I love Lentil Soup because it is nutritious, tasty, economical, versatile and above all else hard to screw up. It can easily be vegan, vegetarian or meaty.
We eat it plain, with homemade croutons or over mashed potatoes or rice. Our favorite thing to do is put John’s homemade sour kraut into the soup. The tangyness of the kraut balances out the earthiness of the soup.
If you are pressed for time you just through everything in the crock on high for 5 to 6 hours.
I wish that I could take the credit, but it comes from my favorite cookbook of all times: The Joy of Cooking. The classic recipes of Joy are time tested and always turn out great.
In a large pot over medium low heat:
3 TBLS olive oil
Add and cook until tender but not browned about 5 or so minutes:
3 medium carrots, peeled and diced
3 medium celery stalks, diced
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups water
2 cups lentils(french or brown work), picked over and rinsed
1 14 ounce can of diced tomatoes(I prefer fire roasted)
2 tsp dried thyme or (3 sprigs of thyme wrapped with the parsley)
A bundle of parsley (I wrap it in twine and pull out before serving)
1 bay leaf(also pull out before serving)
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until lentils are soft about 30 to 45 minutes. Pull out parsley bundle.
Stir in: 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper.
Taste and add more salt, pepper or vinegar.
Options: Leftover Chicken meat, or smoked sausage add flavor and make a great meaty addition.
Sometimes I stir in Spinach at the end.
For more flavor squeeze lemon juice or balsamic in at the end.
I like mine with a little Parmesan sprinkled into the bowl.
Like I mentioned before it is great with saur kraut.
Recently, I had a chance to travel to Maine with my spouse John. We stayed in the quaint twin towns of Saco/Biddeford-just a two hour train ride north of Boston. This used to be a thriving mill town and cute old houses and brick buildings abound. In the latter part of the 20th century the town lost its main industry and suffered a significant economic down turn. It is now a rebounding tourist and industry town. On Main Street one will see unique, independent shops. The buildings in the town mostly have that weather worn look. The town is full of well groomed hipsters, who migrated up from Brooklyn and beyond to seek their fortune. Alongside these motivated young adults exist the old time meth addicts hanging out together sporting last decades fashion trends.
Here I am at the vintage and chic Tiny Diner. It still only seats about 20 and the bathroom is located outside of the caboose. Within is a well oiled breakfast machine. Although it serves traditional diner food everything was elevated to the next level. My scrambled eggs were perfectly done with a little bit of cheese and chives scrambled in. No industrial carton of egg puree here. The breakfast potatoes were battered and fried. The toast and jam were of good quality. I stole more than a few bites of John’s corned beef hash.
Enough about breakfast-I want to tell you the story of Flourish
Our first night we walked down to the Main Street with our hosts to eat a Thai dinner. As we headed to our next destination- I spied “Flourish” a little new age healing space and store. There just happened to be a “healing salon” going on the following night. It has been a good decade since I attended such an event so I knew I had to check it out and my host, Kate, was in for the adventure.
On a dark, cold, Thursday night Kate and I entered a cozy healing space. Picture low lighting and a room with gigantic, beautiful mandala paintings on old brick walls. A women was playing auto harp for all to hear. There were various practitioners around the space and for a small fee one could get a sample session.
For example, for a fee the auto harpist would play the auto harp on your stomach. With the addition of Reiki she would use sound healing to cure what ails thee. I still wish that I would have tried this one. My friend Kate chose reflexology. I chose to see Martha Fishback for flower essences and energy healing.
I was having a little pain in my right hip so I stated that as the main complaint. Martha swung a pendulum over a chart to discern what the problem was and then to choose the correct flower essences to go with it. Flower essences are the distilled essences of flowers. A few drops are put into a cup of water and imbibed by the client.
After swinging a pendulum over a chart she decided that the root cause was emotional stress from work. Although I wasn’t actively feeling that stressed about work I figured it was worth reflecting on. At this stage of my career I’m pretty good at managing my energy when working with clients. Even so, I sometimes take on my client’s emotions without realizing it. Also, there is always a certain stress that goes with the uncertainty of self employment.
She gave me my paper cup with a little water and flower essences. Next, she invited me into a makeshift tent of colorful tapestries which housed a Massage table. I lay down on the table face-up. Without putting her hands on me she did about seven minutes of energy work over my head and about seven minutes over my feet.
I entered a very relaxed state. Some very nice imagery came to me and I even shed a few happy tears. It was nice to take a moment of calm in the middle of a vacation. The auto harp music in the background was lovely.
My hip pain really didn’t abate, but I did have some emotional revelations. More than anything, I was reminded how nice it is to have an energy practitioner give me full attention. While I really enjoyed the experience and felt some emotional relief, I ultimately needed more attention paid to the direct cause of the hip pain through Massage and Chiropractic. Kate absolutely loved her reflexology session.
I see that they are hosting a medium in a few weeks. If only I were in town to witness that!!
I’ve settled on a favorite blend for giving Massage. The Peppermint and clove oil are analgesics. The clove has such a comforting smell. To this I add a few drops of Rosemary oil-which smells great and is great for tight muscles. To round it out I use Lavender essential oils to give the smell balance. Lavender is also more gentle on the skin
than the other oils and creates a bit of a buffer so the other oils don’t irritate the skin.
A word about Peppermint essential oil.
It smells lovely and has many healing properties-but one can have too much of a good thing. You only need a few drops and never put it directly on the skin.
I recall a few years ago, before I took a course on safely using essential oils, I experimented with putting steamy hot towels on my client’s face like they do in the salon where I get my hair cut. I had the brilliant idea to add Peppermint to the towel because I liked how it smelled. Even with only using a few drops it stung my client’s eyes. It’s very hard to relax when your eyes sting. Lesson learned. Thankfully that client forgave me and still sees me for Massage. (Thanks KK if you are reading this) It was really a good thing I took the Aromatherapy for Massage Therapists course and hopefully won’t commit such an error again.
This month I am also trying out a new Cheerful Citrus Blend. This one features essential oils of Grapefruit, Lemon and Orange. These citrus oils are one little way to help beat back those Winter blahs. Orange oil is also anti-spasmodic and great for digestion. It is said that the Citrus oils are also great for the immune system. For how dry it is right now my clients are soaking up loads of essential oils.
In the Diffuser:
For the Winter months I have returned to my favorite Winter blend “Bayberry Balsam” from Sunleaf. It just smells right for the season and isn’t over whelming. Steamy Balsam fir is also great for the lungs and can help with breathing and sinus problems.
Add a touch of warmth to your home this holiday – with BayBerry Balsam.
BayBerry Balsam is a festive seasonal aroma featuring pure essential oils of aromatic balsam fir, spicy clove, and precious bayberry.
This Aromatherapy Blend is made from 100% pure essential oils, lot-tested and certified for purity. Use to scent pine cones or make seasonal potpourri, diffuse in an ultrasonic diffuser, or make your own recipes.
If you clicked through to this link there is a good chance that you get occasional hand and arm pain. You may have tried to Massage your hands only to get no relief. There’s a trick to this-pain in the hands almost never originates from the hands. Hand pain is almost always referred from higher up on the body.
Culprit number one: The Forearms……
Pain in the hands often starts in the forearms. The joints of your hands are mostly surrounded by tendons that connect to muscles that are located in your forearms. It is often the muscles in your forearm that are contracted and tug on the tendons in your hands. The remedy is usually to stretch and massage your forearms. In particular there are usually trigger points around your elbows. To review, trigger points are little sore spots in the muscle belly that refer pain to another part of the body.
You do not need to memorize this chart. I just want you to understand how this pain relationship works. Go ahead, do your favorite arm stretches. It’s always a good idea to self-massage around the elbow.
A lot of arm pain actually starts in the shoulder girdle. There is a really good reason for this-the brachial plexus nerves starts up in your neck, goes under the clavicle and works it’s way down to your arm. Different branches of it go into your pecs, your armpit and back. Often when you come into my office with arm pain I will check out your neck muscles, chest muscles, armpit muscles and back to see if we can find any referral patterns. This is why it is erroneous to only think locally about hand pain.
Over the years, when I have had bouts of thumb pain it has been very important to have a Massage therapist work on my pectorals as well as dive into my armpits.
My clients are often surprised that a session treating arm pain will include the shoulder girdle.
This image shows the referral pattern of a trigger point in the pectorals. The x is where the trigger point is and the red shows the referral pattern.
Stretch the shoulders for the good of your hands
This is why it is also important to stretch out the shoulders. For Massage therapists our all time favorite stretch is the “Doorway stretch” This opens up the shoulder girdle and allows blood flow to the hands.
Keep those shoulders loose to keep your hands warm…..
As a side note, I’ve learned that opening the shoulders is key to keeping the hands warm on a cold day. So much blood passes through the shoulder girdle that if you are tensed up whilst outside on a chilly day your hands will get cold. Breath while raising and lowering those shoulders and you will notice your hands warm up. Swing your arms in front of you-it’s better than a hot pocket!
Same thing with biking
Similarly, you may numbness notice tingling while riding your bicycle. Most likely, the pain is not directly in your hands, but rather from crunching the shoulders in. I find that if I can stretch my arms behind me while riding I can usually get better blood flow in my hands.
What about arthritis?
Arthritis is deterioration of cartilage of the bone. Massage cannot reverse arthritis-however we can reduce the inflammation in the tissue surrounding the arthritis. Sometimes the irritated tissue is as painful, if not more than the arthritis itself. Also, I have formulated an ointment specifically for joint pain using trauma oil, essential oils of cardamom, ginger, and juniper. Read more about April’s Active Again Arthritis Antidote.
Hopefully, I’ve given you some insights into hand pain. Self care is awesome and a Massage or Shiatsu from a trusted professional is even better. All the best.
Clients often wonder: Do I tip my Massage Therapist and if so how much?
Here’s the clear answer:
If the Massage Therapist works at a Spa, especially a Massage Envy type place then you absolutely must tip them!!!! Their wages are lower. If it is a Groupon then you must tip them well!!!!
Here’s the less clear answer:
If you are seeing an independent practitioner like myself it can vary. We can set our own rates and have more control over our overhead. I have some colleagues that set their prices about 15 percent higher than mine, but don’t accept tips at all.
I would say 70 percent of my clients tip me and they tip between 15 and 20 percent. My clients that tip me usually have the financial means to do so and come in about once a month.
For the clients that don’t tip, the appointment with me is already a financial stretch and the tip would be cost prohibitive. Some clients also don’t tip because they take the view that I am a private business owner and I can set my own rates.
I don’t want to turn anyone away because they can’t tip and it is really important that you come in as often as you like.
I have colleagues that don’t accept tips, but charge a higher hourly rate. I prefer to keep my rate lower. As I said, those that can usually do and those that can’t don’t. I want to leave that up to the client to decide. It’s like a self-selecting sliding scale. Whether you tip me or not I am grateful for your patronage and will give you a great Massage or Shiatsu.
Thai Reflexology is a wonderful way to feel more grounded and calm. In addition to using my hands and fists, I use a rosewood stick blessed by Thai Buddhist monks to perform a reflexology treatment for feet. This is an overall treatment that will make your feet feel great as well ground your whole being. It is deeply rhythmic and relaxing. Pairs great with a foot soak. Can be incorporated into a Massage or Shiatsu of any length session. When I do the full treatment it is about 10 minutes total.
Thai Reflexology is a free add-on to any service by request!
Four years ago I learned this technique from Jill Burynski, Thai Yoga Instructor. It was one of the best workshops that I have ever taken and use these ideas in many treatment sessions. In addition to learning to do a Thai reflexology session I learned some wonderful stretches for the legs. I often incorporate Thai Massage Techniques into a Shiatsu therapy session.
Do you have indigestion, constipation or menstrual issues? What about scars from a C-section? What about that uneasy feeling in your abdomen when you are feeling anxious? Did you know that the Practical Healer has extensive training and experience working with these issues?
Benefits of Abdominal Massage
In a nutshell we get things MOVING. The goal is to stimulate peristalses of the large and small intestines and get everything stuck in there unstuck. Also there are acupressure points in the tummy that are relieving.
Rest and Digest
We are also stimulating the Parasympathetic Nervous System. This system is also known as rest and digest. We are getting your body to wind down and relax so that the body has a chance to heal itself. A gentle tummy rub is very soothing. I will often have you breath into my hands as this is also very relaxing.
Also caused by muscles spasms in the lower portion of your abdomen. We are getting those to calm down with specific Ampuku techniques. Some of the work is done very gently on the skin over the area where the Uterus is.
Low Back Pain
What’s on the front side of the back; the stomach. Sometimes we actually need to access the low back through the stomach in order to get the qi moving in the low back. In particular this is how to access the Iliopsoas muscle group.
One of my favorite workshops I ever did was on erasing scars with Marjorie Brooks. This is especially important after abdominal surgeries like those involved with C-Sections and Fibroids. Scar tissue can actually spread and go deeper, below the surface. These little fibers grab onto muscle tissue and organs and sometimes cause other pesky problem down the road, not to mention plain old discomfort.
The goal is to help everything under the surface to settle back into place. The baby and placenta push the organs every which way in order to have enough room to grow. We also want to aid the uterus in contracting back down to its normal size. Not to mention help heal the separation of the rectus abdominis.
How it is done:
If I am doing a Shiatsu it is easy. I just lift up your shirt use a little of my essential oil creme. If doing a Swedish Massage I have a draping method to keep the breasts covered while exposing the tummy as seen in the above picture.
I do some nice gentle circles over the whole abdomen. This is very calming and stimulates the digestive system. Then I will use pressure and do a pattern in a clockwise direction. You will probably hear some gurgles. The pressure can be fairly light or go deep depending on need. Then I will press specific points for specific conditions. Sometimes I will just hold my hands
These techniques take about 4-10 minutes of your appointment depending on need.
In the case of C-Section scars or other scars it will take more.
Most of my clients choose 75 or 90 minute sessions so that we can cover everything including abdomin.
When I went to Shiatsu school I learned three different styles of abdominal massage. Later I went deeper into the topic with a workshop on Chi Nei Tsang-an esoteric style of abdominal work from Asia. If that wasn’t enough, I learned Western Abdominal Massage in the Swedish Massage Program at Centerpoint. Also, I have taken a workshop on scar tissue massage which is particularly important when working with C-Section scars. I have practiced these a lot on myself. I can personally testify that I have cured my own menstrual cramps with Shiatsu.
Essential Oils and Abdominal Massage
I pair abdominal massage techniques with an essential oil creme blend that I created myself. Essential oils included in that blend are Cardamom, Ginger, Laurel, and Peppermint. I will use this creme blend when working on your abdomen.