Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Category: Sponsored posts (page 1 of 3)

What’s in my man bag?

One evening just before Rupert was born the Lady of the Manor announced that she had found our new nappy bag, which confused me a little. Given that we had children already we of course also had collected at least 4 nappy bags that were gradually gathering dust in a cupboard some where. But apparently a new baby means a new nappy bag no matter what, clearly I missed the bit of the baby book that covered the maths of having a baby. I believe the formula is b ≥ C + 2, where b is the number of bags and C is the number of children. Another useful formula to remember is the one for the number of hours sleep you’ll get a night which I believe is  8 – (C x 2). With 3 children at home I’d say that was about right.

The net result of this is that we now have a lovely new nappy bag with the Lady of the Manor clinching the deal by telling me that it was blue and therefore suitable for me to take out too. To give her some credit it is actually very nice and one I don’t mind taking out which can’t be said for many of them. It’s a Babymule Pegasus and so far has been very good, easy to use and big enough to take all the things we need with 3 children.

BabyMule Pegasus

Which is a good thing because it stops me ending up with wet wipes or half chewed bread sticks in my only real man bag which is the one I use for work. In fact the contents of my work bag don’t look a whole lot different to when I did this post 3 years ago. I have a newer phone and thankfully a better laptop but that’s about it, I don’t really want to turn up to a customer meeting and have a nappy fall out of my bag do I?

But Marks and Spencer have asked me to share an insight into the essential baby items in my bag to celebrate the launch of the new dedicated baby section of their website, so here’s what we stuff into our Pegasus each time. Having 3 children at very different stages of potty training means you need to carry lots of different things. Nappies and wipes for Rupert, multiple changes of clothes for a recently potty trained Henry and then spare clothes for an accident prone Matilda. Plus drinks, most likely some Calpol, a couple of toys and also a bottle of water for us.

Zip locked baby clothes

The other absolute essential is food, we’ve learnt the hard way that if you want Matilda to be happy on a walk or trip out you need to hand her something to eat as she gets out of the car. She could have eaten a huge breakfast just before we left home and would still be miserable until she gets some more food in her. Ham sandwiches seem to go down well as does a banana, although if she had a choice she would of course pick chocolate or cake, she has such a sweet tooth (just like me).

I’ve created a Pinterest board with the items any nappy bag should contain including a few of my favourites from the M&S Baby range. Would love to know what you think and what the essentials in your bag are.

Follow Ben’s board What’s in your man bag? on Pinterest.

Burger off Cancer

Marinading the chickenSometimes as a blogger opportunities arise that you just can’t say no to and last week I attended an event that was just one of those opportunities. The chance to help launch a new campaign with Cancer Research UK AND go to the Weber BBQ school was definitely worth taking time off work for.

I thought I was half decent at cooking on a barbeque but having been to the Weber school I realise how little I really knew, honestly it was eye opening learning some of the tips and techniques. But I’m going to tease you a little and leave those for a post of their own, for now I’d like to spend a bit of time talking about the campaign.

Here’s how the campaign works, are you ready for this? It’s very complicated. What you do is have a BBQ, invite a bunch of people around and ask them to make a donation. That’s it. It’s not exactly a hard sell to guests is it? Which I think is the beauty of the idea, simple to raise money and gets people together to have a good time.

CRUK_Battle of the BBQ_RT

Cancer Research UK are hoping you’ll all think this is a good idea and will join them in hosting BBQ’s on the weekend of the 19th and 20th of July for their big BBQ weekend. If you’re interested you can register to get your own fund raising pack by clicking here, you can also buy from the same link a party pack of paper plates and napkins with the awesome tag lines “burger off cancer” and “give cancer a grilling”. Mighty fine tag lines I’m sure you’ll agree, or maybe they just appeal to my dad humour?

Burger off cancerAs I drove home from the event I started to plan our BBQ and I realised that the 19th of July is when my ‘little’ race is so having a party the next day will be the ideal way to celebrate and try and forget how much my legs are aching. I’m also hoping I’ll have my pizza oven ready by then so I can fire that up for some amazing pizzas, fingers crossed! Although not entirely sure how long I’m going to want to be standing up for, can you BBQ sat down?

So what are you waiting for? Get planning your party and join in with the big BBQ weekend.

Also if you’d like a shiny new Weber BBQ for your party then Cancer Research UK are running a competition called will it grill. Simply shoot a short video of you grilling something unusual and upload to Instagram or Vine with the hashtag #willitgrill to enter. The video with the most votes before the closing date will win a shiny new BBQ. You can find full competition details here.

Look out for my next post about the BBQ school which will include some awesome tips and tricks plus some delicious recipes. Happy grilling.

Cancer Research asked me to write about this campaign to raise awareness and they invited me along to the Weber BBQ school to learn about it. 

Fathers day dreams

The older I get the more I come to realise that I’m like my dad, for starters I’ve inherited his wonderful baldness genes but I also have the same silly sense of humour. The lady of the manor is often telling me that a particular facial expression or voice is exactly like him which can only mean one thing; he’s a comedy genius.

Now while that does of course make him awesome it’s not why I think he’s a hero, if you want to find that out then give this short video a watch. It’s a little video about why I think my dad is a hero and what some of his father’s day dreams are. Ignore the slightly abrupt end to the video, my phone battery died so I lost the last few seconds and had to crop it. Also note the video bombing from Bracken about half way through!.

So now you know where my fitness obsession comes from, I bet you can imagine what happens when all my brothers and my dad get together! If you’d like to be in with the chance of making your dad’s dreams come true courtesy of those lovely people at Braun then all you need to do is upload your own video to YouTube.

Simply record a short video about why your dad is a hero and what his father’s day dreams are, tag it with the hashtags #FathersDayDreams and #Braun and upload to YouTube. Simply really. If you don’t want to do a video you can also tweet them using the same hashtags.

Full terms and conditions can be found here.

Disclosure – this is a sponsored post and was produced in association with Braun.

Toddler heaven – homemade Easter eggs

When you get an email offering to send you a load of chocolate and assorted sugary treats you have to be pretty silly to say no right? Especially when the idea is for you to have a go at homemade Easter eggs with your children. So it was that last week we received a box full of awesome chocolate from those lovely people at Waitrose which we quickly had to hide from the resident post opener. coincidentally last week also saw the opening of a shiny new Waitrose just down the road from us, both me and the lady of the manor have been down for a look like little kids going to the candy store, I particularly like the ‘grazing’ area near the wine where you can sit for a glass of wine and a cheese platter.

We didn’t get the children to help with actually making the eggs as I’m sure you well know the attention span of a toddler is about 30 seconds and certainly won’t last for the time needed to build up the layers of the egg. So we had fun making them one evening and then leaving them in the moulds in the fridge overnight, this also had the added bonus that we could lick the bowl clean of what was left. You can find full instructions on how to make your own egg, plus lots of other Easter recipes and children’s activities on the Waitrose Easter pages here. (Plus I’ve included some simple instructions at the end of this post)

Making easter eggs with 2 crazy toddlers

Once you’ve made your egg that’s when the fun really begins, we did a half egg each for Matilda and Henry because it meant the egg wouldn’t move while they were decorating it and quite honestly we didn’t have the patience to make 2 more halves. We had a whole bunch of different treats they could use to decorate their eggs; chocolate buttons, marshmallows, jelly tots, sprinkles, popping candy and some honeycomb.

In true messy play style we let the children have free reign to decorate the eggs, I was going to just post a bunch of photos here but I think this short video better captures the chaos of doing this with 2 toddlers. It was also probably one of the funniest family activities we have ever done; keep your eye on Henry during this, his policy was most definitely 4 for me, 1 for the egg!

Surprisingly we didn’t let them eat the eggs after decorating, I think they’d just about had their sugar allowance for the day from just making them. However I will leave you with one final photo of the finished eggs. While it’s very easy to go and buy an egg from the shops homemade Easter eggs are really quite simple to make and actually a whole lot of fun.

Matildas homemade easter egg

Henrys homemade easter egg














Making your own easter egg


250g of good quality dark or milk chocolate – remember to save a little extra for decorating

What you’ll need

2 chocolate egg moulds

Flat pastry brush or small paintbrush

Heat proof bowl




Step 1  – Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl over simmering water in a pan.

Step 2 – Paint a thin layer of chocolate inside the egg moulds, making sure it meets the edges of the mould. Depending on the size of the moulds you may need more chocolate, have plenty on standby!

Step 3 – Chill for 5 minutes or until the chocolate is firm.

Step 4 – Spread another even layer of chocolate over the first layer and let cool for another 5 minutes or until firm.

Step 5 – Gently ease the mould away from the chocolate. Join the chocolate halves together with a little melted chocolate, using a flat pastry brush or small paint brush – That’s it! Well done, you have made your very own Easter egg!

What matters most – children’s artwork competition

This is a sponsored post

John Lewis insurance have recently launched a competition where you can win the chance to have your child’s artwork worked up by professional illustrator Emily Woodard. Now I’ll be honest that interpreting a toddlers artwork may be somewhat of a challenge, much like that moment when you stood in the Tate Modern and you turn to your friend and say “but what IS it?”. But that doesn’t mean I don’t cherish every picture that Henry or Matilda do for me, I quite like that they want to make me something and it means something to them. Plus most of the time their drawing of a dog is actually better than mine anyway.

To give you an idea of what this might look like take a look at this short video showing Emily in action. I’d love to be able to draw like that and it’s fascinating seeing a child’s drawing be interpreted like that.

So today I’m going to share with you a painting from Matilda; the theme for this competition is ‘what matters most’ and currently for Matilda this is bugs and the garden. Our favourite activity is searching for bugs under stones and bushes and she’ll often trot up to me with a caterpillar or snail in her hand that she’s found somewhere. I love that she is fascinated by wildlife and it’s great fun teaching her about what each of the creatures are. It’s perhaps no surprise that for her birthday this week she got all manner of bug and gardening related presents including one of those boxes with a magnifying glass on top to get a closer look at the bugs she finds.

Last week we painted these butterflies together as a way of building on that learning, the weekend before I’d taken both her and Henry to a local butterfly world so it was ideal timing to let her express what she’d seen. She was telling us as she painted about the different colours and how they matched butterflies she’d seen. Plus we talked about how caterpillars grow up to become butterflies, not sure she quite understood that one as it’s quite hard to imagine isn’t it?

Painted butterfly

If you’d like to enter the competition you can find full details here, all you have to do is upload a photo of the artwork with your child’s name, age and an email address to be contacted on. Competition terms and conditions can be found here and the competition closes on 24th April at 10am so plenty of time to get drawing over the Easter weekend.

It’s the thought that counts right?

This is a sponsored post

All men have been there, that moment when the love of your life opens their Christmas present in front of you and instead of an expression of pure happiness you can tell that you have right royally screwed up.

You’ve spent weeks of thought and contemplation, listened for hints about what they might want, talked to their family and friends for advice and then scoured the internet for the best deal. You’ve been to the shops in your lunch break and found the perfect hiding place in the house where they won’t find the present until the big day. You’ve even managed to wrap it so it doesn’t look like a 5 year old did it.

Yet still despite all that effort they never do quite appreciate you buying them a new kettle do they? Which really is just a bit ungrateful isn’t it? After all they always go on about how much they love tea and you even bought them some of Twinnings finest tea bags AND a new mug to go with it.

What more can a person want?

Apparently a lot more. They smile politely and say how lovely it is but you know that you are going to be reminded of this moment for a long time to come. The same apparently goes for a cute pink milk pan for warming milk up perfectly for those milky cups of coffee. The lady of the manor tells me that anything with a plug attached is not a present, even if it is a Kitchenaid. Not entirely sure when she thinks I’m going to pop to the shops and buy here one of those ‘just because’ though?

So I have been thinking very carefully about this years Christmas present for her.I could buy perfume, but that’s a bit dull. Then I thought about buying clothes, but unless we’re talking running clothes I have no clue what to buy. So I had the perfect idea, it can’t possibly go wrong, I’m going to buy her a puppy. It’s perfect, the children will be entertained playing with it, Bracken will enjoy the company and maybe it’ll satisfy that maternal urge to have another baby….



Ground to a halt

This is a sponsored post

Espresso machine

I am a coffee addict, nothing unusual in that what with being a parent to small children and all. Most weekends when at home it means that our cafetière is in almost constant use brewing another cup of the black fuel. We do have an espresso machine (a proper one, none of this capsule nonsense) but to be honest most of the time I can’t be bothered with it. I like my coffee strong and black but want a long drink and not a shot of espresso so a cafetière fits the bill perfectly.

However the downside of this habit is a rather healthy supply of coffee grounds. My mum insists you should never throw them down the sink as it may block the drain, she instead tips them down the toilet. I find this all a bit weird if I’m honest and stick with playing drain roulette.

However this week my number was up, instead of water nicely trickling down the plug hole it sat in an ever growing pool. You could almost hear it laughing at me, what an idiot it was saying. Now of course Dyno can fix blocked drains, but I’m a man, I have to give it a go myself first right?

So I wielded a vast array of kitchen utensils, pushing handles down the plug hole trying to shift what was down there. With no plunger in my toolbox I even tried using my hand as a makeshift plunger bu (surprisingly) no success.

I then Googled drain unblocking ideas. Apparently mixing baking powder and vinegar together then tipping the mixture down the sink can work. Not in my case, although my sink did now smell of some sort of weird pickled cake. Potentially better than the gone off egg smell most blockages seem to smell of.

In the end I resigned myself to using the drain cleaning services from Dyno. I’m still not going to tip my coffee grounds down the toilet though.

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