Pull your trousers up!

Known as ‘sagging’, it’s been banned in some places, rock stars have been thrown off flights because of it, and even Barack Obama has had his say on the issue!

To many of us, it’s a mens trouser fashion disaster, to some it’s downright offensive, but why do they do it, and why hasn’t this fad ‘bottomed’ out by now?

Here we take a look at the saggy trouser brigade – and their penchant for pulling their pants down.

Sagging

Sagging trouser trend

Image source: The Liberty Beat
Look away!

You’ve seen them – young men swaggering down the street, their trousers worn so low it leaves little to the imagination – that’s ‘sagging’.

But just how did the craze for displaying several inches of underwear come into being?

Like many fashion faux pas, this one is from across the pond.

USA

Jail

Image source: Sodahead
The origins of sagging.

In a bid to prevent suicides and to deny prison inmates a potential weapon, gaolers in the United States routinely confiscate belts from convicted criminals. Prison issue uniforms are shapeless and ill-fitting – and the result is trousers that sag.

When gangster rap came along in the 1990’s, hard men of the genre took droopy drawers – a fact of prison life humiliating by design – and turned it into something of a badge of honour. Eager audiences lapped up the look and a fashion trend developed that’s proved just as long lasting as the popularity of the original music and its subsequent evolutions.

Controversy

Controversy

Image source: Oh My News
In some places punishment is more than a disapproving tut.

Here in the UK the trend for wearing your jeans so low, your boxers show has met with mixed reviews, but over in the States, it’s provoked outrage in some quarters. In fact, in some states, the authorities have resorted to the law to crack down on the practice.

Tug your trousers down just two inches below your natural waistline in Ocala, Florida and you could face a fine of up to $500. In Pikeville, Tennessee, the ‘crime’ will cost you $25 for a first offence and $50 a time if the message doesn’t sink in.

In some schools, teachers turn loose fit jeans into high waisters by cable tying then into place. A photo of the offender sporting the new look is then pinned to the wall in an attempt to shame the student into submission.

Flight restriction

Flight restriction

Image source: Wikimedia
Refuse to pull ‘em up? Get booted off a plane!

Flying your jeans low might be broadly tolerated here in the UK, but as lead singer of Green Day, Billie Joe Armstrong discovered, if you hope to take to the air in the States, you’d better pull your trousers up. When in 2012, the star boarded a Southwest airlines flight from San Francisco to California, an air hostess to ask him to readjust his waistline.

When Armstrong refused, he was given short shrift; and the ‘American Idiot’ singer, was promptly thrown off the flight. Allocated a seat on a later flight, you can be sure he belted up in good time.

Racist?

Barack Obama

Image source: Wikimedia
Even Obama has weight in on the debate.

Clearly, sagging is something of a sore point in America – but is the sharp shock solution a case of racism rearing its ugly head? Some commentators have pointed out the prevalence of the preference for low slung jeans among people of colour in the US, complaining that clamping down on the practice is unconstitutional not only in terms of denying freedom of expression, but also because it discriminates against the black population.

Naysayers point to the abundance of middle class white teens who’ve also adopted the fashion statement. But the issue has proved so divisive that even Barack Obama weighed in on the argument, coming down against legislating to ban low slung trousers, but telling the media in 2008 that: “ brothers should pull up their pants. You’re walking by your mother, your grandmother, and your underwear is showing.…And, you know, some people might not want to see your underwear — I’m one of them.”

UK reaction

Builders Bum

Image source: Nat Pryce
This trend has plagued us for years!

Back home in the UK, large portions of the population are less than bowled over by so-called ‘sagging’, but broadly speaking, it’s a look that’s tolerated, albeit with a tisk here and a tut or two there. But perhaps we’re just used to it.

After all, we’ve lived with it for decades –  centuries even…it’s just that what the yanks call sagging, we call ‘builder’s bum’!

No socks for summer

Tempted to go sockless this summer? Go for it!

Where mens shoes are concerned, the bare ankle is one of the coolest fashion trends around.

But as with all crazes, there’s a way to go about ditching your socks; not all shoes look good without them, and when it comes to turning up your turn ups, how many turns is the right number? And then of course,  as well as looking the part, you’ll want to smell the part too!

Here’s our guide to a hosiery-free summer…

Why?

No sock shoe fashion

Image source: Among Men
Make a sockless statement this summer.

For one thing, it feels good. A gentle breeze caressing the bare skin of your lower leg does wonders to cool you down in the heat of a hot summer’s day.

But the real reason to go without your socks is to accentuate the impact of the shoes you’re wearing. Yes, the shoe is the star – so make sure you have a decent pair. Dilapidated workwear isn’t good enough; if that’s all you have, it’s time you went shopping.

Which Shoes

Sockless shoe fashion

Image source: My Fashion Tricks
Pick the right shoe for you.

No hard and fast rules here because what suits one, doesn’t suit all. But as a rule of thumb, match your shoes to the rest of your look. Suit trousers go beautifully with brogues, loafers and moccasins with chinos, or choose to wear jeans with your boat shoes.

That said, boat shoes also look good with chinos and brogues with jeans – the answer is to experiment. Work out what works for you and go with it.

Turn it up

Turn up jeans and no socks

Image source: I love sneakers
How far should you turn?

Ankles only gents. If you like to flash a bit of shin, invest in a pair of shorts. A well displayed ankle looks great with shoes – but start rolling your trousers up too high and you’ll look like you’re preparing to ford a river.

The only time it’s fine to turn trousers right up to the knee is when you’re holding hands with the love of your life and wading through the shallows of a tropical lagoon. Then it’s a case of bare feet and footprints in the sand; whoever said romance is dead?

Invisible socks

Invisible Socks

Image source: Put This On
Sneaky!

Sockless we may be, but who wants sweaty feet? Invisible socks are a wonderful invention so make good use of them. But in case your shoes are low cut, and you can’t, a liberal sprinkling of talc will help, as will airing your shoes in between wearings.

In fact without socks to soak up moisture, it’s even more important to ‘rest’ your shoes because damp leather deteriorates. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes for more than a day or two without stuffing them with newspaper and giving them a day – or as long as it takes – for them to dry out. At this stage, you might also consider investing in a quality shoe deodoriser…

Happy feet

No sock shoe style

Image source: Guy Style Guide
Take care of your bare feet.

If you plan on going sock free, it pays to take good care of your feet. Leather shoes can give you blisters that’ll drive you hopping mad. Protect bare feet with a dab of vaseline where your shoes rub, or alternatively, pre-empt friction by protecting vulnerable areas with blister plasters.

You’ve heard the expression a stitch in time…it’s a good philosophy. To enjoy your sock free summer to the max, our advice: run with it.

5 ways to revamp your wardrobe

If your wardrobe is looking a little dated but you’re loathe to part with old favourites, maybe it’s time to get revamping!

There are tonnes of things even a novice with a needle can do, and the end results are impressive.

So if you fancy upstyling your mens leather shoes or updating your favourite old tie, read on for some inspirational DIY tips and tutorials.

1. Paint the soles of your shoes

Shoe soles

Image source: The Shoe Snob
Pick a colour, any colour!

Take inspiration from the catwalk and paint your soles and their edges with some acrylic paint for statement piece footwear. Your DIY contrast soles will definitely make you stand out from the crowd. Don’t overdo your look – these shoes are best worn with an understated suit.

2. Add elbow patches

Elbow Patch

Image source: Honestlywtf
Get the heritage look with a simple patch.

Again, the success to this look is contrast. Update a suit jacket with this modern parody of the university-lecturer look. Follow this tutorial for simple steps to this fashion revamp using a needle and thread. Alternatively, try painting your elbow patches using a stencil and fabric paint.

3. Change your buttons

Buttons

Image source: Slender Means
Go from high-street to high end with this easy swap.

Changing the buttons on shirts, jackets or trousers can make all the difference in the style stakes. Adding contrasting coloured buttons will make a dated piece look bang on trend. And swapping standard buttons for higher quality ones is a simple way to turn high-street into high end. A foolproof way to update your look.

4. DIY skinny tie

Skinny ties

Image source: Becoming Whitney
Modernise your tie collection.

Transform old kippers into something sleeker and sexier with this simple skinny tie tutorial. You’ll need a sewing machine, iron and sewing pins to do a proper job. Make a skinny tie out of any of your old faves or source something a little funkier from your local charity shop or vintage boutique.

5. Turn buttons into cufflinks

Button cufflinks

Image source: Wedding Mania
Turn your old buttons into new cufflinks.

If you’re handy with a pair of wire cutters, it’s easy to make a pair of unique cufflinks from buttons and eye pins. Choose buttons that are shank-backed (the ones with a hoop on the back to thread cotton through) and use two for each set of cufflinks. These DIY button cufflinks are a really easy way to add subtle character to your look.

The most successful DIY fashion tricks are simple ideas executed with care. Hopefully we’ve inspired you to take charge of your own look and to go create something magnificent.

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

Image source: Marie SocialWellies are a festival footwear staple.

Image source: GBC Mag
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

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

Image source: Herding Cats in Hammond River
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

Image source: Cloud FrontSocks and sandals - never a good look.

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

 Image source: The Outdoor DiariesPack plastic bags for those soggy 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

Image source: Clifford JamesWould you muddy up your 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.