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Living With Allergies

This is the time of year when we hear alot about allergies, specifically the airborne, seasonal kind.

What we hear about less often is food allergies. Perhaps you know someone – a family member or friend – who is allergic, or sensitive, to specific foods. Perhaps you live with said individual, and have learned to read food labels religiously so as not to contaminate the diet. You may have heard of peanut allergies, in particular, or allergies so severe they can cause anaphylactic shock and even death, if left untreated.

The most common food allergens are wheat, dairy, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, seafood, fish and soy. If you think about it, eliminating any one of these food groups can be a huge adjustment. Now imagine having to eliminate two or three. You might wonder ‘what’s left to eat?’

Actually, plenty, but it isn’t always easy. For those of us who need to be careful about their diet, it is a daily struggle.

It doesn’t end with food allergies, though. A largely unknown segment of the population has Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that affects the digestive tract. Once considered rare, Celiac Disease is now known to affect as many as 1 in every 100 people! It is the most common, and one of the most underdiagnosed, hereditary autoimmune conditions in this country. The only known cure is a gluten free diet.

While the good news is that this involves no drugs or surgery, the downside is having to eliminate everything made from wheat or gluten. This includes breads, pizza, cookies, cake, and pasta, to name a few. Even soy sauce contains wheat! Fortunately, there are many foods on the market today which can easily be substituted for the full-wheat variations.

Symptoms for Celiac Disease, or gluten intolerance (a separate condition with the same cure), can range all over the map. These include any number of digestive disorders, itchy skin rashes, headaches, aching joints, and fatigue to name a few. Some people are even asymmtomatic! If you have experienced a medical condition (or two) for years, that no doctor has yet been able to explain, you may want to look into the possibility of a gluten intolerance as the underlying cause.

For anyone interested in learning more about Gluten Intolerance, Lake Washington Technical College will be holding a 4-part series of classes at their Redmond Campus, from June 10 – 19. For more information visit:


TTh, June 10-19, 6:30 – 8:30pm, $45, COME/116

Call 425.883.4832 or email ude.ctwlnull@txe


Redmond Campus, 6505 176th Ave NE, Redmond, WA 98052


Yin Yang

The weather has been teasing us lately. In the past few weeks, we have experienced one day of 80 degree sunshine, followed by snow and hail then rain. The sun warms us intermittently. A frequent comment has been ‘What strange weather we are having’.

I read a passage recently, by Shakespeare, which states  “There is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so”. In other words, there is nothing wrong with our weather, in essence; it is only the label we assign to it that makes it good or bad. 

Or, to look at it another way, Nature has a way of keeping everything in balance, even when things appear otherwise.

This reminds me of the concept of Yin and Yang which has formed the basis of Chinese thought since ancient times. Here the belief is that the harmony of all things depends on the balance of negative and positive principals. For example, without darkness there can be no light, without life there is no death. Summer leads into Winter, Night into Day. These opposing forces aren’t seen as good or bad, but complementary.

Recently, I came across the following, which is also based on ancient Chinese practices and belief systems:  ‘throughout the day there is a waxing and waning of highly active ‘yang’ energy and slower, quiet, calm ‘yin’ energy. Normally a person’s yang is higher during the day, while yin is more prevalent at night. When there is an imbalance between yin and yang, insomnia can result’. 

The concept of yin and yang are key components of the ancient practice of Feng Shui, another aspect of Interior Design that has gained popularity in recent years. While not important to my own business, I find it a fascinating study just the same. Another essential ingredient in Feng Shui theory is Chi, which refers to energy, or life force, which is apparent in all things, living or otherwise. It is believed this energy needs to be channeled so that it flows smoothly throughout one’s home.

To my western way of thinking, this equates to living spaces that are not only comfortable, but have physical and psychological appeal. For the most part, there is a common sense approach to what Feng Shui teaches, and one can find many parallels in western design concepts, in particular those of Balance and Harmony.

For example, the concept of dark versus light literally illustrates the concept of balancing yin and yang, as it is believed a white room (yang) must have some dark elements (yin) in it for balance. We would offer the same advice in the west, always emphasizing contrast within a space. In both Feng Shui and western design, color plays an important role, in that it can make a room seem larger, smaller, warmer, cooler, more cheerful or bleak. What makes a room feel ‘right’ in western design terms, is simply a matter of the correct balance of yin and yang according to ancient Chinese thought.

What about ensuring that a  room’ s energy, or chi, flows smoothly? To begin with, try minimizing clutter so that your home can ‘breathe’. Then see how this small change can have a positive influence in other areas of your life.

Out and About

This seems like an appropriate time to draw your attention to a couple of amazing exhibitions currently on view at the Seattle Art Museum. If you haven’t already heard about it through local sources, ‘Roman Art from the Louvre’ is a superb collection of ancient scuptures & reliefs, mosaics, paintings, silver and glass, on loan from the Louvre Museum in Paris.  The exhibit gives an in-depth view of ancient Rome that covers nearly 300 years of Roman life and history, and is divided into specific categories such as:  The Emperors, Citizenship, The Home, The Army, Religion, and Death.

Think of it as a very inexpensive way to visit Paris, no plane ticket required. On view through May 11, 2008.

Equally stunning, and a must-see, are the three gilded panels from the 15th century ‘Gates of Paradise’. Sculpted by the Renaissance genius Lorenzo Ghiberti, this celebrated set of doors has just gone through a 25-year resoration and cleaning of the monumental panels, that subsequently returned them to their original beauty. Only three of the panels are currently on view; when the exhibit ends, they will be returned to Italy, never to travel again. The exquisite carving depicts scenes from the Old Testament combined with cutting edge techniques and a new understanding of perspective (for that time i.e. the first half of the 15th century, it was all very new).

The ‘Gates of Paradise’ exhibit ends April 6, 2008.

Happy Holidays!

Harmony Design Studio wishes you a joyous holiday season!