When inspiration fails it pays to take a walk. Sometimes all you need are fresh views, fresh ideas, fresh air. Now, with summer on the way there’s even more to enjoy as the world begins to stir from hibernation. At times, I’m perfectly content to sit and watch the grass grow greener by the minute. There are two small trees visible from my apartment window and everyday they cast a little more shade. This freewrite came from my most recent expedition into the neighborhood on a chilly spring afternoon.
Nothing heralds warm weather like the chatter of thousands of birds in the sky, fluttering their wings among the leaves so that it seems like the blossoming trees themselves might take flight at any moment. I saw two robins playing soccer today. One of them had just attempted to score. The goalie was planted in front of a small net, the ball a short distance to his left. The owners of the ball and net had already turned in for the evening, no doubt having just been called inside to wash up for dinner. Still, the game continued as the two robins danced across the field. They were refereed by a blue bird who perched on a low hanging branch to one side, prepared to step in at the first sign of fowl play. However, today he was just a spectator like me. There was no unsportsmanlike conduct, just two robins playing soccer.
Have you ever had a meal so perfectly cooked, seasoned and displayed that you knew your life would never be the same? I remember the burger that changed my life. I was 21 years old, in the middle of my metallurgical internship in the steel mill where I was later hired full time. This was my first time in Indiana and the longest I’d ever been away from my home in Colorado but one of my high school friends came to visit and together we sampled the sites and flavors of the area, starting at the Chesterton European Market and ending at the Industrial Revolution Eatery and Grille after an afternoon touring used bookstores and lazing on the beach at Lake Michigan. With sand still grinding between my toes and hair damp from the lake, I bit into the medium rare masterpiece that forever altered my appreciation for burgers. It was an item on the specials menu and the words “mac and cheese paddy” were in the title. What a truly revolutionary stroke of genius and one that I couldn’t resist.
Since then, I’ve had the chance to explore many more culinary wonders of Indiana. When it comes to burgers there is no shortage of creativity here. Mac and cheese is just one of the toppings which has become a staple to the region. One of my current favorites comes from the Burgerhaus in Valpo and is layered with bacon, smoked Gouda and a fried egg. Every time my parents come to visit we need to clear our dinner schedule for at least one night during their stay because, according to my dad, “the best burgers he’s ever tasted” can only be found at the Burgerhaus. When was the last time a meal shook your reality with the first bite? Share your favorite dinner spots in the comments below.
In an effort to improve my creative writing skills I have recently become an avid reader. I’ve always loved books. My sister and I grew up being read legends of Middle Earth and the grim deeds of the Grimms’ Fairy Tales. These instilled in both of us a passion for the written word but often finding time to actually read has taken a backseat to other more pressing things.
However, having graduated and now enjoying the freedom that spare time brings, I have been plowing through the stories on my bookshelf, most recently Did You Ever Have a Family by Bill Clegg. I’m a sucker for happy endings. I like to know that the peculiar and remarkable people in those stories end up where they’re supposed to be and my love and attention as a reader was not wasted on a lost cause. The last three pages can make or break any book for me. There were some stories in which I was completely enthralled until the last two paragraphs that I wish more than anything I could unread. Better yet, I wish they could be unwritten instead of left out in the open to dry up what would have been a fantastic tale.
There were other stories that I felt might have been oversold by the people who recommended them. Bill Clegg’s novel was one of them. I clung to my skepticism through every unhappy sentence. However, when I arrived at the last page, I had no choice but to let it go because there was no ending that could have better completed this masterpiece. There’s always a special connection to stories like that, best friends that won you over against all odds. Those are relationships that stay with you.
This is a friendly reminder to anyone with a rough week ahead of them that you can handle whatever life throws at you. I, like many people, often find myself falling into the trap of worrying about things that are completely out of my control. I’m a perfectionist and can occasionally become stuck on projects among all facets of my life when a good enough job would suffice. It’s hard to step away when something seems imperfect but that’s what I have to remind myself to do on a regular basis. Completion is usually more important than perfection.
For all the constant worriers and overthinkers like me, cut yourself a break this morning. Allow yourself a few minutes to savor your coffee and watch the sunrise. Even if you’re working from home, let your brain wake up before you plop in front of your computer to begin your day. Life is full of challenges everyday but these are so much easier to face when you get your week started on the right foot with the right attitude. Happy Monday!
I’ve made so many new friends during my time in Indiana working in the steel industry but sometimes you just need a girls’ night with your closest gal pals. My mom and my sister were more than happy to oblige and we all marked our calendars. It took a little creativity since we are separated by over one thousand miles and everyone is social distancing. Therefore, one Sunday evening we all got together for our first ever virtual girls’ night. We shared a beer over a Zoom conference call while we all watched the same chick flick and gave ourselves manicures. It required a bit of coordination and multiple computers but was a fantastic way to spend a few hours with family.
Even though it was a girls’ night and we enjoyed free reign for our movie selection, we were joined by my dad and my sister’s housemates. Two of the boys even consented to have their nails done and we all looked fabulous by the time the evening was over. It was nice to do something together, even something as simple as watching a movie and painting our nails. Although it’s much easier to share a couch and a TV, hanging out with friends is far from impossible in the world we live in. What are some of your favorite memories with your gal pals?
What’s your favorite sugary treat? Haribo gummy bears are a staple in my family. These are the perfect stocking stuffer at Christmas time and make an excellent hiking snack when out on the trails. However, it wasn’t until I moved to Indiana that I began to broaden my horizons when it came to these gummy delights. A coworker once mentioned the gummy bear factory in Merrillville and I knew I had to go there. I felt like I’d won a golden ticket the first time my mom and I walked into Albanese. In addition to their famous gummy bears, they also make a huge variety of other sweets that are bound to make your mouth water.
A short self-guided tour walks visitors past a viewing window where they can see fresh gummy bears in the making. My mom and I were a little sad at not to be able to actually enter the factory to see the process up close but we still thoroughly enjoyed our Albanese adventure. It’s impossible not to have a fantastic time when sampling candy of every shape, size and flavor. We were just like two kids in a candy store (we fit right in with the sea of elementary schoolers with their parents). It’s also impossible to leave without buying anything. We couldn’t resist loading up on gummy bears, both regular and sour ones, as well as some chocolate truffles. I will always love finding our traditional German Haribo gummy bears in my Christmas stocking. However, Albanese is definitely worth a visit and my go to for a treat when touring the trails at the Indiana Dunes.
For the first few months of my new life in Valparaiso I had no idea who Orville Redenbacher was. It wasn’t until my parents came to stay and we visited Orville’s statue in downtown Valpo that my mom reminded me of the significance of Mr. Redenbacher. He’s the popcorn guy! Suddenly the annual Popcorn Fest that I attended in Valpo over the summer made sense.
Most are familiar with the Gourmet Popping Corn for which Orville is famous. However, what many people don’t know is that Orville was born in Brazil, that is Brazil, IN, situated 55 miles west of Indianapolis. Growing up on his father’s farm Orville developed an interest in popcorn from a young age. He attended Purdue University where he became fascinated by hybrid experimentation and his dream of a popcorn empire was born. This is also where he met his partner, Charlie Bowman. Today Orville remains a local celebrity in Valparaiso and visitors can snap a photo with him in the Central Park Plaza.
This photo was taken on one of my first outdoor runs through the neighborhood this year at about seven o’clock in the evening as it was some of the first sunshine of the season. Watching this beautiful sunset it felt like the universe was saying “welcome to the neighborhood,” especially after months of nothing but grey cloud cover. Despite a deep love of hiking and the great outdoors, my work schedule and a slew of extracurricular activities made it difficult to find time to actually be outside.
I’m glad I chose this evening to reintroduce myself to the fresh air. While I can’t wait to completely immerse myself in nature with a good hike, on some days it makes more sense to enjoy a short run close to home. It’s nice to be reminded every now and then that you don’t always have to go hunting for new trails in order to be refreshed by the great outdoors. Sometimes the sights right in your backyard can be just as magical.
This free write was the product of some healthy boredom one evening when I was sitting in my apartment with the windows flung open wide, savoring the sounds and smells that drifted in. For nearly as long as I can remember, my family has vacationed to Utah for weekend camping trips and there are a few quiet moments throughout the day that always call back good memories like this one.
The earthy scent of evening dew pushed its way through the balcony screen door on a stiff clean late March breeze. The night was black outside her windows and the wet pavement shimmered with the reflected light of streetlamps. Traffic on the next street quietly droned in harmony with a gentle choir of crickets. The world was soft, dampened yet totally sharp, the flutter of each individual leaf on the sidewalk crackling loud and clear in the still black.
It reminded her of campfires and early morning expeditions into the desert jungle gym surrounding her family’s campsite. It reminded her of mosquito bites and sunburns and orange sand between her toes when she stepped out of her hiking boots. She felt like if she leaned out over her balcony railing and looked straight up she might see a spray of sparkles in the inky sky that she knew with absolute certainty was the Milky Way. She was too close to Chicago to see anything in the night sky but if she closed her eyes and breathed in that cool, sweet air, she could almost see it.
She could see her family, burrowed into low camp chairs beneath those stars. They sang cowboy songs and laughed at her dad’s cookie monster impression, tears of mirth streaming from their eyes. In that quiet, wet, dark air she felt home surround her and fill her up. Her heart felt ten pounds lighter and ten pounds heavier all at once as she sat curled up on her sofa and let herself miss home.
Forget the rooster cock-a-doodle-doing at the crack of dawn to make sure you’re up and functional before the sun even begins to peek it’s face over the horizon. That kind of wake up call is difficult to come by on the third floor of an apartment building in the middle of town. Nevertheless, nature has other means of ensuring you’re wide awake and ready to start your day at 5:30am such as a low, loud flyby from your resident gander and his flock. Nothing like a throaty honk blaring through your open window with all the enthusiasm of a New York taxi driver in a traffic jam to get you up on the right side of the bed.
With the weather warming up, I’m looking forward to longer days when I will be able to wake up with daylight filtering through the blinds. However, I was not anticipating such noisy neighbors to be moving into the pond just across the road. But like the little kids telling their parents not to let go as they try out their shiny new bicycles for the very first time, the geese are a welcome omen of lazy summer days and long hikes soon to come, despite their early morning rituals.