Festival footwear for men

It’s summertime and that means festival season.

Deciding what to pack can be tricky when who knows what the British weather will throw at you.

Thank heavens for our guide to festival footwear for men – something to make life a little easier.

Wellies

Wellies

Image source: Marie Social
Wellies are a festival footwear staple.

Wellies have to be the festival footwear staple. Whether you go bright or classic, cheap or classy, wear wellington boots to a festival and you will never feel out of place. They’re great in the (almost) inevitable mud and pretty light to carry – even if they are fairly bulky. They also protect your toes from crowd-related squashing.

But, and this is a very large but, spending hours on end tightly enclosed in plastic is not the best thing for your feet. They’re going to get hot. They’re going to get sticky. And they’re going to hate you for it.

Flip-flops

Flip Flops

Image source: Unexpected Farmer
Flip-flops and mud were never the best of friends.

These flighty numbers are uber versatile, coming in a massive array of colours and patterns. They are also lightweight to pack and will keep your toes lovely and cool if your festival weekend is blessed with sunshine.

But a pedicure is compulsory if you’re going to let it all hang out in the foot department. And, if it rains, your flip-flops are likely to spray-paint your rear with mud and then part company with your feet in a boggy bit of the festival field.

Sandals

Sandals

Image source: Cloud Front
Socks and sandals – never a good look.

Like flip-flops, sandals will keep your tootsies cool. The addition of straps mean there’s more chance of them staying put if it’s muddy. They are also more comfortable than flip-flops, giving your soles extra cushioning and your feet better support.

Unless you’re a catwalk model or David Beckham, don’t attempt the socks + sandals look, it’s bound to end in disaster. And be prepared to suffer some degree of foot-crushing when you clash with the heel of a welly boot (or worse) in the fray.

Walking boots

Walking Boots

Image source: The Outdoor Diaries
Pack plastic bags for those soggy boots.

If you choose to wear walking boots to your festival, you can be sure that your feet will be comfortable in the long hikes between the stage, the beer tent and your camp. Plus, they will protect ankles from any leaping-about-induced-injury.

But walking boots can be hot, bulky and heavy – especially when they are caked in festival mud. They are not always completely waterproof, so you might end up with soggy feet. And do you really want to waste time tying those long, long laces when there are so many better things you could be doing?

Mules

Mules

Image source: Clifford James
Would you muddy up your mules?

Mules give you the best of both worlds. They let a little air get to your feet whilst protecting stomped-on toes. They are extremely comfortable – take our mens mule slippers for example. And they cover up a multitude of foot-related sins.

Sure, your toes may get a little warm if it’s a hot day, but nowhere near as hot as they would in boots. As with any slip-on shoe, you’ll have to pay attention if it’s muddy or the field might claim your shoes and leave you barefoot.

Whatever the weather, we wish you a fantastic festival season. Put a little thought into your festival footwear and you’ll have a spring in your step all weekend long.

Go go gadget trousers and other wearable tech

Integrating cutting edge technology into clothes and jewellery sounds like the work of top secret boffin ‘Q’ of James Bond fame. But today, technology has never been more wearable.

Here we’ve scoured the Internet for some of most innovative products coming, or about to come to the market.

They don’t explode, burn their way through steel doors or in any other way, help secret agents foil the plots of dastardly megalomaniacs – but they will keep you entertained, and connected in ways never before possible…

Charge your phone in your trousers

Phone Charger Trousers

Image source: Damn Geeky
Designer Adrien Sauvage with business partner and radio presenter George Lamb.

Your smart phone need never run out of juice again with this nifty little piece of clothing technology. Clothes designer, Adrien Sauvage decided to make his designs that little bit more user friendly by stitching a Nokia DC-50 charger into the seam of his latest trousers.

The technology is ‘inductive charging’. An electromagnetic field is used to conduct electricity from one object to another. A coil in the charger transfers electricity to the battery without use of wires. The result: mens cotton trousers will never be the same again! Just slip your phone into the pocket of your supercharged trousers and your phone battery is automatically replenished!

A real invisibility cloak

Invisibility Cloak

Image source: Pixelonomics
A JK Rowling inspired piece of tech clothing!

Ever feel like you’re being watched? With CCTV everywhere, and your smartphone’s GPS tracking your every move, you almost certainly are. But short of throwing your phone in the canal and coming outside only under the cover of darkness, what can you do?

Well when it comes to dodging cameras, short of extensive plastic surgery, there’s little chance of escape from the lens. But just as the invisibility cloak shielded the young wizard, Harry Potter, from prying eyes, metallic fibres woven into this new garment hide your mobile devices from the all seeing Google. But it does look a bit odd.

Compose an email with your ring

Tech Ring

Image source: Cablook
Operate your tablet without touch.

Point and click technology usually refers to something you do with your computer’s mouse, not with your finger. But now a new technological breakthrough looks set to change the way we interact with all sorts of IT devices – offering the potential to free you from your mouse, keyboard and even your tablet or smartphone’s touchscreen.

This very wearable silver ring is packed with technological wizardry. Simply tap the side with your thumb to activate the device, and you’re away. So what does it do? Gesture recognition technology means you can write emails in mid air by waving your finger, operate your computer or tablet without laying a digit on it, pay for goods and services online with a swish of your ring – and lots more.  

Workout data from a digital shirt

D Shirt

Image source: Futura Sciences
Want to know your temperature, heart rate, speed and acceleration? Grab one of these.

Feeling sporty? The D Shirt by Cityzen Sciences offers a lot more than the comfort and sweat-wicking ability of stretchy spandex. Sensors woven into the fabric of the sports top feed information to a removable transmitter. The transmitter beams the information direct to your smartphone.

While you exercise, the shirt records your heart rate in real time; GPS tracks your every movement; the accelerometer function notes your pace, and much more. Meanwhile, the app on your phone number crunches the data to providing an intimately personalised training programme to help you maximise your performance. Sounds like science fiction? Designers hope to launch the product later this year.

The smart watch race

Apple Smart Watch Concept

Image source: Tapscape
Artists concept of an apple smart watch.

The battle of the tech giants is a constant struggle for supremacy, and already well underway is a new theatre of war – smart watches. Biometric monitoring, GPS, and even full smartphone functionality are either here already or entering the latter stages of development.

Rumours are rife of Apple’s imminent arrival in the market, perhaps as early as October and Microsoft are thought to have lodged patents for the first totally cross platform smartwatch – also thought to have an October release date. Watch this space!

5 recipes for unconventional ovens

Tempted to crack out the BBQ this weekend? We’ve got just the recipe!

Today we’re talking unconventional ovens, and what to cook in them.

From a full on sunday lunch in a halogen oven to a chocolate cake ready in under five minutes, there’s no excuse to neglect your wacky ovens!

Barbecue Brazilian Chicken

Brazillian chicken

Image source: The Manhattan Food Project
Have a World Cup inspired BBQ.

For many of us, summertime means barbecue season. Burgers, sausages and ribs are British barbecue staples. But there’s a whole world of grilled gastronomy out there to explore.

This summer, be inspired by the World Cup and go Brazilian with your barbecues. This barbecued Brazilian chicken recipe would go nicely with cold beer and the football.

Ingredients

For the chicken
• 1.5kg chicken, spatchcocked
• Seasoning to taste

For the marinade
• 6 red chillies, halved lengthways and deseeded
• 3 garlic cloves
• 4 plum tomatoes, halved
• 1 tbsp thyme leaves
• Olive oil
• 1 tsp dried oregano
• 2 tsp red chilli flakes
• 4 tbsp sherry vinegar
• 2 tsp sweet paprika
• 3 tsp salt

For the honey sauce
• 2 tbsp runny honey
• 1 tbsp cider vinegar
• 1 tsp Dijon mustard

Method

1. Place the chillies, garlic and tomatoes in a baking tray and toss with the thyme, some salt and a good splash of oil. Roast in preheated oven at 180C/350F/gas 4 for 10 minutes.
2. Blitz in a blender or food processor.
3. Add the remaining marinade ingredients, blend again, season. Rub all the marinade all over the seasoned chicken.
4. Preheat your barbecue. Get the fire really hot and then let it cool a little. You want the chicken to cook fast but not burn.
5. Mix the honey sauce ingredients in a small bowl.
6. Thread metal skewers through each side of the chicken to make it easy to turn over.
7. Place chicken on the hot barbecue for 20 minutes. Turn once. Baste frequently with the honey sauce. Cook until the juices run clear.

Microwave Chocolate Cake

Chocolate mug cake

Image source: iVilla
A cake in under five minutes? We’re sold!

Most of us own a microwave, but few of us use them for anything other than defrosting or re-heating. Microwaves can be used to make great food, from scratch, very quickly. But you will need to follow microwave-specific recipes to achieve good results.

This microwave chocolate cake is the perfect fix when you need chocolate and you need it now. It’s ready in under five minutes and is dangerously good.

Ingredients

• 4 tbsp self-raising flour
• 3 tbsp oil
• 3 tbsp milk
• 4 tbsp sugar
• 2 tbsp cocoa powder
• 1 egg
• 2-3 drops vanilla essence
• 3 tbsp chocolate chips

Method

1. Put the flour, sugar and cocoa powder into a large mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly.
2. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips and vanilla extract, and mix again.
3. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts (high).
4. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don’t worry, it will sink when the microwave stops.
5. Allow to cool a little before enjoying.

Camp Oven Curry

Chickpea curry

Image source: Cook Club
Swap boring beans for a camp curry.

Camp ovens (or Dutch ovens) are cast iron pots that can be used to cook almost anything over a camp fire. You can also use them at home in your conventional oven.

The next time you go camping, ditch the bangers and beans and try something more adventurous like this potato and chickpea curry with rice.

Ingredients

• 600g basmati rice
• 700ml vegetable stock
• 3 large potatoes
• 1kg chickpeas
• 1kg diced tomato
• 1 medium onion
• 9 garlic cloves
• 3 tablespoons curry powder
• 30g baby spinach leaves

Method

1. Get your camp oven hot – whether using wood, charcoal or gas to heat the pot.
2. Stir together rice and ¾ of the stock in the pot.
3. Top with potatoes, season with salt and pepper, then add chickpeas.
4. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, curry powder, and remaining stock in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Spread tomato mixture over chickpeas, then top with spinach.
5. Cover pot, and bake for an hour.

Slow Cooker Irish Stew

irish stew

Image source: Downton Abbey Cooks
Come home to a hearty, warm stew.

Slow cookers are tabletop electrical appliances that cook food very slowly and safely at low temperatures. Bung in your ingredients, go out for the day, and return to a lovely dinner and a house that hasn’t burned down.

Slow cooking makes wonderful meals out of the cheapest cuts of meat. This slow cooked Irish stew is the perfect recipe.

Ingredients

• 1 tbsp sunflower oil
• 200g smoked streaky bacon, cut into chunks
• 900g cheap stewing lamb e.g. middle neck or scrag, cut into large chunks
• Small bunch of thyme
• 3 onions, thickly sliced
• 5 carrots, cut into big chunks
• 6 medium potatoes, cut into big chunks
• 700ml lamb stock
• 3 bay leaves
• 85g pearl barley
• 1 large leek, washed and cut into chunks
• small knob of butter

Method

1. Fry the bacon until crisp and the lamb until browned in a frying pan and add to the slow cooker pot.
2. Add the thyme, onions, carrots, potatoes, stock, bay leaves and enough water to cover the lamb.
3. Cover and cook on Low for 7 hrs.
4. Add the pearl barley and chopped leek, and cook on High for 1 hour more until the pearl barley is tender.
5. Stir in the butter, season and serve straight from the dish.

Halogen Oven Sunday Lunch

Roast chicken dinner

Image source: Knorr
Whip up a sunday lunch in 40 minutes!

Halogen ovens are tabletop electrical appliances that cook quicker and cheaper than conventional ovens.

Here’s a classic roast chicken dinner, which will be ready in just 40 minutes and will cost you only 8p in electricity!

Ingredients

• 1.5kg chicken
• 2 white onions
• 2 medium sized carrots
• 2 medium sized parsnips
• 4 garlic cloves
• 2 tbsp cooking oil
• Salt and pepper for seasoning
• 2 tbsp white flour
• 500ml chicken stock

Method

1. Place silver foil at the bottom of the bowl to catch the juices for your gravy.
2. Put the onion, carrots, parsnips and garlic on the bottom rack.
3. Pre-heat the halogen oven to 200°C.
4. Rub oil and seasoning into the chicken and place on top of the veg.
5. Cook for 35 minutes. Remove the chicken to check it is cooked (the juices will run clear if it is). If not, return to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes.
6. Leave the chicken to rest while you transfer the juices to a pan, add the flour and cook on a low heat, mixing to a paste-like consistency.
7. Add the chicken stock, a bit at a time, until you have the right thickness.

So what are you waiting for? Bon appétit!

The pros and cons of green energy

Are you plugged into green energy or do you think environmentally friendly power is a costly gimmick?

Do you think wind turbines are an elegant addition to the countryside or a blot on the landscape? Are solar panels a sign of positive change or a way to make your roof look ugly?

Here we take a look at some of the most popular forms of green energy, and ask – is all it’s cracked up to be?

Wind

Wind

Image source: The Energy Collective
We’re Europe’s windiest country – let’s make the most of it!

The UK is Europe’s windiest country. In fact it’s windy enough to power the nation several times over. That’s according to Renewable UK the UK’s leading not for profit renewable energy trade association. The UK currently has just under 5,500 industrial size on and off-shore wind turbines – enough capacity to power about 6 million homes. But is scaling up a realistic option?

Many people don’t like onshore wind farms and the debate over how many turbines we should have and where they should be built has become highly politicised. Last summer Communities secretary, Eric Pickles said more weight should be given to local opposition to wind power generation. In the last year, 41% of planning proposals were rejected – up from 25 – 29% over the previous four years leading to claims of government interference in the planning process.

But – regardless of the jump in planning rejections, the number of applications has soared. According to figures quoted in the Guardian, last year planning applications for 436 got the go ahead, up from 105 in 2009. Wind is here to stay.

Solar

Solar

Image source: Hope Project
Super green, super expensive.

The UK may not be the sunniest of countries, but that doesn’t mean our sunshine isn’t capable of generating significant amounts of power. In fact, across the UK, there are now over half a million homes with solar panels installed. But if the UK was to match Germany, we’d have to cover 10 million roofs with panels by the end of the decade. That represents a major challenge, but if we did manage to maximise our national solar potential, the UK could potentially generate 6% of its domestic energy needs from solar. And on sunny days, says the Guardian, that figure could rise to as much as 40%.

So what’s stopping us from going solar?

Cost. The average solar panel installation is 4kWp, and according to the Energy Saving Trust, it’ll set you back somewhere in the region of £6000 – £7400. That’s a lot of money – particularly for those on fixed incomes. But the government is actively encouraging investment as part of its Greendeal. Qualifying house holders could receive all or part of the cost of installing solar panels as a grant.  With no upfront costs and any money repayable collected through your energy bills, we think this could be a green technology well worth checking out.

Biomass

Biomass

Image source: Power Technology
Big savings, but what will it cost the environment?

Thinking of heating your home with wood chips, biomass pellets or logs? You could save £340 to  £650 on the cost of electric night storage heating and £335 – £470 on an oil fired heating system, says the Energy saving trust. Big savings – but biomass boilers are expensive: an automatically fed pellet boiler costs between £14,000 and £19,000. There is potential to have part of the cost defrayed through the government’s Renewable heat incentive, but investment needs careful thought, not least because biomass isn’t always as green as you might imagine.

Burning anything produces greenhouse gases. The only difference between burning wood or plant material and fossil fuels is timescale. Heating oil, coal and gas release carbon stored for millions of years. Burning biomass also releases greenhouse gases so it only works as a green fuel if what is burned is continually replanted. The processing required to turn wood to chips or pellets burns fossil fuel and the environmental cost of importing wood is significant.

Wood you chop and process yourself by axe or log splitter is the greenest, next is a supply of coppiced wood from a local source. Before investing in biomass, think about from where your fuel is likely to come.

Geothermal

Geothermal

Image source: Davies Smith
A geothermal power station in Iceland.

Anyone who has visited the Roman baths at Bath will have at least some appreciation of the potential of geothermal energy as a long lasting green power source. But though the the UK has a plentiful potential supply of hot rocks sufficient for the purpose of geothermal power generation – it’s rarely easy to access. In the early 1970s, the UK government commissioned a series of reports on the suitability of the UK for hot rocks power. But then the oil price fell and plans were shelved.

Now with peak oil approaching, interest in geothermal power is once more increasing. But there are potential environmental risks involved in geothermal energy production. Water pumped deep into the ground at high pressure can become contaminated, and as with the highly controversial fracking process, concerns have been raised about the risk of pollution of the water table and earthquakes – though there’s little evidence to support this.

The UK’s newest geothermal project is about to be built at the Eden project in Cornwall. There, planning permission has been granted for the construction of a plant that will supply power to the world leading environmental research centre and at least 3500 homes.

 

How to keep your house clean without housework

How to keep the house spick and span without housework?

It’s the challenge that’s kept inventors tinkering since the dawn of time – and it’s the holy grail of time pressed families everywhere. So just how close are we to achieving the unachievable?

How soon will it be before we can finally relax in the knowledge that dust and dirt have been conquered? Lets take a look at some of the latest ideas and technologies bringing the housework free home just that little bit closer.

Dirt repelling bathrooms

Clean Bathroom

Image source: Locushire
Nanotechnology uses liquid glass to repel water and dirt.

We all know that running a dehumidifier, together with adequate heating and good ventilation can help stop your bathroom turning into a mouldy mess. But now you can finally dispense with detergents, bleach and elbow grease – the self cleaning bathroom is here!

Nanotechnology is a modern day industrial revolution. Engineering at the microscopic level, it’s enabled scientists to create intelligent coatings that when applied to a bath, toilet or wash hand basin, allows it to clean itself. The microscopically thin layer of ‘liquid glass’ is super hydrophobic – it repels water and soiling in any form – no matter how long he’s been digging the garden!

Robot floor cleaners

You’ve bought the man in your life a pair of men’s slippers, but still he tramps a tide of filth into the house. If you’re fed up with cleaning up after him, fear not – get a robot to do for you!

Floor vacuuming robots have been around for a while, but now they’re super intelligent. Not only are they programmed to clean every inch of carpet or hard floor, they also have side brushes that dust along walls. Cliff sensors ensure your floor slave doesn’t drive itself down the stairs by mistake, and because of their low profile, they can even do under beds, chairs and tables. Oh and you can also program your robotic vacuum cleaner to clean when you’re out – and don’t worry, if they run out of power, they simply drive themselves back to the charging point.

Stain resistant walls

Clean Walls

Image source: Trends Home Decor
High tech tiles could mean no more scrubbing.

Cooking residue, nicotine stains, dirt and odours – just the things household detergents are designed to tackle. But what if you didn’t need them any more? What if you could simply wipe your walls with mild soapy water, leaving them perfectly clean?

New self cleaning ceramic tiles may be just what you’re looking for. Unlike standard ceramics, these high tech tiles have an ultra thin coating of a material that attracts water. Combined with sunlight, the humidity from the air condenses on the surface, preventing dirt from drying and staining. No more scrubbing!

Streak free windows

Clean Window

Image source: Sparkling Clear Window Cleaning
Forget chamois and squeegees forever!

Are you tired of buckets and chamois and those annoying smears squeegees leave behind? Or perhaps you’re petrified when your partner climbs ladders to clean the windows? The solution used to be to pay a window cleaner to keep the glass sparkling. But now thanks to new technology, you can buy windows that literally clean themselves.

It all comes down to the active ingredient, titanium dioxide. It’s the ingredient that makes freshly applied white paint dazzle, but when applied to glass in an ultra thin layer, it’s invisible to the naked eye. The coating reacts to sunlight causing chemical reactions that break down dirt particles. And when it rains, because the titanium dioxide attracts water the raindrops spread evenly over the surface, washing all the dirt away without leaving unsightly streaks. Magic!

You don’t even have to cook…

3D Pizza

Image source: Natural Machines
Would you eat a 3D pizza?

Your bathroom, wall, floors and windows are squeaky clean, and all without you having to do anything. But surely there’s no way around some chores? Surely somebody has to cook the dinner? Not necessarily…

You’ve heard of 3D printing – the new technology that’s revolutionising industrial production processes? Well now, it’s coming to your kitchen where you’ll be able to print your meals!

The Foodini is due to be launched very soon. Connected to the internet, you tell it what you want for tea – it tells you which ingredients with which to fuel it. Simply press ‘go’ and let the machine do the rest. It’ll make anything from intricately detailed chocolate creations to printed pizzas. Precision engineering for food!

How to sharpen a potato peeler

Imagine the scene. You’ve got a whole family of mouths to feed and a big sack of potatoes. All you have to do is peel the skin.

But horror of horror, your peeler doesn’t work. It’s blunt. And no matter how hard you try, that skin isn’t coming off!

So to avoid all that, let’s learn how to sharpen your peeler and see what to do with any other spuds that may be left over.

How to sharpen your potato peeler

If the aforementioned horror has happened, and your peeler is blunt, there are two main options.

1. Flip it over

As long as you haven’t been using both sides of the peeler, then this is the option for you. First remove the blade and find the blunt side, then simply flip the blade round, place back in the peeler and use the sharper edge.

2. Sharpen the blade

For an even simpler answer to blunt peelers, get a cheap pairing knife and run it across the top blade of the peeler; in both direction on both sides. The metal on metal action will have you peeling potatoes quickly in no time.

How to peel a potato without a peeler

What if you can’t find a peeler or you have broken yours? Well then there is another way to peel potatoes without any tools at all.

First, make a small incision around the circumference of the centre of the potato, then boil it till cooked right through. Remove the spud and place in ice water. Leave for 5 to 10 seconds.

Remove the potato from the ice water and with both hands, twist the skin ever so slightly then pull it. The skin will come off with ease.

How to peel without your hands

Electric potato peeler

Spudalicious

Some people have problems with dexterity and find peeling spuds a difficult task. But thankfully, there is help at hand.

With an electric potato peeler you can peel the skin off in minutes, without having to do any work at all.

Place a small amount of water into the bowl of the automatic potato peeler and then throw in the potatoes. The blade will then remove any skin, leaving you with naked spuds prepped and raring to go.

How to power a clock with a potato

Potato with battery

Not quite how it works
Source: Matthew McElliot

If you have one potato left after peeling and cooking, then you may want to take a look at this trick. Because believe it or not, a potato can power a small clock.

You’ll need two potatoes, with a galvanized nail inserted into each one. Then put a short piece of copper wire into each potato, as far away from the nail as possible.

With an alligator clip, connect the positive terminal of the battery compartment to the copper wire in potato one. Then connect the negative terminal to the nail in potato two. To finish the circuit get a third alligator clip and connect the nail in potato one, to the copper wire in potato two.

As if by magic, you’ll have a functioning clock, powered only by a potato.

Whether you’ve peeled your potatoes, with a nice sharp blade, a little water based trick or a clever gadget, you are ready to cook. But just keep an eye on your potato clock to make sure they don’t burn!


How to cook a chicken in a halogen oven

If you haven’t heard about halogen ovens, then prepare to be blown away. Because one of these nifty gadgets can cook a chicken 40% quicker than a conventional oven, at the cost of around 8p!

Halogen Oven

Speedy, healthy and tasty

So if we’ve got your attention with this time saving purse protector, then you may want to know how to use it.

Here is how to cook a chicken in a 12 litre halogen oven.

Ingredients

For the chicken
  • 1.5kg chicken
  • 2 white onions
  • 2 medium sized carrots
  • 2 medium sized parsnips
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 2 tbsp cooking oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning
  • For gravy
  • 2 tbsp white flour
  • Gravy browning
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Preparation

    Woman Crying While Chopping Onions

    A halogen oven can’t save you from tears

    1. A halogen oven drains away fat when cooking, but if you do want to catch it for a gravy (see below) then place silver foil at the bottom of the bowl.
    2. Place the onion, carrots, parsnips and garlic gloves on the bottom rack.
    3. Pre-heat the halogen oven to 200°C (400f) – which should take around 3 minutes.
    4. Glaze the chicken in oil and season to taste.

    Cooking

    Man with Oven Mitts

    Ready for hot potatoes

    1. Place the chicken on top or around the veg, also sitting on the rack.
    2. Place lid on halogen oven and set timer for 35 minutes.
    3. When timer goes, remove chicken and check if it is cooked. If the juices run clear, the chicken is done. If not, then return to the oven.
    4. If making a gravy, leave the chicken to rest and transfer the juices to a pan, with a small drop of flour. Put the pan on a low heat and mix the flour into a paste like consistency. Then add a some chicken stock, a bit at a time, until you have the right thickness. If needed, add gravy browning and seasoning.
    5. Serve and enjoy!

    Chicken Carcass with a lot of meat

    The end product A Mothers Ramblings

    So there you have it, a low cost, simple way to cook a chicken. And with the hectic Christmas calendar upon us, this clever gadget can take some of the hassle out of cooking, so you can worry about something else.


    Essential winter gadgets

    These days there is a gadget for everything, but some are more useful than others. The laptop desk that attaches to your steering wheel is a certainly rather stupid idea, and the less said about the iPotty the better.

    But there are plenty of gadgets that make life easier, and in the cold winter months that’s just what we want.

    So to make the festive season go smoothly this year, here are our top winter gadgets. Enjoy!

    Dehumidifer

    peltier-dehumidifier-AquaDri.

    Say no to chesty coughs this winter

    In the months that end with ‘R’ the air is moist due to low temperatures. This can cause damp, which in turn can cause mould spores and dust mites, both are bad news for your health.

    With a dehumidifier however that risk is diminished. It works by collecting moisture either via a fan, electric current on crystal and turning it into water. Simply dispose of the water, and job done.

    Log splitter

    D3803 Dual Logmaster Logsplitter 2 Cj

    Fire the fast way

    Chopping wood is always a hard task, but especially in the depths of winter. No one wants to stand in the cold swinging a rather dangerous axe around! That is where a log splitter comes in handy.

    Simply put, log splitters make better fires. This is because wood that has been split into smaller pieces burns better. The oxygen needed to keep a fire going has more access to the wood as there is a larger surface area, and this in turn means a brighter, warmer fire.

    Instead of a sharp point being swung at speed, a hydraulic or foot operated log splitter works with a splitting wedge, meaning you don’t have to strain your back and you can split more wood than you could by hand.

    Halogen oven

    Halogen Oven

    Impromptu roast dinner anyone?

    With winter bills rising, we’re all looking for ways to save money, and a halogen oven will slash bills. Based on a 1300w 12 litre halogen oven cooking a chicken in 40 minutes, you’ll only have to spend 9p on electricity!

    You may be wondering how a chicken can cook in 40 minutes? Well, because of hi tech halogen bulb technology and a fan to ensure all of the bowl gets heat, a halogen oven is able to cook tasty food fast.

    Potato peeler

    Electric potato peeler

    How do you like your spuds in the morning?

    Stews, roast dinners and soups are the epitome of winter warming food – and potatoes are often an important part of the meal.

    When shivering and in need of a winter warmer, like the traditional Welsh dish of cawl, peeling potatoes can be a time consuming task. And for those with joint problems, it can be painful too.

    But an automatic potato peeler uses a rotating blade to quickly take the skin off your spuds. Meaning those with poor dexterity needn’t be in pain, those that get cold hands needn’t get numb fingers and those who have a huge Christmas dinner to make, can get on basting the turkey!

    For hands that don’t ache, a fire that burns well and fully functioning lungs our gadgets will see you right. And if you do want to research halogen oven recipes online, avoid the steering wheel lap desk, the M1 is for driving after all.


    How to use log splitters

    The cold snap is here, summoning months of runny noses, numb body parts and frosted car windows. Whilst some will shiver at the thought of being chilly, for many it’s simple an excuse to get the fire going.

    Fire needs three things; oxygen, heat and fuel and by using wood with a larger surface area, the oxygen and heat have access to more fuel.

    So how do you get this larger surface area? With a log splitter, and here is how to use them.

    Foot powered

    D3953 Foot Operated Logsplitter Cj

    Simply split

    Simplicity be thy foot powered log splitter. They are simple work with, make quick work of logs and require very little labour.

    First, get a level working area and place your logs near the log splitter. Then get a wheelbarrow or garden cart ready for easy transportation.

    To start splitting, simply place a piece next to the splitting wedge and pump the lever. The hydraulic force – over a tonne – will cut through the wood with ease.

    Hydraulic

    D3803 Dual Logmaster Logsplitter 2 Cj

    Super splitting

    Just like the foot powered option, a hydraulic log splitter needs a level area to work. But unlike a foot powered one, you don’t need to do anything other than load and unload logs.

    Many hydraulic log splitters have handles, and if yours does then make sure you use them. It will make the machine more stable and stop you from endangering your hands!

    To get chopping, place the wood next to the wedge, hold the handle and watch as wood is driven into two bits. Wearing goggles is also a good idea, as when the wedge hits a knot in the wood, splinters may fly.

    A Maul

    Hand maul and firewood

    Sweaty split
    Source: Wikipedia

    Despite the invention of the log splitter, many still prefer the backbreaking work of preparing wood by hand. So if you are a glutton for punishment, here is some advice on how to chop your wood the old fashioned way.

    First, get a maul – which looks like an axe, but has a wider head – this forces the wood apart instead of cutting through it. Make sure you have plenty of space, then find a large piece of wood to use a big chopping board.

    Then comes the fun and/or hard part, depending your fitness levels! Rest the piece of wood you want to split on the chopping surface and drive the maul down into it. Look for grains of wood and aim for these lines, it will be easier to split this way.

    There are many ways to save on rising energy bills and a warming fire is one of the best. And unless you like the manliness of hand splitting wood, save yourself the hassle and use a log splitter instead. After all, if you’ve already got a runny nose, a sore back is the last thing you need.

    Top 10 ways to beat rising energy costs

    Rising energy bills are a hot topic right now in the UK — if only the same could be said for much of the shivering population struggling to pay them.

    Winters seem to be getting colder — nice one global warming — so it’s time to get savvy to lower your energy costs. Here are your top ten tips!

    1. Change providers

    Change energy provider

    Don’t be afraid to chase the best deals
    Source: All About Savings

    There is an ongoing price war happening between the energy providers, which is good news as it means they will be offering reduced prices to attract new customers. Keep an eye on any deals you could benefit from if you switch to another company (and read the small print). And don’t be afraid to keep on switching and chasing the discounts.

    2. Wear more clothes indoors

    wrap up for winter

    We’re talking thermals, jumpers, hats all wrapped up in a wooly blanket.
    Source: OMG Images

    An easy one really, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t wear enough clothes when indoors. If you’re relaxing on the sofa and not moving, then you’re not generating heat, so wrap up a little.
    You don’t need to wear a fur coat, but bring out the woolies and make sure that you’re preventing your body heat from escaping.

    3. Improve insulation

    insulate with curtains

    Make your own heavy duty curtains to keep the cold at bay
    Source: House to Home

    Would you keep pouring water in a jug if it had a leak? No. So why throw away money heating a house with bad insulation? It’s madness. Locate and destroy any draughts by insulating them in whatever way you can afford.
    Windows and doors are the chief suspects so if you can’t afford to buy new ones, then insulate them better. Any cracks can be fixed with draught excluder sealant, invest in a good pair of thick thermal curtains which can improve energy efficiency by as much as 25% and use draft excluders for the bottoms of doors.

    4. Move and keep active

    exercise

    You can’t be cold whilst doing crunches!
    Source: Fit Sugar

    Movement equals energy and energy equals heat. Move and your body will generate it’s own heat and also get everything firing up and flowing — a bit like starting up the boiler.
    Buy a fitness video and take up home aerobics, get into a bit of festive DIY or increase your quota of rumpy pumpy sessions — guaranteed to provide enough heat for two.

    5. Wood fuelled heating

    log splitter

    Save time with one of these handy log splitters
    Source: Clifford James

    Plan ahead and take into account the savings over a few winters. With that in mind, invest in a wood burner or get your fireplace and chimney back in working order.
    And avoid all the axe work on Christmas morning with your very own hydraulic log splitter, which will get through the big stuff quicker than it takes the youngsters to open their presents.

    6. Meal preparation

    jacket potato

    Is there anything more appealing during winter? Answer: no
    Source: Windy Beach

    Eat. Your body needs food to generate heat, so don’t skimp on meals and make sure you’re well fed. Stuff like jacket potatoes, soups and comforting dishes like cottage pie are reasonably cheap and will warm you up too.
    And save money by preparing stuff in the microwave (which is far more energy efficient than a gas cooker). Or how about throwing a foil-wrapped potato in your new wood burner?

    7. Choose your room

    sun light window

    Use your south-facing room as a winter snug
    Source: The Frugal Girl

    When the freeze kicks in and the heating needs to be on — then it’s time to get tactical. Ideally you want to be using a south-facing room as your winter hideout as it will trap some of the heat from the sun, which can go a long way to keeping the room warm all day if it’s insulated well.
    If you don’t have a south-facing room, then choose the smallest room, as it will be much easier to insulate and keep warm and put some foil behind the radiators to reflect the heat back into the room. And you don’t need the heating on in all the rooms — just your living space and sleeping abode will do the trick, so turn some of those radiators off and save money.

    8. Invest in a super quilt

    winter quilt

    So toasty you won’t want to get out of bed in the mornings
    Source: Style at Home

    Ask a granny to knit you a toasty blanket or invest in a super winter-spec quilt, which can be picked up cheap enough. And use it! Have it with you on the sofa and then snuggle up in bed. It may be frosty in your room, but under that quilt it’s summertime.

    9. Energy efficient products

    lamp

    Go green when buying lightbulbs
    Source: Wikipedia Commons

    Using energy-saving light bulbs will save you money in the long term as will opting for the more economical white goods like washing machines and freezers.
    And upgrading an uneconomical boiler is also an excellent investment that could save up to £300 per year. The initial outlay for more efficient products is likely to be costly, but if you were to work out the total costs over a few years, then savings would be made.

    10. Spend more time around friend’s houses

    friends house

    Cheeky but effective
    Source: Visiting Missouri

    Bit of a cheeky one, but hey, what are friends for? Pop around their houses and hang out in their sub tropical lounges (for as long as you can manage without appearing to be unofficially couch-surfing).