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Cooking is a labor of love. It might be love for the individual ingredients you use, the people you’re cooking for, the memories that a specific dish gives you, or…it could be all of the above. It is often all of the above for me…except tater tots, that’s just love for tots.

Think about it. Our moms (or dads/grandparents/etc) cook us the foods we love because they know we love it and they love us. One of my aunts gets so excited for an event (i.e. whether it’s a holiday, grandma’s birthday or a family get-together) that she will wake up at 4 a.m. to cook…and she doesn’t cook one thing, she cooks several. It is in her nature to cook and to serve the food (a lot of it).

I recently got the chance to practice this labor of love for some of my siblings. And I’m going to  preface here that this is a WORKING recipe…but I love it so much I had to share it. It’s called Mi Xao Giòn in Vietnamese, which translates to crispy noodles with beef and broccoli (or as my siblings like to say “CRISP-AY NOO-DUHL”). It is one of my absolute favorite things to eat because I like a good crunch, but this dish also has a nice balance. You’ve definitely seen this on a menu and you can put different things on top of your crispy noodles like a seafood/vegetable medley.

Should I have paid more attention when my mom was cooking it three weeks ago? Yes.
I have the noodles down at least, okaaaaay?

mi xao don crispy noodle

Mi Xao Gion (Crispy Noodles with Beef and Chinese Broccoli)

Difficulty: Intermediate because my recipe is…loose
Noodle Frying Time:
45 mins
Total Cook Time: 1.5 hours
Yields: 5 “bird noodle nests,”  generously serves 4-5 peeps

Ingredients:

  • Egg noodles, specifically Canadian Style Wonton Mein and can be found in the frozen/refrigerated aisle where all the noodles are in your local Asian grocery store
  • 1.5 lbs of London broil or flank steak
  • 2 bunches/bags of Chinese broccoli (Cai Lan), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 to 3 cloves of garlic, diced and minced
  • 3 to 4 tbsp all-purpose flour, maybe more**
  • 2 to 4 tbsp oyster sauce**
  • 1 to 2 tsp hoisin sauce, this has a strong flavor, so start with 1 tbsp and taste**
  • 1 to 2 tbsp soy sauce**

**Note: these are rough estimates and slowly added to taste. Keep in mind that the flour is to create the “gravy” and the various sauces are to support the flavor of the “gravy”

candian style wonton mein

To prep & fry noodles:

  1. The noodles I use are already divided into 5 equal servings, but you still need to unravel them and form them into piles. See below…you do this so that the noodles don’t clump together because that’s gross. Making these piles also help give you an even fry.
    candian style wonton mein
  2. Personally, I use a cast iron (which is shallow), but you can use whatever pan you use for frying. I like using a 10-inch cast iron because it helps me form the shape that fits nicely on a dinner plate.
  3. Add about ½ inch of neutral/canola oil to your pan and heat to ~350 degrees.
    1. PRO TIP: If you have wooden chopsticks…stick the chopstick into the pan. If there are lots of bubbles coming off it, it’s ready. A smoking pan is a bad sign, and if this happens to you…take the pan off the heat to let it cool.
  4. When the oil is ready, take your noodle pile and try to spread an even, flat-ish layer in the pan. If you don’t get this, that’s ok! After you drop it in, immediately take your chopsticks (or tongs) to spread it out. You do not want clumping because you will get uncooked noodles. 
  5. I kept my eye on it but if I had to say a time…about 2-3 minutes until it’s golden (more yellow than brown) before you flip it over for another 1-2 minutes. I use chopsticks to do this, but if you are not good with chopsticks…I think tongs could work!
  6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you’re done. You may need to add more oil into the pan. You may also need to wait a little bit in between frying so that the temp can get back to where it needs to be. Put a paper towel between each “nest” of noodles, so it can soak up the oil.

To prep meat & veg:

  1. Peel, smash and dice your garlic. This will be incorporated with your meat in its “tenderizing” process.
  2. Slice your meat against the grain, PRETTY THIN (not pho tai thin, but close), and about 2ish inches long. Not bite-sized, but small/short enough so that you don’t need a knife.
  3. Grab a medium sized bowl and add 2 tbsp of vegetable oil to tenderize the meat. I DON’T KNOW WHY, my mom does it. Add the garlic and mix with your hands.
  4. Let it tenderize while you prep the vegetable.
  5. Wash and cut the Chinese broccoli.chinese broccoli cai lan
  6. There are two parts to Chinese broccoli: the stem and the leaves.
    1. If the stem looks too thick, cut it in half lengthwise, this will make it easier to eat and cook.
    2. You can cut the leaves if it looks too big, but keep in mind that they wilt and shrink.
  7. Set your Chinese broccoli aside.
  8. Fill a medium-sized stock pot with water (fill up about 2/3 of the way) && salt your water!
  9. Get a dutch oven or a heavy-bottom pan — this is where you will be browning your meat and preparing your “gravy”/sauce.
  10. Add enough canola/vegetable oil to your pan to cover the surface, and when it’s hot (right before it starts to smoke) add your meat.
  11. You want to brown it, but not cook it all the way through because it will finish cooking later when it’s incorporated all together. This part should take a few minutes.
  12. In the interim, if your water is boiled, throw in your Chinese broccoli. I don’t know how long it takes (I told you this is a working recipe), I would check it after a few minutes. Again, you don’t want it FULLY cooked because it’s going to get cooked in the sauce and meat. Let’s go with check in at 3 minutes (I Googled it).
  13. Take out your browned meat and set aside in a bowl. Turn your heat to low-medium and now add flour. Use a whisk and stir constantly so that it doesn’t burn.
  14. If you have ever made a roux, the process is similar. The goal is to cook the flour with the meat drippings (?) and not let it stick to the pan.
  15. Slowly add water to the pan to loosen the sauce/gravy.
  16. Add soy sauce, hoisin sauce and oyster sauce, still stirring. Taste. Add more if you need to.
  17. You are looking for a gravy-like consistency — not too thick, not too watery. You may need to add more flour, you may need to add more water. Keep stirring.
  18. This may take 10 minutes to figure out the right taste, but once you do…it’s time to dump in your Chinese broccoli! Let it warm up for 1-2 minutes…then dump in your meat!
  19. At this point, you are warming your sauce and goodies, and checking to see if you need to add more salt/soy sauce/water/etc.
  20. To serve: each nest goes on a plate. Personally, I let each person to ladle their own because some like it saucy and some don’t (like me). See above image for reference.

The first time I did it…I didn’t make enough sauce. The second time I did it…same thing, so I guess the lesson here is: make more sauce than you think you need to!

If you’ve stuck around to this point, thank you for being patient. I am amazed by the response from people about my blog, I cannot thank you enough for pushing me to publish this dang thing! I don’t think it’s a difficult recipe, but it might take some trial-and-error. Godspeed and good luck.

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It’s 5:30 AM, and this…could be a terrible blog post.

I’m really not a person to wake up in the middle of the night. Nor am I the person who wakes up every hour, on the hour. Nor am I the person who decides that 5 AM is as good time as any to wake up for a full day of work…and write a personal blog post.

But that’s what you do sometimes. When you know your brain is rattling, and if you don’t get thoughts out, that it might actually be bad for your health. This doesn’t happen often, it’s not a stroke of genius, by any means — but you can’t ignore it. At least, I feel like I can’t.

So I’ll put myself on a time constraint because after this, I actually have to get ready for work.

Work.

It’s been my life lately (sort of). Transitioning back to full time work hasn’t been difficult in the sense that I feel like I’m drowning…it’s just been difficult. When you’ve become used to a certain lifestyle (or developed a habit), other things fall to the wayside. For me, it’s been my creative hobbies…such as your writing. It’s been difficult in the sense that I don’t feel compelled, or even inspired to write anything. Because the majority of my work is writing, I feel burnt out by the time I get home (and that’s on a good day). I feel the same way about social media. You guys know that I have my reservations, but I love social media. It’s also been part of my professional work for…forever. Lately, it’s also fallen to the wayside. I’ll get on here and there, but it’s no longer this priority? (I’ve even turned off Notifications because I feel so indifferent about it.) And while that may sound like a good thing to you… it’s been ingrained in me for so long. When I feel like it’s leaving my person/habits, I FEEL LIKE IT’S NOT ME. I’m asking myself, “WHO AM I?” Does that make sense? It sounds so silly… I promise this has a[n] good ending.

So, then we watched this video (below) at my work’s weekly team meeting. Andrew Stanton, for those of you who do not know, worked on films such as John Carter, Finding Nemo…Wall-E…Toy Story — ever heard of those?

I took notes that reside on my desk now:

“Make me care. Life is NOT static. Stories are inevitable, not predictable. WONDER. Send jokes to Andy.”

— the last bit was a reminder for myself.

Sometimes, I forget about TED talks. Most times, it’s because I’m watching dumb YouTube content like “You Suck At Cooking,” which isn’t actually dumb…it’s actually very creative. ANYHOW, this video struck me like a chord.

  1. b/c it’s Andrew Stanton. Anyone from Pixar, really. You know it’s going to be good
  2. “Make me care” is what anyone aspires to do when they’re telling a story, right? It sounds so obvious…but not until someone else points it out is when you feel like they’ve told you some sort of secret
  3. Life is not static. Are you kidding me, I literally have that written in my About Me section
  4. WONDER. Everyone seeks that (conscious or not). I remember feeling that way when I first watched UP. Or when my brother tells me what he did at work. Or when my roommate tells the shit out of a work story. Or when my best friend tells me…anything.
  5. The moments that he remembers, bringing him to where he stands today
  6. Woof, he knows how to tell a good story. Amirite *sob*

All’s to say is that TED talk was what I needed (for now). A cup of refreshment. Something to lift my spirit, a break in the monotony, a note that says, “Keep going. Make me care.” We all strive for greatness, and as long as it finds you working — it will come.

I think, don’t quote me on that.

 

This topic has been on my mind for awhile. I can list a handful of people who have heard an earful of this already. (Thank you, handful of lovely people who I love.)

“Your job is stupid” isn’t something you hear…to your face. But you feel it with a person’s looks, her nonverbal response and if you’re lucky, a sugar-coated version of it. It usually sounds something like this, “Oh…that’s…cool….*awkwardly*”

When I was a kid, I went through life thinking that I had a few options for a career. Everything else beyond these choices amounted to nothing. I had to choose.

  • Doctor
  • Nurse
  • Engineer
  • Teacher
  • Nun

That was it. Everything else didn’t count; it wasn’t realistic or sustainable. These five options.

Then I got to college, I got to spread my wings a little bit more and doors that I didn’t know existed started to open. But then I got tunnel vision, again. Because my school, my peers and my parents brainwashed me into thinking that I’m supposed to get a full-time, well-paying  job after college. Something sustainable. Something “respectable.” That’s the next step. And I internalized it. I became that kid again, and I thought to myself, “I have to get a full-time job after college …or I’m a lazy piece of shit.” It’s sounds a little harsh, but we were all probably thinking it. Especially if you go to a competitive school. Especially if your peers who are getting jobs before they graduate.

I felt pretty shitty. I was one of those grads that didn’t have a job immediately after college. It wasn’t that I wasn’t applying. It wasn’t that I wasn’t getting interviews. I wasn’t getting hired – and that feels pretty shitty. It doesn’t soften the blow when a recruiter says “You’re impressive…but we decided to go with another candidate.”

So, I kept applying, worked for my parents and traveled in between. Then I took a job that I didn’t love because I felt the pressure of not having one. Then I quit that job, and then I took a job that I liked more but might sound less “respectable.” It was a barista job. I made coffee and I served coffee. I cleaned dishes and I counted the till. I collected tips, and did the occasional hair flip for more tips. And I learned so much at this job. Beyond coffee history, the science of espresso, and Square troubleshooting- I learned about people. The people behind the bar, the people in front of the bar, the people outside of the coffee bar. Arguably, I learned more about the art of communicating, service and team work than any of my other internships, combined.

Most importantly, I learned that no one’s job is stupid. Leaving my job, I have so much respect for everyone in the service industry (and any industry). Where we are in life – as long as you’re moving forward, and you kind of like what you do – what else is there? Maybe [health] benefits…I hear those are cool. But people have a sense of entitlement. That we are supposed to have great jobs because we have a 4 year degree, or we put in our time with multiple internships, or we know someone who knows someone.

We’re not guaranteed anything in this life, and that includes a furthering education and a job. Those are privileges and by-products of continuing hard work…and possible trial-and-error.

If you’re at a job that you love, congratulations. Continue to learn and grow, put in the work, remember to be thankful and don’t forget to  share.

If you’re at a job you hate, make moves. I don’t regret for a second for leaving my job as a fresh grad, 4 months into it. Trust your gut, it’s usually right. Remember to move forward, fight for what you want and that it’s okay to try new jobs (whether or not it’s “respectable,” because re: no one’s job is stupid).

 

 

Yeah, I put Leslie Knope into the title of my blog post, because I can do whatever the hell I want.

…also, every year, I aspire to be her in the gift-giving realm. Not just for Christmas, but for birthdays, made-up holidays and everything in between. If you’ve mentioned something, if I’ve found something online when I’m in a searching black hole – you bet your ass that I’ve written it down on some Post-In note or flimsy piece of paper.

Granted, I’ve lost some of those papers and notes, BUT, I have some. (What are sentences? I may be writing this blog post after drinking. So what? Who cares? I’m gonna edit most of my spelling and grammar errors the following morning today.)

ANYHOW, I have quite a bit of Post-It notes, papers and links. Here’s how you can kill it at Christmas Chrismukkah this year.

Leslie-Knope-Esque Gift Ideas:

  1. For the person who loves homes and Texas: Fucking Cacti Coasters. But not just any coasters, the cacti leaves ARE YOUR COASTERS. …The link…I realize is from a UK-based site. I think they’re pretty cool.
    il_570xN.842791835_8qar
  2. Cocoon Grid-It Organizer or Carry-On Cocktail Kit – for your traveling friends. The ones who are always jet-setting…or going to places for work. It’s an easy way to organize stuffs. It would even work for someone you know who keeps losing their shit, literally. Now they have a grid to keep it all together. If they lose the grid, well…whoops. Cocktail Kit looks bougie and nice for your cocktail-enthusiasts…or serious travel-drinkers.
  3. A subscription to InkDrop. It’s a subscription service (yeah, I know) that delivers ink and pens every so often. Who wants to go to Target and/or order from Amazon? NO ONE. If you know someone who still uses pens (everyone), this is a pretty great thing. It’s $10/month! Although…now that I think about it, if they’re a pen snob – opt out. I repeat, opt out.
  4. A cook book. I’ve got a few ideas up my sleeve, but I’m afraid whoever is reading this will find out and then the surprise will be ruined. I think a great resource is NPR’s Book Concierge. They have other suggestions other than cook books. But if you know someone who loves to cook or wants to dabble in it, this may be the push they need. It’s timeless.
    Cookbook-Cover-818x1024
  5. Five packs of La Croix – this is more a personal request more than anything. Those things are expensive! (Or can add up at least…). Also, go to Target because they have a wider range of flavors. Honestly, I would be thrilled if someone gifted me a pack of La Croix and a pound of good bacon.
    lacroixvariety
  6. Make something. You can always make something. A personalized scarf (I don’t know where I’m going here), a coffee mug with your face on it (Justin Timerlake/Jimmy Fallon style), a detailed, watercolor self-portrait. I’ve always wanted to gift one of my friends a tapestry of my face. Get creative and be weird. Listening to a ‘Dear Hank & John’ podcast, John Green gifted his mom a shoebox. Hold on. It was a shoebox that contained little notes of all the things that made his mom great. That’s pretty dang sweet. Etsy can be your best friend.
  7. Adele’s ’25’ album. I already have it, and it felt like Christmas when someone gave it to me. Who’s going to go out and buy it themselves? OBVIOUSLY many, if you’ve been reading Billboard…or talked to anyone. But CDs are “outdated” or something. Buying something that someone is hesitant to buy for themselves is a pretty good rule of thumb. Or practical things. Is that too adult? I’m rambling. I’m just saying, you can’t go wrong with Adele. The person probably doesn’t have it, but secretly wants it.

If all else fails and you have no idea: get an Anthropologie candle and a Lush bath bomb and call it a holiday.

Little by little, I’m becoming more vulnerable on this blog. What is Houston doing to me? It’s making me soft…

Or maybe it’s age. Or maybe it’s because I’m choosing to be more willing to share. It’s probably Brene Brown and Jamie Tworkowski, too. WHO KNOWS? But now I know that I’m circling…

Anyhow, I’m not talking professional life today, I’m talking about personal. And this may be my personal blog, but I find that Instagram is the top platform where I get pretty personal. With that being said, I can tell you that my Instagram is an inaccurate representation of my life. (But isn’t everyone’s Instagram?)

When I post things anywhere on the Internet, I try to be as authentic as possible. Even with my food puns. I choose not to post certain things. However, I never intend to mislead someone to thinking that I have some ideal life when there are times that home girl is crying while she watches a Shaytards vlog. Home girl is me, by the way. But I guess there’s a large part that is uncontrollable. Because people will piece together whatever they choose how to perceive your life. And it doesn’t matter how authentic or genuine you are trying to be. I’m still circling…

Here it is, TL; DR: If I post sad Instagrams, is that wrong? Am I searching for pity? If I only post happy Instagrams, am I being unauthentic? Will people think that I’m a back-door-bragger? Am I doing it to accumulate Likes, comments or is it something else?

I really think about these questions. Granted, I post [some of] them anyway, but there are those thoughts that cross my mind. I mean, what has it come to for me? Why do I worry? Why do I care? Am I overthinking it (this is what I tell myself a lot. It’s just a photo sharing tool.) What am I searching for? Am I searching at all?

What is driving my compulsion to share?

Here’s a real personal example: This past week hasn’t been the greatest week. It’s been filled with a little bit of everything: anxiety, disappointment, hurt, sadness. And I posted this Instagram. It may have been one of my most sad and honest Instagrams. It didn’t get that many Likes. Not as many as the one that followed, which was a “happier one.” Why is that? And then I think, why care? I shared a real moment. I wanted to, because it was accurate. I tried to end it on a good note, because in reality in my mind- no one wants to find a sad Instagram on their feed…and I didn’t either. 1) Because that’s a downer, no? but 2) With the sadness I felt, I am surrounded by people who wanted me to feel better, to talk with me, to spend time with me. I felt thankful and encouraged, and I had to share that moment of clarity.

Anyway, that’s how I Instagram. It’s a part of my life. Hello.

Feel free to piece what you think my life is (@thutexas). Or, feel free to share with me what you think about Instagram.

screen grab thu texas instagram

Update: I totally wrote a post similar to this, with similar feelings. So I guess I’m not a robot after all! 

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset

The fall of my freshman year, by spontaneity and peer pressure, I purchased these combat boots. I paid what was due at Nordstrom Rack and I never looked back. Three weeks ago, I zipped my boot up for the last time.

After 4 years, 8 semesters of college, my trusty combat boots broke (the zipper specifically speaking). They’ve been everywhere, or…well, a lot of places. Pearl St. of Boulder, CO, Mt. Bonnell of Austin, TX, the pedal clips of my bike, the pavement of many streets, the floors of concerts and parties- this could go on and on. These shoes have really taken a beating, I’m surprised they lasted this long (I may or may not have gotten some upchuck on it at one point).

Looking back, these leather babies were one of the best purchases I’ve ever made as a freshman in college (…I didn’t get my bike until my sophomore year).

Maybe this is turning a new leaf, but I’m severely attached to these boots, they’re still on my shelf. Is it weird that a part of me wants to put it in a glass case to commemorate and preserve the sentiment they hold? Yeah, okay it’s weird. But it’s like those first pair of Chucks you get, which by the way, my mother threw away. Or it’s like your first power blazer that landed you that job…I’m still looking by the way. Whatever it is, it holds a visual representation of a part of your life. I feel like that constitutes some sort of glass case, right?

I’m getting WAY too sappy about a pair of boots, but this is my blog and I do what I want. This is an ode to my combat boots. They kept me grounded through a lot of my college experiences, both literally and metaphorically. Do you have something like that from your college time? Or any sentimental time?

-shrug- Senior year and three more days until graduation.

comment

I received this comment 2 days ago on my most recent Pixar Update post. It’s been about a month and a half in the process, a week since last week’s post, and yes I am still waiting. Sidebar: Thank you for your support Jane; I feel like the whole universe is rooting for me.

Coincidentally after I published that Pixar Update, 2 days later I received an email from a Pixar recruiter that I reached out to a week before. (Maybe they did hear me…Pixar is mysterious) She isn’t a part of University Relations, but she told me she sent my information to them and that they’ll be making final decisions in the next few weeks. She sent me this email 7 days ago. And then after I got that email, my application was finally looked at.

Screen Shot 2014-04-16 at 4.45.49 PM

What does this mean? I don’t really know…

WELL, WHAT’S THE HOLD UP PIXAR?

If I published this and got a response back [like today, now, in 1 minute], I’d like to think I’d be okay with the answer. This whole month and a half, I’ve been teetering between “I have a chance” and “I probably blew it.” Only one thing can resolve this indecisive feeling, and there’s a chance that it’s going to be automated. (Can you tell that my optimism is slowly dwindling, and that I’m currently leaning toward “I probably blew it?”)

This month and a half as I teeter between these two extreme thoughts, I’ve also been fluffing my pillows (metaphorically speaking). Just in case I fall off the Pixar platform, I need a soft place to land. I have a track record of optimism that can be incomparable to the majority, and it’s difficult to bounce back from. I’m a dreamer and this time, I went after a big one.

But speaking of dreams, I’ve gone after some pretty big ones, some that didn’t come true the first time around. No matter, I kept going for it, and my dreams eventually came true (i.e. getting accepted in the best university IN THE WORLD). I don’t regret any of the rejections and my journey for a second. Sure, I missed some UT freshman traditions, but I created memories on the journey to become a longhorn, as a longhorn, and still do as I’m on the cusp of graduation. Memories that I know would be drastically different had I became a longhorn right off the bat.

But back to Pixar, back to dreams, I’m not sure where I stand or if my dream will come true in the next few weeks. The outcome, no matter what it is, I’m preparing by telling myself to keep moving forward (which is actually something my friend John B once told me after I had gotten one of my first rejections). These are the pillows I fall on, along with the unmeasurable amounts of encouragement that even strangers, like Jane, give me.

Pixar will still be my dream, it still is my dream, but somewhere in the dreamsphere, it might not be my time (yet)**.

**emphasis on “yet”

Adventurously Yours,

Thu

 
PS: I don’t know if my analogies actually make sense, let me know maybe?