"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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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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The Path By The Lake

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth.

~ Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken

One of my friends lives his life so fall off the beaten path it’s not even funny. He grew up in Mexico City, made his way up to the United States as a young man, somehow ended up in Minnesota, married his long-time girlfriend when she lost her job and needed health insurance, and traveled to Kazakhstan¬†after seeing the movie “Borat” and managed to get himself arrested. Where do I manage to meet these people? Work, of course. I ended up on a project that he was the Human Factor Specialist for, and we eventually discovered that I fit into his definition of friend. One afternoon he and his wife taught me how to make tomatillo sauce and gazpacho while downing cups of espresso (it can be done, however shakily from the caffeine), and we have stayed in touch off and on over the years. This man and his wife share common interests in traveling all over the world and meeting all sorts of people, which is what drew them together in the first place. Their home, which is a mansion on Summit Avenue in St. Paul, contains statues, skeletons, photographs, masks, and other souvenirs from their trips and also serves as a landing ground for a constant stream of international students. Each year on Grand Old Day, a street festival that most of St. Paul turns out for, they host a picnic in their back yard. This year it looked like this, and it was as fun as it looks:

Fun lives here.

People who diverge from what most of American society considers normal tend to really stand out. The coolest ones are the people, who like my married friend couple, are simply being true to themselves rather than deliberately trying to be noticed. I was talking to one of my coworkers yesterday about my recent career decision to move into Project Management, which is an unconventional decision for where I am in my company. The part I work in has two career paths: Technical and Managerial. As my coworker pointed out, when I was given the option of either staying on the technical career path or moving into a management position, I chose a path that went straight down between the two. I am forging new ground in my department, making my own way by doing what I have discovered I do well, and I am being met with opposition. Fortunately a solution exists. The product development parts of my company looooove Project Managers, so I am meeting with people in those groups to let them know my interest in moving over. My manager is supportive but sad to see me looking elsewhere because she loves having someone to manage her technology platforms, but she knows that I need to take the next step in my career.

The way I discovered my path-off-the-beaten-path was a simple but stretched out process. The more projects I work on at my company, the more I discover where I function best on a team. I also meet more people, and in meeting more people I become exposed to more opportunities. Very few of these opportunities are handed to me on a silver platter. What usually happens is that I notice something that other people either pass up or don’t fully investigate. I, being naturally curious, figure what is the worst that will happen and, once again, choose to deviate from the norm.

Where does this path lead to?

Where does this path lead?

Yesterday afternoon I decided to take some photos of the lake by my house when I got home from work. We have had a lot of rain in the Twin Cities, and this was a rare sunny afternoon. I started out by walking along my running route and came to a path built into the side of a small hill. I have passed this path hundreds of times before but never stopped to check it out. When I reached the top, I saw that someone had set up a bench in memory of one of their loved ones. When I sat on the bench, I had a beautiful view of the lake. I could have sat for hours in this silent, hidden, isolated spot that was literally across the street from my house.

The secluded spot I found.

The secluded spot I found.

Whomever the bench was dedicated to must have loved looking at the lake. I know I do. That is why I run by it. Right now it is covered in lily pads. Soon it will be filled with loons who call their loopy calls to each other when the sun is setting. In the fall it will be surrounded by trees with leaves of all colors, and in the winter it will be a sheet of ice. Taking the little path up the hill gave me a new view of the lake I see and adore every day. I had the opportunity to see it through someone else’s eyes, and the view was breathtaking. I was thankful for the fresh perspective and glad that I went off the path I already knew so well. It made me think that exploring new paths in life, wherever they may be, should be an adventure. You never know what you will find awaiting you, and it may be more wonderful than you imagined.

Here is what the lake looks like when you are sitting on the bench.

DSCN0532

I mentioned recipes for gazpacho and tomatillo sauce. Here they are, both perfect for a hot summer’s day. We usually cook chicken in the tomatillo sauce, and gazpacho is meant to be served chilled with toasted bread or croutons.

Gazpacho

  • 2 cups stale bread
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 pounds tomatoes
  • One cucumber
  • One jalape√Īo pepper
  • One green pepper
  • One onion
  • Red wine vinegar
  • ¬Ĺ¬†cup olive oil
  • One cup cold water, plus more for soaking

Cover the bread with water to soak. While bread is soaking, saute the garlic and onions in a little bit of olive oil. Transfer garlic and onions to a blender. Squeeze excess water from bread and put this in the blender too. Add tomatoes, cucumber, peppers, and vinegar. Process until smooth. Add olive oil in a slow stream while the processor is running until you make an emulsion. Add the cold water until the gazpacho reaches the consistency you want. Season with salt and pepper. Chill until ready to serve.

Tomatillo Sauce

  • 3 lbs tomatillos, cut into quarters
  • 9 serrano chiles
  • One onion
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • ¬Ĺ¬†cup cilantro
  • 1 tbsp. lime juice
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • Salt

Sauté onion and garlic in large saucepan in olive oil until soft. Stir in quartered tomatillos, chiles, and one cup water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until tomatillos are softened. Remove from heat and cool. Transfer mixture to blender, add cilantro, lime juice and blend until smooth. Add salt to taste.

Love Your Earth

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Everything on the earth has a purpose, every disease an herb to cure it, and every person a mission. ~ Mourning Dove Salish (Christine Quintasket), 1888-1936

Happy Earth Day! Here are some of my favorite photographs from Minnesota and beyond.

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Snowshoeing

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing. ~ William Butler Yeats

It’s a brand new year! Have you made your resolutions yet?

The Minnesota Gateway State Trail.

The Minnesota Gateway State Trail.

As part of my winter break last week, I spent some time snowshoeing on Minnesota’s Gateway State Trail. This trail runs approximately 18 miles from St. Paul to Pine Point Park, and it has both paved and unpaved portions. I live near the unpaved portion, so while I was out I shared my path with cross country skiers, riders on horseback, and hikers with puppies in tow who gleefully dove in and out of the snow. Tim, who has decided he does not like the cold this winter, stayed at home. I tried to convince him that once he gets moving, he won’t be cold, but he refused to budge out the front door.

Snowshoeing lends time for thought. The day actually was rather cold (near 0¬įF), but the sun was shining and, for the most part, the trail was deserted. Once I had my rhythm going and was into my hike, the white snow, blue sky, brown tree branches, and the complete silence put me into almost a meditative state. As I enjoyed the beautiful scenery around me, I thought about the past year and realized that a change had gradually occurred. Tim is functioning better than he ever has before.

This may not sound much, but Tim gaining maturity and independence has lifted an enormous weight from my heart. For years my time has been taken up in meetings with his school, his physicians, attempts at engaging him in extracurricular activities, and sometimes this made it difficult to even get in a full week at work. There would always be a day where I was out taking care of Tim, and sometimes if his school called I would need to ¬†take an unplanned afternoon off. During this past year, we haven’t had as much of this running around as before. I have had to do less banging on people’s doors to get my son help when he needs it, and he hasn’t needed as much help as before.

This affects our blog, too, because I set it up as a resource to help other parents who have children on the autism spectrum. I intended to write it from a parent’s perspective because, at least in my experience with Tim, as a parent of a child with special needs I am expected to be constantly supportive of all decisions made by educators and physicians on my son’s behalf. I am expected to always be cheerful, always be available at a moment’s notice, and to never, ever complain that I am tired or stressed or angry or heartbroken or just not wanting to deal with it today, “it” being everything that encompasses raising a child with extra challenges.

A lot of that is not here right now, though. Tim and I are in a time of harmony where everything is going well. I’ve been struggling to figure out what to write about because every entry would be the same: Tim’s doing great, and here are the resources that I’ve listed dozens of times before. I don’t want to bore my readers, so for now, with the new year, we’re going to change it up a bit. I may not always write about Tim, or about autism. The Twin Cities is a big place, and recently I’ve found some cool things to do that I’m not sure many other people know about, so sometimes I may write about what I do Outside Of Time With Tim. We also have a large proportion of international readers who may have never been to Minnesota (or the United States), so some entries may simply be about life here. We’ll see where our path takes us.

If you live in the Twin Cities and are interested in exploring the Gateway State Trail, here is a link¬†for a more information and a map from the Minnesota DNR’s website:

Happy New Year!