Holiday Baking!

Hello Everyone!  The holiday season is upon us and what better way to celebrate than bake!

Although it’s not the traditional Christmas or Chanukah dish, I want to tell you all about the Gluten Free Corn Muffins I baked for Thanksgiving!  I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Cornbread Mix, just follow my instructions and they will come out delicious!  Even my Gluten Eating family couldn’t tell the difference!

To start, I basically followed the instructions on the bag.  There are a couple options: You can either use Dairy, Soy or Rice Milk, I went with the Rice Milk and you can choose between Butter or Oil.  I went with oil, Cottonseed Oil to be exact because it has a high burn temperature and is in my opinion very mild in flavor compared to say Canola oil which also tolerates high temperatures.

Once you have sorted that out I have a couple additions to add to the mix to give it a homemade touch!  Add 1/2 can Trader Joe’s Canned Corn with 1/2 the juice (or add the whole can if you are doubling the mix for a larger crowd like I did).  And finally chop up fresh Chives nice and small, about 1 large handful or whatever proportion pleases you, mix it all up, fill your muffins tins 1/2 way and you’re ready to bake!

If you don’t fancy canned corn or chives feel free to add other things like dried cranberries or chopped walnuts, go crazy, the sky’s the limit!  Side note – you can use any brand canned corn, I just prefer the Trader Joe’s brand, it’s super sweet!  Check out the photos of my muffins below and don’t forget to check back for new recipes in a couple weeks!  I think I may attempt Gluten Free Pfeffernusse Cookies!

Happy Holidays!  xoxo  Pamela :)

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Butterfly Metamorphosis

Literally!

Although you may think this article is going to be about people who have changed from Pack-rats to Minimalists or from Messy to Neat, try again, it’s actually going to be precisely about Butterfly Metamorphosis!!  Read on!

 Background:

About 2 weeks ago my brother noticed a small Caterpillar in our Parsley Plant.  Since then we have discovered Dozens of them creeping and EATING, first in our Parsley plant, then in our Sage plant and now they have eaten our entire Caraway Plant!!  Parsley seems to be their favorite as that is where the majority of them reside.  But if we get another round of them we may need to re-plant that whole area in order to feed them!!  We have already accepted the fact that we will not be able to eat any home grown Parsely, Sage or Caraway this summer, but I think it’s for a worthy cause.  Butterflies are so beautiful and do their fare share of pollination!!

When the Caterpillars first appeared I did a quick google image search for “caterpillars” and after a quick browse found an image that looked like our creepy crawler!  I clicked around a bit more and was satisfied to learn that our caterpillars would be Monarch Butterflies.

Then!  A beautiful black butterfly with purple and yellow spots appeared flying around our Parsley, it seemed to be frantically flying in circles, we were not sure what was going on.  Then it appeared hours later lying on the ground adjacent to the parsley plant.  It seemed to be injured…a broken wing…  Unfortunately it didn’t make it and my brother laid it to rest BUT THEN!!  I saw another black butterfly with spots (also dead) floating in our pool!  Alas!  It occurred to me I may have settled for the conclusion that our caterpillars were Monarchs too quickly!  Being that I always see Monarchs around our house it made sense…  BUT!!  I went online to dig deeper, this time doing a google image search for “Monarch Butterfly Caterpillars” AND THEY WEREN’T THE SAME AS OUR CATERPILLARS!!!  Next I searched for “Black Butterfly Caterpillars” and came up with a “Black Swallowtail Caterpillar”, it looked similar enough to confuse the Monarch with the Swallowtail when both in Caterpillar form but looking at them side by side with my caterpillars on hand and the differences were apparent!  The Monarchs were striped black, white and yellow and The Swallowtails were black and green striped with yellow polka dots!!  I couldn’t believe it!!  They were so similar yet different!

Conclusion:  We had dozens of “Black Swallowtail Caterpillars” feasting in our Herb garden!!

Update:  After what seemed to be 3 rounds of caterpillars feasting and growing they have all disappeared rather mysteriously, presumably to make their Chrysalis.  One made their Chrysalis in plain sight on our fence (check back for a report on how he is doing, we are concerned about his selection and considered placing traffic cones and warning signs, “Chrysalis in progress, proceed with caution”).  Another ventured across the patio in the blistering heat (and although I didn’t want to meddle with nature and survival of the fittest, he wasn’t going to make it so I lovingly transported him, or her, on a piece of paper with Parsley bait back to the herb garden with the rest of them, he seemed very pleased!)

That’s all on the Caterpillars for now, check back to find out what happens next! 

I am keeping an eye out for Black Swallowtails!!

See images of “our Caterpillars” and Black Swallowtails Below!!

XOXO  Pamela  :)

Also check out Chic & Neat’s Website and Facebook Page!!

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What to Keep, What to Toss

Hello all, and Happy Summertime! 

In this day and age where we as Americans consume so much in our lifetime, i.e. Clothes, Household items, Electronics.  It is just impossible to keep everything you ever purchase & to use all those things forever!  Then the question comes up, how do you know what to keep and what to toss??

For some people these decisions come very easily, while other struggle with “What if ?” and “Just in case” or even “you never know” or “maybe someday”.  It’s time to STOP those chains of WORRY, GUILT & BUYERS REMORSE and send those items off to places where they will be CHERISHED, APPRECIATED & most importantly USED!!

And now it’s time to practice –

Lets Start with Clothes:

Something to get rid of – your favorite jeans from when you were 10 lbs overweight after a winter of cookie and pizza indulgence.  Keeping these jeans only leaves the idea in your head that you might be 10 lbs overweight again – this is not a great thing to have in the back of your head.  Get rid of them and stick to your healthy diet and exercise plan!

Something to keep –  A dress you have not warn in 3 years but is very cute, fits nicely, is a classic style and is in good shape.  You never know when you’ll need a little cute dress!!

Next!

Household items:

Something to get rid of – A pair of candlesticks from the apartment you lived in 7 years ago.  Lets be honest, they haven’t been used since you lived there, they only cost $12 at TJ Maxx and if you give them away someone who will actually USE them and LIKE them will come across them and be very happy!

Something to keep –  Your framed High School Prom Photo.  So even though you may not want to display it in your room or home it’s a nice keepsake to hang onto (that is unless your are a pack rat and are drowning in keepsakes!  We’ll discuss that at another time!)  It stays!

Next!

Electronics:

Something to get rid of – Your 5th grade boom box complete with two Tape Players and detachable speakers.  It’s one thing to keep one tape player in the house for those homemade mix tapes from 1992 but hanging on to large unused electronics is really a waste of space and holds you in the past!  Do you want to think about 5th grade every time you open your closet?  Or do you want to think about what outfit to pull out of your closet for the day ahead!  Live in the now!!  Keep your space current!

Something to keep – A still working VCR.  (some may disagree, but this could go either way, i’ll leave it to you to decide, but I’m hanging on to mine!)  If you have a VCR that treated you well and is in good shape I would hang onto it for a couple more years.  Many people still have their family videos on VHS tapes, as do I, and have not gotten around to converting them to DVD yet.  While I do recommend converting them before they get damaged, it is fun sometimes to reminisce with old technology.  And you never know when they might come in handy!  …A couple years ago during a big snow storm my cable & internet went out AND my DVD player conked out on me!  What to do?  I hiked down to the basement and pulled out that VHS player and was rather happy to be watching home videos as opposed to white noise for the next two hours of hot chocolate sipping!  And if this isn’t true for your VCR maybe you have a similar affinity for you’re Record Player, 8 Track Player or your Atari!

Happy Sorting Everybody!  Call us if you need any help!  :)

Xoxo  ~ Pamela!

Check out Chic & Neat’s Website and Facebook Page!!

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Shopping Therapy 101

Stop clutter buildup at it’s roots!  Spring cleaning series, part 2

Hello all!  Beautiful weather we are having this week.  Hope everyone is able to get out an enjoy it!  Now, down to business!  In working through my own Spring cleaning, the question came up, How do I prevent collecting the items I need to sort through, from building up in the first place?  This is a great question and the answer is – BRING IN LESS!!  Shopping therapy is what I needed!  I’d like to say I’m cured but I’ve only just had the epiphany and still have much work to do!  But we can do it together!!  Bringing in less is a simple concept, but hard to enforce on yourself.  Clothing shopping is where my problem is worst, let’s start there.

Looking back before my “Shopping Rehab” began, I would go into a clothing store and walk out with whatever I could carry and afford, forgetting about what I actually NEEDED!!  I allowed the colors and abundance of options distract and confuse me, I fell into their marketing trap!  Then upon arriving home with my new purchases, I felt understandably FRUSTRATED!  I was TIRED from shopping, OVERWHELMED by the items I purchased, and UPSET I didn’t get anything I actually NEED to function in my day to day life…not to mention the money I spent!!

And Breathe…The good news is, YES, I shopped at stores with good RETURN POLICY’S so I can take the items back, BUT I am afraid to go back for fear I will fall into their trap again and come home with OTHER item’s I did not NEED!  It’s a BIG problem and a vicious cycle!    Although I am not fully cured I have made good progress, read on to see how.

The next step I took – Break down the problem and analyze it at the source!  Why do I buy things so spur of the moment and forget why I went into the store?  Answer:  For me, the Advertising and Marketing in the stores overwhelm me and I forget why I’m there and what I NEED!

The stores are fantastic at selling you the “look” of the season or the “idea” that your life will become like that of their display models if you wear their clothing!  And this is just not true!  What’s true is, if I purchase the floral strapless dress seen in the window, I will NEVER wear it, it will collect dust, overwhelm me and make me feel guilty for spending money on it then never wearing it!!

LESSON - Go into a store KNOWING what you plan to buy, and stick to it!

SOLUTION -

My NEW Method for Preparation – Before setting out on my 1st shopping trip of the new season I try on all the clothes I have for that weather and decide what can be worn and what needs to GO (i.e. be donated).  Then I devise a list of items I NEED, COULD use or would LIKE to add to my wardrobe and list them in order of urgency so I can prioritize!

MY LIST FOR THIS SPRING -

  1. I NEED sweat pants or leggings, ankle length, knee length or shorter!  In black, gray and possibly a purple of some kind…4 pairs would be great!!
  2. I NEED White tee shirts, long ones, to wear with leggings, at least 4-6 ideally!
  3. Socks!  Light weight, ankle height and taller…6 pairs total sounds good
  4. Gray long sleeved, medium to lightweight sweatshirts with interesting cuts to throw on over white tee-shirts! 2 preferably with different cuts/styles!
  5. I would like to keep my eyes open for a white leather purse, medium sized, with double straps to go with my favorite white sandals from last summer! But NOT a priority!!
  6. Even though I am not totally in NEED I am dreaming about a violet purple leather purse with matching sandals for the Spring – Summer, keep my eyes open….!

I then made a list of stores I would like to go to and which items I want to look for in each store and what NOT to look at to avoid distraction!

STORES TO GO TO, IN THIS ORDER -

  1. Bloomingdale’s – look for white t-shirts, sweat pants, gray sweatshirts (Note to self: DO NOT look at purses or leggings here, they are too expensive!!)
  2. Gap & Gap Body – white t-shirts, sweat pants, socks (DO NOT get sucked into dresses, jeans or fancy shirts, you DO NOT need them!!)
  3. Express – Black short leggings (with snaps), sweat pants, long t-shirts (DO NOT allow yourself to look at or try on ANY sandals, belts, jewelry, or jeans you DO NOT need them at the moment!)
  4. Arie by American Eagle – Long shirts or tanks (even though not on list, will need long tanks come summer & like the way they fit at Arie) (DO NOT look at their underwear, although it’s pretty, you didn’t like the way it fit last time!  And NO Shorts or skirts either!!!  You have TOO many from last year!!!)

And there you have it, with my parameters for what to shop for and where to go I am set for my 1st shopping trip of the season!

Hope my tips help you stay focused as well!!

XOXO

Pamela  :)

Check out Chic & Neat’s Website and Facebook Page!!

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Spring Cleaning is in the air!

Part 1 of a Spring Series

Hello World!  I recently launched Chic & Neat an Interior Design & Organizational Firm with a Spiritual & Green Twist! I have lots to say about the Home, Mind, Heart, Soul, Family, Food & the Outdoors!  So this is for whoever is listening!

It’s that time of the year again, when the tulips start peeking their ears out of the ground and the daffodils are in bloom, and the smell of Spring is in the air!  I like to take the coming of Spring as an opportunity to dust off whatever I shelved when Winter hit and get ready for the growth that can happen at this time of year, before the heat of the Summer takes over!

With the warmth of Spring comes an energy, a motivational energy, out of hibernation and ready to get things done!  Put that energy to good use & dust off those running shoes, fill your bike tires with air, get outside into the fresh air and let the sunshine fill you up with happiness & clarity, this will better equip you to tackle those unfinished projects at home or anything else that comes your way!

First lets discuss why things pile up.  Busy lives get in the way of cleaning your apartment?  Backing up your computer?  Cleaning out that closet?  Well now it’s time to dust off that ignored project and get it done using that Spring time sunshine energy!!  You can do it!!

When starting an unfinished project I like to plan how I will tackle it before jumping in!  You must also set a goal and time period in which to complete that project (Tip: be realistic with your schedule, stamina & attention span!)

  1. Goal
  2. Plan
  3. Time Period

Now you’re ready to get started!

Lets use the following as an example: You have a set of bookshelves filled with items you do not currently use & stacks of books all over the floor which you want on the bookshelves.  So your goal is clear:

  1. Goal: Get books off the floor and onto the bookshelves!

Next figure out your plan of attack:

2. Plan:  Quickly look at the items on the shelves and decide what categories they can be divided into.  For example – Keep, Toss, Storage, Donate & Borrowed from a friend.  Then get boxes, bags or bins, one for each category, label them  and begin sorting away!

3. Time Period: 2 Hours per day until complete!

At first it might seem a daunting task, but once you start (if you went for that bike ride in the sun) you will get the boost of energy necessary to complete the task ASAP!  Because who wants to spend their whole day indoors sorting books!?! :) Not me!!

Tip: If you are slow to the start, my technique for deciding each items fate is to ask myself :  “Do I Need, Want or Use this item?”  If “No” is your answer it’s outta here!  If it’s “Yes” it stays!  That should help you get started and the more you do it, the faster you’ll get at it, until  the bookshelves are empty, the bins are full, and you have space on the shelves for all the books on the floor!!

Of course it may not be that easy the first time around but you’ll get better with practice.

For more assistance contact us at Chic & Neat, we are Unfinished Project Specialists and can help you with everything from Bookshelves to Closets & Desks!

Completing a project gives you a great sense of accomplishment!  And you cleared your floor and filled your shelves with books you look forward to reading!  Great job!  Now you are free to enjoy!  Until your next project…Thanks for reading!

Happy Spring Cleaning Everyone!!

XOXO

Pamela~

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