The Umbrella – A Creative Piece (Part II)

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(This is a continuation of The Umbrella – Part I)

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I trudged over dune after dune for what felt like an eternity when I finally saw something along the horizon. As I dragged my blistered and sunburned body toward the tiny spec in the distance, I came to realize that the tiny spec I was looking at was a house. A house, in the middle of the desert? Whatever. That’s where the lion’s tracks lead to and that’s where I was going. I had to get out of the heat.

The sun had begun setting by the time I reached the house’s entrance. The house looked like it had been abandoned for decades. What little paint that remained was peeling and fluttered in the breeze. The house’s windows were all broken or cracked, with the exception of one window above the garage. I walked up the porch steps, each one creaking under my steps, and reached for the front door’s handle. I turned the doorknob and the door violently swung open. Suddenly sand and dust whipped passed me into the home. The house was sucking me in, like a blackhole.

I used the door frame to push away from the vortex as hard as I could but I knew immediately that I was outmatched. I took a deep breathe and let go, entering the whirlpool, knowing this could be the last breath I ever take.

It wasn’t. Once inside of the door I heard nothing – complete silence. I waited a moment before building up enough nerve to open my eyes. I gasped. I was underwater. I gulped some air into my lungs and held my breath again. I held that air in my lungs for as long as possible, but my lungs began to burn and I had to take a breath. I choked and gasped for air. I could breath! Underwater. I took a deep breath. Yep, I was breathing!

I looked around. I was bobbing up and down in the middle of turquoise-colored water. I could see the surface above me, dusk’s light twinkling into the water. I moved in that direction. As I swam toward the surface, a school of fish circled around me and swam away, following the water’s current. A jellyfish came by and scooted within arm’s length of me and I swear a sea turtle nodded at me as if to say, “Sup bro.”

What the hell kind of drug did I take?

I reached the water’s surface and realized that I was near an island. I swam toward one of the sandy beaches. When I reached the island’s edge, I was exhausted. I laid on the warm sand and caught my breath. As I laid on my back watching the palm trees sway back and forth, I heard it. I heard the lion roar. That little bugger was HERE! I quickly remembered what brought me on this journey in the first place and jumped to my feet, heading in the direction the roar came from.

I dug my feet into the sandy floor and ran as fast as I could. I knew I wasn’t far behind. I was gaining on him. Little did I realize, I was only gaining on him because he had stopped.

I ran into a clearing and there he was, sitting in the distance. I slowed to a stop and observed for a moment. The lion’s golden fur swayed as he reached down and picked up the umbrella, which was now open. He stuck the umbrella into the ground so it stood straight up and slowly backed away. I realized then that there was another creature now in the shade of the umbrella, a lion cub.

I cautiously approached the lion family. When I was a few feet away, the large lion turned and looked at me then returned his gaze to the little lion cub who stretched and settled back into her nap. I stood next to the lion and watched. The scene was so peaceful. After the chaos of everything else, I felt serenity. As if by reflex, I leaned into the lion and he supported my weight. I could feel him breathe. In and out his body rose and fell, and with each breath I felt sleepier and sleepier. Exhaustion set in and before I knew it everything turned black.

I came to at my house, not in my bed, but at my front door, keys dangling in my hand. I looked down, I had my work bag around me. How did I get here? Was I here the entire time? I opened my door and stepped inside. I was home and honestly, that’s all I cared about.

So that’s my story. I had an umbrella, a lion stole it from me, and I experienced something that nobody will ever believe, but I know the truth.

Simply Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

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Sometimes a simple chocolate chip cookie is all I need to make everything right in the world again. There is something so warm and inviting about fresh, homemade chocolate chip cookies. I love the taste, the chew, and how intoxicating my home smells when I make cookies. Every step of the baking process (including the eating part!) is completely comforting to me, like being wrapped in a warm blanket fresh from the dryer. I will make these cookies, specifically this recipe, until the day I die.

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The thing I’ve learned through baking batch after batch of cookies, is that every cookie spawns from the same basis recipe. If you mix sugar, butter, flour, leaveners (etc.) you end up with some type of cookie. Some recipes I’ve tried result in puffy cookies, others are crispy, and some are just plain… well, plain.

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Personally I love a chewier, golden cookie and I’ve found the perfect ingredient to make that happen every.single.time – melted, brown butter. I’ve had the best luck achieving this by using melted butter and if you let the butter brown, your cookies will taste as if you added caramel to them. Sooooooo yummy! I think this cookie recipe is pretty darn perfect but I’m always open to other learning differen baking tips. Share some of your own cookie tips in the comments below!

Simply Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

Simply Delicious Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsalted butter
  • 3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 12-ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 360°F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Melt the butter in a light-colored saucepan over the lowest heat possible. Swirl the pan occasionally to ensure the butter is cooking evenly. The butter should begin to foam. The butter will progress from a light yellow-brown color to golden-tan then a dark, deep nutty brown. When you smell a nutty aroma, your butter is browned. Set aside.
  3. In a bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt with a whisk. Set aside. Pour the melted butter into a large bowl and whisk in the sugars until all lumps are gone. Add the eggs, one at a time, whisking until just combined. Stir in the vanilla. Use a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to stir in the dry ingredients until barely blended (do not over mix or you will have tough cookies!) Gently stir in the chocolate chunks.
  4. Refrigerate the dough for 5 minutes and then roll into 3 tablespoon balls and press each cookie into a bit of flaky sea salt. Arrange on the prepared pans leaving 3 inches between each cookie. Bake until the tops are cracked and lightly golden, 10-12 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Cool on the pan for 2 minutes, the move to a wire rack to cool completely.
http://foodiemcbooty.com/simply-delicious-chocolate-chip-cookies/

Recipe adapted from Seven Spoons and Cook’s Illustrated.

The Umbrella – A Creative Piece

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I can’t believe I made it back. I feel like it’s been so long since I was home, let alone sat in front of a computer. I feel like I was only away for a few minutes but I think I was away for much longer. Days? Weeks? Months? I’m not even sure. Time is confusing on the other side. Let me start at the beginning.

It was a beautiful August morning. The air was clean and crisp and smelled of dewy earth and sweet sunshine. The birds were happily chirping their morning greetings and there was just enough breeze to gently dry my freshly washed hair. I readied myself for work, grabbing an umbrella because the weatherman’s forecast predicted a chance of rain. I started along my commute when I noticed a large animal sauntering near the highway’s onramp. I slowed my vehicle to take a look at the creature. Holy donuts! The gentle giant was an AFRICAN LION! Seriously, like straight from the Lion King-type of lion.

(queue the Circle of Life song)

I immediately got out of my car (I forgot to put it into park so it ended up going into a ditch and spontaneously combusting, but that’s a story for another day) and bravely approached the lion. I was so curious! I was so lost in my thoughts that before I knew it, I was face-to-face with the beast. The lion stopped walking and sat in front of me. It’s head loomed above mine and I could feel it’s warm breath move my hair. I was taken aback from its beauty. The lion’s golden fur looked surprising soft and it’s main was fluffy and groomed. I wanted to touch him. I slowly reached out my hand and watched how he responded to me. He touched his big snout to my out-stretched palm and sniffed my hand. Stunned and afraid to move, I didn’t give any resistance when he grabbed the umbrella from under my arm, leaped up, and started running toward the woods nearby.

“Come back here, you!” I managed to yell and without a second thought, I ran into the woods after him.

I don’t remember what happened after that exactly. I do remember running for a long time, long enough that my lungs and muscles burned. I remember seeing flashes of his golden fur and followed as best as I could, but he was always ahead of me. Before I knew it, everything around me became hazy. The beams of light that fell through the treetops started flickering, almost as if the sun was dancing across the forest floor. I looked down at my hands and they appeared almost transparent, fading in and out right in front of my eyes. I felt the ground beneath my feet shift somehow and when I looked up, I was surround by vast dunes of sand. The lush forest I had just been in was gone and I found myself in a desert.

Describing this sandy abyss as, “hot,” is an understatement. I was immediately drenched in sweat (although all of the running didn’t help with that either). I had to find shade – quickly! I looked around. Where the hell did that damn lion go with my umbrella? I spotted large tracks in the sand and headed in that direction, unsure of what I would find next.

To be continued…

My Second Home

 

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For me, trees and water have always been a part of my soul.  The mountains, although glorious with their regal peaks and lush valleys, made me feel something completely different – almost as if being in the mountains sparked one side of my brain while old oak trees with outstretched branches and warm, running water tapped into another part of my brain.  Both places I consider home, but in different ways.

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I spent my first week back in the midwest rediscovering some of my favorite places.  The first, High Cliff State Park.  This park is the first place I camped, the first area where I scaled abandoned quarry walls, and the first place I can remember getting lost staring at sunsets over this lake. Two of my closest friends got married here and my (girl) soul mate and I swam under the stars here.  High Cliff and I go way back.

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Next, a few pals and I walked around downtown.  This is an area of town that is always changing, always buzzing.  There are many small gift shops, bakeries, restaurants, bars, and even a record store.  It’s an area that is the perfect size – it offers enough change so you don’t get bored but still host regular items so you know what to expect.

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And I of course had to walk around a park along the Fox River.  There is a magnificent dock at Lutz Park where families come to try their luck at catching Sunfish or Perch.  There were also many baby birds waddling about and trying to keep up with their parents as they swam from island to island.

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It’s a wonderful place to kick back and take in the sights and sounds of local wildlife.

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Even though I wouldn’t change my childhood for anything, sometimes I feel like I don’t belong here anymore – I simply just grew up here.  I’ll ask myself, “What am I doing?” and fear of the unknown sets in.  But then I remind myself that life always has a funny way of making everything make sense eventually.  No matter how dim things seem, there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.  At the end of the day, home is what I make it out to be.  Maybe I haven’t discovered where my physical home is yet, but Wisconsin will always be my “Second Home,” no matter where I end up.