BAM Family

BAM Family

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Breakfast Puffs: Recipe

Have you ever made Yorkshire pudding? I hadn't even heard of it until I was watching Diners, Drive-ins, and Dives on Food Network a few weeks ago. A Yorkshire pudding is a savory bread-like dish that is simultaneously crispy, chewy, and all around delicious! 

I decided to make a sweet, breakfast version so here is my recipe for Breakfast Puffs!  They are a cross between a muffin, doughnut, and a pancake.
They are so easy that my son (who calls them "Hush Puppies"…go figure?) asked me to make them on a school morning and I easily agreed (granted, school starts at 8:35 for us so…we had a bit of time). 

Ingredients: 

1 cup milk
3 eggs
dash of salt
2 TBS sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Vegetable oil 
Sliced strawberries
powdered sugar

Make it!

Preheat oven to 425 (key step!). 

Warm milk in microwave for 60 seconds. This helps bring all the ingredients (including the cold eggs) to room temperature for optimum PUFF while baking. 

In a blender, add milk, eggs, salt, sugar, vanilla, and then flour on top. Blend until smooth. Scrape down sides to incorporate all the flour and blend again if necessary. 

Carefully pour one teaspoon of oil into 10 cups of a regular muffin tin. Put the muffin on a sheet pan (to  catch any overflow while the puffs cook) and put the tin in the oven while it is preheating. You want the oil to get nice and hot (but not smoke! so keep an eye on it. I usually put the tin in when the oven is half way heated and the oil does just fine). 

Slice the strawberries and add a little sugar so they will make their own syrup. Set aside. 

When the oven is preheated, pull the muffin tin out and carefully pour the batter into the cups, filling 2/3 of the way full. This recipe makes 10 puffs. 

Put the tin back in the oven and set the timer for 25 minutes. 

This recipe is very entertaining to watch bake! The puffs start out as a really thin, unimpressive batter and then they quickly puff up as they cook. It is really exciting. (if you get excited about food. I do!) I have actually put a chair in front of my oven and watched them bake the entire time! (can you say "food nerd"?) This morning, though, I took a shower while they baked. Hey, it was a school morning, after all. 

When they are done, the puffs should be huge, (3+ inches above the tin) and golden brown. Loosen the puffs with a small knife and place them on a paper towel lined plate upside down to drain off some of the oil. 

Note: The ONLY downside to these puffs is that they are hard to get out of the pan. I have tired cooking spray + oil, butter, more oil, etc. and every method sticks. So…just be prepared. But they are worth it, I promise!

Sprinkle puffs with powdered sugar and top with strawberries. Serve to your hungry kiddos! 
Serves 4-6.

Yum! They are filling and delicious: crispy, chewy, and slightly sweet. Mmmm! 

Enjoy! 

Saturday, April 26, 2014

30 memorable moments on my 30th Birthday

30…Thirty…What?? Woah.

Yep. I am thirty today. That seems so….mature.

You thought I was going to say "old," right? Well, it is.

But I don't really feel old! When I look back at my life though, I realize that so much has has happened in the last thirty years…and most of it has happened in the last TEN years!

Here are 30 of my most memorable moments of the past 30 years (plus some embarrassing pictures of me).

30. April 26 1984: I was born. According to my mother, I had a very exciting entrance. There was lighting! There was thunder! There were frantic calls to my out-of-town father! Would my mother make it to the hospital in time? Would my father make it to the hospital in time? (are you biting your nails???)

Don't worry. They both made it. And I was born. The end. Or The Beginning, I should say!

29. When I was 5 years old, I decided that I wanted to be a writer. I've been able to add the word "published" in front of "writer" in the last few years. Now I want to add the word "paid" to "published" and "writer" in the next…oh, 30 or so years.

28. When I shared my 5 year old dreams with my grandmother, she told me that it was very difficult to make any money as a writer (um, was she right) so I should be an English teacher instead. Life shaping conversations at 5 years old!
Yeah, that's me in the red striped shirt.
Super nerdy homeschool pic
27. I was home schooled from 1st-12th grade. Homeschooling shaped me into the person I am today and has given me the work ethic and can-do attitude that has helped me so much in my life. Thanks Mom!
Super nerdy homeschool pic take 2: Rockin' the awkward sweater and jean shorts.

26. When I was 15, I went on a singing tour (that's not the important memory, though it was fun!). On this tour we stayed at a host home where I was introduced to the 6 hour BBC mini-series "Pride and Prejudice." We stayed up until 2am watching and I was enchanted. This was my first introduction to Jane Austen. Oh my…the rest is history.
Oh, Mr. Darcy. Swoon!

25. My senior year in high school, my mom and I took a cross-country road trip to visit all the colleges I was interested in. We drove from Kansas to Minnesota, to Ohio, to Virginia, to Missouri, and back to Kansas. This two week trip was so fun and is one of my favorite memories with my mom. Plus, it helped me pick the University that has had such an impact on my life.
My senior year of high school. See? I grew out of my nerd-dom a bit.
Though, my best friend and I ARE sitting on a dinosaur...
24. The day before my high school graduation, I decided that I was going to go to Liberty University. The reason? They offered me the best scholarship (even though they had the worst food and worst dorms of all the schools I visited).

23. I took a year off before going to college. During this year, I taught a very small literature, poetry, and writing "class" for Jr. High students (including my brother!) in our homeschool co-op. This experience solidified my decision to major in English and pursue teaching.

22. In August 2003, my family embarked on another cross-country trip to take me to Liberty University.

21. A few weeks later, I met this guy with Buddy Holly glasses who was good at soccer and way too arrogant for his own good. We got in a fight during our first conversation in the dining hall. He told me "English is stupid." I was beyond offended.

20. The guy's name was Aaron Meng.
Me and the guy…Freshman year
19. In October of 2003, Liberty hosted this event called Super Conference, a pastors conference that, for some reason, all LU students were required to go to that year. Aaron and I "somehow" ended up sitting together for the entire 3 day conference. I don't remember much of the conference but I do remember that this guy was filling my every waking thought (and some of my sleeping ones too)…which was bad because I was dating someone at the time...

18. …but that's another story (a very long story). Let's just say that meeting that "arrogant soccer guy" changed my life forever. For the better.

17. At the advice of an upperclassman, I took Dr. Karen Swallow Prior for a 200 level literature course. This professor had a profound influence on my English education and Christian worldview. I think I took 5 classes with her in my undergraduate college career alone.
At Dr. Prior's book signing (three kids later)
16. I became a prayer leader at Liberty in 2004. This volunteer position deepened my faith more than anything else had up to this time. I learned that being a Christian is about loving God and loving others, not my performance or trying to earn God's favor.
Sophomore Year at Liberty
15. Aaron and I got married! May 26, 2006. Oh, happy day!
14. On March 1 2007, I found out that I was pregnant. Not such a happy day. In our minds, it was too soon.


13. On April 16 2007 (Yep….the day of the Virginia Tech shootings), I found out I was having twins. This was the biggest surprise of my life. EVER. I laughed and laughed. Certainly, one of the happiest days of my life. (My emotions during my pregnancy were widely varied).
12. Micah Gabriel and Benjamin Nathaniel were born via c-section on October 9, 2007. I became a mother of twins five months after I graduated from college. What a sanctifying experience it has been.
Woah. We are parents of twins (23 years old)
11. In October 2008, I parked my double stroller in Dr. Prior's office and she told me all about the brand new English MA program at Liberty. I wondered if I could do it. I wondered if I was smart enough, good enough, capable enough. I seriously doubted it but….I wanted to try.

10. I started the MA program in January of 2009. My twins were 15 months old. I was very excited and hopeful. I was also insane.

9. I became a GSA for the MA program in January of 2010. I was so nervous about starting this teaching position that I, literarily, did not sleep for 2 months before starting. I am not joking. I was absolutely terrified of teaching ENGL 101.

8. I learned that I adore teaching, especially college students. And I have had some wonderful students in the last 5 years.
Graduation Day for my MA degree 2011

7. In my last semester in grad school, I wrote my masters thesis (hang on…gotta go look up the title…): "The Enduring Austen Heroine: Self-Awareness and Moral Maturity in Jane Austen’s Emma and in Modern Austen Fan-Fiction." Whew! Writing that darn thesis was the hardest thing I have ever done…and one of my proudest accomplishments, ranking right after breastfeeding my twins for 17 months. 

6. In August 2011, our family started going to Grace Church. God has really used this church to show me fresh, new ways of seeing my Christian faith and life. 

5. On October 24, 2012, I gave birth to Silas Edward after a grueling 60 hour labor. Oh my. Yeah, this was added to the "hardest/proudest" list. 
Silas Edward
4. Silas' birth has helped to transform me as a mother, especially to my older boys. God uses my children to continue to sanctify me. 

3. I found out I was pregnant right before Christmas, 2013. Our whole family was wildly happy. 

2. We lost the baby in January, 2014. This grief continues to shape my life and faith. God has already given me the opportunity to "mourn with those who mourn" as the co-leader of a grief support group for mothers who have experienced loss.
1. The miscarriage was a devastating storm in my life. But, like after so many tragedies, there is a rainbow after this storm as well. We just found out that God has blessed us with a new life, a new baby. I am 6 weeks pregnant. God willing, our precious little baby will join our family right before Christmas, 2014. Expecting a baby after a miscarriage is a beautiful gift, but it is difficult too. I worry a lot. Please pray for me if you think about it! 
Photo by S. Carter Studios
Today is my 30th birthday. God has had his hand on my life, my dreams, my family, my life for all these years. He has given me joy and strength in my journey. I will continue to walk forward with Him in expectation of all that is to come in the future!

Monday, April 7, 2014

Meng Menu

I was racing to get grocery shopping done yesterday. I squeezed it in between church and meeting with a friend for coffee at 2:30. As much of a chore menu planning, coupon "clicking," and shopping for two weeks is, IT IS DONE for two weeks. Such a relief. 

I spent around $250 this week (Budget: $300) which included 3 toothbrushes, shampoo and conditioner for me, and paper towels. Not bad, not bad. 

Sunday: Sesame Chicken Pot stickers, rice w/ veggies (New recipe on the pot stickers. Fun but labor intensive! Plus, holy cow, I know now why they call them pot STICKERS…)
Monday: Hot dogs, chips, apple and orange slices
Tuesday: Slow cooked pulled pork sandwiches, baked fries, carrots and celery
Wednesday: Grilled pork chops, baked beans, salad
Thursday: Roast beef, mashed potatoes, green beans
Friday: Out to eat

Saturday: Roast beef sandwiches, chips, fruit salad

Sunday: Sloppy joes, baked fries, Green beans
Monday: Pulled pork sandwiches, chips, carrots and celery
Tuesday:  Grilled pork chops, roasted red potatoes, salad
Wednesday: Parmesan chicken, parmesan rice, broccoli
Thursday: Spaghetti, salad
Friday: Out to eat
Saturday: Chicken w/mustard cream sauce, rice, broccoli 

If you read our menus frequently, you might see some repeat dinnersum, sloppy joes? That is because Sloppy Joes are Aaron's favorite meal. Yep. Low maintenance, that man. He could eat them every day. That, and hot dogs, which Micah says is his favorite meal. I, on the other hand, love to try new meals and have a bit more of a "foodie" palate. So…I try to keep my men happy while also preparing recipes I like too. 

How do you keep your family happy at dinner time? 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

"Step into Spring" Skirt: Tutorial

It's been a long Winter in Virginia. We finally had our first warm day of Spring today on April 2nd. And Spring weather calls for spring clothes, like this sweet skirt! I've designed and made two "Step into Spring" skirts so far! This skirt is so easy and comes together in an afternoon. 
Want the tutorial? Keep reading!
Supplies: 
1 and 1/4 or 1 and 1/2 yards knit fabric (mine is a poly/cotton blend; one way stretch)
Small piece of heavy-duty interfacing
2 inch wide elastic
Sewing supplies
Iron 

Before you begin:
Wash and dry your fabric. Don't skip this step! My red fabric actually shrunk and got all wonky. I had to be pretty creative about cutting the pieces. If I hadn't washed and dried before I sewed, my skirt would have shrunk and been ruined the first time I washed it. :( 

Measure: Natural waist (mine = 29)
Natural waist to knee (mine = 20. Yep. I'm a shortie)

The pieces you'll need: 
(click on the picture to enlarge and read the captions)
Here's how to cut each piece: First Fold your fabric in half so the stretch goes from side to side, not up and down. 
Measure from your natural waist (smallest part) to your knee. Add 6 inches. 
Measure down and then cut across your fabric at this measurement. Mine was at 26 inches.
 Next, cut your two pieces apart at the fold. Set one of the rectangles aside. 
This is the back of your skirt.
From the Front piece cut a 6 inch strip. Keep the same form of stretch being side-to-side and not stretch up and down. 
This 6 inch strip is your waist band. 
Divide your waist measurement in half. Add one inch. Cut your waist band length to this measurement. 
Mine: 1/2 waist = 15 + 1 = 16 inches long
Cut a piece of interfacing the same size as your waist band. 
The unique thing about this skirt is the slash pockets!  I used this tutorial to learn how to sew these pockets. I drew my own pattern on computer paper. The slash pocket seem intimidating but they are really easy to sew! 

The piece on the left is the outer pocket; the right is the inner pocket. Cut two of each piece. 
 Fold the skirt front in half and use the pocket pattern to cut a curve. You will attach your pockets in this curve. 
All done! You should have these pieces cut for your skirt. 

Let's start sewing! 

Lay the inner pocket against the curve, right sides together (of course on knit, it doesn't really matter). Pin and sew along the curve on both sides. I used a 1/4 inch seam allowance (against the foot).
Fold the pocket over so the finished seam is showing. Press lightly. 
Open up the seam and press the seam allowance toward the pocket lining. 
"Under-stitch" the seam allowance toward the pocket lining by sewing down the seam allowance.
Under-stitching ensures that the pocket lining stays in the skirt and has a smooth finish. 
I was skeptical about this step (recommended in the tutorial linked above) but it really works and looks nice!
Next, fold the inner pockets in so the finished seams are showing. Lay the outer pocket piece on top of the inner pocket. Pin along the outside curve. Sew along the curve only. 

Line up the pocket pieces flush against the skirt edge. Tack down (sew very close to the edge) these three layers (inner pocket, outer pocket, skirt front) to keep the pocket in place. 
Don't tack down the top part of the pocket yet! 
Turn over your skirt to the right side: This is what it should look like so far!
Next, set your machine to the longest stitch. 
Pull the pocket pieces out of the way. 
Sew a gathering stitch between the two arrows. 
Pull your gathers up as tight as they will go. 
Next, fuse your inner facing to your waist band (if applicable). Then fold your waist band in half (inner facing inside) and iron. Next, iron a 1/2 inch fold along one side of length of the waist band. 
Carefully fold in the top pocket pieces on the back side of your skirt and pin to the gathered part. Tack down the pockets to the gathers using a 1/4 inch seam allowance. (Don't forget to change your stitch length back to a normal setting!!) This step also secures the gathering stitches. Trim threads. 
On the wrong side of the skirt, pin the waist band edge that is not ironed. Sew, using a 5/8 seam allowance. Be careful: it will be thick in parts!
Flip the skirt over and fold in the 1/2 inch ironed portion. Pin carefully, making sure you hide all the seams inside the waist band. Sew along the waist band, keeping stitches about 1/8 inch from the edge. 


Your skirt front is all done! Plus you just made slash pockets!! Great job!
Next take the Back skirt and iron a 1/2 inch along the top of the skirt. 
Then, fold down 2.5 inches and iron. This is the casing for the elastic.
Pin and sew, keeping stitches 1/8 from the edge of the fold. 
Cut your elastic. I used this formula: 1/2 of waist measurement (15 inches) minus 3 inches
My measurement was 12 inches. 
Work the elastic into the casing using a large safety pin. Tack elastic on one end. Then push the elastic to the other end and tack. 
The back of the skirt is done!
Pin the front and back of the skirt, right sides together. 
At this point, I had to trim up the bottom of the skirt so the front and back matched. Hey, it's a homemade pattern, after all….
Sew the front and back together using a 5/8 seam allowance. 
Open up the seam at the waistband and sew the seam open at the top and bottom of the waist band to keep the seam smooth. 

Hem or leave un-hemmed as desired. It's knit, after all! It won't ravel. 
I hemmed my blue skirt (the fabric didn't shrink in the wash so I made the pieces 2 inches longer for a nice chunky 2 inch hand-sewn hem) but left the red skirt un-hemmed. I may hem it by machine after I see how it washes. 
Here it is! The "Step into Spring" skirt. 
 My lame attempts to get a picture of myself: Bathroom selfie, shirt tucked...
Then I asked my 6 year old to take this picture: Shirt untucked. Great shot of the outfit but I cut off my head because his vantage point gave me a double chin. And I do NOT have a double chin IRL (in real life)…do I? 
Here is the "Step into Spring" skirt in blue. 
I have already worn this one twice! So comfortable and fun. 

So go ahead, Step into Spring…and make one of these skirts for your own spring wardrobe! 

Please let me know if you have any questions. :)

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