Monthly Archives: March 2016

KitchenAid Hand Blender review

For a long time I had a cheap stand-alone blender from my local Wilko’s. It did the job, but was a pain to clean and gathered dust better than a vacuum. Then it broke.

I went quite a while without a replacement, but the time came when I got fed up of very lumpy soups. I set out for John Lewis. I’d decided to go for a hand blender so it could be stored away rather than taking up surface space.

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Based on my excellent experience with KitchenAid’s Artisan Mixer, I opted for their Almond Cream hand blender. As with the mixer, it’s more costly than other hand blenders, but you get what you pay for.

I haven’t been disappointed. The hand blender is very efficient and easy to assemble and dismantle. It also has a range of attachments to assist with a variety of needs.

Design

As with all KitchenAid designs, the hand blender is sleek and stylish. It’s got that air of 1920s or 50s about it.

It is available in the UK in four colours. There’s the subtle Almond Cream pictured here. You can also get the understated and modern Stainless Steel design. For those of you wanting a bolder statement, look out for the Onyx Black or Empire Red versions.

I have to say here though that I do find just four colours a tad disappointing, coming from KitchenAid. I would’ve loved being able to pick a blender up in the same Pistachio tone as my mixer. The cream does complement it very well, that said.

The attachments fit together very firmly and I’ve never experienced any detachment or wobble during use – always a plus when high speeds and sharp edges are involved!

The blender comes packaged perfectly in its own plastic case with handle. This is solid, keeping everything safe when not in use, and it’s not too bulky so can be stored away easily. You just have to be willing to grab the case, unpack and then re-load again after every use. I’m already a bit bored with this routine!

At the end of the day, the unpack and re-pack issue is my issue – if I had space, I’d keep it all to hand in a drawer!

Performance

Maybe I’m not the best person to be writing a review of this product, given as I only really use two attachments: either the 8″ removable blending arm topped with the S-blade, or the food chopper.

The shorter arm is more than adequate for reaching the depths of pans-full of soup or the bottom of the KitchenAid jug that comes with the set. The S-blade is highly versatile. It purées vegetables and meat very quickly and easily, leaving very few lumps.

It will also make short work of crushing ice cubes or blending frozen fruits.

The jug is excellent for blending smoothies in and then either serving from or storing in. It’s got measurement marks down the side – always helpful!

The chopper attachment is great for making pastes and coatings for food. Just be careful not to overload it, as it then won’t chop things further away from the blades. It can only cope with smaller quantities. This means doing larger portions in smaller batches.

The set also contains a multi-purpose blade (ideal for mincing and chopping heavier foods like meat) and a frother/beater. As I mentioned above, I’ve never yet used these, but I might be tempted to whack on the frother for making some milkshakes as the weather warms up!

There’s also a whisk attachment. I could see myself using this if I didn’t have a hand whisk in the cupboard and my stand mixer with its own whisk attachment on the work surface.

The blender has 5 speeds. I stick with the third setting and it does what I need it to. I imagine the whisk attachment would benefit from the other speeds, for example when you need to beat to soft peaks as opposed to stiff.

A word of warning: These blades are relentless. Take care when using with your favourite pans. They do come with removable pan guards, but if you do forget to leave these on (as I once did!), your pan could get damaged.

I used an uncovered S-blade with my favourite green enamel Le Creuset casserole and now the inside is scratched and scraped… Sad times.

My main problem with this blender is the power button. To get the blades going, you hold down the rubber-coated button near the top. For some reason I struggle to manoeuvre the stick around a pan/bowl and hold this down consistently. Not a huge issue, but an issue nonetheless.

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Conclusion

The KitchenAid Hand Blender isn’t as close to my heart as my Artisan Mixer, but then it never could be. It’s not as versatile nor do I use it as much.

But saying that, this set is still fantastically versatile in itself. If you make soups and smoothies often, then go for this piece of kit. If you want to throw out your wrist-wrecking hand whisk and go mechanical, buy yourself this utensil. Fed up of finely chopping herbs and garlic? Look no further than this set’s food chopper attachment.

The KitchenAid Hand Blender really does earn its place in the kitchen.

Overall rating: 7 out of 10

Have you got a different brand of hand blender? If so, I’d love to hear what you think of yours! Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below.

Interiors by Nina Campbell

‘Being honest about how you really want to live in the house is also an important piece of information’ – p.6

Interior design books are a relatively recent indulgence for me. Interiors by English designer Nina Campbell doesn’t fail to please.

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It’s a book I’ve already passed on to someone else for their perusal, and which I’ve recommended to a number of other people.

Nina talks the reader through eight case studies, ranging from an American brownhouse with genteel furnishings to a Swiss chalet needing to host a family as well as any friends that might visit.

Nina Campbell’s designs have a touch of the Georgian about them, which appeals to me massively. They’re also subtle and sophisticated – the brownhouse is modelled on a gentleman’s club in New York City.

We’re treated to rooms decorated in light and airy shades contrasted with dark, decadent spaces. The effects that colour choice has on a home are made clear.

Interestingly, not all examples are domestic. For instance, there’s Outlaw’s restaurant in the Capital Hotel in London which Nina re-designed. We’re used to looking to other homes for inspiration, but ideas can really be found anywhere around us.

The text is very comprehensive, explaining why the design details were selected, what was done and even where some key items were purchased.

But in addition to the detailed writing, there’s an abundance of photographs portraying the finished products. There are plenty of double-page spreads and full page images.

In addition to these large photos revealing a large part of each room, particular pieces of décor are pinpointed. A David Linley games table (p.94). Vintage travel posters (p.134). A leather-bound visitors’ book with C.S.Lewis impressed into the cover (p.198).

Nina Campbell reminds us that every thing we put into a house turns it into a home, and affects the outcome, even the smallest of things.

DSC_0031This is a book of influence. It’s the kind of book I will pick up when I need decorating ideas.

It’s also the kind of book I could pick up and flick through, cuppa in hand, while taking a quick break from the chores.

It differs from the first interior design book I ever bought – Thom Filicia’s American Beauty – in that this is really about the end result, not the process. If you want someone to run alongside you, motivating you, then this isn’t the book for you.

If, however, you want someone stood at the finish line – a beautiful finish line – encouraging you to reach it, then you really need to get this book.

Overall rating: 9 out of 10

Do you have a favourite interior design book you’d recommend? I’m already on the look-out for another good read!

10 documents to gather for a mortgage advice meeting

By far the most advisable route to getting a mortgage is to go through a broker – often a financial advisor – for advice sessions.

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You’ll have to pay them a fee (either fixed or a percentage of your mortgage costs).

However, they’ll know what to look out for, how to source solicitors, and can generally do this smoothly and swiftly. They should take a lot of the hassle out of moving home.

Furthermore, the broker will be independent of any individual lender, so they won’t limit you to a particular set of offers. By spending a little, you could save a lot.

Chances are that, once you’ve approached an estate agent, they’ll have someone they use for this service. They might give you this person’s details, or they might get them to contact you.

You should get any advice sessions for free, so that if you don’t end up employing the advisor to source your mortgage and law firm and secure things, you won’t spend a penny. Always check this though – better safe than sorry!

Before any initial meeting to discuss your finances, brokers will normally give you a list of documents you’ll need to take along. These lists do vary, some being longer, some shorter.

The following list is the longest I’ve encountered (from a broker affiliated with a local estate agency):

  1. ID (either your passport or driving licence)
  2. Proof of your current address (this can include a recent utility bill or up-to-date bank statement). I’m OTT so I’d always take along two or more
  3. Your last three months’ payslips
  4. Your most recent P60
  5. Details of an existing mortgage if applicable. If you’ve valued your property, this should be simple
  6. Evidence of your deposit (this could tie in with your mortgage details if that would be your equity)
  7. Details of any other financial commitments – this includes things like ongoing loan repayments (except a student loan), credit cards or personal vehicle leases, to name just three
  8. Bank statements from the last three months. I would say here that paper-free banking has become extremely common – I opted for it years ago – and you can be charged to request paper statements from your bank. Always keep in mind online banking apps for your phone! They are proof, though can’t be photocopied of course!
  9. Details of existing insurances, such as life insurance
  10. If you’re self-employed, your SA302 and summaries of your last three years’ accounts

While your financial advisor/broker might not ask for all or most of the above, it’s always best to be prepared.

Besides, going over and collecting in one place all these documents will help you to understand your budget for when you’ve taken on a mortgage. It’ll also give you an idea of what you need to adapt in your spending and saving.

Remember – the ideal way to prepare for a financial meeting is to keep your documentation organised and safe from the start. File bank statements, payslips and certificates as soon as you receive them in an orderly fashion. Perhaps this is something you could do right now?