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...