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The Five Best Oven Buys for Big, Busy Families

You have a large-ish family that live at home? You like cooking (or have to like it)? Are you considering upgrading to a better oven? If so, then read on, because here we have a quick run through the five cookers one of which is likely to meet your individual needs.
1. The Cuisinemaster 100.
This is a range cooker that is sleek, modern-looking, robust, and a pleasure to cook on. Oh, and it yields superb results. Range cookers don’t need to be big bulky ugly things that take up a complete kitchen wall! This range cooker will suit people who regularly cook for four or more, big families, and those who like to cook in bulk and freeze. It has two large ovens, and one low- capacity, energy efficient oven for smaller dishes and plate warming. It has a five burner gas hob plus an integrated griddle pan- essentially for fish and steaks. It comes in widths of 100 or 110cm and sells for just over a grand (£1000). Not bad at all for a quality range cooker.
2. AGA
An AGA is also a range, but it operates on an “on-all-the-time” basis. Once you’ve fired up an AGA, you leave it on all the time – it becomes the warm heart of your kitchen and your home. It’s cosy, re-assuring, and you can cook for anyone, anytime. It really suits the larger family with people coming and going all the time, and those who love traditional cooking. They come with 2-5 ovens and in a variety of colours. The big plus- being on all the time is also a drawback. Whilst you never have to wait for the ovens to warm up, and you always have a nice warmth in the kitchen, they can be expensive in terms of fuel consumption. However AGA has addressed this to some extent by introducing heat controls and even gas and electric hob rings to some models. They don’t come cheap. Anything up to £10,000 for a top of the range model. But once you’ve experienced one, many say you’ll never want to cook on anything else!
3. Neff Series 3 Built-in Double Oven
Quite simply this is one of the best and most popular electric double ovens on the market. It combines flexibility (two ovens) with being economical in terms of space. Consequently it’s a great choice for a small kitchen. It features a huge capacity of oven space for its relatively small size, and has precise temperature controls. The downside is that it doesn’t have a hob. So you’ll have to buy that separately. It costs around £950
4. Samsung Dual Cook Single Oven
The big selling point for this oven is that you can either use it as one big oven (eg for a Sunday roast) or you can split the oven in two using a special shelf, effectively creating two ovens, each with variable temperature controls – so you cook your dinner and perhaps bake biscuits at the same time. It’s also a self-clean oven which is a great boon. It costs a little over £500. The only downside is if you have 6 people come to dinner, you may struggle a bit to get everything done at the same time.
5. John Lewis Steam Oven
This oven offers all the regular features of an oven such as a fan oven setting and grill, plus a really good steam function. This oven has a massive 74L capacity and so can cook for the whole plus-size family- brilliant at Christmas. It costs around £800. Those (like me) who are into roast dinners and not just on Sundays, can either use the slow cook steam function to get meat cooked to a mouth-watering treat, or use the combination to get moist meat but with that beautiful crispy skin. You can also use it to defrost or reheat food safely, without getting the dryness or hotspots that some people complain about when using in a microwave. It has a grill, and a fast pre-heat setting too. However it is not self-clean; the steam oven needs to be wiped out after every use, to remove the water inside. Also this is a single oven so you cannot use the grill and the oven at the same time.

Leather Sofas: A Classic Piece for any Home

Whether you call it a sofa or a settee, there’s some things you probably agree on:
1. It should be comfortable.
2. It should look good.
3. You’ll want it sited in your living room- probably facing the television screen, so you can relax on it and be entertained.
4. It should be leather.
“What?!!” I hear you say. Well, yes, a sofa can be made from all manner of materials, such as cloth and plastic (faux leather) but if you want your sofa to look timeless, classic, stylish, and inviting to the eye and the posterior, go hell for leather!
Sofas can come in a variety of shapes and sizes: Two seaters, L-Shaped, Futons, with foot-rests attached chez lounges and with pull-out beds for visitors. But with a leather covering, the sofa will be warm in winter, cool in summer, and be easy to clean with just a wipe. Spillages can be easily soaked away with a cloth and with a leather spray the sheen of your sofa can be quickly and easily maintained.
There is a company that specialises in leather sofas; sofa.com. They offer a range of hand-crafted leather sofas. Such sofas are also readily available from many shops and online retailers. The colours can be traditional such as earth-brown, maroon, burgundy or ever-popular black. But these days they can also come in more vibrant colours such a bright reds and azure blues. White is also a popular colour for leather sofas, but be careful because pet hairs can be a problem, and unless quickly soaked away, could be susceptible to staining from food and drink such as red wine or Indian take aways.
However a leather sofa can stand up to levels of use that many cloth and fibre sofas cannot, and with proper care and treatment can last for decades. One of the concerns that some people have is that the sofa will lose its pristine day-of-delivery look over time. However one of the great things about a leather sofa is that it is like a living friend in your sitting room. It matures with age. Folds, wrinkles and creases merely add to its character. Rather like old Levi jeans change hands second-hand for more than they cost new, the charm and beauty of a “lived-in” sofa just has to be recognised and appreciated. So much so that a sofa.com high-quality leather sofa is likely to become a central focus and a conversation piece in any home. It is more than a piece of furniture, it is a friend!
Once you have selected your centre-piece sofa, you can then decide if you want matching arm chairs, poufs, recliners and cushions. Depending on the size of your living room, you may want to compliment your sofa by flanking it with armchairs. It is also important to make sure that your sofa doesn’t get lost among other items of furniture in your room. Don’t crowd it out by having it too close to dining tables, occasional tables, and welsh-dressers. A sofa needs room to breathe around it to give it that central role and to make people entering the room want to go over and relax and recline in its stylish embrace.

How to Choose Your New Bedding and Curtains

While the living room may seem the central pivot in your home, and the kitchen the heart of the home, it is always worth remembering that you spend most time, a third of your life, falling asleep, sleeping, and waking… In the bedroom. If you sleep alone it’s your private retreat from the world, if you have a partner it is your carefully carved shrine to sleep and togetherness. It should get at least as much attention when decorating as any other room in your house (apart from the utility room perhaps!) and arguably be the one that receives the most.
There are many aspects to take into account when decorating your bathroom but the primary one is to take a good hard look at the room as it is and then do some serious planning. These include what style you want to achieve, how large the room is, what are your priorities for the room (is it just to sleep in, or will you be reading, watching television etc.). Do you want a place of peace, calm and tranquillity, or want more of a lush sumptuous boudoir affair?
Do you want a mini office area in your bedroom (not a good idea unless you plan to get up in the middle of the night and set down on your PC your nocturnal inspiration)? Do you want (and have the room for) a double, Queen, King or Super-King size bed? What sort of furniture do you have or plan to have? Contemporary/modern or olde worlde?
Once you’ve sorted that out and know what’s going to go where you come to a couple of things that can be the make or break for your bedroom; the bedding and curtains. Now there are many bargain basement offering that do matching bedding and curtains and you may think you are getting a great deal. Beware. The material is often inferior and may go threadbare or shrink and the colours may fade with washing. Aim for two or three sets of quality bedding and curtain that will last you 3-5 years until you next decide to re-decorate (or move!)
You’ll need to think about what your sleep patterns and preferences are. Do you want the room to be especially dark at night to help you sleep because you are a light sleeper? If so you should go for thicker darker curtains that will block out summer evening light that can go on beyond 10pm, and also block out dawn’s first light that can kick in at 4am.
Dark rooms with little natural light require light coloured matching curtains and bedding. Those flooded with natural light can go with darker colours and vibrant patterning- try zig-zags which play with and break up square rooms.
Finally don’t forget cushions, lampshades and soft furnishings. While you don’t want to crowd or clutter your bedroom, a subtle smattering of matching or complimentary soft furnishing will really complete the coordinated look and bring a smile to your face whenever you wake-up or enter your bedroom!