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It might be “2020 with bangs” but that doesn’t mean we can’t improve our cooking, WFH and cleaning experiences
Remember when we were all like “2021 will be our year”? LOL. We’re only halfway through January and while the pandemic raging on and recent violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol makes it feel like the world is fully aflame, I swear it’s not all doom and gloom. There are COVID-19 vaccines to be hopeful about, a brand-new president (and WOC vice-president!) about to take office and, if you squint, you can see that spring isn’t so far away. Something else I’ve found that helps ward off the apocalyptic scaries? Focusing on what I *can* control since so many things are out of our hands right now. I, for one, have decided that 2021 is the year I stop fighting with my dusty old canister vacuum and let an actual robot do the job I loathe so much. (Seriously.)
Because let’s face it: This year might just be 2020 with bangs, but that doesn’t mean we have to accept the status quo. There are ways to majorly level up your life since it looks like we’re going to be here awhile. Here’s how team FLARE is upgrading our home lives this year, in the kitchen, home office and beyond.
Shop our 2021 home life upgrades
1/8 The pet pampering upgrade
When I laid eyes on this sherpa-lined, water-resistant nylon pet carrier, I immediately felt like a deadbeat cat mom for forcing my precious kitty into a hard, plastic monstrosity for visits to the vet or cottage. We’re not going far right now but at least my fur baby can be as cozy as her mom and dad, and not to mention stylish. The tote has latches that can fasten it to a car seat belt and a sleeve that secure it to any Away luggage. And yes, my Willow’s luggage now matches mine—the cuteness!
—Jennifer Berry, digital director
Away The Pet Carrier, $295, awaytravel.com
2/8 The cookware upgrade
As someone who detests cooking, it takes something special to get me in the kitchen—and something even more special to actually get me to enjoy being in the kitchen. Enter: the super buzzed-about Always pan. This non-stick pan is meant to replace eight pieces of cookware, which frees up my kitchen storage space, and I also just love how cute it looks on my stove! My favourite feature of this wünder pan has to be the built-in spatula rest which allows me to putter around the kitchen in peace without worrying about singeing my spatula or getting sauce all over my counter. My cooking expertise hasn’t improved a ton, but the pan has seen many fried eggs for avocado toast, and dare I say my eggs are even fluffier than before? —Katherine Singh, assistant editor
Always Pan, $195, fromourplace.ca
3/8 The cleaning upgrade
One of my toxic traits is that I’m allergic to purchasing refills of items that allow my life to run more smoothly, such as light bulbs, batteries and ink cartridges. So this self-emptying vacuum had me at “bag-less.” This nifty little appliance holds multiple cleaning sessions of dirt and debris and has a self-cleaning brushroll that removes hair (including pet hair) from carpets *and* hard floors, but the magic really lies in the fact that it’s a…robot. You can set and schedule cleaning sessions with the SharkClean™ app, it’s voice-compatible with Amazon Alexa or Google Assistant, and it automatically returns to the dock to recharge when it’s done cleaning or runs out of juice. Bonus: It’s basically a helpful little pet running around your house, which is delightful in lockdown. I’m naming mine Wilson. —J.B.
Shark IQ Robot Self-Empty Robotic Vacuum, $600, canadiantire.ca
4/8 The dental care upgrade
The last time I used an electric toothbrush was in the sixth grade when I had braces, so needless to say there are some pretty traumatizing memories associated with this mode of oral healthcare. But after *years* of my dentist recommending I switch from my manual toothbrush, I’m taking the leap in 2021. This battery-operated option is both budget-friendly and super cute. Plus, I love that the SmarTimer lets you know when your two minutes of brushing are up, meaning I never have to wonder if I’m over- (or under-) doing it. —K.S.
One Battery Toothbrush by Sonicare, $35, philips.ca
5/8 The tech upgrade
Sometime during the fall of 2020 I looked at my ancient brick of a PC laptop that runs with about the same speed as a dial-up desktop computer from 1991 and thought, “Enough.” After years of accepting a glacial processing speed and mammoth weight, I’m enamoured of my razor-thin, impossibly lightweight and ridiculously fast new accessory that has 3.5x the performance speed of the previous model thanks to the new Apple M1 chip, the first chip designed specifically for Mac (neat!). It also has the longest battery life ever in a MacBook Air, which is a true blessing because another one of my most toxic traits—please refer to slide two—is I hate plugging things in. (I have a sickness.) —J.B.
13-Inch MacBook Air with Apple M1 Chip, from $1,299, apple.com
6/8 The hydration upgrade
If 2020 made me realize anything, it’s how much I love sparkling water. Maybe it was working from home, or maybe it was because I just wanted to derive more pleasure from my life, but since January 2020 I have been guzzling bubbly water. But while more water consumption is great for my skin, it’s not so great for the environment; especially considering how many plastic bottles of carbonated H2O I’ve been zipping through. Which is why 2021 is the year I’m upgrading to a more eco-conscious way of quenching my thirst: the SodaStream at-home sparkling water maker. Not only is it *super* easy to use (seriously, it’s one button) and doesn’t require power, but you can also mix in different flavours via the brand’s liquid flavour drops. I’m currently loving cucumber, because it makes me feel like I’m rehydrating at a spa. —K.S.
Fizzi, $120, sodastream.ca
7/8 The laundry upgrade
It took ruining a brand-new washable-cashmere sweater to face that it was time to upgrade my admittedly ancient laundry machine. I just never *really* realized the difference a newer model could make in terms of preserving the life of my clothing until I stayed at an Airbnb last summer that was equipped with shiny Samsung appliances. (I didn’t want to leave!) Still, big purchases were not top of the priorities list in the middle of the pandemic…. Then, the sweater fiasco occurred and I started furiously Googling the highest-rated washer-dryer sets. I haven’t officially pulled the trigger yet, but I’ve landed on this space-saving duo that will fit in my modest laundry closet while still boasting a big enough drum to handle bedding and towels. Call me boring, but I truly can’t wait to get this installed and wash literally everything I own. —Charlotte Herrold, editor-in-chief
Front-Load Laundry Pair in Champagne, $1,300, samsung.com/ca for stockists
8/8 The kitchen appliance upgrade
I really wanted to see if air fryers are all that, and whether or not it would make any significant changes to how I prepare meals. Now that I’ve tried one out? I’m an air fryer truther. This model is a great smokeless grill (with food tasting as if it was char-grilled!), but it deserves the same level of praise for its air crisp function. Both options shave time off traditional frying and grilling cooking methods AND leave minimal mess behind, which is a big bonus considering how much of a mess I already leave in the kitchen. If you weren’t a fan of the brussels sprout before, you will change your mind after trying them cooked in the air fryer. But the biggest bonus of all? No longer needing to struggle-eat soggy delivery fries cooked in tons of oil. I can easily whip up a batch myself straight from the freezer with the absolute least amount of oil necessary. This is a crucial step in my seemingly never-ending journey of weaning off of takeout and delivery—and I consider that a huge upgrade. —Elham Numan, designer
Ninja Foodi 5-in-1 Indoor Grill with Air Fryer, $320, canadiantire.ca