Product review: Wonderbag

Monday, December 31, 2018

Saving the Earth was a big concern of mine growing up.  I wanted to recycle everything and always turned the lights off.  '50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save the Earth' was a favourite book of mine.  Much to my mother's dismay, I even brought backing recycling from my university to home (a 6 hour drive away. I also brought a lot of laundry).

Reducing my impact on earth and it's resources has continued to be important thread in my life.  I have carried a reusable water bottle since uni and try to cycle or carpool when I can.  Living with a Brit, I even got in the habit of hanging our laundry out to dry in the summer time in Michigan (we have no choice now as very few people in the UK have a dryer).

When I saw the opportunity to review the Wonderbag,I was intrigued.  Firstly, because it can heat the pot for up to eight hours without electricity and secondly because it helps to empower women in third world countries.  I was pretty much sold on both of those factors but want d to try it out myself.

Wonderbag in action
The Wonderbag was developed by Sarah Collins with inspiration from her childhood in South Africa.  Frequent blackouts meant her family would use couch cushions to keep meals warm.  Years later, Collins invented the Wonderbag.  Its foam stuffing allows food brought on a boil by conventional means to continue to cook for for up to 12 hours.  The impact of this means women spend less time foraging for firewood and less time cooking over open flames.  The smoke from these flames can be toxic and severely impact their heath.

We don't have room for a slow cooker (or "Crock Pot" as we call it in the USA) because we have a small flat.  My husband loves to cook anything that requires only one pot, so he is missing out on a lot of cooking opportunities.  We have a few batch cooking staples, such as veggie chili and a chicken dish from Well Fed 2.  I figured since I was trying out the Wonderbag, I might as well try out a new recipe and share it with out with you.

Not sure this is going to fit.
After looking on the internet for inspiration, I decided on a slow cooked pork with Italian seasoning. We don't really eat ham or pork and thought it would be a nice change from chicken.  I bought the smallest pork roast I could find at the shop and got to work.

Seasoning and garlic. This will be yummy!
I made three mistakes when preparing this meal.  First, my pork roast was too big for the pot, which meant the lid did not seal all the way.  This affected how long the food needed to cook for on the stove top and how involved I needed to be.  Second, the only pot that the roast fit in and itself fit in the Wonderbag had a handle on it.  This will affect the efficiency the Wonderbag insulation has.  I firmly believe that these two errors impacted my cooking experience.

To prepare the pork, I dried it off with a paper towel and then tried to slice the top in several places to create pockets for sliced garlic.  My roast was about two kilos and I used three large garlic cloves.

Roast prepped with seasoning

My seasoning was one teaspoon of dried basil, oregano and thyme mixed with half teaspoon salt and half teaspoon pepper.  I mixed this combo in a small bowl and then rubbed all over the pork.  You can use any seasoning combination you like to create flavour you will enjoy.

Lid ajar means the cooking is less efficient.
Once seasoned, I put the entire roast into a saucepan with lid and cooked for 20 minutes on medium heat.  As I saw the lid was slightly ajar, I decided to cook it for another 20 minutes.  The Wonderbag recommends having a meat thermometer handy to see if meat is heated through.   This was my third mistake because we don't have one.

Tea towels lining the Wonderbag
After 40 minutes on the stove top, I put the pot in the Wonderbag, which I had lined with a few towels to avoid the inside of the bag from melting.  I weighed the lid down with a kilo of salt to hopefully keep the heat in. Then I took the dog out for a walk.  Two hours later, I checked the pot and it was still warm so I left it for another hour.  After that, I took the meat out and cut it down the middle with a bread knife.  The inside was still a bit pink (again, no meat thermometer), so I returned the roast to the pot and cooked for another 20 minutes, holding the lid down for the last ten minutes (the lid still wouldn't close).

Nearly cooked all the way through.
By this point, the inside looked cooked, so I sliced myself a piece and left the rest in the pot with lid on and heat source off.  Once I finished my dinner (it was super yummy!), I carved up the rest.  Half went into the fridge and half into the freezer.  I decanted the juice from the pot into a small Tupperware to use as gravy.  There wasn't much though.  My husband used it all for one serving (I didn't mind as I am not a fan of gravy).  If you like gravy, you might want to make some additional gravy.

It was delicious!
A week later, we defrosted the frozen pieces.  They looked pink when frozen but were grey by the time they were room temperature.  Overall I am pleased with how my experiment went given I was missing several keys items (a pot without handle and a meat thermometer).  I am definitely going to get a proper pot for using the Wonderbag but am not sure if a meat thermometer will get much use.  The Wonderbag will be perfect for making chili and stews this winter, and maybe even mulled for long winter walks and when we host a big dinner party (when we get a bigger flat).

If you have any ideas on what we should cook with the Wonderbag next, please let me know in the comments below.

Served with a side of sweet potato.
Thanks to Wonderbag for the complimentary bag to put to the test.  All opinions are honest and my own.  Please note that this post includes affiliate links which cost the buyer nothing additional but help support the running of this site..

Merry Christmas 2018

Happiness Advent - 24th December

Happiness Advent - 23rd December

Happiness Advent - 22nd December

Happiness Advent - 21st December

Happiness Advent - 20th December

Happiness Advent - 19th December

Happiness Advent - 18th December

PT Mollie's 2018 Gift Guide

Monday, December 17, 2018

I am so excited I found some time to share with you some of my favorite kit from this year.  A few pieces (marked with *) I was gifted to try out, while others I discovered on my own.  This year, the items selected fall into travel, active, and/or eco-friendly categories.  Hope you discover a few new things to put under your Christmas tree.

Hydroflask True Pint* - This item falls into the eco-friendly category.  The True Pint holds beer, coffee and even soup.  Fantastic vacuum insulation means your drink stays the temp it needs to and so do you hands.  Great for camping and festivals.

Venus Gillette Precision Bikini Trimmer*-This small battery-operated electric razor keeps your bikini line tidy from all angles. It includes a 5mm plastic comb to ensure uniform hair length too.  I think it would work on trimming hair on the back of your neck too but my husband won't let me try it out on him.  The perfect size for your travel bag.

B-twin hydration bladder cleaner*- Lots of runners and cyclists have water bladders but don't take the time to clean them properly after use.  This is a great gift because it isn't something the athlete in your life would buy for themselves, but they will definitely use it.

Salomon Agile 6*- A great little backpack to hold a lightweight jacket, book, sunscreen, and whatever else you will need for a day exploring a new city. It includes two 500ml soft flasks in case you decide to run instead of walk. This bag's capacity is only seven liters so your kids can use it too.

SKINS Compression calf tights*- Wear these calf tights on the plane or under your trousers if your legs ache from too much walking on your holiday.  You can also wear them when out on a run or for recovery.  I wore mine during my five day desert ultra back in October.  There is a large range of colors available.

Rite in the Rain notebook -This is a travel essential for keeping track of what happens each day you are away from home.  It doesn't matter if it gets wet, which makes it all the better for outdoor adventures.  I brought one with me when I climbed Kilimanjaro and to Jordan because I knew there wouldn't be electricity or wifi.  I had to go old school with a pen and paper.  My preferred nnotebook style is A5 with a spiral spine but there are many to choose from.

Smith Overtake bike helmet*- With their MIPS system and Koroyd(R) honeycomb insulation, this will protect your brain during a collision, which is the point of a helmet (think about how much money and time you have invested in your brain!).  There is still maximum ventilation and excellent aerodynamics in the design.  Nothing is compromised.

Wonderbag slow cooker*- This portable slow cooker was developed to help women in developing countries cook without tending a fire.  It saves them time as not as much fire wood needs to be collected.  It is also better for their health because they are not inhaling smoke while tending a fire.  I think it is perfect for camping, tailgating, and hosting dinner parties as it retains heat for up to 8 hours.  Full review will be up later this week.

Bamboo straws from Bare Vida - Plastic straws are a hot topic right now, so why not start carrying your own reusable straw?  I have one made from bamboo and another from stainless steel.  I keep one in my lunch box and one in my purse so I am always prepared for my next beverage.

Sarah Marie Design Studio sweatshirt - At the start of 2018, I really embraced Track Tuesdays with Advent Running.  I felt stronger and faster.  Therefore, the 'Well Rounded' sweatshirt is perfect for me (as is the Kinda wanna run... holiday one).  Size small please :)
Margaret Dabbs foot cleansing wipes and foot hygiene creme*- I was sent some lovely foot wipes and lotions to help my feet prepare and recover from my desert ultra.  These are a nice treat for those who spend a lot of time on their feet but aren't necessarily into pedicures.  The wipes are perfect for travelling to climates where you will want to wear sandals or flip flops too.

On Cloud lightweight running hat- A lightweight and ventilated cap to help keep your head cool and dry in sunshine or in the rain.  The perfect stocking stuffer for just about anyone.

Icebreaker merino wool base layers-  As my regular readers know, I live in merino socks year-round and have a heavy rotation of tops for the winter.  Both the 150 Zone long sleeve crewe top  and BODYFITZONE (TM)150 Zone leggings are designed to help you regulate your body temperature so you are not too hot or too cold no matter what you are doing.  Icebreaker garments are also biodegradable when buried in a landfill, making them a eco-friendly gift choice.

Black Diamond Creek 22L rucksack A super stylish way to carry everything you need for work and the gym while day commuting.  It has a waterproof shell and holds a 15" laptop.  Lots of internal organization options too so you can easily find what you need.

Stolen Goat gym towel with sharks on it.  I found this over on VeloVixen and love it!  Santa Jaws, anyone?
Leki Hot Shots ski poles- How crazy is this?  These ski poles hold your favourite drink inside the pole, up to 200ml.  They even have their own funnel to help you pour.  Please remember to drink responsibly when participating in sport.

What is on your Christmas list this year?  Let me know in the comments below and I will put in a good word for you with Santa.

Thanks to Hydroflask, Venus, Decathlon, Salomon, Skins Compression, Smith, Wonderbag, and Margaret Dabbs for gifting me the items above.  All opinions are honest and my own.  This post also includes affiliate links, which costs the buyer nothing but helps run this website.

Happiness Advent - 17th December

Happiness Advent - 16th December

Happiness Advent - 15th December

Active travel: Kings Cross in London

Friday, December 14, 2018

Even though my day job has been in central London for over two years, I am still getting to know the area.  I love being near St. Pancras and King's Cross because of the easy transport links (and proximity to Platform 9 3/4's).  There is a big push to redevelop many of the neighborhoods nearby too which means there are always new shops and offerings.  I have featured London active travel posts before (links below) and will try to feature different neighborhoods in the months to come (let me know in the comment below if you want me to research a specific area).

Active travel: London

Active travel: London Part II

Active travel: London, Stay Cool

Near my work, a new area has recently opened called Coal Drops Yard (CDY).  It is right off Granary Square and offers lots of different shops and cafes.  With the new year about to begin, I wanted to highlight some ways you can stay happy and healthy in CDY and Granary Square.

PE Nation kit from The Sports Edit
Stay active:
Of course, I am going to plug my beginners run club.  We meet every Wednesday at 7am near St Pancras Station and head over to run through Granary Square, along the towpath and back through CDY.  Download the MyCrewApp here and register for my runs.  We have one more left in 2018 on 19th December and start up again 2nd January.  There is a bag drop and we run at a social pace so new runners can build endurance and confidence.  Over 60 minutes, we run a 5K route, giving you plenty of time to travel to work, shower and be at your desk by 9am.

If running isn't your thing, there are also bootcamps on Saturday morning at 10am run by Moe.

Be dressed for the part:
The Sports Edit has opened it second London store with a new shop in CYD on the upper level.  There you can find a selection of their extensive online shop.  Both men's and women's clothes and accessories are available, including Run Dem Crew Stance socks, S'well water bottles, and Yankees baseball hats (if you were lucky enough to get tickets to the Yankees Vs Red Sox game in the Olympic Park in June).

Spiritual Gangster Shine Light top

Indulge in self care:

beautystack app is having a pop-up in CDY just in time for Christmas.  You can book in for a selection of treatments, including manicures, facials, and hair treatments through the app.

FACEGYM is a concept from the USA which gives all 40 of your facial muscles a workout in just 60 minutes utilizing sports massage and myofacial release.  I have yet to try it but I am intrigued!

Eat well:
For this recommendation, I will admit I am a little biased.  Kerb KX is open every Friday in Granary Square.  There are about a dozen food vendors to choose from with a variety of cuisine.  I want you to go to Cyprus Kitchen (who is owned by a friend of mine) for some delicious posh kebabs and pitas.  You won't be disappointed.

The Sports Edit has a large selection of womenswear.
Try something new:
I am always encouraging my clients  to step outside their comfort zone  and try something  new.  STORE Store is a socially engaged association of artists, architects, and designers that offers workshops in different creative disciplines in CDY.  If December wasn't such a busy month for me I would have like to try a few, like papercasting and marbling.  Visit their website to see what workshops they have planned for 2019.

Just chill:
There are a large set of steps leading down to the towpath where you can meditate, read a book, or catch up with a friend over coffee or ice cream.  I'm the summer, these are covered in Astro-turf to look like grass.  This time of year, they can be chilly to sit on so bring a warm jacket, picnic blanket or newspaper to sit on.

With time, I am sure that CDY will be offering even more exciting shops and events.  If you are in the area, have a mosey on over to see what it is all about.  Let me know which bits are your favourite in the comments below.

This post is in collaboration with The Sports Edit.  All content is honest and my own.

Happiness Advent - 14th December

Happiness Advent - 13th December