Category Archives: Home

SM reviews: Food Saver vertical vacuum sealer

SM tester writes: “If you thought you owned every kitchen gadget, here’s a new one on your radar. But before you read about it, just go and look in your fridge. If it’s anything like mine, the veg section probably has a half punnet of rotting raspberries, and some leeks you can’t remember when you purchased as you had the best intentions to make soup. Add to that a half-eaten ‘power bowl’ (when did ‘leftovers’ become ‘power bowls’?!) that you made yourself the other day before finishing off your toddler’s Organix snack instead. Maybe a chocolate bar you’d been rationing?

So the Foodsaver machine vacuum seals either bags or special containers, allowing you to preserve food in the fridge for much longer. Which, if you’re a mum is a no-brainer. 

Other things it does: seals a portion of cornflakes so that you can pop it in your work bag without it exploding, seals travel documents that you are packing for emergency reference, so that they won’t get wet or sandy, protects silverware (the vacuum sucks out the oxygen which stops tarnishing) for storage – and lots more. 

The only thing it won’t preserve in your fridge is anything liquid. So that bottle of prosecco you opened at the weekend… well, you’re just gonna have to finish it.”

The upright vacuum Foodsaver RRP is £89.99 and it is available from Lakeland, Amazon, and more – or save 10% when you buy it from Foodsaver website.

Got kids or pets? You need a Karcher WV2 window vac in your life!

Editor writes: “Maybe, like me, the mention of Karcher makes you think of those infomercials where leisurewear clad models steam clean the parts of their home that you honestly wouldn’t give a second thought to unless, say, the Queen was popping over or the admissions secretary of your top choice school was planning a home visit. You know; the underside of oven knobs, the catflap or the spokes of bike wheels…That kind of thing. 

Well, a fortnight of having the Karcher WV2 Plus Window Vac system in my home and I’m wondering how I ever did without it. And – here’s the shocker – I haven’t even used it on the windows! 

So what makes it so indispensable? Well – if you have kids or pets and either wooden, tile or laminate floors, stop me when one of these situations sounds familiar…

  1. Your potty training child has an accident on the floor.
  2. Your toddler wanders ’round with an opened juicebox for around ten minutes before you realise that they are holding it upside-down.
  3. Your pet has an accident on the floor.
  4. Your child tips the dog’s water bowl over their head.
  5. You cave into your better judgement and let your child do messy play with water and glitter.
  6. You drop a glass of wine on the floor. 
  7. You get home from the Farmers’ Market, put the organic cotton tote bag down *enthusiastically* and ergo smash a litre of expensive organic apple juice.
  8. Your child ignores all cries of ‘take your muddy wellies off at the door!’
  9. Your child ignores all cries of ‘don’t let the wet dog into the kitchen!’
  10. You sit on the floor sobbing, then realise you’ve sat in a puddle of jam… 

Any of this sound like life in your home? Well, how about these then:

  1. You mop the floor, using anything from eco-friendly soap made from flower petals to hardcore bleach, then realise all you have done is made another puddle of your own. Possibly more toxic, possibly just grey water mixed with jam.
  2. Your child sees the wet floor and pretends it’s an ice rink. 
  3. Dog runs through the aforementioned puddle, then all over the house with wet, jammy paws. 

Right. So… Rather than finding yourself down on your hands and knees using the baby’s muslin or your gym t-shirt to dry, the god-like genius that is the Karcher window vac will just suck up all the liquid and leave you with a dry, hygienic floor. In seconds.

If one was to use the innovative system on windows, the idea is that you spray the glass with detergent via the dispensing bottle provided which has a nifty microfibre cloth at its head that you then use to clean the streaks. Grab the vacuum gadget and suck off all the water. Also works on shower panels and mirrors. Really simple, effective – and a job I’ll save til Her Majesty fancies a cuppa ’round mine.”

RRP £59.99 – order online 

3 Things you can do to boost the value of your property

For those looking to sell their home, we imagine you’ll probably want to get the most money you can out of it. Obviously, this is not without a fair bit of work but if you’re willing to put the hours in while putting a little bit more money into your home – you could see a huge return on investment if you touch up the right areas.

If you’re a bit lost about where to start making improvements to your home then don’t worry, we’ve got a useful list here of some of the best enhancements you can make to your house to squeeze every penny out of its potential value!

A fresh lick of quality paint
You may be thinking we mean painting on the inside, but you’d be wrong. While painting the inside of your home would increase the value of it a little, retouching the outside would give a massive return on your investment. First impressions are key when trying to sell your home, so if a person pulls up at your driveway to notice a drab house with paint flecks crumbling off the sides then you’ve lost the battle before you’ve even begun.

While improving the appearance is one reason to apply a coat to the outside of your home, the more pressing reason to commit to this improvement is to protect your home from the elements. By using a specialised paint, you can prevent damp from penetrating into the walls of a building and causing damage that could be very expensive to repair, therefore saving you (and your potential buyer) money in the long-run. Exterior wall coatings prevent this by protecting your home from everything mother nature can throw at it – and then some!

Cook up a storm with your kitchen design
You would be surprised at just how much a stunning kitchen can increase the value of a home – everyone deep down fancies themselves a semi-professional chef so they want a place to work their culinary magic. Having all your appliances uniform in a nice stainless steel finish will give the kitchen a real modern (almost space-age) feel.

There are also plenty of little touches you can make to a kitchen without having to rip it up and spend a wad of cash turning it into a professional kitchen. For a start, developing a stylish space where you can hang your utensils (pots, pans, knives, etc) is a sure-fire way to catch your potential buyers eye – it’s a unique aesthetic that can really add something to the room if done correctly.

Small efforts in a consistent routine
Many of us cannot afford to reinvigorate our homes over the space of a month undertaking jobs in multiple rooms at the same time – it’s just not achievable! If you have time to spare when it comes to selling your home, the idea here is to take each month as decide what the priority jobs are – like a leaky pipe or a cracked tile – and dedicating yourself to one project a month.

It doesn’t all have to be DIY projects as well, simple things like buying a new piece of artwork or something else to help with the aesthetic of your home can have a surprising influence on buyer perception – after all, image is everything.

(guest post)

Nursery Designing for the future: trends we need to consider now

As if having children wasn’t enough of a gigantic leap into uncertainty, for many homeowners the thought of potentially ‘devaluing’ a room by converting it into a nursery can be as horrific a concept as pushing out a placenta.

But a beautiful nursery can be a style statement, and arguably the design trends here move just as quickly as those for kitchens and bathrooms. We take a moment to consider the developments current making waves and which we think will remain buoyant in the future.

Think big in a small space: aside from the proverbial ‘powder room’, it is fair to say that a nursery is normally the designation of the smallest space. But yet, there can be a lot of ‘boxy’ items to cram into that space (cot, changing table, chest of drawers etc). Whilst iconic nursery brands such as Silver Cross have recently introduced more compact versions of their furniture, we love the idea of making a big style statement and then custom building the essentials of the room around it. How wonderful would Cots of Distinctions’ Seven Seas rocking baby cot (above) look with some subtle nautical touches such as aden+anais ‘high seas’ dream blanket  or a minimalist paper boat shelf from JojoMamanBebe?

Grey is the new neutral: gone are the days when magnolia or yellow were the wall-hue staples of indecisive parents. Grey has become the perfectly pitched neutral and partners beautifully with pastels so that ‘pink for girls and blue for boys’ no longer needs to be represented by gaudy hues of Barbie of Chelsea FC. We adore Earthborn’s subtle pink ‘Maybe Maggie’ paint, or Frenchic’s ‘Moody Blue’ – both of which pair delightfully with grey.  Accessorise with a grey ball pit – like MadeByNori’s one or maybe Mokee’s ‘rainy day’ mobile?  (incidentally, if you are still sitting on the yellow fence, a touch of Daffodil brightness looks the bees-knees when paired with grey…)

Tech is your friend: Philips Avent recently launched their ‘UGrow’ Smart baby monitor, which creates a constant audio and visual connection with your baby. The monitor is unobtrusive and chic so why not integrate it with your nursery design? You might be currently baulking at the idea of a flat screen TV in the nursery, but roll on three years and having them watch Peppa Pig in their own space will be a godsend to the rest of the house. Install one early and play Baby Einstein or Mozart in HD quality.

Push Scandi further: Oh those Ikea-fiends and their clean lines. Simplicity and lack of corners in nursery design not only is the current height of vogue but has the added practical bonus that when bubba begins to toddle there are fewer sharp corners to impale themselves upon. Forget plywood curvature though; how about a real forest, complete with wild beasts? We love this hairy rocker from Scandiborn (above) or this chic wooden wall art from Etsy. 

Upcycle: why bring more unnecessary plastic tat into your home when other people’s junk can be the basis of beautiful eco-friendly furniture? Maggie and Rose’s new homeware collection includes a doll’s house made from reclaimed wood and shabby chic chairs – but why not try your hand at DIY as, let’s face it, if it goes wrong it was somebody’s trash anyhow…

Go organic: if the mention of bamboo has you thinking about Dick Van Dyke (and how he never has a bother with it) then check out brands like MORI and Piglet who are creating marvellously snuggly children’s bedding from bamboo and organic cotton.

image: The Sun

Letters play: we love the word art trend (as exemplified when Jools and Jamie Oliver announced their latest arrival, River) – but creating inspirational bon mots on a lightbox is a lovely way to bring subtle lighting into the space occupied by the new light of your life. A Little Lovely Company’s lightboxes can be customised with your own message and are available from MeandBuddy.

Who knows, your future nursery might become the stylish focal point of your home, regardless of the sleep-sapping squawker who resides in it.

This blog post is a part of Design Blogger Competition organised by CGTrader

Help! My Child Wants A Bedroom Makeover

Guest post from Ollie & Leila: Just hearing that small phrase – can I have a new room please, is enough to send a chill through any DIY-fearing parent. Images of endless weekends taken up with sanding, painting and hammering rush past your eyes, not to mention the tears and tantrums that are sure to follow, when you don’t paint the walls the right type of blue! But don’t worry, a bedroom makeover can actually be much easier than you think… 

Keep It Simple

image: ollie & leila

Whilst it may be tempting to rush out immediately and start buying every single gorgeous item your child requires, don’t – put the credit card away. Less really is more, especially when it comes to your child’s bedroom. You see, children are fickle things, and whilst currently Peppa Pig may be flavour of the month, this could quickly be replaced by Paw Patrol. So, resist the urge to paint the walls pink in homage to Peppa, and keep the walls a neutral colour, soft greys and pale pastel colours look great. This allows you to add colour, personalisation, and even themes to the bedroom in the form of accessories such as rugs, duvet covers and lampshades. Accessories are easier to replace when a new ‘favourite’ appears, so rather than having to redesign the whole bedroom again, you simply need to replace them.

image: ollie & leila

Forget ‘location, location, location’, the mantra you should be repeating when it comes to making over your child’s bedroom is ‘storage, storage, storage’. But don’t worry, storage doesn’t need to come in the form of clunky, white, plastic boxes littering your child’s bedroom floor. There are some brilliantly clever, beautifully designed storage solutions out there. Like the gorgeous, bespoke storage beds from Ollie & Leila.  Each one has been designed with storage below the actual bed, you could have a desk, chest of drawers or storage cubes built underneath, giving your child absolutely no excuses for a messy room.



Instead of spending hours trying to find new furniture to fill your child’s ‘new’ room, save yourself time and energy and try some upcycling. By spending a little time giving your child’s furniture a makeover of its own, you can create a whole new look in their bedroom. There are many upcycling ideas on Pinterest so you can really take your pick, but perhaps start simple. Just sand down the furniture and paint it a colour that fits in with the palette of the room. Or, for a bit more of the ‘wow-factor’, try a bit of wallpaper on the furniture. Do not cover the whole piece of furniture, that will be too much and give you a migraine every time you look at it! Instead, choose a section to cover. So, for a tall bookcase, you could cover the back panel in your chosen wallpaper, or to upcycle a chest of drawers, cover just the drawer fronts.

Find out more and shop online at Ollie & Leila

In Praise of… Wallpaper

Wallpaper. It used to be naff, then it was trendy. Then it was on the out again… Then – well – we stopped following design trends and fell in love with this lovely selection…

Murals Wallpaper have a wonderful nursery range, how chic is this blue forest?



Or make a feature wall with this silver roll from Utopia at Inspired wallpaper (it also comes in gold, for a super luxe look).



Graham and Brown have created the cheeky Loo Loo Blue design to give that downstairs powder room a little makeover.




Or give a little stargazer a treat with this midnight blue and gold design from Cole and Sons (which also comes in pink, grey and pastel blue).

Make keepsakes from babygrows with LoveKeepCreate

The problem with those adorably dinky first babygrows is that they only last a few weeks until baby has grown out of them. And even though you know you should be passing them on, part of you just can’t bear to.

Or maybe – like one of our writers – your toddler still carries ’round an old muslin or sleeping bag as a comforter, despite having grown out of it years ago.

The solution – in either of the above cases – might come in the form of online boutique LoveKeepCreate, who upcycle your baby bits and bobs into quilts, cushions and even stuffed animals – all ready to be loved for all eternity. You can add personalisation such as name, dates or messages too. Or turn one of Grandad’s shirts into a cuddly keepsake

More info and order online from LoveKeepCreate.

SM reviews… The Vax Dual Power Pro Advance Carpet Cleaner

If you’ve got kids, a carpet washer has probably made it onto your list of lusty desires (maybe just below Patrick Dempsey…) so we were delighted to get the chance to put the Vax Dual Power Pro Advance through its paces.

Described as: a powerful, deep-cleaning and quick drying carpet washer, it features a DualTECHTM  cleaning system to agitate and help lift deep down, embedded dirt. The SpinScrubTM hand tool and stretch hose also make washing upholstery and stairs easy.

But could it handle Ribena and fox poo? We found out…

SM tester writes: OK, I’ll confess, in our house it’s not normally me that does the hoovering. My other half says it is ‘therapeutic’ (ie makes a noise and involves a power tool, of sorts…) but he’s quick to get frustrated when the net effect of him raking the Miele back and forth and showering the floor with Shake’n’Vac is a grey carpet that neither looks nor smells cleaner than it was before; there are just fewer visible bits of Lego. 

Back in the old, carefree, childless days we had an urban flat with wooden floors and never a thought for carpets – which seemed like the sort of things one’s grandparents had – but after child #1 had mastered walking (cue multiple falling over incidents, much use of arnica cream etc) when we moved – and had subsequent children 2&3 wall-to-wall soft coverings seemed like a brilliant idea. As did neutral greige colour (‘it won’t show the dirt,’ quipped other half. Oh, but we didn’t really know ‘dirt’ back in those days…)

Drum4So 18 months in to life with carpets, we’ve had many a spillage: from Ribena (child 2) to red wine (Daddy) to projectile vomit (child 3) to a whole jar of passata (sheepishly, moi). Our play room has French doors which open onto the garden and child 2 insists on riding his scooter in from outdoors – regardless of how much mud he has picked up. Recently we had an incident where the ‘mud’ wasn’t actually earth based at all, but (judging by the horrific smell) from a vulpine pest who is resident on our street and pillages the dustbins after dark. Just gross… 

So we were keen to see just what the Vax washer could tackle. The actual machine isn’t light (it doesn’t claim to be, but you definitely need to push it places rather than carry it – unless you’re one of those superfit superwomen who bench presses and does chin ups) and it does need a screw driver to assemble. Apart from that tho, the rest is pretty self-explanatory. You pour in the wash solution (no need to measure really as it does this in the mix) add some clean water (the tank holds loads), turn on the power and the machine gets to work. It has a trigger which releases the soap and a system of brushes underneath – so you get into the swing of giving it a blast and then sweeping the machine forwards and backwards – just like a normal hoover. 

The process is described as ‘quick drying’. TBH unless you were cleaning the floor in some sort of designer marabou slippers, whether it takes 2, 5 or ten minutes to be dry doesn’t really matter – and I was using this on a hot summer day – but it does seem to be quick enough. The tank holds enough water to thoroughly clean one room  (or two little ones) and you can just unclip the dirty water bit to decant; it is simple enough that it doesn’t slow down the cleaning process but also safe enough that little ones won’t actually figure out how to release the lock. 

And the result? Nothing short of amazing. Like ‘OMG, is that really my house?’ amazing. Other half said ‘it’s like having a whole new room…’ Wine – check, tomato sauce – check. You name the stain, we got it out. We didn’t even have to use the brushes that the machine comes with (for scrubbing stubborn marks/stairs etc) or the pre-wash solution that is also an option. It was like having a professional cleaner (the likes of whom had previously quoted me £120 per room for their services) and doing the whole house took me less than two hours. The cleaning solution smells much fresher than Shake’n’Vac (ie not like melted marzipan) and you can order more on Amazon as well as the Vax site. 

I wouldn’t say the carpets are clean enough to eat my dinner off (cos that would be weird) but I definitely don’t shudder when house guests put their babies on the floor, or when my own kids absent-mindedly put lollies on the carpet, only to pick them up and suck them at a later date. 

The Vax Dual Power Pro Advance carpet washer costs £199.99 from