'Tis the season for holiday entertaining — what better time to freshen up your arsenal of home gadgets? These kitchen and home maintenance gizmos can help get you through the holiday season and beyond.
Some may be out of the reach of the average budget, but who knows? Maybe Santa will find a way to fit a refrigerator down the chimney this year.
The pre-party chore I dreaded the most before my last shindig wasn't the laborious tomato chopping for salsa, or the snacks-and-beer run — it was scouring the vacuum-clogging pet hair off my living room rug. Fortunately, I had the Electrolux Ergorapido, a 2-in-1 stick vacuum and handheld cleaner equipped with the company's new Brushroll Clean technology. To activate the self-cleaning head, you press a pedal on top of the nozzle, triggering a blade that cuts through the tangled fibres; the vacuum then sucks them into the dust cup. Self-unclogging properties aside, the Ergorapido weighs just 5.3 pounds and boasts a rechargeable battery — hallelujah, no more yanking the cord from the wall! Though it's not the world's most potent vacuum (that rug needed an extra pass), the light on the pivoting head let me see just how much progress I was making, and the job was done before I knew it — no sweat. It retails for $149.99; for dealers, see electrolux.ca.
As fun as it is to entertain, bringing one or two dozen people into your home during a high-stress — and frigid — time of the year is just asking for a visit from the common cold. Take action against unwanted microscopic guests with an air purifier like the Sharp KC-850U, which can filter the air in a 254-sq.-ft. room. Sharp claims the unit's True HEPA filter can neutralize up to 99.7% of airborne particles, including pollen, mould, dander and dust; there's also an antimicrobial filter that shields against viruses. Meanwhile, "plasmacluster technology" leaves your room fresher, and the built-in humidifier lets your unit do double duty. The Library Quiet mode will keep the humidifier function to about the volume of rustling leaves, so your guests — in addition to enjoying fresher, perfectly humidified air — won't have to holler over one another. Find it for $399.99 at Best Buy.
There's a high-end kitchen gadget for everything, but you won't find one as loveable as the SodaStream Penguin. It's an easy tool for making your own sparking water at home, but for the party host, it's a great way to spruce up cocktails, or whip up your own homemade sodas. Fill the unit's carafe with water, attach it to the rest of the penguin, and press down on the beak. You can customize the carbonation level for a little or a lot of fizz. Plus, tie a bow around its neck and it doubles as an adorable Christmas decoration. Dive right in: It's $299.95 at Williams-Sonoma.
Wi-Fi integration is making its way into printers and TVs, but I bet you never thought you'd have the Internet on your fridge. Samsung's new French door fridge is equipped with an eight-inch touch screen that features a number of apps. Stay up to date on what's going on outside the kitchen with weather, Twitter and an AP News feed. On the culinary end of things, there's an Grocery Manager app that lets you set expiration date reminders and an Epicurious widget that suggests recipes once you tell it what ingredients are in your fridge. You can also display photos, manage calendars and leave virtual memos — though you could probably just do that with a couple of magnets. The Wi-Fi fridge retails for a cool $3899.99; for more info, check out samsung.com/ca.