What could be better than slow mornings in bed, enjoying healthy treats? Balmuir is featured in the new e-book In Bed with Vanelja, written by the author of Vanelja blog, Virpi Mikkonen. The book includes 15 delicious, plant-based, gluten free and naturally sweetened recipes. Mikkonen told Balmuir the story behind her blog and book.

 Virpi Mikkonen

 

When and how did you become interested in cooking and baking? Tell us how it all began.

I only got interested in cooking and baking almost ten years ago as I made a so called lifestyle change. At that time, I left gluten, dairy, white sugar and heavily processed foods out of my diet for health reasons and moved to a versatile diet consisting mostly of plants. At the time, gluten and sugar free diets weren't as popular and the supply in stores and restaurants was weak, so I had to cook all my food myself. As my health improved rapidly, I got so inspired by the healthy treats that I started my old Finnish blog, Kiitos hyvää, where I shared recipes and other information on health and well-being. People quickly found my blog and felt the message was interesting. The time was right for this kind of content.

In 2014 I decided to quit my Finnish blog and write a book as a tribute to it. I started my own business and an English website and an Instagram page, both called Vanelja. They both quickly gained international attention. During my first three years as an entrepreneur I published four books in Finland, two of which were published in America, one in six different countries. It has been amazing to see natural food, gluten and dairy free, vegetable rich diets and natural sweetening become major food trends both in Finland and around the world.

Have you always been in the industry or has creating delicious and beautiful things been a passionate hobby for you?

My background is in journalism and before my current career I worked as a journalist and a producer in a fashion magazine. I have always been a visualist, but only through Vanelja did I start working with it more by styling and photographing food. When planning recipes, early on I often think about what the dish will look like and what colours will be in it. A visual approach is a natural way for me to create new things. Different colour combinations and textures strongly inspire me. 

In Bed with VaneljaVirpi Mikkonen

 

 

 

Were healthy ingredients the foundation of your recipes from the beginning or did they come along gradually?

Healthy ingredients have always been the foundation in my work. It is inspiring for me to develop foods that combine health and taste and ethics and ease. In my experience and according to the thousands of feedback I've recieved, these kind of recipes are something that the world needs. At the moment the the recipes I share do not contain animal products. I'm not trying to convert anyone into being 100% vegan though, I'm not a vegan myself either. I eat ethically produced animal products a couple of times a week. There is no single diet that suits everyone, everywhere, all times. The most important thing is to listen to yourself and stick to a diet that is as good as possible for you and the world.

The content you produce is incredibly beautiful, how important is it to you that the food looks as a good as it tastes?

Beautiful photos are my way of inviting people to try food that makes you feel good. I don't believe in preaching, imposing or converting people into anything, I believe in inspiring and subtle temptation. Visual things are a great way to do that. Taste is just as important of a factor in food of course, aswell as truly nourishing and supporting our well-being.

Do you also enjoy interior design and investing in your own, personal style?

I have always surrounded myself with things I find beautiful, whether it was clothes, home or the things I do. I'm also an indulger through and through, so the feeling of things and objects is really important. Soft and comforting materials in clothes and home textiles are definitely me. That is why collaborating with Balmuir in my new e-book, In Bed with Vanelja was so great. It is purely about indulging and treating yourself at home.

 

In Bed with Vanelja

 

What is your special skill and what makes you so good at creating recipes and content?

I get excited easily and I love creating new things, conceptualising and outlining bigger eensembles. I don't like walking in other people's footsteps, since improving myself, trying new things and positive make me glow. A sharp visual eye and a good nose for people's needs is also a benefit. In the end, the most important thing is to do things straight from the heart. That way you can touch other people aswell.

What will Vanelja grow to be? Will we someday be dining in your own restaurant or cooking with Design by Vanelja equipments?

I often get asked about my own restaurant, but so far I have mainly helped other restaurants by menu planning and other things. For example, this summer I designed an "Instagram friendly" breakfast menu. My own product line is one of my dreams. This summer I launced my own raw cake Blueberry Dream Cake by Vanelja, and through the process I found out how inspiring and rewarding it is to create your own products from start to finish.

Download your copy of In Bed with Vanelja free of charge here.

Posted By Tiina Simola

Happy summer!

Here’s a quick and easy vegan recipe for a summer breakfast or enjoy it as a refreshing snack.

 

WATERMELON SMOOTHIE

By: Kokit ja Potit

 

200 ml coconut cream or thick coconut milk

500 g watermelon

circa. 1 tbsp lemon juice

circa. 2 tsp agave syrup (or honey)

a few ice cubes

 

Remove the watermelon rind. Combine all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth.

 

Enjoy!

Watermelon smoothie

Posted in Fashion By Mikko Vuoti

In May, Balmuir took part in the annual charity fashion show MLL UP, organized by the Finnish Mannerheim League for Child Welfare’s Uusimaa regional organization. The fashion show in Helsinki raises funds for Uusimaa region’s support person activities for families with children. Johanna Pirinen, Uusimaa region’s coordinator for support persons told us about her personal insights about the event and Mannerheim League.

 

Where did the idea for MLL UP charity fashion show come from?

The idea originated from a conversation between the then Chairman of Mannerheim League Uusimaa reagional organization Saija Toropainen and fashion influencer Klara Kivilahti. Saija told Klara about her concerns about families’ welfare and her desire to support families in time and to bring attention to Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization’s support person activities. They came up with the idea to raise funds for preventive child protective work with a charity fashion show. This year the event was organized for the sixth time and it has been sold out almost every year.

 

How did you end up working for the Mannerheim League and how long have you been involved with the organization?

I ended up working for Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization through voluntary work. Mannerheim League has been a part of my professional and personal life for years. I was an active volunteer in the board of the regional organization, in the family cafe and as a support person for families. My studies in social services in 2011-2014 increased my desire to help families with children. As a student it was already clear to me that I wanted to work for Mannerheim League. Mannerheim League’s values are similar to my own and I want to do my part in helping families with children, especially in the preventive work.

 

In what ways is Mannerheim League a part of the everyday life of children and families?

Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization has offered support to hundreds of families through things like support persons and temporary child care services. Support persons work with individual families and support their everyday lives in several ways. Local organizations offer peer support and affordable hobbies for children. 

Family cafes run by volunteers are places where parents can meet each other and gain strength to their parenthood while their children can meet other children their age to play with. Volunteering in Mannerheim League gives a chance to work in the board of a local organization or at a family cafe. You can also become a support person for families, a friend for an immigrant parent or a teen or a leader of a peer group and so on.

In my opinion, Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization’s performance is very up-to-date and we continuously develope our activities based on the needs and hopes of families with children. We want to support the families in their everyday lives. For me, Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization is an active operator in children family services, as a part of a lively network of citizens’ organizations.

 

For how long has Mannerheim League’s Uusimaa regional organization organized support person activities for families? What is the work actually like?

We have been organizing support person activities since 2010. I have been the coordinator of family activities for three years now, and I wouldn’t change a day. It is a pleasure to be involved in significant work for families and hear the feedback of how the support from our volunteers has helped them to cope. The support persons are ordinary, responsible adults with the desire to help and be a part of the everyday lives of children with families. Our regional organization recruites, educates and coordinates the activities. Once a person becomes a volunteer for the support person system, they commit to being by the family’s side for one year, giving them their time, presence, listening ears and an extra pair of arms for the children to be held in. At best, this gives joy and energy for the volunteer too.  

Photos by: Leena Aro

Posted in Fashion By Tiina Simola

The new "My City" story series introduces Balmuir's favourite cities through the eyes of locals. The first story takes us to Stockholm, Sweden, the home of the newest Balmuir Brand Store that opened its doors this May. A Swedish blogger, Vendela Svensson, is the first one to share her favourite Stockholm spots with us.

B E R N S

"Perfect for a lunch with good friends, also a great place for a coffee in the sunshine at their outside terrace. I really adore the environment and its super central!"

 Näckströmsgatan 8

 https://www.berns.se/

R O S E N D A L

"One of my favorite places when you want a break from the city pulse and get out in the nature. A really cosy place to have a Swedish fika, walk around and just relax."

 Rosendalsvägen 38

 http://www.rosendalstradgard.se/

L Y D M A R  H O T E L

"My absolute favorite place for an After Work! Loving the location, the interior and the atmosphere."

Södra Blasieholmshamnen 2

 https://lydmar.com/

Posted in Fashion By Teija Stenius

Balmuir was founded to pursue passion for genuine materials and appreciation for traditional craftmanship. Since the beginning we have also made a commitment to work with family run enterprises with high ethical values as supplying companies. Some of these partners we have financed and supported them in professional skills. We want to work with people who share our values of quality, reliability, flexibility and genuineness. The main criterias for choosing the supplier are the highest quality craftsmanship, ability and history of processing the chosen raw material and reputation of the company. Balmuir follows the entire production chain starting from the source of the raw material. PETA has recently reported misconducts in mohair production in South Africa, which is the biggest sourcing country for this material. We have received a letter from the MOHAIR South Africa, which states as follows:

”There are approx 1000 farms in South Africa that supply mohair to market. Of the 1000, we have 700 farmers suppling large enough quantities to be considered commercial farms. Of these commercial farms, PETA claimed to have visited 12 farms and we have been able to identify 2 farms where practice is questionable. These farms form a part of our investigation and have been suspended in the interim, whilst being assesed by a third party auditor.”

According to information received today from our manufacturer the two farms under investigation are now closed down.

Balmuir kid mohair products are produced in two family owned companies in South Africa by our partners that we haven't known personally since the beginning of their operation. They both use the same yarn supplier, Samil Natural Fibres ltd. Balmuir CEO Heidi Jaara has personally discussed with Samil managing director Michael Brosnahan about the Samil raw material sourcing; 20% of mohair produced by Samil’s own farms and 20% by partnering farms, of which Samil has 50% ownerships. These sources are 100% traceable. The remaining 60% of the mohair is bought through two main brokers in South-Africa, CMW and BKB. CMW and BKB buy the mohair only from farms, that respect the animal welfare and have passed the external audits. The mohair produced by the farms that PETA reported mistreating the animals, has been withdrawn from the auctions. In addition, if a farm does not pass the audit, it’s not allowed to sell the mohair in the auctions.

Balmuir buying team has scheduled the next visit to South-Africa for the upcoming June. The team will visit both suppliers, Samil yarn supplier and mohair farms to ensure the sustainability and high ethics of the mohair production chain this June. Ethical operations is one of the core values of Balmuir and we are also part of BSCI organization that promotes sustainable business. We are happy to help you with any additional questions consering Balmuir mohair production.

For further information contact info(at)balmuir.com or +358-50-361-9860

Kid mohair wool is made of the hair of Angora goats.

Our manufacturing teams.

Posted in Fashion By Teija Stenius

Balmuir Aurora gloves are made of high quality, Finnish reindeer leather. The elegant glove comes in a classic range of colours and is easy combine in a stylish city look. Reindeer leather is a luxurious and light material, but it is also very durable. The leather used in gloves is processed water and dirt resistant. The high quality leather is a byproduct of meat production. The reindeer leather used in Balmuir products comes from Ahlskog Tannery in Kruunupyy, Ostrobothnia, Finland. The CEO of the company, Mikko Uusitalo tells us here more about their business. 

 

Balmuir Aurora gloves

 

When and how was your company founded? 

In the 1920’s Hugo Ahlskog started a business called Ahlskog Oy, manufacturing and selling leather gloves. The business later developed into a leather tannery. The company has been working in the same factory since the 1950s. Over the years, Hugo Ahlskog’s son, Matts Ahlskog made Ahlskog Oy into a succesfull and highly valued company. 

For a long time, the main production was sheep leather tanning, but since 1990’s reindeer leather has been the most important product of the company. In 2006 Ahlskog family gave up the tannery, after which my father, Ilkka Uusitalo and his partners restarted the company under the name of Ahlskog Leather in 2007. I myself joined into the company in 2012, and today we are known as Ahlskog Tannery. 

 

Ahlskog Tannery owners

 

What is your product and your specialty? What makes your business unique? 

Our main product is Finnish reindeer leather. Due to a very thin material, reindeer leather is challenging to process, but extremely durable. Since it is a natural material, the result is always unique. We also process sheep and deer leather, for example.  

Social responsibility is very important to us. In the 1990’s we were among the first tanneries in the world to receive an environmental certificate. We aim to minimize the amount of waste in our process, we use as little water as possible in our production and we clean the water used in the production to the point where it is almost drinkable again. A large part of social responsibility is derived from the demands of bureaucracy, but it is also an asset in the international market. Nordic social responsibility is highly valued in Europe. In 2017 in Paris we won the Première Vision Leather Handle Prize for our Finnish white-tailed deer leather. 

 

reindeer leather

 

What kind of a team do you have? 

We have a small, but efficient team. My father, Ilkka Uusitalo still takes part in the daily work of the company. Our former CEO, Carita Pöntiö is also still involved, especially with sales. I also work in production. Our team is highly proficient. Even though the process is familiar, working with a natural material always brings up surprises that we tackle together. I’m very pleased with our team. 

What kind of things do you find important in your everyday work? 

We want to produce high quality leather with its own conditions. The quality of the leather determines the use. We want to maintain the natural look of leather. Working in a factory can’t always be nice and exciting, so it is important to us to maintain a good team spirit. Good humor helps us keep going, and we aim at rotating work assignments so we won’t be doing the same thing all day long. 

What kind of values does your company have? 

In addition to the quality, it is important to us that our business is as transparent as possible. Anyone can visit to the factory and get to know our procedures. We aim at cleanliness and creating as little waste as possible. Our work also shows our personality, it is important to us to raise interest outside of the buying process also. 

What kind of visions do you have for the future? 

Our aim is to grow our business. The goal is to be the trusted producer of reindeer leather in the Nordic countries. We also hope to be interesting in the eyes of large fashion brands.  

In addition to international markets Finnish co-operation is also important to us. It feels good to sell Finnish products for Finnish clients. At the moment the price of leather hides has gone up considerably, which is a challenge since it decreases the buying potential of our clients. Luckily, we have been busy with work so far.

 

Aurora gloves silver pink

Posted in Fashion By Tiina Simola