• The great Christmas car journey singalong

    by  • December 16, 2014 • 0 Comments

    DRIVING HOME FOR CHRISTMAS | girlabouttech.com‘Horses, horses, horses, horses’ sings Meg Ryan’s Annie, before changing the station to listen to a certain Sleepless in Seattle pouring his heart out. But am I the only one who has a problem with this plot twist? You see, I’d much rather stick with the festive tunes. I’m not fussy – I’m just as happy with Silent Night sung by a cute-as-buttons children’s choir as I am bopping along to Elton’s Step into Christmas during the long drive from Boy About Tech’s folks in St Helens to mine in Bristol.

    Luckily for me (and unluckily for him), our car stereo has built-in Bluetooth, so it’s easy for me to stream track after Christmas track from my phone. But if yours doesn’t, I have just the gadget for you.

    Wave Bluetooth 3.0 audio adaptor | Mitchell and Johnson | girlabouttech.com

    The Wave Bluetooth 3.0 audio adaptor from hi-fi company Mitchell and Johnson plugs into any 3.5mm stereo jack input (the small one headphones would normally fit into), and enables older systems to stream songs via Bluetooth, so you can play DJ with any smartphone or tablet.

    It will need charging first – via MicroUSB – but the Wave will give you around six hours of streaming, the equivalent of playing East 17′s Stay Another Day 81 times, which is enough even for me. At £29.99, I think it’s a great Christmas stocking filler.

    Read more →

    Great gift: Lomo’Instant instamatic cameras

    by  • December 12, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Lomography LomoInstant Instant Camera | TRUFFLE SHUFFLE | girlabouttech.comInstagram may produce cool digital doppelgangers for instamatic prints, but these new cameras from Lomography can give you the real thing. And given how hot analogue is right now, they’d make the ideal Christmas present for just about anyone.

    The simple set-up gives you creative control over your shots without overwhelming you with options – choose to have the flash on or off and between N for normal daytime shots and B shutter for long exposures at night. You can also stick with the built-in wide-angle lens, or buy Fisheye and Portrait lens attachments separately if you’d like to experiment a bit more.

    Your only other concern might be how easy it is to buy the film, but as the Lomo’Instants take Fuji’s widely-available and easy-to-load Instax Mini Film, there are no worries on that score.

    Lomography LomoInstant Sanremo camera | TRUFFLE SHUFFLE | girlabouttech.comThe cameras come in three colours – the white and black versions cost £88.99 and the limited edition Sanremo (above left) costs £108.99 at Truffle Shuffle. Make your purchase this weekend, and you’ll get a 20% discount by entering the code WRAPPED20.

    Read more →

    Christmas in the kitchen! Gadget gifts for keen cooks

    by  • December 9, 2014 • 0 Comments

    SAGE THE BOSS BLENDER | LAKELAND | girlabouttech.comYou’ll have to be feeling very generous to give this… or be very lucky to receive it, but Sage’s The Boss, £500 at Lakeland, is all the kitchen machine anyone will ever need. To describe it as ‘a blender on steroids’ wouldn’t do it justice – this bad boy and its three-horse-power motor can tackle tasks as diverse as blending a nut butter, grinding flour, stirring up a sorbet or making hot soup.

    It’s so efficient, it chops particles 50% smaller than a standard blender for the smoothest and tastiest pestos and hummus. There’s even a unique Green Smoothie mode among its pre-set functions, which gets all the goodness from hard-to-blend leaves such as spinach… all the better for that post-Christmas health kick.

    AURA STAND AND HAND MIXER | RUSSELL HOBBS | girlabouttech.com

    If you’ve got less cash to splash, the Aura hand and stand mixer is quite the baking bargain. Use the detachable mixer on its stand with the 3.5ltr bowl or in your hand. It’s got five speeds plus a turbo setting for whipping in a hurry. It costs £44.99 from Russell Hobbs.HAND BLENDER | DUALIT | girlabouttech.com

    Masterchef’s Monica Galetti is a fan of this Dualit hand blender, £80, John Lewis, and so am I. For me, it’s all about the design details, from the anti-suction blending stick to the drain holes in the dishwasher-safe jug and chopping bowl.

    Multiquick-3-J300-juicer-_-BRAUN-_-girlabouttech.comThis jolly juicer from Braun can produce a whole glass of fresh carrot juice for Rudolph in 15 seconds, or a litre of the stuff in under a minute. And it’s currently on sale at Argos for the bargain price of £49.99. It comes with a 1.25ltr jug and foam separator, a wide feeding chute that can handle whole apples, meaning less chopping for the lucky recipient, and a four-way safety cut-off system.

    TURNTABLE KITCHEN TIMER | PREZZYBOX | girlabouttech.com

    I told you vinyl was in. This groovy Turntable Kitchen Timer, £9.95 from Prezzybox, is the ultimate stocking filler for those who enjoy some rockin’ beats as they beat! It doesn’t need batteries and can keep time for up to 55 minutes.

    JEA61 Soup Maker | JUDGE | girlabouttech.com

    It may not have a very exciting name, but the JEA61 soup maker, £100 from Judge is a souper gift idea (sorry!), making four portions of soup in under 30 minutes and without you having to touch or wash a single pan. It chops, blends and heats, making chunky or smooth soup as well as cold drinks like smoothies. It even comes with a steam basket for boiling eggs!

    Want more ideas? How about some of the star gadgets from this year’s Great British Bake Off?

    Read more →

    Friday Find: Stunning sage range cooker from Everhot

    by  • December 5, 2014 • 6 Comments

    EVERHOT 60 HEAT STORAGE RANGE COOKER | EVERHOT | girlabouttech.comI’m not doing the honours this year, but that can’t stop me dreaming of cooking the Christmas turkey in this beautiful range cooker from Everhot. The Sage colourway is new to all the models in the Everhot range, including this 60cm version, £4,685.

    It simply plugs into a 13 amp socket, saving you the cost of having a flue and concrete base installed, but has the same heat-storage properties of a traditional cooker, so will give off a gentle warmth that will entice the whole family – including pets – into the kitchen. Well, it’s one way to find someone to help with the washing up!

    Other features include a full-width grill in the top oven, and independent temperature controls for each oven and the hotplate, so you won’t roast in summer.

    Want a bigger oven cavity? How about this Cornishware-inspired range cooker?

    Read more →

    This bread maker will save your Christmas

    by  • December 2, 2014 • 0 Comments

    SD-ZB2502XBC BREADMAKER | PANASONIC | girlabouttech.com

    Christmas. A time to eat, drink and be merry, but that last bit can be quite tricky when you’re in charge of the kitchen. However, help is at hand from a rather unlikely source – a bread maker. Or, more specifically, the SD-ZB2502XBC bread maker, £134.99 from Panasonic (available here). Here are just a few of the things it can do to save the day over the festive season:

    1. Make cranberry sauce
    Impress guests with a delicious sauce made from scratch. Remove the kneading blade from the pan, then add 800g of cranberries followed by 75g of castor sugar and 75ml of orange juice.
    Select Menu 27 (Compote) and enter 1 hour on the timer. Go and have a lie down. Return at the end of the cooking time, give the pan a stir and yourself a pat on the back.

    2. Bake gluten-free bread
    Cater for a wheat-intolerant visitor with this handy mode. You could either use a gluten-free packet mix and Menu 12 or create your own.
    For the latter, add 300g brown rice flour, 100g potato starch, 50g skimmed milk powder, 1tsp salt, 1tbsp sugar and 1tbsp xanthum gum to the bread pan. Then mix 1 egg and 1 egg white with warm water to make it up to 430ml and pour this in with 60ml melted butter and 1tsp of cider vinegar. Finally add 1tsp of yeast to the dispenser and cook on Menu 1 (Medium Crust) for 4hrs. The SD-ZB2502XBC also makes tasty rye and spelt loaves.

    3. Whizz up a last-minute mulled wine fruit cake
    If there’s not enough Christmas cake to go round, pad out your dessert trolley with this easy bake. Put 350g of mixed dried fruit, 50g chopped dates, 50g chopped walnut, 100g dried cranberries, 75g of butter and 300ml of mulled wine into a bowl and pop it in the microwave on full blast for 3-4 minutes.
    Leave the mix to cool slightly, then add three medium eggs, 250g plain flour and 1tsp of bicarbonate of soda and stir well. Remove the kneading blade from the bread maker, line the pan with parchment and add the mixture. Finally, select Bake Only and enter 1 hour 15mins on the timer. Leave it to stand for 5 to 10 minutes before taking it out of the tin… then tuck in!

    4. Wow them with an Italian panettone
    This light tea time treat from Milan is the perfect antidote to all that Christmas stodge. Add 1.5tsp yeast, 400g strong white flour, 4tbsp sugar, 1tsp salt, 50g chilled butter cut into cubes, 2 medium eggs and 200ml milk to the pan. Choose Menu 3 (Brioche) and set the timer to 3 hours 30 minutes. Pour yourself a glass of sherry.
    When you hear the ‘beep’, add 70g chilled butter cut into cubes, 50g chopped peel, 50g sultanas and 50g currants, and wait for the programme to finish.

    5. Create the dough for a turkey-topped pizza
    Rustling up dough is easy in this machine, and a pizza is a tasty way to use up festive leftovers. Add 300g strong white flour, 1tsp salt, 170ml water, 1tbsp olive oil and 1/2tsp yeast to the pan and put the bread maker on Menu 22 for 45 minutes.
    When it’s ready, press out the dough into 1 or 2 25cm circles (depending on how thick you want your pizzas) and leave to prove at 40°C for about 20 minutes. then it’s just a case of adding your toppings and baking at 220°C. I love Cheddar cheese with turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing balls!

    Read more →

    Play your vinyl on these rockin’ little record players!

    by  • November 28, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Forget Black Friday. The big news in my world this week is that vinyl is cool again. Not that was ever anything but. As reported yesterday, sales have reached an 18-year high, passing the 1 million mark for the first time since 1996 (when The Manics’ Everything Must Go and 1977 by Ash were added to my own collection). So if this news has tempted you to dust off your LPs and EPs, I’ve rounded up a few of the best turntables to spin them on. Feel free to add them to your Christmas wish lists!

    ATTACHE RECORD PLAYER | GPO | girlabouttech.com

    It’s not quite as portable as a smartphone, but this GPO Attaché record player, £79 from Cuckooland will let you spin discs wherever you go. Made from wood and bound in leatherette, the case has two built-in speakers, and you can play your records at three speeds – 33, 45 and 78 RPM. You can also convert your vinyl music to digital files using the USB port and supplied stick.

    VINYLPLAY RECORD PLAYER | FLEXSON | girlabouttech.com

    The VinylPlay turntable, £330 from Flexson, puts a new spin on the SONOS system – you can pair it either via a PLAY:5 speaker or SONOS CONNECT and stream records around your home. No SONOS? No problem, as you can plug it directly into just about any decent speaker or hi-fi system, sling on some vinyl, and (thanks to its excellent digital-to-analogue converter) it will sound suitably special. Meanwhile, for those who can’t resist the convenience of digital can connect it to a computer to create copies of your precious discs.

    LP12 SONDEK RECORD PLAYER | LINN | girlabouttech.com

    The LP12 Sondek turntable from Linn has deservedly reached icon status in the world of hi-fi, not least because every component is continually being improved in line with the original, so you can buy upgraded parts for every player made since 1972.

    David Williamson, senior product design engineer at Linn Products, has no doubt why they’re regaining popularity. ‘Older generations have been rediscovering music through mass-downloading MP3s, prompting them to unearth the vinyl boxed up in their attics, while youngsters who’ve seen LPs in TV shows think they’re cool,’ he says. ‘Once people have rediscovered vinyl, they fall in love with it. They realise how much better the music sounds ­­– it outperforms CD, never mind MP3 – and how enjoyable handling the format can be.’

    Prices range from £2,700 for the Majik Sondek LP12, up to £25,000 for the 40th Anniversary whisky plinth Sondek LP12.

    AT-LP120USB turntable | AUDIO TECHNICA | girlabouttech.com

    Last but not least we have a great deck for cool kids, Audio Technica’s AT-LP120USB turntable, £279. It frankly wouldn’t look out of place at your local nightclub with its black gloss finish and quality aluminium platter (where your discs sit), and sounds top notch. Again, it can convert your analogue discs to MP3 files when you connect it to a Mac or PC using the USB cable, and comes with special Audacity software, which lets you adjust the equaliser and remove hiss and crackle when you convert older records.

    Read more →

    Must-have Christmas gifts for music lovers

    by  • November 21, 2014 • 0 Comments

    As Paul Young – and, more recently, One Direction – once sang: ‘It’s Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid’. Well there isn’t if you’ve got a good gift list to work from, so if you’re stuck for inspiration on what to buy the muso in your life, I’ve come up with some perfect present ideas.

    RETRO MINI DAB RADIO | VIEWQUEST | girlabouttech.com
    They say good things come in small packages, which might explain the recent influx of ‘Mini Me’ gadgets – whether it’s a 60cm AGA or a dinky version of your favourite smartphone. This is my pick of the bunch – a Mini version of ViewQuest’s Retro radio.

    Read more →

    Reclaim your worktop with Caple’s built-in microwave

    by  • November 18, 2014 • 0 Comments

    Pop into the kitchen when I’m cooking a Sunday roast and you’d be forgiven for thinking I was in training for a Giant Jenga tournament, as plates and pots pile up across every spare inch of worktop. So before I get taken out by a falling frying pan, I think it’s time to free up some space by swapping my freestanding microwave for a built-in beauty like this one from Caple.

    CM120 BUILT-IN MICROWAVE AND GRILL | CAPLE | girlabouttech.com

    With a depth of just over 320mm (including the casing), the CM120 700W microwave is designed to slot into a 300mm-deep wall unit. Siting it at eye level means there’s no bending over to lift things in and out, or to peek at what’s inside, which is extra good news as it also incorporates a powerful 1,000W grill. Making cheese on toast has never been easier!

    The 17ltr capacity is perfectly adequate if not spectacular, while the stainless-steel finish both inside and out makes cleaning less of a chore. Oh, and the front also has a mark-resistant coating.

    You can defrost by weight or time, there’s a child lock and several foolproof auto programmes and it costs £279. With Christmas just around the corner and our kitchens at full capacity, it could prove a savvy buy.

    Read more →

    Friday Find: Breakfast bling from Dualit

    by  • November 14, 2014 • 0 Comments

    24-CARAT GOLD CLASSIC TOASTER | DUALIT | girlabouttech.com

    You’ll have to be seriously upper crust to afford Dualit’s latest toaster – a 24-carat gold-plated version of its Classic design. It’s available exclusively at Selfridges for £1,000, and while it won’t slice your loaf and butter it for you afterwards (as you might expect at that price), it is handmade in the UK from nearly 170 repairable and replaceable parts. These include its tough ProHeat elements, built to survive knife attacks and heavy toasting sessions.

    COPPER CLASSIC TOASTER AND KETTLE | DUALIT | girlabouttech.com

    Those with a little less ‘bread’ might prefer the above copper version, available at John Lewis for a fraction of the price (£199.99), as is a coordinating copper kettle that has a replaceable element, anti-wobble feet and a whisper-quiet boil, which costs £129.99.

    Read more →

    Christmas gift idea: Lavazza pod coffee maker

    by  • November 11, 2014 • 1 Comment

    I hate to mention the C-word, but Christmas is almost upon us. AGAIN. I know! And apparently it’s all about giving gifts, not just receiving them or accidentally ‘re-gifting’ the ones from last year to the person who gave them to you in the first place (which of course I’d never do, ahem).

    I’d better get shopping then, possibly for this pod coffee maker from Lavazza, which has a present-friendly price tag of £74.99.

    Minu pod espresso machine | Lavazza | girlabouttech.com

    Called the Minùthis teeny machine is Lavazza’s most compact to date at just 12.1cm wide, and takes yummy A Modo Mio coffee pods – available in 10 good blends from most good supermarkets. It’s a doddle to use – turn it on with the button at the top, load the capsule into the tray below the Lavazza logo, then twist the dial at the side to make your espresso.

    As you may of noticed, however, the Minù doesn’t ‘do’ milk. So if the giftee is partial to a cappuccino and your generosity knows no bounds, you might want to splash out on the matching A Modo Mio milk frother, £59.99 from www.lavazzamodomio.co.uk – it’s your call.

    Read more →

    A dishwasher that dries your plastics

    by  • November 7, 2014 • 1 Comment

    ADP900 IX freestanding dishwasher | Whirlpool | girlabouttech.com

    I love my dishwasher, but when it comes to plastics it’s far from fantastic. Plates, cups and lunchboxes come out lined in condensation every time, and drip down onto the crockery and pans below, meaning I need to give the whole lot a good going over with the tea towel. It just seems so, well, unfair!

    Thankfully, Whirlpool’s new 6th Sense PowerClean dishwashers are here to put an end to my Tupperware-based temper tantrums. The PowerDry system inside uses a humidity-condensing fan and improved airflow to get even plastics bone dry, and without the unwanted steamy facial you usually get on opening the door. It will save you time, too, getting a full load washed and dry in an hour if you choose the Wash&Dry programme.

    The cleaning performance promises to be just as impressive, with 28 jets at the back of the dishwasher targeting caked-on casserole and the like. You can choose to wash just the upper or just the lower basket to save energy, or remove the upper basket completely to make way for the tall tins and trays.

    The freestanding version shown will cost £599, and there’s also an integrated version for the same price if you’d prefer to hide it behind a unit door. Both hold 13 place settings, use as little as 6 litres of water per cycle and have 10 programmes in total, including one for glass an an ‘overnight’ cycle that runs quietly.

    Need more space inside? Check out my post on large-capacity dishwashers.

    Read more →

    You rang, m’lord?

    by  • November 4, 2014 • 0 Comments

    iDect Eclipse Plus Phone | The Apprentice | girlabouttech.comGranted, I may not have ‘a whole field of ponies’ like Stuart Baggs ‘The Brand’, or be able to do a ‘reverse pterodactyl’ impression worthy of Lee McQueen, but I’d still love to be a candidate on The Apprentice. The only thing putting me off are those crack-of-dawn wake-up calls.

    They beg so many questions, like what time does Lord Sugar’s PA have to get into the office to actually make them? Did the camera crew stay the night? And how would I have time to shower, blow dry my hair, apply a full face of make-up and gobble down a bowl of Sugar Puffs in the 20 minutes before the cars arrive?

    But I digress… today’s post concerns the snazzy phone that is the hotline to The Apprentice house. If you’ve been coveting it, as I have – especially after last week’s BOMBSHELL call after THAT triple firing – you might like to know that it’s called the iDect Eclipse and comes in black and white.

    More sculpture than handset, it incorporates a 30-minute answering machine, and stores 200 numbers for those all-important business contacts. It will also record the last 10 numbers, has a talk time of up to 13 hours, and a standby time of 230. Go for the black and you’ll currently find it reduced to half price (around £50) at John Lewis and Argos. That’s a deal even Lord Sugar would be impressed with.

    Read more →