Escaping Chaos

Whether you're having trouble organizing your closet or the many other aspects of your life, there is an easy answer: Call The Amandas of Organized Affairs LLC (837-6328;

With a motto of "Transforming lives in an orderly fashion," The Amandas -- founded by Amanda LeBlanc and Amanda Catalanotto -- state that "Our primary goal is quite simple: We make other people's lives uncomplicated."

They do that by not only organizing any and all parts of a family's home but also by helping them with wedding and party arrangements, supervising moves from one home to another, helping people manage their time better (they are time management specialists), decorating people's homes for the holidays and more.

"We develop a system so people can reestablish order, which allows them to focus on more important issues, like their family or caring for themselves," says Catalanotto. "We may set out to simplify a closet, but what we are really doing is helping people whose lives have spun out of control."

There isn't a universal solution to organizing everyone's lives. The Amandas first consult with every member of the family to determine their needs, habits and lifestyles before they embark on organizing the personal spaces and areas used by the whole family. If you don't make each space accommodate specific needs and preferences, Catalanotto says, it ultimately becomes a useless project because people don't generally change basic habits and the new system will revert back to disarray.

"If it is a man's habit to walk in the front door and throw his keys on the table to the right, we have to find a way to work with that," LeBlanc says. "If we try to retrain him to put the keys somewhere else, it simply will not work." Because of these individual habits, the Amandas say they never approach a project with preconceived ideas of how they will handle it.

Due in part to Catalanotto's previous experience as a bridal sales consultant, one of The Amandas' specialty is being a "wedding nanny," in which they finalize all details prior to a wedding, including contacting vendors, double-checking delivery schedules and providing solutions to any last-minute glitches, thus alleviating anxiety and pressure on the bridal couple.

The Amandas started their partnership in 2003 after LeBlanc, who previously worked in the pharmaceutical industry, shared the idea with Catalanotto, her neighbor, over their backyard fence. The two turned their combined talents for organization, time management and a true love for improving people's lives into a thriving business.

"Our business is truly a passion," LeBlanc says." It's so rewarding to talk to a client after a completed project. They thank us for giving them more time with their family, for making their kids more responsible and even improving relationships between spouses." Their greatest reward, they say, is to return to a home they've organized and find the systems they initiated are still working. "We love to hear that we've made a difference in someone's life, and not just in the short-term but something that empowers them for the rest of their life."

Calling All Designers

Design on the Avenue, scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Cricket Club (2040 St. Charles Ave.), will provide people in the interior design industry a one-stop shop for gathering information about products and services for residential and commercial designers. The event will include a cocktail party, dinner buffet and prizes.

The show is sponsored by the South Central Chapter of American Society of Interior Designers and International Interior Design Association Delta Regional Chapter. Guests will include design professionals, architects and homebuilders. Companies that want to display their wares or provide information about their services or anyone who wants additional information about the event and tickets should call Nancy Bounds at 831-2668. Space is limited and early registration is recommended.

Tour and Guide

The Preservation Resource Center (PRC) is looking for volunteers to help staff seven private homes in the Garden District during its 31st anniversary Holiday Home Tour this winter, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 10-11. Volunteers 16 years and older are needed for three-hour shifts at the homes on the tour, and those who donate their time will receive a free ticket to the event. To register call Andrea Foster at 636-3059 or email her at

The annual, self-guided tour will feature seven homes not usually open to the public that feature unique architectural elements and artworks. To make the tours more festive, local musicians will play holiday music at the tour stops.

In addition to the house tour, the PRC will operate a boutique of one-of-a-kind gifts, a cafŽ and will sell tickets to the public at Trinity Episcopal Church's Bishop Polk Hall (1329 Jackson Ave.). The boutique will sell jewelry, clothing, art, household items, chocolate, books and other gifts and stocking stuffers. No tickets are required for the boutique and cafe.

Advance and group tickets for the tour can be purchased by calling 581-7032 or through the PRC Web site at

Dwell On It

Open a little over a month, the new home furnishings store Udwell Home (2101 Magazine St., 309-2503) offers "Uptown style at downtown prices," says owner Mary Satterlee, who has filled her showroom with reproductions of mid-century modern furniture, Art Deco and some 18th, 19th and 20th century pieces.

"In the store I'm trying to have a fresh, modern look and soften it with some antiques and great classic pieces," she says. "I'm trying to be priced well.

"I want the store to be appealing to the young loft/condo-dwelling people in the Warehouse District as well as the Junior Leaguers who have their grandmother's antiques but want to spice it up with some other things as well. I also want to appeal to the rest of us who have been to New York and Los Angeles and like what we found there."

Udwell, short for Urban Dwelling, says the focus is on furniture, although she also stocks a few accessories such as vases, decorative pieces and tabletops that make the vignettes she's set up to display the furniture complete as well as to provide customers with options in a range of price points.

"I want to have a very clean, minimalistic look, warm and comfortable and not sanitized," Satterlee says. "I have vignettes in the store to show how to make styles work together. These are not your grandmother's antiques, but yet you can take antiques and put it them with a Barcelona chair and it works. People are afraid to death of modern pieces, but you really can mix them with antiques and still see the antiques."

Satterlee also offers customers her decorating services.

Sowing Success

Those who want to have beautiful landscaping and help their community at the same time should consider visiting Vintage Garden & Company (5700 Loyola Ave., 897-9309;, which provides landscaping installation and maintenance for commercial and residential properties and sells organic gardening supplies as well as plants, herbs and organic produce grown at its Uptown farm.

The Vintage Garden retail store and landscaping services are operated by The Arc of Greater New Orleans, an organization that for a half-century has helped to secure employment, self-development opportunities and other services for people with mental retardation. The organization serves more than 1,400 families in Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard Parishes, offering day care, early intervention services and respite care for people of all ages.

Landscaping crews of Vintage Garden & Company include 42 employees, at least half of them clients of The Arc. They work side-by-side with other landscapers who supervise them when needed and transport them to job sites, says Thomas Gaffney, horticulturist and contract manager for Vintage Garden. The landscapers have contracts for a range of properties, including the new West Bank gated community of Hamilton Oaks, 10 miles of green space on the Westbank Expressway, areas of Jackson Barracks and other green spaces and garden in both residential and commercial complexes.

A Taste of History

Roy F. Guste Jr. was just 24 years old when he was named the fifth-generation proprietor of New Orleans' famous Antoine's restaurant, which his great-great grandfather Antoine Alciatore started as a boarding house kitchen in 1840. Through the years, the boarding house gave way to a revered restaurant that melded its French roots with the abundant seafood and other produce and culinary stylings of Louisiana to create some of the city's classic dishes.

Guste shares the secrets of Antoine's dishes in Antoine's Restaurant Cookbook (Guste Publishing). It's not your standard cookbook, but it's not quite a coffee table book either, as it foregoes glossy color photos of dishes and people for drawings, paintings and interesting histories of many of the dishes that have made the restaurant famous. It also gives detailed recipes for most of those dishes, with the most visible exception being his great grandfather Jules Alciatore's creation of oysters Rockefeller. "I have not omitted this to retain the secret of the original recipe created by my Great-grandfather Jules," Guste writes in the book's introduction. "I quite simply feel that it is not mine to give. It is as though it is a part of the physical structure which cannot be removed. And it is most definitely a part of the magic that still exists, more strongly than ever, in the soul of Antoine's."

Recipes for most of the restaurant's other most highly regarded dishes are included, along with sauces and cooking methods needed to achieve good results. Guste believes having such recipes in a cookbook will not decrease customers' desire to visit the establishment or diminish the magic of an evening at Antoine's.

"This book is a statement of my own feelings ... that there is no value to 'secrets' in cuisine," Guste writes. "Most likely in past times there was some value in protecting one's own ideas and creations, but today, the value lies in quality of production. ... It is also my experience that those persons most interested in producing our dishes themselves are also our most frequent visitors."

Antoine's cookbook begins with a detailed history of the original owner and the restaurant's beginnings, accompanied by art and photographs of the family and restaurant over the years and an early menu in which the most expensive items were steak dishes for $1.75. The rest of the book is dedicated to teaching gourmands how to make a wealth of appetizers, soups, fish, seafood, poultry and meat entrees, sauces, vegetable dishes (including the famed Pommes de Terre Soufflees, or Puffed Potatoes), salads, desserts and even specialty drinks. Many of the recipes -- some of which now are found on the menus of respected restaurants around the world -- have an interesting story about characters and events that inspired their creation, and Guste always pays respectful homage to their thoroughly French influences. The book is an affordable must for anyone who revels in the delectable dishes that have defined New Orleans' classic French-influenced cuisine or the experience of fine dining.

Garden Instruction

Hilltop Arboretum (11855 Highland Road, Baton Rouge, 225-767-6916) is offering expert advice during several programs in the coming weeks to help home gardeners better manage their spaces.

Heidi Sheesley, owner of TreeSearch Farms in Houston, Texas, will discuss trees at 9:30 a.m. Sept. 10 as part of the Hilltop Arboretum's Second Saturday program. Admission is $5 for members, $10 for non-members and free for students.

Scott Ricca and Butch Drewes will answer questions about fall gardening during a midday Through the Garden Gate program Sept. 15 at Ione Burden Conference Center (Burden Research Center Essen Lane at I-10). Bring a brown-bag lunch; registration begins at noon and the program will last from 12:10 p.m. to 12:45 p.m. Admission is $5 and students get in free with a valid ID. The monthly program is sponsored by the Hilltop Arboretum, Burden Research Center and LSU's Department of Horticulture. Call (225) 767-6916 for more information.

Name That Tree

The National Arbor Day Foundation is offering a low-priced 72-page pocket guide that can help you identify 135 different trees that are found in the central and eastern United States. The easy-to-use What Tree Is That? includes drawings of leaves or needles on the trees as well as any acorns, berries, seed pods, cones or other features that help you tell an oak from a shadbush.

Publication and distribution of the book, which costs $3, is part of the foundation's mission to help Americans appreciate trees. To obtain a copy of What Tree Is That?, send your name, address and $3 to National Arbor Day Foundation, Nebraska City, NE 68410 or request a copy on the foundation's Web site:

Where the Pros Meet

Professionals in the restoration, renovation, traditional design and construction areas can attend workshops and network with their peers during Traditional Building Exhibition and Conference Oct. 20-23 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Staged by Restore Media, the conference will offer tours, workshops, seminars, roundtable discussions and goods and services exhibits, including hard-to-find products and specialty services, dealing with restoration and new but traditional construction.

The Preservation Resource Center will participate in the conference, hosting a tour of jazz-related houses, a fundraiser cocktail party and a breakfast for the American Institute of Architects. For more information, call (800) 982-6247 or visit

The Amandas of Organized Affairs can turn your - closet into a comfortable space where there's a place for - everything.
  • The Amandas of Organized Affairs can turn your closet into a comfortable space where there's a place for everything.
Udwell shows shoppers how to use contemporary - furniture in their homes.
  • Udwell shows shoppers how to use contemporary furniture in their homes.

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