweetcorn, squash. A word to the wise: aubergines don’t work well with this recipe.

Preparation method

Heat a little olive oil to soften the onions and garlic. Then add a small knob of butter and the red wine, if using. Add the parsley, thyme, salt and pepper.

Grate the tomato directly into the pan, then add the paprika and some water to prevent the mixture burning. Cook everything for a few minutes.

When you’re ready, add the chickpeas, together with the preserving juice from the jar. This also helps to thicken the sauce.

Now add the large sliced potatoes, tomato frito, any optional vegetables you are using, and enough water to just about cover everything in the pan. Simmer for around 45 minutes, and then grate the small potato directly into the stew to help thicken the sauce even more. Cook for at least another half hour, until everything is cooked through and the sauce is really thick.

Serve with fresh crusty bread. This dish is even better if you cook it the day before you need it, since this gives the  flavours more  time to develop and blend together.

Estofado de garbanzos y patatas can also be cooked in a slow cooker or crockpot. Adjust the cooking times according to the instructions with your appliance. It freezes well, so you can make a batch and freeze what you don’t need tonight. However you cook and serve this tasty Spanish stew, enjoy it!

Take a look at another great recipe here for Homemade Guacamole.

How to recognise the main indicators of psychic ability in yourself

Everyone has an innate psychic ability, but not everybody chooses to acknowledge it or develop it. What tends to happen is that as children, we easily connect with Spirit because we see the wonder and magic in everything, and accept it for what it is. When we share our experiences with adults, we may be told ‘Not to talk nonsense,’ or ‘There’s no such thing as ghosts,’ so we keep things to ourselves, rather than get told off about it.

Fast forward to the teenage years, and we become desperate to be one of the crowd, so we resist anything that identifies us as different, and therefore Not Cool At All.  Going into adulthood, there’s the fear of being thought ridiculous, so again, we push down our natural psychic abilities, until we get to a point where life is so challenging, we wonder how we are going to cope.

When we’re at our lowest point, and we are feeling lost and helpless, with nowhere to turn, the survival instinct kicks in, and we finally start to think outside the box in an effort to solve our apparently insoluble problems. It’s at this point we remember that we are intuitive beings with psychic abilities that can align us with the energies of the Universe in order to turn our lives around and live in joy and abundance, as we  are meant to from the moment we become incarnate on Earth

The good news is, you don’t have to wait until the excrement hits the mechanical ventilation system before tuning into your psychic ability. Once you know how to recognise the signs, you can harness the wisdom of the spirit world and your own inner knowledge to become more creative and productive, and achieve a balanced state of being.

These are the main indications that you are ready to tap into your psychic ability to enhance your own life quality and help others to do the same. Don’t worry – you don’t have to do tarot readings or bring your best friend’s Aunt Edna through from the other side of life unless you really want to. And it’s never too late to begin your spiritual journey by developing your intuition and psychic abilities.

Everything happens for a reason, and everything happens in divine timing, for the highest good of all concerned. If you notice any of these changes happening in your life, you are ready to connect with the wisdom and energy of the Universe.

You have a positive attitude, and an aversion to negative people

Psychically aware people pick up on non-verbal signals from others, even if they are strangers. Their attitude to life is habitually positive, which means being around negative people is energetically draining. You may find yourself reorganising your friends list so you avoid spending time with anyone who is always complaining, or seems to thrive on drama.

Being positive doesn’t mean not being realistic, but those who are developing their psychic abilities look at things differently. They see life’s challenges as opportunities to learn and grow, and never cast themselves as victims.

Your entire take on life changes

People who were once good friends may seem to have little in common with you as you become more spiritual. Your psychic powers are awakening, and your focus and perceptions are changing as a result. You will find yourself connecting with people who may not have entered your radar in the past. Pastimes and possessions that once meant a lot to you are not so important as the focus of your life moves away from the material towards the spiritual.

You experience deja vu and deep intuition

If you’ve ever been somewhere for the first time, yet can find your way around as if you know it well, that’s déjà vu. The phrase comes from the French language, and literally translated it means ‘already seen.’ You may have visited the place in a dream,  or even in a previous incarnation. The same thing applies if you meet someone for the first time, yet feel you know all about them, and it’s a clear sign of developing psychic ability.

Deep intuition is similar, yet different. If the phone rings, and you know who it is before you even pick it up, or you already know what someone is about to say before they even open their mouth, it’s intuition. This is not just a case of happy coincidence or a ‘great minds think alike’ moment. It’s your psychic powers surfacing.

You experience frequent, vivid dreams

During sleep, your conscious mind is inactive, and there is no resistance to intuitive feelings. When you need to make a crucial decision, there is a conflict in your mind between intuition and logical thought, or the ego. We’re conditioned from an early age to go with the logical, reasoned option, even if it may not be the right choice for you at that stage of your life. In the sleeping state, you surrender logic to higher, more informed levels of consciousness.

Your dreams can help bring a different, deeper perspective to your waking thoughts and actions. It may be insightful to keep a dream journal, so you can analyse how your dreams align with life events and waking thoughts and actions.

These are the early but significant signs of psychic development to look out for. It’s a perfectly natural process, and there’s nothing strange or even scary about it.  We are all privileged to have this gift from the Universe, and it’s up to us to use it wisely for the benefit of ourselves and everyone around us. Namaste.

Ask the Angels – They are waiting to help you

Angels

As more and people turn to spirituality and move away from recognised religious practices,  the concept of prayer is changing too. Traditional formally worded, one-size-fits-all prayers are making way for more heartfelt, personalised, spontaneous requests for divine help, and all you have to do is to ask the angels. It really is that simple!

Angelic roots

Angels figure in many religions and belief systems, and have done for millennia. The term itself derives from Greek and Latin roots meaning ‘messenger.’ With the exception of Sandalphon and Metatron, who were incarnated as the Biblical prophets Elijah and Enoch, angels have never existed in human form.

This distinction is emphasised by the fact that all the other members of the Angelic Realm have names ending with the suffix ‘-el,’ which means ‘God.’ Therefore, angels are messengers between Heaven and Earth. The most well known messenger is Archangel Gabriel, who announced the Nativity of the Messiah.

Angels may be from a higher realm, but they are always instantly accessible. Under the Universal Laws, if anyone asks an angel for assistance, they are obliged to help. However, they cannot just step in and fix everything, because it would interfere with the exclusively human prerogative of Free Will. Such action would disrupt the delicate Spirit/Human balancing act. We need to face up to and overcome challenges in order to learn and grow, both spiritually and emotionally.

How can Angels help you?

Angels can and will come to your aid, but it may not be in the way you envisage it. The Universal Laws dictate that the solution to your problem must be for the Highest Good of all concerned. If you’re thinking to put out a Celestial Contract on a troublesome ex partner, the angels can’t deliver.

That’s a shame from some perspectives, because angels have no use for cash, and they can’t give evidence against you or be judgmental. However, the ex may suddenly get an offer they can’t refuse which means relocating, so everyone gets emotional space and nobody gets hurt. That’s the way angels rock, and it’s a lot less messy as well.

For the angels to help you in the best way possible, you must trust them to do the necessary to ensure the best outcome for yourself and others who may also be affected. Don’t give them a wish list to work from, because what you want isn’t necessarily what you need for your soul’s growth. They can see the bigger picture, including the pitfalls associated with your requests.

Talking to the Angels

So, how do you talk to the angels? In the same way you’d talk to any other friend.The difference is, you’ll hold the conversation in your head, and it will be a monologue rather than a dialogue. Start by asking the angels to draw near. If you have a particular intent, you can call on a named angel, such as Raphael for healing, Chamuel for love, or Michael for justice and protection. Otherwise, just inwardly ask for anyone who can help to step forward, and outline your problem.

Keep it positive, because the thoughts you put out are the ones that will be returned to you under the Law of Attraction, so be careful with your phrasing. And remember, the angels know what you need most to be happy and fulfilled, so take a leap of faith and allow them to work their miracles unhindered.

Remember to show gratitude for all the good things in your life – waking up every morning is a bonus, after all! Then thank the angels for their help, and look for signs to show your prayers are being answered. You may experience synchronicities, where events just slot into place, or people come into your life just when they are needed.

Also you may see patterns of repeating numbers, or hear the same song on the radio often. Maybe even see repeating symbols, like birds, butterflies or rainbows. When these things happen, notice where you are and what else is going on around you, so you can play your own part in co-creating your best life.

Asking the angels for help

Asking the angels for help in manifesting abundance and happiness is as natural as calling in a plumber to fix a water leak. You don’t need to use special words to make yourself understood, because they are the experts, and they know what you need.

Remember to approach the angels with love and gratitude in your heart as you ask for their help. Never request anything that would harm anyone – yourself included. Work with the angels for the Highest Good of all concerned, and live your best life. You know it makes sense.

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!

Facebook: The good, the bad and the Face Palms!
Making social media more sociable? I’ll drink to that!

As a writer, I depend on Facebook for shares and visibility. Wearing another hat as a spiritual medium, I depend on Facebook to link with clients and to spread hope, guidance and love from the world of Spirit. When I’m just being Sandra Piddock, I depend on Facebook to keep in contact with friends and family. Oh and keep up with what’s going on locally, nationally and globally of course. I love it – and I hate it!

When I first joined Facebook back in 2008, I had a really good reason to do so. We’d just bought a place in Spain, and we planned to divide our time between the Costa Blanca and the Costa Fortune. Otherwise identified as the West Country of England, where we still have lots of friends and family. It was a great way to keep in touch across the miles, without running up a telephone bill of, well, telephone number proportions.

As I got more exposure as a writer and set up my own website, Facebook became a good way to share content and bring new readers to my website. And of course, I could also set up a companion Facebook page. New posts got shared right away, and I could pass on little snippets to keep my readers interested as they eagerly awaited the Next Big Blog Post. Once I began working as a medium, I set up another Facebook page to keep the spiritual stuff separate from my other writing.

Facebook does a lot of good for a lot of people. It also causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. And frequently, it shows a side of humanity where the only possible reaction is a good old face palm. What follows is a brief personal overview, based on my own experiences and observations.

Lost people and pets

The good: Facebook enjoys global reach. When someone is in the distressing situation of having a two or four legged family member go missing, extensive sharing by friends, friends of friends and groups can get them safely home. Often, this happens much sooner than anyone could expect.

The bad: Some people just can’t resist adding their two cents, even if they aren’t in a position to help with the search. They pass judgment by assuming the missing person must have had problems at home to disappear, or inflame passions by saying things like,’It’s only a dog/cat, why all the fuss?’ Then the thread is swamped in negativity, and the original poster winds up even more distressed as a result.

The face palm: Aunty Mabel goes missing in Manchester, with no luggage, no money and certainly no passport. So why does the ‘friend of a friend’ think it would be helpful to post in missing persons groups in America, Australia and Albania? She’s 97, with dementia, and her next of kin are not minted, so it’s safe to say she hasn’t taken a surprise trip, been kidnapped or sold into prostitution. Check the locations before you share.

Making new friends – or tracing old ones

The good: Facebook is a great place to make new friends, or even track down Tracey who used to sit next to you in school. And it makes Mike’s day when he stumbles across Jim. They used to go fishing together every Saturday until Jim and his family moved 200 miles away.

The bad: People change. Tracey might have married a millionaire, or may not even remember your name. And your memories may be coloured by nostalgia, so you forget the things about her that used to rattle your chain big time. If you haven’t heard from someone for 30 years or more, is it really such a good idea to get in touch again?

By the way Mike, Jim didn’t ‘forget’ to contact you with his new address. His wife told him not to, because she hated spending Saturdays on her own with the kids. Even worse, your wife had a habit of popping around for a quick cuppa just as she was about to binge watch Emmerdale on catch up.

The face palm: Facebook is not – repeat not – a dating site. I’ve had men of all ages befriend me on the back of mutual friendships with others, or by liking lots of my posts, then they’ve tried to arrange a date. They’ve professed undying love after a quick shufty on my profile, then gone all offended on me when I tell them to go away – or something similar. Even if they were George Clooney lookalikes – and they definitely are not – I’m not going to agree to meet up with a man just because he thinks I should, because I’m on Facebook and post publicly.

Groups and likes

The good: I belong to and follow quite a few groups and pages – writing, local information, spiritual stuff, dog lovers, to name but a few. It’s great to get together with like minded people and exchange support, advice and practical hacks and fixes. It can be very rewarding, and it can enhance your enjoyment of all kinds of hobbies, interests and vocational and professional topics.

The bad: A group or page may be just what you want or need. But it won’t suit someone else, so never add people to groups, or ask them to like pages unless you know for sure they’ll get something out of it. Inactive members give false indicators of the success or otherwise of a group or page, so don’t add without asking.

The face palm: Sellers, spammers and scammers just join groups to promote their own businesses and/or recruit people for pyramid selling schemes or commission only jobs. If you admin a Facebook page or group, check on member requests to keep your site on topic and don’t allow the news feed to get backed up with adverts. Ask yourself why someone who already belongs to over 1,000 groups – yes, I kid you not – wants to join your group or page.

So there are my top Facebook likes, dislikes and frustrations. That said, Facebook is a very useful resource for recreation, business, and keeping in touch with those who need to know what’s happening in your life. Run each post through your mind, and if it’s not a true reflection of you and the message you want to convey, start again. Keep it tight, keep it light, and don’t be the cause of a Facebook Face Palm among your followers. You know it makes sense!

All the dogs I’ve loved before …

All the dogs I've loved before
With Paddy, just three days after he came to live with us.

They say dogs are Man’s best friend, but this girl is an unashamed dog lover too. I’ll be honest, this post started out as a personal post about how my rescue dogs actually rescued my sanity during a bad situation. However, as the background information was fuelled by more and more memories, I decided to save that idea for another post and let the flow of happy memories carry me along.

As a child growing up, and as I raised my own family, there were always dogs – all different, but all special in their own ways. There was Pip, the Sealyham Terrier who was frozen in a snow drift in the bad winter of 1962/63 but lived to tell the tail – pun intended!

Pip was followed by Rinty, a German Shepherd pup who stood guard over my father as he recovered from having all his teeth out just a week after Rinty came to live with us. The only problem with that was, nobody else could get near Dad – not even Mum, with tea, sympathy and painkillers.

Then there was Sooty, the sneaky Miniature Poodle who hid round the back of our house until the postman and paper boy had made their deliveries. Many a morning we came downstairs to see the postman sat on the step, waiting for us to let him out. When our usual paper boy went on holiday, he neglected to tell his replacement that, as soon as the Express and Star hit the doormat, he needed to charge down the path and vault the gate, or risk Sooty sinking his teeth into places teeth really should not be allowed!

All the dogs I've loved before
The legend that was George

And who could forget George, the Jack Russell cross whose ‘finest hour’ was spotting a donkey tethered to a fence outside a country pub in Shropshire, peacefully watching the world go by? Unfortunately, what the pub landlord saw going by the window was his donkey, trailing a fence panel as he left the building, closely followed by George in full on terrier mode. Needless to say, we were not allowed inside to quench our thirst, despite the heat of the day.

George was a hard act to follow, but Patch, my second husband’s Border Collie, was another real character. I met him about half way through his impressive 17 year life span, and I was privileged to cradle him in my arms as he crossed the Rainbow Bridge.

Apart from that, my enduring memory of Patch was when, at the age of around 13, we took him for a run on Yelverton Common, on the edge of Dartmoor. It was a glorious day, and a number of families were enjoying picnics. One of the sheep was very interested in the food, and had wandered away from his mates, so Patch immediately went into full ‘One Man and His Dog’ mode. Crouching low, he gently but firmly herded the stray back to the flock. This from a dog who hadn’t been that close to a sheep since he left the farm where he was born at the age of 10 weeks!

I’ve been lucky enough to live with some fabulous canine characters, but little did I know the best was yet to come. Fast forward to 2014, and we were nicely settled in our lovely garden apartment on the Costa Blanca. However, one thing was missing as far as I was concerned – a canine companion.

All the dogs I've loved before
Luna and Me – girls together, loving life

My husband was adamant we were having no more dogs, as it tied us down, and we were both getting older, so there was a chance the dog would be left behind. Granted, he was 80 at the time, but at 62, I was confident I could see at least one more dog through to Rainbow Bridge Time before I joined the big reunion in the Great Dog Park in the Sky. As it turned out, I was right – there would be more than one more dog for me.

Paddy came to us on March 17, 2014. He was a Spanish dog, and he was going to have a Spanish name like Pedro, Pablo or Paco – until I noticed the date as I signed the paperwork. Then there were only two options, Paddy and Guinness. I didn’t even like Guinness, and I wasn’t having the neighbours thinking I was so obsessed with the black stuff I was shouting about it at all hours of the day and night.

My five years with Paddy taught me a lot about companionship, and the unconditional love dogs shower on their human guardians. Through him I learned about strength and courage, through his example. When he was killed defending me in March 2019, it felt like my own life was over too. And then along came Luna …

What can I say about Luna? She’s the first female dog I’ve ever lived with, and she’s also the most traumatised and feisty. She’s given me a lot of grey hairs, but she’s also given me love beyond measure. I’ve learned a lot from her, and hopefully she’s learned that she has found her forever home with me.

A great song from the Bellamy Brothers that says it all about dogs

Over the years, my dogs have taught me a lot about love and life. They’ve given me so much more than they will ever know, and I owe them a huge debt of gratitude. This article is dedicated to all dogs, everywhere, with love and blessings.

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