National Trust Vegetable Tagine Recipe

I nearly got my feet off the ground as a National Trust volunteer. I did all my training, my induction, got my ID and even my much coveted National Trust fleece, everything was in place to work as a Creative Interpreter at Hardwick Hall and then I got that big damn gallbladder flare up.

That hit me so hard and it was so painful for many months there wasn’t any way I’d be able to stand for several hours. Before I knew it I was then on the surgery waiting list and couldn’t commit to going forward dates. To be honest I was also just EXHAUSTED… Although my full-time day job as a ‘Digital Media Coordinator’ is a desk job it’s often catch-up and chores on a Saturday and Sunday is probably the only day in the week where I have the opportunity to rest. But oh the excitement of potentially working in the glorious home of ‘Bess of Hardwick’ and getting involved in the National Trust work drew me to want to give over some of that time too….

In the end of course it hasn’t happened (apart from one day in Easter, shortly before my gallbladder attack where I worked as a ‘Visitor Experience’ volunteer with the Easter Egg hunt and also spent some hours in the National Trust restaurant clearing tables! Had a fantastic time!!). I loved so much too….

But I digress…

National Trust Vegetable Tagine Recipe

I still love to keep up to date with all things National Trust and today I saw this simple but seemingly delicious recipe on their ‘YouTube Channel’. I have a couple of squash in my pantry so this will definitely be in my tummy this weekend!

I had to share it!

As for getting back into volunteering for the National Trust? Absolutely. When I’m fit and well again, just try and stop me!

C xxxx

Useful links: Please click

National Trust – I have a membership that costs me £6 a month and with that I have free access to all 500 National Trust properties, free parking and discounts. As I don’t take holidays (being frugal) taking myself off to these beautiful places is my bit of rest and relaxation and I can go as many times as I want!

Volunteering at the National Trust – Even if it is just one day a month they NEED YOU! Honestly you get to meet some AMAZING people with passion! oh and you get to be up close and personal with history and heritage, so close infact you can sniff it!

Visit Hardwick Hall – You NEED to find out more about ‘Bess of Hardwick’. She was one strong and amazing woman thriving among the patriarchal society of the times. She built Hardwick Hall (more glass than wall) and was confidante to Elizabeth I oh and was custodian of ‘Mary Queen of Scots’ for 15 years after her forced abdication.

Changes: Surgery

There are a couple of major changes happening in my life right now. Both will be a bit painful and challenging for a while but I’m a great believer in not being afraid to embrace change when the time is right.

Today I am on my 3rd day post-op. I had my gallbladder removed on Thursday. I’m sore and exhausted but apart from the pain where the 4 incisions are, that constant dull and depressing rib ache has already gone (had it on and off for years) and I now have the psychological relief that I won’t ever again have a major gallbladder attack which is very painful and very frightening. I’m feeling rather thankful….

Gallstones are a very common medical condition, infact one in four women and one in six men will suffer with gallstones throughout their lives.

I recommend you CLICK HERE to read about gallstones in more depth at GUTS UK.

For me I started getting pain on and off several years ago, more of a dull kind of rib pain. I didn’t notice it very often, and sometimes I’d not feel it for several weeks so it was unimportant to me. I figured if it was something worth worrying about it would become more painful or happen more frequently. And then a couple of years ago I really started to feel the rib pain when I was out hiking or I’d get some really painful zaps top right under my rib cage. Once again these were quick to come and go but the pain in my right side and back of rib was more often there than not and for the first time I began to worry a bit. I’d been working hard on my health earlier this year and after abstaining from processed high fat and high sugar foods I let my hair down over a few days attending a meal and a buffet and the very next day my guts started to really loudly grumble and churn and my rib was very sore. During that night I woke up with a horrific upper right abdominal pain which quite swiftly moved to my right side and around the back of my right rib. It was so painful I literally couldn’t move. I managed to get up out of bed and propped myself up on the sofa. The pain was radiating into my back, was it a heart attack?

I ordered a taxi to take me down to urgent care. It was beginning to ease off little by little but I still had bloods taken, an ECG, urine and obs done including a chest x-ray. All came back normal. Felt like a fraud! They gave me co-codamol extra strength and said it possibly could be gallstones and to see my GP.

By the time I saw my GP I was getting really bad sternum and between shoulder pain, the GP got me in for an ultrasound within 10 days and the US confirmed that I had several large stones about 3 cms in size. Pretty big stones!!! I went back to see my GP who referred me to the surgeon and after that appointment in June I was put on the list to have my gallbladder removed and had my pre-op assessment at the end of July.

I’ve been waiting since then, I’ve had several mini flare ups during this time, nothing as serious as the first time but the constant discomfort has left me exhausted and often unable to go out hiking which was one of the physical activities helping me get fitter and lose weight.

The past couple of months have seen me gain 20 lbs, partly because of not exercising as I’d have liked to be able to do but also that it’s had an impact on my emotional well being at times and I’ve sought comfort in foods I’ve had to avoid to lose weight.

Getting the call for surgery a couple of weeks ago was such a relief and my first nerves only kicked in when the surgeon spoke with me to get my consent 30 minutes before my op. He talked about my obesity, about the possibility of needing an open cholecystectomy and that I had a higher risk of post-op complications because of my BMI. I briefly considered walking right out of there…

And then before I knew it I was in with the anesthetists and slipping quickly away into oblivion and seemingly seconds later waking up in the Day Surgery Centre. I felt dizzy and had to spend several hours on oxygen but everything had gone really well and by 3 pm my oxygen was off and I was trying to chew on a sandwich!

A couple of hours later I was heading home in a taxi with my daughter and the past couple of days have been spent mostly getting lots of rest in bed with frequent light meals and lots of water!

I’ve been walking around more today inbetween sleeping all hours and stitches are due out this Friday.

C xxxxxxx

Zero Waste Recipes – No 2. Toilet Bombs

These are so easy to make and frugal too. No harsh chemicals, easy to store and keep dry in glass, natural fragrance from essential oils and are great for cleaning the toilet! You simply drop one or two in, put the lid down, leave to fizz, give a quick scrub with a brush and it’s done!


  • 1 1/4 cup sodium bicarbonate
  • 1/2 cup citric acid
  • Small amount of water (maybe 50 mls or so) in a spray bottle to which you add the essential oils (about 30 drops)
  • Silicone mould
  • Bowl, spoon, fork or masher


  1. Place all dry ingredients into a bowl and stir together.
  2. Spritz lightly (2 or 3 times) with the spray bottle with water and essential oils in.
  3. Mix with fork or masher and keep repeating until the mixture slightly begins to clump together. (if you add too much water then the mixture will start to froth which means its too wet)
  4. Press into silicone molds.
  5. Leave to dry overnight.
  6. Remove the next day and store in a glass jar with a tight-fitting lid until ready to use.

Essential Oils
The essential oils eliminate odours naturally. I like to use lemon, eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary, tea tree and peppermint! A mixture of two oils I find smells best!

C xxxxx

Maltby Cenotaph, Remembrance Sunday 2019

A little time spent reflecting at Maltby Cenotaph this afternoon. Reading all the little crosses attached to the railings of the children’s playground on my way home was moving. Can’t even begin to imagine xxxxx C

Kensington Rarebit – Recipe No. 182

This is a delicious, simple, wartime recipe from the ‘Good Eating’ Daily Telegraph Readers Tested Recipes, published during WW2.

It’s main ingredients are potatoes which I adore but also a I’ve topped mine with a really tasty vegan cheese which melts beautifully and adds a tangy flavour. I’m finding that Applewood Vegan is a great substitute for dairy cheese if you are watching your cholesterol levels or simply wish to avoid dairy for your own personal reasons.

Kensington Rarebit

  • Potatoes (about 1 large potato per person)
  • Cheese
  • Cabbage/Onions (optional)


  1. Scrub potatoes and boil in their skins until cooked.
  2. Once cooked skin (or not) and cut into rather thick slices and put into buttered fireproof dish and cover lightly with grated cheese (I added some seasoning and dried herbs to top as well as some thin raw onion slices)
  3. Bake or place under grill until cheese is melted and slightly brown.
  4. Serve immediately adding salt and pepper to taste.

PS: Shred cabbage and boil in a little water, drain and add to bottom of fireproof dish under the potato slices, this will make more of a complete meal.

Zero Waste Recipes – No 1. Toothpaste & Mouthwash

We see excess discarded packaging everywhere. It’s heartbreaking to see the effect it can have on the environment. I’m not sure how one begins to deal with this overwhelming situation and the only thing I can think of is to try and take some personal responsibility and try and make some changes in my own habitat.

“My life amounts to no more than one drop in a limitless ocean. Yet what is any ocean, but a multitude of drops?”… Cloud Atlas

My Mum used to tell me how she never had toothpaste as a young child and often would use baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) on her finger to rub her teeth clean. Sodium bicarbonate was an ingredient used in making Irish Soda Bread and presume many households probably had this in their larder in Ireland if not for the bread then other types of baking.

So I did a bit of Googling and snooping around and thought about a homemade toothpaste using baking soda that I could make and store in a re-useable jar. I found a recipe using baking soda, coconut oil and essential oils and decided to give it a go. The toothpaste actually works really well but i will be honest with you, it tastes awful! Baking soda is a salt (and you musn’t ingest it so rinse your mouth thoroughly after using it) so even mixed with twice as much coconut oil and a generous amount of peppermint essential oils it isn’t a particularly pleasant experience.

I’ve made it now and I’ll use it but meanwhile I will look at creating a more palatable toothpaste.

Zero Waste Toothpaste Ingredients
4 heaped tablespoons of coconut oil
1-2 level tablespoons of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
Peppermint essential oil to taste (about 10-20 drops)

Mix all the ingredients together with a spoon until smooth and creamy and spoon into a glass jar.
Dip clean toothbrush into mixture and with a pea sized amount brush teeth thoroughly.
Rinse mouth thoroughly afterwards, do not ingest.

Makes enough for a couple of months.

At the same time I found a very simple mouthwash recipe and I was wondering what to do with a beautiful turquoise coloured bottle I was gifted by my daughter a few years ago so this seemed perfect!

How did the mouthwash compare with the toothpaste? I’ll be honest again, not great but definitely better than the toothpaste! Once again I will use it but seek out a different recipe next time!

Zero Waste Mouthwash Ingredients
Water 500 ml
1 teaspoon of sodium bicarbonate (baking soda)
Peppermint essential oil to taste (20-30 drops)

Simply add all ingredients together in the bottle and shake!

C xxxx

Some recent photos

Was thinking of Old Dutch Masters still life oil paintings (as you do) while making a meatless spag bol tonight and on a whim grabbed some Morrisons wonky grapes from the fridge, the lid from my ottoman and an old scarf and took a photo to try and recreate one. It took just a few minutes and I’m so pleased with my first attempt. I wanted it to look like an old unlit room, a little natural light from a window and a film of grime subduing any sharpness.

A couple of weekends ago I was feeling quite well and decided to take myself off into the countryside from Roche Abbey (which is only a few miles from my house) to a village called Laughton en le Morthen. It was a circular walk of 6 or 7 miles following an old footpath through the amazing countryside. It was a sunny, breezy day and took my time enjoying nature and the silence. Please take a moment to enjoy a few minutes of how quiet it was by watching my little video below…


These days, for me, my favourite thing is to go and walk somewhere, taking my lunch and a camera, taking time to stand and stare and be in the moment and simply try and remember it…