• Sweet dreams are made of these…

    by  • April 21, 2015 • 2 Comments

    Camelia bed | Button & Sprung | girlabouttech.comTired? I’m afraid I can’t do anything about your partner’s snoring. Nor can I stop you lying awake at night worrying about tomorrow’s presentation/your latest credit card bill/if little Johnny can stand up to the school bully. I can’t even treat you to a gorgeous new bed like this one from Button & Sprung. But I have found a number of gadgets that will help you get a good night’s sleep. Tuck yourself in and read on!


    Wake Up Light | Philips | girlabouttech.comBe roused from your slumber by the the gentle ‘sunrise’ recreated by this colour-changing Wake-up Light, £130, Philips. It can also play sounds from nature… or your favourite radio station.

    Jawbone UP24 | girlabouttech.comJawbone’s UP24 fitness and sleep tracker, £99.99, can now sense when you nod off and tell a Nest Learning Thermostat (£180) to lower the temperature, the benefit being we sleep better when it’s a few degrees cooler. Studies show that it’s difficult to drop off if a room is above 23°C and the optimal temperature for sleeping is 15-18°C.


    Original Sound Asleep speaker pillow | The Bedding Company | girlabouttech.comPlug your smartphone, tablet or MP3 player into this plush hollowfibre pillowfrom The Bedding Company and listen to music, Radio 4’s Book At Bedtime or even learn a language before you drift off. You control the sound level so you can listen without disturbing your partner and without having to wear headphones.

    Bringing a whole new meaning to the phrase ‘pillow talk’, the Original Sound Asleep speaker pillow costs from £12.99.


    Aura lamp | Withings | girlabouttech.comIt’s far more difficult to wake up from a deep sleep, but that’s where the Aura Smart Sleep System from Withings comes in handy. It has an under-mattress pad that records your body movements, heart rate and more, so it recognises the lightest phases of your slumber.Aura mattress sensor Withings | girlabouttech.comBefore you go to bed, you set a ‘window’ of time in which you’d like to wake up, and the pad will detect when you’re more restless in said time frame. The Aura will then kick in, waking you up with coloured LEDs and soothing sounds. It can also send you to sleep using white noise and a different cycle of colours on the red spectrum.

    The Aura works with an app for iOS so you can track all aspects of your sleep cycle, and costs £249.99 at Amazon.


    Horizon radio alarm clock | JBL | girlabouttech.comLast but not least we have the JBL Horizon, which is a Bluetooth speaker, alarm clock, radio and an ambient light that gently wakes you up, all in one. It comes in chic black or simple white, and its display has a built-in light sensor to automatically adjust the brightness according to the environment, so the clock won’t distract you too much when you dim the lights.

    Two USB ports can fast-charge your devices, including phones, tablets and wearables, so you won’t lose sleep over flat batteries, either! It costs £80.

    Right, I’m off to Bedfordshire! Amy

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    Is this new KitchenAid better than a Vitamix?

    by  • April 17, 2015 • 0 Comments

    I don’t like to brag, but I’ve spent the morning at the Pollen Street Social in Central London, watching Michelin-starred star Jason Atherton make soup, mayonnaise and The World’s Best Pesto TM in this remarkable new machine from KitchenAid.Artisan Magnetic Drive Blender | KitchenAid | girlabouttech.comIt might not look it, but the Artisan Magnetic Drive Blender is a beast. It’s got a two-horse-power motor that makes quite a racket when it’s really going for it – so it’s not one to use when the kids are in bed.

    Thankfully, it hardly ever needs to run at full pelt – and when it does so, it’s only for a matter of seconds. That’s because the blender uses special algorithms to control the speed as it’s doing different jobs.

    There are four pre-set recipe programmes for Juice, Soups/Sauces, Milkshakes and Icy drinks/Smoothies. You just need to add the ingredients, slide in the jug, select a programme, and leave the blender to it.

    The machine will judge the speed and length of time of what it’s blending – for example, if it’s making a smoothie it will start slowly as it chops up delicate soft fruit like strawberries, then speed up for a couple of seconds, and switch off when it’s finished. You’ll then be alerted to come and get your tasty treat by an audible alarm.Jason Atherton | KitchenAid | girlabouttech.com

    If you’d prefer more control, you can adjust the speed manually, as Jason (above) likes to do, or use the pulse function or soft-start feature. You can take it down as low as 400RPM, which is rare for a blender, so you can do the most delicate of mixing job.

    One thing I love about the Artisan blender’s design is that the blades are completely sealed in at the base of the jug. That’s because, rather than slotting the jug into a motor shaft, it has a flat magnetic disc at the bottom. When you slide the jug in and it locks into place, it comes into contact with another disc in the base, and it’s this that drives the power through the blender. This makes it easier to use, easier to access below wall cabinets, and more stable, too.Artisan Magnetic Drive Blender CloseUps | Kitchenaid | girlabouttech.comThe 1.75ltr jug is a generous size, and is made from a BPA-free polycarbonate rather than glass. This allowed KitchenAid to design the blender more ‘aggressively’, with extra channels (that wouldn’t have been possible if using glass) creating a powerful vortex for more efficient blending. It also makes it easier to lift when it’s full!

    There’s a feeding tube at the top so you can add any ingredients safely as you blend, and all these removable parts are dishwasher safe.Artisan Magnetic Drive Blender in Black and Almond Cream | Kitchenaid | girlabouttech.comThe Artisan Magnetic Drive Blender will come in five of KitchenAid’s most popular colours – Candy Apple Red, Empire Red, Almond Cream, Frosted Pearl and Cast Iron Black – and will cost £549. It will be available at John Lewis and Selfridges from 11 May 2015, and at other cookshops and department stores from June.Pollen Street Social cocktail | KitchenAid | girlabouttech.comI really want one, if only to make this delicious Thai-influenced cocktail called ‘A Walk in the Afternoon in Bangkok’ – a forthcoming addition to Social’s amazing drinks menu!

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    We all scream for ice cream!

    by  • April 14, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Best ice cream makers | girlabouttech.comSometimes, just one Cornetto isn’t enough, but buy an ice cream maker and you’ll be able to create as much as you like for a fraction of the price of premium brands. That’s not to mention all the gourmet flavours you can try – like brown bread, mint choc chip, egg and bacon… sorry, been watching too much Masterchef.

    Some machines will also make gelato, sorbet and frozen yogurt, and can be used with soya and almond milk, making them a worthwhile purchase for anyone with a dairy intolerance. Oh, and in case you were wondering what the difference is between gelato and regular ice cream, the Italian version contains more milk and less cream, and is whipped more slowly. For that reason, your machine might come with two different paddles that you swap in depending on which you’re making.

    Prices for machines vary hugely, from under £20 to upwards of £300. The more affordable designs have a bowl that you’ll need to remember to chill in the freezer for between eight and 24 hours beforehand. Alternatively, the less organized among you might feel it’s worth investing in a machine with a built-in element – this cools the bowl to the optimum temperature in minutes as the ingredients are being churned.

    Here are some of my favourites, plus a handy extra gadget for making the cones!


    Smart Scoop ice cream maker | Sage Appliances | girlabouttech.comCuisinart’s Gelato & Ice Cream Professional machine comes with a separate paddle for making gelato, and will churn up a generous 1.5ltrs of the stuff, as well as ice cream, frozen yogurt or sorbet. It can do so in as little as 40 minutes. The machine is self-refrigerated, so you don’t have to remember to put the bowl in the freezer, and has a 10-minute keep-cool function. It costs £199.99 at John Lewis.

    BEST FOR: LASTING VALUE Le Glacier ice cream maker | Magimix | girlabouttech.comWhip up ice cream or sorbet in this affordable but high-quality machine from Magimix – I’ve had mine for years and it still works perfectly. Just pop Le Glacier’s bowl in the freezer and it should be ready to go in 8-12 hours.

    It can make just over a litre of ice cream and comes with a book with recipes for 35 ice creams, sorbets and sauces, including my mum’s favourite Rum & Raisin. It costs around £60 in white, or £80 for the chrome version.


    Smart Scoop ice cream maker | Sage Appliances | girlabouttech.comThe Smart Scoop from Sage Appliances may cost a Flake-crumbing RRP of £350 (you can find it cheaper at John Lewis and Lakeland), but as far as ice cream-making features go, it’s second to none.

    Choose from 12 hardness levels (from the hardest for ice cream to the softest for sorbet) and this self-chilling machine automatically keeps it at the right consistency for up to 3 hours. It makes a litre of ice cream, has a child lock and even plays a tune like an ice cream van when it’s ready. Sadly, it’s not the Monty Python theme that my local Mr Whippy likes to blare out.

    BEST FOR: GUILT-FREE DESSERTShake n Make ice cream maker | Firebox | girlabouttech.comMix salt and ice in the base for the Shake ‘n’ Make ice cream maker, add your mixture to the stainless-steel dish and shake it up vigorously – ideally while listening to this track from Taylor Swift – for about three minutes for a scoop’s worth of yummy ice cream. The workout you get in the process will make you all the more deserving of the tasty treat you’ve created.

    Available from Firebox for £15.99, it comes with a recipe booklet and a leakproof lid.

    BEST FOR: SHARINGMine And Yours ice cream maker | Prezzybox | girlabouttech.comStrawberry, chocolate or vanilla? It’s a tough choice, but with this machine you can make a litre ‘mug’ of two different flavours in one go. Yes, I did say mug, as each has a handle you can hold as you eat so you don’t get frosty fingers.

    The Mine And Yours ice cream maker takes 6 hours to freeze the mugs but only 15 minutes to make the ice cream, and you can add nuts and other treats (peanut butter M&Ms anyone?) via the two chutes as your desserts churn. It costs a bargain £39.95 at Prezzybox.com.

    BEST FOR: CONESIce Cream Cone Maker | Lakeland | girlabouttech.comSo you’ve made your ice cream, but did you remember to buy cones? It’s not a problem if you have Lakeland’s Ice Cream Cone Maker, £39.99, to hand. Just whisk up a batter (the recipe is included), spoon it onto the hotplate, cook for a couple of minutes, then use the shaper to turn the wafer into a cone. You could also cut out shapes with a cookie cutter to pop into a bowl of ice cream. Amy

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    Does your phone keep running out of battery? You’ll love this new service!

    by  • April 12, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Power Bar smartphone charger | EE | girlabouttech.comI remember using my first smartphone for three things – to call my friends, play Snake and to text my mum when I needed clean laundry. Years later, and my handset has become my HDTV, music system, web browser, camera, games console… so it’s no wonder the battery no longer lasts days, but rather hours.

    I did get one of those extra power packs to charge it when I’m out and about, but that required me remembering to power it up in the first place. But EE has come up with a Power Bar system that means we’ll no longer have to worry.Power Bar smartphone charger from EE | girlabouttech.comThe Power Bar is a portable smartphone charger that phone users with an EE contract will be able to pick up for free in any EE store after requesting a unique code by texting ‘POWER’ to 365. So, if you’re signed up to a 30 day, 12, 18 or 24 month plan, whether for mobile or fixed line and broadband services, you’ll be able to get one.

    Once the EE Power Bar has been used to charge a device, customers can recharge the portable battery themselves or, if out and about, they can swap it for a fully-charged replacement bar at any EE store nationwide – for free and as many times as they like.EE Power Bar smartphone charger | girlabouttech.comThe EE Power Bar can fill up the battery of the average smartphone once from a full charge, and has a guaranteed life of 500 charges. It features a light that shows how much charge is in the Power Bar and a handy LED torch so you can see what you’re doing in the dark.

    If you aren’t signed up to an EE contract, or only use its Pay As You Go service, you’ll still be able to get in on the Power Bar action by paying a one-off £20 fee. For more information, visit www.ee.co.uk  Amy

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    Which dishwasher is right for you?

    by  • April 10, 2015 • 0 Comments

    How to buy a dishwasher | girlabouttech.comLife’s too short for washing up. Surely you’d rather be curled up with a box set than arguing over who dons the rubber gloves and who dries, if you’re offered help, that is.

    Figures from Bosch suggest that a dishwasher could save you up to 15 days every year – wouldn’t that time be better spent elsewhere? A tropical beach, perhaps? Washing by hand is wasteful, too – you can get through 40 to 80 litres of water, which costs money to heat. By comparison, a dishwasher will use as little as 6 litres to wash 13 place settings, saving you bucket loads of H20 and cash. Convinced? Here are some tips on choosing the right model.

    A dishwasher needn’t take up acres of space. Compact designs no bigger than a microwave will sit on your worktop, and built-in versions slot in at eye level. Slimline 45cm-wide dishwashers are ideal for smaller families, but for the best features, you can’t beat a full-size 60cm version. Integrated models are discreet and at least as spacious as their freestanding counterparts.

    By the way, the capacity of most dishwashers is measured by a place setting – comprising a dinner plate, a soup bowl, a dessert plate, a teacup and saucer, a tumbler, a knife, fork, soup spoon, teaspoon and dessertspoon. A full-size dishwasher usually has 12 to 15 place settings, whereas a slimline dishwasher measures accommodates seven to 10.

    S65M63N1GB built-in dishwasher | Neff | girlabouttech.comMeasuring just 45cm tall, this S65M63N1GB built-in dishwasher, £450, has been designed to fit seamlessly alongside Neff’s range of compact ovens and built-in coffee makers. While only small, it can handle 6 place settings and boasts full-size cleaning performance and efficiency.

    DF4SS-1 45cm freestanding dishwasher | Smeg | girlabouttech.comThe slimline DF4SS-1 45cm freestanding dishwasher from Smeg, is small but works hard – the central spray arm is supported by a pivoting Swing arm that gets into every nook and cranny, and the 10 programmes include a 27-minute quick wash. It holds 10 place settings and I’ve found it for £478 at AO.com.

    A quick wash is perfect for dinner parties, for example, when your starter plates are also needed for serving desserts. Most last 30 minutes, but Fagor’s machine gets things clean in 15. Intensive settings blast burnt-in food like beans and Bolognese, and tackle stubborn starch deposits on pans. A delicates mode cares for glass and fine china by lowering the water pressure, and sometimes using steam to lift dirt.

    Most impressive, though, is the sensor wash, which works out how mucky your plates are automatically, then adjusts the time and amount of water used accordingly, saving you money by never running a cycle that’s longer or hotter than needed.

    FDFET33121P dishwasher | Hotpoint | girlabouttech.comUse the intensive setting in conjunction with the Zone Wash in either the top or bottom basket of this Hotpoint dishwasher, and you’ll get 30% more cleaning power than simply using intensive alone – burnt-on Bolognese doesn’t stand a chance! The FDFET33121P 60cm freestanding dishwasher costs around £399.

    Arranging a dishwasher can feel like a Krypton Factor-style challenge, but the best now come with more flexible baskets. These can be raised or lowered to make room above or below, with racks that fold down to make way for cumbersome pots and pans. Also look out for dedicated cutlery trays that free up more space in the bottom basket.

    DW60H9970FS WaterWall dishwasher | Samsung | girlabouttech.comThe adjustable racking and flexible cutlery tray make the job filling and emptying Samsung’s DW60H9970FS WaterWall 60cm dishwasher, £899, far easier. Also, instead of throwing water from spray arms like a whirling dervish, it fires up water from a bar that moves slowly back and forth along the bottom of the machine, so there’s nowhere inside for dirt to hide.

    It’s true that a lot of dishwashers aren’t that fantastic at drying items like Tupperware, but they are getting better.

    ADP900 IX 6th-Sense PowerClean dishwasher | Whirlpool | girlabouttech.comThe PowerDry system in this ADP900 IX 6th Sense PowerClean dishwasher uses a humidity-condensing fan to get even plastics bone dry without the unwanted facial you usually get on opening the door. There’s an integrated version for the same price, and both hold 13 place settings. It costs £599 from Whirlpool.

    ENP B6M1FIGB integrated dishwasher | Panasonic | girlabouttech.comAlternatively, the Panasonic ENP-B6M1FIGB integrated dishwasher pops open at the end of a cycle so the load can dry. It’s rated A+++ for energy, holds 13 place settings, with dirt sensors and a quiet operating noise of 44dB. It’s available for £1,399 at John Lewis.

    So, are you convinced to throw in the tea towel? Amy

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    Forget barbecuing… here’s the hottest trend in outdoor cooking!

    by  • April 7, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Hurrah! The sun has finally got his hat on, meaning it’s time for us Brits to get stuck into one of our favourite pastimes – barbecuing. But before you start scrubbing down your old grill, I’d like to introduce you to the next big thing in outdoor dining.Wood-fired oven | Lakeland | girlabouttech.com

    This, ladies and gentlemen, is Lakeland’s wood-fired oven, £799.99, and it’s about to take your al fresco food repertoire to dizzy new heights. That’s because, as well as cooking standard barbecue fare, it can also turn out succulent roasts and casseroles, smoke fish and meat, and bake bread.

    Love pizza? Once it’s all fired up (which takes between 30 and 40 minutes) it will turn out a super-authentic stone-baked margherita in around 90 seconds – just imagine, you could put on a spread of cheese, meats and veg, and invite friends to top their own bases.

    A chimney ensures the oven never gets too smoky, and a temperature gauge indicates when it’s time to start cooking – there’s also a stainless-steel grill rack and a dishwasher-safe pizza peel for moving pizzas in and out.

    Of course, you will have noticed that price tag – and yes, it’s definitely an investment. On the upside, it’s cheap to run, as it’s fuelled by hardwood kindling (such as oak or olive wood) or kiln-dried hardwood with a moisture content of less than 20%.

    Also, it’s worth remembering that this is an oven you can use all year. Europeans think nothing of barbecuing in winter – even those in Nordic countries, where it can be considerably chillier than here in the UK. There’s a romance about huddling together on a crisp evening, cooking up a pizza or a generous joint of meat or piece of fish, and it hasn’t gone unnoticed by manufacturers such as Morsø. Its cast-iron, wood-fired Forno, £1,428, is an outdoor fireplace and oven in one, built for use in all weathers.Forno wood-fired oven | Morso | girlabouttech.comAgain, you’ll need to wait around 40 minutes for this cast-iron oven to heat up, but your patience will be rewarded with a fiery furnace that can turn out pizzas in seconds. You can also buy a Tuscan grill for cooking hunks of meat and a wheelie table that turns your Forno into a mobile kitchen.

    Dome60 Wood-Fired Oven | Jamie Oliver | girlabouttech.comOr there’s the beautiful Dome60 wood-fired oven by Jamie Oliver. Our Jamie is a big fan of al fresco dining – he says cooking next to wood gives food ‘incredible attitude and personality’ and that ‘when your mates see you drag dishes out of your beautiful wood-fired oven, they’ll be crowding around you’.

    Anyway, this Italian, made pre-cast cement oven with a metal flue should survive all weathers. It also comes with a starter kit of fuel and costs £1,300, including delivery. Amy

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    Love tea? Then get yourself a clever kettle

    by  • April 5, 2015 • 0 Comments

    The launch of the Russell Hobbs Legacy got me thinking about how much electric kettles have come on over the years. Here are a few of my favourite recent innovations and designs.

    Classic kettle in Polished finish | Dualit | girlabouttech.com
    1. The quiet-boil kettle
    Does your current kettle drown out your tea party conversation? The Whisper boil feature on this Classic kettle is near silent, and it also has a replaceable element so should last for decades, theoretically. Available in this polished finish as well as copper and clay, it costs £129.99 from Dualit.

    iKettle | Smarter | girlabouttech.com2. The kettle you can control with an app
    Use the free app for Apple and Android smartphones and tablets to turn the Smarter iKettle (£99.99, Amazon.co.uk) on from anywhere… including under your duvet! You can add colour with a silicone skin in taupe, red, blue, black or yellow, £14.99.

    Tea Maker | Sage by Heston Blumenthal | girlabouttech.com3. The multi-temperature kettle
    Conceived by – who else – Heston Blumenthal, this kettle takes a scientific approach to making a cuppa. Load the caddy with loose leaves, pick your tea type and preferred strength, and it will be automatically ‘dunked’ into water of the perfect temperature for the ideal amount of time. For example, did you know green tea should be brewed at around 80°C and steeped for a minute or less, whereas oolong should steep for around three minutes at 90°C?

    The Tea Maker is £200, and is available at Sage by Heston Blumenthal.

    Redefine hot water dispenser | Morphy Richards | girlabouttech.com4. The kettle you don’t have to lift
    Can’t manage a full kettle? This time-saving Redefine hot-water dispenser, £150, Morphy Richards, produces instant hot water at 100°C, 90°C or 85°C with the press of a button. It stays oxygenated, too, whereas re-boiling a kettle can taint the taste of your tea.
    Aqualogic 3 in 1 kettle tap | Joyou | girlabouttech.com
    5. The kettle that’s actually a tap

    Finally, there’s the option to ditch your space-hogging kettle altogether. Instead, pour boiling water, as well as standard hot and cold, from this classic Aqualogic 3-in-1 kettle tap, £499, Joyou. Installation is free, and there’s a safety button to protect the kids from scolding themselves. Is this the future? Or will there always be a space for a standalone kettle on your worktop?

    Right, off for a cuppa! Amy

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    Happy birthday, electric kettle!

    by  • April 3, 2015 • 0 Comments

    K1 first electric kettle | Russell Hobbs | girlabouttech.com60 years ago this month, a certain Mr Bill Russell and Mr Peter Hobbs put their heads together and invented the world’s first electric kettle that automatically switched itself off after boiling, the K1. Yes, instead of popping your kettle on the stove and waiting an age for it to boil, you just plugged this one into the nearest wall socket. It must have caused quite a ‘stir’ at the time. Get it? Stir? Tea? Never mind…

    Legacy kettle | Russell Hobbs | girlabouttech.comNot entirely surprisingly, Russell Hobbs has decided to celebrate this milestone with a new kettle. Called the Legacy, its design is totally in keeping with 1955 style – you can even get it in the same silver chrome finish that the original K1 came in, or a choice of black, cream and red.Legacy kettle in red | Russell Hobbs | girlabouttech.comYou might also have spotted that the chrome kettle features a ‘6’ styled handle, while its red, black and cream counterparts bears a ‘0’. Nice touch!

    Legacy kettle cup measures | Russell Hobbs | girlabouttech.comThat said, it’s not totally stuck in the 20th Century. The Legacy can boil one cup of water in just 55 seconds, and its perfect pour spout prevents drips. It’s also got handy measuring levels inside so you never fill it with more water than needed, which would otherwisev waste energy. It costs £49.99, and is available now from the Russell Hobbs website, alongside matching two- and four-slice toasters, from £34.99. Legacy two-slice toaster | Russell Hobbs | girlabouttech.com

    There’s also a filter coffee machine, £49.99, in the range and interestingly, there’s a bit of Russell Hobbs history here, too. The company was the world’s first to introduce an electric coffee maker with a keep warm function back in 1952, and the Legacy version has again been inspired by the style of the original.

    Inside, special ‘showerhead’ technology distributes the water over the coffee so more of it is captured and dissolved, enhancing the flavour. And anyone that likes to chain drink their coffee will be glad to hear it can make up to 10 cups at a time in its 1.25 litre glass carafe – and keep it warm for up to an hour. For those of you that don’t want to be up all night, however, it can also be set to make 1-4 cups.

    Other features include a 24-hour timer, so you can wake up to freshly brewed coffee, and ‘pause and pour’, which allows you to grab a cup mid-brew. It’s available in cream or red. Amy

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    You need this cable in your life!

    by  • March 31, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Reversible USB Type A to Micro B cable | Lindy | girlabouttech.comAs Girl about Tech, my life is inevitably ruled by cables – or rather A CABLE. It’s the microUSB to USB one that I use to charge my phone and my Bluetooth speaker and my fitness tracker, and it’s quite the elusive little fella.

    I’m always scrabbling around for it at the bottom of my bag, or behind the bedside table. And when I do eventually get my mitts on it, I almost never plug the USB end into my Mac or plug adapter the right way round first time.

    So hats off to Lindy for coming up with a new version. The first thing you’ll notice is that the USB end is reversible, so whichever way you plug it in will be the right way, saving you from forcing it in incorrectly and potentially damaging your poor ports.

    You’ll also notice that the cables come in five dayglow colours – pink, orange, yellow, green and blue – plus white. This makes them easy to find, and means you’re less likely to do what I do and leave one plugged into a computer at work and forget to take it home. What’s more, the cable itself is flat, so it’s less likely to become tangled up in your bag en route.

    The USB Type A to Micro B cables are USB 2.0 compatible and come with a 10-year warranty. They cost £4.98 for a 0.5m cable, £5.88 for a 1m cable or £6.96 for a 2m cable, and you can buy them direct from Lindy’s website. I reckon I’ll be buying a few, as Boy About Tech has a habit of wandering off with them! Amy

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    Turn your Sunday afternoon walk into a hi-tech treasure hunt

    by  • March 29, 2015 • 0 Comments

    What is Geocaching | Geocaching.com | Girl-about-TechEver wondered what geocaching is? Well my good friend, Home Shopping Spy Alice, and her fiancé Al (or Al Squared, as they are affectionately known) happen to be quite the experts in it. In fact, they even got engaged on a geocaching expedition. Anyway, Alice has kindly offered to share her knowledge with us! Enjoy!

    What is Geocaching? Think of it as a real-world outdoor treasure hunt for the digital generation. Website Geocaching.com has been set up so you can locate and track down containers that have been hidden around the world by Geocache members using GPS on your smartphone or tablet. The containers, known as a ‘caches’, are typically small, waterproof boxes containing a logbook (with pen or pencil) and ‘treasure’ – usually toys or trinkets of little value. There are thousands in the UK alone and over two million hidden worldwide.

    How do I play? Register online at geocaching.com for a free basic membership. Visit the ‘Hide and Seek a Cache’ page and enter the postcode of where you want to hunt for a cache. Choose any cache from the list and click on its name. You will find the co-ordinates along with details, clues and a difficulty rating. Enter the co-ordinates into your GPS device and off you go – just remember to take your fully charged phone or tablet with you!

    Where are all the caches located? It’s common for Geocachers to hide caches in a spot that means something to them or a place that reflects a special interest. Locations can vary from a local park or side of the street to a great viewpoint, the end of a long country walk or even underwater.

    What do I do when I find a cache? First, look around you before you retrieve a cache. You don’t want anyone else to discover it, especially non-geocachers! Open it up, and sign the logbook that’s left inside and leave a message. If you remember, try to log your experience online, too, at geocaching.com. Geocaching box | Geocaching.com | Girl About Tech

    You will find a fun array of trinkets in different caches, but if you take something, always replace it with something so there is treasure for the next person to find. Try to trade up if you can, never leave anything perishable and keep treasure family-friendly.

    When you’re done, put the cache back in exactly the same spot as you found it, even if you think you have found a better hiding place.

    Is geocaching safe? Yes! But make sure you let someone where you are going, have a phone with you (and keep checking the signal) in case you get into any trouble or lost, and if you’ve driven to a nearby spot, note where you have parked so you can find your way back to the car.

    It is also worth taking the right gear for the weather, water and spare batteries or a portable charger for your device.

    How do I hide a cache? Before you hide your first cache, it’s a good idea to find some in your area. That way, you’ll understand what works and what makes a good cache hiding place. For example, think of a reason for bringing people to a certain spot.

    Make sure you place your cache at least a tenth of a mile away from any other caches and choose a container that is durable and waterproof – don’t forget to fill it with a logbook (go to shop.geocaching.com for retailers), pencil and gift.

    Get accurate coordinates, then note of the size of your cache, how rough the terrain is, how hard you think it will be to find and a helpful hint, and log them all online. After it’s been submitted, your cache will be reviewed tocheck if it fits within the guidelines before being published.

    Remember to use your common sense when hiding caches: they should never be buried and, if on private land, you will have to ask teh owner’s permission. Also, don’t design your cache so it might be confused for something more dangerous, like a bomb.

    To learn more, visit geocaching.com/play. Amy

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    These smart scales will make you a better baker!

    by  • March 27, 2015 • 0 Comments

    DROP BLUETOOTH KITCHEN SCALES | girlabouttech.comI love baking, but when it comes to an Ideal Home bake-off, I’m usually outclassed by Emma Jackson’s Victoria sponge, Sophie Thrower’s exceedingly moist lemon drizzle cake or Tara Elarte’s showstopping salted caramel chocolate cake.

    Actually, make that was outclassed, because now I’ve found a secret weapon, this set of Drop kitchen scales, controlled with the Drop Kitchen recipe app.DROP BLUETOOTH KITCHEN SCALES IPAD | girlabouttech.comDrop promises to spell an end to #bakingfails by guiding you through every one of its hundreds of included recipes, step by step. To use them, first pair the Drp Smart Scales with your phone or tablet via Bluetooth – the app is currently only available for iOS devices, so I’m hoping there’s an Android version in the pipeline.

    Now you could just use it as a standalone scale – the measurements to the nearest gram will appear big on your tablet or phone screen and it’s easy to switch between units (grams, ounces, kg) and you can reset it to zero if you want to weight within a mixing bowl and add ingredients one on top of the next.

    However, I’d want to pick from one of the hundreds of recipes – how about some chocolate peanut butter brownies, for example? You’ll see a pretty photo of what you’re about to bake, along with a summary. This lists the skill level (easy, advanced, etc), the time it will take to prepare, the time it will take to cook, all the tools you’ll need, plus the ingredients and how many people it will serve.

    If you’d like to change the scale of the recipe – for example, because you need a sponge that feeds 16 not 8, or because you only have a certain amount of flour in the cupboard, the app can do the calculations for you.DROP BLUETOOTH KITCHEN SCALES FOCACCIA | girlabouttech.comI especially like that you can tap on any ingredient before you start cooking and weigh out how much you have of it. If it’s not enough, hit the Scale Recipe button, and the measurements of all the other ingredients update proportionally. Clever eh?

    Missing an ingredient? An iminent update will also allow Drop to suggest a substitute.

    Anyway, on to the baking. Hit Start Recipe and preheat your oven to the suggested temperature. You can then go through each instruction, and watch a video in case you are unsure of what you should be doing – it goes as far as showing you how to grease a muffin tin, so it really is foolproof.

    DROP BLUETOOTH KITCHEN SCALES WEIGHING INGREDIENTS | girlabouttech.comWhen you’re adding ingredients, as you hit your target the value on screen goes green, and automatically moves on to the following step, so you can add the next ingredient as quickly as you want to.

    Ready to put your cakes in the oven? Remember to press the Bake button on screen, as the app has a countdown timer that will alert you when they’re ready to come out again.

    You don’t even have to worry about tapping your tablet or phone screen with floury fingers, as there’s an option to scroll through the instructions by pressing an easy-clean silicone button on the scale itself.

    The Drop Smart Scales cost £79.95 (the app is free to dowload) and are available at Device. Amy

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    Whisk assessment! The Magimix processor gets a bakeover

    by  • March 24, 2015 • 0 Comments

    Patissier Multifunction food processor | Magimix | girlabouttech.comWatch out kMix and KitchenAid – Magimix has just come up with its answer to the stand mixer. The Patissier Multifunction has been specially developed for baking, so while it’s still capable of traditional processor functions such as slicing, grating and blending, the addition of a 4.9ltr stainless steel bowl apparently makes it possible to produce perfect meringues, bread and pastry every time.

    Given ‘Queen of Cake’ Mary Berry is partial to whipping up a sponge in a food processor, the Patissier is definitely worth consideration. And while it’s pricier and not quite as pretty as its aforementioned mixing rivals, it is more versatile and will take up less space on your countertop. Touché!

    One argument against using a processor for cakes is that they don’t incorporate enough air into the batter, which will lead to them coming out of the oven flat as a pancake. But Magimix promises that a special smooth blade ‘effortlessly kneads pastry and bread as well as aerating sponge mixtures for light and fluffy cakes’. Le Patissier food processor pink | Magimix | girlabouttech.comThe Patissier also comes with whisks for whipping up cream and egg whites, as well as standard processor attachments and the excellent BlenderMix, which can be used to make soups and smoothies. It’s even quieter than other Magimix models thanks to its larger, commercial grade induction motor, which has a 30-year guarantee.

    I saw it in action this week at the Cookery School at Little Portland Street, and Bake Off star Cat Dresser was able to whizz up pastry and bread dough in less than 30 seconds thanks to the Patissier’s ‘dynamic kneading’ action. I also made delicious carrot cupcakes in under five minutes!

    The Patissier Mulitfunction will be available exclusively at John Lewis from March 25th, in the delicious-sounding Vanille (cream) or Framboise (raspberry pink), plus red, black and satin (chrome). It then arrives at leading department stores from September onwards, priced £500 for the colours and £520 for the satin model.

    Of course, if you’d prefer a stand mixer, I can suggest a few great ones, including this ingenious folding design from Morphy Richards that’s great if you don’t have much cupboard space! Amy

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