Tag Archives: mum hacks

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.

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 www.vax.co.uk

SM reads… ‘Mum Hacks’ by Tanith Carey

When this one arrived we did wonder if Tanith would be able to teach us old dogs any new tricks… So often with parenting self-help books, the suggestions are either too complicated to integrate into family life or just not the kind of things that resonate with boisterous children.

SM tester writes: this book is so easy to read that I did it in one evening; very straight-talking, very ‘to the point’. The premise is that as a Mum you could save a lot of time and effort with a few tips, a bit of streamlining, some systems, a dash of decluttering and a rigid set of rules. The book is divided into sections discussing areas of family turbulence such as mealtimes, the school run, holidays, bedtimes etc plus some advice on getting on top of toybox explosions, toddler strops and how to sneak in a 200 calorie workout in the playground.

Some of the tips, for a seasoned parent, are fairly obvious (like get a high chair with a washable plastic tray; let’s face it, who *doesn’t* opt for the cheapy Ikea one at least by their second child?) or store hairbands on the handle of the hairbrush – but actually it makes a lot of sense to have all the tips in one place and if you have a slightly child-frazzled brain, some of them serve as a reminder (I found myself saying to my other half ‘remember when we used to do that, that worked for a bit, didn’t it?)

There are also some tips that are total genius. Making a week’s worth of school sandwiches and freezing them, for example. Great idea! Slicing pizza with scissors; OK so you won’t win Masterchef but it’s better than battling with a knife or pizza cutter. Keeping a bin in the car; again, it’s a curveball one but it makes sense… 

‘Mum Hacks’ is available on Amazon or in good book retailers.

Editor’s tip: Tanith applauds the benefits of ditching the Bunnykins bowls and cups in favour of plastic or melamine. Can’t resist cute plates at teatime? Check out the range of colourful kids’ unbreakables at Vibrant Home...