Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Feeling at Home in Shenandoah

One request I make every time I'm home in Virginia is to take a day trip to Shenandoah National Park. There's a road called Skyline Drive where you can experience the majesty of Virginia's natural beauty only a couple of hours from Washington, DC. The best time to go is in the fall (September-November), when the leaves are changing colors, but I've always found it worth visiting year-round.

So naturally, our first full day back in the United States we took the day trip to Shenandoah with my family. We were originally destined for Skyline Drive but decided to take a detour to Shenandoah River State Park instead. There were plenty of things to do, including tubing, zip lining, and camping, but we kept things simple with a drive to an overlook (pictured above), a bento box picnic, and a hike.

I had found a tick on me the previous day, so I was even more careful than usual in the forest. I wore long sleeves, avoided walking outside the marked trails, and checked thoroughly for ticks after we got home. I don't need any tick-borne diseases in my life - especially not Lyme disease. Thankfully, we didn't have any issues with ticks that day.

After enjoying the stunning views at the park, working up a sweat, and finishing our picnic, we headed back home. Along the way, there's an amazing place on the side of the road called The Apple House. Part souvenir shop, part Virginia pride store, and part restaurant, it's a must-see on your way to or from Shenandoah. I recommend everyone try the signature apple donuts coated in cinnamon sugar, served fresh and hot. My mouth is watering just remembering how delicious they were!

We rounded off the day at my mom's house making mandu: Korean dumplings. When I was young, my family would gather in the kitchen to make mandu together, which could take an entire afternoon. We'd cook and eat the early batches as we continued to make more - at least, until we ran out of either wrappers or filling. (Above, you can see the ones we were still making on the left and the boiled ones on the right.) This time, we filled our dumplings with a classic combination of pork, finely chopped napa cabbage, garlic, and crumbled tofu and dipped the finished product in a soy vinegar sauce. There are many ways to cook mandu (and I've found most prefer fried), but my favorite has always been boiled. We ate until all of our stomachs hurt and still had leftovers. There's something magical about coming together to make and enjoy food, especially when nostalgia comes into play! It was the perfect end to a pretty perfect first full day back home.

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