I heart SH: Food nostalgia

You never know if you are going to fall in love with the food in a new city, or if you eat and are always disappointed. During my two-week visit in Shanghai I tried to always eat as local as possible. I only had a few western meals, and other than trekking all over the city to find a good green smoothie (actually just a real green smoothie), I stuck to trying new things.

I have not been a fan of Chinese food in Portland. Most of the places we have tried have been too Americanized and are mostly bland options. For the most part Thai or Chinese food for us has been the quick “too tired, or too busy to cook” option. You do not really crave that kind of Chinese food, it is more of a convenience. So not really sure what to expect and knowing that I have definitely not really ever experienced “good” Chinese food, I jumped in head first. I thought I would share a few of my favorites.

photo 5Xiao long bao is a kind of steamed dumpling (or bun) that is made in bamboo steamer baskets, and filled with a tiny amount of broth. Xiaolongbao - Yum!They are usually served with slices of ginger, soy, and vinegar to dip in before popping in your mouth. I became addicted to the pork filled versions, although I also had some that had hairy crab inside. They have a thin, light exterior, and it is best to tear a corner and check the temperature of the soup, or just go for it and down it all in one bite, hoping not to burn your mouth in the process. They are little morsels of intense flavor and just so so so good.

Favorite location: Din Tai Fung (for those of you in the US, there is a location in Seattle). Roadtrip soon, Chris?

Sheng Jian BaoTheir cousins or siblings are Sheng Jian Bao (fried soup dumplings) and take a close second for me. My first Sheng jian baoThey are a breakfast speciality in Shanghai. Twice the size of the Xia long bao, also filled with pork and broth, but fried on the bottom. They also have a thicker exterior.

Favorite location: Yang’s Dumplings

I tried other local Shanghainese food, with differing opinions. Some dishes were bland, some just not the flavor I would crave. Junk food, street food, fine dining. More items with beans then I can imagine. By far my favorite were these two versions of dumplings. I have already started the hunt of where I can find something even close as to as good in Portland.

Dessert in Shanghai was few and far between. We usually were too full to care, but not in that ‘your pants are bursting’ kind of way. In more of a ‘that was amazing and I do not want to do anything to the flavors happening in my mouth’. However, we happened across a bakery selling a Cronut (croissant + doughnut), we could not resist.

CronutEver since we had heard about all the hubbub in New York City at the Dominique Ansel Bakery, we have always wanted to try one. While I appreciate that the fad has not blown up and been cloned all over the US, when you have never had one, and you see it in Shanghai, why not try it? They know that they are stealing the idea from New York City, but rather than completely steal the idea, we saw it marketed as “Cronut = Crack + Doughnut.” Whatever way they want to justify it, we found two bakeries that sold them. Worth it? Yes.

I enjoyed trying so many unique and local dishes and will miss Xiao Long Bao, but the adventurer in me will see if I can find them locally. Or, maybe Chris will play in the kitchen and see how hard they are to make right at home.

Pooping at work

Yes, I am talking about pooping at work. Yes, you might feel uncomfortable, but you are most likely slightly curious. Come on, you are. You are curious. From time to time, I have shared poop stories, but this one came directly from Fast Company. How could I not share? The article is titled: “How the Most Successful People Poop at Work.”

I will tell you it is often a conversation in my office. Maybe not pooping directly, but the office bathroom is often a topic. For one there is a fascination for what the men’s bathroom looks like, does it have urinals? Is there any privacy? The women’s bathroom has recently had a range of smells. Sometimes it smells like men’s cologne and other times it ranges to the rankest of smells. We continue to call the direct line to someone who might be able to help rectify the smell, but we think the culprit is the drain in the floor bringing back some foul odor.

Does it tell you something about office culture that we can talk about pooping? Or farting? If you look back on my blog posts, I have frequently mentioned farting on an airplane, speeding because I have to poop, the squatty potty, poo-pourri, and much more. So as you can see it is a topic I feel quite comfortable discussing, but do we all feel comfortable with the topic? No. Yet this article talks a lot about the food we intake and how that interacts with our bowels, and the etiquette we find in work bathrooms. You know what I am talking about: those that hover waiting for you to leave so they can finish their business. Those that talk to try to mask the noises coming out of their bum, or as the article mentions throwing toilet paper into the bowl to try to mask the sounds. Whatever the method, we all try to mask the bodily sounds and noises that come from whatever food is wrecking havoc on our bodies.

So…why is it so taboo to talk about it? Why do we all shy away from it? I think my team has become mostly transparent about it, we laugh about it, and discuss what we can do about the rampant changes in the bathroom odor, but are we unique? Are we normal, or do most workplace environments quickly hike the stairs or rapidly push the buttons on the elevator in order to escape to a bathroom on another floor?

What do you do? Be sure to read the article I shared — it will add a chuckle or two into your day.

Why can people be so gross?

I promised I would share stories of my trip to Shanghai, and I will – just not today. See my most recent memory of my trip is the airplane, and while I had a nice seat in business class, it was a bit ruined by the passengers around me. Let me explain.

I spent most of the flight shifting between readjusting the ear plugs and then putting the big headphones over them. When that did not remove the noise, I tried a movie and then some music at a pretty high volume. Why was I trying to tune out the noise? The man behind me cleared his throat, trying to clear the phlegm like clockwork every few minutes. After a great two weeks away, and extremely tired and exhausted — well, let’s just say I was more than slightly irritated. A few times I tried to turn in my seat to give him the evil eye in hopes that he would cut it out. I mean what do you say to someone you are going to spend the next 10 hours with: “Could you stop hocking loogies? The sound is horrendous.” I just was not sure how to politely do it. I even thought about getting the flight attendant involved, but what would she say? A few times I had to rewind: “Neighbors” (funny movie by the way) in order to hear what was said over the noise behind me.

Are people just clueless? I wondered if he knew he was doing it? I think the only worse sound I have encountered on an airplane is someone snoring. Hilarious, but quite annoying. On that flight I do remember the flight attendant waking the man up, I think someone complained. While I am on the topic of cluelessness, the state of the bathroom got increasingly worse over the flight. Why people think that it is okay to pee on the toilet seat and leave it is beyond me. See, I know we have all peed on the seat before. It is hard not to when you are in a shaking, moving aircraft and you are trying so hard for your pants not to touch anything, and you do not have much room to squat and make it in. However, if you do wind up peeing on the seat, WIPE IT OFF. How hard is it? Why should the flight attendant have to clean up after you?

Are we all slobs? You are in business class, have some class yourself. I am glad they give you the slippers to go to the bathroom so you do not have to put your shoes on each time. I loathe to think about the other passengers that I saw heading into the bathroom with only their socks. Gross. We are not savages. Stop being gross and clean up after yourself. While you are at it think of those around you–your fellow passengers and flight crew.

Apologies for the airplane rant, but hopefully we can all spread the word. Oh and to the guy that sat behind me for 11 hours, please go blow your nose.

Seize openness

Yesterday morning I had this strong intuition to be open. I went to bed late and set my alarm to wake up early so I could go for a run. When my alarm went off the last thing I wanted to do was to strap on my running shoes. When 6 am rolled around somehow I was awake enough for my brain to start to think about things. When the brain starts going through items of the day it is hard to stop it, and hard to then roll over and go back for a small snooze.

So I got up.

As I slowly dressed for my run, I kept trying to talk myself out of it. “Don’t go. You will be too tired later. You did not get much sleep last night. Stay here, get some work done. Be slow.” The thing is I was mostly dressed and by then when you basically only have to put on your running shoes, why turn back? I went and it felt great. As I was running I had such a strong sense of urgency that I needed to be “open.” While I have hindsight to look back on, there was not some amazing revelation from my day, but there was a freeness I felt. Uninhibited.

I tried some new foods today. I got to know some work colleagues more. I did not go about my normal routine. I was open for what happened, and I seized the opportunities. I still have no idea why I had that strong intuition, but know that it will stay strong with me. I will think about it so that whatever opportunity comes before me today I will look at it differently. It is freeing really. Say yes to life. Be open to the opportunities. Jump on the adventures. In tiny, small, and big ways.

Hopefully you and I can both be more open today, tomorrow, and the day after that.

Bikes instead of desks

I am a fan of activity. We sit too much. We watch television, surf the Internet, and generally have become less mobile in recent years. I am not one that is comfortable sitting for long periods of time. I need to move. So when I saw that schools are utilizing standing desks, I thought: “What a great idea.” The article is titled: “Standing Desks Are Coming To Schools, To Cure Obesity And Increase Attention Spans” and it is brilliant that the focus is on obesity and attention spans.

I can remember the strange desks we had a school. Either you had one that had a top that pulled up (and sometimes would easily fall back down on your hand or your head). The base was made of metal, and the top part was made of wood. The other variation we had in my school was also wood + metal, but the desktop did not lift up, rather there was almost a cove/drawer that did not move and was open where you kept all your supplies. I think if I had a choice looking back I would take the more lethal variety of the open top desk. It allowed you to find things more easily, even if it sometimes felt like a hatchet.

In any case, neither desk did anything to help with obesity or attention spans which is why I love the idea of having kids stand. Whether for the attention span aspect of being able to focus more readily or to learn how to sit still, even if it means it is happening while standing. I wonder how many elementary school boys can stand long enough to make it through a class each day? However, if they can pass the test, maybe that is amazing progress for other kids.

Or you can take it to an entirely new level. with this Fast Company article titled: “This School Has Bikes Instead Of Desks–And It Turns Out That’s A Better Way To Learn.” Maybe we can have an amalgamation of both standing desks and bikes to add some variety. Well, actually mostly all for variety. I agree with the article, with physical education and recess being cut either entirely or significantly, maybe these are the new options for maintaining activity at schools?

A more focused and active child, what is not to love? What do you think?