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Spring clean and organize your home in 31 days

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 10th, 2015

Are you ready? We are! We’re excited to kick off our second Clutter Cure challenge this Sunday. We hope you follow along as we clean and organize our way through the month of March. Spring is the perfect time to get your home in order, but sometimes it’s hard to know where to start and how to stay motivated — but don’t worry, we’re here to help make the task a lot easier.

Each week, we’ll tackle a room with a couple of easy-to-do tasks and one big assignment. It’s up to you when you tackle each project. For some, it might be easier to do it on the day assigned, but for others, doing it all on the weekend might make more sense. Either way, by the end of the month your home will be clean and inviting and you’ll be ready to take on the new season!

The first assignment starts Tuesday, March 3, but this Sunday is all about planning the month ahead. Here are some tips to help get you started:

1. Before you start any project take some before and after photos so you can see your progress. Feel free to share them with us on Pinterest and Twitter with #cluttercure so we can keep each other motivated!

2. Don’t try to do it all at once! The idea behind the Clutter Cure is to tackle one space at a time. Make sure you complete each task before moving on to the next challenge.

3. Make a list of all the specific areas of your home that drive you crazy. Start at the front door and walk through your home noting any trouble spots; Maybe it’s overflowing shoes at the front door, a burnt-out bulb in the kitchen or a piece of artwork that has never made it onto a wall. Do not attempt to fix these problems. Sunday is just about taking stock. Assessing your home is the first step in getting organized!

4. Next, choose the five projects that will make the biggest difference in your home. Block off some time each Sunday to tackle one of these projects. They can be as simple or as complicated as you want them to be. And if we happen to address one of your trouble spots during the week, bonus for you!

5. Remember to do work at your own pace. Take a break when you need to, or if you’re feeling ambitious, move an extra task onto your list.

Week by week we’re here to help you. In just 31 days, your home will be like new — just in time to get your hands dirty with spring gardening!

10 ways to survive a winter weekend trapped indoors

Lora Grady | posted Thursday, Mar 5th, 2015

Two weekends ago, on a particularly frigid Saturday night, I found myself trapped inside my 460-square-foot apartment. I had somehow managed to jam the lock on my door, and the locksmith wasn’t answering his phone, so I had no idea how long my isolation would last. If a fire had broken out, I would have been pretty screwed, but I was also pleased to have such a solid excuse to cancel plans and stay in. (As luck would have it, I had just returned from the grocery store with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.) Here are 10 tips that carried me through my weekend of apartment solitude. (Ed. note: You can also employ these tips when you actually have the ability to go outside, but just don’t want to.)

1. Dance around partially (or fully) naked.
Hands down, the best part of living alone is the opportunity to dance in the nude whenever you feel like it. It’s a surprisingly good workout, and it feels pretty liberating. As for the soundtrack, you can’t go wrong with Songza. My top three favourite playlists (in descending order) are: Mom-Jean JamsGirls’ Night In and What Would Beyoncé Do?

2. Cook an almost-effortless hot meal.
My slow cooker is easily my most-cherished kitchen appliance, and it proves especially useful during the winter when you’re craving warm, hearty dishes. This steel-cut oatmeal is the best breakfast for a cold morning, and it keeps for almost a week. My go-to weekend dinner is Moroccan Vegetable Stew — full of fragrant spices, winter veggies and quick couscous, this dish is the perfect stew for a sit-in.

3. Skype your Mom.
Or your best friend. Anyone who can remind you that you are not, in fact, the last person on Earth. Snapchat is also a fun way to keep in touch with other snowed-in friends. Document your stir-craziness and share it with close pals.

4. Escape to the beach. In your mind.
A spur-of-the-moment, two-day trip to the Caribbean isn’t exactly in most single girls’ budgets. These lageritasare easy to whip up, and conjure up memories of sun-soaked patios.

5. Make an epic (and easy) snack.
Some triple- (now quadruple-) tested crunchy munchies from the Chatelaine archives: five-minute microwave potato chips, sweet-and-salty chocolate-covered chipsBrussels sprout crisps and crispy chickpeas.

6. Get your binge-watch on.
Being a bit of a television connoisseur, my interests run the gamut from prime-time soap operas (Empire) to buddy comedies (Broad City) to historical dramas (Downton Abbey). Dim the lights and settle down for somesolid screen time. Tip: Poll friends and coworkers on what they’re currently watching — it’s always fun to have someone to dissect episodes with.

7. Give yourself a manicure.
Multi-task during your TV marathon by treating your tips to a fresh coat of polish. Get a professional look withthese three steps courtesy of an actual aesthetician.

8. Build a fort.
Lora here with a message from your childhood: forts are awesome. I was inspired by my best friend, who regularly sends me Snapchats from her inside her son’s blanket creations. Flank your couch with pillows, drape a blanket across the top, grab your laptop and snacks and lounge like a kid while you can.

9. Clean out your makeup bag.
Take a half-hour to organize your medicine cabinet and cosmetic bags, toss out old mascaras and powders, and take stock of any repeat products — like the three red lipsticks in your purse. Hang onto any duplicates for a product swap with friends another weekend. Feeling ambitious? Tackle your closet.

10. Do a 10-minute workout.
After all that slow-cooking and snacking, you’ll need to get up and get your blood pumping. I love doing this low-impact yoga routine before bed. If you need a boost (and tip number one isn’t your thing), these cardio movesare a great bet.

The morning blues: 13 ways to help you get through it

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Mar 3rd, 2015

I guess it was Garfield who most famously hated Mondays (and loved lasagna), but the sentiment is pretty familiar. Much as a Friday afternoon brings feelings of elation, a Monday morning can bring on a sense of unhappy resignation: a whole five days of work, early mornings or late nights, and most of it spent indoors. Laura Schwecherl (via Greatist) has taken on the topic of the “Monday blues”, most notably how they affect the body. She references one study that’s shown people experience physical stress when they’re forced to think about the impending workweek. Another showed that the Monday blues could be linked to cardiovascular troubles. And yet another found that suicide rates in Japan are highest on Mondays.

But Schwecherl’s findings aren’t all bad news. She makes some wise suggestions for making Monday mornings more tolerable:

1. Don’t live for the weekends. Find something you love to do and do it on a weeknight. If you can feel joy on the weekend you can feel it during the week. It may just take a little more planning.

2. Relax. Don’t overload your weekends, or you might find yourself even more groggy and miserable during the week.

3. Don’t sleep in. The same sleep schedule all week will help you feel rested come Monday morning. Studies have shown people who sleep in late on weekends could be suffering from social jet lag.

4. Plan ahead Sunday night. Figure out lunch and your outfit the night before and you won’t be scrambling Monday morning. If you’ve got children get them organized as well to start the week off on a good foot.

5. Hit the hay early on Sunday. Being tired will only add to the stress of a hectic Monday.

6. Don’t skip breakfast. This is true everyday but especially on Mondays when you’ve been out of your routine for a few days. It’s a great way to set the pace for the rest of the day for both your mind and body.

7. Get pumped with some tunes. I’m not a morning noise kind of person, but listening to a favourite song can help boost your Monday morning mood.

8. Hit the gym. In the morning. Before work. This is a great strategy that Schwecherl says will boost your endorphins, making you happier throughout the day.

9. Look snazzy. If you need a pick-me-up, wear something you absolutely love. If you already feel groggy, dressing sloppy will only make you feel worse.

10. Smile. Even if it’s forced, it can make you feel better.

11. Treat yourself. Create a little ritualized treat to look forward to on Monday mornings. Maybe you splurge on a fancy latte or buy a new magazine for your morning commute. Having something to look forward to on Monday’s will make it feel less daunting.

12. Take small breaks throughout the day. Getting some fresh air and eating a proper lunch can do wonders for both your attitude and productivity.

13. Figure out why Mondays are blue. Is it time to switch careers?

The last point is a good one. There’s something to be said for having a job that doesn’t fill you with dread at the end of every weekend, and sometimes even taking a pay cut to be happy is worth it. It is possible to like, or even love, your work.

Schwecherl’s tips are a great place to start if you’re looking to quell the anxiety often associated with Mondays.

Do you feel stressed when you think about returning to work on Mondays?

Organize your home in under an hour

Talia Hart | posted Thursday, Feb 26th, 2015

Sometimes, all you have is that small window of time on the weekend to get your place into shape for the week ahead. Here’s our take on how to bring order to your home in under an hour.

1. Five-minute mail hunt

Chances are, you’ve got a lot of closed and opened mail scattered around your home. Take a peak into every room and start collecting those envelopes. Once you’ve finished your hunt, place your findings in a file or tray designated to mail.

2. Hunt and gather loose paper

Next, start gathering loose paper. It might sound random but there is probably tons of it around your home. From receipts to printouts, brochures and more they’re everywhere. While you won’t have enough time in the hour to review each one, place them in a secure spot (like a home office) to look at later.

3. Designate a spot for the small stuff

Keys, loose change, wallets and cellphones tend to also take up a lot of surfaces around the home. Put a small catch-all bowl or tray in the foyer or above the mantel and put it all there.

4. Go on shoe and jacket patrol

Once the week gets started, shoes from the weekend can easily be forgotten and never put away. Put all of the shoes you’re not wearing on a daily basis into a closet or shelf that’s away from incoming traffic. As for jackets that have been strewn on chairs and banisters, you know the drill.

5. Give surfaces their function again

If your various tables are clad with miscellaneous items you have yet to put away, take the time to return them to their respective homes. Nothing looks more polished than a smooth dining room table with nothing but a fresh vase of flowers.

6. Polish off the main hubs

Take one look at the kitchen or family room and you might find it’s completely out of order. Put dishes in the dishwasher, fold blankets on a sofa and put remote controls on the coffee table. These are all small ways to bring some order back into your dwellings.

7. Gather cups and mugs around the house

Many people take a cup of water to their bedside at night, but rarely do they put it back in the kitchen come morning. Now’s the time to gather those cups and late-night snack plates.

8. Target towels and toilet paper

This one’s simple: place fresh towels and toilet paper rolls in all of your washrooms and powder rooms.

9. Tackle the washroom mayhem

Take five minutes to get your washroom in tact again: put away hair brushes, products and empty bottles of shampoo.

10. Start a return policy

While you wished everyone could return their belongings to their rooms like you asked, it’s not happening this week. Do a quick walk around the house picking up misplaced items (clothes, toys, etc). Bringing a basket or bin along for the ride will ensure you don’t need to make several trips up and down the stairs.

Shop once and eat for a week

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Feb 24th, 2015

Our March issue is all about organizing – your closet, your gym bag, and now even your meals! We want to show you how easy it is to plan your dinners for the week with just one trip to the supermarket. Our grocery list makes six weeknight meals, one dessert and one make-ahead freezer recipe (for those busy nights.)

Tag us in your social media #ShopOnce and cook along with us! See our grocery list below or grab our printable grocery list.

Grocery list image

Nine worst kitchen chores and how to make them bearable

Kristen Eppich | posted Tuesday, Feb 17th, 2015

Testing as many recipes as we do, it is inevitable that certain tasks become less enthralling than others. We all have our likes and dislikes, but here are some of our most bemoaned cooking chores, along with some suggestions to help make them slightly less irritating.

1. Trimming green beans
A giant bag of fresh green beans can be an ominous task. Use kitchen shears instead of a knife and snip the ends off – you’ll be done twice as fast.
Try: Garlicky green beans.

2. Chopping, in general 
If you dread chopping, whether it’s onions, potatoes etc. – a good tip is to slice an edge off your fruit or vegetable, creating a flat surface. This will help make chopping easier; preventing the item you’re chopping from slipping or rolling.
Try: Lemony fish pie.

3. Pitting olives
Especially black olives that stain your hands! Luckily, our associate food editor Irene Ngo has put a video together for this one. Take a look at her frying pan technique.

4. Emptying the dishwasher
Personally, my most dreaded job in the kitchen. My tip to getting over it? I timed myself doing it five times then calculated the average time it takes me to do this task. It turns out that it takes me 2:35 minutes to empty the dishwasher – not long at all. So I just decided to get over it.

5. Needing eggs at room temperature
You’re all set and ready to bake, but your eggs need to be at room temperature. The solution? Drop your cold eggs in a cup of very warm water. They’ll be ready to go in 3 min.
Try: Classic angel-food cake.

6. Cleaning leeks
So delicious, and so good at trapping sand and dirt. An easy way to clean your leeks is to chop them before you clean them, then use your salad spinner to wash and dry.
Try: Chicken and leek pie.

7. Mincing garlic or ginger
These little jewels of flavour are so finicky to mince. So don’t. Use a rasp every time your recipe calls for a mince. Chances are the rasp will do a better job at producing tiny particles than your fine chop could ever do.
Try: Fiery snow peas.

8. Greasing cake pans
When I was in baking school, I learned that the first job I would get in a bakery would be as a pan greaser. I almost quit! I bake a lot, and my tip here is to always grease pans first, before starting any mixing or measuring. This gets this tedious job out of the way and also keeps you from letting your batter sit (and potentially deflate). Even better, you’ll be so satisfied when you seamlessly scrape your batter into your prepared pans.

9. Washing lettuce
Often lettuce will sit in my crisper far passed its crisp stage – only because I dread washing it. The best tip to prevent this from happening is to clean it a soon as you buy it. Fill your sink with some cold water, cut the core off your lettuce then dump in the leaves. Swirl them around with your hand, removing all the sand. Either transfer them to a colander to drain, or put them in a salad spinner to dry. Store lettuce in a storage bag in the fridge with a single ply of paper towel. The ugly job is done…and you’ll use your lettuce!
Try: Shrimp and grapefruit salad.

These are some of our dreaded tasks. What are yours?

5 ways to keep your bread fresh

Chatelaine | posted Tuesday, Jan 27th, 2015

The truth is that baked goods – bread in particular – are at their prime the moment they come out of the oven. And, as soon as your loaf of bread begins to cool, the quality begins to diminish. If you plan on baking homemade bread, be sure to time it so it can be enjoyed as soon as it comes out of the oven. Whether your bread is homemade, from the grocery store or your local bakery, there are several ways to preserve the life of your bread.

Why does bread go stale?

There are two main culprits. The first is a chemical change with a particularly fancy name: starch retrogradation. As soon as bread is removed from the oven, the structure of the starch molecules change, and begin to crystallize. This crystallization forces water out of the bread and the result is staling. The second contributor is the loss of moisture due to exposure to air.

Storing bread in the fridge

Starch retrogradation occurs most rapidly at refrigerator temperatures. Therefore the fridge is your enemy when it comes to bread as it goes stale fastest in that environment. For those who swear by fridge storage, it does have one benefit – it delays the development of mold.

Storing bread in the freezer

Storing your bread in the freezer is a great solution. It prevents staling as freezer temperatures arrest starch retrogradation, holding the bread in a stable state. To get the most out of your frozen bread, freeze it as soon as possible after baking and cooling, and consume it equally as fast after thawing. Bread needs to be properly wrapped in plastic and it’s also a good idea to slice your bread into portions prior to freezing.

Storing bread at room temperature

Room temperature is the ideal environment for bread storage to maintain the proper crumb and crust texture. However, in addition to proper temperature, you also need to manage your bread’s exposure to air and this is done by properly wrapping your bread. The plastic bag is often criticized for trapping in moisture, which can speed up mold development, but it truly depends on the type of bread you are storing. For common store-bought loaves, or any other bread with a similarly tender crust, using a plastic bag stored at room temperature seems to work best. Hard-crusted breads however should be kept in a paper bag – hence how it is sold to you at the bakery. As a loaf of crusty bread dries, the moisture that is pushed out of the bread is absorbed by the hard crusts, turning them tough and rubbery.

Refreshing your loaf

The best way to refresh partially stale bread is to heat it in the oven. If you insist on storing your bread in the fridge, toast it prior to assembling your sandwich to reverse some of the the damage. Similarly, if you have a loaf of crusty bread that has begun to go slightly rubbery, heating it in the oven for a few minutes will help to draw the moisture out of the crust and enhance the quality of the bread. (Breads that are reheated this way should be consumed immediately.)

And after all this talk of bread, why not give some a try. Here are a few of these can’t-miss bread recipes:classic sandwich breadcinnamon raisin swirl bread, and gluten-free multi-grain bread.

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