Egg and Bacon Muffins

Firstly, these aren’t really muffins. More things in the shape of muffins. Secondly, they’re likely to make you make a noise. They’re that good.

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The amazing thing is, apart from how good they taste, is how stupid you have to be to get these wrong and/or stretch the whole creation process past more than 20 minutes.

Just 4 ingredients. Just 6 steps and one of them is turning the oven on. Just really easy.

6 rashers of bacon – smoked or unsmoked
6 medium eggs
30-40g feta cheese (or you could use goat’s cheese)

1. Pre-heat an over to 200°c/180°c fan/gas mark 6.

2. Take a muffin tray, grease it lightly with butter and then line it with a slice of bacon per muffin hole. Don’t worry if you need to cut it to cover any holes. Put the tray o’ bacon in for 5 minutes to let it crisp up a little.

3. Crack an egg into each of the newly-formed bacon cups.

4. Crumble on some feta. I used about 30g, so 5g per muffin, but you can add more or less if you want. Sprinkle on the chives.

5. Add to the oven for 15 minutes. The egg whites should just have stopped being gooey.

6. Take out the oven. Admire. Leave to cool a little bit before turning out and eating, otherwise you’re likely to melt your mouth.

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And that’s it. Eat them! I’ve been taking them to work as a mid-afternoon snack as I battle my sugar cravings.

I came upon this idea when reading Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar. I’ve started the 8 week programme with my wife and needed something to fill my snack gap which was usually filled with biscuity things or yoghurt covered rice cakes. This hit the precise spot!


366 Days of Kindness

I reviewed 366 Days of Kindness at The Tobacco Factory’s Brewery Theatre for Bristol information website Guide 2 Bristol. The original review can be found here.

Hey there. You look nice today. Had a haircut? New shoes? Either way, you look great.

While it is true, you will note I was being kind, and this show poses one simply question: Can kindness change the world?

Having witnessed the violence and anger of the riots that spread across the country three years ago, Bernadette Russell wanted to see if she could answer that very question. She made a promise to herself that she would be kind to a stranger at least once a day for a whole year. 366 days in a row to be exact, as it was a leap year.

The Tobacco Factory’s cosy Brewery Theatre provides an intimate setting for this wonderfully funny and touching show. Performed by just two people with a chair, a laptop, some boxes and various amounts of shoes, 366 Days of Kindness is an account of how Bernadette tackled her challenge.

We are told stories of giving flowers to the cashier in Tesco, throwing kindness cards at grumpy commuters and leaving positive messages in the self-help section of the library, as well as a dreamy dinner party with Barack Obama and Princess Diana.


As we hear about Bernadette’s acts of kindness, interjected by her sidekick voicing her inner voice and the characters she meets, we learn about the true power of kindness and how it can change someone’s day – and in some cases, life. You may be the lucky recipient of a lottery ticket from Bernadette, but she’ll make sure she gets the credit if she wins!

You leave the show being more courteous to your fellow theatre-goers and find yourself thinking of ways to be kinder and make an impact on the world as you make your way home. In that sense, 366 Days of Kindness is a very unique show. Yes, it is entertaining, but it can also change the way you interact with the world.

So, what will your kind act for today be?

Tickets for 366 Days of Kindness were provided by The Tobacco Factory for an independent review. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Paprika Pork

As January is firmly over the horizon and we are all quickly running out of February, it becomes harder to cling on to that New Year’s “I’m going to be a health nerd” commitment that you promised you’d stick to this year.

It’s not so much the snacks (energy balls!) or the breakfasts (overnight oats!) but dinners that become a struggle. You’ve had a hard day at work, you just about managed to get yourself to the gym to make that monthly fee worthwhile and you still have to cook and eat.

We had the same problem the other week, but stumbled over this recipe. Parpika pork.

It ticked all the boxes. It was quick (30 minutes), easy (mostly throwing things in a pan) and cheap (pork, veg and spices). Plus it was delicious.


Ingredients (serves 4)

600g Pork loin (any other pork should also do though)
300g Mushrooms, sliced
2 Small onions, halved then thinly sliced
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1.5 tbsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp corn flour
3 tbsp tomato purée
250ml stock (from one chicken stock cube)
4 tbsp sour cream
Boiled rice


Add half the oil to a large pan over a medium high heat, then throw in the pork. Let it sizzle around a bit. Maybe wiggle the pan to make yourself look more pro. Once it’s all stopped being pink on the outside, pop it in a big bowl, juice and all.

Now is a good time to do your rice. We follow this foolproof Delia recipe to make sure it’s perfect.

Add the other half of the oil to the pan, then add the onions. Do something else for 3 minutes while they soften. Maybe read another review? When you come back they’ll be all soft and lovely – unless you cut them too thick, then shame on you, go read another review…

Throw in your mushrooms. Stir every now and again for about 7-8 minutes. Once the mushrooms have wilted and darkened, it’s time to put the pork back. Juice and all. Stir around until it’s hot again.

Add the paprika, chicken stock and tomato purée, give it a good old stir and then simmer for 5 minutes.

Mix the cornflour with 3 tablespoons of cold water to make a little gloopy paste, then add to the pan and stir to thicken your sauce. If you found that the sauce was thick enough, don’t bother adding the cornflour unless you want your dinner to have the consistency of meaty toothpaste.

Bring to the boil, remove from the heat, then stir in your sour cream. Serve with the awesomely cooked rice and shovel into your face. Hmmm.

Per serving (quarter of recipe, without rice)

Calories 300

Total fat 11g
Saturated: 3.1g
Polyunsaturated: 2.4g
Monounsaturated: 5.0g
Trans/hydrogenated: 0.0g
Cholesterol 82.8mg
Sodium 486.6mg
Potassium 265.9mg
Total carbs 9.0g
Fibre: 1.4g
Sugars: 2.9g
Protein 39.8g
Vitamin A 1.8%
Vitamin C 6.2%
Calcium 2.7%
Iron 5.2%

Is it clean?
Depending on your definitions, this can be considered a clean meal. The ingredients you may take umbridge with are the corn flour and the stock cube. Corn flour is the starch extracted from corn. While corn is ok, the extraction means it’s refined/processed. The nutrients are zero and there isn’t any rubbish in it, but it goes against the ethos of “clean”. Same goes for the stock cubes. Usually it is just dried from regular stock and seasoned, so it’s up to you as to whether it ticks your box or not!

I adapted this recipe from one my wife found in a recent Asda magazine, but I changed a few things (more paprika, more pork, fewer mushrooms) to make it nicer!

Paper Shaker Customised Cards

We all know the pioneering figures of the customised card revolution. The space-exploring pig. The motorbike-riding pigeon.

Well, there is something bigger and better than both of them. It’s a company called PaperShaker.


What sets PaperShaker apart from the Moonpigs and Funky Pigeons of this world is that this isn’t a service to get an innuendo-filled card with your uncle’s name on it. No, PaperShaker is about creativity. It gives you the freedom to create a design that you otherwise couldn’t without a graphics programme and lots of skill.

I was approached by PaperShaker at an opportune moment, as my wife and I were gearing up to our daughter’s first birthday/an excuse to eat as many sweets as we could buy. We had been looking at ready-made cards but were left uninspired. We tinkered with the idea of making our own, but the prospect of gluing our fingers together and having a permanently glittered carpet weren’t too inviting. We were a bit stuck.

Luckily, Hugo at PaperShaker popped up and asked if I wanted to try them out. He was lucky the exchange was via email or I’d have hugged him.

Once we were all set up PaperShaker showed us what it can really do. There were lots of templates, all categorised by event, colour scheme, the theme of the event, so it was really simple to browse for the right one. Once selected, the editing interface was really easy to use. We were able to add photos and graphics by simply dragging and dropping. We then typed the details on the design on the back (yes, they print double-sided cards as well) and were all set.

When they arrived, we were over the moon. They looked so good we felt like Mr and Mrs Hallmark. We couldn’t wait to get them out to our friends and family.

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Overall, the experience of using PaperShaker was fantastic. The ease of using the site to design our cards should be the main selling point, but the sheer range of cards and templates comes a very close second. You can be extremely thick but still look like you’re a graphic designer. “Oh, these? I knocked them together in about 15 minutes. No big deal.”

If you’re looking for stationary that’s different and can be highly personalised for an event such as a wedding, birth announcement or party (and makes you look good) then PaperShaker is well worth a look.

Two orders were provided free of charge by PaperShaker for independent review. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Finding Joy

I reviewed Finding Joy at The Tobacco Factory Theatre for Bristol information website Guide 2 Bristol. The original review can be found here.

Masks. Highly characterised masks. They make everything funny, right? Spitting Image. Bo Selecta. This has to be the same, yes? Nope. Upon going to see Finding Joy, especially if you have an elderly relative, prepare to have your heart broken. But in a good way.

It will have you laughing. It will have you (almost) crying. All of this without uttering a single word or the formation of any facial expressions. Everything that this production makes you feel is based on movement – because the actors are all wearing full masks.

It would be a shame to focus solely on the masks, full of character reminiscent of Aardman’s Angry Kid, because this Vamos production offers so much more than that. It makes you feel. It shows the isolation of old age and youth. It shows how humour and love can bridge generations. It shows how funny the elderly can be. It shows how scary it is, becoming lost in dementia.

It would still be a fantastic production and performance without the masks, but it is all the more remarkable for it.

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Joy, the grandmother, still has a few of her wits about her, but is struggling to keep it together as her ageing mind fights against her. Her grandson is an average teenage boy, hanging out with his mates and communicating solely through his mobile phone.

He witnesses his grandmother’s issues first hand as he finds her dangerously wandering the streets. Upon helping her home we see the two sides of Finding Joy. She playfully messes around with Danny as he tries to help, but she then instantly becomes distraught at being unable to find her precious handbag.

Danny continues to care for Joy and we see their relationship blossom. Danny doesn’t tip-toe around her (hitting her with balloons) and Joy gives as good as she gets (pinching back her Colgate ‘hand cream’ as they hug). We learn a little about Joy’s youth, as an evacuee during the war, and her marriage. It brings us closer to her struggle.

The remarkable thing about Finding Joy is that you are fully drawn into the world, feeling the warmth of the love between Danny and Joy, before jolting back to the realisation that not one word has been uttered and everything you’re feeling is because of their body language.


The set design is extremely clever, using The Tobacco Factory’s intimate space to its full advantage, repurposing doors as hospital beds and cupboards as projectors. Even better is the use of sound. Your share the feeling of loneliness with Joy as you hear the isolated ticking of a clock. You understand the confusion of dementia as several tracks build on top of each other, almost feeling it yourself.

Finding Joy is a powerful, creative and touching production. As you leave this production, exclaiming how remarkable it is, you’ll have an overwhelming urge to go and see that elderly relative and give them a big hug. Do it.

Finding Joy is touring the UK until mid-June. To see if they are playing somewhere near you check out their website.

Tickets for Finding Joy were provided by The Tobacco Factory for an independent review. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Tough Mudder: I didn’t die!

First things first. I took part in this Tough Mudder at the end of September which was, I’m sure you’ll agree, some time ago. However, it being the New Year and a time when everyone is looking to get fit I’ve found an excuse – I was saving it to inspire you to signup and stay fit!

Yes. That will do.

If you didn’t read any of my training blogs, Tough Mudder is a hardcore 10-12 mile obstacle courses designed by the British Special Forces. It tests all-round strength, stamina and determination by throwing ridiculous obstacles at you on your way round. It is so tough, they make you sign a death waiver. Yes. A death waiver.

Regardless of the thought of myself drowning in a pool of mud I braved it – and completed it!

It wasn’t quite as brutal as they make out. It is still the toughest, muddiest thing I’ve ever had to do and I had plenty of scratches and bruises to prove it, but it wasn’t the death-facing experience they market it as. All of the obstacles were a challenge, but some stick in the mind more than others. Here are my “top” 5:

5: Funky Monkey (aka Monkey Bars)
These were surprisingly hard and probably the toughest from an endurance point of view. They went up and then went down. Going up was a struggle, but the strength it takes to keep yourself steady on the way down was draining. The first lot of bars were wet and muddy, making it harder but grip became less of an issue as you progressed as fewer people had reached the further bars to sully them!

4. Berlin Walls
They were rather hard, especially considering I helped my team over, giving everyone a free pass to stand on my hands and shoulders to get them safely over… and then everyone vanished. I had to then haul myself over a 12 foot high wall all by myself. And then do it a second time.

3: Cage Crawl
The most mentally tough obstacle. Lie on your back, head semi-submerged in cold, muddy water and pull yourself along using the cage that is only about 6 inches away from your face. It was a little claustrophobic, but I was doing ok after the first third. Then a marshal told me to put my head back more. “They know what they’re talking about” I thought, so I lifted my chin and put my head back only to smash my nose on the cage. My reaction was to pull my head away from the point of impact. Meaning I went under. Emerging, spluttering, I then had to power through to get out the other side. Urgh.

2. Electric Eel
This is the one that takes all your bravery to tackle. Crawling over rocks and mud while a huge number of volts dangle menacingly around you. You know you’re going to get shocked. You can’t avoid the wires. But you foolishly hope. When the shocks arrive they don’t hurt as much as you thought they would, but the jolt certainly wakes you up. Once you get shocked your body is uncontrollable. I managed to get a shock on my backside which went down my leg and make me kick out like an irate donkey. As an added bonus, the rocks cut your knees and elbows to shreds.

1. Arctic Enema
I knew this would easily be the worst obstacle – and I wasn’t wrong. It is as every bit as cold as it sounds, but worse. You think you can just jump in, brave the cold and get out with nothing more than a “golly that was nippy”. Wrong. You jump in and your body seizes up almost instantly. You swim under the barrier in the middle and emerge yelling because you’re so bloody cold. You’re sluggish, slow and disorientated – all because of a little ice. You then have to lift yourself out, but you now feel three times heavier than normal. For me this was the hardest part. The person in front of me couldn’t pull themselves out, so I had to shove their frozen backside out of the ice before I could even begin my struggle. Brr.


Once you’ve ran through some more electric wires you get to the end. You get an awesome sense of achievement that you’ve overcome the obstacles and did it all together. The odd thing is the “I really need to do that again… soon” feeling you get once you’ve crossed the finish line. Rather than doing a second lap you have to contend with an orange headband, a finisher t-shirt and a pint of cider, which is a great start to your recovery.

Overall, as long as you are doing Tough Mudder with a team, it is a really really enjoyable experience. You get a mini lecture when you start about the importance of looking out for your fellow Mudders and you can see people lending a hand all over the course and you find yourself looking for opportunities to help. Being a Tough Mudder is about being part of a group that are sludging through not matter what, rather than trying to do it in the fastest time possible. One team who took part on the same day as me had a member in a wheelchair who they practically carried around the course. That’s Tough Mudder.

If you’re looking for a challenge for 2014 and want something a bit different to the regular 10Ks and half marathons on offer, I would wholeheartedly recommend throwing yourself head first into a Tough Mudder. Not only do you train for something (meaning you keep it up) you get to sound like a badass when you tell people what you’re doing. “Oh, just a 12 mile course full of barbed wire, electric shocks and 12 foot high walls. No big deal”

The cost can be a little steep (entry typically costs between £55-£120) but the earlier you grab a spot, the less expensive it is. I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the price on the way round!

If you want to take part in a Tough Mudder, take a look at the 2014 calendar. They happen all over the county. If you’re in my neck of the woods, the South West Tough Mudder is on 16th and 17th August. I might see you there…

I am took part in the Tough Mudder South West on Saturday 21st September in an effort to raise money for Macmillan Cancer Support. I was awarded a media participant place by Tough Mudder’s PR agency, Frank. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

Koochi Speedstar Stroller

The Koochi Speedstar Stroller is epic. That’s all you really need to know.

However, if you insist on knowing more I have thought about it a bit further than that and written some things…

(Amelia also spent time evaluating the stroller)


Compared to other strollers in this range, such as those from Maclaren, Graco and Quinny – you get so much more for your money. Priced at around £140 (possibly cheaper from stockists) it’s a mid-range stroller in a market with plenty of options – but it really makes its mark.

The design makes a real statement. It isn’t a boring black or grey like a lot of the others about. It isn’t even a standard pink, red or blue. The Speedstars comes in colours that ensure you’ll be seen – and never lose sight of it yourself. We were sent the Mix Magenta and it really stood out next to our existing stroller and buggy collection. You could see it turning heads as you walked down the street. In a good way, I think.

The build is wider than usual, so no squeezing your tiny tot in and there is plenty of room to grow. The basket below the seat is roomy, much more so than I’ve seen on others strollers. There is no need to quickly launch my daughter out of her seat to get the rain cover out when it started raining and it could hold a good amount from a quick trip to the shops.

The other bonus of this room is that it allows the seat can lay flat, which is fantastic for when your fifth trip round the block finally does the trick and your little ‘un drops off. It makes it much more comfortable for them, meaning they get that little bit extra they really need (and a break you deserve).

The downside of all of this that is that it is slightly heavier and bulkier than other strollers, which can be an issue when folding it and putting it in the boot of a car. However, that’s the trade off. You can have spacious and sturdy, or cramped and flimsy.

As well as the sturdy build quality, you also get added extras that would usually come as a costly optional accessory. A matching changing bag, a nice fleecy foot muff and even a cup holder, which is great for carrying much-needed caffeine (or perhaps something stronger depending on how many trips around the block you’ve needed to get them to sleep…)

I have found myself on a few reviews getting to this point of the post and saying that the price can put some people off, but the Koochi Speedstar is fantastic value for money. It compares very well to competitors, even those who cost more, so they are really making good strides at grabbing a share of busy parents’ attention.

I was very impressed and will be recommending to anyone who will listen.

Brother Max Baby Thermometers

In a world where you are swimming in things in the nursery (stacking cups, bibs, nappies, books, chairs, vests, muslins, walkers – you get the point) a small something that can take the place of several things is already on to a winner.

So when Brother Max said they wanted me to try out five things that are just two things I almost bit their hand off…

Brother Max One-Touch 3-in-1 Digital Thermometer

The ‘three’ bit comes from the readings it gives; ear, forehead and room. And it will give you a reading for whichever one you choose in just 1 second to an accuracy of 0.1 degrees thanks to using fancy infrared technology.

When you have a potentially ill baby wriggling and screaming in your arms, needing their temperature taken, there are two things you really need; quickness and accuracy. This thermometer gives you both, in abundance.

As a room thermometer this also ticks a lot of boxes. It has a dock that you can rest on a surface or attach to the wall. Don’t worry about which way up you put it, like a smartphone it will self-correct the display! How clever is that? For a thermometer!

The price may catch some people out (it retails at about £34.99) but you’re paying for the features and the ease of use. We had a cheaper thermometer from Lloyds Pharmacy, but it doesn’t double up as a room temperature checker, it’s not as quick, it can only be used externally. You see where I’m going; it may seem like a lot for a thermometer but it really gives you great value for money.

Brother Max Ray Bath and Room Thermometer

Temperature is important as a parent. Little people need extra care when it comes to hot and cold. Usually something that helps you out with that would be boring. This isn’t. It llooks and acts like a toy. And one that looks like a manta ray at that!

Throw it into the bath as you run the water and it’ll let you know what the temperature is. If it gets too hot the LCD screen starts flashing away letting you know it’s not good for little skin. It also saves you from burning the skin off your elbow when you test the water yourself.

Amelia loves the colours and the shape, sinking her teeth into it given half a chance. It keeps her happy as we transition from the bath to her bedroom to get her all ready for (what I hope will be) sleepy time. This is where it doubles up to become a room thermometer.

Once I can get it out of the her superglue-esque grip I can set it on the side and it’ll tell me if the room is anywhere near the recommended 19 degrees. If it gets too chilly it gives you a visual warning, like it does with the bath water, so you can take action.

Overall, both of these are great pieces of kit that give that added peace of mind to parents, especially first timers, while also being highly functional and practical. As mentioned before, the price could put some people off but you get great value for money from Brother Max so I’d recommend splashing out if you can.

The above products were sent to me for an independent review by Brother Max team. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.

No-bake Energy Balls

Eating clean is hard. It’s not finding things to eat. Recipes are easy to find but there is a part of my brain that wakes up every now again and demands that I eat four times my body weight in Haribo. The hard bit is ignoring it.

I have found a way of shutting it up, getting something yummy in my gob and getting a little boost of energy at the same time.

No-bake Energy Balls are quick and easy to make and just as quick and easy to eat. They make for great snacks that provide a good balance of complex carbohydrates, fibre, protein and omega 3, as well as keeping you away from the Haribo. For now.

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Ingredients (makes around 10 balls)

  • 30g Desiccated coconut
  • 60g Porridge oats
  • 30g Ground flaxseed
  • 40g Crunchy peanut butter (approx 2 tbsp)
  • 30g Runny honey (approx 3 tsp)
  • 1/2 tsp Vanilla extract
  • 1 Medium banana
  • 53g milk chocolate (approx 4 squares of a bar)

Put it all in a bowl. No particular order needed. On my second batch I left the honey until last so the oats didn’t soak it all up, but it really didn’t make a difference.

Mix it all about. You may need to mush the peanut butter down a bit so you don’t end with one energy ball that is just a lump of peanut butter covered in oats and coconut.

Once that’s done you can get on to making the balls. Grab a small handful of the mixture, wrap your hand around it and squeeze. I then push the excess back into the ball at both ends with my thumb while my hand is still closed. Shape the lump into a ball and there you have it. Your first no-bake energy ball! Well done!

Repeat 9 times or until your mixture runs out.

Pop them gently into an airtight container and keep in the fridge. I say that last for a week but they could last longer. They’ve never survived long enough for me to find out.

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You can add different things in there to make your own versions. I’ve been tempted to replace the chocolate with some cranberries or similar dried fruit. I did try leaving out the chocolate, melting it down and using it to cover the outside of the balls. Fancy trying that as well? Don’t. They’re too delicate for that. They fall apart and you’re left with an oaty, cocnutty, chocolatty mess instead of an awesome snack.

Per ball (recipe makes around 10 balls)

Calories 120

Total fat 7.2g
Saturated: 2.0g
Polyunsaturated: 0.7g
Monounsaturated: 0.7g
Trans/hydrogenated: 0.0g
Cholesterol 0.0mg
Sodium 10.1mg
Potassium 0mg
Total carbs 9.6g
Fibre: 1.7g
Sugars: 2.8g
Protein 2.9g
Vitamin A 0.0%
Vitamin C 0.0%
Calcium 1.0%
Iron 3.9%

I adapted this recipe from one I found through Pinterest, but omitted a few things (chia seeds?) and changed a couple of measurements as it was an American recipe using their silly cup system…

Pure One Mini DAB Digital Radio

As I spend more and more time in the kitchen, playing around with my clean eating regime in preparation for Tough Mudder, I found myself needing music to keep me company.

Wanting to be hip and listen to the trendy stuff on BBC 6music, and having some vouchers, I decided to  get a DAB digital radio from John Lewis. They had a good selection, including one that looked slightly like a Lego brick and others with alarm clocks (but who needs those with a 10 month old?). In the end I opted for the Pure One Mini.


The design is quite compact and stylish. It won’t take up too much room in my kitchen, which is a key factor as my ever-baking wife is a worktop hog. It’s simple design means it’s so straight forward that even a sleep-deprived zombie-dad can use it. Which is handy because I think I fall into that demographic. A few buttons on the top and the volume dial does the scrolling. Easy.

The functionality is a bit one-dimensional, but what do you expect? It tells you exactly what it is without fuss;  a digital radio. It doesn’t have any bells and whistles and that would be fine, but for the price (£50) you would expect at least one whistle.

What you do get instead of features is very good build quality. It feels robust and hard-wearing so it isn’t threatened by a little explorer tugging at the wires. (The display is also a tad too bright to take photos of…)

The sound is pretty good for such a small box. It isn’t tinny like I’ve experienced with other radios and it can get pretty loud, so those hipster songs sound extra hip.

The only downside I’ve found so far is that the signal can be easily impacted by me and my accompanying limbs. The sound quality means that you can really hear any skips and glitches in the audio. Signal, both radio and mobile, is a bit of an issue around my way so it’s not entirely the radio’s fault but it does seem a tad touchy.

Overall, I think it is a neat little device that does its one and only job well, but also sits quietly (or not if you want) in the corner. It’ll always be easily beaten on price by other lesser-known radios, but the quality of this one shines through and shows you where the value for money is.

This was a featured post. I was providedworth vouchers and bought the Pure Mini One for an independent review. I was under no obligation to provide a positive review. You can read my review policy here.