"Normal" Is A Dryer Setting

Parenting A Child On The Autism Spectrum


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Devil’s Kettle

We need the tonic of wildness. ~ Henry David Thoreau, Walden

Four times a year I slip out over my lunch hour to have my hair cut. This may not sound like much, but for me it is a wonderful indulgence. I go to Urban Village SalonSpa, which is nestled in the heart of Cathedral Hill. My hairdresser and I have been together for seven years, and she is the only person in the entire world who is capable of taming my fine, frizzy hair into layers of manageable waves.

Over the course of our relationship, my hairdresser and I have discussed several subjects, ranging from our mutual love of cats to new recipes we tried to how both of us grew up near farmland in the Midwestern United States. One topic she mentioned that I found particularly intriguing is a geological mystery tucked away near the northernmost part of Minnesota’s North Shore: Devil’s Kettle. In addition to seeing an amazing natural phenomenon, my hairdresser recommended this as a must-do on my next trip Up North due to rumors that this remote area was a gangster hideout in the 1920’s and 30’s.

Devil’s Kettle is a gigantic sinkhole located in Judge C.R. Magney State Park, Minnesota. Judge C.R. Magney State Park, located 14 miles northeast of Grand Marais on Highway 61, has the Brule River flowing through the middle of it. Over the course of 8 miles, the Brule River drops 800 feet, creating several waterfalls. At Devil’s Kettle, the Brule River forks at a rocky outcrop of rhyolite, creating side-by-side waterfalls. One half of the Brule empties into nearby Lake Superior. The other waterfall is where the intrigue begins – the river pours into the kettle but we have yet to determine where it comes out.

As curiosity is part of human nature, we like to try to explain what we do not understand. An abundant number of theories exist about Devil’s Kettle, including underground caves, rivers, fault lines, and hollow lava tubes. Each theory, however, fails the test of reason due to both lack of evidence and the geology of the area. Rather than copy what others have written before, I included some websites at the bottom of this post for additional reading about the how and why of this phenomenon.

Tim and I decided to have an adventure last August during our annual trip to Grand Marais, and we checked out Devil’s Kettle. Devil’s Kettle is about a 1.5 mile hike from the parking area at the park entrance, and there are signs along the path and places to rest. While the hike is not a long one, and the path is well-maintained, there are a couple of staircases along the way. Recommended items for the hike include trail shoes, mosquito repellent, a wide-brim hat, water, and sunscreen. We also do a tick check each time we finish hiking through the woods.

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When we were half a mile from Devil’s Kettle, we arrived at the Upper Falls. The Upper Falls is easily accessible from the hiking trail, and you can walk down on the rocks by the Brule River. Tim and I took video of the Upper Falls, several photographs, and climbed around on the rocks for a while. You can pull up the videos we took by clicking on each of the following three pictures.

Upper Falls

Click on the picture to see video of the Upper Falls.

When Tim and I hiked the last half mile to Devil’s Kettle, my favorite part was hearing the waterfalls before actually being able to see them. Devil’s Kettle can be viewed only from a lookout point at a distance from the waterfall, probably to prevent visitors from throwing objects into the sinkhole or falling in themselves. Devil’s Kettle was beautiful, mesmerizing, and large. How often in our lives do we have two waterfalls in a single line of vision? The water was flowing so quickly and with such force that I did find myself wondering where all of it goes.

Devil's Kettle

Click on the picture to see video of Devil’s Kettle.

We also took a close-up video of the double waterfall to see the split more clearly.

Devil's Kettle close up

Click on the picture to see Devil’s Kettle close-up.

Can’t get enough waterfalls? Mother Nature Network has a must-see list of 14 amazing waterfalls located all over the world. If you are in the northeast United States, Niagara Falls is definitely one to visit. Having been on both the Canadian and American sides of Niagara, while both are breathtaking, I tend to agree with the common opinion that the Canadian falls are the better ones to visit. Next on my list are Havasu Falls located in Grand Canyon National Park. My boyfriend suggested we go as part of a romantic Western getaway, and I can hardly wait. However, while he lived in Grand Marais for a few years after graduating from college, he has never explored north of the town. When I found this out I told him that we should put Devil’s Kettle on our list of places to go and have an adventure in our own backyard.

Here is additional reading for more information on the mystery of Devil’s Kettle:

I hope you have yourself a happy exploration!

 


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Afton

Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower. ~ Albert Camus

The Boyfriend and I made plans to sneak away on a Friday afternoon for a romantic adventure. Between his two children, my teenager, him traveling for work, me simply working long hours this month, and him caught up in evening meetings organizing one of our area’s largest fall running races ever, we had gone for several days without spending time together as Just The Two Of Us. Group activities with friends are great, but we were really feeling the need for some time alone.

Beware: Our idea of romance may not appeal to everyone, especially my closest girlfriends. He suggested hiking at one of our state parks and supper afterward. While hiking through the woods makes some of my girlfriends cringe, I thought it was a wonderful idea. For supper I decided to put something in the Crock-Pot, and we built a fire in my backyard and ate outdoors by candlelight (again, the cringing by my girlfriends) since the sun sets oh so early now this far up north. Everything put together made for an intimate, lovely evening.

The site of our hike was Afton State Park, which is full of beautiful trails overlooking the St. Croix River. Afton has woods, ravines, prairies, beaches, and natural rock formations. A hike-in campground which is perfect for those who wish to practice backpacking with small children before doing the real thing. There are also four cabins located near the campsites which are available year-round.

Since a picture is worth a thousand words, here are some photographs of Afton. If you live in the Twin Cities area, hurry – the colors are nearly gone! Several of us have commented on how fortunate we are to have had a long, warm, sunny fall this year. Enjoy ūüôā .

 

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The Light Rail

All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware. ~ Martin Buber

This past Saturday morning started bright and beautiful, he with tea and me with coffee, sitting on the top floor deck worshiping what brief summer sun Minnesota still has to offer. For the first time in two months, there were no small or large children present, no parents, no chores, no groceries to be shopped for, and no schedule. Then he looked at me and posed the question:

What should we do today?

 

I voted for an afternoon adventure on the newly built light rail. And off we went.

Metro Transit now has a Green Line light rail connecting St. Paul and Minneapolis. In addition to connecting the Twin Cities by public transit, other goals included 1) providing college students an easy way to travel to the University of Minnesota, 2) revitalizing St. Paul’s University Avenue, 3) providing people living in the area who do not own cars a means of travel to and from shops, and 4) working toward a greener forms of public transportation.

Our trip from St. Paul to Minneapolis took approximately 45 minutes on the light rail. Traveling the entire length of the Green Line takes approximately an hour. The stations are clean, easy to find, and have heat lamps for the winter months. You can pay by cash or credit card, and while tickets are usually not checked, every now and then security monitors passengers to ensure everyone has paid.

The Green Line traveling east along University Avenue.

The Green Line traveling east along University Avenue.

On our way to Minneapolis, I noticed that a lot of the stores along University Avenue are vacant. I also saw some of my favorite places to eat, shop, and play, which rolled by every few minutes. Before we dive into my personal best of the best locally-owned locales, major stops along the light rail include

I noticed several passengers on the rail with shopping bags, books, and other assorted items that one would find at a larger store. The light rail already appears to be extremely useful for people who may not want to drive or who may not own a car yet need to get their week to week shopping done. There were also several bicycles, wheelchairs, and strollers present, which again convinced me that this is definitely becoming a convenient and hopefully preferred form of transportation around the Twin Cities.

Now time for the list of my must-see, must-do loves along University Avenue…next time you are on the Green Line, consider stopping to check some of these out.

Bangkok Cuisine

Bangkok Cuisine…mmmmm.

Bangkok Cuisine Thai Food (432 University Ave W, St. Paul) – Words do not exist to describe how delicious this food is. Bangkok Cuisine is easy to miss, so I included a photo. A large lot behind offers free parking, and a bakery is also immediately adjacent to the restaurant. While everything on the menu is delicious, our favorites include the Green Curry, the Garlic Dinner with beef, Pad Prik with chicken, and their Pho.

Shuang-Hur Oriental Market (654 University Avenue W, St. Paul) – Shuang-Hur is my favorite grocery in St. Paul. The produce section is enormous with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables that are well-priced. The selection of meat changes frequently, and over the years I have found everything ranging from whole shrimp to pork steak to goat to chicken breasts that cost half of what the neighboring groceries charge. The frozen section is well stocked with spring rolls and dumplings of all sorts, and we also purchase our rice here.

Midway Used and Rare Books (1579 University Ave, St. Paul) – This is a dangerous store for me to step into because I tend to lose myself. For hours. The book selection is enormous with over 50,000 titles and contains almost anything you can imagine. I dare you to go and try to set a 15-minute time limit on your browsing.

Ax-Man Surplus Store (1639 University Ave, St. Paul) – The sky is the limit for what you can find here. This store sells surplus merchandise from other retailers and odds ‘n’ ends of all sorts. The inventory changes, so of course you need to go on a regular basis. One of my girlfriend’s most recent find was a piece of $0.88 of open-cell foam that she is going to turn into a backpacking pillow and a $1.95 table map to turn into wrist wraps.

Espresso Expose (600 Washington Ave SE, Minneapolis) – I have been going to this Stadium Village coffee shop ever since I moved to the Twin Cities in 1997. Located on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota, Espresso Expose is across the street from the Fairview medical complex, which includes the hospital, dental school, research laboratories, and classrooms. While the decor has changed over the years and sandwiches have been added to the menu, what keeps me coming back are the unique coffee creations. Try a Roadrunner for a quick pick-me-up or a Rocket Fuel if a dire need for a shot of caffeine arises.

Weisman Art Museum (333 East River Road, Minneapolis) – The Weisman Art Museum, which opened in 1993, has a wide diversity of exhibitions. Permanent collections include Modernism, Korean Furniture, Ceramics, and Mimbres Pottery. There is also a program for Public Art on Campus, which can be found at over 30 locations around the University of Minnesota. The museum also offers internship opportunities and student job positions throughout the year.

Midwest Mountaineering (309 Cedar Ave South, Minneapolis) – Immediately west of the West Bank of the University of Minnesota, Midwest Mountaineering is your store for the outdoors. The calendar of events includes yoga, educational classes, bouldering, and much more. Sign up on the store’s mailing list to receive promotions for sales and specials which happen throughout the year. My favorite coupons are the ones for a free pair of SmartWool socks with an additional purchase.

Brit's Pub, Minneapolis

Brit’s Pub, Minneapolis

So where was our final destination on that sunny Saturday afternoon? It was Nicollet Mall in Minnepolis. After arriving at our stop, we walked six blocks southeast down Nicollet Avenue to Brit’s Pub, where we enjoyed a Strongbow Cider and a Fuller’s ESB on the rooftop patio. This was the first time we had been to Brit’s in four years. What had prevented us from going was the idea of driving from one Twin Cities downtown to another, then finding and paying for parking, then walking, then doing it all over again on the way home. The light rail provided us with a fun, easy, and inexpensive way to travel from St. Paul to Minneapolis and home again all in an afternoon.


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Horseradish Harvest

The Gardener

Have I lived enough?

Have I loved enough?

Have I considered Right Action enough, have I

      come to any conclusion?

Have I experienced happiness with sufficient gratitude?

Have I endured loneliness with grace?

I say this, or perhaps I’m just thinking it.

       Actually, I probably think too much.

Then I step out into the garden,

where the gardener, who is said to be a simple man,

       is tending his children, the roses.

~ Mary Oliver

Fall arrives every year bearing mixed emotions for me. As the days grow shorter, my sleeves and hemlines grow longer, and soon the time comes to put my garden to sleep. The long Minnesota winter leaves me feeling lost with nothing green to tend to, and I envy my cousins in Georgia who tear their gardens up at Thanksgiving only to start them up again around Valentine’s Day.

Stillwater is a very Midwestern place to live. It is a small town of approximately 16,000 residents bordered by the St. Croix River on the east and flanked by farms in all other directions. The difference compared to many other small American towns is that the Twin Cities, a major metropolis of almost one million residents in Minneapolis and St. Paul combined, lies 20 miles away. For me, this makes Stillwater an ideal place to live because I have everything I need, from museums to parades to restaurants to a quiet evening in at my fingertips.

My garden, however, is the place in the world where I am happiest. It is where I am most myself. Gardens appear solitary, but when you are the gardener, you are surrounded by a multitude of other living creatures. Some scurry in the trees as you work, some burrow further into the ground when unearthed by a shovel, and some remain firmly rooted in their places, reappearing year after year.

This past summer I set up some experimental plants in my garden, such as bok choi, sorrel, celery, and gooseberry and blueberry bushes. I thought I had found all of the quirky edibles available, but then I stumbled across something at the garden center that stopped me in my tracks. First, this plant looked beautiful, with long, oval-shaped green leaves. Second, when I stopped to touch the leaves, the plant had an odor that reminded me of mashed potatoes, roast beef, and other winter comfort foods. When I checked the tag, it simply read “Horseradish”.

Not having any idea how to grow horseradish or when or where to harvest it, I promptly put it in my shopping cart, nestled among Thai basil and two types of lavender. At this point everything I was purchasing smelled so good I was beginning to get hungry.

Horseradish, at least for this first season, is an easy, low-maintenance plant to grow. I put it near my tomato plants and watched it grow bigger and bigger throughout the summer. When I harvested the root in the fall, it wasn’t enormous, but I thought it was big enough considering it only had been in the ground for three months. Horseradish is a perennial, so when you harvest the root, you cut part of it off and replant it. Here is what I did with mine, and I ended up with about one cup of horseradish to use in cooking throughout the year.

Here is what my horseradish plant looked like before I dug it up:

Our horseradish plant.

Our horseradish plant.

Dig up the entire plant, and split it. I split mine in half because the root was small. If the root is large, you can probably harvest a larger portion of the root and put a smaller portion back into the ground.

After I split the plant.

After I split the plant.

After splitting, put one portion back into the ground. Water the horseradish well after replanting.

Replant one of the split parts of the plant and water well.

Replant one of the split parts of the plant and water well.

For the part of the root you harvested, cut the leaves off and compost them. Wash the root with water until it is as clean as you can make it. Then peel away the outer skin with a vegetable peeler or knife. The root will give off fumes when you begin to cut it, and some people wear a mask over their noses and mouths during this part.

The roots are all cleaned up and ready to be grated.

The roots are all cleaned up and ready to be grated.

Once the roots are cleaned up, cut them into portions and grate them using a food processor. Add white vinegar until the horseradish becomes a paste. The vinegar pickles the horseradish to help preserve it.

Grate the roots in your food processor and add vinegar to make a paste.

Grate the roots in your food processor and add vinegar to make a paste.

Portion the grated horseradish into small containers. You can freeze horseradish for up to one year,  or refrigerate it for up to three months. I portioned mine into four containers and plan to make each one last for a few months.

Portion the grated horseradish into containers and either freeze or refrigerate.

Portion the grated horseradish into containers and either freeze or refrigerate.

For me, the best part of fall is harvest time, where you reap what you sow from your garden. The first recipe I used my horseradish in was a Steak and Stilton Pie, which turned out beautifully. Interested in making your own? My recipe is in my head, but here are some websites that will help you out:

In addition to adding horseradish, the key to a good beef pie is stewing meat in a malty, dark beer. We usually use a Black Butte Porter, but you can a stout such as Guinness.

Bon appétit!


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Why I Run

I tried carrying the weight of the world. But I only have two hands. ~ Wake Me Up, Avicii

This is the last hill!

You’re almost there!

Keep going!

View of the finish line from the State Capitol in St. Paul, Minnesota (http://www.flickr.com/photos/stonebridgedapper/5073429919/ )

2010 photo of the finish line as viewed from the Minnesota State Capitol. The Cathedral of St. Paul is in the background. http://www.flickr.com/photos/ stonebridgedapper/5073429919/

Those were the last words I heard from the spectators before turning onto John Ireland Boulevard and seeing the finish line in front of the Minnesota State Capitol. I ran down the road, waved to my parents at the TV cameras, and stepped on the pad that marked my time. Ten miles had passed by in what seemed like no time at all as I ran with 8500 other people from downtown Minneapolis to downtown St. Paul as part of the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon Weekend.

My morning started at 5am. I rolled out of bed, put my running clothes on, and drove to my girlfriend’s house in Minneapolis. We walked two blocks from her house to catch the city bus to the light rail station. When we arrived at the light rail, we stood waiting with other runners who were still groggy with sleep and huddled under the heat lamps. The light rail dropped us off in front of the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis at 6:20am, where the Medtronic TC 10 Mile race began. We were all divided into corrals based on our estimated pace time. As we sorted ourselves out, most of us were jumping up and down to ward off the morning chill.

My girlfriend was worried about the race. She had given birth three months before and was still recovering. We both knew I would finish before her, so we chose a meeting spot in front of the State Capitol Building in downtown St. Paul. As our corral was told to approach the starting line a few minutes after 7am, my final words to her before breaking into a run were “This is going to be an awesome race. I can feel it.”

I was right. The race was absolutely beautiful. After the first few miles our course followed the last six to seven miles of the marathon, which started an hour behind us at 8am. During my run I saw downtown Minneapolis still slumbering (if that’s possible!), I ran along the Mississippi River on both the west and east banks, I saw the sky change from dark to dawn over the Stone Arch Bridge, and when we turned onto Summit Avenue in St. Paul, I was greeted with a face full of bright morning sun. Summit Avenue, a pristinely tree-lined avenue of Victorian homes, was a steady uphill for five miles until half a mile before the finish. There were spectators along the entire course, and their cheers and continual words of encouragement made me feel like I was doing something phenomenal.

The finish line with the Minnesota State Capitol in the background. https://www.tcmevents.org/blog/2013/08/30/259/the_road_to_the_starting_line

The finish line with the Minnesota State Capitol in the background. https://www.tcmevents.org/blog/2013/08/30/259/ the_road_to_the_starting_line

The best part about running that morning was that before I started I had made a decision. My decision was to let things go. This was my day to trade mental baggage, remorse, grudges and resentment for the physical bumps and aches that come with distance running. After this run, there was no more carrying the world on my back. No more continuously pushing mental boulders uphill like Sisyphus. No more negativity. No more blaming other people for my misfortunes or unhappiness.

Between Miles 4-8 I ran every bit of mental clutter into the ground. When it was gone, my feet were getting sore they way they always do around Mile 7, and I had soaked my clothes with sweat despite the cool morning, but mentally I was light as a bird and felt part of myself take flight. I waved to my girlfriend’s husband who was watching with their baby at the Lexington Parkway and Summit Avenue intersection and told him that she was back there somewhere but doing great. I watched out for one of my other girlfriends who was at the last mile marker with a cowbell.

Then there was the last hill. And the turn. And the finish line with the State Capitol spread behind it. And as I crossed the finish line with a newly clean mind and heart I thought to myself, “This is why I run.”

  • The annual Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon has been named the Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America. The 10 Mile Race isn’t too shabby, either. For more information on the marathon weekend, which drew approximately 28,000 runners total, click on on¬†https://www.tcmevents.org/events/medtronic_twin_cities_marathon_weekend/. In addition to the Marathon and the 10 Mile Race, the weekend also has a 10K and a 5K Run/Walk. Family Events include a Mile, Half Mile, Diaper Dash, Toddler Trot, and Mascot Invitational.
  • Kare11 (NBC) streamed the finish line for the 10 Mile and Marathon live on race day on their website (www.kare11.com). You can ¬†still watch the finishers by clicking on their video archive at¬†http://www.kare11.com/news/article/1041585/396/Find-your-finish-at-the-TC-Marathon.
  • YouTube also has video footage for races of all sorts sponsored by Twin Cities In Motion at¬†http://www.youtube.com/TCMRuns.
  • Twin Cities In Motion has events year-round for people of all athletic abilities and ages. Check them out at¬†https://www.tcmevents.org/.


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Hmong Village

Once we are, we will always be. ~ Kao Kalia Yang, The Latehomecomer: A Hmong Family Memoir

When I small, my parents did a lot of volunteer work with my elementary school. As a result, while they were inside I would often be sent outside to the playground as to not be in the way. That is where I saw the woman on the swing. She was tiny everywhere except for her tummy, where a baby was growing. She did not speak, but she smiled to communicate and was gentle and kind. So were her children. All five of them under the age of seven. I was starting first grade with the second oldest.

This woman’s family were refugees from Laos and had been resettled to Fort Wayne, Indiana of all places. I have no idea how the American government chose Indiana, but importantly, the city is a quiet, safe place surrounded by countryside. An ideal place to live a peaceful life and raise a family. As an adult, I now realize that this woman was probably around 20 years old. The five children she had were born approximately one year apart from each other, and she and her husband had already lived a lifetime.

As a child, when I asked my parents about this family who didn’t speak English at first and looked, smelled, and behaved so differently than the rest of us, they weren’t sure how much to tell me. All I knew for a large part of my childhood was that the adults had been rescued from an unhappy life. They were hard-working and expected the same from their children now that they were in a country where the opportunities seemed limitless. I attended elementary school and high school with several of the brothers and the one sister, where they constantly were at the top of their class. All of them grew up to become hold successful professional careers, including physicians, scientists, and lawyers. This example of making the most from every opportunity, no matter where you live or what you believe you are capable of, has been seared on my mind ever since.

These were the thoughts that flowed through my mind as my boyfriend and I stepped through the front doors of Hmong Village. Located at the corner of Phalen Boulevard and Johnson Parkway in the Dayton’s Bluff neighborhood of St. Paul, Minnesota, you would never guess what this innocuous white building holds inside. There are no signs, and I have never seen or heard an advertisement for the location, but the parking lot is always full. I heard about this place from one of my coworkers, who lived in Thailand for two years and promised me that the food is authentic.

The entrance off Phalen Boulevard, St. Paul.

The entrance off Phalen Boulevard, St. Paul.

Hmong Village has three main sections to it:

1) Shops which sell everything from clothing to jewelry to DVDs. If you are a petite woman with small feet, pay these stores a visit. Many of the women’s clothing shops sell clothing that appeals to everyone, not just Asian fashionistas. My boyfriend, who detests shopping for himself, actually started picking out jeans and tights that he thought I should try on. There are also a few racks of men’s clothing in one shop which are well marked with a sign.

The retail section.

The retail section, with plenty of clothes and shoes for smaller sizes.

One store has a men's section. Look for the sign!

One store has a men’s section. Look for the sign!

2) A spacious market sells fresh produce of all sorts. If you don’t recognize a fruit or vegetable, the vendors are wonderful at helping you pronounce the name, how to prepare it, and what foods it pairs nicely with. There was a large stall of medicinal herbs, none of which were labeled. I plan on doing some research so I recognize some of them on my next trip. My favorite purchase of the day was a pre-made stir fry kit that I bought for $5.00. Add meat or tofu, steam some rice, and voila – you have a delicious supper.

The market.

The market.

Medicinal herbs are sold in the market.

Medicinal herbs are also sold here.

Stir fry kit...how smart!

Stir fry kit…how smart!

3) Finally…the food stalls. My boyfriend and I wandered up and down them for a good 15-20 minutes trying to decide What To Eat. To our pleasure, everything looked and smelled delicious. Even better, everything was extremely well-priced. Best of all, what we ordered was prepared fresh and samples were brought out to our table for testing the spice level before the final version was prepared. We ordered Lemongrass Chicken ($7.00) and Papaya Salad ($5.00), both of which tasted amazing. We have enough Papaya Salad for two more meals, which I am already relishing.

Food stalls sell everything  from Pho to fried chicken feet.

Food stalls sell everything from Pho to fried chicken feet.

Papaya Salad and Lemongrass Chicken

Papaya Salad and Lemongrass Chicken

We will definitely visit Hmong Village again. I have shoes and clothing to shop for, we both enjoyed the vast selection of fresh fruits and veg, and there are many more menu items that we need to taste. Here are details to help you plan your adventure:

Hmong Village
1001 Johnson Parkway
St. Paul, MN 55106
Hours: 11am-7pm every day
Look for the big white building with cars in the parking lot.

Life has been busy lately! In addition to a new job, there has been a lot going on. Here’s the wrap-up for the past few weeks. Some of these may become blogs, and some may fade into the ether. At any rate, I need to start writing again. It keeps me sane(r).

  • As mentioned above, I got a new job! Same company, but now I work in the Consumer Group instead of Basic Research. My first project, as usual, is something that I know almost nothing about. Also as usual, I am excited about the challenge of learning a new field of science. My new lab comes complete with some rather freaky-looking mannequins for modeling product prototypes.
  • I bought a new car. Well, not new, but slightly used and in better condition than my 2005 station wagon that has 150,000 miles on it.
  • One of my cats died rather suddenly. After a mourning period, her life partner has adjusted well to being the only kitty in our home, and one well-loved and doted on kitty at that.
  • We took a vacation to¬†Grand Marais, Minnesota. There is a ton to see and do in this town of 1300 residents on Lake Superior’s North Shore.
  • I ran my first half-marathon. It was on one of the hottest mornings of the summer and I was fine until the eleventh mile. A big hill with no shade did me in, and I finished 10 minutes later than my goal time. A slight disappointment but, as everyone reminds me, I finished.
  • Tim passed his learner’s permit examination and is learning how to drive. The old station wagon, not the new car.
  • I hosted a wedding reception at my home for the couple I stood as witness for last August. Read all about the ceremony¬†here.


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Homemade Lotion Recipe

A happy family is but an earlier heaven. ~ George Bernard Shaw

My mother's Jell-O salad.

My mother’s Jell-O salad.

Tim and I had a wonderful visit with my parents. They live in northeastern Indiana, and each summer Tim and I drive from the Twin Cities to spend a week with them. The afternoon we arrived, my mother had a Jell-O salad waiting for us in the refrigerator, and my father made grilled chicken for supper.

Even though we are separated by distance, my parents are some of the most important people in the world to be. Nothing compares to the bonds that are found in families, and the time I spend with them each year is never enough. My parents have lived in the same house for four decades, and as an adult I now appreciate the gift of a stable and secure childhood that they gave me.

Here is the area where I grew up.

Here is the area where I grew up. I am behind an Amish couple.

My father has Palindromic Rheumatism, which is a rare form of rheumatoid arthritis. It is difficult to treat due to the low number of people diagnosed. The medications my father takes to control his rheumatism make his skin fragile, which means that a bump or scrape becomes a major problem. Fragile skin is prone to skin tears, which look like bruises because they are an injury below the surface of the skin.

One night while my parents and I were talking, I brought out a jar of the lotion I have been making in my kitchen. Minnesota winters have been particularly rough on my skin the past couple of years, which results in me being dry and itchy. This is why I started making my own laundry detergent, which helped control some of the dryness and itch. Out of curiosity I also started making my own lotion, which dramatically improved the overall health of my skin. Dryness and itch vanished after using it for a few weeks.

When I showed my lotion to my parents, my father scooped a bit out with his finger and rubbed it on a skin tear that had broken through to the surface. I didn’t think anything of it until a couple of days later when he told me that the lotion seemed to help his skin. I looked at where his wound had been, and it actually looked a lot better. He asked me how difficult it was to make my lotion, and I said not very. After some internet research and a few test batches I had a recipe that turned out really well. I have been using that recipe ever since, and I told my parents I would type it up for them since up until now I’ve been carrying it around in my head.

Here is the recipe I use for making lotion. I have found that mine turns out differently each time, but overall the consistency is the same.

Lotion

Ingredients:

  • Cocoa Butter
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Vitamin E Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Beeswax
  • Aloe Vera Gel
  • Sterile Water (Purchase from grocery or boil tap water)
  • Essential Oils, such as Lavender, Peppermint, Bergamot

Cocoa butter, coconut oil and beeswax are solids at room temperature.  Everything else is a liquid.

The proportions to remember are

  • 2 parts liquid oil (grapeseed oil)
  • 1 part solid oil (coconut oil)
  • 1 part beeswax

Recipe

  • In a double boiler, melt ¬ľ cup coconut oil and ¬ľ cup beeswax. Then mix in ¬Ĺ cup grapeseed oil and 1 tsp Vitamin E oil. Add a few chunks (maybe ¬ľ cup) cocoa butter and stir just until melted. If the cocoa butter overheats it will be grainy in the lotion. When you remove the oils from the heat, stir in a few drops of essential oil if you want a scent.
  • Transfer the oils to a blender container. Put the blender container in the refrigerator, or outside if it‚Äôs winter. Let the oils cool until they begin to solidify. The color will go from clear to opaque.
  • When the oils have cooled, begin blending them on the speed you would use to make a smoothie or whip cream. As you blend the oils, add 2 tbsp of aloe vera gel.
  • After blending in the aloe vera, begin pouring water in slowly until the lotion is the consistency you want. Since it will still be warm, I coat some of the back of a spoon and let it cool to see what it will be like when it‚Äôs finished.
  • Pour the lotion into a sterile container, such as a jelly¬† jar, and leave the lid off to let it cool completely.
  • Your lotion will keep for a few weeks at room temperature or for about three months in the refrigerator. Throw it out if you see mold, the lotion separates into oil/water phases, or it smells or looks strange.
  • Here is what the lotion should look like:
The finished product.

The finished product.

You can substitute different oils. Here are some options:

  • Shea butter instead of cocoa butter. Shea butter will be greasier than cocoa butter, so I use shea butter in the winter and cocoa butter in the summer. Cocoa butter makes the lotion smell like chocolate.
  • Sweet almond oil or olive oil instead of grapeseed oil. Almond oil will be a little greasier than grapeseed oil, and I usually do not use olive oil since it has a strong scent.
  • Aloe vera is a gumming agent and is an optional ingredient. It helps reduce inflammation in the skin and helps with the consistency of the lotion.

Essential oils that reduce inflammation include:

  • Bergamot
  • Cinnamon Bark
  • Eucalyptus
  • Rose
  • Thyme
  • Lemongrass
  • Peppermint

Essential oils that help with wounds include

  • Lavender
  • Geranium
  • Tea Tree
  • Cypress

If you have problems finding the ingredients, I usually purchase mine online from Amazon.com. I hope you enjoy your lotion as much as we do!