BAM Family

BAM Family

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

BAM Broccoli Cheese Soup

Here is my recipe for Broccoli Cheese Soup:

2 Tbs butter
1 tsp minced garlic (or more. I love garlic!)
5-6 cups chicken stock
2 shredded carrots
3-4 cups broccoli, cut into very small pieces (tiny florets) (I cut up 2 crowns)
1 cup Velveeda cheese, cubed (I use the 2% kind) Cheddar or other favorite cheese would be great too!
1 1/2 cups milk
1/4 cup corn starch
salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot or dutch oven melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add chicken stock. Cover and bring to a boil. Add carrots and broccoli; cover and let boil for 5-7 minutes. Add cheese and stir until melted. Stir corn starch into milk and add to soup. Stir until thickened. Salt and pepper to taste (I usually don't add salt because of the Velveeda). It is also great with a few dashes of hot sauce thrown in.

To make the soup a bit thicker, stir in 2 Tbs of flour into the butter/garlic to make a roux before adding the chicken stock. Of course, heavy cream would also be delish and thicken it up but that would be more of an indulgence meal rather than a healthy, sensible dinner.

Enjoy!!!

Meatless Meals

My grocery bill has been out of control lately. Well, last week was at least. Our target budget for groceries every week is $125 but money has been really tight so we have been trying to do groceries for around $90.  Believe me, it is HARD to stay under $100! I have tried to use coupons but I haven't had a lot of luck (I have discovered that a lot of coupons are for ready-made or processed foods that we don't really eat a lot of, or yummy things like cinnamon rolls that I would love to have but don't need). I shop at Kroger for the most part and always try to take advantage of their sale items or deals of the week. I usually end up saving almost $20 with my Kroger Plus Card but sometimes that is just not enough.

As in last week. I spent....one hundred and eighty dollars. Maybe if I write it small it seems like I spent less, right? 

Granted, we were out of a lot of food; $20 was spent on diapers; and another $40 was spent on toiletry/household stuff BUT STILL! I had to get creative about my menu planning for the next two weeks. 

I decided to stretch the food I got by planning low-meat or no-meat meals into our menu. Last week we had bacon (1/2 package) and eggs (Aaron was gone that night), Potato soup (other 1/2 package of bacon), and pancakes and cheese omelets. 

This week our menu looks like this:

Saturday: Roasted Chicken, leftover mashed potatoes, green beans
Sunday:  Frozen Pizza (for the boys. Aaron and I took our prospective pastor out to dinner)
(Meatless) Monday: Homemade Broccoli Cheese Soup, homemade yeast rolls, jello salad
Tuesday: Hamburgers, baked beans, apple slices
(Meatless) Wednesday: Bean Burritos (crockpot refried beans, tortillas with lettuce, tomato, cheese, olives, and sour cream)
Thursday: Roast Beef, mashed potatoes, carrots
Friday: Pork Loin, Rice, Broccoli with garlic butter

Aaron is a meat-lover (I am too but I am a little more willing to try new things) and he balks a bit when I suggest things like "Meatless Meals." He was on board for the money saving ideas but it is sometimes another thing to "sell" new recipes to him. (To his credit, he always eats what I prepare and almost never complains. He may say after dinner, "I wasn't a huge fan.")

I had made the broccoli cheese soup for myself many times (it's my own recipe) but had never made it for the family. And Aaron liked it!!! YEA! (And amazing! He isn't a huge veggie person). 

I am making the refried beans today--also a new recipe. So we'll see how this second meatless meal turns out. 

Anyone have some meatless recipes to share that meat-lovers will like? Send them this way!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Best Teacher Award

Yesterday I got my course evaluations for teaching last semester. Here are some of my favorite comments:

The prompt: What did you like most about this class?

Mrs. Meng!

The atmosphere of the classroom and how the teacher treated us.

the awesome teacher

The instructor was very helpful.

I really liked my GSA, Mrs. Brittany Meng. She helped me out with my papers, and really wanted me to succeed.

My GSA, Mrs. Meng, was a very good teacher! She helped me a lot with her feedback.

My GSA, Mrs. Meng, was the only good thing about this class.

Mrs. Meng being a straight baller. She was probably the best teacher eva.

The best part about this course was by far my GSA. She was always willing to meet with me and help me with what ever I needed. She was gracious yet firm in the policy. I not only learned a lot from her through her teaching, but through her character and personality. She is an amazing person and I am proud to say she's my GSA. (This one almost made me cry!!)

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Adjunct Professor

I am officially an adjunct professor (a fancy word for "part-time") at Liberty University! I had my first day of work yesterday and it went pretty well. I am an assistant for a British Literature class.  All of the 200 level literature courses at LU are over 100 people (I officially have 113 per class) so they have assigned one professor to lecture and one to grade. So, I am the grader and attendance taker (no small task). My job is pretty easy right now--just take attendance and grade quizzes but I will be REALLY busy when the papers are due. I kinda don't want to think about it now. Grading is not my favorite thing in the world (yeah, yeah, I can hear it now...."If you don't like to grade papers, why did you become and English Professor? Well, there is a lot more fun parts to teaching than grading...). But is is a job and I am very thankful to be employed right after graduation. Plus I really enjoy the lady I am working with, Mrs. Tweedy. Plus it is really good experience and review for me for Brit Lit. Plus I am able to make some money to contribute to our family. So there are a lot of plusses.

I will just have to remember those plusses when I am drowning in over 200 papers at the end of February and April.

Babysitting Swap

Though we decided to pull the boys out of preschool for this semester (because we couldn't afford it), we were going to need childcare for the days that I would be working. We hired a babysitter and planned to pay her around $400 a month (we believe in paying our sitters well). About a week ago, however, my friend Alisha (who was also a Graduate Assistant at Liberty and is now an adjunct professor at LU AND also has two boys, ages 4 and almost 2) suggested that we "barter our children" or do a babysitting swap. So, I am now watching her youngest son on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 11:30-3pm and she is watching my boys on Tuesday and Thursday from 11:30-5pm.

I think our boys are wearing each other out with so much playing! I think they are having a blast. Plus the best part of the deal that that we both have free childcare for the semester!!! So, that extra $400? Going into the new car fund. :) 

Monday, January 17, 2011

Baby Animal Song

My favorite song when I was three years old was the "Baby Animal Song" I learned in Awana Cubbies. I even have a tape of me singing it over and over again with every animal I could think of.

The song goes a little like this:

"Baby [insert animal of choice] says
[insert animal noise]
Like his mother and his father
God gave me a family too
And we love one another"

Precious, huh? Well, I taught the song to the boys and they want me to sing it every night. I always have them pick the animal and say the noise. We also add a hearty "WHOO!" at the end of the song too.

This evening we did the standard "baby kitty," "baby cow," etc. But sometimes the downright weird animal creeps in. As in Micah's request of "baby octopus" (wh-a-a-a?) I am always curious to hear what kind of noise the boys will come up with. The song went a little like this:

Me: Baby octopus says
Micah: [strangled gargling noise]
Me: Like his mother and his father. God gave me a family too. And we love--
Both: one ano-o-o-o-o-ther! WHOO!

Benji frequently requests inanimate objects. Tonight we sang "baby car" (VRROOM VRROOM) and "baby truck" (Um...sounds pretty much like baby car). My favorite one he came up with is "baby track" (again...wh-a-a-a?). I just went with it and left a big silence for the noise: "baby track" says "choo choo!" Of course! Like a baby train track! ("Baby train" says the same thing, just in case you were wondering).

I wonder if it will come as a shock when they are older that cars, trucks, tracks (busses, trains, tractors, etc) do not, in fact, have mothers or fathers.

I think I'll hold off on the truth. Their versions of the Baby Animal Song are just too precious right now.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Operation No TV

....well, more like "less" TV. Here is my "bad mom" confession: this past year (or two) I let my kids watch a LOT of TV. As in hours of mindlessness in front of the boob tube. AK! It feels horrible just writing that (ok maybe not MINDLESS. They usually watch educational shows or Veggie Tales).

Now that my degree is over, I am home with the boys full time again. I have felt convicted about the amount of time that they spend watching TV. And even more concerned about how much they WANT to watch TV or movies. So, these past few weeks, I have been trying to turn it off around 9am (they still watch PBS or NickJr. when they wake...or should I say, as I wake up, get a shower and coffee, and make them breakfast).

I have been racking my brain for creative activities and searching the internet for ideas that are both educational and fun. One favorite activity has been to "play games" (as the boys call it) on Starfall.com. It is a great website for beginning reading skills. We use the ABC link and practice letter recognition and phonics. The boys LOVE it and are engaged and interactive the whole time.

I have also discovered ActivityMom. I am looking forward to using more ideas from this resource in the future.

Here are a few activities we did today:

 We made "caterpillars" from pipe cleaners and beads. Benji did so well with this project. He was completely concentrated on stringing his beads. Plus it helps the boys with fine motor skills.
 Benji's Catterpillar
 Micah (still working on his) 
(By the way, my boys DO wear pants. They just seem to run around in their undies a lot)
 Here is a little project I got here. It was actually a link from ActivityMom. It is a bunny game where you build a bunny. Micah got creative with ear placement.
 Here is Benji's bunny. Forget the body--just put the tail on the head! 
This is actually an activity from yesterday: Bed Tents! I stretched a fitted sheet over their toddler bed and safety pinned it in place. The boys had fun in them and slept in their tents last night. 

I was hoping that the tents would keep them occupied for the hours after their nap (as I am trying to cut out TV time after nap time). Well, they played in them for about 20 minutes and then were on to something else. Basically, they drove me crazy in the kitchen while I was trying to make dinner (we have to eat at 5pm on Wednesdays so we can leave at 5:45 for church). Finally, after roaring at them numerous times to GO PLAY IN THE LIVING ROOM (sadly, another one of my "bad mom" habits) I finally turned on a library DVD. 

It was worth it for a few moments of sanity. 

So, how about you? How to you keep your kids busy, happy, engaged, and learning while keeping the TV off? Believe me, I need ideas! 

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Goodwill Refashion: Black Sweater Dress

Since Aaron was skiing this afternoon, I decided to take advantage of a quiet afternoon to myself and refashion the other dress I got from Goodwill about a week ago. 

BEFORE

What I loved: I liked the material on this dress. It is a sweater like material but not too thick. Plus, it has a nice drape. The other upside to this dress is it is HUGE. Yep, big is good for refashioning--there is plenty of material to work with that way. And you can't beat the $3.50 price tag. 

What I hated: Pretty much everything about the shape. Let's face it: this dress is a big, black rectangle. Who would look good in this dress in this condition? No one! 

Here is how I transformed this "blah" black dress: 
 I laid a dress on top with the length that I liked and cut the dress to a new length
 I wanted 3/4 length sleeves so I laid a shirt over the dress to give me an idea of where to cut
 I also wanted to cut a new neckline: I pinned this neckline of the sample shirt to the dress. 
 Then I lifted the shirt and drew around the pin-line with chalk
 Ta-da! a pattern to cut from!
 I needed to tighten up the sleeves and sides of the dress. I measured 1 1/4 inch with my seam gage around the sleeves and about 2 inches around the body of the dress
 After sewing my new seams, (and trying on the dress to make sure it was ok) I cut off the excess. 
 Next I sewed double hems for the sleeves and hem. I think the double hem looks a little more professional.
 I wanted to sew a cowl neck on the dress. I measured the neckline of the dress (29inches) and used the material I cut off the bottom  for the cowl neck. I made it 8 inches wide (but I probably could have gone wider)
 I stuck the collar into the dress, then pinned and sewed
 After sewing and pulled out
 Then I folded the cowl over and sewed it down. After this, I sewed a belt from the rest of the skirt I cut off. No pic of this, sorry. 

AFTER
 So, I completely stink at taking pictures of myself. Here is my best shot of the "after."

 I love it!! New shorter hemline, modern sleeve length, and fun cowl neck. The belt is tied at my natural waistline (not really visible in this picture).

 New neckline! (So much better than the mock turtleneck of the original!)

I love how it turned out and I can't wait to wear this to work next week! 

Monday, January 3, 2011

Goodwill Refashion: Gray Dress

For the past 6-7 months or so, I have followed New Dress A Day, a blog where this wonderfully creative girl (lady? woman?) refashioned an outfit a day for one year. She just recently finished her one-year adventure and I have really missed her daily updates (she still posts her projects, just not every day).

That blog, and others, inspired me to do some Goodwill refashioning of my own. I love new clothes but don't have a lot of money to spend. At the mall, I am lucky if I can get even ONE outfit (or piece of clothing!) for $20.

Well, yesterday I spent some quality time at Goodwill searching for diamonds in the rough--aka clothes that have the potential to be amazing with a few snips and stitches.

Here is my first refashion attempt on a dress.

BEFORE

(BTW, this is a HORRID picture of me. I hate it! But I accidentally deleted the "good" picture of the "before" dress)

What I loved: I paid $3.50 for this little number. I loved the material (it is a subtle houndstooth pattern. If you click on the picture to enlarge you can probably see it) and the cute sleeves. I also liked the empire waist (it flows AWAY from the body...a good thing for any woman who has had a kid or two)

What I hated: the length = Mid-calf. UG. Horrible length for anyone, in my opinion. Even worse for someone who is short like me. I also despised the neckline. Gag. Literally. 

AFTER
I shortened the dress to my knees and sewed a new hem. I also had to sew shut the slit in the back of the dress. I also lowered the neckline. That took some um....creativity. My first attempt didn't work but I think it looks good now. Still modest but the dress doesn't look like it is choking me anymore.

I am wearing some black heels (which my brother did not get into the pic...oh well!) but I think with some sheer black stockings, black heels, and these pearls, this dress will be awesome for work, church, or a date night (whenever that may happen! HA!)

Not bad for $3.50 + two hours, huh?

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