Chow Mein

This year, I’ve tried a new recipe every week. We began meal planning, and oh man. We save so much $$ and so much time and we eat so much better. Some weeks, I don’t have time to make anything new…others, like this week, we’ll try three new recipes. It all evens out in the end. Some day, I’ll get around to sharing all those recipes. Most of them are good.

But, Oh. Em. Gee.

Every once and while you stumble upon a recipe…well that blows your hair back. Changes your life. Makes you happy. Gives you reason to believe that the world has some good in it. Makes you say obscenely dramatic statements about how good it is…all because you are on a high (nutritionally that’s probably accurate).

This is one of those recipes. Who freaking new that making delicious chow mein (the original recipe calls it a Panda Express knockoff) was so freaking easy and so freaking quick and so freaking easy. And I should mention it’s really freaking easy.

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I just…I can’t…the taste….sigh. Just make it.

Panda Express Chow Mein Copycat

Yields 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar, packed
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
  • 2 (5.6-ounce) packages refrigerated Yaki-Soba, seasoning sauce packets discarded*
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced diagonally
  • 2 cups shredded cabbage
  • (Homespun Haley addition: 1 Tablespoon of toasted sesame oil – takes a slight edge off of the soy sauce…though totally not necessary.)

INSTRUCTIONS

  • In a small bowl, whisk together soy sauce, garlic, brown sugar, ginger and white pepper; set aside.
  • In a large pot of boiling water, add Yaki-Soba until loosened, about 1-2 minutes; drain well.
  • Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add onion and celery, and cook, stirring often, until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in cabbage until heated through, about 1 minute.
  • Stir in Yaki-Soba and soy sauce mixture until well combined, about 2 minutes.
  • Serve immediately.

NOTES

*Yaki-Soba is ramen-style noodles and can be found in the refrigerated aisle of your local grocery store.

The food bump.

Now, I can’t pretend to be an expert or anything. I’ve been pregnant for 4 months out of my whole lifetime. But there is something I have learned. You know that “baby bump” that begins to appear soon after women start their blissful journey into the second trimester? People start to comment on “the bump” they see,and perhaps even reach out their hand (Dear God I hope they know you really well or else you have permission to slap their hand) and feel “the baby”.

Listen friends. You’re actually seeing/feeling her lunch. Or breakfast, or perhaps dinner, or perhaps a snack. I wake up in the morning, looking sort of pregnant…sort of tubby. By the end of the evening, I look legitimately pregnant. It’s a gross transition. Tubby to that exciting “pop” you were told would happen any moment…and then you wake up in the morning and it’s back to tubby. So if you were actually going to feel the baby, you’d have to feel in between a women’s groin and her belly button. Awkward. Obviously there comes a point when this isn’t the case, but during the beginning stages of bumpage, it is.

Here’s a diagram for those of you who need a visual. It starts at the beginning of pregnancy (look how roomy it is in there, it’s like a 5 star suite!). Your intestines have all this room to spread out and move stuff right along. But quickly, your intestines are squished up and your bladder down. So think about it…right now, my intestines are beginning their journey into squashed land and no longer fill my lower abdomen. So when I eat throughout the day, my stomach visible grows larger. The pictures make it clear why women at 30+ weeks deserve to have things picked up/moved/done for them. I mean good gaawwwddd.

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In summary:

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Anyway, I can’t really complain. My pregnancy so far has been a cake walk. More pros than cons. One moment of serious food aversion to squash and potatoes when I was 10ish weeks along. Never a speck of nausea. The fatigue was pretty bad. I felt depressed as the daily tasks that used to be so easy, piled up around me while I napped. But hey. I’d rather be sleepy than pukey. And some women have to deal with both (I’m SO sorry!).

And before you ask…yes, that is a Nerf gun on the ground. No, I don’t have a son I never told you about. Yes…it belongs to my husband and he keeps it next to the bed…ya know, in case of intruders.

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IKEA Hack – Wardrobe to Sewing Room

FACT. I’m thrilled about our little one whose arrival can’t come quickly enough.

FACT. I already love our little one more than sewing.

FACT. Our house is small. Just under 1,000 square feet, two bedrooms.

FACT. One ENTIRE bedroom, is filled to the brim with my sewing/crafting stuff. Machine(s), glue, fabric, thread, paper, scissors, notions, pins, stickers, gift wrap, patterns, on & on & on & on.

FACT. Small children whom you love should not co-exist among such chaos. They bring their own baby-friendly chaos.

FACT. I need to sew.

FACT. My husband is the bomb diggity.

FACT. He turned this discontinued HEMNES wardrobe from IKEA into a lovely, totally functional sewing closet.

FACT. I’m not mourning the loss of an entire sewing room…cause look at this thing!

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Before:005 After:012Features I love:
Matt added a pull out table (which a chair fits perfectly under) and drop down desk to fill the gap behind, so I never have to unplug-replug things, and there is space to spread out. 
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Matt also added a shelf for our printer. That printer gets a lot of use. I print several recipes a week, not to mention the odd pattern, photo or receipt. I was bound and determined to have our printer set up so it was ready to go…always. He left a small gap behind the shelf for the cord to drop down, and drilled a hole at the base for an extension cord to seamlessly connect everything.

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The side shelves have plenty of room for the essentials and then-some.

016FACT. Yes, I’ll have to use the kitchen table to cut out those big projects.

FACT. Big freaking deal. I’m blessed to have a kitchen table to use and blessed to be starting a family.

FACT. Getting rid of things and keeping only what you actually need feels fantastic .

FACT. Gideon appreciated the fabric purge…if only for a few moments.
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To dads with daughters.

 My dad died 10 weeks ago. This Father’s Day is going to be hard for me. As you can imagine I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on my dad, his life, his parenting, our life together. I wanted to do something to honor him for Father’s Day. He was always curious about how I felt about him as a father. The day before he died he asked me, “Was I a good father?” It wasn’t the first time. That night I answered, “You ARE a good father, not was. Dad…you saved me…you absolutely saved me.” He nodded. We both understood what this meant and the importance of it. While the meaning will be lost on you let me just tell you, it’s important.

So, in honor of a great dad, in celebration of Father’s Day, I’ve written out a few rambling paragraphs outlining some ways my dad rocked the socks off of this parenting a girl thing. You daddies with daughters out there might want to take note.

He answered my phone calls – My dad answered my calls about 98% of the time. If he didn’t answer, I knew he was in a movie, or didn’t hear it ring. But I wouldn’t put it past him to leave a theater to take my call. I remember he would answer and say, “How are you doing my sweet-baboo?”. Once or twice he would tell me he was in a meeting, so and so says hello and would need to call me back in a few minutes…but he always answered anyway. Showing me that I was a priority in his life.

He talked about me with his friends – Before my dad passed I would often hear, “Haley! Oh your dad is SO proud of you! He told me all about how well you’re doing in life. He just thinks the world of you.” Since he has passed I hear, “Honey…you were the absolute joy of your dad’s life. I could tell when he talked about you…you were in a separate and special category. How proud you made him.” It is a gift my dad is still giving to me, through the words of others he spoke with. It warms my heart to know he spoke so highly of me to so many. Reminds me that I was on his mind every single day.

He taught me that it’s OK to laugh at “naughty” stuff (if you can’t laugh at naughty jokes then skip this one for crying out loud) – I remember once when I was in high school my dad and I were eating dinner in our TV room. He dished up his pasta and afterwards he looked down at his plate. The two bread rolls and lump of pasta were unfortunately placed. We both saw it. Out of the corner of his mouth he said, “Well…this looks very…phallic.” We laughed for a long time. For the first time ever I cracked a joke myself before I could even really think, I said, “Yeah…that sure is a mouth full…” There was a moment of mutual shock, and I thought I would soon be killed, but instead, my dad let out a hearty laugh, gave his eyes a good squeaky rub (a habit of his) and uttered an “Eeeeeewwwww, Haley Lynn!”. ANYWAY, you get the point. You don’t have to take it to that level…but just learn to chuckle. There is no shame in cracking jokes that make you blush a little bit. Life is short, just laugh at naughty stuff and move on. (We laughed about everything…laughter is just good for your soul.)

He stuck with me through my weirdness – I made some weeerriiiidd choices. I remember going through boyfriend weirdness, school weirdness, spiritual weirdness…all the while my dad journeyed with me even though I was making choices he could see were not helpful. He could have easily told me what to do, but instead he simply listened, asked questions, empathized and hugged me. He trusted me to make my own decisions, and trusted me to own the consequences. He knew that being present and informed about what was going on in my life was WAY more important than possibly shutting me out. In return, I tended to make better decisions because I knew he was paying attention. We would get a good laugh out of it later, and he would finally admit how nervous he had been for me.

He asked me about God – My dad would periodically ask how my relationship with God was looking. There was no wrong or right answer. I could spew it all out without fear of my dad questioning, correcting or lecturing me. He always sat quietly, listening to me, and he always found some way to affirm my thoughts. “You’re doing good listening honey.”, “Doesn’t it all seem like bull sometimes?”, “God doesn’t seem to work like we expect God too.”

He shared his spiritual life with me – Ok, ok, My dad was a pastor, so this came pretty easily to him. I LOVED it when my dad would tell me all about the latest things on his mind. His spiritual life was constantly growing and changing. He was being moved deeper and deeper into the depths of God’s spirit, and he had beautiful words to articulate it. But I encourage those of you who are shy about this to step outside your comfort zone and share what you feel or see God doing in your own personal life with your daughters. They need to hear it.

If you’re not religious –  Ask her about God anyway. Spirituality is a huge part of people’s lives, regardless if it is yours. Perhaps you should find out how your daughter sees this part of her experience in the world. After all, she may have a perspective that’s different than yours, and how blessed you’ll be to hear her thoughts!

He talked about the past – In the year or so before my dad passed away, we started to talk more candidly about my childhood and his young adult life. Real, honest talk. My perspective versus his, his stories of shenanigans. There was still so much to be said. I’ve found out since he passed that while my name was “stolen” from a close friend, it was my dad who first heard my name from that friend, loved it, and mentioned it to my mom. I wish so badly I could talk to him about that. I loved hearing him talk about me as a little girl. He told me the stories that delighted him the most, over and over and over. I hold on to his reflections of me as child with great love. I was a spit-fire. I know so because he told me. It’s incredible how important having an adult perspective on your childhood self can be. Not everyone gets to experience that.

He made me feel beautiful without talking about looks - My dad told me I was “beautiful” a handful of times. It didn’t happen often, but when it did it was so meaningful and absolutely heartfelt. Somehow, even though my dad did not often affirm me for how I looked, I feel that my dad thought I was the most striking girl on the planet.  How did he do that? Perhaps it was all the affirmation I got from him about other things? I would argue that the genuine interest and delight you show in your daughter as a human being will do more for her confidence than all compliments that you could give her about her physical appearance. My dad loved me down to the absolute core of who I am. I know it because he loved being around me, and I him. I’ve got a killer inner confidence and strength…where do you think that comes from?

I still look back to the day my father passed away and think, “Did that really happen?” It’s unbelievably hard to imagine my future without his guidance. I’m blessed to have so many memories with him. I’m blessed to have felt close to him. I’m blessed to have had him as my father.

Dad, you ARE a great father, not was. Happy Father’s Day.

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coping

For those who stumble upon this post simply because you were searching for a DIY project or recipe, you’re in for something different today. My father, Stan, passed away four weeks ago – complications from an illness that plagued him for the past 5 or so years. He was 67, and even though I knew he was sick, I think I had convinced myself he would always “bounce back”. Needless to say, it felt sudden to me.

This post is for my friends who have been asking after me since the passing of my father. I thought it would be helpful to me to write out my thoughts, and perhaps helpful for you and maybe others to read it.

How am I? I’m fine. Really. Seems weird huh?

I’m fine because I can’t cope being any other way. I’m either fine – this very controlled state which I’m currently residing – or I’m desperately hurting.

I’m laughing, surfing the web, being lazy, going for walks, cooking dinner – with grief just a moment away, like it’s something hovering behind me. It may appear as if life is functioning as it did 5 weeks ago – but I’m a different person. It’s so hard to articulate, I feel as if I’ve deepened some cavern in my soul. Something has happened in my life that is terribly sad and changed my path. Physically, I can’t be conscious of all that’s happened, but it’s happened. I don’t want to ignore it. I don’t want you to ignore it. But I can’t express my anger or grief readily for all to see. So please, ask me about it. I want to be asked. My carrying on as normal is not a sign that I’m done with it or that I don’t want to talk about it. I do.

I often find my emotions shutting off with a flip of a switch. Suddenly I can’t be sad. I can’t be angry. Try as hard as I might…there’s nothing there to draw on. I wonder if that’s a safety mechanism. Are the feelings too great for me to handle?

SO, If I want to function in any way, I can’t allow myself to “go there”. Most of the time I ignore it. When I can’t ignore it, a long drive in our radio-less car, a shower, struggling to fall asleep, those are the moments I start to see pictures. Flashes of my dad. His hands – his squared thumbnail, his rings. His hugs – pats on the back, the smell of his leather jacket. His laugh – his chipped front tooth, cracking lips, squeaky eye rub, the amusement on his face. His hospital visits – his thoughtful eyes, chapped lips, tired body.

I see flashes of our last visit at his house together. Two days before he went to the hospital for the last time, I gave him a hug as he sat on the couch, exhausted from pain. He took my palm in his palm and kissed the back of my hand gently. I can still feel it.

I wonder if he knew how sick he was then? Why didn’t I ask? Why wouldn’t he tell me? Two days later when I overheard my dad, my very own dad, tell the doctor that he was tired and ready to let his body go, absolute shock washed over me. My internal dialogue: “There has been a mistake. We shouldn’t be here. This isn’t happening. There is no way they will let that happen.” He saw me crying. To the best of his ability at the time, in all his pain he asked me if I understood. I told him I understood…but that didn’t mean I had to be happy about it.

Then he needed privacy for the nurses to tend to him, I was ushered out and spoke with the doctor about what this all meant. Why didn’t I ask him if he was scared? Why didn’t I listen better? Less than 24 hours later, he would be gone.

The thoughts of his physical presence, our tangible moments together are painful enough to remember, only because I can’t replicate them. There’s no more hugs, exchange of jokes, FroYo, or card games.

With these flashes come deeper questions. What happens now? He won’t be here when Matt and I have our first child. He won’t see me become a mom. He won’t be here to help me. And I need his help. I need my dad.

Why can’t I remember his theories on heaven? My faith has been shaken a bit, though I assume in a way that is expected and natural. For instance I find myself thinking, “I just wish I knew where he was…that it is real.”

Then come flashes of a deep festering anger. What he dedicated his life to, the church, it hurt him deeply. That’s all too common a story. My father was a super complicated person. One instance being the most warm, thoughtful and inquisitive person ever, the next he could be difficult, and set firm boundaries that often made him seem unapproachable to others. But I have to tell you…one thing that has stood out to me about who my father was that was so perfectly put by many at his memorial, is that he was someone that would SHOW UP for people. Regardless of their bullshit, their story, their difficult personalities, their broken lives. It was about them and he listened well and journeyed with people. He set aside the freakishly difficult and complex stories people brought to him…just to be present with them. He did that for people, people didn’t return the favor. I know he wasn’t perfect, trust me I do. There are times when I feel so angry at him for different reasons. But I don’t remember there being a rule that we only show up to help, understand, love, and support perfect people, or only when someone is easy to help. That’s certainly not what he did. Where was grace when he needed it?

My anger fades into a river of gratitude when I remember that there were indeed people looking out for him, people showing up. They saw the truth of what was happening in his life. The truth of how much grace he was still carrying for so many, even as they mistreated him. I am truly indebted to those who gave this brilliant and sick man, my father, a chance to live in to his full potential before he passed away. What an absolute gift they gave him. It’s all so terribly tragic and so hard to think about.

It seems he has left a chasm of complexity for me to weed through in every area of my life. The stress has subsided, which I’m grateful for, though I’m still left without him and without his affirmation for the decisions that I’ve made and will be making.

The night after he passed away, I was trying to fall asleep. I was tearful, restless. Guilt overwhelmed me. Did I do things right? Is he ok? I kept remembering things we talked about, and it was weighing down on my chest. It felt that if I exhaled, I wouldn’t have the strength to push against the weight and fill my lungs again. Suddenly I was aware of a presence in my room. It felt like my dad’s spirit was there. I was sure of it. I heard in my mind my dad’s voice say, “I’m sorry Sweetie.” A sad calm washed over me. I could breathe more easily. I’m grateful for that moment, even though it was hard.

See what I mean? What if I just walked around all day every day feeling all this crap? I can’t do it. But it hits me when I least expect it. While grocery shopping I saw a man who looked a lot like my dad. Same hair, leather jacket, gait, shoes, skin tone. I stopped and stared at him. If there had been any closer resemblance I would have asked him for a hug. I walked away to the cereal aisle, and bawled.

How am I?

I’m fine, I’m really not fine, I’m angry, I’m OK, I’m numb, I’m hurting, I’m searching, I’m alright, I’m hopeful, I’m talkative, I’m quiet, I’m tired, I’m fine.

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broccoli, cheddar and wild rice casserole

Yyyyyuuuuuummm! If you’re a fan of broccoli and cheese, make this as soon as humanly possible. I’ve made it twice since it was posted by Deb onto Smittenkitchen.com (it was posted on the 11th of this month so that’s saying something).

I made this twice because I could tell the first time that there were things I could do to make it a bit less soupy and a bit more crunchy. First off, the second time around I used aged white cheddar and pepper jack instead of medium cheddar. Best move ever. Also, I cut the milk in half and really let the cheese sauce thicken before spreading it over my rice.

Oh man. So delicious.

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Broccoli, Cheddar and Wild Rice Casserole

Serves 4 as a generous side

3 tablespoons butter
1/2 large onion, diced
Salt
2/3 cup uncooked wild rice blend, rinsed
1 pound broccoli
1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
1/4 teaspoon ground mustard powder or 1/2 teaspoon smooth Dijon
Pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup low-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
8 ounces cheddar cheese, coarsely grated
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 1 tablespoon butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, add onion and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add rice to onion and cook for 1 minute, then add 1 1/3 cups water and a few pinches of salt. Bring mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat to lowest temperature and cook with the lid on for about 50 minutes (or whatever amount of time is suggested on your package of rice). If you’d like a rice cooker to do this for you, transfer onions, water and rice to the machine and set the machine.

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Peel broccoli stems and dice them into large chunks. Cut florets into 1-inch pieces. Cook in boiling, well-salted water for 2 to 3 minutes, then drain.

You can use this same pan to make the cheese sauce. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter in pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the mustard powder (if using), a pinch of cayenne and garlic and let sizzle for 1 minute. Add flour and whisk until combined, cooking the butter-flour mixture for 1 to 2 minutes. Slowly drizzle in milk, whisking constantly, then broth. Bring to a simmer and cook mixture at a simmer, stirring the whole time, until sauce is slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in smooth Dijon mustard if you didn’t use mustard powder.

Remove pan from heat and stir in 1/3 of grated cheese until melted. Season generously with salt and pepper.

Combine cooked wild rice blend and broccoli in a 2-quart baking dish or a 9-inch oven-safe skillet. Pour cheese sauce over and gently nudge to ensure all pieces get some sauce. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top. Bake casserole for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly, then run mixture under the broiler until cheese is toasty on top.