Housekeeping magic... 5 household appliances that save me

As with many modern women I feel the pressure to be and do anything and everything. This includes being a whizz in the kitchen and keeping a perfect house like a traditional homemaker even whilst working some stressful contracts and finding time for friends, family and a full quota of hobbies and exercise. Nevermind squeezing in time to maintain this and a few other blogs.

Anyone who knows me knows that I tend to fail abysmally on a number of housekeeper fronts (the dead pot plants, the piles of networking gear, the mountain of boxes yet to be unpacked just for a start) but there are some household gadgets and appliances that mean when I set some time for it, I can be a lot more efficient and effective.

My current top 5 techie household items in no particular order are:

1. Electrolux Inverter EWF12832 washing machine

I love this washing machine. No seriously, I love it. What makes this upgrade to my previous, much used and much respected front-loader so special? The range of additional functions and pre-panned wash cycles. Not only can it do the standard wash and spin, at 0 to 90 degrees Celcius and up to 1200rpm respectively, it also has a wonderful 'refresh' mode.

Refresh is a steam mode: no detergent or softener, just hot water and a gentle spin. Steaming clothes removes most odours and wrinkles without the need to do a full soak wash. I'm someone who dislikes even the slightest hint of body odour and I don't particularly like stale perfume, cooking smells and old deodorant on my clothes. This means that even if I've only worn an item for a few hours and it's not actually dirty, I inevitably put it through a wash cycle. Particularly in winter this can be a real trial as well as a massive waste of water and detergent, and results in wear, tear and colour loss on clothes.

Now however, I simply throw in a few items, select the 'mixed' 21 minute or the 'cottons' 35 minute cycle and press start. The clothes come out only slightly damp and hanging for half an hour or a few minutes in the dryer with a dryer sheet to infuse scent and soften fabric does the trick. I've even used this on my dryclean only jackets and coats and some pretty delicate dresses with success.

Even though I do have a TOBI handheld steamer, this is far more efficient because I can do multiple garments, it's not manual, and I can be doing something else for the half hour the machine is busy: like many programmers I'm into the beauty of parallel processing.

Other handy functions: modes for dealing with bedding and delicates, thorough washes of more than three hours to the very zippy 18 minute express wash, delay function to have it turn on after we've already woken but in time to hang out before I leave for work, customisable programmes including a vapour cycle. It has a whopping 8kg maximum loading, 4 star energy and 4.5 star water efficiency ratings.

2. Zip 222 slow cooker

I'm a fan of having dinner cooking before I even leave for the office and to be serving up within minutes of getting home. Particularly now that #winterishere, stews and casseroles are so very a la mode. My favourite meals with this baby include apricot chicken (popular with the rest of the household all year round), lamb shanks slow cooked till it comes away from the bone, beef stroganoff, fusion Asian curries such as massaman lamb, and venison stew. Mmmm...

Seriously, any busy household like ours would benefit from one of these. This particular cooker has high and low cooking modes and a keep warm function perfect for those busy evenings when work shifts, sports, evening classes, and other activities means that not everyone can eat at the same time.

3. Breville BEM410 'the Scraper' mixer

We bought this mixer with the vague intent of baking bread that looked better than the one the breadmaker produces. I will admit however that the kneading attachment has never been used and not a single loaf has been produced using this machine. Neither has the whisk attachment been deployed for cream. However, hundreds of cupcakes, biscuits and a few full-sized cakes have made it to various workplaces, mixed using the leaf beater: an attachment which includes rubberised scrapers, a bit like a spatula. The Scraper promises professional-level mixing using planetary motion — a complex weave of movement that brushes the scraper against all the surfaces of the mixing bowl. Certainly I've never found dry ingredients caked to the side or bottom of the bowl with the handy handle, and the mixture is always a smooth consistency. I consider it lives up to its primary selling point. I do scrape the leaf beater attachment with a spatula mid-way through mixing, but that's basically because I can be a little OCD.

It has 6 different speeds, a full-tilt back arm, and is made from die-cast metal. It's certainly made baking quicker and more fun for me and since I feed the masses whenever I cook, I'm not the only one to benefit.

4. Braun 4191 hand blender

It was a close call whether I included this or my iron since this hand blender has been in our kitchen for a few years now but the fact that it has been around a while and I still use at least once a week meant it made the cut. I'm not raving specifically about this model but hand blenders generally particularly those which, like this Braun one, come with a variety of attachments such as the basic stick blender, chopping blades and whisk.

Whether it's crushing ice, processing cheese for sprinkling over pizza or pasta bake, prepping spices for puerco pibil, whipping cream, mashing root vegetables or pureeing beetroot for my favourite chocolate cake, this little gadget has been my best kitchen friend.

5. Dyson DC39 vacuum cleaner

When I told a friend that we'd bitten the bullet and splurged on a Dyson vacuum cleaner he was quick to point out that it was a large expense for something which was still plastic at the end of the day and would eventually require a replacement. But given we've bought a vacuum every couple of years and haven't been happy with the results for very long, it was worth trying for better quality. I have not been disappointed after nine months of this particular one.

As promised, this bagless model retains the same high level of suction right up to when it's full and requires emptying. The transparent body means I'm able to see just how full it is and just how much dust, hair and dirt it's picking up. I am always surprised at how much is lifted off what looks like an otherwise clean patch of carpet.

This Dyson has a very stable base and a fully extensible shaft; perfect for ridding the house of cobwebs on ceiling corners. A range of attachments make it appropriate for multiple floor types and fabric upholstery.

In a shoes on household, often host to children and pets, as well as a logburner that produces plenty of ash and a trail of sawdust and wood chips between the back door and the lounge, this is one of the busiest machines in the house. Even if we only get four or five years from it, I'd be happy with the level of spend simply for the quality result.
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