Gochujang and Bibimbap, Vermont-style

In Brattleboro, Vermont, we are lucky enough to have our own Korean restaurant, the Shin La. Shin La does NOT serve fast food. You will find a place to sit on your own (choose one of the intimate high-backed booths!), place your order when your server has time, and then... be patient. But it will be worth it. The food is delicious. They also have 20-ounce cans of Sapporo to keep you happy as you wait.

Shin La is the perfect place to catch up with someone special, have hilarious conversations with your BFFs, or dine alone—catch up with yourself, write in your journal, and eat. The latter is something I did last Christmas—I ate at Shin La by myself. Maybe that sounds like boring news, but it was a revelation. Full story: the weekend after Christmas, the rest of my family went to visit relatives in another state, leaving me home alone. I decided that being on my own was a behavioral experiment. If I observed myself carefully, what would I find that I got up to? Would I go to the movies by myself? Would I roust out some friends and go dancing? Would I spend hours on the phone? Would I randomly drive to the mall or an art museum or a bluegrass show? It turns out that, when left to my own devices, my default for comfort and rejuvenation is lunch at Shin La. Specifically, my default comfort food is an order of Bibimbap.

Bibimbap at Shin La,  Brattleboro, Vermont

My Bibimbap was lovely. And I could not forget it. COULD NOT. My taste-sense would keep tripping merrily back to that flavor. I'd randomly think, "Wouldn't it be nice to have rice and veggies and sprouts and... whatever that FLAVOR was? That red-sauce-dollop in the middle? What WAS that stuff?"

Thanks to Google, I found out. That amazing red stuff in my Bibimbap is Gochujang. I chant the word around the house: "Gochujang, Gochujang, Gochujang, Gochujang!" I make up songs where that word is 100% of the lyrics. And I ordered Gochujang from my best retailer friend, Amazon.

It is spicy! It is sweet! It is sticky! Gochujang is pretty much the perfect condiment for white rice, for these 3 reasons. I'm sure this is a Korean travesty, but I have started relying on Gochujang as the basis for basically any rice-vegetable-bowl dinner. I call these bowls Bibimbap, Vermont-Style.

This Bibimbap, Vermont-style is sautéed bok choi and purple carrot with leftover pulled chicken, over rice with Gochujang.

This Bibimbap, Vermont-style is sautéed baby bok choi with sautéed tofu and a soft egg over rice with Gochujang.

Basic elements for Bibimbap, Vermont-style:
  • cooked white rice
  • GOCHUJANG--I got Sunchang brand from Amazon
  • protein—something that you've fried/refried with ginger and/or soy sauce and/or sesame oil. Soft egg, semi-firm tofu, leftover chicken that's been pulled, pork stirfry pieces, usw.
  • veggies—I like something green and something not
  • sprouts?!—I wish I could find meaty soy sprouts like Shin La uses, but have not yet
Have you heard of Gochujang already? According to Bon Appetit it's the latest hot sauce trend!

6 Quick Tips for a Happy Marriage

I am no expert here. But I do know that I've been married for 11 years, and my spouse is still the best thing ever. I have learned a few things, and I'm sure there is lots more to know. Here is a little of what I have gathered so far, in a handy 6-point list.
  1. Make time. When do the two of you take time to be the two of you? For us, the occasional date night is the best way to make time. We find a babysitter, go to a favorite restaurant, sit at the bar, chat with each other and friends who pass by, and try to laugh as much as possible.
  2. Be polite. "Please" and "thank you" aren't just for work emails and new acquaintances. Use these words at home, and often! Saying thank you for doing the dishes or handling a problem is one of the simplest ways to be respectful and nice to someone who has seen you at your best... and your worst.
  3. Kiss & hug. Do you holler "byeeee" before leaving the house, and hear the faint reply as you walk out the door? Take the few extra seconds to seek out your partner in person and give them a kiss. Or when you're together in the kitchen, pause for a no-reason hug. Life is short. Let's be CLOSE in the time that we have.
  4. Have meetings. Being married is a business partnership. We have a monthly budget meeting where we go over our bank balance, pay bills together, and look at the calendar for the month ahead. Lately we've been talking about setting up our wills, refinancing the mortgage, and paying off debt faster. We don't always DO these things, but at least we talk about them.
  5. You do you. By this I mean: still be your own people. Have individual interests. Have your own thoughts. Pursue reasonable hobbies and passions, and let your spouse do the same. My passion is running--it takes me to my happy place and gives me time for me. My husband's passion is film. We give each other space and encouragement to do these things, and try to accept each other's peculiarities.
  6. Surprise yourselves! Be spontaneous! Take a day off together and go outlet shopping. Buy each other little presents. Be open to last minute changes. Grab opportunities as they come. Bring home that bouquet.
What would you add as a quick tip? I think being in a committed relationship, whether "married" or whatever you call it, is rare and fascinating, even though so many people do it. I am so lucky that there is somebody who likes me for me, and I like him for him too! A lot!

Back Into the Woods

This summer I've been doing something different with my running—I'm training almost exclusively on trails. No more 12-mile out-and-backs on bright, baking roads. No more level pounding on uniform surfaces. Instead, I'm now constantly alert to what's 5-10 feet in front of me: checking for obstacles and angles, inadvertently using different large and small muscles with every foot placement, and always dealing with "terrain," i.e. uphills and downhills. I'm in the shade and feeling cool(ish) and adventurous.

Trail running is hard. Trail running is slow. And trail running makes me feel happy. Why happy? I've been operating on a woods deficit for many years. Being in the woods, especially the woods of the northeastern United States, is my happy place. In high school I'd take long bike rides and just go sit in random patches of woods. It was quiet and dappled, and seemed full of possibility and peace. Being there was a necessity. When I moved to a city for college, then started in the office-y world of grownup work, I'd still try to spend some time in the woods when I could (or if not, a cemetery would do), but it wasn't easy. Moving to Vermont helped, but by then making time for the woods was no longer part of my PRACTICE.

This photo is taken from one of my favorite trails, looking through the woods to the interstate. When you're driving at 72mph you have no idea there's a tranquil trail just metres away. This thrills me for some reason.

Trail running has brought back my habit of seeking woods. I run anyway, but I can't believe it took me this long to figure out that "trail running" equals being in the woods. All these years later, it turns out to be one of the most natural and pleasant things that I can do for myself. And this summer, I have logged hours and hours on the trails. I am in love!

That first sentence used the word "training" like I'm up to something. That's true... I have a goal in mind. Since reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall I've gotten a little obsessed with ultrarunning. I switched my magazine subscriptions from Runner's World to Trail Runner and from The New Yorker to Ultrarunning. Endurance running on trails fascinates me. I pay a lot of attention to The Ginger Runner and twitter hashtags like #ws100 and #bm100. Of course, I can barely run for over 3 hours before all of the bones from my pelvis on down start to hurt.

But anyway... I signed up for a 6-hour endurance race that happens in less than a week. It seems like a perfect start to ultrarunning (anything over the marathon distance of 26.2 miles) because I can stop at any time and be close to safety and sanity. The course is a 2.2 mile loop and I can run it as many... or as few... times as I want in the span of 6 hours. So it's all up to me. Will I be able to reach my A goal of 13 loops (26.4 miles)? My B goal of just keeping moving for 5 hours, which is over an hour longer than I've ever moved before? (I say "move" because part of trail running involves power walking on difficult bits--another reason to love it.) Or C goal of running a 25k, basically anything over 15.53 miles? I would be super happy with any of these. Really really happy!

I'll let you know how it goes, rain or shine!

Have you rediscovered any old or deep-seated loves this year? 2015 seems to be working out pretty well so far! TOUCH WOOD.

Maine 2015, with Lobster Rolls

We are becoming "Maine summer people"! This is the third summer in a row that we've spent time in the great state of Maine. In 2013 we went to Old Orchard Beach at the end of the season. In 2014 we went to Wells Beach for a quick August weekend. This year we rented a house in Woolwich with some other family members. Woolwich is not a beach town, but we liked the area a lot: less touristy, more maritime history. I wrote up a review of the place where we stayed, but I'm not sure if I should post it or not. Do you think the review should include the fact that the home did not have a shower? It's true, but it sounds negative and I don't want to give a bad review because I know the owners read it and they were really nice. Maybe I could subtract one star and not mention the shower thing? Like this:

We stayed at this lovely old home near Bath for a long weekend with family members from Canada (it was a good halfway point for meeting up). The farm has a magical quality to it; staying there felt like going back in time. It seems a rare opportunity to get to stay in a spot that has been in a family for so long, and there is clearly a lot of history and Maine lore to bask in if you so choose! We loved that the house was packed with books and games. There is a nice patio area with umbrella, chairs and chaise, there was a croquet set, a kayak, a grill. We spent a lot of time in the "shed" where we ate meals and played games and chatted in the evenings. The shed is an attached structure with a screened side that looks across a meadow to the water of the bay, and we were continually seeing deer in the meadow. Very tranquil. The evenings were super quiet and peaceful... No lights except for fireflies, no sound except for Route 1 far in the distance. During the day we made excursions in the area--one day to the beach at Reid State Park on Georgetown island (at the owner's suggestion), another day we went to the Bath Farmer's Market followed by the Freeport outlets. The house was a good fit for our needs since we have 2 kids that could use the room with twin beds, plus a couple and two more individuals took up the remaining 3 rooms. The kitchen was well appointed (handwash dishes) and we did a lot of cooking. A large coffee maker was also very welcome!
One goal on this trip was to eat as many lobster rolls as possible. This turned out to be three.

My first and last rolls were from the same place near Yarmouth, which I found by using Yelp. It's called Days Take-out and we loved it. We stopped there on our way north on Day 1, and stopped again on our way home on Day 4.

I also had a lobster roll in the town of Five Islands on Georgetown Island. This got the most points for ambiance because the Five Islands Lobster Company is located on a working pier. As we sat at our picnic table waiting for our number to be called, a pickup truck backed down the pier and loaded a bunch of lobster traps onto a small boat, which then headed off to sea. Soooo lobster-y.

This was the bay seen from the property where we were staying.

No beach here, but you could wander down to the water and commune with the seagrass and seaweed.

Another view of the water. Tiny wild blueberries were growing in the foreground.

Maine still life...

Feta Spread-a

Earlier this month we visited the Saturday Farmer's market in Bath, Maine. It was a rainy morning. The vendors were set up along the sidewalk by a park on the banks of the Kennebec River. Most had tents, and we ducked from tent to tent looking at all the wares--meats, honey, produce, cheese, bread. We planned to make a large green salad with sliced chicken for dinner that evening, and found everything we'd need including lofty heads of lettuce and some locally raised chicken. The smallest member of our party also sampled a feta spread from the goat cheese vendor, and insisted that we buy a container. We put our haul into a cooler and went about our day (visiting outlets in Freeport).

That evening we made our salad and broke out the feta spread. We dipped in cucumber coins--it was incredible! The label lists just 4 ingredients, but the main point is that this spread is laden with garlic, and it walloped our delighted tastebuds. Our smallest member said we must remember the ingredients so we could make our own version at home. So we did!
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 T chopped fresh oregano (or 1 t dried)
  • 2-4 cloves crushed garlic

  1. If your feta was stored in water, let it drain for a few minutes.
  2. Combine all ingredients.
  3. Chill for at least 2 hours so flavors can mix.
  4. Serve! Nice with sliced vegetables or spread on a crusty bread (try olive bread!)

Salty snack! Tamari-Toasted Sunflower Seeds

I am a salty snack person. I always have been. As a kid I could barely consume my Halloween candy over the course of months, but I'd buy pretzel-cheese Combos with my allowance money and devour them on the 3-block walk home. My favorite childhood snack was a block of New York State Cheddar and a sleeve of Stoned Wheat Thins. Slice cheese, arrange on cracker, eat, repeat. Supremely satisfying.

In my 20s, I worked on the Appalachian Trail for several summers, and during one stint the crew coordinator laid in a bunch of snacks for us--all candy. I begged for just one thing that was crunchy and salty instead. She got me saltines. Perfect!

In the last few years, particularly since my Paleo stint, my salty-crunchy tastes have become laser-focused on cheesy crackers. Whether bunny shaped, fish shaped, or in small neat squares, cheesy crackers are my joy and my downfall. If I manage to avoid them all day, I WILL find and consume them late at night. They are so delicious!

But wait. Is there a healthy alternative to all of this processed savory delight? From time to time I remember that there is: tamari-toasted sunflower seeds like my mom used to make for party-finger-food. These little loves may be bursting with salt, but at least they don't contain white flour, right? Here's my easy recipe... 2 ingredients!

  • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds, hulled
  • 2 T Tamari (soy sauce is also fine)

  1. On medium heat, preheat a reliable flat pan or shallow skillet until you can feel the heat when you hold your hand about an inch above it.

  2. Pour in the sunflower seeds and start to gently stir and scrape them about. (I use a wooden rice paddle for this.) The goal is to leave no one seed on the bottom for too long.

  3. Keep gently stirring and scraping (some brief pauses are ok) as the seeds start to turn slightly golden. If they seem to be browning too quickly, turn the heat down. Be gentle!

  4. After 3-5 minutes (or more if you're being very cautious with the heat), most seeds should be golden and a few may be much darker. That's fine. The seeds have to be as toasted as you want at this point, because they don't cook much more in the remaining steps. 

  5. Pour a good glug of tamari over all the seeds in a circular motion. Your goal is to wet every seed. Then stir to help distribute the tamari among the seeds.

  6. With the heat still on, keep stirring and scraping the seeds as before. Things will get sticky because of the tamari. That is ok!

  7. Keep the seeds moving for another 30 seconds or more until the coating of tamari seems to have mostly dried. Some tamari will stick to the bottom of the pan--also OK. You want the seeds looking matte rather than glossy and wet.

  8. Pour the toasted seeds on a plate to cool.

  9. After cooling, if you haven't already eaten them all, store in a jar for your salty snack purposes!

So what about you? If you were offered sweets or salty-crunchy, which would you pick first?

Brattleboro is Foodie Heaven

Hello friends! I hope you are having an amazing May so far! I've been eating so much super food around here that I want to share it with the world. Three highlights just from the past few days:

One, I can't stop thinking about this pulled pork plate at Hazel. It comes with a choice of two sides--I got the collards (which also have wonderful pork bits worked in) and fries. It was SO much food and so satisfying. Hazel also has a good beer list. It's fairly new and this was my first visit. They specialize in pizza and BBQ and have rejuvenated an excellent location that previously had not been doing well. I'm going to add Hazel to my Brattleboro list, and I want to get back there very soon!

Hazel: Pulled pork, collards, fries on top, sample of chalkboard wall art below

Two, was another amazing brunch at our fast favorite duo restaurant. Also a newer establishment, this is my third brunch at duo, and each has been a special occasion (two birthdays, and this time was an engagement celebration). Duo does brunch so well. They totally get the leisurely pace of brunch, the need for coffee that is bottomless and plenty, and their crispy potatoes are perfectly tender-crisp-crunchity-amazing. Go there for the potatoes alone, really! The menu does change frequently, there's always something fresh alongside the favorites! We were a large table of 11 guests so I ran around snapping photos of some of the selections...

Clockwise from top right: Pulled chicken slider, the "Sweet Sunday" which is poached eggs over greens
and mushrooms with crispy potatoes, the "Zippy Cake" which is poached eggs over
a delightful pork-sage-sausage grit cake, and the "Brisket Crock."

Three, Curtis' BBQ in Putney is always a messy, sticky, amazingly delicious treat. This place is rightfully famous, and 'round here in Vermont we consider it our authentic barbecue that we'd put up against any in the country. The menu is pretty simple--you're looking at some combo of ribs, chicken, and/or baked potato. I'm not a ribs person (other family members mock me for this), so I usually get a loaded baked potato. This super-stuffed pulled-chicken version was perfection. Read my 2009 thoughts about Curtis' here. We also were charmed by Curtis' 3 dogs, one dachshund and two dachshund-ish. CUTE.

What have you eaten lately that delighted you? Is the month of May like the best thing ever?

Mother's Day Half Marathon Race Report

"Why do I do this to myself?" I thought. "I want to stop. I gotta stop. I can't stop. I want to stop, but then it will go on even longer. Gotta. Keep. Running. This. Sucks."

I had already run 10 miles. It was 9:30am on Mother's Day morning, and already 90 degrees and super humid. We had been running in almost complete sun for the last 5 miles. At each water stop, I started taking not one but two cups of water from the wonderful volunteers—one to drink and one to pour on my head. The occasion for the anguish? The 5th annual Western Mass Mother's Day Half Marathon, same local and awesome race that I ran this time last year.

This is my third half marathon. Each time I run the distance, I make it a little further along before the inner doubter starts to scream in my head. Each time I make a more organized and slightly more viable plan, and each time it works well enough to get me a few miles further down the road. But Sunday was not the day I conquered the half marathon. Sunday was the day I got close enough to finishing in comfort that I'm intrigued to TRY AGAIN.

Here's the rundown, for my own reference if nothing else:

5:30 AM: Up for coffee, Ezekiel muffin with almond butter and jelly, and bathroom use. My light-sleeping son joined me around 6am, which was unexpected but nice.

6:26 AM: My crew showed up to take me to the race and support my efforts! Thanks mom!!!

7:15 AM: Arrive, apply sunscreen, pick up my race bib, more bathroom use.

7:55 AM: The national anthem is sung. It always makes me a little weepy.

8:00 AM: We begin!

Miles 0-3: My plan was to stick to a 9:30 pace to warm up. SLOW. I was fairly successful--there were some downhills where I went faster, but I decided that was allowed. 9:42, 9:14, 9:29.

Miles 4-5: Speeding up a tiny bit—aiming for 9:09, which is the pace that would get me a 2-hour finish if I ran it for every mile. 9:09, 9:13.

Mile 6: The only major hill (which is short but steep) is in this mile, so I consider 9:31 great for this split.

Mile 7: I'm halfway done and slowly starting to realize it's getting hot. I also start to purposely speed up. I'm still basically keeping up with the same group of people. I had a gnawing feeling in my tummy, like too much coffee and not enough food, and easily solved it with a dried fruit ball washed down with lots of water. Better! 9:06.

Miles 8-11: I pull out my secret weapon, my ipod loaded with a pumping RACE DAY playlist. I feel amazing. I start sailing past other runners. This works for an amazingly long time. 9:01, 8:55, 8:45, 8:53.

Miles 12-13: Kachunk, kachunk! That's the sound of the wheels falling off the bus. I am suddenly so very drained, tired and overheated. My brain seems to scramble in an instant. A guy I passed recently passes me again. The miles tick by in painfully miniscule increments. Time slows to a crawl. The final hill is absolutely nowhere in sight. See inner dialogue quoted above. 9:41, 9:38... almost as slow as mile one. Ugh.

Mile 13.1: Uphill. The race finish is on the opposite side of a highway overpass, so you have to run UP it, and then down a bit to the finish. I passed a guy on the down part who was going inexplicably slowly, so that was something. 8:10 pace for that tenth of a mile!

So here's my recap. I'm really happy with how 10/13th of this race went. I've never felt so good during a race before! I think for a few miles I was actually experiencing Flow, as described in the excellent Runner's Times article Locking Into Flow. I also knew, from some other magazine, that peaks of feeling great are generally mirrored by troughs of feeling awful. I managed to hit my trough right before finish, and I believe that's part of what made this my slowest half ever. I trained for this for 10 weeks, but never in infernal heat!!

Official Time: 2:01

And then... dim sum!!! It is a requirement that I refuel with this Chinese tea lunch after every half marathon. I made a collage for you!

Clockwise from top right: chili oil, lotus leaf rice wrap, pork siu mai, char siu bao (bbq pork bun), shrimp har gow. (We also had an order of wu gok (fried taro roll)--love that one!)

Poutine for One: 14 easy steps

In a wonderful place called Canada (the land of the big snowball), they enjoy a delicacy called Poutine.

Poutine is an inspired combination of French fries with melted cheese curds and gravy. I find it deeply satisfying and yummy... though some people think it sounds horrible. It's like haggis that way, a savory regional dish that people love or hate. I love them both!

I am fortunate to live in a town where poutine can be ordered at not one but two locations. (Where, you may ask? Flat Street Brew Pub and Hazel.) But I've never made poutine myself and it seems SO simple. This stuff can be made at home, right? Knowing only that there are three ingredients and that they must be piping hot, I invented this "Poutine for One" recipe. Of course it is easily doubled or tripled or more.

Step 1: Assemble your three ingredients. I used frozen straight cut fries, fresh local cheese curds, and boxed organic beef gravy that I'd never tried before.

Step 2: heat your oven according to the fries instructions. These Cascadian Farm fries cook for 10-15 minutes at 450˚F.

Step 3: Portion out fries on a baking sheet. For one person I used half a package of fries.

Step 4: Place fries in oven to bake. Set timer for 10 minutes.

Step 5: Warm up about 1/2 cup of the beef gravy on low heat.

Step 6: After 10 minutes, remove fries from oven and flip them (or flip as many as you can before losing patience) with a spatula. Return to oven.

Step 7: Bake for another 5-7 minutes until most fries are nice and golden brown. NOTE: You must get the fries as brown as you want at this step, because browning opportunities later are limited.

Step 8: Remove fries from oven and transfer to an oven proof serving dish, if you have it, or just a brownie pan. Goal: to melt the cheese curds in a controlled manner.

Step 9: Change oven heat to broil. Use HI if that's a choice.

Step 10: Sprinkle fries liberally with cheese curds. I used half of my container, so about 2-3 ounces.

Step 11: Broil the cheese and fries, keeping a close watch on them until the cheese is very melty. This could take about 8 minutes. More melty is better than more solid (poke the cheese curds to find out).

Step 12: Slide the mass of stuck-together together fries onto a plate.

Step 13: Pour hot gravy over all.

Step 14: Serve!

A few notes: Not having a commercial kitchen with salamander, I was proud of how my first Poutine turned out with broiler. If there's one thing to work on, it's the gravy. The store-bought gravy tasted fine, but it has a very watery consistency that is not ideal for Poutine. Perhaps simmering it more vigorously and/or for longer would render it more velvety.

What do you think? Do you like Poutine? How about haggis?

Simple Spring Appetizer: Marinated Antipasto

What is "antipasto" anyway? I think it simply means "thing you eat before pasta," i.e. a first course. But it seems to evoke different first courses to different people. To a local pizzeria, "antipasto" means a Greek salad with a layer of cold cuts on it.

To this cookbook, Antipasti by Clare Ferguson, "antipasto" means anything from an anchovy dip with fresh veggies to an elegant version of grilled cheese.

My "antipasto"? It's a refreshing array of chilled or pickled vegetables, maybe a meat or two, drizzled with a tangy Grapeseed Oil Vinaigrette.

Last night this was my whole dinner, not just the first course! Artichoke hearts, hearts of palm, caper berries, some leftover grilled chicken, and grilled green beans. I drizzled it with my favorite vinaigrette, waited as long as I could for marination, and dove in.

I'd also love to try this with grilled asparagus, any kind of olives, grilled zucchini slices, fresh tomato... mmmm.

So here's a question: what is your "antipasto" ?

Family Game Night

Once upon a time, my job was to help create educational materials for both children and parents (and "community stakeholders"). Part of that research-based work was encouraging families to spend time together, particularly having a regular family dinner time. It's supposed to be very healthy for family relationships!

Now that I have a family of my own, we try to sit down together for dinner as often as we can. On top of that, in the past year we've also started a regular Family Game Night. Every Friday after dinner we play something--sometimes two of us, sometimes three, sometimes all four. It's something to look forward to all week!

I cleaned out a closet shelf above our puzzles & activity books to create a games shelf.

One of our newest games purchased on a special trip to FAO Schwarz on 5th Avenue. This is Chutes & Ladders, the My Little Pony edition. Besides the usual chutes and ladders, there are also rainbows that can lead you even higher up if you're lucky.

I adore this vintage game, it's a cooperative one with Eat-Locally-Think-Globally values called Back to the Farm. We got our first edition back in the 80s so it's part of my own childhood. I took it to college and lost it to basement apartment flooding, but my mother got me a replacement (yay! Thank you!). Now my kids love it!

Guess Who? is for two people (or two teams). You each pick a secret item and then answer yes/no questions about its characteristics. You flip down the doors to eliminate possibilities until you figure out the other person's choice. We also found it's easy to make your own cards that fit into the holders.

Another favorite from my own childhood: Boggle. Our eight-year-old is now sophisticated enough to get into finding words. We use the iPad as our timer since our set only has the cubes/shaker. That's my photobombing beer there.

Trouble is a new one for me, but seems similar to Parcheesi. I like the satisfying gesture and sound of pressing the bubble in the middle to roll the die.

Junior Monopoly is great! It goes MUCH faster than regular Monopoly, but has the same features of amassing cash and real estate. I think it's just as satisfying as the adult version.

This was a Christmas gift (Thanks, Uncle J and Aunt G!), and we love it already! It's called Wildcraft! and it's another cooperative game. The premise is you travel up the mountain path to collect huckleberries (the blue chips in the center), and you encounter problems and harvest herbs to solve those problems as you go. Besides learning some basic herbalism, there is a lot about helping others and even tracking the motion of the sun throughout your journey!


This one is Feed the Kitty, a seemingly simple game of dice where one's luck can change in a moment. You never know who is going to come out on top—particularly with four players!

We have other favorites too, including Zingo (like Bingo but with images that emerge from a "shoe" and you try to grab them before others do), Blind Spell (you are given a word and blindfolded, then handed letters that make up that word plus a few extra; you have to spell the word by feel and identify the extras before the timer rings) and Busytown: Eye Found It (Richard Scarry!!!! Goldbug!!! Awesomeness!!!).

What games do you love? Do you play anything regularly?

Brattleboro, Vermont with Prof. Kitty

Peter Havens

What is up in Brattleboro, Vermont? We call it the "one and only," because there is no other place called Brattleboro anywhere in the world. If you are planning a visit to this sweet spot in Vermont, or if you LIVE here, or even if you're checking it out with no clear plans to visit, I hope this list is useful.

A disclaimer: There are many, many other things that people love to do in Brattleboro, Vermont. This is just my personal list... a mere taste of the town's charms.

Everyone's Books (Local indie bookstore that also has cards and bumper stickers)
Brattleboro Books (Browse-for-hours used books)
Mystery on Main Street (mystery and more, esp. Gorey)
Baskets (a trove of paperbacks in Harmony parking lot)

TJ Buckley's (the best place in town looks like a diner but is high-end nirvana within. Cash only please)
Peter Havens (superior dining and heavenly cocktails)
Fireworks (wood-fired pizza and much more. I love the calamari starter)
Whetstone Station (brew-pub with 2 floors of river views)
Duo (new Main Street spot is super-popular and super-sleek)


Amy's Bakery (soup, sandwiches, coffee with a river & NH mountain view)
The Marina (fries, clams, lobster mac & cheese, and West River overlook--try for sunset!)
Top of the Hill Grill (a summertime favorite, be prepared for a line and 'cue)
Chelsea Royal Diner (your typical excellent diner, with creamee stand in summertime)
Shin La (this Korean food is a town mainstay; sushi too!)
Panda North  (Our beloved Chinese restaurant does it well)
Superfresh Organic Cafe (the famous hippie spirit lives on in this vegan/gluten-free hotspot)

Panda North

Specialty Foods:
Grafton Cheese (Cheese & great gifts, plus a petting zoo for families)
North End Butchers (obsession of many locals: fresh cuts & deli meats, local produce, sandwiches)
Windham Wines (next to North End Butcher, our local wine experts--ask about tastings)
Adam's Seafood (need fresh seafood or shellfish? come here first!)

Metropolis (best bet for the local music scene)
Arkham (purposely a dive bar, off Harmony Parking lot)
Kipling's (come here for your Guinness and great juke box--cash only)
Flat Street Brew Pub (good beer list, also kitchen including POUTINE)
Twilight Tea Lounge (chai & other tea delights)
Mocha Joe's (locally roasted coffee, be prepared for a wee line)

The Brattleboro Food Coop (straddling the line between local and trendy... overpriced or just awesome?)
West Brattleboro Farmer's Market (from May to October, everyone comes here on Saturdays)
Winter Farmer's Market (from November-April, find farm/local-made delights downtown at the River Garden on Main Street, every Saturday)
Lilac Ridge Farm (turn off Rte 9 onto Greenleaf for a lovely small farmstand... owners were in the movie Food Inc.)
Dutton's Berry Farm (kind of our permanent Farm Stand--myriad produce plus jams, sun-dried tomatoes and much more)

Farmer's Market summer haul

Hiking/Outdoors--Google for more information/maps!
West River Trail
Mount Wantastiquet (actually in New Hampshire, hike up the mountain that looms over town from the east. Trailhead accessible off Rte 119 in Hinsdale, NH)
Vermont Canoe Touring Center (rentals) (open May-October)
Cortland Hill Orchard (September holds a BOUNTY of delicious Cortlands)
Scott Farm Orchard (diverse heirloom orchard where "Cider House Rules" was filmed)

West River Trail

History & Art:
Brattleboro Museum & Art Center (our very own super-cool museum)
Estey Organ Museum (did you know Brattleboro is significant in organ history?)
Gallery Walk (if you're here the first Friday of the month, check out our galleries!)

Cotton Mill Hill installation

Latchis Theatre (the one & only movie house in town)
Hooker Dunham Theater (check out the musical acts coming this way!)
New England Youth Theater (sells out quickly: highly acclaimed young performers)
Brattleboro Music Center (many magnificent performances and series)
Vermont Jazz Center (world class jazz venue & school--shows usually on Saturdays)
Stone Church dances: Ballroom/Latin, African, Contra

Strolling of the Heifers (another one & only for our adorable town)
Northern Roots (Celtic, fiddle, more!)
Literary Festival (once Saul Bellow spoke to an over-capacity crowd... what could be next?)
Film Festival
Women's Film Festival
Winter Carnival
Brattleboro-West Arts Studio Tour
Cotton Mill Hill Open Studio & Sale
Touch a Truck (hospital fund-raiser and horn-free... your little ones may LOVE this one)
Baconfest (check latest Facebook...)
Brattleboro Brewers Festival (how could you go wrong?)

Please try walking down Main Street, Elliot Street, and Flat Street in downtown Brattleboro for LOTS of shopping choices.

at a Main Street antique shop

Maple 5K (late September)
Walk Run & Roll (early September)
Bill Powers Memorial 4-mile Firecracker
Thanksgiving Turkey Trot 3-mile

Brattleboro Retreat Petting Farm
Kid's Playce
Crowell Lot Park playground
Living Memorial Park playground
Brooks Memorial Library kid's room (10-2 on Saturdays)
Avenue Grocery or Chelsea Royal Diner for creamees

Fun times at Kids Playce