Saturday, May 23, 2015

Blog maintenance, please be patient with me


I am doing some maintenance work in this blog so please be patient with me. It seems like I accidentally sent an old post to subscribers etc... I am learning! :)

Have a magical day!

Book review: Holistic Baby Acupressure System to help sleep and wellness

I teach pediatric massage and I have found out that some of the topics parents love to learn more about is how to help their child sleep better and ease colic, digestive issues and teething pains just to mention a few common childhood discomforts. To have tools yourself to help your child at home without medications can be very empowering to parents and in addition nurturing touch can be a great way to connect and bond with your child.

I was excited to see this new book by Jennifer Chellis Taveras, L.Ac, come out earlier this year. This book teaches parents a whole acupressure program to help the sleep and general wellness of their babies. The program is designed for children from birth until age five although it can be used on older kids too.

The sleep system is not a sleep training method but offers physiological support to help with sleep. This is a good additional tool to pediatric massage that helps sleep by lowering stress hormones for instance.

One thing I would like to try the acupressure for - one day - is the jet lag. We travel to see family in Finland sometimes and the jetlag is always an issue.

Thinking of sleep (and other health issues), from purely my own experience as a mom I would add to look into your child's diet to help with sleep, as well as digestive problems and colic (or your own diet if you are breastfeeding as everything you eat passes to the baby through breast milk). 

The book offers tips how to get kids stay still to receive the acupressure treatment. I liked the tips about involving the child in the process and showing what you plan to do on a stuffed animal or doll first and let them massage the doll while you work on them. I don't agree however on bribing kids with any rewards to get a massage. I believe in having a full permission from the child to do massage (or acupressure or reflexology etc.). I teach parents to always ask permission, and never massage if the child says no. I also teach not to offer rewards for massage.

In general I think this book is a great addition to the bookshelves of parents, health care professionals and anyone working with children. This book gives parents a concrete way to take an active role in their children's health. It teaches the acupressure massage techniques and has clear illustrations and instructions show where to apply the massage.

Read more about the book here.

Monday, April 27, 2015

Sima - Mead for May Day

Mead (sima) is an essential part of May Day celebrations in Finland. Mead and homemade donuts! That's what a good May Day is made of. We also used to go marching with labor unions and leftist political party people on May Day. It is like our Labor Day. It also is the celebration day of all students. May Day is the celebration of spring. Everyone is outside, celebrating, on the streets and in the parks, there are picnics and general happiness in the air.

Mead is fermented so it needs to be prepared a week in advance. I am usually late so I have to leave it in room temperature for longer to be able to have it ready in 4 days. That is about the time I usually have when I realize that May Day is coming up. Like now. 

My parents used to make mead before every May Day. They used sugar, brown sugar, oranges, lemons, yeast and water. Usually I prepare it in the same way they did but this year I made also a honey version without cane sugar. It must be the more traditional way to make mead anyway. The Finnish word "sima" is a synonym for the nectar bees collect to make honey (mesi). We buy lovely raw honey locally from Klausesbees

In Finland mead is fermented so little that it doesn't really have alcohol, or the amount is very small so it is served even for children. My parents made the mead in a 10 liter plastic bucket and we drank it for days, if not weeks. They boiled the water, poured it on the sugar in the bucket, added sliced lemons and oranges and a tiny piece of fresh yeast. After a day they bottled it with a teaspoon of sugar and a few raisins and put it in the fridge. Usually around after a week the raisins had plumped up and were floating on top. That is how you knew the mead was ready. You looked at the raisins. I went every day to the fridge to look if the raisins were already floating on the top. It was very festive when you finally were able to taste the ready ferments and sparkly mead that tickled your tongue. There was not much alcohol at all but a lot of sugar left so it was sweet. Sweet and tasty. I loved to eat the raisins that had been soaking in the mead for days.

Honey mead (recipe is from Finnish beekeepers' association)

4 liters or 17 cups of water (almost 4 quarts) 
2 lemons (I used Meyer lemons from our tree)
14 oz honey (450 grams) 
1/5 tsp dry yeast

  • Boil about 1/4 of the water and pour it on the honey with the rest of the water cold to achieve slightly warm water. The honey will melt in it easily and it will be around the right temperature for the yeast. Dry yeast needs the water to be 105-110 Fahrenheit for it to start doing its job. 
  • Add sliced lemons. You can use oranges instead too if you like. Some people add the juice of the citrus fruit and some peel separately. My parents sliced the fruit so that is what I usually do too. If I am feeling very fancy, I squeeze the juice out and grate the peel and add them separately. 
  • Cover the container with a napkin or cheese cloth and rubber band, or even a lid, and keep in room temperature for 24 hours. Bottle it and add a few raisins to each bottle. If you have plenty of time, put the bottles in the fridge at this point and sima should be ready in 7 days. If you need your sima to be ready sooner, leave the bottles in room temperature for three days. To avoid the bottles from exploding as the mead ferments, you may want to "burp" them once a day (just open the bottle and close it back up).
  • You know your sima is ready when the raisins float on top. Serve with homemade donuts - wait, I have to start working on a paleo version of those.

To compare I made mead with the kind of recipe I grew up with. 

Sugar Mead

2 liters water (almost two quarts or 8.5 cups)
2/3 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1 lemon (or orange or half of both)
1/10 tsp dry yeast

Follow the method above. Enjoy your Finnish mead!

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Relaxation exercise for children: Grounded like a tree

I am preparing for a Story Relaxation class I am leading tomorrow for children with their parents. I am going to teach a lot of different ways to use stories, your imagination, touch and guided imagery to relax, be mindful and connect with each other. This is one of the exercises I plan to use. I translated this relaxation exercise from Heike Jung's book that has Massage stories and movement games for children. It is perfect to start the Earth Day week as well! Have a lovely week and keep your feet firmly grounded on the earth!

Grounded like a tree
Relaxation exercise for children

Starting position: Stand on the floor, barefooted is best, feet hip width apart and knees slightly bent

Script (talk with a slow calm voice): Imagine you are a tree with a thick trunk. You have stood in that same spot for 200 years, that is how old you are! No storm has ever been able to take you down. Under your feet there are strong roots that grow deep in the ground. They keep you strongly grounded. Stand still for a moment and imagine how it would feel to be a big old tree.

Now you feel a light wind. Your branches and leaves move in the wind. The wind strokes softly the trunk, branches and leaves. Let your arms be the branches and fingers the leaves. Let them move slowly and softly in the wind. Stroke gently your head, arms, face and hands.

The wind becomes stronger. The whole tree waves in the wind from side to side. Then the wind changes direction and the tree moves from front to back. Move your body from left to right and then front and back.

The wind has stopped. You stand still again. The sun peeks from behind the clouds. You notice how the sun beams warm your body. Put your both hands on your face and feel the warmth of the sun. Put your hands on your belly, close your eyes and feel the warmth there as well.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Book Review: He Won't Know It's Paleo

A taste of recipes included in the book!
I put my kids on AIP (an autoimmune protocol of paleo diet, basically a paleo diet but more restricted) and this new book He Won't Know It's Paleo by Bre'anna Emmitt, has been a great tool when getting the kids used to the new diet. 

The book has great recipes for AIP friendly versions of foods that my kids may have been missing like crackers, muffins, ketchup just to mention few. The main dish recipes are amazing too, not just the condiments and baked goods. I have tried only a handful of recipes but so far I am very impressed.

The story behind the cook book is funny I thought: The author had wanted to switch to AIP diet but knew the switch to paleo wouldn't be easy on her husband so she didn't tell him! He ate paleo for six months without knowing it, commented how he felt better and lost weight. Wow. I don't know if I could have pulled that through! You have to be a very good cook to do that so that is probably the best testimonial for this book!

The book is available as a hard copy and Kindle version

Monday, March 9, 2015

How to help kids to sleep with story massage

Photo: Hello Pinecone Photography

Happy Monday!

This daylight savings is often rough for us! Getting the kids to sleep earlier isn't easy. My four year old went to school late today as he just slept and slept. Story massage can help with sleep. Research shows that kids who were massaged before bedtime slept better - they fell asleep faster and their sleep patterns improved compared to the control group who was read a bedtime story but didn't receive massage. Read more why and how to try it tonight with your kids below!

Why story massage helps sleep?

1. Nurturing touch reduces stress hormones in the body (for both the one receiving touch and the one giving it!)

2. Story massage, nurturing touch, nurturing story and your mindful presence will create a safe space for the child to fall asleep. Feeling your hand on their back helps the child feel so safe that they can close their eyes and drift to sleep. It also helps the adult to stop after a busy day.

3. The safe space can inspire the child to share anything worrying them and help them fall asleep faster after getting the load off their backs.

Ideas for bedtime story massage:

  • A story massage: This Day. Make up a story massage of the events of the day. 
  • Use any story or nursery rhyme your child is already familiar with, or one you remember from your own childhood 
  • Have children come up with their own stories and draw those on their back. 
  • Print this bedtime story massage out and use it tonight: 
Night in the forestA tactile story for children by Sirpa Kaajakari

Follow the instructions below to draw the story on your child’s back to help them sleep, feel safe and to connect with them. Always ask permission before starting. Use gentle strokes avoiding pressure on the spine and kidneys in the low back.
A big old spruce tree stood in the forest. Its roots were planted deep in the ground, its trunk was thick and sturdy and its branches were wide and green. The sap from the tree smelled so fresh. (Using the palms of your hands start from the low back and draw a tree with lots of branches on the back.)

The tree was a home for birds and squirrels. They felt safe in the old tree and ate the seeds from the cones and the bugs that crawled on the trunk. (Draw small circles with the tips of your fingers on the back.)

Foxes hid under the tree when it was raining. (Rest your hands on the low back.)

Hikers who needed to rest their tired legs sat under the tree and leaned against the strong trunk of the tree and enjoyed the peace of the forest. (Stroke with your hands on both sides of the spine starting from the low back.)

At night stars were bright and the moon lighted the forest. (Sprinkle stars all over the back with your finger tips.)

An owl sat on the branch of the old spruce tree, alert and awake when everyone else was sleeping. Keeping an eye on everything so the others could sleep peacefully. (Gently squeeze the shoulders.)

The wind gently brushed the tree branches and whispered: You are safe. (Draw whirly wind all over the back.)

One star fell from the sky but the tree caught it and the star got stuck on the top of the tree. From there it shone brightly, bringing peace and happiness to everyone in the forest. (Stroke the head and run your hands down to the upper back and rest them there.)

Information about story massage classes in Los Angeles:

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Yellow Tail + Mango Ginger Salsa

The kids loved it. They especially love always the fresh fish as it has no "fishy taste" which develops as the fish ages.
(The problem with cooking at night is always the same, the pictures don't look so great as there is no day light! Every time I swear I will save some of the food for next day and take photos and almost every time it fails as there are no leftovers... Oh well.) 

Every week my kids and I go to the farmers market around the corner and buy organic vegetables, honey, fruit and pick up our weekly Community Seafood share. Community Seafood is a local community supported fishery in Santa Barbara, California. Their goal is to support the fishing community and sustainable ways of harvesting seafood.

I signed up a few months ago and our family has enjoyed the variety of seafood. I have tasted foods I have never tasted before, and may not have otherwise tasted, and learnt to prepare them too. Some of the new acquaintances have been mussels, oysters, ridge back shrimp and lobster. Some of the fish are new to me too. I grew up eating fish but mostly salmon, herring and some sweet water fish like perch.

This week's share was yellow tail. We have had it many times before and we usually enjoy it either grilled or fried in a cast iron pan. We like our fish simple. Usually we use just salt as a seasoning and squeeze some lemon from our tree on the cooked fish. For yellow tail I have made a few times a fruity salsa from fresh fruit I have had at hand like pineapple, peach, plums or mango. This week's salsa had mangoes.

I will post my most delicious paleo/AIP fish recipe experiments in future too. Stay tuned!
It is important to start with skin side up.
Otherwise the skin may stick to the pan.

Fried Yellow Tail 

yellow tail filets
salt to taste
1-2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil

1. Cut the fish in smaller filets if needed. Leave the skin on.
2. Wash the fish and pat them dry with a paper towel or kitchen towel.
3. Heat a couple of spoonfuls of oil in your cast iron pan.
4. When the pan is warm, lay the fish pieces on the pan skin side up.
5. Leave them for a few minutes and turn them over.
6. Sprinkle salt on the fish and cover if you like.
7. Lower the heat a bit and cook until fish meat is white and flakes.

Mango Salsa 

1 ripe mango
1-2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1-2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed
juice from 1 lime
pinch of salt
a handful of fresh cilantro, chopped or cut small with scissors

1. Peel the mango and chop the meat in small pieces. I like to cut small slices against the pit first horizontally and then vertically to make squares and then cut along the pit to remove the pieces from the mango. Then repeat on the other side of the pit.
2. Put the mango pieces in a bowl and crush some of them with a fork to extract some of the juice.
3. Add lime juice, salt, crushed garlic and grated ginger. Let it sit for a while in the fridge before serving. If it is not spicy enough for your taste buds, add more ginger.

Use fresh ingredients for best results!

Veggie sides

I try to make sure we get plenty of vegetables every day. To help with this goal I have started to make often two veggie sides instead of one as I used to do.

With the fish and salsa I also served steamed asparagus that is in season now and sauteed purple mustard greens I got from the market as well. The asparagus I steamed just enough that it felt soft when I pierced a spear with a knife and tossed them in olive oil and sea salt.

The mustard greens I sauteed very lightly in a little bit of coconut oil and added a touch of salt. For sauteeing them I got instructions from the vendor at the market to heat the oil in the pan, add the greens, toss them in the oil, cover the pan and turn off the heat and let sit for just a little while. The greens stayed a little bit spicy in this way and were absolutely delicious!

What is your favorite way to prepare yellow tail?

Family photo time!


meet my family! My friend Erin from Hello Pinecone Photography takes our family photos once a year. It is so lovely to have so beautiful good quality photos of our family. For once we are all in one photo! It is incredible to see how my boys grow - they look different every year in these yearly photos! Here are a few of the photos from 2015. They were taken at Descanso Gardens where members are allowed one shoot per year for holiday cards or something like that.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What brings you joy?

Hello there! 

My favorite time of the year, spring, is almost here and it is time for spring cleaning! I was introduced to a genius decluttering method by a dear friend. You can read more about it here or buy the book here but basically you get rid of everything that does not bring you joy. You look at the item and ask yourself, does this bring me joy? If the answer is no, get rid of it. Simple as that! I am in the process of doing that at my home and I realized it can reach other areas of life too.

I have come to realize that to better be able to focus on my family, I am going to have to narrow down what I do, choose what brings me most joy. From now on, in my massage practice, I will specialize in prenatal massage and pediatric massage classes only. I will also define my work hours better and work mostly when my kids are at school to have more time to spend with them.

I have chosen prenatal massage as my speciality as I love to support mothers-to-be and it supports naturally my other work, the child massage classes. In this way my focus is on mothers, children and families. More information can be found from my website .

I hope you are well! Have a joyful day!


Thursday, January 1, 2015

New BREAKFAST cook book and a sample pancake recipe!

Happy New Year from Sequoia national forest! (I did schedule this post ahead of time as there is not much of internet access where we are!)

I am so proud to announce our new cook book coming out TODAY! It is a pretty incredible e-book with 85 breakfast recipes. Just breakfasts! Because breakfast seems always to be puzzling people most when they go on a grain free diet and all their old safe breakfast foods fly out the window.

One year ago I was preparing to start AIP diet to battle blood sugar swings and food intolerances. The diet I started on January 2nd has been life changing for me. I still have healing to do, but I have come a long way and have learnt what foods tweak me and which don't. I feel better. And I have learnt how to eat really healthy.

I nowadays recommend AIP almost to anyone as a diet reset, to check in how your body is doing, feel better, and especially if you have any autoimmune issues or unexplained illnesses, it is a great way to start healing and feeling better. If you do the reintroductions properly after eliminating lots of foods for 30 days (or more) you get valuable information of which foods you are sensitive to, or which foods make you feel yucky, cause insomnia, headaches or other symptoms or have your autoimmune illness flare up.

I am so excited to be part of this new cook book. It was my biggest fear when starting the diet - what to eat for breakfast? This book has 85 answers to that question. It has a variety of breakfast recipes from several different bloggers (including me!) and authors who are following the AIP diet themselves. The editor is the lovely Eileen Laird of Phoenix Helix, a popular AIP blog. You can imagine my excitement when she asked me to be part of this community cook book project.

In the AIP breakfast cook book there are recipes for skillets, pancakes, waffles, soups, patties, bowls etc. All paleo and AIP compatible recipes. The recipes are grain free, sugar free, dairy free, egg free, seed and nut free, night shade free. One great thing about the book is that it even has dietary modifications for those avoiding coconut, the ones following a low-FODMAP diet, GAPS/SCD or low-histamine diet. The low-FODMAP modification was something I was dealing with. You can read about that here.

Here is a taste of what the book is about. It is just one of many pancake recipes!

Oven baked pumpkin spice pancakes
by Jaime of Gutsy by Nature

2 tablespoons gelatin
1/2 cup hot water
4 medjool dates, pits removed
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons melted coconut oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup sweet potato flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Topping: maple syrup, honey, and/or whipped coconut cream, optional

1. Preheat oven to 350°F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.
2. Dissolve the gelatin in the hot water and mix well.
3. In a food processor or high speed blender, puree dates, pumpkin, coconut oil, apple cider vinegar, and the gelatin and water mixture until smooth.
4. Add sweet potato flour, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Puree again until all ingredients are well combined (the batter will be thick – more like a cake than a traditional pancake).
5. Make six roughly equal size pancakes on the cookie sheet – spreading them out so that each one is about 1/4 inch thick.
6. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until they hold together when you gently slide a spatula under them and try to move them.
7. Serve with desired topping or eat plain.