I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I was about 22 years old, and working in the newsroom of our local paper. Two of the female journalists were talking about a woman who owned a small fruit shop on the outskirts of town. I knew who they meant because the shop was one I often bought fruit from, and my parents had shopped there for years.



The women were discussing how the fruit-shop lady read lots of books and had a wide knowledge of so many topics, and was involved in all sorts of community groups and this and that, and still managed to run her shop seven days a week. I listened in awe. I remember a light going on inside of me, and wondering about what it was like to live such a full and interesting life. I, too, wanted to grab life with both hands and breathe it in to the deepest part of my being.



This lady was a classic example that you can be considered as someone who lives an ‘ordinary’ life, but is able to live it in an extraordinary way. You see, it isn’t about the big achievements in life, but the small things. The everyday things. It’s in the detail. Although I think of the fruit-lady often, I remembered her again at first light this morning. One of the first things I do each day is to open the kitchen door and step out onto the porch.



I love, love, love to breathe in the fresh air of a new day. It’s exhilarating. To me, it’s sacred. The first breath of clean and vibrant air shapes the course of my day. Birdsong, sunrise, cats purring. These small events in my day go by unnoticed by the world, but they are my world.



A beautiful and extraordinary life isn’t about how much money is in the bank or the level of fame or career success we achieve. A charmed life is one where we are touched by a million magical moments: ones which are often invisible to everyone else, but that light a candle in our soul.



I will always remember the fruit-shop lady.

This meal always gets my family excited. If it’s on the menu, Eliza can be heard to swoon the words: “Good day, food-wise.” My reply is: “It’s always a good day, food-wise!”

4 aubergines (or eggplants, to my Aussie friends)
Olive oil
Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 onions
1 cup cherry tomatoes (or tinned, if you like)
200 g tomato paste
4 cloves garlic
3 bay leaves
Tablespoon or two of maple syrup, or sugar if you prefer
Handful of basil leaves

Béchamel sauce:
40 g olive oil (instead of butter or margarine)
40 g flour (gluten-free is fine)
500 ml plant milk (soya, rice or oat)
60 g vegan cheese
Nutmeg (freshly ground)

600 g potatoes



First things first. Slice the aubergines into rounds about one centimetre thick. Now, here’s the key to making aubergines taste good: don’t skimp on the olive oil. I’ve tasted aubergines that are simply awful because their talent for sponging up olive oil has been ignored! Splash a bunch of olive oil into the bottom of a baking dish. Place your aubergines (one layer thick) into the tray and sprinkle with salt. Drizzle more oil on top. You want your aubergines baked so they become golden. They won’t do this without the oil. Bake the aubergines at about 200C, on both sides, until golden, before layering with the other ingredients. While this is happening, peel and slice the potatoes about 1 centimetre thick, and boil till half-cooked, then drain.


The Mystic Cookfire, available from www.starflowerpress.com, Amazon and good bookshops

The Mystic Cookfire, available from www.starflowerpress.com, Amazon and good bookshops

Now, make the tomato sauce. This is what makes the difference between a so-so moussaka and one that you’ll want to make over and over again. Fry the onions in olive oil, and when softened add the tomatoes. It’s nice to use fresh tomatoes, but feel free to use tinned if you prefer. Add the garlic (chopped, not crushed) and the bay leaves. You’ll want to cook it for about half an hour till it’s well reduced. In that time, you’ll need to add a tube of tomato paste and a cup or two of water. Add salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the quality of your tomatoes, you’ll need to sweeten it a little. Maple syrup or sugar will give it a ‘yum’ factor. Add the basil just before layering your moussaka.

Heat the oven to 200C. Make the béchamel sauce by heating the oil, adding the flour, and stirring till well mixed. Add the milk, and whisk well until thickened. Add the grated cheese, and season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Don’t leave out the nutmeg!

Layer the moussaka by starting with a double layer of aubergines. Then place half the tomato sauce. Put the potato on next, then the remaining half of the tomato sauce. Add the last of the aubergine and place the béchamel on top. Don’t feel you have to have it smooth on the top. I like it when pieces of aubergine stick out. If you want, you can add extra cheese to it by sprinkling grated cheese on top. I prefer instead to sprinkle nutmeg on the top once it comes out of the oven. Bake for half an hour. Allow it to go golden. Serve with a scrumptious salad! And good music. We play Nana Mouskouri!



Nettle Soup from The Mystic Cookfire, by Veronika Sophia Robinson

Large bunches of nettles
5 potatoes, chopped into small cubes
2 onions, finely chopped
5 cups of water
Vegetable bouillon



Gently fry the onions until clear, add the potatoes. There’s no need to peel the potatoes if you use organically-grown ones. There’s no need to wash the nettles if they’ve grown away from roadside pollution. I don’t recommend ever picking nettles from the roadside. Cut with scissors, and add to the pot. Cover with five cups of boiling water which has had 5 tablespoons of bouillon powder added, and simmer until the potatoes are soft. You can blend a little of the soup and return it to the pot to make it creamier. Season with freshly ground black pepper and smoked paprika, if desired.

A nettle a day keeps the iron tablets away!
Nettle tea is so good for the body, and is refreshing. High in iron, it’s well worth having a stash of dried leaves in your kitchen. You can make it from fresh leaves, too. Nettles lose their sting as soon as heat is applied to the leaves.

I use freshly picked leaves in my vegetable juices so I can get the maximum nourishment from this incredible ‘weed’. Nettles are deliberately left to grow in our garden, if not for our own use, then for the wildlife which visits. They’re always an indication of beautifully fertile soil, so adore them and let the plants flourish.

Dandelions can be used like spinach leaves

Dandelions can be used like spinach leaves

Dandelion Tart from The Mystic Cookfire, by Veronika Sophia Robinson

I enjoy juicing dandelion leaves. They’re a powerhouse of nutrients which help stimulate a sluggish digestive system, and thereby aid the body in removing toxins. The leaves help maintain normal blood sugar levels. They’re a natural source of minerals such as calcium, potassium, phosphorus, zinc and iron, as well providing the vitamins A, B, C, and D.

If you prefer the idea of cooking them, then you might just like this tart. The recipe makes two tarts ~ which means you get to have one for lunch the next day!

2 sheets of shortcrust pastry (feel free to use a gluten-free or nut-based pastry)
A little olive oil
4 tablespoons sweet chilli sauce
Pinch chilli flakes
1 teaspoon Himalayan pink salt or Celtic sea salt
1 onion, finely chopped
Smoked paprika, generous pinch
2 large handfuls of fresh dandelion leaves (don’t pick from roadsides) or you can use young nettle leaves if you prefer.
1 tub Tofutti plain cream cheese
190 g Redwood Cheezly
3 t egg replacer
15 ml soya yoghurt

(The vegan ingredients can be replaced with eggs and dairy, if preferred)

Preheat the oven to 200C. Grease two flan/tart dishes, and line each with a sheet of push pastry. Blind-bake (cover with baking paper and dry beans) for ten minutes, then remove the paper and beans and bake for another five minutes until starting to brown. Let cool. Reduce the temperature to 180C.
Sauté the onion in a little olive oil until clear. Add the smoked paprika and dried chilli. Place the washed dandelion leaves into the pan, but remove from the heat. Keep a few to one side. Mix the egg replacer, cream cheese, yoghurt and half the cheese with salt and sweet chilli sauce. Place the onions and dandelion leaves on the pastry, then pour over the cheese mix. Place the reserved leaves on the top with the remaining cheese. Bake for half an hour. Allow to go slightly brown, and wait ten minutes after cooking for it to set before slicing.

I have many ‘favourite’ moments of the day, but somewhere near the top is the feeling I have when I climb into bed each night. There’s a weariness to my bones, but also a deep sense of appreciation for a life well-lived and enjoyed. I am so grateful, as I sink down beneath the covers, for the day I’ve had.


It’s so easy in our give-me, give-me, give-me culture to take things for granted: the roof over our head, the relative luxury we live in, clean running water, electricity, community, an abundance of foods, reliable infrastructure, medical care, and so on. We have it all, and yet, how many people moan about this and that?


A simple practice which can change the way you see your life is to write down five things each day for which you are grateful. Even on a bad-hair day, there are always things for which to give thanks. When it’s a daily habit, you find yourself writing down 20 or more things.

Try it!

I’ve been a bit quiet on the blogging front lately. The funny thing about writing is that I love doing it. It’s not a hardship. Some writers find it a painful process, and equate it to traumatic, medicated childbirth. I don’t struggle to put the word on the page. I never have. It’s interesting, too, that I believe birth was designed to be gentle, ecstatic and joyous ~ much like writing.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.

Seconds after giving birth at home, by candlelight and Mozart, to my daughter Bethany.


My blog tends to get neglected because I’m too busy writing elsewhere. I’m going to put up post-it notes in my writing room: “tend to your blog, Veronika, like you do your house plants!” I’m feeling so inspired as we take our first steps into this Cumbrian Spring. My garden is filled with blossoms: pear, peach, plum, cherry, and soon there’ll be apple blossoms, too. I’m never happier than when my hands are in the dark, fertile soil, and the sunshine falls across my skin.


Although the vast majority of my writing is done directly on the laptop, and often before sunrise, I do love to take a pen and notebook into the garden and write there. With my bare feet nestled amongst the lawn daisies, against the soundtrack of beautiful birdsong, my muse comes alive and my heart sings. The beauty of writing, for me, is that it can be done anywhere, just about any time. I have often written while waiting for my daughters outside their music lessons, or in the gym café after a workout. Sometimes I’ve woken in the night and scribbled a few lines down in the dark.



I always have pen and paper in my handbag. For me, not having a pen and paper is right up there with my fear of snakes! *laughing*



I remember once asking a friend to write something for me (when I was editing The Mother magazine). Her hands were busy with little children, but I knew there was an article inside her just waiting to be written: write it on toilet paper when you go to the loo, I told her. Just write! She did end up writing articles for me, not on loo paper, but on old bits of paper and the backs of shopping lists. She kept them all tied together with a bull clip.

And that’s the key. Too often we make excuses about writing. How many people have said they’ve got a novel inside them? Don’t just talk about it, write the thing! The truth is if we want to write we will make it happen. In my case, I wrote six novels in the course of one year. Five of those were while I was editing a magazine, and for half that time I had home-educated teenagers. When did I write? Between about 4am and 8am. I wrote like a mad woman, not because I was ‘mad’, and certainly not because I’m a ‘morning person’; I wrote because the fire burned brightly in my belly. I wanted to write, and so I did.

If you want to write, you’ll find a way. You might choose to go barefoot, or perhaps you’ll wear 6-inch red heels and sip a cappuccino in a fancy café while you’re jotting down sentences. If scribbling important thoughts on loo paper isn’t your thing, try parchment and a fountain pen.

The only person who ever stops us from being a writer is ourselves.

Did you ever watch the movie Field of Dreams? If there’s anything to remember from that film, it’s this: build it, and they will come. And I say: write it, and they will read it.

I have fond memories of sitting around campfires. Sipping tea beneath the starry sky and chatting with friends, a full Moon rising beyond the pine trees, and the smell of wood smoke clinging to my clothes while the fire crackles and pops before me ~ ah, there’s nothing quite like it.



A campfire draws us in, holds us close, mesmerises us. The primordial knowing of the ancient fire touches our soul. We relax into our true selves.

Writers have campfires, too. The people they share that sacred space with are almost certainly friends and family, and sometimes colleagues in the profession. A campfire invites intimacy as we share our deepest longings, but for a writer it can be a nervy place: how much to share, how much to hold back… That is, until we understand that our fellow campers around the circle of the campfire are vital witnesses to our creative journey. Only invite people to your campfire who honour the creative journey.

Do we share plot lines of unpublished stories? With whom do we celebrate when that five-book publishing deal comes along? Or, indeed, when we self-publish (the ultimate statement of self-belief), to whom do we give free copies?

For those of you who have read The Artist’s Way, you’ll understand the concept of the ‘blocked creative’. These are people in our lives who aren’t expressing their own creativity (for whatever reason) and because of this unowned potential they tend to criticise our creative projects and triumphs. Maybe they don’t outwardly criticise. Perhaps they simply hold back on offering congratulations or try and dim your light in other ways. Maybe they express outright jealousy. Whatever the case may be, it is important that blocked creatives are not sitting around your campfire. These people don’t nourish the soul, they tar it with their own brand of self-hate and sabotage.

As a writer, it is important that the people you surround yourself with are great supporters of your creativity. They may not relate to your genre, but that’s not the issue. What is vital is that they honour the light you shine, and reflect it to you so that you can shine and bask. We were all born to be creative, in some form or another.

I have a small circle of creative women around my campfire; some are writers, some are singer/songwriters, others are illustrators, some of them knit, garden, bake, dance. What they all have in common is that they let their creative light shine. We support each other with authentic celebration.

You’ll keep the campfire of your creativity burning so much brighter when you make conscious choices about who gets to share the damper with you!


Illustrated by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire

Illustrated by Sara Simon, from The Mystic Cookfire