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 Style...you 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 energized....like 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.

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

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

Detoxifying-
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...

Enjoy!

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!

PRESENTATION:

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.

DIAGNOSIS:

Pediatrician:
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).


TREATMENT:

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.

DIY Halloween Decor

Here's a quick, easy, inexpensive and fun idea for Halloween decor in honor of our batty house these days!

What you'll need:

  • 1 roll black foam paper (purchased at JoAnn Fabric)
  • Scissors
  • white chalk
  • hole punch
  • bat stencil (I just drew my own free-hand but there are printable versions on Pinterest)
  • monofilament multi-purpose string (like fishing wire or picture hanging wire)
  • clothes pins or clips
  • hot glue gun
Fold the black paper and trace half a bat at the fold.  Cut.

Fold the bats at the center and punch holes at the top to resemble the eyes.  Punch holes at the ends of the wings and thread string from one side to the next.  

I used three different strings and hung them from a tree in my front yard to my front lights and another tree.  Because it's so windy, I had to hot glue the bats in place but if you do this inside, they shouldn't slide.

Enjoy!

How to do fringe without looking like a fashion victim

Fringe is EVERYWHERE!  So much so that some pieces seem too trendy.  Consider this simple question if/when incorporating fringe in your spring rotation: would you wear it if it wasn't "in"....

These looks seem current and still timeless.





or go super subtle with just a little shoe fringe...
Oh wait, is it too obvious that I'm obsessed with Ulla Johnson?!!

Inspirational women: Jesse Hufft

Ahhh, Jesse Rose.  Where to even start with this one?  Jesse is one of those people who walks into a room and everyone turns to look and listen.  She has style, charisma, spunk, intelligence and wit to make anyone want to step up his or her game.  She's also (no accident here) one of the owners and drivers behind the hugely successful, influential and downright genius Kansas City, MO based architecture and design firm, Hufft Projects.   Oh, and she's mother to 3 darling children, Rock, Cash and Clover and wife to the architect behind Hufft Projects.

Below is Green & Plenty's interview with this true beauty who I'm lucky enough to call one of my oldest and dearest friends.


You and your husband, Matthew Hufft have built an amazing business in Hufft Projects, an architecture, design and fabrication collaborative. Tell me about your role there.

Well I've really handled all business matters for Hufft Projects since the beginning, with a special focus on directing the PR and marketing team where I've been influential in getting Hufft Projects in magazines like Dwell, etc.  My role has a broad reach and my day to day changes, but I'm involved with all divisions of the company and I love that!

Speaking of Dwell, the home the Hufft's built for themselves and their 3 young children is featured in this month's issue (April 2015).  The Showhouse is SO awesome (I'm lucky enough to know from experience).  

Check out the feature on the Hufft's own home in Dwell magazine.  
Impressive job!  And SUCH a stunning home...especially for entertaining!  Tell us about your entertaining philosophy?
I love to entertain.  It's a great way to really get to know our clients.  We entertain about twice a month and so my philosophy is "keep it simple".  I serve no-cook apps like smoked salmon with toasts, capers and creme fresh.  Other hits are quick and easy pickled veggies and deviled eggs.  I love recipes from Bon Appetit and have been using them for 15 years...they're always reliable.  Plus a nice "proper drink" to start never hurts.  We've gone classic lately with cocktails, and again, simple: Bourbon rocks or with a splash of ginger is a favorite or tequila (or vodka) with lots of fresh citrus and mint.

How do you feed a lot of people an impressive meal without losing your mind and still finding time to really chat and entertain?
Again, I think simple is best.  For the main, I like one big meat dish that I can make ahead like braised sort ribs or rack of lamb served over polenta or this twice baked sweet poatotes with bacon sesame brittle.   I'll serve a seasonal and interesting salad of baby kale or lettuce with lots of fresh torn herbs, goat cheese, blueberries or grapes and a simple lemon vinaigrette.  Finally, a great bread from local KC baker, Farm to Market Bread.

Dessert is usually a carrot cake I make or a pie from Upper Crust Bakery and ice cream from Glace.

You always look put together and fresh, especially with a full-time job and 3 kids.  What's your style and beauty philosophy?
I would say I have a pretty classic style but I do like to put some sort of edge or current fashion element to it.  I love having a basic uniform especially for work: neutral colors and basic, classic pieces.  It helps me get ready quickly and without doubt.  Items from KC based brand Baldwin and Madewell speak to my basics persona and Kansas City boutique Standard Style and Anthropologie are fun for keeping it fresh.  I feel like I’m re-finding my style after having kids; for 6 years I wasn’t buying things I wanted bc I was pregnant, or going to be.

For beauty, I've recently started using RMS beauty products and am now very focused on my skin.  I love Malin and Goetz lip moisturizer, Deva products for my curly hair and an eyelash tint always helps make me feel better (I go to Hoopla for that)!


So if you had $50 to spend on style or beauty, what would you buy?
I'm much more focused on my face and skin now so I would probably spend it on a peel with my aesthetician or an oil.  I also need a great hat!

A few years ago you and architect husband, Matthew designed your own home.  What are some of your "must have's"?

  1. Mud room: the holding chamber for backpacks, shoes etc. with lots of storage and ways for kids to reach their own things, hooks shoes etc.
  2. Storage everywhere so everything can be clean again quickly.  We have lots of cabinets.
  3. Flor carpet tiles, especially because we have 3 kids and 2 dogs.
  4. Big glass doors that open to the backyard so I can see the kids play. 
  5. Smaller bedrooms for the kids leaves more room for the laundry and playroom on their floor. 
  6. Having the playroom on second floor makes bedtime more seamless and they’re starting to wake up in the morning and just go play rather than come bug us.  It will become the homework room eventually.
Any wish list items?
  1. A butler’s pantry kitchen with dishwasher
  2. Another bathroom in the mudroom, especially with 2 boys who don’t always keep things where they need to be...
  3. A bit more separation between the living and kitchen area


One focus of Green & Plenty is finding balance in our hectic lives.  How do you find yours?  
It's different every week.  I make sure one week isn’t too heavy with work stuff, entertaining etc. I get really stressed when we have a constant week of going.  So I work hard to balance our calendar between down time and social obligations, which sometimes feels like a job in itself.  I feel lucky to work with my husband.  While we don't work side by side all day, it's nice to grab lunch or a coffee together.  And with the kids being 2, 4 and 6 now, we are really finding our groove how to hang as a family, and that is incredibly fun.  We haven't quite made it through the crazy years, but that light at the end of the tunnel is getting brighter.  It's our family business- we really eat, sleep and breath it, but we love it.  I like to think that I provide a little balance to the "family side" of the family business so that it still feels more like a small business even though it has grown to over 45 employees.  It's fun to be around all the people with such a passion for design and talent in their various areas.  It's the job I never knew I always wanted.  

You and Matthew lived in NYC until 2006.  What do you miss most about it?   
Definitely the insane amount of great restaurant options.  The last time I was in NYC we went to Blue Ribbon for Sushi...it was the best sushi meal of my life.  But we love Kansas City and it has so much to offer.  

Jesse and her family have proudly called Kansas City home for almost 10 years now.  Stay tuned for Jesse's KC favorites on Green & Plenty....


Thanks, Jesse Rose!!  I'm amazed, inspired, proud and lucky!!!
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