Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese, Roxie and the Waterfall, Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center with RT and Parental Units, Conquering the Circle of Water AND 4th of July Festivities

Good Wednesday afternoon!

I am going to quickly post pics from the last days of June and the beginning days of July...

Plus, a new-to-me recipe and maybe a little more.

Let's get started!

Easy Ultra Creamy Mac and Cheese

You will need the following:

1 pound dried pasta like elbow, shells or penne
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
5 cups milk, warmed, whole or 2% reduced fat preferred
1 pound white cheddar cheese, shredded
4 ounces cream cheese, optional
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add the pasta following package directions, but cook 1 minute less than the package calls for. Drain.

2. Meanwhile, make the creamy cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a large high-sided pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Sprinkle the flour over the melted butter and whisk the butter and flour together and around the pan until they smell toasted and look light brown; 2 to 3 minutes.

3. While whisking, pour in the warm milk. Continue to cook, constantly whisking until the sauce begins to simmer and thickens.

4. Turn the heat to low, then stir in the cheddar and cream cheeses, salt and black pepper. When the sauce is smooth and velvety, stir in the cooked pasta. If the sauce looks wet/thin, don’t worry. The pasta absorbs some the extra moisture as it cools. Turn the heat off, and then cover with a lid. Leave for 3 to 5 minutes, stir once more, and then serve.

NOTE FROM ENCHANTING BELINDA - This is the recipe I used when making the Mac and Cheese Bar for the 4th. See below!

RANDOMNESS #1 - Roxie and the Waterfall - I think I've shown a lot of restraint this Summer by not whining each and every time I have gotten on the computer concerning the whereabouts of The Chick. She is working at a Christian camp in North Carolina for ten weeks.

Ten weeks is a long time, BUT she feels she is where God wants her to be during the LAST FREE SUMMER FOR THE REST OF HER LIFE...

And unlike the Enchanting Belinda of Old, I am prayerfully supporting her decision.

It is a day-by-day process, and some days are better than others, but I think I have improved over the past few years.

One of the things helping me over this last three-week hump is the fact she called us on a Monday to see if Mike and I would be able to come up for her off day (Sunday) five weeks into camp.

"Well, let me check my calendar," I said ever so calmly...

But do not be deceived.

I was going.

Oh, Baby, was I going!

And the following pics are of our time together, and a few things Mike and I did on the way home the following Monday. Nothing spectacular, but lovely, just the same.

This is Looking Glass Falls in Brevard, North Carolina. I think this may be the same waterfall my Dad, Mom, sister and I visited 45 years or so ago.

I cannot be sure, of course, but it was a fun place to wade and cool off.

Do you love this inviting picture of CLEAR weeds in front of the fuzzy waterfall?


Me, too.

Or the pic of the CLEAR log in front of the fuzzy waterfall and fuzzy people?

Are you sensing a pattern?

We only had Sunday (7:30 a.m. until 9:30 p.m.) with Roxie, and while we ate at a couple of cool places and did some other North Carolina stuff, Roxie needed to squeeze in a manicure and super-short shopping trip to get a couple of items for an upcoming wedding the next weekend...

And we tagged along for that, too.

Basically, it wasn't so much a sight-seeing day as a being-with-Roxie day.

Pretty much the very BEST kind of day.

On Monday morning, Mike and I ate brunch at a groovy little place called Sunny Point Café (great breakfast), and rode around doing one of my favorite things in an artsy city like Asheville...

We looked for murals.

These are just a few of my favorites.

After a successful "mural hunt," we rode the backroads through Nantahala, North Carolina and watched kayakers and rafters as they went down the rapids.

All in all, a pretty nice weekend.

RANDOMNESS #2 - Cullman Wellness & Aquatic Center with RT and Parental Units - I feel like I am the only human in Gardendale who has not been to this facility, but just in case...

Melia invited me and Mike to meet them around 5:30 on a Thursday evening to swim, eat pizza and swim some more.

This place was great. It was very big. It wasn't crowded at all. And it had everything.

I'm talking Splash Pad, Lazy River, Kid Zone, BIG Water Slides, Big Pool, Diving Boards...


Their Monday and Thursday Twilight Hours are from 6:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m.

Admission is only $7 for non-members, and kids two and under get in FREE.

It was a fun way to spend a Thursday evening.

RANDOMNESS #3 - Conquering the Circle of Water - RT is basically fearless, but he has been a little hesitant to go through the Circle of Water at the Gardendale Splash Pad solo in the past.

And then one day, his cousin Judith walked with him...

And he survived.

And from that day on, he bravely walked through the Circle of Water...


The End!

RANDOMNESS #4 - 4th of July Festivities - I did a few things differently this 4th of July.

Because I knew it was going be very humid and muggy, I totally ditched the notion of eating outside on the deck under the fans. I wanted air vents to stand over if and when I became overcome with heat...

And I wanted that for the rest of my family, too.

I also tweaked the menu just a little. I had Mike smoke pork tenderloins and grill a few hotdogs. I made Hillbilly Baked Beans and had a Macaroni and Cheese Bar.

I love the food bars you see at wedding receptions and other get togethers.

Grits Bar...

Ice Cream Bar...

Waffle Bar...

Bagel Bar...

Nacho Bar...

Baked Potato Bar.

I think you get the idea.

However, as much as I like the idea of food bars, making all of the tiny bowls of fixins' to go with the main food item makes me think it would take a lot more time than I actually have when getting ready to entertain.

So, I just switched things around and had some of the female family members attending that day bring Macaroni and Cheese Bar toppings.

Fresh cut scallions...

Crushed cheese crackers...

Chopped bacon...

Ham bits.

I provided the "easy" toppings (Parmesan cheese, Italian bread crumbs, shredded cheddar) AND a big ol' recipe of ULTRA CREAMY Macaroni and Cheese. (I usually bake my Mac and Cheese, and although tasty, it can be a little dry.)

It was popular, but I've already tweaked it again, and two of the toppings are no longer on the list. (I'll let you guess which two.)

Also, along with the usual baby pools, bubble machine and riding toys on a giant tarp in the driveway, I called and rented an inflatable water slide.

That's right.

An inflatable water slide...

With little dolphins at the top.

It was the Little Kahuna, and it was age appropriate for kids six and under.

Can I just say, this was SO MUCH fun and all of the kids really loved it. They all cried when we told them it was time to go home...

Which is always the sign of a good party! Am I right?

I gave it a big ol' thumbs up, and I'm planning on renting it again next year AND the next. By that time, I think the kids might want a bigger inflatable, and now that I know how much fun it is, I'm okay with that, too.

Eden's very first 4th of July.

She picked out the perfect little outfit.

RT got some air!

I wonder if our forefathers could have imagined us celebrating the country's birthday with red, white and blue bathing suits and a Little Kahuna Water Slide?

Maybe not...

But that's what happened.

Eden started out happy AND patriotic, but then she heard she wasn't big enough to play.

I think Sawyer let it slip.

Carly Beth was good to go in the baby pool part of the slide.

I think this is where the term "wet and wild" comes from.

My sister and her entire family.

I hope you have a wonderful rest-of-the-week. I'll be back soon with some more July pics, a new recipe, a new-to-me Quotable Quote and hopefully much, much more.


The Enchanting Belinda

"If your Mom doesn't have an old gift bag filled with other old gift bags, is she even a Mom?"

"I've got 99 problems and laundry is 97 of them."

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