Lotus Grill BBQ – Review

The Lotus Grill is a stunning bit of kit that we were excited to get our hands on.  One of the joys of camping for me, is al fresco cooking and dining. I love the simplicity of cooking over an open fire or BBQ, and we’ve tried lots of different camping grills and BBQs over the years, read on to find out how the Lotus Grill measured up.

Lotus Grill
£129 Cuckooland.com

Lotus Grill BBQ Review

The Lotus Grill from Cuckooland.com is an award winning, portable smokeless BBQ. It has a battery-powered built in fan, which constantly supplies the charcoal with air and cooks smoke free. The Lotus Grill is also quick, ready to cook on in just 3-4 minutes.

Our Verdict

We immediately loved the fact that the grill comes in a sturdy carry bag, making it supremely portable and ideal for camping. We don’t usually ‘do’ instructions, but due to the unusual design of the Lotus Grill, we thought it would be prudent to do so. The instructions are tucked away in a little pocket inside the carry case, and we found them very clear and easy to follow and in just a couple of minutes, we had the grill lit.

One of the big benefits of the grill is that it reaches cooking temperature in well under 5 minutes, so you don’t need to sit around for ages waiting for coals to turn white in order to start cooking.

The grill cooked evenly and it cooked a lot. We used the grill for 4 adults, and cooked 4 quarter pounder burgers, 2 large pieces of salmon, 4 prawn skewers and 4 chicken breasts and corn on the cob. Pretty impressive considering the item is so compact.

The food all stayed juicy, and because the temperature is more even, we didn’t get the usual hot spots that cause the burning, that you get with a normal coal BBQs. The central part of the grill is brilliant for searing food, and there was something quite gratifying about seeing all the fat from the burgers and salmon collect in the bottom of the grill. Fat is kept away from the burning coals, which means there is very little smoke generated, making the grill pleasant to use.

Cleaning the grill was also really easy to do. We left it to cool down outside for a couple of hours before unclipping the grill and washing it. Because it is all stainless steel, hot soapy water was sufficient. I only wish I had a dishwasher, because amazingly, the Lotus Grill is dishwasher safe.

Getting The Grill Started

  • You start by taking the grill off (which easily unclips), and remove the central brazier.
  • Fill the brazier with charcoal and squirt a ring of lighter gel on the bottom plate.
  • Turn the convection fan on to full and use a match or lighter to set the gel alight.
  • Once this is lit, place the brazier over the top, then clip the grill back into place.
  • Wait a couple of minutes for the charcoal to catch, and start cooking!

Lotus Grill BBQ Pictures

Lotus Grill BBQ Review

Lotus Grill BBQ Review

The Lotus Grill is available in a range of gorgeous colours, of course I opted for the fab plum purple colour :)

Lotus Grill BBQ Review

Super clear instruction booklet included and stowed away in the carry case.

Detailed lotus grill instrucitons

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start cooking

A ring of lighter gel to get the grill started.

Lotus Grill

The central brazier where the charcoal is contained.

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Lotus Grill Food Cooking

Food cooking on the grill.

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food cooked on the grill

Would We Recommend It?

Yes. The Lotus Grill is beautiful, well made, easy to use, easy to clean and comes in a sturdy carry case, making it ideal for cooking whilst camping.

cuckooland

A big thank you to Cuckooland.com who supplied the Lotus Grill for us to field test.

My Weird, Wonderful Hobby – Live Action Role Play

For the past 5 years i’ve been involved in a hobby called LARP, which stands for Live Action Role Play. Some dislike the ‘action’ bit and prefer to refer to it only as LRP, but that’s just pedantic as it means the same thing. Now you are probably thinking “Live Action WHAT?!” and that wouldn’t be a surprise, as it is still a relatively unknown hobby outside of the LARP community.

Members of the Harts Faction at the Gathering 2014

Members of the Harts Faction at the Gathering 2014

I go to around 4-6 LARP events each year. Some contain less than a hundred players, others, a few thousand. The biggest LARP event in the UK takes place over August bank holiday weekend and consists of around 3,000 players. Run by Lorien Trust, it is called The Gathering and It’s essentially, a massive 5 day (most turn up on a Thursday night, the day before the game starts) festival-like event, where all of the players take part in a massive, complex and often physically demanding, but fun game. During the game we stay in camps based on the faction we are in, so for me, it’s the ideal hobby, as it combines camping and being outdoors with a massively fun and immersive game played with friends.

This is me, in costume. I currently play a Dryad (woodland Fae)

This is me, in costume. I currently play a Dryad (woodland Fae)

We play a character of our choosing, we dress up and act like that character as the game unfolds, which is full of twists and highly detailed plot that we use our character skills to try and progress or overcome. We all work together to combat the bad guys, and whilst dressing up and taking part in a live version of Lord Of The Rings isn’t to everyone’s taste, i’ve met some truly amazing people doing it, and it’s a hobby that I dearly love and so wanted to do a feature here on the blog. Sadly due to illness, shots I obtained from the latest event are limited, so i’ve added a few pictures from previous events too.

Seelie Court, a group within the Harts Faction

Seelie Court, a group within the Harts Faction

All events have a ticket price from anywhere around £45 to £70 per event, and there is a surprisingly large ‘back stage’ team of crew that run and manage the game, consisting of actors who know and reveal the plot, game referees who make sure the (many) rules are adhered to, make up artists, plot team writers, set builders, first aiders, security and so on.

LT Gathering 2014

What Makes A LARPer?

You’ve got to be fun loving, creative and you can’t take yourself too seriously. Many of us are definitely in touch with our inner child, and find dressing up and playing lets-pretend, immense fun. Who says the dressing up box is for kids only?! If you are the sort of person that pretends they didn’t realise a party was fancy dress, as an excuse to turn up in regular clothes, then LARP probably isn’t for you.

LARP character

A previous character I played in a different system

Most LARPers will readily admit that they have a geeky streak to them. That doesn’t mean we all spend hours playing board games like Dungeons & Dragons, reading graphic novels or sat in front of our PCs playing WoW, but, if you have even a teeny tiny geeky side, you’ll fit in well at LARP and may find world lore, game mechanics and rules much easier to understand.

Harts Camp, Gathering 2014

I personally think LARPers are a clever bunch, and an alarmingly high number of my LARP friends have the doctorates to prove it. That said, LARPers come from all walks of life with varied backgrounds and from different professions. One of the things I still love about the LARP community is the sheer diversity, and the fact that you get to make new friends of people you might never otherwise encounter in your own day to day life.

Market Place Traders at The Gathering 2014

Players walking through the market place where weapons and costume can be purchased

The Skinny On Live Action Role Play

  • There are different ‘systems’ in the UK and I play a system run by Lorien Trust or LT for short which you can find more about here
  • As with all systems, we have a set game world with heaps of lore (back story) and it’s own rules
  • Depending on your system, the game rule book can be alarmingly large which can prove daunting to someone new to role play, and even more alarming to some one new to fantasy in general. That was me – in fact most of the references people make, still go way over my head as i’m just not as into the whole fantasy genre as they are but if you like things like Lord Of The Rings and Game Of Thrones, you’re on the right tracks
  • At LT you can camp in-character or out-of-character. If you are camping IC, then you’ll need a canvas bell tent or other traditional canvas tent in order to look the part, camping out of character however is generally more convenient and allows you to use any style of tent
  • In LT there are 4 main events each year, these are known as mainlines, and these are the big events that have all factions attending. As well as the 4 mainlines every year, each faction also have 2 or 3 smaller, faction focused events known as Sanctioned events
  • You can devise your own character to play, choosing things like race, allegiance, and your character skills
  • Costume standards vary from system to system but generally if you want to play a fae, rocking up in a pair of jeans with a set of sparkly toy-shop wings on is not really acceptable, and nowhere near the effort level required – the more convincing you look and the greater the level of detail that you go to, then the easier it is to immerse yourself.
  • Don’t buy fancy dress costumes for LARP, they won’t cut it (though some can be cleverly adapted if you are that way inclined) the level of kit you need to be aiming for is stage costume quality
  • The spirit of the game means that as a player, you are honour bound to play the game with honesty and integrity, if someone deals you damage, you take that damage (there are refs on hand to ensure players adhere to the rules and take damage properly) and when you strike players, your aim is not to maim and cause real physical damage
  • Some people argue that a high standard of kit means it can be expensive for new players to get into. Nonsense. Whilst some people spend thousands of pounds on kit that wouldn’t look out of place in a big budget film, you can look good without spending a fortune. Compared to other hobbies I have, the initial outlay for LARP costume was actually fairly low. Second hand kit, props and weapons are all easy to pick up, though be prepared to invest in anything from £60 upwards for a decent LARP-safe weapon, and significantly more if you want something custom made
  • Think about kit when you decide on and stat up your character – a Paladin tank might seem appealing, but you’ll need to invest heavily in armour and weapons to pull it off
  • Events provide a real sense of community. In the camping areas everyone is friendly and happy to help. Newbies are made to feel welcome and offers of combat training and chat about current plot is usually easy to come by
  • The more you put into the hobby, the more you get out of it. It often takes me far out of my own comfort zone. I don’t find socialising particularly easy, neither do I find remembering complex rules, calls, magic spells and plot easy, but there is fun to be had, and the more you can get stuck in, the more you’ll get from it
  • LARP does involve combat (If you want it, you can opt out if you’d prefer not to get so physically involved). You can choose to use a weapon, such as a LARP-safe latex sword or you can use magic as your weapon, for those who aren’t too keen on combat (real and serious injuries do occur, don’t let the fact that weapons are LARP-safe make you believe they can’t still cause damage!), taking on the role of a healer may be more appealing
  • LARP is very different to historical re-enactment. Whilst some back story and plot may be loosely based on historical events, that’s where the similarities end
  • LT mainilne events mean camping in the beautiful Derbyshire countryside in the stunning grounds of Locko park, the location alone is a good enough reason for me to go along
  • Leave cynicism at the gate – everyone taking part is there to have fun and to get out of the game whatever they want. Snarky one-upmanship is not recommended, suspend your disbelief and get stuck in
  • LARP isn’t just a game for 14 year old lads who want to hit each other with latex swords; lots of families come to LT events as do singles, couples and groups of all ages
  • You will feel utterly daft at times and you’ll have an internal monologue saying “What the hell am I doing?!” but once you’ve left behind your real-world ego and are engrossed in the game and playing your character, you’ll have a whale of a time
  • IC means in-character and refers to times when you are acting, behaving and responding as your character rather than as yourself. It’s best to only drop out of character, or OC, with friends you know well and out of the ear shot of others – chatting loudly about problems at work in the middle of the game, won’t help set the scene for those in-character, who are more concerned with trying to figure out how to track down and retrieve a stolen faction artifact
  • LARP is a great form of stress relief. You don’t have to think about the real world for a few days and whilst it can be a demanding hobby, especially once your character gets more heavily involved in plot and gains status, being able to switch off and live in as I refer to it, Nonsense-land for a few days, is incredibly liberating and refreshing
  • One of my favourite bits about LARP is sitting around a campfire in the evening, drinking (copiously of course), and singing lots of different folk songs. Many have been written specially or adapted from well-known songs, all of which get progressively bawdier. Under the gaze of the often visible Milky Way, people sing, play drums, tell stories and we create an atmosphere which is as close to ancient community life as it’s possible to get, far away from our crazy, stressful modern everyday world

Warewolf at the Gathering 2014

Harts of to Battle, Gathering 2014

LARP costume in my tent

LARP costume in my tent

leather leaf armour dryad larp

More of my LARP kit, including my custom made leather armour

The Gathering 2014

The Gathering 2014

Thinking of giving LARP a go but don’t know where to start? I’m no expert, but i’m more than happy to answer any questions you might have about my rather weird, but wonderful hobby below. Perhaps you are a LARPer and want to share what you love most about the hobby. Leave a comment below, i’d love to hear from you!

5 Simple Tips To Glam Up Your Camping Trip

Camping doesn’t have to feel like a compromise. Throw in a few home comforts and you’ll have a comfy and enjoyable camping trip that you’ll want to repeat again and again.

For first timers or reluctant campers especially, comfort really can make or break your time under canvas (or nylon), and after many years of trial and error, i’ve finally got it right. Whilst I no longer believe in camping light, I do believe in camping comfy!

Sure you can pay for a glamping holiday; the tent is already set up for you, you’ll get a real bed and luxuries like a wood burning stove to keep you snuggly and warm, however glamping breaks really don’t come cheap and I strongly believe that you can create your own glamping experience and that it doesn’t need to cost the earth.

Splash out on a good quality tent by all means, decent sleeping bags and camp beds too – I’ve got a kingsize,  and a double height air bed that are both SO comfy I love sleeping on them (not at the same time of course) and a darling canvas bell tent that is SO pretty I just want to live in it all the time. When it comes to camping essentials and practical gear however, you can easily inject some style and a bit of luxury into your tent by shopping savvy.

Don’t limit yourself to outdoor stores, you’ll find that style wise, you are extremely limited, though places like Mountain Warehouse are doing an excellent job of creating some ranges with funky designs. Supermarket outdoor living ranges, department stores and quirky online shops all have fabulous pieces that are easily adapted for camping purposes, so keep your eyes open, you’ll find gear suitable for camping in all sorts of unexpected places.

Below are 5 simple tips that will help you glam up your next camping trip.

1. Invest In Solar Powered Fairy Lights

Fairy lights are an inexpensive way of making a tent look pretty and sparkly. Instead of relying on an electric hookup or endlessly buying batteries, solar powered lights are the economical and eco-friendly way to light the inside and outside of your tent.

Evening time and solar lights

Strategically place stake lights around your tent to stop annoying night time trips over your guy ropes.

2. When it Comes to Bedding, Indulge!

Who says you have to take a sleeping bag camping? A good 3-season bag can be pricey and finding sleeping bags that look good can be a challenge. A proper duvet used on top of a sleeping bag will keep you cosy and looks good too.

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To make bedtimes ultra-snuggly and luxurious, we always take proper pillows, our kingsize goose down duvet, and our double height, queen sized inflatable air bed. Unless you have a tiny car, you’ll find packing extras like this really don’t take up much room at all and can make all the difference.

3. Don’t Rely On Outdoor Stores

Outdoors stores are brilliant places for practical and useful gear, but when it comes to glamping, don’t limit yourself to camping shops as you’ll find that gear suitable for camping is available in lots of places you might not expect.

When it comes to tableware for camping, lots of shops have excellent picnic and outdoor living ranges in store and supermarkets in particular are a great place to start and you’ll find far funkier colours and designs available than those stocked in most outdoor stores, and at much better prices too.

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4. Think Comfort

It’s super easy to create a pretty and relaxing area for lounging around inside or outside of the tent. Invest in a plastic backed picnic rug that can be easily picked up and moved, there are lots of gorgeous designs available and during the summer, they can easily be purchased along with your weekly shop.

Festooned with cushions you can build yourself a comfy and inviting day nest, ideal for lounging around in the sunshine with a good book.

Camping breakfast

5. A Little Bit Of What You Love

Camping doesn’t have to mean basic food or drink! Love a decent cup of coffee in the morning? A camping kettle, stove and caffatiere are moderate investments that will help to make your camping trip a happy one. Invest a little more to get a good cooler and you’ll be able to take food with you, proper food, that you can prepare and cook so you’ll feel less like you are slumming it.

A good cooler will keep ice frozen for days without power, and a jug of Pimms and lemonade, complete with ice cubes when camping is an indulgent joy I rarely pass up on!

For more on glam camping, check out my recent article over on the Sainsbury’s blog Be Inspired….Go On A Glam Camping Trip.

My Never-Camp-Without Toiletry Essentials…and Not So Essentials

I was going to do a packing list of essentials to take camping, but instead, I thought it would be more fun to show you the contents of my own, always-packed toiletry go bag. Inside it i’ve got all the essentials, along with some admittedly, not so essential items!

camping packing toiletry essetials

It goes without saying that if something comes as a miniature, I am guaranteed to buy it (look how itty bitty they are!!!), so I tend to have mini versions of things I normally use at home and I have also been known to swipe the odd hotel room freebie (the most recent being lovely Aveda minitures from Hotel Indigo Liverpool, who could resist?!).

If you don’t camp often, then trial size items, are ideal and one of my favourite mini ranges comes from Molton Brown, but you can pick up travel miniatures all over the place. Boots, Superdrug and all the major supermarkets stock lovely mini smelly stuff.

My Camping Toiletry Essentials

Suncream
Definitely the most important item in my bag…well, after deodorant and toothpaste anyway. A miniature bottle is an absolute camping must have.

Body cream
Spending time in the outdoors dries your skin out like mad, so a rich body butter is something I always take, in fact I usually take at least a couple of different body and/or hand creams with me.

Hair brush
Miniature hair brushes are just the cutest, plus they are like super useful for stopping me from looking like a wild woman.

Face cream
My absolute favourite face creams are No. 7 Protect & Perfect and Elemis Radiance Flash Balm and I always take one or the other (usually both).

Deodorant
I always take a stick and a little spray. I’m not entirely sure why.

Tooth brush and tooth paste
Pretty obvious really.

Lip balm
Outside is windy and sunshiney and full of elements and stuff, that play havoc with your skin. I’m not one for lipstick or gloss at the best of times, but for camping especially, lip balm is a lovely nourishing treat.

Firzz ease
My natural hair is afro, and you aint seen nothing like afro frizz. In the middle of a campsite, your hair should be the last thing on your mind, but for selfie taking confidence, a decent hair serum is a blessing.

Hair ties
I always take a few hair ties with me, handy for securing long hair, especially when setting up, taking down and doing active stuff.

Shampoo
I tend not to wash my hair whilst camping (my afro hair means I could go weeks without my hair getting greasy or pongy), but for most people, a miniature shampoo is a must-take item.

Shaving razor
I don’t wax. It hurts. So I stick with the humble razor and camping generally means summer time which means legs on show. If you are away for more than a few days, and you don’t wax, a razor is a necessity.

Cleansing facial wipes
Wipes are much more convenient than cleansing creams and toners, easy to use in the privacy of your tent and they are useful for wiping hands and even mopping sweaty brows.

Mirror
It’s such a simple little thing, but so easy to forget! I have a little mirror that stands up on its own and is great for hanging from the central pole of the bell tent or hooked over the organiser pockets in our modern tent.

Shower gel
I love Molton Brown Heavenly Gingerlilly shower gel and always decant some into my little travel size bottle to take with me.

Miniature body puff
I don’t like applying shower gel by hand and prefer to lather it up on a body puff.

The Not So Essentials

Tweezers
If you have a super busy life, it’s really easy to forget things like brows, and so I always take some tweezers just in case I realise once i’m there that I look like Mr Dolmio. They are also very useful for removing splinters and stings, so not quite essential but definitely useful.

Nail polish & nail polish remover pads
I’m not vain and i’m not into makeup, especially not when camping, but I can’t abide chipped nails. I always make sure i’ve got some bright emergency nail polish packed just in case.

Nail clippers & Emery board
Not essential but jolly useful, especially on longer camping trips. Putting up a tent invariably involves bashed and broken finger nails so at least one or the other is handy to have, especially ones that are super-tiny like mine.

Perfume
I might be in a tent and I might be out exploring the great outdoors, but I still like to smell nice, it’s one of my few indulgences.

camping essentials

camping packing list

camping essentials

Over To You

What can’t you live without when you go camping? What are your must have’s? Whatever you just have to take camping (even if it is gas powered hair straighteners) we’d love to hear from you!

Camping Wine Glass Chair Clamp – Review

This clever little gadget is a Wine Glass Clamp, designed specifically for camp chairs and it comes in 3 different colours, blue, green and pink….so of course I chose the pink one! The Wine Glass Clamp is super easy to use, there is a twisty clamp thingy that can be opened or tightened depending on which way you twist it, and it fits all standard camp chairs.

The Wine Glass Clamp is made out of strong durable plastic (but it doesn’t feel cheap, it feels sturdy and well made), so it’s easily transported along on camping trips with no fear of it breaking. I loved it! I used pretty much the heaviest glass that I have to really test the clamp out and it held up wonderfully well despite the weight.

When I camp I tend to drink wine out of a tumbler (yuck, I am sure it doesn’t taste as nice!) just because a tumbler fits into the holder on the arm of my camp chairs  – thankfully, I can now revert back to using a wine glass – yay!!

The Wine Glass Clamp is a very clever little item that’s ideal for camping and it is also made in Britain – fab!

Wine Glass Clamp Pictures

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wine glass clamp for camping

camping glass clamp

the wine glass clamp

wine glass clamps

You can buy the Wine Glass Clamp here.

We were sent a wine glass clamp free of charge to review.

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