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...


healthy gluten-free snacks

I'm always looking for quick, easy and portable gluten-free snack ideas that will satisfy the whole family, even my son with multiple food allergies.  Here's a list of my current favorites and thoughts on why I love them so....

  • Trader Joe's Vegetable Chips: First of all these are delicious with guac, hummus, honey mustard etc., but they're also less expensive than the ones at WF.
  • Trader Joe's Turkey Summer Sausage: Nitrate-free and super tasty, but not too salty.  This is a great lunch box addition and equally handy when guests stop by.
  • Epic Bison, Bacon and Cranberry Bar: Sweet and salty, I keep one of these in my purse for those times when we're out and there's nothing else to give my 16 month old with food allergies besides a banana...poor guy eats lots of bananas.
  • Trader Joe's Roasted Plantain Chips:  Our current favorite after-school snack these days is plantain chips with smashed and salted avocado.
  • Trader Joe's Organic Apple and Carrot squeeze: I'm not a huge fan of this type of kid juice/squeeze in general, but again, with a child with multiple food allergies, these really come in handy.  Trader Joe's recently started selling these organic ones and I like that the apple is mixed with carrot and pumpkin.  
  • Nick's Sticks: Grass-fed, free-range and protein rich, these come in handy all the time!  I order these in bulk on-line directly from the farm and they're much more affordable that way.
  • Trader Joe's Inner Peas: Surprisingly high in protein and sufficiently crunchy, this baked pea snack is the perfect alternative to crackers
  • Dried Mango:  What can I say, we're addicted!
Any other favorite kid-friendly, mom-approved gluten-free and still healthy snack ideas?  Do share!!

treatment for baby eczema and infant food allergies

Baby eczema is very common condition affecting more than 3 million babies in the US each year.  It is often related to food allergies and can even be caused from foods mom is eating if the baby is breastfeeding.  It can also be very serious causing pain, itching and lost sleep for not just baby, but the entire family.  Our youngest son Leo starting having pretty severe baby eczema around 3 months of age and now at 12 months, we finally have it (almost entirely) under control.

I tried EVERYTHING and want to share my experience of how the eczema presented, how we treated it and how we're managing his many food allergies as that is the cause of his initial eczema flare up...but not the whole story.  I spent many hours researching the internet and visiting doctors and therapists trying western, eastern and any treatment in between to find a solution.  Here's our story and I truly hope this might help anyone who is experiencing the same with their child!


Leo started with cradle cap around 3 months of age.  It got so bad and inflamed that he was scratching his head and breaking the skin.  His poor head was so red and irritated that he was constantly clawing at his head.  I tried treating it with coconut oil, over the counter holistic eczema creams, brushing it with a baby comb, etc. etc.

After a visit to our pediatrician, where I was told that it had nothing to do with my diet (Leo was exclusively breastfed at the time), I reluctantly started using an over the counter hydrocortisone cream occasionally.  My mom (a nurse) suggested that it looked like a yeast or bacterial infection so I started using an antibacterial cream I had been given for diaper rash as well.  We saw some relief with this.

Around 4-5 months of age, the eczema spread to his entire body and face.  Leo was miserable, hardly sleeping (so neither was I), and scratching everywhere he could.  He was still exclusively breastfed at this time.


At Leo's 6 month doctor visit, we saw our primary and amazing pediatrician, Dr. Laura Mikhail of Child and Adolescent Health Associates in Chicago.   She took one look at Leo and personally called an allergist and dermatologist to see Leo ASAP.  She also ordered blood tests to determine if Leo was in fact allergic to any foods as I suspected.  The panel included tests for the 8 most common food allergens (listed below), as well as other foods most often associated with eczema in breast fed babies and a few other foods I was suspicious of.  She also tested for environmental allergies.

Food allergies most often associated with eczema in breast fed babies or anyone:
1. Dairy
2. Egg
3. Soy
4. Tree nut (cashew, almond etc.)
5. Peanut
6. Wheat
7. Fish
8. Shellfish
9. Seeds
10. Corn

We discovered that Leo was allergic to dairy, tree nuts, peanuts, eggs, soy and possibly coconut and oats (note: false positives are common with blood allergy testing especially when the overall IgE level is high as in Leo's case).


1.  Food Elimination:
Before the blood tests confirmed Leo's allergies, I had tried eliminating dairy and already rarely ate wheat and corn.  After the diagnosis, I eliminated all of his known allergens.   This diet proved difficult and exhausting at first, but 6 months later, I feel better too and have pretty much mastered it.  I'll post later about what we (Leo and I) eat now.  I'm still nursing Leo twice a day at 13 months and if I have just a little bit of dairy or eggs, Leo will develop a small amount of eczema around his face and diaper area.

2. Homeopathic treatment:
I saw a homeopathic pediatric doctor, Dr. Chuck DuMont at The Raby Institute  of Chicago.  He suggested some homeopathic treatment that involved dissolving small pellets into water and giving this to Leo through a baby dropper.  After 2 weeks, I ran out of pellets, had done my best to eliminate the foods and we saw little to no improvement in Leo's skin.  I would possibly try this homeopathic treatment again in the future now that Leo's skin is under control.

3. Allergist:
Shortly after receiving the results of the blood work, we saw the allergist, Dr. Kelly Newhall at Chicago Family Asthma and Allergy.  She is amazing and helped me make the decision to continue breastfeeding despite the fact that Leo's skin still wasn't great and his sleep was barely better, even after eliminating all of these foods for a few weeks.  Here's what she prescribed:

  • bleach baths:  Every other day I was to bath Leo in a bath of 1/2 cup bleach for 10 minutes.  This sounded so crazy, but she insisted it would work...and it did definitely help.  We also tried apple cider vinegar but as much as I wanted it to work, it just didn't have the same effect.  
  • steroid oil
  • vitamin D drops
  • epi pen
  • benadryl as needed
  • continued elimination of allergic foods and slowly start feeding Leo orange vegetables, avocado and meats 
4.  Dermatologist:
Leo's skin, sleep and general disposition still weren't where they should be by the time we saw Dr. Peter Lio at Medical Dermatology Associates of Chicago.  I was still frustrated, concerned and extremely tired.  After 1 minute with Dr. Lio, I almost started balling from relief.  He has amazing bedside manner and finally convinced me that my decision to continue nursing was the right one.  He told me that he has seen babies become malnourished because the parents gave them rice milk only in an effort to figure out what the offending foods were.  His theory is that there is also a bacterial component to the eczema and it's crucial to treat this and repair the skin for the eczema flare to calm or be healed.  He also talked about the possibility of "leaky skin" similar to the leaky gut that's become a hot topic.  His thought is that potential allergens may get in through the skin and cause irritation (he described this better than I but the theory makes sense to me). His prescription for Leo:

  • continue with bleach baths but DAILY now
  • a compound made of steroid and antibacterial cream to be applied per a specific and detailed schedule that he gave me.  This was prepared by a special pharmacy and delivered to us.
  • continued vitamin D drops 
  • probiotics every morning (he recommended Culturelle kids)

After 1 week on Dr. Lio's treatment, we saw a major improvement in Leo's skin.  I was never a fan of bathing my child in bleach or applying steroids or antibacterials to his skin, but I also wasn't sleeping and neither was he which wasn't good for him developmentally.  I  chose the lesser of two evils.  My pediatrician and Dr. Lio were much more concerned about Leo's skin becoming seriously infected than with the application of topical steroids.

Now at 13 months, Leo's skin looks amazing (unless he or I have an offending food).  He has had a few major reactions, including an anaphylactic reaction, when he got ahold of a food he's allergic (a whole different story) and his skin flares almost immediately.  I continue to give bleach baths as needed and will occasionally apply Dr. Lio's compound for a day or two if absolutely needed.  Leo's diet is basically paleo without the nuts, seeds and eggs.  He does eat some grains (oats, rice and occasionally organic wheat).  I try to give him only organic and naturally raised meats, fish and chicken as it's my belief that his gut is allowing too much to pass through to his blood and I want to prevent chemicals from reaching his system in any way possible.  Stay tuned for a post on what we eat....

Note:  I also tried 2 visits with an NAET therapist in the suburbs of Chicago.  The whole concept of this type of healing was very far-fetched for me but at the time, I was desperate and so I gave it a try.  After 2 visits and over $300, I saw no improvement in Leo's skin and was frankly put off by the therapist and the way she dismissed my knowledge as a nutritionist.  If you're considering this kind of treatment, I would ask for an initial brief meeting or consultation with the therapist at no or reduced fee.

I was also recently talking to a fellow parent of a highly allergic child and he mentioned a study correlating birth month to allergy incidence.  Here is a link to something I found on the topic:
Season of birth is associated with food allergy in children

Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or comments.  I would love to hear your stories,  research and experience too.
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