Tiny Tuesday: What is Home Sharing?

Home sharing is a fancy version of a roommate arrangement. It’s also a great way to reduce the need for housing stock. HomeShare Vermont is a nonprofit that advocates home sharing and helps potential home sharers with the all-important step of finding a perfect match.

Homeowners (or renters) who decide to share have a spare bedroom and are looking for extra income, help around the house, or a combination. On the other end are individuals who can’t afford traditional rent or who want a greater safety net than they’d get living alone. Ideally the home share agreement is mutually beneficial, providing companionship to both parties and splitting the cost and labor to maintain a home.

HomeShare Vermont does the dirty work, for a small fee, to make matches more mutual and long-lasting than individuals might find on their own. The organization conducts interviews, performs background checks, and helps new pairs draft a written home share agreement spelling out each one’s expectations. The organization also informs the parties of relevant laws, as home share is a landlord/tenant agreement even if the tenant pays no rent. You can find a guide to home sharing here.

Tiny Tuesday: Cohousing in Bristol

Cohousing doesn’t mean living in the same house as other people. Cohousing communities combine the support and shared amenities of an apartment building with the privacy and satisfaction of single-family houses. A new cohousing village opening this month in Bristol, Vermont, stuck to its principles by building everything to Efficiency Vermont’s High Performance energy standards.

Bristol Village Cohousing is unusual in that the entire community was built on previously developed land. The 2.5-acre lot was created by combining four adjacent properties on an existing road. The site plan retains two of the original houses on the land (a colonial becomes a duplex and an Italianate becomes a Common House), and the façade of a third (which becomes a fourplex). A new triplex faces the road on the fourth original property.

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The site plan for Bristol Village Cohousing. North Street is on the left.

By repurposing existing properties for cohousing, the development achieved several desirable goals. No site clearing was required, giving the project a low embodied energy. The community is a short walk from Bristol’s town center, reducing residents’ reliance on motor vehicles and further reducing the ecological footprint. And the development fits its surroundings with minimal visual impact. The quartet of grand houses facing the street blends into the neighborhood and hides the five single-family cottages on the back of the site.

Community gardens, a common green, a workshop, a storage barn, and the Common House’s well-equipped kitchen and dining spaces reduce each resident’s individual needs. These common elements greatly enhance the smallish size of the fourteen individual units (900 to 1500 square feet), which means residents save on construction and utility bills without sacrificing lifestyle. As a result, Bristol Village is prime for perhaps the most appealing thing about cohousing: the instant community of support that inhabitants get from one another.

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The Common House.

China Week: Oh, The Food

For starters: yes, the Chinese eat with chopsticks. They also use spoons for soup, and their hands when chopsticks would be too unwieldy. Dishes are always shared, and if a host takes you out they’ll keep ordering more dishes until you stop eating. Don’t finish anything if you want to cut down on waste (and the bill)! Beijing is the Manhattan of China, and you’ll find a dozen restaurants on every block serving food from all regions of the country.

Cantonese cuisine, from the nation’s southern coast, resembles American Chinese food most closely. Ingredients are a variety of meats and vegetables, usually stir-fried, with flavor concentrated in sauces that combine sweet, sour, salty, and spicy. Fish steamed whole – bones in, heads and tails intact – are astonishingly delicious. Use rice to sop up those gloppy sauces.

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Laura tries zha jiang mian (Beijing noodles with bean sauce) and Sichuan-style chicken.

Sichuan cuisine, from centrally located Sichuan Province, is renowned for being very spicy. Many Sichuan dishes seem to contain more chiles than edible food, and they’ll make your lips tingle for hours after. Whole fish is less of a thing, but you’ll find species like monkfish cut into chunks and stewed. Common vegetables include okra and mustard greens. Rice is the preferred accompaniment here too.

Traditional Beijing cuisine reflects its northern location, where fresh produce is less reliable. The local delicacy is Peking Duck, carved tableside and served with paper-thin pancakes, julienned scallions, and sweet bean sauce. (Dip your crispy skin in sugar crystals for an extra treat.) Starches made from dough, like noodles and dumplings, are more common than rice. A favorite for social gatherings is Mongol-influenced hot pot, where a bowl of broth steams center stage at your table and everybody dips in their chopsticks to catch slices of lamb and beef.

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Peking duck with pancakes and fixins.

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Hot pot.

And then there’s the street food. At any time of the day you can find a sidewalk stand selling fresh yogurt, dry-rub chicken wings, Beijing crepes, tiny candied apples, or a thousand other snacks. The streets are where Beijing comes alive, and I’ll write more about those streets tomorrow – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

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End of a meal.