New Fall Outerwear: Coat Check Chicago

Fall fashion is one of the few things that gets me excited about cold weather.  And living in Chicago, outerwear is an especially important part of one's wardrobe.  A great coat or jacket is often the only thing you need to look and feel put together regardless of what you're wearing underneath.  This is why I'm especially excited to introduce you to Coat Check, a Chicago designed and manufactured line of beautiful women's outerwear using quality fabrics and ethical manufacturing practices.

Coat Check was started in 2016 by instructor of Fashion Design at Columbia College, Parson's graduate and Chicago resident Liz Williams.  After a favorite coat she had purchased needed to be replaced but she couldn't find anything similar that she loved in her price point, Liz designed and made her own.  The start of Coat Check was finally inspired by a dream to have her own line, her students, and a woman who checked and admired Liz's handmade coat at a restaurant in Chicago leaving a note in the pocket saying she was an interested buyer.

All Coat Check garments are made in Chicago and have been designed with longevity in mind using time tested tailoring techniques and ethical manufacturing practices.  The new movement in fashion calls for quality not quantity and as a huge "style uniform" believer, I love the idea of pieces that will be in rotation for many Chicago falls and winters to come.  A well designed coat that will last elevates your wardrobe, makes you feel put-together and confident each time you put it on and just makes life simpler...especially when you live in Chicago.

I'm so excited for Liz and the promise that fall brings for her and her new line.  I'm also super inspired by her courage to just go for it!  So many of us have ideas and dreams, but it's the execution that's the hard part.  When I asked her about starting her own line/business and all the logistics and details that go into that, she said she read a lot of books which left her more frightened than prepared.  It was her sister who gave her the advice to "take one day at a time and get everything you need to get done that day so you can get what you need done the next day."  She said she's literally operating on a day to day basis which keeps her from getting too scared about what's coming next month or next year.

Below is a little Q&A with Liz that I found very inspirational and honest both as a mother and aspiring entrepreneur.  

What has been your favorite part of starting/having your own line?
My favorite aspect is definitely the creative one.  I really enjoy immersing myself in the process of design through sketching, draping, and pattern-making.  The collection went through a lengthy process of proto-typing and re-work.  I'm rarely happy with the first product and enjoy seeing the pieces evolve through a series of improvements to the original design.

And the most challenging?
The most challenging aspect has been to find the right work/ life balance.  I have a part-time teaching job in the Fashion Department at Columbia College Chicago, I'm married, I'm raising two kids, and I have many strong friendships.  All of these aspects of my life require time, devotion, and attention.  It's really easy to pour myself into something but then I find the other areas start to suffer.  UnfortunatelyI think this is a problem that most modern women struggle with.  However, I think it's important that we still find time to care for ourselves... exercise, eat right, take care of own health, and simultaneously foster our own dreams and ambitions.   

Where do you find inspiration?
For Fall 2016 I was looking at a lot of vintage fashion photography, particularly that of Dior and Cristobal Balenciaga.  I'm also inspired by interior spaces.  I love the current trends toward mid-century modern interiors that offer a clean color palette.   For next season I'm looking at the 1940's silhouette's and hunting jackets.  I'm trying to bring in more color and jackets that function in multiple ways.

Has manufacturing ethically been a challenge and do you see more ethical practices catching on and taking off?
Manufacturing in the US is not dead.  It is hard to find, but possible.  It concerns me greatly that we are shipping so many of our skills overseas.  My own department at Columbia College is starting to cut back on sewing classes since so much of that work is done in other countries.  It think it's huge mistake given the fact that garment construction is still done almost entirely by people, it' not automated or robotic.  I've noticed a lot of start-ups embracing US manufacturing.  And yes - I hope it takes off!
Liz and I also discussed how she went about marketing her coats and turned out to be a little luck and a lot of trial.  She was introduced to some editors at CS and NS magazines who ran pieces on her line which really helped.  She's also reached out to many Chicago boutiques to run trunk shows which helped her get her name out there, sell coats and some of the boutiques ended up placing orders.  Finally Liz suggested trying the markets for creatives like Dose and Renegade Craft Fair.  Even if you don't sell a ton, the exposure and people you meet are worth it.

Congrats, Liz!!
You can visit Liz and try on her designs at one of her Chicago area trunk shows and events including Felt Chicago in Logan Square on October 8th.   For more on what Liz is up to and what inspires her, follow her on Instagram at Coat Check Chicago.

parsley juice: recipe and health benefits

With unique health benefits including cancer fighting compounds, parsley juice just might be the next green juice hit.  While it's been a popular addition to juices containing mostly kale, celery, spinach etc, it actually makes a great star ingredient as it contains potent antioxidants and is a good source of vitamins C, A, Folate, K and Iron.  But possibly most intriguing is the action of the volatile oils contained in parsley leaves that have been shown to inhibit tumor formation in animal studies.  For this reason, parsley is known as a "chemoprotective food" as it neutralizes particular types of carcinogens, especially those found in cigarette smoke and those formed from grilling food.

Additionally parsley is easy to grow on your own (coming back year after year if properly maintained), relatively inexpensive to buy (a little bit goes a long way), and the italian flat leaf variety has an earthy taste that I find less bitter than kale but with equally beneficial health benefits.  FYI, parsley juice shouldn't be consumed while pregnant as it's a potent diuretic that some believe can induce labor.

Parsley Juice Recipe
makes 3 one cup servings:

2 cups packed flat leaf parsley (not as bitter as the curly variety)
1/2 large cucumber peeled
juice of 2 lemons
1 cup water
a few ice cubes
Blend (I use the Nutribullet) and enjoy!

affordable modern leather side chairs

I have a love for tan leather chairs and the fresh warmth they bring to an interior.  These sculptural leather side chairs will add a modern finishing touch to your interior without breaking the bank.  Here are 4 of my favorites...

hyaluronic acid rich foods and skin benefits

Hyaluronic acid, found abundantly in young skin,  supports skin cell renewal, builds collagen and allows skin to attract and retain water.  As we age, the levels of hyaluronic acid decrease causing our skin to lose elasticity, wrinkle and sag.  But there are certain foods that can help your body maintain and even replenish it's levels of hyaluronic acid (HA).  Recently, Olivia Munn posted her beauty secrets, including the hylarunic acid/skin/diet connection.  She claims her high HA diet has helped her skin look younger.  Since she looks AMAZING, I'll have what she's having!

Here's a few foods to add to your diet to help prevent and even reverse the evidence that we're not quite 26 anymore...

Bone broth:
When the bones, cartilage and ligaments of chicken, beef and other meats are slow cooked in water, the hyaluronic acid (and other valuable nutrients) is released.  Here's a link to making your own bone broth.  You can also buy bone broth and Kitchfix in Chicago makes great beef and chicken broths.  Organ meats are also high in HA.  Be careful to choose organic when eating organ meats as toxins can be found in the organs of non-organically raised animals.

Grapefruit is particularly high in naringenin, a natural compound that prohibits the effect of the enzyme that breaks down hyaluronic acid in the body.  Tomatoes and oranges are also high in naringenin.

Root vegetables and other magnesium rich foods:
The villagers of Yuzurihara, a small town 2 hours north of Tokyo eat a diet high in root vegetables and researches believe it may be the hyaluronic acid stimulating magnesium that's keeping them looking and feeling great well into their 90's (despite much of the population being lifetime smokers). Magnesium is needed to stimulate the synthesis of HA in the body.  Since many of us are deficient in Magnesium due to poor diets and poor quality soil, I would suggest Magnesium salt baths in addition to eating plenty of foods high in Magnesium (like sweet potatoes, green veggies, avocados, nuts, seeds, beans etc.).

Just some food for thought...

organic, healthy and gluten free meal delivery in Chicago

Busy schedules, picky eaters, dietary restrictions and good old-fashioned exhaustion shouldn't keep you from eating nourishing, real food.  These three Chicago food delivery services are bringing affordable meal delivery to you without a major commitment, but still with plenty of taste and real ingredients.  All of the ingredients used are listed making these ideal for anyone who's paleo, gluten-free or with any other allergies or food intolerances.  See, pizza isn't your only option...

Sprig delivers lunch and dinner (two of today's lunch options pictured below) and the prices are very reasonable!  There are veg, gluten and dairy free options as well as add-ons from juice companies and even desserts available.  The food is great and super convenient.  We've even had it delivered to the park for an impromptu picnic!

Follow Sprig on Instagram and download the Sprig app for even more temptation...

Radish gives you 7 different options to choose from each night (dinner delivery starts at 5) and each is more of a side-serving size (and price).  I like this because we can satisfy different taste buds.  The food is delivered in about 20 minutes and the app is super easy to use.  Check out Radish on Instagram for more.

After enjoying our second breakfast at Kitchfix this morning (the cashew yogurt and grass-fed beef bone broth), I can say it's delicious and inspiring!  I tried a few things but wanted it all!  Everything is gluten, dairy, corn and soy free making it great for paleo and allergy diets.  The veg options looked amazing too!  They also use local produce and grass fed and pasture raised animal protein.  You can stop into Kitchfix and pick up their pre-made items or have them delivered but for delivery, you have to order at least 1 day in advance.  Kitchfix on Instagram will inspire!

 This paleo (almond crust) pizza looks amazing!!

affordable wall art

Affordable and inspired wall art can easily be found online if you know where to look.  Here are my favorite sources to help you add a personalized and finishing touch to your home.

Minted is probably my favorite resource right now.  There's a great selection and it's a user-friendly shopping experience.

Kristi Kohut- A Chicago-based designer.  Read her guide to Chicago art galleries.

2.  Etsy
I could get lost on Etsy for hours, but I especially like that I'm "shopping small" so to speak.  There's beautiful things to be found on Etsy!

3.  Society 6
You can even make phone cases out of the art on Society 6.  There's plenty of choose from here.

4. Artfully walls
I love how Artfully walls puts the art into galleries so you can shop the gallery or see how your favorite piece would look in a group.  They also do a good job of dividing things into style and price.

Now that you have your art, here's a tutorial from The Everygirl on how to curate and hang a gallery art wall.  


5 simple and stylish DIY projects

I like a good DIY project.  The creative expression and sense of accomplishment are invigorating....when I choose the right DIY.  I've found through experience that simple is usually best.  Here are 5 simple, affordable and stylish DIY projects you could totally do in a weekend.

The shelf in this photo from 100 Layer Cake isn't a DIY tutorial per se, but if you drill 4 holes in a piece of wood (reclaimed, white oak or walnut would be my choice), add rope and knot (easily found at Home Depot) and loop it through 2 eye hooks screwed into the wall (use a level), you've got a chic and cheap new shelf.

I did a similar DIY paper towel holder in my boys bathroom and it was quite easy!  This one by Design Love Fest is really pretty.

Tassels and fringe are all the rage!  This DIY tassel from Miss Renaissance would make a great addition to a simple clutch, a beach bag, a belt or even shoes like these amazing Ulla Johnson tassel shoes.

What word to use for your instant and affordable DIY push pin art by Metal and Mud?  I love this idea for a play room, mud room or child's room.  

I really want a fanny pack!  Not like the terrible ones we wore in high school, more like the one above.  Below is instruction for a DIY fanny pack by Disney could even use a clutch and belt you already own.

Good luck!

Matcha Green Tea Benefits

I used to be a green tea drinker and then I had 3 little boys and that buzz wasn't cutting it.  I turned to Americanos (espresso with water) and rarely looked back after my 3rd son wouldn't sleep through the night for almost a year.  But lately, espresso and/or coffee was leaving me feeling dizzy, foggy, less than focused and even tired and lazy.  This is where I finally decided to jump on the Matcha bandwagon and I'm loving it!  The energy boost from Matcha is exactly as described below.  I feel really clear and after a great workout.

What is Matcha?
Matcha is a powder made from ground green tea leaves that are especially high in chlorophyll due to the way they're grown.

What are the benefits of Matcha?

Increased energy, concentration and focus without the jitters or anxiety that sometimes comes from coffee-
The amino acids in Matcha balance the caffeine and stimulate brain waves that help with concentration and focus.

Healthy heart and body-
Match is extremely high in antioxidants making it heart healthy (helping to lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure) and possibly having protective effects against some cancers.

Matcha contains antioxidants and EGCG which help reduce inflammation and oxidative damage to the skin.

The compounds in Matcha increase the rate of burning stored fat as energy and increase the overall number of calories burned per day.

The high chlorophyll content in Matcha is thought to help with detoxifying.

Matcha can be found at most tea/coffee shops and many grocery stores.  There are special bamboo whisks and spoons available, but I just use a regular mini whisk.  Maybe I'll get fancy one day...

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