6 Silver linings of winter

Feet Warming By Fireplace
Look on the bright side…

If summer and winter went head-to-head for the honour of being the most popular season of the year, then it would be no contest and summer would win easily with its sunshine, ice creams and suntans.

But hold on just a minute. Winter shouldn’t be written off quite so easily; there are lots of overlooked benefits during the snowy season.

Summer has its perks for sure, but no season does comfy time quite like wintertime. Allow us to remind you of what’s in store when the nights draw in.

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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

gas flame
Image source: Nikkytok
Don’t be afraid to chase the best deals

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

Heavy curtains
Image source: Alexandru Nika
Make your own heavy duty curtains to keep the cold at bay

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

Crunch
Image source: Wavebreak Media Ltd
You can’t be cold whilst doing crunches!

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
Image source: Olga Miltsova
Is there anything more appealing during winter? Answer: no

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

Duvet
Image source: BCFC
So toasty you won’t want to get out of bed in the mornings

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

Football friends
Image source: Monkey Business Images
Cheeky but effective

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).

Get better British Bake Off bread

A massive slice of the UK population seems to be obsessed with the Great British Bake Off television series.

The show, which sees passionate amateur bakers competing to be the best at baking stuff, has inspired every viewing Tom, Dick and Mary to try their luck with a bread mix and a rolling pin.

But how about adding something special to the mix and using a halogen oven to bake your bread? Anything you can cook in a conventional oven you can cook in a halogen oven — and below are seven reasons why halogen means better British Bake Off bread.

Space saving and flexible

Halogen oven
A true kitchen space saver
Source: Clifford James

Halogen ovens are about the size of a large food blender, so much smaller than traditional ovens, which is great news if space is at a premium in your kitchen. So move it around to suit your (ahem) kneads.

It’s also easy to transport the halogen oven to a place where it’s more convenient for you to bake. You could even take it on holiday or on a camping trip if you have a power supply. Surely Mary Berry would be impressed!

Save your back

Baking
Image source: Stockyimages
Put a stop to baking related back pains

Apparently it’s a bit of an in-joke that contestants spend most of their time crouched over staring at oven doors. This isn’t doing their backs any good and a stiff back isn’t conducive to a productive session of baking.

Baking shouldn’t be a physical strain, so use a halogen oven instead. Being small and easily manoeuvrable, halogen ovens can be located in back-friendly locations like worktops and kitchen tables. Meaning your back should feel just as light and relaxed as the dough.

Rise

Dough Rising In A Bowl
Image source: Johan Larson
Get a rise out of your dough

Rise is such a good word in so many contexts and it is the holy grail of utterances when it comes to baking bread. The not-so secret method for helping your bread to rise is making sure the dough rises first.

You’ll need a warm and draught-free place to let your dough expand (as you don’t want your dough to dry out) and an excellent candidate is of course the halogen oven. Adjust the setting halfway between off and thaw (which is just enough to warm the bowl) and the dough mix should roughly double in size in around 30 minutes.

Viewable progress

halogen oven bread
Who could resist having a peek?
Source: Crafting Heaven

This is the fun bit, so grab a pew and turn on the HOT channel (Halogen Oven TV). As halogen ovens are made from glass, when it comes to baking your bread, you can actually watch as your lump of squidgy dough is magically transformed into a golden brown loaf of fluffy goodness.

There will be no more bending over to peer into darkened oven doors, or opening those same doors to receive a scorching blast of hot air in your face. All rise for the fabulously helpful halogen oven.

Quicker

Kitchen clock
Image source: Cura Photography
Speed up your baking time

Halogen ovens rely on halogen bulb heating elements to convert electrical energy into intense heat, which is then circulated by a high performance fan. This efficient and highly effective system results in halogen ovens generally being much quicker than traditional ovens — as much as three times faster in fact for particular dishes.

When it comes to baking a loaf of bread, you’ll only see a small increase in actual cooking times, but it will still be quicker as halogen ovens take hardly any time to preheat.

Save money

Piggy Bank
Image source: Gelpi
A wallet friendly way to bake bread

There’s lots of money to be saved by opting for a halogen oven. Not only are they up to eight times cheaper than their conventional rivals, halogen ovens are also far more efficient.

Due to their high performance, they will cook the food faster and so require less electricity. It all adds up, so eventually the trusty halogen will pay for itself in reduced fuel bills.

It’s cool

Space shuttle
Image source: K J Warden
A halogen oven wouldn’t look out of place in this

So it’s smaller, cheaper and quicker — it also looks like it belongs on a space exploration vessel, so using a halogen oven to create your loaves is a pretty cool way to do get busy with your bake off.

And if all that wasn’t enough to convince you, then here’s the best part of all: many halogen ovens have a wash setting, so when it’s time to clean the flour and crumbs from within, your trusty bake off friend will do it all for you.

Unconventional cooking

Chef
Image source: Kzenon
Are you an adventurous cook?

Now you can approach this from the Ray Mears survivalist angle, or it could be that you’re simply curious or adventurous — but how about trying some unconventional cooking?

Yes — cause a scene, raise an eyebrow or simply try something new for dinner. Let’s face it, one day you might be forced to get unconventional with your cooking anyway. Best get ahead of the game then …

Car bonnet omelette

fry eggs car
Meals on wheels
Source: UAE & Me

For this dish you’ll need one car bonnet — preferably very hot from a long drive, a pan and the usual eggs, oil and mushrooms. Simply place the ingredients in the pan and place on the bonnet.

Be careful not to take the paint off your bonnet and watch out for seagulls if you’re near the coast. Give it a while and hey presto — omelette de la voiture!

Wood burner spuds

Rooms with wood burners are usually so comfortable that they breed laziness. Laziness that results in walks to the kitchen seeming like a trek through the Himalayas — so good job you had a sack of spuds to hand.

Simply throw some big spuds into the wood burner and carry on with your lazy afternoon — give it an hour and you’ll have some wood smoked crispy-skinned jacket potatoes. Beat that Heston!

Halogen oven Sunday roast

Clifford James halogen oven
It’s roasting Jim, but not as we know it
Source: Clifford James

If Star Trek endorsed ovens … they would be something like halogen ovens. Converting electrical energy into intense heat, halogen ovens are not only small enough to sit on your table top, but about ten times cheaper when compared to conventional ovens.

Made of glass and resembling food mixers, they don’t mess about when it’s time for lunch. You’ll be able to cook a tasty roast dinner in about 30 minutes. And watch it too.

Laser grilled popcorn

Lasers are long, narrow concentrated beams of light that get so hot they could cut through steel — impressive. But can you cook with a laser? Of course you can!

The trick is to choose food items that are small, as the laser beam cannot cover a large area. Popcorn is the perfect candidate for laser cuisine and has already proved a success in past experiments. Although this isn’t one you should try at home just yet. Keep an eye on the future though as lasers could well be in the kitchen soon.

Skyscraper frazzled bacon and eggs

London’s skyline has a new 37-storey addition known infamously as the death ray or fryscraper. These names are due to its mirrored walls creating astonishingly hot solar flares that have been reported hot enough to burn the paint off parked cars and also the hair off some heads!

So it’s a good place to go if your cooker has retired. Simply place your breakfast in a pan making sure it’s under the heat of a reflected solar beam and you’ll be enjoying sun-kissed delights in no time. Just find somewhere safe to eat it!

Pimp my slippers — patents pending

Slippers have been keeping our feet warm and comfy for centuries, but have you ever felt that they could do more? Well you’re not alone…

In this age of modification, even gentlemen’s slippers haven’t escaped the ingenious and sometimes bizarre pimping skills of footwear designers. Take a look at some of the actual patents pending for men’s slippers.

Puppet / slipper combo

Puppet slippers
Image source: Yastremska
You could be the next Rod Hull, thanks to your slippers

There’s a patent pending for a slipper that also functions as a puppet — yes you heard it correctly. If the conversation is boring you or you’re feeling mildly insane, simply put your slippers on your hands and hey presto — you’re the next Rod Hull.

Made with a flexible sole the slipper easily becomes a puppet with a moving mouth. Gimmicks — don’t you just love/hate ‘em!

Lighted slipper

Do you keep bumping into your furniture at night? Do you have problems seeing around your own house when it’s dark? Well just turn on the lights or a lamp — right?

That’s probably why a patent filed in 2001 for a lighted slipper — that’s a slipper with small ambient lights attached — has expired. An invention needs to solve a problem, but in this case light switches and normal slippers are much better than dark rooms and lighted slippers. Doh!

Skull slippers

Skull Slippers
Image source: Maxoidos
Just what you want on your feet

This patent has already been granted so expect to see this design on sale in underground slipper stores around Halloween. The design is simple and consists of the slipper looking like a skull — the mouth of the skull being the place where you insert your feet.

These skull slippers are sure to steal the show at the Mexican Day of the Dead Festival, but could be a bone of contention in most respectable households.

Shoe / slipper combo

This patent was aimed at women, but the concept of the idea isn’t gender specific, so we’ve included it. It’s basically a slipper inside a shoe.

So you’ve been on a long walk around the city in your shoes and now you want to relax beside a roaring fire. Only you forgot your slippers. No you didn’t! They’re inside your shoes. Wow — this is surely a must-have item for those people that transport their car inside their camper van when they’re on holiday.

Heated vibrating slipper

Warm slippers
Image source: oocoskun
This is so early 2000s. Where is the electric motor and heat-emitting wire and battery pack?

The proposer of a patent for a heated, vibrating slipper has been left hanging since 2007. If we were to speculate why then it would probably be because there isn’t really enough room in a slipper to house an electric motor and a heat-emitting wire and battery pack.

We’re pretty sure there would also be some serious health and safety issues with a fur-lined slipper housing a heating mechanism. Though what a flaming great training tool for Olympic sprinters — Water!

Musical Slipper

What could be a better addition to this uneventful world than a musical animal slipper? You’d be the talk of the party with these bad boys on your feet. What’s that noise? Well, it’s my musical slippers that are shaped like puppies.

Actually the 2001 application for a patent hasn’t been granted yet and doesn’t look like it will be either. We’re really sorry about that one, chaps.

Mens trousers you should never wear

So, you’ve got some jeans and some smart trousers and maybe a pair of jogging bottoms or two — but it feels like there’s room for something new in your wardrobe.

Somebody might have inspired you to go for something a bit alternative and daring, but this is where you need to pull back and go easy. There are some men’s trousers you should never wear.

Chaps

Chaps: Only if your Clint Eastwood
Chaps: Only if your Clint Eastwood
Source: IOPhoto

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are two of the toughest, meanest cowboys to grace our screens and it’s hard not to be inspired by the gun-swirling, horse-riding outlaws in their chaps.

But hold it right there, Mister!

Step down from the horse, which you don’t own, get back in your house, which isn’t in the Western Frontier and take off those chaps unless you’re a cowboy.

If you walk around 21st Century Britain in chaps, people will simply think you’re on a gay fancy dress outing (which you might be, in which case: enjoy!).

PVC

Iggy Pop
Image source: Northfoto BP
Iggy Pop

Bare-chested and clad in tight and transparent PVC trousers, Iggy Pop is the Peter Pan of the rock world. With his trademark Lust for Life, he continues to fire out the hits and moves.

But before you listen to his CD and recall how good he looks (in a man to man kind of way) in those transparent PVC trousers: just don’t go there.

Iggy Pop is not a man who can be imitated. You would probably turn heads, but not in a good way.

Lycra

After the 2012 London Olympics, once-fringe sports like cycling and gymnastics have suddenly become mainstream. Armchair fans have been inspired to have a go — their first stop being to buy some sporty men’s trousers.

But slow down there.

Lycra trousers may look good on toned athletes like Louis Smith and Mark Cavendish, but they’re the professionals. Just beware of how tight you go with your trousers — tightness may protect you against physical injury, but not massive embarrassment.

Imagine if your boss or your dad saw you doing squat thrusts in the park…

Skin-tight red jeans

Since One Direction first appeared on the X Factor, a boy band renaissance has been sweeping the UK music scene. These young men own quite an impressive range of men’s trousers.

Their skin-tight jeans in shades of bright red are proving very popular with fans.

But before you go raiding your sister’s wardrobe for tiny jeans and start to cut off the blood supply to your legs, you’ll need to know something:

If you’re a teenager and in a boy band, you can get away with wearing most things. If you’re not, you will end up looking stupid and struggling to walk.

Snakeskin

Men of the desert, bounty hunters and eccentric poker players are the type of men that wear snakeskin trousers.

These men could track a guinea pig through the bush faster than it takes you to make a microwave dinner.

Cork-dangling headwear and snakeskin trousers is not a good look in the middle of Wigan. You’re much better off playing it safe when shopping for new men’s trousers.

Revealing ladies slippers

Most ladies know, the shoes you choose reveal your personality and purpose.

So it’s important not to be caught off guard. Like when you’re relaxed at home and not dressing to impress — so ask yourself, are your ladies slippers a little too revealing?

Animal slippers

Ladies bunny slippers
Unleash your inner animal
Source: Tereh

It may be that your inner wild animal is screaming to be released, but some men may see things differently. Floppy-eared bunny slippers will have some men running faster than … well, bunnies being chased by cougars. Just keep an eye on that inner child.

Helen slippers

helen ladies slippers
Cosy, feminine and reliable
Source: Clifford James

Cosy, feminine and pleasing on the eye, the Helen slipper is a popular choice for ladies and a hard one for men to determine any personality traits. It’s a steady, balanced choice that won’t disappoint with any unexpected breakdowns.

Ladies Mules

ladies slippers mules
Relaxed and easy going
Source: Warren Goldswain

Mules glide and loaf around the house and are recognised as the cool cat of the slipper world. If you’re relaxed and easy going and prefer to effortlessly slip in and out of situations, then mules will send out the right messages to special guests.

Bootees

bootees ladies slippers
Ready for cosy snuggles
Source: Clifford James Slippers

It doesn’t take a PHD in slipper mechanics to determine that wearers of these beauties love those little comforts like feeling snug! Fleece lined from little toe to ankle, bootees are for ladies that give off a welcoming warmth and don’t mind getting
cosy.

Ballerina style slippers

ballerina slippers dog
Feminine and elegant slippers
Source: BigStockPhoto

Delicately feminine, petite and elegant, ballerina style slippers are perfect for all those English roses out there. They have even been known to reduce big, burly men to soft, adoring puppies (not literally of course).

Eskimo moccasin

ladies moccasin slippers
Secure, confident and bohemian
Source: Clifford James

Equally at ease whether indoors or outdoors, moccasins are flexible enough to deal with most of life’s trials and tribulations. Secure and confident with their own bohemian style, their good looks will impress both men and women.

Glass slippers

cinderella glass slipper
Away with the fairies
Source: Plasma infusion

From a health and safety perspective, glass slippers are a risky choice for relaxation. It’s also time to step out of the fairytale as a pumpkin carriage isn’t going to rescue you from your delusional state even if it is the pantomime season.

How a log splitter can rekindle your love life

Summer may be at an end, but you don’t have to pack away your romance with the beachwear.

With the colder weather there’s ample opportunity to get cosy with somebody special in front of an open fire. And with the swift onset of winter now’s the perfect time to get chopping wood.

Beware though, as the ‘lumberjack with bad back’ image is not so attractive. Here’s how to do it proper.

Splitting logs

log splitter lover
Impress your lover with a log splitter

Forget working up a sweat playing the lumberjack, cool guys bring out their power tools and go large on the firewood. If the brutal efficiency and speed of a log splitter doesn´t impress your lover, then surely the time saved for extra loving will.

Rekindling the atmosphere

fire lighting
Ignite your love fire, before the magic moment fades

There’s nothing worse than not being able to get the fire started. So rather than huffing and puffing while your lover nods off, make sure you take precautions and have some kindling and firelighters at the ready.

Crank up the heat

open fire place
Crank up the heat with a real fire

You’ll obviously need a place to start a fire and the king of sizzle has to be the traditional open fireplace. Or how about the flexible wood burner, which can be fitted to all manner of places from motorhomes to cosy cabins. Just don’t forget to clean your chimney.

Furry friends

pug rug
Nothing can resist a soft rug, or pug.

Guaranteed to raise the cosy stakes is a soft sheepskin rug sprawled out in front of the fireplace. Nobody can resist relaxation when a sheepskin meets a fire (including dogs and cats).

Satisfying nibbles

Handmade chocolates box
Sweet nibbles

Don’t forget to stock up the fridge with a little food and drink. No need to go mad, just a bottle of wine and some finger food. And whatever you do, do not forget a sweet dessert for afters.

With all of the above taken care of, it’s time to work your romantic magic and crank up the heat.